Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

nection with the case of the Misses M'Carthy, and which letter the hon. and learned Member had not referred to in the nunneries debate

"What, Sir (said Mr. M'Carthy), can more clearly demonstrate than this case does the absolute necessity of some legislative enactment (such as the ancient law of civil death,' which was both simple in its operation and effectual for its purpose) to protect Catholic families from the rapacity of those establishments, as well as to save the inmates themselves from perpetual annoyance after having retired, as they fancied, from the cares and anxieties of the world, to the peaceful monotony of a conventual life; and in taking the vow of poverty, having, as they thought, divested themselves for ever of the power of acquiring or enjoying property, from the dreadful alternative of being made the unwilling instruments of depriving their families of that property which they well knew it was never intended should be alienated from them, and handing it over to utter strangers, for whom individually they may have possessed no regard, or by breaking their vow of obedience, and being deprived of the holy communion (see Bishop Murphy's evidence), devote themselves to endless remorse in this life, and perhaps eternal perdition beyond the grave?

"From that distressing position the wisdom of our ancestors rescued individuals who had taken religious vows; and I humbly submit that it now becomes the duty of the Legislature, since it has permitted convents to grow up again in this country, either to restore the ancient law of civil death, which prevented the vow of obedience from being made an instrument of torture to plunder families of their property, or to enact some other law which will prove equally stringent

and efficacious.

"Before I conclude I will mention a fact which I think highly honourable to the memory of the late Mr. O'Connell, Shortly after the decree pronounced by the Lord Chancellor in the convent suit, I was present when Mr. O'Connell congratulated my brother on the success of his family, and he highly extolled the justice and equity of the Lord Chancellor's decree."

He (Lord Bernard) should give his cordial support to the Bill, telling its opponents that, although they might succeed in thwarting it this year, the feeling of the country would ultimately compel Parliament to pass it into a law.

MR. SERJEANT SHEE said, he should not have risen to address the House but for the encouragement which he had received from the pious tone of the noble Lord who had last spoken. He did not rise to complain of insult. The Roman Catholics were quite able to defend themselves; and as they abstained from insulting those by whom these insults were offered, he thought they should have, in the estimation of all right-thinking men, a great advantage over them. The hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Viscount Bernard

[ocr errors][merged small]

Malins) had, however, laid down a proposition which he had heard with considerable surprise, which he was sure no Protestant divine and no person in authority would sanction-a, proposition which would not for a moment bear the test of inquiry in any Christian assembly. The hon. and learned Gentleman had laid it down, that no act which was done under the bias of a religious vow could be considered a voluntary act, and he had called upon the House to sanction this monstrous doctrine, for which he had stated no authority but the authority of Lord Chancellor Brady, a very eminent man, and a very good man, and a very good lawyer, but evidently a very bad divine. It was a monstrous proposition that because a person had engaged by a solemn vow to do a particular thing, and afterwards did that thing, the thing was not done voluntarily; yet that was the proposition upon which this Bill, and, indeed, the whole of this debate, turned. No Christian divine would sanction such a proposition as that of the hon. and learned Gentleman; and it was quite clear, according to the doctrines of the Church of England, that a solemn promise made to God was binding. But let them suppose there was no vow, and that the father of some young English lady had, with the consent of his daughter, entered into an engagement with a convent to maintain that daughter or daughters, as the case might be, during the whole of her life, no matter what the state of her health, in consideration of a sum of 2,000l. paid down, and with the understanding that she was to make over to the institution any property which might come to her through the father-let them suppose such a case, and would the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Malins) say that if the engagement was drawn in proper form, it would not be upheld in a court of law? such was precisely the case of the Misses M'Carthy. They entered into an engage. ment with the convent, and their father gave his sanction to the engagement. For fifteen years, from 1828 to 1843, these ladies continued members of that convent, not having shown any disposition to depart from the obligations of their vow, which their father had countenanced and assented to, well knowing that whether they were to receive a shilling from him or not, it was entirely within their own option whether they continued within the walls of the convent. But were his views on the subject of vows solely those of a Catholic?

Now

Why what did Paley, a great Protestant | cepted to it, and said he had very great authority, say as to the obligations of such doubt with respect to compulsion exercised a contract? He taught distinctly- over a party under the influence of a vow "That vows were solemn promises made to the voluntarily taken. He (Serjeant Shee) obSupreme Being, and that to violate them was sin-jected not only to the principle, but the ful; that though there was no command in the New Testament to make them, that much less

was there a command to break them."

policy of the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen was perfectly hothe Catholic religion was extirpated from nest in his way, and thought the sooner Ireland the better, and that the best way was to starve the nuns. But the Bill in its to prevent the children from being taught very nature would be destructive of the

The Legislature, however, were asked to suppose that what was done under a solemn promise was an involuntary act. If a vow was unlawful, it was not binding; but unless hon. Members were prepared to show that the vows alluded to were un-objects which he desired to promote, for it lawful, the attempt to pass this Bill was an immoral act, a sanction to falsehood, an incitement to a breach of promises which in the eye of the Catholic was highly unpleasing to God. They practised a text which others had forgotten :-" He who giveth his daughter in marriage doeth well, but he who giveth her not doeth better." He was loth to engage in religious discussions, but on such a subject it was almost impossible to keep clear of references to Scripture, and he would quote a passage from the Old Testament to show the mode of conduct under which Christians acted

"When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it; for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee, and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow,

it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and per

form."

[ocr errors]

It was intolerable to contend in a Christian assembly that the keeping of a vow was to be deemed involuntary and done under coercion, and against the will and intention of the person making it. The Lord Chancellor of Ireland had talked of the compulsion of a vow, and stated that what was done under the compulsion of a VOW was an involuntary act, but he had been corrected by men who were fully his equals, if not his superiors. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), a man as competent to judge on such a point as any, said, on the first night of the debate, to the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), that he could not I reach this case. He said, "It might be called undue influence-it might be called the coercion of a vow, but, after all, the submission to the vow and the obedience to it is the voluntary act of the person who executed the deed." And Lord Brougham, when the Irish Lord Chancellor's proposition came before the House of Lords, ex

VOL. CXXXIII. [THIRD SERIES.]

from the old law of civil death without would enact all the evil which resulted death had some advantages in Catholic enacting any of its good. The law of civil countries, but it was open to these objections-that avaricious, and vicious, and unjust parents and near relations could sacrifice their children. not be done under the conventual system as But that could sanctioned by the law of England, for the inmates of convents were as free after their admission as before. He knew nothing of the M Carthy family, and he most reluctantly alluded to them; but referring to the statement read by the noble Lord (Viscount Bernard) near him, he would recall to the House that part of the prayer of that young man was, that his sisters might be declared civilly dead, that so he might share in their property; the meaning of the prayer to the Lord Chancellor was either to declare the deeds void on account of undue influence, or to give sanction to the doctrine that they were civilly dead, in order that there might be some 16,000%. more to be divided amongst the other children. [Mr. J. O'CONNELL: 20,0001.] IIere was a father who died worth 100,000l., besides large real estates-in the full possession of his senses, with a full knowledge of all the consequences of his dying intestate as regarded his daughters, still leaving no will behind him, and thus opening to those daughters the possession of an additional 20,000l. But then came forward a young man out of the reach of the courts of law, and who was spending the money in Paris, and said, "Although I have every confidence that my sisters will continue the same holy and self-denying life that they have been leading for the last fifteen years, I still would have you pronounce them dead in the eye of the law.

that if they passed this Bill, they would be He (Serjeant Shee) maintained, giving a direct bonus to every dishonest 2 F

867

{COMMONS} Bill-Adjourned Debate.

The Property Disposal parent-to every parent who might prefer a pretty daughter to a plain one-to every parent who might be seized with the ambition to push forward an eldest son at the expense of the other children—to do so. And were hon. Gentlemen not aware that in other Protestant countries-in Holland, for example-an attempt similar to that contemplated by this measure had been made only to be abandoned. He had letters there and then with him from Prelates in that country announcing that nuns in Holland and Belgium were as free to dispose of their property as any other subjects of the realm. He would, then, forewarn the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) to pause in a plan which could not be carried out without inflicting the greatest injustice upon the most destitute portion of the population of the country, who, unsupplied with the means of religious education by the State, were solely dependent for that object upon the care and attention of these ladies.

868

all very well for Protestants to call them disloyal, but he was only astonished that they were as loyal as they were. If Protestants had been treated in a similar manner by a Catholic Government, they would have borne it very differently; for even now Catholic soldiers were ready to sustain the honour of England in the East, while the Legislature at home was persecuting their daughters and relatives. Let the Government beware, then, lest, by giving in to this bigoted faction, they should compel Catholics to look for sympathy and to hope for aid from other sources than that where they had a right to expect and obtain it. They were subjects of the English Crown; this was an accident, but they were also Catholics. Ile would have them, then, do everything lawful that was in their power, and if they did not succeed by lawful means they might still hope. (Renewed cheering.)"

Now he certainly must submit that this was rather strong language; and as the remarks did not appear to him to be of a very loyal character, he thought it his duty to take the opportunity of producing them before the House.

SIR JOHN FITZGERALD said, that as a soldier, and as the representative of a great Catholic constituency, he earnestly called upon the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen to withdraw his Bill.

[ocr errors]

MR. FREWEN said, he should not have risen to address the House had it not been for a statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bow- MR. MAGUIRE, who rose amidst loud yer), in referring to a meeting which was cries of Divide!" said, he had no doubt held in London last Tuesday, and which, that at that moment (it was twenty minutes he believed, had been represented to the to six) hon. Gentlemen near him were exHouse as being of an exceedingly quiet, ceedingly anxious to close the debate, but orderly, and loyal description. Now, he he could assure them that he was most unheld in his hand a copy of the Catholic willing that such an event should take Standard, published last Saturday, giving place without his having taken occasion to a report of the proceedings, and purporting state his sentiments on the Bill before to give a perfectly correct report. From them. it he gathered that the statement which |

And it being a quarter before Six of the had appeared in some of the public jour-clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the debate nals last week did not, it must be allowed, till To-morrow, without putting the Quescorrespond with the statement contained tion. there. Hence this accurate report made a Mr. Orpwood, who, he understood, was the London agent of the Nation newspapera journal not considered to be of a very loyal character-it made him speak thus -after making a comparison between Prince Albert and Louis Napoleon-"Loyalty was a delicate thing, and it behoved those set over them to beware how they contributed to cause an estrangement between the rulers and the people. But a Mr. Weale also made a considerable long speech, and he used these words, in reference to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Hertford (Mr. T. Chambers)

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

!

MR. J. O'CONNELL said, he only wished to be allowed to remark that, as the noble Lord the Member for Bandon (Viscount Bernard) had not done him the honour of giving notice that it was his intention to bring in the name of the late Mr. O'Connell, he could not specifically deny the statement which was said to have been made by him. All, therefore, that he would now say on behalf of one who could no longer answer for himself, was, that if ever he did express such an opinion as that imputed to him by the noble Lord, it would be in contradiction of the whole of his life.

The House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.

[blocks in formation]

OXFORD UNIVERSITY COMMISSION. MR. AYSHFORD WISE said, he beg ged to ask the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) whether there was any foundation for the report that the Rev. George Rawlinson and the Rev. Samuel William Wayte had been recommended to Her Majesty's Government as fit and proper persons to officiate as the secretaries of the Oxford University Commission, should the Bill now before the House be passed into a law?

rather too hard, I think, on Mr. Wayte and Mr. Rawlinson that their names should be brought on in this manner. I think that they, as well as others who have taken a great interest in this University question, and have forwarded suggestions to the Government, of which we have received a great number, ought not to be brought before the public in this way.

OATHS BILL.

Order for Second Reading read. LORD JOHN RUSSELL: I move, Sir, that this Bill be now read a second time.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

SIR FREDERIC THESIGER :* Mr. Speaker, Sir, when this measure was originally introduced by the noble Lord, now some considerable time ago, I ventured, in LORD JOHN RUSSELL: Sir, in an- a few observations which occurred to me swering the question of the hon. Gentle- at the moment, to point out to the House man, I must take the liberty of calling the the important principles which it involved, attention of the House to the usual prac- promising that I would afford an opportutice of putting questions, and to the ad- nity for a full discussion upon this stage of vantage of adhering to that practice in the Bill. This has been long delayed, but conducting the business of the House. certainly without any fault on my part: The use of putting questions is to spare for it will be in your recollection that I the House having Motions made for infor- have pressed the noble Lord so often to fix mation, and to enable the House to pro- a day for the second reading of his Bill, as cure very shortly, and without the trouble to excite the mirth of the House, happily of discussion, information which can be at so easily amused amidst its graver occuonce given in answer to a question. To pations. Upon one of these occasions, questions, therefore, the proper limit is, the noble Lord, with a confidence every whether or no they can be made the sub-way remarkable, appealed to my knowject of a Motion. And a very great advantage is derived from the practice, because hon. Members who wish to make Motions for information may call for information, and Ministers may be equally able to give the information that is required. But I must say this practice is liable to abuse. I would only beg my hon. Friend to consider what would be the result if a Motion to this effect were made-that there shall be laid before the House all the recommendations that have been made to the Government for the various offices that may be vacant in Church and State; and also an account of the books that any of those persons have published, and the contents of those books. That would really be the kind of Motion that my hon. Friend would have to make in this case, if his question had taken the form of a Motion; and I must certainly decline to state whether these gentlemen, among others, have been recommended as the secretaries of the Commission. It is

ledge of his anxious desire to bring on the discussion, and assumed, rather than expected, my assent to the suggestion. If I had been permitted to express my own opinion, it would not have been in the sense which the noble Lord so coolly took for granted, for, whether rightly or wrongly, my own impression was, that he exhibited symptoms of great reluctance, as if he felt some misgivings as to the propriety of the course which he has pursued. And, certainly, if he is at all influenced by public opinion, he might well hesitate about the step which he has taken; for as far as petitions indicate the state of public feeling, the result is striking and remarkable. This day we have had, as might have been expected, a petition in favour of the Bill, presented with the usual ceremony, from the City of London; but up to Wednesday, the petitions in favour of an alteration of the oaths, but not in favour of the noble Lord's Bill, were only three in number, with 166 signatures; whilst the peti-.

tions against the Bill amounted to 481, | 1852, the noble Lord tried a new experiand contained no less than 60,171 signa- ment; he introduced one of his post finatures. lity reform Bills, and proposed one common form of oath, which of course omitted the words " upon the true faith of a Christian." This was in the month of February -a very critical period of the noble Lord's Government, which terminated a few days after, and when conciliation of many sections of the House was the prudent policy. In 1853, the noble Lord returned to his original idea, and again brought in what is. familiarly called a Jew Bill. These measures of the noble Lord were carried by decreasing majorities in the House of Commons, and defeated by increasing majorities in the House of Lords. But inflamed, rather than discouraged, by successful opposition, he now proposes to break down some of the defences of our Protestant Constitution, in order that he may be able to march over their ruins with the Jew by his side, and seat him in the Legislature. It is impossible to

The more I reflect, the more I am astonished, after the former professions and acts of the noble Lord, at the character of this measure. It furnishes another to many proofs of his boldness in allowing nothing to stand in his way to the accomplishment of any object which he has at heart. I am anxious, at the earliest period, to guard against an argument which may be used in favour of permitting the second reading of this Bill. One of the grounds on which the noble Lord founded the expediency of his measure was, the obsolete nature of part of the oath of abjuration, in consequence of there being no descendants of the Pretender in existence; and it may be urged that, as in this respect no one would desire to retain the oath in its present form, the necessity of an alteration must be conceded, and that we ought to go into Committee. I trust that no one will be so weak as to be caught by

such a specious argument. We must re- pass over without remark, the threat

member that we are now discussing the principle of the Bill; that we cannot consent to its second reading without admit ting that we are prepared to legislate upon the footing of having one common oath for all the Members of the House, and that this necessarily involves the weakening, if not the abandonment, of the recognition of the supremacy, and the surrender of the securities which were carefully provided at the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill. Let no one flatter himself that if he suffers this stage to pass, he can afterwards fashion the oath at his pleasure. This is the vantage ground on which the battle of principle can alone be securely fought and if we allow ourselves to be drawn into the field which the enemy may select, we shall have nothing left but to surrender at discretion. I stated that this measure showed the determination evinced by the noble Lord in carrying any favourite object. When, some years back, he was returned for the City of London with Baron Rothschild, by one of those hasty pledges with which he is too apt to embarrass himself, he promised to use his utmost endeavours to remove the impediments to the Jews sitting in Parliament. No one will

say

that the noble Lord has not been as good as his word. From that time to the present, the question has been brought forward almost every Session in various shapes, and debates of the greatest interest and earnestness have taken place. In Sir F. Thesiger

held out by the noble Lord when he introduced this measure, that if the law were not changed, it might be worthy of consideration whether the House would not be at liberty to seat the Jew in Parliament by means of a Resolution. The words of the noble Lord are weighty words, and always significant, if not of a settled, at least of a dawning purpose, in his mind. But they must have been uttered on the present occasion in utter forgetfulness, or in hopes of the absence of memory of all that has previously passed on this subject. Why, in 1850, the present Vice Chancellor, Sir William Page Wood, then Member for Oxford, made a Motion on behalf of Baron Rothschild, that the seat for London was full, although in taking the oath of abjuration the Baron had omitted the words "on the true faith of a Christian." Sir John Romilly, the noble Lord's Attorney General, expressed himself clearly of opinion that the words were of the substance of the oath, and that no Resolution of the House could enable them to dispense with an Act of Parliament. The noble Lord, in 1851, adverting to this argument, said, that it was evidently the intention of Parliament that the words "on the true faith of a Christian" should not be omitted. In July, 1851, Mr. Alderman Salomons having taken the oath of abjuration, omitting these words, the noble Lord himself moved, "That David Salomons, Esquire, is not

« AnteriorContinua »