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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (8)

23 February 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 Marquis of LONDONDERRY presented several petitions in favour of the Catholic claims, and at the same time strongly censured the proceedings of the Catholic Association.

H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex complained of the hostile tone which many persons employed when speaking of the Catholic claims.

The Earl of ELDON said the party opposed to these claims had most to complain of. Their motives were stigmatised as 'factious, base, and unjust,' though their wish was to be generous enemies to one whose measures had taken the country by surprise, and would, he feared, be ruinous to our Protestant Constitution.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON said:

My Lords, I will trouble your Lordships with only a few words. It is not my intention to take any part in this discussion, which I must say has been extremely irregular, and contrary to the rules of this House. That such a discussion is irregular, is evident at once from the fact that at this moment no one Peer in this house knows what are the measures speedily to be brought before Parliament. I merely wish to explain as to that letter to which reference has been made by my noble and learned friend (the Earl of Eldon). My noble friend has said that he would oppose me, but that he would be a generous enemy. I beg to say I can never consider him as an enemy, in any light whatever. I cannot forget my old habits of friendship with my noble friend; and if I differ from him on this subject, I can never lose the feelings of respect which I have ever entertained towards him. My noble friend has referred to my letter to Dr. Curtis, to show that the country has been taken by surprise. I never intended that letter for publication, and with the publication of it I had nothing to do. But my noble friend says that the expressions used in that letter were such as to lead the public to conclude that no measure of concession would be introduced this Session. My noble friend should really, however, recollect that the expressions used there are nearly similar to those which I employed at the close of the last Session of Parliament. How it appears that I intended to surprise the public, when I did not address the letter to the individual to whom it is directed for the purpose of publication, and when, much less, had I any hand in the publication of it, I am at a loss to conceive. My Lords, I cannot sit down without deprecating the spirit in which these discussions are conducted; and I would beg to remind noble Lords that His Majesty, in the Speech from the Throne, recommends us to consider the question with 'temperance and moderation.'

In Committee on the Associations Suppression Bill, the Earl of MOUNTCASHELL pointed out several parts of the Bill as requiring amendment.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON said:

With regard to the first point suggested by the noble Earl, I beg your Lordships to bear in mind that power is vested, by this Bill, in the Lord Lieutenant, to declare any meeting or assembly unlawful; and upon notice that it is so, to grant a warrant to two magistrates to disperse the meeting or assembly. For the exercise of this power the Lord Lieutenant is responsible, and I believe that the noble Earl will admit that, if he be responsible, he is not likely to issue his warrant to disperse any meeting or assembly held for any purpose of charity, or for promoting education, or for any other beneficial purposes, such as those referred to by the noble Earl. Neither is the Lord Lieutenant likely to disperse a meeting which has a legal and beneficial object, merely because that object is disliked by others. The Lord Lieutenant will be responsible for his acts, under the authority given by this Act of Parliament.

My Lords, with respect to the other point alluded to by the noble Lord, as to seditious sermons, or rather, I believe, the use of churches, chapels, or other places of worship, for the purpose of holding seditious meetings, and giving publicity to seditious discourses, I beg leave to observe that there is nothing in this Act enabling any person to make use of chapels, or other places of worship, for the purpose of holding seditious meetings, or giving utterance to such speeches and discourses. The words of the Act are sufficient to enable the Lord Lieutenant to issue an order to two magistrates to disperse any such meetings in chapels or elsewhere, and to effect their suppression. Sure I am, my Lords, that the Lord Lieutenant, who is to be responsible to the Government for the exercise of the authority conferred upon him by this Act, will not be disposed to allow seditious meetings to be held in chapels or other places of worship any more than in other places. The noble Lord has adverted to seditious discourses, sermons, and so on; and appears to be anxious to ascertain whether it is one of the objects of the present Bill to prevent them. It is undoubtedly right that every means should be used to prevent the utterance of seditious sentiments in any shape whatsoever. But how does the law stand in this respect? Any person who preaches seditious sermons or discourses is responsible for his act to the law of the land as it stands at present, and will stand, whether the Bill now in question pass into law or not.            

Lord REDESDALE suggested that ' lawful associations' should he specially exempted from the provisions of the Bill.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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