§ Lord J. Russell moved the order of the day for the House resolving itself into a committee of the whole House to consider further of the Test and Corporation acts. The noble lord observed, that there was another act which he wished to be referred to the committee, namely, the act of the 16th Geo. 2nd for indemnifying from penalties individuals who had not qualified, according to law, for certain offices. This proposition having been agreed to, the House went into the committee, Mr. Spring Rice in the chair.
Lord John Russell
, in addressing the committee, observed, that he felt very great satisfaction at the tone and temper by which the former discussion had been marked. He was happy to say, that in no part of it had angry feeling been manifested: on the one side nothing had been introduced that could give offence to the most zealous friends of the church, nor on the other, had any argument been adduced that could wound the feelings of the Dissenters. In such a collision of opinion, on a subject of this nature, some strong expression of feeling might have been expected, but no such feeling had been expressed. Nothing was said, on the one hand, to give pain to the feelings of those who called for the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts; and on the other hand, not one word had been advanced, which could create soreness or irritation in the minds of the right hon. gentlemen who had opposed the measure. For his own part, looking to the question, as a really important question—as a question connected with national feeling; as a question which touched, in a very material degree, on the rights of the subject—he should not allude to any of those minor divisions which might tend rather to narrow its scope, and to introduce a view of it which it appeared to him to be most desirable to avoid. Indeed, the only part of the question which he thought it necessary to allude to, was the proposition of his hon. friend, the member for Devon (sir T. D. Acland), for a temporary suspension of those acts. This proposition was one of much importance—one that deserved deep consideration. In his opinion, to treat the subject in that way would be to tamper and palter with a 817 great question—to treat it in a manner unworthy of its magnitude—to deal with it in a way that would not be satisfactory either to the Dissenters or to the members of the Church of England. Because, while it would give to the Dissenters the power of connecting themselves with corporations and other establishments, it would still leave them in that state of precarious tenure which formed the great objection to the existing system while, on the other hand, it would interfere in such a way with the securities provided by the Test and Corporation acts, as to create dissatisfaction in the Church of England; for those who were favourable to the securities now in force would fear that, if they were once suspended, they would never again be carried into effect. Thus each party would remain dissatisfied. He therefore thought the committee would be of opinion with him, that if, during the course of eighty-five years, the operation of these acts was, in a great degree, suspended, nothing remained now but to continue the present system or to do it away altogether. The Indemnity act itself, being, as it were, but a half-measure—if, in place of it, they introduced a new half-measure, what would be its effect, but to keep the minds of men in suspense on a point of much importance to the liberties of Englishmen? If such a measure was calculated to keep the Dissenters in a state of half security and half suspense, it would be a great pity that a principle of that kind should be acted upon. He hoped, therefore, that those gentlemen of the committee who were disposed to make any alteration in these acts, would go with him the whole length of removing them entirely. The only proposition which he could make was, to supersede them. If the House or the committee differed with him, he had no other proposition to make; and he must say, in candour, that he could not bring himself to agree to a proposition of any other kind.—Much had been said, the other night, on the effect which the repeal of these acts was likely to have on another very important question, which had been often discussed in parliament—he meant the disabilities under which the Roman Catholics laboured. He was quite ready to confess, that he entertained a feeling that the grievances under which the Roman Catholics laboured were so much greater and so much more galling than any of which the Dissenters could com- 818 plain; that, although if the question of the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts had been brought forward at any time, or under any circumstances, he should have felt it his duty to vote in favour of it, yet he was equally bound to confess, that he never could or would have brought it forward, if he thought that by doing so he was injuring the cause of the Roman Catholics. He did not know what effect this declaration might produce upon the minds of those who were disposed to support the present question; but he thought it was due to himself to declare it; and he had never kept his opinions upon the subject a secret from the Dissenters. He had informed them last year, when he was requested to undertake the management of the application for a repeal of the Test and Corporation acts, that he was then ready to bring the question forward; but that he could not pledge himself specifically, unless with the reservation, that if any thing arose which was likely to prove injurious to the Catholic question from the agitation of the subject, he was not to be called upon to undertake the part of their advocate. He did not, however, think that the agitation of the present question was liable to the objection which had been made to it by some of the hon. gentlemen opposite. In the first place, and as a matter of general principle, their views were precisely the same. The petitions of the Roman Catholics for the settlement of their claims, and the petitions of the Protestant Dissenters praying that they might be relieved from civil disabilities, all commenced in nearly the same terms, and bottomed in the same principle; namely, that men ought to be indulged in the free exercise of their religious belief, unmolested by any restraint with respect to their civil privileges. He would, therefore, contend, that if in this case, he pledged the House to a feeling of this kind—if he thus far attached the House to a principle of general liberty, with regard to religious belief—undoubtedly he considered it a very great step in favour of the Roman Catholics. If parliament should say, "Nothing can be alleged against the Dissenters, and therefore those laws shall be abrogated;" and if they afterwards decided against the Roman Catholics, who held no doctrines, who harboured no feelings, against the constitution, whose only crime was, that they adhered to a particular religious be- 819 lief—if they decided against the admission of the Roman Catholics to civil privileges—he could not very well conceive on what fair ground such a decision could rest. He admitted, that, between the two cases, there were points of difference; but still, he could not but think, that, in the end, the argument came to that which he had stated. One point struck him very forcibly, and it was this—that if the present motion were conceded, many would look to the other great question with a better temper than they were at present disposed to do.—Again, it had been said, that by bringing forward this question, he was producing a great and serious evil—that he was pursuing a course which would create dissention between the Protestant Dissenters and the Church of England, which would break down that kind feeling that had, for several years, prevailed between them. Now, his answer to this was, that his object was not to prevent but to perpetuate the feeling of kindness which had so long animated those two bodies. Indeed, when individuals imagined that there was anything in the present motion which was likely to operate against a general feeling of harmony, he laboured under an error. Good evidence could be at once produced to the contrary. Let gentlemen look to the petition of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. They called on the House to repeal the laws which were now under consideration. They were merely lookers-on. In this particular question they had no direct interest. It was known that the Test acts had been done away in Ireland. And what was the result? Why, since that time, it was admitted on all hands, that a growing good feeling had been manifested between the Dissenters and Protestants of Ireland. If such had been the effect of the repeal of the Test acts there, he could not see why the same effect should not be produced here. He thought, after the great majority which sanctioned this proposition the other night, there was no wiser course for the Church of England to pursue, than that of agreeing immediately, and with a good grace, to the repeal which had been so decidedly called for. He trusted that this would be done—that no cavil would be made—that the friends of the Church of England would impute no sinister design to the Dissenters, but that they would receive them as good subjects—as men who loved the constitu- 820 tion—as a body whose innocence of all malice to the church must be admitted. Such should be their feelings, until by some unexpected conduct on the part of the Dissenters themselves, it might be deemed necessary—a thing which he could not conceive—either to continue the present statutes, or to re-enact others of a similar kind. The noble lord concluded by moving,
"That so much of an Act of the 13th of Charles 2nd, entitled, 'An Act for the well-governing and regulating of Corporations,' and so much of an Act of the 25th Charles 2nd, entituled, 'An Act for preventing dangers which may happen from Popish Recusants', and of another act of the 16th Geo. 2nd, for amending the last mentioned act, as require the person or persons in the said acts described to take or receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the rites or usage of the Church of England, for the purposes therein expressed, or impose any penalty, forfeiture, incapacity, or disability, by reason of any neglect or omission so to do."
§ Sir T. D. Acland
said, that having been alluded to so particularly by the noble lord who had just sat down, he felt it necessary, in order to guard against misapprehension, to explain what he had stated on a former evening. After what had already passed, it was impossible not to see that, in the opinion of the House of Commons, some decisive steps ought to be taken in the alteration, amendment, or repeal, of these laws, and that the more speedy these measures were, the more soothing would they be to the parties interested, as well as the more effectual for their objects. He was pleased to hear the noble lord call upon the House to legislate upon that question, not as one affecting the interests, or supposed interests, of one party only, but as one of great and general importance. The House had already, by a most marked and he believed, unexpected majority, shewn the sense it entertained, for the just claims of the Dissenters; but he believed he was warranted in saying, that amongst many, if not the great majority, of those who voted for going into the committee, there prevailed the greatest difference of opinion, as to the mode in which the proposed relief ought to be afforded. He had contended, when the question was brought forward very recently, that the interests and feelings of the Established Church were, in this matter, entitled to 821 special consideration; and he had thought it not amiss to remark, that in a case in which, confessedly, great weight was given to the feelings displayed by the Dissenting body, in refraining from pressing on the attention of the House matters deeply affecting their interests generally, that the feelings manifested by others—manifested by a body which had been cherished for centuries by the country—were worthy of similar consideration. For his own part, he trusted he had shewn, by his vote and his speech, that he did not attach any undue weight to the alarms of that Church, but wished to try the question between them and those others who were affected by the laws, with impartiality—to strike a balance between them as evenly as he could, and to give to both the attention and consideration which they deserved. There was another reason why he would not act on this proposition, without a due regard to the feelings of the Church; and it was, because the decorous, wise, and dignified silence, which had been observed on this occasion by that body, constituted a special claim on the consideration of the House, and he hoped the Commons of Great Britain would not be slow in attending to that claim. He was particularly entitled to state this, because he had said, on a former evening, that he did not think the eight-and-thirty years silence of the Dissenting body formed any bar against their claims. But the House might be assured, that, although the Church had been silent upon this subject, it was far from being indifferent, and that for many years past the greatest solicitude had been felt by its members. On this point he begged leave to adduce the authority of Mr. Justice Blackstone; whose dictum on this subject had almost passed into a proverb. That distinguished lawyer had called these two acts "the bulwarks of the Established Church" [cries of "No, no."]. He thought this point was a matter of so much notoriety, that there was no necessity for any explanation. But, as the fact was challenged, and as he had taken the passage down, he begged leave to read it. Mr. Justice Blackstone, then said, "In order the better to secure the Established Church against perils from non-conformists of all denominations, Infidels, Turks, Jews, Heretics, Papists, and Sectaries, there are, however, two bulwarks erected called the Corporatoin and Test acts." Such was the opinion of Mr. Justice Blackstone; and he must say, that 822 the silence of the Dissenters for thirty-eight years, with respect to those laws, had, particularly as churchmen were concerned, drawn the eyes of the public from them, and led to error with reference to them. The suggestion, therefore, which he had thrown out, with respect to the policy of a Suspension bill, he would adhere to as a just one. That course of proceeding would afford an opportunity to individuals to acquire more correct views than generally prevailed on the subject at present. He confessed he did not think the principle of suspension was the best course; but he would rather see some measure proposed of a moderated character, which would have a fair chance of passing both Houses of parliament; which would render unnecessary the calling the attention of parliament to the subject again, and which would close up for ever the sources of animosity that had been long existing, and which, though they had the appearance of healing, might, by injudicious treatment, be rendered more virulent than ever. This he would say to government, that if they allowed the present subject to grow up as a bone of contention, in the same way as another great question had been allowed to grow up, the country would be visited by two plagues instead of one. He must say, that his view of the question had somewhat changed since he addressed the House on Tuesday night. He had turned the subject in his mind, and no man, who considered the question at all, could leave out of his calculation the probabilities of amicably terminating this dispute by any measure that might be proposed. Now, looking to that point he confessed that he could not give his hearty concurrence to this proposition. He did not think that it would answer the intended purpose. They ought not to meet these laws by a simple repeal. How did they act with regard to the Catholic question? Was not every bill introduced for their relief accompanied by some securities? In the bill brought forward in 1825, was there not an oath introduced, which was to be taken by Catholics who might be appointed to any situation under government, disclaiming all hostility to the existing establishment? That oath, almost totidem verbis, had been taken by the Irish Roman Catholics for the last thirty or forty years. Why, it might be asked, did he cite this? Why, because he considered that the compliance by the Dissenters, with some such 823 declaration as this, would have the effect of removing much of the fear, and creating much of that confidence among the members of the Established Church, which he thought necessary to the perfect success of their desires. There was, then, a practical mode of relief for the Dissenters, combined with perfect security to the Established Church. But he would say, that if the present parliament put an end to the Test and Corporation acts, without any protection being given to that Church, very little satisfaction would be given to the people; and he conceived that it would be very difficult to have such a bill passed into a law. If, in the course of the proceeding of the bill through the House, either that which he had pointed out, or any other equivalent provision was made, he, for one, should be exceedingly rejoiced to see thereby an end put to the existing system; but he could not consent to the unqualified repeal of these acts. The object which he had in view might be attended by a bill of suspension, which would afford security to the Church, and at the same time, free the Dissenters from every annoyance. It was not his intention himself to propose such a measure; but if the bill which might hereafter be proposed to the House did not meet with approbation, it might be well to consider whether the government itself ought not to take a step in the business.
Lord J. Russell
agreed entirely with his hon. friend, that it was a matter of great importance to conciliate the good-will of the Church of England. He was ready to agree to every thing that did not tend to encourage what he considered, to be a very unfounded and mischievous opinion; namely, that these acts afforded any security to the Church of England. He felt a strong objection to the plan of his hon. friend, because it would have the effect of keeping alive those feelings that ought to be suppressed. If a suspension bill were agreed to, the Church of England, on the one side, would look with anxiety for its revival, as their security, while, on the other, the Dissenters would view its enactment as a mark of their degradation. The great reason, however, which induced him to object to such a course was, because it militated against the total repeal of these acts. He thought, however, that there might be introduced into the repeal bill something palatable to the Church, without imposing any ob- 824 noxious form of proceeding on the Dissenters. If the government would pledge itself to any form of words, which, while it gave sufficient security to the Church, did not wound the feelings of the Dissenters, to that he was ready to agree; but his great object was the entire repeal of the existing laws.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that when it was considered that it was not until two o'clock on Monday morning that the motion of the noble lord was carried by a majority of forty-four, he thought that a longer period might be permitted to intervene between the success of that motion and the renewal of a discussion in the committee on the important subject to which that motion referred. For himself, he begged to declare that he had been so engaged during the last two days, that he had neither had time to consult with others upon the subject, nor of forming his own opinion conclusively upon it. But, after the decisive majority with which the motion had been carried, he would put it to the noble lord whether, for the sake of having his measure followed up with final success, he would not be disposed to accept some alternative, instead of the absolute and entire repeal of the Test and Corporation acts. The noble lord should bear in mind, that many members who voted for his motion on the former night, voted only for going into a committee upon these acts, but abstained from pledging themselves to go the full length of a total and unqualified repeal of them. To insure the continued support of those members, it would be worth while to consider whether some mode short of repeal might not advantageously be adopted. Another inducement to the noble lord should be found in the natural anxiety the whole House entertained, that those religious animosities which had been alluded to might be entirely removed, instead of being increased, as they would be, if the measure adopted by the legislature was not one of general satisfaction to the whole community. Again, if the redress of a real practical grievance was the object of the noble lord, and not merely the triumph of an abstract principle, would it not be desirable to shape the measure in such a manner as that it would meet the concurrence of both branches of the legislature, and not set them in collision on a subject which might exasperate feelings which they were all anxious to allay. In offering these suggestions, he wished again to be under- 825 stood as neither having concerted with others, nor having yet matured his own opinion upon it. The great point which had been objected to by those who supported the repeal was the principle of the law which made the Sacramental test a qualification for office. This was said to constitute the material grievance: for, although, in admission to certain corporate offices, this qualification was not enforced, yet in other corporations it did operate as a practical exclusion from these offices. Although the law in some instances was overlooked and Dissenters admitted, and although in a few corporations it was enforced, yet these few instances did not shew the whole extent of the grievance: for, in many instances, the apprehension of the penalty being called into existence prevented many Dissenters from aspiring to offices for which, but for such apprehension, they would become candidates. It was difficult, therefore, and, indeed, almost impossible, to ascertain the extent of the practical grievance. This point was forcibly urged on the former evening. In stating this ground he admitted it was entitled to the utmost attention, and therefore he suggested the expediency of not precipitating a decision to night. There was, besides this, another objection. The preamble of the bill was not in unison with the different clauses, but this he would not enter into at present; he would only appeal to the noble lord, if he would be content with the suspension of the acts, so far as regarded the Sacramental test, with the view of obtaining the consent of the whole legislature; and whether it would not be better, in order to put an end to a practical evil, to agree to a measure, though less perfect than might be wished, for the purpose of meeting the wishes of the two houses of parliament. At all events, he thought the question ought to be open for discussion; that no pledge should be given by any member on either side, and that, above all, every thing should be avoided which could excite animosity or angry feelings. He, therefore, appealed to the noble lord, whether it would be prudent to come to a decision on such an important question, after only a few hours' consideration; and hoped that the House would agree to postpone the discussion at least for a few hours.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he had hoped that the right hon. gentleman would have proposed some measure which the House could 826 adopt, or at least would have pointed but those parts of the bill proposed by his noble friend, which appeared to him objectionable. This, however, he had not done: all he had done was, to ask for delay. He agreed with the hon. member for Devonshire, that the difficulty lay not in devising what oaths might be necessary, but in passing the bill. On his part, he was ready to vote for any security which might be considered necessary for the protection of the Church. He had always expressed the same sentiments when the Catholic question was discussed, and he entertained the same views with regard to this measure. He would agree to any security, provided it did not continue those disabilities of which the Dissenters at present complained; but he was afraid the proposition of the hon. member for Devonshire was not such as he could consent to. As far as he understood him, he seemed to propose a suspension of the laws for a certain time, in order to see the effect which it might produce. He agreed with him, that it was desirable to avoid angry discussion: but who would say, if this measure was only partially decided, that it might not be renewed from time to time, and the discussions become every time more irritating? He could not agree to postpone the question, and hoped that his noble friend would not consent to it.
§ Dr. Phillimore
said, he supported the repeal of these acts, on the conviction that it was consistent with the best interests of the established church. He regarded the existence of them as a scandal, which for the credit of the Church should be removed. The simple repeal was proposed by the noble lord; as an amendment to that it was proposed by an hon. baronet to suspend these acts. In his opinion suspension or repeal, for a time, could do no good: as when the time for renewing arrived, fresh dissatisfaction and animosity would be naturally evinced. If by a short oath, unobjectionable to the Dissenters, the objections of those who were opposed to the repeal could be removed, he would not oppose it. If the relief at present prayed for was granted to the Dissenters, it would furnish an additional ground for acceding to the claims of the Catholics. In reply to a question which had been put by the right hon. Secretary, on a former occasion—why in the bill introduced last session, by an hon. baronet, was it not proposed to release the Dissenters from the operation of the Test and 827 Corporation acts?—the reason was, that the object of that bill merely was to raise the Catholics to the level of the Dissenters.
Mr. Wilmot Horton
said, he had voted a few nights ago most cordially for the repeal of the laws in question; for he was one who did not believe that the established church was at all protected by them. But, whatever his abstract opinions upon any question were, he was bound to adopt that course which he thought, in the long run, most sure to carry his policy into execution. A right hon. gentleman, now unfortunately no more, had stated, last year, that he opposed the repeal of the Corporation and Test acts, because he conceived that that repeal would militate against the general cause of the Catholics: now he had no hesitation to declare, that he believed that right hon. gentleman himself could not have supported the indemnity system, subject to the real case of grievance which had, in the present debate, been made out against it. At the same time he was not himself entirely of opinion, that the objection of the right hon. gentleman to whom he alluded had been without foundation; or that, when the acts before the House were repealed, some slight loss of strength to the Catholic question might not arise. He was no advocate for delay; he would carry both the question before the House and the Catholic question, that very evening, if he could. And, if he saw reason to believe that the repeal of the laws affecting the Dissenters alone could be carried, without endangering that unanimity of feeling which prevailed with respect to religious disabilities, he would support it. But, if there was a doubt upon this point, he should be induced to hesitate. Unanimity of feeling was his first object; and if that could be best secured by the course of suspension, suspension was the policy which he should prefer. If he were put to his election, to support, without any qualification, the proposition of the noble lord, or to reject it, he should undoubtedly vote in its favour; but he wished the noble lord would consider the suggestion of his right hon. friend.
hoped that the noble lord would postpone his motion for three or four days. The resolution declared that it was the opinion of the committee, that the acts should be repealed; therefore, if a bill was brought in upon the report of that 828 committee, it would be inconsistent afterwards to introduce a clause by which the acts were only to be suspended.
§ Mr. Wynn
said, he was favourable to a total repeal. Any partial measure would only have the effect of keeping the grievance alive. The making the Sacramental Test the qualification to office, was the scandal of the Established Church. There could not be a stronger instance than the one referred to, of the last chief magistrate of London, who, it was well known, was a Dissenter, but was nevertheless obliged to take the Sacrament according to the observance of the Established Church, in order to qualify for office. He had no hesitation in saying, that he preferred the repeal to the suspension. He believed that no cause could make the existence of the laws complained of again necessary; but, if they ever should become so, the parliament of that day would find no difficulty in re-enacting them. Repeal, in his opinion, was the only proper course. It was impossible to suppose, after the decision of Tuesday night, that the Dissenters would rest satisfied with suspension.
§ Mr. G. Bankes
thought, that as many members had not yet made up their minds as to the course which ought to be pursued, the decision of the question ought, for the present, to be postponed.
§ Mr. Calcraft
thought that, after the large majority of the other night, there would be no difficulty, at least until they came into committee on the bill. He believed that the object of the right hon. Secretary was conciliation; but he put it to him, whether delay was the way most likely to effect it. They had heard that night of animosities and probable bickerings; but an annual Suspension bill would not allay that irritation: it would tend to keep open jealousy; and if any serious difference did, in the course of time, arise, the friends to the Church might ask the recall of that suspension. He, therefore, thought the best way was to forward the repeal with as little delay as possible.
supported the repeal, as the only course likely to satisfy the Dissenters, and as that to which he considered the House had partly consented. It was a remarkable circumstance in the late debate, that not a single member had been found to defend these acts; and if indefensible, they ought not to be continued.
§ Mr. Perceval
understood the proposition of the right hon. Secretary to be made 829 with a sincere view of meeting the wishes of the noble lord. He thought that object would be more forwarded by the postponement of the discussion, than by forcing the House to come to a vote.
Mr. Secretary Peel
regretted the continuance of the debate, as it seemed likely to disturb that harmony which had characterized the earlier stages of their proceedings; but he put it to the noble lord whether a short delay would not be the most consistent? After the unforeseen majority, he was not prepared, and he believed that many other members were not prepared, to say what course it would be most proper to adopt. By the unexpected decision which the House had come to, it became desirable that it should suspend further proceedings for a short time, to consider the whole bearings of the question, and the consequences of that decision. The noble lord would not prejudice his view of the question by consenting to the delay. If he (Mr. P.) had now intended to bring the question of suspension or repeal to a decision, he would have given the noble lord notice. But he had not considered the subject sufficiently. He could not yet say what would be the best course to adopt, for he had strong objections to adopt the suggestion, that an oath should be substituted as a protection for the Church establishment.
§ Sir C. Cole
said, he would grapple at once with the objections to the repeal of the Corporation and Test acts. It was said that they were a barrier to the Established Church. If so, they were a barrier of glass, which any man might break to pieces in a minute. It was a great hardship to the Protestant Dissenters of England, that they should have acts hanging over their heads, which did not affect those of Scotland and Ireland.
Lord John Russell
said, that if adjournment would promote the measure, and give satisfaction to the Dissenters, he would not object to it. The only question, he maintained, now under consideration, was repeal or suspension. The question of repeal had been fully taken into consideration. It was included in all the speeches, all the arguments, and in the vote of the House. If he thought that by giving time, the House would agree to his proposition, he would most readily accede to it; but he felt quite confident, that no time would suffice to produce a different conviction in those who were now opposed to the repeal. 830 The right hon. gentleman looked only to securities for the Established Church; while his (lord J. R. 's) object was to give satisfaction to both parties—the numerous body of petitioning Dissenters, and the members of the Established Church. The right hon. gentleman himself did not know that the suspension would satisfy the party whose interests he considered; but he (lord J. R.) did know that it would not satisfy the Dissenters. He was convinced, after the majority of the other night, that to vote for the suspension would excite greater irritation than if the House had at first refused to take up the subject. With these feelings, considering that the course now proposed was in fact putting the question for suspension or repeal, he must persist in his proposition.
hoped there would be an adjournment. It had been said, that if any member had been taken by surprise, the supporters of the repeal would consent to an adjournment. He believed that several members were so situated. He should support the suspension of the acts in preference to their repeal.
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
said, that the right hon. Secretary asked for time, merely to consider the mode in which the measure could be best carried into effect. He concurred in that view, and was sorry that the noble lord had not evinced a similar feeling.
§ Lord Milton
begged to refer the committee to the exact words of the notice of motion given by the noble lord. They were "repeal of the Corporation and Test, acts." What, then, became of the objections of hon. members? Away with these idle pretences; which those who made them knew were pretences; their only object being to regain the vantage ground they had lost, and by delay, to defeat the Dissenters, and not the Dissenters only, but the best interests of the Church.
Mr. Secretary Peel
warmly repelled the noble lord's imputations; and declared, upon his honour, that they were wholly foreign to his motives. He had been most unjustly accused of not being actuated by a conciliatory spirit in this discussion. All he would say was, that, after what had passed, he would not only not propose suspension, but would not even accept delay; although that delay was proposed for purposes which, if his proposition had been accepted in the spirit in which it had been made, might have turned out satis- 831 factory to all parties. He would leave the noble lord to take the course which his judgment pointed out to him; declining any delay; but reserving to himself the right, at any future stages of the bill to adopt such measures as might appear to him advisable.—The right hon. gentleman shortly after left the House.
§ Sir T. Lethbridge
applauded the determined and dignified conduct of the right hon. gentleman. He had come down to the House to vote with the noble mover, in conformity with the decision of the majority of the House; and he had hoped that the measure would have been completed with the temper which ought to be observed in considering a question of so much importance. But instead of friendly co-operation, the noble member for Yorkshire had thrown out the symbol, sign, and ensign of hostility.
Mr. Wilmot Horton
, in reference to the intimation on the part of the noble member for Yorkshire, that those who wished for the delay of a few days proceeded upon false pretences, said he repelled with indignation the imputation attempted to be cast upon him.
§ Lord Milton
begged to state, in explanation, that, when he had heard that some members conceived that the repeal of the acts was not the object of the noble lord's motion he had desired the clerk to give him the book, that he might show the exact nature of the motion; that repeal was the end in view, and that those who Stated the contrary were not correct.
Mr. V. Fitzgerald
observed that the notice was to repeal the acts, but the motion itself had been for a committee to consider them. He regretted the tone manifested by the noble lord who spoke last, and his introduction into the discussion of unauthorized and unjust aspersions upon those who had differed from him. This was the last thing that the noble mover would desire. He hoped there would be a return to the spirit and temper with which the subject had been introduced, and to which it owed mainly the success it had received.
§ Mr. Calcraft
intreated the committee to consider the great interests involved in the decision of the present question. He regretted that any irritation had arisen, and trusted it would be allowed to subside.
Lord J. Russell
regretted the tone which the discussion had assumed. It 832 was his opinion, that as no other proposition but suspension was made, it was needless to defer the discussion. At the same time he did not think that the right hon. gentleman had any other object in proposing delay than the convenience of all parties. He imputed motives to no one.
§ The resolution was then agreed to. Previous to which several of the ministers retired from the House.
§ Mr. Littleton
expressed his fears that this question, after what had passed, would no longer be discussed without an infusion of party spirit. He regretted the speech which had been delivered by the noble lord, and doubted much whether it would not be doing mischief.
was of opinion, that those who allowed paltry, petty, and personal, feeling to interfere with the broad path of their duty, were unworthy of a seat in that, or in any other House.
§ Sir G. Warrender
hoped, that whatever irritation might have been excited, it would not lead to any unfortunate result to this most important question. He must declare, that if any circumstance could induce him to withdraw his confidence from an administration, it would be the circumstance he had just witnessed; namely, the secession of ministers from the House. This was the first time that he had seen all the ministers retire from the House before a decision had been come to on a great question which had been agitating all men's minds. He begged pardon: he saw one minister left.
Mr. V. Fitzgerald
thought his hon. friend, could not have heard the speech of his right hon. friend; who had expressed his intention neither to oppose the motion nor to support it. He now learned for the first time that it was a singular course for a minister to leave the House to avoid voting. The discussion was at an end. If he had remained in the House, and a division had been called for, he could not have avoided voting. [Mr. Peel here re-entered the House.]
Lord F. L. Gower
said, that the hon. baronet had announced the probability of his withdrawing his valuable support from a minister who was liable to moments of irritation. Now, he must say, that if he found his right hon. friend to be a minister 833 whose blood was so cold that he could not rise under an unmerited attack—under the imputation of acting on false pretences—he, in his turn, would withdraw his support from him. In his right hon. friend's secession from the House under the circumstances that had taken place, he entirely concurred. He (lord F. L. Gower) did not take the same course, because, though he had voted in the minority on the former evening, yet, seeing the majority against his view of the question, he would, if called upon to decide between suspension and repeal, undoubtedly give his vote for the latter. For these reasons he did not follow his right hon. friend, upon whom, in his absence, the gallant officer had chosen to make a personal attack.
§ Sir G. Warrender
said, that when he commented on the departure of his right hon. friend he was not aware that he had declared his intention of not voting on the question. He was not apt to give way to feelings of irritation, but he supposed that, on this occasion, he had caught the infection. If he had said any thing objectionable, he was sorry for it.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that he was occupied very agreeably up stairs when the intelligence was conveyed to him that his gallant friend was ready to withdraw his support from the government; nevertheless, he did not allow the intelligence to disturb his repast. The fact was, that having fasted since nine o'clock that morning, and being completely exhausted, he had retired to take some refreshment. He had returned to listen to the attack which was made upon him, but he feared that he should again provoke the indignation of his gallant friend by pursuing the same course by which it had been excited; for it was his intention to leave the House when the question should be put, if it had not already been put from the chair. When he left the House, he intended no disrespect to the noble lord, or to the committee.
§ The House resumed: and the report was ordered to be brought up on Tuesday.