HL Deb 02 August 1910 vol 6 cc655-62

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee—(The Earl of Crewe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clauses agreed to.


I [here insert the name of the Sovereign] do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that 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.

LORD KINNAIRD moved to insert after "I" ["am a faithful Protestant and that I"] the words—"do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any Transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever, and that the invocation of the Virgin Mary or any other saint and the sacrifice of the Mass as they are now used in the Church of Rome are contrary to the Protestant religion in which I believe. And I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that. I do make this declaration and every part thereof unreservedly."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move this Amendment to meet the view of those who feel that the words in the Schedule are much too indefinite in form. I do not know whether your Lordships will suggest any different wording, but this is a form which received a certain amount of support in another place, and it was thought that it would meet the case without being in any way offensive to Roman Catholics, as were the words complained of in the old Declaration. It is felt by many that the position of the King, having taken the Declaration in the form originally introduced by His Majesty's Government, would have been a safer one with reference to the security of the Protestant Succession than the present form. The use of the word "Protestant" is not as definite as a declaration that His Majesty is a member of the Church of England, because by saying that he would be assenting to the 39 Articles, to the Book of Common Prayer, and also, I believe, to the Homilies. The petitions, couched in moderate language, which have been presented show that there is much anxiety on the subject. The noble Earl, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill yesterday, referred to a petition he had received from Dublin signed by over 2,000 Protestants. I have received a petition which was signed in three days by over 3,000 persons in Dublin. I only mention that to show that the Protestants of Dublin are not entirely represented by those to whom the noble Earl referred yesterday. I have no wish to wound the feelings of those to whom the words in the old Declaration were offensive, but those words being removed it appears to me that there should be something further than the mere bare statement as printed in the Bill. Into the whole subject I will not enter, for it would take a long time, and I suppose noble Lords have made up their minds which way they will vote. In reference to what the noble Earl the Leader of the House said yesterday, I apologise to your Lordships for having, in making too much use of notes, unwittingly infringed a Standing Order. In doing so I was influenced by a desire to keep my remarks concise in their bearing on the matter under discussion. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved— In the schedule, page 2, line 4, after ("I") insert ("do believe that in the Sacrament of the "Lord's Supper there is not any Transubstantiation "of the elements of bread and wine into the body "and blood of Christ at or after the consecration "thereof by any person whatsoever, and that the "invocation of the Virgin Mary or any other saint "and the sacrifice of the Mass as they are now used "in the Church of Rome are contrary to the Protest"ant religion in which I believe. And I d "solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, "and declare that I do make this declaration and "every part thereof unreservedly; and also that "I"), and leave out ("and that I will")—(Lord Kinnaird.)


My Lords, trust that the House will not accept the Amendment of the noble Lord. I can assure him that I do the fullest justice to the reality of conviction and the earnestness with which he thinks it right to bring forward this Amendment, but I think it is not difficult to show that it would he undesirable to pass it. I think if it had occurred to the noble Lord during the reign of Queen Victoria, when probably not one person in a thousand knew of the Declaration which the next Sovereign would have to take, and certainly not one in 10,000 knew of its terms—if it had occurred to the noble Lord at that time to suggest an Amendment of this kind removing the offensive words, it is possible that it might have been carried. But a great deal has happened since then. There have been the long discussions of 1901 and since, and everything goes to show that a Declaration couched in the form of the noble Lord's Amendment would be unacceptable for two reasons. In the first place, it would be unacceptable because we now know that Roman Catholics, without exception, would take the strongest possible objection to the mention of the particular sacred doctrines set out in the Amendment. I think I am not going beyond the mark in saying that all the Roman Catholics within the Empire, for whom noble Lords here are qualified to speak, would not regard the alteration of the Declaration in this form as in any sense a satisfaction of the grievance under which they labour.


Hear, hear.


That being so, it would seem hardly worth while to proceed at all on the lines suggested by the noble Lord. In the second place, we all of us feel, I think, that it is a slight to the Sovereign to make him declare, as a supplement to a solemn Declaration taken on a great occasion, that he is speaking without mental reservation. Consequently, both parts of the suggested Amendment seem to me, and will, I think, seem to your Lordships generally, to err—one in the sense of not satisfying those whom it is desired to relieve, and the other in placing an unfair obligation upon the Sovereign who is making the Declaration.

The noble -Lord alluded to the important resolution which I mentioned in the course of my remarks yesterday as coming from Dublin, and he has got, he says, a counter resolution or petition. The remarkable part of the resolution to which I alluded was not, in fact, that 2,000 people had signed it, but that they were 2,000 people of education, standing, and in some cases of great eminence. It was a remarkable list of names in every way. I am informed that the petition or resolution for which the noble Lord makes himself responsible was taken round and the signature of everybody over sixteen years of age who could be found and who was able to write and willing to put his name to it was accepted. In those circumstances it is not remarkable that 3,000 signatures were obtained. I have no doubt that in a little time a great many more could have been obtained on the same terms.

Then the noble Lord spoke of the moderate language in which the various communications were couched. I can only say I have received a great many conununications couched in most immoderate language, and I dare say many of your Lordships have had the same experience. But I repeat once more that except in the case of certain people whom it is impossible to reconcile to any change, because they really like the existing terms on account of their being painful to Roman Catholics—except in the case of those people, who, I hope, are not numerous, I believe that in the course of a very few months there will be a general agreement that the form of Declaration which we have proposed is satisfactory in itself because it does not give pain to a large number of His Majesty's subjects, and also because it quite adequately secures, if further security is needed, the Protestant Succession, as to which we are all agreed. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will not accept the Amendment.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has moved this Amendment is not quite satisfied that the Protestant Succession is safe. I agree with him to a certain extent, and I must cross swords with the most rev. Primate, who said last night that he regarded the word Protestant as amply sufficient. The other day I came across this ruling by a Jesuit— A man might live for months among heretics without making his Faith known.…Under certain circumstances it might be lawful to conceal one's conversion to the Faith…A Catholic who, on being asked, denies he is a Catholic, does not necessarily deny the Faith. I do not say that our King would deny his faith, but we have to guard against any danger of this kind in the future. A well-known Roman Catholic newspaper, referring to the Declaration in its old form, declared that it could not be denied that the Low Church section of the Anglican body and the Protestant masses generally had a great interest in demanding its retention, because in the form in which it then stood it could never be taken by a Roman Catholic. I support the first part of the Amendment; but I think the Amendment as it stands too long and complicated. I suggest that Lord Kinnaird should modify it so that it should run— I do not believe in the doctrine of Transubstantiation, or in the invocation of the Virgin Mary, or of any other saint. I think that would be quite sufficient.


My Lords, I had not intended to intrude in this discussion, but, as the noble Lord who has just spoken is a fellow countryman of mine and a Protestant, I should like to dissociate myself from the only other Irishman who has spoken on this subject. I had the honour of signing the petition to which the noble Earl the Leader of the House referred, and I did so with great pleasure. I feel that it is absolutely unnecessary for us to put into the mouth of the King, not only words which are offensive to 12,000,000 of his subjects, but also words which enter into the discussion of the most delicate and most sacred subjects which it is possible to discuss. I feel that it is enough for the Sovereign to say, "I am a faithful Protestant." We have the Statutes to which reference was made on the Second Reading of this Bill. Personally I would have preferred no Declaration at all, but if a Declaration is deemed necessary I think the words suggested by His Majesty's Government are sufficient. The noble Viscount who spoke yesterday (Lord Halifax) did not think that he could properly designate himself as a Protestant. I am a humble member of the Church of England and of Ireland, and I can say that I am a Protestant and I am proud of it. I am delighted that His Majesty's Government have had the courage to come forward and settle what really was a difficult problem. Having met large numbers of Roman Catholics, not only in my own country but throughout the Empire. I can say that the old Declaration was a sore festering in their minds. Let us have peace. Let us try and see if we cannot unite all the subjects of His Majesty, especially the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. Where it is necessary let us stand up for our own particular Faith, but where that is not necessary let us try and see if we cannot create peace between Roman Catholics and Protestants. It is, therefore, as a loyal member of the Protestant Church that I thank His Majesty's Government for the steps they have taken in this matter.


My Lords, I hope my noble friend will not press this Amendment. The Amendment seems to me to weaken the Declaration. When the Sovereign declares that he is a faithful Protestant and you then single out for repudiation two doctrines, the question might be raised about the attitude towards other doctrines which are not included in the Amendment. Therefore my firm conviction is that the Declaration as drafted in the Schedule of this Bill is stronger and gives greater guarantees for the Protestant Succession than if the words suggested in the Amendment were added. I have a further strong objection to Protestantism being supposed to consist in the negation or repudiation of doctrines held by others. The strength of Protestantism is not rooted in negation, but is rooted in the affirmation of certain doctrines which are common to all the Protestant Churches, and in which, by this Declaration, the King declares his belief. I would point out to my noble friend that the Board of Education give grants to institutions in which the very doctrines to which he refers in his Amendment are inculcated. That is the natural result of liberty of conscience and freedom of worship which exist throughout the Empire, and which I consider to be essential to the maintenance of the Empire. From my own experience I can say that when I occupied functions of great responsibility in India I carefully abstained, as did my predecessors—and that course has been followed by my successors—from using any words which might give umbrage to any section of His Majesty's subjects in that great Empire, and I certainly do not think, in those circumstances, that the words in the old Declaration can be maintained, asking the Sovereign to pledge himself in a way in which no official is asked to pledge himself either here or in His Majesty's Dominions. I sincerely trust, as Lord Balfour of Burleigh said yesterday, that taking into account the Christian ideals of Protestantism—and to my mind the honour of Protestantism is at stake—my noble friend will not press this Amendment, but will accept the form of Declaration proposed by His Majesty's Government, which gives the fullest guarantee for the Protestant Succession, and satisfaction to the Protestant feeling of the country which has been so clearly manifested.


My Lords, I wish to remind the House that the words which appear in this Amendment were the cause of the then proposed alteration in the Declaration being shipwrecked some years ago. It was then proposed that these words should be substituted for the Accession Declaration as it now stands, and it was for that very reason that the Bill was rejected. To drag in without any apparent reason two of the most sacred doctrines of the Catholic Church as held by 200,000,000 of the human race seems to me simply outrageous. It cannot be defended on any ground whatever, except that these were considered test doctrines at the time when the old Declaration was framed. With regard to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Ashtown, I regret to say that I was not able to catch every word he said, but I understood him to quote from some Catholic theologian a passage which was very derogatory to the honour of Catholics generally. I should like to know whether that theologian was recognised or his works authorised in any way. I should imagine not. As to the Amendment now before the Committee, I earnestly hope that Lord Kinnaird will not press it to a Division. I do not think there would be any chance of your Lordships accepting his proposal, but I hope he will withdraw it. The matter has now been thoroughly discussed for years, and I am thankful to think that this is the last occasion on which it will ever be submitted for your Lordships' deliberation. I think we may now, without further discussion, remove the old form of Declaration from the Statute-book, and carry out its death and burial.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Schedule agreed to.

Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) Bill read 3a, and passed.