§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, I fully concur with those who hold it to be most desirable that a Bill on so important a subject as the Royal Declaration should be introduced by His Majesty's Government and not by a private Member. As, however, His Majesty's Government have given no evidence, since 1901, of the slightest intention or desire on their part to respond to the appeals which have been made to them by the Catholics of the Empire to repeal the Statute which requires the Sovereign to make an anti-Catholic Declaration on his accession, there is no option open to those private and independent Members who believe the abolition of the Declaration to be required in the interests of the Empire, but to press upon the acceptance of the House a Bill for the removal of an undoubted grievance which is really 495 felt by many millions of His Majesty's loyal subjects in various parts of the Empire. It will be within the recollection of the House that two years ago the character of the Declaration which was required by Statute from the Sovereign on his accession, and before he met his Parliament, came as a startling shock upon this House and the liberal sentiment of this country. A Committee, consisting practically of the two Front Benches, was appointed to consider the whole subject, with the result that the Prime Minister introduced a Bill which the Government hoped would reconcile the Catholics to the Declaration which they suggested the Sovereign should be required to make on his accession. In introducing the Bill Lord Salisbury pointed out that the Declaration now required from the Sovereign—Denounced in the most offensive form the religion to which the Roman Catholics were passionately attached,and that it was only—Natural that they should look upon it as a real grievance that language of a most violent and objectionable kind should be used against the Articles of their Faith at the most solemn moment of his reign by the Sovereign when ascending the Throne,and these statements naturally led to his conclusion that it was incumbent upon Parliament to deal with the Declaration in such a way as to purge from it those terms which were offensive and painful to the Roman Catholic subjects of the King.
The House will recollect that the amending Bill brought forward to give effect to the recommendations of the two Front Benches was not received with enthusiasm by any part of this House. It was recognised that the amended Declaration which, it was suggested, should take the place of the old, was practically tantamount to a new test, and was consequently open on that account to serious objection. There was a very strong feeling in some quarters of the House which, if it did not find public expression, was brought to my personal notice, that it might even be preferable to keep the old form untouched, notwithstanding the offensive terms in which it was couched, inasmuch as it might be regarded with 496 a certain amount of philosophic indifference as an obsolete and archaic formula with no greater present significance than a bit of rusty armour, than to give in this twentieth century fresh Parliamentary sanction to a new Declaration, which selected out of all the creeds practised in the Empire the Articles of the Roman Catholic Faith alone for special repudiation by the Sovereign. However politely worded such a Declaration might be, it must be obvious that it could not fail to be offensive to the Catholics, by giving them cause to feel that they were the subjects, not of that equality of treatment which it is the boast of our Government that we accord to all our religions, but of treatment of which they had a very proper reason to complain. It was obvious that the Bill had not behind it that force of opinion required to drive it through the other House of Parliament, and the result was, the Bill was discreetly dropped. But the matter remains to-day just as urgent as it was when Lord Salisbury pointed out that we could not leave the Declaration where it stands, and we have a right to expect from His Majesty's Government a Bill of their own if they cannot accept mine.
The appeals to His Majesty's Government to which I propose briefly to refer from various parts of the Empire, will, I think, convince the House that if Parliament is in earnest in its desire to consolidate the Empire, the sooner we listen to the appeals from the colonies to amend the Declaration the better. But before I refer to these petitions I wish the House to consider whether the Declaration complained of is in any way essential to the Protestant succession or the maintenance of the Protestant character of the Crown. Your Lord-ships must be aware that apart from the Declaration, which is the subject of this Bill, the law elsewhere provides, by the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, that if the Sovereign holds communion with the Church or See of Rome, or professes the Popish religion, or marries a Papist, his Crown, ipso facto, passes from his head to that of the next Protestant heir, and his subjects are absolved from all allegiance to him. Further, the 497 Sovereign is required to swear at his coronation that he will, to the utmost of his power, maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law. I maintain that the law which uncrowns the King if he professes the Popish religion, or marries a Papist, coupled with the securities provided by the oath which he is obliged to take to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law, give us all the security that even the most cautious lawyer can desire to ensure the Protestant character of the Crown.
Now, if it be admitted that the making of this Declaration is wholly superfluous, and altogether unnecessary if our sole object is to maintain the Protestant character of the Crown, I would proceed to ask, Is it desirable to put into the mouth of the Sovereign, at the most solemn moment of his reign, a Declaration of a purely negative character, and couched in terms which a Buddhist or Mahomedan, or any infidel, could conscientiously subscribe to, when we know such Declaration cannot fail to wound the feelings and affront the sentiments of every Roman Catholic? For fear, my Lords, that my action in moving in the matter may be imputed to wrong motives, I wish to make it quite clear that I do not approach the consideration of this question from any theological standpoint. I am most reluctant to press my own beliefs upon the attention of the House, but I think it desirable to state that I do not believe there is any Member in your Lordships' House who in his beliefs is further removed than I am from the faiths which are dear to either Roman Catholics or to my noble relative, Lord Halifax; nor do I believe there is any Member of this House who is more seriously impressed than I am with the conviction that the principle of sacerdotalism is a highly dangerous principle, and if allowed to acquire a position of ascendency is likely to prove fatal to that free growth of individual freedom of conscience, thought, and action which I regard as the very foundation of our national prosperity.
I approach the consideration of this question from a very different standpoint than that of sympathy with 498 Roman Catholic doctrines. I approach it from a feeling of justice to the Catholics which causes me to resent placing them in a position inferior to that of the Buddhist and Mahomedan subjects of the King, and also from a conviction that the interests of the Empire require us to remove, and without delay, a grievance which, if unremoved, may at some future time be made the excuse of disloyalty to the Crown. I wish to impress upon the House that we cannot continue to ignore the appeals which have been made to Parliament to remove the grievance complained of by the Catholic subjects of the King, without running risk of alienating their affection, or, at any rate, of diminishing their loyalty to the Crown. Remember that the King has 12,000,000 Catholic subjects—that 43 per cent. of the population of Canada are Catholics, and one-third of the Australian contingents that fought for the Crown in South Africa also belong to the Roman Catholic Church. I proceed to read the Resolution that was passed by the Canadian House of Commons at Ottawa in 1901 on the Motion of the Prime Minister, Sir W. Laurier:—Your Majesty's most faithful subjects, the Commons of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave most humbly to represent that as a token of civil and religious liberties, and of the equality of rights guaranteed to all subjects in the Canadian Confederation, as well as under the British Constitution, a British Sovereign shall not be called upon to make any declaration offensive to the religions belief of any subject of the British Crown.In speaking to this Resolution, Sir Wilfrid said:—I may be asked why should this declaration be removed from the law? Simply because it is offensive; simply because it is painful to Roman Catholic subjects who honour their King and are loyal subjects, who are ready to fight, and, if need be, to die for his crown; it is painful to them that he, should take such an oath against doctrines which are dear and sacred to them. That is the reason, the only reason.He went on to point out that the pride and devotion which they all took in this great Empire, which was the first refuge of liberty, would be more enthusiastic if that legislation, the last remnant of persecuting ages, were to be blotted out for ever from the Statute-books of free England. In support of 499 this Resolution of the Canadian House of Commons a joint letter from the Archbishops and Bishops of British North America was addressed, on behalf of the Roman Catholics, to his late eminence, Cardinal Vaughan, thanking him for his protest against the declaration—which an iniquitous legislation still imposed on the Sovereign of England.In this letter they expressed the hope that the hour had come to efface from the Statutes of the Empire that evil reminder of former discord and hate, and that the beginning of the reign of Edward VII might besignalised by such a change in the wording of the Oath of Accession as would contribute powerfully to promote the unity of his people, and to increase in the hearts of Catholics the gratitude they have never failed to show for similar reforms. They further maintained that the Catholics, who had never been sparing of their loyalty to the Crown, had the right to claim in return that the Crown, in the person of the Sovereign, should respect their most sacred and cherished beliefs.
Sir Edmund Barton, the Federal Prime Minister of Australia, forwarded to His Majesty's Government a no less remarkable appeal from the Catholic Hierarchy of the Australian Commonwealth. In this appeal they recorded their solemn protest against the studied insult offered to the Catholic subjects of the Empire by the Declaration—which they regarded as in this twentieth century an outrage against common-sense, and an infringement of the religious equality to which they are entitled by the constitution of their Commonwealth, and which they cherished as their birthright. From this appeal, forwarded by the Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I read the following passage, which I am sure will not fall on unsympathetic ears—One-third of the Australian military contingents who are fighting for the honour and the interests of the Empire in South Africa are Catholics. With them religion and freedom and loyalty go hand in hand. It cannot be prudent or honourable or wise to repay their heroism and patriotism by wanton insult, and to brand their most sacred convictions with a stigma of infamy from which the beliefs of other subjects of the Empire, even of Buddhists and Hindus and Zulus, are exempt.500 The same note of religious equality to which expression is given in the protests against the Declaration from Canada and Australia is to be found in the protests-forwarded by the Roman Catholics of India against the Declaration made by the King before the British Imperial. Parliament on February 14th, 1901. A few days before that date the Catholic people of Mangalore, South Canara, forming about 25 per cent. of the population, assembled in solemn meeting and swore allegiance to their King, Emperor Edward VII., all the more joyfully because the—Proclamation of Queen Victoria in 1858 assured us all that we, her Indian subjects, should never he molested or disquieted by reason of our religious faith.They maintained that the Declaration was a violation of the promise contained in the Proclamation of 1858, the Charter of their liberties, and they expressed a hope that the opprobrium of a bygone illiberal age would be wiped out without delay, so that they might be enabled to join heart and soul in the rejoicings of the Coronation day.
Similar protests against the repetition, of the Declaration of any future occasion were sent from Bombay and other parts of India; and in Ceylon, on the occasion of the visit of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, so deeply did the Catholic population, which was stated to be 265,000, feel on the subject, that they submitted to H.R.H. an Address expressing a hope that before he is called upon to ascend the throne of England "this outrageous law" will have disappeared from the Statutes of the Empire; and in the course of their address they gave expression to the profound sorrow which they felt that—Owing to the retention on the Statute-book of a law passed in less happy times, at the moment when all races and creeds throughout the Empire are hastening forward to tender their homage and dutiful service to their Sovereign, Catholics alone are rebuffed with wounding words directed against two of the most cherished tenets of their holy religion.I could submit to the House quotations from similar addresses from Mauritius, Malta and other Catholic Communities, but think it unnecessary to do so. I hope the evidence I have already supplied will have convinced the House that the retention in the Statute-book of the Declaration is a serious thorn in the flesh of our Roman Catholic fellow subjects, 501 and that it is important in the interests of the Empire that it should quickly be removed. The Preamble to the Bill shows that the Declaration is wholly unnecessary to secure the Protestant character of the Crown. It is evident that the Protestant character of the Crown is amply and abundantly secured by other provisions of the law which no one has any desire to touch. I say the Declaration is ineffective even for the purpose for which it is designed, because there is nothing to prevent a man who has made the Declaration from being converted by a perfectly honest change of mind to the adoption of beliefs he had previously denounced. I further maintain that the Declaration is not only ineffective for the purpose for which it was designed, and if it were effective, wholly unnecessary, but that it is purely mischievous, inasmuch as it tends to alienate those whom we desire to draw closer. It may be said it is desirable that some sort of Declaration should be made by the King on his accession to show that he is a Protestant. I may remind the House that the Constitution of the Empire of Germany does not prescribe any form of oath to be taken by the Emperor on his accession, and that under the Constitution of the United States no religious test is required as a qualification for the office of President. But I confess if the House is in favour of the King being called upon to make on his accession a Declaration of the same character as the Oath sworn by him at his Coronation, I am prepared with my friends to accept an Amendment which shall require the Sovereign at the time and place at which he or she would have been required to make the Declaration to take the oath which is by law prescribed to be taken at the Coronation. I have endeavoured to place before the House certain considerations which appear to me to be conclusive, in favour of our Parliament responding to the appeals which have been made to it by the Catholics of the Empire. I know no consideration which can possibly be urged against the Second Reading of the Bill except that which suggests that the present time is inopportune for the stirring of this subject. That argument, of course, is always available when no better argument is forthcoming. The 502 chief objection to the Bill is the fear that silly and ignorant people may mistake the action of Parliament in passing this Bill as a weakening of the securities in favour of the Protestant character of the Grown. I would respectfully ask you, my Lords, whether the unreasoning fears of these people are for one moment to be allowed to outweigh the very solid grievance, which I have shown is naturally felt by 12,000,000 subjects, of the King.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a—(Earl Grey.)
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
My Lords, I think it highly probable that many of your Lordships, on observing that my noble friend was about to bring forward this Bill, felt that you would have been quite as well pleased if the matter had been left alone, on the principle of the old proverb, "Let sleeping dogs lie." But my noble friend might very well say, in answer to such an objection, that this question, if not dealt with now, is bound from time to time to reappear, and there are obvious advantages in discussing and dealing with it in the earlier stages of a reign rather than postponing it to an indefinite time. At any rate, the matter is before the House now and must be dealt with. There are three main views entertained in the country regarding this subject, and they are no doubt all represented in this House. There are, first, those who are in favour of a modification of the Declaration, though they may not be prepared, at least not yet, to advocate its abolition. Secondly, there are those—and they represent a considerable and important body of opinion—who strongly object to any change; and thirdly, there are those who like my noble friend wish to see the Declaration removed altogether. As we all know, an attempt has been made to revise the Declaration, but that attempt was not a success. It is extremely difficult to remodel and revise words of this kind. There are in the Book of Common Prayer certain formula regarded with less than love by a great many devout Churchmen. The occupants of the Episcopal Bench are only too well aware of the heart-searchings which have troubled 503 many Churchmen on that subject, but it appears to have been thought best to leave that matter untouched. With regard to this Declaration, I was a member of the Committee appointed to deal with it, but I cannot say that I look back to the proceedings of that Committee with any very great satisfaction. No doubt it was a record Committee from the point of view of rapidity of action. It is an open secret, I think, that the actual business of the Committee was conducted in an extraordinarily short space of time, the idea, I suppose, being that the least said was soonest mended. But it appears that another proverb would more appropriately apply, namely, "More hurry worse speed."
I speak with great respect of those who hold the opinion that there should be no interference with the Declaration, but I think their scruples are largely based on misapprehension—on the belief that this Declaration provides a guarantee for the Protestant succession. But, once admit the possibility of some reservation or subterfuge such as the Declaration is supposed to guard us against, and I do not see how it will be prevented by piling one phrase of disavowal upon another. The disavowal of any dispensation from the Pope for making the Declaration falsely is useless, for, if there, can be such a dispensation, what is to prevent a further dispensation for saying none has been received? I am afraid an idea has grown up that it does give security to the cause of Protestantism that this public Declaration against Roman Catholicism should be made by the Sovereign. I do not know what forms have to be followed in the Coronation, for instance, of the King of the Belgians; but suppose that the Sovereign of that country, in view of the fact that Catholicism is the recognised State religion there, was expected to utter some strongly condemnatory words regarding Protestantism; would not the Protestants not only of that country, but also of this, complain that that was a gratuitous Affront to their religion? I would draw attention to the fact that this Bill does not propose that there should be no Declaration at all; it only provides that this particular Declaration should be done away with. I listened with great interest to what my noble friend hinted 504 as to the possibility of an Amendment to the Bill being introduced which should provide for the substitution, either of the Oath taken by the King at the time of the Coronation, or of some other simple utterance by the Sovereign, as to his or her adherence to the Protestant faith. I would direct attention to the signatures attached to the document inviting your Lordships to support this Bill. Most of the signatories have held high positions as representatives of the Sovereign in outlying portions of the Empire. These noble Lords have had a peculiar opportunity of taking a wide survey of the various questions surrounding this particular topic, and I think the fact that they support this Bill is not without its significance. I strongly demur to the idea that the proposal in this Bill is a mere yielding to sentiment. It is much more than that. It is a proposal to remove friction and irritation. It is a proposal to remove an ineffective test, and one which may be held by a Sovereign professing a non-Christian religion. Therefore I hope His Majesty's Government, even if they cannot endorse the proposal of the Bill, will give a favourable consideration to it as a possible mode of dealing with the question, seeing that it does not shut the door to some future substitute for the present Declaration which we have endeavoured to amend without success.
*THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, your Lordships will naturally expect that something should be said as to the view taken by the occupants of the Episcopal Benches with regard to the constitutional change proposed in this Bill. After all that passed two years ago, there is, as my noble friend has shown, a widespread feeling, not only in this House and in the country but in the colonies, that this matter can hardly be allowed to remain indefinitely exactly where it stands now. However that may be, I should like to say a few words on the principle of the matter and on the specific proposal of my noble friend. Perhaps I may begin by re stating the bare principles upon which, I suppose, the whole of the House and those interested in the matter outside are practically agreed with reference to subjects of this kind. We are happily living at a time when, and in a country where, not only 505 the fullest liberty of individual opinion but the amplest liberty also for the outspoken expression of that opinion, is both tolerated and encouraged by all. But at the same time it may be said that most people are agreed that there are certain exceptions to that largely-stated principle both in the Church and in the State. Those who are accredited alike by Church and State to be religious teachers of a particular kind are expected to make some declaration respecting their belief at the outset of their public work, and either to adhere to that declaration or voluntarily, or if need be compulsorily, to retire or be retired from the office they hold on condition of having made such a specific declaration.
In addition to this, I suppose it is true that the nation has made up its mind, as the outcome of the historical events of 200 years ago, that a man or woman who holds the reins of sovereignty in this country should be subjected to a test as to the attitude which he or she takes in religious matters, should make a public and formal declaration to that effect, and should specially show that the sovereignty is not held by one who belongs to the communion of the Roman Catholic Church. No one, I imagine, disputes the fact that such is the nation's will or that every reasonable security ought to be provided for giving effect to that will. But after saying all this, I desire to affirm a further principle which no one would, I imagine, desire to dispute, that any declaration which is officially made should avoid giving needless pain or offence to those whose opinions are impugned and repudiated. So long as the oath or declaration is unambiguous in its terms and is effective for its purpose, every word ought to be avoided which could fairly cause a moment's pain to good men who entertain different opinions or who belong to the communion from which the Sovereign is debarred.
These principles are accepted, not only in the House but outside it; and the practical question is, does the Declaration which we heard the Sovereign make two-and-a-half years ago from that Throne violate those principles in any way? I unhesitatingly say that I think it does. I think that it gives in its present terms needless and avoidable pain to religious minds alike in this House, in the country, 506 and in the Empire at large. It does this by the epithets which it employs respecting a particular religious doctrine, a doctrine which those who hold it follow with a passionate devotion. Repudiating that doctrine, as I personally do with all my might, I yet feel that it is described in the Declaration in terms which are quite needlessly offensive—one can use no other word—to those who hold that doctrine with all their hearts. The terms are an anachronism to-day. They may have been necessary, they certainly were not unusual, in official documents at the time when they were first put into their present shape. But a great deal has happened as regards the use of language, at all events, during the last 200 years; and whatever may have been the fact with regard to such epithets at the end of the seventeenth century, they are both unsuitable and offensive to-day. So far I am glad to be able to agree fully with the noble Earl. But when, as a remedy for that difficulty or grievance, my noble friend proposes simply to abolish altogether the obligation of making such a declaration, then I find myself obliged to part company from him. My noble friend argued that the securities which would remain under the existing law, if this Declaration ceased to be required from the Sovereign, are amply sufficient to provide, against the contingency which that Declaration is meant to secure us from. My noble friend relies mainly on the Coronation oath, but be relies also on the specific terms of the Bill of Rights and of the Act of Settlement.
With regard to the Coronation oath, the general purport of the words appears at first sight to be so obvious and indisputable that the result we desire seems to be attained without any question or doubt at all. We are not dealing with the general purport of the phrases used, however, but with something much more technical and requiring much more careful sifting and thought, unless the lessons which history has taught are to be altogether disregarded. We are dealing with words which in the past history of England have been shown to be liable to have an extraordinary strain placed upon them, and which have proved practically insufficient to bear the 507 strain. James II. took a Coronation oath which was not exactly in the terms in which the oath was taken by our gracious Sovereign. With the omission of certain words which, I think, do not affect the question, the terms in which that oath was administered were these:—Sir, will you grant and keep and by your oath confirm to the people of England … the true profession of the Gospel established in this kingdom, and agreeing to the prerogative of the Kings thereof and the ancient customs of the realm?Immense questionings immediately arose as to what was the effect of the King's having taken that oath. With a view of seeing how the matter was regarded by those who ought to look at it most fairly, at all events without any Protestant bias, I turned this afternoon to the account of the Roman Catholic historian Lingard, who says:—Many looked with suspicion on the facility with which he had sworn without any qualification to keep and preserve the rights of the Church, and his enemies afterwards charged him with deliberate perjury, as if he had taken the oath with a fixed resolution of violating it afterwards.… More probably he had persuaded himself that no event would subsequently happen to bring the rights claimed by the Church into direct collision with those rights which he claimed for himself as rights indefeasibly inherent in the Crown.I mention that to show that those perfectly capable of forming an opinion may arrive at very different conclusions as to the exact meaning of the subscription of an oath on the character of which the noble Earl so strongly relies. King James, at his first Privy Council, said—I shall make it my endeavour to preserve this Government, both in Church and State, as it is now by law established.That speech gave the in tensest satisfaction, and the Bishops presented an address in which they said that that admirable declaration ought to be written down in letters of gold. I refer to this simply to show how what is felt at the time may be falsified after a little interval. We are not speaking, of course, of a personal or contemporary question. We are looking far ahead; and I venture to believe that the fact that anxieties on such a subject are impossible at this moment—are so alien from our minds as to make the whole thing appear to be 508 inappropriate—is not without its peril in considering what may be the result of such a Bill as this, which would abolish the declaration, and leave it practically unimposable hereafter in circumstances which a hundred years hence may be very different from those which happily prevail to-day.
But, apart from that, does the Coronation Oath, even when we interpret it with the utmost strictness, necessarily bind the Sovereign to more than this, that he will protect and shield, and do his best to maintain the religion which is at the time established in the land? I can conceive those words subjected even now to a strain such as I have referred to. There might be in different parts of the Empire oaths or promises taken for maintaining what might not inconceivably be established forms of faith quite other than Christian; the Sovereign of the Empire might declare his readiness to maintain the Buddhist, the Hindoo, or the Mahomedan faith, which was held by his subjects in some part of the Empire. I do not say that that is a natural interpretation, but we have to consider what the words are capable of being strained to mean in exigencies of a very peculiar kind. Then I imagine that there is no legal obligation on the Sovereign to hold the Coronation at any very early date in his reign. I do not press that point; but I think it is worthy of note that if we relied on the Coronation oath by itself it would be necessary to take care that the oath was taken at the time of the accession to the Throne, or at the first opening of Parliament. The noble Earl relies also on the Act of Settlement and the corresponding Acts. That Act provides that any one who inherits the Crown and—Shall be reconciled to, or shall hold communion with, the See or Church of Rome, or shall profess the Popish religion, or shall marry a Papist shall be subject to such incapacities as in such case or casesare provided by the recited Act. That Act is most valuable as showing indisputably what was, and I believe what is, the mind of the English people; but I venture to think that in addition to that security from without we need some security from within that is binding in faro conscientiœ on the Sovereign.
509 I hope the noble Earl will pardon me for saying that I think he was almost trifling when he argued that we had no right to impose a disability with regard to one form of religion and not to feel ourselves bound to impose it equally with regard to other forms. I think he mentioned Mahomedanism and Buddhism. But history cannot be disregarded in matters of this kind. It is simply impossible to look back along the last few centuries of English life and regard the parallel as a true one between the dangers which might conceivably arise in the future, as they have in the past, with regard to one particular form of faith, and the difficulties which might conceivably arise with regard to those creeds which have nothing to do with Christianity at all. It should be noted that the objection of my noble friend cuts against the whole Act of Settlement. My noble friend will have to go a great deal further than this Bill if he desires to remove altogether any difference of profession or security with regard to two forms of peril which might some day conceivably beset the English nation. I do not wish to say one word which could legitimately give pain to anyone; but is it possible for any man who reads the story of the Church and the nation towards the close of the 17th century, especially in the light of the documents which have recently been made public to a larger extent than they were in days gone by, without feeling that the peril then guarded against was a real one? And it is not, in the abstract, inconceivable that it might occur again. In my judgment, at least, we do require some kind of declaration, or promise, or undertaking to be given by the Sovereign personally as regards the position he holds in relation to great articles of the Christian Faith.
But if it be true, as I think it is, that some such Declaration is necessary, it surely does not follow that it need be couched in insulting words; and I do not think that it need, strictly speaking, denounce anything at all. It seems to me perfectly possible, at least it is not beyond the wit of man, to devise a Declaration which should be mainly positive rather than negative in character and form. Indeed, one of 510 your Lordships, being himself a member of the Roman Catholic Church (Lord Llandaff), did draw up a Declaration of a positive kind which was intended to meet that particular difficulty. But, be that as it may, I do not believe it is impossible to draw up a Declaration which should avoid not only anything offensive, but anything denunciatory, and which should be of such a positive kind as I have suggested. I believe such words can be found; but it will not be easy. It cannot be accomplished in a few minutes, or even in a few hours; and I think it would require the co-operation of even a larger body of those who have thought carefully over such subjects than the Committee which took it in hand two years ago. I venture to believe that the members of the Roman Catholic Church in this House would themselves be most helpful, perhaps among the most capable, coadjutors to draw up a declaration of that kind I look forward not unhopefully to such a result, provided it is taken in hand with the care it deserves, with an enlargement of the number of those who have to consider it as compared with what happened on a previous occasion, and with adequate time given to its consideration. I believe I am speaking in the name of every Bishop on these Benches when I say that it would be our earnest desire, if invited to do so, to co-operate to the utmost of our power in producing such a result and in removing from the phraseology of the Declaration anything which could possibly give pain to those from whom we are differing very strongly and decidedly, but as to whom nothing is further from our thoughts than a desire to give pain or offence in any way. But there it one thing quite certain, such a task can be properly taken in hand only by the Government of the day. Be that Government what it may, it is to the Government of the day that we are bound to look for a constitutional change of this kind. It is essentially a constitutional change, and one which might be of the highest gravity. I regret that it is impossible for me to give my vote in favour of the Bill; but I trust that the matter will not be allowed to rest and that, under the auspices of the Government, we may have the task of amending the form of Declaration taken in 511 hand with determination and vigour. For such an endeavour I can ensure co-operation on the part of the Bishops not only as a matter of duty but with a glad heart and a ready mind.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships deeply regret the absence of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, and greatly sympathise with the cause of it. It is doubly unfortunate that my noble friends Lord Tweedmouth and Lord Crewe who, with Lord Spencer, served upon the Committee which was appointed in 1891, are also unavoidably absent, and it is with extreme diffidence that I ask your Lordships to allow me to address a few words to you on this important subject. I wish to ask the noble Duke the Leader of the House whether the Government are prepared to take up this question and legislate upon it, or are they prepared to leave it in the state of chaos in which it now is. As your Lordships will remember, a Committee was appointed in 1891 to deal with this subject. That Committee was composed of very distinguished personages, and I am given to understand that before they set about their task it was their opinion that all they had to do was to eliminate from the Declaration the particular words which gave pain to our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen. When, however, the Report of the Committee was presented to your Lordships, it became evident that what was considered to be necessary by Roman Catholic Peers and others was that all reference to the repudiation of any dogma whatever should be taken from the Declaration. There were many discussions in your Lordships' House on this question, and notwithstanding the opposition offered to the Bill the Government insisted upon its being passed by this House. It was passed and sent to the other House, and from that time to this we have heard nothing more about the question. What I want to ask the noble Duke is whether that is a position which the Government accepts, or whether they have any intention of dealing with this obviously important subject themselves. I endorse what the most rev. Primate said in the concluding words of his admirable speech, that this is a 512 question which ought not to be dealt with by a private Member, however distinguished and capable he may be. It ought to be dealt with by the Government, and by the Government alone, and it is not a matter that ought to be allowed to wait. It is surely not right that the burden of taking such an odious declaration should be imposed on future monarchs. If the Government are not prepared to deal with this subject, if they are not prepared to frame a declaration such as that which the most rev. Primate referred to, it seems to me less disadvantageous to abolish the declaration altogether. If the Government are not prepared to say that they will deal with this subject, I, for my part, although I feel the greatest reluctance in voting for a Bill which is not authorised by the responsible Minister, shall feel very much inclined, as a protest against the inaction of the Government, to follow my noble friend into the lobby in support of the Second Reading of his Bill.
§ *VISCOUNI LLANDAFF
My Lords, I intrude with great reluctance in the debate on this subject, in which I naturally feel a strong personal interest. May I at the outset express our thanks to the noble Earl who has brought in this Bill. He has not only earned the gratitude of all the Roman Catholics in the Empire, but he has continued those illustrious traditions which are inseparably connected with the name he bears. I listened with the greatest attention and interest to what fell from the most rev. Primate. The prominent point, as it seemed to me, in his argument was that some security from within, as contrasted with securities from without, was necessary in order to secure the Protestant succession. It is not enough that adherence to the Roman Catholic religion, that communion with the Church of Rome, or that even marriage with a Papist, renders the Crown forfeitable, that is not security enough in the judgment of the most rev. Primate.
*THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I should be very sorry to be supposed to have said that such enactments, if they could be enforced 513 with certainty, would be insufficient. What I endeavoured to point out was the difficulty of ascertaining, otherwise than by a declaration from within, whether or not the person in question is in fact "holding communion with" the Church of Rome.
§ *VISCOUNT LLANDAFF
I confess I should have thought that when an Act of Parliament says that communion with the Church of Rome, or reconcilement to the Church of Rome, involves forfeiture of the Crown, and when that same Act goes on to say the Sovereign shall be in communion with the Church of England, I should have thought that that did not admit of any doubt. The added security of this Declaration avails only for the instant of the Sovereign's accession; from his accession to his death you have to depend upon the security of the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights. The opinions expressed by the Sovereign at the moment of his accession may change in the next year, but you have no security except the ample security of the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. I contend that, apart from the declaration, ample provision is made for the security of the Protestant succession by the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. The sting of the declaration is not in the epithets, but in its blind, passionate intolerance. As long as you keep the condemnation of doctrines standing, the epithets are signified and implied, although they are not spoken. At this solemn moment, when all races and creeds are drawing round the throne, anxious to express their loyalty, Roman Catholics alone are rebuffed by words which outrage their most sacred convictions. It is a grievance that any doctrine lawfully held by us should be singled out for special condemnation by the Sovereign. The most rev. Primate entered at some length upon the history of this Declaration, but he omitted to remind your Lordships that it was not invented for the purpose of securing the Protestant succession. The authors of this Declaration framed it in order to exclude Catholics from the Houses of Parliament, and it had that effect for 150 years. The framers of the Bill of Rights, who felt that James II. might possibly return to 514 this country, or attempt to return, had this declaration inserted in the Bill of Rights as a special precaution. The danger against which the Bill of Rights was aimed has gone and is completely at an end. I should like to quote to your Lordships the legislation that has been introduced into India. In the Indian Penal Code I find this enactment—Whoever, with deliberate intention of wounding the religious feeling of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend for one year, or fine, or both.Therefore the language of the Declaration, if used in India to worshippers of Juggernaut, would make the user guilty of a criminal offence. I am unable to reconcile the tenderness of the Indian Penal Code with the roughness shown to the oldest and most widely spread religious community in the world by this declaration. Parliament has relieved every subject of such a painful necessity and leaves the Sovereign alone subject to it, and obliges him—I am sure against his will—to utter a theological denunciation at the most solemn moment of his reign. The noble Lord opposite has asked His Majesty's Government whether they will give a pledge to deal with this subject. I do not expect they will; but I make an earnest appeal to the noble Duke not to make the opposition to this Bill a Government or a Party matter, but to leave his followers to vote as they think right on the subject. It is in no sense a Party question. The noble Duke not long ago delivered a most able and powerful argument in favour of open questions. I think this question, as well as that of Catholic Emancipation, should be treated as an open question, and I trust that it will not be voted upon as a Party matter in the way it was two years ago. I by no means wish to exclude the possibility of framing some form of declaration that may satisfy Protestant feeling and seem to give sufficient security for the Protestant character of the Sovereign, but I am bound to say that the fate of the Bill of two years ago does not give me great confidence that such a result can be arrived at.
My Lords, I have listened with especial pleasure, to the noble and learned Lord, who has every right to claim our attention because he is largely responsible for the present state of this question. I daresay it will be in your Lordships' recollection that the question which was discussed with so much interest and animation on several occasions two years ago was entirely different from that which is being discussed to-day. At that time it came as a surprise to His Majesty's subjects that part of the ceremonial of His Majesty's succession consisted in a declaration containing the language which has been characterised by the most rev. Primate. I am certain that men of all creeds were shocked at this relic of former times, and every one was most anxious that means should be devised whereby the terms in that Declaration, which were regarded as offensive, might be got rid of. I think I am in your Lordships' recollection when I say that the question was merely as to the terms of the Declaration, and not as to the existence of the Declaration itself. The feeling which operated so strongly on the sympathy of His Majesty's subjects was that Roman Catholics, whose illustrious services in the present and preceding reign are fresh in our memory, should be forced to listen to doctrines most sacred to them being described in terms so strong and so excessive. I am quite sure that in every part of the House there was an honest determination to eliminate those terms which gave offence. But what happened? An amended Declaration was proposed. I was never a great admirer of the new Declaration—and objections to it arose. Then my noble and learned friend, on 5th August, 1901, declared that he preferred the retention of the offensive language and its rugged barbarity in the hope that wiser councils would prevail, rather than consent to a milder and less offensive form of Declaration, which was still objectionable and which it would be difficult to get rid of. The noble and learned Lord considered he had a vested interest in it as affording him a lever to get rid of the whole Declaration. Therefore my noble and learned friend is the author of the predicament in which 516 the House finds itself. Lord Aberdeen seemed to throw out the idea that we had better get rid of this Declaration, then patch up something which would be agreeable to all parties. I venture to hope the House will not proceed in that preposterous fashion. It is asked, "Why do you single out Roman Catholicism and omit Buddhism and Mahomedanism from the Declaration?" Because there never has been an attempt by a Mahomedan King of England to impose the Mahomedan religion upon the people of England, and because no Buddhist King, stimulated by Buddhist priests, has played false with the constitution of this country; and until historical illustrations of that kind can be given the talk about Buddhists and Mahomedans is very much out of the question. I am certain that there are great masses of the people of this country who are strongly of opinion that the Sovereign should on his accession, in the full blaze of publicity, repudiate the doctrines of the Church of Rome. It seems to me, therefore, that unless and until an effort is made to modify the terms of the Oath this question should be left alone. I decline to fall into the trap of parting with this Declaration in the hope or on the chance of getting something else. The course to adopt is to modify the Declaration.
THE DUKE OF NORFOLK
My Lords, I am quite sure that I am only expressing what every Roman Catholic feels when I say that it is most painful to us that the most sacred tenets of our religion should be singled out on his accession for repudiation by our beloved and revered Sovereign, to whom we are most devoted and loyal. Two years ago it was felt that this Declaration ought to be altered, and a Committee was appointed to bring up a new form of words. It was decided, rightly or wrongly, that no Roman Catholic Peer should be a member of that Committee. The Roman Catholic Peers desired to lay their views before that Committee, but, much to their surprise, they were given no opportunity whatever of doing so and no means were adopted to ascertain what it was we objected to. We did not move in the matter last year, because we felt that the year of the Coronation was not a very seemly occasion to bring up a question which 517 might raise angry disputes. But we have never shrunk from declaring that we regard the terms of the Declaration as a great grievance; and we feel that the honest and straightforward course would be to remove it altogether. I have heard no arguments to show that the Coronation Oath does not fully cover the ground. The Roman Catholics of this country fully accept the principle—though we cannot be held to agree with it—that the Sovereign should be a Protestant. We recognised the fact that the nation is Protestant. But we feel deeply that it is only the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church that are outraged in the most cruel way, and that that outrage is all the more wanton on account of the public manner in which it is done.
§ LORD STANMORE
My Lords, there Is a historical point which I think it is most important that your Lordships should have well in your minds before dividing on this question. It has been alluded to by Lord Llandaff, and it is in the mind of everyone that this was not originally intended as an oath to ensure Protestant succession. It was an oath directed in the first instance to preventing Roman Catholics holding office or occupying seats in this House, and it was to prevent executive power being exercised in favourof the Roman Catholic religion. It was extended to the King for the reason that the King at that time had in his hands the whole exercise of executive power. There was no place under the Crown to which the King could not then, by his own personal will, appoint. He could give every commission in the Army; he could appoint justices of the peace, then much more important than now; and he could not only use that power, but he could abuse it. James II. did so abuse it; he used his executive power as King to help the interests of the Roman Catholic Church. He gave away commissions to Roman Catholics; he appointed Roman Catholic justices; he even went so far as to introduce Roman Catholics on to the Bench of Bishops; and the nation rightly saw that that executive power which it had already prevented from being exercised by Roman Catholics in humbler walks should not be exercised by the King. But now the executive power is no longer in the hands of the King, but is exercised 518 for him by his Ministers, who are responsible to Parliament. If we are to hold to the antiquated idea that these declarations and oaths are to be the means by which we are to ensure ourselves against the abuse of executive power, it is not the King, but the advisers of the King—it is those Members of the Privy Council who give him advice and who practically have all appointments in their hands—who ought to make the declaration. In its language the Declaration is an anachronism and an absurdity. The time for these Declarations has passed. The change of the national point of view is illustrated by the fact that a Roman Catholic Home Secretary, now a Member of your Lordships' House, was some years ago appointed without a word of popular protest, and he discharged his duties to the satisfaction of the country. It is quite clear that this unhappy Declaration cannot last much longer and must disappear in its present form.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (the Duke of DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, the noble Duke behind me made some complaint of the procedure of the Committee appointed two years ago. I was not a member of that Committee, and I do not think I was particularly concerned in the arrangements for its appointment; but I am under a strong impression, which I should be surprised to find is not correct, that an invitation was addressed to the Roman Catholic Members of this House to take part in the Committee, and that it was entirely owing to their unwillingness to serve that no Roman Catholic member was appointed. It strikes me that any reason the noble Duke may have for complaining of the manner in which the proceedings of that Committee were conducted, and any absence of communication he might have to complain of, would have been removed if the noble Duke had consented to assist the deliberations of that Committee.
THE DUKE OF NORFOLK
It was notified to us from the highest quarter, not connected with ourselves, that probably it would be better on the whole if we were not on the Committee. I was not objecting to our not being on the 519 Committee. What I objected to was that there was no sort of communication with us, and that we were not even asked what we expected the Committee could do.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I think my statement is confirmed that it was perfectly open to the noble Duke, or to any other Roman Catholic Peer, to have sat upon the Committee; and I still adhere to my opinion that the best means of establishing any communication between the Committee and the Roman Catholic Members would have been for one or more of them to have been on the Committee. Before I attempt to reply to the Questions addressed to me, I cannot avoid making one or two observations as to the procedure which has been adopted in asking your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill. It was introduced either in last week or in the previous week. As your Lordships know, the introduction of a Bill is a purely formal proceeding, and, as a matter of fact, the Bill itself was not in your Lordships' hands till last Tuesday, and on Thursday we are asked to give it a Second Reading.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
As a matter of fact the Bill was in your Lordships' hands on Tuesday, and on Thursday we were asked to give it a Second Reading. Not only so. I know that my noble friend was asked to defer the Second Beading, because it was absolutely impossible that the Lord Chancellor, who it might have been supposed ought to be present when such a Bill was to be considered, could be in his place to-day. Even this was refused by the noble Earl opposite in his haste to amend the Constitution and to remove—not to amend—the constitutional security to which the great part of the people of this country are supremely and deeply attached. The noble Earl must know that this is a question which touches the sincere and honest convictions—they may be mistaken, but they are sincere and honestly held convictions—of a very large 520 number of the subjects of His Majesty, than whom none could be more loyal, none more attached to the Constitution. It touches the convictions of a large number of men who would feel the greatest apprehension at what they would consider any weakening, much more the removal, of a Declaration which, in their opinion, is a most valuable security for the maintenance of the Protestant succession to the Throne of this country; and, notwithstanding that knowledge, which the noble Earl must possess, he asks your Lordships to pass this Bill, almost without notice, and at a time when not one in 1,000, not one I should think in 100,000 of the people of this country know that such a proposal has even been made.
My Lords, I think we have had a most interesting and most able discussion; but if we have, it has not been owing to any consideration on the part of the noble Earl which would enable Members of this House to take part in the discussion of so important a question; and I cannot help expressing my conviction that the course which has been adopted is one which certainly is not in the highest degree respectful either to the Members of this House, or to the country at large. Reference has already been made to the recent, history of this question, and your Lordships will not fail to remember that His Majesty's Government have, in regard to this Declaration, a policy of their own which was laid before this House, and fully explained. That policy was, while retaining the Declaration in its substance and in its essential features, to eliminate from it all the words and expressions which were held, and I think justly held, to be of an offensive character or of a nature calculated to wound the feelings of a great many loyal subjects of His Majesty. A Committee was, in the first instance, appointed, and they examined this Declaration. They recommended another form of Declaration, and the proposal of the Committee, embodied in the form of a Bill, was laid before your Lordships' House. Owing to, and in consequence of, the attitude which was assumed by the Roman Catholic Members of the House, an attitude which I am bound to say they do not appear to have departed from in any degree, it was found useless to proceed any further with that measure. That was the policy of His Majesty's 521 Government two years ago, and that is the policy of His Majesty's Government now.
If there were any reason to suppose that the attitude of the Roman Catholic community, as represented by noble Lords who sit in this House, towards the proposed alteration of this Declaration, was in any degree modified, His Majesty's Government would be perfectly ready on a fitting opportunity to renew the proposals which they made two years ago—I do not know that they would be necessarily in exactly the same form. Your Lordships must also remember that while it was the policy of the Government to introduce what they considered necessary and desirable Amendments into the Declaration, it was equally their policy that a Declaration substantially to the same effect should remain a part of the law of the country. I see very little advantage, and I see a great many objections, to entering into the reasons which, in our judgment, as well as in the judgment of many noble Lords who sit opposite, make the retention of such a Declaration necessary. They have been stated with clearness and, at the same time, with admirable calmness and moderation in the debate this evening. Your Lordships cannot imagine that if this question were raised as one of practical consideration in the other House of Parliament and for discussion throughout the country, the same tone of moderation would prevail. His Majesty's Government are of opinion that to raise this question at a time when there is no probability of its leading to a settlement would be likely to revive religious controversy and to provoke controversial discussions far more likely to retard than to facilitate any possible settlement of the question. I think I have stated accurately what was the policy of His Majesty's Government two years ago; but, lest there should be any misapprehension whatever on the subject. I do not think I could do better than to read two very short extracts from the speeches of the late Prime Minister on this subject, which defined then, and still accurately define, the position of His Majesty's Government. On the Second Reading of the Bill which was before your Lordships' House two years ago Lord Salisbury said—The object of the Committee was that these offensive expressions should be withdrawn, and 522 that so much change as was necessary for the purpose should be made in the now Statutory Declaration. We never promised to go further than that. We do not desire to enter into the question, though we do not conceal our own opinion that a Declaration is necessary, or at all events highly expedient, for the maintenance of the Protestant succession. But that is not the point which we submit for the consideration of Parliament.Again on the Third Reading, when the attitude of the Roman Catholic Peers had been fully declared, Lord Salisbury said—We now know that they do not wish these offensive words to be withdrawn unless at the same time there is withdrawn that Declaration for the security of the Protestant succession, which we never for a single moment indicated that we had any intention of dispensing with.… We know sufficient of the opinion of those whose voices are powerful in this matter to know that outside the Bill which we are now passing there is no alternative of change, and that what you are doing by rejecting the Bill is to lay down that the old Declaration shall remain in the same words such as it has been for more than two centuries past. I am sorry that it should be so, but do not let it be said that it is our doing that that Declaration is maintained. If the Roman Catholics had willed it, if they had been consenting parties, if they had not been active opponents, I think there was a very fair chance of removing what I admit to be a stain upon the Statute-book.Now, my Lords, those were the opinions of His Majesty's Government two years ago, and I do not think that in any degree or in any detail we have seen any reason to modify those opinions. They were not only the opinions of the Government; they were substantially also the opinions which were held by other Members of this House occupying very responsible positions. In the course of those debates the noble Earl (Lord Rosebery) said—But that does not prove that the test should not be applied and that the Declaration should not be made. On the contrary, I hold that the Declaration is one of great importance as being made at a solemn moment, at the moment of accession and again renewed in another form at the moment of Coronation, and that therefore you cannot dispense with it. You cannot dispense with it for this reason. It is regarded by the great mass of the nation as a guarantee. You cannot get over that fact. You are not dealing entirely with exalted minds who see but little to bind in Declarations of this kind, but you are dealing with the great mass of the nation, deeply imbued with Protestantism, deeply suspicious of any departure from Protestantism, and determined, so far as it can, that in no essential particular, shall this Declaration be relaxed.523 And I think that the last words that were uttered in the debate two years ago were by Lord Spencer, who said—I am convinced that the feeling in this country is so profound and so strong on the subject of the Protestant succession, and there are such exaggerated views of what the old Declaration means, that it would be perfectly futile even for His Majesty's Government, with all their strength, to have proposed a material alteration in that Declaration.Now my Lords, I maintain that in the face of these declarations, not only on the part of His Majesty's Government but also on the part of responsible Statesmen on all sides of the House, it would be nothing less than trifling with the House to ask it, without substituting anything in the place of this Declaration, to sweep away a security to which such a degree of importance has been attributed by every responsible Member of the House who has spoken on the subject, and which, as I have said, is deeply valued by the great majority of the people of this nation.
My Lords, we are asked to do away with this Declaration solely, as far as I can see, on the ground that it would be a graceful and conciliatory act to our Roman Catholic fellow subjects. That is, I think, practically the only plea which has been put forward for sweeping away this Declaration. I cannot think it would be an act of conciliation to our Roman Catholic fellow subjects to provoke a controversy which every man in this House must know would be an acute and bitter controversy, throughout the length and breadth of this land, turning partly on historical, partly on constitutional, and to a large extent on theological questions. I cannot think that it is conciliation of our Roman Catholic fellow subjects to provoke such a discussion and controversy. I do not know that I need say more except to point out, merely as an illustration of the care, or the want of care, with which the noble Earl has introduced this great and important question to the consideration of your Lordships, that under this Bill, as it stands, it would be perfectly possible for a Roman Catholic to hold the Crown for one or two or several years before his Coronation without being called upon to make any declaration whatever.
524 The noble Earl relies on two securities; in the first place on the Coronation Oath, but, as has been pointed out, there is no necessity that that oath should be taken within a very considerable period after the accession of the Sovereign. He relies also on the provisions of the Bill of Rights, which provides that anyone professing, or being reconciled to, the Church of Rome shall ipso facto cease to be Sovereign of these Realms. But the noble Earl does not explain how, in the absence of any declaration, it is to be ascertained whether the Sovereign holds Roman Catholic tenets or not. The noble Earl has no doubt expressed his willingness to assent to certain Amendments which he thinks might be accepted by those who support this Bill. But I submit that it is for those who propose such a constitutional change, which would so deeply irritate the feelings of a vast number of the people of this country, to prepare a complete measure for the acceptance of Parliament, and not to ask us to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which sweeps away a Declaration on which many of us put the highest value without knowing in the least what it is proposed to put in its place. An appeal was made to me by the noble Viscount behind me that no pressure should be put by the Government upon its supporters in this matter. That is a suggestion to which, I regret to say, I am altogether unable to give my assent. I do not think the Government would be discharging the responsibility which rests upon them if they were to refrain from any means in their power to prevent a question of this kind being presented for the consideration of the country in a manner which we believe would certainly not tend to its ultimate settlement, but which would raise controversies, especially in the present state of public opinion on these matters, which would lead to no consequences, excepting evil consequences, and to the greatest mischief in the country.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I do not propose to intervene for more than a few minutes between your Lordships and the division, the more especially as I think I do not differ from anything which has fallen from the noble Duke 525 in the course of his weighty and eloquent speech. Perhaps his hand fell rather heavily on my noble friend behind me for the want of notice he had given to your Lordships for the purpose of preparation for this debate. All I can say on that matter, not knowing the facts, is that I do not think the debate has justified the rebuke of the noble Duke, because since I have been in this House I have never heard a debate which more amply sustained its traditions, in the tone and eloquence with which this subject has been treated. The noble Duke has almost spared me the trouble of making any remarks on this occasion, because he read so lengthy an excerpt from a former speech of my own, that I felt I was almost discharged from further function in the matter.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
It is very good of the noble Duke to say so I am glad he took so much pleasure in reading it. I take a very deep and serious interest in this matter; and, though I consider that this debate has reached a very high line of argument and tone, I cannot but feel that we are sensibly further back from a solution of this question than we were two years ago. And I am sorry to say that I lay that chiefly at the door of the noble Viscount, Lord Llandaff, whom we always hear with so much pleasure, and whom we hear much too seldom in this House. He said to-night that he did not mind the offensiveness and the language of this Declaration, what he really cared about was the Declaration itself. If that be the attitude of the Roman Catholic Peers in this House, all I can say is that they render any settlement of this question impossible. The object of this House has been already defined, I think, by the speeches quoted of the late Prime Minister, in which he stated that it was impossible, for reasons which he gave and for others which will occur to your Lordships, to do away with this Declaration; we desire only to remove from the Declaration all that is unnecessary and offensive to our fellow-Christians who belong to another com 526 munion. But if the noble Viscount claims to go beyond that, if he claims to remove all declaration as being superfluous, unnecessary, and offensive, I am sorry to say that I think we shall proceed no further in this matter.
§ *VISCOUNT LLANDAFF
All that I have contended for is that the Declaration should not contain specific condemnation of specific doctrines. Let it assert the Protestant faith of the Sovereign as clearly and emphatically as the noble Earl may wish, but let it not go out of its way to condemn the faith of other people.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I confess I was misled by what the noble Viscount said about language. But how is the Protestant faith—which, as its name denotes, is a protest against certain portions of the doctrines of the Roman Church—how is that to be satisfactorily defined, and defined in a sense to which the great mass of the people of this country are stoutly attached, without some such repudiation as that which the noble Viscount disclaims? That is the part of his speech which, I confess, disheartens me; for I believe, and I say it with regret, if it causes pain to him and those who agree with him, that no declaration can be made in the Protestant sense which does not contain some of that language of repudiation which he dislikes. I said that I agreed with all that fell from the noble Duke, but in one historical point, I confess, I was at variance with him. I think he gave too roseate an account of the transactions of the Government with regard to this matter two years ago. He said the Committee appointed by the Government had examined the Declaration and had made certain emendations in it. My information is that they did not examine the Declaration. I believe there is one witness behind me. I hardly like to touch on the point in the absence of the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack, with whom this matter was a very sensitive one, but I am inclined to think that there was no examination of the Declaration. The Committee's proceedings were somewhat summary, more summary than those of the noble Earl behind me, for dealing with this great question.
527 But let me say in a serious spirit that if you are to settle this question you must not embark on it again without some prospect of a settlement. I am very sorry that, whether for the reasons given by the noble Duke the Earl Marshal, or for others, the Roman Catholic Peers did not see fit to join in the deliberations of that Committee. I am still more sorry that, for reasons which have not been explained, the Committee did not invite from the Roman Catholic Peers some expressions of their opinions as to what might be done with regard to salving their feelings in this matter. Still more am I sorry that no Member of the right rev. Bench was invited to form part of that Committee, whose deliberations did seem to me to invite their co-operation in a most eminent degree. For your Lordships' Committee, in dealing with this subject, to sit for an hour, without the co-operation of the Roman Catholic peers, and without the co-operation of our own Bishops, is, it seems to me, to embark on an enterprise which is doomed to failure; for even with the best prognostics, even with every agreement which you can reach between these two great bodies, you still always have the House of Commons and the country to face in dealing with this matter. Therefore I hope that if the Government, and I think it is only the Government that can deal with such a matter as this, once more takes this matter in hand it will not be without careful consultation with and complete co-operation of both the Bishops and the Roman Catholic Peers.
§ LORD BRAYE
The present Declaration is no guarantee, even from a Protestant point of view, for a Protestant succession, because, although the Sovereign might embrace the Catholic religion immediately after the Coronation, he would never be called on to make a fresh Declaration.
§ of a want of respect in the way in which I have brought this Bill before the attention of the House. I have already explained my position with reference to the notice which I gave to the House of this Bill. It is no new Bill. It was discussed fully two years ago.
§ EARL GREY
The question is not a new one, and therefore I think that I am entitled to be exempted from the censure of the noble Duke in having brought forward the Bill after a week's notice. I also wish to clear myself from the imputation that I have been lacking in respect to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. I was anxious to meet the wishes of the Lord Chancellor, but I had already pledged myself to the Duke of Norfolk to bring forward the Bill this afternoon. The noble Duke had telegraphed to his friends telling them that the Bill would be taken to-day, and therefore I felt myself unable, much to my regret, to meet the request of the Lord Chancellor. I greatly regret that the noble Duke the Leader of the House has not seen his way to accede to the suggestion made by the most reverend the Primate, that this question cannot be left where it is. I had hoped that an assurance would be given that a new Committee would be appointed to inquire fully into the suggestion made by the most reverend Primate, who himself seemed to be of opinion that it would be quite possible to draw up a declaration which would satisfy the Protestant sentiment of the country without selecting doctrines of the Roman Catholic faith for special repudiation by the Sovereign on his accession. The fact that such a suggestion was made from such a quarter is ample and complete justification of my action in having brought forward this Bill.
§ On Question, their Lordships divided, Contents, 62, Not-Contents, 109.529
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Abingdon, E.||Gainsborough, E.|
|Argyle, D.||Ashburnham, E.||Grey, E. [Teller.]|
|Newcastle, D.||Camperdown, E.||Jersey, E.|
|Rutland, D.||Carlisle, E.||Lucan, E.|
|Ripon, M.||Feversham, E.||Lytton, E.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Berwick, L.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Mayo, E.||Brassey, L.||Killanin, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Braye, L.||Kilmaine, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Castletown, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Lyveden, L.|
|Tankerville, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||De Freyne, L.||Mowbray, L.|
|Dormer, L.||Muncaster, L.|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Fingall, L. (E Fingall.)||North, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||O'Brien, L.|
|Hampden, V. [Teller.]||Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)||Petre, L.|
|Llandaff, V.||Stanmore, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Grey de Ruthyn, L.|
|Acton, L.||Heneage, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Arundell of Wardour, L.||Herries, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Battersea, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Wentworth, L.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Bangor, V.||Foley, L.|
|York, L. Abp.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Forester, L.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Hardinge, V.||Glanusk, L.|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Grenfell, L.|
|Grafton, D.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Manchester, D.||Portman, V.||Harris, L.|
|Portland, D.||Powerscourt, V.||Hatherton, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Hereford, L. Bp.||Kenyon, L.|
|London, L. Bp.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Manchester, L. Bp.||Lawrence, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Peterborough, L. Bp.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Ripon, L. Bp.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Lansdowne, M.||St. Albans, L. Bp.||Muskerry, L.|
|St. Asaph, L. Bp.||Newlands, L.|
|Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Truro, L. Bp.||Newton, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Allerton, L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Alverstone, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Annesley, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Belmore, E.||Ardilaun, L.||Rosmead, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Ashbourne, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Cadogan, E.||Ashcombe, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Balfour, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Barnard, L.||Silchester, L. (E Longford.)|
|Egerton, E.||Bateman, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Lathom, E.||Belper, L.||Tredegar, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Blythswood, L.||Trevor, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)|
|Manvers, E.||Calthorpe, L.||Welby, L.|
|Morton, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Portsmouth, E.||Chelmsford, L.||Wimborne, L.|
|Powis, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (EClanwilliam.||Windsor, L.|
|Romney, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Colchester, L.||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.]|
|Stanhope, E.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry)||Dunboyne, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Elphinstone, L.|
|Yarborough, E.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)|
§ Resolved in the negative.