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worship, discipline, and government thereof, as the same are respectively by law established.”
The motion was opposed by Mr. Abbot (the Speaker), Mr. Bragge Bathurst, Dr. Duigenan, and Mr. Bankes. Mr. Bathurst objected to the mode of proceeding, inasmuch, as in questions relating to the alteration of the laws, the person making the proposition generally described the measure in all its bearings; the present resolution gave them very little, if any, information at all. The motion was supported by Mr. Ponsonby, Sir John Newport, Sir John Cox Hippisley, Lord Milton, Lord Desart, Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Canning, Sir Charles Burrell, Sir Frederick Flood and Lord Castlereagh.
The committee divided : for the resolution 186, against it 119; Majority in favour of Mr. Grattan's resolution 67.
The House then resumed ; and the Chairman brought up the report.
On the motion of Mr. Grattan, leave was given to bring in a bill; and Mr. Grattan and Mr. Ponsonby were appointed for that purpose.
SIR JOHN COX HIPPISLEY “MOVES FOR A SELECT COMMITTEE TO
EXAMINE AND REPORT ON THE STATE OF THE LAWS AFFECTING ROMAN CATHOLICS.
May 11. 1813.
ON the 13th of April, Mr. Grattan brought up the bill for the
relief of the Roman Catholics. It was read a first time, and ordered to be printed, and read a second time on the 11th of May. Mr. Canning presented some supplemental clauses, which were also ordered to be printed; and on this day (11th) Sir John Cox Hippisley brought forward the motion, of which he had given notice, for the appointment of a select committee to enquire into the Catholic securities, and their intercourse with the See of Rome. Previous to making any observations, he enquired of Mr. Grattan, whether he meant to press the order of the day for the second reading of the Catholic bill ; to which Mr. Grattan replied, that after the honourable baronet had concluded, it would be for the House to consider, whether they would go on with the subsequent question or not. Sir John Hippisley then proceeded : he stated, the object of his motion was to obtain information on the state of the laws affecting Roman Catholics, and their establishments at home and abroad; he entered into a long and elaborate statement of the regulations and institutions of the Roman Catholics; he read a variety of extracts from a num
ber of papers on the subject, and argued that information on these subjects was very desirable before any final measure was adopted with respect to the Roman Catholics. He concluded an erudite but antiquated disquisition, by moving,
“ That a select committee be appointed to examine and report the state of the laws affecting his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects within the realm; the state and number of the Roman Catholic clergy; their religious institutions, and their intercourse with the See of Rome, or any other foreign jurisdiction ; the state of the laws and regulations affecting his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects in the several colonies of the United Kingdom; and the regulations of foreign states, as far as they can be substantiated by evidence, respecting the nomination, collation, or institution of the episcopal order of the Roman Catholic clergy, and the regulations of their intercourse with the See of Rome.
Mr. GRATTAN rose, he said, for the purpose of opposing the proposition of his honourable friend. He certainly should feel a considerable degree of difficulty in answering the speech with which his honourable friend had prefaced his motion ; not on account of any force or cogency of argument observable in it, but from its extraordinary length, and the immense extent of the subjects which it comprised. He begged leave, however, before he entered into the consideration of his honourable friend's speech, to return him his most sincere thanks for the great services he had on former occasions rendered to the cause of religious liberty — services which never could be forgotten, and which rendered it painful to be obliged to differ from him on the present occasion. His honourable friend now proposed, is That a select committee should, in the first instance, be appointed to examine the state of the laws at present affecting the Roman Catholics.” Connected with this subject, there were four other propositions, embodied in the same motion, the whole of which proceeded on the supposition that the House were ignorant with respect to the Catholic question. His honourable friend must surely have forgotten, that thirty-five years had now elapsed since the question was originally discussed, and that twenty years had already been consumed in this inquiry. Could he not call to his recollection, that it was brought before Parliament in 1791, again in 1792, in 1793, in 1795, in 1805, (on a motion made by Mr. Fox), in 1808, in 1810, twice in 1811, and three times, both in 1812 and 1813? Had he forgotten the part he had himself taken in those different discussions, as well as the various books he had published on the subject? Was it possible that he had lost all remembrance of the victories he had gained of the adversaries he had put to flight ~ of the theological arguments which he had conducted, so much to
his own honour, and so decidedly to the discomfiture of his opponents? would he now contend, (for so, in effect, he did, when he stated that the subject was not understood by the House), that all his labours had been useless, or was it by a very strange excess of self-denial, that he wished to forego the fruits of those victories. and fight his battles over again, giving his enemies ground for claiming a triumph, where they had sustained signal and complete discomfiture? No! this was impossible; his honourable friend's motion was defeated by the services which he had performed, his very successes in this way deprived him of the power of now saying, that the country was uninformed upon the subject. Under what circumstances were they called on to accede to this proposition ? A resolution had been passed, in which the House stated, 66 That it was adviseable to make provision for the repeal of the remaining penal laws, " and what was the motion of his honourable friend ? « That a committee should be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the grounds on which you, the House of Commons, have resolved that it is so advisable.” After a debate, which continued for several days, the House came to this conclusion, “ That it was highly advisable to provide for the repeal of those laws;" and now they were called upon to enter into an examination of the principles by which they were influenced. With all respect to the House, he would suggest that such a measure would be little short of a disavowal of their own act. If they adopted it, they would tacitly say, that they regretted their admitting the introduction of the present bill. They would avow that their resolution was precipitate. The honourable baronet had confessed, that if the effect of his motion should be to get rid of this bill, he thought it would be so much the better. Now, it would be for the House to determine, whether it would be right' to get rid of the bill in such a manner. The question was not, whether the House would go into this committee merely, but whether they would reject the bill then pending ? that, and that only would be the effect of such a proceeding. It would not be a rejection for six months, or for a session, but it would be a rejection for an indefinite period.
The whole question of Catholic liberation would be postponed; not, as he had already observed, for a certain period. No! it would be postponed till all the penal laws were examined. Not merely those laws which were enacted since the reformation, but those which were made before it; not only our own laws against Catholics, but the proceedings in colleges, and ecclesiastical courts, and all the controversies on doubtful and disputed points. To demand of them to exa
mine the laws affecting the Roman Catholics, was, in effect, to ask them to do that which, in respect to time, could not be done for a very long period. And could it be supposed, that any rational man would agree to a measure which must inevitably put off the adjustment of this great question for ten, or even for twenty years, or could it be supposed that any person who wished for the success of the Catholic would be satisfied with such a delay ? Could it be supposed that the Catholics could be contented that their claims should be kept back for nine or ten years, until a committee had made a report upon the immense mass of matter which the honourable baronet wished to refer to them? His honourable friend had alluded to the proceedings in the case of the slave trade, and observed, that the legislative proceedings on that occasion were preceded by the labours of various committees. But it should not be overlooked, that that question was first agitated in 1788, and the bill was not passed till 1807, a period of nineteen years, during which time incessant appeals were made to the justice and humanity of Parliament. In fact, if the motion were granted, they would do worse than reject the bill; because they would do it with a sort of apology, which stultified themselves, by a confession of ignorance, which they ought not to evince on any subject, and which, on this .particular subject, they could not be supposed to possess. He objected to this intended exhibition of the penal laws, because it was not necessary with a view to their repeal, and much matter was contained in then which was calculated to produce discontent and irritation. It was on this ground, that an honourable gentleman on the other side of the House had opposed the production of a book which enumerated a considerable number of the penal lawsstillinexistence. That honourable gentleman was of opinion, that no benefit could result from such a statement of grievances, but they were now called upon to do that by the committee which, in the particular instance referred to, had been refused, and themselves to furnish those topics for animosity, by holding forth to the public as acts in force, those which were in fact, and in practice, obsolete.
This committee would not only revive the odious name of the penal laws, but it would answer a variety of other purposes. It would be a judicial committee, in which the charges against the Catholic bishops would be investigated ; and whatever the result of such an enquiry would be, he conceived that it was one not at all consistent with the dignity of the House, It would not perhaps actually tax them with disaffection to the government, but it would certainly, whatever might be the
extent of their suspicions, or accusations, put them and the whole Catholic body on their trial, and this on the suggestion of an individual. The committee which the honourable baronet proposed, was not merely to examine the acts of religious councils, but it was likewise to be a committee of diplomacy, for it was to examine all the acts which had been done by foreign states upon this subject; and until their report could be had, no bill was to be brought in for the relief of the Catholic, or the security of the Protestant. After this laborious investigation, a report was to be drawn up; and, until that report was made, no bill for the relief of the Catholics and the security of the Protestants could be introduced. Therefore, on the same principle which induced him to seize the opportunity of bringing in the bill, he must oppose a motion which would have the effect of frustrating every thing that had already been done. In stating the necessity of thus opposing his honourable friend's proposition, he could assure him, that he felt the highest respect for him personally; and that he
gave him full credit for the great services he had rendered the Roman Catholic body- services, which no difference of opinion could ever obliterate from his mind. Having said thus much, he thought it was necessary to state, briefly, the nature of his bill; and the more so, because it was said, that it had given great offerice in Ireland, and created a flame throughout that country. This assertion he positively denied. As far as his correspondence extended, the Catholics, in general, were well pleased with the provisions of the bill; the great body professing the Catholic religion were ready to receive, thankfully and gratefully, whatever the House of Commons thought proper to grant; and they were willing to give every security, provided it did not trench on their religious principles or their civil rights. The order of the day was for the second reading of the bill for the relief of the Roman Catholics. That bill consisted of four parts: it began first by conceding the right to sit in Parliament; it secondly conimunicated the privilege of voting at elections for members of Parliament; thirdly, it gave to the Roman Catholics corporate rights; and fourthly, it also opened to them civil and military offices. It was, in fact, what it was intended to be, a bill of incorporation.
There were many penalties now existing in the books, but which were never enforced ; and it would, of course, be desired, that they should no longer exist, even in the books. The main object of the bill, however, was a communication of rights and privileges to the Catholics, under such restrictions as should be considered sufficient securities for the Protestant church. By