Lord Howick rose
in pursuance of the notice he had given some time ago, but which had been suspended in consequence of an alteration which it had been deemed advisable to make in the arrangement of the measure, to move for leave to bring in a bill for securing to all his majesty's liege subjects the privilege of serving in the army or navy, upon their taking an oath prescribed by act of parliament; and for leaving to them, as far as convenience would admit, the free exercise of their respective religions. He should have hoped that such a proposition was not likely to meet with much opposition. He should have imagined that to state it to be a desirable object for all goverments to unite every description of persons living under them in their own defence, was to state .a position 3 which would admit of no dispute. If any additional weight could be given to the strength of this position, it would be given by considering it as applicable to the present time. Was it prudent; was it politic, when we were contending with such a powerful enemy, to prevent a large portion of the population of the country from contributing to the common defence? As, notwithstanding his hopes, the affirmative of this question seemed to be held by some hon. members, he would trouble the house with an explanation of the grounds, on which the bill which he had the honour to propose, was founded. In doing this he should avoid as much as possible entering into the question of the general expediency of such laws as those which his proposed measure went to annul. It was not to be disputed that every government had a right to impose those due restraints which were necessary for its security; but that necessity Must be strong and apparent. This was a principle true and incontrovertible. Against what had the exclusions, which it was the object of his bill to remove, been in general directed? Not against religious Opinions themselves, but against religious opinions as supposed to be connected with some political principles of attachment, which were inconsistent with the existing order of things. On this ground and onthis ground alone, had the principle of exclusion been supported latter times. On this sole ground had it been supported by a writer, whose name it was impossible to mention without paying him that tribute of applause which was his due, he meant the late Dr. Paley, a man not more estimable for the excellence of his life than for the simplicity and logical precision of his works. If it were now necessary to state that the connexion which formerly existed between the religion and the politics of the catholics of the United Empire had ceased, and that therefore those restrictions which were applicable only to their politics, and not to their religion, were rendered unnecessary, he should feel no difficulty in making that statement, and in maintaining it by unanswerable arguments. If this were allowed, the proposition necessarily followed, that at the present season of difficulty and danger, when it was desirable to unite every heart and hand in the cause of the country, it was most unwise to exclude from that union so large a portion of the people as the catholics of Great Britain and Ireland, amounting in number to nearly a fourth of the whole population of the kingdom, and to pre- 4 vent them from sharing in the danger and glory of their countrymen. The fact was, that at that very moment a great proportion of our soldiers and sailors (particularly of the latter) were catholics, and was it fitting that parliament should not allow that by right which was already allowed by connivance? By the law which passed in the parliament of Ireland in 1793, the catholics were allowed to hold commissions in the army, and to enjoy those privileges in Ireland, which it was the object of the bill that he meant to propose to communicate generally to the catholics of this country. The bill would go to admit persons of every religious persuasion, to serve in the army and navy without any condition, but that of taking an oath particularized in the bill. Of course, if this indulgence was granted to catholics, it was unnecessary to state that there could be no objection to grant it to any other set of dissenters from the established church, unless some danger could be shewn which, he did not at present see. The provisions of the bill would therefore extend to persons of all religions persuasions. What had particularly drawn the attention of his majesty's government to this subject was, the, strange anomaly which existed in consequence of the act passed in Ireland in 1793, by which the roman catholics in that country were enabled to hold commissions in the army, and to attain to any rank except that of commander in chief of the forces, master general of the ordnance, or general on the staff. They might rise to be generals, but they were not permitted to be generals on the staff. The effect of this permission so granted to the catholics in Ireland, was a most striking incongruity; for if a catholic, who was by law qualified to serve in the army of Ireland, should be brought to this country by any circumstances which demanded the presence in this country of the regiment in which he served, he would be disqualified by law from remaining in the service, and would have only this alternative, either to continue in the service contrary to the law, and thus subject himself to the penalties and forfeitures consequent thereon, or to relinquish a profession in which he had risen to the rank which he might hold, either by the sacrifice of his fortune, or more probably by a succession of meritorious services, such as proved him qualified to defend the prosperity and assert the honour of the country. So absurd an inconvenience must be remedied. It was felt to be an inconvenience 5 when Great Britain and Ireland were separate nations, and had separate parliaments; and when the act of 1793 was proposed in the Irish parliament, it was declared that similar proposition should be made in two months in the parliament of Great Britain This was distinctly promised; lord Clare in the house of peers, and lord Bucking hamshire in the house of commons, distinctly stated, that it was the intention of his majesty's government, with all convenient dispatch, to propose a similar bill in the British parliament. The measure which he was about to submit to the judgemnt of the house was calculated to remove the inconvenience, and to reconcile the incongruity complained of, and at the same time to maintain the faith of the British government, by redeeming the pledge to which he had alluded. The beneficial effects of the Irish act were immediately felt, and had since been still more apparent, while not the slightest inconvenience had resulted from it. The shores of Egypt and the plains of Calabria were decisive proofs of the advantages which we had derived from that act, as they were also decisive proofs of the valour and patriotism of those distinguished heroes, who, by their gallant exertions, had deserved and obtained the eternal gratitude of their country. After such a lapse of time since the passing of the Irish act (the causes of which delay he would not then stay to examine, as he feared they could not be satisfactorily explained,) it was his intention to propose to grant to the catholics, and other dissenters of Great Britain, those privileges which, while they were an indulgence to them, would be a source of benefit to the country. As far as it was possible to collect the opinions of the house or the general feelings of the public on this subject, there seemed to be no objection to the measure, as a necessary consequence of the act of 1793, and as a redemption of the pledge given at that period. The only objection started appeared to be by those who thought that the proposed measure, by going farther than the act of 1793, established a new principle of concession which ought not to be acceded to. It would now therefore be necessary for him to state in What the two measures differed. The first difrence was, that the proposed measure went to permit persons of every religion to serve in the navy as well as in the army. When the Irish act was passed, it was distinctly stated, that in the bill to be submitted to the British parliament leave to serve, in the navy would be included, and the only rea- 6 son why it was not included in the Irish act was, that Ireland had no navy. If it were right to allow catholics to Serve in the army, Here could be no possible objection to allow them to serve in the other branch of our varlike establishment, so immediately connected with the prosperity of the country. The difference in the extent of the privileges granted by the two measures was this: the Irish act, while it admitted catholics to hold commissions in the army, did so under certain restrictions, by which, as he had before-mentioned, they were prevented from becoming commanders in chief of the forces, masters general of the ordnance, or generals on the staff. No such restriction was intended to be proposed in the present instance, because it was not believed that such a restriction was founded on any good principles; for if any danger attended the admission of catholics into the army, it was the duty of the legislature not to restrain, but wholly to exclude them. The same principle which induced his majesty's ministers to propose the adoption of a similar law for the two countries induced them to propose the abolition of a similar law for the two countries, induced them to propose the abolition of restrictions —consistency; for there could be nothing more incongruous than the consequences of these restriction, which might be attended with considerable inconvenience to the service. A catholic might, by the Irish act, rise through the regular gradations, and become a field officer: he might become a major, a lieutenant-colonel, a colonel; in this last capacity, he might have the command of a corps equal in number to that frequently under the orders of officers of superior rank; he might shew himself eminently qualified for a situation of greater trust; he might distinguish himself to such a degree as to be called upon by the voice of the army and the people to fill that situation; but it would be impossible to create him a major-general! This was a great discouragement to the catholic officer; it was a greater disadvantage to the country, which, by such a restriction, had lost- the extended services of many a brave and skilful man. Nor did the restrictions form any security against danger, if danger could be supposed to exist. And after all, it must be considered, that the proposed measure only enabled his majesty to appoint such persons to situations of high importance. Their appointment must depend upon the executive government who of course would avoid any dangerous or im- 7 proper use of their authority. In addition to the advantage of enabling the country to avail itself of the whole extent of its population, without any of those restrictions which operated merely to keep up a spirit of discontent, and to damp that ardour which might otherwise be so successfully directed to the public service, the proposed Measure, in addition to these things, provided for all who should enter his majesty's service the free and unrestrained exercise of their religion, as far as it did not interfere with their military duties. Perhaps it would be said that this might be accomplished in another way, by giving directions to that effect; but he was apprehensive that this could only be partially done; besides, the insecurity and instability of such a mode of proceeding would deter catholics entering into the army, and would furnish to those who might be desirous of preventing them, sufficient means of persuasion. Let them have full security in the shape of a clause in an act of parliament: let them have the sanction of the legislature and all doubt would be removed. if there was any possible utility in this provision, when it was considered that it could be attended with no possible inconvenience or danger, he trusted that it would meet with no objection. He had thus stated briefly the objects of the proposed bill. Briefly, because he was not aware that in this stage the measure would occasion much debate. He could, indeed, hardly persuade himself that any serious objection to it could exist in the minds of the house or of the public; with regard to the latter part of it, the whole extent of the provision was, to prevent dissenters from being interrupted in the exercise of their own religion, and compelled to adopt a religion, irreconcilable to their faith. This was the whole extent; it held out no encouragement to them; it established no institution for their support or increase. The abolition of restrictions in point of rank would place before the sons of the gentry of Ireland, those fair objects of ambition, it would open to them that career of glory, the pursuit of which was synonimous with the advancement of the best interests of the empire. On the commonalty of Ireland the measure must have a powerful effect, by affording a salutary check to the increasing superabundant population of that country, as it would induce numbers to enter into the service of his majesty; even of those who by their own discontents, and by the artifices of others, had so lately been urged into 8 insurrection and rebellion.—The noble, lord concluded with moving, " That, leave be given to bring in a bill for enabling his, majesty to avail himself of the services of all his liege subjects in his naval and military forces, in the manner therein mentioned."
§ Mr. Perceval ,
although he would not at present enter into any debate on the proposed bill, yet, as the principle of it was one which he felt it his bounden duty to oppose, he thought it right, even in the first instance, to apprise the noble lord of the nature of his objections, and to call the serious attention of the house, and of the public, to one of the most important and most dangerous measures that had ever been submitted to the judgment of the legislature. It was not so much to the individual measure which he objected, but to the system of which it formed a part, which was growing day after day, and threatening to expand into the most alarming magnitude. If it was desirable to preserve any thing of our ancient and venerable establishments it could only be effected by making a stand against every fresh attempt at innovation. To what did the proposed measure tend? With any degree of consistency its supporters could not stop short of abolishing all the tests which the wisdom of our ancestors had thought it necessary to interpose in defence of our religious establishment. The proposed measure was a partial repeal of the test act, founded on arguments which went to the repeal of that act. It was his firm conviction, that if the legislature wished to preserve Ireland to this country, if they wished to keep the two islands united, they would maintain the protestant interest in Ireland, under which toleration was permitted, and not run the risk of sacrificing that interest to another, which, when in power, had not permitted toleration, and which, if it regained power, might revert to its former practice, as it declared that its principles were Unchangeable. It was the more necessary to pause on this subject, as it had been thought wise and liberal to provide the means of support for a priesthood to instruct three millions of people in the catholic religion, and thus perpetually to combat the progress of protestantism. From the arguments that were advanced at the present day, a man might almost be led to suppose that one religion was considered as good as the other, and that the reformation was deemed only a convenient and political measure. He was far from ascribing indifference on this point to the noble lord, who, he was sure, gave the 9 preference where it was justly due; but the noble lord had said, that it approached to a spirit of persecution for parliament to hesitate in appropriating the funds of the country to the support of those who preached a doctrine subversive of the religion of the country. He might be wrong; it might be policy so to dispose of the national revenue: it might be called for by the true and enlightened spirit of Christian toleration. He certainly did not think it was. He had as great a regard for true toleration as any man. He would never restrain the free exercise of religious worship in any individual; for he could not conceive that one man could commit a greater crime against another than by such an interference. But however strongly he might feel this sentiment, the application of it to any particular measure was a very different consideration. The noble lord proposed to open the army and navy to persons of all religions, and he founded this proposition on the Irish act of 1793, and on the incongruity which this act produced. To this he could not bring himself to consent, without a much stronger case than that which was made out by the noble lord. If the grievances which had been stated by the noble lord ever existed in possibility, they had at least never been experienced in practice. There was not an instance of a single individual having been injured or prosecuted in consequence of them. Besides these grievances, if there were any, had existed not only since the union of Great Britain and Ireland, but since the union of England and Scotland; for there was no difference between the inconvenience sustained by the catholic of Ireland, on entering his majesty's service, and the inconvenience sustained by the presbyterian of Scotland or doing the same. The presbyterian of Scotland was sacrificed as much as the catholic of Ireland; but had there been any disposition evinced on the part of the presbyterian of Scotland to withhold his services? But setting this aside, he denied the proposition of the noble lord in point of law; he denied that a catholic, who obtained a commission in Ireland, was liable to any penalties, called over to exercise his military duties in Great Britain. If this was not so, we should have an act which compelled a man to perform a certain duty, and which yet did not protect him in the execution of that duty which it compelled him to perform; such an act was not to be found in the code of British and Irish jurisprudence. Did not the united parliament, which must be sup- 10 posed to be as well acquainted with the laws of Ireland as with the laws of Great Britain, pass every year a mutiny bill, which enabled the king to require the services of every man in his army in any part of his dominions to which he might think proper to summon him; and was it to be supposed that be was insecure in doing that, the refusal to do which would subject him to be shot? And after all, if any inconveniences actually did occur, the annual indemnity act would completely cover the case. This was, therefore, not a substantive grievance, and to ground the proposed measure on it was a mere pretence. There were ulterior causes for its being brought forward. What were they? It was proposed to do away the restrictions by which catholics were prevented from holding superior commissions in the army, and this on arguments which would affect equally every situation in the country, civil as well as military. It certainly was a great discouragement in any profession that the professors could not arrive at the highest distinctions. In his own profession it must be great discouragement to a catholic lawyer, to know that he could not be made a judge or a chancellor. (hear !) He saw that some of the gentlemen opposite were prepared to go the utmost extent, and to say, that in every profession and every employment there onght to be no distinction between the catholic and the protestant. Did those gentlemen perceive that their reasoning extended even to the succession to the crown? He had thrown out these observations to provoke this expression of sentiment from the gentlemen opposite, and to shew that they thought the road to the highest honours in the state should be opened to persons of every description, without any disqualification whatever. Taking it on this ground, the question would become narrowed; it would not be, whether you would allow catholic officers superior rank, but whether you would allow those arguments to be well founded by which that proposition was maintained, whether you would tranquillize Ireland by feeding its insatiable appetite with the hope of getting all that it demanded. If this were to be the policy of this country, there was but one line of wisdom to be pursued:—to do every thing; to transfer the church of Ireland to the catholics; for unless that were done, little progress would be made in tranquillizing Ireland. Partially to redress grievances, would only have the effect of making those that remained more severely felt, or 11 at least more loudly complained of. Why, then, the question was simply this, whether the legislature would give up the protestant ascendancy in, Ireland, or whether they would make a stand, and say, "We have already done every thing that toleration requires and that the catholics have a right to demand?" Undoubtedly, such a declaration would be the dictate of sound policy and discretion. In one of his. statements the noble lord had palpably contradicted himself; for, in the first place, he endeavoured to make the house believe, that the army and navy were crowded with catholics, and then he recommended that they should have a free admission. With respect to the proposition for the free exercise of religion, it was unnecessary; for if it were thought proper, his majesty might introduce such a regulation in the articles of war. But if it were to be made the subject of a legislative. provision, the utmost confusion must ensue. One soldier would go to a methodist's chapel, another to a presbyterian conventicle, a third to a roman catholic church; in short to every place of worship but a protestant one; for it was curious enough, that there was to be no legislative provision for the protestants to go to the church of England. But, if all this confusion would take place in the army, what must happen in the navy? The noble lord had declared that he apprehended no inconvenience from this unprecedented toleration in the navy. No inconvenience! Suppose the captain and crew of a man of war were roman catholics, they must have a roman catholic clergyman—(A cry of no! no!)—Why, as a captain of a man of war had a right to appoint his chaplain, if he were a roman catholic, he would scarcely appoint a protestant clergyman. Perhaps it was intended that this should be determined by the admiralty board. But it would be difficult for that board accurately to ascertain the proportion in a crew between the catholics and the protestants. This too he would maintain, that, in case of any invasion of Ireland by a French force, the commander of which should issue a proclamation in support of the roman catholic religion, that invasion would not be so vigourously repelled by a roman catholic captain and crew, as by a protestant captain and crew. These were considerations which ought to excite the jealousy and apprehension of the house and of the country; but he was not so anxious to call their attention to the particular measure now proposed as to the principle of innovation which was 12 gradually increasing; and was much more formidable, thus stealing on by degrees, than if it were, fairly exposed in all the magnitude to which it seemed intended that it should arrive. In that case, the notice of parliament would be strongly attracted to the subject; it Would take it up in an extensive point of view; it would determine upon it deliberately, and he trusted wisely. The consequences of a storm he should not be apprehensive about; but these gradual approaches were dangerous, because each by itself was not deemed worthy of notice. It should be considered, however, that even if they were little in themselves, their consequences were not so. For his own part, he. was satisfied that if parliament allowed their accumulation, it would ultimately have that extorted from its weakness, which its wisdom would be desirous to withhold.
said, that he considered it a misfortune to have heard the speech that had been delivered by the hon. and learned gent. who had just sat down: he could not help saying, that it appeared to him to savour much of opinions long since obsolete, and to breathe a kind of spirit fitter for the darker ages, than for the liberal and enlightened times in which we at present lived. Was it necessary at this time of day to go into formal proof of the impolicy, the madness of intolerance? Was it necessary now to prove, that it ever defeated its own end, and contributed to establish what it had conspired to overthrow? He hoped that it was not, and yet the speech of the hon. and learned gent. Would lead the house to suppose, that that gentleman himself entertained doubts of a truth, he might say, universally assented to, and confirmed by the successive experience of ages. He would ask the hon. and learned gent. if it were wise, just or politic, to exclude the brave fellows who made up a considerable portion of our navy and army, from the advantages and the glory of the service, when they shared in all its dangers? It was not usual in so early a stage of a bill to go into all its merits, and he should not now do so; he could not however abstain from entering his solemn protest against the revival of all those intolerant bigotries, which had in all times been productive of the most mischievous effects. The hon. and learned gent. had insinuated gloomy predictions in case of the enemy affecting a landing in Ireland. Upon what were these .apprehensions founded, but the evils which the proposed bill purposed to 13 remove; by removing the evil, the discontent so much dreaded by the learned gent would no longer exist. It had been said too, that if so much was given to the catholics; they would requite all; they would not stop here, nor be satisfied till the establishes church of Ireland was a roman catholic one. But to this argument he considered it a sufficient answer to say, that all that was asked in the present instance was a boon of a limited extent; and that was only in case of more being asked, or being attempted to be granted, that the hon. and learned gent's, argument would have its effect. In short, the whole question reduced itself to this, whether the exact boon now asked, was such as, if granted, could render the catholics, either in this country or Ireland, the objects of jealousy or distrust? In vain would it be to expect allegiance from those, who were, at the same time, told, that they were unfit to enjoy the benefits of that allegiance; or to look for attachment from those, who were not to receive any support from the government of the country.
approved of the principle of the bill proposed, as applied to the roman catholics of England; but it was a distinct question how far it should apply to Ireland. He did not think it fair that the roman catholics in Ireland should have any advantages over those in any other parts of the empire. His hon. and learned friend's speech did not appear to him to have deserved the severe animadversion to which it had been subjected by the noble lord who had spoken last. The noble lord had objected to that speech as more worthy of the darker ages. No one who knew the great talents and enlightened mind of ,his hon. and learned friend could suppose that any speech of his could deserve such a description. The sentiments his hon. and learned friend had uttered, were those of 1688, and he wished to know if the noble lord thought the times that placed the house of Hanover on the throne of these realms were the darker ages. He agreed entirely with his hon. and learned friend as to the necessity of putting at length some limits to those daily innovations on the church of England establishment. He did not wish to revive unpleasant remembrances, but, at the same time, as it was impossible to forget the spirit of insurrection which prevailed amongst the Irish catholics in the year 1798, so it must not be wondered at, if feelings of considerable jealousy were excited on the present occa- 14 sion. As to the roman catholic of this country, they had undergone the purgation of centuries, and must be considered as good am loyal subjects. He saw, no necessity for introducing the present bill, and particularly that clause which went to authorise to all persons in the army and navy, not of ail communion of the church of England, the free exercise of their religious worship; for he had never heard any practical difficulty stated, or any real ground of complaint respecting catholic officers and men being prohibited from attending divine worship in their own way; and he had personally known some catholic officers in the army, who had made no difficulty of going with their division to church. When the Reformation first took place the catholics made no objection to attend the worship, but only the sacraments of the church of England; for although the protestant church expunges and rejected what it considered as erroneous, still it retained a part of the formularies made use of in the church of Rome; he therefore saw no serious grievance existing which required to be remedied by an act of parliament; and he really thought it was much better policy not to attempt to remedy the grievance in this way, which ought not to be resorted to without a cause of strong necessity.
declared, that he considered whatever related to the protestant religion, as distinguished from the roman catholic, to be of serious importance to this country, and that the preservation of the protestant establishment was essentially requisite to maintain the peace both of this country and Ireland. Upon the subject of religion, the house had two Principles to look to; the first was that of toleration, without which nothing could go on well in a country; and next to this was the security of the establishment. He was afraid, from the arguments which had been adduced by the noble lord who had introduced this measure, that similar innovations would be pressed upon the house, and would at last proceed so far as to render it impossible for parliament, to maintain the tests which experience had proved to be so useful. The same sort of arguments would go to admit all dissenters into all offices and places of public appointment, even those which a large majority of that house, formerly, and which the nation at large had considered as dangerous to the religious establishment of the country. The constitution of this country and a church establishment were so interwoven with each 15 other, that the one. could not be affected without endangering the other. He, therefore, for one, would consent to toleration so far only as it did not tend to endanger the establishment, and he was entirely of opinion with his hon. and learned friend near him, that they had already gone far enough, and that any further innovation would be unnecessary; for what was the argument of the noble lord? It was an argument founded upon the anomaly between the two religions. This argument proved too much, for if this bill was proposed to remedy this anomaly, then would the innovation grow greater and greater every day, until the anomaly was destroyed by putting the two religions precisely on the same footing; by repealing the bill of rights, and the test act. As to the terms 'darker ages,' he, for his part, did not think that the persons who prefered the protestant religion had darker understandings than those who thought all religions equal. As to the operation of the bill proposed, his learned friend was about to put the case of a ship commanded by a roman catholic captain, but as he was diverted from it. he should beg leave to put it for him:—The captain is a catholic; his crew partly roman catholics. Well; the captain brings-a catholic priest on board, may, not one priest (for he is not to be limited), but a dozen of them, perhaps; and what is the consequence? The priests disseminate their popish doctrines through the ship: some are converted, some not; disunion is thus bred among the seamen; and, instead of preparing to beat the common enemy they turn against one another, and fall to controversial preaching—(loud laughter) It was not a thing to laugh at: he would assure the gentlemen that it required more serious consideration. He could not help alluding to the levity of certain gentlemen opposite. He was the more surprised to see his noble friend among them (lord Howick) but he was sure the noble lord would be far from intending him any personal incivility. But, as to the popularity of the measure itself, he could not help warning ministers of urging upon the people an innovation of such popular odium. He reminded ministers of the riots of 1780, and cautioned them to beware of similar consequence. The noble lord, little as he seemed to feel this warning, would not be quite so indifferent if his house were burned to the ground (a laugh). Why! was he to be told that it rage of controversy was to be confined to doctors of divinity (a laugh)? Were there 16 not to be found as furious polemics in the mob, as among these who had graduated? As to any obstruction given to the roman catholics in the exercise of their religion, he did not believe it. He asked of gentlemen on the other side, if they knew a single instance of such obstruction? [Here Sir John Newport distinctly answered in the affirmative]; It might be so; but he confessed he had his doubts. He must again advert to the attempts which he perceived were made-to put him down. But gentlemen little knew him if they expected to succeed in such attempts. He would raise his voice and speak the sentiments of an honest and independent member of parliament. He had now said what he had to say upon this question, and gentlemen had defeated their own purpose; for if they had not so interrupted him, he should have sat down much sooner.
declared, that in his view of the subject, the measure now proposed did not bear upon the constitution of the country. There was no clause in this bill that went to provide for the establishment of the catholic clergy, either in the army or navy. It did not militate either against the bill of rights or the act of settlement, and he should feel sorry if such an impression as this were made upon the public mind.
§ Mr.T. W. Plummer
said, this measure appeared to him to be one which called for the serious attention of the house. The country had been deprived for a long time of the services of a large body of people, and now that a fair opportunity offered for granting the present boon, he trusted the time was come, when no honest catholic would be deprived of the opportunity of serving his country.
§ Mr. Corry
lamented, that upon the introduction of this measure, an alarm should have been raised, as if it would draw the protestant establishments of England and Ireland into danger. He hoped gentlemen would come to the consideration of this question without prejudice. It was a question of importance, and its tendency was to prevent the natives of Ireland from being banished from the ranks of military fame and glory at home, and being drawn into the service of foreign countries. This measure went to secure their services at home, and ought therefore to be examined upon its own merits. The principles of the revolution ought always to beheld in the greatest veneration; but when the house looked to the 17 objects of that revolution, there would be found to be two principal objects in view, namely, the religious and civil liberties Of the country. With respect to the latter, he trusted they would never be attended to by a British parliament, and that that house would look with incessant jealousy to any measure that tended to overthrow the liberties of the country; but, with respect to the other object, the protestant religion, it should be remembered, that the question was then, whether a popish house should sit upon the throne? But would any man pretend, that there was a similar danger now? or that the popish religion was ever likely to gain such an establishment in parliament, as to endanger the protestant religion? He was sure that such danger was remote indeed; and that in the present measure, no scintilla of danger of this sort was likely to arise; and he also trusted, that the house would not partake of that alarm, which the hon. and learned gent. had endeavoured to create.
§ Mr. I. H. Browne
thought certainly that gentlemen should not be too hasty to take an alarm, till they saw the bill. But with regard to the catholic religion, he considered its spirit to be as hostile to the liberties of this country, as any arbitrary power could be. He trusted that there was no dread of any foreign conqueror; but should a succesful and formidable usurper, who has cemented tyranny wherever he has gone, penetrate to Ireland, and avail himself of the Pope's bull, for the re-establishment of the catholic religion in that country, he could not think, that additional indulgences would ensure the loyalty of that body. He was far from thinking that concession after concession would conciliate the affections, or ensure the obedience of the Irish catholics. He foresaw considerable danger from these concessions, as they tended to prepossess the minds of the catholics with expectations of still farther concessions. He was averse to innovations, unless an existing evil could be proved, which could not be remedied but by law; but in the present instance, he was not aware that any such practical inconvenience existed. Unless the house was prepared to go the length of saying, that every office in the united kingdom was to be open to persons of all religions, he could see no good argument for advancing catholics to the highest appointments in the army. He should, however, have no objection to put all the roman catholics in the united kingdom upon the same footing as the Irish 18 catholics now were. The Irish roman Catholics had at present every thing which they could reasonably wish for: their property was secure; provision was made for the education of their priests; the military and legal professions were opened to them; in short, they had every thing-they could wish for, excepting political power. Ought they; then, to be insensible of the blessings they enjoyed, or ungrateful for the benefits they possess under the best of sovereigns, merely because they did not possess political power? It had been the wisdom of our ancestors to restrain the executive power from conferring the highest offices upon roman catholics,.and we ought to revere their memories, and. also to do justice to posterity, by maintaining the fences which our anoestors had erected.
in reply, said, he had hoped that his motion for introducing the bill would have passed without any discussion. He wished this question to be treated on its own merits. He did not consider it as standing upon the ground, of toleration; but that it rested on the footing, that, in consequence of what had formerly passed in the Irish parliament, it was necessary ,to make the laws in the two countries consistent with themselves, and not to suffer the catholics to be in that anomalous situation in which no people were ever placed before. He saw no reason for that alarm which some hon. gentlemen had endeavoured to create; for, as to this measure, it could,be attended no danger to the religion or establishment of the country. He could not concur opinion with the hon. and learned gent, that if a person in the army was called out in obedience to the order of his superior, and at the, peril of his that therefore he could not incur any penalty under possible circumstances;. he could not subscribe to the hon. and learned gent's exposition of the law, particularly on the subject of compulsory service, and more especially when he recollected the opinion which that hon. and learned gent. had formerly given on the subject of the volunteers. The Irish act of Parliament could only regulate the army of Ireland; and if an Irish regiment removed to England, it was then upon the English establishment, to which the acts of the Irish parliament could not extend, and consequently its officers were subject to all the penalties which a British legislature had enacted. But, from the moment of the union taking place between the two countries, and when there was no longer an Irish army, but the army of the United Kingdom, 19 and to which the acts of the united parliament can alone extend, he doubted whether the Irish catholic could receive any commission in the army. He acknowledged, that, de fucto, the catholics did hold commissions, but it was contrary to existing laws; and although no advantage bad been taken of this breach of the law, he would ask, whether it was fair to place the catholics in such a situation, and to pass that over by connivance, which the law forbad, instead of giving it a legal sanction? The hon. and learned gent. had professed himself a friend to the principle of toleration; but toleration, to be complete, must be free from any exclusion whatever, and the only true principle of exclusion, on account of religious opinions, was, when these opinions were connected with political principles hostile to the state; but when this ceased to exist, he would contend that then all ,disqualifications ought to cease. The hon. gent. who spoke last had contended, that the catholics were only excluded from political power, but was not that an important object? For, how could civil rights be secured to any considerable degree? without the possession of political power? And must not such persons as were disqualified from the acquisition of political power, feel discontented? And ought-such exclusions to be considered as necessary, unless when danger would arise from conferring them? But in granting the present boon, no such danger would arise. The Irish parliament had already sanctioned the Measure, and formed the precedent. It was-true, that Irish catholics might at present enter as soldiers and sailors;but a clause in this bill was provided to grant them security for the free exercise of their religion, and it would afford the catholic officers a greater facility of recruiting for the army and navy. When his hon. friend (Mr. Mountague) had carried,his alarm so far as to doubt whether this bill would not change the navy into a religious disputing club, and that when all hands where piped, the ship would become a scene of religious controversy; he must say that he could not treat such an argument with his accustomed gravity; but it was reserved for this night's debate to assert that the way to excite religious debate was to soften down differences. His hon. friend had reminded the house of the year 1780, and the fires which were then lighted up. He well remembered that disgraceful scene: but what was the cause? Was it in consequence of the catholics having had new privileges granted them, that they 20 stirred up division? Was it not rather, on the contrary, that a certain person (some what in the spirit which had discovered itself that night) had made use of inflammatory language, which had produced the fatal effect? When his hon. friend spoke of the danger to which this house might be exposed, he had only to request of his hon. friend not to promote that danger, by unnecessary alarms: for himself he entertained no such apprehensions. After the extinction of the riots in 1780, when liberty was granted to the catholics, and when the question of similar concessions with the present was agitated in that house, no such consequences ensued; nor would they, at the present, unless the spirit of bigotry should again excite false alarms of dangers, without reality, so as to excite an attack upon men's lives and properties. He declared no man was a more sincere friend to the protestant church of England than himself; but he did not think that the best way of supporting it was by pains, penalties, and exclusions; but on the contrary, by moderation and candour. The present he considered to be a beneficial measure, and that not only to the catholics but to the country at large,.and on the principle of general advantage; nor did he consider that there was any thing diigraceful in making concessions, when occasion required. He only wished this measure might undergo a fair examination, being convinced that the result of free discussion always was, that the cause of truth would flourish and prevail.—The noble Lord then moved for leave to bring in the bill as stated in the motion; which was agreed to without a division. The bill was read a first time and ordered to be read a second time this day se'nnight.