HL Deb 15 February 1853 vol 124 cc98-121

The BOSHOP of EXETER moved, according to notice, that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for the Government Gazette of Canada, of May 8, 1849, or any other document in the Colonial Office, containing a copy of an Address to the Governor General of British North America, from the Romish Prelates and Clergy of Quebec, in the year 1849, and of the answer of his Excellency to that Address; also a Return whether the two Canada Acts, 12th Vict. cap. 136, and cap. 143, or either and which of them, were disallowed by Her Majesty; and also a copy of any official letter from the Lord Bishop of Quebec to his Grace the Duke of Newcastle, one of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, on the matter of Clergy Reserves in Canada. The right rev. Prelate said, that he felt that he owed to their Lordships some explanation for bringing before them at this time any question relative to a subject which it appeared, by the Votes of the other House of Parliament, it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to deal with by a Bill to be introduced in that House the same night. It might seem strange that he did not await the arrival in their Lordships' House of that measure before he presumed to address to their Lordships any observations he felt bound to make regarding this question; but in truth he must confess, that the introduction of this measure elsewhere was his reason for bringing the subject before their Lordships. He thought that this House had a right to express, he did not say complaint, but he did say surprise, at the course which the Government had adopted; and he was of opinion that they had a right to hope that some explanation would be given by the noble Secretary for the Colonies (the Duke of Newcastle) why that Bill had not first been introduced in the House of Lords. It had emanated from that office, of which the noble Duke was the head; and for that reason, if for no other, they might have supposed that his Grace would have brought it forward himself; especially as at this season of the year their Lordships were not overburdened with business, and it had been a common complaint that they did nothing at the beginning and attempted more than was possible at the end of every Session. But that, he must be permitted to say, was not the only reason why they should have hoped that this Bill would have been introduced in their House. It might, he thought, fairly have been expected, that in a case in which the interests of religion were so immediately concerned, the Bishops would have been allowed an opportunity of expressing their sentiments early on the merits of the proposition, for it was very possible their Lordships would have received some information on the subject from the right rev. Bench. He understood that there could have been no difficulty about this, as the Bill contained no provisions which could not, according to the constitution, have been considered in their Lordships' House. There was nothing in it, as he was informed, which at all interfered with the rights of the House of Commons; and therefore, if he were to conjecture the motive for the preference given to that other House, and if he did not believe the noble Duke incapable of such a design, he could easily have conceived—indeed, it would have been impossible not to see on the face of it—that the object was to control this House by the voice of the other; and that it had been supposed that the Bill would have a better chance with their Lordships if it came to them only after its approval elsewhere. But fully acquitting the noble Duke, whom he could not think capable of taking such an advantage, he would pass on to show other reasons why this measure should not have been introduced, at least, thus early. It was most remarkable that this measure had been brought forward without the colonies having the slightest notion that any such measure was intended to be introduced. The whole history of the question showed that the colonies had been lulled into full security that such a measure would not be introduced without their having the opportunity of sending deputies to this country, who could stand forward and speak for them. Last year Her Majesty's late Government had returned, as its answer to the address of the Legislative Assembly of Canada, a refusal to transfer the power of dealing with the reserves to the local legislature— they were told that this was the resolution of the Government, on a view of what was due to the best interests of the colonies and of the empire. Soon after, the Administration which had shown such readiness to do the colonies justice was displaced; but the opponents of this measure in Canada had the fullest grounds for confidence that it could not, and would not, be introduced by the present Administration. At the head of that Administration they saw the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) whose whole life had been given to the support of those principles on which the security of the clergy reserves depended. They found that noble Earl at once declaring it to be his resolution to maintain the institutions of the country and of the empire; and, judging from the principles which the noble Earl avowed, they would naturally think the interest of religion in the colonies was one of those considerations which would have had a favourable regard and support from such a Government. Not the noble Earl only, but also the noble Duke near him (the Duke of Argyll) seemed a tower of strength to their cause. Certainly the noble Duke had never committed himself in any public way; but from their previous knowledge of him, the colonists still regarded that noble Duke as incapable of seising upon and confiscating the clergy reserves; and he (the Bishop of Exeter) ventured to think that the colonists had sufficient reason to suppose that the noble Duke would have supported them. He (the Bishop of Exeter) would admit that when any statesman found himself involved in the duties of office, it was necessary for him to review the conclusions at which he had arrived on many important matters of public policy, and his duty to correct his previous impressions if required by his judgment and his conscience to do so. If, therefore, though the private impressions of the noble Duke were against the measure, he had substantially changed those opinions, he would be bound still to support the Bill, and he (the Bishop of Exeter) should honour him for yielding to reason and conviction. But whilst this might be so, it must none the less be remembered that the noble Duke's name had been a source of security to the colonists. But there was another noble Duke: to himself, as to them, the noble Duke's accession to office, and becoming an important Member of the new Government, was, he confessed, a strong reason for giving that Government credit for an intention to afford a true support to the Church of England— the Protestant Church as by law established. They saw the noble Duke in office, and in him they thought they could place the highest confidence. They saw likewise two Members of the other House of Parliament holding office whom they had the best reason to believe attached to the interests of religion and of our Church. They saw in the Government one eminently distinguished by every private virtue, as well as high in public estimation—one whom it was impossible even for those who disagreed with him to speak without respect and regard—he meant Her Majesty's Chancellor of the Exchequer. What did they know of him? That he first became greatly and favourably known to the world by the publication of a work on the relations of Church and State, in which he upheld the opinion that it was the first duty of Government to maintain and to advance true religion. Had not the Canadians, then, a right to suppose that the interests of the Church were safe in the hands of such an individual? Not only was he the author of this book; he had been more than once selected to represent a constituency, in whose judgment faithfulness to religious truth would be deemed an essential qualification of their representative. Nobody, therefore, could have been more trusted in the colonies, for if there was one question more than another on which the University felt strongly, it was this; and it was, of course, natural to expect that the chosen representative of such a body would hold and be faithful to the principles most likely to recommend him there. It was perfectly notorious that, during the late election, strong opinions had been expressed of the failure of the right hon. Gentleman in his adherence to those principles which had recommended him to that constituency in the first instance; and if there was one question more than another upon which the University of Oxford would feel strongly, he repeated, it was that to which he was endeavouring to draw their Lordships' attention. The colonists had a fair right to expect that the present Government would have pursued, in this particular, a course totally different to that which they were taking now, when we had a Bill brought forward in the other House, to confiscate the colonies' religious endowment. It would not, he presumed, be denied, that every member of the Canadian Ministry had committed himself to the secularisation of these resources, if but the power were given; and yet it was attempted to authorise the confiscation without consulting those most concerned—without giving the colonists an opportunity of sending deputations against it. A Canadian bishop was now in London, who, he believed, was not informed till last Saturday of the intended Bill. He then, for the first time, like their Lordships, knew of the proposition, by seeing it in the papers—that, he believed, was the first the Bishop of Quebec knew of the intention of the Government to bring in the measure, the announcement having been made on the previous night. He was sure that the noble Duke, who was officially responsible for the measure, would not do anything unfair; but the result of this proceeding would be to inflict most grievous injustice on the colonists, who were now depending on the pledged faith of the British Government. He hoped he should be excused if he reminded their Lordships briefly of the general history of these reserves. After the peace of 1783, a large number of American loyalists were located in Canada, and they were to a man members of the Church of England. It was because they were persecuted in their own country, and destitute of almost everything but what they carried with them, that they were thrown, he would not say on the generosity, but on the justice, of the British people. In consequence of that state of things His Majesty King George the Third—a name which need only be pronounced to fill every British heart with a grateful remembrance of the virtues with which he adorned the throne—that noble-minded man, that illustrious Sovereign—sent a message to Parliament, upon the settlement of the constitution in Canada, desiring that Parliament would enable him to make a grant of lands for the permanent endowment of the Protestant Church in Canada. That message was received with unanimous gratitude, and an answer was returned to the effect that Parliament would use its best endeavours to secure that which His Majesty desired. A measure was passed reciting the donation of the land by His Majesty, and containing enactments for the purpose of giving effect "in all time to come" to the act of the King, by which those clergy reserves were set apart which they were now called upon to consent to surrender. There was thus strong ground for saying that the national faith was pledged to the maintenance of the grant; and they might well conceive how great an inducement it must have been to the honest and loyal English subjects of those days to settle in Canada, to know that if they went thither they would have the means afforded them of paying their duty to God according to the forms of that Church of which they were the attached children. By the constitutional Act, Parliament and the Crown guaranteed to them that "in all time to come"—those were the very words—there should he that provision for the Protestant religion in the provinces of Canada. Unfortunately the provision was not sufficient to supply churches for the increasing number of inhabitants, and the natural consequence was that a godless population arose—a population that had ceased to have any feeling of attachment to the Church, because there had been no means of extending to them the great plan of the English parochial system. The result was that an agitation sprang up; but there was no agitation whatever in Lower Canada till the end of the year 1849; and it was surely too much to say that they ought to sacrifice to an agitation of three years' duration the claims of reason and justice, and the public faith of the country. In the Upper Province the agitation had existed a little longer; but so late as 1846 the principal leader of it declared that it was impossible to reconsider the question, for it must be looked on as finally settled. Were their Lordships, then, prepared to accede to the principle, that an agitation of four years ought to be allowed its demands? That would be rather an awkward precedent. He must remind their Lordships that agitation was not confined to Canada. Agitation was rife on the other side of the Irish Channel, and the parties who fomented it were at least as powerful as any in British North America. Was it likely that Parliament, by conceding the demands now made for the confiscation of the property of the Protestant Church in Canada, would discourage the agitation which was carried on in Ireland to put down what was called a "bloated nuisance?" He trusted that the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government intended to maintain in its integrity the Protestant Establishment in Ireland; but he would certainly furnish a dangerous precedent by consenting to the subversion of the Protestant Church in Canada. The principle which the noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle) laid down was, that this was not a matter for the English Legislature, but for the Canadian Legislature to determine, and he might, perhaps, say, that Ireland being represented in the British Parliament, there was a broad distinction between the case of Ireland and Canada. Now if he (the right rev. Prelate) chanced to be an Irish Romanist, he should exult at the prospect of the precedent that was proposed to be set, and still more so at the reason given for it. He should say that, according to the noble Duke's doctrine, Ireland ought to be so represented that the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants should prevail. But then it was said that this was public property. And why public? Because it had been given, not for the permanent enjoyment of any private individuals, of any men, but for the service of God; therefore it was public property, and therefore it ought to be dealt with by the local Legislature. He knew not what their Lordships were prepared to do; but if they sanctioned such a principle as that, they would do what no other House of Lords had ever yet dared to dream of. Every previous House of Lords would have recollected that they would be setting a precedent, not simply for the spoliation of the Church, but seriously affecting many of themselves. If the Legislature had a right to reclaim property which had been granted by the Crown for the service of God, it would be said that it had equally a right to reclaim property which had been granted by the Crown to private persons, especially when that property had been derived in the first instance from the spoliation of the Church. A case had occurred within his own knowledge in which one of the greatest landowners in the country'—a proprietor who was the benefactor of his tenants, and a pattern for the discharge of every duty which property entailed upon its possessors —held under a royal grant a large portion of his estates which had formerly belonged to the Church; and the feelings of his tenantry, so far from partaking of gratitude, was, that they had as much right to his land as he had himself. They openly said, that his lands were public property, because they had been taken from the endowments of the Church. Now he did not say that this was a sound argument, but it was one that would do the work of a sound argument with those to whom it was addressed; and there were many persons who would say, that as numbers of their Lordships held under grants from the Crown property which had been taken away from the Church by the act of the Legislature three hundred years ago, and that as their Lordships had set the precedent of revoking such grants in Canada— they would be justified in carrying the principle a little further. With respect to the papers for which he had given notice to move, he was happy to state that the first had already been laid before them, and therefore he need not trouble their Lordships for it. The second document for which he asked was the Government Gazette of the 8th of May, 1849; and he did so because it contained an address from the Soman Catholic prelates and clergy of Quebec, the first signature to which was that of "Joseph, Archbishop of Quebec," and of the answer of his Excellency to that address. The Pope had not long before thought fit to erect an Archbishopric of Quebec, and the prelate in question had styled himself, according to his directions, Archbishop of that See. The answer to that address was headed, "To his Grace the Archbishop, and to their Lordships the Bishops, and other members of the Catholic clergy of Quebec." Now he (the Bishop of Exeter) would ask whether that was not a recognition by the Government of the Pope's appointment? The next paper for which he moved was a list of the Bills passed by the Canadian Parliament, whether reserved or not, in the year 1849, and a statement whether any, and which, of the same were disallowed by Her Majesty? He had not seen those Bills, hut he had a list of their titles; and one of them, the Colonial Act, 12 Vict., cap. 136, he found was an Act to incorporate the Roman Catholic archbishop, or bishop, and clergy, in each diocese. Their Lordships would see what a large stride this was towards the establishment of popery in that country. The object of the Act was to render the Roman Catholic clergy capable of acquiring property, and to make perpetual the archbishopric which the Pope had created by what had been called an unwarranted act of aggression on his part—not to speak of the other and more violent language which had been applied to it. But there was a most remarkable circumstance connected with this Bill. It was passed in 1849, and came home to the Government; and he wished now to know whether it had received the Royal assent? It might have been annulled any time within two years after its passing—a period which reached many months beyond that memorable November, 1850, when the noble Lord then at the head of the Government and now the leading Member of the Government in the other House of Parliament (Lord John Russell) published that he would not say, verbosa, but grandis epistola, called the Durham letter, which shook the country to its very centre. The noble Lord chose to throw the blame of the papal aggression upon certain members of the Church of England; but while he stated that the papal bull was an unexampled and unparalleled aggression, at that very time a Bill was before him which had been passed in the Canadian Parliament to incorporate the Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops of Quebec. He (the Bishop of Exeter) merely mentioned this as an illustration of the measure of justice which was dealt out to the Church of Rome and the Church of England. It was the great duty of a Minister of the Crown, both as a public man and as a counsellor of Her Majesty, to maintain the Church of this country; and he was prepared to contend that it was not a mere question of domestic concern whether the true faith, the true Protestant Church, should be upheld or not. It was not open to the Legislature of every country which formed a part of the British Empire to decide for itself, but it was a matter of grave imperial duty. He did, therefore, trust that the noble Duke would pause ere he recommended them to hand over the clergy reserves to the tender mercies of the Canadian Legislature, which had already shown its disposition by secularising a college which had been founded for the purposes of religion, by confiscating all its endowments, and requiring that nothing like religion should be taught, nothing like religious worship offered, within its walls. Another of the Bills which had been passed by the Canadian Parliament in the year 1849, the Act of 12 Vict., c. 143, and which he wished to know whether the Government had suffered to remain unannulled, was an Act to incorporate a religious order which he believed was closely connected with the Jesuits. This Bill was likewise in the hands of the Government during the whole time that such an outcry was raised by them against the aggression of the Pope. The last document for which he would ask was the copy of an Official Letter from the Lord Bishop of Quebec to his Grace the Duke of Newcastle respecting the clergy reserves. He trusted that his Grace would not object to its production. It was written hastily, but perhaps on that very ac- count it expressed more satisfactorily the sentiments of his right rev. Brother. It was couched not only in eloquent terms, but in terms of touching simplicity. The right rev. Prelate said that, if the proposal relating to seize property which had been solemnly dedicated to God, and to apply it to other purposes, was not sacrilegious, he did not know in what sacrilege consisted. And, in truth, sacrilege was branded deeply upon it; and he (the Bishop of Exeter) would ask their Lordships if they were prepared to make themselves parties to such an act? There had been times when the House of Lords would have spurned the proposition. Were any of their Lordships prepared to advise their Sovereign to violate Her coronation oath, in which She had sworn to maintain inviolate the rights of the Church of England and of the Presbytery of Scotland, not only in these islands, but in all the dominions belonging thereto? It had been said that this oath did not bind Her Majesty in her legislative capacity; but the truth was, if plain words were to have a plain meaning, and if they traced the history of the oath itself, they would find that that was precisely the capacity in which it did bind Her. Would they go, then, to Her Majesty and recommend Her to assent to a measure which would have the effect of extinguishing all the provision which had been made for the Church in Canada? If there were no stronger reason against such a step, they would find reason enough by only looking at the position of the Roman Catholic Church in that country. The whole provision made for the Protestant Church, at least in the Upper Province, could never amount to more than 20,000l. a year, and there was a regulation that of that fund no clergyman should receive of it more than 100l. a year. Surely it was of the highest importance not to withdraw that small assistance from a poor but increasing Church in the face of a powerful and wealthy community like the Roman Catholic body. Why, the Roman Catholic Church was enormously wealthy—the estates belonging to St. Sulpice alone, and given to them, too, by the British Government, were estimated at 60,000l. per annum. Were there, then, any reasons why the possessions of the Roman Catholic Church should be held more sacred than those of their own? It was quite true that, by the treaty of 1763, the faith of this country was pledged for the maintenance of the Roman Catholic religion in Canada; and he hoped that nothing, not even the provocation of confiscating the possessions of the Protestant Church, would ever induce their Lordships to be consenting parties to a breach of that faith. But then the faith of the men of England was no less pledged to the loyalists of Canada, who had been obliged to fly from their country to a land where they thought they had found a home, and, what they valued more, an altar. He rejoiced to point to the example which had been set us by a country which had sprung from ourselves—the United States of America. They were not bound by the treaty of 1763 to respect the Church endowments; but they had nevertheless regarded them as sacred. Almost the only endowments for religious worship that were known to the State were those for the members of that Church which was in communion with the Church of England. In the city of New York there was an ancient endowment by the Crown of England, which was now worth 3,000,000 dollars, and that was still enjoyed by the members of the American Church. In the State of Vermont, there having been no body of churchmen, the State occupied the lands allotted, but at length there was one established in that district. The Church immediately took proceedings at law to recover its rights, and the courts allowed the claim. Why then were they to be told that England was to be the country that was to be the first to say that the property of the Church should be taken away from it? He thought he had made out a case which the noble Duke would say was at least sufficient to lead him to grant the papers that he moved for.


My Lords, I certainly will not complain of the course the right rev. Prelate has thought it his duty to take on this occasion; at the same time I may be permitted to observe it can hardly be considered a convenient one —and if I wanted any proof of its inconvenience, it is afforded by many of the statements in the speech of the right rev. Prelate. Your Lordships will remember that not only is no measure before your Lordships to justify the length at which the right rev. Prelate has discussed the subject, but probably at this very moment an hon. Friend of mine is stating to the other House the very details of the measure which the Government is about to introduce, and of which the right rev. Prelate seems to me to be extremely ignorant. Although he recognised the fact that the only object of the Bill will be to give to the Legislature of Canada fall power over these lands called reserves, the right rev. Prelate, through the whole of his speech, argued as if the measure the Government is about to introduce is one, as he terms it, of confiscation. Without raising any quibbles as to what this measure really is, I can assure your Lordships its intention is totally different from that assumed by the right rev. Prelate. Before I proceed to comment upon the remarks which the right rev. Prelate has made on this Bill, which is not yet introduced into either House, and of which the right rev. Prelate is to a certain extent ignorant, I think it my duty to observe on some of his preliminary statements; and, in the first place, I will reply to the question, why this Bill has not been introduced into your Lordships' House? I believe that the precedents with regard to Bills of this character—although I readily admit there are no absolute Parliamentary rules and forms—prescribed the course which the Government has taken on this occasion; and if your Lordships want any further reason why we have preferred to introduce the measure in the other House, you have only to glance at the present condition of this House, and I will ask whether it is desirable that a measure of this magnitude and importance should be introduced at the commencement of the Session, when so few noble Lords attend in their places? The right rev. Prelate assigned as another reason why he conceived the Bill ought to have been first introduced in your Lordships' House, that the bench of Bishops necessarily take a great interest in the subject. With the highest possible respect for the right reverend Bench—and disposed as I am to pay the greatest deference to their opinions on all matters, and especially on matters of this character—I consider it far better that the Bill should be fairly and fully discussed in another place befere it is brought for the final arbitration of this House, of which the right rev. Bench forms so important a part, rather than be brought into this House originally. The right rev. Prelate then went on to complain that the colony of Canada will be taken by surprise, and that they have not been consulted as to the course which the Government propose to take. Now, I do not mean to say that since the present Government has been in office we have received any fresh intimations of the opinions of the colonists, or that we have been in communication with the colonists on the question But this is no new question, on which the feelings and views of the colonists have to be tested. It has been a disputed question throughout Canada for years past. In different shapes and ways the subject has been in agitation for the last thirty years; and I believe, with the exception of the view taken by the late Government— and that view is by no means so clear and decided as has been represented by the right rev. Prelate—with this single exception, no Secretary of State, for the whole of that period, has failed to admit that it is a matter for the legislation of the local Parliament of Canada, and not of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain. The right rev. Prelate has said that the late Government refused their assent to any such measure as that proposed by the colony. Undoubtedly the late Government did refuse to assent to any measure by which future legislation on this subject should be transferred from the Houses of Parliament of Great Britain to the Houses of Parliament of Canada; but certainly the late Government did not altogether refuse to deal with this question; they did not stand on that high ground which has been taken by the right rev. Prelate; they did not say, any Act which touched the Act of 1840 would be sacrilege. Her Majesty's present Government do not propose to enter on the question, whether it is best to leave the Act of 1840 as it is, or to alter it; but we do say, in the present state of the colony of Canada—looking at the importance at which it has arrived, endowed with a responsible Government—we cannot refuse to give that Colony one of the proper attributes of government, namely, the right to deal with this question in any manner it may think fit. I hold in my hand a despatch from my predecessor in office, dated on the 22nd of April last year, in which he says— On account of the changes in the state of the colony, from emigration and other causes, it is obvious that the distribution in question under the Act of 1840 should from time to time be reconsidered, and any proposal of such a nature Her Majesty's Government are willing to entertain. He then states that Her Majesty's Government will not entertain the exact proposal submitted by the colony. Surely the colony cannot be said to be uninformed, with this despatch, and a preceding one from Lord Grey, before them, showing that it was fully contemplated that any Government would deal with the question; but I can only say, in addition, that Archdeacon Bethune, who is now in England, has published a pamphlet, expressing the expectation that the Legislature will take up the question. It cannot for a single moment be said that the colonies will be taken by surprise on a question which they have so frequently and earnestly urged the Government of this country to entertain. The right rev. Prelate said the Bill which we are about to bring in is a Bill to confiscate the clergy reserves. As I have said, I am not about to split words on this subject; but in order that the right rev. Prelate may see that his interpretation of even the probable consequence of the Bill we are about to bring in is unfounded— that others do not entertain the same opinion —and, moreover, that the same opinion is not generally received in the colony; I will read to your Lordships a few lines from a Canadian newspaper, which was put into my hands this afternoon, in consequence of the notice of Motion of the right rev. Prelate. I am assured this paper is one of the most respectable and best conducted in the colony, and, moreover, professes strictly Conservative opinions. What does it say? Does it deprecate the course the Government are about to take, or characterise any such measure as an act of confiscation? No; it deprecates most strongly the course which was about to be taken by the late Government, and says that decision would have the effect of throwing into Canada an element of discord and confusion. I will not detain your Lordships with many extracts, because I am anxious to reserve any lengthened statements to a future occasion. After a certain amount of argument strongly urging the course of legislation upon which we are about to enter, this writer proceeds:— This is a question of our political connection with Great Britain, upon which all Conservatives, as well as Reformers, are cordially agreed. No matter what may he our opinion on the final adjustment of the clergy reserves, we claim it as the indefeasible right of the Canadian Government to legislate in the matter. After some further remarks, the writer continues:— There is no probability, in the present state of parties in Canada, if the privilege be granted, of the reserves being diverted to other purposes than those to which they are now applied; but however that may be, all we ask is, the power to legislate for ourselves on subjects altogether of a local character. I will not venture to express an opinion whether the sentiments of this newspaper be correct or not. I frankly admit I hope they will prove correct. In the despatch to which the right rev. Prelate has alluded, I have expressed my regret that the Canadian Legislature should wish to reopen this question, and that my desire was that it should remain as settled by the Act of 1840. I do not express any opinion whether the reopening the question will be of advantage or not; but I say this, whatever the result, it is no longer tenable that we should retain in our own hands a power which, upon every argument of justice and expediency, ought to be allotted to the Canadian Legislature. The right rev. Prelate referred to what he said are the known opinions of the Members of the Government of Canada. I know not what the opinions of those Ministers may be, but this I do know, that the Ministers of the Governor General of Canada stand on the same footing that Her Majesty's Ministers stand to the Legislature in Great Britain; and I will add this, whatever may be their individual opinions, no measure can be carried out for the purpose of confiscating this property unless it be the earnest desire and firm determination of the inhabitants and people of Canada. I say, therefore, the right rev. Prelate has attached undue importance to anything which has been said by the Ministers of Canada—if anything has been said—and that nothing which has fallen from them can be used as the basis upon which to raise an argument as to the probabilities of the course which at any future time will be taken. I am sorry to trouble your Lordships on any small matters, but some misrepresentation on the part of the right rev. Prelate—unintentional, no doubt—it is desirable I should correct. He has represented, in support of the argument he has used, that every one has been taken by surprise—that the Bishop of Quebec, who is now in this country, never knew until last Saturday that this measure was to be brought forward. I am surprised the right rev. Prelate should have come to a conclusion so contrary to the fact. So little has the Bishop of Quebec, or any one in this country a right to say they have been taken by surprise, that some time since I informed Archdeacon Bethune what the Government were about to do, and I undertook, the moment it was settled when the Bill should be introduced, to inform him of the precise day. Within an hour of the day being fixed, I instructed my private secretary to address a letter to the Archdeacon in fulfilment of that promise; and I can only say that not only no attempt has been made by Her Majesty's Government to take anybody in this country, any more than in the colony, by surprise, but no pains have been spared to give information to all parties who ought to receive it. The right rev. Prelate asked whether the Government would yield to agitation, and whether an agitation of three years' standing can be considered sufficient, and he alluded to agitation in Ireland. I venture to submit that this argument leads to rather a dangerous doctrine—that where an agitation of three years' standing is not sufficient, an agitation of something more than three years may be sufficient. Does the right rev. Prelate wish every measure to be caried by agitation? I venture to think it the duty of the Government, when the wishes of the people have been distinctly ascertained, to come forward with the desired measure and prevent that agitation which most unquestionably the speech of the right rev. Prelate this evening will tend to encourage. But I do not defend this measure on the absence of agitation, but upon a great principle—the principle of self-government—a principle which cannot be contravened without damage to the happiness and prosperity of the country. The right rev. Prelate has made allusion to some person as an agitator in the Assembly of Canada—I presume to Mr. Price—and has spoken of that person accepting the Act of 1840 as a settlement of the question, and now using it as an instrument of agitation for the mere purpose of agitation. I think it highly probable that such may have been Mr. Price's opinion; and, for all I know, such may be the course he takes, and such may be his motive. But what is the lesson I derive from that? Why, I see that, as long as a question of this kind is left pending, as long as we leave this religious question to excite the people of Canada, we are in danger of disturbing and disorganising the whole foundations of Government in one of the tenderest points on which it can be affected. We propose, therefore, to leave the Legislature of Canada to deal with this question instead of ourselves, and agitators will not then have the means to excite the minds of the people upon a topic affecting the religion of a large part of the community. I wish as much as possible to abstain from going into details, or tracing the his- tory of this measure, as that ought to be reserved until the Bill is before your Lordships' House; and I think when it does come before your Lordships, that I shall be able to prove that from 1791 but one course and one view have been generally taken in this country with regard to this measure. I think I shall be able to show that it is neither breach of faith, nor confiscation, nor sacrilege which is involved in the measure which will then be under discussion; and I shall be prepared to show you many details which I feel some confidence in believing may change the opinions —I will not say of the right rev. Prelate, but of others who entertain doubts of this measure. I will not, therefore, refer to the parallel which the right rev. Prelate instituted between the Church of England in Canada, and the Church in Ireland, but will content myself by saying that such a parallel cannot be supported. The objections which the right rev. Prelate has taken, are, in fact, objections to the details of a measure he has not seen. He has not attempted to prove that we have not the right to take the course we are about to take, but be has gone through a series of objections of a general nature, and embracing many abstract propositions, which may be raised on future occasions, and I dare say will be raised when the Bill is before your Lordships, I have felt it my duty to endeavour to controvert some of the statements he has made, however inconvenient the course may be, and I believe I shall be consulting the inclination of your Lordships, who may attend the discussion on some future occasion, if I confine the few remarks I have now to make to the subject of the particular Motion with which the right rev. Prelate concluded. With regard to the four papers he desires to have laid on the table of your Lordships' House, I have no sort of objection to give them, or any others that may throw any light on the subject. I believe all the papers relating to this subject, with the exception of these four, are already in your Lordships' hands; but if not, they shall most readily be given. I am only sorry I am not able to produce the Government Gazette of Canada immediately; for this simple reason, that as far as we have been able to search since the right rev. Prelate gave notice last night, there is no copy in the Colonial Office; but by the next mail a letter shall be sent requesting the immediate transmission of a copy of that Gazette. The right rev. Prelate says, that Earl Grey ad- mitted a measure passed by the Canadian Parliament, affecting injuriously Protestant interests, after a certain grand epistolary missive, as he calls it, had been issued. The question is one of time; and whether the right rev. Prelate's statement prove correct or not, I think he should have reserved his comments until the fact is ascertained by the production of the papers he has moved for. I should be sorry to follow the example of the right rev. Prelate, in commenting on what I have not seen; but I received only yesterday the letter from the Bishop of Quebec to which he has alluded, and, having read it carefully and with the attention and respect due to so high an authority, I am bound to say I do find in it many assertions and many arguments— assertions which I cannot admit, and arguments which on a future occasion it will be my duty to confute. The right rev. Prelate in one part of his speech characterises any interference with the Act of 1840 as sacrilege. That really is a charge of so grave a nature that, however anxious I may be not to enter prematurely into details, I do feel bound to say I cannot in any way recognise its justice or its truth. If this measure is one of sacrilege, I should like to know what is the Act of 1840 itself? We do not propose to deal with the clergy reserves as they were dealt with in 1840. We simply propose to transfer to the Canadian Legislature the power of disposition of the funds. But even assuming that we went the whole length of secularisation, and that we applied the funds at once to civil purposes, I will ask the right rev. Prelate what does he maintain was the character of the Act of 1840, which he supported? If he conceives this to be an act of sacrilege, I apprehend that was an act of sacrilege. Sacrilege cannot be a question of degree. If a man breaks into a church and steals one piece of the communion plate, he just as much commits sacrilege as a man who takes the whole service. They are both equally guilty of sacrilege in the one case as in the other. What did you do by the Act of 1840? What did the right rev. Prelate and all the bench of Bishops do by that Act? I do not say this for the purpose of attacking the right rev. Prelate; but I say he should maintain his own consistency, and that Her Majesty's Government ought not lightly to be taunted with so serious a charge as that of sacrilege. The Act of 1840 took from the Church of England a large portion of the clergy reserves, and appropriated them, not only to other forms of Christianity, but to secular purposes. What are all the preceding Acts since 1791? What the views of successive Ministers of State? What the course taken by the Canadian Legislature? What the orders sent out by Lord Glenelg and Lord Goderich and other Secretaries during the last thirty years? If this be an act of sacrilege, what is the act which the right rev. Prelate defends of the late Government? Did my predecessor take this high ground and say, "Not one inch or tittle will we yield of the Act of 1840?" Did he say that? No. But he said that he was prepared to deal with the question; that he would not give the Canadian Legislature power to deal with it, but he would deal with it himself. He recognised the altered circumstances caused by immigration and other events, which made it necessary and right to have a redistribution of these funds, which must be of course be adverse to the Church of England. How does the character of the measure of the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir John Pakington), which the right rev. Prelate defends, differ from our measure, assuming for the sake of argument that we propose to abandon the whole of these funds to secular purposes? So far as the Church is concerned—so far as the religious question is involved between me and my predecessor—it is a mere question of degree; but as regards the measure in one of its most important bearings—as regards the great question of Colonial self-government—it is not a matter of degree, but of principle. The whole question involved is this—is this to be a Colonial, or is it to be an Imperial, question? Are we to follow out to its legitimate conclusion, not merely the representative, but the responsible, government given to the Colonies, or are we in this one particular to deprive them of the full advantages of a responsible government, and thereby place a great community in a dangerous and anomalous position? I have already said the late Government did not consider the Act of 1840 was a final settlement; and I find that in 1846, and in succeeding years, the Bishop of Quebec and other dignitaries of the Church wished to reopen the question. That fact puts an end to the asserted finality of the Act of 1840. Can the same parties now turn round and say that for one purpose, the Act was not to be final in 1846; for another, it is to be final in 1853? The whole question must stand on different grounds. The grounds which have been stated by the right rev. Prelate, I feel confident, are not tenable. I feel confident, when your Lordships arrive at the consideration of this question, you will come to the conclusion with me that purely and strictly on colonial grounds this question ought to be settled, and that it must be settled in the way proposed by Her Majesty's Government. The right rev. Prelate has entered into the matter of the Coronation oath. This measure will not affect it in any way whatever. The Queen will have the same power of exercising Her veto on any confiscation of these revenues being proposed as She has now. The right rev. Prelate has drawn a comparison between the condition of the Church of England and the Church of Rome in Canada. I can assure the right rev. Prelate, that whatever may be the actual state of things—and I believe he has greatly exaggerated the wealth of the Church of Rome in Canada—that Church will stand precisely on the same footing with regard to liability to be dealt with by the Canadian Legislature, as will the clergy reserves, if this measure should pass as it stands now. The right rev. Prelate has dealt with the subject of endowments in Canada, as if they were entirely secured to the Roman Catholics by some Act of Parliament, and that we were now about to leave that Act in force, whilst we erased the Clergy Reserves Act from the Statute-book. [The Bishop of EXETER made a remark.] I know the right rev. Prelate referred to the treaty; but if he turns to that treaty, and applies to it the great powers of mind which he possesses, and which I do not think he has yet done, but has rather adopted the vulgar opinion of it, he will find what that treaty does confirm is little more than perfect freedom, in religious worship, of the Roman Catholic population of Canada, and does not give that extreme security to Roman Catholic endowments generally supposed. Besides, he will also find those endowments are, for the most part, not of a parochial, but of a charitable character. Even with regard to the particular instance to which the right rev. Prelate alluded—the large endowments of St. Sulpice—what is the title which the corporation of St. Sulpice has to its present large possessions? It is not derived from the treaty. That was considered to be so weak a foundation that some time ago a Canadian ordinance was passed confirming the title, and by that ordinance alone these possessions are now held. The right rev. Prelate must see at once that no measure which may now pass with regard to the clergy reserves can possibly place them on a weaker foundation than that on which the possessions of St. Sulpice are now held. And then with regard to the tithes enjoyed by the Roman Catholic clergy—those tithes are not payable, as they are in this country, by all classes living within the parish; but the tithes are payable by those persons only who are of the Roman Catholic communion; and so much is the payment restricted to those parties by the law, that every man who changes his religion is by that very act exonerated from the payment of tithes. Such is the tenure by which the Roman Catholic clergy hold the tithes in Lower Canada. But what is the fact with regard to Upper Canada? There tithes have been altogether abolished by an act of the Canadian Legislature; and I believe, though I am not positive as to the fact, that it was in consequence of that act that the Governor of Canada conferred upon the Roman Catholic population a grant out of these very clergy reserves, so that the Roman Catholics receive about 1,600l. a year from the clergy reserves, and their title to them will stand upon exactly the same footing as that of the Established Church. There has been, I must say, a vast amount of mystification and misrepresentation upon this subject, which I hope the discussion in this and the other House of Parliament will tend to clear away when that discussion shall come regularly before your Lordships. I do not despair, notwithstanding the firmness of character of the right rev. Prelate, that even he may be induced to take a different view of the subject from what he now does; but if not, that at least many of the right rev. Bench will view this question, not as one involving the guilt of sacrilege, but as a great national question, to be dealt with in the spirit of liberality and conciliation; and if they should do so, I am sure it will be for the great advantage of the Church in Canada, and will tend to mollify those angry feelings which have been called into existence by the Acts that have gone before in reference to this subject. The right rev. Prelate referred to the respect which had been paid to ecclesiastical endowments in the United States; but I doubt whether it would be found on investigation that the population of the United States have adhered in every instance to the rule of never altering the destination of endowments. I doubt whether he will not find that in one of the greatest States of the Union a church which was originally endowed in connexion with the Church of England is now held by the Unitarians; but I agree with the right rev. Prelate that, generally speaking, the endowments of the Church of England have been respected in the United States; and let me say that I gather from that precedent this example and warning—if you trust men with their own concerns, and place in their hands the management of their own affairs, they will be more induced to respect previous engagements and old settlements than if they extort their privileges after long agitation, and the ferment caused by a heated contest with those who are disposed to keep them out of the possession of them. But even if my opinions were different, and if I believed that the certain consequence of this step would be that these reserves would be appropriated by the secular power, still so strong is my conviction that we ought to act upon the principle of colonial freedom in all questions relating to the internal administration of their own affairs, that I am prepared, without reference to the result of the measure now to be proposed to Parliament, to take the course which I am now pursuing. But allow me to say that I am confident a great deal will depend, with regard to the future issue of this question, upon the conciliatory course that we may adopt—upon our discussing it apart from the bias of party feeling—apart from that irritation which is so ready to rise whenever questions occur in which religious feelings are concerned. I am sure that the final issue of this question will depend upon the tone, and temper, and spirit in which it is discussed in both Houses of Parliament.


regretted that the noble Earl lately at the head of the Government (the Earl of Derby), who had been very anxious to be present at the discussion of the question, was unavoidably detained from attending on this occasion, and had therefore devolved upon him (the Earl of Desart) the task of remarking on the observations which had been made on the subject, as an individual —though he was aware that there was an inconvenience in a discussion upon a subject of which the details were not before them— still he felt that thanks were due to the right rev. Prelate who had brought the question before their Lordships, as he thought the public ought to be put in full possession, by a discussion in Parliament, of the bearings of a step which, in his opinion, would prove a great blow to the Protestantism of Canada. He said that advisedly, because, though the agitation was directed to the Imperial Parliament, abandoning its control over the clergy reserves in Canada, yet the agitators made no secret that their intention was to divert those reserves from their present ecclesiastical purposes. With regard to the views which were entertained by his right hon. Friend Sir John Pakington, the noble Duke was right in saying that his right hon. Friend was fully open to consider any proposal which the Canadian Legislature might make with regard to a redistribution of the clergy reserves, considering that the Canadian Legislature were the best judges of the local wants of each district; but, being aware of the intention of the Canadian Legislature to divert these funds from their application to ecclesiastical purposes, he had refused to give them power in the matter, and had wisely reserved it for Imperial legislation. He had only one word further to say upon a subject which he thought was not fully understood by the public. It was generally considered in this country that the change was desired by the whole Canadian population as well as by a majority in the Canadian Assembly. Now that was not so. There was a considerable minority in the Canadian Legislature against any change; and that minority had increased of late in Upper Canada, who were, after all, the only Members the House need consider, because the Members for Lower Canada represented a Roman Catholic and a French population, and had no interest in these reserves. The minority in Upper Canada had increased of late from 22 to 24, and not only that, but the minority was really returned by a larger constituency than the majority, the one body being elected by 24,000 votes, the other by 23,500. It was stated by the right rev. Prelate that this agitation had been the growth of the last three or four years. It was true that there had been for a long time in Canada an agitation respecting these reserves; but it was to be remembered that these very agitations induced the Canadian Legislature, in 1839, to place the settlement of this question in the hands of the Imperial Parliament, because it was a question which they could not settle themselves. It was in consequence of that reference that the present settlement was come to in 1840; and so late as 1846, when Mr. Price, a Member of the Canadian Legislature, was urged to reagitate the question, he said he was unwilling to disturb the Act of 1840, which had been so advantageous to the people of Canada. All he (the Earl of Desart) could say was, that the people of Canada might justly complain that to a certain extent they had been taken by surprise by the proposal of the Government; for though the late Government had stated their willingness to consider the redistribution, they had not admitted for a moment the principle of diverting the fund from its existing—that was to say from ecclesiastical—purposes. These remarks he (the Earl of Desart) felt bound to make in the absence of his noble Friend the head of the late Government, and in consequence of his recent connection with the Colonies.

On Question, agreed to.

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