§ Sundry petitions were presented against the Claims of the Roman Catholics. Amongst others.
Sir T. Lethbridge
presented one from the rev. sir Harcourt Lees of Dublin. The petition went to what he regretted to find was so much avoided by the advocates of the question; namely, the religious part of it, which was, in truth, its most important part. The hon. baronet then went through some of the details of the petition. They embraced a variety of, topics, but the principal were what the petitioner de scribed as the implacable disposition of the 1071 Catholics against the Protestants and their antipathy to civil and religious liberty. The petition concluded by pray-log, that the House would institute an inquiry into the number of Papists and reputed Papists, their character, their property, chapels, convents, nunneries, colleges, and inquisitorial establishments, in this country.
§ Mr. Luke White
denied that the allegations in the petition were true. Not one Catholic priest had appeared on the hustings during the last Dublin election. He spoke from his own knowledge of the Catholic clergy. They were a most exemplary body of men. If people were better informed regarding Ireland, its population would not be maligned and calumniated. A concession of the claims was not se much a boon to the Catholics, as a grant for the sake of the peace and security of the empire.
said, he had a petition to present from several of the clergy of the diocese of Norwich in favour of the Catholic claims. He was happy to say, that the petition was signed by a greater number of clergy than a similar petition which he had presented last year. The petition last year was signed by 48, the present by 55. The petition was so beautifully worded, that he should move that it be read.
§ The petition having been read,
Sir F. Burdett
said, he did not rise to declare his concurrence in the sentiments of the petition, which were so honourable to the parties from whom they proceeded, but to give utterance to his own feelings on this subject—to his own unqualified disapprobation of the annual farce carried on, year after year, for a great length of time, and conducive to no good purpose, and indeed to no purpose whatever, but that of sowing the seeds of well-grounded discontent in the minds of a large portion of the community. They had heard, not longer than two nights ago, from the former eloquent advocate of the Catholic claims, the secretary for foreign affairs, that there was not the least chance that the question would be carried in favour of the Catholics; then, if this was the case, why had that right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning) consented to practise a deception upon the House and the country. Why had he employed himself in raising hope that was only to be deferred, and deferred only to be disappointed? Why had he contributed to irritate and excite the warm 1072 feelings of a generous people, only to plunge them still lower in the depths of grief and despair? Had he come forward so often upon this subject, merely because it afforded him a happy theme for the display of his rhetoric, or had he endeavoured to catch a breath of the fleeting gale of popularity, by affecting, in this solitary instance, to be the advocate of liberal principles? Some motive of this kind must have influenced the right hon. gentleman; because he well knew at the very moment he was vapouring in the cause of the Catholics, that his exertions must be utterly fruitless of all benefit, and become the fertile source of irritation and discontent. Notwithstanding this obvious truth—obvious by the event—the House had been repeatedly called upon to waste its time in useless discussion. The people of Ireland had again and again been excited to the utmost pitch of expectation; and again and again had they learned that their feelings had only been trifled with and insulted. Their rights had been enforced by the right hon. secretary in the strongest terms; their wrongs had been painted in the most vivid colours; but to their rights and to their wrongs, that quarter which it was most important to propitiate had been equally deaf. That the people of Ireland, with their feelings so called forth—with their grievances painted in such vivid hues—with their wrongs so held up in the eloquent language of the right hon. gentleman, in addition to their own sense of intolerable injustice, should not be tranquil, was matter of any thing but wonder. It was a little too much to trifle with the feelings of the people and with the tranquillity of Ireland, by uselessly continuing so painful an excitement. Far better was it at once to put an end to a hope of bettering their condition, far better was it that expectations should never be held out; that the system of Protestant ascendancy should never be relaxed from; that the Catholics should not have been led to struggle, without a chance of success. The right hon. gentleman had stated, that it was impossible the Catholic claims ever could be carried; for, be had stated, that it was impossible a government, or rather an administration, should ever be formed by which this question should be carried; and that, if it was possible to form such an administration, he, to accomplish it, would willingly leave office his acceptance of which was the cause of all this compromise of the public 1073 safety. It was not true, as the right hon. gentleman contended, that no cabinet could be formed which should be decided in favour of the Catholic claims. An administration might be formed—an administration had been formed—the Fox administration. There was, indeed, a minority in that cabinet against the Catholic claims; but it was but a minority. That administration; too, had actually brought in a bill to carry their wishes into effect; which bill was only defeated by the want of good faith in a quarter where the present administration had no reason to expect it. Here a measure, which the ablest men of all parties had declared to be necessary to the safety and peace of the empire, was impeded by a ministerial agreement, while Ireland was more divided more distracted, and more wretched than at any other time—the effect of that impotent and scandalous system of policy, which sacrificed public principle to the love of place, and made a despicable compromise between eternal justice and private interest. The same odious motive had induced ministers only two nights ago basely to desert a public officer under accusation, who had attempted conscientiously to discharge his duty to the Catholic population. As to what was or what was not discreet in the particular case, he professed himself incompetent to judge. Swift had said long ago—that what might be true of other countries was not true with respect to Ireland. She was in a peculiar situation. Ordinary reasoning would not apply to her; and on this account he could not say whether the attorney-general of that country had exercised a sound or an unsound discretion. He would assert, however, that that right hon. gentleman, by the conduct pursued by his friends, who said they did not wish to afford a triumph to either party, had not been fairly, handsomely, nor even justly dealt with. Of the propriety of resorting to ex officio informations he had indeed some doubt; but the accusers of the attorney-general for Ireland had none: and as to the exercise of the power, if it were legal, there certainly never was a case in which it was more proper than when the object of it was to secure justice—which in that instance was protection—to the great mass of the people of Ireland. If his friends would not hold before him a shield to ward off the impending blow the inference was, that the blow was aimed with justice.—In bringing forward their claims 1074 that night, he thought the attorney-general for Ireland was not doing a service to the Catholics either of England or Ireland. With ministers—at least with such of them as opposed the claims—and with the enemies of concession generally, it was not a question of politics or religion. It had nothing to do with danger in their view of it. They looked at it merely as a matter of arithmetic and interest; and they resisted the admission of the Catholics, because they would not have another party come into competition with them, to dispute and share the emoluments of office. Did any man, believe that, in the year 1823, there existed any honest prejudices, any serious and real apprehensions of danger to the state, from the admission of the claims of Catholics? Did any man now fear a Catholic league of hostile sovereigns? The once terrible triumvirate of the pope the pretender, and the devil, was at an end. No man now disputed the title of the house of Brunswick to the throne. No man believed that popish plots were now in concoction; or, at least, no one but the hon. member for Somersetshire (sir T. Lethbridge), who believed that a among scheme was on foot among the Jesuits. The notion seemed so idle and so foolish, that it was not wonderful the hon. member should be singular in his opinion. There was no pretender? The pope himself was out of the question. He was now considered as harmless as any old woman in Christendom. Any man who now entertained apprehensions on this score, would stand a chance of having his fellows laugh in his face; if indeed they did not spit in it. The man who could believe in such dangers, must be just the person to believe in the long-exploded doctrine of the existence of ghosts and witches—must be ready to sally forth against some unfortunate old woman. To draw blood, in order to defeat a charm, as had been proved in a recent case, which, by the by—and it was rather a remarkable coincidence—occurred in Somersetshire. This accounted, perhaps for the dread of the hon. baronet, on the score of the plotting Jesuits. But, the right hon. member for Oxford (Mr. Peel) had, he was sure, a mind too enlightened to be imposed upon by such childish apprehension. He (sir F. B.) was ready to rest the issue upon this: if the right hon. gentleman would place his hand upon his heart, and solemnly declare that he saw 1075 reason for any fear of the kind, he would consent to abandon the cause of the Catholics. But, was there no danger of a different description? Was there no danger to the state from having the feelings of nine-tenths of the people of Ireland wrought up to a ferment of anxiety and hope, only to be disappointed? On this ground there was much to answer for. Ample cause had been given to the people of Ireland for all their discontent and irritation. That such had been the intention he would not say: parliamentary forms would not allow him to make the charge, even if he felt it: but the effects spoke unequivocally and loudly for themselves. Year after year redress had been promised, but promised only to be withheld; and the Irish had at last been goaded and driven to acts of violence against those whom they had been taught to believe their oppressors. He left the Catholics of England out of the question, who had been treated even with greater severity. To the Irish Catholics some concession had been made; for danger had extorted it. To the English Catholics no relief had been given, not an iota of concession had been made. The safety of England could not long continue, if nine-tenths of the population of Ireland were allowed to remain in the state that they now were, oppressed and beaten down by the remaining one tenth. The House had been told that it was an impartial lord-lieutenant, as rare almost as a black swan, and an impartial attorney-general, still rarer—and whom some part of the cabinet thought a black sheep—who had excited all the fermentation now existing in Ireland, by their endeavours to protect their fellow-countrymen from the wrongs under which they had groaned for so many years. To those who used such language to the House he would reply, that the fermentation thus excited would not subside, so long as the country was governed by an administration of nicely-balanced equilibrium—an administration which compromised all important public questions—an administration which exposed Ireland to the greatest dangers, by obstinately rejecting the claims of nine-tenths of her inhabitants, at the same time that their justice was admitted by those members of it whose talents and abilities gave them the greatest influence with the public—an administration which would be broken up, the first moment that the question of Catholic emancipation 1076 was once fairly brought forward by any individual member of it. It appeared, that all considerations were minor to that of preserving an equilibrium in the cabinet; and that the balance of power there was most anxiously regarded, though the balance of power in Europe was entirely lost sight of. Under an administration composed of such discordant materials, it was quite impossible, that the country should ever flourish; for, though there was vigour enough in the country to enable it to struggle through the difficulties in which it was at present involved, still the imbecility, the blindness, and positive impotency of the existing administration to attempt, much less to execute, any act of generous and manly policy, if they could not ruin, nevertheless deprived the nation of all the advantages which it would otherwise derive from its great energies, mental, physical, and bodily; clouded all the prospects which the talents and abilities of its inhabitants opened to themselves; and rendered inefficient all its capacities for wealth, power, and happiness, though they were superior to those which any other nation ever possessed.—Having taken that opportunity of: protesting against this annually-repeated farce, he should now proceed to justify the course which he intended to take that evening, by the opinion of a right hon. gentleman delivered in a tone of eloquence with which he could never hope to vie, and who went far beyond him, in applying weighty and forcible language to what he thought; and which would be the best justification of the line of conduct he meant to adopt, which he would now declare was, to take no part in that farce concerning the Catholics which the House was that night to be called on to perform. In speaking thus of the proceeding, he meant to say nothing in disparagement of the measure; which was one indeed which no minister ought to propose—which no minister should attempt to bring forward—unless he was sure of carrying it through—and which if he regarded it of the paramount importance, which he (sir. F. B.) did, no minister would ever move in without staking his place on the issue, and saying, "Here is a motion, which, if not carried, will be pregnant with the utmost danger to the state; because the ability with which it will be treated, and the eloquence with which the injuries of an oppressed nation will be depicted, cannot fail to produce 1077 an excitement, which can receive no mitigation from the arguments of its opponents, since no answer can be given to the case which will be made out, save that which rests on vague fears and groundless apprehensions." The opinion to which he alluded was contained in a speech delivered in that House on the Catholic question by a right hon. gentleman, on the 25th of Feb. 1813. He had often heard that right hon. gentleman address the House with great power and effect; but he had never heard him address it with greater power and effect than he had employed upon that occasion. He begged the attention of the House to the words which the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Plunkett) had then employed. They were as follow:
"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 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 have all considered 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 hopes, and 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 1078 to disappoint or 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 compromise of principle for power, to reconcile the feelings of the intelligent public, or to up, hold a rational confidence in the honesty or seriousness of the government. The consequences of such conduct are disastrous, not merely in the tumult and discord which they are calculated to excite, but in their effect upon the character of the government and the times." The hon. baronet, after reading this extract, sat down, amidst loud and long continued cheering.
§ Lord Nugent rose
, and was proceeding to express his admiration of the speech of the hon. baronet, and the impossibility he felt of acting with him by quitting the House at the present moment, when,
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, that he would not have presumed to interrupt the noble lord, had it not been for the resolution which the hon. bart. had just announced of leaving the house immediately. He wished to contradict flatly and in to, in the hon. baronet's presence, the words which the hon. baronet had imputed to him, whilst he had been accidentally absent from the house.—Seeing the hon. baronet resume his seat, Mr. Canning sat down, notwithstanding a loud call of the House for him to proceed,
§ Lord Nugent
then went on. He could not refrain, he said, from expressing his hearty concurrence in all the general reasoning of his hon. friend; but he must at the same time express his decided opinion, that the course he was about to pursue would be highly injurious to the cause of the Catholics. He trusted that his hon. friends would not, like the ministers, neglect their duty to the Catholics, and allow them to be beaten in a division. Whatever might his opinion as to the conduct of ministers, he would not now express it. He would simply state, that as long as this question was brought forward—no matter from which side of the House—no matter whether the ministry was strong or feeble, firm or vacilla- 1079 ing—so long should he be in his place, ready to support with all his humble abilities that emancipation, which was demanded no less by sound policy than by imperious necessity.
Mr. Secretary Canning
begged pardon of the noble lord for the interruption which he had given him; but having understood that the hon. baronet during his absence had brought an unfounded charge against him, he was desirous of giving it a positive denial before the hon. baronet left the House. The hon. baronet, he understood, had stated him to have said three nights ago, that he considered the success of the Catholic question as hopeless. Now, he begged leave to declare that he had never said any such thing—that he had never thought any such thing—and that he was conscious, after appealing to his judgment and to his recollection, that he never had used the words which the hon. baronet had imputed to him. What he had said was, to the best of his recollection, this—that he thought it hopeless, in the present state of the country, and of this, and the other House of Parliament, to form an administration which should agree upon this measure, and upon all other general measures, so as to be able to carry on the business of the nation. If any persons imagined that such a declaration was equivalent to a declaration that he thought that this question could not be carried without its being made what was technically called a government question, all he wished to have recollected was, that it was not he who had promulgated such an opinion. If any persons said, that the success of this question was hopeless, unless it was made a government question, let it be borne in mind, that it was their proposition, and not his. To whatever contradiction or refutation it might be liable, his proposition was—that the forming such an administration, as should coincide in their views upon this and all other public questions of importance, was, in the present state of the country, perfectly hopeless. He had always thought; nay, more, he had repeatedly said, that this question would make its way under any government which did not actually unite or openly set its countenance against it. That he had ever maintained that, with a government united in its favour, it could not be carried, was an absurdity too glaring to require from him any contradiction. He 1080 again repeated, that he believed the question had been making its way. It might, however, receive its death-blow from the secession which had been threatened that evening; but, if it did so fail, on the heads of the seceders alone let the blame of its failure be thrown! With respect to the observations which had been made upon his own conduct, he would take the liberty of observing, that both in and out of office, but more especially whilst out of office, had he done every thing in his power to promote the success of this great cause. In the year 1812, when he was connected with no party in the state, and had nothing to do with any of the arrangements of ministers, he had brought forward this question in such a form as to obtain for it the first majority which it had ever obtained in parliament. Again, last year, when he was also a private individual, and was standing aloof from either of the two great parties into which the nation was divided, he had brought forward a partial question connected with the subject, and had had the good fortune of procuring for it the approbation of that House. If they asked him whether he had ever entertained any sanguine expectations of getting it through parliament, he would reply by stating, that the first question which he had brought forward had been lost in the other House of Parliament only by a majority of one, though it had been there brought forward by a nobleman totally unconnected with the administration of the day. They would all recollect what had been the fate in the same place of his more recent proposition. He would therefore ask them, whether there was any sufficient reason for him to despair that this great national question, which was gradually working its way in the public mind, by the sound argument and fair discussion to which it was subjected in that House, would ultimately arrive at a prosperous issue? His belief was, that it might succeed, nay, that it absolutely would succeed. But, whether it was to come to a successful issue or not, this he would say, that there was not a man in the House, let his general politics or opinions be hostile, or favourable to government, to whom, if he brought forward this subject, either wholly or in part, he would not give his unqualified support—differing in that respect most widely, from the hon. baronet, and calling for no stipulations whatever from any, gentleman who voted with him. It would be 1081 idle, after the acclamations with which the hon. baronet's threat of secession had been received, to say that the chances of success for this question were not diminished. They certainly were so; and though he should vote with his right hon. friend that evening, if he brought forward his motion, he must say, that he did not expect to find their names in the majority. Indeed, so great a prejudice appeared to have been excited against the measure, that he could almost advise his right hon. friend not to bring it forward on that evening.
§ Mr. Tierney
wished to stand clear of the fearful responsibility which would fall on the heads of those who occasioned the failure of the hopes of the Catholics. Like the right hon. gentleman and his noble friend, he would say, that let who would bring forward this great measure it should have his support. Convinced, as he was, of the rectitude of the course which he had hitherto pursued, it was not any difference of opinion among either its friends or its foes, that should induce him to swerve from the line of conduct which he had hitherto adopted, from a conviction that it was necessary to the welfare and to the security of the British empire. Having said thus much, he begged permission to add, that, in all the general reasoning of the hon. baronet he most cordially concurred. He should certainly give his vote in favour of the motion of the right hon. gentleman; but, in doing so, he must press his opinion that all hopes of success in it were at an end. Who it was that had destroyed the hopes of the Catholics, and turned them into despair, an impartial public and a still more impartial posterity would hereafter decide. He felt it to be a mockery, to come, year after year, to the discussion of a subject, of which the success, whatever it might once have been, was now, in substance, acknowledged to be hopeless. In making that observation, he begged leave to state his belief that the right hon. gentleman opposite had quoted very correctly the words he had made use of on a former evening; but the impression which those words had left upon his mind was the same as had been left upon that of the hon. baronet by the words which he had supposed the right hon. gentleman to have used. He did understand that the right hon. gentleman had concluded, that all hopes of succeeding in this cause were idle, unless an administration could be formed, of which 1082 all the members were friendly to it. That was the inference which the House had drawn from his expressions.
§ Mr. Tierney.
—Whatever the right hon. gentleman might think, the question never would be carried unless an administration was formed that would take it up fairly, honestly, and sincerely. It was not a new question, but one that had been debated for many sessions as regularly as the year came round. The year 1805, when Mr. Fox proposed it to the House, was the first time that it ever occasioned serious debate in this country; and he would ask them whether, after all the experience which they had since had of the opposition with which it had been received in another place, they could hope to carry it, unless government interfered actively in its behalf? He was aware that the question had been carried in that House; but what good was there in that, if the influence of government was not employed in carrying it elsewhere? The right hon. gentleman had asserted that it would be impossible to form a cabinet the members of which were all friendly to Catholic emancipation. He thought differently; and he would state the reasons why. How stood the Catholic question when the right hon. gentleman carried his bill. First of all, there was a new reign. That was an important circumstance in its favour; for he might say, without any disrespect to the memory of our late revered monarch, that his prejudices on the subject were so strong, such a bias had been infused into his mind by artful and designing men by whom he had been surrounded, as to lead him to declare that, even if both Houses of parliament were to pass a bill for the emancipation of the Catholics, he would employ the privilege which the constitution gave him, unusual as the exercise of it was—in modern times—and would put his royal veto upon it. Under such circumstances, it appeared to him, that gentlemen might take office without making any stipulations in favour of the Catholics; and he had stated, that he considered both the right hon. gentleman himself and a noble lord, now no more, justifiable in so accepting it. The difficulty, however which arose from the reluctance of he sovereign, was at length removed; and the crown devolved upon a sovereign whose 1083 mind was at least open upon the subject; who had expressed no decided opinion upon it; who was supposed to be more friendly than adverse to it; and who, at any rate, appeared to be open to conviction. At the same time, there was a House of Commons in which the majority had expressed opinions in unison with the mover of the question. Such being the case, was it too much to say, that there was every reasonable ground for hoping for success? What came next? The defeat of the measure in another place. The right hon. gentleman stated, that he had always been a strenuous advocate for Catholic emancipation. He allowed that the right hon. gentleman had been so. No man was more willing to do justice, either in public or private, to the splendid exertions which the right hon. gentleman had made in that cause. He admired the warmth, the acuteness, the apparent sincerity (and he had no reason to believe that it was not real and heartfelt) with which the right hon. gentleman had always given his great talents to its furtherance. The attorney-general of Ireland—if after what had lately happened he still remained so—had also exercised his abilities with unparalleled success in the same field. But unfortunately they could not keep themselves out of office. They went into office, and, what was the consequence? why, that instead of being led on to victory, against a weak and dispirited foe, by able and experienced generals (cheers), they had allowed the question to sleep altogether except as to one very wise act of the right hon. gentleman opposite. Though the right hon. gentleman might again and again urge the impossibility that there was of forming an administration that should be friendly to the Catholics, he really could not see in what that impossibility existed. He had no doubt that, in the paucity of talents possessed by those who took an adverse view of this great question if the right hon. gentleman opposite had continued firm, and had said, "We cannot support the administration, if the administration will not support concession to the Catholics," the other party would have given way, and would have agreed to take them upon their own terms. Had the character of the administration been so distinguished for its want of pliability as to justify a contrary conclusion? Did lord Liverpool, with all his manœuvring, never think of any purposes but those which tended to the benefit of the state? 1084 Did a certain great lawyer who presided in another House, display so much obstinacy of purpose, so much unwavering determination of disposition, as to lead hon. members to suppose that he would have turned a deaf ear to such convincing arguments if offered to him? Did the right hon. gentleman himself suppose, that after the public adieu which he had taken of office, he would now have been in that House, if his services had not been wanted? Did he think that he had been recalled from any return of soft affection after that adieu, which was given so sweetly, as to remind him of the pastoral poet,So sweetly she bade me adieu,I thought that she bade me return.Could it be believed, that if the attorney-general for Ireland, with his splendid talents, had said to the two noblemen to whom he had, just alluded you shall not, have the support of my speeches in the House of Commons to your measures, unless you give me the support of your votes to my speeches on Catholic emancipation," they would have been proof against so powerful a bribe? Could any man in his senses have a doubt upon that point, who recollected the wholesale bargain, by which a party (whose numbers were acceptable to lord Liverpool, whatever their eloquence might be) had been taken into the cabinet without any stipulation whatever? [A voice on the opposition side exclaimed, "except a dukedom."] That very party, too, though it now condescended to form part of a cabinet in which the majority was hostile to its wishes, having formerly warmly advocated the cause of the Catholics? He was sure that if the right hon. gentleman had acted the fair and honest part which he had pointed out, the question for that evening would have been, how they should modify the details of concession, the principle being fully admitted. Such a prospect, however, was now completely at an end; and why the question was brought forward at all, he could not clearly understand. He had supposed, and the supposition was at one time very general, that when the present lord-lieutenant and attorney-general of Ireland accepted office, it was upon a stipulation that the claims of the Catholics should be conceded to them. Indeed, during the course of last year he had put that question to the right hon. and learned gentleman, and had told him that, if it were so, he would follow 1085 him as far as he could through all his other arrangements. The House must guess his astonishment, when he heard from the right hon. gentleman that no such stipulation had been made, that there was nothing substantial in the arrangement—except office. Instead of being brought forward under favourable circumstances, the question was to come forward under every possible difficulty and disadvantage. Did the right hon. gentleman succeed? The result was, that he excited to still greater irritation a gang of individuals who, as he himself described them, were so disaffected to the measure, that they were willing to hang together, if they could only prevent its being carried into execution. Did he fail? Under such circumstances, the Catholics must feel that their interests had been trifled with; and, so feeling must be reduced to despair. Such was the melancholy crisis in which Ireland now stood. He should give his support, as he had hitherto done, to this great question, if the right hon. gentleman should persist in bringing it forward; but, if he were asked whether he thought he was forwarding the cause by so doing, he should decidedly answer "no," seeing that those to whom he had been accustomed to look up for support to it had yoked themselves to the chariot wheels of lord Liverpool and the chancellor. In making these observations, he did not mean to throw out any insinuation against the secretary of state for the home department. The language and conduct of that right hon. gentleman upon this subject had been consistent throughout: and to whatever compromise of principle others might have consented, he believed that that right hon. gentleman had consented to none. The conduct of others, however, was not so praiseworthy; and the consequence was, that at the present moment, the government was decidedly hostile to the Catholics. He had heard it indeed said, that, at the time when the last junction was completed, it was stipulated by the leader of one of the parties, that he and his followers should be permitted to speak and vote on the Catholic question as they hitherto had done; that the permission which was then graciously extended to them was conveyed in these words—"individually you may vote as you like, and speak as you like; for we have little to fear from your eloquence, though you have much to fear from our votes." He did not mean to impute to 1086 the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs that he was one of that party, certainly not; for, at the time of that junction, the right hon. gentleman was perfectly disinterested on the subject, and believed himself engaged for another destination. He now left it to the right hon. and learned gentleman to decide whether he would, under all the circumstances which had recently occurred, bring forward his motion that evening. If the right hon. gentleman should determine to press the subject on the House, he would wait to give his vote, if God gave him strength, to whatever hour the division might be protracted. If, however, the right hon. gentleman should think proper to with draw it, he would express no opinion on his conduct, but would simply enter his protest against its being imputed to his side of the House, that they had given up the Catholic question. The right hon. and. learned gentleman was responsible to the Catholics for the course which he should now pursue. His (Mr. T's) opinion was, that the Catholic question, if lost, had been lost through some gentlemen who, had shown too much an eagerness to get in power. He was prepared on this, as on all former occasions, to vote in favour of a question upon the success of which depended the stability of the empire; though he could not indulge a hope that there was the slightest prospect of carrying that question.
thought, that the charge of inconsistency came with an ill grace from the right hon. gentleman who had last spoken. He disliked the replying to any charge with a tu quoque. If the right hon. gentleman had been inconsistent, that fact would not excuse inconsistency in others; but it was right to remind the House that the right hon. gentleman who now spoke so loudly of inconsistency in others, had accepted office under an administration which had come into power upon the express principle of opposition to the Catholic claims. For himself he declared that his great object in coming into office had been to serve the interests of the Catholic body; and, if he had believed that the refusing office, instead of accepting it, would have aided that object the refusal would not have cost him a moment's hesitation. One stipulation, distinctly, upon which, he had come into office was, that attention should be paid to the government of Ireland, and to the impartial administration of justice to the 1087 Catholics; and that pledge had been redeemed, for Ireland had at length received the advantage of a conciliatory and impartial government. He should be always ready to support the great question of concession, whenever it came under the consideration of the House.
Mr. Grey Bennet
said, that ever since he had sat in parliament he had uniformly supported the Catholic question; but so convinced was be now of the inutility of debating it, that he should positively take up his hat and leave the House if it came on. He had hitherto supported the right hon. and learned gentleman, because he believed that he advocated the cause with sincerity. But he now thought the affair was a perfect trick; or what, in familiar language, was called a humbug. It was not by fine speeches and by honied words—which no one could use better than the attorney-general for Ireland—but by actions, that the cause of the Catholics was to be served. He had heard the learned gentleman make the very speech alluded to by the hon. baronet; and yet be now saw him sitting on the Treasury Benches, acting with a government hostile to the question. He would tell the learned gentleman to his face, that he doubted his sincerity. Where was the utility of bringing forward the question when it was known that, even if it were carried in one House it was sure to be lost in the other? He would not be a party to exciting hopes which were not to be realised. He would not be a party to the farce of bringing on a debate upon the question; he would not put himself in the same cart with the set of comedians who were to act it. He objected to the annual showing-up, as it might be called, of the grievances of the Catholics; to the sessional unavailing motion of the learned gentleman, and others of his stamp. The only hope of the Catholics must rest upon the dissolution of a body of ministers, whose sole object—no matter at what expense—was the keeping of their places.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that after what had fallen from the hon. member for Westminster, he found himself compelled to address the House. He would be brief in his observations; but what he said, he wished to address to the hon. member for Westminster particularly. The hon. baronet had insinuated a doubt of the sincerity of his opposition to the present motion he had insinuated, that the fears which he professed to entertain for the 1088 success of that motion were not only groundless but pretended. What right had the hon. baronet to make such an insinuation? The hon. baronet had a right to blame the conduct of members, to attack their opinions, to expose their arguments, to treat their opposition to the Catholic claims as an opposition to the best interests of the country; but how was it consistent with the hon. baronet's general principles of toleration, to give no credit, even for sincerity, to the opinions of his antagonists, and to arrogate propriety exclusively to himself? And the hon. baronet, by way of bringing the matter to a test, had asked him (Mr. Peel) to answer one question—Was he really afraid of the pretender, the pope of Rome, or the Devil? as if an answer to that question could explain the grounds upon which he founded his opposition to the claims of the Catholics. If his right hon. friend near him persisted in bringing forward his present motion, he should be ready to repeat his confirmed objections against it; and when he had done so, let the hon. baronet treat those objections with what severity he pleased; but until then, let the hon. baronet keep to himself his doubts of his sincerity. He protested that he would rather submit to eternal exclusion from office—and perhaps he should consider that as no very great sacrifice—than consent to hold power by the compromise, or by any thing approaching to the compromise, of an opinion. And, by what right were imputations of such a nature cast upon him? With what variation from principle could he at any time be charged? From the earliest period of his political life, caring nothing for the opinion of friends—caring nothing for the opinion of the people—he had uniformly opposed the concessions to the Catholics.—He was sorry to be compelled to take up the time of the House, but he felt bound to notice one or two observations which had fallen from his right hon. friend (Mr. Wynn). On his late return to office, he had claimed for himself the privilege of acting precisely as he should think fit on the subject of the Catholic claims; at whatever time, and under whatever circumstances, those claims might be brought forward. Finding the marquis Wellesley appointed to the lord-lieutenancy and his learned friend near him, to the situation of attorney-general, he had seen no reason for refusing to co-operate with them; but, as 1089 for six years previous to those appointments he had held the post of chief secretary for Ireland, it was impossible for him, consistently with his own honour, to acquiesce in the observation of his right hon. friend (Mr. Wynn), that, at the time of those appointments, a pledge had been given to the Irish for a just, impartial, and conciliatory government. He could not but take that observation of his right hon. friend as conveying an imputation upon himself, and upon the honourable persons with whom, while secretary for Ireland, he had acted. He was perfectly aware of the effect which his known opinions would have upon the people of Ireland. He knew that it was impossible for any man to hold such opinions and to fill the situation he had filled, without being exposed to ill feeling and to misrepresentation. His constant object in Ireland had been a fair administration of the laws as they existed; and he challenged the country to produce any instance in which, while he had held office, an impartial administration of those laws had been denied.
, in explanation, disclaimed the intention of casting any imputation, personally, on his right hon. friend; and, if he had even formed any opinion unfavourable to his right hon. friend, the manner in which he had co-operated during the last twelve months in the plans for the amelioration of the Irish government, would have convinced him that no man was more ready to promote those beneficent measures than his right hon. friend.
Sir F. Burdett
thought that the right hon. secretary was somewhat nice in his objections. For ministers to be charged with insincerity in that House, had been no very extraordinary occurrence. But what he had said would rather have amounted to an admission of the right hon. secretary's sincerity; for he had offered to rest the issue of the debate upon the right hon. gentleman's own statement of the danger that would arise from the concession of this question.
§ Mr. Brougham
trusted that the House would pardon that anxiety which induced him to trespass upon its indulgence. It had not been his good fortune to be present at the earliest period of the somewhat premature discussion in which the House was engaged; but he was so impressed with the paramount importance of the subject which stood for discussion; 1090 namely, whether there should be an end now, at once, and for ever, to the—[Cries of "No, no," interrupted the learned gentleman before he concluded his sentence.] He confessed that he was cheered greatly by the negative which had just been, in something of an irregular manner, administered; because he was delighted to find that the immediate danger which he had apprehended, was not likely to arise—that the question was upon the point of being given up, just at the moment when it was about to be brought forward by the attorney-general for Ireland. Advice had been administered from different parts of the House to the right hon. gentleman, to abandon his intention of proceeding; but he rose to protest against being supposed to concur in any such recommendation. He was anxious that the attorney-general for Ireland should bring forward the question; agreeing at the same time in a great deal which had been said on his (Mr. B.'s) side of the House, and in almost every thing which had fallen from his right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney); and having the worst possible opinion—which he did not now express for the first time—of the conduct of those, who, in substance—and he arraigned them for so doing in substance—abandoned their duty to the question; who, not taking example by the single-hearted, plain, manly, and upright conduct of the right hon. secretary for the home department, who had always been on the same side of the question, never swerving from his opinions, but standing uniformly up and stating them—who had never taken office upon a secret understanding to abandon the question in substance, while he continued to sustain it in words—whose mouth, heart, and conduct had always been in unison upon the question—he wished that that conduct had been followed by all those on his side of the question, and then he should not have found himself in a state almost bordering on despair, with regard to the fate and fortune of the Catholic claims. He said, let the conduct of the attorney-general for Ireland have been what it might; let him have deviated from his former professions or not; he did not say that the learned gentleman had done so, but he would assume the fact: still, let the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs have come forward at that critical moment for the question, and for his own character, 1091 when the point was, whether he should go to India, into honourable exile, or take office in England, and not submit to his sentence of transportation, but be condemned to hard labour in his own country—doomed to the disquiet of a divided council—sitting with his enemies, and pitied by his friends—with his hands chained and tied down on all those lines of operation which his own sentiments and wishes would have led him to adopt—let it have been at that critical moment, when his fate had depended upon lord chancellor Eldon, and his sentiments upon the Catholic cause—if at that critical moment he who had said on the last night that he would not truckle to a noble lord (Folkestone), but who then had exhibited a specimen, the most incredible specimen, of monstrous truckling, for the purpose of obtaining office, that the whole history of political tergiversation could furnish—
§ The Speaker
, after a perfect silence in the House during some seconds, said in a low tone, that he hoped the right hon. secretary would retract the expression he had used. An individual of his high rank and station could not fail to be aware, that such an expression was a complete violation of the customs and of the orders of the House. He deeply regretted that, even in haste, it should have been used.
§ Mr. Canning
said, he was sorry to have used any word which was a violation of the decorum of the House; but nothing—no consideration on earth—should induce him to retract the sentiment.
§ The Speaker
said, that the duty imposed upon him was a difficult one—one which admitted neither of compromise, nor of pause for consideration. So circumstanced, he was not only justified in calling, but bound to call, upon the House for its assistance. It was not for him to remind the members of that House of their duty. Every gentleman who heard him, knew what was the proceeding which upon similar occasions the House had found itself driven to adopt. Was it possible that he could have mistaken the words? Or would the House deny their support to him if he should require the right hon. gentleman, who had used expressions which no member could on any occasion with propriety use, to say whether or not he was ready to recall them.
§ Mr. Canning
said, he was ready to acknowledge, that, so far as the orders of the House were concerned, he was exceedingly sorry that any conduct or expression of his should have attracted their displeasure. But, if he was to be required to recall his declaration, by an admission that his impression was erroneous as to the expressions which had been applied to him, he could not in conscience do it.
§ The Speaker
said, that in calling on the House to assist him with its advice, he hoped it would not be supposed that he was not perfectly alive to any infringement of its orders. He did so because he, hoped and expected to be supported in exerting his authority to restore order, not merely in reference to a casual interruption, but in substance.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, there could be no question but that the language made use of by his right hon. friend, was language which, unquestionably, was unfit for any member of that House to apply to another. He would ask the, hon. and learned gentleman to consider, for a moment the language which he himself had used; and he was sure he would at once see that it would not have been borne by one gentleman from another. The hon. and learned gentleman unquestionably expressed himself with extraordinary eloquence; but he had also expressed himself occasionally with an extraordinary degree of warmth. And for his own part, he must be allowed to say, that had the terms which had been used towards his right hon. friend been so applied to him, conveying, as it appeared to him, the severest reproach, not merely as it regarded his character as a minister of state, but in a sense which, must be applied, personally, he did not see how he could have abstained from giving utterance, in language more or less measured, to the impressions which would have been made on his mind. The hon. and learned gentleman would be doing nothing inconsistent with his honour as a man, or as a member of that House, if he would enable his right hon. friend to retract the language he had used, by admitting that the expression he had made use of was not intended to convey a personal insult.
§ The Speaker
said, that when he had, requested the assistance of the House, he, had clone so in the expectation of receiving its support in restoring order. He was happy to find that the right hon. gentleman had discovered an instance of in- 1093 attention in his (the Speaker's) conduct which would facilitate that object. ["No, no."] He did not say this with any feeling of regret on his own account. He was most thankful for the assistance which this intimation afforded him, because a great difficulty in the way of adjusting this painful circumstance was removed, by attributing a portion of the blame to himself. It appeared to the right hon. gentleman, that the language used by the learned gentleman was not applicable to the right hon. secretary of state in his public capacity; but could only be applied to that right hon. gentleman personally. It was this declaration which facilitated that which must be the desire of the House. Unquestionably, it would have been his duty to check the learned gentleman, had that been the case. If the words used by the learned gentleman were Capable of any such construction, he could have no hesitation in calling on the learned gentleman to explain or recall them.
§ Mr. Tierney
rose to order. His learned friend had been called on to explain, after an interruption of a most irregular kind, in which the term "false" had been applied to what he was saying. Now, certainly, the proper course to have taken, would have been to move that he words be taken down, after which the right hon. gentleman could have called on his learned friend for an explanation of them. But surely there was an end of every thing like debates, if, in the progress of a sentence, and before the conclusive sense could be ascertained, any member were allowed to interrupt another, by so strong an expression as that of declaring that what he was saying was false. Until the right hon. gentleman had retracted that expression, he could not, by the forms of the House, be entitled to require that explanation. Were he in the right hon. gentleman's place, he should feel no difficulty in withdrawing the expression, in order to give his learned friend and opportunity for explaining in what sense he meant to use the words which had led to the interruption.
§ The Speaker
said, he had understood the right hon. secretary to say, that, though the words might be recalled, the sentiment could not be retracted. The chancellor of the exchequer was of opinion, that the expression was applicable perso- 1094 nally to his right hon. friend, and could not be applied to his public conduct. In his own opinion, the words were only to be applicable to the right hon. gentleman in his official capacity. If he was not taken, the right hon. gentleman refused to withdraw the term "false," words under the supposition that the words were applied to him personally; and, from these circumstances, he thought he perceived a way for the House to get clear of this disagreeable affair, by ascertaining the precise intent of the words which had given occasion to the offensive expression.
§ Mr. Canning
said, that after mature reflection, with every possible respect for the orders of the House and the dignity of the chair, and being quite prepared to submit with perfect humility to any censure which the House might pass upon him, he was compelled to declare, that he could neither recall nor vary the expression he had made use of.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
said, that the orders of the House were so clear upon cases of this nature, that he thought it impossible for any thing short of absolute madness to prevent the parties from coming to a better understanding. If the expressions of his learned friend were objectionable, there was an orderly and convenient mode of coming at an explanation. Had that mode been allowed, his learned friend could not have hesitated to have given such an explanation as would have satisfied the House and the right hon. gentleman. But, when the orders of the House were so directly violated as they had been in this case, it became the duty of the chair, and of the House, to mark where was the first violation; and when the party who had violated the orders in the first instance, had so explained his conduct as to put him once more fair with the House, then it would be proper to call upon the author of the offensive language to explain or modify it. Now he felt that he had one course to take. It was a course perfectly consistent with those orders, which he trusted, the House would always continue to preserve. He must, in conformity with those orders, call upon the chair to say who had been the first violator of those orders. It would then be the duty of the House to give their support to the chair in calling upon that first violator of their orders to retract. That being done, it would then follow as the next duty of the House, to 1095 require the second violator who had given the first supposed cause of offence, to satisfy the House, and the member who felt himself aggrieved, as to the import of his words.
thought that the noble lord was mistaken in supposing that the Speaker had not already performed that duty which the noble lord had called upon him to perform; for he had already called on the first violator of the orders of the House to retract his expression. He was sorry that his right hon. friend had not complied with that requisition, which he might have clone consistently with his honour. He (Mr. Bankes) would have felt no difficulty in acknowledging his error in such a case. But, as that had not been done, and as the words used tended to a consequence which could not be mistaken, he felt himself compelled to recur to the only parliamentary course now left them; which was, to move that the parties be both taken into custody. The hon. gentleman then moved; "That the right hon. George Canning and Henry Brougham esq. be committed to the custody of the Serjeant at Arms attending this House."
could not undertake to second the motion of his hon. friend, because he did not remember any instance in which the House had interfered, except upon some contempt being first shown to its orders. His impression was, that the expressions used by the learned gentleman were in a measure disorderly; but he did not at the time feel them to be so disorderly as to require him to call the learned member to order. The interruption of his right hon. friend was undoubtedly most intemperate and disorderly. At the same time, he did not concur with every thing which had been said as to the impossibility of adjusting the difference, the learned gentleman could have no difficulty in making one slight concession, which he might do with perfect regard to his own sense of honour, especially as all expectation of any worse consequences must be now at an end. They owed it to the country, to the interests of parliament, to the general freedom of debate not to allow the two members to leave the House until they had given their word of honour not to pursue this affair any further. That condition must be enforced. Now, as the learned gentleman could not feel any objection on personal grounds to give an explanation, seeing that neither party would be suffered to 1096 pursue this affair runner, he would venture to ask him to state what was really the intention of his words. [Mr. Brougham—"Not one word."] If they both persevered in the resolution of giving no explanation, there was no course but that just proposed.
§ Mr. Abercromby
who said, it appeared to him that the House was about to be drawn into a most inconvenient course. The first question before them was, that of a breach of order by the right hon. gentleman. That question was already settled by the general admission of the House. The next question was, had the right hon. gentleman given that explanation which would satisfy the House for the breach of order. The question upon the breach of order lay between the House and the right hon. gentleman. The Speaker had declared, that the right hon. gentleman had committed that breach of order, and the House would not discharge its duty, if it did not support him in demanding an explanation of the right hon. gentleman. There could be no mistaking the term "false." It was incapable of any but a personal application. Would the right hon. gentleman explain that expression? The House was certainly bound to prevent any farther consequences. All they could now do was to carry into effect the motion just made, unless the two members could be brought mutually to explain.
§ Mr. Wilmot
trusted the House would allow so humble an individual as himself to trouble them on this question, as his attention happened to have been particularly drawn to the expressions used by the learned member. He thought it far from desirable that the House should treat this matter too technically, and that if the learned gentleman could be put in a situation to explain his meaning, it would be preferable. [Cries of No!] His attention had been particularly drawn to the expressions in question, and he could most solemnly declare that he understood the words used to be in the highest degree personal. He did not say that they were meant in that sense; but if that was a correct description of them, then some allowance must be made for irritated feelings under a personal attack upon character. He should much regret if the, House went to the decision of this ques- 1097 tion without having first had the benefit of an explanation from the learned gentleman. After that explanation, the House would be able to decide who had first infringed its orders.
Sir F. Burdett
could not concur in the view taken by the hon. gentleman who had just sat down. The language used was not irritating because it was personal, but because it happened to affect the individual to whom it was directed. The hon. member had evidently mistaken the nature of their orders, which, it was true, were technical, but at the same time they were formalities of the utmost importance. Now, what was the real case? His learned friend had used language which certainly was such as might be used, such as he had heard used, to a public functionary: for there was nothing in that language which could be taken, except by the right hon. secretary of state, in any other sense but as applicable to his character as a public functionary. Nothing could be so disorderly and inconvenient as for gentlemen, the moment an objectionable expression occurred, instead of waiting for an opportunity of answering in the regular course, to interrupt the speaker by a negative, expressed in words so offensive, as to lead to the most dangerous consequences. Now, as to the avowal of the hon. member who had just sat down, if the words struck him as being so excessively improper, he ought instantly to have interfered. He should have required the words to be taken down, and then have asked his learned friend to declare whether or not he intended them personally. He regretted that that course had not been taken. At present, he did not believe any gentleman had a clear apprehension of their import. It was clear that there had been a breach of order of so violent a kind as to call for the immediate interference of the chair. But the proceedings which followed up that interference did not, to use a vulgar phrase, place the saddle upon the right horse. It would be impossible for his learned friend to give any explanation until after those offensive words had been retracted. This course the House had a right to expect; and he thought it would be most useless obstinacy to delay it.
§ Sir R. Wilson
was satisfied, that the expressions which had fallen from his learned friend were addressed to the right hon. gentleman in his official character 1098 either as governor-general of India, or as secretary of state for foreign affairs. Neither did he think that the interruption of the right hon. gentleman arose from any thing but the firm conviction of the moment, that the expression was personal, and no otherwise intended. With this view of the case, he thought the right hon. gentleman might, consistently with his honour and feelings bay, that it was under an impression that the language was meant to be personal, that he had applied the epithet which had called forth the present discussion. He tendered this advice, as that which, as a man of honour he thought might consistently be adopted by the right hon. gentleman.
§ Mr. Canning
said, that if he understood rightly the suggestion of the hon. gentleman who had spoken last, it was one which he should not be unwilling to receive and to act upon. He had already said, he was aware that he had committed a breach of the laws of the House. For that offence he expressed his regret, and his readiness to submit to whatever censure the House might think fit to visit upon it. Having said thus much as to his feelings towards the House, he begged, with respect to the suggestion of the hon. gentleman to be understood as acceding to it under the assurance that the learned gentleman denied the intention to convey any personal imputation in the language he had used—a denial, which if the learned gentleman did not make, be wished to be understood as retracting nothing. Personal he had considered that language; as it went to impute to him the acceptance of the office which he held, after having made unbecoming submissions to a high individual in the administration of the country for the sake of obtaining it. Such an imputation he felt to have been cast, not on his official, but his private character. If that imputation should be denied, he was ready to avow that in what he had stated subsequently, he was mistaken: if, on the Pother hand, it should be avowed, he retracted nothing.
§ The Speaker
said, that if the House would bear with him again, he was anxious to state in what manner the subject now struck him as being placed. It appeared, then to him that there were two distinct considerations before the House. The first was, that a breach of the order of the House had been committed. This was indisputable. The House would, upon this point, judge for itself whether 1099 the member so violating its rules had made such an apology as abstractedly, and with reference to those rules only, would satisfy it. The next point was, the apprehension of the consequences which might arise from that disorder, and which it was the duty of the House to prevent. If it were obvious that those consequences must result, without the interference of the House, the House would exercise its own power to prevent them. But if, on the other hand, it was possible, and as he hoped probable, that the misunderstanding should be satisfactorily explained, he hoped the House would feel no difficulty in letting the matter rest, when all inconvenience should be thus removed. The right hon. secretary had expressed his regret and retractation, as far as the violation of the orders of the House was concerned. The next point was one of more difficulty. The right hon. gentleman, in consequence of language used by the learned gentleman, had supposed that some personal offence had been meant; he had said further, that if he had misunderstood those expressions, and no personal offence had been meant, he was willing to retract the disorderly expression. Other members who had spoken, thought that no personal offence had been meant by the learned gentleman; and he trusted the House would do him the justice to believe, that if he had thought they were used with any such intention, he should have interfered. It remained, therefore, for the House to understand whether such offence had been meant, and if necessary to take measures to prevent the consequences which, in that case, might he likely to ensue. The House would, of course, be reluctant to give any offensive meaning to those words, if they could bear a different one; he hoped, therefore, to have the sanction of the learned gentleman, that the impression be had received from them was that which they were intended to convey.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that if he were to consult his own feelings alone, he should wish to pass on without explanation to finish the sentence in which he had been interrupted. He wished, however, to remind the House that the call for an explanation of the expression which had been used did not proceed from him. The question now before the House was, whether the right hon. gentleman who had used that expression and himself, should be taken into custody. The ques- 1100 tion was not whether that right hon. member had committed a breach of the rules of the House; for, that he had done so had been declared by the highest authority, and no dissent whatever had been expressed in this respect. The question; then was, whether that right hon. member, who had been thus unanimously pronounced guilty, should be taken into custody, and also himself (Mr. B.) who had committed no offence against the orders of the House, and against whom, no charge had been made. He knew that the power of the House in this respect was absolute—he knew that if they pleased they might make such an order; but he knew if they did so, they would commit a flagrant violation of the principles of justice. He begged the House to understand that he opposed the first part of the motion no less than the last. He would be the last man to hold up his hand for passing a censure upon the right hon. gentleman, or for committing him to custody for the expression which he had used on hearing one half of the sentence which he (Mr. B.) was about to deliver. He felt that it was an extremely difficult thing to speak with the accuracy which had now become necessary of the expressions he had used. He declared himself incapable of telling the House exactly what he had said. But he perfectly remembered what was his meaning. He did not know whether his expressions might have been used too warmly, or if they might have had a personal application; because he did not profess that his mind was capable of making a very nice distinction in the selection of phrases which should apply exclusively to the personal or to the political character. He would, however, tell the House what he meant to say, the facts upon which he reasoned, and the inference he had drawn from those facts. Those facts he had believed to be true; but if they were Use, and if the conclusion he had formed should prove to be erroneous, he should be glad to find them so. What he meant, then, to say, was this—he used the words "political tergiversation"—he described the conduct of the right hon. gentleman as something which stood prominent in the history of parliamentary tergiversation. The expression, he admitted, was strong; but he thought it was an expression which he had heard used, over and over again, without its having given offence: he was sure he 1101 had never heard of any occasion on which it yeas more accurately applied. He entertained a strong feeling; and he had meant to express it with respect to the right hon. member's public and political life. As a private individual, he had never known aught of him but what did him the highest honour, and as having been connected with himself heretofore in advocating this very cause of Catholic emancipation. He did feel strongly on this passage of the right hon. gentleman's life, but he had not used the expressions which had been alluded to, for party, or for factious, and least of all for personal purposes. He considered that the right hon. gentleman had, by his speech delivered at Liverpool, for the first time in his life, and for the first time in the history of the Catholic question, as connected with him, said, that he did not wish that question to be discussed again in parliament. If the right hon. gentleman had not said so, he would heartily beg his pardon; but he had read it in what appeared a corrected copy of his speech, said to be delivered at the time and place he had mentioned. At that moment it was known that the right hon. gentleman was about to become a minister at home, or to go out as governor-general of India. And it was a matter of perfect notoriety, that the lord chancellor of England was in direct hostility, not alone to the question of the Catholics, but to the right hon. gentleman himself. When, therefore, he connected that declaration at Liverpool with that hostility, and the subsequent appointment of the right hon. gentleman to the office he now held, he could not repel the conclusion he had stated in the objectionable expression. It was under that impression, and with the view of transferring it to the House, that he had used the expression in question—a strong expression, certainly: if too strong for the orders of the House, he most readily apologized; although it was not too strong fir his feelings. He had talked of the conduct of the right hon. gentleman, as it appeared to him from the change which had taken place in his conduct with respect to this question, and he had a right to form an opinion of his motives from the outward and visible form of his actions. All these things seemed to him to show a truckling to the lord chancellor; and his appointment as minister, and, as it was unconstitutionally called, manager of the House of Commons, confirmed the 1102 opinion which he had formed upon the grounds he had stated., He was aware, that it was always wrong to impute motives to the conduct of any one, and he gathered from the right hon. gentleman, that he had been wrong in doing so in this instance. But he had a right to speak of his conduct as a statesman which he deplored, and this he had done. He had not done so from any party, and still less, he repeated, from any personal motives, but because its consequences were likely to prove a death-blow to that cause, in the support of which they had both been engaged. Whether this explanation would be full enough or not, the right hon. gentleman must decide for himself. He (Mr. B.) could have wished to have given a fuller one; but, what the right hon. gentleman had added to his last speech—in which he almost repeated the disorderly expressions—had stopped him: his mouth was closed; on his part, reluctantly and unwillingly.
Mr. Secretary Peel
put it to the House, whether it was not their sincere conviction that a satisfactory explanation had been given, calculated to allay any unpleasant feeling that might have existed between his right hon. friend and the learned gentleman. With respect to the circumstances out or which the misunderstanding arose, he would say that the facts must have been grossly misrepresented to the learned gentleman; for that nothing could by possibility be more free from the imputation of truckling than the manner in which his right hon. friend had accepted office. He appealed to the House, whether this affair had not been satisfactorily terminated and ought not to be further proceeded in.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, the explanation which had been given on both sides must be equally satisfactory to the House and honourable to the parties. It only remained, therefore, for them to say, as he trusted they would, that they would think no more of the matter.
§ Mr. Brougham
repeated the same expressions. He said, he had been frequently embattled against the right hon. gentleman on political occasions; no personal ill-will had ever remained in his bosom on any of those occasion; and non would on the present. He then re- 1103 sumed the speech which had been broken off. He addressed the attorney-general for Ireland, and all those who on that side of the House took an interest in the Catholic question; he addressed those friends behind him, whom he knew took a sincere interest in it, and implored them to consider, that in abandoning the discussion of the question that night, they would, in the language of a homely proverb, be playing with edge-tools. All the imputations of want of sincerity on the gentlemen opposite might be, as he believed they were, made with great reason. But however those gentlemen might have deserted and betrayed the Catholic cause, he would not abandon it. He would do his duty; and, he solemnly advised the real friends of the cause to persevere. He called to the recollection of the House the history of the slave-trade abolition. His hon. and revered friend (Mr. Wilberforce) had, year after year, though often defeated, still persevered. Members who were disposed to support it, left the House, saying, that Mr. Pitt was insincere in his support, and that there was no hope of carrying the measure until a ministry favourable to it should come into power. If his hon. friend had abandoned that cause in 1796, upon such grounds, be (Mr. B.) doubted, whether ten years afterwards, lord Grenville and Mr. Fox would have succeeded in carrying it. It had, however, at length been carried; but, when the odious vessel of the slave-trade went down, amidst the cheers of that House, there were seen upon its dark deck and lashed to its rigging, some sixteen members, among whom was the predecessor of the right hon. gentleman. If the friends of that measure had then yielded to the fears which now influenced the friends of the Catholic question, it never would have been carried. He would ask, then, would they, because one had left their ranks, and the aid of another was doubtful, turn their backs upon the cause? If they should abandon it because they doubted some of their professed allies, they would proceed upon a strange confusion in reasoning; they would desert their post for the very reason which should induce them to remain at it. It would be acting upon just as blundering a policy, as that of a man, who having half built a house, should pull it down again for the purpose of destroying a rat that had got into it. He thought of the building; he cared not for the vermin; and he trusted 1104 that gentlemen would not now desert the cause they had so long and so strenuously supported.
§ Mr. Hume
contended, that the relief of the Catholics was essential to the good government of Ireland, and was, therefore, to be considered only in the light of a great state measure. The slave-trade abolition was a question of benevolence, of humanity, and of wisdom; but the emancipation of millions of fellow-subjects stood on far more commanding grounds. For his part, he would never, however unpromising appearances might be, desert his post. He believed the gentlemen opposite would admit, that he was the last man to leave that House, even on the slightest occasion. The conduct of the attorney-general for Ireland, was most inexplicable. He proceeded to read an extract from a former speech of that right hon. gentleman, in which be stated the necessity of a united cabinet, with the view of carrying that great question; and having so done, he called upon the right hon. gentleman to reconcile his opinion then with his acceptance of a seat in the cabinet which was known to entertain a divided opinion upon that very question. The right hon. secretary of state for foreign affairs, in one of his speeches on the Catholic question, had declared, that "nothing could tend more decidedly to allay the heats and dissensions to which it had given rise, than by making it a cabinet question; the cabinet, be their other political opinions what they might, ought to examine this question in all its bearings, and bring it to a shape in which it might be practically dealt with." A stronger opinion than this could not possibly be given. The right hon. secretary had farther observed, that "the government had no longer any ground or excuse for leaving this question to be agitated at the suggestion of any person, at either side of the House, who chose to take it up; but they ought to take it into their own hands as a question of vital importance to the well-being of the empire." They here found the right hon. gentleman, when out of office, stating what ought to be the conduct of government; but, now, when he was in office, they heard him declare, that he would not bring the question forward, but that, if it were introduced by any person on either side of the House, he would vote for it. Was not this a delusion on the people of Ireland? He hoped they would see, from the debate which 1105 had that night taken place, that they had nothing to expect from such ministers. For his own part, he looked upon them as responsible for the additional evils by which Ireland would be afflicted, and considered them accountable for the blood that might be shed in that unfortunate country, if this question was not carried. It was a question intimately connected with the prosperity both of Ireland and of England, and ought, therefore, to be taken up by the cabinet. As the question was not to be so introduced, he would take no part in the discussion, but would leave the right hon. gentleman to deal with it as he thought fit.
, of Galway, thought his learned friend would lay himself open to censure, if, after what had passed that night, he brought this important question to a vote. He disapproved of the conduct of those who had given notice of their intention to leave the House, if the discussion were introduced in any other way but as a cabinet question. It was destroying the question, for fear it should be lost. This sort of conduct reminded him of a gentleman, who, having received a challenge, retired to his chamber, and shot himself, leaving behind him a written paper, in which he stated, that "he had done so, for fear his antagonist should shoot him." They had heard it asserted, that the question could never be carried while there was a divided cabinet. With great humility he would take leave to say, that it might be carried, although the cabinet were divided: and if it were so carried, it would be more triumphant than if it were carried in a cabinet formed for that express purpose. There would be a great re-action of feeling throughout the country, if its success appeared to be owing to any legerdemain, which would not be the case if it triumphed in consequence of its own merits.
Mr. S. Rice
regretted the course which had that night been taken by several gentlemen who had always shown the greatest desire to watch over the interests of Ireland. Such conduct was unjust towards those who were anxious for the success of the question, and would, perhaps, prove disastrous to the Catholic cause. The great mass of gentlemen on the opposition side of the House, had been all along—while the question received from the cabinet but a divided support—the consistent, disinterested, and unvarying friends of religious liberty. He rose chiefly to 1106 protect himself and others from the imputation of being implicated, in the smallest degree, in the opinions which governed his hon. friend behind him. He and his friends were determined to remain at their posts to the last, even though they should be left in a minority not worth counting. Irish gentlemen were accustomed to sit in minorities; but still they would perform their duty. It had been unfairly said, that their conduct that night would render them responsible for the ultimate fate of this measure. He denied this. Neither he nor his friends participated in this constructive responsibility. The benefits to be derived from discussion were not to be estimated by the numerical force which appeared on a division. For that he cared not, so long as he procured discussion. Let the case be fairly argued, and, in the long run, truth must prevail, and the good cause triumph. Responsibility rested in other hands; and the importance of that responsibility would, he was sure, be scrupulously weighed. Having been sent to that House by individuals who were deeply interested in this measure, he would cling to the question, in whatever shape it was brought before the House, as the great means of securing the happiness and prosperity of Ireland. If in past times the circumstances of that country called on the House to consider the cause of the Catholics, he would say, from an intimate acquaintance with all the calamities with which she was afflicted, that none of those circumstances pressed with half the force, or demanded the intervention of parliament half so powerfully, as those which now existed.
§ Sir J. Newport
insisted, that the repeated discussion of the Catholic question had been productive of great advantage to the cause of truth and liberality. The more he looked into the subject, the more he was convinced that on the success of the measure depended the happiness of the empire.
Sir R. Heron
declared his determination of giving his humble support to the question whenever it should be brought forward.
§ The petition was ordered to lie on the table.