One of the peers who bore an honoured name, Lord Holland, entered his protest on the books of the House against this so-called amendment. It should be explained that by ancient usage, a Member of the House of Peers has the right of recording on the books of that House his protest against any particular decision, and his reasons for protesting; while no such custom prevails, or right exists, in the House of Commons. The protests of the Lords, therefore, form an interesting and important part of our parliamentary history; they note the growth, very slow growth indeed, of sound political principles, even in the House of Lords. A Member of the House of Commons, now some years dead, Mr. Thorold Rogers, compiled a little work on the subject, which is well worth the consideration of all students of our history. We may quote here the words in which Lord Holland explains and justifies his protest. "Because the introduction of the words, ' upon the true faith of a Christian,' implies an opinion in which I cannot conscientiously concur - namely, that a particular faith in matters of religion is necessary to the proper discharge of duties purely political or temporal." The amendment adopted by the Lords was accepted by the Commons, and in the beginning of May the whole measure received the Royal assent. It will be remembered that the words, "on the true faith of a Christian," were used until a comparatively recent date as the means of shutting out the whole of our Jewish fellow-citizens from the right of representation in the House of Commons. Had Lord John Russell's measure been carried as it was designed by him, England would have been spared Session after Session an ignoble and futile struggle against the admission of Jews to Parliament. Until the final struggle within the memories of most of us, a Jew might exercise, and could not be kept from exercising, the highest influence in public affairs; but he could not become a Member of the House of Commons. He might advance money to princes and kings; he might finance a foreign policy, and raise loans to supply the munitions of war - he was always welcome to perform services like these; but he could not pass the Bar of the Representative Chamber; he could not open his mouth in that Chamber or go into the lobby, either with the Ayes or with the Noes. Lord John Russell, however, had struck his first blow against the policy of sectarian exclusion, and the portals were, as a result, to be thrown open in the end to all duly elected comers, without distinction of creed or class.
The agitation for the emancipation of Roman Catholics in Great Britain and Ireland began with renewed force towards the end of the reign of George III. It has been already shown in these pages that George III. had resisted every effort made by William Pitt to introduce any measure for the relief of Roman Catholics from the unjust, ignoble, and absurd penalties imposed on them by English legislation. With the coming of George IV. to the throne new hopes were excited in the minds of the Catholics, especially of the Irish Catholics, because of the liberal tendencies which George had shown at one time, and because of his association with Fox and Sheridan and other friends of religious liberty all over the world. It seems extraordinary, now, to think that at a period so near to our own, a Roman Catholic was still prevented from sitting in Parliament, and that great statesmen were found who approved of such an exclusion. When George IV. came to the throne, the feeling of Ireland was strongly in his favour, because Irishmen fully believed that he had come to do justice to them and to their hopes. When George went over to Ireland, he was received, wherever he presented himself, with impassioned outbursts of popular welcome. An obelisk still marks the spot, on the shore of Dublin Bay, where George put his foot for the first time on Irish soil. The village where he landed was then called Dunleary, but the local authorities in a transport of gratitude - that gratitude, no doubt, which was once humorously described as "a lively expectation of favours to come" - declared that the old name should be known no more, and that the place should thenceforward be called Kingstown; and Kingstown it is to the present day.
George IV., however, soon disappointed all the hopes which had been formed by O'Connell, by Thomas Moore, and by the leaders of the Catholics all over the country. At length it became quite apparent that the King had not the least intention of encouraging any proposal for the relief of the Roman Catholics; and an agitation set in which became before long too powerful for any combination of official statesmen to resist. The Catholic Association formed a body called into existence for the purpose of stirring up and guiding the agitation, and Daniel O'Connell became the recognised head of the movement. O'Connell knew that many of the leading intellects of England were on the side of Catholic emancipation. Canning was well known to have been in its favour; and indeed it was the only Liberal measure in domestic policy with which Canning's sympathies entirely went. Peel was too great a statesman to be set down by any one as having a mind impervious to the obvious justice and the inevitable claims of the policy of religious liberty.
Those who have studied the published letters of Sir Robert Peel must have followed with much interest the revelations they contain of the gradual working of Peel's mind towards the enlightened policy which he afterwards adopted. There are not many passages in English history which enable one thus to see into the mind and heart of a great statesman, at a supreme crisis in national policy, which allow us to observe how day after day, and by event after event, a mind like that of Peel is won from all early prejudices and traditions, and is brought to recognise the truth of a great principle in political affairs. O'Connell soon became a commanding power in Ireland. Between him and Sir Robert Peel there was not then, or at any other time, anything like personal or political sympathy; but Peel could not help recognising the force of the new and great power which was arising in political life. O'Connell was peculiarly adapted by nature for the part he had to play. He was a born agitator and leader of agitations; he was a popular orator of the highest order. Nature had given him a commanding presence; he was a man of colossal stature and colossal energy; and he had a voice which enraptured every listener. Long after O'Connell's death, Mr. Disraeli, who had no personal or political sympathy with the great Irish leader, wrote of Sir Robert Peel, that Peel's was the finest voice to which the House of Commons in his time had ever listened, "except indeed, the thrilling tones of O'Connell." The first Lord Lytton in his poem, "St. Stephen's," breaks into positive raptures over the power and the music of O'Connell's voice, and over O'Connell's eloquence in addressing a vast out-of-door meeting.