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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (6)

17 February 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 FALMOUTH, on presenting several petitions against any further concessions to the Roman Catholics, attributed the recent change in the view of the Government on this subject, not to conviction, but to intimidation.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON spoke in the following terms:

My Lords, I confess that after what passed last evening I should not have felt myself called upon to say more on this subject, nor should I have troubled your Lordships a second time in reference to it, had it not been for the manner in which the noble Earl has just now advanced the charge of intimidation against His Majesty's Ministers. The noble Earl has said that the manner in which we have conducted ourselves in reference to this question was just as if we had said to the Catholics, ' If you give us leave to knock you down, we shall afterwards give that advice to His Majesty which he has been pleased to accept. If the noble Earl would but for a moment look to the difficulties which were attendant upon this question, not alone in that part of the empire which it more immediately concerns, but in this also, if he knew the difficulties which arose from it in Parliament and in Council, he would see that there were many reasons for bringing it to a final decision, without having had recourse to the unworthy motives which he has attributed to His Majesty's Ministers, and which never, my Lords, existed.

My Lords, I will say this, that it required more firmness of character in my Right Honorable friend in the other House to come forward as a Minister of this country to abandon opinions which he had hitherto maintained, and to urge upon Parliament the adoption of this measure, to which he had been always opposed; to abandon, as it were, his political existence in order to press on the adoption of Parliament this measure; it required, I repeat, more firmness of character on the part of my Right Honorable friend to do that, than it could have required in him to adhere to his old and long-cherished opinions on the subject. It required, I will again say, more firmness of character in my Right honorable friend to cast away all his former notions, and to follow new opinions when he conceived that their adoption was absolutely necessary for the benefit of the Constitution and the security of the State, than to have continued in that course, for deviating from which he has subjected himself to the most virulent and the most unfounded attacks.

My Lords, I beg pardon for having a second time trespassed on the patience of your Lordships on this subject, but a charge so unworthy and so unjust as that which has been preferred by the noble Lord against His Majesty's Ministers, or indeed against any set of men by whom it was as little merited, I could not suffer to pass unnoticed or without contradiction.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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