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Douglas, the three vicars-apostolic who objected to the oath.
The third Blue Book contains a letter from the committee to the catholics of England, dated the 21st April 1792.
All were written with great care, and were most seriously and attentively perused by all the noblemen and gentlemen who signed them. Several replies to them were published.
The first and second Blue Books were published in 8vo. by Stockdale, in 1812. The writer has never heard, nor has he any guess who was the editor.
The committee gave particular directions that the Blue Books should not be circulated in Ireland or Scotland; and they were particularly careful to do nothing that should introduce the controversy between the prelates and them, or any thing which related to it, among the Irish or Scottish catholics.
The Mediation. .
To allay the heats which the protestation and the discussions on it had raised, three romancatholic gentlemen of the highest respectability, the late Mr. Eyre of Warkworth, Mr. Webb Weston, and Mr. William Sheldon, undertook the amiable office of mediation between the prelates and the committee. They stated to the public the result of their exertions, in a publication, which,
having a buff covering, was known among the catholics by the name of The Buff Book.
They express themselves in it in the following words: “ In the course of this negotiation, we had
an opportunity of seeing and laying before three “ of the vicars-apostolic, the original bill prepared
by order of the late committee, and also the “ second bill, with the several alterations, and parti
cularly the variations in the oath, which bad “ been the unfortunate cause of so much difference “ of opinion: these were produced with such incon" trovertible evidence, that those alterations, and ‘particularly the variations in the oath, were not framed or proposed by the gentlemen of the late
committee, that we feel ourselves called on, both “ by candour and impartiality to declare, that we “ were perfectly convinced, that the vicars-apos“ tolic appeared to us satisfied; and that we really
hope no doubts will any longer be entertained on that subject. “ Having heard that Mr. Butler of Lincoln's
Inn, had it in contemplation to publish an his“ torical account of the proceedings of the late “ committee, which we feared might revive ani
moșities, that we wished to be for ever extinguished; and being anxious to prevent any more publications on the subject of the late disagree
ment, we applied to him to be informed of his “ intentions on that head; and, in consequence of “our applications, have received from him assu
rances, " that he had no such intention ; and “ that he entirely coincides with us in opinion,
" that this, or any other publication that has the “ remotest relation to the controversies then hap“ pily terminated, would be exceedingly improper.' “ We hope that every member of the catholic body “ will therefore be distinguished by the same pru“ dent and peaceful forbearance.”
Thus, by the interference of these respectable mediators, and the gentlemanly and christian disposition of the parties principally engaged in the discussion, the contention was happily terminated : on each side the word of peace was spoken, and silence promised. The peace thus spoken, and the silence thus promised, have been observed inviolate, both by the committee, and their adherents, and by the three objecting prelates.
One observation only on the unpleasant controversy the writer begs leave to express :-It is a great error to suppose, that the contest respecting the lawfulness of the oath, turned either on the authority of the church, or the spiritual supremacy of the pope. These were fully and unequivocally acknowledged by the committee. This acknowledgment by them of the authority of the church, and of the spiritual supremacy of the pope, is not only admitted, but triumphantly insisted on by Dr. Milner, against Dr. Sturges, in the supplement to the invaluable letters addressed by the prelate to that gentleman * There Dr. Milner cites, with evident complacency, a passage in the speech of the late Dr. Horsley, when the catholic bill was in its passage through the house of lords,
* Sixth edit. p. 452, 453, 454.
in which he says,-“ My lords, I must observe “ that the gentlemen of the catholic committee, " and the party that act with them, who scruple
no part of the oath, (grounded on the protesta
tion), declare that they equally, with the scrupu“ lous party, maintain the pope's spiritual supre
macy. They are shocked that the denial of it “ should be imputed to them.”
Thus the controversy was but a dispute on words; this was sufficiently unfortunate : but supposing the committee were wrong, still, in the view of the case, they were much less wrong than if it had been a dispute upon doctrine.
LXXXIII. 3. The Termination of the Controversy. On a dispassionate review of the circumstances, to which the protestation gave rise, the writer, with great deference to paramount authority, conceives it to be free from theological error,—that, as an explicit disclaimer of the doctrine of the pope's deposing power, it is excellent; and that, in spite of the counteractions opposed to its salutary operation, it has done, it does, and will ever do, great service to the catholic cause.
Judging from the events,—the writer wishes the bill of 1791, had been left as it was framed by him, without any oath and without any
declaration : on this supposition, we should have avoided all the unpleasant turmoil which ensued :—But this, the committee did not foresee. They supposed
that no religious objection to the oath would have been raised; that it would have passed with the approbation both of the legislature and the public, and of the ecclesiastical and lay catholics. If the bill had passed in this form, the relief, which it granted, would, probably, have been more extensive than that, which we received in the event which happened.
As to the notion, that if the oath formed on the protestation had been adopted, we should have lost our venerable appellation of " catholics,” and thenceforth been called “ protesting catholic dis
senters,” the writer begs leave to say that it is altogether groundless : we should no more have lost the appellation of " catholics,” in consequence of the new law's calling us
protesting catholic “ dissenters,” than we lost the appellation of “ca“tholics,” in consequence of the old law's calling us papists."
But the alarm was sounded, and jealousies were entertained. Then, with a wisdom, and a magnanimity, which cannot be too much applauded, the legislature, instead of availing themselves of these, as a pretence for withholding from us any relief, nobly came to our aid, composed our differences for us, and passed the wise and salutary act of 1791.
That, after these jealousies had arisen, the oath framed on the protestation was abandoned, and the present oath substituted in its stead, no one felt greater satisfaction than the writer. He hoped the torch of discord was extinguished for ever.