HL Deb 22 March 1819 vol 39 cc0-1113
The Marquis of Downshire

presented the petition of the Protestants of the city of Dublin, and also another petition from the Protestant nobility, gentry, freeholders, ? resident in Ireland, in favour of the Roman Catholic claims. The noble marquis said, that the petitions were most numerously and respectably signed. The resident Protestant population thus came forward to solieit relief for their Roman Catholic brethren. Having been present when the petitions were agreed to, and at several other meetings which had the same object In view, be was convinced that it was far from the wish of the parties to promote any angry discussion. Catholics and Protestants appeared to him to be equally animated by a conciliatory spirit. He must also observe, that looking at the general state of the country, at the situation of our foreign relations, at the state of the Papal see, and the temper of the Catholics themselves, he thought no fitter time could be chosen for calling their lordships attention to the subject of the petitions he had submitted to their consideration. He sincerely believed that the Catholics were as well disposed as any other body of men in his majesty's dominions possibly could be to the British constitution and form of government. By the wisdom of parliament, many franchises of which they had been deprived were re-stored, and he trusted that those which were still necessary to place them on a footing with their Protestant brethren would be conceded to them. The spirit which animated the Catholic body was proved by a resolution passed at a late meeting, in which they expressed their determination to rely on the justice of parliament, to continue to be guided by a spirit of conciliation, to avoid feuds, and to promote education upon the most liberal principles.

The Earl of Enniskillen

could not consider the petition as coming from the great body of the Protestant interest of Ireland. The names of many of the principal Protestant landholders did not appear as subscribers. Not a single landholder in the county in which he lived, one of the most Protestant counties in Ireland, had signed it. He should probably soon have occasion to present a counter-petition.

The Marquis of Lansdowne

not having signed the petition of the Protestant landholders, considered himself called upon, in consequence of what had fallen from the noble earl, to state that he was one of a great number of landed proprietors not residing in Ireland who fully participated in the sentiments of that petition. He would have readily signed the petition, had it been thought proper for him so to do, as a non-resident proprietor. If any body of petitioners ever were, entitled to respect, it was those who had signed this petition—men who came not to claim any privilege, but to pray that others might be relieved from disabilities, the existence of which might, upon a narrow view of the question, be regarded as advantageous to themselves. The petitions were signed by the great body of the Protestant landed proprietors, and also by the most eminent merchants of that city, emphatically styled the Protestant city. In that city the memory of William 3rd, that truly Protestant monarch, was held in the highest veneration. Yet, consistently with that veneration, the inhabitants of that city came before their lordships to ask as a boon the removal of the disabilities under which their Catholic brethren labour. Surely they formed a body of persons well qualified to judge whether the measure they called for was one which could be adopted with safety. They came before their lordships, to give evidence that their neighbours, though professing a different faith, were, in their opinion, worthy of being invested with the same political rights as themselves. They prayed that their countrymen should not continue to be the only Catholics in the civilized world excluded from their rights. If there was any foundation for alarm on this subject, it was among those who had signed the petition that that alarm might be expected to be found. If there were any persons who still seriously believed that the admission of a limited number of Roman Catholics to seats in the two branches of the legislature, and to a limited number of civil and military places, to be given at the discretion of a Protestant government, would threaten the establishments of this country in church and state, those persons must acknowledge, that it was upon the petitioners the first danger would fall. They were the persons who must stand in the front of the battle, and encounter its greatest dangers. Yet, with that sharp-sighted view to their own interests which any apprehensions as to the risk of life and property infallibly gave, they had signed this petition. No petitioners were ever more entitled to be heard with attention by their lordships.

The Marquis of Buckingham

said, that he also would have signed the petition, had it been within the scope of the petitioners to have the signatures of landed proprietors who were not resident in Ireland. He hailed the petition with the greatest satisfaction, considering it as a great step gained in behalf of that liberal spirit of conciliation, which it was so eminently desirable should be extended to our Catholic fellow-subjects

The Earl of Darnley

expressed his satisfaction at the manner in which the spirit of conciliation which animated the Protestants had been met by the Catholics, and hoped that their demands, for which justice, humanity, and policy equally pleaded, would be granted,

Ordered to lie on the table.