§ Earl Bathurst
moved the order of the day, for the second reading of the bill to indemnify ministers for continuing in force the provi- 770 sions of the American trade bill, which had expired during the recess. The noble earl defended the measure, on the ground of policy and precedent. He allowed that the law had been violated by ministers, but that violation was justified by the reasons of public advantage and benefit which resulted from it, and which parliament had almost uniformly received as a satisfactory justification of such a conduct. Indeed, were it not a violation of the law, why should the crown surrender its prerogative, and come to parliament for a bill of indemnity, when it was obvious no law had been infringed? He could safely deny that the rate of duties had been raised or diminished in any material degree, or where it would have been safe to have acted otherwise. As to the allowing American ships to carry certain articles contrary to the navigation act, that permission was justified by the same policy and necessity; for it would have been much to the detriment of our trade if American ships were on a sudden prohibited to carry such articles,while there were no British ships ready to convey them. In every point of view he could not help thinking that government had acted wisely in continuing the provisions of the bill; and he should therefore move, that the bill to indemnify them for so doing be now read a second time.
§ Lord Grenville
said, that after the sentiments he had already expressed respecting the subject of the breach of the law by issuing the order of council,he could not,without incurring the imputation of inconsistency, agree to the passing of this bill of indemnity. He fully concurred in that part of his noble friend's speech, in which he stated that no money could be levied in this country, without the consent and approbation of parliament. His noble friend, however, went a little farther, and contended that though the law was broken by the crown, no higher duties were levied than it was authorized to collect. Now, it did appear, from a paper which had been laid on their lordships' table, not above three minutes ago, that a system more favourable to the commerce of America, had been adopted, than would have been, if the laws had been observed. His lordship here referred to the document, to shew that in various instances, higher and lower duties had been levied, than the act for continuing the provisions of the former treaty authorized. The order of council remitted the duties upon some articles, 771 while it increased them upon others. It was not to he denied, that both of these were contrary to law, and that they could be only justified by the extreme necessity of the case. But what proof had ministers, either by, documents or by their speeches, afforded the house that any such necessity existed? Were they not, he would ask, aware that it would soon be necessary to renew the act for continuing the former treaty with America? .Why, then, convinced as they must have been of that necessity, did they dissolve the last parliament? Parliament, which bad not the grounds of the dissolution before it, was not bound to take into consideration the necessity which might have existed for that measure. The dissolution of 1784 was justified by the dispute which then arose between the two houses of parliament. That was an unhappy incident in the legislative proceedings of this country, which would always bear out the sovereign in the exercise of his, prerogative, and in appealing to the people. But did any such necessity exist for the dissolution of the last parliament? The convenience of ministers was not in itself sufficient grounds, and he had never hear any other, for that most rash, dangerous and imprudent measure, than which, in all these respects, a greater had never been committed. It was not his custom to dwell upon the dangers and difficulties the country. It had never been his practice to aggravate calamity, or to utter in his place in parliament, any sentiments which might lead to despondency or despair. On the contrary, he always wished to keep alive, not merely the principle of hope, but the principles of resolution and, steadiness, because it was these principles, and these alone, which could enable us to bear up against the dangers with which we might at any time be threatened. He wished, therefore, before he sat down, to draw the attention, of their lordships to what had fallen from a noble viscount. He trusted, that in the most critical period at which this country ever arrived, its security would not rest upon partial and temporary measures. It was desirable that all the resources, strength, energy, and spirit of the country should be called forth The crisis was at length arrived, when it would be necessary to call around us all the military energies of the empire. The first step upon so awful an emergency, which prudent government would take, would be to see whether anything could be done 772 to unite the people. If we were to meet dangers greater than any which had ever threatened us, a divided people, What arms could we employ, what bulwarks raise, or what armies create, adequate to repel them? Much had been said upon this subject, but not, according to his way of considering it, sufficient for its importance. The situation of Ireland could not be too often submitted to the deliberation of parliament, provided it were handled with judgment and moderation. He was sorry to find that an idea had gone abroad, that both the parliament and people of England were pledged, that no farther concessions should be made to the Catholics of Ireland. He was sorry for it; for a more unwise, indiscreet, and mischievous declaration could not have been uttered. Such a melancholy condition was not that of any country, most certainly not of any free government. The noble lord Opposite to him well knew, that the judgment of one parliament often differed from that of another; nay, even in the same parliament, there had been more than one instance of such change of opinion. The appeal from the hasty decision of one meeting, to the prudence of another, bad not been unfrequently successful. Was it, he would ask, right to say to (bur millions of people, You must despair? And despair of what? why that they, subjects of the British empire, were. not to be entitled to the privileges of its constitution. Was it possible that, under any circumstances, there could have been a more improvident declaration? This was his reason for wishing to impress once more upon their lordships these considerations, because he was informed such language had been held. It was not under the impression that the Irish Catholics were to be excluded from the pale of the constitution, that the great question of the Union was carried, No pledge respecting their admission to the same benefits with their fellow subjects, had been either given or required. There were some persons, indeed, who wished to make their participation in the common benefits of the constitution, one of the conditions of the Union. These intentions, however, were overruled, and it was decided that every thing respecting them, should be left to the discretion and liberality of the united parliament. He would ask, why those who now appeared to be of a contrary opinion, did not then speak out? Why they did not I maintain the exclusion of the Catholics, as 773 a fundamental principle of the constitution? Why they did not protest against destroying the bulwarks of our religion in church and state, and letting the Pope into the country? That great minister, who framed the project of the Union, told his sovereign that the union could not be carried into effect,it that boon was not granted to the people of Ireland; and finding, that they were not likely to obtain it,he acted upon it in the same manly manner that he did upon all occasions. Where was this sentiment of exclusion to be found? Was it any where but in those libellous addresses upon the Catholics of Ireland? which he could not but consider ministers as deeply responsible for having advised his majesty to receive. If, in addition to dangers from abroad, we were to encounter divisions at home, the. stoutest of us could scarcely hope that such an accumulation of peril could be successfully resisted. If we resolved to encounter the question, we should do all that was to be done. As this was, perhaps, the last time that he might have occasion to address the house, during the present session, he felt it his duty to intreat their lordships to consider as nothing what had taken place; to meet the question with new feelings and ideas; to reflect that we were in the very crisis of our fate, upon the point, perhaps, of being assailed by the roost formidable enemy that had ever menaced the existence of the government of any country. It was his misfortune to have been a most unsuccessful advocate in favour of the Catholics; but, it his recommendation could have any weight, he would say, that though this was the moment for parliament to grant all those immunities which they claimed, it was not the moment for them to ask for them. Under any of those acts which had been made for restraining that description of his majesty's Irish subjects, under the harsh and compulsory statutes which were repealed in 1793, under the sanguinary and dreadful code which preceded it, their condition, he was persuaded , would be far better than any they could hope to enjoy underthefriendship or domination of France. The first question which was asked by that power, when it meant to overturn the government of any country, was, What are the principles of disunion which prevail? To the excluded, to the dissatisfied, and to the suffering of every country, France threw out these lines and baits; but her professions and her conduct had never accorded with each other. The infatuated persons who 774 listened to her, soon discovered that the state which they renounced was far preferable to that which they obtained. So it would be found in Ireland, should ever the person who now wielded not only the force of France, but of the greater part of the continent, ever succeed in establishing his power in that part of the British empire. To prevent the possibility of any event of this dangerous and alarming nature, he called upon parliament to step forward with a lenient hand, to make a sacrifice of its prejudices, and to throw open the pale of the constitution to those who were interested in defending and upholding it. The question might be stayed off for a time, but a must must be discussed sooner or later. He was aware that it might be objected to him, that those who predict danger, contribute not a little to create it; and that this was not a time to harass and obstruct government. Any one, however, who conceived as he did, who saw not only danger but certain ruin and destruction in maintaining that system of policy he had condemned, would but ill discharge his duty if he hesitated to attack it.
§ Lord Hawkesbury
was not anxious to defend the bill of Indemnity on precedents only, but on the grounds of the necessity of the case out of which it grew. Nor would he deny that that necessity arose from the necessity of the dissolution of parliament; for, as often as that topic should again he forced into discussion, so often should he insist on the absolute necessity of that measure. The real authors of that necessity were the very persons who have since so repeatedly and so acrimoniously inveighed against it; for when his majesty, in the legitimate exercise of his prerogative, thought proper to make the late change in his councils, the noble lords opposite him made an appeal to parliament, and brought the question to issue between themselves and their sovereign. What then was left to his majesty, but to appeal to the sense of his people, while the events which made that appeal necessary were still fresh in their recollection? How else was his royal prerogative to be supported? This was the fair, obvious, simple ground upon which the late dissolution rested, and the result had amply proved how well his majesty understood the disposition of his people in making that appeal. For never was their sense more clearly,distinctly, and unequivocally expressed. No means were left untried by the opposers of government, to 775 procure the fullest possible attendance of their adherents in parliament, at the beginning of the present session; yet the sentiment of the nation in favour of the prerogative, was pronounced in the fullest house that ever sat in deliberation, by the largest and most decided majority.—Among their lordships it had met with the same loyal and triumphant support. Here then was the necessity and the propriety of the dissolution proved at once in the most marked and forcible manner. He earnestly wished to let the question rest here, but it was impossible to pass over in silence the latter part of the noble baron's speech to which the former part served only as a stalking-horse. The deep regret he felt at some of the sentiments and expressions that fell from the noble baron, he was at a loss how to express; but he was sure they must have made nearly the same impression upon most of their lordships. He was ready to believe that the same feeling and sentiment pervaded every class and description of the community, and that they all were disposed to act with one heart and hand in support of the constitution against the attacks of the most formidable foe that they ever had to contend with, and now made much more formidable by the influence of recent events. Then, what could be the tendency of the noble baron's observations? what the effect they were calculated to produce? But where was the practical good that could result from them? Was it not well known how different were the opinions entertained respecting the chief topic upon which the noble baron had so widely, and, in his mind, so unnecessarily expatiated. Neither could he be ignorant how very generally the opinion of the country had been expressed upon that subject, Where, then, was the utility of the recommendation which the noble baron had so anxiously urged? Was there in past experience, was there in any prospect before us, the slightest ground for considering us a divided people? Even in defence of the Catholics, and in mere justice to that respectable body of men, he would ask the noble baron, when were their exertions wanted, if the threat of danger required them to put them forth? Whatever the difference of opinion they might have entertained upon the other points, were they ever backward, when the appearance of a foreign enemy called for the zeal and activity of their services? Whatever the deprivations under which they had they not always considered 776 them as prosperity and luxury when compared with the promises and the boons by which the enemy would endeavour to seduce them? Then the representations made by the noble baron were unfair, of any description of men who had uniformly manifested such a spirit of loyalty and patriotism. It was unfair surely to describe their conduct and principles in a light that would justify him in calling them a divided people. Respecting our internal policy, there might perhaps be difference of opinion; with regard to the threats and attempts of a foreign enemy, we should always prove an united people, those who possessed least, vying with those who possessed most. He must therefore again express his surprise and regret at the observations of the noble baron, the more so, as they now could be attended with no practical effect, and when his own mind did not appear to be made up respecting any practical remedy. The moment called for universal unity of action, and under such circumstances as the present, he hoped to see all party spirit and animosity turn into zeal for the common defence.
§ Earl Spencer
conceived the question to be, whether the necessity which it was admitted had occasioned the breach of the law, was forced on his majesty's ministers, or had been forced on by them. The noble lord opposite had said that his majesty having reason to be dissatisfied with his former servants, had exercised his undoubted prerogative in choosing others in their stead, and that the old servants of the crown had thereupon come to parliament with a statement of their case, thereby making an appeal to parliament on the differences which had occurred between them and their sovereign, and that his majesty had, in these circumstances, been advised to recur to the sense of the people. A more unfounded or a more erroneous statement than this, the noble earl contended, had never been made, as must be well known to the noble lord (Hawkesbury) himself. The fact was, that after certain confidential communications had taken place between his majesty and his late servants, in consequence of which a change in his majesty's councils had taken place, the new servants of the crown, betraying the trust reposed in them, had given garbled and unjust representations in the newspapers, and otherwise, of the conduct of their predecessors, and of the circumstances which had preceded their dis- 777 missal from office. In this state of things, a representation of the actual state of matters, and of the whole circumstances attendant on them, became necessary to clear the characters of the late ministers from the obloquy with which they were thus unjustly loaded. In making this statement, they had been accused of bringing their sovereign to the bar of both houses of parliament. Such a charge, however, they disclaimed. Their only wish was a vindication of their own character, and to bring forward to the bar of both houses of parliament and of the country those persons who had given evil advice to their sovereign. As to the policy of their conduct towards Ireland, it was not his intention to enquire, as that had been already so ably discussed by his noble friend (lord Grenville). But if that part of the population of these kingdoms really did possess the loyalty admitted by the noble lord (Hawkesbury), he could not help thinking that they by no means experienced a corresponding return. He was convinced the time must and would come when the immunities now denied them would be granted. At a season so perilous as the present, we should look to every possible means of strengthening our exertions; but it was impossible that the Catholics in Ireland could feel the same interest in the concerns of the country till they participated in all the privileges of then fellow subjects.
§ Lord Erskine
said, that it was a fundamental principle of the constitution of this country, that no act could be dune contrary to law, and for which the persons advising it were at the same time intitled to be indemnified, unless such breach of law was occasioned by an act of imperious necessity. If this was a case. of the kind, God forbid that it should be resisted for a moment! No man could question the right of the king to dismiss his servants, or to dissolve the parliament. These were undoubted prerogatives, but they were granted for very distinct purposes. If his majesty saw reason to question the conduct of his servants, he might dismiss them; or, if he saw reason to doubt the parliament, he might dissolve it, and take the sense of their constituents as to their conduct. But the law never intended that both of these prerogatives should be exercised at one and the same time, and with reference to each other. It was never in the contemplation of the constitution of this country, that parliament should be dissolved simply 778 to accommodate a change in administration. This would be to consider parliament not as a controul on the conduct of government, but as an appendage to it, to be dissolved and changed to suit the different aspects which it might assume. The unjustifiable measures which might be adopted, would, in such a view of the case, be objects of little consideration to those by whom they were recommended. Having by the influence of the crown got a parliament to their mind, they had only to begin their career by an act of indemnity for any measure which they might have taken against law, and without necessity. The arrival, of such a period, he must consider as one pregnant with danger. It might be very well to talk of appealing to the sense of the people: what would the community think, however, when informed that there were a number of Boroughs at the disposal of the very persons who advised this dissolution ; and that there were others, the property of, or influenced by, a number of individuals, who, again, were under the influence of the crown? so that success was in such an appeal next to certain. But, still farther, when they saw the seal of indemnity ready prepared for those who advised the measure, must they not be of opinion that the period was most dangerous? If any thing could add the the peril of such a situation, it was the state of things at the present moment, so awful, so unprecedented as it must be admitted to be. The only way at such a moment, to insure confidence and respect from the public, was for the government to shew itself prudent, and for parliament to shew itself independent. That house could do much to effect this object. No person could dissolve them. They had it in their power by a single vote to check such an evil. To protect at once the crown and the people, and to make themselves beloved and esteemed. Their lordships might, by .a single vote, shew that they held a balance between the king and. the people; and might say to the noble lord,: "You advised the king to dissolve the parliament, and if you have since done an illegal act, for which you had no necessity but the dissolution of parliament, we will not grant you an indemnity for an act, the only necessity for which was of your own creation." As to the other part of the question, it had already been so fully and so often argued, that he would not at present detain their lordships any longer.
The Lord Chancellor
maintained that the 779 proper question now before the house was, whether it was a right thing in ministers to advise his majesty to pass the order in council? Though ministers might be blameable in advising the dissolution of parliament, still the house was bound to give them indemnity for the act now alluded to, if it could be vindicated. It was not fair by a side-wind to come at a question which he, for one, was ready to discuss and to vindicate openly and fairly. Let the noble lord come forward with a special motion and charge on the subject of the dissolution of parliament, and he should be ready to answer it. The noble and learned lord, while he admitted the excellence of the British constitution, did not seem inclined to trust either the electors or the elected. It was to that house, which could not be affected by the dissolution, that he seemed to look. They could not be dissolved, and from them his lordship seemed to expect a redress of all the evils he supposed to exist. He desired of the noble and learned lord to look to the year 1806, when parliament had been formerly dissolved; there had then been no embarrassing circumstances to render the dissolution necessary; there had been no votes of either house, which indicated a wish to impede the Measures of government; yet that ministry, of which the noble and learned lord formed a part, had chosen to advise a dissolution of parliament. He wished to know in what respect the present ministers were more to blame for having recourse to such a measure, than the late ministers had been. The enquiry into which the late ministers bad forced the two houses of parliament, he considered the most unconstitutional proceeding in which that house had ever been engaged. The permission of his majesty to bring forward this statement, so far from mending the matter, made, it infinitely worse. It was using his majesty's own permission to drag him to the bar of parliament. Such permission ought never to have been asked, and never to have been acted on. His majesty's conduct, however, had in consequence been made a subject of enquiry in both houses of parliament, in a manner which had never formerly been witnessed; and nothing, he presumed, could be more natural than, after such a discussion, to submit the subject to the sense of the country, while the circumstances were fresh in the recollection of the people. A firm and vigorous administration, it was ad- 780 mitted, was necessary for the country. He had no hesitation in declaring it as his opinion, that the present was as firm and gorous as the late administration. It was his wish to render it as firm and vigorous as possible; and with this view, he. had no hesitation in acknowledging, that he was probably one of the most strenuous advisers of his majesty to the dissolution of parliament. His lordship contended that so far were the acts of parliament against Roman Catholics, from being calculated to exclude them from the pale of the British Constitution the only way to secure that constitution both to them and to every other class of subjects in the country was. to maintain these acts. Toleration and power were very different. The British constitution gave toleration to every class of its subjects; but the very nature of the thing rendered it necessary that that power should be vested where it was most calculated to produce and to preserve the good of the whole. If persons who by refusing to qualify themselves for offices of power and trust, had still complete toleration allowed them, they had the benefits of the British constitution. With what consistency, however, he would ask, could the noble lord stop with the officers of the army and navy? why should not the immunity extend to the lawyer also, and to every officer in the civil government of the country? Granting all that the most zealous friends to Catholic emancipation could desire, he was convinced would not produce unanimity in the country. At all events, little would be gained if, in conciliating the Catholics, government should lose the veneration of the Protestants.
§ Lord Carysfort
contended, that. the, order, of council was a violation of the law and the constitution, springing out of an act as ill judged as it was unnecessary, meaning that exercise of the prerogative in the dissolution of the late parliament, which ministers so unfortunately, in his opinion, advised. It was a dangerous doctrine, his lordship observed, to hold up the plea of necessity for that dissolution: he was exceedingly apprehensive that the precedent might lead hereafter to results destructive of the people's rights; and in such a way too, that even the authors of it might not be able to avert the consequences. It was giving such an enormous addition to the power of the crown, already too much increased, as might eventually bring this country into as complete subjection to the 781 minister of the day, as any of the Barbary States Taking a view of the causes which gave rise to the late change, his lordship observed, that lord Bacon had said that to lead on men from hope to hope, and still to keep them from despair, was the sign of a great statesman. How very different were the ideas the present ministers. The noble and learned lord would employ Roman Catholics neither in civil nor military affairs; he would exclude them from the service of the state either by council or arms. The noble and learned lord seemed also to forget that we passed acts annually dispensing with those very statutes which the noble and learned lord reckoned so material a part of our constitution. Patriotic zeal, not bigoted prejudices, had produced the Revolution, and our ancestors Sent down to their posterity a great example of giving liberty of conscience upon constitutional expediency; and all that had ever been conceded to the Catholics of Ireland, had been well deserved; for, to the present hour, no part nor portion of his majesty's subjects so magnanimously opposed the inroads of a foreign enemy. The noble lord vindicated the wisdom and policy of the intended measure that was to have permitted them to enjoy promotion to the state, and he deplored its failure. He shewed the interest that the Catholics of Ireland had in a Political union with the empire at large, and he thought it hard that four millions of loyal persons should be deprived of that common interest with the rest of their fellow subjects, which in common with them they were entitled to. When he reflected on the late dissolution, and on the principle that actuated it, namely, to add vigour to the new administration, he deprecated it, not merely for making the most unjust sacrifices, but because it attacked the very vitals of the constitution.
The Earl of Limerick
wished to know what was that undescribed something so often alluded to, but not openly spoken out by the noble lord (Grenville)? Did he mean that we should now go to the Catholics in formâ pauperis? should confess that what we had refused ,to them when our enemy was in the east, we were then wrong in withholding, and were ready to grant now he was returning to the west; and that we were now ready to hug the Catholics to our bosoms, and to grant all that we had lately refused? Did the noble lord wish this? Did he really think such a conduct would do good? He was happy, however, 782 to understand from. him that the wordy contest was now over, and that the members of that house were at length to think of something besides debating. Noble lords talked of four millions of Catholics, whose claims were to be granted: but did they recollect, that there were other inhabitants of Ireland, to whom the proposed measures might be disagreeable and disgusting? He spoke as an Irishman and as a Protestant. It would be an act of the greatest baseness to desert the Protestants of Ireland. With respect to the late dissolution, what was the cause of the previous one? Was there no trick, no arrangement, no influence in the elections then? He would name Hampshire; but he could speak more particularly to the county of Wexford. At this moment of public danger, public men ought to suspend their bickerings, to unite their efforts to save the country—and not be,like the Greeks, disputing on matters of faith, with the enemy at their gates.
considered the present crisis as pregnant with the greatest dangers; but he did not express himself so from fear, but from a conscientiousness of our having great exertions to make. He spoke not as a person having any particular local feeling or interest, but as feeling an equivalent interest for every part of the kingdom. The imputation of personal or factious motives, at such a crisis, was beneath any senator in that house to answer, or to attempt to vindicate himself from. Such grovelling sentiments he disdained to notice. The noble secretary of state had admitted the dissolution as entering into the question of the propriety of the conduct of the ministers. He had stated, that the American vessels could not come but by indulgence. But, was not all the money so raised, raised contrary to law? The raising of this money under such circumstances, foreseen by ministers when they projected the dissolution, was, under all its consequences, a very important consideration; and such practices were among the chief causes of the glorious battles fought for the country, in the reign of Charles I., in parliament. It was not merely to rescue us from enormous taxation, that such practices were opposed, but it was to preserve the constitution of king, lords, and commons: it was, in fact, to insure the sitting of parliament. He then proceeded to combat the arguments of the noble and learned lord, in favour of the necessity of the dissolution, upon which he animadverted. warmly. 783 That noble and learned lord, he believe from all he had heard, was, in the practice of the law, very learned; but as a constitutional lawer, and a statesman, there was no unlearned peer in that house whose opinion he would not as soon take; no unlearned Englishman, or foreigner, whom he would not as soon consult on the subject of our constitution. Such perversion of facts such misrepresentation of statements, and of the whole constitutional history of the country, he had never heard, as from the noble and learned lord. The inconvenience of outstepping the law of the land, in raising money, was one of the many inconveniences, and one of the charges consequent upon the recent dissolution. Did the noble lords opposite mean to say, that what they called the improper conduct of the minorities in both houses of parliament, was a sufficient reason for that premature dissolution? Was it a sufficient reason that a strong minority disapproved of the manner of their coming into office? But he would tell these noble lords, who were no friends to a reform in the representation of the people, of which reform the noble lord took care to declare himself an enemy, but to which he (Lord Holland) had been and still was, with certain qualifications, a friend that such measures tended greatly to degrade parliament in the eyes of the country. He thought this consequence too plain to be denied. It was impossible to understand the king's speech but as an appeal on the Catholic question, as it was called. The noble and learned lord had gravely told the house that it was necessary to carry the dissolution immediately. Why?Because four or five days more might have spoiled all the hopes of ministers from the " recent events," and have destroyed all the good effects of the garbled extracts from confidential papers. This was, truly, necessity; out it was necessity for the ministers, not for the country. If parliament did not speedily put an extinguisher upon the doctrines contained in the speeches of the noble lord respecting the impracticability of carrying a measure on which parliament had not pronounced, we should shortly come, after repelling the enemy, to the discussion of a danger second only to that. There never was a speech more calculated to heal wounds than that of his noble friend. Far from exciting agitations, he had stated that he should advise the Catholics not to press their claims. But if they did not press, was that a sufficient reason 784 why parliament should not grant? It was asked whether we should beg the Catholics to help us? Certainly we ought not to go in formâ pauperis to a foreign state; but there was no loss of our dignity in redressing grievances at home; in making a few sacrifices to millions of Catholic fellow-subjects, by restoring them to their just rights. He reprobated and abhorred the intolerance of saying that the gates of concession were finally shut, or that the sense of parliament was definitively pronounced. He certainly should not select Mr. Pitt's conduct concerning this question as a chief topic on. which to enlarge in praise of that person. But it was certain he always seemed to look at the subject as one respecting which a favourable opportunity would arrive. It was not true, that noble lords on his side the house had urged on this question No the circumstances of the times had urged it, the improved state of knowledge in Ireland had urged it, the rapid successes of the French had urged it, on the house and on the country. He had less means of knowing the views of Mr. Pitt than many others; but he had that respect for his memory and his understanding, that he thought, were he now alive, he would he found among the, supporters of it. He readily agreed, that, in our circumstances, church and state should be united together: but he saw no reason to decline stating his opinion that the constitution of England did not depend upon my form of religion whatever. From what sources did the great defenders of our constitution draw their lights? Was there not constitution in this country even before the Reformation? Was there none before he test and corporation acts? How, then, could these acts belong essentially to the constitutions? No: they were not declaratory, but merely enacting statutes, which the wisdom and justice of parliament might repeal at pleasure. Was the test act any part of the reformation? Did the noble. and learned lord know that it was a breach if the declaration of Breda? of that proclamation promising complete liberty of,conscience, which that profligate monarch, Charles II. violated? The test was not, passed in Ireland till several years after the accession of king William, though repealed. there for several years past, and the exclusive clause against the Catholics of Ireland were directly against the treaty of Limerick; but, to be told that these were tied to the act of union! let noble lords look to the facts, and see how grossly they were per- 785 verted. The noble and learned lord had talked of the union with Scotland securing those laws. The Tories at that time did, indeed, try to introduce a clause, for maintaining the test, into the articles, the earl of Nottingham making the motion; but it was rejected by a great majority. These were strange perversions of the doctrine of church and state, which was so differently represented by different persons, but which the learned lord thought so simple. He had been told, when he first attentively turned his mind to this subject, to look at bishop Warburton, who was described as unanswerable. He had not a very high veneration for bishop Warburton; but he found that he laid down his principles in a much broader and more statesmanlike manner than the noble and learned lord. He says, it is not the tenets, but the opinion o[...]: the great majority of the people that, lays the foundation of this alliance: and let the learned lord apply this to Ireland, and to Scotland. Would he revive in the last-mentioned country the horrors suffered there in the attempt to force episcopacy on the people? He could not think himself an enemy to the church of England in stating the result of his reflections on this subject. which were those of the revolutionists of 1688, and of that excellent prince William III. The learned lord's words were pretty nearly what was said formerly against the Scottish Presbyterians: "But there was no constitution before all this." What! none in Edward the third's time, when the treason laws were passed? To be sure the learned lord had not appeared to like those laws. Very much. Lord Clarendon, who was a very eminent man, but not always enlightened, nor always just, had said that the church of England could never be safe, if the Presbyterian form was established in Scotland. Accordingly, episcopacy must he established in Scotland, and that was attempted by acts as bad as any of those of the inquisition. They had recourse for that purpose to torture. But did they succeed? Mark the conclusion. Read the history of Scotland, and then suppose the union passed, establishing episcopacy in that country, and the king overruled by the sophisticated law of cry lord Clarendon. What would have been the state of Scotland now? But then, should we establish the Catholics in Ireland? To that he would say, that we might, it the case were similar to that of. Scotland. Let the learned lord state what he thinks of the case of Scotland. Why did he propose 786 episcopacy there, and let there be but one religion, as well as but one parliament? He had never heard of the few bishops in Scotland doing any harm to the establishment of the country. It had been asked, were the Protestants of Ireland to he disgusted? It was not a church-of-England, a Protestant, nor a Christian maxim, to be disgusted at the acquisition of rights, by our fellow subjects. If it be sate to do it, it ought to gladden every Protestant heart. There were degrees of persecution, but these were not to be estimated like the obtainable possession of freehold or other franchises, by any act of special pleading. This eminent country, which had produced such great ornaments of the human race, ought not, to perpetuate a system that other nations had discarded from its narrowness. Was it no privation, no injury to a man, to shut up to him the path of preferment, in arts, in arms, and in councils? His lordship here quoted the strong language of the house of lords in the conference of the 8th of January 1702, which :stated, "that nothing out a crime should incapacitate an Englishman from serving his country."
observed, that the statement which had been made on this subject by his majesty's ministers, was so clear, that only one point remained to be explained, and chat was, why the duties levied by the order of council were higher than those levied by the expired acts. He allowed that the law had been infringed, and consequently that a material inconvenience had been incurred. Was the order of council a measure of political necessity, which it would have been criminal in ministers not to advise his majesty to adopt? He thought it was. At the same time, it was perfectly fair in those who disapproved of the dissolution, to tell ministers that they had put themselves into a situation, in which they were compelled to break the law, and that therefore they must abide by the consequences of their ill advice to his majesty to dissolve parliament. Every faculty and energy of the country ought to be called forth in this momentous crisis; but nothing could give him greater alarm than to see such concessions granted to the Catholics as seemed to be recommended by his noble friend who had just sat down. He contended that it was untrue to say we were a divided people. He had opposed the catholic measure, because he thought it pregnant with the utmost danger to the constitution; for, differing completely from his noble 787 friend on this subject, he owned that he had always understood that Protestantism and civil liberty were as inseparable as popery and civil liberty were incompatible. This country must have an established church, if it wished to preserve religion and morals; and what church was preferable to the Protestant?
§ Lord Redesdale
was adverse to any further concessions to the Irish Catholics, not so much. on account of the objection he entertained against the Catholic religion, as because there were certain political opinions which these Catholics held to be religious. These opinions they adopted in consequence. of their alliance with a falling poliatical party in Ireland, and to the influence of that party might he attributed all the disturbances which had so long agitated Ireland, and also all the difficulties which stood in the way of a complete conciliation of the Catholics. Between the Catholics of Ireland and those of this country, there did, the noble lord observed, exist a material difference is this respect. But he was sorry to perceive that of late years the English Catholics seemed to have adopted too much of the,political character of the Irish Catholics, notwithstanding the prudent and laudable resistance of some of their leaders. As the best means of more closely cementing the connection, between Ireland and this country, the noble lord earnestly recommended the speedy adoption of some measures to strengthen the Protestant establishment in Ireland, which he thought in a very precarious state at present. The difference between the Catholic religion in the two countries he conceived to be this, that in England it was felt to be a tolerated religion, while in Ireland it was the rival of the Established church.
§ The Earl of Buckinghamshire ,
in rising at so late an hour, said, that be felt the necessity of apologizing for trespassing upon the patience of the house; but the unexpected turn. which the debate had taken, and the observations that had been made upon the sentiments he had delivered on a former occasion, rendered it impossible for him to discharge his duty by a silent vote. The subject to which their lord-ships' attention had principally been directed, had little connection with the real question, viz. "The Act of Indemnity:" he should,however, so far advert to it as to declare that, in his opinion, the ministers had made out their case and consequently that the proposed bill should have:his sup- 788 port.—in that part of the noble baron's(lord Grenville) speech, in which he had again brought the subject of Catholic Emancipation under the consideration of the house, with that strength of expression so peculiar to his lordship, he had reprobated the idea, in a free country, of shutting the door against, the against the of any of his majesty's subjects, and he had charged him, as well as other noble lords, with having held the language of perpetual exclusion. From that charge the noble earl said he felt it necessary to vindicate himself. He had spoken his sentiments under the impressions of his mind, according to his present view of the question; impressions Which, he, was ready to acknowledge, were sufficiently strong to induce him to apprehend, that he might not see the day when he should be enabled to change them: but the arrogance of assuming a political foresight to the extent of saying "the time never would come," was not justly imputable to him. The noble earl said, he would shortly advert to what had fallen from him upon, the motion for amending the Address, as he had been so particularly alluded to by the noble baron. Upon that occasion, in referring to the charge that had been alledged against his majesty's ministers, of having, for electioneering purposes, excited the cry of "no popery," he had neither attempted to exculpate them from the imputation nor had he concurred with those by whom the charge was brought forward. He had stated it as his opinion, that other circumstances had occurred, so obviously calculated to produce a general discussion of the Catholic question, that it was not necessary to look beyond them for the public feeling that had been manifested.—The attention of parliament, and of the nation at large had been drawn to that question. by the explanation his majesty's late ministers had thought it their duty to give, of the differences, that had led to their removal from office. By that explanation it appeared, that there was a party in this country, composed of individuals highly respectable for their property, character, and abilities, who were determined to exert every influence they possessed for the purpose of obtaining the repeal of those laws by which the Catholics were restrained from holding certain offices civil and military as well as the capacity of sitting in parliament; and that, in conformity to the opinion entertained by these distinguished persons, a large majority of the king's late ministers had represented to his majesty "That in the 789 "event of their continuance in. office, they must not be understood us being restrained from submitting, from time to time, for his majesty's decision, such measures respecting Ireland, as the course of circumstances should appear to require;" or, in other words, that their system for the government of Ireland would be founded on the principle of further concessions to the Catholics, With such a system, thus openly avowed, attended by communications, intimating to the people of this country that it was directly at variance with the sentiments of his majesty, was it possible, the noble earl asked, that the public mind should not be agitated with the Catholic question? He should not however regret that discussion, because the advantage that resulted from it appeared to him of considerable importance. The sense, of the people of England being now known upon this question, the conscientious obligations of duty by which his:majesty was actuated, would not now be considered as the exclusive obstacle to what is called."Catholic emancipation." The rejection of the Catholic petition by the Irish -house of commons in 1792, followed, as it had been, by the act of the succeeding year, was adduced by the noble baron, as an instance of the little reliance that was to he placed upon any determination that might be taken upon such a subject;and he had been pleased to call that measure a hasty decision." The noble earl said, he could not hear a reflection upon Irish parliament, without rising in its vindication. He had witnessed its proceedings from 1778 to 1794, and he would venture to assert that no public assembly ever pursued the substantial interests of the people with more assiduity, ability, and success, than the Irish parliament had done during that period; nor had any country within the same time, and with the same means, risen to a higher pitch of wealth and prosperity: but whilst, with that energy which real patriotism inspired, the members of the Irish parliament were urging their claims to a free trade, and an independent legislature, the situation of their Catholic fellow subjects was not overlooked,—many, if not all, of the most severe restrictions of the penal code having been repealed.—The noble earl said, this brought him more particularly to the circumstance mentioned by the noble baron. It was true, he observed, that the Irish house of commons, determined to mark, in the strongest manner, their opinion on 790 the application of the Catholics for the extension of the elective franchise, had, in the year 1792, rejected their petition by a great majority. It was conceived by the members of the Irish house of commons at that time,—gentlemen fully capable of understanding, and thoroughly disposed to pursue, the interests of their country,—that an acquiescence in the prayer of that petition would be productive of consequences the most fatal to the peace and happiness of Ireland. Unfortunately, however, for those who entertained that opinion, an influence prevailed in the British cabinet, sufficiently powerful to counteract it.—The Catholics, having failed in their appeal to their own parliament, sought relief from the hands of the English government. They elected their representatives, they prepared their petition, and the delegates from their body were dispatched to London, and were received by his majesty's ministers in a manner which, strengthened by the most cordial assurances of support, left no doubt upon their minds, of ultimate success.—Under these circumstances, the alarm and irritation of the Protestant gentlemen of Ireland was indescribable. They were perfectly alive to the danger of acceding to the expectations of the Catholics; but they felt their confidence in the support of the British government, in the event of a struggle for political power, so far weakened as to render the issue too precarious to be hazarded. They were sensible that something more than deference was due to the authority of the ministers of the empire, upon such a subject; they saw the necessity of a compromise; and the act of 1793, in which they sought to conciliate their Catholic countrymen by the most liberal and. extensive indulgences, was the consequence.—The satisfaction, however, of the Catholics, for the liberality of that act, in which every thing that had been asked by them had been granted, was not of long duration; the influence which had operated upon the British ministry continued its activity, and a most respectable nobleman (lord Fitzwilliam) was sent over to Ireland under impressions respecting the policy to be adopted in that country, the disclosure of which had created the greatest alarm.—Does the noble baron believe that the Protestant gentlemen then considered the rejection of the Catholic bill in 1792 "a hasty decision?" The noble earl said, he could assure him, a very different sentiment prevailed: it was 791 evident that they had gained nothing by all the concessions that had been made, but that on the contrary, they had given power to men who, as might naturally have been expected, were using. it with a view to further acquisition. Much as had been done by the act of 1793, the state and the parliament had been preserved in the hands of the Protestants.—It required no great sagacity to foresee that the measures proposed by lord Fitzwilliam would have transferred the whole authority of the country into the hands of the Catholics: and, with such a conviction on the minds of those who were likely to constitute majority in the Irish parliament, accompanied by a declared resolution to resist the proposition of the government, it was judged adviseable to recall lord Fuzwilliam: but the mischief had unhappily been done The Catholics, disappointed and inflamed, were clamorous in their language, and violent in their conduct; and when so large a proportion of the population of the country was in such a state, it was not difficult for the jacobins of every persuasion to avail themselves of it, for the purpose of perfecting that system of rebellion which they had long meditated, which, though originating in jacobinical principles, revived in it progress all the ancient sources of discord and previous to its termination, was not to be distinguished from the sanguinary contests in which the Protestants and papists had formely been opposed to each other.—When the rebellion was suppressed, the subject of a legislative union was brought under the consideration of his maesly's ministers, it being evident that the connection between the two. kingdoms could not be maintained without a material alteration in the system. The admission of the Catholics into the Irish parliament was deemed wholly incompatible with the preservation of the Protestant establishment, and their exclusion from it not favourable to the public tranquillity Under this impression, it appeared to many persons of consideration, that a parliamentary union furnished the only means by which Ireland could be governed consistently, with the principles of the British constitution as established at the revolution, and it was conceived that the Catholics though not relieved from the existing disabilities, might consider their situation much improved, when the discussion of their concerns was no longer confined to men, to whom they 792 might be disposed to attribute the operation of local passions and prejudices; and when, by the abolition of the close boroughs, and the effect of a popular representation, they might expect to obtain an influence upon the members from their own country, fully adequate to the protection of their persons and property, and the security of their interests, in whatever shape they might be brought before parliament. In this opinion, the noble earl said he had concurred, and upon being consulted by Mr. Pitt, had expressed himself to that effect. With reference to that part of the noble baron's speech, in winch he had intimated to their lordships his conviction that no pledge had been given to the-Catholics, by Mr. Pitt, the noble earl said he was enabled to add his own testimony. He had been called upon by him with other persons belonging to the parliament of both Countries to prepare, under his instructions, the articles, constituting the basis of the Union. He could confidently assure the house, that, so far from any pledge to the Catholics being in contemplation at that time, the subject was not even introduced as a topic for discussion; and he would and that, if Catholic emancipation, as it is called, had been considered as a necessary consequence of the measure, that he, as well as many of its .warmest advocates, would certainly have opposed it. He would ask whether any member of his majesty's government had ventured state in the parliament of either country that such a consequence was likely to follow from the Union?—He would put it to the noble baron, whether the confidential servants of the king had prepared his mind for such a result? How, then, could it be supposed that Mr. Pitt had held out such an expectation to the Catholics? The noble earl said, he was so much satisfied to the contrary, and he was called upon by the respect he bore to Mr. Pitt's memory to say so, that he was persuaded, his subsequent conduct, upon that subject, was governed by considerations, that had not occurred until after the union of-the legislatures had actually been carried into execution.—The noble earl deeply lamented the agitation of this question, under the present circumstances. He was not disposed to question the motives of any of any noble lord, much less those of the noble baron; but, surrounded as we were with difficulties he was apprehensive the most serious mischiefs would arise from this discussion. 793 —He agreed with the noble lord who had just sat down, that nothing would be gained by the proposed concessions; that there were other objects lurking behind, infinitely more important in the eyes of the Catholics, and that what the noble baron had recommended would, if acceded to, he productive of no permanent advantage, whatever effect it might have in raising the expectations, and adding to the power of those, whose advocates had never been able to state a limit to their demands, and whom there was no hope of satisfying but by the complete sacrifice of our establishment in church and state.—The noble earl concluded by expressing his, concern that the noble baron should have signified an intention of withdrawing from if their lordships should adhere to their former resolution upon the Catholic,question. He trusted the noble baron. would not retire from the service. of his country at a time when abilities like his could not,be dispensed with. It was a time when to every man ought to be at his post; and he considered that of the noble lord to be his place in the house of peers.
§ Lord Grenville
disclaimed all intention of substituting Catholic for a Protestant establishment a Ireland: no man would, more decidedly oppose such a proposition, if it could possibly be made.
The Earl of Westmoreland
observed, that when he was lord lieutenant of Ireland, it concessions were made to the Roman-Catholics of that country; those concessions were authorised by the king and by the ministers of this country. As to the other principal point that had been urged in debate, the dissolution, parliament had already come to a decision on that head. He should, therefore, leave these questions their lordships' consideration without any observation on his part.—The question was then put and carried in the affirmative.