HL Deb 07 July 1851 vol 118 cc282-5

moved the First Reading of the Ecclesiastical Titles Assumption Bill, and said that as he wished their Lordships should have due time for deliberation, he proposed that the Bill should be read a Second Time that day fortnight.


said, he felt on all occasions that the rules of that House were not only binding in authority, but were founded on good sense, and he believed that it was not customary to oppose the first reading of a Bill which was sent up to their Lordships' House from the other House of Parliament. This rule had rarely been set aside, and he was not aware it had ever been done by their Lordships. At the same time, however, the present Bill was of so irritating a character, at least in that part of the empire with which he was most closely connected, that he wished the fact to he distinctly understood, that the principle of a measure ought not to be considered as affirmed by a first reading. For his own part he begged that he might not be understood to approve of the Bill, as extending to Ireland, and as amended by Sir F. Thesiger. Though the title of the Bill had not been changed since its introduction, its enactments had been materially altered, during its progress through the Commons; and that had been done against the will of the Government, so that he could not now clearly understand who were the real fathers of the present measure. The Bill, as originally introduced, was framed for the purpose of repelling an aggression against which their Lordships had received many petitions; and he was inclined to concur generally with the petitioners in their complaints, though not in their demands, nor in the tone of their remonstrances. If the Bill had been limited within its proper bounds—the resisting an unjustifiable aggression, there could not, and ought not, to be much reason to complain. But looking at the Bill as it now came before their Lordships, he could not but condemn it, moved, as it was, to his unfeigned regret, by Her Majesty's Government, though many of its provisions had been given a force and an agency much stronger, and bearing upon much more sensitive interests, than had been affected by the Bill introduced by the Government—Amendments were adopted which had been resisted by the Government—the Bill to a great extent being carried by repeated divisions against them. Another large party had objected to any Bill at all; and a noble Lord (the Earl of Derby), whose absence, and the cause of it, they must all regret, had recommended another and a far preferable course of proceeding. Although he differed from some of the propositions laid down by the party in the other House represented by Sir James Graham—[Cries of "Order!"] He contended that he was quite in order. Who had ever objected to designating, as such, the friends of Fox, or the party of Canning? His object was to prove that the Bill had no real friends, and was not supported by any great party in the State. He begged to impress on their Lordships that the present Bill was not the measure of the Government as originally introduced. It had been altered in every essential point. The Bill was introduced upon the sole ground of repelling Papal aggression; but it had been fatally framed so as to affect a part of the empire to which that aggression did not apply; and from being a Bill purporting to prohibit the assumption of ecclesiastical titles, it was converted into a measure going much further, and would now very justly be considered to restrain and fetter religious freedom, and to cripple the government of a hierarchical Church which the Legislature had recognised, and which was the Church of one-third portion of the people. He (Lord Monteagle) had been one of the first who had expressed his ready determination to resist the aggression which had taken place; but this was no justification for this Bill; and knowing well the alarm and excitement which would be produced in his country by a measure like the present, he wished it to be understood that, in consenting to the first reading, and thus showing every respect for the House of Commons, who had sent up the Bill, he implied no respect whatever for the Bill itself. He would take this opportunity of asking whether the Government had any objection to lay on the table of the House a Copy of the Address from the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church exercising episcopal functions in Ireland, to Her Majesty, respecting any measures proposed to be adopted in relation to the Papal Rescript purporting to erect certain sees and ecclesiastical titles in England; and also, whether it was the intention of the Government to lay on the table of that House any despatches from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on the subject of the legislative measures consequent on the Papal Rescript purporting to constitute sees in England?


said, he did not rise for the purpose of replying to the observations of the noble Lord. The fitting time to enter upon such discussion would be upon a proposition for adopting this Bill, which they were now merely receiving, in order that their Lordships might be enabled to put themselves in possession of its provisions. With respect to the question of which the noble Lord had given notice, there could be no objection to produce the Address to which he alluded: he could not, however, lay upon the table of the House any communication from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on the subject of the measures to be adopt- ed consequent to the Papal Rescript, because there had been no official communication from him upon the subject. Bill read 1a.