12 JULY 1873, Page 13




ALTHOUGH Wellington remained opposed, until the occurrence of the Clare election, to actual legislation on the Catholic question, 'he had long before contemplated the possible necessity of repeal- ing the Penal Laws, and in particular had studied the nature of the relations which, in such an event, it would be desirable to estab- lish with the See of Rome. in the second volume of the present series of his Correspondence there will be found a very careful memorandum, written in the winter of 1825, "on the case of the Roman Catholics of Ireland," in which he contemplates the policy of proceeding to remove the civil disabilities affecting the laity of that communion, and the grant of a considerable Regium Donut?' to their clergy, but on the absolute condition, to be prearranged .by Concordat with the Pope, that the Catholic Church in Ireland -should be reduced from the condition of a National to that of a Missionary Church ; that its Bishops should renounce the titles of their Sees, assume titles in partibus instead, and exercise episcopal functions only as Vicars-Apostolic ; that the British Government should have the power, in the case of new nominations to the episcopal office, of limiting the choice of the Pope to one of two names ; and should also have the right of surveillance over the communications of the Catholic Church in Ireland with the See of Rome. If the Vatican could be brought beforehand to consent to such a Concordat, it was the Duke's opinion that Lord Liverpool's Government might safely then and there embody it in an Act of Parliament, repeal the laws imposing civil disabilities, and pro- pose to pension the priests. There is no evidence in the Cor- respondence that such a negotiation was ever attempted at Rome. O'Connell declared at the Catholic Association in 1828 that be had reason to believe some overture in such a direction had been made through the Hanoverian Envoy to the Papal Court. Wel- * Despatches, Correspondence, and Memoranda of Field-Marshal Arthu),, Dale of 3Vellinglon, K.G. Edited by his Son, the Duke of Wellington, 11..G. (In continuation of the Former Series.) Vols. IV. and V. ()fay, 1827, to Jane, 1829.) London: -Sohn Murray.

lington felt or affected great indignation at the imputation, and took considerable pains to place himself in a position to be able to contradict it in express terms.

But in 1828 the time for such a negotiation—if, indeed, there ever was a time when the Pope and the Irish Catholics would have agreed to it—had passed. Accordingly, in the memorandum prepared by the Duke in August, 1828, submitted first to the King, and then with his Majesty's consent to Lord Lyndhurst and Mr. Peel, the plan of a negotiation with Rome was altogether omitted. The Duke's actual scheme of Catholic emancipation, as proposed to his Cabinet, recommended instead,—(1), that the civil disabilities affecting Catholics should be discontinued, excepting their eligibility to certain offices the holders of which dispose of Church patronage ; (2), that the clause of the Act of Union requiring the oath of supremacy to be taken should be suspended for one year, for all members who should take the oath then prescribed to be taken by Catholics in other public capacities ; (3), that the Irish franchise should be restricted to persons paying five pounds a year in local rates ; (4), that a Regiunt Don Urn of 2300,000 a year should be voted for the Catholic priesthood ; (5), that no Catholic priest should be at liberty to act as such without Royal licence ; (6), that priests acting without such licence should be treated as guilty of misdemeanour ; (7), that priests receiving Regium Doman should take the Catholic oath of allegiance, and also an oath that they would not assume any title, or exercise any authority not conceded to them by law ; (8), in fine, that no convent or monastery should be formed within the United Kingdom without Royal licence.

It is now possible for the first time to follow the prolonged and anxious discussion which these proposals underwent within the Government, and especially between Wellington and Peel. In Peel's Memoirs his memorandum in reply to the Duke is given, but without the document on which it is based ; nor is that docu- ment given in its order of date in the If ellington Correspondence. It will be found detached from the Memorandum on the Clare Election in Vol. V., p. 254. It is from Peel's notes upon it that we learn the sum proposed for the Irish Catholic priesthood was 2300,000 a year. A blank is left for this sum in the paper as it was recorded by the Duke. Peel's criticism upon Wellington's proposal is certainly not of a character to raise our estimate of his foresight or statesmanship. He was of opinion that the number of Catholics sitting at the same time in Parliament should be limited,—a proposition probably impracticable ; for how would it be possible at a general election to fetter the freedom of constituen- cies? and if all the Irish counties elected Catholics, how decide that the election for Clare -was void, but that of Tipperary valid ? —superfluous as well, for the Irish Catholics have always been as well content to be represented by Protestants of their political opinions as by members of their own communion. As to the House of Lords, Peel saw no reason for any limitation. "Conversions to the Roman Catholic faith," he said, little imagining a time when his successor in the leadership of the Tory party should write Lot hair, "are not much to be apprehended," and the Crown could always refuse to create any more Catholic peers. There are, indeed, at least half-a-dozen convert peers in the present House, and our Peelite Premier has created as many as three Catholic peers, Lords Acton, Howard, and O'Hagan, in a single year. Peel seems to have felt much more serious apprehension for the state of the English constituencies. " Why," he asks, " may not the Duke of Norfolk acquire as large a borough influence as Lord Dar- lington or Lord Hertford?" Nor was this the only danger.

He believed that "the existing state of the elective franchise in England would admit of a larger return of Roman Catholics for the boroughs of England than would be proportionate to their relative wealth, or influence, or numbers." Nearly half a century has passed since Catholic Emancipation, and there is not in the present Parliament a single Catholic sitting for a British constituency. The borough of Arundel is disfranchised, and with it has vanished the only direct electoral influence the house of Norfolk ever exer- cised. To the proposal of pensioning the Irish priests, Peel made an original, and as it proved, a fatal objection. He objected that the English Dissenter, just emancipated, might possibly "re- monstrate against being made to contribute his share towards the support of two Churches unless you take the case of his Church also into consideration." Where would be the end qf endowment, if all the myriad varieties of Dissenters were to be endowed? What budget could bear it ? This shrewd objection seems to have been fatal to the whole scheme of a Concordat with Rome, for manifestly it was only on the ground of the Roman Catholic being a State-endowed Church that the State could claim to have a right of determining its appointments and controlling its communications. The English Dissenters, whose own dis- abilities had just been removed through the growing pressure of political force on the Catholic question, were thus the unwitting cause of repaying the obligation, by securing the absolute inde- pendence which the Catholic Church enjoys in Ireland. But for the English Dissenter, it is more or less manifest Cardinal Cullen would never have worn a mitre,—in Ireland at least ; and Father O'Keeffe would still hold the parish of Callan, in inexpugnable orthodoxy, by virtue of the Queen's licence.

It was a matter of great difficulty to induce Peel to remain a member of the Government, and to propose the measure of Catholic Relief to the House of Commons ; and so his objections even to points on which the Duke's own convictions were strong had more than ordinary weight. The result was that the Bill proposed by the Wellington Government, and carried, was a far more Catholic measure than Mr. Canning or Lord Castlereagh, or even Mr. Grattan or Mr. Plunket, would have ventured to introduce. The only restriction of Catholic powers contained in the Act was the disfranchisement of the Forty-Shilling Freeholders, the mass of peasant electors whose votes had swelled by thousands O'Connell's majority at Clare. But the balance of political power in Ireland was really little, if at all, affected by their disfranchisement. The majorities in the constituencies of three provinces were still Catholic, and willing to vote for candidates who would support O'Connell's general policy. It must be admitted, after half a century's experience, that the Irish Catholics have not shown the disposition, generally attributed to them at the time, to use their political power in a simply sectarian sense. Peel's proposal to restrict the number of Catholic Members of Parliament would hardly have placed the figure so low as it stands. There never has been quite a third of the Irish representation occupied by Catholics ; and in the present Parliament, by far the most " Ultramontane" Members are pious Protestants, like Sir John Gray and Captain Stackpoole, Mr. Butt and Mr. Mitchell Henry. These are the men who, it would seem, the Irish Bishops of the present day think are most sure, like the Western politician celebrated by Hans Breitmann, to "vote straight upon the goose." It forms perhaps part of O'Connell's punishment to observe the process. It may not have been precisely the end he proposed to himself in his life-long

work of agitation and political education. '

The Catholic question forms, of course, the central topic of the volumes of Wellington Correspondence before us. But they are, in truth, a complete magazine of materials for the whole history of the world at the time. The correspondence with the King alone deserves a special study. It is highly instructive in a constitu- tional point of view, invariably amusing, occasionally slightly dis- gusting. The Duke throughout it plaSrs with George IV., now with dexterous, wheedling finesse, now with abrupt, sharp force, like a wary angler who has got an unwieldy fish, not too securely hooked at the end of his line. Military students will find in the fifth volume a very remarkable paper on the question of reorganising the English Army on the model of the Prussian. He rejects the idea in toto, on the ground that the British soldier is intrinsically a scoundrel, who is only taught by the cat-o'-nine tails to win dis- tinction at the cannon's mouth. "The man who enlists into the British Army is, in general, the most drunken and probably the worst man of the trade or profession to which he belongs, or of the village or town in which he lives. There is not one in a hun- dred of them who, when enlisted, ought not to be put in the second or degraded class of any society or body into which they may be introduced ; and they can be brought to be fit for what is called the first class only by discipline, and the precept and ex- ample of the old soldiers of the company, who, if not themselves in that same second or degraded class, deserve to be placed there for some action or other twenty times in every week." Such is the candid criticism of our great Captain on his comrade the British Private. Happily we have got Mr. Cardwell to change all that. After the military notes, in which Wellington always appears to pour forth his soul with a great sense of relief, must be mentioned the diplomatic papers, especially those concerning Russia—then really on the road to Constantinople—and Spain, where had just begun "the beginning of the end," which is yet far enough off. There is also some Persian correspondence with Sir John Mal- colm and others, which Malcolm Khan and others might study not without advantage even now-a-days. Nor must we omit reference to the one ridiculous incident in the Duke's life, the Winchilsea duel, the occurrence of which is like a practical rebuke on his rather vain-glorious statement to Mr. Canning the year before, that he had never bad a quarrel with any man in the whole course of his life.