§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he rose to move that the House resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Act 10th of Geo. IV., cap. 7., in relation to the oath thereby required to be taken and subscribed, instead of the Oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, and Abjuration. He understood this stage of the proceeding was a matter of form. [Mr. WALPOLE, "No."] Well, then, if his proposition was to be opposed he would proceed to lay the grounds of it before the House. The House would recollect that in the last Session of Parliament a Bill was introduced by the noble Lord the Member for London, which in the end resulted in two alterations in the state of the law, the first of which was materially to alter the oaths taken by the general Members of that House, and the other was to admit the Jew within the pale of the constitution, so that they had already seen three Members of the Jewish persuasion take their seats in that House—gentlemen whom he hoped would not only prove ornaments of the House, but would add weight to its deliberations. Now the proposition that he had to make was that the Roman Catholic Members should be placed with respect to the oaths they had to take in the same position as the other Members of the House were placed by the Act of last year. If he had followed the bent of his own 790 inclination he should have proposed to abolish all oaths taken by Members, and to substitute one short comprehensive and forcible declaration of Allegiance to the Crown and constitution; but at present he should confine himself to abolishing those parts of the oath which placed Roman Catholic Members in a position of degrading inferiority. The oath settled by the Emancipation Act, besides the declaration of Allegiance and the abjuration of the authority of any foreign Prince, contained these four passages which he and other Members wished to expunge. The first was—I do further declare that it is not an article of my faith, and that I do renounce, reject, and abjure the doctrine that Princes excommunicate or deprived by the Pope, or any authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or any person whatsoever.The next passage was—I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within the realm as established by the laws,The next passage was—And I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm; and I do solemnly swear never to exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant Government in the United Kingdom;and the oath concluded in these words—I do solemnly in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain ordinary sense of the words, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever.With regard to the abolition of three of these passages, he expected there would be no difference of opinion; to the abolition of the fourth there might be some opposition. Sir Robert Peel was the author of this oath, and for the motives which governed him it was necessary to refer either to his speeches at the time or to the memoranda recently published by his literary executors. Among these last might be found the following remarkable memorandum on this subject, dated August 11, 1828, addressed to the Duke of Wellington before the Roman Catholic relief Bill was submitted to the rest of the Cabinet:—There is a question, however, connected with this branch of the subject," said Sir Robert Peel, "which will deserve great consideration. Shall there be any limitation to the number of Roman Catholics entitled to sit in Parliament at the same time, or shall there be, as has been proposed lately, any restriction on the rights of individual Roman Catholic Members of Parliament with respect to 791 voting on particular questions relating to the Established Church? I think of the two propositions above mentioned that the limitation of numbers is much less open to objection than the other, by which the discretion of Members of Parliament is to be taken away on certain and not very definite questions.That memorandum was written by Sir Robert Peel before the Bill was in the hands of the Cabinet, and on it was endorsed the following:—"The oath I have suggested was compiled from the existing oaths taken by Roman Catholics under the Acts of 1781–82, 1791, and 1793." This memorandum showed at once the source whence Sir Robert Peel derived that oath which he inserted in the Catholic Emancipation Act, and furnished a clue to its scope and character. If they referred to the state of things in Ireland in 1793, when the last of those oaths was imposed, it would be found that Ireland had then a separate Legislature, which was entirely composed of members of the Established Church. All power and place was in their hands; while, out of a population of four millions, three millions were Roman Catholics, and the other million was composed of the various Protestant bodies. When the three millions demanded to be admitted within the pale of the constitution, the minority resorted to every sort of device and contrivance to defeat the claims of justice. The minority felt that if the majority were admitted to the power of making laws the power of the minority would be gone, and they alleged that the Established Church would be uprooted—the constitution would be gradually subverted—and that unoppressed race would take revenge for old grievances. Hence every small measure of relief in the Irish Parliament was accompanied with the imposition of oaths and restrictions, which were perhaps excusable when demanded by a minority as a protection against a large majority, but which became quite inapplicable and unnecessary when the position of parties was reversed. Now he asked the House to consider the four passages of the oath to which he had referred. The first was:—And I do further declare, that it is not an article of my faith, and that I do renounce, reject, and abjure the opinion that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any other authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or by any person whatsoever.If his proposition were confined to that alone, he was sure that there was not one Member of the House who would not consent to expunge that passage from the oath 792 taken by Roman Catholics, as it had been expunged by the Act of last Session from the oath formerly taken by Members of the Established Church, because he could conceive nothing more insulting than that a gentleman on appearing at that table should be singled out on account of his religion and compelled to abjure an opinion so wicked and revolting as was insinuated in that passage. He would not tread upon ground that might give rise to angry recollections, nor refer to the time when sect was ranged against sect—when every one thought it was right to propagate their principles by fire and sword, when persecution was the rule, and when even Calvin thought he did right in committing Servetus to the flames. He did not wish to enter into the question, whether at any time any members of the church held to an opinion so abominable as that which they were now required to abjure, but on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, and of every Roman Catholic gentleman, he would declare it to be an insult even to suggest that at this time of day such opinions were entertained by their church, or by any individual member of it. The next passage to which he desired to direct attention was this:—I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this realm as established by the laws.On this he must offer a little explanation, because the passage was ambiguous itself, and no one could understand it thoroughly without referring to antecedent transactions. If it were literally interpreted any Roman Catholic who voted for the Incumbered Estates Act, which worked an utter revolution in the property of the country, would have been guilty of an infraction of that oath. But that was not the true interpretation. Sir Robert Peel showed that the words "settlement of property" had a special meaning, and had reference to the Act of Settlement passed in the reign Of Charles II., and the Roman Catholics were required to acquiesce in that settlement. No one could doubt that in 1829 it was unnecessary to introduce an oath to protect the settlement of property established so long ago as 1662. It was at one time supposed that if a majority of Roman Catholics got admission into the Irish Parliament they would use their power to restore the forfeited estates and reverse the Act of Settlement. That apprehension might have had some foundation a century ago, but any such appre- 793 hension in 1829, or at the present day, was simply and absolutely absurd. Property in Ireland had, since the Act of Settlement, so largely changed hands that Roman Catholics had, especially since the passing of the Incumbered Estates Act, become large proprietors of the soil and, among the rest, of the forfeited estates. In the debate in the Irish Parliament upon Mr. Grattan's Bill for the admission of Roman Catholics in 1795, one Member asked whether, "if the Roman Catholics gained power, it would be their interest to permit a settlement of property to be unrepealed which they must regard as a tyrannical forfeiture? No, the temptation would be too great, and the power would be too strong to be resisted." The Irish Parliament inserted a provision that might have been wise and proper when they were, as they believed, protecting a small minority against a large majority, but which could not be necessary in 1829 or in 1859, Upon the general subject of the oath taken by the Roman Catholic Members, Sir Robert Peel, upon introducing the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, on March 5, 1829, said:—Another proposal has been made by a right hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Wilmot Horton)—made from the best motives, and supported with an ingenuity, ability, and research worthy of the motives and character of its author. My right hon. Friend has proposed, with a view to calm the suspicions and fears of those who object to the admission of Roman Catholics to Parliament, that the Roman Catholic Member should be disqualified by law from voting on matters relating directly or indirectly to the interests of the Established Church. There appear to me numerous and cogent objections to this proposal. In the first place, it is dangerous to establish the precedent of limiting by law the discretion by which the duties and functions of a Member of Parliament are to be exercised. In the second, it is difficult to define beforehand what are the questions which affect the interests of the Church. A question which has no immediate apparant connection with the Church might have a practical bearing on its welfare ten times more important than another question which might appear directly to concern it. Thirdly, by excluding the Roman Catholic from giving his individual vote you do little to diminish his real influence, if you leave him the power of speaking, of biassing the judgment of others on the question on which he is not himself to vote; and if by a jealous and distrusting, but ineffectual precaution you tempt him to increase, to your prejudice, the remaining power of which you cannot or do not propose to deprive him. I believe there is more of real security in confidence than in avowed mistrust and suspicion, unaccompanied by effectual guards. For these reasons I am unwilling to deprive the Roman Catholic Member of either House of Parliament of any privilege of free discussion and free exercise of judgment, which be- 794 longs to other members of the Legislature." [2 Hansard, xx. 759.]Sir Robert Peel then proceeded to enumerate the other objections to the proposal, and after stating in full the proposed oath, added:—The Roman Catholic who will take this oath surely gives us every security which an oath can give that the difference in religious faith will not affect his allegiance to the King or his capacity for civil service. It will be, perhaps, observed that this form of oath some abjurations and disclaimers which are inserted in the oaths now required from Roman Catholics. Sir, it does so, and purposely and advisedly. Why insult the Roman Catholic, on whom we are about to confer equality of civil privileges, by compelling him to reject in terms the impious position that it is lawful to murder heretics, or to record his detestation of the unchristian principle that faith is not to be kept with heretics?" [2 Hansard, xx. 761.]In another part of the debate, Sir Robert Peel, on the point at issue said:—By the Roman Catholic oath I mean to make Roman Catholics abjure opinions dangerous to the State. I do not mean, to fetter them in the exercise of their legislative functions.On the 6th of March, in the adjourned debate, he said:The basis of the measure was equality of civil privilege.He (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) was contending for nothing more than equality of privileges, and it was clear that there was no intention on Sir Robert Peel's part to fetter a Roman Catholic in the exercise of any of his privileges or votes in Parliament. The third branch of the oath which he would expunge was as follows:—And I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm; and I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant Government in the United Kingdom.On this portion of the oath he might expect some difference of opinion, and some opposition to its abolition. One great objection to this abjuration was the difficulty of determining its construction with accuracy. Five or six different opinions had been held upon the right interpretation of this oath. There were some who held with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), that the Roman Catholic Member was not at liberty to vote upon any question tending to interfere with the Church or its establishment, and the hon. Member was rather disposed to reprove him for voting upon the question of Ministers' Money after having taken that oath. 795 Others held that the oath was not intended to interfere with the legislative action of the Roman Catholic Member, but that it left him free and unincumbered. It would not be difficult to give half a dozen different constructions of that oath, and he submitted that whatever oath Parliament might require ought to be simple, unequivocal, and without ambiguity, so that every man might know the meaning of that which he was about to swear. Hon. Members, however, might contend that this clause of the oath gave a security which they were right in contending for, and that it ought to be imposed upon the Roman Catholics. But a security against what? Not against the votes of Roman Catholics in that House, because he had already referred to the authority of Sir Robert Peel, who, in proposing the oath, disclaimed any intention of interfering with their right to vote. The truth was, that the enemies of the Etablishment were not to be found among the Roman Catholics, but among other bodies which were free to enter that House. The House would find that Motions with reference to the Established Church had not usually originated with the Roman Catholics. The real enemies of the Church were to be found within its own bosom and among the Dissenters. But, independently of any consideration of that sort, Sir Robert Peel stated that the object of the oath was to induce Roman Catholics to abjure opinions dangerous to the State, and to prevent disloyal persons from obtaining civil offices. The passage of the oath to which he (Mr. FitzGerald) had referred could give no security for either the one or the other of these ends. It appeared from the debates in the Irish Parliament that the object of those who proposed the oath of 1793 was to compel Roman Catholics to abjure all intention of subverting the Church Establishment for the purpose of replacing it by a Catholic Establishment, and one hon. Member of the Irish Parliament thus described his fears:—I ask the House whether they are prepared to introduce a popish in the room of a Protestant Church establishment. For myself, I am free to confess that if the Parliament in political power becomes Catholic, the Church establishment ought to be of the same persuasion.But did any one now give way to so wild, visionary, and chimerical an apprehension as to suppose that the Roman Catholics of the United Kingdom meditated to subvert the Protestant Church as a State institution, and set up a State Catholic Establishment in its stead. The 796 last passage in the oath which he wished to see expunged was that in which the person subscribing to it declared that he made it without any equivocation or mental reservation whatever. This portion of the oath he agreed with a great authority in thinking was of no value whatever, because if an individual applied himself to discover equivocation in an oath, I fear that no oath which could be devised would bind. him. The House last year very wisely struck out of the oath to be taken by Members not Roman Catholic the offensive words, and he asked that the same words should be struck out of the Roman Catholic oath. If he should be successful in his attempt to introduce a Bill, he proposed by that Bill to reduce the oath of 1829 to exactly the same form of oath as that proposed in 1854 by the Earl of Aberdeen's Government. It might be said that the settlement of 1829 ought not to be disturbed; but he denied that a final settlement was made in that year, and for these reasons—that the Roman Catholics were not before the House, and Sir Robert Peel—as was now well known—did not communicate with the leaders of the Roman Catholic party. But it might be urged that the securities given by the oath of 1829 ought not to be taken away. Well, on that point he might refer the House to Lord Castlereagh's opinion of the value of such securities. When a similar oath was proposed in 1813, Lord Castlereagh said the security which that oath would give to the Church Establishment was the greatest farce he had ever heard of. There was no doubt that in 1829 the character of the Roman Catholics was comparatively unknown in this country, and undoubtedly there existed then in this country a large party, headed by Lord Eldon, whose fears it was desirable to allay. The Roman Catholics were grossly traduced and misrepresented. At that time it was said that that House would be inundated with Roman Catholics if Roman Catholic Emancipation were granted,—that Ireland would send 100 of these representatives—that they were disloyal to the crown and constitution, and that their efforts would be in opposition to civil and religious liberty. But they had had thirty years' experience of the Emancipation Act, and what had happened? At the present time in that House, consisting of 654 Members, there were only 31 Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholics formed more than one-fifth of the population of these 797 islands, and if they had Members proportioned to population, the number would be 130 instead of 31. Not one Roman Catholic was returned by Scotland, and only one by England,—namely, the noble Lord the Member for Arundel. From Protestant Ulster not one Roman Catholic was sent; from Roman Catholic Munster 12 Protestants and 11 Roman Catholics were sent, and from Catholic Connaught 10 Protestants and 4 Roman Catholics. So far from Ireland inundating the House with Roman Catholic Members, they would find that the most intensely Roman Catholic counties sent one and frequently two Protestant Members. He could appeal to the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and to any hon. Member who had had experience in that House, whether the Roman Catholics had not in a body supported every attempt made since 1829 to strengthen the constitution and enlarge the limits of civil and religious liberty. They had voted for Reform in Parliament, Reform as Corporations, the repeal of the Corn Laws, and to a man had supported the admission of Jews to Parliament. It was said in 1829 that the Roman Catholics were a disloyal race, and that, therefore, they ought to be bound by such obligations as were contained in the Roman Catholic oath. But he might appeal to the experience of the last thirty years as a proof that that was an unfounded calumny. On what occasion had the Roman Catholics been disloyal? The Secretary for War admitted that at least one-third of the British soldiers who fought in the late war were Roman Catholics. Of the 1,600 that fell in the battle of Alma, we found on careful inquiry that 800 were Irishmen, and the great majority of these 800 were Roman Catholics. He would ask any one whether at Alma or Inkermann the Roman Catholic soldiers ever flinched from their duty, or were disloyal to the flag under which they served? In the course of thirty years no instance had occurred of Roman Catholics being false to the Crown and Constitution. At one period of peril, the attempted insurrection of 1848, the most efficient aid in putting it down was given by Roman Catholics. There was an absurd and mischievous conspiracy detected last Christmas, the object of which was to establish a republic in Ireland, or deliver the country, bound hand and foot, to France or America; the military means of the conspirators were as contemptible as the conspiracy itself, as all the arms they 798 possessed were described as an old pistol and two rifle bullets. In the speech in which the Earl of Eglington at a late civic banquet referred to this conspiracy he said,—"I am glad I have this public opportunity of saying that the great body of the Roman Catholic Clergy of Ireland have, unasked, rendered the utmost assistance to the Government in this business; and to assure them—if my voice should ever reach them—that the course they have pursued is as honourable to themselves as it has been beneficial to their country." Roman Catholics had been Judges, councillors of the Crown, law officers, and had filled other high offices; slander itself could not say that these officers had not always done their duty to the Queen and the Constitution. On one occasion, indeed, when Parliament directed a prosecution arising out of the Mayo election, the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord C. Hamilton) suggested that it ought not to be entrusted to a Roman Catholic Attorney General, because he would not do his duty; but he ventured to say that even time noble Lord would now be ready to admit that his insinuation was unfounded and unjust. All the apprehensions then that existed previous to 1829 had proved baseless. In all the Colonial dependencies of Great Britain these special oaths had been abolished; since 1856 they had been entirely done away with, and with the utmost satisfaction to our colonial dependencies. In Canada, with a large Roman Catholic population, Catholics and Protestants were placed on terms of perfect equality. In Australia it was the same; in no part of all the dominions of the British Crown, except these islands, were Roman Catholics treated as a body, from whom certain forms of oaths were exacted, different from those taken by all other subjects of the Queen. The ground, therefore, on which he pressed his Motion was this—that the Roman Catholics had a right to be placed on terms of perfect civil equality with their fellow subjects; he asked no favour or special privilege. He held this principle of civil equality to be so valuable that, though it might be defeated on this or future occasions, he should consider it his duty to bring forward the question again and again, convinced that, finally, truth must prevail. At present, he simply asked the House to relieve Roman Catholics from a position of degrading inferiority, and for that purpose to resolve itself into Committee, in order to move for 799 leave to bring in a Bill effecting the object he had in view. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ MR. FAGAN
said, that he rose to second the Motion. He could well understand why Sir Robert Peel thought it necessary to introduce these oaths into the Catholic Emancipation Bill. Ireland was then on the verge of a civil war, the result of the constant refusal to admit Catholics within the pale of the constitution. On the other hand the people of England in 1829 had very exaggerated prejudices with regard to their Roman Catholic fellow subjects. They regarded them as men who held it lawful to murder their Sovereign, to equivocate on the most solemn occasions, and to seek a new settlement of the land by which the estates of their ancestors would be restored to them. In consequence of these fears and prejudices then the Emancipation Bill would hardly have been carried without the oaths. Thirty years had, however, elapsed since the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill. Many of those prejudices had passed away with the lapse of time; and there was no reason now why there should not be one common oath to be taken by all Christian Members of that House. Did any man, could any man believe that any Catholic Member of that House held that it was lawful to murder the Sovereign when excommunicated?—did any man believe a Roman Catholic Member would equivocate on the subject? No; certainly not. The Jews took the same oath with Protestants, excluding only the words, "on the true faith of a Christian," and why should the Roman Catholics be put on a different footing? It had been said there was a compact entered into in 1829 which ought to be maintained. He had taken a part in the agitation of that period, and he could state from his own personal knowledge that there was no compact whatever. His right hon. Friend and he differed as to the import of the oath taken by Roman Catholics. His right hon. Friend viewed the oath according to the interpretation of Sir Robert Peel. He (Mr. Fagan) read the oath exactly according to the import of the words, and he held that it was an insult to every person who was obliged to take it—an useless irritating insult. And every Roman Catholic magistrate, every member of a municipal council, every Roman Catholic clergyman, and, indeed, all of that persuasion who held office had to take the oath 800 Every man who took it had to swear that it was not lawful to murder. Was not this an insult? Then they had to swear not to disturb the settlement of property in Ireland. Thank God, the Roman Catholics of Ireland were now in such a position that it was their own interest not to interfere with the settlement of property. Under the Incumbered Estates Act some of the old families in Ireland had bought back the estates of which their ancestors were deprived under the settlement of Charles II. The Irish Catholics were becoming more and more wealthy, and proprietors of the soil by legitimate means, and they had therefore no wish to disturb the settlement of property in that country. Again, why should the Roman Catholics be put in a different position from the Dissenters? Why should they be required to swear that they would not attempt to subvert the Church establishment, while the Protestant Dissenters were left free? When Mr. Miall brought forward his remarkable Motion in that House to secularize the revenues of the Church establishment, he (Mr. Fagan) declined, by reason of the oath, to vote with him. Looking at the fair import and meaning of the oath he had taken, he had always declined to vote on questions of that nature. He had been taunted indeed with the measure which he had year after year pressed upon the House, namely, the abolition of Ministers' Money; but he did not think that in bringing forward that measure he was doing anything that was opposed to the spirit of his oath; on the contrary, he believed that no measure which had been passed of late years had proved so beneficial to the Irish Protestant Establishment. He believed the people of this country, as well as the people of Ireland demanded that this oath should be expunged, and he trusted that the House would give its sanction to the Motion of his right hon. Friend.
Motion made and Question proposed.
§ MR. ADAMS
said, that the few remarks he had to make on this subject would be offered more in sorrow than in anger. Indeed, he should not have troubled the House on this occasion only for fear that his vote might be misinterpreted. He believed there never was a time when so much good feeling prevailed in Ireland between Protestants and Roman Catholics as at present. That was a matter in which he sincerely rejoiced; and he sincerely regretted to find any Motion made or any 801 step taken that was calculated, as he believed the present one to be, to disturb that harmony and good faith which so happily existed between the two countries. He should not seek to re-open the angry discussions of 1829. It would be easy for him to select strong arguments and strong points on the other side to that which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) had taken in the views which he had laid before the House; but he might be pardoned for making the remark that the strongest proof of the force of Lord Castlereagh's remarks would be the success of the Motion then before the House, for it would show that any attempt at security in matters of this kind, by means of an oath, was a farce. As to the question of a compact, he was of opinion that if there had not been a written compact there was a perfectly well understood compact made at the time of the settlement of the question in 1829. He would ask the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) whether was it not a fact that those securities were offered as a condition of the admission of Roman Catholics to that House? And whether they did not accede to them? Did they petition against them? Did they not acquiesce in them? Had not every Roman Catholic Member entered that House with a full knowledge that the taking of that oath formed the condition of his having power to open his mouth in that assembly? He fully concurred in the warm and generous praises bestowed on our Irish and Roman Catholic fellow subjects. But could it be said by any Roman Catholic Member that they had ever been calumniated in that House? The members of the Roman Catholic Church needed no defence. The eloquence of the hon. Gentleman on that point was wholly unnecessary; no accusation had ever been brought against them. Every one was willing to admit their loyalty and bravery in the field. On the field of battle the English Protestant and the Irish Roman Catholic soldier fought together in the same ranks, and knew no rivalry save as to who should best serve their common country. Protestants freely acknowledged, too, that Roman Catholic learning and worth had adorned the judicial bench; but in vindicating his countrymen from imaginary aspersions, the right hon. Gentleman had been but setting up a giant for the express purpose of slaying him. Still, however high their estimate of the qualities of their Roman Catholic brethren, that 802 was no reason why they should not expect them to respect the conditions upon which they enjoyed their privileges.
An attempt to subvert those conditions must have the effect of disquieting the minds of many Protestants, who, relying upon the securities contained in the Act of 1829, were content that the Roman Catholics should continue to be admitted to that House upon the original terms of that compact. It was to be regretted that this Motion had been brought forward, and still more if the feeling which had actuated the right hon. Mover was shared by the Irish Roman Catholics. If the people of Ire-and really felt themselves to be in a degraded position they would have covered the table of that House with petitions, as they did in 1829. He ventured to hope there was no general feeling in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's views, but rather that there would be found throughout Ireland an indignant repudiation of what he must characterize as a breach of faith. Of course he acquitted the right hon. Gentleman of intentionally advocating anything like a breach of faith, but such was nevertheless the practical effect of his Motion. Giving the Roman Catholic Members of the House credit for high and sensitive feelings of honour, all parties were equally disposed to leave them to decide for themselves what were and what were not the questions on which they were at liberty to vote, without subjecting them to any reproach even if they should at times accidentally overstep the limits by which they ought to be confined. One of the strongest arguments relied on in support of the Maynooth Grant was the existence of a compact to continue it. If there was any force in that plea, let those who urged it remember that it equally applied against a disturbance of the settlement under the Act of 1829. He desired to live in amity with his Roman Catholic brethren, and he opposed this Motion because he thought it was a step calculated to revive an ill feeling in the sister country which he had hoped would never be resuscitated.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, that as an Irish Protestant Member, he most heartily and entirely concurred in the feelings and views which had prompted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ennis to bring forward this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman was, however, met by an allegation that the Roman Catholic oath was the result of a compact or bargain made 803 in 1829, and that any attempt to alter it would be a breach of faith. He thought that the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Adams) had not shown that the oath was the result of a compact at all. There was no more of a compact in it than this—that the Roman Catholics of Ireland in 1829 found they could not obtain all their rights, but that they could obtain a part, though clogged with these disadvantageous conditions. They did not refuse that which they could obtain. To refuse those rights which were offered to them would have been more than could be expected. But there was no reason why the Roman Catholics should not come to the House at this, or at a future time, and ask the great and overwhelming majority to abolish an Act which ought to be repealed. They had no intention whatever to violate the law as long as it was law. All they asked was that the Protestant majority, grown wiser by experience should consent to release them from conditions which were as odious and unjust as they were idle and worthless. To call such a demand a breach of faith was a gross perversion of language. The weaker party merely asked the stronger party to release them from the stipulations imposed upon them, and which a good many years had proved to be utterly worthless for the attainment of the object in view. The hon. and learned Gentleman adduced the case of the endowment of the College of Maynooth as an argument. No doubt the word "compact" was often used in debate upon that subject, but the House would see that there was no similarity between the two cases. The term used at the time of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill was not "compact," but "security." The idea in the discussion of 1829 was that the oath would be a security to the Protestant religion and to a Protestant Government; but the more they read the speeches of Sir Robert Peel the more they would see how utterly valueless he considered all these securities, and that he took good care to resist the introduction of any definite and binding words. In some respects it would have been far better if Sir Robert Peel had proposed that the Roman Catholics should not by law have the power of voting upon questions relating to the Church Establishment. There would then have been no possibility of the Roman Catholics being open to those taunts which were now occasionally cast upon them in that House. When the House imposed 804 this exceptional and offensive oath upon a few Members of the House, they had no right to do so, and the distinction ought to be put an end to at once, unless it could be shown that its retention was necessary as a matter of expediency and justice. The oath was imposed as a security to the Government and the Protestant religion, but it was not religion that votes could affect—that was not at stake—it was merely the temporalities, the pounds, shillings, and pence, which were in question—the mere externals of religion. Did any one really believe that this miserable oath afforded any additional security to our Protestant monarchy, the temporalities of the Church, or the Protestant religion itself? The population and representation of the country were to an overwhelming degree Protestant, and it could only be by the consent of that great Protestant majority that any change could take place in the Established Church. He was not afraid to say, that the Legislature had no right to throw around that Establishment the protection of such an exceptional oath. It was an institution that must stand or fall by common consent. The argument of the hon. Member for Cork, in which he compared his position in that House with that of a Protestant Dissenter, was perfectly unanswerable, and the inequality of the two parties before the law utterly indefensible. A short time ago he had to administer the oath at petty sessions to a Roman Catholic friend of his, who had been appointed to the magistracy, and he had never felt more ashamed of a proceeding of the kind than on that occasion. He had felt ashamed in imposing on his friend, whom he knew to be as trustworthy as any member of his own Church, an oath containing words so outrageous and insulting as the oath in question. As a Protestant he wished to add his voice to those of the Roman Catholic minority on this question, and to express his hope that the powerful Protestant majority would put an end to the imposition of the oath complained of, convinced that it could not be maintained on any grounds either of policy or of justice.
said, the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, if good for anything, was a good argument, not against the particular oath under discussion, but against the use of oaths of any description. He had pronounced the oath in question to be outrageous, vague, foolish, and miserable in 805 its nature. If he meant to say that the imposition of oaths as a means of binding the conscience was in his judgment all wrong, he (Mr. Whiteside) should like to know in what age of the world—in what nation, Pagan or Christian,—this custom, which had always existed, and must exist as long as there was a belief in God, had not been observed for the purpose of binding the consciences of men? [Mr. FORTESCUE indicated dissent.] The argument of the hon. Gentleman went to that effect, for he asked, of what use was this oath? His (Mr. Whiteside's) answer was, why should it not accomplish its purpose if it was clear and intelligible, and such as could be understood by those who took it? Now, in common with his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Adams) who opposed the Motion under discussion, he sincerely regretted that it should have been brought forward in that House at this particular time, or indeed at any time, because he deprecated the revival of discussions which, when they were held, disturbed and inflamed the passions of men, and which it would be the wisest course if Roman Catholic gentlemen would for ever allow to rest in oblivion. The hon. Gentleman who had spoken last appealed to celebrated statesmen, and seemed to ask—How could any sensible man in the world think that such an oath as this was of the smallest consequence to the great interests which it was framed to protect? He (Mr. Whiteside) was surprised while he listened to that statement of the hon. Gentleman; for, familiar as he must be with past Parliamentary debates, surely he should remember that when the object—and a very legitimate object—of the Roman Catholic laity was to recover their rights in that House—when they entrusted their advocacy to men the memory of whose eloquence could never die—those men argued the question on the nature and character of the very oath which the hon. Member had now pronounced to be vague, foolish, trivial, and miserable. Granted there was no compact to bind the Roman Catholics, yet he (Mr. Whiteside) appealed to the House, if—remembering that great bodies of people in Ireland entrusted their petitions to Mr. Grattan, and afterwards to one more celebrated, Mr. Plunket, who represented the University for which he (Mr. Whiteside) had now the honour to sit—it was to be tolerated, after those eminent men had felt themselves at liberty to urge an argument in order to accomplish Catholic Emancipation, that the persons who, to 806 gain that object had availed themselves of their arguments and talents, should now turn round and say they were not in the least bound by the course taken by those distinguished men, or by what the Legislature did on that occasion? Mr. Grattan, who was one of the must eminent men who ever spoke upon this question, said in 1813—I have another instance with which I shall beg leave to trouble the House, and which will go to complete the chain of proofs which show the Catholics are not without principles of allegiance, and which will acquit them of every charge and imputation on their loyalty. I mean the oaths which are prescribed to be taken by Catholics by the 31st and 33rd of the King. The oath of the 31st, which must be taken by Roman Catholics in England, runs as follows:—'I, A. B., do hereby declare that I do profess the Roman Catholic religion. I, A. B., do swear that I do abjure, contemn, and detest, as unchristian and impious, the principle that it is lawful to murder, destroy, or in any ways injure any persons whatsoever, for or under pretence of being a heretic; and I do declare solemnly before God that I believe that no act, in itself unjust, immoral, or wicked, can ever be justified or excused by or under pretence or colour that it was done either for the good of the church or in obedience to any ecclesiastical power whatsoever.'"—[1 Hansard, xxiv. 757.]The last passage was omitted from the present oath because it was considered to be offensive to Roman Catholics. Then there was a positive declaration that the Pope had no temporal power, and a declaration that such a declaration was made without reservation and in the presence of God. Mr. Grattan then proceeded to argue that if Roman Catholic gentlemen were willing to make such a declaration they could not be expected to perjure themselves if they were admitted to the privileges they claimed. That argument was put still more pithily by Mr. Plunket. It would be an act of oppression to require that Roman Catholics should swear that they were satisfied with or admired the Church Establishment; all that was required was that they should swear not to meddle with it. Mr. Plunket, who presented the Roman Catholic petition to that House, who was the accredited organ of that body, said,—If the Catholic swears that he will not disturb or question the Establishment, it seems to matter little to us whether he admires or approves, or what may be his abstract opinion.Then there came the spiritual authority of the Pope over the clergy, with which we did not profess to interfere. Then Mr. Plunket said,—We have the effect of the Oath of Supremacy 807 as far as it concerns practical and conscientious submission, and it is perfectly childish to say, we will not accept their present acquiescence and their oath that they will continue to acquiesce.It did not interfere with their religious opinions at all—it only bound them not to attempt to subvert rite Church establishment, and it was that oath that enabled that eminent orator and great man to induce the House to agree with his views. If that oath did secure in a great degree the acquiescence of the Roman Catholics to the Church Establishment, he (Mr. Whiteside) would ask whether the hon. Member who last spoke was correct in calling it a foolish, illusory, and miserable oath? If he were asked to explain the matters referred to in the oath he referred to history. Could any one doubt that in the reign of Charles I., and later, it was intended by the Pope, if possible, to upset the existing arrangements? He quite agreed that the Protestant religion could not be shaken by any oath, because he believed it had its foundation on truth; but they must look also to the questions of Government and property, and it became necessary to consider the causes for certain passages in the oath. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to the opinion of Sir Robert Peel, but the opinion of even so eminent a man was not conclusive upon a point of this nature. They must also consider what was done by the House of Commons upon the representations he made and the arguments he used. Why should any Gentleman object to swear that he would respect the settlement of property? The reason assigned by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) that many Roman Catholic gentlemen had since then acquired property, was an additional reason for not objecting to it. Sir Robert Peel had explained that "the words relating to the settlement of property had a special meaning. They had special reference to the declaration of Charles II., in 1660, shortly after his restoration, by which he made a settlement of the forfeited estates. That Act of Settlement constituted the title to a large mass of the Irish property." There were at the present time, he did not say a formidable body, but there were persons who thought that settlement ought to be overthrown. [Cries of "Oh!"] The fact was so, although perhaps the numbers of those who held such opinion was not large; and he could have desired that the hon. 808 and learned Gentleman had not uttered the sentiments he had done on the eve of a great trial. Sir Robert Peel, in rendering an explanation of his Emancipation Act, had also said—The Roman Catholic, being relieved from certain civil disabilities, was required to give an assurance that he would acquiesce in the settlement of property, and would not attempt to disturb it. Surely that must be called a compact, if anything could constitute a compact?Sir Robert Peel proceeded to say—When, therefore, the Roman Catholic oath was inserted in the Act of 1829, the words relating to the settlement of property were continued, and Roman Catholics repeated there the assurance that they would acquiesce in that settlement of property which had taken place at the restoration of Charles II. Such was the immediate cause of the introduction of the words relating to the settlement of property.Would the House believe that Sir Robert Peel himself did not at that time hold the opinion that it was necessary to introduce those words into the oath? The Act in which that oath was embodied, was framed, he believed, by no less an authority than the late Lord Chief Justice Tindal then Solicitor General. When an attempt was subsequently made to remove that passage from the oath, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) opposed the Motion, and gave his reasons. The noble Lord said, he did not think it would be wise to disturb a settlement made after so much conflict and so much consideration, and which, as he understood, the Roman Catholics had supported as a full and complete admission of their claims to sit in Parliament. When those words were quoted by Sir Robert Peel, that distinguished statesman said he thought the noble Lord had acted wisely in not disturbing the oath of 1829, and for twenty-five years after that no distinguished Member ever sought to alter the oath. It was asked why Sir Robert Peel introduced this oath. Let them see what he himself said. Following the example of Grattan and Plunket, he argued the question upon the value of the securities which were offered, and having rejected the passage about transubstantiation, as being offensive, and also as unnecessarily calling upon people to give an opinion upon a dogma, and that affirming that it was not justifiable to murder or kill a heretic on the former of these grounds only, he said—The time has been"—and he believed this to be historically correct- "when the Roman Catho- 809 lies in England have not refused to take the oath of Supremacy, and when invidious distinctions shall have been removed, and with them a sensitive jealousy on points of honour, that time may return. In the meantime the Bill will provide an oath to the following effect,and he set out the oath which substantially appeared in the Emancipation Act. Now, however, hon. Gentlemen said that it was all a mistake, and asked if it was ever known that any great object was gained by an oath. Had that argument been used at the time of which he had been speaking, the Roman Catholics would never have been admitted to Parliament, because those who argued most strongly in their favour always urged the value of the securities which they proposed to give to the Legislature. And to what did those securities extend? First, the Oath of Allegiance was a little expanded. There was no objection to that, unless, indeed, one might be raised by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last. The first and second passages related to the disclosure of the conspiracies and the maintenance of the succession, and were both, he believed, admitted to be right. The next declared thatIt is not an article of my faith that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any other authority of the see of Rome may be destroyed by their subjects or by any person whatsoever.It must be rather a satisfaction to a gentleman to have an opportunity of saying that he rejected that doctrine. [A laugh]. The hon. Gentleman who laughed seemed to think that that doctrine had never been maintained; but if he referred to the State Trials he would find that the man who affixed the bull of excommunication to the palace of Queen Elizabeth was tried and executed for that offence. The mistake which was made by certain hon. Gentlemen was, that they consulted their own hearts, and finding that they had no such feelings as these, thought that they therefore disposed of the history of the world. Now, he had never read in any well authenticated book that the eminent person who directed the Roman Catholic Church at Rome, if he was still at Rome, had disclaimed this prerogative of ex-communication, which certainly was exercised by him in former times. These were historical facts, and neither he nor any one else could alter history. The next part of the oath was,I do declare that I do not believe that the Pope of Rome or any other foreign prince, prelate, person, state, or potentate, hath, or ought to 810 have, any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority or pre-eminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm.Surely that was not objected to—And I swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within the realm.What could be more reasonable than that engagement, which was supported by the very argument which had been urged against it—namely, the large purchases made under the Incumbered Estates Act by Roman Catholic gentlemen? The last passage was,I disclaim, disavow, and abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment settled by law within this realm.It was not the Protestant religion, against that they were at liberty to argue if they could, but it was the Church Establishment; and had not the State a right to impose such an engagement? The best argument in its favour was that innocently and candidly supplied by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) when he said, that he had frequently felt and been restrained by the force of that oath; and he well remembered how careful that hon. Member was, being a conscientious and honourable gentleman, to show that the measure which he introduced for the abolition of Ministers' money did not touch upon his oath. That showed the value of the oath. It was to bind conscientious men like the hon. Member for Cork, because he admitted that it could not bind an unconscientions man. He did not relish the mode in which the right hon. and learned Member for Ennis had dealt with the oath, explaining it by what A B and C D thought it meant. That was not the way to interpret the oath. The question was, what was meant by the Parliament which framed and imposed it? When Sir Robert Peel was asked by Sir Charles Wetherall and several others why he did not prevent the Roman Catholics voting upon any Church question, he replied that he might as well prohibit their speaking or being in the House while such questions were under discussion, which would be impossible; but he added, that he was laying upon their conscience that obligation the force of which had been felt by the hon. Member for Cork, and by many others to his knowledge; and he could assure Roman Catholic Members that the expression of that feeling would be of much more advantage to their religion than would the introduction of this Motion. Its existence proved the force of Mr. Grattan's argu- 811 ment, when he asked, "How can you disbelieve gentlemen who are willing to pledge their consciences to such an oath as this?" and showed the soundness of Sir Robert Peel's judgment, when in opposition to lawyers and critics who prophesied that the Oath would be of no avail, and would be got rid of, he said, "I believe it will be of avail with all conscientious men. I do not deprive them of their rights as Members of Parliament; but trust to their consciences." After he had framed the oath Sir Robert Peel said,The Roman Catholic who takes this oath surely gives us every security which an oath can give, that the difference in religious faith will not affect his allegiance to the King or his capacity for civil service.The oath omitted passages that were invidious, and Sir Robert Peel, as a reason for that omission, asked, "Why insult the Roman Catholic?" [Opposition cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen cheered too soon. What Sir Robert Peel said was, why insult them by the passages which he had omitted? This argument occurred after he had set out the oath. He continued,We cannot suspect the Roman Catholics of these countries of entertaining these opinions" (expressed in the passages which he (Mr. Whiteside) omitted)" and if we do suspect them we have been wrong heretofore in giving them their existing privileges. I will neither detract from the force of these disclaimers which the oath will contain by the addition of useless incumbranees, nor mortify by galling and unjust suspicions fellow-subjects whom we are inviting in a spirit of peace and confidence to share the blessings of equal and undiscriminating laws." [2 Hansard, xx. 761.]He then proceeded to say that this oath satisfied every scruple of the Roman Catholics, and that he did not think they would have any just ground of complaint against any of its paragraphs. But the hon. Gentleman said that this oath was never assented to by the Irish people and clergy. How, then, did it happen that so many Roman Catholic gentlemen had from time to time entered that House, taken the oath with safe consciences, and become as the hon. Member said, useful and excellent in their various situations and positions? This, however, was a most unfortunate argument, because he had before him a quotation from a most able document drawn up by the Archbishops and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, in which they spoke of the Roman Catholic Relief Act as a great, beneficial, and healing measure, and asked the Catholics of Ireland whether a measure which had raised them up from 812 their prostrate condition and gave to them all the privileges which they desired, was not entitled to their reverence and love. So that the Legislature, which, according to the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald), imposed an unjust condition upon the admission of Roman Catholics to Parliament, was by the Archbishops and Bishops of his Church, assembled in conclave, declared to be entitled to the reverence and love of the people of Ireland. The B shops proceeded to say that they trusted that the feeling of their fellow-religionists upon this subject was in unison with their own, and that attachment to the laws and Government of their country and to their Sovereign would be manifested in their future conduct. "We united," they added in conclusion, "our efforts with those of the laity in endeavouring to attain this great end, and to attain it without a compromise of the freedom of our Church." There was no compromise, therefore, of the freedom of the Roman Catholic Church; there was nothing which the heads of that Church did not declare a Roman Catholic gentleman might not safely and conscientiously swear to; for, while he admitted that the Bishops did not object to the passage in the Emancipation Act which related to monastic establishments, he had proved that they applauded all the other clauses in the Bill, and among them the clause which contained the oath which it was now sought to repeal. He relied upon the facts he had adduced; he relied upon the statement of the Bishops, that the oath was one which they might fairly and conscientiously take; and he opposed the present Resolution not in any narrow spirit of bigotry, but on the distinct and intelligible ground that the Roman Catholic oath contained a record of the conditions upon which emancipation was granted, no matter whether it had or had not proved efficacious for its purpose. As it was acccepted by the great leaders of the Roman Catholic party, as it was applauded by the Roman Catholic Bishops, and as it had been recognized by Roman Catholic gentlemen from 1829 to the present hour, so he trusted it would not be disturbed now by those who wished to preserve religious peace and tranquillity in the country.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, the view which I take of this question does not rest upon the ground—though, perhaps, it may be a strong ground—upon which it was placed by my right hon. 813 and learned Friend the Member for Ennis; but as a Member of the Legislature I wish the House to consider whether it is not fit from time to time to examine the oaths which are taken at our table, to see whether there are any parts of them which are unnecessary or insulting to a portion of our fellow-subjects; and, if so, to decide whether the objectionable passages may not be removed without destroying any security whatever. Although there certainly must remain in our oaths a good deal which I might not think quite necessary, yet everybody roust admit that if there are portions of an oath binding not only Members of Parliament, but magistrates and other persons holding office, which are liable to objections, it is not the part of a wise Legislature to maintain those passages, to keep up an oath which is of useless length, and, above all, to continue an oath in a form which is offensive to any part of our fellow-subjects. The learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside) seems to think that my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) has wantonly and foolishly introduced this subject; but we did act last year upon this very principle. We did not merely occupy ourselves, as we might have done. in seeing that the words "on the true faith of a Christian" should be omitted in deference to the Jews; that was all that was necessary in the case of the Jew. The Jew had no objection to renounce James II., or the person falsely calling himself James III., and any of his descendants who might be living and should come to claim the throne against Queen Victoria. It was not for the sake of the Jew that we left those passages out of the oath. They were passages which we Protestants took at the table of the House, and which we thought unnecessary; and there were many of us who held it to be something like profanation to continue to take an oath which was a mere mockery, and which applied to a state of things which no longer existed. Accordingly, we very much improved the oath, I believe with the cordial concurrence both of those who opposed the admission of Jews and those who were in favour of it. That task, then, having been accomplished successfully, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ennis now comes forward and says that a portion of our fellow-subjects are still obliged to take an oath, some of the passages of which are fairly open to objection. I am willing to listen to my right hon. and 814 learned Friend upon that subject, and, seeing that the question must be determined, not by the thirty-one Roman Catholic Members of this House, but by the whole of the 650 Gentlemen who represent the people. I am not the least affected by the argument stated by an hon. and learned Member who spoke early in the debate (Mr. Adams) and insisted upon by the learned Attorney General for Ireland, that there is a compact on the part of the Roman Catholics. Compact or no compact, there is nothing to prevent the Legislature from shortening and simplifying an oath, or reducing it to a form in which men can bind themselves, without collusion or ambiguity, to all that the State need require. There is nothing to prevent the wisdom of Parliament from making such an alteration. I admit what has been stated by the learned Attorney General for Ireland that when the Emancipation Act was passed the Roman Catholic Archbishops and Bishops did express their gratitude for it, and did rejoice that they had been delivered from a state winch was undoubtedly degrading to a portion of the subjects of this realm. But Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington stated, and stated over and over again, that they might have adopted either of two courses. One was to negotiate with the Roman Catholics, to ask what oath they were willing to take, what restrictions they would place themselves under, by what securities they would be bound, and then to frame a measure upon the result of the negotiations thus entered into. They thought that an unwise mode of proceeding. The other course was for Parliament to consider the whole subject, both what was due in justice to the Roman Catholic people and what was necessary for the security of our Protestant institutions, and to pass a measure accordingly. Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington thought that was the wise principle, and I believe they were quite right. Such was the principle upon which they framed their Bill, and presented it for the approbation of Parliament. That does away altogether with the notion of a compact. The Roman Catholics might be willing to accept the measure, but, whether they had accepted it or not, the Duke of Wellington would no doubt have said, "I shall leave them to decide after the Bill has passed whether or not the terms are such as they can accept, but they are terms which I think it neces- 815 sary to impose upon them." But now let us, as Protestants, consider whether it is wise to preserve those four articles of the oath to which so much allusion has been made. The learned Attorney General for Ireland passed somewhat slightly over the first passage of the oath, in which, he said, the Roman Catholics renounced as an article of their faith that it is lawful to destroy princes who have been excommunicated by the Pope. Yet that passage is surely offensive enough. The precise words are,I do further declare that it is not an article of my faith, and that I do renounce, reject, and abjure the opinion, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any other authority of the See of Home, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or by any person whatsoever.We maintain, in the first place, that it is quite unnecessary to call upon any Roman Catholic to assert that a prince excommunicated by the See of Rome may not be murdered by his subjects; and, in the next place, that if it is unnecessary it can be no security, and, being no security, it is a mere gratuitous insult, offensive to the feelings of your Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, which you should not retain unless you can give some valid reason for its continuance. The next objectionable article of the oath is—I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this realm as established by the laws.Surely, that is very needless. There is no question, whether among Protestants or Roman Catholics, of disturbing the settlement of property. Nobody now is disposed to say that the Cromwellian settlement should be overturned, as was said in the time of Charles II., but the passage is so unimportant that it is immaterial whether it is retained or omitted. The next article is,I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm.This passage was undoubtedly framed to satisfy the feelings and scruples of Protestants in 1829, when this oath was framed, or rather copied, from former Acts. I do not see, however, why we should not be a little wiser now than we were at that period. I recollect perfectly well having been summoned on one occasion to attend a Reform meeting at Sir Francis Burdett's, at which we who belonged to the party, that for twenty-four years had been the advocates of the Roman Catholic cause, were 816 asked to consider whether we could assent to the proposal in connection with it of the Government of the day, and Lord Althorp, I remember, left that meeting charged with a message to Sir Robert Peel, which was to the effect that some change might be made in the measure not with respect to the oath, but with respect to the disfranchisement of Roman Catholic freeholders. He, however, returned to us with the reply that the Government had had so much difficulty in obtaining assent—the Royal assent, I believe, being meant—to the Bill, and that all its parts had been so settled that it would be dangerous to endeavour to introduce any alteration into it in its passage through Parliament. We at once assented to the justice of that statement on the part of Sir Robert Peel. We thought, and I am still of that opinion, that he made the best terms he could; nor do I think that either he or the Duke of Wellington shared in those fears which were so prevalent at the time. But, be that as it may, it seems to me extremely unnecessary that we should entertain, at the present day, the apprehensions of thirty years ago. Now, that clause in the oath to which I have just been referring is objected to for this very good reason, that—as Sir Robert Peel then argued, and as every one, I think, must feel—a person who occupies the high position of a legislator, who is called upon to frame laws in Parliament, and to take part in all those proceedings which affect the highest interests of the State, ought not to be bound down to take a particular course upon any question involving those interests which may arise. If you seek to establish a safeguard of this nature for the various institutions of the country, there would be no end to the clauses of the oath which you would be obliged to administer; you would be under the necessity, for instance, of calling upon the Members of this House to declare solemnly that they had no intention to subvert the house of Lords; but you would, in my opinion, be pursuing a much wiser course if you were to leave all such matters to the discretion of the Members themselves. The case, however, is infinitely worse when you call upon a certain number of Gentlemen to take an oath which you do not administer to all. If it be necessary to guard your Church Establishment, and that the obligation of an oath is required for the purpose, then, let every Member who comes to your table take that oath. The right 817 hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last paid a well-merited compliment to my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan), who declared that he felt himself bound by this oath not to give a direct vote for the subversion of the Church Establishment; but what, let me ask, is the position in which you place him? A Dissenter who is the sincere advocate of the voluntary principle thinks he is perfectly entitled—and he is so in accordance with your laws—to introduce into this House a Bill whose object is to destroy the Church Establishment altogether, and vet there is among his fellow Members one who is precluded by his conscientious adherence to an oath from voting for such a measure. What, under those circumstances, becomes of the boasted equality of all Members of the House of Commons? Why is it that you place a restraint upon one while you allow another to be free. And now let me ask, in what does the security which the administration of this oath furnishes to your Church Establishment consist? Depend upon it if that Establishment should ever be subverted its fall will not be brought about by some thirty Roman Catholic Members, even though you should free them altogether from the obligation which you now impose upon them. It will be overthrown, if at all, by the votes of those Protestant Members who are the advocates of the voluntary principle, and who maintain that all State endowments for religious purposes are in themselves anti-Scriptural and wrong. That, no doubt, is a strong opinion to hold; but if such an opinion be entertained in the country, then I say let it be represented in the House of Commons, and fairly submitted to the test of argument; above all, do not contend that some hon. Gentlemen may be at liberty to express their views upon the subject while others are debarred from that privilege. As to the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan), I do not know what his sentiments upon the point may be, but if he thinks that the Irish or English Church Establishment ought to be subverted, I should, I confess, like to see him standing up in this House declaring his reasons for holding that opinion, and manfully voting according to his conscience; for I cannot imagine that the Church Establishment would be the weaker were the very false security of this oath to be abolished. The remaining portion of it, which calls upon a Member to swear that he takes it without equivocation, is couched, it appears to 818 me, in insulting terms, and, as has been very fairly observed, provides no safeguard whatsoever against that which it seeks to prevent. And this being the nature of the oath, I feel no hesitation in saying that as you improved last year the form of oath taken by Members generally, so you ought this year—and that, too, irrespective of any claim made by Roman Catholics themselves—to relieve your brother Members of that persuasion from an obligation which is obviously superfluous and unnecessary, and which is, moreover, objectionable, on the ground that it partakes of the nature of an insult to a larger portion of your fellow-subjects. I recollect witnessing a scene in this House when a question relating to the Church Establishment came under consideration which I thought most painful. I saw the present Prime Minister of the country come to the table and read the Roman Catholic oath, laying great stress on the words which it contains with respect to the subversion of the Church Establishment, and then say that he would go no further, but leave it to the consciences of Roman Catholic Members how they would vote on the Motion under discussion. There was in that proceeding, I cannot help thinking, an obvious insinuation that, in the noble Lord's opinion, certain Members of the House of Commons might, if the terms of the oath which they had taken were not re-called to their attention, perjure themselves in the course which they might pursue with respect to the question at issue. Let us, I beg of you, be exempted from the risk of a repetition of such a scene. Let all the Members of the House come freely into it, and freely vote according to their consciences. Your institutions, you may rest assured, will not be the less safe. Depend for their security on freedom of discussion. Depend on truth and the general interests of the country, and not upon mere phrases in an oath.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had warned the House on previous occasions what would be the consequence of destroying the Christian character of the House, and accordingly they now found the noble Lord the Member for London supporting a proposal for relieving Roman Catholic Members from the obligation to abstain from attacking the Protestant institutions of the country. In 1847 the noble Lord declared that nothing could be more absurd than to refuse to allow the Prelates of the Roman Catholic Church to assume what titles they chose, derived from dis- 819 tricts in this country; but in 1851 he came down to the House, and, as a distinguished Member of the then Government, made a humble confession that, with respect to the Church of Rome, he had been entirely mistaken. With the classic poet, the noble Lord had said on that occasion—Urbem, quam dicunt Roman, Melikœe, putavi Stultus ego huic nostræ similem.And on the present occasion they again found the noble Lord, as in 1854, when the House rejected his Bill to same effect as the present Motion, seeking to disturb the settlement of 1829, which, whether compact or no compact, was that great settlement under which our Roman Catholic countrymen were placed in a position to assume many of the highest offices of the State, which in some instances he admitted that they adorned, and to take part in the deliberations of this House, which he was equally ready to confess they often did with great ability. Let him recall to the noble Lord's recollection what took place in 1851. In that year the noble Lord came down and asked the House to adopt certain measures for the defence of his Sovereign against the temporal aggression of the Court of Rome. And what was the result? Why, that the noble Lord found that the Roman Catholic Members of this House rendered him incapable of giving what he believed to be due satisfaction to the feelings of his Protestant fellow countrymen, and prevented his passing a measure adequate to guard the independence of this realm. The noble Lord now asked the House to repeal the provisions of the Roman Catholic oath, because he said that they were insulting. What were those provisions? The Roman Catholic on entering the House declared that he abjured the doctrine that Princes excommunicated by the Pope could be murdered by their subjects. Was the noble Lord ignorant of the fact, that there were influential writers in France—and where there were writers there must be readers—who within the last three or four years had avowed the doctrine of conversion by the sword. These men—eminent writers such as M. Veuillot—had lamented Luther had not been burnt as Huss was burnt, and persecution was not carried out against Protestants by the faggot and the sword. The old sword of persecution was not dead. It lingered in France; it was maintained in Naples: why should not our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen denounce it? The noble Lord complained that the Roman Catholics 820 should be asked to declare that they would not disturb the present settlement of property. Well, they had the authority of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had brought forward this Motion, that they were content with that settlement; why, then, should they object to avow it? But the necessity for this portion of the oath was apparent from the fact—he cited Dr. Wordsworth for his authority—that there were preserved in the Jesuit College at Paris to this day maps of the old distribution of Irish property. And next, with regard to the Protestant Church, was there no ground for calling upon Roman Catholics to declare that they would do nothing to subvert or weaken the establishment, when, according to Cardinal Wiseman's own avowal, the object of his mission was to re-establish the Church of Rome in place of the Church of England—the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic Church and its supremacy, to the destruction of our Protestant Church and its supremacy. For his part, he could not see what there was to complain of in the oath if hon. Members of the Roman Catholic persuasion honestly meant to abide by the conditions upon which they had been admitted to seats in that House. Surely those conditions were no more grievous now than they were at the time Roman Catholics accepted them—he did not mean to say by compact, but that these conditions were accepted by the whole body of the Roman Catholic clergy and laity. Indeed, he knew some Roman Catholics who rejoiced in the restrictions contained in this oath, several had said to him, "It is happier to live a Roman Catholic under a Protestant Government, than a Roman Catholic under a Roman Catholic Government." He would cite Naples; he would cite Austria; he would cite the State of Rome in proof of this truth. Speaking then, in the sense of such Roman Catholics as the late Duke of Norfolk and the late Lord Beaumont, in the sense of Roman Catholics before the Jesuit power was dominant in Rome; in the sense of the Roman Catholic priests who had been formerly educated liberally abroad, not educated as the Jesuits contrived that the Roman Catholic priests should be now educated at Clongowes, where they were taught to chafe at many circumstances of their own country as proofs of oppression that they would not have deemed such if they were educated abroad; speaking in the sense of liberal Roman Catholics free 821 from the influence of suggestive grievances, he hell that it would be unwise to relieve them from the protection of those obligations which they voluntarily undertook when they entered this House. He remembered the noble Lord addressing the young men of Bristol, a year or two since, and recommending them to read history, especially that of their own country. That advice had made a deep impression upon him (Mr. Newdegate), and he now asked the noble Lord if he meant to say that Rome had changed, or that she was more tolerant than heretofore. Again, he said, "Look at Naples! Look at Rome!" He would no longer trouble the House; but this he would say, that if the noble Lord believed, because a Bill had been passed to discontinue the commemoration of the 5th of November, that the spirit which dictated that attack against free Government were dead, he little knew the spirit which now actuated so many on the Continent; and remembering the speech of the noble Lord in the debate on the Address, in which he spoke of the tyranny of Rome as practised on the inhabitants of that unhappy city; he felt that the noble Lord did ill in asking the House to cast away those safeguards which had been so long acquiesced in by the Roman Catholic subjects of Her Majesty.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
observed, that when the time came for the discussion of what was the character of temporal Roman Catholic Government, there were persons in that House who would be ready to discuss that question. The question in reference to the oaths taken by the Members of that House, which was before the House last year, was whether or not the Jews were to be emancipated; but an important question also arose as to whether Protestant Members should not be relieved from unnecessary portions of the oath they were required to take; and when this question of the oaths generally was discussed, Roman Catholic Members abstained from seizing that opportunity of pressing their own grievances on the attention of the Legislature, being unwilling to interfere with the consideration of the just rights of the Jews; and all the Roman Catholic Members voted for the emancipation of their Jewish fellow-subjects. In taking that course, they merely followed out the policy they had adopted since the date of their own emancipation; and now he thought that his right hon. and learned Friend was perfectly justified in redeem- 822 ing, at an early period of the present Session, the pledge he gave in the last. At, hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Adams) had said that he trusted that there would be from all parts of Ireland an indignant repudiation of this attempt to disturb the serenity of the Legislature. Now, he knew the feelings of his countrymen, and he could say that among conscientious Protestants as well as among Roman Catholics, there prevailed a feeling of indignation against the continuance of a portion of the oath at present imposed on Roman Catholic Members. He was a member of a corporation which had done much for the improvement of the city whose affairs it administered. Many Roman Catholics exercised functions in that corporation, who had yet practically violated the law, by acting without having taken the required oath; and so tolerant and liberal were the Protestant Members, that they abstained from requiring the Roman Catholic Members to take an insulting oath merely as a qualification for paving, lighting, or cleansing the city. That was a practical proof that the oath had, to a certain extent, fallen into disuse with the assent of persons at least as strongly Protestant in feeling as the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. He would put it to that hon. Gentleman, as a man of honour and sense, whether the Roman Catholics in that House ought to be satisfied with their present political and legal standing in it. Supposing the Protestants were in a minority in the House, and were placed in the same position as the Catholics now were by the words of an offensive oath, would they have the feelings of men if they quietly submitted to the indignity of being compelled to confess that they were morally, socially, and politically inferior to the other Members? It was said there were no petitions on the subject; but had there been petitions, it would have been the same, for then they would have been sneered at in the old stereotyped fashion. The question was not whether there were petitions in favour of the demand, but the question was whether the demand was right or wrong. He was ready to swear allegiance to his Sovereign. He was heart and soul a monarchist, because he thought a liberal monarchy the best form of Government. Every Roman Catholic who accepted office was ready to swear allegiance to the Throne. and what more should be asked? Why should a man be asked to swear that he 823 repudiated what was against the laws of God and man? The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Whiteside) said that the Roman Catholic Members should be glad of the opportunity of swearing that they did not believe in certain doctrines; but if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had the power to make the Catholic Members swear that they would not pick pockets, would they regard him as a benefactor for giving them an opportunity of taking so insulting an oath? As to the question of compact, he thought that the opinion of the noble Lord who was concerned in all the proceedings of that eventful period, and was, as it were, behind the scenes, should be taken as conclusive upon that point. The noble Lord knew there was no compact, and told the House so. Under the circumstances there could be no compact. What were those circumstances? Ireland was at the time in a state of civil war, and the Lord-Lieutenant, the Marquess of Anglesea, was Writing to the Government that he could not answer for the peace of the country for a week, and that Catholic Emancipation must be granted. Of course, all the old women both in petticoats and pantaloons were in a fright; but Emancipation was neverthelss carried. All the sinister predictions made at the time had been falsified by the fact; for the Roman Catholics were as loyal to their country, their Sovereign, and their God as any class of men belonging to any other religious persuasion. Were Roman Catholic Members to be told that they were not to be allowed to express an opinion or give a vote on certain subjects? Ought there to be any restriction on hon. Members in that assembly, to which men were sent by the free voice of their constituencies to decide on what was for the benefit of the entire country? He maintained that there ought to be no restriction; and the existence of restriction, which was proved by every speech made on the other side of the House, implied degradation. He did not wish to derogate from the dignity of the Jews, yet they were a mere handful, while there were 6,000,000 of Roman Catholics. Surely, then, if the Jews were entitled to perfect freedom, the Roman Catholics, by their numbers, their services, and their social position, had claims on the Crown to be placed on the same footing as the Protestant Members of the House. They were willing to declare their allegiance, but they ought not to be called on to deny 824 their belief in that which every Roman Catholic gentleman abhorred; and it was absurd to hold that a state of things which had passed away 300 years ago was applicable to the present day. The case had been so strongly put by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who proposed the Motion, and so conclusively in the main point by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, that it would be a waste of time for him to say more than that the right hon. and learned Gentleman bad his most cordial support.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he had been informed that in his absence a statement had been made by the right hon. Gentleman who brought forward this Motion so extraordinary, that until it was confirmed by six or seven hon. Gentlemen whom he had consulted, he could not credit it. The statement was, that two or three Sessions ago he had said that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, being then Attorney General for Ireland, ought not to be intrusted with an important prosecution, because he was a Roman Catholic. This statement was an extraordinary distortion of what took place, and, indeed, it was completely contrary to the fact. Perhaps the House would allow him to explain. This occasion to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman alluded was when a question was under discussion as to the propriety of the Government instituting a prosecution against two reverend gentlemen for active interference in an election in the county of Mayo. He (Lord C. Hamilton) took part in that discussion, but made not the slightest reference to the religions opinions or sentiments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. What he said was, that in selecting a person to undertake that prosecution they should endeavour to secure the services of some one free from sectarian bigotry, and unbiassed by party motives. He went on to say that, considering the line of conduct which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had taken with reference to the Six Mile-bridge affair, he ought not to be the person, not because he was a Roman Catholic, but because he had shown a violent party bias in defending one of the grossest outrages ever committed at an election riot, and deliberately charging the magistrates, the police, and the troops, with the most improper conduct. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had on that occasion accused Her Majesty's troops of deliberately firing on an unarmed mob. ["No!"] The right hon. and learned 825 Gentleman deliberately accused the troops of firing on an unarmed mob and stabbing innocent men. He did not like to trouble the House with a quotation, but, not trusting his own memory, he had referred to the pages of "Hansard," which were acknowledged to give an impartial and correct account of what passed in the House, and it would be found that in his observations there was not the slightest reference to the religion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. After alluding to the right hon. and learned Gentleman having for two hours defended one of the grossest outrages ever known, he was reported to have said—If the Government wanted that prosecution to go on, and if they wanted it to be conducted in an impartial manner, let them put it into other hands. He charged them not to let that investigation be carried on by one who, whatever his merits—and he (Lord C. Hamilton) acknowledged the hon. and learned Member had legal talent—had on the occasion to which he had just referred, made a fatal and unfortunate exhibition of partiality, and preferred charges against the magistrates, the soldiery, and the constabulary, which would remain in evidence against him so long as that house existed."—[3 Hansard, cxlvii. 635].Those were the grounds upon which he did not conceive that the prosecution of a similar case should be committed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's hands, but from first to last he never alluded to his religious views. He had never done so, and he never would. He had the honour to represent 3,000 Roman Catholic voters, and they knew him too well to suppose that he would disqualify any person because he belonged to this or that persuasion. There never was a more extraordinary distortion than that which had been made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and he had therefore felt bound to offer to the House this explanation.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, that if he had not been well acquainted with the character of the noble Lord he should have imagined that he had been put up to withdraw attention from the subject before the House. The Motion was opposed only upon the ground of a compact, and there was no argument on that which did not equally apply to the introduction of a Reform Bill. He thought that one of the leading Members of the Government was bound to tell them whether, on the narrow grounds of expediency or compact, they would oppose this reasonable demand. At present they had only had the speech of the Attorney General for Ireland, who had 826 been long connected with constituencies prejudiced against those who professed the Roman Catholic religion, and who was not a Member of the Cabinet.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, before we come to a decision I wish to state, in a very few words, the reasons which will influence the vote I am about to give. I have listened to this debate with some degree of pain. I have thought that with the end of last Session we should have terminated all these discussions upon the taking of oaths. I think I had good reason to hope that we might have expected a truce upon such a subject, for at the time when we deliberated on the oaths to be taken by hon. Members in this House we settled the form for those who are called Protestant Members, combining the three oaths in one. We settled that form for the purpose of doing away with superfluous and obsolete passages, which really diminish the solemnity, I may almost say the sanctity, with which those oaths were taken. Towards the close of the discussion of last year the question was raised whether the Roman Catholic oath should be altered. It was debated in this House, and it was decided in the negative by a large majority, of which the noble Lord opposite, I think, was one. Unfortunately, however, the discussion of this question of the oath to he taken by hon. Members has not been allowed to terminate with last year. The noble Lord has argued it to-night on grounds which would be equally applicable against the taking of almost any oath, certainly on grounds which would assume that we were now considering what ought to be the oath imposed. In arguing as to the force of the oath upon the consciences of hon. Members, he seemed to say, "You have no right to appeal to any hon. Member as to the course which he shall take on any particular subject, by the oath which he has taken." But when he argues whether this is or is not the best form of oath which can be taken, I beg leave to point out to him that that is not the question which we are now discussing. If we were framing a new oath it is very possible that we might frame a better; but the question before us is whether there is any good reason for altering that form of oath which was imposed in 1829, and which Sir Robert Peel always told the Roman Catholics in this House was the condition of their admission here. Unless you have strong reason for the alteration, you will create in the minds of the Protestant people of this 827 country an idea that you are doing away with what they have considered a great security to our Protestant Establishment. If the noble Lord will say that there is anything objectionable in the oath, I will agree with him that we ought to consider the propriety of altering it; but Roman Catholic after Roman Catholic has come to this table since 1829 and taken it without saying that there was anything objectionable in it. And mark how the argument turns the other way. If you say that this oath is to be done away with, will not the Protestant people of this country ask by implication and inference, what is it that the Roman Catholics wish to do? When the oath is removed will not the Protestants logically say to the Roman Catholics, "Are you not, then, going for the future to defend to the utmost of your power the settlement of property within the realm as established by law? Do you Dot disavow and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the Protestant Church Establishment?" Will they not ask whether the Roman Catholics are going to exercise "any privileges they may possess to disturb and weaken the Protestant religion and the Protestant Government?" Do not let me be understood to say that I think the Roman Catholics are meditating any such things, but unless there is something in the oath which is objectionable in itself, it is certainly a strong argument by inference from the alteration that you wish to do something which you are now bound by the oath not to do. I have also a stronger reason than this against this alteration, and it is one on which I have repeatedly acted in the House, and particularly in voting against the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire for the abolition of the grant to Maynooth. The noble Lord, then Member for the City, once said in this House—and I think it was one of the wisest of his many wise sayings—that when it had once been settled, after much deliberation and discussion, it was not expedient to reopen a question which, accordingly as it might be opened in one direction, you must be forced to open in another. If you open this question as to the terms on which the Roman Catholics ought to be admitted—and I wish them to have the fullest capacities—you will weaken the argument which is constantly urged against the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, derived from a settlement of the question which he seeks to disturb. And so you 828 may go on with other questions, and you will never come to any settlement of these questions. For the sake, therefore, of peace and tranquillity, I say it is better that these questions should not be disturbed. In my mind no sufficient reasons have been urged for making this change, and I therefore hope that the House will refuse to accede to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Motion.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, that perhaps he might be permitted to address the House for a few moments as nearly ten years ago he had made a proposal upon this subject, and had pointed out that it would be better to reduce the Roman Catholic oath in length, and throw the whole into one single and simple form. His noble Friend the Member for the City (Lord John Russell,) however, rejected that proposal, on the ground that he was anxious to carry the measure for bringing the Jews into Parliament, and he did not think it desirable at that time to alter the oath. He was, therefore, happy to hear the powerful speech which his noble Friend had made in favour of the alteration of the Roman Catholic oath. Circumstances had now completely altered, and he would shortly point out how. Unlike the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Walpole) he had not heard the debate with any pain, for it had been conducted with all the delicacy which the subject demanded. Nor was there any reason to complain of the question being brought forward, for the right hon. and learned Member for Ennis had given notice of his intention last Session; and he said then, that he did not consider the question settled as far as the Roman Catholics were concerned. It was asked why the oath should be more offensive to Roman Catholics now than it was in 1829? It was more offensive now to them because the Protestants had declared it to be offensive to themselves, and had struck all these expressions out of their own oath, to use the right hon. Gentleman's language, as "superfluous and obsolete." Why, therefore, should they not be struck out of the Roman Catholic oath? Why should the Catholics be called upon solemnly to disclaim that which nobody suspected them for a moment of believing or contemplating. Why were they to be called on to declare that they were not a betters of assassination? or that they took this oath without equivocation, which was as much as to say that if they did not declare that there was no equivocation there would 829 be no security that they were not perjured? The right hon. Gentleman had said he thought the alteration of this oath would fill Protestant minds with alarm; but he (Mr. Vernon Smith) could not help that unreasonable alarm, or be stopped by it when his object was to take away what filled Catholic minds with disgust. But why should the alteration of this oath be supposed to endanger the Church of England? Was there any occasion for alarm? For thirty years Roman Catholics had sat in Parliament; and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, (Mr. Spooner) who was their greatest adversary in Parliament, said that he had nothing to complain of against them in matters concerning their oath. As to the re-opening of the question, it was reopened last Session. And when the House assented to that miserable manœeuvre for admitting Jews into Parliament, it was for that especial purpose only, without affecting the claims of the Roman Catholics. But it necessarily opened the question. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had talked of destroying the security provided in 1829, but that security had been thought to be none by its opponents, and not a single vote had been gained by it, Justice Bushe had eloquently said of such oaths, "they were no securities for no dangers." It appeared, however, as if the right hon. Gentleman were rather afraid the raising of this question would induce the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Spooner) behind him to bring forward his views once more upon Maynooth, which the House had decided upon many occasions against them. He had no belief or apprehension of any such consequence now. He would next observe, with regard to the course to be adopted by the House upon this Motion, that if his right hon. and learned Friend obtained the assent of the House to going into Committee, it would be open to those who concurred with him that some expressions in the oaths were superfluous and obsolete to allow them to be expunged; and afterwards they could discuss the question of the interference with the Church of England. For his own part, he should be quite content to go the whole length with his right hon. and learned Friend, and say that the Oath of Allegiance was all that was necessary. As the thing stood, the oath was as ridiculous as it was unnecessary. For now they had an oath open to all Protestant Members who were called upon to swear "on the true 830 faith of a Christian," by which they meant many things as different as Roman Catholicism could be from the Church of England. Then there was the Catholic oath, and again there was that subterfuge by which the Jews were admitted to Parliament; so there were three different modes of taking oaths on admission to Parliament, by upholding which he held that the consequence would be to make the House ridiculous in the eyes of the country. He was anxious that all that was necessary should be embodied in one oath, applicable to all hon. Members alike, and having no objection to the proposal of his right hon. Friend, he should give it his support.
§ MR SPOONER
said, that he had not intended to have said one word upon the subject now under consideration, had it not been for the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke. That right hon. Gentleman was very much mistaken if he supposed him (Mr. Spooner) to be content with the Maynooth question as it stood. It was his intention at the proper time to submit that question again for the consideration of the House, and he should then claim the vote of his right hon. Friend below him (Mr. Walpole) on the very grounds his right hon. Friend had stated as the reason of the vote he was about to give. His right hon. Friend says he agrees with the noble Lord that if there is anything in the oath objectionable in itself, that would be a reason for considering it, notwithstanding he admits that the oath was one of the conditions on which Roman Catholic Members were admitted into Parliament. Now, let his right hon. Friend apply the same reasoning to the question of Maynooth. He (Mr. Walpole) had never defended the grant to Maynooth, and if his (Mr. Spooner's) memory did not fail him, he (Mr. Walpole) had stated that the grant itself was objectionable, but that he looked upon it as a settled question. Acting upon the same principle, his right hon, Friend must vote for the repeal of the grant to Maynooth. He wished also to allude to another remark which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Vernon Smith). That right hon. Gentleman said that he defied any one to find in the debates of 1829 that the oath was required as a security But Mr. Canning, one of the greatest states men that ever lived, said, either in 1827 or 1828—You object to admit Roman Catholics because 831 you say they are not bound by the moral obligation of an oath. If so, what stops them from coming into this House? It is clear that they do feel bound by the moral obligation of an oath. If the oath, then, is sufficient to keep them out of Parliament, cannot you frame one which will be sufficient to direct and control them while they are in Parliament?He (Mr. Spooner) believed that this oath was intended to control Roman Catholics in Parliament, and that it was part and parcel of the compact of 1829; and he warned the House that the proposed measure was another step in the progress of a design the object of which was to destroy the Protestant reformed religion as by law established.
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he had been taunted with having brought forward and agitated this question, when there was perfect peace and harmony; but, considering there were rights to be settled in times of peace and quietness, as well as at others, this was an absurd argument. Further, he must deny that he was obnoxious to the charge, seeing that he had not been the first to originate the measure, as a similar oath had been proposed in 1854, which, however, was defeated by the combined prejudice which then existed against the Jews and the Roman Catholics. They admitted to the House by one form of oath the Dissenter, the Jew, the Deist, and the Atheist, if there were such; a different form of oath being reserved for Roman Catholics alone. He must beg leave to correct the noble Lord (Lord Claud Hamilton) in one particular. The question upon which the discussion referred to took place was not one of a prosecution by the Government. The Government of the day had nothing whatever to do with it. It was a prosecution undertaken by the Attorney General for Ireland by direction of the House, on the report of the chairman of the Mayo Election Committee—and on that occasion the noble Lord stated in that House that the prosecution ought to be entrusted to a public officer who was free from sectarianism. What did that infer, but that the Attorney General, who had the conduct of the prosecution, was influenced by religious prejudice? He would however deny that he had ever done anything, in that House or elsewhere, to warrant such an attack, and he had no hesitation in stating that, wherever there had been a Catholic filling high office, not even the voice of slander had been able to insinuate that he had not done his duty. If defeated upon the present 832 division, he wished to give notice that he should re-open the question upon a future occasion.
§ The House divided: Ayes 122; Noes 113: Majority 9.
|List of the AYES.|
|Agar-Ellis, hn. L. G. F.||Hutt, W. E.|
|Anderson, Sir J.||Ingham, R.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Ingram, H.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Jackson, W.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Baring, T. G.||Kershaw, J.|
|Bass, M. T.||Kirk, W.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Beamish, F. B.||Laslett, W.|
|Black, A.||Macarthy, A.|
|Blake, J.||M'Cann, J.|
|Bowyer, G.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Brooklehurst, J.||Mangles, C. E.|
|Brown, W.||Matheson, A.|
|Browne, Lord J. T.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Brucee, H. A.||Monson, hon. W. J.|
|Buchanan, W.||Nicoll, D.|
|Buller, J. W.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Byng, hon. G.||O'Brien, P.|
|Caird, J.||Ogilvy, Sir J.|
|Campbell, R. J. R.||Paget, C.|
|Clay, J.||Pease, H.|
|Olifford, C. C.||Philips, R. N.|
|Clive, G.||Pilkington, J.|
|Cogan, W. H. F.||Pritchard, J.|
|Collins, T.||Puller, C. W. G.|
|Cox, W.||Ramsden, Sir J. W.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Ricardo, O.|
|Crook, J.||Ridley, G.|
|Dalglish, R.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Davey, R.||Rothschild, Baron L. de|
|Deasy, R.||Roupell, W.|
|Denison, hn. W. H. F.||Russell, Lord J.|
|De Vere, S. E.||Russell. A.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Russell, F. W.|
|Duff, Major L. D. G.||Salomons, Ald.|
|Dunkellin, Lord||Samuelson, B.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Scholefield, W.|
|Elphinstone, Sir J.||Smith, J. A.|
|Esmonde, J.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Evans, T. W.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W. M.|
|Ewing, H. E. C.|
|Foley, J. H.||Spaight, J.|
|Forster, C.||Stapleton, J.|
|Fortesque, hon. F. D.||Steel, J.|
|Fortescue, C. S.||Sullivan, M.|
|Fox, W. J.||Thompson, Gen.|
|Garnett, W. J.||Thornely, T.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Gilpin, C.||Turner, J. A.|
|Glyn, Geo. G.||Waldron, L.|
|Greene, J.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Greer, S M'Curdy||Western, S.|
|Grey, R. W.||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Gurney, J. H.||Whitbread, S.|
|Hadfield, G.||White, J.|
|Hamilton, C.||Willyams, E. W. B.|
|Hatchell, J.||Wilson, J.|
|Hayter,rt. hn. Sir W.G.||Wood, W.|
|Headlam, T. E.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. H. A.||TELLERS|
|Hodgson, K. D.||FitzGerald, Mr. J. D.|
|Holland, E.||Fagan, Mr.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Adeane, H. J.||Knightley, R.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. Gen.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Langton, W. G.|
|Baillie, C.||Langton, H. G.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Lefroy, A.|
|Ball, E.||Lovaine, Lord|
|Bernard, Tho. T.||Luce, T.|
|Bernard, hon. Col.||Lytton, rt. hon. Sir G. G. L. B.|
|Barrow, W. H.|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Macartney, G.|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Macaulay, K.|
|Botfield, B.||Mackie, J.|
|Bovill, W.||Mainwaring, T.|
|Bramley-Moore, J.||Malins, R.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Cairns, Sir H. M'C.||Maxwell, hon. Col.|
|Cartwright, Col.||Miles, W.|
|Child, S.||Miller, T. J.|
|Churchill, Lord A. S.||Miller, S. B.|
|Close, M. C.||Montgomery, Sir G.|
|Cobbett, J. M.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Naas, Lord|
|Conolly, T.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||North, Col.|
|Cubitt, Mr. Ald.||Northcote, Sir S. H.|
|Damer, L. D.||Onslow, G.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Packe, C. W,|
|Dobbs, W. C.||Peel, rt. hon. Gen.|
|Dod, J. W.||Pevensey, Visct.|
|Du Cane, C.||Pigott, F.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Pryse, E. L.|
|Estcourt,rt. hn. T. H. S.||Rebow, J. G.|
|Farquhar, Sir M.||Richardson, J.|
|Fellowes, E.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Finlay, A. S.||Sibthorp, Major|
|FitzGerald, W. R. S.||Smith, Sir F.|
|Foley, H. W.||Smyth, Col.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Col.||Spooner, R.|
|Forster, sir G.||Stanhope, J. B.|
|Fraser, Sir W. A.||Steuart, A.|
|Gard, R. S.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Greenwood, J.||Sturt, N.|
|Gray, Capt.||Tempest, Lord A. V.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Vance, J.|
|Hanbury, hon. Capt.||Vansittart, G. H.|
|Hardy, G.||Vansittart, W.|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Hopwood, J. T.||Walcott, Adm.|
|Horsfall, T. B.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Hotham, Lord||Warre, J. A.|
|Hudson, G.||Whiteside, rt. hon J.|
|Johnstone, J. J. H.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Wynne, W. W. E.|
|Kekewich, S. T.|
|Kelly, Sir F.||TELLERS.|
|King, J. K.||Whitmore, Mr.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Adams, Mr.|
§ House in Committee.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD moved the following Resolution:—
That the Chairman be directed to move the House, That leave to bring in a Bill to substitute an Oath for the Oath required to be taken and subscribed by the Act 10th George IV., cap. 7, for Relief of Roman Catholics.
§ Question put—The House divided: Ayes 120; Noes 105: Majority 15.
§ Resolution reported, and agreed to.834
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. FITZROY, Mr. JOHN FITZGERALD. Lord JOHN RUSSELL, and Mr. Sergeant DEASY.
§ House resumed.