Horace Twiss.

The public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) online

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lution, so far as it ordained that the sovereign should be Protestant, by positive enact-
ment. It does propose that that system shall be changed by such enactment, so as to
admit Roman Catholics to offices of the highest trust, and with the exception of almost
none. It certainly is not proposed by such enactment to discharge the crown of its
sworn duty to maintain the Church of England, as by law established and, true and
strange it is, that it does not propose to repeal the Test Act and Corporation Act. But
whether the bill has not a tendency to weaken the system, which requires the king to
be Protestant to weaken his power of effectually maintaining the Protestant Church
and religion, and the Protestant throne, and to lead unquestionably to the repeal of
the Corporation and Test Acts, is a question of great importance, and the solution of
which is matter of no very great difficulty. Our ancestors thought there was no suffi-
cient security if the sovereign professed the Roman Catholic religion, though his minis-
ters, councillors and Parliaments were Protestant. Can it rationally be doubted that
there is much less security for civil and religious freedom, if the king is Protestant, and
his ministers, councillors, Parliament and judges are Roman Catholics ? The House
is told, indeed, that there is ample security, if the lord chancellor must be Protestant,
and it seems to have been thought that the actual security would be found in the fact
that the crown never would actually appoint those whom the act makes eligible to
those great offices. Those who know the state in which a Protestant chancellor would
stand in a cabinet of Roman Catholic ministers, will readily believe that, if he had
either sense or honesty, he neither would remain there, nor be permitted to remain
there an hour. And look to the effect of rendering the Roman Catholics eligible to
high offices, but not appointing them to such offices. This is insult towards them,
more intolerable than ineligibilitv. But what would be the effect, with reference to
the kin? ! Do the Roman Catholics now complain 1 Does the present state of the
disqualifying statutes goad and irritate them'! Make them eligible to office, and yet
withhold office from them, what is this but acting most unworthily towards them!
You are also directing their discontent, hitherto pointed at the laws of their country,
against the king upon the throne; it being, too, your duty to render him an object of
affection, as far as may be, with all his subjects; and compelling him to continue
Protestant, you are engaging, in a great degree, his conscience to deny to the Roman
Catholics the benefits you pretend to enable him to confer upon them.

" But it may be said, the king's confidential servants may be partly Protestant, partly
Roman Catholic that such was the case under Queen Elizabeth, and other sove-
reigns. But what did her experience teach her as to this! And what did the expe-
rience of those who came after her teach! That experience led to the change of
system which was completed at the Revolution.

"If the king's confidential servants ought not to be Roman is said,
nevertheless, his privy councillors may be chosen from among them ; provided only
they abstain from advising the crown as to benefices and offices in the Protestant
Church, and that Roman Catholics may safely be admitted into both Houses of Parlia-

" With respect to privy councillors, it seems strange that, if their duties are to be
changed, if they are to be restrained by this act from advising in the matters specially
mentioned, it had not occurred to alter, by enactment, the privy councillor's oath,
when administered to a Roman Catholic. It may be said that the law which required
the oath, will qualify the oalh; but it is a little difficult to admit the consistency of my
submitting to a law to-day, requiring me to withhold advice on some matters, and to
take an oath to-morrow that I will faithfully give my opinion in all matters moved
and debated. In the matter of oaths it is surely satisfactory and necessary to prevent
the swearing in terms, which are in apparent contradiction, according to their obvious
meaning, to what is really intended to be sworn.
"The Roman Catholic privy councillor is not to advise the crown in the disposal


of any benefice or office in the Protestant church ; but in how many matters of mighty
import to the welfare of the community is he left at liberty to advise and how many
respecting even the welfare of that very church ? and of much more consequence to
its welfare than the disposal of a church preferment?

"It has been said, and most reasonably, that if you admit Roman Catholics into Par-
liament, you ought not to exclude them from the privy council: if you admit them
into the great council of the nation, that you cannot well exclude them from among
the number of those who are to act in inferior councils.

"In truth, this argument, which points out the extent to which you must go, if you
admit Roman Catholics into Parliament in a country whose government and church
are essentially and fundamentally Protestant, furnishes very weighty reasons why
you should not admit them into Parliament.

"It has been urged that the repeal of the laws which prohibit Roman Catholics from
sitting in either House of Parliament, would in fact make little change in the compo-
sition of Parliament that it would not introduce more than six or seven peers into the
House of Lords, and very few commoners into the other House of Parliament. And
it has also been urged that after giving the elective franchise to the Roman Catholics
in Ireland, you are, almost of necessity, required to render them capable also of sitting
in Parliament.

" With respect to the House of Lords, that reasoning has been enforced by the fact
that Roman Catholic peers did sit in that House until the 30th of Charles II., and that
being very few in number, if they should now sit in that House, it cannot be very
objectionable; and their pretensions to sit there have been strongly recommended in
observations, unquestionably most just, upon the excellence of the characters of the
modern Roman Catholic peers. In a question of this nature, the personal merits,
however great, of particular individuals, must be laid out of consideration it must
be decided upon general principles. If Roman Catholics are unfit advisers of a Pro-
testant king in a Protestant state in the House of Commons unfit there to counsel
the king with respect to the worship, discipline and government of a Protestant Esta-
blished Church, they cannot be fit advisers to give counsel touching such matters in
the other House of the Protestant Parliament. Previous to the Revolution it was, if
not from actual danger, upon principle determined, that persons professing this reli-
gion should sit in neither of the Houses of Parliament.

"This exclusion from both, the Prince of Orange sanctioned, when, as the Bill of
Rights states the fact, he addressed his letters only to the lords spiritual and temporal
being Protestants. This exclusion King William sanctioned in the several acts which
passed during his reign, which committed to the hands of Protestants, or continued in
the hands of Protestants, all offices connected with the government of his 'Protestant
kingdom' If the government of this kingdom is fundamentally and essentially Pro-
testant, and Protestant it is fundamentally and essentially, is it not, in just reason-
ing, matter of much consequence, whether the passing of this bill would or would not
introduce many Roman Catholics into the House of Commons: but it is difficult to
assent to what has been stated repeatedly in assertion, that the number introduced
would be too small dangerously to influence the decisions of that House. What has
been the effect of giving to the Roman Catholics in Ireland the elective franchise ? It
has operated, as Lord Clare foretold in his able, prophetic and constitutional speech.
It may perhaps be reasonably asserted, that though as yet Roman Catholic represent-
atives have not been sent to Parliament, such has been the influence of Roman
Catholic electors, that to that very act, which gave them the elective franchise, it is
owing that the bill now under discussion has passed the House of Commons. He
must have been a very inattentive observer of what passes in Parliament, who has
not remarked that a small band or knot of individuals, acting together upon system,
constantly acting together, and watching for opportunities and moments favourable to
their views and projects, may achieve great and important changes.

" It must be further recollected that, if this bill passes, the Test and Corporation Acts
must be repealed, and the members of Roman Catholic corporations entitled to send
representatives to Parliament, would not be likely, if they had an option, to choose
Protestant members; and considering the other means which many Roman Catholics
would have of obtaining seats in the Commons House, the calculation of the numbers
of them that would become members, seems in argument to have been stated much
tjo low.

"It is of little consequence that this bill provides that nothing contained in it shall
be construed to alter the laws for establishing the uniformity of public prayers and ad-
ministration of the sacrament, in the united Episcopal Church of England and Ireland.


How futile and inefficacious must such an enactment appear to us when we are
enacting by this bill itself what seems to have a tendency to subvert all we have seen
to have been declared by Parliament, essential, fundamental, and to continue forever .'

"This bill excludes from the ecclesiastical courts of judicature the Roman Catho-
lics; but it seeks to capacitate them to fill all the benches of the temporal courts, and
the highest seats of judicature in such courts, with an exception only in the case of
the lord chancellor, an exception not founded upon duties in his judicial character,
but upon the nature of his other duties. Such, however, is the nature of our temporal
and ecclesiastical laws, such the connection between them, that the assertion may be
ventured that this object of the bill, as to this matter, is unattainable; and, indeed,
unless mis-information has been given to the public as to what has passed somewhere,
the answer which has been given to those who have objected to this provision of the
bill has been, that nobody could conceive that Roman Catholics would actually be
appointed to the judicial seats in Westminster Hall. To enact by law that you may
do what is, in fact, never intended to be done, does not seem to be very wise or con-
ciliatory legislation. Suppose it enacted, and Westminster Hall crowded with Roman.
Catholic judges, and commissions of review of the sentences of the ecclesiastical
courts to issue, to what class of men are they to be addressed in the place of those
temporal Protestant judges, who now form so essential a part of the courts constituted
by such commissions'?

"If Roman Catholics are not to be judges, it is said that you ought to allow them to
have silk gowns ; that no policy can justify your prohibitions against their being dis-
tinguished by professional rank of this kind. Certainly, as the law stands, they can-
not be appointed king's counsel, but there is no law to prevent their having the same
rank bestowed in patents of precedence such a patentee has no office, and lakes no
oath. Mr. Ponsonby's bill did not affect their situation because they had not the situa-
tion of office.

" It appears, then, from what passed at the Revolution, that our ancestors were satis~
fied that political power in any department of the state in the hands of Papists, was
inconsistent with the maintenance of a Protestant establishment.

"Upon the principle that, in a Protestanj kingdom, political power should be placed
in Protestant hands, the settlement then made was made. Upon this principle, the
settlement then made, has been continued from generation to generation, and the
wisdom of the principle is in itself sufficient to account for the adoption and mainte-
nance of that settlement without reference to the dread of Popish plots or apprehen-
sions about Popish pretenders.

"With respect to the repeal of the laws relative to the declaration against transub-
stantiation, the House may be referred to what has been before stated, and to its de-
cision upon a similar project in a former session. This is said to relate solely to
matters of spiritual and religious belief, not interfering with allegiance or civil duty.
The object of it, however, was to ascertain effectually what persons did hold, or were
thought to hold, opinions interfering with allegiance properly understood. This pro-
vision was most industriously preserved at and since the Revolution as a most essen-
tial provision of law: not only the subjects, whether members of the Church of Eng-
land, Protestant dissenters, or Quakers were required, but the sovereign was required
to make this declaration the sovereign to make it in the most solemn manner, upon
the most solemn occasion: from that era to this hour, from reign to reign, the decla-
ration has been continued to be required. And the present king, upon his first
entrance into this House as king, solemnly, on the throne, made this declaration.
From all his successors, from none of his subjects, it seems to be the purpose of this
bill hereafter to require it.

" Let us now advert to the other parts of this bill this bill of conciliation, which,
professing to unite and knit together the hearts of all his majesty's subjects, has unfor-
tunately set them all together by the ears, to use a vulgar phrase. It has, however,
been said that you are to legislate; others, satisfied or dissatisfied, are to take the mea-
sure. Be it so but then, if all are dissatisfied, do not insult them by calling this a
bill of conciliation ! by telling them that it is a bill knitting together all their hearts
in interest, and love and charity one towards another, do not remind them of the fact
that a person, perceiving one man running after another with a cat-of-nine-tails, and
being asked what he was about, declared that he only wanted to make a volunteer of
the person he was pursuing.

"As to all the remaining parts of this bill, the first objection is, that the Protestant
sees no sufficient security in its enactments, and such as that security is, the Roman
Catholic is utterly averse to granting it.


" But the bill is open in these parts of it to many observations.
"The House must be aware that this bill is composed of what originally appeared
in two bills, the former confined to the concessions, the latter to the securities.

" In the former bill, his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects were frequently men-
tioned as such, but no mention is made in that bill of 'the Roman Catholic Church
within any part of the United Kingdom,'

" The second bill, now forming the latter part of the proposed bill, provides the
precautions to be taken in respect of persons in Holy Orders professing the Roman
Catholic religion, who may, at any time hereafter, be elected, nominated or appointed
to the exercise or discharge of episcopal duties or functions in the Roman Catholic
Church, or to the duties or functions of a dean in the said church within any part of the
United Kingdom. And the oath speaks of a Roman Catholic bishop or dean in the
Roman Catholic Church in the United Kingdom.

"Surely the House would expect, if it thinks proper to acknowledge in statutes a
Roman Catholic Church, as a church in England, that this acknowledgment should
have appeared in some other form. Surely the House, before it can pass such a law
as this speaking of bishops and deans in the Roman Catholic church, as a church,
acknowledged by English law as existing in England, will expect to be somewhat
better informed than it now is how these bishops and deans are to be eleded,nomi-
nated or appointed to the exercise or discharge of their duties and functions.

" We have often heard of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland, of its titular
bishops of particular places in Ireland, its titular deans and chapters ; and, if this
bill passes, you will have two churches there ready formed, the Protestant Church,
and the Roman Catholic Church, with all its members, ready to take their places.
Whether the law of Ireland acknowledges the right of these functionaries to assume
the titles of archbishops and bishops of Dublin, Armagh, and other episcopal sees,
the House may satisfy itself by inquiry.

" But is it meant that in England we are to see a similar Roman Catholic hierarchy
with its titular archbishops and bishops of Canterbury, York, London, Durham, &c.,
its titular deans and chapters, &c.7 Can it be possible that the legislature can pass
such a bill as this; and that, too, as a bill of peace and conciliation, without previ-
ously settling, in some measure, how and in what form the Roman Catholic religion
is to be exercised in England? Can it be meant, that in England, you are to intro-
duce all the inconveniences and mischiefs which are experienced in Ireland, by the
co-existence of the Protestant hierarchy and the Roman Catholic hierarchy?

" We do not hear in England of titular archbishops and bishops of places in Eng-
land. We admit the episcopal character resides in the Popish bishop ; but our law
has, at least, heretofore, been supposed to prohibit their assuming titles connected with
places in England as a misdemeanour.

" It seems, therefore, to be a great objection to the bill, if you think to give to the
Roman Catholics political power, that you make no provision for the peaceable co-
existence of the Protestant Church, and what is termed the Roman Catholic Church
in the United Kingdom, but leave them to jostle against each other as they may.

"Look at the bills of 1791 and 1793 ; see the provisions therein as to the exercise
of the Roman Catholic religion ; among others, even as to the form and structure of
their places of worship, to preserve the predominancy of the Church of England.

"Has it been considered whether any similar provisions will be in force after this
law passes] Or, are we to have a Roman Catholic Cathedral vying in magnificence
with our Protestant cathedral for the exercise of the Roman Catholic religion by its
archbishops, its deans and chapters? Is it meant there shall be this public display
of a Roman Catholic Church 1

" A mode of worship, when set up in opposition to the national worship, and
when allowed to be exercised in peace, we have been told, 'should be exercised with
decency, gratitude and humility.'

" It is unnecessary to trouble the House much as to the enactments relative to the
commissioners to be appointed in England and Ireland according to this bill.

"There has been abundant reason to know, that the Roman Catholic clergy of
Ireland will not accept, as a boon those enactments; that they will not submit to
that interposition of a veto, by Protestant authority, which is conceded by other Ca-
tholics to temporal sovereigns. This is not the first time in which this sort of con-
ciliation has been attempted, and in vain, and probably some in the House know what
has passed in Ireland upon this subject in the course of the last week.

"As to that part of the bill, which relates to bulls, dispensations, and other instru-
ments from the See of Rome, in a country in which the exercise of a dispensing


power cost a king his crown, this bill proposes, in some instances, to do what looks
as if it authorized some commissioners, in others one commissioner, and that one an
ecclesiastical commissioner professing the Roman Catholic religion, to dispense with
the laws against receiving such instruments from Rome. How could it be expected
that the Roman Catholic clergy would admit the inspection of these instruments?

"We have heard that the present pope has himself declared that, neither in any
intercourse with a Protestant or Roman Catholic power was the ecclesiastical power
so subservient to the lay authorities, as to allow the rescripts or other instruments to
be submitted to them.

"It well behoves the legislature to pause before it will give a legal sanction of any
kind to foreign intercourse with Rome if such are the sentiments of the Roman Ca-
tholic clergy and the pope.

" Without meaning to impute, and disavowing the intention to impute to the Roman
Catholics of this day some of the tenets, which some in former times were said to
entertain, their opinions and those of their church are yet such, as make it seem to
be altogether inconsistent in a government, settled as essentially Protestant, with a
Protestant established church, to grant them political power.

"The churches of England and Ireland are now one united Protestant church.
What endangers the one must endanger the other. If the concessions proposed to
be granted by this bill are granted, and without securities (and what securities that
will be given has the wisdom of man yet devised?) is it possible to believe that the
Irish Roman Catholics will make this bill of concessions a resting point? Demand
has followed, from time to time, upon demand, and demand will follow, from time to
'ime, upon demand, till nothing more can be asked; for, till toleration of the Roman
Catholics in Ireland gives way to Roman Catholic establishment, and Protestant es-
tablishment shall be succeeded by such a portion of toleration of Protestants as the
Roman Catholics may be disposed to allow them, it cannot be rationally expected
that the Roman Catholics there will cease their struggles to supplant the Protestant
Church if they did not disturb the settlement of property. In fact, the more sincere
the Roman Catholics are in their religious belief the more strongly must they be im-
pelled to weaken the Protestant Church. The fears of those considerable men who
opposed the grant of the elective franchise in Ireland, were thought to be chimerical;
but do they now appear to have been chimerical ?

" If this bill should pass, the next demand will be to repeal all the securities which
it enacts.

" And indeed rumour has told us that there have not been wanting those, who have
thought it expedient, on the part of the Roman Catholics, to let the bill pass, such as
it is/notwithstanding all their objections to it, thereby establishing the concessions,
and trusting confidently to the repeal, in another session, of the securites.

"It is said this bill, if passed, would be a bill of peace and conciliation. Is there
not abundant reason to believe that it would introduce confusion and domestic dis-
cord, and eternal struggle for power?

" We know what has been the effect of our present establishment for many gene-

" What will be the effect of the proposed changes, can at best be but matter of un-
certain speculation and conjecture.

" The lords and commons were assembled at Westminster, by the Prince of Orange,
' in order to such an establishment, that our religion, laws and liberties might not
again be in danger of being subverted.' Is it possible to maintain that by such a
total change of what was then established, as is now meditated, they may not again
be in danger of being subverted ?

"Let us not disturb the happiness of the great mass of Protestants. Let us not
mistake the present peaceable demeanour of the Protestant part of the community,
produced by the influence of the confidence with which they hope Parliament will
not finally adopt them, for their assent to these measures, or an indifference about

"The times, it is said, are changed, and the Catholics, it is said, are changed: be
it so ; but such change does not affect the soundness of the principles, upon which
this kingdom has established itself as a Protestant kingdom,' with the powers of the
state in Protestant hands, and with a Protestant church establishment and toleration,

toleration from time to time enlarged to the utmost extent the public welfare will

admit; but toleration only, for those who dissent from it.

"It may be that the Church of Rome itself has changed some of its tenets. Its
Protestant advocates tell us so, its Roman Catholic defenders deny it.


" But we are led not to doubt that the present pope has re-established the order of
the Jesuits, that the inquisition was revived, we have heard of bulls against Pro-
testant societies distributing the Scriptures, we have heard of transactions re-
specting bishops in Belgium.

" We hear of the establishment of Stonyhurst, we hear of Jesuits there, though

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 64 of 65)