{251} [Rambler, July 1859.]

Contemporary Events

Home Affairs

1. The New Parliament

On April 19, in her Speech dissolving Parliament, her Majesty used the following words, which express more of political principle and personal feeling than is usual with such state-papers:

"We are commanded by her Majesty to inform you that it is her Majesty's intention forthwith to dissolve the present Parliament, with a view to enable her people to express, in the mode prescribed by the constitution, their opinions on the state of public affairs.

"Her Majesty commands us to inform you that the appeal which she is about to make to her people has been rendered necessary by the difficulties experienced in carrying on the public business of the country, as indicated by the fact that within little more than a year two successive Administrations have failed to retain the confidence of the House of Commons; and her Majesty prays that, under the blessing of Divine Providence, the step which she is about to take may have the effect of facilitating the discharge of her high functions, and of enabling her to conduct the government of the country under the advice of a Ministry possessed of the confidence of her Parliament and people."

Parliament accordingly was dissolved in the ordinary way on April 23, and the elections followed.

The new Parliament, the sixth of the present reign, was opened by the Queen in person on the 7th of June.

Two questions were before the country,—its home policy and its foreign the questions of Parliamentary Reform, and of the French Alliance. The former of the two administrations, of which the Queen speaks in her speech on dissolving Parliament, had lost power on the foreign question; the ministry which succeeded had lost the confidence of the House of Commons on the home question, and had only staved off a resignation by the dissolution, which had been the main subject of her Majesty's Speech.

2. Debate in the Commons on the Queen's Speech, and Amendment on it carried

In her Speech in opening the new Parliament, the Queen spoke of both questions thus:

Of the foreign, which, though it had taken a very different shape, was substantially the same as that on which Lord Palmerston lost office:

"War has been declared between France and Sardinia on one side, and Austria on the other. Receiving assurances of friendship from both the contending parties, I intend to maintain between them a strict and impartial neutrality; and I hope, with God's assistance, to preserve to my people the blessing of continued peace."

Of the home, which was the difficulty of Lord Derby:

"I should with pleasure give my sanction to any well-considered measure for the amendment of the laws which regulate the representation of my people in Parliament; and, should you be of opinion that the necessity of giving your immediate attention to measures of urgency relating to the defence and financial condition of the country will not leave you sufficient time for legislating, with due deliberation, during the present session, on a subject at once so difficult and so extensive, I trust that at the commencement of the next session your earnest attention will be given to a question, of which an early and satisfactory settlement would be greatly to the public advantage."

In the House of Commons the opposition moved an amendment on the Address in answer to the Royal Speech. Lord Hartington, who was their spokesman, said:

"I do not suppose her Majesty's Government can complain of the course which we are taking. The issue which we now put to the House is simply that which the Government have already put to the people. And it is to that question that I now ask the representatives {252} of the people to give an answer. In dissolving the late Parliament, her Majesty's Government had not done so upon any particular measure. They did not complain that they were not supported in their foreign policy. They simply put this issue to the country; they said, 'For two sessions we have endeavoured to carry on the business of the country, without being able, upon a party division, to go into the lobby with a majority of this house.' They said that such a position was no longer consistent with their own dignity or advantageous to the country. And they asked the country to return a House of Commons which might convert their minority into a majority. Sir, I hope that the decision of the challenge which has been thus thrown down, and which we thus accept, will, at the conclusion of this debate, be received by both Parties in a spirit of fairness and of honour. For myself I can say, and I believe that in so doing I speak the sentiments of almost all the members on this side of the house, that if we are defeated on this amendment we shall cheerfully and willingly bow to the decision of the House. We shall then know what is our position as an opposition."

The Amendment ran in the following strong form of words:

"We beg humbly to submit to your Majesty that it is essential, in order to secure these satisfactory results, and particularly in the discharge of these high functions, that your Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of this House and of the country; and we deem it our duty respectfully to represent to your Majesty that such confidence is not reposed in your Majesty's present Government."

On the morning of June 11, 2 a.m., the division took place, when Government was defeated in a House of 633 members by a majority of 13; 323 being for the amendment, and 310 against it.

3. Resignation of Conservative Ministry; their Successors

Government resigned a few hours after the division. The Queen in consequence sent for Lord Granville in the afternoon of the same day. What ensued will be told most accurately in the words, not of the noble lords who took part in the proceedings, but of the Times newspaper; we say this because on the one hand there is less of diplomatic reserve in its account, and on the other because Lord Derby in the house implied, and Lord Granville also, that it was so true that it ought never to have been published. The account is as follows: her Majesty desired Lord Granville to form an administration, strong in ability and parliamentary power, which should also at the same time comprehend within itself every section of the Liberal party. She said, moreover, that she preferred to betake herself to Lord Granville, because it was invidious to have to choose between two such meritorious statesmen as Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell. Lord Granville in consequence addressed himself to both statesmen. Lord Palmerston, "in the handsomest manner, and without the slightest hesitation," consented to wave his claims and to act under Lord Granville; but Lord John Russell "was disposed to insist upon conditions which would render any union or cooperation impossible, whether under the premiership of Lord Granville or anyone else." What Lord John's motive was for such a course of action was not stated. The issue was, that the Queen sent for Lord Palmerston, who, after some days' negotiation, succeeded in forming a ministry; Lord John Russell undertaking the Foreign Secretaryship; on the other hand, Lord Clarendon being excluded from the ministry. The arrangement of offices runs thus:

First Lord of the Treasury,
Viscount Palmerston.
Chancellor of the Exchequer,
Mr. Gladstone.
Home Secretary,
Sir G. C. Lewis.
Colonial Secretary,
Duke of Newcastle.
India Secretary,
Sir C. Wood.
Foreign Secretary,
Lord John Russell.
War Secretary,
Mr. Sidney Herbert.
First Lord of the Admiralty,
The Duke of Somerset.
Lord Chancellor,
Lord Campbell. {253}
President of the Council,
Earl Granville.
Privy Seal,
Duke of Argyll.
Earl of Elgin.
President of the Board of Trade,
Mr. Cobden.
President of the Poor-Law Board,
Mr. Milner Gibson.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster,
Sir G. Grey.
Secretary for Ireland,
Mr. Cardwell.


Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,
Lord Carlisle.

The only light thrown upon the intended policy of the new Administration is contained in the address of Lord Palmerston to the Liberal members of Parliament, at their meeting prior to the opening of the session. On that occasion he insisted strongly on the duty of maintaining a strict neutrality, and declared he could not foresee any circumstance which would render the hostile intervention of England necessary. He added that, in his opinion, nothing was so conducive to the interests of Europe or the preservation of peace as the maintenance of a strict alliance between England and France. He had also stated his desire, we believe on the hustings, that Italy should be rid of the Austrians.

As a mark of special favour, her Majesty has proposed to confer on Lord Derby the Order of the Garter; and, as there is no garter vacant, she will summon an extraordinary chapter for that purpose. Her Majesty also confers the Grand Cross of the Bath on Lord Malmesbury and Sir John Pakington.

4. The Cardinal Archbishop and the Irish Elections

One of the most remarkable, and not the most pleasant, incidents of the late elections, is what the Liberal and provincial papers called "the alliance between the Government and Cardinal Wiseman." The allegation was for the most part a mere party cry, used against the Government; and it has doubtless had its effect in adding to their unpopularity: but it has been taken up by persons of such high character, that it is disrespectful to them to say that, untrue though it might be, there was no plausible reason for believing in it. We cannot bring ourselves to think that there might not have been more caution on the Cardinal's part, when his conduct has excited the displeasure of gentlemen who have the claims to our respect which are possessed by Mr. More O'Ferrall. On the hustings he professed his conviction, that adhesion to the Conservative party on the part of Catholics tended to overturn all the interests, and defeat the best hopes, of Ireland; and then he went on to say that "not only for the peace and real welfare of the country, but for the credit of the religion to which he belonged, he deeply and sincerely deplored that such a course had been adopted; and, if persevered in, it would end disastrously. He the more sincerely deplored it, if statements, which he had heard, were true, that the course had been instigated by persons of high position—persons who, above all others, should be the last to do any thing that would breed ill-feeling and ill-will among men." The newspapers which reported these words, considered them directed against the Cardinal Archbishop; and, as we have seen no other explanation of them, we cannot doubt that such is the case.

When unwarrantable proceedings are imputed to the highest dignitary of the English Church by Catholics of consideration, it is useless to complain of similar imputations on the part of the enemies both of Catholicism and Conservatism. What we have a right to complain of, or rather not to complain of (because it is not worth complaining of what is only one instance out of ten thousand wrongs of a similar kind which are the lot of the Catholics of England)—what we wish to protest against and deny is, the motive which has been alleged to account for the conduct of the Cardinal and others in supporting the Conservative Ministry. So strong an effort has been made, it is said, that it implies the presence of an unusual power to have caused it. That a newspaper, a long-established and able organ of Catholic and Irish principles, should have taken part with an Orange ministry, and avowed a Conservative policy, may well startle the English public, which has ever associated Catholics with Whigs and Destructives. That, for the first time since the Reform Bill, the Tories should have a majority in the Irish elections, {254} is a phenomenon which needs to be accounted for. On the other hand, is it not obvious that the Pope must be looking a bout for political support amid the perils which at present environ him?—and why should he not give his orders to the English Cardinal to make overtures of alliance to a Conservative Ministry, who, like himself, have need of assistance? It is easy to make out a case on almost any subject. The Prince of Wales has been at Rome; the Pope has made the Queen a present, as the Cardinal himself confesses, and her Majesty has acknowledged it in an autograph letter. Moreover, it is no secret that in the highest quarters at Rome Lord Palmerston inspires no respect or confidence whatever; whereas the Conservative leaders, enemies though they be, are felt to be men of honour and of their word. And it might easily be made to appear, to prejudiced minds, that the Cardinal's progress through Ireland last autumn was part of a pre-arranged scheme, intended to pave the way for a grand manœuvre in the tactics of the Catholic body.

Nor was this all that has disquieted the English mind. The Cardinal had never been a Tory; how does he himself account for his change? His friends and others, who have felt or acted with him in his support of the Conservatives, have assigned a reason; and a weaker reason, it is said, could not have been put forward. Nothing is so little tolerated by the public as the pretence that any one acts on so impossible a motive as pure philanthropy; and a philanthropical reason was assigned by Catholic prelates and priests as their inducement for wishing a continuance of the Conservatives in power. "Every man has his price," said a celebrated statesman; had the Cardinal boldly avowed that he wished to advance his social position by means of his new friends, had he asked to be received at court, had he bargained for office or emolument in behalf of Catholic noblemen, lawyers, or Members of Parliament, his conduct would have excited no suspicion, every thing would have been above board and honest; but that a prince of the Church, that a member of the Sacred College, that one who bears the historic name of Cardinal, should care for the souls of the degraded and outcast, and should pretend that he was exerting himself so strenuously in the political arena, and incurring the unpopularity of Derbyism, as well as the slur of tergiversation, merely for the sake of old women in workhouses, and criminals in gaols, this was too great a tax upon the credulity of the 19th century; and was to be accepted as true only when Louis Napoleon is credited as having crossed the Alps simply from a hatred of despotism, and at the agonising cry of Italy.

We are but drawing out in our own words what the opponents of Lord Derby have really suggested. Strange to say, men have been found who were nave enough to put upon paper the ground of their suspicion. It was the statement of the editor of a provincial journal, whose argument has been so many times repeated up and down the country, as to show how exactly it expressed public opinion on the point to which he directed attention. A Catholic nobleman, he said, had gone about making promises to his co-religionists from Lord Derby, on condition of their supporting his government; and what ostensible promises forsooth? "To put the Catholics into power?—not at all; to make magistrates of the Catholics?—not at all; but to place Catholic gaol-chaplains in England upon the same footing as Catholic chaplains in Ireland." Who, indeed, could believe—who with a grave face could profess—that a Cardinal was able to care one jot about prisoners, or their spiritual consolation, or the low jobbing priests whose business it might happen to be to administer it? if his Eminence were telling the real reason for his political conversion, doubtless he should not have had to listen to an explanation so ludicrously insufficient; and the concealment of the price was the index of the secret articles of a treaty.

All this suspiciousness is as absurd as it is ignorant; at the same time, it is an evidence that our public patronage of Lord Derby has not turned out to his political advantage. We fear he must be saying, Deliver me from my friends. Catholics have brought on him a great deal of odium. The Conservative party must be every thing that is bigoted and retrograde, the world reflected, if Catholics can have canvassed for it con amore. Its foreign policy has in consequence been treated with great injustice. Lord Derby was thought to favour the Austrians because we favoured him and Lord Malmesbury's sensible and out-spoken despatches, {255} published since the elections, have astonished those who thought that the Premier, at the price of Catholic votes, had made a bargain with the Vatican to go to war with France that Austria might retain her hold upon Italy.

Lord Derby, in his speech at the opening of the new Parliament, put the matter in its true light; and it is remarkable, that the account which he gives of the feeling of Catholics towards his ministry is identical with the avowal which some years since we heard made on the subject abroad, in a quarter to which we have already alluded. The Conservatives, it was said, are our enemies, but they will play us no petty underhand tricks; we can trust their word. Lord Derby said in the debate on the Address: "I know that, before the late dissolution, I was told by Conservative Roman Catholics that they were very glad to be able, without violating their religious or their political principles, to give a support to the present government which they had never been able to give to any Conservative government before. But, my lords, they based that support not upon any compact that has been entered into with them by her Majesty's Government, but on that which has been done in the face of the world, not for political considerations, unless you give that name to the obligation which we have as a government always felt under to do what was right. Subsequently to the dissolution, it was stated in a letter written by Cardinal Wiseman to a gentleman in Ireland, and extensively circulated, that Roman Catholic gentlemen had given the Government their support, but without any pledges on the part of Government, because they found that as Roman Catholics they were treated with more frankness and in a more straightforward manner by the present than by any former government. I do not think that is a support of which the Government on the one side, or the Roman Catholics on the other, have any reason to be ashamed. We acted as we have done towards the Roman Catholics in the discharge of our public duty, because we thought they were fairly entitled to be treated in the manner we have treated them. We shall pursue the same course. W shall give them whatever indulgence—or fair dealing, I should rather say—we think them legitimately entitled to; but we shall not give them the slightest thing that can prejudice or impair the interests of that Church to which we belong, and which we think we are bound to support. If Roman Catholic gentlemen think themselves justified in giving their support to a government which makes them no promises but that it shall deal them substantial justice, I say that neither they nor we should be ashamed of that measure of support, such as it is, which they have given."

5. Policy of English Catholics towards Political Parties

In thus professing to feel no difficulty at the Cardinal Archbishop's change of political views, we are not implying that we are the active partisans of those views, or are urging them upon others. We do not presume to criticise what he has done; but, for ourselves, looking at the thing in itself, we like neither Whig or Tory well enough to canvass in their interest. We are speaking only of the Catholic constituency; and, speaking of them, we express our belief that it is a mistake to attempt to form Catholics into a political party, and a greater to make Whig principles or Tory principles the basis of such a party's action, if there be a party. As to the latter of these points, so little do we care for mere politics in our representatives in Parliament, that we see no inconsistency in voting for two candidates who stood against each other, and whom others were plumping for, so that they both promised to be fair to Catholic interests. We do not say that mere political interests and principles, and points of social expedience, may not rightly interest a Catholic's vote; nor are we denying the possibility of a state of parties such, that absolute truth and right are on one side, and that the other cannot deliberately be advocated without an error or a crime; we only say, that if a man aims at serving Catholicism, and nothing short of it, by his vote in the year 1859, he may fairly vote for two men, one of them an anti-Establishment Independent, and the other a Laudian high-churchman, provided that they both, for instance, promise to do us justice in the matter of schools, army and navy, workhouses, prisons, and the like. But, if this be so, then it is an absurdity {256} to talk of an alliance of Catholics with Conservatives, or Whigs, or Liberals, or Progressists; unless, and so long as, any one of these parties takes upon itself the championship of Catholic grievances, and the other parties combine to perpetuate them. And in this point of view we assent to an observation in the speeches of several members of Parliament, Mr. Sidney Herbert especially, who says, speaking of the influence of the Derby ministry on Catholic voters, that "he had no reason to complain of the course which the Government had taken as respected the public interest; and if they had broken up a system which had led to differences in Ireland of an interminable nature, they had conferred a great advantage. He had no objection to see Irish Roman Catholics sitting on the opposite benches, for he had always considered it a great misfortune that every Irish Roman Catholic should feel bound to support the Liberal, and every Protestant in Ireland should belong to the Conservative party; and any thing granted in a conciliatory spirit to the Irish Roman Catholics, without imputation of dishonour to the Government, was in its favour, being in itself wise policy."

Surely this is the language of common sense: Catholics in these countries are not all taken out of one class; they do not form one body naturally; how can you bring them into one body? and why should you expect them to have the opinions of any one set of public men? The Wesleyans, the Quakers, the Unitarians, for the most part belong to one class in society; it is natural that their political, social, and secular interests should be the same. It is not so with Catholics, for the very reason that their Church is Catholic. It gathers of every kind; it has specimens of every class in the community, of high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned. The children of Whigs and of Tories, the families of high-church dignitaries, the heirs of great territorial possessions, professional men, high-born ladies, agriculture, trade, manufactures, the shop-keepers of towns, mechanics, peasants, the poor, the indigent,—they all meet together in our religious pale. How can we ever attempt to form one social body, one temporal interest, out of them? It is notorious to the world that, in matter of fact, Catholics are broken up into parties: some men wonder at this, others are scandalised at it; but it takes place from the nature of the case. It cannot be otherwise. When a community is Catholic, every interest, every principle, finds its place there; every centre has its circumference; "birds of a feather flock together." But when it is Protestant, and Catholics are rari nantes in gurgite vasto, the accidental yield of a barren soil, then there will exist among Catholics associations the most fantastic, and combinations the most incongruous, viewed in a secular aspect, as being all brought together by unity of faith in what is unearthly. Here, there will be a chaos of atoms, without the commanding archetypal minds to divide them off into sets and bring them into shape. There, we shall find original intellects, with the power of influence, war with each other, because they can find no dependents to cluster around them, and to locate them at safe distances from each other. "Every thing is double," says a sacred writer: but this is not meant to apply to a small and sparse communion such as ours, in which it need not surprise us though every thing were odd, every thing wanted its fellow, correlatives were hunting for each other, and contraries were linked in indissoluble bonds.

Nor does this description do full justice to this peculiarity of the Catholicism of these islands. Each place, as well as each class, has its own characteristics; and the interests of the Church, which are the same every where, are worked out by different methods, according to the particular town or the particular county. In consequence, every place must take care of itself, and measures may be said to be good or bad according to the latitude. This is true to that extent, that we have heard sagacious men say, that even in Ireland, a Catholic country, the existing divergence of diocese from diocese was almost in the nature of things. The Archbishop of Dublin cannot, from tenderness to the souls of his flock, imitate the excursive movements of an Archbishop of the West; and political concord is rudely overmastered and shattered by ecclesiastical expedience. Mutatis mutandis, the same remark applies to England also. {257}

How chimerical, then, is the attempt to form a sort of Catholic political union! We hold by what was spoken and published some years ago, though we cannot afford space for more than a few abridged sentences of the extended argument. "You see," the speaker said, "where your success lies, and how you are to secure it. If a battle is coming, stand on your own ground, not on the ground of others; take care of yourselves. This I would say, not only to you, but, if I had a right to do so, to the Catholics of England generally. Let each stand on his own ground; let each approve himself to his own neighbourhood; if each is defended, the whole is secured. You are attacked on many sides. Do not look about for friends; trust no body of men. Your strength lies not in your number; you are enabled to mix with others while you are few, and you might be thrown back upon yourselves when you became many. It would be a terrible state of things, to be growing in material power, and to lie growing also in a compulsory exclusiveness."

With these feelings strong and deep in our minds, we confess we desire as little as we expect that the Catholic constituency should be Whig, Tory, or Radical. It is our belief that, as things are, a more powerful influence is exerted upon our public men and upon the public mind, and, in consequence, more real advantage, when Catholic gentlemen try to serve their country in their own place, and follow out their own political convictions in their own way, than when they attempt to agree among themselves on some political creed, in which they cannot all take part without compromise or without the danger of inconsistency in the event. Accordingly we look with no sort of pleasure at all at the popular impression of the moment, which newspapers hostile to the Cardinal have created, that his Eminence in political matters represents English or Irish Catholics, or that he is the spokesman of any foreign authority, Cardinal Antonelli or Cardinal Barnabo, who could not possibly divine, nor would dream of deciding, what was best for Catholic interests in Dublin or Limerick, in Manchester, Birmingham, or Nottingham. On the other hand, it is a great gratification to any Catholic to find his own independent view of politics on any occasion the same as those of the Cardinal; and no writer in the Times or the Morning Post shall deprive us of the honour of having our personal convictions confirmed by so high an authority, by attempting to get it believed that what his been our honest conclusion from premisses is a mere inspiration.

6. The Catholic University

If Lord Derby has been embarrassed by the cry which has been raised against the Cardinal, Catholic interests have suffered from it also. Perhaps it was simply impossible for a Conservative Ministry to grant a charter to the new University, when once the attention of the Orange faction was drawn to the negotiation. However, we have gained that which in the Rambler for May was laid down as the main point, recognition of the University as existing. The charter now is but a matter of time, provided only that the University and its rulers are true to themselves. We then said, and we now repeat, "The very fact of the deputation, and its admission to an audience, is the victory of the University. The present government may refuse the request, there may be delay and trouble in carrying the matter through, but it will be simply the University's fault and no one's else if it does not now get a charter." We will add, that we cannot complain though that internal energy and life, which we know to exist in the University body, should be tried. Nothing is done well which is simply done from without. A present struggle is the token and warrant of future independence.

The other act of justice which the Conservative Ministry had shown a disposition to exercise towards us has, since the dissolution, been urged upon the public with great effect at the meeting to which we shall now refer.

7. Meeting in behalf of the free exercise of the Catholic Religion in Gaols and Workhouses

This great meeting was held on Wednesday, June 8, in St. James's Hall, Piccadilly. It was held with the full and cordial approbation of all our Bishops, who, however, judged it best not to be present, and was attended by a great number of Catholic noblemen, {258} members of Parliament and others, without any distinction of political party, as well as by some of the principal clergy of the metropolis. The great hall was filled, and the platform crowded. Mr. Langdale was in the chair, and the resolutions were moved and seconded by Lord Stafford, Lord Herries, Lord Feilding, Lord Campden, the Master of Lovat, Hon. T. Stonor, Hon. I. F. Arundell, Mr. Monsell, M.P., Mr. Maguire, M.P., Mr. J. P. Hennessy, M.P., Col. Vaughan, Mr. R. Berkeley, Mr. Blundell, Mr. Acton, Mr. Ryley, Mr. H. Wilberforce, and Dr. Manning, who was the only ecclesiastic who took this formal part in the proceedings. The main object of the meeting is contained in the second resolution, which ran as follows:

"That a large number of her Majesty's Catholic subjects, inmates of prisons and workhouses in England and Scotland, are at this time deprived of the full and free exercise of their religion, both as to religion and education, viz.: By defective and unfair registration in workhouses, by obstruction to the entrance and intercourse of the Catholic clergy with Catholic inmates, by strong inducements held out for the attendance of Catholics at Protestant services, by visits in private of Protestant chaplains, by the placing of Catholic children under Protestant teachers and in Protestant schools, by removing them from the legitimate influence of their pastors and friends, and by various other ways of management in detail."

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