HC Deb 29 March 1870 vol 200 cc872-908

said: * On introducing the Notice which stands in my name, I wish to request that, in the last line but one, the words "have been acquired and," should be omitted so as to leave the word "are" in the same line; the Notice would then run— Select Committee to inquire into the existence, character, and increase of Conventual or Monastic Institutions or Societies in Great Britain, and into the terms, upon which income, property, and estates belonging to such Institutions or Societies, or to members thereof, are respectively received, held, or possessed. Sir, I desire that the Notice should be altered in this respect, because I have been told that an inquiry into the manner in which this property has been "acquired" would be considered invidious; my object is a genuine object—it is an object in which I am supported by a great number of persons out of this House, who have testified their concurrence by Petitions which have been presented to the House by myself and other hon. Members. My object is the same, in a great measure, as that which I pursued in the last Session of Parliament; and perhaps I may be allowed to advert for a moment to what occurred on two occasions, when I brought this matter under the attention of the House. On the 26th of February last year I moved for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the operation of the Roman Catholic Charities Act, as it is termed, which was passed in the year 1860, and also into the operation of the Burials Act, which was passed in the year 1864. The Roman Catholic Charities Act of 1860 was originally proposed by my late lamented Friend Sir Charles Jasper Selwyn. He had made some progress with the Bill when, as I well remember, the late Sir George Lewis, being then Home Secretary, came across the floor to this Bench, and said to Sir Charles Selwyn—"I rejoice at the progress you have made. The purport of your Bill is exactly the same as the object which I have in view with reference to Roman Catholic charities; and if you will permit me to take up the measure, as Home Secretary, I have no doubt that we shall be able to pass it into law." Sir Charles Selwyn cheerfully acquiesced, rejoicing at this manifest concurrence on the part of Sir George Lewis; in this he was supported by Sir William Bovill and other Members of the House, including myself, and eventually the Bill became law. Well, Sir, what was the necessity for this legislation? It arose after a long and careful previous inquiry, the movement for which was originated as far back as the year 1818, by the late Lord Brougham. This movement was renewed in the year 1835, when Parliament at length determined to investigate the condition and to regulate the application of all charitable property. In the year 1843 a Committee was appointed to inquire into all charitable property, especially that which belonged to Roman Catholics in Ireland. That Committee reported, and in 1844 what is called the Bequests Act passed, and that Act, amended by subsequent statutes, has regulated the charitable property of Roman Catholics, including their places of worship, and other places connected with their religion, over since. Under that Act a Board was established, which was empowered to record the nature of the trusts under which this property was held; in fact, the Board became a party to all trusts holding such property; the principle of that statute, and the system of administration which it established, have worked most satisfactorily. In the year 1851 this House decided that a further inquiry should be undertaken with respect to all charity property in England; all properties given or bequeathed for charitable and religious uses, except those held directly by the Church of England, an inquiry into which has been otherwise provided for by the appointment of the Ecclesiastical Commission. The Committee of 1851–2 was specially appointed to inquire into the law of Mortmain, as to how far it might be found necessary to alter the statutes declaratory of that law, and in what respects these statutes needed improvement or development of their provisions, and whether it was desirable to modify their provisions so as to render the continuance of those charitable institutions generally, including such as belonged to the Roman Catholic body, more advantageous for the future—one great object to be attained being to bring all property connected with charitable and religious objects within the purview of the English law, so that the administration of all such property and all legal questions connected with that administration, should be brought into the courts of this country, instead of the parties interested in Roman Catholic charities being induced or forced to resort to the courts of the Papacy at Rome for the decision of matters in dispute, arising out of such property in this country. Because, in consequence of what are in law termed "superstitious uses" being connected with these Roman Catholic trusts—such as bequests directing the application of the proceeds of real property, and legacies to payment for perpetual prayers for the dead, and such other offices of the Roman Church as the law of England has declared to be "superstitious"—the greater part of that Roman Catholic property, if not the whole of it, was held under secret trusts; and owing to those trusts being secret from the law of England, though in accordance with the laws of the Papacy, the persons who were interested in that property were driven, contrary to the principles of many ancient statutes of this realm—the Act of Richard II. against provizors, and the like—for decision, in cases of difference, to the Courts of Rome. The Mortmain Committee made their Report in 1852, and in the year 1853 the Government of Lord John Russell took this matter out of the hands of the hon. and learned Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne, who had been the Chairman of the Mortmain Committee, and undertook to legislate not only for the Roman Catholic charities, but to propose a general enactment, which should empower a Commission—the Charity Commissioners—to aid in and control the administration of all charitable property, whatever the denomination to which it might belong. The Bill for this purpose had made considerable progress. It came down from the House of Lords, and had passed the second reading in this House, when suddenly there arose among the Roman Catholic Members of this House a stern opposition to such of its provisions as included Roman Catholic property. Little reason was given for that opposition, and few arguments were used; but a positive demand was made that property held for Roman Catholic charitable purposes should be exempted from the authority of the Commissioners to be appointed under the clauses of that Bill. With the permission of the House, I will read a few words which were spoken by Sir Frederick Thesiger—now Lord Chelms-ford—on that occasion, and which express the feeling of at least a very large minority in this House; for, notwithstanding the exigency in which the Government found itself placed, this House was scarcely persuaded to allow the separation of Roman Catholic charitable property from the charitable property of other denominations, so far as the authority under which the administration of such property was to be regulated was concerned. In fact, this separation extended to the total exemption of the whole of the Roman Catholic charitable property from the authority of the Commissioners, who regulate the charitable property of all other denominations. We on this side of the House were very much opposed to that exemption. Sir Frederick Thesiger was then seated on these Benches, and well I remember his using the following expressions, while remonstrating against the exemption of this charitable property from the authority of the Commission—in fact, of the Parliament:— He wished to remind the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) of the Bills which had been introduced from 1844 downwards for the purpose of establishing a Board for the administration of charitable trusts. In 1844, 1845, 1846, Bills were introduced in the House of Lords by Lord Lyndhurst. In 1847,1848, 1849, and 1850, Bills were introduced under the Government of the noble Lord by the late Lord Cottenham. In 1852 another Bill was introduced by the noble Lord and his Government, which Bill was taken up by Lord Derby's Government, who endeavoured to pass it into a law. Now, he would ask the noble Lord if any of these Bills contained any exemptions respecting Roman Catholic trusts? If these Bills never contemplated such exemptions, surely that was an argument more forcible than any which the noble Lord had drawn from the exemption in the Acts passed, not for the purposes of legislation, but merely for the establishment of preliminary inquiries."—[3 Hansard, cxxix. 1256.] And he went on to say, owing to the necessity for this legislation— An hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Chisholm Anstey), formerly a Member of that House, who, in 1847, proposed to introduce a Bill for the regulation of Roman Catholic Trusts—on that occasion the hon. and learned Member said—'The trustees of the Roman Catholic charities may be guilty of any amount of mal-administration without the Roman Catholics—for whose benefit the trust was created—daring to ask relief, because the issue of an application with that object may be a declaration that the charity was ab initio illegal, and continued illegal.'"—[Ibid. 1258.] Although Lord Russell admitted that, in his opinion, Roman Catholic charitable property, for the purposes of their religion, should be brought within the control of the laws and courts of the country; yet he yielded to the pressure brought to bear upon his Government, and the consequence was that administration of the whole Roman Catholic property continued illegal. Parliament was most unwilling to create this exemption of Roman Catholic property from the general law, yet for seven years up to the year 1860 the purpose of the Legislature, which had been carried out with respect to the charitable property of all other denominations in the United Kingdom, which had been carried into effect in Ireland by the passing of the Bequests Act in the year 1844, with respect to Roman Catholic charitable property in that country—was totally defeated with respect to the Roman Catholic charities in this country. As I have stated, Sir, an Act was passed in the year 1860 which was intended to mitigate, if not to remove, this anomaly; yet it so happened that, in Committee on that Bill, the 5th clause was introduced by the present Lord Westbury, then Sir Richard Bethell, and Attorney General. Sir Charles Selwyn warned the House that this clause was likely to defeat—and it has, I believe, contributed to the defeat of—the intention of the statute. That 5th clause is to this effect—That the possession, or, in legal terms, the use of any property for Roman Catholic purposes, whether such use had been and was contrary to the Supersti- tious Uses Act, or any other law of England, or not—whether the administration of the particular uses or application of the particular property had been honestly carried out or not—no matter what the administration might have been, twenty years' possession of such property should give a good title. The whole of the provisions of the statute of 1860 are most liberal, manifesting, on the part of the Legislature, every desire to secure and facilitate the possession of this property by those for whom it was intended. But, unfortunately, instead of that provision having been held to be only retrospective; instead of having been held—which I believe to have been the intention of the House—that twenty years' possession up to the year I860 should give a good title, no matter how that possession had been obtained—that provision of the statute has been construed as having a prospective intention. The whole object of the Act was to secure enrolment. The Committee who reported in 1852 reported in the sense of the Mortmain Act of 1829, and of the earlier statutes—some of them oven of the Saxon times—that no unlimited amount of real property ought to be permanently devoted to a corporation with perpetual succession, because that property would be looked up; it could not be disposed of; it could not be sold; it might be used unprofitably; but it stood beyond the law, as if it did not belong to the country. That is the meaning of the objection of the Legislature of England before the Conquest, and of the objection of the Legislature of every country throughout Europe, to the locking up property in Mortmain or by the dead hand; to the devising in perpetual succession to certain persons for certain objects—whether religious or even social objects—of property which would otherwise come into the market, or be distributed among families, or be made useful to the State by being rendered fruitful to the Commonwealth, profitable to the Exchequer through its liability to taxation upon the same principle that it would be liable to taxation upon mortgage upon being devised, or upon its division amongst families. For remember this—if you allow that property to go into Mortmain—and I refer to it only as an illustration—the succession duty is paid once, and is never paid again. Thus the property becomes positively untaxable for national purposes. It pays nothing in the ordinary manner that other property pays in the shape of stamps and other taxation upon devolution, division, sale, or the like. I hope the House will forgive me for having touched upon this subject in connection with the law of Mortmain. I cannot better describe the defects of the statute of 1860 than in the words of a legal friend of mine; for I should not be so presumptuous as to trespass upon the attention of the House with regard to this matter if I had not the advice of the most competent lawyers—one of whom, very eminent as a lawyer, has thus written to me— The Roman Catholic Charities Act, 1860, loses sight of these principles of our law and legislation—that is, the principles of the law against Mortmain, and without inquiry has made valid large and unascertained dispositions of land in Mortmain, much of which is vested in unknown persons upon secret trusts created by parole, and has even given effect to dispositions of land actually void in law (being given for superstitious uses), by declaring that, such dispositions shall be held upon such of the trusts of the charity as are valid in law. The quantity of land now held in Mortmain by the Roman Catholic Church can only be known by a searching inquiry into the number of deeds enrolled under the Act of 1860, which there is every reason to believe, from the enrolments which have taken place, and particularly during the first year after the passing of the Act, is of considerable amount. It is true that enrolment is necessary to give validity to deeds of trust; but this affords no security against the acquisition of land by Roman Catholic institutions, through the medium of trustees, for the benefit of monasteries, convents, &c., the deeds relating to which are never registered, the trusts upon which they are held being secret. The trustees, it is true, may die; but upon the death of each of these another person is chosen in his place, so that ultimately the property is dealt with and governed by persons who have not, and care not to have, the legal estate vested in them. He next proceeds to say— They can lease and let as owners, and there is no one to dispute their title; but even if upon the death of the trustees, or any of them, a conveyance were made to any new and surviving trustees, or to the new trustees only, as the case might he, no enrolment of any such deed is necessary, as has been directed in the case of' Ashton v. Jones,' 28 Beaver's Reports, 460; nor would any lease to be granted by the trustees for the time being require enrolment." ….."'—v. Glyn,' 12 Simons's Rep., 84 (a case in equity), and 'Walker v. Richardson,' 2 Meeson and Wilsby, 882 (a case at law). The fiscal aspect of the subject is of no little importance as regards the welfare of the country. Lands acquired in Mortmain, whether under deeds enrolled or by secret means, are taken out of the market for ever; they cease to be the subject of conveyance, mortgage, settlement, and testamentary disposition, and thus the revenues of the country are, and will be, continually lessened. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that after the first payment of £10 per cent under the Succession Duty Act, in the case of gifts to charitable uses, there will be no further duty payable; so that, in respect of the several duties before referred to, the land may be said to be abstracted from the country. Sir, this is contrary to the principles not only of the English law, but of the laws of every other nation in Europe. In France, in the year 1861, great exertions were made by the Government of the Emperor, through M. de Persigny, to induce the monastic and conventual institutions of that country to become authorized—that is, that they and their property should become legal within the sense of the laws of France. And how was that met? Why, by every kind of evasion. In the report of M. Dupin he has written that he found the old difficulty of dealing with this monastic and conventual property revived; that, as his predecessors for hundreds of years had had to contend with attempts on the part of the monastic bodies to exempt themselves from the operation of the laws of France—as they had attempted to defy the laws of every country in which they were located with a view to exempting their property from the law—so, in 1861, he found a growing determination amongst the monastic and conventual orders in France to exempt themselves and their property from the operation of the law. This disposition has recently assumed a new phase in France. Last Session, when speaking upon the Bill for the abolition of the Irish Church, I brought under the notice of the House a Papal letter which M. Emile Ollivier, the present Prime Minister of France, had discovered in Switzerland, and subsequently published, and this letter was, in the opinion of the Emperor, of such importance, that he sent for M. Ollivier, and, it is believed, consulted him respecting it. This letter is dated October, 1865, and was addressed to the Archbishop of Paris. What was the purport of the letter? The Archbishop of Paris, as a Senator of France, had spoken strongly in defence of the French laws, which claim jurisdiction over the Roman Catholic Church in France, particularly of the property of that Church, and laid down very properly, that no property ought to be held under the protection of the law, unless the disposal and administration of such property were rendered amenable to the law—that is to say, the law of the country in which such property is situated. It appears that the Archbishop of Paris had remonstrated with the Franciscan and Jesuit Orders upon some of their practices, and that these regulars, these monks, had defied the authority of the Archbishop and appealed to Rome. The Archbishop maintained the authority of his Church as Gallican, and of his country. The Archbishop stood by what are termed the Gallican liberties of the Church of France; by the laws of France; and in the letter to which I have referred, a copy of which I have beside me, the present Pope condemned this action on the part of the Archbishop of Paris in terms of such severity as to be scarcely sweetened by the affectionate opening of the letter. His Holiness more than hinted, that he, in the event of the non-compliance, would suspend or excommunicate the Archbishop. Why? Because he had ventured, in his capacity of Archbishop and Senator of France, to visit these Franciscans and Jesuits, with the view of establishing his authority; these are the same bodies or orders which had defied the authority of M. Dupin and M. Persigny with respect to the holding and administration of property in the year 1861. This letter was written by the present Pope in 1865. I see that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General is napping. The Solicitor General is seldom caught napping. The Home Secretary and the hon. and learned Gentleman are at this moment the only occupants of the Treasury Bench who seem inclined to dose. I have no doubt that the Solicitor General deserves his repose; and I feel that an apology is due from me for disturbing it. But it happens that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not long since professionally engaged in a very remarkable case—that of Saurin v. Starr; and that in that case there arose a question as to conventual dower, and as to conventual property. The case was this—Miss Saurin had been admitted a nun into a convent in Dublin, and from thence she came to a convent at Hull, where she was treated with very great severity. I shall not trouble this House with the story at length; but it is undoubted that there this lady was treated with very great severity. The circumstances of this cas are known to everyone; but there is one incident in the ease which bears upon the point which I am now bringing before the House, and I will read an extract from a letter written by Bishop Cornthwaite, which will contribute to my showing the resemblance between that which is occurring in England and that which has occurred in France. The question was whether the Bishop, Dr. Cornthwaite, could and would absolve this lady from her vows. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General described this lady, this nun, and he said this of her— The plaintiff is a person of very good family and connected with good families in Ireland; herself a person of great devotion, having two sisters nuns in different Roman Catholic Orders, having a brother a Jesuit priest, and an uncle a parish priest in Ireland; and brought up among Roman Catholic associations, and surrounded in every way by Roman Catholic influences of the best sort. The Court of Queen's Bench in this country has decided that this lady was the victim of a conspiracy; that she had suffered most undue severity; she appealed to the justice of English law, and having been aided by the known ability of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General, compensation has been awarded to her. Whether she has been released from her vows or not I do not know; but this I do know, that the Roman Catholic Bishop did not treat her case, when submitted to him for decision, in a manner which commanded the respect of the Lord Chief Justice of England. The Lord Chief Justice said that the Bishop, after having undertaken to settle the matter of dispute, appeared to have remained in a somewhat melancholy position. His Lordship observed— He did not disclose his object nor pursue a regular inquiry, but pursued the usual course of seeing each of the sisters separately, thinking that the truth would come out. He found himself only in a state of doubt and hesitation, and he simply let things go on and take their course. Such was the way in which the Bishop thought it right to exercise his visitatorial powers. The Bishop, in fact, did not try the case; and why? The Bishop assigns, as a reason, that he could not do otherwise unless he had authority from Rome; this is the passage in his letter, dated the month of August, which he ad- dressed to the Superioress of the convent, Mrs. Starr— I hope that you are quite certain about the thefts and other things"—which were alleged but not proved—"and that the facts are prove-able. I was unable to move efficaciously in the matter without facilities from the Holy See. I asked for them long ago; they were unfortunately mis-sent, and have only reached me this morning. In case of expulsion, will Bagot Street"—meaning the convent in Dublin—"do anything in the way of dowry? In other words, will the Irish convent restore any portion of the something more than £360, which had been paid upon the entrance into it of this nun? It was never stated exactly what was paid; but the Rev. Hobart Seymour has ascertained that about £500 is the sum usually paid by nuns on their admission to convents in Ireland. The Bishop, Dr. Cornthwaite, was unable to move in the matter without direct authority from Rome; and yet, after I had raised the question about convents and nunneries in this House in 1865, Dr. Ullathorne, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham, told me in a letter, a copy of which I have here, that he was the Superior of the convents of Colwich, Atherstone, and Princethorpe. It seems strange; but the Bishop Corn-thwaite appeared incompetent to act. Why could he not act? Was it—and I ask the attention of the House to this—because this young lady's brother being a member of one of the Regular Orders of the Church of Rome—this Jesuit brother, acting upon the principle which his order is endeavouring to establish in France—may have advised resistance to the authority and jurisdiction of the Bishop, just as the Jesuits, not long since, resisted the authority of the Arch-bishop of Paris? I think the presumption is that it was so; and, if it was so, I certainly cannot account for Dr. Ullathore's letter to me, otherwise than that his power is derived from the fact that he is a Regular—a Benedictine monk, and that it is in this capacity, and not as Bishop, that he is absolute over the convents I have mentioned. It appears that this case could not be solved by the authority of the Bishop, involving as it did the question of power and jurisdiction, and this is consistent with that which appeared in the letter of the Pope to the Archbishop of Paris. The result was that the appeal of this illused nun was made to the law of England; but, let the House observe, for what purpose was this appeal thus made? Not to relieve this lady from her vows, but to declare her vows perpetual; for that was the indirect but real effect of the decision. Her complaint was that she was about to be excluded from her order and absolved from her vows. That was her complaint; and the laws of England were appealed to in order to enable her to defeat the intention of the Bishop, which was to relieve her from those vows. I do not say that this decision inflicted individual hardship because this lady desired to remain a nun; but it is a singular fact that the Court of Queen's Bench at Westminster should have supported, what is virtually the dictum of the Council of Trent, that a nun is perpetually bound, and cannot be absolved from the obligation of her vows. I do not believe that her brother, being a Jesuit, would have helped her to obtain a release from her vows; he is bound by the traditions and vows of his own order. Remember this, that the perpetual obligation of these religious vows is contrary to the laws of France, and I hope that it is contrary to the letter of English law, or will become so, as it certainly is contrary to the spirit of our laws; yet I have shown you how the secular power of this country has been used in this case to confirm conventual vows as being of perpetual obligation. Sir, this is a matter of considerable importance, because one of those vows is a vow of poverty. I have an extract from them here, and it tends to this—that, after her reception into a convent, a nun so completely abdicates all right to property that she can accept of no casual gift, however trifling, for her own use; but that all property which comes to her, through whatever channel, is absorbed by the community in which she lives, and becomes its property. If, then, the capital of the dower of these ladies, as Mr. Hobart Seymour has shown, in the case of the convents in Italy, Spain, France, and Ireland, exceeds the amount absolutely necessary to provide for their maintenance during the usually short period of their lives—for nuns are short-lived—and it usually does, the difference forms a fund accumulating in the hands of these convents; and the consequence is that by forming these convents large funds accrue to the monastic orders, which funds have materially aided in the results which I will now describe to the House. The attention of the public has, of late years, been strongly directed to the enormous increase of these establishments, and I am not surprised at this. I will advert to the increase which, of late years, has taken place in these conventual and monastic houses; most of them are becoming gradually possessed of property in this country. The late Cardinal Wiseman, in a speech which he delivered at the Roman Catholic Congress of Malines, in the year 1864, made the following statement as to the increase which had taken place in the number of convents in this country:— From 16 (convents)" said he, "which we possessed in 1830,"—he is speaking as Cardinal Archbishop—"we have now in Great Britain an increase to 162. In 1830 we had not a single religious house for men; but in 1850 there were 11, and to-day their number is 55. Since 1863, the date which was given by the Cardinal, the convents, according to the authority of the Roman Catholic calendar, have increased to 233, and the number of monasteries or religious houses for men has increased to 69. So now, we have this result: that the increase of convents, from the year 1830 to the year 1846, was 146, or about 4½ convents per annum were added to the number on the average of that period. But how does the increase stand in the last seven years since the date to which the Cardinal referred? From the year 1863 to the year 1870 no less than 71 convents were added to the number previously existing; so that the rate of increase, instead of being 4½ per annum, as in the previous period, rose to 10 per annum on the average of the last 7 years. Then, with regard to monasteries, from the year 1830 to 1863 the increase was 55, or about 1½ per annum on the average; and, let it be remembered, that before 1830 there were none; but from the year 1863 to 1870 the increase was 14 upon the 7 years, or, on the average, 2 per annum. Now, what I have said respecting the increase of these monastic establishments from 1830 to 1863 shows only the average of the whole period, and does not show the fact that the great increase has been almost entirely towards the close of that period. Thus we see an increase of these establishments up to the present time, such as has never been witnessed in this country certainly for 500 years. And this, Sir, is the more important, because during the same periods there has been a great increase of chapels and of priests, as well as of monasteries; in reference to which fact the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said last Session there was a justification for the increase, because they were required for the active practice of their religion by the Roman Catholics. Yet the rate of the increase of these, as Cardinal Wiseman explained, greatly exceeded the increase of the general population, and, I believe, also of the Roman Catholic population; still, there may be a justification for this increase of priests and chapels such as the Home Secretary assigned. But with reference to these monasteries and convents, it must be remembered that in many cases they do not provide for any active religious ministrations whatever, though they do provide for this—they provide in this country, as I have shown the House, from the example of France, establishments, the possessors of which are very much inclined to defy the laws of this country, while they consider themselves the direct servants and tributaries of the Pope. I ask the House to inquire into these circumstances, and ascertain how many of these institutions really exist; what is the character of these institutions, what their discipline, and how far the property, on which they exist, conforms to the laws established for the regulation of the properties belonging to the other denominations in England. Because, Sir, you will observe that in the Charity Commissioners' Report for 1852 they declare that a number of Roman Catholic trusts had been enrolled under the provisions of the Act of 1860; but about that time a defect in the statute appears to have been discovered, and since then the number enrolled, and thus brought within the provisions of English law, has dwindled away until I hear from a Charity Commissioner this morning that, during the last year, there were almost none enrolled. So complete has been the failure of the statute of 1860—a measure which was devised in the most liberal spirit by this House for the purpose of enabling those Roman Catholics, who might be interested in such property, to ascertain for themselves how far it has been applied to the objects for which it was intended; and, among other things, whether any of it has been improperly withheld from Roman Catholic or other families by these religious orders, or by the Roman Catholic Church. Do not let hon. Members of the Roman Catholic persuasion suppose that I am speaking without proof; for it was clearly proved, before the Select Committee of 1851–2, that there were many cases of abuse and hardship, and of property having been taken from Roman Catholic families and from Roman Catholic priests, contrary to every principle of justice. And why? Because this property was then beyond the law of England; its devolution was not regulated, as in Ireland, under the Bequests Act, by a national authority; but the jurisdiction over it had been driven to Rome. The object of the Legislature in passing the Roman Catholics Charities Act of 1860 was to bring this property within the jurisdiction of our courts, to provide for the enrolment of the trusts, and thus to secure equal advantages to the Roman Catholic families with those possessed by the families of every other denomination, under the general statute of 1853, with respect to charitable property. At the instance, Sir, of my late Friend Sir Charles Selwyn—himself a Judge professionally versed in the administration of Roman Catholic property, and therefore perfectly cognizant of the whole of the circumstances,—on the 26th of February last year I brought these circumstances under the attention of the House, and moved for a Committee to inquire into the subject. What was the answer with which I was met by the Government? The First Lord of the Treasury was present. Poor as my means of expressing myself might be, I was stating a necessity that was patent to Sir Charles Selwyn and patent to Sir William Bovill; and what did the right hon. Gentleman do? He waited until I had reached that "witching hour" when hon. Members mostly refresh themselves, and then, instead of saying one word in answer to my statements and my appeal, he called for a division, and secured the defeat of a Motion promoted by no mean legal authorities. Again, on the 30th of July following, I moved for Returns to show how many of these Catholic trusts had been enrolled by the Rolls Court under the provisions of the Act of 1860. I had been informed by an eminent lawyer that such was the confusion pervading the Rolls Court, that it would give great trouble to furnish these Returns. Still, the object of the discovery was deemed to be essential, no less by the high legal authorities to whom I have referred than by the Committee on Mortmain in 1852. I hoped, therefore, as the House was about to separate for the Recess, that the Government would consent to the production of these Returns extending only over a very limited period—such as I thought the House might well demand, not upon my authority, but upon the advice of most competent persons. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, however, came down to the House, and declared that the preparation of these Returns would be very troublesome. I proposed to shorten, and did shorten, the period over which the order for these Returns should extend to three years; but the right hon. Gentleman said that it would take eight months to prepare the Return. If that be so, I ask the House what must be the condition of things at the Rolls Court? Eight months to produce such a Return! Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to assign some other reasons. He said that— Every good citizen must wish that every religion should experience just and equal treatment, and be allowed to develop itself in its own natural course. Now, so far as the practice of any particular religion is concerned, God forbid that I should object to that; but can the right hon. Gentleman have meant, does he mean, that the monastic orders ought to be at liberty to accumulate as much property in Mortmain as they like? There would be no equality in that. No other denomination is allowed to devise property to the uses of its worship, or the practice of its religion, except within the restraints of the law against Mortmain. [Mr. BRUCE: Nor is the Roman Catholic Church.] I can scarcely believe that the right hon. Gentleman meant what he said last Session; and if he does not mean what he has said, why did he refuse the inquiry for which I now ask? I have never been able to account for the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. But last Session he went on to say— His hon. Friend (meaning me) had shown, or at least, attempted to show, that our legislation in respect of enrolments of deeds in England was less perfect than that in regard to Ireland. I had quoted the evidence of the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, given before the Committee of 1852 to that effect; and I believe I read it distinctly. At any rate, if the Home Secretary had referred to the evidence before that Committee he would have found that the operation of the Bequests Act is very superior to that of the Roman Catholic Charities Act of 1860; but he said— Possibly this might be the case; but, if so, the way to remedy the evil was to introduce a Bill to assimilate the English law on the subject with that of Ireland. Why, that is exactly what I desire; but knowing that I am only an independent Member of the House, and on the wrong side to do very much, all I could do, at the instance of the eminent persons to whom I have alluded, was to propose the inquiry which they had suggested, and to ask for information. The Home Secretary, however, unlike the late Sir George Lewis, was inexorable, and would not allow the House to have any information of the kind. He proceeded to say— He hoped, however, that the House would never consent to put the Roman Catholic and Protestant endowments on a different footing. Sir, the whole object of the Act of 1860 and of my Motion is to put these as nearly as possible on a par—to bring them within the operation of the same category of law— Good reasons (said the right hon. Gentleman in conclusion) might perhaps be adduced in favour of assimilating the laws of the two countries; but, in the meantime, he objected to the Motion of his hon. Friend on account, not only of the vast amount of unnecessary labour which it would entail, but also, and chiefly, on account of the injustice it would inflict on our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen. If the Legislature had decided that it was just to the Roman Catholics, especially the laity, and had so decided, after full inquiry, that these charitable trusts and property should be brought within the law of England, upon the principles he seems to hold the Home Secretary ought to have proposed the repeal of the Roman Catholic Charities Act of 1860. My object is the same as that of his predecessor, Sir George Lewis; the same as that of the late Lord Campbell, and other eminent statesmen and lawyers; the same as that of the Legislature itself; that object is to secure a good title, and publicity of title, for this property under the English law, for the sake of Roman Catholic and other families, by securing for the use all who are interested in such property that public enrolment, which was recommended by the Select Committee of 1851–2, and which was sanctioned by the Act of 1860, although in practice that statute had been defeated. In order to avoid giving any unnecessary trouble to the Rolls Court, I now consent further to limit the scope of my present Motion, and instead of asking for an inquiry into all Roman Catholic charity property, I move simply for an inquiry into that which is possessed by the monastic and conventual institutions in this country; and only so far as to ascertain the terms of actual possession; for I have omitted the words relating to the circumstances under which property has been acquired by these monastic and conventual orders. In making this request, I find myself supported by a vast number of persons outside this House; and why? Because they desire that the conventual institutions in this country should be inspected. They have seen this vast increase of convents. They have seen them grow up in numbers from sixteen, in the year 1830, to 233 in 1870; they have also seen the monasteries increase to sixty-nine, and they desire that the character and operation of these institutions should be clearly ascertained. Nor is this surprising. I have the statement of a case before me here, in which the daughter of a respectable person in this town was persuaded to go into a convent at Hammersmith before she was sixteen years of age. Her mother, being a Protestant, persuaded her to return home, and she did so; but subsequently she went back, and soon after—this was in the autumn of 1865, and I have all the facts here—the mother, to her great surprise, received a letter from her daughter, dated from a French convent, and praying that she might be assisted to escape from it and to return home. The mother procured the aid of a friend, and they proceeded at once to France. ["Name, name!"] I shall not give the names; but I have them here. Fortunately, in the same packet they met with a person of influence, who, being made acquainted with the facts of the case, applied, I believe, to the highest authority in France. The prefect of the town in which the convent is situated was at once communicated with. The inspection of con- vents in France is the duty of the prefects; the result was, that the mother and her friends were admitted to the convent in which the poor girl had been for nine days; and when this girl was brought to them, she threw her arms around her mother, and begged to be taken from a convent so different from that which she had left in England. She said that she had been happy in the English convent, and had been told that she would find the French convent an equally happy abode; but instead of that she had witnessed great severities inflicted upon the inmates of the French convent—in short, she had found it a prison. It was only through a happy accident and the kindness of a stranger that her letter had reached her mother. This was a rescue from prison; and proves, as was asserted by Mr. Hobart Seymour, in 1852, that some of the convents in this country are affiliated or connected with convents abroad. The latter are sometimes very different in their discipline from the former. The late Cardinal Wiseman objected to Mr. Hobart Seymour's statements, yet admitted the facts, for he said that those who enter these convents enter into an engagement, by which, whether they understand it or not, they were strictly bound. The vows taken by Miss Saurin, as recited by the Solicitor General, afford an illustration of the fact, that the nun engages to go to any of the branch homes of the convent she enters. This girl, who entered a convent here in London, where she was well treated, was transferred to another on the Continent, where, it appears, a most austere and cloistered discipline prevailed, which was practically a prison, and from which she was by good fortune rescued. One reason why the English public are so anxious on this subject is, that they know there is a vast difference between these convents; that the cloistered convent is a dungeon, that the houses inhabited by Sisters of Mercy are generally homes as comfortable as nuns may be allowed. Not very comfortable, it is true, as was proved in the case of Saurin v. Starr; but comfortable as compared, with the cloistered convent in which this poor girl found herself in France. The late Cardinal Wiseman admitted that there were some cloistered convents in England; but he said that these were few. I have the same admis- sion here, on the authority of a Roman Catholic newspaper, which speaks with some contempt of my humble efforts. After referring to the number of Petitions which I have presented to the House on this subject, The Weekly Register of last Saturday writes— There is something most intolerable in the idea that convents, monasteries, or other Catholic establishments, built and supported with the money of Catholics, should be subjected to 'inquiry' and legislation at the instigation of such wrongheaded creatures as the Member for North; Warwickshire. The Catholics of England are not ashamed of their convents; far from it, and they would always be glad to obtain admittance for persons who wish to see the interior of such establishments; but then comes an exception—"as are not cloistered!" So there is an exception—"as are not cloistered."— But (proceeds the writer) this perpetual interference with our affairs must be put down, and we hope that some one or other of the Catholic Members will take the matter in hand on Tuesday next. Sir, I shall be rather curious, when I see any Roman Catholic Member rise in his place, to hear what objection he can urge against an assimilation of the laws of this country to the laws of France, with regard to the inspection of convents. Having shown that the necessity for inspection is felt in France, will it, now that convents have so increased in this country, be said that there is no necessity for such inspection in England? Perhaps some hon. Gentlemen may remember the case which, in 1865, I brought before the House, arising out of circumstances connected with the convent at Colwich. On that occasion I adduced the substance of sworn affidavits to show that a nun, who had escaped from the convent, was discovered and taken back; that when she had escaped she was known to have appeared much terrified; that subsequently she was removed from that convent, and was found in a convent at Wimborne, in Dorsetshire. She never would admit that she had been well treated in the convent from which she had escaped. Nor would she deny any of the facts, upon which the inquiry directed by Mr. Justice Wightman had proceeded. In the correspondence which ensued upon my Motion, I was taken to task by Dr. Ullathorne on the subject; but he could not dispute the escape of that lady. If the convent at Colwich was a place of such severity as to induce that lady to make her escape, taking that case alone, why should Roman Catholic Members object to an inquiry in order to ascertain whether there are not other convents in this country which are conducted upon principles so severe as to have in other countries met with the reprobation and precautions by Legislatures and Governments, even in Roman Catholic countries? Why should England be more careless or indifferent in these matters than France? I have shown you that it was the temporal authority, put into action, at the instance, as I believe, of the highest personage in France, which secured the rescue of an English girl from a French convent. Is it not natural, then, that the English people should wish that some such precautions should be taken by law here as those provided by law in France? I have shown the necessity which exists for inquiry. That a Committee shall be appointed is all I ask, and I may, at all events, test and prove the circumstances to which I have referred. Perhaps it may be thought that I am travelling beyond the limits of my Notice. But at the close of last Session the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) gave notice of a Motion for the present Session, and I desire to clear myself from the appearance of having interfered with or obstructed the hon. Member. His Notice is to this effect— To call the attention of the House to the number of conventual and monastic institutions existing in the country; and to move a Resolution, that, in the opinion of this House, conventual and monastic institutions ought to be made subject to Government inspection. Upon this I gave Notice of the following Amendment:— That, whereas the history of this country in former times, and the recent history of other I countries, prove that the unlimited increase and establishment of conventual and monastic institutions is inconsistent with social welfare and national progress it would be inexpedient and impolitic to encourage, by the appointment of inspectors, or otherwise to legalize the increase of such establishments in this country, without previous inquiry, a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the existence, character, and increase of conventual and of monastic institutions or societies in Great Britain. It seemed, for experience had shown, that it would be rash to attempt to pledge the House to inspection of convents without previous inquiry. I have therefore adopted the course I am now pursuing for two reasons. In the first place, I wish to ascertain how far the property belonging to these institutions—and I know that in the Midland Counties it is considerable—has been brought within the purview of the law; and. in the second place, what is the character of those institutions. I have seen estimates of £20,000 for one monastery here, and of £15,000 for another monastery there. I see those places rising in different directions at a great expense, and I am told, that such and such property belongs to them; the tenants say they believe it is so, and that they pay their rents to certain agents. I ask, then, that these places should be brought within the purview of English law. That is my object; but at present I only ask you to inquire what is the nature and character of the property held for these institutions, and into the tenure of this property; and, further, what may be the character of the discipline in these convents respectively. The House having ascertained these facts, connected with this new element, affecting, as it must, the social organization of the country, then being in possession of knowledge of the subject, you will be able to decide whether the same precautions should not be adopted for the inspection of those institutions in this country as are applied, in one form or other, throughout the whole Continent—for example, in Prussia, where the system of inspection is exercised by the direct authority of the Crown, and in France, where it is enforced through the prefects or mayors. In Italy they have had enough of convents. Spain, too, appears now to think she has had a surfeit of them; the experience of these countries verifies my assertion, that a vast increase of monastic and conventual establishments does not contribute to the national welfare. Is it not time, then, that the Legislature of this country should inform itself in some degree upon this subject, pledging itself to no particular measure in the first instance, but seeking to ascertain whether laws, which it has passed, have been complied with, and what legislation may be desirable hereafter? I have heard it said by some hon. Members that these institutions promote education, and I do not deny that some of them do; but I bring this fact to bear upon the other side—that in Italy, where monastic and conventual institutions were till of late years most rife, and in Naples, particularly, there was found the densest ignorance amongst the great body of the people. The Prime Minister, I am sure, must be acquainted with this fact. I think I have heard him applaud the Italian Government for having taken funds from those institutions, and for having applied them to the purposes of education. I should have been surprised, indeed, had the right hon. Gentleman entertained any other view, when I remember that he is a bright ornament of Christ Church, Oxford, of which I am a humble member; and whence, I ask, came the funds which provided for the education of the right hon. Gentleman and myself, but from suppressed monasteries? That suppression was effected, not without Papal authority, but under the powers of a Bull, or Brief, obtained by Cardinal Wolsey for the very purpose from the Pope. With such a chapter in our own history, then, as the suppression of the convents and monasteries affords, and knowing that Lyttelton, that accomplished author, that Hallam, that Black-stone, and other eminent historians and jurists all record the necessity for a due observance of the principles of the law of Mortmain, thereby preventing an undue absorption of property in the hands of these monastic and conventual institutions; knowing all this, and sitting in a House which, only ten years ago, passed an Act which was most liberal in its provisions towards the Roman Catholics, yet still with the intention of establishing the principle of the laws against Mortmain, in the case of Roman Catholic institutions, I ask the House to consent to the inquiry which I now propose, narrowed and limited as its sphere is to be. I ask them, at the instance of my late Friend Sir Charles Selwyn; I ask them at the instance of high legal authorities, to inform themselves upon a subject which has become deeply interesting to this as it has been to every other country in Europe. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the existence, character, and increase of Conventual and Monastic Institutions or Societies in Great Britain, and into the terms, upon which income, property, and estates belonging to such Institutions or Societies, or to members thereof, are respectively received, held, or possessed."—(Mr. Newdegate.)


said, he had the greatest difficulty in connecting the speech of the hon. Gentleman with the terms of the Motion on which the speech was founded. That Motion consisted of two distinct and independent points. Now, so far as the House had to deal with the first part, which related to "the existence, character, and increase of Conventual and Monastic Institutions," it was necessary to bear in mind that such institutions were the natural and inevitable result of the spread and increase of that religion of which they were an essential and important part. The great majority of the Members of that House did not belong to that religion; but they ought to exercise principles of fairness and common sense, and the moment that the Roman Catholic religion was a tolerated religion the members of it ought to be allowed to exercise their faith in accordance with the rules and principles of their religion. It was inevitable that certain persons who had more ardent feelings of devotion than others would betake themselves to conventual establishments as the natural consequence of the toleration of the faith which they professed. In a country like this, to which large numbers of Roman Catholics came from Ireland and elsewhere to establish themselves, it was easy to understand the development of monastic institutions, which was the obvious concomitant of the spread of the religion itself. If he could for a moment believe that among the great mass of the population of England, among the intellectual classes, or in general public opinion or feeling, the Roman Catholic religion was making considerable progress, there might, he would admit, be some pretence for the fears which the hon. Gentleman had expressed. But as he (the Solicitor General) maintained a totally different opinion as to the real progress of that religion, he entertained no fears on the subject, and could see no good ground for the institution of any such inquiry as that which was proposed. With respect to the second part of the Motion, he apprehended there was no sufficient foundation for the assertion which the hon. Gentleman had made in the course of his speech. In law, whatever partizans—Whether lawyers or otherwise—might assert to the contrary, he (the Solicitor General) laid it down without hesitation that, with a qualification which he would pre- sently express, the Roman Catholics in this country were upon exactly the same, footing with regard to money bequests left to them for the purposes of their religion and as to the holding of property as any other subjects of the Queen. The law of Mortmain and the law of Trusts as regards them were the same; the Courts of Common Law and of Equity applied the same doctrines to them; and there was no ground for the suggestion that there was any difference whatever in the power which Roman Catholics had of acquiring, holding, or maintaining property held for the purposes of their religion, and the power which Churchmen, Wesleyans, Independents, or any other body of Christians or non-Christians might exercise in this country. There was no doubt a qualification. It was perfectly true that, as regarded the operation of the Charitable Bequests Act and the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners, Roman Catholics were practically though no longer technically exempt, and it would be extremly un-just if they were not. Three hundred years ago, at a time of great political and religious excitement, certain uses and certain practices of their religion were proscribed by Parliament, and were denominated superstitious uses; and, no doubt, property left in terms for the maintenance of these particular forms of the Roman Catholic religion would, if brought into a court of law under that name, be confiscated under that old, unrepealed law, and all such uses would be declared superstitious, and, by consequence, illegal. At present, however, most people were of opinion that Roman Catholics should be at liberty to follow out the principles of their religion, where these did not interfere with the general well-being of the State, and should be responsible to the Almighty alone for the particular forms which their belief might take. To emancipate them, therefore, from what would be the unjust and harsh though necessary operation of the courts of law while the old law remained unrepealed we remedied by one exemption an injustice created by another; but there was no ground for saying that any distinction was made between them and other sects by a law passed of late years in favour of Roman Catholics. True, there was a distinction, but it was a distinction made necessary by the state of the law, which pressed very hardly and prejudicially upon Roman Catholics. Having answered shortly the two conditions upon which the Motion was founded, he did not desire to follow the hon. Gentleman into the long argument which he had addressed to the House, being most honestly unable to appreciate how nine-tenths of it bore on the questions to be found within the four corners of this Motion. But perhaps the hon. Member would permit him to say that, as to the case of Saurin v. Starr which he had alluded to, he had fallen into very considerable mistakes as to its legal bearings. It was not the duty of a lawyer to express in this House his private opinion on matters in which he had been concerned professionally elsewhere. The duties of an advocate were one thing, those of a Member of Parliament were another, and he had always taken due care to distinguish between the two. But, without expressing any opinion upon the particular case referred to, he might be permitted to suggest that it afforded no foundation for the position of the hon. Gentleman, who assumed that the Roman Catholic-Bishop could not interfere with regard to the dowry which the plaintiff was anxious to take out of the convent, because no authority for this purpose had been received from Rome. That was a total misapprehension. The question of the dowry, the money question, never arose in the course of any investigation by the Bishop from the beginning to the end. Nor could it arise, because, as there had been a voluntary passage by Miss Saurin from one conventual institution to another, the two institutions being distinct, the dowry received by the convent in Dublin had never belonged to the convent at Hull. Therefore, when driven out of the latter institution, Miss Saurin could have no claim upon the Hull convent for money of which it had never received a shilling. The real question the Bishop had before him was whether he could absolve a nun from her vows in invitam, and it appeared that it would be necessary for that purpose that he should receive faculties from Rome, and in order to absolve her, whether she would or no, he would have to wait for these faculties. No question of property was or could be raised from first to last in any of the proceedings to which the hon. Gentleman ad- verted. The hon. Gentleman, therefore, in his (the Solicitor General's) opinion, had not succeeded in making out any case for his Motion, because, first, conventual institutions, which were the mode in which this body of Christians developed its belief, formed no proper subject for Parliamentary inquiry; and, secondly, because there was no foundation for the statement that the law was different, or was differently administered, in the case of Roman Catholics, except so far as the qualification he had adverted to altered the law, or varied the administration of it. The hon. Gentleman was probably aware that a largo proportion of Roman Catholic property was held simply on the honour of English and Irish gentlemen, without the shadow of a trust either direct or implied in the terms of the bequest. The trust was not expressed either verbally or in deed, and, therefore, no court of law or equity could deal with it. The fact that Roman Catholics were contented to trust to the honour of those who thus held property dedicated to the uses of their religion was a fact which lay outside the law, with which the law had nothing to do, and which no law could alter. A very large amount of this property was held in Protestant hands; but these Protestants were gentlemen, and there was not, so far as he was aware, a single instance in which the trust had ever been abused, and he hoped, for the honour of English gentlemen, there never would be.


said, he agreed with the Solicitor General only in his statement that the question should be approached with fairness and common sense. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, had used that expression with the view of drawing the inference that the Motion, if carried, would not be consistent either with fairness or common sense. He begged, therefore, to inform the hon. and learned Gentleman that in 1853 and 1854 the House had by majorities over and over again agreed to take the course which the hon. Member (Mr. Newdegate) now invited them to take. He had never heard anyone impugn the decision of the House in this matter, either in regard to fairness or common sense. He had listened with extreme surprise to his hon. and learned Friend laying down, in the face of the English law, the assumption that the Roman Catholics stand upon precisely the same footing in every respect as the other denominations of the country. The fact was, there was the most striking and startling contrast between the position of the Roman Catholics in relation to the law and the position of all others. There were now 216 convents and sixty-nine communities of men. In 1829 there were no communities of men, and only six convents. It was well known that when the Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed, convents were not expressly forbidden, the communities being Sisters of Mercy; but under the same Act institutions for men were declared illegal, and their existence was therefore an infringement of the laws. If anyone chose to move for a Bill to render them legal, well and good—that was a fair subject for discussion; but so long as they were allowed to multiply and to accumulate property, in defiance of the terms of the statute, how could it be said that Roman Catholics stood on the same footing with the members of other denominations? What other denomination would be allowed so to violate the law? The Solicitor General said conventual institutions were the inevitable development of the religion of Catholics, the natural outcome of their religious life. Was that a reason why the law should not take cognizance of them? This was a country in which the Roman Catholic religion was only tolerated, and therefore the case was not so strong as in the countries where it was endowed and established; but in none of those countries was it on that account considered to be exempted from all social obligations. There never was an argument so inconclusive as that of the hon. and learned Solicitor General. The very reverse of it was true. It was because conventual life was the natural outcome of the religious life of Catholics, in such a form as affected in the most intimate manner the well-being of every State, that conventual institutions had been brought within the control of the law in the most highly-civilized Catholic communities. He drew an inference precisely the reverse of that of the hon. and learned Gentleman from the admissions he had made; and he maintained that, because these institutions were the natural and necessary effect of the Roman Catholic faith, therefore it was exceedingly important, especially in a country where monasteries were an infringement of the law, that some inquiry should be instituted respecting them, and some control exercised over them. The House thought so in 1853 and 1854, and it was not much wiser or more charitable now than it was then. The hon. and learned Gentleman said the law made no distinction in respect of property between Roman Catholics and Protestants, and then he proceeded to name one striking distinction. The charitable property of all other religious denominations had been exposed to the most severe, the most searching, and the most jealous scrutiny any Commission could possibly exercise; but the Commission did not touch the Roman Catholics, and was that being equal before the law, and standing in precisely the same relation to the law? The hon. and learned Gentleman found that would not do, and then he said it was true the Roman Catholics were not exposed to this scrutiny, but they were exempt from it. There was another point, and it was that all other charitable property was inquired about and determined upon in the Courts of Chancery; but here again Roman Catholics were not touched; their property was not brought into the courts, they were exempt not only from the inquiries of the Commission, but also from the ordinary tribunals of the country. His hon. and learned Friend said this was so in point of fact, but not in point of law; then it was not lawful, but it was illegal; and yet the hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to justify it. Of course, if the Roman Catholic charities were to be brought under the jurisdiction of the courts, so far as they were established to maintain superstitious uses, they must be declared null and void; and, therefore, the hon. and learned Gentleman was landed in this conclusion—these charities being wholly contrary to English law, they were protected because they could not be taken into the courts, and their validity be there questioned. That might be a right state of things; the hon. and learned Gentleman might be right in saying that times had changed; it might be that we ought to allow the property of any man under any circumstances to be given, upon any kind of religious trust, and for any religious uses, whether superstitious or not; but until this was the law it was impossible to say that all stood upon the same footing; indeed, it was impossible to say otherwise than that Roman Catholics stood upon a footing the reverse of that occupied by others. Was it expedient that the State should take some cognizance of these communities thus practically excluded from the operation of the law? Roman Catholic States had taken cognizance of them, and within the last thirty or forty years these institutions had been put down wholesale in consequence of the mischief they did to society. These were not things to be argued, they were facts; they were matters of history which no one could dispute. When Roman Catholic States, one after another, had put down these institutions on the grounds stated, how could we hold that they had done so on insufficient grounds, and that they had acted wrongly? On the contrary, we were pretty nearly unanimous that these States had acted rightly. Again, could we be indifferent to the manner in which property, and especially real property, passed into Mortmain? Had there not been in every State the utmost jealousy on this head, and was it not justified by the history of Europe, our own country included? That history showed that, without perpetual vigilance, the property that would pass into Mortmain would be so large as seriously to interfere with the prosperity of the State. Again, these were not arguments; they were matters of history. If it were true, as was alleged, that the monastic institutions stood in this country upon a footing such as they did not stand upon in any other country of Europe; if it were true that their property stood, in relation to the law, in a position entirely the reverse of that occupied by the Church property of all other denominations; and if it were yet true that the Charities Act did not reach the Roman Catholic body and that the required enrolments were not made, what could be said but that the law was evaded? The statute was passed to enable us to ascertain not what property passed to these charities, but whether there was any reasonable ground for supposing it was applied to purposes contrary to the law; the State did not obtain the information which the statute intended to secure; and, what is more, the people did not get that protection in relation to family property which they were entitled to claim. The property was disposed of without any formal declaration of trust, or anything but an understanding upon honour, and a more perilous state of things could hardly be imagined in any community. This state of things could be carried to any extent, and the consequence would be that the Roman Catholics would always be liable to suspicion. He did not wish to say a word offensive to any Roman Catholic; but purely on grounds of State necessity and of justice to the whole community there was reason for inquiry, with a view to obtaining the information sought by this Motion.


said, he would support the Motion, as it was of the utmost importance that information concerning the property held under Mortmain should be obtained. The Motion was not directed in any invidious spirit against members of the Roman Catholic community, as the members of every other community would be willing to submit to such an inquiry. But that part of the Motion which referred to the existence and character of monastic institutions was even more important, because as these institutions existed at present there was no safeguard afforded By the law of this country for the liberty of the persons who were resident in them. This was a state of things not creditable to the people of England and exceedingly discreditable to the liberal party. He had referred to the debates on this subject recorded in Hansard, and he could not find that the insecurity of persons resident in monastic institutions had been disputed by any Member of a Liberal Government. It might be said that the Habeas Corpus Act was effective in providing that protection, but practically that was not the case. So far as any person engaged in any ordinary occupation was concerned, the very fact of his disappearence from his residence was primâfacie evidence on which a writ of Habeas Corpus could be applied for, but in the case of a person in a convent there were not the same facilities. We were told that we must trust to the honourable feeling of the Roman Catholic community. He did not doubt the honour of Roman Catholic gentlemen in the least degree; he would place the same reliance upon thorn that he would place upon Protestant gentlemen, but he would, place no more. He hoped the lion. Gentleman would go to a division upon his Motion, and that he would be successful in procuring an in- quiry, which would show whether it was possible for inmates of a convent to be confined there against their will.


pointed out that the hon. and learned Solicitor General, while he seemed to think that the existence of conventual and monastic institutions in this country was a necessity as part of the vitality of the Roman Catholic faith, had overlooked the important word in the Motion before the House, which sought an inquiry into the "character" of such institutions. The existence and increase of such institutions were important in proportion as they might regard their character to be important or otherwise. When the hon. and learned Gentleman told them the Roman Catholics must be at liberty to follow and practise their own religion he scarcely meant them to draw the inference that Roman Catholics were to do that without regard to their neighbours' liberty. There was a feeling abroad in the country that the character of these institutions was not by any means in harmony with the liberty of the subject. It was supposed that persons were forced to enter them, and that when there they were forcibly detained. ["Oh, oh!"] He was not saying that was the fact; but it was reasonable for his hon. Friend to ask the House to institute an inquiry so that these suspicions might be either set at rest or, if there was any foundation for them, that it might be known what amount of truth there was in them. The Roman Catholic Members of this House seemed to oppose anything like an inquiry into the proceedings connected with their religious opinions and convictions; but he would remind them that in proportion as they obtained the rank in this country of free citizens they must be content to submit themselves to the action of the law of the land. But in proportion as they demanded equality of privilege they claimed exemption from the law, and in proportion as they enjoyed all that Protestants enjoyed they demanded to be free from the restraints which Protestants had to submit to; and that was not right or fair. He should support his hon. Friend if he pressed the Motion to a division.


said, the hon. and learned Solicitor General had told them that he had been unable to find any connection between the speech of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire and the Motion with which he concluded. No doubt that was quite true, for the hon. and learned Gentleman was asleep for the greater part of the time during which the hon. Gentleman was speaking. He (Mr. Greene) had noticed that whenever the question of the English Church was brought forward there were many professing to be members of that Church who were always ready to join in any attempt to pull her down. If he were to speak of "the Upas tree of Romanism spreading its deadly shadow over the land" he knew how he should be received; but he would say advisedly that whenever a question affecting the Roman Catholics was brought forward it was received with great shyness and tenderness on the opposite (the Ministerial) side of the House, and sometimes, he was sorry to say, even on this side. That was sufficient to show the country that this House was not independent, and that it did not act in an independent spirit. When the House went to a division, he had no doubt that Members of the Dissenting communities would be found joining with Roman Catholics in opposing a fair and honest measure of inquiry. If the monasteries were not afraid of daylight, why should a Committee of Inquiry be refused? It was notorious that these institutions were increasing in power, and it was for the people of England to look that power in the face, and not to be led by a party. If the First Minister of the Crown asked his party to follow him—he had almost used a strong expression; but he would say quite close to the deep abyss—they would follow him there. There was always danger in stagnation, and it was quite time that the country should be alive to the fact that this House had been too much governed by a pressure from the opposite Benches, where the power of the Romish priest was brought to bear upon every act of legislation. The very Land Bill which was now before Parliament was to throw more power into the hands of the priesthood. He had heard very much said about this being a Reformed House of Parliament; but he doubted that very much, for, according to his experience, it wanted a great deal more reform. He appealed to the electors of England to narrowly watch the House. There was a want of straight-forwardness in the Members. They would sit there quietly, and then they would go into the Lobby to vote against this Motion; but out of doors they would tell you that it was the priests who had done all this evil. Any Government that denied a Motion of this kind showed that the people were not alive to the state of things. It was time that England should be awoke to the present condition of affairs. He would vote for the Motion of the hon. Member if he went alone with him into the Lobby.


said, he should like to know whether the Solicitor General would deny that by the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act these monastic institutions were made positively illegal? He admitted that the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was mellifluous and harmonious, but that did not touch the fact of illegality, and he should have no hesitation in supporting the Motion, though for party purposes, as he believed, the Government were going to support the Roman Catholics in acting against the law.


, in reply, said, he was sure that if the Solicitor General had been more minutely acquainted with the facts he would not have said that this property was in a safe condition. Parliament had considered the matter in 1853 and in 1860. He had proposed this inquiry, actuated by those who were fully cognizant of the whole legal effect of the ease, and who assured him of the absolute necessity of some inquiry, with a view of carrying out the intentions of the Legislature. With regard to the legal question, he thought he might leave the Solicitor General in the hands of the Common Serjeant (Mr. T. Chambers). But, as to the other aspects of the question, he must remind them that Petition after Petition had come to the House praying for protection to the inmates of those convents. He was prepared to show that girls when they entered them did not know to what discipline they would be subjected, and that they had not the means of communicating with their friends. He was also prepared to show that English women were inveigled out of this country and placed in convents, which deserved to be termed dungeons, abroad. He had made out his case; but the difficulty was, contract it as they might, the inquiry must be extended. He had offered the Government this—if they held him to be prejudiced, as he had been represented elsewhere, and if they could not trust him in the Chair of the Committee, he should only be too happy if the right hon. and learned Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Headlam), who was Chairman of the Mortmain Committee in 1851 and 1852, on whose Report the Legislature had acted, would serve on this Committee and take the Chair. He now submitted to their decision a grave and weighty question. He asked them humbly and respectfully, with a view to the estimation in which that great Assembly should be held elsewhere, not to turn a deaf ear to the Petitions which had been addressed to them, not to leave the law of this country different from that of every other civilized community, on a question which deeply touched the tenderest feelings and affected a mass of property accumulated beyond the control of the State.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 131; Noes 129: Majority 2.

Allen, Major Ewing, A. O.
Anderson, G. Eykyn, R.
Archdall, Captain M. Fielden, J.
Arkwright, A. P. Figgins, J.
Arkwright, R. Finch, G. H.
Armitstead, G. Finnie, W.
Assheton, R. Fowler, R. N.
Aytoun, R. S. Garlies, Lord
Bateson, Sir T. Gordon, E. S.
Beach, W. W. B. Gore, J. R. O.
Bolckow, H. W. F. Grant, Col. hon. J.
Bourne, Colonel Greaves, E.
Bright, R. Greene, E.
Brinckman, Captain Gregory, G. B.
Broadley, W. H. H. Grosvenor, hon. N.
Brown, A. H. Grosvenor. Capt. R. W.
Cadogan, hon. F. W. Grove, T. F.
Campbell, H. Guest, A. E.
Candlish, J. Hambro, C.
Cave, right hon. S. Hamilton, Lord C.
Cawley, C. E Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Chambers, T. Hamilton, Lord G.
Chaplin, H. Hay, Sir J. C. D.
Child, Sir S. Henniker-Major, hn. J.M
Cole, Colonel hon. H. A. Henry, J. S.
Corbett, Colonel Hermon, E.
Crichton, Viscount Hervey, Lord A. H. C.
Croft, Sir H. G. D. Hick, J.
Dalrymple, C. Hildyard, T. B. T.
Dalway, M. R. Hodgson, W. N.
Dickinson, S. S. Holms, J.
Dimsdale, R. Holt, J. M.
Dodson, J. G. Hornby, E. K.
Du Pre, C. G. Hutton, J.
Dyke, W. H. Jackson, R. W.
Dyott, Colonel R. Jardine, R.
Egerton, Capt. hon. F. Jenkinson, Sir G. S.
Johnston, W. Sidebottom, J.
Keown, W. Simonds, W. B.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Knox, hon. Colonel S. Smith, A.
Langton, W. G. Smith, F. C.
Lindsay, hon. Col. C. Smith, R.
Lubbock, Sir J. Smith, W. H.
M'Arthur, W. Stronge, Sir J. M.
Macfie, R. A. Talbot, J. G.
M'Lagan, P. Tipping, W.
Maitland, Sir A.C.R.G. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Mellor, T. W. Tollemache, J.
Miller, J. Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury.
Milles, hon. G. W.
Monk, C. J. Vance, J.
Neville-Grenville, R. Verner, E. W.
Noel, hon. G. J. Verner, W.
O'Neill, hon. E. Vickers, S.
Paget, R. H. Walker, Major G. G.
Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J. Walsh, hon. A.
Parry, L. Jones- Wedderburn, Sir D.
Pemberton, E. L. Whatman, J.
Playfair, L. White, J.
Powell, W. Williams, W.
Raikes, H. C. Wingfield, Sir C.
Read, C. S. Wise, H. C.
Round, J. Young, A. W.
Sandon, Viscount
Sclater-Booth, G. TELLERS.
Seymour, H. de G. Charley, W. T.
Sheridan, H.B. Newdegate, C.N.
Amcotts, Colonel W. C. Devereux, R. J.
Antrobus, E. Dodds, J.
Ayrton, right hon. A.S. Downing, M'C.
Bagwell, J. Dowse, R.
Baker, R. B. W. Duff, M. E. G.
Barclay, A. C. Edwardes, hon. Col. W.
Barry, A. H. S. Ennis, J. J.
Beaumont, H. F. Esmonde, Sir J.
Beaumont, S. A. Fagan, Captain
Bentinck, G. C. FitzGerald, rt. hn. Lord O. A.
Blennerhassett, Sir R.
Bowmont, Marquess of Fletcher, I.
Bowring, E. A. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Brady, J. Fortescue, rt. hon. C. P.
Brassey, H. A. Gavin, Major
Brewer, Dr. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Brogden, A. Gladstone, W. H.
Bruce, right hon. H.A. Gourley, E. T.
Bryan, G. L. Graham, W.
Callan, P. Gray, Sir J.
Cardwell, right hon. E. Gregory, W. H.
Carter, Mr. Alderman Greville, hon. Captain
Cartwright, W. C. Grieve, J. J.
Castlerosse, Viscount Hadfield, G.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Hartington, Marquess of
Cavendish, Lord G. Haviland-Burke, E.
Cholmeley, Captain Hay, Lord J.
Clay, J. Henderson, J.
Clive, Colonel E. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Cogan, rt. hn. W. H. F. Hyde, Lord
Coleridge, Sir J. D. James, H.
Colthurst, Sir G. C. Johnston, A.
Corbally, M. E. Kay-Shuttleworth, U. J.
Crawford, R. W. Kingscote, Colonel
Dalglish, R. Knatchbull - Hugessen, E. H.
D'Arcy, M. P.
Dease, E. Lawson, Sir W.
Delahunty, J. Lefevre, G. J. S.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Power, J. T.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Price, W. P.
Lush, Dr. Ramsden, Sir J. W.
Mackintosh, E. W. Rathbone, W.
M'Mahon, P. Rebow, J. G.
Maguire, J. F. Rylands, P.
Marling, S. S. St. Lawrence, Viscount
Martin, P. W. Salomons, Sir D.
Melly, G. Seely, C. (Lincoln)
Monsell, rt. hon. W. Seely, C. (Nottingham)
Moore, G. H. Shaw, R.
Mundella, A. J. Sherlock, D.
Munster, H. Simeon, Sir J.
Murphy, N. D. Simon, Mr. Serjeant
O'Brien, Sir P. Smith, E.
O'Conor, D. M. Stacpoole, W.
O'Conor Don, The Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
O'Donoghue, The Stuart, Colonel
O'Loghlen, rt. hon. Sir C. M. Synan, E. J.
Talbot, C. R. M.
Onslow, G. Taylor, P. A.
O'Reilly, M. W. Trevelyan, G. O.
O'Reilly-Dease, M. Vandeleur, Colonel
Otway, A. J. West, H. W.
Pease, J. W. Woods, H.
Peel, A. W. Young, G.
Philips, R. N.
Pollard-Urquhart, W. Adam, W. P.
Potter, E. Glyn, hon. G. G.