The Bishop of Exeter
had to present to their Lordships a petition on a very important subject. It came from certain inhabitants of the city of Cork, and, as it was not very long, he moved "That it be read at length."
The petition was read accordingly in substance as follows:That by the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, in 1829, a serious alteration was made in the security of the ecclesiastical property of this country, and by which the Roman Catholics of the United Kingdom were rendered eligible to various offices and seats in Parliament. That, notwithstanding the oath taken by Roman Catholics, upon entering into office and taking seats in Parliament, not to subvert the Protestant Church, or weaken the established religion, the petitioners had viewed with great alarm certain persons of this description, openly avowing themselves in favour of the overthrow of the Established Church. The petitioners called their Lordships' attention more particularly to the fact of conspiracies existing, amongst other places, in Cork and Carlow, for the express purpose of taking away the lives of Protestants by base and false swearing on the part of Roman Catholics, and which, it was apprehended, had succeeded in numerous instances; and the petitioners prayed their Lordships to adopt such measures as might be calculated to render the sworn engagements of the Roman Catholics effectual for the purposes for which they were intended.
The Bishop of Exeter
then said, that, in supporting the petition which their Lordships had just heard read, he should feel it necessary to refer to a great number of documents. It was there stated, that a solemn compact had, in 1829, been entered into between the Roman Catholics of the United Kingdom and this Protestant state, in consequence of the former being admitted to the benefits conferred on them by the measure commonly called the Catholic Relief Act. The Roman Catholics then bound themselves not in any way to interfere with the Protestant Establishment. As it had been denied that such a compact had been entered into, he should feel it to be his duty to make a few observations to the House, in order to prove that such a compact had been made. That fact had been denied, if reliance could be placed on the 285 published reports of the proceedings in Parliament, and he did not know why reliance should not be placed on them, by Mr. O'Connell on the 11th of March, 1834. On that day he moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the oaths which were taken, and those, if any, which ought to be taken by Members of the House of Commons. The hon. and learned Member then said,—"In 1829 we were not asked by the Government to make any compact or contract, and we made none. A seat in Parliament is not to be considered by us as a privilege, but as a matter of right." On that occasion Lord Althorp and Sir Robert Peel both expressed their extreme regret that this subject should have been again brought under the consideration of Parliament. Lord Althorp said, as well as he recollected, on that occasion, that, if it had been conceived possible that, in five years from the passing of that measure, such a proposition could have been made in either House of Parliament, he was quite sure that the act would not have been carried. Sir Robert Peel went more at large into the subject to prove that there had been a compact. Thus both Lord Althorp and Sir Robert Peel agreed in the proposition that a compact had been entered into. It never was contended that a compact had been entered into with all the necessary forms of recognised powers on each side; but it was a question of common sense and common feeling, whether what had passed on both sides did or did not amount to a compact. He did not see all the noble Lords present who were likely to be in a condition to know what passed between the Roman Catholics and the Protestant leaders of the House of Commons at that time; but he saw some noble Lords who were Members of that Cabinet who introduced the Bill in question, who must have known whether any thing like a compact had then taken place; and he ventured to express ft hope, that they would have the goodness to say, if it were contradicted now, whether there was or was not a compact then entered into, or an agreement that amounted to a fair understanding of one. Whatever might be the result of that appeal, he should take leave to show to their Lordships, that enough had occurred on the part of the Roman Catholics, in making their applications to Parliament, to constitute them contracting parties to the provisions of any measure that might be passed for their relief, when Parliament thought fit to ac- 286 cede to their petitions. They were at first called by the humble name of "petitions," though afterwards they assumed the character of demands for relief. He should now take some short extracts or passages from certain petitions which the Roman Catholics had at various times presented to Parliament. The first to which he should allude was one presented in the year 1757, from Dr. O'Keefe, a Mr. O'Connell, and others. The petitioners said,It has been objected to us that we wish to subvert the present Church Establishment, for the purpose of substituting a Catholic Establishment in its stead. Now, we do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any such intention; and, further, if we shall be admitted into any share of the constitution, by our being restored to the right of the elective franchise, we are ready, in the most solemn manner, to declare, that we will not exercise that privilege to disturb and weaken the establishment of the Protestant religion or Protestant government in this country.The learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) to whom he had referred, denied that a seat in Parliament was to be regarded as a privilege conferred upon the Roman Catholics. He, therefore, wished to show, that at the very earliest movement of the Roman Catholic body, they acknowledged the possession of the elective franchise, to be a privilege. The next extract with which he should trouble their Lordships was, from a petition presented to the Irish parliament from the Roman Catholics of Ireland, in which the petitioners said,With satisfaction we acquiesce in the establishment of the national Church; we neither repine at its possessions, nor envy its dignities; we are ready upon this point to give every assurance that is binding upon man.He now came to a petition which was presented in 1805, and which was the more worthy of remark as bearing the signature of Mr. O'Connell himself. In that petition he found the following passage:—By the same solemn obligation 'they are bound and firmly pledged to defend, to the utmost of their power, the settlement and arrangement of property in their country, as established by the laws now in being; that they have disclaimed, disavowed, and solemnly abjured every intention to subvert the present Church establishment, for the purpose of substituting a Catholic establishment in its stead,' and that they have also solemnly sworn 'that they will not exercise any privilege, to which they are or may become entitled, to disturb or 287 weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant government in Ireland.In 1808, a petition was presented, in which he found this passage:—Your petitioners most solemnly declare that they do not seek or wish in any way to injure or encroach upon, the rights, possessions, or revenues appertaining to the bishops and clergy of the Protestant religion, as by law established, or to the churches committed to their charge, or any of them; the extent of their humble application being, that they be governed by the same laws, and rendered capable of the same civil and military offices, franchises, rewards, and honours, as their fellow-subjects of every other denomination.He would trouble their Lordships with only one more extract from petitions. In 1812, a similar petition was presented. This petition was the more remarkable, because it was presented to the House of Commons by a noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham), as he now was, but who was at that time a Member of the other House of Parliament. He was sorry that the noble and learned Lord was not then in his place, because he was sure that he would have concurred in what he (the Bishop of Exeter) was then stating. The petition presented by the noble and learned Lord in 1812, contained the following passage:—We have disclaimed, disavowed, and solemnly abjured any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment for the purpose of substituting a Catholic Establishment in its stead. And we have solemnly sworn, that we will not exercise any privilege, to which we are or may become entitled, to disturb and weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant Government in Ireland. We can, with perfect truth, assure this honourable House, that the political and moral principles asserted by those solemn and special tests, are not merely in unison with our fixed principles, but expressly inculcated by the religion we profess.It so happened, that the noble and learned Lord, in presenting that petition, remarked upon the oath in a very strong manner. The noble and learned Lord said, "You have got all the security that oaths can give you—I defy the art of man to devise anything stronger." Their Lordships would perceive, from the passages he had quoted, that before the boon was obtained there was a wish, on the part of the Roman Catholics, to give every satisfaction that could be required by a Protestant Legislalature and a Protestant State, and a perfect readiness to enter into engagements that should preclude them from any right of interference with the Established Church. 288 This was further demonstrated by other evidence to which he now begged leave to call their Lordships' attention. The secretary to the Catholic board, in his examination before the Committee of that House, said he firmly believed, that the Catholic body had no intention of intermeddling with the Protestant Church Establishment. This was an extract from his evidence:—Have you, in conversations or at meetings of Catholics, or communication with Catholics, ever heard any speculation advanced of a change in that establishment being desirable to the Catholics of Ireland? Never; nor do I believe the Catholics either wish or desire it. As a Roman Catholic, and communicating with the respectable portion of them, we have always deeply regretted, that our emancipation has been so mixed up with ecclesiastical matters; we have always considered it most unfortunate that the question has not been separated. Our earnest wish would be for every possible guard and barrier, and fence, and protection, to the Established Church, and that all her rites and immunities should be preserved. I can undertake to say, that not a single Catholic clergyman in Ireland will contradict what I aver, that they, as Catholics, have no views whatsoever to the disturbance of the establishment.He should read no more extracts from petitions or the statements of laymen, but should proceed to lay before their Lordships some clerical statements. He should advert to certain declarations of Dr. M'Hale, who was not at the time they were made so high in the Church as he then was, but was in a position which entitled his opinions on Catholic matters to great respect. On the 6th of November, 1826, Dr. M'Hale, who had been for eleven years a lecturer in Maynooth College, stated on oath, before the Commissioners of inquiry into Irish Education, as follows:—Without reference to Parliamentary enactments, I do not consider the Church Establishment in Ireland as productive of benefit to the country, but as I am bound to obey the law, I shall acquiesce in the enactments of the Legislature. If there were no laws to bind me, I should feel no respect for the Establishment. As it is, I am bound by the Legislature of the country, and respect its enactments.In another place he says—Although the great mass of the Catholic population derive no benefit from the Established Church, and are therefore under no moral obligation to pay tithes to it, yet so long as the law requires that tithes should be paid, they will acquiesce in its decisions.He went on to say:— 289As to the dignitaries of the Established Church in Ireland, we shall never refuse to acknowledge the jurisdiction in their temporalities, or the possession of their titles, conceiving that the state, which conferred them, alone has the power to take them away, and considering that, as St. Paul says, We ought not to refuse honour to whom honour is due, or tribute to whom tribute.'He next felt it necessary to call their attention to the testimony of a layman, which he had forgotten at the moment when he said, that he would quote no more matter drawn from that source, and which was very important. It was the evidence given by Mr. O'Connell himself. He quoted this testimony as it had been given to their Lordships by a noble Earl whom he regretted not to see in his place—he meant the Earl of Winchilsea; because, had the noble Earl been present, he would have been able to inform their Lordships from what source he obtained the information. He was satisfied, however, that their Lordships would consider that noble Earl's name a sufficient warrant for the authenticity of the testimony. The evidence of Mr. O'Connell, as quoted by the noble Earl, was as follows:—Suppose the witness were to receive a carte blanche upon the subject of Catholic Emancipation, and were required to fill up the extent of concession with which the Roman Catholics would be satisfied, how would he do so, and what would they require?—Mr. O'Connell.—I would require that the doors of both Houses of Parliament should be thrown open to Roman Catholics; and that persons professing that religion should be eligible to hold the situation of judges, and other places of trust and emolument, from which they are now excluded. This is what I would require, and what would, I think, satisfy them; but, in making this concession, I would recommend the absolute abolition of 40s. freeholds.—Let the witness state for what reasons he would recommend the curtailment of the privilege of elective franchise. Mr. O'Connell.—For the purpose of securing the Established religion in Ireland, and I would further recommend, that no concession whatever be made to the Roman Catholics unless the Establishment in Ireland be rendered inviolable.—The recommendation now given, and the opinions expressed by the witness appear to be very much at variance with those sentiments said to have been contained in his speeches at the Catholic Association and elsewhere.—Mr. O'Connell.—I do not bold myself bound by what I might have said in that assembly or elsewhere, under particular circumstances. Many things have been spoken by me on these occasions in the beat of debate, or under the influence of 290 excited feelings, to which, in cooler moments, I would not give the sanction of my judgment."*Now, he thought he had shown, that the* With reference to this quotation, the following correspondence took place between Mr. O'Connell and the Earl of Winchilsea:—TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.Sir,—May I request that you will have the kindness to insert in your paper of to-morrow the enclosed correspondence?I have the honour to be, Sir,Your most obedient, humble, servant,WINCHILSEA AND NOTTINGHAM.2, Hill-street, March 20, 1838.16, Pall-mall, London, March 5, 1838.My Lord,—I cannot bring myself one moment to doubt that your Lordship will receive this letter in the spirit of courtesy in which I write it, and that you will do me the act of justice which I respectfully solicit from your Lordship, precisely as you would desire to have a similar justice done to yourself under similar circumstances, should they be applicable to you.The grounds, my Lord, upon which I ask this act of justice are these:—The Lord Bishop of Exeter is reported by the newspapers, and in particular in the Morning Post and Morning Chronicle, to have quoted you, my Lord, as his authority for attributing to me opinions and assertions the exactitude of which I mean publicly to deny; but being convinced either that the newspapers misunderstood the right rev. Prelate, or that some person has misinformed) your Lordship, I solicit at your hands a reply to the two questions which I beg leave to address to you on the subject. I think I have a right, in point of justice, to such reply, but I prefer seeking it as an act of courtesy.The first question is, whether your Lordship ever quoted the questions and answers specified by the right rev. Prelate, or I should rather say, alleged by the newspapers to have been specified by him?The second question is, if the facts be answered affirmatively, upon what authority did you, my Lord, quote them?In order to save your Lordship any trouble in searching for the matter which has given rise to these questions, I beg leave to enclose that portion of the Morning Post, of the 2nd instant, which contains the supposed introductory words of the right rev. Prelate, and the queries and replies of the introduction of which I complain.I think it my duty to add, that until I read the newspaper of the 2nd instant, 1 never heard of such questions and replies, that I remember.291 Roman Catholics, on their part, were ready to enter into a compact; and, from what he had said of the declaration in the House of Commons, in March, 1834, it was clearly so considered by Parliament. Their Lordships would perfectly recollect, that on the 28th of April, 1837, when the Marquess of Downshire presented a petition from the Protestants of Ireland, stating that they did not approve of that oath, the noble Viscount near him had said, "he did not approve of that oath. Their Lordships all knew how it was introduced, how it was got into the Roman Catholic Relief Bill. Without that oath, their Lordships knew the bill would never have been got through Parliament." That was very true, and it was satisfactory to show, that that amounted to a compact on both sides. He still hoped to have the advantage of hearing what must be known by certain noble Lords—namely, what actually passed between the Roman Catholic leaders and the Cabinet at the time when the Emancipation Bill was introduced. But whether there was a compact or not would be very far from deciding the question. The great point was, whether those persons had, asIt is right that I should add, that I am not inquiring into anything that was said or done in the House of Lords. I appeal solely to the newspaper statements, and my inquiries are limited exclusively to the document set out in these newspapers, purporting to be an examination I underwent. I solicit information merely as to whether that document was represented to your Lordship as genuine, and if so, by whom and in what manner. This is my object in writing to your Lordship.Confiding to your courtesy for as speedy a reply as may suit your perfect convenience, I have the honour to be, my Lord, your very obedient, humble servant,DANIEL O'CONNELL.The Earl of Winchilsea.Eastwell-park, March 6, 1838.Sir,—I hasten to reply to your letter, which has just reached me. In answer to the first question which you have put to me, 'Whether I ever quoted the questions and answers lately specified by the Bishop of Exeter in the House of Lords?' the extracts of which you have enclosed to me, I beg to inform you, that I certainly have, upon different occasions, both in the House of Lords and elsewhere, publicly quoted them.In answer to your second question,' Upon what authority I quoted them?' I have only to reply, that I read them in the House of Lords out of a newspaper, in which they had been inserted, stating, at the same time, as they had received no contradiction from you, that292 the petitioners alleged, and as he (the Bishop of Exeter) thought they had, violated their sworn engagements. Then, in order to see whether they had or had not done so, the first thing necessary would be to ascertain what their sworn engagements were, to look at the oath, and also to look at what must be considered as the fair interpretation of that oath. He should not fatigue their Lordships by reading the whole of the oath, but should confine hint-self to that part of it which related especially to this subject. The Roman Catholic oath contained this passage:—I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this realm, as established by the laws: and I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment, as settled by law within this realm; and I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant government in this kingdom: and I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of thisI conceived them to be authentic. If in this conclusion I find myself mistaken, I have only to add, that I shall be ready to acknowledge it.I cannot bring back to my recollection positively at what time, or in what paper, the quotations appeared; but I think either in the Morning Post or New Times, and that they were founded on the evidence given by you, about the year 1825, on the subject of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill.I have the honour to be, Sir,Your obedient humble servant,WINCHILSEA AND NOTTINGHAM.Daniel O'Connell, Esq.16, Pall-mall, March 17, 1838.My Lord,—I am bound to acknowledge thankfully the promptitude and distinctness of the reply to my two questions.I owe it to myself, and I think I also owe it to you, my Lord, to state, that although I had no doubt that the pretended extract of my evidence, which you found in the newspapers mentioned by your Lordship, was a mere fabrication by the writers of those newspapers, yet I have taken the trouble of reading over the entire of my evidence before both douses of Parliament, and I can now solemnly pledge myself that the passage quoted by you is totally unfounded, and that no evidence of mine could warrant the publication of that passage as genuine. You have, therefore, I do assure you, my Lord, been deceived by the 293 oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever.Now, in order to come at the real meaning of those words, and to arrive at their true construction, did not, he conceived, require much argument. He knew it had been denied, that they were to look alone at the animus imponentis—that they were not to rely on the meaning the petitioners affixed to the oath. Well, then, they certainly had a right, in their endeavour to interpret its meaning correctly, to refer to any contemporaneous history or to any contemporaneous or cognate acts or words of the Legislature, as tending to elucidate the question. Now, for that purpose, he would request the attention of their Lordships while the Clerk at the table read certain extracts from the Speech his Majesty George 4th was pleased to command the Lords Commissioners to deliver in the year 1829. The Clerk then read as follows:—The state of Ireland has been the object of his Majesty's continued solicitude. His Majesty laments, that in that part of the United Kingdom, an association should still exist which is dangerous to the public peace, andnewspapers you quote, and perhaps you would permit me to say, that my leaving the deception uncontradicted would be no proof of its truth, as I have little inclination and less time to contradict the multitudinous false charges daily published in the newspapers against me.I readily offer your Lordship to authenticate or to contradict any matter attributed to me of which you should desire to make public use, if you give yourself the trouble of a previous inquiry from me.Again, my Lord, thanking you for your satisfactory reply, I have the honour to be, my Lord, your very obedient humble servant,DANIEL O'CONNELL.The Earl of Winchilsea.2, Hill-street, March 19, 1838.Sir,—I was on the point of writing to you when your letter reached me, to inform you, after a considerable search I have discovered that the extracts of the evidence reported to have been given by you before the Parliamentary Committee in 1825 were inserted in the Standard newspaper of the 5th of February, 1833, accompanying the leading article of that day.I have since carefully perused the evidence given by you before the Committees of both Houses in that year, and I am bound in justice to you to state, that the opinions attributed to you in the extracts referred to are 294 inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution; which keeps alive discord and illwill amongst his Majesty's subjects; and which must, if permitted to continue, effectually obstruct every effort permanently to improve the condition of Ireland. His Majesty confidently relies on the wisdom and on the support of his Parliament; and his Majesty feels assured, that you will commit to him such powers as may enable his Majesty to maintain his just authority. His Majesty recommends, that when this essential object shall have been accomplished, you should take into your deliberate consideration the whole condition of Ireland; and that you should review the laws which impose civil disabilities on his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. You will consider whether the removal of those disabilities can be effected consistently with the full and permanent security of our establishments in Church and State, with the maintenance of the reformed religion established by law, and of the rights and privileges of the Bishops and of the clergy of this realm, and of the churches committed to their charge. These are institutions which must ever be held sacred in this Protestant kingdom, and which it is the duty and determination of his Majesty to preserve inviolate. His Majesty most earnestly recommends to you to enter upon the consideration of a subject of such paramount importance,not in any way borne out by the sentiments you then expressed.I have only to express my sincere regret that I have in any way been instrumental in misrepresenting any part of the evidence which you gave before the Committees in 1825.I shall be most ready to make you the only reparation in my power, by placing you right before the public on this point, in any way most gratifying to your own feelings, either by contradicting it in my place in the House of Lords, or by publishing the correspondence which has passed between us.I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant,WINCHILSEA AND NOTTINGHAM.Daniel O'Connell, Esq.16, Pall-mall, March 19, 1838.My Lord,—I am bound to say, and I say it cheerfully, that nothing can be more candid or handsome than your Lordship's conduct on the subject of the fictitious extract from my evidence in 1825.I therefore accept your offer of the publication of our correspondence on the subject.I cannot conclude without once more tendering to your Lordship the expression of my thankfulness.I have the honour to be, my Lord, your obedient humble servant,DANIEL O'CONNELL.The Earl of Winchilsea.295deeply interesting to the best feelings of his people, and involving the tranquillity and concord of the United Kingdom, with the temper and the moderation which will best insure the successful issue of your deliberations.The answer to the address was precisely similar. The right rev. Prelate proceeded to say, that he thought he was not going too far in stating, that when they considered these very solemn communications which had passed between his Majesty George 4th and that House of Parliament, at this time, and he might add the other House of Parliament also, for he believed the answer to the address returned by the House of Commons was, as usual, an echo of the Speech—he said, when they considered the very remarkable answer which was returned to the communication made by his Majesty to their Lordships' House—when they observed how pointedly it referred to the oath—when they recollected that his Majesty declared himself bound to maintain the Protestant Establishment and the rights of the clergy of that establishment, and when their Lordships answered that communication as they had done—when they considered all these things, they could scarcely come to any other conclusion than that the proceeding amounted to no less than a solemn compact between that House and the Sovereign, to preserve those rights and privileges inviolate. The oath was, in fact, the only security given by the Roman Catholics when the boon which they had so long desired was granted to them. In looking to that security, he thought that the words of the oath ought to be interpreted according to the Speech of his Majesty, in which he expressed his intention to maintain the rights of the Protestant establishment, and to guard and secure it from all danger. That, however, did not seem to be considered by all men as the right mode of interpreting this oath. A learned Member of the other House of Parliament had said, "that he felt himself at liberty as a Protestant, to deal with the whole of that oath according to the construction put upon it by the House of Commons." That arose from the failure of Mr. W. Horton's motion to prevent Roman Catholics from exercising the right of voting on matters affecting the Church. That was resisted, because it would lead to endless discussion as to what question was or was not connected with the interests of the Church. It was also argued that such a provision was unnecessary, because the oath was perfectly clear, and 296 afforded the best security that could be obtained. In several publications, another notion was broached—that the oath was not to affect Members of either House of Parliament in their legislative capacity. That notion was first broached by a very honourable man, the brother of a noble Lord, Mr. Langdale, and was subsequently assented to by Mr. O'Connell. That learned gentleman said—"The interpretation he put upon the language of the oath was this—that the Roman Catholics were bound, as were the Protestants also, to support the Church Establishment as long as it continued to be the law. But as a legislator, he considered it perfectly competent in him to make any proposition for, or to be any party in, altering those laws." On this interpretation, there was one observation to be made—namely, that it was in virtue of that oath that Roman Catholics were admitted into Parliament, which privilege they deemed the most important, and considered all their other demands only as fine dust in the balance. That admission was, in their estimation, the only object of consequence, and unless that was granted all other objects of their desire were to be rejected. It would, therefore, be rather strange if, while one party was so eager to obtain admission into Parliament, and the other was so reluctant to grant that admission, the oath did not extend to Roman Catholic Members in their legislative capacity. In the very front of the Catholic Emancipation Act it was said—And be it enacted, that from and after the commencement of this act, it shall be lawful for any person professing the Roman Catholic religion, being a peer, or who shall after the commencement of this act he returned as a Member of the House of Commons, to sit and vote in either House of Parliament respectively, being in all other respects duly qualified to sit and vote therein, upon taking and subscribing the following oath, instead of the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration.And why, or for what purpose, was such language placed in the front of that Act, if the oath provided by the Act was not to affect the Roman Catholic Members in their legislative capacity? If such language was not used for the purpose of restraining them as legislators, he knew nothing more absurd than that such expressions should have been inserted at all. But he would beg to remind their Lordships that Protestants were not bound by a similar oath and wherefore, then, were the Roman Catholics bound by an oath not 297 to weaken or injure the Protestant establishment, if that oath did not extend to them in their legislative capacity? There was another interpretation of this oath. It was assumed to be no more than a declaration similar to that which was made by persons previous to taking office in any department of the public service. This was a notion which he believed was also put forward by Mr. Langdale. That hon. Gentleman referred to the obligation which all Ministers of State and other high officers came under when they took office, not to use the influence of their office in any way tending to injure the Protestant Church or Protestant Government. But Mr. Langdale did not advert, when arguing on a question affecting the Church of Ireland, that that declaration was specially limited to England, and therefore was not applicable to any question having reference to the Church of Ireland. That hon. Gentleman, however, put forward his views on a question having reference solely to Ireland. They would now see that there were very different views in reference to this oath as it affected the church. A noble Viscount, a Member of the other House, and a Member also of her Majesty's Government—he meant the noble Lord, the Member for Northumberland—made some observations in the other House in reference to the Irish Church in 1835. On that occasion the noble Lord—and he believed the noble Lord was a sincere Christian and good Churchman, he said with the greatest sincerity that he believed the noble Lord was a good Churchman—but in 1835 the noble Lord had said, that although he was bound not to injure the Church of England, he considered the Church of Ireland an insult to the Irish people. The noble Lord felt himself restrained by his oath of office so far as the Church of England was concerned, but he felt also that that oath was not binding on him in reference to the Church of Ireland, and that he was at liberty to use his influence as a Cabinet Minister to effect such alterations in the Irish Church as his peculiar views might induce him to consider necessary. He (the Bishop of Exeter) therefore was obliged to say, that the Roman Catholic oath had no affinity, and could not have been intended for a purpose similar to that for which the oath of office was provided. He was, however, happy to say, that while some Roman Catholics were eager, or apparently eager, to throw off the obligation of the oath they had 298 taken, there were others, and not a few, who adhered to it in its obvious meaning and refused to participate in any measure affecting the interests of the church. He might, in the first place, mention a noble Lord, formerly a Member of the other House, and now one of the greatest ornaments of their Lordships' House—he alluded to the Earl of Fingal. That noble Lord had not any of those loose notions in regard to the oath which he had taken which some entertained, and felt himself bound to abstain from all acts which could possibly affect, in the slightest degree, injuriously the Church Establishment. He had shown his sincerity, too, in the view he had taken of that oath by refusing to join in any measure hostile to the Established Church in Ireland, even at the hazard of his seat in the other House of Parliament. The noble Lord's declaration in regard to the Roman Catholic oath caused him the loss of his election for the county of Meath. Such, he believed, was the fact, for it was generally stated, that he had lost his election in consequence of his declaration in regard to that oath. He would not argue, that the noble Lord had been a martyr; he was not certain of the cause which produced the defeat of the noble Lord, but it was generally said to have been his unlucky declaration—unlucky as far as his election was concerned, but in other respects most happy. Mr. O'Reilly had also declared similar sentiments; he was not a martyr, but he shared the same fate with the noble Lord to whom he had alluded, and also lost his election as the consequences of the views he entertained of the oath which he would have had to take before assuming his seat in the House of Commons. Whether any other Irish Roman Catholic Members of the House of Commons were equally willing to make a similar declaration, at the hazard of similar consequences, he did not know, but he rejoiced to say, that Mr. Petre, an English Member, had stated, that nothing could induce him to act on the interpretation put upon the oath by some Gentlemen. It was not for him (the Bishop of Exeter) to say, that the interpretation put upon the oath by those individuals was the only one which could fairly be put upon it; but it was his duty when presenting petitions on the subject, to state, what his own views were, and to declare what was, in his opinion, the right interpretation of that oath. The first clause of that oath to which he would advert was as follows:— 299I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure, any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by, law within this realm.Now, he thought that in point of fact that part of the oath prevented any conscientious man who had any feeling of hostility to the Church Establishment, or any intention of subverting it, from qualifying himself, by taking the oath for a seat in Parliament. The next passage was:—I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant Government in the United Kingdom.Now, he certainly did not hold that that part of the oath was to stop the mouths of the Roman Catholic Members; he did not hold that Roman Catholic Members were by that clause of the oath compelled to leave the House when any question regarding the Protestant religion in this country was brought forward. Far from it; for they were present in the Legislature under a writ of summons, which called upon them to advise her Majesty upon certain important affairs relating to both Church and State. It would be too much to say, that persons having received such a writ of summons should be precluded from advising her Majesty upon one portion of public affairs to which the summons bore a direct reference. But while he stated, that such were his opinions, he was bound to say, that he held the portion of the oath he had last read to impose a restraint on Roman Catholic Members which was not put upon Protestants. The Roman Catholic Members swore, that they would not exercise any privilege to which they were or might become entitled—and that could only refer to their legislative privilege, for their other privileges were mentioned afterwards—to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or the Protestant Government. They swore to do nothing having a tendency to injure the Protestant Church or the Protestant Government, as by law established. Now, he was happy to say, that these were not wild notions of his. They were not taken up by him without consulting the testimony of conscientious Roman Catholic gentlemen in regard to their view of the oath. To show their Lordships the view taken by conscientious Roman Catholics in regard to this oath, he would read a passage from a letter of a most respectable gentleman, Mr. Waterton, of Yorkshire, as 300 we understood, dated Wakefield, the 6th of March, 1835. In that letter, Mr. Waterton said:—Catholic Emancipation has done nothing worth speaking of for me. I can neither be a Member of Parliament nor a magistrate; for no entreaty, no power on earth, shall make me take Peel's oath.He remarked that with pleasure, for the Jesuits appeared to have taught this gentleman the right interpretation of the oath, although they might not have been so successful with others.If I understand the English language—and I ought to understand it, for I was with the Jesuits till I was twenty years old—I say that Peel's oath binds me before Almighty God to abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment. Now, I will do everything in my power, fairly and honourably, as a gentleman, to upset that Church as by law established.That was frank; it was a fair avowal on the part of the honourable gentleman of his intention to subvert the Church; and he respected the honourable gentleman for his candour. The honourable gentleman openly told his sentiments, and he, for one, was sorry that Mr. Waterton did not take the oath, because he was certain that if once taken it would not be violated. But this was not the only individual who, from similar causes, had refused to take the oath; and to what he was about to state he begged the attention of the noble Baron, the Secretary for the Colonies, who would perhaps be able to give their Lordships some information on the subject. It happened that a Roman Catholic gentleman of high rank—the Roman Catholic Bishop of Malta—was nominated to be one of his late Majesty's Council in that island, and was required to take the oath under the act for repealing the Roman Catholic disabilities. But that gentleman, very much to his honour, said he could not take that oath consistently with the view he entertained, and in consequence he was not admitted a member of the Council. This statement he had received from a most respectable individual; but if the facts were different, perhaps the noble Baron, the Secretary for the Colonies, could inform their Lordships how the matter really stood.
§ Lord Glenelg
believed, the facts were as stated by the right rev. Prelate, but he doubted whether it was the oath necessary under the Emancipation Act which was refused.
The Bishop of Exeter
said, it seemed, 301 however, that some oath had been refused, which, as a Roman Catholic, the Bishop of Malta could not conscientiously take. He was sorry, that time had prevented him from making more particular inquiries on the subject. Had he thought, that there could have been any doubt in regard to the matter, he would have given the noble Baron notice of his intention to put the question to the noble Baron, when a satisfactory answer might have been obtained. The noble Baron had, however, allowed that some oath had been refused, and it was highly probable, at all events, that it was the oath necessary to qualify for office prescribed by the Emancipation Act. [Lord Glenelg: That was not to be assumed.] The noble Baron had admitted, that there was a question about some oath, but the noble Baron could not say positively what that oath was. He thought they might conclude, under the circumstances, that it was really the oath to which he had called their Lordships' attention.
§ Lord Glenelg
was unable to say what the oath was, but would make inquiries on the subject and inform the right rev. Prelate of the result.
The Bishop of Exeter
had now the authority of a late Secretary for the Colonies that the oath was what he had stated it to be, and that the Bishop of Malta had refused to take that oath—that that Prelate had refused to qualify himself to be a member of his late Majesty's Council by taking an oath which was at variance with his views as a Roman Catholic. His refusal was the cause why he was not appointed. That Prelate felt, that he could not conscientiously take an oath not to weaken or disturb the established church or to injure the Protestant religion, he himself being a Roman Catholic, and he chose rather to forego the honourable office which was offered him than do violence to his conscience. These were men whom he most sincerely honoured. In the course of the discussions on the Roman Catholic oath there was one learned person who put another construction on the word "establishment" than what that word was usually supposed to imply. Mr. O'Connell, on the 11th of March, 1834, was reported in Hansard to have said, thatThere could be no controversy about the oath as it now stood, because there was nothing in it to prevent a Catholic from acting 302 as he pleased with respect to the temporalities of the established church, either as regarded the power, authority, or emoluments of the church.He would not charge that individual with having used the words "established church," because reports of the proceedings in that House could not be expected always to convey the very words of the different speakers, and all that could be expected was a fair representation of arguments and opinions. In any case of nicely-balanced expressions, when great importance would be attached to particular shades of meaning, he would not place entire confidence in the accuracy of a report. The phrase used in the oath was not, however, the "established church," but "the present church establishment," and there was a very great difference between the two expressions. Mr. O'Connell said, he did not swear to maintain the tithes and oblations paid to the church. But the "church establishment" could only mean those privileges, possessions, rights, and endowments which the State took care the church should possess, whether by original endowment, or by donations from the Crown or individuals afterwards. If there was any meaning in a church establishment, that was the true meaning, and certainly it was the meaning contemplated in the oath. But Mr. O'Connell said further, that there were two churches in Ireland—the one established by law, and the other by the people, and he asked would the Protestant be less an established church if deprived of its temporalities? To be sure it would; for it would then cease to be an establishment, although it would not cease to be a church, for the church was beyond the reach of human laws, and depended on the will of the Almighty. An establishment meant, and could only be understood to mean, the rights, privileges, possessions, and endowments of the church, as protected and secured to her by the laws. This, then, was the duty imposed on Roman Catholics by the oaths which they had taken. They were bound to do nothing to injure the establishment, or to weaken any of those rights secured to the church by the laws. These were the engagements into which the Roman Catholics had entered, and those engagements the petitioners said, and he said with them, the Roman Catholics had violated. They were here met in limine by an objection in the nature of a question—namely, what was it that kept the Roman Catholics so 303 long out of Parliament? And the answer was, their adherence to their oaths—an adherence which nothing could induce them to violate. He admitted, that at first sight there was much in that objection. The oaths previously required to be taken by Roman Catholics had long been a matter of complaint. They said, that they were ready to enter into any engagement not to hurt the established church, but they complained that they were required to take an oath by which they were compelled to abjure a principal dogma of their faith. They said that that obnoxious oath was proposed to them because they were considered enemies of the church, and they asked, what was the utility of imposing such an oath upon them, if they gave security not to interfere with the church establishment? Now, he admitted that there was a great deal in that argument, but still he did not think it was conclusive. What was the history of the necessity for requiring Roman Catholics to take oaths different from those required from Protestants—take, for instance, the oath abjuring transubstantiation? It was this—they were found not to have adhered to their other engagements. In the times of Charles 2nd, an individual very conversant with the conduct of the Roman Catholics of those days, Father Walsh, and who was well acquainted with the troubles of that period, wrote in 1661, a "Remonstrance to the Roman Catholics of England, Ireland, and Scotland," and in the preface he stated, thatTheir missionaries (i.e., their Jesuit priests) labour to infuse into all their penitents all their own principles of equivocation and mental reservation in swearing any oath, even of allegiance or supremacy, to the King, and for swearing anything or doctrine whatsoever, except those articles which, by the indispensable condition of their communion, they may not dissemble upon oath. That the tenet of transubstantiation is one of these; therefore, &c.Such was the statement of a learned Roman Catholic, a friend of the Duke of Ormond, to whom, in fact, Father Walsh dedicated his pamphlet, and than whom there were few greater men. It was in consequence of the practices of the Roman Catholics on the Duke of Ormond that Father Walsh wrote his remonstrance. He had said, that he thought that the oaths taken by certain parties had been broken. It would be affectation in him to pretend to be ignorant that, in consequence of having made that assertion on a 304 former occasion, his conduct had been subject to a good deal of comment; and, therefore, dismissing for the moment what was stated by the petitioners, he begged leave to say a few words in support of the position he had taken up. Their Lordships would not, probably, think this a waste of time when he read a notice, which stood on the paper of the House of Commons for last Monday. The notice was to this effect, "that in case the notice by Lord Maidstone is proceeded with, and entertained by the House, to bring before the House the charge of perjury, made by the Bishop of Exeter against Members of this House." He had not been able to find any subsequent statement relative to this subject, either among the notices of motions, or in the minutes of the proceedings of the House of Commons, although it did appear that Lord Maidstone proceeded with his motion, and that the House entertained it. He trusted that he should receive the indulgence of their Lordships if, in reference to his assertion of the violation of the oath imposed upon Roman Catholics, he ventured to read that part of his charge to the clergy of his diocese which a noble Lord in the other House alluded to, and, for ought he (the Bishop of Exeter) knew, still intended to bring under the notice of that House; and as he could not be present in the other House to defend himself, perhaps their Lordships would forgive him if he coupled that matter a little with the petition now before them. In 1836 he had occasion to address the clergy of his diocese, at the triennial visitation, and, in the course of his observations, he did, what it was commonly the practice of bishops to do, address the clergy on all the great transactions which had taken place with respect to the religion of the country and the church of England and Ireland; and he had particularly thought it his duty to express his opinion on a Bill which had been under the consideration of Parliament, entitled, "An Act for the better regulation of ecclesiastical revenues and the promotion of moral instruction in Ireland, in reference to which he remarked—and there appeared to him nothing irregular or reprehensible in commenting, however strongly, on a Bill which had never passed into an Act of Parliament—that it was, in plain English "a Bill for seizing on the revenues of the Protestant Church in Ireland, and applying them to some undefined purpose of teaching morality 305 without religion, and religion without a creed." He afterwards proceeded to observe as follows:—On this Bill I shall be brief, but I cannot but congratulate you, on higher grounds than sympathy with your distressed and excellent brethren, the clergy of that country, that the cause of true religion has not been there abandoned; that those moderate funds (for such they have been proved to be) which the piety and wisdom of former ages have provided for the maintenance and extension of a pure faith throughout Ireland have not become the prey of a perfidious faction, which would not have acquired the powers of mischief which unhappily they possess and exercise but by entering into engagements and binding themselves by pledges, which Englishmen and Protestants would deem it impossible for any who call themselves Christians to dare to violate. In the discussion of the measure in Parliament I felt it my duty to rest my resistance to it on this point—to denounce as treachery, aggravated by perjury, such an exercise of rights acquired under an oath not to weaken or disturb the Protestant religion. In truth, when we call to mind the solemn and oft-repeated protestations made by the Roman Catholics, and by their friends for them—of the sense in which they took that oath, and of the awful obligation imposed by it upon their conscience—and then advert to the certain consequences of the proposed Bill (if it had passed) as avowed by its chief adviser—that it would prove a serious discouragement—a heavy blow—to the Protestant religion, and a triumph to its enemies; but that it was a measure which the augmented force of the Roman Catholics, and their unmitigable hostility to that religion had rendered it necessary—when we call to mind that such was the nature of the measure, such the argument by which it was enforced, I know not in what milder terms the indignation of an honest mind can be expressed than by characterising the conduct of those who demanded it as treachery, aggravated by perjury.The only meaning of the sewords was, that the persons who demanded that measure were guilty of "perjury, aggravated by treachery;" and it was for him to show that those persons were Roman Catholics, who required it for purposes contradictory to the engagements which they had entered into. Before he proceeded further, he wished to observe, that the noble Lord who had given the notice he had just alluded to, described the passage he had now read as a charge of perjury against Members of the House of Commons, and consequently implied that the words "perfidious faction" applied to Members of the late House of Commons. Now, it was not 306 his intention to advance the technical and trumpery plea, that because his statement related to the last Parliament, the present House of Commons had no right to take notice of the matter; but he should deal with the real merits of the question. The noble Lord, he repeated, must intend to say, that the phrase "perfidious faction," meant certain Members of the late House of Commons. The noble Lord must also assume that those who demanded that Bill were Roman Catholic Members of the other House of Parliament; for it was quite clear, that the noble Lord's notice charged him (the Bishop of Exeter) with accusing of perjury Members of the House of Commons. He was ready to admit, that by the phrase mentioned he did mean to include some Members of the other House, but not all, who united in favour of the particular measure he had alluded to. He had not stated, that he referred to Members of the other House, but the noble Lord concluded, that such was the aim of his observations, because they could not be taken to have any application to their Lordships' House; for it had never been degraded by receiving within its walls any man who could be considered the member of a "perfidious faction," and who had acquired certain powers by the violation of his sworn oaths. Therefore it was, that none of their Lordships for one moment imagined that his words applied to any of their Lordships, though there were Roman Catholics in that assembly; but they were as determined to adhere to their oaths as any noble Lord or right rev. Prelate then present. Whom, then, did he intend to allude to by the words which had been quoted? He meant the agitators in Ireland, who had forced this measure on the Government, and some of them were out of Parliament. Among them was Dr. M'Hale, whose letter to the Secretary of the Roman Catholic Association he had before noticed. Dr. Murray was to be included in the same class, for he was notorious for insisting that all the rights of the church, especially tithe, be done away with. Dr. Murray was pleased to come forward, he forgot precisely on what occasion, but he believed it was on the occasion of the expedition of the hon. Member who was the prime mover of the General Association of Dublin, through the country, for the purpose of abusing their Lordships. Dr. Murray, he repeated, thought it necessary to send his 10l. to aid that learned Member in his design of ob- 307 taining the total abolition of tithes. Dr. Murray, too, belonged to the General Association of Ireland, and, consequently, he was a member of a body the declared object of which was, to effect the entire abolition of tithes. He would not trouble their Lordships with any further allusions to individuals out of Parliament; but, having admitted, that his language applied to certain Members in Parliament, he would now endeavour to show, that he had not described them injuriously. He would show, that Mr. O'Connell, who was then the Representative of Kilkenny, did make certain declarations entirely inconsistent with the oath he was obliged to swear when he presented himself to take his seat in Parliament; and he would show this, not by wounding their Lordships' ears with the quotation of any of those expressions which the learned individual in question unhappily too frequently uttered, and which were so loathsome as to be painful to all ordinary ears. For the object he had in view, he had endeavoured to find (but had had no small difficulty in the search) some observations of the hon. Member which were merely wicked without being loathsome. In his address to his constituents of Kilkenny, that learned Member said:—I heartily supported the Ministry of Lord Melbourne in their new measure of tithe relief, not as giving all I wanted for the people of Ireland, but as giving us a part, and establishing an appropriation principle, which would necessarily produce much more. Nothing, however, can be so absurd as the allegation of its finality. That bill, had it passed into a law, was equally capable of being altered or repealed that Session; that is, in the Session in which it should have been passed. I, therefore, who am for the total abolition of tithes, voted for the abolition, in the first instance, of part only.This showed the animus of the hon. Member when he voted for the measure already referred to in 1835; and certain resolutions, which plainly demonstrated what his intentions were, had been submitted by him to the general association of Ireland. These resolutions were as follow:—That it is the opinion of the association that it is the first duty of the representatives of the Irish people to realise, if possible, entire religious freedom for the Irish nation, in the next Session, by obtaining, if that be practicable, the total abolition of the blood-stained impost of tithes. That if it shall prove impracticable to obtain the entire abolition of tithes in the next Session, then it is the bounden and sacred duty of our representa- 308 tives to fall back on the next best measure, the abolition of part; provided the same be accompanied by the appropriation clause. That in thus supporting the Ministerial plan of last Session, or a more enlarged one, if practicable to enlarge it, the Irish Members do assert and maintain the principle that the entire should be abolished upon the first practicable occasion.Such was the testimony he adduced of the learned Member's notions of the oaths he had taken; and the reason why he did not quote passages of an earlier date was, because those which he had collected were of so disgusting a kind, that he did not like to read them to their Lordships. But this was not the only individual, who was a Member of the last Parliament, to whom he alluded in the charge to the clergy of his diocese. There was another learned person, the Member for the county of Tipperary, who, on the 23rd of July, 1835, about a month before the delivery of the charge in question, was reported to have made these observations:—Abandoning all metaphysical disquisitions, I proceed, not to a consideration of mere expediency, but of paramount and dire necessity; and I lay down a very plain proposition, and it is this—(I do not mean it to be offensive, but however harsh the truth, it must be told)—it is this, whatever may be your inclination, you have not the ability to maintain the Irish establishment. Why? Because the power of the Irish people has risen to such a pitch, that to the mistaken interests of an impuissant minority, the rights, undoubted although not undisputed, of the enormous majority, cannot, any longer, with impunity, be sacrificed. For what are all these risks to be incurred?—for what are all these appalling hazards to be run?—for what stake is this awful die to be east? for what into all these affrighting perils are we to rush? For what into these terrific possibilities (for likelihoods I will not call them) are we madly, desperately, impiously to plunge? For the Irish Church!The use of the word "impious," in the passage he had just read, certainly astonished him. He must suppose, that the learned individual conceived that it was impious, though sworn to protect the Established Church, to run any hazard for the Church in Ireland. The learned Gentleman proceeded to designate that Church as:—The Church, the minority, long the Church of the State, never the Church of the people; the Church on which a faction fattens, by which a nation starves; the Church from which no imaginable good can flow, but evil after evil, in such black and continuous abundance 309 has been for centuries, and is to this day, poured out; the Church by which religion has been retarded, morality has been vitiated, atrocity has been engendered, which standing armies are requisite to sustain, which has cost England millions of her, treasure, and Ireland torrents of her blood.Such was the language of a Member who had sworn that he had no intention, on entering Parliament, to subvert the present Church establishment; and it was the language of one who had further sworn that he would not use any power which he acquired to weaken the Protestant religion. He would ask their Lordships whether it was to be said, that such an individual had observed his oath? He (the Bishop of Exeter) had already said, that he thought that that individual had not observed his oath; and he had no hesitation in declaring his most firm conviction—a conviction as firm as it was possible for him to entertain on any subject, that the individual who uttered those words, or anything like those words, had grossly—grossly deviated from the sworn engagements into which he had entered. He should not, on the present occasion, have mentioned the name of any individual, had it not been for the course of proceeding adopted elsewhere, which made it necessary for him either to shrink from his statement, or to publish to their Lordships the names of some of the agitators whom he had alluded to in his charge. He must be permitted to make one more observation with regard to Mr. O'Connell. Among other things, the learned Member had said, that he did not consider himself at all bound by the oath taken in the Legislature, when he acted as the leader of the general association at Dublin, for there he did not act in his legislative capacity. Did the learned Member suppose, that by such a miserable quirk he could justify any of his proceedings out of Parliament, which were calculated to subvert the Protestant establishment? The interpretation thus put on the oath appeared to him so preposterous, that he could not avoid noticing it to their Lordships. With respect to the other learned Member, the representative of Tipperary, he would, with their Lordships' leave, read another extract from a speech delivered by him to his constituents in October, 1835, which was illustrative of his intentions towards the Church, and of his fidelity to his sworn engagements to do nothing to weaken the Protestant religion in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman then said:—Our eyes were opened, and while we 310 became conscious of the fatal results of our disunion with the Whigs, we determined to repair the evil, and never again to fall into a similar error. Accordingly we entered with them into a class alliance, and at the meeting at Lord Lichfield's formed that compact, and, I trust, indissoluble junction, by which so much has been effected.The complete union of the popular party, of which the meeting at Lichfield House was the foundation, is indispensable for the maintenance of the Administration, and therefore for the good of the empire.At these meetings, what course was taken by Mr. O'Connell? The most moderate, the most practical, and that which led to the most successful issue. There it was, that the course of proceeding was devised which broke up the Government of Sir Robert Peel. What a glorious and at the same time what an incalculably serviceable circumstance it was, that by a resolution on the Irish Church, and the great principle of secular appropriation of ecclesiastical property, we should have annihilated the Tories. To defeat them by any means would have been in itself a great achievement; but to put them out of office by a resolution, pledging the Whigs for ever and ever to the principle, without which all church reform would be a mere imposture—this was, indeed, a triumph to the Irish people; and if, in the last Session, nothing else had been done, still this would have been a signal instance of success, because that resolution is irrevocable, and the commencement of a new policy, from which a deviation will be impossible for the government of Ireland.But this brought to his mind the commencement of that policy which that individual had considered he had ground for great merit by insisting on. It was not, however, on the authority of a report of what that learned person had said to his constituents that he held this opinion; it was strengthened by what had passed last year, when a right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) in another place most pithily alluded to this resolution, and called it a "compact," by which it was agreed on the one part that the present Ministers should be kept in power, and, on the other, that the Church of Ireland should be given up to the Roman Catholics. When this passed he said, that the only incorrectness in it was in calling it by the term of "compact," for it was a compact alliance. But let him not be thought to impute such motives to individuals wrongly—and he felt sure that there was one individual (the noble Viscount at the head of her Majesty's Government) who was not a party to that alliance. He did not recollect whether he had spoken for others, or not, but his object had only been to name those persons 311 against whom he had been compelled to bring the charge of perjury, and he had been reduced to it by the motion of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). It was the course which had been chalked out for him by that motion. He had nothing whatever to remark on the Government; that was not the object of his observations, but there was one circumstance connected with that individual to whom he had before alluded (Mr. Sheil), which gave a tone of authority to his statement, and seemed to sanction it as correct. That individual who had made the assertions to which he had adverted had within the last fortnight received from her Majesty's Government a remarkable proof of their confidence, but at the same time he felt sure that the noble Viscount would never have recommended to her Majesty to bestow on him such an especial mark of royal favour. He would now remark upon what had been said of him upon a former occasion by a noble and learned Lord whom he was glad to see present—the Lord Chancellor of Ireland—that he had not only charged certain persons with perjury, but also others with subornation of perjury. The noble and learned Lord had said (and it was a conclusion as clear and correct as all the conclusions of the noble Lord were when he was not actuated by political bias, and one of which he himself admitted the full force) that all persons privy to any instance of perjury, or assisting others in doing that which they could not effect without perjury, were all guilty, morally guilty, of subornation. This was the opinion of the noble and learned Lord, and this was the opinion which he himself held, and in his character as a dignitary of the church it was one he would maintain. He did not wish to pursue the inquiry as to what extent the individuals he had mentioned had been guilty of perjury, but he would not shrink from following up the principle on which he had made the charge. This had rendered it necessary for him to deal with the names of those persons, but he had done so solely on that account, and he did not think that he had done anything contrary to his duty as a Bishop, when he was addressing the clergy of his diocese on the solemn occasion of a visitation, in pointing out to them the way in which the church was seemingly endangered, and the source from which that danger had arisen. For having done that, however, he had been made the subject of animadversion in another place, not only during this, but 312 also during the last Session. It was said, he ought to be impeached for it, and he was told that this idea was founded on the authority of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The noble and learned Lord had said, when he expressed his opinion in Parliament on the charge to which allusion had been made, that he (the Bishop of Exeter) was impeachable for what it contained. Upon hearing that, he had ventured to cry out "impeach;" it was the only thing he could do, not as a defiance, but as giving him, when a grave matter of this kind was brought against him, the only opportunity there was of defending himself. This charge, too, had been made by the noble Lord, the chief Secretary of State, not only in this, but also during the last Session of Parliament, and it had been also made by another high functionary of the Government—the Attorney-General. That learned person had said (and it was most surprising to him that he had done so), or was reported to have said, in a speech on the discussion of the Church-rate Bill, on the 14th of March, 1837,That the Bishop of Exeter had, in a charge to the clergy of his diocese, been guilty of the greatest libel; that it was, indeed, the most libellous production he had ever read, and if ever he had filed a criminal information at all, he should be justified in filing one against that Prelate.There was another thing also which the learned Attorney-General was reported to have said (and having collated the reports, because he thought it impossible that such a person had ventured to say these things about him, he had found it confirmed), as a reason for aggravating his conduct, that he (the Attorney-General) "had recently read a visitation charge of the Bishop of Exeter, in which that Prelate had stated that he was remiss in not having prosecuted certain libelous publications; and he thought that it was most indecent and most unwise in the Bishop of Exeter having spoken in that manner." Having seen that report, he had read through the charge he had delivered three times since, to find out whether there was any foundation for these remarks of the learned Attorney-General, but he had been always unable to discover any, and there was not only no sentiment or language, but not even a scintilla of either, on which an honest man could pass any such observations. From what quarter those reports had proceeded he knew not, but 313 they were an unalloyed and unmitigated fiction. It had been his intention on the following day to avail himself of his privilege, and to bring the subject before the notice of their Lordships. But on going down to the House he found it closed, and on the Thursday afterwards he met a noble Friend, who told him he might judge for himself whether he could do anything in the matter, but that the Attorney-General had met with such a smashing from Lord Stanley that the poor man was done for, and he thought it was hardly worth while. Now, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had given the same reason last year as he did now for not prosecuting him for this libellous charge, and that was, that it was too contemptible a course to be adopted. But he must remark on the contempt of the noble Lord (and it was a curiosity in the history of the human passions and feelings, for contempt usually brooded on in silence) that it was of a peculiar kind, and was constantly forcing itself forward. No one could doubt that the noble Lord did not hold the person to whom he had before alluded (Mr. O'Connell) in contempt. Probably he had not more respect for that individual than he had for him (the Bishop of Exeter), but it was extraordinary that that person, who acknowledged himself the master of the Government councils, who vaunted himself the dictator of the country, and the annihilator of the Church of Ireland, should be constantly supported by the noble Lord. He did not understand such a mode of showing contempt as that adopted by the noble Lord. But he would not dwell on this, though he must remark that his observations applied also to another individual, the Attorney-General, and he must say, that he regretted that persons in such high stations as the noble Lord, the Chief Secretary of State, and the Attorney-General, should give so much trouble to others, by bringing forward charges against them in an unfair manner, and when it was impossible for them to defend themselves. He thought it was most unconstitutional (and strong as this term was, it was not too strong for the occasion) that the Chief Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the chief law officers of the Crown, should think themselves at liberty, night after night and year after year, to bring forward such subjects, and repeatedly to threaten to prefer these charges without ever doing so; and that they should come down to the Houses of Parliament and 314 hold this kind of language without enabling the individual himself to answer it. They ought to do that which their office pointed out for them; and if they regarded not the dignity of their office, they ought to consult justice, and pursue the course which that required. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was constantly repeating this subject: it was his stock subject. When he had nothing else to say, he always began to talk about the Bishop of Exeter. He hoped, therefore, that if the noble Lord had no regard for the dignity of his office, for the sake of justice, of generosity, that he had some Friend in that House—and he would trust to his manliness, if there were a particle of it in him—who would tell the noble Lord to come forward in an open and decided manner, and give him an opportunity of meeting the noble Lord face to face, or that henceforth he should be silent on this subject. The right rev. Prelate moved that the petition be laid on the table.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that with respect to what had fallen from the right rev. Prelate, he found it necessary to make a few observations, though he apprehended that if it had not been for what had recently passed in another place, they would have heard nothing upon this subject from the right rev. Prelate. The right rev. Prelate had adverted to various animadversions which had been made on him respecting a charge addressed to his clergy a few years ago. He would not, however, advert to what had passed in the House of Commons; and he must say, that it was imprudent anywhere, either in that House, or anywhere else, to bring forward the matter; and that the less said on the subject, and the sooner forgotten, the better. He thought that the noble Lord, the Chief Secretary of State, had no other intention in having mentioned it, than to show the inconvenience which the course then about to be pursued in the House of Commons might possibly lead to, and that he had no idea whatever of following up the notice which he had given. His only object had been to point out this, and to admonish the House of Commons, that the course in which they had embarked was unwise and imprudent, and that it was better not to proceed with it. The charge might be considered a breach of privilege of the House of Commons, and the right rev. Prelate, to a certain extent, had admitted this. [The Bishop of Exe- 315 ter: "No, no!"] Well, this might be saved under a nice technicality, but it certainly contained a libel on certain Members of that Assembly. The right rev. Prelate had read this passage, and had alluded to the rights bestowed on Roman Catholics by the Emancipation Bill. He would not trouble their Lordships by referring to it again, but he thought if their Lordships read the charge, they would pronounce it as very strong, considering the persons by whom it was uttered, as very strong for the persons to whom it was delivered, as very strong for an address to the ministers of a diocese on such a solemn occasion—to parochial clergy, who, although they were excellent men, faithfully discharging their duty, and for whom he had very great respect were rather to be tempered and restrained by their spiritual superior, than urged along by political violence and political zeal beyond that degree to which they had been already actuated. In his opinion, it would have been better for this matter not to have been taken up in the other House; and not to have been spoken of by the Attorney-General, but he would convey to that learned individual the communication committed to him by the right rev. Prelate. The right rev. Prelate had adverted to another topic, the meeting at Lichfield-house, and had read a speech of the late hon. Member for Tipperary, which gave a full account of it. That meeting was one attended by Members of the House of Commons, and what was agreed to then was a certain resolution relating to particular questions of Government There was no secrecy in it; and as for the resolution itself, let its effect have been what it might, it was a meeting held to settle that, and nothing else; and if it had all the effect which the right rev. Prelate had attributed to it, he might be correct but if, besides that, he said that there was an agreement on the one hand to give up the Irish church, he stated what was no the fact; and, indeed, in what he had sail upon this subject altogether, he seemed to be entirely begging the question. The right rev. Prelate had said, that Roman Catholic Members were bound by them oath to do nothing to weaken the Protestant church; but in order to prove that they had done so, he should have proved that the measures for which they had voted had a tendency to that effect. The right rev. Prelate, during the discussion on the 316 Roman Catholic Relief Bill, was not opposed to Roman Catholics enjoying the same privileges as their Protestant fellow-subjects, provided a proper security was given that they would not attempt to destroy or weaken the Protestant religion. Securities were thought of, several parties exercised their faculties to decide on the most satisfactory, and at length the oath introduced into the bill was agreed upon. Oaths were, in themselves, objectionable,—they embarrassed the minds of weak men, and disturbed the minds of scrupulous men, so that it became extremely difficult to fix on an interpretation admitted by all. If the establishment were in danger, oaths would not tend to its salvation. The Protestant reformation, in its commencement, was secured by the violation of oaths. Every alderman, every mayor, and every public officer, were sworn to put down the new opinions that were disseminated. In the reign of Henry the 5th, the Lord Chancellor, the judges, and the magistrates were sworn on oath to extirpate Lollards. Now, if the statute of Henry the 5th, enforcing that oath, were not repealed (of which history made no mention), all those officers had violated their oaths by countenancing the new opinions which they were sworn to put down. Supposing the Roman Catholics had violated their oaths, what remedy could be resorted to? He presumed the right rev. Prelate was not prepared to repeal the Act of 1829, that he was not anxious to withdraw those privileges conferred on the Roman Catholics by the Relief Bill, or to render the tests and oaths more stringent. Let the case be as it might, he felt convinced that it was impossible to place reliance exclusively on oaths or tests of any kind, but that the chief reliance should be on the honour and patriotism of individuals. In conclusion, he begged leave to say, that whatever language, whatever expressions or sentences, had been uttered out of doors, he could not stand forward in defence of those expressions; but this he would declare, that no measure had been proposed to Parliament on which the Roman Catholics were not entitled to vote, and could not have voted with the most perfect propriety.
The Bishop of Llandaff
said, that the noble Lord had cited history as a precedent, but the perjury of former parties could not justify others in violating en- 317 gagements which they had solemnly promised to fulfil. When the Roman Catholic Relief Bill was before Parliament, he had devoted the greatest attention to the subject, and had tried to bring his mind to the most cairn consideration of a measure of so much importance. The result was, that he had agreed with the policy of admitting Roman Catholics into the Legislature, provided that ample security was given that they would not interfere with the Protestant religion or the interests of the Established Church. The oath introduced into the bill ought to be sufficiently binding to a man of conscience and integrity, but at the time he thought that one might have been proposed less subject to evasion. This opinion was mentioned to Sir R. Peel, on whom he looked as one of the best friends of the church, and one of the most able supporters of her religion and dignity; but the right hon. Baronet rejected the hint, as being an unworthy imputation on the principles of Roman Catholic gentlemen, and that the oath was sufficiently stringent. Many agreed in the views of the right hon. Baronet, and voted in favour of the bill. In the existing courtesy of society, people supposed that it was ill-mannerly to charge parties with perjury. Calumny, of course, was very reprehensible; but to charge a man with a crime was not a greater fault than the commission of one. Perjury, although a heinous offence against religion and against law, was frequently committed, and although no person should charge another, except on good grounds, with a crime that ought to exclude him from society, no one should, for a moment, hesitate publicly to denounce any party against whom the commission of such an offence could be substantiated. Every Roman Catholic was aware, that the meaning of the oath was to bind parties to a defence not only of the spiritual but of the temporal interests of the Established Church. In that sense the oath was administered, and it was well known that, without that security, the Roman Catholic Relief Bill would not have passed into a law. He did not name any parties that had violated the sanctity of an oath, but he had read a charge to his clergy similar to that delivered by his right rev. Brother (the Bishop of Exeter). It certainly did not possess the eloquence or masterly style of the latter, but its tendency and meaning were the same. He had felt it his 318 duty to declare in that charge that several parties, foes to the Church, had maintained that they were not bound to act in accordance with the spirit of the oath they had taken, but according to their own interpretation of the words, and that if such a violation of principle were to be countenanced, society would cease to exist.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said, that his noble Friend (Lord Melbourne) had not quoted history to palliate the crime of perjury, but to show that when institutions were in danger, oaths would not insure their safety. The right rev. Prelate had begged the question, and assumed that there had been an infringement of the rights of the Established Church. Could such a charge be substantiated? Where was the proof? Certain oaths were imposed on the Roman Catholics, and the interpretation of those oaths was left to their own consciences. He would ask, was it intended that these oaths should now be interpreted by the Court of Queen's Bench, or some other tribunal? If so, a court would be established higher in its judicial authority than Parliament itself, and by which the proceedings of the latter would be controlled and checked. The right rev. Prelate had alluded to a certain compact; but he could not have thought that any person, particularly a right rev. Prelate, could have so mean an opinion, so low a view of society, as to suppose that a league had been entered into between the advisers of the Crown, and the Roman Catholics, for the purpose of overthrowing the Established Church. The noble Lord then said, that it was the opinion of all great legislators, that all British subjects should have equal rights and privileges, as long as they displayed allegiance to the Crown and anxiety to preserve the existing institutions of the country. It was under this feeling that the Roman Catholic Relief Bill was introduced on the responsibility of Government. It was not the result of compact between any parties. He thought it would be establishing a dangerous precedent to limit the duties or inquiries of legislators. An oath was given as security by the Roman Catholic Members, and their right to exercise their free and unfettered judgment on any political subject could not be disputed. The right rev. Prelate had said that all Roman Catholics who voted for the abolition of tithes, had been guilty of 319 a violation of their pledge. He differed from the right rev. Prelate and thought that on that subject Roman Catholics had a right to exercise their conscientious judgment, and that they should not be fettered in their legislative functions as long as they could not be found guilty of any breach of allegiance to the Sovereign, who was the admitted head and sworn defender of the Church of England. For his own part, he had long felt that only one form of oath should be administered. He thought the declaration of faith was unnecessary, by any class of Christians. The oaths taken by parties entering Parliament were declaratory, not substantial, and he felt considerable pain when swearing that the mass was idolatrous, lest he might hurt the feelings of noble Lords in that House, who conscientiously differed from him in their mode of worshipping the Creator. In conclusion, he would repeat his opinion of the impolicy of putting any check to the free exercise of the judgment of any Member of Parliament.
The Earl of Shrewsbury
said, the Roman Catholics had shown as little party bias in their legislative capacity, and had as high a sense of the obligations of an oath, as any Member of their Lordships' House. It was their respect for the sanctity of an oath that had so long excluded them from the legislative councils of the nation. For his own part, (and he was sure he spoke the sentiments of a large body of the Roman Catholics), he did not conceive that he was violating his oath in lending his support to certain measures introduced by the Ministers of the Crown. On the contrary, the only scruple he had in supporting those measures was, that he was giving stability to institutions in the utility or truth of which he did not conscientiously believe.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
was understood to say, that he was far from asserting that there were not many Roman Catholics who would conscientiously object to support measures which had a direct tendency to weaken or injure the Established Church: but it was not to any such that the remarks of the right rev. Prelate had reference. It was well known—for, indeed, not only were no pains taken to disguise the fact, but it was openly avowed by many Roman Catholics—that they supported certain measures of the Government, because they believed they would tend to 320 weaken and injure the Established Church. They looked, as had been said, upon such measures, as so many instalments, of what they considered they had a right to expect, and they looked forward to the time when they should see their views accomplished by the destruction of that Church; and when they asserted, that in thus acting they did not go contrary to the letter or spirit, of their oath, let it he recollected that it was not our (the Protestant) but their (the Roman Catholic) version of the oath which they gave. Those Roman Catholics, who, as members of the Legislature, had taken the oath and had openly avowed their support of measures which tended to destroy the Established Church in Ireland, would, in the judgment of any unbiassed persons, be considered as having acted contrary to the expressed and understood meaning of that oath, That, at least, was his opinion. As to the question whether it was worth while in the right rev. Prelate to take notice here of what occurred in another place, he would not say more, than that individually he thanked the right rev. Prelate for having given him the opportunity of stating his opinion on the subject, and that opinion was, that no person who took that oath could be justified in the course which some Roman Catholics had adopted with respect to the Irish Church. He would not say that any Roman Catholic noble Lord, or other member of the Legislature, who conscientiously believed that in supporting certain measures he was not injuring the Established Church, was liable to a charge of wilful violation of his oath, but the case was very different with those who held different language, and who openly professed that their object in supporting those measures was the injury of the Established Church.
§ Petition to lie on the table.