§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved the order of the day for the resumption of the adjourned debate on the Catholic Petitions. The order being read at the table.
§ Sir William Scott
rose and said:—Sir, before I proceed to the few observations which I think it necessary to offer upon the subject now before you, I feel it right, in the first place, to take notice of soma observations which fell in the course of last night's debate, from an hon. gentleman on the other side of the House, touching a Petition which I had the honour to present from the University of Oxford, against the claims of his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. But however brilliant the talents displayed by that hon. gentleman in the sarcasms which he was pleased to cast upon the proceedings of that University on this occasion, it must be confessed that in those sarcasms he has not displayed much of filial affection for the place of his education. The attack was most undeserved; and I beg leave to 861 say. Sir, that no body of men in this country has ever demonstrated a stronger attachment to the constitution of their country. In former times, when at a memorable period of our history, that constitution was in danger of being destroyed by the usurpations of a popular branch of it, they rallied round their monarch, beset with perils. They evinced the most unshaken fidelity to the throne, and supported that cause which was no less the cause of their country, than of their king. In the latter part of the same century, when the popular branch of that constitution was in imminent danger of being overwhelmed by the arbitrary proceedings of the crown, where was the first effectual resistance made to this encroachment? Where was the regal tyranny more firmly opposed, or the cause of liberty and truth more zealously supported than in that University of Oxford—that same college—that very grove, which has been the object of the hon. gentleman's sarcasms. The members of that very University in that arduous crisis not only sought for the truth, but they found it, and acted upon it; they set an example which was followed by their country, with so much advantage to the British dominions—advantages which, I hope, will be maintained to the remotest posterity. That college has ever stood forward in defence of civil liberty and personal independence, uniformly opposing themselves at the proper seasons to the undue encroachments of the crown on one hand, and to popular turbulence on the other; and I need hardly remind you. Sir, (Mr. Abbott, the Speaker,) of the liberal manner in which they have returned their representatives to this House.
Sir, the representation which the hon. gentleman has made of the manner in which their Petition on this subject was carried, I must beg leave to say was extremely unjust. An assembly was convened highly respectable in the persons and numbers who composed it. The question was regularly and dispassionately discussed, and although there was a considerable difference of opinion as to the propriety of preparing such a Petition, yet it was ultimately carried by a majority of the convocation of four to one in its favour. I beg, therefore, Sir, that I may not be told that this Petition is not a fair representation of the sentiments of that University, or that the result would have been different, if the whole body of its members had been present on the occasion. I am, 862 therefore, Sir, warranted in saying, that the Petition is a fair statement of the sense of that University, as well as of the great body of the nation. The petitioners are men of the best education, of the greatest talents, and the most unblemished integrity. How, then, I would ask, can it be justly said, that they were but little capable of forming a correct judgment on a political question of great national importance? So much, Sir, I felt it my duty to say in reply to the illiberal reflections thus cast upon the University of Oxford.
Upon the general question before you, Sir, I feel it necessary to trouble the House with only a few observations; having been so repeatedly called on upon former occasions to state my opinions upon the subject. That the question has been so repealedly brought forward year after year, is to me a matter of serious regret, The perpetual agitation of it has roused the turbulent passions of opposite parties, and kept the public mind in a state of constant ferment. It is a question fraught with danger to the nation, and one which hazards the setting fire to the country. If I saw any thing like the probability of parties coming to an agreement, I should then see the propriety of pursuing this course; and I should hail it as a happy omen of the discontinuance of those conflicts; but although the question has come forward year after year, those differences of opinion still remain unaltered; and after the repeated determinations of this House upon the subject, and one of those determinations not many weeks old; how can it be expected that the decision of this night should be different from the former. The House has been repeatedly told every year that the thing must be done; that the feelings of the petitioners can no longer be trifled with; and that the danger of refusal is so great that it ought not to be encountered. The answer to this, however, is, that parliament has repeatedly said, "it shall not be done;" and what end, therefore, can be answered by repeatedly agitating this question, but to keep up a continual war, between the petitioners and the legislature? It has been admitted by those who are most competent to speak to the point, that neither in Ireland, nor in this country, is the public mind, as it is commonly, or rather vulgarly called, made up to the granting of these privileges to the Catholics; nor could they, I am satisfied, be granted without the imminent risk of exciting civil commotions. I venture to 863 refer it to any man's observation, whether he really thinks the public sentiment has, in any degree, altered upon this subject. I would ask, is there any alteration for the better in the question itself? If I seek for any alteration in the language of the petitioners, as a new ground for the anticipation of success, I find none; for so far from offering any security for the protection of the Established Church, they obstinately withhold even those securities which they were formerly ready to concede. I have heard of the necessity of securities guaranteed by the most enlightened advocate of this cause, and offered by the petitioners; but these they now retract. I have looked at this question, so important, in a view to our political and religious interests: I have observed the disposition of the parties urging these claims, and I own that I see nothing on their parts which appears like a disposition to afford proper securities to the Established Church. On the contrary, they seem to me to be anxious, not only for the unconditional attainment of civil privileges and power in the state, but also to gain for their religion a marked and public encouragement. What then is the duty of those who wish well to the established religion? Will it not be for them to consider whether this marked and public encouragement to the Catholics may not operate as a marked and public discouragement to the Established Church?
There was a time, Sir, and not many-years ago, when it was held in this country to be a fundamental principle of civil polity, that where a religious establishment is formed consistent with the general principles of the nation, such an establishment should be supported with the utmost tenacity, as the basis, upon which rests the security of the stale; but we are now told that such notions are quite obsolete—that there should be no religious distinctions whatever, no peculiar protection to the Established Church, while, at other times, though the propriety of a peculiar protection was admitted, it was at the same time gravely contended, that this protection might very safely be entrusted to persons of a very different faith. Now, Sir, I would ask gentlemen whether they seriously think a Roman Catholic chancellor, Roman Catholic privy counsellors, or Roman Catholic legislators, could be considered as faithful guardians to the Protestant religion in this country? I do not mean to put this question with any purpose of irritating the feelings of gen- 864 tlemen, as I do admit that there are many persons of the Catholic persuasion, who are men of great private worth, but I cannot withhold my own opinion, that if the Catholics are true to the principles of their faith, there is nothing which they can have more at heart than the complete extinction of the Protestant religion, and when I look to the genius of the Catholic religion, the exclusive spirit which universally pervades it—when I look at its general doctrines, that salvation is not to be had out of the pale of its Church, I cannot contemplate, without alarm, the admission of the Roman Catholics as the guardians of a Protestant establishment. It may as well be asserted, that the Church would be as safe in the hands devoted to its destruction, as under the guardianship of those devoted to its protection. Seeing, therefore, Sir, no possibility of acceding to such a principle, I have the strongest objection to going into the proposed committee.
It has been stated, that the Presbyterians of the Church of Scotland are hostile to the established religion, and yet are admitted into the highest offices of the state; but yet, Sir, I think this argument has no bearing upon the question, nor is it any-fair ground to shew that the Presbyterians may not safely be trusted, for there is a principle of union amongst the Protestant sects in all their varieties, which must be friendly to a Protestant establishment; whereas the Roman Catholics, if they hold the sentiments professed for them by their own most approved authors, they must be anxious for the destruction of the Protestant establishment, and the erection of their own upon its ruins. The question, then, comes to this, whether for the purposes of civil government, one religion be not as good as another, or whether, if one be more proper than another, the protection of that one ought to be entrusted to those who must be necessarily anxious for its destruction, instead of those who are most interested in its preservation? Now, Sir, though I am unwilling to say any thing that might have a tendency to awaken religious animosity, I must observe, that I cannot consider this as a mere political question, for it is a religious one also; and every man who so considers it, ought to look into his own mind, and weigh gravely whether it would be right to relax the severities of the established religion. But even in a political view, historical reflection must recal many 865 events, the contemplation of which cannot be favourable to these claims of the Catholics. It may be easy to compose declamations upon shewy theoretical principles; but it is not quite so easy to give them a safe and practical operation. I would therefore advise every man to reflect on the history of the past, and then ask himself how far it can be prudent to give an accession of political power to the Catholics.
It has been suggested, Sir, that this measure would reconcile all differences, and produce a cordial union amongst all parties. If I could view it in that light, I would be one of its warmest advocates, but I can see no hopes of its producing any such beneficial effects. On the contrary. Sir, I think the appointment of this committee would only tend to agitate and disturb the public mind, that it would open a new focus of inflammable matter, the more dangerous, because the lowest as well as the highest classes would be involved in the general ferment; and a source would be established for perpetual party differences. Sir, the House has been told, that if these claims are not granted, Ireland is lost. This is a prophecy, however, which I do not clearly understand, and affords an argument in my view which, though used in favour of your petitioners, should operate directly against them. What are we to understand from it? Do hon. gentlemen mean to say that the Irish Catholics would desert their duty, and refuse to defend their country against foreign invasion, if their claims are rejected? Do gentlemen mean to insinuate, that they would themselves feel less inclined to support in such case the interests of their country? Does the allegiance of the Catholics then sit so loose upon them? I, who may be considered their opponent, do not join in this opinion of their advocates, because I hope they have a deeper sense of their duly. But if I still hear it asserted that Ireland in such a case would be lost, I must say that those whose allegiance sits so loose about them, are the very last who should be entrusted with any great portion of political power. Sir, I must once more express my regret at the frequent agitation of this question; and I think it would be more for the interest of the petitioners themselves that it should not thus repeatedly be pressed forward. I think it is extremely desirable that the question should be set at rest one way or another. 866 Let the petitioners try the effect of time, and await the arrival of a period when perhaps parties may be brought nearer to a mutual acquiescence, and their case may be considered under circumstances more favourable to their hopes than they can now acquire by a restless importunity. I give great credit to the leading advocates of this measure on the other side of this question, who have refrained from urging this subject when they themselves were in administration; and I hope their good sense and reflection will teach them to discourage it henceforward, and thereby shew that their conduct has not changed merely with their situation, and that they will not attempt to make this subject a badge of political party and a means of getting into power.
§ Right Hon. W. Elliot
.—Sir, no person who has not the ties of filial piety and attachment to it, can hold the University of Oxford in higher veneration than I do; nor can any one more readily subscribe to the opinions which my right hon. and learned friend has claimed for that great and ancient seminary, in its selection of its representatives. In one point of view, perhaps, the very Petition on the table may be considered as creditable to it, because it marks the gradual conquest which that learned body is making over iys own prejudices. On former occasions it has been unanimous: in the present instance, by the acknowledgment of my right hon. and learned friend, it has been much divided in its opinion. It has also been very-tardy with its Petition; and even with this delay, time has scarcely been given for the collection of the sentiments of the distant members of the University. All this is good. It shews the march and progress of truth and reason on this great cause. In the few observations with which I mean to trouble the House, on this most momentous topic, I must beg to be understood as disclaiming all notion of resting the merits of the question on any ground of abstract right. Religious toleration is, in my view of the subject, (certainly at least so far as it has reference to qualifications for civil offices,) a matter of moral and political prudence. If the laws alluded to are necessary for the security of the state, no doubt they ought to be retained, perhaps strengthened and confirmed. But if on the contrary, the public-safety does not demand their continuance, and if (as I certainly think) their repeal 867 by conducing to general harmony, can contribute to the public strength, then indubitably they ought to be rescinded. The policy of the measure being admitted, its justice can be no matter of dispute. The question, like every other question concerning human affairs, ought to depend on a comparative view of its advantages, or disadvantages, or rather, I should say, of its benefits and dangers. I lay a stress on the word dangers, because if the dangers can be shewn to be in founded, or even if they can be much extenuated, the benefits stand out so much in the sight of all men, they rush in so irresistible a torrent upon our minds and understandings, that I should have to accuse myself of an almost wanton consumption of the time of the House, if I were much to enlarge on them. The arguments against further concessions to the Roman Catholics, seem to range themselves under three heads; 1st, the dangers to the state; 2dly, objections which are attempted to be drawn from the principles of the constitution; and, 3dly, a doubt which is entertained of the beneficial efficacy of the measure, in the event of its accomplishment. With regard to the dangers, it may not be improper to remark, that some of the arguments, which used to be derived from that source, and which in many discussions on the subject have beeen much insisted on, seem of late to be abandoned. They ought not, however, to be wholly lost sight of; because if positions which were once deemed so strong, are now relinquished, there is rational encouragement for hoping that those which remain may not be found so impregnable as the advtisaries of this cause wish them to be thought. Others of these dangers have, from the change of the circumstances of the world, long since passed away in the judgments of ail men. The recal of a Catholic to the throne, for instance, can no longer be a subject of fear. No one, I presume, apprehends that the king; of Sardinia is likely to be taken from the remnant of his dominions and fixed upon the throne of these realms. The temporal power of the Pope also presents no formidable danger. On the contrary, it has been our wish and object to protect if, and in its defence both the blood and the treasures of this country have been, as I think, wisely and nobly, though unsuccessfully expended. But the spiritual authority of the Pope is still, it seems, an object of apprehension, as 868 portending peril to our civil rights. In the term spiritual authority of the Pope, I mean to include his alleged power of dispensing with oaths, together with the tenet attributed to Roman Catholics of not keeping faith with heretics. These imputations, however, it is to be remembered, have been formally and solemnly denied by six of the most eminent Roman Catholic universities in Europe, as well as by the preambles of several statutes on the table, which not only recognize the Catholics as good and loyal subjects, and fit to be trusted with much civil and military power, but declare the restrictive laws to have been inefficacious for their purpose, and injurious to the welfare and prosperity of Ireland. I must remark too, that if there were any foundation for such odious fears, the precautions relied on do not appear to be either very efficient or very logical.—The danger asserted is, that Catholics cannot be believed when they swear. The security insisted upon is an oath. But it has been alleged by some gentlemen who admit the sincerity of the Catholics in the abjuration of such tenets, that it is in the nature of all religious sects to endeavour to promote the interests of their own faith; and that if the Roman Catholics were invested with political power, their aim would, of course, be directed to the advancement of their religion. If, however, this argument has any validity, it must equally apply to the Protestant Dissenters, many of whom deny the ecclesiastical supremacy of the crown; and yet the disqualifying laws with regard to the latter description of person?, have in Ireland been long since repealed. The objection also, as urged against further concessions to the Catholics, conies too late; for we have already admitted them to a large share of political power;—we have put arms into their hands;—we have capacitated them for many civil offices;—and, above all, we have given them the elective franchise. What we have reserved, therefore, though it is an efficacious instrument of discontent, is impotent for security.
The danger to Protestant property used to be another of the perils apprehended. The revival of antiquated titles, the most absurd certainly of all the bugbears which have been employed to raise up terrors in the Protestant mind: but upon this topic it is not necessary to dwell, as the objection seems to be now abandoned, and indeed the Protestant petitions on the table are an irresistible refutation of it.
869 Having thus touched upon the principal dangers, I now come to that class of objections which it has been attempted to draw from the principles of the constitution. One of these is the Coronation Oath; but as no one has resorted to it in the present discussion, I presume I may consider it as relinquished, and therefore shall not abuse the patience of the House by canvassing its merits. Another argument, that falls within this class, and to which much weight has been ascribed, is founded on the protection which the Church establishment receives from those laws which are described as fundamental. But surely my learned friend, and those who relied on this objection, did not mean by the term fundamental laws—laws over which the legislature had lost its competence. It surely will not be maintained, that any legislature could for ever divest itself of the power of executing its proper functions, and render itself incapable of making regulations suitable to the exigencies of the interests over which it presides. To argue thus would be to set the Church above the State, in direct contradiotion to the principles of the constitution, and to one main object of the policy of our ancestors. Another impediment, which falls under this head of objections, was formerly urged against the measure; and though I have not heard it brought forward in the present debate, and though I am convinced it is an opinion that can never be entertained by more than a very few individuals within these walls, I cannot permit it to pass without notice, because it is calculated to make a most mischievous impression on the people of Ireland, and because it derives importance from the authority of the person from whom it originated. Should the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Perceval) upon more mature reflection have abandoned it, I am sure he will have the beneficial and becoming candour to avow his change of sentiment. If I should have the satisfaction of hearing it is to be numbered among the extinct and deserted objections, I shall most willingly leave it to its fate, and consign it for ever to its sepulchre. The position to which I allude is, that the Union is a bar to the measure. If I should find it still persevered in, I shall, in contradiction to it, refer to the instrument of Union itself, the fourth article of which expressly reserves to the united parliament the power of altering the oaths. I shall appeal against it also to the debates of that period on both 870 sides of the channel, to the subsequent conduct of Mr. Pitt, and of my noble friend (lord Castlereagh) who had so prominent a share in that transaction. That there never was any specific pledge made to the Catholic body I have more than once declared; but that their expectations were excited by the language of the most eminent statesmen of that time in both parliaments, that they acted under the influence of such expectations, and that the accomplishment of the measure was much facilitated in consequence of the impressions they had received, can be a matter of question with no men at all conversant with the history of that great arrangement. If therefore the Union is to be set up as an obstacle in the way of the Catholic claims, I must, in vindication of myself as well as of those with whom I acted at that period, protest against such an argument, as not only founded on a most erroneous view of the facts, but in every respect most imprudent, ungenerous, and unjust. And I trust that though the issue of this night's discussion should not prove favourable to the immediate consideration of their claims, the Catholics will not attribute the decision of the House to any impression that the Union is an impediment to the object of their Petition; but that the members on a division will evince to them that they may ultimately look with confidence to the liberality of the united parliament for a participation of those privileges of the constitution which are still withheld from them.
The third head of objections against the measure appears to be of a speculative nature. My right hon. and learned friend has expressed doubts whether the removal of the disabilities would produce the benefits expected from it. To this, I can only reply, that, if the incapacities complained of are admitted to be a rational ground of discontent, there seems a good foundation for inferring, that, by taking away the cause, we should, in a great degree, remove the effects.—" Oh! but," it is said, "a few of the leading members of the Catholic body may feel an interest in the object, but the mass of the Catholic population are perfectly indifferent to it;" and this has been a very frequent and favourite topic with several very leading supporters of Protestant monopoly. Is it, however, to be believed, that three fourths of the people of Ireland, living in the midst of the franchises of the British constitution, should not wish to participate the privileges enjoyed by the other fourth? And 871 is it right—is it politic—is it safe that a nation remarkable for talents, and growing daily in numbers, opulence, and power, should be bereft of all hope of attaining to stations of honour and eminence in the state, but through political change and revolution?
Let us now turn our eyes to the commercial part of the community. Is it possible that, when a person in that most respectable vocation of life, has, by his industry and integrity, acquired wealth and a well merited consideration amongst his fellow citizens, he should not feel galled by his exclusion from all municipal and corporate dignities,—from even such commercial companies as the Bank? Let gentlemen look to the situation of the bar, a body which has every where a mighty sway on society, and the influence of which is not diminished by its distance from the seat of empire. I speak in the presence of the most eminent and distinguished members of that profession. Is there any one amongst you who, when he has arrived at all the estimation to which wealth, and diligence, and learning, and ability, can lead in professional practice, who would not feel disparaged and mortified at being precluded from aspiring to those high offices, which, though certainly situations of considerable labour, are stations of dignified repose, compared with the hurry and bustle and fatigue of the ordinary practice of the profession? But it is to be recollected, that these impressions are not confined to the members of that learned body: they extend to fathers, and sons, and uncles, and cousins, and the most remote connections, and are thus diffused throughout every class and gradation of society. This is a matter of grave and serious reflection; for surely there never existed a period in the history of our country, when it more behoved us to draw whatever talents, virtue, and industry could be found in the state into a capacity to serve it. In the army, too, what is the encouragement held out to Catholics of fortune and education, and of noble families, who, after having gone through the drudgery of the junior ranks of the profession, maimed and wounded, perhaps, in fighting the battles of their country, and with their health exhausted by noxious climates, are condemned to see their juniors in the service, and persons possibly of far inferior qualifications and merit to themselves, pass by them to the superior stations of the profession?
872 There are other circumstances of absurd incongruity connected with this part of the subject, which I will not here omit to recal to the recollection of the House. We profess to think it incompatible with the security of the constitution, that the crown, (though Protestant) should be entrusted with the discretion of admitting Catholics into the higher class of military appointments. Let us examine, then, our consistency, in such apprehensions. In Ireland, as the law at present stands, promotion in the navy is open to Catholics without any restriction. The squadron riding at this moment in Cork harbour might be manned and officered by Catholics, and might be under Catholic command, though, by another strange anomaly, if those Catholics should be brought, by the exigencies of service, to Portsmouth, they would be liable to the penalties of the English laws. The coasts of Ireland, as the House well know, are full of ports and havens, and present innumerable maritime advantages; and if at any future period it should be our policy to avail ourselves of such resources, and establish dock yards and naval arsenals in that part of the United Kingdom, all that portion of our strength might be placed by the crown under Catholic direction and controul: yet it seemed to be admitted, that under this state of the law there was no ground for fear. In Ireland, also, the crown might have in its service, Catholic soldiers, Catholic non-commissioned officers, Catholic subalterns, captains, majors, lieutenant-colonels, and colonels. There was no law (at least of which he was apprized) which compels the. King to put any proportion of his army under the charge of a general. His Majesty might combine his military forces as he chose: he might place ten regiments or twenty regiments together; and they might, in Ireland, be Catholic regiments; and they would be under the command of the senior officer, and the senior officer might be a Catholic; and all this is allowed to be perfectly safe. But, if it were proposed, that his Majesty (though we have the guard of an annual Mutiny Bill) should be enabled to appoint that Catholic colonel to the situation of a general on the staff, then fall upon us the terrors of Popery, the dread of the revival of the flames of Smithfield, and of the renovation of the tribute of St. Peter's pence; Now I would appeal to the sober judgment and reflection of those who hear me, whether at a conjuncture, in which there 873 is neither vexation nor exaction, that we scruple to impose upon the people for augmenting the ranks of our army, there is any sense or security in such regulations? Whether, at least, the subject is one which the House can refuse to consider. I might likewise, I believe, venture to ask, whether there has been any sense, or morality, or religion in the hateful and incendiary cry of No Popery!—My right hon. and learned friend, and several other gentlemen, in the course of the debate, have dwelt much on the topic of securities, and particularly on the Veto. For my own part, I have always earnestly deprecated the notion of entering into preliminary disputes upon points which are more properly objects of compromise than of controversy. No doubt there are, on both sides, many and strong prejudices to be overcome, and I ardently hope to see a mutual spirit of concession. Let, however, the House go into an enquiry: they will then be enabled to decide, whether any, and, if any, what conditions may be necessary, and whether such guards may not be devised as will be satisfactory both to Protestants and Catholics. Upon such informed judgment let them proceed to legislate. For myself, I have no scruple to acknowledge, that, in such an enquiry, I should wish to see a due regard paid to the opinions of the principal clergy of the Roman Catholic communion, with respect to the interests of that Church. I have nothing more at heart, than that the arrangement should be made in the way which would be best calculated to uphold the authority and influence of the Catholic clergy, as well as of the persons of rank and property in that communion, over the people of their own persuasion. Any thing that should shake the confidence of the Catholic population in their ecclesiastical teacher, would, in my eyes, be the most terrible of all evils. I am not able, in the present state of human affairs, to bring myself to tremble at the power of the Pope. Any danger which I see, is from another side. A right hon. and learned civilian, (sir John Nicholl,) in a debate which occurred in an early part of the session, has expressed much fear, not only of the Pope, but of the new philosophy, by which term, I presume, the learned gentleman meant to describe the adversaries of religious establishments, who are not always very good friends to civil establishments. From the latter quarter I confess I am not without my apprehensions. But bow would I pro- 874 pose to guard against such a danger? By endeavouring to unite all those in affection who ate united in the belief of the great principles of the Christian religion, and who are friendly to Christian establishments. Let the Church open wide her gates of toleration:—cherish religion:—the Catholic religion (the fact is beyond dispute) is the creed of the great majority of the Irish nation. Let us, then, improve the means we have. More than two centuries of experiment has shewn us the futility of our attempts at proselytism by the means of restrictive laws. By our perseverance in that course, we may make bad Christians and bad subjects, but we shall not obtain one convert to the established Church. There is no man more zealously and faithfully attached to the interests of that Church than I am: I wish to see it great, splendid, powerful, and permanent; but I cannot persuade myself that we are supporting the Church by rendering her establishment odious to several millions of our fellow-subjects. We have allied ourselves with the Catholics of Spain and of Portugal: let us also form an alliance with our Catholic brethren at home. In many points of ecclesiastical polity and discipline we agree with the Roman Catholic Church; and I am convinced that, by prudent management we might long ago have converted that polity and that discipline into an invincible rampart round the Protestant Church and the Protestant State, against the common enemy.
When we attempted violently to tear men from the religion of their early habits and education, we shook to their very foundation all public morals, and left in the minds of the people a fearful chasm which we cannot fill with the precise materials with which it might be our desire to supply it. By the system of policy which we have pursued in Ireland, instead of supporting the established Church, we have been destroying and tearing to pieces materials which might have risen into a tower of strength to it in the hour of its peril. In stating these opinions, I beg I may not be understood as representing that the concession of the Catholic claims is the only measure necessary to promote the concord and repose of Ireland. A judicious and well adjusted arrangement with regard to tithes is also a matter intimately connected with the tranquillity and welfare of that country. To its accomplishment I am not unapprised that there are opposed considerable diffculties 875 of detail. It involves many and complicated interests; and the execution of it will demand all that reserve and caution which ought ever to accompany measures in any way affecting the rights of property. For these reasons I have always thought, that the proposition would be best originated by those to whose hands the conduct of public affairs are entrusted. A proper and well regulated direction of the funds appropriated to education is another subject well worthy of the attention of the legislature. These, and perhaps some other measures of inferior importance, are indubitably requisite for the improvement of the condition of the people of Ireland; but the basis of all ought to be that to which the motion of my right hon. friend, (Mr. Grattan,) has called the attention of the House. It has been made a great topic of reproach against those of my friends, who have composed the late administration, that they had not introduced a subject, which they deemed of such prominent importance, to the consideration of parliament, whilst they were in the service of his Majesty. But it should be remembered by those, who so freely deal out this censure, that my friends retired from his Majesty's councils, because they would not, by a specific pledge, deprive themselves of the discretion of proposing the measure; and, as they were immediately succeeded by the gentlemen opposite, it was not unreasonable to infer that the latter were not unwilling to take such a pledge. My friends, it is true, would have forborn to agitate the question so long, as, in their judgment, it could have been deferred without absolute detriment to the public welfare, and I was one of those who advised the Catholics to abstain from urging their claims at that time, be cause I thought it more for the advantage of their interests, as well as of those of the empire, that the administration of public affairs should remain in the hands of persons known to be friendly to their cause, than that the government should be transferred to the avowed and implacable opponents of further concessions. Surely, however, it cannot have escaped the attention of the House, that one great and prominent obstacle to the measure, which has arisen from the scruples of a venerable and religious monarch, and which operated forcibly on the feelings both of the parliament and of the country, now no longer presents itself; and if any one can be found to deny, that the exigencies of 876 the empire more imperatively demand the consideration of the question at the present conjuncture than at any former period, I shall be content with referring him to the impressions described in the Protestant Petitions on the table, to which are subscribed the names of several persons, who were once among the most strenuous assertors of the policy of the restrictive code.
The present moment is peculiarly auspicious for the consideration of these claims. The Prince, to whose custody the interests of the crown are now committed, has stood high in the affection, the confidence, and the expectations of the Irish people. Whatever spirit of conciliation, therefore, is at this time manifested, would have augmented efficacy by carrying with it the air of grace and bounty. Let us not lose, then, such a golden opportunity. That the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Perceval) has the confidence of a majority of this House is manifested by its votes, but I do sincerely believe that no small proportion of those, who support his government, deeply lament the cloud of prejudice, which hangs over his councils on this subject, and darkens the future prospects of the empire. In some recent instances those persons have differed from the right hon. gentleman, and over-ruled his measures. Let them on this most momentous and critical occasion interpose between the minister and the crown for the preservation of the crown; for the security of the Church, which is inseparable from the safety of the State; for ensuring to us the full and effective physical strength of the empire in that awful contest in which we are engaged, and on the issue of which depends whatever is most dear and valuable to us in social life, the honour, the glory, the rights, the liberties, and for what I know—the very name of the country. If my right hon. friend's motion should be negatived, its rejection will amount to a refusal to consider the question. By inquiry the House would not pledge itself to any specific measure. Those, it such there be, who may think that the penal code should be retained, those who may be of opinion that part only of the desired relief should be afforded, are surely as much required to vote for a committee as those who are for concession in its full extent. Something we must do: some movement we must make: our present position, it is my clear and firm couviction, we cannot long retain.
Right Honourable Charles P. Yorke.
—Sir; not having had an opportunity before now of stating my opinion upon this subject, I take the liberty of rising now, professing ray intention, sincerely, not to occupy the attention of the House for any considerable length of time. The subject has been so frequently discussed, and the arguments on this side of the House so ably and eloquently urged, that I have not the vanity to think I can give any novel feature to the debate. And therefore, what I shall say in delivering my sentiments, will be merely to justify me to myself, with the consciousness of having done my duty.
The right hon. gentleman who spoke last has delivered himself with a temper and moderation which I could have wished was more generally observed upon discussions of this subject. Certainly his example on this occasion is well worthy of imitation, not merely on this question, but upon every question connected with Ireland: and although I have the misfortune to differ from him in opinion, I certainly cannot but agree, that the deliberations upon this motion should be such as might tend to the tranquillity and happiness of the country: and in my mind, though the assent of the House to this motion would not be attended with any particular good, yet the question should be considered with every feeling of tenderness and forbearance towards our Catholic brethren. And I confess, could I see this question in the same point of view that it has been argued on the other side of the House, I should be but too happy to give ray vote for it.
The right hon. gentleman has stated in the concluding part of his speech, that which I think was not of a piece with the greater part of it, when he supposed that those who had the misfortune to differ from him were labouring under a cloud of prejudice—and when he called upon the House to get from under that cloud and interpose between the crown and ministers on behalf of parliament for the purpose of setting this matter at rest: now whether or not we are under such a cloud, must depend upon a consideration of the arguments adduced by the right hon. gentleman and those who support this question; because that consideration will not only decide the matter, with respect to us,—but whether they are not themselves under a cloud, and their eyes are not blinded to those dangers which 878 threaten both Church and State, when they would persuade you to accede to the demands of the petitioners.
Now, Sir, that this is a most important subject there can be no doubt, but it appears to me from the view of every part of the question, and from every enquiry I have made upon it, that we who happen to differ from the right hon. gentleman, may hope, without being denominated "Protestant Bigots" (a term applied to those of the same way of thinking with myself)—that we may be permitted to doubt—to hesitate, and to oppose a barrier where we doubt, notwithstanding all that has been said, before we depart from the fundamental laws of the realm.
I confess I was surprized last night to hear it stated, that the proposition now before the House had nothing to do with the fundamental law of the land; and I was asked what the essential laws were? And I was also much surprized to hear, that the same thing had been repeated in another place. It has also been slated, that there was not one word in the Bill of Rights relative to the Catholic religion. Now, without going any farther, I must beg leave to read some of the Articles of the Bill of Rights in order to prove this assertion to be totally false. I admit that there is no-thing; in that Bill about the Roman Catholics until it comes to the enacting part, which is as follows:
"And that whereas it has been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant Kingdom that it should be governed by any king or kings of the Popish faith." And it then enacts that princes of that persuasion shall be excluded from the crown, and absolves all their subjects from allegiance to them. Princes and princesses of this kingdom were also forbidden from intermarrying with Papists.
This, Sir, is what the Bill of Rights says. Now, Sir, can any man deny that it is a settled maxim of the law of this realm, that we, as Protestants, must be governed by a Protestant king, and that you must consider, that to dissent from this maxim is inconsistent with the safety and the happiness of this country. Another clause of the same Bill goes to exclude Papists from sitting in either House of Parliament. I admit that according to the terms of the Act of Union, the oath there prescribed to be taken by members of parliament is liable to be hereafter altered. There are undoubtedly those words in that 879 act. But I apprehend those words were not necessarily introduced to enable parliament to alter the oath whenever it should appear necessary, for I do not go the length of saying, that the Act of Union with Ireland was a barrier to the House doing any thing with regard to the Roman Catholics when they thould think fit so to do: but all I contend for is, that the established law of the realm is, that Papistsare rot to govern this country: and that therefore the measure now brought forward, and the proposition suggested, must have the effect, if carried, of making parliament subservient to the purpose of overturning of the constitution, and to enable the King to chuse Popish ministers.
Now, Sir, that is a most material and serious consideration, and it is a matter for the admissibility of which the onus probandi must lie upon those who contend for it, or to shew that it can be adopted with safety. I therefore claim the right of doubting upon this question; because all I say is, that before we agree to make this alteration, we ought to be satisfied that there is no danger to the constitution in Church and State in making that alteration.
Now, Sir, I must say, for one, that having attended to all the arguments used on this subject, and having anxiously considered it myself, I am very far from being satisfied, that our system of government ought to undergo this chimerical change: and I think the honourable gentlemen, before they can induce this House to alter the fundamental laws of the land, must also bring forward much stronger arguments, and much more conclusive reasoning, before they can be entitled to call upon those who have doubts upon the subject, to admit the Catholics to what they claim.
Having stated thus much, I have now to observe, that that which I always considered as another fundamental law in the act which makes the Protestant Church of Ireland, and that of Scotland, integral parts of the constitution of Great Britain; but by acceding to the demands now made by the Catholics, this would be annulled along with the other bulwarks of the state.
There are a great many topics which have been at different times more or less adverted to, but which I wish to dismiss from my view in my consideration of the subject. I shall content myself with adverting to some of the most prominent that hare been brought forward on the other 880 side. I confess that I cannot agree with the right hon. gentleman who spoke last, and others who preceded him, in their arguments upon the two questions of right and toleration. And first of all, I deny that this is a question of right: and I also maintain that it is no question of toleration. In the first place it is no question of right; because no subject of a state can be said to have any right that is inconsistent with the safely of that state; and I deny that it is a question of toleration, because I hope in God that in the true sense of that word, there is no such thing known in this country as intolerance; and I do solemnly declare, that if it can be shewn that there is any thing in the law with regard to the Roman Catholics in Ireland that prevents them from the decent and proper exercise of their religion, I will go as far as any man in this country to correct it. But I utterly deny that this is a question of toleration. The truth is, that it is merely a question of political power. Now, Sir, that that is a very serious question no man will venture to deny: and that it is essential on the part of those who support it, that they should satisfy us who oppose it, by the most cogent arguments of the prudence of its concession. That this is the question appears throughout the whole debate, because all the arguments for the measure as far as it has gone, go to that extent.
Now no man living can doubt, that if this is done for the Roman Catholics of Ireland it must be done also for the Roman Catholics of England: and I must say, to do them justice, that I do not know any body of Dissenters for whom I should be so glad to bring forward such a question as the Roman Catholics of England; because they have been the most quiet, the most contented, and the most loyal class of subjects in the kingdom. But if it is fit and proper to do this for the Roman Catholics, it is quite impossible that it should not be done in justice for the other Dissenters.
I do not mean to argue that question now: but ail that I mean to say is, that the question is a vital question, and that if we consent to do away all restrictions by piecemeal, we at once expose ourselves to the greatest danger; because if you do that you must remove all the test laws, and you must leave the Church unprotected from every attack, to stand upon its own foundation. But having said this, I beg to state, that my opinion of all these laws 881 is, that they are only to be justified by necessity. It has been said that necessity justifies them: and if I can be satisfied that there is no necessity for the preservation of our Protestant state, I am ready to give them up.
§ The question is really now reduced to a choice of difficulties: no man can doubt that the difficulties and impediments on both sides are very great: and the true question is on what side the greatest difficulties and impediments lie: and I for one say, that the greatest difficulties, dangers, and impediments lie on the side of the Catholic Claims, and in the view that I have taken of them I do not feel satisfied, and I must, upon that ground, negative the proposition for going into a Committee: and I think no gentleman would vote for going into that committee unless he was satisfied that something essential could be done in that committee, and that would tend to do away those difficulties and impediments.
§ Now I think, for one, that by going into a committee, instead of diminishing the difficulties you would increase them. For as to going into a committee for the sake of enquiring, and for the sake of getting information from the Catholics themselves, it could be productive of no good consequence. What! would you have all the Roman Catholics and all the opponents of their claims, brought to your bar to be examined? For you must hear both sides. If that was to be contended it would lead to endless confusion and dispute. If this were to be agreed to, how should the public business of the country be carried on? I say, that the danger appears to me to lie on the side that I have stated; first of all I would state that a great difficulty arises from the state of the Roman Catholic Church at this time; and upon a consideration of the political circumstances connected with the Roman Catholic Church. Now, Sir, I do not mean to go into any discussion upon the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, with reference to a period long since gone by, because the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church are pretty well known and generally understood. And certainly I do not wish to go into any argument as to the difference of these tenets at different times. But what are these tenets? Now, Sir, I have listened with very great attention to many gentlemen who have spoken on this subject, and I confess I feel very little satisfaction on that point: although it may 882 be said that many circumstances respecting the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church have been altered, and that many of the most dangerous tenets have been got rid of, yet there is one circumstance that is very remarkable, and to which I cannot help calling the attention of the House. We have heard a great deal of the opinions of the Catholic universities. It was resolved in the year 1790, that the opinions of these universities were favourable to the supposition that many of the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, were unimportant. But I beg to ask the honourable gentleman, and the right honourable baronet opposite me, whether the court of Rome or any general council has ever distinctly abrogated any of those tenets or done them away. (Sir John Cox Hippesley said across the table that they had.) I would beg to know from the hon. baronet, who seems so well versed in these points, whether there is any one article of the council of Trent that has ever been regularly abrogated on any authority by which the Pope and Cardinals would be bound? It may be true that many of these opinions may have become obsolete, and may be dormant; but who can say they may not be revived? If certain circumstances were to arise, and a Pope should come to the Papal see who should revive these doctrines, who is to prevent him? Then, I say, if there has been no regular abrogation of those tenets by the see of Rome, they must be considered to ail intents and purposes, as the principles of the Catholic religion. I must say for one, that when I first carne into parliament and this business was first brought forward, I was one of those who anticipated with great satisfaction the removal of those obstacles now complained of; and there was no man who felt more pleasure than I did, when the present lord Redesdale, then attorney general, brought in a Bill for ameliorating the slate of the Catholics of England. But I felt still greater pleasure in what was intended to be done for the Catholics of Ireland. But I must say from that time I have been more and more inclined to think that the opinions I then formed were hastily formed: and the moment I had any opportunity of considering the subject, I, for one, have been less inclined to proceed any further in concession. The first circumstance that induced me to doubt of the propriety of my first opinion, was an opportunity I had of knowing what passed upon the subject 883 of that Bill which lord Redesdale brought ill, and the controversy that arose at that time between the Apostolic Vicar of the Catholic Church, and the Catholic committee. I do not know whether that controversy is in the hands of any gentleman; I know that it was bought up by the direction of the committee, and in a very little time there were no copies to be had. The two letters published by the Roman Catholic committee were written in consequence of the letter of the Vicar Apostolic in the year 1790, on account of the Oath it was proposed by the Roman Catholic committee to take, in which they denied altogether the temporal authority of the Pope in Ireland, and even his spiritual power, sub modo. Upon a reference to the proceedings of the Roman Catholics on that occasion, we shall see how much they were controuled by a foreign spiritual authority: The Oath proposed by the committee was founded on their own protest, in which they called themselves the protesting Roman Catholics. It was signed believe by almost all the respectable Roman Catholics in this country and by a great many of their bishops; I think the name of Dr. Milner was amongst them: but the Apostolical Vicar, without assigning any reason, forbid the Catholics to take this Oath. This led to a discussion of considerable length, the result of which was an explanatory declaration from the Apostolic Vicar, "That no new oath should be taken without consulting the bishops, in whom the supreme authority resided as governors of the Church of Christ and keepers of the faith." A controversy ensued which was considerably protracted, and in course of which a great deal of scholastic learning was displayed on one side, and a great deal of sound sense, and certainly I never in my life witnessed more true Christian piety displayed any where than in the two letters to which I have alluded. The committee were desirous to induce their bishops, some of whom had refused to sign the protest, to agree with them in the object they proposed, and relinquish their objections. The bishops refused; but the committee were nevertheless unanimous in framing the Oath, which was afterwards adopted by the parliament of Ireland: and here it is material to state the nature of that Oath, in order to shew the ground upon which it was opposed by the bishops.
§ The Oath set out with disclaiming as impious and heretical that damnable doc- 884 trine, that princes excommunicated by the Pope may he deposed from their dominions, and their subjects absolved from their allegiance. They abjure most solemnly that opinion imputed to them, that no faith is to be kept with heretics; and they also abjure the opinion, that any foreign prince or potentate hath or ought to have any temporal power in these realms. And further sub modo, "that no foreign bishop, priest, or any other ecclesiastical power whatever has a right to exercise any spiritual authority in these realms hostile to the state, or that can directly or indirectly interrupt or interfere with the independence and security of the Protestant Church or Establishment, or the rights, liberties, and properties of his Majesty's subjects."
§ Now, Sir, the last passage was the one objected to by the bishops, and struck out of the Oath. But this was the most material passage to us, although thus condemned by the bishops. It was pretty material they should object to an Oath so worded; and it is pretty good authority for those doubts now entertained with respect to the Roman Catholic clergy. The result however shewed that even the laity were taught to consider themselves as departing from the principles of their spiritual faith, if they abjured the authority of the see of Rome in this respect.
§ Now, Sir, this controversy went on for a considerable time, and great acrimony was indulged on both sides. The protesting Catholic committee complained most grievously of the conduct of their bishops, who by their constant interference prevented the success of their political objects, and the bishops in their turn, charged them with a dereliction of the principles of their religion, and the committee at length submitted and gave up this oath. In giving up this matter on the part of the protesting Catholic committee two things became manifest. In the first place, that no concession would be made by the Catholics; and in the second, that the priests were more absolutely masters of their flocks than they were even in France—or in Italy itself.
§ Now, Sir, in spite of all the conclusive reasoning in these letters to which I have alluded; in spite of the condemnation of the conduct of their bishops expressed by the Catholic committee; and in spite of the conviction in their own minds of the propriety of what they were doing, they were obliged to give way to their bishops 885 and to the authority of the Pope; and I am credibly informed, that in consequence of what took place in this letter to their bishops, many of the gentlemen of that committee expunged their names from that protestation, and many others of them dared not so much as sign their names to it. Now this draws me to an observation in reference to the Veto. No man can doubt that the Veto met with the approbation of the Catholic laity, when it was first mentioned in this House. But when the bishops interfered, we heard no more about the Veto. Why then, Sir, when we know and are conscious of the interference of the Catholic clergy upon the subject of the Veto, I cannot hesitate to say, that the Catholic religion is just as objectionable with a view to these concessions as ever it was. It may be very true that the Catholics have a clergy of great morality and excellent learning: but it must be recollected that this clergy is the most devoted of any Catholic clergy in Europe, to the see of Rome. I observe that this question about the Papal authority is kept very much in the back ground by those who advocate this cause. It is quite ridiculous, they say, that the mere allegiance of the Roman Catholic clergy to the Pope could operate to produce the consequences we apprehend. But is this not a matter of some consideration, at least? It is said that the present Pope has shewn a resistance to Buonaparté, and that there is no danger now from the Papal authority. Perhaps not: and for my own part I heartily wish he was liberated, and that he was now an independent power, because, then there might be much more probability of our coming to a satisfactory understanding upon the subject: but what I complain of is, that notwithstanding all that has been said, we never hear any thing of the Roman Catholic clergy of England and Ireland coming forward to explain what their views are with respect to the canonical election of the Pope, or whether or not they are ready to transfer allegiance to any new Pope however chosen. Why are they silent upon that subject? I do not mean to say that I should be satisfied with any thing they could propose: but at the same time I should be glad to hear what it is the Roman Catholic clergy of England, Ireland and Scotland think of the Papacy at present, when the person of the Pope is in the hands of Buonaparte, when the Roman see makes a part of France, and the greater part of the Roman 886 Catholic countries, south of the Pyrenees excepted, are under the power of the ruler of France?
§ Now I am persuaded that the gentlemen who speak on this question are acquainted with the state papers which Buonaparté has published on this subject; and they must be convinced that his intention was, if he could not compel the present sovereign Pontiff to submit to his views, then to nominate a new one in his seat, who would be subservient to his purposes. This idea may perhaps be ridiculed, but I most say, speaking in the language of lord Grenville in that Letter which I presume is his, as it was published by his authority, and in which that noble lord does seem to think, that it is not quite unreasonable that there should be a number of persons in this country, who do look with a certain degree of jealousy to that foreign command, to which the Roman Catholic clergy profess to submit, at a time when the Pope is in the hands of the bitterest enemy of this country. I confess I do not chuse, for one, that Buonaparté, having the controul as he now has, of the Papal authority, and which he ultimately will have; and when the Roman Catholic bishops of Ireland consider their allegiance to be transferred to the Pope, I do not chuse, I say, that Buonaparté should be keeper of the consciences of three fourths of the people of Ireland. What I mean by that, is, that I think I have proved that the Pope and the clergy have the greatest influence over their flock, and that I do not chuse that Buonaparté should be the nominator of a Pope of his own, and who would become a subservient tool of his views, to direct the consciences of the Catholic subjects of his Majesty. I may be wrong, but that is my opinion; and I give my opposition to this motion, upon a consideration of the danger that must arise from the influence of the Church of Rome-under such circumstances.
§ Now, Sir, in apprehending this danger, I am not without some authority; and I will beg leave, upon this subject, to read a passage from Mr. Locke on toleration. He goes much farther than I do in this doctrine; because he stales at once, that the religion of a foreign country has no right to be tolerated by the magistrates of another country, within that country, where the head of that foreign religion is under the protection of another prince or potentate, because the magistrate might be Justified in apprehending that the influence 887 of such authority would be used against his own government.
§ Mr. Justice Blackstone also is another very great authority upon this subject, and he maintains that every Popish priest upon taking his oath for orders, renounces his en-gagemenis and allegiance to the government of which he was a subject. Now, Sir, there is one circumstance in the course of this business, which I confess surprizes me; and it is this, that when we hear so much of the Roman Catholics, of whom I speak with all deference, being exceedingly exasperated against government, and so indignant against us, because they are not admitted to the possibility of sitting in parliament, of being commanders in chief of armies, of being officers of state, and that they consider themselves an oppressed people, and degraded in the eyes of their fellow creatures, by submitting to wear the galling chains of thraldom; yet say nothing about the slavery to which they are compelled to submit under their priests, and those priests completely devoted to the see of Rome. Now, it is surprising that men having the light of human reason in their minds, that men so feelingly alive to the value of liberty, men who are complaining of their Protestant brethren because they refuse them a participation of all the privileges of the constitution:—it is surprising, I say, that these men never once except against the tyranny their priesthood exercise over them;—that they submit patiently and quietly without murmur or complaint to the tyranny, not of an English or an Irish Pope, but of any miserable foreign miscreant, French or Italian, who may chance to be elected Pope, no matter how, and submit to him without complaint: and yet these are the men who are so tremblingly alive to the pressure of these restrictions!
§ I have already admitted that these restrictions are hostile and dangerous where the security of the state does not require them: but let us see what they are—Do these restrictions amount to any thing more than an ideal grievance, when we see men like these at this lime of day, without complaint or remonstrance—without shaking off their degrading slavery, and remaining the vassals of such miserable miscreants, absolutely without making the smallest struggle. Now, Sir, I do maintain, that there is great danger in the present situation of the Roman Catholic Church, and I say that there is greater danger now in that Church when it is 888 connected with the peculiar circumstances of the present lime. But then it is said, if you would concede these claims you would tranquillize Ireland. Now, Sir, that argument seems to be one taken up by gentlemen on the other side of the House in the moment of distress, and I have no doubt that they would have laid hold of any thing floating on their minds, whether right or wrong, to serve their purpose. But that argument I contend to be an argument of pure intimidation. If you do not give way, what will be the consequence?—Why, the right hon. gentleman has even gone farther than those hon gentlemen around him. He has spoken more distinctly than any of them. And he has given us reason to apprehend, that an immediate rebellion will be the consequence of our refusal. I am quite satisfied that it is utterly impossible for this country, unless they mean to give up the whole of their share in the government, upon the ground of intimidation, to surrender what the Catholics now claim; for you cannot stop short of any part without giving up the whole: because if you are to be intimidated in one thing, you will be intimidated in another: and if we are to be intimidated against our own own opinions, and with our eyes open to the danger that threatens our Church and State, it is useless for us to waste our breath in debate on the subject. But unless it is intended that every function of government shall be resigned to Papists, the House will not listen to such suggestions. If you allow the Roman Catholics to sit in this House, and to hold the different offices of the state, the next application will be for a Church establishment. And does any man think that you can conciliate or compromise with the ambition of men in so active a profession? I say if you do not satisfy the priests you do nothing. I think I have proved that the Roman Catholics are under the implicit controul and authority of their priests: and to suppose that the priests would be satisfied with seeing their flocks possessed of what they asked, by a well-timed intimidation, that they themselves would be satisfied to remain in the humble situation wherein they are at present. I say if you suffer yourselves to be intimidattd in this way, they will naturally resort to the same means, and you cannot refuse them.
§ I would ask, then, to what extent will this go?—I say, that when once the priests are allowed to taste the sweets of tempo- 889 ral power, nothing will satisfy their greedy appetites. The first thing they will do, will be to root out the Protestant Church Establishment of Ireland, and seat themselves in the places of those who now fill that establishment. At least they will stick themselves by the side of it, and insist on sharing the provision for that Church.
§ Why then, do you suppose, that you can couciliate upon any such grounds as are now contended for? Certainly not. It appears to me, that by giving way upon this point, you will be called upon for further and greater concessions. If you open the doors of this House to the Papists, you will speedily see a Catholic party in parliament. I need not say what would be the consequence of such an event, in the present situation of parties in this House. When once they get inside of these doors, we should speedily see the Catholic party would be pretty strong; and I have not a doubt that gradually augmenting in strength, we should see those Protestant gentlemen whose ancestors manifested a constitutional opposition to the dangers of Papacy, would be amongst the first who would be forced out of it. Although I am convinced that property will always have its influence, yet I am not sure that it will be always sufficient to counterbalance that sort of authority which the Roman Catholic clergy possess over their flocks. And it would not be presumption in me to anticipate, that many years would not elapse before you would have a Catholic instead of a Protestant parliament.—And I say, that if the Roman Catholics are obliged to truckle to their clergy in the way I have described, will not Catholic members be more likely to look to the maintenance of their own Church, if they are sincere Catholics, than they would to the maintenance of the Protestant Establishment. And it is not unnatural, that being a distinct body of men, they should act together in that body, and that they should carry on their opera-lions together. But I do not go the length of saying, that I never will agree to concede to the Catholics in any case, what is required. Let me see that the Roman Catholic religion is put upon such a footing within the United Kingdom, as to take away the apprehension of foreign influence, and then I shall be ready to reconsider this subject, because that is the only point to which I have objection. As to the difference of religious tenets, I hold them as nothing. As to the belief in tran- 890 substantiation and the worship of the Virgin Mary, I have nothing to do with either; I have no objection to sit in a British House of Parliament with any man who worships the Virgin Mary, provided he abjures the supremacy of the Pope. Let him do that, and I have no objection to sit in parliament with him, and treat him as he ought to be treated.
§ But, Sir, is there not something practicable upon this subject to remove our objections? Look at the present situation of the Pope; and I think there is enough to found an expectation or a hope that some event will arise to the Popedom, which may afford a probability of our coming to some arrangement upon tihis subject. When-ever that event happens, it will be for the Catholic bishops of England and Ireland to tell us what they will do to conciliate our concession. But if they still consider their allegiance as inseparable from the Popedom of Rome, and that they give us a positive denial of what we wish, they know and we know how to act. But if they will shake off their yoke, and something of their Popedom, we will then be able to meet them upon something like conclusive terms. But however, if after all, they are determined to have a Pope, in the name of God let them have an English Pope or an Irish Pope, I have no objection that they should have an Irish Pope of their own, and I think he might reside at Ballyshannon, or any where else they please, so he be but a British subject, and we can then talk of the matter. But as long as they continue their allegiance to an Italian or any foreign Pope, I shall decidedly set my face against their claims. What is to prevent them, if their doctrines require that they should have a head to their Church, from establishing a Pope in England or Ireland? I should have much less objection at this time of day to a Pope in England or Ireland, than to give themselves up bound hand and foot to a foreign priest.
§ Under these circumstances. Sir, looking at all the difficulties and dangers that now surround the country, I should not satisfy my conscience if I did not give the motion my most strennous opposition.
§ Mr. Brougham.
Sir; In rising to support the motion of my right hon friend below me (Mr. Grattan) I differ with extreme reluctance from a right hon. and learned judge, the representative of the University of Oxford (sir W. Scott) for 891 whose profound learning and exalted judicial station I feel on all occasions the highest respect, and to whose conscientious motives for delivering the speech with which he opened this debate, a speech which I scarcely know whether more to admire or to lament, I am fully disposed to give implicit belief. But whatever may be my deference for that distinguished judge in private or in professional life, my duty as a member of parliament compels me here to speak my sentiments frankly and unceremoniously upon this great question, how widely so ever they may differ from his, and imperiously as the necessity of supporting them may prescribe to me a conflict with him, which, on any other occasion, I should gladly decline. Such, indeed, are not exactly the feelings which one has in differing with the right hon. gentleman who spoke last, and elaborately followed the learned judge though with unequal steps, nor are any sensations of diffidence in the cause itself mixed up with the personal deference which it is impossible not to feel towards some of its opponents. For now, Sir, having heard all the arguments which could be urged by both those gentlemen—by the most distinguished and by the most zealous of all its enemies—I think I may take upon me to assert that it rises from the conflict, not merely uninjured, nay untouched, but more triumphantly established than before, this, I trust, its last struggle for success. Let me beseech the House to recollect the grounds on which they have anew preached up the doctrine of danger to the Church establishment. Into what do they resolve themselves, and by what authorities are they maintained? The learned judge prediets the overthrow of the establishment from the ascendancy as he calls it of the Catholics, and reads as proof of this, an extract from some anonymous pamphlet, which he holds to be of Catholic authority, and which he selects in preference to the undisputed documents of that body, because he there finds it written that if the Catholics are admitted to a participation in the benefits of the constitution, they will forthwith seek to overturn the Protestant Church. This is the sole ground of the learned judge's fears; and from this unauthenticated assertion—from this bare statement, for aught we can tell, of an enemy to the Romanists, assuming the guise of one, with the intention probably of being cited against them, an intention 892 which the learned judge has taken care should not be frustrated. From this foolish or insidious production, at the least this fugitive tract of an anonymous writer, I appeal to the records of parliament for an ample and triumphal defence of the Catholics—look at the solemn oaths prescribed by the statute—look at those declarations of allegiance to the constitution in Church and Slate which the laws enjoin. Remember that the Catholics have never yet refused to bind themselves by those oaths and declarations; and reflect, too, that the whole question now before us is one of oaths and declarations; so that you who doubt the Catholics and suspect them of an intention hostile to the Church establishment, and who upon those doubts and suspicions would found an argument for the necessity of the existing penal laws, that is to say, of tests, of disqualifying oaths and declarations, cannot for one instant object to the evidence of their loyalty to that establishment, which I am now tendering, because that evidence is your own favourite one of tests by oaths and declarations. Then what are the oaths now universally taken by the Irish Catholics? They are the strongest that language can convey. I defy the wit of man to devise more ample pledges of attachment to the establishment as a political institution. They are couched in the very words which the most zealous Protestant would be forward to use for the purpose of displaying, nay making a display of his loyalty to the Church. In truth they are the oaths invented by yourselves, as sufficient to satisfy your anxiety for the Church, to disarm your fears for her security, they are the oaths by which you intended to obtain all the safeguards that swearing and declaring can give.
Surrounded as I am by lawyers and by Irishmen, (sir S. Romilly, sir A. Piggott, the knight of Kerry, Mr. Grattan, Mr. Parnell, &c.) I ask the former what tests more ample, more strict were ever contrived by legislators; I appeal to the latter which of them has ever been refused by any zealot among the millions of their Catholic countrymen. I will read this document then from the statute book, at once to sweep away from the face of this debate all the imputations which the learned judge has collected from his twopenny anonymous pamphlet, in order to call the conduct of the Irish into question, and to encumber this great question:
"I, A. B, do swear, that I do abjure 893 condemn, and detest, as unchristian and impious, the principle that it is lawful to murder, destroy, or any ways injure any person whatsoever for or under the pretence of being a heretic; and I do declare solemnly before God, that I believe, that no act in itself unjust, immoral, or wicked, can ever be justified or excused by or under pretence or colour that it was done either for the good of the Church, or in obedience to any ecclesiastical power whatsoever."
"And do declare, that I do not believe, that the Pope of Rome, or any other foreign prince, prelate, slate, or potentate, hath or ought to have any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm."
"I do swear, that I will defend, to the utmost of my power, the settlement and arrangement of property in this country, as established by the laws now in being: I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment, for the purpose of substituting a Catholic Establishment in its stead; and I do solemnly swear, that I will not exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb and weaken the Protestant religion and Protestant government in this kingdom. So help me God."
This I think. Sir, is enough; but it is not all. I nest answer the learned judge's pamphleteer, by referring to those Petitions on the table, signed by thousands of the most eminent of the Catholic body, asserting, in terms strong and affecting, their attachment to the constitution, and disclaiming, in language equally unqualified, all designs inconsistent with the perfect safety of the Protestant Church. To that state they pay their taxes, though to them its offices, its distinctions, its benefits, its protection in a great measure are denied. To that Church they pay, without a murmur, the tythe of all they have, though to them it can by no possibility afford any spiritual succours: and because, in addition to the payment of tribute and tythe, they bind themselves by oaths and solemn declarations, to support both Church and State, and abjure, in the sight of God and man, every feeling inconsistent with the safety and interests of both; and because every time that they petition parliament for relief from the disabilities under which their conscientious adherence to speculative opinions lays 894 them, they carefully repeat those disclaimers which they are always ready to verify upon oath; you, therefore, tell them, having, it would seem, no better reason to give for refusing their prayers, that you are afraid to grant them. To grant them? No; but that you dare not even listen to them, lest they should seek to overthrow the Church which they support by their tribute, and which they have sworn never to injure. But their oaths and professions are not to be trusted, for they may be made in order to be broken: true, and so might I argue, who am an enemy to all such tests; but let me tell the gentlemen opposite, this is precisely that thing which they must not say; for all the securities which they ever have thought of, are oaths and professions, and the only dispute at present between us is, whether we shall trust the safety of the state to such tests, or seek to establish it in the hearts and affections of a faithful and generous and grateful people.
This fallacy lies at the root of all the arguments urged; let me rather say, the alarms sounded by the right hon. gent, who spoke last, and bolstered up by him with extracts from volumes of Catholic controversy and correspondence. He detected other sources of danger from the concession of these just claims. But I would rather refer you for a statement of them to the more mild and guarded eloquence of the learned judge whom I should fear to grapple with on almost any other question; and whose dextrous, insinuating arguments I should in vain attempt to oppose by any other means than referring to the plain matter of fact, as it lies before us. This is the only way in which I can hope either to blunt the edge of his wit, or to disentangle the mazes of his seductive and elaborate sophistry; but it is, I think, sufficient to do both.
Satisfied then, that the Catholics entertain a deep-rooted hostility to the establishment, notwithstanding their own repeated and solemn declarations; nay, convinced, as he says, that in order to act conscientiously they must seek by all means, its destruction—for the learned judge can form no better opinion, it should seem, of conscientious conduct, at least in a Roman Catholic, than first swearing not to do a thing, and then doing it; he proceeds to a topic so frequently urged, and so constantly refuted, that I should have no apology for even adverting to it, did I not remark that, with 895 some person, it always pleases how often soever repeated—I mean the power of effecting mischief, with which you arm the Catholics by giving them seats in the legislature. It seems that a few peers of that persuasion being introduced into the other House, and a few commoners into this, all our securities, not only of oaths and tests, but of numbers—of the large body of Protestants, among whom that handful will be lost—all the safeguards furnished by positive laws, and the still stronger checks provided in our own prejudices, or conscientious and well-founded opinions; in the zeal, for instance, of the learned judge and his co-adjutors, will speedily be at an end, and the parliament, without delay, be converted to the Catholic faith; or, at any rate, to seek the overthrow of the Protestant Church! I should be ashamed, Sir, to dwell one moment upon such miserable nonsense as their heads must be filled with, who are sincerely influenced by this argument. I should be still less excusable in stopping to expose it, after the able and well-reasoned speech of a noble friend of mine (lord Binning) who handled it last night. But let me only ask, if such be really the inextinguishable hostility of the Catholic body—if their grand object be, indeed, the destruction if the establishment, and if votes in parliament are the means of attaining it, what security have we against them at this very hour, fenced about with tests, and oaths, and declarations, which exclude them from scats indeed in parliament, but leave them free to choose their representatives? Why, Sir, if their hatred of our Church is so violent that they can scarcely keep their hands off it, notwithstanding all they say and all they swear, if they never can meet to poll for members without meditating its downfall; if wheresoever two or three Romanists are gathered together the Church is in jeopardy, what, I ask, prevents them from gratifying somewhat at least of this spleen, by electing (which the law allows,) a hundred members, calling themselves Protestants, indeed, but bound by the tenure on which they hold their seats, to represent faithfully the Romish feelings of their constituents, and work the overthrow of the establishment, the object which those constituents, it seems, have nearest at heart? I will tell you, Sir, why no such thing can now be: the Catholics cannot return the whole, or even a considerable number of the Irish members, They are a powerful, 896 wealthy, most numerous, and highly respectable body; but the property possessed by the Protestant interest, makes it impossible for them to elect above a certain part of the whole Irish representation. Would they be able to elect a greater portion of it, if they could send Catholics here instead of Protestants? The fancy is ridiculous.—But their wealth and influence may increase. True, it may; I trust it will. I am sure it must increase with the beneficial effects of the laws now in force, and which are toleration itself, compared with the sanguinary code they succeeded. But will that influence be made stationary by refusing the power of representation to the body which you have allowed the privilege of election? Will the Catholic influence increase one degree less rapidly by confining them in their choice to certain classes of the community? Nay, if you keep from them the just and natural right of being represented, where they have a sufficient preponderance to chuse at all, by members of their own sect, are they the less likely to return men, who may indeed be Protestants, but will infallibly be rigid sticklers for every Catholic point; rigid in proportion as their constituents are cramped in their exercise of the elective franchise; rigid, more rigid than even Catholic members would be, because they must supply by excessive zeal the defect in their title to be returned, and prove at every turn that their Protestant creed is no bar to their fully representing the Romish prejudices of their constituents.
What then is the sum and the result of the matter?—Precisely this—that if there is the smallest ground for apprehension, we gain no security whatever against the danger, be it what it may, by still withholding from the Catholics the only part of the elective franchise which they do not already enjoy; and if our fears are chimerical, there is of course an end of the argument. I can descry no way out of this dilemma. The learned judge, with all his practised subtilty, cannot escape from it. Either we may in perfect safety take the further step of concession, which is now recommended, or we have already gone many steps too far. We have done too much for the security of the Church, or we may, without the slightest danger to it, do something more. If our fears have any foundation, if the learned judge's alarms are not purely visionary and fantastic, then the Church is really at this 897 hour in danger. The laws of 1778, 1782, and 1793, those wise and humane laws as they have been called, I say those laws of strict justice and absolute necessity, the repeal of the code of persecution and blood, brought the Church into jeopardy, and they who affect to foresee an increase of danger from conceding the little that now remains to be given up, may exercise their ingenuity in explaining whence it is that the establishment has survived all the former concessions—the grand and substantial changes I allude to—not only without a total overthrow, but without even the slightest perceptible shock.
But after all; Sir, I would take leave to ask, are we in such speculations, taking the plain, fact, or any thing like the fact, along with us? Really to hear the learned judge, and those who with less dexterous skill have enlarged upon the danger of Catholic votes in parliament, one is tempted to fancy that elections and worthy electors have changed their nature; and that religious views and feelings are the only motives which are known to bear any sway on the hustings. Is it really so, Sir? Is religion the only ground of voting; the sole principle of selection in these pious and primitive times? What has become of land, and money and family? Has the relation of landlord and tenant all of a sudden lost its influence? Do customers cease to be looked upon with favour by tradesmen? Has personal kindness no sway? Have long established family connections no longer any virtue? I speak not of any undue employment of authority; I allude to no illegal use of wealth; all such means I place out of view; but give me leave to ask, whether religion has now-a-days triumphed over every fair and legitimate source of influence, and placed itself paramount, nay sole, in the minds of all electors? Or, if not, will the law which allows Catholics to sit here, suddenly abolish every other principle of election, make men deaf to all but religious considerations, and banish from their minds every prepossession and feeling in the choice of a representative, except the question, what is his form of faith? No doubt, while your disqualifying statutes separate the Catholic from his fellow subjects, while by exclusion from the pale of the constitution, you draw a circle round one part of the Irish people, and ordain that those shall be kept distinct and insulated whom a common nature and allegiance and birth meant to consolidate with the rest of the 898 mass, there may be some pretence for apprehending that the religious diversity which forms their distinguishing badge, will exert a more than ordinary, and a more than natural sway over their minds. Yet the fact shews, that no dangers have arisen from such propensities even under the present system of separation: and to apprehend any after that system shall have expired, and leaving to religious distinctions only their natural force, shall have restored to all other motives their due preponderance, would be a ridiculous, if it were not also a very melancholy delusion. I am confident it is to the full as absurd an alarm, as it would be for ray hon. friend, the member for Yorkshire, (Mr. Wilberforce,) who is one of the most distinguished ornaments of the episcopalian establishment, to be apprehensive of losing the support of those numerous and respectable sectarian voters, to whom his private worth as well as his public life, have rendered him dear; and by whose united, though various voice, he, a zealous member of the Anglican Church, has so often been placed in the enviable station of representing that vast county.
The fears of the learned judge, he has likewise said, are all directed towards the Catholics. From no other sect, either within or without the bosom of the Church does he see any cause of alarm: all but Romanists may be safely trusted. Is it, I demand. Sir, from experience that such distinctions are deduced? Has the Church History, have the most noted pages of the History of the State in England, taught the learned judge this lesson? Is hostility to the Establishment confined to the Catholics? Are they alone, of all sects, to be charged with the design of overturning it, because they are the only sect who bind themselves by multiplied solemnities to compass nothing against it? But have they in fact ever put it in jeopardy? Have they ever shook its foundations? Have they ever torn it in pieces with internal schisms? Have they ever, I ask, overthrown it, and with it overwhelmed the state itself? Yet history tells us that these things have been done by other sects. And I fancy it would not be speaking very wide of the fact to say that in such doings, almost every other leading religious sect had a hand except the Catholics alone. Nay, it is thought by some, that in the present day there be perils more near the bosom of the Establishment than any which can be even pretended to menace 899 her from the Romish faith. I have heard of Methodists, and of parties springing up within the pale of the Church, whose proceedings excited her livelier fears for her safety than any which the great necessities of the present argument have conjured up. To all those quarters the learned judge shuts his eyes. Do I then feel apprehensions from them? Am I telling you the Church is in danger from the Protestant sects either without her circle or in it? No such thing. I can see no risk to her while the laws protect and endow her; and while those laws are observed, I can feel no alarm from Dissenters, or Methodists, or any other class of the religious world. From universal toleration, and even liberal kindness to all sects, I can conceive no possible danger to ensue. But from an opposite line of conduct, from singling out one sect and running it down, from confining your intolerance to a single sect, and that a far more numerous and more powerful one than all the rest together, or from capriciously granting it certain immunities, and unreasonably withholding others, I confess I can see probable dangers; and from no one mode of treatment do I conceive such dangers more likely to result than from the strange perversion of fact, and that utter blindness to all history, and of every day's experience, which leads some men to cry out when they have no other ground whereupon to justify their conduct towards that one sect—that the Church is safe on all its other quarters, and only in danger from them.
I must yet advert to another topic urged by the learned judge, because it struck me as novel, at least from the extent to which it was pressed, and the openness with which its principles were avowed. He talked of a kind of right possessed by the members of the Protestant communion over the legislature—that a sort of implied condition (if I rightly understood him,) under which they became attached to that communion, should not be broken.—This condition it seems, is that a man worships God in a certain way, under the assurance that this mode of faith shall secure to him certain privileges and (for without this addition the argument has no sort of application,) that those privileges shall not be extended to others of a different persuasion. Here is a sweeping principle with a vengeance! Here is a new light indeed, let in upon us to shew the true foundations of religious belief! Why, is it to be maintained that 900 men attach themselves to the Protestant faith from motives like these? Is it, at any rate, to be said openly, and in plain terms, that as we worship according to the liturgy of the English church, and give our answers to the catechism of the Westminster assembly, for the purpose of gaining the immunities of the Protestant communion and for the purpose of enjoying something from which others are debarred, therefore the government breaks faith with us, if, after we have entered upon those offices of religion, with such pure and spiritual views, it extends the same immunities to others, and leaves us without our distinctive badges of political preference and favour? Really, Sir, I had always, in the simpleness of my heart, fancied, that when I worshipped God, as a member of the English Church, I did so with a view to the safety of my soul, and from a conscientious conviction that its doctrines were true, and that all other were erroneous. I had vainly, as it now appears, imagined that my only motive for preferring this form of faith, was my belief that it was the scriptural one; a belief wholly involuntary on my part, and which I entertained because my reason led me to it; not because certain political, secular advantages were annexed to it, or rather to the outward profession of it; and as for supposing that any condition could be broken with me, by the government doing any one act of any kind whatsoever, such a thought never could have entered my mind, because I chose that form of worship without any reference to temporal matters at all. The learned judge has indeed cast a new light on this subject. According to him, men believe and worship, as they strike a bargain, voluntarily on certain conditions precedent for valuable considerations, or rather for considerations of no value at all, unless the gratification of a splenetic and exclusive spirit be an object of worth in Christian eyes. The plain English of all this, however, is abundantly obvious. It is the doctrine of proselytism by wholesale. It is a new view of the code of penalty and persecution. It is an avowal far more open and undisguised than has heretofore been made, and which we shall do well hereafter to keep in mind, that the main use of the restrictive laws is to induce, or compel men to leave their own faith, but not from persuasion of its errors, and betake themselves to ours, but not from conversion to its truths. This, the genuine language of proselytism, the lan- 901 guage of that bigotry which we hear in the very same speech too, ascribed to the Catholics as the peculiar characieristic of their sect, was never yet, I venture to pronounce, uttered more plainly by any Romanist, mitred or cowled, who ever promulgated his anathemas from a council, or muttered the incantations of his superstition in a cloister.
From this part of his argument the learned judge then passed to the most trite of all the topics ever urged against us—a topic so worn out by repetition, that not even his ingenuity and eloquence could lend it any new grace. I allude, Sir, to the notable distinction which is always taken between toleration and power, and founded upon a false and hollow pretence that the Catholics are claiming not merely freedom from persecution, but a share of privileges, and the gratification of ambition. In the same spirit the right hon. gentleman, (Mr. Yorke,) who followed him, asserted roundly that this is a question only interesting to a few Catholic peers and wealthy commoners, but one in which the body of the Irish people have no sort of concern. Sir, I maintain fearlessly the opposite opinion. I appeal to my honourable friends around me, who from local connexions, from intimate acquaintance with Ireland, must needs be best informed of the state of her people; and I call upon them to say whether any thing can be conceived more unfounded than the assertion, that the great bulk of the Irish people are not affected by the penal laws, and feel no desire to get rid of those degrading restraints under which they now labour. But it seems all this is mere ambition. Good God! is it ambition that prompts a poor peasant or retail trader to wish for the power of carrying his goods to market toll free, or at least paying the same toll with his Protestant neighbours? Is it ambition to desire, when tried for his life, the chance of equal justice, which arises from having a jury partly composed of his own religion? Is the demand of the common benefits of the constitution, the trial by jury so jusily dear to Englishmen, stigmatized in the Irish Catholics as an overweening lust of power? I will go no farther than this point. I might enumerate many of the rights now denied to Catholics, and ask if it be seeking dominion to desire the restoration of them; but I will stop here, because when I take my stand on trial by jury, I know I occupy an immoveable 902 ground. What then is it the Catholics now enjoy of this sacred English right? I will grant that in ordinary cases the Protestant sheriff, (for Protestant he must be,) may return a pannel composed fairly enough of Catholics and Protestants. I may admit that in cases where it signifies nothing how the jury is composed, it will be fairly selected, that where there is no reason to fear partiality or injustice, no attempt will be made to pick the pannel and exclude the Catholics. But I demand to see one instance in which there was a difficult or delicate question between parties of opposite sects, involving or hanging upon religious diversities, or political feelings connected with matters of faith, and the jury was fairly chosen from the two sects, I go further. I demand the instance of this description, in which the sheriff" has put Catholics on the pannel. Why, I ask, do gentlemen prize the trial by jury above all the other blessings of their free constitution? Not surely, because in the ordinary questions of property, twelve uninformed men are fitter to decide than a bench of learned judges. No, Sir, nor yet because in such common cases the twelve men are capable of deciding so well as the judges. But still the method of trial is inestimable, for a most sufficient reason, because every now and then a question occurs, where some bias may exist in the judge's mind; where his feelings may be swayed by the influence of the crown which appointed him; where his connection with the people is too slender to inspire him with the proper feelings; where the habits of his profession, or the prejudices of his rank may interfere with the full discharge of his high functions. Then it is—in the rare and not in the ordinary case,—that the interposition of a jury is thought, and rightly thought, to correct the supposed partialities of the judge, or to supply the proper feelings; and whether by checking or by prompting, to restore to the scales of even handed justice, their due force. Now in all such cases, that is to say, in the very cases for which the benefits of jury trial are calculated; in the only cases, in which, according to some, jury trial is a real good; in the only cases in which, by the admission of most reasoners, this mode of administering justice is wholly unexceptionable; in the only cases, in which, by the confession of all, it is productive of the greatest benefits; the Catholic enjoys it not; he is tried only by aliens to his faith; by enemies of his order; 903 by members of the body whom this very distinction, and others of the same odious and stigmatising nature have rendered separate from, and hostile to his class; he enjoys not the privilege granted by our justice to every foreigner who transgresses our laws, that of being judged by persons tolerably impartial to his race.
But is it mere ambition—mere love of power, which makes Catholics wish to have the doors of trading corporations flung open to them? Is it even a culpable desire of power to covet relief from the stigma which at present points them out as the only persons in the state unfit to be intrusted with places of confidence and honour? And here let me say one word of the elective franchise as now enjoyed by them. They have obtained, we are told, quite enough in possessing the right to elect; it signifies little to shew whether their representatives be Protestant or Catholic. What, Sir! is it of no importance to the right of election, that the choice is hampered? Has freedom of chusing nothing to do with the option of selecting whom you please? Is ii quite the same thing to be told I may pitch upon any body I think proper without exception; and to be told I must confine myself to one class which another points out to me? And what is the limitation in question? What is the exception? Who are they from amongst whom I may not chuse my representative? Why, exactly those of my own order; those who profess the same religion with myself! And upon what is this restriction founded? What is the reason given for not allowing me to look among them for my representative? Precisely because they are of the same class and religion! Good God! is this nothing? Is this no stigma? Is there nothing hateful and humbling in this? Sir, it is this stigma, this useless, this needless, this odious stigma, which, while it imprints a mark of suspicion upon the Catholics, affords no security to the Protestants; but like ail the other inventions of the persecuting code, irritates every generous feeling, rouses each evil pasion, insulates the degraded sect, and points its animosities against the favoured order, whom it opposes at once to be hated and overthrown.
The learned judge has many fears, it seems, from the spiritual ascendancy of the Roman priesthood, including the head of that hierarchy; and he has worked himself up to a persuasion, that were the penalties 904 repealed, we should see that over-bearing influence of the Papacy revived, which distinguished and disgraced former ages. But to make good his assertions, he must not only shew the existence of grounds of apprehension from that quarter; he must execute a still more difficult task; he must prove that the continuance of the penalties removes those grounds; he must prove that the persecution which degrades and separates the Catholics, which throws them into the arms of their priests by opposing and irritating them; secures the establishment from the power of those priests working through those flocks. I need not refer to the securities offered by the tests which you have imposed; the oaths which all the Catholics willingly, cheerfully take; and the declaration which they heartily subscribe, that "there is no article of their faith which binds them to believe that the Pope possesses any temporal power, superiority, or ascendancy, directly or indirectly, that can, in any way, affect their allegiance to the state." But what further security doe" the learned judge offer us? He is for perpetuating a system of tests and disqualifications, which exasperates as much as it oppresses, but does not at all weaken or disarm, and which must dispose all who have taken these oaths to break them. An intimate union, he says, will still subsist between the Pope and the priesthood, and between the priests and the Irish peasantry. Is there less of this union, this chain of influence and spiritual ascendancy at the present moment? The learned judge constantly forgets that in order to scare us from emancipating the Catholics, by such stories of danger from their hierarchy, he must both shew us the ground for such fears, and prove that by leaving matters as they now stand, the danger, whatever it may be, will vanish.
The learned judge, after enlarging so amply on the merits of the question, was pleased to express his no small indignation at the constant renewal of the discussion in this House; and he called upon us on this side to give peace to the empire, by suffering the subject to lie at rest for an indefinite period of time. This is his recipe for conciliation, by which he seriously hopes, it seems, to lull all sects into tranquillity. I fear, however. Sir, that there is another party to be consulted before this notable compromise can be effected. What would he think, for instance, of first having the consent of the 905 Catholics themselves, the petitioners now before the House, and whose application to us brings forward the present discussion? Does he not suppose that their assent is to the full as essential as that of any set of men in this House? Why, Sir, no party, not parliament itself can set this great question at rest in any way but one, and that is granting the object so justly and rightfully, yet so respectfully demanded. We may remain silent, but will the Catholics be satisfied with our neglect, and keep quiet in imitation of us? You may send them from your bar not merely unredressed, but unheard;—you may fling their Petitions over your table;—you may reject every proposition that is made by their friends, as well as everyprayer urged by themselves. But how are you sure that they will be quiet after all? If they find his Majesty's ministers year after year putting them off under every change of government, under all changes even of the dynasty occupying the throne, conspiring against their claims: if, from day to day they hear you tell them "be quiet, for we cannot entertain the question now;"—if they sec plainly that this "now" is to last indefinitely, and that in truth it means "we cannot hear you ever;" nay, when the learned judge, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, unite in giving it this very interpretation, can you imagine they will be satisfied merely because you wish it, or will cease to seek relief because you refuse it to them repeatedly? Sir, if you seek for quiet on this question, you must pursue it by a far different track;—you must open your ears to their just complaints;—you must look into the cause of the evils complained of in ail the preceding Petitions of the Catholics, and in the repeated discussions of their claims. That cause stares you in the face, and you have no pretence left for not seeing it;—that cause is the disgusting cause which has so long split Ireland into unnatural divisions, setting man against man, and forcing one fourth part of her people to be the oppressors of the other three-fourths, whom it places in a state of degradation. Hence it is that you have year after year Petitions poured in upon you;—hence it is that they now crowd your tables—and yet we are to be told that this is the time, in the last crisis of the country's fate, for refusing even to hear their prayers, and ask ourselves if we can grant them. Instead of shuddering at the prospect before us, should we persist in turning a deaf ear to 906 such righteous complaints, we are bid to call our Catholic fellow-subjects unreasonable, presumptuous, ambitious, for preferring them in the language of respectful Petition;—for making this last effort to be admitted within the pale of the constitution.
But how, Sir, were these men treated when the Union was in negociation, and their concurrence was asked in a measure allowed by all to have been impracticable without their co-operation? They were told by the noble lord (Castlereagh) then the organ of the administration in Ireland, that unless the Union were carried it was vain to expect their claims could be granted, but that as soon as their consent should be gained, and the measure had been carried which their resistance had utterly frustrated the year before, the force of the government would be exerted in their behalf, and they might expect all those boons, (as they were termed,) but I will give them their true name, and call them rights, would be conceded. Nor was this all. To recommend the measure still further, and more firmly to bind the pledge, a learned person published an address to the Catholics, exhorting them to support the Union, and holding out the same gladdening promises. This learned character appears from his tone and manner to have been connected with the Castle, and the noble lord (Castlereagh) then its organ. He was probably some literary and legal gentleman, under his immediate patronage, and employed by him for the promotion of his favourite scheme. In the prosecution of this design, he published a pamphlet, which I now hold in my hand. His name is affixed to it; and, by rather a whimsical coincidence, it agrees precisely with that of the learned and right honourable doctor opposite, for it is signed "Patrick Duigenan, LL. D." I cannot, indeed, for a moment suppose the learned civilian to have been the actual author after all the doctrines diametrically opposite which I have so often and so steadily heard him deliver in this House, in truth no farther back than last night. But to return to his ingenious namesake, the éléve of the noble lord and the Castle, he thus addresses the Irish Catholics—" Were you one people, the preponderance of Protestant interest would be so great in the United Empire, that the distinctions between Protestant and Catholic might safely be removed, all rivalship would cease, and it would be no 907 longer necessary to disable the Romanists by any laws whatever." Thus far the other doctor Duigenan, the doctor of 1800, with whom I have the happiness and honour of an entire concurrence in opinion, in proportion as I widely differ from the other luminary of that name, the right honourable civilian of 1812. Well, sir, on the faith of such hopes, so held out, the Romanists did concur, and the Union was carried. As if these promises were in-sufficient, other pledges were given by lord Cornwallis, a man never to be named either upon matters of Irish interests, or in relation to our vast dominions in the East, without the deepest respect—a name dear to every Irishman as synonymous with conciliation and justice. He told the Catholics that the ground on which Mr. Pitt and his colleagues had retired from power, was their inability to carry forward the question as a government measure; and that feeling themselves unable to redeem their pledges, they had not only relinquished office, but were resolved never to resume it, without obtaining this power of redemption. Mr. Pitt did return to office without that power. Now began that series of Petitions which year after year have been presented to parliament, in a number and variety rapidly increasing, and in each succeeding year, I feel joy and glory in thinking, with augmented and augmenting success.
Sir, various obstacles, real or pretended, have stood in the way of their complete triumph, both in the councils of the sovereign, and in the great council of the nation. Among others, the religious scruples of the monarch were held out ostentatiously, as an insurmountable barrier, and they were met by a corresponding delicacy on the part of this House. But though I for one have thought that a more unconstitutional view could not be taken of any subject, though I would at any time sooner have cut off my right hand, than be a party to the surrender of the free exercise of our duties, as a branch of the legislature, to a waiver of our own opinions upon a great national question because another branch, because in plain English the King held certain feelings upon it; though I should be found the very last to relinquish ray own opinion, and betray my trust, for such vile considerations as this, yet I did feel prone under existing circumstances to make some little allowance for the feelings of tenderness with which some mea seemed disposed to treat 908 real and conscientious scruples of the sovereign. But of these let us hear no more; their time is past and gone. Whatever it may be, this is not the æra of religious niceties and tender consciences: all those things have vanished; or if they exist, they are confined to the sick imagination of the monarch, and afford no longer any pretence for the mockery of reason, the affected delicacy of feeling which some men have found convenient for other purposes, to interfere between Ireland and her rights; and to use as a covering for their own apostacy from their earlier principles. No man is now to be found gifted with the prodigious impudence required to set up again, under the present rule, the same empty shadow which so long misled us. While there was any ground for it, what language used the Irish to hear from the highest quarter? I speak in the presence of those who listened to the comforting story, and can at once stop me if I mis-state it. What were those words? "Repress your just and natural eagerness: wait, only wait for a little while, and your utmost wishes shall be gratified. The relation of father and son at present, and under existing circumstances, makes it impossible for me to move; but I am your firm friend, and when those obstacles shall be removed, on me you may surely reckon." Now, then, these obstacles are all removed. Every scruple, every feeling, inconsistent with the manifestation of this firm friendship, is fled and the Irish Catholic turns his eyes towards that high quarter where so many hopes had been taught to center; where kindnesses, I can scarcely say mutual kindnesses, but where the remembrances of favours bestowed taught him to look for princely gratitude. Once more to his confusion he hears of obstacles, and feelings, and scruples. Once more he is told of those eternally existing circumstances, and he finds that exist they will until they shall have brought the existence of the empire to a close! Where then shall the Irish now look? After a series of delays, and pretences, and impostures, after suffering from every change only new indignities and less bearable disappointments, after a long succession of oppression, ending in still more intolerable slights and insults, promises broken, pledges forfeited, assurances denied, friendships and favours forgotten, enemies and indignities forgiven—after the real "early friends," the fast friends of 1789, the warm and steady 909 hearts of Ireland have been thrown off, Such friendships as these slighted, such affections contemned, the people of that injured country come—they can only come—to you, and implore of you to re-member the obligations which have been forgotten elsewhere. I say, let them come before you. I say, in God's name hear them, suffer them to petition; nay, rejoice that they still do petition, encourage them in persevering; shew them that you know your duty, though some persons seem actually mad enough to wish they should forget theirs; prove to them that you know their value, in loyalty as well as in power, and that without being afraid of their numbers, you recollect they are four millions of people. Sir, I am not using the language of threat or intimidation. I bid you fear, not the numbers of the petitioners, but the justice of their cause. I would have you to dread doing injustice, and not the less to dread if, because the victims of it will be a third part of your whole population. I would have you to pause before you lop off such a branch of your empire, before you palsy the right arm of your power; and on this I will say not a word more, than that the strength of the Catholics well deserves to be considered with respect, by those who would treat their rights with contempt.
The learned judge concluded his speech with expressing a hope, in which I do most cordially agree, that the gentlemen on this side of the House may not use this great question as the badge of party, or make it the stepping stone to power. But I must take leave to say, that the sly in. sinuation which he couched under that hope, with the accustomed dexterity of his eloquence, was to say the least of it superfluous. My honourable friends near me, and my noble friends in another House, cannot surely be accused of having so sported with the interests of their country by so dealing with the Catholic claims. Sir, it is their sincere attachment to this question—it is their refusal to abandon it—it is their positive and repealed rejection of all the offers that could be made to seduce them with office away from their principles on this question; it is their determination not to make the Catholic cause a party badge or a ladder to power; it is nothing in the world but this that has kept them out of office, and still excludes them from the possession of it. These principles they have held fast through good and bad fortune, and shewn 910 to an approving country, that with feelings of which I verily believe there are some men now in sight who cannot form any conception, they could relinquish the actual enjoyment of power, and forfeit all chance of regaining it, rather than betray as others had done before them, and as some were still doing before their eyes, the great cause of Ireland and of the empire.
Sir, filled with the same feelings on this momentous subject, I deemed it my duty to offer myself to your notice in support of the vote I am prepared to give. And after the speech of the learned judge, I should not hare merited the approval of my own conscience, if I had given that vote in silence.
Mr. J. Leslie Foster*
.—Sir; Many of the gentlemen who have spoken in this debate, particularly the right hon. gentleman who introduced the question, and the hon. baronet who has entered so much at large into the vindication of the tenets of the Roman Catholics, appear to me to take for granted that there is in the Ro-man Catholic religion some general abstract unvarying character, the same in all times and in all places, and that it is quite sufficient for our purpose to investigate that character, in order to determine whether it is, or is not inconsistent with the exercise of the civil powers of our constitution.
This mode of proceeding appears to me fallacious in its principle, and dangerous in its consequence. The eternal sameness of the Roman Catholic religion, whether urged as the boast of its friends, or as the taunt of its opponents, is alike destitute of foundation;—on the contrary, all history and experience demonstrate that it is susceptible of infinite variety; that it means not the same thing in almost any two countries at the same time, nor in the same country at diffterent periods of its history; and, in short, that it is as much as man himself the mere creature of limes and circumstances, laws and institutions.—I speak not of its theoretical tenets, which a decent pride of consistency may naturally preserve from alteration, but of its practical influence on the moral and political conduct of its professors, which I should think may be sufficient for our present purpose.—To this point at least I shall confine my view, and leave their*From the Original Edition, printed for J. Hatchard, Piccadilly.911 dogmas and their councils to an undisturbed and harmless repose.
Considering Catholicism under this li-mitation, I would ask what it practically means at this moment in different parts of Europe?—The experience of the hon. baronet in its parent country has no doubt convinced him of the melancholy truth, that there it amounts, among the upper ranks to a widely-extended Deism, among the lower to a great debasement of human intellect, and to a very relaxed morality in both. In Catholic France, we find amongst the upper ranks a deism more universal even than in Italy; but amongst the middle as well as the lower classes, a liberal and enlightened piety, accompanied by the most perfect spirit of toleration. In Switzerland, (perhaps I should here confine myself to the Pays de Vaud,) it exhibits in a superior degree all the excellencies which it can boast in France, without its blemishes; and, to instance in a minor particular the perfect spirit of moderation by which it is there distinguished, it is a fact, (however incredible it might sound in Ireland), that at Lausanne, a church which in the morning is the scene of devotion for the Protestants, serves at noon, without purification, for the worship of the mass. But between the Catholics of Lausanne and the monks of La Trappe, or the more practical disciples of St. Dominic, there is a mighty interval: within whose extensive limits there is, however, not a spot that may not appropriately be filled by the Catholicism of some country in some period.—It seems to me then quite vain to talk of Catholicism in the abstract.—I must look to facts,—and especially to its real practical influence in the country now under our consideration.
The Catholicism of Ireland, Sir, appears to me widely different from any thing I have alluded to;—and for it I can no more find a parallel amongst the varieties of other countries, than amongst their histories I can find a parallel for the history of Ireland.
I am well aware of the tender ground on which I am about to tread; but I hold it my bounden duty to have no reserve upon this subject: and I shall feel the less anxiety in speaking of Ireland as it is, because whatever there is in the system that I should wish to see corrected, corrected I believe it yet may be; and because I attribute it not to any eternal essence of the Roman Catholic religion, nor 912 to the fault of the people; (God forbid!) nor to this council or to that, but to the fatal events of Irish history—bloody wars, alternate confiscations, penal codes, and periodical rebellions: and partly to the errors of queen Elizabeth, and partly to the policy of her great rival Philip; who agreed at least in this, that they alike formed the people of Ireland to the hatred of the English Reformation. Elizabeth associated the English sword* with the English Bible, and taught Ireland to detest them both; but Philip produced a more lasting impression, and it was a measure of his which by its consequences stamped upon the Catholicism of Ireland, a character peculiar to itself.
It was under his auspices, and under the immediate protection of his lieutenant the duke of Alva, that William Allen, an Oxford man, founded the college of Douay: thither resorted in the first instance the banished Jesuits of England; and every one acquainted with the history of those times, will recollect that this place became the focus of the plots against the life and government of the queen of England. It happened that the successor of the duke of Alva, influenced by motives of which all governments, Protestant and Catholic, are fertile in examples, determined to overturn all the measures of his predecessor, and in his zeal to carry this determination into effect, he forgot to spare even this college. The English fugitives became dispersed over every part of Europe, they were kindly received by the Catholic powers, then at enmity with Elizabeth; and it was these men, under these auspices, who founded most of the* See the "Pacata Hibernia," passim—the Diary of the Lord President during the latter years of Elizabeth. This work exhibits the most faithful delineation of the manners of Ireland and the policy of England at that day; and in these are clearly to be traced the true causes of the subsequent rebellion in 1641, and of many other events in Irish history—the transactions which it records, must be read in order to be conceived. But, whether the fury of the priests against the Lord President, or that of the Lord President against the priests was greatest, is left to the reader to determine. Religion was the point in issue, the work of confiscation had scarcely commenced.This Work has lately been re-published in Dublin.913 seminaries and colleges to which Ireland has since been indebted for the education of her Roman Cathholic clergy. The genuine spirit of the parent college of Douay, was long the distinguishing characteristic of these seminaries, not merely the enthusiasm of Jesuits for the propagation of their faith, but a bitter recollection of the causes which had driven their founders from their native land, a peculiar, traditional and mortal hostility to the tyrannical and heretical establishment of the Church of England. But even their peculiar hatred to England, fell short of their still more peculiar devotion to the Pope, their great patron and protector; their attachment to whom was left unchecked by any of those safeguards and precautions which the Roman Catholic powers have found necessary to multiply in the seminaries for the education of their own clergy; a jealousy which they all have felt, and to the nature of which I shall presently have occasion more particularly to refer, and which has long since reduced the reality of the Pope's practical authority within very narrow limits; a jealousy which has perhaps the most distinguished the slates in which at first sight we should the least expect to find it, I mean the states the nearest to the seal of Papal power; so that, even before the Italian conquests of Buonaparté, if called on to say in what part of Europe the Pope had the least of political authority, we might have answered, amongst his Italian neighbours, while, if called on to point out the spot in which he had the most, we must reply in Ireland, the extreme western limb of his spiritual empire.
It was to these seminaries, founded thus equally in hatred of England and devotion to Rome, that Ireland was till lately indebted for the education of her priests. It was in their bosoms they were to learn to become the faithful subjects of the king of England, to imbibe hereditary respect for the British constitution, and hereditary charity for a British Protestant; and after having been thus indebted to the bounty of foreigners and enemies for this salutary education, after having passed in a foreign land the season of life peculiarly formed for the reception of impressions, full of foreign ideas, prejudices, and attachments, and after having had their eyes accustomed to all the pride, and pomp, and glorious circumstance with which their religion is performed on the continent, they were to set out on what they 914 emphatically termed their Irish Mission, that is, to see their religion in its native land, not merely shorn of its honours, but, I will say, in times past the peculiar object of "the oppressor's wrong and proud man's contumely," and (if they could escape transportation for the crime of landing) to teach their flocks, groaning under penal laws, the virtue of resignation.
Sir; if that was indeed the lesson which they did teach, they must previously have subdued in their own breasts every passion, interest, prejudice, and feeling of human nature;—if that was indeed the lesson which they taught, be theirs the merit of it—for Philip and the parliaments of Ireland had alike provided for the contrary. If Philip could have looked into futurity, what more could his fondest hopes have anticipated?—Except that the priest should find in the peasant an ignorant and a devoted pupil? And here again the penal code, the faithful seconder of his desires, provided most singularly fur their accomplishment; for, while it se-cured the ignorance of the peasant, it secured no less the authority of the priest, presenting him as the sole instructor of a people anxious to learn, arraying him with every character of courage and disinterestedness, (which, indeed, it secured as the first requisites of his mission,) and exhibiting him thus qualified to a people peculiarly disposed to value those recommendations.
And the consequences of this whole system have been such as might be expected—extraordinary devotion of the clergy to the Pope—extraordinary devotion of the people to the clergy:—to such an extent, indeed, that, I have no hesitation in saying, that in no country have any clergy ever had such unbounded power of disposing of the hearts and wills of their flocks, as have had, and still have, the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland.
But such a system as I have described could not go on for ever. The parliament of Ireland determined on a change:—but to heal such wounds as those of Ireland, was a work of difficulty and delicacy, and we may therefore perhaps excuse them for their unqualified and total failure. Untaught by experience, they overlooked the true causes of the evils which they lamented. They knew the upper ranks of the Catholics to be liberal and loyal, but they knew the great mass of the population, buried in ignorance and misery, to entertain no very great predilections 915 for the Saxon religion, or the Saxon name, nor even much of any very filial affection for that personage whom they acknowledged as the king of the Saxons. Yet this parliament proposed no bond between that king and that clergy, who could alone dispose of the attachments of that people: instead of gaining the preceptor or modifying his lessons, they simply conferred great favours upon the pupil; and, what adds to the fatality of the omission is, that the very measures which they then adopted were destined at a future time to raise that hitherto neglected priesthood to a degree of real political power, which was then little if at all suspected.
In short, the elective franchise was the panacea of the day—the universal remedy for every mischief; and it was accordingly conferred upon the Catholic people. Little was it then foreseen to what an extent this was at a future day to subvert the maxim of the British constitution, of proportioning properly and power—little was it foreseen how nearly resembling to universal suffrage was the something which it was to introduce, or by whom that some-thing was to be directed. It was said then, as it is said now, "are not the landlords Protestants, and will not the tenants vote with their landlords?" Sir, I say they have not done so, and in the hour of real trial they will not do so:—I have myself seen the priest at an election assure the freeholder, that the contest was between God and his landlord, (I repeat his words) and I have seen the freeholder obedient to the heavenly oracle,—I have seen the priests lead a tenantry almost to a man against their landlords. And this is the system which, in the fashionable language of the patriots of that day, was an extension to Ireland of the benefits of the British constitution:—this trampling of property under the feet of democracy, and sacrifice of both upon the altars of an unestablished religion!
Sir; when the relaxation of the penal code was first thought of, then was the happy time to have placed matters on another footing. Every step taken then, has but enhanced the difficulty now. Had the parliament of Ireland at that time contemplated the question in all its bearings,—had they said to the Catholics at large, "we are anxious to admit you within the pale of the constitution—but there are some practical points which we must first discuss with you,—there is something for you to modify for us, as well as something 916 for us to concede to you;—the policy of our ancestors has fatally estranged your clergy from the state, yet placed, without intending it, great influence in their hands;—we propose to connect this body with the government, at least enough to disunite them from a foreign power:—we do not like to see them depend for subsistence upon the feelings of their flocks,—we are ready, nay, we insist on paying them stipends for their maintenance:—we object to their foreign education, but we propose not merely to educate them at home, but to secure by proper regulations that what is taught shall not afford occasion for any reasonable jealousy to us:—we cannot permit them to continue to exercise a consistorial jurisdiction unacknowledged by our laws, and opposed to their regulations, determining on marriage, and of course on legitimacy, succession, and property:—they must also co-operate with us in dispensing a reasonable system of education to the lower orders of the people:"—Sir, if this offer had been made, I feel confident it would have been then accepted. I do not believe their clergy would then have been disposed to hesitate; or, if they had, I believe the universal feeling of their laity would have brought them to compliance; at that time when, in the words of their first Petition, they were" with hearts full of loyalty, but overwhelmed with affliction and depressed by their calamitous and ruined circumstances."
But the Irish parliament had no such views. They proposed that this clergy should take oaths and not stipends. They left their hearts and affections, and habits and interests, exactly where they found them, and threw the doors of the constitution open wide, just enough to admit all those from whom they had any thing to fear, but to exclude those from whom they had little to apprehend,—and, conferring real power without even nominal satisfaction, they gave, as the worthy finale of their proceeding, the power which they conferred into the hands of the Church which they neglected: allotting exclusion for the aristocracy, and power for the mob, and oaths for the priests, and content for none.
And I fear the cardinal error of their preceeding was, that they rendered difficult, perhaps unattainable, the only measures by which their error" could be corrected. For who is there that supposes any such arrangements could be effected 917 now? Now, after thirty years of the increasing property and increasing power of the Catholics, perhaps of their increasing prejudices against us, certainly after thirty years of their political exacerbation. But, to draw an inference on this subject, we need not dwell on general principles. Look to their conduct on the Veto, a matter which for nine years they were ready to grant, an arrangement which their bishops under their hands consented to abide by, and which they refuse to concede at present: Why? Unless because they are determined to concede nothing?
I shall here dismiss the measures of the Irish parliament, so far as related to the concession of political power. An important branch of their policy remains for consideration: their remedy for the evils of the clergy's foreign education. On this head, for thirteen years, after admitting the Catholics to ail the rights of property, they did absolutely nothing. At last, in 1795, they undertook the task. But it was the misfortune of that time, that the parliament was substantially disinclined to all the details of Catholic business. They were indeed heartily sick of it, not without cause; and this part of the subject might have continued to be neglected, if it had not been forced upon their attention: until, urged by clamour from without, and influence from within, they at length did that to which, perhaps, in their souls they were averse, and founded the college of Maynooth.
But this idea, so happily conceived, was fatally marred in its execution. It really appears as if the parliament had too lately repealed the law which prohibited the very existence of the Catholic clergy, (and which had offered rewards, with considerate apportionment, 20l. for every priest, but 50l. for the discovery of a bishop,) to endure the task of that detailed regulation, and communication with that clergy, which then became necessary, in order to ensure the full benefits of the institution, and which the novelty of its establishment was so peculiarly favourable for introducing. They gave money indeed, as was then thought, in abundance; but it was with much of the policy, and perhaps with a little of the temper of the Egyptians to the Israelites, who, when smarting under the calamities which they were enduring for having oppressed them, suddenly changed their plan—gave them silver and raiment, and said, "Now get ye up, and 918 go and serve your Gods, else we be all dead men."
The first Act indeed of 1795 provided that certain of the judges and law officers, should, in conjunction with several respectable Roman Catholics, be both trustees and visitors of the college; but even this was afterwards abandoned, and at the time of the Union, when it became the object of the government to conciliate the Catholics, a new act of parliament was passed, intituled, rather whimsically, "An Act for the better government of the College of Maynooth;" which better government seems to have consisted in this, that the judges and law officers were omitted as trustees altogether, and even their visitorial power restrained from interfering in any matter of discipline or doctrine; that is, as appears to me, in the principal matters for which their visitation was likely to be required. Sorry I am that the government should have wished to conciliate in such a manner, and still more sorry that the Catholics should have considered this abdication as a matter to solicit.
It may be said, that the interference of a Protestant government in a Catholic college, must be a matter of great difficulty; but I mast think, that this difficulty exists only in the abstract, and would have disappeared if carried into execution in the manner I shall presently allude to.
The college of Maynooth has now subsisted for seventeen years, and I have never met with any person who could inform me of the course of studies actually pursued. Is this a matter of no consequence? Did there ever exist even a Catholic government who thought this a matter not necessary to superintend? A Return, indeed, was made a few years ago, to an Order of this House, of the books which form the basis of these studies: amongst which, I will candidly acknowledge, I was a little surprized to see the name of Locke. The Return, however, goes on to state, that after all, these books are not what is there read, but that the lectures are delivered from manuscript courses, and a reason is assigned in "the paucity of books."
Now I must observe, that in the old colleges of France, not merely in the Irish seminaries, but in those destined for the education of their own clergy, the mode of instruction was entirely from written courses, read by the lecturers, and taken down by the pupils; and as it is a fact that some of the principal professors at Maynooth were not only educated, but born in 919 France, it does seem that it is at least possible, that a natural adherence to the mode they were themselves accustomed to, maybe the cause of their adhering to the same method in Ireland, as much as the scarcity of Mr. Locke's Works. But be the cause what it may, it is obvious that unless we have these written courses, we have nothing. I have already observed that most of the professors owe their education, and some their birth, to France. Surely they could have no objection to allow the system formerly adopted by the government of France for the purpose of securing the independence and immunities of the Gallican Church, to be the precedent for the intercourse between themselves and the government by which they are supported. The old government of France was as jealous as any Protestants, of the peculiar Roman doctrines relating to the authority of the Pope, and to some other matters; these doctrines were designated by the peculiar name of the Transalpine doctrines; and to keep them on the other side of the Alp", was the peculiar care of France;—or rather, I should say, to exclude them from the colleges destined for the instruction of their own clergy; for, to enter the seminaries appropriated for the education of the Irish, they were allowed to pass the Alps, I suspect, as freely as they pleased. To keep these doctrines from the French colleges, a peculiar officer was appointed, whose business it was to superintend the written courses to which I have referred, and who was responsible for the due execution of his censorship. In this free country, perhaps the mere publicity of the courses would answer every purpose. Why should we not have them on the table of the House, and print them for our information?
I have said there is a great ignorance in Ireland as to the actual studies of May-nooth,—I will add now, there is also a great curiosity upon the subject; and the circumstance of this desire being left ungratified, allows the enemies of the institution, amongst whom I really believe there are more Catholics than Protestants, to indulge their conjectures upon the subject. I beg to be distinctly understood as not pretending to cast any blame upon the actual nature of their literary pursuits; I acknowledge entire ignorance, in common I believe with every Protestant, on that subject. It is of this I complain. By some I have heard the studies represented, if not as very enlightened, at least as very 920 harmless: but others I have heard with equal confidence assert, that the course consists not of the logic of Mr. Locke, but of that logic which his writings overturned, curiously compounded with the theology of the Jesuits, and both administered under the discipline of Sparta; with the object that the pupils shall laboriously be taught to be ignorant, and that a safe and final asylum shall be provided in Maynooth for those doctrines, to which Buonaparté and the ninteenth century allow no other refuge in the world.
When the question of increased grants shall next come under the consideration of the House, this subject may perhaps be profitably considered. Surely, if parliament should confine its investigation to the mere quantity of priests necessary, without any reference to their quality, it will leave the best half of its duties unperformed.
On the whole, then, being greatly dissatisfied at the present footing on which the Roman Catholic Church stands in Ireland, and being fully aware of its prodigious influence, I can never advert to the prayer of the Petition, without thinking the whole policy of the question to be involved in this consideration. I would wish distinctly to be understood, as not adverting to their religious tenets, considered as matters between man and his Creator;—with them I have not the least concern: I look solely to their political situation; a situation the most anomalous that can be conceived;—possessed of great real power;—bound together into one solid mass by a most ingenious system of machinery;—actuated by one mind, and totally unconnected, indeed studiously dissevered from the state;—much strength already in their hands, great objects tempting in their view;—and holding in their hands the great mass of that body whom it is now proposed to introduce as an immediate acting power in the constitution.
I am far from thinking that, individually, the Catholics who might be returned to sit in this House, would look to their clergy for any rule of political conduct: but I think I am justified, by all that is passing before our eyes, in saying, that it would be the fate of those gentlemen to follow, and not to lead the impulse of the great mass of the Catholics of Ireland. And of that mass I do distinctly believe, that the moving power would be their Church, if that Church chose to act; and I cannot suppose that with such means and such 921 temptations, it would abstain from acting, without supposing the individuals who compose it to be divested of all the common feelings of human nature.
Sir;—I am also far from believing, indeed I have good reason for utterly disbelieving, that many of the respectable persons who now stand forward as the leaders or at least as the organs of the Catholic body, approve of the violent course of conduct which they lately have pursued: but they feel and they know, that the whole of their own power and influence depend upon their consenting to lead in the direction which their followers point out; and that if they dared to express their true feelings, from admired leaders, they would instantly become proscribed deserters, while the great mass would move forward as before.
It has been urged with confidence that the example of moderation which the Catholics have evinced under such a length of trials, is a sufficient earnest of the temperate use which they would make of any powers that may be conceded to them: but here. Sir, considering the Catholics as a political body, and allowing them every merit as individuals, I must dissent not merely from this conclusion, but even from the premises from which it is drawn. For, from the long period of moderation to which we are referred, I feel obliged by all views of sound reasoning to exclude from consideration, that time during which they had no power to exercise, that is, from the Revolution, till the relaxation of the penal laws. During all that time the political action of the Catholic was physically impossible. God forbid that I should be understood as saying any thing in the defence of that system. I trust I have already said enough to obtain credit from the House, for sincerely reprobating its whole policy. But the very reason for which I condemn it, namely, that the Catholics of necessity lay bound and prostrate under its operation, prevents me from inferring any thing from their quiescence as to what would have been their conduct, had the pressure been removed. I must therefore restrain my view to that portion of this time, during which any means of political action was in their hands; and, referring to that portion, what are indeed the facts which it presents? In the year 1792, the Catholic Committee of that day thought it necessary to publish resolutions, stating, that "the Committee had been informed, that 922 reports had been circulated, that the application of the Catholics for relief extended to total and unqualified emancipation." In those days, Sir, the Committee seem to have considered this even as an imputation incumbent on them to repel; for they go on to state, that they "therefore think it necessary to declare, that the whole of our late application" (I now use their own words), "whether to his Majesty's ministers, or to men in power, or to private members of the legislature, neither did nor does contain any thing more in substance, or in principle, than the four following objects: first, admission to the profession and practice of the law, secondly, a capacity to serve as county magistrates, third, a right to be summoned and to serve on grand and petit juries, fourth, the right of voting in counties only for Protestant members of parliament; in such a manner, however, as that a Roman Catholic freeholder should not vote, unless he rents a farm of 20l. per annum in addition to his 40s. freehold, or else shall be in possession of a freehold of 20l. a year." This formal act of the Committee was issued into the world under the signature of their Secretary, to undeceive the public as to those points on which they had taken up such erroneous impressions. Well, in the very year following, the Irish parliament conceded not merely the whole of this ultimatum of Catholic desire, but a vast deal more, the elective franchise unrestrained, and admission to very many offices not here alluded to: but what has been the degree of content and moderation, what the order and purity of elections, what the mildness and constitutional language of the various organs of public feeling, whether aggregate or representative, which have ever since existed, what the feelings between man and man, which Ireland has ever since exhibited, I shall not trespass on the House by detailing; wishing they should take the fact from what must be their own knowledge, rather than from my statement.
Sir, hardly were the political concessions granted until Ireland was in a flame from end to end, and one continued month of peace or security it has never known from that hour to the present—And yet are we called on to assume as a matter so evident, that nothing but the most wilful and intolerant bigotry can prevent us from acknowledging, that the progress of Catholic content is in the direct proportion of the concession of political power.
923 I know it will be said, that ail this is easily accounted for; that the ambition of man is naturally progressive, and that so long as there is any unobtained residue of what is sought for, agitation will necessarily prevail.
Well, then, Sir, I will not shrink from the task, however painful, of contemplating the career of the Catholic party when last they possessed in Ireland political power unrestrained. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have talked much of the Revolution in England, have discussed the measures of its great founders, and the true nature of their views; rightly considering it as a period when the springs of human action were developed in the fullest manner, and particularly as a time when the measures taken were intimately connected with the subject now under our Consideration: but I know not how it is, that, as if by common consent on both sides of the House, they have abstained from the smallest allusion to what was passing in Ireland at the same period—which, however, will be found, if I mistake not, to abound with matter much more apt for illustration.
In the last year of king James the 2nd, after a lapse of twenty-four years since any parliament had sat in Ireland, he summoned one to meet in Dublin, in his own immediate presence. For obvious reasons, Catholicity was likely to be its ruling characteristic; indeed, the Catholics naturally exerted all their energies to procure the returns of their friends at a moment so auspicious for their views; and it was the curious, and to us perhaps not uninstructive result of their exertions, that the House of Commons which was returned consisted of six Protestants and about 230 Catholics
Here, then, are the Catholics for the last time in full power. Let us now enquire what measures they pursued. But, before entering on any view of their proceedings, allow me to observe that this was no casual concourse of the dregs of the people, but the genuine Catholic aristocracy of Ireland.—I could easily enumerate the names of its principal members; but the detail might appear invidious, as they are generally the names of the families who in the same towns and counties (from which these members were respectively returned) at this day possess deservedly the greatest influence. In truth. Sir, they were not only the political but the natural progenitors of some of the most 924 respectable members of the present Catholic Committee. Like that Committee, they possessed the property, the intelligence, and the spirit of the party of that day; like them also, they consisted of persons, individually no doubt of great respectability and worth, but whose actions as a party it remains for us to consider.
Their first act was to repeal an Act well known in Ireland by the name of the Act of Settlement—of which it may be not unnecessary to inform the English gentlemen in this House, that it was an Act which had passed in the 14th and 15th years of Charles the second, confirming to the various Protestant proprietors, the estates which, after the troubles of his father's reign, and a long course of grants and forfeitures, a court of claims had respectively allotted to them.—Many of these lands, I am ready to admit, had been seized by the violence and injustice inseparable from civil wars, but the infinitely greater proportion of them had been forfeited by the undoubted treasons of the original proprietors. This Act of Settlement, as appears by the Down Survey, constituted the title to rather more than 12 millions of English acres, that is, to about two-thirds of the whole of Ireland: twenty seven years had then elapsed since the passing of the Act; and these lands had become the object, not merely of family settlements and incumbrances, but of the most extensive improvemens that had ever been effected within the same period in any country.—This Act was simply repealed by the Catholic parliament, and the whole of these lands vested in his majesty for the purpose of redelivery to the old Catholic proprietors, as they might respectively make good their titles; and the repeal thus summarily disposed of all the property which the Protestants of Ireland had acquired during the forty-eight years preceding, during the last twenty-seven of which they had been in undisturbed and unquestioned possession.
I am aware that I address some gentlemen, who, if they spoke out upon this subject, think that this parliament was not much to blame for re-possessing themselves, however roughly, of the estates of their ancestors.—But, waving all argument on that point, I will only observe, that the next act of this parliament was one which cannot plead even that justification; for this act of repeal operated as the seizure only of two-thirds of Ireland, but in the remaining third the Protestants 925 possessed a great quantity of real property, acquired long prior to that period—acquired not by forfeiture, but by purchase and intermarriage; and this became the object of a second Act, to which I shall beg now to advert.
This second Act, Sir, enumerates a long list of names of Protestant nobility and gentry, declaring that every one of them are "thereby declared and adjudged traitors, convicted and attainted of high-treason, and shall suffer such pains of death, and penalties of forfeiture, as in cases of high treason are accustomed." To enable the House to judge of the general nature of this list, it may be sufficient to observe, that it contained the names of sixty-two lay and nine spiritual peers, above thirty baronets, above eighty clergymen, very nearly two thousand two hundred esquire, And many others—in all, nearly two thousand five hundred persons.
In other acts of attainder which have been levelled against individuals of convicted guilt, and on mature examination of proofs, the rights of remainder-men and reversioners have naturally been attended to; but this Act of Attainder was distinguished by confiscating the fee and inheritance, where an estate for life was all the property which the persons condemned had in the lands.
And the evidence of the guilt was not unworthy of the rest of the proceeding. The Catholic Speaker, in presenting the Act for the royal assent, informed king James, in the presence of such members of the House of Peers as had escaped becoming the objects of its enactments, that these persons had been found guilty (I use the words of Mr. Speaker,) "some upon evidence which had satisfied the House of Commons, the rest on common fame."
A shew of mercy was indeed reserved. These persons are attainted only on condition that they do not come in by the November then following, and take their trials by such juries as were in readiness to receive them: but even this shew of mercy afforded only a new occasion of injustice, for it is a certain fact that lord Gosworth, the Catholic chancellor of the day, kept this Act in his own possession unprinted and unpublished until four months after that November had elapsed; and during that whole period all that was known was, that there were about 2,500 persons attainted, but who they were, no interest could discover.
Nor let it be imagined that in the violent 926 character of James, we may discover the cause and the apology for these severities. It was not more the true interest than the real wish of James to have avoided coming to such extremities with the Irish Protestants, which he well knew must destroy every hope that remained for him in England; he had even desired his judges to assure the people from the bench, that he would preserve inviolate this very Act of Settlement shortly previous to his being obliged to give his royal assent for its repeal: but in truth that unhappy prince was as little responsible for the deeds of that parliament, as their noble leader is for any proceedings of the present Catholic committee.
Such, Sir, are two out of many of the acts of this parliament; and to what they might afterwards have proceeded it is not easy to imagine, had not their career been interrupted by the battle of the Boyne,—an event to which the least allusion, in this age of extended liberality, is considered as the mark of the most bigoted intolerance in the descendants of those whom it thus rescued.
I am well aware, in making this statement, I shall be severely reprobated for ripping up wounds which, as will be said, have been long since closed: but when we hear so much of the alleged infraction of the treaty of Limerick, as the true cause of all the heart-burnings of the present day, it seems not amiss on the other hand to go back to a period only two years antecedent to that time, to consider fairly together these almost contemporaneous transactions, and to deny the justice of the historical reference of my hon. friend opposite, which draws the line of demarcation between the ancient and modern history of Ireland with such curious felicity as exactly to include the one, and exclude the other, holding up the former as the fairest subject for political illustration, but classing the latter among those antiquated transactions, which none but a bigot of the darker ages could think of recollecting. It is not, however, merely for this purpose that I make this reference.—I admit that a new repeal of the Act of Settlement is not now within the scope of any person. Independent of so many Catholics now deriving their own titles under that Act, nothing would be so difficult, as to ascertain the heirs of most of the original forfeiters, who are now indeed in the very lowest ranks of society; and if their persons were as, certain as they are doubtful, it is not to be 927 supposed that any party would throw the country into confusion for their sakes;—I cannot, however, go the length of saying, that these scenes afford no ground of inference at all.—Gentlemen on the other side rely on history for this promised moderation.—Well, here is her evidence—here are the political actions of the Catholic party at the latest, and that no remote period, when full action was within its power. It is replied, the Catholics are now changed.—Most willingly I admit it, but the degree of that change is a question which still remains for consideration; and it is a more summary than sufficient method of disposing of it, at once to denounce as intolerant, and bund, and mad bigots, all those Protestants, who looking first to the transactions of 1689, next to the great blank that succeeded during the operation of the penal code, and finally to the fever which has subsisted ever since its relaxation, still hesitate to assume it is a matter quite self-evident, on the ground of historic reference alone, that the change alluded to is so perfect and complete, that the Catholics, if now admitted into full political power, do not retain even sufficient distinctness of views or feelings, to form them into a separate party in the state.
For this is really now all the question between the two sides of the House. Convince me that the Catholics, if admitted, would at once amalgamate with the different parties that exist, that Catholicism would cease to be a watch-word, that is, that no Catholic objects would remain for attainment, and I withdraw every opposition to the instant completion of their desires. On the other hand, show me four millions of Protestants bound together, with important and tempting objects in their view, separate and distinct from the rest of their fellow countrymen, and speaking through the organ of one hundred members in this House, and I say the constitution is exposed to a new, an untried, and a great danger.
But it is answered loudly, the Catholics have none such. This is indeed become their whole case: but again I ask, how is it made out? I think I have shewn that history forbids their advocates to make an appeal to her testimony for the past: let us then consider future probabilities, and suppose the Catholics in this House tomorrow, their clergy being left on their present footing,—would not the arithmetical argument apply at least as strongly 928 against the payment of tithes to a Protestant establishment, as to any point for which it is now relied on? nay, would it not apply even to the estates of the Church, quite as forcibly? Or, do you think that Catholics would be less apt to apply it to these points, than their Protestant advocates to the rights of political representation? Or, supposing the Catholic members in this House to be absolutely indifferent on this subject, is it in human nature to suppose, that their clergy will be of the same feeling? And, if their clergy choose to act on it, I have already given my reasons for supposing that their still low voice, echoed and magnified in ascending through progressive ranks of their laity, would at length be uttered in thunder by the legitimate organs of their party.
But, Sir, in truth I do not suppose that this would become their first object. Its secure attainment would become so infinitely easier by making it their second. For when it is so confidently asked, whether one hundred Irish Catholics added to the five hundred and fifty-eight Protestants of British members, could ever effect any such Catholic object,—I wonder it does not occur to gentlemen, that this argument has another bearing, and that it furnishes the very reason why the Catholics, when this right of representation is once acknowledged, must wish to get rid of the embarrassing restriction of such a fellowship.—A repeal of the Union would at once effect this object. Converting a barren right into a profitable enjoyment, it would give them, not a mere eligibility to office, rank, and power, but their certain, perhaps exclusive possession. This desire would hardly, indeed, be made the ostensible ground of the proceeding; but, the first heavy taxes or commercial embarrassments would not fail to afford a decent signal on the subject; and I feel the most thorough conviction, that this House would then be assailed by the cry of "Repeal the Union," uttered with a strength and perseverance, of which nothing in the annals of petition can furnish an example. And though it is easy to say that England would never assent to the proposition, yet it is not easy to say, what a hundred determined members in this House, backed by the cries of millions, might not, at a critical moment, be able to effect; and if, under these auspices, that measure should be effected, I know not which would hare most cause to rue that 929 day, the Protestants of Ireland, or the empire of Britain.
I think, then, that any surmises as to the probabilities of the future furnish as little grounds of satisfaction, even as the certainty of the past. I will advert to the only remaining ground of inference on the subject; and that is, the aspect of the present. And now, Sir, what are the grounds which this affords for the consolatory belief, that the Catholics are ready to lay aside every feeling of distinctness, and amalgamate with Protestants in a community of views and objects? What, I would ask, are these signs of the times that convey this happy information? Is it from their speeches, or their writings, or their actions, that we are to receive this satisfactory assurance? Easy indeed would it be for me, from their recent debates and publications to produce such testimonies as might lead a thinking man to form more than a doubt upon the subject: easy indeed would it be for me to cite arguments upon arguments, openly relied on by their warmest advocates, to prove that all will be incomplete without that very Repeal of the Union, which I have alluded to: a consequence of the concession which I have observed to startle some gentlemen whom I address. Nay, Sir, I could cite their authorities, not few in number, declaring, under various modifications of expression, that connection with this country has been the bane of Ireland; and in which a termination of that cause of evil is not obscurely recommended. But I have trespassed too long already on your patience, to render such details admissible: I am also aware of the injustice of attributing to a party, the imprudeuces of a few. Justice, on the other hand, compels me to observe, that it does not appear from any reports of the proceedings which I allude to, that such expressions were received with any disapprobation by the audiences to which they were addressed.
But I would ask the right hon. gentleman who has proposed this question, whether, in the very circumstance of their retractation of the once proffered Veto, we are not justified in apprehending that a distinctness of political feeling is at the bottom? The objections to the concesssion must be either religious or political; they cannot be religious, for their bishops, during nine years together, had under their hands consented to agree to it; and that cannot have become religiously wrong 930 now, which was religiously right, when they so consented; and if it is political, what, I would ask, is that political cause of it, that is not in itself a distinctness of object on their part?
The right honourable gentleman who introduced this question, says, indeed, that all who take my view of this question, are bound to vote for the enquiry. I must beg his pardon: an honourable gentleman who spoke for the first time in this debate, has refused to go into the committee, because he does not know the terms on which the Catholics are prepared to treat; Sir, I refuse it for a reason the opposite to his;—I refuse it because I do know their terms; they are not unavowed, and they are these—that they will have all from us, and that we shall have nought from them. This is the short and the simple basis of the proposed negociation. And am I, who have ventured to condemn the proceedings of the Irish parliament, on the express grounds that having much to require as well as much to concede, they gave up most of what they had and obtained nothing in return,—am I to be told, that I am bound, on the same terms, to add all the remainder to all that they have thrown away?
Sir, for the reasons which I have offered,—reasons political and not religious, reasons defensive and not intolerant,—I vote against going into any enquiry at present on the subject:—and here I might sit down, thanking the House for their extreme indulgence; but, as the opposers of the Catholic claims are now divided into those who oppose concession without terms, and concession in toto, beg leave to add a word upon that point, with the same freedom that I have spoken upon others.—The Veto I consider as an idle bauble, not worth acceptance on the one side, or refusal on the other: but if the day should ever come, when their clergy, instead of trusting to the feelings of their flocks for a precarious subsistence;—when instead of looking to a foreigner and an enemy for their promotion, and to I know not what professors at Maynooth for those undiscovered studies which they decorate with the title of dogmatical theology;—when instead of claiming and exercising a distinct and illegal consistorial jurisdiction;—and, instead of lying bound in those Papal fetters which the other nations of the earth have broken, but which the policy of Ireland has hitherto contrived to rivet;—instead of this their present si- 931 tuation, they shall receive from the state their stipends, and from home their promotion, and from Maynooth, under proper regulations, a reasonable system of Roman Catholic divinity; and abandon their pretensions of judicial power to the known tribunals of the land, and hold with Rome only such relations as were permitted to the Gallican Church before it was tainted with revolution;—and, above all, if they will heartily co-operate with us in executing a plan stated in a Report which will shortly be on the table of this House, which, closing the labours of the Board of Education, proposes measures for dispelling that cloud of thick darkness which still overshadows the great mass of Ireland's population—then. Sir, I shall consider the Catholicism of Ireland as disarmed upon all points of reasonable apprehension; and I shall be for conceding the prayer of this Petition, in the hope and belief, that it may be conceded with safety to the Protestant, and with benefit to the empire:—but, if without those safeguards you grant the boon, I do in ray soul believe you seal the separation of the British islands, or must put your trust in a civil war for its prevention.
The present time forbids every hope of making any one such arrangement:—instead of that conciliatory language which could alone lead to its conclusion,—we are told of their "numbers, their tenable passes, their supplies of forage, and their positions apt for attack and defence"—add to this, a regular system of unlimited misrepresentation, unsparing personal proscription, and bold denunciation of every individual who ventures to oppose them; it being ever the first fruits of that liberality of sentiment, which their advocates arrogate so exclusively to themselves, to hurl an anathema against all who presume to entertain an opposite opinion of their own,—the worst symptom of the worst spirit of the worst revolutions.
They must completely change both their terms and their tone before we can treat with them at all.—That they will change them, is a hope which future days may realize, but which every appearance of the present threatens only to disappoint.
Mr. Shaw of Dublin
.—Sir; under the peculiar circumstances of the present question, I rise to trespass as shortly as possible upon the attention of the House. I find it impossible to content myself with a silent vote; as if I did, it is more than 932 probable my motives for that vote might be much misunderstood; and least I should be charged with compromising my consistency in giving a different vote this night, from that which I gave upon a former occasion, I am extremely anxious that the grounds of my vole now should be distinctly known. I have in the first place to declare that my attachment to the Protestant Establishment is as zealous and devoted now as ever it has been, and that no consideration on earth could now or shall ever tempt me for one moment to compromise any one of its essential principles; but that as it always has been, so it is now, that the security of that establishment could not be hazarded without endangering the security of the constitution.
With these sentiments impressed on my mind, it will not, I hope, be supposed that I would willingly lend my aid to any measure, which could, in my conception, even remotely affect the security of the Church Establishment.
True it is, Sir, that upon former occasions, when applications similar to the present were made to parliament, I felt myself bound, under my conception of all existing circumstances, to resist them; but at no time was my opposition to the Catholics inveterate, or my resistance to their claims unqualified. But, perhaps, I too hastily concluded on the former occasions that the terms of security to be required, should have come from the Catholics themselves in the first instance. On maturer deliberation, however, I was convinced, that that was not likely to be the case; and that the united Parliament ought not to legislate, as it were under the shackles of any agreement with any set of men. It was for the wisdom of that parliament and them alone, to say what were the securities necessary. Is it possible Sir, for any man to look dispassionately at the state in which Ireland has been, for some years back, and seriously to think it for the benefit of the empire, that she should be allowed to remain still in the same situation? My anxious wish is to put an end to that state as speedily as possible, and I know no other way of doing so than by giving this question a more extended consideration than it has ever yet received; and this, as I think, can only be done by going into the committee; for by so doing one obvious advantage must result; namely, that of ascertaining in the first instance, whether 933 those claims can be conceded, consistently with the principles of the constitution?
Whether they can or not, is not what I am now disposed to admit or to deny; but I cannot help thinking, that such a proceeding is due to the importance of the question itself. I think it is due to the feelings of so great a portion of the British empire, at least not to refuse to discuss whether or not it can be done with safety. That of course must depend upon the efficacy of those measures intended to provide against all danger: and how can the House judge of those before they have presented them in an authentic parliamentary way; and how can that be done so as to enable you to judge of their efficacy or inefficacy, without going into the committee?
I would sacrifice much to give Ireland that tranquillity so essential to the welfare of the empire; but in doing so, I would not give up one tittle that could have the most distant tendency to affect the security, permanency and integrity of the Protestant Establishment in Ireland.
I trust. Sir, that I have said enough to convince the House that I am strongly disposed as ever to look with a jealous eye to the security of the Church Establishment; but here, Sir, I cannot help completely differing from the right hon. and learned Doctor, who spoke second in this debate last night (Dr. Duigenan), for I feel myself bound, on the contrary, to state that within these few years, and particularly within the last one, this question has received a most powerful recommendation to the attention of parliament, in the support it has acquired from a very great portion of the Protestants of Ireland, many of them of the first rank and respectability in the country; and if any gentleman acquainted with Dublin will take the trouble of examining the signatures to the Petition on the table, he will be convinced that I am well founded in this statement. I myself never saw that Petition until it was presented to this House; but I have since examined it, and can assure the House, that it is signed by many wealthy and respectable merchants, certainly commanding a great portion of the mercantile property of the country, and it is but justice to those gentlemen, to say they are men, who could not be influenced to sanction any measure contrary to their real opinions.
I wish however to guard myself from being understood to say, that all the Pro- 934 testants of Dublin are unanimous upon this subject, because I know many most respectable men who are adverse to the measure; and there is also a Petition against it from the corporation of Dublin, for which I must always entertain the highest respect; and when I differ from them, I do so with the utmost reluctance. But under all the circumstances of the case I shall vote for the motion of my right hon. colleague for going into the committee, in order to see if any thing further can be done for the Catholics.
All I vote for is enquiry; I pledge myself to nothing more; but I regret extremely that from the view I have taken of the subject, I am obliged to differ from many hon. gentlemen and esteemed friends, for whose opinions I have the highest respect and with whom I should be most anxious to concur. I feel that with the majority I agree in principle, and that we differ only in the application of that principle. My judgment, may be erroneous, but my motives, I can assure the House, are purely influenced by an anxious wish to give tranquillity to Ireland, and strength and stability to the British empire.
.—Sir; after the very able and eloquent manner in which the affirmative side of this question has been supported, I shall feel it necessary to trespass but very shortly on the attention of the House; and in the first place. Sir, I can bear my testimony to the high respectability of a great portion of those persons whose names are signed to the Irish Protestant Petition in favour of their Catholic fellow subjects. The county which I have the honour to represent, and in which the great body of property is in the hands of Protestants, the descendants of old settlers, and who have been for a long period considered as enemies to the Roman Catholic religion, was almost unanimous in favour of the Catholic claims, and has afforded a great number of the signatures to the Petition presented to this House, and to another which was presented to the Prince Regent. The hon. gentleman (Mr. L. Foster) who has recently addressed you, has given in my mind a most extraordinary reason for not agreeing to the motion. He has laid great stress upon the bigotted doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church; and he has complained also of the mode of education adopted at the college of Maynooth. Now Sir, these are assertions which I can conceive 935 ought strongly to operate in favour of going into a Committee, where such allegations can be properly investigated. The hon. gentleman has also dwelt upon the conduct of the Roman Catholics in Ireland in the reign of James 2, and argued that the infraction of the articles of Limerick could only be looked on in a retaliatory point of view. For my own part, I cannot help thinking that it is to the infringement of that treaty, which all the evils of Ireland are principally to be traced. For that infraction, so far as it related to the government of Ireland, placed them in a state of usurpation over the rights of the people.
Sir Samuel Romilly.
—Sir; on every question that has been brought before the House lending to remove the restrictions against the Catholics of Ireland, since I have had the honour of a seat in parliament, I have always given my vote in its favour; but I have never till now ventured to obtrude myself upon the House, to state the grounds of my vote. I have thought it my duly on all former occasions to give way to other gentlemen, whose sentiments I felt it was much more important should be known than mine. I am however desirous of stating for once as shortly as I can, the motives which have actuated me in the conduct which I have hitherto pursued; and I am the more desirous of doing it, because I am sensible, that upon this question more than upon any other which has come under the consideration of parliament, no person can take part on the side upon which I shall give my vole this night, without being liable to have his motives misrepresented, and his conduct treated in the most uncandid manner. When we have seen that persons of high distinction in the country, from no other cause than the part they have taken on this subject, have had it openly stated of them in the public newspapers, that they had formally renounced their religion and embraced the Catholic faith;—when such representations have been made, and confidently given out to a credulous public, by persons who are constantly paying their court, in the basest and most abject manner, to those who are at the head of the government; when I say such stratagems are resorted to against persons of the highest distinction, and whose whole lives may be said to be spent in the view of the public, I can hardly flatter myself that one comparatively so obscure as myself will 936 escape misrepresentation. I think it right therefore to say of myself that there are some of the doctrines of the Catholic religion which I abhor. I detest that persecuting spirit which two or three centuries ago, seemed to actuate the professors of that religious faith, much more than any other description of Christians. I was educated from my earliest infancy with these impressions. I am descended from Protestant ancestors, who were themselves the victims of persecution, and the prejudices produced on my mind by my education in early life, has required all the efforts of my maturer reason to shake off. But it is not because my own privations or the sufferings of my ancestors, have had their source in the Roman Catholic persecution of a remote time, that I would consent to make myself a party at this day to the persecution of my fellow Christians of any description.
It has been represented by a right hon. gentleman who has spoken lately in this debate, that this is not a question of toleration. Sir, I consider it to be purely a question of toleration, a question in its consequences affecting the religious liberty, not of the Catholics of Ireland only, but of every sect of Christians in this country who dissent from the doctrines of the Established Church, and it is because I think that the carrying this measure will tend to relieve them all from the disabilities under which they now labour, that I support it. I trust the time is now passing by, notwithstanding the arts which have been lately practised, when any particular sect of Dissenters can be induced to make common cause against the Roman Catholics. They cannot surely avoid seeing that in joining against the Catholics they are preparing arms against themselves, and that the cry in which they are now invited to join against the Catholics will at a future time be raised against themselves. This, indeed, in one of the Petitions on the table is hardly disguised; it is not Popery that is obnoxious, but Religious Liberty. When it is stated that this is not a question of toleration,—but whether political power should or should not be given to certain individuals, I would ask, can it be contended that the disqualification of men from holding places of trust is not a penalty? Can this be contended, while we have so many acts of parliament which punish different offences with incapacity to hold offices. It is not true, however, that the disabilities to which 937 the Catholics are subjected can be justified on the ground of any-expediency of withholding from them political power. Some situations from which they are excluded possess to them no political power what-ever. Catholics in Ireland, for example, who are of the same profession with myself, are not permitted to hold the office of King's counsel; long as I have held that situation, I have yet to learn what is the political power that belongs to it. They have the privilege indeed of pre-audience in courts of justice—the privilege of leading in a cause, and addressing a jury, instead of being restrained to opening the pleadings, and examining witnesses; but power of any kind over any living being they have none; and this important privilege of pre-audience it seems in Ireland cannot be safely allowed to those whose religious opinions happen not to be the same as those of the makers of the laws. Can it however be truly said, that being disqualified from rising to the highest situations, to those situations to which political power does belong, is no injustice done to them? What, is it no hardship to the Catholics of Ireland to be told, you may enter indeed into professions which are highly honourable to others, but by you they must be followed merely as the means of gaining a subsistence for yourselves and your families. As to all the proud objects of honourable ambition; as to every thing which can ennoble your labours in your own eyes and in the eyes of ethers; as to the hope of ever rendering yourselves eminently useful to mankind, or gloriously distinguishing yourselves by services rendered your country; as to the prospect of establishing a reputation which shall live in the memory of a grateful posterity; of becoming an example which shall be held up to others, and serve to kindle the virtues of a future generation, and of leaving a name, which when your children hear it pronounced they may glow with an honest pride and a pious exultation, as to ail these animating hopes and prospects, they must by you be for ever relinquished. You may toil on in the humble situation where gain must be your only object: you may see honours and distinctions distributed to those around you: but you must be for ever precluded from them. That profession which to your colleagues leads to the most eminent station, shall be to you an unhonoured though profitable trade. Can it be possible that these distinctions should not operate in some de- 938 gree to humiliate and degrade a man in his own eyes, and in the eyes of those around him. What was the profession of the law in France previous to the Revolution, compared to the same profession in our country? Why, it was comparatively a degraded profession, and for this very reason, because it was one in which emolument only was to be gained, and no eminent honours to be acquired in it. I would appeal to the right hon. gentleman opposite, and I see many gentlemen opposite who were once in the same profession, but now in possession of some of the highest offices of the state,—I would appeal to them—and I would appeal to you, Sir, for I remember you were once in that profession,—and, I would ask any of my right hon. and learned friends around me, whether they would have entered that profession, if they were obliged to enter it in the same way the Catholics of Ireland enter it? Was it as a means of getting money that they entered it, as a sort of livelihood or trade, and not as an honourable path that might lead them to the high and distinguished offices of the state, which was the sole object of their ambition? Or I would ask, was not the ambition of their youth rather excited by the prospect of emulating the Hales, and the Holts and the Somers's? Any man who has reflected upon the sources of human ambition, will find that these alone are the adequate rewards of virtuous and honourable exertion. It is the hope of those distinctions that enables him to get through the disappointments and the labours of that arduous profession. These are the rewards which he must look to as the ultimate object of his ambition. Would those gentlemen, I ask, enter the profession if it were so degraded in this country? would they have consented to follow it as a kind of trade, in which they might make the most of their words and their knowledge?—If they would not consent to this, I would ask, how can they expect that harmony, peace and contentment can exist in Ireland? Do they think that exclusions of this kind can fail to excite animosities and discontents? But why are the Catholics excluded from these paths of honour, and shut out from all offices? Because they have something to do with political power. If this is the criterion of your safety, you ought to carry the principle farther. You ought not to suffer your Catholic soldiers to be made corporals or Serjeants, and still less captains or co- 939 lonels,—you should not suffer one of them to be a juryman or a magistrate—because they all exercise political power.
I confess that I was very much surprised at the conclusion of the speech of the hon. gentleman who spoke last but one, from the opposite side of the House, (Mr. Leslie Foster.) From every thing that fell from him, I should have concluded, that he would have voted for going into an enquiry. He tells us that the Catholic religion is not a certain and fixed thing, but that it has varied from time to time; and that it is different in one country from what it is in another. In this I concur with him, and I therefore think his speech an extremely good answer to the arguments of the right hon. gentleman who spoke some time before him (Mr. Yorke), and who has been telling us of the general councils of ancient times, from which he has produced doctrines which he assumes must be the Roman Catholic doctrines of the present day, the Catholic religion being, as he contends, necessarily the same now that it ever was. Now the House must judge which of the two representations is the correct one. However, the right hon. gentleman says, he will never be content to relax the laws against the Catholics, until the decrees of former general councils are rescinded by the decrees of other general councils. Sir, the most eminent book that was ever written against the Protestants, was by the celebrated Bossuet, entitled, the History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches. The charge, however, was retorted against himself, and he was answered by a History of the Variations of the Catholic Church, in which it was shewn, how the Catholic Church had differed from itself at different times: how the doctrines of one day had been rejected on another: and how their opinions differed from each other at different periods. Happily, Sir, these variations have taken place, and the Catholic religion of the present day is as different from that Catholic religion which is held up by the adherents of ministers, as imputable to the Catholics, as the dangers they talk of are to be little apprehended. I remember in the celebrated work of Mr. Burke on the French Revolution, he has well stated, that early in the progress of that Revolution, those who directed the public opinion in France, as some men have attempted to direct it in this country at this day, and who exposed upon the stage the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and the crimes of 940 Charles 9, and the cardinal of Loraine, did it not to excite in the people a detestation against persecution, but to inflame their minds to fresh outrages. Their conduct was exactly the same at that time as that of the adherents to the ministers of the present day; who, when either in quarto volumes, or in pamphlets, or in inflammatory handbills, they publish histories of the inquisition, and hold up the cruelties of queen Mary, and the fires kindled in Smithfield to our view, do it not to excite our horror against persecution, but to kindle a fresh spirit of persecution, and to give it a new direction. I am far from imputing any such motives to the hon. gentleman who spoke last on the opposite side; but I must say that a part of his speech, without intention, I have no doubt, was pretty well calculated to further the same object. Reverting to the history of former times, and to obsolete records, I do not think it is fair to charge the individuals, the innocent descendants, perhaps of very bigoted and cruel ancestors; to charge them with the conduct of their forefathers, and to excite against them a spirit of resentment on account of the errors of past times. I do not impute to him that intention; but what, I ask, could be better calculated to inflame and influence the passions against the Catholics of the present day, than talking to us of the cruelties and barbarities of 1689 and 1690, and of the bigotry of the Jesuits at that time? It is just as fair to judge of the present Catholics by the conduct of their ancestors, as it would be to judge of us at the present day by the intolerance that was evinced by the Protestants of past times. And certainly if we are to be considered as sitting in a judicial capacity, and called upon to decide a question of justice between the Catholics and the Protestants, those circumstances should be brought to our recollection, because they mould be just as well calculated to answer the same object. I believe there is no sect of Dissenters more innocent and unoffending in their doctrines and their practice than the Anabaptists of the present day: and yet how triumphantly, though unfairly, might they be told of the bloody and violent atrocities of John of Leyden? Are not, then, the justice and the reason of such conduct as strong in the one case as in the other?
But, Sir, I was observing that the hon. gentleman has very much surprised me, because he sets out, after telling us that 941 the Catholic religion was different in one country from what it is in another, and that the Catholic religion in Ireland has something of a peculiar character in it, different from the Catholic religion in any other country. [Mr. Foster across the table signified his dissent to this assertion,] If I am wrong in my interpretation of what the hon. gentleman said, I am right in stating, that there are very various opinions upon the subject on the same side of the House. How are you to decide upon this matter?—But what are the peculiar doctrines of the Roman Catholics of Ireland? Who knows what they are? Did not the hon. gentleman address the House as if he professed to give information of what those peculiarities were?—[Mr. Foster. "No."]—Then the hon. gentleman cannot give us information:—and yet he refuses us to institute an enquiry upon the subject! I certainly thought that the information which the hon. gentleman gave us decided his own vote, and was intended to decide the votes of all other men conversant upon the subject. In the same manner it is, that he has proposed to inform us of the bad system of education in Maynooth college. He stated, that the information he had received respecting the system of education adopted at Maynooth, was one reason why the House should decide against the present motion. [Mr. Foster. "No."] If I am wrong again, I can only lament my unfortunate incapacity to understand the hon. gentleman. I must therefore only take a middle course, and suppose that the House has received that information; and without forming any opinion one way or the other, seriously call upon the House, to enter into so fit a subject of enquiry, in order that they may know what are the tenets of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, at the present day.
Then the hon. gentleman says, that the priesthood of Ireland possess more influence than the Catholic priethood do in other countries. Perhaps they do. But to what, I would ask, is it to be ascribed? Why, it is to be ascribed to the disabilities they are subject to; but much more to the grievous penalties under which they laboured not long since. Driven to despair by cruel enactments passed against them, they found protection only in their religion; and to this must be ascribed the influence of the clergy, who ministring to the comforts of their flock, and healing their wounded feelings, a warm affection 942 and esteem naturally ensued. There never was a country in which the clergy, when persecuted, did not obtain an influence over their flocks. It is natural that they should; because the risks they run, and the hardships to which they are exposed, cause them to be venerated as saints and as martyrs. Shall we, then, after giving this ascendancy to the clergy by our impolitic and cruel acts, I am not speaking of the laws of this day, but those that were in force not many years ago—shall we, for this reason, continue the unjust disabilities which still remain, and thus punish them for that which is in truth the work of our own hands? I would ask too, whether this very assertion, that the Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland have an influence greater than is possessed by priests in any other parts of the world, is not of itself a fit subject of enquiry.
A great deal has been said, upon this and former questions, respecting the danger that there is in suffering a priesthood, the tenets of whose religion are hostile to the established religion of the stale, to remain even in spiritual dependance upon a foreign power. I cannot imagine how any gentleman who has the free use of his understanding—I do not mean it offensively to any man,—but how any man who allows himself the free use of his faculties, can see any such danger at present. Whatever danger was to be dreaded formerly from Popery in Ireland, I am confident that there is none now. If we appeal to the history of past times for the danger that we are told to apprehend now from that circumstance, and take that as the rule by which we are to judge on the conduct of the Catholics at present, that danger never has nor ever will be removed. But if we wish to do justice to this question, we must not look to two or three centuries past, but to the times and circumstances under which we live, and judge of the Catholic religion as it is now preached and practised. Because, in the present time, we shall see that spiritual authority, which once maintained a political dominion over the whole Christian world, is now divested of that power and stript of those terrors which once excited the apprehensions and fears of every Catholic monarchy in Europe.
I certainly shall not fatigue the House with enlarging upon the historical illustrations which might be resorted to upon this subject. But there is one very striking fact which took place at no very dis- 943 tant period of time, which may serve to show the bad policy of the course we are pursuing. I mean the conduct of the king of Prussia towards Silesia. Frederic at first set up some obscure and not very intelligible claims to that country, he then invaded and conquered it, and it was finally most reluctantly ceded to him by Austria at the peace of 1742.
The Catholic religion
was the established religion of the country; it might well be supposed disaffected to its new Protestant monarch; its ancient attachment to Austria, and its local situation between the Austrian and the Prussian dominions, might well render the power of the Catholics formidable. The king of Prussia was not even acknowledged at this time by the Pope as king, he was styled at Rome only marquis of Branden-burgh, and yet what under all these circumstances was the conduct of that great monarch towards Silesia? did he attempt to persecute or destroy any of his Roman Catholic subjects? Did he think it politic to shackle, or deprive them of any of those privileges which they had theretofore enjoyed? Did he destroy any Catholic universities? Did he attempt to remove any Catholic judges? Or did he attempt to deprive any Catholic bishop of his spiritual authority? No: That magnanimous prince was too wise a man, and when that policy was advised by some of his ministers, he rejected it with disdain, and pursued that policy which tended so much to add lustre and greatness to the crown he wore. Undoubtedly he was a man of no religious scruples. (Hear, hear!—Laugh at the ministerial side of the House.) Certainly, I admit that he was wholly indifferent about religion, but is this to be considered then as a question of religious difference? Will gentlemen put it on that footing? If they will own that their aversion to the Catholics is because they are of a different religion from themselves, if it is to their extreme orthodoxy that they oppose the Catholic claims, I have nothing to say more: but I understood that this was a mere question of policy, and so considering it, a more striking and instructive example than this can hardly be produced. The supposed danger of leaving political power in the hands of those who were of a different religion from the monarch was thought so great, that it is said to have been proposed to Frederic, that he should become himself a Catholic. If such a proposal was made he rejected it, 944 though certainly from no religious scruples, and he adopted that which appeared a remarkable proof of true wisdom and princely greatness. He established public toleration: he left them in possession of their universities: he left them their bishops: their generals were given commands in his own army, and he secured the affections of the people, by laying open to them the opportunity of holding places of trust in the state. By those means the great Frederic, notwithstanding the threatened dangers of the Papal see, found in the Silesian Catholics the most attached and well affected of ail his subjects.
Sir, there is a mode of conduct adopted on this question, which appears to me, upon a subject of this kind, most uncandid and unjust. Is it just by looking into the tenets which constitute their religious faith, taking them in their strictest sense, and then ascribing to every person professing that faith, the adoption of that tenet and of all the most odious consequences which can be inferred from it. Should we think that we who are of the establish-ed religion were very candidly treated if we were dealt with in the same way? If any person looking into the articles of our religion, and finding there that the Athanasian creed is adopted and declared to be of undoubted authority, were thence to infer that every member of the Church of England professes that an all merciful God has doomed to never ending torments all those who do not firmly believe what he has not given them understandings clearly to comprehend; and yet this is exactly as the Roman Catholics are dealt with by those who ascribe to each individual of that faith, all that they can find most objectionable in the doctrines established by the councils of Lateran or the council of Trent.
Now, Sir, often and often as this question has been brought before parliament, the same frivolous answer has been given to the Catholics. The excuse has always been, and for what reason I never could discover, that the time was not proper for the discussion of the subject. We are again told that these claims ought not to be entertained now. I would ask. Sir, whether any man could have anticipated two years ago that such an answer would have been given to the Catholics this day, under all the consideration of times and circumstances that their claims are brought before parliament? The excuse which 945 might formerly appear a plausible objection to the discussion, has no longer any foundation. Every thing conspires now to make the time favourable for carrying this question. The temper and conduct of the Catholics is entitled to your confidence and respect. We see them at this moment submitting themselves with the utmost humility to the existing law of the land. And not with standing the character given of them to the contrary, yielding their opinions to the decisions of courts of justice: and with all their passions and prejudices roused by the apprehension of some new attack upon their privileges and liberties, yet, submitting with all humility, to that which was stated to them to be the law of the land; and yielding to its consequences with deference and obedience, under the conviction of its reason and justice.
We have now those very Catholics who have thus submitted themselves calmly to the administration of the law, at the present time petitioning to be admitted to the rights and privileges of British citizens, with humble submission to your wisdom and your sense of justice. We have not alone the Catholics,—coming as bumble suitors to your bar, but we have the Protestants of Ireland themselves, whose apprehensions of danger have always been represented to us to be the great obstacle in the way of the Catholic concessions,—now seconding the Petition of their Catholic brethren, and beseeching you to admit them to the benefits of the constitution, as the only way you can give them that security which you profess to promise them. In opposition to these Petitions, you have on the other hand—who? All the United Kingdom remains in silence. There is not a single dissentient voice to the justice of these claims, save only the Petitions of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and the corporation of Dublin. Notwithstanding the inflammatory pamphlets and hand bills distributed to excite opposition, and to produce resistance to those claims, no opposition has followed, no dissentient voice has been raised except those I have mentioned, and the voices of the honourable gentlemen on the other side of the House. They in short are the only obstacles to these concessions. We have the former opinions and promises of the illustrious person now at the head of the government in favour of those concessions, but his present ministers are against him; 946 and unless his friends are mistaken—[The Speaker here intimated that this was out of order.]
We have it not now stated as on former occasions, that great scruples are entertained in the highest quarter on this subject, which are wholly unfavourable to the hopes of its success:—upon this question, then, we have the concurrence of all persons and individuals of every description in the country—except only those I have mentioned; and I do not despair even of the concurrence of many hon. gentlemen opposite, at least until we have the pleasure of hearing some of them speak. The noble lord opposite (Castlereagh) who has always stated, that his reason for opposing the question was the unaptness of the particular occasion, will, I make no doubt, support us now upon this question.
When we recollect all these circumstances—when we consider that the alarm" formerly excited upon the subject of foreign influence, no longer have any foundation: when we see Dissenters of all descriptions, and even Protestants themselves, joining in one common voice on this great question; and when we know the fatal consequences of a refusal, I would ask whether it is politic in the House of Commons, under circumstances so favourable to the question as they are at the present moment, to tell the Roman Catholics that "we will not only not grant your claim, but we will not even hear any thing on this subject. We will not enquire whether your claims are wrong-or rightly founded: we will not even so much as listen to you." Depend upon it that these people must be heard. If you do not hear them now they will come again and again: and every time they appear at your bar, they will come with increased acquisitions of strength; and that, which you might give them with grace and condescension now—will appear to come hereafter from far other motives than a sense of justice, reason and good sense.
If the right hon. gentleman thinks that holding such language is holding the language of intimidation, he is very much mistaken in the feelings of human nature. If the repetition of complaints brought again and again, after having been rejected with contempt, is to be called the language of force, I know not upon what principles the right hon. gentleman's sense of political justice is founded.
Sir, I think I should not discharge my 947 duty as an honest man, if, reflecting on the tremendous dangers by which the country is surrounded, I did not give my vote for this question.
§ Mr. Fuller
.—Mr. Speaker, the speech of the hon. member was the most extraordinary I ever heard in the course of my life. I was astonished to hear him, who is at the head of the Dissenters of this country, and who I have been informed is retained for them, speak in the way he has done. I should like to know, however, from the hon. member how he came to swallow the test oath before he came amongst us?—(Cries of Order! Order! from the Chair, and from the House.)
Sir Samuel Romilly
—Mr. Speaker; whatever that hon. member can say, shall not rouse me to the use of any unparliamentary language. Where the hon. member got his information respecting me, I cannot possible imagine; but who ever told him that I come here retained for the Dissenters, told him a gross falshood. As to my being at the head of the dissenting body, and my having smallowed the test which he mentions, the hon. gentleman, as he takes so much interest respecting me, will be glad, perhaps, to hear, that I was educated in the Established Church; that I have always attended places of religious worship according to the rites of the Established Church; and that I do not recollect that I have ever been even out of curiosity in a Dissenting meeting house.
§ Mr. Fuller
.—I am much obliged to the hon. and learned baronet for his explanation; and I cannot but compliment him on the extraordinary feeling which he has shewn on this occasion.
§ Mr. William Smith
,—Sir; at this late hour I shall detain the House but for a very few minutes, for not being myself a member of the Established Church, I can scarcely expect to be heard on this question without some distrust.
My non. and learned friend who has just sat down, has told the House that he never to his knowledge attended public worship nor even entered the doors of a Dissenters' meeting house. Now, Sir, I am not ashamed to say that I am in the constant habit of attending divine service in a house of that description, and I must inform the hon. gentleman over the way, (Mr. Fuller) for his comfort, that I stand here without having "swallowed" any 948 test, or taken any oath repugnant to my conscience. I am, Sir, one of the few Dissenters not precluded by scruples to certain oaths from entering within these walls; but. Sir, although there are no impediments thrown in my way from entering here such as preclude the Roman Catholics, yet I am equally precluded with them under my religious sentiments, from holding any office of trust or emolument under the state. For although those sentiments do not render me ineligible to a seat in parliament, yet I cannot avoid thinking that a strange anomaly in the law, which while it renders a man eligible to a seat in this House, and to aid in the making laws for the government of the realm, yet declare him unfit to sit as a magistrate in administering those laws even in the case of a turnpike road, or acting as an exciseman. Such, however, Sir, is my case and that of all those who think religiously with me; and therefore in pleading the cause of the Roman Catholics I am contending also for my own.Nam tua res agitur paries cum proximus ardet.Sir, I believe there is no man in this House whose religious opinions differ more widely from those of the Roman Catholics than mine: but I feel that no just reason why they should on that account be precluded from enjoying the same civil rights and privileges under the same government with myself, to the support of which they as equally and as loyally contributed, and in the maintenance and security of which they must be equally interested.
Sir, the vexatious and injurious nature of these incapacities have been justly, and I think not too forcibly stated by ray hon. and learned friend. They are precisely of the same nature with those inflicted for certain crimes to which the law has affixed the character of infamy. The are privations of civil rights enjoyed by other subjects: obstacles to advancement in every honourable profession, and their natural tendency is to depress those on whom they operate below the rank which their talents and characters would, otherwise, entitle them to enjoy. I ask, Sir, is this not an evil, and a most serious one? And if inflicted by the will of others, on account merely of differing in religious opinions from themselves, is it not a punishment for professing those opinions?
Now, Sir, it is well known that the law does not consider non-conformity a crime. It has been expressly so laid down by my 949 lord Mansfield, in his memorable Argument on the Sheriffs' Case in the House of Lords; and I ask then, is it not absurd and unjust in the extreme to inflict punishment where no crime is even alleged? Is it possible for men so treated to banish from their minds the sense of oppression? But to be gravely told by persons under none of those inconveniencies, and enjoying all their own civil rights in their fullest extent, that these exclusions and this stigma are not punishments in reality because they are not so called in law, I cannot but consider as adding a bitter insult to a most severe injury. And, Sir, with this feeling in myself, I am naturally led to suppose that the Catholics are equally alive to the injustice. As to the immediate question, I think that the true and even the safest line of argument is to take it up on the high ground of right, nor am I afraid at any time so to defend it; but I will for the present decline that course, both because in this debate it has been argued on political expediency alone, and because I fear that even should I be successful in convincing the understandings of gentlemen on the abstract right, I should fail of gaining their votes.
It seems to me that the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Yorke) has staled a good logical argument. It is true, that in theory, some danger might be apprehended from a foreign spiritual head, acting through the medium of priests attached exclusively to its interests, on a population possessed of a large share of political power. And it may be said, that the duty and obligation of obedience to this spiritual chief is indissoluble, and in many cases, paramount to all others.—But surely the reply is obvious and easy; such dangers are all comparative; they were compounded of the force acting, and the subject or material on which it operated: and therefore, though the Papal connection should continue to exist after the concession of every civil and political right, it does not at all follow that the danger would by those concessions be increased: because, if by such just and liberal treatment, discontents were allayed, and men's affections gained, the whole mass would be less susceptible of any undue influence; and though possessed of greater power, would be far less the just object of suspicion or alarm. But though, for these reasons, I am extremely desirous of going into the committee, I will not disguise my opinion, nor advise those to enter on the enquiry 950 who are determined to grant no more than merely the removal of the remaining disabilities. I, for one, am convinced that the Catholics had a strict right to much more, and never can be, perhaps never ought to be satisfied till they obtain it: If, when our eyes are opened to the perception of what is just, we are afraid of acting up to our convictions, it would be better not to permit the light to enter. One hon. gentleman has referred much to history, from which in my opinion, he would have done more wisely to have abstained, because that reciprocation of injuries which for centuries formed almost the only connection between England and Ireland was an invidious topic, more calculated to irritate than to allay animosity,—nor would I my-self have touched on it, only with a view to rebut the false inferences which have been drawn from a partial view of the subject.
In our Union with Scotland we treated with her as an equal; finding the people in possession of an established form of worship and attached to it, we enquired not into its truth or its conformity to our own; but, satisfied that it was the religion of the majority, we solemnly confirmed it in possession. Ireland on the other hand, after long and bitter contentions, we had by force subdued; and her treatment was that of a conquered province. The vast majority of her population we found Catholics; and contrary to all right and justice—contrary to all sound policy, since England had become Protestant, we not only subverted the establishment of the Irish majority, but erected our own on its ruins, using it and its revenues, not for the only legitimate purpose of any establishment, the promotion of morality and virtue, the instruction of the people, and the support of religious worship, according to that form which best satisfies the majority, on which ground alone a whole nation can justly be called on to contribute; but compelling all to pay for the convenience of a few, applying the contributions to the maintenance of an hierarchy repugnant to the feelings of the country, and whose chief use is, that of a political engine to uphold and strengthen the civil power of the conquerors. Is this the way to appease discontents—to eradicate old prejudices—to reconcile differences—to extirpate foreign attachments? The Church of England worship indeed has now been so long established there, and is so interwoven with the rights of property and the 951 frame of the government, that its subversion, in favour of any other, cannot now for a moment be contemplated: but surely the liberal, the just, the obvious policy would be to attach the Catholic clergy, and through them their people, to the Protestant government, by taking them openly and directly under its protection, and applying part of the Church revenues to their decent and comfortable maintenance. Thus would the laity feel that a portion at least of those revenues was equitably directed, and the clergy having at home a natural object of their respect and affection, would speedily lose those regards towards any foreign head which could reasonably excite apprehension or Jealousy in their civil superiors. On these principles we acted in Canada, not then surmising that even Frenchmen might not be indulged in a partial establishment of their religion, without endangering their allegiance; but conceiving on the other hand, that to free them from all irksome and unnecessary restraints was the best mode to secure it; and when have we heard of any disturbances occasioned by the Pope in Canada? Why then should we not extend measures equally kind and paternal to Ireland, or why fear that there only, generosity and justice would fail to produce their uniform effects on the human heart?
There are many other points on which I could with pleasure have enlarged, but the subject has been so amply and ably discussed on the present as well as on former occasions, by the highest talents in this assembly, that I will occupy no more of your lime, but conclude by expressing my firm conviction, that the question is now no longer, whether the thing should be done, but when? Whether you should immediately secure the affections of our fellow subjects and guarantee the public safety, by yielding to the call of policy and justice; or, by indecision and delay, prolong the season of disunion and danger, with the certainty of, a perhaps too late, repentance.
Mr. Herbert of Kerry
.—Though as an advocate for the equalization of the Catholics in every political right with their fellow subjects, I must feel highly gratified in general by the turn this debate has taken, there have been expressions in the warmth of discussion I could have wished omitted. Much censure and some bard terms have been bestowed on the opposers 952 of the measure. I could have wished our efforts had been confined to shewing the fallacy of their apprehensions of danger, and that fears of the subversion of the constitution in either Church or Stale, were in the highest degree groundless, idle, and even ridiculous. To such fears, however, do I alone believe we owe the opposition at this moment shewn to the measure. When I look round and see the numbers unfortunately opposed to us; when I consider how the character of numbers of them stand in every one's estimation, it is in vain to charge the opposition we meet with to the spirit of bigotry, persecution, or party. Many hard words have been bestowed on my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I owe it to candour and justice to say, that from the time he became minister, he has risen in the estimation of the public. For one, however, deeply I lament his too powerful opposition to what I think a most advantageous measure.
I believe that opposition to arise from the purest and fairest motives; I will add, I believe in common with most, if not all our opposers, if we could convince them their fears were groundless, they would cease their opposition. To remove these fears should then be our main object; and I could have wished that even a still larger share of the shining abilities evinced in this debate, had been bestowed on this point, instead of abusing, however justly, laws now obsolete and abolished, and those, who still support the remnant of that wretched code once law. The penal code being at one lime law, I allow the onus probandi of advantage of a repeal lay on those who proposed that repeal. They did succeed in obtaining a repeal of much the greater part. We can, I think, shew no dangers are likely to accrue from the repeal of the whole. To this should the real well-wishers of the measure bend their force. The benefits arising from such a measure, as tending to promote the peace and harmony of the empire, no one denies. The dangers real or imaginary are urged by its opposers as so great, as to occasion a probable preponderance of evil. It is fair to ask, what are these dangers; are they serious dangers, or are they insurmountable: and are the two religions at complete variance? I, for one, believe in truth, the difference not great: that during the progress of the Reformation, and for some time after, whilst the Catholics might hope to regain the immense property their Church had lost, and the 953 other side feared for their acquisitions: that the differences between the old and new Churches should be held to be irreconcilable is natural, but now when the fears of the resumption of the abbey lands, and the temporal power of the Pope are mere bugbears, that it should not be seen (one or two dogmas excepted) that the Established Church differs but little from its parent, is to me surprizing. I believe, should the distinctions made by law between them, be taken away, we should shortly wonder how we could so warmly differ on such, in fact, slight religious differences. In fact, it is my firm opinion, but for the disabilities imposed on the Catholics, there would be no more fear from Catholicism to the Established Church than from any other sect: I will add, if the Church lay aside old prejudices they might perceive other dangers, and perhaps less remote than from the parent religion. For one convert made from the Church by the Catholics twenty are lost by the assiduity of others; and I am convinced were the Established Church even now attacked and seriously in danger, the Catholics would, as heretofore, be found rather amongst its allies and defenders, than amongst its enemies. So strongly do I believe this to be fact, that I always regret the opportunity lost not long since, when, by the impious madness of the de-mocratical rulers of France, revealed religion itself was attacked through the Catholics, and whilst we were literally guarding from danger the head of their Church, it was not tried whether it was not practicable by the means of a general council, to have closed a schism which has given cause of triumph to the enemies of Christianity; and which might once more have ended in the harmony and union of the whole Christian Church, now so unfortunately split and divided. But supposing an union of the parent and reformed religions at present, to be impracticable; as an union of governments has taken place between the two islands, I urge there is now no one solid argument or reasonable apprehension of danger, that can be fairly urged against giving their share of political power to the Catholics. Scotland is an example that on an union's taking place—Sir, I perceive the impatience of the House for the question, and I will detain them but a very short time, omitting going into any detail. To extricate Ireland from the peculiar situation in which she stood, four-fifths of her population Catholics, and 954 perhaps an equal majority of the talents acquired by learning, and of personal and real property Protestant, was one main reason with me for wishing an union between the two islands. I look on the Union as even the palladium of Ireland, because I conceive whilst in their own parliament the boroughs remained in the hands they were, an equality of rights would never have been carried, nor would a king of England ever have given consent to the equalization of the Catholics, before an union, had it even been consented to in Ireland; and the worst of civil and religious wars would probably have taken place. I think it the palladium of Ireland, because an union having taken place, every solid, nay even plausible argument, against giving their share of power to the Catholics, has fallen to the ground, and sooner or later, (and now I think soon, if they mar not the prospect) they will obtain their proportion. I will not enlarge, Sir; this was in effect promised them: it is a debt of honour, and should be paid. I know, now, this promise is often denied, and we are called on to produce it: I must admit our opposers may with Shylock plead, "it is not in the bond." I do not see the clause in the bond. If, Sir, persons high in power were silent, their derivitives were not so; and gentlemen in general deceived themselves, or deceived others. It was by myself, in common with numbers, held out to our tenantry, to our neighbours and friends, that as all plausible arguments against giving their share of power to the Catholics, would be taken away by an union, the first opportunity would be taken of discussing the matter in the imperial parliament; and of uniting all hands and hearts in the safety of the empire. We have lately, and but lately, united hands, in some degree, by the measure of the interchange of the militias. We want but the present measure, I trust, to interchange hearts; and whatever may be the fate of this question for the moment, if the measure is pursued with calmness, and without marring it or mixing it with party-business, it will ultimately, and that I think at no remote period, prevail.
As a real friend to the measure, I deprecate the involving this great question in disputes on subordinate and collateral points. I much fear we have lost ground in the opinion of many persons, by being unfortunately engaged in disputes with the government of the country on modes of 955 petitioning, and on which, as far as yet appears, the law is said to be against us. This dispute brought on much irritation, and the main question, though, in fact, not concerned, has I fear suffered; for I believe if it Were not for the unfortunate starting of what is called the Veto, and for the starting of this equally unfortunate dispute about the right of petitioning by delegates, we might now have carried our question. I perceive the impatience of the House, I will only allude to one fact, as brought forward by the right hon. and learned doctor, I mean his denial of the numbers of the Catholics, and indeed even of the great population of Ireland. I can assert, I have reason from observations of my own, and those of a most ingenious man who was engaged in writinig the history of our country, but who is unfortunately now no more, that the numbers, when the return is made by the new Bill, will be found to be even more than ever supposed. At all events it is a fact, that not less than 350,000 men have, in the army, navy, and militia, supported in the war the cause of the empire. How they have supported it, the annals of the country, and even the Reports of Thanks of the House will prove. I will not detain the House from the question. Every motive of justice, honour, and gratitude, call for the adoption of the measure;—so thinking, it must have, of course, my support.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
.—Sir; it is with great reluctance I rise to address the House, but I can assure gentlemen that I shall endeavour to trouble them with as few observations, as I think the nature of the question and the state of the case will permit me to do.
sir, I am sure the House must indeed feel extremely fatigued with the repetition of arguments they have so often heard on this question; and I feel, that there is so little novelty in it, that I cannot flatter myself with the hope of laying before them any new view of the subject; and certainly, did I not apprehend, that I should be suspected of having withdrawn myself from the proposition, which I think it is so necessary to maintain, I should have permitted the question to go to a division without a single observation. Before I proceed to the observations, which occur to my mind upon the subject, I should wish it to be distinctly understood that any opinion which I may express, tending to evince a belief in my mind, that the present is not the 956 proper time that the claims of the Catholics should be conceded, implies no declaration that I do not in my own mind anticipate the possibility, (though I do not by any means at present conceive the probability,) that circumstances may never be so materially altered as to induce me to review the question in a different light. But I do not myself anticipate that the circumstances will be such as to induce me to view it in a different aspect from what I do at present; however, I am desirous (if any new circumstance should arise, tending to alter such a conclusion), that the opinion which I am now expressing, will be considered as not involving the opinion of any other individual with whom I am connected in political life; but that I am only expressing the opinion of myself; and that upon the question now, at the moment we are discussing it; at the same time, stating that it is the unanimous opinion of all those with whom I am connected, that the present is not the moment in which any further concessions ought to be made to the Roman Catholics. I beg leave to state this, in some measure in consequence of what we have heard stated in the course of this night, of pledges that have been broken,—of faith that has been violated,—and of hopes that have been excited only to be mocked with disappointment:—because this is the course said to have been taken on this question.
Sir, I really felt considerable doubt whether I ought not at the time we heard insinuations of that description thrown out, to have put it to the sense of the House, whether they were allusions and expressions, which could with any degree of propriety be admitted into the debate. This was the course I should have adopted, had I not doubted again, whether I could conclude with certainty, that those insinuations or observations were meant to be connected with any conduct of mine; or whether they were not united with the speakers themselves. I cannot conceive indeed, that because of the conduct pursued by the Irish parliament in 1789, during the agitation or" the Regency question, or of the manner in which that conduct was received, any thing like a pledge on the part of any individual in this House, as to the concession of the Catholic Claims, was given or implied, or that the conduct of any individual in this House, either at that time or since that time, can be considered as a pledge. If it was so thought to be intended, I cannot conceive any thing more un- 957 founded, in fact, as far as it goes, or more unconstitutional than the opinion that must be involved in that statement. With regard to the idea that any tiling being done, or that could be done by the parliament of Ireland in 1789, could impose any obligation on any body on their behalf—that is an idea founded upon a gross miscalculation, and utterly inconsistent with that fact: for in 1789, whatever could be done by the Irish parliament, could not be said to be done by or for the Roman Catholics of Ireland.—For in 1789, there was no Catholic parliamentary interest, or influence in the Irish parliament: because in the year 1792, the Petition of the Roman Catholics was rejected by the Commons of Ireland, there being not more than twenty-five members who voted for it. so that in point of fact, nothing could be more inconsistent, supposing at that time and between that and the present, any persons surrounding the illustrious personage to be called to the throne had collected the opinions of that illustrious personage, as to the justice or expediency of granting those Claims, is it to be inferred from hence, that be had involved himself in any pledge from which he could not conscientiously recede? Will gentlemen say that the Prince, before he conies to the throne, shall have any pledge elicited or extorted from him, which at a different period under different circumstances, and different views, he is so obliged to fulfil?—And is any attempt to recede from that supposed pledge to be considered as a breach of faith? Is the constitutional doctrine of the hon. gentlemen apposite? Do they mean to maintain that such a doctrine is constitutional? I should like to know from those constitutional lawyers over the way, whether they will inform who was the confidential adviser of such a pledge? I should like to know who was the constitutional adviser, that recom-mended this violation of the constitution? Is it possible for any man who has any knowledge of the constitution—that can feel a sentiment of this description, or that is impressed with any feeling of respect, for the high constitutional authorities upon this subject, to maintain this proposition as one that can be deemed fit to act upon?—I am therefore surprised to find, that a sentiment of this sort should be expressed by an hon. and learned gentleman, whose talents always take a distinguished part in this House.
In proceeding, Sir, to consider the sub- 958 ject immediately before the House, I really do not know how I can expect to be attended to; for it has been so often discussed, that every topic of argument upon it seems to be exhausted.
It is however, of importance to the House, that they should consider precisely the nature of the question before them. What are the petitions, and what the object of the petitioners are. We are all agreed that there is nothing in the power of parliament to concede, that the petitioners are not disposed to consider as their right to ask. But the pure question before us is not quite so well understood I apprehend, as one could wish, because I have not heard either from the right hon. gentleman who made the present motion, or from any individual who supported it, one word yet as to what will be the duty of the committee called for. Indeed I hardly know, from the obscure terms in which the right hon. gentleman has enveloped the proposition before us, whether it is his intention that this subject should be referred to a committee of the whole House, or whether to a select committee.—I have not yet heard it distinctly stated by any one who is acquainted with this subject, whether it is a select committee, or a committee of the whole House that is meant. The language in which the motion was couched, at the time it was made, did certainly lead to an impression on my mind that it was to be a select committee, because I understood it in these words, "that a committee be appointed." For certainly those words would imply, that a separate or select committee was intended. Now I wish, if I might be permitted, to ask the question of the right hon. gentleman whether I am right in this conjecture?
§ Mr. Grattan
. The right hon. gentleman is informed that it may be matter for subsequent consideration, whether it is to be a select committee, or a committee of the House at large.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
.—The right hon. gentleman seems not yet to have formed any opinion of his own upon the subject, as to what his course will be: and the House must surely feel some surprise that a proposition of so much importance is not only to be put to them in the manner and under the circumstances that I have described, without knowing whether we are to go into a select or a general committee; but that it is not decided in the minds even 959 of those by whom the measure is proposed, what that measure is to be. And yet, is it not a matter of very great and serious importance, on a discussion of such a subject, that we should know what the actual course of the House is to be?—The hon. gentleman seemed to think that a select committee would be the proper mode of proceeding. If that be their view of the subject, I would ask, Sir, is it possible that upon this great question which involves so many important considerations, we are to refer to a select committee—to delegate to a few individuals of this House, an enquiry into the laws relating to Roman Catholics?—That we are to be content with the report of a select committee, and with the opinion they may give, as to what ought to be done with regard to those laws?
§ Mr. Grattan
.—In the first wording of my motion, I thought, in calling for a select committee, I was complying with the rules and orders of the House. Upon further consideration, however, I find that the motion should be for a committee of the whole House.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
.—Sir, I rather think that I might venture to say, that the time is not yet come, in which the House can with any degree of propriety adopt the resolution now proposed.
It is however to be understood now, that we are to go into a committee of the whole House; and I have no difficulty in stating that, in my opinion, that is in every respect more desirable, than to refer a question of this description to a select committee, as if it were a matter of a private nature. If we are to have a committee at all, it must certainly be a committee of the whole House. But is that all we want to know? Are we not to know what we have to do when we go into that committee? Are we not to be told what duties we shall have to perform? Are we to examine witnesses at the bar, to ascertain what are the opinions—what the doctrines and what the peculiar tenets of the Catholic religion?—Because some of the gentlemen have talked of that, a right hon. gentleman who has spoken in the debate, seemed to me to think that we were to have witnesses at the bar. What! to call to your bar witnesses to depose their own evidence in their own cause!—To call to your bar witnesses to shew us what are the notions and sentiments entertained by the Roman Catholic clergy and laity! 960 Are we to have their opinions declared to us at the bar of this House? And what the Protestant opinion, clergy and laity, also is?—Now, is that the sort of thing proposed by any hon. gentleman for the adoption of the House? Or, if that be not it, what is it?—Really I wish that those who are so eager to vote for this Committee, and who state that we have only to enquire, will be good enough to tell me, what are to be its labours? Every man on that side says, "Sir, all you have to do is to enquire." Every one on that side of the House would vote for a committee, but they would not condescend to tell us, what we are to do when we get into the committee. Because I will maintain, that if all we have to propose in that committee, when our labours are united, is a new law to abrogate all the old ones, respecting Catholic disabilities, there is no necessity to resolve into a committee for that purpose at all; because if it is the sense of the House that the restrictive laws against Catholics should be repealed, it is perfectly competent for any hon. gentleman to move—that all those laws be at once repealed by Bill; and therefore I say, that this is a proceeding which will have effect on many minds, certainly of an apparently powerful nature; because the vote that most hon. gentlemen will give this night will be a blind vote, as they do not know what it is they are going to do. They do not know the precise and definite object at which they are aiming.—This obscurity, indeed, will have one good effect, in procuring many votes for that committee, which would probably be withheld if all were clear and distinct. Of this I am persuaded, that if they would tell us for what this committee is to be appointed, they would find very great difficulty in procuring any support. I do not mean to say that it is not very good parliamentary tactics, for it serves to catch votes that would otherwise be lost. But whether, on a grave question of this sort, upon which you cannot vote for this first question, without necessarily pledging yourselves to go much farther beyond what the advocates of this cause are entitled to; whether, I say, this is a fair mode of proceeding, it is for the House to judge. But for my own part, I say it is not fair by the House, nor the friends of the Catholic question in the House, to induce them to adopt the motion upon such a principle. The House, I am persuaded, must feel, that those who agree to give their votes to this 961 motion in its present terms, who vote that a committee be appointed upon these Petitions, will not all of them be supposed to be of opinion that there ought to be, at this moment, some relief afforded to the Roman Catholics. But that such will be the inference drawn from their votes, no man can doubt; and a very fair inference it certainly is to be so drawn.
Are those gentlemen who intend to vote for this committee, prepared to say that concession should be granted without terms and without conditions?—Are they prepared to give the Roman Catholics so false an impression of what the sentiments of this House are, as to lead them to a belief that a majority of this House are of opinion, that any relief could be given to them without any terms or condition? For that, in fact, will be the supposition drawn from their vote, without enquiry or previous discussion, all in the same night. Will gentlemen lead them into a misrepresentation that something is to be done for them, without discussion—without terms or conditions, and if not the whole of the prayer of their Petition, at least a part? Now I would ask is that the situation into which gentlemen are to be led who wish to conciliate the population of Ireland?—Is it fair or is it candid that they should be so dealt with?
Now with regard to the important question itself, namely, the question of the prayer of the Roman Catholics, in the discussion of it, the House seems to be pretty well united in their feeling that their prayer cannot be granted, without conditions, without guards, and without securities of some sort. This question. Sir, can either be only a religious question, or a political one. The latter to be considered as a question of right or expediency. As to its being a religious question, I do not think any one will urge it in that point of view. The question has not been submitted to us in such a shape as to entitle us to look at it in that form. I mean as to the distinctions or differences that there may be between the religious opinions of the Protestant and the Roman Catholic. I do not attempt to follow those distinctions, because I do not consider them to be consistently any part of our deliberation; I shall therefore leave it altogether out of my view. I shall then consider it as a mere question of policy and expediency.
In the first place I deny strongly that it is a question of right; and I think that 962 in this denial, most of those who have argued upon the subject, either on former nights or this, concur. It has, however, been urged, on the other side, in a great measure, as a question of right: but though they do it, I must think, that great part of their argument is ill founded, unless they assume that there is a great deal of right at the bottom of the question. If they mean to represent that the Roman Catholics of Ireland are in a state of slavery, and ground down by tyranny under the present system of laws, one may then consider it as a question of right with reference to the law of nature. How they can come to the conclusion without considering this subject,—without reference to the institutions of civilized society as a question in the nature of a right, seems to me a very difficult matter; for if it is a question of right, it is founded upon that to which all men have justly a claim in civil society. If the question came in that form, no man can doubt the necessity of enquiry into it, or can doubl the justice of extending relief to the parties aggrieved. The question in that shape would be clear and comprehensible. But I utterly deny the proposition here contended for, the Catholics have no positive and natural right to that which has no existence but in a state of society; that cannot be an object of natural right which is purely the creature of society. Such for instance as offices of state, emoluments, and distinctions, and other social institutions which spring from the foundation of society. These can never be matters of inherent right; and no man can have any original or primitive claim upon them. These are benefits and advantages which must of necessity, be distributed according to the views of the institution that creates them. They can be only received by the members of society, according to the terms and forms which the law makes it necessary for them to conform to; and therefore, in that point of view, it is undeniable, that the Catholics of Ireland have no ground to demand as right, that which is the object of the present government to refuse to concede.
The hon. gentleman who spoke lately, on the other side of the House, seemed to think that there was some question of right attending the subject. He conceived that where there was a majority of the population of any country excluded from power by reason of their religious tenets or other disabilities, they were entitled, by virtue 963 of that majority, to power, in preference to the minority. I really do not know what he meant to infer from this argument, whether he meant that the majority was intitled to toleration of their religious opinions, merely, I know not. But if he meant to go the length of contending that they were entitled to situations of power in the constitution of the country for the same reason; I completely deny and deprecate his argument. Is it possible that the right hon. gentleman can contend that, because the Roman Catholics of Ireland form the majority of the population, that they have a right of admission to all offices of state. What connexion or parallel is there between the one and the other? If there is any thing that arises from their opinions to render it impossible with safety and security to the others, to entrust them with the power they demand, I cannot conceive upon what principle of right or equity they can claim a power which must go the length of depriving the minority of their right. I think, therefore, that they are not entitled to the possession of that trust upon the argument the hon. gentleman has adduced, is, in my mind, an undeniable proposition: and, I think the hon. gentleman's idea will hardly be adopted by the House. But, Sir, the question now, as I have slated it, remains to be considered as a question of policy and expediency, and the fair question is, whether there does appear rational ground of danger in conceding what the Catholics demand? I shall consider this matter a little in detail: and in the first place, it appears to me to be very natural in those who live under an establishment which, till now, has always been called and always thought, a Protestant one, to feel a little jealousy of a proposition which tends to remove all those securities, and all those protections, which our ancestors have thought necessary to guard that Protestant establishment. We have been told, indeed, by an honourable gentleman, in the course of argument, that he considered, that it is not now a Protestant establishment; for it ceased to be such in the year 1793, when the law passed in that year, had given some political power to the Roman Catholics, and that, therefore, we were no longer to consider ourselves as existing under a Protestant constitution. But this is an argument which I am utterly unable to comprehend or to follow. If we were to admit it, we must at this moment doubt, whether our esta- 964 blishment is Protestant—whether this is a Protestant House of Commons—whether we have a Protestant monarch on the throne—and whether, in short, the whole system in Church and State is to be considered any longer as Protestant? Now, Sir, if the proposition, that we still remain a Protestant establishment, cannot be controverted, and feeling myself a pretty sound conviction upon that subject, I cannot but feel a great deal of jealousy at a proposition which goes to admit the Roman Catholics to a participation in the constitution, contrary to law,—contrary to those securities which the wisdom of our ancestors provided,—contrary to the spirit of the original foundation of our state. Therefore it is not unreasonable in us to expect from the gentlemen who argue this question, some proofs to convince us that there is no danger in the concessions they would induce us to grant.
When we talk of the danger that may be apprehended from this measure, they tell us, "it is your business to enquire what the danger is,"—I agree to that; and the bare statement of the case is sufficient, I trust, for our purpose, and to the complete discharge of our duty. We are now a Protestant House of Commons,—we have a Protestant Establishment,—we must have a Protestant King,—we have at present, Protestant prelates,—and the proposition is, that we are to admit the Roman Catholics immediately to an equal participation in all the advantages we enjoy,—contrary to what has been the law of the constitution for ages, and contrary to those provisions, which, for the security of the constitution, our ancestors have provided. Here, then, in my apprehension, is the danger which the gentlemen at the opposite side call upon us to shew as attendant upon the measure of Catholic Emancipation at the present moment.
Sir, the Onus
then, in my opinion, lies upon those who want the alteration, to prove, that the alteration might take place without danger. That there is some danger, even the avowed supporters of the measure are ready to allow; and, what is rather extraordinary, those very apprehensions come from a quarter that one would have least expected. However, coming from the quarter they do, they come with the greatest weight and authority; and the more so as they are espoused by all those who support the question.
The opinions to which I allude, are 965 contained in the Letter of lord Grenville published two years ago; and what those opinions are, we all know: for he has published them to the whole world. In that work, the noble lord has specifically stated, there should be some arrangements and securities provided for the constitution before the Roman Catholics could be admitted into the possession of power. This is his pledged opinion to the world, we all know; and we also know that there were many sound advocates of the Roman Catholics, who at that time felt it to be an object of great importance, that that security should be given on the part of those claimants, I do not mean to say, that the noble lord has altered his opinion; for, from all that I can collect, he still maintains the same conditions and the same terms, to make it safe to grant these concessions. And yet. Sir, these are the same persons who call upon us to tell them where the danger lies? Do they not themselves, in admitting the necessity of securities, admit the existence of dangers? When they tell us that it is necessary to require terms, is it not a manifest estimation that there is danger, unless we secure our society by adequate conditions and terms?
The right hon. gentleman who has favoured us with his sentiments upon this subject, has told us what his principles are upon this question, in that short, spirited, and eloquent manner which the House could not but admire. He has declared his approval of this proposition upon these principles—that there should be a total absence of foreign influence, and that then there should be no political restraint. Now, Sir, the most remarkable disqualification under which the Roman Catholic is alleged to labour, consists in this very foreign influence: and upon that point the whole question turns. But the right hon. gentleman seems to have contented himself in answering this proposition, by telling us "that in the circumstances of the Pope being now in the possession of the French emperor, there was no great danger from foreign influence." Now, Sir, I think quite the contrary: and I think if the case was put on the reasonable supposition, that France through the medium of her vassal, the Pope, would have the appointment of all priests in the Catholic Church, there would be very strong reason to anticipate danger from such a state of things; because we are not to forget, that although the present Pope 966 may have resisted the influence of France" we are not to be equally easy with respect to the integrity of his successor; and, certainly, I, for one, would most strongly contend against the proposition for suffering the Roman Catholics of Ireland to receive their opinions and instructions from a priesthood so appointed. Are we, then, to apprehend no danger from this view of the subject? I do not mean to say, nor do I mean to suppose, that the right hon. gentleman means to propose concession to the Catholics without securities: indeed I am very sure, the right hon. gentleman himself, would not wish to yield to the prayer of the Roman Catholics without some terms and conditions being proposed. But, I trust it will not be imputed to me that I am unreasonable, when I require of those who are themselves against unlimited concession, and who think that it cannot be done without conditions accompanying it,—that we should require, I say, of them what these conditions are, what they may be, and upon what grounds we shall mutually stand? Nothing, I think, can be more reasonable, before we are called upon to go into a committee. What are we told, however?—" That if those terms be examined—if those securities be investigated—if those guards be deliberately viewed and ascertained, the Roman Catholics will be offended!"
Why then. Sir, if the proposed concessions are to be hurried through the House without examination; if we are to have no opportunity of calmly deliberating upon the subject, they had better be reserved till the third reading of the Bill, and then tacked to it by way of riders, to prevent those unpleasant but fair observations which must arise upon them.
Now, it is for the House to consider, whether they will listen to such an unreasonable proposition as this; and whether they can attend to the prayer of the petitioners under such circumstances. It is not possible that the House can suppose, that those who really think that this measure ought to be granted, and think, at the same time, as they say they do, that it must be connected with terms and conditions, that they are not satisfied in their own minds what they should propose. In fact, Sir, no other conclusion can be drawn from the mysterious silence of gentlemen respecting the nature and operation of these securities, but this—they know they have nothing to propose that will either be accepted by the Roman Catholics, or 967 which will be endured by the Protestants. They must know that this is the case. Have not those hon. gentlemen, who have already lent themselves to this question, done so entirely upon the supposition that something would be proposed? Have they not said, "as far as this goes we will vote for this question, in expectation of having these restrictions on secure grounds?" Has not the hon. member for the city of Dublin stated, that the reason of his giving his vote now, and his formerly withholding it, was because he was now in hopes of hearing what those conditions are? If gentlemen have any conditions to propose, let them name them. But if they have not, it is not a fair proceeding by parliament—by the Roman Catholics—by this House—and by the Protestants. The fact is, that because they mean nothing, they mention nothing. They have no safeguards to propose, and therefore they are silent. It is because those gentlemen opposite have not formed in their own minds any distinct opinion of what it is they would propose, or what they would pledge themselves to, that they are thus silent. All they say is, that this measure would have the effect of conciliating the Roman Catholics, for which alone, it is said, they bring forward this motion. Now, they have tried their hands once or twice with this view, but they have failed. Does any body believe, when lord Grenvile says at the time of his communication with Mr. Pitt, and during the number of years that were occupied in the consideration of this subject, and the arrangement of the securities that, in his wisdom, seemed to be best, that the Veto was what he thought would be the most successful? Was it not the Veto that we were to have, and that we were told was to conciliate the Roman Catholics? It is said, we might have had the Veto, (lord Grenville's long deliberated measure,) had we not rejected it, but that we cannot have it now. We rejected it! Good heaven! Sir, gentlemen who assert that, must have only heard their own speeches. They never could have attended to any thing that passed, either in or out of this House, upon the subject. Has it not been rejected by the Roman Catholics themselves? By those very gentlemen on whose behalf the present motion is made. By those very priests and bishops who are petitioning at your bar. Has not the agent of the Catholic bishops and the Catholic people, Dr. Milner, told you, in 968 terms not to be misunderstood, that he would rather suffer martyrdom than concede the Veto? Has he not told you that it is a measure hateful to every Catholic? Does he not tell you that he meant to concede nothing of the kind? Does he not tell you that the proposition of lord Grenville was a thing, which above all others, no Roman Catholic could at all consent to? He has told you this, distinctly and unequivocally in his letters; and yet we are told that it is we who have rejected the Veto! Perhaps I shall be answered that Dr. Milner is no longer entitled to credit: but be it recollected, that he was thought by them to be worthy of the highest credit, only a very few years ago, and is as much entitled to credit now as he was then. But then. Sir, it will be said, perhaps, that he acted beyond his authority, and without the sanction of those who employed him: that he put himself in a situation in which he had no authority to act, and had stept beyond his instructions. Why certainly the next thing would be, if he had done so, for those who employed him, to dismiss him with reprobation. But so far from that, they have thanked him for his independent and conscientious conduct, in a public solemn resolution. They thank Dr. Milner for the manner in which he conducted himself; and so far from those bishops who sent him over as their delegate and representative, to express the sentiments of the Roman Catholics; so far were they from expressing any disapprobation of his conduct, that they thanked him publicly for the renunciation of the Veto, in their own and his own behalf. Besides this, the Roman Catholic bishops communicate this to the meeting of Roman Catholics in Dublin, (lord French in the chair.) upon which that meeting enter into resolutions, declaring that they cannot consent to accede to the Veto, explained under the circumstances it was; and every description of Roman Catholics in Ireland joins in declining to accept the Veto, in the manner in which it was proposed.
Now, Sir, after we hear bishop Milner thanked for the zeal and judgment with which he discharged his office; and this, too, after the renunciation of the Veto; and that renunciation afterwards publicly recognized, it is not a little hard to charge us with rejecting that measure.
But, Sir, the hon. gentlemen opposite have another reason why the Veto has 969 been rejected. It is supposed to be so rejected, because the person who has now the honour of addressing you, happens to be minister; and that the Veto would be conceded had I not been in that situation. Why, Sir, would the bare circumstance of my being the minister, induce Dr. Milner to suffer martyrdom rather than accede to the Veto? It is absurd, therefore, to maintain that the Catholics of Ireland did not peremptorily refuse this interference of the crown, in the nomination of their bishops.
§ This question, therefore. Sir, is only to be considered as a question of policy and expediency—and no other. But if it were to be argued upon matters of faith in religion, I think there is nothing so bigoted in my character as to induce me to dispute with the Roman Catholics in the administration of their doctrinal tenets.
§ But, Sir, no man can doubt that there is as complete a Roman Catholic feeling in the expression of the Catholics of Ireland as ever there was. They are still as Staunch as ever in the maintenance of their tenets, which is manifest in their determination, that they will not admit this interference on the part of the executive government in the nomination of their bishops. I do not wish to extend my remarks upon this branch of the subject. But I cannot help alluding to it as I pass along. It is to be regretted, that this proposition has failed of meeting their approbation; and I am only remarking this to shew that this was the result of many years laborious cogitation and reflection on the part of the noble lord who suggested it, when he proposed it as the best measure that could be adopted; but when we find that that which was thought the best turns out to be the most obnoxious to the Catholics; that it has been received as an over heavy piece of intolerance on our part, and that the proposal of it would be just as violent to their consciences, as the oath of supremacy itself. Why then, what reason have we to suppose that these gentlemen who dread concession without restriction, and propose that something should be done to prevent the bad consequences of having a domestic enemy in the heart of our country. What reason, I say, is there, after this rejection, for believing that any thing they could now propose, would be received by the Catholics with less hostility?
§ We have the experience before our eyes of their determination to oppose 970 every thing which has the appearance of invading, in the smallest degree, their religious opinions. There is as little prospect, therefore, of conciliation on the part of the Catholics as there ever was, in the most bigoted period of their history. We are utterly precluded by this obvious reason, from entertaining any hope of giving way on their part; and yet, in this state of the argument, those who tell us that they will vote for the committee" will not, I say, vote for Catholic concessions, unless accompanied by sufficient terms and conditions. Why, Sir, then, they know not what they mean to do, or what they expect to be done, when they go into the committee. What is it that is meant by so doing? But then I shall be told "we are not come to that yet. It is only a committee of enquiry; and in all events there can be no harm in enquiring." But, Sir, we must have a look at the object into which we are to enquire: and if you cannot see any rational proposition which you can make the groundwork of your enquiry, the mischief you will do will be incalculable. By this course of conduct, you are raising false expectations which must inevitably be disappointed; and, instead of producing conciliation, you will inflame and aggravate every sore feeling in the minds of the Roman Catholics.
§ Sir, in whatever I have said on this subject before, when it has come under discussion, I have never, upon any occasion, founded any part of my opposition or resistance, to any measure proposed for the relief of the Roman Catholics, with reference to any one of their religious doctrines. This I never have done. I have always taken it up upon quite different ground: but I must say, that if they have renounced all their obnoxious doctrines, and all their tenets to which so much objection is made in this country, they do not, in my humble opinion, act very wisely, or very prudently, in respect thereof. We see the bishops in Ireland repeatedly holding synods. Why do they not, in some synodal meeting, publicly renounce all those doctrines that are offensive in the apprehensions of many persons? We are told they consulted the most celebrated of their universities. Sir, I must confess I see very little in these communications. What do they establish? little or nothing. I will ask why do not the Roman Catholic bishops, instead of consulting the universities 971 of France and other countries, where the persons concerned in them are entirely directed by French influence—why do they not, I say, go to the fountain head at once? Why do they not go to the Pope himself, and get from him a recognition of abjuration from all those offensive doctrines? But I say, that for one, before you go a single step farther at the present moment, you should be given to understand, that the Roman Catholics are not bound by these general councils which have been quoted by my right hon. and learned friend behind me, (Dr. Duigenan.)
§ Sir, in the course of the speech of the hon. baronet, (sir J. C. Hippesley,) last night, he desired us to refer to a work entituled, "Tractatus de Ecclesiâ" for something that would highly instruct and gratify all who read it. Sir, I have got a Tractatus de Ecclesiâ, not indeed the exact one mentioned by the hon. baronet, but a Tractatus, published by the printer of Maynooth college and by their authority, under the direction of M. De La Hogue, the professor of theology at Maynonth; and certainly it may be considered as one of the class books of that college: on my part, I introduce this book for the purpose of shewing that they teach the youth of that institution, at this hour, the same obnoxious tenets. The proposition to which I wish to call the attention of the House, is their instructions upon the subject of the general councils. It contains instructions for the youth educated there; and it tells them, among other things, "that councils are infallible." There is no sort of reservation whatever; they are taught to believe implicitly in the infallibility of all those councils. We must understand that the whole of the councils are not specified in the book; but the most prominent points and doctrines of the fourth councils of Lateran and of Trent, are collected together and inculcated on the most doctrinal tenets, without any exception whatever, of the Roman Church. This, Sir, contains the tenets received by the Irish and Gallican Churches. It does not contain merely matters of faith, but also of discipline, and inculcates the doctrine to which I object, namely, the infallibility of those councils. I agree with the hon. baronet, that it is not right or just, in a true spirit of toleration, to fix your opinion and your interpretation upon the articles of faith of any Church; but all I say is, that if the Roman Catholic theologians of 972 Maynooth do really renounce these ob-noxious doctrines, of the fourth Lateran council, and do not abide by these general councils of Trent, and if that is really their sentiment, I say it is not quite fair, nor just by the youth who are entrusted to their education, to tell them, that the decrees of all these councils are infallible; to tell them, that those of this last council are to be the manual of their education. I say, therefore, this appears to me to leave no reasonable doubt, in this point of view, that they have given up none of those obnoxious doctrines. What a different argument there would have been on this subject in favour of the Catholics, if the hon. baronet could have produced a book, in which these councils are contained, and in which the obnoxious parts could have been pointed out for the benefit of the students, that they might know how to avoid those doctrines which were to be considered by their masters as objectionable part?, and to which they should pay no attention. But no, Sir; we have the most objectionable parts picked out, and made the earliest food for the young mind, and the learned theologian then tells them that, "Itaque maximo inpulio illud concilium habere debent omnes clerici, cum ratione Dogmatum sit oclute omnium præcedentium synodorum compendium, et ratione disciplinas merito dici posset manuale sacerdotum vel eorum qui sacerdoti sunt initiandi."
§ Sir, that the right hon. gentleman, who makes this motion, and that the noble lord to whom he referred, conceived that there was a reasonable influence belonging to priests, over their flocks in Ireland, is fully made out and clearly shewn by what they have referred to—but, for my own part, I do not wish that the House, in estimating this point, should be referred to old times—to monkish ages—to periods when papal supremacy was at its height. I would therefore, with permission of the House, rather refer to a very modern publication, than take advantage of the field of argument, which former times opened to me, to lay before the House my view of this question: but with regard to the influence of the Pope, I wish that the House should be apprised of what were the sentiments in the recent publication of Dr. O'Connor, a person very well known by many gentlemen in this House. He has stated his opinion with regard to the influence of the Irish church on the people, and given much other important in- 973 formation upon that subject. The House will permit me to trouble them, though I am fearful it will be very tedious, with some extracts upon this subject. I will refer the House in the first instance, to page 95, which begins with letters, after an historical address upon the subject of the fear? of people, with respect to foreign influence. [Here the right hon. gentleman read several extracts from the pamphlet of Doctor O'Connor, in which the reverend author had given some free comments upon the influence of the Pope as still inculcated by the college of Maynooth, and with respect also to the spiritual and temporal power of the Catholic clergy. The right hon. gentleman next referred the House to page 114 of the same book, particularly calling their attention to the oath of allegiance taken by the Roman Catholic clergy to the papal authority, upon which point the reverend doctor had also delivered some few opinions.] Now, Sir, this Doctor O'Connor has sustained a vigorous controversy with some of the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland; and, for his conduct in which, I understand, he has been excommunicated for this identical publication. This, I am told, but whether it is true is really more than I can undertake to say.
§ Now, Sir, however, from all this, I hope the House will see that there is in this apiritual power of the priesthood, some temporal power; that there is the power of excommunication there is no longer any doubt; that the power is exercised there is also no doubt, because there are two instances of it in the hands of gentlemen; and no man can have any doubt of the extremely mischievous extent to which this power may be carried. We have known if we had any doubt of the existence of it, that juries have given considerable damages against priests for the exercise of this power of excommunication. I do apprehend, therefore, that it is impossible to say, that there is not a temporal power connected with the spiritual; and that they are so extremely mixt, and so intimately blended with each other, that it is impossible to separate them. No man. I trust, will accuse us of being jealous with reason, when we have such authority to justify our jealousies. If the Catholic bishops are to be appointed by the Pope, without any controul whatever from government, it is not easy to see to what extent they may become dangerous agents in the hands of the enemy. 974 This proposition does appear to me to be sufficiently established by the illustration I have ventured to give from the books to which I have alluded.
§ With respect, Sir, to the proposition itself relative to the Veto, I am much misinformed, if even it was carried, that it would be productive of those advantage promised by its advocates, in restoring peace and tranquillity to Ireland. I would beg to refer the House to another book which, in my opinion, is strongly illustrative of that religion. I allude, Sir, to a pamphlet published in London by a Mr. Keogh upon this very subject of the Veto; and I wish particularly to call the attention of the House to a comment of his upon the Letter of lord Grenville, which I trust, will shew to the House, that my apprehension upon this subject is at least not unfounded. The following is the passage I allude to. [Here he read the passage, tending to shew that in the opinion of Mr. Keogh it was an absurd notion of the people of England to entertain the idea, that the measure of Veto would be productive of the increased security its advocate" seemed to hold out, and that, in fact, it would only produce a temporary tranquillity in Ireland.] This is the opinion. Sir, of Mr. Keogh; and I would wish to ask whether—even if the Veto is likely to afford a temporary tranquillity to Ireland, a lasting conciliation could be effected if you are not prepared to go much farther. What is the argument that I have always heard upon this subject? "If," say the advocates of Catholic emancipation, "you mean to act rationally upon the subject, your object must be to conciliate Ireland." If, however, in our zeal for emancipation, we are to overlook every thing except the Roman Catholics; if we are to have no regard to the Protestant establishment, or any regard to Protestant property; if we see no necessity for maintaining a Protestant constitution, why then let us establish the Roman Catholic religion at once; let us put their bishops into our sees and bishoprics without any controul whatever; let us put their priests into our rectories and church livings, and admit their peers into the House of Lords, and then, perhaps, for any thing I know, you may have a chance of conciliating the Roman Catholics of Ireland. But in ray conscience, I verily believe, according to the arguments we have this night heard, they would not even be satisfied then; they would not, I am persuaded, stop short, until they had 975 the complete constitution to themselves. It would not be reasonable to expect that they would stop short there.
§ I cannot agree in the proposition that we might immediately go forward or backward, as the circumstances of the case may require. Whatever we do, we must do deliberately and without fluctuation in our opinions. The example of 1793 teaches us, that to concede is only to provoke fresh demand. But I cannot agree in the argument "that to be consistent in our reasoning, if the concession of 1793 was right, we must go farther." It might happen that we had done more than was right or prudent for us to do in 1793; but there is no reason in the proposition that because we did something in 1793, whether right or wrong, that we must go on and do a great deal more. I would ask, gentlemen, is there nothing in expediency? Is there nothing that may make further concession inconsistent with the security of the slate, or that may excite an apprehension of danger for its safely? "But," say they, "in order to be consistent with the principle you set out on, you must go on farther, and you must concede to them every thing." Now, if we wish to judge of the disposition of the Catholics to be contented with any thing that meay be don for them, we must look to the effect of the concessions that have been already made to them. In 1792, so low was the Catholic influence in parliament, that there were no more than twenty-five votes in favour of their Petition; but in 1793, the government of England, acting upon the advice of the government of Ireland, it was agreed, that something should be done for the Catholics. The Roman Catholics never having asked any thing to the extent that was at that time conceded to them, it was naturally supposed that every thing that should be given over and above their hopes or expectations would be received as a boon. It was thought that by giving something more than was demanded, or something more than they expected, or had a right to ask, you would conciliate their affections and make them contented and happy. But, Sir, when you find that this experiment has been tried and has failed; that instead of producing conciliation, affection, and contentment, those very concessions are now employed as an argument for extorting more. When you find that the franchise of election at one time is said to be the immediate means of restoring tran- 976 quillity and contentment, and that by giving that, we should gratify all their views and hopes of ambition; and that they would at least be conciliated and contented; and when an hon. gentleman contends, that they have a right to an establishment of their own, because they have the majority on their side." [Mr. William Smith, "that is not my argument."] But does the hon. gentleman expert that when you give them the means of attaining the highest professional honours they will be contented?
§ Does he think that, having that majority of the population of Ireland on their side, that they will be content without an establishment? The very situations which you would open to them by the further concessions now demanded, would be received from you by an acknowledgment that you gave them no more than their right. And does the hon. gentleman conceive that with such a persuasion in their minds, they would not be disposed to consider that all places and appointments kept from them were situations of which they had been deprived by us? There is not a bishopric or a bishop's see in the kingdom, for which we should not have a rival Roman Catholic candidate for a share in the emoluments, because they would naturally conceive that they were as much entitled to receive them as the Protestant hierarchy of this realm.
§ Then, do you suppose, that they would be content with any thing short of a full and complete participation in all the advantages of the British constitution both in Church and Stale? Under these obvious considerations, it is therefore really vain to imagine that you can conciliate the Roman Catholics without absolutely changing, and displacing the proprietors of all church preferments and livings in Ireland of their interests in the establishment. I really and conscientiously feel that, with any thing short of this, they will not be contented; and I will go farther in this argument, for according to the Roman Catholic religion, the commandments of which must be kept sacred with the persons of that persuasion, the eighth commandment of that Church says, "That the tythes shall be paid only to their lawful ministers." Therefore, Sir, under these circumstances, and according to the argument of majority, that Church ought to be provided for; and it is preposterous to suppose that any thing short of that will satisfy them.977
§ The hon. gentleman opposite seems to think, that you cannot but provide for the Church of Ireland without a breach of the Act of Union: and when a right hon. gentleman calls upon me to renounce any opinions I gave formerly that do not stand in the way of the Union, except as it destroys the Church of Ireland, I do contend that the robbing of the Protestant Church of its tythes would be a complete breach of that article of the Union, for the result of the proposition now made, and the consequences of what is now demanded would undoubtedly go to the extent of violating the articles of Union. An hon. gentleman thinks that they would be contented with mere concessions to The laity. Now, Sir, from past experience, and from considerations of human nature, but more particularly of the tenets of their persuasion, I think I am warranted in denying that proposition. If the principle of farther concession is at all admitted, the consequence must be that you must go to the extent of this reasoning, and eventually to the extent of the concessions I have staled. I have already stated, Sir, that I conceived the House to be a little wanting in knowledge of the Roman Catholic disposition, if they think that the power that has been already given to them, and which it is now proposed further to extend, will produce either conciliation or contentment. I know not whether the House is aware of the fact; but there are seven or eight counties of Ireland, in which the Catholics have been agreeing to Resolutions respecting the manner in which they will confer their votes upon their representatives in parliament. Those Roman Catholics have come to a resolution of this effect: at least it is the substance and spirit of the resolution—" that they will not vole for any member of parliament who shall be disposed to support any government that will not admit them to the benefits of the constitution, which they conceive to be their right, as British subjects." Now, I wish to know, whether gentlemen consider that as a proof of Roman Catholic forbearance? Is it not an additional fact that those men will slop at no boundary, but will proceed to the utmost extent that their ambition may incline them to? You have here these men determining to exercise their elective franchise in a way which certainly bespeaks no great degree of conciliating humility. They have determined by a solemn resolution to which they have bound them- 978 selves, not to return any member to parliament who will not grant what they require. Do gentlemen then imagine, that if Catholics have the power of sending to parliament any whom they like, whether a Protestant or a Roman Catholic, that the Protestant landlord will be returned in preference to a Roman Catholic? Do they believe that they will have no interest in using every exertion to support a member of their own persuasion? This circumstance shews that such would be their feeling. Why then, Sir, when they get into parliament, will not the next and natural step be, that they will not vote for any man who will not insist upon having a Catholic establishment? Can we then, Sir, be justly charged with unreasonable jealousy and suspicion, when we see such resolutions as these passed by the Roman Catholics? If Protestants were to enter into resolutions not to vote for any member of parliament who would support Catholic claims, what then would be said of us? They would find no terms of reproach too strong to mark such conduct. Then, Sir, I would ask, is this the way of obtaining conciliation? Is this the temper that is likely to produce any conciliation between the Roman Catholics of Ireland and the Protestants of this country? I say, it is directly the reverse.
§ I very much doubt the policy of the right hon. gentleman in alluding to the Petition of the petitioners on the table, especially under the circumstances in which, they have been obtained, and drawing from the number of them in favour of Catholic claims, and the paucity of those against them, an inference indicative of the present favourable opinion of the British public towards the Catholics of Ireland. I deny the soundness of that reasoning. Is it to be inferred, because there are not any counter petitions on your table, that therefore the Protestants of England are desirous of seeing the Petition of the Catholics granted? So far from that being the case, that, in my opinion, if half the pains were taken lo procure counter petitions that were taken to procure Petitions in favour of Catholic claim, you would have your table loaded with such Petitions. It is my opinion that the Protestants both of England and Scotland are by no means disposed to concede the Catholic claims; and if they have not manifested any spirit of open hostility towards the Catholics, it is hardly fair by them to imply from their silence, that 979 they are convinced of the justice of the Catholic claims; because, I am persuaded, that if the experiment was tried, you would soon find that silence breaking into one general voice of opposition.
§ It has been charged in the course of this debate, that to prevent the effect of the Catholic Petitions, only one counter petition has been presented from all Ireland, and that from the corporation of Dublin, procured by the influence of the Irish government. It is true, that there is but one counter petition from Ireland, and that from Dublin; and it may therefore be supposed that the Protestants of Ireland, in general, have very much altered their sentiments upon this subject; but I cannot consent to consider that the absence of Petitions from them against the Catholic claims is a manifest proof of their approbation. I think, therefore, the allusion to the Irish government upon this subject is hardly candid; because, I do not hesitate to say, that if any exertions had been made on the part of the Irish government, if they had been desirous of calling forth the sense of the Protestants of Ireland upon the subject, they would have found no great difficulty of shewing that Catholic claims are by no means so popular as some gentlemen from Ireland would contend. But I am persuaded that the House, in its justice, will think directly the contrary of this proposition, and that they will think that the exertions of government, whatever they have been, have been made rather to silence and keep down in that country every proceeding that might have an unfair influence on the decision of the Catholic Petitions. What the opinions of the Protestants of Ireland may be, I have no means of knowing, but by communications with the gentlemen of that country; and from them I learn that it is contrary to the truth that there is any thing like a general feeling among the Protestants of that country in favour of these Petitions. It is true that it has been represented to me on the part of those gentlemen that there is not an universal hostility to the Catholics. That this Petition in their favour, which is called the Protestant Petition, is respectably signed, I have no doubt. But, on the other hand, I am convinced, that there are a vast number of respectable persons of property who entertain their objections to it amongst the Protestants of Ireland, there are many, and many who are not disposed to give their consent to this subject.980
§ But, Sir, what I conceive to be the great and leading ground of opposition to this question, and which influences me in speaking of this proceeding, is the danger which I conceive must attend concession. Not, however, by any violence, not by any act of force, not by any rebellion, nor by any clamour which might be apprehended as a consequence; but the danger I apprehend is that of giving to the Roman Catholics additional political power, which would raise in their minds the ambitious desire of converting the establishment of Ireland into an establishment of their own. That is the great ground upon which I oppose the question; and when it is proposed as an inducement for me to consent to it, that it would produce the effect of conciliating all parties in the country, I confess I am not so sanguine in my estimation of the subject. I cannot give my consent to it upon the clearest conviction, that concession would have a quite contrary effect. I am persuaded that if there could be any thing more likely than another to excite religious animosity, to bring the situation of Ireland to a state of disaffection and discontent, it would be to bring the Protestants and Roman Catholics much nearer together in political power. To give to the Roman Catholics of Ireland equal privileges with the Protestants, would be, at once, to establish a preponderance of Catholic interest in that country which would not fail of destroying the foundations of Protestant security.
§ My learned friend, (Sir Samuel Romilly,) has talked of Silesia as an example for our imitation in respect to the Roman Catholics of Ireland. He says that the Roman Catholics of that province were confirmed by Frederick in the enjoyment of their constitutional privileges. But the parallel in this case does not at all hold. The province of Silesia was entirely a Roman Catholic province. There were no two conflicting establishments and different religions in that province; and beside their numbers being infinitely less, in comparison to the religion of the state, there was no danger in leaving than without any disabilities, to enjoy the privileges of their peculiar establishment. But if you were to do the same by Ireland, under the present circumstances of the times, and in the same manner, you would manifestly endanger the security of those who are in the minority. It might have been done in the earliest limes of the constitution, 981 when that country was wholly Catholic; but since the Revolution there has been nothing like a preponderance on the part of the Protestants, which could enable them to give the Roman Catholics any thing without fear of danger to themselves. The case therefore of Ireland is quite different from that of Silesia. If you were to admit these claims in the present situation of Ireland, do you suppose that they would not, (being the more powerful party,) lay claim to that property now in the possessors of the Protestants, upon the ground of their being the original native possessors of the soil? I submit, therefore, that the case of my hon. and learned friend has no sort of reference to the present one. The principle to which I have been last alluding, is the one upon which I feel it my duty to oppose the motion.
§ There is one argument urged on this occasion to which I decidedly object. I mean the argument which says "that if you do not grant me this now, you will never do it." My opposition, however, is founded entirely upon present circumstances. I do not say, that because emancipation is not granted now, that therefore it never will. I think there are strong reasons for a contrary opinion. It appears to me from these very papers that lie on your table, that there is a great movement in the Catholic mind itself. Who can predict to what that movement may lead? I know not what changes may take place in the present circumstances of the Catholic question. They may discard the power of the Pope altogether. I know not what effect might be produced by that. They may do much to induce me to alter my opinion; but I must see what these facts are that would justify that alteration before I can decide. I must wait to see what these effects will be before I can talk upon the subject. But when it is stated that it is impossible ever to concede, and that this exclusion is to go on for all eternity, I utterly deny the justice of the assertion. I cannot conceive, when I reflect upon the learning and talents of the people of Ireland, that no change will ever take place in their opinions upon this subject, of themselves, which may induce me to consent to it. I look forward to the time when that change may take place; not, however, that it will be effected by any force or heat of party feeling, nor the violence of power, but by learning, by knowledge, and increased liberality of feeling and spirit; and when 982 I see what learning, what knowledge, and power of mind these people have shewn in exerting themselves on this great question, I am persuaded, that if this talent and that mind be fully and fairly applied to the examination of the question between us, that there are great hopes to be entertained, that in this state of the world there may be an alteration of great effect upon their minds.
§ Is there any thing bigoted or intolerant in this? Certainly, it implies a sanguine judgment in me, and certainly, to my mind, it does appear that on a fair, rational, and candid examination of the doctrines of the Protestant religion, that religion is to be preferred by a rational mind to the Roman Catholic. I do therefore repeat, that I do expect, that I do look forward with confidence, indeed, I have no manner of doubt that a considerable change in a very short time will be effected in the Roman Catholic mind of Ireland; and I cannot conceive but that the state of the world is extremely favourable to the change. I cannot conceive that all those revolutions that have passed, that are still passing; that have been shaking—and are still shaking and disturbing the Roman Catholic religious establishments of Europe, will be productive of no effect upon the Roman Catholics of Ireland. I will not believe that the removal of the Pope from his temporal power will have no effect. I think it will have the effect of opening their eyes, and awakening their understandings to the examination of a question of so much vital importance to their interests and the interests of the British empire. I think the manner in which they have gone on for some time past, is but the harbinger of that revolution in their minds, which, I trust, will speedily take place. Out of these circumstances, I think it would be reasonable for the House to look speedily for an event which would lead to the determinate conciliation of this question upon terms consistent with the safety and solid happiness of the British empire. I think no man ought to despair of what may be the effect upon the Roman Catholic mind in Ireland. But till I see what the effect of these revolutions is upon that mind, I cannot form any conclusive judgment upon the subject. I cannot, however, but express a hope that there is a great opening in the Catholic mind; but whether that is so or not, considesing this subject conscientiously, with a view to the secu- 983 rity of the constitutional establishments of this country and of Ireland, I cannot, under the present circumstances, vote for this question. It does not appear to me, that while the Roman Catholics continue to entertain a foreign influence in a manner distinctly from ourselves, and professing a religion claiming possession of all the ecclesiastical property of Ireland; it does appear to me, I say, a proposition pregnant with danger to our establishment, and to meet which no sufficient argument has yet been offered, or that could induce me to relinquish any one of those conscientious grounds upon which I am hostile to the Catholic claims.
§ I have endeavoured to abstain from every thing that could be calculated to excite irritation; and I have given my opinion with as little animosity as I trust any man with my sentiments can be found to deliver himself upon such a subject; and I hope that no man will suffer himself to give way to more warmth of feeling than it shall appear that I have done. I am not actuated by the least feeling of hostility in my mind towards the Catholics of Ireland. It is unquestionably a most painful situation for the person who has to conduct the measures of government, to perform public duties which he knows must necessarily give pain to any description of his Majesty's subjects. I can assure the House that I do not harbour the slightest feeling of hostility against them. But the person who has the honour to be at the head of the government, cannot but experience a painful reflection that his views and opinions as an individual must be against the wishes of any numerous class of his fellow subjects, on a great state question like the present. I may be supposed to be influenced or affected by feelings of personal hostility. For my own part I feel none. There is no act of charity or kindness that I would not be glad to confer, most unfeignedly, upon a Roman Catholic as soon as a Protestant. I have no sort of feeling of hostility what-ever towards them. This is sincerely the language of my heart. But I do most powerfully and strongly feel, that at the present moment, it would not be safe to confer more political power upon the Catholics; because in conferring more, you would only increase and raise their expectations of obtaining still further concessions; and I cannot help thinking that the reasoning and arguments of those hon. gentlemen who have advocated their 984 cause, have led them to expect concessions which could not be granted, and to excite expectations which have no sufficient reason on their side to support them.
§ Sir, if we were to accede to what is now demanded, I should next expect seriously, in a few years, when the subject had been more matured, to hear it proposed, that the Irish bishops of the establishment having first generously made over for the maintenance of the Irish Catholic clergy, one half their ecclesiastical property, were ready to make further proposals, with a view to that purpose, and for establishing them in a manner suitable to their rank and consequence, and submitting such a plan for his Majesty's approbation.
§ When this is done, and not before, we shall have some chance of creating a change of mind capable of bringing about this happy reconciliation.
§ Under all my views of this question, Sir, after having given it the coolest consideration in my power, and looked at it in every point of view, and without warmth, it is not too much to say, that I should dread the effect of further concession, would be tending to raise the expectations of the Roman Catholics, and without tending to conciliate, we should only raise to disappoint.—I must therefore vote against this question.
§ Mr. Whitbread
.—Sir; notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, I feel it impossible to give my vote upon this question without making a few observations on some of the extraordinary arguments which we have heard from our opponents, in resistance to the motion of my right hon. friend; and therefore I claim the indulgence of the House, promising to trespass upon their attention as briefly as possible.
Sir, I hail the approaching triumph of the Catholics of Ireland. The speech which we have just heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer is most satisfactory for them. He who has hitherto carried the blazing torch of intolerance, seems inclined that at least the flame shall burn more lambently. He, even he, does not despair that the time may come when the Catholics may enjoy "the consummation" so devoutly to be wished." But, Sir, the right hon. gentleman has charged my right hon. friend, who brought forward the present motion, with having changed his original ground, in moving for a committee to enquire into the state of the laws imposing civil disabilities on the Catholics, 985 instead of coming forward with a direct motion to grant their claims; and this by way of manœuvre, ad captandum, in order to obtain greater support to the cause of which he is the great advocate. Surely the right hon. gentleman must know, that this is the only mode of proceeding which the forms of the House will allow my right hon. friend to pursue. It is impossible for him to make any proposition involving a change in matters of religion, without moving in the first instance to refer the consideration of the subject to a committee of the whole House. The right hon. gentleman, with all his influence and authority, had he been placed in a situation similar to that of my right hon. friend, must have adopted a similar course. Sir, the right hon. gentleman has said a great deal on the subject of introducing into our debates the name of the sovereign. I am well aware that it is not consistent with parliamentary order to use the King's name in the debates of this House. I admit the rule to be perfectly constitutional. But, has not the right hon. gentleman himself frequently violated this rule, more especially when the present subject has been under discussion? Has he not frequently opposed to the claims of the Catholic petitioners the scruples of his Majesty as the principal barrier to all consideration of those claims with any hope of success? But he now deprecates any such introduction; and he tells us that to use the name of the Prince Regent, the immediate representative of the king, is equally inadmissible, because it is equally calculated to influence the deliberations of parliament.
Sir, it may not be parliamentary to mention the name of the Prince Regent, but surely there can be nothing unparliamentary or improper in referring to the declared opinions of the Prince of Wales. Of the opinions of the Prince Regent, we can certainly know nothing in this House. We can form no judgment of that opinion, except by what we know of the sentiments of those whom his Royal Highness has chosen as his ministers. But who does not know the hopes and expectations that were held out to the Catholics by the Prince of Wales? To him they looked as to the polar star of their wishes. The day of his accession to the sovereign authority they contemplated as the auspicious era of their entire liberation from the remaining links of those galling chains, under which they bad groaned through so many years 986 of sorrow and degradation. No one can doubt that when this era arrived, the expectation of the Catholics was justly raised to the highest pitch. Unhappily, nothing but the most bitter disappointment has followed, a disappointment without ground or justification.
The Catholics had a right to cherish the hopes which they entertained. The opinions of the Prince of Wales towards them had been not only not concealed or disguised, but they had ever been ostentatiously displayed. It would have been an affront to his Royal Highnsss not to have known that he was the protector of the Irish Catholics and the favourer of their claims. His sentiments had been too frequently recorded to be mistaken. Besides, there were so many concurrent circumstances to render it easy for him to carry his professed wishes into execution. The prejudice which had so long and so generally existed against concessions to the Catholics had been so nearly dissipated. The almost unanimous acquiescence of the Protestant community in these claims had been made so manifest—the active benevolence of several ecclesiastics of the Protestant Church, had produced an impression so favourable to the Catholics—the petitions from the Dissenters of all denominations, which I had the honour to present, spoke so strongly in their cause—the acknowledged tranquillity of Ireland afforded an opportunity so advantageous for this act of grace—and the critical situation of the empire at large called so loudly for it—that the Catholics are not liable to the charge of having indulged too fond a hope on the occasion. In this hope they were confirmed by the knowledge, that they had in their favour the opinion of all the persons worthy to be dignified with the appellation of the statesmen in the country, with the exception of two. Alas! these two, by some unaccountable fatality, have been selected as the ministers of the Regent. At this time the council is presided over, and the treasury administered by the only two men who could have been found to fill those situations, and to vote against the motion of my right hon. friend! Is it wonderful that those who have any feeling for the honour, for the character, for the future fame of the heir apparent, should deeply regret that in the discharge of the high functions which he is now called on to exercise, he should have placed himself in the hands of men who have avowed themselves to be the strongest opponents 987 of the promises and declarations of the Prince of Wales, and the just hopes and expectations of the Catholics of Ireland? In vain do we seek for the cause of the choice which his Royal Highness has thought proper to make. Were these persons the early friends of his Royal High-ness's political life? By no means. Have they been the participators of his convivial retirement? Until very recently they have been strangers to him. Have they conciliated his Royal Highness's affection or esteem? On the contrary, it is said that one of them has endured the severe reproach of his Royal Highness for the manner in which, by his conduct towards him, both in public and in private, he has sensibly wounded his dignity; and has not the other been always supposed to be any thing rather than a favourite with his Royal Highness? Yet into such hands has his Royal Highness consigned the government of this country; a government the whole influence of which is now exerted against any concession to the Irish Catholics. If, therefore, the result of my right hon. friend's motion should be unpropitious to the Catholics, let them not despair. They must be aware on what their fate depends. For many years their attempts at emancipation have been obstructed by the person administering the high functions of government. Thus, and thus only are they obstructed still. All the other difficulties which were in the way of concession, have been conquered: this alone remain?. From the crown—and from the crown alone, proceed the obstacles. The Regent has but to will, and the thing is done—he has but to will, and he will again be the idol of Ireland—he has but to wait, and the time will be for ever gone I Such is the actual state of the case. The recorded vole of the other House of Parliament proclaims it. The vote of this House to-night will I have no doubt confirm it, for who can suppose the influence of the crown not to extend so far as to decide the opinion of half the number, of which the majorities of both Houses are composed? It is fit that Ireland should know this: it is fit that the Catholics should feel that their fate is in the hands of the sovereign power. If the Catholics, in ignorance of the strange events which have occurred within the last two months, had asked, who held the sovereign power, the answer would have been "Ecce quod optanti." The Prince of Wales—the protector of the Catholics—the encourager of their 988 hopes, the defender of their claims." This joyful intelligence would have excited in their breasts an enthusiasm approaching to madness. They would have been all confidence, all rapture,—all delight: Strange reverse! how astonished, how overpowered would they have felt, had they suddenly been told, that from the very source of all their hope, proceeded the sad assurance of their disappointment! And at what a moment do the ministers whom the Regent employs give him this pernicious counsel, which may shake the very foundations of his father's throne! At a moment when the country within is agitated by discontents, the result of the total stagnation of commerce and manufactures;—at a moment when an enormously expensive contest rages without, of the termination of which these ministers themselves admit that not a ray of hope is visible—at a moment when a new war appears on the eve of breaking out, the proclamation of it having been already issued by the Regent's declaration fron Whitehall;—at a moment when the maritime force of our enemy is increasing to a scale which we have formerly been told could be the result only of peace;—at a moment when the apprehension of approaching scarcity over-spreads the land;—Gracious God! Sir, at such an awful moment do we find, from the speech of the right hon. gentleman and from the speeches of those by whom he is supported, that the affairs of this country are placed in the hands of men, who, simply on the ground of a difference in religious faith, advise the Regent, by the rejection of their just claims, to hazard the revolt of four millions of his subjects, after the repeated proofs which they have given of fidelity an affection for his person. They shut their eyes to the situation of the country, but they open them wide to some paltry publications which have fallen in their way, and affect to justify their own conduct by quoting extracts of pamphlets (read scrap by scrap, I and without the context) as if they spoke the language of the Catholics of Ireland; in order to throw an odium upon that loyal and respectable body. They set at naught all the declarations, all the oaths, and all the other irrefragable proofs that stand in evidence of their unshaken loyalty, and undeviating attachment to the constitution! And then. Sir, who are the authors of these books and, pamphlets on which so much stress has been laid? Several of them are anonymous. One of them is 989 written by a Mr. Keogh, a young man heated by the ardour of youth, perhaps irritated by personal disappointments, but certainly not representing, and not accredited by the Catholic body. And yet this is one of the authentic documents on which we are called upon to form bur estimate of Catholic principles, and to reject all enquiry on the subject of the Catholic pretensions! Sir, when the right honourable gentleman comes to talk of petitions, he never directs your attention to the north or to the south. He takes care never to advert to the petitions from the Protestant landed interest of every province of Ireland in favour of the claims of their Catholic brethren. He takes care never to advert to what is equally strong with any Petition;—the total and acquiescent silence of every Protestant corporation and community in the United Empire, (with the exception indeed of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and the corporation of Dublin, respecting all whose Petitions I shall say something by and bye.) You are told that the great body of the Protestants of Great Britain are alarmed, and are decidedly averse from all further concessions to the Catholics. In support of these sentiments and to shew the foundation of these fears, the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes out of his pocket a book, from which he reads to you opinions and tenets which he says have been formerly entertained, and held at some Catholic college; and he adds to these a number of extracts derived from a controversial pamphlet written by a Catholic clergyman—a Dr. O'Connor, neither acknowledged by nor connected with any Catholic authority civil or ecclesiastic, and for which work I understand the reverend author is at this very moment, under the censare of his superiors. Such, Sir, are the grave authorities upon which we are to be dissuaded from going into any enquiry into the Catholic claims. Still, however, as if to goad those whom you have made desperate to actual madness, you mock the Catholics by telling them it is not quite impossible the time may arrive for the consideration of their claims. The right hon. gentleman tells you, that when the Catholics desert the Pope—that is, when the Catholics cease to be Catholics,—then, and then only, shall their claims be entertained. Why, Sir, if the Catholics, deserting the see of Rome, were to abandon all submission to the spiritual authority of the Pope, they would be gathered among the 990 number of Protestants, and there would end all necessity for discussing the subject now before us. Another right hon. gentleman, (Mr. Yorke.) says, that in the year 1791, he was of opinion some indulgences ought to be granted to the Catholics, but that he has since changed his mind, and that he will not now consent to any concessions to them until they agree to choose an Irish Pope. The House will judge of the probability of such an event; and will thereby estimate the degree of decorum with which the subject is treated by this right hon. member of the administration; the determination taken by the right hon. gentleman is of the same complexion as that taken by his colleagues on another branch of their policy,—they risk the commercial ruin of their country, rather than repeal the Orders in Council before Buonaparié shall, after their formula, have revoked his Berlin and Milan Decrees. The right hon. gentleman has endeavoured again to excite our fears, and to persuade the House, there is great danger to be apprehended from the Irish Catholics, because the present Pope is in the power of Buonaparté. But how is the power of Buonaparté over the Pope exercised? Thus,—Buonapariéc his body in prison, because he cannot subdue his mind, and render him subservient to his will. Can the right hon. gentleman persuade the House that the Irish Catholics are dangerous, because the spiritual head of their Church prefers the strictest confinement to the prostitution of his spiritual power to the command" of his gaoler! This is what the right hon. gentleman calls "having the Pope in his power;" and it is on this ground he declares the venerable Pontiff to be dangerous, when he is suffering a spiritual martyrdom to prove, he will not make his spiritual power the instrument of the political purposes of the emperor of France. The right hon. gentleman has happily added, that even if there were no danger to be apprehended from the influence of the present Pope, who could answer for the conduct of his successor? Sir, in order to dissipate all the terrors of this bugbear, I refer you to the solemn declaration of the Irish Catholic bishops published in 1810, in the following words:—"That if the present Pope shall die in prison, or under the controul or coercion of the ruler of France, they will never acknowledge any other Pope, unless he be canonically elected according to the rules of the Roman Catholic Church, free and 991 independant of all foreign controul."—This, Sir, is I think a sufficient answer to the question of the right hon. gentleman. The right hon. gentleman next talked of elections in Ireland, and of the influence which the Catholics threaten they will exert, not to have returned any Irish members to the next parliament but such as are friendly to their claims. Sir, this is the very game played by the ministers themselves on no very remote occasion. They propagated the cry of "No Popery," and endeavoured to persuade the elective body not to return any representative friendly to the Catholic cause; the principle is not new,—can they quarrel with its application, warranted as it is by their example? The truth, however, is, that ministers feel exceedingly sore because the Catholics in one or two counties of Ireland have at their public meetings resolved not only not to vote for any candidate who will not pledge himself to support the Catholic claims; but also not to vote in support of any administration, of which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer shall be a component part, because they know him to be the bar, and the only bar, to the removal of their disabilities. Really, Sir, if such a Resolution had been adopted by the Catholic constituency in every county in Ireland, (and the transaction is stated to have occurred only in a few of the counties) it could not be matter of surprize, or blame, that the Catholics had resolved to use the sole political influence in their power exclusively in favour of their friends, and in hostility to their avowed and determined enemies? Is it wonderful, after the promises they have received, and the confident expectations they have been taught to entertain in the event of the Prince of Wales coming to the first office in the state, that under the severe disappointment of those sanguine hopes, the Catholics should thus mark their feelings towards that person whom his Royal Highness has selected as his prime minister and who now stands forward as the only obstacle to their wishes? (A cry of "No, no"—from the Treasury benches.) Is there any man who hears me, that can doubt, that if that right hon. gentleman would only hold up his finger, the motion for a committee would be carried this night? Oh!! I am sure that if the votes on the division were examined, it will be seen who they are that will form the majority against this question—the situations they hold, and the expectations they en- 992 tertain, will sufficiently evince whether their repugnance to enter into the consideration of the claims of the Catholics is the pure result of unbiassed judgment, and honest conviction. Sir, I repeat, that his royal highness the Prince Regent has chosen for his prime minister the man who is the principal bar to the wishes of the Catholics.
Sir, the right hon. gentleman tells us, that he sees a great movement in the Catholic mind, which at some future period may render it less unadvisable to admit them to the enjoyment of political power. I ask him where he now finds that backwardness of mind and talent in the Irish Catholic any more than in the Irish Protestant community, which unfits the Catholics at this very moment from filling with honour to themselves and advantage to the state, any of those high offices to which they aspire? In what situation of life have their intellectual powers, by comparison with those of their opponents and oppressors, been proved so inferior as to warrant their exclusion from all situations of great trust and confidence? Sir, while I am on this part of the subject, I wish to advert to what fell from an hon. and learned gentleman, (Mr. Owen,) last night,—I wish to call the recollection of the House for a few moments to the strain of the——high born Heel's harp.That hon. and learned gentleman,—I am sorry I do not now see him in his place, told you that there was a moral incapacity in the lower orders of the people of Ireland, to rise to those important offices to which the Catholics aspire. Sir, I cannot boast with that hon. and learned gentleman of descent from an illustrious ancestry; but. Sir, were he here, I should be glad to ask him, whether we were to attribute the choice speech with which he favoured us last night, to the effect of superior birth, or to native intellect? I should be glad he would prove to me the moral incapacity of any class of his Majesty's subjects to fill any situations to which natural talent and great acquirements may raise them,—independent of the adventitious circumstances of high birth, and illustrious progenitors. Argument there can be none on this subject. There may be assertion, but however strong it is unwarrantable, unfounded, and contradicted by all history. I was astonished to hear such a declaration from the lips of a man of the ability, education and liberal pro- 993 fession of the hon. gentleman. Born and living under the happy constitution of this country, of which it is the characteristic distinction, that any man, however humble in origin, may by the exertion of his talents and the display of his virtues rise to the highest offices of the state. Does the hon. and learned gentleman draw his conclusion from general observation, or from the observation of the Irish character alone? If from general observation it is entirely false. Poets have sung and historians have recorded his refutation. If we turn over the annals of our own country we see the names of Cromwell, Wolsey and others of former times; men of the lowest extraction, but raised to eminence by the force of their extraordinary-talents. If we advert to recent periods, who that reflects on the extensive literary acquirements of that inimitable genius the late professor Porson, to whom even a Parr could deign to concede the prize of scholarship, will venture to maintain that by birth, however obscure, a man can be incapacitated from reaching the heights of fame! How beautifully does Gray contradict the assertion of the hon. and learned gentleman, when in pondering over the records of the dead, he states the probability that opportunity alone had been wanting to have enabled many of the lowly villagers to obtain in their time monuments in the temple of fame,Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast,.The little tyrant of his fields withstood,Some mule inglorious Milton here may rest,Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.Sir, it is our boast that to England the assertion of the hon. and learned gentleman will not apply.—It is my boast that to England the assertion of the hon. and learned gentleman will not apply. To those who live under a free government it is inapplicable, unhappily the case is the reverse in despotic countries. We have seen a terrible example of this in our own times—we have seen in a neighbouring nation the dreadful effects of the efforts of those who were compelled to break their bonds, before they could shew their powers, and we have witnessed the convulsions that were the consequences of their original exclusion from a participation in the privileges of their countrymen. But, perhaps, the hon. and learned gentleman may protest against its being considered that his assertion was general: he may wish to 994 confine it to Ireland and to Irishmen. What, Sir, have Irishmen even of the lowest order no talent? Is not talent indigenous to the soil of Ireland? Is not Irish talent proverbial? Does not talent flourish with the shamrock in every vale and on every mountain, in every field and mead of that delightful country? I remember in the early discussions upon the Slave Trade it was said that negroes had not the same intellect as Europeans, and therefore ought to be enslaved; but little did I expect to hear it asserted that Irishmen had not the same intellect as Britons, and therefore ought to be restrained.God's Image disinherited of DayHere plunged in mines, forget a sun was made.There beings deathless as their haughty lordAre hammered to the galling oar for life,And plough the winter wave, and reap despair!Such is the doom which the hon. and learned gentleman would pronounce upon the lower class of the people of Ireland, such the seed he would compel them to sow, and such the harvest he would compel them to reap, sir, in our conduct to the Irish Catholics, there is something very like insanity. We profess to be afraid of them. We dare not admit them to our fleets and armies. We cannot trust them as counsellors or commanders. But our practice is in palpable contradiction to our affected alarm. The ranks of that army now led so gloriously by an illustrious chief, who if he has yet failed in altogether securing the peninsula from the possession of the enemy, has failed only because such an achievement seems impracticable. The ships of that navy which triumphs every where over the fleets of the foe, is yet from unavoidable causes unable to prevent the silent and gradual, but not less certain growth of his maritime strength—those ranks and those ships are filled with Irish Catholics. At the instant I am speaking is not this Great Britain overspread with the Irish Catholics in consequence of the interchange legally effected by the proposition of these ministers themselves of the militias of the two countries? Are not our naval arsenals garrisoned by Irish Catholics? Are not your prisoners of war guarded by Irish Catholics? Are not then Irish Catholics fighting your enemies abroad, and fulfilling at home the various trusts which you have so justly reposed in them? It cannot then be true that you are under any real apprehension" respecting the Catholics. On the contrary 995 their loyalty is so tried that you dare in use them, and yet confide in them.
Sir, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that the Irish Catholics have free liberty for their own mode of worship, which is all they ought to have. I deny the fact. In the army, the Irish Catholic soldier in Ireland may worship God according to the forms of his own religion, but the instant he transfers his services to Great Britain—for your defence—he forfeits that privilege, and becomes obnoxious to the penalties of the law.
When the Bill for the interchange of the militias of the two countries, was in its progress through this House, and a clause was proposed to exempt the Irish Catholic militiaman from the operation of the penalties attached in this country to the exercise of his religion, that clause was resisted; and we were told that the purpose would be answered by an order issued from the Horse Guards, to dispense with the observance of the law in this respect; so that the Irish Catholic soldier or officer in England, enjoys the exercise of his religion as a matter of indulgent regulation, revocable at pleasure, and not as a matter of undoubted legal right. It has been said. Sir, that this question has been so often before debated, that nothing new has been advanced during the whole discussion. This cannot be asserted by those who heard the powerful speech made by a noble lord on the other side of the House (lord Binning) in support of the motion of my right hon. friend. Can it be made by those who heard the able refutation which proceeded from my noble friend behind me (lord Milton) of the arguments of the learned and right hon. gentleman (Dr. Duigenan) who spoke early in the debate? In the van of the anti-Catholics once more appeared that learned doctor. His substitute, (Sir J. Nicholl) seems glad to have escaped, and to have withdrawn his vicarious back from the chance of a second chastisement from a right hon. gentleman on the lower bench (Mr. Canning). The learned doctor was received, like a general returning to the head of his brigade, with the loudest acclamations of his troops. He repeated his old assertions. He produced his old effect. How gratifying did the speech of the learned doctor appear to the Chancellor of the Exchequer! How he hung upon his accents! How delightful, Sir, it would have been to the Regent to have heard the learned doctor speaking, and his prime- 996 minister applauding every word that he uttered, applauding himself too, and exulting in his choice of a privy counsellor for his sovereign! But I will leave the learned doctor to travel hoodwinked round and round the same circle of absurdity, in which for so many years he has been moving, and I will proceed to the more pleasing task of enquiring whether, among the defects in point of novelty, of which the supporters of the Catholic cause are accused, is to be enumerated the speech of ray young and hon. friend behind me (Mr. Vernon) whose able exertions in support of that cause, if equalled within these walls, has rarely, indeed, been surpassed. His speech has done him immortal honour: if he proceeds in his parliamentary career as he has begun it, he must soon obtain a decided preponderance in this House. How will the grateful hearts of the people of Ireland rejoice to find so powerful, so animated a defender—in the son of the archbishop of York—in a man who must be thoroughly informed on the subject, and who would never utter a sentiment of injurious tendency towards that establishment, over which his venerable father presides—under whose careful eye he has been educated—from whom his principles have been derived. Have there then been no novelties in this debate? But, Sir, there is another striking novelty in the debate of this night, for the noble lord opposite to me (lord Castlereagh) has not yet spoken. That noble lord on one occasion declared, that he would never return to place unless to carry the question of Catholic emancipation. The noble lord, however, did return to place when he knew he could not carry the question of Catholic emancipation. Though we had the benefit of his speech for us on a former occasion, we were deprived of his vote on the plea of scruples existing in the royal mind. Those scruples are now out of the question; and I ask the noble lord why he has remained silent during the present discussion? I will try to provoke the noble lord to speak.—The noble lord has said that he never would return to place and power, unless he could carry the question of the Catholic claims; but the noble lord has thrice accepted place and power, with his pledge unredeemed; and lastly, he has taken office in an administration under the guidance of a right hon. gentleman who has de dared himself inexorably hostile to those claims; in one part of his speech, indeed, 997 he told us, that he spoke only his own sentiments, yet, before he finished, affirmed that he and his colleagues were unanimous on the question, and that the very Union between the two countries caused by the influence of the Catholics, on the conviction expressed or strongly implied of their approaching emancipation, would be an eternal barrier against conceding it. I ask the noble lord if he accedes to that statement of unanimity? Does the noble lord conceive it to be consistent with his former declarations, to make one of an administration who are thus unanimous against a measure, the hope of which he formerly held out as the indispensable means of carrying the Union?—Sir, the noble lord is well known to Ireland, and Ireland is well known to him. At the period of the Union, when the marquis Cornwallis presided the government of that country, the noble lord was the minister for Ireland; and it has been repeatedly alleged, in support of the Catholic cause, and never denied, that the express condition on which the Catholics consented to the Union, (and it could not have been effected without their consent), was that their claims should be considered. This it was said could not be done in the parliament of Ireland, but it was promised that it should be one of the first propositions brought forward in the united parliament, after the Union should be complete. The noble lord was the man through whom this agreement was negociated with the leaders of the Catholic body. The noble lord knew that Mr. Pitt was decidedly favourable to Catholic emancipation, and, if I am not misinformed, he drew up a plan for carrying this great object into effect.
After the measure of the Union was carried, however, new and unexpected obstacles arose; but so conscious were Mr. Pitt and his noble colleague of the pledge which they had given to the Catholics, that, finding they were prevented from submitting the question to parliament as a government measure, they retired from office, to which they declared they never would return, unless they should be empowered to redeem it. Now, I ask, and I hope to hear from the noble lord, why he has relinquished this condition, and why he has again leagued himself with an administration which, according to the statement of the right hon. gentleman, is unanimous in resisting the Catholic claims? One part of the noble lord's plan, (to 998 which I have before alluded,) for preserving tranquillity in Ireland after the Union, was, as I understand, to provide for the Catholic priesthood. And now, twelve years after the Union has been effected, we are told by the colleagues of the noble lord, "If you provide further for the education and maintenance of the Catholic clergy of Ireland, you, in fact, transfer the establishment of the Protestant Church to the Catholics." Sir, may I be permitted to call to the recollection of the House, the period at which the honourable pledges, which I have mentioned, were originally plighted to the Catholics of Ireland? It was in the year 1798, when a rebellion existed in that country. The noble lord has repeatedly assured us, in this House, that that rebellion was not a Catholic rebellion. The learned Doctor, one of the noble lord's associates, in opposing my right hon. friend's motion, assures us, on the contrary, not only that that rebellion was a Catholic rebellion, but that every other rebellion that ever took place in Ireland has been a Catholic rebellion. Leaving these high authorities to reconcile this mutual contradiction as they can, I may be permitted to hope, that the learned Doctor will allow, that Ireland is not exclusively the portion of the empire in which rebellions have occurred; and, at least, the rebellion of Scotland, in 1745, was not a rebellion of Irish Catholics, nor was it aided by them. They took no advantage of the perilous state of the country.
Sir, the noble lord has told us heretofore, that he saw the different cabals of Ireland in a flame, without knowing who might be the victims; and that he was persuaded the Union was the only measure to put an end to the mischief. He bought the parliament of Ireland with the spoils of the people of Ireland, their representation was merged in this House; but the noble lord says, he gave no specific promise to the Catholics, further than that their claims would have a fairer opportunity of being considered in the British parliament if they supported him in carrying the Union. Why, Sir, if the proposition had been understood by the Catholics in this limited sense, is it probable they would have lent their influence to carry a measure which annihilated for ever the independence of their country, merely for the chance of having their claims considered, without any pledge that their grievances should be removed? 999 Whatever it might be, the pledge given to the Catholics was so strong as to raise in them the greatest hopes—hopes in which they now find themselves so cruelly disappointed. I hope. Sir, we shall bear from the noble lord some explanation of this paradox. I know there are men in this country who stand pledged to the support of the Catholic claims (though certainly not on the same grounds as the noble lord) who, if they possessed the same facility as the noble lord in abandoning their principles and their promises, might have commanded office and power. Their refusal has raised them justly high in the estimation and confidence of their country; and when we consider the critical situation of this empire, both abroad and at home, we have every reason to lament, that the direction of our affairs is pot reposed in the hands of men favourable to the adoption of a measure, on the success of which, in ray firm conviction, depends our security, if not our existence. As to the Catholics, I hope and believe; they will persevere in the dutiful and loyal conduct which they have hitherto observed; trusting to the ultimate justice and liberality of parliament for that redress of their grievances which it is still to be hoped is at no very great distance. They see that the sentiments of their liberal Protestant countrymen are decidedly with them. They see that the more their claims are discussed in this House, the more their cause gains ground with every enlightened and unprejudiced man within and without these walls; and they will excuse me, if I suggest to them the wisdom and policy of not suffering their zealous but imprudent friends to cast in their way impediments not essential to their religious tenets.
Among the numerous Petitions on your table, Sir, the only ones against the Catholic Claims, are those of the two Universities, and that of the Protestant corporation of Dublin. With respect to the first, I must beg pardon, for declaring that in ray opinion, they appear on the face of them, to have been obtained only by the manœuvres of a small faction, trying to gain ministerial favour. As to the Petition from Cambridge, the meeting from which it proceeded was not convened until late on the Saturday. The Sunday was employed in a clandestine canvas for votes, and the Petition was carried on the Monday, by a majority of only five votes. Sir, there is a passage in this Peti- 1000 tion bears internal evidence of the haste with which the whole was drawn. The Catholics may console themselves in the disgrace reflected upon their opponents by the nonsense they have uttered. If there be any member of the learned body who signed the. Petition, who can interpret the passage I shall quote, he will deserve the distinction of a new professor's chair. The passage is as follows: "And that the power of the Pope, though for various reasons lessened in the public opinion, is notwithstanding now more dangerous to us than ever, being itself brought under the controul of a foreign, and our most inveterate enemy; and that the petitioners as members of a Protestant University are confirmed in their apprehensions of a foreign influence, from the tendency which it is reported appears among some of the Roman Catholic petitioners for the Bill to wards affecting the King's supremacy in the Church."
Now let any man alive—let all the Cantabrigians in this House come forward; and, if they can, explain these words to those to whom they are addressed; and yet those few members who convoked the meeting and framed the Petition, are pleased to call it the Petition of that learned University.—The Petition from the University of Oxford stands in some-what a similar predicament. For of the thousand members belonging to that University, not more than one hundred attended the meeting at which the Petition was proposed; and in the minority upon the division respecting it, were the vice chancellor, the two proctors, and several heads of houses.—I am sorry, Sir, to detain the House, but I feel it necessary to trespass upon them with a very few more observations. The right honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer has assured us, that the Protestant mind of England is decidedly hostile to the Catholic Claims. I should be glad to know where he discovered that fact? The right honourable gentleman resides and has long resided in the metropolis. He is well acquainted with London and Westminster. He is not without partizans or influence in either. And yet the Protestant corporation of London have voted an address to the Prince Regent, not only in favour of the Catholic Claims, but praying for the removal of that right honourable gentleman and his colleagues from office, principally on account of their resistance to 1001 those claims. I ask from what Protestant corporation or community in Great Britain (except those which I have already mentioned) has there been a single address or petition against the Catholics, although petitions have poured in from every quarter, and now load the table of the House against some of the favourite measures of the right honourable gentleman; and although the approach of this discussion was (to use words which have frequently been quoted) "as notorious as the sun at noon day." But, it is said "the corporation of Dublin has petitioned against the Catholic Claims." I have in my hand an account which I am assured is correct, of the proceedings of that corporation on the very day when the Petition was signed. It was the day appointed for the election of sheriffs for the coming year; and I find that among the loyal and orderly Protestant corporation, a test was proposed, by a Mr. Giffard, to be put to the candidates for the shrievalty. This test was, whether they would support the Protestant establishment by firmly resisting the admission of Catholics to the freedom of the corporation of Dublin, even though the legislature should relax the severity of the existing laws. I find a Mr. Warner, one of the candidates for the office of sheriff, weak enough to accept this test, and to promise to resist the admission of Catholics into the corporation, even to refuse swearing them in, contrary to the provisions of any law which may hereafter be enacted, Mr. Warner is returned. The circumstance is passed over by the worshipful board of aldermen. It occurs within the cognizance of his Majesty's government, close to the residence of the viceroy; yet, neither the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, nor the King's Attorney General, nor the Chief Justice of the court of King's bench, feel it necessary to take any notice of such a proceeding in that Protestant corporation, always boasting of its loyalty and its attachment to the laws. Nor is the declaration of a predetermination to resist the law deemed any disqualification of a man for the office of sheriff, whose duty it is, (upon oath) to support the law, and among whose functions be it observed is the very important one of selecting the jurors who are to sit in judgment upon the lives and properties of his Catholic fellow citizens. But, Sir, had a similar proceeding occurred in a Catholic assembly, the case would have been quite altered. We 1002 should then have had the alarm sounded from every quarter. What is the next step taken by this loyal and liberal Protestant corporation? A gallant officer, and an Irishman,—a major O'Donoghoe, who had been fighting the battles of his country on the peninsula, and who had particularly distinguished himself in the defence of Tarifa, where colonel Skerret commanded, under whom the gallant major was second in command, returns to his country covered with honourable wounds. An achievement of such inportance in the estimation of ministers, and the country at the time, that the loss of Valencia sunk in oblivion before it. In this assembly it was proposed to compliment their brave countryman with a vote of thanks and the freedom of the corporation, accompanied with the present of a sword. But just as the vote is about to pass with acclamation, a question is put by Mr. Giffard, "whether major O'Donoghoe was a Protestant?" Not whether he had fought bravely—Not whether he had bled in the cause of his country—but what were his religious tenets! "Don't tell me of his gallantry," exclaims this Mr. Giffard, "I was born a Protestant; I had a Protestant nurse, I sucked Protestant, ism in with the first breath I drew, I was brought up in the Protestant faith, these principles I have always professed—the principles of the thirty nine articles—the principles of Luther, Cranmer and Locke, nay, of the immortal Shakespeare." Sir, Mr. Plymley himself could not have pourtrayed the character of Mr. Giffard, and in him have personified the whole class of which he is the representative, in terms more satirically ludicrous than those in which this gentleman has pourtrayed himself. I have often thought that all the traits of character given by the immortal genius whose name Mr. Giffard has so woefully prostituted were simple transcripts of what the poet had seen or heard, not invented or even exaggerated. Mr. Giffard has confirmed me in those notions. Had any inattentive observer of nature read such a scene in a play of Shakespeare, he would have said the poet was extrava vagant. Here you have Mr. Giffard himself. It is beyond the power of human ingenuity to make any representation more extravagant than the original. But mark the proceedings of the court! Thanks were voted to major O'Donoghoe, "thanks enough you may have," says Mr. Giffard, "but bare thanks—no Protestant honours 1003 for Catholic wounds." The sword was also voted. "Return with it," says Mr. Giffard "to your regiment, wield it against the foes of your country, gain new victories and shed fresh blood in our cause, but never indulge the hope, whatever military glory you may acquire, to have the honour of your freedom in our Protestant corporation." The freedom of the corporation was actually refused to this gallant soldier. And this. Sir, is the enlightened Protestant corporation of Dublin, to whose single Petition against the just claims of four millions of the gallant and loyal people of Ireland you are required to pay more deference than to all the other Petitions of the people of Ireland, Protestant as well as Catholic. It may be said, that the Irish government had nothing to do with the proceedings which I have described. But do not ministers know that this Mr. Giffard is the bosom friend of the learned and right honourable Doctor—that he is connected with the Irish government? Have they set their faces against such proceedings? If not, is it not fair to conclude that they approve and adopt them? It is objected to us, that if these concessions shall be granted to the Catholics, all the disabilities under which the Protestant Dissenters labour must be repealed! God forbid they should not!! I have had the honour of presenting numerous Petitions to this House, signed by thousands of respectable and enlightened men of all denominations of Christians, praying for full liberty of conscience. I earnestly hope their prayer will be granted; and that each making common cause with the other in this truly glorious struggle, it will be successful to the destruction of ail the shackles which have been forged, and all the temptations to act in contradiction to the dictates of conscience which have been thereby created, to controul or to warp the mind of man in the performance of his most sacred duties. Sir, notwithstanding the miserable efforts of rancour and intolerance, I would say to the Irish Catholics, "Persevere in your moderate and dutiful Petitions to parliament; do not despair of the ultimate success of your cause. Have confidence in those who have always stood by you. See, there is no defection. See, all the honours which the crown can bestow are refused for your sake. See, your friends and supporters are bereft of power, because they are your friends and supporters. See, the decorations of honour lie unac- 1004 cepted in the sovereign's closet, pledges of fidelity towards you, symbols of admonition to him—all serene and glorious within, see Moira's breast without a star, 'Eo magis ornatus quia non ornatus.' See the encreasing spirit of liberality towards you among religionists of ail descriptions, among churchmen, among dissenters. Visit not upon the universities the sins of the intriguing few of their bodies. Read the Cambridge Petition. See the haste with which it was drawn, in the nonsense it contains. Hear the story of Oxford, and judge if her Petition speaks the voice of all her sons. Look in this House to the unshackled strength of the right hon. member for Hastings (Mr. Canning) exerted in your behalf; look at the brilliant efforts of the noble member for Callington, (lord Binning) of the son of one of the highest dignitaries of our church, of the noble member for Yorkshire, (lord Milton) all exerted in your behalf; see by whom such men are opposed; see the balance in the hands of the crown, confide in your father and your friend,—be patient—be firm—be moderate—and your cause is gained."
.—Sir, I would not willingly trouble the House with any observations of mine on this question, nor should I have opened my lips to night, if the circumstances of my private life in Ireland, had not become matter of observation touching this subject, on the part of the hon. gentleman who spoke last.
With respect to the vote I shall give to night, my right hon. friend (Mr. Perceval) has truly stated, that the cabinet are unanimous in their opinion, that the question of concession to the Catholics could not now be conveniently agitated, nor any enquiry gone into upon the subject of the legal disabilities of his Majesty's Catholic subjects in Ireland, with the hope of coming to any ultimate and satisfactory arrangement.
I apprehend I may save a great deal of the time of the House; for, the reasons upon which my vote was founded against the proposition made in the early part of the session, apply, with very slight shades of difference indeed, to that which is now under consideration.
The hon. gentleman who spoke last has stated, that my right hon. friend is the only-bar between the Roman Catholics and the concession of their claims. I deny the fact. Sir, the greatest obstacle, and the 1005 greatest bar, to the attainment of their wishes, has been their own injudicious mode of prosecuting their claims—and the injudicious manner they are supported by their advocates; and I do protest in the face of the; country, and the face of the House, against that injudicious and dangerous mode of throwing a sort of blame on the government of the country, which gentlemen on the other side hare adopted. I do also protest against that unconstitutional theme of blame, so industriously cast upon the illustrious person now exercising the sovereign power of the state, upon the supposition that pledges and hopes were given to the Catholics at the period when that illustrious individual was a private but disencumbered person. All I can say is, that if such hopes and expectations were raised in Ireland, it was owing to the rash indiscretion and improper conduct of those, through whom such communications were made, and which now forms one of the insuperable bars to the concession of Catholic demands. But I have no hesitation in saying, that looking at the present state of the country, of Ireland and Great Britain—looking at the principles that the Catholics urge in favour of their own objects—considering that they have thought it expedient to put their claims upon no other footing, than that which their experience should have taught them, would not be acceded to; namely, a reluctance to give those securities they are called upon to give against the danger of concession; I do say, that although the crown is entitled to adopt its own sentiments, yet as far as I can exercise an opinion, I think that his Royal Highness would have exercised a most unsound discretion if he had authorised any of his ministers to accede to the wishes of the Catholics upon the ground they have been urged. I think he would have risked the public tranquillity of the empire, at a period when the exertions of the empire are most necessary to enable it to struggle with the difficulties which surround it. I do not believe a government even so authorised could have carried this question under the impressions that have been made upon the public mind by the imprudent conduct of the Catholics themselves; and I say that the agitation of this question now would have risked, more than any other step, the interests of the Catholics themselves; for, I never can believe that the Catholics can derive any advantage from these concessions, unless they unite with them, by their 1006 own conduct, the affection and interest of the people of England, which they know they cannot do, unless they come into the constitution upon other principles of religion, than those upon which their claims were heretofore supported:—and in that view of the subject I do again say, it is as little for their interest, as for the interest of the Protestants of Great Britain, that their claims upon parliament should now be agitated. I do therefore apprehend that the attempt to carry the question by this mode of proceeding, and that too at a period, and under circumstances so embarrassing to the government of the country, comes under that class of conduct, which no person of sense in the country can contemplate without sensations of surprise and regret. And I do think it is as injurious to the character and feelings as it is unconstitutional, in respect of the dignity and rank of the illustrious individual alluded to, to bring forward this allegation in such a manner, that it cannot be met and refuted, and at a time, and in a situation when that illustrious personage cannot have any opportunity of stating the circumstances under which those opinions imputed to him were formed and delivered.
Now Sir, with respect to the question immediately before the House, I do not think it is a fair mode of bringing forward the Catholic claims; and I perfectly agree with my right hon. friend, that it is calling upon the House to give a blind vote—to deceive the Catholics and to commit themselves.
The hon. gentleman says, that the rules of the House prescribe that no question of this important nature shall be enquired into, but in a Committee of the whole House. It is very true that no measure of this importance can be otherwise dealt with; but I say, the House is not to go into a committee without knowing before hand to what its enquiries are to be directed. In a question of this magnitude, which involves the most vital principles of the constitution, it is fit that we should not be left in the dark with respect to gentlemen's intentions. We are called upon to go into a committee, not to consider of any measure propounded to us, but to go into a committee to enquire and examine into—what? Nothing that I can yet understand as a subject fit for the enquiry of a committee of the whole House. What is the question? That the House should go into a committee to take into consideration the penal laws of Ireland, as they 1007 affect the Roman Catholics. Now I say, that in a committee of the whole House, the right hon. gentleman, if he expects to receive any information which he cannot get without going into a committee, he must have deceived himself very much in his views of this subject, and on the arguments by which he could hope to induce the House to enter into the consideration of those measures, in respect of which his own and other gentlemen's feelings seem to have been so painfully excited. Suppose the argument of the hon. gentleman over the way (Mr. Whitbread) was true, still I apprehend it does not strictly apply to this case. Suppose a Bill was now before parliament, the principles of which were to be examined in a committee, and though the disclosure of the minute circumstances under which it was presented may be made, in that stage of its passage through the House, still the House would not entertain the motion for leave to bring in the Bill, unless sufficient grounds and the general outline of the amending measure were stated. I call upon the House therefore to avoid the absurdity into which a concurrence in this motion would inevitably lead them; and I charge the authors of this measure with a design to entrap the House into a step which must lead to confusion and terminate in the disappointment of all parties; and I do maintain that all those persons who vote for this question, do give a blind vote to a comprehensive and most important measure, under an implied engagement to support this question throughout, upon no fair or sound view of it. This is certainly a very convenient mode of collecting all the strength and favour of the House, in behalf of the Catholics, by agreeing in one vote:—but, after this fair caution, I trust the House will avoid the consequences that will follow, if they are led to go into a committee.
Now, I apprehend, the ground upon which persons who hold the same opinion that I hold, rest, is this, that it is impossible, under the consideration of the present temper of this country, and still more with a view to the disposition of the Catholics themselves, to entertain this question with any hopes of final conciliation between both parties. Because, I lament to say, that those dispositions which existed in the Catholic mind in the year 1800, are not to be found at the present moment. I was a friend to this measure at that time, because I was satified that the Ca- 1008 tholics were disposed to take up that measure upon liberal grounds, and to content themselves with closing with the government, upon principles not inimical to the Church or Stale. If the Catholics have withdrawn their pledges upon that subject, I would be glad to know upon what principle of fair reasoning (I would even appeal to themselves) do they accuse us of neglect and indifference to their claims, when they come to parliament under completely different circumstances, and completely different views. Because that makes the whole difference in the consideration of their claims; for the whole question is, whether it is advisable, safe, or expedient to make these concessions. I lament this circumstance deeply, because it is calculated to produce an impression on the minds of the Catholics that may be permanently disadvantageous to their claims, after the Catholics are awakened from their own delusion. It is one of the circumstances I never ceased to lament, that it was brought forward at the period of the Union only to lead to disappointment on both sides. If it could have been then satisfactorily effected, it would have-been a most desirable object. Certainly at that time there was a temper on both sides, of the question which gave great facilities to its execution, but which facilities have been defeated since by unfortunate circumstances on both sides.
Really I cannot understand upon what principles the Catholics (even for their own credit) do come to parliament again. Will it be stated that they have conscientious scruples against adopting that which all Catholic governments, in all Catholic countries, have adopted, upon the principle of self security? Will they refuse to do that which, if they were subjects of a Catholic state, they would be compelled by law to do, before they could be admitted to the privileges of citizens? Is it not a notorious circumstance that the Catholics of Ireland allow themselves to be blind to their own interest? Is it not very well known, that they refuse to admit their consciences to an arrangement which other Catholic countries have adopted? It is material, therefore, in the view the House takes of this question, to consider that the Catholics are now calling for the accomplishment of their views, to all appearance, unconditionally. They are calling upon the legislature to be admitted within its walls, without restraint. They are calling upon us to admit them within 1009 the pale of the constitution, while, at the same lime, they are refusing to give us those securities which are necessary to the existence of our establishment in Church and State.
Now there is a very broad distinction between the Protestant and the Catholic Church. The Protestant Church is a parliament Church. Every branch of the established Church of this country is regulated by law. Its discipline, its government in every part of it, is regulated by parliament. Now what do the Catholics require of you? They call upon you to allow them to become members of the legislature, and to legislate in the concerns, and in the ecclesiastical government of the Church of this country: They, as Roman Catholics, require of you to be the arbiters and legislators in matters relating to the Protestant religion, a religion, to which they are professedly, by their own tenets, hostile. Do you think then that after having admitted the Catholic laity to the legislature, that the Catholic clergy will remain perfectly quiescent and inactive? Do you think that influence which is now so widely diffused amongst their flocks, will suddenly cease, at a moment when that influence may be exerted with the greatest effect in furthering their own ambitious views? This is not putting the case by any means in an extravagant point of view: and yet these persons refuse to give you any security, or even to condescend to mention to you upon what terms they will receive so equal a participation in the benefits of the constitution. There is no responsive feeling on the part of the Catholics on this subject: and, did they wish that their reconciliation should be found-ed upon a permanent unchangeable and fixed basis, they would find no hesitation in adopting a regulation which at the same time that it did not connect them with the crown of these realms, would not separate them from it. That is the sole object which those who at present oppose Catholic claims aim at, and that is the true and the only principle of objection they urge against their claims.
Sir, no sentiment that I ever entertained upon this subject, no opinion that Mr. Pitt entertained upon the subject, and no grounds upon which I have ever opposed the Catholic claims can justify any man in imputing to me that I am inconsistent, in refusing to the Catholics those claims upon the principles on which they now demand them. It is my conscientious opi- 1010 nion that concession to the Catholics would be a measure of great advantage to the empire, if it can be connected with proper securities to the established Church; and if guarded with that degree of restriction that may meet with concurrence on the part of the Protestants, so as to render conciliation and harmony amongst all parties a primary object. My opinion never went the length of stating that this measure should be forced by parliament on the empire; and I know that Mr. Pitt's opinion was, that it never should be forced upon the country: but considering it as an advisable and advantageous measure under proper regulations, he did profess himself ready and willing to give it his support. Under these circumstances, without detaining the House at any greater length, I think I am not chargeable with any inconsistency in giving the vote I give this night against the agitation of this question; and I have no hesitation in asserting that I give the same vote that I have always given on the Catholic question upon the same principle.
These are the sentiments I have always stated, whether in or out of parliament, upon this important subject: and I wish that the hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House could justly lay claim to the same consistency on all occasions, in their votes, and it is not too much to say that on occasions of this kind, gentlemen's own convenience is consulted in preference to that of the welfare and happiness of the country: I repeat again. Sir, that I shall vote against this motion.
Right Hon. George Ponsonby.
Sir; I do not mean to detain the Home long, but in consequence of something which fell from the noble lord, it is necessary I should for a few moments request your indulgence.
The noble lord has said that it has been most unfairly and unconstitutionally urged in support of this question, that promises were held out to the: Roman Catholics on the authority of a person of the highest consideration in this country, at a former period, and that the promulgation of such promises to the Catholics of Ireland was owing to the rash indiscretion and improper conduct of those to whom such a favourable disposition was communicated. How does he know? Was he consulted? Was any communication made to him? I tell the noble lord that assertion is false. I tell him and the House that the 1011 communication was made in obedience to commands from that high quarter to those who made it.—I say this in the face of England. I tell the noble lord again that wherever he has received his information it is without truth. The noble lord was unconsulted and unacquainted with the facts.
I say that the noble duke lately at the head of the Irish government, as well as myself, did receive commands—not merely permission—but the actual commands from the illustrious personage alluded to, to make the communication, that such were the intentions of that great personage in respect to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, and that he would never forsake their interests.
I do not presune to accuse that great personage of any inconsistency or impropriety if he chuses to change his opinion or make choice of his ministers as he has done. But I never will sit silent and hear uncontradicted the assertion, that it was owing to the indiscretion of those who made that communication that it was made to the Catholics.
I have spoken so often upon this subject, and my sentiments upon it are so well known, that I feel it quite unnecessary at this late hour, to trouble the House with repealing them: but I was most anxious to correct the mis-statement of the noble lord, and set the opinion of the House right upon the point.
He has told the House it was settled at the time of the Union that nothing further was ever to be granted to the Catholics but upon certain conditions, to be complied with on their parts, and that his vote on this subject has always been guided by this consideration. And yet the noble lord, with all his friendship for the Catholics, will not vouchsafe to communicate to the House any one of the conditions upon which he would agree to concede their claims.
The noble lord says, the people of England are not prepared to make up their minds to those concessions. I ask, then, were they prepared twelve years ago; when those concessions were proposed as the very ground and condition of conciliating; the support of the Catholics to carry the Union?
The noble lord says, the general sense of the Protestants of Ireland is not favourable to the measure. Does the noble lord think, then, that they were more favourable to is at the Union, when he proposed 1012 it to the Catholics as part of the compact on which he was to carry that measure; or will he assert that there ever was any period at which the Protestants of Ireland were so favourable to it as they are at this moment. Sir, I promised the House that I should not trespass long on their attention, and I will keep ray promise.
. Sir, I deny that what I said, was, that those who made the communication in Ireland acted unconstitutionally; I said, they might have acted hastily and indiscreetly, and without any authority; not that they actually had done so. But I do hold, that it is unconstitutional to make allusions to the conduct or opinions of his royal highness the Prince of Wales, previous to his accession to the sovereign power of this country, with a view to call in question any conduct he might think fit to adopt, after his virtual accession to the throne. I stand by this principle, and I shall abide by it; and now I trust the right hon. gentleman will feel the necessity of some explanation on the manner in which he has been pleased to use the word 'false.'
The noble lord seems to me, with great submission, to have altered very much in his explanation what he said at first.—(A cry of No, no.)
§ The Speaker
then said, that the words of the right hon. gentleman certainly called for explanation.
I use the word false in its parliamentary sense, not offensively as to the noble lord's personal veracity. But however I will now repeat what I said before, that the assertion of rash indiscretion, and improper conduct in those who made the communication to the Catholics, is untrue, come it from what quarter it may.
I am satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. gentleman, that the words he used were not personally applied to me, otherwise than in a parliamentary way.
Mr. Speaker; after the interruption that has been given to the course of this debate, and still more after the extraordinary misrepresentations which we have heard of the nature of the motion before us, I feel it necessary to recall the attention of the House to the real terms of the question in your hand; and with that view, Sir, I beg that you will be so 1013 good as to take the trouble of reading it to the House. (Here the question was read.) I did flatter myself, Sir, that I had retained a pretty accurate impression on my mind of the proposition originally moved by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Grattan); and I find, I was not mistaken. But with that impression, I confess I have been at some loss to understand many of the arguments that have been recently advanced in opposition to the motion: and I was therefore desirous to refresh the recollection of the House, as well as my own, before I should venture to animadvert upon those arguments, as I shall have occasion to do in stating the grounds of my vote this night.
§ The motion, as the House will now perceive, is not one which calls upon them, as it has been represented to do, for unlimited concessions to the Roman Catholics. It is not one that would commit us to any concessions at all; or which recommends any course of proceeding, inconsistent with the obtaining from those in whose favour we may be disposed to make any concessions, whatever pledges or securities we may think proper to exact in return for them.
§ It rests upon much higher principles; it is to be argued on much wider and more general grounds, than those who have recently taken part against it in this debate, seem to apprehend.
§ The question which it proposes is neither more nor less than whether, in a state of this country unexampled in point of difficulty and danger,—(difficulty and danger, however, which I desire always to be understood as professing my entire and conscientious conviction that the country has ample means and resources for meeting and overcoming,)—whether, in a state of the world, which is not only without example in any former period,—but for which all former periods present rather contrasts than comparisons; whether when all regions of the earth have undergone changes, the most fundamental both in their internal government, and in their external policy and relations; when that spiritual authority which was formerly the controul and terror of Christendom,—the controul of the Catholic and the terror of the Protestant powers,—has fallen into abeyance, if not extinction; and when every state, whether Catholic or Protestant, has need of all its force and population to resist the overwhelming ambition of France: whether, in this state of things, with a great portion of our population still 1014 labouring under laws which were made in other limes, and against other dangers, and the removal of which might unite, with firmer concord all classes of the community; whether we will, I say, under all these circumstances, consent to take into our consideration the state of those laws, and to enquire into the possibility of extending the full benefits of the constitution to a complaining, but a brave and loyal portion of our people.
§ Such being the nature of the question of this night, I own I was not a little surprized at the statement of the noble lord (lord Castlereagh) who spoke last but one, that the present question was precisely the same as that which had been already decided by the House in the early part of the present session. The question decided on the occasion to which the noble lord refers was this; whether the House of Commons should entertain a motion for considering the slate of Ireland, founded upon the then recent transactions between the Irish government and the Catholics; a motion which embraced, to be sure, by natural inference and implication, the state of the Catholics themselves; but the main and practical object of which was to censure the conduct of the Irish government, I appeal to the recollection of those who witnessed that debate, and to the speeches of all who spoke in it, but with still more confidence I refer to what were, and were stated by me to be, the grounds of my own vote on that occasion, for the correctness of this statement. I gave my vote against that motion, not merely because it could not, according to my apprehension, be attended with any benefit to the Catholics at the time and under the circumstances in which it was brought forward; but distinctly because it involved a condemnation of the conduct of the government of Ireland in respect to the transaction under review, which I thought entirely unjust.—With what pretence of reason can we be told that the great question of to night is specifically the same question, or one only differing a little in its form?—But even if the former question had been disembarrassed, (which it was not,) of any thing relating to the conduct of the Irish government, it could not be divested of that which concerned the conduct of the Catholics themselves. They were accused of having acted in defiance of the law: and the question whether they had done so or not was at that moment in a train of judicial 1015 investigation. Upon this ground many votes were given on that night: and upon this ground, if I am not much mistaken, the noble lord himself mainly and justly insisted.
§ But was there no other still more marked discrimination, in the circumstances of the time, at which the former motion was brought forward?—The administration was not then formed. Hopes (from what causes arising it is not for me to say, because I know nothing of them; but) hopes were certainly cherished as well among the Catholics themselves, as among those who wish the Catholic question settled for the general harmony and tranquillity of the empire, that in the new administration, however composed, there would be a disposition fairy to consider that question, and to see at least if it might not be safely set at rest. While these hopes prevailed, I among others who thought that the question could be most safely discussed, and would be best settled, if brought forward by the recommendation of the crown, felt an invincible repugnance to precipitating the agitation of it. I am still of opinion, that it would be for the happiness of the empire and for the security of the government, that such should be the course of the proceeding. And if the government had avowed their determination to entertain the consideration of this question, and hereafter themselves to recommend it to the consideration of parliament, most willingly would I vote with them this night against going into a committee, in which I readily admit that we cannot expect to be able to examine the subject with the same advantage as if the executive government had previously prepared and adjusted its details.
§ But what hope is there now of any such conduct on the part of the administration, framed, as it is, on the basis of resistance to ail consideration of this question? None.—We have therefore no resource but to consider it in this House.
§ But what, (says my right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer,) is to be the object of that committee?—what the matter of their deliberations? What? why the state of the laws, inflicting penalties or civil incapacities on his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. Why, Sir, if any member of this House were to stand up and tell you of any great distress or complaint prevailing in any branch of the manufactures of the country: if it 1016 were merely stated to you that there existed various clashing and contradictory provisions in the laws of England and Ireland, upon subjects much less vital and important than those which are involved in the present question; would not the appointment of a committee to inquire into these allegations be a natural and harmless suggestion? If it were merely stated, that there was one law which inflicted penalties upon the Irish soldier when serving in this country, while by another the interchange of Irish and English regiments between England and Ireland is encouraged; would it be thought unreasonable to propose a committee to revise a system so apparently incongruous and inequitable?
§ I will not at the present moment set about proving, that the laws respecting the Catholics are not exactly in the state the most consonant to justice and sound policy: I will only say that it must be by a miracle if they are so; if laws enacted on the spur of so many different occasions,—in the heat of civil violence,—on the suppression of bloody rebellions,—laws dictated sometimes by fear, and sometimes by resentment (neither of them very wise and provident and temperate principles of legislation); if laws, I say, so originating, and so accumulated upon one another without system, without order, without connection, and of which almost as soon as the enactment was completed, the repeal has been begun;—wonderful indeed, and unaccountable would it be, if laws of which such is the character, and such the history, did indeed constitute a code fit to be preserved without alteration or revision. Yet this is what is contended for by those who oppose the present motion. It is fit that Catholics in Ireland, who enter into the army, should, as soon as they set foot on the shores of this country, become subject to the severest pains and penalties of law;—it is fit that Catholics should vote for members of parliament in Ireland, but not here; it is fit that they should be electors, but not representatives, colonels but not generals, lawyers but not judges, magistrates but not ministers:—all this is right and proper;—the lines of demarkation in all these instances has been most prudently and happily drawn! This is the wisdom of our ancestors! In all these anomalies there is nothing to correct; in all these differences there is nothing to reconcile. Our ancestors, it seems, had the whole subject before them at one 1017 view; and devised a system best calculated for all the circumstances of the case.—A system, however, which, be it remembered, they were building up from the Revolution to the present reign; and which in the present reign, we or our more immediate ancestors have been busily, and, I suppose, sacrilegiously employed in pulling down.
§ This then is my answer to the question, "If we should go into this committee, what will you do in it?" Such a committee is the necessary preliminary towards entering upon the consideration of the present state of the laws affecting the Catholics. By the forms of this House, such an inquiry must originate in a committee of the whole House. This motion, is, therefore, the first step to whatever ulterior course you may agree upon. My right hon. friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) says, "Why do you not bring in a Bill, which would embrace the whole question without waiting for the enquiry of a Committee?" First, Sir, to originate such a Bill we must, as I have said, have such a committee as is now moved for. But, secondly;—without presuming to answer for any other gentleman,—for myself I confess, that there are many points upon which I should wish for information before I could vote for any Bill. Gentlemen talk of the penal laws as if they were something as well known as the Bill of Rights, or any other statute fundamental to the constitution. How many of them, I should be glad to know, when they use these terms, have a clear idea of their meaning? How many ever read a word in any one of them? We all know indeed that there is a system of laws which has been growing up for a century or two, and which has constantly excited discontent and dissatisfaction amongst the people of Ireland. Gentlemen say very confidently, these laws do not press hard upon the people. I ask, what does not press hard?—The answer of nine out often would be, "I do not know very precisely." Then, I say, go into the committee and inquire: inquire what the system is which you think it still wise and necessary to continue; inquire whether any and what part of that system was built upon foundations which time and change have swept away; whether it has been upon the whole, or in part, advantageous or detrimental to Ireland; whether this or that law has in fact produced the benefits intended by the legis- 1018 lature; whether what has been taken away by subsequent repeal from the mass of incongruous statutes, has been well and wisely selected; or whether having been chipped and broken away by bits, without plan or proportion, it may not have left the remainder of the mass,—which, when whole, might have been regular and equable in its pressure,—to press with angular acuteness and with partial pain upon some particular parts of the community?
§ For, Sir, never let it be forgotten,—it is the main point of the argument for inquiry,—that these laws are not one uniform and consistent and permanent code. They have never remained for twenty years together in the same state. They were built up during a period of about 70 years, (counting only from the Revolution, the favourite date with those who admire the Popery code,) and during a succeeding period of about 40 years they have begun to be pulled down. Singular indeed would it be if a structure raised, and added to at so many successive times, and then gradually dismantled and demolished, till the course of its demolition was stopped by some unlooked for external accident,—should happen, at the precise moment when that accident occurred, to be precisely in the state in which it was most convenient and comfortable as a habitation! This would be indeed a piece of sin. gular good fortune:—and this is an exact image of the history of the penal code, as received by those who contend that all is exactly as it should be; that the wisdom of our ancestors had to be sure enacted somewhat more than enough; but that we, their posterity, have retrenched from their enactments precisely what was superfluous, and must be careful to retrench no more.
§ Gentlemen seem to fancy that they derive great advantage to their arguments in favour of the Popery code, by tracing its origin to king William. It is true its foundations were laid in Ireland, during his reign; and that having to secure a disputed title against a divided allegiance, against treason and rebellion, measures of severity might be justified under such circumstances, by a necessity which however that justification cannot survive. But his successor, queen Anne, (of pious memory) is entitled to the greater part of the glory (whatever it may be) to be derived from these wise acts of legislation: in portioning out the fame and credit 1019 of which, I am sorry to say, that the reigns of the first two princes of the House of Brunswick, George the First and Second, must come in for their share. Happily for the interests and prosperity of the nation, the gracious monarch who now sits on the throne of these realms, determined rather to set than to follow an example, by commencing the destruction of that system, which the wisdom of his predecessors had been employed in perfecting, for the persecution or depression of certain classes of their subjects.
§ Such has been the progress of these penal laws, tracing them back no farther than the Revolution. But again I ask, what are they now? what have they been in their flourishing limes? in those times, when matured to their full perfection, they exhibited the most complete and satisfactory specimen of this boasted wisdom of our ancestors?—Those of our ancestors, indeed, if not actually wise, must at least have had no common share of that gravity, which is usually counted the companion and characteristic of wisdom, who could look each other in the face when they proposed, "That any Protestant who shall offer a Papist 5l. for a horse (no matter how great the intrinsic value of the animal) shall have it." They must have had much of that temper and coolness, which are the guards as well as the fruits of wisdom, when they proposed to set an interdict upon the legitimate population of the country, by hanging the Catholic priest who should marry a Protestant with a Catholic, whether he knew the fact of the Protestantism of one of the parties or not. Is not a system composed of laws like these a proper subject for revision? But I understand the murmurs which I hear around me. These statutes are not now both of them upon the statute book. Granted: one of them is repealed, and the other is not; guess which it is that we have got rid of, and which is still in force. I fancy I puzzle some gentlemen who shewed signs of incredulity just now. I will set them at ease. Why, the horse is saved to the Catholic for his daily exercise: but the priest is still liable to be hanged for marrying him amiss.
§ What I wish, Sir, is that the real nature and state of laws such as these should be reviewed, a wish surely not unreasonable;—that a committee of this House should candidly enquire whether those laws, so wisely enacted in former days, might not be quite as wisely repealed in 1020 these;—that they should take an enlarged view of this system of partial legislation;—that some opinion should be formed, whether it be proper, and if proper for what reason, that in Ireland Roman Catholics should be eligible to commissions in the army under a certain degree of rank, but that when the law, or their voluntary zeal transfers their services with their regiments into this country, they should be liable by the laws which meet them here to forfeiture and penalty;—whether it be fit that their exemption from such penalties should depend on the forbearance of informers, or on military regulations from the War Office;—whether it be fit, and for what reason, that the Catholic of this country should be unrepresented in parliament, while the Catholics of lreland return half the county members of that kingdom to this House. To what does this motion pledge you, except to enquire into these strange anomalies, to ascertain among these conflicting and irreconcilable enactments, which it may be right to give up, and which to maintain? But this, I suppose, is contended to be unnecessary. 'Ignoran' tia legis neminem excusat,' is a maxim of the law: and as therefore all the Jaws that are in existence, are supposed to be known to the subject, what occasion can there be for a committee of this House, to enquire into the state of the laws of Ireland? I answer, that your every day's practice gives countenance to this proceeding. Do you not almost every year appoint a committee to enquire into the expiring laws of the country? Yet every man is bound to know what laws are expiring and what unexpired. Some years ago, a great ferment was excited by some inconveniencies and disputes arising from the state of the woollen manufactures of this country. It was proposed that the various laws respecting that manufacture, many of them obsolete and inconsistent with each other, should be referred to a committee, which committee were to report upon them to the House: a committee was appointed; their report enumerated the several laws, and suggested the repeal of some, the modification of others, and pointed out those which they thought necessary to be retained. This very session, in consequence of the horrible murders perpetrated in the metropolis shortly before the meeting of parliament, a committee has been appointed to enquire into the state of the laws by which the police of the metropolis is regulated, and to con- 1021 sider the means of establishing a more effective Nightly Watch. Yet the laws upon this subject are, in theory, perfectly well known. Why then. Sir, what pretext can there be made for opposing a similar proceeding upon a subject which affects not one branch of manufacturing industry only, but the prosperity of a people; not the security of the metropolis, but that of the whole empire?
§ At the same time, it would be unfair to the House and to the country, not to say that certainly I would not vote for going into inquiry, as to the propriety or impropriety of the penal laws, unless I felt an anxious desire to ameliorate the system, and fairly to meet, and I should hope, happily to overcome the difficulties with which it is not to be denied that this great question appears to be surrounded. Great as those difficulties may appear, I think with an hon. gentleman who spoke some time ago, that we may at least congratulate ourselves upon a more promising approximation to that temper, and those views, which may be most favourable to their removal, than for some time past we could venture to anticipate, considering the insuperable nature of some of the obstacles which stood in the way. Much as I rejoice, however, in the hope, expressed by some gentlemen, that a time may come when that happy conciliation between Catholics and Protestants shall be effected; and glad as I should be to concur in any measure that could tend to produce that desirable consummation, I confess, nevertheless, that I was hardly prepared for my right hon. friend (Mr. Yorke's) suggestions, nor do I very clearly collect the intention of them. Whether it be the conversion of the Pope himself, that he thinks might be effected; or whether he only expects that the Irish Catholic should be induced to forego his spiritual allegiance to the Pontificate; or whether I am to understand him as adhering to his last idea, that of appointing an Irish Pope, for whom he went so far as to point out a suitable place of residence in Ireland, I do not exactly understand. He suggested, I think, Ballyshannon as a proper site for the new Vatican: and to that spot I certainly can have no objection. I have no doubt also that he has in contemplation a liberal plan of establishment for the new Pontiff, the details of which we must look for on some future occasion. My objection at first sight to such a proposition is only that it is move than I de- 1022 sire; it is too Catholic for me; it is of that class of Catholicism which the right hon. and learned Doctor behind me (Dr. Duigenan) would call 'ultramontane;' more papistical than the Papists themselves. The Pope at Ballyshannon would be a concession beyond what the most sanguine of the petitioners have ventured to require. But when this concession is to be preceded by the condition of the Pope's conversion, I very much fear, that this grave and generous suggestion of my right hon. friend, may be considered by the Catholics as postponing to an almost indefinite distance, the period of time and the state of circumstances, under which, in my right hon. friend's view, concession would be safe or politic.
§ I confess. Sir, that I feel myself very-incompetent to follow my right hon. friend into these, and the like speculations upon popish tenets and popish discipline. I rather think that the farther we go into religious disquisitions upon this subject, the more we shall puzzle ourselves, and the farther we shall be from any rational decision. I would desire no better warning against such a course of argument than is to be gathered from the speeches of the right hon. and learned doctor, to whom I have already referred (Dr. Duigenan), and a right hon. gentleman near me, member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Leslie Foster), who in undertaking to give the House information upon the nature of the Catholic religion, have taken views of that religion so opposite to each other, that—which may be right, which wrong, I do not pretend to decide; but of this I am sure, that no change in the Catholic tenets could be expected to satisfy both those; learned and right hon. gentlemen. The right honourable and learned doctor behind me tells you, that the Catholic religion never changes: that it is now exactly what it always was, and ever must be; having endured through all past ages with perfect uniformity, and to endure unalterable through all future time. On the other hand, the right hon. gentleman on the floor tells you with equal confidence, that the Catholic religion is in a perpetual fluctuation and change; that its characteristic is variation; that so far from being permanent and fixed, through ages past and to come, it is never weary of adopting new forms and appearances; shaping itself to new circumstances, and taking the colour of new times. Now I confess myself quite at a loss to know 1023 how it is expected of the Catholics to satisfy at once the learned doctor, and the right hon. member for the University of Dublin: both deeply read on this difficult and abstruse subject, and their joint evidence amounting to this; that a certain permanent fluctuation and mutable fixed-ness, is the indubitable characteristic of the Roman Catholic religion; and is that quality of which it must divest itself, before its professors can be put upon the footing of their fellow-subjects In civil privileges, and political freedom. Seriously, what is it then that we expect of the Catholics? Let us state it plainly, so that they may understand our meaning. How can we pretend with any justice to charge the Catholics with refusing to remove our objections to their religion, and withholding the securities which we think indispensable to make concession safe, while we cannot agree amongst ourselves in our allegations against their faith, but perplex them with charges thus vague and contradictory; and while we have ourselves no remedy to suggest for all the dangers which we affect to foresee or apprehend, but the installation of a Pope at Ballyshannon?
§ Another hon. gentleman has said, with great candour and truth,—that whatever may be the changes of the Catholic religion—if the state of parties in this House do not also materially change, the object of the present motion can never be effected. This is undoubtedly correct; and in this argument it is, that we find the most insurmountable barrier to the gratification of the Catholics. For even if the Catholics had the means, on fair examination, of removing all the rational scruples of their opponents on the ground of their religious tenets, I am afraid they could not easily discover the means of removing the prejudices of party. It would not be sufficient to satisfy such prejudices that the Roman Catholics should renounce and abjure all the offensive tenets of their ancestors. Any extravagant doctrine, however obsolete, that can be raked up from the musty records of forgotten controversy, is still produced in these debates, as confidently and peremptorily as if it came fresh from the pen of controversialists and polemical disputants of the present day. Would our own reformed Church endure a similar test? Would it be fair that it should now be made answerable for the tenets of all its members?—One leading imputation against 1024 the Roman Catholic Church, for in-stance, is, that they withhold from their laity the personal of the Holy Scriptures; which it has always been considered as a fundamental principle of the reformed Church to throw open for the whole Christian world. Yet I could at this moment read to the House, from a controversial pamphlet published in this learned and enlightened day by a reverend dignitary of the Established Church, a passage which, had I not known from whence it proceeded, I might have taken to be that very popish doctrine so loudly condemned by our reformed persuasion. The danger of circulating the Bible, alone, amongst the lower classes of the comnunity, is most vehemently argued in a pamphlet known to have been written (as I have said) by a most learned and eminent dignitary of the Established Church; the orthodoxy of whose principles no man can Impeach. Had that doctrine been inculcated in a Roman Catholic publication,—the doctrine that the word of God should not go forth to the world, unaccompanied by the commentaries of man—and had that publication been this night in the hands of any of my right hon. friends who oppose this question, what declamations should we not have heard in the course of the debate, upon the slavish intolerance, the bigotted ignorance, and the tyrannical superstition of the Romish Church! Do not let me be supposed a defender of the tenets of that Church, or represented as undervaluing the purity, the simplicity, the sanctity of our own. No such thing. But I do wish to guard the House against unfair representations of the doctrines of another Church, with which we cannot be otherwise than partially acquainted, by shewing you in how very false a light the doctrines even of our own Church might be viewed, if the caprices of individual fancy, or the violences of controversial zeal, were to be admitted as evidence of those doctrines.
§ Turning then from the speculative tenets of the Roman Catholic religion, to the consideration of the political effects of that religion upon the conduct of its professors (which is the real point at issue) it has been argued by the right hon. and learned doctor and others, that it is quite impossible for Roman Catholics in any country to be sincerely loyal subjects to a Protestant state. Whenever they have been admitted to power under Protestant governments it is asserted they have al- 1025 ways endeavoured to subvert them:—and, on the other hand, whenever they have held the ascendant they have always been hard masters to Protestant subjects. I will not undertake to maintain the tolerant spirit of the Roman Catholic religion in countries where it has been the established religion, and has had the power of the state in its hands. That is not, and God forbid it should be, the question which we are now discussing. The question is, whether the further relaxations which are desired—amounting undoubtedly to the admission of all individuals professing the Roman Catholic religion in this empire, to equal political franchises, equal civil capacities with their fellow subjects, would tend, in any the remotest degree, to subvert the Protestant establishment, and to establish the Roman Catholic religion as the dominant religion of the state. If this proposition can be made out by those who oppose the relaxations, they have gained their cause I will not waste a word on the controversy whether the Roman Catholic religion, if so established, would, or would not, be an intolerant religion; would or would not exercise a merciless tyranny over the consciences and the persons of its Protestant subjects. That must never be put to hazard. And my efforts, for one, in the cause of my Roman Catholic fellow subjects, are at an end, if the overthrow of the Established Church can be shown to be the necessary or natural consequence of their success. But my difference with those who use this argument lies in this: that I cannot see the least ground of alarm for that danger which has been apprehended from the proposed concessions. I think it has not been shewn in debate, I think it is not to be deduced from history, that the Catholic subjects of a Protestant state have always been turbulent and aspiring and dangerous subjects. The Christian church was forages unconnected with the civil power under which it lived, and yet exemplary in its obedience to that power. Such is eminently the tendency of the doctrines of Christianity. To shew that there is something in the peculiar doctrines of the Roman Catholic faith, or in those of the Irish Roman Catholic Church, which would change this general tendency, is the task of those who undertake the opposite argument: and even when they have shewn this, it will be incumbent upon them further to prove that the Popery laws as they now stand, are precisely calculated to 1026 meet the apprehended evil; that up to the point to which we have gone, the relaxations have been harmless; but that beyond this point concession is surrender.
§ But the priesthood, it is said, have an unbounded influence over the laity, and some of the priesthood hold opinions inimical to the state. If that be the case, what can be more plain, than that by the course which we now take in excluding the Catholic laity from those benefits to which they claim to be admitted under the civil constitution, in common with the rest of their fellow subjects, we unite the clergy and the laity together in one common cause, and leave the passions of the laity to be worked upon by that influence which you so much apprehend?—Grant to the laity those privileges from which the clergy are necessarily excluded, and I appeal to the common sense of this House, whether this be not the best chance of counteracting the dangers of clerical controul. Not that I admit, however, this indiscriminate imputation upon a class of subjects, whose morality and loyalty, I believe, cannot be justly questioned: I do not admit the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland to be disaffected. But I contend that, supposing the imputation to be just, the surest way of withdrawing the laity from their influence is to put them in possession of their fair share in the rights, privileges and immunities of their country; and then to call upon them to perform the same duties in support of the same common advantages with the rest of their countrymen. Disaffection is rarely contagious, except when it meets with discontent.
§ Such, Sir, are the opinions which I have held upon this subject ever since I have been capzble of forming an opinion upon it. I take no shame to myself for that, up to this period, I have not found an opportunity of declaring and acting upon them. I take no shame to myself for having on other occasions resisted the enquiry which. I now recommend. I did so, on a view, a just view I think, I am sure an honest and well intentioned view, of public duty. While there existed in the breast of the sovereign an insurmountable obstacle to the entertainment of this question, an obstacle not of opinion, but of conscience; the only alternative left to a public man, who held the opinions which I profess to have holden on the question, was, either to push those opinions into action, at all the hazard to which such a course would 1027 be liable—at the hazard of one calamity too dreadful to be contemplated without awe and terror (a calamity under the affliction of which we are now actually suffering, and to which therefore I may now without impropriety allude)—or manfully to interpose between the conscience of the sovereign and the agitation of this question, at whatever risk of unpopularity or of misconstruction. This alter was the course which I thought it my duty to adopt. I persevered in it, under many taunts in this House, perhaps under some obloquy out of doors. But these taunts and that obloquy I patiently endured: and had it pleased Heaven to spare to us still the blessing of that reign, the untimely and calamitous eclipse of which we are now deploring, I would still have endured all manner of reproach rather than have let in upon the mind of an aged and venerable sovereign that overwhelming anxiety which the agitation of this question would have occasioned. Nor is there in this determination any thing for which I have to apologize, as inconsistent with the strictest theory or ordinary practice of the constitution. By the theory of the constitution, the sovereign is armed with a power of interposing his negative upon any measure which he conscientiously disapproves. In the practice of the constitution this power has been actively employed as lately as in the reign of king William. Had parliament adopted and pressed the Catholic claims to the last stage, in the last stage they might, and probably would, have been met by this extreme resistance. What advantage, therefore, in the trial? What danger in the conflict! Better was it surely to prevent an extremity, the results of which might have been such as those who were most interested in the question would themselves have been the foremost to deprecate. The Roman Catholics of Ireland are a loyal people; and they share with all their countrymen the qualities of generosity of heart, and warmth of feeling, and deep sensibility to kindness. They cannot, therefore, but acknowledge their obligations to a sovereign, whose reign, a contrast therein to that of his predecessors, has been one continued series of concessions and relaxations in their favour: and if those concessions and relaxations had arrived at a point beyond which not the policy but the conscience of the monarch would not suffer him to go—they would 1028 surely have respected in him those rights of conscience which they claim for themselves; they would have contentedly postponed the completion of their wishes to a period, that in the course of human events could not be distant; end would have looked for the inheritance of what remained to be given to them, not with the impatience of an alien heir-at-law, but with the filial fondness and humility, with that patient and unmurmuring expectation with which a pious and affectionate son anticipates, yet deprecates the inevitable succession to his aged parent.—Such, I am confident, would have been the feelings of the Irish Catholics, could the obstacle which opposed the earlier entertainment of their claims properly have been explained to them:—and such, now that the melancholy circumstances of the present time have removed that obstacle, is the explanation which I feel no difficulty in giving of the opposition which I and others have hitherto made to a question which we are now anxious to promote.
§ Most unfortunate indeed it was that the existence of this obstacle had not been ascertained, when at the period of the Union hopes were held out to the Catholics of the consideration of their claims in an united parliament. That any promises were made I do not believe, that hopes were held out, I know not of ray own knowledge. But hopes at least were conceived and not discouraged: and very confident I am that Mr. Pitt himself entertained a most sincere and earnest desire to couple the arrangement of this question with the great measure of the. Union. I remember, as if it were but yesterday, the disappointment and concern which he expressed to me when he received a letter from lord Cornwallis, then lord lieutenant of Ireland, conveying to him the information, that although the Union could be carried, the arrangement of the Catholic question could not be previously attempted in the Irish parliament with any hope of success. Knowing as I do how anxiously he had laboured to effect that great settlement, and how important he thought it to the peace and strength of the United Kingdom, I never could bring myself to suppose, as some persons appear to do, that he meant only to practise delusion both upon Ireland, and upon England; that he had never seriously considered the question of securities, and had in fact none to propose.—Such I understand has been the lan- 1029 guage used in some other place, and by persons calling themselves his friends. We read of a nobleman in queen Elizabeth's reign, who desired that it might be engraven on his tomb, as his proudest epitaph, that he was the friend of sir Philip Sydney'; but I do not find that lord Brooke at the same time represented sir Philip Sydney as an empty pretender, a vain-glorious boaster, a deliberate deceiver of his country.
§ Sir; in reviewing the whole of this important question, in considering the grounds upon which the claim of our Catholic fellow subjects to be admitted to a participation of the rights and liberties of Britons, has been argued, I think it may be fairly affirmed, that the burden of the proof lies with those who contend for the indefinite continuance of exclusion. My right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has desired you to look to the examples of other countries, for warning against the evils of papal power. An hon. and learned gentleman has justly answered, that it is not a question of Popery, or No Popery, that we have to decide; not a question of the comparative excellence of doctrines, or church discipline; but a question as to the policy of a Protestant government towards Popish subjects: and he has instanced the province of Silesia, ceded by Austria to Frederick the Great, who finding the ascendant religion of the country Catholic, left that religion as he found it; nor did any subsequent conduct of his Catholic Silesian subjects give him cause to regret that policy. The conduct of this country towards Canada is an example which touches us more nearly. We did not feel it necessary, when Canada became by conquest a British province, to proscribe the old Catholic religion of the country, and dismiss Catholics from all places of trust. The two religions mix in office, in arms, in the legislature together: and will any man say that Canada has proved less loyal or less safe on that account to this day?—Another example occurs in the history of the first partition of Poland, That country was divided in ancient times into a variety of religious sects, all participating indifferently in the offices of state; some time about the year 1736, the Roman Catholic being the predominant religion as compared with any other particular sect, though by no means so numerous as the others collectively, bad succeeded in establishing an ascen- 1030 dancy for themselves, and excluding all others from power or employments. The leading powers of Europe, solicited by the; Dissidents (as they were called) interposed and remonstrated in their favour. Who were the foremost in this interposition? This country had a minister in Poland, Mr. Wroughton, who was ordered to represent to the then dominant sect the impropriety as well as the hardship of this exclusion of their fellow subjects, on account of their religious tenets, from political office. Sir, the manner in which this remonstrance on our part was then met by the Polish government, is a lesson to ourselves and to other nations. The dominant party stated the example of England against herself; and said, England, of all countries, has no right to remonstrate, she whose Catholic subjects are, on account of their religion, excluded from all power, and kept in a state of subjection. Such was the answer of the government: and even the Dissidents in whose behalf we interfered, instead of vindicating England from the charge so justly urged against her, had only to say, that it was hard to turn the example of England against them; since they, it was well known, were never conquered by their fellow subjects, whereas the English treated the Irish Catholics as they treated them, because the Irish were a conquered people.
§ Sir, it is as useful sometimes to look to the opinion of foreign countries upon the policy of your own, as it is to compare the policy of other countries with it. In the instance which I have just stated, we may perhaps learn a double lesson: first to doubt the justice of a conduct, which afforded to one party a justification of oppression, and could be defended by another, only on the odious plea of force; and secondly, to consider whether the liberal and generous policy, which we recommended to the dominant party in Poland, might not be wisely and advantageously applied by ourselves at home. If I am answered, that the dominant power in Poland at the time was the Catholic, and that it is the nature of Catholicism, wherever it can gain the ascendant, so to use its power;—I have only to reply, that if we cannot prevent the Catholic government of other nations from using their ascendancy to oppress and to persecute their Protestant subjects, I am anxious that they should at least not have our example to plead in their excuse. I have further to remark, that this oppression of the Dis- 1031 sidents was the first cause of that interference of foreign powers in the affairs of Poland, which led finally to the dismemberment and partition of that kingdom.
§ The history of Ireland surely does not encourage a perseverance in a system, the absurdity and impolicy of which are recognised in the preamble of every act of parliament that has passed in the course of his present Majesty's reign for ameliorating the situation of the Roman Catholics. The efficacy of that system of severity, of which we now propose to repeal the remnant, has been not imperfectly tried. It was well enough contrived for its purpose; if a purpose so unnatural as that of depressing and extinguishing a whole people could be successful. It met the Roman Catholic at his birth with penal enactments, which precluded his regular succession to the patrimony of his ancestors; dividing that patrimony in gavel kind amongst the junior branches of his family, on condition of the abandonment of their religion, to the exclusion of the legitimate heir. It proceeded to the extirpation of his religion and morals—by precluding the Roman Catholic priests from education at home, and driving them for instruction to the charitable institutions of foreign and hostile slates; and when after such foreign education they presumed to return home, and to administer spiritual instruction to their flock, prosecuting them as criminals and outlaws, setting a price upon their heads, and hunting them down like wild beasts. It forbade the acquisition of landed property to the Catholics; and studiously restricted their commercial industry; it sowed dissension and distrust in families, and marked them for distrust and contempt among their fellow citizens. But it would revolt the feelings of this House were I to recite in detail the catalogue of those cruel and disgraceful statutes, in the framing of which a perverse ingenuity seems to have been employed to find out means for exterminating every germ of individual happiness, and every moral and social principle of the human heart. Such was the system to which we gave a trial. Happily it failed, and we have come back from this barbarous system, to one of good policy, of humanity. We have acknowledged the erroneous severity of our ancestors, by the successive repeal of much the greater part of the code which pressed upon our Catholic fellow subjects We have done this: and 1032 have we any reason to repent of it? Has not the growth of Irish prosperity kept pace with that of Catholic happiness and freedom r
§ I am willing to agree with you, that we have gone so far, that we ought not to proceed farther without such securities as may be reasonably required, and as are necessary to the preservation of our own Protestant establishments. What are those securities? That is a question which inquiry and consideration alone can enable us to answer: and for the purpose of ascertaining that important and indispensable point, am I desirous that the present motion should not be rejected. The right hon. and learned gentleman (Dr. Duigenan,) who seems to have been left to sustain alone the brunt of this argument, has told us, that the wealth and numbers of the Catholics in Ireland are vehemently over-rated by their advocates: he affirms that the whole population of the country does not amount to more than 3,500,000, instead of 5,000,000, as so repeatedly and confidently stated by others; and he says, that the proportion of Catholics to Protestants, is not more than two-and-a-half to one—instead of being nine to one as affirmed by their advocates: and the right hon. and learned gentleman supports his assertion, by averages which he says he has taken from two parishes in a Protestant province, and by the returns of the hearth-money collectors in Ireland about 50 years ago-It may be observed in passing, that the learned doctor's assertion upon this point appears to refute his argument upon another. For, if it be true that the Catholic population of Ireland be in point of numbers so little superior to that of the Protestants, then the danger of conceding their present claims, which is supposed to be proportioned to the physical power which the Catholic could employ to subvert the Protestant-establishment in church and state, diminishes in the same ratio. The learned doctor, indeed, does not carry his undervaluation of the numbers of the Catholics quite so far as Louis XIV. did that of his Protestant subjects; in many of the latest decrees of that monarch on the matter of religion, it was assumed that there were no Protestants in France. Now, the right hon. and learned gentleman does not assert that there are absolutely no Catholics in Ireland: but be avers that the whole of that persuasion of people do not possess one fiftieth of the landed 1033 —and not above one tenth of the mercantile property of the country. Here again the learned doctor's facts are strongly at variance with his arguments. You have on your table, in favour of those claims, and in direct contradiction to the learned doctor's statement of the Protestant sentiment of Ireland, the petitions of a large proportion of the Protestants of that country. The learned doctor has told you that those petitions of the Protestant population are merely signed by tradesmen and shop-keepers, whose signatures were obtained by the apprehensions that if their names were refused, they would be deserted by their Roman Catholic customers.—Now if it be true that the Catholics bear so trifling a proportion as stated to their Protestant fellow-subjects in number, and possess among them only one fiftieth of the landed and not one tenth of the other property of the country, I should be curious to know how the threat of withdrawing their custom from Protestant tradesmen could induce the latter to sign a petition in favour of the Catholics; a petition which their Protestant customers, possessing nine tenths of the money and forty-nine fiftieths of the land, consider (according to the learned doctor) as tending to the subversion of their property and religion. I cannot help thinking that the Protestant tradesmen of Ireland have either very different views of the merits of the Catholic cause, or very different notions of the importance of the Catholic population, from those which the right hon. and learned gentleman would induce us to adopt as the rules of our conduct.
§ As to the councils of Constance, of Basil, of Trent, and others, upon the expressions of whose decrees the learned doctor would have the House form their judgment of the Catholics of this day, it should be recollected that the first and second of those councils were held before the Reformation; and consequently are indicative not of the opinions of Catholics, as contradistinguished to Protestants, but of the general darkness and bigotry of the age. As to the council of Trent, it would indeed be hard that the Catholics of these times should be made answerable for the errors of centuries so remote. But whatever be the doctrines that are held to be dangerous, and supposed to be still in force, all that can be said is, that whenever the legislature shall make up their minds to entertain the question of Catholic concession seriously, it will be for them then to couple the boon with 1034 such restrictions and qualifications, and to accompany it with such provisions, as they think necessary for our own security.' Enact what you think right: and then leave-to the Catholics to accept or refuse what you offer on the conditions which you annex to it. If they accept (which they will) the work is done. If otherwise, you have the consolation to reflect that you have done your duty by them. Whatever may be the result, you will have nothing to reproach to yourselves. Go as far as you can with safety to the establishments. Do not exact from them terms that are unnecessary: but be rigorous in imposing such conditions as shall free you from all real, I had almost said, all imaginary danger. Do this, and lam persuaded your conduct will meet with the approbation and concurrence of this country; whilst on the other hand you will unite the whole heart and soul of the people of Ireland, in common feeling with the interests and the government of Great Britain.
§ In addition to the arguments and the authority of the learned doctor, and in contradiction to the Petitions of the Catholics and Protestants of Ireland in general, an honourable member has reminded us that the corporation of Dublin are averse to the measure, as appears by their Petition on the table. But whatever respect I may be inclined to entertain for the city of Dublin, in its corporate capacity, I should hope this House will find little disposition, to yield on this occasion, to the influence of a municipal body, who on the recent and signal occasion alluded to just now by an hon. member on the other side of the House, suffered their own conduct towards a gallant officer of their country to be marked by religious antipathy and political intolerance—The conduct of the corporation of Dublin in that instance appears to me to exhibit in miniature, the complete character of the whole system recommended by the op-posers of this question, with respect to that unfortunate country. You allow them to spend their blood in the common cause, but you will not allow them to participate in your rights and privileges. You give them the sword, but with hold their freedom. Such, it seems, is now the policy of the corporation of Dublin,—such has formerly been the policy pursued by the British government in that country—a policy, of which I now earnestly recommend, and anxiously anticipate, the abandonment.
§ There are two, and only two other Petitions; 1035 from quarters, to be sure, of the greatest weight, and entitled to the utmost deference and respect—the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. With respect to the Cambridge Petition, I know nothing but what I gather from reading it, I know nothing of the manner in which it was procured; and cannot judge as to the degree in which it may be supposed to speak the sense of the University. But so far as I can understand the Petition itself, I really think that in agreeing to the motion now before the House, we should not be going against the prayer of this Petition: nay rather that by so doing, we should, in fact, comply with it. The learned authors of that Petition have acted under a mistake as to a matter of fact, which I suppose, must have proceeded from imperfect information. They apprehend that we are about to do that, which I trust we have no intention of doing,—notwithstanding that my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer so earnestly recommends it—to precipitate the measure of concession to the Roman Catholics by a Bill, before any inquiry by a committee or otherwise has been instituted upon it. This indeed my right hon. friend, and others, who are enemies to the measure of Catholic concession, have frequently recommended. The University of Cambridge probably had heard of this recommendation, and mistook the policy of the enemies of the measure for the intention of its friends. But they have been misled. This part therefore, and it is by far the most essential part of their Petition, applies to fears which have no existence: and I am happy to think that in declining to proceed by Bill, at my right hon. friend's suggestion, we have the countenance and authority of so learned and respectable a body. There are some passages in their Petition, however, wise no doubt in themselves, and conveying with mathematical accuracy to the initiated the grounds of their expressed apprehensions; but which I humbly confess that,—as we of Oxford are not so strict and scientific in our deductions,—I entirely lose my logic in endeavouring to understand. They have discovered by some peculiar process, that the power of the Pope has become more redoubtable in proportion as he has been deprived of all dominion and influence in Europe. When he was in the full plenitude of power, and possessed an influence 1036 that extended over Christendom, we had, it seems, less to fear from him, and from his authority over the Catholics of Ireland, than now that he is a prisoner, in poverty and in chains! The fact may be so: but I humbly submit that it is not so self-evident a fact, but that even the most learned University might have condescended to exhibit the chain of reasoning by which it connected their premises with their conclusion: but I am willing to admit the fact, though I do not comprehend it. With another passage I beg leave to express my entire concurrence. It is that in which they state, or appear to intend to state, that even in papal times the constitution of this country was sufficiently guarded against papal encroachments by antient laws;—the laws, I presume they mean, of Provisors and Præmunire. It was so: and this is, as the University wisely suggests, a matter of infinite importance in considering the subject now before us. Upon the whole then, the Petition of the University of Cambridge appears to me highly favourable to the motion before the House. It sanctions the form of our proceedings by inference, if not in direct terms; since it deprecates a proceeding by Bill, which was the only alternative:—it suggests the possibility, the facility rather, of providing for the safety of our establishments, by reminding us that in former times we were safe even under Roman Catholic sovereigns against the Roman Catholic power:—and finally, by declaring the Pope to be at this moment in the most formidable state in which he can possibly be, it enables us to judge what is the utmost degree of danger to be apprehended from him; and puts to shame the exaggerated fears of those who would lead us to tremble at we know not what, that is to take place we know not when, and to be brought about we know not how. We have the authority of the University of Cambridge for believing that the danger from the Pope is at this moment at its height: and surely we all feel that at this moment it is not very formidable.
§ As to the Petition of the University of Oxford, I must in the first place declare, in contradiction to assertions and insinuations which I have heard both on this, and on the former night of the debate, that upon authority the most respectable and indisputable, I am enabled to deny that there was any unfair practice made use of to obtain this Petition either by influence, 1037 or by surprise. Due notice was given of the intention to bring forward. A more than usually ample discussion took place upon it. A large majority concurred in voting it. And the Petition must be considered as containing as genuine an expression of the sense of that venerable body, as any public act of theirs that ever was framed. Sir, for the sense of the University of Oxford, thus deliberately expressed, I shall always entertain a filial reverence. I shall be always happy to conform my public conduct to it, when a strong and conscientious impulse of public duty does not carry me another way. I respect and applaud the natural and just anxiety for the established constitution in Church and State which the University of Oxford cherishes with characteristic fidelity, and which she inspires (and long may she inspire!) into the youth committed to her charge. This sentiment is eminently displayed in the Petition now upon our table: but it is displayed with a moderation and good sense, equal to its zeal and fervency; and in a manner which, while it entitles the prayer of the Petition itself to greater, and more respectful attention, leaves those who are the most anxious to testify that attention, at liberty, without suspicion of disrespect, to differ as to the mode which is pointed out in the Petition, for securing the object which we must all equally have in view.
§ I observe with pleasure the judicious and considerate qualification which the words "in our judgment" (or words to that effect) give to the proposition laid down in the Petition, that the present laws against the Roman Catholics are not more than sufficient for securing our present happy constitution. This proposition is, as it ought to be, stated as matter of opinion. It is no disrespect to those who hold that opinion to say that as such it may be liable to be varied by a more accurate knowledge than they may at present happen to possess, of the actual stale of the laws, the sufficiency or excess of which is in question, and judging from the degree of knowledge which people in general possess, which I myself possessed, or found others possessing, of the slate of these laws (before the agitation of the present question made them matter of particular inquiry) I impute nothing disparaging to the resident members of the University of Oxford, whose ordinary researches and habits of life do not lead them lo a very 1038 careful examination of the statute-book, when I suppose that they, in common with others, may have something to learn from such an exposition of the penal code as might be gathered from the labours of the committee which the right hon. gentleman has proposed.—I may even venture to entertain a strong belief that, when such an exposition shall hare been made, the University of Oxford cannot persist in the opinion, expressed or implied in their Petition, that the present slate of the penal code is precisely that in which it ought to remain.
§ I do not feel therefore that I am contravening the spirit of their Petition, in suggesting to them the expediency of obtaining a more minute acquaintance with the code to which it refers, before they form a final and decisive judgment upon it. I do not pretend to disguise that, though there are many points of alteration or repeal in which I verily think it probable that after due examination their opinion might not differ materially from mine, yet that there may after all be a difference as to the extent to which repeal or alteration should be carried. This is possible; but with much greater confidence can I say that as to the object of their Petition, I am heartily agreed with them; that whenever we approach the confines of real danger to the establishments of the country, I shall be as little inclined to go forward, and as determined to resist encroachment, as they. I certainly do think, however, that securities may be provided against all the dangers which they appear to apprehend. This, however, is a consideration for a future stage of the business. At present, the question that we have to decide is preliminary to settlement; it is for the means of correct information.
§ In giving ray vole for a committee to ascertain the state of the laws affecting the Roman Catholics, I do so in the persuasion that the time is come when that subject must be taken into consideration; when we can no longer turn away from it, or dispose of it upon grounds distinct from the subject itself;—when the obstacles which have hitherto disinclined us from looking at it being removed, we must fairly make up our minds to take some step towards putting ourselves in a situation to come to a final decision upon it. And whatever be the authorities which are opposed to that decision, I cannot suffer them to deter me from a vote this night, in which, had Mr. Pitt been now 1039 happily living, I entertain a most sincere conviction that Mr. Pitt would this night have concurred.
§ Mr. Stuart Wortley
(amidst the general cry of Question, question.)—Sir, I rise only for one moment, to ask a question of the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Ponsonby), whether at the time he made his communication to the Catholics of Ireland, be was himself lord chancellor of Ireland, and the duke of Bedford lord lieutenant.
Mr. Stuart Wortlty
. Then, Sir, I can only say, that under those circumstances, such a communication was, in my opinion, to say the best of it, a piece of high indiscretion. But, however, convinced as I am of the necessity of going into the proposed enquiry without delay, I shall give my vote for the motion.
§ Mr. Grattan
waved his right of replying, observing, that the right hon. gentleman who had lately sat down, (Mr. Canning) had so ably, and so eloquently and swered every argument against the motion, that he should hurt the cause, was he to add another word to his eloquent oration.
§ The Question being loudly called for, the House divided, when there appeared, Ayes 215; Noes 300. Majority against going into a committee on the Catholic Claims, 85.—Adjourned at half-past six, Saturday morning.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercrombie, hon. J.||Brooke, lord|
|Adair, R.||Burrell, hon. P. D.|
|Althorpe, visc.||Baske, W.|
|Anson, G.||Butler, hon. J.|
|Antonie, W. L.||Byng, G.|
|Astley, sir J.||Bradshaw, hou. A. C.|
|Aubrey, sir J.||Burdett, sir F.|
|Barham, J. F.||Bourne, W. S.|
|Bligh, T.||Campbell, lord J.|
|Bernard, Scrop e||Cavendish, lord G.|
|Bennet, R. H. A.||Cavendish, H.|
|Bennet, hon. H.||Chaloner, R.|
|Bouverie, hon. B.||Canning, rt. hon. G.|
|Bagenal, W.||Canning, G.|
|Binning, lord||Calcraft, T.|
|Blachford, B. P.||Calvert, N.|
|Bewicke, C.||Craig, J.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Clonmell, earl|
|Brand, hon. T.||Cowper, hon. L. S.|
|Brougham, H.||Cockerell, sir C.|
|Browne, A.||Cocks, J.|
|Bunbury, sir C.||Coke, T. W.|
|Coke, E.||Knight, Robt.|
|Colbourne, N. W. R.||Knox, hon. T.|
|Combe, H. C.||Lambton, R.|
|Creevey, T.||Langton, col.|
|Cuthbert, J. R.||Leach, J.|
|Daly, rt. hon. D. B.||Lemon, C.|
|Dillon, hon. H. A.||Lemon, J.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Latouche, J.|
|Dundas, C.||Latouche, R.|
|Dundas, hon. L.||Lamb, hon. W.|
|Dundas, hon. C. L.||Lester, B. L.|
|Eden, hon. G.||Lloyd, sir E.|
|Elliot, rt. hon. W.||Lloyd, J. M.|
|Ellis, C. R.||Longman, G.|
|Evelyn, L.||Lyttleton, hon. W.|
|Fellowes, hon. N.||Macdonald, J.|
|Ferguson, R. C.||Maddocks, W. A.|
|Fitzgerald, A.||Markham, J.|
|Fitzgerald, rt. hon. M.||Martin, H.|
|Fitzgerald, lord H.||Martin, R.|
|Fitzpatrick, rt. hon. R.||Mahon, hon. S.|
|Fitzroy, lord C.||Marryat, Jos.|
|Fitzroy, lord W.||Matthew, hon. M.|
|Foley, J.||Meade, hon. J.|
|Folkes, sir M.||Maule, hon. W.|
|Folkestone, visc.||Mildmay, sir H.|
|Forbes, visc.||Mills, Wm.|
|Frankland, W.||Milton, visc.|
|French, A.||Montgomery, sir H.|
|Fieemantle, W. (Teller)||Moore, P.|
|Gell, P.||Mosley, sir O.|
|Giles, D.||Mostyn, sir Thos.|
|Goddard, J.||Myers, T.|
|Grant, C.||Nugent, lord|
|Gordon, W.||Newport, rt. hon. sir John|
|Gower, lord G. L.||Neville, hon. R.|
|Greenough, G. B.||North, D.|
|Grant, G. M.||O'Brien, sir E.|
|Grey, hon. W. B.||O'Callaghan, J.|
|Greenhill, R.||Odell, W.|
|Greenfell, P.||Oglander, sir W.|
|Guise, sir W.||Ord, W.|
|Grattan, rt. hon. H.||Osborne, lord F.|
|Halsey, Jos.||Ossulston, lord|
|Hamilton, sir H.||Paget, hon. E.|
|Hanbury, W.||Paget, hon. C.|
|Herbert, hon. W.||Palmer, C.|
|Hibbert, G.||Peirse, H.|
|Hippisley, sir J. C.||Pelham, hon. C.|
|Horner, F.||Pelham, hon. G.|
|Howard, Henry||Piggott, sir A.|
|Howard, hon. W.||Prendergast, M.|
|Howarth, H.||Pochin, C.|
|Hughes, W. L.||Ponsonby, rt. h. Geo.|
|Hume, W. H.||Ponsonby, hon. G.|
|Hutchinson, hon. C.||Ponsonby, hou. F.|
|Huskisson, W.||Parnell, H.|
|Hurst, R.||Power, R.|
|Hussey, T.||Poyntz, W. S.|
|Hobhouse, B.||Price, R.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Prittie, hon. F.|
|Hamilton, H.||Pym, F.|
|Jekyll, J.||Quinn, hon. Windham|
|Joliffe, H.||Ridley, sir M. W.;|
|Kensington, lord||Romilly, Sir S.|
|St. Aubyn. sir J.||Taylor, W.|
|Salusbury, sir R.||Temple, earl|
|Savage, F.||Templetown, visc.|
|Saville, A.||Thornton, H.|
|Scudamore, R. P.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Sebriglit, sir J.||Tighe, William|
|Sharpe, R.||Townshend, lord J.|
|Shaw, R.||Tracey, C. H.|
|Sheridan, right hon.||Trench, col.|
|Richard Brinsley||Vernon, G. V.|
|Shipley, W.||Walpole, hon. G.|
|Simpson, hon. J.||Ward, hon. J. W.|
|Sinclair, G.||Warrender, sir G.|
|Smith, G.||Western, C. C.|
|Smith, J.||Wharton, J.|
|Smith, Wm.||Whitbread, S.|
|Speirs, A.||Wilkins, W.|
|Somerville, sir M.||Williams, O.|
|Stanley, lord||Winnigton, sir T.|
|Talbot, R. W.||Wrottesley, H.|
|Tarleton, B.||Wynn, C.|
|Tavistock, marquis||Wynn, sir W. W.|
§ The following gentlemen paired off in favour of Mr. Grattan's Motion.
|Baring, sir T.||Hamilton, lord A.|
|Curwen, J. C.||Miller, sir T.|
|Campbell, G.||Russell, lord W.|