HL Deb 01 August 1910 vol 6 cc597-634


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

LORD KINNAIRD had given notice, on the Order for the Second Reading being read, to move that the consideration of the Bill be postponed until after the autumn recess. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think you will agree that the point to which I desire to call your attention is one at all events worthy of consideration—namely, whether there has been sufficient time given to your Lordships to consider this Bill in its present form. The effect of this new Bill as it now appears before your Lordships is to get rid of all effective tests against the accession of a Roman Catholic Monarchy. The cancn law of the Church of Rome allows a dispensation for oaths, but not for a denial of doctrine. That is why we believe that it is necessary to retain the reference to 'doctrines which appears in the present Declaration. The principal pretext for haste has been the alleged desirability of relieving his present Majesty from the obligation to make the unamended Declaration. However, seeing that the Coronation is not till June next and that the re-assembly of Parliament on November 15 will not necessitate His Majesty's presence, there is ample time to alter the Declaration, if desirable, long before his Majesty may be called to make it. So that there can be no adequate motive for dealing with the Bill now.

When we conic to consider the nature of the Bill this haste seems all the more improper. Whatever the exact value of the Declaration may be it certainly is a question of fundamental constitutional importance. The legal title of the House of Hanover and its heirs to the Throne depends upon the Statutes which require the Sovereign to be Protestant. The sole document that fixes the meaning of that very elastic term "Protestant" is the Declaration. In revising that Declaration we are recasting the very first Article of the constitutional compact which now so happily binds the Crown and people together. However estimable the proposed revision may be, it ought not to be sanctioned by this House until it has received the most careful attention from all points of view. Yet I venture to say that there has been no such attention given to it.

Let us consider the history of the Bill. Within forty-eight hours of the death of our late beloved King, Mr. W. Redmond wrote a letter to the Premier asking him to take steps to alter the Accession Declaration. An invitation of this kind coming from this source could not be refused by one in the painful position of the present Prime Minister. Obediently, therefore, on June 28 he introduced a Bill to alter the declaration to an affirmation that the Sovereign is a— faithful member of the Protestant Reformed Church by law established in England.

In introducing the Bill the Premier said— I would earnestly deprecate at this stage anything in the nature of prolonged or acrimonious discussion. I think it is most desirable that hon. Members should study the Bill, and ample opportunity will be given before the Second Reading.

The Bill passed its First Reading, but received a chorus of condemnation. High Anglicans did not like the English Church to be called "Protestant and Reformed." Liberationists were up in arms against the phrase "established by law." Scotsmen did not intend the words "in England" to pass without opposition. Non-Anglicans felt offended at the selection of the Church of England. Above all, the great mass of convinced Protestant feeling was hostile to a formula so futile as that suggested. Enthusiastic meetings were held all over the country, floods of letters, resolutions, and remonstrances poured in upon Members of Parliament, and not without effect. The Government suddenly announced that the Bill would not be held over to the autumn, but hurried through all the remaining stages in three days, at the fag-end of an outworn sitting; and this was in violation of the pledge given to provide "ample opportunities." The diminution of the Government majority at each stage of the Bill—341, First Reading; 326, Second Reading; and only 193 on the Third Reading—proves how unpopular the change is. At the Third Reading the Government, with the aid of the Leader of the Opposition, only secured 215 votes for its Bill. This means that, disregarding the Nationalists and other Roman Catholic members, there were but 160 men in the House of Commons who would give their support to the Bill now before us.

When the Second Reading came up on July 27 the Premier said— I am going to make a suggestion, and only a suggestion, in order to see… how it is received and entertained in various quarters in the course of the debate.

He then suggested that the Declaration should be altered to the statement, "I am a faithful Protestant." This mooted change elicited from Mr. Hilaire Belloc, himself a Roman Catholic, the criticism that— As a matter of fact we are now discussing a new Bill.

The Bill went into Committee on the 28th, and what had till then been a tentative suggestion by the Premier was adopted about midnight as almost the last stage of Committee amendment. The Bill thus amended was introduced for Third Reading on the 29th, shortly before 1 p.m., and was passed at 3.25 p.m. My Lords, the formula we are asked to enact has never been before the country, and it has received but two and a-half hours discussion in the House of Commons. If ever there was a clear case for the Second Chamber to justify its position by saving the country from the danger of ill-considered legislation surely this is the occasion.

There can be no real doubt that the people are not in favour of the Government interfering at all with the Declaration. The only election that has happened since it was suggested to alter the declaration has been at Kirkdale, the Member for which division said— "My recent election…was specially fought out on the matter now before the House.

He then went on to say that he and his constituents— desire tint no change whatever should be made in the Declaration.

Petitions signed by more than 2,000.000 people have been presented to the House of Commons. Every speaker against the Bill made a strong point of the popular feeling against it, and there was no serious attempt to answer the statement. Indeed, its truth was admitted. The Premier said that such a proposal as he was making must inevitably give rise to a considerable amount of misunderstanding, and, indeed, of angry hostility. Mr. Balfour said— I am not unmoved by what I admit to be the great pressure of public opinion. Like everybody else I have been overwhelmed by letters on the subject, and I do not in the least doubt those of my friends who say that there is an overwhelmingly strong popular feeling against any change.

Mr. Henry Chaplin said— I do believe that the Prime Minister and his colleagues underrate very greatly the depth of the feeling which undoubtedly prevails among vast numbers of the British people in connection with this question. Nor do I think we need be surprised at that when we remember what has happened in the history of the past. I think, therefore, it was wrong, and that it was altogether foolish to ignore that feeling in the way the Government have ignored it, and to have prosecuted this Bill, and conducted it in the manner in which they have conducted it.

Even the Chief Secretary for Ireland's exuberant good spirits did not prevent his admitting the existence of this popular disapprobation in a manner more forcible than polite, and garnished with obiter dicta unnecessary to repeat. The Bill was opposed by such men as Sir A. AclandHood, Mr. Henry Chaplin, Mr. A. Akers-Douglas, Mr. C. Scott-Dickson, and Mr. Walter Long. Assuredly these are not men who would refuse any measure of reform that is compatible with the security of the British Constitution.

Very significant indeed was the manner in which the haste of the Government was censured by a supporter of their own, and by a supporter of the Bill. Mr. Gibson Bowles said— I have a great deal of sympathy with the complaint of the right hon. gentleman opposite as to the insufficiency of the time granted for so important a matter as that before the House. It is one of the gravest matters that could occupy the attention of Parliament, and I think that three weeks rather than three days should have been allotted to it.

Lord Hugh Cecil said— I am a strong supporter of the Bill, and I also support the Prime Minister's Amendment. But…never was a Bill managed as this Bill has been managed. The Government left an immense interval between the First and Second Readings. They left no interval between the Second Reading and the Committee stage, which is much more important and much more desirable. In fact, my hon. friends are perfectly entitled to complain that they have been treated in a way quite unparalleled in Parliamentary history, and inconsistent with the statement of the Prime Minister when he introduced the Bill.

The question, therefore, which I venture to submit to your Lordships is this, Are we going to be a party to the further stifling of public discussion upon this matter merely to meet the wishes of those who do not want this discussion to go forward? I believe with Mr. Long that if there had been more time given for the consideration of this question, and fuller opportunity for those outside Parliament to inform themselves as to what it is proposed to do, and to make up their minds as to the way in which they would like it to be done, it would have been possible, after the fuller time given for consideration, to find phraseology which would have met with general support. I have described the procedure whereby the present Bill has been forced through the Lower House, and I do not think that it is unreasonable to ask your Lordships not to sanction the indecent haste of the Government in this matter, but to suspend judgment until you have been able calmly and adequately to consider this measure, which touches a fundamental security for the Protestant Succession.

Moved, That the consideration of the Bill be postponed until after the autumn recess. —(Lord Kinnaird.)


My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will not press this Motion to a Division, or, if he does, that your Lordships will not support him. We all recognise the earnestness with which he approaches this subject, but I think, as the discussion proceeds, I shall be able to show that the fears which he has expressed are altogether groundless. Perhaps I might, before I deal with the subject-matter of the noble Lord's Motion, point out that he contravened in a somewhat more open manner than is usual in your Lordships' House the Standing Order—which is not always respected but which generally receives at any rate some outward consideration—which forbids a noble Lord to read his speech.

Now, my Lords, what is the object which the noble Lord has in view in asking us to postpone the consideration of this measure? Is it that more general light may be thrown on the subject? The whole subject was discussed at great length in the year 1901, and ever since then has occupied the earnest thought of the Government of the day. In saying this I speak—I think I may do so without hesitation—for noble Lords opposite as much as I do for noble Lords on this Bench. The noble Lord said that it was at the bidding of an hon. gentleman in another place, Mr. William Redmond, that this Bill was introduced. I have no doubt that. Mr. William Redmond, like all other Irish Catholics and also like all English Catholics, is and has been extremely anxious that this Declaration should be abolished or amended; but if the noble Lord thinks that Mr. William Redmond has had anything to do with the introduction of this Bill, I can assure him that he is altogether mistaken. I have myself been considerably concerned in this matter, and it was not until I saw in some newspaper that Mr. Redmond bad written to the Prime Minister that I was aware that such was the ease.

I can assure the noble Lord that during-the lifetime of his late Majesty, when we had no thought or fear that the consideration of the subject would be made so imminent as it unhappily was, we were-steadily considering what could be done to deal with it. I think the noble Lord has forgotten what, has passed in this-House. We held out hopes of being able to deal with the matter, but our hopes were frustrated, and so much disappointment was felt by many noble Lords in this. House that I remember the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Norfolk) departed from his usual moderation of language in describing our conduct in not taking up the matter and dealing with it at once. Consequently I cannot admit that any reason for postponement exists by necessity for further general discussion of the subject.

Then the noble Lord pointed out that the Bill has not come up to this House in the form in which it was introduced in another place. That is perfectly true. As the Bill was introduced in the other House the Sovereign was asked to declare that he was a "faithful member of the Protestant Reformed Church by law established in England." Various objections were taken in quite different quarters to that formula—objections which when. we considered them we admitted had weight, and which decided us to find, if possible, some other formula, to which those objections would not apply. But in its main lines I would remind the noble Lord that the Declaration in the present Bill follows the general lines, though not the precise form, of the Bill as introduced. His Majesty's Government in the first place decided that the Declaration should be positive and not negative—that is to say, that it should contain a statement of faith, but not a repudiation or denunciation of any particular article of faith of another Church, and in that respect the two formulas followed the same line. In fact the Declaration in the Schedule, if you examine it closely, will be found to convey in other words precisely the same sense as the earlier form.

I should like to know what is the hope which the noble Lord and his friends entertain in asking us to postpone the consideration of this question. Do they hope to find better words then those in the Bill? The whole subject has been considered in public and private, as I say, continuously for the last ten years, and it frequently happens in such a case, when a question becomes a matter of public discussion in Parliament and the various views of different people affected or supposed to be affected are stated and considered, that at last by common consent some form of words is reached which contains the fewest possible objections, and that is what we claim to have found in this case. I cannot help thinking that the hope of the noble Lord is of rather a different kind—namely, that after the matter is postponed somehow or other Parliament may be—perhaps I ought not to say intimidated—but at any rate worried, into dropping the whole subject. Certainly we do not intend to countenance anything of that kind; and whatever took place in that sense we should certainly feel bound in. the circumstances to proceed with the consideration of our Bill.

If there is one thing more evident than another, it is that popular opinion, as expressed in the House of Commons, is desirous of clearing this question out of the way. This Bill as it comes to your Lordships has been passed by enormous majorities, and the noble Lord, who quoted very freely from the debates in another place, omitted to state what happened on the Third Reading, when members of all parties, so to speak, fell into each others arms and expressed themselves as highly satisfied with the result, and the Bill came forward with general approbation. I firmly believe that once this Bill is passed it w ill receive the general assent of the country, and it will receive it for this reason—as I shall hope to show if we are allowed to proceed with this discussion—that the idea which the noble Lord has expressed that this change involves any shadow of risk to the Protestant Succession to the Throne is absolutely without any foundation whatever. That being so, I ask your Lordships to proceed to the Second Reading of the Bill.


My Lords, I hope the noble Lord who has moved this Motion will not press it to a Division, and I take the opportunity also of expressing the wish that the Bill itself will be passed by your Lordships and returned to the House of Commons without amendment. But I must deprecate the statement of the noble Lord who moved this Motion when he put it to your Lordships that the topic of this Bill had not been considered adequately by the country or by the Houses of Parliament. In this House it has been discussed several times, and attention has been called to it on other occasions. That has been going on with long intervals but still continuously for nine years, and those of your Lordships who recollect the debates that have taken place will remember what interest was evidenced in this question.

It really is not true from an historical aspect to say that this matter has not received adequate attention. It has been before the country not nine years, but 220 years. For 220 years it has been like iron entering into the soul of the Catholics in this Kingdom, who in the past have been deprived of all the privileges of citizenship, deprived of the franchise, deprived even of their seats in this House, for it was not until the year 1829, which is not very long ago in the history of England, that six Catholic Peers were allowed for the first time to take their seats in this House. I am not going to enter again into the merits of this question. It has been thoroughly discussed in your Lordships' House on many occasions. Sometimes I have addressed your Lordships—or, perhaps, more strictly speaking the empty benches of your Lordships' House—upon it myself, and sometimes I have received an answer from the Government that the matter would be attended to. Not so very long ago I received a disappointing answer to the effect that the Government would not be able to pursue the matter at all. But a happier day, a more auspicious day, has arrived, when the Government come forward of their own accord and offer to remove the grievances, or at least the chief grievance, of which we complain.

If an Amendment could be moved to this Bill with any success, I would move it myself, and the Amendment would be that the Declaration should be totally abolished and for ever. I believe I am speaking correctly in stating that that was the view of the Prime Minister himself. But that view has not been backed up by the country. You see now in the Bill a form of words which certainly cannot give grave offence to any person who raised objections to the infamous and blasphemous wording of the former Declaration. The t hanks of the Catholic portion of this Empire are due to the Government for having done this thing; and I venture to think that Mr. Asquith will go down to posterity as the first who has tackled and wrestled with this subject and brought it to a satisfactory conclusion. I may perhaps, without impertinence, I hope, call special attention to the words of one of the members of the Government—words which, I think, precipitated this solution of the question and brought about this happy consummation. A year ago—on August 5, 1909—the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack uttered these memorable words— I think it thoroughly wrong for any Government to compel a Sovereign or any other man to insult the religious opinions held sacred by any person in this Kingdom. I consider that those words were really the final blow which this Declaration of 220 years standing received in this Kingdom, and we Catholics cannot be too grateful or thankful to the noble and learned Lord for what he said on that occasion and for the outcome of it. It would be unfair also not to quote the words of the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, for on the prior occasion that this subject was before us—I think not more titan two years ago—he said that if the Government were to bring in a Bill dealing with the subject it would receive his benevolent consideration. To-night is the occasion for that benevolent consideration to be applied to the subject of this Bill—


Will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him for one moment? I would point out that he is hardly discussing the Motion before your Lordships' House—namely, that the consideration of the Bill be postponed until after the autumn recess. I think it would be for the general convenience of the House to discuss the two questions separately, and each at the proper moment.


I accept the noble Earl's rebuke. 1 intended to be very short in my remarks, but this is, as your Lordships will understand, a subject on which I feel deeply. I will conclude by wishing the Bill a happy passage through your Lordships' House, and by expressing the hope that it will be passed into law before the week is out.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like, as an Irish Roman Catholic, to submit a few remarks for the consideration of the House—


Will the noble Lord allow me to repeat that at the present moment the question before the House is that the consideration of the Bill be postponed until after the autumn recess? We shall be delighted to hear noble Lords upon the general question; but the question before the House at this moment is the narrower one as to whether the consideration should be postponed.


I propose to speak upon the wider one.

On Question, Motion negatived.

*THE EARL OF CREWE then rose to move the Second Reading of the Bill. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have to thank the House for having allowed the Bill to proceed. As I said in speaking upon the noble Lord's proposal, this is no new question. It is one, indeed, which has given cause for much anxiety to more than one Government of recent years. I may remind your Lordships, very briefly, of what took place in 1901 when Lord Salisbury was leading the House and when a serious attempt was made to deal with this question, though only to a limited extent. It was supposed at that time that the objections entertained to the existing Declaration could be met by some slight verbal alterations in its form, and that in substance it might stand, although the more offensive expressions in the Declaration were removed. Accordingly a.. Committee was appointed, of which I, by the way, happened to be a member, to deal with the question on those lines; but it did not fall within the competence of that Committee either to recommend the abolition of the Declaration altogether, or even to substitute an entirely new form of Declaration, as has been done in this instance. I think that in some respects it was fortunate that those limitations were imposed upon that Committee, because I have always held, and indeed have stated more than once in this House, that if there was to be any question either of the abolition of the Declaration or of its fundamental alteration, the step ought to be taken upon the responsibility of the Government of the day, and that a Committee of your Lordships' House or of the other House, or, indeed, a Joint Committee, would not be the best body to frame by discussion a form of words. The Government have now undertaken the responsibility of offering a form of words to Parliament, and it is that form of words which we ask you to sanction this evening.

I really do not know that at this time of day it is necessary to trouble your Lordships with any historical review of the origin of this Declaration. I need only remind you that in the year 1689, after the great political convulsion of the previous year, it was decided that the Sovereign for the first time should he asked to take a general Declaration which had been imposed in the reign of Charles II, upon all persons who desired to sit or who were otherwise competent to sit in either House of Parliament, and all persons who exer- cised the public trust of any office. That was the simple historical origin of the Declaration, and it is that Declaration, the terms of which arc so familiar to your Lordships that I need not repeat them, that we now desire to alter.

Now, my Lords, what are the objections to the alteration? They are of two kinds. One kind it is easy to understand, but impossible to sympathise with. It is that which takes the form of saying—to put it briefly—that, "even if Roman Catholics do feel themselves insulted by the present form of the Declaration, it is only what they deserve; they are the kind of people to whom no consideration should be extended, they are themselves intolerant and ought not to ask for any toleration from others." That point of view is, of course, founded on much that has happened in the history of our country, and we know to what lengths and excesses religious animosity may take people. We know that in history wars of religion have exceeded in their ferocity, and in their duration, almost any wars of acquisition or of conquest. But what we say is that, so far as that spirit exists in this country to this day, and so far as it animates the opposition to this measure, it is not a spirit which we will do anything but discourage to the utmost of our power.

The second objection is one with which we can sympathise, but which, on the other hand, it is difficult to understand—namely, that the alteration of the Declaration lessens the security for the Protestant Succession to the Throne. What are the safeguards for the Protestant Succession?' They are set out in this White Paper [Cd. 5271] which has been distributed to your Lordships and which many of you have doubtless read. In the first place, there are the two enactments of 1689. There is that great measure which for some reason which I do not know, although it is one of the important Acts on the Statute Book, still retains the designation of the "Bill of Rights." That is one of our great constitutional safeguards. In the same year was passed the Bill involving the taking on the Coronation of the Sovereign of the Oath by which the Sovereign swears to maintain the Protestant reformed religion established by law. Then in 1701 came the Act of Settlement, the general safeguards of which against the Sovereign either becoming or marrying a Roman Catholic are familiar to all your Lordships and which also prescribes that— whoever shall hereafter come to the possession of this Crown shall join in communion with the Church of England as by law established.

And then in the Act of Union with Scotland in 1707 further safeguards, which I need not recite, are provided. These are, though I speak of them with all respect, the paper safeguards for the Protestant Succession. I call them paper safeguards because what Parliament has done Parliament can undo; and we all know very well that the real safeguard for the Protestant Succession is the deliberate determination of the vast majority of the people of this country—a determination quite as strong as ever it Was in the seventeenth or eighteenth century—that a Roman Catholic shall not sit on the Throne of this country. This is due partly to reasons of an historical character well known to your Lordships, and partly, no doubt, because the Roman Catholic Church is not merely a body of persons professing a particular faith or even desirous of propagating that faith, but is also a great organised polity coming into contact at a hundred points with the civil and even the domestic life of any nation within which it is dominant. Those are the reasons which have determined and do determine the people of this country in the maintenance of the Protestant Succession.

That being so, it might be asked why any further personal declaration on the part of the Sovereign is necessary to achieve that end. I confess that I should not mind, and I think many others would not mind, if this particular Declaration were abolished altogether. In one sense it is not needed. But, on the other hand, it is no doubt another matter altogether to drop a safeguard, if safeguard it be, which has existed for more than 200 years, and the abolition of which would undoubtedly excite fears—not, I think, reasonable fears—in the minds of a considerable number of His Majesty's subjects. As regards this particular form of the Declaration, there is only, I think, one argument with which it is necessary to deal—one argument which can be said to have substance. This is that the proposed Declaration is not a real safeguard because it might be taken by a Roman Catholic, whereas the Declaration which is still the law of the land could not be so taken. That, I gather, was the attitude taken up by my noble friend on the Cross Benches (Lord Kinnaird) when he made his Motion. I believe that statement to be absolutely groundless. I have no right to speak for members of the Roman Catholic Church—there are plenty here who are most competent to do so for themselves—but I should be very greatly surprised if any one belonging to that Church could say that this is a. Declaration which any honest Roman Catholic could take, and furthermore that he could say that there was any power of absolving from or dispensing with any moral penalties of perjury in possession of any ecclesiastical authority. I do not believe for a moment that any such power exists. Whatever may be the dispensing power of the Pope or of the Church, I cannot believe for an instant that there is any dispensing power—and it seems to me ridiculous to suppose that there can be—in a great moral organisation like the Church of Rome, which would allow a man to undertake deliberate perjury and dispense him from all moral consequences of that act. Of course, if a man is prepared to undertake deliberate perjury, whet her he be Sovereign or whether he be subject, no Declaration, certainly not the existing one, will prevent him from doing so.

We then had to consider what form the amended Declaration should take. As I have already stated, we decided—and in this we undoubtedly departed from what appeared to be the general sense in the year 1901—that it would be both wise and safe to make the Declaration take a positive and not a repudiating form. I believe I am right in saying, and I do not think I shall be contradicted by any noble Lord who is a Roman Catholic, that no negative form which involved the picking out for denunciation or repudiation particular doctrines dear to the Roman Catholic Church would have been accepted by them as any solution of the question. I need not argue that point at length, but it is evident that although the actual terms might not have been as strong or as offensive as they are in the existing Declaration, the sense of Roman Catholics would have been deeply wounded by the retention of any form of that kind. Therefore, as we thought we could do so with perfect safety, we decided to abandon that feature. The Sovereign in this Declaration as we have framed it declares himself to be a faithful Protestant. In that sense lie does more in the way of stating his religious faith than he does in the Declaration prescribed by the Bill of Rights, and in so describing himself he also—and I defy contradiction of this—in the most explicit terms possible describes himself as not being a Roman Catholic. Whatever may be said of the precise meaning of the word "Protestant," it is no doubt the one most direct antithesis which can be found to the term Roman Catholic. The Sovereign describes himself as a Protestant, and the Act of Settlement says that he must join in communion with the Church of England. I do not propose to discuss the question as to what the precise obligation prescribed by those words may be; but at any rate I do not think that any one will be found to say that in describing himself as a faithful Protestant he goes outside or beyond the prescription in the Act of Settlement, because I do not think any one here will be found to deny that although the Church of England is Catholic in spiritual truth, she is also Protestant in historical fact. What we have to decide is, Is this form a satisfactory one in itself? If your Lordships think so, as I trust you may, you will read this Bill a second time and pass it through its remaining stages.

There are only two other points to which I wish to allude. The first is the active desire of many Protestants, and among those are many Protestants who would be thought to be, I will not say hostile, but most opposed to the Roman Catholic Church, for an amendment of this Declaration. I have in my hand a copy of a resolution which has the signatures of upwards of 2,000 Irish Protestants, and which was adopted at a meeting held in Dublin on July 19. It is in the following terms— That we members of churches and religious bodies in Ireland not in communion with the Church of Rome, believing that the form of words in which the Sovereign is required to repudiate certain doctrines is just cause of offence to many of His Majesty's subjects and repugnant to Christian courtesy, do earnestly desire such alteration in the form of words as shall remove that grievance without in any way lessening the securities of the Protestant Succession.

This is signed by high dignitaries of the Church in Ireland, by University professors, by many Nonconformist ministers, by members of the professional classes, by country gentlemen, and by a number of people engaged in trade; and it seems to me to do the highest credit to its authors, and is, I think, a remarkable instance of the high and right spirit which may prevail in a country in which we are always taught to suppose that religious animosity runs higher than it does here, and in which people are apt to be earmarked and divided off according to the creed which they profess. That is one point.

Then there is another point which appeals deeply to me in the office which I hold, and that is the feeling on this subject all over the Empire. There are many noble Lords here—I see some opposite—who have held high office in the Dominions, and there is a noble Lord who is not here tonight—Earl Grey—who independently, long before there was any question of his holding his present office, took a deep interest in this subject, and who is now Governor-General of Canada with its two-and-a-quarter millions of Roman Catholic subjects of the King, every one of whom will be awaiting the result of your Lordships' deliberations to-day. Then in Australasia there are upwards of 1,000,000 Catholics, of whom the same can be said. Many of them have held high public office. They are among the most loyal subjects of the Crown, and many of them have fought side by side with their Protestant fellow-subjects in war. I ask you, Is it possible, in view of all that has happened, to refuse this boon which involves no risk whatever to the Protestant Succession, which frees the Sovereign from a most odious and painful obligation, and the news of which will gladden the hearts of some 12,000,000 of our fellow-subjects throughout the Empire?

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a— (The Earl of Crewe.)


My Lords, I think it is desirable on public grounds, and in order to avoid misunderstanding, that I should say something on this subject tonight. This is, I think, the fifth occasion since the death of Queen Victoria that this subject has been seriously considered in your Lordships' House. If, as I hope, we give a Second Reading to-night to the Bill which is before us, we shall be able to congratulate the Sovereign and the Empire upon having reached the end of a dispute which has been, I venture to say, vexatious and mischievous in a high degree.

For the solution which the Bill suggests, for the form which the Declaration takes as it appears in the Schedule, I accept my share of personal responsibility, a share rightly ascribed to me by the Prime Minister when he made his speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday last. Before Mr. Asquith made that speech I had written to him on behalf of myself and one or two others in high position in the Church whom at a few hours notice I had been able to consult, to say that I and they were prepared to support an enactment which should take this particular form. That decision was not lightly taken or communicated. It was very far from being a policy of what could be called peace at any price. It was very far from being a declaration that any words which should be inoffensive to Roman Catholics would do. That was not at all my attitude then, nor is it now. Had the Bill with the Declaration in the Schedule come before your Lordships in the form in which it was introduced I should have felt bound to take exception to its phraseology. The King was, in taking that Declaration, made to say— I am a faithful member of the Protestant Reformed Church by law established in England. I should have taken exception to those words, not with a desire to find fault with their intent, not because I or anybody could think that the words would be discourteous to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, not because they would necessarily be ineffective, but because they would have given by statutory enactment a perfectly new designation to the Church of England and would have given it in a formal way without any adequate reason.

Instead of the words "Church of England," simple, well-understood words, we should have had what is, in my view, a mere circumlocutory phrase adopted to allay susceptibilities, but most misleading if it were intended to define and accurately describe that branch of the Church of Christ with which by the clear and definite requirements of the Act of Settlement, as quoted more than once by the Prime Minister, the King must join in communion. There is a perfectly true sense in which the word Protestant is rightly applied to the Church of England and has been applied to it for many centuries. There is no doubt that the Church of England is, in the historical sense of the word, Reformed, but the words Protestant Reformed as a title are neither distinctive nor exclusive, and certainly they are not co-extensive with the true character of that portion of the Church Catholic which has claimed and held the allegiance of the great mass of the English people. I could have made this clear, had it been necessary, but happily it is quite unnecessary now. I felt bound, however, to mention the fact lest it should be supposed now or hereafter that we looked lightly on the choice of the words used, or that we had given adherence to these words without adequate criticism or consideration.

About the form of words actually adopted I shall say something before I sit down. But I desire first to say something quite briefly about the object, the history, and the necessity of our asking the King to make some such Declaration as this. I think that half the misunderstandings that have arisen and half the heat which has been engendered in this controversy might have been avoided if people had throughout taken in and remembered that, paradoxical as it may appear, even the most doctrinal words in the Declaration which has been in use for more than two centuries were political rather than religious, both in their intent and in their effect. The words about such solemn subjects as Transubstantiation and what is popularly called Mariolatry were put there not primarily for religious purposes, not primarily in order to safeguard or secure the sacramental or devotional belief of the thousands who have had to make the Declaration and to subscribe to it, but they were put there and used to safeguard the political loyalty of those who used them. In the reign of Charles II it was found—perhaps I should be more charitable if I said firmly believed —that if you wished to make sure that a man was not under allegiance, public or secret, avowed or unavowed, to Rome you must use a form of words which would be incompatible on doctrinal grounds with membership of the Church of Rome.

Those who are familiar with the detailed history of that very curious period, the reign of Charles II, or with the biographical story of that extraordinary Monarch, will have no difficulty in understanding why that view was so firmly held. I am not speaking of what are known as the Titus Oates years, 1678—the years of the Plot, if there were a plot, and of the panic, as there certainly was a panic—I am speaking of eight or nine years earlier than that —the secret Treaty of Dover, Le Traite de Madame, signed in the summer of 1670, the private negotiations carried on by Charles and his sister, the madame of the plot, with Louis XIV, the King's solemn but absolutely secret undertaking to the Church of Rome, notwithstanding the equally solemn undertakings he had made to his own Parliament and people, and the knowledge, this is an important point, that in these transactions many public men were implicated as fully as the King, and so on. These were the things which, as they glimmered into light and public knowledge, made both Parliament and people resolve to impose, first on public servants, secondly on Members of Parliament, and thirdly on the Sovereign, a test more binding than any mere promise, and a test which every one believed and knew to be absolutely incompatible even then with membership of the Church of Rome.

With all respect to the historical knowledge and acumen of the Prime Minister, who spoke last week of the Declaration as "framed in the excitement produced by the Popish Plot" (and I think the noble Earl who has just sat clown used words not very different), I would point out that, though the final form was given to the words then, the substance and the character of the enactment belong to quite earlier years before Titus Oates had been heard of. It is important for the sake of historical accuracy and for the credit of the statesmen of that day to point this out in view of the somewhat loose and inaccurate statements which are widely current that these words were "the panic-stricken outcome of Titus Oates's fabrications and the fancied Popish Plot."

But that is all past history. The very difference of conditions between now and then, the difference of atmosphere, the difference of the public standard of personal honour as regards declarations, and the difference as regards mutual confidence, are the amplest justification for translating the wording of the old Declaration into the wording of the new. Under modern conditions of thought, the conditions of to-day, under modern modes of expression, the modes of expression of to-day, a man would be, in my judgment, as clearly bound by the Declaration in its new form as in the old. The very notion nowadays of a King or public man being able first, say, to make such promises as Charles II made at his Accession and then to negotiate, plot, and sign w hat he did in favour of the Church of Rome is not merely unlikely but it is absolutely unthinkable. I am absolutely convinced that when the Sovereign to-day makes the new Declaration— I am a faithful Protestant, and I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of my Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law, we secure for the twentieth century everything that was secured 230 years ago for the seventeenth century.

One of the most curious elements of this controversy is that for 150 years down to 1829 all the members of both Houses took this Declaration, including all the Bishops. High Church Bishops like Bishop Wake and Bishop Gibson, profound thinkers like Bishop Butler, and scholars like Bishop Newton and Bishop Lloyd, took the Declaration as far as we know without a murmur. There is a perfect mine of interesting information about it in the debates of 1829 on the Roman Catholic Emancipation Bill. It is a mine which has been little explored by controversialists. I think I may congratulate the House and the country on that, for when we consider the luxuriant flood of literature which has poured upon us as things are, I tremble to think what might have been if that storehouse had been largely used. For example, there was the battle of giants in this House in the spring of 1829 between Lord Eldon on the one side and the learned High Church Bishop of Oxford, Bishop Lloyd, on the other side, dealing in detail with what was or was not meant or involved in the Declaration which each of them had taken several times in the course of his public life. I think these facts are worth referring to to-day, because they serve to show how opinions change about matters of phraseology from time to time and how absolutely unnecessary it is for us to use the phraseology of the seventeenth century to bring out what we wish to make clear in the twentieth century.

I should like to say one closing word with regard to the actual phrasing of the formula which I hope we are now going to approve. The King is asked to declare, "I am a faithful Protestant." I could imagine occasions or circumstances in which it would be most inadequate and misleading to use these words in their naked simplicity—occasions on which the question to be settled was the religious or doctrinal belief of the person using the words. If the words were used in that connection they would, though perfectly accurate so far as they go, require amplifying and safeguarding if they were to be adequate or even intelligible. These words, however, are not wanted for doctrinal purposes at all, but for ensuring that the person using them, while a Christian, is not a Roman Catholic. For that purpose the words are explicit, accurate, inoffensive, and they are completely consonant with the proper use of the word Protestant in the last two centuries. The word Protestant was used constantly in that connection by High Churchmen of that day—by Archbishop Laud, Bishop Andrewes, Bishop Cosin, and many more. It would have been used by the founders seventy years ago of the great Oxford Movement—the great Tractarians. I think that statement would perhaps be challenged in some quarters. It is absolutely true. I should like to give an example. When the Oxford Movement was in its origin several of the foremost leaders of the Movement met to draw up a Catechism, which I think is almost the only document which received the imprimatur of a considerable number of them. A portion of that Catechism they drew up in these words— Q.—What do you mean by "the Church"? A.—The society belonging to the Lord Christ. Then, after several questions and answers about the definition of the Church as those who continue "in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship," the Catechism goes on as follows with reference to Roman Catholics, Nonconformists, and ourselves— Q.—Do all Christians continue in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship? A.—No. Some hold to the fellowship and depart from the doctrine, corrupting it by alterations or additions; and some depart also from the fellowship, having lost the Apostolic Commission. Q.—What branches of the Church continue both in the doctrine and the fellowship? A.—Those called Protestant Episcopal in England, Ireland, Scotland— That is a curious commentary upon the remarks which are often current to-day as to the character of the word Protestant used in connection with the Church of which most of your Lordships are members.

Therefore, reduced to its simplest terms, the Declaration, for the specific purpose for which it is wanted, says what needs saying; says it, pace my noble friend Lord Kinnaird, in a manner perfectly effective for its purpose, says it in a way that everybody can understand, and says it in terms which cannot hurt or wound the most sensitive adherent of the Roman Catholic Church. I believe we need a Declaration of this sort, not because the Protestant Succession is not adequately secured otherwise. I believe it is. As has been pointed out most cogently, the Bill of Rights, the Act of Settlement, the Coronation Oath, and other Acts which might be named seem to me to guarantee it absolutely. But it is needed because to abolish the Declaration altogether, would certainly and inevitably be misunderstood as implying on our part some new departure which there is not the slightest intention to make. For these reasons I hope your Lordships will now, with a unanimous voice, give a Second Reading to this Bill, and thus bring happily to an end a controversy about phrases which seem to me to have served their purpose and may now with perfect safety be replaced by these new words. Such a solution will be to the relief of the personal position of the gracious Sovereign of this Empire; it will be to the easing of the mind of reasonable controversialists on either side; and, I will add, it will be to the credit of Christian common sense.


My Lords, before this discussion proceeds further it may be convenient that a word should be said as to the manner in which this Bill is regarded by some, at all events, of those who sit in this part of the House. The noble Earl, in his interesting statement, reminded us that this question was not unfamiliar to us. It has been brought up again and again, and I do not think I am guilty of exaggeration when I say that on every one of those occasions there was disclosed a great preponderance, at any rate, of opinion in favour of a substantial alteration of the present Declaration. There was exhibited, unless I wholly misinterpret the speeches to which I have listened, a general desire that some form of Declaration should be discovered less offensive to the Roman Catholic subjects of the Crown and also less irksome and distasteful to the Sovereign into whose mouth these words were put. Those two things were, I think, desired subject to this reservation—that nothing should be done which might have the effect of impairing public confidence in the safeguards for the Protestant Succession.

What I may describe as the view of the House of Lords was, I think, well embodied in a Resolution which was carried here in the year 1904 on the motion of my noble friend Lord Jersey. The noble Duke who sits behind me (the Duke of Norfolk) had moved a Resolution which did not entirely find favour with all of us, and we carried, not his motion, but a Resolution, moved by Lord Jersey, which was to the following effect— That this House while desirous that no expression unnecessarily offensive to any of his subjects should be required of the Sovereign on his Accession to the Throne is of opinion that nothing should be done to weaken the security of, the Protestant Succession. That Resolution holds the field to-day, and I believe the two propositions which it embodies are propositions which at any rate a large majority of those who sit on this side of the House would be found ready to support.

I think then that we cannot do better tonight than take up the question where we left it in 1904. The moment is opportune for so doing. We stand at the close of the reign of a Sovereign conspicuous above all for his broad-minded and considerate views towards all his subjects, no matter of what race or what religion; and at the beginning of a new reign, begun under the happiest auspices, the opening days of which we all desire should not be disfigured by the kind of animosities which would certainly be created were the unamended Declaration to be persevered in. I will not waste your Lordships' time by further reference to the old Declaration. It bas always seemed to me altogether indefensible, and I think the most rev. Primate was correct when he described to us the circumstances in which it had its origin, and pointed out how entirely the circumstances of the age in which we live differ from the circumstances of that remoter time.

For one thing, surely our modern conception of the Empire over which our Sovereign rules is a wholly different conception from anything that was present to the minds of those who lived even one or two generations ago. How great the change has been even in our own days. It was not long ago that we were content to describe the Sovereign of these islands as Queen of Britain and Defender of the Faith. A few years later she became, not only the Queen of Britain, but. the Empress of India; and now our Sovereign is not only King of Britain and Emperor of India, but King of all the Britains—of the great overseas Dominions which form part of his realm. Could anything be more inappropriate, more needlessly offensive, than that we should single out from the 400 odd millions who are citizens of that Empire that comparatively small body of 12,000,000 of Roman Catholics in order to pass upon them, or, to speak more properly, upon two particular tenets of their faith, the kind of censure which is contained in the old Declaration? At the present time subjects of the Crown who may not only not belong to the Protestant faith, but may hold religions altogether alien to our own are eligible for the highest appointments under the Crown, administrative and judicial, in various parts of the world. There is nothing to prevent our having at this moment a Roman Catholic Viceroy of India, numbering among his advisers Hindus and Mahomedans. Can we, at such a moment as this, in circumstances such as these, single out the Roman Catholic faith as a subject for special repudiation and denunciation?

Not only is the Declaration one offensive in its terms, but it seems to me open to objection on the ground of its futility. It does not touch other forms of infidelity. It does not meet the case of a Sovereign who might make the Declaration in deliberate bad faith. It does not touch the case of a Sovereign who, after he had been a few years on the Throne, might altogether change his religious tenets. The Declaration may have been suitable enough when it had to be taken by members of this House at the beginning of every Parliament; but what becomes of its efficacy when it has to be taken by the Sovereign once and for all, perhaps in extreme youth and at the beginning of a reign which may possibly last half a century? One may ask, if we have these feelings in regard to the Declaration, would it not be better to toss it on one side and rely upon the statutory safeguards which the noble Earl enumerated and which are undoubtedly of a very potent character? Those safeguards are certainly not wanting in completeness. The Bill of Rights excludes from the Throne any Sovereign who holds communion with the Church of Rome, and it not only does that, but it absolves the subjects of that Sovereign from their allegiance to him. The Act of Settlement adds to these disabilities the further requirement that the occupant of the Throne shall he in communion with the Established Church. Then you have the Coronation Oath, in which the Sovereign promises to maintain the Protestant reformed religion established by law. Finally there is the safeguard contained in the Act of Union. The cumulative effect of these enactments seems to me to be immense; and I can well understand the feelings of some of my friends who would be content to leave the matter there, without adding to those safeguards the further safeguard of a personal Declaration from the Sovereign.

But I do nevertheless believe as strongly as the noble Earl opposite that a personal Declaration is indispensable. I will tell your Lordships why. I believe that nothing but a. personal Declaration will satisfy the people of this country. Remember that a great many of them probably never have heard of the Acts of Parliament to which reference is made in these discussions. Probably very few of them have seen the White Paper which the noble Earl mentioned and which so admirably summarises the law in regard to the subject.

Such persons will not be content without a Declaration of some kind. What then should be the nature of that Declaration? I venture to lay down two conditions. In the first place, I say its language should not be of a violent or offensive character. There are some people who seem to think that in order to secure the Protestant Succession it is enough to be extremely uncivil to the Pope. I believe that neither in public nor in private life is much to be gained by violence of language. The next condition which I would lay down is that the language of the new Declaration should be as simple and as easily intelligible as possible. It should be of a kind which, if I may so put it, can be understood in every cottage throughout the length and breadth of the country. Such a formula His Majesty's Government have, I think, been fortunate in discovering. If I may be allowed to do so, I should like to offer them my congratulations upon their courage in putting on one side the formula upon which they were inclined to rely at first, and substituting for it the much better formula which is now to be found in the Schedule of the Bill. I can conceive a more elaborate and 'I might almost say a more theologically scientific formula, and I have seen formulas of such a kind, but I doubt extremely whether any amount of additional ingenuity would add to the strength of the words which have been adopted in this Bill.

In the new Declaration His Majesty declares himself to be a faithful Protestant; and recognising the true intent of the enactments to secure the Protestant Succession to the Throne of his realm engages to uphold and maintain such enactments to the best of his power. These enactments are, no doubt, the four enactments cited in the White Paper which may therefore be said to be embodied in the terms of the Declaration. These are plain words, wholly free from circumlocution, quite unlikely to occasion any offence to any one, and in my belief amply sufficient for the purpose for which they are intended. I trust I am not wrong in believing that this proposal of His Majesty's Government is likely to receive a favourable reception in this House. When I look, as I have looked, at the speeches which have been delivered by Roman Catholic Peers, by my noble friend the noble Duke behind me and others, on former occasions, I cannot find in this Declaration anything which so far as I can make out they are likely to take exception to. The views of the Church of England have been expressed this evening with the utmost clearness by the most rev. Primate, and if he is content with the Declaration as he finds it in this Bill, it is certainly not for me to complain of it as insufficient. The Nonconformist subjects of the Crown will, I should think, be grateful for the prominence given to the announcement that His Majesty is a faithful Protestant, and I venture to hope that in Scotland, where this question has been regarded somewhat critically, the fact that the Act of Union remains untouched, and is, I suppose, intended to be referred to in the Declaration should be enough to allay any misgivings felt in that quarter. The words of the Declaration seem to me therefore, upon the whole, to be wise, and well chosen, and fit to take their place and hold their place on the Statute-book.

I will only say one word more before I sit down rather with reference to what was said earlier in the evening by my noble friend Lord Kinnaird when he made his Motion. I agree with the noble Earl opposite that there is nothing to be gained by postponing the further stages of this discussion. It is true the Bill will be passed rapidly through your Lordships' House. But the subject, as we all know, is not a new one. It has been voluminously discussed out of doors, and I do not think the course which His Majesty's Government intend to take is really open to the charge of an attempt to stifle discussion. I do not know of any new facts that can be brought to our attention. I doubt whether much more is possible in what I may describe as the exegesis of the matter. What we certainly should have, if the further consideration of this Bill were to be postponed, would be the prolongation of a rather acute and bitter controversy which I honestly believe would not be for the advantage of the country or of those taking part in it.

If I could trust myself to prophesy I should anticipate that 'before many months are passed the public outside will have very much forgotten the details of this discussion. I doubt whether there is any one, whatever his particular religious tenets may be, who will sleep less peaceably in his bed because this Bill has passed. I believe on the contrary that the public mind will settle down under this new Declaration just as it settled down under the old Declaration during the long years of the late Queen's reign; and that more and more people will realise that the Protestant. Succession in this country rests upon foundations laid much deeper than anything which the ingenuity of either theologians or lawyers is able to contrive.


My Lords, I do not wish to take up your Lordships' time by again going over any of the details of this question. It is perfectly true that at the end of this part of the session the matter has to be dealt with at great speed. As has been pointed out by more than one noble Lord who has spoken to-night, the whole question has been widely discussed for years, and no one can pretend that it has not been fully considered. But as one of those who have so often felt obliged to call your Lordships' attention to the terms of the old Declaration, I cannot allow the debate to pass without expressing in my own name, and, if they will allow me to do so, in the name of others who hold the same Faith, our deep appreciation of the way in which the matter has been dealt with. We have felt it our duty from time to time to bring the question forward strongly and ardently, yet, I think, moderately. I assure your Lordships that it has been one of extreme difficulty to deal with, and if at times we have felt regret that greater speed was not adopted in dealing with it, we never lost sight of the fact that it was a very thorny subject. I wish now to express my thanks to the Prime Minister and the Government, to the leaders on both sides of the House, and the most rev. Primate and all concerned, for the very generous treatment the matter has received.

No one, I venture to think, need have any fear that the Protestant Succession will be endangered by the change which has been made in the Declaration. As has been said, it is the wish of the people of this country that the Succession to the Throne should be Protestant. At the same time it seems to me that the more you attempt to bolster up the Protestant Succession with such a form of Declaration as the past one the more you endanger rather than make safe the continuance of that which you desire. As one who holds the Faith I do, I rejoice that this which was so deeply offensive to the most cherished religious convictions of Roman Catholics has been withdrawn; and I think that all the subjects of the British Crown will rejoice also that the King at the very commencement of his reign will not have to perform an act which must have been deeply distasteful to His Majesty and which he knew would be deeply wounding to millions of his loyal subjects.


My Lords, I promise not to detain your Lordships more than a few moments, because a great deal of what I proposed to say has already been said by noble Lords far better than I could have said it. Still, I wish, as an Irish Roman Catholic, to say that I fully accept the principle of the Protestant Succession to the Throne of these Realms, and that I think this principle is very adequately safeguarded by the two great Acts to which attention has been called this evening. By one of these Acts, as stated in this White Paper, the King, if lie becomes reconciled to the Church of Rome or marries a Roman Catholic, ceases to be Sovereign, while his subjects are released from their obedience to him; and in the Act of Settlement it is laid down that the Sovereign shall join in communion with the Church of England as by law established. It seems to me, my Lords, that these three provisions do most effectively safeguard the Protestant Succession to the Throne.

The noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, stated that the Declaration was necessary because a dispensing power rested with the Pope, so that a Sovereign could take an oath and yet be released from the consequences thereof. I believe that I am as well-instructed a Roman. Catholic as most nowadays, but the noble Lord's statement struck me with amazement. I never heard of such a proposition before, and personally I entirely repudiate and reject it. In regard to the Declaration, your Lordships have been told the circumstances under which it came into existence. It is true, as the most rev. Primate has said, that for many years before the Declaration appeared on the Statute-book there was a great deal of diplomacy going on between the French King and Charles II. But, my Lords, that was the custom of the time on both sides, and Charles II was, as we all know, to a considerable extent forced into these evil ways by the Parliamentary opposition very largely engineered by Shaftesbury. The immediate origin of the Declaration was the perjuries of the impostor Titus Oates acting on the delusion of the nation. Taking advantage of the opportunity Shaftesbury forced this Declaration. through Parliament, his object being to exclude Roman Catholics from the public service and from Parliament. It was effective, and 150 years elapsed before the Roman Catholic members of your Lordships' House and of the other House were able again to take part in public affairs in this country. It has taken eighty years more to relieve the King of the necessity of making this Declaration. So far as Irishmen are concerned, we look upon the removal of the Declaration as a message of peace, and we have no objection whatever to the Declaration which it is proposed to substitute for it. And at the same time we feel most thankful to your Lordships' House and to the other House of Parlia- ment for the action they have taken in this matter.


My Lords, I rise as a humble member of your Lordships' House to express my sincere gratitude to His Majesty's Government for having brought before Parliament proposals for getting rid of a Declaration which was, in my opinion, a blot on the Statute-book, and which was the result of one of the most disgraceful episodes in English history. On that point I should like, if I may, for one moment to supplement what has fallen from the most rev. Primate with regard to the Treaty of Dover. He did not give a complete account of what was the real object of that Treaty. Its object was only incidentally concerned with religion. The real object was to enable Charles II to obtain such an amount of subsidies from Louis XIV as to make it possible for him to govern without the consent of his subjects in England. That is why it was taken up so violently by the Liberals of that time, and Titus Oates and the Popish Plot was a pretext and not by any means the real reason for the agitation at that time. I may be mistaken, but to imply that the Declaration arose out of religious intrigues which had their origin some years before the Popish Plot is, it seems to me, to give not altogether a complete account of those transactions.

My Lords, the Declaration which I hope will very soon be got rid of has not only been a distress to all reasonable people, but was absolutely unnecessary. The Prime Minister in the admirable speech he made the other day in another place, proved to demonstration that if it is desired to exclude a Roman Catholic from the Throne there is ample security under the Act of Settlement and by other legal provisions to secure that object, and that, in fact, the Declaration adds nothing to that security, since there is no penalty attaching to the King if he declines to make it. There can be no object, therefore, in maintaining a Declaration which is abhorrent not only to Roman Catholics but to a great many of His Majesty's subjects, which is an offence, against charity, and which, from whatever point of view it is approached, is theologically absurd and indefensible.

The only complaint, therefore, I have to make on the subject is that the Govern- ment in dealing with the matter did not take the sensible and consistent course, and what was the logical conclusion of the Prime Minister's speech—namely, to get rid of the Declaration altogether. This was the only reasonable course, as indeed Mr. Asquith as much as said himself, and it would also have been, I think, the easiest. The Government's original proposal by the words "as by law established" committed the King to a declaration of membership in the Church of England, yet in doing this it made use in another part of the suggested Declaration of words unknown to any distinctive formulary of the Church of England—words not found, as the Prime Minister admitted, either in the Prayer-book or in the Articles, and which were open to grave misconception. A Church is to be described by what it believes, not by what it denies. So far then I am glad that this first form has been withdrawn. In the Declaration as it now stands all reference to the Church of England has been omitted, and the King has only to declare himself "a faithful Protestant." I venture to think that the same objection, only in a different shape, might be made to the new form as applied to the one for which it has been substituted.

The old historical antithesis was between Protestant and Papist. The antithesis has now come to be in popular estimation between Protestant and Catholic. In the former and historical sense of the words the Orthodox Churches of the East, such as the Church of Russia, the Church of Constantinople, were as much Protestant as the Established Church in Scotland, or any of the numerous Nonconformist sects in England. Archbishop Laud, the type of all that was odious in the eyes of Puritans and modern Protestants, declared himself a Protestant; and in that sense all those who deny the universal coercive jurisdiction and the temporal claim of Rome are Protestants. I would not object to the word in that sense myself. But the modern and popular acceptation of the word "Protestant," as the word is employed in the suggested Declaration, is not only misleading, but involves a statement contradictory of and absolutely irreconcilable with other statements the King has to make.

The King every time lie receives Communion has to recite the Creed in which he professes his belief in the Holy Catholic Church. On Easter Day, Whitsun Day, Christmas Day, Ascension Day, and many saint days he has to declare that the Catholic faith is necessary for salvation, and at his Coronation he promises, among other things, to "defend the Catholic faith." How are these statements and obligations to be reconciled with the meaning popularly attached to the word Protestant? Is it not obvious that obligations which have to be glossed on one side or the other to bring them into harmony are misleading and useless? If you wish to impose a declaration of personal belief on the King, you should have substituted for the existing Declaration such a declaration of assent to the Prayer-book and Articles of the Church of England as up to some fifty years ago was required of all persons matriculating or taking a degree at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and if you did not choose to do this, then the only reasonable and consistent alternative was to abolish the Declaration altogether.

My Lords, no one can resent more than I do the intrusion of spiritual authority into matters outside its domain. When, as sometimes happens abroad, people are told that they cannot be good Catholics if they do not support the policy of the Pope and of the Roman Curia, and when the attempt is made to coerce clergy and laity alike in regard to matters which do not directly concern the Faith, I think it as deplorable as the attempt made in England to identify Church principles and loyalty to the Church of England with Conservatism in politics. All these things should he kept separate. We do not want the intrusion of spiritual authority in temporal affairs any more than we want the intrusion of temporal authority into what are spiritual matters. What we do want is complete freedom of conscience in all these matters, and I am compelled to say that I am at a loss to see why, if liberty of conscience and freedom from tests are good things, they are not as good for the King as for the humblest of his subjects. No one has mentioned this point, I notice, except the Rev. C. Silvester Horne in the House of Commons in the admirable speech which be made in regard. to the Declaration.

The Government have of late been insisting on freedom from all tests in the case of those entrusted with the education and the religious instruction of the children in all State schools. I should have thought the religion of the country more in danger of being affected by such a provision, under which Roman Catholics might be teaching Protestant children, than by the omission of the Declaration on the part of the King, who after all only acts on the advice of his Ministers. In all these things are we not too superstitious? Can there be a greater absurdity, as things are, than to tie the King and leave the Prime Minister free? Which, if he were so minded, could do more to bring us under what is called the dominion of Rome—the King or a Prime Minister such as, say, Mr. Gladstone or the late Lord Salisbury? Of course the reason why the Government have not proposed the total abolition of the Declaration, as Mr. Asquith not obscurely intimated he would have preferred to do himself, is that they were afraid of a Protestant clamour. A little courage would be good in such things, and it would have required so little courage in this case. After all, leaders are there to lead, and those who are responsible for such agitation as there is with regard to the Declaration are really people of no importance and precisely the same kind of people as those who in their time moved heaven and earth to prevent Roman Catholic emancipation. Roman Catholic emancipation was carried; no one was one penny the worse, and when this Declaration had been got rid of in six months time everything about it would have been forgotten, except the wonder that any one should ever have thought that the safety of the country and the security of religion depended on the maintenance of such a Declaration.


My Lords, the feelings of Roman Catholics on this question have been well expressed by the noble Duke and by the noble Lord opposite. But I should like to be allowed, as an Irish Catholic sitting on this [the Opposition] side of the House, to say one word in expression of thanks to His Majesty's Government for the action they have taken in this matter, and to offer my humble tribute of congratulation to them, and also to the leaders of the Opposition and to those who have given support to this Bill in both Houses of Parliament for their courageous action in dealing with this most difficult matter. That action, I am sure, will be recognised and appre- ciated by the Roman Catholic population of these islands and throughout the Empire. In any case, the Government have done the right and proper thing. They have done it in two directions—first, by removing from the old Declaration language which was necessarily offensive to Roman Catholics, and which, I feel sure, grated on all tolerant minds nowadays; and, in the second place, by going further and removing all repudiatory references to specific Christian doctrines held sacred by many of the subjects of the Crown. It was extremely unpleasant and unbecoming that those doctrines should, have been referred to in the manner in which they were by the Sovereign, especially on such an occasion as his-Coronation, when he was asking for the loyalty and support of all his subjects. throughout the Empire, twelve millions of whom are Roman Catholics.

Perhaps the most pleasing circumstance in connection with the whole of this matter to Irish Catholics has been the kindly support and sympathy shown towards them by a large body of their Protestant fellow-countrymen. The noble Earl the Leader of the House read this afternoon a resolution passed at a meeting of Irish Protestants in Dublin, and I shall not therefore read it, as I intended to. But may I just refer to it in order to show the support it received in a few days? The meeting was presided over by the noble Earl, Lord Shaftesbury, and the petition based on the resolution was signed by the Hon. and Rev. B. J. Plunket, a son of a Protestant. Archbishop of Dublin, and by about 300 of the clergymen of the Protestant Church in Ireland; by a large number of Irish Protestants, by representative men including Judges and Professors of Dublin University, and by many members of your Lordships' House, my noble friends Lord Clonbrock, Lord Meath, and Lord Barrymore, who are representative of the Protestants in Ireland. I wish especially, as an Irish Catholic, to refer to these facts, which I am sure all will consider most gratifying. But although this change is going happily to be carried out I fail to see how it can in any way endanger the Protestant Succession or the fealty of the reigning Sovereign to the Protestant Faith. Those are two matters which no Catholic has questioned the right of Parliament to safeguard; and I venture to say, as has been already pointed out by the noble Duke, that it is really very far-fetched, uncanny and impossible, to imagine any Roman Catholic taking the Declaration in its new form; and, of course, there are the other safeguards provided by the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement.

It has been said on some occasions that, in spite of the language in the old Declaration being offensive and the references to Christian doctrines unbecoming, it did no harm to Roman Catholics. I differ from that. It was a very strange and unsympathetic view to take. Every time the old Declaration was repeated or referred to it was, I believe, the cause of a great deal of serious ill-feeling and misunderstanding, even between the Throne and the Roman Catholic subjects of the Sovereign and certainly between Roman Catholics and their Protestant fellow-countrymen. For those reasons I cannot agree that it did no harm. I rejoice, therefore, to see it amended in the form proposed, and I desire to again join in congratulating the Government and those who supported them in Parliment and in the country generally upon their courageous action.


My Lords, I shall not strike any discordant note in the discussion in which I am sure many of us have been interested this afternoon, and I shall certainly not at this time trespass at any length upon the attention of your Lordships. But I desire to say a few words solely and simply on the ground that were I to remain absolutely silent perhaps my silence might be misconstrued. Like others of your Lordships, I was responsible for the efforts which were made to settle this question some ten years ago on the part of Lord Salisbury's Government. I regret that those efforts availed little, but I rejoice that a happier set of circumstances has arisen which has enabled the Government, after due consideration and deliberation, to suggest a change from the existing form of Declaration.

My reason for desiring the change is not that I wish to interfere with the certainty of the Protestant Succession to the Throne. I desire to see a change made because I think the existing form of Declaration is unfair to the Protestant Churches of the country. It seems to me that the form of words put into the mouth of the Sovereign is foreign to Christian ideals and principles, and so is likely to do harm rather than good to the very cause it is intended to support. It is nothing to me that it is alleged that the Roman Catholic Church exacts tests in language worse, perhaps, than that which is now being removed. That is not material to the point at issue for your Lordships. The point at issue is whether the present form of Declaration is necessary to secure the Protestant Succession, and is in itself in conformity with Christian ideals and principles. The most rev. Primate has shown conclusively that what underlies the necessity for some Declaration are not ecclesiastical reasons, but political reasons. In this country we are resolved, after severe lessons in history, that it is not safe for us to have a Roman Catholic Sovereign. We are resolved that the Sovereign of these realms shall owe no allegiance but to his God, his country, and to himself, and we are resolved that there shall be no outside authority or jurisdiction to interfere with the performance of the great task which Providence has committed to his care.

It may be that there is sufficient security for what we want without any Declaration at all. So far as I am concerned, I would be inclined to associate myself with those who say that the Declaration is superfluous; but I do not believe that it would have been possible for the Government, without running counter to the feelings and wishes of a great many of the people of this country, to have dispensed with the Declaration altogether. As the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of the Bill told your Lordships, there were the proverbial three courses open to the Government—either to maintain the Declaration as it stood, to have some modified form of negative Declaration abjuring certain tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, or to take the course which they have taken of trying to find some new affirmative Declaration making the actual position of the Sovereign as plain as it is possible to make it. As the noble Earl truly said, each one of these courses had its difficulties and its advantages. What we all wanted was to get the most absolute and complete security which is possible for the maintenance of the Protestant Succession, without using language calculated to give offence to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. It has been gratifying to see from the tenor of the debate to-night that, at any rate so far as we can judge, by the form of words now proposed that difficult task is in a fair way of being successfully accomplished.

The Government have not told us—and perhaps it is not reasonable to ask them—why it was that they chose the particular form of words which appeared in the Bill as originally presented to Parliament. Anxious as I have always been to find a solution of this difficulty, I venture to say that of all the courses open to the Government the course which they chose in the first Declaration proposed by them was perhaps the very worst which they could possibly have chosen. So far as I am personally concerned I read it with absolute and profound amazement. I could not understand how fifteen or twenty gentlemen of, if they will let me say so, much more than average intelligence could possibly by their conjoint efforts have produced anything so utterly had for the purpose which they had in view. It pleased nobody at all. It was condemned by the most rev. Primate; it certainly gave the greatest possible amount of offence to the Nonconformist body in England; and I can assure them that if ever the possibility of altering the present Declaration was in doubt, it was the form of words which the Government chose so far as Scotland was concerned which made their task a difficult one.

I speak on this matter with some knowledge, because before the actual form of words which were to be substituted was made known, but while it was perfectly well-known that the Government intended to deal with the subject, I as a member of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland endeavoured to get that body to petition in favour of some change. I was not successful. There was a division of opinion; the majority thought that it was a matter which it did not concern the Supreme Court of the Church of Scotland as a Court to interfere with at all; and so far as the General Assembly was concerned it resolved to take no action. But, my Lords, when the particular form of words chosen by the Government was made known, the whole situation in Scotland was changed; and, if they will ask their Scottish supporters, I venture to say they will find that utterly regardless of Party, of class, almost of religious opinion, with one common consent the form of words chosen by the Government was disapproved of. Almost spontaneously about nine-tenths of the parishes in Scotland sent up petitions against the form of words chosen. For the first time in history it was made known in Scotland that it was proposed to bind the Sovereign of the United Kingdom by Statute to be a member of the Church of England. We have always known that he was to join in communion with the Church of England, and I think it is probable that as far as we can see in the future the Sovereign is likely to be really in fact a. member of the Church of England. That does not seem to us unnatural; it seems to us, as England is the predominant partner of this Empire, to be not an unreasonable thing; but when we were asked to say by Statute that the Sovereign is to be a member of a particular Church, that Church being for one division of the country and having no right of interference north of the Tweed, the whole situation was changed. I venture to say that if that form of words had been persevered with there is hardly one of us north of the Tweed who would have rested until we had accomplished the task of getting that form of words repealed. That is now past and gone, and it does not interfere with the desire of the great majority of the people of Scotland to see the offensive words in the present Declaration removed; and I believe, as many noble Lords have said in this debate to-night, that after a few months, certainly after a very few years, have passed we shall almost all of us have forgotten that there ever was this controversy at all. I am not afraid of the change. I am not intolerant, I hope, towards those who disagree with the views which I myself hold. But what we are resolved, and what I believe this Declaration will secure, is that the Sovereign of this country shall be the master in his own dominion, without the possibility of interference by any authority, however great, which is outside the bounds of the territory over which he rules.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.