HL Deb 08 June 1815 vol 31 cc666-85

The Duke of Sussex presented a Petition from the county of Lancaster, in favour of the Catholic Claims, and observed that it was left to his discretion, whether he would present it or not. He felt it his duty to present it to their lordships, at the same time reserving a discretion to himself as to the ground upon which the Petition went, which was that of right. Earl Stanhope said, he should vote for the Petition, as he conceived that relief in all such cases was a matter of right, and not of favour. The Earl of Donoughmore presented Petitions from Galway, and other parts of Ireland, on the same subject. His lordship also presented one from the Roman Catholics of Great Britain, which he stated was put into his hands, he knew not why. It was respectfully worded, and respectably signed. He was not sufficiently acquainted with the different parts from which the signatures were obtained, to speak positively as to their general importance, but many of the names were highly respectable. The Petitions were all ordered to lie on the table.

The order of the day for summoning their lordships being read,

The Earl of Donoughmore

rose, for the purpose of submitting to the House the motion of which he had given notice, with respect to the Catholic Claims. Before he entered on the subject, and stated to their lordships what the question for their consideration was, he thought it would be necessary for him distinctly to premise what the question was not, to which he meant to call their lordships' attention. He was quite unfettered and uninfluenced, in introducing this question, by any discussions that might have taken place oat of Parliament—nor was he tied down by any directions, as to the course that ought to be pursued. He was a party to no specific arrangements that would tend to circumscribe or interfere with the deliberate judgment of the House. He had not embodied, in any distinct resolutions, what he might be desirous, their lordships should do on this subject—much less had he reduced any propositions into the shape of a legislative enactment. In what he had just said, he desired not to be misunderstood as expressing any opinion on the course adopted, or intended to have been adopted, in another place. The Resolutions which were printed and circulated after the late discussion, had probably imparted instruction on this important question, which was most necessary and most important. But, as he did not intend to animadvert on the new mode of bringing this great subject forward, he certainly felt that he had an undoubted right to declare against any thing that might be alleged in disapproval of the line of conduct which he had himself adopted on this occasion.

Having thus sufficiently guarded himself against misrepresentation with respect to the course he deemed it necessary to pursue, he should next proceed to observe, that for nothing but inquiry—for inquiry only—was he now about to move. That their lordships should take into immediate consideration the state of his Majesty's Catholic subjects of Great Britain and Ireland, was the full extent of what he meant to require from the House. He hoped that he should be successful—if, indeed, any success ever attended his humble efforts in support of the great cause which he would, that day, again place before their lordships. For the clear and satisfactory consideration of this subject, it would be fitting, that he should divide it into distinct and separate heads. In the first place, he would apply himself to the causes which called for the immediate consideration of the question; and, in his opinion, every principle of justice and of policy, required this proceeding. He should, secondly, advert to the relief, from existing disabilities, that ought to be extended to the Catholics—who, he believed it would not be denied, had conducted themselves in the most satisfactory manner for the last twenty years; and he should state to the House the propositions he should deem it necessary to submit, if inquiry were agreed to, on their behalf. In the third place, he should deliver his opinion on those additional securities, which had been contended for, as indispensable, by some very respectable members of both Houses of Parliament—and the consequent arrangements, with respect to the Catholic Church, which were to be found in the measure of 1813. And, lastly, he should briefly reply to the argument that had beep so often and so triumphantly urged against the immediate consideration of this subject; namely, whether, in the present dissatisfied, and, as it was alleged to be, inflamed state of the Catholic body, it would be prudent to entertain the question. From this division, of the subject, his lordship hoped it would not be inferred, that he intended to enter into it at any great length. Professing, as he did, that inquiry alone was his object, such a course would be quite unnecessary. He felt, however, that he would not be justified in calling their lordships to a discussion on a subject of such immense importance, without putting the House in possession,—by as shortly compressed a statement as possible,—of what his own view of the question was, and of those great objects which he wished to effectuate by the proposed inquiry.

With respect to the first head—the causes which peculiarly demanded inquiry—those causes were so very numerous, that he knew not with which of them he should begin. In the first place, a great body of the people of Ireland were deprived of the enjoyment of many rights; they were debarred from various political offices, of great weight and respect. It had been argued, that great danger would result to the State, if the Catholics were admitted to the enjoyment of those situations. This was directly denied by them. They came forward, and challenged inquiry. They offered to prove, before Parliament, that their fidelity to the State had been firm and unshaken. These grievances, great as they were, became still greater, when they considered the vast number of persons who suffered by them. In this country many individuals were oppressed by the system: in Ireland four-fifths of the entire population were affected by it. If such grievances as these were permitted to exist—if they were suffered to remain without inquiry, he conceived it would be most unjust, most impolitic. But the system pursued with respect to the Catholics, was different in different parts of the united kingdom. In Scotland, the Catholics had a capability of holding, as he believed, every office, civil and military, without any reference to religious opinion. In this country, the Catholics enjoyed a very small addition indeed to what was granted by the statute of 1791. In Ireland, they were permitted to exercise the elective franchise, and they were in possession of all those liberal accessions of privilege, which the Act of 1793 extended to them. Was such an anomalous state of things, he would ask, worthy to continue in existence? Their lordships must not think that he wished to give to the Irish Catholics more than he would demand for those who inhabited other parts of the United Kingdom; but he could see no just reason for not putting them on the same footing with their Northern neighbours. Was there any thing in their conduct or demeanour, that entitled them to greater relief than the Catholics of Ireland? This was a monstrous anomaly, and called for the interference of the Legislature. All that he asked of their lordships was, to inquire fully into the question, that it might be promptly and definitively set at rest—that all the inhabitants of the United Kingdom should be admitted to the privileges of the Constitution—that something uniform should be done, by which the strength of the empire would be improved and consolidated. What, he demanded, had the Roman Catholics done, to deserve the punishment which was inflicted on them? What had they done, that rendered it necessary to impose on them those forfeitures, which the laws awarded to convicted felons? Was it not right for their lordships to come forward, and state, in a committee, where the subject could be best inquired into, if those laws were to be kept up, what the Catholics had done to deserve it, or what their lordships were afraid they would do, at some future time, which induced them to continue such harsh and oppressive measures?

There was another reason for inquiry, which he conceived to be full as strong, as that he had adduced. It appeared to him, that the continuance of those restrictive measures, was contrary to the principles of the Union. He could, perhaps, speak on this point as accurately as most noble lords—perhaps more strongly and more accurately than many. He was a friend to the Union, purely and entirely, because he thought it would give to the Roman Catholics those franchises, and that extension of privileges, which, he believed, they would not have received from their own Parliament. By a Parliamentary Union, he hoped they would have recovered their rights—for they had applied, in vain, to the Irish Parliament. That Parliament was so constituted, that it always expressed itself against the Catholic claims. He, and others who wished the question well, considered the Union as the only mode by which it could be brought to a successful termination. He did not mean to say, that any direct promise was made on the subject; but certainly a species of engagement appeared to have been entered into at the period of the Union. If this feeling had not been entertained by others, he might have imagined, that what was said to him on the subject, had been misunderstood. But having taken a very active part, to induce others to adopt the same opinion that he entertained on the subject of the Union—having prevailed on the Roman Catholics of the great city and county of Cork to express themselves in favour of that measure, by using the same statement to them, which had been made to him, he did conceive that the Catholics would have a right to complain, if their cause was not carried, since, with a view to its success, they had conceded the Union. They would, he contended, have a strong ground of complaint, if, having supported the Union, for the purpose of recovering their privileges, those rights were withheld from them, by the prospect of which they had been induced to act as they had done. He did not ask for any thing specifically for the Catholics, but he demanded inquiry; and he had a right to ask it, in consequence of the engagement which was entered into with them at the time of the Union; and, to prove that they conceived such an engagement to have been made, it was merely necessary for them to advert to their feelings. The measure of the Union could not have been carried by any other mode: it was carried by the Roman Catholics—not by bribery or corruption—not by the private acts of any individual, but by the fair and upright act of the Catholics themselves. "Give us," said the Government, "your assistance to alter the constitution of Parliament, and our first act, under the new system, will be, to open to you a fair opportunity for the recovery of your rights." The Union, therefore, formed a strong claim on their lordships. But there was another point worthy of their attention, which was derived from what had passed recently in that House. When he said recently, he alluded to a motion made by a noble marquis (Wellesley) about three years since. The discussion created great satisfaction at the time; the opinion of their lordships on this question had not since been expressed; and he believed nothing had occurred to alter the feeling of their lordships' minds with respect to it. That motion, he need scarcely remind the House, was all but carried by a majority; one hundred and twenty-five noble lords were in favour of it; one hundred and twenty-six were opposed to it; amongst the latter was a reverend prelate, who did not feel any unwillingness to the principle of considering the question, but who did not wish the House to pledge itself to a consideration then. But for this the numbers would have been equal; and, therefore, he had a right to say, that, on the very last occasion when the question was discussed in that House, it was carried by every thing but a majority.

He now came to the second point— namely, the claims of the Roman Catholics. And here he would state, what he meant to propose in their behalf. He should call for their complete and perfect restoration to every privilege that was now withheld from them. He would fix them precisely in the same situation as all his Majesty's other subjects were placed in—saving what related to the ecclesiastical government. In every respect but this, if their lordships went into a committee, he would propose to give the Catholics a perfect equality with their fellow-subjects. By the Act of 1793, the Roman Catholics gained much. That Act, which was said to be the work of the then Secretary of State, was most valuable. Ireland never before received such a parliamentary boon—it proceeded on the best and wisest principles—it removed many of the grievances by which at that time the Roman Catholics were afflicted. That Act, which gave to them so many important privileges, formed a title, by which they now claimed all those rights and liberties of which they were at present deprived. Had their lordships, at the time they granted them those privileges which the Act of 1793 conferred, any doubt of their fidelity? Did any fear arise in their minds, when they conceded those rights? What did they them feel? Did they not believe, that they were granting those privileges to loyal and well-affected subjects—to persons whose religion contained nothing that was incompatible with the duties, of loyal and well-affected subjects? They gave the Catholics, at that period, privileges, which if they were, in fact, subject to that influence which some noble lords feared, ought not to have been extended to them. The oath imposed by the Act of 1793, he considered a sufficient security. If any thing were omitted in the formation of that oath, the deficiency was not occasioned by a want of jealousy in the learned gentlemen who drew it up. He gave the noble lord opposite, who was then in Ireland, credit for having had nothing to do with that shameful oath—that disgraceful collection of shocking abominations—which could not be heard without horror and detestation. It did not originate with him. It was the rancorous production of some old men, who could not be controlled by the power of the Irish government. That oath was long enough. There was nothing that a man could do, or say, or think, that was not provided for in it. The Roman Catholics accepted that oath —for twenty-one years they had sworn it. There was nothing that could be said against that unjustly defamed class of their fellow-subjects, which that oath had not sufficiently disavowed for twenty-one years. That oath was considered a sufficient security when the elective franchise was granted to the Catholics. Under that oath they got more than was ever before given by any government to an excluded set of men. The Government of 1793 conceived that oath a perfect security for every thing they could give. He recollected, at that time, many members of the House of Commons wished to give the Roman Catholics every privilege (except those connected with the ecclesiastical establishment) under the sanction of that oath. Amongst those persons was a noble friend of his, then in the Irish House of Commons, and a right hon. friend (Mr. Grattan) who had at present a seat in the other House. He was so perfectly satisfied with the security of the oath, that, except ecclesiastical privileges, he was ready, under it, to grant them every thing. He (lord D.) was, at the period to which he alluded, ready to concede every thing to the Catholics, under the security of the oath—and he was equally, or rather he was more ready, to do so now, because he had a more extended experience of their conduct. He called their lordships recollection, back to this Act of 1793, as giving to the Catholics not only all those privileges which they at present possessed, but also as holding out to them the best-founded expectation that they would ultimately receive what was withheld from them—and he knew of no good reason against now fulfilling that expectation. Every person who was aware of the impoverished state of Ireland, before the repeal of many of those obnoxious laws, and contrasted it with the flourishing state of things which had arisen, in proportion as they were removed, would at once perceive the wisdom, and policy of repealing those that remained. Any person who marked the energy which, for the last twenty years, had, distinguished his countrymen—who then began to feel the spirit of freemen, and to walk erect—would perceive the propriety of granting them their rights—of making them more respectable members of the community—of restoring to the empire their full and undivided strength—their best and most valuable energies—and, by one act of generosity and of justice, making them, as it were, new men. The Roman Catholics had a right, from the gradual repeal of those laws, to expect that the time was come when those which remained should be erased from the Statute Book. He wanted to know why a man, who was intrusted with the execution of the laws, as a magistrate, should be excluded from the situation of a judge? He knew of no principle of the Constitution by which the one privilege might be enjoyed by a person who was incapacitated to exercise the other. On this point he had nothing further to say. If their lordships went into a committee, he should there propose to restore to the Catholics every thing (with the exception he had before stated), under the present oath. He could not conceive why the line of 1793 was never to be overstepped. Those who had been trusted so far, ought, in his opinion, to be considered as completely trustworthy.

He now came to the third head—the additional securities which were demanded. As he conceived that no additional securities were necessary, he need scarcely inform their lordships, that the clauses added to the Bill of 1813 appeared to him objectionable—and he stated his objections to those who were concerned in framing them. He declared his opinion to be, that such an arrangement would not be satisfactory to the people of Ireland. He even went farther, and stated, that it could, not, and, in his opinion, it ought not to be satisfactory. One of the bugbears against which those clauses were directed, was the influence of the Pope. But could, any man really believe that the Pope had it in his power to do mischief in the United Kingdom? There was not any point of communication with him, nor ever had been, from which danger could fairly be apprehended. Did not their lordships know very well, that there was scarcely, any communication whatever between the Catholic Church of Ireland, and the See of Rome? The only communication was for the purpose of investing Bishops; and, previous to that ceremony, the individual was able to perform every duty, except that of consecrating other bishops. He could not perceive on what just principles those clauses were introduced. If the fears which they indicated were well founded, instead of extending the privileges of the Catholics, the Legislature ought to take back what they had before granted. But it was impossible that so idle a thought could enter the head of a sober man, as that a shadow of danger from the influence of the Pope had existed during the last twenty years. Then came the dread lest the Protestant Church and the Protestant succession should be destroyed. Who were in array against them? Perhaps it would be answered, the Catholic bishops, and the Catholic pope. But, during a long war, could a single instance be adduced in which a Catholic bishop had misconducted himself? Were they not, on the contrary, always endeavouring to discharge their sacred functions to the best of their ability? He objected to such a principle of proceeding, because it was contrary to justice. When those additional securities were called for, it was almost saying,—"We will give the laity nothing, unless the clergy fall down before us; we will degrade the Church, for the purpose of giving liberty to the people." With respect to the wish entertained by some, for supporting the Catholic Clergy at the expense of the State, he should merely observe, that they desired to remain as they were. They wanted nothing from the Crown—and they did not conceive that the Crown had a right to extort any thing from them. On the whole, he decidedly disapproved of those additional securities, because they tended to throw unfounded imputations upon a most worthy and respectable set of people. He knew them well—he had lived amongst them in quiet and in turbulent times—and this he would say, that, as a magistrate, he had derived more effectual assistance from the Catholic clergy, than from any other class of men whatever. He, therefore, never could assent to any thing that appeared to cast a slur upon them.

He now came to the last division of his subject. And he conceived it was the duty of the House, without reference to any thing that took place out of doors, to inquire and to legislate, as, in their wisdom, they might think fit. He, as much as any other man, objected to any thing that looked like dictation. He might here observe, that those persons who took the lead in the affairs of the Catholic body were men perfectly conversant with the laws of their country—extremely eloquent—and possessing mental powers of the most estimable kind. The assistance of those individuals would, in his opinion, be extremely useful in framing a measure which was so nearly connected with their best interests. He stated this now, because he always entertained that opinion; and he trusted, that, in any communication he ever had with the Catholic body, he had shown himself a decided enemy to dictation. It had been said, that the great object of those persons was to inflame the Catholic mind. But was nothing done, on the other side, to create inflammation? Had the Government press done nothing to offend the Catholic population of Ireland? Had not the public money been paid for the publication of libels against the Roman Catholics? Let any person read the Dublin papers in the pay of Government, and he would see the truth of this statement. When he spoke of the Government papers, he thought it right to observe, that he entertained a high respect for some of the persons by whom they were conducted. But the publication of those libels on the Roman Catholics was not their act—it was the act of the Government itself. Persons who were in the habit of receiving a stipend from Government, would not, of course, be very ready to put into their leading articles any matter that would not please those by whom they were employed; therefore, though it was true that great irritation prevailed on this subject, it was no less true that that irritation existed on both sides. By granting the claims of the Catholics, however, by removing the cause of complaint, all the irritation which created so much bad feeling in the country, would at once be done away. He had always been very earnest on this question—but he had no personal interest whatever, connected with the concessions. As an individual, he "should not be served in any manner by the emancipation of the Catholics. He still, however, persevered, because he loved the Catholics, and had been connected with their cause from the commencement of his parliamentary life. He persevered, because the concession of the Catholic claims would make Ireland strong—he meant strong for the support of this country. However warmly he might have spoken, at any time, in bringing this subject forward, he thanked God he bore enmity to no man; and if he had, either in that House or elsewhere, thrown out any thing that might have given offence, he could now truly and conscientiously declare, that it was not the result of premeditation. [Hear, hear!] His lordship then, in a very energetic strain, enforced the propriety of an immediate consideration of this important subject by the Legislature, and concluded by moving, "That this House will take into its immediate consideration, in a committee of the whole House, the present state of his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects of Great Britain and Ireland, with reference to the laws by which they still continue to be aggrieved."

The Earl of Buckinghamshire

said, he should not feel it necessary to trespass long upon their lordships attention on the present occasion. The question before them had always resolved itself, in his mind, into two points, whether the Legislature should go the length of granting complete emancipation to the Catholics, or whether it should abide by the law as now existing. He was perfectly ready to concur with the noble lord in opinion, that the Act of 1793 was where a stand ought to be made: because, by that Act every thing was given to the Catholics which they could enjoy under a Protestant government; every thing, indeed, that was essential to their prosperity and, because the Catholics could enjoy all the privileges which we could give them, without danger to the constitution in Church or State. The noble lord had said a great deal about the oath prescribed by that Act, which he described as full of abominations, and therefore paid him (lord Buckinghamshire) the compliment of supposing it to have been enacted against his consent; but he must beg leave most distinctly to disclaim the compliment. The oath was framed upon a declaration made by the Catholics themselves, and they proposed to give that security, provided they were permitted to enjoy the privileges they claimed. It should be remembered also, that what they then claimed was much less than what they obtained. But there was another oath, the Oath of Supremacy, which it was necessary the Catholics should take before they could safely be admitted into the enjoyment of all those privileges for which the noble lord so strongly contended: foreign supremacy, however, was an immutable principle of the Catholic religion, and hence the necessity of imposing that oath. With respect to the securities, if what the Catholics asked could be granted, there would be no use for those securities. The idea of securities, connected with such privileges as were demanded by the Catholics, always appeared to him as great an inconsistency as strengthening the walls of a house in order to secure it against explosion from a mine. He did not think that any securities would lessen the danger, and especially when he remembered the sentiments expressed by the Catholic bishops of Ireland, upon the provisions of the Bill that was brought in during the session of 1812. The Union had also been alluded to by the noble lord, but certainly he never considered that legislative measure as one that pledged this country to a concession of all that the Catholics now claimed; if be had, he should have opposed it, as strongly as he had supported it. The only pledge which it contained was one of conciliation, and he would put it to the candour of the noble lord, whether that pledge had not been amply redeemed. Upon the whole, he saw no sufficient ground for going into a committee at the present moment, and therefore he felt himself compelled to oppose the motion.

Lord De Dunstanville

conceived, that going into a committee would be illusive and nugatory, and tending to excite hopes in the minds of the Catholics which it was not possible afterwards to fulfil. It would be a tacit promise which the House would not eventually perform.

Lord Grenville

said, that his opinions upon the subject of the Catholic claims were too well known, and had been too often delivered before their lordships, to render it necessary for him to travel over the same ground on the present occasion. In the little that he should now say, therefore, in support of the vote he intended to give, he should confine himself strictly to whatever might be considered as new matter in the actual circumstances of the Catholics of Ireland, or in the present times. His noble friend had distinctly disclaimed any connexion between his motion and certain Resolutions which they had heard of in another place; and he (lord G.) begged leave as distinctly, and as positively, to disclaim any similar connexion with respect to his vote that night. As long as he had the honour of holding a seat in the British Parliament, he should consider it his first and paramount duty to resist with firmness, nay, with indignation, any attempt to dictate to the wisdom and discretion of the Legislature. Besides, those Resolutions went to an extent from which his mind turned with abhorrence, that of shaking the Protestant establishments of this country to their foundation; and had they come before their lordships in the shape, either as resolutions, or as digested into a bill, no consideration upon earth should have induced him to give them his support. [Hear, hear!] In voting, however, for the committee proposed by his noble friend, his object would be, what it always had been, to give the subject that grave and mature deliberation, which he had long thought it necessary to give, and which every year had rendered more imperiously so. With respect to the law of 1793, upon which his noble friend had said, he meant to make his stand, he had always been of opinion that that law had been framed in a spirit of liberal conciliation, and with a determined desire on the part of the Government to extend to every class of the subjects of these realms, a certain portion of civil freedom. No one took a more active part in that measure than the individual who had now the honour of addressing their lordships; and therefore he could not be suspected of a wish to depreciate its value or character, when he said that it rested upon a principle perfectly anomalous. It rested on the avowed desire to give to the Roman Catholics all that could be given them, consistently with the state of the times; and when he recollected all the difficulties of that situation, he had never seen any reason to feel other than unmingled satisfaction at the part he bore in the success of the measure. But he did not then think, nor had he ever since thought, that the subject was closed, or that it rested upon any general principles which would preclude any further consideration of it. Even if he had so thought at that time, his opinion would necessarily have referred to Ireland as an independent and separate country, and not to Ireland as she now happily was, forming an integral part of the empire. On those grounds, therefore, he conceived that the measure of 1793 was one which could not, by any possibility, rest in its present situation. It had a necessary tendency to force itself upon the attention of the Legislature, and it must infallibly produce dissention and discontent, until Parliament consented to go into a committee and inquired into all the subjects connected with that vast and important question of Catholic concession, not shortly and unsatisfactorily, by sweeping resolutions, but gravely and solemnly, as became the infinite importance of the measures. The longer that inquiry was retarded, the more arduous, the more doubtful, and the more difficult it would become. The question of securities, upon which something had been said, would more properly come under discussion in that committee, and therefore he would not anticipate it now. He, for one, would carry his mind into that committee unprejudiced by any thing that had passed, and would endeavour to view the matter as, in his opinion, it must be viewed, not through the medium of any fixed or general principles, but in reference to the varying dispositions and tempers of the people of England and Ireland. He earnestly entreated their lordships to lay entirely out of their minds all recollection of whatever had been improperly said or improperly done, by the Catholics themselves or their advisers. The measure, if successful, was to be adopted, not to gratify this or that individual, or any particular class of people, but to determine whether it could make more contented, more free, and therefore more happy because more free, a great body of our fellow-citizens; they were to consider whether they could safely give that portion of civil freedom to the Catholics of Ireland, which hitherto it had been thought they could not; whether it was not the indispensable duty of the Legislature not to rest upon general principles, upon dales, and epochs, but to accompany the progress of light, of education, and of civilization in that country, deriving from them improved and increased means of diffusing happiness, and by extending happiness, securing in return attachment and fidelity to the welfare of the State. Those were the grounds upon which the measure was to be deliberated, and therefore, even though he were convinced that a few angry individuals spoke the sense of the whole nation, and even if he believed that four or five millions of Catholics could be so unreasonable as to reject a boon and a benefit from the hands of the Legislature, because not offered in the terms and in the manner they wished, he should still bid their lordships do what was right, consult the plain path of their duty, and provide for the happiness of the people. It was upon that view of the subject, and upon those principles that he had always supported the measure; and on the same principles, and from the same view of what ought to be done, he should now vote for the motion of his noble friend.

The Earl of Liverpool

said, that his opinion upon this question wad already known, and he assured their lordships that that opinion had not undergone any change whatever; but he did not think it necessary on this occasion to enter into the merits of that question. He opposed the motion before the House, because he did not conceive that the House could at present resolve into the proposed committee with any view to a satisfactory result; but he had another objection to this motion, namely, that this was not a subject upon which any inquiry could be deemed necessary. For this was not a question involving any uncertainty as to facts upon which investigation was required. The House was already aware of all the advantages and all the inconveniencies belonging to the present system; for that system had been too frequently discussed to allow any ignorance or doubt to remain upon that subject. Whether, then, it was right or wrong to make the concessions required by the Catholics, the House was quite ripe to determine without any farther inquiry. That the concessions required would involve a considerable alteration in the constitution of the country, could not be disputed, and he deprecated the idea of proposing that alteration—of sounding the alarm which such a proposition must produce, without any statement of the remedy meant to be applied. He agreed with the noble mover, that it would not be advisable to excite any expectation which it was not intended to gratify. With regard to what had passed in Ireland upon this subject, he could not pretend to be as accurately informed as the noble mover; for he was not a member of the government at the period referred to by the noble lord. But their lordships had the record of what passed in another place upon the discussion of the Union, and upon reference to that record it would be seen, that according to the opinion of the individual who took a lead in that discussion, the Catholic question would be left open for the consideration of Parliament, namely, that if the Union were adopted, Parliament would find it safer to concede to the wishes of the Catholics, if it should think that concession expedient, or to resist such concession if it thought contrary. It would indeed be recollected, that that point was peculiarly laboured by the individual alluded to. From the discussion referred to, then, it could not be inferred, that any pledge or promise was held out to the Catholics by the proceedings of Parliament. But without adverting further to those proceedings, he felt it his duty to withstand the present motion, because he was unwilling to hold out any expectation to the Catholic body which was likely to be disappointed; and he was the more disposed to resist this motion, from the indefinite form in which it was presented to the House. He should, therefore, prefer the proposition of some specific measure, as in the year 1793, in order that the question might be brought before the House in a distinct, intelligible shape. On this ground, then, he should frankly say, that if he were even friendly to the Catholic cause, he should object to the course of proceeding proposed by the noble mover; for he should desire to have at once laid before their lordships a precise statement of the nature and extent of the evil alleged to exist, as well as of the nature and extent of the remedy which it was proposed to substitute. Although he had stated thus much, the noble lord said, that it was not his intention at present to enter at large into the merits of this great question, but should reserve his observations for a future and more convenient opportunity. He was, however, on this occasion free to say that, as the noble mover admitted, that the Crown was essentially Protestant, and connected with a Protestant ecclesiastical establishment, so in his (lord Liverpool's) opinion, should the members of the Government and of the Parliament be Protestant also. For the question was, whether a Protestant dynasty, and a Protestant ecclesiastical establishment should be supported by a Protestant Parliament, and a Protestant Administration. This appeared to him substantially the question which their lordships were called upon to consider. Upon this point, he, for one, had seen no ground to alter the decision which he had already stated to their lordships: but it would be for the House to consider in this case, whether under a government which was not arbitrary, which, on the contrary, was limited by law, it would be wise to entrust the maintenance of that government which was essentially Protestant, to any other than Protestant councils; whether it would be safe to commit that government to the administration of Catholics. This was, indeed, the great question which he would not then argue in detail; but he felt it to be the real question for the consideration of Parliament. He was aware that many individuals, for whom he entertained the utmost respect, were of opinion that the Catholics might be con- ciliated, while all ground of alarm would be removed from the mind of the Protestants through the establishment of certain securities. But for himself, he was unable to comprehend how the securities proposed could serve to execute their purposes. On the contrary, according to his judgment it appeared impossible to produce any such securities as should at once satisfy the Protestant and conciliate the Catholic—such as should remove the jealousy of the one, and be agreeable to the feelings of the other—such, in a word, as should form the basis of a legislative arrangement satisfactory to all parties: and his view of the subject was justified by the proceedings of the Catholics of Ireland, who had loudly and universally expressed their disapprobation of the plan of securities which had on a late occasion been submitted to that House. What alteration, and whether any would take place in the state of the Catholic church, and in the opinion of the Catholic people in Ireland, which might render it safe for the Legislature to concede to the pretensions of the Catholic body, he could not pretend to say; but at present he was decidedly of opinion, that no such concession was proposed, as it would be prudent in the Legislature to grant with any probability of meeting a graceful reception from the Catholics. Under these considerations he was adverse to the proposed concessions. But whatever his opinion might be as to the policy of these concessions, he saw no advantage that could result from the proposed inquiry, and therefore he should give it his decided negative.

Viscount Melville

thought that the adoption of this motion was not calculated to satisfy the Catholic body, and therefore he should vote against it, although he by no means concurred with those who resisted the proposed concession, on the ground that it would endanger the security of the Church establishment, for the security of which he was as anxious as any one who heard him. Therefore, although he should resist the proposed inquiry, as unlikely to lead to any satisfactory result, he hoped that some legislative measure would be devised for the conciliation of the Catholics without alarming the Protestants. But from the late period of the session, and from what had passed elsewhere, he could not expect that any practical benefit would be derived from resolving into a committee of inquiry upon this subject at present, with a view to any satisfactory conclusion within this session. Being, however, friendly to the Catholics, as he had manifested by his vote upon a former occasion, he hoped that some legislative measure would be brought forward at an early period of the next session, such as could be acceded to consistently with sound policy and justice to all parties; it should have his cordial support, for he was satisfied that things could not fairly remain as they were.

The Duke of Sussex

declared his intention to vote for the motion, upon the grounds already so ably stated by the noble mover and others, who supported his view of the subject.

Lord Mulgrave

spoke strongly in favour of the motion, and deprecated the idea of abstaining to do justice to the Catholic body, because some unreasonable persons were not likely to be satisfied. It was, in his opinion, the duty and the policy of the Legislature to separate the reasonable from the unreasonable part of the Catholics, and to render justice to the former, without any regard to the complaints or caprices of the latter; but to refuse inquiry, and to hold out no expectation, was not the way to afford due satisfaction to any party. He dissented entirely from the proposition of his noble friend (the earl of Liverpool), that it would be impossible to secure a Protestant government and a Protestant church, if Catholics were admitted into Parliament, or rendered eligible to certain civil appointments. So much as to the merits of the general question; and as to the motion before the House, he should vote for it, with a view to hold out an expectation to the Catholic body, that it was the intention of the House to remove their just complaints, for he was persuaded that things could not remain in their present state.

The Earl of Harrowby

agreed with his noble friend who spoke last, that things could not remain in their present state, and should be ready to subscribe to his arguments in favour of the motion, if they were brought forward in February next, instead of the present advanced period of the session; but yet, on the grounds stated by his noble friend (viscount Melville), he could not help declaring, that if be were a Catholic he should consider the adoption of the present motion as a mere mockery.

Lord Boringdon

said, it would be impossible for him to give his negative to the present proposition; but he found, from the tone and temper of the House at the present moment, that it would be impossible to bring the question to a favourable issue, in behalf of those for whom it was brought forward.

The Earl of Donoughmore

expressed his disposition to conform to the wishes of the noble lords opposite, and therefore proposed as an amendment—That the House should resolve into a committee upon the question at an early period of the next session.

Lord Grenville

suggested that this amendment might be adopted, by consent, among those who were friendly to the principle of the motion.

The Earl of Liverpool

declared his intention to oppose the principle of the motion.

Viscount Melville

expressed his approbation of the amendment.

The Earl of Westmoreland

declined at present to pledge himself upon the subject, although he would probably support a reasonable concession to the Catholics, if brought before the House in the course of the next session.

Lord Redesdale

concurred in the opinion of the earl of Liverpool, observing, that the system of securities proposed on a late occasion, appeared to him rather to increase than to diminish the danger of complying with the wish of the Catholic body. He approved of the concessions made to the Catholics of Ireland in 1793, but he thought any farther concession weald be extremely inexpedient, at least until a material change took place in the character of that body.

The Earl of Aberdeen

supported the motion, on the ground that by the motion he was not pledged to any general principle, but merely to an inquiry, for which he thought the present moment inauspicious. In the next session the situation of Europe might enable them to decide without danger on the claims of the Catholics.

The Motion was then put in the amended form, and the House divided:—

Non-contents, 42; Proxies, 44–86
Contents, 29; Proxies, 31–60

Majority against the Motion—26

List of tits Minority.
Sussex Buckingham
Norfolk Lansdowne
Somerset Wellesley
Douglas Harrowby
Essex Torrington
Cowper Melville
Jersey LORDS.
Stanhope St. John
Carnarvon Grenville
Rosslyn Braybroke
Grey Lyndoch
Cassilis Boringdon
Lauderdale Calthorpe
Donoughmore BISHOP.
Aberdeen Norwich
DUKE. Kellie
Leinster. Londonderry
Downshire Ormond
Camden Anson.
EARLS. Clifden.
Besborough LORDS.
Guilford Ponsonby.
Thanet Crewe.
St. Vincent Ashburton
Spencer Glastonbury
Ossory Dundas
Ilchester Hutchinson
Suffolk Somers
Fitzwilliam Yarborough
Carysfort BISHOP.
Derby Rochester.

The duke of Devonshire, the earl of Darnley, and the earl of Albemarle's proxies had been given, but were lost to the vote, by the peers who held them having been accidentally absent.