§ On the motion of Mr. Yorke, the 9th, 10th and 11th sections of the Act of the 1st of William and Mary, chap. 2, commonly called the Bill of Rights, were read by the Clerk. After which,
§ Mr. Grattan
rose and said:
Sir; I am very happy that the right hon. gentleman has caused those passages in the Bill of Rights to be read to the House, for I am distinctly of opinion, that the qualifications, which it enumerates as the indispensable accompaniments of the sovereignty of this empire, ought to form a part of the preamble of any bill, which may be introduced, into parliament, for the relief of the Roman Catholics; for, Sir, it is most necessary and most wise that, whenever we admit the Catholics to the privileges which they claim, we should ensure to the Protestants the unendangered continuance of all the privileges, which are founded on the Act of Settlement. The same measure which gives liberty to the one, should give security to the other.
I rise, Sir, to support the Petition which I had the honour to present, from the Catholics of Ireland. I am sure I may say, without fear of contradiction, that this Petition is, generally, from the Catholics of Ireland. It is substantially true, that it conveys the wishes of that whole body. The motion which I mean to make is, that the House will resolve itself into a committee, in pursuance of the Resolution which, at the desire of my right hon. friend, has been read by the Clerk at the table. Sir, I know very well, that a resolution of a former parliament cannot bind its successor; at the same time, I do not conceive that I am guilty of any impropriety in referring to the resolution of a former parliament.
I have to lament, and it would be miserable affectation not to acknowledge it, that the petitions against the claims of the Catholics are very numerously and very respectably signed. I have to lament 748 that there are still, in my native country, many individuals, enlightened in other respects, but fallible on the subject of religious distinctions. I have also to lament and condemn the vehement manner in which some of these petitions denounce the Catholics. I will avoid the example; and in the allusions which I may find it necessary to make to the Protestant petitions, I will speak of those, from whom they have proceeded, with the highest respect. I do respect and love many of them. I dissent partially from their opinions; but I respect and love them personally. Nay, more, I will consider them, not as present enemies, but as future friends to the Catholics. They live in the same country, they are embarked in the same cause, they have the same battles to fight, against the common enemy, for the common interest. Never can it be my wish to widen the breach between great bodies of men. The particular object of the Catholic petition itself is general concord. Never can I think that any difference in religion must necessarily lead to civil discord. Never can I believe that revelation came down to us a firebrand, to justify parliament in withholding, from a part of the subjects of the realm, their just rights.
Sir, I am the more induced to hope that the cause which I have undertaken humbly to advocate will ultimately be successful, because I recollect that, in the Irish parliament of 1792, some general and strong resolutions were adopted against the claims then made by the Catholics: and that, in the next session, more was actually granted to the Catholics than they had claimed. The understanding of the Irish parliament enlarged with the exigency of the state. I trust that this will be the case with us. With this view to the ultimate success of Catholic emancipation, I beg leave to make a few observations on the Anti-Catholic petitions on your table, using that liberty with the arguments they contain which my cause may require; but maintaining the greatest respect for the persons who have signed them, and who, I am persuaded, are sincere in that, which I, nevertheless, consider to be a very mistaken view of this important subject.
In the first place, Sir, I object to the manner in which, in many instances in this country, and more particularly in Ireland, these petitions have been obtained. In Ireland they have been the consequence 749 of a requisition to the sheriffs of the respective counties, to call a meeting of the Protestant inhabitants. Now, it appears to me to be exceedingly objectionable for a public officer to call the people together in sects; and to give, to a private and party meeting, the authority of a public assembly. Again, it appears to me exceedingly objectionable thus to separate religious sects, and to give the semblance of public authority to religious animosities. I object again to calling one part of his Majesty's subjects to petition against another; and still more do I object to their petitioning another country against the liberties of their own.
Sir, I beg not to be understood as casting any reflections on the Irish Protestant petitioners; but their object has evidently been neither more nor less than this—to intreat the parliament of this country not to grant civil liberty to the great body of the people of Ireland. They petition us to inflict on their countrymen a sentence of perpetual incapacity: they petition us to announce to Ireland, the destination of being for ever a divided colony, and to impress on the general sense, an acquiescence in the necessity of this being a divided empire. Sitting for a moment, they have given judgment for eternity. Let us consider a little their reasons for this judgment. One of the first observations which these petitions contain, is, that the tone which the Catholics have assumed renders it unwise to grant their claims. But that is not the question. We are not, in the parliament of the united empire, entering into an examination of the arguments which may have been urged in this or that body. We are not enquiring whether Mr. A. or Mr. B. may or may not have spoken too freely. What has the conduct of any particular assembly to do with the great body of the Catholics? The question is, shall the great body of the Catholics of Ireland be emancipated? The opponents of the Catholic claims say, that they ought not to be emancipated, because Mr. Fitzpatrick published a libel. But this is not a question dependent on such circumstances. I do not say that there may not have been much warmth exhibited in the discussion in Ireland; but I say that the question is—can you, in any of their proceedings, charge the Catholics with want of allegiance? It is a question of allegiance. If it can be shewn that the Catholics of Ireland have shewn a disposition adverse to loyalty, 750 then my motion ought to be rejected. But if, on the contrary, there does not appear any disaffection in their proceedings, in their speeches, or in their general conduct, then the resolution of thanks to the Irish Catholics, which was involved in the resolution of thanks to the army which gained the victory of Salamanca, should be followed up in its full and genuine spirit; and the Catholics of Ireland should be considered as entitled to the same civil liberties, as the other loyal subjects of his Majesty's empire have a natural and legal right to possess.
Having thus stated the question to be one of allegiance, let us proceed, Sir, to examine how the Anti-Catholics have made out their case. They say, that the Catholics desire political power. Why should they not? Why should they be sentenced to utter and hopeless exclusion from all political power? But, Sir, the Catholics have not applied for political power. They have applied for political protection; and no farther for political power than as political power is inseparable from political protection. The Catholics, having given pledges of their allegiance, desire not to be bound in fetters, from which their fellow-subjects are free; they desire not to be taxed without their own consent; they desire not to be tried by persons who are exclusively partizans—not only partizans, but who are actually covenanted against them. To the enquiry, 'What is your wish?' they reply, 'We wish for our liberties. We do not demand this or that office, but we desire to possess our just civil qualifications.' Do you understand them? Is this ambition? If it is ambition, then was Magna Charts ambition—then was the Declaration of Rights ambition. Protection, not power, is the request of the Catholics. The Catholic petitioners ask for protection; it is the Protestants who ask for power. The Protestants ask for the ascendancy of their sect—the Catholics ask for the ascendancy of the law. Let me repeat, that I wish to treat the Protestants with all possible respect. It is natural that they should be tenacious of their peculiar privileges. But, unquestionably, they desire, by their petitions, to keep all the patronage of Ireland in their hands,—to maintain a continued ascendancy—to govern the other sects in the country; while the Catholics only desire, in their petitions, that the whole should be governed by an equal law.—The Protestant 751 petitioners assert, that the Catholics want power, in order to make laws for the Protestant church. No, they only desire, as I have before stated, not to be taxed without their own consent—not to be tried by partizans, nor juries called by partizans. Their prayer is, that the Protestant church should be governed, not by Catholics, but by Protestants; for the Catholics know, and the Protestants know, that under any circumstances, and after any concessions, the majority in this House must be Protestants, and that, by that majority, the laws for the Protestant church must be made. But the members of the Protestant church, who have petitioned us, desire to make laws exclusively for the Catholic church. They wish to controul the conscience of the Catholic, as well as to bind him in other respects. They are willing to receive the tithes of the Catholic labour, but they desire to exclude the Catholic from a participation in the blessings of the constitution. Their argument is this, 'the persons who regulate the Protestant Church should be of that Church.' Why, then, all the Scotch members of this House ought to be sent away. All who do not profess to bold the doctrines of the church of England ought to be sent away. The tendency of the argument of these gentlemen is, that we ought to have a church government. But ours is not a church government, it is a representative government: it includes all classes, all religions, all descriptions of persons, except the Catholic and the churchman. The principle on which these gentlemen insist will prove fatal. If you confine the enjoyments of the constitution to the limits of the church of England, you will endanger the empire; if you extend it to all religious persuasions, you will place the empire in a state of security.
The parliament is justly called imperial. It is not a partizan. The Catholics of Ireland make a part of the third estate. Is it not so? Is not the great body of electors in Ireland Catholic? Does it not follow that a part, and that no inconsiderable portion, of the third estate is already Catholic? And can we, for a moment, suppose that this is incompatible with the genuine principles of the British constitution? But the fact is, Sir, that the Protestants will and must have the ascendancy in the state. The great population of the empire is Protestant—the great property of the empire is Protestant. This ascendancy the Protestants 752 have a right to possess, but they ought to possess it, not by the exclusion of their fellow subjects from a participation of civil liberty, but in virtue of their superior numbers and property.
Sir, in the provision for the royal authority being exclusively Protestant, the Protestant interest has another great and wise security for the maintenance of its ascendancy. The admission of the Catholics to their civil rights will be entirely co-existent with the maintenance of the Protestant ascendancy; and, by granting that admission, you will strengthen and fortify the whole empire. To grant the Catholics their privileges, will be to identify the people; for it is by granting them their rights that you must expect to identify them, and not by keeping them in chains. To grant the Catholics their privileges, maintaining the just ascendancy of the Protestants, will be much more effectually to support the state, and much more effectually to support the church, than either can be supported by a monopoly of power, and without that identification of the people of the two countries, which such a measure alone can insure.
Superficial, indeed, are the arguments of the opposers of emancipation. They think that the admission of five or six individuals (such men as lord Fingal, and other enlightened members of the Catholic body) into parliament, will be productive of injurious consequences, but, to the alienation of four or five millions of persons out of parliament they attach no importance!
A right hon. gentleman has talked of the pains and penalties which, as he thinks, were justly inflicted on the Catholics at the time of the Revolution. They were not, however, the effects of the Revolution, but took place long after the reign of queen Anne. As to the exclusion of the Catholics from political power, at the period of the Revolution, that was not an original idea at that period, but arose out of and was founded on the fabricated plot of Titus Oates, the severities occasioned by which were even mitigated at the Revolution. And will parliament make the madness of that time the rule by which the liberty of their fellow-subjects is to be regulated at all times? 'But,' say the Anti-Catholics, 'toleration in England is greater than in any other country.' Sir, I know very well, that the principles of every established church are in some degree 753 hostile to toleration: there is scarcely any church which will tolerate so extensively and liberally as a wise parliament ought to do; but when it is maintained that toleration in England exceeds that of any other country—that it is perfect—I must declare my opinion to be the reverse.
Abroad, in Catholic countries, persons professing a difference of religious sentiments, enjoy, not only toleration, but qualification—at home, in a Protestant country, persons professing a difference of religious sentiments are not only disqualified, but hardly tolerated. Abroad, sectaries enjoy toleration, united with qualification—here, they have a scanty toleration, united with pains and penalties.
In France, for instance, no man is disqualified on account of his religious opinions. In Hungary, toleration and qualification are completed. I will read an edict issued by the Hungarian diet, in 1791. It declares, "that all persons shall have free exercise of their respective religions, with full liberty to build churches, erect steeples, found schools, form churchyards, &c. without impediment." So much for religious toleration! Now for civil qualification. The edict proceeds to say, that "the public charges, offices, and honours, high or low, great and small, shall be given to native Hungarians, who deserve well of their country, and who are competent to hold them, without any regard to their religious persuasions." This is the declaration of a Popish diet, This proceeds from one of those nations which, according to the Anti-Catholics, has no idea of toleration, as compared with this country! This Catholic government gives not only toleration, but qualification, and the Catholic church acquiesces in the gift. We give toleration without qualification; and we accompany that toleration with pains and penalties. The Anti-Catholic petitions require, that those pains and penalties should be continued. The petitioners seem totally ignorant of the real state of things. They declare generally (mayors and corporations) that the principles of the Catholics are the same as they were at the worst of times. They state, and they state it after the demolition of the Vatican—after the prostration of the inquisition—after the fall of the Pope, that religious toleration and that civil qualification ought not to be granted, which is allowed in every great country in Europe, England excepted. They assume that to be true in argument, which is false in fact. They 754 quote Catholic writers, who have said that the fathers and they hold the same opinions; and on this the Anti-Catholics found a monstrous misstatement.
Sir, the Catholics of the present day have evinced their principles by their oaths. They have abjured every criminal tenet attributed to their ancestors. In taking an oath, framed by a Protestant, enacted by a Protestant parliament, and going into the minutiae of rejection, the Catholics have acquitted themselves, by a solemn obligation, of the principles formerly imputed to them. They nevertheless, maintain, that there is no difference of opinion between them and their ancestors, because they maintain, that their ancestors were charged unjustly with entertaining criminal opinions. This defence of their ancestors has been converted into a crimination of them-selves; and they are suspected of maintaining doctrines, an adherence to which they deny on oath.
It is said, by the Anti-Catholics, that the Catholics have been, and are always the same. The Catholics allow that a true Catholic was and is always the same; but they add, that a criminal Catholic is not a true one. "But the Catholics are enemies to the Church of England." Believe me, Sir, it is a very hasty and imprudent assertion; it is one calculated to make the Catholics that which they are not—enemies to the Church of England. If it proceeds from high authority, it might be seriously dangerous; but coming as it does, from persons, however respectable, whose opinions are not entitled to very serious consideration, it may be comparatively innoxious. Sir, why should the Catholics be enemies of the church of England? If the endeavours of the Catholic to obtain his civil liberties be opposed by the church of England, then it is not the Catholic which is the enemy of the church of England, but the church of England which is the enemy of the Catholic.
What is it, Sir, which is to make a Catholic an enemy to the church of England? Is it his doctrine? Is it the doctrine of penance, of absolution, of extreme unction? The affirmative would subject the affirmer to the most just ridicule and scorn. So much for the hostility of the Catholics to the church! 'But,' it is said further, 'the Catholics are enemies to the state.' [Some honourable members on the other side of the House observed, that they were so 'in principle?]—In principle! Sir, I deny it. How are principles to be ascertained but 755 by actions? If they are enemies to the state, let us go into the committee; and let those who allege that the Catholics are enemies to the state, support their allegations by evidence. If they plead the canons of the council of Lateran, of Constance, of Trent, I will produce authority of a much higher description; I will adduce the testimony of the parliament of the united empire. I will quote the thanks of that parliament unanimously voted to armies, of which a large component part was Catholic, for the most important service rendered to the state.
Sir, the opponents of the Catholics go on to assert, that they are enemies to liberty. What! the authors of Magna Charta enemies to liberty! And have the Catholics shewn no other attachment to liberty? I say that the very Declaration of Rights, which, on the motion of the right hon. gentleman opposite, was read by the clerk, sufficiently shews the attachment of the Catholic to liberty: for what does that declaration? It does not enact new laws, but it re-affirms those which the declarers found already established; and by whom were they established? Who were their authors? The Catholics—those alleged enemies of the church—those alleged enemies of the state—those alleged enemies of liberty! Why did the legislature, at the period of the Revolution, go no further than to declare the law? Because the Roman Catholics had not only been friendly to liberty, but had established the principles of liberty by statute, that the wisdom of the reformers could not exceed their distinct enactments.
Sir, what is the amount, of the charge now preferred against the Catholics? That they are governed and swayed by all those canons which, they contend, have been grossly misinterpreted; but which, however interpreted, they have forsworn. They are accused of maintaining the deposing power of the Pope—of cherishing regicidal principles, and of asserting the right of perjury. On these assumptions, and in this enlightened age, the Catholic is not only not admitted to the constitution, but formally excluded from it. Sir, I defy those who are hostile to Catholic concession to support their positions by any thing but by these canons—nugntory, contemptible, obsolete, and denied by the Catholics themselves. What were the answers made by the Universities of Salamanca, Paris, Alcala, 756 Louvain, Douay, and St. Omers, to the questions put to them?
"1. Has the Pope, or cardinals, or any body of men, or any individual of the church of Rome, any civil authority, power, jurisdiction, or pre-eminence whatsoever, within the realm of England?
" 2. Can the Pope, or cardinals, or any body of men, or any individual of the church of Rome, absolve or dispense with his Majesty's-subjects from their oath of allegiance, upon any pretext whatsoever?
" 3. Is there any principle in the tenets of the Catholic faith, by which Catholics may break faith with Protestants, or other persons differing from them in religious opinions, in any transaction, either of a public or a private nature?"
They were asked whether the Pope had a deposing power, and whether it was a tenet of the Catholic religion to hold no faith with heretics? Sir, on the best authorities, I can assert that those learned bodies were disposed not to deny, but to ridicule, the opinions imputed to them—not to reject, but to scorn them. They, however, answered, that the pope had no such deposing power, and that, as to the supposition that the Catholics would keep no faith with Protestants, they were almost ashamed to say any thing on the subject.
Sir, a book has been alluded to, used by the students at Maynooth; and it has been adduced as decisive evidence, not only of the criminal principles of the Catholics, but as a proof of the criminal principles, which the posterity of the existing Catholics were doomed to imbibe, by its being rendered available to the purpose of their education. These criminal principles are the authority of the Pope to depose royal authority; the consequent regicidal disposition of the Catholics, and the tenet that no faith is to be kept with heretics. The work I allude to, Sir, is called Tractatus de Ecclesia; and, with the permission of the House, I will read several passages to shew how baseless their assertions are. [The right hon. gentleman here read some extracts from the book in question. They stated that Christ had not granted to St. Peter direct nor indirect power over the temporal concerns of kingdoms; that, by the kings and emperors of states alone, the supreme temporal establishment of them ought to beheld. That the declarations of pontiffs were not to be considered as infallible, nor as points of faith which it was necessary to salvation to believe.] 757 Here, then, Sir, is a book which has been traduced as a concentration of evils; and it appears that it enjoins principles, directly the reverse of those which have been ascribed to it. When such are the misrepresentations which are circulated, the result is not surprising. But there is another work of higher authority to which I wish to refer. I mean the Common Prayer Book of the Catholics. [The right hon. gentleman here quoted several passages from the Catholic Prayer Book; the tenor of which was, to declare that no general council, much less a papal consistory, had the power of deposing sovereigns, or absolving subjects from their allegiance;—that the Pope had no authority, direct or indirect, over temporal affairs;—that, notwithstanding any papal interference, all Catholic subjects were bound to defend their king and country, at the hazard of their lives and fortunes, even against the Pope himself, should he invade their country;—and, that the alledged duty of Catholic subjects, to murder their princes, if excommunicated for heresy, was impious and execrable, being contrary to all the known laws of God and nature.]
I have another instance with which I shall beg leave to trouble the House, and which will go to complete the chain of proofs which shew the Catholics are not without principles of allegiance, and which will acquit them of every charge and imputation on their loyalty. I mean the oaths which are prescribed to be taken by Catholics by the 31st and 33d of the King. The oath of the 31st, which must be taken by Roman Catholics in England, runs as follows:
"I, A. B. do hereby declare, that I do profess the Roman Catholic religion.
"I, A. B. do swear, that I do abjure, contemn, and detest, as unchristian and impious, the principle that it is lawful to murder, destroy, or any ways injure any persons whatsoever, for or under 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: I also declare, that it is not an article of the Catholic faith, neither am I hereby required to believe or profess, that the Pope is infallible, or that I am bound to obey any order, in its own nature 758 immoral, though the Pope, or any ecclesiastical power, should issue or direct such order, but, on the contrary, I hold, that it would be sinful in me to pay any respect or obedience thereto: I further declare, that I do not believe, that any sin whatever committed by me can be forgiven, at the mere will of any Pope, or any person or persons whatsoever; but that sincere sorrow for past sins, a firm and sincere resolution to avoid future guilt, and to atone to God, are previous and indispensable requisites to establish a well-founded expectation of forgiveness; and that any person who receives absolution, without those previous requisites, so far from obtaining thereby any remission of his sins, incurs the additional guilt of violating a sacrament; and 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 hereby 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."
But the oath of the 33d of the King, which is particular to Ireland, I beg the House to pay every attention to:—
"I, A. B. do hereby declare, that I do profess the Roman Catholic religion.
"I, A. B. do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be faithful, and bear true allegiance to his Majesty, King George the 3d, and him will defend to the utmost of my power, against all conspiracies and attempts whatsoever that shall be made against his person, crown, or dignity: and I will do my utmost endeavour to disclose and make known to his Majesty, his heirs and successors, all treasons and traitorous conspiracies which may be formed against him or them: and I do faithfully promise, to maintain, support, and defend, to the utmost of my power, the succession of the crown; which succession, by an act, entitled, 'An Act for the further limitation of the crown, and better securing the rights and liberties of the subject,' is, and stands limited to the princess Sophia, electress and duchess dowager of Hanover, and the heirs of her body, being Protestants; hereby utterly renouncing and 759 abjuring any obedience or allegiance unto any other person claiming or pretending a right to the crown of these realms: and I do swear, that I do reject, and detest, as an unchristian and impious position, that it is lawful to murder or destroy any person or persons whatsoever, for, or under pretence of, their being heretics or infidels; and also that unchristian and impious principle, that faith is not to be kept with heretics or infidels: and I further declare, that it is not an article of my faith, and that I do renounce, reject, and abjure the opinion, that princes, excommunicated by the Pope and council, or any authority of the see of Rome, or by any authority whatsoever, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or any person whatsoever: and I do promise, that I will not hold, maintain, or abet any such opinion, or any other opinions, contrary to what is expressed in this declaration: and I do declare, that I do not believe that the Pope of Rome, or any other foreign prince, prelate, state, or potentate, hath, or ought to have, any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm: and I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatever, and without any dispensation already granted by the Pope, or any authority of the see of Rome, or any person whatever, and without thinking that I am, or can be acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration, or any part thereof, although the Pope, or any other person or authority whatsoever, shall dispense with, or annul the same, or declare that it was null or void.—So help me God."
Now I ask what further answer you require to the charges urged against the Catholics? There is a further—an indictment or information—a criminal proceeding is the only answer. The petitioners against the Catholics may say what they choose as to their good intentions, but with respect to the pamphlets, which charge them with murder and treason as their creed, they must charge them wish perjury also. If such a pamphlet were written against my lord Fingal or Sir Thomas Bellew, the printer would say in vain that he did not mean such an imputation. Suppose lord Fingal should indict the author, 760 would he be suffered to produce the canons in his defence? Would my lord Ellenborough or any other judge, suffer him to extenuate the offence, by citing the decrees of the council of Constance, or the council of Trent?—No! But the author might urge in his defence, that he had no particular meaning injurious to lord Fingal or Sir Thomas Bellew, but only to four millions of his Majesty's Catholic subjects. But there is another refutation of such a charge against the Catholics—the impossibility of its truth: it amounts to such a pitch of moral turpitude, as would burst asunder the bonds of civil and society intercourse; it would be a dissolution of the elements of society, and of the elastic principle which binds man to man. It is not merely unfounded, but monstrous; it is not in the nature of man, but in the nature of sects, which, when they contend for power, charge each other with what they know to be false.
But there is yet another answer, which some of those learned divines, who have acted so conspicuous a part of late, would do well to make themselves more familiar with, before they persist in such monstrous charges against their Catholic brethren—the Christian religion. I speak of the account which they give of that religion when they pray—and then I will give their account of the same religion when they petition. In their prayer they say that their Redeemer was sent as an atonement for the whole human race, but in their petitions they say that Christians in general are monsters. They add, that the Deity has been deaf to all the nations of the earth except this; and that here the knowledge of the true religion is confined to certain colleges and corporations—that this is done by certain barriers—and that those barriers are nothing more than the restrictions by which they keep all the power and all the profit to themselves. He is not the same God when they pray and when they petition, and therefore the charges in this Petition must be false.
I beg here again to profess great respect for the petitioners. I hope the time is not far distant when the Catholics and Protestants shall be one people, and when they will act together against a common enemy in a common cause. But what is the proposal of these petitioners? To exclude for ever a great portion of their fellow subjects from the constitution. This is a pretty strong proposal. Why do they 761 make it? Because the Catholics are traitors and murderers. It is a proposal to exclude no fewer than one-fifth of the whole population of your empire from all political influence. I say if you allow these things to go on—if you do not put a stop to this torrent of contumely, you will scold these unfortunate men out of all connection with you. But it becomes the Commons House of Parliament to consider, not whether any causes of discord unfortunately exist, but whether you have the elements of concord within your power.
You say on the one part, that there are legitimate objections, and you enumerate the evils which may arise from the removal of the disqualification of the Catholics. But a great portion of the Protestants of Ireland have not seen those evils. They have petitioned in favour of the Catholics. I have a book filled with their names in my pocket. I know that it will be said again, that the Catholics insist on conditions. I will not take this argument—you, the Parliament, are to frame your Bill, and to propose your conditions—the Catholics do not see what security they ought to give—they say that they have already given every security; though a synod of their bishops has declared that they have no indisposition to every mode of conciliation—' We seek for nothing,' say they, 'but the integrity of the Roman Catholic church;' but every thing which does not trench on the security of their church, or which is necessary for you, they are ready to grant you. They are against making their liberty a conditional boon; they do not see the necessity of what you demand, but they will give you every security you think necessary, provided it does not derogate from the rights of their church. Then, I say, the privileges of the Catholics and the rights of the Protestant church are perfectly consistent, and parliament should find the means of reconciling them.
Give me leave to say, as to the Anti-Catholic petitioners, that many of them do not profess themselves hostile to the principle, but anxious about the mode of extending those rights claimed by the Catholics. They do not say, 'exclude the Catholics,' but do not admit the Catholics unless you take care of our religion. I do not say, that I am obliged to agree that the church of England is an enemy to the liberty of the Catholics—still less that the people of England are enemies to their liberty—so far from it, that I would 762 little fear to repose the question on their good sense and sober integrity. I do believe, that, if they thought their religion was safe, they would be among the warmest friends of the Catholics. The only point, then, is the security of the Protestant church, and, for that, they have pointed out the means—they have no right to say that they are the only judges of the conditions to be imposed, or who are to tell you that you can only save the church of England by denying their prayers to the Catholics of Ireland. You shall have declared, in the strongest manner, all the securities you can ask; you shall have the crown and its succession confirmed, as fundamental, unalienable, and sacred; you shall have the episcopal church of England, Ireland, and Scotland, as established by law.
Some of the petitioners against the Catholics, desire the separation to be eternal; I would secure the church and the state by identification; they would do it by patronage—I by union. I would effect every object by bringing in a Bill, which should contain such provisions as would guard the rights of the church, and the colleges, and the corporations; and I would leave other provisions, to be filled up by others in the committee, provided they were not filled up in such a manner as to qualify, or rather to neutralize, the liberty you were conceding, or to displace the gift you were bestowing. Such a measure I think practicable, and I know it to be desirable. This preamble I would make a covenant of concord, in which I would urge the necessity of putting an end to all animosities, national and religious.
The two islands have been, for two centuries, in a state of political contest—I would put an end to it—I would have the liberty of the press unrestrained in every thing but one—the people should not abuse one another out of their allegiance. They have the French and the Dutch to quarrel with abroad, and they may quarrel with ministers at home, or if they do not like that, they may attack the opposition: But they should never wage war against each other. It is a system which you cannot put an end to too soon—you are one people—you have but one interest—the outcry, which is raised among you, is neither the voice of religion, nor the voice of nature, and it cannot be appeased too soon. I would therefore propose as a first step, that the House should go into a committee on the Catholic claims, agreeably 763 to the Resolution of the last parliament, and I would now read the resolution which I should bring forward in the committee as the foundation of a bill.—The right hon. gentleman then read the Resolution to the following effect,—" That with a view to such an adjustment as may be conclusive for the peace, strength and security of the English constitution and the ultimate concord of the British empire, it is highly advisable to provide for the removal of the civil and military disqualifications, under which his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects at present labour, making full provision, at the same time, for the maintenance and security of the Protestant succession to the crown, according to the Act of Limitations, and for preserving inviolable the Protestant episcopal church of Great Britain and Ireland, and the church of Scotland, their doctrines, discipline, and government as by law established."
I now move, "That this House will resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into its most serious consideration the State of the Laws affecting his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects in Great Britain and Ireland, with a view to such a final and conciliatory adjustment as may be conducive to the peace and strength of the United Kingdom, to the stability of the Protestant establishment, and to the general satisfaction and concord of all classes of his Majesty's subjects."
§ Mr. William Edward Tomline
addressed the House, in a maiden speech, as follows:
Sir; I rise, with great diffidence, on the present occasion, conscious of my inability to offer any thing, which may have the commendation of novelty, upon a subject so repeatedly discussed by persons the most distinguished for talents, for knowledge and for political experience:—but, forcibly impressed with the variety of considerations it involves, and the importance of the interests it affects, being no less than the rights and privileges we enjoy as Protestants, I cannot, consistently with the conscientious discharge of duty which, as a member of this House, I feel myself called upon to perform, be content with giving merely a silent vote upon a question so incalculably momentous.
It is my wish to avoid every expression, to abstain from every argument, which can tend to increase jealousies, and inflame 764 animosities, already far too prevalent and too bitter; sensible that the House will best command the respect, and insure the confidence, of the nation, by a discussion, perhaps the most important which could be agitated within its walls, conducted without rancour or asperity, of claims urged, on the one hand, with zeal, but without violence, and resisted, on the other, with firmness, with uncompromising firmness, but without hostility.
Before I proceed in the consideration of the main question, I am anxious to advert to an argument, frequently adduced in its support—viz. that, amongst other great authorities quoted as favourable to the measure, an appeal had been always made to the opinions of Mr. Pitt. I am particularly anxious to state those reasons which induced me to draw, in some degree, at least, a different conclusion from that which is usually drawn, and to diminish, very considerably, the force of an appeal to the principles of one, under whose sanction so many of his strenuous opponents, while living, are now glad to shelter their opinions, and to whom so many of his zealous adherents profess that they are willing to submit their own judgment. I wish not, Sir, to enter into any detail of what passed at the end of the year 1800, or the beginning of the year 1801, when the most able and most virtuous minister who ever presided over the councils of this or of any other country, was induced to resign, because he had not permission, from a certain quarter, to propose any measure the object of which should be to enable Roman Catholics to hold any office or situation of trust or power; but. Sir, I may, I hope, be allowed to say, that it was then generally known, that this resignation took place before any specific measure was actually proposed—the end was, upon principle, objected to, and therefore it could answer no purpose to examine into the means. It is also certain, that no explanation nor statement of what was really intended was ever made in this House, although the great man to whom I allude lived five years after his resignation, and the subject was frequently discussed in parliament. But, if there were no public avowal of his precise intentions, did he ever communicate any plan to his colleagues in office? The noble and learned lord who now holds the great seal, and who is known to have stood very high in Mr. Pitt's esteem and 765 confidence, has declared that he never heard any particulars of such a plan from Mr. Pitt; and, if I be not mistaken, he went so far as to say, that he did not believe that Mr. Pitt had formed any plan—and if, to this positive declaration, we add the silence of his other colleagues in office, we seem warranted in asserting, that, in reality, Mr. Pitt had no plan. We all know that, upon every future occasion, he discouraged and opposed the discussion of the Catholic claims, and that he afterwards took office, with an express understanding that he was not to bring the question before parliament.
If, then, it be recollected, that the difficulty about the Popish question arose suddenly and unexpectedly at the end of the year 1800, when Mr. Pitt had certainly not so far considered the subject as to form a definite plan; and if, with this circumstance, we couple subsequent facts, would it be too much to infer, that there is a probability that Mr. Pitt, after more mature consideration, and perhaps after a more full and more correct information relative to the state of Ireland, might, in some degree at least, change his opinion respecting the importance or the practicability of that measure, which he once had in contemplation.—By practicability, I mean its consistency with the safety of tour established church; a standard to which Mr. Pitt invariably referred.—But, whatever may be thought of this inference, it seems undeniable that a substitute for the present test was a matter of great difficulty, even to Mr. Pitt; and no one will presume to assert, that he ever had in contemplation the unconditional and unqualified repeal of all disabling statutes. His comprehensive genius, his almost intuitive quickness in removing obstacles, and in devising plans, upon every subject to which human intellect is competent, are well known; and it cannot be denied, that the proposal of a plan, effectual to the purpose in question, and free from all danger and objection, would have been highly to his honour, as well as a complete justification of his conduct. But he never did propose such a plan—and, after the time to which I allude, he never declared that he believed such a plan to be practicable. And who will hope to succeed where Mr. Pitt failed? Who will enforce the necessity of perseverance in a measure which Mr. Pitt abandoned? Who will say that that measure 16 indispensable, which Mr. Pitt consented 766 not only not to bring forward, when placed in the responsible situation of first minister of this country, but if brought forward from any other quarter, to resist and oppose?
Reflection seems to have convinced Mr. Pitt that he had attached more importance to the measure than it really deserved; for he almost instantly declared that he would never bring forward, nor support, the measure, during the present reign. Did this look as if he considered it as of vital importance? Or, if he had considered it of vital importance, and had been conscious of possessing ft plan safe and practicable, would he not, when he found his health declining, have left it in writing, to be hereafter adopted? When circumstances would permit, would he not have communicated it to some confidential friend? I will venture to affirm that no such writing was left—no such communication was made.
It is by no means a matter of surprise that gentlemen who favour the popish claims should wish to avail themselves of Mr. Pitt's great name; and my anxiety that more weight may not be given to his authority than circumstances will really justify, must be my apology for having entered into these particulars. The advocates for the unconditional repeal of the disabling statutes cannot appeal to Mr. Pitt, as of this he had no idea—nor can it be said that any one specific plan of substitution, which may be proposed, would have had his approbation. The utmost which can be said is, that Mr. Pitt had once a general idea that a plan might be devised for admitting Roman Catholics to office, and situations of trust and power, without endangering the constitution; but there is no ground for asserting that he retained this opinion till his death: and there is a moral certainty that he never did form such a plan, and that he never would have consented to the removal of these statutes, without substituting others which, in his opinion, would afford equal security for the preservation of our civil and religious liberties.
Sir, I am aware that any argument, deduced from authority, however high, is not the argument which can or ought to determine the judgment of this House. It is to the expediency or the inexpediency, to the danger or security of any measure, that this House ought to direct its deliberative wisdom. Before I proceed to examine the nature and effect of these 767 claims, it is natural I should wish to call the attention of the House to the present situation of the Roman Catholics in Ireland; in order to ascertain whether there be any just foundation for those arguments deduced from their alleged state of bondage and oppression, and for those appeals to our justice and humanity, by which so many attempts have been made to influence our judgment. I am aware how difficult it must be to counteract those feelings which the eloquence just exerted in their behalf cannot fail to have excited in every breast; feelings which, were I not convinced that the picture which has been drawn exists only in imagination, I trust I should ever cherish with delight, and avow with eagerness.
Sir, were we to listen with impartial reliance upon the representations of the right hon. gentleman, we should be led to believe that the Roman Catholics of Ireland were, by us, condemned to drag on a miserable existence, expelled, as it were, from the bosom of their native country, struggling with all the inventions of tyranny, and contending against all the machinations of persecution; neither secured in their property from plunder, nor in their persons protected from outrage; but borne down with afflictions, which they cannot alleviate, and overwhelmed with sorrows which they cannot avert: in poverty, amidst surrounding affluence which they cannot enjoy; in slavery, amidst universal freedom, from which they are excluded; in misery, amidst pre-eminent blessings, in which they are doomed not to participate.
Such is the portrait exhibited for our commiseration, and such the condition we are called upon to ameliorate. But can any one, uninfluenced by prejudice, can any one uninflamed by passion, for an instant, contend that the representation is just? On the contrary, are they not governed by the same impartial laws, associated in the same interests, and members of the same community with their Protestant fellow-subjects? Is not every encouragement afforded to their industry, every regard paid to their welfare, and every exertion made for their happiness, equally with ourseives? Are they not in the undisturbed possession of their religion? Is not their hierarchy protected, and are they not, by law, secured in the complete observance and unmolested celebration of all their sacred rites? Is there not a college founded and maintained at the public 768 expence, for the sole and exclusive purpose of educating their youth, according to their own principles, and instilling into their minds their own doctrines and tenets? Have they not even their share of political influence, by the unqualified admission to the elective franchise? In short, though, for reasons which we shall come to presently, the higher ranks are precluded from attaining some of the most exalted stations of power and of trust, can it be said that the body of the Roman Catholics are not in the perfect enjoyment of all the accumulated blessings of our invaluable constitution?
Without entering into the necessity of a church establishment; without arguing the duty, incumbent upon every government, to provide for its security; because I believe they are truths which few, if any, members of this House will be disposed to deny, and without now considering whether the disabilities which exist are more or less than are essential for that purpose, I will assert as an incontrovertible position, that no laws, enacted for the preservation of the national religion, can be oppressive, no conditions, annexed to the profession of a different religion, can be unjust, either in a moral or in a political point of view, provided they neither affect the freedom of the subject, nor diminish the security of his property; provided they exclude him from none of the comforts of society life, and impose no restraint upon the liberty of conscience. It has been frequently said, and cannot be too often repeated, that all offices are created, not for the benefit of individuals, but for the advantage of the public: and if the majority of those whose happiness is the object to be promoted, and whose sentiments and principles are to direct all the civil and political regulations, shall determine that, for certain situations artificially created, certain qualifications shall be necessary, those who shall be disqualified can have no reasonable cause to complain of hardship, nor of any real grievance: they may indeed, with justice, look for protection, but they ought not to expect confidence, being deficient in the very foundation of confidence—attachment to those provisions which would be entrusted to their care.
If, then, the Roman Catholics cannot claim these concessions as a right, is it expedient, as an abstract question of policy, that they should be conceded? Here a field of discussion opens to our view, as 769 boundless in its extent, as it is important in its nature; a labyrinth, through which we may travel in safety, if we will hearken to experience as our guide, but in whose intricate mazes we may continue for ever to wander, if we suffer ourselves to be beguiled by speculations, however plausible, or theories, however ingenious.
I would not have trespassed, even for a moment, upon the time and patience of the House, by detailing those facts which so loudly and so unequivocally proclaim the spirit inculcated by the Roman Catholic religion, had it not been for the forcible and eloquent panegyric I have this evening heard, and heard with astonishment, pronounced upon that religion; I am far from wishing to sound an alarm unnecessarily, but I cannot, when I hear the voice of history speak one uniform, consistent language, be deaf to her warnings; I cannot misunderstand her admonitions. I entreat those who, advocate the cause of the Roman Catholics, to compare the persecuting spirit of their religion, with the benignant spirit of ours; their principles favourable to despotism, with ours encouraging liberty; their arrogant infallibility with our acknowledgment of the erroneousness of human judgment; their inquisition with our trial by jury; their rod of iron with our sceptre of olive; and then say whether, upon the terms they propose, union can long exist, or harmony can long prevail. Recourse can no more be had to the excuse which was urged a few years since, that any change has taken place in the nature of their principles; for, independently of the absurdity of supposing that infallible doctrines are liable to alteration, we have now the most positive and distinct assurances of their own writers, that their principles are unchanged and unchangeable, and therefore applicable at all times, and to all circumstances.
I have said, if the proposals of the Roman Catholics are granted, harmony and concord cannot long prevail; but will they obtain even a temporary existence? Will the. Roman Catholic gain in content, what we lose in security? Will even a momentary cordial conciliation be effected? A conciliation not confined to the narrow circle of those who will be immediately benefited, but which shall be generally and universally diffused through the people? A conciliation which shall soften national prejudices, shall temper misguided zeal, shall still the clamours of disaffection, 770 and shall beget confidence and friendship in the room of jealousy and mistrust? These concessions, it is true, may add power to the powerful, may increase the wealth of the wealthy, and gratify the ambition of the ambitious; but will their effects be felt by those who are struggling with poverty, perhaps groaning under oppression, arising from a totally different cause from that of which they are taught to complain? The mansions of those interested few who have derived advantages from the successful result of their perseverance may, for a time, resound with the celebration of their victory; but will the feelings of gratitude pervade the humble dwellings of the poor? I mean not, Sir, to assert that there are no persons who would be contented with the concessions in question, but I contend that the number of those who feel any strong interest upon this subject, unconnected with any ulterior object, is exceedingly small. On the other hand, what is the number of those for whom danger is to be apprehended? It is no less than the whole Protestant population of the united empire! And what is the advantage proposed for the public? It is that the public may have the chance of being benefited by the service of persons, in a few situations, from which they are at present excluded! And what is the danger to be apprehended for the public? Nothing less than the destruction of our civil and ecclesiastical constitution! And would it be right to expose so many to danger, for the sake of gratifying so few? Would it be wise to risk so much for the chance of gaining so little? Has this or the other Protestant House of Parliament been found incompetent to the discharge of its important duties? Have there been wanting Protestants of skill and courage to command our army or our navy? Have there been wanting Protestants of learning and integrity to preside in our courts of justice and equity? Have there been wanting Protestants of sound constitutional principles and distinguished political knowledge to fill the great offices of state?
The right hon. gentleman stated that the admission of Papists, into all offices of trust and power, will secure the future peace and tranquillity of Ireland. I am persuaded that none of the seditious practices, of which Ireland has been the unfortunate scene, in reality owed their origin to any disability, to which the Roman Catholics were subject. We ought ever to bear in mind that all penal statutes, 771 of every description, and all the disabling statutes, which apply to the lower and middle ranks of life, which must constitute far the largest proportion, among any set of people, are already removed: they can acquire property of any description; they can pursue any profession; they are permitted to exercise the elective franchise; and will people, who enjoy all these valuable privileges, which are within their reach, rebel against the government under which they enjoy them, merely because they cannot become members of parliament, or secretaries of state; situations to which it would be ridiculous to consider them as aspiring?
Mankind, Sir, are not thus keenly, thus tremblingly alive to the feelings of others. Let gentlemen consider the conduct of their own tenantry and of the peasantry of the neighbourhood in which they live; and let them say whether they ever discover any symptoms of this quick sensibility, of this readiness to fly to arms, and to have recourse to any means, however illegal or however violent, in support of any cause in which their landlords or superiors alone, were supposed to have an interest.
That the lowest orders of the Roman Catholics but ill brook a Protestant government, is but too true; that they have been so familiarised with discontent as to be ever ready to manifest its spirit, as opportunity should offer, we have had too many melancholy examples;—but it is not for what is commonly called Catholic emancipation alone that they have renounced their allegiance; it is not for Catholic emancipation alone that they have invited a foreign enemy to their shores; it is not for Catholic emancipation that so many endeavours have been been made to assert the independence of Ireland, and create a total separation from this country. Catholic emancipation is a term to which, if they attach any meaning at all, they attach a very different meaning from its general acceptation in this country: but it is a powerful engine, in the hands of a crafty priesthood, and the more dangerous, from being ambiguous and undefined in its precise signification—a stalking horse to mislead the ignorant, to deceive the moderate, and blind the well disposed; but whose concealed poison is well understood by the turbulent and disaffected: and, if attained, it will be the ground for insisting upon farther encroachments, a step towards the ultimate fulfilment of their wishes.
772 The events of the last forty years most abundantly prove that, if concessions would gratify their wishes, if lenity would insure their gratitude, or kindness conciliate their affections, there would now have been a noble and generous ardour amongst them to prove that their hearts were as closely united, as their interests are inseparably interwoven with this country: but every indulgence has been the parent of fresh demands, and success has only encouraged their ambition; not content with the repeal of all the penal laws, not satisfied with the enjoyment of greater privileges than any Catholic state ever allowed, either individually or collectively, to persons of a different persuasion, they boldly arraign the justice of the state, for insisting upon the continuance of any civil distinctions, though so wide a difference must exist in all spiritual matters. They disdain the language of petition and assume the tone of demand; they enjoy, as a right, the privileges which have been conceded, and scorn all idea of obligation. They no longer ask, as an indulgence, but claim as their undoubted right, a right inherent in them as British subjects, the unqualified repeal of all disabling statutes, the unqualified abolition of all religious tests! But, while the faith which a man may profess, shall be considered as having any influence upon his general conduct, while soundness in religious principles shall be allowed to be the best security for moral integrity, and the most powerful incentive to an active and conscientious discharge of every society and political duty, so long may we hope that some religious test will be required from those who are placed in the most important public situations, and are entrusted with the protection and support of our invaluable constitution!
Let me not be misunderstood, in any thing which I have said, as involving, in indiscriminate censure, the whole mast of the Roman Catholics; far be it from me to draw no distinction between passive instruments and active leaders—far be it from me to include, in the same sentence, the deluded victims of ignorance with the daring abettors of wickedness. It is not the people of Ireland whom I would reproach, chained as they are by implicit obedience to their spiritual guides; it is not the people of Ireland whom I would fear, were they not subservient to the same controlling influence. Those only would I reproach who have not ignorance to 773 plead in their excuse, but who pervert the advantages of education, and abuse the talents of nature; who, too well aware of their unbounded authority over the feelings of the people, employ it for the worst of purposes; who exasperate enmities, when they might heal dissentions; who encourage disaffection, when they might enforce obedience; and who studiously kindle into a flame every latent spark of discontent, which they might extinguish, and lull the minds of the people into tranquil submission.
Even if there were no dangers to be apprehended from these concessions, still I should feel it my duty to oppose this measure, because I think that the state, which has established a national religion, is imperatively called upon to encourage that religion; because I think that the legislature ought not to preserve a neutrality between a religion, which it supports, and a religion which it only tolerates; because. I think it ought not to manifest an indifference and deal out its favours indiscriminately to those whose principles it approves, and these whose principles it condemns; but that it is bound, in gratitude and duty, to repose a superior confidence and evince a decided preference towards those whose steady attachment preserves its stability and insures its permanence.
Much has been said about the power and numbers of the Roman Catholics, as inducements to comply with their pretensions; into this part of the subject I will not enter at all. I will not examine whether their numbers have not been exaggerated and their power magnified; I will only ask whether those, who are averse to the measure, are not decidedly more numerous? I will only ask, whether they are not infinitely more powerful?
The Protestants of the empire are not indifferent to this great question, but they look with confidence to the decision of this House, appointed as we are by them, the legal guardians of their constitutional rights: they look with confidence to the solemn pledge afforded by the coronation oath, altered and remodelled as it was at the time of the Revolution, for the express purpose of checking the encroachments and curbing the power of Popery: grateful and contented with the blessings they enjoy, they dread such innovation in the constitution; a constitution, the glory of this country, the envy of the world; a constitution, which has enabled us successfully to resist external violence and domestic treason. 774 That this constitution has been preserved under the present existing religious tests, cannot be denied; and, let it be ever remembered, that it has not only been preserved, but preserved under trials the most likely to shake and overthrow any established form of government. While, in the last twenty years, almost every constitution in Europe has been convulsed and overthrown, the constitution of England, under a Protestant government, has remained unshaken and unimpaired. The glory of England, entrusted to Protestant commanders; the power of England, under Protestant ministers, have attained that proud pre-eminence, which is, at once, our happiness and our boast.
If then we are enabled, under existing laws, thus to employ our resources and to call forth our energies, let us pause before we confide those resources and those energies to persons, in whom our ancestors, the founders of this constitution, had found, from experience, they could not safely be vested. Let us pause before we consent to place power in the hands of those who have an interest rather in betraying, than in faithfully watching over their sacred trust.
But, Sir, though I think that the securities for the preservation of our constitution, provided by statesmen whose principles and whose wisdom are the theme of universal applause and unqualified praise, securities sanctioned and endeared to us by a long and happy experience, are entitled to our highest respect, and our most jealous care, yet I should be far from urging the continuance of those disabilities, if I saw any reasonable prospect of attaining the same end by any other means.
Surely, Sir, those gentlemen who are such strenuous advocates of the Roman Catholic claims, ought long ago to have come forward with some specific plan, and to have been able to shew how it is possible to give satisfaction to the Roman Catholics, without endangering the constitution. For myself, Sir, after the best consideration which I have been able to give to the subject, I believe such a plan to be impracticable; but yet my mind is not only open to conviction, but I feel a strong and eager wish that such a plan could be devised; and I should listen with something more than impartiality to any definite proposal which might be submitted to this House for that purpose. While, however, gentlemen choose to confine 775 themselves to motions for going into a committee, for the purpose of taking into consideration these disabling statutes, being fully convinced that such consideration would be ineffectual to its proposed object, and only calculated to hold out delusive hopes, I shall feel it my duty to oppose such motions. What has this House been doing for these last twelve years, but considering these very laws? and here, Sir, it is a little curious to observe accurately the events which have happened within this period.
At first even the Papists themselves, however discontented, however ambitious, however encouraged by former success, could not forget the said promises they had made—they knew that the valuable concessions of 1793 had been made, principally, upon a reliance on their promises; they felt conscious of the unworthy return they had made. With this recollection and this consciousness, they at first urged their claims, as it were, with hesitation, and with a sort of apprehension; Jest the very mention of such a subject should excite universal reprobation and opposition, not only amongst those who were, upon principle, hostile to their claims, but in the breast of every one who regarded the sacredness of a promise, or detested the baseness of ingratitude. Sir, they quickly found their caution unnecessary, and their apprehensions groundless. They soon saw, among their advocates, persons of distinguished abilities, and or great political influence. When persons of this description had taken a decisive part in favour of the Papists, had pledged themselves by their speeches, and committed themselves by their conduct in and out of parliament, the real leaders, in urging the Popish claims, assumed a bolder language, and a higher tone; they extended their views, and enlarged their claim. Instead of petitioning parliament, as they formerly did, for such farther indulgence as parliament, in its wisdom, might think fit to allow, they expect an unreserved compliance with all their extravagant demands. The real leaders in the Popish cause have no longer consulted their Protestant advocates, in this country, as to the time or the manner of petitioning the legislature. They have rejected all advice; and, instead of looking up to their parliamentary friends for instructions, they, the papists, have instructed their parliamentary friends to accede to no terms, to listen to no compromise. And 776 yet those parliamentary friends have consented to support these petitions, fettered and shackled as they are in the line of conduct, they must pursue; no longer the managers, but the performers of the part they have undertaken to play; no longer the principals, but the agents of the cause they still continue to defend. As far as giving satisfaction to the Roman Catholics is concerned, no positive advantage can arise from going into a committee to examine whether any, and what substitute for the present tests can be found. The Ro-man Catholics themselves have declared that nothing short of unconditional repeal of all disabling statutes will satisfy them. They have rejected all attempt at compromise; they have protested against all idea of substitute.
Sir, I am as far as any man from breathing the spirit of intolerance, or maintaining the doctrines of persecution. I would have our country open wide her gates, and welcome all who would enter; but I would not throw clown her walls, nor diminish the security of her bulwarks. I would have her afford an asylum to all who fly to her for protection; but I would not entrust her vital interests to those who refuse to sacrifice at the altars of her church. "Esto perpetua" was the motto of our virtuous ancestors, the banner under which they fought, that they might bequeath it unimpaired to posterity. Let us, then, to whom this invaluable inheritance has been transmitted, in all its genuine purity and pristine vigour, guard it with the same watchful fidelity; let us be animated with the same zeal; let our bosoms glow with the same affection; and, above all, let us not endanger its repose, by the total annihilation of all distinctions between its friends and its enemies; let us not encourage a rivalry, the most dangerous of all rivalries, a rivalry between two conflicting powers, struggling, upon equal terms, for political ascendancy, and aggravated by all the characteristic virulence of religious animosity.
It is well known that, at the time of the Revolution, all the political parties, and all the religious sects, into which the Protestant part of the community was then divided, whatever might be their mutual animosity upon all other points, united in their exertions to exclude despotic sway from our civil government, and in providing for the security of the Protestant religion in these realms. I now call upon all who sincerely wish to promote the general 777 satisfaction and concord of far the greatest proportion of his Majesty's subjects (for of all classes it is impossible); I call upon all such, however differing in the more unimportant points of religious doctrines, however opposed to each other, in their struggles for political influence, to discard, as their ancestors did, all party feeling upon this national question; to unite, as they did, in the same common cause, to manifest the same cordial co-operation in resisting a measure equally hostile to Protestants of all denominations, equally repugnant to all the principles, however diversified, of every friend to limited monarchy; I call upon them to demonstrate, by their vote of this night, that, as Popery is not changed, Protestantism also is unaltered.
§ Sir Robert Heron
addressed the House, in a maiden speech, as follows:
Mr. Speaker, if I have not been able to restrain the impulse which prompted me to avow the opinion I conscientiously hold on this momentous subject, at least. Sir, I will endeavour to merit the indulgence of the House by the only means I possess; by trespassing, for a very short time, upon its patience.
Sir, the honourable gentleman who immediately preceded me, and who spoke with a degree of temper and candour which it shall be my study to imitate, has told us that we have no right to avail ourselves of the authority of Mr. Pitt, certainly a very high authority, in favour of the Catholic claims, because he has an idea that Mr. Pitt might possibly, in the latter years of his life, have changed his opinion on the subject; yet, Sir, as, even in his opinion this circumstance seems to be doubtful, and, as he admits the fact that Mr. Pitt quitted his Majesty's service, because he was unable to carry these measures in favour of the Catholics, which he thought expedient to the welfare of the empire, I must say that I think we remain entitled to avail ourselves of the authority of Mr. Pitt, to as great a degree as it has ever been claimed or relied on by the advocates of the Catholic cause.
Amongst other charges which the hon. gentleman has brought against the Catholics, the most important appears to be, that they are friends to arbitrary government. Now, Sir, this charge, frequently gratuitously urged, and almost as often gratuitously received, appears to me to be totally without foundation. At least I 778 cannot find, in history, any thing to prove that the Protestants have shown themselves, in any respect, greater friends to rational freedom.
Was Henry the 8th, who effected the Reformation from no other motives than those of lust and avarice, so great a friend to liberty? Was the glorious queen Elizabeth so great a friend to the liberties of the people, or the privileges of their representatives? The right hon. gentleman who opened the debate, and whose brilliant exertions it little becomes me even to commend, has stated to you the services of the Catholics at Runnymede, in favour of liberty.
It is true, that, at the Revolution, the Catholics adhered to James the 2nd; but the great body of the people, Protestants and even Presbyterians, were equally attached to him. It is well known that the Revolution was accomplished by a few patriotic nobles and gentry; and had James the 2nd, at. any period before his second and final departure from the capital, shewn the slightest degree of courage or of firmness, the prince of Orange might then have thought himself sufficiently fortunate if he had returned in safety to his native country.
The nation was brought to acquiesce in the Revolution by the idea that their religion was in danger, and it cannot be a subject for wonder, if the Catholics continued, longer than the rest of the nation, attached to their hereditary monarch, against whom no effectual objection was urged, except his devotion to their religion. The hon. gentleman ought to have recollected that the late rebellion in Ireland was not a religious war; it was the struggle of the conquered against the conquerors; of the native Irish against the Orange faction; it was not contrived by Catholics, and even the principal leaders of the insurrection are well known to have been Protestants.
Sir, I will not rely upon the little information I possess, but I cannot recollect a single instance in history, of a Catholic nation having exchanged its free condition for an arbitrary government; yet there exists, in modern times, two striking instances of Protestant nations having undergone that change: I need scarcely name Sweden and Denmark. But it has always been too easy for designing men to agitate the nation on this subject; when other pretences have been wanting, the very name of the Pope has been, at all times, 779 sufficient to terrify the people. This unfortunate pontiff, trodden upon in France, despised in Italy, without territories, without revenue, abjuring temporal power, and, in fact, possessing none, is powerful only in the British dominions. Such, Sir, is the weakness of our government, such the disloyalty of our people, so cowardly are our soldiers, so stupid and ignorant our generals, so ineffective is our navy, that not even our insular position can protect us from the fear of this mighty potentate. But it is a source, to me, of the highest satisfaction, that this alarm has at length subsided; it is no longer possible to mislead the people by exciting their terrors; attempts to attain that object have not, on the present occasion, been wanting, but they have been wholly unavailing. I do not deny, Sir, that numerous petitions have been presented to this House against the Catholic claims, and that many of them are entitled to respect; but, of those which carry, in my mind, by far the greatest weight, (it does not become me to speak of Ireland or Scotland) of petitions from the freeholders or inhabitants of counties duly convened by the sheriffs, not more, I believe, than six, have been presented; and those have not all been adverse to the Catholics.
I hold in my hand, Sir, a pamphlet which purports to be the work of a society which has assumed the lofty name of Protestant Union; union for the purpose of creating disunion. Of those who compose this society I know nothing; it does not seem very proud of its members, for it has published no list of them, nor of its committee; it does seem proud of its chairman, and with reason, for his name is dear to humanity. This publication consists principally of resolutions, and of queries put to the Catholics, but, as it appears to have been no part of the plan to obtain answers to these queries, the publication is wisely made at the very moment when it is likely to have its full effect upon the people, immediately before this debate, and when there was no longer any time for the Catholics of Ireland to make a reply to it; for the first meeting of the society is on the 12th of this month.
To this pamphlet is prefixed an Address, sufficiently pompous, in which the society promises to take the country under its protection, to direct the public opinion, and, from time to time, to afford that information, without which the two Houses of Parliament must have remained in such 780 miserable ignorance. The first light, however, which they give us, is somewhat dark, for it consists of anonymous letters. Now, Sir, I cannot but think that, when the worthy chairman has had time for cool reflection, he will seriously repent having brought against the Catholics, the heaviest charges, without excepting even that of murder, supported only, by anonymous letters.
Sir, the clergy have not shewn, on this occasion, any deficiency of zeal; their exertions have not been wanting to load your table with petitions against the claims of the Catholics; Bishops and many high dignitaries, some with mitres on their heads, and some, perhaps, with mitres in their heads, have been active in sounding the alarm. Foremost in this holy crusade, in the front ranks of this army of the high church militant, stands a reverend and very learned prelate, from whose former works I have derived both pleasure and instruction; but I much doubt whether that, to which I now allude, whatever opinion gentlemen may entertain as to the talents which may be displayed in it, I very much doubt whether it will greatly add to his reputation for candour. Is it becoming in a prelate of the mild Protestant reformed church of England, to thunder out his anathemas against all who may dare to differ from him in opinion? Is it fitting that he should ascribe their conduct to the most profligate motives? Can he make no allowance for those who, without his talents, without his learning, may err with the best intentions? Yet he has declared that he will trace the opinions of those who advocate the claims of the Catholics, to artful misrepresentation, specious liberality, or infidel indifference.—Sir, I will never bring the last charge against any man without the most clear and weighty proof; but I think I may, without subjecting myself to the imputation of illiberality, retort the two first accusations upon the learned prelate himself—he has declared himself the liberal friend of toleration, but his specious liberality goes no further than permitting just so much toleration as, being already granted, he can no longer withhold: and he pretty clearly insinuates that, even that toleration goes far beyond what he would have consented to;—and to what, Sir, but to artful misrepresentation, can be ascribed his attempt to avail himself of the great name of the illustrious Mr. Fox, in support of his argument? his 781 endeavour to represent that virtuous patriot, who spent the whole of his political life in the support of civil and religious liberty, as favourable to his own narrow and exclusive views? This he has done, by applying Mr. Fox's argument, against a Popish king, with a subservient administration, to the possible circumstance of half a dozen Catholic peers, and perhaps twice as many commoners, being admitted into a legislature, composed of a thousand persons. I hope I do not presume too much upon the patience of the House, but, obnoxious as I am to the charges of the reverend prelate, for no man can differ more widely than I do from his opinions, on this subject, it may not be impertinent for me to declare that I am, as I have always been, from birth, education, and conviction, a zealous member of the Protestant church of England; but that I shall always claim for others, what I should, in every possible circumstance, claim for myself; the undoubted right of every man to worship the Deity in the manner which his conscience dictates to him, without suffering, on that account, any incapacity or disability whatever.
I shall, now, Sir, conclude with expressing my anxious hope that the House, by going into a committee, will fulfil the promise held out to the Catholics, by their predecessors, the last parliament; and, by restoring harmony to the empire, will prepare it for meeting the severe and arduous contest, with the continuance and increasing difficulties of which, we still are threatened.
§ Mr. Bankes
.—Mr. Speaker, before I advert to the substance and material part of the speech of the right hon. mover, which forms by no means the largest portion of it, I am desirous of taking notice of some preliminary topics, with which he has introduced it. It is natural for the right hon. gentleman, connected as he is with Ireland, and strenuous as he has always been, in furthering the claims of the Roman Catholics, to observe, with dissatisfaction, and criticise with, perhaps, some little degree of severity, the sentiments of petitioners, so little in unison with his own. How such meetings have been convened, composed, or actuated, I possess neither the means, nor the inclination to inquire; but there is one main fact, which these petitions establish, most important for the consideration of the House; which is, that the wishes of the 782 Irish nation, upon this subject, are by no means unanimous; that the representations and appearances of general favor and approbation, towards unconditional emancipation, are disproved; that a sentiment, directly contrary, prevails amongst a large and respectable body of the Protestants of that country, is admitted by the mover; the exact extent of which, I must leave to members, locally acquainted with the places and persons, to discuss and settle.
Approving generally and admiring the tone of moderation and temper, in which the right hon. mover has always treated this subject, there are some expressions of a less conciliatory tendency, which I regret to have heard from him in the course of his speech; particularly one, in which he objects to the propriety or expediency of calling upon one part of his Majesty's subjects to petition against another; and still more to any Irish subjects petitioning a foreign country [Mr. Grattan interrupted, by saying that he had not used the word "foreign," but" another country"] against the liberties of their own. Whither, then, would he wish them to appeal, but to that which, since the Union, is neither a foreign, nor even another country? The united parliament contains their true representatives, as well as ours, and the legislative and deliberate councils of both: is it fair to consider their common head and organ as fit to be addressed, in furtherance of the claims and pretensions of one class, but as being inaccessible to the apprehensions and fears of another?
The privations and sufferings of the Roman Catholics have also been treated by the right hon. gentleman in terms of exaggeration. When partisan sheriffs are spoken of, and partisan judges, is it in-tended to assert that the fountain of justice is polluted, or that the equal dispensation of the laws is withheld from those who profess that persuasion? Is the jurisdiction exercised there, a jurisdiction of prejudices, and parties, or is the steady and uniform current of the law of the land diverted from its course, not according to the preponderance of proof, nor the reason of the case, but according to the religious tenets of the several suitors? I trust, on the contrary, that all the inhabitants of that country are no less blessed, than those of this, with an impartial administration of the laws, and art unbiassed judicature. If such expressions, which magnify so unreasonably the hardships 783 and grievances of the Roman Catholics, cannot be heard without some degree of pain, there are others, which I have listened to with still less satisfaction; by which, unwarrantable reflexions were cast upon the practice of this country, with regard to toleration. I have always thought myself happy in having been born in a kingdom, wherein the principles of wise and liberal policy allowing every man to worship God, according to the dictates of his own heart, are as fully understood, and as extensively practised, as within any state, professing a form of religion, established by law. Our best writers upon the constitution, and our greatest philosophers, have flattered themselves, and us, that we are pre-eminent in the enjoyment of religious, no less than of civil liberty; but it is reserved for the honourable mover to convict them of error, to dissipate this pleasing illusion, and to demonstrate that, in England, toleration is utterly incomplete, and imperfect, and that we must have recourse to foreign states, in communion with the see of Rome, for its true and genuine essence. The right hon. gentleman particularly instanced France and Hungary; and, with regard to the latter, he read an edict, which undoubtedly carries, in the terms of it, the fullest and most ample allowance of all modes of worship, together with an indiscriminate admission to all places of honor and trust. Such conduct is highly creditable to the state which adopts it, but there may exist checks against its abuse, or excess, in a dependent province of the Austrian dominion, which are inapplicable to an integral part of the British.
With regard to France, the real state of this matter may deserve fuller consideration. Not only the practice or opinions of those who govern in Catholic kingdoms, must be looked to, but the doctrines, councils, and canons of the church, to which they profess spiritual obedience. If it should be objected that it is an unfair mode of trying this question to cite, against the church of Rome, every scrap which breathes intolerance and persecution, from the councils of Lateran, or Constance, or Trent; to call into sight antiquated canons and bulls, and to charge upon the modern professors of that religion, all the violence and intemperance of their predecessors, we must ask who is to blame for this? The church of Rome not only does not renounce any tenet 784 which she has ever held, but glories in her perpetual unity of doctrine; referring, as to an unquestionable and an authentic text, to the councils, canons, and bulls of all former times. Her advocates here, would defend her, upon a supposed departure from those principles, which they state not to be disclaimed indeed, but to be grown obsolete, and impossible to be recalled into activity: but she rejects all such defence; she maintains that whatever has been once laid down is unchanged, and unchangeable. If her rules of action be the same as in the darker ages, is it reasonable to suppose that her conduct would be different, if she were invested with the same power? The right hon. gentleman has laid it down as a maxim, that all churches are naturally intolerant; and that it is for the wisdom and justice of those who are in civil authority, to correct and counteract this narrow and illiberal tendency. In what manner the head of the church of Rome has asserted the old pretensions, belonging to that see, against the civil authority of an empire, no less powerful than that of France under its present ruler, I am prepared to show from authentic documents, begging the House to judge, after hearing them, whether they can perceive any thing, in the modern language of the sovereign pontiff, more tolerant than that, which was used in older times; any approximation towards union and intercourse, between Ro-man Catholics and heretics; or one single expression, which breathes the spirit of concession, liberality, or conciliation.
The passages, which I am about to read, are extracted from an account of what passed at Rome, upon the occupation of that patrimony of St. Peter, and the person of his holiness, by the French (printed for Keating and Co. December, 1812.) The first of them bears date in February 1808, and contains a remonstrance of the Pope, against an ordinance or code of Buonaparté, which he appears to have circulated as a part of the Concordatum, pretending that it was equally authorized by the Holy Father. The words of the Pope are,—" A claim is set up for the freedom of every sort of worship, with the public exercise thereof: which, as being contrary to the canons, to the councils, and to the Catholic religion, we have rejected.—A reformation of bishoprics is called for, and the independence of the bishops upon us, which being contrary to the intention of our legislator Jesus Christ 785 we protest that we will maintain, for ourselves and our successors, the plenitude of our supremacy.—The articles relating to marriage and divorce, in the French code, are contrary to the laws of the church and the gospel.—Out of the Catholic religion there is no hope of salvation."
Again—" The French system of indifference or equality, with regard to all religions, is utterly opposite to the Catholic; which being the only one of divine institution, cannot form any alliance with any other, any more than Christ can league with Belial.—It is false, that the Concordat has recognized and established the independence of the church of France; or that it has given a sanction to the toleration of other modes of worship."
Another passage or two may be not unworthy of attention. The Pope is spoken of as the lawful sovereign (as he certainly is) of a bishop, within his temporal dominion; but it is added, that "he is also vicar of that God, from whom sovereign power is derived, and who is the King "of all kings."—"The holy see has never granted to bishops, at least in Europe, the power of granting dispensations for marriages between Catholics and Heretics."
There are other parts of this curious publication, and particularly some with regard to oaths, which are not unworthy of notice; but I pass over them, desiring to call the serious attention of the House to those, which I have selected, and to warn all those who hear me, against the specious veil which is endeavoured, in debates, and writings, to be thrown over the deformities of that church: her antipathy to all other churches, is not mitigated by time, nor subdued by reason: there appears not the smallest relaxation, with regard to the intermarriage of Roman Catholics with Protestants, one of the most natural and obvious modes of softening and allaying the asperities of hostile sects, and of bringing them to consider each other with good will and Christian charity, instead of maintaining principles of eternal separation and hostility. What must we deem to be the spirit of the Papal power, when, imprisoned within the walls of the Quirinal palace, stript of all temporal dominion, and surrounded by a French guard, it could utter its remonstrances in such terms, against the subverter of thrones and empires? Can it be credited that opinions, so solemnly pronounced, will not have weight with the Roman Catholic prelates and clergy of 786 Ireland? Or is Ireland the country in the whole world, where the sentiments of bishops, ecclesiastics, and confessors have no influence upon their flocks? The right hon. gentleman asks why should the Roman Catholic church hate the Protestant? We answer that it must necessarily hate it: Pius 7 identifies the church of Rome with Christ himself, and pronounces that Christ can hold no fellowship with Belial.
These observations, though by no means irrelevant to the matter in debate, are drawn from me, by the preliminary topics, on which the right hon. mover has expatiated; and are not the points upon which I intend to rest the propriety or justification of the vote which I am about to give.
Three distinct objects were specified, in the Resolution adopted by the House, on the 22d of June, to which I am not less friendly now, than I was then, nor do I indeed conceive that any reasonable man, of whatever persuasion in religion, or of whatever inclination in respect of party, can be adverse to them. The question was then, and is now, whether these ends are likely to be attained, by the means which are recommended: they were annexed, as conditions, to our considering the laws, affecting the Roman Catholics, and, when the conditions fail, the proceeding, which was to be founded upon them, must fall to the ground, of course. The observations with which I accompanied my vote, showed me not to have been sanguine in hoping that the effect of that decision would be to moderate and conciliate the ardent minds of those, who had gained the ascendant in the Roman Catholic assemblies: nor in believing that a separation would be produced, between those of that communion, who really desired a revision of the laws for the purpose of amicable adjustment, and those, if any such there were, who, under the cloak of emancipation, harboured views unfriendly to the connexion between the two parts of the united kingdom: but other members were much more confident than myself, and ventured to predict that this desirable state of things could not fail to follow the carrying of that Resolution.
There is another of the three objects, upon which the right hon. mover of that Resolution (Mr. Canning) and others felt no anxiety, while I, not only felt, but expressed very serious apprehensions; I mean the temper and general disposition of the Church of England and its members, with regard to the claims of the Roman 787 Catholics. I believed, and stated it not to be apathy nor indifference, which rendered them quiescent, and apparently inert; but that it proceeded from a confidence in the wisdom of this House, and a firm reliance upon the same steady system being pursued, which had guided our counsels since Mr. Perceval came into administration. I said that the interval of time would prove whether my predictions or those of others were deserving of credit; and therefore that the period which must intervene between the passing of the Resolution and the next meeting of parliament, was a fortunate circumstance, because it would ascertain whether the satisfaction and concord of all his Majesty's Protestant subjects was, or was not, likely to follow the repeal of the disqualifying statutes. I am glad, for myself, that I, at the time, so studiously restricted the meaning and intention of the vote which I gave, in the month of June; but I really trust that the vote of no other member, who concurred with the majority, could be understood, in fairness and common sense, as pledging him to the furtherance of any objects, besides those upon which that Resolution was founded; still less could my own vote be considered as obligatory upon myself, to pursue a course, directly contrary to those conditions and stipulations, under which it was expressly given. I have frequently concurred with majorities of the House in resisting motions for going, generally, into a committee upon the Roman Catholic Petitions; I should have done the same, upon a similar motion, in June last; but I thought myself safe in agreeing to consider them, whenever that consideration might tend to the peace and strength of the united kingdom, the stability of the Protestant establishment, and the satisfaction and concord of all classes of his Majesty's subjects: and, if the right hon. mover demonstrates, to my conviction, that these consequences, or even any one of them, would follow from carrying his question, my vote would, on the present night, be given much more cheerfully in concurrence with, than in contradiction to him. I perfectly recollect the inauspicious circumstances, under which the motion of the last session was brought for-ward by my right hon. friend who sits opposite to me; that a set of the most inflammatory and intemperate Resolutions, agreed to by a general meeting of the Roman Catholics, with lord Fingal in 788 the chair, on the 18th of June, 1812, reached London, only on the morning of that debate, and that my right hon. friend (Mr. Canning) with the dexterity and ability of a great orator, employed no small portion of his art, not only in averting this dangerous weight from bearing down his cause, but even in converting it into an argument, to make it triumphant.* If I had taken any fallacious view, or received any false impression upon that occasion, if the eloquence and power of my right hon. friend's speech had fascinated, and, for a moment, misled my judgment, I should not be ashamed to avow my error, with sincerity and frankness; nor to state, honestly and directly, that a deliberate review of the whole matter, now compelled me to trace back my steps, and to pursue a different course: but I have no such avowal to make, no such error to confess, no such account to settle, with the promoters of the Resolution. Those who did me the honour of attending to, and remembering, what I said on the 22d of June, will recal to their minds that, in addition to the topics already mentioned, and the stress which I laid upon every one of the three enumerated conditions, I said, that the temper and feeling of the members of the established church, in both countries, would be tried by carrying the question; that it was fortunate so long an interval of time would be allowed, before any ulterior step could be taken, and that it would be put to the test, whether the apparent neutrality of the Protestants proceeded from unconcern, or whether it was the effect of a firm persuasion that the claims of the Roman Catholics would be resisted by a majority of their representatives. It was argued, at that time, by my right hon. friend, that, so long as parliament should turn a deaf ear to the complaints of the Roman Catholics, so long as the House should refuse to enquire into, or listen to their grievances, it might naturally be expected that they would feel disappointed and irritated, and, like persons goaded and oppressed, they would burst out into expressions of anger and violence. Hold out to them a fair prospect, it was said, of conciliation and concession, and their violence will cease; reason will regain her just ascendancy, and all will be harmony and concord. Now in what manner is this prophecy fulfilled? Was any gratitude shewn, or any* See vol. 23, p. 633.789 joy expressed? Were any thanks voted, any acknowledgments made to the mover and supporters of that Resolution? So far from it, at the very next meeting of the Catholic board, after the news reached Dublin, on the 4th of July, circular letters were dispatched in all directions, formally announcing their "most serious apprehensions that a religious persecution was about to begin in Ireland." This was one of their first proceedings: do those, which are recent, manifest a more moderate spirit? Let the resolutions of all their meetings, in the various counties, cities, and towns, be examined; the solemn address of their prelates on the 18th of November last; let the tenor of all their Petitions, now upon our table, be fairly weighed and considered, with every reasonable allowance, and the most favourable interpretation; and, can we collect, from their aggregate sentiments, any thing short of a positive demand of unqualified emancipation, as a matter, not of favour, but of right? And, on the part of their clergy, is there any thing less than an absolute refusal to give any further security, than the oath, prescribed by the statute of 1793, with which they assert that the legislature ought to rest perfectly satisfied? These are their own words: "As we are at present precluded from any intercourse with our supreme pastor, we feel ourselves utterly incompetent to propose or agree to any change in the long established mode of appointing Irish Roman Catholic bishops;" and, "we are firmly convinced that no pledges or securities of more efficient obligation can be devised, than those which we have already given."
It is needless to quote further passages, in proof of what I assert; the proceedings of the prelates are probably in the hands of many of those who hear me, and, if the House desires to examine with what moderation and forbearance these claims are prosecuted, they will find it declared, in some of the Petitions, that an offer of any thing less than a total repeal of all disqualifications, would be considered as insulting and degrading; and in others, that it would even endanger the tranquillity and security of the empire. Is this the tone, in which those who suffer would humbly ask for protection, as the right hon. mover terms it, or can we think of treating with men upon terms and conditions, who put themselves into the posture of requiring rights? This doctrine of right, I regret to observe, not only in the 790 inconsiderate declarations of numerous meetings, nor confined to the sister kingdom, but propagated and disseminated here, as a prominent instance of the oppression and persecution to which the English Roman Catholics are subjected, in the publication of a learned person, of a profession, which might have led him to know something more of the principles of legislation, and of the difference between religious toleration and civil power. (Loud cries of Hear, hear!) I am not sorry to hear these cheers, but I should be more pleased to find any member who would venture to embody these clamours into argument, and to assert the claim of right, in the latitude which is given to it either by the petitioners, or in the pamphlet of Mr. Butler, It would be indecorous to suppose that any member of this. House can be so little informed of the fundamental maxims, upon which all states are constituted, as to be ignorant that a principle of self-preservation is among their primary rights, as well as duties: that the justice of excluding and prohibiting whatever might endanger or destroy the state, is a natural consequence of this right of preservation; and that every well constituted government, under whatever form, has always exercised a choice and discretion in selecting those, who should hold offices and employments, fixing upon birth, or property, or rank belonging to some privileged order, or upon some other arbitrary qualification, to the exclusion of all that more numerous class of citizens, who are not possessed of it.
We have by law a Protestant king upon the throne, and a Protestant establishment for our church; and shall we be denied the right of enacting such laws as are conformable and necessary to the security of both? Or ought we to be deemed oppressive and intolerant, when we require to be convinced, by reasoning and sound argument, before we surrender those which have been heretofore enacted? It is undoubtedly of the essence of free states to impose as little of restraint, upon the actions of those who lire under them, as is consistent with public and private safety, tranquillity, and property: liberty of conscience, and the exercise of different modes of worship, naturally emanate from the same spirit of freedom; but it is easy to imagine cases, or to quote examples from history, in which religious tenets, tending to overt acts, by which the state, or individuals might be endangered, could 791 not be permitted nor countenanced. Wherever communication, purely spiritual, is really carried on between man and his Maker, the right of adoring God, in his own way, is that, with which no human power ought to interfere. Upon these plain grounds it is easy to refute the sophistry of such arguments, as are founded upon the natural rights of man to possess, or to be capable of possessing, all things equally. The words of that pamphlet are, "This penal infliction reaches every description of non-conformists to the established church; their religion therefore is not tolerated; it is persecuted:"—and a little further, "The Roman Catholics are the most persecuted of all."—If all, to whom such power or capacity he denied, are in a state of persecution, let it be considered to how prodigious a proportion of the inhabitants of Great Britain, this species of persecution extends, who are excluded, by the want of property, from the elective franchise, or by the want of a larger qualification in respect of property, from sitting in this House.
I believe, however, that, whatever enlarged notions are entertained out of doors, with regard to these indefeasible and original rights, they have very few advocates within this House. I understand the right hon. mover never to have maintained any such absurd and extravagant proposition, and his speech of this night professes to hold out some security for the Protestant establishment, though, either from the fault of the right hop. mover, or possibly from my own, while I laboured to catch and retain what might be the substance of the security, which appeared floating over the surface of his whole speech, I am unable to satisfy myself what it is that he intends. I recollect, upon a former occasion, that he much expatiated upon the pernicious effects of foreign influence, stating that it would be necessary, at all events, to abolish, or to subject it to strict regulations: it is true that, upon this night, he has not adverted to it; I take it for granted however, that his opinion is not shaken upon that important point; but I cannot help remarking that one of the modern accredited writers, Mr. Clinch, who has received the thanks of all the bishops, for his able writings on church government against Columbanus, animadverts, with some asperity and affected surprise, upon Mr. Grattan's conduct, in these words, "Could it have been thought that 792 Mr. Grattan would insist, not as an enemy, but as a chief advocate, not on the renouncing of foreign jurisdiction, but on the perpetual exclusion of foreign influence, which is Catholic religion?" Whatever may be Mr. Grattan's present view of this matter, there are others, and particularly my right hon. friend (Mr. Canning)-who will not suffer it to be left unprovided for; an unrestrained communication with a foreign power, contrary to the existing law of the land, cannot remain upon its present footing, if any new privileges are to be granted; neither can the nomination, and dependence of the bishops, upon the see of Rome, be allowed to continue, without some of those checks and restrictions, which exist, in every other country, against the encroachments of that church; of which this kingdom also availed itself, when it was in communion with that see. I know that my right hon. friend is not prepared to leave this matter, simply, upon the security of the oath, as it now rests. And I hope that he, or some other supporter of the question, will make up for what appears a deficiency in the mover, and that he will distinctly state what project he has of any Bill, under which the establishment may rest secure, and satisfied, that a sufficient guard is provided: it would be desirable, particularly, to learn what he proposes to do, with regard to the Corporation and Test Acts, which are characterized by Mr. Justice Blackstone and other constitutional writers, as the. "two bulwarks of our established church, against perils from non-conformists of all denominations, heretics, papists, and sectaries." Mr. Pitt was of the same opinion, when he resisted several motions made to repeal them; but Mr. Butler exhibits them, in the front of the many severe penalties and disabilities, under which the English Roman Catholics labour, and declares their continuance to be contrary to toleration.
The high authority of Mr. Pitt has naturally been referred to in this debate, particularly by a young member, an honourable friend of mine, whom the House has had the pleasure of hearing for the first time. It is perfectly known that this great statesman entertained an opinion, favourable to the abolition of these disqualifications, nor does there appear any reason to think that he changed it, subsequently to the last debate, in which he spoke upon it; but the checks and restrictions, 793 consistently with which he thought it safe to abolish them, were communicated to none of his friends, and probably were never so far matured, within his own mind, as to fit them for communication. It is possible that his extraordinary capacity never found a satisfactory solution for the complicated difficulties, which surround this question; and it may be no disparagement to the right hon. mover, eminent as he also is for talents, and eloquence, not to have formed a comprehensive and finished plan, for a work, of which Mr. Pitt was unable to describe even the outline.
In the few words, which remain for me to say, I wish to attract the attention of the House to that plan, if plan it can be styled, which the right hon. mover has, in his last two or three sentences, opened to the House. If I understand his motion, it is intended for the foundation of a Bill, in which it is proposed to give, on the one hand, a sweeping repeal of all the disqualifying statutes, and to receive, in return, by way of a compensation, a recognition of the Protestant succession, according to the Act of Settlement, and also of the Protestant churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland, as by law established; together with some regulations as to advowsons, colleges, and ecclesiastical courts; for these are all the particulars, as far as I recollect, which he has either enumerated or hinted at. Now, with regard to any thing like a re-enactment of these fundamental laws, would our constitution, either in church or state, be deemed more secure after such an idle renewal than before? Will it even be expedient to suffer such trifling with legislation, as to cast a doubt upon the sufficiency and permanent efficacy of these statutes, by declaring them anew to be in force? Are they so nearly worn out as to require renovation?
The times of Magna Charta have been alluded to: but is it a sign of steady and uniform liberty, or of reverting tyranny in our early annals, that Magna Charta was so frequently renewed? But a perpetual duration is intended to be given by the right hon. mover to these laws: perpetual no human legislation can make them; but they will endure long enough, if we do not rashly meddle with them; that is, so long as this kingdom shall continue to enjoy liberty and security under them: they need no adventitious props, nor extraneous support; let us take care that what we build about them does not endanger their foundation.
794 With regard to the language and tone of the petitioners, it has been said that minute attention and critical acuteness ought not to be applied to them: that they are not to legislate for this House, but this House for them; and that it becomes parliament to legislate upon a grand scale, laying down such regulations as, to its own wisdom, may seem just and reasonable; and leaving those, who are affected by them, to accept the intended boon, or to decline it: that it is not a matter of convention, nor bargain, for it neither becomes the legislative body to act in that mode, nor is there any other contracting party with whom we can form such an agreement. To this it may be answered, that every proposition of this sort must be in the nature of a contract, which, if not accepted, would become nugatory; that, if the petitioners are to be believed, they are determined not to accept it; and that an act, which promises, at best, to be only nugatory, but which carries a strong suspicion of being ungracious, irritating, and offensive, does not hold out any adequate inducement for entertaining this question, at a moment, when so little good, and so much mischief, may result from the agitation of it.
If there are any members who might be induced to go into the committee, or to consent to bring in a Bill, in the hope that the minds of the Irish Roman Catholics would be tranquillized and conciliated by such a measure, I beg leave to repeat that similar expectations were held out last summer, as an argument for passing the Resolution, and that those expectations have been completely disappointed; that there is less excuse for giving way to any such self delusion now, than in the month of June; because those, in whose favour it is now proposed to make further relaxations, have, most unequivocally, proclaimed to the world that, unless they can have all, they will receive nothing at our hands. Here, therefore, is one great class of his Majesty's subjects, whom all which is about to be done will not satisfy, nor content: will a still larger class be better pleased with it? Look once more at the mass and multitude of the petitions upon your table, from the Protestants on both sides of the water, and judge whether a serious and extensive alarm is not excited throughout the united kingdom! Can such a disposition of mind, and such a conflict of contending 795 sects contribute to union and strength? or is there the slightest probability of attaining, by the motion of this night, any one of those three objects which the Resolution of the last parliament professed to secure to us?
I declare, with unfeigned concern, that whatever has passed in Ireland, upon this subject, from the month of June, to the present moment, so far from forwarding a final and conciliatory adjustment, appears to me to render it more difficult, and to place the period, at which rational hopes can be entertained of effecting it, at a still greater and indefinite distance.
§ Mr. Grattan,
in explanation.—I never used the word 'foreign country' as applied to England. I said 'another country,' which I conceived to be a true description, as they are distinct countries, although united under one empire. As to the expression 'partizan-judges,' I never used it; that of 'partizan-sheriffs' I did use, but I did not use it by itself, nor intending to imply that Protestant sheriffs were necessarily prejudiced against the Catholics. The way I used the expression was, partizan-sheriffs, covenanted against the Catholic claims. I did not mean to cast an imputation on all Protestant sheriffs, but merely to state the hardship of Catholics being tried by juries, assembled by those, who might be fairly called partizan-sheriffs, covenanted against the Catholics. As for enacting any thing about the Protestant succession or the Protestant church, I never proposed any such thing. There is a great deal of difference between reciting it in the preamble of an act, and professing to enact it.
rose and said:
Mr. Speaker; I am induced to rise, at so early a period of the debate, for the purpose of obviating the misstatement (certainly unintentional) of the expressions and sentiments of my right hon. friend, (Mr. Grattan), which has been made by the hon. gentleman who has last spoken. My right hon. friend has not called Great Britain a foreign country;' and, even if such an expression had accidentally been used by him, the uniform tenor of his opinions and of his language, in this House, might have suggested to the hon. member the propriety of abstaining from a verbal criticism upon it. My right hon. friend unites, to the enthusiasm of an Irish patriot, the comprehensive 796 views of a statesman and a legislator; and his affection for his native country, to which his life has been devoted, has expanded into love of the general weal, and zeal for the glory of the empire. In every sentiment which he has uttered, I most cordially concur. My right horn friend has not been so absurd as to propose to re-enact the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement; but absurd and extravagant calumnies having, with no laudable industry, been propagated, as if the present motion were intended to invade the church, and to overturn the state, my right hon. friend has placed, in the front of his Resolution, a denial of the calumny.
The hon. gentleman has said there is nothing specific or intelligible in the motion or in the statement. The motion appears to me to be perfectly distinct, and perfectly intelligible. It proposes to remove all the civil disabilities which affect a great portion of our fellow subjects, on account of their religion; offering, at the same time, to accompany the measure with every security which may be required, for the protection of the Protestant interest. This seems not very difficult to comprehend; but I own I do not find it equally easy to ascertain the meaning of the hon. gentleman himself. In some part of his argument he relies on objections which, if they have any weight against the measure now, must always operate; in other parts, he insinuates an opinion that the objections are only accidental or temporary. Why the hon. member voted for the measure in the last parliament, and intends to oppose it in this, seems to require some further explanation than he has thought proper to afford. The intolerant declarations of the Pope, which he has referred to, were surely as strong an argument at that time, at they are now! The hon. gentleman seems to have spoken with an anxiety to anticipate what is to be said by a right hon. friend of his, who is hereafter to express his opinions; and he has alluded to the proposal of some plan, which, he fears, will not be acceptable to the petitioners, but which he himself does not approve of; or, if he does, why he cannot agree to the going into a committee, for the purpose of considering it, the House are left to conjecture.
Sir; much has been said of the question of right. It appears to me to be a very unnecessary metaphysical discussion, and one which cannot have any practical application 797 in the present instance. In the same sense in which religious toleration is a right, a due share of political power is a right; both must yield to the paramount interests of society, if such interests require it; neither can be justifiably withheld, unless their inconsistency with the public interest is clearly established. But in the present case the question does not, in any respect, arise; for we have already admitted the Roman Catholics to substantial power, and, what we seek to exclude them from, is honour. The privileges which are withheld are impotent, as protections to the state, but most galling and provoking to the party who is excluded. No candid mind can hesitate to admit that the exclusions must be severely felt, as subjects of grievance, and of the most insulting kind. That the man of the first eminence at the bar, should be prevented from acting as one of his Majesty's counsel, or from sitting on the bench of justice; that the gallant officer, who has distinguished himself in the battles of his country, when his heart is beating high with the love of honourable fame, should be stopped in his career, and see his companions in arms raised above him, to lead his countrymen to victory and glory, must be felt as wounding and humiliating! In this House, does it require argument to shew that exclusion from parliament must be considered as a privation and indignity! What assembles us here? The honest ambition of serving our country? The pride of abiding by honourable engagements? or motives perhaps of a less elevated description? Whatever they may be, honourable and dignified, or otherwise, they subsist in their minds, as much as in ours; and, though the elective franchise, which has been granted to the Irish Catholic, gives him a substantial representation, yet the exclusion is calculated to operate as a severe and humiliating disability; and the more humiliating, because it is a mark of inferiority, branded on the Catholic, merely for the purpose of marking that inferiority!
The topic that toleration admits of one consideration and political power of another, has little application to this case, even if it were true, for here it must be contended that rank, and station, and honour, are not the proper appendages of wealth, and knowledge, and education, and of every thing which constitutes political and moral strength! In every system of human policy the few must govern the 798 many, but, putting military force out of the case, their legitimate government must arise from their superiority in wealth and knowledge; if, therefore, you exclude the wealthy and the educated from the government of the state, you throw into the scale of the many, the only weight which could have preserved the balance of the state itself. This is universally true, but when you reject the opulent and the educated, on account of a condition which they have, in common with the many, you add the attraction of politics and party to the operation of general and moral causes; and, if the principle of exclusion be a religious one, you organize, not merely the principles of revolution, but of revolution furious and interminable! Put the policy of the separation of political rank from property and education, in the extreme case of their total division, or in any intermediate degree, the conclusion is equally true, that the attempt so to separate, establishes a principle, not of government, but of the dissolution of government! So sensible of this truth were our ancestors, that, when they saw, or thought they saw, a necessity for dishonouring the Roman Catholic, they adopted, as a necessary consequence, the policy of impoverishing and barbarizing him: when they degraded him, they felt that their only safety was to steep him in poverty and ignorance; their policy, good or bad, was consistent—the means had a diabolical fitness for their end. Is it not a perfect corollary to this proposition, is it not the legitimate converse of this truth, that if you readmit them to wealth and to knowledge, you must restore them to ambition and to honour? What have we done? We have trod back their steps: we have rescued the Catholics from the code, which formed at once their servitude and our safety, and we fancy we can continue the exclusion, from oivil station, which superinduced that code. Theirs was a necessity, real or fancied, but a consistent system; we pre-tend no necessity; we have voluntarily abdicated the means of safety, and we wilfully and uselessly continue the causes of danger. The time to have paused was before we heaved, from those sons of earth, the mountains, which the wisdom or the terrors of our ancestors had heaped upon them; but we have raised them up and placed them erect—are we prepared to hurl them down and bury them again? Where is the madman to propose it? Where is the idiot who imagines that they 799 can remain as they are? The state of the Catholics of Ireland is, in this respect, unparalleled by any thing in ancient or modern history. They are not slaves, as some of their absurd advocates call them, but freemen, possessing substantially the same political rights with their Protestant brethren, and with all the other subjects of the empire; that is, possessed of all the advantages, which can be derived from the best laws, administered in the best manner, of the most free and most highly civilized country in the world. Do you believe that such a body, possessed of such a station, can submit to contumely and exclusion? that they will stand behind your chair and wait upon you at the public banquet? The less valuable, in sordid computation, the privilege, the more marked the insult in refusing it, and the more honourable the anxiety for possessing it! Miserable and unworthy wretches must they be if they ceased to aspire to it; base and dangerous hypocrites if they dissembled their wishes; formidable instruments of domestic or foreign tyranny if they did not entertain them! The liberties of England would not, for half a century, remain proof against the contact and contagion of four millions of opulent and powerful subjects who disregarded the honours of the state, and felt utterly uninterested in the constitution.
In coming forward, therefore, with this claim of honourable ambition, they at once afford you the best pledge of their sincerity, and the most satisfactory evidence of their title. They claim the benefit of the ancient vital principle of the constitution, namely, that the honours of the state should be open to the talents and to the virtues of all its members. The adversaries of the measure invert the order of all civilized society. They have made the Catholics an aristocracy, and they would treat them as a mob; they give, to the lowest of the rabble, if he is a Protestant, what they refuse to the head of the peerage, if he is a Catholic. They shut out my lord Fingal from the state, and they make his footman a member of it; and this strange confusion of all society order, they dignify with the name of the British constitution; and the proposal to consider the best and most conciliatory mode of correcting it, they cry down as a dangerous and presumptuous innovation.
Sir, the Catholics propose no innovation. They ask for an equal share, as fellow subjects, in the constitution, as they 800 find it; in that constitution, in whose original stamina they had an undisputed right, before there was a Reformation and before there was a Revolution, and before the existence of the abuses, which induced the necessity of either. They desire to bear its burthens, to share its dangers, to participate its glory, and to abide its fate; they bring, as an offering, their hearts and hands, their lives and fortunes, but they desire also the privilege of bringing with them their consciences, their religion, and their honour, without which they would be worthless and dangerous associates.
The position, therefore, to be maintained, by those who say that the first principles of the constitution are in opposition to the claim, is rather a critical one. They must shew why it is that a Roman Catholic may vote for a member to sit in parliament, and yet may not himself be a member of it; why he may be the most powerful and wealthy subject in the realm, and the greatest landed proprietor, and yet may not fill the lowest office, in the meanest town upon his estates; why he may be the first advocate at the bar, and be incapable of acting as one of the counsel of his sovereign; why he may be elector, military officer, grand juror, corporator, magistrate, in Ireland, where the danger, if any, is immense, and why none of them in England, where the causes of apprehension are comparatively trifling and insignificant. Besides all this, arguing, as they do, that their religion necessarily includes hostility to the state, on the very points which, by the oaths which they have taken, are solemnly disavowed, they must shew the safety of harbouring, in the bosom of the state, and admitting to its essential and substantial benefits, a body of men whose only title to admission has been perjury; that is, a body of men, who, in addition to religious opinions inconsistent with our particular constitution, have violated the solemn-obligations, which bind man to man, and therefore are unworthy of being admitted into any society, in which the sacred principles of society intercourse are respected. Sir, if these things are so, the petitions of the public should be, not to be protected against the dangers which are to come, but to be rescued from those, which have already been incurred! nay, more, if oaths are not regarded, we should not rely on the vain securities, which our ancestors have resorted to, and which consist of oaths, and only of oaths; but we 801 should devise some new means of proving their religion, by the testimony of others, and chaining them down to it, without the possibility of disowning or escaping from it. But let us examine, somewhat more accurately, these supposed principles of public policy, which oppose an insuperable bar to the admission of the Roman Catholic. They join issue on this point: so far as concession is inconsistent with the true principles of the constitution, the safety of the established church, and of the Protestant throne, they admit that they are entitled to nothing; so far as it is not inconsistent, they claim to be entitled to every thing. Let it be shewn that these great foundations of our liberties and of our civil and ecclesiastical polity are their enemies, and they must yield in silence. They must receive it as the doom of fate; it must be submitted to, as part of the mysterious system of Providence which, whilst it has embarked us in an awful struggle, for the preservation of its choicest blessings, has ordained that, in this struggle, we may not unite the hearts and affections of our people. We must cherish the hope that the same incomprehensible wisdom which at once impels us to this mighty contest and forbids us to use the means of success, may work out our safety by methods of its own. If it can be made appear that the imperious interests of our country pronounce, from necessity, this heavy and immitigable sentence, upon millions of its subjects, I trust that they will learn submission, and not embitter their hopeless exclusion, by the miseries of discontent and of disorder; but, before they bow down to this eternal interdict, before they retire from the threshold of the constitution, to the gloom of hopeless and never ending exclusion, I appeal to every candid mind, are they not entitled to have it proved by arguments, clear as the light of heaven, that this necessity exists? I now challenge the investigation of those supposed maxims, step by step, and inch by inch; let it be stated in some clear intelligible form, what is this fundamental prop of the constitution; what is this overwhelming ruin, which is to tumble upon us, by it's removal. Let us meet and close upon this argument; but beware of the attempt to outlaw the Irish people by an artificial and interested clamour? Let not those, who have encouraged the Irish people to expect redress, now affect to be bound by this spell of their own 802 raising? this would be to palter with their own consciences and the public safety, and can entail no consequences, other than calamity and disgrace.
The only obstacles which appear to stand in the way of the Roman Catholics, are the Oath of Supremacy and the Declaration against Transubstantiation. The former of these in its original enactment and application had a very limited political relation. I speak not of the capricious fury of Henry 8, which made it treason to refuse the oath. He considered himself, under God, the supreme head of the church, in all things spiritual and temporal; and bound the subject to submit to all his ordinances made, and to be made, under the penalty of death. But the application of the oath as it was modified by Elizabeth, had chiefly (and with the exception of offices immediately derived from the crown, or concerning the administration of justice) a religious, and not a political, application; subject to these exceptions, it professed not to controul the private opinion, nor to make it a ground of exclusion; but it subjected the public profession, or non-conformity, to penalty; and, accordingly, Roman Catholics were admissable to parliament and to corporate offices, for more than one hundred years after the introduction of the Oath of Supremacy. Then came the laws of Charles 2, which, for the first time, superinduced general exclusion from office, as a political consequence of the religious opinion.
Here, then, were before us, two principles, the first, that of the Reformation, which proscribed the religion, the second, that of Charles 2, which presumed that certain unconstitutional tenets must be held by those who professed that religion, and therefore made civil incapacity the consequence of the religious belief. Here were two principles perfectly distinct, but perfectly consistent—now what have we done? We have, in fact, abrogated the principles of the Reformation, for we have repealed the laws against recusancy, and legalized the religion; having done this, it was a necessary consequence to say that we could not infer, from a religious tenet which we legalized, a political opinion inconsistent with the safety of the state; otherwise we should have been unjustifiable in legalizing it; we therefore substituted, instead of the renunciation of the religious doctrine, from which the political opinion had been formerly inferred, a direct denial, upon oath; of the political 803 opinion itself. If then the Roman Catholic may lawfully exercise the religion, and if he will take the political oath, how can we consistently make the objection, either in a religious or political point of view, to his being admitted to the remaining privileges of citizenship? If there is any thing inconsistent with the true principles of our religion, in permitting the Catholic to enjoy civil offices, the authors of the Reformation were deeply criminal in permitting him to enjoy them, while they denounced his religion; and we have been doubly traitors, to our religion and to our constitution, in sanctioning, by law, the free exercise of that religion; throwing away the religious test and substituting the political one in the place of it. If the political oath, either from its supposed insincerity, or from any other cause, is an insufficient substitute for the religious abjuration, how can we be justifiable in allowing it to give the Catholic admission to the high constitutional privileges which he now enjoys? If it is a sufficient substitute, we prevaricate with our own consciences, in refusing him admission, on the strength of it, to the remaining privileges which he requires—in direct violation of the policy which substituted the political oath for the religious declaration we now say that we require his declaration that he does not hold the religious doctrine which implies the political. But he is ready to swear that he does not hold the political doctrine, and still you prefer his declaration that he does not hold the opinion, which furnishes the presumption, to his oath that he does not hold the opinion, which is the thing presumed. Is not this a perfect proof that the political apprehension is a pretext, and that it is bigotry, or something worse, which is the motive? Is not this also a full attestation of your perfect reliance on the honour and sincerity of the Catholic, as well as of your own intolerance? You will accept his word, as a proof that he has abjured his religious tenets, but you will not receive his oath as long as he abides by them. Is it he that is insincere in his oath? Then why trust his declaration? Has the oath a negative power? It is not merely that his Oath is not binding, but, that which shall be full evidence, if he merely asserts it by implication, shall become utterly incredible if he swears to it directly. Why this is worse than transubstantiation; it is as gross a rebellion against the evidence of demonstration, as the other is 804 against the testimony of sense. Again—the Oath of Supremacy extends to a renunciation, as well of the spiritual, as of the temporal, authority of the Pope; and its object appears to have been two-fold; first, to exclude the interference of the Pope, in the temporal concerns of the realm; and, secondly, to secure the Protestant hierarchy, against the claims of the sect which had been evicted: as to the first, the Roman Catholic lenders an oath, utterly denying, the Pope's right to exercise any kind of temporal jurisdiction in these kingdoms; as to the second, he tenders an oath, abjuring all interference with the Protestant establishment and hierarchy. What then remains in difference? The right of the Pope with respect to their clergy; now to this, the Oath of Supremacy never had any reference, nor could have had: their clergy were not; recognized, as having any legal existence, when-the Oath of Supremacy was enacted, nor as the subject of any other regulation, than that of heavy punishment if they were discovered; this part of the oath merely looks to the preservation of the Protestant hierarchy, and all this is effectually provided for by the oath which is proffered. If the Catholic swears that he will not disturb or question the establishment, it would seem to concern us very little whether he admires or approves it, or what may be his abstract opinion of its-fitness. We have already the effect of the Oath of Supremacy, so far as it concerns practical and conscientious submission, now and at all times, and it is perfectly childish to say that we will not accept their present acquiescence, and their oath that they will continue to acquiesce, unless they also swear that they ought, as matter of abstract right, to do so; that is, they must not only submit to our title, but swear to our argument. I do not mean to-say, that the mode of appointing their clergy and the Pope's interference with respect to it, is not a very important topic, and one which we are well warranted in looking to and regulating; but what I rely on is that it is a new subject, resting on its own merits, and calling for and requiring a conciliatory adjustment, but, in no respect, involving any thing, which affects the Oath of Supremacy, on the principles of the Reformation.
As to the Corporation Act, every person, acquainted with its history, knows that it was introduced, not with an aspect to the Roman Catholics, but to sectaries 805 of a very different description, who had got into the corporations during the government of Cromwell, who were supposed to be disaffected to the politics of the court. Part of the oath, as it was originally framed, was that it was unlawful, under any pretence, to take up arms against the king, or those commissioned by him; and the amendment, which sought to qualify it by adding the word 'lawfully,' before commissioned, was thrown out. One of the first acts of William and Mary was to repeal this scandalous and slavish enactment, which was at direct variance with the first principles of the Revolution; and yet we are told, in patriotic petitions, from loyal Protestant bodies, that this Corporation Act was one of the great bulwarks of the Revolution. This mutilated fragment, one half of which was lopped off by the Revolution, is one of its pillars, and the Test Act is the other. Its history is known to every body—it was the child of my lord Shaftesbury, who, on the score of religion, possessed a most philosophical composure, but had a very pious horror of the court, and levelled this act personally against the duke of York; and, as the Corporation Act was the first offering of overflowing servility, brought in on the full tide of the Restoration, so was the Test Act the result of deep and bitter repentance, subsiding at its ebb; and yet these conflicting, partial, and temporary regulations, are dwelt on, as if they formed part of that great event, which we all consider as the foundation of our liberties. But I beg to ask, has the charter of our liberties become obsolete? If not, why are those mighty instruments hung up like rusty armour?—Does not every man know that they are endured only because they are not exercised? And that they are never mentioned, by any constitutional writer, without pleading their inactivity as the only apology for their existence! The taste and sense of the public is, in this respect, a reproach to the tardy liberality of the legislature.
Sir, a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Yorke) to whom I wish to allude with every possible degree of public and private respect, has desired that the Bill of Rights should be referred to: give me leave to ask, do you find in the Bill of Rights the principle of exclusion of Roman Catholics from the legislature or from the state? It is required, no doubt, by the Bill of Rights, that the new oath of supremacy, thereby substituted for the former one, should be 806 taken by all who were bound to take the former one, but this is not introduced as one of the grievances redressed, or rights declared, but is merely incidentally mentioned, in consequence of the substitution of the one oath for the other; and the declaration against Popery is in no respect adverted to; but one fact, most decisive and important, on this point, is this, that when this act was passed, the Roman Catholics of Ireland were not, by any law, or usage, excluded from parliament or from civil or military offices. The articles of Limerick (3d Oct. 1691), stipulated for all such privileges, in the exercise of religion, as were enjoyed in the reign of Charles 2, and as were consistent with the laws of Ireland. They required the oath of allegiance, as created in the first year of William and Mary; and the oath to be administered to the Roman Catholics, submitting to his majesty's government, was to be that oath and no other; and it was further stipulated that, so soon as their affairs would permit them to summon a parliament, their majesties would endeavour to procure them such further securities as might preserve them from any disturbance, on account of their religion. At this time, Roman Catholics were not excluded from parliament in Ireland, nor were there any lest or corporation laws in force against them. On the faith of these articles, all of which were punctually performed on their part, they surrendered the town, and left king William at liberty to apply his arms to the great cause in which he was sustaining the liberties of Europe. The stipulation, on the part of government, was to protect them against any additional oaths, and to endeavour to procure for them additional securities. What was done? The act of the third of William and Mary was passed, giving them no additional securities, but excluding them, for the first time, from parliament and from offices civil and military, and from the bar, unless they subscribed the Declaration against Popery, and swore the Oath of Supremacy. The stipulation, in the articles, had been, not for those in garrison, but that the Roman Catholics of Ireland should enjoy their privileges; for the garrison, they had stipulated for liberty to serve abroad, and to be conveyed accordingly. These victims of mistaken loyalty, when they were about to leave their native land, and with the characteristic generosity and improvidence of their country, to commit 807 themselves, with the fortunes of a banished monarch, stipulated, not for themselves, but for the country they were about to leave for ever, and the parliament, by a cruel mockery, enacted, not for the country, but for them, that they should not lose the privileges of—what? Of being barristers at law, clerks in chancery, attorneys, practitioners of law and physics, but that they might freely use the same!
Why, Sir, do I mention these historical facts? Not for the purpose of raking up the embers of ancient animosities, but for the purpose of shewing that, in restoring the privileges of the Catholics, we are performing an act of justice, and vindicating the Revolution from the stain of this act of perfidy;—men who have forgotten every circumstance of that great event, which connects it with the cause of civil and religious freedom, affect to call this breach of faith and honour, one of the sacred principles of our constitution. It is a miserable perversion of understanding, which can forget every thing sacred and animating, in that glorious struggle, which can fling away, as dross, the precious attestation, which it bears to the just rights of the people, which would bury in eternal oblivion, the awful lesson which it has taught to their rulers, but consecrates and embalms this single act of injustice, which disgraces it.
Sir, I am satisfied that the illustrious persons, who perfected the Revolution, were not aware of the injustice done to Ireland; in the crowded events of that day, the stipulations might not have been fully known, and there have been, at all times, a set of slaves ready in this country, to defame and to defraud their native land, to traffic on the calamities of their countrymen. I will go further and suppose that the severe necessity of the times may have made it impossible to avoid an act of injustice,—but I will not therefore confound the deviation with the rule; I cannot trample on the principle and worship the exception.—It might as well be said that, to restore the Danish fleet would be a violation of the laws of nature and of nations, because a deplorable necessity had compelled us to violate these laws by seizing it. I have, perhaps, dwelt too long on this part of the subject, but I felt anxious to meet the cry of this great charter of our freedom being at variance with the rights of the people. The great men of that day had deeply studied the laws and constitution of their country; 808 with ardent feeling and sublime conceptions, they made no unnecessary breach, on any ancient usage; no wanton encroachment on any rights of people or of king; not like our modern improvers, who hold for nothing the wisdom which has gone before them, and set up their own crude conceptions, with an utter contempt for all the sacred lore of their ancestors. They committed no rude outrage on those who had gone before them; they entailed no odious bondage on those who were to succeed them—with the modesty and simplicity which characterize great minds, they declared the essential rights of the constitution. They saw that the system of the reformation would be incomplete, unless the king, who was the temporal head of the church, should be in communion with that church; they therefore enacted that he should hold his crown only while he adhered to his religion. They declared the throne unalterably Protestant—they declared the religion of the state unalterably Protestant; and, having thus laid the firm foundation of civil and religious freedom, they left all other considerations open to the progress of time and to the wisdom of posterity.
That time has come, and that posterity is now called upon to decide—we are fighting the same battle, in which the illustrious deliverer of these countries was engaged—we are defending the liberties of Europe and of the world, against the same unchangeable and insatiable ambition which then assailed them—we are engaged with an enemy, far more formidable than Louis the 14th, whether we consider the vastness of his plans, the consum-mateness of his skill, his exhaustless resources, or his remorseless application of them—but if our dangers are aggravated, our means of safety are increased. William the 3rd was obliged to watch with a jealous eye, the movements of one half of his subjects, whilst he employed the energies of the other. We have it in our power to unite them all, by one great act of national justice. If we do not wantonly and obstinately fling away the means, which God's providence has placed within our grasp, we may bring the energies of all our people, with one hand and heart, to strike against the common enemy.
Sir, there is a kind of circular reasoning which seems, at some public meetings, to pass for full proof. They say that this measure invades the constitution, because it endangers the church; and they say it 809 endangers the church, because it invades the constitution. Sir, it is not sought to affect the church establishment—to take away its possessions, to degrade its rank, nor to touch its emoluments. Its doctrines and its discipline are not interfered with. This is no attempt to include the Catholic within the pale of the Protestant Church, nor to give him any share in its establishment. What is meant by the cry? Is it that the measure will be immediately injurious to the church, or that it will endanger the church, by enabling the Catholics hereafter to overturn it? In the first point of view the only immediate effect it has, is to open the honors of the state, to all other descriptions of subjects, as well as to those who profess the established religion: is it meant to be argued that the Protestant religion will be deserted, unless a temporal bonus is held out to those who adhere to it?—do they mean to recruit for the establishment, by a bounty from the state? The supposition is too abhorrent from the spirit of Christianity, and too degrading to the dignity of the church.—Then as to danger—the overthrow of the Protestant establishment—how is this to be effected? in parliament or out of parliament? by force or by legislation? If by force, how does the removal of civil disabilities enable them? does it not make it much more unlikely that they should make the attempt? and, if they should make it, will not the removal of the real grievance deprive them of the co-operation of the moderate and of the honest? If the latter, is it really apprehended that the number of members let in, would be strong enough to over-rule the Protestants, and force a law to pull down the establishment? Would you have the returns much more favourable to the Catholics than they are at present? If the entire 100 Irish members were to be Catholics, could such a measure, in the range of human possibility, be successful, or could it seriously enter into the contemplation of any man in his senses? The apprehension, when it undergoes the test of close examination, is perfectly chimerical: these are not the fruits of the wholesome caution of statesmen, but the reveries of disordered brains. But if you reject this measure now, and postpone it to times of difficulty and danger, will the interests of the Protestant church be better guarded? Grant it now, and you grant it as a matter of grace, to which you may annex every fair and reasonable condition; but if you find 810 it necessary to resort to it in some hour of dismay and adversity, when the storm is blowing and the public institutions are rocking and toppling, will the establishment be perfectly secure? Again, if you grant it now, you give it to a class, as much inferior in property, as they are superior in numbers. Now it is a truth, as certain as any in political economy, that, at no very distant period, the wealth of the country must become diffused, pretty nearly in proportion to its relative population; will the Protestants of Ireland thank you for deferring the adjustment of this question until it shall be demanded by people, having as great an ascendancy in wealth as in population? Sir, these are serious practical considerations, and the clergy of this country would do well to weigh them and to reflect upon them. These are questions, much more of policy than of religion, and it is not without deep regret that I see any portion of that respectable body interpose themselves between the wisdom of the legislature and the temporal interests of the subject, with such a tone and such a manner as some of them have assumed on this occasion. If the interests of religion or the rights of their order are at stake, they are entitled to come forward as a body—even if the matter is merely political, they are entitled to come forward as individuals; but, that any of them should adopt the present tone of unqualified remonstrance, because the Commons of England propose to consider the political claims of their fellow christians and fellow subjects, with a view to a final and amicable adjustment, does not seem calculated to advance the real interests of religion.
Sir, religion is degraded when it is brandished as a political weapon, and there is no medium in the use of it: either it is justified by holy zeal and fervent piety, or the appeal to it becomes liable to the most suspicious imputation. Sir, I consider the safety of the state as essentially interwoven with the integrity of the establishment. The established religion is the child of freedom. The Reformation grew out of the free spirit of bold investigation: in its turn it repaid the obligation, with more than filial gratitude, and contributed, with all its force, to raise the fabric of our liberties. Our civil and religious liberties would each of them lose much of their security, if they were not so deeply indented each with the other. The church need not to be apprehensive. It is a plant of the growth of 300 years; it has struck 811 its roots into the centre of the state, and nothing, short of a political earthquake, can overturn it: while the state is safe it must be so; but let it not be forgotten that, if the state is endangered, it cannot be secure. The church is protected by the purity of its doctrines and its discipline; the learning and the piety of its ministers; their exemplary discharge of every moral and christian duty; the dignity of its hierarchy, the extent and lustre of its possessions, and the reverence of the public for its ancient and unquestioned rights; to these the Catholic adds the mite of his oath that he does not harbour the chimerical hope, or the unconstitutional wish to shake or to disturb it; and therefore, all which is requisite, for the security of the church, is that it should remain, in repose, on its own deep and immoveable foundations; and this is the policy which the great body of the church of Ireland, and, I believe I may add, of the church of England, have adopted. If any thing could endanger its safety, it would be the conduct of intemperate and officious men, who would erect the church into a political arbiter, to prescribe rules of imperial policy to the throne and to the legislature.
Sir, a reason assigned by the hon. member, who last spoke, for his change of opinion, is, that the sense of the people of England is against the measure. Supposing, for a moment, that the fact were so, to a much greater extent than it really is, would it afford a fair argument for precluding an enquiry and adjustment? I consider it, under any circumstances, an invidious and dangerous topic, to cite the opinion of the people of one part of the empire, against the claims of the people of another part of it; but to cite it as an argument against the full discussion of their claims, seems utterly unwarrantable. But, when it is recollected that the Union was urged upon the Catholics of Ireland, under the strong expectation that facilities would be consequently afforded to the accomplishment of their wishes, is it not something very like dishonesty, to press into the service, against their claims, the opinion of the people of England, and its authority with an English parliament? If this question were now under discussion in an Irish parliament, granted to be in itself just and expedient, called for by all the Catholics and by a great majority of the Protestants of Ireland, would it be endured, as an argument, that the cry of the people of England was against it? You 812 have taken away that parliament, under the assurance that, in a British parliament, that might be safely done, which in an Irish parliament, might be difficult or dangerous, and now you say, 'true, the measure is right, but the difficulty grows from its being discussed in an English parliament, because such a parliament must defer to the prejudices of the English, at the expence of the rights of the Irish people,' It may be said that the people of England are no parties to such a compact; but I would appeal to the noble lord, who, if he did not guarantee it as a compact, was at least a very principal mover in holding it out as an inducement, whether he can countenance such a topic? or can he link himself with those who have, by every indirect method, endeavoured to excite the people of England, in order to fabricate the argument?
Sir, the opinion of the people is undoubtedly entitled to a respectful attention; it is to be listened to—to be canvassed, and, if sound and reasonable, to be deferred to; but the clamour of the people of either country is not to silence the deliberations of parliament, still less the opinion of a partial and very limited portion of that people; still less an opinion founded on imperfect views; still less an opinion founded upon gross prejudices, excited and kindled by artful and interested misrepresentation, and for the very purpose of preventing fair discussion. The opinion of the people of both countries is to be looked to, and the reasonable foundations of the opinions of both; and, in so doing, it is always to be recollected, that the sentiments of the Catholics are not to be the less regarded on account of their being principally condemned in one part of the united kingdom, but if, either from prudence or affection, they would be respected if interspersed through the counties of Great Britain, they are not the less entitled to attention, because they constitute four-fifths of the most vulnerable, and not least productive portion, of the empire. The question, it is true, is an imperial one: Why? Because Ireland is identified with your interest and happiness, and glory; her interests are yours, and therefore Irish policy is imperial policy; but it seem rather inconsistent to take cognizance of the question, on the supposition that the interests of the two countries are absolutely the same; and to decide it upon the principle that the rights of the one are essentially and un 813 alterably opposed to the wishes and to the safety of the other. But, Sir, I utterly deny the fact, that such is the sentiment of the people of England,—a pretty bold experiment has been made, and it has failed. The intelligent class of the English public, those who from property and from education, and from place in society, are entitled to sway the opinion of the legislature on this, or on any political subject, are, I firmly believe, friendly to a full discussion of the Catholic claims, and with a strong leaning in favour of liberality and concession, if they can be made appear consistent with public safety. This is a tribunal to which an appeal may be fairly made, and to which adequate and ample satisfaction should be given; and there is no concession or sacrifice, not inconsistent with the essential principles of their religion, which the Catholics are not bound to make for the purpose. But, Sir, beyond this public, and to the dregs of the community I fear there are some desperate enough to look: I have heard something like a muttered threat of such an appeal; but I do not believe, though there is much valour at present on this subject, that we need fear a repetition of the outrages of St. George's Fields; I do not fear that our ears will be again assailed by the hell-shout of "No Popery." I have heard something more than an insinuation, within these walls, that this is a question in which the lower classes of the people are very deeply interested, and that their voice is, on this occasion, to be particularly attended to. Sir, the doctrine is rather novel in the quarter from which it proceeds, nor am I disposed to give it an unqualified denial. I should be sorry to contend, that the voice of any portion of our fellow subjects, however humble, should be disregarded; if they complain of grievances by which they are oppressed, of justice withheld, or of any thing trenching upon their freedom or their comforts, they are to be heard with patient and with deep attention; and the more humble the situation of the complainants, the more bounden the duty of the representative to listen to them; but, on a subject like the present, where the legislature is called on to withhold the privileges of the constitution from a great proportion of the people, upon supposed principles of state government; when claims of common right are withheld, in deference to sacred and mysterious maxims of imperial policy; on such a subject, I 814 say, it is something more than absurdity to affect a deference for the shouts of the lower orders of the people. Sir, the apprehension of such an appeal being resorted to, need not affect our deliberations; those who intimate such an intention know full well that, though the threat may be endured, the times would not bear the execution of it; they know full well that, if parliament determines to pursue its steady course of calm investigation and liberal adjustment, there is no faction in the state, which can effectually interpose between the sovereign authority of the legislature and the just demands of the people.
Sir, the conduct of the Roman Catholics of Ireland has been resorted to, as an argument for abandoning the pledge of the last session. Sir, I am not the advocate of their intemperance; I am free to say that there have been some proceedings, on the part of the public bodies, who affect to act for them, altogether unjustifiable. Their attempts to dictate to the entire body how they are to act on each particular political occurrence, their presuming to hold an inquisition on the conduct of individuals, in the exercise of their elective franchise, and putting them under the ban of their displeasure, because they vote for their private friends, and abide by their plighted engagements; all this is a degree of inquisitorial authority unexampled and insufferable; and this, by persons professing themselves the advocates of unbounded freedom and unlimited toleration, at the moment when they are extending their unparlying tyranny into the domestic arrangements of every Catholic family in the country. Sir, I am equally disgusted with the tone of unqualified demand, and haughty rejection of all condition or accommodation so confidently announced by them; nor can I palliate the intemperance of many of their public speeches, nor the exaggeration and violence of some of their printed publications. To this tone I never wish to see the legislature yield; but, as this indecent clamour is not to compel them to yield what is unreasonable, I trust it will not influence them to withhold what is just.
Sir, it appears to me most unfair to visit on the. Roman Catholics, the opinions and the conduct of such public assemblies as profess to act for them; if they labour under a real and a continuing grievance, and one which justifies, on their part, a continued claim, they must act through 815 the medium of popular assemblies, and must, of course be exposed to all the inconveniencies which attend discussion in such assemblies. In all such places, we know that unbounded applause attends the man, who occupies the extreme positions of opinion, and that the extravagance of his expression of such opinion will not be calculated to diminish it. That there may be many individuals, anxious to promote their own consequence, at the ex-pence of the party, whose interests they profess to advocate, is an evil inseparable from such a state of things; and, amongst those who sincerely wish to promote the interests of the cause, much may fairly be attributed to the heat, naturally generated by long continued opposition; much to the effects of disappointed hope; much to the resentment, excited and justified by insolent and virulent opposition. But, Sir, I should unworthily shrink from my duty, if I were not to avow my opinion, that the unfortunate state of the public mind in Ireland is, above all things, imputable to the conduct of the government. Without recurring, unnecessarily, to subjects which have been already discussed in this House, I may be allowed to say that the rash interference with the right of petitioning, has given deep and just offence to the entire Catholic body. They have been compelled to rally round their constitutional privileges, and make common cause; those excesses, which, two years since, would have been eagerly repressed by the Catholics themselves, might now, I fear, be regarded with some degree of favourable allowance on their part.
Sir, I must say that the country has not been fairly dealt with on this subject. It is the bounden duty of the government to make up their mind, and to act a consistent part. If this measure is utterly inadmissible, expectation should be put down by the certainty of rejection; resentment should be allayed by the clear exposition of the necessity which bars; the fever of the public mind should be subdued, and all the means of conciliation, consistent with such a system, should be resorted to. If, on the other hand, this claim may and ought to be acted on, it should be frankly received and honestly forwarded; every facility for its accomplishment should be afforded, by tempering and directing the proceedings of those who seek it; by suggesting the conditions and terms on which it should be granted; and by arranging the details, as well as by planning 816 the outlines, of such a system. But how can any honest mind be reconciled to the ambiguity, in which the cabinet has concealed itself from public view, on this great national question,—or with what justice can they complain of the madness, which grows out of this fever of their own creating. This is not one of those questions which may be left to time and chance; the exclusion of these millions, from the rights of citizenship, is either a flagrant injustice, or its necessity springs out of the sacred fountains of the constitution. This is no subject of compromise. Either the claim is forbidden, by some imperious principle too sacred to be tampered with, or it is enjoined by a law of reason and justice, which it is oppression to resist. In ordinary cases it sounds well to say that a question is left to the unbiassed sense of parliament and people; but, that a measure of vital importance, and which has been again and again discussed by all his Majesty's ministers, should be left to work its own course and suffered to drift along the tide of parliamentary or popular opinion, seems difficult to understand,—that government should be mere spectators of such a process is novel; but, when it is known that they all have considered it deeply, and formed their opinions decidedly in direct opposition to each other, that, after this, they should consult in the same cabinet, and sit on the same bench, professing a decided opinion in point of theory, and a strict neutrality in point of practice; that, on this most angry of all questions, they should suffer the population of the country to be committed in mutual hostility, and convulsed with mutual rancour, aggravated by the uncertainty of the event, producing, on the one side, all the fury of disappointed hope, on the other side malignity and hatred, from the apprehension that the measure may be carried, and insolence from every circumstance, public or private, which tends to disappoint or to postpone it; one-half of the king's ministers encouraging them to seek, without enabling them to obtain,—the other half subdivided; some holding out an ambiguous hope, others announcing a never ending despair. I ask, is this a state in which the government of the country has a right to leave it? Some master piece of imperial policy must be unfolded, some deep and sacred principle of empire, something far removed from the suspicion of unworthy 817 compromise of principle for power, to reconcile the feelings of the intelligent public, or to uphold a rational confidence in the honesty or seriousness of the government. Sir, the consequences of such conduct are disastrous, not merely in the tumult and discord which, in this particular instance, they are calculated to excite, but in their effect upon the character of the government and the times. Sir, I repeat it, the Irish Catholics have not been fairly dealt with; the government has not, in any instance, come into amicable contact with them; it has not consulted, nor soothed, nor directed them; it has addressed them only in the stern voice of the law, in state prosecution, and it is most unjust to charge against them the anger, which has been kindled by such treatment: but, Sir, I ask what have the Catholics done? Look to their actions for the last century, and do not judge them by a few intemperate expressions or absurd publications,—these are not the views of statesmen,—you are considering the policy of centuries, and the fate of a people, and will you condescend to argue, on such a subject, the merits of a pamphlet, or to scan the indiscretions of an angry speaker at a public meeting? Of this I am sure that, if the violence, with which the demand has been urged, by some of its advocates, is to create a prejudice against it, I the virulence, with which it has been rejected, by some of its opponents, ought to be allowed to have some operation in its favour; perhaps under these opposite impulses of passion, a chance may be afforded of reason having fair play; and a hearing may be procured for the merits of the case. This too should not be lost sight of, that the Catholics are seeking their rights; that they are opposed by an adverse government, many of whom declare that no concession, on their part, could be effectual, but that their doom is interminable exclusion. May I ask, whether it is fair to require, or reasonable to expect, that the Catholics should, under such circumstances, exercise a fastidious delicacy, in the selection of their friends; and say to those, who profess themselves their advocates, "We refuse your aid, your language is not sufficiently measured; you urge our demands in too warm and too unqualified a tone, and we prefer the chances, which may arise, from throwing ourselves on the mercy of our enemies?"
Sir, I will not affect to disguise the fact, 818 that there are persons in Ireland, who look to revolution and separation. I certainly do not mean to say, nor do I believe, that those, whose warmth of expression has been so much, and so justly complained of, are, in the most remote degree, liable to the suspicion of being joined with such a party. The Separatists are, in my judgment, neither numerous, nor, in them-selves, formidable; and, of this I am sure, that they tremble at the prospect of the adjustment of the Catholic claims, as a measure deadly to their views. Is it a wise policy, is it a course which any government can justify to the country, to recruit for these public enemies, by endeavouring to embody the legitimate claims of the Catholics with their wild and pernicious projects? Is it not madness to oppose the same blind and indiscriminate resistance to the honest objects of the great untainted landed and commercial interests of the Catholic people, and to affect to confound them, in a common cause, with those miserable enemies of public freedom and safety? Sir, if I am asked what course, in my opinion, should be pursued, in this momentous business, I cannot answer without doubt and distrust in my own judgment, where I may differ from many whose opinion I highly respect; but it is fair to say that the opinion, which I have always entertained, and always expressed, publicly and privately, on this subject, is, that this measure cannot be finally and satisfactorily adjusted, unless some arrangement shall be made, with respect to the Roman Catholic clergy, and some security afforded to the state, against foreign interference. On the best consideration I have been able to give the subject, and on the fullest communication I have been enabled to obtain on it, I am satisfied that such security may be afforded, without interfering, in any degree, with the essentials of their religion; and, if so, the mere circumstance of its being required, is a sufficient reason for conceding it. This is not a struggle for the triumph of one party of the state over another; it is a great national sacrifice of mutual prejudices, for the common good; and any opportunity of gratifying the Protestant mind should be eagerly seized by the Catholic, even if the condition required were uncalled for by any real or well founded apprehension; but I must go a step further, and avow, that the state has, in my opinion, a right to require some fair security 819 against foreign influence in its domestic concerns. What this security may be, provided it shall be effectual, ought, as I conceive, to be left to the option of the Catholic body. I am little solicitous about the form, so that the substance is attained. As a Veto has been objected to, let it not be required; but let the security be afforded, either by domestic nomination of the clergy, or in any shape or form, which shall exclude the practical effect of foreign interference. Let them be liberally provided for by the state, let them be natives of the country and educated in the country, and let the full and plenary exercise of spiritual authority by the Pope, which forms an essential part of their religious discipline, remain in all its force; leave to their choice the mode of reconciling these principles, and stand not upon the manner, if the thing is done. An hon. gentleman asks, will this satisfy the Catholics? I will not be so indiscreet as to answer for what will satisfy them; I believe it will; but it is enough for me to know that this ought to satisfy them; and of this we may be convinced, that we do not enable them to obtain what they ought not, by granting them what they ought to have: but what is the use, it is asked, of a measure proposed as an instrument of peace, if it is likely, on the contrary, to produce nothing but dissatisfaction? I answer, first, I believe it will produce full satisfaction, if frankly proposed, and honestly acted on; but if you doubt-of this, do not make your proceeding an absolute and a final one,—reserve the operation of the act, which giants relief, (if you think it necessary) until the accompanying measure of security shall be ripened, so as to ensure satisfaction in their enactment;—declare your principles of security, and your conditions, and let the operation of your law, or the effect of your resolution, await the desire of the Catholic body, signified, or fairly understood, with respect to them. Pursue this course, put this measure into the hands of those, in whom the Catholics can place confidence, or give them such a parliamentary pledge, that they may see that the accomplishment of their wishes is dependant on their own good sense and moderation; and, I have no doubt, they will not be wanting to contribute their part, to this great national work of strength and union,—in all events you will have discharged your duty; you will have given satisfaction to the honest, and to the 820 reasonable. You will have separated the sound from the unsound; and you will leave the bigot or the incendiary, stripped of all his terrors, by depriving him of all his grievances Sir, I have done.—I may be in error; but I have not sacrificed to interest or to prejudice, and I have spoken my sentiments in the sincerity of my heart.
The Right Hon. Charles Yorke
Mr. Speaker; I cannot withhold my well merited tribute of applause to the right hon. member who has just sat down on the brilliant display of eloquence he has made;—eloquent, however, as he has been, he has failed of convincing me. I request the indulgence of the House, while I state, as briefly as possible, some of the grounds on which I hold a different opinion, and with which nothing but an irresistible sense of public duty, could induce me to trouble them at this time, after the repeated discussions the subject has already undergone, and the share I myself took of them, on a former occasion.
It is evident that the right hon. gentleman is by no means unaware of the point, where the greatest danger lies; when he assures us of his own jealousy of the power and influence of the papal see and of the Romish priesthood; and I admit, that if I could be fairly satisfied on that most material point, the peril of foreign interference, I should be inclined to lend myself to the question, and endeavour, as far as practicable, to satisfy the reasonable claims of the Roman Catholics. Before I go into this part of the subject, however, I wish to set the right hon. gentleman right in one or two points, in which he appears to have misunderstood my hon. friend (Mr. Bankes). My hon. friend has justified his change of opinion (among other very weighty and satisfactory reasons), not on the sentiments expressed by so large a proportion of the British Protestant people alone (though this of itself would have been a most material circumstance, occurring since the Resolution of the last session); but on the great alteration, which has taken place, in the sentiments of the Protestants of Ireland. This seems to me, of itself, sufficient to vindicate the change, which has taken place in the view of my hon. friend. Neither have the Test and Corporation Acts been spoken of as the bulwarks of the constitution, abstractedly considered, but as those of the established church, which, however, might 821 be considered as in a manner identified with it. On the main question I agree, in several particulars, with the hon. gentleman who spoke last. It has never appeared to me to be a question of toleration, in the correct sense of the word; for the Roman Catholics are completely tolerated in the free exercise of their religion; and, could it be shewn, that this toleration is really defective in any particular, I, for one, am ready to concur in a proper remedy. Neither is it a question of right; for the right is, undoubtedly, in the state, to protect itself and its establishments, against all those who may be supposed hostile to it. On the other hand, I will readily admit that all these disabling laws are only justifiable on the ground of the necessity of self defence, on the part of the state; if the necessity no longer exists, let them be repealed. The true question therefore is, are they now necessary for the preservation of our Protestant community? It will not be denied, that we are essentially a Protestant state; and that this is a fundamental principle of the constitution. The Bill of Rights decides this point; and it appears to me, superfluous at least, if not mischievous, to re-enact, as the right honourable mover has proposed to do, the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, in the Bill, which he intends to bring in, upon this occasion. I, for one, am not obliged to the right hon. gentleman for offering to declare these, our ancient and fundamental laws, in the preamble to a modern act of parliament.
If, then, these are our fundamental laws, it seems to be clear and indisputable that the onus probandi rests upon those, who would propose to us to alter or rescind them. We have a right to be satisfied on a matter so important. It is enough for us to say, here are our laws, and on these we rely. We are surrounded by gloomy clouds and the thick darkness of the present time; we are wandering in the most dreadful obscurity, both moral and political, in which the world was ever involved; we cannot see our way; we must wait for the dawn; our only hope of safety consists in clinging to our venerable, and long-tried institutions.
I for one, Mr. Speaker, must declare, that, after the most attentive (and I hope unprejudiced) consideration of this subject for several years, I am not satisfied that this fundamental alteration in our constitution, in church and state, can be safely attempted at the present moment. 822 It is obvious, that, if these restraining or disabling statutes are altered or laid aside, with regard to the Roman Catholics, the same must be done for Protestant dissenters of all descriptions, by inevitable consequence; and it will be for the House to consider, whether they are prepared to repeal, at once, the Test and Corporation Acts. I am not, however, one of those who think that these restraining statutes may not ever he laid aside; it is sufficient for me to express my opinion that they ought not to be laid aside now. Circumstances may arise hereafter, which may render such a measure expedient and desirable; circumstances, similar to those, which have occurred heretofore; I mean in 1790 and 1791. At that period, which was about the time of my first entering this House, I felt the strongest desire to see such a measure carried through, with reference, as well to Ireland, as to Great Britain; and I have ever since been amazed at the failure of so salutary an arrangement. I have ever since been unable to account for the reason, why so favourable an opportunity was omitted, as then presented itself, when the Braschi Pope (Pius 6,) was seated in the Papal chair, whose attachment to the British nation was well known; and whose territories, about the time when some of these plans were in contemplation, (1793–94) were actually protected by a British fleet, as his person was, by a regiment of British dragoons. It is inconceivable why something effectual was not then accomplished; but it would appear as if the government of that day, had "reckoned without their host;" that is, had neglected to secure the co-operation of the Pope; without whose assistance, I am afraid, that nothing final or satisfactory to the Roman Catholics, can ever be brought about. I think some such arrangement might have been made, at the period to which I allude; I will not even despair of similar favourable circumstances recurring again. Suppose that, in the midst of the extraordinary and varying events to which we have been witnesses; suppose that, among the tens of thousands of victims who perished in the bloody field of Borodino, or in that dreadful retreat from Moscow, amidst the horrid severities of a Russian winter, it had pleased Providence to put an end to the career of our mortal and inveterate enemy, the most execrable tyrant that ever afflicted the human race, is it too 823 much to imagine, that the lapse of a few months, perhaps, might have placed this country, and all Europe, in a situation, so different from that in which it has been so long involved, as to justify sanguine expectations of the recurrence of such favourable circumstances: be that as it may, however, I have great doubts whether this plan can ever succeed without the concurrence of the Pope himself, in some shape or other; and, as it is evident that there is no probability whatever of obtaining it, at the present moment, I can see no good, but on the contrary, much evil, likely to arise from going into a general committee on the Roman Catholic claims, such as is now proposed.
This is a question wholly of political expediency; in other words, on which side lies the greater difficulty and danger? First, what is the danger to be apprehended from conceding to the Roman Catholics at this time? Secondly, what is the danger to be apprehended from not conceding to them, at the present time? Under these two considerations, all the main arguments, relied on by the supporters of these innovations, appear to be reducible; as they consist; First, in depreciating and ridiculing the supposed power, influence, and dangerous tenets of the Papal See, and of the Romish priesthood; and, secondly—in exaggerating and magnifying the perils to be expected from the discontents and dissatisfaction of the Papists in this realm, if their demands are not complied with.
As to the first point, it must depend on a consideration of the Popish tenets of this day; and of the conduct of that church, with reference to the actual state of affairs in Europe, at this alarming conjuncture.
I must here observe, that these Roman Catholic pretensions approach us under a double aspect; as it were, under a mask with two faces. There is the Religio Laici, and there is the Religio Cleri. When it is objected that the opinions and tenets of the Romish church are irreconcilable with, and hostile to, our Protestant establishment, we are told that the higher ranks of the Romish communion, in the united kingdom, the nobility and gentry, who claim a participation in our privileges, care very little about these dogmas and doctrines, or about the Pope's supremacy. They are of the old religion; and adhere to it, forsooth, more on the footing of a point of honour, and as a mark of ancient family and clanship, than on account of 824 religious faith or moral conviction. And, indeed, there can be little doubt that free-thinking and infidelity have made a progress among Roman Catholics of the above description, as they have done among Protestants of a similar class. But the Re-ligio Cleri, is still a different thing, and the clergy, and many, undoubtedly, of the laity too, are really good and sincere Catholics, and conscientiously adhere to the tenets and principles of the Church of Rome, as being applicable to all times and seasons, and in their nature unchangeable, and indestructible; and, with this argument we are met, when we ask why do the Roman Catholics of this day adhere so pertinaciously to the supreme spiritual authority of the Pope? I must therefore protest against being bound to consider and decide a question, of such immense importance, on such loose and uncertain grounds; and must insist on having a right to treat the Roman Catholics on this occasion, as sincerely attached to their faith, and to the peculiar doctrines of their church.
I have a right, then, to enquire, first, Is the Church of Rome, in its doctrines and discipline, materially changed from what it was heretofore?—and, secondly, Do its professors and ministers, the Romish clergy, continue to hold the same, or nearly the same, influence and authority over the minds and consciences of their flocks (in this realm) as they did in former times?
In order to prove that the Popish tenets are not materially altered, I do not think it necessary to resort to ancient authorities, nor shall I troble the House with a reference to decrees and councils, which are said, or supposed, to be antiquated. I wish only to refer them to the very modern decrees and ordinances of the present Pope, on the occasion of his being deprived of his dominions, and removed from Rome to Savona, in the years 1808, and 1809; and to what has, very recently, happened in Great Britain and Ireland, in relation to the episcopal and spiritual jurisdiction, as well as to the rules and doctrines promulgated by authority of the college of Maynooth.
I will now read some extracts from a book lately published by Brown and Keating (and which has every appearance of being authentic), intituled, "Relation de ce qui se passa a Rome, dl'Envuhissement de Plus VII." to prove, 1°. that the general description of the Pope's authority is 825 the same as heretofore;* 2°. that the Catholic religion cannot, in its nature, tolerate any other forms of worship;† 3. that all Bishops must be dependent on the Papal See; ‡4°that oaths of fidelity cannot* "His Holiness, in quality of the chief of religion, is to be considered as holding the place of the God of Peace."—Relation, &c. vol. 1, p. 149.The Pope is chief master and common father of all the faithful, to whom God himself has given the spiritual power ever the whole world."—Ibid. p. 189.Intelligant illi (Reges sc.) aliquando, imperio ipsos nostro ac throno Lege Christi subjici; imperium enim nos quoque gerimus, addimus etiam præstantius."—Ibid. vol. 3, p. 76.† "The new French code declares that all forms of worship shall be free and publicly exercised. But we have rejected this article as contrary to the canons, to the councils, to the Catholic religion, to the tranquillity of life, and to the welfare of the state, on account of the fatal consequences which must result from it.‡ "It is desired that the bishopricks may be reformed, and the bishops made independent of us. But this being contrary to the intention of our lawgiver and Lord Jesus Christ, who has ordained that there should exist, between St. Peter and his Apostle, an union, represented, at this day, by that which exists between the bishops and ourselves, &c. &c. accordingly, we protest that we are determined to preserve, for ourselves, the plenitude of our primacy, and the dependence of all bishops upon our see, as it is ordained by the pontifical bulls, the sacred canons, and the councils."—Relation, &c. vol. 1, p. 40.His Holiness orders it to be stated that the original duty of subjection and allegiance (i. e. to the natural sovereign) cannot prevail against the sacred engagements, which the cardinals (and bishops) contract towards the church of God, by their oaths of consecration."—Ibid. vol. 1, p. 124.The Pope is not simply bishop of Rome, but pastor of the universal church, in virtue of which he has the right of choosing his own ministers and co-operators in the apostolate, from among all the nations of the earth. And the clergy of Rome has always, from the earliest times, been composed, not of Romans alone, but826 be taken to an intrusive or heretical government;║ 5°. that the modern morality ofof individuals of every nation."—Relation, &c. vol. I, p. 169.║ '* This is not only the government of a stranger, but a government, notoriously interfering with the spiritual power, in every place to which it extends, and a protector of all sects, and all forms of worship. This system of indifferentism, which supposes no religion to be true, is that which is the most injurious and the most opposite to the Catholic Apostolic Roman religion, which, because it is divine, is necessarily the only one; and cannot form any alliance with any other; any more than Christ with Belial, the light with darkness, truth with error, or true piety with impiety.That man can neither know, nor love that most holy religion, out of the pale of which there is no hope of salvation, who does not tremble, with horror, at the situation in which he will be placed, under the new government; who does not perceive, of himself, that he cannot, without a manifest injustice, indeed without enormous sacrilege, afford any sort of adherence, favour, approbation, or co-operation with such a government.It follows hence, 1st, That it can never be allowed to take an unlimited oath of fidelity to such a government. 2dly, That it is unlawful to accept and hold any offices under it, tending to its support and maintenance; because it is a general principle, that no one is permitted to enter or persevere in a state (duns un état) however necessary for his subsistence, if it is incompatible with his conscience, and with the interests of his eternal salvation.But with a view to the public tranquillity, the Pope allows an oath of passive allegiance to be taken, according to a formula.—' I promise and swear to take no part in any conspiracy, plot or sedition against the existing government, and likewise to be submissive and obedient to it, in every thing which may not be contrary to the laws of God and of the holy church.'"—Relation, &c. vol. 1, p. 193.Can we possibly dispense ecclesiastics from the pontifical law of the sacred canons, which prohibits them from taking any oath of fidelity to the lay (or secular power) from whom they do not receive any Temporality?" Cons, de Lateran IV. des Sermens.—Relation, Sec. vol. 2, p. 29.827 the Papal see is nearly the same as heretofore;§ and 6°. that the Papal power of§ "Bull of Indulgences to the Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and vicars capitular of France and Italy. Feb. 1809. Vol. 2, p. 109.Indulgences concerning Marriage.Some of you have requested the faculty of dispensing, or giving permission for marriages to be contracted between parties, one of whom professes the Catholic faith, and the other heresy. But you know perfectly well that the true Catholic Church has ever strongly reprobated marriages with heretics; the Church has them in horror, as has been said by Clement 11, our predecessor, of happy memory; 'on account of the multiplied spiritual dangers which they produce.'—The same laws, which induced him to forbid Christians to intermarry with the Infidels, also determined him to prohibit the sacrilegious nuptials of Catholics with Heretics. On this principle, notwithstanding the most pressing instances on the part of the bishops, the holy see has never consented to grant this faculty, especially in Europe; and, notwithstanding the special reasons urged by several of you, arising from the actual situation of France, the utmost which can be done is, for the Pope to take the matter into his most serious consideration."—Vol. 2, p. 109.6. Indulgence to dispense, in the case of marriage, with the impediment resulting from the crime of adultery between the parties, with a promise of future marriage, provided nevertheless that neither of the parties had efficaciously contributed to the death of the deceased husband.13 and 14. Indulgences to dispense the incestuous parties, in cases, where the right to demand the conjugal duty has been lost by occult and carnal commerce with a near relative, either in the first or second degree, on condition of penance, &c. Eleignement d'occasion, &c.To dispense, where marriage has been contracted, with the occult impediment of the first and second degree of affinity, proceeding from carnal and criminal union, provided that the crime has not been committed with the mother of the wife, before the birth of the latter, and not otherwise; on conditions similar to the preceding. 15. To dispense, in a similar case, where the marriage has not been yet828 excommunicating offending princes and their subjects, under the decrees of the Council of Trent, is now exercised as in former times.§§
also, among other passages, quoted the following words, from the Manual of Doctrine and Discipline, now used by the college of Maynooth (Tractat. de Ecclesiâ): "Itaque maximo in pretio illud Concilium (Tridentinum scilicet) habere debent omnes Clerici, cum ratione dogmatum, sit veluti omnium precedentium synodorum compendium; et ratione disciplinæ, dici merito possit manuale, sacerdotum, vel omnium qui sacerdotio sunt initiandi."
[After reasoning upon these documents, and shewing how completely they proved the position that the court of Rome was not materially changed in doctrine and discipline, from what it was heretofore, he continued.]
I shall now proceed to substantiate the fact, that the Romish clergy continue to possess and to practise a very powerful and mischievous influence over the laity of that persuasion, both in Great Britain and Ireland. For this purpose, I refer to what passed in England in 1789–90, on the occasion of the famous controversy between the Catholic Committee, to whom the conduct of the Bill (usually called, Mr. Mitford's Act) was committed, in its passage through parliament, and the three apostolic vicars, upon the subject of theconcluded, but is ready to take place, and cannot be delayed for the special dispensation of the holy see without great scandal."—Relation, &c. vol. 2, p. 149.§§ Bull of Excommunication against Buonaparté and his adherents, 1809.Hinc autoritate omnipotentis Dei et S. Sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli ac Nostrâ;Declaramus eos omnes, &c. excom-municationem majorem aliasque censuras ac pænas ecclesiasticas à sacris canonibus et apostolicis constitutionibus et genera-lium conciliorum, Tridentini præsertim (Sess. 22. cap. de Reform.) decretis in-flictas, incurrisse; et eos excommunicamus et anathematizamus de novo. Nonob-stantibus constitutionibus et ordinationibus apostolicis, necnon quibusvis, etiam juramento, confirmatione apostolica, vel quâvis aliâ, firmitate, roboratis statutis, et consue-tudinibus ac usibus, ac stylis etiam imme-morabilibus," etc. etc.—Relation, &c. vol. 3, p. 76.829 oath, proposed by the former, and insisted upon, as strictly conformable to the original declaration and protestation, which had been subscribed by a very great number both of the clergy and laity of that day, and by the said three vicars apostolic themselves; though they afterwards renounced their signatures, and disclaimed and reprobated the instrument itself, as well as the very able and convincing arguments in support of it, adduced by the Catholic committee, by an Encyclical letter, by which they required absolute submission to their decrees ex Cathedrâ, and to which, in spite of reason, justice, and sound doctrine, which were all on the side of the committee, it was ultimately obliged to submit.
I also refer to what passed in Ireland a few years ago on the subject of the Veto, or approbation of the crown, proposed to be exercised by it upon the nomination and selection of the Roman Catholic bishops of that part of the empire; on which occasion, after much disgraceful shifting and tergiversation, on the part of the Roman Catholic bishops, the laity, at last, implicitly submitted to the fiat of their clergy; when reason, justice, policy, and the constant undisputed practice, in all the other countries of Europe, Catholic or non-Catholic, were unequivocally on their side.
Hence it may fairly be concluded, that the tenets of the Romish church generally, the submission of its clergy to the papal (i. e. a foreign) jurisdiction, and of its laity to this so influenced clergy, remain nearly as they were heretofore. It follows then that we ought to enquire in what state this foreign supreme jurisdiction now is, with reference to the state of affairs in Europe at this most alarming crisis. [Mr. Yorke then referred to various transactions, which have lately passed between Buonaparté and the Pope, particularly in relation to the removal of the latter from Rome to Savona, and subsequently to Fontainbleau; to Buonaparté's public and solemn declarations that the French empire should submit to no spiritual nor ecclesiastical jurisdiction, but such as should be resident within itself, &c. &c. as well as to the new Concordat, very recently concluded upon between the Pope and Buonaparté at Paris; from which it clearly appears that the former has finally submitted to become the subject and vassal of the latter. Buonaparté's great anxiety, on these subjects, 830 was a clear proof of the real power of the Pope, and of the real importance the ruler of France attached to his character, although his slave and prisoner; and the pains this eldest son of the Church and rightful successor of Charlemagne, had recently taken, with regard to the nomination of the bishops of France and Italy, afforded a lesson which ought not to be lost upon us.]
then proceeded:—I have ever thought that there was less danger to be apprehended, to this Protestant community, from this foreign ecclesiastical influence, while the Pope was resident at Rome, and possessed of an open, independent, temporal sovereignty there, than as now, when the Pope, powerless and degraded as he is described to be (but still evidently possessing a most important spiritual influence), is completely in the hands of Buonaparté. In the former case it was possible that something might be accomplished (through negociation), for settling this question, between our Protestant state and the Roman Catholics of the British empire; but in the latter, it is apparent that nothing satisfactory can be within our reach.
I must here again declare, Mr. Speaker, that it is to this foreign interference and jurisdiction, implicitly submitted to by the Popish clergy of these realms, that I principally object; I consider the other peculiar doctrines of the Romish faith, such as transubstantiation, worship of saints, auricular confession, penance, &c. to be of comparatively trifling importance; an importance, which attaches to their tenets, almost entirely in my opinion, on account of the practicability of their becoming subservient to the views of a foreign power, acting, through the Pope, upon the minds and consciences of individuals of this persuasion. But it is said that we have already conceded so much, that little or nothing is left to give; and we are condemned for withholding that, which only produces irritation. But is it true that the Roman Catholics deem that, which they now demand, as of little or no importance? Are seats in this and the other House of Parliament nothing? Is the command of fleets and armies, and to partake in the supreme administration of justice, of trifling consequence? For my part, I am of a very different way of thinking, and cannot contemplate, without serious apprehensions, the growth of a Roman Catholic party, introduced into parliament, and acting uniformly 831 together, with one object in view. We all know what even a small party is capable of effecting in this way—And is it quite improbable that such a party, acting in concert with Protestant Dissenters, and through the medium, for instance, of the abolition of tythes, may not be able, in process of time, to bring the church establishment into danger; and eventually shake the very foundations of the state?
On the other hand, what are the dangers with which we are threatened, should we not think fit to concede that, which is now so pertinaciously demanded?—Phraseology and circumlocution apart, we are fairly told that we must expect insurrection and rebellion, on the part of the Irish Roman Catholics, and the eventual separation from British connexion, should we prove obdurate. I do not believe it. That there are agitators in Ireland, I do believe, who endeavour to make use of this Catholic question to cover their traitorous and malignant designs. But I do believe, that the main body of the Roman Catholics, both there and here, are loyal men; and I am persuaded, that they are much too wise and prudent, to be the instigators and the victims of rebellion and civil war; to sacrifice their share of the greatest temporal blessings, of such real comfort, opulence, peace, and security, as surely were never surpassed by any description of men, in any country whatever.
And all for what? Not for any positive grievance or oppression, affecting their private rights, fortunes, liberty, or happiness; not for the want of liberal and effectual toleration of their religion, rightly understood; not for any denial of justice between man and man; not on account of the absence of any real temporal blessing; but for a grievance, if not ideal in the abstract, yet amounting to little more in the concrete; for the attaining of certain contingent privileges which could, by possibility, attach only to the smallest assignable number, from among the many ten thousands of the Roman Catholic population of the empire.
I confess, Mr. Speaker, it requires no small share of patience to listen to those, who, while they complain of the oppressive restraints, of the slavery of our British Protestant institutions, continue passively and slavishly to submit their necks to the yoke of a foreign spiritual tyranny, such as all history has proved it to be. To hear them crying out for emancipation, 832 from the bondage, forsooth, of the Bill of Rights, and Acts of Settlement, and paltering with their allegiance to the house of Brunswick, while they fall prostrate before the decrees of the councils of Lateran and Trent, and tremble at the bulls and rescripts of some miserable Italian or French Prelate, who is himself the chained and pensioned vassal of the most mortal and implacable foreign enemy their country ever had, of the most detestable and execrable tyrant, whom the world ever saw.
Whom have they to blame for this state of degradation and inferiority, of which they so loudly and pertinaciously complain? Whom but themselves? Why do they not dare to raise their eyes above this night of spiritual darkness and ignorance, in which they voluntarily suffer themselves to be involved? Why do they not shake off this scandalous foreign yoke? Why, at least, do they not agree among themselves (I do not say to abjure the peculiar tenets and articles of their faith), but to abjure this foreign interference, in the appointment of their spiritual pastors, whom they might chuse and nominate among themselves, by capitular or provincial election, and who might be instituted and consecrated afterwards, by the hands of their metropolitans, or eldest bishops, in whom, they will not deny, that the apostolic succession continues to exist. For what, if it was not to aid them in shaking off the necessity of foreign interference in these respects, and to enable them to exercise the just and enlightened discipline of a domestic church, was the national college of Maynooth established? Why is it now supported by a Protestant community at a great expence?
But it is said that citizens of the same state ought to be entitled to equal privileges. But in what sense can those be asserted to be citizens, who profess a divided allegiance? No man can serve two masters. The Roman Catholics of this day consent to pay only a half allegiance, and are to be considered only as half subjects of our lord the King. The Pope has the other moiety of their allegiance; and how can those, who will not agree to be citizens, on the footing of their fellow subjects, have a right to expect to enjoy the complete and perfect privileges of citizens?
I, for one, am decided, that, until I receive just and adequate satisfaction, on this essential point of foreign interference, no consideration shall induce me to agree to concede the Roman Catholic claims, to 833 the extent to Which they appear now to be carried; for I am not speaking of minor and less important relaxations, which may be deemed expedient and proper, to get rid of existing anomalies. But I must also mention another point on which I am inclined to expect some satisfaction, with reference to the present situation of affairs; I mean some authentic declaration of opinion, on the part of the Catholic bishops and clergy of Great Britain and Ireland, as to what they will consider as the canonical election of the new Pope, the successor, that is to be, of Plus 7. I think we have a fair right to complain that, during the agitation of this important question, the Roman Catholic clergy have shewn themselves so little disposed to deal candidly and explicitly with us on this subject. Before I agree to go any further, I desire to be distinctly informed whether Buonaparté's nominee is intended to be acknowledged as the true canonical Pope? Whether he is to be entitled to their spiritual allegiance? Whether he is to become the keeper of British and Irish Roman Catholic consciences? In a recent publication, to which I have already adverted,* there is the following curious passage: "The archbishop's palace at Paris is repairing for the Pope; and it is even intended to pay him some external honours. But we must not be deceived; all this is only an infernal policy, and to throw dust in the eyes of Austria, Saxony, Ireland, Sicily, and all Catholic nations. The emperor seeing the Pope's health decay daily, would be glad for him to end his days in Paris, to the end that the Anti-pope, whom he certainly will endeavour to make, may appear with the better grace to succeed the immortal Pius 7. But it is very clear the Pope named by Buonaparté will not be the real one, and those persons must be truly blind who allow themselves to be deceived." Very well; this is the opinion of the compiler† of this book, who, no doubt, is a good Catholic. Why then do the Roman Catholics of Great Britain and Ireland hesitate about giving us some satisfaction beforehand, upon a point, which must be admitted to be of considerable importance, and upon which hitherto, as far as I know, they have been as silent and secret as the grave.
Upon the whole matter it appears to me* Relation de ce qui se passa à Rome, &c. (Vide Appendix).† The Abbé de la Trappe.834 that the evident impracticability of coming to any satisfactory conclusion at present, and the various new circumstances which have arisen, since the Resolution of last session was adopted, are conclusive reasons against going into this committee. No gentleman ought to be considered as pledged in any manner, as to the vote, which he is to give, on the present occasion. Since the dissolution of the last parliament, the situation of affairs has been materially changed, with regard to the condition of the Pope; with regard to the sentiments of the Roman Catholic body; and above all, with regard to the opinions both of the British and Irish Protestants. Under these circumstances, I cannot agree that it is possible to fulfil the words of the Resolution, to reconcile all parties, and to produce the general satisfaction and concord of all classes of hi" Majesty's subjects. On the contrary, it seems to me, that, by acceding to the motion, we shall do great mischief, as it will rather tend to keep alive, than to allay, religious disputes; I shall therefore give the proposition my decided negative.
§ Mr. John Henry Smyth
.—Mr. Speaker, having concurred in the Resolution, which the House came to in the last session, of the last parliament, for going into a committee to consider the state of the laws affecting Roman Catholics, with a view to a satisfactory and conciliating adjustment, I should think myself guilty of a great inconsistency if I did not vote for the present motion. The petitions on the table of the House, against the Roman Catholic claims, are entitled to be treated with respect, and the petition from the University, which I have the honour to represent, is particularly entitled to this respect from me, from the personal knowledge I have of the character of many of its supporters: but, viewing the question as one, not of a local nor partial nature, but as affecting the common interests of the empire, I must exercise my independent judgment, whoever they may be from whom I differ. So far as the petition expressed an anxious desire for the security of our constitution in church and state, so far I cordially concur in it; but so far as it might be conceived to imply an opinion that the continuance of all the restrictions, at present in force against our Roman Catholic fellow subjects, is essential to that security, so far I must take the liberty to differ from it. It is clear, from a review of the history 835 of the penal laws, that they were not so much aimed at the religion as at the politics of the Roman Catholics; they cannot be considered as essential parts of our constitution either in church or state; since the laws which first excluded, and now exclude, them from office and parliament, viz. the 25th and 30th Car. 2, were enacted nearly a century and a half after the Reformation, from which our ecclesiastical onstitution takes its date; and some years before the Revolution, when our civil constitution was perfected; and since the partial repeal of many of these laws, in the acts of 18th and 31st of the King, shews that the legislature has never seen any thing so sacred and fundamental in their character, as to prevent their removal, when the necessity, which originally directed their enactment, appeared no longer to require their continuance. As the 'res dura et regni novitas,' which was the justification of our ancestors, does not apply to the present times, so neither are the principles, on which these laws are now defended, the same as those on which they were grounded. The principle of toleration, much to the credit of the present times, is now almost universally admitted, in its application to the Catholics; who were however excluded from its benefits by some of the wisest and most liberal of our ancestors in former times; in proof of which Mr. Locke's sentiments and those of bishop Burnet, where he assigns his reasons for voting for the 11th and 12th of Will. 3, are remarkable. The question which has arisen in the debate of this night, whether Roman Catholics could claim the removal of their political disabilities as a right, is a petitio principii on both sides, since it depends on the main question, whether the safety of the state requires their continuance. The admission of a small number of Roman Catholics into the Houses of Parliament, does not appear more likely to be prejudicial to our establishments, than the admission of a small number of Presbyterians at present. The doctrine, that a sovereign cannot be faithfully or effectually served, except by persons professing the same religion with himself, is contradicted by history, (in proof of which it might be sufficient to produce the example of Sully the Protestant minister of Henry 4, and of count Witgenstein, the triumphant Catholic general of an heretic master against his Catholic enemies;) and has no foundation in our constitution; because the reasons, for 836 which our constitution declares the crown to be essentially Protestant, do not apply to the ministers of the crown; since the king is the head of the established church, and must therefore profess the established religion; or else this absurdity would follow, that the head might have one faith and the members another; and, because in point of expediency, there is no comparison between the two cases, since the laws provide an easy remedy against the malpractices of a responsible minister, but none against those of an irresponsible sovereign. The apprehension of danger, from the recognition of the Pope's spiritual supremacy by Roman Catholics, does not seem to consist solely in their denial of the King's, which is common to them with the Presbyterians, nor solely in their acknowledgment of a foreign jurisdiction, which is the case also of the Moravians, but arises out of that sort of prejudice, which may be entertained by men of the most upright intentions and the greatest learning, who are more intimately conversant with the controversies and history of remote ages, than with the state of Europe at present, and the events of the last century, during which there is perhaps no instance to be found of this authority of the Pope having seduced a single Catholic from his loyalty and allegiance to his temporal prince; the gratuitous assumption of inadmissible demands, to be made hereafter, by the Catholics, is no argument against granting them what is reasonable at present; that the present question, does not affect the doctrine, discipline, nor government, the rights, privileges, and authority of the established church. It is a question solely on the expedience of relieving the Catholics from their political disabilities; and our constitution would be as much violated by admitting them to ecclesiastical privileges, as it now is by excluding them from civil ones.—Finally, the weight of authority is already on this side of the question; I have great gratification in quoting the opinions of the late archdeacon Paley; but the union of the most eminent practical statesmen is complete; and when I consider that Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, who disagreed on almost every other subject, and carried the nation along with them in their disagreement, were united on the policy of Catholic concession, I cannot but think it strange, that those who implicitly adopted the opinions of either the one or the other, when they were at variance, 837 should hesitate in their assent, when the concurrence of the two increased the probability that each was in the right. I am sure none of the friends of Mr. Pittwill deny that it was his opinion that the civil inabilities of the Catholics might be removed without prejudice to the church, and with material benefit to the state; although an obstacle too notorious to render it necessary to do more than allude to it, which continued during the remainder of his life, but is now removed, prevented him from making the attempt to carry that opinion into practical effect. I think that, particularly considering the state of the public mind, and the apprehensions of danger which exist in respectable quarters, it would not be the part of wisdom in the legislature to discard from their deliberation the question of securities; securities, however, not amounting to a verbal renunciation of their religion on the part of those of whom they are required; but such securities as the Roman Catholics may grant and the Protestants ought to be contented with. The Committee, should it be the pleasure of the House to go into one, will be the proper place for this part of the discussion. I thank the House for the indulgence with which they have heard me, and hope that the resolution the House may come to will be such as to conciliate the confidence and affection of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects without endangering the Protestant constitution in church or state.
§ Mr. William Courtenay
addressed the House as follows:—Mr. Speaker, upon an occasion of such expectation as this is, I am induced to offer myself to the notice of the House by one consideration alone. The vote which I shall give, in favour of the right hon. gentleman's motion, would have sufficiently recorded my opinion upon the subject now under discussion, but it would not have recorded the grounds upon which that opinion is founded. The House has listened, with admiration and delight, to the sentiments delivered by distinguished natives of Ireland, who, from their talents, their experience, and their intimate acquaintance with that part of the united kingdom, are entitled to the highest consideration. I could not help wishing to add the opinion of an English member of parliament, founded upon, and confirmed by, connection and acquaintance with Ireland.
I speak of Ireland, Sir, not with the 838 partiality of a native, but with the affection of a friend. I must say, Sir, that the subject appears to me not to be sufficiently considered in a practical view. Those who oppose the present motion, feel alarmed at some danger, which, they expect, would follow upon the concession of any further privileges to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects; but no man has yet undertaken to point out or put before the House or the country, in any tangible form, the nature of such dangers or the source from which they are to flow. Sir, I am aware that there is a pretty general, though indefinite idea, of the influence maintained by the Catholic clergy over their flocks, and a notion that this influence may, and will, be employed, for purposes dangerous to the Protestant establishment in church and state. But, supposing this influence to exist to the utmost degree, to which the imagination of any person can carry him, I never yet could learn, nor have I ever heard it stated in argument, why the danger from it should increase, if some of the causes of complaint, some of the sources of irritation which now exist among the great mass of the Catholic population in Ireland, were removed. With regard however, to the degree of influence, which does in fact exist, although I will not deny that it is, in some degree, to be found in Ireland, yet I will venture to say that it has been and is upon the decline. I say this, without fear of being contradicted by those who are best acquainted with the internal state of that part of the united kingdom, and, if we consider the grounds, upon which the blind submission of the people, to the dictates of their priests, mainly rested, we shall see that many of the causes which produced this effect, have ceased to operate.
Observe what, a very few years ago, was the situation of the Irish peasant:—born and brought up upon some mountainous or neglected tract, he was frequently uninstructed, even in the language of his Protestant fellow subjects. No opportunities were afforded to him of having those principles instilled into his mind, by which men are taught to become good citizens and loyal subjects of the state under the protection of which they live. He had no friend to whom he could apply for relief under his distresses, for advice as to his conduct, but the priest to whom he was attached by the connection of a common language and by the ties of 839 a common religion. Certainly, Sir, it was very probable that, under such circumstances, the Catholic peasant of Ireland might become a dangerous instrument in the hands of a designing leader. But this was the case, not because he was Catholic, but because he was neglected and ignorant:—I trust and believe, Sir, that a better order of things is now opening to our view. Every year shews an increasing degree of intelligence among that most important part of the community. Looking at the subject in this point of view, I confess it appears to me that much consolation is to be derived from some of the reports now upon the table of this House.—I allude, Sir, to the reports made by the commissioners for enquiring into the state of public education in Ireland. These reports, Sir, whilst they exhibit a lamentable want of those facilities, which ought to have been afforded to the furtherance of such an object, present, at the same time, a most gratifying picture of the eager desire, which is manifested by the great mass of the population of Ireland, Catholic as well as Protestant, to procure, for their children, the advantages of education. These reports, Sir, relate to various parts of Ireland. They have perhaps made a particular impression upon my mind, because it happens to me to be able to add my testimony to the same effect with respect to another part of that island.
I cannot easily forget, Sir, the moment when, upon one of the wildest tracts of the south western part of the county of Limerick, I was myself surrounded by an immense multitude, composed altogether of individuals professing the Catholic faith, clamouring round me, and urging me to procure for them, from their landlord, as the greatest boon which it was in his power to bestow, the means of giving to their children some advantages of education. Of education, Sir, not in the peculiar tenets and doctrines of that religion against which it is objected that it seeks always to keep its votaries in darkness and ignorance; but their wish was for such a degree of instruction as should enable them to read, with their own eyes, and judge with their own understanding, of those truths, upon which all religion must depend. It is not unimportant, Sir, to consider, by whom the application, to which I have alluded, was supported. The person, Sir, by whom this wish of the people was most earnestly and emphatically 840 pressed upon me, and by whose assistance I was enabled to give effect to it, was the Catholic priest. That minister who, by some, is represented as perpetually engaged in mischievous intrigue, but whom, as far as my experience has gone, I have invariably found most sincerely anxious for, and actively co-operating in, any plan for the improvement of the people and the advantage of his country.
Sir, I may perhaps look at this part of the subject with too sanguine an eye; but I do confess that, to my mind, this readiness, or rather I should say, this eagerness and anxiety of the Catholic population of Ireland to give to the rising generation the advantages of education, does afford a prospect of more efficient and permanent security for the Protestant establishment in church and state, than the most sanguine legislator could hope to provide by any code of restrictive regulations.
Sir, it must not be supposed, because I have confined myself to that which may perhaps in argument be termed a narrow view of the question, that I do not feel the importance of the many topics which, in a more general view of the subject, have been introduced into this discussion. Out of respect to the House, I have purposely confined myself to that view of the subject to which my attention has been particularly drawn; but which I consider only as one, among many views which lead to the same conclusion. Suffice it to say that, in every sentiment expressed in the speech of the right hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. Plunkett) I most sincerely concur, although I will not run the risk of weakening his arguments by repeating them. Thinking therefore, Sir, after the most attentive consideration of all which has been argued upon this subject, that very much may be safely done for the Catholics, and being confirmed in that opinion, by all the observation which I have been enabled to make upon the situation, the character, and the conduct of those, upon whose character and conduct the safety or danger of the measure must depend, I shall give my vote for the motion of the right hon. gentleman, with a perfect conviction, that, in so doing, I best consult the welfare of my country, and the well understood interests of the Protestant church.
§ On the motion of lord Castlereagh, the House, at half past two o'clock in the morning, adjourned.