HL Deb 21 February 1871 vol 204 cc562-72

rose, according to Notice, to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for an explanation with regard to a letter from the right hon. W. E. Gladstone, dated Downing Street, 30th November 1870, addressed to F. Dease, Esq., M.P., in reference to the Sovereign Pontiff; also to inquire as to the accuracy of certain despatches said to be addressed by the noble Earl and the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Foreign Governments on the same subject; also a despatch addressed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated 16th January 1871, to the Governor of Gibraltar on the same subject; and to move for copies of these documents. The noble Lord said that the absorbing topics of the war abroad and our defences at home had diverted the public interest from all other subjects; but, were this subject passed over, it would be said that the remarkable utterances of the Premier touching the Pope, and the conduct of Her Majesty's Government regarding Italy, had attracted no attention. As he knew that this was far from being the case, and that it was only owing to very clever political manœuvring that the public voice on the matter had been stifled, he felt it his duty—though he feared the subject was not very attractive to their Lordships—to bring it under their notice, especially as the public voice had only been hushed pending an explanation, promised by the right hon. Gentleman at the meeting of Parliament, but which had not yet been given. Independently of the special difficulties of bringing forward the question on the present occasion, arising from the pre-occupation of the public mind, he had to encounter the ordinary difficulties attaching to the case. Neither of the great parties in Parliament desired to touch it, because, they said, it involved a religious discussion; the real fact being that neither would risk offending the Irish Members, who held the key of the situation. Party interests, in fact, were supreme. Believing this to be the great misfortune of the day, he must proceed regardless of it; but he would specially guard himself from wishing, directly or indirectly, to enter on any religious discussion. Claiming freedom for his own views, he wished every other man to enjoy the same freedom, save when, under the name of religion, he endeavoured to establish an "imperium in imperio." The first protest he ever made was against this system, and his object was now to renew it. The greater part of his life had been spent among a Roman Catholic people; but religion had never interfered between them, except when interested persons had roused religious animosity in order to gain political power. A more amiable and excellent people than his countrymen in the West did not live on the face of the earth till, by the measures of Her Majesty's Government in the last two Sessions, the premium on disaffection and disturbance became too high to be resisted. He would now call their Lordships' attention to three paragraphs in the Premier's letter to Mr. Dease. They ran thus— In reply, I have to state that Her Majesty's Government have not during the various changes which have marked the reign of the present Pope interfered, nor have they now proposed to interfere, with the civil government of the city of Rome or the surrounding country. But Her Majesty's Government consider all that relates to the adequate support of the dignity of the Pope and to his personal freedom and independence in the discharge of his spiritual functions to be legitimate matter for their notice. Indeed, without waiting for the occurrence of an actual necessity, they have, during the uncertainties of the last few months, taken upon themselves to make provision which would tend to afford any necessary protection to the person of the Sovereign Pontiff. The noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies (Earl Granville) would probably acknowledge, without his troubling their Lordships by quotations, that despatches to the Governors of Gibraltar and, he believed, Malta, in reply to addresses from Roman Catholics in those islands, had been forwarded nearly identical in terms with this letter—which proved that Mr. Gladstone's letter conveyed the deliberate policy intended to be pursued by the Government, and was not one of those impulsive statements on the part of the Premier which often caused his Colleagues so much inconvenience. In connection with the declaration that the Government had not interfered, and would not interfere, in the civil government of Rome, he must call attention to a letter published in The Times, and dated Florence, December 21, 1870, purporting to contain a summary of despatches published in the Italian Green Book. This letter remarked— Another despatch of Senor Cadorna, dated September 27, shows how well the chief of the English Foreign Office understood the situation of affairs in Italy, and how warmly he recommended to the Italian Government to leave alone that unfortunate business of the 'Roma capitale.' The important question being solved by the taking of Rome, though his advice with regard to the transfer of the capital is not accepted, he tries to persuade the Pope not to leave Rome. Mr. Otway, in a conversation he had with Senor Cadorna on the same day, seems to have insisted once more upon the necessity of postponing the transfer, and points out the difficulties the question produces in Ireland. The correspondent went on to state that the despatches from all the other great Powers showed that they did not wish to interfere with Italy on the subject, and that she was quite free to act as she thought fit. Now, it seemed to him impossible for one Government to have shown more impertinent interference in the affairs of another country than for our Government to press the Italian Government not to allow the people of Italy to realize their long cherished desire of making Rome the seat of their Government, because it was displeasing to the Irish. It was certainly astonishing to what lengths party influences would lead experienced statesmen. Though not reported in the Green Book, he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) doubted not that Senor Cadorna informed the English Government that the Italians, reciprocating the kind interest taken by the Irish in their affairs, strongly advised the Government to transfer the seat of government from London to Dublin—a suggestion which the Irish people would like to see carried out. The next two paragraphs said that Her Majesty's Government, without waiting for an actual necessity, had taken upon themselves to afford any necessary protection to the Sovereign Pontiff. It was commonly stated that a ship of war had been waiting at Civita Vecchia to take the Pope to Malta, or perhaps to Ireland. He hoped His Holiness would choose the latter, for, perchance, as St. Patrick drove out reptiles, so Pius IX. might drive out assassins; but it seemed curious that a country, of which at least four-fifths were Protestants, should be so assiduous in its care of the Pope, when Austria, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium, all Roman Catholic countries, stood by quite indifferent. It showed, he feared, that party interests acted more powerfully than religious influences; or was it that Roman Catholic countries had enough Churchmen already, without undertaking to provide an asylum for their Infallible Head? He had not been surprised to read that Archbishop Manning felt hurt at such conduct. Perhaps the Government would tell their Lordships and the public what palace they had prepared, and what provision it was proposed to make "for the adequate support of the dignity" of His Holiness, for assuredly it would be a strange hospitality that landed him penniless on the burning rock of Malta or on the damp shores of Ireland. It was still more important to know what provision the Government had made or were making to secure his "independence in the discharge of his spiritual functions," for this was a difficult undertaking. Englishmen were more ready to give their money than to surrender their liberties, yet he feared that independence in the discharge of the Pope's spiritual functions would involve a slight sacrifice of our national liberty. It was no easy matter to define what such independence meant; but he would endeavour to afford an explanation from well-authenticated documents emanating from His Holiness. Liberty of worship, liberty of the Press, liberty of speech, aye, and of conscience must be all repressed. God had conferred on the Pope not only to direct by persuasion but by force those who turned aside; by a canon of the Church the Pope was bound to put such persons to death; no civil law was binding if it differed from the law of the Church. Such were the laws under which the Romans had suffered for centuries. Such were a few of the many blessings involved in that spiritual independence of His Holiness which the Government had undertaken to protect. It did not require any very narrow-minded bigotry to conclude that it was hardly consistent with the Liberal institutions of this country for the Government to guarantee the spiritual independence of the Pope. It must be remembered, too, that the language of the meetings that occurred at the time the letter was written was anything but temperate. The head of the Roman Catholic Church in this country, supported by some members of their Lordships' House, at a meeting at St. James's Hall, stated— It was a figment and an illusion to distinguish between politics and religion. Polities were a part of morals; morals were part of religion; the two were indissoluble. This statement coincided entirely with the Premier's policy. It was commonly stated that the Ultramontane system was effete; yet we saw it actively influencing every important act of the Legislature, for the great measures of the last two Sessions were certainly framed far more to secure power and income to the Roman Catholic clergy than to benefit the people of Ireland. That most exceptional and novel clause in the English Education Bill, giving the cumulative vote, was introduced, moreover, solely to give Roman Catholics an undue influence in the education of this country. That it was undue was best shown by the fact that no Roman Catholics were chosen under the Parliamentary franchise. It was the carrying out of the system recommended some years back by M. de Montalembert to the Roman Catholics—namely, that by taking advantage of party divisions they could gain an undue influence in the State. He would next refer to a very short letter from Mr. Kinnaird to Mr. Gladstone, and a still shorter letter from Mr. Gladstone himself. The first letter was dated January 6—more than a month after the Premier's letter to Mr. Dease, and therefore could not have been written without full time for "accurately understanding the expressions" in Mr. Gladstone's letter. After stating that there was every wish that due consideration should be shown for the religious feelings of the Roman Catholic subjects of Her Majesty, and that every courteous consideration should be shown to the Pope if in distress, Mr. Kinnaird, remarking on the Premier's letter, said it became all British subjects to inquire whether the Papal jurisdiction, the essence of all spiritual tyranny, the deadly foe of all religious and political freedom, was to be made the object of the watchful and fostering care of Her Majesty's Government? and added that such a policy would be the natural and necessary conclusion to be drawn from Mr. Gladstone's expressions. The Premier, by his silence, accepted this as the policy which the Government intended to pursue; but Mr. Kinnaird, getting no reply to his letter for a fortnight, and supposing that the right hon. Gentleman, fearing that the policy thus imputed to his Government might not be acceptable to his constituents, was struggling between his honest convictions and his political interests, took the somewhat peculiar course of replying to his own letter. Accordingly on the 19th January he wrote a reply, in which he interpreted the Premier's expressions as in no wise intended to pledge the Government to do anything to mix itself up in any way with the Pope's spiritual power. The hand was the hand of Esau, but the voice was surely that of Jacob. This was telling the Roman Catholic voters the Government were not "pledged" to interfere for the Pope, but that they were free to do so, and telling the Presbyterian—"We are not likely to have anything to say to the Pope"—a very convenient position, variable as the political situation might require. The correspondence closed with a note from the Premier to Mr. Kinnaird, dated the 19th of January, short, characteristic, and grateful, saying— You have accurately understood those expressions in my letter to Mr. Dease to which you refer. With many thanks," &c. The Premier did not say whether it was in the letter of the 6th or the letter of the 19th that Mr. Kinnaird had accurately understood him. Another important fact proved that the Government intended to carry out the policy indicated in the letter to Mr. Dease. In the Speech from the Throne an event of such world-wide interest as the annexation of Rome was passed over in silence. The Italian antecedents of the Premier made this the more remarkable. The disappointment of the Italians at seeing that the liberal and generous sympathies of so distinguished a statesman must yield and be smothered to meet the exigencies of party would not give them or the other peoples of Europe a high estimate of the working of our constitutional Government. It was also another instance of the wishes of the large majority of the inhabitants of these islands being subordinated to those of the small minority; for at most the Roman Catholics of Great Britain and Ireland did not exceed one-fifth of the population, the vast majority of the remainder entirely sympathizing with the overthrow of the Papal Government and the completion of Italian nationality. Our home and foreign policy was thus regulated principally by the Irish Members returned by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, who held the balance between the two great parties in the State—a result both unfortunate and contrary to the intention of our Constitution. When the evils arising there from were seen by the British people, he believed that if Parliament did not find the remedy they would. He would ask his Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen to remember that the occupation of Rome was only a part of a great movement which had been, successfully carried out by their co-religionists all through Europe—namely, an assertion that while they adhered to their religious faith they would also be freemen, and would not live under an absolute Government, whether carried on by laymen or ecclesiastics. It was principally owing to Roman Catholics abroad having shown this determination that the British people had given up all jealousy as to Roman Catholics in Great Britain having the fullest political privileges; but, if Englishmen saw that the enlightened Roman Catholics united with the ignorant in the endeavour to establish that very Ultramontane system which their co-religionists had thrown off all through Europe, they would be justly regarded not only as enemies to all civil and religious liberty, but as refusing to live on terms of equality and goodwill with the rest of Her Majesty's subjects. With every feeling of goodwill to his Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, he would say—"Accept equality; by attempting to gain superiority you will create a revulsion of feeling which will be as much to be regretted as it will be disastrous to your own cause." Apologizing for having so long occupied their Lordships' time, and thanking them for their kind indulgence, he had now to ask the noble Earl (Earl Granville) for an explanation of Mr. Gladstone's letter to Mr. Dease, and for the production of the despatches issued from the Foreign and Colonial Offices to which he had referred.

Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will be pleased to direct that there be laid before the House, Copy of a Despatch addressed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated 16th January 1871, to the Governor of Gibraltar, on the subject of the occupation of Rome by the Sovereign Pontiff."—(The Lord Oranmore and Browne.)


My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord has taken a very convenient mode of bringing this question forward. Mr. Gladstone's letter, although an important letter, is not a Parliamentary document: moreover, as your Lordships are probably aware, Mr. Gladstone will be questioned respecting that letter in the House of Commons, and he will, I have no doubt, be able to give an answer satisfactory to all fair and reasonable men. I think, too, the mode pursued by the noble Lord is the less convenient, inasmuch as my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Kimberley) has no objection to the production of the despatches relating to the subject, and when those despatches are before your Lordships they will form fit subjects of criticism. For myself, as long as I unworthily hold the Office of Foreign Secretary, I shall consider any subject—whether religious, commercial, or political—worthy the notice of Her Majesty's Government, if it be a subject of legitimate interest to any considerable number of the Queen's subjects. With respect to the second part of the noble Lord's Notice, I believe your Lordships will agree with me that nothing could well be more vague, and less calculated to afford a clue to what the noble Lord was about to say; for the noble Lord asks for "certain despatches," without specifying the date, or stating by whom or to whom they were written: and then he asks whether they are accurate or not. My hon. Friend Mr. Otway, though up to the time of his retirement from Office he took a great interest in Foreign Affairs, would certainly never imagine it to be his duty to address despatches to foreign Governments on any occasion whatever. It turns out, however, that what the noble Lord referred to related to a despatch of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, published in the Green Book of that country. These Papers have been presented to your Lordships, and are being printed, and in the course of this week they will be in your Lordships' hands. The following is the correspondence upon the subject:—

"No. 4. Foreign Office, Jan. 3, 1871.

"Sir,—I have received your despatch, No. 278, of the 19th ultimo, enclosing a copy of the Italian Green Book; and I have read the despatch of the Chevalier Cadorna to M. Visconti-Venosta of the 27th of September, 1870, which is published at page 50 in this collection of documents. In that despatch the Italian Minister reports some casual remarks on the question of the transfer of the Italian capital to Rome, which fell from myself and from Mr. Otway on the occasion of two conversations which he had respectively with us. I took occasion yesterday to inform the Chevalier Cadorna that he had attached a greater importance to these observations than had been intended by me or by Mr. Otway. I remember the conversation perfectly which I had the honour of holding with the Chevalier Cadorna, in which I asked him whether he believed the transfer of the capital to Rome would take place, and added that I had been convinced by the arguments of Massimo d'Azeglio, in a pamphlet published a few years ago, that it would be more prudent to continue the seat of government at Florence. I made no allusion to Ireland, or to the effects which the removal of the capital might have upon public opinion in that country, and neither Mr. Otway nor I gave any official opinion on the matter. G.

"To Sir Augustus Paget."

"No. 25. Florence, Jan. 18,1871.

"My Lord,—I have read to the Chevalier Visconti-Venosta your Lordship's despatch No. 4 of the 3rd inst., in reference to a despatch of Chevalier Cadorna, published in the Italian Green Book, reporting a conversation with your Lordship and Mr. Otway, in which some reference was made to the transfer of the Italian capital to Rome, and when I had concluded, his Excellency said that he had never considered your Lordship's remarks upon this subject as having an official or a formal character, but had understood them as having been uttered in the course of confidential conversation in the sense which you now attribute to them. If he had given the despatch a place among the diplomatic documents laid before the Italian Parliament, it was because he had thought it desirable that it should be seen that even in the mind of a statesman of recognized friendly sentiments towards Italy some doubts existed as to the expediency of the removal of the seat of government from where it was now established to Rome. Monsieur Visconti-Venosta added that the Chevalier Cadorna had informed him of the observations which your Lordship had recently made to him upon his report of the 27th of September. I have the honour to be, with the highest respect, my Lord, your Lordship's most obedient humble servant, A. PAGET.

"The Earl Granville, K.G., &c."

With regard to the third part of the Question, I have only to add that my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies will immediately produce the despatches on the question.


said, he rose to enter his protest against the manner in which the noble Lord (Lord Oranmore and Browne) had brought this question forward. He had commenced his speech by protesting that he wished to avoid the question of religious differences, and yet, notwithstanding this disclaimer, the whole of his arguments were based upon these religious differences. The occupation of Rome was no question as to whether the Roman Catholic or the Protestant religion was the right one, but one which depended on international law and justice, and involved the social rights of millions of her Majesty's subjects. That this was the right view, and as the noble Lord appeared to think that the opinion expressed by Mr. Gladstone and by the Secretary for the Colonies was very unusual, he (the Earl of Denbigh) would quote the opinion of Lord Ellenborough, as expressed on the 12th of June, 1849. On that occasion Lord Ellenborough said— It was quite true that England was not a Catholic State, and might not, therefore, feel that personal interest in the position of the Pope which was felt by Catholic Powers; but we had 8,000,000 of Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, and it was as much an object of interest to us as it could be to any one of the Catholic Powers of Europe that the Pope should be in a position of independence; that he should not be so situated as to be dependent upon the bounty or upon the power of any one, or of any combination of the Powers of Europe."—[3 Hansard, cvi. 10.] That was a statesmanlike view of the subject; and it was shared by Lord Brougham, who, speaking on the 20th of July, said— My opinion is that it will not do to say that the Pope is all very well as a spiritual Prince, but we ought not to restore his temporal Power. That is a shortsighted, and I think a somewhat superficial view of the case. I do not believe it possible that the Pope could exercise beneficially his spiritual functions if he had no temporal power. For what would be the consequence? He would be stripped of all his authority. We are not now in the eighth century, when the Pope contrived to exist without much secular authority, or when, as Bishop of Rome, he exercised very extensive spiritual power without corresponding temporal power. The progress of the one, however, went along with that of the other. … His temporal force increased his spiritual authority, because it made him more independent. Stripped of that secular dominion he would become the slave now of one Power, then of another. … His temporal power is an European question, not a local or religious one, and the Pope's authority should be maintained for the sake of the peace and the interest of Europe."—[3 Hansard, cvii. 627.] Those extracts were sufficient to show that the great statesmen who uttered them had taken a different view of the subject from that adopted by the noble Lord. The noble Lord had ventured to point out what he believed to be the great dangers in the opinion expressed by the Archbishop of Westminster—that politics and morals could not be separated. He (the Earl of Denbigh) believed that he could explain the meaning of the Archbishop, as he himself shared the same view of the true meaning of politics. Politics were only the social and moral law of individuals applied to communities; and if the noble Lord would accept that definition, he believed he would not see in the statement of the Archbishop the dangers which he now anticipated.

Motion agreed to.