Order for Second Reading read.
—Mr. Speaker, in moving "That the Bill be now read the second time:" I am glad to avail myself of the present opportunity to describe what it is I now propose, although it has come upon me somewhat unexpectedly. I feel that the House may fairly expect that I should state my reasons for proposing the second reading of the Bill. The House will remember that I have been twice permitted to introduce this measure. Early last Session the House gave me leave to bring it in; but such was the encumbered state of the Order Paper, crowded with Bills, many of which were never likely to receive the decision of the House, that last Session I was unable to take the sense of the House upon the Bill. Again I have been denied the opportunity until this late period of the present Session. I am perfectly aware, Sir, that the opposition to the Bill has been, and is, of an indirect, but of a most pertinacious character. It is the same opposition that has been offered in every country where these Conventual and Monastic Institutions have existed, whenever any proposal has been made that they should be regulated by law, or controlled by the Government. It is the same opposition—the opposition of the party which is called Ultramontane in some countries, and Clerical in others; a party devoted to promoting the universal power of the Papacy as universal. Early in the present Session the very unusual course was adopted of resisting by a division the introduction of the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Matthews) moved that I should not be permitted to submit the Bill to the House; but the House decided by a majority of two to one that it would entertain the subject-matter of the Bill. Again, to-day, at the outset of this discussion, I observe a manifest unwillingness to entertain the subject; and why is that? Is it because the subject-matter of the Bill is insignificant? The example of the Parliament and Government of the German Empire in passing a measure which completely re-organizes the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the State, in consequence, avowedly, of the action of the Monastic Orders upon the Roman Catholic Bishops in that country, confutes the idea that the subject is insignificant. Is the form in which I suggest the inquiry, which the Bill would institute, unnecessarily offensive? This is the second reading of the Bill. I have stated before, and I repeat, that I should be ready in Committee, if the Bill should remain until that stage in my hands, to adopt any reasonable suggestion that may render the measure as inoffensive as possible to my opponents. My opponents may claim to represent the whole Roman Catholic population of this country; but I at once deny the validity of that claim. They may represent the ecclesiastical authorities of the Church of Rome; but I deny that they represent the whole body of the Roman Catholic laity. They may represent a majority of the laity; but I know that they do not represent a large minority of their co-religionists, nor is it reasonable to suppose that they do. Far more stringent measures have been adopted with respect to those institutions by the Roman Catholic Parliament of Italy than is proposed by the Bill, which is solely for inquiry. The Italians who know these institutions better than any other nation—they who most thoroughly understand the social effects of these institutions—they who can best appreciate the political dangers which these institutions have entailed, the Italian Parliament, have passed a law for the suppression of Monastic Institutions. You cannot say that they are not Roman Catholics. You cannot say that the Spanish nation is not Roman Catholic, and yet in Roman Catholic Spain the legislation of late years has shown a manifest consciousness of the political necessity that has existed for suppressing Monastic Institutions. And what is the aspect of Spain now? That those who formerly defended these Monastic Institutions, and in many cases persons who were members of those institutions, are actively contributing to plunge that country into civil war, and seem to have rendered all settled form of government impossible. I say, then, that it is not because this is a little question that I am met by this opposition. It may be asked, why do I not leave this measure to be introduced by Her Majesty's Government? In reply, I will appeal to the history of kindred proposals. This question has been entertained by the House during several Sessions. In 1851, it was raised in the form of a Bill for the inspection of convents. In 1853, the House of Commons, by large majorities, repeatedly declared that inspection of convents of women by the authority of the State was necessary. Again, in 1854, by large majorities, the House affirmed the same opinion; but in every one of those instances the House was baffled by what they call abroad the clerical opposition. In 1864, a question as to certain property which was obtained by the Oratorians at Brompton arose, and I moved for the appointment of a Select Committee in this House that should inquire as to the position and the relations of these institutions with respect to property; that proposal was rejected by a small majority. In the following year, I moved that a Select Committee of this House should inquire into the number of inmates in such institutions, as to the circumstances, property, position, and discipline of those institutions, and that Motion was rejected by a small majority. In 1868 and 1869, I moved that the relations of these institutions to property, that the rapid increase of their number, and the methods by which they were acquiring property should be investigated by this House. The majorities against these proposals diminished gradually, until in 1870 the House decided—first, by a small majority, but afterwards by larger majorities, that the increase of these Monastic and Conventual Institutions, their acquisition of property, their character and the inefficient state of the law with respect to them should be referred to a Select Committee of this House. Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present, and it not being Four of the clock:—When other Members entered the House, Mr. Speaker again counted the House, and 40 Members being present,
resumed: Mr. Speaker: I cannot but express the regret I feel at the attempt which has been made to destroy the free action of this House. The hon. Members who had left the House, and have now returned to it, are perfectly aware that when once you, Mr. Speaker, have taken that Chair at noon on a Wednesday you must remain in it until 4 o'clock. I can only therefore consider this form of opposition as threatening both the Orders and the free action of this House. If, Sir, I could feel that in the course I am pursuing there was any justification for the attempt which has now been made, such consciousness would occasion me the deepest regret; but, on the contrary, I feel that by submitting this proposal to the House, and by resisting such attempts, I am vindicating the independence of the House of Commons, and the right of this country to be represented on all subjects, not according to the will of a small minority in this House, however influential may be the organization that supports that minority, but according to ancient usage, so that this House shall fully represent the deliberate judgment of the country upon every subject which it is competent for the House in your judgment, Sir, to entertain. I will now proceed further to explain the purport of the Bill; what is the object of the Bill? The Bill proposes that exemption from inquiry by Commissioners which has hitherto been permitted to these Monastic and Conventual Institutions of the Church of Rome shall cease. The institutions of every other denomination have been inquired into by Commissioners, appointed either under the Sign Manual of Her Majesty, or by statute; and I say, Sir, that it is an anomaly, that exemption from inquiry should be permitted to these Monastic and Conventual Institutions. This peculiar privilege of exemption commenced with the exception of these institutions from the operation of the Act of 1853, which constituted the Charity Commission. It is with a view to terminate this peculiar, and as it now appears to be considered privileged, exemption that I introduce the Bill. Sir, the Bill proposes that Commissioners shall be appointed for three years, and knowing that a plea has been advanced that these institutions, or some of them, are of so peculiar a nature that it will injure the feelings of the Roman Catholic Members of this House, and of Roman Catholics generally, if any Commissioners should be appointed and empowered to inquire into those institutions, I propose that the Commission of Inquiry should be thus constituted. The proposal is not as yet embodied in the Bill as it stands; but I have given Notice that I intend to move in Committee that the Commissioners to conduct this inquiry shall be appointed in the following manner—namely, one by the Lord Chancellor, one by the Speaker of the House of Commons, one by the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench, two by the Roman Catholic Poor School Committee; and I select that body, because it is the only exclusively Roman Catholic organization which has hitherto been recognized by Parliament. It is recognized as the recipient of the grant of public money made to Roman Catholic schools, and is treated as the body to which is committed the administration of those schools, subject, of course, to inspection by the State. I propose that another Commission of Inquiry be appointed by the Charity Commissioners, under whose jurisdiction Parliament has twice decided to place these institutions—first, during the passage of the Act constituting the Charity Commissioners in the year 1853. The exemption of these institutions was not granted until that Bill which had come down to this House from the House of Lords had reached its third reading. The exemption of those institutions was granted during the passage of that Bill through its last stage. Again, in the year 1860, I supported a Bill which was introduced by my late Friend (Sir Charles Selwyn), afterwards one of the Lords Justices, and which was adopted by the late Sir George Lewis. The Roman Catholic Charities Act of 1860 passed both Houses of Parliament with the intention of including under the operation of the law the property of these institutions; but in doing that, to meet as far as possible the objections raised by the representatives of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. That Bill, Sir, by its operation enabled a large amount of Roman Catholic charity property to be enrolled; but the period for enrolment under the provisions of that Act ceased in 1861, and since then Roman Catholic trusts have ceased to be practically amenable to the general law by enrolment, so as to be accessible to the inspection of the Charity Commissioners and persons interested in that property. I think I have said enough to show the House that the exemption of these institutions, and of the property which they are rapidly acquiring, is peculiar and anomalous. Why, I ask, should the whole class of these rapidly-increasing institutions be exempted from the operation of the general law with respect to the acquisition of property? Why should a large class of institutions, like these Monastic and Conventual Establishments, be left beyond the purview and reach of the law? That the Monastic Institutions are illegal has been proved by the Roman Catholic witnesses who appeared before the Select Committee of 1870. If they are innocent, why should they be illegal? Then, take the case of convents of women, which are not illegal. These convents, and I will give their number presently, are rapidly increasing and acquiring property; why should they, in this country, be exempt from that inspection and control by the State to which similar, nay kindred, institutions are subjected in every country in Europe where they are permitted to exist? Why, I say, should the law which prevails in Prussia, and gene- rally now throughout Germany, not be adopted here? That law which requires that the name of every inmate of these convents should be registered and accessible to the magistrates of the district? Why, I say, should convents in this country not be subject to visitation, as convents are in France by the mayor of the arrondissement? Convents have a peculiar and unsafe exemption here, on the plea of the illegality which attaches to the manner of their acquiring and holding property. That exemption is extending, and is becoming a privileged exemption, and is thus justly exciting the jealousy of all other denominations who are subject—and properly subject—to the control of the law, and to the supervision of the State in respect of several particulars with respect to which these Roman Catholic institutions are exempt. Do I, Sir, propose any rash method of inquiry that might be termed harsh? I propose that the Commissioners shall be appointed by the highest officers of the State, and in addition to the Commissioner thus to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor; in addition to the Commissioner that shall be appointed by yourself, Sir; in addition to the Commissioner that shall be appointed by the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench; in addition to the two Commissioners that I propose, should be nominated by the Roman Catholic Poor Schools Committee, I propose that one Commissioner should be nominated by a body of Commissioners, who are expressly appointed in this country to conduct a peculiar species of inquiry, in the prosecution of which any grossness, any undue interference, any want of consideration or of courtesy would be peculiarly painful to families. On account of their already proved qualifications in that respect, I propose that another member of the Commission shall be nominated by the Lunacy Commissioners; and I have selected the Commissioners in Lunacy because they are in the habit of dealing with the affairs of families without exposing their affairs to needless publicity, or inflicting unnecessary pain. It is with the view of preventing the undue coercion of individuals by families who forget their duty that the Commissioners in Lunacy have been appointed. They possess qualifications, which peculiarly fit them for their duties, and I therefore consider them the per- sons best fitted to nominate one other member of the Commission, the appointment of which I submit to the consideration of this House. I am anxious, Sir, fully to explain the manner in which I propose that these Commissioners should be appointed—and appointed only—for the purpose of inquiry. I trust that I have shown that to the utmost of my humble ability I have sought to render this investigation, which I feel to be no less necessary in this country than it has been found to be necessary in every country in Europe, should be conducted in a manner the least offensive to my Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. There is a strong feeling in this House that it is time this exemption of these Monastic and Conventual Institutions from the control of the law, carried out by the Executive of State, should cease. Parliament has repeatedly declared its opinion in that sense, and I now ask the House again to declare that opinion. Well, Sir, there are Notices upon the Books of this House manifesting the intention of several hon. Members to invite Her Majesty's Government to undertake this question. I admit, Sir, that it is the duty of the Government to do so; but I am warned by my long experience in this House that nothing has ever been attempted by any Government in this country with regard to this subject, until the House of Commons has by a majority decided that it would undertake this subject. Under the stress of this House, in 1870, the First Minister of the Crown undertook the appointment and regulation of a Committee of Inquiry. I feel that that justifies me as an unofficial Member of this House in proposing the appointment of this Commission, because the experience of the House of Commons shows that unless the House acts in this matter for itself, and upon its own judgment, no Government has hitherto ventured to deal with this subject. I am ready, Sir, however, at once to yield this subject into the hands of Her Majesty's Government. I should greatly rejoice to see them undertake it, or hear them promise to undertake it. I am comparatively powerless myself; but I represent the deliberate opinion of hundreds of thousands of my fellow-countrymen, and I can assure Her Majesty's Government that they would receive the whole of that support, that they would be looked up to as the first Government in this country who had undertaken to destroy this anomalous exemption, by deciding to extend the power of the State and of the law over those institutions which are exempted from the power of the State, and from the operation of the law in no other country in Europe where they are still permitted. Let me now advert to figures in order to show that since the investigations of the Select Committee of 1870 the number of those institutions has continued to increase. I will show the House how gradual, how progressive, and how steady has been that increase, and that it is continuous. The most indisputable account of these institutions must be that which was given by his Eminence the late Cardinal Wiseman. In 1864, Cardinal Wiseman attended a Roman Catholic Congress at Malines in Belgium, and I have a copy of the statement contained in the speech he then made, and in which this passage occurs—
And what, Sir, was the number of convents, according to The Roman Catholic Directory? The Roman Catholic Directory showed convents of women in 1870 to the number of 233, and The Roman Catholic Directory for 1873 shows convents of women, 260. Then, as to the religious houses for men, his Eminence declared their number to have been 55 in Great Britain at the close of the year 1863, and I am speaking only of Great Britain. The Roman Catholic Directory in 1870 showed that there were 69 religious houses for men or Monastic Institutions, and in 1873 The Roman Catholic Directory shows the number of 77. There has therefore been an increase of eight monastic houses since 1870; that is, according to The Roman Catholic Directory; according to which authority also there has been an increase in the number of convents for women between 1870 and 1873 of 27. Thus, the House will observe that the increase is continuous. I know that Mr. Cuddens, a Roman Catholic lawyer, one of the legal witnesses who were called before the Committee of 1870, contradicted the statement which appeared in The Roman Catholic Direc-tory that there were 69 religious houses for men. He also contradicted the statement of his Eminence, who said that there were 55 at Christmas, 1863. Mr. Cudden stated that in 1870 there were only 30 Monastic Institutions; but then he added that besides those 30 Monastic Institutions, as he described them, there were 121 clerical residences occupied by members of the regular Monastic Orders of the Church of Rome. I questioned him with regard to the number of inmates in those houses; but, as was the case with the other Roman Catholic barristers and solicitors who were brought before the Committee, the moment any Member of the Committee asked what was the number of inmates within an avowed monastery, as he had described it, or in a religious house; the moment you asked Mr. Harting, or any of the witnesses who appeared in behalf either of these Monastic or of these Conventual Institutions, the number of inmates in any monastery or convent, or to state the locality of any such house, or of the property connected with it, he instantly replied that it was contrary to his duty to his clients to give any such information. I, Sir, was not satisfied with that, and I endeavoured to persuade the Committee by examination of the rate books and parochial statistics compared with The Roman Catholic Directory to obtain some further information; but the Committee seemed to consider such inquiry beyond their functions. They refused all such evidence. They refused evidence with respect to property, which had been received by the Court of Probate in one instance, and by the Court of Chancery in another; and the consequence was that the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Sir Thomas Chambers) and myself retired from that Committee at the close of the Session of 1870, and refused to serve upon it again when it was re-appointed in 1871. Now, I hold that the investigations of that Committee were incomplete—that they did not satisfy the requirements of the case or of this House. If that Committee had been able fully to investigate the subject, and had done so, I, Sir, should not now be here to move the second reading of this Bill; but I will show the House, from the concluding paragraph of the Report of that Committee, that they themselves knew that their investigations were incomplete; and it is because their investigations, according to their own declaration, are incomplete that I, at the instance of some hundreds of thousands of persons in this country, ask this House, by statute, to appoint a Commission which shall conduct upon the spot where any of these institutions are discovered to exist, and upon oath administered to the witnesses, an investigation which I fully believe no Committee of this House, considering the opposition of the Roman Catholic witnesses to giving evidence, would be able satisfactorily to conduct. What, Sir, is the last paragraph of the Report of the Select Committee of 1871? It runs in these words—"From 16 convents which we possessed in 1830, we have now in Great Britain 162. In 1830 we had not a single religious house for men; but in 1850 there were 11, and to-day their number is 55."
Now, in refusing the evidence which I proposed, the Committee showed that their sense of the limits of the inquiry was so narrow that they could not accept evidence that had been received by the Courts of Law; and they conclude the paragraph in these words—"We have therefore abstained from recommending any such alterations;" that is, alterations of the recognized doctrine of the law with respect to mortmain and perpetuities. Sir, I think that that concluding paragraph of this Report shows distinctly that the Committee knew that according to their understanding of the powers conferred upon them by this House, they could not complete this investigation so as to advise Parliament safely with reference to the alterations of the law, which are necessary to bring those institutions within the compass of the law, and within the jurisdiction of the State. Therefore, founding the proposal of the Bill upon that concluding paragraph of the Report of the Select Committee of 1871, as well as upon the example of every Parliament and Government in Europe, I humbly submit to the House that a Commission should be appointed to inquire further as to these increasing and extending institutions. Why is there need for such an inquiry? Because the state of the law in this country is not suited for the proper control of those institutions. A decision has been given by Vice Chancellor Wickens in the Court of Chancery, in the case of Cox v. Manners, to this effect—that where property was left to two convents of different kinds, one being a convent at Carisbrooke in the Isle of Wight, and the other a convent of "Sœurs de Charité" at Selly Oak, near Birmingham, the "Sœurs de Charité"—ladies who are employed in works of charity—are incompetent by the law of England to take and hold impure personalty; while the cloistered convent at Carisbrooke in the Isle of Wight, in which the inmates are employed only in devotional exercises, and are not permitted to exercise themselves in works of external charity, can take and hold impure personalty—that is, charges upon land to any extent. Now, what is the law of France? By the law of France cloistered convents are not authorized, and such a convent as that at Carisbrooke would not be authorized—that is, recognized and capacitated by the law; whilst the convent of Selly Oak, the inmates of which are devoted to works of charity, would, by the law of France, be authorized and capacitated. Therefore the law of England is in direct contradiction to the Code Napoléon and the law of France. Is not that an anomaly? Look at the law of Scotland. In Scotland there was a law called the Law of Deathbed, the only Scotch law in the sense of the statutes of mortmain which our ancestors found it necessary to enact in order to prevent the undue accumulation of property in the hands of the Monastic and Conventual Orders. It has recently been the pleasure of this House to repeal the Law of Deathbed; and in consequence the Scotch people now stand in this position—that there is no law whatever to prevent the representatives of these Monastic and Conventual Institutions from acquiring any amount of real property in Scotland in perpetuity, although restrictions in the sense of the ancient law of mortmain exist in every State in Europe, exist in England, and exist in Ireland. Is that not, then, a case which demands the careful investigation of competent Com- missioners, in order to advise Parliament how it shall proceed to deal with an exemption so peculiar and so complicated as the exemption from the operation of our laws which those institutions present? I scarcely like to advert to such a subject; but I have been before, and am now, the object of much virulent attack by the party who would by continuing the exemption of these institutions from the operation of the law establish an alien jurisdiction in this country. What is the answer by which we are met when we urge inquiry as to convents of women? We are met by this sort of answer. Dr. Ullathorne, in 1865, wrote to me in this sense—"The observations contained in this Report will probably suggest some alterations in important branches of the law, and those alterations would be of a very different kind, according to the point of view from which the subject is surveyed. A complete discussion of the position, if any, which Conventual and Monastic Institutions ought to have in our law, and of the means by which their existence and action might be adjusted, so as to bring them into harmony with recognized doctrines of law as to mortmain and perpetuities would lead to much difference of opinion, and might exceed the limits of our inquiry, and we have therefore abstained from recommending any such alterations."
It did not appear, Sir, in the case of Saurin v. Starr that the authority of the Roman Catholic Bishop had very much influence. For what appeared in that case? That Miss Saurin, the lady who suffered persecution in the convent at Hull, had a brother who was a Jesuit priest. The object of the Superioress, Mrs. Starr, was to compel Miss Saurin to leave her convent. Miss Saurin, supported by her brother, who was a Jesuit priest, objected to leave her convent, because it would have been inconsistent with the perpetual vows she had taken; and what was the operation of the law of England in that case? It practically intercepted the action of the Bishop who had obtained power from Rome to absolve this lady from her vows; and is not that, I ask, an anomaly? Am I to be told that the law of England is rightly used and interpreted, when it seems to intercept the abolition of perpetual conventual vows, obligations which are condemned by the Code Napoléon and the law of France, and which are now again virtually condemned by the recent decision of the Parliament and Emperor of Germany? Is it a satisfactory state of the law of England that it can be thus used? A pamphlet has been published by a person whom I suppose I must call "learned," intituled Monastic and Conventual Institutions; their Legal Position, Property, and Disabilities. By Hugo J. Young, B.A., Barrister-at-law. London: Burns and Oates, 1873. I wish to show the House the kind of means that are employed to deter hon. Mem- bers of this House from the performance of their duty. I have the pamphlet here, and in the Preface I find the following passage:—"Why are you discontented with the supervision of these institutions? I have full authority over all the conventual institutions in Warwickshire, part of which you represent."
This person gives his address—"Hugo J. Young, Lamb Buildings, Temple, E.C., 1873." He has chambers in Lamb Buildings, but has not taken the trouble to put on sheep's clothing; anything grosser than such an imputation as this it would be impossible to pen. Another bulky volume has been published, and inasmuch as it has been disputed that these convents are connected with monastic houses—that the Superiors of a Monastic Order—that is, of a male Monastic Order, are also Superiors over the convents of their Order; but that connection is admitted in the bulky volume to which I refer. It is entitled Terra Incognita, and it shows that on account of this connection convents should be included with monastic houses under any inquiry which this House may think fit to authorize. Now, I know that the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Matthews) and this precious Mr. Young would have it believed that I have some design to insult or annoy the ladies who are the inmates of convents. Sir, I was aware years ago that attempts would be made to fix upon me that vile imputation. When Dr. Ullathorne, who calls himself Bishop of Birmingham, invited me to visit, accompanied by himself, the convent of Colwich and other institutions of the like nature in the county I represent, I replied that I would never enter a convent accompanied by Dr. Ullathorne or with his assistance; that I never will enter a convent except as authorized by Her Majesty's Commission, and in the performance of my duty under that Commission; because I know that were I to do so I should become the object of these depraved accusations which exhibit a foulness of mind on the part of those who utter them totally unworthy of gentlemen. But, after all, Sir, this is quite a minor matter. There is in this country a widely-felt anxiety, a deep-seated belief, that the personal freedom of the inmates of convents is not duly secured, and that conviction this House has repeatedly declared by its votes in 1853, in 1854; and again by the three divisions in 1870, this House has affirmed that the law of Habeas Corpus is inefficient, insufficient in the case of convents. I advert to this, because, when it was recently suggested in a well-known case now before the Court of Queen's Bench, by one of the counsel, Dr. Kenealy, that a nun resident in a convent could not be brought before the Court as a witness, the Lord Chief Justice of England is reported to have said that, if any opposition were offered to the production of that witness, a little bit of paper from the Court of Queen's Bench would open the doors of any convent in the country. What the Lord Chief Justice stated was quite true in that instance, because the Court had then before it sufficient proof that there was a particular nun resident in a particular convent; and when once furnished with that information the writ of Habeas Corpus is sufficient. But the difficulty in other cases is this—and this has been found and acted upon in every country in Europe except England; that the writs under the law of Habeas Corpus cannot be issued, unless in the first instance the Court is satisfied that there is such a person within such a convent, and that such person desires to be removed or liberated from such convent. The law fails in this—that without inspection you cannot be sure of obtaining that requisite but preliminary information; and seldom will obtain it unless under some peculiar circumstances such as those which occurred the other day in the Court of Queen's Bench. For then counsel stated to the Court that there was a certain person who would be a valuable witness who was a nun in a convent which he described. When once the Court has that information in its possession it can proceed by Habeas Corpus, but without such information a writ of Habeas Corpus cannot be issued; and it was because the House of Commons in 1853 and 1854 was fully conscious of that failure in the law that the majority voted over and over again that convents ought to be submitted to inspection in order to ensure that the law of England should be operative within their walls. I can well imagine, Sir, whence the opposition which has manifested itself so unbecomingly in one quarter of the House to-day has arisen. In 1870, the Rev. Mr. Gallwey published a pamphlet with reference to the Notice for a Select Committee that I then had before this House; and what is the substance of that pamphlet? The author signs his name as Father Gallwey, S. J. He declares himself to be a Jesuit, and that he is so, I believe, is well known. In that pamphlet, he enjoins upon all the nuns who are resident in this country, that rather than appear before a Committee of this House as they have appeared, and recently appeared before the Courts of this country, they should submit to be found guilty of contempt and suffer imprisonment. Such, Sir, is the advice of an eminent Jesuit to the nuns in this country. He is evidently a clever man, and has written a clever and an able pamphlet; and he entitled it Committee on Convents. The Nun's Choice. Notes for Newdegate—Newgate or Newdegate. It is worthy of the talent of this Jesuit to give his pamphlet such a title; but let hon. Members observe what is conveyed under this jocose title, and ask themselves whether the advice here given has no influence over these nuns? It is perfectly well known that the Conventual Order of the Sacre Cœur is connected with the Jesuit Order; and at Roehampton this Father Gallwey is not only the Superior of a monastic institution, but has also control over a convent near it. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] The hon. Member says "No, no!" Is it not probable that Father Gallwey in giving his pamphlet the title he chose has suggested inquiries on my part which render me better informed than the hon. Member? I have ascertained that several convents are subject to the control of monastic Superiors of the same or like Orders. That is one reason why I have in the frame of the Bill included both Monastic and Conventual Institutions. It is known that throughout the Continent these institutions are frequently subject to the same authority. Why, Sir, we who live in old houses in this country know something about the canon law of Rome. I myself live in a house that was once a priory. The priory was suppressed under a Bull which Cardinal Wolsey had obtained from the Pope for the suppression of the smaller religious houses, and I know that the constitution of that House before it was suppressed was most peculiar, for this reason—there was a large and influential convent at Nuneaton, and Dugdale the historian of my county, and other old records tell me that the Prior of Erdbury was the ecclesiastical inferior of the Abbess of Nuneaton, and that that was a singular exception to the almost general rule under which an abbot or a prior was superior to the conventual institutions of his own Order in the vicinity of his abbey or priory. The Mr. Hugo J. Young, who thinks me so depraved, evidently desires that no limits should be assigned to the acquisition of property by these Monastic and Conventual Institutions. He writes as follows:—"Mr. Newdegate's most recent Bill warns us now to look into the real nature of the houses within its scope. Its very boldness seems to suggest that there must be some justification for its proposals. But it is not the boldness of justice, it is the shamelessness of depravity."
That is the tenor of the history for which this Mr. Young cites the authority of Littleton. How different from the account of these matters is the view given by the historian, Lord Lyttelton—"Tracing back to the earliest times we find monasteries holding a prominent position in the history of this country. …. They were in fact, in most instances, corporations empowered to hold property, and the law sanctioned a tenure peculiar to them, and endowed with special advantages. This tenure was known as Frankalmoign, or free alms, and was relieved from the burdens which pressed so heavily upon feudal property. …. None of these imposts were incident to the tenure of Frankalmoign, because, as Littleton says, the prayers and other divine services of the tenants were better for the lords than any doing of fealty. …. Such licences of alienation in mortmain were, however, frequently granted, and we find these institutions, in the Middle Ages, the richest in Europe. To this wealth is to be traced one of the chief causes of their ultimate downfall; for, doubtless, the desire to possess himself of their property, had great weight in inducing a bankrupt and rapacious Sovereign to ordain their suppression."
We are approaching the same number now—"The great increase of religious houses must be reckoned among the evils of this age—Henry II The author of the Notitia Monastica computes the number of such houses built in England, during the reigns of Henry I., Stephen, and Henry II., at no less than 300."
Well, Sir, I believe that no one will doubt the authority or the impartiality of the historian, Lord Lyttelton. But if they do, I can quote Hallam, Blackstone, and the other eminent historians in the same sense—that the history of this country in Roman Catholic times shows that the Sovereigns found it necessary to prevent the exceeding increase of monastic and conventual houses and property; that Henry V. obtained the power to suppress several of the minor priories, and used it; that Henry VII., through Cardinal Morton, obtained the power, and used it; that Henry VIII., through Cardinal Wolsey, obtained the power, and used it; therefore, when hon. Members and others speak of the control over, or of the diminution of those institutions, as always the act of some tyrannical Sovereign, or some outrage on the part of the lay and temporal authority of the nation, I quote to them the fact, that when this country was exclusively Roman Catholic, successive Popes, at the instance of successive Cardinals, authorized and enjoined the visitation and, in many cases, the suppression of monastic and conventual houses, on account of gross abuses, which the more honest of the Popes of that time were ready to acknowledge and correct. I have therefore the authority of infallibility—if we are to be told that the Popes are infallible—that it is the duty of the State to look to it that these institutions do not unduly increase—and they are increasing rapidly in this country; to see that they do not unduly acquire property which ought to remain the heritage of families; and to take care that the inmates of those institutions are secured of that freedom which is the birthright of every English subject. I thank the House for having permitted me to explain views which prevail widely, and are daily extending both in England and Scotland, and which I am authorized to represent on this occasion. The operation of the Bill is to be confined to England and Scotland; and I ask the House, by passing the second reading of the Bill, to sanction the procuring of such information as may indemnify Her Majesty's Government for hereafter proposing some regulation of these institutions by law, in some measure, which may be but a very mild imitation of the laws recently passed by the Legislatures of other countries. So far as I have been able to ascertain the new constitution in reference to this matter which has been adopted by the Prussian Parliament, and which will soon be if it is not already the law of the German Empire, is in its principles to be precisely accordant with the ancient Constitution of this country in Roman Catholic times. William the Conqueror, Richard I., Edward I., Edward III., Richard II., and their Parliaments all vindicated the supreme authority of the State. In the laws which the German Parliament, at the instance of Prince Bismarck have passed, they have merely adopted the same principle—the principle that the authority of the National Legislature, of the law, and of the Sovereign shall be all pervading within the State; and that no ecclesiastical authority, conspiracy, or contrivance, however combined, shall be able to bar the operation of the general law of the commonwealth or of the Empire from permeating all institutions, from duly controlling the disposition of property, and, above all, in securing the personal freedom of the people. Sir, I beg leave to move the second reading of the Bill.…"And Mr. Inett asserts, that more monasteries and other religious societies were founded in that kingdom during the single reign of Henry I. than in 500 years before. But he rightly observes that this was not peculiar to this nation. The high opinion of the merit of such foundations infused into the minds of the laity by the divines of those days, the hopes of compounding in this manner with the Deity for the greatest offences, but more especially the liberty granted by the Pope of commuting for vows made to go to the holy wars by benefactions of this kind, filled all Europe with convents. In the year 1152 the Cistercian Order, which had been founded in 1098, had no fewer than 500. Among other causes of the increase of monasteries in this kingdom may be reckoned the civil war with which it was afflicted during the reign of King Stephen; for many of the nobility engaged in those troubles endeavoured to atone for the pillage of the people and other crimes they had committed, by raising or endowing religious houses, and others desired to secure for themselves and their children a quiet asylum in these places. The pernicious consequences of such numbers of men and women being confined to a life of celibacy were grievously felt in the reign of Henry II., by continuing and increasing the depopulation of the country, which the commotions in that of his predecessor had occasioned. Nor was it a small inconvenience to the Government of this monarch, in his disputes with the Pope, that he had so many persons in his realm who, by their separation from society, and the nature of their institutions, were more devoted to the See of Rome than the secular clergy, which difference showed itself upon several occasions in the conduct of both; and the practice of exempting monks from the proper authority of the diocesan Bishops increased this mischief."
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Mr. Newdegate.)
in moving that the Bill be read the second time that day six months, said, he believed the House would be of opinion that much of what had been stated by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) was altogether irrelevant to the subject in hand. Reference had been made to the law existing in Germany, France, Spain, and Italy; but he ventured to say that the law relating to Monastic Institutions in this country was even more stringent. The hon. Member took his stand on what he was pleased to call the incompleteness of the Report of the Committee of 1870–71. Now, he (Mr. Pease) maintained that the Report of that Committee, so far as circumstances would allow, was most complete, and entirely did away with any ground for this inquiry. It was unanimously agreed to, as a digest of the existing law upon the matter, and full information was given as to the number of the institutions, and as to the property possessed by them. In that Report, it would be found that it was a misdemeanour, punishable by banishment for life for a man to be admitted into any of those institutions, or to administer the oaths to him, and that all endowments of such societies were illegal. The Bill ignored altogether the labours of that Committee, which was exceedingly well qualified to deal with the question. It was chosen principally from the legal Members of the House, and contained a large majority of Protestants and a very limited portion of Roman Catholic Members, who were specially interested in the question. The Committee met 15 times, and had before them 29 witnesses, of whom four were from the Charity Commissioners, brought forward by the hon. Member for Longford, two by the Roman Catholics interested in the matter, two by the Chairman, and one by the hon. Baronet the Member for Dundee (Sir John Ogilvie); while there were four conveyancers to the Roman Catholic community, and 16 out of the 29 were produced by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. Two Reports were drawn up—one by the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan, and one by the hon. Member for West Kent. The Report agreed to by the Committee was that of the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan, but several paragraphs from that of the hon. Member for West Kent were incorporated with it; and when the Report was agreed to, as it was unanimously, only three Members of the Committee present were Roman Catholics, while the re- maining eight were Protestants. The Committee was appointed to inquire into the law respecting these institutions, and the terms on which their incomes and property were held and possessed. What did the hon. Member for North Warwickshire ask for? The number of those institutions since the beginning of the present century was ascertained, and their objects stated. Instead of there being any reluctance on the part of the Roman Catholic witnesses to give evidence, as stated by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, their evidence was given in a manner reflecting great credit on their ability and desire to answer all the questions put to them. They stated their belief that there were belonging to the Roman Catholic community, in 1870, 10 Colleges for men, having attached to them 2,032 acres of land, and containing 1,172 students; that there were also 150 houses, having 20 acres of land, and congregations attached to the number of 270,000, while the school children were 92,000. The incomes were derived from personal property in support of these places, to the extent of £10,250 per annum. There were 215 convents holding women, and having great estates attached to each, to the extent of 2 roods and 34 perches for each member; with personal property in the ratio of £6 13s. 3d. to each person! There were large educational establishments for 995 children of the pauper class; 3,115 children of the middle class; upwards of 5,600 children of the poorer class; and over 4,000 belonging to other classes. This being the ease, he submitted that the Committee of 1870–71 had discharged its duty completely, and that the information asked by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was already before the House. Mr. Henry Bagshaw, a distinguished Roman Catholic conveyancer, in reply to the question—
He added that there was no doubt that such institutions were in every respect as completely illegal as any association of men for any purpose could be—in the ordinary acceptation of the term—which was illegal or immoral. Mr. Bagshaw went on to say, that all the property held by these institutions was in the present state of the law held in honour—that was to say, invested in trustees without specific trusts, and it was by them applied to the purposes for which it was intended by those who purchased the land. There was one curious provision in the Bill which related to the circumstances to be inquired into by the Commissioners, under which it was desirable to promote the emigration of women. This direction followed that by which the Commissioners were to inquire into the regulations of convents, and was somewhat significant. The hon. Member for West Kent had on a former occasion stated to the House that there had been no case made out for an inquiry such as it was the object of this Bill to obtain, except one that made such an inquiry utterly distasteful to a large portion of Her Majesty's subjects, and he (Mr. Pease) believed that this was the opinion of a large majority of the Members of the House. In order to lay the foundation of such an inquiry a bonâ fide primâ facie case ought to be made out, showing that there were great abuses of the personal rights of liberty in the institution referred to; and this the hon. Member for North Warwickshire had not been able to do in a manner that was at all satisfactory to a majority of the House. The Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench had stated the other day that a small piece of paper from that Court would open the door of any convent in England. A case had been mentioned of a convent in which it was alleged that a young lady was immured against her will; but the Judge demanded some proof of this, and when the young lady was spoken to by those who made this allegation, she said she preferred to remain where she was, in the belief that if she carried out her vows she would be doing that which was acceptable to God. The fact was, that if any case could be made out, the existing law was quite sufficient to reach it, and to protect the personal liberties of those who were inmates of monastic or conventual institutions. Without some strong case being made out, there was no reason why the sacred character of these establishments should be interfered with, or that the same procedure should not take place with regard to them as in the case of private houses. Whether the inmates of the monasteries and convents were right or not, they thought that a life of ascetic and secluded piety was incumbent on them, and the House had no right, without a good case being established, to interfere with the privilege of every Englishman—to worship God according to his own conscience in his own manner. Supposing the Bill were passed, there would be some difficulty in getting the House to agree to the appointment of the Commissioner, who, according to the statement already made, was to be nominated by the Speaker. His hon. Friend would have done better to have given more credit to the Committee of 1870–71, before bringing in a Bill which proposed to deal in so objectionable a manner with a matter of such extreme delicacy. He should remember the sacred character and the religious influence and religious feeling of all our Churches, conforming and nonconforming, and which lay at the bottom of the soundest of the conditions of society. The hon. Member concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill."Will you state to the Committee in your own way what you consider the present state of the law with regard to convents and monasteries?" said, "With respect to monasteries containing monks hound by vows, there could be no doubt about their complete illegality, because of the Emancipation Act rendering the taking and administering of such oaths a misdemeanour, punishable with banishment or transportation."
in seconding the Amendment, said, the Bill was almost unexampled in the annals of the legislation of that House. Since the days of the Stuarts there never had been a Bill that in such an outrageous way violated every principle of personal liberty and constitutional right. That was not a question affecting merely the Roman Catholics, for Protestant and Catholic institutions alike would be subjected to this inquisition. A secret and unlimited inquiry was to be held into the minutest circumstances connected with the inmates of these institutions, the Commissioners were to have power to bring before them the inmates, their relatives, and even the servants; and that was the sort of Bill which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire proposed to the House in the interests of liberty. The allegations upon which the hon. Member based his case were entirely unfounded in fact. He said that in every other country in Europe, a measure of this sort existed. That allegation was quite incorrect, for in Prussia he (Mr. Matthews) was informed by a letter from Count Münster that the inspection of the convents by the State had never taken place. In Holland, another Pro- testant country, there was no law to prohibit persons living together in community; if religious Orders restricted themselves to the rules of their Order, and did not teach, Government did not interfere with them, and they were free from inspection or supervision of any kind; but if they had schools they were subject to Government inspection. He had received similar communications from Belgium, Austria, and France, where there was no inspection of convents whatever. It was clear that what the hon. Gentleman required was not the inspection of Conventual and Monastic Institutions, but their entire suppression, and it would be better that he should at once, instead of pretending that he had no wish to hurt the religious feelings of the gentlemen and ladies connected with those establishments, come forth in his true clothing, and call for their destruction. That was what Prince Bismarck, between whom and the hon. Member a strong likeness prevailed, had done, in violation of every principle of constitutional right. That was what had been done in Spain, by a Government which wished to get possession of the vast property held by such institutions in that country. Was this country prepared to follow such examples? As a proof of friendliness to the personal liberties of the members of these institutions the hon. Member proposed to invoke the assistance of the Commissioners of Lunacy, and he also empowered his Commission to report on the increased facilities for emigration that should be afforded to women. What did he mean by that? Why, that nuns should be assisted by the State to emigrate, with or without their consent. With regard to the hon. Member's assertion that Roman Catholic charities were exempted from the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners, the Act of 1853 made an exception of Catholic charities, simply because under the law against so-called superstitious uses, the endowments would have been forfeited if the deeds had been brought under the attention of the Commissioners at that time. That exemption was renewed from year to year until 1860, when Parliament gave a limited protection to Catholic charities, and since that period they had been governed in all respects by exactly the same laws as were applicable to Protestant charities. Therefore, there was no ground for the legislation which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire asked for. It was true, however, that some convents and monasteries did not come under the notice of the Charity Commissioners for the simple reason that they were not charities. The hon. Member said that the last paragraph of the Report conclusively showed that some further action by Parliament was necessary; but the fact was, that the Committee were struck by the monstrous anomaly of the present law, and that paragraph was intended as a hint to Parliament in a sense friendly to these institutions. The hon. Gentleman had quoted. cases—the case of Cox v. Manners—to show that convents took property contrary to the spirit of the mortmain laws; but then, not being a lawyer, he was on strange ground, for the convent not being a corporation could not receive property; but it was probable that someone, as a trustee, did take property for an institution of the kind. The hon. Gentleman had also cited the case of Saurin v. Starr; but if there was ever a case which showed there was no necessity for this Bill, it was that case, inasmuch as it put the public in possession of everything relating to the internal life of a convent.
denied having said anything of the sort. What he said was, that a certain cloistered convent in this country had taken impure personalty, and he added that cloistered convents were unauthorized convents in France.
thought that amounted to much the same thing in other words. The fact, however, was there was nothing in the law of France to prevent trustees from holding property for cloistered convents. The animus of the hon. Gentleman might be gathered from his proposal that the Lunacy Commissioners should appoint one of the Commissioners, thereby intimating that the gentlemen and ladies who joined those Orders were lunatics. He protested against the Bill, not merely because it was one which was directed against Roman Catholic institutions, but because of its illiberal, inquisitorial, and unconstitutional character, and for that reason must express an earnest hope that the House would throw out the Bill.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—( Mr. Pease.)
Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
said, it was absurd to say that because these institutions consisted of religious Orders they should not be interfered with. He believed there was an almost unanimous feeling in the country that we ought not to submit to the violations of our national independence, which were perpetrated by men who called themselves Catholics. What, he should like to know, were the manners and customs of the Roman Catholic religion as it was practised in this country? It was high time, in his humble opinion, for people to ask themselves whether they ought any longer to tolerate and encourage by public money or by silence many of the doctrines and practices of that religion. In spite of the general concurrence of opinion out-of-doors, that these institutions should not be closed against Government supervision, they were called upon not merely to tolerate, but to support them, for it appeared that a special object for which Her Majesty's Government existed, was their support and encouragement. For the last 20 years there had been a continual increase of them all over the country, and Roman Catholic influence was spreading generally. He, therefore, thought that all Members who on previous occasions had voted for the inspection of convents were doubly bound to give their support to the present Bill.
said, the House would remember that in 1851 the public mind was highly excited on the subject of the Papal aggression. In that year a Bill of this description was rejected by a large majority. In the same year the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) stated that in the cells of a convent near his residence dark deeds had been committed, for dead bodies were found, and no coroner's inquest had been held. In 1870 the hon. Member had further moved for a Return of all the coroners' inquests held on the bodies of inmates of religious houses, and what was the result? Why, three were held; one upon a person who was found dead in his bed—a young priest from Ireland— a second upon one who died from heart disease, and a third upon a drowned man. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: Those inquests were held on priests, but none were held on nuns.] There were none held because there was no occasion to do so. Those nunneries and convents did much for the promotion of education, and was it right for the hon. Member to ask a Liberal House of Commons to interfere with those useful institutions? Was the House prepared to pass a Bill of this description on the request of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, who was afflicted by monomania on this subject, or of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley), who had recently published a letter which cast a most undeserved insult upon all Roman Catholics, inasmuch as it suggested that the evidence of the Roman Catholic witnesses in a pending trial could not be acted upon, they being governed by other influences than those which ought to actuate them? Yet both hon. Members affected to carry on this agitation out of pure affection to Roman Catholics. Although the Roman Catholics of the United Kingdom amounted to 6,500,000, and that they were the persons having the greatest interest in this question, no Roman Catholic had asked for the inspection of these institutions. If there was any hardship practised upon the inmates of Monastic and Conventual Institutions, who, after themselves, were most aggrieved? Their relatives. Yet there was not a single Petition of a relative of a person immured in these convents in favour of such an inspection as was now proposed. The vows of the inmates were taken in the most public manner, and after the fullest inquiry as to whether it was the real wish of the person taking them to do so, and even after they had been six months in a convent or monastery, they could leave it, if they chose. It would be a violation of their vows, but still they could do so with impunity, so far as the authorities of the convent were concerned. The fact, however, was that many of them did so, and got married and became mothers. The nuns were visited by their parents and friends, who had more interest in their welfare than the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, and who could take them out of those nunneries if they thought proper. What excuse, then, had the hon. Member for annually disturbing the House and the country on this subject? He trusted that that would be the last occasion when useful legislation would be retarded by discussions like the present.
said, that such an exhibition as had been witnessed that day, he had never seen since he had the honour of a seat in that House. While the Speaker was in the Chair, the House had been counted, although it must have been perfectly well known that the right hon. Gentleman could not leave the Chair until 4 o'clock. Such a proceeding was not less disrespectful to the Speaker than to the House, and was, in his opinion, quite unworthy of the House of Commons. He was not himself particular in using the forms of the House for an object; but he should not think of straining them to the extent that had been attempted that day. When, moreover, it was found that hon. Members were all but using violent means to prevent other hon. Members from entering the House, he could not help saying that such proceedings were a disgrace to the House of Commons. It appeared on evidence which could not be disputed that there were in England 69 monasteries, which were institutions contrary to the law, and 239 religious establishments altogether. Was it not clearly against public policy that these should be filled with persons in regard to whom no one knew who they were or whence they came? If a Protestant parent had a daughter who had escaped with the intention of entering one of these convents, would they tell him whether she was there or not? He ventured to say they would not. In Prussia the police were aware of the names, &c., of all those who entered these institutions. The same rule prevailed in France, so that if you wanted to know where any person was to be found the police could give the requisite information. He complained that the Prime Minister had limited the power of the Committee by the Resolution which he had carried, subsequent to that one which the House had passed at the instigation of his hon. Friend (Mr. Newdegate). He thought hon. Members before the next Election would have to say "Aye" or "No," whether they were in favour of some inspection or registration of these institutions, because it was contrary to the liberty of the country that they should exist as at present. It was said by Roman Catholic Members that the Bill was contrary to the liberties of the people; but had the Roman Catholic Church ever been the parent of liberty? All history contradicted such an assertion. Was it not well known that hon. Members were returned to that House for Irish constituencies by the influence of their priests? They could not therefore be considered independent men. ["Name, name!"] All of them.
said, it was not Parliamentary language to speak of any body of men in that House as otherwise than a body of independent Members.
said, that he withdrew the observation, but he had felt impelled to make it by a sense of duty.
appealed to the Chair whether that was a withdrawal.
I understood the hon. Member to withdraw the observation. ["Withdraw!"]
I have obeyed the Speaker, and I shall obey no one else. I have no concern with hon. Members opposite.
appealed to the Speaker to say, whether the hon. Member, after what he had said, had withdrawn the charge.
I certainly understood the hon. Member to withdraw the observation.
resuming, said, that he was, in the fullest sense of the word, a Protestant—a good old word that had been too long forgotten, and he was just as much opposed to the semi-Papal portion of our own Church as to the Roman Catholics. He would, indeed, rather belong to the Roman Catholic faith than have his soul taken care of by the clergy of a half-and-half faith. If it was the desire of the country that these establishments should exist, they would remain, but that had to be seen. There was no desire on the part of the supporters of the measure to offer any insult to Roman Catholics; but they deemed it to be against public policy, that there should be confined in certain houses in this country, communities of men and women without any knowledge respecting who they were or whence they came.
said, that when the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) produced Petitions, either from the inmates of convents or monasteries, or from their relatives, complaining of specific grievances, he would be entitled to ask for such a Bill, but not before. If the Bill had been sanctioned by any appreciable part of the Roman Catholic laity, the hon. Member would be supported not only by Petitions from them, but by facts, which were entirely wanting in the present case. During the inquiry before the Committee the hon. Member asked not less than 1,222 questions, and if he failed under such circumstances to elicit the truth, what amount of inquiry on the part of a Royal Commission was likely to bring it out. Various witnesses had also been examined before the Committee, but with respect to many of those on whose evidence the hon. Gentleman had principally relied, the Committee found that they had not been able to substantiate any grievance. There were several Anglican institutions of the same kind, but the evidence showed, that as to restrictions in nunneries they were not greater or more severe than in Anglican institutions, yet no complaint was made against those Anglican institutions. The hon. Member said he did not desire to insult or annoy any of the ladies in these institutions, but his allegations as to the dungeons at Princethorpe and other matters imputed positive crimes to those concerned. Was not that an insult? All the alleged grievances brought before the Committee of 1865 had vanished during the later inquiry. [Mr. NEWDEGATE said, the Committee had been precluded by its instructions from inquiry into such cases.] The allusion to Palmer, the poisoner of Rugeley, must be understood as an insult, as well as the suggestion that such crimes as secret poisoning. were committed in these establishments, and other things which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire said they did not like down in the Midland counties. With respect to the number of these institutions reference had been made to a speech by Cardinal Wiseman, in which he stated there were a large number of these monastic institutions, and that they were increasing. He had no doubt that the Cardinal did make such a speech, but The Roman Catholic Directory contained the exact number of these institutions. The fact, however, was there was good reason for believing that the number of really monastic institutions was much less than the number stated in The Roman Catholic Directory, for reasons explained by Mr. Cuddon, although the statements made in The Directory were said to be permissu Superiorum, to elucidate the meaning of which phrase 120 questions were asked. That explanation was, that in many cases these so called monastic institutions were occupied by only one or two priests, who performed purely parochial duties. They were not monastic institutions, but purely parochial churches, ministered to by one, two, or three of the regular clergy, in proportion to the number of the population. It was right, he thought, also to allay the apprehensions generally excited by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire as to the enormous wealth of these institutions. He had a Return before him, in which a large number of these monastic establishments were rated at only from £6 to £10 and £16 a-year. As to the increase of the establishments, it was shown that the increase since 1870 had only been at the rate of 2½ per cent, and surely, taking the increase of population in London and all the large towns, that was no more than was absolutely requisite for religious instruction and consolation. He (Mr. Serjeant Sherlock) contended that even if the hon. Member had some grounds for asking for an inquiry in the first instance, he had none whatever at the present time, because he had no new facts to bring forward. If the number of monastic institutions were to be greatly increased, there might then be some reason for complaint; but at present, at any rate, there was no fear of anything of the kind taking place, and he thought therefore the House should hesitate before they passed a Bill the result of which would be insult and annoyance, however much the hon. Member might object to the expressions. He therefore hoped the House would come to the conclusion that the matter had been fully investigated by a Committee of that House, and that no grounds whatever had been shown for the passing of the Bill now before them.
said, that he should not attempt at that hour to answer the objections which had been urged against the Bill. He desired, however, to notice the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for King's County (Mr. Serjeant Sherlock); and to remind the hon. and learned Member that his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had at the time distinctly stated in the House the reasons why he could no longer serve on the Committee of 1870. His hon. Friend was not satisfied with the decision of the Committee in the matter of taking evidence. He (Mr. Holt) desired also to set the House right on another point. He believed he was correct in saying that the Journals of the House would show that the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Sir Thomas Chambers) was discharged from serving on the Conventual Committee in 1871. He (Mr. Holt) wished to recall the attention of the House to the question under consideration. It was a proposal for an inquiry "by Commissioners respecting the increase and character of Monastic and Conventual Institutions in Great Britain." He regarded the proposed inquiry as a necessary consequence of the partial inquiry of 1870. He based his arguments in favour of the Bill upon, first, the fact of the recent increase of Conventual and Monastic Institutions in the country, a fact admitted in the debate. Next, upon the opinion recorded in the evidence, taken before the Committee of 1870, that those institutions were illegal. He did not refer to Orders of men only; but it was the opinion of eminent Roman Catholic lawyers that nunneries were as illegal as monasteries. Thirdly, it had been admitted both by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department and by a Roman Catholic Member on the opposite benches (Mr. Synan) that amendment of the law was desirable. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State said—
The position of affairs then was this—There existed numerous Monastic and Conventual Institutions in this country. The fact could not be disputed that they were on the increase, and it was asserted that they were all alike illegal. What he desired was, that they should be either rendered legal, or otherwise dealt with. He (Mr. Holt) urged that the criticisms passed on the Bill were unfair. The hon. Member for South Dur- ham (Mr. Pease) in criticizing the duties to be entrusted to the Commissioners had entirely kept out of sight the important provisions of the 2nd section. He had alluded only to that part of the section which related to the inquiries by the Commissioners into the numbers of these institutions; but had omitted to notice the important words of the section. The Commissioners were also to inquire into "the respective situations and character of Monastic and Conventual Institutions," and though he spoke of their property and income as having been already the subject of inquiry, he omitted to read the sub-section to the end—"there could be no doubt that the present state of the law justified the introduction of a measure on the subject."—[3 Hansard, ccx. 1712, 1713.]
Those were subjects excluded from the inquiry of the Committee of 1870, but he contended that an inquiry into these subjects was a necessary preliminary step to any legislation. That inquiry was the object of the Bill. He and his Friends asked for inquiry. They knew these communities existed; they were not satisfied that they should continue to exist beyond the control of the law. They desired to know that their inmates were not detained by bolts and bars, but only by moral suasion; that as they were free to enter so they were free to leave, and were neither forced to depart, nor forced to remain at the will of the Superior. He hoped the House would see fit to read the Bill a second time, and by so doing admit the principle that further inquiry was desirable."Whether the mode of acquisition and the holding thereof, or the purposes for which the same is held are in contravention of the principle of the law."
said, the Bill was drawn up in the most disingenuous manner, and refused to believe that the House would assent to such an inquisitorial measure. Why, the hon. Member who introduced the Bill called upon the House to inquire who and what were the inmates of convents! In his opinion, they might as well ask who and what were the ladies within the hon. Member's own house.
said, he hoped that the apprehensions of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's (Mr. Greene) would be found to be without foundation, and that instead of the Bill being talked out a division would be taken. In his (Mr. M. Henry's) opinion the Roman Catholic Members of the House had been put upon their trial on these subjects often enough, and it was time the House came to a positive decision. The annual Motions of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) were becoming an intolerable nuisance; for they not only wasted public time, but they were calculated to excite and perpetuate deplorable passions and vehement likes and dislikes. If it was not for the proverbial good humour of the House of Commons it was impossible that these perpetual attacks upon the cherished convictions of large classes of their fellow-countrymen could have continued so long without giving rise to scenes and recriminations that were better avoided. Three years ago, the hon. Gentleman obtained his Committee of Inquiry, and from the admirable speech of the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease), they learned how full and complete that inquiry had been, and how entirely all the charges of the hon. Member had broken down. Still, he and the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) continued to indulge themselves in these ungenerous attacks, and supported them not by arguments, but by offensive insinuations and vague charges which vanished the moment the light of investigation was turned upon them. It was far better, therefore, that the division should be taken, and that every man should have the opportunity of showing his hand; and, for his part, he rejoiced that a General Election was approaching, and that the friends and foes of liberty should be clearly separated from each other. With that view, he would just remind English Members that as there was not a single Roman Catholic returned for an English or Scotch constituency, the duty was especially cast upon them of defending the large class of their fellow-countrymen whose faith was the subject of these attacks. In saying that he was quite aware that one hon. Member had abandoned the Protestant faith since his election, and it was well understood that on that account he would never be returned again. The House, therefore, had no opportunities of learning the views of the English Roman Catholics, except from the representations of the Irish Members; but they could entertain no doubt but that these attacks were as offensive to them, as they assuredly were to the people of Ireland who constituted the bulk of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects.
said, he wished to explain, that having pledged himself not to vote upon any question in that House, he did not intend to vote for or against the Bill, but desired to convey to his Roman Catholic constituents and friends his sentiments of indignation against the measure. He was sure the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) did not intend to do injustice or injury to anyone. The hon. Member was moved simply by pure bigotry. The Roman Catholics of Ireland or England, however, did not ask for the protection sought to be afforded them, and it was therefore an insult to force it on them, and one in which he for one would not join.
in reply, said, I will detain the House for only a few minutes. I beg to assure hon. Members from Ireland that the intention of the Bill is neither to establish any exclusive privilege to one particular sect, nor to injure Roman Catholics; but it evinces a determination that an Irish domination shall not be established in England or in Scotland. The Bill applies in no way to Ireland. I will only refer to one other point. Comment has been made upon one clause of the Bill, which would direct the Commissioners to inquire, whether provision should not be made for assisting the emigration of women. That clause is not essential to the Bill, but was introduced for this reason—that in the case of the convent at Colwich, when the lady who had escaped from it had been traced by the direction of Mr. Justice Wightman to the convent at Wimborne, she was asked whether she desired to leave conventual life. She answered that she did not, and she gave this reason—"What could I do, if I left? All my friends are Roman Catholics, and they would turn their backs upon me. And what do I know of life?" This is deposed to in the evidence. There might be other cases like that of Miss Selby, and I think the House would do well to inquire what provision can be made for such unhappy persons as may be discovered to be desirous of leaving a conventual life; but that clause is not essential to the Bill. The Bill which I ask the House to read a second time is not intended to be permanent in its operation or inquisitorial. It is intended to supply a deficiency of information, which the Committee of 1870–71 admitted in their Report; for the last paragraph of that Report states that the investigations which that Committee were able to conduct within their Instructions were not sufficient to enable them to recommend any alteration of the law. That is the concluding paragraph of the Report, and with that Report in my hand—and as no other hon. Member has undertaken the task—at the instance of hundreds of thousands of persons, I ventured to ask the House to authorize and institute some such inquiry as the Bill proposes; but in such terms, as the House shall in Committee decide. The primary object of the Bill is to prepare the way for terminating the privilege of exemption from State control, and from the operation of the law which these Roman Catholic institutions possess, an exemption which is permitted to the institutions of no other denomination. With these observations, I venture to recommend the Bill to the approval of the House.
The House divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 131: Majority 35.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Bill put off for three months.
House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.