§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
rose and said, the hon. Member for Cork has questioned my right to appear here as the advocate of the 1354 Roman Catholic laity. I beg to tell the hon. Member that I appear here, not only in my character as an Independent Member, but as representing on this question the opinions of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Hutt), who has presented to this House a petition from the Roman Catholics of the north of England, praying for access to the Courts of this country—in fact, for protection against the authority usurped by Cardinal Wiseman in interfering with their charitable endowments. The hon. Member for Cork, whilst pursuing the other night a course which was distasteful to the majority of this House, said, when they objected, that he thought that they had forgotten him. Sir, I beg to say that I have not forgotten the hon. Member for Cork. I have sat in a previous Parliament with him, and I remember him as one of the ringleaders of a small section of Roman Catholic members who abused the forms of this House for months in the year 1851, until the House had seriously to consider whether such conduct was compatible with its own free action. I have also to state, on the part of the hon. Member for Gateshead, that he endeavoured to negotiate with the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) on this subject, and that the hon. and learned Member promised to produce a Bill which should satisfy those petitioners, but he appears to have used the opportunity simply to delay all action on our part for their defence. Three days were thus lost, and the object of the hon. Member for Dundalk is probably accomplished by his having delayed this proceeding until the House has scarcely Members enough left to perform its functions, and until the hon. Member for Gateshead is unavoidably absent. The hon. Member for Gateshead concurred with me, that under existing circumstances there was no course to be pursued for obtaining the justice which these petitioners have a right to claim, but that which I now adopt, of resisting the further progress of this Bill, and thus affording effectual protection to these petitioners by leaving the Roman Catholic charities under the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners and the Court of Chancery; being fully assured that if any attempt should be made to disturb those charities under the law against superstitious uses Her Majesty's Government and the Attorney General will extend to them the protection which is their due, until the House reassembles, when we shall be in a position to reconsider some such measure 1355 as the Government recently laid upon the table, but which they have since unfortunately withdrawn. I give the Government full credit for having been the first Government that have attempted to grapple with this question since 1853. They deserved the thanks alike of the Roman Catholic laity, of this House, and the country; but I do lament the weakness which induced them to withdraw their Bill, because I happen to know that, although obstructions might have been thrown in the way of the Bill by the Roman Catholic Members of this House, a great body of Members on this side of the House were prepared to give it full and fair consideration, with the earnest desire to extend to these petitioners the protection which they seek. The position of the petitioners is this: Ever since the year 1851 they have made complaints to this House, and they have given evidence before Committees of the House, that the fact of their being precluded from appealing to the Courts of this country has led to gross abuses in the administration and appropriation of their charitable trusts. There is evidence in existence of persons having been induced upon their death-beds to alienate the remainder of their property to the purposes of the Roman Catholic Church, to the serious injury of their families, having previously given to that Church the greater part of it, while their natural heirs remain without the power of appealing to the Courts of Equity. There is evidence in existence that priests who have built chapels out of their own funds, have, by the arbitrary measures of Cardinal Wiseman and his bishops, been suspended from their functions, and have by this means been rendered incapable of deriving from their investments that support, which they naturally expected to enjoy. And there is now before this House a petition from the most respectable Catholics in the north of England, in accordance with the evidence given by these same persons, to the effect that their endowments are so much under the authority of Cardinal Wiseman and his bishops that they fear those endowments will in the end be alienated altogether from the purposes for which they were intended. Knowing the exertion which is required on the part of Roman Catholics to appeal to this House, under the threats which are held out against them; and this, too, is in evidence.—[Mr. BOWYER: No, no!]—it is in evidence before the Mortmain Committee; knowing the courage which is required on their part to appear 1356 as petitioners in this House, I say that this House will abandon its functions if it any longer leaves them without redress. I grant that if this Bill only continued a suspension of the operation of the Superstitious Uses Act, it would have met the necessities of the case, and I would have supported it; but it not only does that, it also practically suspends the action of the law of this country in reference to this subject. It precludes all application to the Charity Commissioners or the Court of Chancery; and therefore, I say, that this latter portion of the Bill is absolutely mischievous. What I want the Government, then, to do, is to introduce a Bill merely to suspend the operation of the law against superstitious uses. Such a measure as that should have my cordial support, because it would leave the petitioners free to approach the courts of this country, and receive the protection they request. In 1851, the country was made to feel the effects of the Papal aggression, and this House passed a Bill which, although a protest against that aggression, and so far an advantage, totally failed to meet the necessities of the Roman Catholics or the temporal aggression which was then perpetrated upon the country. Look at the position of Cardinal Wiseman. He came here as the archbishop of a see, the title of which he is forbidden by law to assume. He came here as a cardinal—that is to say, as a Privy Councillor of the Papal Court, and he exercises functions which supersede all right on his part to consider himself a British subject. In fact, by accepting the office of Cardinal he has abdicated his title to be considered one of Her Majesty's subjects. I can adduce the highest evidence to prove that when a man accepts those functions he becomes the privy councillor and temporal agent of the Court of Rome. Now, if any Members like to deny that statement, I can refer to the proofs which were adduced by the hon. Member for Surrey and myself in 1851, and which stand recorded in Hansard, and, if necessary, further evidence can be adduced. Cardinal Wiseman is here also as legate a latere. [Mr. BOWYER: No, no.] Why it is so declared in the documents which Cardinal Wiseman has himself issued to the Roman Catholics of this country, and which have been published in all the newspapers. Especially in his Appeal he declared that he was instituted most formally, first in a private consistory, afterwards publicly; and that then, by a third ceremony, he was invested with the hat, 1357 which is the symbol of his dignity. A Cardinal Priest is virtute officii a legate, when absent on a mission from Rome. The hon. and learned Gentleman may attempt to laugh, but these facts have been before the public for the last six years on the authority of Cardinal Wiseman himself; and I say that it is contrary to international law, to the laws of this country, and to the usage of every country in Europe, that a Legate, who is an Ambassador from a foreign Court, should be resident here without being accredited to the Court of St. James, at which no Roman ecclesiastic can be received under the Diplomatic Relations Act—I say that it is contrary to law that this foreign temporal agent should be resident here and allowed to exercise a jurisdiction over a large portion of Her Majesty's subjects. I say more, that to permit this is contrary to the oath which every Member of this House has taken; and I do earnestly call upon the House to vindicate the national independence from this aggression. I call upon the House not to pass a Bill which we have it proved in evidence affords scope for the exercise of functions which are derogatory to the Crown, and an infringement of our national independence. I ask you not to ignore the prayer which these Roman Catholic petitioners have had the courage to present to you; for that when Her Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects approach you, you should at least abstain from excluding from the jurisdiction of their native countrymen who are suffering under a tyranny to which we may, as Protestants, regret that they submit, but which we know, that they, as Roman Catholics, cannot always resist. Let the House suppose a case such as this, and there are such cases. Some ancient family has long possessed an estate and a manor-house, to which a chapel and an endowment are attached. The priest of the chapel, nominated by them, is their confessor. Cardinal Wiseman, through the weakness of some member of the family, grasps the endowment, ousts the priest nominated by the family, and thrusts upon them a new and probably a Jesuit confessor. Is not this persecution? Or take the case to which I alluded, of the priest suspended from the chapel which he built. When we have evidence that families are injured by the influences which are brought to bear upon the heads of those families; that trusts are misappropriated, and that this ambitious Cardinal Legate claims the right to dis- 1358 pose of the whole of this property, and in recent documents has boasted of the application of that property in a manner contrary to law—1 say it is no trifling matter. Year after year the same tactics have been pursued. At the close of every Session since 1853, when the House was empty, behind the back of Parliament, these Exemption Bills have been slipped through. The case increases in gravity as time goes on. Cardinal Wiseman boasts of the great extension of Roman Catholic trust property subject to his command. He boasted of the increase in the establishments of the religious orders of the Church of Rome. He boasts of the increase of convents and of monasteries, of the increase of chapels, and of the number of priests; and let not the House forget that the reasons for the aggression which he stated in his "Appeal" were, first, that there were no means of convening a Roman Catholic synod in this country; and that there were not sufficient establishments of the regular orders to enable him to enforce the canon law according to the decrees of the synod, over which he has complete control; and thirdly, that there were no means of effecting a parochial division of this country for its more effectual government by the foreign power which he represents; and he explains that the aggression was committed to effect these objects, that is, to establish his usurped authority. In 1839, a petition was presented to the Pope at Rome by certain English Roman Catholics, praying that the free system of canon law, which has existed in this country for ages amongst the Roman Catholics, might not be broken up. Again, in 1847, communications were made to this country by Roman Catholic priests, that a movement was going on in Rome, under which, if accomplished in the form in which it has been carried out by the Papal aggression, the power of Cardinal Wiseman as legate would deprive the English Roman Catholic priests of the local endowments they held, and subject them to his arbitrary dictation and control. Sir, it is derogatory to this country in the eyes of Europe, that we should have our laws superseded by an intrusive authority, which comes here contrary to international law and our own laws. What must the Roman Catholics of the Continent think of us Englishmen, when they hear that the Roman Catholic laity and several priests petition this House for relief from this oppression, and this House suffers itself to be wearied into subjection by some thirty of 1359 its Members, who take every opportunity of abusing its forms, and who boast, through the Roman Catholic papers, that they hold this House in subjection. I ask the House, then, in deference to its own character, to show that it can and will act, not in a spirit of oppression, but in a spirit of protection towards those persons; that it will act upon the conviction of the House of Lords in 1853, that those charities ought not to be exempt; and that it will revert to its own decision of 1853, when it passed the second reading of the Charitable Trusts Act without the exemption which is now proposed to be continued. In this I am pursuing the course which was adopted by my noble Friend Lord Chelmsford in 1853; and I feel it my duty to tell the Government that, although I was perfectly ready to support the Bill of 1853, and to support them in suspending the operation of the law against superstitious uses, I am determined to oppose them, if they endeavour any longer to exempt this property from the jurisdiction of the laws of England, or longer to refuse the relief which these petitioners claim at our hands. Depend upon it that the power, which Cardinal Wiseman exercises in this country needs control. As Vicar Apostolic, he was the first Prelate of the Roman Catholic Church to establish the Jesuits in this town and diocese. We have to thank him for that. History contains abundant records of the ambition of that order, and of their interference with the temporal and political affairs of various States; they are not merely a religious order, they are a temporal organization also; and the proof of it is that such has been their interference and intrigue, and such the tyranny and confusion created by them, that they have been forty times expelled from different States of Europe. And depend upon it, when we see all that is moving on the Continent, if we are not blind to what is passing around us, we shall be wanting in our duty should we suffer this foreign intrusive authority to defy the laws of England, and inflict further injury upon Her Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. I therefore move as an Amendment, that the Bill he committed this day three months.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee," instead thereof:—
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, the question before the House was a very simple one, and did not require the importation of the historical and theological elements which the hon. Gentleman had mixed up with it. According to the existing law certain Roman Catholic Charities and Charitable Trusts would be forfeited if they were brought under the cognizance of the Charity Commissioners. To prevent that forfeiture the Earl of Derby had recommended, a few nights ago, "in another place," that the Government should introduce a Bill of exemption for one year. Acting on that suggestion, the Government had introduced that Bill, the sole effect of which was to protect from confiscation under penal laws that were still unrepealed, and which all allowed to be bad, property which had been bequeathed by pious Roman Catholics for religious and charitable uses. He, therefore, declined to enter into the character or conduct of the distinguished Prelate whose name the hon. Member who preceded him had so unnecessarily introduced.
§ MR. BOWYER
said, that in his opinion the House could not, without committing a gross injustice, refuse to assent to the Bill. He might not, perhaps, be able to convince the hon. Member for Warwickshire of that, because that hon. Gentleman lost no opportunity of showing the most perverse bitterness and hatred against the Roman Catholic Church and its professors. The hon. Gentleman had that evening appeared in a new character. He declared he was acting for the protection of certain Roman Catholics, but he (Mr. Bowyer) believed that there was not one Roman Catholic in England, Ireland, or Scotland who would not at once repudiate his protection. The hon. Member spoke as if he were the advocate of the Roman Catholics, and yet his speech teemed with all the misrepresentations, calumnies, and rubbish which had been spoken, as well as Written, for years and years against the Roman Catholic Church. He had most unnecessarily introduced the name of Cardinal Wiseman, who had nothing whatever to do with the matter before the House. The disrespectful introduction of the name of that illustrious Prelate into the discussion was offensive, not only to all Roman Catholic Members but also to sensible and gentlemanlike Protestants. The hon. Member had calumniated that illustrious person, and spoken of him with a bitterness which only reflected discredit upon himself. The simple 1361 question before the House was whether they should prolong the suspension of a statute, which, if it were not suspended further, would have the effect of confiscating the property of Roman Catholics which had been devoted to charitable and religious purposes. The hon. Gentleman said the Attorney General could interpose to protect Roman Catholics from such confiscation, but that hon. and learned Gentleman had no power to interfere with the operation of the Trusts Act, which gave very extraordinary powers to the Commissioners. He (Mr. Bowyer) wished to explain that the apparent delay which had arisen in his presenting a draught of the Bill, which he had promised to show to the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Hutt) was owing to the care with which it had to be drawn up. In proof of that he might mention that he had thought it necessary to entrust the preparation of the Bill to Mr. Henry Stonor, the eminent Roman Catholic conveyancer, and he had settled it with Mr. F. Riddell. He (Mr. Bowyer) had done more than keep his promise to bring in a Bill next Session; a notice was standing in his name for leave to bring in a Bill that day, which he hoped would be printed in a few days for consideration during the recess. He denied emphatically the imputation thrown out by the hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Newdegate), that he (Mr. Bowyer) had acted for delay. Under these circumstances, he asked the House to pass this continuance Bill, the only object of which was to prevent a great confiscation of property and a gross injury to the Roman Catholic Church. The speech of the hon. Gentleman was one of the bitterest and most calumnious that he (Mr. Bowyer) had ever heard in a public assembly. It would be very easy for him to point out the errors and absurdities into which the hon. Member had fallen, and to show that the statements of the hon. Member had no foundation in fact.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, he thought these religious discussions in the House of Commons were exceedingly disagreeable. He did not accuse the hon. Member for North Warwickshire of bitter-ness and hatred towards the Roman Catholics, but rather of too warm an affection, which induced him perpetually to meddle with their affairs. He thought, however, that the hon. Gentleman would do well to confine his attention more strictly to matters connected with his own Church, where 1362 he would find abundant room for improvement, rather than attempt to interfere with members of a community with whom he could have no weight whatever. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of a Roman Catholic prelate as a pseudo-bishop. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: I spoke merely of the pseudo-bishop of South Wales.] He did not wish to take offence at the epithet, but he questioned whether its use was consistent with courtesy, or calculated to advance the influence of the hon. Member's opinions.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
stated that a Petition on the subject had been presented by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Hutt), signed by a large number of Roman Catholics in the north of England, who were as much opposed to this Bill as the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. He most earnestly protested against such perpetual trifling with so important a question. He was very far from blaming the Roman Catholics for seeking to delay in that House the settlement of the question, but he deprecated a sacrifice of principle on the part of the Government for party purposes. So far from strengthening themselves by so doing, he believed it would have an opposite effect. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs when, in 1853 the Roman Catholics were exempted for two years only from the operation of the Charitable Trusts Act, distinctly stated that the provisions of that Act ought to apply to Roman Catholic as well as Protestant charities, and that he only wished to postpone its operation in the case of the former, in order that a Bill might be introduced which would provide against the confiscation of such charities. This was in 1853; and now six years after they have again asked to postpone the consideration of any such Bill, though four successive Governments had distinctly pledged themselves to bring in a Bill to settle the question. And at the close of the last Session, when a continuance Bill similar to the present was introduced the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary distinctly stated that it was for the last time. He would ask why the right hon. Baronet the present Home Secretary had given up his own Bill? That Bill had been suddenly dropped and a Bill introduced into the House of Lords which they were asked to pass at this late period of the Session. He entirely concurred in the opinion that those who were interested in Roman Catholic charities had committed a mistake in claiming exemption for them 1363 from the laws which ought to affect all classes of the community equally.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, he must decline to follow hon. Members into the controversial part of the question. He had only one remark to make as to the expression which had fallen from the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, upon what he was pleased, by a singular metathesis, to term the "speudo" bishop of South Wales.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I did not speak of a pseudo bishop; I only said that the Bishop of New South Wales was a pseudo title.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
At any rate, the hon. Member was speaking of orders in the Church of Rome; and, of course, it was well known that orders of the Church of Rome were recognized by the Church of England. He would merely notice that point, and abstaining altogether from crimination or recrimination on this subject, confine himself to a few words, in which he would endeavour to explain and vindicate the course taken by the Government; and further venture to make a few remarks as to the future prospects of this question. The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) had complained of the conduct of the Government, and had intimated his intention of using all the forms of the House for the purpose of defeating the Bill. He begged, however, to draw the hon. Member's attention to what had been the course pursued by the Government, and what had been laid before the House. He would also remind him that although many Governments had made promises, he (Sir George Lewis) was the first person who had attempted to deal practically with the question. He had introduced a Bill, but owing to circumstances to which it was unnecessary to advert, it was not submitted to the House until a late period of the Session; and as he found that those whose interests were principally affected by it entertained strong objections to its provisions, and as at this time it was impossible that it could receive due consideration in the other House, he had come to the conclusion that the best course would be to withdraw the measure, and to renew the continuance Bill; but at the same time he gave a distinct pledge that he would, early in the next Session, lay upon the table a Bill similar in effect to that which he had proposed this year, with the view of obviating for the future this exceptional legislation. He trusted 1364 the House would consider this explanation satisfactory. And he would merely add a few words as to our procpect of legislation in future. The Bill which he had introduced was founded on a petition presented by several Roman Catholics of great weight and respectability in the north of England. The hon, and learned Member for Dundalk said that that Bill did not represent the prayer of the petition, but he (Sir George Lewis) was under the impression that it did fairly represent it. However, he would not go into that question now. It certainly had furnished a groundwork for discussion; and having the advantage of that Bill to proceed upon, and the subsequent suggestions of hon. Gentlemen, he thought the House would be in condition next Session to approach the question with a much better chance of its settlement than had yet been afforded.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he could assure the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) that the Roman Catholics need fear no attack on their property by the Protestants; but the Protestants were determined to have no more Continuance Bills, and to bring the Roman Catholic charities under the beneficial operation of the general law. Why was every other class of Her Majesty's subjects to be under the control of the Charity Commissioners and the Roman Catholics alone exempted? He believed that it would be beneficial to the Roman Catholics themselves if all their trusts were brought under the operation of the general Act. His hon. Friend and Colleague had been blamed for his language and his bitterness against the Roman Catholics. He felt no such bitterness; but he felt, and he (Mr. Spooner) also felt persuaded at this time there was a foreign interference with the Roman Catholics of this country which it behoved the House of Commons to put a stop to. Dr. Wiseman was not acting as an Englishman, but under foreign dictation; and when his Friend alluded to Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church it was not to Bishops in their own Churches but to Bishops illegally assuming dioceses in this country; and, in his (Mr. Spooner's) opinion, both the present and the late Attorneys General had neglected their duties, and ought to be impeached for not taking steps to prevent the breach of the law, which was of constant occurrence, by the description of Roman Catholic Bishops in handbills and placards as Bishops of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and other 1365 places, and the Bishops appearing in the places and at the times so notified in those placards. The Roman Catholics were not included in the Charity Trust Act at their own request, and the exemption was granted for two years under the plea that there existed some difficulties in the application of that Act to Roman Catholic Charities; but a Bill was promised to remedy those difficulties. Year after year the same plea was urged and the exemption continued for one year; this year a Bill has been brought in by the Government, and the Roman Catholics opposed the Bill, and at the present state of the Session it was impossible to give full consideration to the measure. They again ask for a Continuance Bill which, if granted, will only lead to the same results at the end of the next Session. Every year during the last six years the House had been told that next year the subject of the Bill before the House should be settled; and not seeing a reason why a large portion of our fellow-subjects should be excluded from the beneficial operation of the Charitable Trusts Act, he would oppose the passing of the Continuance Bill to his utmost. As long as they renewed these Continuance Bills the Roman Catholic Charitable Trusts would never be brought under the control—and a beneficial control it was—of the Charity Commissioners.
§ MR. O'BRIEN
said, he trusted that no hon. Member would oppose the universal opinion of the Roman Catholics who were to be dealt with under this particular Bill.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 70; Noes 47: Majority 23.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ House in Committee.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished to inquire whether the Government would substitute for the first enactment of the Bill a clause suspending the operation of the Superstitious Uses Act, which would bring the whole of the Roman Catholic Charities under the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners? If the Government meant to deal effectually with this question and avoid embarrassments in another Session they must have the general law on their side, not the exceptional, otherwise Cardinal Wiseman, who regulated the conduct of a large number of Members of the House, would continue his rule. If the Government would suspend 1366 the operation of Superstitious Uses Act, and leave to Roman Catholics after the 1st of September the opportunity of having their causes fairly tried before the tribunals of the country, the question would be settled.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, if the Government acceded to the recommendation of the hon. Gentleman, they would have to begin de novo, for the title of the Bill would have to be altered. It seemed to him better that they should follow the precedent of former years and merely suspend the operation of the Charitable Trusts Act for a limited time longer.
§ MR. BOWYER
said, he wished to state that hon. Members had an impression that the effect of this Continuance Bill would be to prevent the Court of Chancery from exercising any jurisdiction over Roman Catholic charities. That was not so. At the present moment all Roman Catholics might proceed in the Court of Chancery in reference to Roman Catholic charities, but in that Court the Attorney General must be a party, and that fact protected the property from forfeiture under the law of superstitious uses and under the Enrolment Act. The Charity Commissioners, however, had powers much stronger and more summary, and amongst others that of investigating the whole matter relating to any charity without the assistance of the Attorney General or the Court of Chancery. The effect of this Bill not being passed would, therefore, be that these Commissioners, in performing their duties, would be obliged to declare these charities forfeited.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, that he desired to state that it was his intention to propose to alter the month mentioned in the Bill from September to July, as being the limit of the operation of this measure. It was originally July, but was altered in the Lords.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, if the proposition which he had made were adopted, there would be no reason why all Roman Catholic charities should not be brought within the operation of the general law. The object of this opposition on the part of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk was to prevent malversations in regard to Roman Catholic charities being discovered. It was desired to keep these things in the dark, but he would impress upon the Government and the House that they should all be inquired into.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, the right hon. 1367 Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department had now adopted the suggestion which he (Mr. Kinnaird) made, but which the right hon. Gentleman at first refused. He was glad the division had taken place, however, because it would draw the attention of the country to this subject.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he hoped that next year all the powers of the Charity Commisssioners, which were very large, would be taken into consideration, and that they would not be permitted longer to make schemes behind the backs of persons, and in a clandestine manner.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he would not further oppose the Continuance Bill if it were limited to the 1st July next.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Bill passed through Committee.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended considered.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
observed, that as it was necessary to send the Bill back to the Lords, perhaps the House would allow it to be read a third time and passed.
§ Bill read 3° and passed.