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Debate on the Second Reading of the Catholic Relief Bill—Speeches
of Mr. Sadler, Mr. R. Grant, Sir Charles Wetherell — The Second Reading carried-Amendments proposed in the Bill in the Committee ---Amendment moved, to include the place of Prime Minister among the excepted Offices – Bill read a third time, and passed by the House of Commons—Sir Charles Wetherell dismissed from the Office of Attorney General.
N the 17th of March, Mr. over and over again as a reason
Peel moved that the bill for for concession, and which Mr. the relief of the Roman Catholics Peel and his friends had not as should be read a second time. constantly rejected as a reason for The motion led to a debate which adopting measures, which they was continued, by adjournment, on still allowed were innovations on the 18th. In so far as the speakers the constitution. When they reiterated the grounds on which stood upon
the condition of the necessity of emancipation had Ireland as the sole reason for a been maintained so long, it would change, not of opinions, but of be wearisome to repeat what has conduct, they were bound to shew, been so often recorded. It will what there was in that condition only be necessary to notice those more pernicious and alarming than less hacknied topics, which sprung what had been before ; but that out of the nature and history of was not the fact.
The present the particular measure itself, and lord Plunkett, when, as attorney the situation of the persons, who, general, he prosecuted some ribfor the first time, had been brought bandmen in 1822, had stated, that to see its expediency.
“the individualshe was then proseSir Edward Knatchbull, one of cuting belonged to a society conthe members for the county of sisting entirely of Roman CathoKent, in opposing the bill, main es, whose object was, to overtained, that it was in vain for Mr. throw the government of the Peel, and others of the ministry country.” Assuredly Ireland prewho had changed sides along with sented no worse symptom now. him, to seek a justification in the Not one of the converted ministers state of Ireland; for it would be could draw any picture of Ireland, ridiculous to represent that state which was not a copy of some old, as being more alarming than it and still more horrid portraiture, had often been during the years in at which they themselves had been which these men had set themselves accustomed, till three months ago, against every degree of concession. to look without apprehension. There was
not a single point Mr. Peel had seen before him for in the condition or history of years every
of change, Ireland, which had not been urged which he could find now; if he
yielded now, he ought never to ing to the meeting of the county, have resisted ; and how was he to which I have the honour to repreexcuse himself for having quitted sent, (Kent) to petition parliament the ministry of Mr. Canning in to maintain the Protestant constitu1827, because Mr. Canning was tion. I can only say, that, in holding inclined to do that which Mr. that meeting, we thought we Peel had now determined to do, were giving him him our best and and which, if it was to be done at utmost support.” Equally frivolall, would have been far better was it for the right hon. done, when Mr. Peel insisted that secretary to talk of the small it ought never to be done at all? majorities, which of late years had Concession would have come with sometimes carried the question in a far better grace from Mr. favour of the Catholics, as a justiCanning, the long tried friend fication of his throwing himself of the Catholics, than when ex- into their arms.
Even the prea torted from men who had inva- sent majority was insufficient for riably been their opponents. that purpose. All the world Since the home secretary saw so knew, how it had been manuelearly now, it would have been factured. Ministers first secured well for himself and the country a majority by changing, and then if he had seen as clearly in 1827, pretended to change because there when his gifted friend was still liv- was a majority. If the home ing, and minister. Mr. Canning had secretary and his colleagues had said then, as so many had often joined their voices and influence to said before, every thing that Mr. the one hundred and sixty memPeel could say now; but Mr. bers, who, but the other night, had Peel, just because all that could voted against the committee, the be said was insufficient to justify vote of that night would have been a breach of the constitution like very different. Still less fair and that now meditated, had broken comprehensible was the argument off his political connection with pretended to be drawn from the evils Mr. Canning, had resigned his of a divided cabinet. Was the office, supported by a body of present cabinet more divided on this friends and political adherents, question than any other of which more numerous and respectable Mr. Peel had been a member? than had ever followed a retiring It was much less so. If the noble minister, and supported by them duke at the head of it had purmerely because they saw in that sued a different course, was there retirement a new pledge of his a doubt that there would be no honest adherence to the cause disunion on the subject. The which he had now abandoned. case was different, when Mr. HusYet this was the very man, who, in kisson, Mr. C. Grant, and lord the moment of his desertion, turns Palmersion, all of them friendly to round and accuses his friends of emancipation, formed part of the having failed to support him! ministry; but when they retired “Of all changes,” said sir Edward, from office, and the duke of Wel“ want of support by his friends, lington supplied their places with is the very last I should have ex men selected by himself, the argupected to hear from him. He hasment of a divided cabinet was at even alluded, with no friendly feel- un end. It was not considerations
like these that had produced had been hitherto accorded to pubchange; it was the deterinination lic men, had received a blow from to change that had rendered argu- which it never would recover : ments like these convenient. The nusquam tuta fides. best answer, therefore, to the new The chancellor of the Exchesupporters of the present measure quier (Mr. Goulburn) admitted he was to be found in their former was one of those who had adopted convictions. The resistance of new opinions on this subject; but the people of this country was not he had done because it was imto the personal character of the possible that any other thing could Catholics, but to the principles and wisely be done. That impossiinfluence of their religion. They bility arose from the state of were convinced, that Popery and Ireland. It was true, that crimes Protestantism could not exist toge- and outrage did not prevail now ther upon an equal footing. "Of so generally as they had done at these two religions, one or other some former periods; but the must have the ascendancy,” were whole country was the prey of an grave and true words; and whose increased exasperation of party were they? These had been, not feelings and prejudices. long ago, the words of Mr. Peel whole frame of society had been himself, when combating, on that disturbed by the political differvery ground, the measures which he ences of contending parties; each was now defending, and defending man was arrayed in hostility without even attempting to assert against the other, and it required that the elements of a struggle for the interposition of a military force ascendancy had been weakened or
to preserve the peace, and tranquilannihilated. The measure was lity of that country. But, even bad in itself,-better for the Catho- admitting that there was nothing lics than they had ever dared to new in the state of Ireland, was hope, and worse for the Protestants there no danger in an evil which than they had ever dreaded ; was continually increasing? no giving up the constitution to the increase of the danger in the conone, and amusing the other with tinued progress of the disease durpaltry. things, called securities, ing a series of years, no additional which were utterly impotent for danger in the prospects which preany useful purpose; and it was sented themselves from the prodoubly bad as being enforced by gression of that disorder, until it unaccountable changes of conduct, had reached every individual in which destroyed all belief in public the country, and had well nigh principle. The character of public broken up the very foundations men was of the highest importance upon which society rested? The to the state; but from the course question, it was said, was a reliwhich many had lately pursued, gious question ; one or other of the public men would henceforward two religions--the Catholic or the be viewed with a jealous and sus Protestant-must be the ascendant. picious eye by the nation at large. On that point he entirely concurred In vain would the home secretary with Mr. Peel ; and that was his attempt to explain conduct, incon- justification for the course which sistent with his whole former poli- he had adopted in reference to this tical life. The confidence, which question. He would unhesitate
ingly assert, that the measure, a hostile disposition against that which had been recommended from church
amongst the Catholic
popu. the throne to parliament, had lation,—and to the effects which a mainly for its object to make continual agitation, carried on upon the Protestant religion the ascen such a system, produced upon the dant. The church of Ireland minds of the Catholic people of occupied a peculiar situation. It Ireland. His attention had been was the religion of the minority directed to this subject for some of the people, while the great time back, and allusions majority professed a different faith. made to the altered state of feeling Up to rather a recent period, har- amongst the Catholic population, mony and good will prevailed in various letters which had reached amongst the professors of those him from different parts of Ireland, different creeds. But there had all complaining that the Prolately arisen in that country a testant clergy were not now viewed combination which extended itself with the same respect by the throughout every class of the people as heretofore, - that the Catholic community, with an or- people had regularly combined ganization unexampled in other against the payment of the church countries, or amongst other politi- dues,—and that there existed no cal societies, and whose principal hope whatever of engaging their hostility was directed against the affections in future. Was not that Established Church. The support a situation in which it was at least of that church mainly depended on unfortunate for the country to be the purity of its doctrines, as placed? It was to remedy such evinced in the character and con an unhappy state of things that his duct of its professors, and on the majesty's government had adopted good will and affections of those the course which they were now from whose religious opinions it pursuing. They conceived that dissented ; and it depended further the present measure was calculated upon the uniform and steady sup- to smooth away the asperities of port of parliament, and of the party violence to diminish the Protestant government of the irritation, and in a great degree country. By whatever means it to remove the prejudices of the had been brought about, an im- people; that they would be thus portant alteration had taken place brought again to treat the miin the feelings and opinions of the nisters of the Protestant church Catholic population in Ireland, with the respect and attention in reference to the established to which their character and virchurch; and it was now certain, tues so eminently entitled them ; that their prejudices and their and that it was only under such hostility had been actively ex circumstances that the church cited against that establishment. could be employed as an important It was only necessary, in proof of engine in the moral improvement this, to draw the attention of the of that people. House to the productions which Mr. G. Bankes, on the other emanated from the daily press on hand, ridiculed the chancellor of the subject of the church and the Exchequer's scheme for giving its revenues,
to the laborious permanent security to the church efforts which were made to excite of Ireland by bestowing political
power on the church of Rome. he might say, a very insulting, The House did not, indeed, by this manner, arrogated to themselves bill, surrender all the rights of the the titles belonging to the digniProtestant church at once; but taries of the Protestant Church in they gave the Catholics the first Ireland, and a clause to prevent stepping-stone for reaching every that assumption was introduced in thing they might desire. It was this bill. But the objection he had admitted, that the adherents of the to that was, that he did not wish Catholic faith would struggle for to purchase any security of that ascendancy ; it was admitted that kind at the price of a violation of this bill was to give them the the constitution; and why ?--bepolitical power, which would be cause they had already got a secuthe great instrument used in such rity on this head, by law,-a secua struggle. How a bill, which did rity accompanied by infinitely all this, would tend to the security higher penalties than were now of the Protestant church, sur- given. He might be told that the passed human comprehension. The act of 1781 or 1782 was not now very framers of the measure saw in force; but he had looked at the the absurdity, and the danger statutes with great care, and he which it was employed to conceal; thought that the provision of the and they had endeavoured to ob- acts of 1781 and 1782 bore him out viate the danger by a precaution in his statement. It was there set which proved its existence, but forth--- Provided always, that no was impotent to prevent it. They protection in this act contained had devised this remedy,that, shall extend, or shall be construed when the prime minister happened to extend, to any popish ecclesito be a Roman Catholic, all power astic who shall assume or take any connected with the established title whatever, who shall church should be vested in the proceed with any insignia to any hands of commissioners. But who public place of worship whatever ; was to appoint the commissioners! but that all the enactments relative Why the prime minister. It was, to such proceedings, which are at to be sure, declared by this bill to be present in being, shall remain in a high misdemeanour for a Catholic force against such popish ecclesiprime minister to give advice with astics as aforesaid.” Under this reference to the disposal of church provision the popish ecclesiastics property, but there was nothing to were liable to punishment. Then prevent him from naming those came the act of 1793, and the who might give advice; so that, question was, whether by it the in fact, there was no effectual bar act which he had recited was to prevent him from disposing of repealed. It certainly was not rechurch patronage. The bill con- pealed in express terms; and looking tained no security adequate to to the recital of the act of 1793, meet those fears and apprehensions he could not conclude that it was which were entertained by many repealed by implication. The 33rd conscientious persons. A trifling of George 3rd, cap. 92, recited, security, indeed, was devised for “ That whereas various acts of the protection of the Irish church. parliament have been passed, imThe Irish Roman Catholic ecclesi- posing on his majesty's subjects astics had, in a very assuming, and professing the popish or Roman