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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (12)

10 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 Earl of WINCHELSEA brought forward his motion for returns respecting the Catholic clergy, &c; and said that, after the arbitrary manner in which the noble Duke at the head of the Government had acted upon the Catholic Question, he would venture to predict that the noble Duke would soon be relieved of the cares of office.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON spoke in the following terms:

My Lords, I have no intention of objecting to the production of any documents which can be produced for the purpose of elucidating the points to which the noble Earl has called the attention of your Lordships. I must, however, observe that the noble Lord, if he supposes that the Government can give him any information on the subject, cannot have looked very carefully into the Acts of Parliament which regulate these matters, either in this country or in Ireland.

From Ireland, my Lords, there will be no such return, as the noble Lord, if he looks into the Acts, will see. In this country, the noble Lord will see by the Act of 1791, which requires that the names should be registered, and that certain oaths should be taken, that there is nothing to show the number of those now existing in the country, of those who have died, or of those who have departed the country. Under these circumstances, my Lords, though it is true that, by looking through various reports of committees, and by referring to various offices, both here and in Ireland, some information may be obtained, yet, officially, we could give no such returns as those which it is the object of the noble Lord's motion to procure. When, therefore, I state that I am willing to give the noble Lord all the assistance in my power, it will be seen that I cannot answer for the time which it will take to procure those returns, or for the accuracy of the returns when they are procured.

Having stated thus much, my Lords, I might conclude, for I am sure that your Lordships will not expect me, at this time, to say anything in answer to what has fallen from the noble Lord with respect to the Bills which have been introduced by my Right Honorable friend (Mr. Peel) into the other House of Parliament, or to enter into a discussion upon the merits of those Bills now. My Lords, I retain the opinion which I have expressed upon those Bills, and I now re-assert what I before stated with respect to those Bills. The noble Lord, I believe, said that the opinion which I gave of those Bills was fallacious; but I will support that opinion by argument, against that noble Lord, or against anybody else, when the Bills are before the House. In the meantime I think I shall be excused from saying anything more about those Bills, and from following the noble Lord through the extracts which he has read from a work called, I believe, 'Catholicism in Austria,' which, in some respects, is a highly valuable production, but which can be no authority on this subject, inasmuch as the author has shown himself entirely ignorant of the basis on which the question rests in this country.

My Lords, the noble Lord was then pleased, in conformity with the example of a noble Duke (Newcastle), to accuse me of having carried myself on this question in an arbitrary manner. I believe, my Lords, that I, in conjunction with my colleagues, have done my duty as a Minister of the Crown. Having considered that it was for the interest of the country that this question should be considered and decided in this Session of Parliament, I advised his Majesty to state that which was stated in the Speech from the Throne on the first day of the meeting of Parliament. I afterwards, in conjunction with my colleagues, advised that these Bills should be submitted to Parliament with His Majesty's sanction and support; and, it was by our advice that that sanction and support were given. In acting thus, my Lords, I believe that I have acted as became a Minister of this country. I did not go into a Committee to get their sanction to the measure. No, my Lords, I came forward, and on my own responsibility proposed a measure which, in my opinion, will be productive of benefit, of happiness, and of tranquillity to the country. It has been said too, my Lords, that I am introducing Popery and arbitrary power. My Lords, I deny the fact. Let the question be fairly and properly viewed, and it will be seen, not only that not one iota of the Constitution or of the religion of the country is changed, but that the measure will tend to strengthen both religion and the Constitution.

My Lords, it is not necessary that I should follow the noble Lord (Winchilsea) through the latter part of his speech, which related principally to the formation of a new Administration, and yet, my Lords, I am unwilling to suffer it to pass unnoticed. In detailing his views on the subject, the noble Lord has announced two intentions, which are not very flattering to the existing Parliament. The first is, to have a new Parliament, and the second is, to reform the Parliament; so that even a new one, unless reformed, will not answer the noble Lord's purpose. I heartily hope that if the noble Lord is to be my successor in office he will carry his intentions into effect. For my part, I have no intention of adopting either of the measures suggested by that noble Lord; but I have that of persevering firmly in the measure which I have proposed; not entertaining the least doubt that, in honestly persevering, I shall receive the support of your Lordships, and be enabled to carry it to a happy and final issue.

Motion agreed to.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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