§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
moved an Address to Her Majesty for Copies of the Letter from the right hon. the First Lord of the Treasury to the hon. Member for Queen's County, dated the 30th day of November, 1870, and for other Papers. The hon. Member said, that the contest between France and Prussia, following hard on the declaration of Papal Infallibility, had produced a state of affairs in Italy which caused some correspondence between the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and other persons who were anxious to ascertain the views of Government upon this important question. There was great anxiety felt in Ireland among the members of the Roman Catholic body on the subject. Meetings were held by them and addresses forwarded to the Prime Minister soliciting the Government on behalf of the Pope—and altogether the subject had assumed a character of sufficient importance to justify a demand for the Papers relating to it. The first portion of the Papers asked for comprised the correspondence between the First Lord of the Treasury and the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Dease). Under ordinary circumstances he of course should not have moved for these letters; they were not, however, in the nature of private correspondence; they comprised a letter from the Prime Minister of a great Protestant country pledging not only himself, but the whole of the Government, to a policy inconsistent with Protestant principles. An important reference was made to this subject by The Times correspondent at Florence on the 21st of December last, when, in commenting on a recently issued Green Book, he wrote— 647Another despatch of Signor Cadorna, dated the 27th of September, shows how well the chief of the English Foreign Office understood the situation of affairs in Italy, and how warmly he recommended the Italian Government to leave alone that unfortunate business of Roma Capital. Though his advice with regard to the transfer of the capital is not accepted, he tries to persuade the Pope not to leave Rome. Mr. Otway, in a conversation he had with Signor Cadorna on the same day, seems to have insisted once more upon the necessity of postponing the transfer, and points out the difficulties the question produces in Ireland.But this matter produced difficulties in other places besides Ireland. The letter of the right hon. Gentleman excited great interest in Edinburgh, where it was keenly felt that if the spiritual functions of the Pope were officially recognized by the Prime Minister, this country would not be adhering to the principles of the Reformation—because it was well understood that the spiritual functions of the Pope had ever been opposed to civil and religious liberty. The feeling was so strong in Scotland that the letter of the Prime Minister was an emphatic condemnation of the Reformation, that the matter was discussed at a meeting of the Edinburgh Free Church Presbytery on the 28th of December last. In the course of the discussion Dr. Candlish remarked that—Mr. Gladstone stated in his letter to him that at one time he intended to publish that letter (one to Dr. C.'s friend); but that, influenced by the advice of his colleagues, he had thought it better to abstain from publishing it at this time, and to wait till the meeting of Parliament, when he would be prepared to offer any explanation which any parties in the House might seem to require.In conformity with that declaration he now asked for the letter, in order that the required explanation might be given. After this meeting a number of anxious inquirers on the Liberal side of the House met to consider the matter in Pall Mall; the consultation resulted in a letter to the Prime Minister, signed by the hon. Members for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) and Marylebone (Mr. T. Chambers), dated the 6th of January. This letter was not replied to until the 19th; and then came a correspondence commencing with "My dear Gladstone" and "My dear Kinnaird," and when it was remembered that these two letters were dated on the same day, one was anxious to know where the correspondence was concocted, who suggested the conclusion, and how it came to be published. But surely the House should be put in possession 648 of the facts when a Free Church Presbytery had been told the matter was capable of explanation, and the public generally had been assured that a private conversation in a certain house was eminently satisfactory to the distinguished Protestants who took part in it. It seemed, however, that the letter to the Prime Minister was repeated in substance in a despatch by Lord Kimberley to the Governor of Gibraltar, dated the 16th of January, 1871, in which he had said—Her Majesty's Government have not interfered in the civil affairs of the Roman States on the occasion of former events which have occurred during the reign of the present Pope, nor can they now so interfere; but the deep interest which is felt by many millions of Her Majesty's subjects, in common with the petitioners, in the position of the Pope renders all that concerns his personal dignity and independence, and freedom to exercise his spiritual functions, fit subjects for the notice of her Government, and they have not failed to take such steps as are in their power to afford to the Pope the means of security in case of need. Her Majesty desires me to state that this subject will continue to receive the careful attention of her Government, and that she has seen with much satisfaction the declaration of the Italian Government that the Pope's freedom and independence will be fully maintained, and due provision made for the support of his dignity.Possibly the explanation to be offered by the Government would be satisfactory to the Protestants of England; but, however that might be, it was eminently satisfactory to the Vicar Apostolic of Gibraltar, who writes as follows:—Her Majesty's Royal goodness, as well as the kind notice taken by Government of the Holy Father's cause, and the formal recognition set forth in Earl Kimberley's despatch of 'the deep interest felt by many millions of Her Majesty's subjects, in common with the petitioners, in the position of the Pope,' lead me to entertain every confidence that Ministers will never be satisfied that the liberty and independence of our supreme spiritual chief be left to rest on the sole security of the Italian Parliament and Government, whose policy does not offer sufficient guarantee for the future.Thus Her Majesty's Government had at the same time satisfied the Vicar Apostolic of Gibraltar, and Dr. Candlish, of the Edinburgh Free Church Presbytery. Under those circumstances he trusted the Government would not refuse these Papers, nor the House be induced to treat the matter lightly; for the policy indicated in the letter of the Prime Minister was certainly "inconsistent" in the words of the Bill of Rights "with the safety and welfare of this Protestant 649 kingdom." The hon. Member then moved the Address for Papers.
§ MR. MILLER
, in seconding the Motion, said, that the question had excited great interest in the constituency he represented, and he thanked the hon. Member for Belfast for having brought it forward. He attached the greatest importance to the production of the correspondence between the Foreign Secretary and the British Diplomatic Agent at Rome.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copies of the Letter from the Right honourable the First Lord of the Treasury to the honourable Member for Queen's County, dated the 30th day of November 1870, in which reference is made to 'the Sovereign Pontiff;' and it is declared that 'Her Majesty's Government consider all that relates to the adequate support of the dignity of the Pope, and to his personal freedom and independence in the discharge of his spiritual functions to be legitimate matter for their notice:'
Of the Correspondence between the First Lord of the Treasury and the honourable Members for Perth and Marylebone, on the same subject:
Of Despatches of the Foreign Secretary to Foreign Governments, and of the Colonial Secretary to the Governors of Malta and Gibraltar, on the same subject:
And, of all Despatches from the British Diplomatic Agent resident in Rome since the 1st day of August 1870."—(Mr. William Johnston.)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Johnston) has framed his Motion in such a manner as makes it impossible for the Government to agree to it as it stands. The hon. Member has combined a great many matters in his Motion, to some of which I do not object, but to others of them I cannot agree. But before dealing with it I will state the position the Government assumes with regard to the question. With respect to the letter to Mr. Dease, the Government adhere to the proposition it contains. The Government do not, as the hon. Member has stated, wish to have the spiritual functions of the Pope recognized or meddled with by us in any way; but the Government believe that the liberty of the head of the religion of many millions of our fellow-subjects—his liberty and personal independence—is a legitimate matter for the notice of this Government. That is the proposition we maintain and that we mean to adhere to; if the hon. Member thinks that a proposition dangerous to 650 the principle of the Reformation, all I can say is that the principles of the Reformation must be more limited than most Protestants commonly believe them to be. If my language, through its looseness, has scandalized the conscience of the hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member, I should be glad to remove that difficulty. The Motion consists of no fewer than five branches. First, it asks for the production of the letter from the First Lord of the Treasury to Mr. Dease; then for the correspondence between the First Lord of the Treasury and the hon. Members for Perth and Marylebone; thirdly, for the Despatches of the Foreign Secretary to foreign Governments; fourthly, for the Despatches of the Colonial Secretary to the Governors of Malta and Gibraltar, on the same subject; and, fifthly, for all Despatches from the British Diplomatic Agent resident in Rome since the 1st of August, 1870. Now, the Government have prepared and directed to be laid on the Table of the House Papers on the Italian question; and I think the hon. Gentleman would have exercised a sound discretion, these Papers being actually on the Table, or, certainly, on the very point of being laid on the Table, if he had waited a little to see what they contained. We could not accede to a Motion for the production "of all Despatches from the British Diplomatic Agent resident in Rome" since the 1st of August, 1870. That is not the manner in which, the House usually deals with a Motion for such Papers. It has been the custom of the House to leave to the Government a discretion as to those despatches which it may be advisable to lay before Parliament, and as to those other despatches, or portions of them, which it may be advisable to withhold. If the object of the hon. Gentleman is—as I daresay it is—to question the matter of this correspondence, I think he can obtain that object in a very simple manner by moving a portion of his Motion to which I know of no objection—namely, for the production of the Despatches of the Colonial Secretary to the Governors of Malta and Gibraltar. These are regular official documents, and if he likes to move for them he is perfectly welcome to them as far as I am concerned, and they will give him the language of the Government in an authentic form. With regard to producing "all Despatches 651 from the British Diplomatic Agent resident at Rome," as we have laid the Italian Papers on the Table, I do not think the hon. Gentleman should endeavour to force on the House such a sweeping Motion at the present moment. Let him exercise his discretion as to that point afterwards. With respect to the first part of the Motion, I think, in the first place, it is unnecessary; the hon. Gentleman is in possession of those Papers, inasmuch as he recites a portion of them in his Motion. On the other hand, I feel considerable difficulty in acceding to a proposal which I think would form a bad precedent. The hon. Member proposes to convert into official documents, to be produced in this House, a correspondence between a Minister and certain Members of this House. This is not a proceeding which the House would do well to establish as a precedent without very careful consideration. It often happens that a Member of this House may write to a public Office on a matter of public interest and may receive an answer that is afterwards published in the newspapers. That sometimes occurs. But I doubt whether it is desirable, without laying down any rule for its limitation, to establish a practice of converting such letters into official Papers. The hon. Gentleman should not suppose it is necessary that everything should be made an official Paper of and laid on the Table in order that it may be animadverted upon in the House. In this case there is no difficulty whatever in his making such animadversions, because the Papers are on the Table, which he regards as the corpus delicti. But on account of my objection to laying down a precedent for calling for the production, as official documents, of all correspondence that may pass between Members of this House and a Minister, and which may subsequently be published in the newspapers, I am very sorry that I cannot agree to this Motion as it stands.
§ MR. GREENE
said, he thought the House had a right to the production of the Papers referred to in that Motion; but he confessed he did not lay much stress on the correspondence between the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) and the Prime Minister. They could all see that the hon. Gentleman had come to the rescue of his right hon. Friend; for when he first read the Prime Minister's 652 letter he could not have thought that a man of his acuteness could ever have committed such words to paper; nor was he singular in that opinion, for the matter had caused the greatest sensation in Scotland. The Prime Minister declared that—Her Majesty's Government consider all that relates to the adequate support of the dignity of the Pope, and to his personal freedom and independence in the discharge of his spiritual functions to be legitimate matter for their notice.He would ask the right hon. Gentleman how far he thought that interference might be legitimately carried? If they were to interfere at all in a matter that did not concern this country—supposing the independence of the Pope to be affected, was their interference to be backed up by nothing more than moral force? The people of this country stood in doubt as to the intentions of the Government on this matter, and felt they ought to have a direct answer as to whether we had anything to do with the Pope or no. Surely they could leave the Pope very well to take care of himself. He trusted there were still some Members of the Liberal party left who would adhere to the Protestant feeling of the country. This country did not interfere with the liberty of the Pope, nor ought it to be called upon to defend that liberty, if it should be in danger, from any foreign Power. He regretted that the subject had not been brought forward in a more definite form; but let the Government tell them plainly how far they meant to protect the Pope if his liberty or independency was in jeopardy.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I take a somewhat different view of this subject from that in which it has been treated; because, having been a Member of this House in 1848, I remember well the long discussions which took place at that time with regard to the proposal made for establishing relations with his Holiness the Pope. After lengthened debates in both Houses, it was decided that it would be impolitic and utterly inconsistent with the character of the Government of this country, that any relations whatever should be established between the Government of Her Majesty and the Pope in his spiritual capacity. This was decided after several Divisions. Objections to the Diplomatic Relations Bill, which was then introduced by the Government, were taken by the Duke of Wellington, 653 one of the Ministers who promoted the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829. I advert to this fact in order to show that the noble Duke could not be actuated by a spirit of intolerance; but that, on grounds of a recognized policy, as one of the Ministers who passed the Relief Act of 1829, he objected to the Bill introduced by the Liberal Government of that day, because it would have established relations between the Government of Her Majesty, whose only title to the Throne rested on the fact that she was the representative of a Protestant family, and the Pope in his capacity of Sovereign Pontiff. Lord Eglinton also moved and carried a clause in the House of Lords, to the effect that the future relations of the Government of Her Majesty with the Government of the Roman States should by law be limited to communication with the Pope in his temporal character only as Sovereign of the Pontifical States. That is now the law of the United Kingdom, and that law was passed for the express purpose of excluding the legalization of any relations between the Government of Her Majesty, as the Protestant Sovereign of these realms, and the Pope, as Sovereign Pontiff, by which description it was fully explained in debate, the Pope in his spiritual capacity was described. Now, Sir, we have had a pretty plain avowal from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that he considers it to be his duty to violate the intention of the law—because, according to that law, the ancient restrictions upon the action of the Government are clearly retained. I will not trouble the House with the quotation; but it is expressly recited in that Act that nothing therein contained shall be taken to justify any Prime Minister of this country in entering into any relations with the Pope in his spiritual capacity. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman cheers what I say. Let me ask him what business it is of his to support this spiritual authority at all?
I said that we had no relations whatever with the spiritual functions of the Pope; that our business was, so far as it is declared here to be legitimate matter for our notice, with his freedom and independence in the exercise of them, but as nothing whatever to do with those spiritual functions.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
The right hon. Gentleman's definition is so fine that really my blunt vision cannot perceive it. He says that he does nothing to violate the intentions of the Act of Parliament, because he does not enter into relations with the Pope in his spiritual capacity, and, at the same time, in answer to a Roman Catholic Member of this House, he writes that he considers it his duty to maintain the independence of the Pope in the exercise of those very spiritual functions. This was in answer to an application made to him, founded upon the fear that the Pope may be coerced in the exercise of his spiritual authority. Now, supposing that that fear were to be realized, which is the anticipation upon which all this proceeds, the right hon. Gentleman has engaged, he tells us, and intends to use the power of England in removing the hindrances to the free exercise of the spiritual authority of the Pope. [Mr. GLADSTONE: "No."] Well, Sir, had he not better give us the correspondence which will explain to us what he really means? Since, I can answer for it, that, at this moment, throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, it is believed and understood that the engagement of the right hon. Gentleman extends to this—that, without the Pope's having sought the hospitality of England by going to Malta—a contingency which was contemplated by the late Lord Palmerston; for I put the question twice myself to him, and his reply will be found in The Standard, and that answer I commend to the study of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, who cheers me—the Prime Minister has pledged the honour of this country to maintain the independence of the Pope in his spiritual functions. I should be very glad if the replies given by the present Prime Minister were in the sense of Lord Palmerston; but the right hon. Gentleman says, and I will read his words to the House—That Her Majesty's Government consider all that relates to the adequate support of the dignity of the Pope, and to his personal freedom and independence in the discharge of his spiritual functions to be legitimate matter for their notice.Well, Sir, that has been announced to all Europe, and the right hon. Gentleman is held now to stand in the position of having almost, if not quite, pledged the honour of this country to the maintenance 655 of the Pope's independence in the exercise of his spiritual functions—those very functions with which the right hon. Gentleman is forbidden by law to interfere. I think that the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Johnston) has rendered a public service by asking for these Papers. I am confident of this—that no one who, like myself, remembers what took place in Parliament in 1847 and 1848, or who has carefully read the Diplomatic Relations Act as it stands in the statute book, can fail to see that, instead of limiting his interference to the offer of protection to the Sovereign Pontiff of the Roman States, in his temporal capacity and as a temporal Sovereign, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has distinctly transgressed the limits of the statute by undertaking to maintain the independence and the spiritual functions of the Pope. And, Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman is about to frame some new statute to authorize his conduct, I trust that he will not fail to define the limits between the temporal and spiritual functions of the Pope; a task which, hitherto, has been too much for all the sagacity of the statesmen of Europe for centuries. The intention of the right hon. Gentleman is clearly this—to maintain the authority—the spiritual authority—of the Pope. Yes; that is the construction which plain Englishmen put upon this letter; and it is also the construction put upon it in another part of the United Kingdom—in Ireland. Sir, I am not surprised at the deep and earnest feeling which pervades the country on this subject, and I hope that the hon. Member for Belfast will press his Motion to a Division.
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
reminded the House that the question before them was not the spiritual power of the Pope, but simply whether certain Papers ought to be laid upon the Table. The House ought to bear in mind that the whole question would be brought under its consideration on Friday next, when the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) was brought forward. It was most unfair that, on an occasion like the present, when Ministers had no power to explain their language, statements should be made which would go before the country without explanation.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I cannot agree with the statement of the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. W. H. Gregory), that the Motion to be brought on on Friday next has anything to do with the question now before the House. The two questions are entirely distinct. The Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly), which will be brought before the House on Friday next, involves the Italian question — that is to say, the manner in which Rome has been taken possession of by the King of Italy, and it has nothing to do with the one now before us, which is whether certain particular correspondence should be produced or not. We have heard the answer of the right hon. Gentleman; he takes an exception to certain portions of the Motion, which I think are well founded. The objection, however, that he makes to the production of a copy of his letter to the hon. Member for the Queen's County (Mr. Dease), on the ground that to produce it would be to make official correspondence between a Minister and a Member of this House, cannot, I think, be sustained. I can see no objection in principle to the production of this correspondence. The right hon. Gentleman has written a letter which has attracted great public notice, and which is of a nature that very much touches the feelings of a large portion of the population of this country and of a large section of the Members of this House; and it having merely been seen copied in a newspaper, a perfectly natural and fair desire has been expressed that this House should be put in possession of an official copy of that document, in order that they may be satisfied as to the actual character of a communication made by the Prime Minister to a Member of this House upon a subject of thorough importance and interest to the country. Under these circumstances, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will re-consider his decision in this matter. I cannot, however, help thinking that the hon. Member who brought this subject forward would do well, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, to limit his Motion to that part which relates to the production of the right hon. Gentleman's letter.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
said, he would assent to the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet, and would merely press for the 657 production of an official copy of the right hon. Gentleman's letter to Mr. Dease.
The hon. Member has called for certain Papers, to the production of which I do not think I should be justified in assenting; but, at the same time, I am desirous of concurring with him in an arrangement by which the substantial object of the Motion will be attained. I do not wish to be responsible for the establishment of a new precedent for the production of correspondence between a Minister and Members of this House; but if the hon. Member wishes merely to obtain an official copy of my letter, he can attain that object by providing himself with a copy of the letter—if he cannot do so, I dare say I can supply him—and asking me whether it is a genuine document, and he can then take any proceedings with respect to it that he thinks fit.
§ MR. SPEAKER
There seems to me to be a difficulty as to the form of the Motion of the hon. Member for Belfast. He has moved an Address to the Crown for Copies of certain Papers; but, in effect, his Motion is merely the expression of a desire that a certain letter written by the Prime Minister to a Member of this House should be produced. I do not think the form of an Address to the Crown for a letter that is not in the possession of any Public Department is a proper one.
§ After a brief consultation with Mr. W. JOHNSTON,
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member for Belfast desires to withdraw his Motion for an Address, and to be permitted to move simply for the production of the letter to the hon. Member for the Queen's County.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Moved, "That there be laid before this House, a Copy of the Letter from the Right honourable the First Lord of the Treasury to the honourable Member for Queen's County, dated the 30th day of November 1870, in which reference is made to 'the Sovereign Pontiff;' and it is declared that 'Her Majesty's Government consider all that relates to the adequate support of the dignity of the Pope, and to his personal freedom and independence in the discharge of his spiritual functions to be legitimate matter for their notice.'"—(Mr. William Johnston.)
The First Lord of the Treasury is one of the Commissioners of the Treasury, and is also a Member of this House. In the double 658 capacity, therefore, of First Lord of the Treasury and Member of the House I am not willing to accede to a Motion of this kind, which I believe to be wholly without precedent, and which, if carried, would result in no practical convenience. I have pointed out to the hon. Member a simple and easy method by which he can place the letter on the records of the House; and if he does not choose to avail himself of that method I have no course open but to oppose his Motion.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken. The only effect of the method suggested by the right hon. Gentleman would be to place the letter in Hansard's Debates, and not upon the records of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman could suggest a mode by which the letter would appear upon the Journals of that House, he, for one, would be willing to accede to it.
§ MR. CARDWELL
I should like, Sir, to ask you a question on this subject. If the letter is to be produced, I presume it must be produced by some person, and I should like to know upon whom the order to produce is to be made.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 90; Noes 153: Majority 63.