HL Deb 28 March 1851 vol 115 cc717-9

, in presenting petitions from Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and Cumberland, against Papal aggression, expressed his regret at the position in which Parliament was now placed in reference to this subject. He apprehended that when Parliament was called together for the present Session, it was the general expectation that, if there were one question which more than another required prompt and decisive action on the part of the Legislature, it was the question which had so greatly excited the religious feelings of every person in the kingdom, whatever might be the persuasion to which he belonged. Now, he did not know what were the reasons which influenced those who had charge of the Bill in the House of Commons in proposing the changes and modifications of that measure which he understood they contemplated. He did not know whether their intention was or was not to be taken as an indication of any particular opposition that had been offered to the Bill. True, there were individuals who had expressed their opinions against the clauses which were to be struck out; but no division had taken place upon them, nor had any Parliamentary ground been laid for abandoning clauses which appeared to him to be ancillary, and indeed necessary for the purpose of giving effect to the Bill. He thought it was the duty of Parliament to make it plain to the Sovereign Pontiff that, if restraints had been removed which were impediments to the extension of the Roman Catholic religion, the removal of those restraints was due, not to the disposition of Great Britain to remove restraints to the progress of that religion, but to a sense of justice on the part of the British Legislature. He was satisfied, from what he saw passing around him, that unless some decision was speedily come to on the question, the agitation which rose to such a. height in the autumn of last year would be revived, and instead of Parliament legislating with a view merely to vindicate the authority and prerogative of the Crown, and prevent measures being taken which would have a tendency to advance the Roman Catholic religion, they would by their tardiness excite in the minds of the people of England an inclination towards an intolerant spirit, which he should very much regret to see evoked. Therefore he was most anxious, whatever decision was come to, and whether the Bill was passed in its original form, which he did hope would be the case, or modified by the excision of the second and third clauses, that there should be no greater delay than was absolutely necessary for satisfying the forms of the other House. He had used the expression "vindicate the authority and prerogative of the Crown;" but he could not say that that was a part of the question upon which he felt very strongly; for he did not very much care about an attempt at infringement upon the authority and prerogative of the Crown by a Power which could not practically infringe them; and he knew that the Roman See could not practically infringe them. In the same light he was disposed to regard the proceedings of the Court of Rome, so far as the independence of this nation was concerned. But there was one point of view in which he contemplated these proceed- ings with much uneasiness and alarm. He was satisfied that the establishment of Papal sees with territorial titles, which would assuredly be followed by what he might call territorial residences, would have a great effect in spreading the Roman Catholic religion. It was against that he desired to guard. It was against that he desired their Lordships to legislate, and it was with that view he thought the measure prohibiting the use of these territorial titles in its original shape was a wise measure. If he understood the effect of the changes which were about to be made in that Bill, however, he very much doubted whether, when those changes should have been made, the Bill would be effective for the purpose for which it was designed.


said, he had several petitions to present on the same subject, but he should not follow the example of his noble Friend by commenting upon a Bill which was in another place, and which they would, in all probability, have future opportunities of discussing in that House; but would simply present the petitions.


said, he had received several petitions, numerously signed, from different Catholic communities against the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, which was now before the House of Commons, but which petitions, in consequence of the forms of the House, he was unable to lay upon their Lordships' table. He had great hopes he never should have an opportunity of presenting those petitions, for he hoped the Bill would never find its way to their Lordships' House. He held in his hand, however, a petition which was very admirably drawn up, and which, as it prayed generally that there might be no penal legislation against the Roman Catholics, he believed was strictly in order. He would, therefore, lay it on their Lordships' table.


said, that the noble Lord was quite correct in supposing that, as the petition he had just presented was against penal legislation, and could not therefore be said to be against the Bill in the other House, it was strictly regular; but he suspected the noble Earl was not quite so correct in his anticipations that that Bill would never reach their Lordships' House, if he might judge by what appeared on the Votes of the other House.

Petitions read, and ordered to lie on the table.

House adjourned to Monday next.

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