§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF DEVON,
in rising to move the second reading of the Bill, said, he did so with the unfeigned wish that the 765 task had been undertaken by some Member of Her Majesty's Government—which, be thought, would have been most desirable—or by some noble Lord possessing a greater claim to the attention of their Lordships' House than himself, He was at all times unwilling to trespass upon their Lordships' attention, but on this occasion he felt compelled to come forward in support of a measure which he believed to be one of great national importance. In doing so he felt that one of the chief difficulties he had to encounter was, that upon this question he entirely differed in opinion from many of those noble Lords with whom he generally concurred. But he could not conscientiously shrink from undertaking a task which seemed to him to involve a consideration of justice and expediency. For a long time he had taken a deep interest in the question of the removal of the Roman Catholic disabilities, and he was one of those who, from conviction, as well as from hereditary example, rejoiced in the success of the struggles that had been made for that object; and it would be a matter of satisfaction to him if, by taking charge of this Bill, and introducing it to their Lordships, he was able to complete the removal of the disabilities of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. The Bill he held in his hand proposed a substitute for the oath required by the Act of 1829, and which was substantially re-enacted in the Oaths Bill of 1858, from which it differed in only one or two points. That oath was in these terms—I, A. B., do declare, That I profess the Roman Catholic Religion. I, A. B., do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King GEORGE the Fourth, and will defend him to the utmost of my power against all conspiracies and attempts whatsoever, which shall he made against his person, crown, or dignity; and I will do my utmost endeavour to disclose and make known to His Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, all treasons and traitorous conspiracies which may be formed against him or them. And I do faithfully promise to maintain, support, and defend to the utmost in my power, the succession of the Crown, which succession, by an Act intituled, 'An Act for the further Limitation of the Crown, and better securing the Rights and Liberties of the Subject,' is, and stands limited to the Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and the heirs of her body, being Protestants; hereby utterly renouncing and abjuring any obedience or allegiance unto any other person claiming, or pretending a right to the Crown of these Realms. And I do further declare, That it is not an article of my faith, and that I do renounce, reject, and abjure the opinion, that Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any other authority of the See of Rome, 766 may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or by any person whatsoever. And I do declare, That I do not believe that the Pope of Rome, or any other foreign prince, prelate, person, state, or potentate, hath, or ought to have, any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or preeminence, directly or indirectly, within this Realm. I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this Realm, as established by the laws: And I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this Realm. And I do solemnly swear, That I never will exercise any privilege to which I am, or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Protestant Religion or Protestant Government in this kingdom. And I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this Declaration and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this Oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever.There were four parts of that oath to which be entertained the strongest objection. The first part was that in which the Roman Catholic, before he took his seat in either the House of Lords or the House of Commons, or before he could be admitted to a civil office, was called upon to swear as follows—And I do further declare, that it is not an article of my faith, and that I do renounce, reject, and abjure the opinion that Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or by any person whatever."—[760.]Now, if any noble Lord believed that our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen entertained the doctrine which they were there by called upon to abjure, he would almost be disposed to give up the Bill; but he felt assured not one of their Lordships could entertain that opinion. If, then, that were so, nothing could be more painful to the feelings of the Members of the United Legislature than to compel their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects—men who, it should be borne in mind, had been admitted to an equality with themselves in all civil rights, men holding a high position, and, perhaps, exercising judicial functions; men who, perhaps, had bled for their country on sea or on land, before taking their seats in this or the other House of Parliament, to take an oath in which they had to abjure their belief in a doctrine which not one of their Lordships believed they entertained. He would now refer to the concluding part of the oath, in which Roman Catholics were made to say—And I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I do make this 767 declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever."—[761.]Independently of the unjust imputation cast by these words upon those who were compelled to take this part of the oath, there was something in the declaration itself inherently absurd. The oath proceeded upon the assumption that Roman Catholics, unless bound by this declaration, would take it with a mental reservation. Now, he would ask, what possible security did those words afford?—as of course if, omitting those words, the person could take the oath with mental reservation, why should he not include those words in the mental reservation? This was such an inherent absurdity as to appear to him one of the strongest arguments in favour of the alteration of the oath. He ventured to hope, from the tone of the debate in the other House, the omission of these two parts of the oath would be unanimously assented to. Passing to the second paragraph of the oath, to which he felt a strong objection—namely, that part of the oath which called upon the Roman Catholic to swear—That I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of the property within this realm as established by the laws."—[760.]Now, he would ask their Lordships, who were those who were called upon to take this oath? Were they not men who, equally with their Lordships, were strongly interested in the maintenance of the lights of property? Were they not men who, equally with themselves, were living under the protection of the same laws? Were they not men who were mixed up with their Lordships in the discharge of public and responsible duties? Were they not men who would suffer equally with their Lordships if the security to property were not preserved? He came now to that which was a very important part of the question to many minds, and which was in his opinion the most important part of the oath, as it raised conscientious scruples in the minds of many of the Roman Catholics who were compelled to take it—namely, that part in which the Roman Catholic was called upon to say—I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment, as settled by the law within this realm. And I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion, or Protestant Government in this kingdom."—[760.]768 He spoke as an attached member of the Church of England, and as a man who would yield to none in the conviction of the necessity for the union of Church and State, as a component part of the constitution; and, therefore, if he felt that striking this paragraph out of the oath would in the least degree endanger the union of Church and State he would not have undertaken to propose such an omission. But he thought it of great importance to consider whether it was right to insist upon a part of the oath which did not prevent Roman Catholics from speaking and voting upon the question to which it referred. Different people had different opinions upon the construction which ought to be put on this part of the oath. Their Lordships were doubtless aware that a late noble Duke felt that he was conscientiously precluded from taking any part in discussions relating to the Church of England. He did not undertake to say whether the noble Duke, who said he could not conscientiously sit and vote upon Church matters after taking the oath, and many others who were of the same opinion, were right or wrong, but their Lordships must also be aware that there were many conscientious Roman Catholic gentlemen who did not feel themselves so precluded from taking an active part in the discussion relating to the Church of England. Their Lordships would admit at once that no man who took an oath ought to be left in doubt as to its moaning by its ambiguous phraseology. The present Roman Catholic oath expressly sinned against that essential principle. In the discussion on the Oaths Bill in 1588, Mr. Gladstone said—If there were these difficulties in the construction of an oath which were held to he of great constitutional importance, that of itself was a clear proof that the matter required the attention of the House, for it was not a subject which ought to be left to A. B. and C. to construe for themselves."—[3 Hansard, cxlix. 484.]But, if ever there was an oath which was construed differently by persons of the same community who had to take it, this Roman Catholic was the one; and he thought this was a strong argument in favour of abrogating that part of the oath which gave rise to this great ambiguity. He contended, too, that they ought not to trust to oaths for the security of the Established Church, but rather to the increasing earnestness and activity of its clergy. And here, he must observe, that Roman Catholics were not enemies to an Established 769 Church. In Roman Catholic countries an Established Church was always to be found; and it was notorious that a very great number of the Roman Catholics looked upon the Church of England as the strongest and most permanent bulwark against infidelity in this country. On the other hand, their Lordships were aware that many bodies of Dissenters entertained a feeling of enmity against the Church Establishment. Members of these bodies, he had no doubt conscientiously, spoke and published their opinions on the subject, and exerted themselves in and out of Parliament to subvert the Established Church. Yet no such defence—no such safeguard—was set up against them as was thought to be necessary in the case of Roman Catholics. He contended that if the oath was not required from these men it was unjust to require it of the Roman Catholics. There was a further ground on which he asked for the abrogation of this oath, which had been well expressed by a man, to whose opinions their Lordships always listened with respect—the late Sir Robert Peel. While the Bill of 1829 was under discussion, a proposition was made to still further limit the action of Roman Catholic Members of Parliament; but Sir Robert Peel objected to it, on the ground that it would not be right to limit and fetter the discretion of a Member of the Legislature in the discussion of public questions. Members were returned to the other branch of the Legislature charged by their constituents to deliberate and form an opinion upon all questions which might come before the House of Commons; but then came this oath, which told hon. Gentlemen of the Catholic religion that on certain questions they must hold their tongues. If this system were pushed to the extreme, it is impossible to say where it would stop. In 1829, Mr. Wilmot Horton proposed a clause providing that Roman Catholic Members should be disqualified by law from voting on matters relating directly or indirectly to the interests of the Established Church. In reference to that proposition Sir Robert Peel said—My right hon. Friend has proposed, with a view to calm the suspicions and fears of those who object to the admission of Roman Catholics to Parliament, that the Roman Catholic Member should be disqualified by law from voting on matters relating, directly or indirectly, to the interests of the Established Church. There appear to me numerous and cogent objections to this proposal. In the first place, it is dangerous to establish the precedent of limiting by law the discretion by 770 which the duties and functions of a Member of Parliament are to be exercised. In the second, it is difficult to define beforehand what are the questions which affect the interests of the Church. …. I believe there is more of real security in confidence than in avowed mistrust and suspicion unaccompanied by effectual guards. For these reasons I am unwilling to deprive the Roman Catholic Member of either House of Parliament of any privilege of free discussion, and free exercise of judgment, which belongs to other Members of the Legislature."—[2 Hansard, xx. 758–9.]On these grounds he ventured to propose the abrogation of the existing oath. He believed it to be ambiguous, unjust, and ineffectual. The oath he proposed in its stead was that prescribed by 21 &,22 Vict. c. 48, for all except Roman Catholics and Jews, with the substitution of the words "temporal or civil" for the words "ecclesiastical or spiritual," the latter words which Roman Catholics could not adopt in swearing that no foreign Power or Potentate had or ought to have jurisdiction in this realm. In his opinion his proposition was an unobjectionable one; but, unfortunately from the large muster on their Lordships' benches, and from the notice of Amendment given by his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) he was afraid that the second reading of the Bill was about to meet with a most serious—he hoped he should not be obliged to say successful—opposition. He was well aware that the arguments against the Bill would be urged with all the force which eloquence, ability, and long-tried experience could bring to bear. He (the Earl of Devon) was therefore content to leave to those who were to follow him in support of the measure the task of replying to those arguments, as well as of supplying the deficiencies of his advocacy. But there was one objection made to the measure which demanded some notice from the person charged with moving the second reading, and which lay at the root of all their discussions. It was said that the present oath was the result of a compromise entered into in 1829, and that it was not, he might almost gay, competent to the present Parliament to deal with or qualify it. He might ask their Lordships what evidence there was in the discussions which took place at the time of any such compromise—he might ask them to consider the absurdity, he might say, of a compromise with one portion of a great community,—he might refer them to expressions of Sir Robert Peel, declaring that the Bill of 1829 was not the result of a compro- 771 mise with any party, but a measure brought forward on the responsibility of the Government; but he preferred to argue the point on other ground. He held that in a question of this sort, the Parliament sitting in 1829 had no power to fetter the Parliament that was to be sitting in 1865, In 1829 it might have been necessary to the success of the Emancipation Bill to introduce this oath. That was one thing; but it was quite another thing to say that a Parliament sitting in 1865, with the experience of thirty-five years before it, had not a right to declare that the oath was no longer necessary. He, therefore, put it on the broad ground that the Parliament sitting in 1865 was not fettered by the engagements of the Parliament of 1829. He would further say, that the question might with the greatest propriety be considered at a time like the present, when the existing Parliament was on the point of closing its labours, and the Parliament which was about to be elected would probably contain many new Members. Moreover, he would venture to say that the adoption of this measure would place the statute book more in unison with the spirit of the age. No doubt allusion would be made in the course of the debate to the so-called Papal aggression and the recent Encyclical Letter of the Pope. With regard to the latter, which was remarkable, if for anything, for its singular want of adaptation to the spirit of the age, he would only ask their Lordships whether they thought that the doctrines it contained were likely to meet with any acceptance in the present day with any portion of the population of this country. To the so-called Papal aggression he referred, not with a view of opening up old sores, but simply for the purpose of calling attention to the result of that aggression, which was to elicit such a burst of feeling throughout the country as clearly showed that no repetition of such an act could be of the slightest consequence. After all, those who talked of the dangers they apprehended from such quarters must forget that we were living, not in the 14th, but in the 19th century—that we were living in the days of a free press and universally diffused education—and we need not therefore be deterred by considerations of any such dangers from giving the full relief which this Bill was intended to secure, He had undertaken to ask their Lordships to pass the Bill, because he believed that it was required as the complement to the 772 Act of 1829, and because he felt that the proposal which it contained was a simple act of justice to those who were members of a united Legislature. Apologising for the length of time he had occupied their Lordships, and thanking them for the kindness with which he had been heard, he would now, in conclusion, move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved," That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Devon.)
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, in rising to move that this Bill be read a second time this day three months, I can assure your Lordships that it is not without great reluctance that I feel myself compelled to oppose a measure which comes before us recommended by the attractive principle of perfect political equality, irrespective of religious distinctions, which appeals to your sympathies on behalf of those who constitute a small minority of this and the other House of Parliament, and, above all, one recommended to your Lordships by a noble Friend of mine, universally respected and esteemed, in a speech, the temper and moderation of which are calculated to conciliate your Lordships' support. Yet I trust that if your Lordships will honour me with your attention I shall be able to show that it is not wise, that it is not expedient, more especially under the circumstances of the present moment, to adopt a Bill the result of which will be entirely to subvert—I will not call it a compact, for that is a word to which my noble Friend objects—but to subvert one of the leading principles of that great settlement which, after many years of angry and protracted discussion and controversy, at length restored political and religious peace, and which was accepted by those to whom it imparted the full privileges of the Constitution as a satisfactory and complete arrangement of all the grievances of which they complained. My Lords, for my own part, I live in a county which contains perhaps a larger proportion of Roman Catholics than is to be found in any other part of England, which contains a number of old and highly-esteemed families attached to the Roman Catholic faith, with many of whom I am on terms of intimacy, and with some of whom I enjoy relations of close friendship. I have a considerable number of Roman Catholic tenants, and for up words of forty years I have had the management and control of a property in Ireland which, if not exclusively occupied 773 by Roman Catholics, contains a preponderating number of persons belonging to the faith professed by them; and I defy any human being to say that, either in England or Ireland, whether in social relations or in my dealings with my tenants, I have drawn the slightest difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics. I have treated both on precisely the same terms of equality. This, however, my Lords, is not a social question—it is not a personal question—it is a question of high political importance; and it is to be decided not by personal feelings and wishes, but by considerations which affect the good of the empire at large. My Lords, if I may venture again to say a word with respect to myself, I think in the political course I have pursued for forty-three years I cannot be charged with having neglected the political interests or the fair demands of my Roman Catholic fellow countrymen, whether in this or in the other House of Parliament. I have at all times been ready and anxious to defend the rights and privileges of that Church of which I am an attached member—indeed, the first speech of any importance I made in the other House, forty-one years ago, was one in defence of the Protestant Establishment in Ireland, which now seems to be the mark for constant attack; and some of my earliest votes were given in favour of relieving Roman Catholics from those restrictions and incapacities which were imposed upon them, to my mind at least, unjustly and improperly. I do not refer only to the great measure of Roman Catholic emancipation in 1829, to which I gave humble but cordial support, but I would appeal to my Roman Catholic countrymen whether, on more than one occasion, I have not taken a prominent part in relieving them from disadvantages which were imposed upon them, and which affected them in the exercise of their religion or with reference to their religious organization. I have gone so far as to incur, I am afraid, the censure of some of those who sit and usually act with me, and who hold sentiments rather of an ultra-Protestant character. I have not feared to expose myself to their observation and criticism—and even censure—because I felt that the course I was adopting was called for by justice and fair dealing towards my Roman Catholic fellow countrymen. Therefore if, as I have said, I feel myself bound at this time to oppose the progress of this measure, I hope, at all 774 events, that my opposition will not be imputed to unreasoning bigotry, or to hostile feeling towards the Roman Catholic body.
My Lords, I have said that I think it very unwise and inexpedient at this time to introduce such legislation. We are on the eve of a general election, and, closely as parties are now balanced, and comparatively unimportant as the political differences between us have become, and when there is no other question before the public, likely to excite angry passions and lead to personal recriminations—I admit that it may be very good electioneering tactics—I do not deny it—but I say is it wise, is it prudent, is it statesmanlike, is it patriotic, at such a moment to bring before excited constituencies a measure than which none can be more provocative of discussion and controversy, and upon a subject which eminently requires to be treated with the utmost caution, the utmost calmness, the utmost deliberation? Is it for the interest of the Roman Catholics themselves that such a question should be raised at this particular time? Of late years religious animosities have much subsided and religious jealousies have been much appeased; and is it desirable, having regard to the general peace of the various religious denominations, that the Protestant jealousy, deeply rooted in the minds of the people of this country, should have a fresh stimulus given to it; that there should be opportunities given of representing the Roman Catholics as always dissatisfied and aggressive, and, on the other hand, that Roman Catholics should have the means of retorting against those with whom they are engaged in the elections, the charge of bigotry and intolerance? I can conceive nothing more calculated to prejudice the cause of the Roman Catholics, and to peril the removal of any real disadvantages they may labour under, than to bring forward what I would call imaginary grievances at a time of political excitement. Well, then, my Lords, let me ask, by whom is this question brought forward? I remember the time of the old discussions on Roman Catholic disabilities—that long protracted struggle that lasted during the first seven years in which I had a seat in the other House of Parliament—I remember the excitement it produced, and the controversy to which it led. In the year previous to my entrance into Parliament—the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) was then a Member of the other House—I did not come in till 1821—the noble Earl 775 will remember that Lord Nugent presented a petition for the removal of the Roman Catholic disabilities, signed by 8,000 Roman Catholics, including seven Peers, a great number of baronets—in fact, by those who had the best Roman Catholic blood in the country. But those petitioners dealt with real and substantial grievances, and did not put forward imaginary grounds of complaint—for, at that time, the Roman Catholics were unjustly excluded from privileges to which they were well entitled. On the present occasion, where are the petitions? Who are those that bring forward this Bill? What are the vexatious impediments to the enjoyment of the rights of British subjects which they require shall be removed? Where are the Howards, the Cliffords, the Arundells, the Stourtons, the Petres, the Gerards, and the Cliftons? Again, crossing to Ireland, where are the Fingalls, the Gormanstowns, and the Trimlestowns? Where, in fact, are those great historic names who in times of old had proved by their acts the sincerity of their allegiance to the Crown, and served the "Heretic" Elizabeth with as much zeal and devotion as they afterwards showed in their adherence, greatly to their own loss, to the fallen fortunes of the house of Stuart? Not one of them is to be met with now. And why? Because they feel that there is no substantial grievance to be removed, because they do not feel that by this oath they are deprived of any political privileges to which they are entitled. There is not one of them but knows that the restrictions, such as exist, are not only not unjust, that they were not only not imposed by a grudging Protestant Legislature, but that they were actually prepared and framed by Roman Catholics themselves—by Roman Catholic Prelates, by Roman Catholic laymen, by Roman Catholic lawyers, by Roman Catholic statesmen; that they were the conditions on which they entreated and prayed that they might be admitted to a full participation in the privileges of British subjects, which they succeeded, on those conditions, in obtaining in 1829. And they prayed, moreover, as I will show, on more than one occasion, that their co-religionists should not be allowed to sit in Parliament unless they were prepared to take one of those very oaths which my noble Friend (the Earl of Devon) now proposes should be abolished.
I will mention one statement of my noble Friend which rather surprised me. 776 He says, he proposes an oath which, with some slight modification, is the same oath required to be taken by Protestants? What is that slight modification? Let me remind my noble Friend that, in proposing that slight modification he is proposing nothing new, for he is only proposing that which the Roman Catholics now enjoy—exemption from taking the oath of supremacy in the sense of conferring ecclesiastical or spiritual jurisdiction. When my noble Friend speaks of this as being a slight difference, he must be aware that that slight difference is just that, and that alone, which for years before 1829, prevented Roman Catholics from sitting in Parliament.
It is said, why not have one oath? My noble Friend has suggested why we should not have one oath. It was necessary to introduce that slight difference, because, although you allow Roman Catholics, from conscientious motives, to decline assenting to that proposition of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, you are not, I believe, prepared to say that Protestant Members of Parliament shall not, as an essential condition imposed by the Constitution, be called upon to declare their assent to that doc-trine of the supremacy of the Crown as independent of any foreign prince, potentate, or prelate with regard to all matters ecclesiastical and spiritual, as well as in temporal and civil jurisdiction. I could, indeed, understand the argument if it were proposed to have one oath; but that is not proposed here. We are now discussing what shall be the terms of an altered oath to be taken by Roman Catholics, and by them alone. In considering this oath of supremacy, it is rather singular to find that from a very distant period of time that oath of supremacy—that declaration of the independent ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Crown—was an oath not imposed by a Protestant Parliament. It was introduced previous to the Reformation, and was taken to Henry VIII. at a time when the assertion of Protestant doctrines would have led to awkward consequences to the person who professed them. But long after that, in the early part of the reign of Elizabeth, the oath was taken without the slightest objection by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike. In one of Lord Plunket's most able statements in the discussions upon the question of Roman Catholic relief he made use of these expressions—But it was said that those principles were 777 altered at the Reformation. There had been no portion of the vulgar history of this country more falsified than that of the Reformation. The very Act of Supremacy, enacted by Elizabeth, demonstrated the false inferences which were drawn from that great epoch. That Act was passed with the view of distinguishing between those Catholics who were loyal and attached to the Throne and those who were disloyal and disaffected. All that Elizabeth required was the same authority, right, and rule over her subjects as was possessed by her predecessors. She would suffer no foreign power to interfere with their concerns. She avowed no desire to intermeddle with her subjects in point of conscience, but she exacted those oaths as the tests of loyalty. This avowal was incorporated in the 5th of her reign, and was made the law of the land. In its very recital it states, 'Whereas the Queen is otherwise sufficiently assured of the loyalty and good disposition of the barons and nobles, be it therefore enacted that they shall be exempted from the operation of this Act.' These words, 'otherwise sufficiently assured,' were evidence that the very measure then contemplated was, at the time, considered as an extended test of loyalty. It was notorious that Catholics continued, after that Act, to sit and vote in Parliament.That shows that the Act was not directed against Roman Catholics on account of their religion, but as a precaution against suspected disloyalty. And this is the more to be remarked upon because Lord Plunket, who was for so many years the leading advocate of measures for the emancipation of the Roman Catholics, in 1821 proposed the introduction of certain words relating to that part of the oath which defines the Royal power in matters ecclesiastical and civil, giving explanations at the same time, of the oath which was imposed by the Act of Elizabeth, [See 2 Hansard, iv. 275.] That Bill provided a form of oath proposed by a leading advocate of Roman Catholic claims in 1821, in which he not only called upon them to renounce the principles which were imputed to them, but also proposed to introduce the words which are now objected to—I do not say unnaturally or unreasonably objected to—by my noble Friend, and to take the oath of supremacy in matters of ecclesiastical and spiritual jurisdiction with such modification and explanation as was expressed in the Act of Elizabeth. At the time of the long controversy previous to the removal of the Catholic disabilities, there were certain principles laid down and agreed to—great fundamental bases, upon which the discussion proceeded. Certain imputations were thrown out against the Roman Catholics—I believe unjustly thrown out—against which they thought it 778 necessary to enter a protest and denial; but, as I have said, certain principles were laid down—namely, conditions without which none of their supporters would have brought the question forward: that the Protestant supremacy should be held inviolate; that the Sovereign should be held to be independent of the power of the Pope to absolve subjects from their allegiance; that the settlement of property should be respected; and, above all, that the Established Church should be maintained as an integral portion of the Constitution. Those were not conditions which were put forth by the opponents of the Roman Catholic claims—they were laid down by the advocates and supporters of those claims. It was upon those conditions alone—on the cordial assent of the Roman Catholics to those propositions—that they asked that they should be allowed to share in privileges which they admitted it to be otherwise unsafe to intrust to them. There were also various imputations thrown against the Roman Catholics, such as that it was a doctrine of Roman Catholics that faith need not be kept with heretics, that it was in the power of the Pope to absolve them from their oath, and that the Pope could also absolve subjects from their allegiance. I did not then give credit, and still less now do I give credit, to those imputations; but I must be permitted to remind your Lordships that there is not one of those imputations which may not be traced to some claim which has been put forward at some time or the other by the Supreme Pontiff, and which may not be found vindicated and defended by the casuists whose opinions are received as authority by the Roman Catholics. Surely, my Lords, when such claims are put forward by one exercising such high jurisdiction as the Pope, are put forth in treatises and works professing to give an authoritative exposition of the Roman Catholic faith, it cannot be considered too much—it was not considered too much by the Roman Catholics themselves—that they should be called upon to repudiate such doctrines, and declare that they do not form any part of their religious belief. When the Relief Act passed in 1829, there were certain restrictions imposed—respecting which I will say a few words presently—but they were restrictions imposed by the Legislature with universal consent. Those restrictions were not harsh measures by which the grace of a great act of conciliation was marred, or 779 made to appear as though it had been granted by a grudging Parliament or a reluctant Ministry, but they were provisions which, as I have said, were framed by Roman Catholics, were urged by them, and were pressed on the acceptance of the Legislature by those who advocated their claims. Recollect what were the circumstances under which that great measure of Relief took place. It had been a matter of controversy among most distinguished men and the most able statesmen for many years; it had kept the rival parties aloof; it had distracted and almost paralyzed the action of Government by keeping open a question to which the Government at length yielded, not because they thought it was safe, or because it was free from danger, or failed to feel the force of the objections against it, but because, dangerous as they felt it to be, they saw in the opposite direction dangers still greater, I am far from saying that that was a sufficient justification. The part which Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington had to take was one of great difficulty, and the decision to which they had to come was a painful one. I, who heard it, shall not soon forget the impression which was made upon my mind when Sir Robert Peel spoke of—The sharp convulsive pangs of agonizing pride,when he found himself compelled to abandon convictions which he had entertained for many years, and at the prospect of the dangers which he saw impending in the country, and which had been sufficient to overcome his own convictions and his own feelings. But, my Lords, it is quite clear that the unreformed Parliament of that day—if it had been reformed, I hardly know that it would have been brought about—was in advance of the opinions of the country in its treatment of the Roman Catholics, and carried that measure against what I believe to have been the strong sense of danger pervading the public mind. The change was forced by Parliament upon a reluctant Ministry, and forced in turn by the Ministry upon a still more reluctant Sovereign; and it would have been inexcusable if this change had not been modified by adding to it every safeguard and provision which could be introduced for the purpose of mitigating the danger which they foresaw, and which was perceived to an even greater extent by the public themselves. The alterations which were made, were, I repeat, practically made at the instance of the Roman Catholics 780 themselves. My Lords, this is so important a part of my argument that, at the risk of wearying your Lordships, I must trouble you to listen to the progress of these oaths, the manner in which they were introduced, the entreaties made to be permitted to take them, and to trace the question down from as early a period as 1757 to 1829. During the progress of the Revolution it is needless to say that the Roman Catholic mind was deeply agitated, and that at that time the Roman Catholics as a body could not be regarded as loyal to the Crown. I would even go so far as to agree, in the words of a very distinguished and eminent person, the late Dr. Doyle, who said—I think at that time the connection of the Roman Catholics with the Stuarts was such as justified, and even made it necessary for, the English Government to pass some penal laws against the Catholics, such as the excluding them from offices of trust, and perhaps even from the councils of the Sovereign; but I think that the necessity which existed, and which certainly would justify, perhaps demand of, the Government to pass certain restrictive laws against the Roman Catholics, could not justify them in passing the very unnatural and harsh laws which abounded in the penal code.Thus, that eminent Prelate admitted that it would not be safe for the Government not to repress and put restrictions upon the Roman Catholics as a body, not on account of their religion, but on account of their widespread disloyalty. Again Dr. Doyle was asked, in his well-known examination—Inasmuch as that conduct was hostile to the principle of the constitution of England and civil liberty, are you of opinion that they were in that degree justifiable?Answer.I do think they were justifiable; nay, that it was their duty to pass restrictive laws against the Catholics, considering the political principles of the Catholics of that period.Well, towards the middle of the eighteenth century public opinion had very much changed, the new dynasty had become established, and the cause of the Stuarts was felt to be irretrievably lost. The settlement of property under Charles II. had been recognized; and, in speaking of this settlement, we do not refer to the settlement so far as it affected the general right of property in individuals, but we refer to that great Act of Settlement of property introduced by the Duke of Ormond in the time of Chaeres II. for the purpose of removing the restrictions introduced in the time of Cromwell, and of restoring the 781 titles and estates to those who had been deprived of them. In 1757 the Roman Catholics framed an oath which proceeded on the basis of this Act of Settlement, and it was a portion of that oath to maintain and uphold the settlement of property as by law established; and this is remarkable, as from 1757 to the present time no word of remonstrance or opposition has been heard on their part. In 1787 a "declaration of the Catholics of Ireland" was framed by an Irish Catholic Bishop, Dr. O'Keeffe, in conjunction with Mr. O'Connor, of Belenagore, Dr. Curry, and Mr. Wyse, of Waterford; and these are the words:—Whereas certain opinions and principles inimical to good order and government have been attributed to the Catholics, the existence of which we utterly deny; and whereas it is at this time peculiarly necessary to remove such imputations and to give the most full and ample satisfaction to our Protestant brethren that we hold no principle whatsoever incompatible with our duty as men or as subjects, or repugnant to liberty, whether political, civil, or religious. Now we, the Catholics of Ireland, for the removal of all such imputations, and in deference to the opinions of many respectable bodies of men and individuals among our Protestant brethren, do hereby, and in the face of our country, of all Europe, and before God, make this our deliberate and solemn declaration. It has been objected to us that we wish to subvert the present Church Establishment for the purpose of substituting a Church Establishment in its stead. Now, we do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any such intention; and, further, that if we shall be admitted into any share of the constitution, by our being restored to the right of the elective franchise, we are ready in the most solemn manner to declare that we will not exercise that privilege to disturb and weaken the establishment of the Protestant 'religion or Protestant government in this country.This was a declaration signed by Roman Catholics, and prepared by a Roman Catholic Bishop; it was issued also in 1792—the original is in my hand and in it they disavow all the other opinions to which I have referred; and they go on to say—We do hereby solemnly disclaim and for ever renounce all interest in and title to all forfeited lands, resulting from any rights or supposed rights of our ancestors, or any claim, title, or interest therein; nor do we admit any title as a foundation of rights which is not established and acknowledged by the law of the realm as they now stand. We desire further, that whenever the patriotism, liberality, and justice of our countrymen shall restore to us a participation in the elective franchise, no Catholic shall be permitted to vote at any election for Members to serve in Parliament unless he shall previously take an oath to defend, to the utmost of his power, the arrangement of property in this country as established by the different Acts of Attainder and Settlement.782 Your Lordships must forgive me for dwelling on this matter, because I wish to show you that what is now complained of was recommended during a series of years in every application from the Roman Catholic to be admitted to the privilege of the franchise. In 1792 a petition was presented to the Irish Parliament from the Roman Catholics of Ireland which contained the following:—With regard to the constitution of the Church, we are indeed inviolably attached to our own. First, because we believe it to be true; and next, because beyond belief we know that its principles are calculated to make us good men and good citizens. But, as we find it assures to us individually all the useful ends of religion, we solemnly and conscientiously declare that we are satisfied with the present condition of our ecclesiastical policy. With satisfaction we acquiesce in the establishment of the National Church; we neither repine at its possessions nor envy its dignities; we are ready upon this point to give every assurance that is binding upon man.In 1792 that application was made to the Irish Parliament; and in consequence, in 1793, the Roman Catholics, upon taking these oaths and making these declarations, were admitted to the exercise of the franchise. It is remarkable that so early as 1793 the Irish Parliament granted to Irish Roman Catholics that which the English Parliament never granted to the English Roman Catholics until 1829. I come now to a petition presented to the Imperial Parliament in 1808, and I find there—Your Petitioners most solemnly declare that they do not seek or wish in any way to injure or encroach upon the rights, privileges, possessions, or revenues appertaining to the bishops and clergy of the Protestant religion as by law established, or to the churches committed to their charge, or to any of them; the extent of their humble supplication being that they be governed by the same laws, and rendered capable of the same civil and military offices, franchises, rewards, and honours, as their fellow subjects of every other religious denomination."—[1 Hansard, xi. 193.]In 1812 there was a similar declaration; and in 1813 Grattan, the most energetic, able, and eloquent defender of the rights of the Roman Catholics, declared in the preamble of the Act which he introduced, that—The Protestant Episcopal Church of England and Ireland was established permanently and inviolably, and that it would tend to promote the interest of the same, and to strengthen the free constitution of which it is an essential part, if the disqualifications under which the Roman Catholics laboured were removed.I now pass to the speech made by Lord Plunket in 1821, in support of the property of the Protestant Church, in which he, one 783 of the most able and eloquent supporters of the Roman Catholic claims, says—Could I believe that the measure of redress involved consequences of injury or of danger to those establishments, dear to my heart as I hold the interest of my Roman Catholic countrymen, I should abandon their long-asserted claims anil range myself with their opponents. But, having the most entire conviction of the groundlessness of the apprehensions, and entertaining a sanguine hope that such alarms may be removed from the minds of those who are sincere,and so on. Again, in the same speech, Lord Plunket says—On the part of the Roman Catholics I am bold to say that though they prefer their own religion to ours, yet that they find the Protestant religion established by law, by the same law by which their own lives, liberties, and properties, along with those of all the other subjects of this realm are secured; that, on the contrary, the Protestant established religion of England was in Ireland established at the Reformation, confirmed at the Reformation, and perpetually incorporated at the Union; that it forms a part of the fundamental, unalterable law of the empire; that he, therefore, prefers a Protestant establishment and an unimpaired state to a Roman Catholic establishment and a subverted one; that he considers the possessions of the Protestant clergy as their absolute property, secured to them as sacredly as the private possessions of any individual are secured to him: that he abides by the oath which he has taken to maintain that Establishment, and that, so far from consideriag himself under any obligation to subvert it, he holds himself obliged by the most solemn ties which can bind him to society as a man, a citizen, and a Christian, to resist all attempts at its overthrow from whatever quarter they may proceed."—[See 2 Hansard, iv. 979.]This is the language of the authorized advocate of the Roman Catholics, and I shall not quote a word from any of the opponents to their claims, but from their own advocates, who state their own convictions in their own terms. In 1825, again, Archbishop Murray, a most excellent and amiable prelate, with whom I have had the honour of having held personal intercourse, and whom I believe to have been utterly incapable of deviating from his pledged and plighted word—a man devoted to his own religion, but, at the same time, scrupulously alive to the claims of others, was examined before a Committee of the House of Commons. Some of the questions and answers were remarkable.Have you any reason to think that, in the minds of any part of the Roman Catholic clergy, there exists any hope or any wish to interfere with the temporal possessions of the Established Church?—Answer. Not the least; there is no wish on the part of the Roman Catholic clergy to disturb the present Establishment, or to partake of any part of the wealth it enjoys. Question. Nor any objection to give the most full and entire 784 assurance on that subject, by any declaration that may be required of them?—Answer. Not in the least.Again, in 1826, there was a document signed by thirty Roman Catholic bishops, in which theydeclare upon oath that they will defend to the utmost of their power the settlement and arrangement of property in the country as established by the laws now in being. They also disclaim, disavow, arid solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment for the purpose of substituting a Catholic establishment in its stead. And further, they swear they will not exercise any privilege to which they are, or may be entitled, to disturb and weaken the Protestant religion and Protestant government in Ireland.This document was signed by thirty Roman Catholic bishops, of whom one only is now alive, and he cannot be charged with the endeavour to disturb the Protestant Establishment—Archbishop M'Hale—for, bound by his own declaration and by the assurance which he gave, he has persistently refused to join an Association presided over, I regret to say, by another prelate of his Church, formed for the express purpose of subverting that very Protestant Establishment which other Roman Catholics, at their own request, are bound by oath not to endeavour to overthrow or weaken. This refusal, I think is greatly to the credit of Dr. M'Hale, particularly when we bear in mind how zealous he is in the advocacy of his own religion. It is clear that he must feel himself bound by the sense which he entertains of the voluntary engagement into which he entered to refrain from cooperating with a brother prelate in a movement which has for its object the injury of a Church to which he as much as any one is opposed. I will not trouble your Lordships with the evidence upon these declarations further than that which was given by Mr. O'Connell and Dr. Slevin, Professor of Canon Law in Maynooth. They declared that there could not be a shadow of a pretence for any of those who were formerly interested in forfeited property in Ireland seeking to reclaim it and to reverse that settlement of property. In a speech of Lord Plunket's in 1828—he had been admitted a Member of your Lordships' House in the previous year—he said—If I could agree in believing that we can take no step for the admission of Roman Catholics into Parliament and into office without the destruction of the Protestant Establishment in Ireland, I, who have supported these claims almost from the first moment I could think, would abandon my ancient and confirmed opinions would change my side and become as determined 785 an opponent to concession as I have been its most anxious advocate. I look on the Protestant Establishment of Ireland as a fundamental principle of our Imperial constitution. I take it to have been unalterably settled at the Union, and that to talk of changing the Protestant religion of Ireland without shaking the Protestant Establishment of the empire, is idle. I speak no new language. …. On these grounds, and not for any fanciful and theoretical reasons assigned by some writers upon this subject, I never for a moment would consent to anything which should endanger the Protestant Establishment. I further feel that the Protestant Establishment of Ireland is the very cement of the Union. I find it interwoven with all the essential relations and institutions of the two kingdoms, and I have no hesitation in admitting that if it were destroyed the very foundations of public security would be shaken, the connection between England and Ireland dissolved, and the annihilation of private property must follow the ruin of the property of the Church."—[2 Hansard, xix. 1260.]Such is the declaration of one of the most persevering, able, and eloquent supporters of the Roman Catholic claims, with respect to the maintenance of the Church Establishment, which the oath we are now asked to repeal was intended to protect and secure. It would, I may add, be a gross injustice to the memory of Sir Robert Peel to suppose that he introduced tin's oath merely for the purpose of satisfying public clamour, and not with the conviction that it would, to a certain extent, operate as a restraint on those Roman Catholics who, from conscientious motives might be desirous of disturbing the Roman Catholic church, but would be prevented from doing so by the obligations of the oath.
My Lords, having said thus much as to the history of this oath, let me now proceed to analyse the oath as it stands, and follow my noble Friend who has read through the oath. I am quite ready to agree with my noble Friend so far; I am quite ready to assent to such an alteration as shall relieve the Roman Catholics from the obligation of taking any declaration or renouncing any doctrine or principles the supposed adherence to which they would consider an injurious reflection on their private honour. I draw, however the widest distinction between the several grounds on which the abolition of the several parts of the oath is advocated. There are portions of the oath—such, for instance, that in which they are called upon to abjure and renounce that which, if they professed, would be a matter of moral turpitude—although these were inserted without any objection from former generations of Roman Catholics, yet if it grates on the feelings of my Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen I think it unnecessary, and I 786 agree with my noble Friend that I would not hesitate to strike out this portion of the oath. There is another part of the oath which my noble Friend dwelt upon—that whereby the person who takes the oath declares that he takes it without any mental reservation or equivocation which, if it be offensive to Roman Catholics, I would sweep away, provided it can be done without hazard to points of real and vital importance. It happens, singularly enough, that this oath and the declaration that the Pope has no power to absolve are taken by no less a functionary than the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and though no Lord Lieutenant has entertained a contrary opinion, I never beard of a Lord Lieutenant who hesitated to declare that he took the oath without mental reservation or equivocation. But, again, I agree with my noble Friend that the man who would equivocate in taking the oath would declare that he took it without mental reservation; therefore, if it is offensive to the Roman Catholics, provided I can see that it can be expunged without risk to obligations of more vital importance, I will not hesitate for a moment to agree to expunge it. I may be asked if you are willing to dispense with a considerable portion of this oath? Why is it you do not assent to the second reading of this Bill? Why do you leave yourselves open to misrepresentation and misconstruction? Why do you not introduce such Amendments as you think necessary, expunging that which you think immaterial and retaining that which you think is an essential portion of the oath? That is a very fair question, and I will give it a fair and frank answer. In the first place, that very proposition was made in the House of Commons, and was by the House of Commons rejected, and I think the occasions are very rare where your Lordships would seek to call upon the House of Commons to affirm an Amendment which, upon full deliberation and discussion, they have already rejected. I lay that down as a general rule, but not one without exception. I was so anxious to avoid the necessity of calling upon your Lordships to give a vote which might by possibility be misconstrued against the second reading of the Bill that I addressed myself to Her Majesty's Government, and said if they would consent to lend the influence of the Government to retaining in the House of Commons and restoring to the Bill those portions of the oath which I conceived to be important and essential, I would, for my part, very readily abstain 787 from offering any opposition to the second reading of the Bill; that I would take their assurance that they would use their influence to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. And I repeat now, that if the Government, on full consideration, think that such an arrangement might be advantageous to the interests of religious peace—might be satisfactory to the Protestants—might remove some portion of the objections of the Roman Catholics—I am ready to say that if I receive that assurance to-night I will even now abstain from asking your Lordships to offer any opposition to the second reading of the Bill. But if I am told by the Government that they cannot assent to such an alteration, that they cannot assent, in point of fact, to the Bill except upon the condition that it does away with all the security provided for the Established Church in Ireland and for the settlement of property in that country, I am bound to take the course of opposing the measure as a whole. With regard to that portion of the oath which I think is indispensable—and I do not say that that portion which refers to the settlement of property is at this day indispensable; but this I know—and I shall be confirmed by many noble Lords connected with Ireland—that there exists in the minds of the more ignorant of the peasantry and lower classes in Ireland, even at this day, a belief that the time is to come when estates are to return to their former owners; that maps are kept of forfeited property, in the hope that those they call the rightful owners will be again put into possession. That is a wild hope, I admit, and one that could enter only into no imagination less sanguine than that of an ignorant Irish peasant; but, if they see in Parliament a Bill for expunging from the oath that part which has reference to the settlement of property, will not their ignorance and sanguine temperament lead them to be encouraged in the extravagant expectation that the Protestant party and the Imperial Parliament do not hold to that settlement as an essential part of the constitution of these kingdoms?
My Lords, I have heard two objections to the oath as it at present stands; first, that it is ambiguous, and second, that it is not binding; or, if it is binding, it is only binding upon scrupulous and conscientious minds, and not upon those who desire an excuse to satisfy their consciences. This latter observation applies to every oath. I do not suppose that the oath of allegiance ever bound any person who was dis- 788 posed to rebel, and yet you call upon all persons to take it. My noble Friend in his amending Bill does not propose to exempt Roman Catholics from taking that or any other oath which Protestants are called upon to take; but, he says, that the oath is ambiguous, and he stated that to my great surprise. He says different people take different views with regard to the obligations and restrictions under which the oath places them; and that it is in the judgment of many men a prohibition to Roman Catholics taking any part in the discussion of Church questions. I was surprised to hear my noble Friend, in defence of that interpretation, quote a passage from Sir Robert Peel, which appeared to me to have an entirely contrary significance. He says that Sir Wilmot Horton proposed to introduce a clause for the purpose of inserting an express prohibition against Roman Catholics dealing with Church questions. What was Sir Robert Peel's answer? He said—I propose to make this a settlement so final and so complete that no one shall be entitled to say that it debars him from his public liberty and fetters him in the course he should pursue, except in the exception expressly laid down in the oath.Not binding? I could point to noble Lords and to Members of the other House—I could point to a very learned Roman Catholic Judge, of the highest character, who declares most solemnly that so long as that oath remains on the book, he should hold himself bound by the strictest religious ties to do nothing to weaken or disturb the Protestant religion or the Protestant Government. Another very distinguished Roman Catholic, the late Mr. Lucas, said, that he would as soon think of uttering blasphemy, as of giving a vote that he believed to be prejudicial to the interests of the Established Church. I know that the same principles have regulated the conduct of noble Lords in this, and hon. Gentlemen in the other House of Parliament. When you speak of the oath being ambiguous, in what sense can it be ambiguous? The person who takes it swears that—I will never exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or the Protestant Government of the United Kingdom.Does that swear that he shall not legislate upon Church questions? Not in the least. If in his inmost conscience he believes that the measure which he is advocating is one not for the injury but for the benefit of the Established Church, he is as completely at liberty to legislate upon that question as is 789 any Protestant Member. Why, I myself brought forward some years ago a measure which reduced the number of Bishops in Ireland, and altered the distribution of the property of the Church, infinitely, as I think, to the Church's advantage. Many Roman Catholics supported that Bill, and they supported it, believing conscientiously and honestly that it was not a measure for the weakening or disturbance, but, on the contrary, for the strengthening and support of the Established Church. What motive a man has for a particular vote is known only to God and his own conscience, and no one can judge the motives from which he takes a particular course; but it is, I apprehend, as clear as day that a Roman Catholic Member is precluded from giving any vote which in his inmost conscience he believes will be injurious, or which he intends and designs should be injurious to the Protestant Establishment or the Protestant Government. Therefore, in opposition to my noble Friend, that this oath is no real security to the Established Church, I hold that it is to a certain extent a security to that Church. It is a recognition by Parliament of the inviolability of that Church as a portion of the Constitution; it is binding upon honourable minds, and other minds we cannot expect to bind by any oath. It is not ambiguous if men will look at it clearly in the light of those who framed it and imposed it. I believe it has acted as a protection to the Established Church, and I believe still further that its removal would be a serious injury and a heavy blow to that Church, and that it would indicate a disposition on the part of Parliament, which, however it may be professed, even in high quarters, I trust will not receive the sanction of your Lordships or of the other House of Parliament.
My Lords, in the course of the debate elsewhere an hon. Gentleman used an expression which was certainly more forcible than elegant. He said that "the object of this Bill is to unmuzzle the senators." Unmuzzle them for what purpose? In dealing with the former part of the oath they say that it is not only unnecessary, but injurious, because it calls upon them to repudiate, in words, doctrines which they never desire to sustain; but when you come to the latter part of the oath which deals only with a malum prohibitum, and not a malum in se, the only bar to which is a legislative prohibition, but yet one which we Protestants and which the people of this country maintain, to he an important 790 principle, and one which ought to be steadily adhered to and guarded by every safeguard which the law can throw around it—when you come to that, what is the argument? Not that "we have not the least intention of doing that which you propose to prohibit." No, it is "because we desire to do the very thing which you wish to prohibit—unmuzzle us." "Unmuzzle us," says an hon. Gentleman who has lately been returned for an Irish county by the influence of the Roman Catholic priesthood—"unmuzzle us;" and why! Because we are harmless? No. "Because we want to bite?" If a man comes to me with a dog with a muzzle on and says, "Take the muzzle off this poor creature; he will do us no harm, he is quite harmless, and, besides, the muzzle is half-rotten and affords no great protection," I understand him; but if he says, "This is a most vicious animal, and nothing prevents his pulling you and mo to pieces except the muzzle which is put round his nose, and therefore I want you to take it off," I am inclined to say, "I am very much obliged to you, but I had rather keep the muzzle on." The very argument which is made use of to induce us to take the muzzle off is in direct contradiction to the ingenious contention of my noble Friend that, in point of fact, the restraint is perfectly inefficacious; that it is only a vexatious impediment, and not one which affords any real protection.
I feel deep regret at having detained your Lordships so long, but I wish to place distinctly before you and the country the position in which I stand, and in which I desire to stand. For forty-three years I have been anxious to extend the fullest amount of civil and religious liberty to all my fellow-countrymen. I have invariably supported every claim of the Roman Catholics which I did not conceive to be injurious to or destructive of that Church of which I am an attached member. I believe that the removal of restrictions which do not really impose any burden or any hardship upon the Roman Catholics, who have obtained their present position in virtue of taking that oath, will be worse than useless, and will open the door to serious attacks upon the Protestant Church of Ireland. Is this the proper moment to select for taking off any of those restrictions which form the safeguards, however slight, for the security of the Protestant religion? Can we say that there is no desire at the present time on the part of a large portion of the Roman Catholics to 791 subvert and destroy the securities for the Established Church in that country? Can we say so in the face of the statements put forth in reference to the approaching election—that Members will be returned for the especial object of subverting that Church? Is this the moment to relax our vigilance when, from persons as high in authority as a Minister of the Crown, the Church of Ireland is held forth as an object not for immediate assault, but for assault at no distant date; and, with that knowledge and conviction, are you prepared not now to come to a vote that that Church be destroyed and overwhelmed, for that would be the honest course, but to take with your eyes open, and with these declarations made to you, measures relative to Roman Catholics which will pave the way for the contemplated attack, and leave the walls of the fortress absolutely undefended and open to the first assault made against it? If this measure was to have been brought forward at all, it should have been brought forward after serious investigation of the arguments by which the restrictions were supported at the time of the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill; it should have been brought forward with the full strength and authority of the Government, who should not have sheltered themselves, as they have done on the present occasion, under the wing of a highly respectable, but still private but unimportant individual. The Ministers should have come forward in support of the measure with the authority of the Crown and of the Government, and there should have been a clear statement of their intentions and objects. They ought not to have allowed this question to have been thrown upon the House in the loose way it has been, hastily and inconsiderately, when the public mind is about to be excited by a general election. If I could have relieved the Roman Catholics from that which they feel degrading and harsh, I should have only been too glad to have joined in sweeping away that which is considered superfluous and offensive, if Her Majesty's Government would have permitted me to do so; but they say, "No, you shall not strike out this part of the oath, unless you consent to strike out that part of the oath which was intended to be a safeguard to the Established Church," and the removal of which would agitate the Protestant mind of the country, and would encourage the Roman Catholics to commit assaults upon the Church which appears to be about to be abandoned. If upon these conditions 792 alone I could confer the boon I should desire upon the Roman Catholics, I should have no alternative but to stand by that Church which I have supported from the earliest period I could think, and which I am not likely to abandon for any fanciful advantages at the time when I am approaching the confines of the grave.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and insert ("this Day Three Months.")—(The Earl of Derby.)
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, I think it was quite unnecessary for the noble Earl who has just sat down (the Earl of Derby) to tell us, as he did, that he opposed the second reading of this Bill with no prejudice against the Roman Catholic body, and that it was not with any enmity towards religious freedom that he approached this grave question. I agree with the noble Earl that it is no light matter to reopen the Roman Catholic question by proposing an alteration in the Roman Catholic oath after its settlement thirty-six years ago under circumstances which should make your Lordships reflect seriously before you alter the oath then imposed. But, how does the question now come before your Lordships? A most influential section of the Roman Catholic body declares that the retention of certain parts of the oath is a grievance to Roman Catholics. The noble Earl said, that but few Roman Catholics complained of the burden imposed upon them by the oath; but, on the contrary, I believe that the great body of the Roman Catholics object to it, as those who are not compelled to take it themselves sympathize with those who are compelled to take it, and they regard it as the great mark of inferiority which attaches to their religion in this country. There are several objections to the words of the oath. I will now allude to those portions to the alteration of which the noble Earl has so readily assented. One part of the oath, the omission of which he does not object to, is this—I do renounce, reject, and utterly abjure the opinion that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or by any person whatsoever."—[2 Hansard, xx. 760.]Now, the noble Earl is not desirous of imposing that part of the oath upon the Roman Catholics, because he does not regard the principles abjured as forming a portion of their belief. Another part of the oath which is a matter of offence, and which the noble Earl would also not object to see omitted, is that part which refers to 793 The "mental reservation." But when the noble Earl says he communicated to the Government his readiness to part with these words of the oath, it appears to me that he takes away one of the great objections to the Bill; it appears to me that the chief objection to making any alteration in the oath must be that the matter has been settled years ago by the wisdom of Parliament with the consent of all parties—and that settlement ought not to be disturbed. But surely, if once you consent to make any alteration in the oath, you should remove all parts of it which are regarded by Roman Catholics as peculiarly offensive in these times, and which really form in their minds a substantial grievance. My objections to the parts of the oath which the noble Earl wishes to retain are that they are contrary to the spirit of the Relief Act, and that they are in direct contradiction to the spirit of the present age; and, finally, that they form no security whatever for the Protestant Church. It was urged by the noble Earl that we ought not to make this concession, because the oath formed part of the conditions of the compact under which the Roman Catholics were permitted to enter Parliament; but I deny altogether that any such compact exists. During the long contest which preceded the Relief Act of 1829, Grattan, Plunket, and others, with the view of obtaining the consent of Parliament and removing the jealousies of Protestants, offered various securities—the noble Earl has referred to the securities offered in 1757 and 1793—but they did not obtain the assent of Parliament. At the end of the long Parliamentary contest, when it came to be a question between Earl Grey on the one part and Mr. Canning on the other, Earl Grey, that most illustrious defender of the Roman Catholics in this country, said to Mr. Canning—You ask me for security; show mo your danger, and I will show you my security.Mr. Canning said—I am reproached and taunted with not going on demanding security, as in former years; but I don't think there is any necessity for exacting any such security, and all former proposals for security have been rejected. The principle to be acted upon is that there should bo mutual concession.This was the spirit in which both the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel regarded the question when they proposed the great measure of Catholic emancipation in 1829. Sir Robert Peel, in the latter part of his speech, said—There appears to me numerous and cogent objections to this proposal. In the first place, it is dangerous to establish the precedent of limiting 794 by law the discretion by which the duties and functions of a Member of Parliament are to be exercised. In the second, it is difficult to define beforehand what are the questions which affect the interests of the Church; thirdly, by excluding the Roman Catholic from giving his individual vote, you do little to diminish his real influence if you leave him the power of speaking, of biasing the judgment of others on the question on which he is not himself to vote; and if by a jealous and distrusting, but ineffectual, precaution you tempt him to exercise to your prejudice the remaining power of which you cannot, or do not, propose to deprive him."—[2 Hansard, xx. 758.]That is what you do at this moment by depriving the Roman Catholic of an equal position with the Protestant. The noble Earl states that if you take away this security from the oath you enable the Roman Catholic to say that he is free, if he thinks proper, to endeavour to subvert the Church Establishment, and you then let in a flood of danger upon that Church. But the noble Earl forgets—and it is the gist and point of this whole complaint—that that right which you tell the Roman Catholic he is not to exercise, and that right of which he is to bo deprived, you freely allow to the Protestant. Protestants may belong to Liberation Societies; they may say they think that an Established Church is altogether wrong; that it is an injury to religion to have any State endowments. And, therefore, you give, to the Protestant that very power which you attempt by this oath to withhold from the Roman Catholic. What is the consequence of that? Why, the very consequence which Sir Robert Peel points out. Roman Catholics in Ireland, moved by several reasons, and, perhaps, by the notion that this oath might prevent Members of their own faith from voting to take away the revenues of the Established Church, have elected Protestants who can use this very power, and who come forward in the House of Commons to declare that their object is to subvert the Church Establishment, and deprive it of its revenues. There is, then, this inconsistency, that you allow to Protestants that which you say must not be allowed to Roman Catholics. Then Sir Robert Peel says—I believe there is more of real security in confidence than in avowed mistrust and suspicion unacompanied by effectual guards. For these reasons I am unwilling to deprive the Roman Catholic Members of either House of Parliament of any privilege of free discussion and free exercise of judgment which belongs to other Members of the Legislature.Yet, by the words of this oath, according to what may be its right interpretation, you do deprive the Roman Catholic of the 795 power of exercising his judgment on any question relating to the revenues of the Established Church. I now come to that part of the oath which relates to the settlement of property. Here are the words of the oath—I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this realm as established by the laws."—[2 Hansard, xx. 760.]Now, although in the year 1757, when this question was discussed, there were, no doubt, many who thought that the ancient settlement of property might be disturbed, I doubt whether there be any person—any Roman Catholic—who would think that there is any likelihood, any hope or chance, of its being disturbed now. The Roman Catholic rests, as the Protestant does, upon the general security of the law, and you need exact no oath from him in order to make the settlement of property safe. The oath then goes on to say—And I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm; and I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant Government in this kingdom."—[Ibid.]Well, you say that the Protestant is not debarred from doing this, but that the Roman Catholic is; and by saying that you at once admit that there is no equality between the Protestant and the Catholic. I frankly own that in holding this language you offer an affront to the Roman Catholic, and likewise do that which is contrary to the spirit of the present time. The spirit of the present time, I venture to say, is that all Members of Parliament should have that equality to which Sir Robert Peel refers; every man who enters Parliament should have the power of voting according to his own conscience for those measures which he believes to be for the welfare of the kingdom. The noble Earl said he thought this was a question affecting the welfare of the kingdom. I agree with him in that, and I hold that it is for the welfare of the kingdom that every man who enters Parliament and declares, as we all do, his allegiance to the Crown should have full liberty to express his opinion, whether with regard to the Church Establishment or with regard to any part of the laws of his country. And if you attempt by any oath to restrain any man from exercising that liberty, you debar him from that equal and just freedom which every Member of either House of 796 Parliament ought to have. I say, then, that this oath is contrary to the intention and views with which the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act was passed, and contrary also to the spirit of the present times. It may have been that in the year 1757 or 1797 there was a different spirit prevalent in respect to these things, but I hold that we are living in an age of progress in all these matters. My opinion is that the more regardful men become of each other's opinions, the larger and more liberal will be their view of a question like the present. And what I find fault with the noble Earl for is, that while he submits to Roman Catholic emancipation, while he is ready to agree to all that was enacted in 1829, he can make no concession to the progress of religious liberty, and refuses that which the Roman Catholic fairly and justly asks at your hands. Then we come to the question of the ambiquity of the oath. The noble Earl says there is no ambiguity in it, or that any oath may be in a certain degree ambiguous. Now, I confess that it appears to me that, with regard to the oath of allegiance, there is no ambiguity about it; but with regard to this oath there is ambiguity. It has been disputed up to the present time among the Roman Catholics in what sense this oath ought to be understood. There are many who think it precludes a Roman Catholic who has taken it, as a Member of this or the other House of Parliament, from giving any vote which may tend to injure the revenues of the United Church of England and Ireland. There are many who act upon that principle. There are others who hold totally different opinions. One very learned person has, I believe, been quoted in the other House of Parliament as having given the true interpretation of this oath. I refer to Mr. Justice Shee, then Mr. Serjeant Shee. But what was said by another very learned and excellent man, Mr. Napier, with respect to Mr. Serjeant Shee's interpretation of the Catholic oath? Speaking in June 1859, Mr. Napier observed—The hon. and learned Gentleman, when not a Member of that House, published a book irreconcilable with the plain construction of the oath.Again, Mr. Napier said—The proposition of Serjeant Shee in his speech was contrary to the oath to which he had himself alluded.Yet Mr. Whiteside, speaking on May 17, this very Session, quoted Mr. Serjeant Shoe's interpretation of the oath, and remarked— 797That is an exposition of the oath by one who is a Roman Catholic, and an ornament to the Bench, and I believe his interpretation is a correct one.At the same time there are many conscientious Roman Catholics who say that, although this oath might be binding on them in case they held any civil appointment or office, yet in their capacity as legislators it is no more binding on them than the Coronation Oath was held to be on George IV., and that they are perfectly at liberty to give a vote for the entire subversion of the Church Establishment, so far as its revenues are concerned. I remember hearing the noble Earl himself on one occasion read out this oath in the presence of the Roman Catholic Members of the House of Commons, and then leave it to them to reconcile its obligations with the votes which many of them were about to give on a question affecting the revenues of the Established Church. And, ray Lords. I must say I think that was a very painful state of things. You have these Catholic Members of the House of Commons, you have men as conscientious as any other part of the assembly to which they belong, and yet you say that Protestants are at perfect liberty to vote in support of the Established Church, or to vote for its total subversion, but that the Roman Catholic Members are guilty of perjury if they give a vote which may touch the revenues of that Church. I say that that is not a position of equality. It is not a position to which you ought to subject the Roman Catholics unless it be necessary for your security. But how is it necessary? Supposing the Roman Catholics wore no more hound in this matter than the Protestants, what would be the consequence? There are many Roman Catholics who think that the Protestant Church is a security for good order, for property, for the general observance of piety; and these men would most willingly and far more cheerfully give a vote against any attempt to subvert it if an oath of this kind were no longer maintained. There would be others who would give a vote against the present revenues of the Church in Ireland. But does any one believe that the oath is a security for the Protestant Church in Ireland? As long as the Members of both Houses of Parliament believe that the Established Church is connected with religion in Ireland, with the Union between Ireland and this country, and with the general welfare of Ireland and the United Kingdom, so long the Protestant Church in Ireland will 798 be supported; hut if these securities fail—if men should cease to have an attachment to the Protestant Church in Ireland—should see that the maintenance of that Church wa3 unnecessary for upholding the Union—should think that the good of Ireland and of the kingdom at large made it necessary that the revenues of that Church should be cut down—I do not think the flimsy protection of these two or three sentences in the oath would be any security. Why, then, not rely on that which would be a real security—namely, giving to Protestants and Catholics the same just liberty? Why not rely on the discretion and wisdom of Parliament for what is useful to that country, beneficial to religion, and essential to the maintenance of property, and not depend for security on those words which are put in to entrap Roman Catholics, and which, at least, only raise doubts as to their ability to give votes affecting the revenues of the Protestant Church in Ireland? The noble Earl said he was willing to give up those parts of the oath which pledge Roman Catholics against mental equivocation in the taking of the oath, and against the doctrine that it is lawful to murder an excommunicated Sovereign. I own I think there would be no advantage in taking away those parts of the oath; for by so doing you would disturb the settlement made in 1829; but you would not at the same time give satisfaction to the Roman Catholics, neither would you complete that which is necessary for religious liberty in this country. With regard to the objects of the Roman Catholics, if they wish to set up a Roman Catholic establishment in place of the Protestant, or if they should endeavour to injure the Protestant establishment with the view of advancing the Roman Catholic religion, I think you may rely on the Protestant feeling of this country to defeat any such attempt. Looking, then, at this measure as a step in the progress of religious liberty, as a necessary step tending to give a portion of our fellow-subjects the full freedom which they ought to enjoy, I shall vote most heartily for the second reading of the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
said, he was so pained at having to take any step which might seem hostile to his Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, and at variance with every antecedent of his former life, that he trusted the House would excuse him for a few minutes while he expressed his reasons for voting against this Bill. He could not consider this measure simply as 799 a concession to civil and religious liberty; for he did believe that those words now proposed to be omitted had been put into the oath by Sir Robert Peel and accepted by the country, reluctant to see the Emancipation Act passed, as a specific security for the Irish Church. Whether it was necessary to introduce them at first was another question; but he believed Parliament could not now remove them without indirectly and by a side wind giving a very considerable impulse to the attempts to destroy the Irish Church. And for what purpose? Because the words did not give a perfect security, did they afford no security at all? Why do we not dismiss our police because they do not entirely prevent robberies and outrages? No single security was perfect; but a multiplication of them might afford a perfect security. The oath of allegiance did not protect the Sovereign from conspiracy; but would any one tell him that putting the oath of allegiance on the statute-book and into the mouth of every subject did not contribute very materially to the security of Her Majesty? Therefore, he thought it impossible to have this oath existing in an Act of Parliament without at the same time having a declaration on the statute-book that, at present, at all events, Parliament was not prepared to deal with the Church Establishment in Ireland. He agreed with what the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) bad said as to the expressions in the oath which were really offensive to Roman Catholics; and, therefore, though unwilling to disturb the settlement of 1829, he would go as far as to remove them, on the ground that they constituted a grievance. But was there a grievance in the declaration that they would not destroy the Protestant Church? This was the very thing which Sir Robert Peel wanted to prevent them from doing. In the offensive passages doctrines were imputed to them which they repudiated; but in the declaration relating to the Established Church no opinion was imputed to them which they did not hold. They did not recoil from the charge that it was their wish to destroy the Protestant Church in Ireland. Not at all. At their public meetings and in their organs they said, "We shall destroy the Established Church." The question, therefore, was, would their Lordships say, "You may," when the Roman Catholics said, "We shall?" If the Protestant Church in Ireland was to be destroyed, let it be by the votes of Protestants and not by those of Roman Catholics. Parliament ought to be very 800 slow in touching settlements. No doubt, no Act of Parliament could bind for all time. The Act of Union with Scotland could not so bind; but Scotland would have felt very much aggrieved if, within thirty-five years after the passing of the Act of Union, Parliament had done anything to touch the conditions on which the Scotch people had assented to that Act. If a grievance could be shown, he would consent to touch the settlement; but there was no grievance.
§ EARL RUSSELL
It is a fetter. The Roman Catholics are told they commit perjury if they take a particular course of action in Parliament.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
No doubt it is a fetter—it was intended as a fetter; and if, because the fetter galled now Parliament consented to remove it, its doing so would be tantamount to a declaration that every security given at the passing of the Bill might be thrown to the winds as soon as the object of the moment had been achieved. Let the Protestant members of the Legislature discuss the position of the Church in Ireland without the aid of Roman Catholics, and if they should arrive at the conclusion that it ought to be abolished, then let them remove this oath; but let them not prejudge the question by first removing what was intended to be a protection to the Protestant Church. With these views he was sorry he must object to the second reading of the Bill, being of opinion that it was a step in a direction which he was not prepared to go, and not finding any statement of grievance sufficient to induce him to incur any risk.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, I have heard the speech of my noble Friend who has just sat down with great regret, because I could not have believed he would vote against the second reading of this Bill; and the grounds on which he has based his opposition to the measure have, if possible, increased that regret. My noble Friend resists this Bill on the ground that its principles and tendency are to remove what he thinks is a security for the maintenance of the Established Church in Ireland. Now, my Lords, I am prepared to argue that the continuance of the oath now imposed on Roman Catholics when they take their seals in either House of Parliament, far from being useful to the maintenance of the Established Church in that country, is injurious to the cause. In the first place, allow me to remark that at most the only effect which the oath can have is to prevent Roman Catholic Members 801 of either House from voting on measures affecting the Established Church. But it may be doubted whether the oath was originally intended to have this effect, and experience proves that it has not been so understood. Only a few years after this oath was imposed the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) brought in a Bill in the House of Commons, sweeping away altogether the right of vestry cess in Ireland, and making considerable reductions in the property of the Established Church. No doubt the noble Earl's motive was thereby to give greater security to the Establishment in Ireland; but, for this purpose, it made a considerable sacrifice of the property to which the Church was then entitled. Yet it never entered into the noble Earl's head that Catholic Members were debarred by their oath from voting for that Bill. A few years after that a clause was proposed in the Irish Tithe Bill, which was known as the Appropriation Clause; and, upon the same principle that the Roman Catholic Members had been considered entitled to support the noble Earl's Bill, they were regarded as having a right to support that clause also. Although there might be some few exceptions, as a body they certainly considered themselves entitled to do so. Looking at the principle on which both these Bills were founded, I do not see how the noble Earl can suppose that Catholic Members who voted for them might not, in like manner, vote for any measure which may hereafter be proposed for carrying the same principle farther, and altering the existing arrangement of Church property in Ireland by transferring a portion of it to the Roman Catholics. And I think the oath admits of a construction which is plausible, at all events, and which would fully justify such a vote. It may be argued that the oath as it stands was intended to bind those who take their seats in either House of Parliament to abstain from any attempt to subvert the Church Establishment while it is established by law; not to fetter the discretion of Members of the Legislature as to supporting such measures for the alteration of the law as may be brought before them. In favour of this construction it may be urged that no Legislature has a right to bind succeeding Legislatures—so that the Parliament of 1829 had no right to bind the Parliament of l865, and the oath it imposed ought to be understood in a sense consistent with this principle. Some of your Lordships may, perhaps, remember 802 that the question of the right of one generation to bind their successors by oaths imposed on those to whom the supreme power of legislation is intrusted was argued in this House by one whose name I have the honour to bear, and whom I very unworthily succeed in this question—when he argued, with regard to the Coronation oath, with great success, as it seemed to me, that it could not be held to bind the Crown against giving its assent to any Act which the wisdom of Parliament might think necessary for the welfare of the people. So it appears to me that every Member of the Legislature is under a higher and prior obligation to give his vote according to his conscience for the good of the country, and no oath imposed by the authority of a previous Parliament can fetter him in the exercise of his judgment and discretion. If it be shown that the oath does fetter him and deprive him of that discretion, so much the more reason is there for relieving him, because it is not right or consistent with the principles of our Constitution that we should endeavour to prevent those who sit in either House of Parliament from freely discharging their duties by voting according to their consciences. For these reasons I believe that the oath fairly admits of a construction that would allow Roman Catholic Members to vote for such a Bill as it is anticipated may some day come before them; and certainly the experience we have had with regard to former measures, should lead us to expect that it will be generally so understood. Suppose, however, it were admitted that the oath is as stringent as can be wished, and that it will effectually prevent Roman Catholic Members from voting for measures in respect of the Irish Church which they in their judgment believed to be right, I would ask your Lordships what you would gain by maintaining it? It is clear that no Bill For altering the existing law with respect to the Church Establishment in Ireland can be passed until there shall be such a change of opinion on this subject in England and Scotland that the British Parliament is prepared to pass a Bill for that purpose. But if the opinion of England and Scotland should undergo such a change, this oath would be so flimsy an obstacle to the passing of a Bill for giving effect to the wishes of the nation that it would be at once swept away. If public opinion were satisfied that such an alteration, with respect to the Church Establishment of Ireland, ought to take place, Par- 803 liament would have no difficulty whatever in sweeping away the oath as a preliminary measure. This security, therefore, which you value so highly is utterly imaginary. It protects you so long as there is no danger; but the moment danger becomes serious, and there is a prospect of Parliament passing a Bill of this nature, your security is morally certain to be swept away. But that is not all. The most probable cause of such a change of opinion in the public mind I believe would be the aggravation of the animosity and hostility of the Irish people to the Established Church to such a degree that the people of this country would come to the conclusion that such a change was necessary to meet the increased difficulty in governing Ireland. That, I believe, would be the most probable cause of such a change. What do you gain, then, by retaining your security at the expense of increasing a state of feeling which must infallibly cause the loss of that security? What other effect can result from the rejection of this Bill? The Roman Catholic Members of both Houses feel, and justly feel, that to require this oath from them is an insult and a degradation; and you tell them "we will compel you to submit to that degradation for the safety and security of the Established Church." Could you contrive, by the utmost stretch of ingenuity, any course of action more calculated to inflame and embitter the hostility of the Irish people to the Establishment which you wish to protect, and thus to increase the real danger to which that Establishment is exposed? I object to the Amendment, because I am convinced it tends to embitter the feelings of both parties in Ireland, and to accelerate the struggle which, sooner or later, will come if Parliament is determined to maintain the existing arrangements with regard to Church property in Ireland. In arguing this question, I do not shrink from declaring that I adhere to the opinion I have ever expressed during nearly forty years that I have taken part in public life, and which has only been strengthened by experience and reflection, that the existing arrangement with reference to the distribution of Church property in Ireland is so essentially unjust, and so contrary to natural equity, that, if you are determined to maintain it, sooner or later a struggle for its removal must come. But it is not desirable to accelerate that struggle or make it more bitter, as I am persuaded you will do, by rejecting this Bill. Upon an occasion like this I am not about to enter into so large 804 and so difficult a question as the Irish Church; but I must remind your Lordships that all the most distinguished advocates of a Church Establishment, as a national institution, have one and all rested their defence of it on its usefulness. Only the other evening the Bishop of Oxford, in advocating an extension of the episcopate, in an eloquent speech, said the episcopal order existed for the benefit of the great mass of the people. That principle has also been forcibly laid down by every writer on the subject. But in Ireland alone, of all countries in the world, you have a Church professing to be a national Church, which is of no use to the great majority of the people, and the whole endowment of which goes to support a clergy whose instruction is only accepted by a small minority of the people, and that mainly the richest, while the largest and poorest part of the population is left, unassisted by public funds, to maintain its own clergy. The Irish people cannot forget that three centuries ago the property which now constitutes the endowment of the Church Establishment in that country was property belonging to the Roman Catholic Church; that the Irish people have not changed their religion, but that the English people have, and by the superior power of this country, and by means of an Irish Parliament, in which the people of Ireland had no real representation, the property so long held by the Roman Catholic Church has been transferred to the Protestant Church; and that from that time to this we have seen the extraordinary anomaly of the property of that Church devoted to the support of the clergy of a small minority. I say that is a state of things which must shock the natural sense of justice of any dispassionate man, and I am persuaded that it is the sense of wrong which that state of things has produced which lies at the root of all the difficulties we have experienced in the Government of Ireland, and why we have never succeeded in raising the people of that country from the unfortunate position which they occupy. I am persuaded that that difficulty will never cease until Parliament is prepared to undertake the settlement of this question. In saying this, let me not be misunderstood as advocating the subversion of the Church Establishment of Ireland and the application of its whole property to other purposes. The passions that would be excited, and the difficulty there would be in carrying it, would render such a measure most inexpedient, even if it 805 could be accomplished. I believe that any violent measure of this sort would inflict a grievous blow to the welfare of Ireland, and would be most injurious to both Churches. But if this question be regarded in a spirit of justice, wisdom, and, above all, of Christian charity, I believe it would not be impossible to discover a mode of settling the question in a maimer that would be just to all parties and advantageous for the interests of the Protestant religion. I cannot forbear saying that one reason why I deplore the present state of things is the injurious effect it has upon the spread of the Protestant religion—I mean the real living power of the Protestant religion—over the minds of the people. Entertaining, as I do, a strong conviction of the truth and purity of our faith, I can scarcely understand how it is that during so many years and with such great advantages it has made such little progress in the affections of the people of Ireland; I can only attribute it to one cause—the sense of injustice kept alive in the minds of the Roman Catholics by the maintenance of the present arrangements, and, above all, to the effect produced, by their seeing that while we are professing to teach them the highest precepts of Christianity, we are pursuing towards them a course of conduct which is inconsistent with one of the first of these precepts—those feelings have prevented the success of all efforts to extend the Protestant religion in Ireland. Therefore, I say that, in the interests of our religion, I am anxious to see some more equitable arrangement adopted. I have said that I believe it would not be impossible to discover a mode which might he adopted fairer to all parties. My great objection to the Amendment is that it seems to be calculated to make any such settlement impossible, but is rather calculated to embitter the feelings on both sides and to render both parties more unwilling to acquiesce in any reasonable arrangement or compromise, and that it will stimulate our Roman Catholic fellow subjects, who, for many years past, had been willing to allow this question of an Establishment to fall comparatively into abeyance, and dispose them to commence their assaults on that Establishment, and be satisfied with nothing hut the utter subversion, instead of seeking to effect its reformation and re-arrangement. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) has read to us many speeches and declarations of Roman Catholic prelates and others before 1829, showing that at that time there was little disposition to attack the 806 Establishment. Those declarations were, I am sure, quite sincere; but the consequences of the controversies which raged after they were made have been to bring about an altered state of feeling, and we are now reaping the consequences of the errors then committed. When the Union was brought about we know that it was the desire of Mr. Pitt that that measure should have been accompanied by one to relieve Roman Catholics from civil disabilities, and another for making some public provision for the clergy of that faith. That wise policy was defeated upon the same plea as is now put forward—danger to the Established Church. What has been the consequence? Is there a man of ordinary intelligence in this country who is not convinced that if Mr. Pitt's views had been adopted at the end of the last century the Protestant Establishment in Ireland would have stood at this time in a position of far less insecurity than that which it now occupies? Just forty years ago this House was induced to reject the Bill fur Catholic Relief, which had passed the other House, upon the same plea of danger to the Church Establishment. Affairs, however, were changed between 1825 and 1829, and in the latter year Catholic emancipation was carried. In 1829, as the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) who moved the Amendment has himself told us, after having refused Catholic Emancipation when tendered on the grounds of fairness and justice, when it would have been accepted with gratitude as a graceful and voluntary concession, it was brought forward by its old opponents and justified upon the ground that however great might be the dangers of concession, the dangers of further resistance would be still greater. It was passed under compulsion, and after what I may call an insurrection of the 40s. freeholders in Ireland against the attempt to make them return Members hostile to Catholic Emancipation. Shall we, then, after that experience, and after that lesson, repeat the same mistake, and will you now for the sake of maintaining a security for the Church, which I have shown to be utterly imaginary and certain to fail when the time of need shall come—will you, for the sake of maintaining for perhaps four or five years longer—which is the longest period which those who are accustomed to read the signs of the times will give for the maintenance of the Roman Catholic oath—will you for that add a new cause of irritation and hatred against the Establishment in the minds of your Roman 807 Catholic fellow-subjects. That is the question we have now to decide, and therefore, while I have not disguised, and never will disguise, any opinion I conscientiously entertain, I say that those who wish to prevent the subversion of the Church Establishment in Ireland will do unwisely in voting against the second reading of this Bill.
§ LORD ST. LEONARDS
would have been content to have left the debate to the eloquent and argumentative speech of his noble Friend who moved the Amendment, but he desired to bring the discussion back to the real question before the House. It was not whether we should now impose on the Roman Catholics the conditions of which they complain, but whether those conditions should now be repealed. We should first inquire what were the circumstances under which those restrictions were put upon the great benefits conferred in 1829 on the Roman Catholics. The Catholic Association was then in existence—an illegal institution and utterly inconsistent with all settled government. The first condition of the boons to be granted was the suppression of that association, and accordingly the very first Act passed in the Session wa3 to effect that object. Then it was necessary to alter materially the elective franchise which also was accomplished, these were great and important measures, without which the proposed relief could not be granted. Still it was deemed necessary to obtain from the Roman Catholics themselves some assurance that their new privileges should not be used to the detriment of the State. It is now urged that the conditions attached to the grant were unjust ones. It is true that they were not a strong security against abuse, but he (Lord St. Leonards) was a party in the other House to the passing of the measure, and he could assure their Lordships that no ministry could have passed any such measure of relief without some satisfactory guards to preserve our civil and ecclesiastical institutions. It was, indeed, as we all know, with great difficulty that the measure with the conditions could be passed. Without them, the relief would not have been granted. The relief was extensive and the conditions which are now sought to be repealed are such as no man need object to perform. They consist of an oath that the party will defend to the utmost of his power the settlement of property within this realm which relates to the settlement of property in Ireland in the time of Charles II. It might not be necessary now to enact such 808 a provision, but to repeal it now would be to place in the power of those who mean mischief the means of persuading the lower orders in Ireland that the claims against the present owners of property in Ireland on the part of the Roman Catholic Church and the descendants of proprietors long since deceased were intended by Parliament to be recognized. Then the person taking the oath has to disclaim and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law in this realm, and that he never will exercise any privilege to which he is or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant Government in the united Government. These surely were not hard conditions to annex to the ample grants. It is said that the same oaths are not imposed on Protestants. Certainly not, but the state of things at the time fully justified the distinction. Sir Robert Peel had other conditions proposed to him, for example the veto which he might have imposed, but he wisely rejected it. It was proposed that he should restrain the Roman Catholic from voting in Parliament on ecclesiastical matters; but he objected to this as really placing the Roman Catholic and the Protestant in Parliament upon a different footing. It was clearly understood that the Roman Catholics might vote on ecclesiastical matters in Parliament. There were other conditions imposed which every one would now willingly get rid of, but that it is agreed that it would be unwise to disturb the settlement of 1829 by their repeal without going further so as to satisfy the Roman Catholics. England is prepared to grant to them every privilege which is consistent with the safety of the Protestant Establishment. Mr. Canning, he believed it was, who stated that the only defence for the penal laws, now happily repealed, was that they answered the purpose for which they were passed. He could not but regard the measure before the House as tending to destroy the settlement of 1829, a settlement which during thirty-six years had, he felt certain, produced exceedingly good fruits. That settlement had worked very satisfactorily, but if they destroyed one important portion of it—the conditions imposed—might not an attempt be made to sweep away the grant to which they were attached. Surely no one could accept the grant and reject the conditions. In his opposition to the Bill he did not believe that any one could accuse him of being actuated by bigotry, he 809 had concurred in the settlement of 1829, and whilst some six years in Ireland, and exercising the patronage of his office, he never asked what was the religion of the applicant, but looked only at character and capacity. Things had gone on smoothly, and it was a pity that such a question of discord should have been brought in at the present time. It might possibly be urged, in favour of the measure, that no difficulty had arisen during the thirty-six years that the settlement had been in existence, but he believed that the difficulty had, in all probability, been obviated by the settlement itself. If the settlement of 1829 was not a contract it was at all events a grant of a great privilege upon certain conditions and accepted upon those conditions. Could any man, therefore, come forward now after thirty-six years and say that it was a mistake to accept the grant on those conditions? A noble Lord opposite had said, "Oh, but since that time we have made great progress." Well, he hoped that progress would stop short of pulling down part of the structure of 1829. He would remind the House that there were other guards contained in the Act of 1829. Roman Catholic Archbishops, Bishops, and Deans had been forbidden to usurp the rights belonging to the dignitaries of the Protestant Church. But the law had been evaded and set at nought. Roman Catholic Bishops, instead of taking the title of the Protestant Archbishops and Bishops, assumed titles from other places; but when England was parcelled out by the Pope of Rome into divisions in defiance of Acts of Parliament, the blood of England was roused, and such a universal agitation excited in the country as he never remembered to have witnessed before. The evasion by the Roman Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of the provision in the Act of 1829 against their assuming the titles of the Protestant Archbishops and Bishops, led to the enactment in the 14 & 15 Vict. c. 60, which recited the settlement of 1829, and that it might be doubted whether the former Act extended to the assumption of the title of an Archbishop, &c, of a pretended province, &c, not being the See of any Archbishop, &c. recognized by law, but the attempt to establish such pretended Sees, &c, under colour of authority from the See of Rome or otherwise was declared to be illegal and void. The Act then makes such assumption liable for every offence to a penalty of £100. This Act which forbade the assumption of those titles had 810 no ambiguity in it, as this oath was said to have. There never was an Act of Parliament framed with greater care; but, in spite of all that, we had Roman Catholic Bishops, including an Archbishop in the metropolis, with territorial titles, and yet there was not a single instance of an attempt to recover any of the penalties imposed by the Act. He was not prepared to give up all the securities which were deemed necessary at the settlement of 1829, and to allow the Roman Catholics to do just as they liked. Now, the Bill before the House was very singularly framed. The oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration were oaths which the Protestant took in common with the Roman Catholic. In the oath imposed by the Act of 1829, instead of saying that the Pope had no jurisdiction in matters ecclesiastical or spiritual, which the Protestants swore and swore truly, these words, out of respect to the feelings of Roman Catholics, were omitted. An Act of Parliament was passed a few years ago not to alter the oaths taken by the Protestants, but to reduce them to one, and that one contained the very words abjuring the Pope's jurisdiction in ecclesiastical or spiritual matters. But what did this Bill propose to do? It professed to consolidate the three oaths into one, in imitation of the Act of Parliament to which he had just referred, but of course leaving out the denial of the Pope's ecclesiastical and spiritual power in this realm. And there it stops, so that without venturing openly and directly to repeal the provisions and guard in the settlement of 1829, it indirectly repeals, by omitting them. There would therefore be no declaration to preserve the settlement of property, to protect the present Church Establishment, or to prevent the exercise of the privileges secured to the Roman Catholics by the Act of 1829, so as to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion, or Protestant government in the United Kingdom. And yet there could not be more proper declarations to impose upon Roman Catholics. The present time, when, as their Lordships knew, the utmost efforts were being made to promote the spread of monastic institutions in this country, which were expressly struck at by the Act of 1829, was not a moment to weaken any of the securities which the Bill of 1829 afforded, and for these reasons he should vote against the second reading of the Bill.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said, he thought that nothing could be 811 more idle than the attempt to support any institution by mere tests and subscriptions. It was a matter of astonishment to him how long the Established Church in Ireland had contrived to survive the damaging advocacy of those who professed to be its most zealous followers. Every liberal measure which had been passed during the last forty years had been opposed in its name; it was avowedly for its sake that so protracted a resistance had been offered to the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act, and against the proposals for the national system of education; and it was from a similar consideration that the friends of that Church would have rejected the measure brought forward by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) for the reduction of the number of its bishops and a somewhat different distribution of its revenues, which had turned out to be so beneficial to its interests. That Church, he would admit, was an anomalous institution placed in peculiar circumstances, and matters connected with it required, no doubt, to be dealt with with the utmost deliberation; but he, for one, altogether denied that its existence or prosperity depended upon the retention of the words in the present Roman Catholic oath having reference to the settlement of property. He must, at the same time, observe, having had an opportunity of witnessing in Ireland the working both of an Established Church and of voluntary bodies, that he looked upon the maintenance of Establishments as of the utmost consequence. He regarded it, he might add, as a misfortune that the idea first broached by Mr. Pitt, and reverted to and proposed to Parliament in 1826, of paying the Roman Catholic clergy out of the revenues of the State had been rejected. He thought that rejection one of the most unfortunate events which had occurred for the last century in the political history of this country. As regarded those portions of the present Roman Catholic oath which related to the renunciation of the doctrine that princes excommunicated by the Pope might be deposed and murdered by their subjects, and by which all those who took the oath were asked to swear that they made that renunciation without any equivocation or mental reservation, he could only say that he looked upon them as an insult to those of whom such declarations were required, and as perfectly useless in the shape of a security. The temper of the times and the position of the Roman Catholics since those declarations were first 812 imposed, had undergone a great alteration; and even if that had not been the case, it would still be of no avail as a security for the Irish Church Establishment to maintain a form of oath which had no effect in preventing members of the Roman Catholic or any other religious persuasion from associating together to bring about its overthrow; while many Roman Catholic Members of Parliament looked upon the oath as degrading and offensive. No one would propose, at the present day, to exclude men from Parliament merely because, like the members of the Liberation Society, they published their determination to effect the total separation of the Church from the State. Under these circumstances their Lordships would, he thought, act most wisely in passing the present measure. The admission of Jews into Parliament had been regretted by nobody except the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Chelmsford), and he trusted that their Lordships would not follow the course they had adopted towards that measure of liberality, but would read this Bill a second time.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, that he felt no great desire to enter upon a discussion of this question, because it was impossible to argue it completely without offending the feelings of men for whom he entertained the highest respect, and whose faith he was desirous of treating with the forbearance and moderation which had been observed during the whole of this discussion. He must agree with the noble Earl behind him (the Earl of Derby) in regretting that this question should have been brought forward upon the eve of a general election, when the whole country would be agitated with political contests with which it was most undesirable that any subject should be mingled which was calculated to stir up religious animosity. If the question was to have been submitted to the consideration of Parliament at this or any other time, it should have been brought forward upon the open and avowed responsibility of the Government. It was no doubt to a certain extent true that the Government had no control over the action of independent Members of Parliament; but the author of this measure was a warm supporter of the Ministry, and there could be no doubt that he would gladly have secured to his cause the advantage of the weight and authority of the Government, by committing the question to their care. At all events, when the Bill came into that House it would have been more be- 813 coming in the Government to have taken its management into their own hands than to have ranged themselves behind any leader, even though he was one who was so well entitled to respect and esteem as was his noble Friend (the Earl of Devon) who had moved the second reading of this Bill. His noble Friend said that there was very little difference between the oath proposed in this Bill and that contained in the Act of 1858; but, as his noble Friend behind him had already pointed out in the oath of 1858, there was a declaration of supremacy which was wanting in that which was now before the House. He recurred to this subject because, speaking in another place, the Home Secretary said that if this Bill was passed the oaths taken by Roman Catholics and Protestants would be so similar that he could not conceive it possible but that we should soon have an uniform oath; and he (Lord Chelmsford) regretted to find that some hon. Friends of his had been caught by the idea of one uniform oath. He was quite sure that they had not reflected upon what must be the result of having one uniform oath. It was impossible that a Roman Catholic should take an oath in which the supremacy was at all recognized, and, therefore, any oath which was to be taken by Protestants and Roman Catholics alike must not contain even an indirect recognition of the supremacy. There were some members of the Established Church who were strongly opposed to the idea of the supremacy, and he should be very averse to taking the bridle off their necks by allowing them to take an oath similar to that taken by Roman Catholics. In the year 1854, when the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) introduced one of his Bills for the admission of Jews to Parliament, he proposed a form of oath which contained no recognition of the supremacy. He (Lord Chelmsford) divided the House of Commons against the Bill upon that ground, and defeated the measure. The question now before their Lordships, however, was not with regard to one uniform oath, but whether they were prepared to abolish a most vital and essential part of the oath which was contained in the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829, and to substitute for it the oath proposed by this Bill. He did not desire to strain the compact of 1829 beyond its fair limits—he did not contend that the oath adopted in 1829 was in every part unalterable but he did maintain that there were parts of it which were vital and essential, and which were and ought to be 814 of permanent obligation, He did not mean to say that it was not in the power of Parliament to change that oath or even to abolish it altogether; but as it had been accepted as the condition upon which the Roman Catholics had been admitted to Parliament, he did say that, although Parliament might have the power to change it, it would not be right for them to do so lightly. He begged their Lordships to recall the circumstances under which that oath was framed. At the commencement of the Session in which the Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed, His Majesty, in the Speech from the Throne, recommended that Parliament should—Review the laws which impose civil disabilities on His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects, and consider whether the removal of those disabilities can be effected consistently with the full and perfect security of our establishments in Church and State, and with the maintenance of the reformed religion established by law, and of the rights and privileges of the bishops and clergy of this realm, and of the churches committed to their charge."—[2 Hansard, xx. 4.]Therefore, the oath being one of the securities which were considered necessary, it was framed with a special view to the protection which was suggested in the Speech from the Throne. That oath, as had already been stated by his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), was agreed to by the Roman Catholic Prelates of that day—and its terms were taken from the oath contained in the Act of 1793. The oath of 1793 contained those parts of the oath which pledged the person taking it to abstain from doing anything to weaken or injure the Establishment and to respect the settlement of property, and it contained other clauses to which he was surprised that any Roman Catholic could have submitted. When the oath was framed which was established by the Roman Catholic Relief Act, the parts which were now objected to were not contrived for the purpose of flattering the Roman Catholics, but were simply a portion of the oath which Protestants had taken for a great number of years. It seemed to be assumed that those parts of the oath which were said to be offensive to Roman Catholics were contrived especially for them. But Protestants as well as Roman Catholics had been required to take the oath in that form, and Roman Catholics took it then without any idea of offence at being required to renounce sentiments which were no doubt odious in themselves, and which must be repugnant to everybody. The objections to these parts of the oath 815 grew up rather late in the day; because from 1829 down to the present year, he was not aware that any Roman Catholic had objected to them as insulting. Down to 1854 no one ever dreamed of altering the oath. In 1849 the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell), in one of his many Bills for the admission of the Jews to Parliament, said he did not think it expedient to alter the Roman Catholic oath which was settled in 1829."Many hon. Gentlemen"(said the noble Earl),"thought the oath did give security to the Protestant Church, and therefore he saw no sufficient cause for proposing an alteration of it." On that occasion Sir Robert Peel said, in his opinion, the noble Earl had acted wisely in not disturbing the Roman Catholic oath. In 1852, in one of the Reform Bills brought forward by the noble Earl, there was a new oath framed; but the Roman Catholic oath was not altered, except by leaving out the word "murdered" after the word "deposed" because the noble Earl thought that was insulting to the Roman Catholics; but he did not seem to think at that time that the remainder of the oath could be regarded as any insult to them. Then, in 1854, when the noble Earl introduced a general form of oath, he said that the Roman Catholics had never applied for any alteration of the oath; that he had not consulted them, and was not at all aware that they required any change. Thus, from 1829 down at least to 1854, there seemed to have been no objection to this oath on the part of Roman Catholics, and no idea of insult from taking it. He (Lord Chelmsford) admitted that, inasmuch as during the whole of this time Protestants were required to take the same oath, Roman Catholics might feel that no improper or invidious distinction was made. But in 1858 a new oath was introduced for Protestants—a general oath, instead of the oaths of allegiance, of supremacy, and abjuration; and from that oath there was eliminated all that portion respecting the deposition and murder of excommunicated princes, and the declaration that the oath was taken without evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation. After 1858, then, he admitted that the Catholics might say, "You have now put us on a afferent footing from that on which our Protestant fellow-subjects stand; a distinction is now made between us which is insulting to our feelings;" and they might very properly have asked for a remission of these portions of the oath, 816 Until the present year they did not ask for any such change; but if they had now asked for it and nothing more, he would freely have made the concession, and would have abolished this invidious distinction. But the other part of the oath deserved much more serious consideration; and he thought it would be dangerous to abandon the part of it which formed the principal condition upon which the Roman Catholic was admitted to Parliament in 1829. It was proposed to omit that part of the oath in which the Roman Catholic undertook to defend to the utmost of his power the settlement of property as established by law, and in which he disclaimed any intention to subvert the Church Establishment. Their Lordships would observe that Roman Catholics did not allege that this was any matter of offence. What they said was, "We find this a restraint upon our free action, and we desire to have it removed." The fair answer was, "Why that is the very thing that was intended; that is precisely what we meant and what you agreed to accept. You agreed to have your hands tied in this way as a condition of obtaining a seat in Parliament." In fact, as his noble Friend had stated, the Roman Catholics tied their own hands; the oath was prepared by the Roman Catholic Prelates, and it was perfectly clear that if they had not agreed to accept it on those terms Roman Catholics would never have been received into the Legislature. This oath was intended as a security. Now, had it proved one? Their Lordships had heard that there were scrupulous Roman Catholics who abstained from interfering in any question connected with the Church, on the ground that they were restrained from doing so by the oath they had taken. Another complaint alleged against the oath was that it was ambiguous, that Roman Catholics hardly knew how they were to act upon any particular occasion; that some felt the oath to be binding, while others thought that it had no restrictive force. Now, in the first place, no one ever expected that unscrupulous persons would be bound by any oath; but it was desirable to restrain scrupulous Roman Catholics from any assault upon the Establishment. As to its ambiguity, it was obvious that every man must construe it according to his conscience; but if any one entertained the slightest doubt whether he ought or ought not to vote upon a particular occasion, it was prudent for him to follow the wholesome rule of practical morality, that if you have a doubt about the propriety 817 of doing a thing, you had better refrain from doing it. The oath had been a security, and this was proved by the very fact that Roman Catholics found it a restraint and wished to have it removed. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell), with whose progress on this and other questions their Lordships were pretty familiar, seemed to think in 1854 that all these restraints wore improper, for he said—You should, by the terms of your oath, leave every man to vote upon one political question as he would upon another. He ought to be free to vote upon questions of every kind, be it Church Rates, or be it any other question with regard to the Church Establishment. Whatever his opinion may be, he ought to be able to give effect to that opinion, as much as he could upon a question with respect to the Malt Tax or to Exchequer Bonds."[3 Hansard, cxxxiii. 955.]These were the noble Earl's sentiments in 1854; very different from those of 1849. That was not surprising. But the noble Earl did not advert to the stringent condition which the Roman Catholics had taken upon themselves, and which would be violated by their admission to the freedom of which he spoke. He (Lord Chelmsford) maintained that the oath was a security; and was this a time in which they ought to abandon any securities which were provided for the Established Church? Was there no disposition shown on the part of Roman Catholics to assail the Establishment? With regard to the Irish Church, it was admitted that the Roman Catholics desired to aim a deadly blow at that portion of the Establishment. And with regard to the abandonment of securities, he might be allowed to read a letter written by the Secretary of the National Association not very long ago, at a time when the Prince of Wales was in Ireland—Sir,—The Irish Times of this day contains an announcement that the Established Church has been withdrawn from the programme of the National Association; and the questions to which it will confine its attention will be tenant-right and education. I beg to inform you that there is no foundation for the above statement, and the intentions of the association in relation to the Irish Church Establishment have undergone no modification; and that the gentlemen with whom rests the direction of the policy of the association are unanimous in the determination to have no compromise with the Establishment or its advocates, and to spare no effort for its overthrow.Now, strictly speaking, though reference was made to the Irish Church, there was no Irish Church in contradistinction to the Church of England. The two Churches were united by the Act of Union as one Church, and those who thought that any 818 measure that affected the Irish Church could have no bearing on the interests of the Church of England were much mistaken. The oath should therefore not be made merely to meet the wishes of the Irish Roman Catholics, but should be framed with a due regard to the requirements of the English, both Protestants and Roman Catholics. It was said that these were merely the sentiments of the Irish Roman Catholics, and he was asked why he should mistrust the English Roman Catholics? He had a very great esteem for the English Roman Catholics, as they invariably expressed their sentiments upon the question of the Church Establishment and the Constitution in a straightforward and manly way; but they were necessarily exposed to the danger of external influence, and it might be that obedience to that external influence might lead them to attack a Church which, if left to their own free will, they might be disinclined to touch. The noble and learned Lord who had just addressed their Lordships had adverted to the appointment to the prelacy in England of a Roman Catholic of great influence and authority, who had formerly been a clergyman in the Church of England (Dr. Manning). The theories propounded by that prelate in his lectures upon the subject of the religious subjugation of England were rather startling. He said—If ever there was a land in which work is to be done, and perhaps much to suffer, it is here. I shall not say too much if I say that we have to subjugate and subdue, to conquer and rule, an Imperial race; we have to do with a will which reigns throughout the world as the will of old Rome reigned once. We have to bend or break that will which nations and kingdoms have found invincible and inflexible. We have to gather for this work the rough stones of this great people and to perfect them as gems for the sanctuary of God. It is good for us to be here, because a nobler field could not be chosen than England on which to fight the battle of the Church. What Constantinople, and Ephesus, and Africa were to the heresies of old, England is to the last complex and manifold heresy of modern times Were it conquered in England it would be conquered throughout the world. All its lines meet here, and therefore in England the Church of God must be gathered in its strength.He read that extract for the purpose of showing that this was not the time when we should abandon any of the securities we had obtained for the Established I Church. He should be glad to give up everything which was offensive to the Catholics, provided that in doing so no safeguard of the Church was abandoned. It was upon the guarantee for the safety 819 of the Established Church contained in the oath it was now proposed to alter that the Roman Catholics obtained that which, without that guarantee, they never would have obtained—namely, the right to sit in Parliament, and it appeared to him that as their right to sit in Parliament was permanent, so the conditions upon which they obtained that right should be permanent also, and, so far as he was concerned, he would never willingly abandon one of those conditions which he regarded as essential.
§ LORD LYVEDEN
said, it had been stated on the other side of the House that this measure had been brought forward as a piece of election "clap trap," and that if the measure was seriously intended to be carried, the Government would have lent it all the weight of their support and authority. He, however, did not think the Ministers would have done rightly in bringing the matter forward as a Government measure, and they would have been acting most unjustifiably had they taken the matter up after the principle of the Bill had been adopted by the House of Commons by such large majorities; and he thought, therefore, the Bill came before their Lordships with much more grace in the hands of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Devon) who had for so many years given his attention to the subject, than it would have done had the Government tried to force the Bill through the House. It had been said that the eve of a general election was not the proper time for bringing forward such a scheme; but he thought no better time could be selected, as, depend upon it, every Member of the House of Commons was endeavouring, as far as possible, to study the views of his constituents; and, therefore, if they wished to obtain the opinion of the people of England on the question, they could not have a better opportunity for doing so than at the period of an expiring Parliament. It must be recollected that no such oath as the one it was proposed to alter was tendered either to the Dissenters or to the Jews. On the question of admitting the latter into Parliament he had some years ago himself proposed to do away with the Roman Catholic oath, but he was then opposed by the noble Earl (Earl Russell) below him. The Roman Catholics, however, also objected generously to his proposal on the ground that it might weaken the cause of the Jews, who were eventually admitted by a shabby subterfuge, but reserved to themselves the right of endeavouring to free 820 themselves from the mark of inferiority contained in the oath whenever a fitting opportunity should arise. They now came forward and demanded to be freed from the necessity of taking the objectionable parts of the oath, and they were to be told that in consequence of something somebody had done thirty-five years ago they were not to be relieved. But he contended that nothing was done thirty-five years ago which would preclude Parliament from granting the reasonable request of the Catholics. Sir Robert Peel in 1829 said distinctly that the Roman Catholics had not been consulted, because it was better that the Legislature should be independent in considering the question before them. Therefore, there was no pledge given on the part of the Catholics, and the oath formed no part of a compact entered into between them and the Parliament. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) said there was no real grievance to the Roman Catholics in this oath; but, at any rate, they were the best judges, and if they regarded it as a grievance, that was a sufficient answer to the noble Earl. Look, also, at their behaviour since their admission to Parliament. The late Sir Robert Peel declared on one occasion that he had never known a Roman Catholic Member who had not voted from conscientious motives. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Chelmsford) had contended that the present was not the time for bringing forward this proposition, because serious attacks were being made on the Church of England; but did the noble and learned Lord think that ever in his lifetime the Church had been safer than at present, resting, as it did, upon the affections of the people? And why was the noble and learned Lord so fearful only of the Roman Catholics? Did he not think that the Dissenters were infinitely more hostile to the Church of England? Seeing the array of Peers on the Benches opposite, he regretted that there was no chance of the Bill being carried. He certainly thought that the noble Earl opposite would have done well to have allowed the House to go into Committee upon the Bill, and not to have called upon the House summarily and insultingly to reject a measure proposed for the relief of the consciences of their Roman Catholic fellow subjects. He deeply regretted to think that the Bill would be thrown out, but he hoped that a large number of Peers would support it, and show by their votes that they were not 821 forgetful of the principles of religious liberty they acted on in past times.
THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH
referred to the oath which the Roman Catholic prelates were obliged to take to the Pope, and observed that as that was not deemed offensive, he could not understand why Roman Catholic Members of Parliament should be so squeamish about the oath they were called on to take. He reminded the noble Lord who spoke of the large majority by which the Bill was carried in the House of Commons that the majority in its favour was only 19.
§ VISCOUNT STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE
said, that, he had not come down to the House with the intention of taking part in the debate, but having listened to the discussion he thought it right to explain the vote he intended to give, because he entirely differed from the noble Lord on the Treasury bench. When he considered the manner in which this question had been brought forward, the want of time for its due consideration, the character of the Bill itself, and the circumstances generally attaching to it, he could not conscientiously give his vote in its support. The inclination of his mind was rather not to vote at all, and he could not say that he bad heard any argument calculated to remove the impression he entertained against the measure; but being in the House he could not conscientiously refrain from recording his opinion. The same arguments which had been employed against the property of the Church in Ireland wore equally applicable to the property of the Church in England.
§ On Question, That ("now") stand Part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents 63; Not-Contents 84: Majority 21. Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to he read 2a on this Bay Three Months.822
|Westbury, L. (L.Chan.)||Ducie, E.|
|Cleveland, D.||Grey, E.|
|Devonshire, D.||Minto, E.|
|Saint Albans, D.||Portsmouth, E.|
|Somerset, D.||Russell, E.|
|Saint Germans, E.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Spencer, E.|
|Westminster, M.||Falmouth, V.|
|Airlie, E.||Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)|
|Caithness, E.||Torrington, V.|
|Cawdor, E.||Abercromby, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Annaly, L.|
|Cowper, E.||Arundell of Wardour, L.|
|De Grey, E.||Camoys, L.|
|Devon, E. [Teller.]||Carew, L.|
|Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)||Mostyn, L.|
|Panmure, L. (E. Dalhousie.)|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Petre, L.|
|Cranworth, L,||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)||Saye and Sole, L.|
|De Tabley, L.||Seymour, L. (E. St. Mater.)|
|Foley, L. [Teller]||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Granard, L, (E. Granard.)||Stafford, L.|
|Houghton, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)||Stourton, L.|
|Lovat, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Lurgan, L.||Taunton, L.|
|Lyveden, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Methuen, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Monteagle of Brandon, L.||Wentworth, L.|
|Dublin, Archp.||Llandaff, Bp.|
|Manchester, D.||Bagot, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Bateman, L.|
|Richmond, D.||Bolton, L.|
|Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)|
|Exeter, M.||Calthorpe, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Castlemaine, L.|
|Westmeath, M.||Chelmsford, L.|
|Abergavenny, E.||Clarina, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Colchester, L.|
|Bantry, E.||Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]|
|De La Warr, E.||Congleton, L.|
|Derby, E.||Denman, L.|
|Ellenborough, E.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)|
|Hardwicke, E.||Grantley, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Grinstead, L.(E.E niskillen.)|
|Home, E.||Heytesbury, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Mansfield, E.||Kingsdown, L.|
|Manvers, E.||Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)|
|Orkney, E.||Polwarth, L.|
|Pomfret, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Romney, E.||Saltersford, (E. Courtown.)|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Saltoun, L.|
|Shrewsbury, E.||Sherborne, L.|
|Stradbroke, E.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Strange, E. (D. Athol.)|
|Vane, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Wilton, E.||Sondes, L.|
|De Vesci, V.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Gort, V.||Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)|
|Hawarden, V. [Teller.]|
|Melville, V.||Tenterden, L.|
|Stratford de Redcliffe,V.||Thurlow, L.|
|Strathallan, V.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Chichester, Bp.||Walsingham, L.|
|Ely, Bp.||Wynford, L.|
§ House adjourned at half past Ten o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.