§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the said Bill."—(The Earl of Kimberley.)
THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH
said, he rose to move that their Lordships should go into Committee on that day six months. He desired in the first place to call attention to that portion of the Bill which declared that—It shall not be obligatory for any person hereafter to take, make, or subscribe the said declaration as a qualification for the exercise or enjoyment of any civil office, franchise, or right within the realm;and would ask the Lord Chancellor whether, having respect to the provisions of 1380 the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, which regulate the succession to the Crown in the Protestant line, and render it imperative on every King and Queen to make that declaration, its abolition can be enacted without injury to the throne and constitution in the cases of those—Who hold or exercise the office of guardians and justices of the United Kingdom, or of Regent of the United Kingdom, under whatever name, style, or title such office may be constituted?"—(10th Geo. IV. cap. 7.)And whether in the event of the abolition of the declaration in this latter case, the country might not be governed under a Regency on principles irrespective of, or antagonistic to, those which the fundamental laws of the realm require the Sovereign, by most solemn sworn obligations, personally to maintain. The change proposed to be made by this Bill was a revolution? It was nothing but a revolution. [Laughter.] The question whether this country was to continue to be a Protestant country was not one to be treated with levity. The real authors of the Bill were the Jesuits, who, as was well known, were in this country contrary to law. Had the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) devised any plan whereby our illustrious Sovereign wan to be absolved from the declaration she took at the commencement of her reign, or was Her Majesty to be bound by a declaration which would not necessarily bind any one of her subjects? He had recently learnt by the visit of a missionary something he heard taught in the metropolitan Roman Catholic chapel in Dublin, which might astonish their Lordships. The object of the preacher was to get his auditory to pray to the Virgin Mary, and he added the reason—For you know that she stood by her Son during his sufferings upon the cross, while his Father deserted him, which you must know is true, because the Bible says it.This was the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church only a fortnight since; monstrous and blasphemous sis it was it is true. He knew he was using strong language. He was there for the purpose. It was said that such statements were offensive. Well, and, of course, so was the Reformation itself to the Roman Catholic Church; and so also was the very name of Protestant. It was purposely to counteract this idolatrous teaching of the Church of Rome, that the oath against Transubstantiation was framed and enacted. It is the great Protestant landmark, which that party, of which the noble 1381 Earl has become the willing mouth-piece in this House, want to obtain the repeal of. He thought that dynastic considerations formed a sufficient reason why their Lordships should reject this attempt to interfere with the Protestant institutions of the country. He begged to ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack whether the abolition of the declaration in question could be enacted without injury to the Throne and Constitution in the cases of those who hold or exercise that office of Guardian and Justice of the United Kingdom, under whatever name, style, or title such officer may be constituted; and, whether in the event of the abolition of the declaration in the latter case, the country might not be governed under a Regency on principles irrespective of or antagonistic to, those by which the fundamental laws of the realm require the Sovereign by the most solemn sworn obligations personally to maintain?
§ Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this Day Six Months.")—(The Marquess of Westmeath.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, it might be convenient before the House went into Committee that he should answer the question of the noble Marquess, who seemed to be under an erroneous impression with regard to the extent to which the declaration was required. The question of the noble Marquess was pregnant with inferences, but he thought that he could answer it satisfactorily. As to the particular officers referred to he could tell the noble Marquess that there was no danger in repealing the declaration, inasmuch as these persons were not required to make it. The declaration against Transubstantiation was first established by the statute of Charles II., and was required to be taken by Peers, Members of Parliament, and servants of the Crown; and after the Revolution that declaration was, by the Act of William III., required to be taken by the persons to whom it referred, and under the Bill of Rights by the Sovereign. He believed that the noble Marquess would find that there was no danger of the Crown being isolated by this Bill; because, in fact, isolation had already taken place to a considerable extent, for there were now very few persons who were required to make the declaration. It was a very extraordinary thing that neither the learned and able Commission whose Report was before them, nor the House of 1382 Commons had adverted in the slightest degree to the fact that Roman Catholics were relieved altogether from making the declaration by the Roman Catholic Relief Act. The preamble of the Act said—Whereas by various Acts certain oaths and certain Declarations, commonly called the Declation against Transubstantiation, and the Declaration against Transubstantiation and the Invocation of Saints, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as practised in the Church of Rome, are, or may be required to be taken, made, and subscribed by the subjects of His Majesty, as qualifications for sitting and voting in Parliament, and for the enjoyment of certain offices, franchises, and civil rights.It then enacted—From and after the commencement of this Act all such parts of the said Acts as require the said Declarations, or either of them, to be made or subscribed by any of His Majesty's subjects, as a qualification for sitting and voting in Parliament, or for the exercise or enjoyment of any office, franchise, or civil right, be and the same are (save as hereinafter provided and excepted) hereby repealed,What were the exceptions? From the 12th section it appeared that the exception did not apply to the Regent of the United Kingdom, and it might be said, although it appeared doubtful, that it did not apply to the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The words of the sections were these—Nothing herein contained shall extend or be construed to extend to enable any person or persons professing the Roman Catholic religion, to hold or exercise the office of guardians and justices of the United Kingdom, or of Regent of the United Kingdom, under whatever name, style, or title such office may be constituted.These words only prohibited Roman Catholics holding the offices. The clause said nothing more with regard to the necessity of making the declaration. But it went on—Nor to enable any person, otherwise than as he is now by law enabled, to hold or enjoy the office of Lord High Chancellor, Lord Keeper or Lord Commissioner of the Great Seal of Great Britain or Ireland, or the office of Lord Lieutenant, or Lord Deputy, or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland.Inasmuch as no person could hold the office of Lord Chancellor or Lord Lieutenant without making this declaration under the former Acts, the declaration was retained with regard to these particular offices; but the words did not apply to the Regent of the Kingdom. Therefore, the liability and obligation to make this declaration having been repealed by the preamble and the first section of the Act, it was quite clear it was not re-enacted with regard to this particular office. As 1383 far as concerned these offices there was no danger in the Bill, which merely provided for that which was by law established. The question was a very different one from that which was before the House on a previous occasion. This question did not affect Roman Catholics at all. As far as he understood the argument they said they were offended by Protestant Privy Councillors having to make this declaration against Transubstantiation in the presence of Roman Catholics. He had very great doubt whether a Privy Councillor was bound to make the declaration; indeed, he believed that under 10 Geo. IV. a Privy Councillor was not bound to make it. It might be customary to require them to make it; but he saw nothing in the Act which brought Privy Councillors within the 12th section. However, if a Privy Councillor was bound to make this declaration, and if offence was given to Roman Catholics, there was an easy way of avoiding offence and preserving the declaration. He saw no reason why private subscription to the declaration should not be sufficient; and, if the slightest encouragement were given to him, he should be disposed to move an Amendment that subscription alone should be required.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
was surprised that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack should have said anything in support of the declaration. He was under the impression that the measure had the complete assent of the Government in the other House; and he was, therefore, the more surprised that the noble and learned Lord should have endeavoured to induce their Lordships to retain this offensive declaration. The Commission recommended its abolition. There was no obligation on Privy Councillors to make it, and they did not make it. The only persons who did make it were the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the Chancellors of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The Roman Catholics of Ireland regarded it as an insult to them that the chief representative of the Government in Ireland, whom it had been determined should not be a Roman Catholic, but a Protestant, should commence his tenure of office by making a declaration which was needlessly offensive to Roman Catholics. That declaration was conceived in the spirit of the speech of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Westmeath). The declaration, whether made by word of mouth or by subscription, 1384 would be grievously offensive to the great body of the Irish people, and he thought their Lordships could not follow worse advice than that which had been given by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack.
§ LORD LYVEDEN
was of opinion that a subscription to the declaration would be as offensive as to make it verbally.
THE MARQUESS OF BATH
thought this Bill would place the Sovereign in an isolated and anomalous position; and it would behove Parliament at some future time to consider whether the Sovereign should not be also relieved from the necessity of this declaration.
THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH
thought the compromise proposed by the noble and learned Lord was a satisfactory one, and he would therefore withdraw his Motion.
§ Question, That ("now") stand Part of the Motion? put, and agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
remarked that the Commission had reported in favour of the abolition of the declaration, on the ground that it was publicly made and was couched in terms which gave great offence to the Roman Catholics who were present. It appeared to him, however, that by adopting the course which he had already indicated, the declaration might be retained by Protestants without giving offence to the religious feelings of their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
wished to know whether the Government shared the views of the noble and learned Lord?
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
denied that the sacrifice of the Mass, as practised in the Church of Rome, was, as the declaration asserted, either superstitious or idolatrous; and he might remark that many Protestants were also of opinion that there was no superstition or idolatry in the Mass.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he had been expressing only his private opinion. He felt very strongly that the declaration might be retained without any offence being given to Roman Catholics. He had no desire, however, to press this opinion upon the House. He had said that if he met with any encouragement he should move an Amendment, but as he 1385 had not found any encouragement he should not move one.
§ Then it was moved that the Bill be now reported.
§ An Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this Day Three Months.")—(The Marquess of Westmeath.)
§ On Question, That ("now") stand Part of the Motion? Resolved in the Affirmative; Bill reported accordingly, without Amendment; and to be read 3a on Tuesday next.