§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
, in rising to call the attention of the House to the irregular and clandestine communications now passing between Her Majesty's Government and the Vatican; and to move—That, while recognizing the value of a good understanding between this Country and the Papal See, this House is of opinion that all communications between any of Her Majesty's Ministers and the authorities of the Vatican should be placed on official record in accordance with the constitutional practice in diplomatic affairs, and should be conducted with the cognizance of Parliament,said, he wished to explain, in the first instance, that he did not bring forward his Motion in any spirit of hostility to the Roman Catholic Church; he only desired that any communications which passed between this country and the Papal See should be carried on in a regular manner, and in accordance with what took place between the Representatives of other countries. But before entering upon that question, he desired to refer to what had fallen from the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. That hon. Gentleman had expressed himself aggrieved at his having charged the Government with defraying Mr. Errington's expenses out of the Secret Service Fund; but he had had that information on authority that left no doubt on his mind on the subject. The expenditure of the Secret Service money was perfectly Constitutional; but it ought not to be employed in the payment of a salary to a Diplomatic Agent. In "another place" Lord Granville had denied that Mr. Errington's expenses had been paid at all; but the denial was made in such a manner that it amounted to no denial at all. He said that Mr. Errington had not received any money. That might be perfectly true, for nobody supposed that when a gentleman was engaged on business of that kind he received the money for every pound of butter, and every cab he hired; at the conclusion of his mission he sent in his 888 account, and the account was settled. But he would not lay stress upon that point; his contention was that they had no right to send a mission to any Foreign Potentate or Sovereign without the facts and circumstances being recorded in the archives of the Foreign Office. It was idle and immaterial to say that Mr. Errington was not paid; there were embassies upon which plenty of gentlemen would be perfectly ready to serve for the honour of the mission. Nor was the comparison made between the mission of Mr. Errington and the messages intrusted to Lord O'Hagan a fair one; it was quite erroneous. It was true that a gentleman like Lord O'Hagan might very well receive a message to deliver in case he met the person for whom it was intended; but it was quite different when a gentleman went to reside in Rome with a letter expressing the confidence of the Government in him as a medium of authentic communication. He would read a short extract in support of his view from a work which formed a proper complement to the work which they owed to Sir Erskine May. It was a book written by Mr. Alpheus Todd on the Constitutional history of this country. It was there pointed out that all the communications passing between the Foreign Secretary and the Representatives of the Crown abroad upon matters of public importance should be committed to writing, in order that a record might be preserved in the Foreign Office, and in due course submitted to Parliament. Now, he had never asked that any documents connected with Mr. Errington's mission should be submitted if it were inconvenient to do so. He had only contended that the Correspondence should be placed on record, so that when Her Majesty's Government came to leave Office they should leave in the archives of the Foreign Office some traces of the negotiations with the Vatican. There was another remarkable statement in another of Mr. Todd's works which had reference to the question of private letters. He said that communications frequently passed between the Foreign Secretary and diplomatic servants abroad. These letters were strictly secret; but, as Mr. Todd pointed out, they had been severely animadverted upon in Parliament. However, it was the opinion of Lord Wodehouse, Lord Clarendon, and others that these private letters were in- 889 dispensable. He maintained that Lord Granville, in his recent dealings with the Vatican and the Court of Rome, had established a system of secret diplomacy. I was a system which he conceived to be dangerous to this country, not because Lord Granville obtained information that was not given to Parliament or to his Successors, but hereafter, when the Government was changed, sooner or later it might be found that certain assurances had been given to Rome or received by England which were not on record. Thus, the continuity of their diplomatic correspondence would be severed, and in a manner full of peril to the country. His first knowledge of this matter, after some private letters which he received, was derived from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford, who made a most eloquent speech on diplomatic relations between this country and the Vatican, making special allusion to Mr. Errington's mission. The Bishop said that Mr. Errington was in Rome, but had no strict mission from the Government. He held a letter of confidence, so that he might be a medium of direct communications between the Government and the Holy See, without any salary or regular appointment. Now, in the time of the late Pope it was a recognized thing that a Representative of Her Majesty's Government should be stationed at Rome; but all the despatches written to him or from him were laid on the Table of the House. He (Sir H. Drum-mond Wolff) stated on good authority the other day that Cardinal Jacobini had informed Mr. Errington that he would be received as the "recommended agent of the British Government." A great many people who had been to Rome stated that Mr. Errington was received in that capacity by the Vatican; and he should like to know whether Lord Granville ever saw the letter which verified these statements? Cardinal Jacobini received Mr. Errington in that capacity. Lord Granville, as everyone knew, wrote a letter with regard to Mr. Errington's mission. The Bishop of Salford said this letter had been written and submitted to Cardinal Jacobini. He (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) did not object to communications with the See of Rome. He believed it was absolutely necessary that there should be an understanding with the powers of the Vatican. He felt it the more because he knew 890 that Mr. Errington had been sent to Rome with the view of arranging matters with regard to Ireland. Well, he was afraid Mr. Errington had not succeeded. At all events, he had tried to succeed. That he had been engaged in important negotiations no one could doubt, for had they not seen Mr. Errington, an Irish Member, coming to England in hot haste to vote for the clôture, and then hurrying back to Rome, after only a couple of days' stay in this country? Would this have happened had not Mr. Errington some very important business on hand? But, while he saw reasons for the appointment of Mr. Errington, he could not reconcile the statements made at different times by the Prime Minister with the statements made by the Bishop of Salford. The Bishop of Salford eloquently described the enormous power which the Pope exercised over the Christian community throughout the world. The Pope was spoken of by the Bishop as the Supreme Director of Men's Souls, and he added—"If there be a moral power on the earth, it resides in the Pope." And then the Bishop proceeded to say that it was an undisputed fact that the Pope exercised great moral power and authority through the territories of the British Empire. He could scarcely reconcile the reasons which the Bishop of Salford gave for the sending of Mr. Errington to Rome with the powerful protests against the influence of the Vatican made by the present Prime Minister when the late Government were in power. He had read a book on the Vatican decrees in their bearing on civil allegiance. It was there claimed that the loyalty of the subject and his civil duty were placed at the mercy of a Foreign Potentate; and in a subsequent work the right hon. Gentleman asserted with regard to the Vatican decrees that, in the strictest sense, they claimed for the Pope a supreme power over loyalty and civil duty of the subject. And these works were published as protests against that pretension. It was to the Pope that the right hon. Gentleman now appealed; and he must say that he did not wonder that the Government wished to conceal the Correspondence. There could be no doubt that the difficulty at Gibraltar helped to lead up to Mr. Errington's mission; and the Bishop of Salford made some significant allusions 891 to that subject. It was in consequence of that understanding with the Pope that a most monstrous oppression, as he could prove from Blue Books laid before the House, had been committed by the Colonial Office against the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Gibraltar; and that had been done against the wishes and the advice of the Governor of Gibraltar himself. He would ask the House to allow him for one moment to enter into this Correspondence about the Gibraltar business, because he maintained that a great wrong had been done by Her Majesty's Government towards the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Gibraltar. For some time there had been a feeling of great bitterness between the laity and the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church in Gibraltar with regard to the administration of temporalities of their Church. The laity complained, on many occasions, that the clergy endeavoured to have the administration of property which did not belong to them. In September, 1869, Lord Granville, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his enthusiasm for disestablishment, wanted to disestablish the Church at Gibraltar, and gave instructions that the churches and chapels there should be handed over to the different communions. On the death of the late Vicar Apostolic a new one was named, who, for different reasons, was unpalatable to the managing junta of elders. Until Mr. Errington went to Rome Her Majesty's Government had taken the part of the congregation, and made representations to the Holy See against the appointment of Dr. Canilla as the new Vicar Apostolic. In October, 1881, however, the Vatican having declined to accede to a Memorial that the appointment should be withdrawn, Lord Kimberley, in a despatch to Lord Napier of Magdala, as Governor, took a different view from that which the Ministry had previously held. It appeared that Mr. Weld was sent to Gibraltar to settle the dispute as to the appointment of Dr. Canilla. Lord Napier of Magdala, writing on the subject of Mr. Weld's mission, said it was not clear what his object or intentions were; but it seemed to be highly necessary that this Church scandal should come to an end; and it appeared that nobody would accept the appointment of Dr. Canilla as his pastor, and the dispute would probably lead to violence. The mission of Mr. Weld, so 892 far from settling the question, very much aggravated the feeling against the appointment of Dr. Canilla. Mr. Weld said he would not leave Gibraltar until he had fulfilled his mission. He declined to produce any credentials from the Pope. That appeared from the Report of the Attorney General; and this also—that in consequence of the irritated feeling of the majority of the Roman Catholics, it would be necessary that the police and military should always be present at the ministrations of Dr. Canilla. It was shown that the Roman Catholics had, from time immemorial, had a right to the management of the temporalities of the Church, and that a feeling of great dissatisfaction prevailed as to the way in which those temporalities had been disposed of. It was for the Secretary of State to determine whether it was necessary or expedient for the Government to interfere with regard to the appointment, and it was shown that such a course as that threatened could only have the effect of bringing the local authorities in conflict with the inhabitants, and that the gravest consequences might ensue. What was the answer of Lord Kimberley? The noble Lord seemed to have acted in a manner which was quite inexplicable in the case of one of his enlightened judgment. He gave orders that measures should at once be taken to enforce obedience to the law and to enable the Vicar Apostolic, or other ecclesiastical authorities, legally constituted, to have access to the Church buildings from which one clergyman, who had gone over to take possession, had been expelled. But who had said that this Vicar Apostolic was legally constituted? The people said "No;" and yet Lord Kimberley, without giving any reasons for so doing, ordered the Governor of Gibraltar, in the most discourteous manner, to make use of force in order that this Vicar Apostolic might be installed. There was no despatch after that of Sir Augustus Paget; but it seemed as if there must have been some sort of secret communication with the Pope, whereby it was ascertained that he considered the new Vicar Apostolic properly constituted. Lord Kimberley, therefore, ordered the troops which on the last occasion had been employed ineffectually against the Boers to be more effectually employed against the inhabitants of Gibraltar. Lord Napier, who seemed to 893 foresee the difficulties of the situation, then wrote that he regretted that the situation remained unchanged, and that there was no indication of conciliation. The course the local Government had taken from the commencement was with the object of not identifying the Government with a question of Church discipline, and of the appointment of a dignitary whose installation was strenuously opposed by the population. In reply to that letter, Lord Kimberley renewed his orders, and ignored the tone of remonstrance in which Lord Napier wrote. He said he had carefully considered the despatch of Lord Napier, and, while approving the general policy therein referred to, he must impress the paramount obligation of preventing disorder. He went on to say that his instructions contained in his last letter must be observed in their integrity, and maintained as long as required. In that despatch Lord Kimberley, who in 1869 had sought to disestablish the Church at Gibraltar for some secret reason, gave the most peremptory orders without, apparently, inquiring into the merits of the case, and against the opinion of Lord Napier, instructing him to take steps to force the congregation out of the church, and impose on them a Vicar Apostolic who was distasteful to them. The result was that the congregation were ejected, the troops violently invaded the Church, the doors were broken in and many people arrested. And all that seemed to be done for no earthly reason except that which was stated by the Bishop of Salford—namely, that Mr. Errington might obtain a good understanding with the Church of Rome. He (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) made this Motion in no spirit of hostility towards the Church of Rome itself. On the contrary, he was of opinion that there should be a free and full understanding between the Government and the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church, and that we should try to conciliate the members of that communion in Ireland and in other parts; but he maintained that it was an unconstitutional and unfair act on the part of the Government to keep Papers concealed in such a manner that they would not be handed down to the successor of the present Minister at the Foreign Office. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, while recognising the value of a good understanding between this Country and the Papal See, this House is of opinion that all communications between any of Her Majesty's Ministers and the authorities of the Vatican should he placed on official record in accordance with the constitutional practice in diplomatic affairs, and should be conducted with the cognizance of Parliament."—(Sir Henry Wolff.)
Sir, it was the intention of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) to have followed the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), because on various points he is more conversant with the particulars of this question than I am; but, at the same time, as regards the main points of the hon. Gentleman's speech, and the very decided objections that the Government entertain to his Motion, I think I may, without any fear, undertake to state them. Now, Sir, when I listened to the hon. Gentleman throughout his interesting statement, what I was struck with most was the power of imagination by which, having got hold of a very few fragmentary circumstances, being driven on by an intense suspicion of those with whom he is dealing, and being abundantly gifted with creative imagination, he has constructed a scheme and a system out of the very slenderest materials, which, when you come to notice and point out the defects of the evidence, entirely crumbles to the ground and vanishes. That I believe to be the state of the case with the hon. Gentleman; and he will be able to judge himself, in some degree, whether I am at all warranted in making a statement of that kind. The last moiety of the speech of the hon. Gentleman was taken up with, as it appears to me, an unwarrantable attack upon my noble Friend Lord Kimberley, with reference to a series of transactions in Gibraltar, which, no doubt, are of considerable interest. The hon. Gentleman founds his allusions to these transactions on a statement in the speech of a Roman Catholic Bishop in this country in reference to them; and this Roman Catholic Bishop gives his own opinion, or hypothesis, that something that has been done in Gibraltar has probably arisen from what the hon. Gentleman persists in calling the "mission" of Mr. Errington. Well, Sir, it is a fair enough point that is raised by the hon. Gentleman—a very fair and a 895 very fit subject for discussion; but, at the same time, I cannot admit the correctness of his remarks upon it. His statement is that Lord Kimberley has insisted that the Governor of Gibraltar and the Roman Catholic community should accept Dr. Canilla as Vicar Apostolic. Now, Sir, that is a very serious affair, on which I must say it appeared to me that the extracts read by the hon. Gentleman did not, in the faintest degree, bear out his statement. No extract which the hon. Gentleman read contained any such instruction to the Governor of Gibraltar. Again, the hon. Gentleman says that Mr. Errington was at work as a secret agent in this matter. That is, doubtless, a very fair subject for discussion upon the Papers before us; but I would point out that in those Papers Mr. Errington does not at all appear, and that there is no evidence of any necessity for the Government to work through a secret agent, for there is a public agent, Sir Augustus Paget, who appears as the agent and the organ of the British Government. The hon. Gentleman has also referred to certain conduct of Lord Kimberley, founded on the proceedings of Sir Augustus Paget, and has stated that Mr. Errington was employed, with the sanction of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in some communication which, it appears, he has been able to hold with the Vatican. I was not aware that he would have been able to hold such communication. There it is, and I see no reason to be ashamed of it. I see no reason to disapprove of it. There is a certain despatch of Lord Kimberley's, founded, apparently, upon Sir Augustus Paget's proceedings. I need not say that I do not admit the charges against Lord Kimberley which the hon. Gentleman has made; but I am not prepared to defend Lord Kimberley, simply because I know nothing about it. What I am in a position to say is, that I believe that a matter more purely imaginative than to say, as the hon. Gentleman has done, that Mr. Errington has been at work as the agent of the British Government in regard to this affair at Gibraltar never was concocted by an ingenious mind. I have the strongest conviction that Lord Kimberley never would, either by himself or in conjunction with Lord Granville, empower Mr. Errington to act in that capacity without 896 making the circumstance known to me; and I can only say that, except by the hon. Gentleman, I have never in my life heard the name of Mr. Errington mentioned in connection with these proceedings at Gibraltar; and I beg, therefore, entirely to withhold my belief from that which the hon. Gentleman has, in perfect good faith, imagined, and my assent to his Motion in so far as that very important, if not main, prop of his Motion, which is founded upon this supposition—namely, that there has been a course of action by Mr. Errington in this matter on the part of the Government—is concerned. Well, then, the hon. Gentleman founds himself upon two suppositions. One of them is that Lord Granville had organized, through Mr. Errington, a system of secret diplomacy, and the other is that it is perfectly clear that Mr. Errington is now occupied at Rome in some important and secret business with the Vatican. Sir, with regard to Mr. Errington's return to Rome, I can only say that, so far as I am acquainted with the facts—and I apprehend if Lord Granville had organized this system of secret diplomacy he would have made me conversant with what he was about—Mr. Errington has returned to Rome upon purely private considerations. Moreover, I have heard—I rather think I have known—that Mr. Errington did acquaint Lord Granville, that there was a private consideration which made him anxious to return to Rome. He takes a very great interest, I believe, founded upon personal acquaintance—but I am not able to say whether that acquaintance is intimate or not—he takes a great interest in the promotion of Dr. M'Cabe, Archbishop of Dublin, to the Cardinalate, and as the ceremonial connected with Dr. M'Cabe's advancement was to take place after Easter, I believe Mr. Errington returned to Rome on that account. I am giving you this information merely as that which I have had no recent opportunity of verifying, so as to be precisely accurate. I merely give it as what I think to be the case; but what I will state positively to be the case, so far as I know—so far as my knowledge goes—is that Mr. Errington has no mission of any kind at this moment, and no purpose in view with regard to an agency of any kind in connection with Her Majesty's Government. I hope the 897 hon. Gentleman will clearly and distinctly understand me in that sense; but, whether he does or does not so understand me, I trust the House will. The hon. Gentleman has done me the great honour to refer to certain publications of mine, and I am always very glad when I find that any individual, and especially if he happens to be an opponent, has conferred upon me the very great compliment of reading anything that I have written. But I am afraid the hon. Member, although he has quoted me, has not read the book. [Sir H. DRUMMOND WOLFF: Yes; I have.] Then, Sir, I am extremely sorry to say, if he has read the book, he has not profited by it. He has not remembered the book, for I am quite sure if he had remembered it he would not have made the citation that he has made. He would have made his citation such as to convey a true account of what was stated by me upon that occasion. He has quoted from me the statement that, under the decrees of the Vatican Council, the Pope had made claims upon the civil allegiance of English and Irish and Scotch Roman Catholics, which placed their civil allegiance at his mercy. Having made that half quotation, he says that I, who made that allegation when I was out of Office, now that I am in Office have committed myself upon those claims of the Pope of Rome, and have made a request to him to act upon those powers to which I have so greatly objected formerly; "and no wonder, therefore," says the hon. Gentleman, "the Prime Minister is very anxious, under these circumstances, to conceal the correspondence on this subject." Now, I am going to destroy the entire fabric of the hon. Gentleman's imagination. It is quite true that I stated in that publication that the claims made on behalf of His Holiness did amount to a claim of command over civil allegiance; but if the hon. Gentleman will kindly refer—though he has an advantage over me, for I am stating now from recollection of writings to which I have not recently referred—to those publications, and make himself thoroughly acquainted with them, he will find I stated that those claims of mastery over civil allegiance were not recognized by the Roman Catholic subjects of the Queen, and that their loyalty and civil allegiance were perfectly undisputed. Therefore, 898 how could I appeal to those claims of the Pope over the Roman Catholic subjects of the Queen, when I myself had declared in print that the Roman Catholic subjects of the Queen, so far as I was able to judge, did not allow those claims? I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will see that I have no great motive for concealing any correspondence, if there had been any—which there is not—between Mr. Errington and myself. The hon. Gentleman says there is no analogy between the case of Lord O'Hagan and Mr. Errington. There is a very great analogy between them. Essentially, they are precisely the same. Mr. Errington is not what the hon. Gentleman supposed. He says to-day he sees no importance in the question whether Mr. Errington is paid or not. He sees no importance in it now; but, unless I am mistaken, he did so a short time ago, when he came forward with a positive statement that the hon. Gentleman was paid for his services.
Very well; the hon. Member says that his expenses were paid. The hon. Gentleman saw great importance in the point before; but my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, stretching a good deal—out of deference to the hon. Gentleman—the wise and salutary rule of public action, has stated that he was entirely mistaken with regard to it. To-day the hon. Member says that he dismisses that subject from his mind; but if he continues to believe that those expenses are paid, he ought to have some evidence to give in support of that belief. Really he is not entitled—it is not fair, it is not just—in the face of a distinct and official contradiction from my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whom he has drawn into the field, to state as that which he believes that which my hon. Friend near me has taken upon himself to deny. I will say, then, for myself, that Mr. Errington is not a paid agent of Her Majesty's Government. I say that the hon. Gentleman is really quite mistaken in supposing that Lord Granville has organized a system of secret diplomacy, and for this plain reason, that he has organized no system whatever. Mr. Errington, as has been stated 899 again and again in this House, went to Rome on his own account; and, as he went to Rome on his own account, Lord Granville availed himself of the opportunity offered by the journey to Rome of a Gentleman, a Member of Parliament, an Irishman, a man of high intelligence, and entirely to be trusted and relied on as deeply attached to his country, to carry certain communications with respect to the state of Ireland to the Vatican, and then to assist the Pope in completing his knowledge on the subject. Those communications were transmitted to the Vatican through Mr. Errington, without any reference to the claims of the Pope in 1870. The British Government has known for a very long time that the Pope was a great social power in every country, and perhaps in Ireland more than any other country, where there are a very large mass of Roman Catholic believers. He is a great social power, and in a time of great social disturbance, Lord Granville was desirous that the Pope should be well informed on the subject. He found more than one Gentleman going to Rome whom he could trust to carry this information, and he made use of both of the two channels referred to, the difference between Lord O'Hagan and Mr. Errington being that Mr. Errington went first, and that he stayed longer. But to convey information was not the purpose of Mr. Errington's visit, as far as the Government are acquainted with it, because we have no control over the private and personal action of Mr. Errington in Rome. To convey information was a purpose which he undertook to fulfil on the part of the Government; and I believe I am strictly correct in saying that, while conveying that information, we submitted no request whatever to the Pope at Rome. The hon. Gentleman's statement that secret communications were going on is wholly destitute of foundation. Mr. Errington has been in England, but I have not seen him. My belief is, that his return to Rome was a return for personal purposes, and, if I am rightly informed, he had a natural reason for going back to Rome. It is not for me to say—I have no reason to know—whether he intends to prolong his stay there or not; but it is quite plain that the hon. Gentleman is interested in the installation of a Cardinal there, and it has nothing to do 900 with any secret system of diplomacy. The hon. Gentleman refers to an expression, which he seems to place great stress upon, that Mr. Errington was described, with the knowledge of Lord Granville, as an agente racommendato, or "recommended agent," of the British Government. I cannot from recollection say whether that was so or not; but I believe it is perfectly possible that it was the fact. If the hon. Member will only limit the interpretation to be placed upon that phrase, it may be quite correct that the expression was used even with the knowledge of Lord Granville. That Mr. Errington was "recommended" is perfectly true; but then he was not a well-known public character, not a man like Lord O'Hagan, who had for many years played an important part in the Roman Catholic community of Ireland, and borne the Office, which he has only just surrendered, of Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Mr. Errington was recommended not, I believe, by any letter from Lord Granville with authority, but by a letter from Lord Granville to Mr. Errington himself, in which Lord Granville put Mr. Errington in a condition to show, if he found it necessary, that he was a man on whose honour and intelligence the most entire reliance could be placed by any Government. We may take it, then, that he was recommended. Was he an agent? Well, any Member can carry a message, and any man who carries a message for you is an agent. I was myself in 1845 an agent of Lord Aberdeen, and, as the agent of Lord Aberdeen, I undertook a commission which I think had reference to the question of International Copyright. That commission I was asked to fulfil, and I did fulfil, in Paris, by a communication with M. Guizot. I was a recommended agent at that moment. I stayed in Paris for 24 or 48 hours, and then, on leaving my agency and my commission alike, I fell to the ground. In this limited sense, therefore, I am prepared to admit that Mr. Errington is an agente racommendato. He is a person recommended, because we have the attestation of Lord Granville as to his ability; but I am not aware that at this moment he has any agency whatever in his hands. Now, Sir, I hope I have in some degree fulfilled the promise I made to dissipate the vague shadows which have been cast over this subject on the conduct of Her 901 Majesty's Government through the active and powerful imagination of the hon. Gentleman With regard to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, I cannot agree to it for reasons which I will state in a very few words. First of all there is a Preamble to the Motion, in which the hon. Gentleman speaks of the "irregular and clandestine communications now passing between Her Majesty's Government and the Vatican." That Preamble is intended to give point to the Motion, and therefore I comment upon it to this extent, to say that I am not aware of any communications of any sort now going on upon these matters. There were communications connected with conveying any certain information which we thought it most desirable that the Vatican should be possessed of; but those communications are not, so far as I know, communications now going on. Then, Sir, comes the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, and he asks the House to commit itself to a declaration—That, while recognizing the value of a good understanding between this Country and the Papal See, this House is of opinion that all communications between any of Her Majesty's Ministers and the authorities of the Vatican should be placed on official record in accordance with the Constitutional practice in diplomatic affairs, and should be conducted with the cognizance of Parliament.Now, Sir, I do not understand the meaning of those words. Does he mean that there ought to be distinct diplomatic relations with the Papal See? I have heard the hon. Gentleman declare himself to that effect. Well, Sir, that is an opinion which it is perfectly competent for him or for any Member of this House to hold; but it is one upon which possibly there may be great diversity of opinion amongst us. But this I will say—that it is a subject upon which, in my opinion, it would be most undesirable for the House to make any declaration in the shape of a formal vote, unless it perfectly knows what it means by that declaration, and unless, if there is a substantive meaning in the words, there be a disposition to give effect to the substantive meaning. Now, Sir, for my own part, I am not prepared to commit the Government to any opinion on the point without having taken the advice of my Colleagues in reference to it. I rather have an opinion about it myself, and my opinion would lead me to think twice or thrice before I concurred 902 in the words of the hon. Gentleman. But that is not my point. My point is that no declaration could be wisely or prudently made. The hon. Member has, of course, a perfect right to his opinions; but the making of any such declaration, especially if in vague and ambiguous terms, would tend, I think, to create a good deal of misapprehension, and, perhaps, not a little suspicion out-of-doors, and would do a very great deal towards preventing a good understanding—if a good understanding means that we are always to deal with charity with all mankind, and to give everyone credit for doing that which he thinks to be right according to his character and constitution. That may be all very true; but I do not think that sort of good understanding would be at all promoted by passing this Motion. Then the hon. Member says, in his Motion, that he objects to certain communications between the Vatican and Her Majesty's Government—I believe there are none—because, he says, they ought all to be placed on official record. Well, the hon. Gentleman himself has let fall words in the course of his speech, and has even quoted authorities, showing that all communications are not placed upon official record. Surely he is perfectly well aware that very important private correspondence is carried on between a Minister of State and all the great Embassies and Missions of this country; but these private communications are never placed upon official record; and it would be perfectly untrue—I can hardly think the hon. Gentleman can suppose that everything is so recorded, although, as I have said, I did hear him let fall some expressions of the kind in one of his many speeches on this subject—but it is perfectly untrue to state that these communications are placed upon official record, either at the time that they are written, or at any subsequent period. These communications contain, undoubtedly, very important portions of the integral communications between the Foreign Minister and the agent abroad, but they are never placed upon record. The House of Commons ought not to commit itself to a proposition so precipitate and so much at variance with the perfectly well-understood practice of all Governments in all times, as the proposition that all communication between any of Her Majesty's Ministers and the 903 authorities of the Vatican should be placed on special record. I will, however, go so far to meet the hon. Gentleman as this—that if Her Majesty's Government should see fit to organize what he calls a system of diplomacy, or anything that any right-minded man could call a system of communication between this country and the See of Home, I then agree to join hands with the hon. Gentleman, and I will agree that these means ought to be taken. I do not say for giving in that case, more than in any other case, absolute publicity of everything that is said; but to place communications of that kind on the same official footing as communications with other Embassies and Missions, I cannot agree. But my point is, that nothing of the kind exists; that a special and temporary function was undertaken by Mr. Errington upon the happy and convenient occasion of his going to Rome, as it was on a similar occasion by Lord O'Hagan, and as it might be by any other Gentleman; and unless I am entirely ignorant of the proceedings of my Colleagues—and I think I am not so—no such communications now exist. The subject-matter upon which the hon. Gentleman has fastened his suspicion is no longer in a condition to be made the subject of comment, because the purpose of Mr. Errington's proceedings has been served in conveying the information that was to be conveyed, and that information neither involved any proposal on our part, or any request on our part, or any necessity for the conveyance of those proceedings. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will not press his Motion further upon the House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in the recommendation that his hon. Friend (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) should not press his Motion, for the proposal it contained was inconsistent with the Common Law, which established Her Majesty's supremacy, and with the Diplomatic Relations Act, which was passed in 1848 to establish commercial relations and other relations between this country and the then Sovereign of the Pontifical States. That Statute carefully declared the supremacy of Her Majesty. When that measure was before the House of Lords, a most important debate took place, in conse- 904 quence of which that most loyal of Her Majesty's subjects whom he (Mr. Newdegate) ever knew, the late Duke of Wellington, deemed it necessary to insert the 3rd clause, guarding Her Majesty's supremacy in all parts of her Dominions, unless modified by Treaty. He (Mr. Newdegate) found that Gibraltar was ceded to the English Crown in full Sovereignty by the Treaty of 1814. He was not surprised, therefore, that Lord Napier, as Governor, was surprised, and found himself in a very awkward position, when lie had to deal with a person who claimed to have been appointed Vicar Apostolic, and who would not produce his credentials, but presumed to take upon himself the regulation of the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical property in Gibraltar. But there was another matter. He (Mr. Newdegate) could quite understand the suspicion which was very generally felt with regard to the position of Mr. Errington, because the public were perfectly aware of the state of the Common Law in this country, which retained to Her Majesty and to Parliament full Sovereignty in matters ecclesiastical as well as civil; and that was most carefully guarded by the Act of 1848. The Pope was no longer Sovereign of the Pontifical States; therefore, the Common Law excluding his ecclesiastical and spiritual authority was in full vigour to prevent any diplomatic relations with the Holy See. He could not vote for the Resolution of his hon. Friend, whose ability he so much respected, because he should be voting against the Diplomatic Relations Act of 1848; at the same time, he thought his hon. Friend had done eminently useful service in bringing the subject under the notice of the House. But his hon. Friend proposed that this country should enter into communications with the Pope with reference to the property and the rights of Her Majesty's subjects at Gibraltar, and he (Mr. Newdegate) could not vote for that, for it was contrary to the Common Law. His hon. Friend was, no doubt, right in calling the attention of Parliament to the fact that there was strong reason for believing that the Common Law had been evaded in this instance. That, however, was a totally different matter from the substance of his Motion; and he thought that the speech of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford, which his hon. Friend 905 had quoted, was very cleverly devised to pave the way for breaking up the protection given by the Common Law. The Common Law protected all Roman Catholic property, excepting monastic property, most carefully; but it retained to itself the right of judging whether that property was duly, legally, and loyally appropriated; and he had no doubt the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford would like to see that jurisdiction transferred to the Vatican. He (Mr. Newdegate) was quite sure that the House was not prepared for that transfer; and that his hon. Friend did not wish, under the cover of diplomatic relations, to sanction uncontrolled interference on the part of the Vatican in Gibraltar, the entire Sovereignty of which belonged to Her Majesty under the Treaty of 1814. Though he thanked his hon. Friend, then, most sincerely for having stated the grounds for the very strong suspicion that certain communications had been made to the Pope, which were inconsistent with the Common Law, and inconsistent, therefore, with Her Majesty's supremacy, he regretted that the Resolution was drawn up in terms which rendered it impossible for him (Mr. Newdegate) to support it.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he must confess that it was with considerable relief he heard the Prime Minister's statement disclaiming all knowledge as to the proceedings that had taken place in Gibraltar. A Motion was on the Paper in his (Sir George Campbell's) name which had fallen to the ground; but he was glad to know that whatever had been done had not been done by the authority of the Prime Minister or of the Government, but as a purely Departmental affair, and might be criticized as such. He was also very glad indeed to hear the ground on which the Prime Minister opposed the Motion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), for he (Sir George Campbell) himself was strongly opposed to the Motion on the grounds stated by the Prime Minister. Neither the House nor the country were prepared to resuscitate the long suppressed diplomatic relations between Her Majesty's Government and the See of Rome. On several occasions, when questions of that kind had been brought forward in the House, he expressed his opinion to that effect; and, while disclaiming act- 906 ing on what was called Scotch prejudice in this matter, had done so on political grounds, and so adhered to the old principles of the country. He had served a good deal over the world, and had seen a good many religions, and it was on political grounds he adhered to the old principle that it was better this country should not interfere diplomatically with the Vatican, but keep civil matters entirely apart from ecclesiastical matters and power. In this country, as regarded Ireland, at least, we had adopted the principle of levelling down in matters of religion; and it would be an unwise departure from that principle to enter into special relations with any foreign ecclesiastical authority. The connection between Church and State had been injurious throughout the world; and he hoped that we should take that lesson to heart, and that there would be no disposition towards a renewal of the diplomatic communications between the Government of this country and Rome. There was great temptation in the circumstances of Ireland to use the social influence of the Pope, in the way which the Prime Minister had explained, for the purpose of quieting and conciliating Ireland; but, in that respect, he thought he might quote the old adage, that "bad cases make bad law," and so a temporary advantage might end in the adoption of a bad line of policy. He hoped and believed Her Majesty's Government would have no difficulty in avoiding entering into communication with Rome of such a nature in any degree as to cause the Pope to expect any return from them. With regard to the Gibraltar matter, they had been told it was not the action of the Government, but simply of a Department; and it seemed to him that they ought to be on their guard against supporting or countenancing, in such cases, the influence of a centralized ecclesiastical authority. There was a great temptation on the part of the Government to support authority; but the great objection to the centralized power of the Pope was that it had too great influence and authority in the affairs of this and other countries. It seemed to him that they ought to encourage the aspirations of those Roman Catholics who were not inclined to submit to the great centralization of the See of Rome and to the too infallible power of the Pope, but who were, on the contrary, rather inclined to assert 907 the rights of the laity; they should respect the rights of a National Catholic Church as they would any other Church. There were several instances in which it had been made plain that the Roman Catholic laity were not inclined to submit to this foreign domination. An analogous case arose in Bombay, and he was glad that the India Office had taken a different view in the matter from that of the Government of Bombay, and refused to interfere. But in this case the Colonial Office had taken the part of the Pope's nominee, and put him in possession. He trusted this debate would lead the Prime Minister to consider the subject. They knew that, if he had not absolute authority over the different Departments, he had a moral authority; and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would look into the matter, and see whether the India Office was right, or the Colonial Office was right. He hoped the matter would be settled, and that there would be no dashing between the Departments of the Government, and that a uniform policy would be followed. That policy, he hoped, would be in favour of a free Church, and non-interference with a Church not established by law and having no connection with the Government. That would be the only safe policy to pursue.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, the Motion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) condemned certain irregular communications which were supposed to have passed between the Vatican and Her Majesty's Government; but the discussion had drifted into the question of the appropriate action of the Colonial Government in a matter arising at Gibraltar. He should almost have thought the discussion was not pertinent to that subject. The full extent of the connection of the Vatican with what happened at Gibraltar appeared in the Blue Book, and entirely disproved the assertion that the two questions had any relation, and showed that the visit of Mr. Errington to the Vatican was not in any way connected with Gibraltar. The question was a totally distinct one. As to the policy of the action taken in Gibraltar, he (Mr. Courtney) would confess that he thought, when the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) went into the matter more closely, and read the pages again, he would find that the conduct of 908 Her Majesty's Government in the affair at Gibraltar entirely corresponded with the principles which he had laid down. In Gibraltar they had treated the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church in the same way as they would have done the trustees of a Particular Baptist Chapel. They had simply given notice that the peace should be preserved, and that Dr. Canilla should be freed from molestation on his way to and from the Cathedral. The Government looked upon the Roman Catholic Church as a free Church in a free State. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had said that the Government was prejudging the rights of the laity in the matter; but it was not a fact that the Government was prejudging those rights at all. The rights of the laity, as they had been established in Gibraltar, were far above the action of the Government.
§ MR. WARTON
I rise to Order; the hon. Gentleman is not addressing the House, but the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy.
§ MR. COURTNEY
, in continuation, said, the Government did not, in the slightest degree, attempt to prejudge or interfere with the rights of the laity, who could appeal, first, to the Court at Gibraltar, and then to the Privy Council. The action of the Colonial Office had been simply confined to the preservation of peace and order at Gibraltar, and the rights of the laity to the Church or the temporalities of the Church remained precisely where they were. They could submit their claims, if they chose, to a legal tribunal.
§ MR. BELLINGHAM
said, that he should like to know if there was any prospect of opening communications with the Vatican; for, at the present moment, there seemed great misconception on the point? The Act passed in 1848 contained a cause providing that no ecclesiastic of the Roman Catholic Church should be received in this country as Representative of the Vatican; but if that provision were repealed, there would be nothing to prevent diplomatic relations being established between this country and the Vatican. It was immaterial to Catholics whether a Liberal or a Conservative Administration brought such a change about, for it was the wish of the Holy See; and, considering the fact that Prince Bismarck, who had been one of the upholders of ultra-Protestant- 909 ism in Germany, had been obliged lately to open communications with the Vatican, he did not see why communications should not be opened by this country with the Papal See.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he was sorry that the discussion on the Resolution of his hon. Friend (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had involved matters which seemed to him extraneous to the important question that the House had to consider. He did not care to inquire whether they ought to have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, or even to have a good understanding with it. The real object of the discussion was to ascertain what the Government had been doing in that matter; and he should have preferred a more simple Resolution than that of his hon. Friend, one declaring that the House regretted the recent correspondence with the See of Rome through Mr. Errington, or words to that effect. His hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth had alleged a number of facts to show that diplomatic proceedings had taken place. The Prime Minister met those allegations—first, by treating them as if they rested entirely upon pure imagination, characterizing them as the baseless fabric of a vision; and then he went on, step by step, to admit everything that had been charged. Mr. Errington, he allowed, was an agent; he had a letter of recommendation from Lord Granville, and, therefore, he was a recommended agent. Next, it was admitted that Mr. Errington was the special agent of the Government for some purpose. For what purpose? To inform His Holiness the Pope of something? Was it from pure benevolence to the Pope that they wished to tell him something which he did not know? It was to be presumed that, there being so many of the Clergy of his communion in Ireland, the Pope was well informed of what went on in that country. The extraordinary thing was that when they made their communication to the Pope they did not want an answer. It was said there was no answer, and they were, at the same time, told that at this moment no correspondence was going on. That meant, he (Mr. Warton) supposed, that the answer had not yet come; and then the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) got up and expressed his great delight that the Prime Minister, by his lucid statement, had 910 dissipated every apprehension or objection on that subject. The hon. Member had not the wit to see that the Prime Minister had admitted everything. He (Mr. Warton) wanted to know whether the Prime Minister would lay upon the Table of the House the orders to Mr. Errington; next, the information which he gave to the Pope; and also state—as they were told there was nothing now going on—whether it was intended that nothing should go on?
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
, in reply, said, he must adhere to his previous assertions, notwithstanding the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. He (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) maintained that Lord Kimberley had ordered the Governor of Gibraltar to send troops to instal the Vicar Apostolic, and to enable him to have full and free access, without molestation of any kind, to the Cathedral and Presbytery. The right hon. Gentleman had now acknowledged that Mr. Errington was an agente racommendato; and what he (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) maintained was, that if Mr. Errington was a recommended agent, there should have been some record placed in the Foreign Office to show in what capacity he had been recommended. The right hon. Gentlemen had gone on to say that private letters were constantly addressed to our recommended agents or other diplomatists abroad; but he (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) would contend that private letters ought only to be supplementary to a public despatch. He contended that the letter in question positively accredited Mr. Errington to Rome, and established him there as an agent. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] It was no use discussing words in that way, and he would contend that the letter established Mr. Errington as an agent; that he was recommended by Her Majesty's Government; that that was a secret system of diplomacy; and that the Government were ashamed even to put on record in the Foreign Office what they had done. He had to complain that Lord Granville, speaking in "another place," had misquoted what he (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had said in reference to Mr. Errington's expenses, and had given only a limited denial to it. He had never said that Mr. Errington's expenses had been paid out of the Secret Service Fund; but the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that they would 911 be paid. Unless it was declared that Mr. Errington was never at any time to receive money from the Secret Service Fund for expenses, he would adhere to the statement that his expenses were a charge on that Fund. It was no use, he would admit, going on with the argument, as he was perfectly satisfied with the result of the debate. The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to involve the subject in mystery, but he had not succeeded. He had really admitted every statement he (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had made, and was ashamed to put any of the communications which had passed on the Table. He begged to withdraw the Motion.
§ Question put, and negatived.