The Marquis of Lansdown
rose, to move the second reading of the two bills which he had introduced for the relief of his majesty's Roman Catholic Subjects in England. However sensibly he might feel the difficulty of the task he had undertaken, he knew that he might rely on the indulgence of their lordships. He must also observe, that he viewed the circumstances under which he now brought for- 818 ward the measures he proposed for their lordships' adoption, as presenting a very favourable omen. He had the satisfaction on the same night on which he proposed to remove the disqualifications under which English Catholics laboured, to see an act of injustice which had been done to a Roman Catholic family reversed. That act of glaring injustice, their lordships knew had been committed by a Protestant parliament; and it was an act, every recollection of which he could wish to be for ever obliterated. In bringing forward the measures which he felt it to be his duty to recommend, he did not wish to address himself to those who might be disposed to indulge in feelings of hostility to all doctrines which they did not themselves profess—who would resist every concession, every act of justice, not because it was dangerous, but because it was to be exercised in favour of persons of a different faith from their own. To persons who indulged in such feelings he should address no arguments, because no arguments could have any weight with them. He should rest his case upon one single ground. What he meant to establish by his argument was simply this—that every individual, whatever were his opinions, was entitled to every privilege enjoyed by other subjects, unless it could be shown that the giving him such privileges would be contrary to the safety of the state. But, when the granting of such privileges could be proved to be perfectly reconcileable with the public interests, then it became more especially the duty of their lordships to take care that they were not withheld. Having said thus much, he should proceed to explain the nature of the measures he had introduced. The two bills had one common object; namely to place as nearly as possible the Roman Catholics of England on the same footing, with respect to privileges, as those of the same faith, who formed the great majority of the population in a principal part of the united kingdom. This was his general object; he said general object, because there were some exceptions, the most material of which related to one particular office. That office be had thought it proper to except, because there existed no parallel to it in Ireland. When, with the common concurrence of all parties, their lordships were legislating for the purpose of assimilating the laws of every division of the united kingdom—when they were desirous of extending the bles- 819 sings of trial by jury to every part of the country—when it appeared to be thought desirable to place all his majesty's subjects in the same condition, it was difficult for him to conceive what distinction could be drawn with respect to the principle of these bills, the sole object of which was to entitle his majesty's subjects to enjoy in one part of the country what they already enjoyed in another. He did not wish, however, to give to this argument more weight than was fairly its due. He did not mean to say that there might not be cases of anomaly which would call upon their lordships to pause before they enacted for one part of the country, the same laws that subsisted in another. But, in the present case, so far from its being possible for those who were opposed to the measures he had introduced to derive any advantage from the existing anomalies, it was, on the contrary, evident that, as far as any differences could be traced, they only served more decidedly to prove the justice of the claim of the English Catholics to the proposed relief. He desired their lordships to look carefully at what was proposed to be enacted by the bills, and he begged leave, in the first place, to call their attention more particularly to the one which had for its object the giving to the Roman Catholics of England the elective franchise. Twenty years had elapsed since the enjoyment of the elective franchise had been conceded to the Roman Catholics of Ireland; and it was extremely difficult to discover any thing like a reason for still withholding it from the English Catholics. The objection surely could not be founded on the amount of property: or, was it the poverty of the great mass of the Irish population to be ascribed to the effect of the elective franchise? This their lordships well knew, was not the cause; which was, on the contrary, to be found in the minute subdivision of the land among a great multitude of occupiers. Without going the length of a noble lord on the subject of the amount of the property possessed by Catholics in Ireland, it was impossible not to admit, that the Catholic population of that country were greatly deficient in property; though not to the extent at which that deficiency had been stated. This objection, however, could in no way apply to the Catholics of England; who, on the ground of property, were in general as well qualified to vote as any of his majesty's subjects. The bill could not be 820 opposed under the apprehension of the Roman Catholics acquiring too great an influence in elections. Their small number in this country, as well as the example of the general result of elections in Ireland rendered all apprehension on that score superfluous. There were instances in Ireland, of Catholic proprietors recommending persons for election, but without their being able to procure any return favourable to their wishes. But, it was not always persons supposed to be friends of the questions in which the Catholics were particularly interested whom they supported. There were instances of Catholic proprietors coming forward on the hustings, and recommending the return of persons hostile to their claims; No evil ad been experienced from the state of the law in Ireland; and he would be glad to know what mischief could be apprehended from the exercise of the elective franchise by English Catholics? What advantage was expected to be derived by excluding such men as sir John Throckmorton and sir Thomas Gage from the elective franchise enjoyed by other subjects—by making them retire from the hustings, without availing themselves of a privilege which any Irish peasant was permitted to exercise? He thought he had said enough to induce their lordships to give their assent to the measure, more particularly when their lordships considered, that they were communicating those privileges that were already enjoyed by persons in a part of the empire where they could act in bodies, to persons in a part of the empire where they could not so act; that these privileges were already enjoyed where the persons in the enjoyment of them were more likely to be influenced dangerously, than that class of his majesty's subjects to whom it was proposed to extend them.—So much for the bill relative to the elective franchise. The next bill was, to enable Catholics in England to hold civil offices. With respect to this bill, also, he would observe, that it would only operate to throw open privileges already enjoyed by a great proportion of his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. It would appear sufficiently absurd, when it was stated, that on one side of the channel various offices of the revenue were filled by persons of a certain religious persuasion, whilst, on the other side, other individuals equally respectable, and equally competent, and of the same religious persuasion, should not 821 be able even to issue a permit, though the public convenience alike demanded that such petty offices should be open in all parts of the empire. If it were feared that tobacco and sugar would be infected by their principles, or that spirits would be instilled with heresy, he could assure the House that they had no security against it, for the heads of the Excise department might infect the whole kingdom by an importation of Irish Catholic Excise officers. But, this was not all. Their lordships would be surprised to learn, and perhaps the learned lord on the woolsack might himself be unacquainted with it—that one of those valuable securities for the church and State, one of the acts of Charles 2nd, was actually suspended. That act directed, that no person should be allowed to meddle with the Excise, the Protestant Excise, without having previously taken the oath of supremacy; yet some department of government, in contravention of that act, had issued an order so monstrous as to admit of persons being so employed without taking the oath of supremacy.—As to the justice of the case, he could not bring himself to understand that, at this tranquil era, any thing like danger or inconvenience could be apprehended from the limited number of justices of the peace of the Roman Catholic persuasion, who would probably be admitted into the commission of the peace in this country, seeing that the same privileges were conferred in Ireland, where it was likely that religious feeling might operate; yet there they acted with the greatest benefit to the public. In the committee for inquiring into the state of Ireland, of which he was a member, he had put a question to one of the witnesses who had been employed as inspector-general of police in Ireland. He had previously stated, that a great number of special constables and policemen were Roman Catholics; in answer to a question he stated, that he had never observed a single instance of any one being influenced in his conduct by being a Roman Catholic. He answered nearly in the same terms as to the Roman Catholics who were magistrates. Their lordships would observe, that they had not only no reason to believe that any danger would result, but had positive proof of the great benefit and convenience which had been derived from the employment of these persons.—He had now gone over the different descriptions of offices which Ro- 822 man Catholics might fill in one part of the united kingdom; but he had still to advert to one provision in the bill now before the House, relative to an office without a parallel in Ireland. He alluded to the office of earl marshal of England, held, or rather claimed, by the duke of Norfolk. Their lordships might know, that of the many honours which, in the lapse of centuries, had gathered round the illustrious House of Howard, the office of earl marshal of England was one which had been granted by Charles 2nd, and though there were no such words in that patent, yet in other patents of the same reign, to the same noble person, it was stated, that it was for great services performed for a Protestant sovereign. He would ask whether there could be any possible danger to the constitution of the country, by the personal exercise of this office by the duke of Norfolk? He (the marquis) had consulted a legal opinion on the subject, and it was held, that if the duke of Norfolk were to serve this office in person he would be guilty of a high misdemeanor. In deference to that opinion, he had introduced this clause into the bill; the more especially, as he knew that the illustrious person whom it relieved, was unwilling to ask for any privilege affecting himself, unconnected with advantage to the rest of his Catholic fellow-subjects. With this exception, nothing was conceded in these bills, that was not already granted—and granted with great utility—to the Catholics of Ireland. In conclusion, he wished to impress upon their lordships the duty by which they were bound to extend, as far as possible, the benefits of the constitution. It was for them to consider whether there was danger in admitting the English Roman Catholics to the enjoyment of those rights, and whether they would not be justified in establishing that uniformity which it was the genius of this constitution to encourage? In determining this question they should not permit themselves to be misled by petty and imaginary apprehensions. They should remember that they had a numerous active and powerful population, who held that particular faith, and reflect upon the impression which the rejection of these bills was likely to make on that population. He would not undertake to say, what lesson it would teach them; but he would say, what lesson it would not teach them—it would not teach them, that obedience to the law and allegiance to 823 the Sovereign were more certain to establish them finally in the possession of those advantages than reliance upon force and numbers. For these reasons, he should move, that these bills be now read a second time.
§ Lord Colchester
My lords; upon the two bills which the noble marquis has this day brought under your consideration, and which, for the convenience of the House, he has explained and discussed conjointly, I am desirous to state, very briefly, my reasons for the vote which I shall give.
We cannot but observe, that the course taken in this and a former year for bringing forward the claims of his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects to a larger share of political consideration and power has been materially changed from that which was pursued at an earlier period of these discussions. It is no longer an endeavour to reach the highest objects of their ambition by one great effort; but having failed in that attempt, they now adopt the slower method of approach, beginning from the inferior steps, and ascending from thence to the more important and commanding situations; a course altogether more convenient indeed to both sides, so far as it places each claim more distinctly in view, and shows better what it may possibly be safe to grant, and what it is most important to resist.
Upon the many occasions when this subject has been debated in either House of parliament, I have repeatedly declared, for my own part, that I should be at all times desirous of granting to the Roman Catholics a full admission to all situations of emolument or honour short of those which confer any civil or political power, authority, or jurisdiction in our Protestant. State. And I am now prepared to show how far, according to the same principle, I can or cannot agree to the several measures proposed in these two bills; in doing which I shall, however, take the liberty of inverting the order in which the noble marquis has treated the same topics.
In the first place, I should most readily concur in receiving any proposition for restoring to the illustrious House of Norfolk, the full exercise and enjoyment of their hereditary office of Earl Marshal; that office having long since lost its ancient "powers, and retaining now no other attributes than those of dignity, rank, and honour. But, I think also, that such a measure, which is of an insulated and 824 personal character, should be made the subject of a separate bill, for discussion, according to the ordinary course of parliamentary proceedings.
With respect to the admission of Roman Catholics to employment in all services connected with the public revenue in its various branches, this evidently is a distinct consideration, and has no connexion whatever with the propositions which precede or follow it. But however much I might be disposed towards such a concession, it is impossible for me to make it now, and in this way, for this plain reason, that it would put the Roman Catholic dissenters upon a better footing than the Protestant dissenters; and both classes must therefore be left to the usual protection of an Annual Indemnity; for I am persuaded that neither this House nor the country at large, are prepared as yet to enter upon a general repeal of the Test Act.
As to the next question in the same bill, the admission of Roman Catholics into the Commission of the Peace; this opens an entirely new field of argument, inasmuch as it asks for the possession of judicial offices; and those who might feel less difficulty in conceding the two former points, must feel themselves obliged to reject the whole, when they come before us incorporated in a bill which is to work so great a change in the composition and character of the magistracy. And I cannot, according to my principle, agree to vote for this, or any bill which shall enable Roman Catholics to take their seats upon the bench in our courts of Justice, and administer the civil or criminal jurisdictions of the realm.
But, my lords, whatever may be the fate of the bill to which I have hitherto spoken, I must give the most unqualified opposition to the other bill for granting the Elective Franchise to the Roman Catholics of England; a bill, of which the sole and undisguised object is, to give political power, so far as it goes, and to serve as a stepping-stone to more political power hereafter.
If this bill pass into a law, our parliamentary elections will assume a new character. We shall see at many an election new scenes of strife beginning; and let those who help forward such a bill, look well to the consequences. We shall see-not only the old and salutary conflict of Whig and Tory, and the partizans of the minister of the day arrayed against his 825 opponents, but we shall see also the introduction and exasperation of religious animosities. Property of that peculiar description which locally influences the return of members to the Commons House of parliament in so many parts of England, will be gradually bought up by Roman Catholic opulence under ecclesiastical direction; and in places where the elective body is more numerous, the same religious control will be practised more or less covertly in this country, which has been practised openly in Ireland, where Roman Catholic priests have harangued their voters from the altar, and led them on or sent them forward from the chapel to the hustings.
And if such persons become the electors, it is easy to foretel what will be the parliamentary conduct of the elected. For who can doubt but the candidate who shall in any material degree owe his success to Roman Catholic constituents, will become an instrument of political power in their hands; and, ever ready to cooperate in a compact body with others of like principles, in every balanced contest of parties, will throw its whole weight on that side which shall pledge itself to promote most effectually, their distinct, ulterior, and invariable object of Roman Catholic aggrandizement.
Now, my lords, if such are the probable or even possible mischiefs of the measure, what is the motive or principle which should induce us to encounter the risk? The principle of these bills, so far as it may be collected from the preamble of one of these bills, and from the speech of the noble marquis on both, is, to equalize or assimilate the political condition of the English Roman Catholics with that of the Irish, and render it alike in both countries.
My lords, to equalize is well, when it breaks not in upon higher principles; and you may safely and usefully equalize or assimilate your forms and regulations of finance and commerce; although what may be fit in Ireland is not therefore necessarily fit in England, where the very same measures may produce very different effects, when called into operation, under very different circumstances. But, my lords, surrender not in this age of theoretic perfection, and for the sake of ideal analogies, surrender not to the professors of a hostile religion, the only sure and practical means of protecting your own.
And, after all, you cannot place Great 826 Britain, as to the Elective Franchise, upon the same footing with Ireland. To make even England like Ireland in this respect, you must begin by making England un-like Scotland, and destroy the uniformity which now prevails upon this point in both parts of the same island; for Scotland, in her Union with England, stipulated that her electors and elected should be Protestants, as yours then were; and now you propose to have her irrevocably bound, and to release yourselves from your own implied part of the same contract.
As to making the elective franchise in England resemble that of Ireland, surely there is nothing in the present exercise of the elective franchise there, which can be an object of imitation! and it were rather to be desired that some reform were made in the elective franchise of Ireland itself, such as the noble marquis himself suggested in a luminous and able speech upon the state of Ireland, in a former session of parliament, when he openly and fairly avowed his opinion, that such a reform was indispensably necessary to the tranquillity and happiness of that country.
In order to cover and justify the whole of the measures now recommended to us, we are told, in the last place, that if we should accede to those propositions, there would be no mischief to apprehend, no danger to fear, no just ground of alarm; because the numbers of Roman Catholics to whom the operation of these bills would extend are so few.
But whether they be more or less numerous (and there are, amongst the right reverend prelates now present, those who know them to have increased rapidly in number, and still more in activity) yet any assumed amount or proportion of their present numbers is a very shifting ground for a statesman to stand upon, and wholly unfit for durable legislation. The few of to-day may become the many to-morrow; and in no instance more probably than where talents, activity and persuasion of all sorts, are set to work by one constant and mighty impulse.
My lords, to deal fairly by the House I profess, that my fears are less of the present or future numbers of the Roman Catholics than of the known and fixed principles and spirit of the Roman Catholic church; and I hope I may speak without personal offence to any men, when I say, that I fear them because I respect their sincerity.
827 The principles of the church and court of Rome are unchangeable; the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and I ask of your lordships to take no long retrospect, but to look around you in your own times, and the compass of the last fifteen years may suffice to show you abundant proofs of the existing strength and operation of those principles.
Look, my lords, to the public letters and briefs of the last pontiff,* upon the invasion of his territory by the French, in the years 1808 and 1809; remember the memorials distributed throughout England by a vicar apostolic and Roman
§ *Principles professed by the Holy See from 1808 to 1820, extracted from the Circular Letters and Briefs of Pope Pius VII. Chiara-monte:
§ 1. That the Pope is the Vicegerent of God, who disposes of thrones, and is the Sovereign of sovereigns.—Letter addressed to the Foreign Ministers resident at Rome, and signed Cardinal Pacca, 30 Nov. 1808.
§ 2. That any State declaring itself independent of the church is in a state of Schism—ib.
§ 3. That the dependence of the episcopal order on the see of Rome is necessary to the unity of the Church.—Circular Letter, 5 February 1808.
§ 4. That no lay authority can translate from one bishopric to another.—Circular Letter from Savona, 2 Dec. 1810.
§ 5. That there is no hope of salvation out of the Church of Rome.—Instructions to the subjects of the Holy See, signed Gabrielli, 22 May1808.
§ 6. Protest by the Holy See against the public toleration of other modes of Worship.—Instructions, &c. ut supra, and Circular Letter to all the Cardinals, &c. 5 Feb. 1808.
§ 7. Power of the Pope to regulate oaths of Allegiance, and to determine how far they may be taken passively or actively, provided they are never to be prejudicial to the Church.—Instructions, ut supra, and Letter addressed to the Cardinals of the Papal territory, 30 Aug. 1809.
§ 8. His condemnation of all marriages with Heretics as matter of detestation and abhorrence.—Circular Latter to the Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Capitular Vicars of France, dated Rome, 27 Feb. 1809.
§ 9. Power delegated to Archbishops and Bishops of France to grant absolution, indulgences, and give dispensations or marriage licences in cases of Incest, or of Adultery, provided neither party has been instrumental in the death of the deceased husband.—Indulgences, 27 Feb. 1809, signed Cardinal Michel de Pietro.
§ 10. Obligation to preserve and promote the establishment of Religious Orders, and their828
§ Catholic bishop of the midland district, doctor Milner, in 1813*; read the publications of a Roman Catholic bishop of Kildare, doctor Doyle, recently dispersed throughout Ireland†; and more especially that extraordinary manifesto of sedition and insolence, published under the same name, within the course of the last week, in the daily prints of this metropolis‡ all breathing the same unabated spirit of hostility against all who belong not to their own rule of faith.
§ On the continent also, the same spirit
§ actual restoration.—Circular Letter to the Cardinals, 5 Feb, 1808, and Papal Bull, Rome, 15 Aug. 1814. Special Restoration of the Jesuits, in Russia, Brief, 7March 1801.—In Sicily, 30 July 1804.—General Restoration, 7 Aug. 1814.—Conditionally in England. See Letter of Cardinal Gonsalvi, 18 April 1820.
§ *Extract from Dr. Milner's Brief Memorial on the Roman Catholic Bill, 21 May 1813; "As many Catholics in England have refused to take the oath appointed for them by the Act of 1791, in consequence of the terms in which the Succession clause is couched, from an idea that they themselves would be obliged to take up arms against the Sovereign in case he were to profess their religion, which nobody can believe they would do; the following change in the terms is humbly proposed, NOT 'to defend 'to the utmost of my power, BUT 'to submit myself.'"
§ † "What fills, at the present day, these Islands and Germany with the most frantic opinions, but the want of authority sufficient to coerce them."—Dr. Doyle's Vindication of the Civil and Religious Principles of the Irish Catholics, &c. Dublin, 1823.
§ ‡ "The whole body of the Catholics are impatient; their pride and interests are wounded; disaffection must be working in them, if they be men born and nurtured in a free state; and yet enslaved"—"The ministers of the establishment, as it exists at present, are and will be detested by those who differ from them in religion; and the more their residence is enforced, and their numbers multiplied, the more odious they will become."—"The Minister of England cannot look to the exertions of the Catholic priesthood; they have been ill-treated."—"If a rebellion were raging from Carrickfergus to Cape Clear, no sentence of excommunication would ever be fulminated by a Catholic Prelate." "The Catholics possessed of property, in Ireland, either cannot or will not render any efficient services to Government, if eventful times arrive."—"From such men, the Government, should it persist in its present course, has only to expect defiance or open thostility." Letter to A. Robertson, Esq. M. P. dated Carlow, 13 May 1824, signed James Doyle, published in the Morning Chronicle, 18 May 1824.829
§ has been stirring within these few months. Such have been the machinations of the Roman Catholic clergy in the Netherlands, and their endeavours to set up a foreign supremacy in derogation of their local allegiances, that two of their societies, at Brussels and Utrecht, have been put down by royal edict, as dangerous to the public peace: and, even in Roman Catholic France, since the accession of the present pontiff, a pastoral letter of the cardinal archbishop of Toulouse has been issued from Rome, with the declared approbation of the Holy See,* which the king of France, by his council of state, has deemed it his duty to suppress, for asserting claims, doctrines, and pretensions, subversive of the rights and independence of his throne.
§ My lords, admonished by these proofs, which rise up around us on all sides, and by these warnings of the ever intolerant and encroaching spirit of the church of Rome, I am persuaded that we shall best discharge our duty, by persevering upon this as upon former occasions, in the same steady and firm refusal to lessen or weaken the defences of our Protestant constitution. That we have not been called upon this year by many petitions to with stand these claims, is perfectly true, but this silence may be justly ascribed to the conviction entertained by the country at large, that they may securely rely upon the unalterable adherence of this House, to its former decisions; and in that confidence I hope they will not this day be disappointed. I shall therefore have the honour to propose an amendment to the motion of the noble marquis, by moving, "That these bills be read a second time, not now, but on this day six months."
The Earl of Westmorland
expressed his regret that he differed upon the present occasion from those with whom he concurred in opinion in resistance to the claim called Catholic emancipation. Their object was the same, but their view of the subject was different. His noble friends opposed this measure as tending to forward the object of Catholic claims. He supported it, as affording means of resistance to it. On the general question of giving to the Catholics political and parliamentary power, every day confirmed him in his resistance to it; and what was*Lettre Pastorale de S. E. Mr. Le Cardinal Archévêquc de Toulouse et Narbomie, &c. Rome, le 15 Oct 1823.830 every day passing, had opened the eyes of many who were formerly its advocates, to the dangerous tendency of that measure.—The bills had been explained as tending to assimilate the laws in both countries. He did not argue that it was necessary, because the law was such in Ireland, it became necessary in England; but it was a prima facie recommendation, unless mischief could be shewn likely to arise; and, from these concessions, he could see none. The question of the Catholics, by means of right of voting, gaining power in parliament could not be apprehended from 500 to 1,000 all over England. The object of the policy of the Irish government was, to diminish the causes of discontent: and so had it happened, that since those concessions, the people in Ireland had never shewn any anxiety for the question of political and parliamentary power. This had been admitted by every loyal man and every traitor. The people were dead to that question. In the parliament called after the granting the right of voting, it would be supposed that being elected by Papists, it would have given every thing. The Catholic cause was hardly mentioned. Upon a calculation of members of parliament pro and con, on the question of Catholic emancipation, the numbers were supposed to be about even. So that in England, where Catholics did not vote, the influence had been as great as in Ireland where they did. So far, therefore, nothing was to be apprehended from the proposed measure. Nor could he see any objection to the question of inferior offices, as proposed by these bills. When the militia of the two countries had been interchanged it had not been thought injurious to the British constitution to enact, that Catholic officers should be allowed to exercise their military functions in England. Why consent to alter the law as it affected the military, and hesitate to alter it as it affected the civil subjects of his majesty? He could not see upon what principle those who permitted Catholic military could refuse to admit to common offices in the Customs and Excise.—If he were a catholic he could understand the principle, however erroneous he might think it, of refusing to the Catholics political influence and parliamentary power. But if he were told, that he should be refused a benefit, the possession of which could be followed by no political mischief, he should certainly consider himself unnecessarily oppressed 831 —that he enjoyed privileges in one part of the country, where it might be argued that the exercise was dangerous, and was refused the same, where no danger could be apprehended. It was in the nature of the existing laws to interfere with the English Catholic in all the concerns of civil life; to deprive him of all the opportunities of civil advancement enjoyed by other classes of his majesty's subjects. If he were a Catholic, he should remonstrate against the absurdity of intrusting to him as a military officer, the sacred person of his majesty, but of refusing him the most insignificant office in the collection of his majesty's revenue. It was the anomaly of the existing laws that gave force to the arguments of those who wished to alter the constitution. These anomalies he desired to remedy. He conceived the arguments which a noble lord had used, he alluded to a matter of history, of the bill for the removal of all distinctions, rejected in another place, as pledging him to the principles of the second bill. On that bill, on the speaker's motion to leave out parliamentary and political power being carried, and the bill abandoned by its supporters, one of the Catholic clergy in very eloquent terms had written, that it might be well for their nobility and gentry to try for their own ambitious views; but having failed, it was hard, and had given great discontent to the Catholic body, that the various means of advancement attendant on common life, and the removal of other matters inconvenient to persons professing that faith had been sacrificed, which might have been attained, and would have given great satisfaction to that body. This object he (Lord W.) wished to attain; and he wished to place the government and parliament as that benefactor. When he had lately argued a question he had given lord Bacon's definition of a law, "utpæna ad paucos timor ad omnes perveniat." He wished to paraphrase that law, and say of this, "ut præmia ad paucos gaudium et solatium ad omnes perveniat." The right of voting and office would fall to the lot of a few, but this act would relieve the whole body from what interfered with the transactions of common life; and would be received by a grateful people as a reward for their loyalty and good conduct.
§ Lord Redesdale
opposed the bill. It must be evident, he said, to all impartial men, that every concession to the Catholics 832 led to a demand for further concession. Let their lordships review what had occurred with respect to the Catholics of Ireland. Their first object was, to remove certain inconveniences to which they were subjected; and these removed, according to Mr. O'Leary's publications of that time, all would be peace and tranquillity. The Catholics, according to him, required no political power. Over and over again that was the burden of their song,—how justly what followed had shown. For himself, he could not consent to give political power to the Catholics. Nor could he be deterred from freely expressing his opinions on the subject, by the fact, that his assassination had been openly preached in a Catholic chapel in Dublin. The constitution of the country was essentially Protestant. It had been stipulated in the Union with Ireland, that the Protestant should be the established Church in that country. That church we were bound to protect. Man, every where, and under all circumstances, was desirous of property. Of course, the property belonging to the established church was the object of desire to the Catholics. By obtaining political power they hoped to obtain that property. It had been the policy of the legislature to guard that property in every possible way; and the laws excluding the Catholics from parliamentary power, had always been considered by him, as indispensable for the protection of the established church. He would resist the slightest attack on that church. Let one stone be pulled from a building, and another, and another, and the whole edifice would soon come down. Their lordships had been told that there was an existing anomaly; and that, because certain grants had been made to Catholics in one country they should be made in another. To him that was no argument. It was as much as to say, that, because they had done wrong once, they should do wrong twice. The question was, where they should stop in the indiscreet course they had been pursuing. The principle on which the bill under consideration was argued, would go to deprive the present royal family of the Crown. For why had a Catholic prince been excluded from the English throne, but because it was considered dangerous to the Protestant religion for him to remain there? The principle of the present bill was only less in degree, than the principle of a bill which should admit Catholics to the throne. If he could draw a line of 833 circumvallation about the Protestant church, which it would be impossible for hostility to pass, he would be most willing to grant every thing. But, as he could not do that, and was anxious to defeat every insidious approach, he could not consent to this bill. To that part of it which respected the exercise or the office of earl marshal by the Duke of Norfolk, he could have no possible objection. But he thought it invidious to introduce this in the general bill, and wished it to be made the subject of a separate measure. Against the bill before their lordships he must vote; for he must vote against any measure calculated to add to the political power of the Catholics in Ireland. Whoever had observed the recent conduct of those Catholics, must see that they were prepared by force to seize the establishment itself. Indeed, such a disposition had been openly avowed.
The Bishop of Litchfield
[Dr. Henry Ryder] said:—
My Lords; Unaccustomed as I am to take any active part in the debates of this House, and ill-qualified as I feel myself to give due force and impression to the argument in favour of the views which I entertain, I still cannot help requesting permission to trouble your lordships with a few words, in explanation of the vote which I am about to give upon the bill now before us.
It will be a vote at variance, I fear, with the sentiments of the chief and of a large majority of the body with which I have the honour to be professionally connected, and should ever wish, from personal regard and esteem, to concur. But they would, I am sure, be the last men to desire the suppression of a conscientious difference of opinion, and still less to expect parliamentary support in opposition to its dictates. It will be a vote also, inconsistent, as may probably be argued, with former conduct, and symptomatic of a change of sentiment upon what is called, the Roman Catholic question.
From any charge of inconsistency, I hope to vindicate myself successfully on the present occasion; and any change of sentiment upon the general question I utterly disavow. I continue, as firmly as ever, persuaded that the profession of the Roman Catholic faith is a just and sufficient bar to the occupation of a seat in either House of Parliament, to the attainment of a share in legislative power, the power of confirming or altering, improving or im- 834 pairing the constitution, civil or ecclesiastical, of our country. I consider the subordination of mind, and (may it not be feared sometimes) of principles to the dictum of a foreign potentate, and even to his domestic emissaries—I consider the necessary enmity to our Protestant establishment, and the habitual desire to effect its overthrow, and the consequent readiness to adopt any measure for the accomplishment of that object—I consider these essential qualities of a sincere Roman Catholic, ample ground for my perseverance in resisting any attempt to promote their eligibility to parliament.
But surely, the right to the elective franchise stands upon a wholly independent foundation. It seems to be the very essence of a free representative constitution that, subject to the indispensable qualifications of adequate property,—subject to exclusion on account of crime, such as perjury and corruption, or on account of voluntary official disqualifications, deemed necessary by the just vigilance of parliament—subject to these restrictions, each member of the community should be allowed, in fair right, to vote for a representative. If that right be denied to him, he appears to me to have a grievance from which he ought to be relieved.
Such is the relief proposed by this bill; and connecting it with the single understood limitation to a Protestant candidate, it seems exactly to supply all that justice and attention to individual benefit, and satisfaction can absolutely require, with all that political prudence can properly concede. The Roman Catholic elector will be represented in his views of general policy, and of domestic administration—in his interests—in his feelings—in individual attachments—in his party prejudices, if you please, but not in his religion—not in that portion of his sentiments which alone is incompatible with the peaceable maintenance of one of our chief and most important establishments, and which will ever lead the possessor of an actual share in the legislature to exercise it on every suitable occasion, with a view to the aggrandisement of his own church, and to the destruction of all its rivals.
Such is my general view of the case of the elective franchise. Upon this principle I should have justified the grant to the Irish Roman Catholics in 1793, and should have urged, at the time, its necessary and immediate extension to the English members of the same communion.
835 But, if the measure be thus, in my opinion, clearly defensible, and even imperatively incumbent upon us for reasons of a general nature, its propriety under the particular circumstances of the present case, is tenfold enhanced. What would have been the arguments of expediency against it?—their number and their turbulence—and yet it was granted to them—while from the comparatively few, peaceable, loyal English of the same persuasion it has now for 30 subsequent years been perseveringly withheld.
What even is the special argument against it? arising it is said, from experience:—the multiplication of Roman Catholic freeholders by the splitting of freeholds. But this practice is little known, is not habitual, if even pursued in this country, and the immense superiority of Protestant proprietors would prevent the practice, if generally adopted, from becoming in any way advantageous to the Roman Catholic cause.
Whether then we look to the arguments of general rights, or particular wrongs, or to the objections of expediency from a view of comparative dangers, I cannot but regard the measure as justified—as called for—as pressed upon your lordships, by every motive that can sway the man, the citizen, and the legislator.
In conclusion, if I might be permitted, I would venture to urge those who with myself support what we deem the general cause of Protestant security, to hasten to deliver a cause so valuable, so dear to us, from the charge of anomaly or inconsistency, and from the, stain of injustice which must ever attach to it, until the English Roman Catholics be placed, especially as to the elective franchise, upon the same level with his Irish brethren.
The more, my lords, we prize this cause, the more solicitous should we be to present it to our own minds, to the world, and to those upon whom it necessarily inflicts a privation, in a fair, equal, and equitable state.
Thus let us be enabled to say to each of our Roman Catholic brethren: "We respect you as men—we regard you as fellow citizens and friends—we gladly seize the opportunity now afforded of restoring to you privileges, which perhaps you should have never forfeited, to the utmost extent which our view of the guards necessary for the support of the Constitution will permit: and we wait, with friendly impatience for the time, surely near at 836 hand, when the now swift and growing progress of religious light shall remove that barrier within yourselves which alone obstructs your full admission to all our civil advantages—which alone prevents your country from receiving the full benefit of your moral and social qualities, and your intellectual endowments and attainments." Upon these grounds and with these hopes, I shall cordially vote for the motion of the noble marquis.
The Bishop of Balk and Wells
said, that the main and only question before their lordships was, whether they could grant the Catholics the privileges to which the bill would entitle them, without danger to our establishments In entering on this question, he was free to acknowledge, that exclusion of every sort was an evil. The exclusion, for instance of the noble duke from the exercise of his rights of earl marshal of England was an evil. The question then came to this—was the evil necessary, or not? He thought it was a necessary evil and he would state his reasons. Toleration was of two kinds; religious and political. Religious toleration, or the power of worshipping the Deity, as the reason and conscience of every man prescribed to him was a privilege which unquestionably ought never to be denied. But, the other kind of toleration was of a very different description. Government was for the general good of those who lived under it. If, therefore any sect entertained opinions subversive of the foundations of the social compact of any country, and were prepared to act upon such opinions, the legislature was bound to withhold from such a sect that degree of political power, which would enable them to carry their principles into successful operation. If any sect, for instance, held the tenet, that property should be equally divided, was government called upon to give that sect privileges which might enable it to realize its doctrine, or powers which might be turned against itself? Holding this as undeniable, let the House consider the doctrine of the Roman Catholics with respect to the Pope's supremacy. They believed that his holiness was the head of the church, and that kings only exercised with him a divided authority—"Divisum imperium cum Jove Caesar habet." The Roman Catholics also maintained the doctrine of indulgences, of exclusive salvation, and many others. The plain question was, whether they not only professed 837 such doctrines, but were prepared to act upon them? If that question were put to him, he must answer, that they were evidently prepared to do so. Such was the uniform testimony of history; such was the concurrent testimony of his own experience and observation. On the first he would not trouble their lordships. The pages of history were open to all; and the facts which they exhibited were sufficiently strong. With respect to the second, he thought he should be wanting to the cause of truth if he were to abstain from stating what had fallen within his own knowledge, and under his own observation on the subject. In one of the large manufacturing towns in his diocess, there were a great many poor, for whose relief a work-house had been established, in which every proper attention was paid to their comfort. Among these were some Roman Catholics, and these persons refused to work on the saints' days and holidays of their church. The magistrates appealed to the priest; the priest referred them to the vicar-general of the district; and the vicar-general stated, that he could not interfere without authority from the Pope. Such a power of dispensation appeared to him incompatible with the just obedience due to the civil authority. To show the growing influence and zeal of the Roman Catholics in that quarter, he might mention, that the order of Jesuits had been established at Stoneyhurst, and had been both zealous and successful in making converts. It could not be pretended that the Catholic religion was altered. It might be said to be semper eadem, and the words "Nil actum reputans, dum quid superesset agendum," might fitly be applied to the spirit of its professors. Having such things constantly before his eyes, could any one blame him if he felt the strongest apprehensions on the subject? Without the slightest spark of hostility towards the Catholics; on the contrary, with the utmost good-will towards them, he felt that he should not be doing his duty to the Protestant community, if he did not vote against the bill. Concession was a good thing, but security should precede concession. "What, then," he might be asked, "is the Roman Catholic never to be emancipated? Is he ever to remain deprived of a participation in the civil rights and privileges of his countrymen?" His answer would be—"No; let not the exclusion continue one moment longer than necessity demands its contin- 838 uance. But let it continue as long as the dangerous tenets held by the Catholic church—tenets subversive of every Protestant government—remain unrepealed; and above all, let it continue as long as the English Catholic pays to the Pope of Rome any part of that obedience which ought to be wholly confined to the king of his own country."
The Lord Chancellor
said, he was sorry to differ from some of his noble friends on this occasion, but he felt that he could not yield to their views in a measure which he conceived threatened danger to the Protestant establishment. The bill for allowing Catholics to enjoy the elective franchise, he could not agree to. It was said to be introduced to remove an anomaly; but it made no provision for the Catholic of this country taking the same oaths as were required of the Catholic of Ireland. The right rev. prelate who had spoken last but one had argued, that a right to vote in a Catholic elector could have no influence on the minds of the persons sent to parliament. This did not appear to be very evident. But, upon what ground could the right rev. prelate grant the right of electing without that of being elected? From the Revolution downward no man had ever thought of giving in England the right of the elective franchise to Roman Catholics; nor had the anomaly been complained of since the Union of Ireland, till very lately. The right of calling on the elector to take the oath of supremacy was not limited to the Roman Catholic; and if the Irish Roman Catholic did not take it in the same form as Protestants, he was not exempted from an oath as binding. If the English Catholic, therefore, was to be admitted to the elective franchise to remove an anomaly, he should be required to give the same security as the Irish. By the bill of 1793, which conferred on the Irish Catholics that privilege, they were bound to take the oath of the 13th and 14th of the king and to bring a certificate that they had done so. The same right rev. prelate had contended, that the Roman Catholic had a right to vote at elections. If such a right existed, his principles ought to carry him a great deal further. The Irish Catholics, it should be observed, had, by various acts, obtained a right to various privileges which the bills on the table did not grant to English Catholics. The measure, therefore, before their lordships could not be supported on the principle 839 of consistency; as it did not place the Catholic religion in the two countries on the same footing. With respect to the noble duke whose name was mentioned in one of the bills, he had no hesitation in giving it as his opinion, that he could not exercise his office without taking the oath of supremacy. His only objection to the admission of the noble duke was, that by going step by step—by taking here a little and there a little—their lordships would be doing that which they could not do at once, and might be creating danger without exciting a salutary alarm. They must grant the English Catholics the same privileges with the Irish, if they granted them any at all; and he saw no reason why their lordships should do wrong again, because wrong bad been once done. The truth was, that they had been going on from step to step, till it was now difficult to stop. He, however, held it to be his bounden duty, in the particular situation in which he was placed, to take care of the supremacy of his sovereign. Let their lordships look back at the struggle which had been maintained, not only in the time of Henry 8th, of queen Elizabeth, and of James, but at the Revolution, to support the supremacy of the sovereign, and they would see what importance had always been attached to it. Let them read the first of William and Mary, and he was sure that they would be convinced of its vast importance. No person could be a subject of this country, and enjoy the privileges of the bill, without taking the oath of supremacy; but, in the measure of the noble marquis, no such provision was made, nor was any such qualification required. It was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to separate the spiritual and ecclesiastical authority of the Pope from temporal power. In Ireland, the elective franchise had been given on taking an oath equivalent to the oath of supremacy. At the Union the Protestant religion was the care of both countries. There was no necessity, therefore, to remove any anomalies to answer the purpose of the Union. At the Union with Scotland it was stipulated, that both electors and elected should be Protestants. The church of England had, for the last twenty years, been attempted to be taken by storm. It had withstood all these shocks. Let it not now be destroyed by sapping and mining. Some noble lords seemed to imagine, that these measures could be effected without injury to the church. Now 840 he held a very sincere opinion the other way; and, with all proper deference to the sentiments of others, he must act on an opinion long formed, and which he should maintain so long as he possessed the power of utterance. He had been charged with bigotry. Now, he had never heard such a charge brought against the Catholics, though they had displayed equal firmness in adhering to their opinions; and he could not see that such a charge ought to be made merely because the lord high chancellor did what all the king's ministers had done; namely, declare in his individual and ministerial capacity, that he could not consent to a measure from which he apprehended the greatest danger to that supremacy of the Crown, which he felt it to be his duty to maintain.
The Earl of Liverpool
said, that he had resisted, on former occasions the general claims of the Catholics, and their recent conduct, together with productions of theirs which he had observed within the last week, confirmed him more and more in the wisdom of that resistance. But, the question before the House had no reference to those claims. The noble marquis had introduced limited bills, which had no reference to Ireland, but granted certain privileges to the Catholics of England. He did not yield to his learned friend on the wool-sack, in his zeal to maintain the Protestant establishment, or the principle of the supremacy of the Crown; but, the bills now before their lordships involved only questions of degree. His learned friend hinted indefinite dangers. He (lord L.) required something intelligible and tangible. He thought that, in order to maintain the Protestant ascendancy, it was necessary to have a Protestant parliament, a Protestant council, and Protestant judges. He was aware that some of the noble lords opposite did not exactly agree with him in this; but they must admit, that the distinction was broad and intelligible between such high securities and those privileges granted by the present bills. Looking the question fairly in the face, most of their lordships would own, that there would be danger to the Protestant establishment, if a legislature, if judges and a council hostile to it, were permitted to be created. How, for instance, could the Protestant succession be maintained without a Protestant parliament? Such were his reasons fox resisting the higher claims of the 841 Catholics; but, with the same sentiments be would give his concurrence to the present measure. He apprehended from it none of the dangers which he had alluded to in the former case. Nay, he even believed, that the granting of such privileges to the Catholics of England, would strengthen the Protestant establishment, as a cause of discontent would thus be removed—as a reproach perpetually thrown in their teeth would be taken away—and as, by conceding these little things, they acquired strength to resist greater encroachments. Not only protanto, therefore, did they remove dissatisfaction, but they actually acquired power. Now, as he had said with respect to the marriage bill, although a different system existing in Scotland, was no reason why it should be established in England, so he would say, that the enjoyment of certain privileges by the Irish Catholics, was no reason why they should be granted to the English; but, the notorious fact was useful in both cases, as it gave experience in favour of some change. If it had been adopted without danger in Ireland—if the Catholics there enjoyed the elective franchise—it was at least a reason why the concession should not excite alarm in England. In Ireland the proportion of the Catholics was infinitely greater, and therefore, if any danger existed, that danger must be proportionably augmented. If he had been asked in 1793, whether this privilege should be extended to the Catholics of Ireland, he would have certainly recommended a modification of the measure, and required that the qualification should be raised. Could their lordships, then, refuse to pass a measure where the danger was comparatively nothing, which had been in existence in another part of the empire where the number was infinitely greater. What they gave to the strong and the powerful, it would be ungenerous to refuse to the weak and the helpless. His learned friend had spoken of oaths to be taken at elections, and of the security which the Protestant establishment enjoyed from the acknowledgment of the king's supremacy on such occasions; but he must be aware that these oaths were never tendered but for the purpose of delay. With respect to the justice of peace part of the bill, there might be some difficulty, but there could be none about the admissibility of Roman Catholics to be officers of revenue. By the union of the treasuries, 842 and of the boards of Customs and Excise, officers were liable to be transferred from one country to another, by order of the board sitting in London. A Catholic, therefore, who might be a very good excise officer at Limerick, would be a very bad one at Liverpool. Thus, by crossing the channel, in obedience to the command of the board that he served, he entirely changed his quality. Was it possible for their lordships to allow this anomaly to remain? Surely such inconsistencies might be removed without granting the highest rights to the Catholics, or endangering the Protestant establishment. He was not afraid of meeting the Catholic question. He knew the opinion of the public; and he was certain they would not be taken by surprise. If he was afraid of any thing, it was of prolonging useless contests on immaterial points, which made the conduct of the government appear odious, without producing a counterbalancing advantage. His best ground of defence, when called on to cede what he considered material and essential, would be, that when a proper claim had been made out, he had met it fairly and fearlessly; and he thought that principle of conduct would be the most safe and honourable for the House.
§ The House then divided, in favour of the first bill:—Present 63; Proxies 38; Total 101.—Against it, present 74; Proxies 65; Total 139.—Majority against it 38. In favour of the second bill; present 67; Proxies 42; Total 109—Against, it present 76; Proxies 67; Total 143. Majority against it 34.