Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [8th April], "That the Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be nominated by the Committee of Selection:"—(Mr. Newdegate:)—And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the words "That the" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "Order for the appointment of the Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be discharged,"—(Mr. Cogan,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.52
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that as the hon. Member had already spoken in the debate, he could not again address the House without its permission.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that he was perfectly aware that he had to ask for the indulgence of the House while he endeavoured to comply with the wish, expressed by the First Lord of the Treasury on Friday last, that he should state his view of the scope of the inquiry ordered by the House on the 29th of March. The Order was for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into certain matters connected with Conventual and Monastic Institutions. He felt sure the House would believe him when he said that he did not presume to explain what the House or even the majority understood to be the purport of their vote, but merely his own understanding of the Order of the House, as draftsman of that Order; and that except in compliance with a request of the kind he had described, he should not have intruded himself on the House. The Order adopted by the House was in the following terms:—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the existence, character, and increase of Conventual and Monastic Institutions or Societies in Great Britain, and into the terms, upon which income, property, and estates belonging to such Institutions or Societies, or to the members thereof, are respectively received, held, or possessed.It was quite true that he made the Motion for the adoption of the Order, and then, to the best of his poor ability, he urged arguments in support of that Motion. He should not, however, now venture to adduce any argument. All he had to do was to explain, as the draftsman of this Instruction, what he understood to be its purport. He did not think he could better comply with the wish, which he understood the House to have expressed, than by reading part of a letter which he addressed to a right hon. Member on the 30th of March, immediately after the Motion of the 29th. First, however, he would remark that, although the Motion was only carried by a majority of 2 in a House of 260 Members, yet the question had been virtually tested subsequently by Divisions on the adjournments of the debate on the Motion to give effect to the Resolution—first, by a majority of 24, and next 53 by a majority of 45. He concluded, therefore, that the Order of the 29th of March had, when considered calmly, commended itself to the approbation of the House. The letter he referred to contained the following paragraphs:—You requested me to state in writing my understanding of the purport of the Resolution yesterday adopted by the House of Commons, which I to-day endeavoured verbally to convey to you. I understand that the Resolution of yesterday directs an inquiry by a Select Committee, limited considerably within the sphere of the inquiry conducted by the Select Committee on the Law of Mortmain, appointed in 1851, so far as Roman Catholic charitable property is concerned; inasmuch as the inquiry, yesterday directed, will touch the property, whether real or personal, which is held in trust or otherwise, for the benefit or maintenance of monastic or conventual institutions only, excluding all the property which is held for the maintenance of Roman Catholic chapels, residences for individual or secular priests, and schools, not connected with the monastic or conventual orders of the Church of Rome; the tenure of all which property, as well as that for the maintenance of conventual, if not of monastic institutions, was considered by the Committee of 1851, and was intended to be regulated by the Roman Catholic Act of 1860. The information, the obtaining of which was, I understand, yesterday directed, would in other respects extend to subjects not contemplated by the appointment of the above-mentioned Committee, or by the passing of the above-mentioned statute, inasmuch as the inquiry necessary for obtaining this further information must extend to an investigation of the nature of the income, whether the produce of real or personal property, or derived from other sources, by which monastic and conventual institutions in Great Britain are maintained, and must further seek the practical identification of these institutions by inquiring into the discipline for their external and internal regulation, by which alone the particular character of such institutions can be ascertained; while the sites, general character, and the increase of these institutions must also form part of the subject-matter of the inquiry.He went into some further matters in the letter, showing it was likely there would be a general feeling throughout the country in favour of an inquiry being made—a presumption which events had justified. There had been great misunderstanding, as to the scope of this inquiry, founded upon the necessity of ascertaining the discipline, in order to test the character of monastic institutions. The Roman Catholic Directory showed that conventual establishments had adopted a great variety of designations, and varied in their character in the most extraordinary degree. In some cases the nuns left the convent for purposes of charity, and to a certain extent 54 mixed with the world; in this way they might derive means for their sustenance; but the case of the cloistered nuns was different, as had been exhibited by a recent case of escape from a convent in Warwickshire. ["Question!"] That unfortunate lady was now safe under the care of the magistrates for the county, and was under the control of the Lunacy Commissioners; her case showed that there were two classes of nuns in the convent at Baddesley Clinton, and that she was not one of those nuns that visited the poor, but one of that class termed the inner circle. Thus evidence had come to light, during the discussion of the subject, supporting the fact that while some nuns visited the world others were never permitted to do so, but, although in the same institution with the others, were cloistered. ["Order!"] He was mentioning this case to show that discipline formed an important part of the question, and he would take one other instance. ["Question!" and "Order!"] He desired to do so simply to show the necessity for ascertaining the true and real character of the monastic orders, and he would mention two instances which would also help to explain the scope of the inquiry resolved on. It was well known that at Mount St. Bernard, in Leicestershire, there was an Order of Trappist Monks, who, it is believed, were bound by regular vows, who formed part of a regular Order of the Church of Rome, and seldom left the precincts of their monastery. The fact of the existence of this Order must be known to the House, for these monks had been entrusted with the education of a reformatory school for boys, and payment had been made to them out of the public funds. The case of the Oratorians was of a different character. ["Question!"] They had appealed to the Courts of Law in the case of "Smee v. Knox and others," and succeeded in their suit on the ground that they were not bound by monastic vows, and had not community of goods. There was a distinct difference between these two cases: one had sought the protection of the law, the other had obtained money from the State; and he mentioned this to show it was necessary, if anything was to be known of these institutions and the manner in which property belonging to them was held and disposed of, inquiry must be made into the discipline which cha- 55 racterized these institutions respectively. For that reason he had introduced the word "character," which of course to a certain extent included the discipline, which was distinctive of the character of such institutions. A notion had got abroad among the Roman Catholics—which was especially apparent in a Petition from Dublin, that the House had ordered an immediate personal inspection of each person in every convent and monastery in the kingdom. The Order did not authorize the Committee to make any such inspection at all. He was anxious to remove this misapprehension, in which he had reason to apprehend that the hon. Member for Kilkenny anticipated. At a meeting of the Corporation of Dublin, held on the 7th of April, at which the Petition, which had been laid before the House, had been adopted, that hon. Member had made a speech to which he wished to draw attention.
§ MR. OSBORNE
rose to Order. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had already made three speeches upon this subject, and it was only by the indulgence of the House that he was allowed again to address them, in order to give an explanation of his presumed views upon the subject. Instead of doing so, however, he was entering into a debate as to what had been said in another place. He put it to Mr. Speaker whether the hon. Member was in order in the course he was pursuing.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne) had rightly stated that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was addressing the House merely by their indulgence. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire would doubtless see, under these circumstances, the propriety of confining himself to giving the necessary explanation to the House of the course he intended to pursue, if the House were willing to hear him upon the subject.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was very sorry to trespass upon the House for one moment longer than was absolutely necessary; but, since he had been asked to explain what he understood was the scope of the inquiry to be undertaken by the Committee—in order to explain what he understood to be within the scope of the inquiry, he must be permitted to state his understanding of what had been suggested as within the scope, but was 56 not. Now, that which he did not understand to come within the scope of that inquiry was contained in the Petition which had lately been presented to the House from the Corporation of Dublin. He believed that the hon. Member for Kilkenny was in his place, and at the meeting to which he had already referred that hon. Member had used these words. ["Question!"]
§ MR. OSBORNE
again rose to Order. He would beg to move that the hon. Member should not be indulged.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must repeat that the hon. Member is addressing the House by its indulgence, and it is for the House to decide whether or not he is exceeding the limits of the privilege that has been accorded him.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
remarked that the hon. Member for Waterford had given him (Mr. Newdegate) an advantage he did not expect by making a new Motion, upon which he was now entitled to address the House. He should not, however, intrude one additional word upon the House in consequence of the advantage that the hon. Member had given him by making the Motion. The Friends of the hon. Member for Kilkenny did not appear to wish that the House should know what he had described their intended action to be. ["Question!"] The hon. Member, on the occasion to which he referred, said—I will have much pleasure in presenting the Petition, and I will also have much pleasure in bearing my part in the using of every form and any form of the House, no matter at what cost, at what labour, at what time, to defeat the most unjustifiable proceeding against which you have this day protested. I think I may say, too, that there are some other men who will co-operate in the work, and who will say with me this infamy shall not be,He believed that the expression of opinion on the part of the Corporation of Dublin, and of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, arose from a total misapprehension of the scope of the inquiry ordered by the House; but, at the same time, he must advert to the fact that the House, after deliberate and repeated Divisions upon this subject, was threatened that a use would be made of its own forms to defeat its object, and that this threat was made by an Irish Member in reference to an inquiry affecting the 57 whole of Britain, but not extended to Ireland. In connection with this extraordinary misapprehension and proceeding, he might further remind the House that a breach of its privileges had been committed by the manner in which he had been libelled. Without further trespassing upon the House, he would express a hope that he had furnished the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had desired from him with reference to what he understood to be the scope of the proposed inquiry. The hon. Members forming the majority, with whom he had communicated on this subject, appeared to concur with him that the inquiry directed by the House would be limited to the objects which he had endeavoured to describe.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM
said, he trusted that the House would not grudge him a few moments while he made a few observatinos on the question before them, more especially as the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had already spoken three times upon it. He felt assured that the House would enter upon and continue this debate with a sense of great responsibility, on the ground that it concerned deeply the feelings and interests of a large number of their fellow-subjects, the Catholics of England and Wales, who were absolutely without representation in that House. ["No, No!"] He believed he was right in saying that there was only one Catholic Member returned for England and Wales. ["No, no!"] He repeated, and he challenged contradiction upon the point, that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir John Simeon) was the only Catholic Member representing a constituency in England or Wales in that House. ["No, no!" and "Roman Catholic Member."] Well, he was not going to quarrel about a word—let it be Roman Catholic Member. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight being-absent from ill-health, he was right when he stated that the Roman Catholics of England and Wales were without representation in that House. Moreover the strong Protestant feeling which, he rejoiced to say, was so widely diffused throughout this country, was apt to lead the House into acting hastily, and doing that which they would afterwards in their calmer moments regret. Neither 58 did he think that the hon. Member the Mover of this Motion had acted in a manner quite worthy of his own high character in complaining of the tone in which some Englishwomen had expressed their opinions of the conduct of that House in this matter; because it must be recollected that their feelings were strongly excited, and that pending the measure of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), strong language was the only constitutional method which women possessed of expressing their opinions upon political questions in which they were interested. But, if they were to approach the inquiry in that spirit, he did not see that any solid good could come from it; and no one could deny that it would excite, as the Motion had already excited, much irritation, much unkindly, uncharitable, and un-Christian feeling. The proposed inquiry had two aspects, one referring to the property and the other to the character of these institutions. He admitted that property, whether public or private, was a legitimate subject for inquiry by Parliament, and especially property of a public or quasi public character. He had heard with pleasure that one of the motives of the hon. Gentleman in moving for an inquiry—though it seemed strange for such a reason to be assigned by a Warwickshire squiro—was, because the dedication of property to these institutions would withdraw it from the market. That would furnish an argument against the iniquities of the law of entail. If the hon. Member had directed his inquiry to corporate or quasi corporate property generally, that would have been a legitimate subject of inquiry, and he would have gone with the hon. Member in preventing absolutely the acquisition by corporate institutions of land not required for their own occupation; but when the hon. Member spoke of Roman Catholic charities, he seemed to intimate that there was something exceptional in the manner in which the law dealt with them. That was an entire delusion. There was no difference between thorn and other charities, for they were all subject to the Law Courts, and to the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners. ["No, no!"] He was glad to have elicited those expressions in the negative, because they showed the misapprehension on which the House had acted, 59 and the misapprehension arose from the fact that when, in 1852, the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners was placed on a new basis, Roman Catholic charities were temporarily exempted from it. There were mixed up with Roman Catholic charities certain uses, which were considered by the law as superstitious, and there was at that time in contemplation an Act authorizing the Courts to divert the property from such superstitious uses and apply it to legitimate charitable purposes. Pending the introduction of that Act the Roman Catholic charities were exempted from the law of 1853 from year to year, but in 1860 such an Act was passed, and from that moment the Roman Catholic charities were placed in the same position as other charities, not only as regarded the Courts of Law, to which, of course, they were always subject, but as regarded the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners. He should not have adverted to this point had not the hon. Member in his opening speech dwelt on it; for, in fact, convents and monasteries were not charities, and did not come under the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners, and, therefore, the reference made by the hon. Member to Roman Catholic charities had nothing to do with the question. A convent or monastery was, with respect to its property, in precisely the same position as a Pall-mall club. It was a voluntary association of certain persons for certain definite purposes. It was not a corporation. The property was held by a few members as trustees, and the members could at any time sell it and divide the money. These rights of property were the creatures of the English law, recognized in the English Courts like other rights of property, and in no case were they subject, as the hon. Member said, not to the English Courts, but to what the hon. Member called the Court of Rome. There was nothing obscure or abnormal in the mode in which property was held by these institutions. He would not say how far property of the kind should be allowed to accumulate, because he looked with great jealousy on the accumulation of property by these artificial entities such as corporations or associations, and its withdrawal from its natural use, which was its enjoyment and disposition by individuals. The matter could be ascertained at any time; but if any inquiry 60 were undertaken it should be with a view to a remedy. He supposed that the hon. Member had some idea of a remedy, and he should be glad to hear what it was. It might be disendowment, or what might be called confiscation; but if so, it was rather extraordinary that such a proposition should come from the Conservative Benches. He would now pass from that subject, because it could not be denied that the object in view was not inquiry into the property, but into the nature of the institutions themselves, and all the talk about the mode in which the property was held merely veiled the real character of the inquiry. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire, however, repudiated the suggestion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Matthews) that the purpose of his inquiry was speculative curiosity. In fact, they all knew what was the nature of these institutions. They were voluntary associations of men or women, who thought that by devoting themselves to works of charity and to religious exercises they might attain the perfect life. That might not be their—hon. Members'—idea, nor was it his; but was it so unreasonable, so inconsistent with the common interests of society that they were prepared to stop it by law? He supposed no Member would get up and say so. Apart from coercion, physical or moral, was the House prepared to say that it should be unlawful for men or for women thus to live together? They must remember that the men neither enjoyed nor claimed exemption from the ordinary duties of citizenship; and as to the women, what should he say? Why, they were not more frivolous or more unwise than those who lived outside a convent's walls. But then it was said that coercion was brought to bear upon the inmates, either on their entrance or during their continuance in those houses. If that was true, if there was physical coercion, if any man or woman could be restrained otherwise than by sentence of law either in a convent or anywhere else, then he would admit there was a necessity not for inquiry, but for immediate and stringent legislation, because the rights of personal liberty laid down in Magna Charta and protected by the Habeas Corpus Act would be a dead letter. But he would put it to any rea- 61 sonable man—and he hoped they were all reasonable men—was it possible—did anyone believe, that such coercion did exist? [An hon. MEMBER: No doubt of it.] They had heard of dungeons deep and dark under the floors of convents—they had heard of 15 cwt. of iron railing1 at windows to prevent the escape of nuns. These charges, mingled with others intemperate and foul, might be disregarded when brought by irresponsible persons out-of-doors. But when they were brought up by men of responsible position and high character, like the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, the House had a right, and was bound to ask, were these things true, and could the hon. Gentleman prove them? Those charges had been made the basis of this Motion for an inquiry; they had a right to ask for some case proved before they entered upon it. The hon. Gentleman would say—Grant me a Committee, and I will prove my case; but if he had cases he could prove before the Committee he was bound now to put his finger on the name of some institution and tell them what cases demanded investigation. He did not think he would be suspected of any leaning towards Roman Catholicism. He had no love for priestly power. He would not yield to the hon. Member for Warwickshire in attachment to Protestantism, and Protestantism more extreme than he (Mr. Newdegate) professed. But he was not prepared, under the influence of such convictions, unless a clear case were shown, to charge all the Roman Catholics of England, our own countrymen and countrywomen, with that, the wickedness of which was only exceeded by its extreme folly—physical coercion, in violation of the first rights and liberties of their fellow-subjects. He felt persuaded that the majority of those who had voted for this Motion did not believe that cases of physical coercion existed. He Winterbotham) did not believe it. The hon. Member was challenged to prove his charges; and he had already used to the fullest extent—too fully—his right to protection under the privileges of the House in refusing to give any proof in answer to those who denied his charges. The nearest relations of the accused were as much entitled to credence as the hon. Member himself. He (Mr. Winterbotham) really believed the 62 hon. Member could not give the proof demanded. Let him prove one case, and then they would have some reason to believe that he could prove the rest. So much for cases of physical coercion, of which he believed there were none; but then it was said, there was moral coercion. Roman Catholics told them, indeed, that great care and deliberation were used before anyone was admitted to these vows, and that persons might be released from them with greater facility than in former times if they chose to return to society. But he granted there was moral coercion. These people were told by persons they believed that if they broke those vows they would endure terrible consequences hereafter. Did he love such a system? He abhorred all priesthoods from the bottom of his soul. He could not put it more strongly; but the question was, how would they meet this moral coercion? He called to mind the wise words of the First Minister of the Crown—"they could not free people's consciences by Act of Parliament." If these men and women really believed in the power of the sanction invoked over them—if they believed such consequences would follow the breaking of their vows, what relief could Parliament offer? What would the Committee do upstairs? Would they call the abbesses before them, and ask—"Do you coerce the inmates of your houses? "Would they ask the nuns—"Do you wish to remain?" "Did you enter of your free will?" "Do you remain of your free will?" They were told that this inquiry would be conducted by English Gentlemen. He believed it. But the very deference and respect which they would pay to the feelings of the inmates would, if it did anything, make this inquiry impotent and useless. In the case of the monasteries the inquiry would be worse. Here was another pitfall for the hon. Member and his Committee. They would ask questions in the case of men in the monasteries relating to oaths the taking of which since the Emancipation Act was criminal, subjecting the persons who took the oath to banishment, and on their return to transportation. Any person summoned before the Committee would refuse to answer. Why should he subject himself to penalties by answering? Would he be bound so to subject himself? He would not; and nothing what- 63 ever would be gained by the inquiry. What would result from the inquiry would be scenes in the Committee Room which the House and the country would not like to countenance, and would not readily repeat. Much irritation would be felt, much unkind feeling—and that was a weak phrase—excited, and no good whatever would come of it. He abhorred spiritual despotism as much as any man, but you could not fight spiritual power with carnal weapons. Would they free men's minds? Let them teach truth, not persecute error. He did not for a moment disparage the motives of the hon. Gentleman or of the large portion of the country that was supporting him in his Motion, though the very support the hon. Gentleman was receiving ought to show him the needlessness of the inquiry. For what were the motives and feelings at the bottom of that support? Alarm at the spread of Roman Catholicism in this country, and fear of its ultimately resuming its sway over the great mass of the people. He confessed he did not share that alarm in the least; but if he did he should be ashamed to meet it in this way. He hoped the Roman Catholic Members would forgive his speaking his mind upon the matter. He could not conceive how a sober-minded man, reading the signs of the times, could think that Roman Catholicism was making way in this country. The whole thought of the country was in far other directions; tradition and the history of the past were altogether out of harmony with it, and the whole outlook of the nation's future was in other quarters. How many doctors, lawyers, merchants, mechanics, or artizans were ever heard of as becoming Roman Catholics? The converts were women, parsons, and peers. Of these three classes the two latter were certainly not growing in power or in influence; there was nothing about the clergy or the peers of which the country need be afraid. As to the converts who were made among the women, the House had no right to complain on this head until they gave to women a higher, and, he would add, a more manly education—until they opened to them larger spheres of usefulness and activity. Till this was done, the House would have no right to be surprised that some women—and those not the least noble of their sex— 64 preferred the devotions and even the austerities of a convent to the frivolities of outdoor daily life. He would not further discuss the motives of those who were supporting the Motion. Though it was said to be no party Motion, he was not surprised that it emanated from the other side of the House, for he could not help remembering that it came from those who had ever been the consistent foes of religious liberty. He appealed to those whose Protestantism, like his own, was extreme, and stood in no need of assertion or vindication by insult and injustice offered to those who differed from them. They had themselves a conflict to wage with Ultramontanism; let them enter upon that work with clean hands, and fight with weapons of which they need not be ashamed. Let them not be open still to the reproach cast on them by Sidney Smith, who charged the Dissenters with a "greedy, growling, guzzling monopoly of toleration." To this charge they would expose themselves if they suffered themselves to be led by feelings of sectarian animosity into an unnecessary, and, therefore, as he thought, most unjustifiable infringement of the great principle of religious liberty.
said, he felt it was the duty of Parliament on that occasion to weigh calmly and deliberately, and without party spirit or feeling, the right or wrong of the proposal of his hon. Colleague (Mr. Newdegate). He wished, in the first instance, to set himself free from any idea that, in giving his vote upon this question, he belonged to any prejudiced party. He felt quite free from the application of those adjectives—he might almost term them expletives—that were applied the other night to his hon. Colleague by the hon. Member for Dungarvon (Mr. Matthews). He did not believe there was one word of truth in those extraordinary and absurd stories which had been so frequently circulated by an extreme section of the Protestant party with reference to occurrences that had taken place in the monastic and conventual establishments throughout the country; but he was bound also to withhold his assent from many of the statements put forward in the declaration of the Roman Catholics of Great Britain, which described the monasteries and 65 convents as the private homes of British subjects associated together to practise the counsels of Christian perfection, and stated that the superiors of these institutions did not exercise any authority over the inmates which was unknown to the law, and did not even possess such means of coercion as a teacher would have over children, a master over his apprentices, or an employer over his workmen. He differed especially from the statement that these establishments were in a similar position to private houses of English subjects. He had had frequent conversations upon this subject with many Roman Catholics, whom he had the pleasure of numbering amongst his friends and acquaintances, and they laid great stress upon that point. They had asked him how he would like his private house to be inspected? They said—"How would you Members of Parliament like inspectors to come and visit your private houses?" His answer to that had always been brief and simple—namely, that he had nobody shut up in his private house, and that if he or any other Gentleman had anybody shut up in his house—his wife, his daughter, his man-servant or his maidservant, or any human thing that was his, the law could and would interfere, and not only set the prisoner free, but visit his or her custodian with heavy punishment. The reply had always been that those who were shut up in these places were shut up voluntarily; but the question was, could they voluntarily leave? The advocates of these institutions said that it was moral and not physical force that retained the inmates of these establishments, and urged that against moral force they could not prevail with the help of all the inspectors and Royal Commissions in the world. That, no doubt, was a position which it was very difficult to dispute; but there was a widespread impression throughout the country that there was something more than that, and although he did not share in it he thought it was desirable it should be dispelled and got rid of. It might be urged that it was unnecessary to institute an inspection, which was felt to be painful and insulting, in deference to any absurd ideas which might be held on the subject; but, in his opinion, a man suspected of theft would do better, if he were innocent, to turn out his pockets than remain under so unpleasant a sus- 66 picion. He hoped this Motion would not be regarded as a party Motion. His own impression was, that the first Division was not a mistake, although the majority in favour of the Motion of his hon. Friend was very narrow, and it would now be even more dangerous to retreat than to advance. If it were said that this was an inopportune moment, and that they ought, as it were, to wear list shoes in approaching a question of this character, while a certain portion of Her Majesty's dominions were in so inflammable a condition, the blame attaching to such a state of things should rest where it ought to rest, not with his hon. Friend, but with the occupants of the Treasury Bench. It was very natural that his hon. Friend and Colleague, who had entertained for many years strong opinions on this subject, should seize the first available opportunity that presented a chance of success. He hoped there might be mutual concession on this subject—that on both sides of the House there might be an inclination not to take extreme views, but to bring the matter to a peaceable issue. He was quite sure that if some arrangement could be come to, whereby all institutions, whether of men or women, whether religious or secular, which kept themselves, under any pretext whatever, within certain rules and discipline and within closed doors, should be subjected to regular inspection, it would be a healthy and satisfactory conclusion for the House to arrive at.
I do not wish, Sir, to follow the example of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in what I may simply call the prolongation of the discussion, which I think it is outgeneral desire should be, if possible, wound up. One sentiment, indeed, which fell from the hon. Gentleman commanded my sympathy—namely, that which occurred towards the close of his speech, when he expressed his hope that the question would be approached by both sides of the House in a spirit of conciliation and concession; but I was a little disappointed to find him going on to advocate what, after all, is the most extreme demand ever made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), that the whole of these institutions should, under all circumstances, be open to regular inspection. I am sure that such a do- 67 mand as that does not afford much hope of an immediately peaceable issue, and if we wish to arrive at that result we must look at the matter in some other aspect. I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham), in regretting the decision at which the House arrived on a former evening, and for this reason—Without raising at all the question of abstract right—and by no means concurring in the very high doctrines set up by the hon. Baronet (Sir John Simeon) of the sacredness of associations of all kinds with respect to their rules and property and to their right of immunity from Parliamentary inquiry, still endeavouring to take what I should call a practical view of the case—I own I think that the balance of inconvenience, and perhaps of serious evil, of ill-will and animosity, is likely to revolt from this proceeding rather than any solid and substantial good. I do not feel that the Government are primarily or mainly responsible for leading to a satisfactory issue these discussions. We are not responsible for this proceeding. We did not hesitate to record our vote against it, and our duty at the present moment is simply to interfere in a conciliatory spirit, and to suggest respectfully to the House for its consideration that which may appear, under all the circumstances, best to be done. In the first place, with regard to the question before us, the original Motion was that of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, "that the Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be nominated by the Committee of Selection," to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan) has moved as an Amendment, "that the Order for the appointment of the Select Committee be discharged." I will say one word upon each of these two issues to be submitted to-night. The Committee of Selection has often been appealed to by the House to help it out of a difficulty. In a case where charges have been brought against hon. Members whose conduct has been subjected to such imputations as entail the necessity of inquiry, and in other matters of delicacy that have come before the House not by any will of its own, but, as it were, without its own intervention or agency in any way whatever, it has been felt fair to appeal to the Committee of Selection to assist the 68 House in sending the case to be tried before a tribunal of undoubted and unquestionable impartiality. To that extent I think it is quite fair that we should, from time to time, call upon the Committee of Selection to give us assistance. But I must observe that this is not a case of that kind. This is a ease which the House has taken up for reasons the majority thought sufficient; this is a case in which the House of its own accord has chosen to grapple with a subject of peculiar difficulty, delicacy, and responsibility; and, under these circumstances, it is proposed to ask the Committee of Selection to undertake the very invidious task of nominating the Committee. If the Committee of Selection had zealously volunteered for this duty, it would not be for me to interpose an objection; but I would have said that they had undertaken a task which there was no call upon them to undertake. But now I understand from the distinct declaration of one much respected Member of that Committee (Mr. Scourfield), not contradicted by any counter-declaration of any other Member of it, that the Committee of Selection deprecate and respectfully protest against the imposition of this function upon them; and therefore I am certainly prepared to vote against the proposition of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire for constraining the Committee of Selection to undertake a task totally different from the purpose of helping us out of a difficulty in which we find ourselves placed without any choice of our own. Therefore my duty would be in that view of the matter to vote against the Motion that will be put first from the Chair—namely, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." Then comes the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan), who desires to discharge the Order for the Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions. And here I must look back to the nature of that Order, and I do so in this spirit. I think it is the duty of all Members of this House—not under all circumstances and without any qualification, but as a general rule—and especially the duty of the Government, after a decision has been arrived at by a majority of this House, to endeavour if they can to take a favourable view of that decision. When I look to what was the Motion I find it 69 to be a declaration that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the existence, character, and increase of Conventual and Monastic Institutions or Societies in Great Britain, and into the terms, upon which income, property, and. estates belonging to such Institutions are respectively received, held, or possessed. Upon reading that Motion it appears to me capable of being considered with reference to two matters, not only separable in idea, but widely distinct in practice—one of them is the state of the law with respect to these institutions; and the other, the conditions on which property is accumulated and held by or for them. With regard to this latter, it requires but a slighter description of primâ facie case to make an argument for inquiry. I freely grant to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire that when we have in the Emancipation Act of 1829 a distinct enactment affecting the existence of monastic institutions, that very fact is in the nature of a presumption in favour of Parliament considering the question. I should think—I own it is a presumption quite open to be treated in either way—that some of us would go into an inquiry upon that point, if it were the only point, with a desire to place these institutions under strict supervision. Upon that matter, however, I should be desirous to associate myself rather with those who doubted whether it was desirable to maintain the prohibition contained in the Emancipation Act. But I admit that there can be no objection in limine, in principle, taken to any inquiry of that kind. So also, Sir, with regard, to property. I feel that which was felt by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham), and so well expressed by him, that whenever property is taken out of that which is its primâ facie course—namely, supplying the wants of the individual and the family, and is attached to institutions of any kind, no one can say that the House goes beyond its province—though they may, of course, judge wisely or unwisely in the particular case—but no one can say the House violates principle when it says there is a case for examining the conditions on which property is held by any one or more of those institutions. I do not argue that question at length, because I confess, especially at this time of the evening, it does not 70 appear to me to require to be supported by reasoning in detail. But then I have taken the liberty of asking the hon. Gentleman to tell us whether he intended to limit himself to the examination of the state of the law and the conditions on which income, property, or estates are received, held, and possessed, or whether he intended to examine into the internal management of these institutions, and the relations in which their members are placed to one another. Of course, I do not presume to say that even the internal management of institutions where members of society choose to associate themselves is a thing wholly and absolutely to be shielded under all circumstances from the view of Parliament. But then I think we now arrive at a point on which we must regard the case with very great jealousy. I find that the Motion to which the House acceded does contain words that undoubtedly would appear to open the internal anatomy, so to call it, of these institutions to the examination and scrutiny of a Parliamentary Committee, because the Committee is to inquire into the existence and character as well as the increase of these institutions, and I am not aware of any particular connected with the condition of the persons who belong to them and their relations to one another, or to their ecclesiastical advisers who may frequent them, that would not really and fairly fall, if I understand the words aright, within the meaning of the words "character of" these institutions. For that reason I was very desirous to know from the hon. Gentleman, who must necessarily, if this Committee is appointed, have a large share in directing the [...] of its inquiries, his view on that matter. And I own that I have not found the explanation he was good enough to give so lucid and so effectual as I was in hopes it might have been. One thing, indeed, he emphatically disclaimed, but then, unfortunately, it was a matter which it was wholly unnecessary for him to disclaim—namely, the idea that an immediate and systematic inspection of these institutions was to be the direct effect of his Motion. I certainly should not have felt it needful to have put any Question to him on that subject, because I know perfectly well that neither the Order of the House of Commons, nor the appointment of a Committee, nor any 71 other decision of this House itself, can avail to direct a system of inspection to be applied over these institutions. Consequently, I find no benefit, or clearing of my doubts or difficulties, from that portion of the hon. Member's declaration. When he referred to the letter he was good enough to address to me, I own I felt that the line of distinction, which I earnestly hoped he would draw very clearly, became to the last degree obscure; or, rather, that the fair presumption was, that it was the intention of the hon. Gentleman to place within the purview of his Committee, to bring into the field of inquiry—as I admit he would be justified by the word "character" in doing—everything that refers to the internal relations of the members, because in that letter he says—The information, the obtaining of which was, I understand, yesterday directed, would, in other respects, extend to subjects not contemplated by the appointment of the above-mentioned Committee, or by the passing of the above-mentioned statute; inasmuch as the inquiry necessary for obtaining this further information must extend to an investigation of the nature of the income, whether the produce of real or personal property, or derived from other sources, by which monastic and conventual institutions in Great Britain are maintained; and must further seek the practical identification of these institutions by inquiry into the discipline for their external and internal regulation.Looking to the breadth of these words—although they are not, perhaps, free from ambiguity as to their precise scope—I must conceive that, on the whole, he does contemplate, and in perfect consistency, to give to the inquiry of the Committee the scope which I have described—namely, that the whole of their internal and personal affairs might be brought into the inquiry before that Committee. Well, that is a very serious matter indeed; and, in the first place, I should say that if Parliament is to be justified in directing an inquiry of that nature, we are bound in the first instance to exact from those who propose it—and to exact with very considerable rigour—presumptive proof of the case. I do not mean to say that everything which can be shown, in a Committee-room ought in the first place to be shown in this House; but I do say that something ought to be shown. Beyond a doubt something should be shown preliminary to the appointment of a Committee, to satisfy the House that without an inquiry public interests and private rights 72 cannot be protected. Now, I am bound to say the hon. Member for North Warwickshire has not yet provided us with that strong primâ facie case. But, suppose there were to be such an inquiry, does the hon. Member, or any other hon. Gentleman in this House, suppose it would be tolerable or endurable for a moment that ladies—I should rather adopt a wider phrase and say human beings—women devoting themselves to religion, should be summoned against their will to a Committee-room, by the order of the Chairman of the Committee, to have the feelings of their hearts, their principles, their motives, their conduct, their habits and rules of life made the subject of investigation by means of examinations and cross-examinations, repeated one after another by the members of the Committee? I cannot think for a moment it would be possible, even if a primâ facie case were established, that we could consent to permit women to be dragged before such a tribunal. As to the case of men, I will not say it bears the same aspect; but I think my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Winterbotham) has pointed out with sufficient force and clearness that it would be very unprofitable to ask those men to give evidence which would criminate them in a Court of Law. Then with regard to the vehicle of inquiry, I think we should all feel that if the time had come for an investigation of such solemnity, difficulty, and delicacy, there could be but one tolerably satisfactory way of conducting it, and that would be under the sanction of an oath. But the proposal of the hon. Member does not admit of an inquiry into the internal state of those institutions under the sanction of an oath, nor is it in the power of the Crown—if we thought of proceeding by a Royal Commission—to direct its own Commissioners to examine on oath the witnesses coming before them. Therefore, I do not see, even if we overlook the fatal flaw, that the hon. Gentleman has not so far shown those primâ facie circumstances which would make it our duty to institute an inquiry—I do not see that the instrument proposed by the hon. Gentleman is fit, considering its nature and character, and the want of power to proceed with the sanction of an oath, to undertake this inquiry. That being so, let us see what would be the case supposing it should be the pleasure of the House to reject the Motion 73 of the hon. Member (Mr. Newdegate) to direct the Committee of Selection to nominate this Committee of Inquiry. In that case we should have to consider the original Order made by the House on the Motion of the hon. Member. If the hon. Gentleman would take an inquiry into all matters connected with the property of these bodies, and the state of the law concerning them, I and my Colleagues, though not thinking that I much good is likely to result from such an investigation, have so much respect for the decision come to by the House that we will not oppose the proposition. The simplest course under such circumstances would be to omit the words "existence, character, and increase of," for the purpose of inserting the words "state of the Law respecting." If, however, the hon. Gentleman should think it his duty to adhere to his present proposition, sensible of the serious difficulty of the question, we shall have to consider the best method of meeting it with a view to the interests of the country.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'Order for the appointment of the Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be discharged' be added, instead thereof."
§ MR. SPENCER WALPOLE
Sir, I should like to understand the position in which we are placed. The Motion now put is that the Order for the appointment of a Select Committee be discharged. I understand my right hon. Friend the First Minister intends to propose an Amendment to the original direction for the appointment of the Committee in the manner which he has pointed out. Under the circumstances, I hope the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cogan) will assent to the Motion for the discharge of the Order, and then my right hon. Friend will make his own Motion. My right hon. Friend proposes a very reasonable Amendment; but I think it would be better if the Committee were appointed to inquire into the existence, state of the law affecting, and increase of these institutions, because the Motion distinctly points to the state of the law under the Emancipation Act, which of course will constitute the foundation of the inquiry. I think this form of words will effect the object intended better than the form suggested by the First Minister.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the Motion of the right hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan) was proposed as an Amendment to his Motion, that the Committee should be nominated by the Committee of Selection. He had concluded that the usual course had been pursued, and that the Amendment, which was put first, having been withdrawn—["No, no !"]—He wished to know what was the Question before the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The House has agreed to negative the words which were proposed to be left out—"Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be nominated by the Committee of Selection," and now it is proposed to take the vote upon the words of the Amendment which were substituted for the words of the original Motion, and these are the words—"Order for the appointment of a Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be discharged."
The forms of the House indicate pretty plainly the course we ought to take. Those who think with us that it would be well to substitute an amended Order for the original Order must vote with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Cogan) who has moved the discharge of the Order. We cannot, I apprehend, amend an Order which is already discharged. The way to obtain the end in view is to discharge that Order and substitute for it an amended one. Those who disapprove of the alteration of the Order may take their own course. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) will, I believe, be informed by the highest authority that the only proper and regular course will be to vote for the discharge of the Order with my right hon. Friend behind me, and then to pass an amended Order.
§ MR. HUNT
What the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cogan) proposes is that the Order be discharged. What the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government wishes to do is to limit the inquiry; and I think that voting for the proposition of the right hon. Member for Kildare will not affect that proposition. I should have supposed that the right course was to have negatived the Amendment of the light hon. Member for Kildare, and then the right hon. Gentleman could have proposed that so 75 much of the Order be discharged as had reference to that part of the inquiry which he thinks should not be made. If that course is adopted, we shall understand what the Government propose; but supposing that the House agrees to the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Kildare, the object of my hon. Friend (Mr. Newdegate) will be entirely defeated.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, that both he and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had challenged the decision on its being submitted to the House, that the words proposed to be left out should stand part of the Question. ["Order!"]
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, there was a misunderstanding on this matter. It seemed that the forms of the House required that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kildare should be negatived.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Sir, I think it is very desirable that we should come to a conclusion upon this question on a thorough understanding of what we are doing. As I understand it, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) has not challenged the Division on the question of the appointment of a Select Committee upon the Order which he obtained from the House, and therefore the Amendment is now to be put. Before it is put the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, as I understand, has pledged himself to place before the House an Order of a certain character, and to refer that to a Committee appointed by the House in the ordinary way. I have made inquiry, and I find that that can only be done by discharging the present Order. The Order having been passed by the House cannot be amended afterwards, and that is our only way of arriving at that, which I understand the hon. Member for North Warwickshire requires, because he has given up his own Motion, and, therefore, I presume he has adopted that of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: No, no!] My hon. Friend has put himself in that position by accepting the decision of the House upon the first question, and the only way of arriving at that which has been 76 proposed by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government is by discharging this Order. It is a matter which has been misunderstood, as my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge has already explained. It was only because there seemed some doubt in other minds that I have risen upon the question. I am anxious that the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman has promised us should be before the House, and I therefore think that the Order in the present case should be discharged.
I rise simply for the purpose of confirming the accuracy of the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford with respect to this Motion. My right hon. Friend at the head of the Government intimated clearly enough that it was not the intention of the Government practically to support the Motion of the right hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan). He stated, in terms, which I think could not be misapprehended, that the Government accepted the vote of the House upon the original Motion; but he entered into an argument which I think must have produced an impression upon the House, to show the extremely difficult and delicate nature of a large portion of the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire, of which I think my hon. Friend is not altogether insensible. He proposed, as the only way of submitting to the House the Motion he intended to bring forward, that there should be the merely formal step, in the first place, of acceding to the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kildare, so that the original Order might be got rid of, and that the Motion which he intended to submit to the House might be regularly placed before it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Greene.)
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had been placed in a difficult position, in being called upon to give an explanation. He preferred that the Committee should be nominated by the Committee of Selection; but he did not challenge the decision, because right hon. Members on the front Bench—to whom he deferred in 77 this matter—did not show any sign whatever; he therefore concluded that they wished him to proceed to nominate the Committee in the ordinary course. He had no intention of submitting to the Order of the House being rescinded, which would disappoint the expectations of the country, that Order having been supported by the vast majority of Petitions from England and Scotland. How could he be expected to assent to the rescinding of the Order? The proposal of the Government was, that an inquiry should be made only into the property of these institutions, and therefore into no institutions which had not property; and he did not see why an inquiry into the character and increase of these institutions should be avoided, or how, without an inquiry into the character of these institutions, they were to ascertain which of them had property. He had carefully read the Report of the Committee of 1851–2, with the evidence taken by them, and it was perfectly obvious that you could not trace those institutions; that you had no means of identifying them; that they would remain as completely unknown to the law as was their property, owing to the failure of the Act of 1860. No record of them existed. Perhaps the information desired might be obtained by means of a roving Commission; but the intention of the House would be defeated, and the expectation of the House would be set at naught if the proposal of the First Minister of the Crown were adopted. Such was his present impression. What he had hoped was that the right hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan) would not press his Motion; and he did not believe that hon. Gentlemen, after repeatedly voting in favour of the inquiry as first proposed, would suddenly abandon their intentions, upon representations from the Prime Minister that no evidence could be obtained unless every nun in these institutions was called before the Committee. Why, it was manifest that there must be sources of information outside these communities. The Roman Catholic Bishops declared that they controlled the convents, and, of course, they would be the first persons examined, perhaps not before the House inquired whether in the Rolls Court there were any records of the trusts connected with these institutions, though the Home Secretary declared that such was the confusion in the Rolls Court at 78 present, that at the end of last Session it would have taken eight months to give a list of the trusts enrolled during the last three years. Let not the House be deceived. If they consented to the discharge of the Order, they consented to the reversion of their former decision. The right hon. Gentleman promised to do something. Why, then, should he not, in the first instance, maintain the Order, and afterwards make a proposal for its amendment? Obviously, if the House meant to maintain its decision, it would maintain its Order, and then, if it thought fit, let the right hon. Gentleman amend the terms of it. He should decidedly vote for the maintenance of the Order. He wished to meet the desire of the country by obtaining information as to the character of these institutions. He wished to know which were the cloistered convents, and for this reason—nuns who went forth into the world might possibly obtain the means of support; but cloistered convents must be maintained by property of some kind. The whole feeling of the country, as shown by the Petitions, would be deeply disappointed if, because threatened in violent terms by a small section of the community and their representatives, the House submitted to the imputation of having intended to commit an outrage upon innocent ladies for the purpose of obtaining information, which could be otherwise furnished. He trusted the House would not be induced to stultify its former decisions with the prospect merely of a proposal from the right hon. Gentleman, which, so far as he could understand it, would limit the action of the Committee to ineffectual attempts to ascertain the property of these institutions, and direct the Committee to find means of legalizing wholesale some of these institutions, which had been found insufferable in other countries.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I think, Sir, the only practical question before us this evening is to decide the mode in which the inquiry which the House has already directed to be instituted should be conducted. If the House had been content to refer the matter to the Committee of Selection, I should have offered no opposition to the adoption of that course. If, however, I had a choice between a Committee appointed by the Committee of Selection and a Committee appointed by this House, I should have preferred 79 a Committee appointed by this House. I think it is desirable that this question should be investigated by a Committee selected according to our usual Parliamentary practice, and that the hon. Gentleman who brought the subject under our notice (Mr. Newdegate) should be placed in a position on that Committee, with that responsibility which, I am sure, he must have well weighed before he invited us to consider this question. Therefore, as it now somewhat unexpectedly appears we are not to have a Committee appointed by the Committee of Selection, I will not support the Motion for the discharge of the Order, for the purpose of adopting the proposition of the Government, which I confess I have not had an opportunity of sufficiently considering. I will adhere to the original plan, for I prefer submitting this inquiry to a Committee appointed in the usual manner.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he wished, as it was desirable that the House should not separate without some definite action being taken, to know whether, in the event of the Order being discharged, another Order of the House could be made in lieu of it that evening.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he was prepared to accept the compromise proposed by the Government rather than have no inquiry at all, which, judging from experience, would be the result, seeing the difficulties which lay in the way of the appointment of the Committee proposed by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Newdegate).
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he would assent to the discharge of the Order, on the understanding that another Order of the House would be made in the sense indicated by the Government.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, he concurred in the view expressed by the hon. Member for Sunderland, and would support the discharge of the Order.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put, "That the words 'Order for the appointment of the Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be discharged' be added, instead thereof."80
§ The House divided:—Ayes 270; Noes 160: Majority 110.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed, to.
§ Ordered, That the Order for the appointment of the Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be discharged.
I now move, Sir, that a Select Committee be appointed—To inquire into the state of the Law respecting Conventual and Monastic Institutions or Societies in Great Britain, and into the terms upon which income, property, and estates belonging to such institutions or societies, or to members thereof, are respectively received, held, or
§ MR. MATTHEWS
said, he was sorry to interpose between the House and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate); but he desired to take the earliest opportunity of stating, on his own behalf, and on behalf of many of his co-religionists whose sentiments he spoke, that they found themselves under the necessity of opposing the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown had just laid before the House in substitution for the Order which had been discharged. He was free to confess that the most odious part of the Order, as far as the feelings of the Roman Catholics were concerned, had been got rid of by the form in which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government had submitted this matter to the House, and he ventured to state that he should be able to show sufficient reasons against even the modified Order which was now before them. He would in the first place point out that, as far as he knew, the House had never ordered a Parliamentary inquiry without its being suggested with what view that inquiry was to be made. Let it be remembered, too, that the property of these institutions, if they had any ["Oh, oh!"]—and he believed that what they had was very little, was at the present moment liable to forfeiture, and the individuals taking vows in monasteries were by certain clauses in the Act to which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was so fond of referring, guilty of a misdemeanour. Any property held by a community of monks in this country was forfeitable, just as much as property left to a community of pickpockets; and the terms of the Motion proposed by the 81 right hon. Gentleman were wide enough, to compel disclosures from the members of such a community which would render their property liable to forfeiture. If the inquiry were limited to the law affecting monastic institutions generally, and to the mode in which these institutions held their property, he should not have thought it necessary to say one word; but an inquiry into specific facts would involve matters not only painful, but which it was almost impossible for any Committee to obtain the knowledge of. These institutions had laboured under the disadvantage of voluntary association, having had up to the present moment no help from the law or the Government, and they dreaded that sort of intimacy with the State which began with inquiry and ended with confiscation. He should certainly divide the House against the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, he felt himself in the same position as that occupied by the hon. Member, and if a Division took place would be obliged to go into the same Lobby with him. This mortifying-Motion mixed up two things which ought to be separated—an inquiry into the law, and an inquiry into the property of these establishments. He could understand an inquiry into the law, with a view to its amendment, and the preservation of the property of these communities from confiscation; but, in this case, the moment the property was exposed it was by law confiscated, and the members of the monastic institutions were liable to the penal consequences of transportation. He should certainly vote against the Motion.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
could not say that he did not regret the decision at which the House had just arrived. He thought it was impossible for the Committee successfully to prosecute such an inquiry without entering into the subject in the manner specified in the Order which the House had been pleased to rescind. But he certainly should not oppose the Committee now suggested. A good deal had been gained by what had occurred, if only in showing the vast increase of these establishments of late years. He should, therefore, watch the progress of the Committee, fearing it might find itself incapacitated by the omission of the terms embodied in the Resolution which had been first adopted 82 by the House, and reserving to himself the power of moving any Instruction which experience to be gained from the proceedings of the Committee might prove to be necessary.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, he wished to know from the Prime Minister whether Anglican sisterhoods and institutions connected with the Ritualistic party would be included in this inquiry? His vote depended on the answer. He did not wish anybody to suppose that he was affected by any love of the Roman Catholic religion, but it was impossible to play fast and loose with religious principles.
§ MR. EYKYN
said, he had given Notice of a Motion to the effect that inquiry should also be made into Anglican and all similar institutions throughout the United Kingdom; and he trusted to receive from the Government an intimation that this view would be acted upon, otherwise he should be compelled to press his proposal by way of Amendment to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. REED
said, he would support the proposal of the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Eykyn). He had never given a vote affecting the Roman Catholic community especially, and he had no wish to do so in this instance. On the other hand, if there were any religious bodies in the country which refused to give information as to the terms on which their property was held, he thought that would be a matter deserving the attention of the House.
My hon. Friend will have the kindness to recollect that I am not the author of the words of this Motion, or of the Motion itself; and that it is simply owing to the necessity imposed by the forms of the House that I myself have now moved this Motion, my intention having been to amend the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) and nothing more. To the question put by my hon. Friend I can give no authoritative answer, nor can I undertake to give any. But I would suggest that the Committee itself will have to consider what are conventual and monastic institutions, and if they find any institutions answering that description within the limits of any other than the Roman Catholic body, undoubtedly these will also fall within the scope of their inquiry. 83 If they found that they were, they would undoubtedly fall within the view of the Committee. Indeed, I am not aware of any reason why they should not fall within the terms of the Motion. At the same time the House will see that any declaration of this kind is not within my province, as the proposal was not ours, but has been accepted by the Government with such a modification as we believe to be necessary.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he was surprised to hear the declaration which had just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, because the House would, he believed, certainly understand that the Government had taken this matter out of the hands of his hon. Friend (Mr. Newdegate), and having so taken it out of his hands it would be for the Government to appoint the Committee. It was true that the right hon. Gentleman had stated that he had only amended the Motion of his hon. Friend; but the Order was so entirely different from the Order which the House had passed the other evening, that he was surprised not only at his hon. Friend assenting to it, but to find that so many who supported his hon. Friend the other evening had now gone into an opposite Lobby. They had heard from the right hon. Gentleman that the Committee should examine into the requirements of the law which were opposed to conventual establishments, in the hope, as he had stated, that they would be found capable of amendment. That he certainly did not understand to be the object which his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire had in view.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 348; Noes 57: Majority 291.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
also gave Notice of his intention to move, that it be an Instruction to the Committee to inquire into any matter involving the forfeiture of any legal or equitable interest in property.
§ MR. WHALLEY
gave Notice that he should move on an early day, that it be 84 an Instruction to the Committee also to inquire into the existence, character, and increase of Conventual and Monastic Institutions or Societies in Great Britain.