§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (12.25.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
When it fell to me to undertake charge of a Bill for removing from the Statute Book of this country an anomaly, an injustice, and a discredit, I was in hopes that it would only be necessary for me to spend a few minutes in introducing the Bill to the notice of this House; but those hopes have been so far disappointed as to make it necessary for me, I fear, to trespass at somewhat greater length on your time. Murmurings and mutterings there have been in various quarters, as was to be expected. We have just seen presented Petitions which filled the arms and taxed the muscular strength and calibre of the hon. and gallant Member who presented them, and one of them appeared to me, Sir, to conceal within itself, under the appearance of a mere roller, what might, in fact, be a formidable weapon of offence. Not only have we these manifestations from quarters which are usually wakeful in these matters, and where everything in the nature of a disability, though it be the merest rag and merest shred, most wofully torn and tattered, to be found in the world, yet remains so dear to the inmost heart of that party that no opportunity can possibly be lost to testify on behalf of a principle so valuable; but there have been rumours even with respect to 1734 the intentions of Her Majesty's Government—I cannot tell whether they may be true or not. I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1868, took part along with myself in pleading for the opening of the most difficult of these offices, and the one with respect to which the greatest objection was taken, and I doubt not he intends to pursue a similar course in the present Debate. He may not, however, be able to command the assistance of his colleagues, for the right hon. Gentleman now has upon his left one (Mr. Chaplin) whom I have always regarded as the prop and pillar of everything that deserved to be overthrown and removed. I am afraid I have shown ample cause why I cannot confine myself within the ten minutes I had contemplated as sufficient time for explaining the nature and character of the Bill; but I will endeavour not to be unreasonable in my demand on the time of the House, which I believe to be precious, and which I am anxious to treat in a spirit of perfect husbandry. The first point I have to mention—and which may appear to many Members of this House, and amongst others to those who have presented Petitions, as one of a very singular nature—is to this effect. I believe it to be in law seriously doubtful whether Roman Catholics are at this moment disabled from holding the offices of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Lord Chancellor of England. The argument, in the main, may be stated in a few moments. The Roman Catholic Relief Act, the 10 George IV., does not impose upon Roman Catholics in so many words disability for holding those offices; but it does provide that no Roman Catholic shall be entitled to hold them "otherwise than as he may be by law now entitled." That was the legal position before the passing of the Act of 1829. Every subject of Her Majesty is presumably entitled to hold every office under the Crown; but in the case of the Roman Catholic he was obviously and effectually barred by the Test Act. I am not aware, and I believe some good lawyers are not aware—I believe I may quote among others the eminent man who now holds the post of Lord Chief Justice of England, not with reference to any judicial decision, but with regard to opinions given in this House and supported 1735 by argument—that there was any other disability except that of the Test Act. The Test Act was removed by repeal in the year 1863. I do not enter now into the argument further, because, on the other hand, it is seriously contested by other lawyers whether that repeal has been effectual to qualify Roman Catholics for these offices. At any rate, I believe this is true: that when Parliament repealed the Test Act it had no distinct and specific intention of opening these offices to Roman Catholics. Well, Sir, it is quite plain that if the law is doubtful it ought to be made clear. It is quite plain that no person charged by Her Majesty with the solemn duty of forming a Government in this country could venture to recommend to Her Majesty this or that individual for either of these great offices while there was the smallest doubt attaching to the law which would place the validity of his acts in controversy. Consequently, I have thought it my duty not to be deterred from prosecuting this Bill, and I think that in arriving at that decision I shall so far have the unanimous assent of the House, if, indeed, the opponents of the Bill be in a frame and temper of mind in which it is possible for them to assent to any proposition whatever issuing from my unworthy lips. I will say one word on the drafting of the Bill. When this Bill was drafted, it was drafted as it was thought in conformity rather with precedent than with abstract ideas, and the consequence is that it lays down conditions with respect to the discharge of certain functions which it may be held are rather in the nature of religious tests. Whether they are so or not I do not know—I do not undertake, at this moment at any rate, to decide—but I certainly, and I think my right hon. and hon. Friends who are immediately responsible for the Bill, have come to the conclusion that it would be better not to embarrass ourselves with any considerations of that kind. Our object is simply to remove the anomaly which is supposed to exclude, and which perhaps excludes, certain subjects of Her Majesty from holding certain offices under the Crown, and to make provision, or to be certain that satisfactory provision is made, with regard to any duty ecclesiastical in its character, or not purely civil, 1736 that attaches to either of those offices. We think that those duties may be handed over with advantage to such person as Her Majesty, under the provisions of the Bill, may be pleased to select, and that it is not necessary for us to have any reference whatever to religious profession in the description of such person. Consequently, the course I should propose to take is this: If the House is pleased, as I hope it will be pleased, to read this Bill a second time, I should, with the consent of the House, revert to the convenient practice which I have not known to be applied for the past few years to any Bill of great importance, but which used to be applied to Bills even of great importance with great advantage to the country, namely, the practice of passing a Bill through Committee proformâ so as to present it in that form which the promoters, with the consent of the House, think the proper form in which to submit it, reserving the substantial Committee to be taken after the Report of the Bill from that Committee proformâ. Sir, I must next refer to a matter personally affecting myself, which I am extremely reluctant to introduce to the notice of the House, only because such personal matters are not fit or convenient for the general consideration of the House. But the publications I have seen on this subject make it quite certain that gentlemen foraging after topics in connection with this Bill will fall back upon those personal questions which always, it must be observed, have the advantage of creating a lively interest in the House at the moment. A pamphlet has been put into my hands within the last five minutes, entitled Mr. Gladstone Exposed. I have not yet had the opportunity of profiting by the wisdom and learning which no doubt it contains; but it seems to me that I must relieve myself from what I know, by the inspection of other documents relating to this Bill, will be thought a very convenient and advantageous topic on this occasion. The argument is that I, of all persons, am not the man to propose this Bill. Well, Sir, I will take the liberty of exactly inverting that argument, and saying that, so far as all previous declarations are concerned, I, of all persons, am the man to propose it. The allegation which I have seen made is that 1737 I myself am a man who, by certain pamphlets published in 1874–5, proved that Roman Catholics were not fit to be intrusted with the discharge of high and responsible duties, inasmuch as their allegiance was impaired by certain tenets of their religion. I wish to state the case fairly, and my answer is this—it is perfectly distinct, and I will bring it to the test of distinct words. It is perfectly true that I did impeach in 1874 certain declarations of the See of Rome as dangerous to the civil allegiance of those who adopted and concurred in them, and I invited, in a pamphlet termed Vatican Decrees, my Roman Catholic fellow-subjects to give assurances to their fellow-countrymen on the question whether they did or did not profess a full, entire, and undivided allegiance. The effect of that pamphlet was to draw forth a considerable number of replies, and I myself, having published the tract in November, 1874, and having read and considered those replies, published a further tract termed Vaticanism in February, 1875, and in that tract I inserted a passage which I will now read to the House, but which evidently, for some reason or other, has never met the eyes of a single person connected with the opposition to this Bill, or any officer of any institution that has been concerned in getting up that opposition. A blindness, such as was inflicted on the sorcerer in the New Testament, seems to have struck them when they were engaged in the perusal of that particular page of the book, and I am now obliged to appeal to another sense, namely, the sense of hearing. What was the conclusion at which I then arrived with regard to the allegiance of my Roman Catholic fellow-subjects? In page 14 of the pamphlet termed Vaticanism, published in February, 1875, will be found these words—I cannot but say that the immediate purpose of my appeal has been attained, in so far that the loyalty of our Roman Catholic fellow subjects in the mass remains evidently untainted and secure.And, Sir, it is because I am the man who upon examination and challenge has deliberately—16 years ago—announced that, in my opinion, whatever might be the claims of the Roman See, their loyalty was untainted and secure, I am the very man, if I have no other 1738 qualification, to be so far at least qualified to propose the Bill now before the House. Let me endeavour to impress upon the House that that is the whole question. Unless you can show that the loyalty of the Roman Catholic is tainted you have no right to inflict a disability upon him. I affirm that the opponents of this Bill have no locus standi failing that. They must attack that loyalty, and unless they can attack that loyalty with effect they are contradicting the principles of our Constitution, old and new, the principles of our Statute Law, and the principles which we have inscribed on that Statute Law in the very clearest terms. Is that doubted? I affirm, and I do not intend to give it as my individual opinion, as a mere dictum proceeding from me, as it would proceed, without the smallest authority—my affirmation is that the principles of the British Constitution admit and allow of no civil disabilities on account of religious opinion. Is that principle clearly declared in our law, or is it not? I will read a very few words from the Statute of 1867, chapter 75, from the preamble—a Statute highly creditable to the Parliament which passed it, and which was passed and took its place in the laws of this country when a Conservative Government was in office, thus supplying a good omen of what we ought to expect on the present occasion. That Statute begins with these words—Whereas certain of Her Majesty's subjects are now on the ground of their religious belief subject to civil disabilities,and so forth,and it is expedient to remove such disabilities and to substitute one uniform oath for the several oaths now required to be taken by different classes of Her Majesty's subjects.Pray observe who are the persons in contemplation. Not certain selected persons, distinguished either by property, rank, influence, or religious profession, or by local habitation. They are not merely inhabitants of these small islands; they are the vast and almost innumerable populations in almost every quarter of the globe who bear the light burden of allegiance to Her Majesty, and who together approach 300,000,000, and constitute one-fifth part of the population of the globe. Pray observe this, for it lies at the very root of the question; it is no selected portion of Her Majesty's 1739 subjects whom the Bill has in contemplation. The declaration is clear; the grievance is stated at the beginning of the preamble, that certain of Her Majesty's subjects are now under disability on account of religious opinions, and the result is as clear and broad, for it is to provide that one uniform oath be taken by all persons "in lieu of several oaths now taken by different classes of Her Majesty's subjects." I hope, therefore, that there will be no controversy on this question of principle, that our law has for its basis the universal qualification—unless there be exceptions, and the exceptions I am coming to—of all Her Majesty's subjects of all religious opinions in all quarters of the globe, wherever they may be found, and there is no power of lodging a case against a Bill which aims at an emancipation or enfranchisement of that kind, except in the one only narrow path of impeaching the allegiance of some portion of them, which impeachment I have shown, from the passage read to the House, I, at any rate, have emphatically and explicitly renounced. Such is the principle of our Constitution. Let me point out that in this case to except is to proscribe. It is the question of proscription with which I have now to deal. I will not enter into the question of whether proscription is or is not persecution, but I think that causeless proscription is persecution. It is the only kind of persecution that remains open or accessible to the lovers of that amiable pastime. But I say that exception is proscription, and I want to know what is the view of proscription taken by our Constitution, and what is the case of proscription if any proscription is to be maintained? Now, Sir, what are the apparent cases of proscription under our Constitution? Everybody will say the Crown. Some people have taken a very broad view of this thing indeed. I possess a letter from one who is at least a courteous correspondent, who says—" Sir,—Your Bill is the first step towards relighting the fires of Smithfield." It is a much more moderate statement to say that it is the first step towards altering the conditions of the succession to the Crown. Sir, it has nothing whatever to do with the succession to the Crown, and I will tell you why. In the first place, the Crown is not concerned in any of these Statutes, 1740 and no law has been laid down with respect to the Crown such as was laid down in the Statute of 1868. The Crown is not open to competition. If the Crown were open to competition between A and B, and it was found that A was the man best fitted to wear it, but could not be appointed because he was a Roman Catholic, and therefore the Protestant must be appointed, then you would have achieved the first step towards proving an analogy. But there is no competition. The Crown has a single function, which is to be discharged by a single person; it is a mistake to suppose that the laws relating to the Crown inflict a proscription on a particular class of believers. The whole principle is entirely different on that point. These proscriptions are negative in form. They do not punish a person for believing. On the contrary, with regard to the Crown, what the law requires is that the person wearing the Crown shall be a Christian believer of a particular profession. It is not merely—though it has constantly been so called—a requisition that the Crown shall be worn by a Protestant; it must also be worn by a person communicating in the Church of England. This is a distinction. The distinction between requiring a positive belief and proscribing a positive belief is a distinction which has become famous and historical through the writings of Mr. Burke on the penal laws of Ireland. Every one must have in his memory those immortal writings of Mr. Burke upon Irish history and law, in which he contrasts the Irish and English penal laws, but the Irish especially, with the persecutions of old times, to the disadvantage of these penal laws, for, he says, the object of those persecutions was to drive people into some religion which it was thought it would be for their advantage to profess, but the object of the penal laws was not to drive or induce or bring people into any belief whatever, but only to drive them out of a certain belief, only to ascertain that they did not believe. That is exactly the principle of the little miserable shred and tatter of proscription which I now invite the House to sweep away. Now, with regard to the question of the Crown, this is not the occasion for me to give any opinion at all. It is a 1741 very high constitutional question, which, in my opinion, it would be very unwise to disturb. Its abstract merits constitute such a subject and occupy a field so wide that it is totally unsuited for the present limited discussion, and I pass it by by saying that I do not believe that the present settlement is regarded as irrational or creates discontent, and I, for my part, am not in any manner or degree prepared to touch it. But I pass on to another class of exception which is noticed in the Relief Act of 1829. That is the exception of an office, the very existence of which I suspect is unknown to some Members of this House—and I do not think it proves them to be men generally ill-formed if that be the case, though I have no doubt Scotchmen may be shocked at the utterance of so lax an opinion—that is the office held by Her Majesty's Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland. That office is excluded from tenure by a Roman Catholic. It is not the only office mentioned in the Relief Act. There are others, of which I shall not endeavour to give a catalogue. But there are those in this House who are now acting as Ecclesiastical Commissioners—I myself have acted in that capacity—and certainly my recollection is that the law requires to be taken—I myself have taken—a declaration stating that I am a member of the Church of England. I believe I am right in that respect; I am not aware that the law has been changed; and it falls under the same category as the case of the High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. But the principle of those limitations—though I do not say that they are limitations very necessary to be maintained—is clear, and cannot be said to be offensive, because the duties to be performed are not civil duties, and consequently the disability to perform them is not a civil disability. With that observation I pass on. I will only say with regard to the Regency of this country that it is treated by the Act of 1829 as an appendage to the provisions of the law relating to the succession to the Throne, and I do not see that there is anything unreasonable in the provisions of the Act. Then these apparent proscriptions are not proscriptions 1742 in either case attaching to the Crown; they lie in a totally different sphere, because they are not affecting the discharge of duties properly civil. With regard to the question of the Crown, I wish to avail myself of an authority which, not inconsiderable in itself, I think ought to have weight with gentlemen on the other side of the House. I daresay we shall hear in to-day's Debate that we are touching the Constitution of this country. [Ministerial Cheers.] Yes, I thought so; I endeavoured to get that cheer. I wish to say that when these questions were raised in 1867 Mr. Disraeli took part in that Debate, and expressly said that he approved, relatively to all the circumstances, of the restraints imposed upon the tenure of these offices by the Act of 1829, but he did not hold—on the contrary he denied—that they were any part of the Constitution of the Country; he treated them as principles with which you could deal without exposing yourselves to that reproach, which he deemed absurd. Having endeavoured to clear all obstacles away, I have arrived at the contemplation of this one solitary proscription which remains on the Statute Book. I beg the House to contemplate it in all its beauty, or in all its ugliness and deformity. What is this proscription? What offices does it affect? Out of the whole vast variety of employments under the Crown it affects only two. And why does it affect them? Now, let us try that. My point of departure is that you have no right, except on proof of disqualification, to impose these disabilities. You cannot call on me to prove competency or ability; the burden of proof is on those who deny and exclude, and the sole part open to you, the sole proposition on which you can found yourselves, is that the allegiance of Roman Catholics is tainted and imperfect. That is the proof. Now, let us look at these cases. I take, first, the Viceroyalty of Ireland, because I am told and believe that the consciences of gentlemen are less vividly affected with respect to the Viceroyalty of Ireland than with respect to that most sacred fortalice of the Constitution, that inner sanctuary and Holy of Holies, the Lord Chancellorship. I wish to take the opportunity of stating to my Scotch friends that I think, 1743 in virtue of their nationality, they ought to look out pretty sharply, for I am very considerably shocked to find in our statutes the expression "the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain." I am not aware in what sense the Lord Chancellor is termed the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, and as Member for Mid Lothian, until I am better informed, I protest against that expression as an aggression analogous to the old raids across the Border—an attempt to place upon Scotland a servitude which we utterly repel. The "Lord Chancellor of Great Britain," I contend, should be "Lord Chancellor of England." In 1867, I think, the question was raised whether the Viceroy of Ireland ought to continue to be under a disability with respect to the profession of the Roman Catholic religion. I think Mr. Disraeli, then Minister and Leader of the House, took part in that Debate. He denied it was a constitutional principle to exclude a Roman Catholic; but he asserted that the Viceroy of Ireland had ecclesiastical duties to perform, the performance of which would hardly be compatible, so Lord Naas and Mr. Disraeli contended, with the Roman Catholic religion. I wish to point out that he based his opposition to the proposal, so far as the Viceroyalty was concerned, entirely and exclusively—if my memory serves me right—upon a ground which has now altogether disappeared. When, happily, we passed the Act in 1869 to disestablish the Church in Ireland, we swept away all disabilities in the shape of those ecclesiastical functions on the part of the Lord Lieutenant. It is for those who still contend that Roman Catholics ought to be excluded from this office to show why it ought to be done. Do not let them attempt to shelter themselves under the authority of Mr. Disraeli. This office of the Viceroyalty of Ireland is, I believe, an office as purely civil at this moment as any office under the Crown. If there are any ecclesiastical functions, they are totally unknown to me. I do not believe in their existence. I have never heard them asserted to exist; and I submit that any principle which justifies your excluding a Roman Catholic from the office of Viceroy of Ireland is just as good and rational for excluding him from the office of Viceroy of Canada or the 1744 office of Viceroy of India. Ah! there you have, indeed, if anywhere, open to you a source of danger. Whatever the Viceroy of Ireland does, he does under our own eyes. The Viceroy of India is at a distance of many thouands of miles, operating within the precincts of a Government of which we have only the most partial, rare, and occasional cognisance. If they want an exercise for their ingenuity in showing the dangers that arise from the discharge of civil duties by Roman Catholics, I would seriously advise hon. Gentlemen opposite, the gallant Colonel who presented a Petition, and others, to study carefully the Viceroyalty of India, and see whether they cannot in some manner or other obtain from the duties of that office, where responsibility is so indirect and where the power of our watching is so incomplete, a show of reason, or, at all events, a fairer show of reason for exclusion than any they can show in this case. I go on now, Sir, to the Lord Chancellorship. The objections to a Bill of this kind are but two, so far as I know. One is the doctrine that is set up to the effect that the Lord Chancellor is the Keeper of the King's or Queen's Conscience. Now, Sir, what is the meaning and what is the value of that doctrine? There was a time when it was perfectly, absolutely, and literally true. I have not been able to find any distinct and consecutive history of the idea; but it appears to me very like the case of one of those streams which flow through certain strata over the surface of the earth, and then, coming into other strata, are absorbed, covered over, and disappear. The Lord Chancellor was Keeper of the King's Conscience at the time when he was the head of the King's chapels, and when, in virtue of that headship, he was, at a period long before the Reformation, Private Confessor to the Sovereign, and so he was literally and truly, or, at any rate, distinctively, the Keeper of the King's Conscience. At that time the Lord Chancellor was a very secondary person, for Lord Campbell or Blackstone, I do not remember which, informs us that he was only sixth among the great holders of office of that period, and the head of the law at that period was not the Lord Chancellor, but the Chief Justiciary of the country. In course of time the Lord Chancellorship became important, and 1745 other offices dwindled, and the Chancellorship passed from the head of the King's chapels into the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury, or of some other great ecclesiastical functionary, and so remained until the reign of Henry VIII. I believe that at that time he had ceased to be Keeper of the King's Conscience, and there was no personal relation between them from that time onwards, so far as my information goes, and though I have endeavoured to inquire, as I have said, I can find no consecutive or full history of the case. I believe that the doctrine entirely slept until George III. wanted to intrigue with Lord Thurlow against his own Prime Minister, Mr. Pitt, either as regards Roman Catholic emancipation or some other matter. He consulted the Lord Chancellor of the Cabinet against the head of the Government, and he did it upon the pretence that the Lord Chancellor was Keeper of the King's Conscience, he knowing beforehand that this Keeper of the King's Conscience exactly coincided with the opinions he held. Who is the Keeper of the Queen's Conscience now? Are you prepared to replace Lord Halsbury in the position of private confessor to Her Majesty? If you are, well and good. Propose your Bill for that purpose, and let us see what we can make of it. But until you do that, and until you place your law upon this footing, do not talk any more about the Lord Chancellor being the Keeper of the King's Conscience. But, then, Sir, the Lord Chancellor is the possessor of great ecclesiastical patronage, and when I speak of ecclesiastical patronage, I speak of benefices, I do not include the appointment of chaplains and so forth, which may be considered civil appointments. But the Home Secretary is possessed of ecclesiastical patronage. The patronage in the Isle of Man belongs to the Home Secretary, just in the same manner as ecclesiastical patronage of other descriptions belong to the Prime Minister; and I rather believe, but of this I am not quite certain, as I have had no opportunity of knowing from personal experience, that the Channel Islands are in the same category as the Isle of Man with respect to ecclesiastical patronage. We have had for five years a distinguished gentleman, who, in the language of the law, professes the Roman 1746 Catholic religion, and fills the office of Home Secretary; nor can it be said that any difficulty, or doubt, or debate has arisen in consequence of his being by law invested with the discharge of that function. He has not corrected me about the Channel Islands, and I, therefore, assume the Channel Islands are in the same position as the Isle of Man. I am sure the Protestant Association ought to be much obliged to me for pointing out to their minds the existence of this great and frightful Constitutional danger. I have been told that the right hon. Gentleman since he has held that office has handed over to the Prime Minister the discharge of this duty of ecclesiastical patronage. I do not know whether that is so or not, and he does not appear disposed to give me any information.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS, Birmingham, E.)
Since I have had the honour of holding the office of Home Secretary I have never submitted any name whatever to the Queen for any ecclesiastical appointment. From the first moment of my being appointed Home Secretary I asked the First Lord of the Treasury, then Lord Salisbury, and since then my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. W. H. Smith), to submit to the Queen the names for the appointment to benefices in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, instead of myself.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I think that as regards the position of the right hon. Gentleman, two things may be said—first of all, I would say that I am quite convinced that, if he had submitted any name for the purpose, he would have done it with the most perfect honour and impartiality; and, secondly, that the proceeding which he has described is most honourable to his disposition. He is in the condition of Cæsar's wife, who ought not to be suspected; but I must question the regularity, if not the legality, of the proceeding. If it be within the moral competency of the First Lord of the Treasury to hand over ecclesiastical patronage, say, to the President of the Board of Trade, that would be a very extraordinary proceeding; and therefore of his own authority and of his own notion the right hon. Gentleman appears distinctly 1747 to have broken the usages of the Constitution. I do not think any one Minister of the Crown has, as a general rule, a title to hand over any of his duties to any of the other Ministers of the Crown. But there is another matter. I understand that the First Lord of the Treasury has exercised this patronage, and has recommended to the Crown, and that the Crown has nominated to benefices in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, in consequence of the supposed disability of the right hon. Gentleman himself. Sir, I am extremely sorry to propound for the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman a legal difficulty which I am afraid he may find to be rather serious. He has handed over his ecclesiastical patronage to the First Lord of the Treasury; but the Statute Law of this country has been beforehand with him, and has handed it over to somebody else. I hope I am not making revelations.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Is the right hon. Gentleman conversant with the 17th section of the Roman Catholic Relief Act? This section, which is, I believe, still in force, says—Provided always, and be it enacted that when any right of presentation to any ecclesiastical benefice shall belong to any office in the gift or appointment of His Majesty, his heirs, or successors, and such office shall be held by a person professing the Roman Catholic religion, the right of presentation shall devolve upon and be exercised by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having reminded me of that section, but it was perfectly present to my mind. This ecclesiastical patronage, such as it is, does not belong to the Home Secretary, but to the Queen herself, and the intervention of the Home Secretary is merely to suggest candidates for Her Majesty's approval.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The business of recommending for ecclesiastical appointments does not belong to the Prime Minister either. There is no law and no binding authority attaching to any of those functions in the office of Prime Minister. It seems to me most plain that when Parliament speaks of duties attaching to offices held under Her Majesty, it speaks of those duties which, by constitutional usage, attach 1748 to the office, and if these duties by constitutional usage attach to the office of Home Secretary, he is entitled to make the presentations, and such presentations made by the Prime Minister are void and without effect. I admit that to disable in point of patronage, when it is held by a particular person in. office, is not the same thing as a civil disability. I think such a disability of patronage ought, undoubtedly, to be general if it is to exist at all. It ought not to be a disability inflicted on the professors of a particular religion; but for those who read our history, there is no doubt that with respect to the Roman Catholic religion the principle followed was this—not that the Roman Catholic religion was specially to be condemned, not that it was designated as a religion more remote from the prevailing religion of the country than many other forms of religion, but that it was a rival religion and a rival Church, and that, having been a rival religion and a rival Church, there might be a motive in the case of the Roman Catholics which might operate to render it unsatisfactory for them to exercise the duties of ecclesiastical patronage. In consequence, we adopt the method which is pointed out by the Statute of 1829, and by the facts of our history, and we propose to sever from the Lord Chancellor the exercise of ecclesiastical patronage. What right have we to inflict this disability? I will not speak merely of policy. Nothing can be clearer to me than that, in point of policy, it is a gross and monstrous error. What right have you to do it? Your principle is, no civil disabilities on account of religous opinions. What right, with respect to the civil duties of the Lord Chancellor, have you to inflict this disability? I have read a statement to the effect that were this disability removed from the Viceroy, he would not allow so much as what is called a "removable" to exist in Ireland unless he was a Roman Catholic, because everybody would be Roman Catholic, but that is not an objection to my Bill. It is an objection to the declared principle of the law, which makes the whole of Her Majesty's subjects alike qualified and entitled to the possession of office for the discharge of every kind of civil duty. And here I come to the odious part of this proscription, which is the selection of a particular 1749 body of Christians, and that the largest of all bodies of Christians, to inflict upon it this stigma and disgrace, to record in the face of the world the constitutional belief that, although the duties of the Viceroy and Lord Chancellor are, under this Bill, purely civil, and although everybody else is qualified to discharge them, one class of persons, and one only, is disabled by law from undertaking them. The Home Secretary, I do not hesitate to say, in the possession of his office, stands quite as near the Sovereign as does the Lord Chancellor, and he stands a great deal nearer than the Viceroy of Ireland, for there is no act in which the Crown is concerned that the Viceroy of Ireland can perform, except through the medium of the Home Secretary. Yet the right hon. Gentleman, and I rejoice to say it, professing the Roman Catholic religion, holds the office of Home Secretary, and no human being has ever complained—no armfuls of Petitions are presented against this appointment, praying Her Majesty to remove him; and I believe if I were, instead of this Bill, to introduce a Bill for the removal of the Home Secretary, the very gentlemen who have appeared to-day as champions of the Protestant Constitution would vote against my Bill as dishonourable, and reject it summarily from the notice of this House. Now, Sir, Roman Catholics are ineligible for these two offices. Who, then, are eligible? Consider what the British Empire is. Consider whom it includes. Consider all the professions of religion and all the professions of non-religion that make up the vast body of the community of the Queen's subjects. It might seem invidious to draw any distinction between one body of Christians and another; but pray recollect that there is no legal obstacle, so far as I can learn—and I rejoice that there is no legal obstacle to going beyond the Christian pale—no legal obstacle to the holding of the Lord Chancellorship, ecclesiastical patronage and all, by a Jew, by a Mabomedan, by a Buddhist, by a Hindoo. All these, under your Protestant Constitution, can hold the office of Lord Chancellor, and exercise, as the right hon. Gentleman truly says, not by the mere recommendation of the Crown, but in virtue of the legal powers of the office itself, the right of presentation to, I think, 800 benefices 1750 in the English Church. So much for the religion. The Jews are the possessors of a great tradition, in common with ourselves, as I rejoice to think; but those who do not accept that tradition at all—not only the Mahomedans, but the professors of all those Oriental religions—you affirm by your law to be qualified to hold these offices and to exercise ecclesiastical patronage. Yet you deny it to the Roman Catholics. That is the inequality I ask you to proceed to remove—the inequality which you refuse to remove. What are we to say of the non-religionists? Secularists, materialists, agnostics, atheists—all these are not religions, but non-religions. Every professor of every one of those non-religions, every man who conies to you saying, "I will tell you nothing of what I believe, but I will tell you a great deal of what I do not believe," and then proceeds to sweep aside everything that constitutes your consolation and your hope, your guide in conduct through life until death—all these people are qualified to hold the Lord Chancellorship of this country, and to recommend for ecclesiastical benefices. But the successors of Pascal, of Thomas à Kempis, and of old Pope Gregory the Great, who sent missionaries to the southern part of this country—they are all to be disabled. Oh, Sir, I have shown that the principles, of your law require the passing of this Bill. I have shown that your policy demands it, for what can be so absurd as that when a gentleman is engaged in the constitution of a Government for this country there should be a particular man whom he finds to be, on the whole, best qualified to be Lord Chancellor or Viceroy of Ireland, but whom he is compelled to pass by because he is a Roman Catholic, and to put someone else who, whatever his merits, is less fit for that particular office? In that noble profession, the Bar of this country, every man rises by free and open and unbiased and glorious competition. It is a grand thing, morally as well as socially, for a man to rise and become the head of the English Bar; and is it worthy of you and your traditions, when a man has arrived at such a position, and when the prize is his by every principle of right, to say to him "Pass onwards; you are disabled from filling the Chancellorship, for you are a professor of the Roman Catholic religion?'' 1751 Thus the last and only test that remains is the test of religion. People have written to me saying, "Is it possible that you can be a Christian"—I might almost imagine that I was not from the tone of these communications—"and can you, remembering the religious responsibilities of all Christians, propose this Bill? "Yes, Sir; I can, I will, and I do. We ought to do it because we are Christians. There is nothing more fatal to the interest of religious belief than the setting up of fictitious, unreal, sham standards of belief. If we are to have such standards at all let them be of an intelligible character. A distinguished man and admirable Member of this House was laid yesterday in his mother-earth. He was the subject of a long controversy in this House—a controversy the beginning of which we recollect and the ending of which we recollect. We remember with what zeal it was prosecuted; we remember how summarily it was dropped; we remember, also, what reparation has been done within the last few days to the distinguished man who was the immediate object of that controversy. But does anybody who hears me believe that that controversy, so prosecuted and so abandoned, was beneficial to the Christian religion? The people of this country saw through the imposture which blinded many Members of this House; and it is in the name even of that religion which the vast bulk of us believe to be holy, believe to be the greatest and only true treasure of mankind—it is in that name, if I must fall back upon such a resource, and, of course, it is primarily and broadly and mainly on the ground of that which we are here to discuss, namely, constitutional law and political wisdom, that I ask you to give your assent to the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)
§ *(1.35.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH, Strand, Westminster)
Mr. Speaker, the House has listened with the greatest possible interest to one of the most able and eloquent speeches which the right hon. Gentleman has ever delivered here. But it does seem extraordinary that this 1752 speech should be delivered now, and should not have been delivered during many of the many previous years when it might have been delivered.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I did deliver similar speeches both with reference to the Viceroyalty and the Lord Chancellorship in the year 1867.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman reminds me that he delivered speeches of this character in 1867, when the right hon. Gentleman was in Opposition. But the right hon. Gentleman was in office between 1868 and 1874, and again between 1880 and 1885, and during those years, when he was responsible for the Government of the country, the right hon. Gentleman did not deem it necessary to propose a measure of this kind to the House. Now, circumstances are so urgent that he thinks it necessary, only for the third time in his remarkable Parliamentary history, to propose this Bill as a measure which is to remove a great wrong. The right hon. Gentleman had opportunities of considering this question when he was directly concerned in the government of the country. In 1881 the right hon. Gentleman, who was First Lord of the Treasury, was askedWhether, in view of the general principle of absolute religious toleration in the government of this country, he is prepared to advocate the abolition of all remaining religious checks at present existing, such as those which prevent the Lord Chancellor and Sovereign of Great Britain from being a Roman Catholic, and thus to endanger the Protestant succession as established by law.What did the right hon. Gentleman answer?No, Sir; the Government have no intention of advocating anything of the kind.We, therefore, have this remarkable fact established—that the Government in 1881 had no intention of advocating that the disabilities affecting the Chancellorship should be abolished. The House will observe that the Lord Chancellor is categorically included in the question which was put, and that no reservation was made by the right hon. Gentleman, whose answer was, "The Government have no intention of advocating anything of the kind." The right hon. Gentleman has to-day spoken of these disabilities as anomalous, unjust, and discreditable. Well, if those epithets can be fairly applied to the disabilities 1753 which prevent the office of Lord Chancellor of Great Britain and the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from being held by a Roman Catholic, how was it, I repeat, that the right hon. Gentleman when he had full power in his hands and a large majority at his back did not exercise his power to remove this "anomaly, this injustice, and this discredit?" The right hon. Gentleman has remarked that in law it is extremely doubtful whether there is any necessity for this Bill, and he drew attention to the opinion given by Lord Coleridge when he was Attorney General in the right hon. Gentleman's Government in 1872. I always speak with hesitation when endeavouring to interpret a lawyer's dictum, especially when it is uttered in answer to a question asked across the floor of the House. It is only fair to recognise that an opinion expressed under such circumstances must be given in a narrower compass and with less consideration than an opinion given on a case submitted in the proper and ordinary form. But if I read this opinion correctly it amounts to this: that there is no occasion for the Bill which is being presented to the House for consideration to-day. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that doubt exists whether there is any occasion or necessity for this measure. How is it, then, that the right hon. Gentleman now moves in a matter which, in the time of his power, he declined to touch at all? What condition of things has brought about such extraordinary urgency that he proposes, as leader of the Opposition, this Bill for adoption by the House? Another remarkable point to which I would draw attention is this: The right hon. Gentleman has indicated clearly that this Bill is not the Bill with which he proposes to proceed in Committee of the Whole House, but that it is a Bill which is to be the subject matter of a mere declaration of principle. As soon as it has been read a second time it is to be committed proformâ, and then some other provisions are to be introduced with respect to the disabilities attaching to the Chancellorship. In fact, the Bill is to be withdrawn and a new one is to be introduced. I am not, I think, saying too much when I state that the Bill, although it deals with large principles, is so small in itself that if the character of its limitations 1754 and restrictions is to be seriously altered the better course would be to withdraw it altogether, and to introduce a new measure, in order that we may realise fully what it really is that we are asked to read a second time. The Bill, be it observed, proposes to remove all religious disability, but declares practically that as to a large and serious portion of the duties of the Lord Chancellor, that official, if a Roman Catholic, is not to be held fit to discharge them. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the pamphlets which he wrote in 1874 and 1875, and said that he had no doubt that he would be met by some references to those pamphlets. He read some words in which I heartily concur, if he will allow me to say so. I think he stated on page 14, in language equally outspoken and more consistent—I cannot but say that the immediate purpose of my appeal has been attained, in so far that the loyalty of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects in the main remains evidently untainted and secure.But, Sir, what were the conclusions at which the right hon. Gentleman arrived in this matter? I have read accurately the quotation on which he relied to show that he was satisfied of the absolute loyalty of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. I regret for myself that any statesman in his position should have thought it necessary to cast a doubt on that loyalty. For my own part, I have never doubted the absolute and complete loyalty of the Roman Catholic subjects of Her Majesty, but I must remark on the conclusion at which the right hon. Gentleman arrived. He says—I have now, at greater length than I could have wished, but, I think, with ample proof, justified the following assertions;—(1) That the position of Roman Catholics has been altered by the decrees of the Vatican on Papal infallibility and on obedience to the Pope; (2) that the extreme claims of the Middle Ages have been sanctioned and have been revived without the warrant or excuse which might in those ages have been shown for them; (3) that the claims asserted by the Pope are such as to place civil allegiance at his mercy.Those were the conclusions at which the right hon. Gentleman arrived, after having satisfied himself of that which no man who knows what society is in England, and has lived on terms of amity and friendship with his countrymen, could doubt—and that is, the perfect loyalty of the Roman Catholics. I 1755 cannot but express the greatest possible sorrow and regret that this question has been raised at the present moment. Why, Sir, has this great effort been made by the right hon. Gentleman? What is there in the present condition of circumstances and politics which differentiates it from the condition which existed between 1868 and 1874 and between 1880 and 1885, when the right hon. Gentleman held office? Why did he not then make these changes which he now asks the House to sanction? Sir, there is no demand for any change that I am aware of on the part of the Roman Catholic subjects in Great Britain. I have heard of no desire expressed whatever in favour of the change. No Petitions in favour of the demand have been presented. No public opinion exists in its support. I rejoice with the right hon. Gentleman in his belief in the absolute and complete civil equality which exists between the Roman Catholic subjects and all other subjects of the Queen. There is also this question which arises: whether the doctrine of civil and religious equality compels us to place officers in the position of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Lord Chancellor of England who are Roman Catholics—whether the influence they would exercise in those positions would be regarded with alarm and distress by large classes of Her Majesty's subjects. The right hon. Gentleman, in his eloquent peroration, referred with feelings in which all must sympathise to the case of a man of great eminence who, having arrived at the head of his profession, nevertheless must be passed over, in spite of his talent, in the attainment of the highest office to which by talent and ability he could aspire, on the ground of his being a Roman Catholic. But I ask the House to consider, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider, whether the appointment to an office is alone the right of the individual to be appointed, or whether the Government has not to consider whether, on the whole, the officer should be one who will be free from prejudice and free from any other objectionable epithets which might apply to the emotions which influence men. I say that if a prejudice of a wide and deep-rooted character exists which prevents such an officer from commanding absolute confidence in 1756 his impartiality in the discharge of the trusts of his office—if such a feeling exists it is one which ought to be taken into consideration, even though it be a prejudice. Now, Sir, my objection to this Bill is that, while it applies only to two persons, it alarms, and distresses, and affronts very large classes of Her Majesty's subjects. The Member for Kilkenny (Sir J. Pope Hennessy) gave notice of an Instruction to the Committee which he has since withdrawn. He sought to free the Sovereign from the restraints which are imposed upon her with regard to the profession, I think the right hon. Gentleman says, of the religion of the Church of England. I think the right hon. Gentleman laid it down that under the Act of Settlement the Sovereign must be a member of the Church of England.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Yes. And I am bound to say that I think the hon. Member for Kilkenny is perfectly logical in the course he suggested. I do not think it was an extreme suggestion to make. It is one that has been suggested by Members from that side of the House who represented Roman Catholic constituencies. I find that Sir Colman O'Loghlen, Mr. O'Donnell, and Mr. Bellingham made that suggestion in this House, and it was only consistent with the position which he occupies that he should draw attention to a matter which, perhaps, the Member for Mid Lothian may at some future time say is another anomaly and injustice. I think I am not straining the argument too far when I say that the right hon. Gentleman himself refrains for the present, and guarded himself as to the future against suggesting any change in the Act of Settlement. I cannot see how it is that the Lord Lieutenant, who is the representative, the alter ego of the Sovereign, should be relieved from what is called, what the right hon. Gentleman regards as a disability, but which I am sure the vast mass of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, loyal and contented as I believe them to be, do not regard as a disability. There cannot be a doubt that the Roman Catholics in this country enjoy greater freedom than in many Roman Cathlic countries. I believe they enjoy in 1757 this country greater freedom than in almost any other country in any part of the world. There is no restriction of their institutions which distinguishes them from any other subjects of the Queen. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the fact that Her Majesty's present Government has fully recognised the claims of Roman Catholics to hold high office under the Queen. The question is whether it is wise, or necessary, or expedient that these two remaining offices should be open to Roman Catholics. Now, Sir, I cannot help referring to the singular procession of dates which accompanies this question. In was in 1867 that Sir Colman O'Loghlen proposed to relieve the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Lord Chancellor in England from disability. In 1872 Sir Colman O'Loghlen brought in a similar Bill, but the then Attorney General (Sir John Coleridge), in a learned argument, declared that there were no disabilities, and the Bill was withdrawn. In 1874 the right hon. Gentleman published his pamphlet to which I have referred, and then in 1881 Mr. Bellingham asked the question to which I have referred, and in answer to which the right hon. Gentleman said he had no intention of advocating the relief of the Lord Chancellor or the Crown from the disability under which they rested.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Well, the Lord Chancellor was included in the question. In 1886 the right hon. Gentleman brought in his Home Rule Bill. This is the singular procession of dates, and one cannot help connecting—and, I think, not unfairly connecting—the whole policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and arriving at the conclusion that but for the Home Rule Bill of 1886 the necessity for this measure would not have arisen. The opportunity was afforded before 1886 of passing it into law, but it was not availed of. In 1890 and in 1891 it becomes a measure of great urgency, because the right hon. Gentleman no doubt looks forward to the introduction of a Home Rule Bill when he comes into power with a large majority. Then we have this condition of things: We have a measure of Home Rule to be proposed by Her Majesty's future Government, which no doubt will meet the views of the Irish Members, or we are told 1758 so. The Irish Members, we know, do not consent to the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. I do not profess to be acquaintad with the negotiations, if there have been any, with the view of bringing together the two sections of the Irish Party, nor with the result of negotiations, but there can be no doubt that at no period will the Irish Party accept less than the complete independence of their Parliament. Equally there is no doubt whatever that the right hon. Gentleman will agree to that complete independence. I have not the least doubt that before that period which is looked forward to with great desire and hope by hon. Gentlemen opposite—the General Election—the agreement will be sealed, signed, and delivered under which the absolute independence of the Irish Parliament will be recognised, and the sole link of control that will remain will be the Lord Lieutenant representing the slender thread of the Crown as the connection between the Government of England and the Government of Ireland. We arrive, therefore, at this singular result: that under the legislation which will be proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, we shall have an independent Irish Parliament which will consist chiefly and mainly of Roman Catholics; we shall have a Government chiefly and mainly of Roman Catholics responsible to that Irish Parliament; and then we shall have a Lord Lieutenant, qualified beforehand by the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman is now seeking to pass, who will also be a Roman Catholic; and this is the language in which the right hon. Gentleman in his pamphlet speaks of those who may be selected for this important office:—A convert, in case of any conflict between the Queen and the Pope, will follow the Pope and let the Queen shift for herself—and that she can very well do.Now I should be very sorry to identify myself with the opinions or the conclusions of the right hon. Gentleman on every point, but I want the House to follow the chain of events. The right hon. Gentleman supports a measure in 1867; he writes a pamphlet in 1874, to which I have no doubt he entirely adheres at the present time; in 1881 he declines to take any steps which may or may not have been necessary to relieve the Lord Chancellor, and I suppose, 1759 therefore, also the Lord Lieutenant, from any disability; and in 1886 he proposes a Home Rule Bill, having written this book, in which he says that converts, and therefore presumably the person who may probably be Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, will follow the Pope first of all, and not the Queen. I do not wish to enter at any length upon the details of the measure; but I want to point out this one thing—either the measure is necessary or it is not necessary. If it is not necessary, it is open to the objection which the right hon. Gentleman himself indicated—that it does impose a fresh and new disability; and the point I wish to draw the attention of the House to is that, while it disqualifies the Lord Chancellor from exercising ecclesiastical patronage, and from discharging any trust of any corporation or institution which may attach to the Church of England, it leaves him open to declare the law and the policy affecting such trusts, so that the Lord Chancellor is to be rendered incapable of discharging an executive duty within the plain direction of the trust, and the plain direction of an instrument which no man would seek to evade for a single moment, be he Roman Catholic or Protestant; but he is not debarred from discharging the duties effecting the policy and the legal interpretation of such trusts. I can hardly regard that as either wise or satisfactory. It is, I can only repeat, the setting up of a new scheme of disability, declaring at one moment that a Roman Catholic lawyer is to be fully capable of discharging the duties of Lord Chancellor, and the next moment cutting off from him a very large proportion of the most important duties which devolve upon him. I am not, I believe, straining a point at all in saying that the right hon. Gentleman must have contemplated all these consequences with reference to the future government of Ireland by the light of the book which he has written, and the opinions he has expressed therein. I regard this Bill as most unfortunate and inopportune. I do not know why it is proposed, unless it be in connection with the scheme of Home Rule with which the right hon. Gentleman is identified. We have fellow-subjects of the Catholic faith in all parts of the world. We trust them, we rely upon them to discharge their several 1760 duties, and there is no disability of any kind upon them other than those to which reference has been made in the Bill. It seems to me that those who stir questions of this kind incur an enormous and grave responsibility. The revival especially of religious controversy is a matter that ought to be avoided by all who have any regard for the peace and well-being of the country. We are in peace, and I earnestly hope that the House and the country will allow us to remain so, and that this Bill may not pass into law. I beg to move, Sir, that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ *(2.30.) MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
I regret the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian at the present moment, as I shall have to quote his words to a considerable extent. It seems to me that we can look at this matter either from a political or a religious point of view. My intention in the greater part of the few remarks I shall submit to the House is to deal with it from the political side, because it is indeed a political question, and religion only comes in incidentally. When I first read this Bill I naturally turned back to the Roman Catholic-Emancipation Act of 1829, which it would have the effect of modifying very considerably. I read most of the speeches made by leading Members, both in this House and the House of Lords, when the Catholic Emancipation Bill was under discussion. I suppose no question was ever more fully discussed, because Debate took place not only upon the different stages of the Bill, but also upon the presentation of Petitions for and against it. I naturally turned to the opinions expressed by the leaders of the side which promoted the Bill. The measure was brought in by a Conservative Government, but was largely supported by the Whigs. I find that Lord Brougham, then Mr. H. Brougham, said—The Bill went to the entire length that any reasonable man ever did or ever could demand. It requires no securities but such as the most 1761 zealous Catholic must readily admit to be of necessity part and parcel of so comprehensive a measure.These securities consisted in leaving the religion of the Sovereign untouched, and providing that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should be Protestants. Now, I ask on what principles we should decide the question whether such securities should be removed or maintained? For an answer I will quote Lord John Russell, one of the leaders of those who favoured civil and religious liberty. In his great speech on the Test and Corporation Act, which was published in the authorised selection of his works before his death, Lord John Russell said—If the religion of anybody of men be found to contain political principles hostile to the State, or militating against that allegiance which is due from every subject to the Crown, in that case the question ceases to be a religious question, and you have a right to interfere, and to impose such restrictions as you may deem necessary; because you do not impose them on religious opinions, you impose them only on political doctrines.I will attempt to show that the religion of the body of men, whom we call Roman Catholic or Papists, does contain principles hostile to the State and militating against that allegiance which is due from every subject to the Crown. In order that I may not be accused of going to rabid Protestants or to those incapable of doing justice to men from, whose opinions they differ, I will quote simply and safely from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) himself. My quotations will be taken from what I understand to be the very last edition of his book called Rome: Newest Fashions in Religion. The edition bears the date 1875, and contains the latest published authentic record of the right hon. Gentleman's opinions on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman had arrived at that time at the ripe age of 65; he had been Prime Minister twice, and I think we may conclude that he had sufficient knowledge of the matter to arrive at a sound conclusion. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman does not repudiate, but he still holds the opinions expressed in the pamphlet to which I allude. In the preface of 1875, the right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to call public attention toNot only the tendency, but the design of Vaticanism to disturb civil society, and to proceed, when it may be necessary and practicable, 1762 to the issue of blood, for the accomplishment of its ends.He speaks also ofThe intention of the Roman Church, whenever she thinks it may be safely ventured, is to trample the law under foot.In another passage in the preface he writes—''The hierarchical power of the Latin Church, aiming internally at the total destruction of right, not as opposed to wrong, but as opposed to arbitrary will. Externally, it claims to over-ride at will, in respect of right and wrong, the entire action of the civil power and to employ force when necessary.'In another passage he speaks of female converts as "converts," and of male converts as "captives." He says—No one can become her convert, without forfeiting and renouncing his moral and mental freedom, and placing his civil loyalty and duty at the mercy of another.When the right hon. Gentleman, in the preface, published in 1875, comes to the word "renouncing," he drops it, and inserts "forfeiting," which, I think, makes the expression stronger, because forfeiting means a compulsory giving up without any action of the will Therefore, what is true of converts being true of Catholics as a body, every Papist, whether born in the faith or whether he be a convert, places his civil liberty and duty at the mercy of another. Yet the right hon. Gentleman asks us to admit such persons, placed in such a dilemma, to two high and confidential positions in the estate from which they were excluded by universal consent in 1829. It may be said that Rome used to be very dogmatic on matters of this kind, but is not so now. The right hon. Gentleman himself pats an end to that belief. He says—The Church of Rome has abandoned nothing and has retracted nothing. She unconditionally maintains what the mediæval Popes maintained—a claim to universal monarchy.He says—We were told that the dangers of deposition and persecution, of keeping no faith with heretics, and of universal dominion, were, obsolete without revival—mere bugbears." "All these claims," he says in the pamphlet, "are revived; and everyone is in full force, and is necessary to salvation.He says—The words, 'A Catholic first and an Englishman afterwards,' I take to mean that the convert, in case of any conflict between the Queen and the Pope, intends to follow the Pope and let the Queen shift for herself.I will quote one more passage from the 1763 right hon. Gentleman, and then I will have done with him as far as quotations are concerned. He says, with regard to Popery generally, two things. In the first place, he says—No more cunning plot was ever devised against the freedom, the happiness, and the virtue of mankind than Romanism.Then, on the 95th page of his paper on the Vatican Decrees, he says—To secure rights has been, and is, the aim of the Christian civilisation; to destroy them is the aim of the Romish policy. This has become its undisguised, unchecked rule of action and law of life.I am very sorry indeed that we, who live on terms of harmony with our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects and fellow-Members, and who desire that they should have full liberty to worship God as they like, are obliged to get up and quote these things, written by a distinguished Member of the House whom nearly all the Roman Catholic Members of the House are now following. But this is no fault of ours; we never raised the question, or thought of raising it, but when it is raised we are bound to see whether Rome has in any sense modified her intentions. In 1886 the English Roman Catholic Bishops sent up to Rome for beatification the names of several persons who were called martyrs, and who had been put to death in England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Of that number the Pope and the Court of Rome selected four for beatification. I do not know what beatification is exactly, or what relation it bears to canonisation, but the fact, at all events, will show the class of men whom Rome delights to honour. The first of these men was named Plumtree, and he was hanged for rebellion in 1579; and the second was Felton, who was executed because he nailed to the door of the Bishop of London's Palace the Pope's Bull deposing Queen Elizabeth; the two others were executed for, in obedience to that Bull, refusing allegiance to the Queen. We may take it that if the Pope issued a Bull deposing Her Majesty Queen Victoria from the Throne every Roman Catholic would be bound to renounce his allegiance to the Queen and let Her Majesty shift for herself. Well, Sir, we take the chance of that with confidence as regards our hon. and right hon. Friends as Members of this House; but it is a very different thing to put anyone, 1764 who is in the unfortunate position of having to make up his mind whether he will obey Her Majesty or the Pope, in a place in which he will be confidential adviser to the Crown, the keeper of Her Majesty's conscience, or her representative in the Sister Island. With regard to the position of Lord Chancellor, I would point out that young ladies of property are continually being made wards of Court. When such ladies desire to enter into an engagement to marry, the Lord Chancellor has to consider whether he will give his consent. Now, what is the rule of the Roman Catholic Church at the present time in regard to civil marriages and religious marriages which are not in accord with the Decrees of the Council of Trent—decrees which may at any time be made binding upon Catholics in this country? The Lord Chancellor, if he were a faithful Catholic who obeyed the Pope, would, under such circumstances, be obliged to hold that any marriage celebrated before a Registrar in this country was no marriage, but "a filthy concubinage." So, at least, says the right hon. Gentleman. I ask whether Members of this House are going to put their daughters, and nieces, and grand daughters into a position in which such a term may be applied to them by the man whom this law will make their guardian? With regard to the patronage of livings the Bill makes provision. The right hon. Gentleman distrusts the Papist Lord Chancellor, and rightly takes from him the patronage of the livings; but what provision does he substitute? At present the Lord Chancellor exercises his patronage in the light of day, and with full Parliamentary responsibility; but under this Bill, his patronage would be handed over to some person nominated by Her Majesty, and who need not even be, as the Bill is drawn up, a member of the Church of England. The responsibility of a Minister for his patronage is not illusory. Lord Westbury, having misused his patronage, was compelled to resign the Woolsack; and the right hon. Gentleman's exercise of his patronage as Premier with regard to what was called the Ewelme Rectory scandal contributed greatly to his downfall in 1874. With regard to trusteeships, it is provided that the Chancellors place is be taken by a Judge who must a member of the Church of England. 1765 There are in the patronage of the Lord Chancellor 12 canonries and 663 livings, and it is proposed that this patronage may be exercised by a person who is not a member of the Church of England. Now let me contrast the position of the present Bill with that of the Roman Catholic Emancipation Bill of 1829. The latter measure came before the House after having been before the country for 30 years, and when there were real grievances to be removed. The Bill was introduced by the Government with a full sense of their responsibility as being answerable for the peace of the country. How is this Bill moved now? It is brought forward by a right hon. Gentleman who had fall power when he was in the same position as the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel to bring in a Bill to the same effect and to pass it; but he did not do so. He waits until he is in opposition and in a minority, and then introduces it, with the evident intention not to quell religious strife, but to provoke it. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I cannot, of course, look into the recesses of the right hon. Gentleman's heart, but I have a right to draw inferences from the facts before me, and I say that when, under such circumstances, he brings forward a Bill which he knows will not pass, in order to raise a discussion and put the Government, as he hopes, in a false position, mischief and not good is his object. The Bill of 1829 was loudly called for. There is no call for this; it has been termed, indeed, a "Ripon-Russell Relief Bill." I do not believe it is intended to benefit the hon. Member for Hackney; I believe the only one who would be relieved by it would be the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Healy); at all events, it is promoted only in the interests of individuals, and not in the general interests of the country. The right hon. Gentleman is credited by some with having brought the Bill forward in the interests of the Nonconformists. In old times the Nonconformists saw so clearly the political danger, the risk to freedom of giving powers to Papists, that they united with Churchmen in passing the Test Act. One of the leading Nonconformists, when the Test Act was under consideration, said, in this House—If the Bill included Dissenters they had rather live under the severity of the law than clog so necessary a work.1766 I appeal to my Nonconformist friends to remember that the same motives which existed in former days on this Bill ought to still weigh with them now. I ask them not to leave all the battle against this Popery—which I do not describe, but which the right hon. Gentleman himself has so graphically pictured—to members of the Church of England alone. Let them stand shoulder to shoulder, side by side with us, instead of going over to the enemy. It seems to me that the proposed Instruction of the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir J. Pope Hennessy) was a most logical sequence of the Bill. He, no doubt, burst the bag and let the cat out of it, and I am not surprised that he has been requested to withdraw his Instruction. I ask the House whether they intend that this country shall remain a Protestant State or not? Nearly every office is open to Roman Catholics; there are but two of a very special character not so open. It is urged that the law does not prevent the Prime Minister being a Roman Catholic, but that is because he is an officer unknown to the law. He may be the holder of any office. If you want to prevent the Prime Minister being a Roman Catholic, you must prevent Roman Catholics holding any office whatever, and that no one wishes to do. I say, if you remove the just and wise securities which, in the opinion of Lord John Russell and Lord Brougham, were absolutely necessary, you take away the Protestant character of this country, and we shall have Roman Catholic priests presented to English Bishoprics; we shall see a Roman Catholic priest coming up to that Table and reading prayers; and we shall find that what has been the palladium of English liberty for the last 200 years will be done away with, and this will cease to be a Protestant State.
§ (3.0.) MR. A. ELLIOT (Roxburgh)
We have just listened to a somewhat panic-stricken orator, but the question we have to discuss is not whether or not the Protestant religion shall cease to exist, but a much more limited proposition, whether it is right, just, wise, and politic to maintain an exclusion of this kind on the ground of religious belief. I confess it was with a feeling of very great regret that I heard that Her Majesty's Government felt it incumbent upon them to resist the Bill. I know the opinions of various gentlemen holding 1767 high, positions in the Government, and their action upon questions involving high religious considerations. Actually the Government went out of their way to select a member of the Roman Catholic Church as Home Secretary, and I never heard them blamed for it. But why that same Government, which selected a Roman Catholic as Home Secretary, should now insist that no Roman Catholic shall be appointed to the position of Lord Chancellor or Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, I am not able to understand. I listened to the remarks of the leader of the House, and I confess I could not find out how far the right hon. Gentleman based his opposition to the Bill on the merits of the case. The right hon. Gentleman said that what the Bill proposes would outrage public opinion. But I want to hear it discussed on its merits, and if the opinions entertained by the Government at all resemble the opinions which we have just heard expressed by the hon. Member (Mr. Gedge), I cannot help believing that they must have yielded to the pressure of bigoted, narrow, and altogether out-of-date sentiments, at variance with the views which now prevail among the generality of men in all parts of the Kingdom. The only possible suggestion of an argument, if it deserves to be called an argument, came from the contention that if the Bill is passed we must logically go further, and alter the Act of Settlement of the Crown. I do not suppose that any hon. Gentleman seriously considers that to amend the Act of the 10th of George IV.—the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act—which has been already amended in several particulars in the direction in which it is now proposed to amend it, is at all analogous to altering the Act regulating the succession to the Crown. There are many distinctions which have been pointed out by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, and there is this also to be said: If we make a mistake in the case of a Lord Chancellor or Lord Lieutenant, if either is found acting to destroy the Constitution or the Protestantism of the Kingdom, it is not impossible to remove the particular Lord Lieutenant or to get rid of that particular Lord Chancellor But if we alter the succession, and a mistake' is made, that is a matter which cannot be so easily remedied. When you deal with the settlement of the 1768 Crown you deal with matters that are settled for generations. It is not a matter to be easily altered. It is one of the fundamental statutes on which the Constitution rests. And, further, it is perfectly reasonable that the head of a great Protestant Empire, the governing part of which is in the main Protestant, should, as representative of the nation, also remain Protestant. But we enter into different considerations, and are extending the Act of Settlement most unreasonably, if we say that the Governor of a colony shall not be a Roman catholic. And if we consider the matter with reference to Ireland, surely we are not to say that an able man, a loyal subject, a man respected as loyal by the people, and fitted to represent Her Majesty, is to be excluded because he is of the religion of the great majority of the Irish people. Those who are maintaining that position—and it has not yet been justified—would have some difficulty in justifying it. And how useless is this law in any way as a bulwark of the Constitution! The Prime Minister may be a Roman Catholic. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that it would be impossible to prevent it, but it cannot do much harm because the Prime Minister is only the head of the Cabinet, which is a thing unknown to the Constitution. Well, religious tests are now abolished; the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Ministers, and other Advisers of the Crown may be of any religion, or may be of none; but to maintain that the Lord Chancellor's opinion in the Cabinet is so great as to outweigh the authority of the other Ministers is to reverse the notorious facts of the situation. It is to say that the Lord Chancellor's position is of greater importance than we know it to be. The question of patronage I will only touch upon for a moment. I gathered from what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian said that before going into Committee practically on the Bill he would make some new suggestion as to patronage. For my part I think it is very much required, for the effect of Clause 3 might be to narrow rather than to widen the scope of the measure in the powers the occupant of the Woolsack might possess. There is no bar to a member of the Church of Scotland becoming Lord Chancellor. If so, he would have the right to exercise ecclesiastical patronage. It is not the law of England 1769 at the present time that the appointment to benefices in the Church of England shall be exercised only by members of the Church of England. It is only a matter of property, and any person has a right to exercise the patronage belonging to his office, or which is his in right of possession of an advowson. It requires great consideration before we find ourselves convinced it is desirable to narrow that right. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian has said that Scotch Members ought to be careful in allowing the Lord Chancellor to be described as Lord Chancellor of Great Britain. But the Lord Chancellor is Lord Chancellor of Great Britain by virtue of the Act of Union with Scotland, which says that there shall be one Great Seal for England and Scotland. The Great Seal is a mark of the nationhood of Scotland. Her Majesty may give her sanction to some important Treaty or some great Imperial Act, and is Scotland not to be represented by that Great Seal? I dislike to see the narrower word "England" substituted for what is by Act of Parliament the rightful designation of "Great Britain." I like to think that in these great Imperial Acts Scotland as well as England is represented in the form of the Seal. I do regret, as I said before, that the Government have not accepted the Bill, that in the strong position they occupy they have not been able to clear themselves from any suspicions of old-fashioned, out of date origin, and that they have yielded to pressure from the least wise section of their supporters. I am sorry to have to vote against the Government, whose general course of policy I approve. What the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian may have done 15 or 20 years ago is not the question. We have to judge of the matter on its merits. Are we to go on in the direction of advance in which this country has been going for two centuries—in the direction of throwing open these offices—or are we now to stand still? I believe that the country has been advancing in the right direction, and I shall be sorry if the Government, in consequence of its action on this occasion, should, seem to try to check that steady progress.
§ *(3.14.) COLONEL SANDYS (Lancacashire S.W., Bootle)
I confess the temptation to speak at length on this subject is very great. I do not often trouble the House with my remarks and 1770 opinions, and under present circumstances, and seeing the House is anxious for a Division, I will not express my views at any great length. I am afraid that I may perhaps be classed in that category referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian as of those who champion everything that ought to be swept away. But, at any rate, I venture to stand before this House as the upholder of principles which I believe are held by a very large majority of the people of England, and I believe of Scotland too. I have this morning had the honour of laying on the Table of the House Petitions signed by over 50,000 English people, a large number being members of the Baptist persuasion. That is, I venture to say, a strong and conclusive argument that they are not in favour of the Bill. Other Petitions in the same direction have also been presented, and I may state that, having had the honour of addressing large meetings in different parts of the country in reference to this particular Bill, I have invariably found a unanimity of opinion ranged against it; and if the House of Commons is to reflect the views of the majority of the people of this country, it will reject the Bill. I oppose the Bill, because I believe that the cession of these two great offices of State to the professors of another faith would logically lead to a course which would endanger the constitutional liberties of the people of this country. The present measure, unlike that of last year, makes no provision, in the event of the Lord Chancellor for the time being being a Roman Catholic, for the State ecclesiastical patronage being exercised by the Archbishops of the Church of England. Sub-section 1 of Section 3 of the present Bill provides that any right of presentation to any ecclesiastical benefice belonging to the office when held by a Roman Catholic shall be exercised by such person or persons as Her Majesty may appoint. There is no provision that such person shall profess the Protestant faith. There is no mention of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, as was the case in the Bill of 1890, and as, has already been pointed out, there is no condition at all that this person or these persons shall be of the Protestant faith. I think that is a very important point of difference which 1771 certainly docs not tell in favour of the present Bill. The Bill is entitled "The Religious Disabilities Removal Bill," but it should more properly be called "The Political Disabilities Removal Bill." There is no question of religion in this matter at all. At the present moment none of Her Majesty's subjects suffer under any religious disabilities at all. A Roman Catholic is not objected to because of his religious faith, but because of his political views. I agree in according to every Roman Catholic the free exercise of this religion. I have no objection whatever to Roman Catholicism as a faith for those who can accept it. What I object to, and the ground upon which I oppose the Bill, is the Roman Catholic system, and not the Roman Catholic faith. That system is of a two-fold nature. It has its own faith and form of worship, which concerns only the members of that faith, and this is not the time or place to discuss that. What I will briefly deal with now is the political side of that faith. The Roman Catholic Church is a great political power, and its Bishops and other functionaries are political agents. This is why the people of this country, whose instincts, where their constitutional freedom is concerned, are unerring, have condemned this Bill. They feel that, if this Bill were carried, great political influences would be brought to bear against their liberties. That may be a strong statement, but I am prepared to support it by quotation and argument. Let us look for a moment at the Bill itself. I have mentioned the difference between this and a former Bill in reference to ecclesiastical patronage. Now, suppose for a moment that the Lord High Chancellor is appointed under the circumstances contemplated by the framers of the Bill. Will anyone deny the importance of the position occupied by the Lord Chancellor? The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian has ridiculed the title of Keeper of the Queen's Conscience, which attaches to the Lord Chancellor, and has pointed out that the title comes down from pre-Reformation times; but, at any rate, the Lord Chancellor is still the most intimate adviser of the Sovereign. How can you expect the holder of that high and responsible office to discharge the duties attaching to the intimate adviser of the Sovereign when the conscience of the Lord Chancellor himself would, under the circumstances, 1772 be in the keeping of the Roman Catholic priesthood, and his first allegiance be due to a foreign Power? I do not see how you can appoint such a man to be intimate adviser of the Sovereign of this realm in accordance with the spirit and terms of the Act of Settlement. I have taken the trouble to look out the duties that devolve upon the Lord Chancellor, and hon. Members may judge of the importance of the position of this State functionary and the influence he exercises Excluding for a moment the ecclesiastical patronage, the Lord Chancellor is ex officio a Privy Councillor and Member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; he is Prolocutor of the House of Lords; appointer of the Justices of Peace throughout the country; keeper of the Sovereign's conscience, or in other words the intimate adviser of the Sovereign; visitor of all Hospitals and Colleges of Royal foundation; patron of all Crown Livings entered in the "King's Book;" he is general guardian of all infants, idiots, lunatics, and wards; general superintendent of charitable uses, throughout the Kingdom, besides his jurisdiction in the Court of Chancery over wards; he is Keeper of the Great Seal of England—and I may mention that this seal having been once affixed to a document has a force only to be set aside by an Act of Parliament, and it is not difficult to imagine that in certain social crises the Broad Seal of England thus used might lead to very serious complications—[a laugh]—that statement is treated with ridicule by some person, but the House will, I doubt not, appreciate my allusion and do justice to it. The Lord Chancellor is, moreover, President of the House of Lords Appellate tribunal, and of Lords Justices, of Appeal; of the Chancery Division of the High Court; he appoints all the Law Officers, Puisne Judges, County Court Judges (removable) and Justices; he appoints to 12 canonries and to over 600 livings in the Church of England; he reads the Royal Speech, and is always a Member of a Royal Commission to represent the Crown. Does the House think that an official exercising all these functions should be the subject of a foreign Power, for I presume it will be conceded that the allegiance of a Roman Catholic is first to the Pope of Rome and to the entourage of the Papal Throne? 1773 I repeat, to the entourage—or the power behind the Papal Throne—and gentlemen from Ireland will understand the force of this remark. The right hon. Gentleman has challenged us to prove that the loyalty of our Roman Catholic fellow-subject may be tainted. While I am ready to admit the loyalty of a great number of Roman Catholics, it cannot be denied that the Roman Catholic owes a divided allegiance, and that in the hour of danger it must be a question with him whether his allegiance is due to the Pope of Rome or to the Sovereign of this country A dispassionate study of history will show such junctures have arisen, and they may arise again. But to a good Catholic there is no question as to where his allegiance is first due. The question has been raised and answered fully by those most competent to do so.It is idle to expect that the most solemn promises and sworn declarations of the highest Romish dignitaries in this country can in any degree bind the consciences of the rulers of the Church of Rome, or fetter its action in dealing with or enforcing obedience from its subjects in this country.Who was it ridiculed the idea? No less an authority than the late Cardinal Newman. Dealing in his reply to Vatican Decrees with the declaration made by English and Irish prelates in 1826 he says—At that time the clergy both of Ireland and England were educated in Gallican opinions, and had modes of thinking foreign altogether to the minds of the entourage of the Holy See.He goes on to say—British Ministers ought to have applied to Rome to learn the civil dates of British subjects, and that no pledge from Catholics is of value to which Rome is not a party.So we see that there is then to be an application to Rome when the duties and allegiance of British subjects to the Crown are in conflict with Papal claims? On page 14 we find these words. "No pledge from a Catholic will be of any value to which Rome is not a party." (Remember, I am here quoting the right hon. Gentleman's own words.) He adds—The English statesmen of the future will remember these words, and recollect from whom they come. The lesson to be received is this: although pledges were given, although these pledges were firmly and even passionately asserted, although the subject was one of civil allegiance, no pledge from a Catholic was of any value to which Rome was not a party.In the light of this statement I leave 1774 the House to judge of what value the allegiance of Roman Catholics is likely to be. A good Catholic dare not go against his rule, and I hold that it would be in the last degree unwise in us to leave in any sort of doubt the allegiance of any high officer of State through whom the reputation of the Crown might be imperilled. I therefore trust the House will reject the Bill without entertaining any Amendment whatever.
§ *(3.33.) MR. ASQUITH (Fife, East)
Whatever may be the fate of this Bill, I think that its promoters may fairly congratulate themselves upon the success which it has already achieved in testing the reality and genuineness of some of our current political professions. As has often been pointed out, in this matter of religious disability our legislation has passed through three stages. We began with an era of exclusions, which was followed by an era of toleration, to be succeeded in the present century by an era of liberty. After 60 years experience of growing freedom, we had believed that the doctrine of religious liberty was at last accepted by men of all parties and creeds in this country as part of that common stock of opinion which we may take for granted in all political controversies. From this Debate, however, it appears that some of us have been living in a fool's paradise. The doctrine of religious liberty is that the State in entrusting civil and political rights to its subjects, and in selecting men for its service, has no more duty and no more right to concern itself with their religious opinions than it has with the cut of their clothes or the colour of their hair. That is the principle underlying our legislation of the last 60 years, by which, beginning with Roman Catholics, going on to Jews, and finally dealing with those who profess no religion at all, we have opened the avenues of public life to all without distinction. But speeches have been made by the hon. Member who has just sat down, and by he hon. Member for Stockport, which show that, so far from the principle being universally accepted, there are still those who have not the dimmest and most distant apprehension what it means. The last speaker transported us into the remote past, and repeated phrases and appealed to prejudices which I at least imagined had been buried, and buried beyond the hope of resurrection—in the 1775 grave of Lord Eldon. We witness many surprising things in politics in these days; but since I have been in the House I have seen nothing more surprising than the procession of argumentative and rhetorical ghosts which have stalked along the floor of the House in the broad daylight of this Wednesday afternoon in the last decade of the 19th century. If the arguments against the Bill are good for anything they are good as an indictment against the spirit of the legislation of the last half-century. With one exception there is not an argument that was not met and refuted a hundred times in the first 20 years of this century by the leaders of the Liberal Party of the day, who suffered, and suffered gladly, exclusion from place and power—not a bad thing to happen, sometimes, in the history of a Party—rather than abandon the advocacy of Catholic claims. The one exception is the argument of the hon. Member for Stockport, and others, that the Church of Rome, whatever it may have been in 1829, has now become a different and a much more dangerous body, and has adopted dogmas which have made her a more formidable enemy to human enlightenment and political loyalty. I am not going to take up the cudgels for the Vatican Decrees or the Syllabus, but all history shows that it is hazardous to assume that men's conduct will conform to the logical necessities of their speculative or theological creed. Let us rather look at actual facts. During the 20 years which have elapsed since the decrees were promulgated we have seen Roman Catholic subjects of the Queen in the Army and the Navy, we have seen them exercising the offices of Magistrates and Judges, sitting amongst us in this House, filling high positions in every Department of the service of the State, and admitted to the highest positions in the councils of the Sovereign. Will anyone assert that these men have been less constant in their allegiance, less devoted to duty, less trustworthy in all the relations of public and of private life, than the members of any other Church? That is a dangerous line of argument, because, if a tree is to be known by its fruits, something might be said of the political dangers of a form of faith which in these days keeps alive in its votaries the spirit and the temper of religious persecution; operating, it is 1776 true, not by the antiquated methods of the torture chamber and the stake, but in the subtler and equally effective form of social and political ostracism. Why have not the opponents of this Bill the courage of their convictions? If one-half of their arguments were good, they would not content themselves by opposing this modest little measure, but they would, like bold men, propose to re-enact, with all the additional safeguards that the modern developments of Roman doctrine require, the whole apparatus of tests and shibboleths, of declarations and oaths—by which for 150 years you excluded from the rights of citizenship thousands and millions of the most loyal subjects of the Crown. Why do they not apply to their sympathising and somewhat taciturn friends on the Treasury Bench to give them a day for the discussion of such a proposal—and if they do we shall be glad to meet them on that broader platform. But until this question is presented to us we have nothing to do with it. Assuming that we are not going to reverse the current of our legislation, the burden of proof lies upon those who oppose the Bill. What is there to differentiate the office of Lord Chancellor from other high offices of State? Nothing, except the fact that in some books the Lord Chancellor is described as the Keeper of the Queen's Conscience—a relic of the time when the Lord Chancellor was an ecclesiastic, because no one else was well educated enough to discharge the duties of the office. The Lord Chancellor was intrusted with the presentations to the King's livings under 20 marks, and, afterwards, under £20 in value, in order that he might be able to provide pensions and rewards for clerks in the Court of Chancery. The clerks, like their master, were necessarily ecclesiastics, because they could read and write and had sufficient education for the duties they had to discharge. The Lord Chancellor is no longer an ecclesiastic, and the clerks are no longer ecclesiastics, and the whole question of patronage is provided for by the Bill; but the matter is one of detail, subject to amendment in Committee. Suffice it that it would be impossible for a Catholic Lord Chancellor to have any voice whatever in the distribution of patronage. How far is the argument to be carried? The Queen's Conscience 1777 may be kept by a Jew (when the patronage is exercised by the Archbishop of Canterbury); by a Nonconformist, bound by his principles to look upon the Established Church as an offence, and yet entitled to present to each living as it becomes vacant; or by an agnostic, a man who will not assert or deny any of the principles which all religious people believe to be of the very essence of religion. He may present to any living he pleases. Will anyone get up, and, by argument, endeavour to demonstrate to the House, all these things being within the law, that a Roman Catholic ought to be excluded from the office which members of all these creeds or of no creed at all may fill? All the other high offices of State a Roman Catholic may fill. The First Lord of the Treasury may be a Roman Catholic. The Secretary of State, with whom rests the prerogative of mercy, may be a Roman Catholic. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whose duties may include delicate transactions with the Curia of Rome, may be a Roman Catholic. Is any principle involved in excluding the Lord Chancellor where he is a Roman Catholic? Only two arguments have been, or can be, brought against this Bill—both of them equally irrelevant. The first is derived from the Act of Settlement, and from the suggestion that if we pass the present Bill we shall be logically driven to pass another Bill after wards for a different purpose. The Bill before the House does not purport to touch the Act of Settlement. When, if ever, that Act comes up for revision, the religion of the Sovereign is only one of several matters which will have to be carefully and independently considered. The other argument is still more grotesque. I have not heard it put forward in this House, but I have seen it at least covertly insinuated elsewhere. It is that that Bill is promoted in the interests of particular persons. Is there anybody who seriously believes that to be true? If there is, I beg to assure them that, so far as I am aware, no person engaged in the promotion of this Bill, or who will vote for this Bill, knows or cares what influence it may have on the political or personal fortunes of any man living. What is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government on this question? They are going to oppose the Bill for reasons which 1778 I have not been able entirely to understand; but I do not greatly blame them. They have during the last few years inflicted heavy blows upon, and have yet more hard knocks in store for, their Orange friends in Ireland. There have been, too, certain compromising adventures in connection with Ireland and Malta, the recollection of which it is desirable should be effaced as soon as possible. The Government may well think this an opportune occasion to indulge in a little cheap Protestant sentiment. But Her Majesty's Government and those who sit behind them do not constitute the majority in this House. We are curious to know what course is going to be adopted by those supporters of the Government who are good enough to sit amongst us. I do not see many of them in their places; important public engagements appear to have detained some of them in other parts of the country. Until I hear to the contrary, I shall hope and believe that they will follow the manly example of the hon. Member for Roxburghshire and stand true to the old principles of the Liberal Party. Surely it cannot be that the principle of religious liberty is to go with so many others, to be sacrificed to satisfy the devouring requirements of the sacred cause of the Union. However that may be, our course is clear. Sixty years ago the principle of religions exclusion was entrenched in this country behind an imposing fabric of legal safeguards and securities. One after another its strong places have been captured and its walls battered down, until all that remains is this paltry little corner—the solitary and belated relic of a past which can never be rebuilt. The finger of fate is upon it; and although by your votes this afternoon you may for a few years retard, depend upon it you cannot avert its downfall.
§ (3.51.) COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I am glad to have the good fortune to follow a gentleman belonging to the legal profession, because I have always found that, however apposite and unanswerable lawyers' arguments may be, we may depend upon it there is another lawyer in the House who can refute and confute them all. What struck me in the speech of the hon. and learned Member was that there was one work of great interest which he never could have read—Vatican Decrees. 1779 The hon. and learned Member has conjured up before the House a vision of ghosts marching down the floor, a procession of bigots reviving musty and rusty traditions of a long past age. If the hon. and learned Member had read Vatican Decrees, he would have seen, marching at the head of that procession, his revered leader the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. I notice that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not, in the course of his eloquent speech, touch one of the main objections to the Bill—the question of the appointment in Ireland of a Catholic Lord Lieutenant, to which I will refer later on. With regard to the Bill itself, and the speech in which it was introduced, I must say that from a Party point of view there never was a move taken in this House more likely to strengthen the Party to which I belong; but I regret that the right hon. Gentleman or any Member of the House should have thought it his duty to bring before the House and the country a question which, in my opinion, is, more than any other, likely to raise those bitter religious hatreds and dissensions which it is desirable should be buried. I, however, find it difficult to regret the raising of a question which has been the occasion of a speech from the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian which, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, afforded me very much pleasure to listen to. I believe the whole House, whether they agree with the right hon. Gentleman or not, listened with delight to the wonderful speech which he delivered, so full was it of eloquence, fire, and wit. I do not intend to wander into the legal question, with which I am absolutely incapable of dealing, but I will confine myself to the general question as it presents itself to the ordinary minds of the country, which, after all, will have to record the final verdict on this subject. I wonder why the right hon. Gentleman has brought in this Bill. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman intends to give satisfaction to some part of the community. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman denies that the Bill touches a very important and fundamental question in our Constitution. Who is it the right hon. Gentleman intends to satisfy? Undoubtedly there are certain Roman Catholics in the country who will be glad to see the Bill pass, but, as a rule, they 1780 belong to the "classes," with whom the right hon. Gentleman has so little sympathy. The "masses" do not care one farthing about the Bill. Is it to satisfy the sensibilities of his Irish Roman Catholic supporters that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced the Bill? It. cannot be that, because they are going to sweep the whole board; they are going to remove every vestige of the British rule from the other side of the Channel. We have heard a great deal about the Keeper of the Queen's conscience. I do not know what that is. But whatever doubt there may be as to who is the Keeper of the Queen's conscience, there is no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has for some time been the keeper of the Nonconformist conscience. Is it to satisfy the Nonconformists that he has brought forward this Bill? Even among the right hon. Gentleman's most vigorous supporters in this country there have been meetings held absolutely condemning the principle of the Bill. I think it will require all the ingenuity of Radical Members opposite, when they go back to their constituents, to so enlarge the Nonconformist conscience, which I admit is an elastic thing, as to cause Nonconformists to swallow a principle which is absolutely opposed to the true Protestant principles of this country, which I believe are mainly to be found among the Nonconformists. I absolutely fail to see what Party in the country it is that the right hon Gentleman proposes to gratify. The main part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was enforced in a most eloquent appeal to the House not to choose out one religion at which this blow is to be aimed, and he pointed out that disqualifications are not placed on Buddhists, Mahomedans, or Hindoos. The disqualifications which at one time were placed on Roman Catholics were aimed at their Church for a great reason and object, and that was that the Roman Catholic Church sought to establish supreme authority in this land, which none of the other religious did. But I have not the shadow of a doubt that if any of those other religions had attempted to establish in this country—as the Roman Catholic Church attempted in former times—a political domination and supreme authority, exactly the same restrictions would have been imposed upon them. But the right hon, 1781 Gentleman—and, for my own part, I must say that I admire above all the marvellous agility which the right hon. Gentleman has displayed in skating over very thin ice—the right hon. Gentleman must have known that if he brought this forward we should improve our mind by a careful study of all he has said or written on many subjects from various points of view in former times, and that he would be undoubtedly confronted with the views which he has expressed in those two pamphlets. The right hon. Gentleman has been very strong on the line which he took with regard to removal of Catholic disabilities in 1867. But that was before 1870; and I should have liked the right hon. Gentleman when he was dealing with the subject to have proved to the House that, on mature consideration, having regard to all he has learned since, the opinions he recorded in Vatican Decrees and Vaticanism are erroneous. Now, what is the argument the right hon. Gentleman employs in Vatican Decrees? The right hon. Gentleman points out that in 1829, when Catholic Emancipation was passed, it was passed on the express understanding, deliberately given by the Roman Catholic Bishops, that the authority and power of the Court of Rome did not touch civil obedience, and the right hon. Gentleman reasoned in the Vatican Decrees that it had only been on that ground that Catholic Emancipation had been carried; and we are, therefore, led to believe that, according to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, had the House of Commons been confronted with these Vatican Decrees it never would have passed the Bill for Catholic Emancipation. That is a logical deduction. But it is idle to deny that the Roman Catholic Church is not only a religious community, but a great political power. That is a fact which no statesman, can deny. We all know at the present moment that the hopes of the right hon. Gentleman himself of returning to power depend altogether on the success or non-success of the Roman Catholic priests in confronting the hon. Member for Cork. If they succeed in beating the hon. Member for Cork, and return to this House the old style of Irish Nationalist-Liberal-Radical, who at one time were very remarkable for their fondness for place and power, then the right hon. Gentleman may come into power. 1782 But from whom would these Roman Catholic priests get their orders? Why have Archbishop Croke and Archbishop Walsh gone to Rome to obtain the last orders of the Vatican and then come back to adopt a very distinct line of policy, which would undoubtedly have an effect, whether for good or for evil, on the destinies of the Empire? Therefore I maintain that it is impossible to deny that the Roman Catholic Church at the present time is a most powerful political machine, and that being so I venture to say that there is a far stronger argument at the present time against removing these two disabilities which exist in our Constitution than there was at the time of the Emancipation. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to read his own writings in 1874 and then try to refute what I say. The right hon. Gentleman laid down in his admirable pamphlet four propositions, two of which dealt with religious subjects, and I therefore will not consider them; but the right hon. Gentleman laid immense stress on two of these propositions. I will call the hon. and learned Member for Fife, who hates ghosts, to listen to the words of his leader, though I must do him the justice to say that he could never have had the slightest or faintest indication from the right hon. Gentleman that he has changed his mind on the subject. Well, these are the right hon. Gentleman's opinions, and as he does not deny them they are his opinions still—That she (the Church of Rome) has refurbished and paraded anew every rusty tool she was fondly thought to have disused.So much for ghosts. Then comes the third proposition, which the right hon. Gentleman descants most upon in this pamphlet—That no one could now become her convert without renouncing his moral and mental freedom, and placing his civil loyalty and duty at the mercy of another.Those were the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman then, and they are his opinions still. That being so, I entirely share the views of the right hon. Gentleman, who is a very good judge of these subjects; and I maintain that it would be a fatal and disastrous thing for the country to remove these two disabilities which, in its wisdom, the Parliament of 1829 left within the boundary of the Constitution, and to remove the last two hedges which they built round the Protestant succession to the Crown. The hon. Member 1783 who last spoke on the opposite side of the House has asked whether we do not believe that our Catholic fellow-countrymen are as worthy of high place, and as capable of high honour and patriotism as any in the land. I cordially share that opinion, and I am sure that if my hon. Friend below me (Mr. De Lisle) ever receives the reward of his energy and talent and should become Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, he would absolutely repudiate and refuse to allow any foreign interference with his well-known loyalty. But there are others whom I would not trust at all. They have been described most admirably and accurately by the right hon. Gentleman, and I really believe that when the right hon. Gentleman wrote this admirable work he was endowed with the spirit of prophecy, and must in his innermost conscience have conceived the probability that some statesman at some remote period might propose a similar measure to this, and it was in order to guard against that probability that he described the position of a convert to the Church of Rome. It is most interesting. The right hon. Gentleman points out in this pamphlet that the Roman Catholic Church has undoubtedly made considerable strides in England, but he qualifies that by saying that it is among the classes. The right hon. Gentleman used these words—It is certainly a political misfortune that during the last 30 years a Church so tainted in its views of civil obedience, and so unduly capable of changing its front and language alter emancipation from what it had been before, like an actor who has to perform several characters in one piece, should have acquired an extension of its hold upon the highest classes of this country. The conquests have been chiefly, as might have been expected, among women; but the number of male converts, or captives (as I might prefer to describe them), has not been inconsiderable. There is no doubt that every one of these secessions is in the nature of a considerable moral and social severance. The breadth of this gap varies according to the varieties in the individual character. But it is too commonly a wide one; too commonly the spirit of the neophyte is expressed by the words which have become notorious,' a Catholic first and an Englishman afterwards'— words which properly convey no more than a truism, for every Christian must seek to place his religion even before his country in his inner heart, but very far from a truism in the sense in which we have been led to construe them. We take them to mean that the convert intends in case of any conflict between the Queen and the Pope to follow the Pope and let the Queen shift for herself, which happily she can well do.1784 If the Home Rule policy of the right hon. Gentleman is successful, we may see one of these interesting captive neophytes placed in the position of Prime Minister and with a Roman Catholic Parliament we shall have Roman Catholic Judges, Roman Catholic juries, Roman Catholic police, and a Roman Catholic Lord Lieutenant. I should like to know what chance the Protestant minority in Ireland would have against an array of that sort. Have we not been amply justified by the step which the right hon. Gentleman has taken in offering, and in proposing to offer for the future, every opposition in our power to this policy? I do not oppose this Bill from any feeling of bigotry. If hon. Members call me a bigot, what do they call the writer of Vatican Decrees? I can truly say that in all the many speeches I have made since I became a speaking man I have never in my life uttered words so strong as those I have quoted. I challenge hon. Gentlemen opposite to discover in any speech I have made a single word insulting to the Roman Catholic faith. It is absolutely alien to our sentiments. We are Protestants, and are not ashamed of being Protestants. We are willing to admit the freedom of any one of our neighbours to choose what faith he may. But in opposing this Bill I believe I am giving voice to the wishes and desires of the vast majority of the people of this country, whose opposition to it is not a sign of bigotry or intolerance. If opposition to this Bill is a sign of bigotry, then I am a bigot, and the vast majority of the people are bigots, and are proud to think that this is a Protestant Kingdom. Some people are ashamed of the name Protestant. Those people are generally to be found among the classes, and not among the masses. You do not find Anglicans among the masses. We are proud of the name Protestant; we are not ashamed of what Protestantism has done; and I believe that there are no people who ought to be more faithful to this country than the Roman Catholics themselves. We have swept away all their disabilities except these two, and certainly we ought to draw the line at the Throne. It was through the Protestant Revolution that the present Royal Family was set upon the Throne. We owe our allegiance to the Throne, being Protestant, and we feel that any blow at the Protestant character of the Throne should be resisted to the 1785 utmost. Protestantism is what has made our country great; it is what has secured us our liberty; it is the source of our civilisation; and, above all, I believe that Protestantism has secured those free institutions, which confer, alike on Roman Catholics and Protestants, the best blessings of freedom.
§ (4.20.) SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
Mr. Speaker, I desire to record my vote in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill, and I hope the House will allow me in a few sentences to state the reasons, and also to make one reservation, in respect to one of the provisions of the Bill. I am not about to enter into any debate with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. All I will attempt to do is, in a few practical words, to compose his alarm, and not to answer his arguments. I can assure him that among those who support this Bill there are many who are loyal in their devotion to the cause of Protestantism in this country, and many of us who believe that much of the greatness of this country is traceable to the Reformation, and to the Protestantism which, happily, is the foundation of our Constitution. But we do recollect that one of the great reasons why Protestantism has been a blessing to this country is its willingness to show toleration to those who differ from it in their religious belief. I should therefore agree with those rounded periods of my hon. and gallant Friend's speech when he told the House of the blessings of Protestantism. I agree, and I think many who support this Bill would agree, that the Catholic Church, as a political institution, is not one in which we should put our trust and faith, and I hope I do not hurt the feelings of anyone if I draw a distinction between the Church of Rome as a political institution and the belief of one who communicates in that Church. If I thought this Bill would add one iota of strength to the Roman Church as a political body or that it would injure the Protestant power of this country in the slightest degree, I should find myself surrounded by many on this side of the House who would this afternoon be opposing this Bill. As to the existence of the Church of Rome as a political body, it occurred to me during the speech of my right hon. Friend, to which everyone who heard it listened with the greatest admiration—especially that portion 1786 of it which reminded us of the great contest of 10 years ago—when he told us of the commencement of the contest and of its end—it occurred to me that there was another deduction to be drawn other than that which he applied. It may be for political purposes hon. Gentlemen opposite fought the action of my right hon. Friend step by stop, and successfully fought, in favour of the view they entertained. But there was a body of Members in this House more violent than they, who for other reasons, I believe, opposed the attempted legislation of my right hon. Friend on religious grounds, and they were the Roman Catholic Members who sit below the Gangway, and in every Division they acted in opposion to that toleration of which my right hon. Friend is now the champion. What inference ought we to draw from that? Ought we not rather to act consistently with our own faith and doctrine and declare that in this Protestant country there shall be full and complete toleration and no distinction between men on account of creed? If we treat this matter as a political matter, I would yield to the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite; but what right have we, if we can get rid of this political consideration, to impose this disability on our fellow-subjects because they do not think on religious matters as we think? If it can be shown that you are doing more than giving freedom of religious belief, then new considerations will arise, on which, I think, much sympathy will be felt with the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. Is there anything in the nature of political interference under this Bill? Two offices are mentioned. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has argued against the desirability of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland being a Roman Catholic. He drew a picture, fairly enough for the purposes of debate, in inverted commas from the pamphlet of my right hon. Friend, and he says, What would be the protection to be given to the Protestants of Ireland? I should say, in the first place, they would have exactly the same protection as the Catholic majority has in these days. But, Sir, the protection they would have is so great that we can afford, I do not say to be generous, but at least to be just. Great Britain is strongly Protestant, the Parliament of 1787 Great Britain is Protestant also, and the Government of the day, founded on a Parliament elected by the people, will be Protestant likewise. And if there should be a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland who should be a Roman Catholic, the Government of the day will be answerable for every act of his. Thus, Parliament will be answerable to the people, the people will be answerable to themselves, and the result will be, therefore, that if a Roman Catholic were appointed, there would be a jealous watchfulness of his acts, which certainly would create that protection which the hon. and gallant Gentleman rightly, I think, wants.
§ SIR H. JAMES
That is exactly contrary of what I am contemplating. I heard an argument addressed to the House before to-day, which at the time I thought was worthy of notice. It was said, "If you are contemplating that you ought to shut out the justice of this Bill because Home Rule will come into existence, then I fancy you will hear the argument used that you ought to let Home Rule come into existence in order to carry out the provisions of this Bill." I do not think the day for Home Rule has come yet. When it does come we must deal with it; but we who are defending what we regard as the sacred cause of the Union are under the impression that it is our duty to adopt legislation in reference to a state of things which we think will keep Home Rule far off. One word with reference to the office of the Lord Chancellor. As in the case of a Roman Catholic Lord Lieutenant, if a Roman Catholic were appointed to the Chancellorship he would be carefully watched in every act he did, and the safety of the people would lie in the Protestant power being in the ascendant in the country. Then, Sir, one word as to the reservation with which I support this Bill. I must ask my right hon. Friend's attention to the words of the 3rd clause, by which the delegated power is proposed to be given to any person selected by the Crown. I take exception to that provision. If the Lord Chancellor exercises ecclesiastical patronage, he and the Government are answerable for the proper exercise of that patronage. The Government 1788 can be censured for it. It will be in the recollection of the House that some 20 years ago there was a Debate in respect to Ewelme Rectory in this House. If you delegate this power of patronage, whether to the Archbishop or any other fitting person, you would never be able to make the Government responsible. If the Bill becomes law as it stands, that responsibility will be evaded. What I am asking the consideration of my right hon. Friend for is whether or not the delegation ought to be limited to a Minister who will bring in to share his responsibility the other members of the Government? I have given my reasons for supporting the Second Reading of this Bill; but I shall certainly in Committee desire to raise again this question to which I have referred. I thank the House for the attention with which it has listened to me.
§ (4.31.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER, Isle of Wight)
I do not intend to detain the House at any great length, but there are one or two matters to which I think the attention of the House should be specially directed. But, in the first place, may I be permitted to join in the tribute of admiration of the great speech delivered to-day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian? I have listened to many speeches by the right hon. Gentleman, but never with greater interest than to this one; and, although I am unable to cope with the right hon. Gentleman in point of eloquence, I am bound to say there are some points in the speech upon which I take issue with the right lion. Gentleman, and to which I desire to refer. The right hon. Gentleman began by telling the House that there was grave question as to whether any disability existed at all. If that is so, then this Bill ought not to be introduced at all. It is a Bill to remove certain alleged religious disabilities, and must arouse feelings which, in my judgment, might have been allowed to lie dormant, and which, it must be admitted, ought not unnecessarily to be stirred. The right hon. Gentleman said he had been advised by able lawyers that the view taken and expressed by Lord Coleridge was correct. Then, again, I say that this Bill ought not to have been introduced. The right hon. Gentleman ought, in that case, to be satisfied with the legal position of 1789 Roman Catholics. But he gave a remarkable reason for this Bill, even though no disability in fact exists. He said that although there were grave doubts 'on this question, and although competent authorities asserted that Roman Catholics could fill the offices of Lord Chancellor and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, yet no Prime Minister would venture, in the present state of the law, to appoint Roman Catholics to those offices. But why not? Because, apart from the question of law, there exists, as the right hon. Gentleman must have known, a widespread and national feeling that these offices have something about them which caused them to be excepted from the Catholic Emancipation Act, and that such exception ought to exist. This proposal is an attack made on that national feeling without any reason or demand. The right hon. Gentleman used the argument that the opponents of this Bill attacked the loyalty of Roman Catholics. There is no shadow of foundation for that statement. Over and over again in these Debates testimony has been borne to the loyalty of Roman Catholics. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman himself refer to such loyalty. It is not because we on this side of the House distrust the loyalty of Roman Catholics in the slightest that we think this measure ought to be opposed. It is because we believe that there may be, and, indeed, ought to be, in the minds of some men who would be qualified for these appointments if this Bill passed, a feeling which is stronger than loyalty—namely, adherence to their religious faith. That is why we oppose this measure, without reference to the question of loyalty or disloyalty. The right hon. Gentleman said that removing these disabilities, so far as the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Lieutenant were concerned, was not even indirectly making an attack upon the Protestant succession. The language which the right hon. Gentleman used was curious, and seemed to convey some reservation with regard to the possibilities in the future of this question. The speech of my hon. and learned Friend who followed the right hon. Gentleman has given further ground for this suspicion. The right hon. Gentleman said the question of the Crown was far too wide to be now discussed—that the present settlement was not irrational, and that he was not prepared to 1790 disturb it. I venture to think that the language used by the right hon. Gentleman was certainly not very felicitous or re-assuring, and it will, I fear, give rise-to a lurking feeling that the right hon. Gentleman has been careful to say-nothing that will show that he thinks. this matter as to the Act of Settlement may not still be a matter for future discussion. That will be the impression conveyed by the language of the right hon. Gentleman, and this impression will be confirmed by the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Fife, who said there were a great many questions besides the religious question which will have to be discussed when the Act of Settlement, comes to be considered. If this impression is erroneous, if it is desired to remove the impression that this measure is in the nature of an indirect attack on the Protestant Succession, it would be-well for any right hon. Gentleman who may address the House from the Front Opposition Bench to deal with this matter in clear and distinct language, and not by phrases that are capable of being explained away. There is a curious uncertainty about this, part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech to which I think I ought to call attention. He said the Sovereign must, be a member of the Church of England. But is that so? The Act of Settlement, as far as I can remember, uses the word "Protestant," and a "Protestant" includes all persons of the Christian Faith who are not Roman Catholics or members of the Greek Church. Now, what, are the disabilities that it is proposed to remove? Have the supporters of this. Bill satisfied themselves that there are any existing? If they do exist, under what statutes do they exist? If, on the other hand, they do not exist, then this question ought certainly not to have been raised. The Bill contains certain provisions as to the exercise of patronage, but if no disability exists at present, it is rather inconsistent to impose restrictions as this Bill proposes. It is said that Roman Catholics in other positions, have fairly exercised their patronage, but it is not sufficient that the holder of an office should perform his duties without cause of complaint. It is extremely important that the public should be satisfied that those duties are satisfactorily executed. It must be borne in mind that the patronage of the Lord 1791 Chancellor, to which, reference has been made, is of an ecclesiastical character, which has come to be regarded as being only fitly exercised by a member of the Protestant Church. I desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman very sincerely for his expression of respect for the profession of which I am the unworthy representative. He spoke of it as a glorious profession, and pictured the hardship of a young man going to the Bar, and, by his own talent, becoming the head of his profession, and then being deemed unfit to fill the highest office open to the members of that profession because of his religious belief. Large numbers of men of the Catholic religion have gone to the Bar, and I think it is a strong testimony to their high principles that they have recognised that their first duty is to their religious belief, and that they have not, therefore, sought to take offices to the qualifying oath for which, on religious grounds, they could not subscribe. That is a sentiment which ought to be encouraged, and no man ought to regret his personal disability in that respect. But why, I wish to know, is this Bill brought forward now? Its supporters admit that it is doubtful whether it is required for the removal of legal, disabilities; and they also admit that, if required for that purpose, they have had opportunity after opportunity of initiating such legislation. Why, then, is the Bill proposed now? Can its supporters say that it has no connection with their Home Rule schemes, and will the electors of this country think that it has no connection with those schemes? What has been one of the most important arguments we have used on behalf of the Unionist plat form, in this House? It has been in defence of the Protestants of Ireland. If Home Rule is granted to Ireland the Protestant community will probably look upon the Protestant Lord Lieutenant as their sole remaining protection. Some people may think that protection would only be nominal, others that it would be substantial; but what justification is there for removing it at a time when it is most important that the idea should not spread further that there is an intention of separating the kingdom of Ireland from Great Britain? It is in this connection that the question of the Crown comes in, for the Lord Lieutenant is the representative of the 1792 Crown; he is, so far as anyone can be in Ireland, the representative of the Sovereign. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, I may point out, has never retreated from the position taken up by him in the pamphlets, from which extracts have been read. In the later pamphlet he has, it is true, inserted a paragraph saying that his object has been gained by the collection of a large amount of testimony as to the loyalty of Roman Catholics; but he has, at the same time, repeated in still stronger language his views as to the dangers that might arise in consequence of the ascendency of the Roman Catholic church over the followers of that religion. Those who support the Bill have not been able to say that the bulk of the Roman Catholics of England, Scotland, and Ireland, demand that it should be passed, and they have not ventured to say that it has no connection with the Home Rule scheme of 1886. I maintain that no case has been made out for passing the measure, and I trust that it will be rejected by a substantial majority.
§ (4.55.) MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
I crave the indulgence of the House for a few moments while I explain the delicate position in which the attitude of the Government has placed me. As a Catholic I have no doubt as to the side on which I should vote; but when I view the question as a Unionist the matter appears to be a little more complicated. As one who supports the legal status of the Church of England my position is yet more complicated. Politically I support the legal status of the Established Church on the grounds laid down by the late Cardinal Newman, in the well-known passage, Apologia, Note E—I recognize in the Anglican Church, a time-honoured institution, of noble historical memories, a monument of ancient wisdom, a momentous arm of political strength, a great national organ, a source of vast popular advantage, and, to a certain point, a witness and teacher of religious truth..… Doubtless the National Church has hitherto been a serviceable breakwater against doctrinal errors more fundamental than its own, and my own idea of a Catholic's fitting attitude towards the National Church is that of assisting and sustaining, if it be in our power, in the interests of dogmatic truth.Fortified by this opinion, I asked the suffrages of the electors of Mid Leicestershire as a supporter of the legal status 1793 of the Established Church, and bitterly I was attacked on that account by many co-religionists. And now to connect my position with regard to this Bill. It seems to me that the position of the Lord High Chancellor is closely connected with the Established Church, but the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland's position is different, because the Protestant Church in Ireland has been disestablished. If I thought that by voting for the Bill I should assist those who desire to disestablish the National Church I should not feel myself justified in voting for it; but it has been made clear in the Debate by Her Majesty's Ministers that it is not necessary that the Lord Chancellor should be a member of the Established Church. If by my vote I were to express the view that a Roman Catholic could not be trusted to perform honestly duties which a Jew or an agnostic may be entrusted with, I should be casting a slur upon my co-religionists. Now, as to the question of the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland; what is my attitude? I came forward as a Unionist, not with the intention of supporting the Protestant ascendency in Ireland, but because in my belief Catholic interests would be best served by the maintenance of the Union. That is not the opinion held by gentlemen representing Irish constituencies, but it happens to be the opinion of the vast majority of the English Catholic Unionists; and I believe as time goes on it will become the opinion of what I may call the Clerical party in Ireland. I very much regret the position the Government have taken up, and I challenge any of the law officers to prove I am wrong in what I am going to say. The Government have taken up a position of hostility to this Motion, although they know the disability has been already abolished. The Tests Act of Charles II. imposed, and the Catholic Emancipation Act maintained, the disability in regard to the oath, but the Act of 1863 abolished the oath altogether, which hitherto prevented the Catholics occupying any high position. I, as a Catholic, thank the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian for his magnificent speech, which will go far to remove the feelings of soreness which his Vatican Decrees created. What has the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to do when he is in 1794 Office? Why, to make Lord Ripon Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and the hon. and learned Member for Hackney (Sir Russell) Lord High Chancellor of England. What will happen? All that anybody can do is to ask those gentlemen to take the Oath of Allegiance. Should they refuse to do so they would be fined the sum of £500. But once they had taken the oath, and there is nothing contrary to the Catholic Faith to prevent them, they can perform the whole of the duties connected with the offices. It is quite true that in 1863 Parliament did not intend to abolish the disability, but they did so nevertheless, and all the king's horses and all the king's men cannot set it up again. Well, I entered the House to day with the intention of abstaining from voting, because it seemed to me perfectly immaterial whether I voted for a Bill which had no operative force, or abstained From voting for a disability which no longer exists; and if there had been no glorification of the Reformation I should have abstained from voting. But my hon. and gallant Friend's (Colonel Saunderson) glorification of the Reformation makes it impossible for me to absent myself from the Division, and I should like to remind my hon. Friends who have glorified the Reformation that the opinion they hold is fast fading away in this country. What is the opinion which is fast obtaining in this country? I will quote, not a Roman Catholic, but a Protestant historian—Cobbett's History of the Reformation—showing how it has impoverished and degraded the main body of the people, p. 2—Now, my friends, a fair and honest inquiry will teach us that this was an alteration greatly for the worse; that the 'Reformation,' as it is called, was engendered in beastly lust, brought forth in hypocrisy and perfidy, and cherished and fed by plunder, devastation, and by rivers of innocent English and Irish blood; and that as to its more remote consequences they are some of them now before us in that misery, that beggary, that nakedness, that hunger, that everlasting wrangling and spite which now stare us in the face and stun our ears at every turn, and which the Reformation has given us in exchange for the case and happiness and harmony and Christian charity, enjoyed so abundantly, and for se many ages, by our Catholic forefathers.The classes—and I am still sufficiently a Tory to think the classes understand the question better than the masses—the classes are already ashamed of the word "Protestant;" they call 1795 themselves Catholics, and not Roman Catholics. If you look at the Test Act of Charles II., you will find we were not even honoured by the title of Roman Catholics, we were called Popish recusants. The reason why I refer to this is that it brings me back to the question of the Union, and it is from the Unionist point of view I am now going to direct my remarks. I am of opinion that if there had not been the cruel attempts to compel the Irish people to adopt the reformed religion, the present strained relations between England and Ireland would never have existed; and it is because I look forward to the day when the Irish people will be as attached to the Union as I am that I deprecate the introduction of these questions, and feel compelled to vote for the Bill. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury was mistaken in saying these two were the only religious disabilities left in. the Statute Book. If the Union is to be a success we must gain over the clergy of Ireland to the cause of law and order; but I ask any sensible Englishman how he can expect the clergy of Ireland, unless they ascend to the practice of heroic virtue, to support law and order, as they ought to as clergymen, so long as these statutes remain unrepealed? There are two sets of clauses of the Act of Emancipation which have not been repealed. One prevents priests of the Church of Rome being elected as Members of Parliament. I have no wish to introduce 50 Irish priests into this House; but I maintain that if you inflict upon priests this disability which is removed from Wesleyan, Methodist, and Presbyterian ministers, you ought to allow them to be represented in the Upper House, as you allow the clergy of the Church of England. Then there are half a dozen other clauses explicitly intended to gradually sweep away all the Religious Orders in Ireland, and making it a penal offence for any men to dwell together in religious brotherhoods or communities, and these disabilities continue to rankle in the minds of the clergy of Ireland. I remember Abbot Fitzpatrick, of Mount Melleray, the head of the Cistercian Order in Ireland, saying to me, "How can you expect us to be enthusiastic in favour of law and order when our very existence, when the very practice of our religious duty is as unlawful 1796 in this country as either boycotting or the Plan of Campaign? "By Section 28 and following sections the practice of religious duties by religious bodies is unlawful. It is the same in England, but we are not a sentimental people rather a practical people, and once a law has become a dead letter we are content to ignore it That is not so in Ireland. I ask the House how they can expect a body of clergy to be devoted to the support of law and order when statutes such as I have cited remain in force? It seems to me that the particular disabilities to which I have referred are well worthy the attention of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, and I hope he will soon introduce a Bill to repeal these real hardships. Under all the circumstances, it will be impossible for me to refrain from voting, and therefore with very great regret, but without any wish to blame too seriously the position the Government have taken up, I shall have to go into the Lobby against them. [Ironical cries of" Oh, oh!"] If the Union were still trembling in the balance, I might still consider it my highest duty to support the Government in difficulties, but having no fear of the future, confident that Home Rule is dead, I am going to vote for the inoperative Bill of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ *(5.15.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
I am sure the whole House has listened with much sympathy to the recital which the hon. Member has given of his honest efforts to steer a course amongst the various currents which move him in opposite directions, but the House will expect some answer to be given to the questions urged in the Debate from the other side of the House. We have had the advantage of two speeches from the Ministerial Bench, but I am bound to say they left me and others in complete doubt as to whether the Government are in favour of the principle of the Bill or against it. The First Lord of the Treasury asked, "Why was the Bill not introduced long ago?" He said to my right hon. Friend, "You were in power for a great many years, and you never touched these disabilities of which you now complain so loudly." Well, the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was not altogether unoccupied 1797 in those years when he was at the head of Her Majesty's Government. The First Lord of the Treasury's inquiry is one which might be addressed on every occasion when a new reform is proposed. But then the right hon. Gentleman also asked, "Are you sure the Bill is necessary? Have not eminent lawyers stated that, in their opinion, these disabilities are already abolished? "It is a complicated question of legal decision; but one thing, at all events, is certain, namely, that, whether the effect of the Acts of 1863 and of 1867 is or is not what Sir John Coleridge has said it is, if the disqualification has been abolished it has been done without the cognizance and intention of Parliament, and until the intention of Parliament is declared on the subject no one could act on the supposed effect of the law. The spokesmen of the Government have been lavish in their admiration of the loyalty of their Catholic fellow-subjects; but I imagine the Roman Catholics of England, Scotland, and Ireland, would more appreciate those compliments if they saw the Government doing something to relieve them of these disabilities, and did not content themselves with mere empty words. The First Lord of the Treasury submitted that it is undesirable to open these offices in view of the strong prejudice which existed in certain quarters of this country. The House of Commons, then, is to yield to prejudice. That is the dictum of the representative of the Government which is the great bulwark against the progress of democratic feeling? and the great protector of right principle against outside clamour. Surely it is a remarkable fact that three executive offices, and three only, were reserved in 1829 from the general provisions of the Emancipation Act. There was also the ceremonial office of Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland—but everyone must agree that that is not an executive office and therefore not open to the same considerations as the offices of Lord Chancellor and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,; and also that it would be altogether unreasonable to throw that office open to a person who was distasteful to every member of the body whose presence he represented. If the object and basis of that reservation of offices was the anticipation or allegation of possible political danger, surely it is reasonable 1798 to suppose that the area of restriction would have been very much larger, and that many more offices would have been reserved. When one remembers the state of feeling at the time—when we remember that the whole municipal life, the whole Parliamentary life, the whole official life of the country was for the first time being thrown open to Catholics—surely it is an extraordinary fact, considering the angry and suspicious feeling which existed, that three offices only were selected for reservation. I will tell the House why these offices were reserved, and no other. It was for no other reason than this, that the offices possessed Church patronage. It is obvious to anyone who considers the matter that many other offices—the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Colonial Secretary, the First Lord of the Treasury—if there had been a suspicion of danger to the Constitution and the liberties of the lieges, would have been reserved, rather than those of the Lord Chancellor in England or the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. That what I have just stated was the only reason for the reservation is clear from the speech of Sir Robert Peel, in introducing the Relief Bill of 1829, who said—It would nevertheless be quite consistent with its general principle ''—that is, the general principle of Catholic Emancipation—to exclude Roman Catholics from a certain limited number of offices which have special and peculiar duties-attached to them connected with the patronage of the Church, or with education, or with the administration of ecclesiastical law.The position, then, with regard to these offices is briefly this:—The Irish Lord Chancellorship was opened to Catholics by a Conservative Government in 1867, and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has lost any Church patronage he had by the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and there only remains, therefore, the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, as to whom the point is still open that he possesses the right of patronage and other interference in Church matters. My right hon. Friend made a statement in introducing the Bill which, I think, requires a little explanation. He said we had followed precedent in the drafting of the Bill, but there were some particulars in it 1799 which we thought ought to be altered. Undoubtedly, Clause 3 as it now stands does appear to impose a certain new disability upon Nonconformists and persons who are not members of the Church of England, and therefore my right hon. Friend suggested that the Bill should be committedproformâ for the purpose of making the alteration. That is the proper and regular and old-fashioned way of doing it; but it could be done, of course, by way of Amendment in Committee, The clause runs—In case the office of Lord High Chancellor should beheld by any person not being a member of the Church of England, then his right of presentation should pass.We propose to leave out "not being a member of the Church of England," and substitute "professing the Roman Catholic religion." That would leave all Nonconformists, and others who at present have this right, untouched. We would also strike out the words "being a member of the Church of England," which occur later in the clause.
§ (5.30.) The House divided: — Ayes 224; Noes 256.—(Div. List, No. 34.) Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.