§ Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [7th July], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said: Sir, I have ventured to give notice that I shall move as an Amendment that this Bill be read a second time on this day three months; and I hope the House will allow me to explain, in as few words as possible, my reasons for so doing. The House will recollect that when this Bill was last under consideration, and just before the right hon. Baronet the Member for Canterbury moved the second reading of his Bill, a question was put to the Attorney General for Ireland, as to whether the Government would introduce a measure for an alteration of the oath taken by the Roman Catholic Members of this House, and by various officers of State being Roman Catholics, which is prescribed by what is termed the Relief Act of 1829—that great settlement by which members of the Roman Catholic Church, or rather persons who profess the Roman Catholic religion, were admitted to seats in the Legislature. The Attorney General for Ireland then stated, on the part of the Government, that they would, during the recess, consider this question. Now, the terms of that oath comprehend all the principles of the Relief Act. They comprehend not only the terms upon which Roman Catholics should be admitted to the Legislature and to high offices of State, but provide that nothing shall be done by the Roman Catholics to the detriment of the Established Church, or to the detriment of the Protestant Government of the United Kingdom as established under the Act of Settlement. Now, it appears to me to be somewhat strange that, when the Government had decided that they would take the period of the recess to consider whether any modifications should be introduced into this most important part of this national compact, for it is a national compact, they should have permitted and even encouraged an independent Member of this House to persevere with a Bill which assails a vital element in that Settlement. I know that a belief has prevailed, that this is merely a small concession to the spirit of liberalism in which this country has been proceeding for some years; 1098 but I think I can show the House that it is a direct attack upon the Act of Settlement as re-enacted in the Relief Act of 1829—a direct attack upon the Protestant Government of this country—that form of Government under which it is our happiness to live, which has not been invalidated by the Act of 1829, but which it was the direct object of the framers of that Act to preserve, whilst they granted certain privileges to their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. I have heard it said by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, that it was only through a mistake made by the late Sir Robert Peel, that the office of Lord Chancellor in Ireland was not opened to Roman Catholics in 1829; and that the only reason for that prohibition was that the Lord Chancellor exercised the patronage of the Church of Ireland, but that the exclusion was founded on a misapprehension and a mistake, because the Lord Chancellor of Ireland exercised no ecclesiastical patronage whatever, while the exclusion prevented gentlemen of the Irish bar who professed the Roman Catholic religion from attaining the highest office in their profession. Now this is a very limited, though a specious argument. I have referred to the debates of 1829, and I think I can show the House, in a very few words, that the late Sir Robert Peel in the most distinct form announced this exclusion to the House specifically as one of the securities for our Protestant form of Government, for that purpose introduced in the Emancipation Act; that not only the Lord Chancellorship of England should be retained a Protestant office, but that the Chancellorship of Ireland should be retained a Protestant office also. In this portion of his speech I find that the word "respectively" is used in an emphatic manner to show that the provision referred to the Chancellor of Ireland as much as to the Chancellor of England. I remember hearing that eminent statesman deliver his almost last speech in this House before his lamented death, on the Bill introduced by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, for the abolition of the Lord-Lieutenancy of Ireland, which Bill involved this very subject; but in not one word that ever passed from his lips did he give the slightest encouragement to any one to expect that he would ever depart from the principles and the safeguards of the Bill of 1829; from those principles and safeguards which held it to be inconsistent with the Protestant 1099 character of the monarchy of this country, under the Act of Settlement, that the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland, any more than that of Lord Chancellor of England, should be filled by a Roman Catholic. Let me, before I proceed further, call attention to what the Act of Settlement provided. In that Act it is specifically declared, that the allegiance of every subject of the Monarchy in this country is to be abrogated if any but a Protestant occupy the Throne; or if any occupant of the Throne become a Roman Catholic, or be reconciled to the Church of Rome. Now, this abrogation of the allegiance of the subjects to the Sovereign of this country was to take place in the event of the adhesion to the Church of Rome of that Regal power of which the Lord Chancellor of England and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland arc "respectively" the confidential and responsible advisers. Remember, the Lord Chancellor is the constitutional adviser of the Sovereign of this country, whether in England or in Ireland, in every point of constitutional doctrine, in every matter that relates to the interests of the Church, in every question of ecclesiastical jurisdiction; and is also directly invested with the care of all insane persons and their property, as well as with the care of the property, persons, and education of minors. From ancient times, the Lord Chancellor has been called the keeper of the conscience of the King. In Roman Catholic times, this officer was usually an ecclesiastic, and in Protestant times, when, thank God! Her Most Gracious Majesty has no confessor, the Lord Chancellor is still the confidential and responsible adviser, upon whom the Sovereign, whether in person, as in England, or by deputy as in Ireland, is bound to rely. I ask the House, then, is not the matter before us a grave one, when it is proposed that this constitutional adviser of the Sovereign shall be no longer necessarily of the religion which the Sovereign himself, or herself must profess, under the penalty of releasing every subject from his allegiance. As this point is one of great importance, and as great weight is attached to the opinions of the late Sir Robert Peel, I will now read the words made use of by him when introducing in this House the Relief Act of 1829:—But, Sir, with respect to all these offices, to corporate offices, to offices in the Courts of Justice, to military appointments, aye, to the highest civil offices, we have in my opinion decided the question 1100 the moment we have resolved on the admission of the Roman Catholic to Parliament, &c., &c. It will nevertheless be quite consistent with this principle to exclude the Roman Catholic from a certain limited number of offices which have special and peculiar duties attached to them connected with the patronage of the Church, or with education, or the administration of the ecclesiastical law. The Roman Catholic is jealous of our interference with the appointments and discipline of his Church, and we have at least as good a right to take security for the maintenance of the integrity of our own. The Bill will therefore exclude the Roman Catholic from the office of Regent, and from exercising, under any circumstances, the delegated authority of the Crown, from the office of Lord Chancellor in England and Ireland respectively, and from the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It will not qualify the Roman Catholic to hold any office, place, or dignity connected with the Church establishments of the United Kingdom, or with the Ecclesiastical Courts of Judicature, with the Universities, or the great public schools, or schools of ecclesiastical foundation. All local statutes of the Universities, and the power of making such statutes, will be pro-served inviolate. The laws respecting the right of presentation to ecclesiastical benefices will remain unrepealed and unvaried, and provision will be made for entrusting exclusively to Protestant authorities the right of Church patronage belonging to the civil office that may hereafter be held by a Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic will be disabled, under severe penalties, from advising the Crown, directly or indirectly, in respect to the grants of Church preferments, and generally from the exercise of any influence derived from civil office over ecclesiastical appointments. Such is the principle and outline of the measure, so far as it concerns the removal of political disabilities.Now, Sir, I have read to the House the substance of the statement of Sir Robert Peel, and if the House will take the trouble to examine the Act of 1829, they will find how precisely and accurately it corresponds with the description given of its main provisions in the passage of the speech which I have just read. The Lord Chancellor of Ireland is the constitutional adviser of the Lord-Lieutenant, in the absence of the Sovereign, in respect of all matters touching preferments in the Church of Ireland. Indeed his functions in this regard go in some respect even beyond those of the Lord Chancellor of England; for remember you have not dealt with the Ecclesiastical Courts of Ireland as you have dealt with those of England. There remains in Ireland a distinct ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and if any ecclesiastical decision given by the Archbishop of Armagh, or any of the Bishops in the Ecclesiastical Courts be appealed from, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland can appoint a commission of delegates to try the question, and from the decision of the delegates none but the Lord Chan- 1101 cellor of Ireland himself can hear the appeal. Again, if any insane person or minor be possessed of patronage in Ireland, the exercise of that patronage falls to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Again, in the various functions delegated by the Sovereign to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, including the prerogative of mercy, the Lord Chancellor is the principal adviser. Sir, it appears to me that we might much more consistently, under this Act, propose that the Lord Chancellor of England might he a Roman Catholic, than that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland might be a person of that religion, because in the 16th and 17th Clauses of that Act, there is a specific provision that, in case any holder of office should be a Roman Catholic, and thereby disabled from exercising the ecclesiastical patronage of the Crown, that then the Archbishop of Canterbury should exercise that patronage. But throughout there is no such provision with respect to Ireland; so that it is perfectly evident that it was never contemplated that the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland should be filled by a Roman Catholic, because if it were, so important a provision would not have been omitted in the case of that country. I mention this to show how little ground there can be for the supposition that the retention of this high office of Lord Chancellor and principal adviser to the representative of royalty in Ireland as one of those which must be filled by a Protestant was the result of accident. I really cannot tell what may be the ulterior object of the right hon. Gentleman who has introduced this Bill; but I cannot forget that he spoke earnestly and voted for the abolition of the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. Now, is it intended that this proposed alteration in the law should be the forerunner of that abolition? If so, I cannot imagine a measure that would be better adapted for the object; because, if a Roman Catholic were appointed to the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland, with the exception of some patronage and jurisdiction in magisterial and judicial appointments, he would be totally incapacitated from the exercise of the functions which the Lord Chancellor of Ireland now performs, and would in fact sink to the position of a mere equity Judge, while the Lord Lieutenant himself would be left without a qualified adviser on all matters, from which a Roman Catholic would necessarily be excluded by the provisions of the Act of 1829. No Roman 1102 Catholic could be such an adviser as the constitution intended to provide, and with whoso assistance and advice the Viceroy of Ireland has hitherto performed his high duties. If that be the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, why does he not come at once to the great question of the existence of the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland? But, Sir, I shall put another view of this case. Is there in this Bill a lurking intention that certain high functions now exercised by the Lord Lieutenant should be transferred to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, as was suggested in 1850? I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire then put it pointedly to the late Mr. Fagan—"do you intend that the chief authority and the functions of the Lord Lieutenant should be transferred to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland?" And now we find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Canterbury shrinks from an explanation of his own Bill, which proposes that the high office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland shall be opened to Roman Catholics. In whatever light we view the case, I think the House will see that there has been an absence of explanation. There has been a disposition to ask the House to commit itself to the principle of this Bill uninformed, and under circumstances which ought to excite our suspicion. I trust, Sir, the House will never be led to adopt the same course which they did, I think unadvisedly, on a recent occasion, in the case of the endowed schools. I hope they will not be trapped into the adoption of a great principle, and then not know how to find their way to a safe settlement of that principle without the bungling resource of a Select Committee. These are the leading motives which have influenced me in my opposition to this Bill. I am an Independent Member of this House, and I trust the House knows the respect I entertain for it, looking upon it, as I do, as one of the justly valued institutions of the country. I say it with regret, I have of late observed the practice resorted to by some hon. Members of thrusting on the House pieces of paper with a great principle inscribed on them, without the means of carrying out those principles being described for the information of the House. We are expected by those hon. Members to vote for a particular object, and then to trust to a Select Committee for carrying that object into effect. You may depend upon it that such 1103 a system is by no means consistent with the dignity of this House. The House loses caste by it. We have none of us a right to ask this House to accept any such crude proposition, unless we explain all the means by which it is proposed to produce the desired results, and the consequences that are to accrue there from. Sir, I will not detain the House much longer, but I wish to say one or two words to hon. Members of this House, especially, who profess the Roman Catholic religion. It may be supposed that I am actuated by some petty, miserable, narrow-minded bigotry, against Roman Catholics. I am actuated by nothing of the kind; but when I come to examine the sentiments of Roman Catholics of distinction, I find them to be of opinion that the members of their religious persuasion enjoy in this country a freedom, a positive encouragement in the propagation of their faith, in their churches, chapels, schools, and other institutions which is unknown in continental nations. I would ask them then, why I should be considered narrow minded in seeking to uphold the Protestant constitution of this country, while in so doing I am defending the sources of the freedom which they as Roman Catholics enjoy, I will not say abuse; a freedom which they admittedly enjoy. Doctor Ennis, a Roman Catholic priest, was sent by the late Dr. Murray, one of the Roman Catholic Bishops in Ireland, to the present Pope on the subject of Roman Catholic education in Ireland, and Dr. Enuis declared to his Holiness that in Ireland the Roman religion had free and ample course. What has the Count de Montalembert written on this subject of the freedom which Roman Catholics enjoy under the British Constitution? He uses these words at p. 196 of L'avenir de l'Angleterre:—But it is in England, above all, that the fact is most fully demonstrated that without political liberty they remain powerless. Political liberty has been obtained, and everything has become powerless against them. The Catholics owe everything to liberty; nothing to temporal authority. Neither Philip the II. nor James the II. could prevent their defeat.Count Montalembert went on to illustrate the fact that in no country did the Roman Catholics enjoy such personal freedom for the exercise of their religion as in this, and writes, that were the relations of the subject with reference to the religion of the State enforced in this Protestant country, as they are in Roman Catholic Naples, that 1104 Roman Catholics might sigh in vain for the freedom they enjoy.
It is on these grounds, Sir, that I appeal to Roman Catholics to retain in Protestant hands the authority of that state under which, according to their own authorities, they have been granted a freedom which they could not find in any other country. I ask them not to attempt to infringe upon that which is as much the source of their own liberties as it is that of the liberties of Protestants. I appeal to Her Majesty's Government not to suffer an independent Member of this House to tamper with the great settlement of 1829, after the declaration which we have had from the Executive that they require the leisure of the recess to enable them to deal with much less important matters in a competent manner. On these grounds, I feel it to be my duty to move that this Bill be read a second time on this day three months; and I hope that, in deference to those great principles which have so long been at once the glory and the security of this country, the House will sustain me in my opposition to the measure.
§ SIR BROOK BRIDGES
, in seconding the Amendment, said he was astonished at the light and airy—he might almost say the flippant manner in which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Somerville) introduced this Bill, which was one of the most important Bills that could be brought before the House. He was astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that it was by the mere inadvertence of some of the greatest men that England ever produced, that a provision whose express object was to except particular persons from particular offices under the operation of the Act of 1829 was inserted in that Act. The Secretary of State for the Home Department wished the House to suppose that that provision was inserted simply because Sir Robert Peel did not happen to know that the Chancellor of Ireland had no Church patronage. But the distribution of Church patronage was one of the most insignificant of the duties that devolved upon the Chancellor of Ireland. He it was who had to advise the delegated governor of that country in all important matters. It was impossible therefore to suppose that the introduction of these exceptions was an inadvertence. In seconding the Amendment he was actuated by no unworthy motives against his Roman Catholic fellow subjects. He honestly believed that the liberties of this country mainly depended upon Pro- 1105 testantism remaining its leading principle. On looking round the nations he found that liberty prevailed where Protestantism prevailed; but it was exceedingly rare to find liberty prevailing where Romanism prevailed. He besought those who valued their liberty to value their Protestantism as one of the most important parts of that liberty which conduced not only to prosperity and happiness in this world, but to happiness in the world to come.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CARDWELL
My hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) has appealed to Her Majesty's Government not to allow an independent Member of this House to tamper with those principles upon which, in his words, the Protestant Constitution of this country rests. I, on the other hand, am happy in being able to support a measure brought forward by an independent Member of this House, than whom none is more worthy to be the instrument in promoting what I believe to be a just and righteous measure. I listened with pleasure to the high terms in which my hon. Friend spoke of the author of the Catholic Relief Act, and in the argument, short only as it need be, that I shall venture to address to the House I shall defend the second reading of this Bill upon the principles announced by the author of the Relief Act; and I shall endeavour to show that consistently with the statements then made there is no reason why this present exception from the comprehensive provisions of that Act ought any longer to remain upon the pages of the statute-book. The principle of that Act, laid down by the author of it at the time and accepted by Parliament, was the principle of equality of civil and religious privilege; and the exceptions which were included in the Act were exceptions justified only, and believed to be justified, by the special circumstances existing at that time. What now remains for us to consider on the second reading of this Bill is whether it is possible to defend by sound argument, based on the special circumstances of the office, the exception with regard to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The principles of that exception were two. It was stated that the reason why the Lord Chancellor of England and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland were ex- 1106 cepted from the provisions of that Act was twofold—that they exercised church patronage and that they exercised ecclesiastical discipline. With permission, I will deal frankly with both those cases. I have communicated with my Colleague the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. I have ascertained from him, and I will state to you in his own words what is the case with regard to ecclesiastical patronage:—"The Chancellor has not any church patronage, except in respect of the vicarages of St. Andrew and St. Mark, Dublin, as to which he is joined with the Archbishop of Dublin, the Master of the Rolls, and the three chief Judges by an Act of the Irish Parliament." Is it to be said that Protestantism is safe while the Master of the Rolls and the three Chief Judges—the majority of the patrons —may one and all be Roman Catholics, and is rendered unsafe when one of the other patrons, the Lord Chancellor, is permitted to be a Roman Catholic? Will any friend to Protestantism like to rest his case on a foundation so unsubstantial as this? But does the case rest there? Do those who so highly praise the Roman Catholic Relief Act for its exceptions, know what else it contains? Do they not know that the Lord Chancellor, being a Roman Catholic, is incapacitated from exercising ecclesiastical patronage directly, and that if he ventures to give advice on such a matter to the Lord Lieutenant he is subjected to the severest penalties? That is the state of the law at present. The hypothetical case is put that the Chancellor, having authority in lunacy, may have church patronage devolve on him by reason of the patron becoming lunatic. Hypothetical cases have been put with much ability; I do not believe that it is possible to frame an Act against which the ingenuity of some gentleman may not make objection. I will venture to frame an objection against the law as it now stands, and I will ask you to tell me which is the most weighty. The Home Secretary, for anything contained in the law, may be a Roman Catholic, and the Home Secretary has the church patronage of Scotland. Suppose I were to argue that the Protestantism of Scotland is not safe, because there is no provision to prevent the Home Secretary being a Catholic. What is the real and rational answer to the objection to the second reading of this Bill? Why, that there are careful provisions in the Roman Catholic Relief Act which, from the time that Act passed, have not been found inadequate or inoperative, 1107 and, if the ingenuity of my hon. Friend can suggest when this Bill is in Committee that when making new concessions it is necessary to make new safeguards, we shall be perfectly ready and willing to give the utmost attention to the case and the remedy by which he proposes to meet it; and I do not doubt that what the wisdom of Parliament did thirty years ago in a great case the wisdom of Parliament can do in a much minor case—make safeguards adequate for any corresponding danger. How stands the case with regard to the other branch—namely, the ease of ecclesiastical discipline? At the time the Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed there was in both countries an ultimate appeal in matters of discipline to the Queen in Chancery. That appeal was then of this kind—it was an appeal from the Archbishop to the Queen in Chancery, and the duty of the Chancellor was to appoint a commission of delegates. If an appeal against the decision of the delegates was raised, it was the duty of the Chancellor to sit in court, and, if he was satisfied that there existed sufficient grounds, to appoint a commission of review. That was then the case in both countries. In regard to this country there has been a most important change of the law. An appeal in England to the Chancellor no longer lies for the appointment of a Commission of Delegates. It lies to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. But that change has not yet taken place in Ireland; and with regard to the jurisdiction of the Chancellor of Ireland, as I wish to state with perfect frankness, so far as my knowledge extends, all that can be stated with regard to the jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor in Ireland, I will read the statement which has been forwarded to me by the present occupant of that distinguished office:—The Chancellor's ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as representing the Queen, consists in issuing Commissions of Delegates under the 28th Geo. III., c. 32, and advising as to the issue of Commissions of Review of the decisions of such delegates. As to the former he is merely ministerial, the sole duty being to choose the Commissioners, who must be Protestants. In deciding as to the issue of a Commission of Review, the Chancellor acts judicially on a full hearing of the case in open Court.["Hear, hear."] Right hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer. I am not contending that you do not require provisions, which may be properly introduced in Committee. But I am stating frankly how the law now stands, and I contend that this is not a ground 1108 which will justify us in rejecting the Bill on the second reading.The only other office of the Chancellor in relation to Ecclesiastical Courts is to sign warrants for the issue of writs 'de contumace capiendo,' under the 54th Geo. III., c. 68, and this is purely ministerial.This statement has been received by those who are not friendly to the passing of this Bill as I expected. But they are probably not aware that in the memory of the present Chancellor, who has held the office many years, there has never once been an appointment of a Commission of Delegates, and I believe I am right in stating that, in the memory of my right hon. Friend who sits behind me, during the whole time he has been at the bar, there has never been a Commission of Delegates. It is not, therefore, a reason which ought to deter us from going forward with the second reading of this Bill. But I will ask you this—supposing that we were now debating the question, not of the Chancellor, but of the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench; and supposing it were set before us hypothetically to argue the great dangers to Protestantism from that great officer being permitted to be a Roman Catholic, how should I describe the effect of a mandamus giving positive directions as to the exercise or a prohibition as to the non-exercise of ecclesiastical authority. But as I have stated to you frankly there do exist cases worthy of consideration with respect to Ireland which do not exist with respect to England. I have stated the case plainly, and I contend there is no case which justifies the House of Commons in rejecting the second reading of this Bill. Having so spoken of the exceptions in the Catholic Relief Act, let us revert to the principle. What was the principle? It was equality of civil and religious privilege. It was the healing of great wounds which had lacerated the body politic of this country for years, which had created the most unhappy differences between the two islands which constitute the United Kingdom, it was the restoring to society and the Government of the country the means of peace and union among ourselves. That principle ought to be advanced upon every occasion, when, consistently with the safeguards which were then laid down, it can justly and properly be advanced. I believe that on this occasion if you pass the second reading of this Bill you will not take a step one single foot beyond the principle of the great Act of 1109 1829, I believe, on the contrary, you will be acting in conformity with the spirit of that Bill, by removing one of its unnecessary exceptions. And confidently believing that this is in principle a just and righteous measure, I most cordially give my support to the proposal of my right hon. Friend that the Bill be now read a second time.
Sir, I heard the notice given of this measure by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Canterbury (Sir W. Somerville) with surprise and regret. In the whole course of my life, since the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed, I have never heard an observation made upon the subject, and no Motion has ever been submitted to the House since 1829 to redress what is described as a momentous grievance. But now, when all irritating topics have been disposed of, when Reform has gone to sleep, when the landlord and tenant question is shelved, and a criminal code for Ireland extinguished, it was, I suppose, thought necessary by hon. Gentlemen opposite to do something, and therefore a Motion was made to repeal two lines of a fundamental clause of a fundamental measure. I object to a measure such as the great Act for the Emancipation of the Roman Catholics being dealt with in this fashion. I say it is inconvenient and mischievous, and that it is impossible to set a worse precedent than for a Government to allow a right hon. Gentleman, one of their supporters, so to deal with this question. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Canterbury bad made a proposal similar to that which is involved in his Bill with reference to a mere equity Judge, such as the Master of the Rolls, I could understand such a proceeding. Such, however, is not the case. Bat if the mode and time at which the Bill is proposed arc inconvenient, the arguments by which it was supported are eminently inconclusive, and then the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland and the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department come to the rescue and assert, what I undertake to disprove, that that portion of the clause which is now in question was framed by Sir Robert Peel inadvertently, and under the false impression that there was some ecclesiastical patronage attached to the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland; that alone being, as is contended, the reason of the exception which is made in the Act of emancipation, which they say ought now to be obviated. Now, when such a 1110 subject as this is introduced to our notice, it is impossible to avoid adverting for a moment to those great men by whom it was discussed before Sir Robert Peel undertook its adjustment. That statesman had the advantage of the epigrammatic brilliancy of Grattan, the matchless logic of Plunket, and the persuasive eloquence of Canning before he became convinced of the expediency of the policy which he was about to adopt, and before the curiosity which the reasoning of those great men excited induced him to inquire how the question of Catholic emancipation ought to be settled. I revert to the views as origiginally propounded of those distinguished advocates of the Catholic claims to whom I have referred, because the Roman Catholics of Ireland placed entire confidence in them, and because I believe the advocacy of their cause could not be intrusted to abler hands. Let me ask, then, if Plunket was unacquainted with the question which he undertook to promote? He was a follower of that great party which was out of office for fourteen or fifteen years, because it was favourable to the Roman Catholic cause. Was Grattan a man likely to be deceived upon a subject to which for many years he had lent the splendour of his eloquence? Was Canning completely in the wrong in the views in respect to it which he entertained? I am desirous to receive an answer to these questions, inasmuch as in every one of the Bills which were framed on the subject previous to that of Sir Robert Peel, the exception which is now sought to be dispensed with is to be found. It is to be found in the measure of 1813, in that of 1821, and in that of 1825. I may perhaps be wrong in saying that it was included in that of 1821—it was omitted from the Bill originally, and was, I believe, introduced only on the occasion of the debate on the Report. Well, I have now the advantage of having heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department and that of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken on the question, and I have read those of the eminent persons to whom I have alluded. I contrast those speeches, and what is the result? I find that in every one of the Bills which preceded that of Sir Robert Peel words were introduced to the following effect:—"Be it enacted that nothing herein contained shall be construed to extend to enabling any person being a Roman Catholic to hold the office 1111 of Lord Chancellor, of Lord Keeper or Commissioner of the Privy Seal in Ireland, or of Lord-Lieutenant or Lord-Deputy or other Governor of chief Governor in that country." There the clause stops. And now let me ask why it is that we are reopening this question in the month of July? Any hon. Gentleman who is not a believer in the sincerity of abstract Irish politics may very naturally imagine why it is so, and may ask who wants a place? The subject, let me remind the House, is introduced at a moment when national questions of the utmost importance await discussion; when Europe is in flames, or was so; when there is a peace which, so far as I can understand the matter, is almost as awful as war. But I shall not dwell upon the time which the right hon. Baronet opposite has chosen to introduce this topic. I revert to the question, what was done by Sir Robert Peel when he came to a decision on the adjustment of the Catholic claims? Nobody ought to understand the policy of that great statesman, better than the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House, for he has been so good as to publish the records of his political career. As to the policy itself, I can only say that Sir Robert Peel understood this question thoroughly, and that he acted with respect to it conscientiously. What was the point, let me ask, which he had to consider? Plunket and Grattan held the opinion that there ought to be a control exercised over the communications between the Papacy and the Roman Catholic people of this Protestant country. They said it might come to pass that a bull or missive might be sent into these kingdoms, which, while it did not touch the ceremonies or religious observances, might inflame animosities which ought to he guarded against. They framed a clause for the purpose of meeting cases of this description. They likewise held the opinion that no person ought to he appointed as Prelate in this country who had been five years out of the kingdom, or who had not been born of British parents. All these matters came before Sir Robert Peel; he however rejected those limitations on the free intercourse between the Roman Catholics of this country and the head of their Church; he dispensed with all those clauses which had been prepared by the great leaders of the Catholic cause. He nevertheless said, "I must have regard to the authority of the Crown,"—a sub- 1112 ject on which, permit me to observe, the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has not condescended to utter one word. I shall not, however, show that I am as forgetful as the right hon. Gentleman appears to be of the Act of Settlement, in accordance with which the delegated authority of the Crown ought to be vested in no other hands than those of a member of the Protestant religion. I am not, indeed, quite sure that if a clause were introduced into the Bill under our notice for the repeal of the Act of Settlement the noble Viscount at the head of the Government and his supporters would not agree to such a proposal after a discussion of a quarter of an hour. But let me remind them that that Act is said to be the great work of the Whig party, and it was carried so far as to provide that if a king came over here from Germany to rule this country he must be a Protestant, not of the German school, but of the Church of England. The same rule applies to those to whom the authority of the Crown is delegated. And now let us consider for a moment whether there is any evidence to show that Sir Robert Peel introduced the words which are sought to be expunged into the Bill by mistake. There is a phrase in general use, "Oh, that mine enemy would but write a book," which I do not mean to apply to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, who has written a very useful book containing the memoirs of that great statesman. In that book I find that Sir Robert Peel, in one of his papers, which is dated the 17th of January, 1829, after alluding to the offices which were excepted from the list of those which ought to be open to Roman Catholics, in accordance with the views laid down in the Bills of Grattan, Plunket, and Burdett, proceeds to say that all the offices which belong to the Established Church, the ecclesiastical courts of judicature, as well as the offices of Lord Chancellor, both of England and Ireland, as well as that of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ought to be excluded from the number. He then goes on to say that a Roman Catholic ought not to have the right of presentation to a benefice, and that if he assumed such a right the King had power to appoint a Protestant who might exercise pro tempore the right of presentation. Then upon the question whether the declaration of being a believer in the doctrine of transubstantiation ought to enforced to the prejudice of anybody, he observes that it is more de- 1113 sirable that Roman Catholics should be held to be incapable of holding certain specified offices than that their exclusion from them should be effected through the instrumentality of such a declaration. Then follows another passage which relates to the duty of the Crown to protect the Protestant constitution of the realm. Let us now turn for a moment to the clause in the Act of Roman Catholic emancipation which was framed in accordance with those opinions. It is a remarkable clause notwithstanding that we are this evening called upon to deal with it in a moment as the result of a rash and inadvertent policy. That clause enables none but Protestants to become Lord Chancellor and to hold other high offices. Why was this exclusion kept up as regards the Chancellor? Because the regal authority is constantly reposed in him. At this moment the Lord Chancellor in Ireland is exercising this authority. The Chancellor is always a Lord Justice in the absence of the Lord Lieutenant ["No!"]—yes, invariably; and he has exercised regal power twice within the course of twelve months. Since the Roman Catholic Relief Bill passed, no Roman Catholic gentleman has ever proposed to this House to repeal that section, nor has any Roman Catholic petition been presented against it; and I believe it was because the distinguished men who were here, O'Connell and Sheil, were satisfied with the Bill as it stood, and thought it was an unreasonable thing to ask that a person upon whom, by virtue of his office, such functions devolved, and who was called upon to exercise the delegated authority of the Crown, should be a Roman Catholic. They felt that for these reasons it was reasonable to exclude a Roman Catholic from that post; and you must continue to exclude him upon the like ground at present. Here is a Bill, without an exception in it, without a saving clause, which calls on the House to allow a Roman Catholic to fill the office of Chancellor, when my belief is that there is not a Roman Catholic gentleman at the bar who would not instantly decline to exercise the duties incident to that office. I believe that Justice Ball refused to sit upon a commission of delegates even where no questions of religious discipline were concerned, simply because the appointment arose through the Chancellor's ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The Home Secretary said there was no ecclesiastical patronage attached 1114 to the office; but there is such a patronage with respect to certain livings in the City of Dublin, the election to which is vested in him along with other persons; and then when we show this, it is said that because these other persons have a vote it makes no manner of difference should the Chancellor be a Roman Catholic.
§ MR. CARDWELL
I believe that I proceeded to show that by the terms of the Roman Catholic Relief Act the Lord Chancellor, being a Roman Catholic, would be disqualified from voting.
MR. WHITE SIDE
But the Home Secretary said the Bill, in his opinion, was to be defended upon the distinct ground that there was no ecclesiastical patronage vested in the office of the Chancellor, and when it is proved that there is, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland falls back upon the 17th Section, and says if the Chancellor ventures to appoint to these livings he may be indicted. So that you propose to appoint a man to a certain office to which certain duties are incident, and if he performs those duties he is to be indicted! As to cases of presentations in the hands of lunatics, the law is quite plain. Neither the lunatic nor his committee can present; but the Lord Chancellor, by virtue of the general authority delegated to him by the Crown, presents to the living, whatever its value. Altogether, I think the right hon. Member for the University (Mr. Gladstone) will startle his constituents if he votes for this Bill. Sir Robert Peel understood this question thoroughly, and when he excluded Roman Catholics from holding the Chancellorship it was not done invidiously. In his paper, published by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Card-well) he says he wishes to make his measure as comprehensive as possible. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), too is a Churchman. Can he advocate a Bill by which the most sacred interests of the Church may either be sacrificed or betrayed? ["No!"] Hear the argument first and then answer it if you can. When subjects of this delicate nature and dealing with such important interests are brought forward in this rash way, the arguments must be heard fully. Besides having a delegated authority over lunatics and minors, besides having this patronage in the City of Dublin, the Lord Chancellor exercises certain powers when questions of doctrine arise. It is said that he only acts ministerially in selecting the Judges who are to 1115 decide upon the doctrines of our Church; and we are called intolerant unless we permit a Roman Catholic gentleman to appoint the Judges who are to decide as to the doctrines of that Church, of which some of us are sincere defenders! Why, it is one of the most indecent propositions ever submitted to Parliament. Not only does the Chancellor select the Judges who arc to try these questions, but when they come back from the Court thus constituted they go to the Chancellor himself. He hears the whole matter judicially, and decides upon it; and the Cabinet of which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) is a Member is of opinion, as I understand, that questions affecting the doctrine of the Church of England may be tried and decided by a Roman Catholic Chancellor sitting alone in the Court of Chancery. Surely no man can set up as a judge of the doctrines of the Church a gentleman who honestly disbelieves them. The 17th Section of the Act referred to is in reality the strongest argument against the Bill, fur the very fact that Sir Robert Peel, by a distinct clause, met the case of a Roman Catholic gentleman promoted to an office to which ecclesiastical preferment was attached, and provided that such preferment should then be exercised by other persons, shows clearly that a Roman Catholic was excluded from the Chancellorship by reason of the distinct relationship of that office to the Government of the country. Then, the Lord Chancellor is a member, ex officio, of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and thus shares in the control of the whole property of the Church. Any Roman Catholic gentleman who should be called upon to perform such duties would at once feel that he had no right to undertake them. With the exception of the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor all the other Crown officers in Ireland may be Roman Catholics, and most of the appointments had been filled by members of that communion; but from the duties incident to these two officers it had always been held Accessary to retain the excepting clause concerning them. But what I want to ask of the Government is, that if all these offices may be filled by Roman Catholic gentlemen, in a matter of Church patronage to whom is the Lord Lieutenant to apply for advice, and whom is he to consult? I do believe that when these facts are submitted to Roman Catholic gentle-men they will hardly say that Mr. O'Connell 1116 and their clergy were in the wrong when they pronounced the Bill of 1829 as being one that left nothing further for them to ask and nothing further to desire. It is a mistake to describe the Lord Chancellor of Ireland as a mere Judge in the Court of Chancery. You must sever from the office all his political functions, and he must not advise the Viceroy on matters of faith or religion. On these grounds I think this is a Bill that cannot pass in the condition in which it now stands. I find by an Act of the Legislature that any person professing the Jewish religion is expressly precluded from holding, among other offices, that of a Judge of the United Kingdom, or of Regent of the United Kingdom, of Lord Chancellor, of Lord Keeper, or of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The Jew therefore is excluded; and yet he has no prejudice on the subject, he is neither Protestant nor Catholic, and must in that sense be assumed to be perfectly impartial; but what could be more indecent than to appoint a person who repudiates all believe in the Christian religion to hold an office the duties of which involve the maintenance of the lights and property and the doctrine and purity of the Christian Church? I think the people of this country will never allow this Bill to pass. I believe it to be impolitic and unnecessary, that it is not called for by any overwhelming necessity —that it cannot pass in the state in which it stands, and, therefore, I shall support the Motion of my hon. Friend.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made such distinct and repeated appeals to me, in the character of representative of the University of Oxford, that I hope the House will indulge me while I endeavour to afford him the information he asks at my hands. The right hon. Gentleman desires to know whether I intend to vote for the second reading of this Bill. I have to state that I do intend to vote for it and, further, that I shall do so with as clear a conscience as I have ever before given a vote in Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman, to whom I always listen with the utmost pleasure, has appeared before us to-night in a somewhat novel character—in the character of the defender, and almost as the disciple, of Sir Robert Peel, and seems to be alarmed lest some Members of this House should now be such traitors to his memory as to support a measure so destructive of the constitution as that before the House. I 1117 always thought, according to some persons, that Sir Robert Peel had himself betrayed the Church and destroyed the constitution in the year '29—and it is with satisfaction that I learn somewhat late in 1859 that, on the contrary, Sir Robert Feel was a great man, who discerned with a sagacious eye the precise limits to which you might proceed and beyond which you might not go; and the right hon. Gentleman is now the faithful representative of the principles of which Sir Robert Peel was the advocate. The right hon. Gentleman produces one case and another case of quasi ecclesiastical functions which, he says, may be exercised by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and he thinks he has thereby established a case for saying to the Roman Catholic barrister "however learned and distinguished you may he in your profession—however unimpeachable you may be in character and conduct — nevertheless you, being Roman Catholic, shall not he allowed to attain the highest prize in your profession." Now, such sentiments on the part of the right hon. Gentleman are not exactly in accordance with the more mitigated opinions he held when sitting on the Ministerial side of the House. Perhaps the House may bear in mind — I know many Members will recollect—a prophetic portion of a speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War, sitting then on the Opposition side, in which he congratulated the then Attorney General for Ireland on the liberality of his sentiments towards his Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, and expressed a hope that he might retain those sentiments when he passed from the right hand of the chair to the left. I think the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-night indicates a very considerable retrogression. Let it be tried on its argumentative grounds. I consider them trivial, paltry, secondary. What says the right hon. Gentleman? He says the Lord Chancellor of Ireland exercises ecclesiastical patronage. I grant that he has a vote, along with five or six other persons, in the appointment to two livings in the City of Dublin. Surely that circumstance does not constitute a ground of disqualification to a Roman Catholic as proving the possession of ecclesiastical patronage; and whether that be an exercise of ecclesiastical patronage or not, it is a function that may easily be provided for by a clause introduced into the present Bill. He says the Lord Chancellor of Ireland is an ex officio member of the Ecclesiastical Com- 1118 mission. I believe he is not quite accurate in that statement, for the Act, if I am not mistaken, provides that he shall be a member of that Commission if he be a member of the United Church of England and Ireland; consequently if he be not a member of that Church, he cannot be a member of the Ecclesiastical Commission; that objection, therefore, entirely falls to the ground. Well, then, says the right hon. Gentleman, the Lord Chancellor may be one of the Lords Justices of Ireland. If I read aright the Act of 10 Geo. IV., it is distinctly provided in the 12th Section that nothing therein contained shall be construed to enable any person professing the Roman Catholic religion to exercise the office of Regent of the United Kingdom. Nor would this Act enable any Roman Catholic to enjoy the office of the Lord High Chancellor of Ireland, or the office of Lord Lieutenant, or other chief Governor or chief Governors of Ireland. Now, that prohibition against filling the office of chief Governor or chief Governors of Ireland this Bill does not propose to alter. The right hon. Gentleman further says, that there is an appeal in ecclesiastical matters to the Court of Chancery to determine questions of religious doctrine and discipline. I do not believe that the meaning or practical interpretation of the prerogative of the Crown to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has alluded is that the Lord Chancellor, either in England or Ireland, is the sole judge in matters of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Upon matters of law I am not competent to speak, hut I do not believe that the functions of the Lord Chancellor imply any personal participation or adjudication upon questions of religious doctrine or discipline. We know that a distinguished member of the late Government, in encountering objections to this or that scheme, exclaimed, "it is a question for Committee." Well, if these points be well raised, they are still questions for Committee. Let us look at the main issues of this Bill, and not at any paltry trivial and secondary matters. In 1829 you passed an Act, the principle of which was that Roman Catholics, notwithstanding their religious opinions, were admitted to the exercise of the functions of every civil office. There were certain limited exceptions introduced into that Act; but this principle was adopted, that whenever the purpose and scope of these offices were civil, those offices might be filled by our Roman Ca- 1119 tholic fellow subjects. Will any man contend that the office of Lord Chancellor, in its main scope and purpose, is anything but a civil office? If he has other functions, which take up one-sixth of his time, is it for those functions that the office exists? It is not, in substance, a legal and judicial, but strictly secular duty that he is called upon to discharge. Therefore it is but in accordance with the spirit of that Act to remove the disability which exists against Roman Catholics attaining that high office. Day after day, year after year, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland sits in the Court of Chancery, as a lawyer, discharging merely legal and civil functions, and does any one dream of those phantoms of on appeal upon questions of ecclesiastical discipline which disturb the mind of the right hon. Gentleman? The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred in terms of eulogy to the speech of Sir Robert Peel and the Act of 1829. But if I experience sentiments of satisfaction that the day has come when I may support this Bill, these feelings are mingled with sentiments of regret that it could not be recommended with a good prospect of success to the British House of Commons until thirty years after the other Act had been passed?
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, after a speech of so much importance as that which we have just heard—which does not, I think, do justice to the argument of my right hon. and learned Friend—the House would be unwilling to break up without hearing some answer to a speech more remarkable for eloquence than for strong argument against the objections to the Bill. My right hon. Friend states that certain ecclesiastical patronage belongs to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. If I understood the purport of my right hon. and learned Friend's argument—and a more able one I never heard—that argument has been entirely passed over by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. It was that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was an office, not of merely a civil character, which every professional man might justly look to possess if he had sufficient knowledge, ability, and learning, but that Sir Robert Peel had excluded certain offices as exceptions to the rights conferred upon the Roman Catholics as offices connected with the Crown, and offices belonging to the delegates of the Crown. My right hon. and learned Friend quoted a Cabinet paper and an Act of Parliament. My right 1120 hon. Friend might have quoted Sir Robert Peel's speech in which he puts the exceptions distinctly on this ground, that the Lord Chancellor was the representative of the Crown in matters of Government, and that the privilege of holding this office could not be extended to Roman Catholics on this account. And then the right hon. Gentleman talks of the trivial, paltry, and secondary reasons of the objections to this measure. Well, Mr. Speaker, are we to have settlements of these questions or not? And, when these settlements are made deliberately by great authorities and agreed to with great circumspection and care, are they to be disturbed without sufficient reason being shown? or is it not incumbent upon you, the advocates of this Bill, to show reasons for the justice and necessity of so doing, instead of calling upon us to show why the settlement should not be disturbed? It is said that Roman Catholic barristers are not excluded from holding civil offices under the Crown. My right hon. Friend has met that argument, and then the Chancellor of the Exchequer twits him with being less liberal than he was. I think that reflection might have been spared. I have had much intercourse with my right hon. and learned Friend, both in and out of office. I never heard a word in contradiction to the speech which the right hon. Gentleman has commended, and both the House and the country will remember that he has not uttered a word in contradiction to those liberal sentiments. The right hon. Gentleman says that the office of Lord Chancellor is a civil office. Sir, that is the whole question. If it be not an office connected with the Government, and one making the holder pro tanto a representative of the Crown, I will give up the whole case. Do you at this moment exclude a Roman Catholic from any purely civil office not connected with the government of the country? Not one. The highest honours are open to him. He may fill the office of Lord Justice of Appeal, who is as high a civil judicial officer as the Lord Chancellor, and every Roman Catholic professional man may justly look forward to the possession of that office. I think it is hardly fair to say that my right hon. Friend puts the exemption upon slight or trivial grounds, when you allow every office of a civil character to be possessed by our Roman Catholic fellow subjects. You permit them to hold every office which may be filled by Protestants, with this proviso, that they may not hold any office 1121 which can in any way impair the Protestant Government of the country, that Government being secured by the Act of Settlement to those who are Protestants, and the Lord Chancellor being the person representing that Protestant Government in Ireland as well as in England. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to perhaps the most eloquent speech delivered in this House during the present year, the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir B. Bulwer Lytton), now unfortunately absent from the House, in which my hon. Friend said, "Well, but these are questions for Committee." I took exception at the time to my hon. Friend's speech in that particular, I intend to take exception to the same argument still. Not many days ago a Bill was brought into this House on one pretence and argued upon another. You were forced to send that Bill to a Select Committee, and if ever it comes from that Committee there will be hardly one word in the first clause of that Bill which will remain. You have now brought in a Bill upon what you may have thought to be a trival and a light matter until the argument of my right hon. and learned Friend, and then, when you have heard that argument, you suggest that the provisions may be settled in Committee. I think this course can only be taken where all the material provisions of the Bill are of such a nature that you can assent to them. Otherwise I think that the only legitimate way of dealing with a Bill like the present is to reject it on a second reading, and require its authors to be more circumspect in future. There is one other argument to which I wish to allude. I have urged that argument on other occasions, and even urged it against the wishes of many of my friends near me; but I am convinced of the importance of maintaining what is justly called the principal object of Sir Robert Peel—namely, the establishment of peace and union in reference to these subjects. My deep conviction is that you never will have peace and union until you agree to abide by the deliberate Act of Parliament which has passed into law. Any attempt to disturb that law without great and cogent reasons will only tend to destroy that peace and union which we all desire. We have arrived at a period when these subjects are by general consent sought to be removed from the field of controversy here, and any attempt to reopen such a question is not likely to promote peace or union. I 1122 hope I may be understood as speaking without the least intention to offer disrespect to my Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, and I trust I have not said a word that can tend to impair the peace and union which we all desire; but I believe that can best be preserved by abstaining from any interference with the deliberate settlement of Parliament, unless very strong reasons can be shown.
§ COLONEL DICKSON moved the adjournment of the Debate.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I hope the House will come to a decision upon the Bill this evening. The subject has been sufficiently discussed to enable every Member to make up his mind, and if we are to judge from what has passed in the debate, there are some Gentlemen whose minds have been made up long ago. I cannot see how Members can be pressed to come to an abrupt dissolution upon that which I may perhaps, without disrespect, call the Holy Alliance, which not long ago existed between them. Members on the other side of the House seem to have awoke as from a dream to their former sentiments; and notwithstanding the appearances which presented themselves when they sat on this side of the House of greater liberality on their part on subjects of the kind we have been discussing this evening than had previously distinguished their career, it seems now that their sentiments belonged only to the occasion. It now appears that they have reverted to the sentiments they previously expressed. Well, Sir, I cannot concur with them in the objections which they have made to the Bill. Though the Bill may repeal a part of the letter of the Emancipation Act, it is in strict conformity with the spirit in which that Act was founded. The spirit of that arrangement was, that the Catholic should be admitted to every civil and political function which was not connected with any ecclesiastical authority. I think it is proved that the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland is a purely civil, political, and judicial office. He may occasionally have the disposal of a few small livings in Dublin; but it is dealing lightly with this great subject to protend that he possesses ecclesiastical patronage, and that on that account an Irish barrister ought to be deprived of the right of fairly and legitimately arriving at that distinguished position. I hope the House will not be led away by those unsound attempts at argument on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman op- 1123 posite. The question is one of the simplest nature. Here is an office which is proved to be mainly judicial, and to which every Irish barrister is entitled to look up as the object of his professional ambition; and I see no reason whatever for connecting it with the security of the Protestant religion of the country, or of the Act of Settlement, or of any of the institutions which we all hold dear and sacred. I see no rational ground whatever for pretending that any of those laws and institutions would be placed in the slightest peril by allowing an Irish barrister to aspire to the honour of being the Lord Chancellor of his country. I therefore hope the House will come to a decision on the question this evening. If it be shown there are any contingent circumstances which it is necessary to guard against by special provisions, when the Bill goes into Committee, we shall be prepared to consider any proposition which may be made on the subject; but if there be no argument brought forward to induce the House to reject the second reading of the Bill, I do trust that, for the character of the House and the honour of the country, the Bill will not be rejected. The measure is so simple and plain, and so strictly in accordance with the spirit of the settlement made by Sir Robert Peel, that I do hope the House will this evening agree to the second reading.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Whatever may be our decision, the question before us is one of high importance; and I must say I am surprised at the tone of the noble Lord. It is difficult to imagine any subject more deserving of calm, grave, and deliberate discussion. The noble Lord rose to speak upon the question of adjournment, but he made a speech upon the Bill; yet I must say of the observations of the noble Lord that for the information he has given us, and the general knowledge he has evinced upon the subject, it would have been better if the noble Lord had confined his observations to the question of adjournment. I cannot say that the question is to me as clear as it appears to be to the noble Lord. On the contrary, it is one evidently of some difficulty and very great doubt as to the nature of the functions which the Lord Chancellor of Ireland has to fulfil. No two Gentlemen who have addressed us have agreed upon that point. My right hon. and learned Friend laid down certain propositions, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer who replied to him, did not agree either in arguments or facts. This is 1124 a subject upon which the House ought to have perfect information. We are asked to disturb a great settlement. That disturbance might take place if really and justly required; but we have a right to demand that the question shall be completely laid before the House. It is possible that some of the conditions upon which Roman Catholic Emancipation was granted years ago, may have become obsolete and inapplicable to present circumstances; but it is certain that we ought to have complete evidence of the facts, and, if facts, that a fit remedy should be provided. Under ordinary circumstances when a settlement like this is brought under our notice, the proper persons to take the responsibility of it are the Government of the day. It ought to be brought forward by those who are in high position, and who arc responsible for that mature and businesslike performance which the country expects when such great interests are concerned. I do not mean to say that if the Government elected not to come forward on the subject, an independent Gentleman is precluded from exercising his privilege and soliciting the opinion of the House of Commons on the matter; but what I maintain is, that if an independent Member comes forward on such a subject, he ought to show in the Bill he introduces that he has completely and deeply considered the question, and that he is prepared to meet all the difficulties which dealing with it entails on the House. No one who has risen has pretended for a moment that the Bill introduced to our notice fulfils these conditions; and the noble Lord has no right to treat the question as he has treated it to-night—as if Gentlemen on this side of the House had evinced hostility to some measure so admirably contrived and perfectly finished, that the Government had a right to show some natural impatience at the opposition offered to the measure. On the contrary, those who support this measure confess (and in some sort offer excuses in its defence) that it is utterly inadequate to the occasion. They tell us that the Committee is the proper place where the deficiencies arc to be supplied and the remedies to be brought forward. Now, my experience of Committees of the Whole House is not of a nature so encouraging that I can easily believe that those who are anxious to introduce any clauses of the kind referred to would be fortunate in such an enterprise. A Committee of the Whole House is a very 1125 good occasion for criticism, for amending clauses, and for introducing new clauses as connected with preceding clauses; but such a Committee is not an occasion on which a Bill can be prefected which has deficiencies on every single head with respect to which clauses ought to be brought forward. My own opinion is that if ever there was a question which ought to be referred to a Select Committee, this is one, and I should like to see it so referred, and that the Committee should inquire what difference exists between the functions of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and those of the Lord Chancellor of England, and what there is to incapacitate Roman Catholic gentlemen from performing these functions. I believe that a Select Committee might obtain at this moment satisfactory evidence from witnesses of high character and complete information. You have in this country several ex-Lord Chancellors of Ireland. You might summon Lord Campbell, Lord St. Leonards, and other individuals equally eminent, who, I believe, are at hand. The business of the Committee would not be one of very great length, and you might in a very short time have the opportunity of meeting this question in a way adequate to the occasion. The Bill then would appear before us in a very different shape, and the matter would be dealt with in a manner that would give satisfaction to the country. So far as I am concerned, if the Government give their consent to refer the Bill to a Select Committee with the distinct object I have laid before the House, I should support the second reading of the Bill; but if, on the other hand, the Government will not meet a proposition in my mind so temperate and proper for the occasion, and one which would give general satisfaction, I shall then feel it my duty to take another course. I hope, however, that the Government will feel on reflection that this is a proper mode of dealing with the question. Let the Committee he composed of eminent men from both sides, and let witnesses of the high character and station to which I have alluded ha examined, and let us clearly understand what difference exists between the functions of the Lord Chancellor of England and of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Let it be clearly understood what functions of the Lord Chancellor cannot properly be fulfilled and discharged by a gentleman professing the Roman Catholic faith; and let the result of the labours of 1126 the Committee be placed before the House. That course would be more satisfactory than a hurried and precipitate decision on a subject which, whether we consider the opinion of large classes of the people or the important character of the question itself, is doubtless a question of great weight, and one which ought to be treated by the House with gravity and calmness.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has made a direct appeal to the Members of Her Majesty's Government to state what opinion they would express on a certain course he has proposed, and I have risen simply to give an answer to that appeal. I will give that answer in the fewest number of words; but before I give the answer, I think it right to take notice of one or two points which were touched on by the right hon. Member for Dublin University (Mr. Whiteside). That right hon. Gentleman commented upon a remark of mine made in a previous debate. I ventured on a previous occasion to say, that in my opinion Sir Robert Peel, in disqualifying Roman Catholics from the office of Irish Chancellor, had acted inadvertently. That expression has been much criticised during to-night's debate, and I will now repeat, after consideration, and after hearing the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, what I believe to be the real fact with regard to the origin of the enactment we are now considering. It is clear that Sir Hubert Peel introduced into his measure the Irish Chancellor, because he found that office coupled with the English Chancellor in previous Bills brought in by the professed advocates of the Roman Catholic claims. My conviction is, looking to the expressions he used during the debates, that he was under the impression that the Irish Chancellor had ecclesiastical patronage. I draw that inference from words used by Sir Robert Peel in Committee, and my firm belief is that in introducing the measure, and recommending it to the House, both he and the House of Commons were under the impression that the Irish Chancellor did possess some consider-able ecclesiastical patronage. And now I repeat my assertion, that the Irish Chancellor cannot in strictness be said to have any ecclesiastical patronage, because he is merely one person in conjunction with several others in the disposal of the appointments. With respect to any ecclesiastical patronage the Irish Chancellor might hold, his exercise of it is completely guarded by 1127 the provisions in the Catholic Relief Act. Therefore, as regards the question of ecclesiastical patronage, the matter stands entirely plain, and the only subject which can be deemed open to consideration is the jurisdiction which he may have in certain cases affecting the Protestant Church of Ireland, and which it might be thought improper for a Roman Catholic to exercise. That is the entire extent of any reasonable doubt which can be said to exist with regard to the measure before the House. Some new points have undoubtedly been brought before the consideration of the House during to-night's debate which never previously, to my knowledge, were adverted to. I do not believe, however, that they have any practical importance, though I admit that they have a theoretical force in argument; and before any legislation can take place, it is necessary that they should receive a careful, deliberate, and respectful consideration. I am prepared to recommend my right hon. Friend who has the charge of this Bill to agree to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), to let the Bill be read a second time. ["No, no!"] That, I understand, is the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—to let the Bill be read a second time, and then to refer it to a Select Committee, in order to a consideration of those material and reasonable objections that have been raised during the debate.
§ MR. BANKS STANHOPE
opposed the Billon one great and distinct principle. This question had been settled in 1829, and he opposed any interference with that settlement. That was a principle which no Select Committee could affect, and therefore he would oppose the appointment of any Committee.
§ SIR WILLIAM SOMERVILLE
, in reply, complained of the imputations which had been cast upon his motives by the Mover of the Amendment and by the right hon. Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland. His only motive was to do an act of justice. The question had been asked, why the Government allowed him to bring forward such a Bill? His reply was that he was an independent member, and though he supported the Government he would not ask their consent to any measure that he brought forward. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) sneered at his motives, and spoke of this measure having been brought forward, after some other leading measures had 1128 been got out of the way, in order to give a place to some learned Gentleman or other. He repudiated any such motives.
said, he had not made any such imputation. He had stated that when certain great national measures were disposed of then this measure was introduced.
§ MR. WILLIAM SOMERVILLE
said, the right hon. Gentleman did not speak in the quiet way he now did, but in a very excited and sneering manner, and talked of the "indecent measure" which he had introduced. He thought that his general bearing in that House did not entitle the right hon. Gentleman to make use of such language towards him. He would accept the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), and when the Bill had been read a second time remit it to a Select Committee.
§ SIR WILLIAM MILES
thought the question of adjournment had been lost sight of, and hoped the hon. Gentleman who moved it would insist on his Motion being put. He would be no party to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland being a Roman Catholic till he was convinced that they were not undoing what had been done in 1829.
was anxious to meet the wish of the House that the question should be calmly considered; but as the discussion of the general question had been resumed for some time he would withdraw the Motion of adjournment.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
rose and attempted to address the House: but was met with such continuous cries for a division, that the noble Lord sat down.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 142; Noes 210: Majority 68.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Lord PALMERSTON and Sir GEORGE LEWIS deprecated this Motion, and it was negatived. Finally,
§ Debate adjourned till Tuesday next.
§ House adjoured at Two o'clock.