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do now exactly as if the enemy had landed. Now was the time to do it safely. Let them not be told of the want of acquiescence in the catholic body. Take away the grievances first: then if the concurrence of that body were improperly withheld, parliament would be robbed in that instance of its legislative power of relief; but those who so robbed them would suffer the consequences. The Roman-catholics of Ireland were at present loyal and tranquil: they were determined to remain so. They were satisfied that there was a feeling in this country sufficiently favourable to them, and that something must sooner or later be done for them. The increase of wealth and other advantages which they enjoyed taught them to expect their freedom with becoming patience. If France or any other power speculated on dividing Ireland from the empire, they deceived themselves grossly. The catholics of Ireland would rally round the constitution at their approach. Why? Because they were aware of the wisdom of the institutions. The laws passed in the last thirty-five years had imparted to them advantages which they would not risk, much less exchange, for the chances of foreign rule. But he wished for something from them beyond loyalty: he wanted their affection and cordiality, and their unrestrained confidence; and he would obtain these by giving them an equal participation in the blessings of the constitution. Mr. Peel implored the deliberate attention of the house while he stated the grounds upon which he was compelled to differ from the hon, baronet who had brought - • *.
forward the proposition, and from all the hon. gentlemen who had supported it. After giving the hon. baronet credit for the very gracious and candid manner in which he had brought the question forward, he proposed to state his reasons for differing, in the order, and by the divisions under which the claims of the Roman-catholics were advanced. The three grounds were treaty, natural right, and political prudence or policy. He was disposed to pay great deference to any argument founded on the solemn sanction of a treaty. But with all the pains with which he had read the treaty of Limerick, he could give it no such interpretation. He wished that the bon. baronet had referred to the articles. He was prepared to show, however, that the catholics of Ireland had never contemplated that treaty as guaranteeing their restoration to political powers: The occasion which had furnished him with his proofs was the passing of the act of Queen, Anne for preventing the growth of popery. He was not going to justify that act, though passed under circumstances which ought to be considered, and at a time when the state was exasperated to measures of retaliation for those which had been inflicted by the papists. On that occasion they deputed Sir Theobald Butler to appear and argue against the bill, and by his speech it would be found that they admitted that exemptions from offices of state was a condition in the treaty of Limerick. He entreated the house to observe in what a different manner Sir Theobald, who was most likely the author of the treaty, since he was solicitor to James II. and in high esteem with the party, had interpreted the rights given to the catholics by that treaty:-"The 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th clauses of this bill (said he) relate to offices and employments, which the papists of Ireland cannot hope for the enjoyment of, otherwise than by grace and favour extraordinary: and therefore do not so much affect them, as it does the protestant dissenters, who (if this bill pass into a law) are equally with the papists deprived of bearing any office, civil or military, under the government, to which by right of birth, and the laws of the land, they are as indisputably entitled as any other their protestant brethren ; and if what the Irish did in the late disorders of this kingdom made them rebels, which the presence of a king they had before been obliged to own and swear obedience to, gave them a reasonable colour of concluding it did not, yet surely the dissenters did not do any thing to make them so, or to deserve worse at the hands of the government than other protestants; but, on the contrary, it is more than probable, that if they (I mean the dissenters), had not put a stop to the career of the Irish army at Enniskillen and Londonderry, the settlement of the government, both in England and Scotland, might not have proved so easy as it thereby did; for if that army had got to Scotland, (as there was nothing at that time to have hindered them, but the bravery of those people, who were mostly dissenters, and chargeable with no other crimes since; unless their close adhering to, and easily appearing for the then government, and the many faithful services they did their country,
were crimes), I say (said he), if they had got to Scotland, when they had boats, barks, and all things else ready for their transportation, and a great many friends there in arms, waiting only their coming to join them, it is easy to think what the consequence would have been to both these kingdoms; and these dissenters then were thought fit for command, both civil and military, and were no less instrumental in contributing to the reducing the kingdom, than any other protestants; and to pass a bill now to deprive them of their birthrights, (for those their good services,) would surely be a most unkind return, and the worst reward ever granted to a people so deserving. Whatever the papists may be supposed to have deserved, the dissenters certainly stand as clean in the face of the present government, as any other people whatsoever: and if this is all the return they are like to get, it will be but a 'slender encouragement, if ever occasion should require for others to pursue their example.” He did not believe that the opinion of the natural and constitutional rights 'of the catholics to that which they claimed had been heard of in the house before 1790. He wished the house to look back with him. Before the reformation, there could have been no idea of exclusion for any religion, because there was only one allowed in the state. For 300 years since, the oath of supremacy had always been taken by those who aspired to seats in parliament, or offices of state or of justice. As far as the practice of the constitution was concerned, he (Mr. Peel) conceived that it had gone in contradiction of the doctrine
doctrine advanced by his right hon. friend. And when his right hon. friend, the secretary for foreign affairs, talked of this principle of exclusion dating only from the commencement of a period comprising about 150 years past, he must utterly deny any such proposition; for in his judgment it dated from the original of all dissenting in the state from the Roman-catholic religion, so far, at least, as related to the oath of supremacy. But let the house inquire a little what had been the doctrine of the most celebrated men in respect of this exclusion from civil offices. He (Mr. Peel) had before had occasion to refer to certain opinions which he was sure would be received with the highest respect by all the members of the house; but particularly by honourable gentlemen on the opposite side. He would now allude to a former conference of this house with the lords, on this very subject of right and capacity as to civil offices. And what were the principles which he found laid down and recognized in that “occasional conference 2" It might be proper to premise, that the lords had objected to a bill which subjected to certain penalties those who should appear to have been guilty of occasional conformity. Among other important doctrines, they declared to this effect:—“Their lordships look on the power of demanding qualifications for offices of trust to be one so naturally lodged with the legislature, that without being required to assign any reason for it, but on any apprehension of danger, however distant it may be, every government whatever may put such restraints, and regulate
by such rules the entering into offices of trust as they shall see sufficient cause for. But penalties and punishments are of a different nature from such restraints.” Now could any thing be more clearly laid down than this distinction between penalties and qualifications for office—between punishments and disabilities 2 Now, who were the lords engaged in that very conference 2 It was managed by the Duke of Devonshire, the Earl of Peterborough, Burnett, Bishop of Salisbury (a great and well-known name), Lord Halifax, and the great Lord Somers. But if this authority would not satisfy his (Mr. Peel's) right honourable friend, what would the right hon. gentleman say to that article in the act of union with Scotland, by which Roman-catholics were permanently excluded from certain offices in Scotland? Now if, as it had been contended, there was an inherent internal right in certain classes in this country to claim office, and that right was (as it had been represented) analogous to the law of property, was it possible to conceive that the great men who framed the act of union with Scotland would have ever introduced into that important measure the principle of exclusion, without reference to the dangers which were to be apprehended from its omission ? And yet, without any of those immediate dangers from the power and tenets of the Roman - catholic church, about which the right hon. gent. had spoken as the 'only causes that could justify such a measure now, the law of exclusion was introduced into that act of union. But he (Mr. Peel) much wished that the house would look at the debates of parliament in a more recent period of our history —in the years 1771 and 1774, for example, on the Quebec act. He wished they would recur to the doctrine which was then maintained by Earl Camden and Lord Chatham, those two great statesmen, on the subject of the oath of supremacy. Both of them contended, “that the oath of supremacy was the great charter of the established religion of the kingdom, that it was as obligatory to be in force as magna charta itself, or any of our greatest and most valuable acts.” But it was notorious to every hon. gent. that this oath of supremacy, if enforced and admitted to this extent, would exclude certain classes of dissenters equally with Roman-catholics. Why, then, how did this fact consort with the argument of the right hon. gent.—that this was altogether a modern system of exclusion? It must be admitted, indeed, that in the conference already referred to, the lords acknowledged that exclusion by law from office was one of the severest punishments which could be inflicted on any class of subjects.
But at a still more recent period of our history, 1790, when there were some very important discussions on the repeal of the test laws, did Mr. Pitt support the principle of the right. hon, gent.
who had addressed the house this
night? No; and yet Mr. Pitt
was the warm friend of the Roman
catholic claims. Mr. Burke, it
was true, expressed some dissent
from those laws; but it was a
dissent of a partial nature only;
it was founded on the apprehen
sion of danger from the unitarians.
The doctrine of Mr. Pitt on that
occasion was quite contrary to the
doctrine which had been propounded by the hon, baronet and the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs: although it was not founded on any such temporary apprehensions. Mr. Pitt, on the occasion of which he (Mr. Peel) was speaking, said, “it should then be recollected, that the test laws under discussion were originally introduced with the direct view of providing for the defence and preservation of our excellent constitution; they were to be regarded as evincing a species of jealousy of the monarch, which never should be considered as unconstitutional.” And what further did Mr. Pitt say on the subject 2 He added, that they had a direct tendency to check the royal prerogative, an object that was never deemed to be very unconstitutional in free states; and Mr. Pitt hesitated not to say, that if that jealousy was to be entertained of any of the estates of the kingdom, it ought to be so entertained of the executive.” Now the test laws guarded against any abuses of the nature which it was admitted furnished under all circumstances just and reasonable ground of alarm, by excluding from certain offices persons who, on entering upon them, could not take certain oaths. It was a common principle in private life, that no man would place another in a situation to superintend his affairs, whom he could not entirely trust. The same principle prevailed at present in this empire in respect to eligibility to the offices in question. If this doctrine of exclusion was not to be defended on such principles, on
what grounds was the partial exclusion of the protestant subject from the exercise of the elective franchise to be defended ? The theory of the constitution was this —that no man was to be bound by laws to which he himself did not assent—that no laws were to bind in the passing of which he had not a vote. But did not every hon. gentleman know, that practically speaking all this was not true : On what principle, again, was it that no man could sit in that house, unless he was possessed of a certain amount of property—300l. a year? If the doctrine maintained by his right hon. friend was a true one, why might not the man of 200l. a year sit there 2 But why, moreover, on the same principle, was the man who was condemned by the condition of his life to live and labour in a town not possessing the privileges of the elective franchise— why was he to be deprived of all right of voting? The reason of this law, he presumed, was, that they were afraid of parties in such situations, without sufficient means as a security for the proper discharge of their functions. Now he (Mr. Peel), upon similar principles, held, that the state had a right to exercise the power of exclusion where it apprehended serious danger from the admission of a particular class to a participation of particular privileges. He did not want, with his right hon. and learned friend (Mr. Plunkett), to make history a miserable almanack, or to convert experience into a common swindler who passed off false coin; but he wanted to read history for its information—to peruse the instructive lessons which were recorded
in its pages for the benefit of posterity—to look to the past abuses of power—to contemplate the great truths which experience was there to teach him. If, however, as the hon, baronet would persuade them, they were neither to take a retrospective view of the past, nor yet to look into the future, but merely to consider the present posture of affairs, and the steps which it might be proper to adopt in respect of it, they were placed in a very curious situation indeed. It might be a very convenient, but it was by no means a satisfactory mode of reasoning. It must be evident to the 'house, that in thus opposing the view of the hon. baronet, he (Mr. Peel) had no alternative ; for if he did not oppose this abstract right which was contended for, then there was an overruling necessity why he should not oppose the catholic claims. But he did oppose the abstract right; and whether he was correct or erroneous in the principle upon which he did so, he had the satisfaction of knowing that Mr. Burke had declared the question to be one of a moral and virtuous discretion. He would now state the reasons for his opinion on the matter. Although he did not think that former laws on this subject were iron formulae thrown down to them for a perpetual and unalterable observance, yet if a law had been passed 300 years ago, to guard against evils that he thought were still to be apprehended, he could not consent, to its repeal until it was proved to him that those evils were no longer in existence, or could no longer operate. Now, he again admitted that exclusion from office by law was in itself a