Mr. ROBERT A. PRINGLE (Cornwall and Stormont).
Mr. Speaker, I desire on this occasion just to say a very few words. I listened with a great deal of pleasure to the remarks that fell from the right hon. Prime Minister (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier), from the hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Borden, Halifax), from the hon. member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) and other hon. gentlemen who have spoken on this question. I quite agree with the remarks of the hon. member for Jacques Cartier. I think it would have been better if the hon. member for Victoria, N.B. (Mr. Costigan) had framed his resolution in a little different language. I may say that I am in sympathy with the terms of the resolution, but I think the latter part of it is not couched in the language which will accomplish what is desired by the parties who are interested in the resolution. My reason for that is this ; in looking at the Act, 2 William and Mary, which requires the declaration to be taken, and in looking at the Act for establishing the coronation oath, I observe that they are two separate and distinct Acts. The Act for establishing the coronation oath is one thing, while the Act in regard to the Bill of Rights is another thing. It is an Act declaring the rights and liberties of the subjects and the succession of the Crown. In that Act it is imperative that our sovereign should take the declaration. My view
of that resolution is that the latter part of it should have been put in such a manner, I might say, as suggested by one of the leading English journalists, that it should he amended, but that there should still he a declaration taken hy the sovereign as to the Protestant faith. In making that reference I quote from the paper which the hon. member for Victoria quoted from, the Guardian, which I believe is one of the leading Protestant papers in England. If I might be permitted, I will just read a short extract from this paper :
We are thankful indeed to know that this declaration does not, and never has, formed any part of the solemn and historic coronation service of our English sovereigns. It is a careless blunder, into which several of our contemporaries of the secular press have recently fallen, to assert the contrary. The facts are these. The declaration formed part of the Act of 1677, which the necessities of the times seemed then to justify, for ' the more effectual preserving the King's person and government, by disabling Papists from sitting in either House of parliament.' It had to be subscribed and audibly repeated by every member of each House before he could take his seat. The experience the country went through under James II. provoked further aggressive action, and in 1689 (1 Will, and Mary, sess. ii., c. 2) it was enacted in order to debar Papists from the Crown, that
Then follows a citation from the statute, and the editorial continues :
However unreasonable and objectionable in its terms the declaration may be, it is satisfactory to know that it cannot, under any circumstances, with the long-established custom of deferring the coronation, be uttered in Westminster Abbey. But it will be highly unfortunate if the necessary legal steps cannot at once be taken to relieve Edward VII. from the necessity of uttering, even in Westminster Palace, words which cannot but be singularly offensive to millions of his subjects, not only in the United Kingdom, but throughout his great dominions across the sea. Christian charity has made great strides in two and a half centuries, and if this declaration of the time of Charles II. has long ago become too offensive to be used by any of His Majesty's subjects, why is the studied insult of calling all his Roman Catholic subjects idolaters to be maintained as a part of the King's accession duties? A quiet and dignified declaration of personal loyalty to the Church of England is all that is necessary. If unhappily the law officers of the Crown see no way out of the difficulty in the short interval before the King meets his first parliament, the deliberate use of such a string of offensive terms cannot fail to produce mischevious heartburnings and dangerous misunderstandings. International notice is nowadays far more keenly awake to a royal declaration than it was in the earlier times of the Hanoverian dynasty. We shall be heartily sorry if Edward VII. is obliged to use words which will brand the King of Portugal, the King of the Belgians and many others of the royal mourners by the good Queen's grave as superstitious idolaters.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I think it would be better if the latter part of this resolution were in different form. I read in the resolution that the Act is to be amended. In
what way ? By wiping out in its entirety this declaration ? It does seem to me. Sir, that the hon. the leader of the opposition, together with some hon. gentlemen on that side of the House, ought to be able to get together and so frame that resolution that it would accomplish the purpose which the mover (Hon. Mr. Costigan) has in view, and at the same time be more effective than in its present form.
I do not look upon this question, Mr. Speaker, as either a national question or as a religious question. It seems to me that it is a simple request for simple justice. Now that we are on the threshold of the twentieth century and looking back at the immense progress which has been made in the past century in religious liberty, I believe that we should do all in our power to obtain for that large population of Roman Catholics who are loyal subjects of His Majesty the King, relief from that declaration which certainly is offensive to them. I read in a recent article by Mr. Goldwin Smith, that very able and very distinguished gentleman, the following words :-
The coronation declaration and oath of the King of England, settled in 1688, is a curious historical fossil of the revolutionary period. The King is made solemnly to repudiate the doctrine of transubstantiation, and to declare that the invocation and adoration of the Virgin and saints are idolatrous and superstitious. There can be no doubt that this formulary is not only obsolete but extremely offensive and insulting to all the millions of Roman Catholics who are numbered among His Majesty's subjects. There can hardly be any doubt that it will be abolished by parliament with the hearty concurrence of all right-minded and sensible men. Its counterpart has already been abolished in the admission of officers of state.
We have only to look back to the legislation of the past to find a precedent for future legislation, which will remove the last vestige of offensive references to the religions of any class of His Majesty's subjects. Look at the Emancipation Act of 1829. Previous to that year every member of the British House of Commons had to subscribe to identically the same declaration as the sovereign now has to take, and by the Act of 1829, known as the Roman Catholic Relief Act, relief was given to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. That Act provided a single form of oath acceptable to Roman Catholics and available to them only ; and it abolished the declaration against transubstantiation. That legislation has been followed up by other relieving Acts. For instance, an Act was passed to relieve the Jews who were opposed to the form of oath required of them. I do not wish, Mr. Speaker, to take up any further time in the discussion of this subject, as it has been so ably and so thoroughly dealt with by hon. gentlemen who have preceded me. I feel satisfied of this : that even although I do not approve exactly of
the nature of the language of the motion, and while I should desire that the latter part of that motion should be amended yet as the resolution does not in any way effect the coronation oath, and does rot in any way ask for the abolition of the oath by the sovereign to maintain the Protestant religion by law established, and as there is no attempt to interfere with the provision of the Bill of Rights which indicated that the sovereign must be a Protestant ; it is evident to my mind that the repeal or the amendment of that declaration against transubstantiation can in no way prejudicially affect either the Protestant religion or the succession to the British Crown. When we look back in the history of our country to the many bitter fights which arose in settling principles which are now firmly established in this Dominion, every true Canadian must feel a degree of sorrow when he sees any question come before the people of Canada which is of such a controversial nature that it causes bitter discussion. I think we should approach a question of this sort in a calm, judicial manner, and discuss it apart from any religious feeling or bigotry. There is no room in Canada for a bigot. These matters should be discussed entirely on their merits, and it seems to me that the Roman Catholic population of Canada, who I understand constitute nearly 40 per cent of the total population, are perfectly justified in sending this petition to the mother land, and asking that any objectionable clauses in this declaration should be amended.
There has been a great deal said here on the question of church. Like the hon. member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk), I may never have been accused of being over-religious. What I believe is that there is one church only, the church of God, and no body of men, be they called a church or a denomination, have an absolute possession or control of the narrow way, and no race has a monopoly of all the virtues, leaving to the others all the vices. We should take a broad view of questions of this sort ; and feeling-in that way, I intend to support this motion, although I would have much preferred that the latter part of it had been couched in different language. I picked up to-day one of our leading Canadian papers, a Tory Paper, and I may be pardoned if I refer to an article in that paper dealing with this matter. After reciting the declaration, it says :
The phraseology is the best evidence, perhaps, ot the fears that caused the thing to be thought necessary, fears that now, happily, have little existence and less cause. There have been many changes since the Stuarts' time. Catholic countries are now not a menace to those of Protestant faith. The oath is one of the two remnants of much legislation, the most of which time and events have outworn. As the danger from Roman Catholic power outside declined, the restrictions against Roman Catholics in Eng-Mr. PRINGLE.
land were removed, till there is only one office, and that a semi-ecclesiastical one, in the service of the state, which a Roman Catholic has not the right to fill, or has not filled. The oath might well be subjected to the revision that has improved the laws in other respects. The Roman Catholic peers, and there are no more loyal men in the empire, have put on record their views in a dignified protest. Accepting the declaration of the Lord Chancellor, that the oath cannot be changed but by Act of parliament, they said :-
' We desire to impress upon your lordship that the expressions used in this declaration made it difficult and painful for Catholic peers to attend to-day in the House of Lords, in order to discharge their official or public duties, and that these expressions cannot but cause the deepest pain to millions of subjects of His Majesty in all parts of the empire, who are as loyal and devoted to the Crown and person as any other in his dominions.'
It is a reasonable requirement of the law that the sovereign of Great Britain shall be a Protestant, like the great majority of his Christian subjects. It is equally reasonable, though, that in the obligations the sovereign is required to take on assuming his duties, there shall be nothing needlessly offensive to his other Christian, or non-Christian, people. There is reason to think that this is so fairly recognized that the common sense of parliament will bring about the change that the simple statement of the case suggests.
I believe the parliament of England will bring about that change, and I see no reason why the Dominion of Canada, the premier colony of Great Britain, has not the right to send forward this petition, although, as I have already stated, I would have preferred that the latter part of the motion had been couched in different language.
Topic: SUPPLY-THE CORONATION OATH.