HL Deb 11 July 1867 vol 188 cc1367-79

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 1 (All the Queen's Subjects, without reference to their Religious Belief, shall be eligible to hold the Office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland).


moved the insertion of the words "Lord Lieutenant, Lord Deputy, Lord Justice, or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland," the effect of which would be that a Roman Catholic might hold the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The noble Lord said that the Bill, as originally introduced into the House of Commons, contained the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland among those that were to be affected by the Bill; but the words were struck out by the narrow majority of three votes—the numbers being 143 to 140, and be hoped they would be restored by their Lordships, in order that the Commons might have an opportunity of re-considering their decision. He might further observe that in the minority there were included the votes of forty-seven Irish Members, while in the majority there were only twenty-nine Irish Members. The omission was therefore carried entirely by the votes of English and Scotch Members, What he wished was to remove the notion from the minds of Irishmen that legislation for Ireland was conducted only for the interest of Great Britain, and in this it was impossible not to believe that an Irish Parliament would have arrived at a different conclusion. What was the answer in larger questions to those who called for measures exclusively in Irish interests? The Established Church in Ireland was regarded as a standing insult by the Irish people, and as a symbol of their subjection. He could, however, easily understand that Parliament and the Government were not at present prepared to deal with that question, and he should be the last man to blame any Ministry for shrinking from encountering the difficulties by which it was surrounded. He could not help thinking, too, that they would be more likely to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion upon the subject by postponing its consideration until another Session, when most probably a so-called Conservative Ministry would deal with it as they had with the question of Reform. The Ecclesiastical Titles Bill was another source of incessant annoyance to the Irish people. When that subject was lately mentioned in this House, all their Lordships who spoke put themselves, so to speak, on the stool of repentance, and said how much they regretted having helped to pass such a Bill. Again, however, the repeal of this Act might excite very much the Protestants of England and Scotland. He could, however, see no reason why they should not at once resolve on rendering Roman Catholics eligible to the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In fact, his difficulty was in understanding why the Lord Lieutenant should be included in the list of offices which might not be filled by Roman Catholics. The only objections he had ever heard urged to his proposal were, first, that the Lord Lieutenant was invested with Church patronage, and that such patronage ought not to be placed at the disposal of a Roman Catholic; and secondly, that the Lord Lieutenant was the representative of the Sovereign, and ought, therefore, to be a Protestant. But the first of those objections was met by a provision in the Bill itself, as it had been originally framed, which declared that whenever a Roman Catholic should be appointed Lord Lieutenant, the Church patronage attached to the office should be vested in trustees; and with respect to the second argument against the proposal—the Lord Lieutenant was the representative of the Sovereign— he certainly was the representative of the Sovereign at levees, balls, and receptions; and he represented the Sovereign also in conferring knighthood, and in receiving young ladies who were entering the world. But a Roman Catholic could perform these duties as well as a Protestant, The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was, in fact, the subordinate of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and was often inferior to his own Chief Secretary, who was sometimes a Cabinet Minister when he was not. The Governor of Canada and the Governor General of India might be Roman Catholics; and the exclusion of a Roman Catholic from the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland was owing solely to the lingering prejudice against that religion, and a dislike to allow Roman Catholics to fill offices which might be filled by persons of other religions. He hoped that their Lordships would give the House of Commons an opportunity of re-considering their decision upon this point. The question should be treated as one of political expediency alone, and should not be looked at from a religious point of view at all. As enlightened Protestants their Lordships were bound to do all they could to show that the Roman Catholics were not treated differently from members of other religions, and were admitted to their fair share of patronage, in spite of their religious opinions. This was one of the minor concessions by which their Lordships would soothe, to a certain extent, the irritation existing among the Irish people, though Parliament might not be prepared to make those greater concessions for want of which Ireland was a constant source of weakness instead of strength to this country.

An Amendment moved, p. 1, 1. 17, after the first "of" to insert "Lord Lieutenant, Lord Deputy, Lord Justice, or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland, or"—(The Lord Lyveden.)


said, that in moving the second reading of the Bill, he had expressed his regret at the omission of the words which would have opened to the Roman Catholics the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; but at the same time he said that he did not think it advisable to endanger the passing of the measure by the re-introduction of that provision. He entirely approved, however, of the present proposal, and he should give his best support to the Amendment.


said, he was not only opposed to the present proposal, but to the whole Bill, which he still trusted their Lordships would reject altogether. The noble Lord who had moved the Amendment (Lord Lyveden) in instituting an analogy between India and Ireland, seemed to forget that Ireland, unlike India, was an integral portion of the United Kingdom. Sir Robert Peel, when he introduced the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act, specially exempted the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland; and the present Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, in 1859, told the House of Commons that the ground upon which the question had never been brought forward since 1829, was that lawyers recognized the principle that the Lord Lieutenant was exempt because he was the direct representative of Royalty in Ireland. It was said that we ought to deal with Ireland as the Irish people wished to deal with it; and an essential part of the Union between England and Ireland was that they were to be one united country. Lord Castlereagh, in proposing the Union to the Irish House of Commons, said— I now proceed to that part of the question which concerns religion, and the Church Establishment of the country—one State, one Legislature, one Church. These are the leading features of the system, and without identity with Great Britain in those three great points of connection we never can hope for any real or permanent security. The Church, in particular, while we remain a separate country, will ever be liable to be impeached on local grounds. When once incorporated with the Church of England it will be placed upon such a strong and natural foundation as to be above every apprehension and fear from adverse interest, and from all the fretting and irritating circumstances connected with our colonial situation. As soon as the Church establishments of the two kingdoms shall be incorporated into one Church, the Protestant will feel himself at once identified with the population and property of the Empire, and the establishment will be placed on its natural basis. From personal experience in Ireland he could say that if we did not treat Ireland as an integral part of the Empire we should create ill feeling in every parish of the country. He believed the Irish people did not care anything about his measure, and that it mould only create discord among the different classes in the country.


said, he desired to express his thanks to the noble Lord who had proposed the Amendment. He could not conceive any grounds why, in reason or policy, we should keep alive a continual suspicion against Roman Catholics. We were not bound now to consider the words and actions of Sir Robert Peel at a time when the Roman Catholics were held in great suspicion. Catholics had since shown that they were capable of being as good citizens as their Protestant fellow-countrymen, and we ought, therefore, to treat them without being unduly influenced by party feeling, political or religious. We might depend upon it that one of the great causes of discontent in Ireland was not so much the law of land tenure, or the position of the railways as, it was the feeling that the Roman Catholics were subject to Protestant ascendancy, and until that feeling was removed the Roman Catholics would never be content. The Roman Catholics of Ireland did not wish for ascendancy, but simply for religious equality. Whatever the private religious views of an individual might be, or however erroneous he might think the doctrines of the Roman Catholics to be, he had no right to make them the measure of his action in his legislative capacity; we had to legislate for a mixed people, and we ought to do that which was best for the community. He could not conceive any valid reason why the Lord Lieutenant should not be of the same religion as the people; he had talked it over with Friends and with noble Lords, and he could get no better reason than this—"I cannot give you any reason, but I don't like it," an answer which, however pardonable it may be from a pretty pair of lips of one of the other sex, is yet utterly unworthy of a man and a legislator. Good reasons ought to be adduced for rejecting a measure which would do justice to the religion of a whole people. To those who might urge that it would endanger the Protestant Constitution to appoint a Roman Catholic as the representative of the Sovereign in Ireland, he would reply that, without entering upon the question as to whether even theoretically such a consequence might be reasonably assumed, at least practically it was not likely to arise, as he was not aware of any Catholic Peer of the present day who would accept the office even if it were offered him, as the office required an union of qualifications not easily obtained. He did not, therefore, think there was any danger to be apprehended from the Bill. We were not required to deal with the Irish people as they would deal with themselves, but we ought to deal with Ireland as we should wish Ireland to deal with us if we were in the same position as the people of that country.


rose to make an earnest appeal to the noble Lord who had moved the Amendment not to press it. He objected to it not on grounds of principle, but on practical grounds. If the Amendment were carried, the machinery of the Bill would have to be recast. Again, the beneficial effects which the Bill was intended to produce in Ireland would not be realized if the Amendment were adopted. It ought not to be forgotten that, although Her Majesty's Government did not initiate this measure, they had adopted it in a kind and generous spirit. One good effect that would follow the adoption of the measure would be that the Irish people would conclude that at all fitting opportunities the Government would be prepared to remove religious disabilities, which, it must be confessed, were not now many nor grievous. No good would result from pressing the Amendment, while the provisions of the measure were in themselves wise, just, and generous.


opposed the Amendment. Sir Robert Peel, in moving the second reading of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, said— It will, nevertheless, be quite consistent with this principle to exclude Roman Catholic from a certain limited number of offices, which have special and peculiar duties attached to them, connected with the patronage of the Church, or with education, or the administration of the Ecclesiastical Law. The Roman Catholic is jealous of our interference with the appointments and discipline of his Church, and we have, at least, as good a right to take security for the maintenance of the integrity of our own. This Bill will, therefore, exclude the Roman Catholic from the office of Regent, and from exercising under any circumstances the delegated authority of the Crown, from the office of Lord Chancellor in England and Ireland respectively, and from the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland."—[2 Hansard, xx. 762.]


My Lords, I have to express my regret that I cannot agree to the proposed Amendment. I am extremely unwilling to say anything which could hurt the feelings of any Roman Catholic Member, or which could convey the slightest doubt as to the perfect loyalty of the great body of the Roman Catholics of this country. But this is not a question either of loyalty or of disloyalty; it is a question respecting the power and authority to be intrusted to persons of a certain religious persuasion who are distinctly specified in the Emancipation Act of 1829. I do not at all object to the alteration under which Roman Catholics will be made admissible to the high office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland; for I think that a Roman Catholic lawyer, whose talents have raised him to eminence and position, should have opened to him all the advantages of his profession; and more especially as in the present Bill provision is made against his exercising that portion of the functions of the Lord Chancellor which could hardly be properly discharged by a Roman Catholic. I therefore give my entire support to this measure as it passed the House of Commons. But you raise another, and a very serious question, when it is proposed to extend the provisions of the Act to the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It is all very well to say that the office is one of mere pageantry; but this is by no means the case, he is the head of the Privy Council, which possesses very extensive executive powers. And when my noble Friend at the table (the Earl of Denbigh) says that there will be no satisfaction among Roman Catholics until they are admissible to all offices it should be borne in mind that such an argument would extend not only to the Lord Lieutenant, as the representative of the Sovereign, but to the Crown itself. He who holds as a delegate the office of Viceroy is thereby placed in the position of the Crown, and if it be right that the Vice-royalty of Ireland should be held by Roman Catholics, it is equally right that the Constitution of this country should be set aside so as to enable the Crown itself to be held by a Roman Catholic. I allow that it is unlikely that a Roman Catholic would be appointed to the high office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; but still this is a question not of theory, but of principle. The principle is that the Constitution of this country is a Protestant Constitution, presided over by a Protestant Sovereign, and that when the Viceregal authority is delegated it should be delegated to a person who is of the same religious persuasion, and bound to maintain the same religious principles, as the occupant of the Throne itself. For the reasons which I have just stated, I think it is extremely inexpedient that this question should be opened by the noble Lord. The House of Commons has decided that the office of Lord Chancellor in Ireland should be thrown open to Roman Catholics, I entirely concur in the prudence, the wisdom, and the justice of that measure; but when it is proposed to go a step further, and to delegate the practical authority of the Crown, the head of the Executive, to a Roman Catholic, I must say, I think that is encroaching very closely upon what is a vital portion of the Constitution of this country, and I, for one, should deeply regret to see such a course taken.


My Lords, I cannot allow the remarks which have been just made by the noble Earl to pass without any answer. I am astonished to hear the noble Earl place the question of admitting Roman Catholics to the office of Viceroy on the same level as the admission of Roman Catholics to the Crown. I have no desire whatever to disparage the office of Viceroy; for certainly no one who has ever filled it would be likely to do so. But what are the duties of the Lord Lieutenant? They may be divided into two parts. In one sense he may be said to be the representative of the Crown. He holds certain Court ceremonials which, no doubt, it is very desirable should be held, though I see no reason why they should not be held by a Roman Catholic. But the Lord Lieutenant does exercise one great function. He has the power of granting pardons. Still, though that authority is directly delegated to him by the Crown, and is therefore exercised in a different manner from the power exercised by the Home Secretary, yet it only differs in this—that the Lord Lieutenant acts as a Minister directly himself, and directs that a sentence be commuted or remitted, while the Home Secretary recommends the Crown to grant the commutation or remission of a sentence. As regards the duty of the Lord Lieutenant in reference to the general government of the country, he is directly subordinate to the Cabinet and to the Secretary of State for Home Affairs; and, indeed, the very terms of his commission direct that he shall correspond with and receive instructions from the Home Secretary. Now, as the Secretary of State and every member of the Cabinet with the sole exception of the Lord Chancellor of England may be Roman Catholics, I can see no reason why a Roman Catholic should not be appointed to the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. I was not at all anxious that this question should be brought before your Lordships, inasmuch as it has been already settled in the House of Commons; but at the same time I must express my opinion that the arguments are most forcible in favour of admitting Roman Catholics to the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and therefore I shall vote with my noble Friend.

On Question? their Lordships divided; —Contents 55; Not-Contents 69: Majority 14:—Resolved in the Negative.

Cleveland, D. Churchill, L.
Devonshire, D. Clermont, L.
Grafton, D. Cranworth, L.
De Tabley, L. [Teller.]
Camden, M. Ebury, L.
Foley, L.
Abingdon, E. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Airlie, E.
Camperdown, E. Harris, L.
Clarendon, E. Houghton, L.
Cowper, E. Lismore, L. (V. Lismore.)
De Grey, E.
Denbigh, E. Lyttelton, L.
Gainsborough, E. Lyveden, L. [Teller.]
Grey, E. Meredyth, L. (L. Athlumney.)
Kimberley, E.
Lucan, E. Monson, L.
Morley, E. Mostyn, L.
Sommers, E. Petre, L.
Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Eversley, V.
Exmouth, V. Portman, L.
Falmouth, V. Romilly, L.
Halifax, V. Seaton, L.
Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.) Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Chester, Bp. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Down, &c., Bp. Stratheden, L.
Stuart de Decies, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Camoys, L. Templemore, L.
Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.) Teynham, L.
Wentworth, L.
Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.) Manvers, E.
Nelson, E.
Powis, E.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Romney, E.
Sandwich, E.
Marlborough, D. Stanhope, E.
Richmond, D. Tankerville, E.
Verulam, E.
Exeter, M. Wilton, E.
Westmeath, M. Zetland, E.
Amherst, E. De Vesci, V.
Bandon, E. Hawarden, V.
Bantry, E. Sidmouth, V.
Beauchamp, E.
Belmore, E.
Brooke and Warwick, E. Bangor, Bp.
Brownlow, E. Carlisle, Bp.
Cadogan, E. Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.
Cardigan, E.
Dartmouth, E. Ossory, &c., Bp.
Derby, E. Peterborough, Bp.
Devon, E.
Ellenborough, E. Boston, L.
Hardwicke, E. Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)
Harrowby, E.
Home, E. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Malmesbury, E.
Churston, L. Raglan, L.
Clinton, L. Ravensworth, L.
Clonbrock, L. Rayleigh, L.
Colonsay, L. Redesdale, L.
Colville of Culross, L. Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Delamere, L.
Denman, L. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen.)
Sondes, L.
Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.) Southampton, L.
Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Hylton, L. [Teller.]
Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.) Tredegar, L.
Walsingham, L.
Overstone, L. Wynford, L. [Teller.]
Penrhyn, L.

On Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill,"


said, he should oppose the clause to the utmost.


said, the rejection of the clause would be tantamount to the rejection of the Bill. It was objected to the appointment of a Roman Catholic Lord Chancellor that such an officer might have it in his power to do great mischief. But surely the same could be said against other high functionaries; and yet he was happy to say that the Bench of Ireland, whether Protestant or Catholic, was above all suspicion. Nor would the stream of justice become less pure if a Roman Catholic by his character, his abilities, and efficiency in the performance of public duties were able to attain this high position. Religious equality he believed to be the only ulterior views entertained by the Catholics in this matter: and until that religious equality was granted they would never have—he would not say peace, because he believed that the Irish people would endeavour to gain the redress of their grievances by constitutional means—but they might depend upon it that they would never have the people satisfied or contented. The late Mr. Shiel had denounced the present state of the law as a signal wrong to the whole Catholic Bar, and had characterized it as a mark which the manacle had left behind. For his own part he could only express a hope that their Lordships would be just and fear not—pass the measure if it were a just one, but not refuse their assent for any unfounded dread of the consequences.

Motion agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 (Every Judicial or Corporate Officer may attend his place of Worship in his Robes without incurring any Penalty).


said, that he did not apologize for rising to move the rejection of the clause, for it applied, not to Ireland only, but to England also, and Scotland and Wales. Its object was to render it legal for civic and judicial officers to do that which had been prohibited by law as long ago as the 5th year of Geo. I. (1718), and had been again prohibited in the Roman Catholic Relief Act, 10th Geo. IV. (1829). By both those Acts it was expressly provided that no such officers should frequent any other than the Established Churches of the land in their robes of office. By this clause the prohibition was removed. Now, he did not object to judicial and civic officers resorting in their private capacity to their places of worship, as Mr. Justice Shee had recently done in his diocese; but he did object to the gowns, the chains, the maces of civil or judicial Royalty being carried to any place rather than to those hitherto permitted. For now it would be possible not only for a Roman Catholic Lord Mayor to bow down in all the pomp and circumstance of his civic Royalty before the host, but also for a Jewish Lord Mayor, with similar parade and state to frequent the Jewish synagogue. Now to this he objected on three distinct grounds. First, this clause was inconsistent with the principle of an Establishment; but not only so, it was actually inconsistent with Christianity itself. Christianity was part and parcel of the law of the land, as was set forth in a recent judgment of Lord Chief Baron Kelly. Now how could their Lordships pass a clause which would permit the representative of the Sovereign—for the Sovereign was the fountain of all honour—to attend a place of worship, acting and appearing as her representative, in which Christianity might be denied, and even the existence of God himself called in question? How could they do so in loyalty to the Saviour of Mankind, or in justice to their fellow-subjects? In justice, he said to their fellow-subjects, for such public actings would teach them lessons not of nonconformity to the Establishment only but of nonconformity to Christianity also. Vain would be all theorizing to the contrary— Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem, Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus. Secondly, it was impossible to conceal the fact that this, and like measures, are supported by many with similar objects in view to those of the famous Edicts of Toleration of James II. The supremacy of Rome in these lands was their ultimate goal. He respected greatly the consistency and the pertinacity with which his Roman Catholic fellow-subjects pursued that aim. No consideration of persons or party were permitted for a moment to interfere with this paramount object of restoring to England what they conscientiously believed to be a great blessing; but as he read that Holy Book which once was, and perhaps still was, carried in solemn procession at the coronation of the Sovereign, and as he read history as it chronicled the fluctuations of our national fortunes, he came to the conclusion that such reinstatement of Rome amongst us, was neither for the glory of God nor the good of the people. He, therefore, felt it right to resist every step, and this amongst them, which led in the direction indicated. His third and last reason was the wanton offence given by this clause to the Protestant feelings of England and Scotland. Sir Robert Peel, in introducing the Bill for Roman Catholic Relief in 1829, said— There are, however, some points—in no respect trespassing on any legitimate privileges or discipline, that the religion of the Roman Catholics requires to be preserved inviolable—which may be so arranged and regulated as to afford great satisfaction, and a sense of security to the Protestant mind. With this view I think it fit to provide that when Roman Catholics are admitted to the enjoyment of corporate offices, and other offices of a similar nature, under no circumstances whatever shall the robes and other insignia of office be taken to, or exhibited in, any other place of religious public worship than one belonging to the Protestant Established Church of England."—[2 Hansard, xx. 775.] And subsequently in Committee, speaking on this clause, Sir Robert Peel said— This was a clause calculated to give great satisfaction to Protestants, and no dissatisfaction to Catholics."—[Ibid, 1438.] Mr. Brougham speaking, in the adjourned debate, of the whole measure as proposed by Sir Robert Peel, said— It went the full and entire length that any reasonable man ever did or ever could demand. It did equal justice to his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. It put an end to all religious distinctions; it exterminated all civil disqualifications on account of religion. In its means of operation it was at once simple and efficacious; it clogged no exercise of civil or religious rights, and required no securities but such as the most zealous Catholic must readily admit to be, of necessity, part and parcel of such a comprehensive measure."—[Ibid, 834.] And Lord Lansdowne, on presenting a Petition from Ireland, said— To the conditions attached to the measure—conditions which he would not then argue—he could not entertain any objection. He meant those conditions which regarded the Catholic religion. He had never for a moment contemplated that any measure on this subject would be allowed to pass, without such reasonable securities as should satisfy the doubts and calm the consciences of the Protestants while they inflicted no wound on the feelings of the Catholic population; and he saw nothing of a contrary character in these conditions."—[2 Hansard, xx. 1015.] The Protestant feeling of the country was far from being allayed. On the contrary, the noble Earl (the Earl of Denbigh) must permit him to say that recent events and legislation all in a Romeward direction excited afresh the suspicions of the people, and rendered the maintenance of such restrictions even more necessary than ever. For these reasons he moved the rejection of the clause.


supported the clause, and begged to remind the right rev. Prelate whose remarks had been directed chiefly against the Roman Catholics, that the clause applied not to Roman Catholics only, but to Nonconformists as well. There was no security whatever to the Established Church in retaining the distinction which now prevailed. In Ireland especially, it would be extremely desirable that the Judges and mayors of the Roman Catholic religion should be seen by the population attending their places of worship with the insignia of their offices.

On Question, Clause agreed to.

Remaining Clauses agreed to.

The Report of the Amendments to be received on Tuesday next, and Bill to be printed as amended (No. 218).