HC Deb 08 May 1866 vol 183 cc636-42

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, he hoped it would meet with the general approval of the House—indeed, he should not have expected that any opposition would be offered to the measure had he not seen on the paper a notice by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. As, however, on the first reading the Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed the acquiescence of the Government in the Bill, and as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), with that conciliatory manner which always characterized him, notwithstanding the strong views he entertained with regard to certain principles, also assented to it, he trusted that the hon. Gentleman would not disturb the unanimity of the House by persevering in his opposition. The Bill proposed to abolish the declaration now required to be made by certain high functionaries—he believed only the Lord Lieutenant and Lord Chancellor of Ireland—on assuming office, that certain doctrines held by Roman Catholics as part of their religion were idolatrous and superstitious. It was peculiarly offensive to the Lord Lieutenant on entering upon office in a country where the great majority of people were Catholics, and surrounded by members of his Privy Council and Law Officers, many of whom professed that religion, should be obliged to make such a declaration. No one would pretend that the interests of Protestantism could be in any way served by it, and it was calculated to excite feelings of hostility and strife which every good subject should seek to allay. Its original object was to exclude persons professing the Catholic faith from those particular offices; and as the supporters of the Bill did not wish by a side-wind to remove this ineligibility—although in a country allowing freedom of religious opinion the holding of any offices under the Crown should not be limited to persons holding a particular creed—the Bill contained a proviso that nothing contained in it should be construed as giving Roman Catholics a right to fill the office either of Lord Lieutenant or Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The simple object of the measure was to remove a declaration which was at once offensive and useless, and he hoped that, in the interests of peace, conciliation, and Christian charity, it would receive the sanction of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Cogan.)


complained of a question of such importance being brought forward by a private Member, and not on the responsibility of the Government. The same course had been taken with regard to the Oaths Bill and the Scotch Episcopal Bill, although these questions lay at the very root of the Constitution. However, he did not intend to move the Amendment of which he had given notice; and the reason why he did not do so was because the Government and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Walpole) had acquiesced in the principle of the measure. He had not altered his opinions, and he would, with the permission of the House, shortly make known what his views were. The Declaration against Transubstantiation was adopted as the best and only test against Romanism in the time of Charles II., and as such it had been regarded for 200 years. If it was needed when it was established, 200 years ago, nothing had occurred since to render it unnecessary. Romanism was still the same, and Protestant Jesuitism was rampant amongst us. He would relieve his own conscience in the matter by challenging the Government to consent to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the Fenian movement. Evidence would be given before such a Committee to show that that movement was neither more nor less than a deliberate organization, in accordance with all the antecedents of the Roman Catholic Church—to gain the objects of the Roman Catholic hierarchy by force, if necessary, by means of a bargain with the Government, in pursuance of which this and similar little Bills were to be given as the price of keeping the Fenians in check. The country at large was in most profound ignorance as to the state of these most important questions in that House, They believed that hon. Gentlemen opposite were sufficiently watching the Government, and that his interference was almost impertinent. All the energies of the Pope were directed to the destruction and injury of this country. Let them suppose the occurrence of an European war, and that our army and navy were affected with foreign allegiance to the extent that they contained Roman Catholics. ["Oh, oh!"] He had last Session challenged the Secretary for the Colonies to state whether he had not received from Sir George Grey, the Governor of New Zealand, a dispatch informing him that the war in that colony was organized and sustained by Roman Catholic priests—and the right hon. Gentleman had not denied that such was the case. He had since received letters from dignitaries of the Church and others in New Zealand assuring him that all that he then asserted was perfectly true, and that the losses which we sustained, and the disgrace which befell our troops, could be attributed to nothing so much as to the direct organization upon Riband and Fenian principles, of the natives in rebellion against our authority. H did not wish to offend the hon. Gentleman who had moved the second reading of the Bill, by calling his religion impious, but it had in all past times been associated with allegiance to a foreign power which under circumstances of difficulty might be fraught with the greatest danger to this country. He was not called upon to defend the bulwarks which had been erected against that danger; it was for the hon. Gentleman to show that they might safely be abolished. [The hon. Member spoke amid continued interruptions and noises.]


said, that he would not enter upon the question as to the share which the Fenians had in the war in New Zealand; but he wished to say, in answer to the hon. Member for Peterborough, that the Government most cordially supported the Bill. In reply to the objection that the introduction of the measure had been left to a private Member, he must observe that this Declaration against Transubstantiation was so utterly indefensible and devoid of foundation that it required but the touch of any Member of the House to make it fall to the ground. The only wonder was that the proposal for its abolition should not have been made long ago, and that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and other officers of the highest rank in Ireland should have been so long compelled on entering office to stigmatize, in terms which amounted to nothing short of contempt, the sacred doctrine of a Church to which many Gentlemen of the highest rank in the country and Privy Councillors sitting round the same table with himself adhered. The Government were about to issue a Commission to inquire into the whole question of oaths and to report as to which it was desirable to do away with or to amend; but this particular Declaration was so simple and indefensible, that the Government had no hesitation in giving the Motion before the House their support.


observed, that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) whose observations against the Ministers were always delivered from that (the Opposition) side of the House, always supported them by his vote. The present mode of legislation deserved, he thought, the notice of the House. This form of Declaration had been made for some centuries by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and therefore he thought it was the duty of the Government to have considered this question. But the Secretary for Ireland said that it did not matter who touched a subject of this kind; and, although a Commission on Oaths was pending, the right hon. Gentleman maintained that this Declaration should be abolished in the meantime, so as to relieve the Commissioners from considering whether any test should be applied to the case of the Lord Lieutenant. The inference was that, if the test was not to be applied to the Lord Lieutenant, a Roman Catholic ought to be allowed to fill the office as well as any other person.


rose to ask indulgence for the hon. Member for Peterborough. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) had just said that the hon. Member's speeches against the Government were all very fine, but that he always voted with the Government. That was a most singular case of political ingratitude. The only critical division which took place before that on the Reform Bill was one which was well and judiciously selected on the other side—namely, that on the Parliamentary Oaths Amendment Bill. It was sought to mutilate and spoil the oath to be taken by Members of Parliament by the addition of words to the effect that no foreign Prince or Potentate had or ought to have any power in the courts of this country. Why nobody ever said or could say that they had. In the division list there were two names recorded, singularly enough, side by side—those of "Whalley, J. H.," and "Whiteside, Right Hon. J." With respect to what the right hon. Gentleman had stated as to the duty of the Government, he had only to observe that the Government proposed to deal with the whole question of oaths by a Commission, and they could not, therefore, deal with this portion of it. But when the hon. and learned Member for Clare (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) brought in his Bill, as he had a right to do, and asked them—Would they support it?—they had no hesitation whatever in saying that they would, and that they wished the measure every success.


wondered what the Commission which the Government were going to appoint would have to do, for the Government had settled the Parliamentary oaths, and were now about to sweep away this Declaration. Without denying that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) generally voted with those who wished to defend the Protestant Constitution of the country, he must say that he knew no Member who, whether from accident or incapacity, did so much disservice to the cause he advocated as that hon. Member. The hon. Member had suddenly withdrawn his notice in opposition to this Bill, and when he rose on a question of this sort, the hon. Member invariably played into the hands of his opponents. The expression of "damning with faint praise" was well known, but he was not aware of any advocate who damaged a cause so effectually by his support as the hon. Member for Peterborough. [Laughter.] Though the House might treat the matter with levity, it was not lightly thought of out of doors, and he had presented 122 petitions that night against the abolition of the Declaration under consideration. By those who believe in the Roman Catholic tenets, the Protestant Constitution of this country was regarded as a heretical establishment, and one that ought to be swept off the face of the earth; but he (Mr. Newdegate) was surprised at the indifference with which it was treated by the Protestant Members of that House, By the opinions which he had expressed that evening, the hon. Member for Peterborough had cut the ground from under his feet. The hon. Member ought not continually to repeat that the religious opinions of different sects were, in his opinion, of no political importance. He was sorry to be obliged to make this observation, but he warned the hon. Gentleman that if he were a Protestant, and were sincere in his adhesion to the Protestant faith, he was damaging the interests of that religion, misrepresenting the opinions of the Protestant people of the country, and bringing into contempt in the House feelings which were deep and sincere. He (Mr. Newdegate) thought that it was but reasonable that the High Officers of State, the direct representatives of our Protestant Sovereign, who was bound to the Church of England, should express their adhesion to the substance of the articles of the Church of England, and that was in reality the substance of the declaration. It was right, too, that the same declaration should be made by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who had not only to decide on many questions relating to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, but also enjoyed the dispensing of considerable ecclesiastical patronage.


reminded the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) that a reference to the second clause of the Bill would show that his fears were groundless, and that he laboured under a misapprehension. As a Roman Catholic Member, he acknowledged that the hon. Member for Peterborough had done his religion essential service, and to that fact must be attributed the silence with which the Members of the Roman Catholic persuasion received the extraordinary charges in which the hon. Member so frequently indulged. When the hon. Member attributed the war in New Zealand to the combinations of the priesthood at Maynooth, such statements could only be attributed to a fevered brain.


, amid cries of "Order! "denied that he had made any such statement.


was speaking within the recollection of the House, by whom it would be remembered that the hon. Member stated that he had received letters informing him that the New Zealand war was attributable to the machinations of the Roman Catholic priests, many of whom had been educated at Maynooth. As far as Parliamentary usage would permit him to do so, he challenged the hon. Member to prove his charges; and if he thought he could do so, to move for a Select Committee, before whom he could adduce his proofs.


rose to reply, but was called to order by the Speaker.

Bill read a second time.

Motion agreed to, and committed for Monday next.