Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER III.

Ecclesiastical Titles BillThe Bill is reintroduced by Sir George Grey on the 1th of March, with the omission of the second and third ClausesRemarks of Mr. Stuart, Mr. M. Gibson, Sir R. Inglis, Mr. Bankes, Mr. Gladstone, Lord C. Hamilton, and Lord John RussellThe Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill commences on the 15th March, and is continued for seven nights by adjournmentSummary of the leading Speeches, including those of Lord Arundel and Surrey, Mr. Roundel! Palmer, Sir Robert Peel, the Solicitor-General, Mr. Goulburn, Mr. CardwelL, Lord Ashley, Mr. Sidney Herbert, and Mr. M. Drummond (whose remarks excite a violent commotion in the House), Sir James Graham, Lord John Russell, Mr. Walpole, Mr. Roebuck, the Attorney-General, Mr. Fagan, Sir John Young, Mr. Grattan,Mr. Hume, Sir F. TJiesiger, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Disraeli, and Sir George GreyOn a division the Second Reading is carried by 438 to 95 —Proceedings on the Committal of the BillProtracted discussions and numerous Amendments proposed, but without successThe Bill does not pass through Committee till the end of JuneOn bringing up the Report Sir F. Thesiger moves three important Amendments of which he had given noticeA large number of Roman Catholic Members walk out of the House, and the Amendments are carried against the Government by considerable majoritiesOn the Third Reading Lord John Russell attempts to induce the House to rescind Sir F. Thesiger's Amendments, but is again defeatedThe Third Reading is carried somewhat unexpectedly by 263 against 46, and the Bill is sent up to the LordsThe Second Reading is moved by the Marquis of Lansdowne on the 1\st July, when a spirited discussion takes place, which a continued for two nightsSpeeches of the Earl of Aberdeen, Lord Beaumont, the Duke of Wellington, who supports the measure, the Earl of Maltnesbury, Viscount Canning, the Duke of Argyll, the Bishop of St. David's, the Earl of Winchilsea, Lord Lyndhurst, the Duke of Newcastle, the Marquis of Clanricarde, Lord Monteagle, the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of St. Germans, the Earl of Minto, and Earl FitzwilliamThe Second Reading is carried by 265 against 38—The Bill passes through Committee unalteredOn the Third Reading a further Debate takes place, when the House is again addressed by the Earl of Aberdeen, the Bishop of Oxford, the Duke of Argyll, and other PeersLord Monteagle moves an Amendment, which is negatived, and the Bill becomes Law.

[ocr errors]

PON the resumption of office the brief interval of their retireby the Whig Government after ment, Lord John Russell had an

nounced their intention of modifying in some respects tho measure which he had obtained leave to introduce with respect to the ecclesiastical titles assumed by the Romish clergy. Accordingly, on the 7th of March, on the order of the day being read for the second reading of that Bill, Sir George Grey proceeded to explain the alterations which, after careful consideration, the Government had determined to propose. Reviewing the various objections which had been taken to the Bill, he pointed out, in the first place, the inexpediency of Lord Stanley's proposal, simultaneously with a resolution of Parliament, to refer the whole subject to Committees of Inquiry, which, instead of allaying, would keep agitation alive. Another proposal, that Ireland should be excluded from the Bill, had been reconsidered by the Government, and that reconsideration had only confirmed them in the conviction to which they had previously arrived, that it would be wholly inconsistent with their duty to consent to such exclusion. At tho same time, he admitted that there was a wide practical difference between the circumstances of Ireland and those of Knglond and Scotland; and it was this distinction, he observed, which constituted the main difficulty of the Government in dealing with this subject. Owing to the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, the Bill, as it now stood, would, without intending it, interfere with the purely spiritual practices of Irish Roman Catholic prelates in relation to ordination and collation of priests, and, in regard to bequests, with practices which had been long sanctioned; and, this being the Com, without attempting to make alterations in this part of

the Bill, which might create new difficulties and yet fail in the desired object, the Government had come to the conclusion to propose in Committee the omission of the second and thirdclauses altogether. The Bill would then be an unambiguous declaration of Parliament, embodying a national protest against the assumption of these titles. After a few further explanations upon subordinate points, Sir George, purposely refraining from a discussion of the merits of the measure, moved that the order of the day be deferred until the 14th instant.

Mr. Stuart contended that the Bill thus mutilated would not correspond to the w ishes of the country, or even to the object proposed by Lord J. Russell when he brought the subject before the House; and he arraigned the manner in which the insult offered to the Crown had been met, not by a proclamation, or any of the constitutional modes of vindicating the dignity of the Sovereign, but by a letter addressed by the First Minister, as an individual, to another individual, and published in a newspaper.

Mr. M. Gibson explained his views respecting this question, which Sir G. Grey, he said, had misapprehended. He did not wish that there should be any inquiry; but if legislation was desired, he thought it was better to legislate with information than without it. « His plan was to do nothing in this matter, and he was glad to perceive that this Bill was approximating to his plan.

Sir R. Inglis was very much of the same opinion respecting the Bill. Although he was willing to take Qd. in the pound rather than nothing, he warned the Government that the country would not be satisfied with such a composition.

Mr. Bankes considered that the Bill, if it passed in its mutilated state, would be a disgrace to the Legislature. This strange disappointment of the demands of the country required a fuller explanation. The Bill would add nothing to the law as it now existed.

Mr. Gladstone, reserving for the present the expression of his opinion regarding the Bill, suggested that the preamble and first clause, as they would stand, should be reprinted.

Lord C. Hamilton thought it would be a mockery to apply the measure, altered as proposed, to Ireland.

Lord J. Russell, in reply to Mr. Bankes, repeated what he had said on introducing the Bill; that the Government had consulted the law officers of the Crown, who did not think that the assumption of new titles was contrary to the common or statute law; so that it would have been futile to have directed a prosecution for such an act. But they said that, if it could be proved that bulls or writings from Home had been introduced for the establishment of sees, this would be an offence under the statute law; but the Government thought it would have been oppressive to prosecute for this offence, and not for the other. The essence of the offenco which had been committed was the insult offered, and the direct way of meeting that insult was to bring in a Bill to forbid and prevent the assumption of such titles. In the particular circumstances of Ireland, though the mischief arising from the synodical action of the Roman Catholic hierarchy went beyond

the mere insult, so much difficulty existed in discovering terms which would meet the evil without trenching upon spiritual authority, that he was of opinion that legislation should be confined to the absolute assertion of the sovereignty of the Crown in this matter.

Mr. Newdegate and Mr. Stanford condemned the Bill and the conduct of the Government. Mr. Plumptre thought the omission of the second and third clauses would deprive it of all practical utility. Mr. W. Fagan denied that any intentional insult had been offered by the Pope, whose object, he alleged, was purely spiritual. The motion of Sir G. Grey was then agreed to.

On the 14th of March commenced the debate on the second reading of this much-contested measure, which, though curtailed by the alterations made by its authors within the shortest limits, yet afforded matter for opposition that occupied Parliament almost throughout the session. It would be impossible in the short space allotted to us to give more than a very brief sketch of these reiterated and protracted discussions, in which the same arguments were again and again advanced and combated, until the subject in all its bearings was thoroughly exhausted, and the public mind wearied with the incessant repetition. The second reading was not carried, although the majority in favour of the Bill was overwhelming, until seven nights had been consumed in the discussion. A short notice of the more important speeches delivered on either side, will suffice to exhibit the main features of the controversy.

The opposition to the Bill was opened by the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, with a speech of considerable length, in which it was hinted that if the measure became law, and were enforced, we might see a crowd of exiled English Roman Catholic prelates on the shores of Belgium, Holland, and France. The noble Lord asked, how it would suit the views of English statesmen, that influential Englishmen should so be scattered among foreigners, always dinning into their ears a comparison of the treatment of their religion in England and abroad. Mr. Reynolds seconded the motion with a speech of animated opposition to Ministers. He compared the past unpopularityof Lord Stanley in Ireland with the present immensely greater unpopularity of Lord John Russell; declared that he voted for the late motion of Mr. Disraeli to record his "want of confidence in the Ministry," and was prepared to repeat the vote again and again,—though he regarded that motion as a thing having no merits at all, and in fact as perfectly absurd. He announced to Ministers that he was "in the market," and, "with a few others," to be bought at the price of the "total withdrawal of this measure," and the introduction of measures favourable to the physical interests of starving Irishmen. Mr. M'Cullagh next addressed the House, and added a long list of instances to those already made public in which important ecclesiastical as well as lay functionaries, in official documents, had used the territorial titles of the Roman Catholic bishops, in reference to the incumbents of those sees. He also read a case submitted to Mr. Bethell, of the English Chancery bar, and two other barristers, declaring unhesitatingly that the "first section

of the Bill involved the second and third sections," and had all the effects supposed to be avoided by omitting the third and fourth sections.

Mr. Koundell Palmer opposed the Bill at great length, upon the principle that it was in a political and religious sense uncalled for by the emergency. He declared that he was much more alive to the dangers which false and erroneous legislation of this description threatened to the great principles of civil and religious liberty, than to any idea which he was able to grasp of possible political danger: and with respect to the Church of England he did not fear—she had every advantage in the contest, and the contest would only add to her strength.

Sir Robert Peel delivered a maiden speech, of considerable length and diversity of topie, in favour of the Bill. Among the points at its commencement was a declaration of political attachment to Sir James Graham—"one to whom he looked up as called upon to occupy the place unhappily vacated in the advocacy of those measures which the country requires." Towards the end of his speech, he referred with great effect to his diplomatic experience in Switzerland; where, whatever others might suppose, he had remained "a passive observer," witnessing in inactivity, but not without emotion, "the mighty struggle of liberty against despotism and intolerance."

This speech was very favourably received and warmly cheered by the supporters of the Bill.

The Solicitor-General applied himself to the exposure of the fallaey that, because the State had granted to the Roman Catholics the free and unfettered exercise of their religion, it must, therefore, allow the establishment of their hierarchy. But the means adopted to establish the hierarchy involved a breach of our municipal and constitutional law, and were a violation of the public law of Europe, of the sovereignty of our State, and of our national independence. To declare that such measures must be tolerated by the Government and Parliament of this country, because some people thought that the Roman Catholic Church would be better governed by archbishops and bishops than by vicars-apostolical, was a proposition monstrous, untenable, and impossible to be conceded. Traversing familiar grounds of argument, the SolicitorGeneral supported the special position that the brief for establishing the hierarchy had a more than spiritual scope and effect, by legal deductions from its formal erection of "sees"—" in the Northern district, the see of Hexham," Ac. By what authority did the Pope erect cities within the United Kingdom? Was not that an act of territorial sovereignty? If any town or place were appointed to be an episcopal see, it became ipso facto a city. All towns were raised to the rank of cities by becoming the seats of bishops—did any one deny that? They would find that every city derived its rank from being now or having been in times past the seat of a bishop; and so inherent was this privilege or distinction, that, though the bishopric might be dissolved, the title of the city remained: for instance, in Westminster the bishopric was dissolved, but the title of city remained. Surely, then, when the Pope raised, or rather attempted to raise, English towns to the rank

of cities, he must have meant that civil consequences were to ensue; civil consequences necessarily attached to such acts; and he did not see how any one could successfully contend that such steps did not involve territorial jurisdiction and sovereignty. If the Roman Catholics had wanted important changes, they should have come to Parliament for them, and pursued their objects by legal and constitutional means, and not by what the nation regarded as an "insult"— though the Solicitor-General would not apply that term, as he did not think any insult was intended. It was nothing to say that the measure was too small to meet the whole magnitude of the evils flowing from the attack: we could deal with our own subjects without recourse to measures beyond our shores; but it was not worth while for a great country like this to enter into hostilities with the Roman Pontiff for such acts as these, or for anything he could do. It would at all events be sufficient to prevent pontifical and hierarchical encroachments: the measure would effect that much. They could not have episcopal jurisdiction, they could not introduce canon law, they could not assemble in synod, to frustrate, perchance, the decrees of the Imperial Parliament, unless there were bishops with those territorial titles which the Bill would prohibit them from assuming.

Mr. Goulburn expressed his opinion that this was an act not of merely spiritual, but of civil aggression, assuming to deal with temporal titles the bestowal of which was the province of the Crown. The measure of the Pope, he thought, was both unprovoked and unnecessary. The difference

« EdellinenJatka »