§ The order of the day being read, for resuming the adjourned Debate on the motion made by Mr. Goulburn, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend certain Acts relating to Unlawful Societies in Ireland,"
§ Sir Robert Wilson
said, he did not know that he should have taken an active part in the discussion before the House, had it not been for an assertion frequently made by hon. gentlemen opposite, and again strongly insisted on last night by the right hon. the chancellor of the Exchequer, whose candid and ingenuous manner gave to every thing advanced by him a peculiar degree of importance. That right hon. gentleman had repeated the assurance given by those who went before him, that the people of England were hostile, not only to the existence of the Catholic Association, but also to the more important and more extensive measure commonly called the Catholic Question. This assertion was of the utmost importance, with reference to the existing state of Ireland; and it behoved those who entertained a different opinion, and especially the representatives of popular places, not to content themselves with a silent vote, either of implied hostility or tacit acquiescence, but to stand forward, to put themselves pre-eminently before their constituents, and to submit their opinions and sentiments to the judgment of the House and of the public. The right hon. the chancellor of the Exchequer had insisted, with an air of triumph, that none of the gentlemen on the opposition side of the House had ventured to assert the constitutional character of the Catholic Association. Neither was it his intention now to enter into the question, whether or not it was a constitutional body. But, the right hon. gentleman, and his majesty's ministers, had no right to taunt them with their silence on the subject, because it was a subject which they had rendered it impossible accurately to investigate. Government ought to have laid on the table those papers and documents, which alone could elucidate the question. They ought to have communicated the marquis Wellesley's dispatches respecting it. How 425 otherwise could the House be expected to proceed to the determination of so great a question,—a question which would affect the privileges and liberties of the people of Ireland forever? The House had no facts on which to ground their proceedings. It was true, one hon. member had asserted, that the Catholic Association had interfered in a vindictive and sanguinary manner with the administration of justice; and mentioned a particular case, which had made so strong an impression on an hon. friend of his, who had been, until that moment, favourable to the Association, that he immediately left the House, determined to vote in favour of the proposed measure. If, however, his hon. friend had waited for the reply to that hon. member's speech, he would have heard the strongest testimony borne to the candour and humanity of the Catholic Association. He was by no means prepared to contend that the Catholic Association had conducted themselves with all that measured prudence and propriety which would have been calculated to conciliate opposition. But, when he saw the number and importance of that body; when he saw that the present measure was, in fact, founded on the assumption that the Catholic Association had obtained a most extensive influence in Ireland, he felt persuaded that it had conducted itself so as to secure the perfect esteem of the Catholic body. An hon. and learned gentleman had brought an extraordinary charge against the Catholic Association. He had stated, that the Catholics did not recognise the authority and the dictation of Mr. O'Connell. How inconsistent! Mr. O'Connell could not be separated from the sentiments of the Catholic people. Where did he get that power and influence which he was supposed by this bill to possess and exert over his countrymen?—"Divisum imperium cum Jove Cæsar habet." He could not be terrible in his mere personal capacity. When was any head of a party formidable in these kingdoms, but as the representative of the sentiments-of his party? If his single voice were obeyed in an unqualified manner by submissive multitudes, then indeed he would be formidable: but, on the contrary, he was compelled, in order to keep his station, to exert, from time to time, the whole force of his talents and eloquence, or he would fall short of his object. It was evident that the Catholic Association was formed not for offensive, but 426 for defensive purposes; not to attack but to protect; to resist tyranny and persecution, and, if possible, to put an end to a system which had long been the horror of Ireland, the disgrace of England, and the shame of the civilized world. He perfectly agreed that such an influence as that which was possessed by the Catholic Association, ought not to be allowed to exist—that it must be put down: but he protested against adopting this measure as the means, because it would not be effectual—because it would augment the evil—because it would drive the discontents of the country into an under current of sedition and disaffection, which, by and by, swelling and emerging to the face of day, would break forth in a stream which would bear before it all opposition. Hon, gentlemen on the other side of the House must be aware that the Catholic Association would not submit quietly to this law, but would naturally resort to every expedient to maintain a communication with the Catholic body; they must be aware that the only effectual mode of putting down that Association was by giving to the Catholics of Ireland that equality of rights and privileges to which they were so justly entitled. He did not believe that this was the measure of the right hon. the Attorney-General for Ireland; it was a measure which emanated entirely from the cabinet, or at least from a portion of it; for he could not believe that the right hon. and learned gentleman ever accepted office upon a compromise of his support of the Catholic cause. The right hon. and learned gentleman himself admitted, that this was only a temporary expedient for the purpose of maintaining the authority of government, and that Catholic emancipation was the only measure that could give permanent peace and happiness to that distracted country. He had heard it said by a right hon. member of the government, not then in his place, that he should feel it an act of treachery to turn round upon his colleagues and say, that he would no longer act with them unless they consented to carry the question of Catholic emancipation. In his opinion, it would be much greater treachery on the part of the former supporters of that question now to turn round and desert it. It was impossible that the proposed measure could have originated with the noble lord at the head of the Irish Government, whose conduct had been so highly, and so justly eulogized 427 by his friends. Or, if he did so recommend it, it must have been as a temporary measure, to be followed by that great and paramount question, Catholic emancipation. It was unfair then, to throw the whole odium of the measure upon the shoulders of the noble marquis. If ministers were really anxious for the tranquillity of Ireland, why resort to temporary measures? Why not at once do that great act of justice which would restore tranquillity and happiness to her? Weak governments never conceded; they waited until they were forced to do justice. It was only strong governments that could with propriety concede. Why, then, did not the present government, strong and powerful as it was, at once concede, and with grace grant that as a boon, which, at a later period, might, perhaps, be extorted from her. At what better period could such a concession be made than at present when the great body of the people were in favour of the grant, and when the liberty and happiness of six millions of their fellow subjects were opposed, as he might say, by a small number of persons. He called upon the House to consider what they had been in the habit of witnessing for the last twenty-five years. Had they not, year after year, seen the Roman Catholics coming to that House, and with bended knees, imploring an equal participation in the blessings of the Constitution. The Catholics claimed the removal of the Remainder of those penal laws under which they now laboured; and perhaps many members were not aware of their severity. Perhaps they did not know, that a doubt existed whether a Catholic priest marrying a Catholic and a Protestant was not subject to the punishment of death; and that he was, beyond all doubt, subject to a penalty of 500l. which was in most cases equal to a sentence of imprisonment for life. Neither, was it generally known, that the parties so married were liable to three years imprisonment, if they refused to give evidence against the priest. This was only one of the many laws which disgraced their Statute-book, and for the repeal of which the Catholics of Ireland had been ineffectually praying from year to year; having uniformly found, that, however favourable might be the House of Commons, there existed an insurmountable barrier in another place, and that too raised upon the authority of government. It was from a feeling that such was the fact that he and several of his friends two 428 years ago had quitted the House without voting upon the question in favour of the Catholics; and they had done so because they did not wish to raise hopes in the minds of that body which they well knew would not be realised. Before the establishment of the Catholic Association, it was urged that the Catholics were divided, and, in fact, careless about emancipation. But now that their feelings were announced, and that they were united in one common cause, it was urged that they must be put down and silenced. Was this the return which the Catholics of Ireland were to receive for their long and patient suffering under great privations, as well as for the important services they had rendered to this country in the period of its greatest danger? It was lamentable to think that, whilst we advocated the cause of freedom in other countries, we persevered in perpetuating such a narrow and bigotted policy in our own—a policy which gave rise to a series of feuds and discords, producing misery and distress where it was the duty of government to spread happiness and prosperity. The dissention and religious feuds with which Ireland was agitated were inconsistent with the principles of our foreign policy. If a war should break out, was it not a matter of serious consequence that Spain should be occupied by France? How much did it facilitate the communication with Ireland? If there were to be another rebellion in Ireland it would be far different from that which made its appearance in the mountains of Wicklow and on Vinegar Hill. During the former rebellion, the priests were opposed to the people because they were opposed to the French revolution, conceiving it injurious to their interests. The gentry of Ireland were also opposed to the people at that period, because they entertained a hope, that by persevering in quietness and good order, they would at length be admitted to a participation of those rights and privileges of which they had been so long deprived. But now the case was different. The nobility, gentry, clergy, and people were united in one body, and in the event of the standard of rebellion being again raised, the consequences would be most serious. He did not mean to deny that in the Catholic states there was a tendency to abuse power, of this they had many instances in Spain, France, and Belgium. In France an odious, abominable and ferocious law, 429 was now passing, as if the God of justice and mercy were a demon who delighted in cruel and sanguinary punishments. In Belgium efforts of a bigotted nature had been attempted; but they had a king there whose wisdom and justice would not admit of such arbitrary encroachments on the principles of civil liberty. But, in this country what was to be feared from the Catholics? With an established church, intimately connected with the slate—with an immense body of Dissenters—and, above all, with the assistance of a free press—what had these realms to dread from the power of the Catholics? In his advocating of this question he was not fighting the battle of the Catholics but his own battle—the battle of all the Dissenters—the battle of civil and religious liberty. He disliked the term "Catholic I emancipation." It was too narrow a phrase; since, in the abstract, the measure so called tended to repeal the disabilities of all Dissenters of whatever denomination, in this country. Those, therefore, who supported that measure, were not righting a partial battle, and ought to receive the support of every man who was friendly to religious freedom. Many persons, he believed, opposed the emancipation of the Catholics, not because they disliked the Catholics, but because they were afraid it would lead to the repeal of the Test act, and dreaded any increase of the power of the Dissenters. They cared nothing about the Catholics; but they held in terror, not merely the religious, but the civil and political opinions of the Dissenters of this country. It had been said that the people of England were hostile to this measure. He did not believe it. They were too enlightened not to know that there could be no civil without religious liberty. He appealed, therefore to their generous feelings to do justice where it had so long been denied. Nay, he would appeal to their alarm. If, unfortunately, war should break out, and discontent were suffered to remain amongst the population of Ireland, how direful might be the event? We might see our commerce crippled, and our vessels carried under the mouths of hostile cannon planted on the coast of Ireland; so that it might at last become a contest pro aris et focis. Convinced that the proposed bill would do incalculable mischief, he should constantly raise his voice against it. In opposing this measure, he was sure he spoke the sense of his 430 constituents; but, even if it were otherwise, a plain and manly exposition of his sentiments was certain to procure their esteem.
§ Mr. Lockhart
said, it was a well-known maxim, that to levy money from the people without the authority of parliament was unlawful. Now, the Catholic Association had done this. They had collected money from all quarters. They had directed an instrument to be drawn up on the subject, pointing out the mode of collection, and the priests had gone round and received money from the members of their different congregations. It was an ancient practice in this realm to levy money by the same means; and, although it appeared to be a voluntary gift, it could not, if all the circumstances were considered, be fairly viewed in that light. The poor-rates, before the 43rd. of Elizabeth, were levied through the exhortation of the priests in the church. If this private levying, under the Association, were not actually compulsory it approached as near it as possible. The ignorant part of the community might think, when this rent was demanded, that they were under the same sort of compulsion as our ancestors, when they received the exhortation of the priests. The hon. member for Southwark admitted that there was danger, but he advised the legislature to put it down by conciliation. "Give them every thing they demand," said the hon. member. But he would ask what was the character of the Association, according to the description of their chief advocate? What had he said? He had told the world plainly, that the law would be evaded. Every effort of human ingenuity would be made to evade the letter of the law—while they acted against its spirit. What was to prevent this body, so resolute in breaking the law, from pressing their views further than they had thought proper to declare? What was meant by proposing to pay no church-rates in parishes where there were no Protestants? What was this but the indication of a desire to overturn the whole frame of the Protestant constitution of this realm? Gentlemen complained of the want of information on this subject. For his part, he saw no necessity for documentary evidence. The notoriety of the system was quite sufficient to justify that House in putting down the Association. They knew of the Association: they knew of its meetings; and, if these meetings were allowed to go on 431 unchecked, they would at length become like those of the Jacobin Club of Paris, who assembled for the purpose of making and enforcing their decrees. With respect to Catholic emancipation, he thought any man, in or out of the Cabinet, was justified in viewing such a measure with a very jealous eye; because he defied any person to say what might be the effects of granting that boon, if it did not give satisfaction. If it were conceded, and it did not satisfy the Catholics, it would arm them with additional power and strength to aim at further concessions, which would, perhaps, end in the destruction of the Church establishment and of the British constitution. If emancipation were granted at all, it ought not to be in consequence of the compulsion of such a body as the Catholic Association, but from a due regard to the general interests of the empire.
jun. complained that throughout the present discussion, the question of Catholic emancipation had been too much mixed up with that of the constitutional or unconstitutional nature of the Catholic Association. He hoped that the same confusion of objects would not extend itself to the legislative measure, whatever that might be, which was about to be brought before the House. Whatever opinion the House might entertain of this Association, it was gratifying to know, from recent occurrences, that its ultimate decision would be received with respect by those who were most nearly affected by it. In the debates of former nights, gentlemen had objected to the dissolution of the Association, under an apprehension, that ill consequences would follow from that measure, in consequence of the tone of intimidation adopted by that body. But the Association had declared themselves willing to submit to the law; so that the objection of intimidation should be abandoned. This declaration did them great credit; and he particularly admired the temperate speech of lord Killeen, the chairman, who was a nobleman of an excellent and upright character. An hon. and learned gentleman on the other side (sir J. Mackintosh) had endeavoured to justify the Association upon two heads of charge made against them, but without effect. First, in reference to the expression of "hatred to Orangemen;" and, secondly, that the courts of justice in Ireland had been interfered with by the Association. The first the hon. and learned gentleman endeavoured to defend 432 as mere words of heat; but they appeared to him (Mr. Bankes) as a solemn adjuration. As to the second, it was alleged, that the opponents of the Catholics were the first to poison the stream of justice, and that, in their own defence, the other party was obliged to meet them by counter influence. But this was no justification; for, however true it might be in physics, that two negatives made an affirmative, that axiom did not hold good in morals. He had never known the collision of two vices to produce a virtue. Two vices did not make one virtue. It was but embarrassing the question to clog it with the consideration of emancipation. The question for consideration was, whether the Catholic Association was an evil, and ought to be put down? And in proof that it was, he conceived that a most complete case had been made out. Having said thus much upon a grave subject, he would now turn to one of a more light and ridiculous description: he meant an observation which fell from a learned civilian (Dr. Lushington) on a former evening, and which must have originated in a mistake. The observation to which he alluded had reference to the books ordered by the University club. The hon. and learned member had said, that Harriette Wilson's Memoirs had been ordered, and a plain Bible rejected by the University club. Now, the fact was, that no such book had been ordered, though it had, no doubt, been often inquired for.
§ Sir John Brydges
said:—It appears to me, Sir, that the question now before the House is plain and simple. Are the proceedings of the Association legal orillegal? It matters not whether its members be Catholic, Protestant, or of any other faith; if this House is persuaded they are legal, we must not disturb them; if, on the contrary, it believes them to be illegal, we must amend the law, which at present is insufficient to reach them, else parliament and this kingdom must submit to be overruled by a power at present unknown and unconstitutional. But, Sir, learned members on the opposite benches astonish me when they argue, allowing at the same time that they are not enamoured with the Association, that it is nugatory and useless to put it down, because the same spirit will re-appear in another shape. Sir, am I tamely to submit to an evil this day, because, if I do not, it can but be delayed until to-morrow? Let me ask 433 those who argue thus, whether if the robber came to them this night, and said, "deliver up your property now, for, if you do not, I will come to-morrow, and take it from you?" They would yield. I think better of them than to believe they would. Neither, Sir, would I submit to the threats of those hon. members; but would tell them, "if you throw down the gauntlet, I am ready to take it up, and never cease my defence of our glorious constitution, until I am overpowered." Sir, the measure now proposed to be adopted has my most hearty concurrence. With reference to one part of the debate, I should be guilty of a dereliction of my duty were I not to record my protest against the unwarrantable attack upon the lord high chancellor of England. Sir, I lament that men so distinguished as these hon. members, should give way to the vulgar belief, that the motives of persons in office are always to be suspected. Sir, it is my firm conviction, that when, in the course of nature, that high character shall be removed from all political animosities, posterity will do that justice to his transcendant abilities, his unimpeachable integrity, and his distinguished public and private virtues, which the bigotry of party denies him now, and that no one will be found better entitled to live in the recollection of a grateful country—"Integer vitæ, scelerisque purus."
said, that if the Catholic question was put upon the issue, of whether or not the House would interfere, when it was admitted, on all hands, that the pure stream of justice in Ireland was perverted from its course, by one influence or another, to whatever party that influence might belong, he would most decidedly take that course which prevented so unconstitutional an application of the funds of any society. So far, therefore, as the bill now before the House had that object, it should have his support; but further than this general support he did not pledge himself to give the bill, or any of its provisions, until he had made himself fully acquainted with their whole import. And now (said the hon. member), having explained the course which I propose to pursue on this particular question, I wish, in the clearest manner, to dissociate that course from the one which I shall feel it my duty to take upon the great and general question of Catholic emancipation. So long as I shall continue to have a seat in 434 this House, I shall persevere in that line of conduct towards the Catholics, which, in my mind, is not only the just, but the only one which can satisfy that important body. I am persuaded that nothing short of that which some call Catholic emancipation, others call concessions to the Catholics, but what I call Catholic rights—that nothing short of concession of those rights can tranquillize Ireland. I shall, therefore, not only give my vote for the admission of Catholics to a full participation of all the blessings of the constitution, but shall support their cause by all the means in my power. For what is the case which the situation of Ireland presents to us? Six millions of Catholics, oppressed, injured, insulted, trampled upon by one million of Protestants. They never can submit—they never ought to submit—and I trust in God they never will submit. I am now Sir, in the evening of life, but were I on my death-bed, I would, with great sincerity, offer up my fervent prayer to the Almighty, that if the Catholics do resist, their resistance may be successful [hear!].
was of opinion that government should give to this subject the most mature deliberation, before they committed themselves by any decisive step. It was a measure which would be productive of the most important consequences, in one respect or another. The question was, whether the existence of the Association which this bill proposed to suppress, was not less pregnant with danger than the suppression of it, under the present circumstances of Ireland? If this proposition was proved, he thought that the law ought to be suffered to sleep. But if, on the other hand, the Association was ascertained to be the greater danger, then ought it to be put down. It was admitted upon all sides that the Catholics were fairly entitled to the rights, for the restitution of which they were exerting themselves. The Attorney-general for Ireland had characterized their claims as the claims of justice, and had defied any man to prove the contrary. But it was said that they had taken objectionable means to obtain the recognition of their claims. If the question had been asked him, whether an abstract assembly like the Catholic Association was or was not constitutional, he should not be disposed to contend for the affirmative; but every case ought to be tried on its own merits. It was impossible to look at 435 the Association but in connection with the causes which led to its creation, and the consequences which would follow from its suppression by legislative interference. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had said, that the landed gentry of Ireland had been strenuously opposed to the collection of the Catholic rent; and possibly this feeling, after all, was the efficient cause of the bill before the House. He (Mr. Robertson) stood up for the Irish Catholics, and he flung back upon these same landed gentry the charge of being the cause of the dreadful condition to which that unhappy country was reduced. The Catholic peasantry had been deserted by the landed gentry, Protestant as well as Catholic, and left unprotected against all the oppressions of partial magistrates, and all the exactions of unfeeling tithe-collectors. Had the landed gentry of Ireland done their duty to their tenantry, this House would never have heard of the Catholic Association. The name of that unfortunate people was never mentioned without being associated with denunciations and abuse from all sides of the House. Their errors were exaggerated, their feelings misrepresented, their indiscretions tortured into flagrant crimes, while their misery, their poverty, and the sense of their wrongs were unremembered, or if alluded to, made use of but to taunt them. There seemed to be a general conspiracy to throw a veil over the true causes of the wretchedness of the Irish peasantry. By some it was charged upon the Church, whose claims were said to be out of all proportion to the means of those upon whom they were made. But he could not concur in blaming the church for the results so visible in Ireland. The fact was, that the clergymen of the Established Church were as liberal as was to be expected from men of their enlarged education. They had gone on conceding to the peasantry and lowering their demands, until they did not receive one-tenth of what they were entitled to. This was proved by documents laid upon the table of the House. But in the same degree that the Church lowered their claims, the landlords increased theirs; or, in other words, the revenue which the rector gave up went into the pockets of the landlord, so that the peasant was not at all benefitted. Hence the charge against the landed gentry, who were beyond doubt the cause of all the misery of Ireland. Only those acquainted with the real state 436 of things in Ireland could appreciate the persecutions and oppressions to which the peasantry, when deserted by their landlords, were exposed. This was the real cause of the Catholic rent. The object of the Catholic Association was, to accomplish that which the landed interest of Ireland had neglected to do—to protect the lower orders, and to take care that justice was given to them as well as to the rich. The truth was, that the laws in Ireland were not equally administered, although attempts had been made to mislead the House upon that point. This was one root of the evil, one reason why the present bill was required; for the landed interest only, by its conduct, had driven the House to the painful necessity of discussing it. He stated this fact, to the disgrace of the landed interest—to the disgrace of the House, and the country; and, if redress were given in this respect, as the Association would not then be needed, no bill would be required for its suppression. He did not mean to say, under all the circumstances, that the Association ought not to be put down: but when it was put down, who would protect the wretched peasant? Who would stand up in his defence between him and the rapacious tithe proctor? Then, indeed, would the unhappy people of Ireland be reduced to the last stage of misery and despair!—With regard to the question of emancipation, his sentiments went further than many who had hitherto stated their opinions. He believed that concession of a part would be attended with no earthly benefit, but that it would give the Roman Catholics strength and confidence to demand more. Emancipation only, as it was called, would not give peace to Ireland. The sole mode of producing tranquillity and harmony was, to put Catholic and Protestant precisely on the same footing, so that the latter could not have the slightest pretence for saying that the former was his inferior. The hon. member having compared the effects of the two Unions, between England and Scotland, and between Great Britain and Ireland, complained that the Irish members had not accomplished any benefit for the country they represented. He was induced to believe, that the worst misfortunes of Ireland were brought on by those who ought to be her best friends. The divisions of party, and the violence to which they gave rise, produced the heaviest evils to that country; and he had 437 no doubt that, if there was not an Irish member in the House, the interests of Ireland would be better attended to. It would be better to intrust them to the generosity and good sense of a British House of Commons, than to suffer them to be exposed to all the mischiefs consequent upon the clash of party, and the conflict of opinions, as violent as they were opposite to each other. To suppose, that things could long continue in their present condition, was to indulge a vain and childish hope, in the teeth of all past experience. It might be possible that a country, weak in point of numbers and resources, should remain under the control of another, but no man of sense could suppose that a population of six millions, increasing in numbers and in intellect, could be long kept in a state of thraldom. The example of Portugal would show, that a separation between countries, united by local situation, and nearly similar in manners and customs, could be effected. If the present course was persisted in towards Ireland, there could be no doubt that such a separation would be attempted; and it became the House to consider well the inevitable consequences of this measure. If the redress which the people of Ireland sought for, and to which they were entitled, was not afforded to them, they would take it. They were growing strong and powerful; and the House would, perhaps, eventually be obliged to concede that from alarm, which they ought to grant upon grounds of justice. He conjured ministers to consider the awful responsibility they were incurring. He was convinced that the only advisable measure by which they could put down the violence and discontent which now raged in Ireland, would be by concession, not by coercion—by repealing the penal statutes which were in existence, not by enacting new ones; and for these reasons, he had determined to oppose, as far as he was able, the measure which was now before the House [cheers].
§ Sir John Newport
said, that, after the length to which the debate had already proceeded, he could hardly hope that any thing he could say would afford the House any information on the subject which engaged its deliberations, or have much weight on the conclusion to which it might come. He was, however, induced to trespass for a short time upon their patience, for the purpose of stating, that 438 after having listened with great attention to all that had been said on both sides, he remained more confirmed in the view he had at first taken of the subject. He would repeat the opinion which he had expressed on the second day of the session; namely, that by deferring the grant of those privileges which the Catholics claimed, and by enacting penal laws against them, the government was raising up dangers so numerous and of such fearful magnitude, all tending to the destruction of the peace of the community, that no man living could calculate the consequences which would result from them. During a pretty long life he had been no unconcerned witness of the state of his native country, under the various circumstances in which it had been placed. It had been his lot to partake in its changing fortunes during a long series of years, and he could assure the House he thought it probable that the consequences of the present measure would be infinitely more fearful than those which had resulted from any measure that he had witnessed. When parliament attempted to stifle the expresion of discontent, instead of removing the cause of it, it drew upon itself a most fearful responsibility. The perils to which the country was exposed in the struggle with America were nothing to those with which we were now menaced. The struggle with America was a distant one; that with Ireland, if struggle there should be, would be at our very doors. He had heard with surprise the different grounds which had been assigned by those who opposed all concession to the Catholics, and those who were favourable to that measure, for their joining in support of the present bill. There must be something very extraordinary in the principles upon which it was supposed to be founded, which could thus have the effect of reconciling those discordant opinions. In the first place, it was a very remarkable circumstance in the history of this bill, that it was introduced to the House without a tittle of documentary evidence. No reasons had been urged which could satisfactorily account for this exclusion of such evidence, and yet the House was asked to rely upon parole evidence. But, what was the nature of this parole evidence? In the first place, let the House examine the discrepancies which existed even in this evidence, such as it was. With regard to the merits of the Roman Catholic priesthood, let the 439 opinions which had been expressed by the Secretary for Ireland, by the Attorney-general for Ireland, and by the Under-Secretary of state, be placed in juxtaposition, and let the contrast and contrariety which they displayed be remembered. While the right hon. Secretary for Ireland said, that the priests were ready to put themselves at the head of 30,000 men, the Attorney-general, on the other hand, asserted that the Roman Catholic priests had been foully calumniated, and had been mainly instrumental in preserving the tranquillity of the country. The hon. the under-secretary (Mr. Dawson), in a different strain, asserted, that the evils which existed in Ireland were to be mainly attributed to the baleful and malignant influence of the priests. And this was the parole evidence, on which the House was advised to rely—evidence, which from the mouths of three different members of the cabinet conveyed different and conflicting statements.
said, he had stated, that there were 2,500 priests ready to put themselves at the head of 30,000 collectors; but not for any mischievous purpose. He had stated also, or ought to have done, that one of the evil consequences of the proceedings of the Catholic Association had been, to divert the valuable services of those priests from the true interests of their parishioners for its own political purpose.
§ Sir J. Newport
resumed. The opinions of the right hon. gentleman were, at least, contradictory; and those opinions formed the parole evidence on which the House was called upon to legislate. He should be sorry to misrepresent any hon. gentleman; and still more so to misrepresent persons for whom he had a very sincere respect. He would take that opportunity of alluding to a gentleman whose name had been introduced into the debate of last night—a Mr. Devereux. That gentleman had lately become a member of the Catholic Association, and because he was one of the Catholic delegates in 1792, he was said to be an unfit person to join the existing society. The House ought, however, to know, that in the year 1793, that gentleman was one of the five persons delegated by the Catholics of Ireland to wait on his late majesty; by whom he had been most graciously received. After 440 this, it was rather too much that it should be alleged against the Association, that the admission of this gentleman was a proof that their intentions were hostile to the peace of the country. An hon. gentleman had stated last night, that the members of the Association had waited until the Orange societies were put down, before they openly avowed themselves. This was not the fact. The establishment of the Association took place when the Orange party was most triumphant—when they boasted that they had doubled their numbers, in consequence of the attempt of the House to interfere with them—when they triumphed, not only over the government of Ireland, but over that House; and one of the Orange officers carried away the palm in the contest he had entered into with the parliament itself. As a proof of the opinion which was entertained of the Catholic Association by men whose opinion deserved the highest respect, he begged to refer to a letter which had been that day received from the earl of Fingal; who although he was in an ill state of health, was anxious that his sentiments with respect to the Association might not be misunderstood. His lordship said, "Illness, irksome as it is at all times, is now particularly mortifying to me, because it prevents me from joining my feeble efforts to those of the other gentlemen who compose the Catholic Association at this important crisis." There was no man who knew that noble lord, who would not bear testimony to the temperate and moderate line of conduct which he had uniformly pursued, or who would not feel that the tribute of respect which he was glad of that opportunity of paying to him, was not due to his pre-eminent virtues, which made him more worthy of respect than even the exalted rank which he filled. He would ask those who opposed the claims of the Catholics, whether they seriously wished to put down those claims by penal laws: and if they did, he would ask them, when they thought it would be expedient to stop? The disproportion between the Catholic and Protestant population of Ireland was fearfully increasing. In the county of Kilkenny, where, perhaps, it was as little likely to have increased as in any part of Ireland, between the years 1743 and 1800 the Catholic population had been more than doubled, while that of the Protestants had diminished by one-third. At the period of the Union, twenty years ago, the 441 general proportion of Catholics to Protestants was as five to two. Now, it was six out of seven, and twenty years hence, calculating in the same ratio, it would, in all probability, be eleven out of twelve. Did the enemies of Catholic emancipation mean to say they could then resist the claims which were now made? Was it probable that they could do so? For what object, then, should they wait? Why should they defer to grant that now, which, in the result, they could not withhold? The Catholic cause, or, as he might rather call it, the cause of the empire—for the tranquillity of the empire was involved in it—was far from retrograding; on the contrary, he was sure that it had advanced, and that every discussion helped it to advance further. It was fit that the people of England should know on what ground this question rested. It was just that they should be informed how little truth there was in the statements which had been made to the disadvantage of the Catholics, and how deep and bitter were the grounds of the resentment which filled the bosoms of the Catholics against their oppressors. These things were much better understood than they had been. In the words of the inimitable poet—Our state of war is like a summer morn,When waning clouds contend with growing light.The clouds were rapidly passing away; the public mind was becoming more fully informed of the real merits of the case; and, however reluctantly it might be yielded, still the grant must be made.
Mr. V. Fitzgerald
said, he was unwilling to give a silent vote on a question so momentous as that before the House, or to leave unexplained the grounds upon which that vote was founded. He thought it better, for every reason, that the past should be buried in oblivion. He would be unwilling to criticise with too great seventy the language which had been used by the members of the Catholic Association; but, when that language came to be adopted by the whole Catholic body, then it became necessary to look into it with more scrupulous attention. With respect to the abuses in the administration of justice, much had already been done, although he was free to confess that much still remained to be done. Two cases had been alluded to by his right hon. friend, which he did not think had been quite fairly treated. The pur- 442 pose for which they were mentioned was to show, that the interference of the Catholic Association was improper. It was true that, in both cases, acquittals had followed; but the result was not the point upon which the objection to that interference turned. On one of those trials—that of Hanley, a soldier, the magistrates who were present, immediately after his acquittal, agreed to represent to the lord-lieutenant, that it was no longer necessary to continue the Insurrection act in that county. The right hon. member next panegyrized the manner in which Mr. O'Gorman had conducted a prosecution at Clare, at the instance of the Catholic Association. He was present as a magistrate, and could bear witness to the temperate manner in which Mr. O'Gorman behaved. He was of opinion that the Association was justified in much that they had said and done. He was not arguing for the continuance of the Association. The Protestant mind of Ireland had been thrown into a state of panic which it would be difficult to describe. He admitted that means had been unfairly taken to increase, that panic; but, if so large and important a body as the Protestants of Ireland felt such a degree of alarm at the proceedings of the Association, he asked the House whether it ought to be allowed to continue? If it should, the consequence would be, that counter-associations would be formed, and the spirit of opposition would destroy all fellowship between man and man, and render the country—he was almost going to say—hardly worth living in. At the same time, he was bound to admit, that the representations of the Associations, aided by the efforts of the Catholic pastors, had had a considerable share in restoring tranquillity to Ireland. He knew that, in 1820, the Catholic priests in the county which he represented, afforded him most material assistance in suppressing the disturbances in Ireland, and he himself had induced many Catholics to take upon themselves the duties of magistrates, on account of the effectual aid which they lent to the bringing about of that desirable object. He regretted that the course which the Association had pursued was likely to deprive the country of the assistance of such an influential body. But, whilst he admitted, that the Association had been instrumental to a great degree in restoring peace to Ireland, be could not forget that 443 the present state of that country was in a great measure the result of the line of conduct which had been adopted by the Irish government and the parliament of Great Britain. The committee of inquiry into the state of Ireland, which sat last session, had been productive of much good, and the intended re-appointment of that committee, would be, he knew, consolatory to the Irish people. If the provisions of the proposed bill should not, when they came to be expounded, appear to bear as strongly upon Orange as upon Catholic Associations, the measure would disappoint his expectations, and should not receive his support. He felt alarm at all Associations. He could not concur with the hon. member for Armagh, in thinking that the present measure had been called for by the Catholic Association alone. He was of opinion, that if the Orange Associations had never received the patronage which was bestowed upon them, the Catholic Association would not, if it had ever existed, have comprised among its constituent body nearly the whole of the Catholic population.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he had listened with the utmost attention to the speech of the right hon. gentleman, but had not heard him advance a single argument in support of the bill to be brought forward. He had stated, that the object of the bill was to put down the Catholic Association, but he had not advanced a single argument to prove that the mode in which the Association ought to be put down, was by a bill of pains and penalties. It was incumbent on the right hon. gentleman, to shew that a bill, which was an infringement on the liberties of the people, was not only the best, but the only mode in which the Association could be put down. Now, it could not be denied that there was another mode of putting down the Association, and that was, redressing the wrongs of the Catholics. Parliament might put down the Association, but as long as the union of Catholic feeling continued, and he should be sorry to see that union dissolved, some other means would infallibly be discovered of shewing that there were six millions of discontented subjects in Ireland. With respect to the Association, he freely admitted that he considered its existence a great inconvenience; but it was one of those inconveniences which was the necessary consequence of the state of the law, and it was only by a change in 444 the state of the law that it could be got rid of. The union of the Catholic Association proved that they were animated by one feeling; and, whatever prejudices might be entertained against that body, no man, who looked to the present state of the public feeling in Ireland, could lay his hand upon his heart and say, that the situation in which the Catholics of Ireland were now placed could long continue. He was so far from thinking that the Catholic Association would have the effect of putting off the concession of the Catholic claims, that he believed it would forward the time at which those claims must be conceded. He disliked a body associating to prosecute: but as he understood the case, the funds of the Association were only applied to carry on prosecutions on behalf of persons whose poverty precluded them from undertaking them themselves. That removed part of his objection to the practice. He believed that the attempt to put down this Association would be abortive; at all events he could never give his assent to a measure of coercion and restriction, when there existed another mode of remedying the inconveniences which was that of redressing the grievances of Ireland. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had expressed his opinion, that even if the Catholic claims were granted, the Catholic Association would still continue to exist. Now, he did not believe that any such Association would continue to exist, unless some substantial grievances remained to be redressed. In the case of the volunteers in 1782, as long as there were substantial grievances to complain of, the parliament found it impossible to put them down; but when they attempted to prolong their existence beyond the period, when they had succeeded in carrying the legitimate object for which they united, and to carry measures which were not consistent with the general wishes of the people, the power of parliament returned, and their dissolution was easily effected. He should certainly oppose the measure.
The Hon. William Lamb
characterized the attempt of the hon. and learned member for Knaresborough (sir J. Mackintosh), on a former evening, to explain away the effect and meaning of the phrase in the Catholic proclamation, which had been the subject of so much observation, as the most subtile, most sophistical, most Jesuitical he had ever heard. The direct and immediate tendency of such sophisti- 445 cal distinctions was, to confound the boundaries between right and wrong, The conduct of the Catholic Association was calculated to shock the prejudices, and array, against the Catholic cause, in inveterate hostility, the passions, feelings, and sentiments of the people of this country. The heat of public debate was alleged as a sufficient excuse for all the intemperate language which had been used. Now, he could not help thinking, that the habits of an advocate required, demanded, and taught prudence, moderation, and discretion, and that any tiling approaching to indecent warmth was least of all excusable in a gentleman of the legal profession, accustomed to the triumphs of eloquence, and who could not be supposed to be influenced by any thing like personal vanity. Though he (Mr. L.) still entertained the opinion which he had expressed on the first night of the session, that no priest of any religion ought to bring his power to bear on political matters, he was sorry if he had adopted any expression of a controversial or polemical character. Whether the proceedings of the Catholic Association were contrary to law or not, they were of a most alarming character, and ought to be put down. A favourite metaphor, drawn from the pressure of the steam engine, had been used in the course of this debate; it had been said, that meetings of this description were the safety-valves which carried off the steam, which, if it were suffered to mix with the common air, carried ruin and desolation along with it. This metaphor begged the whole of the question. The very question at issue was, whether the perpetual irritation kept up by Associations of this description were the vent to let off the steam, or the furnace below which increased and exasperated the pressure? For his own part, he was persuaded, that the Catholic Association kept up disquietude, discord, disunion and irritation, throughout the whole country. There was no difference between the Catholic Association and the Bridge-street, or any other Association of that description, with respect to their effect in giving encouragement to spies and informers, in multiplying fictitious actions, in exciting and inflaming animosities. It was impossible that tranquillity could be restored to Ireland while there existed a general mart for all manner of grievances and complaints. What must necessarily be the effect of the power of ordering prosecutions by the authority of the Catholic 446 Association? The popular argument against prosecutions, ordered even by the authority of that House, was, that they sent a man to his trial with the opinion of the House of Commons against him. Were not the prosecutions ordered by the authority of the Catholic Association equally liable to the same objection? Suppose the case of a heated and furious House of Commons, carried away by the passions of a heated and excited people. This was not an imaginary supposition; in the case of the Popish plot, murder was committed, blood was shed by the legislature, under such circumstances, and in the case of the South Sea scheme, though no blood was shed, yet monstrous injustice and iniquity were perpetrated by that House. Was the power of ordering prosecutions on the authority of that House no evil under such circumstances? Was such a power likely to produce no mischievous effects? Yet, this was the very case which now existed in Ireland. The heat of debate was to be received as an excuse for every violent expression in an Association, standing at the head of a people on the very brink of rebellion [hear, hear! from the Opposition benches.] If they were not so, he retracted the expression; but certainly smarting under such a sense of the injuries under which they believed themselves to be suffering, it was likely to lead to such a state. He would ask whether such an Association, prosecuting by its authority persons who were to be tried by a jury selected out of a people so situated, could be suffered to exist, consistently with the impartial administration of justice in Ireland. The hon. member proceeded to make some remarks on an observation which had fallen on a former night from the right hon. member for Knaresborough (Mr. Tierney). He could not concur in the opinion of that right hon. member, that even if an administration could be formed on the basis of hostility to the Catholic claims, it would not hold together a month, when he had seen an administration endure so long, which was substantially opposed to those claims. He should be sorry to see the present administration broken up on this question; as the country would lose a great deal of certain advantage by such a result, and nothing would be really gained by the Catholics themselves. He should certainly support the bill, reserving his opinion, however, with reference to its details; since it might be found hereafter either to 447 fail in executing its purpose, or to exceed that degree of restriction which was necessary for the attainment of its object.
Sir Francis Burdett
, on his rising, was inaudible for some moments, from the rush of members into the House, and to the front of the side galleries. When we could catch the hon. baronet's meaning, we found him declaring, that he had been much struck, as he doubted not the House had been, with the eloquence and vigorous fancy of the speech of the hon. member for Hertfordshire; but at the same time, it was quite impossible that every one should not have been still more astonished at the extreme inconsistency and want of argument in that address, from the beginning to the end of it. The hon. member had kept his word, most certainly, with the persons whom he addressed, that he would detain them but a short time upon the question before the House; seeing that three-fourths of his speech had been consumed, if he might take the liberty of saying so, in the discussion of facts and of topics entirely extraneous to it. And first, the hon. member set out, as pretty nearly all the other supporters of the question had done before him, with noticing the particular words of which the utterance was made matter of reproach to Mr. O'Connell. Those who pressed this reproach seemed never to suppose such a possibility as that it might be—far less, was—extremely unfair to take disconnected sentences from the speeches or writings of any man, and form a judgment upon them, without giving him the opportunity of explanation. Was it common justice—was it common reason—to take a dozen of a man's words, which he had not the power of explaining; to put the worst possible construction of which they were capable upon them; and then to hold him convicted of the intent which that construction imputed. Why, there was no book that ever had been written—not even the book which we all held the most sacred, and in the highest reverence—the very Bible itself—which would bear that test which gentlemen talked of subjecting the writings of Mr. O'Connell to. Englishmen, surely, would not forget what had been the situation, on this very point, of one of the noblest names that ever graced their annals? They would not forget that most scandalous interpretation which a corrupt judge, and an infamous jury, had combined, to put upon the writings of Algernon Sidney—a mean- 448 ing which it was impossible that any fair and candid mind could ever have imagined the imputing to them. In his defence, Algernon Sidney had said, that which he (sir F. Burdett), on the part of the Catholic Association, said now: "You take my words without the reasonable exposition of them: take a sentence from the Bible, and you shall find 'there is no God.'" It was only to leave out the first member of the sentence, and the Bible itself actually asserted that blasphemous proposition. Then, for the words attributed to Mr. O'Connell, he would repeat—even at the risk of being charged with Jesuitical casuistry, as his hon. and learned friend had been, and of attempting to get rid of the effect of a sentence which he, in common with that hon. and learned friend, thought needed no getting rid of at all—he would repeat, that the words of Mr. O'Connell were incapable of fair interpretation without giving him the opportunity of explaining them. But the truth was, there was no necessity for any casuistry at all about the matter. The words were capable of a very honest meaning; and why would it be unfair, then, to apply one to them? The hon. member forgot, while he was looking for a meaning to these words, the only point that a fair and candid mind would have kept in view—to wit, the obvious intention of the person who had written them. "By the bate you bear to Orangemen," the sentence ran—and what then? Was it to excite them to acts of vengeance, to feelings of animosity, that the Catholics were so adjured? Put the address in the way in which it had been published: it said—"By your hate of Orangemen, we charge you to do no act of violence against them! Lay yourselves not open to reproach," it said, "we conjure you, by every good motive"—there first mentioned. And, at last, "even by the worst motive which operates in your minds," it said, "we charge you to live in peace, and in the precepts of the Gospel," inculcating the observance of those precepts in such purity as, perhaps, few men could lay their hands to their hearts, and find themselves capable of realizing. But, there were some lines in a poem of Dr. Armstrong's, which he could have wished to place under the attention of honourable gentlemen opposite to him—much, on account of the general moral which they contained; and, still more, as they conveyed some notion of the present feelings of the Catholics in Ireland— 449An open candid foe I could not hate,Nor ev'n insult the base, in low estate;But thriving malice, tamely to forgive—'Tis somewhat late to be so primitive.Why, it was a new doctrine rather, to set up, that oppressors were not to be hated, [hear, hear] What would those gentlemen who talked about Jesuitical casuistry have said, if the words had been "By the reverence and respect you owe to Orangemen" ["hear, hear," and laughter]—"by that affection you bear them, we entreat you to do this?" To object to the expression of bate was the most modern doctrine—the most absolutely original! Why, what were the words of Burns, in those beautiful lines of his, the address of Wallace to the Scottish army?By oppressions, woes, and pains,By your sons in servile chains!The leader of the Catholic Association appealed to these same national sentiments; but for a purpose widely different. The song of the Scottish hero called on men who were oppressed, to draw the sword, and vindicate their laws and rights. It showed them every feature of their own suffering in the strongest light, and exhorted them to adopt the last resource—that resource which would be most agreeable to them—to put an end to it. But, the appeal of the Catholic Association was an address in favour, not of violence, but of patience; it prayed of the Catholics to go on prosecuting a constitutional object by constitutional means; and not to allow their minds to be irritated, even by the violence and injustice of their oppressors. And, who had ever heard, until now, that it was unlawful to urge a man by bad motives, as well as good ones, to correct conduct? Was it a fault in Hamlet that he addressed the ghost to that effect?Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned,Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell,Be thy intents wicked, or charitable.Whatever the being was, and from whatever motive, still he implored him to relieve his mind from the agony with which it was oppressed. It was a most gross misconception, the interpretation which the hon. member for Hertfordshire, and those who thought with him, had put on Mr. O'Connell's words; and, even say that it was impossible, gross as that interpretation appeared, to show that they were susceptible of any other, still it was not a candid proceeding in the House of Commons to fix an intention on a person 450 in Mr. O'Connell's situation, without giving him an opportunity, and an ample one, of explaining himself [hear, hear]. For, as to the danger apprehended from the Catholic address, what was there in it—what single point—which any man might not be proud of having addressed to Ireland, situated as Ireland was at the present moment? What was there in any other part of Mr. O'Connell's address—for he would not catch at a particular expression, here or there—it was not generous, nor was it necessary, to criticise every expression which came from the mouth of a man whose heart was bursting with the wrongs of his country—what was there which could afford even the shadow of a subject for objection? But, this would not do for the hon. member for Hertfordshire; it was enough for him that there existed a Catholic Association. The hon. member objected to the mode in which all such associations had been defended. Now, Mr. Burke, and some other writers of authority, had spoken of the advantage of keeping them open as "safety-valves," through which public discontents, whether well grounded or unreasonable, might escape; but, the hon. member quarrelled even with this metaphor, and said that they were not safety-valves, but rather furnaces, which excited into combustion that matter which, in its explosion, might bring destruction upon all. In fact, "Do you not see that this Association is the furnace?" said the hon. gentleman. Why no: he (sir F. Burdett) did not. For he saw the furnace too plainly beneath: the true furnace lay in the wrongs of Ireland; and it was a furnace which, until those wrongs were redressed, no power could damp, or even put out of operation. This Catholic Association, so ill spoken of in all quarters—it was worth while to look at the condition in which it stood. It had so conducted itself as now to be the organ of six millions of Catholics in Ireland; including the nobility, the gentry, the clergy, and the merchants, as well as the peasantry; and forming, in fact, six-sevenths of the population of the country. Was it confined to Catholics, this Association? On the contrary, among the names of Protestants connected with it, appeared that of earl Fitzwilliam—a name which no man, whatever his party, could pronounce without sentiments of veneration—which implied unceasing generosity of character, courage 451 which shrunk not in the hour of danger, and benevolence such as exceeded, and such as alone, perhaps, could exceed, even the powers of that ample fortune, the blessings of which it so nobly dispensed [hear, hear]. Then, was he to be told, that the Catholic Association deserved any one of the imputations which had been cast upon it—that it meditated mischief against the country, when he saw such a name in the list of it as this? Men might differ upon some points: they might disagree as to what might probably be the result of the proceedings of such a society; but, while he saw such names as lord Fingal upon the Irish side of it, and earl Fitzwilliam on the English—while he saw the Catholics of England aiding and sustaining it, those persons who had ever been ranked among the most respectable portion of the British community, and who, if ever they were held in disesteem, had only fallen into it because they bore with too much patience those wrongs and grievances which some thought they should have stirred more actively to redress—was it possible to see the Catholic Association of Ireland supported by such names, and assisted and adhered to by such characters, without feeling that it stood cleared of those aspersions, which the hon. advocates of the present bill thought fit to cast upon it? [Much cheering].
The hon. member for Hertfordshire had proposed to meet the argument of his noble friend on the bench below; but he forgot to answer his noble friend's main argument, that—take all which had been stated to be true—take all the statements of the right hon. secretary for Ireland to be granted—say that the Catholic Association was all it had been said to be—it had not been shown how the present measure was to operate. The hon. gentlemen on the other side seemed a little to have mistaken what there was to be done. They had tried to show every point but the mode of operation; they had entirely omitted that which was, after all, the point of most consequence in the affair. The hon. member for Hertfordshire, too, following the example of many members who had preceded him, had said a good deal as to the influence of the Catholic Association with the proceedings of courts of justice. The hon. member for Hertfordshire said,—"You who disapproved of the Bridge-street Association, how can you sustain this Catholic convention with- 452 out arguing against yourselves?" Now, the Bridge-street Association had been a bad thing—a very bad thing; but still there was something which was worse. He had disliked the Bridge-street Association most horribly; but adverting to another engine of prosecution, he had sometimes thought it was the lesser devil of the two. The Bridge-street Association, offensive as it was, had been compelled to go before a grand jury, when it wanted to indict persons. It had been a very impertinent and unpardonable body, sending spies into men's houses, and inundating the whole country with filth and scandal, with the pretence of putting that scandal down; but, with all the mischievous qualities and propensities of the Bridge-street Association, it had never possessed the power of proceeding ex-officio.
And now for the charge, that the Catholic Association prejudged cases; which, from the nature of the spirit which it assumed to be in action, called for some reply. The Catholic Association had prejudged nothing: it desired to prejudge nothing. It existed in a country, the population of which was impoverished, and in which the lower classes, for the profession of those religious tenets which itself maintained, were exposed every hour to abuse and to persecution. The Catholic Association sought only to obtain justice for their poorer fellow-subjects, who had not the power of obtaining it themselves. They were not likely to expend the funds intrusted to them needlessly or fruitlessly. What interest could they have in doing so? The course adopted by the Association was this—they received a complaint; heard the evidence as to it; referred it to a committee; that committee took legal opinion on the question; and, according to the result of that opinion, proceedings were, or were not, instituted. Now, what was there in all this, or any of it, like prejudging? To examine, certainly, was necessary; or how could they decide if assistance should be given? Could an Association like this be called an association which prejudged matters, which were afterwards to be decided at law? He should rather have called it a committee of justice, which only collected facts, for the purpose of laying them before the proper tribunal for decision. The Association conceived, and not without reason, that there were individuals subjected to various acts of oppression; 453 and they endeavoured to procure the evidence which bore upon such acts, and to lay them before a jury for trial. Was this prejudging? Was it not the fairest and most open course, which could be pursued?
He thought the Association were dealt with unjustly in the arguments on the other side. The right hon. Secretary, and the learned Attorney-general for Ireland, took into view just so much of the proceedings of the Association as suited their purpose, and no more. He did not know how the right hon. gentlemen would reconcile their different statements among themselves; but, it was certain, that, according to that of the right hon. Secretary, he had put himself completely out of court. In the observations which had been made on this question on the other side, he conceived that only a small portion of its merits were taken into consideration. For his own part, no words could convey his sense of its importance to the country. It concerned its vital interests; and when he used the words "vital interests," he did so without any disposition to exaggeration. It was a contracted view of this question to call it an Irish question. He called it an English question, the most important of any which had been brought under the consideration of government since the Revolution. He would not anticipate what might be the effects of the measure on the Catholics of England or Ireland. He could not say whether the predictions of several gentlemen on the other side would be fulfilled. He did not feel himself bound to answer for all the consequences of the measures introduced by his majesty's ministers; but, as the learned Attorney-general for Ireland had put a question to him on a former evening, when he (sir F. Burdett) was paying that attention to his remarks which was due to every member addressing the House, but which was particularly so to the learned gentleman's commanding eloquence, he was disposed to give him his opinion on the subject. The learned Attorney-general had asked, whether the hon. member for Westminster thought that if the present measure passed the House, the Catholics would submit?—whether they would not enter into some unseemly contest with the government on this point? He (sir F. Burdett) did not feel disposed to take upon himself to answer for what six millions of people might do, acting 454 under the feelings which this bill was so well calculated to produce. But, looking at all the former acts of the Association—looking at its general conduct, founded as it was, in reason and justice—looking at the progress which it had made—at the confidence which it inspired—and at the causes which produced that confidence, he was, when the question was put to him, disposed to believe, without answering for what all the Catholics might do, that the Association would submit, and that there would be no opposition to this measure when passed into a law. This would have been his answer had he had an opportunity of giving it at the time the question was put; but, since then, and from the protraction of the debate, he was enabled to give a more decisive answer. He came down to the House this evening armed with the answer of the Catholic Association to this question. He would say from them, that they would submit implicitly to the measure when it passed—that they would enter into no unseemly contest respecting it—that they would give no opposition to the act of the legislature; but in declaring this, they expressed an humble hope, that they might be heard at the bar of the House before it was passed into a law. He felt it was due to the Catholics to make this statement, and he was convinced that a sense of justice to them on, the part of the House would not refuse their prayer [hear, hear]. The House would remember what had been stated on a former evening by the right hon. and learned Attorney—general for Ireland, about the difficulty of forming an administration favourable to the Catholic question. "It was impossible," said the learned gentleman, "to form an administration wholly agreed upon that subject;" and this was followed up by the statement of the chancellor of the Exchequer, that it was impossible to form a government, which meant a cabinet, without such division of opinion. Then, the House had it admitted by two great authorities, that no administration could be got together, without including those who were favourable, as well as those who were opposed to the claims of the Catholics. But, what an opportunity was here offered to the friends of the Catholics! might they not have adopted a practice well understood in committees up stairs, where, when a difference arose, a party seceded, and thus knocked the brains out of the 455 committee, and it could stand no longer? If an administration could not be found, without admitting a portion of liberal feeling, was it not unfortunate that they who possessed that feeling should have succumbed to the other—that the enlightened part should have submitted to the dark, and allowed the darkness to overspread the land? He lamented this the more, as the parties who were thus joined without being united, differed not only in political, but in moral feeling, on questions of vital importance to the country. He lamented that this unnatural junction should have caused the government to stand still, as it were, on a question where the interests of millions were concerned. The feeling which could keep men together in such an administration, must be, no doubt, one of pure patriotism—an ardent devotion to the interests of their country. The two right hon. gentlemen opposite had devoted themselves for the public good. Their sacrifice was greater than that of the Decii of old; for there, only one consul immolated himself, but here there were two [cheers]. A line, it had been said, was drawn in the cabinet on this important question. It was, as was observed by the right hon. Secretary, a serpentine line, drawn by the master hand in that body. With painters, that serpentine line might be the line of beauty; but with moralists, the direct line was the line of integrity [hear, hear]. The differences in the administration upon the Catholic and other important questions were extraordinary, when viewed as emanating from men joined in the same government. What one did, his colleague was anxious to undo. They acted without any settled rule or order, and the only thing for which they could claim distinction, was their disunion on those questions in which, of all others, they should be united. Nothing that he had seen or read could be compared with this system, or want of system, except that which the greatest of our poets gave as a description of chaos———"where eldest NightAnd Chaos, ancestors of Nature, holdEternal anarchy amidst the noiseOf endless wars, and by confusion stand.For hot, cold, moist, and dry, four champions fierce,Strive here for mastery, and to battle bringTheir embryo atoms; they around the flagOf each his faction, in their several clansSwarm populous.To whom these most adhere456He rules a moment; Chaos umpire sits,And by decision more embroils the frayBy which he reigns; next him, high arbiter,Chance governs all" [loud cheering].Would it not appear as if the cabinet had sat for the picture which Milton here drew, or that he had given the recipe for forming the present discordant one? [Cheers, and laughter]. It would appear as if nothing could put an end to this disorder until the Almighty should please to draw order out of chaos. But, he would ask, blessed as we were with this united and disunited cabinet, was it not something extraordinary—if any thing, indeed, could be extraordinary, from such a quarter; but—was it not in itself something extraordinary, that Ireland, of which Swift had said, that what would hold good of all other countries would not hold good of that—that Ireland being in a state of unexampled prosperity—in a state of national happiness which she had never before enjoyed—blessed, beyond precedent, with peace and prosperity, should now be subjected to a severe coercive law? Was it not an anomaly in the history of that country, that at a period of tranquillity, when Astræa, which had so long deserved her shores, was again come back, she should be visited with a law which supposed in her great population a disposition to revolt? The speeches of hon. gentlemen on the other side—the Speech from the throne—had exulted in the growing prosperity and unexampled tranquillity of Ireland; and yet upon that very part of the king's Speech was now grounded the necessity of a severe coercive measure. It had been stated by the chancellor of the Exchequer, and by several members before him, as a sort of justification of the proposed law, that no man had risen to defend the Catholic Association. He would reply that no man defended that which no man had attacked. After what had been said upon it by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, and after his remarks had been so completely shattered by the speech of the hon. and learned member for Calne (Mr. Abercromby), could any man have thought it necessary to say a word in addition on that subject? Did the oldest member in that House ever remember such a complete shattering of any statement as that of the right hon. Secretary had received? But, if any thing were wanted to complete the discomfiture of the right hon. Secretary's arguments, it was supplied by the speech 457 of the right hon. member opposite (Mr. V. Fitzgerald). What ground was now left for him to proceed upon? He had complained of the tampering with the administration of justice. How was this complaint borne out by the fact? It was most distinctly proved, that the proceedings of the Association, in every prosecution they had instituted, were conducted with great good temper and moderation. This was admitted by the judges appointed to try the cases; and the agents of the Association were on many occasions complimented on the subject. But, did the House expect that the Catholics could quietly continue under the load of calumnies which had been so unsparingly heaped upon them by the Orangemen? Were they to make no effort to prove to the country that they had been most unjustly assailed? Suppose the Orangemen were allowed to proceed without any check, would it not be believed that the charges made against the Catholics were well founded? So much calumny had been heaped upon the Catholics—so great was the prejudice excited against them—that any thing which attacked their character would be received by certain parties without hesitation. If a man were to state that his pocket was picked in walking through St. Giles's, no person would doubt him, because a belief existed that such a circumstance was not unlikely to happen; but the statement might nevertheless be wholly unfounded. It was the misfortune of the Catholics of Ireland, that any thing which was stated to their prejudice received implicit belief; because calumny had represented them as capable of the worst actions. Thus situated it was natural that the Catholics should endeavour to repel the calumny, by bringing the cases where it was thrown out fully before the public. This course they adopted, and by the prosecutions which they instituted before the tribunals of justice, they proved the fallacy of the charges which had been made against them. What would have been thought if all the letters which had been published with the signature of a gentleman named Harcourt Lees had been attributed to the whole body of Orangemen? Would not such statements call forth some explanation from those who were attacked in them?
With respect to the general question of the Catholic claims, he congratulated the liberal portion of the country on the progress it had made, and was daily 458 making. He had heard the sentiments of most of the hon. members who had delivered their opinions on this subject, and he could not refrain from expressing his surprise, that any friend of the general question should support the motion before the House. The right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and the learned Attorney-general for Ireland, had both as friends to the Catholics, expressed their anxiety to get rid of the Association as an incubus upon the Catholic cause. He would ask the right hon. gentleman, where he could have dwelt, to be ignorant of the sentiments of the Irish people in that respect? Was it possible that Glocester-lodge was so secluded from the world as to be impervious to what was passing in it on so important a question? Had he dwelt in such Cimmerian darkness, as not to see that which was visible to all other persons in the country? If he had, let his darkness be lightened by his right hon. and learned friend the Attorney-general for Ireland, who had stated the fact, that the Association owed its origin to the confidence of the Irish people. Was it not strange that such a difference should exist between two members of the same cabinet on a fact so notorious? He would wish to impress upon the House that this was not an Irish question. It was an English one. It applied as much to meetings in Yorkshire as to those in Dublin. Its influence would be felt in one part of the empire as well as in the other. The object was, to put down certain Associations; but the Catholic Association was particularly aimed at. Why condemn this Association as illegal? Was it so in itself, or was it so in its acts? An Association might be legal, and its acts illegal. A legal assembly might be guilty of illegal acts. Now, on which of those grounds was this society objectionable? The Attorney-general for Ireland had never attempted to disturb it on the ground of its illegality, but he had tried it by the acts of one of its members; and a jury of the country had declared, by their verdict, that there was no ground for the charge. On what ground, then, was it attempted to be put down? On the ground of its illegal tendency—on the ground that it might have an injurious effect hereafter? This was nonsense. It was a childish tampering with the liberty of the subject, which no liberal policy should ever countenance. The act, it was said, would be only temporary. That might or might 459 not be the case; and if the Catholics were not guided by a more sound judgment than that which directed the cabinet of England, a temporary act would not be sufficient, upon the principles which the proposed bill avowed. But, from his knowledge of the Catholics of Ireland, he had no fear on this point. The zeal and earnestness with which the leaders of the body had endeavoured to preserve the peace of the country were notorious; and that they had been successful could not with justice be denied. The Attorney-general for Ireland had borne testimony to the exemplary conduct of the Catholic priesthood, and to their active and useful exertions in maintaining the tranquillity of Ireland. That statement was, certainly, not in accordance with the declaration of the hon. member for Derry (Mr. Dawson), of another hon. member (Mr. Brownlow), whom he must consider as the representatives of the Orange party; but he would rather rely upon the statement of the Attorney-general who, from his situation, must best know the acts of all parties in that country, and he had given public testimony to the very valuable services of the Catholic priests, in preserving the peace of Ireland. With respect to the Attorney-general himself he would say, that if he ever could have had a doubt—which he never had—of his sincerity in advocating the claims of his Catholic countrymen, they would have been removed by his manly conduct the other night. That, would have left him convinced, that the Catholics of Ireland had not among their supporters a more zealous able and sincere friend [hear, hear].
It was well observed by the hon. member for Galway, who so manfully opposed the present measure, and who, absit invidia, had taken a more-statesman-like view of it than any member of his majesty's cabinet, that it would have the effect of irritating the feelings of his very sensitive countrymen. But, if the views taken by the hon. member for Galway were thus correct and laudable, those taken by his majesty's ministers were of a character quite the reverse. The language which they had used in stating those views, was any thing but the language of wise and able statesmen. They said, forsooth, that they would not allow themselves to be bullied into granting the Catholic claims. To be bullied into doing an act of justice! Such language was as contemptible as the 460 feeling which dictated it. Men must wonder how so paltry, so miserable and, so absurd a feeling could enter into the mind of a man of such eminent acquirements as the hon. and learned Attorney-general for Ireland; and still more must they wonder how, upon such a feeling, he could think of being a party to introduce into parliament a measure, which, from the excitation it was certain to produce among the Catholic population of Ireland, might be attended with consequences which he would not mention, and on which he dared not to reflect—which would be more prejudicial to the safety, honour, and welfare of the empire, even than the loss of the American colonies [hear, hear!]. That disastrous event, which had plucked the brightest jewel out of the Crown of England, had cast an ineffaceable stain on its hitherto unspotted reputation, and had lopped off a limb from the body politic, which he should ever consider of inestimable value to it, in spite of all the metaphysical efforts of political economists to reconcile the nation to its loss by representing it as mean and worthless. Deeply did he lament the separation of the north American colonies from the mother country; but, evil as that separation was—evil as was the long and bloody contest into which the country was unnecessarily plunged by the last war—evil as were the consequences which arose at the close of that war from the unwise policy of ministers, who tamely abandoned all the advantages they had obtained—evil as all the events he had mentioned were to the empire, still they would be as dust in the balance, when compared with the evil which would arise from producing a war of rebellion in Ireland [cheers]. He recollected, and he would recall to the recollection of gentlemen who still took some delight in the studies of their early life, an anecdote very apposite to this point, and indicating in very strong colours the difference which existed between the policy of a wise and powerful and magnanimous nation, and that, of such feeble and temporizing statesmen as those with whom the right hon. and learned gentleman was associated: he alluded to an event which occurred at an early period of Roman history. The Romans having conquered the Privernates, imposed upon them the colonial yoke, which the Privernates at a subsequent period endeavoured to shake off by war. They were, 461 however, speedily subdued by the Roman arms; and one of their delegates having been brought into the Roman senate according to the custom of that people, was asked what punishment he thought ought to be inflicted upon those who had rebelled so audaciously as his countrymen had done? His reply was worthy of the character of a man who sought to obtain freedom: he said, "We deserve to suffer such punishment as those ought to suffer, whose only crime has been a wish to secure to themselves the privileges of freemen." The Roman senate were of opinion that such a crime deserved no punishment; it being unnatural to suppose, that any set of men would remain longer in a condition of inferiority to their fellow-citizens in point of municipal rights, than they were compelled by sheer necessity. They came, therefore, to this determination —"Eos demum, qui nihil præterquam de libertate cogitent, dignos esse qui Romani fiant." The Privernates, in consequence, obtained all the rights and liberties of the state, and were enrolled in the number of Roman citizens. Would to God that the example of Rome might have some weight in the present times! [great cheers.] Would to God that the example of a great nation, which, in spite of the degradation into which it had fallen, had supplied to mankind the brightest lessons of patriotic wisdom and virtue, and which still possessed a name that could not be pronounced without awe and reverence, might have its effect both in deterring us from measures which must lead, like those they first used towards the Privernates, to insurrection and rebellion, and in teaching us, if insurrection and rebellion should arise, the most efficient means of extinguishing it for ever [cheers]. We were not, however, reduced to such a lamentable extremity at present; but that was not owing to the wisdom of our statesmen, but to the temper and moderation of the Catholic Association. The House might legislate in perfect safety. He had no occasion, therefore, to appeal to their apprehensions—for they had been relieved from all apprehensions by the declaration of the Association, that if this bill became law, they would quietly submit to its provisions—but he appealed, on that account, with double force to their sense of justice, to their feelings as men, to their patriotism as statesmen, and to their attachment to the general interests of the 462 empire at large; and he conjured them, by all those qualities, to give a dispassionate examination to the claims of the Catholics, whenever they should be regularly brought under their notice and consideration.
There was also another sentiment in which he agreed with the hon. member for Galway. The hon. member had stated, that though he agreed with the Catholic Association in many points, he had attempted to dissuade it from intrusting its petition into his (sir F. Burdett's) hands. The hon. member had frankly confessed his reason for so doing; and in that also he concurred. He should, indeed, be sorry if he could not persuade the Catholics, when they brought their petition to him, to place it in the hands of the right hon. and learned gentleman opposite, who was more worthy than any other member he knew to succeed to the management of that great cause, which had been formerly intrusted to a man whose memory was still fresh in their recollection, and whose name was endeared to every friend of liberty and humanity, not merely in Ireland, but all over the world [cheers]. The right hon. and learned Attorney-general for Ireland was the natural successor of the immortal Grattan: he had taken up the cause which had been consigned to him by the expiring breath of the venerable patriot; and he trusted that he would still render it justice, by undertaking that task from which he (sir F. Burdett) shrunk, for the reasons he had just declared. He should do every thing in his power to persuade the Catholics of Ireland to replace their confidence in the right hon. and learned gentleman: he should express to them his firm conviction that they would aid their cause more by placing their petition in the hands of the right hon. and learned gentleman, than by leaving it in his: he should tell them, that they knew the right hon. and learned gentleman's ability, and that he believed in his sincerity: he should inform them, that, though he declined to present their petition, he should be happy to assist the mighty efforts of the right hon. and learned gentleman in giving it effect; and he should conclude by expressing his hopes to them, that by the gigantic assistance of the right hon. and learned gentleman, they would soon behold the anxious wishes of so many years brought to a happy and a glorious consummation [cheers]. The right hon. 463 and learned gentleman had, in the course of his speech, insinuated, that if he (sir F. Burdett) now came forward to press the concession of the Catholic claims, he would be acting inconsistently with his former declarations in that House. Without caring whether he was guilty of inconsistency or not, he would assure the right hon. and learned gentleman, that whenever he brought that great question forward, no efforts of his should be wanting to render it successful. He hoped that it was now making great advances in this country, and he was sure that it had made very great advances since the period to which the right hon. and learned gentleman had alluded. But, let that be as it might, it was not for him to flinch from the performance of his duty. The cause was good; the grounds on which it rested were impregnable; and, come what come might, he would be found among its supporters, and would exclaim to the last, with the Roman poet—"hic murus aheneus esto" [loud cheers].
Mr. Secretary Canning
rose and said:*—
Sir; It is not unnatural that in a debate protracted to so unusual a length, some confusion should have been created by the variety of topics introduced into it. Such a confusion would not have been unnatural, even if it had not been in any degree designed. But it is still less to be wondered at when, in addition to the length of the debate and to the multitude of speakers, we take into account the pertinacious determination which has been manifested, to mix with the question before the House, other questions of a totally different nature. That confusion, it shall be my first endeavour to disentangle.
Sir, the immediate question before the House is as to the mode in which we shall deal with certain Associations in Ireland, the existence and character of which are described to us in the king's Speech; and with respect to which we have pledged ourselves in our Address, in answer to that Speech,—not indeed to adopt any particular measure of remedy, but to consider what remedy may be most effectually applied to the evil.
With this practical question has been mixed, I will not say wantonly and absurdly, but I do say illogically, and as no necessary part of the discussion, the whole* From the original edition printed for J. Murray, Albemarle Street.464 of what is commonly called the Catholic Question. And to these two questions have been added, as well on former evenings as on the present, disquisitions upon the general conduct of the present administration in relation to the Catholic Question; and appeals personal to myself.
On this last point I feel a great unwillingness to obtrude any observations upon the House:—but situated as I am, Sir, the course which the discussion has taken leaves me no alternative. I must, before I sit down, request some few moments of your indulgence upon this point: promising that I shall as gladly shorten what I have to say upon it, as I reluctantly enter upon the discussion of it. This point, however, as the least important, I shall put off, till I have disposed of those which are of more legitimate interest.
Sir, I shall divide the observations which it is my duty to submit to the House, into four parts:—the first, the immediate subject of debate, the unconstitutional Associations in Ireland;—the second, the Catholic Question;—the third, the conduct of government,—and the fourth, my own personal conduct, in relation to that much agitated question.
The king's Speech asserts the existence in Ireland of Associations whose proceedings are inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution; and are calculated to propagate alarm, and to exasperate animosities throughout that part of the united kingdom; and to retard thereby the progress of national improvement.
The fact of the existence of such Associations I do not recollect that any man in the course of this debate has ventured to gainsay. The question, therefore, which the House has to decide is properly this; Whether, having received from the throne a description of the evil attending the existence of such Associations, and having, in reply to that communication, pledged ourselves to consider of the means of remedying it, we shall now proceed,—I will not say to adopt (for that would be matter of subsequent deliberation), but—to take into consideration the means which the responsible advisers of the Crown have proposed to the House for that purpose;—or whether we shall turn round to the throne and say—"We have on deliberation completely satisfied ourselves that his majesty has been deceived by false information;—that the description applied in his majesty's Speech to the Associations in Ireland is 465 altogether incorrect;—that true it is that such Associations do exist,—but untrue that their proceedings are inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution;—that true it is that alarms have been excited, and animosities exasperated in Ireland, but untrue that the acts of these Associations have tended to that excitement and exasperation:—that true it is that the flow of British capital into Ireland must be checked by any thing which gives room to apprehend danger to the peace of that country; but that the conduct of one at least, of the Associations in question, so far from having contributed to that check, has had a manifest tendency to create general confidence, and thereby to promote the growth of national prosperity:—that it is our duty, therefore, not only to leave the alleged evil without remedy,—but to confirm and strengthen that particular Association, in the exercise of all the functions and prerogatives which it has assumed." This is the plain question which the House has to decide.
And is it possible, Sir, that any man, looking at the Catholic Association, (which I at present refer to by that name only to discriminate it from others, and not as intending in this part of my argument, to imply that its Catholic character in any way enhances its evil or its danger),—is it possible that any man,—looking at an Association of this nature, at the means, the power, the preponderance of which that Association is acknowledged— nay is vaunted—to be in possession;—at the authority which it has arrogated, and at the acts which it has done,—can seriously think of giving stability and permanence to its existence?—Self-elected,— self-constructed—self assembled—self-adjourned,—acknowledging no superior,—tolerating no equal,—interfering in all stages with the administration of justice, —denouncing publicly before trial individuals against whom it institutes prosecutions,—and rejudging and condemning those whom the law has acquitted,—menacing the free press with punishment, and openly declaring its intention to corrupt that part of it which it cannot intimidate;—and lastly, for these and other purposes, levying contributions on the people of Ireland;—is this, Sir, an Association which, from its mere form and attributes (without any reference whatever to religious persuasion), the House of Commons can be prepared to establish by a vote, declaring it to be not incon- 466 sistent with the spirit of the constitution?
In the next place, are we prepared to say that these and other acts of the Catholic Association have no tendency to excite and inflame animosities?—I affirm without hesitation, that they have directly that tendency: and in support of this affirmation I must beg leave to recur, however solemnly warned against the recurrence, to an expression which I was the first to bring to the notice of the House, but which' has been since the subject of repeated animadversion; I mean the adjuration "by the hate you bear to Orangemen," which was used by the Association in their address to the Catholics of Ireland.
Various and not unamusing have been the attempts of gentlemen who take the part of the Association, to get rid of this most unlucky phrase, or at least to dilute and attenuate its obvious and undeniable meaning. It is said to be unfair to select one insulated expression as indicating the general spirit of the proceedings of any public body. Granted;—if the expression had escaped in the heat of debate, if it had been struck out by the collision of argument, if it had been thrown forth in haste, and had been upon reflection recalled: but if the words are found in a document which was prepared with care and considered with deliberation,—if it is notorious that they were pointed out as objectionable when they were first proposed by the framers of the address, but were nevertheless upon argument retained,—surely we are not only justified in receiving them as an indication at least of the animus of those who used them; but we should be rejecting the best evidence of that animus, if we passed over so well weighed a manifestation of it.
Were not this felt by honourable gentlemen on the other side to be true, we should not have seen them so anxious to put forced and fanciful constructions on a phrase which is as plain in its meaning as any which the hand of man ever wrote or' the eye of man ever saw.—The first defence of this phrase was by an honourable member from Ireland, who told us that the words do not convey the same meaning in the Irish language, which we in England naturally attach to them, I do not pretend to be conversant with the Irish language, and must therefore leave that apology to stand, for what it may be worth, on the honourable gentleman's erudition and authority. I will not follow 467 every other gentleman who has strained his faculties to explain away this unfortunate expression; but will come at once to my hon. and learned friend the member for Knaresborough (sir J. Mackintosh), to whom the palm in this contest of ingenuity must be conceded by all his competitors. My hon. and learned friend has expended abundant research and subtilty upon this enquiry, and having resolved the phrase into its elements in the crucible of his philosophical mind, has produced it to us purified and refined to a degree that must command the admiration of all who take delight in metaphysical alchemy. My hon. and learned friend began by telling us, that, after all, hatred is no bad thing in itself. "I hate a Tory," says my hon. friend—"and another man hates a cat; but it does not follow that he would hunt down the cat, or I the Tory." Nay, so far from it,—hatred, if it be properly managed, is, according to my hon. friend's theory, no bad preface to a rational esteem and affection. It prepares its votaries for a reconciliation of differences,—for lying down with their most inveterate enemies, like the leopard and the kid in the vision of the prophet.
This dogma is a little startling, but it is not altogether without precedent. It is borrowed from a character in a play which is, I dare say, as great a favourite with my learned friend as it is with me,—I mean the comedy of "The Rivals;"—in which Mrs. Malaprop giving a lecture on the subject of marriage to her niece, (who is unreasonable enough to talk of liking is a necessary preliminary to such a union), says, "What have you to do with your likings and your preferences, child? depend upon it, it is safest to begin with a little aversion. I am sure I hated your poor dear uncle like a blackamoor, before we were married; and yet you know, my dear, what a good wife I made him." Such is my learned friend's argument to a hair.
But finding that this doctrine did not appear to go down with the House so glibly as he had expected, my hon. and learned friend presently changed his tack; and put forward a theory, which whether for novelty or for beauty, I pronounce to be incomparable; and, in short, as wanting nothing to recommend it but a slight foundation in truth. True philosophy, says my hon. and learned friend, will always contrive to lead men to virtue by the instrumentality of their conflicting 468 vices. The virtues, where more than one exist, may live harmoniously together: but the vices bear mortal antipathy to one another, and therefore furnish to the moral engineer the power by which he can make each keep the other under controul. Admirable!—but upon this doctrine, the poor man who has but one single vice must be in a very bad way. No fulcrum, no moral power for effecting his cure. Whereas his more fortunate neighbour, who has two or more vices in his composition, is in a fair way of becoming a very virtuous member of society. I wonder how my hon. and learned friend would like to have this doctrine introduced into his domestic establishment. For instance, suppose that I discharge a servant because he is addicted to liquor, I could not venture to recommend him to my hon. and learned friend; it might be the poor man's only fault, and therefore clearly incorrigible: but if I had the good fortune to find out that he was also addicted to stealing, might I not, with a safe conscience send him to my hon. and learned friend with a very strong recommendation, saying,—I send you a man whom I know to be a drunkard: but, I am happy to assure you he is also a thief: you cannot do better than employ him; you will make his drunkenness counteract his thievery, and no doubt you will bring him out of the conflict a very moral personage. My hon. and learned friend, however, not content with laying down these new rules for reformation, thought it right to exemplify them in his own person, and, like Pope's Longinus, to be "himself the great sublime he drew." My hon. and learned friend tells us, that Dr. Johnson was what he (Dr. Johnson himself) called "a good hater;" and that among the qualities which he hated most, were two which my hon. and learned friend unites in his own person,—that of Whig, and that of Scotchman. "So that," says my hon. and learned friend, "if Dr. Johnson were alive, and were to meet me at the club of which he was a founder, and of which I am now an unworthy member, he would probably break up the meeting rather than sit it out in such society."—No, Sir, not so. My hon. and learned friend forgets his own theory. If he had been only a Whig, or only a Scotchman, Dr. Johnson might have treated him as he apprehends: but being both, the great moralist would have said to my hon. and learned friend, "Sir, you are too much of a Whig to be a good 469 Scotchman, and, Sir, you are too much of a Scotchman to be a good Whig." It is no doubt from the collision of these two vices in my hon. and learned friend's person, that he has become what I and all who have the happiness of meeting him at the club, find him, an entirely faultless character.
For my own part, however, I must say that I cannot see any hope of obtaining the great moral victory which my hon. and learned friend has anticipated; of winning men to the practice of virtue by adjurations addressed to their peculiar vices. I believe, after all these ratiocinations and refinements, we must comeback to the plain truth, which is felt even while it is denied,—that the phrase "by the hate you bear to Orangemen" is an indefensible phrase; that it is at least,—what alone I am contending that it is,—incontestable evidence of the allegation that the Catholic Association does excite animosities in Ireland. It is an expression calculated to offend, provoke, and exasperate the Orangemen; however palatable to those whose hatred of Orangemen it predicates, and, to say the least, does not disapprove.
The next allegation which the House has to consider is, whether an association such as has been described, is conducive to the prosperity of Ireland, or whether it must not, in fact, tend to impede in that country the progress of national improvement. Is it possible to entertain two opinions on this subject? The hon. baronet, indeed, who last addressed the House, says, that there is an inconsistency between that part of the king's Speech which represents Ireland as unusually prosperous and flourishing, and this call on parliament for a law to put down dangerous and unconstitutional associations. Sir, I see no inconsistency whatever between these two passages. Ireland is sharing in the general prosperity. The indications of that prosperity and the extension of it to Ireland, are known to every person throughout the country: but does that circumstance disprove the malignity of an evil which retards the increase of that prosperity, by rendering its continuance doubtful?—which puts to hazard present tranquillity, and disheartens confidence for the future?—which, by setting neighbour against neighbour, and arousing the prejudices of one class of inhabitants against those of the other, diverts the minds of both from profitable occupations, and discourages advancement in all the arts of peace,—in 470 agriculture, in manufactures, in commerce'—in every thing which civilizes and dignifies social life? The tide of English wealth has been lately setting in strongly towards Ireland. The alarm occasioned by this association acts at present as an obstacle to turn that tide, and to frighten from the Irish shores the industry, enter-prize, and capital of England. Is it not, then, Sir, I ask, the duty of parliament to endeavour to remove this obstacle—to restore things to the course which nature and opportunity were opening; and to encourage and improve in Ireland the capacity to receive that full measure of prosperity, which will raise her, by no slow degrees, to her proper rank in the scale of nations?
With respect, then, to the first question which I proposed for the consideration of the House, namely whether parliament ought to put down an association, arrogating to itself unconstitutional powers, tending to excite animosity, and to check the progress of national improvement, I think, Sir, the answer is easy and obvious; without saying one word of the Catholic religion, or of the religious composition of the association, whose other characteristics I have endeavoured to describe. It is not on account of its religious, but on account of its political character, that I view with dread and distrust the proceedings of this association, and that I call upon the House to entertain the present measure for the purpose of putting it down.
In avoiding to speak, as yet, of the religious character of the association, I have avoided also to advert to its character, whether imputed or assumed, of a representative of the Irish people. I am clearly and decidedly of opinion, that without taking either of those qualities into account, there is ground enough to apprehend so much mischief from the mere existence of this association, as will justify the House in saying, that it shall exist no longer.
When I speak of the representative character of the Catholic Association, I do not mean to assert that it has ever affirmed itself to be the representative of the people of Ireland. No such thing; it is too wise in its generation to hazard so impolitic a declaration. If it had done so, it would have been unnecessary to argue the present question; for no new act of parliament would, in that case, have been necessary to enable the law to deal with it. 471 But Sir, although the Catholic Association has not openly assumed this representative character, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact, that such a character has been attributed to it by others: and if notoriety be, as undoubtedly it is, aground upon which legislation may be founded, the repeated statements which have been made in this House during the present debate, that this Association is, and is held to be, the virtual representative of the people of Ireland, call upon the House to consider whether such an Association can co-exist with the House of Commons. Can there, I ask, co-exist in this kingdom, without imminent hazard to its peace, an assembly constituted as the House of Commons is, and another assembly invested with a representative character, as complete as that of the House of Commons itself, though not conferred by the same process? Does not the very proposition that such is the character, and such the attributes of the Catholic Association, even if not actually true at the present time, warn us at least what the Association, if unchecked, may become? And if the Catholic Association, with the full strength and maturity of the representative character, could not (as assuredly it could not) co-exist with the House of Commons; shall we not check the Association in time, before it has acquired that strength and maturity?
In debating this question, it has been my intention to abstain, and I trust that I have abstained, from uttering any harsh language against the Catholic Association. I entertain no disposition to impute to it motives that are intentionally mischievous. And, Sir, if I had entertained any such disposition, the information which the hon. baronet has this evening given to the House,—that the Association have resolved to submit implicitly to the law, if law this bill should become,—would have disinclined me from indulging that disposition. The hon. baronet's information, however, makes no difference in my judgment, as to the necessity of passing this bill. On the contrary, we ought to be the rather induced to pass it; since the passing of it will be a relief to the minds of the Catholics, as well as of the Protestants, by enabling the members of the Association to take, under the authority of parliament, that step which they might find it both difficult and distressing to take by any original resolution of their own.
Sir, for my own part, I should have 472 been contented here to conclude my address to the House; having stated to the House the objections which I feel to the continued existence of the Catholic Association, (objections wholly independent of its religious character,) and having cast aside, as unnecessary to my argument, all the topics of inflammation and exaggeration with which the debate has hitherto been overloaded. I should have been willing to go to the vote now, relying confidently on the conviction which the House must feel, that it has no choice but to pass the present measure, if it would maintain the authority of parliament unrivalled, and the peace of the kingdom undisturbed.
But, Sir, though I contend that the Catholic Association is quite distinct from the Catholic question, and though the Catholic question is not properly the subject of this debate; yet, as there is hardly a member who has not introduced some discussion of that question into his speech, I feel it incumbent upon me not to decline the opportunity of stating my sentiments upon it. I shall do so with the same openness and unreserve with which I have often, already, submitted them to this House and to the country.
It was attempted, Sir, in an earlier stage of this debate, to represent the Catholic Association as the organ of the Catholic body, for bringing their claims, by petition, under the notice of parliament; and it was asked, whether we could put that Association down, without extinguishing all communication between the Catholics and the House of Commons. Sir, I should have been prepared to combat this representation, if it had been persisted in; but after the information received from the hon. baronet, it is un- necessary, and would be ungenerous, to press that discussion.—
Sir F. Burdett
here rose to explain. He begged to state, that he had never said that his information came from the Catholic body. It came from a source which was also open to the right hon. gentleman,—the newspapers, in which the proceedings of the Catholic Association were reported. He begged to refer the right hon. gentleman to the language of their own petition, in which the petitioners expressly declared their intention to submit implicitly to the law, if the bill should pass into one; but in the mean time they expressed a hope that they might be heard by counsel against the bill. That, he be- 473 lieved, was the substance of what was stated in the newspapers containing the petition.
§ Mr. Canning.
—The hon. baronet has the advantage of me. I have not read any thing similar to what is now cited.
Sir F. Burdett
stated, that his information was derived from sources that were quite as open to the right hon. gentleman as to himself.
§ Mr. Canning
. I do not happen to have seen any newspaper statements at all, excepting those of the most general kind, upon the subject. The declaration which is now alluded to, I am to understand, then, to be conditional.
§ Mr. Brougham
, referring to the language of the petition, declared, that the petitioners affirmed most positively, that as soon as the bill had received the royal assent, and passed into a law, they would yield all obedience to it; but that in the meanwhile—
§ Mr. Canning
. It appears, then, that this profession of intended obedience is coupled with conditions. Now, to those conditions (without, for the present, proceeding in any manner to argue them) the House may or may not be prepared to assent.
§ Mr. Brougham
(reading from the petition itself) said, they proposed to render unconditional submission to the bill whenever it should have passed into a law; reserving to themselves, in the mean time, the right to adopt, with the permission of the House, the best and most legal method of representing their grievances, namely, of being heard by counsel at the bar against the bill.
§ Mr. Canning
. —The fact then, Sir, is clearly stated, that the Catholic Association means to submit to the law; and after this information, I repeat, I will not persevere in the course of argument, which, had the intentions of the petitioners been at all doubtful, I should have thought it necessary to pursue. I meant to shew to the House, that the very circumstance of the Catholic Association being, (as it was boasted to be) in possession of an entire mastery and controul over the Catholic body, afforded a cogent reason, not for refusing to allow this bill to be brought in, but on the contrary, for passing it without delay. This opinion, Sir, I formed on two grounds; the first embracing that general 474 view, upon which I have argued the necessity of bringing in this bill at all, namely, that it is not fit that there should exist, under any circumstances, a body holding itself forth, or described or recognized by others, as the depository of the confidence and the organ of the will of the whole Catholic population of Ireland; nor could any such body, however constituted, be tolerated in the exercise of such assumed functions; seating itself as it were, by the side of parliament, and intercepting the allegiance of the people. The second ground was, that the assertion and the belief that this society was as described, the depository of the confidence of the Catholics, and the organ of their will, could not but be in the highest degree prejudicial to the Catholic question: and that, therefore, for the interests of the Catholics themselves, an end ought to be put to the Catholic Association.
Such, Sir, is the course of argument which I should have felt it my duty to pursue, but for the information now communicated by the hon. baronet and vouched by the hon. and learned gentleman. That information appears to me to render such a course of argument superfluous. That the bill will pass through this House by a great majority I have not the slightest doubt: and since the assurance is now authentically given, that so soon as the bill shall have become a law, unqualified submission will be rendered to it, I am not desirous of enforcing any arguments, the effect of which is already anticipated, nor of pressing any which might tend to introduce unnecessary acrimony into this discussion.
I revert, therefore, Sir, to that second part of the discussion in which I was proceeding when the hon. baronet interrupted me, namely, to what relates to the Catholic question. I stated, without reserve, on the first night of the session, that my opinions and wishes upon that question remain altogether unaltered. But I do not think it the best proof of the sincerity with which wishes and opinions in favour of any particular cause are entertained, to shut one's eyes to any disadvantage (temporary and transient disadvantage I am willing to hope) under which that cause may labour. I certainly think that the Catholic question labours under such temporary disadvantage at this moment: and I think the very evil that we are discussing, one of the main sources of that disadvantage.
475 I am of opinion, that the existence and proceedings of the Catholic Association have greatly alienated the public mind of England from the Catholic cause. I declared that belief on the first night of the session. I have seen nothing to alter it. But I did not, and do not state this to be the only ground of what I believe to be the present feelings of this country.
If the Catholic question has within these few years retrograded in the favour of the people of England, as (expressing a most reluctant and painful conviction) I think it has, I know not how I can better explain what appears to me to be one principal cause of that retrogradation, than by referring to the speech of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Tierney) who concluded the debate on Friday evening. In that part of his speech in which the right hon. gentleman stated himself to be then, for the first time in his life, opening his lips in defence of the Catholic claims, which he had for so many years been contented to support with his silent vote, the right hon. gentleman,—with that good sense which always distinguishes him in debate, and by which he knows so well how to select and to urge those topics that are likely to have most effect, either with the House or with the country,—thought it necessary to preface his declaration, in favour of concession to the Catholics, with a personal profession of faith. He described himself as being not only from birth and education, but from inquiry and conviction, a staunch adherent to the church of England. For like reasons, no doubt, an hon. and learned civilian, (Dr. Lushington) who spoke last night, took occasion to make for himself the same profession of faith, in terms even more energetic than those employed by the right hon. gentleman. Sir, I take these declarations for proof that the gentlemen who make them believe (as I believe), that the establishment of the church of England is deeply and firmly rooted in the affections of the English people.
Now, Sir, the sentiments thus expressed by the right hon. gentleman, and by the learned civilian were, as most hon. gentlemen know, and as I, from my frequent communications on the subject of the Catholic cause with that great man, had opportunities of learning personally from him,—.these sentiments, I say, were the settled sentiments of the late Mr. Grattan. In every bill which Mr. Grattan ever presented to this House in favour of the Ca- 476 tholic claims, there was a studious setting forth in its preamble, of the principle that the establishment of the united Protestant church of England and Ireland was permanent and inviolable. And so far from meaning to prejudice that permanency and inviolability, Mr. Grattan always contended that the tendency of his proposed measures was to confirm and strengthen that Protestant church establishment.
What is the language of the resolutions on which the act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland was framed? I beg the House to allow me to recall it to their recollection. The fifth resolution runs as follows: "That it be the fifth article of the Union, that the Churches of England and Ireland, as now by law established, shall be united into one Protestant Episcopal Church, to be called "The United Church of England and Ireland;" and that the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the said United Church shall be, and shall remain in full force for ever, as the same now are by law established for the Church of England; and that the continuance and preservation of the said United Church, as the Established Church of England and Ireland, shall be deemed and taken to be an essential and fundamental part of the Union."
This, I say, is one of those resolutions on which the Union was founded. And it was in reference to the corresponding article of the Union, that every bill which Mr. Grattan introduced into parliament for the relief of the Roman Catholics was framed: I believe also, Sir, that in the bill introduced by my right hon. and learned friend (Mr. Plunkett) for a similar purpose, there was a clause in the preamble similar to that in Mr. Grartan's bills. The preamble in Mr. Grattan's bills was in substance this:—"Whereas the United Protestant Church of England and Ireland is established permanently and inviolably," and "whereas it would tend to promote the interests of the same, and to strengthen the free constitution of which the said United Church forms an essential part," to admit the Roman Catholic subjects of his majesty unto a full participation of civil privileges, &c.
From the care thus taken to repeat and enforce the provision made by the act of Union for the inviolability of the United Protestant Church establishment of England and Ireland, up to the latest period at which bills for the relief of Roman Catholics 477 have been introduced into this House; the belief of the people of England has been that this article of the Union would form a fundamental rule for any conciliatory arrangement. But within the last two year, propositions have been introduced into this House, and have been received here with more or less favour, which are directly contrary to the principles thus laid down, and directly and avowedly hostile to the inviolability of the established Protestant Church of Ireland. I speak with knowlege of the fact, when I say, that these propositions, and the manner in which they have been entertained, have revived apprehensions which were previously quieted, and have excited serious alarm among sincere well-wishers to the Catholic cause, as advocated and explained by Mr. Grattan. The resolutions to which I refer were moved on the 4th of March, 1823:—
1."That the property of the Church of Ireland, at present in the possession of the bishops, the deans and chapters of Ireland, is public properly, under the control and at the disposal of the legislature, for the support of religion, and for such other purposes as parliament in its wisdom may deem beneficial to the community; due attention being paid to the rights of every person now enjoying any part of the property."
2."That it is expedient to enquire whether the present Church establishment of Ireland be not more than commensurate to the services to be performed, both as regards the number of persons employed, and the incomes they receive; and if so, whether a reduction of the same should not take place, with due regard to all existing interests."
The first of these resolutions was negatived without a division: on the second, the numbers who affirmed it were 62, the noes 167. In the year 1824? the second of these resolutions, with a slight omission, was brought forward again; the division upon that occasion was, ayes 79, noes 153.
Now, Sir, I repeat it, I positively know that this evident and wide departure from the principle which Mr. Grattan always thought necessary to put forward as preliminary to any chance of a favourable reception for the Catholic question, has excited much suspicion and jealousy. I repeat, that it has disinclined from a favourable opinion of the question some even of those who have been most anxious and ardent in their desire that Mr. 478 Grattan's bill should pass: but more, many more of those who had just brought their minds to an abstinence from opposition to it. I beg the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Tierney) not to suppose that I apply any thing which I am now suggesting, personally to him. I do not know that he voted for these resolutions; I believe he never did. All that I mean by appealing to the right hon. gentleman's speech is to take advantage of his authority; and to shew that the right hon. gentleman and myself, and a greater man than either of us, Mr. Grattan, all agreed in holding one and the same estimate of the feelings of the people of England;—in believing that the people of England are unchangeably attached to the Church of England; and that they know the Protestant Church of England and of Ireland, to be, according to the articles of the Union, one, indivisible and inviolable.
Mr. Grattan considered it necessary to consult the feelings, or, if you will, to respect the prejudices of the English people in this respect, and to found his measure upon a careful observance of them. The resolutions to which I have referred, bespeak a disposition, and no inconsiderable disposition, to overlook the guides, and to break down the principle so respected by Mr. Grattan. Who is there, then, among those who are favorable to the Catholic question, and still more amongst those who think the carrying of it the one thing needful for the peace and strength of the United Kingdom, but would acknowledge it to be an inauspicious circumstance for the success of that question, that any doubt should go forth as to the disposition of those who bring it forward, to tread in Mr. Grattan's steps, and to proceed with all his tenderness and consideration towards the Protestant Church establishment? When the honourable gentlemen on the other side of the House shall bring forward any measure for the relief of the Catholics, I warn them, and I warn them in kindness,—that unless their bill shall manifest the same anxious regard for the inviolability and permanency of the Protestant Church of England and Ireland, as Mr. Grattan's bills, it will fail. It may be that some of those who think the carrying the Catholic question the one thing needful, may also think that it would have been better if the legislature had never been bound by an irrevocable pledge to preserve the inviolability of the Church of Ireland,— 479 that it would be better if parliament were to revoke that pledge. But, I warn the honourable gentlemen, that they must settle that matter—not with the opponents of their bill only, but—with many supporters of the Catholic question, and with the Protestant people of England; that before another bill for Catholic emancipation can be successfully carried through this House, the proposers of the resolutions which I have quoted must make up their minds to one of two alternatives,—either to renounce those resolutions, or to despair of the Catholic question. On this statement I am quite ready to go to issue; and I am content to be judged by the event.
Let it not be inferred that I am therefore unfriendly to the Catholic question. I peremptorily deny that inference. I am at all times ready to give the Catholic question my best support: but I plead guilty to the charge of being irreconcileably unfriendly to the spoliation of the Protestant Church of Ireland.
I trust, Sir, there is no inconsistency in maintaining the Protestant Church establishment, and in conceding at the same time civil and political rights to our Catholic fellow subjects. At all events, it is an inconsistency which I am content to share with the right hon. gentleman to whose speech I have referred. I agree with him in wishing that holders of the Roman Catholic faith may be admitted to the franchises and privileges of others of his majesty's subjects (not from any want of conviction of the absurdities of the Roman Catholic religion, nor yet from any lukewarmness in my affection for that purer reformed religion, in which I have had the good fortune to be bred): but if I think it possible, as I do, to maintain both religions in perfect harmony together; impossible, I am sure it is, to maintain at the same time a bill for carrying the Catholic question, and the resolutions proposed to this House in 1823 and 1824.
I think, Sir, I have justified my statement that there are reasons, independent of the Association, why the Catholic cause has retrograded during the last two or three years, in the minds of the people of England.
I do not, however, mean to say that this retrogradation of the question in the minds of the country is irretrievable. Nothing like it. It is in the power of this House effectually to tranquillize the fears 480 which I have represented as pervading the minds of the people of England, respecting the security of the Protestant Church establishment.
Sir, though nothing can be more injudicious than those arguments which tend to confound the Catholic Association with the Catholic population of Ireland; and, though I utterly deny that the Catholic Association and the people of Ireland are to be considered as one; yet I cannot be supposed to have meant to say that, so far as the Catholic question is concerned, there can be any other than one unanimous feeling throughout the Catholic population of Ireland.
Nor was this, as I believe, the true sense of a statement made on this side of the House (I am not quite sure on which night of the debate), and completely misunderstood (as it appears to me) by an hon. gentleman opposite. It was stated, that all that remained to be granted to the Irish Catholics affected the higher classes of society only,—that we had already granted all the concessions which could affect the mass of the people:—and it has been attempted to infer from this statement, that it was intended to argue that the granting of what remained must be, therefore, matter of indifference to the people. Now there is no argument that I should be more eager to combat (it is one which I have often combated), than that which assumes that the lower classes of society are not affected by what peculiarly regards the higher,—which supposes that there is no necessary sympathy between these classes, however numerous the links of the chain which connects them together. It is, indeed, true that what remains to be granted to Ireland, must now be granted chiefly to the higher classes; for it does happen, by what I cannot but consider to have been an unfortunate mistake in legislation, that almost every thing which parliament has hitherto conceded, has been granted to the lower orders of society. I did not however understand this statement to be put forward as an argument against further concession, but simply as a fact;—and as a fact condemnatory of past legislation, rather than prohibitory of legislation to come. What may yet remain to be granted to the Catholic peer, is deeply interesting to the Catholic peasant. Until all classes of Catholics shall be admitted to a participation in the privileges of their Protestant fellow sub- 481 jects (with some qualifications indeed, too much matter of detail to enter into now),—until they shall be admitted to the full extent which Mr. Grattan proposed, I do not expect—not that much good may not be done, (for past concessions have already done very great good, and many, many improvements have been introduced into the state of society in Ireland, with which the Catholic question has no concern),—but, I do not expect that the great work will be complete. The concessions which remain to be granted will be the crown and finish of the whole.
So much, Sir, for the Catholic question: and quite as much as, on an occasion in which it is not the proper subject of debate, it can be necessary to say upon it.
I come now to the third division of the matters of which I find myself compelled to treat. Not the hon. baronet alone, but many others who preceded him in this debate have imputed as a reproach to the present Administration, that we are divided in opinion on the Catholic question.—I ask the hon. gentlemen who have made this charge, to be so good as to tell me, when that administration existed (since the Union with Ireland), in which there prevailed a common sentiment respecting the Catholic question?—I challenge them to point out a single month for the last twenty-five years, when division of opinion on that question has not existed among the confidential servants of the Crown; and when the objection to sitting in a chequered cabinet has not been just as applicable as at the present moment. I defy the hon. baronet to disprove this assertion. There have, indeed, been periods, when this conflict of opinions had no practical operation; because it was superseded by a general understanding that all the members of the cabinet, what ever might be their personal opinions, concurred in resisting for the time, all consideration of the Catholic claims: but of a cabinet concurring in opinion to grant the Catholic claims, I repeat there is no example. Wherefore then is the present cabinet to be selected as an object of peculiar reprehension on this account?
When Mr. Pitt retired from office in 1801, on account of his inability to carry this question, the administration, under lord Sidmouth (then Mr. Addington) was formed,—formed it is needless to say, 482 on the basis of a determined resistance to it. Of that administration lord Castlereagh subsequently became a member: but the cabinet was still avowedly and systematically hostile to the discussion of the Catholic claims. No attempt was made during its existence to bring those claims into discussion.
To lord Sidmouth's administration succeeded, in 1804, that of Mr. Pitt. During Mr. Pitt's administration, individual differences of opinion upon this subject were kept in abeyance by one preponderating sentiment, in which there was a general agreement. There was, in the feelings of all the members of that cabinet, an insurmountable obstacle to the discussion of the Catholic claims: an obstacle, of which it is difficult to speak in proper parliamentary language, but which has been so often alluded to in debate, that it must be known to every man who hears me. It is now matter of history. I mean that scruple of the royal mind, which Mr. Pitt determined to respect; and which was pleaded, in no obscure terms, as one main ground of his resistance in 1805 to the motion then brought forward by Mr. Fox for the consideration of a Roman Catholic petition. Of the validity of that obstacle, and of the respect which it was justand right to pay to it, I will not enter into any argument. I aim not so much at shewing who was right, or who was wrong, at any particular moment, in the series of successive administrations, as at giving a faithful picture of their respective conduct. In this spirit I beg to be distinctly understood by the hon. gentlemen opposite, as not intending to use the vulgar reproach of—"You did the same,"—when I proceed, as next in course of history I must, to Mr. Fox's and lord Grenville's administration.
On the death of Mr. Pitt, in January 1806, Mr. Fox, jointly with lord Grenville, succeeded to the management of affairs. Mr. Fox certainly did not hold in the same respect as Mr. Pitt professedly had done, the scruples of the king's conscience: for Mr. Fox's motion in 1805 was made and maintained in direct (I do not mean to say whether proper or improper) defiance of those scruples. That motion was not eight months old, when Mr. Fox seated himself as minister in Mr. Pitt's place in the House of Commons.
Here, therefore, I desire the House to pause with me, while I put a question or 483 two to the hon. gentlemen opposite:—If the necessity for making the Catholic question a cabinet question is so very apparent,—how happened it not to strike Mr. Fox in that light, when he took office in 1806? It will not be said that Mr. Fox was so unimportant an element in any administration to be formed in this country, after the loss of Mr. Pitt, that he could not have dictated terms, which it is always taken for granted, and made matter of charge that I could have dictated if I pleased, in 1822. How then are we to account for it, that Mr. Fox in forming his cabinet, not eight months after he had brought forward his motion, (the first since the Union) for Catholic emancipation,—so tar from having endeavoured to bring together a cabinet harmonious and consenting on the Catholic question; should not even have been contented with the single dissent, which he possessed,—and could not perhaps get rid of,—in his lord chancellor, (lord Erskine) but should have gone out of his way to bring into the administration the two persons in public life, the most decidedly and notoriously opposed to that question? The first of these was lord Sidmouth, with whom neither Mr. Fox nor lord Grenville had ever had any political connexion, and to whom they could therefore have no political pledges; the other was sought for in a quarter in which I trust a member of a cabinet will never be sought for again, on the highest seat of justice,—the chief criminal judge of the kingdom. Let it not be said that lord Sidmouth's and lord Ellenborough's sentiments on the subject of the Catholic question were unknown by lord Ellenborough, I believe,—by lord Sidmouth, I am confident (for he has more than once declared it in his place in the House of Lords), a formal and solemn claim to freedom of action upon the Catholic question was distinctly stipulated,—before they would accept the offices that were tendered to them. It was, therefore, knowingly and advisedly, that these discordant materials were incorporated into that government;—a government (be it observed, too,) which did make the abolition of the Slave trade for the first time a cabinet question; and which had therefore the doctrine of cabinet questions full and clear before their eyes.
I do not wish to press this point harshly your invidiously; but it does require, I think, some courage,—some front—in 484 those who were connected with Mr. Fox's administration of 1806, to catechise any man, or any set of men, as to their motives for framing or belonging to an administration divided in opinion upon the Catholic question. I say, Mr. Fox's administration,—not as presuming to apportion power between the eminent individuals of whom that administration was composed, but—in order to mark particularly that period of the administration of 1806, during which Mr. Fox was alive. During Mr. Fox's life-time it is perfectly notorious that there was not a stir, not a whisper, towards the agitation of the Catholic question, or of any thing connected with it. In the interval between Mr. Fox's death, and the dissolution of lord Grenville's administration, an attempt to moot a part, and no unimportant part of the question, was made; and it is therefore that I address to the friends of Mr. Fox, not to those of lord Grenville, the interrogatories which I have taken the liberty to propose.
Sir, to lord Grenville's administration succeeded in 1807, that of the duke of Portland; which, being formed in a great measure out of the materials which had been broken up by the death of Mr. Pitt, naturally inherited his principles, and walked in his steps. The obstacle, which had opposed itself to the favorable consideration of the Catholic question in Mr. Pitt's time, continued unchanged. I think it not necessary to make any other defence for myself for having adopted Mr. Pitt's principles, than that they were Mr. Pitt's. I continued to abide by them so long as the same obstacle existed. I followed the course which he had pursued, and I followed it equally in office and out of office. Under the influence of his example I resisted the question in 1808, when I was a minister. I resisted it again in 1810, after I had resigned my office; when I had no tie to controul me; and when, my opinions being what they have been ever since and are now, I should naturally have taken a different course, if unrestrained by the motive which I have described.
I resigned my office in 1809; and shortly after, by the death of the duke of Portland, the government devolved into the hands of Mr. Perceval. Mr. Perceval's sentiments on the Catholic question are well known. His cabinet, however, contained members differing from him, and agreeing with me, upon that question; 485 but restrained, like me, from manifesting that difference of opinion, by the same obstacle which we alike respected.
Sir, I now come to the year 1812,—a critical æra in the history of the Catholic question: and one to which, as I must now advance in my narration by months instead of years, I entreat the particular attention of the House. In 1812, as in the preceding years of 1811, and 1810, I was out of office. In the beginning of that year the restrictions on the Regency were removed. I considered that removal as carrying away with it the obstacle which had so long impeded my free course on the Catholic question. I considered the unrestricted Regency as tantamount to a new reign. On that occasion, therefore, I imagined that the ministers, my former colleagues, whose opinions I knew to agree with mine on the Catholic question, would feel themselves unfettered for the discussion of it, whenever it might come before the House. Such was ray own feeling. Such I knew to be that of lord Wellesley; who about this time resigned his situation in Mr. Perceval's administration, and was succeeded by lord Castlereagh as Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
On the first occasion, however, on which the Catholic question was brought forward,—both Mr. Perceval* and lord Castlereagh stated, that, however differing in opinion on the Catholic question, the ministers were, for the present, united as one man to resist the consideration of it.* Extract from Mr. Perceval's speech, April 24, 1812. "At the same time, Sir, I must state that it is the unanimous opinion of all those with whom I am' Connected, that the present is not a moment in which any further concessions ought to be made to the Roman Catholics.Extract from lord Castlereagh's speech the same night. "With respect to the vote I shall give to night, my right hon. friend (Mr. Perceval) has truly stated that the cabinet are unanimous in this opinion that the question of concession to the Catholics could not now be conveniently agitated, nor any enquiry gone into upon the subject of the legal disabilities of his majesty's Catholic subjects in Ireland, with the hope of coming to any ultimate and satisfactory arrangement."—See First Series of this work, Vol. xxii. pp. 956 & 1004.486 Upon that occasion it was that I gave the first vote, that I ever gave, in favor of the Catholic question; and upon those statements of the ministers I founded a notice of a motion, the object of which was, to obtain a parliamentary declaration in favour of that consideration of the Catholic question, which the administration were united to resist.
While that motion was depending, Mr. Perceval died; and his death produced from the remaining part of the administration a proposal to me to come into office. The only question which I put on this occasion, to my noble friend (lord Liverpool) who was the bearer of this proposal to me, was, whether the administration continued in the same determination with respect to the Catholic question, which had been announced by Mr. Perceval and lord Castlereagh in debate a few weeks before; which determination was (I beg the House to recollect) to resist as one man the consideration of that question. I was answered that that determination continued unaltered; and I refused to come into office. Did I, by so refusing office, give any proof of subserviency to those vulgar inducements which the hon. baronet assumes to have so powerful an influence on every public man? Did I manifest a disposition to sacrifice my integrity to my interest, or, what would be less disgraceful perhaps, though disgraceful enough, to my ambition?
And yet, Sir, that refusal was not quite an ordinary effort. I had, at that moment a temptation to take office, more powerful perhaps than I have felt at any other period of my political life. There are circumstances which excuse, in generous minds, a strong desire for power: and such precisely were the circumstances under which office was now tendered, to my acceptance. I had been secretary of state during the first years of the war in the Peninsula. I had been in a measure the author, and in this House the responsible defender, of that animating but difficult struggle. I had, therefore, gone through all the parliamentary contests which the disasters and reverses that attended the commencement of the Spanish war, called down upon the administration; I had borne the brunt of all the attacks, and buffeted all the storms, with which the opposition of that day had assailed us. Certainly, Sir, my opinions had never been altered, nor my hopes depressed, by the misfortunes of the early 487 campaigns in Spain. I had anticipated, even in the hour of the deepest gloom, a brighter and more fortunate period, when the gale of fortune would yet set in gloriously and prosperously for the great cause in which we were embarked. In 1812, the prospect had begun to clear, victory attached itself to our standard; and the cause which I had so long advocated under less auspicious circumstances, appeared to promise, even to less sanguine eyes, those brilliant results which ultimately crowned it. And, Sir, I desire to ask any man who hears me, and who has within him the heart of an English gentleman, animated by a just desire to serve his country, whether greater temptation to take office, could possibly be held out to any one, than was at that time held out to me,—at the very moment when I might have come in to reap the fruits of the harvest, which I had sown under the lowering atmosphere of distrust and discouragement, and the early and ungenial growth of which I had watched with such intense anxiety? At such a moment I was called to resume my station in the councils of my country: but the answer of the cabinet being what it was on the Catholic question, I declined the call. Was this to sacrifice my conscience and the Catholic cause to the love of office?
After these transactions,—that is to say, after this offer of office to me, and a simultaneous one to lord Wellesley and our refusal of these offers,—a motion was made in this House to address the throne for the formation of a more efficient administration. That motion was carried; and the negotiation for the purpose pointed out in the address, was confided to lord Wellesley and myself. On the day after this commission was received by lord Wellesley, lord Wellesley, with my concurrence, addressed to lord Grey,—and I, with lord Wellesley's concurrence, addressed to lord Liverpool,—a proposal for forming a combined administration. The basis upon which we proposed to form this administration was laid in two propositions; 1st. a vigorous prosecution of the war in Spain: 2nd. a fair consideration of the Catholic question. The object of this last proposition was manifestly and avowedly not to form a cabinet united in opinion upon the Catholic question, (for how could lord Liverpool and his friends be expected to make such a surrender of their opinions?) but to undo the bond by which the displaced administration had 488 been united together against all consideration of the Catholic question. Our wish was to bring together in one comprehensive scheme, all the best talents of the country, in a crisis of unexampled difficulty; and at the same time to secure to the Catholic question the advantage of a free discussion in parliament.
What does this statement prove? Why it proves that my course on that occasion, was consistent with my practice now; that as, on the one hand, I had refused to make part of an administration combined against the Catholic question,—so, on the other, I did not think it necessary or wise to proscribe every man whose opinion differed from mine on that single question, while on other questions, touching the safety and interests of the country, we agreed. The notion may be absurd,—the error in judgment may be gross and unpardonable; but I did think then, as I think now, that an administration might be formed on a basis—quite distinct from that of the recognition of the Catholic question, as a cabinet measure, and as the single paramount necessity of the state;—that an administration, I say, might be well, and rightly, and usefully, and honestly formed, of which the members differed conscientiously from each other on that question, and that such an administration might yet have the means of rendering great service to the country.
Here again, what becomes of the reproach that for the sake of office I gave up that question? On this occasion I was not a candidate for office: I was employed to offer it to others. I was concerned in forming an administration, not seeking an appointment in or under one: and it was under such circumstances,—that I was prepared and desirous to act with colleagues of my own selection, on the very basis on which the present administration stands.
It is therefore in the highest degree disingenuous to pretend that by my refusal to accept office after Mr. Perceval's death, I implicitly pledged myself never to belong to any cabinet which was not determined to carry the Catholic question. If on the 17th of May, (the time of the offer and refusal of office) I refused to come into an administration united against the Catholic question, and if by that refusal I meant to say, "I will never enter office except with an administration created to carry this question,"—what madness was it in me, within a short fortnight 489 afterwards,—when I had the power in my own hands,—to endeavour to form a mixed administration? The accusation merely requires to be stated to refute itself.
I must again and again apologise to the House for these dull details: but it is due to truth, and to my own character, once for all to develope these particulars. And of one thing the House may rest confidently assured—that it is the last time that I will condescend to such a justification.
To return to the year 1812. The attempt to form a mixed administration failed,—but it failed on quite other grounds than those of a want of unanimity of sentiment upon the Catholic question. It broke off on other difficulties which it would not be to the present purpose to detail. And after some fruitless negotiations, to which I was no party—the displaced administration was restored.
These, Sir, are the circumstances which preceded my motion on the Catholic question, of which notice had been given by me (as I have said) before the death of Mr. Perceval. A few days before my motion came on, the bond of union which had existed in Mr. Perceval's cabinet, and which continued after his death, against the consideration of the Catholic question* was—I know not (of my own knowledge) from what motives or upon what suggestion, removed. An opportunity was taken by lord Castlereagh, who had succeeded to Mr. Perceval's situation in this House, to announce that the administration was no longer, as heretofore, united against the*June 10, 1812. Mr. Spencer Stanhope wished to know if it was intended on the part of the present ministers, that the same policy in every respect, should be observed by them in reference to the Catholic question, which had been observed by the administration under the conduct of a late right hon. gentleman?Lord Castlereagh said in answer, That upon a former occasion, they had thought, inclusive even of those who had been favourable to the measure, that the present was not the time for discussing that question: but that it had been resolved upon as a principle, that the discussion of this question should be left free from all influence on the part of the government, and that every member of that government should be left to the free and unbiassed suggestions of his own conscientious discretion. [See First Series, Vol. xxii. pp. 394 and 395.]490 measure; but that the members of it were at liberty to take each their own course; pledging their honour not to exercise the influence of the government either way, in support of their particular views of the subject. Sir, was this nothing? This important change does not now indeed obtain the approbation of the hon. gentlemen opposite. But Mr. Grattan, the great advocate of the Catholics, thought differently. I well recollect, Sir, how he felt the change thus announced; I well recollect how cordially he and I congratulated each other, on the breaking down of one great bar, at least, which opposed our common wishes.
It was under these new and auspicious circumstances that my motion was discussed, I think on the 22nd of June I812. That motion brought into play for the first time the individual opinions of the members of the cabinet;—it brought forward lord Castlereagh as one of the most efficient supporters of the Catholic question; and my motion was carried by a majority—which, would to God! I could see again—by a majority of 129.* This, Sir, is what I did,—this is the service which it was my fortune to render to the Catholic cause in the House of Commons—this was the first, and it is as yet the greatest triumph that ever crowned that cause. The same motion was shortly after brought forward in the House of Peers, by lord Wellesley;—when the numbers were 125 for it, and 126 against it; the motion being thus lost by a majority of only one. These were the services of individuals whom the Catholic Association deem themselves entitled to consider as enemies to the Catholic cause;—and in comparison with whom the hon. gentlemen opposite think that they are entitled to claim all merit to themselves! These were the halcyon days of the Ca-* "Resolved, That this House will, early in the next Session of Parliament, 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 conciliating 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," Ayes 235, Noes 106. Majority in favour of the Resolution 129.491 tholic question, and happy should I be if there were any near prospect of the like again!
From the time I have spoken of, in 1812, the cabinet went on acting upon the same principle with respect to this question,—the principle of treating it as a question, out of the ordinary course of ministerial business; as one to be argued upon its own merits, such as they might appear to each individual member of the administration. That principle was to me perfectly satisfactory: and from the moment that this change in the system of the administration had taken place, I thought myself perfectly at liberty, so far as the Catholic question was concerned, to join them. I did not join them indeed: but we co-operated cordially in parliament; and in the following year, 1813, a bill was brought in by Mr. Grattan, (in pursuance of my resolution of 1812) which bill lord Castlereagh most ardently supported; and which but for our own misjudgment, might, and to all appearance would, have passed this House. It had passed through the second reading with a considerable majority. The clause conceding seats in parliament, was lost in the committee by a majority of only four; upon which the bill was most unwisely abandoned.
Let me, then, be allowed again to ask, Sir, why, when the principle of a mixed cabinet has been acted upon for five and twenty years, in respect to the Catholic question,—why is the present Cabinet to be alone arraigned for a vice which it shares with so many of its predecessors? And why am I to be held personally liable to responsibility for a system in which I have no more personal concern than any other member of the several cabinets since the Union? I think I can throw some light on the motives for this last selection.
Sir, the speech of a right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Tierney) to whom I am already indebted for a valuable support in part of my argument, will aid me on this point also. The language which he used on Friday has been uniformly my language. The right hon. gentleman told us that he supported the Catholic question,—not for the sake of the Catholics alone, but for the sake of the state;—not with the feelings of a party man advocating a party question,—not as a boon to a single class, but as a benefit to the universal and comprehensive whole. Such, 492 Sir, has always been my course. I have always acted, in respect to this question, on my own judgment; not on that of the parties more immediately concerned. I have scrupulously abstained from communication with the Catholic leaders. Why? Because, while anxious to forward their legitimate object, I have nevertheless seen in their acts and proceedings much to disapprove. In 1813, what was their conduct in respect to the bill which had so nearly obtained the sanction of the House of Commons? Was it not scouted by them, reviled, disdainfully abjured, and almost threatened to be rejected if parliament should pass it into a law?
Sir, I have always refused to act in obedience to the dictates of the Catholic leaders; I would never put myself into their hands:—and I never will. My doctrine has always been that when any set of men, Catholics or Protestants, have a grievance to complain of, for the relief of which they resort to parliament, it is for parliament, and parliament alone, to consider their case, and to decide what relief shall be extended to them: it is for the petitioners to receive that measure of relief with thankfulness and submission. I have always denied to such parties the privilege of stipulating and meting out for themselves the measure of relief with which they would be satisfied; and of dictating to parliament the terms on which their claims should be adjusted. This unpalatable doctrine both in and out of office I have maintained. Events have confirmed, and continue to confirm, to my mind, the propriety of the line which I have taken. Much as I have wished to serve the Catholic cause, I have seen that the service of the Catholic leaders is no easy service. They are hard task-masters: and the advocate who would satisfy them must deliver himself up to them bound hand and foot. What need of further proof of this than is afforded by their recent discussions about their oldest and steadiest friend, the earl of Donoughmore?
Again, Sir, I feel that many apologies are due to the House, for thus trespassing on their patience in vindication of my character and motives from imputations, of which, if I know any thing of my nature, I have some right to complain. But to be taunted with want of feeling for the Catholics, to be accused of compromising their interests, conscious as I am,—as I cannot but be,—of being entitled to their gratitude for a long course of active 493 services, and for the sacrifice to their cause of interests of my own,—this is a sort of treatment, which would rouse even tameness itself to assert its honour, and vindicate its claims.
I have shewn that in the year 1812, I refused office rather than enter into an administration pledged against the Catholic question. I did this at a time when office would have been dearer to me than at any other period of my political life; when I would have given ten years of life for two years of office; not for any sordid or selfish purpose of personal aggrandisement, but for far other and higher views. But, is this the only sacrifice which I have made to the Catholic cause? The House will perhaps bear with me a little longer (as it has already borne with me so long) while I answer this question by another fact.
From the earliest dawn of my public life,—aye, from the first visions of youthful ambition,—that ambition had been directed to one object above all others. Before that object all others vanished into comparative insignificance; it was desirable to me beyond all the blandishments of power, beyond all the rewards and favours of the Crown. That object was to represent, in this House, the University in which I was educated. I had a fair chance of accomplishing this object, when the Catholic question crossed my way. I was warned, fairly and kindly warned, that my adoption of that cause would blast my prospect—I adhered to the Catholic cause, and forfeited all my long cherished hopes and expectations. And yet I am told that I have made no sacrifice! that I have postponed the cause of the Catholics to views and interests of my own!—Sir, the representation of the University has fallen into worthier hands. I rejoice with my right hon. friend near me (Mr. Peel), in the high honour which he has obtained. Long may be enjoy the distinction; and long may it prove a source of reciprocal pride, to our parent University and to himself! Never till this hour have I stated, either in public or in private, the extent of this irretrievable sacrifice: but I have not felt it the less deeply. It is past, and I shall speak of it no more.
Sir, by the exposition with which I have presumed to trouble you, I am not vain enough to suppose that I shall make proselytes of my political opponents. All that I have desired is to lay before the 494 House the grounds of my conduct on this question, and to explain step by step my actions and the motives which led to them. I am conscious of the truth of every syllable that I have stated. The impression which may have been made by that statement is not indifferent to me: but be it what it may, I shall never revert to the subject again.
I trust, then, Sir, that I have now disposed fairly of the last two points which I felt myself called upon to discuss. I have shown that the cabinet is as good now for the purpose of the Catholic question, as it has ever been during the last twenty-five years; and better than at some periods during. those twenty-five years, when the ministers, however differing in opinion, were leagued together to resist the consideration of the Catholic claims.
But I have still a few words to add, and they shall be as few as possible, of myself. Sir, it has been imputed to me individually,—with far too flattering an estimate of my importance,—that I have at this moment the means and the opportunity of carrying the Catholic question. I do not exactly know by what process it is pretended that I can accomplish this great object. If it is meant that by resigning my office, I could then, unshackled, and acting as an individual member of this House, bring the question again unreservedly before you, I answer, that whilst in the government as well as out of it, I retain the power of taking such a part. But if it is meant, that after going on so long with my colleagues in the cabinet, upon the principle of free action, respecting this question, I ought now to demand the formation of a new compact,—that is a course, Sir, which I should disdain to take: I would ten thousand times rather quit office, than turn round upon the administration, of which I am a member, and insist upon changing the footing upon which I entered it. But again, Sir, I declare that in office as well as out, I am at perfect liberty to moot this question whenever a sense of duty impels me to do so. Whether I shall do so while in office,—whether I should do so if out of office,—and when, in either case, the fit time for doing so may appear to be come,—are points which I reserve, for the decision of my own unfettered judgment. I hold it to be a question in which the vote and speech of no man ought to be irrevocably promised before-hand for any 495 specific time. It is a question to be deliberately weighed, and to be pressed or not, according to the operation of circumstances calculated to promote its success. When time and circumstances combine, I shall act for myself; but I will not be precipitated into any course of action, either by taunts on the one hand, or by compliments on the other. Coarse imputations, therefore, or flattering appeals, will equally be employed in vain: I will hold the reins for my own guidance, and will not be driven from the course which I have resolved to pursue.
The hon. gentleman who opened the debate on the other side of the House, on the first day of this lengthened discussion (Mr. John Smith), was pleased to ask of me in terms of great civility and kindness, whether I do not love popularity. Sir, I am not insensible to the good opinion of honourable men, such as him who put to me this question. I am not insensible to the good will of an enlightened community. The man who disregards it, is not worthy to hold a high official station in a country which boasts a popular constitution. I have encountered too many of the vicissitudes of public life not to know how to meet censures which I am conscious I do not deserve. On the other hand, I desire to retain popularity, but I would hold it honourably or not at all. "Laudo manentem;" or—to use the more beautiful paraphrase of Dryden;—I can applaud her,—while she's kind;—But when she dances in the wind,And shakes her wings and will not stay,—I puff the prostitute away.Yes Sir, I love, I covet, I enjoy popularity; but I will not court it by the surrender of my conscientious judgment, or by the sacrifice of my settled opinions. But, Sir, I do not believe that any popularity which I may have the good fortune to enjoy, is put to hazard by my support of the bill now before us.
If the hon. and learned gentleman opposite (Mr. Brougham), who on the first night of the session so gallantly identified himself with the Catholic Association, thinks that he has thereby gained the palm of popularity which I am losing, let me tell him that I cannot congratulate him on the fancied acquisition: on the contrary, I believe mine to be eventually the surer road. I do not mean to speak lightly of the hon. and learned gentleman's support of this question, or of the consequences attending it. I do not 496 under-value the services of such an advocate in any cause which he thinks fit to espouse:—I acknowledge freely his great talents and acquirements, his accumulated knowledge, and the prodigious power with which he brings all those qualities into action. I acknowledge them the more freely, because it has been often our fortune to be opposed to each other;—"Stetimus tela aspera contráContulimusque manus: experto credite, quantusIn clypeum assurgat, quo turbine torqueat hastam.But, valuable as these qualifications must at all times render him as an advocate to those whose cause he undertakes, he may still experience disappointment in the quarter where he expects to find his chief reward; and may discover that he has mistaken the road, not only to the general approbation of the country, but even to the good graces of those whom he most immediately aims at pleasing. Differing, however, totally as I do from the hon. and learned gentleman in the estimation in which he holds the Catholic Association,—I must, for the sake of the Catholic question itself, and in order to retain the power of serving it, take my firm stand in support of the present bill.
Having always viewed the question of Catholic concession, not simply as it affected those whom it went to relieve, but with reference to the interest, happiness and security of the whole country;—being persuaded that to make its beneficial effects thus extensive, we must carry the country with us;—believing that there is, in England, a great inert mass of opposition to the Catholic question, which can only be worn down by degrees, and which must be dealt with gently and considerately;—that nothing would be more calculated to embody and confirm an obstinate resistance, than any apprehension on the part of the mass of the people of England, that the government was leagued together for the express purpose of carrying that question;— and that an administration formed for the specific and avowed purpose of carrying it, would not only fail in that object, but would light up a flame throughout this country, which it would be most difficult indeed to quench;—I still hope and trust that the question will ultimately succeed. If it succeeds it will be through discussions in parliament leading to favourable decisions: such decisions must ultimately operate upon the administration: which, however composed, 497 cannot but feel itself bound to carry the decisions of parliament into effect.
I do not despair of this result, if we proceed with sobriety and circumspection. But I doubt whether we can accomplish every thing at a single blow. I have already reminded the House, that in 1813 we might have carried a bill containing every thing but seats in parliament, but we threw it up in a pet. I have never ceased to regret that hasty determination.Ex illo fluere, ac retro sublapsa referri Spes Danaüm."—From that moment the Catholic question began to lose ground. But, Sir, the lost ground may yet be recovered. With a view to that recovery, I have already said, we must quiet, in this country, the apprehensions entertained for the safety of the Protestant Church Establishment. With a view to that recovery, we must put down, in Ireland, faction, of whatever description; we must put down all unconstitutional Associations: but foremost this Catholic Association for which alone a stand has been made.—I conjure the House, therefore, to entertain and to pass this bill:—first, for the suppression of an Association of which no government, worthy the name of a government, could tolerate the existence; and, secondly, for the advancement of the great question to which that Association has endeavoured to ally itself,—an alliance of which the Catholic question must be disencumbered, before it can have fair play.
§ Mr. Brougham
spoke to the following effect:—I can assure the House, that in rising at the close of this long and protracted debate—not protracted, however, a moment beyond what the vast importance of the subject required—and after the splendid eloquence which has been displayed on the question before us, I feel the necessity of compressing my remarks into as short a space as possible; and the more so, as I have for some days been so busily engaged elsewhere, that I am by no means disposed to make any exertion greater than that which the due discharge of my duty in this House demands. It is my intention, therefore, to grapple at once with the main bearings of the question; to strip it of every thing extraneous; to decline all those advantages resulting from the introduction of incidental subjects, of which my predecessors have so freely availed themselves; and, above all, to refrain from any 498 of those personal topics with which, I thank God, I have no reason to mix myself on Irish affairs, never having stood in any situation which has implicated me in them. Sir, having made this determination, I know how unfavourably to myself I address you, after you have been listening to the right hon. gentleman who has just sat down; whom I am so far from blaming for the personal statements which he introduced into his speech, that I hold he could not have avoided entering into them. With whatever success the right hon. gentleman may have defended his consistency—although it is probable that I and a large portion of the House, should entertain a different opinion on that point from the right hon. gentleman himself—it is impossible for me to blame him for making the attempt. But it has this unpleasant consequence with reference to myself—that whereas the right hon. gentleman entertained the House with those personal anecdotes which are well known to chain their attention more than any other description of address; I mean on the other hand, to avoid all personal remark, and to confine myself strictly to a consideration of the measure before us. With respect to that measure, I hope I do not arrogate too much when I say, that, ably as the question has been discussed, vast as have been the powers exhibited by several of my hon. friends around me, something still remains to be done, because they have indulged in observations which have had chiefly in view the Catholic question; and which, therefore, have led them off from the Catholic Association. But I, Sir, am the defender of the Catholic Association; I am the advocate of the right of the Irish people to meet, to consider, to plan, to petition, to remonstrate, to demand: and my frank opinion is—an opinion which I set out with avowing, and which, I trust, will reach the whole of Ireland as well as the whole of England—that the more energetic their remonstrance, provided that it be peaceable—the stronger the language they use, provided it be respectful—the more firm their port—the more lofty their demeanour—them more conformable it will be to the high interests of those who have all at stake—which can render life desirable, or existence honourable; and infinitely more likely to succeed than any abject course, which would imply self-distrust, or self-conviction of error. I trust, Sir, that, after this open declaration. I shall not be 499 charged with blinking the real merits of the question, not accused of courting a base and fleeting popularity, the value of which I know as well as the right hon. gentleman. Such popularity I as well know how to give to the wind as the right hon. gentleman does. The cause which I have undertaken to-night, I would abandon tomorrow, if I thought my duty to the House, to Ireland, or to the empire, required the sacrifice. By no such mean motive as a love of popular favour am I actuated, but by the more sacred incentive of attachment to that cause of which I avow myself the advocate, and to which I am now about to do my duty, as, I trust, I should to any other client, if menaced with the danger of an oppressive law, sanctioned by the majority of this House.
What, Sir, are the charges that have been brought against the Catholic Association? The first is, that they have been the source of great and dangerous discontent and disunion in Ireland; that, to use the figure of his hon. friend, the member for Hertfordshire, in his able and eloquent, but not very wise or very consistent oration, the Association have been not the safety-valve of that overheated piece of machinery, the state of society in Ireland, but the furnace which has increased the dangerous pressure. Sir, it has been, on the contrary, the combustible materials which have been heaped up by the various persons who have in succession contributed to the misrule of Ireland, which have caused the accumulation of the dangerous vapour. That they have exaggerated the discontents of Ireland is, however, the first charge preferred against the Catholic Association. But, what are the overt acts by which it is attempted to be established? And this brings me to the charge of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, reiterated by all who have spoken on that tide of the question, of an improper interference, on the part of the Association, with the administration of justice in Ireland. But, Sir, what was the issue of that interference. Two prosecutions have been specified. In one of them the judge, on the acquittal of the prisoner, declared that the prosecution had been properly and temperately conducted. In the other case, an acquittal also took place. Now, the argument against the Association is, that they have not left the law to take its course, but that they have endeavoured to overwhelm persons on trial by previous declarations of their guilt, and by the 500 purse which they derived from the Catholic rent. But, what was the result? That all the weight of their money, that all the impression made by a previous declaration of the guilt of the two individuals accused, ended in their easy and certain acquittal. "But then," say the hon. member for Hertfordshire, and other hon. gentlemen, "it might have been otherwise." Now mark, Sir, the subtility—"It might have been otherwise!"—it might have been that the Catholic Association were constituted and actuated, as had been described by the advocates of this measure: they might have interfered in that spirit of vindictive and implacable enmity which had been ascribed to them, and the result of their efforts "might have turned out otherwise" than in fact it did. My answer to this suggestion must be made in something like the terms in which the proposition is put. Had it been otherwise, my opinion of the Association and of this measure might in that case have been different from what it is. If, instead of an acquittal, the character of the prisoner had been wrecked by a verdict—if the storm which blew harmlessly upon him, because the law found him innocent, had overwhelmed him, and he had sunk in the waves of persecution—then, I should have conjectured that the existence of the Association was not so safe—that its proceedings were not likely to contribute to the welfare and advantage of the Catholic population [hear, hear!]. A word or two more on the two cases which have been thus culled by the Irish office. Those cases have been grossly misstated by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. I do not mean to say that he has wilfully misrepresented them, but that he has been misinformed—that his advisers and collectors of facts have poisoned his ready ear on the subject. We are called upon to vote the destruction of the liberties of the people of Ireland on the mere statement of the right hon. gentleman, without any papers having been laid on the table—without any previous inquiry by a committee,—nay, without one odious solitary green bag, but solely and exclusively on the ground of confidence in the right hon. gentleman's statement. And yet I can show that statement to be so utterly unfounded, that I should like to see the man, who, after the exposition which I am about to enter into, would ever again place the slightest confidence in the right hon. 501 gentleman's facts. Sir, in the first of those cases the right hon, gentleman told us, that a bench of forty-three magistrates, at the head of whom was Mr. Blackburn, unanimously and immediately acquitted the man; and that with the same alacrity they declared that there was not a shadow of proof of his guilt. Sir, I have read an account of the trial, and I there find, that the magistrates were two hours and a half in close deliberation before they acquitted the prisoner; and that a considerable minority refused to vote for the declaration, that there was no foundation for the charge. I have also read the defence, and the cross-examination of the witnesses. There was a surprise on the prosecution. Some of the principal witnesses stated on the trial what they had not previously stated; and it was probably this circumstance which occasioned the long deliberation of the magistrates, and prevented so large a portion of them from concurring in the vote, that there was no foundation for the charge. The other case was still more extraordinary. I have recently had the honour of seeing and conversing with the leading counsel in the prosecution for the murder of a man at Bally beg. The statement of the Irish office was, that the prisoner, or rather the prisoners (for there were two of them) were beyond all doubt, innocent, that the proceedings against them were utterly groundless from the very beginning; and that there was not the slightest shadow of pretence for putting them on their trial. It was asserted, that the greatest discrepancy appeared in the testimony; for, that while some of the witnesses swore to the murdered man's ribs, spine, &c. being broken, the surgeons declared that there were no marks of such violence on the body; and that all the other parts of the case were grossly perverted. Now, Sir, the fact is this. The men were put upon their trial under circumstances of grave suspicion. One of those circumstances was, that on the murdered person's receiving the fatal blow, one of the prisoners rushed forward, seized a man who had nothing to do with the transaction, kept him four and twenty hours in custody, and then liberated him. Another strong circumstance was, that one of the prisoners brought bread and. wine to the murdered man; and officiously offered them to him, when he was as dead as a stone. These were certainly circumstances pregnant with suspicion, and would have 502 been so considered at any similar trial in this country. And, how was it that the prisoners were acquitted? In consequence of the evidence of a witness, who, although previously examined before the coroner and the magistrates, had never given such evidence before, and who swore on the trial, that the murderer was another man, larger in size than either of the prisoners, and dressed differently from them. And who was this witness? The servant of a brother of one of the prisoners. It was very natural to ask such a witness on his cross-examination, why he had not given this evidence before the coroner or the magistrates;—why he had reserved it for the trial? The judge who presided at the trial refused, however, to allow that question to be put to the witness [cries of hear, hear!]. Sir, I speak in the presence of many members of the same profession as myself—men who have, almost as often as they have hairs on their heads, defended prisoners as well as conducted prosecutions, and I leave it to any one of them, in the face of this House, to defend the conduct of that judge.
Sir, we have had the name of Mr. Blackburn stated to us in cases in which he presided; we have had the name of Mr. Justice Moore stated to us in cases in which he presided; but, by some extraordinary omission, the name of the learned judge who presided on the occasion to which I have just adverted, has never been stated. In fairness, therefore, I will name him, though I will omit the character given of him by an hon. member of this House, whom I now see in his place, and who compared him to two animals, because he had the ferocity of one, and the baseness of the other. Sir, that learned judge was Mr. Baron M'Clelland. It was he who tried the cause, and who refused to allow the question that I have described to be put. Not only, Sir, am I not satisfied with the acquittal of these prisoners, but I have formed the most positive opinion, founded on a statement in an Orange newspaper, that they may think themselves very lucky in their escape. Sir, under the same learned judge, a person was defended by a counsel employed by the Catholic Association, with the aid of the purse of which the Catholic body had possessed them. That counsel was on the civil side of the Court when the trial was called on, by the direction of Mr. 503 Baron M'Clelland. The officer who was sent for him, met with some obstruction in his way. Mr. Baron M'Clelland was told of these circumstances, and was intreated to postpone the trial for a short time, and not to put the prisoner on his defence without the presence of his professional defender. He refused. The trial of the prisoner was commenced in the absence of his counsel. When the counsel entered the court, the first witness had just left the table. The counsel begged that he might be recalled for the purpose of being cross-examined; but the same judge who had in the other case refused the question to be put to a witness, also refused in this case to allow the witness to be recalled for cross-examination; and the prisoner was convicted of a misdemeanour, and sentenced to two months' imprisonment. After this, Sir, shall I be told that justice is administered in Ireland with the same undeviating rectitude, with the same freedom from all partiality, with the same propriety and temper, which distinguish the courts of justice in England? I was very glad to hear the two hon. and learned friends, (Mr. North and Mr. Doherty), who conjointly lauded the administration of justice in Ireland; I was very glad to hear these hon. and learned gentlemen, the Pylades and Orestes of the Irish bar, both singing their eulogies in the same Mœlibean strains————Arcades ambo, Et cantare pares et respondere parati.And I should have been still more glad, if I had not recollected the sad answer which they were compelling me, however reluctantly, to prepare for them on that point. One of those hon. and learned gentlemen said, the other night, that the courts of justice in Ireland were equally open to all. I remember, and the House must remember, the reply which a very able man, Mr. Horne Tooke, made to a similar observation with respect to the courts of justice in England—"So is the London Tavern." There is this difference, however, between the courts of justice in England, and the courts of justice in Ireland. Here the courts of law are equally open to all who can pay, like the London Tavern. But, at the tavern, at the bar of which law is dispensed in Ireland, the poor suitor is dealt with much more harshly than the poor man would be in Bishopsgate-street. Ear, in the latter, the poor man, if he 504 have money, may procure the same article as the rich man. But in Ireland, we have been told by one of the keepers of the taverns at which law is to be had, I know not under what particular sign, whether the Weathercock, or the Rock, or the Bottomless Pitt, that there is one law for the rich, and another for the poor. The poor man cannot get any justice at all; or if he do, it is of a kind very different from that which the rich obtain. Such is the opinion of my lord Redesdale, who, while he was lord chancellor of Ireland, must have seen something of judges, prosecutions, and verdicts. It is certainly, therefore, most provoking and most humiliating, that a large portion of his majesty's subjects are to be told, that they must not have recourse to the only means of obtaining justice, that of inducing the strong to defend the weak, or of uniting to defend themselves.
But, it is said, that the Catholic Association is no better than the Bridge-street gang. That gang was the infamous job of a few pettifogging attorneys. It expired because the jobbing was overdone. It existed in a country in which, thank God! the administration of justice is pure and unspotted. The case is very different in a country in which the people are divided by religion—a country in which the strong lord it over the weak, and where the Catholic has no chance of justice if he come single and unaided into court. Now, Sir, to the other charges which have been brought against this much calumniated body. And first, I pray the House to look at the contradictory forms which these charges assume. First, the Association is charged with impudence, in consequence of the openness of their conduct: they are accused of meeting in the face of day, and of giving all possible publicity to their debates and proceedings. If, in order to avoid the imputation of impudence, they had skulked in secret, would not that have been turned against them? Should we not have been told, that honest innocence always courted openness and publicity, but that this skulking in holes and corners was a proof of the consciousness of guilt? But then, it seems, they have aped the forms of this House. If they had introduced any other forms, should we not have been told that it was a daring novelty? Nor is it surprising, that they who represent six millions of people should imitate the forms of a House which represents a number perhaps not so 505 extensive. That is the second charge. The third charge is, that they are not elected, but self-constituted; that they are self-adjourned and self-convoked. If, however, they had been elected by others, that would have been called illegal. How unfairly is the Association treated, if they act openly, they are called impudent; if in secret, illegal. If they imitate our forms, they are assuming; if they introduce other forms, they are innovators. If they elect themselves, they are self-constituted. If they are elected by others, they subject themselves to the Convention act, and are prosecuted. So it is, too, with respect to their speeches. If bold, they are charged with rebellion; if quiet, with design. If they blame, it is said they are vituperative; if they praise, they are hypocritical. Nothing they can do, nothing they can say, escapes censure. The most extraordinary charge is, that which has been advanced by some hon. gentlemen, who say, that they would not care for the bluster, impetuosity, and violence of faction, but what they most dread is, the dead quiet and uninterrupted stillness prevailing in Ireland. This they consider more fatal than the period of 1782, when the volunteers assembled—that of 1793, when the Jacobins assembled—or that of 1798, when the standard of rebellion was hoisted in the country. The more quiet, it seems, the more danger. Every one remembers the line—My wound is great because it is so small;as well as the addition which a wit made to it—Then 'twould be greater were it none at all.Of a similar character is the apprehension that some persons entertain, founded on the existing tranquillity of Ireland. The fact, Sir, is, that to that tranquillity the Catholic Association have mainly contributed. They are the virtual representatives of the people of Ireland—not in the dangerous sense of the term; not in the sense of control or power; but because they agree in opinion with the people of Ireland; have a sympathy with their wrongs, a fellow-feeling for their sufferings. Recollect, Sir, that the Association now consists of three thousand members, men the most respectable for their rank, their talents, and their integrity'. That is the origin of their influence; that is the secret of their power. Do you dread that influence? Are you afraid of that power? I will tell you how you may get rid of them in an hour. Follow my ad- 506 vice, and to-morrow the Catholic Association will have neither power nor existence, and will be nothing but a name, remembered with gratitude for the services which it has rendered to its country. But do not take my advice, attend to what has been stated to you by his majesty's Attorney-general; he is especially appointed by his sovereign to keep watch and ward in that country. His duty it is to attend to every incautious act, to watch over every innovation of speech, which may take place in the Catholic Association, or any other public assembly. Take, I say, the advice of the Attorney-general, and at once remove the grievances under which the Roman Catholics labour; shew them that you are at length determined to do them justice; let them see that, though late, you are earnest in your intention to remove their disabilities. Do this, and you will at once and for ever annihilate the Catholic Association, and Ireland will bless and thank you, even for this tardy justice. But, if you begin at the wrong end, you will only forge fetters for that unhappy country.
We have been told, that certain violent speeches have been made in the Catholic Association; it has been said, that certain expressions have been used, which have been commented and played upon and attacked on the one hand, but still more ingeniously defended on the other. I am not here to defend any peculiar expressions used by that body; neither is it my intention to special plead, or explain them away; but I do say, and I say it fearlessly, that to no one expression that I have heard can there be attached any unchristian, any illegal meaning. Nay, I will even go a step further, and say, that considering the situation in which the members of that body were placed; recollecting that the legislature said to them, "We allow you to select from either House of parliament who are to be your advocates, but you cannot have one who possesses your entire confidence, inasmuch as you cannot have for your advocate a member of your own religion;"—when I recollect that that body is so treated, and when I know that years would scarcely suffice to tell the heads of the injuries under which they have been labouring, am I to be told that they are to be at once condemned, because, in a manifesto which all must admire, but the lovers of peace beyond' all others, there occurred the phrase—"We, conjure you, by the hatred you 507 bear to Orangemen, to be at peace?" If they had commenced their address to the Catholic people by saying, "We command you, by the love you bear your Orange brethren, to be at peace,"—then we should have been told, that it was a piece of hypocrisy on the part of the Association; and I must confess, that in that case, I, for one, should have turned from the document with disgust [cheers]. I know, Sir, that it is not the part of a christian to hate any man; but, if ever there was an occasion which justified a set of persons in hating and execrating another set, that occasion presents itself in the case of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. It has occurred in the case of the oppressed Catholic against the Orange oppressor; and more particularly so at a time, when they are to be put down by Orange violence and Orange tyranny, exercised against the great bulk of the people. We have been told, that Mr. O'Connell has made use of strong language in the course of the discussions which took place in the Catholic Association. I do not deny that he has done so; but let me ask, Sir, what would be our case, and where should we be, senators though we be, and clothed as we are—with all the solemnity of a legislative assembly, if we were to be told from another quarter, that we were a turbulent and disorderly body; that we set a bad example to all other states? What should we think of such a denunciation? And yet I have heard in this House—aye, and even in the course of this night—language stronger, aye, a thousand-fold stronger, than any thing which ever came from the Catholic Association. An hon. friend of his (Mr. Grenfell) had, in the course of his speech, made use of an expression which, in the language of the lovers of strong liquor, would be called stout. That hon. gentleman, if I recollect right, said, in the course of his address, "If the Catholics should resist oppressions which were no longer bearable, and if I were on my death bed, I should pray to God that they might be successful" [hear, hear!]. Sir, I only allude to this expression of the hon. member, for the purpose of shewing, that when people feel warmly upon any subject, they indulge in a greater latitude of speech than usual—and I will boldly say, that no member of the Catholic Association ever ventured one thousandth part so far as my hon. friend did upon this occasion [hear, hear!]. But, my 508 hon. friend is not the only member I can point out, as having, in the heat of debate, used what elsewhere would be called strong language. I well remember that the right hon. Attorney-general for Ireland, who was remarkable for his great zeal, for the force and power of his arguments, and for the admirable propriety with which he suited his expressions to his ideas and feelings, and in whom therefore a strong or hasty expression was not so excusable as in others—I remember, I say, when that right hon. gentleman, in one of the most eloquent speeches which it has fallen to my lot to read (a speech made upon a most important occasion in Ireland, but not more important than is the present question to the Roman Catholics), used the following words, when speaking of the Union: "I warn the ministers of this country against persevering in the present system; let them not proceed to offer further violence to the settled principles, or to shake the settled loyalty of this country. Let them not persist in the wicked and desperate doctrine, which places British connection in contradiction to Irish prudence. I revere them both; for myself, I have no hesitation in saying, that if the wanton ambition of a minister should assault the freedom of Ireland, and compel me to the alternative between it and British connection, I would fling that connection to the winds, and I would clasp the independence of my country to my heart" [cheers!]. I pray to God, Sir, that the right hon. and learned gentleman may never be called upon to redeem his pledge. The words here used are elegant and expressive, but they are strong; they were used by an honest man, a good Irishman, and a true patriot; but, Sir, they were not used without some risk; he was on the very verge; and while I feel that, as an honest man, he would, if necessary, redeem that pledge, I cannot help reflecting, that in doing so he would become a rebel to England [hear, hear!]. While such was the language of the right hon. and learned gentleman upon an occasion of emergency, the Catholic Association, who were enslaved, degraded, and oppressed, were expected to clothe their sentiments in expressions of love, and kindness, and forbearance. And this, too, towards a set of men who acted upon the devilish principle of retaining the shadow of the wrong, after the substance of it had been overcome; and this only 509 for purposes of irritation and insult, and in order to keep in the minds of the oppressed a recollection of their degradation.
Again, we have been told, that the Catholic Association collect rent; and it was added, in order to make the matter appear worse, that they had the audacity to collect a revenue; an expression which was loudly cheered by the other side of the House. Why, Sir, supposing money to be necessary to their objects, how else were they to get it? Levy and rent were hard words; particularly when it was known that the subscription was voluntary; it amounted to 1d. per month, or a shilling a year, if the poor man could afford it; if not to 6d. a year, and in many cases to nothing at all. But, Sir, I find that this levy, or rent, or free contribution—call it which you will, is not peculiar to Ireland. I hope the House will not feel alarmed at my producing a book, for I assure them, it is not my intention to read more than a few words of it; but I find by this little book, which contains minutes of a conference of English Methodists, a great and respectable body, of whom I shall say nothing that is not to their praise; a set of persons whose cause I have before defended, and whom I shall always be ready to defend, if necessary; I find that that body are in the same situation with the Catholic Association, with, perhaps, some few shades of aggravation. For I find that that body, consisting not of 3,000, but of 500,000 persons, opposed, too, to the Established church, collects its rent, without exciting the slightest alarm in the mind of the right hon. member for Oxford—nay, the hon. member for Dover (Mr. Butterworth) is prepared to state, that there exists not the slightest similarity between the two bodies. I find Sir, first, that there is a Mr. Kershaw who acts as secretary. I feel it is a tender subject, but I must state it—who acts, I say, as secretary to the committee of privileges [hear, hear! and a laugh]! I see the hon. member for Dover sitting uneasy on his seat at the mention of this subject; he already imagines the committee and its privileges altogether at an end. I shall only quote such parts of this book as allow of a strict comparison between the body of Methodists and the Catholic Association. When we are told, Sir, that the Catholic Association collected rent, and that returns of the different collections were to be made 510 by a certain day, certain gentlemen lifted up their hands and eyes in pious indignation at such a violation of the law, and maintained that such proceedings were only equalled by the Jacobinical assemblies of the French revolution. But, Sir, I find by this little book, that the Methodists not only have their collections, but direct that the various collections made in October, are to be paid in by the 15th of November—a pretty prompt payment. I'll warrant me the chancellor of the Exchequer does not make half such quick work of it; though I think I can perceive he would willingly adopt a similar method, if he could make it at all practicable. He, however, had been in the habit of giving three months credit; though latterly, I believe, my hon. friend, the member for Aberdeen, allows him to give a credit of little more than six weeks [hear! and a laugh]. The book goes on to state, that the treasurer's accounts are to be closed on the 6th of June, in order to their being laid before the conference on the 20th, and the chairman is directed to pay over any additional subscriptions sent in after the 15th of November, reports being to be made to the superintendants, at every annual and district meeting. We have been told of the accounts returned to the Catholic Association, of the number of subscribers and non-subscribers to the rent. We were told that there were accounts of the subscribers and non-subscribers; that the names of the latter were held up in terrorem, and that they were to be visited with punishment for not having contributed. For this statement there was no foundation. No two such lists were kept; because, from the very nature of things, there could exist none such. It was stated, however, for the purpose of exciting alarm; and it was frequently found, when such an alarm was spread, that the soberest minds became the most credulous. Will it not be matter of surprise to tell how, in the sixth year of the reign of George the fourth, the House of Commons became alarmed, and swallowed they know not what—nay more, that they began upon mere hearsay to legislate upon the cause of that alarm? And what was it after all? Why, that out of a population of six millions of people in Ireland, some 3,000 had formed an Association, while in England an Association, consisting of 500,000 persons, was allowed to assemble, and act with impunity [hear!]. I shall now, Sir, come 511 to what I consider a parallel case with respect to the collection of money. This book states, that reports are to be made by the persons who hold district meetings of Methodists; and that where any gross deficiency was found in the amount of the collection, the chairman was to make strict inquiry into and report upon the cause thereof [hear!]. I'll warrant me, Sir, that inquiry is strictly made; for there is nothing more inquisitorial than religious zeal, particulary when it is directed to financial objects [hear! land a laugh]. I beg pardon for thus detaining the House, but I feel it necessary to shew, that while we are legislating for the suppression of the Catholic Association in Ireland, we allow an Association similar in its main objects to exist here. I now hold in my hand a part of the minutes, which is, I think, something like what we often see upon this table, and which often startles us not a little, as it answered to the title of "Army Extraordinaries." Here, Sir, we have the extraordinaries of this army of the faith, and in it I find, what we often find in our own extraordinaries, a deficit. This deficit, the chancellor of the Exchequer finds some difficulty in supplying; but not so the Methodists—they supply it without difficulty: for instance, in the items of childrens' allowance, I find the deficit is ordered to be supplied, by calling upon every 149 members to produce sufficient for one child. Do I say this for the purpose of casting blame upon the Methodists? Do I do it with a view to cast a doubt upon the legality of their proceedings? No, Sir; but I institute the comparison with a view to shew that that which is lawful in England cannot be unlawful in Ireland. I know that the Methodists feel that they are right, and are ready to go to death in support of their rights; I know that they would stake their existence upon the free exercise of the liberty they now enjoy; and I allude to it in order to shew the anomaly which exists in the two cases, but above all, to shew, that that which is esteemed and received as useful and beneficial, as well as just and lawful, in England, cannot be made the ground of opposition and suppression by act of parliament in Ireland.
Sir, it seemed to me just now, that I had gone through all the charges made against the Catholic Association; but I find that there is still one which I have left untouched, and which, like all the 512 rest, appears to have been made with the most admired disorder. It is objected, that the priests have become members of that body. This statement was received by gentlemen on the other side with great cheering. But let me ask, what would have been said if the priests had not formed a part of the Association? Supposing the priests, the nobility, and the leading commoners of the country, to have kept aloof from this unfortunate body, who, it appears never can do right, would it not then be said, "They are unsupported by the Catholic clergy," upon whose sacred order a warm eulogium would be pronounced; "they are not aided by the nobility," whose characters and respectability would be highly praised; "they are not co-operated with by the great commoners of the country," whose wealth and characters would be held out as a security to the public for the purity of their intentions. All this would be said, and it would doubtless be added—"the Association consists merely of a set of desperate men, in whose views or objects no confidence can be placed." In a word, they would be put down as a priestless, peerless assembly; a set of persons having amongst them no individuals of wealth or respectability [hear, hear!].
There is another, and I believe it is the last charge urged against this body—it is, that they attend to too many things; that they take too wide a range. Why, Sir, no man knows better than the right hon. and learned gentleman, that the more a man concentrates his faculties and directs them to one object, the more likely he is to succeed. But the gentleman who made that charge is mistaken. The question of tithes they had not touched; the question of parliamentary reform they had not meddled with. On the contrary, when my much-respected and venerable friend, Mr. Bentham sent to the Association his subscription, accompanied by a recommendation of the question of reform, their answer, sent by a committee appointed for the purpose, was, "much as we value the question of reform, it will not mix up with our main object—we are determined to stand by the question of Catholic emancipation and a redress of Irish grievances" [hear, hear!]. So much for the facts so solemnly stated on the other side of the House.
And now, Sir, permit me, before I sit down, to offer a few words upon the great 513 question of Catholic emancipation. The right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Canning) has, as it appeared to me, defended himself against some charges which I did not hear made against him. The great objection which I heard made against him was, that he who had always professed himself, and, I believe sincerely, the kind friend of Catholic emancipation, should allow himself to be in his present situation—it is, I say, most marvellous, that the right hon. gentleman should be found sitting in a cabinet professing a contrary doctrine, not, indeed, in name, but certainly in substance and effect. Is it not surprising, Sir, that the right hon. gentleman does not use the great talents he possesses, and the means within his power, in order to carry that question, as he easily might do if he list [hear, hear!]? This is the heavy charge which is brought against him; and, I say it more in grief than in harshness, he has but poorly, very poorly, defended himself [hear, hear!]. This, if ever, is the critical moment, when the right hon. gentleman's exertions would be effective; for now its fate is, as it were, trembling in the balance. I told him before, and I tell him now, what was the best service he could render to that question. Having done so, I now pass it by; but I demand of him, in the face of this House—I demand of him in the face of the country—I demand of him in the face of the people of Ireland, whether, when the question was so trembling in the balance, he has not rendered it the greatest injury in his power, by assisting in raising the cry of "No Popery" against it? This is my charge against the right hon. Secretary; and I maintain that he has done his best to raise that cry. Thank God he has failed! but, the worst Orangeman, the most principled or unprincipled enemy of the Catholics, could not, with all his ingenuity, have selected a surer mode of injuring them. The right hon. gentleman so weighed and balanced his sentences; he so managed his eloquence, following his great master, Mr. Pitt, of whom it had been wittily said, by Mr. Windham, that his talent was so great, that he could speak off a King's Speech extempore—I say that the right hon. gentleman so studied his every expression, telling only what must be told, and concealing what could be concealed; that he succeeded in throwing more obstacles in the way of Catholic emancipation than existed before he undertook its advocacy. He 514 had used a few apparently simple words; but they were words pregnant with the most evil import. What else but evil could be expected from such an expression as this.—"I am alone upon the Catholic question, save the support I receive from the Opposition." That was to say, "I am alone save the strength I derive from the Whigs." The right hon. gentleman added, "I am as much a friend to Catholic emancipation as ever;" and yet this sincere friend went on to state, that which was most disheartening to the advocates of the question; namely, that the people of England were opposed to it. This reminds me of the "School for Scandal," to which, allusion has been made in the course of the night. One of the parties says, "I like Mr. Such-a-one, vastly, but I can't get any one else to like him." So the right hon. Secretary may say, "I like the question of Catholic emancipation, but I cannot get any one else to like it;" or, at least, I may suppose him to say, "I like it, but I can only get the Whigs to like it." I ask, Sir, whether it would not be more fair, more liberal, on the part of the right hon. Secretary, to state boldly, that not only the Whigs, but every liberal-minded man in the country was in favour of that question? All London, Westminster, and Southwark, declared for the Roman Catholics over and over again: and is it nothing that the very heart of the empire had avowed this opinion? No doubt many hon. gentlemen have long since repented their ancient errors upon this point. Even in 1807, when the Whigs were turned out of office upon the base and scandalous cry of "No Popery, the Church is in danger," London, Westminster, and Southwark, had refused to join in it. Yorkshire, too, declared for the Catholics; Lincoln followed her example; and in Northumberland and other northern countries, no symptom of hostility to them was displayed. All the great cities, even Liverpool, as the right hon. gentleman recollected, took no part, and shewed no enmity. If, then, such were the fact in 1807, what reason on earth existed to prevent the government from now patronising the question? The argument of the right hon. gentleman is this—"I cannot propose the subject to the cabinet—I cannot consent to go out upon it: government cannot induce the parliament, and parliament cannot compel the people, to consent to emancipation; for to a man they are opposed to 515 it."—I deny the fact—I deny that the country is opposed to it. Even were it inert upon the subject it might suit the right hon. gentleman's purpose as well; but I maintain that it is not inert—that liberal opinions and education have superseded bigotry and ignorance, and the voices of those who most loudly shouted "No Popery" in 1807, are daily and hourly growing weaker. Have we not a decided proof of the truth of this statement in the very subject before us? I take to myself the high satisfaction, that though one of the feeblest, yet one of the most zealous and consistent supporters of Catholic rights, I have contributed on this occasion, by my advice and exertions, to interpose such a delay, by the protraction of the debates on this great question, as to enable the House to ascertain with certainty, the real state of the public mind. An opportunity has also thus been afforded for the display of splendid specimens of reasoning, learning, and eloquence, by which immense service has been rendered to the cause of civil and religious liberty; but, above all, I am rejoiced that, as far as in me lay, I have thus contributed to give a last blow to a pernicious and scandalous delusion. But I will suppose, for the sake of argument, that the country was opposed to emancipation, and I will say, that even that ought not to have deterred the right hon. gentleman and the government from bringing forward the question and carrying it triumphantly. If they felt that they were right—if they knew that it was of paramount importance to the safety and integrity of the empire—why did they not oppose themselves firmly to the tide of vulgar prejudice? Were they always so tender—always so nice—always so unwilling to run counter to public opinion? The chancellor of the Exchequer formed part of the government in 1820; and I ask him, what was the state of public opinion on that most infamous, detestable, and disgusting measure, to which I marvel that any man on the other side can hear an allusion without the crimson starting to his cheeks—I mean the prosecution of the late Queen [hear, hear!]. What did the country feel on that occasion? Yet, did the government then shew any such delicate reluctance to confront public opinion? They had then no disinclination to meet the cry of the mob, or to combat the discontents of the army: they were then not prepared 516 to resist the wishes of meetings in all parts of the kingdom, and the avowed sentiments of many of their most steady supporters. The Church, for some time, at least, was passive, or even with the Queen; until the ministers and their adherents gave it the tone of reprobation. All these great interests were embattled against them—all felt with one heart, and spoke with one voice, yet nothing could induce the persecutors of the Queen to pause for one instant in their disgraceful and disgusting course. Was that course rendered necessary by any state expediency? No. Was one half of the empire about to be torn away if the ministry did not confront public opinion? No; but there was one person in the kingdom who held in his hand the issues of official life, who required that the proceeding should be commenced, and to him the cabinet yielded their private prepossessions, and made themselves his blind and willing slaves; to him they yielded the most abject subserviency—I will not mince the matter— with an unhesitating baseness, unequalled in any European court—which the cabinet of Russia, or even of Ferdinand the Seventh, might have equalled, but could never have surpassed. Like the base, crouching, hesitating, flinching slaves of the divan of Algiers, with the bow-string twanging in their ears, and the scymitar glancing before their eyes, they consented to gratify groundless. but in that high quarter, excusable caprices; though they were without all excuse, beyond what might be found in the most anxious desire to retain their places [hear, hear!].
Before I sit down, Sir, I must address a few words to the right hon. the Attorney-general for Ireland; for though the House has already patiently suffered under my infliction, my duty requires that I should trouble it a short time longer on the most import-ant question I have ever known discussed in parliament. If I found myself in want of reasons for conceding the demands of the Catholics, good God! what an ample supply the Attorney-general for Ireland has given me. The great friend and patron of emancipation—the appointed guardian of the peace and tranquillity of Ireland, with knowledge of many facts with which he alone could be acquainted, has declared that the bill under discussion is necessary, because emancipation is to be refused. How ominous are these words to the people of Ireland! To my ears they mean neither more nor less than 517 this: "Prepare for the coming storm; set your house in order, while you may; the tempest is brooding, and will quickly burst; that is about to be done, which, when completed, may produce, nay, must produce, convulsion, unless preventive measures are taken."
here interrupted the hon. and learned member.—I stated, in my speech, that the argument from the other side was this: "Why do you pass this bill when you can avoid it by granting emancipation?" I replied, that the first question was, whether emancipation could be obtained; but I did not say that that was the only question; I did not state, that emancipation would dispense with the putting down of the Catholic Association. Neither did I assert, that emancipation was never to be granted. On the contrary, I observed, that my apprehensions of a long postponement were not so great as others had expressed.
§ Mr. Brougham
.—The correction given by the right hon. and learned gentleman makes little or no difference. I thought he said, that if Catholic emancipation were granted, this bill would not be necessary; and he does not now take upon himself to state, that if the claims were conceded, it would be required. His argument is this; "My reason for voting for this bill is, because I feel its paramount importance: because Catholic emancipation being, for the present, out of the question, it is necessary to provide against the consequences of refusing it." This, I repeat, is most ominous for the future tranquillity of Ireland. Had lord Londonderry been alive, feeling that concession could not be made, and that convulsion must be the result of refusal, he would at once have recommended the adoption of military measures to meet the threatened danger; and I know not whether I would not rather see precautions of that kind adopted, which at all events must be temporary, than witness the passing of a bill like the present, which makes so violent an inroad on the constitution. Ministers say this, "Because we do not chuse to do what is right—because we choose to withhold the real cure—because the grievances of the Irish are not now, and therefore never, to be remedied, we will put down the Association—we will choke the language of complaint, and, instead of redressing the wrong, we will stifle the language of resentment." I say redress the wrong, and the complaint will cease. The Attorney-general says, 518 "I will begin at the other end—I will stifle complaint, because I do not choose to redress the wrong." Sir, I advise the Roman Catholics to persist, not to be discouraged—to be peaceable and obedient to the law—to take all constitutional means of resisting the passing of the bill; but if it be passed, to submit with patience to its provisions—to adopt all due measures of self-defence, not by unlawful associations, but by such combinations as the law, even after the enactments of this bill, must necessarily leave them, and, in the end, they need not despair of success. Do not let them think, listening to false friends—that going too far with moderation and conciliation will be of any avail. Above all, do not let them suppose that saying nothing, doing nothing, trusting to those who have abandoned them, or looking out for others, whom they have never tried, will ever accomplish the object on which they have so long set their hearts. Let them confide in their old friends, in their faithful and distinguished leaders, those enlightened men who have always ably advocated their cause, in such men as my venerable friend (sir J. Newport), now far advanced in a life spent in their service, the worthy successor of their revered Grattan [hear, hear!] Let them proceed firmly in the course they have honourably commenced, and let them not forget to look to the Catholics of England, let them reflect on the admirable conduct of their brethren and fellow-sufferers here, who, having long tried what moderation, what passive obedience, what calm submission would do, and finding it would accomplish nothing; or, rather, as in Ireland, aggravated the evils of which they complained, have at length come forward—and I glory that they have done so—to join hand and heart with the Irish Catholics for the attainment of one common object. A noble duke, whom I am proud to call my friend, who would be at the head of any society, but who is especially at the head of the Catholic Society of England, down to the lowest parish priest performing a weekly duty with his flock, have made common cause for a common end, and from this union I anticipate the happiest results [hear, hear!]. I am told by the right hon. secretary, that I know little of Englishmen, if I think that a formidable attitude assumed by the Irish is likely to be attended with beneficial effects. This may be true. It may be true, that the English have never granted any thing under the compulsion of fear: but if it 519 be true I do not know it, for history proves directly the reverse, I assert, on the contrary, and I defy him to contradict me, that the Roman Catholics have never obtained any concession, but when the government of the day was influenced by apprehension. Times of peace, and peace only, added new sufferings and augmented privations. In 1778, the first step was gained by the Catholics, because the government was under difficulties. In 1782, it had to deliberate with armed men, who extorted, by force, the independence of Ireland. In 1793, new fears prevailed, and new concessions were made, and it was then that the last boon was given, of the elective franchise. Is it true, then, that the Catholics have never obtained any thing by assuming a formidable attitude? I call, then, upon the British House of Commons, not by any bad passions—not by the hatred you bear to oppressors—not by long-stifled enmity for the deepest injuries, but every principle most sacred to Christians—not by hatred, but by charity—not by revenge, but by conciliation: as you are statesmen, and have, in fact, the government of the empire in your hands, I claim of you by policy and by prudence to look at this question fairly, and to consider the dreadful consequences which may result from passing this measure. Adopt it, and you alienate the Catholics for ever—you convert discontent into rage—you arm rage with new weapons; and upon your heads will be the consequences of this misguided and deluded policy. You, and you only, must be responsible if the present Ireland be torn from the mother country [continued cheers].
§ Mr. Butterworth
rose, notwithstanding the reiterated cries of "Question!" and persisted in attempting to obtain a hearing. We could only collect, that he accused Mr. Brougham of having fallen into a great mistake, respecting the Methodist conference money. The committee he had mentioned had been appointed with a specific object. The money was devoted to a different purpose; and no collection had been made since 1811. The hon. member, produced a letter, which he held up to the House for some time, amid cries of "question, question," and "read, read." The hon. member commenced the reading of the letter; but he had not proceeded far before a laugh was excited by some member exclaiming "Amen." Mr. B. persevered, and read part of the 520 letter, to shew that the Catholic rent was not a voluntary contribution [cries of "name, name." and "place, place"]. It was in the county of Kilkenny; but he objected to give the name of the party who wrote the communication. He had intended to have said a few words about Bible societies, but as the House was so impatient he would reserve them to a future occasion.
§ Mr. Goulburn
rose to reply. He had, he said, been charged with having made a false statement respecting two transactions to which he had alluded in his speech. He had mentioned them, to show the ground upon which he disapproved of the principle of the Catholic Association, which, contrary to the old maxim of English jurisprudence, presumed people to be guilty before they were tried. He was, however, charged with having misrepresented one of these, because he had not stated, that Mr. Blackburn, the judge before whom that trial was had, had complimented Mr. O'Gorman for his conduct in the prosecution. Now, he had said nothing against Mr. O'Gorman; and his conduct, whatever it had been, did not alter the proceeding against which he had objected.
§ Sir J. Mackintosh
said, he complained only of the right hon. gentleman's having concealed that fact.
§ Mr. Goulburn
resumed. The hon. and learned gentleman, then, thought it was a fact necessary to be stated, that the counsel for the prosecution had conducted himself well. The House should, however, hear Mr. Blackburn's report of that trial. He said, "A trial of unusual interest has been held before me, in which a soldier was charged with having administered illegal oaths. It lasted seven hours, and at the conclusion of it the man was acquitted by the unanimous verdict of forty-three magistrates. I regret to say that the evidence for the prosecution appeared to be a foul conspiracy, to accuse and criminate the soldier, and that the most abominable means were resorted to for effecting the object of the conspiracy" [cheers]. If any gentleman had before this, supposed that he (Mr. Goulburn) had given any colour to this case, he asked them now to acquit him, on the evidence of Mr. Blackburn's report. With respect to the other case alluded to by the learned member for Winchelsea, he did not know from what source it was the learned gentleman obtained his information. He as- 521 serted, that the counsel had not been allowed to put a question to a witness, in consequence of which the prisoners were acquitted.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, it was impossible to answer such assertions off-hand; but he doubted the fact altogether: first, on account of the well-known character of the judge; and secondly, because there had been no allusion to it, in any of the proceedings of the Catholic Association, although six months had elapsed since the trial.
Mr. V. Fitzgerald
said, that he was present at the trial of the soldier, and could state that there was no division of sentiment amongst the magistrates as to the innocence of the party.
§ The question being then put, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend certain Acts relating to Unlawful Societies in Ireland," the House divided: Ayes 278: Noes 123. Majority 155. The bill was then brought in, and read a first time; and at half after three in the morning the House adjourned.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Crompton, S.|
|Althorp, vise.||Curwen, J. C.|
|Barham, J. F.||Davies, T. H.|
|Baring, A.||Denman, T.|
|Baring, H.||Dundas, hon. T.|
|Baring, sir T.||Ebrington, vise.|
|Barnard, visc.||Ellice, E.|
|Barrett, S. B. M.||Ellis, hon. G. A.|
|Beaumont, T. W.||Evans, W.|
|Bective, lord||Farrand, R.|
|Benett, J.||Fitzgerald, rt. hon. M.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Fitzroy, lord C.|
|Bentinck, lord W.||Foley, J. H. H.|
|Benyon, B.||Folkestone, visc.|
|Bernal, R.||Frankland, R.|
|Birch, J.||French, A.|
|Brougham, H.||Graham, S.|
|Browne, Dom.||Grattan, J.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Guise, sir B. W.|
|Bury, visc.||Gurney, H.|
|Calcraft, J.||Gurney, R. H.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Hamilton, lord A.|
|Calvert, C||Heron, sir R.|
|Carew, R. S.||Hill, lord A.|
|Carter, J.||Hobhouse, J. C.|
|Caulfield hon. H.||Honywood, W. P.|
|Cavendish, H.||Howard, H.|
|Cavendish, C.||Hume, J.|
|Chaloner, R.||Hurst, R.|
|Clifton, lord||Hutchinson, hon. C. H.|
|Coffin, sir I.|
|Colborne, N. W. R.||Johnson, W. A.|
|Cradock, S.||Kingsborough, lord|
|Knight, R.||Robarts, G. J.|
|Lamb, hon. G.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Lambton, J. G.||Rowley, sir W.|
|Leader, W.||Robertson, A.|
|Leycester, R.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Lushington, S.||Scarlett, J.|
|Maberly, J.||Scott, S.|
|Maberly, W. L.||Sefton, earl of|
|Macdonald, J.||Smith, J.|
|Mackintosh, sir J.||Smith, G.|
|Mahon, hon. S.||Smith, W.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Stuart, lord P. J.|
|Martin, R.||Sykes, D.|
|Maxwell, J.||Talbot, R. W.|
|Monck, J. B.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Moore, P.||Wall, C. B.|
|Newport, sir J.||Warre, J. A.|
|Normanby, visc.||Whitbread, W. H.|
|O'Brien, sir E.||Whitbread, S. C.|
|Ord, W.||White, col.|
|Palmer, C.||White, S.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Parnell, sir H.||Winnington, sir T. E.|
|Pelham, J. C.||Wood, M.|
|Phillips, G. sen.||Wrottesley, sir J.|
|Phillips, G. It. jun.||Wyvill, M.|
|Ponsonby, hon. F. C.||TELLERS.|
|Power, R.||Duncannon, visc.|
|Powlett, hon. W.||Nugent, lord|
|Poyntz, W. S.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Pym, F.||Haldimand, W.|
|Rice, T. S.||Robarts, A. W.|
|Ridley, sir M. W.||Wilkins, W.|