§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Monsell.)
§ MR. LEFROY
rose to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. In doing so he experienced mingled feelings of regret and satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman who had brought this matter forward with great moderation and force of argument had said that it was one which concerned the consciences of many of our fellow subjects. He (Mr. Lefroy) however did not intend to deal with it as a religious question. He would treat the matter not in respect to religion but to the Church as a temporal establishment. It had been well said by a dignitary of the Church at the present day, the Church of Christ rested upon a rock, and could not be shaken by man's efforts; but the Establishment itself was of human formation, and being affected by human attacks it became those who thought it was necessarily and essentially connected with the religious part of their worship to defend it. He must therefore remind the House that the oath now sought to be abolished had been thought necessary by the leading statesmen of both parties at the time of the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill, as a security for the Estab- 430 lished Church in Ireland. And it was regarded in this light not only by the Protestants of all denominations, but was acquiesced in as such by the Roman Catholics, or at least those of them who agreed in the views entertained in 1826 by the Duke of Norfolk and the leading Roman Catholic nobility and gentry, as well as by the Roman Catholic Church in Eng land and Ireland. In 1826 the Roman Catholic Bishops, Vicars Apostolic, and others of Great Britain drew up a declaration in which they said that they did not despise the obligation of an oath, that their allegiance was not divided between their; Sovereign and the Pope, and that they did not claim the property of the Church established; and the Duke of Norfolk and forty or fifty Peers and Commoners adopted the spirit of the same declaration. The object of these declarations at that time was to accomplish the great purpose of Catholic emancipation. As a further proof that these views were adopted by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church before 1829 in order to accomplish that purpose, he would refer to the evidence of Dr. Murray and Dr. Doyle, given before the House of Commons' Committee on the state of Ireland. Dr. Murray said there was no wish on the part of the Roman Catholic clergy to disturb the present establishment, nor any objection to give the most full and entire assurance upon that subject by any declaration that might be required. Dr. Doyle being asked before the same Committee what would be the effect of passing the Emancipation Act, said that the general benefit would be in calculable. He declared that "in his opinion it would put an end to those heats and animosities which then prevailed so gene rally, would tranquillize the public mind, and link together in harmony the various sections of the people." In a letter ad dressed to Lord Liverpool at the same time, Dr. Doyle stated that if emancipation were granted the country would settle down into a state of quietness; that they would not feel the jealousy which they now felt against the clergy of the Established Church; that they would regard them as brethren labouring in the same vineyard, and seeking to promote the interests of their common country. These declarations had a great effect in smoothing the way for the Emancipation Act. Sir Robert Peel, who in bringing forward that mea sure sacrificed many personal friendships, introduced the Bill in a very remarkable 431 speech, from which, as showing how the authors of emancipation viewed the subject, he would read to the House some extracts. Sir Robert Peel prefaced his speech by moving that that part of the Speech from the Throne which related to Ireland, and which recommended to Parliament the consideration of the laws imposing civil disabilities on his Roman Catholic subjects be read. Those passages were as follows:—The state of Ireland has been the object of His Majesty's continued solicitude.His Majesty laments that, in that part of the United Kingdom, an Association should still exist, which is dangerous to the public peace, and in consistent with the spirit of the constitution; which keeps alive discord and ill-will amongst His Majesty's subjects; and which must, if permitted to continue, effectually obstruct every effort permanently to improve the condition of Ireland.His Majesty confidently relies on the wisdom and on the support of his Parliament, and his Majesty feels assured that you will commit to him such powers as may enable His Majesty to maintain his just authority.His Majesty recommends that when this essential object shall have been accomplished, you shall take into your deliberate consideration the whole condition of Ireland, and that you shall re view the laws which impose civil disabilities on His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects.You will consider whether the removal of those disabilities can be effected consistently with the full and permanent security of our Establishments in Church and State, with the maintenance of the Reformed Religion established by Law, and of the Rights and Privileges of the Bishops and Clergy of this Realm, and of the Churches committed to their charge.These are institutions which must ever be held sacred in this Protestant Kingdom, and which it is the duty and the determination of His Majesty to preserve inviolate.—[2 Hansard, xx. 737.]Sir Robert Peel then proceeded to state a history of the circumstances which had induced him to undertake to introduce a measure in accordance with the Royal Speech, and after giving a narrative of the various Motions that had been made, and of the political events which had occurred in reference to the claims of the Roman Catholics, proceeded to say—The measures which I propose for granting relief to the Roman Catholics are founded upon two great principles: The abolition of civil distinctions on account of the religious creed of the Roman Catholics; and the maintenance, intact and inviolate, of the integrity of the Protestant Church, its worship, its discipline, and its government. These measures will restore the equality of civil rights; but they will give no favour or encouragement to any form of religious worship, excepting that which is incorporated by fundamental laws with the constitution of the State, and which claims the respect, veneration, and affection of a Protestant people.432 Sir Robert Peel then referred to a suggestion that had been made, 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 Members should be disqualified by law from voting on matters relating directly or indirectly, to the interests of the Established Church:—and he said—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 apparent connection with the Church, might have a practical bearing upon its welfare ten times more important than an other question which might appear directly to concern it.Sir Robert Peel then explained the nature of the oath which it was proposed to ad minister to the Roman Catholic in the place of those oaths and declarations by which he was at that time excluded—In the meanwhile the Bill will provide an oath, to the effect following: An oath to which the Roman Catholic can have no valid or con scientious objection, which will incorporate the substance of the oaths of allegiance and abjuration, and will disavow all belief in the temporal or civil jurisdiction within this realm of any foreign authority … 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, as his capacity for civil service.And he concluded by saying—In the course I have taken, I have been mainly influenced by the anxious desire to provide for the maintenance of Protestant interests; and for the security of Protestant establishments. This is my defence—this is my consolation—this shall be my revenge.He (Mr. Lefroy) certainly could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, who in introducing the subject to the House said that this was not an inopportune time for bringing forward this measure, and asked the House to act not in a mere spirit of kindness, but of confidence, towards the Roman Catholic Members, who were anxious to act in perfect harmony with the other Members of the House. He (Mr. Lefroy) confessed he considered this as anything but an appropriate time for bringing forward the question—inasmuch as there was at the time pending before the House a Motion for taking away the property of the Church, and transferring it to other purposes. At this very time meetings were held and associations formed 433 in opposition to the interests of the Church, and Members expressed themselves most warmly on the subject. An Association was formed at Dublin last year, in which the Lord Mayor of the day, who was a Roman Catholic, took a prominent part, although he had taken the oath not to exercise the authority of his office in opposition to the interests of the Established Church; and at the first meeting of the Association he declared its object to be the disendowment of the Established Church, and the application of its revenues to other purposes beneficial to the Irish people; he there laid it down that the question had passed beyond the realm of argument, and that such an institution as the Irish Church probably had never existed before, that it was the cause of division and strife, and that the people of Ireland were determined never to be content until they witnessed its legislative abolition. Dr. M'Hale, in a letter written after the Emancipation Act was passed, said that he should use every means of legal and constitutional opposition within his power against this anomalous institution, and he protested against the competency of other persons to put an interpretation for him upon the provisions which had been introduced by Parliament. The late Mr. Lucas had said that he would never cease his exertions until that gross monopoly, the Established Church, was cut up by the roots. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) had said, in his place in Parliament, that the existence of the Established Church in Ireland was a standing insult to the Roman Catholics in Ireland, and a gross violation of civil and religious liberty.
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. Member that he was guilty of a double irregularity—in referring to a past debate and in reading a Report of it in that House.
§ MR. LEFROY
said, that he would also refer them to the opinion of Dr. Cullen, who protested against any system which proclaimed the unrestricted circulation of the Bible, and gave to every one the right of thinking and acting as he wished. Such language was in great contrast with that of Dr. Doyle and others previous to the passing of the Emancipation Act. He (Mr. Lefroy) wished it to be understood that he did not desire to maintain unnecessary oaths; he could not, however, regard this oath as standing in that position, inasmuch as it formed a public guarantee 434 and was a condition on which the Emancipation Act was passed. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell), in commenting on the Oath of Supremacy, said he would comment on the grievances which the Roman Catholics suffered in other days; and then he went into the question of what did affect them most, the oath as to the settlement of property and the oath affecting attempts on the life of a Sovereign by a subject. The point to which it was now his duty to allude was that which immediately concerned the Protestant Church. His right hon. Friend admitted that the meaning of the oath was doubtful to a great many Roman Catholics; but, at the same time, he brought forward the authority of a noble Lord, a Member of that House and of the Established Church, in favour of the right of the Roman Catholics to exercise their right of voting in that House upon all questions affecting the Church of England. But he (Mr. Lefroy) asked, was the opinion of the noble Lord alluded to, or that of any other individual Member of that House, to be set against the agreements entered into in 1829, and the expressed understanding of the Minister of that day? The late Sir Robert Peel, in reply to a statement made by an hon. Member in 1836, stated most distinctly that it was part of the compact entered into with the Roman Catholics in 1829 that they should do nothing to interfere with the rights and interests of the Protestant Church as by law established, and that if, in 1829, they could have known the intention of Mr. O'Connell to agitate against the Established Church in Ireland, the fact would have raised an insuperable difficulty to the passing of the Emancipation Act. He concurred with his right hon. Friend in his statement that an oath must be interpreted according to the sense in which it was understood by those who framed it; but he added that the late Sir Robert Peel, from the manner in which he framed it, could not have intended it to interfere with the ordinary rights of a Member to vote upon all questions that came before him, but that his object was to restrain persons from having recourse to unlawful violence in their attempt to interfere with or to upset the Church as by law established. He could not agree with his right hon. Friend in that view of the case. In an essay on the works of Macaulay, written by Dr. Murray, the Professor of Dogmatic Theology at Maynooth, that 435 rev. gentleman reviewed the meaning of the oath in question, and asked whether its interpretation was that Roman Catholic Members of Parliament were debarred from voting in favour of any measure introduced into Parliament to amend or abolish the temporalities of the Church, or whether it was merely meant as a bar to such persons attempting to over throw or undermine that Church by violent means. Dr. Murray appeared to consider the question to be one of con science. Now, he (Mr. Lefroy) could not concur in the opinion that there was any such doubt whatever about the meaning of the oath, because it never could be supposed that Members of Parliament would be induced to resort to violence. He had now stated his reasons for thinking that the proposal of his right hon. Friend was not one that ought to be sanctioned by that House. He could not, however, conclude without alluding to what had been stated on the subject by certain Roman Catholic authorities. The Tablet, a Roman Catholic newspaper, in speaking of the difficulties in the way of an intended attack upon the Church of England in 1832, referred distinctly to the fact that many Roman Catholic Members were impressed with the conviction that they were restrained by this oath from taking part in any attempt "to injure, weaken, or circumvent the Church as by law established." Well, then, he (Mr. Lefroy) contended that if this oath were calculated to protect our Church from the attacks of its enemies it was the duty of the Legislature to retain it; and if the oath was sought to be abolished for the purpose of clearing the way for an attack on the Established Church, then it was the duty of every Protestant to resist the abolition. He did not say that any particular Roman Catholic Member had violated his oath but since Roman Catholic authorities had said so before him, there was no impropriety in his saying that any at tack on the Established Church did constitute a breach of that oath. It was quite obvious that this oath was in tended to protect the Church from any such assaults, and several Roman Catholic Members had, in consequence, declined to vote upon Church questions, believing that they would be guilty of an improper interference in such matters, being restrained by their oath from taking any such step. A remarkable instance of this feeling 436 occurred some years ago. It was then stated in the House of Lords that a distinguished Roman Catholic gentleman declared that the measure of Catholic Emancipation had done nothing for him, inasmuch as he could neither be a Member of Parliament nor a magistrate, for no power on earth could induce him to take the oath prescribed by that Act for Roman Catholics. His right hon. Friend opposite observed, that in his opinion Roman Catholics could never become so numerous or influential in Parliament as to carry any measure hostile to the interests of the Church. But what was the fact? Had not the House seen many cases in which the Roman Catholic Members held the balance of power in their hands, and in which their votes had been solicited by the two great parties in favour of their own particular measures. They were not now standing up in the House in support of the spiritual interests of the Protestant Church; but he put it to the House and country whether they would be justified in abolishing an oath which was admitted by many Members, even of the Roman Catholic body, to be a safeguard and protection against the attacks of its enemies. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. WHALLEY
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that although he concurred with his hon. and learned Friend that this Bill ought to be rejected he based his opposition on different ground. His reason was, that if a change in that matter were desirable it ought to be pro posed by the Government, and upon their responsibility; and they ought not to leave the opposition to the measure in the hands of private Members. If they thought that the oath to be taken by Roman Catholic Members should be altered, they ought themselves to have brought forward a Motion distinctly proposing the alteration; and if they thought otherwise they ought to have opposed this Bill in its introduction. The present oath was framed in the year 1829, and was framed for the purpose of placing Roman Catholic Members upon the same footing as other Members. The oath, in fact, divested Roman Catholic Members of the obligation to carry out those pretensions of their Church which might be supposed to interfere with the patriotic discharge of their duties in Parliament. He therefore hoped that if by passing this Bill the House removed the 437 existing safeguards, they would regard with more toleration his humble efforts to bring before them the practices and doc trines of the Roman Catholic Church, and the system of that foreign Power whose peculiarities were well known in the history of this country, in the history of Europe, and in the history of the world, and were recognized in every one of our Acts of Parliament, as well as in the foundations of our dynasty. They had to consider how far they would maintain those institutions which ensured the liberties of the country and the dignity of the Crown, or how far they would be prepared to recognize the claim to supreme dominion in temporal as well as in spiritual matters put forward by the Roman Catholic Church. That Church, as appeared from undeniable documents, had expressly declared that the temporal power should be subjected to the spiritual. The hon. Member was proceeding to read extracts which he said contained doctrines authorized by the Propaganda on the subject of "mental reservation," the supremacy of the spiritual over the temporal power, and other theological questions, when—
§ MR. WHALLEY
would not read the Latin, but he would hand it to the hon. Member. [Cries of "Name the book!"] The cases which he was reading were "Cases of Conscience." It contained an authorized declaration by the Propaganda at Rome of the law by which Roman Catholics were to be regulated as to oaths. [The hon. Member, amid much interruption and cries of "Divide!" "Read!" "Sing!" proceeded to read extracts from the book.]But whatever their authorities might say as to the propriety of disregarding an oath, lie had a most implicit belief that no Roman Catholic Member would be unwilling to present against any pressure that might be brought to bear against him the fact that they were at liberty, so long as the oath remained, to judge for themselves in all such matters. With respect to oaths, he found it laid down in this publication that, "When there was good reason, and the equivocation itself was lawful, it was not wrong." He appealed to Roman Catholic Members whether it was not desirable to retain on 438 the statute book some protection against such obligations as the writings of Liguori and Dens would impose upon them. The occupants of the Treasury Bench thought it quite consistent with their duty to be ignorant of such publications as those he had referred to. When the Maynooth grant was under discussion on one occasion, he remembered the right hon. Gentleman now Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Cardwell) saying he knew nothing of such men as Liguori and Dens, and had scarcely ever heard of them. On another occasion, the right hon. Gentleman the pre sent Secretary for Ireland (Sir Robert Peel) said he had never heard of any in tolerance on the part of Roman Catholic priests; and yet that right hon. Gentleman before he took office was loud in his denunciations of the intolerance of Roman Catholic priests in Spain. Much had been said as to the time when this question was brought forward. Ata former period, when a general election was approaching, a most efficient and influential newspaper (The Times)spoke of the probability of some sixty or seventy Members being returned who might be considered as representatives of the Vatican and Propaganda, ready to serve the interests of a foreign Power, and to adopt any scheme detrimental to the interests of this country. The question, therefore, concerned the honour of Roman Catholic Members, be cause it was in their power, when any pressure from a foreign Power was brought to bear upon them, to plead the obligations which they were under by the oath they had taken in that House. He thought he had stated reasons sufficient these oaths should not be removed, and in conclusion he would only say that if any hon. Member entertained doubts as to the extent to which the liberty of the press and the rights of discussion were favoured at Rome by the highest authority there, let him take up the Encyclical Letter from Pope Gregory XVI., issued in 1832, and there he would find the unmistakable language in which such rights were denounced.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Lefroy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, that as he had taken a part in the discussion of this question in a former Session, and had always felt a deep in- 439 terest in it, he wished to make a few observations in support of the Bill and against the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin. He was not going to attempt to follow the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley), for it appeared to him that a Gentleman who was of opinion that this exceptional oath had the effect of placing those who took it on an equality with those who did not, and who told them that the extracts he had read and the accusations he had made were conducive to the dignity of the House, was impervious to argument. The only argument the hon. Gentleman himself had used against the Bill was that if it became law it would be his duty to inflict such quotations upon the House to a greater extent than he did at present; but, as the House would have a remedy in their own hands against anything of that sort, even that argument did not induce him to change his views. He did not wish to go into the minute history and past progress of this question; but in tracing the history of the Catholic Relief Bill the hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Lefroy) had referred to passages in the speeches of two or three Roman Catholics of great eminence, and had endeavoured to turn them to account as against the proposition of his right hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell). For his own part, he attributed very little importance to expressions of that kind, proceeding as they had done from persons who were so elated by the great and righteous triumph which they had just achieved, as not to pay much attention to the drawbacks which accompanied that conspicuous act of justice. The hon. Member had, however, quoted expressions made use of both by the opponents and supporters of emancipation with respect to this oath, and seemed to think that a study of these expressions threw light on the real nature and character of the oath. Now he (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) had also studied with great care these expressions equally of the opponents and supporters of the measure with the view of finding what was the real effect of the oaths, and the more he studied the deeper in the dark he found himself. He would bring under the notice of the House the language used by Sir Robert Peel in bringing forward the Catholic Relief Bill, and of Sir Charles Wetherall in opposing it. Sir Robert Peel, in giving his reasons for re- 440 jecting a proposal to limit the number of Roman Catholic Members, or put a limit on their legislative capacity, said it was dangerous to establish the precedent of limiting the discretion with which the duties and functions of Members of Parliament were to be exercised. Again, the right hon. Baronet said he was unwilling to deprive the Roman Catholic Members of the judgment and discretion which were allowed to other Members of Parliament. After that he was not surprised to find Sir Charles Wetherall saying that he treated the Roman Catholic oath with contempt, as incapable of achieving that which he wished to see effected—namely, to have Roman Catholic Members pre vented from taking part in discussions respecting Church temporalities. Sir Charles went further, he gave this challenge to Sir Robert Peel—"I ask you, do you or do you not, when you give the Roman Catholic legislative power, mean to re strict him from acting in his legal capacity as he pleases?" That challenge never was accepted by Sir Robert Peel, or any Member of the Government; so that the statements to which he had just referred the House showed that those who opposed Catholic claims in 1829 took very different views of the meaning of the oath from that contended for by those who op posed the Bill of his right hon. Friend, and they showed also that it was not the intention of the Government, when the Catholic Relief Bill was passed, to fetter or restrain the action of Roman Catholic Members in respect of any question which might come before the House. The oath had always been ambiguous, and therefore had always been immoral and unrighteous; but it had acquired a more offensive character in the eyes of Roman Catholics within the last few years, in consequence of the great change which had been made in the oath taken by the Protestant Members of that House in 1858. Many objectionable expressions which before were common to both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant oaths were then struck out of the latter. The Protestant majority had relieved them selves by expunging certain expressions in the oaths they took, but still continued to force those objectionable portions of the oath upon the Roman Catholic minority. He could not doubt that the great majority of Protestants Members were desirous of finding themselves in a position to relieve their Roman Catholic brethren from this badge of inferiority, which the oath, this 441 snare to the conscience, implied. There might be one or two Gentlemen sitting in that House whose minds had a peculiar ecclesiastical bent which caused them to feel pleasure in inflicting this oath upon the Roman Catholic Members; but he assumed that the majority of the House would be anxious to abolish the objectional parts of the oath, unless some absolute and weighty State necessity compelled them to retain them. Could any one believe that the mere fact of some thirty Member taking that oath added one iota to the security of the temporalities of the Church? The existence of the Established Church in England and in Ireland depended upon the wishes of the majority of that House, and not upon the terms of an oath ad ministered to a handful of Members. If the oath were futile as well as objection able, was it fair or generous to retain it? If the admirers of the oath were to en deavour to impose it upon the whole House, they would soon see how objection able the Protestant Members considered it; and that it was only owing to the weakness of the Roman Catholic minority that it was at present submitted to. Of what use would it be in the moment of real peril? The flimsy fair-weather security would vanish on the slightest attack. This bulwark of our Constitution was like the theatrical fortress, which might look very formidable at a distance, but was utterly incapable of resisting an attack. He would carry his argument still further, and would deny the propriety of endeavouring to defend any special institutions of the country by any special oath. It was no doubt perfectly natural and right that every Member of that House should give his solemn assurance in the presence of God of his attachment to the monarchy and to the Sovereign; but he contended that no oath should be required for the security of any institution, however important; and he thought there were many other institutions of this country equally important with the temporalities of the Church. All those institutions, without exception, should rest upon their only true and legitimate foundation—namely, public opinion. Why should the temporalities of the Church—he drew a distinction between the Church and its temporalities—form an exception to that salutary rule? There were, indeed, peculiar reasons why the temporalities of the Church should not be made such an exception. Because a Church Establishment must rest upon the 442 preponderating assent of the majority of the people among which it exists. From that assent alone it can derive its power of usefulness, and its consequent justification. He would doubtless be told that the oath was part of the system of toleration. Well, toleration was a grand idea, an immense political discovery made by great men in former days. But at the present day they had acquired a higher and truer idea of justice which consisted in equality. Toleration was all very well, but it was not enough; Members of that House ought not to be tolerated, they ought to sit in it upon absolutely free and equal terms. He hoped the majority of the House would accept the Bill upon the principles he had endeavoured to set forth, but if not, he would ask them no longer to continue to harass and torment the consciences of their Roman Catholic brethren by compelling them to take the oath which the Bill sought to abolish. Let them sacrifice the oath, if sacrifice it were in their minds, if not to the rigid claims of political justice and right, at least at the call of generosity and the demand of morality.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
Sir, I am anxious to say a few words upon the subject of this Bill. I listened at an early stage of the debate in the hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary and the leader of the House would have risen and would have cleared up the doubts and difficulties which present themselves to my mind as to the course the Government intend to take in regard to the subject-matter of this Bill. We are not dealing with a question of cotton or sugar but with a question which has been described as of vast and fundamental consequence as regards the institutions of this country both at present and in the future. I was sorry to hear from the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. Chichester Fortescue)—especially sorry if he uttered the sentiments of the Government upon the subject—that he regarded this oath as ambiguous, immoral, and offensive, as un intelligible, absurd, and futile. The right hon. Gentleman did not make use of these epithets when carried away by the heat of debate, but used them calmly and deliberately. He said that the Church of England—one of the fundamental institutions of the country—rested merely on the consent of the people, and existed merely by the will of the majority that the oath was no security to the Church of England; 443 that it was a burden upon the conscience; hut at the same time he said the Church itself, like a Turnpike Road Bill, might be voted away by the House.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
I spoke only of the temporalities of the Church, not of the Church itself.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
I understood that it was the Church to which the right hon. Gentleman really referred. I listened to him with respect as one of the Ministers of the Crown, and I must say I never heard more dangerous doctrines than those enunciated by him this afternoon. The Church as one of the institutions of the country was formerly spoken of in very different terms to those used by the right hon. Gentleman. It seemed to me as if the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to accelerate the moment when the vote of the House of Commons might be given abolishing that institution. He doubtless had some passing regard for the monarchy, although his argument against the Roman Catholic oath would tell equally against the oath of allegiance. He said that upon the whole the oath of allegiance might be endured, and thus showed some little regard for the securities for the existence of the monarchy. Now, supposing a man were to start up and ask, "What is the use of the oath of allegiance?—it is of no value in the case of the loyal subject of the Crown, and it will never restrain a rebel," he would go no further than the argument of the right hon. Gentleman would support him, and thus both Church and Crown might be got rid of at once, as has happened before. In speaking of the late Sir Robert Peel the right hon. Gentleman said he paid very little regard to the casual observations of political men upon subjects of great importance, and that Sir Robert Peel had treated the question lightly and superficially. That statement might possibly be right; but while he was speaking I was turning over a book published by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, wherein he sets forth the whole of the private thoughts of Sir Robert Peel upon this very measure which the right hon. Gentleman says was so lightly dealt with by that great statesman. In that book are recorded his doubts and his embarrassments with regard to the measure of Catholic emancipation, the difficulty he had in persuading the King of its necessity, and the manner in which it was carried, and now we are asked to re-open the whole question, which was settled at that time to the satisfaction of all parties. With every 444 deference to the advocate of the present Bill and to the Roman Catholics, I think it would be exceedingly impolitic to re-open the question, or for one moment to listen to the demands of the very eminent Pre late who was the leader of the recent agitation in Ireland. Do hon. Gentlemen believe that Sir Robert Peel was a light and trifling character? That statesman described the wonderful organization of the Church of Rome, the extent of its power and its influence, and he said that while it aimed nominally only at spiritual power it really wielded temporal power. Now, let us look at the questions to which the principle of this Bill gives rise. The right hon. Gentleman says it is advantageous to regard the principle of the measure by the light of history. I do not know whether Roman Catholic Gentlemen have considered this question with all the care it deserves with regard to the past and the future, or whether the right hon. Gentle man and the Government he represents have duly weighed the consequences of re opening a great question. Have they traced the matter back and ascertained how the oath became by degrees a subject of great State importance? We may go so tar back as the Reformation, which every educated person knows was the result of a dispute relative to jurisdiction, and not to religion. I do not say that King Henry VIII. was a very religious man, but he possessed a powerful understanding and extreme passions; and when he saw the oath taken by the bishops to the Pope of Rome, he stormed in his palace and said, "I am but half a king,"—a very felicitous expression, meaning that half their allegiance was due to the Pope and but half to himself. He argued that he was not interfering with their ceremonies; they might go to mass as often as they pleased, but he was deter mined to be a king in the full sense of the word. Mr. Dalton, a Roman Catholic gentleman, and a member of the Irish Bar, who has written several books on historical and antiquarian subjects, refers to the fact of Dr. Browne, Archbishop of Dublin, being required by the Council, of which Lord Cromwell was President, to acknowledge completely the jurisdiction of the King. Dr. Browne agreed, but Domdale, the Archbishop of Armagh, said "That we can never do, because it would be interfering with the authority of the Pope." The meaning of that is, "It is impossible for us to yield to that requisition, for 445 although the Pope does not claim temporal power, he claims spiritual power; and whenever the question of power arises," says the Archbishop of Armagh, "we must reserve that of the Pope." Well, the King eventually prevailed—and what happened? Those who took the oath—and among them were many of the old Roman Catholic nobility and gentry—were excommunicated. When King James I. ascended the throne he had strong leaning towards the Roman Catholics, his mother having been one, and he drew up an oath with his own hand which modified all expressions of belief, leaving the belief free, but it was an oath which ascribed jurisdiction in causes ecclesiastical to the Crown, moderately expressed. Again, a number of the nobility and others were willing to take the oath—and what happened? Why, the Pope excommunicated the King, and those of the people who had either administered or taken the oath. Now, the King had acted with great policy, he was wise, and was one of the best men that ever legislated or acted for Ireland. He sat down and wrote an apology for this oath. His apology failed, and the excommunication which then ensued led to most unhappy results. Dr. O'Conor—a relative of the family of the Member for Roscommon—a learned and accomplished author, who lived and wrote at Stowe, has recorded that the interference with the expression of loyalty to the Crown and the admission of the jurisdiction of the State was the ruin of the Roman Catholic people in Ireland at that epoch of their history. When Charles II. came to the Throne many of the Roman Catholic nobles and gentlemen sided with him, who had been oppressed by Cromwell, and deprived of their property. Cromwell was victorious, and how he dealt with them, it would be indelicate to state, because every one he disliked he kicked out of the country, and every one who wished to exist in the country was obliged to take care not to dispute his jurisdiction. When Charles II. came back he was almost a Roman Catholic himself, and his brother was a member of that faith. On taking possession of the Throne he said—I will restore, without inquiry, all the Roman Catholic gentlemen and noblemen in Ireland who were loyal to the Crown during its troubles, not only to sit in Parliament, but to their property, provided they take such an oath as will satisfy the English nation of their loyalty and their regard for the settlement of the country.446 To this, I think they were justly entitled. Well, what happened the moment that oath was presented to them? The Pope's Legate was at the time out of the country, but the Nuncio at Brussels, acting for him, threatened to excommunicate every gentle man who took that oath. That was the second great epoch in the history of Ire land. The Nuncio prevailed upon a great number of the Irish people not to take the oath, and the result was to lay down that great line of demarcation between those who sympathized with the institutions of the country and those who did not. This was the result of the interference of a foreign Power. I say it is to the influence of a foreign Power that the recent agitations are owing. I deny that the Roman Catholic people of Ireland have got up the agitation themselves. Now, the right hon. Gentleman says this oath is a novelty.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
I thought the right hon. Gentleman did make use of that expression; but, at all events, he described it as "futile." Now, the old oath which was taken eighty years ago, contained the very words of the oath that had been taken without objection long before there was a dispute as to the Church Establishment in Ireland. The present oath was copied from that taken in 1754, and the same words were used in the oath of 1793—I mean the words having reference to the settlement of property. Those words are—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; and I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment, as settled by law, within this realm.These are the words which it is proposed by the Bill now before the House to omit from the oath. They were carefully drawn up by lawyers at the time for the purpose of binding the Roman Catholics. It is also proposed to omit the following words:—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. And 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 and ordinary sense of the words of this oath without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever.447 Now, I ask, in the name of common sense, what objection can there be to take such an oath as that? We all know that the oath refers to the great Act of Settlement which secured to Roman Catholics the possession of their property, but at the same time secured to our Church property which had belonged to the Church of Borne; and, therefore, in every oath drawn up since that time the last paragraph I read has never been omitted. It was framed, not for the purpose of teasing the con sciences of the Roman Catholics, but in order to preserve property in the manner settled at that time. Yet that passage is proposed to be omitted by the present Bill, after having been taken, without complaint, for upwards of seventy years. We now come to a very critical part of the question. The oath set forth in one of the Acts of Parliament relating to Ireland merely states that the Gentleman who takes it will not do any act to overthrow the Established Church in Ireland for the purpose of establishing a Roman Catholic Church in its stead. It very little matters what you do with the temporalities of the Church after you have overthrown the Church itself. You may, if you chose, apply them to the purpose of building asylums and lighthouses, as has been already advocated. The chief matter is the preservation of the Church itself. Now, when the Roman Catholic bishops met in Dublin, before the Emancipation Act was carried, they proposed, in order to satisfy the Legislature that no injury should arise to the Church from that mea sure, to draw up a declaration to be taken by Roman Catholics. In drawing up that declaration they used the very words of the Act I have referred to, and they said—We hereby solemnly declare that we will do any act calculated to overthrow the Church Establishment in Ireland for the purpose of establishing a Roman Catholic Church in its stead.But who were the persons who drew up the existing oath? Were they men with light and trifling characters, as was alleged by the right hon. Gentleman? The oath was drawn by Lord Lyndhurst, Chief Justice Tindal (one of the profoundest lawyers who ever sat upon the English Bench), Lord Plunket (the great advocate of Catholic emancipation when he represented the University of Dublin), and the last was Mr. Wilson Greene. Those words, however, were purposely dropped at the time of the Emancipation Act, when the 448 oath was framed as it rests at present. The right hon. Gentleman says the oath is useless. Now, I will not argue this question upon the opinions of Protestants. Let us see what Serjeant Shee, than whom a more honourable man never sat upon the Bench, has to say upon the subject. That learned Judge says, in a pamphlet entitled A Proposal for Religious Equality in Ireland—I have a clear conviction that Catholic Members, however strong may be their impression of its expediency, ought not to vote so long as a solemn abjuration 'of all intention to subvert the Church Establishment,' and a solemn promise not to exercise any privilege to which they are, or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion,' continue to be among the conditions on which they are admitted to seats in Parliament. The faith plighted by those words has been hitherto preserved inviolate. It is free to them, as was done under the guidance of Mr. O'Connell by their predecessors, to assist the Queen's Government, the Members of which are bound, as respects the Church of England, by a still more stringent pledge, in correcting the abuses and retrenching the superfluities of the Establishment. It is their duty to take care that those superfluities are not wasted by reason of the inadequacy and unsuitableness of the channels through which they are distributed, upon purposes which have no connection, or only a nominal connection, with the propagation of religious truth. But they took upon themselves the of lice of legislators with knowledge that a solemn abjuration of all intention to subvert the Church Establishment would be required of them. Having made that abjuration, they are committed by it to a loyal acquiescence in the retention by the Protestant Episcopal Church of a temporal provision adequate to secure its efficiency and the maintenance of its bishops and clergy in competence and honours. What would be thought in private life of the man who having been suspected by a society into which he was desirous of admittance of an intention inconsistent with its most cherished interests, and elected on his solemn denial of it, should avail himself of the privilege of a member to promote the intention which he had disclaimed? If my opinion were less decided than it is on the meaning of the Catholic oath, and I deem the policy recommended by Mr. Miall more hopeful than I believe it to be, I should still think our adoption of it unwise. The Church by law established in Ireland is the Church of a community, everywhere considerable in respect of property, rank, intelligence, and the power of avenging a disgrace on the religion of the Irish people. It is strong in the supposed identity of its interests with those of the Church of England. Nothing short of a convulsion, tearing up both establishments by the roots, could accomplish its overthrow. Nor is it by any means clear that its overthrow would benefit our religion. With the exception of the zealots who disturb the dioceses of Dublin, Ferns, Cashel, and Tuam, 'the sapping and mining' of religious belief has not been thought a worthy occupation by the prelates and clergy of the Establishment, Who shall measure the effects 449 which might be produced upon the half-informed, the irreligious, and the indigent by the spirit of proselytism which has of late broken loose, if universally quickened in the breasts of unendowed perverters, without standard articles, or creed, by the lust of uncertain and indefinite gain.That is an exposition of the oath by one who is a Roman Catholic and is an ornament to the Bench, and I believe his interpretation is a correct one. He says it is impossible to put any other meaning on it than the one I have just read. Again, Mr. Lucas, a gentleman whom I very much admire, says—If I had the honour of a seat in Parliament I would no more presume to vote for the alienation of any Church property, so long as that oath was in being, than I would blaspheme God or renounce my faith.Now, this is the answer to the inquiry, "What is the good of the oath?" That is one use of the oath. But there is an other use of it which is much more important, and it is this. It is a public record of the conditions upon which a body of men obtain all the privileges and all the benefits of our Constitution, and each time it is repeated at the table of this House it is a re-affirmance of these conditions. It contains the principle of the Emancipation Act, that this is a Protestant State. The principle of the Emancipation Act, from first to last, is that this is a Protestant State, that the Crown is Protestant, and the Constitution is Protestant, and that we exclude and deny all foreign jurisdiction. There are four or five words in the last Encyclical Letter which are of great consequence. They declare that, "It is heretical to assert that the King is superior to the Church in questions of jurisdiction." Why, that is the whole question between us and the foreign Power. And who would suffer most from the admission of that foreign jurisdiction? I am so familiar with this that I am amused when I hear a Roman Catholic gentleman theoretically admit what if it pinched him he would be the first practically to deny. I will give an instance or two of cases that have occurred. A Roman Catholic miller was excommunicated and all persons were forbidden to deal with him, to buy of or sell to him, in a form of words that I will not repeat. He brought an action against the priest who had excommunicated him for defamation of character, accompanied by loss and in jury to him in the trade and business of a miller. The counsel for the priest answered, "I had no malice against you. 450 I only did what I did under the authority and jurisdiction of the Church." The Judge ruled that there was no jurisdiction in the Church, and the priest was condemned in damages and costs. Similar cases had occurred over and over again. Take another case. A man married two respectable Roman Catholic women, and was tried for bigamy. His defence was that his first marriage was not quite good according to some decision of the Church. The jury returned a special verdict. The case was argued in the Court of Queen's Bench in Dublin, and it was contended for the prisoner that as the Church to which he belonged had set aside the first marriage it was no marriage, and there fore that he was not guilty. Hear the language of the Judge—The argument for the defendant supposed the rules and discipline of the Church of Rome to be a part of the law of the land, than which there could not be a more monstrous assumption. Even the Canonical law has no dominion in this country, save so far as it has been received, and ratified, and made part of the Queen's Ecclesiastical law, which is itself part and parcel of the law of the realm.Therefore, our denial of the jurisdiction of the Pope is of the last practical importance at this moment, and its assertion in the Encyclical Letter goes to the root of the whole question between the Crown and the Papacy. Is this an ancient and exploded doctrine? It was published only the other day. How does this apply to the matter before the House? When this oath was drawn, Lord Plunket stated on behalf of those gentlemen who are now asking us to change it, or their predecessors, that they would take the oath of Elizabeth with the explanation that it only applied to matters of belief, and would acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Crown in all causes ecclesiastical as well as temporal. This proposal of Plunket's was not successful. He admitted that when this oath was drawn you were allowed to omit doing that which the Catholics of England had done before, you were allowed to leave out the words "spiritual and ecclesiastical jurisdiction," so that you have escaped the performance of that which is the duty of every subject of the realm, the renunciation of all foreign jurisdiction. There are four or five important variations between the oath as it now stands and that which this Bill proposes to substitute; but before I come to that let me re mind the House of what was stated by the right hon. Gentleman, that an Act 451 of Parliament was passed a few years ago, which I admit made the matter a little more embarrassing to Roman Catholics. We take an oath which is a com pound of the oaths of allegiance, abjuration, and supremacy—the oath of supremacy, as Lord Eldon explained it, being only an extension of the oath of allegiance as to its denial and exclusion of foreign jurisdiction. The Act which established what you are now called upon to undo was brought in by Mr. FitzRoy, Lord Palmerston, Sir George Grey, and the late Sir George Come wall Lewis, and it contains this clause:—Provided always that nothing in this Act contained shall be held to alter or affect the pro visions of the Act passed in the tenth year of the reign of King George IV. cap. 7, for the relief of Her Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects.That is a re-affirmance and declaration of the policy and wisdom of what was done by the Act of 1829. It is there re-stated and re-affirmed by Lord Palmerston and the leading Members of the Present Cabinet; and now this measure recites, "It is expedient to change that oath." And in what particulars do you propose to change it? Let us take one instance and examine those particulars. The existing oath contains these words, "It is not an article of my faith that Princes excommunicated may be deposed." Now, I am not willing to set aside that clause.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
I am referring to what is contained in the oath presented by the Act 10 Geo. IV. c. 7—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 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. And I do declare that I do not believe that the Pope of Rome or any other foreign prince, prelate, per son, State, or potentate hath or ought to have any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence directly or indirectly in this realm. 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.That as to the settlement of property is omitted from the oath to be substituted by this Bill—And I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the pre sent 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 452 or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant Government in the United Kingdom. And I do solemnly in the presence of God profess, testify, and delare that I do make this declaration and every part thereof in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever.All that is proposed to be omitted by this Bill. I admit that this is a very strong and explicit oath, drawn with great care and with consummate judgment and skill, and I have shown that by the measure introduced a few years ago it was re-enacted and re-affirmed. If I am asked why I would at this moment retain the clause disavowing the doctrine that ex communicated Sovereigns may be deposed, I reply that the Pope has excommunicated the King of Italy, and it has been shrewdly observed that there is but a slight interval between the deposition of a Prince and his grave. Why should that declaration be omitted from the oath? It was not objected to by Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Shiel, or other eminent persons when they were called upon to testify that, whatever ancient and exploded fallacies might have prevailed upon the subject, they did not hold to such a doctrine. The next point is the defence of the settlement of property. Have hon. Members read the evidence of Mr. O'Connell before the House of Lords? He was asked what ought to be done with regard to the settlement of property, and he replied, "If it could be believed by any of your Lord ships that there was the slightest intention to alter the settlement of property, by which in Ireland we always mean the Act of Settlement upon the restoration of the monarchy, there is no provision that would be too stringent. I admit at once that there is nothing that you can desire to prevent it that you ought not to adopt." He then went on to explain the operation of the Act, saying that he knew that part of the property of the Church was taken, but, added he, "My brother bought a portion, and I quite agree that your Lordships must preserve the settlement of property, because if that should be disturbed in searching for the owners you would uproot everything." Why, then, should we omit from the oath this clause, which has been included in every oath which has been en forced during the last 150 years, and which the most eminent men have not refused to accept? Why did they not say, "We will not take that oath; it is unnecessary?" On the contrary, they all said, "We will give 453 you any security you please upon that subject." My advice to the friends of this measure is not to adhere to the proposal to omit this clause from the oath, which raises unpleasant suspicions of intentions which, I am sure, they have never entertained. Then, with reference to the settlement of the property of the Church, have you read the evidence of the late Arch bishop Murray? I have read it, and I never read anything with such pain as I read it, having regard to present events. He was asked, as the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, "What do you say about the Church property?" He answered like a gentleman, and he always kept his word. He said, and he swore it, that there would never be any intention on the part of his Church or its heads to disturb the Church property or to abstract it for any purpose from its present lawful purposes. He dies and another prelate succeeds; and what occurred last week? While we were all in a state of excitement and enjoyment at the visit of our gracious Prince, an article appeared commenting upon the prospect of an era of peace and happiness in Ireland, in which it was stated that the Church would be allowed to rest in peace. The next day the following letter was addressed to the journal in which the article appeared, by the Secretary of the National Association of which I do not know whether any hon. Gentlemen now present are members:—Sir,—The Irish Times of this day contains an announcement that the Established Church has been withdrawn from the programme of the National Association, and the questions to which it will confine its attention will be tenant-right and education.' I beg to inform you that there is no foundation for the above statement, and the intentions of the Association in relation to the Irish Church Establishment have undergone no modification, and that the gentlemen with whom rests the direction of the policy of the Association are unanimous in the determination to have no compromise with the Establishment or its advocates, and to spare no effort for its overthrow.When I am asked, "Why do you in this enlightened age preserve that record?" I, in my turn, inquire, "Can I conscientiously say that there is no necessity for protesting against the power of the head of your Church when in this enlightened age he has issued that Encyclical Letter, when he has undertaken to appoint an Archbishop of Westminster, and when I see the Emperor of the French warning the bishops that they must conform to the laws of the State?" It is not levelled at individuals, because they have all their 454 civil rights, and therefore we may speak plainly to each other. You have every political right and privilege; you occupy almost all the highest offices of State in Ireland, and therefore you have no complaint, except, as you say, upon a matter of sentiment. How was this oath, when it was first framed, treated by the heads of the Church—because that is a part of the story that ought not to be omitted? As soon as the Emancipation Act with the oath in it was published the bishops assembled in Ireland and issued a pastoral. One would have expected that they would have discovered all the objections which are now urged against the oath, and would have pronounced it, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, "immoral, unjustifiable, and absurd." Instead of that, they said that the Act which you are now called upon to alter was "a great and beneficent, and healing measure enacted by the Legislature for their relief." They ascribe this great measure of relief, first, to God Himself to allay the angry passions, and to put an end to the disorders which had convulsed and disgraced their country; and next, to their earthly Monarch, who had resolved, in compassion to Ire land, to confer on her the inestimable blessing of religious peace; and finally, to an enlightened and wise Parliament perfecting what the Sovereign and his counsellors had commenced. They express their own gratitude in the warmest terms, and call for the like grateful feelings from all their brethren to the King, the Minis try, and the Legislature for the Act which, they say, raised the Roman Catholics from their prostrate condition, and gave them, without reserve, all the privileges which they desired. And they add that this great boon was more acceptable from the part which was taken in conferring it by an illustrious Irishman, a hero and legislator, selected by the Almighty, not only for the great work which he had done abroad, but to direct the councils of England at a crisis the most difficult, and to stanch the blood and heal the wounds of the country which gave him birth. And they represent the effects which had al ready resulted as of the happiest kind; that the storm which had almost wrecked the country had subsided, while social order, with peace and justice in her train, was preparing to establish her sway in this long distracted country. What more complete vindication of the Emancipation Act as it stands could you have then the heads of 455 the Roman Catholic Church before it was passed expressing their approval of its provisions, and after it had passed declaring that it was a "a great, beneficent, and healing measure?" It is true that attempts were afterwards made to alter this oath. In 1834 Mr. O'Connell made such a proposal and Sir Robert Peel said that it was a question of principle and not of form, and that a compact was entered into in 1829 which was morally conclusive. Subsequently, speaking upon the question of the form of the oath, he said it was not expedient to make any change in the Roman Catholic oath; and the same language was held by the present Home Secretary, and by the noble Viscount at the head of the Government when they passed their Bill. In 1849 Sir Robert Peel said, that Lord Bus-sell had acted wisely in not disturbing what he called the settlement that was made in 1829; so that when the question was raised in this House the alteration was resisted by the most eminent statesmen. When the Bill was carried to provide for the opening of diplomatic relations with Rome, the Duke of Wellington added to it a clause re-affirming the same principle. Therefore the Legislature has never de parted from the principle of this oath. I am certain that that principle is wise and politic, not offensive or unjust, and contains the conditions upon which a great and healing measure was carried; and I submit to the House, with very great respect, that to abrogate that oath would be infinitely more mischievous than never to have adopted it. If you had never enacted it, I could understand your remaining silent upon the subject; but if you now abolish it, it is as much as to say, We release you from the conditions into which you entered when the Emancipation Act was passed, and you are now free to attack the Church as much as you think fit. It is felt in the country that all these Motions are directed to the same purpose. The Motion against the Irish Church, this Motion against the oath, and another Motion of which an hon. Member has given notice, are all pointed to the same end. I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that there is no measure which they can suggest for the good of the country which I will not support; but if they tell me plainly, as the Association which I have already mentioned tells me, that it is their intention to re-open the Catholic question, which was settled in 1829, and to do all that they can to overthrow the Church, then I 456 answer with perfect frankness that, as a Conservative and a Protestant, I shall offer to all those claims the most unqualified resistance—I mean resistance in Parliament and resistance out of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) drew a flimsy distinction between the temporalities of the Church and the Church. I was surprised that a sensible man could indulge in that little distinction. These gentleman say, "We will take away all property from the Church," and if you ask, how are the bishops to sit in the House of Lords with out any property? they reply, "Let the bishops leave the House of Lords." [Loud cries of "Hear, hear!" from Members sitting below the gangway on the Ministerial side of the House.] That is fair, frank, and manly; but the effect of such a measure would be to change the constitution of the House of Lords, as you recently proposed to change that of the House of Commons. I admit that it might have been possible to frame a Constitution without having bishops in the House of Lords; and although we have an episcopal descent from the ancient bishops of Ireland, I hold the opinion that the bishops are not the whole Church—the parochial ministers are more important, or, at least, as important. But your arguments and your acts both proclaim that you are going for a change in the Constitution, because there the bishops are, and when you receive with cheers a proposition to deprive them of their property and turn them out of the House of Lords it is a fair challenge to us to say whether we agree with you or not. The truth is, Sir, that, as Sir Robert Peel wrote in his study, this is a wider and greater question than it seemed to Mr. Canning or others of that day. It affects the whole Constitution of the country; it affects the Government; is affects the Parliament; and it affects the Church. Three things in my opinion are linked together—the Crown, the land, and the Church. I believe that the effect of this measure would be directly to facilitate the attacks that are openly levelled against the Church. I speak not in the spirit of a fanatic, but, speaking with some knowledge of the past history of the country, I believe that the compact made in 1829 was wise, politic, and sound, and therefore I give, as I am bound to give, to this Motion a most explicit negative.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Sir, the right hon. and learned Gentleman appealed to 457 me, as representing the Government, to state what course they intend to take with regard to this question. I should have thought that such an appeal was entirely unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman has omitted all reference to some important proceedings in this House, and has given a most inadequate representation of the opinions entertained and ex pressed by the present Government upon this question. I must remind him that in the year 1854 Lord Russell, as a Member of Lord Aberdeen's Government, with the concurrence and on the part of that Administration, submitted to the House a Bill, the object of which was to substitute for the oaths then taken by Members of this House one uniform oath to be taken by all. That was accompanied by a proposal to admit Jews to Parliament. This general and comprehensive measure, which embodied the proposal now before the House, did not meet with the approbation of the House, and was rejected by a small majority. The right hon. Gentleman said that in 1857 a measure was introduced by my noble Friend at the head of the Government, the late Sir George: Lewis, and myself, to re-enact the very oath which had been established by the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829. The effect was to recognize it; but what were the circumstances of the case? We had found that a general measure, such as that I have just mentioned, was not likely to be successful. It was at that time desired that the doors of Parliament should be opened to gentlemen professing the Jewish faith, and we found that it was impossible to accomplish that object except by means of a compromise with those who were the determined opponents of the measure. We therefore limited the Bill of 1857 to the admission of the Jews, and to the simplification of the oath which was to be taken by Protestant Members. The object of the Bill was to admit the Jews, and we did not include in the measure anything relating to the Roman Catholic oath, because we knew from experience that if we had done so our main object would have been lost. All that was done was to insert a clause in the Bill stating that it should not extend to altering or affecting the oath to be taken by Roman Catholics, leaving that as a separate subject of consideration, there being already recorded a statement of our opinions as to what we thought ought to be done with regard to that oath. That Bill, also, 458 was rejected by a small majority. But in the next year, when Lord Derby was in office, a Bill founded upon the same principle was carried, and I believe that it would not have been carried if it had not been for that clause which separated the case of the Roman Catholics from that of the Jews. What happened in 1859? The right hon. Gentleman has quoted the opinion of Lord John Russell expressed in 1834, only four years after the passing of the Emancipation Act, when he thought that it was inexpedient to revive the questions which had been settled by that Act; but he has altogether overlooked the opinion express ed by Lord John Russell, not only in 1854 but in 1859, when the present Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, then Member for Ennis, brought in a Bill identical with that now before the House, and which was sup ported by Lord John Russell and by those who are in the habit of acting with him. His name was actually placed upon the back of the Bill, which by a small majority this House gave leave to Mr. Fitzgerald to introduce. There can, therefore, be no doubt what are the opinions of the present Government with regard to the principle involved in this Bill. But before I state shortly the reasons which induce us to support it, I will advert to one or two observations which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman. He accused my right hon. Friend the Member for the county of Louth (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) of treating with disrespect the memory of the great statesmen who were chiefly instrumental in passing the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act, and imputed to him that he had treated them as adopting a puerile course, and as proposing what was absurd and unworthy of the reputation which they enjoyed in pressing the adoption of this oath. Let me recall to the House what were the circumstances under which that Act was passed. The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel had long been the opponents—no doubt the conscientious opponents—of the proposal to admit Roman Catholics to Parliament; but they were not bigoted in their opinions—they were open to the influence of facts as well as of arguments upon their minds, and they came to the conclusion that it was essential to the interests of the country that those claims which they had long conscientiously opposed should be conceded. In the discharge of a difficult and, in their circumstances, a painful duty, 459 they openly avowed their change of opinion, and devoted all their energies to doing what they thought that the interests of their country and the rights of their Roman Catholic fellow countrymen demanded. One difficulty in their way arose from the course which they had themselves pursued, and the party with which they were connected. The right hon. Gentle man has himself alluded to the difficulty which they encountered in overcoming the scruples of the Sovereign and obtaining his sanction to the introduction of that Bill. Well, then, we must regard their acts in the light of those facts, and consider that what they did in the way of pro posing securities, was not what they them selves thought essentially necessary, but was done with an earnest desire to attain the object which they had in view, and to meet the conscientious objection of men with whom they had been acting in opposing the measure, and who demanded the introduction of what they believed to be securities against the consequences which they apprehended from the admission of Roman Catholics to Parliament. It is no imputation upon those men that under those circumstances they proposed that which it may now be our duty to revise in the light of experience. They did what they were able to do at that time. And when the right hon. Gentleman talks about a compact, and refers to the gratitude with which the mea sure was received by the Roman Catholics, I say that it is unjust and ungenerous to attempt to found upon the course taken by the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, or upon the gratitude expressed by the Roman Catholics for their admission to Parliament, a compact which is to preclude the Legislature from ever re-considering what was then done. Again, let me say a word as to what fell from him as to the jurisdiction of the Pope in this country. One would have supposed from his speech that my right hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) proposed to omit from the Roman Catholic oath the declaration that no foreign Power, prelate, or person has jurisdiction—civil or temporal—within these realms. He went into an argument to show that the Canon Law has no authority in this country except so far as it has been confirmed by statute law, and cited cases in support of his argument, while every one knows that there is not a Judge in the land who would not in the most explicit language declare that 460 the law of the land, and that law alone, is to be followed in our Courts. What, then, becomes of his reference to the cases of the miller and the bigamist? The only effect of that part of his speech must be to excite a prejudice against the proposal now before the House, and to lead people to suppose that it is in some way intended to get rid of the declaration that the Pope has no civil or temporal jurisdiction in this realm. The words as to this matter which are now used by Roman Catholics when they take the oath at this table or elsewhere are retained in this Bill, and if it passes, they will still make the declaration that the Pope has no temporal or civil jurisdiction in this country. With regard to the Bill itself, I stated, when leave was asked for its introduction, that I agreed with my right hon. Friend in thinking that it was extremely objectionable to enforce oaths which were unnecessary or needlessly offensive, al though they might be taken with a safe conscience, or which were of doubtful and ambiguous interpretation, and therefore a snare to men's consciences. As there was no opposition to the introduction of the Bill, I declined at that time to go into the question how far such objections applied to the oath; but I am now prepared to say that I think they apply to it with such overpowering force that I cannot refuse to agree to the second reading of the Bill. The object of this Bill is, in fact, to assimilate the oath taken by Roman Catholics to that which is taken by every Protestant Episcopalian and Dissenter, and by every member of the Jewish faith, with one single exception—that whereas the latter deny that the Pope "hath or ought to have any spiritual jurisdiction" in this country that declaration is not required to be make by Roman Catholics; not now for the first time, however, because in the oath which has al ready been sanctioned by Parliament it has been thought right for obvious reasons not to require them to make that declaration. The first declaration which it is proposed to omit from the oath is the declaration that it is not an article of the faith of Roman Catholics "that Princes excommunicated by the Pope may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or any person whatsoever." The right hon. Gentleman said that he is not willing to part with the security which that gives for the life of the Sovereign, but he did not attempt to argue the matter. Now, I ask whether there is a single Member of this House who be- 461 lieves that any one of our Roman Catholic countrymen sitting among us holds such a doctrine, or does not utterly repudiate and abhor it? What does this declaration imply? Is is not needlessly offensive? Does it not say by implication that the Church to which Roman Catholics belong holds this doctrine, and that we do not permit them to set among us un less they repudiate this alleged doctrine of their Church? It is utterly useless as a security. We may depend upon the loyalty of the Roman Catholics, and, if not—although I am sure we can—we may depend upon the force and efficacy of our laws, which would instantly and effectually deal with any attempt to act upon these principles, which they as well as ourselves repudiate. But what advantage, what security for the life of the Sovereign, what security for the maintenance of our institutions is there to be found in these words? I hope that before the debate closes we shall hear from those who desire to retain them some arguments for their retention; from the right hon. Gentleman we heard no argument except that he is not willing to part with them.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I do not doubt that the Pope may excommunicate if he pleases; but I ask the right hon. Gentle man does he suppose that if this excommunication took place there is a single Member of this House or of the Roman Catholic Church in this country who would not repudiate the doctrine that an excommunicated Prince may be deposed or murdered?
§ MR. WHITESIDE
That was not the question. What I said was that the power was at this moment claimed and exercised by the Pope.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
And are we, be cause the power is claimed and exercised, to impute to our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen that they hold the doctrine that if the Pope should excommunicate the Sovereign they would be absolved from all ties of loyalty, of morality, and religion, and that they would be justified in agreeing to the deposition or even the murder of the Prince? That is the question. This declaration is no security for any thing to which we attach any value, and therefore I am willing that it should be expunged. Passing over the intermediate declaration, I will come to the last clause—because it comes under the same head 462 of objection as that with which I have just been dealing—I do solemnly and in the presence of God pro fess, testify, and declare that I make this declaration and every part thereof in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, and without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatever.What does that imply? It implies that Roman Catholics, as distinct from Protestants, hold that they may take an oath with mental reservation, with equivocation, and with evasion; and that is not an imputation that I am willing to adopt. I do not think that it is just or generous to require a Roman Catholic to make a declaration of that kind, which reflects upon the Church to which he belongs. And in reading this oath, and in listening to the arguments for its retention, one is struck by the absurd attempts that are made to bind consciences which, at the same time, it is said cannot be bound. The oath is very explicit in its terms—why add to it a declaration that it is taken without equivocation, evasion, or mental reservation? If we believe that Members are capable of taking the preceding parts of the oath with evasion, equivocation, and mental reservation, why not the last words too? I believe, then, that these two passages of the oath are needlessly offensive, that they are wholly unnecessary, and that they might, and ought to be discontinued. I come now to other passages which have been dwelt upon more fully by the right hon. Gentleman. The first is the declaration—I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this realm as established by the laws.And can the right hon. Gentleman, I would ask, honestly believe that there sits in this House a single Member who desires to disturb the Act of Settlement? If these words are worth anything, why impose them upon Roman Catholics only? I now come to that part of the oath which relates to the Established Church, and the objection which I have to make to it is that it is so ambiguous and doubtful that different persons have put upon it different interpretations ever since 1829. The late Duke of Norfolk and his brother, who now has a seat in this House, (Lord Ed ward Howard), I believed entertained the opinion that this portion of the oath was sufficiently doubtful to restrain them from supporting such Motions as those, for in stance, for reducing the number of Pro- 463 testant Bishops, or effecting a different distribution of the revenues of the Church. That, however, is not the view which has been taken by others, who contend that there is nothing in the words by which theySolemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm,which can he held to preclude from giving a conscientious vote on any of the various questions which come before us having reference to the temporalities of the Established Church. Is it right, then, that Roman Catholic Members should be required to make a declaration on which different interpretations are placed by men of the highest authority? I again repeat the question—why if these words are worth anything should they be imposed on Roman Catholic Members only? When the right hon. Gentleman opposite referred to the proposal to do away with the bi shops of the Church the cheers which greeted his remarks came not from the Roman Catholic Members, but from those Benches which are chiefly occupied by the Nonconformist Members of the House. Is danger to the Church, then, to be apprehended from our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects and not from those honest Dissenters who openly avow their opinions? The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to instances in which Roman Catholics have advocated the view that the Established Church ought to be subverted: but I should like to know whether the language to which he has called our attention differs from the language—the unambiguous language—which is day after day placed on record at meetings of Protestant Dissenters. For my own part, I must say that I think it is desirable there should be only one oath taken by Members of this House. If it be deemed expedient that those words with regard to the settlement of property and the maintenance of the Church Establishment should be retained, then why not, I would ask, extend them to hon. Members generally? If there be any value in them for securing either of the objects to which they relate—which I do not believe—then let us call upon those to take them who, not being Roman Catholics, make no secret of their hostility to the Established Church. Nor do I see why the words which follow—And I do solemnly swear that I will never exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Pro- 464 testant religion or Protestant government in the United Kingdomshould be subscribed to solely by Roman Catholic Members. I believe that, what ever their opinion may be with regard to the Church Establishment, there are no firmer friends and supporters of the Protestant religion, than Protestant Dissenters, yet they do not take the same narrow view as the right hon. Gentleman of this Bill. I find to-day, on referring to the Report of the Committee on Public Petitions, that a petition has been presented from the three denominations of Protestant Dissenters within twelve miles of London, in which, after referring to the Bill before the House, the petitioners express a desire that it should pass, approving it as being just and reasonable. Such an expression of opinion does, it seems to me, do great credit to the Protestant Dissenters, and I trust the House may take a similar view of the proposal now before us. There can be no sufficient reason for maintaining words which, while they afford no security, are offensive to a large number of our fellow-countrymen. When I use the term "offensive," I do not believe that Roman Catholic Members conscientiously object to take this oath. They submit to take it because it is imposed by law, but they, at the same time, look upon it as an insult and a degradation. Therefore it is that they ask to be relieved from that which in fact affords no security whatever for the Protestant religion. If, however, there should be any hon. Member who thinks that the words having reference to the Church Establishment should be retained, he need not on that account re fuse to vote for the second reading of this Bill, if he agrees with me that those other words which I say are needlessly offensive ought to be expunged. I hope, at all events, that the House will assent to the second reading, and go into Committee to consider the provisions of the Bill, and I trust the ultimate result may he the substitution of one common oath for all the Members of this House, that we may be all placed on that equal footing on which I think we ought to stand, and that there may be hereafter no taunts or reproaches against any man founded on the oath which he has taken. With regard to oaths generally—a Return has just been placed in the hands of Members, which well deserves attention, and I may add that it is in my opinion a point well worthy of consideration whether an inquiry should 465 not be made as to the oaths taken not only at this table, but throughout the country, with a view to their revision and to the dispensing with those which have become unnecessary.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, it is with very great reluctance that I rise to say a few words on this important question. I own I had hoped that all those discussions relating to the oaths to be taken by Members of this House had been brought to an end in 1858. A settlement was then made with the sanction of those who now represent Her Majesty's Government, by which the form of oath was prescribed which was to be taken by all the Members of the House, save those who profess the Roman Catholic religion, and it is with great pain that I once more enter on the discussion of topics which affect the religious feelings of a large portion of the community. Since, however, this subject of oaths has again come before us it cannot be evaded, and the House will, I trust, come, with regard to it, to some definite conclusion. Some arguments have been used by the right hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House (Sir George Grey), which may I think, be removed from the consideration of the question. The point whether an oath is or is not useless for the purpose for which it was imposed is one which can hardly be raised on the second reading of a measure of this kind, which proceeds on the assumption that oaths are still to be taken by Members of Parliament; while the further argument that the form of oath to be taken by Members of the Protestant and Roman Catholic persuasion should be the same is scarcely admissible in discussing a measure which proposes that the form should continue to be different. My right hon. Friend's main argument was that it was desirable there should be one form of oath for all the Members of this House in order that they may, in their legislative capacity, be placed on a common footing. But then the Bill is not a Bill for that purpose, as may be seen by its recital, its enacting clauses, and its title. Its title is—A Bill to substitute an oath for the oath required to be taken and subscribed by the statute passed in the 10th year of the reign of King George IV. for the relief of His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects.The question raised by that form of Bill is whether it is not right that we should adhere to what has been called "the tacit compact" which was entered into in 1829, 466 and which, as I think, was confirmed in 1858. If that compact is not to be abided by, then comes the question, would it not be desirable to have one form of oath for all the Members of this House without distinction? If a Bill was brought in to effect the latter object, I for one should assent to go into Committee upon it. It may be said, "You can alter the present Bill for the purpose;" but as I have more than once observed, I look upon it as hardly fair that a measure should be laid on the table for one purpose, and then, when discussed upon the second reading, it should be sought to make it something quite different. Taking the Bill, then, as it stands, I must say that in my opinion there are circumstances connected with the oath which it seeks to displace of which we ought never to lose sight. Previous to 1858, when the oaths prescribed to be taken by Members of Parliament generally were consolidated into one, they were ranged under three heads—commonly called the oath of allegiance, the oath of supremacy, and the oath of abjuration. Those who examine these three forms of oath will find in them three distinct principles. The oath of allegiance involves simply a declaration of allegiance to the Crown. The oath of supremacy, which, as we all know, had its origin at the time of the Reformation, was an oath turning that oath of simple allegiance into one of undivided allegiance. The third oath was introduced on limiting the succession of the Crown, in accordance with the Act of Settlement, so that there might be no doubt as to the Protestant character of this country. Now, the three principles of allegiance, un divided allegiance, and allegiance according to the Act of Settlement involved in those oaths, ought, I think, to be maintained in any form of oath which this House may ultimately resolve to adopt. When, by the Act of 1858, a consolidation of these oaths was effected, you embodied in the new oath all these three principles. The Roman Catholic oath, no doubt, is different from that taken by the Members of the House generally; but it must be borne in mind that the distinction between it and the oaths taken by Protestant Members is to be traced to the different circumstances under which Roman Catholics were admitted to Parliament. They would not take all the three oaths which were in force at the time when the Relief Act was passed, because there were words in those oaths to which Roman Catholics had never 467 been compelled to subscribe since 1791 and 1793, when other measures of relief were enacted in their favour—the words "ecclesiastical and spiritual jurisdiction," for instance, had been altered into the words "civil and temporal jurisdiction"—and that being so, the question arises whether we ought to disturb an understanding—if it may not be called a compact or settlement—which was intended to constitute a condition under which Roman Catholics should sit in this House. Now, I must confess I am very averse to take any step which is avowedly intended to disturb the arrangements made in 1829, unless I have some grounds for believing that the conditions laid down will be adhered to. For thirty years have the conditions to which I have been referring been abided by, and unless you can point out some positive grievance pressing upon our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, it is but just and right that, for the satisfaction of a far larger portion of the community—the Protestant people of this country—you should not without sufficient reason consent to break through those conditions on which the Roman Catholic Relief Act was founded. If you do not stand by such engagements you but raise up again new religious feuds and animosities to which there will be no end. It is upon similar grounds that I have always been opposed to the repeal of the grant to Maynooth. I was and am of opinion that to disturb an Act so affecting one portion of the community would be to make an attack upon that which by another portion of the community was held dear, and so you would provoke some counter attack in another direction which another portion of the community held equally dear. For the sake, therefore, of peace, and unless you can show that there is something so decidedly objectionable in this Roman Catholic oath that it ought to be expunged, I think the sure, and wise, and prudent course to adopt is to abide by the settlement of 1829. Is there then, I would ask, in the oath any thing of a very objectionable character? The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey) has read, clause by clause, those portions of it which are different from the oath taken by Protestant Members of the House. One of those clauses contains a declaration to the effect that the person taking the oath was readyTo renounce, reject, and abjure the opinion that Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any other authority of the See of Rome, 468 may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or by any person whatsoever.Now, I wish to be perfectly frank in this matter—if you were going simply to improve the oath with regard to Roman Catholics, and they required this portion of it to be expunged, I think there would be strong reasons for removing words which are not necessary, but which are deemed to be offensive. Then comes the clause in which are these words—And 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 have any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm.Now, the main distinction between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic oath is the substitution of the words "temporal and civil" for "ecclesiastical and spiritual," and if you should go into Committee I, for one, being of opinion that it would be better to have one form of oath for all Members, would consent to strike out all those adjectives and epithets in both forms of oath. The constitutional principle involved in them is this, that no foreign potentate possesses any authority or jurisdiction which he can exercise in this country, and I would have that principle laid down in the simplest form of expression—because I believe the simplest to be the best. Before, however, I gave my assent to those words being struck out, I would ask what was the precise object which you had in view in seeking that they should be expunged? If you mean that Roman Catholics hold the opinion that in foro conscientiæ their spiritual superior may exercise influence over them, no legislation, I will admit, ought to interfere in that respect between him and them. But if you mean to convey that he may attempt to exercise—what the words themselves imply—jurisdiction or authority within this realm, then I should oppose the striking out of the words in question, because in them is recognized the principle of undivided allegiance. Next came the words—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.Now, in those words I do not believe that there is either any material harm or virtue; but as to those that follow:—And I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to disturb or weaken the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm.469 I loook upon those words as of the essence of the compact made in 1829. I understand my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to say that it was a question open for consideration, whether they might not in Committee be inserted in any form of oath which may be established by this Bill for Roman Catholic Members, in order to satisfy the people of this country, at a time when open attacks were being made upon the Established Church.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I said that there was no reason why hon. Members who simply objected to the Bill on the ground that the words relating to the Established Church were not in the pro posed oath, should refuse to vote for the second reading; I pointed out, however, that the words were open to the objection that they were ambiguous, and were differently interpreted by the highest authorities.
§ MR. WALPOLE
But if those words relating to the Established Church may be inserted in the oath in Committee, what becomes of my right hon. Friend's main argument, that we ought to have one form of oath for all the Members of this House? This Bill, indeed, will not in any way effect that object, and we, therefore, ought not to be asked to vote for it on that ground. My chief objection to the Bill, however, is that it proposes to disturb the settlement of 1829, to which I think the wise and prudent course is to adhere, and thus avoid the revival of religious feuds. If the House should be of opinion that there are certain words in the present oath which ought to be modified, I should not be prepared to insist on the retention of all of those words; but if the oath is altered at all the alteration ought to be undertaken on the responsibility of the Government—or rather, an oath should be framed by them in the best terms they can devise, placing all the Members of the House in this respect on the same footing. Should such a proposition emanate from the Government I would not oppose the second reading of the Bill in which it was embodied. But the Bill before us is not such a Bill; and this Bill ought, in my opinion, to be opposed, on the double ground that it would disturb the settlement of 1829, and that until the Government are prepared, on their own responsibility, to recommend one form of oath for all the Members of the House it is better to leave matters as they were 470 settled by the measure of 1858. I have endeavoured to state in the most temperate manner the objections which I entertain to the present measure. It is, I am convinced, imprudent to re-open religious questions which have already been arranged. There are, I believe, no wiser words than those of Burke, when he happily compares the extinction of religious factions to volcanoes burnt out. On the lava and sand of those old eruptions grow the peaceful olive, the cheering vine, and the sustaining corn. Let it be so with us. Let the right hon. Gentleman who has charge of this Bill consider this point—that by moving in one direction to get charges for the Roman Catholics, he will stir up a Protestant feeling to get charges against them. Unless these oaths are plainly objectionable they ought to be maintained. And I, for one, am not afraid that the oaths which we take are either futile or useless, for I believe they do operate as a declaration in the face of the House and the country that those who are concerned in the work of legislation are prepared to abide by the pledges which they give to Parliament and the country.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he should give his cordial support to the second reading of the Bill, and if he wanted arguments in favour of that course, he should find them in the powerful speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He should, he might add, vote for the second reading with the full intention when the Bill went into Committee to do everything in his power to bring about an assimilation of all oaths. The Secretary for the Home Department threw out upon that point a most valuable suggestion, for he referred to the expediency of dealing not only with oaths which were taken at the table of that House, but also to those which were administered throughout the country by various tribunals; and he would venture to call the attention of the House to the discursive nature of some of the oaths which were now imposed—not upon Ro man Catholics solely, but upon others who were obliged to take them with pain to themselves. Hon. Members had not for gotten the celebrated "Durham Letter" in which the Prime Minister of the day thought fit to state that the oaths administered to a large portion of the clergy of the Church of England were so stringent that they were in the habit of swearing to the Thirty-nine Articles and the supremacy 471 of the Crown, and after so doing leading their flocks to the verge of the supremacy of the Pope. It was clear under those circumstances that there were other oaths than those taken by Members of Parliament which required revision. As to the uniformity of oaths, he had heard hon. Gentlemen talk as if there were something unheard of in such a proposal in the case of persons who assembled together to per form a common duty. But was there, in reality, anything new in that principle? Did it not prevail in the case of our Judges, of the Privy Council, of the Queen, and of officers of the army and navy? He hoped the proposal that day made would be followed by the assimilation of all the oaths taken at the table of the House; for to require an hon. Member to swear that he did not believe murder to be justified by the ex communication of the Pope was either an absurdity, or else it was an insult. He, therefore, should join cordially in the vote to sweep it away. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin said that in point of fact these oaths were of no practical value in restraining Members of the House of Commons from attacking the Established Church in Ireland.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
I said exactly the reverse; and I referred to Serjeant Shee, then a Roman Catholic Member of this House, as an authority for the statement that the oath did restrain Gentlemen entertaining opinions like his own from attacking the Irish Church; and the error of supposing that it does not do so is committed by those who themselves do not take the oath.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, there would be an opportunity of testing the value of the oath when the debate on the Irish Church was resumed. The right hon. Gentleman would then see whether the majority of the Irish Roman Catholic Members would be found voting for the spoliation of the Irish Church or not. But was it from the Roman Catholics that the Irish Church had most to fear? He believed the constant and organized attacks directed against that Church for the last few years had proceeded much more from those who were opposed to all religious establishments whatever. The Wednesday attacks, which were the distinguishing features of the remarkably dull Session of 1862, emanated in every instance from 472 Dissenting Members of the House, and in more than one case did not receive the countenance of Roman Catholic Members. It was said that to adopt the present measure would be to remove one of the safeguards of the Protestant Church. That was a phrase which for many years had been familiar in the House; but if prophecies were to interfere with legislation, those prophecies should be ready the light of past events. In 1856–7 Bills for the abolition of church rates were carried by majorities of fifty or seventy. In 1858 an Oaths Bill was brought for ward for the purpose of enabling Baron Rothschild to take his seat, and it was denounced as an attempt not only to overthrow the Established Church but to un-Christianize the Legislature. Yet from the passing of that measure of liberality towards the Jews the anti-Church majority dwindled down until, first, the matter was left to the decision of the Speaker, and the following year it was thrown out by the casting vote of the Roman Catholic Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy). Before attaching importance to fresh prophecies it was therefore well to study how old ones had been fulfilled. The State undoubtedly might interpose an oath, but not an oath of an ambiguous character; and if such an oath were put to Roman Catholic Members they had a right to look for the removal of the grievance. A gentleman whose character stood high in that House for consistency and for the spotless purity of his motives, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), declared in the course of the discussion in 1858 that if by the admission of the Jews to Parliament the Christian character of the House were once struck down the Roman Catholics would have a just claim to insist that there should no longer be any restrictions on the propagation of their faith or on the teachings of their Church. After such a declaration, solemnly made in Parliament, the hon. Gentleman must not wonder if hon. Members refused to follow him blindly in this instance, in opposition to the Bill. For his own part, he trusted that the admirable speech delivered by the Home Secretary would bear fruit, and that the adoption of the present Bill might be the means of bringing about, what he believed to he right and proper, the assimilation of the oaths taken by all Members of Parliament.
expressed a hope that 473 the House would maintain its freedom of action, and insist that after thirty-five years experience it was as competent to deal with the question now as the Parliament of 1829 had been at a time when the measure was only before them as an experiment. What good to Roman Catholics would emancipation have been if their representatives were not permitted to articulate upon one of the greatest grievances that could exist in this or any other country? As a Protestant he was ashamed to see the Church to which he belonged maintained at the sacrifice of those good feelings and kindly relations which ought to exist between inhabitants of the same country. This was not a mere oath of allegiance; it was an oath that muzzled the representatives of six millions of the population. ["Oh!"]; yes, of six millions of the population; for though that whole number might not be in Ireland there were Roman Catholics in England and Scotland as well. Eleven-twelfths of the Irish people were con strained to be silent on this subject, contrary to every principle of right; for it was the duty of the governing body in the country to provide such a form of oath as could be taken without scruple or objection by all the residents in that country; and if this was not done, it was an ad mission that the rulers were not fit to govern the country. Parliament should legislate in a spirit of justice, and if Roman Catholics were dissatisfied with any of the institutions of the country their representatives ought to be free to express their feelings.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, before entering into the merits of the question immediately before the House he wished to make a few observations upon two preliminary objections which had been just raised. It was stated, in the first place, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), that a measure of this sort ought to have been brought in by the Government; and, in the second place, it was stated that some opportunity ought to be taken to have one form of oath. He (Mr. Collins) fully concurred in the propriety of having but one form of oath. It would be in the recollection of the House that in 1858, when the subject of oaths was before the House and a measure was introduced to blend the three oaths of allegiance, abjuration, and supremacy that were then taken into one, a Motion was 474 brought forward to include the Roman Catholic oaths in the consideration of the proposed oath. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cam bridge, who was then of a different opinion to what he was now, said he hoped that the House would not agree to the proposed alteration, as it involved a subject quite foreign to the objects of the Bill, and that the Roman Catholic oath had been adopted after much deliberation. He believed that if the noble Lord who had charge of the Bill had adopted such an amendment he would have found that he had endangered the success of his measure. Such was the ground upon which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) opposed the measure for one form of oath in 1858. Lord Palmerston opposed it on a different ground—namely, that it would militate against his measure for the admission of Jews to Parliament. But although he could not on that occasion support the proposal, having been unsuccessful in 1854 in a similar attempt to amalgamate the three oaths, yet both he and Lord Russell were in favour of establishing one uniform vote. It was urged, during the present discussion, that the adoption of the Bill before the House would amount to a breach of compact established in 1829. Well, he contended that if any such compact as was alleged had been entered into in 1829, after the lapse of thirty-five years the present House of Commons was in nowise to be bound by it. He went further, and said that if they refused to pass this Bill they would be guilty of a breach of compact. The oaths which had then been taken had been since altered so far as they concerned the members of all other religious persuasions; and these very ex pressions which were complained of by Roman Catholics having been expunged from the ordinary oath, it would then be a breach of compact after this to retain them with regard to the Roman Catholics only, considering that it had been framed partly from that enacted in the time of James I., which was intended to meet another state of things altogether. Could it really be necessary in the 19th century that men should swear they did not believe in the power of the Pope to depose Sovereigns, or that Kings might lawfully be murdered by their subjects, and that they made such declarations without any mental reservation or equivocation? In the days of James I., when the oath applied to every one equally there was not the 475 same hardship in taking it; but Protestants had got rid of the disagreeable burden, and left all its weight on the Roman Catholics, who were to have been relieved from all restrictions by the Act of 1829. Now let them imagine an analogous case. Suppose a declaration had been framed to be taken by Irishmen, Scotchmen, Welch-men, and Englishmen alike, that they would tell the truth, and that a Bill had been brought in to relieve all but the Scotch Members, would not the latter have a just right to complain of a fresh grievance being imposed on them? Mr. Ball, formerly Member for Carlow, in reference to the measure introduced in 1858 to alter the oaths required to be taken in that House, but which was thrown out by a coalition between the leading men on both sides, made these observations—In regard to the oath taken by Roman Catholics he thought so long as the oaths remained unchanged they had no great reason to complain, but now, as the oaths were to be changed, and that portions of them were to be actually expunged from the statute book, they might reasonably demand some alteration of that oath required to be taken by them.It was therefore clear that the question as regarded the Roman Catholic oath had never been settled, but its consideration was merely postponed. Was there, he asked, anything in the conduct of the Roman Catholics in this country to lead to the supposition that they were more prone to treason, murder, and dethronement of kings, in a greater degree, than the members of any other Church? If he had read the history of England correctly he found that it was not the Roman Catholics that had brought Charles I. to the block, or that had effected the destruction of the monarchy. James II. also had lost his throne; but be (Mr. Collins) had never heard that his downfall was effected by the Roman Catholic party. The Parliament of the present day had no right whatever to call upon the Roman Catholics to take this obnoxious oath. If it were to be taken by any sect or party it ought rather to be taken by those who were represented by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield)—by the Non conformists—for they were certainly far more the legitimate descendants of the destroyers of the monarchy than the Roman Catholics. The mere tendering of an oath of the nature referred to was offensive. A man entering a shop with honest intentions did not like to be told that he was to pilfer nothing off the counter. In addition to that portion 476 of the Act of which he had been speaking, another, highly objectionable, related to what was called the settlement of property. Did any one suppose, with the mass of property which had changed hands in the Incumbered Estates Court, that it was necessary to come down and, in the face of the Almighty, solemnly declare that nothing should be done to disturb the Act of Settlement passed 200 years ago? In the ordinary transactions of life men were satisfied with twenty, forty, or at most sixty years' title; but here they were suspected by implication of a desire to rip up titles extending as far back as the time of Charles II. Why not ask men at once to swear that they would not disturb property received as fiefs from the Crown at the time of the Norman Conquest, pledging the Saxons in that House that they would not seek to dispossess the present owners? Really this was child's play. In 1858 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) declared that—Our form of oath is entirely inapplicable to the present time, that it is a cumbrous form of oath, and that portions of it have really no bearing on the circumstances by which we are surrounded. If the oath is to be taken at all, it ought to be taken in the most solemn form; and brevity, in my opinion, to a great part of that solemnity."—[3 Hansard, cxlviii. 1091.]The House, therefore, ought clearly to go into Committee, if only to get rid of the objectionable forms of swearing he had just been discussing. If oaths were sup posed to have any influence in averting dangers from the Church of England, Roman Catholics were not the persons who ought primarily to take them. Dangers were much more likely to arise from that able and active class of men opposed on principle to all alliances between Church and State, who subscribed large sums of money, who inundated the country with tracts from the Liberation Society, who promoted Burial Bills to interfere with the vested rights of the Church, and measures tampering with the sanctity of the marriage laws. The men more dangerous to the Church than any Roman Catholics were those enlightened men of large views, who were for doing away with restrictions of every kind, who were for freeing clergymen from the necessity for signing any subscriptions, who were for an emasculated Prayer Book, free from any dogmatic statement whatever—as if the religious, Bible-loving, Church loving people of this country would regard with any ve- 477 neration religious ordinances and religious worship so cold and lifeless as these en lightened men would make them. The Established Church, he was happy to believe, stood in no need of the protection afforded by such oaths; strong in the affections of the country, it could hope to meet success fully all assaults of the Liberation Society. It was said that in supporting the present Bill Gentlemen on that side of the House were touting for Roman Catholic support; that a cry of that kind would be raised against them at the hustings; and they were even told that in doing justice to some of their fellow-countrymen it would be dangerous to forget the prejudices of others. To that taunt he replied that Members of that House were the best judges on points like these, and if the same opportunities were open to others he believed they would arrive at similar conclusions. As the point had been raised he did not wish to give a silent vote; and he maintained that, as a party, it would be an act of folly—of positive insanity—to tie themselves down to a position which was utterly untenable, for the sake, not of defending the Established Church, but of forcing a certain number of gentlemen to swallow an obnoxious oath, and of throwing odium on a large and respectable section of the community.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 190: Noes 134: Majority 56.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Friday.479
|Acland, T. D.||Bowyer, Sir G.|
|Acton, Sir J. D.||Brady, J.|
|Adair, H. E.||Bramston, T. W.|
|Agar-Ellis, hon. L.G.F.||Brand, hon. H.|
|Andover, Viscount||Browne, Lord J. T.|
|Antrobus, E.||Bruce, Lord C.|
|Athlumney, Lord||Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Butt, I.|
|Bagwell, J.||Buxton, C.|
|Baines, E.||Calthorpe, hn. F. H. W. G.|
|Baring, H. B.||Cardwell, rt. hon. E.|
|Baring, T. G.||Cheetham, J.|
|Barnes, T.||Clay, J.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Clifford, C. C.|
|Bazley, T.||Clifford, Colonel|
|Beale, S.||Clive, G.|
|Beamish, F. B.||Cogan, W. H. F.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Coke, hon. Colonel|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Black, A.||Collins, T.|
|Blake, J. A.||Colthurst, Sir G. C.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Corbally, M. E.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Cox, W.|
|Bouverie, hon. P. P.||Crawford, R. W.|
|Crossley, Sir F.||M'Cann, J.|
|Denman, hon. G.||MacEvoy, E.|
|Dent, J. D.||M'Mahon, P.|
|Dickson, Colonel||Maguire, J. F.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Marjoribanks, D. C.|
|Dodson, J. G.||Martin, J.|
|Douglas, Sir C.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Dunkellin, Lord||Moore, C.|
|Enfield, Viscount||Morris, W.|
|Ennis, J.||Morrison, W.|
|Esmonde, J.||Neate, C.|
|Evans, T. W.||North, F.|
|Ewart, J. C.||Northcote, Sir S. H.|
|Fenwick, E. M.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|Fenwick, H.||O'Conor Don, The|
|Fitzroy, Lord F. J.||O'Donoghue, The|
|Foley, H. W.||O'Ferrall, rt. hon. R. M.|
|Foljambe, F. J. S.||Ogilvy, Sir J.|
|Forster, C.||O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.|
|Forster, W. E.||Onslow, G.|
|Fortescue, hon. F. D.||O'Reilly, M. W.|
|Fortescue, rt. hon. C.||Packe, Colonel|
|French, Colonel||Padmore, R.|
|Gavin, Major||Paget, C.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Palmer, Sir R.|
|Gilpin, C.||Pease, H.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Peel, J.|
|Goschen, G. J.||Pender, J.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Pinney, Colonel|
|Gower, G. W. G. L.||Pollard-Urquhart, W.|
|Greene, J.||Portman, hon. W. H. B.|
|Gregory, W. H.||Potter, E.|
|Grenfell, H. R.||Price, R. G.|
|Greville, Colonel F.||Pritchard, J.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Redmond, J. E.|
|Gurdon, B.||Robertson, H.|
|Hadfield, G.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Hankey, T.||Russell, F. W.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||St. Aubyn, J.|
|Hervey, Lord A. H. C.||Salomons, Mr. Aid.|
|Hassard, M.||Schneider, H.W.|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Scholcfield, W.|
|Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.||Seely, C.|
|Henderson, J.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||Sheridan, H.B.|
|Henley, Lord||Smith, J. B.|
|Hennessy, J. P.||Smith, M. T.|
|Heygate, W. U.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Hibbert, J.T.||Stanley, Lord|
|Hodgkinson, G.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Holland, E.||Steel, J.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Stuart, Colonel C.|
|Hubbard, J. G.||Sullivan, M.|
|Hunt, G. W.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Ingham, R.||Thompson, H. S.|
|Jervoise, Sir J. C.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Tottenham,Lt.-Col.C.G.|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H.|
|Kennedy, T.||Vandeleur, Colonel|
|King, hon. P.J. L.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Kinglake, A. W.||Waldron, L.|
|Kinglake, J. A.||Watkins, Colonel L.|
|Kingscote, Colonel||Westhead, J. P. Brown-|
|Layard, A. H.||White, hon L.|
|Lanigan, J.||Wiekham, H. W.|
|Leader, N. P.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Leatham, E. A.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Woods, H.|
|Lever, J. O.|
|Locke, J.||Monsell, rt. hon. W.|
|Lopes, Sir M.||Castlerosse, Viscount|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Kennard, R. W.|
|Annesley, hon. Col. H.||King, J. K.|
|Arbuthnott, hn. General Sir H.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Archdall, Captain M.||Knox, hon. Major S.|
|Astell, J. H.||Langton, W. G.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Langton, W. H. G.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Mainwaring, T.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Manners, rt. hon. Lord J.|
|Beach, Sir M.||Manners, Lord G. J.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Miles, Sir W.|
|Bective, Earl of||Miller, T. J.|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Miller, W.|
|Bentinck, G. C.||Mills, A.|
|Benyon, R.||Montgomery, Sir G.|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Morgan, O.|
|Beresford, D. W. Pack||Morgan, hon. Major|
|Blackburn, P.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Mundy, W.|
|Bramley-Moore, J.||Murray, W.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Brooks, R.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Bruce Major C.||O'Neill, E.|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Packe, C. W.|
|Cairns, Sir H. M'C.||Parker, Major W.|
|Cave, S.||Paull, H.|
|Cholmeley, Sir M. J.||Peel.rt. hon. Gen.|
|Clive, Capt. hn. G. W.||Pevensey, Viscount|
|Cole, hon. H.||Phillips, G. L.|
|Cole, hon. J. L.||Powell, F. S.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Rogers, J. J.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Scott, Lord H.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Selwyn, C. J.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Shirley, E. P.|
|Du Cane, C.||Smith, A.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Smith, S. G.|
|Duncombe, hon. W. E.||Smyth, Colonel|
|Dundas, F.||Smollett, P. B.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Somes, J.|
|Egerton, Sir P. G.||Stanhope, J. B.|
|Ewart, W.||Staniland, M.|
|Fane, Colonel J. W.||Stronge, Sir J. M.|
|Fellowes, E.||Stewart, Sir M. R. S.|
|Eergusson, Sir J.||Surtees, H. E.|
|Fleming, T. W.||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|Floyer, J.||Tite, W.|
|Galway, Viscount||Tollemache, J.|
|Gard, R. S.||Treherne, M.|
|Getty, S. G.||Trevor, Lord A. E. H.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Greenwood, J.||Vance, J.|
|Grey deWilton, Viscount||Vansittart, W.|
|Haliburton, T. C.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Verner, E. W.|
|Hamilton, Major||Walcott, Admiral|
|Hamilton, Viscount||Waldegrave-Leslie, hon. G.|
|Hamilton, I. T.|
|Hardy, G.||Walker, J. R.|
|Hardy, J.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Hartopp, E. B.||Whiteside, rt. hon. J.|
|Harvey, R. B.||Whitmore, H.|
|Heygate, Sir F. W.||Williams, Colonel|
|Holtbrd, R. S.||Williams, F. M.|
|Hood, Sir A. A.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Horsfall, T. B.||Wynne, W. W. E.|
|Jolliffe, H. H.||Lefroy, A.|
|Kendall, N.||Stuart, Colonel W.|