HL Deb 26 March 1868 vol 191 cc239-55

, in rising to move for the appointment of a Select Committee, to inquire into the Operation of any Law or Laws as to the Assumption of Ecclesiastical Titles in Great Britain and Ireland; and whether any, and what. Alteration should be made therein, said, that this question had given rise to a great amount of irritation. Being anxious to see it satisfactorily settled, he now asked their Lordships to grant a Committee, as the first step in their Lordships' House towards the attainment of such a result. As to the present state of the law, he must, in the first place, bring under their Lordships' notice a clause in the Act of 1829, called the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, in which it was enacted that a penalty of £100 for each offence should be imposed upon any person who should unlawfully assume to himself any title borne by any Archbishop or Bishop of the Established Church. The Roman Catholics of that time took very little heed of that clause, because it was comprised in a measure which gave them the great boon of equality of civil rights. Moreover, when that Bill was passed, no attempt was made to bring the clause into operation, and it remained a dead letter. But the case was far otherwise when, in September, 1850, the Pope thought fit to alter the mode of exercising his spiritual authority in England. Until then that authority had been exercised by means of Vicars apostolic; but in that year a brief was issued by the Court of Rome, which established twelve dioceses for the Roman Catholic Church in England, and gave to those dioceses titles which were not borne by Archbishops and Bishops of the Established Church, but derived from other towns or cities. Under that brief Cardinal Wiseman assumed the title of Archbishop of Westminster. This brief raised a great flame in the country, upon two separate grounds—first, it was regarded as an act of Papal aggression; and secondly, it was considered to be aimed at the authority of the Queen, who alone had the privilege of creating territorial titles in her own dominions. At the beginning of the next Session, a noble Earl not now in his place (Earl Russell), who was then Prime Minister and a Member of the House of Commons, brought in the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. But although he (Earl Stanhope) was about to find great fault with the provisions of that Bill, he by no means desired to impute it in terms of blame to the noble Earl. The statement made by one of the principal and most distinguished opponents of this Bill should always be borne in mind. Sir James Graham said— He must ackowledge that the feeling in favour of legislation on this subject was so strong and unanimous that no Prime Minister could disregard it. The Ecclesiastical Titles measure, after much debate, finally passed both Houses; and, in addition to the penalty of £100, it declared null and void all the briefs and rescripts that had been or might be promulgated by the Court of Rome in reference to this assumption of titles. This Act was proclaimed by its promoters as a great victory and triumph; but, alas! how vain and hollow had that victory proved! Upon his head they placed a fruitless crown, And put a barren sceptre in his gripe. Last year, when some discussion took place upon the subject in that House, their Lordships were told by Lord Derby, in his capacity of Prime Minister, that if a Return were moved for of all the prosecutions instituted and all the penalties recovered under that Act, the Return must be nil. The fact was that not a single prosecution had been instituted, and not a single penalty had been recovered. In that debate of last year several noble Lords expressed their regret that they had been parties to the passing of that Bill. He, for one, joined in that regret; not that he or any other noble Lords need be ashamed of what they had done, for no one could take a more conscientious or honourable part than vote according to the best of his judgment at the time. But he thought that, guided by the lights of experience, they had reason to regret the course they had pursued. For himself, he regretted that he had departed from the guidance of those Gentlemen with whom he then usually i acted—the followers of the late Sir Robert: Peel—who, in his judgment upon this measure, and upon some others also, displayed a larger amount of foresight and sagacity than did at the time several other party chiefs who competed with them. The Bill, however, having now been the law of the land for many years, it became their duty to consider what had been its effect. Some people said that no harm could arise from a law which was not executed. For his part, he objected to any law that was not executed. It was most unfortunate when penalties were placed upon the statute book which they could not venture to enforce; and there could be no worse state of things than when there was a systematic violation of the law on one side and a systematic connivance at that violation on the other. The whole course of legislation of late years had been in opposition to such a system; and the Legislature had repealed scores of statutes that had fallen into desuetude. There were only two courses to pursue with regard to any law—either to enforce it, if it were deemed right, or, if deemed undesirable, then to repeal it. If there were any country in which it was desirable to promote respect for the law, it was Ireland. What, then, must be the state of things in Ireland, when the humbler classes saw those in whom they confided, and whom they revered — the prelates of the Church to which they belonged—pay no regard at all to those statutes which regulated their condition? Might not such a spectacle induce those persons to suppose that they also were absolved from the duty of obedience to the law in points upon which that law concerned them? He thought the fact that the statute had fallen into desuetude, or that it could not be enforced, afforded a very good reason why they should repeal it, or, at all events, why, at least, they should not refuse an inquiry into the question. Another objection to the Act was that it had caused considerable difficulty with regard to Roman Catholic bequests, and some information on this point would be found in the Report of the House of Commons' Committee of last year which had been communicated to their Lordships, and would be in their hands in a few days. It was true that it had not, as far as he was aware, led to the infliction of any substantial injustice. But under its operation Roman Catholics had been subjected to harassing proceedings in different courts, and that was manifestly a grievance which ought, if possible, to be removed. A further objection to the Act was that it did not deal with the question in an equal spirit. Had it rested on the broad principle that any person assuming a territorial title in the Queen's dominions without Her Majesty's permission should be liable to a penalty, much might be said in its favour; but how did it deal with the Bishops of the Episcopal body in Scotland? Bishop Forbes, with whom he had been in correspondence, and who was held in great honour and respect by all who knew him, had exactly the same right to take the title of Bishop of Brechin that Dr. Manning had to style himself Archbishop of Westminster; yet the Act expressly excepted the Episcopal body in Scotland from its operation. Surely, the penalty ought to be applied equally, or not at all. He found, too, that the Act exercised an evil effect upon the action of the Roman Catholic body in Ireland, as had been shown by the evidence adduced before the Committee of the House of Commons which had inquired into the subject last Session. Bishop Moriarty, in the course of his examination before that Committee, said— I know that before the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act several Bishops were in the habit of attending the receptions of the Lord Lieutenant, and I know that, on many occasions, Bishops were consulted by the Government of the country, and that they freely gave their advice, and offered their advice, to the Government of the country. Since the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act the Bishops think that it is their duty, or that it is becoming their station, to keep themselves altogether apart from any official connection or communication with the Government of the country. That was a very important answer, and the Bishop also stated that the Roman Catholic prelates, acting on that rule, had retired altogether from the Board of National Education. When asked whether there was anything in the Act which required them to do so, he replied— No; but among the Commissioners of National Education you had the Archbishop of Dublin, you had the Catholic Dean of Dublin, and you had, I think, two or three other Roman Catholic Bishops sitting on the Board of National Education; they have all retired, and no bishop at the present day would accept a seat on that Board. The evidence of Mr. Justice O'Hagan, another of the witnesses of high authority examined by the Committee, was to the same effect, and he would read a question put to him, with his answer— Your opinion is that the main evil of that legislation is a matter of feeling on the part of the people of Ireland?—It is, no doubt, a matter of feeling, but of feeling issuing in fact, and in very formidable fact too. I think that the feeling of a Bishop which prevents him from having, in a position of perfect independence, which should always be maintained, the most cordial relations with the Executive Government of the country, and aiding it cordially and effectually by word and deed, in all proper cases, is a feeling followed by a fact of a very formidable sort. Their Lordships, he thought, would admit that a measure which severed all ties between the spiritual heads of several millions of our fellow-subjects and the Government, and also all ties between those heads and the system of national education in Ireland, was a great evil. He (Earl Stanhope) had now pointed out the ill effect of having statutes which could not be enforced, and penalties which could not be recovered, the harassing operation of the Act on Roman Catholic bequests, its unequal application, and the alienation which it had caused on the part of the Roman Catholic Bishops with regard to the Executive and the Education Board. This being the price we had paid for the Act, he was entitled to turn round on its supporters and ask what equivalent we had received? Here was the loss, but where, he now asked, was the gain? Could it be said that a measure which had remained a dead letter afforded the smallest security to any of our Protestant Establishments? It had simply given us the pleasure, if pleasure it were, of forbidding what we were unable to prevent, and of declaring illegal what was nevertheless done every day and every hour before our eyes and in spite of our law. It must be remembered, moreover, that serious times were possibly at hand. While observing due reserve towards measures which were not yet fully developed, and which at all events were not yet before their Lordships' House, he might be allowed to say this—that many persons entertained apprehensions that proposals might be pressed upon Parliament by a numerous section of our fellow-subjects which it might be its bounden duty to refuse. In view of such a contingency his counsel was—"Make concessions when you can, so as to be able to make resistance when you must." If we cleared our position of anything that was doubtful or ambiguous, anything that was ill-considered at the time and had not been attended with the expected results, we should be better able to refuse unreasonable demands. In the discussion of last year several Peers, who formerly supported the measure, admitted the evils which had resulted from it, and avowed their change of opinion, and with that change of judgment avowed by so many, and by himself among the rest, he maintained that re-consideration was required, and he hoped their Lordships would now grant the Committee for which he asked. He believed considerable progress might thereby be made towards the settlement of the question. It need not be a Committee of very long duration. He believed that all the facts which it was desirable to ascertain had been laid before the Committee of the House of Commons which had sat last Session, and he doubted whether it would be requisite that the Committee should call for any further evidence; but he thought; that something might be gained by a careful consideration of the provisions of the Act, and by inquiring whether it would be possible to put an end to the present state of things, and at the same time to assert the Queen's undoubted authority as the source of all honours in this country. It appeared to him that the Bill which had been introduced in the other House did not deal with the subject in the most satisfactory manner, for it proposed the repeal of these provisions and nothing more. There were several other points also well deserving of consideration. He would mention one which was suggested by the Report of the Commons' Committee of 1867. That Report said— Your Committee submit for the consideration of the House whether, for purposes of legal description, certain modes of designation applicable to Roman Catholic Bishops might not be adopted, whereby some inconveniencs which have been pointed out to the Committee might be avoided. But nothing appeared in the Commons' Bill of 1868 to carry out that recommendation. That Bill proposed nothing beyond the repeal of the two enactments of 1829 and 1851. Again, the question as to the Queen's supremacy in this country was one which should engage attention. He thought the Committee would be materially aided by the presence of some Members of the right rev. Bench. He had the pleasure of stating that if the House should be disposed to grant this Committee, one most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of York) had declared his willingness to be proposed a Member of it. He saw no reason why, in any point of view, this should be regarded as a party question. Most noble Peers who had taken an active part in politics on one side or the other had been concerned either in the framing or the support of the measure into the operation of which he proposed to inquire; he said so without intending to cast any imputation upon them, and now he thought it would be perfectly consistent with the course they had formerly taken if, without any admixture of party feeling, they should apply themselves to see, whether, without impairing the Queen's authority, they might not be able to redress the grievances of which so many of the Queen's subjects had now good reason to complain. It was with this view that he had introduced the subject to their Lordships' notice. He thanked their Lordships for the indulgence with which they had heard him. He begged to move that a Select Committee be appointed, and now, with entire confidence, he left the subject in their Lordships' hands.

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Operation of any Law or Laws as to the Assumption of Ecclesiastical Titles in Great Britain and Ireland; and whether any and what Alteration should be made therein.—(The Earl Stanhope.)


said, he thought the noble Earl had not fully considered the circumstances under which the law arose. The question was not a religious one, it was a purely ecclesiastical question and an Imperial question. It was not so much an assumption of certain titles that had led to the passing of the measure as the fact that these titles had been conferred by a foreign Power; and the Act was drawn up and remained as a protest against that proceeding. No foreign Sovereign had a right to issue any document or brief by which titles of authority were conferred in this country, and it was against that which the law protested. There was no more difference in the Pope creating an Archbishop of Westminster than in the Emperor of the French, or any other foreign Sovereign, creating the noble Earl Duke of Chevening. That was the case of a foreign Power interfering in the Government of this country, and that was the point taken up, and he held rightly taken up, by the Government in 1851. Their Lordships might make what alterations they pleased, and, at the same time, might do what they could to reserve the rights of the Crown and the independence of the country with regard to this matter; but if, in any way whatever, they countenanced a foreign Power doing anything by authority in this kingdom, they would do that which would be contrary to the liberties of the country, and would lay the foundation of great and impending danger. Suppose their Lordships admitted the right of the Pope to create the Archbishop of a diocese in this country; in a short time it would be said that the same right ought to be given, which was acknowledged in other countries, of granting dispensations with regard to certain marriages. Why, it would then be asked, should not the Pope be allowed to grant, in the case of those professing his own faith, a dispensation to an uncle to marry his niece, and to do other things which were done every day in Roman Catholic countries? There was much more involved in that matter than those who only looked at it superficially might be supposed to think. The action of the Pope in that case had been utterly uncalled for; because since the time of the Reformation until 1851 the whole religious proceedings of the Roman Catholic population of this country, as distinguished from Ireland, were carried on without the necessity of having any bishop with an English territorial title. If such was the case during all that period, why were not things allowed to remain so? Why, instead of a Bishop of Ephesus, for example, or an Archbishop of Tarsus, who did everything necessary for the faith of that portion of Her Majesty's subjects, were bishops with English titles appointed? Why was it necessary to interfere with that state of things? It was done for a purpose; that purpose was oppression, and the Government of the day did right to interfere. The noble Earl had said that the Act was a dead letter. But even although nobody had thought it worth while to enforce the measure, it still stood as a protest against that foreign interference, and in that respect it had a value. The best proof that no injury was done by the adoption of the principle of the Act was to be found in the fact that a clause of a similar purport had been inserted in the Roman Catholic Relief Bill with reference to Roman Catholic prelates in Ireland; and that no one had complained of that provision. The Act was passed as a denial of the right of the Pope to issue any order that was to be obeyed in this country; and the Pope would have interfered less with our independence if he had created an Archbishop of Canterbury than he had interfered with it by creating an Archbishop of Westminster; because, in the former case, he would only have dealt with an existing diocese, and he could not have claimed a power of parcelling out the country into such ecclesiastical divisions as he might think fit. The sending of bulls and documents which came directly from the Pope was prohibited by law as old as the Plantagenets, and there had been a continued protest against such interference from the earliest days down to the present time. The noble Earl had moved for a Committee on this subject; but even according to his own admission a Committee was unne- cessary, for he said that all the evidence on the question had been given elsewhere. It would be far better to have the question treated in a Bill, than to have a Committee in which a few Members, according to their bias, might prepare a Report which would, perhaps, rather tend to embarrass the House than to assist it. Now, whatever he had said on this subject had been uttered without the slightest feeling of animosity toward those who professed the Roman Catholic religion. On the contrary, up to a few years ago he was rejoicing at the good feeling which had arisen and was extending between persons of that faith and Protestants. Any one who remembered the religious contentions in which we had been involved at the time of the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, and again at the period of the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, must have perceived that kindlier feelings had for some years sprung up among the professors of the Protestant and the Roman Catholic creeds. Within the last few years, however, things had been materially altered. There had been a degree of agitation on the subject of the claims of Roman Catholics on different points, which he was sorry had been pushed forward in a manner which had led to a great degree of ill-feeling, and which, if persevered in, would lead to a great deal more. The temper of this country was such that, if once excited, it might go to considerable extravagance. They might depend upon it that the Protestant feeling of this country was of such a nature that it was not desirable to excite it in any way, and he, therefore, sincerely regretted the moving of these questions. He confessed he did not think the appointment of a Committee on this subject desirable, and he should be sorry that their Lordships should agree to it.


said, their Lordship would recollect that when he brought forward this question last Session, one Peer after another rose to express his penitence for having consented to the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act. The noble Earl on his left (the Earl of Kimberley) excused himself on the ground that he was very young at the time; and the noble Earl below him (Earl Granville) said that, as he was not then in the Cabinet, he was not responsible for the measure brought forward by the Ministry, though he had supported it, and the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) also regretted what he had done.


I did not say so. I said I would vote for it again under the same circumstances.


said, he thought his noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) had better consult Hansard on the subject.


said, it appeared that he had been mistaken with respect to the opinion of the noble Marquess; but many of their Lordships had certainly made their recantations on the occasion to which he had referred. He did not mean to cast any reflection on his noble Friends. He knew a very important question on which public men had changed their opinions over and over again in the course of one year. He would pass, however, at once to a consideration of the present stale of the question. There was at that moment a Bill before the House of Commons for the Repeal of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act; and, as it was reported in the newspapers, the Prime Minister stated he would soon give the opinion of the Government upon it. That being so, a legitimate opportunity would perhaps be given to their Lordships of expressing their views on the subject in a short time. Into what was the Committee to inquire? The Report of the Committee of the other House had been presented, and they had recommended the repeal of the Act 14 & 15 Vic, c. 60, and of the 24th section of the Act 10 Geo. IV., c. 7, and they submitted for the consideration of the House whether, for the purposes of legal description, certain modes of designation applicable to Roman Catholic Bishops might not be adopted, whereby some inconvenience which had been pointed out to the Committee might be avoided. That was a matter which might properly come before the House in discussing a Bill in Committee, and if the noble Earl had confined his request to that there might have been some object in it. But the noble Earl desired to discuss the Acts referred to themselves; but what object could he expect to attain by that? The Committee asked for would only reproduce the evidence already given in the House of Commons, or comment upon what was already before them, or add the testimony of similar witnesses. Among the witnesses examined before the House of Commons Committee were Mr. Justice O'Hagan, Mr. Hope Scott, Dr. Manning, Dr. Ullathorne, and Sir George Bowyer, than whom men more competent to give an opinion upon the subject could not be obtained. Unless, therefore, their Lordships wished for some harmless occupation for their leisure hours, he could not imagine what good would result from the appointment of a Committee. Lord Derby had said that it was not well to moot a subject which would only excite religious discussions and religious differences. Would there not be enough of religious animosity next week without such a Motion as this? Perhaps the noble Lord wished to know what decision the Government had come to; but after ascertaining this a Committee would be unnecessary. If the House assented to the Motion of the noble Earl, he hoped care would be taken to so limit the inquiry as that it should not be allowed to interfere with the passage of the Bill for the Repeal of the Ecclesiastical Tides Act if it came up to that House in time. He had no great objection to the Committee asked for; but he had the strongest possible objection to the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, which was one of those obnoxious measures, to a large body of people, which had made us to an extent unpopular with the Irish Roman Catholic Population. Acts every one of which we should wish to see removed.


said, he did not see what advantage was to be gained by the appointment of the Committee which had been asked for. Having formerly voted for this Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, he wished to say that he had not changed his opinion upon the subject. This assumption of titles was, under the circumstances of the time, an outrage upon the dignity of the Crown and upon the Protestant feelings of the country. He believed that the country so regarded it, and that a protest was absolutely necessary. He was glad that the Act had had no further consequence; for he did not wish to impose any penalties upon religious opinion, nor did he think at the time that it would be possible to enforce the penalties. The protest embodied by the Act was all that was valuable in it. Their Lordships would remember the circumstances under which the Bill was brought forward. Both sides of the House, before this assumption of titles, had shown their anxiety to conciliate the Catholics, and to bring them into amicable relations with the Protestants. But when such a step was taken as this assumption of titles the Government were bound to meet it. At present we were very liberal on all sides, and, with a generosity, which people often showed in giving away what did not belong to them, Parliament was going to give away the Prerogative of the Crown. The Crown, as the fountain of honour, had the prerogative of bestowing titles. If the rights of the Crown, in this respect, were given away with the assent of the Crown and of the Government, of course there could be no objection; but he believed that the step would be offensive to the people of this country. There was a very strong Protestant feeling in this country, and it would be very unwise to disturb this question for a small purpose. This was only one of many questions, and it was both unnecessary and useless to take it by itself and disturb the country with it. All these questions should be dealt with at once. He thought the Committee asked for would be perfectly useless, mid that when the Bill now before the other House came before their Lordships, would be the proper time to make such alterations and amendments in the existing law as should be fairly consistent with the authority of the Crown.


thought the Ecclesiastical Titles Act ought to be repealed, for his noble Friend who made the Motion showed clearly that the Act was of no use whatever for good. But it was quite another thing to have been a party to the Bill when proposed. It was brought forward in consequence of an invasion of Her Majesty's authority on the part of the Pope, in the creation of ecclesiastical titles. At that time, rightly or wrongly, wisely or unwisely, there was a strong feeling in this country on the subject, in consequence of that assumption oil the part of the Pope, and of the Tractarian controversy which was then going on, and the country was amazingly excited. It was not at all advisable to rouse the Protestant feelings of the people, and to swell the "No Popery" cry; and the Government of the day took what they thought was a safe and moderate course to prevent this, and to protest against the act of the Pope. For this object the Bill was perfectly successful; but, while the Bill had otherwise been useless, he had not anticipated the effect it would have of creating a practical evil. At this moment it was a grievance, and a serious grievance, to eminent Roman Catholics; for there were cases — with reference, for example, to wills and bequests—in which, in Courts of Justice, it might be absolutely necessary to ascertain who were the individuals exercising certain ecclesiastical functions, and by signing certificates in the names by which they were recognized in their Church they would be compelled to violate the law. While, therefore, the Act now did no good, it was not wholly harmless, and ought to be repealed. He; agreed, however, with his noble Friend who spoke last, that no good would result from the appointment of a Committee. The matter was ripe for decision now. To say that a return to the state of things which existed before 1851 would imply the giving of more power to the Pope in this country than he ever possessed was to attach exaggerated importance to the Act. The Pope might exercise his powers of dispensation, and so he might now. He might grant a dispensation for the marriage of an uncle with his niece, as was apprehended, and so might any of their Lordships, or any man in the streets; but that would not make such a marriage legal, and would not entitle any one to inherit property under it. No such dispensation could affect a legal title or right. It was perfectly consistent in those who supported the law in question when it was passed, to be anxious now that it should be repealed, and that nothing more should be heard about it, seeing that the titles of the Roman Catholic prelates were not put forward in a manner such as to give offence to those who were not Roman Catholics.


said, he did not think full justice had been done to the noble Earl's Motion by those of their Lordships who had spoken upon it. He thought it might be questioned whether, having passed the Ecclesiastical Titles Act as a protest Act, under the circumstances which seemed to call for it, the simple repeal of the protest would leave us in precisely the same position we occupied before the passing of the Act. It would be taken to imply that we had made a protest that we ought not to have made, and that for that reason we withdrew it. He did not think that the question was so simple as it was assumed to be. The list of witnesses read omitted some persons whom it would be proper to hear before we came to a final conclusion on the subject. He wanted some good ecclesiastical lawyers to explain what would be the effect of a simple repeal of the law, and so to indicate the proper course to be taken with regard to all these ecclesiastical titles. They ought to adopt the same course with respect to the Scotch Episcopal Bishops that they did with respect to the Roman Catholic Bishops. They ought to allow either or to allow none to assume territorial titles. But he thought an exaggerated importance had been attached to the whole subject. What real harm did it do to anyone that the Pope authorized Cardinal Wiseman to call himself Archbishop of Westminster? It gave him no power or jurisdiction whatever, and if he had gone to a Court of Law he would be told that he had no ground for the assumption of any power of jurisdiction. But with regard to his moral power and jurisdiction over his own flock, no Act of Parliament could alter that; and he possessed it just as much after the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act as he did before it. Prejudice and passion on both sides had raised this question to undue importance, and, under the circumstances, he (Earl Grey) considered that the Motion before the House was a very judicious one.


Nothing could be more at variance with your Lordships' usual practice than for your Lordships to grant a Committee that is moved for, and assume in doing so that you had arrived at a foregone conclusion, as to what the Report of that Committee should be. The conversation that has taken place in this House to-night will have satisfied your Lordships how widely different are the opinions entertained on the subject of the Motion of my noble Friend. It appears to me that all we can at present do is to consider whether my noble Friend has of has not made out a case for a Committee upon the subject. I will say that in my opinion my noble Friend has fully made out a case for a Committee. In the first place, without entering into a detailed examination of the circumstances under which the Act of 1851 was passed, I think that those who, like myself, consider that that Act was, at all events, valuable as a protest, are compelled to admit that the protest contained in that Act was made in the most inconvenient form, and in a manner which, while, perhaps, it secured in some way the end of a protest, has accompanied the protest with consequences which experience has proved eminently undesirable. More than that, my noble Friend has referred to a Select Committee of the other House of Parliament which sat during the last Session upon the subject, and it is quite true that that Committee presented a Report which has already been referred to; but it should be remembered that that Committee was so evenly divided in opinion that the Report was carried simply by the casting vote of the Chairman. There was a discussion in this House last Session, when various Members of jour Lordships' House again took different views upon the question of the repeal of the Act of 1851 and the section of the previous Acts, some of your Lordships expressing the opinion, contrary to opinions previously entertained, that that repeal should take place, while others were of opinion that the Act should be continued unchanged. With those differences of sentiment in both branches of the Legislature, I cannot but think, if there are facts to be inquired into, and if there be law to be considered, nothing can be more convenient than a Committee of this House for that purpose. I own I do not quite take the view of my noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) who said, that in the evidence taken by the Committee of the other House he should find all the information upon this subject which could be required. I think that that evidence might be very usefully enlarged. There are many points connected with this subject as a whole which were not inquired into by that Committee. Let me point out what advantage it seems to me may result from inquiry in this House. My noble Friend has done well to give his proposition the breadth and scope which it derives from the words of his notice of Motion. No greater mistake could be made than to suppose this is simply a question connected with the Roman Catholic Church; and that it is not a question which goes very much further, and involves the whole law with regard to the Prerogative of the Crown, and the assumption of titles of the kind which has been referred to by any Church or by anybody. My noble Friend, therefore, has proposed that a Select Committee shall be appointed to inquire into the operation of all the laws of the country with regard to the assumption of ecclesiastical titles, whether the laws be written or not written, and, moreover, whether any alteration should be made therein. It has been urged in objection to the Motion that there is no Bill before the House, and a noble Lord appeared to think that that was an objection to the appointment of a Committee. I own I think, on the contrary, it is a great advantage to the Committee. If there were a Bill before the Committee simply repealing one or both of the Acts which had been referred to, there would be very considerable danger of the Committee raising upon that Bill more or less of a struggle, and there would be a desire either to pass the Bill or reject it; and it would not have that cool and disembarrassed consideration which, in a Committee of this kind, may be given to the law apart from any measure that may be pending. I think, moreover, if there is any place where this subject can be considered dispassionately and, I might almost say, in a judicial spirit, it is before a Committee of this House. We can approach this subject without any of those prejudices or passions which surround the discussion of it "elsewhere." We may hope to have the assistance of the right rev. Bench, whose authority on subjects of this kind must carry the greatest weight. If a Committee be appointed, although I do not anticipate what conclusions it may come to, I certainly trust one result, at all events, will be that the law upon this subject in whatever enactments contained, will be put on a clearer, a better, a more definite, a more consistent, and a more satisfactory footing than it is at present.


Your Lordships will have gathered from the statement of my noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor) that the Government, as a Government, have no objection whatever to the appointment of this Committee; but that, on the contrary, they think it will be rather useful than otherwise. I wish, however, to say a word with respect to my own conduct. I certainly was one of those who voted in favour of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill in 1851, though I was prevented by domestic reasons from being present when the matter was discussed in this House last Session; but had I been present I certainly should not have cried "Peccavi" as some of your Lordships have done. I am not at present prepared to say that I regret the vote which I gave in 1851; but, at the same time that circumstance only makes me the more anxious to investigate and thoroughly understand the change of feeling which has occurred since the passing of the Act and the causes which have induced many of your Lordships, and a considerable portion of the people of this country, to alter their minds on the subject. I must protest against what has been said by the noble Baron on the back Benches (Lord Lyveden) as a reason for not discussing this question; for I think your Lordships will agree with me that it is not our business to be biassed by what is going on in the other House of Parlia- ment, but that we ought to do our duty in an independent spirit. A measure has, I believe been laid upon the table of the other House of Parliament in reference to this question; but, at present, it is not our business to go into that at all. The probability that that measure will be sent up to us is an additional reason for appointing a Committee, in order that we may be thoroughly informed on the subject. I very much regret that the noble Earl (Earl Russell) is not present, and also the cause of his absence from the House this evening; for he certainly bore a very prominent part in passing the Act of 1851, and I should have liked to hear his opinion respecting the advisability of stirring up the subject again, and bringing it before your Lordships' consideration. I trust my noble Friend who has proposed this Committee will take some pains to constitute it in such a manner as to make it impossible for anybody to suppose that it was biassed by any political or party feeling, and that with this end in view he will invite such Members to sit on it as are best able to investigate this question calmly and with experience. I also think it essential that some of the right rev. Prelates should be appointed Members of the Committee.

Motion agreed to.

And, on March 30, the Lords following were named of the Committee: the Committee to meet on March 31, at Four o'clock, and to appoint their own Chairman:

Ld. Chancellor E. Russell
Ld. Abp. York L. Bp. London
Ld. Privy Seal L. Bp. Oxford
D. Somerset L. Redesdale
K. Stanhope L. Colchester
K. Carnarvon L. Somerhill
E. Harrowby L. Lyveden.
E. Granville