HC Deb 08 June 1866 vol 184 cc84-93

(Sir Colman O'Loghlen, Sir John Gray, Mr. Cogan.)


Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [7th June], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Question again proposed.

Committee—Debate resumed.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


said, that in the temporary absence of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, who had a Motion on the paper relative to this Bill, he thought it inconvenient to proceed with it. A Commission had been properly issued by the Government to inquire into the tests and oaths that were taken in addition to those that had just been disposed of by Parliament, and he thought that legislation should be deferred until that Commission had reported. The peculiarity of the Bill was that the promoters of it, as far as concerned the Roman Catholic Members, fancied that they were labouring under a grievance, but found that in fact they were labouring under no grievance, and were much affected by that circumstance. He was stating the case fairly, for those hon. Members had discovered that they had no grievance on their own part nor on the part of their people, and the grievance they sought the power of redressing was borne by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. For a variety of good reasons, such as that he disposed of Church patronage and recommended Bishops, the Lord Lieutenant was obliged to declare that he belonged to the Church of England, and the hon. Member for Clare (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) objected to the manner in which this declaration was made. In the absence of his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire he (Mr. Whiteside) was endeavouring to support this declaration. No doubt if this was the first time it was proposed it might be put in a more inoffensive form; but neither the hon. and learned Member for Kildare nor the hon. and learned Member for Clare (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) would be asked to take the test, and it was for the Protestants from whom it was required to object to its forms if they entertained objections to it. He expressed a hope that this question might be referred to the Commission which had been appointed to inquire into various tests and oaths that were now taken, and that the hon. Member for Kildare would not beforehand spoil the matter by rash legislation on the subject.


apologized to the Committee for his absence when the Order of the Day was called, but stated that it was owing to a misunderstanding, inasmuch as he had supposed that the Bill would not be pressed that evening. This Bill comprised one of the objects proposed at a meeting of the Dublin corporation a year ago, that was in fact a meeting of that which designated itself the Irish National Association, which was under the patronage of Legate Cullen. At that meeting it was stated by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray), that the Lord Lieutenant and Lord Chancellor of Ireland felt it to be against their consciences to take this declaration before entering on their offices. On what authority he made that statement had never appeared. The relations between the inhabitants of Great Britain and the Sovereign had been arranged in the Act of Settlement, which secured that the Sovereign should be a Protestant, and it was but reasonable that the direct Representatives of the Sovereign in Ireland should be of the same religion. While anxious to retain this security he was at the same time willing to consider every plea of offence being given by the form of the Declaration so far as it was possible; and the proposal of which he had given notice would show that he had no desire to give offence. With this view he proposed to move the following declaration in lieu of that proposed to be repealed:— I, A. B., do solemnly and sincerely, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do agree in the true, usual, and literal meaning of the twenty-second and twenty-eighth articles of religion, which articles are received and held by the United Church of England and Ireland, and that I do assent to, and do hold the said articles, as truly setting forth my belief with respect to the doctrines contained in the said articles. The late Lord Lyndhurst, who had proved that upon religious subjects he was far from an illiberal politician, had declared in the House of Lords, when moving the second reading of a Bill for the admission of Jews to Parliament, that he could conceive no greater misfortune to this Protestant community than that the Throne should be filled by a Roman Catholic. Now the declaration—the repeal of which was suggested—was one of the outworks of the great settlement which secures that the Sovereign should be a Protestant, and by that Bill it was proposed, not that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should cease to be a Protestant, and Lord Chancellor for Ireland, but that they should cease to declare themselves to be Protestants. One of the characteristics of the legislation of this country was, that a person accepting office, which could only be filled by a Protestant, should declare his religious belief, and should be accepted upon his own declaration. But, it was said that the form of the declaration was offensive to Roman Catholics. It was odd that this should be first discovered by Protestants, for until the hon. Member for Kilkenny, who declared himself to be a Protestant (Sir John Gray), complained of it before the Dublin corporation, no Roman Catholic took it up as a grievance. Now, however, since this Declaration had been represented a grievance he (Mr. Newdegate) wished to remove the shadow of complaint and proposed the Amendment of which he had given notice. He thought the clauses agreed to by Sir Robert Peel in the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 should not be swept away as now proposed. He would be glad to know from the Secretary of State for the Home Department why the Commission appointed to inquire into oaths and tests should not also inquire into this Declaration. He knew that those securities were now described by hon. Members chiefly of the Roman Catholic persuasion either as offensive or as idle. But Count Montalembert had declared that there was no country in the world in which the Catholics enjoyed greater freedom than in this country, and the late Archbishop Murray sent Dr. Ennis to Rome to state the same thing to the Pope. It was with the view of preserving the supremacy of the Constitution as Protestant, and the freedom thus ensured, that the declaration now sought to be abolished was of use. The Articles of the Church of England were carefully drawn up soon after the period of the Reformation in the most inoffensive terms compatible with a clear enunciation of principle, and it was in those terms assented to by the Church of England, and by a great body of the Protestants, that he should propose to substitute the declaration that now stood on the paper. He considered that some declaration of their religious convictions on the part of these two officers as necessary, since one was the direct representative of the Crown in Ireland, while the Lord Chancellor exercised patronage in the Church, and connected with education, and in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs. In this view he was supported by the opinion of the late Sir Robert Peel. He should conclude by asking the Government why it declined to permit the Commissioners on Oaths to consider this subject. If the Government refused this, he should oppose the Bill in its present stage, and if it was afterwards proceeded with, move the Amendment of which he had given notice in Committee. It seemed the Government had not confidence in the Commissioners.


said, he was surprised to hear it alleged that no grievance existed because the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor, who took this declaration, were Protestants. But there was a great difference between the expression of a man's own views and his condemning the views of other people. The grievance was that the Lord Lieutenant had to appear before the Privy Council, the members of which were Roman Catholics, in a country in which the greater part of the population were Roman Catholics, and to condemn in most unmeasured and offensive terms one of the fundamental articles of the Roman Catholic faith. What possible good could this do? He was surprised that anybody should object to remove this grievance. Assuming that the terms of the Commission on Oaths allowed it to consider this subject, the House did not want a Commission to tell them that which any sensible man ought to know of himself. The Bill took away no security from the Protestant Church; it left the law untouched which provided that the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor should not be Roman Catholics; it merely removed what was offensive to Roman Catholics, and what, he thought, must be equally offensive to right-minded Protestants, who must surely feel uncomfortable in being compelled to make such a declaration.


said, that the declaration was of no use, and afforded no security to the Protestant religion. It only affirmed— The right of each to do his best To damn and perjure all the rest. And a right-minded Protestant should be more in favour of repealing this declaration than a Roman Catholic. But if it was the wish of the Protestants to damn and perjure their Roman Catholic brethren, they might at least do it in the most offensive way by compelling the Lord Lieutenant, presiding over a Roman Catholic country, to condemn the faith of its people.


wished that his hon. Friend who had charge of the Bill had allowed this subject to be considered by the Commission; but as he had declined to take that course, and pressed for the decision of the House, he (Sir George Grey) entirely concurred in the expediency of removing from the statute book a declaration of this kind, necessarily offensive as it must be to our Roman Catholic fellow subjects.


stated that two years ago a Commission consisting of several archbishops and bishops, and Members of both Houses, and also the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was appointed in Ireland to inquire respecting certain tests, among which was this most offensive declaration, which were required to be taken by clergymen of the Church of England in that country; and that Commission unanimously reported that the declaration should be repealed, and last Session an Act was passed to effect that object.


said, that the recommendation of the Commission was, that the Oath required by the Statute of Henry VIII., and the Declaration required by the Statute of William and Mary be discontinued; not that one thing should be substituted for another, but that the old law should be repealed.


observed, that the question of tests was under the consideration of the Commission recently appointed, and the present occasion afforded a most painful example of the mode in which the Administration were ready to yield to suggestions against their own reason and judgment.

Preamble postponed.

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.


moved a new clause, substituting a new declaration for that repealed by the Bill. He observed that the two Articles named referred to Transubstantiation and Purgatory; and though the hon. Member for Dundalk characterized the declaration proposed to be repealed by the Bill as nonsense, it was very singular that the House of Commons, which was supposed to contain some sensible men, and the House of Lords, had very recently declared it was necessary that the Sovereign of this realm should make that very declaration.

New Clause (The following Declaration shall be substituted for the Declaration hereby repealed— I, A. B., do solemnly and sincerely, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do agree in the true, usual, and literal meaning of the twenty-second and twenty-eighth Articles of Religion, which Articles are received and held by the United Church of England and Ireland, and that I do assent to, and do hold the said Articles, as truly setting forth my belief with respect to the doctrines contained in the said Articles)—(Mr. Newdegate,)—brought up, and read the first time.


said, that the principle of the Bill had been unanimously accepted by the House. Even the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) had withdrawn his opposition, because the Bill had received the sanction both of the leader of the House and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, speaking on the part of several hon. Members of the Opposition. A new limitation would be imposed by the clause of the hon. Gentleman, because it would exclude every person who did not accept the Thirty-nine Articles. He therefore trusted that the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire would be rejected.


said, that nothing could be more undesirable than to continue to make use of such solemn words upon sacred and mysterious dogmas, according to the practice of our forefathers, who prostituted the dogmas of religion by applying them to such purposes. He hoped at this hour of the day we were not going to continue the practice. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire, by his proposal, was actually extending the test imposed by the old declaration, because the new declaration dealt with the doctrine of purgatory—that was dragging a new question into the arena. It would be most undesirable to require a high officer, including the Lord High Commissioner for Scotland, to adopt the Thirty-nine Articles. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: It is only two of them.] That made no difference in point of fact. There was no occasion to wait for the Report of the Commission, because every one must be satisfied that it would be in accordance with the spirit of the Bill.


said, he desired to know whom did the hon. and learned Member who introduced the Bill represent? Was it the Protestant portion of the population? Where was the grievance to Roman Catholics? There was none whatever. It was entirely unprecedented that solemn declarations should be altered, not because they were offensive to the consciences of those who took them, but because they were disagreeable to other persons, who need not be present when the declarations were made. He could not see any objection whatever to the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire.


rose, but being met with loud cries of "Divide!" he resumed his seat.


expressed his wonder that in a matter of this kind hon. Gentlemen on the other side below the gangway should try to prevent others from expressing their opinions. If hon. Gentlemen who talked so much about freedom of discussion on the platform thought to put it down in that way, they would find themselves very much mistaken.


said, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends would have a perfectly fair hearing.


observed, that when he rose to speak he was prevented from doing so by cries of "Divide, divide!" from the Opposition side, whereupon he had desisted.


moved that the Chairman report Progress.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Verner.)

The Committee divided:—Ayes 40; Noes 78: Majority 38.


said, he had no wish to oppose the progress of business in pressing a division, but simply to uphold the right of free discussion. In accordance with the law of this country the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland must be a Protestant. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk would, no doubt, deem it a perfectly reasonable course to bring in a Bill to alter that law, nor should he be surprised to find him proposing a measure to alter the succession to the Throne, a proposition to which, if it were made on the eve of a critical division, Her Majesty's Government would, in all probability, give their assent. He, at all events, should be sorry to trust them on that point after twelve o'clock at night. It mattered not, of course, to many hon. Gentlemen to what religion the Lord Lieutenant might belong. Some would not object to see the office held by a Quaker, but he should, because a Quaker would possibly be opposed to the use of armed force to repress conspiracies or to defend the country. The law, however, declared that the Lord Lieutenant should be a Protestant, because, among other things, he had church patronage to dispense, and he thought a more tolerant or simple test than that suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire to affect a rational and legitimate object could not well be devised. It was, at all events, a perfectly reasonable demand to ask the House to await the Report of the Commission under whose consideration the subject now was before proceeding to legislate with regard to it.


must say he thought the Committee was extremely tolerant in listening to four lectures from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) on the subject of that Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had failed to give any reason which could satisfy any sensible man why they should refuse to pass that measure; and he was sorry to find him introducing something like Nisi Prius practice into their discussions. The right hon. Gentleman addressed the House on almost every question that came before it, and, although he always sought to amuse them, he seldom instructed them. The declaration which that Bill sought to repeal was most offensive.


That is not the question. He appealed to the Chairman to state what was the question before the Committee.


said, the question was that the clause of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire be now read a second time.


said, that if, as a young Member of the House, he had transgressed the rules, he begged pardon; but he could only repeat that not a single sound argument had been adduced against that Bill.


said, that Roman Catholic Members below the gangway would not promote their object, or induce people out of doors to believe that Roman Catholics were free from the charge of intolerance, by their attempts to stifle discussion in that House. His reason for proposing that test was the same as had actuated the Legislature of England for the last 300 years. He had taken every means in his power to eliminate from the declaration every word which could be deemed offensive by those who entertained different religious opinions from himself. But it was only prudent to insist that those who were made the depositories of great powers by virtue of their being supposed to be of the Protestant faith should declare that they were so in terms which could not be offensive.


said, he repelled the charge of intolerance against Roman Catholic Members, which came with an ill grace from an hon. Gentleman who had himself always spoken and voted for the maintenance of civil disabilities upon persons of a different religious persuasion from his own. The Roman Catholics did not wish to interfere with the existing law; all they desired to do was to take off the statute-books phrases which had for years been creating bad feeling in Ireland.

Question put, "That the Clause be now read a second time."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 36; Noes 71: Majority 35.

House resumed.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the third time upon Monday next.

House adjourned at One o'clock, till Monday next.