HL Deb 13 April 1848 vol 98 cc259-64

LORD REDESDALE wished to ask a question of Her Majesty's Government relative to a particular class of persons—he meant the members of the Society of Jesus, who, being expelled from most of the countries of Europe, were understood to be coming to reside in large numbers in this country, and whose presence in any country could not, he thought, be matter of indifference to the Government of that country. But there were circumstances connected with them, which he thought deserved peculiar attention at the present moment. That order, their Lordships knew, was one which had been viewed with great jealousy from the earliest period of its existence. Not many years after its establishment it was either put down or expelled from almost every country in Europe. Even the Head of the Catholic Church had abolished the order in 1773. It had been restored again, however, by the Pope in 1814, and already it had contrived to render itself generally odious throughout Christendom. With respect to the proceedings of the order in this country, it was, from the nature of their workings, difficult to acquire accurate information as to what its members were doing. At the same time, there was a newspaper (the Tablet) which was notoriously connected with that order, and which might help to throw some light upon their proceedings. With that view he would trouble their Lordships with two or three short extracts from an article which appeared in that paper on Saturday week (April 1):— If armed resistance were prudent, in our opinion we should advocate it with all our might—nay, if armed resistance be now resorted to, if insurrection be commenced, if the people and the Government be thrown into collision, we pray God, with every faculty of our souls, that the people may triumph, and the English Government be defeated. The writer talked next of "the great imprudence of rebellion," and said:— What makes us regret the present aspect of affairs the more deeply is, that the danger to Ireland arises in great part from the present threat of explosion being premature. In the present state of Europe it is impossible not to see that, at no distant period, England, not improbably, will be so far complicated in her external relations as almost to offer a premium on rebellion in Ireland —to offer, at least, a most irresistible temptation to it. This complication, as it seems to us, was worth waiting for. Deliberately to select the least favourable moment for insurrection seems to us little less than deliberate treason against the common cause. It would have been an abandonment of our duty not to raise our voice against what we think the fatal course into which the Catholic portion of Ireland seems about to precipitate itself. Now, it was quite notorious that the Repeal agitation in Ireland was almost entirely confined to the Roman Catholic portion of the population. And though he might be asked "What possible influence can the Jesuits have in this country?" to this he could reply, that no one who knew the influence which the Roman Catholic clergy had over the people of that communion could say that the influence of the Jesuits was a matter of no concern in the present state of the country; and he thought the subject deserved the serious attention of the Government. Under the Emancipation Act it was provided that all Jesuits residing in this country were bound to have a license from the Government. Now, he wished to know whether any and what number of applications had been made for such licenses; and with this view he begged to move for a return of all applications made by the Jesuits since the commencement of the present year for licenses to come and reside in the United Kingdom, according to the provisions of the 10th of George IV., entitled "An Act for the Relief of His Majesty's Roman Catholic Subjects;" and the number of licenses which had been applied for under that Act.

The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE said, that not being himself aware whether or not there had been applications for licenses on the part of the Jesuits to reside in this country, he had thought it right to ascertain the fact at the Home Office; and upon inquiry there he had found that, although it was undoubtedly true that all Jesuits coming to reside in this country were required by law to apply for licenses, yet, in point of fact, ever since the passing of the Emancipation Act, and under the various Governments which had existed since that period, there had been no one instance, so far as he could ascertain, of any such license being applied for. Certainly as far as the Government was concerned, they had no official knowledge of the existence of any such body in this country.

LORD BEAUMONT wished to be allowed to say a few words on this subject. He agreed with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Redesdale), that in the actual state of Europe and altered relations of Christian Governments, it would be for the benefit of the world at large if the Society of Jesus did not exist. Its principles were not in accordance with the present social condition of civilised nations, while its system of education was hostile to the spirit of scientific inquiry and intellectual freedom which characterised the learning of the age. He said this although he had passed many years in one of their establishments, and entertained a personal regard for many of its members. But at the same time he thought that there was great inconsistency in what had fallen from the noble Lord. That noble Lord seemed to think that there was some connexion between the order of Jesuits and the present disturbed state of Ireland. He fancied that they will abet attempts at violent changes, promote mob influence, and support Radical principles, and ought in consequence to be excluded from England as they had been excluded from the Continent. Now, the reason why the Jesuits had been expelled from all the Catholic countries of Europe, was not their tendency to innovation, not their joining in rebellion and in support of liberal and popular measures, but the reason was, that they were too conservative, too much devoted to old and existing institutions, and too attached to the aristocratic classes of the countries in which they lived—a reason which was exactly the opposite of that for which the noble Lord wished to see them expelled from this country. The noble Lord might have placed his objection to the Jesuits on a more plausible footing. He might have said, that there were large numbers of that order in this country, as undoubtedly there were, who had never applied to be registered, and he might have raised an objection to their residing in this country without complying with the law of this country. Registration of members of religious orders was a useless form, but still it was one of the conditions on which Catholic Emancipation was passed. But the noble Lord was also in error on another point. He was mistaken in supposing that the paper to which he had alluded was the organ of the Jesuits—it was, certainly one of the most intolerant, coarse, and disgusting productions of the day, but in no way whatever connected with the Jesuits. That paper was, he understood, the property of a Quaker who had turned Catholic, and who had adopted the line of writing which he thought would procure for his paper the largest circulation. Hence the adoption of the inflammatory, abusive, and disgraceful style of the articles with which he filled his pages week after week, because they seemed to please a large party in Ireland. It was a sordid speculation; and he assured the House that it was strongly condemned by a large portion of the Roman Catholic body in this country, including, he believed, Dr. Wiseman himself. The Jesuits, he repeated, were in no way connected with that paper, nor any way answerable for the vulgar tirades and incorrect statements which figured in it. With respect to that body, he begged to add that they were certainly placed in a most peculiar position. Having been expelled from all the Catholic countries in Europe, they could find no land in this quarter of the globe, on which to rest their weary feet, except Turkey and England and their dependencies. The noble Marquess might say that he wishes they had selected the dominions of the Sultan; but they had such an opinion of the hospitality of this country that they undoubtedly preferred to come to England; and, so long as they did no overt act contrary to the laws of this country, he should be sorry to see any measure adopted to expel them, or to refuse them that hospitality which we rightly and wisely extended to other persons in misfortune. He hoped that he should never see adopted in this country the principle of judging those who were driven to our shores by their acts in foreign countries, instead of by their acts in this country. There was a Bill which they were about to discuss, the principle of which he entirely objected to. It gave a power to banish foreigners, on the ground that their antecedents made them suspicious characters, and thus rendered them liable to punishment before they had offended against the law. It was a principle which he would not entrust to any Government. He had no objection to adopt any measure they chose to put down insurrection in this country, or to punish foreigners who joined in any such movements; but he should not like to put a power into the hands of the Secretary of State which he could use at the dictation of a foreign Power, for foreign purposes. A Minister might from diplomatic motives, and in consequence of diplomatic correspondence, drive persons from our shores who, however obnoxious in another country, had done nothing to violate our laws or offend our institutions. If he might judge from what he saw around him—if he merely looked to what was self-apparent, he would say that there never had been a moment, so far as England was concerned, when there was less necessity for such a Bill than at present, for supposing that there were some thousand persons who had come over here, neither from curiosity nor to seek hospitality, who entertained revolutionary opinions, and were imbued with republican sentiments, it was evident from what had been seen of the spirit of Englishmen of all classes, that they would not be assisted in their objects one way or another by any foreign party. If anything of the kind had been attempted, it had been a failure. Even the Chartists themselves had refused all connexion with them, and in no case would they find any attempt made by any party in this country to avail themselves of offers of foreign aid. It was possible that the Government had looked only to what was taking place in other countries. The events that had occurred in France would have been sufficient to excite alarm, if they had not certain proofs at home of the extent to which the spirit of nationality prevailed in the country. In France bodies of men had been organised in the public streets, and forwarded to the frontiers for the express purpose of revolutionising Belgium and Germany. These lawless attempts had been defeated; but they were nevertheless sufficient to justify neighbour- ing countries in taking strong measures to prevent the entrance of parties who were plotting against their peace. It might be possible that the disturbances in the north of Italy, of which his noble Friend (Lord Brougham) had spoken on Tuesday, and from which the noble Lord seemed to apprehend a European war, might have induced the Government to introduce this measure. He would beg to say a few words on that subject. [A Noble LORD: There is no question before the House.] He certainly understood that his noble Friend had moved for the production of papers.

LORD REDESDALE said, that as the noble Marquess had explained that there were no returns, he had no intention of pressing his Motion.

LORD BEAUMONT said, that he should in that case not trespass further on the House at present.

Motion withdrawn.

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