§ The order of the day, for taking into consideration the Petition of his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects, having been read,
The Earl of Donoughmore
rose, and addressed their lordships as follows:
It is in the first place necessary that I should apprize your lordships that I have 601 caused to be placed upon your lordships table, two petitions, which I had the honour to present to the House during the last session upon the same subject with these which I am about to call on you to discuss. One of these, the petition of the Roman Catholic nobility, and those other respectable persons of that community who thought it expedient to approach parliament with a separate and distinct petition from the rest of the Roman Catholic body? the other, that of the prelates and clergy of the Roman Catholic church. With respect to the first of these petitions, I have received from one of the noble persons whose signature it bears, a special intimation of the earnest wish of the petitioners, that the attention of your lordships should be directed once more to their petition; and, as a proof, if any were wanted, that the Catholic clergy are equally desirous to be brought again under the consideration of the House, they have deputed two most reverend persons of the first rank in their own church, to attend the discussion of these petitions in parliament, for the express purpose of affording to the members of both Houses all necessary information, and in case of the progress of any legislative measure of relief, every aid and facility in their power. Upon the subject of these most respectable individuals, it is only necessary for me to observe, that the reception which they have secured for themselves from all those to whom they have thought it expedient to resort on the subject of their mission, sufficiently speaks their own panegyric, and does equal credit to the selection of that justly venerated body, whose fit representatives they have proved themselves to be. It is necessary, therefore, that the House should be perfectly aware that they have now before them, represented by these, their humble petitioners, the whole Catholic people of Ireland: every individual of that religious community, lay, and ecclesiastic, the peer, and the peasant, joining in the same earnest entreaty, that their greivances may be taken into consideration and redressed. I now stand before your lordships the selected, though inadequate, advocate of all my Catholic countrymen, of whatever rank or degree, of that great community of my fellow-subjects, claiming, with respectful firmness, the restitution of their political capacities—that they may be admitted once more within the bosom of the constitution of their country,
602 In calling your lordships attention to those petitions which I have again laid on the table of the House from no unimportant a part of the constituency of the state, after the fullest consideration of the present circumstances of the question, I have thought it to be my indispensable duty to abstain as much as possible from all generalities, as little calculated to tend to any prompt or practical results; and, instead of approaching your lordships with a triumphant statement of the merits of my Roman Catholic countrymen, their claims, and privations, I prefer to submit to your consideration the case of the petitioners rather in the shape of an answer to those arguments, a refutation of those calumnies, with which they have been industriously loaded, and never at any former period of time with greater violence and acrimony than at the present moment—of which your lordships must have been already sufficiently apprized by the reports of certain recent transactions, through the medium of the daily press—that press which is, and, as I trust, will long continue, to be, the authentic expositor of all public proceedings, and the declarations of public men, notwithstanding that extraordinary crusade to which the noble secretary of state opposite, has invited the zeal of the magistracy from one extremity of the kingdom to the other, against the dissemination of every doctrine, principle, opinion, or sentiment, of which each individual justice of the peace may not happen to approve; thus erected into a sort of licenser of the press within the precincts of his own little jurisdiction, an extinguisher of the inconvenient freedom of discussion upon all subjects, religious as well as political, and that, too, by the authority and express appointment of one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state.
My lords, this question never came before you under circumstances of greater irritation of the public mind, than it does at the present time. The Catholics have to complain, that they are grossly calumniated—that they are shamefully misrepresented. The Catholics have to complain that their enemies, in endeavouring to prevent them from enjoying the benefits of the constitution, have not hesitated to malign their character. The Catholics have to complain, of abominable falsehoods which have been actively circulated against them. I myself have been furnished, gratuitously, with a collection of pamphlets on this subject; and, from their-tone and 603 temper, one would think it was the intention of the writers to revive those riots that disgraced this metropolis some years ago, or to bring back the days of bloody queen Mary. Those tracts have been industriously handed about to the members of this House of Parliament, and no means have been left unemployed to prejudice the great cause which I am about to submit to your lordships. Catholic priests and bishops have been represented in the habits of their different orders, for the purpose of ridicule, and every art has been made use of, to excite the popular feeling against them. For what, I ask, has this been done? My lords, the purpose is evident, and the course pursued is most discreditable to its author. It appears that the moment an attempt is made to relieve the Catholics, that moment every engine is set to work, to knock down the unfortunate petitioners at once, and to press them to the ground. Unfortunately, these petitioners prayed for a participation in the benefits of the constitution; if they had asked any other boon they would have been differently treated. I have hitherto complained, my lords, only of what has happened out of doors; but I must complain, certainly with great respect, that it is not out of doors alone that the work of prejudice is carried on. Feeling very high respect for the noble and learned person who presides in this House, still I must observe, that he himself did, on a former occasion, express sentiments on this subject, which were calculated to bias the minds of the noble lords who heard him. Rising up in his place, in this House, with all the authority which his high office and his exalted judicial character impart to him, he was pleased, with extraordinary warmth, to call on noble lords to attend narrowly to the subject of the Catholic claims, as they concerned the very vitals of the constitution. The noble and learned lord used a strong expression—an expression that certainly must have meant a great deal—for he never talks without a meaning. The intention, I believe, was, to brand those persons, whoever they are, who support the prayer of the Catholic petition, which I now advocate, as persons endeavouring to aim a blow at the vitals of the constitution—[Cries of "No, no!"].
The Lord Chancellor
admitted, that he had used the words stated. He thought that these petitions did concern the vitals of the constitution—and, he was sure, if, 604 on the one hand, the noble lord expressed opinions favourable to the Catholic claims, he would allow him, on the other, to state those sentiments which he had always held, and which, the more he considered them, he felt himself the more strongly bound to support. But, when he used the expressions in question, he begged the noble lord to believe, that he meant not to insinuate that any person aimed a blow at the vitals of the constitution. He would go as far in the march of toleration, consistently with the safety of the empire, as any noble lord in that House; and, when he spoke on the catholic petition, on a former day, he did not mean to prejudice their lordships against the question.
The Earl of Donoughmore
—I beg to observe, with great respect, that this interruption is not strictly correct. I shall, however, again advert to what the noble and learned lord said, on a former occasion. If the noble lord has so strong an opinion on this subject (which I am sure he feels, or he would not have so expressed himself), it must be most painful to him, in the course of his daily business, in his high office of a cabinet minister of the Crown—in the daily discharge of his most important duty, as a privy counsellor—to find himself surrounded by a number of brother privy counsellors and cabinet ministers, who are in favour of the measure, and who, he conceives, are aiming blows at the vitals of the constitution. Certainly, those strong expressions do a great deal of mischief—but sometimes they may be too strong. A case may be too well proved. I trust it will appear, that, in this case, more than enough has been proved—and, notwithstanding the pains which have been taken, to prejudice these petitioners in the minds of the public, I hope the cause will at last stand erect before both Houses of parliament, and that it will meet with that candid, fair, and liberal consideration which its importance demands.
Now, my lords, in the course which I have chalked out for myself, in arguing the merits of these petitions, the first objection to which I am to apply myself, arises from a part of the subject, which it would not be quite correct to anticipate, in the commencement of the debate, while addressing your lordships as a House. The objection is one that rather suits the period, when your lordships have gone into a committee, if such shall be your pleasure. It is said, "we cannot go into a committee to examine the present state of 605 the laws, respecting the Roman Catholics, unless you first state what securities they are ready to give to the Protestant church." Before you have got one step, in considering the claims of the petitioners—before the accomplishment of the most trifling matter—this objection is raised; which, I think, is rather an anticipation of what ought, in the proper course, to follow the committee. But it is argued, that it is not unjust to ask the Catholics—"What is your object? I will not go into a committee to grope my way in the dark, and seek out principles for you." This is, undoubtedly, a most material point in the consideration of the question. But it appears, from the public press, that securities of a three-fold nature have been devised. First, domestic nomination; next, that security called the Veto; and, lastly, a new security, which I had not heard of till the present session, the payment, by government, of the Catholic church. This has been mentioned in the public prints, as a security for the Protestant church and state, if a measure of concession were agreed to. Securities are insisted on as essentially necessary—the Catholics of the present day are greatly condemned because they have not put the security of the Veto in the front of their petition—and they are greatly maligned, because they proposed domestic nomination, which some persons have disapproved of, as ineffective and illusory? Why is it illusory? The importance of it, I contend, is most extraordinary indeed. The Catholics have offered you a security, under the name of domestic nomination—and it is asserted, that it is no new security at all. "This domestic nomination," its enemies argue, "has been, of old, the mode of electing the Catholic bishops, with hardly any exception. Why, then, do you, the advocates of this cause, offer that, as a new security, which is the established custom?" This is the argument—and, is it not an answer, and a fatal answer, to all the objections that have been made on the score of foreign influence? If the opponents of the Catholic claims state to you, that the security of domestic nomination, is illusory—quite illusory—because it has been the continued mode of electing Catholic bishops for a long time back, I want to know whether that statement does not go to the danger of foreign influence? Does it not go to prove, as the fact really and truly is, that the mode of appointing Catholic bishops in Ireland, has been, during our time—with, 606 perhaps, two exceptions, in one of which government interfered—purely and substantially domestic? Now, though we give nothing new, looking to the present practice, yet we give a great deal in confirming for ever the principle of domestic nomination; for the idea is, to procure a concordat of the Pope, which shall go along with domestic nomination: and thus the Pope will be bound, hereafter, to continue that, by treaty, which the Catholics are now willing to concede. I, therefore, cannot think that this security is illusory. I think the Catholics have come forward with a sufficient guarantee. I do not say that a private body should parley with the state; but it is clear that the Catholics have done all that lay in their power to remove the apprehension of foreign influence. And so far as this security operates against the danger of foreign influence, no liberal man, I conceive, can say, that it is not satisfactory, and that it does not call for concession.
Now, my lords, on this part of the subject it is almost unnecessary for me to speak farther. If you go into the committee, for which I shall presently move, it will be just and fair to state the whole of my ideas on this question. As to the Veto, I cannot offer that. I do certainly disapprove of it, as a member of parliament, inasmuch as I do not think it right to commit the Roman Catholic prelacy and priesthood of Ireland, to the Irish provincial government. The Catholics here are more nearly connected with the body of the state than they are in Ireland. The government of this country is not by deputy. The royal personage resides here, and has his ministers about him. The government of Ireland is conducted by a representative of the sovereign; and, if the great power of the Veto were conceded, the worst consequences might be produced. That power would not be possessed by the lord lieutenant: it would be exerted by some great parliament man or other, who is thinking more of making speeches and getting into the House, than of studying the peace of the country—and the ecclesiastical business of Ireland would at length be left to some third or fourth-rate clerk in the Castle-yard. Now, I do not think it right to leave the Catholic clergy open to such influence. I am myself a magistrate, and, in the most troublesome times, I can assert, with truth, the Catholic clergy are the best magistrates the government can look to. There 607 are no persons in the country to whom the lovers of peace and order are more indebted than to the Roman Catholic clergy. So true it is, that, if they were not to intermix with their neighbours—if they were not to do what they have been in the habit of doing for many years past—it would not be possible to carry on the due administration of justice in Ireland. I wish to make them look, not to the Castle-yard of Dublin—not to political intrigue for advancement in their church—I want to make them look, as they do at present, to the due performance of their duties as the proper road to preferment. I have fairly stated my objections to the Veto. The language of the Catholics is strongly against that measure—but were they all in favour of it, I should feel it my duty, to express my opposition to it.
Next came the payment of the Catholic church by the state. I object also to this proposition. I will not, my lords, sanction political intrigue between the Catholic clergy and any body whatsoever. They are desirous of no other stipend but what they receive for their religious labours, from those for whose service they exert themselves—they desire no other remuneration than that which is the just reward of meritorious conduct in the performance of their laborious duties. I, therefore, neither offer the Veto, nor this mode of payment, as the price of the readmission of the Catholics to their constitutional rights. But it is fair, my lords, that I should state what measure I would propose to adopt on this occasion. My measure is, a direct and absolute domestic nomination. Having guarded the church by that nomination, from the small remainder of foreign influence—having made the election, by the choice of the prelates in that country, purely national and domestic—my next step would be, to create the closest connexion between the Roman Catholics and their Protestant brethren; I should then throw open to the Roman Catholics, under the Protestant government, every office, without exception of any kind whatever, saving only such situations as appertain to the government or patronage of the established church. In doing this, I should hope and trust, that the Protestant church would be, beyond a doubt, fully and clearly left to the sole and exclusive management of the Protestant clergy—and I cannot conceive why your lordships should have any difficulty in yielding to the Catholics, the equally exclusive ad- 608 ministration of their own religious affairs. This is the measure which I mean to propose for the concurrence of your lordships, if you shall be pleased to go into a committee.
Your lordships will be aware, that it will be necessary for me to answer those arguments against the Catholic claims that have been scattered, here and there, throughout different publications which I have lately read on this subject. My lords, the first is one of rather an extraordinary nature. It is said, that, because the existing laws deprive four millions of subjects of their constitutional rights, it is dangerous to revise them. "Take care," say those who reasoned in this manner, "how you meddle with this subject; it relates to the rights and claims of four millions of people. If the Catholics of Ireland were a small body of men, their situation might be ameliorated; but consider how Ireland is circumstanced With respect to her population. There are four million of Catholics in that country—take care how you meddle with them." This is a most singular argument. There are certainly, in Ireland, four million of Catholics—a million and a half of Protestants—and half a million of Dissenters. The Catholics represent eight-tenths of the population of that country of which I am a native. Now, it must be a great object with every good member of the British Union, to make all parts of it as productive as he possibly can; and, therefore, the greater the body of subjects who complain of grievances, the greater should be the anxiety to relieve them. Admitting this to be the fact can your lordships imagine that the argument which I have just stated has been used against considering these petitions at all? It has been, however, so used—although it ought to be considered as a conclusive argument, to call on your lordships for an immediate consideration and settlement of this question. Another objection, and one of singular injustice, has been urged by those whose experience of Catholic fidelity ought to have taught them better. "Take care," say they, "how you enter on the consideration of those petitions. Take care how you proceed any further towards the relief of the Catholics;—for you know not how attentive their clergy are to every thing that promises to extend their political power. Their prelates meet for the purpose of administering the affairs of the college of Maynooth—but, when the matters con- 609 nected with education are transacted, instead of retiring to their respective dioceses, they put their heads together, and discuss business of a political nature," This, my lords, has been brought as a serious charge, elsewhere, against the Catholic clergy. Their performance of an important duty, in a most exemplary manner—their attention to the interests of a seminary, with which they are peculiarly connected—has been assailed as a fit subject of censure. In any other, case, you would say, "the conduct of these individuals calls for the highest praise." But here a different course is pursued. The Catholic clergy are accused of ostensibly assembling for purposes connected with education; but, in reality, to devise plans for the attainment of political power. "First," say their accusers, "they meet to transact the business relative to the Roman Catholic establishment at May-nooth—and then they turn their attention to any thing which appertains to policy. Next, ray lords, it is said, that the clergy have so great a power over the opinion of the Catholic population, that the latter will certainly follow them on all occasions. I wish I could say that they really did possess such an influence over the minds of the Catholics. It would be the best thing of which I could inform the House for that part of the united kingdom. I am extremely sorry the clergy have not that sort of weight which they are described to have; because, whatever weight they possess, they have always thrown it into the scale of good order and obedience. I believe, no persons are more ready to execute their duties than those individuals, and no duties, I am sure, can be better performed, in the united kingdom, than those which fall to the lot of the Catholic priesthood.
I now, my lords, come to another accusation against the Catholic clergy, and another argument against any further extension of their privileges. The clergy, it is said, having been deprived of the advantages they enjoyed under the old Papal Code, their minds must be so much irritated, that, if they have the feelings of men, they must have an unconquerable hatred to any thing like a Protestant state. Now, undoubtedly, as far as the law could make these individuals hate this government and state, by whom they have been oppressed, I have no doubt whatever, that Ireland would not now have been a part of the united empire, if it had 610 not been for their exertions. There never was an argument so destitute of fact—there never was an argument so divested even of the colour of truth, as this, which has been brought forward as a sweeping clause against the whole body of the Catholic clergy. It is the grossest and most scandalous calumny that was ever cast upon any set of men—but this calumny, unfounded as it is, was necessary, in order to make up an argument against the consideration of this question. But, my lords, suppose the statement to be true, is every person, high and low, to be punished for the faults of his clergy? Faults, I must say, which they do not possess—faults, which the very person who accused them, knew, in his heart, at the moment, did not exist.
My lords, another very curious argument has been made use of, in opposition to the Catholic claims—an argument, which I am astonished, could ever have been heard or read with patience, by any person who had a feeling of justice in his mind. The outrages of the Orangemen, in the province of Ulster, has, some how or other, with great ingenuity, been compounded into an argument against the Catholic claims. So that because a Catholic is murdered in the north of Ireland, and the murderer is acquitted by a jury of brother Orangemen, therefore, the Catholic is to be considered the guilty person, and you are not to consider the claims of the Catholic body. This was really advanced as a grave argument—and was, it seems, well received by those who were hostile to the interest of the Catholics elsewhere. The case was put in this way:—"A Catholic comes to the house of an Orangeman, and takes away his arms. The Orangeman recovers them back—fires at the Catholic, who is wounded or killed. Cross-indictments are preferred—the jury (we cannot wonder—a jury of brother Orangemen), of course, acquit the delinquent—and, because the Protestant is tried on a capital indictment, and, from his connexions is acquitted, it is argued that no blame whatever attaches to him. This is the case, and the justice of it. My lords, upon this subject, I cannot avoid making a few observations. In a case, in which the law of the land was shockingly violated—in which a Roman Catholic had been murdered—though the facts were perfectly clear, the jury, without hesitation, acquitted the prisoner. What did the Solicitor-general say, on that occasion? 611 "Well, gentlemen, I thank God it is your verdict and not mine." Some how or other, strange as it may seem, it seems to have been expected, that the want of subordination, the want of decorum, the want of obedience to the law, which has been introduced into my unhappy country, is a reason for not going into this question. I cannot conceive how such a perversion of argument can be listened to, even for a moment.
My lords, another argument which has been advanced, in order to defeat the prayer of the Catholic petitions, is, that the petitioners ought not to be reinstated in their rights, because the pope has restored the order of Jesuits. That society was proscribed, formerly, because it consisted of persons who were ambitious of power, by the sovereigns who feared their machinations. I cannot help, however, saying, with respect to that body of men, that, so far as learning is concerned, no set of individuals ever existed, to whom the world has been more indebted than to the Jesuits. And, though they may formerly have exercised their acquirements for the purpose of effecting other objects, I do not think that any great danger can now be apprehended from them. Nor do I know how it interferes with the people of this country, whether the order of Jesuits is restored by the pope or not.
But, my lords, the pope has done another thing, it seems, which bears a little more, though certainly not much, on the Catholic cause. He has published an anathema against sending forth the Holy Scriptures without the commentary. Now, I say, if it can be shown, that reverend divines, of high rank in this country, have held a similar principle, then this act cannot be alleged against the head of the Catholic church, as an intolerant one. But the fact is, that there are great differences of opinion, in this country, with respect to the manner of carrying into effect the benevolent and very excellent object of the Bible Societies. The point has long been a subject of controversy, whether the bible should be sent forth, with, or without an accompaniment. The most sincere members of our church have had, on this subject, a considerable difference of opinion. Now, my lords, are the whole body of Roman Catholics to be found guilty on this indictment preferred against them, because the pope has published such an anathema? Take care, my lords, how far you carry this principle—because 612 it may cut deep—it may even affect some highly respectable members of this House, and of the reverend bench opposite. There are, my lords, I believe, two members of that reverend bench, one of whom is now opposite to me—the other I do not see in his place—who are both strongly opposed to the system of disseminating the Bible, without a suitable comment. I wish to avoid any possible misrepresentation or mistake on this point, and to pay every possible respect to the right rev. prelate opposite. With this view, I have copied from the pamphlet published by him, on the subject of the Bible Societies, his own words. It is, it may be observed, an odd way of defending the Irish Catholics, but it certainly goes to support them against another argument which has been raised to their prejudice; and I am now endeavouring to cover myself with the shield of the established church, whilst I labour to defend the Catholics of Ireland. The words made use of by the right rev. prelate (the bishop of Llandaff), in his "Inquiry into the Consequences of neglecting to give the Prayer-book with the Bible," are these:—
"But it is urged, if you still require that the Bible, however extensively you may be willing to distribute it, should be accompanied by the liturgy, you must certainly suspect that there is danger to the established church from the distribution of the Bible alone. Here let me ask whether the Bible itself is not capable of perversion?—Whether the best of books may not be misapplied to the worst of purposes? Have we not inspired authority for answering this question in the affirmative? St. Peter himself, speaking of the epistles of St. Paul, said, 'In which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.' Would St. Peter, if he had lived in the present age, have thought this admonition less necessary than in the age of the Apostles?—But if we neglect to provide the poor of the establishment with the book of Common Prayer as well as with the Bible, we certainly neglect the means of preventing their seduction from the established church. The dissenters remain dissenters, because they use not the liturgy; and churchmen will become dissenters, if they likewise neglect to use it with the people. Have the persons to whom Bibles are gratuitously distributed either the lei- 613 sure or the inclination, or the ability, to weigh the arguments for religious opinions? Do they possess the knowledge and the judgment which are necessary to direct men in the choice of their religion? Must they not learn it, therefore, from the instructors? And can there be a better instructor, in the opinion of churchmen, than the book of Common Prayer?"
After this declaration, my lords, I think my unfortunate Catholic countrymen, will now stand acquitted of being singular in wishing not to have the Bible disseminated without a commentary. The pope declared that the Bible should not go forth, unattended by the general practice of the church, and the opinion of the father of the church. In the same way, some of the head members of our own church, hold, that the Bible ought not to go forth unaccompanied with the book of Common Prayer. I think, therefore, that we are acquitted of this part of the indictment. The last argument of all, my lords, is, that if you admit the Catholics to additional privileges, though you may administer the most solemn oaths to them, they will not scruple to break them. So that, if they take the only means in their power to annihilate your fears, they are not to be believed. A Catholic, therefore, who takes an oath, purging him of every objection, in order that you may grant him farther privileges, is to be disbelieved, and the indictment, as it may be called, against him, is still to remain in force. It is, my lords, a circumstance, of a most extraordinary nature, that the great name of Mr. Burke has been used, as an argument in favour of illiberality, and as a reason for refusing rights and privileges to the Catholics. Extraordinary as it is, the circumstance is not the less true. The name of Mr. Burke was, I understand, certainly used, in another place (and received with great applause), as an argument against those very liberties which he had always advocated. Now, my lords, in that very work, from which an extract was made, as an authority against that liberality, which no man ever advocated more powerfully than Mr. Burke did, sentiments were to be found, which totally overthrew the point that was attempted to be made. Wherefore recourse was had to such an artifice, I cannot conceive, except, as I suppose, it was introduced for the purpose of making Mr. Burke appear hostile to the cause of the Catholics, instead of being favourable to it. The 614 sentence read by the person who quoted Mr. Burke's letter to sir Hercules Langrishe, is this:—
"In our constitution there has always been a difference between a franchise and an office, and between the capacity for the one and for the other. Franchises were supposed to belong to the subject, as a subject, and not as a member of the governing part of the state."
But, my lords, the individual alluded to, did not give the whole passage—for the very sentence preceding that which he was pleased to extract, for his own purpose, affords the very strongest possible authority in favour of concession, as your lordships will perceive when I read it. The sentence is as follows:—"Our constitution is not made for great, general, and proscriptive exclusions; sooner or later it will destroy them, or they will destroy the constitution."
I cannot, my lords, desire a stronger argument in favour of the Catholic claims, than this passage furnishes me with.
Having taken up so much of your lordships time, I shall now proceed to state my motion. Every body, my lords, who writes or speaks on this subject, professes that he is an enemy to exclusions; but most of them, notwithstanding, act up to the principle of exclusion, and make specious excuses for their conduct. I think, I have shown your lordships that the arguments adduced to perpetuate them, with respect to the Catholics, are not founded in truth—and it is not, I hope, necessary for me to say more, to induce your lordships to go into a committee, I shall, therefore, only move—"That this House do resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, to consider the petitions of his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects."
The Bishop of Llandaff [Dr. Herbert Marsh]
rose, and addressed their lordships as follows:—
My lords; Though hitherto unaccustomed to speak before so august an assembly, and conscious of my inability to do justice to so momentous a subject, I yet presume to solicit your indulgence at this early stage of the debate. But, as the same subject has been repeatedly examined in this House, I will not attempt to follow the noble mover through all the various matter, which he has introduced, but will state briefly and generally the reasons which induce me to dissent from an opinion so respectably maintained.
615 My lords, if the question now before us were a question of religious liberty, I should rejoice to co-operate with the noble earl, for the attainment of so desirable an end. But the religious restraints, under which the petitioners once laboured, are already removed. And we must no longer speak of pains and penalties, as attaching to the religion which they profess, when they are empowered by the law of the land, to exercise their religious worship, and to maintain their religious opinions with the same freedom, as the members of the established church. We are not therefore concerned with the question, whether we shall extend their religious liberty; for of that liberty they are already in complete possession. We are concerned with the question, whether we shall extend their political power. And surely, my lords, we may venture to oppose an extension of political power without incurring, either the charge of intolerance, or the charge of inhumanity.
But, if we are now concerned with a political question, why (it may be asked) should religious topics be introduced into it at all? Of what importance can it be, in the discussion of a political subject, to inquire, whether the decrees of the council of Trent agree, or disagree, with the thirty-nine articles; whether the doctrine of transubstantiation be true, or false; whether the invocation of saints be efficacious or not. Let the errors of the church of Rome be acknowledged: let it be granted also, that its discipline is such as no Protestant can approve: and let the pope himself be condemned, as he justly deserves, for still refusing to the laity the free use of the Bible. But however erroneous maybe its doctrine, or however faulty may be its discipline, yet if the tenets of that church do not prevent its members from being good subjects of the state, why should they be excluded from offices in the state? Such exclusion may be justified on the ground of civil delinquency. But if no such delinquency can be laid to their charge; if with all the errors of their church they are able and willing to serve the state, why are they inadmissible to employment in the state? In short, let the question of admission to civil employment be referred to its proper standard—civil capacity and civil worth.
My lords, I have now stated, in terms the most forcible which I could devise, the argument which in itself is the most powerful, that was ever advanced in fa- 616 vour of the present question. And if the argument, so stated, admits a satisfactory answer, I trust your lordships will deem it unnecessary to go into the proposed committee. I am ready then to meet the question on the ground most favourable to the petitioners: I am ready to assume, as a fundamental proposition, that admission to civil employment should be determined by civil capacity and civil worth.
But, before we attempt to judge by the standard here proposed, we must make ourselves acquainted with that standard. We must examine all the various qualities, which constitute civil capacity and civil worth. For among those various qualities, there may be some, which in themselves are not of a civil nature; there may be some even of a religious nature. But, if the religion, professed by one man, renders him a more useful member of the state, than the religion professed by another, surely the one is better qualified, than the other, to conduct the business of the state. And though the state ought not to punish men for religious opinions, unless those opinions are injurious to the state itself, it has an undoubted right to trust the management of its own affairs exclusively to those, in whom it has reason to confide. It is still their civil capacity their civil worth, which determines the choice of the state, whatever be the ingredients, which enter into the composition of civil capacity and civil worth.
Let us now apply our standard to the respective cases, of churchmen, of Protestant dissenters, and of members of the church of Rome. The allegiance of the churchman is entire: he acknowledges the king as supreme, in matters ecclesiastical, as well as civil. The Protestant dissenter acknowledges only his civil supremacy, which is acknowledged also by the members of the church of Rome. So far therefore the two latter stand on a footing of equality. But if the civil allegiance of Protestant dissenters receives not, like that of the churchman, an accession of strength from ecclesiastical allegiance, it is not exposed to such a drawback, as operates with the members of the church of Rome. If a Protestant dissenter acknowledges, either an individual, or any body of men, as forming the spiritual head of his own party, such person or persons are still the subjects of his sovereign. But if a church is governed by a foreigner, who has neither dependence on nor a common interest with, the king of the 617 country, the civil allegiance of those, who belong to that church cannot fail to be weakened by their ecclesiastical allegiance.
Yet notwithstanding this anomaly of government, notwithstanding this confusion of foreign with domestic allegiance, we are told, my lords, there is no reason to apprehend, that the one should interfere with the other. We are told, that the provinces of spiritual, and of temporal obedience, are quite distinct; and therefore, that obedience to the pope in things spiritual can never detract from obedience to the king in things temporal.But, my lords, where religion and politics are so blended, as in this country, it is often difficult to determine whether the subject of dispute shall be regarded as a civil, or regarded as a religious question. The very case, which is now before us, is a case in point. Some view it in a civil light; others in a religious light. And, if the question is civil in itself, it is still so connected with religion, that it cannot be duly appreciated, without taking religion into the account. It is unavoidable therefore, that doubts should arise; whether a subject of dispute shall be considered as a spiritual, or considered as a temporal concern. And to whom, my lords, will the members of the church of Rome apply in such cases for a solution of their doubts. Why, my lords, they will apply to the self-same spiritual power, which is at issue with the temporal. Under such circumstances allegiance to the pope must interfere with allegiance to the king. And when it does interfere, when the soul is threatened on the one side, the body only on the other, men will yield to that authority, of which they are the most afraid. The power, which commands the conscience, will command the conduct of the man. And this power, which is a foreign power, the power of a foreign prince, is so easily directed by foreign intrigue to purposes subversive of our constitution, that they who submit to such a power, are hardly qualified to undertake the guidance of our constitution.
My lords, I am aware, that arguments, tending to exclusion, are in the present age condemned, as narrow and illiberal. What is called an enlightened policy is represented as the best policy: and whatever fears may be entertained in theory, the experience derived from the late example of France is supposed to have already shown, that Catholics and Protestants may be admitted alike into the councils of the state, without danger to the state. But, 618 my lords, there is a material difference between the admission of a Protestant into the councils of a nation, where the established religion is that of the church of Rome, and the admission of a Catholic into the councils of a nation, where the established religion is that of the church of England. When a Protestant is admitted into the councils of France, the drawback of foreign allegiance docs not exist. The Protestant, so admitted, acknowledges no other supremacy, than that of his lawful sovereign; he owes no other allegiance, than allegiance to that king, into whose councils he is called. Not so the Catholic, when admitted into the councils of a Protestant prince. He owes allegiance to a foreign sovereign; to a sovereign, who wields the powerful sceptre of religion; but whose religion is adverse, whose views therefore must be hostile, to the interests of the domestic sovereign.
Let us now revert to the standard, by which it was proposed to try the merits of the present question; namely, that of civi capacity and civil worth. If they, whose allegiance is thus divided and distracted, can possess the same civil capacity, the same civil worth, as they, whose whole allegiance is given to their lawful sovereign, why then, my lords, let them be admitted alike into the confidence of their sovereign; let them be admitted alike to the council of the nation; let them be admitted alike to offices of trust and power and let us grant at once, that the constitution may be as safely administered by the former, as administered by the latter. But, my lords, if it is impossible, that the same civil capacity, the same civil worth, which attaches to those, whose allegiance is single and entire, should attach also to those, whose allegiance is thus divided and distracted, it follows of necessity, that they are not alike admissible to the confidence of their sovereign, that they are not alike admissible to the council of the nation; that they are not alike admissible to offices of trust and power; and therefore my lords, that the claims, which are now advanced, ought not to be allowed.
I do not mean to assert, that the members of the church of Rome in this country are not good subjects. I speak only by comparison: I assert only, that they are not so good, and so useful subjects of the state, as the members of the establishment, or, as they themselves would be, if they would break the fetters which bind them to a foreign prince. I ascribe to 619 them the highest respectability: I acknowledge their honour, and their integrity. But that anomaly of government, a foreign jurisdiction in spiritual concerns, distracts their allegiance, and makes them obedient to the pope, where they ought to be, and are probably inclined to be, obedient to their king.
After this general view of the subject, it can hardly be necessary to enter into single topics of minor moment. But so much stress has been laid on domestic nomination, that I cannot conclude, without a few remarks on it. Domestic nomination is a term well calculated to diminish the impression made by the apprehension of foreign influence. If a bishop is nominated, or elected, at home, or in his own see, whether by a chapter, or by a committee of neighbouring bishops, or by any other domestic body, such nomination or election must undoubtedly be ascribed to that body. But, my lords, it is well known, especially on the bench where I have the honour to sit, that a chapter may elect a bishop, without having the choice of a bishop. Domestic nomination therefore does not of itself imply domestic choice; it does not of itself exclude the exercise of foreign influence: it cannot therefore afford the security required.—[Here an observation was introduced, respecting the coadjutors of the Irish titular bishops, as connected with the subject of domestic nomination. But the speaker, being interrupted by the rising of lord Donoughmore, declared, that if the noble earl had the least objection to it, he was not only ready to discontinue that argument, but even to argue on the supposition, that the Irish titular bishops were nominated without any interference on the part of the pope. He proceeded therefore in the words, with which the paragraph concludes.] But let us suppose, that no foreign influence, either direct or indirect, operates before nomination, we shall have little reason to think ourselves secure, when we reflect on the unbounded influence, which follows after nomination. We shall have little reason to conclude, that a Romish bishop is entitled to the confidench of a Protestant king, when we read the oath of allegiance, which at his consecration he takes to the pope.
Let me intreat then your lordships to pause, before you determine to remove the guards, which the wisdom of our ancestors has provided against foreign influence in the councils of this nation, and which, my 620 lords, if once destroyed, the wisdom of succeeding generations will in vain attempt to restore.
The Bishop of Norwich [Dr. Henry Bathurst]
rose and said:
My lords;—The appointment of the learned prelate to the last vacant see, gave great satisfaction to every friend of literature and of religion; and to no one, more than to myself. I cannot, however, allow either my personal regard for him, or the real respect which I have for his abilities, to hinder me from expressing in this public manner, the deep regret which I feel at the misapplication of those abilities, in support of a proscription, the most unjust, the most unwise, the most cruel, and, in point of duration, the longest which is to be met with in the history of the world—a proscription, my lords, which excludes. between four and five millions of meritorious and loyal civil subjects, from their civil privileges; though they have given to the government under which they live, the most unequivocal proofs of civil allegiance: proofs admitted to be unequivocal, by the very government which continues their exclusion; and can therefore continue it, solely on account of their conscientious adherence to the innocent religious opinions of their forefathers.
I say, my lords, innocent religious opinions (though, in our judgment, erroneous) which were impressed upon their minds, in early youth, both by precept and by example. In this intolerant country (for so it is lately become) I shall probably be censured for using the phrase, innocent religious opinions: but I should hope still, that the religious opinions of a Fenelon and a Pascal; the religious opinions of some of the most polished nations on the continent; and of several highly respectable noblemen and gentlemen of this country, with whom we are in the habit of mixing every day, in friendly intercourse; men, who possess natural understandings as clear, intellectual improvements as considerable, and moral characters as irreproachable as the best of us; I; should hope, I say, that the religious opinions of such men, may be deemed innocent, without giving just cause of offence to any well informed, any liberal, or any candid mind.
Independently of this consideration, I have the sanction of the legislature itself, for making use of the phrase innocent religious opinions. In different acts of parliament which have passed during the pre- 621 sent reign, in Ireland the religious tenets of the Catholics, are vindicated from the imputation of being either pernicious or unsocial (these are, I believe the words of the preamble), and it is added, that when they have taken the well known oath and declaration, they shall be considered as good and loyal subjects, and fit to serve his majesty. This oath, my lords, they have taken, and they have made this declaration; I therefore again say, that they are excluded from their civil privileges, solely on account of their innocent religious opinions. Upon what ground, then, does my learned friend rest his defence of a system, which, in defiance of reason and of experience, and of the general practice of other countries, makes religious opinions, and not civil conduct, the qualification for civil offices? a system, which is reprobated abroad, by every statesman, on account of its impolicy, as we were last year informed by a noble earl (Aberdeen) on this side of the House, who is a very competent judge; and is most unquestionably disapproved of at home, by every consistent friend to civil and religious liberty. My learned friend, if I understood him rightly, asserts, that an individual who objects to our ecclesiastical establishment, cannot be so good a subject, as he who approves both of that, and of our civil constitution also. To this argument, it appears to me a sufficient answer to say, cross the Tweed, or take a voyage to Canada, the Roman Catholic inhabitants of which province, not many years since, gave more than common proofs of their loyalty.
I beg your lordships pardon for intruding upon your patience; but it is probably the last time I shall ever trouble you, upon this, or upon any other occasion; and perhaps I ought not to do it now, for the question is not of a religious, but of a political nature: it is not, whether this, or that system of religious doctrines be the most scriptural, or this, or that form of ecclesiastical government be the most perfect; but, whether the union of Ireland with Great Britain, shall be nominal, or real; whether it shall be a substantial consolidation of resources, of talents, of interests, and of affection; or a mere empty delusive title; and whether the loyal, the generous, and the affectionate inhabitants of that unfortunate country, shall in future be the firmest bulwark of your empire, or the burthen and vexation of it. This, my lords, is a question, not for divines, not for lawyers, not for young and presumptuous 622 politicians, but for sober experienced statesmen to decide; and to them I very willingly leave it, requesting only your lordships permission to make a few brief remarks upon a subject, somewhat more within my own province; I mean the domestic nomination to the Catholic bishoprics of Ireland.
Anxious to meet, not only the reasonable objections, but even the allowable prejudices of their fellow subjects, and fellow christians of the established church; the Catholics of Ireland bring forward a proposal, which proves at least a strong desire on their part, to adopt some conciliatory adjustment, which may be satisfactory to you, and not incompatible with the doctrines of their religion, or essentially injurious to its discipline. Such a desire demands most assuredly from us a corresponding spirit of moderation. The Catholics conclude, and I suppose justly, that the two great objects which the legislature has in view, are, in the first place, to ascertain the character for loyalty, and a peaceable disposition of the individual who may be nominated to a bishopric, when any vacancy occurs; and in the next place, to prevent, as far as possible, all foreign interference. The plan suggested by the petitioners, seems calculated to answer these two purposes with sufficient effect. I do not, however, mean to weary your lordships attention, by entering upon the discussion of so complicate, and in its different bearings, so extensive a subject, especially as it has always appeared to me that there is no occasion whatever for departing from the present mode of electing Catholic bishops in Ireland; and still less for accompanying an extension of civil privileges, with additional ecclesiastical restrictions, of such a nature, as in the judgment of one of the parties concerned, will materially lessen, if not entirely destroy the value of any indulgence which may be granted. In common life, we should think a man managed very ill, who did a favour with so bad a grace, as to confer no obligation upon the person who received it; and in matters of a public nature, the case is still stronger. Were it otherwise, is there, or has there been, from the time of the restoration, to the present hour any thing in the character or conduct of the Catholic bishops of Ireland, or of their clergy which calls for that alteration in their ecclesiastical discipline, which it is the design of the luminous "Report of the Secret Committee of the House of 623 Commons," in some shape or other, to bring about? With respect to the Catholic bishops, it would be difficult to point out any body of men, who have displayed more loyalty, upon all occasions, or who have more earnestly endeavoured to impress upon the minds of the lower orders of society, the important duty of civil obedience. Read their "Pastoral Charges;" through every page of those excellent publications, the genuine spirit of christian charity is diffused; and the beneficial effects of their exertions were acknowledged in more instances than one, by the government of Ireland. Nor are the Catholic priests of Ireland less remarkable for the exemplary discharge of their ministerial function. I speak, my lords, of what I have repeatedly seen and known. Is infancy to be instructed—is youth to be admonished—is old age to be comforted—are the consolations of religion to be administered to a dying peasant, in his last moments—the priest, however inconvenient to him, is always at his post. He traverses a wide and dreary bog, in the midst of the darkest night, and of the most tempestuous weather:—No dangers fright him, and no labours tire;And for all this laudable performance of professional duty, he receives nothing which deserves the name of a compensation in the present life. It is, my lords, with heartfelt satisfaction, that I go out of my way to bear my humble testimony in favour of men whose merits are very much underrated; and who are but too frequently neglected by those, who, from worldly motives, should pay them attention were it not on account of the influence, which they deservedly have, over the minds of their numerous congregations; an influence, which, if properly directed, would prove incalculably useful to the government of Ireland; an influence, to which we are, at this momet, in a great measure indebted for the calm resignation with which thousands of miserable wretches bear up against an almost total want of food, of clothes, and of fire.
Such being the character and conduct of these excellent ministers of the Gospel, where, I again ask, is the expediency of making any alteration in their ecclesiastical discipline; admitting, for a moment, the right of a civil government to interfere in the ecclesiastical discipline, or doctrine, of individuals, dissenting from the established church, but maintaining no doc- 624 trines, either subversive of morality, or injurious to the welfare of the state, a right, which I was taught in early life to call in question, by two of the greatest masters of reason whom this or any other country ever produced—I mean Locke and Hoadley? It is not, however, my intention to abuse your lorships indulgence by engaging in abstract disquisitions. I shall therefore only observe further, in answer to those who say, and say most truly, that it is indispensably necessary that we should have ample security for our own civil and ecclesiastical establishment. Nothing, my lords, can be more incontrovertible than this position—nothing more just than the principle on which it rests; but surely it is a principle which ought to be applied with some reference to a reasonable apprehension of danger. It is not every idle fear—every mean and narrow suggestion of bigotry—every injurious suspicion—every ill grounded jealousy, which can justify the exclusion of five-millions of loyal civil subjects from their civil privileges. Show me, said a very able, a very eloquent, and a very honest patriot, in another place—show me the real danger, and you shall have any security you wish for. This challenge, my lords, never has been accepted, and, though no prophet, I dare venture to foretell, never will. With a man who can seriously persuade himself that the admission of six respectable noblemen into this House, and of not twenty-six into the other House of parliament, would undermine the fabric of our incomparable constitution, it is impossible to reason; there must be something more than reason at the bottom of his objections. In truth he who now talks of danger from popery, would (as Dr. Johnson observed), I have cried out fire in the deluge
I shall detain your lordships no longer. You have it still in your power, by acceding to the prayer of the petitioners for civil privileges unaccompanied by Vetoism, to tranquillize one-third part of your population; and to gratify exceedingly another third part, consisting of Protestant dissenters, and of many, very many, members of the established church; but may I be permitted to add, that no time is to be lost. The Catholics of Ireland and of England also, have for more than a century, displayed a moderation, a forbearance, a meek endurance of ill, which would have done credit to any of the primitive martyrs; but it is not reasonable to expect that they will always continue equally 625 patient and submissive; nor, perhaps, is it even to be wished that they should do so; for there is a degree of insult and oppression, which not only justifies resistance, but which makes non-resistance a tame, passive, criminal servility, unworthy of freemen, and dangerous in a free state; for slaves have ever been, and must always be, dangerous subjects. Whether the wrongs of injured Ireland have reached this degree, I shall not presume to determine; but, sure I am, that there is very little of human policy, and still less of christian charity, in approaching it so nearly.
The Bishop of Ossory
[Dr. Robert Fowler] rose and said:—
My lords; Unaccustomed as I am to address such an august assembly as this, it will somewhat exceed my expectation if I am able to speak at all; but, my lords, I feel myself imperiously called upon by my duty to my king, by my duty to my country, and by my duty to that most pure and reformed church (of which, by divine permission and his majesty's bounty, I am one of the prelates) not to give a silent vote upon this most momentous subject.
Nothing, my lords, could exceed my astonishment at hearing my right reverend friend, who spoke last, find fault with the most excellent speech of the learned prelate who preceded him. Little did I expect to have heard any of the right reverend prelates on this bench receive something like a reprimand for defending that ecclesiastical establishment, and that Protestant religion, which we all, at our consecrations, have sworn to defend. Far, very far, indeed, be it from me, my lords, to presume to compare myself with my right reverend friend in learning; but, my lords, in memory, I may, I trust, without presumption, in some points compare myself with him; and if my memory does not greatly deceive me, Mr. Locke has asserted the very reverse of what my right reverend friend has declared him to have done. My lords, I think Mr. Locke has made use of almost these very words, "I will not grant even toleration to the Roman Catholics, because they will not grant toleration to any other sect." I am almost certain that this is the spirit of the great philosopher, if they be not his very words. If then, my lords, this great man would not grant toleration (which God*Locke's First Letter on Toleration.626 forbid that I should refuse) to the Roman Catholics, how can we suppose, for a moment, that he would grant them the power of sitting within the walls of parliament? No, my lords, Mr. Locke never entertained such an absurd idea. He well knew that England was, and must be governed by a Protestant king, and that she ought to be governed by a Protestant ministry, and by a Protestant parliament.
My right reverend friend has mentioned the pastoral letters of the titular prelates of Ireland as models for our imitation, inasmuch as they inculcate loyalty and christian peace. Now, my lords, I well remember one pastoral letter of the titular archbishop of Dublin (Dr. Troy), and, also, one of Dr. Lanigan, who was titular bishop, either of Ossory or of Waterford, which certainly do not merit any such encomium; and, I am certain, that were my right reverend friend to peruse them, he would not sanction the sentiments which they inculcate.
My lords, the right reverend prelate, at the latter end of his speech, uttered a sentiment which I am certain was heard by every noble lord with pain. From my long knowledge of my learned friend, and from my acquaintance with the goodness of his heart and the suavity, of his manners, I could not have believed that such a monstrous doctrine could have escaped his lips. It must, my lords, have been produced by the heat of debate, for that right reverend prelate knows too well that it is his duty, as well as that of all the prelates on this bench, to inculcate "submission to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake." I am confident that nothing but the heat of debate could have led him to declare, "that there was a point at which non-resistance, on the part of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, would cease to be a virtue." I have no doubt but my learned friend will qualify; this unconstitutional and irreligious doctrine. How widely different is it, my lords, from that sound and truly constitutional doctrine, held by a noble earl opposite (earl Grey), in his most luminous speech the other night. The noble earl declared, "that it was for your lordships, and the other House of parliament, to legislate; and for the people to obey."
The noble earl, who introduced the Catholic petitions into this House, has told your lordships, that very inflammatory and wicked publications have been sent to the houses of, and thrust into the hands 627 of almost every member of each House of parliament. For my own part, I can assure the noble earl, that my opinion has not been biassed by any such publications; for I have never seen them, nor have I heard of them before. I am, therefore, inclined to think that the noble earl may rest satisfied that these little pamphlets have been very harmless.
The noble earl has told your lordships, that although he was once an advocate for the Veto, he was now convinced that it was a measure which would never be acceded to by the Roman Catholic hierarchy; and, even if it were, the noble earl has been pleased to say, that from the frequent absence of the first secretary in England, the matter would possibly be left to a third or fourth clerk in the castle of Dublin. Fears have been expressed by the noble lord, of some great parliamentary influence appointing the Roman Catholic bishops. I confess, my lords, I see no great probability of either of these events occurring. I have never seen any nobleman who has exercised the high station of lord lieutenant of Ireland, who would so scandalously neglect his duty as to leave a matter of such moment to a third or fourth clerk; and I am perfectly convinced that neither of the noble lords immediately behind the noble earl would have so grossly misconducted themselves: and although I differ from those noble personages in politics, I entertain much too high an opinion of them to imagine them capable of being guilty of such a dereliction of duty.
The noble earl who presented the petitions of the Roman Catholics of Ireland has told your lordships that a plan, has, at length, been devised which will remove all difficulties and enable your lordships, in a committee, to frame such a bill as, whilst it shall give ample security to the Protestant, will open the door of the constitution to the Catholic. If it be so, it is, indeed, a very important discovery, and well worthy of your lordships most serious consideration. Let us, then, calmly and dispassionately consider what this scheme is. The noble earl has been obliged, at last, to confess that this mighty talisman was nothing more nor less than Domestic Nomination. Why, my lords, the noble earl knows right well, that the Protestants have enjoyed this most invaluable blessing for many many years. This boasted security has been granted by the Roman Catholics for ages—because 628 for a very great length of time, indeed, have the Roman Catholic bishops been nominated in no other way.
As I wish as much as I possibly can, to prove to your lordships the almost utter impossibility of coming to a right understanding with the Irish Roman Catholic ecclesiastical body, who differ as much from their own opinions declared and published by their authority, as they do from me, I shall be obliged to read many documents to you on this subject, as well as on their difference of opinion with monsignor Quarantotti and the learned bishops and doctors of Rome; and I can assure your lordships, that I will quote them fairly, and "set down nought in malice." I will now, my lords, show you that the Veto was by no means considered by the Roman Catholic prelates of Ireland; assembled in Dublin on the 17th, 18th, and 19th days of January, 1799, as contrary to their religion, or as leading them into the heavy guilt of schism; nor had those titular bishops at that period, any objection to receive through his majesty's government a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland. For, "at a meeting of the Roman Catholic prelates held to deliberate on a proposal from government of an independent provision for the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland, under certain regulations not incompatible with their doctrines, discipline, or just influence—it was admitted, that a provision through government for the Roman Catholic clergy of the kingdom, competent and secured, ought to be thankfully accepted."
The noble earl has just now told us, that the Roman Catholic clergy ask for no remuneration, and wish for no stipend except what their flocks think proper voluntarily to give them. I must beg leave here, my lords, to observe, that I believe it will be found, that for every office performed by a parish priest, there is a regular fixed price, which the individual (however poor) must pay, if he or she will have the assistance of the parish priest. But he will return to the resolutions of the titular bishops. They continue to state, "That in the appointment of the prelates of the Roman Catholic religion to vacant sees in the kingdom, such interference of government as may enable it to be satisfied of the loyalty of the person appointed, is just and ought to be agreed to." Now, my lords, these very same Roman Catholic prelates have lately told the clergy and the people of Ireland, 629 that they could not consent to the Veto without being guilty of schism, and that any interference whatever on the part of the Protestant government of the country, is contrary to the doctrines of their religion, so that your lordships may perceive they say one thing to-day, and unsay it tomorrow. I will leave your lordships to determine how you would act in private life with individuals who conducted themselves in this manner. I am inclined to think your lordships would have no dealings with them. The resolutions of the above date conclude thus:—"Agreeably to the discipline of the Roman Catholic church, these regulations can have no effect without the sanction of the holy see, which sanction the Roman Catholics of this kingdom shall, as soon as may be, use their endeavours to procure. The prelates are satisfied that the nomination of parish priests, with a certificate of their having taken the oath of allegiance, be certified to government." The noble earl will be so good as to remember that even in this treaty (if it may be so called) the foreign influence has the sole power: the prelates are the members, the sovereign pontiff is the head, and recognized as such in the treaty with their sovereign lord the king, and his parliament. The document I have just referred to, my lords, was signed by two of the titular arch-bishops, and several of their suffragans.
Of the other security which has been proposed, the Veto, your lordships are aware, that the Catholic Irish prelates differed most decidedly in opinion with the bishops and learned divines assembled at Rome; the former declared, that the relief bill "was utterly incompatible with the discipline of the Roman Catholic church, and with the free exercise of their religion; they say, that without incurring the heavy guilt of schism, they cannot accede to such regulations, nor can they dissemble their dismay and consternation at the consequences which such regulations, if enforced, must necessarily produce."—How, my lords, can you treat with such persons with any prospect of coming to a fair and equitable arrangement?
From an extract from the rescript of his eminence Quarantotti, we learn that in a full council of bishops and divines after having read the letters from Dr. Poynter and from Dr. Troy (the titular archbishop of Dublin), and the matter being duly considered in a meeting con- 630 vened for the express purpose; it is decreed that the Catholics should receive with gratitude, the law which was proposed for their emancipation." Here is a difference indeed between these learned doctors!
Those of Ireland knew right well, that the bill was neither incompatible with the discipline of their church, nor would it have involved them in the heavy guilt of schism. But it seems they had an insurmountable objection to any measure tending to give the slightest security to the Protestant church. To escape out of the dilemma in which they were involved with the council at Rome, they called a meeting of all the Romish parish priests and clergymen of the Archdiocese of Dublin, and I will read to your lordships their three first Resolutions, which are well deserving of notice. 1st. "That we consider the rescript of Monsignor Quarantotti as not obligatory; particularly as it wants those authoritative marks, whereby the mandates of the holy see are known and recognized, especially the signature of the pope. 2d. That we consider the granting to a Catholic government any power direct, or indirect, with regard to the appointment and nomination of the Catholic bishops of Ireland, at all times inexpedient. 3d. That circumstanced as we are in this country, we consider the granting such a power not only as inexpedient, but highly detrimental to the best and dearest interests of religion; and pregnant with incalculable mischief to the cause of Catholicity in Ireland." Here appears the truth: and the real cause of their opposition to any interference on the part of the king's government respecting the appointment of Catholic bishops, is now declared. "It would be pregnant with incalculable mischief to the cause of Catholicity in Ireland:" in other words it might impede their plans for the subversion of the Protestant establishment, and the erection of popery in its place.
I must beg leave to trouble your lordships with a statement which appeared in the Catholic official paper of that period, the Dublin Evening Post of Tuesday, May 10th, 1814, soon after the receipt of the rescript from Rome, exhorting them to receive the bill gratefully. "On Saturday many pathetic admonitions against the Papal rescript were pronounced from the different altars of this city. This (continues the statement) is a glorious instance of the liberty of the Irish church, and an 631 answer to all those who were in the habit of accusing Catholics of a subserviency of spirit, and a blind obedience to the decrees of the Vatican. The clergymen exhorted their flocks to be patient—to remain tranquil under so severe a visitation; but to be prepared, if necessary, to sacrifice their lives, rather than surrender the freedom of their church to prelate or pope. The exhortations were heard with deep emotions of indignation, and it was easy to see that the resistance will be universal."
Here, my lords, is a true but very melancholy picture of the real state of Ireland; your lordships may exercise your legislative right of enacting laws; you may pass a bill by which you may flatter your-selves the Roman Catholics of Ireland would be greatly benefited, and even which had received the fiat of the bishop of Rome and the conclave of cardinals—and yet the Irish prelates and priests may be of a very different opinion indeed; and may tell your lordships and the other House of Parliament, that although you imagined you were conferring a favour, you were entailing upon them a curse. You may be told (as resolutions from the Roman Catholics of Kilkenny have declared), that any bill of which the Veto forms a part, is "a penal law, and a persecution, which if persisted in, would shake the British empire to its foundation."
So say the Roman Catholic clergy of the Diocese of Ossory. I, the Protestant bishop of that diocese, must take the liberty of declaring to your lordships (and I believe I might say that my clergy would unanimously agree with me in the opinion), that if you ever admit persons professing the Roman Catholic religion into the Houses of Parliament, you endanger the throne of your sovereign and his illustrious family; you endanger the Protestant establishment in England, as well as in Ireland; for nothing can be more erroneous than to suppose that the one may be overthrown, and the other continue in safety: or that there is not a most intimate connexion between the altar and the throne—they must stand or fall altogether. By acceding to the claims of the Roman Catholics, you will, in my humble opinion, endanger the existence of the British connexion in Ireland.
I shall doubtless be told by the noble lords on the other side, that the petitioners have offered to bind themselves by 632 the most solemn oaths, (in which the clergy and laity had concurred) to support our Protestant establishment. What, my lords, the Catholic clergy swearing to support the Protestant establishment!
On this point I must confess my want of faith—"Credat Judæus Apella; baud ego;"—for my weak understanding is unable to comprehend how they can do this and adhere to the tenets of their catechism of Trent, which contains these very remarkable words—"The words of the pastors of the church are to be received as the word of God."
I must now read a passage from a pamphlet attributed to a right honourable and exalted character,* who, for a series of years, has filled, with equal honour to himself, and advantage to the public, one of the most distinguished situations in the state, upon the subject of oaths. It bears date May 14, 1813. "As to oaths. I do not think they are to be undervalued; but they cannot be accepted without some discrimination. That they are not to be entirely relied upon, is apparent, by the very conduct of the friends of the bill, and by the necessity they have felt, of superadding regulations to enforce the same purposes. We must also bear in mind by whom these oaths are to be interpreted, and how they have been interpreted. Nor can we shut our eyes against the notorious fact, that the sovereign pontiff, not in ancient times, but so lately as in the year 1809, by a solemn instruction to the prelates of his church, has commanded them to distinguish between the passive oaths which may be taken, and the active oaths which may not be taken, by the Roman Catholics of an heretical state; and has declared that all oaths taken to the prejudice of the church, are null and void: nor are these doctrines to be found only in Italy; it is well known that in London also, and within the last eight and forty hours, distinctions of the same sort have been promulgated, in the name, and by the authority of a leading prelate of the Roman Catholic church, and circulated throughout this metropolis."
Most happy do I consider myself in having my opinion backed by such high authority—To convince your lordships how extremely absurd it is to imagine, for a moment, that any oath which may be*The right hon. Charles Abbot. See Vol. 26, p. 319.633 taken by any Roman Catholic prelate or priest will give security to the Protestant establishment, I will read you an extract from Monsignor Quarantotti's famous letter to Dr. Poynter, dated 16th February, 1814, by which the melancholy fact will evidently appear, that although they (priest or bishop) may take the oath, a foreign influence will put whatever construction on it may best suit the interests, not of the Protestant, but of the Romish church. "In case the bill be already passed, containing the same words," (this, my lords, alludes to the oath which was inserted in the relief bill) "or that nothing in it is allowed to be altered, let the clergy acquiesce, and it will be sufficient for them to declare, that this, and this only, is the sense in which they have sworn to it; so that nothing in the oath may be adverse to orthodox doctrine; and that this protest may be generally known and be far an example to posterity, this construction of it shall be publicly recorded "Here, my lords, is an ex post facto interpretation of an oath, commanded by a foreign authority! How, then, is it possible to rely on the faith of persons professing such principles? As I cannot find words sufficiently strong to express my abhorrence of such double-dealing, I shall be silent.
Of the present head of the Catholic church, I must now beg leave to say a few words. Your lordships must recollect that he was the pontiff who travelled from Rome to Paris to assist at the coronation of (not to crown) Napoleon Buonaparté, for the newly declared emperor would not permit even his holiness himself to place the imperial crown upon his head. He took it from the pope, and placing it on his own head, exclaimed with a very loud voice, "Dieu me la donne; gare qui la touche." The sovereign head of the Catholic church, declared the new emperor of the French the eldest son of the church. This child of Jacobinism, this religious Proteus, who even on the very ground on which his Saviour trod, denied his divinity, was nevertheless styled by the bishop of Rome, the eldest son of the church. Better would it have been for the character of his holiness had he laid down his life at the threshold of the Vatican! To Pius 7th are we indebted for the re-establishment of the society of the order of the Jesuits in Ireland, a favour no doubt conferred upon the subjects of king George the third, for the many sig- 634 nal instances of protection shown to his holiness by his majesty!—It is well worthy of remark, that Ireland and Spain are the only two places where the Jesuits have been permitted to establish themselves.
Another act of the present pope was a bull dated the 29th June, 1816, to the primate archbishop of Poland, in which he calls the dispersion of the Bible "a crafty device, by which the very foundations of religion are undermined," and informs the archbishop, that he has convened the cardinals to consider what measures ought to be taken "in order to remedy and abolish the pestilence, as far as possible." In this production of Pope Pius 7th the members of the Bible society will doubtless perceive much toleration. My lords, if your lordships ever consent to admit those into parliament whose spiritual organ thunders out such language as this, you will, with your eyes open, admit a set of individuals whose primary obligation is "to support the Catholic faith, and destroy the Protestant religion;" that religion, my lords, which every king of England, at his coronation, must swear "to the utmost of his power to maintain." I must beg your lordships attention to the force of these words: for in the other parts of the oath the word 'utmost' is not mentioned.
I will now read to you, my lords, extracts from the declarations and solemn pledges given by every king of the illustrious House of Hanover to parliament, on their accession to the Throne, with the answer of the Commons thereto.
Extract from the first speech of George the first, on his accession.—"This being the first opportunity that I have had of meeting my people in parliament, since it pleased Almighty God, of his good providence, to call me to the throne of my ancestors; I most gladly make use of it to thank my faithful and loving subjects for that zeal and firmness, that hath been shown in defence of the Protestant succession," &c. &c. "The established constitution in church and state, shall be the rule of my government."*
Extract from the first speech of George the second.—"It shall be my constant care to preserve the constitution of this kingdom, as it is now happily established in church and state, inviolable in all its parts." †*New Parliamentary History, Vol. 7, p. 42.† Ibid. Vol. 8, p. 595.635 Extract from the first speech of king George the third.—"Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton; and the peculiar happiness of my life will ever consist in promoting the welfare of a people, whose loyalty and warm affection to me, I consider as the greatest and most permanent security of my throne: and, I doubt not, but their steadiness in these principles will equal the firmnes of my invariable resolution to adhere to, and strengthen, this excellent constitution in church and state," *&c. &c.
Extract from the answer of the Commons to George the first.—"It is with inexpressible joy, that we approach your majesty, peaceably seated on the throne of your royal ancestors; and being thoroughly sensible of the many open and secret practices, that have, of late years, been used to defeat the Protestant succession; we cannot sufficiently adore the divine providence, that so seasonably interposed and saved this nation, by your majesty's happy accession to the Crown. Your faithful Commons receive, with the highest gratitude, your most gracious assurances, that the established constitution in church and state, shall be the rule of your government," &c. &c. "We are sensible of your goodness expressed to those who have distinguished themselves by their zeal and firmness for the Protestant succession," &c. &c.
Extract from the answer of the Commons to George the second.—"We thank your majesty for those ample assurances you have given us, inviolably to preserve the constitution of these kingdoms, as it is now happily established in church and state, and to secure to all your subjects, the full enjoyment of their religious and civil rights."
Extract from the answer of the Commons to George the third.—"We venerate and confide in those sacred assurances of your majesty's firm and invariable resolution to adhere to and strengthen this excellent constitution in church and state."
Far, very far, be it from me, my lords, to presume to deny the omnipotence of parliament. Parliament has, most undoubtedly, a right to alter and amend the constitution of the state. It has frequently and wisely done so—but, my lords, if it ever change the constitution so far as to admit those persons into parliament whose spiritual head, or heads, deem it no dis-*New Par. Hist. Vol. 15, p. 982.636 grace to put an ex post facto interpretation upon a most solemn oath, which was supposed to have been inserted into an act as a measure of security, it will, I most conscientiously believe, shake the British empore to its foundation: and, my lords, I am at a loss to imagine how any minister, remembering the solemn pledge which our beloved sovereign gave to his parliament, could bring himself to advise the prince regent, "acting in the name and on the behalf of his majesty," to give the royal assent to any such bill.
When the noble earl who introduced the Roman Catholic petitions into this House, assured us how much it was the wish of that body to conciliate their Protestant brethren, I own, my lords, I was absurd enough to expect that an offer would have been made by the pope, and by the popish; clergy and laity of Ireland, to grant to his majesty the same privileges as the king of Prussia, or any other Protestant sovereign possesses, with regard to the appointment of bishops, &c. But the noble lord was not authorized to make any concession.—His clients ask for everything, but will yield nothing. My lords, I perfectly agree with Dr. Dromgoole, when he says, "that if the church of England wants securities, she must seek them elsewhere, for the Roman Catholics have none to give." It has been the fashion among the advocates for concession, which has been very improperly termed Catholic Emancipation, to state, that the Roman Catholics of Ireland were a degraded and enslaved people. Now, my lords, no statement was ever more unfounded in fact than this; and I defy any noble peer on the other side to point out any Catholic state in Europe, whose subjects enjoy more civil liberty or possess more religious toleration, and some of your lordships will, probably be surprised when I inform you, that the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland, with respect to marriages, exercise a power which the Protestant clergy are forbidden by law to exercise.
A Protestant clergyman is subject to certain pains and penalties, if he marries any persons whose banns have not been three times published in the churches of their respective parishes, or without a licence is shown him, which dispenses with the publication of the banns. A Roman Catholic clergyman marries his parishioners without any banns, and is liable to no penalties.
Your lordships are well aware that the 637 great majority of forty-shilling freeholders in Ireland are Romanists: and, I trust, you will always bear it in your remembrance that the minds of the great mass of Irish Roman Catholic population are in a state of absolute subjugation to the priesthood. If then you leave the qualification of the voter at the absurd low rate of forty shillings, and open the doors of the legislator to the Catholic, you will find sixty out of the one hundred Irish members seated within the walls of the other House: and let me seriously ask your lordships, whether you would wish to sec sixty very respectable Catholic gentlemen assembled in a committee of the House to consider the merits of a bill proposed for the better regulation of the Protestant clergy? The Catholic religion, my lords, is every where the same—active, busy, and meddling with the political affairs of every state.—It does not, like the Protestant religion, "study to be quiet, and mind its own business;" but it expects the people and the government to yield implicitly to whatever its hierarchy may deem most expedient for its aggrandisement. If proof of this were wanting, a very signal instance might be found in a kind of pastoral letter (signed by the archbishop of Mechlin, and, I believe, by all his suffragans, except two,) which was thrust under the doors of the shop-keepers of Brussels, a few days prior to the inauguration of the king of the Netherlands, in which the Catholics were told, that they could not, as good Catholics, take an oath of fealty and allegiance, to a Protestant prince: and what is still more extraordinary; this curious production could not be obtained two days after it had been so dispersed—although very great pains was taken to procure a copy, and much money offered for one.
My lords, I will proceed no further, although much more remains to be said:—I am fully conscious that I have trespassed already too long on your patience. I return you my most humble thanks for the courtesy you have shown me. For the reasons I have assigned, I must oppose the motion of the noble earl; and, I trust, your lordships will recollect, that if the majority of the Irish, be Romanists, the majority of the people of England and Scotland are Protestants.
The Bishop of Norwick explained. He said, he would yield to no man in his recollection of the part of Mr. Locke's works to which he had referred; and not- 638 withstanding the contradiction he had received, he insisted that that great writer had laid it down as a principle, that no man ought to suffer for not being a member of the established church, unless it could be proved that he maintained opinions injurious to the state. He entered into the same writer's reasoning upon the subject, to show that he even carried it farther than was generally supposed.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
said, that he had not intended, for many reasons, to trouble the House with his sentiments during the present debate, but that it was impossible for him to give the vote he intended to give, without some explanation, after what had fallen from a right rev. prelate, who intended to vote upon the same side of the question. In the course of previous discussions, it had frequently been his lot to hear positions from both sides equally untenable; and the present debate had afforded a fresh instance of this kind. If any thing could have driven him to give a vote in a contrary direction to that in which he intended to give it, it would have been a part of the speech of the right rev. prelate (bishop of Norwich), who spoke last but one; and if any thing could nave added to the conviction to which he had come, it would have been a part of the address of the right rev. prelate (the bishop of Ossory), whom he was immediately following. The former, for whom he entertained the highest sentiments of respect, had unadvisedly (if he might be permitted to suppose that any thing unadvised could proceed from such a quarter), uttered sentiments which, even if weighed with the greatest candour, must be held to be highly dangerous; and had (unintentionally, every one must be persuaded) thrown down a torch of discord, and encouraged those who wished to find an excuse for sedition and rebellion. The latter had stated some opinions, which he should notice in their proper place, and which he thought afforded a sufficient answer to the remainder of his speech.
The right rev. prelate (the bishop of Llandaff), who had opened the debate, had stated the question with great distinctness, and had discarded a mass of argument, which had formerly filled long speeches and large volumes, proceeding upon the principle that a difference of religious opinion was of itself necessarily a disqualification for civil office. He had admitted that civil qualifications and civil worth, were the only points to be regarded, 639 but he contended, that the religious tenets of the Catholics necessarily produced a deficiency in those essential qualities, and that upon that ground their exclusion from civil office ought to be maintained. He had argued that the loyalty of a church of England man was more to be depended upon, because it was undivided. He (the earl of Harrowby) agreed with him in the premises, although he differed from him in the conclusion. He had no hesitation in admitting, that the allegiance of those who acknowledged it, with reference both to church and state, must be more complete in its nature than the allegiance of those who acknowledged it only to the state.—The chain which binds subjects to their government, was composed of a variety of links. It was certainly impossible, that when one of these links was wanting, the chain could be quite as strong as where no deficiency existed. But the question for a politician was, whether it might not nevertheless be abundantly strong to bold together firmly and effectually those who ought to be united. This question ought to be answered, not merely by a reference to the tenets held, or supposed to be held, by any class of the community, but by the conduct of that class. It was undoubtedly easy, even for a person less accustomed to acute disputation than that right rev. prelate, to prove, by the most logical arguments, that it was utterly impossible for a Roman Catholic to be the faithful subject even of a Roman Catholic government; for even under such a government his allegiance must still be divided. It might be difficult to know whether the major or the minor of such a syllogism ought to be disputed: but he had the consolation to think, that no man could acquiesce in the conclusion. He was not disposed to dispute, what the history of so many countries proved,—that in former times the conflict between allegiance to the pope and allegiance to the sovereign, had been the fruitful source of much misery to the world, had laid waste many a realm, and dethroned many a monarch. But could this be asserted respecting those periods of history, to which, from any degree of similarity in the circumstances of the times, or the public opinions prevailing in them, it was worth while to look back for practical political experience?
What disputes had we not seen between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in most of the countries of Europe, particularly in Trance and Austria, without any 640 disturbance of the allegiance of their subjects? In our own country, under a Protestant government, what had been the fact? In the reign of queen Elizabeth, the fidelity of the Catholics had been put to a severe test—the sovereign was excommunicated, and yet how small a portion of the difficulties of her reign had originated in the active disloyalty of the Catholics of her kingdom. In the reign of Charles the first, who adhered with more firmness to their monarch, or made greater sacrifice in his cause, than his Roman Catholic subjects? At those periods they were practically unrestricted in the enjoyment of their civil privileges, and exerted them in the defence of that government, under whose protection they enjoyed them. Subsequently they experienced a different treatment, and after the revolution a system of legislature was adopted respecting them, of many parts of which (however other parts might be justified by the peculiar dangers of those times), he was persuaded there was no noble lord present, who would not say, that as an Englishman he was ashamed. Notwithstanding the pressure of that system, they had stood the trial of two rebellions. It had been repeatedly proved, that in spite of their spiritual allegiance to the pope, they maintained their temporal allegiance to the king. In various acts of parliament, passed for their relief, they had been repeatedly denominated peaceable and loyal subjects—and the fair question to be put was, whether, when they had still greater inducements to fidelity, they would not, if possible, still more steadily adhere to a government, under which they enjoyed every advantage.
The right rev. prelate who spoke last had however argued, that the principles of the Roman Catholics, whatever might be their practice, ought to be judged of from the decrees of their ancient councils, which were irrevocable or unrevoked,—and at the same time had stated, that their opinions were so varying, that no dependance could be placed upon them. How these two arguments were to be reconciled, he was at a loss to discover. If those principles were so unstable and so varying as they were said to be, how could their conduct be judged of by the decrees of their ancient councils? The right rev. prelate had however himself given the solution of this difficulty, by stating to their lordships, with respect to the Catholics of Ireland, that they were either Roman Catholics or 641 Irish Catholics, according as it best suited their political interests at the moment. If this were true, could there be a stronger answer to the argument, which opposes concession on the ground of the immutability of their opinions, and a more powerful inducement to pass a measure which must make their being Irish Catholics and not Roman Catholics, the surest means of forwarding their political interests.
The line of argument, however, which was drawn from the principles to be found in the decrees of such ancient councils, was in his opinion unfair, as applied to any set of men with logical strictness. It was not enough to say, we think that we can prove by regular argument, that from certain principles, certain practical consequences must follow, if the persons who profess those principles not only deny your logic, but disprove it by their conduct. In common life, if a man had made an unguarded assertion, or advanced a false position, it might not, perhaps, be difficult to persuade him to explain them away by his language, and directly to contradict them by his actions; and yet he would die rather than eat his words. So it was with the Roman Catholics. Having unfortunately adopted the tenet of infallibility, residing either in the pope or a general council, they had debarred themselves from admitting in terms any alteration in their opinions, and had perpetuated in their code, through the most enlightened times, too many or the perverted doctrines of the darkest ages. Hence all those nice distinctions, those logical subtleties, which exposed them to the imputation of sophistry and quibbling; but which were only the necessary result of an ineffectual struggle to reconcile inconsistency with infallibility, and to contradict themselves without contradiction.
But this line of argument was surely unfair, if applied practically to any set of men, and might be employed not only against Catholics, but Protestants, and every denomination of Christians. Let us recollect ourselves, when we brand the Roman Catholic religion exclusively as intolerant, at how late a period the writ de heretico comburendo was expunged from our statute book. Let us recollect that we ourselves have seen the time, when a set of statutes actually existed there, which, if carried into execution, would have entitled this country to the appellation of as sanguinary and pitiless a nation as ever existed in history,—and let us ask ourselves, whe- 642 ther we should then have admitted the justice of such an appellation, merely because they there existed, unrepealed, but dormant. Should we be entitled to stigmatize the Scottish church of the present day as intolerant, because their ancestors of the same faith had, in a public declaration at the time of the Union, solemnly warned their countrymen against the guilt of tolerating episcopacy, not in their own country, but in England; and yet where could a solemn and direct renunciation of such opinions be found?—Let us apply to the Catholics the same candour which in such cases we claimed for ourselves, when we desired that our principles should be judged of by our conduct.
Whatever might be the opinion of their lordships upon this part of the argument, they must all agree in thinking, that it was an object of the first importance, to conciliate the affection and sooth the minds of the Catholics, and to bring into employment for the benefit of the state, the talents and energy of so large a portion of the subjects of the Crown. All would agree in the importance of this object, if it could be accomplished without danger. The question, then, resolved itself into this:—Where lies the danger? If a satisfactory answer were given to this question tonight, it would be for the first time.—Foreign allegiance and its consequences had been stated by a right rev. prelate, as constituting this danger;—but then he had quieted the alarm he had himself excited, by stating also, that when it suited his political interests, the Catholic became not a Roman, but an Irish Catholic. Was it possible to afford to this objection of allegiance to the pope a more satisfactory answer? Could any thing better be desired by way of security than that four millions of subjects should become Irish instead of Roman Catholics. The question of danger had been argued by others, as if from the moment you conceded the full capacity of entering into the army, the navy, the law, and both Houses of Parliament, all these departments must of course become Catholic. This was a supposition too extravagant to deserve a serious answer.—But then it was said, they would form a dangerous minority,—and if they did not over-throw the state, might overturn the church. Assuredly, if they could destroy the church, the state would be in great danger. They were so intimately connected, that whatever tended to injure the one, must infallibly do so to the other, and if the one 643 perished, so must the other. No man, he trusted, would ever live to see this the case in our happy country,—but how was this dreaded charge to be effected? Not certainly in this House, by the introduction of half a dozen peers. It must, then, be in the other House of Parliament. To that House members were now returned from Ireland by Catholic electors; and he would ask their lordships whether Protestant members returned by Catholic electors were not more dangerous (if danger there were) than so many Catholics in their seats. A Protestant member so returned, if he wished to retain his place, must vote on all questions concerning the Catholic interests, as his constituents should dictate—he would be to them a suspected person, and had not the liberty of being impartial; while a Catholic would be left to the free exercise of his own discretion. The impolicy of giving the Catholics only a qualified admission to the military service had been so often proved, that it need scarcely be repeated. It was hardly defended by their warmest opponents. They were allowed to attain a certain rank, but were forbidden to rise higher.—You permit them to fight your battles, and when they return from the field of victory, covered with wounds and glory, you debar them from the reward of their valour. And why? From the apprehension that the man who has proved his loyalty, by a life of active exertion in the service of his country, up to a certain rank, the moment he rises one step higher, is to be transformed into another creature, and transfer to the pope that allegiance to his sovereign, which he has so often scaled with his blood.—Was it wise to apply the same system to the professors of the law, particularly in a country, where, since the removal of the local legislature, the bar was almost the only road by which talents could acquire distinction? If their opponents declared that the Catholics should never be allowed to open their mouths in a court of justice, the system was at least intelligible and consistent;—but now you permit them to gain fame, and fortune, and influence, and then they were told, thus far thou shalt go, and no farther. It was absurd to suppose that the mere circumstance of a difference in religious opinions, disqualified a Catholic from executing the British laws, or presiding over a British jury. Could any man gravely assert that there was any connexion between questions of theology and the dispensation of 644 the law? Even in India, where the most opposite religious systems were established, was any inconvenience experienced from the administration of Hindoo and Mahometan codes by Christians? What was to be apprehended in this country? Could the due administration of justice be impeded by the theological opinions of the judge, subject as he was to the censure of an enlightened bar, and of a public almost as enlightened, and open as were his decisions to the revisal of a higher tribunal, which must obviate every danger or suspicion of danger? As matters now stand, you allow the Catholics just so much privilege as to make them dangerous, while you exclude them from every thing which attaches them most strongly to their country and to the state.
He entreated the House not to forges that this was a question which could not be dismissed by a vote,—and that whatever was the decision of that night, things could not possibly remain for ever in their present anomalous state. Was it fit, was it proper, that the discussion of this subject should year after year occupy the attention of their lordships and, distract the country? If it was not proper, why not at once consent at least to the consideration of the prayer of the Catholics? It could hardly be seriously maintained, that to keep up for ever in this country, a distinction which had been found unnecessary in almost every other, was essential to its security. Were they sure that the ground upon, which they now stood, was so secure as to remove all apprehension of danger? Was not the foundation too loose and too irregular to afford stability to the superstructure? To his judgment it appeared, that an unreasonable distinction between two portions of the same community, between two parts of the same empire, could never be conducive to the well-being or security of the state.
He did not think it at all necessary, in his view of the subject, to enter into any discussion, either of what was called the Veto, or of the plan of domestic nomination.—It was for parliament to determine the question; and if it should admit the prayer of the Catholics, to annex such conditions as in its wisdom it might deem necessary. It would then be for the Catholics to say, whether they would accept the arrangement proposed, or not,—and if they should refuse, parliament would at least have the satisfaction of having performed its duty. Few who now heard him, he was persuaded, 645 were desirous that the law should continue unaltered in all its parts. If the committee were appointed, an inquiry into the whole system might be accomplished; and of all the good that in his opinion was desirable, could not be attained, some concessions might be granted, and some obnoxious distinctions done away. If the Catholics should not then obtain the boon, which had as it were been so long hanging over their heads, they would have the consolation of reflecting that their case had been considered; and he thought they must receive with gratitude such a proof, that the legislature was actuated by a desire to remove their disabilities and accede to their wishes, if they found upon mature consideration that it could be done with safety to the constitution. With these views, therefore, he hoped their lordships would support the motion for a committee, and trust to the investigation which would then take place for the best decision of what might wisely be surrendered, and of what it was essential to withhold.
The Earl of Liverpool
rose and said:
My Lords:—I have heard with no less satisfaction than the House, the speech which has been just made by my noble friend, a speech marked, as every thing that comes from my noble friend is marked, by acuteness of mind, force of reasoning, and comprehension of views, as well as by the most candid and unexaggerated statement of facts. But however great my esteem for my noble friend, and however sensible I am of the clearness of his exposition of the question before your lordships, I am bound in duty to express my complete difference from him with respect to the conclusions to which he has arrived. In replying to ray noble friend's speech, I shall commence with the latter part of it.
Undoubtedly it is competent to my noble friend to say, in support of a motion for appointing a committee to examine this or any other subject, that it is not bound to come to any certain resolutions, or to recommend any specific measures; but at the same time I must contend that your lordships, before you assent to any proposition of such a nature, are entitled to consider the real intention with which it is brought forward. It is not pretended that the object of the motion before your lordships is, to redress any partial grievances, to make any partial concessions, or to remove any particular anomalies. It is not urged that some new modifications of the act of 1793, have become necessary 646 in the present circumstances of the country. It is for the purpose of conceding at once all that the Catholics demand; and of placing the Irish Roman Catholics (some few provisions with respect to the church alone excepted) on a footing of equal privileges with his majesty's Protestant subjects. This I apprehend is the real ground of the question. I beg not to be understood as opposing any specific concession which the principle of the act of 1793 may warrant. That principle was a declaration that our government is essentially Protestant. Whatever concession can be made to render the indulgences granted by that act to the Catholics, more plain and effective, even to extend them beyond the bearing of the provisions of the act, still keeping steadily in mind its principle, I am ready to support; for I hope I shall never refuse that, which on conviction I ought to allow. But the question here is not of that circumscribed character. It is, as I have already said, whether you shall confer equal privileges on all classes of his majesty's subjects; and to this, my lords, I, for one, cannot consent.
As a proof of this being the claim of the Roman Catholics, I need only appeal to that which is already well known to your lordships, from the Journals of the other House of Parliament. In 1813, a bill was introduced into the House of Commons, for the purpose of what is called "emancipating" the Catholics, and after being read a first and second time, was committed. In the committee a motion was made by a right hon. gentleman, of very high authority in that House, to omit the clause which rendered Catholics eligible to seats in both Houses of Parliament. This motion was carried, and the clause was accordingly rejected. What then was the conduct of the supporters of the measure? They gave it up. They manifested no desire to obtain the additional advantages to the Catholics in the army, in the navy, or at the bar, which the bill was calculated to afford; they would have all or nothing; and because they could not carry their whole point, they abandoned the bill, which was thus frustrated, not by those who were inimical to it, but by its authors and supporters. The motion before your lordships is exactly of the same comprehensive nature as that which was rejected by the other House in 1813, and therefore I shall consider it on general grounds.
Having said so much as to the light in 647 which the immediate question before us ought to be viewed, I beg to be allowed to make a few observations on the ecclesiastical part of the subject. I will not, however, enter into the concession of the Veto, or domestic nomination, or any proposal of that nature; for I am anxious, at the outset, to clear the discussion from all extraneous considerations. I have no hesitation in avowing, as my deliberate opinion, that if the great principle contended for be once admitted, the concession ought to be liberally bestowed, and without any jealous interference in the internal ecclesiastical concerns of the Irish Catholic church. And here, my lords, before I proceed to explain myself more particularly, I cannot refrain from expressing my unfeigned astonishment at the opinion that there ought to be a similarity in respect to the possession of civil power, between the Catholics in foreign states and the Cathorlies of Ireland. There is no analogy between the two cases. Let us take, for instance, the relation between Prussia and Silesia, or between Russia and her Polish provinces. These are territories annexed to great states, either by conquest or compact; but in which the population is Catholic, the property is Catholic, the church is Catholic; and in which the Roman Catholic is therefore the established religion. Throughout those territories, the professors of the Catholic communion have never denied temporal authority to the Protestant sovereign; they have never dreamt of trenching on his privileges, while they enjoyed the full control over their own spiritual affairs. But the case is altogether different in Ireland. There the government is exclusively Protestant, the property nearly so, and the population chiefly Catholic. If the Catholic religion in Ireland were that of the state—so acknowledged either by conquest or compact—then indeed some analogy might be made out between the cases of the Irish and the foreign Catholic; and I would admit that you had no right,—I will not say "no right," for that is a harsh and unjustifiable term to use when speaking of the power of the legislative; but I will say you ought not,r—to impose the conditions of the exercise of their religion on a people so placed. As it is, much as has been said with regard to the Veto, and with regard to Domestic nomination, I attach no importance to regulations of that nature. They might be judicious restraints, if the object of jealousy were, the character of 648 individuals; but I am ready to declare that I renounce all invidious charges against the Catholic body,—I believe no men can be more respectable than the Irish Catholic bishops and gentry. I respect them individually. I believe the Catholic prelates are as fairly chosen at present as they could possibly be by any arrangements which your lordships can provide. My objection does not go against the mode of filling up the episcopal vacancies; but to the influence necessarily exercised over the parties when they are elected into office. The source of my scruples and apprehensions is, that, however nominated, the Irish Catholic bishops are necessarily subject to foreign influence; they are the pastors of the Romish church, and bound to pay obedience to a foreign ecclesiastical jurisdiction. So long therefore as this sort of system continues, I can see nothing in the shape of securities that would satisfy me. It is this feeling that banishes from my mind the idea of securities, and that induces me to concur with the right reverend prelate, that if concessions are to be made, they ought not to be made in an ungracious manner; they ought not to be embarrassed with conditions, which, if accepted, would confer no additional security, while the imposition of them might excite feelings that would be any thing but conciliatory, and that might therefore utterly defeat the object in view. The only question with me, therefore, is, are your lordships prepared to make the required concession? If I am answered in the affirmative, then I say, the more simply and openly you make it the better.
I now come, therefore, to the main question. Are the Catholics entitled to enjoy privileges equal to those enjoyed by the members of the established religion? It has been well observed that, in point of abstract principle, no description of persons can complain of unequal privileges who voluntarily place themselves in a situation by which they forfeit their right to equal privileges. I ask, not only as it affects the Catholics, but as it affects every other body of dissenters from the established church, do they, when they require equal privileges offer equal conditions? If they do not, can it be contended that there is any injustice or inexpediency in distinguishing between them? Without pretending to decide positively, I certainly entertain great doubts whether any civil government can long go on with- 649 out the aid and union of some form of ecclesiastical establishment. However that may be, I trust that this country will never make the experiment. My lords, I have always considered that the civil establishment was necessarily interwoven with its church establishment. This will be found a leading and unalienable principle in the earlier periods of our history. This will be found the leading principle at the period of the Revolution, when the connexion between the state and the church was solemnly recognized. On that I rest. To that will I adhere. It is a connexion which pervades all our institutions which characterizes every part of our system—At the Revolution it was determined, that the principle of our government in all its parts was Protestant. It was then settled that the king himself, and all his successors must be Protestant—must communicate with the church of England. It was then settled that all naval and military officers must communicate with the church of England. True it is that in this respect a relaxation of the rule,—and I am far from thinking an unwise one,—has taken place; but the general principle remains untouched. This principle in fact runs through every part of our system. The two Houses of Parliament are on some occasions necessary parties to the performance of the rites and worship of the established church; and the judges of the laud, if not by positive law, yet by immemorial custom, which has acquired the force of law, never open their commissions at the assizes until they have first repaired to the established church; so completely is the Protestant establishment recognized by the constitution; and so deeply is it impressed on all its forms.—Upon what principle, I desire to know, if these concessions are allowed to the Roman Catholics, can they be refused to every other class of dissenters from the established church? I admit that this exclusion, like every other exclusion, must sometimes operate harshly on individuals, and that it can be justified only on adequate grounds of political expediency. But I contend for the existence of such grounds.—The sect of Quakers, for instance, is a very respectable community. By an act of their own they have excluded themselves from eligibility to office, although here the benignity of the law has interposed, and in certain cases admitted their evidence in judicial matters to be received in the way in which alone they choose to tender it.
650 If concession is to be granted to the Catholics, why is it not to be granted to the Quakers? Why is it not to be granted to the Jews, who may also very conscientiously maintain their own peculiar opinions on theological subjects?
May I not, therefore, call on your lordships to consider whither you are going? The moment you throw open the door to equal and general concession—the moment you declare an unexceptional eligibility to power, and say that the only difference between the churches of the dissenters, and the church of the establishment is the ecclesiastical endowment of the latter—that moment you will cease to possess the means of maintaining what is essential to the security of your establishment. Parliament will immediately cease to be a Protestant parliament. Of course, my lords, I cannot be supposed to mean that the majority of members will be no longer Protestant; but the Catholics, whatever may be their numbers, will constitute an integral part of the legislature, which must thus cease to be exclusively Protestant. This would at once effect an entire change in the system of the constitution, and dissolve that intimate alliance between the church and the state which was established at the Revolution.
I wish your lordships to contemplate the full consequences that may result from the adoption of such a proceeding. How will it apply to the law which excludes from the throne every other than a Protestant monarch? Will it be possible to maintain this part of the constitution while we remove all obstructions to all other offices, in favour of all other individuals? It would be hard indeed that one family alone should be excepted from the right of adhering conscientiously to their religious opinions unless by the sacrifice of the Crown. I am aware that it has likewise been proposed to except the lord chancellor and the lord lieutenant of Ireland. But these are regulations wholly unsatisfactory to my mind—The question remains to be considered in another point of view. I admit, my lords, that there are some special and peculiar circumstances connected with the state of Ireland to which it is indispensable that I should advert. It has been said "can you wish to prolong the existence of such circumstances and to perpetuate the disunion that unhappily prevails in that country?" And the proposed measure is described as one calculated to heal all dissensions, to 651 allay all animosities, and create what bas been termed "a moral union" among all classes of his majesty's subjects. My lords, this is a very desirable object. If I could bring myself really to believe that such would be the effect of acceding to the proposition before us, I do assure your lordships that I should be extremely reluctant to withhold my support from it; but it is because I do not believe so; because I think that it is calculated to produce quite an opposite effect, that I feel my objections to the motion fortified and invincible. It has been said, and that with all the assumption of great authority, that things cannot remain as they are. To this I answer by asking,—will they remain at the point to which you—the friends of the Catholics, wish to bring them? If all that is now required were this instant granted, grievances, or what would appear so, and would so be called, would remain; if the Irish Catholic were this moment put on a footing with the Protestant in point of civil rights, he would instantly complain of the great hardship of having an establishment exclusively Protestant, in a country in which so overwhelming a part of the population was Catholic; and it would become a question, whether the faith which has been pledged to the maintenance of a Protestant establishment should be preserved or broken.
Again, my lords, I say there is no analogy between the state of Ireland and the state of other countries. In other countries the church establishment followed the creed of the population, but in Ireland the church and the property are on one side, and the great mass of the population on the other. If you shake the principle of your laws, you at once shake the establishment which is interwoven—inseparably interwoven—with their stability, and which cannot exist, with the degree of Catholic influence which must be the consequence of the proposed measures of concession. Is it wise then, my lords, with such a prospect before us to weaken the foundations of the establishment, by stripping it of part of that influence and power which may be essential to its defence?—The practical effects of the existing exclusion can be felt only occasionally, and by a very few persons. Neither ought it to be forgotten that the Catholics themselves are the greatest exclusionists in the world. In making this declaration, I again disclaim any hostility to the Roman Catholics. I do not presume to doubt the sin- 652 cerity of their religious opinions. But I maintain, and no man can deny, that those religious opinions are of the most exclusive nature. I will not appeal to the councils of Lateran and Trent on this subject; but I appeal to modern decrees—I appeal to the recent authority of a Catholic dignitary, to show that toleration is inconsistent with the principles of the Catholic church. Can it, then, be doubted, that if by any succession of events or combination of circumstances the Catholics should acquire the ascendancy over the Protestants, they would exclude the Protestants from the enjoyment of equal civil, and religious rights r Surely, we are entitled to exclude those who, from their own unalterable faith, would exclude us if they possessed the power to do so.
I willingly allow that one of the great difficulties in the way of adjusting the present question, arises from the policy that has formerly been pursued in Ireland, from measures some of which I lament, and others of which I condemn. But, my lords, we must provide for circumstances as they actually exist. We are not to adopt a speculative course of legislation. We must legislate for men as they are, and not as they might have been. It is, I confess, a subject surrounded with great difficulties; and I have endeavoured, after the most serious consideration, to communicate to your lordships the impression of my judgment upon it. In this era of the world, the only safety for our ecclesiastical establishment, best security for our civil constitution, appears to me to exist in keeping them indissolubly connected; in maintaining the church and the state, in that legitimate alliance, in that mutual dependance which was established at the revolution. Every indulgence, every liberality, every concession consistent with the preservation of that connexion I am ready to support and uphold. But though a friend to rational toleration, I cannot consent to a change which in its operation must go to level all the religious distinctions of society, unhinge the minds of all classes of the people, leave the most important principles of government in a state of complete uncertainty, render society liable to the reception of every accidental prejudice and opinion, and impair the ancient foundations of a constitution under which, we have so long enjoyed security and happiness. I am persuaded that as the constitution under which we live is justly considered 653 superior to that of other states, so also is it materially different. There have been a variety of circumstances connected with the progress of that constitution, with the checks and character of its institutions that do not permit of any analogy to the condition and system of other countries. Keeping steadily in view those principles on which the British constitution was formed, which have hitherto preserved it, and by which alone I firmly believe it can be perpetuated, it is impossible for me to give my support to a demand for equal immunities, which are not sought on equal terms; although, as I have already affirmed, I am disposed to lend a favourable ear to any partial measures of relief, not incompatible with the essential safety of a Protestant Crown and Protestant establishments.
The Earl of Darnley
My lords, I have suffered many years to pass without expressing to your lordships my opinions on this important subject in the detailed manner in which I could have wished to express them. I am, therefore, the more anxious to deliver my sentiments upon it on the present occasion. The noble earl who has just concluded a forcible address to your lordships, commenced by saying that he would argue the question on general grounds. In the course of his speech, however, it appeared that the noble earl had no objection to certain specific concessions. My lords, I cannot help considering it irreconcilable in the noble earl, after that expression of his willingness to correct anomalies, the existence of which in the penal laws respecting the Catholics cannot be denied, and to allow a modified concession to that class of his majesty's subjects, to oppose my noble friend's motion for going into a committee, in which the noble earl and your lordships may have an opportunity of considering what ought to be conceded and what ought to be withheld. Does not the noble earl feel that it is in a committee alone that that which he is disposed to do may be best accomplished? I did indeed expect to hear from the noble secretary some specific argument against the motion; but, to my disappointment, I have heard nothing but an indulgence in declamation on the dangers with which an acquiescence in it would threaten church and state. But, unless the noble earl and your lordships are determined to deny Catholic concession, under every circum- 654 stance, and to however limited an extent, I am at a loss to conceive the grounds on which the motion for a committee can be rejected.
A right reverend prelate has, indeed, said a great deal about the misconduct and intemperance of some members of the Catholic body; of that misconduct and intemperance I am not disposed to be the apologist. I am too sensible of the prejudice which it has created against the Catholic cause. But still, in ray opinion, so far from operating against the claims of the whole Catholic body, it ought to be an additional motive for acceding to them. Is it not fairly to be presumed, my lords, that the persons who have manifested this misconduct and intemperance, and who are the greatest enemies of the cause which they affect to support, if the question were finally set at rest would lose that adventitious and unnatural consequence for which they are indebted alone to the existing circumstances of irritation and discontent? Take away the pretext for violence, and you remove the opportunity of which these demagogues eagerly avail themselves. There will then be no field for these disturbers and their advocacy, and they will speedily disappear.
The same right reverend prelate has contended, that a contrariety of opinion exists among the Catholics, which precludes the chance of a satisfactory result to any inquiry into which your lordships may be induced to go. My lords, if such a contrariety of opinion among the Catholics docs exist, it is no solid objection to the motion. We have nothing to do with it. Parliament is bound, without reference to any such considerations, to legislate in the manner which appears to its wisdom to be the most expedient for the general good. How frequently have we had to settle, by legislative enactments, the disputes of contending parties in the state!
There is one subject, my lords, on which I cordially agree with the noble secretary. I cordially agree with him that nil consideration of the securities to be required from the Catholics ought to be dismissed from our minds.—What more g suitable security can be devised than the affections of the people? And how can you gain those affections so certainly, as by making concessions liberally, if you make them at all? The single enactment of extending equal civil rights to the Ca- 655 tholic as to the Protestant (with the exception of a certain limited range of offices in the state), is, in my opinion, the easiest and most conciliatory course; and will, I am persuaded, insure the co-operation of the Catholics in support of the government that protects them. I cannot see any grounds for the dangers dreaded by the noble secretary.
It was with great pleasure that I heard the noble earl who spoke at an earlier period in the debate from the other side of the House, so justly demand a specification of the dangers against which it is probable parliament will have to provide in the event of yielding to the wishes of the Catholic body. To that demand on the part of the noble earl no answer has been given. Surely, my lords, it is a monstrous proposition to suppose that the stronger the interest which the Catholic has in the privileges of the constitution, the more disposed he will be to endeavour to effect its subversion! It is curious to examine the grounds on which the exclusion of the Catholic stands. It rests on the refusal on the part of the Catholics to take an oath which militates against their religious belief. If the Catholics were to think proper to take this oath, there would be at once an end to the exemption. Does not this unequivocally prove, my lords, the view which the Catholics entertain of the sanctity of that obligation, which they are nevertheless accused of holding so lightly?
With respect to the influence on parliament which Catholic concession is calculated to occasion, nothing can be more unfounded or ridiculous than to say that if both Houses of parliament were thrown open to the Catholics, they could obtain any preponderance in either. Nor could the slightest danger result from rendering the Catholics eligible to the higher military and naval commissions. On the contrary, I am persuaded that their admission would tend to consolidate the strength of the state; for, my lords, it is utterly inconsistent with human nature to suppose that the greater capacity for enjoyment you confer on an individual, the more disposed he will be to forfeit it by his rashness and violence.
My lords, it has been broadly stated that this measure will not, of itself, tranquillize Ireland. It has been asserted that the full admission of the Catholics to the privileges which they require will not of itself immediately allay discontent, and 656 produce effectual conciliation. I allow this. I allow that Catholic concession will not be a universal panacea for the grievances which have so long afflicted Ireland. As I do not believe that the present exclusion is the cause of all the evils in Ireland, so I do not believe that the removal of the restrictions will of itself effect a complete cure of those evils. But, although it may not do all, it will do much. Many other remedies will be necessary; but this, my lords, is indispensable as the commencement, and as the qualifying principle of all the rest. It will go far to heal wounds, and mitigate prejudices; but it will certainly not go so far as we shall find it expedient to go. Much more must be done before that unhappy country can be rendered capable of enjoying all the advantages which nature seems to have so prodigally intended for her. But, my lords, I have ever considered, and I ever shall consider the repeal of the penal laws against the Catholics as the sine quá non of the wise government of Ireland. Until that result shall be accomplished, as on the one hand Ireland can never enjoy the blessings that nature has bestowed on her, so on the other hand England can never avail herself of that efficient co-operation on the part of Ireland of which she might otherwise feel assured.
My lords, we cannot possibly remain where we are, with reference to this important subject. We must grant more, or we have granted too much. Government ought to take up this measure as an essential part of its policy. Let it come before the legislature recommended by government, and there can be no doubt of its adoption. Whatever, my lords, may be the fate of my noble friend's motion this night, when the Catholics consider the zealous support which their cause has received from some of the leading members of the cabinet, and from so large a proportion of the most distinguished individuals on both sides of this House, they must feel that they have no reason to despond; but on the contrary, they must be assured, that the adoption of a measure so necessary for the well being of Ireland and the general security of the empire, and so calculated to establish universal harmony among all classes of society, will not be much longer delayed.
§ Lord Grenville
rose and said:
I have too frequently trespassed on your lordships attention in the hope of aiding in the accomplishment of this great boon 657 to Ireland and to this country, to think that at this late period of the discussion, when your lordships are in possession of every argument that can be urged on the subject, when the public mind is so fully enlightened with respect to it, it would become me to proceed into that wide and comprehensive view of the subject which on former occasions I have felt it to be my duty to take; to refute objections which have so often been shown to be groundless; or to enforce reasons which are now so generally admitted. Nothing, indeed, that I am able to say can strengthen the unassailable inferences of the noble earl opposite, who has proved that with the sagacity of a sound politician he has cast his eye over the whole subject, examined the question in all its bearings with the tolerant spirit of a wise statesman, and taken a liberal and enlightened view of the true interests of this empire. The right reverend prelate also, who spoke third in the debate, a man with whom it is my pride to have lived from childhood in the most intimate friendship, a man of whose friendship there is no one who ought not to be proud, a man who adorns the situation in which he is placed, a man who is justly revered by the country, has well described the question before your lordships as a question, not of an abstract and polemical character, not of subtle and metaphysical speculation, not of religious and theological distinction, but a question of justice and expediency, a question of a purely and extensively political nature, a question not for divines, or lawyers, or logical disputants, but for statesmen, a question not for the schools, but for the legislature. It is, indeed, from the legislature that have sprung the evils which at present claim your lordships consideration—a legislature which, on so many Other great topics of public policy, has poceeded on liberal and enlightened principles, but which, in legislating for Ireland and Irish Catholics has disgraced its statute book, and distorted its policy, by a system of intolerant an heartless restriction, by a succession of the most oppressive, morose, illiberal, cruel, and unwise enactments that have ever stained the most barbarous code of the most barbarous nation on earth.
In endeavouring, therefore, to discuss the great interests involved in such a question, I will not descend into trifling disquisitions on abstract points. They are too narrow, too little for legislative consi- 658 deration, compared with the gigantic objects that are at issue. This is not a question for retired scholars in their closets who may employ themselves in framing nice, and metaphysical distinctions about the limits of the temporal or spiritual power exercised by the head of the Catholic church, about the extent of obedience or the degree of submission claimed by ecclesiastics. Your lordships are called upon to look at the subject in a different spirit, and with a different purpose;—to regard it as one of legislation;—to reflect on what experience has established;—to consider what wisdom points out as necessary to be accomplished. Your lordships are called upon to remove those evils which in their operation weaken the public security, and diminish the public happiness. When I thus view the question as one of policy, illuminated by the light of history and experience, I own my astonishment at the doubts and difficulties which have entered such minds as I have seen labour under them. Instead, however, of attending to the considerations to which I have adverted, it seems to have been thought sufficient, by the opposers of Catholic concession, to exhibit some nice points of difficult explanation, to recur to some facts wholly irrelevant, to point out some remote cause of apprehension, or some minute appearance of danger.
In opposition to such a mode of thinking and acting, I conceive that we ought not to view a question on one side, and to anticipate inconvenience only from one quarter. In all measures of government and legislation difficulties and dangers must ever be balanced. We ought td pursue not that course which is entirely free from remote apprehensions and contingent evils (a course in almost every instance unattainable) but that course which seems attended with the fewest of them., If we are never to adopt any measure which has apparent justice and wisdom on its side, and positive good for its object, until it can be demonstrated that in the remote possibilities of events, in the unforeseen concatenation of causes, no evil can result from it except by a special appointment of Providence, or a suspension of the laws of nature, I know of no acts which a legislature can pass with safety; I know of no line of policy which on such grounds would not be liable to objection.
When noble lords are so alive to those 659 nice and subtle distinctions by which the possibility of such imaginable dangers is pointed out, is it possible that they can shut their eyes to the real dangers which for sixty years have threatened the country from the refusal of concession? My lords, I repeat that this is no subtle decision, no nice question, no abstract metaphysical inference;—it is a practical question, that comes home to the bosom of every man, of which the whole empire has seen and heard much; for the determination of which every one who feels for the prosperity of his country and wishes for its stability, is anxious. And this is the situation in which it is proposed to stop where we are! It is proposed, my lords, by the opponents of Catholic emancipation to remain where we are, unless we can show that it is not possible danger may arise from an endeavour to ameliorate our condition. In this situation we are destined to stand, not because it can be clearly shown that by such an endeavour our interests will be endangered; not because it can be pointed out by what power, by what means, from what quarter, at what time difficulties or evils are to result from it; but because your lordships are told by the noble earl opposite that the connexion between religion and the civil power—between church and state—has been long established, and ought to be finally maintained; for that it is essential to our security and happiness. To that proposition I readily assent. I hold that opinion as firmly as the opponents of the present measure; and it is because I hold it firmly and would, zealously support it that I conjure your lordships to look at the question in all its bearings, to grapple with it; and not to be deterred from legislating upon it, lest you may bring about evils, no man knows of what nature, and may shake our establishments, no man knows in what manner.
If I were asked how the decision of this question can endanger the tranquillity of the empire, or shake our establishments, I would answer—not by agreeing to concession, but by withholding concession; by irritating the feelings, by insulting the pride, and by calumniating the character of four or five millions of our fellow subjects; and thus uniting them against our intolerant principles and oppressive institutions. If, on the other hand, I were asked what were the means of confirming our religious institutions and perpetuating our establishments, I would reply, by 660 adopting a measure which would demonstrate the liberality of our principles, by admitting to an equal participation of civil privileges those who differ from us on religious grounds. Whatever our opinions may be respecting the doctrines of the Catholics, how different soever they may be to our own, it is our part to show the superior character of our constitution and our religion, and nothing can tend more effectually to do this than to prove the facility with which we are prepared to admit into a participation of the advantages of the one those from whom we essentially differ as to the doctrines of the other.
Nothing, my lords, can strengthen our empire more than a cordial union and conciliation with Ireland; nothing can more tend to our disadvantage than the belief that we can stop where we are; and that, without concession, we can arrest the growing evils in that country. Those evils, produced at first by intolerance, are strengthened and aggravated, and will be perpetuated by an obstinate adherence to illiberal restrictions. The noble earl has spoken of the danger of farther relaxation of these restrictions, but he has not specified whence this danger can arise: and for my part, my lords, I do not believe it ever can arise at all. If danger is the necessary consequence of concession, the concessions which have already been made have placed us in a situation of as great danger as could be produced by the admission to further privileges. All that is dangerous has been already granted. In the army, if there be any disposition on the part of the Catholics to rebel against the constitution, or to overthrow the establishment, they have already acquired the means of manifesting it; they may hold commissions below that of a general officer; and it is obvious that a colonel must enjoy much more influence over the minds of the soldiers of his regiment, than a general officer, who is less immediately connected with them. They may also be governors of fortresses and castles; and as such, would have greater means, in the event of military operations, of facilitating the designs of the enemy than a general in the field. The same observation is applicable to the navy; but I will not trouble your lordships by a detail of the various departments of service, in order to point out the admissions and the exclusions; and the impolicy of the latter in conjunction with the former. The bar likewise is open to the talents of the Catholics (although 661 the bench docs not offer them its honours), and I need hardly remark to your lordships that in a country deprived of its legislature the influence of the bar is proportionally increased. This has long been the case in Scotland, and will soon be the case in Ireland.
With respect to the legislature, ray lords, I confess that I cannot help considering the danger anticipated from the admission into parliament of a few Catholic noblemen and gentlemen as altogether visionary. Undoubtedly as the noble secretary had said, such an incorporation will no longer allow it to be called an exclusively Protestant parliament. But to apprehend danger from such a source—giving to the ground of that apprehension the fullest extent to which the most wild imagination can carry it—to suppose that the small number of Catholics that must of necessity be admitted could overcome the great majority of Protestants—is, in my opinion a most needless and chimerical fear. But a more distant and indistinct danger still is apprehended by the noble secretary, who asks "if the present grievance be removed will the Catholics be satisfied, will they make no farther demands, will there not remain that, in their opinion Still greater grievance of a large Catholic population and a Protestant establishment?" In return, I ask the noble earl, if the Catholics are disposed to proceed to the length which healludes, without obtaining any intermediate privileges will they be prevented by their refusal? Will the discontent occasioned by an ulterior want be lessened by a feeling of present oppression? Will irritation be allayed by increasing its causes—or the inclination to do mischief diminished by multiplying its excitements? The Catholics will not become less attached to the state by sharing its benefits, or less disposed to overturn its institutions by being excluded from them. In fact, the Catholics are as prone at present as they ever will be to ask for a distribution of the church funds and endowments in Ireland, with the additionally irritating consideration that they are wantonly, illiberally, and ungenerously excluded from civil privileges which they have an undoubted right to enjoy; parliament ought therefore to remove this additional irritation, and show the Catholics that Protestants can be liberal in concession while they are firm in the maintenance of their own rights; and thus demonstrate that the existence of a Protestant church is perfectly consistent 662 with the communication of civil privileges to those who are of a different religious communion. Let the evil be first removed for which there is no necessity; and a firmer position can afterwards betaken on indisputable ground.
This, my lords, may be considered a sufficient reply to the noble earl's apprehension. But I will go further. I contend, that by concession, we shall not only give the Catholics no advantage in their ulterior objects, but we shall deprive them of the wish to make any effort for the attainment of those objects, and interest them in the maintenance of the Protestant establishment. One of the greatest securities for that establishment will be, the incorporation of the leading Catholics in the great assemblies of the nation. I know no man so presumptuous as to attempt to answer the noble secretary's question, "Will things rest here?" directly in the affirmative. This will very much depend on the legislature. I cannot tell to what decision the prudence and wisdom of parliament may lead; but this I will not hesitate to say,—that I know no measure which can produce such beneficial effects as concession; nothing which can so certainly promote public tranquillity; nothing that can so surely guard against danger; nothing that can more effectually counteract a long train of impolicy and misgovernment. What is represented as dangerous by the noble earl, is in my mind the only means of safety. If there be one measure calculated above all others, to reestablish harmony in the empire, it is that which the noble earl characterizes as fraught with hazard to the constitution.—My lords, this is no new opinion of mine. I have long entertained it; and every thing that I see and hear, only serves to impress it more deeply on my mind, and to make me feel its truth with the greater force.—It is now about forty years since we began, to relax that intolerant and odious system of commercial, political, and religious restriction, which so long disgraced the legislature.
And here, my lords, I must observe, that there never was a grosser misrepresentation, than to identify that intolerant and persecuting system with the Revolution. History can boast of few greater men than William the 3rd,—tew to whom human nature is under greater obligations—few more disposed to support freedom, more wise in their plans, more successful in their undertakings. But if there was 663 one supereminent quality in that supereminent character, it was, that he was the first statesman in Europe, who entertained the principles of universal toleration. The whole tenour of his measures was directed by that liberal sentiment. It manifested itself in the whole course of his life and government. His example was admired, and his opinions were diffused throughout Europe; and I do indeed reckon it hard to ascribe the origin of one of the most bigotted, one of the most intolerant, and one of the most persecuting systems that ever disgraced any country, to one of the most liberal and enlightened princes of his own, or of any other age. The fact is, my lords, that although at the Revolution the Protestant religion was undoubtedly established, although the constitution was declared to be essentially Protestant, yet both our religion and our constitution, were founded on the firm basis of toleration and liberty. Intolerance followed.—And the opponents of Catholic concession it is, who make an obstinate resistance to every attempt at bringing back the policy of the country, to what it was at the revolution, when religious toleration was united with civil freedom.
My lords, I before observed that it is bow about forty years since the legislature began to remove the disabilities under which the Catholics of Ireland laboured. Since that period much has been done. I cannot subscribe to the censure which has been bestowed on the last of those concessions, in 1793. The principle of that measure was a sincere desire to do all that the state and condition of the country at that period, all that the prejudices of the people, all that the opinions and disposition of the Irish Parliament, allowed towards the completion of the great work. My lords, it will be a source of gratification and pride, at the close of my political life, to look back on the share which I had in that, the greatest stride that ever was made at one effort, towards accomplishing what I knew indeed that measure alone could not accomplish, but what I felt it was eminently calculated to accomplish—a final and complete toleration. There is one circumstance in the history of the Catholic concessions, which deserves to be particularly considered. Prom the first concession in 1777 down to 1782, and thence to 1793, they have all been made under circumstances of greater or less political difficulty. And though no one will say that it was an unwise or unfit policy, 664 when we were entangled with a civil war in America, or when we were menaced with a foreign war with France, to endeavour by conciliation and union, to strengthen our resources at home, yet it may have been suspected—most unjustly I readily admit—that those concessions were not the result of legislative wisdom, not the offspring of justice and liberality, not the consequences of an enlarged and comprehensive policy, embracing the general welfare of the whole empire, but a benefit extorted from us under the influence of apprehension and danger. As sinister motives are easily found for every thing, this observation has by some been considered applicable to every period, at which the question of Catholic emancipation has hitherto been agitated. But we have at length, my lords, arrived to a condition in which this objection loses its force. We have now reached a state of security and peace, when it cannot be insinuated, that whatever boon we may grant is extorted from our fear. We can be liberal and tolerant, without exposing ourselves to the suspicion that we are so from a sense of danger. In arriving at this situation of security, we have been eminently assisted by the people of Ireland. They have contributed largely their resources, they have shed their blood, they have withheld nothing from our assistance in times of great peril and exertion. If we now grant concession it will appear to proceed, not from a fear of danger, but from a stronger principle—the operation of affection, and I may even add, the influence of gratitude. We have now, my lords, the enviable opportunity of convincing the Catholics of Ireland, that our disposition to alleviate their grievances, does not merely rise with our difficulties, and sink with the return of our security. It is happy that we can now confer a favour without any mistake as to our motives. I cannot but regard it a blessed opportunity, which the current of human events has placed within our reach, of imparting a great and permanent benefit to those who cannot mis-apprehend our intentions—upon those who must know that what we do is done, first, because it is our duty, secondly, because it is our interest, and lastly, because the feelings of every good heart tell us that this is the proper time for discarding every petty jealousy, for obliterating the remembrance of former injuries, for allaying all existing discontents, and for consummating cordial con- 665 ciliation. We may now prove to Ireland, that we consider the interests of both countries to be inseparably blended together; and that, already united to her by geographical position, and by a common government, we wish to be still more closely attached by the sacred and indissoluble bonds of affection, and by the free and unreserved communication of equal laws and equal privileges.
§ Earl Bathurst
rose and said:—
I am at a loss, my lords, to conceive why we should go into a committee on this subject without having, in the first instance, settled certain principles on which we are to proceed. What advantages can be derived from a discussion in a committee which cannot equally be obtained from a debate in the House? My objection to the present motion, as on former occasions, is that no specific measures are proposed by the supporters of the Catholic claims. They merely ask for a committee, in order to try whether this system or that system, may not be adopted with benefit. If your lordships should agree to the motion, what will be the consequence? The committee will be reluctant to separate without doing something; because, when expectations are so powerfully excited, it is not pleasant wholly to disappoint them; and they will therefore be in danger of being shamed into a concurrence with some proposition, which, if distinctly described before-hand, they would not hesitate to reject. No practical good can possibly arise from such a proceeding.
My lords, I will not go at length into all the topics which must necessarily be embraced in the consideration of the present question. They have so frequently been discussed, that it would be quite unnecessary to do so. With regard to the Veto, however, I will observe that it was originally proposed by the supporters of the Catholic claims. Why? Unquestionably because there was some danger to be apprehended from which the Veto was to protect the Protestant interest. The Veto however has since been withdrawn by those who proposed it; but in doing so, they have not stated that, in their opinion, the dangers which originally required the Veto are diminished. Now, domestic nomination is the proposed security. But what reason is there to believe that this will not be as suddenly and as capriciously withdrawn as the other?
An allusion, my lords, has been made to Scotland; which, it is said, has been 666 permitted to enjoy its establishment while a similar favour has been denied to Ireland. But, independently of the consideration that that privilege was secured to Scotland by one of the articles of the union, I will say that a similar concession, cannot be made to Ireland, because the religion of the great majority of the inhabitants of Ireland is Catholic. It is impossible to deal with that religion in the same manner as we may deal with any sect of Protestant dissenters. The Catholic religion is in its nature hostile to the doctrines and practices of the reformed church—that church which is the keystone that binds the arch of our Protestant institutions, and gives to them the whole of their solidity and strength. Admitting, however, that there was nothing in the Roman Catholic religion to prevent the legislature from treating it differently from the sects of dissenters from the church of England, it has been asked whether it is not fit and proper to grant the Catholics certain concessions, and thereby put an end to that bond of union which now distinguishes them, in hostility to the Protestants? But, my lords, if the Catholics, entertain ulterior designs, injurious to the safety of the state, and of the Protestant establishment, the bond of union will still exist, and the addition of power which it is proposed to give will but render it more formidable. If further concession could safely be made, and if it were likely to establish harmony and tranquillity, I, for one, my lords, would not oppose it; but the experience of former concessions does not warrant such a presumption, nor am I willing to endanger the safety of the constitution for a distant and doubtful advantage.
My noble friend has asked, if we can stand where we are. To this I answer, yes. I think I can stand, because I have stood; and I do not choose to go from the spot where I can and do stand, until you can prove to me that the spot to which you recommend me to move is quite as good as that which you ask me to leave. But I confess that I think, if my noble friend could prove that we cannot stand where we are, he would prove too much. If the concessions to the Catholics are so dovetailed into one another, that they must go together—that we must either repeal the; part or go on further, I again ask when and where are we to stop? We must proceed upon a principle of wide and unlimited toleration indeed. Are your lordships prepared to place the Catholics of 667 Ireland on a better footing than the Protestant dissenters in this country? Are you willing—have you made your minds up to the repeal of the test acts? Without going that length all the rest will amount to little or nothing. If you are not disposed to do all this, my lords, allow me to recommend to you to pause before you move at all. These are the grounds on which I feel it my duty to resist the present application. I am not prepared, by my vote this night, to give notice to quit my present tenement, until I am sure of having another House over my head. I am not prepared, and I trust few of your lordships are prepared, for this fundamental change; lest it should shake the foundations of the establishment in church and state. I am disposed to look with gratitude to the Reformation. I do not mean to the bloody and licentious reign in which that blessing originated, but to the mild and solid virtues of the succeeding monarch, and to the efforts of those erudite and distinguished men who were patronized by him, and who, happily for these highly-favoured realms, placed our church on a rock, from which I hope in God it may never be displaced.
§ Earl Grey
rose and said:—
My lords;—Completely anticipated as I have been in every thing which I can wish to express on the present subject, exhausted as it has been by my noble friends and the noble earl opposite, I feel that some apology is necessary to your lordships for troubling you with any superfluous observations; and yet I feel that I cannot reconcile myself to give a silent vote on this great and animating question, in support of which I have always cherished the utmost interest and zeal. These observations, however, shall be but few; merely to serve as a record of my earnestness in a cause, resting, in my opinion, on the principles, not only of the soundest justice, but also of the soundest policy. My lords, the omission of some things in this night's debate has given me considerable satisfaction. Your lordships have not to-night been wearied out with a recapitulation of the objectionable tenets of the Catholic religion. We have not heard that monstrous charge urged against the Catholics that their doctrines exempt them from the obligation of keeping faith with heretics. This, together with other assertions as monstrous, which on other I occasions formed so considerable a portion of the objections against granting the Ca- 668 tholics the privileges and immunities for which they seek, we have been saved the pain of hearing.
But though I have not again heard those often-repeated calumnies, which I hope are now for ever consigned to merited oblivion, I have felt much astonishment and pain at the course of argument which fins been pursued by the noble earl opposite, and by a right reverend prelate who preceded him in the debate. It has, for the first time, been asserted by that noble earl and that right reverend prelate, that the Protestant religion cannot exist in this country as an establishment, if we admit a complete toleration of the Catholic faith. What! is it at this period of general information and general reasoning habits that a British House of Peers is to sanction the monstrous idea that the Protestant religion is not such a religion as may with safety grant to the Catholic body that participation of power which a Catholic government has thought it expedient to grant to a Protestant body under similar circumstances! what! shall we listen with any degree of patience to the allegation that although a Catholic state may grant complete toleration—nay, more, an equality of rights and privileges to the Protestant, we cannot, from the nature of our religion, act with as much generosity to the Catholic! It is related of the great duke of Guise, in the time of the religious disputes in France, under the reign of the cruellest enemy of the reformed church, that when his assassin was brought before him, he addressed him in these words: "Mark now the difference between your religion and mine,—your's inculcates assassination as a duty, mine teaches me to forgive." A sentiment in itself so noble, that one of our most celebrated dramatic poets has adopted it, and introduced it into the tragedy of Tamerlane:Now, learn the difference 'twixt thy faith and mine:Thine bids thee lift thy dagger to my throat;Mine can forgive the wrong, and bid thee live.Such, my lords, I have been accustomed to think, is the language which the followers of the Protestant religion are entitled to hold towards the more bigotted adherents of the Catholic faith; but if the opinions of the noble earl and the right reverend prelate are well-founded, I am mistaken, and the reformed church of England is as intolerant and persecuting 669 in its spirit as the church of Rome ever was.
The noble earl who last addressed your lordships asked you, why you would go into a committee before any specific measure had been proposed? To this I answer, that it is the usage of parliament to go into a committee on all matters of high importance, on the general allegation of great grievances which require great remedies. Surely there is no man who does not think that the exclusion under which the Catholics labour is to them a great grievance. In my judgment, not one of your lordships can conscientiously vote against my noble friend's motion, who is not prepared to declare that there is nothing in the present state of the penal laws as affecting Ireland which requires alteration. Is it necessary to recapitulate those enactments, which must ever be considered, while they remain in it, the disgrace of our statute book? A right reverend prelate, indeed, has said that he, forsooth, is quite satisfied that the Catholics shall enjoy merely those privileges which have already been allowed them. But I, my lords, can never be satisfied while any individual in a free country remains cut off from his right—capacity of civil power. This should be open to all subjects of the realm, indiscriminately; any exclusion from it, if not justified by some imperious state necessity, if not demanded by some positive danger, is unjust, is irreconcilable with any principles of equity. What is the answer to this argument? That the constitution of this country being essentially Protestant, no concession can be granted to the Catholics without subverting the fabric. My lords, this is not the way in which I have read the constitution. Sure I am that the great monarch under whom the laws on which so much stress is now laid were introduced, and who has been so justly panegyrized by my noble friend, was disposed to the greatest toleration; and that if he did not carry his principles into full effect and practice it was not his fault, but was attributable to the spirit of the times, and to the state necessity of opposing a family, struggling for the Crown. That danger has ceased, and the laws referring to it should cease also.—What has been adduced from Mr. Locke, as authority for the continuance of the exclusion of Catholics from the full benefit of the constitution is no longer applicable. The great point of objection with Mr. Locke, was, 670 that as the Catholics were, by their religious tenets, bound in allegiance to, and closely connected with the family of the Stuarts, who were contending for the throne, they could not be considered stable or firm adherents to a Protestant monarch or a Protestant government. This bugbear no longer exists; and in this point of view, there is no reason to suspect that a Catholic is not a true and liege subject to the family now on the throne. No danger now remains that is not too indistinct to be named or defined. At least none has been stated. I beg pardon of the noble earl opposite. He has stated one danger, but it is of a nature somewhat unsubstantial; although he earnestly called your lordships attention to it. This danger, which so powerfully excites the apprehension of the noble earl is that if the Catholics shall be admitted into a full participation of all the privileges of the British constitution, the parliament of this country can no longer be called exclusively a Protestant parliament. The noble earl foresees the greatest peril from the loss of that distinctive appellation. Is parliament now, in fact, exclusively Protestant? Are not many of the Protestant members returned by Catholic constituents; and must they not be considered as sitting in the House of Commons to represent Catholic interests? Really, my lords, this is the first time that I have heard the name of a thing prized beyond the substance. I have heard and known that the forms of a free government sometimes survive when the substance is gone; but I have never heard that when the liberties of a country have sunk under a military despotism, those who have thus fallen into the lowest and last stage of national degradation, resulting from the loss of rights, influence, and authority of which they had once reason to be proud, ought to consider it a source of consolation, in the midst of their distressing recollections, that they still retain the names, forms, and symbols of that liberty and happiness which they originally possessed. The mere name, my lords, is but an insult, when the reality is no more. Yet the noble earl argues in this manner: he thinks that though the parliament would be substantially the same—substantially Protestant, yet that great danger is to be apprehended if two or three Catholic representatives should be admitted into the other House, and two or three Catholic peers restored to their hereditary seats in this 671 House, which were filled by their ancestors with such glory to themselves and to their country.
And what is the danger of admitting these individuals to the enjoyment of their ancient rights? Why, that the name of an exclusively Protestant parliament will be done away, and with the name, according to the argument of the noble earl, that the securities of the Protestant establishment will go likewise! Surely never did the wit of man devise a danger more futile and imaginary than this! What! after the concessions made to the Catholic community in 1777, 1778, and 1793, could your lordships expect that this ground of objection to the motion would be taken up by the noble earl? After we have gone so far in removing the disabilities of the Roman Catholics, I cannot conceive either the justice or the policy of stopping where we are. My lords, I am satisfied that the established religion of this country is the best religion in the world;—as such I wish it to be supported by the most efficacious means. These means consist, in my idea, in liberality to the professors of other religious tenets. A departure from this principle in Ireland is the more inexcusable; as the great majority of the inhabitants of that country are not of the established religion. How does it come to pass that the noble lords opposite appear no less alarmed at the present application when securities are offered to them for the church and state than they were at the same proposal when no such securities were offered? If, as the noble earl has said, it be still necessary to keep the Catholics out of certain high offices in the state, why has not the noble earl proposed some other concession? Why has he not proposed an exemption from tithes? No—nothing like liberality must it seems take place;—no relaxation of the rein;—like a proscribed cast, the Catholics are to be compelled to labour for others in whose privileges they have no participation; besides which they have the burthen of their own clergy thrown upon themselves alone. If there are inevitable grievances, it would at least become his majesty's government to remedy those which may be avoided. The only tenable ground of exclusion was that which might have been maintained before the first partial concessions in 1777 and 1778. But, some of the offices so earnestly sought for by the Catholics having then been granted them, only more strongly excites their discon- 672 tent and resentment at the withholding of the remainder. For instance, in the army, what can be more absurd than to admit a Roman Catholic to the rank of colonel, but restrict him from ever becoming a general; although, in many cases, from the necessity of the service, we give him the command and authority of a general? This I believe actually occurred in the field of Waterloo, and from the accidents of war it must perpetually happen. I will suppose that at Waterloo, where it is impossible for me not to feel, in common with most of my grateful countrymen, that the Catholic amply contributed his talents and his blood to our triumph in that fiery trial, all the superior officers had fallen, and that a Catholic colonel, who might chance to be the highest on the list, had assumed the command, would such an assumption have been considered a breach of duty either by his royal highness the commander in chief, or by your lordships, or by the nation at large?
This shows one of the absurdities connected with the present system. With respect to the profession of the law, the system of exclusion is equally impolitic and dangerous. The Roman Catholic lawyer, whatever may be his abilities or learning, is not only precluded from sitting on the bench, but is not even admissible to the situation of king's counsel. The effect of this is that we actually give him a retaining fee against the Crown, and we throw into his hands the means of making the discontents of the people most formidable to government. On such a system, my lords, it is impossible to rest. The hand or arm is furnished with effective vigour while the body remains paralyzed. Thus are the words of an accurate judge of human nature fulfilled—Nulli comes cxeo.This makes the limitations and restrictions on that patient and exemplary class of his majesty's subjects the more distressing.
I feel, my lords, that at this late hour I am trespassing too long on your lordships attention, but I am anxious to explain the reasons on which I ground my vote; The noble earl who last addressed your lordships says, that if we agree to my noble friend's motion, we must also repeal the test laws. Be it so. So far am I from thinking that any evil would arise from the repeal of those laws, that I am persuaded their repeal would be materially beneficial to the country. Can it be 673 impolitic to repeal the test laws when the dissenters of all classes have so nobly sustained the British empire at the most critical and trying moment of its fate? It would be to impose a stigma which they do not deserve. Unquestionably, it will be also extremely beneficial to admit that most respectable body, the English Catholics, to a full participation in every civil, naval, and military privilege. If the expediency of the restrictions on the Catholics in this country be grounded on the spiritual allegiance of the Catholic clergy to the pope, that is applicable to the French clergy; for the French clergy acknowledge spiritual allegiance to the pope. But, has it ever appeared in the history of France, that the French people and the French church have not supported their own independence, and the authority of their kings, against all external influence whatever? Has their spiritual adherence to the pope ever prevented the French clergy from adhering to their government in civil matters, when opposed to him? Unless therefore it can be proved that there exists some extraordinary difference in the doctrines of the professors of the Catholic religion in the two countries, I say that this affords a powerful argument for the desired concession.
With respect to the declaration published by the archbishop of Mechlin, at Brussels, I wish, my lords, to be permitted to make a few observations; first, it is to be remembered, that by a treaty concluded in this country, and signed by the British minister, our consent was given to the union of the Netherlands to Holland; as the means of strengthening Holland. It is a principle of our religion to which I am sure none of the right rev. prelates opposite will object—"that we should do unto our neighbours, as we would they should do unto us." If therefore, we felt it our duty to add to the Protestant government of Holland, which may correctly be termed the strong bulwark of the Protestant religion on the continent, a population of Papists, as the inhabitants of the Netherlands confessedly are; and if we consented to the guarantee described in the declaration of the archbishop of Mechlin—namely, that no alteration should be made in the church establishment in the Netherlands; that equal protection and favour should be extended to every sect, and that all parties in the state should be equally eligible to every place of trust, honour, and emolument,—if, as I have ob- 674 observed, all this was done with a view to strengthen our natural ally on the continent, shall I be told, my lords, of the policy, nay necessity of excluding Catholics in this country from those situations and privileges, the attainment of which is the prayer of the petition on your lordships table? The treaty, uniting Holland and the Netherlands, was framed upon the soundest principles of policy; and was sanctioned and approved by the British government. There then is a Roman Catholic state united to a Protestant state, and all the individuals of both rendered eligible to every office whatever. If this practice was good with respect to Holland—if it was safe with respect to Holland, I am utterly unable to comprehend why a similar proceeding would not be good, would not be safe, in this country; I am utterly unable to comprehend why the Irish and the English Catholic may not be bound more firmly to the interests of the state, by granting them the longearned meed of their patience and deserts.
Many other observations I should have thought it my duty to make, but for the lateness of the hour at which I rose to address your lordships. I am sensible that in what I have stated I have added nothing to the strength of the arguments which have been so ably urged by my noble friends, and the noble earl opposite; but I have enjoyed the satisfaction of once more raising my voice in parliament against the continuance of a system of restrictions discreditable to the nature of our government, to the character of our country, and to the doctrines of our religion—a system impolitic in principle, unjustifiable in practice, diminishing the real tranquillity and welfare of the nation, instead of adding to its security and establishing its peace; and pregnant with dangers which are aggravated by the appalling circumstances of the calamitous period at which the boon is solicited.
The Lord Chancellor
My Lords:—I cannot agree with the noble earl who has just sat down, that any argument can be drawn from the circumstances attendant on the recent union of the Netherlands to Holland, in favour of the emancipation of the Catholics of Ireland. In the treaty to which the noble earl has referred, the general extension of civil privileges to the inhabitants of the Netherlands, was allowed, because the government of that country was Catholic.—The claims now put forth by the Catholics 675 of Ireland, would, if granted, necessarily lead to the abrogation of all those guards and securities which render our constitution essentially a Protestant constitution; and such has been the anticipation of the noble earl. I therefore oppose the motion, being convinced that the conceding of the Catholic claims would be productive of the ultimate subversion of all our establishments.
My lords, it is a fundamental principle of our constitution, that the king is the supreme head of the church, as well as of the state. I will pass over the time of Henry 8th, when the king's supremacy was declared. I will pass over the statute of the 1st of Elizabeth, when it was again established; and I call on your lordships to remember how distinctly this principle of the king's supremacy was recognized at the Revolution; and how unequivocally it was proclaimed that the government and constitution of this country are essentially Protestant. Much, my lords, of the argument of this night has been founded on the opinions of Locke. I will venture to say, that no man in the world was ever more decidedly hostile to the Catholic claims. That eminent writer has positively declared, that according to the Romish creed, faith is not to be kept with heretics; that the Catholics pronounce all those who are not of their own communion heretics, and that they claim the power of excommunicating kings; and therefore that he thought they ought not to be admitted into power, as they had thus delivered themselves over to the dominion of a foreign prince. Such were the sentiments of Mr. Locke, and although I should be sorry to entertain to the full extent the opinion of the Catholics of the present day, that Mr. Locke; did of the Catholics of his day, yet I must say, in contravention of the statement of a right reverend prelate, whom I shall ever respect, that by Mr. Locke, the admission of Catholics to every civil privilege was held to be highly dangerous.
I hope I may be permitted to remind your lordships that we are now debating what we shall do between Protestants and Catholics, under the obligation to which we have come to maintain the Protestant constitution of England. The security of this constitution has been provided for by many laws, which appear to me to be founded in true wisdom. The very first act of king William's reign, was an act requiring every person who came into par- 676 liament, to declare against transubstantiation. It was for the prevention of the admission of Catholics into parliament, that that act was passed. No man living can read the bill of rights, without seeing that the civil and religious institutions of the country were framed to support each other. The preamble of that bill expressly states, that the late king James had endeavoured to subvert the Protestant religion; and therefore, that certain persons had sent for king William. For what? Not merely to secure their civil liberties, but to preserve their religion. These persons tendered the crown to king William, as a crown to be worn by a Protestant, and a Protestant only; and it was positively declared, that in case the Crown should devolve on a person professing the Roman Catholic religion, he should be considered as ipso facto dead, and the Crown should be placed on the head of the next Protestant heir to it. It is utterly impossible that any man can read the Bill of Rights, without feeling that the unrestrained toleration of popery is inconsistent with the principles of the British constitution. I ask your lordships to read the oath of supremacy, established at the same time; and you will find it distinctly asserted in that oath, that no foreign prince is to have any jurisdiction, civil or religious, within this realm. Again, if your lordships read the oath of a privy counsellor, you will find that it denies the authority, both civil and ecclesiastical, of all foreign prelates whatever.
As to myself, my lords, I have long entertained an opinion utterly inconsistent with the sentiments of those who suppose that our constitution need no longer be guarded by those tests which have hitherto formed its security. I must say that according to my reason and apprehension, the propositions that your lordships have this night heard go to the destruction of all the necessary safeguards of our establishment. By the constitution his majesty forfeits the Crown in the event of his becoming a Catholic. If Catholics are to be admitted to all the civil offices of the state, I ask how, the king not being a Catholic, he can in many respects be conscientiously advised by popish ministers. My lords, I such a change will render it necessary to I alter the form of the summonses to this House; as it is the duty of this House occasionally to advise his majesty on the throne. The Roman Catholics who are admitted into parliament and into civil 677 power must undertake to support that which it is against their conscience to supports Our ancestors, my lords, at the time of the Revolution, made it their business effectually to secure the nation against the recurrence of popery, and the constitution which they bequeathed to us it is our bounden duty to transmit unimpaired to posterity. To the principles of a free government the principles of the Roman Catholic religion are decidedly hostile. The writers—Milton, Temple, Somers have declared this. King William himself has recorded this as his opinion. James the second was deprived of his crown because he attempted to introduce the Catholic religion into the state. Are we to overturn all that our ancestors have done on this subject? What will the nation say to such a proceeding? What will the Protestant part of the people say? I must take the liberty to observe that I cannot accept or understand the explanation which it has been attempted to give of the nature of the motion. It is not, in fact, what it professes to be, a mere motion for a committee. My lords, it would be much the more candid proposition to move at once for a bill for the emancipation of the Catholics from every civil disability under which they now labour. If the committee into which we are to go does not end in such a bill it will not serve the purpose of those who ask for it; and if it does then the direct motion will save so much time and trouble. But, my lords, as in my understanding of the constitution any such proposition, direct or indirect, militates against the civil and religious liberties of the state, and against every security to the Protestant establishment for which our ancestors so gloriously struggled, I feel it a most solemn duty to oppose the noble lord's motion.
The Bishop of Norwich,
in explanation, said;—The learned lord called upon me with an air of triumph, which, considering that he had obtained no victory, is rather premature. It is very easy to turn to the index of a large folio; and thus, as Mr. Pope says "To catch the eel of science by the tail." With the aid of a detached passage, unconnected with what has gone before, or follows after, almost any thing may be proved from almost any book. The leading principle of Mr. Locke's Letters on Toleration is, that no man should suffer in his civil privileges, because he is not a member of the established church; and bishop Hoadly expressly declares, that 678 whenever the Catholics give satisfactory proofs of civil allegiance, he shall rejoice to assist in knocking off their chains.
§ The House then divided upon lord Donoughmore's motion, when the numbers were:—
|Majority against the motion||52|
|List of the Majority and Minority.|
|Radnor||Dudley & Ward|
|Balcarras||Bath and Wells|
|Harrington||Saye and Sele|