HC Deb 01 June 1866 vol 183 cc1692-7

said, he regretted he could not consent to postpone his Motion, but in moving it he would make very few observations. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to address the House amidst repeated interruptions and signs of impatience. His Motion was for a Select Committee to inquire into the origin, object, and extent of the Fenian Conspiracy, and especially whether, and in what degree, it was connected with any form of religious belief. What he had to say would in some degree account for the efforts the Government had made to prevent the subject being brought forward. The opinion which the Government had expressed in the Queen's Speech at the opening of the Session respecting the Fenian Conspiracy, had been entirely negatived by subsequent events. At the time the speech was delivered from the Throne, the Government had in their possession a letter from the Lord Lieutenant, stating that, in his opinion, it would be necessary to apply for a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; and, notwithstanding that letter, the Government penned the passage in the Royal Speech concerning Fenianism, and stated that it was condemned by all creeds alike—a statement which it behaved them to explain to the House. In the other House, it was clearly stated by the noble Lord at the head of the Government that the conspiracy had its origin in the cessation of the Civil War in America, and Lord Derby pointed out, as he himself had often done ineffectually in that House during the last five or six years, that the leaders of the conspiracy were actually under bail for their complicity in former conspiracies, and might have been arrested at any time. The proposition which he had to submit to the House was that this Fenian Conspiracy was neither more nor less than the disaffection in another form which bad existed towards England on the part of Ire- land from the time of the Reformation. The present, however, was the most formidable shape in which it had yet manifested itself. In every large workshop throughout the Kingdom where Irish Roman Catholics were employed there were either avowed Fenians or sympathizers with Fenianism, ready to commit any outrages which persons in their position were capable of devising and taking part in. The Government must know this well, for within the last twelve months they had under their eyes the fires which had taken place on the banks of the Thames. If his Motion were granted he would under take to show before the Committee what the facts really were, and the views on the subject entertained by the insurance offices. ["Oh, oh!"] In bringing forward subjects of this nature he had great difficulties to contend with from the inadequacy of his own ability, and it was unfair of hon. Gentlemen to increase those difficulties. He had no wish to be an alarmist, but for some years past the influx of Roman Catholic soldiers into the army had concentrated itself in a remarkable degree upon the artillery, a branch of the service which the late Duke of Wellington, before the days when Roman Catholic chaplains were appointed, declared ought never, under any circumstances, to bear a divided allegiance. The artillery had contributed a great number of men to be tried as avowed Fenians, and he believed that four-fifths of their number were Roman Catholics. In the police force, too, there was a large number of Roman Catholics; for Sir Richard Mayne had stated that he was far too liberal to inquire into the religious opinions of candidates for admission into that service. Of course he could only assent to the liberality, but to him it seemed exceedingly unwise that such a vast stake should be intrusted in times like the present to the keeping of men of whose sentiments nothing was known, and he believed that if a Committee were granted he would be able to prove that Romanism and Fenianism were coincident. Much information reached him upon questions of this nature, which was not communicated to other hon. Gentlemen, and he happened to know that of the great railway companies having their centres in this metropolis, two of the largest were entirely under the control of gentlemen professing the Roman Catholic religion. The telegraph office was likewise to a certain extent under the control of Roman Catholics. If, then, these Roman Catholics in the workshops, in the army, in the police, in the railways, and in the telegraphs, were really Roman Catholics—not like the Roman Catholics one saw in the House of Commons, or met in society, but men really and in earnest attached to the faith they professed—there could be no doubt that they could at any time be called on either to give up their faith, or put in exercise the power in their hands, to the utter destruction of every interest under their control or command. The question, then, was whether Fenianism was or was not of Roman Catholic origin, whether it was originated by the priesthood for their own purposes, whether we now had only temporary peace, whether Fenianism was now being bought off by a system of almost daily concessions which the Government were accumulating on the heads of the priests, and whether the danger which we were now in consequence avoiding might not shortly be renewed with increased power? It was incumbent on the Government, not only out of respect to the House, but from consideration for Her Majesty, to give some rational intelligible account of what was the origin of Fenianism, and to state whether it was not in fact a continuation of the Irish disturbances of past days? Would the House permit him to read some passages from an address of the late Sir Robert Peel? Lord Derby, in a debate on the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, clearly identified the Fenian Conspiracy with previous disturbances, with regard to which no one had ever expressed a doubt that they originated with the Roman Catholic priesthood. If the Government chose to make concessions to the Roman Catholics, let them not at the same time sacrifice, on the same altar, the fair fame of the nation. But what said the late Sir Robert Peel? When he brought forward his Bill for the emancipation of the Catholics, did he say, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, that we owed a deep debt of gratitude to the people of Ireland, or that we had oppressed them? No such thing. He enumerated the various coercive measures, the various efforts made by Parliament to conciliate Ireland; and then he said, in substance, "this concession is given in the hope that we may at last conciliate that country." But the words with which he concluded his speech on that memorable occasion were worthy the attention of the House and of the nation. He said— I trust that by the means proposed the moral storm may be lulled into a calm, the waters of crime may subside, the elements of discord be stilled and composed. But if this expectation be disappointed, if unhappily civil strife and contention shall arise, if the differences existing between us do not spring out of a desire for equal privileges with other religious sects, but if there be something in the character of the Roman Catholic religion not to be satisfied with equal participation in privileges, nor with anything short of superiority, then, if the battle must be fought, if the contest which we would avoid cannot be averted by these means, let the worst come to the worst, and the battle will be fought, and the contest will take place on other ground, the contest will then be not for an equality of civil rights, but for predominance. Well, had that measure "lulled the waters of strife?" Had the "moral storm been abated?" On the contrary, had it not from that time gone on increasing? In 1859 Lord Derby, speaking of the measure of 1829, said it had been in all respects a failure, so far as conciliating the Roman Catholics was concerned. His Lordship added that the power given to the Roman Catholics by that measure had only been used for purposes of disaffection. He had ventured on former occasions to point out shortly, and, as he believed, to the satisfaction of the House—well, at least he had done so to his own satisfaction—that this was the natural, and necessary, and inevitable result of the doctrine taught at the expense of the country. The Roman Catholic papers had always sympathized with the enemies of the country in the time of war, but those journals had met with no censure or denunciation from the priests. For instance, in the Crimean war and the Indian mutiny, there were numerous manifestations of that spirit. In December, 1857, an Irish paper said— Whenever England draws the sword or lights the match, Ireland prays for her defeat; and at no time has she thus prayed more fervently than now, when the patriot sepoys are fighting for their homes. In another paper, The Tablet, the editor "wished the Sepoys success."The Nation newspaper, a journal receiving its inspiration from Maynooth, called Havelock and his Highlanders fiends who dared call themselves men; and, speaking of the day appointed for fasting and humiliation, said it was a "mockery of devilworship." And the late Mr. Lucas, of The Tablet, writing during the Crimean war, said— It is most unquestionable that, of all Her Majesty's subjects, the Roman Catholics have the least personal interest in the nation's victories abroad. It was in the power of a few hon. Gentle- men to make it appear that the discussion of this question was distasteful to the House, but he was not aware that he was trespassing on its indulgence more than other Gentlemen were in the habit of doing. It was a fact that we paid £1,000,000 a year to enable Roman Catholics to extend their creed. He believed that Her Majesty's Government and hon. Gentlemen generally had been under a misapprehension as to the origin of Fenianism. It had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks that the Roman Catholic priesthood discouraged the movements of the disaffected population, and opposed revolutionary proceedings, as they had always done, and as became the priesthood of an ancient Church; but the right hon. Gentleman had previously expressed his belief in one of his published works that the nations which were most devoted to liberty in former ages had been unable to resist the organization of the Roman Catholic priesthood. The hon. Member, amidst loud and continuous interruptions proceeded to read extracts from the writings of the late Mr. Lucas, Dr. Manning, and from a lecture delivered by a priest in Ireland, who stated that in 1847 and 1848 England had murdered a million of the Irish people—that the opportunity of Ireland would soon come, and that every emigrant from that country carried away with him undying hatred of England—that the day of retribution would come, and that the people were being educated and prepared to embrace the opportunity when it did come. He had himself been an eyewitness of the "murder of millions," having visited Ireland for the purpose of administering relief during the famine; and on returning from his mission he entered a Roman chapel at Cahirciveen, and there he heard language similar to that which he had quoted. The priest, addressing the people, asked if O'Connell had not proved that England had robbed Ireland of hundreds of millions, and were they going to accept the mess of pottage which those miscreants—and he named him (Mr. Whalley) as one of the miscreants—and this priest advised the people to reject the money which had been sent to them as an insult. He would just read another extract or two if the House would permit him to do so.


I beg leave to move, Sir, that the House be counted.


having counted and declared that there were more than forty Members present appealed to the House and to the hon. Member for Peterborough whether it was not desirable under the circumstances, and considering the length of time that had already been spent, that he should exercise forbearance, and not proceed further with his address.


said, he would mention one fact to the hon. Gentleman—namely, that the papers on this subject were being printed, and he expected they would shortly be delivered to hon. Members.


said, he felt he had discharged his duty in the course he had pursued, and after the appeal which had been made to him from the Chair, he had nothing further to say. He would not have gone through the subject were it not that a distinct charge had been made against him by the hon. Member for Cashel, who said that he (Mr. Whalley) had made statements which he was not prepared to justify. He had endeavoured to discharge his duty to the best of his ability, and was but too happy to be relieved from making any further statements.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.