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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (21)

8 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)


Lord FARNHAM presented several petitions against the Catholic claims, one of which complained of a practice on foreign stations of compelling English troops to assist at ceremonial observances of the Roman Catholic and Greek churches.


My Lords, I must say, that although I have served in my profession in several countries, and among foreigners, some of whom professed various forms of the Christian religion, while others did not profess it at all, I never was in one in which it was not the bounden duty of the soldier to pay proper deference and respect to whatever happened to be the religious institutions or ceremonies of the places where he might happen to be. We soldiers do not go into those foreign countries to become parties to the religious differences of the people, or to trouble ourselves with their notions upon matters of faith. We go to perform a very different kind of duty, one which is purely military, and has no reference to the people's religion. I confess I never heard, however, that it was our custom to take any part in these religious rites, nor do I believe we have taken any such part as this petition imputes. Indeed, I never heard of anything like any co-operation by our soldiers of military parade, except at Malta, where I know it has long been the practice of the garrison to direct some artillery officers to cause a few small guns to be fired as some particular procession passed the platform. And I know that certain officers of the artillery, or military, three of them, I believe, thought proper, on military grounds, and not upon religious scruples, to refuse to fire, according to the usual order of their commandant ; for such refusal they were brought to a court-martial, and sentenced to be cashiered, not because they would not form a part of any religious procession to which they were hostile, not because they would not conform to the rites of the natives, and worship any relic that was honoured by them, but for this plain and intelligible reason, that they had taken upon themselves to refuse obedience to the orders of their Commander-in-Chief on the spot, who, according to a long-prevailing custom, directed the usual salute to be made at the appointed time. I saw in the copy of the proceedings that this was the ground taken by the court martial, and I know that when submitted to His Majesty for supervision by the Commander-in-Chief at home, the sentence of the court-martial was approved and confirmed upon that ground. If any other transaction of this kind has occurred, except this particular case at Malta, all I can say is, it is unknown to me.

Lord FARNHAM wished to know whether the Marquis of Hastings, when Governor of Malta, had not issued an Order rescinding the practice of these military attendances; and whether such Order had not been revoked by subsequent instructions from the highest military authorities at home?


In answer to the question of the noble Baron, I have to state, my Lords, that I think Lord Hastings did make some alterations in the usual practice of the garrison at Malta, on the occasions alluded to; and as well as I can recollect, the Commander-in-Chief, at home, did countermand the Order so issued by Lord Hastings.

In Committee on the Bill.

On the clause being read substituting new oaths for the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy,

The Earl of VERULAM proposed a clause to prevent more than one Roman Catholic peerage being created for every three which might hereafter become extinct.

Lord REDESDALE objected to this amendment, as altogether useless, religion not being necessarily hereditary.


My Lords, my objection to my noble friend's proposal is, that it would be to establish for us a new Catholic question at the very moment when we are trying to get rid of that subject altogether. It is also to interfere directly with the royal prerogative; and why? upon, I must say (with great deference for my noble friend), an apprehension formed upon one of the most extravagant hypotheses that I have ever heard conjectured; namely, that any Protestant Sovereign of England would be likely, for any purpose whatever, to inundate the House of Lords with a host of Roman Catholic Peers. Besides this, my Lords, the answer which has just been given to such an hypothesis by my noble and learned friend (Lord Redesdale), appears to me quite conclusive, namely, "that religion is not hereditary with the Peerage;" and how are we to know, I ask your Lordships, when these Peerages become extinct? I do not say that men are prone to change their religion, but I know they sometimes do; and how are we to trace this in looking into such a subject? For these reasons I oppose the proposal of my noble friend.

Amendment withdrawn.

On the clause, prohibiting Roman Catholics from holding certain high posts in the State being read,

Earl KENYON proposed very greatly to increase the list of excepted offices.

The Duke of RUTLAND supported the principle of the amendment.

The Marquis of LANSDOWNE opposed it, as tending to defeat the objects of the Bill. Emancipation clogged with such insulting exceptions would be no boon at all.


It is impossible to add anything to what has been stated by the noble Marquis (Lansdowne), in reply to my noble friend behind him (the Duke of Rutland) ; but, out of respect to the noble Duke, I shall say this, that if he wishes to carry his views into effect, that would be best accomplished by voting for the clause proposed by the noble Baron (Kenyon), and afterwards making such additions to it as he may think proper. The object of the noble Baron we propose to accomplish by two clauses; the first to transfer the Church patronage of the office to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the other to make any ecclesiastical interference by Catholics a forfeiture of office. The noble Duke could not effect the same object by any other mode than by preventing Roman Catholics from becoming Privy Councillors, which provision, I am sure it will be admitted by noble Lords, could not be introduced in the present measure. The truth is, as the noble Marquis has stated, there is no such office as Prime Minister; and there is no other way to prevent Roman Catholics from advising the Crown with respect to the disposal of Church patronage, except by the mode adopted in this and the subsequent clauses.

Amendment negatived.

On the clause, enacting the forfeiture of £100 for giving ecclesiastical titles to the Catholic clergy, other than those acknowledged by the Law,

The Earl of MOUNTCASHEL moved an amendment, that, 'whosoever should address a Catholic bishop or archbishop by the title of a peer of the realm, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour.'

The Earl of MALMESBURY considered that the clause, giving no security, was a farce, which should be omitted altogether.


My Lords, I cannot support the amendment, but I beg to offer a few remarks on the clause itself. The clause itself certainly affords no security, but it will give satisfaction to the United Church of England and Ireland. In 1792 a law was passed in Ireland which prevented Catholic priests from assuming the titles of the Established Church; but that law was repealed by the Act of 1793, and since then the assumption of these titles has increased., According to the law of England the title of a diocese belongs to the person appointed to it by the Crown; it is desirable that other persons appointed to such diocese by an assumed authority should be discountenanced, and that is the reason why the clause was introduced. This, my Lords, is one of the instances which show how difficult it is to legislate upon this subject at all. I am aware, I repeat, that this clause gives no security to the Established Church, and does not strengthen it in any way; it is inserted to give satisfaction to those who were disturbed by this assumption of title by the Catholic clergy.

Lord REDESDALE thought the better course would be to omit the clause altogether.

Lord TENTERDEN said the clause afforded no security at all, though the noble Duke, some time ago, declared that the securities which the Bill would comprise, must satisfy every body. He suggested that, in the end of it, a clause should be introduced, declaring it to be unlawful for any person, thereafter, to accept of any such nomination to the title of archbishop or bishop.


My Lords, I feel that if I could be a party to the introduction of such a clause as that recommended by the noble and learned Lord (Tenterden), I should be guilty of a recognition of that which I conceive to be highly illegal; I feel that I should be acknowledging an assumption of authority by a foreign power, which is utterly inconsistent with the Constitution of this country. I do not, my Lords, mean to say, that it is true that the persons alluded to are nominated as Bishops, and even placed in the care of dioceses, by an usurped authority. I certainly will not say that. But I do not, and cannot, recognise, in any manner whatsoever, appointments of such a nature; because it is evident that these appointments are made by the power of usurpation. But we, my Lords, can know nothing of that usurpation, nor of the assumption of those titles. I repeat, that of the assumption of such titles, the framer or author of this Bill knows nothing. It is true, as has been stated by the noble mover of the amendment (the Earl of Mountcashell), that the clause would have been more perfect, if persons could have been prevented by it from giving those assumed titles of Archbishops and Bishops in writing. But I beg your Lordships to advert to the difficulty of carrying such a principle into effect. Let your Lordships look to your own proceedings, let us examine our own Journals, and we shall find places over and over again, where these titles are given in print to those individuals. It is impossible, therefore, to deal with titles under such circumstances. All your Lordships can do is, to declare that these titles shall not be assumed by those persons in future.

My Lords, I cannot conceive that they can suffer any inconvenience in carrying on their spiritual concerns because they are prohibited from assuming those titles. And I must say that, though I mean not to urge the clause as a powerful security in Ireland, yet I am sure that it will give great satisfaction to many persons in that part of the United Kingdom. The noble and learned Lord (Tenterden) has attributed to me an expression that I did not use. Now, before the noble and learned Lord attempted to fix it on me, he ought to have made himself master of the fact. I never said one word of the description which has been ascribed to me relative to securities. What I said was this, that the measure which I should have the honour to propose to this House would be, in my opinion, and it still is in my opinion, calculated to give satisfaction to the House and to the country; and that, in its effects it would be found to be a measure more calculated to prevent the growth of Popery than to increase it. These are the words, as near as I can recollect, of which I made use in speaking to my noble relative, who is now in the House. It is scarcely necessary, my Lords, to mention, that this took place within two days of the period when my Right Honourable friend brought this Bill into the House of Commons; and certainly it will be admitted that I could not have intended to deceive your Lordships, with respect to a point on which I knew your Lordships would be set right in two days. What I said was, that the measures which would be proposed were calculated, in my view of the subject, to give satisfaction. I am still, my Lords, of the same opinion. I think that they are likely to produce tranquility, and to prevent the effusion of blood in Ireland.

Clause agreed to.

Lord FARNHAM objected to the clause, giving a power to the Secretary of State to grant licenses to Jesuits to come into this kingdom, and to remain here for 6 months.


It may so happen that at this moment there are persons belonging to the society of Jesuits, who are natural born subjects of this realm, and who at the passing of this Act are out of this country. It would be a very great hardship on them to prevent them from returning home. The object then of this clause is to allow such persons to return to this kingdom after the passing of this Act, and to permit the visits of foreigners here for literary purposes.

Clause agreed to.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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