HL Deb 17 July 1833 vol 19 cc718-22
The Duke Newcastle

presented a petition from East Retford, against this Bill. He entirely concurred in the opinion of the petitioners, that the proposed measure was in Consistent with the security of the Established Church in Ireland he perfectly agreed with the observations made on a former evening by a noble Duke (the Duke of Buckingham) on the subject of the Coronation Oath. In his opinion, Ministers had advised his Majesty to consent to a violation of that sacred obligation.

Earl Grey

rose to order. The noble Duke bad thought proper to male a very grave and serious charge against his Majesty's Ministers, which he felt it his duty to repel. It was perfectly free to the noble Duke to argue, that in his view of the question, the measure which would be discussed that night, interfered with the Coronation Oath, but he had no right to say, that his Majesty's Ministers had advised him to trifle with that sacred obligation. To assert, thus broadly, that Ministers had advised his Majesty to violate a sacred obligation, was most unparliamentary. Let the noble Duke withdraw that assertion, and be might argue as ranch and as long as he pleased, that the Bill introduced was inconsistent with the obligation imposed by the Coronation Oath. That, however, was not the course taken by the noble Duke. He had accused Ministers of advising and counselling his Majesty to do that which, with their sense of moral duty, they never could have advised him to do.

The Duke of Newcastle

was still of opinion, that Ministers, in advising his Majesty to agree to the principle of this Bill, had advised that which tended to a violation of the Coronation Oath. He asserted, that Ministers had advised that which was directly opposed to the Coronation Oath. They had advised a course which, he had no hesitation in saying, had excited the regret of all his Majesty's good and loyal subjects. He feared that this Bill would proceed as the Reform Bill had done, and that the intimidators would overcome the intimidated. He feared that there might be, on the present occasion, as there was on the former, a body of waverers. His earnest wish was, that it might not be so, but, at all events, he would do his duty. In his opinion, this measure would be entirely subversive of the Established Church in Ireland. The consequences would be felt by the Church first of all, but others, who now apprehended no danger, would suffer by it hereafter. The measure did evidently go to the destruction of the Church, and he would ask, whether a country could proceed prosperously unless it were moral and religious? He trusted that their Lordships would do their duty fearlessly—that they would reject this Bill, and thus preserve their country. He hoped, that the right reverend Bench would give their utmost opposition to the measure. He had heard, out of doors, that a letter, purporting to come from a high quarter, had been addressed to the reverend Bench, calling on them not to meddle with any measure in that House, except it was purely ecclesiastical. He did not intend to make any remark on those who had advised the writing of that letter, though he had his own opinion on the subject; he, however, conjured the reverend Bench not to forego their duty on this occasion. He conjured them by their regard for religion, by their love of the Protestant Church, to do their duty, without turning to the right or to the left, without looking to consequences. Let them merely act as faithful ministers of the Protestant Church, and instead of such conduct rendering them odious, it would command the esteem, gratitude, and veneration of their country.

The Bishop of London

said, he could not speak for his brethren, but for himself he would say, that he was extremely obliged to the noble Duke for the advice that had been given by him. He trusted, however, that he had a sufficient understanding of the great principles of this Bill to guide him in his conduct without the advice of the noble Duke. He was, however, a little surprised at the language in which the noble Duke had conveyed his counsel; for he was at a loss to understand, how he, consistently with the duty of a prelate of the Established Church, or how the noble Duke, or any other Member of their Lordships' House, could give a vote on any subject, without looking to consequences.

The Duke of Buckingham

did not mean to make any remark on the speech of the right reverend Prelate; but he did not think that the smile or the sneer of the noble Earl, when the noble Duke called on the reverend Bench to make up their minds to decide this question according to the dictates of their consciences, rather than with reference to consequences and arguments, was deserved. The noble Earl had taken the noble Duke to task, and had declared that it was not competent for any Peer in that House to call Ministers to account for having advised his Majesty to break his Coronation Oath. It was not necessary then to discuss, nor would he discuss, whether this measure involved a violation of the Coronation Oath; but he had stated, and he would state over and over again, that the King could do no act without the concurrence of advisers, of responsible and accredited advisers. And he would maintain, that it was competent for any noble Lord, if he felt that the advice given to the King was not proper, to express his opinion on the subject. Their Lordships would be guilty of a dereliction of duty, when they conceived that the advice which had been given by Ministers tended to a violation of the Coronation Oath, if they did not taunt and charge Ministers with so improper an act.

Earl Grey

said, he would not be driven, by all the "sound and fury" of the noble Duke, to enter into a premature discussion. He did not know what he had done to excite so much asperity. He had complained, when he called the noble Duke (Newcastle) to order, that that noble Duke had proceeded contrary to the usages and etiquette of that House, in directly charging his Majesty's Ministers, as if they had deliberately called upon the King to violate his Coronation Oath. It was very true, that his Majesty acted under the advice of his responsible counsellors. They were bound to give that advice according to the best view they could take of all the circumstances of any given' case. If they did so on this occasion, that advice being founded on the principle that the course which they counselled did not interfere with any sacred obligation entered into by his Majesty, then, though they were responsible for such advice, they were not open to the charge of the noble Duke, that they had deliberately called on his Majesty to break his Coronation Oath. If they had exercised, as they thought they had exercised in this case, a sound discretion—if it were clear (and he thought it was clear) that they did not deliberately advise his Majesty to do that which they felt to be wrong—and if they had done so they would, undoubtedly have been guilty of a great crime.—then they had a right to complain of the charge brought against them by the noble Duke. The noble Duke was at liberty to argue, that the provisions of this Bill were mischievous—the noble Duke was at liberty to maintain, that the provisions of this Bill were inconsistent with the Coronation Oath—an argument which he had met before, and which he was prepared to meet again—but it was a very different thing to argue those points, and to charge Ministers unhesitatingly with having deliberately advised his Majesty to break his Coronation Oath. The noble Duke who had last spoken had accused him of having sneered or smiled, when the noble Duke who spoke before him had called on the right reverend Bench to do their duty fearlessly and conscientiously, without reference to consequences or arguments. Now, he wished all their Lordships to perform their duties deliberately, fearlessly, and conscientiously; but undoubtedly he thought they ought to consider consequences and to balance arguments. That was the point, and that alone, which provoked his smiles; for he did think it a little extraordinary that the noble Duke should have pursued his argument to such an extent, as to call for a decision on this question without due consideration. It was, he thought, not a little extraordinary for the noble Duke to press his principle or his feelings so far, as to call on the right reverend Prelate to act upon this occasion—this important occasion—without being influenced by argu- ments, without considering consequences, with reference to either one side or the other. Their Lordships ought to act, undoubtedly, fearlessly and conscientiously; but, to arrive at a safe conclusion, they should hear all the arguments on either side, and in the end they should be influenced by those which, as it appeared to them, ought to preponderate. It was the idea of coming to a decision without weighing the arguments that provoked a smile on his countenance. Nothing could have been further from his thoughts than the idea of treating slightingly the sanction of an oath, or of scoffing at the obligations of the Members of that House.

The Duke of Buckingham

said, it surely could not be denied, that the right reverend Prelate was bound to act in accordance with the dictates of his conscience, whatever arguments might be adduced. The noble Duke, of whom the noble Earl had complained, had not attached motives to any advice that had been given. Facts, however, might be stated, without imputing motives. It was not necessary to state that Ministers had directly advised his Majesty to break his Coronation Oath, though it might be their duty to argue that the advice which they gave would have that effect.

Petition laid on the Table.

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