HC Deb 05 July 1859 vol 154 cc713-5

said, he wished to bring in a Bill to amend an Act passed in the tenth year of His Majesty King Geo. IV., entitled "An Act for the Relief of His Majesty's Roman Catholic Subjects." The object of the measure he should propose was to repeal so much of the Act of 1829 as prohibited persons professing the Roman Catholic religion from holding the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland. There were many reasons which it was easy to see why this clause of separation and exclusion should never have been passed, but what was difficult to see was what could have been the reasons which induced Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington to support it. The argument alleged by Sir Robert Peel was this—"From the office of Lord Chancellor the Roman Catholics are excluded, because the Church patronage in the hands of the Lord Chancellor is a right inherent in the office." But what was the fact? Why, that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland did not possess a single scrap of Church patronage. It was remarkable that during the debates of 1829, although it was proposed that several other officers of State, such as the Secretary for the Colonies and the President of the Board of Control, should be placed in the same position, on the ground that they might influence the distribution of Church patronage in England, vet that no such measure of exclusion was passed, except in the case of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. It was singular that no attempt at resistance was made at the time of the passing of the Act of 1829, but he attributed it to the fact that when a generous measure for the relief of Roman Catholics was introduced, it would have been manifesting an improper feeling if the recipients of the benefits had cavilled because one omission was made. He would only add one word as to the time at which he had thought it desirable to introduce this measure. He had observed that at the late election some reports prevailed that in many instances candidates who had been distinguished in former times for their hostility to the principles of their Roman Catholic subjects had withdrawn their hostility to their political rights; and the Roman Catholics of Ireland were assured of a disposition on the part of these Gentlemen to grant them their just claims. He trusted he might rely on the support of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House professing these intentions, and at the same time that he might appeal to the aid of those old and tried friends of civil and religious liberty whom he saw around him. This was a small but he trusted a not unimportant measure of relief. He was sure, too, it would be received with favour by the Protestant part of the community. It would, too, be an indication from the new Parliament of a friendly disposition to Ireland. He understood that as the Bill referred to a subject of a religious character it was necessary, according to the forms of the House, that it should originate with a Committee of the House, He begged leave, therefore, to move— That the Chairman be directed to move the House, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend an Act of the tenth year of King George the Fourth, for the Relief of His Majesty's Roman Catholic Subjects.


seconded the Motion.


said, he would very cordially give his assent to the Motion of his right hon. Friend, and would also support the Bill in its subsequent stages, should leave be given to introduce it. He entirely concurred in the statement of his right hon. Friend that there appeared to have been a misconception in framing the Catholic Relief Bill as to the nature of the functions of the Irish Chancellor. Sir Robert Peel, when he proposed that measure, was under the impression that the Irish Chancellor, like the English Chancellor, had the distribution of church patronage; hut there was not the smallest doubt that that was a mistake as respected the Irish Chancellor, for he had no share in the distribution of ecclesiastical patronage. He was, in fact, nothing but a Judge, and the very reason that would apply to the exclusion of Catholics from the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland would be equally applicable to their exclusion from the Irish Chief Justiceship. If this had been a mere speculative grievance he should not have joined in an attempt to remove it; but it could not be so regarded, for it was clear that the office of Chancellor in Ireland was merely judicial, and one to which Roman Catholics at large might reasonably aspire. For these reasons he entirely approved the Motion.


said, he believed that the inadvertence, as it was called, in framing the Catholic Relief Act of 1829 was no inadvertence, but an exclusion which proceeded on a full knowledge of the circumstances of the case, Considering, however, the feeling manifested by the House he would not oppose the Motion, though he felt he should have been wrong in allowing his silence to be construed into an approval of a total alteration of the principles on which the great men who were instrumental in passing that measure acted. He believed they had their reasons, independently of considerations arising out of the distribution of church patronage, for the exclusion in question, and that those reasons were still in full force.

Motion agreed to.

House in Committee.

Resolved, That the Chairman be directed to move the House, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend an Act of the tenth year of King George the Fourth, for the Relief of His Majesty's Roman Catholic Subjects.

House resumed; Resolution reported.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. MASSEY, Sir WILLIAM SOMERVILLE, Mr. HENRY HERBERT, and Mr. POLLARD-URQUHART.

Bill presented and read 1°.

House adjourned at half-past Twelve o'clock.