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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (9)

24 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 DUKE OF WELLINGTON said:

My Lords, I have to move that the Associations Suppression Bill be read a third time, and in doing so, I wish to observe that I have considered the amendment yesterday proposed to be introduced into the Bill by my noble friend (Lord Redesdale), which amendment I shall now read to your Lordships :— ‘Provided that nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorise the suppression of any association assembled for lawful purposes, on the ground of any disturbance of the public peace that may arise in consequence of the intrusion of persons not members thereof.' My Lords, the object of this Act is merely to enable the Lord Lieutenant to prevent and put down seditious assemblies or associations; and the meetings described in the amendment proposed by my noble friend do not come under that denomination. It is true, my Lords, that meetings or assemblies might be convened under the semblance of the title of lawful associations, and afterwards be converted into seditious meetings, which the Lord Lieutenant would be bound to put down; but then the sedition or riot must be the act of the parties who got up the meeting. The Lord Lieutenant can have no right to put down associations assembled for lawful purposes, and in which riot or disturbance might be incidentally produced by persons not belonging to these societies, who should intrude themselves for that purpose, and in order to induce the Lord Lieutenant to suppress them. My Lords, there is no doubt whatever that the Lord Lieutenant would not be justified in putting down such meetings; and if the Lord Lieutenant took such authority on himself, he would depart from the intention and the meaning of this Act. Under such circumstances, my Lords, I conceive this proviso to be entirely unnecessary, even worse than unnecessary, for it in some degree points out a mode of evading or frustrating one of the purposes of the Act. I repeat, the proviso suggested by my noble and learned friend appears to me quite unnecessary. This Act invests the Lord Lieutenant with an authority for the exercise of which he will be responsible to Parliament, and it is therefore extremely desirable that there shall be nothing thrown in his way.

Viscount MELBOURNE said former Governments had failed in their efforts to put down the Association; and this attempt could only succeed if accompanied by conciliatory measures.

The Earl of MANSFIELD was clearly of opinion that the Catholic Association should be put down: and he could not bring himself to change the opinions he had ever entertained of the utter inexpediency of admitting Roman Catholics to sit in Parliament, notwithstanding all his confidence in the noble Duke by whom a measure for that purpose was about to be brought forward.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON said

Having already troubled the House this evening, I will not now advert to the measure which I shall have the honour hereafter to introduce and submit to your Lordships' consideration. But I can assure the noble Earl (Mansfield) that, when that measure is brought forward, he may rely on it it will be brought forward in such a manner, and be found so complete in itself, as to attain its objects without any of the drawbacks to which my noble friend has referred. I do not rise, however, for this purpose, so much as to assure the noble Earl that he is entirely mistaken if he supposes that serious efforts were not made by His Majesty's Government last year to put an end to that Association, of which almost everybody then complained. Cases were submitted to the Crown lawyers, not only in Ireland but in this country also, with the view of ascertaining whether the existing law, that is, the Convention Act, or the common law, would enable His Majesty's Government to get the better of the Association. The result of their opinions was a conviction, in the minds of His Majesty's servants, after taking this advice, that they ought not to attempt to take proceedings against the Association under the existing law. It appeared to me, and the other servants of His Majesty, that we had no resource but to come to Parliament and ask for new powers.

In the course of the address I made some nights ago, on moving the second reading of this Bill, I stated the circumstances attending the measure of the year 1825, and the causes of its failure — causes arising not only out of the deficiency of the measure itself, as the noble Viscount (Melbourne) has remarked, but also arising out of the division in the Government, the division in the Parliament, and the difference of opinion between this house and the other on all questions relating to Ireland. My Lords, these divisions it is, in my opinion, which occasioned the existence of the Roman Catholic Association, and contributed to the growth of the evil in that country — an evil which at last has brought on a necessity for the consideration of the whole state of Ireland, and the measures necessary to restore it to what I may fairly call a state of civilized society. I will say again, my Lords, that there is nothing at present to be apprehended in the way of rebellion or of foreign war, or of any danger that can create even common apprehension in the mind of His Majesty's Government ; but I must also say that there is existing in Ireland a state of society which cannot be remedied but by taking into consideration the whole state of the country. These are the reasons that induced me and others to make that recommendation to His Majesty, previous to the meeting of Parliament, which His Majesty was graciously pleased to adopt, and direct to be announced in his Speech from the Throne.

Bill read a third time and passed.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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