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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (11)

2 March 1829

These documents are taken from: The Speeches of the Duke of Wellington in Parliament, collected and arranged by the late Colonel Gurwood, C.B., K.C.T.S., (London, John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1854)


The Bishop of BATH and WELLS presented several petitions against further concessions to the Roman Catholics, and said he was at a loss to imagine how the Protestant constitution of the State could be preserved, or the Oath of Abjuration which their Lordships had all taken be respected, if power was to be given to the Pope in this country.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON spoke in the following terms:

My Lords, it is impossible that I can, consistently with my duty, allow the concluding observation of the Right Reverend Prelate to pass unnoticed. I can assure the Right Reverend Prelate that I am as sincerely disposed to pay every attention to that oath as the Right Reverend Prelate, or any other member of your Lordships' House, can be; and I can further assure him that whenever the Bill hereafter to be introduced into the other House of Parliament shall subsequently come under the consideration of noble Lords, he will find that it will be quite free from anything like an infraction or violation of that oath.

I apprehend that it is not at all necessary I should enter into a detailed statement of the enactments of that Bill at the present moment; but I repeat my assurance that I shall be able to satisfy every Peer in your Lordships' House that there is nothing contained in it inconsistent with the oath to which the Right Reverend Prelate has adverted. The Right Reverend Prelate, in the course of the observations which he has addressed to your Lordships, seemed to be willing to grant what is called Catholic Emancipation at some future period, when the people of Ireland shall have become more enlightened and more worthy of political freedom. Now, my Lords, I beg to ask, if, according to the creed of the Right Reverend Prelate, Catholic Emancipation, as it is called, is to have the effect of again establishing the errors of Popery over the truths of Protestantism, under what circumstances of knowledge or of education will the Right Reverend Prelate be willing to grant that concession? I wish the Right Reverend Prelate to tell me how the enlightening of the minds of the people of Ireland, and the introduction of wealth and education into that country, can be rendered an excuse for emancipation, if the inevitable consequence of that emancipation is hereafter to be the propagation of the errors of Popery in this country? The Right Reverend Prelate and the noble Duke (of Newcastle) express fears as to the results of Catholic Emancipation, which every sensible man in the country knows, or at least ought to know, are wholly unfounded.

I contend, nay, I engage to prove, that when the measure which will shortly be submitted to the other, and subsequently to this House of Parliament, shall be before your Lordships, so far from its being found to tend to establish Popery, it will be calculated to prevent the growth of Popery, and to promote the extension of the Protestant religion. I repeat, that, instead of establishing, it will tend not only to put it down, but to prevent the growth of Popery altogether. This, my Lords, I engage to prove to the satisfaction of this House, and of the country, if not even to the satisfaction of the Right Reverend Prelate himself, whenever the hill from the other House shall come up here for discussion. I agree entirely with the Right Reverend Prelate in his declarations upon the subject of the loyalty of the people of England, and as to the strength of their religious sentiments. I rejoice most cordially with the Right Reverend Prelate at the number of petitions they have presented, while they are labouring under serious apprehensions (apprehensions which, I am sorry to say, have been suggested to them) with regard to the intentions, on this subject, of His Majesty's Ministers, who, it is said, mean to adopt a course which will introduce Popery into this country to the prejudice of the Established Church. I say I rejoice to see the people petition, and freely and fairly express their opinions; but when it is found that the Government have no such intention, but, on the contrary, that their object is to secure the ascendency of Protestantism, and to relieve Ireland from the evils which now oppress that country, I am confident that the people will ultimately declare their satisfaction at the course His Majesty's Ministers have thought it necessary to adopt; and that in the mean time they will conduct themselves with that loyalty, temperance, patience, and wisdom, which characterize them as a nation, although the measures which are in contemplation may not be, at the present moment, perfectly in accordance with their feelings.

My Lords, I am convinced that when the people of England see that there is no fear of the extension of Popery from the measures which ministers have felt it to be their duty to recommend to the sanction of their Sovereign, but that these, on the contrary, will tend to strengthen the Protestant interests of the State, they will hail them as beneficial to all classes of His Majesty's subjects.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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