ページの画像
PDF
ePub

the Catholics of Ireland appeared at the bar, humble petitioners for the removal of religious disabilities, an i during those 10 years, exclusion and persecution had occasioned an increase of 5 or 600,000 Catholics : they had petitioned in vain—they still appeared at the bar, but under more favourable auspices : true, their cries for relief were strengthened by the voice of the Protestant body, who bore testimony to their peaceable and temperate demeanor. Besides this, one branch of a Protestant legislature had already de. termined in their favour. What was the situation of the Government of the country at this period ? It seemed that new light bad broken in upon Ministers, who for 10 years had been enveloped in clouds of ignorance and bigotry : they were now willing to grant, but yet afraid to act; a mixture of concord and discord, agreeing in nothing but that they should all disagree-(hear, hear!)-taking shelter in their discordance against the consequences of further united resistance to the demands of the Catholics. Was it not then the duty of the House to act for itself, by taking the subject out of the hands of those too weak and too timo, rous to manage it? Much had been said upon the subject of securities, but little that was satisfactory to those who seemed resolved to be dissatisfied. In his lordship's opinion none other ought to be required than such as already appeared in the Statute Book--the oath on which the Constitution had hitherto, and not vainly, relied. Convinced that concession was absolutely necessary to secure the prosperity and happiness, and perhaps the existence of the empire, he would give his hearly support to the original motion.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland felt anxious to explain the grounds of his vote on the present occasion. His opinion respecting the nature of this question remained unshaken and unchanged. He might, at the same time, assure their lordships, that he had entertained a most anxious wish, that the question night undergo a thorough and a conciliatory investigation. The Resolutions, however, which were passed at a late Aggregate Meeting of that body, bad materially contributed to alter that resolution on his part. These Resolutions and Declarations roundly asserted a claim to every concession, without exception, while the assertion of that unqualified demand was refused to be accompanied on their part by the offer and admission of any sort of securities and safeguards. The Resolutions were couched, besides, in the most intemperate and indecorous language; and they were such, upon the whole, as to determine him never to vote for the question until these obnoxious Resolutions were rescinded : and, as he was now on his legs, he could not but advert to what had been said by a noble marquis, he meant the allusion to a supposed intention on his part to take upon him the Government of Ireland; and here he wished broadly to assert, what he requested their lordships inight distinctly understand, that he had never formed any idea of going to Ireland, and that no such idea was ever in the contemplation of his Majesty's Ministers. Such a design had never entered into his mind; and he was authorised by a noble friend of his (Lord Yarmouth) to say, that that noble lord never heard him utter a thought or syllable which could justify such a supposition.

Lord Liverpool felt it necessary to trouble the House shorily with the reasons that governed bis vote. However noble lords might disagree on particular points, all concurred, he believed, in thinking that, supposing concessions to be made, securities were necessary for the establishment. The first question was, whether any arrangement was practicable? and the second, whether it would be expedient for the House to come to a vote upon the subject while it was as yet completely in the dark as to the consequences to which it might lead :-(Hear, hear!) His lordship would have thought it unworthy of his character, if he had acceded to the proposition before the future road was clearly and distinctly marked out; and be should at the same time be acting a most unmanly part if he were to allow the subject to proceed to the nomination of a Committee, for the purpose of afterwards defeating the great object by little shifts and paltry expedients. He would resist the motion on broad and general principles ; and if in that open way it was not to be defeated, he would be the last man to oppose it, by placing in the path insignificant, but, perhaps, fatal obstacles. "He considered it as settled at the Revolution, that whilst a liberal and enlarged toleration should be conceded to all classes of his Majesty's subjects, still that the power of the state should be Protestant; not only with a view to that liberal and enlarged túleration, but also to that general freedom to which it was most favourable. He ubjected to the mode proposed by bis noble friend (Lord Wellesley), as not stating any specific measure; that to pledge

the House to consideration was pledging it to concession, and exciting hopes wbich might be disappointed. It was in the power of any noble lord to present a bill containing a digested plan of what laws he wished to repeal, and what to substitute in their place, and this, he thought, would be a far preferable mode to the one now proposed. He could not now see what was to be proposed, and therefore he objected to the proposed Resolution, containing, as it did, an indefinite pledge; and after living under the laws now proposed to be altered for upwards of a century, he thought it incumbent upon the House deeply to consider the subject, before they came to a Resolution involving a pledge to abrogate the system.

The Eari of Donoughmore applauded the manly manner in whicb the noble earl who had just spoken had always met this question ; but thought it no favourable omen, that the First Minister of the Crown should declare himself hostile to the measure. In his communications with the Catholics, he had advised them not to give their confidence to the present Ministers, until they were satisfied with what they intended to propose. He wished, however, that the Resolutions of the late Aggregate Meeting had been marked by a little more temper. He could not at the same time readily believe that Lord Fingal, who presided at it, and whose son had moved the Resolutions, should afterwards have expressed bis disapprobation of them. He rejoiced that with the exception of the two noble and learned lords, a conciliatory tone bad been manifested upon this question by all the noble lords who had spoken, and be trusted it would lead to that consummation wbich was so highly desirable—the conciliatory adjustment of the claims of the Catholics. He at the same time applauded the Catholics in a part of their Resolutions, in stating, that they could give no other security than they had tendered in their oaths; and if the supremacy of the Pope was required to be given up, it could not on their parts be agreed to, or at least they could not give up that unity of power, wherever it was vested, which was essential to their religion.

Lord Viscount Melville was anxious to say a few words, for the purpose of stating his reasons for voting for the motion of the noble marquis (Wellesley), and he trusted he should not be called inconsistent in now taking the first moment, in which he thought the discussion could be safely entered into, with a real view to conciliation, to give his VOL. III.-1812.

3S

vote for the consideration of the question. He agreed with his noble friend in his view, that if a stand was to be made, it ought to be made in limine, but he thought that period was past,

and that after the concessions made to the Catholics by Parliament in 1793, they could not have in their contemplation the continuing for any long period to withhold the repeal of the remaining disabilities. He trusted that the Resolution, if adopted, would lead to a real spirit of conciliation; he regretted the intemperance of some part of the Resolutions passed at the Aggregate Meeting, bụt be thought that, notwithstanding any temporary intemperance, Parliament ought to pursue its course steadily, only keeping in view wbat it considered to be for the good of the empire. He was glad to observe that there had been lately a great change in public opinion in Ireland, because he thought it would lead to a spirit of mutual conciliation, and thus lead to the happiest effects,

Earl Darnley asked why Ministers had not at once advised the Prince Regent to grant to the Catholics their claims? The disabilities had increased the number of the Catholics, and diminished the number of Protessants.

Lord Redesdale had objected to similar motions on former occasions, because the motion was accompanied by no distinct proposition. He now opposed the present motion on the same ground.

Lord Grenville could not give a silent vote on the subject: he must express the gratification which he felt at the manly manner in which the subject had been brought forward, and if he had any thing to regret, it was, that the Resolution did not go the whole length of promising a repeal of the Catholic disabilities. In this he was not to be understood as intending to oyerlook the rights of the Church established by law, and to which he was devoted with zealous affection ; but the manner of bringing forward the measure was trifling in comparison with the measure itself; and he must rejoice at the result which was now likely to take place. He had been told by a noble lord (Lord Chancellor), that the safety of the constitution was involved in their vote: but which of them was now giving the best proof of attachment to the principles of the Revolution, be who excluded four millions of men, or he who would bring them in to share or strengthen it? There were those who ibought the question ought to be put off without danger, but let them not " lay that flattering unction to their soul.” It grew dangerous as it was delayed. He lamented it had not been settled finally twelve years ago. Since that time discontents must bave increased, and it was not strange that mistrust should now be found when we made our offers of friendship. The confidence of the Catholics could not grow at once : not as it would, had their desires been granted twelve years ago, or five, or three, or two, or even more than all when the restrictions were taken off. It was most expedient not to lose 'a moment. The Catholics could not be expected to wait submissively and confidently for the six or nine months that might pass till the mceting of Parliament, without some pledge, especially under such a Ministry, when the Chancellor, the keeper of the King's conscience, declared, that to comply with their wishes would be to sacrifice the Constitution. At all events, if Parliament gave its voice for them, late events shewed that they were not to expect great resistance in another quarter. The noble and learned lord (Redesdale) who had objected so much in detail, had only to send bis objections to be discussed in the Committee. It was impossible not to express additional satisfaction at the proof which was now furnished, that the measure must be eventually successful; and yet this was the one for which he and other Members of that House had been charged with little short of treason against the King and Constitution. Those very men who rose to power on the change, now admitted that they had all along thought with him, and yet they had calumniated him and his noble friend (Earl Grey).- Here was a new proof also of the good of free discussion. If the question could have yielded to the votes of great majorities in that House, to other influence, or to a popular cry, it must have perished; but it was supported, and it was now triumphant. This was the spirit of the constitution, and it was into this constitution that four millions of men were about to be admitted by the vote of this night. The noble lord repeated, that he would not vote for the motion now, he never would vote for it, if he did not conceive tbat the vote of the House would pledge them to concession, not doled and parcelled out with a niggardly and reluctant hand, but going to the full extent of a total repeal of their disabilities. When he said so be did not exclude those securities which might be deemed necessary to preserve the Protestant establishment, being satisfied that upon the preservation of it depended the safety, bappiness and tranquillity of both countries. He should prefer to the present motion a declaration that Par

« 前へ次へ »