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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (16)

2 April 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 DUKE OF WELLINGTON spoke in the following terms:

It is now my duty to move that your Lordships read this Bill a second time, and to explain to your Lordships the grounds on which I recommend this measure to your consideration. I may be under the necessity of requesting a larger portion of your time and attention, upon this occasion, than I have hitherto been in the habit of occupying; but I assure you, my Lords, that it is not my intention to take up an instant of your time with respect to myself, or my own conduct in this transaction, any farther than to express my regret that I should differ in opinion on this subject from so many of those for whom I entertain the highest respect and regard. However, my Lords, I must say that I have considered the part which I have taken upon this subject as the performance of a public duty absolutely incumbent upon me; and that no private regard, no respect for the opinion of any noble Lord, would have induced me to depart from the course which I have considered it my duty to adopt. I must say, likewise, this: that, comparing my own opinion with that of others upon this subject, I have, during the period I have been in office, had opportunities of forming a judgment upon this subject which others have not had; and they will admit that I should not have given the opinion I have given, if I was not intimately and firmly persuaded that that opinion was a just one.

My Lords, the point which I shall first bring under your Lordships' consideration is the state of Ireland. I know that by some it has been considered that the state of Ireland has nothing to do with this question — that it is a subject which ought to be left entirely out of our consideration. My Lords, they tell us that Ireland has been disturbed for the last thirty years, that to such disturbance we have been accustomed, and that it does not at all alter the circumstances of the case, as they have hitherto appeared. My Lords, it is perfectly true that Ireland has been disturbed during the long period I have stated; but within the last year or two there have been circumstances of particular aggravation. Political circumstances have in a considerable degree occasioned that aggravation; but besides this, my Lords, I must say, although I have no positive legal proof of the fact, that I have every reason to believe that there has been a considerable organization of the people for the purposes of mischief. My Lords, this organization is, it appears to me, to be proved not only by the declarations of those who formed and who arranged it, but likewise by the effects which it has produced in the election of churchwardens throughout the country; in the circumstances attending the election for the county of Clare; in the circumstances that preceded and followed that election; in the proceedings of a gentleman who went at the head of a body of men to the north of Ireland; in the simultaneous proceedings of various bodies of men in the south of Ireland, in Thurles, Templemore, Killenaule, Cahir, Clonmel, and other places; in the proceedings of another gentleman in the King's County; and in the recal [sic] of the former gentleman from the north of Ireland by the Roman Catholic Association. In all these circumstances it is quite obvious to me that there was an organization and direction of some superior authority. This organization has certainly produced a state of society in Ireland which we have not heretofore witnessed, and an aggravation of all the evils which before afflicted that unfortunate country.

My Lords, late in the year a considerable town was attacked in the middle of the night by a body of people who came from the neighbouring mountains, the town of Augher. They attacked it with arms, and were driven from it with arms by the inhabitants of the town. This is a state of things which I feel your Lordships will admit ought not to exist in a civilized country. Later in the year still, a similar event occurred in Charleville; and in the course of last autumn the Roman Catholic Association deliberated upon the propriety of adopting, and the means of adopting, the measure of ceasing all dealings between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Is it possible to believe that supposing these dealings had ceased, that supposing this measure had been carried into execution, as I firmly believe it was in the power of those who deliberated upon it to carry it into execution; is it possible to believe that those who could cease these dealings would not likewise have ceased to carry into execution the contracts into which they had entered? Will any man say that people in this situation are not verging towards that state in which it would be impossible to expect from them that they would be able to perform the duties of jurymen, or to administer justice between man and man for the protection of the lives and properties of His Majesty's subjects? My Lords, this is the state of society to which I wished to draw your attention, and for which it is necessary that Parliament should provide a remedy. But before I proceed to consider what those remedies ought to be, I wish just to show you what the effect of this state of society has been upon the King's prerogative.

My Lords, His Majesty could not create a peer, and the reason he could not create a peer was this. His Majesty's servants could not venture to recommend to him to incur the risks of an election, and those which might have attended any accident at the election, which might have occasioned the shedding of blood. Such a disaster must have been productive of an immediate civil war in the country; and not only was that the case, my Lords, but I confess that I had the strongest objection to give another triumph to the Roman Catholic Association. Then we are asked, 'Why do you not carry the law into execution?' My Lords, I have upon former occasions stated to your Lordships how the law stood in respect to the Association; and your Lordships will observe that in all I have stated hitherto there was no resistance to the law. The magistrates were not called upon to act. There was no resistance to the King's troops: indeed, except in the case of the procession to the north of Ireland, they were never called into duty. There was no instance, therefore, in which the law could be carried into execution. When we hear, therefore, noble Lords reproaching the Government for not carrying into execution the law in Ireland, as it was carried into execution in England, the observation shows that they do not understand the state of things in Ireland. The truth of the matter is, that in England, when the law was carried into execution in the year 1819, a large body of persons assembled for an illegal purpose: they resisted the order of the magistrates to disperse, and, having resisted that order, the magistrates directed the troops to disperse them. But in the case in Ireland there were no circumstances of the same kind: no order was given to disperse, no order could be given to disperse, because no magistrates were present; and if they had been present, there were no troops to disperse them. The truth is, the state of society was such as rendered these events probable at every hour; and it was impossible the magistrates could be at every spot, and at all times, to put an end to these outrages, which really are a disgrace to the country in which they take place. My Lords, neither the law, nor the means in the possession of Government, enabled Government to put an end to these things. It was necessary, therefore, to come to Parliament. Now, let us see what chance there was of providing a remedy to this state of things by coming to Parliament.

My Lords, we all know perfectly well that the opinion of the majority in another place is, that the remedy for this state of things in Ireland is a repeal of the disabilities affecting His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. We might have gone and asked Parliament to put down the Roman Catholic Association; but what chance had we of prevailing upon Parliament to pass such a Bill without being prepared to come forward and state that we were ready to consider the whole condition of Ireland with a view to apply a remedy to that which Parliament had stated to be the cause of the disease? Suppose that Parliament had given us a Bill to put down the Roman Catholic Association, would such a law as that which passed lately be a remedy for the state of things I have already described to your Lordships as existing in Ireland? Would it do any one thing towards putting an end to the organization which, I have stated to your Lordships, exists, towards putting an end to the mischiefs which are the consequences of that organization, towards giving you the means of getting the better of the state of things existing in Ireland, without some further measure to be adopted? But, my Lords, it is said, 'If that will not do, let us proceed to blows!' What is meant by ‘proceeding to blows' is civil war! Now I believe that every Government must be prepared to carry into execution the laws of the country by the force placed at its disposal; not by the military force, unless it should be absolutely necessary, but by the military force, in case that should be necessary; and, above all things, to endeavour to overcome resistance to the law, in case the disaffected or the ill-disposed are inclined to resist the authority or sentence of the law; but in this case, as I have already stated to your Lordships, there was no resistance of the law; nay, I will go further, and will say that I am positively certain that this state of things existing in Ireland for the last year and a half, bordering upon civil war (being attended by nearly all the evils of civil war), might have continued a considerable time longer, to the great injury and disgrace of the country, and nevertheless those who managed this state of things, those who were at its head, would have taken care to prevent any resistance to the law, which must have ended, they knew as well as I do, in the only way in which a struggle against the King's Government could end. They knew perfectly well they would have been the first victims of that resistance; but knowing that, and knowing as I do that they are sensible, able men, and perfectly aware of the materials upon which they have to work, I have not the smallest doubt that the state of things which I have stated to your Lordships would have continued, and that you would never have had an opportunity of putting it down in the manner some noble Lords imagine. But, my Lords, even if I had been certain of such means of putting it down, I should have considered it my duty to avoid those means. I am one of those who have probably passed a longer period of my life engaged in war than most men, and principally in civil war; and I must say this, that if I could avoid, by any sacrifice whatever, even one month of civil war in the country to which I was attached, I would sacrifice my life in order to do it. I say that there is nothing which destroys property, cuts up prosperity by the roots, and demoralizes character, to the degree that civil war does. In such a crisis the hand of every man is raised against his neighbour, against his brother, and against his father; servant betrays master, and the whole scene ends in confusion and devastation. Yet, my Lords, this is the resource to which we must have looked; these are the means which we must have applied, in order to have put an end to this state of things, if we had not made the option of bringing forward the measures for which I say I am responsible. But let us look a little farther. If civil war is so bad when it is occasioned by resistance to the Government, if it is so bad in the case I have stated, and so much to be avoided, how much more is it to be avoided when we are to arm the people in order that we may conquer one part of them by exciting the other part against them?

My Lords, I am sure there is not a man who hears me whose blood would not shudder at such a proposition if it were made to him; and yet that is the resource to which we should be pushed at last by continuing the course we have been adopting for the last few years. I entreat your Lordships not to look at it in this point of view only, but let us revert a little to what passed on a former similar occasion. My Lords, I am old enough to remember the rebellion in 1798. I was not employed in Ireland at the time: I was employed in another part of His Majesty's dominions; but, my Lords, if I am not mistaken, the Parliament of Ireland at that time walked up to my Lord Lieutenant with an unanimous address, beseeching his Excellency to take every means to put down that unnatural rebellion, and promising their full support in order to carry those measures into execution. The Lord Lieutenant did take measures, and did succeed in putting down that rebellion. Well, my Lords, what happened in the very next Session? The Government proposed to put an end to the Parliament, and to form a Legislative Union between the two kingdoms, for the purpose, principally, of proposing this very measure; and, in point of fact, the very first measure that was proposed after this Legislative Union, after those successful endeavours to put down this rebellion, was the very measure with which I am now about to trouble your Lordships. Is it possible noble Lords can believe that, supposing there was such a contest as that which I have anticipated, is it possible noble Lords can believe that such a contest could be carried on without the consent of the other House of Parliament? I am certain, my Lords, that, when you look at the division of opinion which prevails in both Houses of Parliament; when you look at the division of opinion which prevails in every family of this kingdom and of Ireland — in every family, I say, from the most eminent in station down to the lowest in this country; when you look at the division of opinion that prevails among the Protestants of Ireland on this subject, I am convinced you will see that there would be a vast difference in a contest carried on now and that which was carried on on former occasions.

My Lords, I beg you will recollect that, upon a recent occasion, there was a Protestant declaration of the sentiments of Ireland. As I said before, the Parliament of Ireland, in the year 1798, with the exception of one or two gentlemen, were unanimous; and on a recent occasion there were seven Marquises, twenty-seven Earls, a vast number of Peers of other ranks, and not less than two thousand Protestant gentlemen of property in the country, who signed the declaration, stating the absolute necessity of making these concessions. Under these circumstances it is that this contest would have been carried on — circumstances totally different from those which existed at the period I before alluded to. But is it possible to believe that Parliament would allow such a contest to go on? Is it possible to believe that Parliament, having this state of things before it, that this House, seeing what the opinion of the other House of Parliament is, seeing what the opinion of the large number of Protestants in Ireland is, seeing what the opinion of nearly every statesman for the last forty years has been on this question, would continue to oppose itself to measures brought forward for its settlement? It appears to me absolutely impossible that we could have gone on longer without increasing difficulties being brought on the country. But it is very desirable that we should look a little to what benefit is to be derived to any one class in the State by continuing the disabilities and adopting those coercive measures which will have all the evils I have stated. We are told that the benefit will be to preserve the principles of the Constitution of 1688, that the Acts of 1688 permanently excluded Roman Catholics from Parliament, and that, they being permanently excluded from Parliament, it is necessary to incur all the existing evils in order to maintain that permanent exclusion. Now I wish very much that noble Lords would take upon themselves the trouble I have taken to see how the matter stands as to the permanent exclusion of Roman Catholics from Parliament.

My Lords, in the Bill of Rights there are some things permanently enacted which I sincerely hope will be permanent: these are, the liberties of the people, the security for the Protestantism of the person on the throne of these kingdoms, and that he shall not be married to a Papist. Then there is an oath of allegiance and supremacy to be taken by all those of whom that oath of allegiance is required, which is also said to be permanent; but it contains no declaration against transubstantiation. There is also an oath of allegiance different from that, which is to be taken by a member of Parliament. I beg your Lordships will observe that, although this oath of allegiance was declared permanent, it was altered in the last year of King William. This shows what that permanent Act was. Then with respect to the oaths to be taken by members of Parliament, I beg your Lordships to observe that these oaths, the declaration against transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the mass, are not originally in the Act of William III.: they are in the Act of 30th Charles II. During the reign of Charles II. there were certain oaths imposed, first on dissenters from the Church of England, by the 12th and 13th Charles II., and to exclude Roman Catholics, by the 25th Charles II. and 30th Charles II. At the period of the Revolution, when King William came, he thought proper to extend the basis of his government, and he repealed the oaths affecting the dissenters from the Church of England, imposed by the 13th and 14th Charles II., and likewise the affirmative part of the oath of supremacy, which dissenters from the Church of England could not take. That is the history of the alteration of these oaths by William III., from the time of Charles II. But, my Lords, the remainder of the oath could be taken by dissenters, but could not be taken by Roman Catholics. The danger, with respect to Roman Catholics, had originated in the time of Charles II., and still existed in the time of William III.; but the oath was altered, because one of the great principles of the Revolution was to limit the exclusion from the benefits of the Constitution so far as it was possible. Therefore, we have this as one of the principles of the Revolution, as well as the principles I before stated derived from the Bill of Rights. The noble Lords state that what they call the principles of 1688 — that is to say, these oaths excluding Roman Catholics — are equally permanent with the Bill of Rights by which the Protestantism of the Crown is secured. If they will do me the favour to look at the words of the Act, they will see that the difference is just the difference between that which is permanent and that which is not permanent. The Act says that the Protestantism of the Crown shall last for ever, that these liberties are secured for ever; but as for these oaths, they are enacted in exclusive words, and there is not one word about how long they shall last. Well then, my Lords, what follows? The next Act we have is the Act of Union with Scotland; and what does that Act say? That the oaths to be taken by the members of Parliament, as laid down by the 1st of William and Mary, shall continue and be taken till Parliament shall otherwise direct. This is what is called a permanent Act of Parliament, a provision to exclude Catholics for all future periods from seats in Parliament! My Lords, I beg to observe that, if the Act which excludes Roman Catholics from seats in Parliament is permanent, there is another clause (I believe the 10th of 1 William III., cap. 8) which requires officers of the army and navy to take these very oaths previous to their acceptance of their commissions. Now, if the Act made in the first year of William and Mary, which excludes Roman Catholics from Parliament, is permanent, I should like to ask noble Lords why the clause in that Act is not equally permanent? I suppose that the noble and learned Lord (Eldon) will answer my question by saying that one Act was permanent, and ought to be permanently maintained, but that the other Act was not permanent, and the Parliament did right in repealing it in 1817. But the truth of the matter is, that neither Act was intended to be permanent; and the Parliament of Queen Anne recognized by the Act of Union that the first Act, relating to seats in Parliament, was not permanent; and the noble and learned Lord did quite right when he consented to the Act of 1817, which put an end to the 10th clause of the 1st of William III., cap. 8. Then, my Lords, if this principle of exclusion, if this principle of the Constitution of 1688, as it is called, be not permanent, if it be recognized as not permanent, not only by the Act of Union with Scotland (in which it was said that the exclusion oath should continue till Parliament otherwise provided), but also by the later Act of Union with Ireland, I would ask your Lordships whether you are not at liberty now to consider the expediency of doing away with it altogether, in order to relieve the country from the inconveniences to which I have already adverted?

I would ask your Lordships, whether you are not called upon to review the state of the representation of Ireland, whether you are not called upon to see, even supposing that the principle were a permanent one, if it be fit that Parliament should remain as it has remained for some time, groaning under a Popish influence exercised by the priests over the elections in Ireland. I would ask your Lordships, I repeat, whether it is not right to make an arrangement which has for its object not only the settlement of this question, but at the same time to relieve the country from the inconveniences which I have mentioned. I have already stated the manner in which the organization I have alluded to works upon all the great interests of the country; but I wish your Lordships particularly to attend to the manner in which it works upon the Church itself. That part of the Church of England which exists in Ireland is in a very peculiar situation: it is the Church of the minority of the people. At the same time I believe that a more exemplary, a more pious, or a more learned body of men than the ministers of that Church do not exist. The ministers of that Church certainly enjoy and deserve the affections of those whom they are sent to instruct, in the same degree as their brethren in England enjoy the affections of the people of this country; and I have no doubt that they would shed the last drop of their blood in defence of the doctrines and discipline of their Church. But violence, I apprehend, is likely to affect the interests of that Church; and I would put it to the House, whether that Church can be better protected from violence by a Government united in itself, united with Parliament, and united in sentiment with the great body of the people, or by a Government disunited in opinion, disunited from Parliament, and by the two Houses of Parliament disunited. I am certain that no man can look to the situation of Ireland without seeing that the interest of the Church, as well as the interest of every class of persons under Government, is involved in such a settlement of this question as will bring with it strength to the Government, and strength to every department of the State.

Having now gone through the general principles which induced me to consider it desirable to bring forward this measure, I will trouble your Lordships for a short time longer, whilst I explain generally the provisions of the Bill before the House. The Bill is, in itself, very simple. It concedes the Roman Catholics the power of holding every office in the State, excepting a few connected with the administration of the affairs of the Church; and it also concedes to them the power of becoming members of Parliament. I believe it goes farther, with respect to the concession of offices, than any former measure which has been introduced into the other House of Parliament. I confess that the reasons which induced me to consider it my duty to make such large concessions now arose out of the effects which I observed following the Acts passed in the years 1782 and 1793. I have seen that any restriction upon concession has only had the effect off increasing the demands of the Roman Catholics, and at the same time giving them fresh power to enforce those demands. I have, therefore, considered it my duty, in making this act of concession, to make it as large as any reasonable man can expect it to be, seeing clearly, that anything which might remain behind would only give ground for fresh demands, and being convinced that the settlement of this question tends to the security of the State, and to the peace and prosperity of the country.

I have already stated to your Lordships my opinion respecting the expediency of granting seats in Parliament to Roman Catholics; and I do not conceive that the concession of seats in Parliament can in any manner affect any question relative to the Church of England. In the first place, I beg your Lordships to recollect that at the time those laws to which I have before alluded, the one passed in the 30th of Charles II., and the other at the period of the Revolution, were enacted, it was not the Church that was in danger, it was the State. It was the State that was in danger; and from what? Not because the safety of the Church was threatened. No! but because the Sovereign on the Throne was suspected of Popery, and because the successor to the Throne was actually a Papist. Those laws were adopted because of the existence of a danger which threatened the State, and not of one which threatened the Church. On the contrary, at that period danger to the Church was apprehended, not from Roman Catholics, but from Dissenters from the Church of England. I would ask of your Lordships, all of whom have read the history of those times, whether any danger to the Church was apprehended from the Roman Catholics? No! Danger to the Church was apprehended from the Dissenters, who had become powerful by the privileges granted to them under the Act of Parliament passed at the period of the Revolution. I think, therefore, that it is not necessary for me to enter into any justification of myself for having adopted this measure, on account of any danger which might be apprehended from it to the Church. Roman Catholics will come into Parliament under this Bill, as they went into Parliament previous to the Act of the 30th of Charles II. They sat in Parliament up to that period, and were not obliged to take the Oath of Supremacy. By this Bill they will be required to take the Oath of Allegiance, in which a great part of the Oath of Supremacy is included, namely, that part which refers to the jurisdiction of foreign potentates; and I must say, that the Church, if in danger, is better secured by this Bill than it was previous to the 30th of Charles II., though the object for which that Act was recognised at the period of the Revolution, namely, to keep out the House of Stuart from the Throne, has long since ceased to exist, by the extinction of that family. It is the opinion of nearly every considerable man in the country (of nearly all those who are competent to form a judgment on the question), that the time is now arrived for repealing these laws. Circumstances have been gradually tending towards their repeal since the extinction of the House of Stuart; and at last the period has come when it is quite clear that the repeal can be no longer delayed with safety to the State.

But, my Lords, I know that there are many in this House, and many in this country, who think, and I am free to admit that I was formerly of the same opinion myself, that the State ought to have some security for the Church against the proceedings of the Roman Catholic clergy, besides the oaths imposed by the Act of Parliament to which I have already alluded. Now I confess that on examining into the question, and upon looking more minutely than I had before leisure to do, at the various Acts of Parliament by which the Church of England is constituted, and which form the foundation on which it rests, I can think of no sort of arrangement capable of being carried into execution in this country which can add to the security of the Established Church.

I beg your Lordships to attend for a moment whilst I explain the situation of the kingdom of Prussia with respect to the Roman Catholic religion. The King of Prussia exercises the power which he does over the Roman Catholic Church in his various dominions, under different Concordats made with the Pope: in Silesia, under a Concordat made by the Sovereigns of the House of Austria with the Pope: in the territories on the left bank of the Rhine, under a Concordat made by Buonaparte with the Pope: and in the territories on the right bank of the Rhine, under a Concordat made by the former Sovereigns of those countries with the Pope. Each of those Concordats supposes that the Pope possesses some power in the country, which he is enabled to concede to the Sovereign with whom the Concordat is made. That is a point which we can never yield to any Sovereign whatever. There is no Sovereign, be he whom he may, who has any power in this country to confer upon His Majesty. We must keep our Sovereign clear from such transactions. We can, therefore, have no security of that description, not even a veto on the appointment of a Roman Catholic Bishop, without detracting, in some degree, from the authority and dignity of the Sovereign, and without admitting that the Pope has something to concede to His Majesty.

Now let us suppose another security. Suppose it were arranged that His Majesty should have the nomination of the Catholic Bishops. If he nominated them, he must also give them jurisdiction, he must give them dioceses. I should like to know in what part of Ireland, or England, the King could fix upon a spot where he could, consistently with the oath he has taken, nominate a Catholic Bishop, or give him a diocese? The King is sworn to maintain the rights and privileges of the Bishops and of the clergy of this realm, and of the churches committed to their charge. Now, consistently with that oath, how could the King appoint a Bishop of the Roman Catholic religion ; and would not the Established Church lose more than it gained by the assumption of such a power on the part of His Majesty?

Then, my Lords, there is another security, which some noble Lords think it desirable to have, namely, the obtaining, by Government, of copies of all correspondence between and the Court of Rome; and the supervising of that correspondence, in order to prevent any danger resulting to the Established Church. Upon that point, I must say that I feel the greatest objection to involve the Government of this country in such matters. That correspondence, we are told, turns on spiritual affairs. But I will suppose, for the sake of argument, that it turns on questions of excommunication. Is it, then, to be suffered, that the Pope and His Majesty, or His Majesty's Secretary of State acting for him, should make law for this country? for that would be the result of communications between the Catholic clergy of this realm and the Pope being submitted to His Majesty's inspection, or to the inspection of His Majesty's Secretary of State. Such a security amounts to a breach of the Constitution, and it is quite impossible that it could be made available. It would do more injury to the Constitution and to the Church than anything which could be done by the Roman Catholics themselves, when placed by this Bill in the same situation as Dissenters.

With respect to communications with the Court of Rome, that has already been provided against and prevented by laws still in existence. Your Lordships are aware that those laws, like many others regarding the Roman Catholic religion, are not strictly enforced; but still, if indulgence should be abused, if the conduct of those persons whose actions those, laws are intended to regulate should be such as to render necessary the interference of Government, the very measure which is now before your Lordships will enable Government to interfere in such a manner as not only to answer the object of its interference, but also to give satisfaction to this House and to the country.

Another part of the Bill has for its object the putting an end to the order of the Jesuits and other monastic orders in this country. If your Lordships will look at the Act passed in the year 1791, you will probably see that at that time, as well as in this, it was possible for one person to make laws through which another might drive a coach and four. My noble and learned friend (Eldon) will excuse me, I hope, for saying that, notwithstanding all the pains which he took to draw up the Act of 1791, yet the fact is, of which there cannot be the smallest doubt, that large religious establishments have been regularly formed, not only in Ireland, but also in this country. The measure which I now propose for your Lordships' adoption will prevent the increase of such establishments, and, without oppression to any individuals, without injury to any body of men, will gradually put an end to those which have already been formed. There is no man more convinced than I am of the absolute necessity of carrying into execution that part of the present measure which has for its object the extinction of monastic orders in this country. I entertain no doubt whatever, that, if that part of the measure be not carried into execution, we shall very soon see this country and Ireland inundated by Jesuits and regular monastic clergy, sent out from other parts of Europe, with means to establish themselves within His Majesty's kingdom. When I recommend this measure to your Lordships' attention, you have, undoubtedly, a right to ask what are the reasons I have for believing that it will effect the purpose for which it is intended. My Lords, I believe that it will answer its object, not only from the example of all Europe, but from the example of what occurred in a part of this kingdom on a former occasion. If I am not mistaken, at the time that the Episcopalians laboured under civil disabilities in Scotland, the state of society there was as bad as the state of Ireland is at the present moment. Your Lordships know that abroad, in other parts of Europe, in consequence of the diffusion of civil privileges to all classes, the difference between Protestant and Catholic is never heard of. I am certain that I can prove to your Lordships what I state, when I say that the state of society in Scotland previous to the concession of civil privileges to the Episcopalians was as bad as the present state of society in Ireland.

I hope your Lordships will give me leave to read a petition which has been sent to me this day, and which was presented to the Scottish Parliament at the period when those concessions were about to be made, and your Lordships will perceive that the petition is almost a model of many petitions which have been read in this house respecting the question under discussion. I am therefore in expectation that, should the present Bill pass this House, there will be no longer occasion for those complaints which have been expressed to your Lordships, and that the same happy and peaceful state of things which has for the last century prevailed in Scotland will also prevail in Ireland. I will, with your Lordships' permission, read the petition I have alluded to, and I think that, after you have heard it, you will be of the same opinion as I am with respect to the similarity it bears to many petitions which have been presented to your Lordships on the Catholic question.

The petition states, that 'to grant toleration to that party (the Episcopalians), in the present circumstances of the Church, must unavoidably shake the foundation of our present happy Constitution; overthrow those laws on which it is settled; grievously disturb that peace and tranquillity which the nation has enjoyed since the late Revolution; disquiet the minds of His Majesty's best subjects; increase animosity; confirm discord and tumult; weaken and enervate the discipline of the Church; open the door to unheard-of vices, and to Popery as well as to other errors; propagate and cherish disaffection to the Government; and bring the nation under the danger of falling back into those mischiefs and calamities from which it had lately escaped by the Divine blessing. We therefore humbly hope that no concession will be granted to that party, which would be to establish iniquity by law, and bring upon the country manifold calamities and disasters, from which we pray that Government may preserve the members of the High Court of Parliament.'

I sincerely hope that, as the prophecy contained in this petition has not been fulfilled, a similar prophecy respecting the passing of the present Bill, contained in many petitions presented to your Lordships, will also not be fulfilled. But, my Lords, I have other grounds besides those which I have already stated for supposing that the proposed measure will answer the object in view. There is no doubt that, after this measure shall have been adopted, the Roman Catholics can have no separate interest, as a separate sect; for I am sure that neither this House nor the other House of Parliament will be disposed to look upon the Roman Catholics, nor upon anything that respects Ireland, with any other eye than that with which they regard whatever affects the interest of Scotland or of this country. For my own part I will state that, if I am disappointed in the hopes which I entertain that tranquillity will result from this measure, I shall have no scruple in coming down and laying before Parliament the state of the case, and calling on Parliament to enable Government to meet whatever danger might have arisen. I shall act with the same confidence that Parliament will support me then, as I have acted in the present case.

Having now explained to your Lordships the grounds on which this measure has been brought forward; the state of Ireland; the state of public opinion on the question; the divisions of the Government and of the Parliament; the pretences (for so I must call them) which have been urged against the claims of the Catholics, founded on Acts passed previous to the Revolution; having, my Lords, likewise stated to you the provisions of the measure which I propose as a remedy for these inconveniences, I will trouble your Lordships no further, except by beseeching you to consider the subject with the coolness, moderation, and temper recommended in His Majesty's Speech from the Throne.

The Archbishop of CANTERBURY contended, that in bringing forward this measure the Government had yielded to the menaces of a party, against whom it was their duty to enforce the existing laws. He could not consent to part with the security which the present statutes gave, and would therefore move that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months.

Debate adjourned.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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