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Royal Highness, that what passed in the House of Commons on that occasion is a complete Parliamentary recognition of all the doctrine which it is necessary for us now to contend for?
III. But let us consider the language of the Coronation Oath.
This, it might be humbly suggested to his Royal Highness, forms no objection to the Sovereign's giving his Royal Assent to any bill like that which is now solicited for the relief of his Roman Catholic subjects.
By the first clause of the Coronation Oath, his Majesty swears
govern the people according to the statutes in “ Parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the “ realm." This was evidently meant to denote, not only the statutes, laws, and customs then existing, but those also which should afterwards become part of the national law, in consequence of any subsequent legislation of Parliament.
In the next clause, his Majesty swears “ to maintain the “ Protestant Reformed Religion established by law, and “ to preserve to the bishops and clergy of this realm, and “ to the churches committed to their care, all such rights “ and privileges as by law did or should belong or apper“ tain to them or any of them.” This could only mean the Protestant Reformed Religion, the churches, the rights, and the privileges, which, from time to time, should, under the actual or any future legislation of Parliament, form the church establishment of the realm.
It might also be submitted to his Royal Highness, that, even if the Coronation Oath should be thought to preclude the Monarch from such a concurrence, it would be no objection to his repealing the laws now solicited to be repealed, as the repeal of these laws will not interfere with the legal establishment of the church, with its hierarchy, with any of its churches, or with any of their temporal or spiritual pre-eminences, rights or privileges.
Hitherto our observations have been confined to the Coronation Oath. The attention of his Royal Highness might now be called to a circumstance which is inseparably attached to every oath.
Is it not universally allowed, that in every case where one person takes an oath to another, the person to whom, or in whose favour the oath has been taken, may, at his pleasure, release, either wholly or partially, the person taking the oath, from all the obligations to which he bound himself by it?
THE CORONATION OATH IS MADE TO THE PEOPLE, AS REPRESENTED BY PARLIAMENT. May I not therefore ask, whether, upon the supposition that the Coronation Oath really extends to the present case, — (which, however, I must respectfully repeat that it does not),—the people represented by the Parliament, being the persons and the only persons entitled to the benefit of the Oath, have not full power and authority to release the Monarch who took the Oath, and all his successors, from its obligations ?
The conduct of His Majesty's august predecessors incontrovertibly shows that they, the Parliament, and the nation, have uniformly construed the Coronation Oath in the sense which I have presumed to suggest.
1. Each of the three founders of the Protestant Church of England, Henry VIII. Edward VI. and Elizabeth, swore, at their Coronations, to support the Catholic religion as it was then established. Each proscribed that religion, and established another. Can any thing be alleged in defence of these alterations of the national religion by the monarchs, who had thus sworn to preserve it, except that their Parliaments consented to the change, and that their consent freed the monarchs from the obligations of their Coronation Oaths? If this defence was available in those cases why is it not equally available in the present ?
2. I have mentioned that King William III. in the ist year of his reign, took the Coronation Oath in the present form, and swore by it to defend the Protestant religion ; but almost immediately afterwards he assented to a bill, which altered the Oath of Supremacy from a positive affirmation of the Crown's ecclesiastical supremacy in this realm, to a negative assertion that this supremacy was not possessed by any foreign Power. This substitution of one Oath of Supremacy for another admitted into power, place, and all other civil rights of subjects, a numerous description of persons who, till that time, had been excluded from them. King William's assent to this bill must therefore be considered to be a breach of his Coronation Oath, unless our interpretation of it be admitted.
3. At a subsequent time the same monarch took an oath to maintain the Church of Scotland, which was at that time Episcopalian; but he soon afterwards made a new settlement of the Scottish Church in the Presbyterian form. This was a total alteration of the constitution of the Church of Scotland, and only justifiable, in respect to the Coronation Oath, by our interpretation of it.
4. When, in the reign of Queen Anne, Scotland was united to England, an oath was formed by the Parliament of Scotland, by which every King was required at his accession to take an oath to preserve the Protestant religion and Presbyterian Church Government in Scotland. This Act was confirmed by the Act of Union.
Notwithstanding these acts-notwithstanding too his own Coronation Oath, HIS LATE MAJESTY gave his sanction to the acts of the 18th, the 31st, the 33d, and the 57th years of his reign, for the relief of his English, Irish, and Scottish Catholic subjects. If the pains, penalties, and disabilities, repealed by these statutes were numbered, it would be found that they amounted to more than threefourths of the whole penal code.
The Annual Act of Indemnity is a repeal, temporary indeed, but perennially renewed, of the penal laws: to this, his late Majesty, gave, in every year of his reign, his Royal Assent.
Grateful beyond expression as the Roman Catholics truly are, for the large extent of relief which these legislative acts of wise policy and beneficence have successively extended to them, they yet presume to inquire what objection can lie, from the Coronation Oath, to the repeal of the small remaining number of the penal acts, that did not apply, in some manner at least, to each of these salutary acts of his late Majesty ?
VI. It is said that these Acts did no more than confer on the Roman Catholics the blessings of Toleration : but that the relief now solicited would confer on them political power.
Taking for granted, but not allowing, this to be the fact, did not the Act of Toleration admit the Protestant Dissenters of England ?-did not the Act for the settlement of the Protestant religion in Scotland admit the Scottish Presbyterians to a full participation of political power with his Majesty's other Protestant subjects ? Never did the kingdom abound with abler lawyers-never did the Crown possess more able or more constitutional advisers-never was an opposition to the Crown more active or more jealous than at the periods, in which these laws were passed. Yet, was a murmur of disapprobation of them heard? Was the Coronation Oath so much as mentioned ?
VII. The claim of Ireland to the relief solicited by the present bill is particularly strong.
1. When Mr. Pitt proposed the Articles of Union to the House of Commons, he thus expressed himself :“ No man can say that, in the present state of things,
“; and while Ireland continues a separate kingdom, full
.concessions can be made to the Catholics without endangering the State and shaking the Constitution to the “ centre.” Is not this saying that, after the Union should have taken place, full concessions might be made to Ireland without danger?
2. The Member who proposed the Union expressed himself in similar terms.
3. Such, also, is the language of the Act of Union. It enacted, “ That every of the Lords and Commons of the “ Parliament of the United Kingdom, in the first and every “ succeeding Parliament, should, UNTIL THE PARLIA
MENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM SHOULD “ OTHERWISE PROVIDE, take the Oaths then pro“ vided to be taken.” Is not this an explicit intimation that a change of Oaths, after the Union, in favour of the Catholics, was then contemplated? Was not a sure and certain hope of it held out to them by these words? Is it not incon. trovertible proof, that all the statesmen who favoured the Union were convinced that Catholic Emancipation might be granted without affecting the Coronation Oath ?
4. In the debate in the House of Commons on the petition of the Irish Catholics, on Wednesday the 25th of May, 1808, Mr. Elliot thus expressed himself :-“ I do not rise “ for the purpose of entering into any discussion on the
general topic, but in consequence of what has fallen “ from my noble friend opposite, (Lord Castlereagh), merely “ to advert to the circumstances of the Union, of which “ I may be supposed to have some official knowledge, and “ of the erpectations held out to the Catholics, in order to “ conciliate their acquiescence in that measure. My noble “ friend has said, that no pledge was given to the Catho“ lics that their full emancipation was to be the immediate
consequence of this measure, in consideration of their “ support. It is true, indeed, that no bond was given to “ the Catholics on that point ; but there were certainly “ expectations, and something like promises, held out to
them, which, in my mind, ought to be more binding