Изображения страниц

of whom I can never speak without emotion, Mr. Wilberforce, always said that it was a calumny to accuse them of intending to liberate the black population of the sugar islands. In 1807 the present Duke of Northumberland, then Lord Percy, in the generous enthusiasm of youth, rose to propose in this House the abolition of slavery. Mr. Wilberforce interposed, nay, I believe, almost pulled Lord Percy down. Nevertheless in 1833 the noble lord the Secretary for the Colonies brought in a bill to abolish slavery. Suppose that when he resumed his seat, after making that most eloquent speech in which he explained his plan to us, some West Indian planter had risen, and had said that in 1792, in 1796, in 1807, all the leading philanthropists had solemnly declared that they had no intention of emancipating the negroes; would not the noble lord have answered that nothing that had been said by anybody in 1792 or 1807 could bind us not to do what was right in 1833 ?

This is not the only point on which the noble lord's speech is quite at variance with his own conduct. He appeals to the fifth article of the Treaty of Union. He says that, if we touch the revenues and privileges of the Established Church, we shall violate that article ; and to violate an article of the Treaty of Union is, it seems, a breach of public faith of which he cannot bear to think. But, Sir, why is the fifth article to be held more sacred than the fourth, which fixes the number of Irish members who are to sit in this House? The fourth article, we all know, has been altered. And who brought in the bill which altered that article ? The noble lord himself.

Then the noble lord adverts to the oath taken by Roman Catholic members of this House. They bind themselves, he says, not to use their power for the purpose of injuring the Established Church. I am sorry that the noble lord is not at this moment in the House. Had he been here I should have made some remarks which I now refrain from making on one or two expressions which fell from him. But, Sir, let us allow to his argument all the weight which he can himself claim for it. What does it prove? Not that the Established Church of Ireland is a good institution; not that it ought to be maintained; but merely this, that, when we are about to divide on the question whether it shall be maintained, the Roman Catholic members ought to walk away to the library. The oath which they have taken is nothing to me and to the other Protestant members who have not taken it. Suppose then our Roman Catholic friends withdrawn. Suppose that we, the six hundred and twenty or thirty Protestant members, remain in the House. Then there is an end of this argument about the oath. Will the noble lord then be able to give us any reason for maintaining the Church of Ireland on the present footing.

I hope, Sir, that the right honorable Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury will not deal with this subject as his colleagues have dealt with it. We have a right to expect that a man of his capacity, placed at the head of government, will attempt to defend the Irish Church in a manly and rational way. I would beg him to consider these questions :-For what ends do Established Churches exist ? Does the Established Church of Ireland accomplish those ends or any one of those ends? Can an Established Church which has no hold on the hearts of the body of the people be otherwise than useless, or worse than useless? Has the Established Church of Ireland any hold on the hearts of the body of the people ? Has it been successful in making proselytes ? Has it been what the Established Church of England has been with justice called, what the Established Church of Scotland was once with at least equal justice called, the poor man's Church ? Has it trained the great body of the people to virtue, consoled them in affliction, commanded their reverence, attached them to itself and to the State ? Show that these questions can be answered in the affirmative; and you will have made, what I am sure has never yet been made, a good defence of the Established Church of Ireland. But it is mere mockery to bring us quotations from forgotten speeches, and from mouldy petitions presented to George the Second at a time when the penal laws were still in full force.

And, now, Sir, I must stop. I have said enough to justify the vote which I shall give in favour of the motion of my noble friend. I have shown, unless I deceive myself, that the extraordinary disorders which now alarm us in Ireland have been produced by the fatal policy of the Government. I have shown that the mode in which the Government is now dealing with those disorders is far more likely to inflame than to allay them. While this system lasts, Ireland can never be tranquil; and till Ireland is tranquil, England can never hold her proper place among the nations of the world. To the dignity, to the strength, to the safety of this great country, internal peace is indispensably necessary. In every negotiation, whether with France on the right of search, or with America on the line of boundary, the fact that Ireland is dis


contented is uppermost in the minds of the diplomatists on both sides, making the representative of the British Crown timorous, and making his adversary bold. And no wonder. This is indeed a great and splendid empire, well provided with the means both of annoyance and of defence. England can do many things which are beyond the power of any other nation in the world. She has dictated peace to China. She rules Caffraria and Australasia. She could again sweep from the ocean all commerce but her own. She could again blockade every port from the Baltic to the Adriatic. She is able to guard her vast Indian dominions against all hostility by land or sea. But in this gigantic body there is one vulnerable spot near to the heart. At that spot forty-six years ago a blow was aimed which narrowly missed, and which, if it had not missed, might have been deadly. The government and the legislature, each in its own sphere, is deeply responsible for the continuance of a state of things which is fraught with danger to the State. From my share of that responsibility I shall clear myself by the vote which I am about to give ; and I trust that the number and the respectability of those in whose company I shall go into the lobby will be such as to convince the Roman Catholics of Ireland that they need not yet relinquish all hope of obtaining relief from the wisdom and justice of an Imperial Parliament.




An attempt having been made to deprive certain dissenting congre

gations of property which they had long enjoyed, on the ground that they did not hold the same religious opinions that had been held by the purchasers from whom they derived their title to that property, the Government of Sir Robert Peel brought in a bill fixing a time of limitation in such cases. The time fixed was twenty-five years.

The bill, having passed the Lords, came down to the House of Commons. On the sixth of June, 1844, the second reading was moved by the Attorney General, Sir William Follett. Sir Robert Inglis, Member for the University of Oxford, moved that the bill should be read a second time that day six months; and the amendment was seconded by Mr. Plumtre, Member for Kent. Early in the debate the following Speech was made.

The second reading was carried by 307 votes to 117.

IF, Sir, I should unhappily fail in preserving that tone in which the question before us ought to be debated, it will assuredly not be for want either of an example or of a warning, The honorable and learned Member who moved the second reading has furnished me with a model which I cannot too closely imitate; and from the honorable Member for Kent, if I can learn nothing else, I may at least learn what temper and what style I ought most carefully to avoid.

I was very desirous, Sir, to catch your eye, not because I was so presumptuous as to hope that I should be able to add much to the powerful and luminous argument of the honorable and learned gentleman who has, to our great joy, again appeared among us to-night; but because I thought it desirable that, at an early period in the debate, some person whose seat is on this side of the House, some person strongly opposed to the policy of the present Government, should say, what I now say with all my heart, that this is a bill highly honorable to that Government, a bill framed on the soundest principles, and evidently introduced from the best and purest motives. This praise is a tribute due to Her Majesty's Ministers; and I have great pleasure in paying it.

I have great pleasure also in bearing my testimony to the humanity, the moderation, and the decorum with which my honorable friend the Member for the University of Oxford has expressed his sentiments. I must particularly applaud the resolution which he announced, and to which he strictly adhered, of treating this question as a question of meum and tuum, and not as a question of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. With him it is possible to reason. But how am I to reason with the honorable Member for Kent, who has made a speech without one fact, one argument, one shadow of an argument, a speech made up of nothing but vituperation? I grieve to say that the same bitterness of theological animosity which characterized that speech may be discerned in too many of the petitions with which, as he boasts, our table has been heaped day after day. The honorable Member complains that those petitions have not been treated with proper respect. Sir, they have been treated with much more respect than they deserved. He asks why we are to suppose that the petitioners are not competent to form a judgment on this question ? My answer is, that they have certified their incompetence under their own hands. They have, with scarcely one exception, treated this question as a question of divinity, though it is purely a question of property: and when I see men treat a question of property as if it were a question of divinity, I am certain that, however numerous they may be, their opinion is entitled to no consideration. If the persons whom this bill is meant to relieve are orthodox, that is no reason for our plundering any body else in order to enrich them. If they are heretics, that is no reason for our plundering them in order to enrich others. I should not think myself justified in supporting this bill, if I could not with truth declare that, whatever sect had been in possession of these chapels, my conduct would have been precisely the same. I have no peculiar sympathy with Unitarians. If these people, instead of being Unitarians, had been Roman Catholics, or Wesleyan Methodists, or General Baptists, or Particular Baptists, or members of the Old Secession Church of Scotland, or members of the Free Church of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »