HL Deb 09 March 1827 vol 16 cc1082-6

After sundry petitions had been presented in favour of the Claims of the Roman Catholics,

The Marquis of Lansdown

rose for the purpose of making a motion, which might be considered as a motion upon a motion, concerning the Catholic Claims, under which he thought he should be justified—both with respect to what was due to his own feelings, and to his own honour, as well as to the honour and feelings of many other noble lords, with whom he had thought right to communicate upon the subject—if he trespassed for a few moments upon their lordships' indulgence. At the time that he gave the notice, which stood in the order book for the 15th instant, it was with the deliberate intention to offer to their lordships' considera- tion a resolution upon the subject of the petitions which had just now been presented, and of many others which had previously been presented, upon the important subject of the Roman Catholic disabilities; and if he had now been induced to abandon that intention, he must state to their lordships, that he did so with a mind perfectly satisfied as to the expediency and necessity of considering those disabilities; and with a mind perfectly unchanged, that at some period, and certainly at no distant period, they must meet with the most serious consideration of that House. But, with that strong conviction on his mind, he could not, upon due consideration, allow any precipitate step on his part, at that moment, to have the possible effect of creating or adding to the distressing, the disheartening conviction on the minds of the people of Ireland, that a majority of both Houses of Parliament was determined to reject the consideration of their claims. He felt too deeply what the effect of such a step must be, to add to the irritation upon the subject which already existed, and he should refrain from taking any step that could by possibility have that effect. Whether, after moving that the present order be discharged, he should be again induced, in this or in any other session, to press the subject upon the consideration of the House, he did not at present feel himself bound to state. Whether those petitioners who had stated their case to their lordships would ever come again to the bar of that House, he could not tell; because he possessed no knowledge of their councils, nor had he had any other communication with them than that of receiving their petitions. But he could not dispose of the subject without slating his firm conviction, that whoever might bring-forward the subject, it must, in some shape or form, and at no distant period, press itself upon the consideration of that. House; but in what shape or form, or under what possible circumstances, he would not venture to predict—he would not even give himself the pain of conjecture. But, quitting this subject for the present, he besought their lordships to consider well the condition in which they left Ireland, not upon the allegations of the friends of that proceeding which he was about to withdraw from their lordships' attention, but upon the admissions of its opponents; and he begged leave to say, that if he wanted any other argument to increase the weight of his assertions, that the state of that country must be altered before it could become a source of strength and prosperity, what he had recently heard from the opponents of that proceeding, with respect to the state of Ireland would furnish the best he could desire; because he knew from experience, that a country and a state of society so distracted as Ireland was alleged to be, was one which could never be expected to right itself without the serious attention of the legislature; because he knew that, a small majority in the other House of Parliament, producing a decision upon the question, would not be able to allay those passions, or to appease those feelings, which were common to human nature. It was impossible that any vote could put an end to those distracted relations of society, which rose as manifestly and directly out of the state of the existing laws, as the grass rose out of the earth, inconsequence of the seed put into it. He did not suppose that any vote would immediately teach the increasing population to bear with satisfaction the privations of the greatest blessings; or that it would teach individuals rising in wisdom and knowledge, to strip themselves of the best advantages, and to treat the best objects of ambition with contempt: that it would teach the growing population to bear, without a murmur, that stamp of degradation which was placed upon them by the existing law. These were feelings that could never be expected to arise from any decision of the two Houses of Parliament. The hand of a man had, by a miracle, been enabled to stop the course of the sun; but the hands of their lordships would never be able, without a miracle, to dispel and arrest the progress of those principles in human nature, which the same God that made the sun had planted in the breast of mankind. He, therefore, was satisfied, that this question must come, in some state or other, again and again before their lordships; and, in the mean time, he besought then lordships, both individually and as a body, to ponder well upon the state in which they left Ireland; because he must say, and he did so with the most perfect sincerity, that could he conceive himself placed in the unfortunate condition of assisting in the councils of any government hostile to and conflicting with the interest, and aiming at the prosperity, of his country, the first prayer he should offer up to Fortune would be—"Give me Ireland as she is, with a great increasing population, who had no other leaders than persons to whom no fortune was accessible but in a direction opposite to the interests of the state—with a population at the same time under the influence of a clergy alienated by the state, rejected by the state, and in no degree, however remotely, connected with the state, and more than that, openly denounced by the authorities of the state, as faithless, and not to be believed;—with a population that was deprived of the conductors between the high authorities of the state and the lowest members of society, which the experience of all countries had shown to be indispensable for preserving the strength and harmony of the whole." That was the state in which their lordships had left Ireland. He besought their lordships also to recollect that when the time should arrive, if unhappily it should arrive before they had given their attention to the consideration of the Roman Catholic disabilities, in which they would be called upon to place in array the resources of this country against the resources of any other nation, they would probably have to put them in array against a country in which no corresponding disabilities existed, and in which Catholic and Protestant enjoyed the same privileges. He begged their lordships to reflect upon the consequences of such a state of things; for he could not permit himself to give utterance to all the melancholy anticipations which arose out of the subject. He had no wish, or regret, connected with this question, but what related to the interest and prosperity of the country. His only wish was, that those who had taken upon themselves the heavy responsibility of negativing the hopes and desires of millions, might be enabled to suggest such measures as would restore that tranquillity which was admitted to be wanting, and appease that distraction which they themselves had stated to exist; and his only regret was, that they had not hitherto been induced to state the means by which they hoped to effect those objects. He should now move, that the order be discharged.

The Earl of Winchelsea

sincerely regretted that the noble marquis had abandoned his intention of bringing before their lordships the consideration of that great political question, the claims of the Roman Catholics; because he felt convinced, that the oftener that question was discussed, the more impossible would it appear to their lordships, to give to persons professing the Roman Catholic faith, perfect and full enjoyment of their civil rights; or to allow them to fill situations of high political trust.

The order was accordingly discharged.