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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (14)

16 March 1829

These documents are taken from: The Speeches of the Duke of Wellington in Parliament, collected and arranged by the late Colonel Gurwood, C.B., K.C.T.S., (London, John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1854)


THE CORONATION OATH

Lord KENYON, on presenting various petitions against further concessions the Roman Catholics, remarked, that the Ministerial Relief Bill, wholly devoid as it was of all securities, was inconsistent with former declarations of the noble Duke (Wellington). It was his opinion, as well as that of very many people, that this measure was inconsistent with His Majesty's Coronation Oath; and that it could not have been fully explained to His Majesty.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON spoke in the following terms:

I can assure the noble Lord who has last spoken, that if I had been inclined to rest on a bed of roses I should not have entered on the duties of the office which I now fill. If I had sought for a bed of roses I should not have embarked on the discussion of a question which is calculated to divide me in opinion from the noble Lord, and from others who take the same view of the question as that noble Lord. I can, however, assure the House, that I have proceeded, with respect to this question, as I shall with respect to all others, upon a clear and distinct sense of what is due to His Majesty and to the public, on my part, as the King's servant. Under these circumstances I recommended the measure in question to His Majesty, and I say that I am responsible to Parliament and to the country for the advice I have thus given. The noble Lord who has just sat down has come forward and put a sort of question to me, namely, whether or not the measures proposed to Parliament have been explained to His Majesty? I answer distinctly that those measures have been explained to His Majesty. They have been explained to His Majesty, and the proof is, that I am His Majesty's servant at the present moment. Does any man suppose that if His Majesty had not clearly and distinctly understood the nature of those measures, he would have allowed me to continue his servant for a moment after I had submitted them to the consideration of Parliament? It is an insult to His Majesty to suppose that he would have suffered such conduct in his Minister.

I will not now enter into the discussion whether or not the measures proposed to Parliament are calculated to effect a breach of the King's Coronation Oath. I state, however, that I will undertake to prove, when the question comes regularly under your Lordships' consideration, that those measures do not touch the Coronation Oath. The most zealous advocates of the same side of the question as the noble Lord, even the noble and learned Lord on the cross-bench (the Earl of Eldon), have never contended that the King's Coronation Oath would be touched by a measure of such a description as that proposed. It is very true that there might be measures with respect to this question, which might touch the Coronation Oath; but neither the late Lord Liverpool, nor my Right Honorable friend in the other House of Parliament (Sir R. Peel), nor the noble and learned Lord on the cross-bench, ever contended, to my knowledge, that the Coronation Oath would be touched by a measure of such a description as that which has been submitted to the other House of Parliament. But there is another authority to which, probably, the noble Lord will be inclined to pay more attention and respect than to the authority of those noble Lords, which I have just cited; I allude to a noble and respected relative of his own (Lord Chief Justice Kenyon.) I have read the famous letter of that nobleman over and over again with the utmost attention; I see not a word in that letter expressing an opinion that the King's Coronation Oath would be affected by such a measure as the one proposed.

I have gone thus far into this question because every night, notwithstanding a sort of arrangement has been made that the question should not be considered by your Lordships until it comes regularly before you, on every occasion the question is brought up, and assertions and insinuations are continually thrown out against His Majesty's Ministers, and me in particular, for having violated our duty in submitting the proposed measure to the consideration of Parliament. I will, however, postpone all discussion on this question until it comes regularly before the House, when I shall have to explain the measure distinctly to your Lordships, and to state my reasons for having given a contradiction to all the insinuations which have been thrown out against me.

Lord FARNHAM remarked that, although he was not in the House at the time, he had understood the noble Duke to have stated, a few days before the measure was brought forward, that, when the securities which would be proposed were known to noble Lords in that House, they would satisfy the House in general; and that he had also expressed an opinion that they would. satisfy the scruples of the Might Reverend Prelate to whose observations he was at that time replying.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON said:

I think that discussions on the principle of the measure would be more regular upon the second reading of the Bill. The noble Lord is quite right in saying that he was not in the House when the discussion took place between me and a Right Reverend Prelate (Bath and Wells). I did not happen to say one word about securities. The Right Reverend Prelate complained that he could not, if the proposed measure passed, take the Oath of Supremacy. I replied that he might take the Oath of Supremacy with as safe a conscience as before. The Right Reverend Prelate said, with respect to the nature of the measure, that it was one for the establishment of Popery. That I denied, and will deny again; and I said that, on the contrary, the result of the measure would be rather to prevent the growth of Popery than to establish it. I now repeat my assertion, and will engage to prove it when the measure comes before your Lordships. I am sorry to trouble your Lordships so often; but when the noble Lord puts words into my mouth which I never uttered, respecting securities, the noble Lord must allow me to state that I never said anything of the kind, and that what he asserts is not the fact.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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