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CHAP.
LXX.

1791.

.

Protestants had been mitigated or abolished; and he trusted the justice of Parliament would not be withheld from a body of men who shewed as much loyalty as any other class of his Majesty's subjects. Already, he observed, had the experiment been made by the legislature of Ireland ; and, although the people of that country were Roman Catholics in a far greater proportion than in this, no evil effects had been experienced

After an observation from the Speaker, that this Seconded by proposition, as it affected the established religion, must be submitted to a committee of the whole House, which was readily acquiesced in, Mr. Windham seconded the motion. The only grounds, he observed, which could be alleged in favour of laws of penalty for religious opinions, were, that the opinions were adverse to salvation, and therefore, for the party's own sake, ought to be prohibited; or that the principles arising from them were calculated to make bad citizens and dangerous subjects. The former led to persecution; the latter could not be extended further than absolute necessity required. He could not altogether agree with Mr. Fox in his observations, on the motion for repeal of the test, that religious opinions ought not to exclude men from civil offices ; yet no more restraint could be justified than the public safety absolutely required. The Catholics did not ask to be admitted to places of power and trust, but to live in a free and enlightened country, exempt from the severe penalties imposed by laws which were by connivance evaded, and which, for that very reason, ought not to be suffered to disgrace the statute book. The power of the Pope, in countries naturally subject to his religious dominion, had become a mere spectre, fit to frighten in the dark, but which vanished in the light of reason and knowledge. Mr. Windham took notice of the opinion that a Roman Catholic's oath was of no avail, because the Pope would grant a dispensation. The folly and fallacy of this reasoning would be evident when it was recollected that Catholic peers would not take their seats merely because conscience would not

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CHAP.
LXX.

1791.

Mr. Fox.

ever.

Mr. Pitt.

permit them to take an oath. Catholics were believed on their oaths in many other cases; and if the Pope could grant a dispensation, he could not absolve them from custom, from their feelings, from a sense of honour, from the blood rushing to their face, and from blushing and trembling with shame, at the idea of

taking an oath to establish a vile falsehood. Objections of Although all parties agreed in the propriety of in

troducing the bill, considerable differences of opinion prevailed as to its details. Mr. Fox considered the measure not sufficiently extensive. The state, he said, had no right to inquire into the opinions of the people, either political or religious; they had only a right to take cognizance of their actions. He would not consent to subject the Catholics to any protestation what

There was no reason why a peer or a gentleman of that religion should not sit in either house of Parliament. In Prussia, Holland, America, and France, universal toleration prevailed. Mr. Pitt controverted many opinions of Mr. Fox and of Mr. Windham, and a day was fixed for the committee.

Mr. Mitford then explained that he did not mean Bill in a com- to enable Catholics to hold places of trust and profit:

the protestation to be required was principally a denial of the Pope's power to absolve subjects from their allegiance; a point which, in former reigns, many Catholics had insisted on, and been distinguished by their disapproving brethren under the names of protesting dissenters and remonstrants.

Mr. Fox considered all tests in religion and politics, except the oath of allegiance, unjust and unwise.

In the debates, the oaths to be taken by the Catholics were objected to, as they imputed opinions, such as the Pope's infallibility, mental reservation, and the power of remitting sins. Mr. William Smith urged the rights, not of the Catholics alone, but of all Dissenters, to the enjoyment of all social privileges. Mr. Powys vindicated the oath, as having been dictated by the parties interested. On the denial of the Roman Pontiff's infallibility, many objections were urged. Mr. William Smith wished to leave him all

March 1.

mittee.

Mr. Fox.

Debates,

СНАГ.
LXX.

1791.

Lord Raidon.

power of absolution, except as to original sin. Mr.
Fox complained of the term Papists as being illiberally
used in describing the Catholics. Many of the impu-
tations against them, as to matters of doctrine, were
not avowed by them, and should be viewed as mere
calumnies. He wished the oath, if any, to be made
as general as possible ; but even then he must disap-
prove of it, as he was adverse to every test, whether
civil or religious. Other members spoke; but the
bill passed the lower House, with very slight alter-
ations.
In the upper House, Lord Rawdon, in moving the May 31.

Debates in the second reading, defended the existing church establish- Loris. ment, the dignified state and the emoluments it afforded to the hierarchy, and the pre-eminence with which it was most rightly invested. In

In every community, the majority had a right to ascertain the form of public worship, and call on every individual to support that establishment; but they had no right to refuse to any portion of society the freedom of paying homage to the Deity, in the mode most consonant to their consciences, provided it was not repugnant to the general principles of decency and morality, nor connected with temporal tenets, dangerous to civil tranquillity. His lordship considered the ample allowance of our ecclesiastical establishment, not as vitiating the simplicity of the church, but affording an useful incitement to learning and decorous manners in the inferior clergy; while the dignity of the episcopal station, and the seat which it conferred in that House, tended to connect the profession of the church with great families and permanent interests, in a manner which theory and experience united to recommend. His lordship argued, from the loyal conduct of the Catholics in Ireland, where they formed a preponderating majority, that indulgences might safely be extended to those of England, where their numbers were so small in the scale of population. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Moore, made The Arch

bishop of Cansome observations on the oath proposed by the Bill; terbury. and, on this ground, he was followed by Dr. Horsley,

CHAP.
LXX.

1791.

David's.

Bishop of St. David's, who, while he maintained the necessity for a church establishment, required the ut

most extension of toleration toward Christians of every Bishop of St. denomination. The Catholic tenets were no longer

dangerous to the established church or the state. He disapproved of the bill, not for the relief it tendered, but as inadequate to its own purpose, and partial in its operation. It would relieve such Roman Catholics as would take the oath, and none else. Now, a great number,-in fact, a great majority,—would reject the terms in which this oath was drawn. They were ready to swear allegiance to the King,—to abjure the pretender,—to renounce the Pope's authority in civil and temporal matters,—to disclaim the doctrine that faith is not to be kept with heretics,—that persons may be murdered under the pretence that they are heretics, that princes, excommunicated by the see of Rome, might be murdered by their subjects, as impious and unchristian ; but they scrupled to apply the epithets of impious, unchristian, and damnable, to the doctrine respecting the deposing power of the Pope. This doctrine was rather to be called false than impious-traitorous than unchristian. In truth, this scruple was founded on a tender regard for the memory of their progenitors. Some two centuries since, this error, however absurd and malignant, was, like other absurd and malignant errors, universal; yet, there lived in those times many men of distinguished piety and virtue, who acquiesced in this error as a speculative doctrine, although they never acted upon it. Their descendants thought it hard that men of probity and virtue, for an error in mere speculation generally received, and by them never acted upon, should be stig. matized as devoid of piety, as no Christians, and as persons that died under a sentence of eternal damnation. They were ready to renounce the civil authority of the Pope ; but they could not acquiesce in the words which denied his spiritual authority ; that they could not conscientiously abjure. This spiritual authority did, in fact, interfere with the King's supremacy. If it were established, no consecrations and

CHAP.
LXX.

1791.

ordinations could be valid unless they emanated from the see of Rome. Then the bishops of the church of England were no bishops; they could have no right to sit in Parliament; no priest of their ordination could have a right to any ecclesiastical temporalities. These were striking instances; many others might be found: but the most to be expected of conscientious Catholics would be, not to renounce all authority carrying this inference,—for that were to renounce the Pope as their spiritual head,—but that they should bind themselves never to act upon those principles which, in theory, they could not renounce; never to attack, but, on the contrary, to defend, the constitution and government in either branch. These engagements those Roman Catholics who scrupled this oath were ready and desirous to give, in the most explicit and unequivocal terms; to bind themselves by oath to defend to the utmost of their power the civil and ecclesiastical establishment of the country, even although the Catholic powers in Europe, with the Pope at their head, were to levy war against the King, for the express purpose of establishing the Roman Catholic religion. Different portions of the Catholics were already at variance, and had published adverse declarations on this subject. As the Bill would relieve only those who would take the oath, leaving the penal statutes in full force against the rest, these scrupulous persons would be open to laws which might be enforced against them by those who had conformed. A horrible persecution might arise. Miscreants, base informers, might be enriched with the fortunes, gaols crowded with the persons, and the streets stream with the blood, of conscientious men and good subjects! And of all this cruelty, my lords, he said, if it should take place, the laws of the country will get the credit. Three out of the four Roman Catholic bishops, who call themselves apostolical vicars for the four districts of the country, have promulgated an encyclical letter, reprobating the oath; and they insist, that a conscientious Catholic ought not to take any oath declaratory of an opinion on doctrinal points, until it has received the approba

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