The Bishop of Exeter
said, that before proceeding to address the House on the subject of which he had given notice, he should first beg leave to present a petition. It was very short, and signed by between 3,000 and 4,000 persons of great respectability, all of whom gave their address. It was the "humble petition of the undersigned inhabitants of the town of Liverpool," who, seeing that the condition on which the Act of 1829 1294 had been granted, had not been observed so as to give security to the Protestant Establishment, prayed that that Act might be repealed, and that the Legislature might be made essentially Protestant, as it was before. He would at present move, that this petition lie on the table; and before proceeding with the subject upon which he had given notice for this evening, he would first, with the permission of the House, express his thanks to the noble Lord, the head of the Colonial Department, for the entire candour, courtesy, and even kindness, with which he had assisted him (the Bishop of Exeter) in his inquiry upon this subject. Nothing could exceed that candour and kindness, and he returned his thanks to the noble Lord for the indulgence which he had shown him. Their Lordships would recollect, that in the year 1835, his late Majesty's Government thought it desirable to establish a Council of Government in the island of Malta, and among the individuals whom they selected to compose that council, was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Malta. He understood, that upon an intimation being made to the right rev. Prelate of that appointment, and a copy of the oath of office being shown him, that right rev. Person expressed his inability to comply immediately with the conditions required of him, and requested time to communicate with the Cardinal Secretary of State at Rome, in order that he might be made acquainted with the sentiments of his Holiness on the subject. This took place in 1835; but, notwithstanding the urgent requests repeatedly made of the Bishop of Malta, no answer was transmitted till May, 1836.
A noble Lord remarked, that the right rev. Prelate was guilty of an irregularity in speaking from the table.
The Bishop of Exeter
said, that he believed he was perfectly regular; but if their Lordships were of opinion that he was out of order, he would, of course, bow to their decision.
§ The Duke of Richmond
remarked, that he entertained no objection to the right rev. Prelate's speaking from the table, but the practice of their Lordships' House was, that a Peer should not speak from any place but where he could vote, and a bishop could only vote from the Bishops' bench. He appealed to his noble Friend who was now sitting on the Woolsack next to the noble and learned Lord who 1295 presided, whether he was not perfectly correct in stating such to be the practice.
, who left the Woolsack to speak from the Treasury bench, said, that there was no doubt that the rule of the House was, that noble Lords should speak from that part of the House in which they voted, but that rule had never been strictly observed; and if it were to be enforced, he himself ought not to be speaking from the place in which he stood, but from his own seat on the Baron's bench. He must say, however, that if the rule were to be strictly enforced, it would lead to much more inconvenience than resulted from a right rev. Prelate's speaking at the table when he had papers to read.
The Bishop of Exeter
resumed. He believed he was saying, that the Bishop of Malta transmitted a copy of the oath to Rome in 1835, but that no letter reached him in answer till May, 1836, when a communication arrived, stating that his Holiness considered that the oath was not approveable, and that it had never been approved of by him. This oath, he would remind their Lordships, was that which was contained in the Roman Catholic Relief Act, and which was the qualification for office of the Roman Catholics of this country, whether as magistrates or as members of either House of Parliament. When the fact of the Roman Catholic bishop of Malta having refused to take this oath came to his knowledge in the course of the discussion upon this subject which took place some weeks ago, he applied to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, for information, which he had been so obliging as to afford, and he understood the noble Lord did not mean to oppose the motion which he intended to make for the papers designated in the notice which he had given. He must say, that this fact did appear to him to be of very great importance, for he need not repeat to their Lordships what was said by the Roman Catholics themselves, that the great, and indeed the only security, which they could offer, was their oath. When, therefore, he found that the highest authority in that church, one which was considered by every member of that communion as binding in all questions of faith and morals, had pronounced a disapproval of the oath prescribed by the Act of 1829, it seemed to hint that the security on which the people 1296 of this country had so long relied, was perfectly baseless. With this feeling he had thought it necessary to bring the circumstance under the notice of their Lordships, and therefore he had determined to move for the papers which formed the subject of his notice this evening. It was not his intention to go over the ground which he had troubled their Lordships by traversing three weeks ago, as far as related to the conduct of the laity of the Romish communion. He meant to confine himself on this occasion to the doctrines inculcated by the Roman Catholic clergy and prelates with reference to the obligation of the oath taken by the members of that church. It would be proper that he should remind their Lordships what was the origin of that oath. In the year 1792, a declaration was put forth by the Roman Catholics of Dublin, in which they pressed for the grant of the elective franchise, promising that they would not exercise that franchise against the Protestant Government, or to weaken or disturb the interests of the Protestant Church of Ireland. In consequence, his late Majesty, George the 3rd, was pleased in the following year, as he believed in the speech from the throne, to call upon Parliament to consider whether they could not give the relief which was prayed for by their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. He need not state, that this gave unbounded gratification to the Roman Catholics of Ireland. The Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops who happened at that time to be in Dublin, immediately sent forth a charge, calling on the people of that country to receive with gratitude this unprecedented proof of the kindness of their Sovereign. Dr. Troy, at that time the Roman Catholic archbishop of Dublin, to whom Dr. Murray was subsequently appointed coadjutor, on the 18th of February, 1793, addressed a pastoral letter of instruction to the Roman Catholics residing within his diocese. In the course of this pastoral, it was stated, that in a declaration made by the Irish Roman Catholics on the 17th of March, 1792, they had engaged "not to exercise the elective franchise" (if it were conceded to them) "to disturb and weaken the establishment of the Protestant religion or Protestant government of that country," page 100. In referring to this document, Dr. Troy emphatically stated, that "their principles are consistent with the declara- 1297 tion lately made by them." "They (he added, speaking of the Catholics of Ireland), said, we will not disturb and weaken the establishment of the Protestant religion or Protestant government of that country. (page 100). The Catholics of Ireland will not disturb and weaken the Protestant Church Establishment, nor invade the property, honours, and privileges of the Protestant clergy, confirmed to them by statute law, neither will they disturb and weaken the Protestant Government." On the 22d of March, in the same year, while Dr. Troy was watching the progress of the bill, he published another edition of this Pastoral Instruction, and in a supplement to it, he thus noticed the bill, which had then passed both Houses of Parliament, granting the elective franchise, and embodying in the oath required as a qualification the very words of the declaration, sanctioned thus solemnly by Dr. Troy:I sincerely unite with my Catholic brethren in their effusions of loyalty and gratitude to our beloved Sovereign, and both Houses of Parliament, for the recent proof of their wisdom, justice, and liberality exhibited in the Bill for our relief which has just been sanctioned by the Lords and Commons. May the united efforts of all Irishmen be henceforward directed to the preservation of tranquillity, and promotion of the general advantage and prosperity of their country. May the conduct of Catholics, in particular, be ever, as it has hitherto been, conformable to their principles, and prove that the confidence reposed in them by an enlightened Legislature is not misplaced.Dr. Troy also gave an exhortation that a mass should be celebrated. In addressing the clergy of his archdiocese, he said—Dear brethren—We hasten to announce the riches of God's goodness displayed in a recent Act of the Legislature, restoring the Roman Catholics of Ireland to a considerable share in the Constitution of their country. Rejoice, then, dear brethren, in the Lord. Again, we say, rejoice. Pour forth your thanksgiving to the King of kings, to our beloved Monarch, to the Lords and Commons, and to all who have concurred with them in procuring our relief. We conjure you, most earnestly, to manifest your gratitude to Heaven, and to our earthly rulers, by the exact discharge of your obligations as Christians and subjects.Now, among these obligations had been in an especial manner included by himself, as had been seen, the engagement 1298 not to exercise the elective franchise to disturb and weaken the Protestant church establishment, nor invade the property, honours, and privileges of the Protestant clergy. The obligations of the oath had been faithfully observed for more than thirty years, and it was not till the year 1831 that any attempt was made to evade them. Nay, more than that; in the year 1830, there was a meeting of the Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops of Ireland, in which they disclaimed all intention of uniting with the laity for the purpose of exciting the people in the attainment of political objects, and called on their clergy to do the same. He need not state to their Lordships, that this injunction was not observed by all, but many did comply with it. He was bound to say, that up to 1834, Dr. Murray, and he believed nearly all the Roman Catholic prelates, did abstain from anything like union with the laity, in urging on the violent measures which were then in agitation. This was in the summer of 1834, but a very few months afterwards the scene was unhappily changed. Their Lordships would have a perfect recollection of what took place in the latter part of that year. A change of ministry occurred, and the conduct of the Roman Catholic prelates changed also. Accordingly, at the general election of 1834–5, the Roman Catholic bishops, at least many of them, not only joined the laity in exciting the people of Ireland, but urged their clergy in every way, to impress upon their flocks the duty of supporting the popular candidates; and, what was worst of all, they put the obligation upon the ground of religious duty. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Ferns and Loughlin, so called, Dr. Nolan, thus addressed his clergy in a circular letter, dated the 7th of January, 1835:—Braganza House, Carlow, Jan. 7, 1835.Dear Rev. Sir—Having been consulted by some of our clergy on the expediency of our taking a part in the present elections. I deem it necessary to address my answer generally to the priests, of at least this part of the diocese. My wish, as it is the express wish of all the Catholics in Ireland, is, that we should, if it were possible, keep aloof from all interference in political concerns. This, however, must be subject to the modification of circumstances; and I am decidedly of opinion, that the present critical and most important juncture of public affairs, not only justifies, but imperatively calls for our most 1299 active and energetic exertions, I will state my reasons briefly. The best and dearest interests, religious as well as political, are at stake. A new Administration has been called into power, avowedly for the purpose of supporting the temporalities of the Church by law established, and the principles of the Tory, anti-reforming, or Conservative party in England and Ireland. * * *The present general election, then, is the most important that perhaps ever occurred in this country, for on its results depend the future improvement, peace, and prosperity of Ireland, or the perpetual continuance of the poverty, misery, and degradation of her people. Shall we then stand by as idle spectators of so momentous a contest? We are so completely identified with our people in all their interests, and in all their suffering, I answer emphatically, no. The people stand in need of our assistance in this emergency, and we owe to them our most zealous co-operation in an object so evidently good as their peaceful and legal endeavours to free themselves from the thraldom of Conservative oppression, and the crying grievance of an unjust and sanguinary tithe system. We are bound to give them our assistance, by instruction, advice, exhortation; and it is necessary to explain to the electors the real nature of the question which they are now called upon to determine by their votes. The question before the electors now is, not whether this or that candidate be a man of wealth or limited fortune, a man of amiable manners and private worth, or a haughty aristocrat and bad landlord; a man of mental powers and literary acquirements, or a half-educated squire; but simply this—will they, by their votes, do all in their power to support an Administration which is determined to check the progress of salutary improvement to all the civil institutions of the empire—to uphold and perpetuate in Ireland the enormous abuses of a Church Establishment, from which the people never received aught but evil—to place the education of our youth in the hands of proselytising fanatics, and to deliver the Catholic population again to the domination of the old ascendancy faction? * * *Will they give their support to such a Ministry, their sanction to such principles, their approbation to such proceedings? Can any honest, independent, conscientious freeholder, particularly can any Catholic freeholder, who desires to see the reign of justice, charity, and peace in his native land, do so?The Church Establishment thus spoken of by the Bishop, was the very establishment which that individual, and all the rest had sworn to do nothing to disturb. The document then proceeded to advise a peculiar and wary courseAfter having explained to the freeholders 1300 of your parish the real state of the question on which they have solemnly to decide, your duty, Sir, is to instruct them in the conscientious obligations of electors, for they are not to understand that the elective privilege is intended, by the laws, as a matter of traffic, to be disposed of for private emolument or favour, but a sacred trust, confided to them for the public good, and therefore to be exercised for the public good, with strict adherence to integrity, and according to the pure dictates of conscience. Their attention is to be most particularly directed to the nature and obligation of the oaths which are to be administered to them—the oath of qualification, and the oath against bribery.Now neither he nor any of their Lordships would be disposed to say one word against the fitness of giving proper instructions in such cases; but it might be well, that their Lordships should be acquainted with the sort of instructions there alluded to. The object palpably was to render it necessary for those persons to consult their spiritual guides as to the selection of the candidates who would best promote the interests of the country. It was only necessary for that purpose to satisfy them, that that was a religious duty; because he need not tell their Lordships that with Roman Catholics in all matters of religion, their duty must be learned from their priests. Being, therefore, satisfied upon the first point, they had only to support the pretensions of such candidates as, in the presumption of the priests, would best promote the good of the country. A placard, headed, "The sanctity of an oath," had been put about by these priests, and had been produced before the Committee of the House of Commons on Bribery, from the Report of which he had been reading by the chief constable of police. The placard ran thus:—The doctrine of the Catholic Church teaches, that the elector is bound in conscience to support the candidate whom he disinterestedly and dispassionately judges to be more worthy of trust, and who will more promote the public good; this is obvious, as the franchise is given, not for his own private advantage, but for the good of the community.Every oath ought to be taken in truth, justice and necessity. And any oath taken in order to commit a sinful act is a profanation of its sanctity.From these doctrines these consequences naturally follow—.Any person who votes for the candidate whom he believes less worthy and less calculated to advance the general good is guilty of 1301 sin, because he commits an act of injustice against the public interest.Any person who swears, though his oath be true, in order to enable him to give such a sinful vote, adds to the act of injustice the crime of gross profanation, because he invokes the holy name of God for the purpose of violating a moral duty, which violation is condemned, or ought to be condemned, by his conscience.According to the terms of the bribery oath, it is obvious that any person having received, or had directly or indirectly any gift or reward, or any promise for any money, office, or employment, in order to give his vote at an election, cannot swear in truth; and if he do swear he calls upon the holy name of God to bear testimony to a falsehood, and is guilty of the horrid crime of perjury.WM. BRENNAN,JAMES CRANE,PATRICK MURPHY,JOHN FURLONG,FRANCIS DOYLE,GEORGE CHAPMAN,PATRICK KELLY.That placard was issued in 1835, and he need not remind their Lordships of the conduct of the priests during that election; in how many counties had they interfered to compel the unhappy voters to vote at their direction by denouncing threats from the altar, as was abundantly proved before the Bribery Committee, and by threatening them with every species of spiritual terror if they did not concur with the priests in the selection of candidates. A few months after that period the Bishop of Malta made his application to the court of Rome; and here was a circumstance a little remarkable: the letter of the Bishop of Malta was received in February, 1836. In the spring of that year Dr. Murray visited Rome, stayed there several months, and it was inconceivable that, having remained for so long a time, and having had frequent interviews with the Pope and Cardinals then, he had not been made acquainted with that application. He must have known that the Pope, in answer to that application, had said, that the oath was not approved of; and he must have known, that if the Pope had so declared of that oath, no Roman Catholic would any longer consider it binding on his conscience, because he must consult his spiritual superiors unless the matter were absolutely clear to his own minds; for he did not mean to contend, that if the sanctity of the oath were absolutely clear to the mind of the indivi- 1302 dual then he must apply to the priests; and if there existed in his mind the slightest doubt, even though that doubt were excited by the expression of the Pope's opinion, he was bound to consult his spiritual superiors. Plainly, therefore, from that moment, no Roman Catholic would consider the oath binding on his conscience. Now, it was a remarkable thing that Dr. Murray, immediately on his return from that visit to Rome on the 4th of October, 1836, for the first time, having until then, distinctly and manfully opposed the system of agitation in that country, gave in his adhesion to the General Association; and on the 5th published a pastoral letter to the clergy of his diocese, in which, after speaking of the Pope's special regard for his dear children in Ireland, and commenting on some observations which had been made upon himself by some Protestant clergymen, he made the following remarks:—It was not God; it was an object of a more attractive devotion that inspired their zeal; the tithe—the blood-stained tithe—was thought to be in danger of suffering some diminution for the purpose of effecting a more extensive good.Then, for the first time, he called the tithes bloodstained; for, in the evidence which that same individual had given before their Lordships' Committee, in 1835, he had spoken with great respect of the right of the clergy to tithes. The peculiar words, too, which he then used—"for the purpose of effecting a more extensive good, "appeared to have been suggested to the mind of Dr. Murray by one of the causes which tended to put an end to the obligation of oaths. In one of the class-books at Maynooth, under the head "Theologia Moralis," was the following:—'Baily Theod. Moral,' v. 2, p. 119, recounting the same reasons which prevent an oath from having any obligation, mentions as the 3rd the hindering of a greater good opposed to the thing promised by the oath.Causæ impedimentes obligationem juramenti. 3d. Causa est impeditio majoris boni oppositi rei per juramentum promissæ."There could be no doubt that that had suggested to the mind of Dr. Murray to say that tithes might be diminished for the purpose of effecting a more extensive good; and if that were the case, according to the doctrine laid down in the class-book which he had quoted, any Roman 1303 Catholic would be at perfect liberty to use any means in his power to diminish tithes. His argument was supported also by a well-known fact with respect to another Catholic Bishop—(the Bishop of Ossory) who had violated a promise made to Major Bryan. That gentleman had given the following account of the transaction:—Reports having been most industriously circulated, in order to injure the Roman Catholic Committee for the county and city of Kilkenny in the estimation of their Roman Catholic brethren, I feel myself called upon to lay the following statement before the public:—On the 17th of October last, the Committee met, and voted addresses to Lords Fingall and Grenville, and to Messrs. Grattan and Ponsonby. It was then thought advisable to apply to Dr. Lanigan, the titular Bishop of Ossory, for his signature, We, in consequence, sent him a deputation for that purpose, and adjourned until the 20th, in order to give him time to consider of the answer he might think proper to return. On the 20th we accordingly again met, when the deputation reported to us, that the Bishop had promised to sign our addresses. What then must have been our astonishment to find, that on the 22nd, he refused to fulfil his solemn promise given to our deputation? I cannot avoid saying, that the manner in which Dr. Lanigan has acted on this occasion, convinces me more than ever how very necessary it is, that the Crown should have a veto on the nomination of Irish Roman Catholic Bishops.GEORGE BRYAN.Chairman of the Roman Catholic committee for the city and county of Kilkenny.Jenkinstown, Nov. 4, 1808.These circumstances had been published as a reproach to that bishop, who consequently wrote an answer, in which he thus proceeded to vindicate his sense of the sacredness of an oath—I am convinced that a serious, sincere, and voluntary promise, binds a man who makes it, under pain of sin, to fulfil it. But I am likewise convinced, that the obligation arising from a promise ceases in the following cases: 1st. If a man promises a thing impossible; for no one can be bound to do a thing impossible. 2d. If a man promises to do anything sinful or unlawful; for no promise, though confirmed by an oath, can bind a man to commit sin. 3d. When a person in whose favour a promise is made releases the promiser from the promise he has made. 4th. When a man promises a thing pernicious or useless to the person in whose favour the promise is made. 5th. When, before the promise is fulfilled, the circumstances become so changed, that the person promising, had he foreseen these circumstances, would never have made 1304 the promise. On this I rest my justification; for had I foreseen or known, that my signing these addresses would produce such alarm and consternation, such dislike and disapprobation, as I afterwards found they would in the minds of the great majority of the Catholic Priests and laity in this city, I would by no means have consented to sign them. St. Thomas saith, 'That a man is not guilty of an untruth in such a case; because, when he promised, he intended to perform his promise. Nor is he unfaithful to his promise, because the circumstances are changed.' This is not only the opinion of St. Thomas, but is also the opinion of all the theologians and canonists I ever saw or read.JAMES LANIGAN.Kilkenny, Nov. 8, 1808.Then they had the authentative declaration of a Roman Catholic Bishop as to what he thought of the binding nature of the oath, viz., that it might cease to bind at all if the circumstances under which it was taken were to change. It was remarkable that the string of causes for putting an end to the binding nature of an oath was not taken from the class-books at Maynooth, but from a book of which their Lordships had heard much—it was taken from Dens. Here, then, they had an instance of the adoption, not only of the course of reasoning, but of the very words of that author. It was painful to him to make these remarks on the bishops and clergy of another communion; but it was a duty from which he would not shrink, for he felt it to be deeply important that their Lordships should see the real causes of the tremendous demoralization of that country; it was to the directions of the priesthood, and the mandates of the bishops, that they must refer that utter disregard of the sanctity of an oath, and the entire inattention to all that had been deemed sacred in life. He need not tell their Lordships what was the power of the priests—not merely in the confessions, but where they dogmatically announced the principles of morals by which the conduct of the people was to be governed. He would tell their Lordships the difference between the authority of the priesthood of the Church of Rome and that of the Church of England. The laity of the Church of England might, if they pleased, in cases of doubt and difficulty, in which conflicting duties and difficulties arose, and upon which they could not satisfy their own consciences—they might, if they chose, have recourse to any of the clergy; and probably many persons, in such a si- 1305 tuation, would be glad to take the advice of their spiritual guide; but still they would be taught by that pastor, and they would know themselves, for they could never have heard anything of a contrary tendency from that Church—they would then know themselves, and be taught by that pastor, that the responsibility was still their own; the pastor was ever ready to give all the advice that he could, and to instruct any one as far as he was able in the course which he ought to pursue; but, at the same time, the applicant knew that it was his own conscience—his own soul—that was in peril. Not so with the Church of Rome. The priesthood of that Church told its adherents it was their duty in all cases of doubt, to consult their spiritual superiors, and to act on their directions; and that, if they did so act, they freed themselves from all responsibility. That responsibility then rested on the priesthood, and that responsibility they were ready to bear. That was the great difference in the authority of the priesthood of the two Churches. That that was so, he would prove from very authentic documents; and, 1st, he would call attention to the conclusion of one of the class-books at Maynooth, which was to be found in the evidence of the Archbishop of Dublin, before their Lordships' Committee in 1825; and as it was written in rather barbarous Latin, their Lordships would perhaps, pardon him for reading a translation. Having referred to the unfortunate state of the Protestants in being responsible for themselves at the day of judgment, the document proceeded:—But how different will be the lot of the Catholic, although (which be it far from him to believe) he may have fallen into error, by obeying the decrees of the church concerning doctrine. If the Supreme Judge questioned him on this subject, would he not confidently reply, 'Lord, if that be error, which we have followed, thou thyself hast deceived us by thy so-oft repeated precept to hear the Church as Thee, unless we would have our portion with the heathens? Thou thyself hast deceived us by thy Apostles, by the pastors and doctors whom thou hast appointed in thy Church for the perfecting of the Saints, and the edifying of thy body, who commanded us so to do. Thou thyself hast deceived us by thy Church, called by Paul the pillar and ground of truth; for she has always exacted of her children an entire assent in heart and mind, menacing against rebels, in thy name, an everlasting anathema, Conscious, alas! of our igno- 1306 rance in divine things, and of the infirmity of human reason, how could we, in searching the Scriptures, rely upon ourselves, and despise so conspicuous an authority? We say with confidence, O Lord! if that be error which we have followed, thou thyself hast deceived us, and we are excused.'Then followed the application of the principle:—Withdrawing himself from all the prejudices of birth, or education, or circumstances, let the reader imagine that he is summoned to appear to-morrow before the tribunal of God, and give a reason for his faith, and let him determine then what answer prudence would direct him to adopt—the answer of the Protestant or that of the Catholic.He thought then, that what he had now said, made it apparent, that at present the Church of England was left absolutely without any security, so far as the Roman Catholics were concerned; that there was nothing to prevent the employment of powers which a too confiding Legislature had granted, to the utter destruction of all the institutions which they had sworn to maintain. It was plain that at present not only was the Roman Catholic hierarchy and priesthood released from the obligation of oaths, but they were bound in conscience to attack and destroy, if they could, those very institutions. All that, he said, was plain, from the evidence produced, and from the words of the individuals themselves; and then came the awful question—for an awful question it was—what was to be done? The petitioners, from whom he had had the honour to present a petition that night, called on their Lordships to repeal the Act of 1829. Was that the course which wisdom required them to pursue? He respected those individuals highly—he entertained the highest respect for their opinions—and if it were merely a question of what the Roman Catholics of Ireland merited, he should say, they were right in demanding the repeal of that measure; but that, he was bound to say, was not the only consideration. Would the Church in Ireland be really protected by such an Act? He said, "Ireland," because, thank God, in England they had nothing to apprehend from the Roman Catholics who had obtained seats in either House of Parliament; and it would be, in his mind, therefore, a violation of the compact with those noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen in this country who had faithfully adhered to their obligations—it would 1307 be a breach of faith towards them to deprive them of the benefit of a contract which they had faithfully observed. But it was not so in Ireland. There they saw that the priesthood had effectually laboured to remove every sense of the sacredness of an oath, and, therefore, as far as they were concerned, justice would sanction, if not demand the repeal of the statute, or the imposition of some more availing restraint. However, though justice might sanction the measure, would true wisdom demand it? He would frankly state that, as at present advised, he thought it would not; in the first place, because it was apparent that if Roman Catholics could no longer be elected as representatives of the Irish constituencies, and the same power was left in the hands of the priesthood, and the hierarchy, the only result would be to transfer the scandal of perjury from the Church of Rome to that of England; for the priesthood would find worthless men calling themselves Protestants, who would be ready in Parliament to do the bidding of the Priests who sent them there, and these men would sit in the places vacated by the Roman Catholic Members. Thus nothing could be gained by the repeal of that law, but the transference of the scandal of perjury from the one Church to the other. In dealing with a Church which was disposed to set at nought all the obligations of an oath, it was necessary that some new test should be created; it had been proved by experience two centuries ago, that no test could bind that Church which did not include the denial of some essential article of their faith; such a test had proved effectual until the year 1829; and such a test must be readopted if they intended to repeal the Act of that year. Again, it would be absolutely necessary to exclude all the Roman Catholic constituencies from the power of voting, for if they did not do that, the step could only be productive of mischief. If they were not prepared to go all that length, they must look for some other means of checking the evil. What must that be? If they were again to impose some religious test, the feelings of religious men of all denominations, would be enlisted against them; because they would consider it harsh that men should be kept out of the enjoyment of civil rights in consequence of their conscientious belief in any doctrine. That was the principal 1308 cause why, at length the measure of 1829 was forced on Parliament; because a very large portion of really religious men thought it cruel for the sake of conscientious scruples to exclude a large class of persons from civil privileges. He apprehended, too, that it would be found difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a statute to that extent; and even if it could be obtained, he was very doubtful whether it would be desirable. Under those circumstances, and with that view of the case, he was not one of those who thought an attempt should be made to exclude the Catholics by religious tests. But there was one obvious mode by which much good might be done to protect the Church of England in Ireland; and in what he was about to say, he could assure the House that he intended to convey no taunt, nor to speak in reference to things which had lately passed, or even in reference to what might be his own opinion upon the conduct of the present Government, but he was convinced that the only mode by which they could retard the mischiefs arising from that perjury, sanctified by the behests of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, was this, that the Government of this country should conscientiously, uniformly, manfully, do its duty, in protecting the Church of England in Ireland. That the Government had incalculable opportunities and means could not be denied, and he need scarcely say that especial care should be taken with regard to all the appointments that were made, not merely in the church, but in every department of the State, that, even if they were not made on distinctly religious considerations, still no one at least should be appointed who could for a moment be expected to use his power to the injury of the true religion of that country. That would be an effectual and powerful protection to the church, and would it be denied that that was the duty of the Government? He was sure that the noble Lord (Glenelg), who then alone, of all the Ministers sat on that bench, would be of opinion that it was the duty of the Government to protect the church by the most energetic and decisive means consistent with justice to all her Majesty's subjects. But it was the duty of the Government on higher considerations. He need not remind their Lordships that the oath of the Roman Catholics was not the only security for the Protestant Church in that country. They had another oath, 1309 which was binding in a quarter, in which they were perfectly sure, that the sanctity of an oath would be felt, acknowledged, and obeyed, most scrupulously and conscientiously. They had the coronation oath; and that oath would soon be taken by the illustrious lady, who was now placed by Providence at the head of this kingdom; and that she should ever be induced to do anything in contravention of that oath was absolutely impossible—it was not even to be thought of for an instant. They also had another oath, which ought to be a great security, and which he was confident, in the instance of the noble Lord who sat near him, would be a great security; he meant the oath taken by Privy Councillors, who were to advise her Majesty faithfully on all matters; and was it possible, that they could advise a Sovereign, who was bound by the most solemn ties to maintain to the uttermost of her power, the Protestant religion as by law established—was it possible for faithful councillors, to advise her Majesty knowingly, to do anything in contradiction to that oath? Could they advise her to make a single appointment, which, whatever might be its object, had a manifest tendency to weaken the true religion in Ireland? He was sure it was not necessary to remind the noble Baron of it, but he would say, that the necessity of attending strictly to the obligations of the oath of Privy Councillors, was incalculably augmented by the state of circumstances in Ireland; for if such were the state of demoralization in respect to the sanctity of oaths, that the Established Church was deprived of the security intended, was it not clear that it was the bounden duty of the Government to take every step in its power, consistently with a due regard to a consideration of justice, to all classes of the community, to take every step to secure the integrity of that Church? Feeling that to be the case, he believed that the Government would also feel it to be its duty, and if he had been fortunate enough to bring, before them any facts which would place in a more clear light, the danger of the Established Church, that they would feel it to be their increased duty, to perform all that the Church could demand for her protection and security: and he hoped that the papers for which he should now move, and the production of which would not, he believed, be opposed, 1310 might be the means of drawing their attention to the peculiar nature of that subject. The right rev. Prelate concluded by moving, that "an humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to direct that there be laid on the table of the House a copy of any despatch from the Governor or acting Lieutenant-Governor of the island of Malta to his late Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, respecting the appointment of the Bishop of Malta to be a Member of the Council of Government of that island: and also of any despatch announcing the refusal of the said Bishop to take the oath required by law to be taken by him on the acceptance of such appointment, and his resignation of the same; together with any documents received from the said Bishop on occasion of such his refusal and resignation.
§ Lord Glenelg
only rose to confirm the right rev. Prelate's anticipations that no opposition would be offered to his motion. He did not think it necessary to enter into the controversial questions discussed by the right rev. Prelate, or on the extensive subjects of national importance to which he had called their Lordships' attention. It was from no want of respect to the right rev. Prelate that he declined to follow him through his speech on this occasion; but he would venture to suggest, that it was advisable to bring such great questions forward on some substantive motion, rather than to introduce them incidentally, when the House was not prepared for the subject. He could not but regret that such great questions, involving the repeal of laws which had created great excitement, should be thus discussed, because, after all, the right rev. Prelate had brought them to no particular conclusion, but had left them in a state of absolute despair. He hoped the right rev. Prelate would pardon him for saying that he did not concur with him in some points, although that was not the occasion to enter on the subject.
The Earl of Shrewsbury
concurred in the opinion that such discussions as the present were inexpedient; but he begged leave to say one word. He was fully and solemnly convinced that these cases which had been extracted from the class books did not at all apply to the present question; they never had been in any case applied as the right rev. Prelate had 1311 applied them that night. With regard to the Bishop of Malta, it was the first time that he had heard of any decision of the court of Rome in that case; but he supposed the right rev. Prelate stated it on good authority. He was not certainly surprised at the difficulty entertained by the Bishop of Malta, because that Bishop was not in circumstances to understand it—to know the animus and intention with which the oath had been imposed. For his own part, he was free to acknowledge that he disliked that oath; he disliked it because he was sure it was altogether unnecessary, because it served to perpetuate distinctions, because it constantly exposed persons to the most revolting aspersions in and out of Parliament; not, indeed, brought forward in the heat of debate, but after cool and calm consideration—in printed speeches and printed charges from some of the most dignified Members of that House—arraigning the conduct of the Catholic Members in what they considered to be the honourable discharge of their official duty. Thus were they held up to the contempt of their fellow-countrymen. He could not but think that it would be quite sufficient, under the circumstances, for the right rev. Prelate to be the keeper of his own conscience, and not to wish to keep the consciences of others. He did not wish to prolong the debate; but he begged leave again to protest against the application of these extracts from the thesis to the present subject.
The Bishop of Exeter
would only make one remark in reply to the observations of the noble Earl. He was peculiarly unfortunate if he had said anything which could have accounted for the misapprehension of the noble Earl. He had not made any charge of any breach of moral duty against the noble Earl, or any noble Lord who sat in that House. Over and over again he had proclaimed his entire confidence in their scrupulous observance of their obligations; and that night he had extended that opinion to the Roman Catholics of England generally—not universally—because he believed there might be one or more, but certainly there were very few of whom he did not entertain that high opinion. Nothing could have been further from his intention than to have conveyed the impression produced on the mind of the noble Earl; and that noble Earl had certainly mistaken him. As to the subject 1312 itself, he would only say, that he thought a more important one could not be brought before that House or the country.
§ Motion agreed to.