§ Mr. Hume
, in rising to make his proposed motion relative to the Church Establishment of Ireland, assured the House, that he felt most deeply the difficulty of the subject; but, as no other member appeared to take the same view of the question that he entertained, he felt 368 it necessary to come forward and state what that view was. He must, however, claim from the House some degree of indulgence, if, in consequence of the importance of the subject, and the peculiar view he took of it, he should be obliged to go into rather a diffuse statement, and to request their attention for a considerable time. He no doubt should be told, that the present tune was not suited to the discussion of the subject, and that he ought to have waited, for the purpose of ascertaining what measures his majesty's ministers meant to introduce on the subject of tithes. To this he would answer, that he was only carrying into effect the notice he had given in the last session of parliament, and that he had, on the first day of the present session, given notice that he would bring on the question this day, which was the latest be could select: he had given such early notice, and he had selected this day for the purpose of affording as many Irish members as possible, an opportunity of attending this discussion. Ministers had had an entire month's notice of his intention: if, therefore, they had wished to anticipate him, they were at full liberty to have done so.
It was impossible they could agree to any proposition relative to the church, unless they previously agreed on the definition of the word "church." They very often heard the expression of church and state. They were constantly told, that the state could not exist without the church, nor the church without the state. Now, he would ask, what did the word "church" here mean? Some persons applied the term church to the clergy; others to a community who were of one persuasion, and joined in one form of worship. It was, therefore, important, in his view of the question, to decide, whether, by the term church, was meant the clergy or the community. The Apostle Paul, the oldest and the most undoubted authority, applied the word church to a communion of persons holding the same belief. There was no authority in Scripture for any other interpretation to be put on the word church. He was satisfied, the more they considered the subject, the more they would be inclined to think, that the term "church" ought to be applied to the whole of the community—to the great body of persons who were of the same religious persuasion. If the reform which he proposed would benefit that community, he hoped he should not 369 be accused of endeavouring to injure the church. He wished always to be understood as speaking of the church of Ireland as a community contradistinguished from that of the people at large [Hear, hear!]. The House, in looking to the church, must be well aware, that there was no precise authority in the Scriptures, for any particular church establishment: it was altogether a civil institution, the creature of the law, and by every rule of reason, the same authority that created could alter, nay, even annul it altogether. At the period of the Revolution, the legislature established our present form of worship; and as it provided for the performance of certain duties, it assigned certain allowances to those who discharged them. If it were said, that the property at present possessed by the church was as ancient in its tenure as any other property in the state, he would deny the assertion. It was not so. The property now in the possession of the Protestant establishment, was originally granted to a Catholic establishment, and was only transferred to its present possessors. He hoped, therefore, he should not be met with the too common cry of intending to destroy the sacred tenure of property, to deprive the clergy of possessions which they enjoyed as others did their hereditary property, and by co-equal, if not antecedent title. He would deny that church property stood upon any such title. It was indisputable, that the property enjoyed by the bishops, deans, and chapters, of the Protestant church, was that which had been previously held by the Catholic church, and was transferred at the time of the Reformation. How, then, could it be said, that those revenues were unalienably appropriated? They had been diverted already by the legislature, from one set of men to another, and might again receive a new destination. But, then, it might be said, a great deal of this was lay property, and vested for various sacred and charitable purposes. Whatever distinction might be taken as to parts of this property, he was prepared, as a general principle, to deny that church property was in any manner held by the same valid title as that inherited by any private gentleman in the country. The latter was held in perpetuity by the individual and his family, and under their sole and absolute control. Was that the case with the church? No. The church property was assigned for the performance of specific 370 duties, for a limited period, and revocable, under a variety of circumstances. A gentleman's private estate was not so placed; He could only forfeit it, by incurring the penalties of high treason; but church property was every day revocable, for various causes, even from the bishops themselves; for instance, the other day, they divested the bishop of Clogher of his see and revenues. How, then, could this property be placed on an equal footing with that of a private individual? There was no similarity in the two cases.
It was to the principle of the claim that he wished to direct their attention, and to show that, by the constitution of the church; the whole of the clergy had duties to perform, and, in the failure of their performance, it was no longer intended they should enjoy their emoluments. A most important part of there duties was the "cure of souls;" and he should be glad to know how this cure of souls could be effected in a parish in Ireland, by a clergyman or church dignitary, who sojourned constantly at Bath, at Cheltenham, at Paris, or at Rome? If the thing were impossible, would the House continue to sanction this desertion of a sacred duty, and abstain from visiting those by whom it was practised with the forfeiture which they had incurred? But he had been told, that church property was wholly inalienable; that, in fact, it could not be assimilated to any other description of property. Why? What difference was there, in many points, between the income of the army and navy and the property of the church? What would parliament say, if, when they proceeded to reduce the naval and military establishments, the officers of the army and navy were to adopt the language now held by the church, and claim the income they received for a particular duty, as a perpetual and unconditional assignment? And yet it would he as just a claim as that of the church, and equally lawful. But it might be said, that the pay of the army and navy was not property, but income. So was the salary of the clergyman. It was income; to be enjoyed, like that of the naval or military officer, only while he continued to perform his duty. Had there not been occasional examples of the dismissal of individuals from the church, in consequence of misconduct or moral offence? Did not that prove that the 371 clergy, as well as naval and military officers, were expected to perform duties? If, then, they were placed in the eye of the law in the same situation as regarded duties, why were they not to be placed in the same situation as regarded remuneration? Originally, every soldier held by the feudal tenures a portion of land for his maintenance. At that period he had precisely the same right to his land as the clergyman had to his at the present day. Where was the difference? If, in the one case, the possession of the land ceased when the service was no longer required; why, in the other cafe, should the possession of the land be continued if the service was no longer performed? If our officers were to exclaim, "Don't meddle with our pay; let us pass it to our successors;" what would the House say to them? When first a quantity of land and certain tithes were apportioned to the catholic church for the maintenance of the clergy, and for other purposes, it never was contemplated that they would become so excessive. The legislature, no doubt, intended to confer upon the church an adequate establishment; but, did it intend more? If, then, the course of time had increased the value of the property so given beyond all just or reasonable proportion, was it not competent for the legislature to resume that part which could not be fairly used according to the original intention of the grant? It was the practice of the legislature to meddle with, other property when diverted from its original appropriation; and why not with that of the church? What was there in church property that prohibited parliament from legislating with regard to it? In his view, there was no difference whatever.
The real question, then, was—whether the proportion of the production of the soil assigned to the church, for the performance of specific duties, was too small or too great? If too small, let an addition be made to it: if too great, let the excess be taken away. To subtract from the church property, or meddle with it, was no new principle: it had been often done, at various periods of history, from the reign of Henry 8th downwards. Was there not in the case of the Land-Tax bill, an interference on the part of the legislature, authorizing the sale of a part of the church property for purposes of state? I f that property was so sacred as seine persons declared it to be, why 372 had a single yard of it been touched by parliament! Had not parliament, by the Curates' bill, taken a part of the income of rectors and vicars? But, the fact was, that that property had always been considered under the command and control of parliament, which had the power of doing with it whatever it chose. That parliament had the power of alienating the church property was perfectly clear, from a variety of precedents. Had not parliament already changed the religion of the country from Catholicism to Protestantism? Had they not established by law all the existing bishops, deans, chapters, and their paraphernalia? Having had the power to do that, they had unquestionably the power to change the present religion, if they thought proper so to do. There could not be a doubt on the matter. Having exercised their power twice in that respect, what was there to prevent their exercising it a third time? Suppose parliament, should determine that the established religion of the land should be no longer Protestantism, but Quakerism; suppose that House were to become a House of Quakers, and were to declare, that Quakerism should be the religion of the state—what must be the consequence? What would then become of the present possessors of the church property? The Quakers had no clergy, no bishops, deans, chapters, cathedrals, or church freeholds!—In the event of the establishment of Quakerism, what then would become of the freeholds which the clergy now possessed? Those who had them at the time might be allowed (looking at them as a kind of vested rights) to hold them during their lives; but, as it was the principle of Quakerism, that no individual should be paid for his religious labours, he should be glad to know what would become of the great mass of church property? Would it be allowed to fall into disuse? Or would not government resume it, and apply it to any purpose to which parliament might think proper to devote it? He put this forward in order to meet any objection respecting interference with church property; and he particularly begged the right hon. gentlemen opposite to tell him, if the nation were all to become Quakers, what would become of tile property of the church? Unquestionably, it would be at the disposal of parliament. Unquestionably, if the legislature power to become Quakers themselves 373 and to declare, that Quakerism should be the established religion of the country, they had the power to deal with the present established church property according to their discretion.
The next question was, as to the amount of this species of property, the uses to which it was intended, the manner of its actual application, and whether it was sufficient or more than sufficient for the object. Upon the principle of legislative interference in its regulation, there could not now, he thought, be the smallest doubt.
It was the opinion, not of one, but of many distinguished persons, that the remuneration was insufficient in some cases, and excessive in others. Bishop Watson was decidedly of that opinion; and his argument on the subject had remained unanswered. It was bishop Watson's proposal, that to increase the incomes of the poor clergy, so that no individual should have less than 100l. per annum, a third of the value of all prebends should be appropriated as they fell vacant; and he expressed his conviction, that the end would be much sooner accomplished by that means than by any operation of queen Anne's bounty. To that proposal no answer had ever been made. But he (Mr. Hume) believed, that two prebends which had fallen vacant, had been appropriated to the repairs of a cathedral; and it was undoubted, that there had been other instances of interference with church property for similar purposes. There were many acts in the Statute book, the principal object of which was to prevent the clergy from robbing the church. He repeated it—the principal object of those acts, was by registry and other means, to prevent the alienation of the church property by the clergy. So completely had the practice of the clergy themselves, in past times, confirmed the principle which he had been laying down. He had found in Selden, that it was by no means uncommon for clergymen to sell tithes and other church property to laymen for ever. If, therefore, any precedents were necessary for the measure which he was about to propose, they existed in abundance; but he maintained, that precedent was unnecessary; and that it was only necessary to appeal to the good sense of parliament, to induce them to inquire how far the present funds appropriated to the support of the religious establishment in Ire- 374 land were or were not more than adequate to that purpose.
He now came to a very important consideration—the extent of the church establishment of Ireland, for the duties it had to perform. He regretted extremely, that when the census of that country was recently taken, the proportion which existed between the individuals belonging to the established Protestant church, and the individuals who professed other religions, had not been accurately ascertained. It was the opinion, however, of various persons who had travelled over Ireland, and who had inquired very closely into this subject, that if the whole of the population of Ireland, which, according to the last census, amounted to 6,800,000, were divided into fourteenths, the members of the established Protestant church, would be found to be only about 1–14th, or 490,000. The Protestant Presbyterian Dissenters amounted nearly to another 14th; and the remainder, about 5,900,000, were Catholics. This being the state of the population of Ireland, the next point was, to consider the pecuniary means enjoyed by the established church, for the religious instruction of their flocks. What was the present establishment of the Irish church. As far as he had been able to ascertain the present establishment of the sees of the Irish church, it was as follows:—archbishops and bishops 22, deans 33, dignitaries 108, prebendaries 178, rural deans 107, vicars choral 52, choristers 20; in number 520 persons; besides officers of the consistorial courts 175. Could it possibly be necessary to have two and twenty bishops, and so many deans, dignitaries, prebendaries, &c. for the purpose of superintending only 1,289 benefices; the number in Ireland, according to the return of 1819? Whether they looked to England, or to any other country, they would not find any thing like a parallel for such an establishment. The House were bound in duty to consider whether that establishment was too great or not. If it was clearly too great for the portion of the community to which it belonged, why not reduce it? They had reduced the army, the navy, and a variety of civilians, because the establishments were too large, and the means of the country inadequate for their maintenance. Why not, in the same manner, and for the same reason, reduce useless bishops and deans, and establishments for cathedrals in Ireland. If it 375 were necessary to have so many cathedral churches, why would not one clergyman, with his curate, be sufficient for each of them? Why maintain five hundred useless individuals, living in idleness, and living on the public? These were no times for drones. We wanted an active community. Every man, of whatever station and condition, ought to exert himself for the benefit of the country. Under these circumstances, was it fitting that the public property should be wasted in the support of a useless church establishment? He had no hesitation in declaring, on the maturest consideration, and after the fullest information he had been able to obtain, of all the duties performed by these deans and chapters in Ireland, that their services might be immediately and entirely dispensed with. He knew that in making such a declaration, he was laying himself open to a serious charge; but he made it with a most conscientious feeling, that, in declaring that the he was doing right [Hear, hear!]. If there was any one measure better calculated than another to tranquillize and benefit that unfortunate country, Ireland, be was persuaded that it was a reform in the church establishment, and every thing connected with it. [Hear!] He might be sanguine on the subject, as all who kept one object steadily in view for any considerable length of time generally were; but he did not call on the House to consent to any particular proposition; he only asked them to consider, whether a lint he had alleged was true or not? If it should turn out on inquiry, that the church establishment in Ireland would admit of considerable reduction, he thought parliament were bound to reduce it, on the same principle as that which had induced them to reduce every other establishment which appeared to be larger than the necessities of the public service required. It was unjust and cruel to those branches of the public service which had been reduced, to omit the church in the pursuit of economical measures, and more especially when they considered, that a great portion of the Irish clergy did little or nothing for their incomes.
With respect to the exact amount of public property absorbed by the church of Ireland, it was impossible to estimate it, unless access were had to the bishops' courts. No man who was not in the secrets of the bishops' record could guess 376 at the real amount of the property, even within a million. He had, however, availed himself of the best opinions which he could obtain on the subject. He had especially referred to the works of Mr. Wakefield, who had taken great pains, in his statistical inquiries in Ireland, where he had sojourned, not as a hasty traveller, but for years, and with access to considerable information; he had been assisted by an individual who had taken infinite pains upon the subject, an old awl intelligent member of parliament. He (Mr. Hume) had also availed himself, in the course of his researches into the subject, of the separate accounts that had been published of the different counties of Ireland; and, on the whole, therefore, he thought he could show pretty nearly how the fact stood. If the whole surface of Ireland were estimated at fourteen millions of Irish, or eighten millions of English acres, there was reason to believe, that the bishops, deans, and chapters possessed a proportion equal to nearly two-elevenths of the whole surface, cultivated and wild. And here he would observe, by the way, that a large portion of the land in the hands of the church, and generally known as "bishops' lands," was uncultivated, which there was every reason to suppose would be cultivated if in other hands; so that here the public sustained a double loss—a loss of the land in the first instance, for a useless establishment, and a loss of its productiveness, from neglect of cultivation, in the second if the whole rental of Ireland were taken at tile amount at which it had been estimated by Mr. Wakefield, averaging the rental of the several counties—an estimate which several Irishmen to whom he had submitted it, had declared it to be, in their opinion, as fair as it was possible to make without a particular survey—it would appear to be about 14,000,000l. Two-elevenths of that sum, meaning the church property, would be equal to about 2,500,000l. If the tithes of the 1,289 benefices were valued at only 500l. each (although in some cases they amounted to 1,000l., 2,000l., 3,000l., and even 4,000l., and in few less than 500l.), that would give an additional sum of about 700,000l, or about 3,200,000l., which might the considered the present annual revenue in the hands of the Protestant church establishment of Ireland. Now, the would ask the House whether it was consistent, that individuate who had so little to do 377 should be allowed to enjoy so large a share of the public property? He wished always to be understood as speaking with Attention to the rights of those now in possession. He did not wish to injure, to the amount of one farthing, any one of the present possessors. All the changes which he contemplated on this subject, he wished to take place with the most scrupulous attention to vested interests; and on this point he was particularly anxious not to be misunderstood.
Now, with respect to the property of the church, which was shown to be so immense, it was fit to consider, in the next place, how it was applied. He would ask, were those three millions divided among the labourers in the vineyard? Were they made a fund of remuneration for the pious and assiduous curates, the clergy who really attended to their cures, and presided over the moral instruction of the people? No such thing. And he believed he should he able to bring this matter home to the feelings of gentlemen, by laying on the table, whenever the House allowed him, a return of the names and numbers of the curates in Ireland, with the amount of years they had served, and the portion of salary allotted to them for their laborious services. This return would show the amount of stipends, and how very rare an occurrence was the promotion of an Irish curate. He had by him returns from two of the dioceses of that kingdom, and it appeared, that, during the last ten years, only two or three curates had been promoted, as incumbents, in both those dioceses. Whether this statement was correct or not, it was impossible for him to tell; because, the only dependence that could be placed must be on official documents. There were, however, many Irish members in the House, who were doubtless enabled to say, from their own information and experience, whether he was correct in the opinion he had formed on that subject. It was certain, however, that the apportionment of the revenue of the church was most unequally made; but there was a difficulty in ascertaining the real distribution. For instance, the primate, who was archbishop of Armagh, was stated to derive between 15 and 20,000l. a-year in money from his see; but there was besides a great deal of land leased out at low rents to individuals, and thus many persons were largely enjoying the property of the church It, 378 was very much the practice with the bishops to let the church land, on the small and antiquated rent, to their immediate connexions and friends. Some, indeed, he was aware, by running their lives against the holders, had got possession of vast tracts of land, and were thereby enabled to let it to their friends and relations. As to the practice of the bishops in providing for their connexions and friends, at the expense of the church, he did not blame them, but he blamed the system; and he put it to the House, whether the former ought to be so situated, as that their interest should be almost necessarily placed at variance with their duty? In his opinion, interest and duty, in such cases, should always go hand in hand together; but, such a result was impossible, if the bishops of Ireland were to have powers and licences that were contrary to the stipulations of repeated acts of parliament. Such had been the conduct of the Irish ministers, that, instead of being on the spot, to perform their sacred duties, as the various acts of parliament required them to be, they had, in a considerable degree, absented themselves from their livings, and left their duties to be performed by others, for very scanty pittances indeed, while they who enjoyed the vast salaries were to be found every where, but where duty was to be done [Hear, hear!].
It might be satisfactory to know the number of resident and non-resident incumbents in Ireland. The last return which he had been able to procure was made for 1818, and was contained in the parliamentary paper, No. 580, of 1819. In 1818, the total incumbents were 1,289; viz.
In Dublin there were now 30 dignitaries and prebends, besides the above, without residence [Hear!]. The hon. member then stated, that be had, exclusive of the general statement which he had already given, made out a statement of the residents and non-residents in each diocese; but, to give the House en idea of the average amount throughout Ireland, it would be sufficient to mention one diocese. In the 379 diocese of Waterford and Lismore, it appeared, in one of the pages in the large volume that lay beside him, there were, at the date of the return, resident incumbents 4, absent 19; resident vicars 13, absent 13; resident curates 1; making a total, resident 18, absent 32; and of this number 11 were pluralists and 3 sinecurists. He did contend that this statement was highly material. He believed, that every individual who heard him must be aware, that the beneficed clergy of the established church of Ireland in particular, were known to wander abroad front their benefices without any solicitude about the condition of their flocks, He was quite sure that nobody could visit any place of public amusement in this, or perhaps any other country in Europe, without finding there a much larger number of the Irish clergy, than either the interests of religion or their own functions would seem to require. Now, the present administration had said as much about their anxiety to support religion and morals as any administration that ever sat in that House. He had no reason to doubt the sincerity of their expressions; but if they were so, how could they reconcile their professions with their practice, when they took no step to remove such an abuse as that he had pointed out? and, therefore, he called upon them to put it down. He considered, that no person in the church should be allowed to be non-resident, except from illness, or special permission. For the propriety of such an arrangement, he begged to advert to the case of Scotland, where, principally through the advantage and by the exertions of a resident clergy, the morals of the people had been so much improved. He would refer to the well-known authority of Fletcher of Saltoun, for some account of what the moral state of Scotland was about a hundred years ago. Ireland at this day was not worse than Scotland was admitted to have been at that time, before the establishment of her parochial schools, and the residence of her clergy. In every alteration that might be made in the church government of Ireland, residence ought to be made a sine quâ non in regard to every incumbent. No person could be a real friend of Ireland, who would encourage or support such a system of non-residence as had prevailed at Ireland for the last fifty years. Upon all her real friends, as well as upon his majesty's ministers, it was incumbent no 380 longer to tolerate it; and he thought that they had no right to come down to the House and complain of the state that country was in, or to ask for further military and civil power to keep her population down, so long as they permitted such a system to vex and disturb that degraded kingdom, and did not avail themselves of the legitimate measures in their possession. Though that country was so forlorn and so degraded, he was quite convinced that its natives, when instructed, were capable, of enjoying, as usefully as others, the benefits of a rational liberty; for, when fortunate enough to escape from the ignorance that oppressed them, they had shown themselves in the first ranks of intellect and civilization wherever they were found. Let them, then, have the same advantages as England and Scotland, and he believed there would be nothing found in the principles of Irishmen, which would prevent their country from rising above the state of barbarism in which it wag at present placed [Hear, hear!]. No country, indeed, of Europe was in a condition so truly barbarous, unless perhaps Poland; and he doubted if even Poland made an exception. That country was thus, like Ireland, debased and degraded by the neglect of government. And here he could not forbear his humble tribute of applause to those generous individuals who had stepped forward in behalf of Ireland, at their own expense, to establish schools for the education of her poor. But this noble undertaking ought not to have been left to individuals to embark in; for the government ought to have originated it [Cheers.]
Resident 758 Non-resident by exemption 81 Non-resident by dispensation 243 Without statement for what 157 Miscellaneous. 50 581 Total 1,289
He had now stated all that ought to be necessary to the House, as to the practice and principle of non-residency. If government had not positively encouraged those evils which desolated Ireland, their negligence led to their existence; and much evil might be done by omission as well as by commission. Ministers ought to have come forward long ago, to propose and carry into effect, something effectual for the amelioration and improvement of Ireland, instead of supporting a military establishment which cost the public two millions, for the purpose of keeping in barbarous subjection, a people whom they ought to teach how to rise in intelligence, and to understand and enjoy a constitution, which-they were told was the pride and envy of, the world. As the case stood at present, he was sure they 381 could not find a single Irishman who would say, that the constitution, as it was known in Ireland, was the pride and envy of the world [Hear, hear!]. No: it was a mockery of humanity and common sense; and, in his (Mr. H.'s) opinion, the state of the country was greatly attributable to the condition of the church establishment. As it was with a view to ameliorate the condition of Ireland that he should bring forward his propositions, he called on the House to interfere: and he premised, that the first measure he should suggest would be to compel the residence of the clergy. The next would he, that instead of any individuals being allowed to derive from their benefices large incomes of 1,000l., 2,000l., or 3,000l. a-year, and to reside, at pleasure, here or there, they should all be obliged to reside on their livings, upon stipends, for the model of which he would recommend those of the clergy of Scotland, the lowest of winch was about 150l., and the highest 500l. or 600l. per annum. Dr. church ought to require, and society, Adam Smith, in his book on "Church Establishments," had observed, what was very true, that "the proper performance of every service seems to require that its payment or recompense should be as exactly as possible apportioned to the nature of the service. If any service is greatly underpaid, it is very apt to suffer by the meanness or incapacity of those who are appointed to serve. If it is very much overpaid, on the other hand, it is apt to suffer still more from the neglect or remissness of those who are employed in it. A man of large revenue, whatever may be his character or profession, thinks he ought to live like other men of large revenue; and spends accordingly a part of his time and possessions in vanity and luxury. But a clergyman, by this course, not only dishonours the professions he should most carefully sustain, but, in the eyes of common people, he deserts that character which can alone enable his duties with their proper effect." [Hear, hear!] Now, he (Mr. Hume) begged to ask, whether any collection of sentiments could more precisely state the case now before the House? Most unfortunately the working curates of Ireland were miserably underpaid; and, what was the case with the other clergymen? They were, vastly overpaid, to a degree indeed of which no other church in the world perhaps could furnish a parallel. He blamed not the clergy for this, it was the 382 system or establishment he complained of, and it was the duty of parliament to regulate that: if those large salaries were offered them, it was very; natural that they should accept them. The effect of that system must always be felt mischievously while livings were given by parliamentary interest, by family interest, and on various other accounts, independent of the merits and services of the party [Hear, hear!]. His opinion, however, was, that in all institutions, utility should be the main object, and in the church establishment, as well as in others, the great principle should be utility. Their arrangements should always have that end in view. It never could be expected, that a clergyman with 2 or 3,000l. a year, should deny himself the pleasures which such an income could procure; and it was still less to be expected, that the habits generated by such indulgence should ever be consistent with the discharge of the sacred duties which the church ought to require, and society, expect [Hear, hear!].
He then proceeded to state, that a large part of the revenue of the bishops arose from the fines paid by individuals on the renewal of their leases, while the income to which they were otherwise entitled enabled them to live in great pomp and luxury without the aid of such fines. But the church in Ireland was considered a lottery, and which benefices and bishopricks were prizes, and some families were fortunate enough to draw a great number of such prizes. He understood that the bishop of Clogher (he did not mean the late bishop of Clogher) had gone to Ireland without a shilling, and in the course of his apostolic mission of a few years, had amassed about 2 or 300,000l. [Hear]! The amount was very large, but it was notorious at the time. The amount of the money income of the bishops was no just criterion of the real value of the church property of each see; as all such, property was let at nominal rents, made up, as already stated, by fines paid for renewals. He would state an example and his authority was Mr. Wakefield that the property at present belonging to the primate of Ireland, as archbishop of Armagh, if it were now let out as other lands were, would nett 150,000l.. perannum—the income of a German sovereign prince or rather, as an hon. friend behind suggested, of several German sovereign princes. Surely it was inconsistent with 383 any professions of economy, that such large portions of public money should be devoted to the use of any one bishop whatever his duties might be. He did think that an inquiry, at least, should be instituted, to ascertain whether that statement was correct or not, without pledging the House to the adoption of any specific measure ultimately; and he would therefore state to the House some additional reasons, why he would move for a committee. In the year 1806, when the duke of Bedford went over to Ireland, he directed returns to be made by all the Irish bishops, of the extent of the different livings within their dioceses, and of their respective values. A very large volume was returned; but it was found to be in its contents so defective, that little or no use could be made of it. Indeed, there were scarcely any data furnished by it, upon which it would have been possible for any specific measure to have proceeded. Several years afterwards, government directed similar returns to be made. These returns were laid upon the table of the House in 1820. They contained a variety of particulars; but they stopped short at many of the most important points upon which they were directed to report. They no where stated what he was most anxious to know, the exact revenue of the bishops; nor what amount their property, and that of the deans and chapters, produced. Indeed, the whole returns were so very defective, that out of the 1,289 benefices, it appeared from his abstract of them, that only 400 were transmitted, tolerably complete, and 800 were very deficient. It was, therefore, impossible to trust any longer to the statements of the clergy solely. Another reason upon which he was anxious to press for the committee was founded on a letter, dated Nov. 5, 1819, written by the primate to the lord lieutenant, and prefixed to the volume of returns, in which he noticed the lamentable decay into which the churches had fallen, although on inquiry it would be seen, that there were ample funds for sustaining them. It also stated their condition at the time of the Union, and the state in which they now were. It set forth, "that certain parishes having been united, the difficulty of disuniting them every day increased; that some of the glebes were possessed, and the rates and revenues received by laymen; that, indeed, the state of the churches and 384 clergy of Ireland was but little known to, the empire, and had been strangely misrepresented." If this was the fact, that the state of the Irish church had been strangely misrepresented, what better course could there be than to appoint a committee to inquire, and clear away that misrepresentation? [Hear!] In truth, after these statements of the archbishop of Armagh, it was impossible for that House, consistently with its duty, to refuse going into an inquiry upon them.
He now came to another important point; but which would greatly facilitate, the changes he should propose. He might shortly state what the arrangements were that he thought the interests of the country would require. He would propose, that no more Irish bishops should be appointed to the sees, as they became vacant, until the present number should be reduced to one archbishop and four bishops; and the reason why he selected that number was, that at the Union, his majesty's government thought that four bishops were sufficient, for the representation of the church of Ireland, in the House of Lords, and this was surely a fair criterion for him to proceed by. He thought that one archbishop and four bishops would be amply sufficient to do all the duty. The whole five together would have the care of about 500,000 souls; a proportion of 100,000 to each of them. And this proportion was by no means so great as in many other parts of Europe fell to the share of prelates. Spain, perhaps, might be an exception; but in any other part of the continent it would be admitted, that one bishop was able to take charge of a flock of 100,000.
The next subject that he should advert to, involved that which might be considered as a great obstacle to the immediate, object of his proposition. As it appeared, from the best information he had been able to obtain, that the Irish deans and, chapters had no duty whatever to perform, the whole of them ought, in accordance with his plan, to be allowed to die off [A laugh]. In the event of the House granting the committee, it would be their duty, after proof of the assertions he had made, and in adherence to those professions which parliament had made, of rigid economy, to request, that his majesty would not permit any vacancies to be filled up for any one of these deaneries and chapters as the present incumbents might die off. At present the 385 incomes of the benefices in Ireland were very different, and he knew a difficulty presented itself with respect to their equalization. But that difficulty was not so great as it at first appeared to be. The patronage was a vested right; but perhaps a better understanding of the state of that patronage might considerably diminish the difficulty. The hon. member then read a statement of the patronage of Ireland, taken from Dr. Beaufort's Memoir of 1792, as the most correct one before the public, as follows:
And the total number of benefices in 1818 are stated at 1,289 By this statement it appeared that, in point of' fact, the crown had the patronage of 1,684 parishes [A laugh]. He contended that the case was virtually so, for if the crown did not appoint the bishops, the bishops could not make the nomination, and the crown would of course have to appoint; so that the patronage was really vested in the crown, which materially lessened the difficulty as to the equalization of benefices by parliament.—As to any objections which might be taken to this part of his proposition, he concluded that these abuses in the church of Ireland ought to be remedied, in any way that the interests of the community and the cause of religion required; but he begged it might be distinctly understood, that the present incumbents were not to suffer the loss of one farthing by the change. An immediate change might be made, and the rights of the incumbents might be secured, either through the appointment of commissioners, or of juries properly selected, to try the question of their respective interests, and their relative value.
In the gift of the bishops 1,391 In the gift of the crown 293 Total in the gift of the crown and bishops 1,684 In lay hands 367 In University 21 Impropriate and vacant, and without churches or Incumbents 95 The total number of parishes in Ireland by that statement are 2,244
He now came to the important question of the tithes; but he should be rather abusing the patience and indulgence of the House, if he attempted to lay before them, in any detail, the abuses which 386 existed in respect of tithes. He thought, as the subject was to be brought forward in a few days by his majesty's ministers, the House, by common consent, would excuse him from stating any other facts, of which he had an ample store, connected with this subject. It was impossible for them to turn their attention to this subject, without being overwhelmed with evidence on a matter so full of complicated evils as this was. He should, however, state, that the commutation of tithes to which his resolutions would go, was not that sort of commutation under which the individual who had little or no duty to perform would receive for such performance, as heretofore, 1,000l., 2,000l., or 3,000l. a year. But although he wished that the present actual incumbents should receive the full amount of their tithes, during their lives, he wished that their successors should he paid according to the duty each would have to perform. He would propose, that the income from the property of the bishops, the deans, and chapters, should form a fund at the direction of parliament, from which the clergy should be paid according to the duties they performed. That the payers of tithes should have the privilege of commuting their tithes at 12 or 13 years purchase, instead of 25 years value; and that all such sums should go to the clerical fund for the support of the clergy. A boon would thus be given to the land owners, and the fund would be ample for the maintenance of the church.—To those who were lay impropriators, whatever was the value of their tithes, should be as fully made up to them as if they were sold in the public market, or treated for by private contract. He would wish them, in short, to stand in as good a situation as they now were; by having their interests so taken care of, that they should lose nothing. If no actual interest were infringed upon, what injustice could be done? If an ample property could be realized to the church to defray the expenses of its establishment, why should there be any severe pressure upon the landed interest? The principle which he advocated was not novel: there were instances on record, and he should allude to one of them now, to show its practicability; but it was not necessary to enter into the details. In Tuscany, the grand duke, on the abolition of the Jesuits, appropriated the income of that order to 387 form a fund for the payment of the clergy. As the incumbents of benefices died, the land owners were allowed to commute the tithes payable to the clergymen for a certain number of years purchase, paid to the general fund; and every new incumbent was paid a salary from the fund, instead of the tithes which his predecessor had received. In that manner the tithes had been altogether abolished in Tuscany: and with so large a property belonging to the bishops, the deans, and chapters in Ireland, he (Mr. H.) saw little difficulty in following the same course.
Although the evils of the present system of tithes in Ireland were almost universally acknowledged, he regretted to say, that objections had been made, and opposition set on foot, in a quarter he did not expect, to any alterations whatever being made in the present arrangement of the tithe system. Several of the clergy had openly professed their resistance individually to any arrangement on the subject. The archbishop of Tuam, and some other church dignitaries, had called together the clergy of the diocese, for the purpose of opposing any alteration, present or future, in the system. Now, he would say, that whatever their feelings might be with respect to themselves, they had no right to trouble themselves for their successors. [Hear, hear! from the Ministerial side]. He would repeat, they had no right to object to any alteration the legislature might deem it wise to make in the situation of those who were to succeed them. What would the House think of the officers of a battalion assembling together for the purpose of joining in opposition to any measure which might be proposed for the future regulation of the pay of those who were to come after them in the service? Would not such conduct be justly considered as a presumptuous interference in things which did not belong to them? No one would maintain, that such a proceeding should be tolerated; and he contended, that the officers would be just as well grounded in such an interference as the clergy on the present occasion. It was the undoubted right of every British subject to petition, if they considered their rights affected; but he hoped any petition the clergy against legislating for their successors, would not have much weight with that House. But it was urged by some of the clergy, "Will you degrade 388 us by giving us pay in exchange for our landed income? Will you make us mere dependents on the bounty of the state?" He could scarcely repress a smile when he heard the clergy talk of independence. The clergy, who, for the last two centuries, had been amongst the most slavish supporters of power, had now the assurance to talk of independence. They had, indeed, assurance, along with many other good things, and, like others, their assurance often carried them through. The right hon. secretary for Ireland might laugh; but they would see how far his assurance would carry him by-and-by [Hear, hear!]. It was scarcely bearable to find such opposition coining from men who ought to have different feelings—to find the clergy rising almost in a body, the moment mention was made of reforming the abuses of the church. It was not, he repeated, to be borne, to hear them talk of being degraded by the idea of receiving pay—of having their incomes regulated by parliament—of having them subjected to a regular pay as a remuneration, from which we did not exempt our brave soldiers and sailors, our judges,—nay, even majesty itself. Was it not well known, that his majesty had surrendered his territorial income to the control of parliament, and received instead, such pay, under the title of civil list, as was considered suitable to the support of his royal dignity? and were they to listen there to the assertion, that the clergy would be degraded by that which royalty did not hesitate to accept? If the question was to be rejected, let the house have some argument advanced; but let it not be put aside by such absurdities as this. If it were urged, that commuting church property for a money payment would deprive the clergy of their independence, his answer was, that he was quite satisfied to take his choice; for sure he was, that they could not become more subservient than they were, or than they had been for a considerable period of time. But, while he was anxious to do away with large church livings, he wished to continue an efficient clergy, who would perform the sacred functions of their office with respectability to themselves, and with benefit to the community; in short, in a manner to promote religion, morality, and Christian knowledge. He did not wish to see them princes of the land, and acting as a body independent of the state. He contended, that the 389 church formed a part of the state, as the army and navy did, and ought to be in every instance subject to such regulations and improvements as should, from time to time, be deemed necessary.
He thought he had now gone over all the points to which he wished to call the attention of the House; he had endeavoured to show what the church was; he had explained the present establishment of the church; he had pointed out the income allotted to its support, and the duties to be discharged by the receivers of that income; and if he had shown, as he trusted he had, that that income was too large—that the duties were not adequately performed—that some of the clergy were elevated far above their sphere, whilst others were much underpaid; he hoped he had made out a case on which he was fully warranted to take the sense of the House. If the church was to be supported according to the principles of our religion, they ought to look back to the conduct of its divine founder. Let not its higher dignitaries live in luxury and dissipation, while its most worthy and deserving clergymen, the working clergy, as they were called, lived in situations unworthy of them. He trusted he had shown that the greatest abuses existed in the church establishment in Ireland—that from non-residence, and other causes, the most important functions of its ministers were often neglected—that the higher dignitaries of the church did not discharge their duties as they ought—and that the manner of collecting tithes in Ireland was an evil which ought to have been corrected long ago. If the House had attended to his remarks, and the opinion of the archbishop of Armagh, who had asserted, that the public knew nothing of the church of Ireland, it was pretty evident, that nothing in the way of amendment was to be expected from the bishops themselves. As little did he think could be hoped for from the appointment of a commission of inquiry. He, therefore, would submit what he thought would be most effectual as a preliminary step; namely, the appointment of a select committee. He should therefore move,
In submitting these resolutions, he begged to assure the House, that it was not his intention to throw any personal imputation upon any individual connected with the church establishment in Ireland.
- 1. "That the property of the church of Ireland, at present in the possession of the bishops, the deans, and chapters of Ireland, is public property, under the control and at the disposal of the legislature, for the support of religion, and for
390 such other purposes as parliament in its wisdom may deem beneficial to the community; due attention being paid to the rights of every person now enjoying any part of that property.
- 2. "That it is expedient to inquire whether the present Church Establishment of Ireland be not more than commensurate to the services to be performed, both as regards the number of persons employed and the incomes they receive; and, if so, whether a reduction of the same should not take place, with due regard to all existing interests.
- 3. "That the peace and best interests of Ireland would be promoted by a commutation of all tithes, on such principles as shall be considered just and equitable to the present possessors, whether lay or clerical.
- 4. "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider in what way the objects stated in these resolutions can be best carried into effect."
§ Mr. Goulburn
felt it unnecessary to state, that he rose for the purpose of giving his most decided negative to the hon. member's resolutions. That was not the first time he heard opinions broached in that House, similar to those now advocated by the hon. member; but, wherever he met them, whether supported by the most powerful eloquence, or by that lengthened and minute detail, for which the hon. gentleman was distinguished, he should always be ready to oppose to them the best resistance which it was in his power to make. If, on this occasion, he felt any difficulty in answering the hon. member, it arose, not from the intricacy of the subject, not from the weight of the arguments to which he had to reply, but from the difficulty of restraining his indignation at witnessing the attempts now made to overthrow the foundation of all property, and to malign the established church, to which we were attached, not merely from habit and education, but from a practical experience of the incalculable benefits which we derived from it. He hoped he might be allowed to commence his argument by adverting to that part of the subject with which the hon. member for Aberdeen had concluded, and to express his astonishment 391 at finding that the hon. member, while he expressed his wish to maintain the clergy in a manner which would at once render them useful, and obtain for them the respect of society, should have allowed himself to deal out against that body so much of obloquy and abuse. The hon. member, while he stated that he was anxious to place the clergy of the country upon a respectable footing, not only desired the House to deprive them of their property, but wished to place them under the ban of society—to place them in a situation which would preclude them from expressing to parliament, in the form of petition, either their wants or their wishes. The archbishop of Tuam was held up to censure, for having called a meeting of his clergy on the subject of their temporal interests, and for the purpose of defending that property which had been originally given for the support of the church, and to which it had as good a claim as any individual could have to his own estate. The archbishop had, it seemed, the audacity to call a meeting, for the purpose of laying a petition before the legislature. This, then, was the hon. member's toleration—this was the kind of justice which he felt disposed to extend towards the clergy—and from this the House might judge of the great liberality of his views on the subject of the church establishment [Hear, hear!] What would the hon. member or his friends say to him, or the gentlemen near him, if, where the private property of an individual was concerned in the remotest degree, he or they should get up and say, that the party about to suffer had no right whatever to interfere by petition, or otherwise apply to the House for protection? If such a line of conduct was likely to make strong impressions, what must be his feelings, what must have been the feelings of the gentlemen near him, when they heard it publicly stated, that the clergy of that country had no right to petition against the enactment of a law which they considered obnoxious to their interests?
The hon. member had endeavoured to support his argument by stating, that the king had been induced to change his territorial property for a money provision. But, did the hon. gentleman recollect, that the agreement with the king was made with his own consent, and was to last only for the life of the sovereign? Would the hon. member attempt to maintain, that the contract made with 392 the king as to the crown lands—a contract made in the fairest, the most open, and the most honourable way, and with a strict regard to the rights of the crown—was a ground for the forcible spoliation of the clergy—a ground for changing one species of property for another? The hon. member had broadly stated, that the clergy were dependent upon and subservient to the crown. He (Mr. G.) was aware that it had been for some time the fashion to create a feeling of hostility against the clergy, as a means of invading the other establishments of the state. Whatever affected the church, must affect the state: they were, by reason as well as by law, united; they could not be separated without imminent peril to both; but he begged to observe, that the church was not dependent upon the state in the way which the hon. member represented. If he would look into history, he would be better able to appreciate the benefits which the state had derived from the clergy; he would find that the liberties of the country had, at more than one period, been preserved by the instrumentality of the church; that it had more than once opposed barriers to the attacks made upon the privileges of the people. In the frequent struggles for power which had taken place in this country, the church had stood between the contending parties, the ministers of peace, and had preserved the due balance between them. A reference to history would also show the hon. gentleman why his present propositions were natural subjects of alarm to those who loved the constitution of the country. The course which he was following was that pursued by other reformers in earlier periods of our history. Let the House remember what had marked the commencement of that revolution which did not end until the blood of the sovereign had been shed. It began by an invasion, on the part of the House of Commons, of the property of the church: first, the tithes were attacked; next, the dignity of the higher orders of the clergy; and the spirit of revolution, thus excited, was not appeased until it had destroyed almost all order in the country. If the hon. gentleman would turn to the proceedings of parliament in the early part of that revolution, he would find this resolution:—"Whereas the government of the church of England by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors and commissaries, deans, and deans and chapters, 393 archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical officers, bath been found by long experience a great impediment to the perfect reformation and growth of religion, and very prejudicial to the state and government of this kingdom—resolved, that the same be taken away." The House, following up this principle, came, in a short time after, to this resolution—"That the lands, fines, rents, and profits of all archbishops, bishops, deans, deans and chapters, and vicars choral, be forfeited to the state "—the same principle which the position of the hon. member embraced; and, following up that principle, the House further resolved, "That a certain sum be issued to commissioners to be appointed for that purpose from the treasury of the state, for the purpose of supporting a sufficient number of preaching ministers, and for the due support of the church." There was nothing in the resolutions of forcible spoliation which the Commons agreed to in that clay, that was not, in effect, embraced by the proposition of the hon. member now before the House. First came the deprivation of all church property; then came that which the hon. member called just—that the preaching ministers should have what was considered sufficient for their support, and the support of the church—[Hear, hear! from Mr. Hume.] The hon. member might call this justice, if he pleased; but there was no kind of forcible spoliation to which the same epithet might not be applied. But, let the hon. member mark what was this "just" provision for the clergy. In six months after the passing of the resolutions he had noticed, another was agreed to, by which all archbishops, bishops, deans, &c. were deprived of their temporal estates, of all their freehold lands, which were declared forfeited during their lives—not much beyond the principle of the hon. member. And, to show the equitable principle of remuneration upon which the House of Commons, in the liberal reforming spirit of that day, acted, he would read one more resolution to which it had come:—"Resolved, that the archbishop of York have 100l. a-year for his life."—[Cries of Hear, hear!]
He did not recall the recollection of the House to these facts for the purpose of creating a smile. He quoted them for the purpose of showing, that the revolution, which in its progress was marked with the most flagrant violations of every 394 moral principle, had commenced by the spoliation of church property. But the hon. member added, that a measure analagous to that which he had proposed had been adopted by Leopold of Tuscany. He (Mr. G.) did not profess to be sufficiently well acquainted with all the affairs of that very important state to give any opinions as to their policy; but he would say, that he never should be induced to depart from the principles of honesty, justice, and morality, by the example of any foreign sovereign. He had been taught from his earliest youth, that if any thing distinguished England from other countries, it was her undeviating adherence to the principles of honour, morality, and justice; nor could any desire of imitating a foreign state induce him to sacrifice this proud distinction. But the hon. gentleman appealed to the landed interest, for whose benefit, he added, this would prove. He (Mr. G.) would not insult the lauded interest by supposing that they would, by any plea of sell-interest, be reconciled to such a spoliation. They must feel that it could not be for the real interest of any man to rob one portion of the community for tire purpose of benefitting another. Such a principle destroyed the very foundation of morality: it confounded vice and virtue; it professed to encourage charity, while it in reality recommended robbery. As applied to the concerns of the church, such an argument was not without a precedent. The clergy would not be surprised, nor would they be disposed to complain, if they were now attacked by the same line of argument, by which the divine Founder of our religion had been himself assailed. Why, it was asked, in the hypocritical cant of the day (not much unlike the hypocritical cant of the present), "why was not this precious ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" Not (as we are informed on the most undoubted authority), that "they cared for the poor," but that they were anxious to avail themselves of the base passions of the people, and thus, by a hypocritical pretext, to deprive the divine Founder of our religion, not of a decent maintenance, not of necessary subsistence, but of an expensive acknowledgment of his dignity and splendor.
The hon. member had gone so much into detail, that it was not possible for him (Mr. G.) to follow through all the branches of the address. It could not 395 be expected that he should be able to say exactly what was the amount of this bishop's revenue, or what wealth another might have unduly amassed. He hoped for the indulgence of the House on this occasion, and that they would not take every statement of the hon. member to be correct, because he was not just then enabled to give it a contradiction [Hear, hear!]. The hon. member and he differed very widely in the principle which he had endeavoured to maintain; and, here he thought was the great error of all who argued as the hon. member had done. It was assumed by all such, that the property of the church was in a different situation from that of any layman; and that the right to one should be argued as different in its nature from the other. Now, he held the right to be the same as to possession, but not to alienation. He maintained, that the lands allotted for the support of the church, were as strictly the property of the church, as the property of any individual could be said to belong to that individual. He spoke in the hearing of those who could contradict him, if he took a wrong view of the subject in this point. The property of the church was, no doubt, subject to the performance of certain duties; but, as long as those duties were performed, the House had no more power over that property than they had over the property of any individual in the country. He would go further, and assert, that, even in ease of the non-performance of the duties attached to the property, though the individual might lose his right over it, still the loss could not be extended to his successors. If some members of the church did not come up to that perfection which might be expected from the nature of their duties, would it be contended, that the property should be for ever lost by his omission? He maintained, that it ought not; for it was not the property of the individual. It was the property of the great body, attached to the performance of certain duties, which were intended to be for the benefit of the people. And was it to be argued, that by the neglect of one possessor, who omitted to perform his duty, the people were to be for ever deprived of the means of remunerating one who might more effectually discharge his sacred trust? Because one delinquent existed in the church, was it to be stripped for ever of the means of rewarding a worthy and efficient clergy- 396 man? Yet such was the doctrine of the modern reform which the House had heard so eagerly put forward that night. Why, he would again ask, should the property of the church be looked upon in a different light from any other property appropriated for the public benefit? Suppose the hon. member were to have an estate left to him upon the condition of maintaining an hospital, and that he had failed to fulfil that condition, would it not be unfair upon the part of any set of persons to turn round and say, that the property should be so disposed of as never to be applied to the support of an hospital in future? Suppose a large tract of land were left for the endowment of an hospital for the benefit of the surrounding neighbourhood, would the misapplication of the funds, in one instance, or the neglect of duty by those who received a great portion of them, be a ground for withdrawing from the people the benefit of the hospital in all future times? He presumed not. Why, then, should the argument apply to church property only? Yet, such was the reasoning upon which the House was called upon to sanction the spoliation now proposed.
But the hon. gentleman said, he would give the minister of the church a liberal remuneration. Upon this there arose another point on which he widely differed from him. He was not bound to pay any idle veneration; but he would respect and venerate worth, learning, and piety where he found it exist. It was the pride of the church of this country, that it had sent forth a greater number of learned men than the church of any other country in the world: and, upon that ground alone, he should think it unwise to meddle with a system which had raised the church to so high a point in the respect and admiration of the world. Unless due encouragement were held out to those who entered into that church, it could not be expected, that there would he the same influx of virtue and learning into it, in the days that were to come, that there had been in the days that were past. Besides, when he compared the church of England with the church of Scotland, and the distinguished characters produced by the one, with the distinguished characters produced by the other, he saw no reason (and he said this without meaning any disrespect to the church of Scotland), to change the system of the church government of England for the system of 397 church government that prevailed in Scotland. These observations, he well knew, applied to all members of the church of England in general; and did not belong to the church of Ireland in particular. His reason for making his observations of this general nature was, that he saw no argument which applied to the subversion of the church of Ireland and the diminution of its dignity, that did not apply with equal force to the subversion of the church of England. Indeed, the hon. member himself had not hesitated to declare, that, in his view of the question, the church of England was not a whit more pure than the church of Ireland; anti he (Mr. G.) had therefore taken the liberty of arguing the question on the broad principle, in order to render the views of the hon. member more clear and intelligible to the majority of the House. If the House wished that the church of England should be reformed, in the manner that the hon. member for Aberdeen proposed, they would of course vote in favour of his resolutions; but if they did not think that it stood in need of any such sweeping charges, he trusted that they would reject, by a large majority, the extraordinary proposal which had that evening been submitted to their consideration.
The hon. member for Aberdeen had made, however, some observations upon the church of Ireland, which he thought it necessary to notice, though he did not intend to enter at any length upon them. And here he must remark, that after differing so widely from the hon. member on so many points, he was glad to find at last one point on which he could agree with him. The hon. member had lamented the frequency of non-residence among the clergy of Ireland. That was an evil which he lamented as much as the hon. member possibly could do; for he was well convinced, that a resident clergy was more necessary in Ireland than in any other country. They were necessary on this account—that they afforded more effectual means of introducing permanent tranquillity into that distracted country, than any which the wit of man had hitherto devised. As far as it was in the power of the governors of the church; as far as the bishops and archbishops could effect any thing in their respective dioceses; and he might also say, as far as the lord lieutenant had any influence; there was a full and perfect concurrence as to the great 398 importance of the residence of the clergy. Indeed, he could appeal to experience, to show how far they had been successful in their efforts to make more of the Irish clergy resident on their cures. To a measure which, without infringing on the rights of the church, should compel the clergy to reside, he should not have the slightest objection; though, at the same time, he must say, that there were many circumstances which rendered the nonresidence of clergymen in Ireland more excusable than it would, under the existing circumstances, be in England. It was known to the House, that, for some years past, several large sums had been voted by parliament, for the purpose of building and repairing; glebe houses in Ireland.—The expenditure of that sum, as far as it had gone, had been productive of much good; as in all cases where glebe houses had been built, the clergymen had been compelled to reside: but there were many benefices in Ireland on which there was not merely no residence provided for the clergyman, but no means of even procuring one. It was therefore unfair to impute, in all cases, to the neglect of the minister, and even to that of his majesty's government, the want of that spiritual assistance which the lower classes of the community had an undoubted right to expect from those to whom their spiritual concerns were entrusted.
With that remark, he should leave this part of the question, and should proceed to notice another observation in the speech of the hon. member for Aberdeen. That hon. member had said, that in the church of Ireland the preservation of patronage was the only thing considered—that livings were conferred, and bishopricks bestowed, with a view to nothing else than parliamentary interest, and the promotion of corruption, and from such other motives as the hon. member was in the practice of always imputing to his political opponents. He did not mean to say that there were not in the church establishment of Ireland persons allied to the first families in that country; and connected with individuals who possessed parliamentary influence; but, such a circumstance was no imputation against them, unless their talents and conduct were such as to disqualify them for the situations which they held, or unless they neglected the duties which they were bound to perform. He would ask, however, of the hon. member for Aberdeen, to look at the 399 bench of Irish bishops, and to declare whether he could find men filling such situations in any other country, with characters more pure, and with talents more exalted?
He had now adverted to most of the assertions which the hon. gentleman had advanced in the course of his speech; and he must say, that by that speech the hon. member had removed from his mind, and he trusted from the mind of every member in the House, all doubt as to the line of conduct which ought to be pursued. The hon. member had moved for a committee, with the usual parliamentary preface to his motion—that all he wanted was inquiry. Nobody, however, could have entertained any doubt as to the object and nature of that inquiry, even supposing the hon. member had not laid his resolutions on their table. He should, therefore, resist the hon. member's motion for a committee, as he considered it to be hostile to every principle of honour, honesty, and justice—to be fatal to the property of the church—and to be, as a precedent, pregnant with the utmost danger to every kind of property possessed by the community. He must again repeat, that if gentlemen were prepared to sanction such an attack upon the rights, dignities, and property of the church, they would vote with the hon. member for Aberdeen; but if they were determined to support the present establishment of the church, upon the ground, that it was well calculated to promote the welfare and morality of the country, they would join him in giving it a most decided rejection.
expressed his strong disapprobation of the proposed committee. He likewise defended the late primate of Ireland against the attack which had been made upon him by the hon. member. The assertions which that hon. member had made, in derogation of his conduct, were totally unfounded. Before the year 1807, there were no means of enforcing the clergy of Ireland to residence. The bill for that purpose was introduced by the late primate, who had been made the subject of such unfounded attack.
Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald,
knight of Kerry, said, that if he had felt some difficulty regarding the vote which he should give upon the resolutions then before the House, that difficulty had not been removed by the speech of the right hon. secretary. If he could not assent, on 400 the one hand, to all the charges which the hon. mover had brought against the church of Ireland, in the very able statement which he had that evening made, neither could he assent to the sweeping defence which the right hon. secretary had offered against them on the other. In stating that it was his opinion, that the church of Ireland required inquiry and reformation, he trusted that he should not be considered as entertaining any feelings of hostility towards it, or as speaking, from any envy or ill-will towards those who were intrusted with the care of it. He wished that an inquiry should be instituted into its condition, and a reformation made in its abuse; more for the sake of increasing the stability of the Protestant establishment, than for any paltry gain which might arise from the confiscation of its property. The church of Ireland appeared to him to be too rich; and whilst it was so largely endowed, it could not be expected that those humble duties which were so often demanded from its members, would be performed in the exemplary manner that Christian charity demanded that they should be. It ought to be recollected, too, that in Ireland the church had to compete with other sects, that possessed able and enlightened clergymen; and if it were to be kept up for any thing else than a mere political machine, it was necessary that its members should discharge with activity the duties which their situations required of them. He contended, that this unfortunately was not the case, and mentioned as a melancholy illustration of the evils which had arisen from this neglect, that in whole districts in the south of Ireland, which he recollected to have been inhabited by Protestants, the inhabitants had become members of other sects, in which they had found able and active ministers. These circumstances had led to two, three, four, seven, and, in one instance, to eleven parishes being united into one, and confided to the care of a single individual. This, however, was not the whole of the evil; for it sometimes happened, that even in these parishes, where there had been resident Protestants receiving the cure of souls from a Protestant clergyman, the rector was now an absentee. Was it not right to inquire why the Protestant population was diminishing, at a time when its clergy was in the receipt of much larger emoluments than the clergy of any other sect? He could have wished that this 401 motion for inquiry had been brought forward in some other shape, or had come from some other quarter; but, if ministers would not originate such a proposition, what was he to do? When he found the right hon. secretary objecting to inquiry, not upon the ground that it ought not to be effected in the manner proposed—not upon the ground that he had some measures to suggest that would render it needless—but on the ground, that the theoretical excellence of the Irish church establishment, rendered all inquiry into it perfectly unnecessary—was he not obliged to resort to the measure then before him? He had said, that he felt difficulty as to the vote he should give; but he must now add, that if this motion went to the vote, he should certainly vote for it. The church of Ireland was in danger, not so much from the hostility of rival sects, as from the supineness of its own members, and the abuses of its own system—from the disposition which prevailed in certain quarters to defend every possible abuse, and to refuse every species of reform. It was his anxious wish to see that most necessary reform take place—to see that church purged of those abuses which were the seeds of its weakness. He felt a high regard for the church. Without the affectation of a peculiar interest for religion, he would wish to see the establishment flourish in strength and purity. He despised affectation of any kind, but cant and affectation upon the solemn subject of religion, he abhorred. Anxious as he was for the interests and for the glory of the church, he should be a dishonest man if he did not declare, that he feared for that establishment, because it was determined to wait for a reformation from without, rather than itself commence a reformation from within. He gave the Irish government credit, for having selected, in its recent appointment of bishops, men distinguished no less for their learning and talent, than for their christian zeal and charity. He hailed that circumstance as ominous of good; and he should have considered it still more so, if he had seen it accompanied by any disposition to investigate the condition and remedy the abuses of the church, over which they were set to preside. Notwithstanding what had been done, he was convinced that, unless the residence of the clergy was more strictly enforced; unless the discipline of the church were more closely observed; and unless its 402 ministers were compelled to pay more attention to the education of their parishioners—a duty which they were sworn to discharge, but which they generally neglected—he was convinced, that in a few years, the church of Ireland would have but few followers among the middle and lower classes of society. With respect to the question of tithes, he would exclude it altogether for the present. That question was very shortly to be brought before the House by the right hon. secretary; but when he heard it said, that tithes were not a subject for legislation, he feared that any proposition coming from the same quarter with regard thereto, would be inadequate and nugatory. If a measure similar to that of the last session should be again brought forward, he could only impute the attempt to the infatuation of ministers, caused by a false and dangerous zeal for the establishment, and tending to undermine those barriers, which formed its strong defence.
Mr. Secretary Peel
thought the hon. gentleman might have deferred till the day after to-morrow offering an opinion as to the measure to be brought forward by his right hon. friend. Thus much confidence he considered due to the Irish government, who, it had been admitted, had selected for high offices those only who were recommended by their fitness to fill them. Credit, therefore, might have been given them for a disposition to reform abuses which had been shown to prevail. The hon. gentleman had stated, that the Protestant population had been withdrawn from a considerable district, in consequence of the neglect of the Protestant church. He begged to read what had led to the Protestant population referred to being so withdrawn. He then read a statement from the lord primate, which set forth, that the livings in these parishes were so low, that no clergyman could be found to accept of them, a factious vote of the Irish House of Commons having reduced the vicars to want, and made it necessary to unite several vicarages into one benefice. In a case where several of these had been thus united, the total income arising from them did not exceed 200l.; and in other cases the amount produced under similar circumstances was not more than 100l. a year. The vote alluded to had passed in the year 1735, and its object was to discourage the growth of popery. Such an effect was not likely to be produced by that 403 resolution; and nothing could be more unjust in itself. But he had not risen to reply to the lust speaker, but to the hon. gentleman who had brought forward the present motion. The question was not now, whether abuses should he inquired into which were admitted to exist. This was not sought; for he considered the greatest enemy to inquiry was that man who brought forward a proposition founded on such principles as the hon. gentleman had adopted and avowed that night. If the proposition before the House were adopted, it would affect not merely the Irish church, but the English church also; it was an attack upon both. And what was the situation of the church with respect to that House? He should beg the House to recollect, that by act of parliament (with the policy of which he did not find fault), the clergy were prevented from having a voice in that House; that the ancient assemblies through which they were accustomed to deliver their opinions (the convocation) had fallen into disuse; and that it therefore was but just, that peculiar caution should be used in attacking the rights of men who had not organs through which to defend themselves. It was not, however, on this ground that he resisted the motion; but because he felt it necessary to make a stand against doctrines which tended equally to slavery and spoliation. Was it possible that it could be maintained by a Whig, by the hon. member, who went even beyond a whig in popular opinions, that the privilege of complaint was to be withheld from the clergy? Was he to tell the clergy that they had no right to express their opinion on the subjects in which they were especially interested? If a bishop met the clergy of his diocese, to express an opinion on the commutation of tithes (not that they would not pay the most, implicit obedience to the determination of parliament, but merely to declare that they did not consider that the proposed measure would benefit the church), the hon. mover told them, that they were to be regarded as the officers of a mutinous battalion, who met the officers of a brother battalion, to protest against the reduction of the army. If any man had maintained on his (Mr. P.'s) side of the House, that the petitioners, in behalf of an existing right of property, ought to be looked upon in the same light as soldiers guilty of a breach of the Mutiny act, he would be justly met with general indignation. The 404 hon. gentleman had asked them, what was the church of England? He had told them that there were various opinions, not as to its constitution, but as to the very meaning of the term. If, as the hon. mover had supposed, they were on the eve of voting that Quakerism should be the established religion of the state, he did not know what his notions might be as to the church of England; but, so long as the Protestant reformed religion was the religion of this country, he should be at no loss to state what he conceived to be the meaning of the term "church of England." It was no obscure or novel expression; it was employed in one of the most solemn acts by which the liberties of the country were claimed and defined; and our ancestors did not think it inconsistent with their own freedom to maintain that of the church of England. In the first page of the first chapter of the first volume of the statute-book, in Magna Charta, it was expressly declared—"Quod Anglicana ecclesia libera sit, et habeat jura sua integra et libertates suas illæsas." At the period of the revolution, when the coronation oath was established, it a as not thought inconsistent with the rights of the subject, to require from the crown, in the presence of an archbishop or bishop, a positive and solemn engagement to maintain the Protestant reformed religion, and to preserve to the bishops and clergy the rights and liberties to which they were entitled. He denied the position, therefore, that the church of England meant no more than a congregation of Quakers, or any other sect voluntarily associated; and he refused to accompany the hon. gentleman one step in his inquiry, because he had not explained the principles on which he intended to proceed. His sophistry could not impose upon any member who had sat only a week in the House. He could not deceive the weakest man, by asserting, that his object was the same as that of the primate, who said, that the church of Ireland had been much misunderstood. The hon. member's first resolution was enough to show what his real purpose was. It declared, that "the property of the church of Ireland at present in possession of the bishops, deans, &c. of Ireland" (as if they were mere and absolute intruders) "is public property, under the control and at the disposal of the legislature, for the support of religion, and for such other purposes" (perhaps for de- 405 fraying the deficiences in the civil list, or for paying off the national debt) "as parliament, in its wisdom, may deem beneficial." Before parliament entered upon an inquiry into the condition of the church, they were to affirm, that the property of the church was applicable to any other purposes than the maintenance of religion. It was a vain and useless discussion to inquire into the competence of parliament, nor should he be inclined to deny it; but, of this he was sure, that on any principles on which parliament could wisely act, they could not interfere with the property of the church—that they could not touch it without weakening the confidence in private property. He should not refer to the origin or antiquity of the church of Ireland; but, when the hon. member talked of the stipulations of the act of Union as the reason why he did not abolish episcopacy altogether, he would ask, whether the hon. member could prove it consistent with the act of Union to reduce them to four bishops and one archbishop? The church of Ireland was a part of the united church of England and Ireland, and in the act of Union, every bishop and archbishop was enumerated, and the rotation in which they were to take their places in parliament settled. For the reasons he had given, he felt it his duty to oppose altogether the entertaning of the proposition now recommended to the adoption of the House.
§ Mr. Denman
said, he could not consent that the House of Commons should he disqualified, by the general assertions of the right hon. secretary, from entertaining any proposition which might be laid before them with a view to the benefit of the community. Not having heard all the speech of the hon. mover, he yet thought that he should desert his duty to an important part of the empire, if he resisted the proposed inquiry, especially as he was little disposed to expect efficient measures of reform from the gentlemen on the other side of the House, who avowed principles which would be fatal to all reform. As to the argument deduced by the right hon. secretary from the act of Union, if the object of that act was to preserve the establishment from any change, it would afford an argument against any change which should originate with the government, as well as against any which should originate with the House. If, on the other hand, the act of Union was not to stand in the way of reform, 406 there was no reason why they should not look into the subject, and afford the government the aid of their inquiries. The right hon. secretary had spoken of the delicacy of making any attacks on the clergy, on account of their peculiarly helpless condition; as if the clergy of Ireland had no union with the government; as if the mode of distributing the patronage of the church did not interest the most powerful persons in their behalf; as if they had not archbishops and bishops ill parliament to advocate their cause; as if they were not great freeholders, and had no representatives in that House. They had had pretty good specimens on former occasions of the manner in which they could resist any propositions which affected them, and it seemed to him much more likely that a salutary reform would be delayed on account of the influence they possessed, than that measures injurious to them would be carried through their mere inability to resist them. The right hon. secretary had referred to the coronation oath and to Magna Charta. He thought the reference to the coronation oath alarming; and not the less so on account of the quarter from whence it came. It was the absurd construction of that oath that had long stood in the way of a great measure of reform, approved by all enlightened men—the emancipation of the catholics, without which they could never hope for the peace of Ireland. The right hon. secretary had also gone back to Magna Charta, where he found the liberties of the church of England were secured. But, let it not be forgotten, that at the time Magna Charta was obtained, the English church was a Popish church, and that the liberty referred to was the independence of the see of Rome, and not a separation from its doctrines. He did not understand that the object of the proposed inquiry was to bring the rights and liberties of the church into the slightest jeopardy, but merely to examine, whether its revenues could not be better administered for the good of the church itself. In the Curates bill, the House had resorted to first principles; for it declared, that the working clergy ought to be duly rewarded, and it recognized the right of the House to interpose, and to take care that there was a just division of the ecclesiastical property. If the promised measure of government did not go that length, it would be little 407 worth the attention of the country: if it did not go that length, why was not the house to give government its support, by an independent inquiry? It would thus show, that there was a real disposition to amend and improve.
Mr. Secretary Peel
thought it but fair to state, that he had never, in any debate on the Catholic question, urged the coronation oath against the concessions demanded. Such an argument he had never used; nor would he ever use one, which be was not prepared to avow acid maintain.
begged to trespass on the Mouse for a few moments. He did so with reluctance, but he felt he should be wanting to himself, to the situation which he had the honour to fill, and to the part which he was accustomed to take on that question, which had been incidentally connected with the debate of that night, if he were not to offer one or two observations on this occasion. The nature of church property was well known to the House. It was not for the purpose of speaking on this subject, that he had risen. But he could not allow the resolutions of the hon. member to be offered to the consideration of the House, without expressing, in terms as strong as the English language could supply, or the rules of parliament would allow him to use in that House, his sense of the folly and desperation of the measure which had been proposed, and without expressing the strongest reprobation of it which it was in his power to bestow. The plan of the hon. gentleman for governing the church of Ireland, if proper for that country, would be proper for England. If adopted by parliament, they would in effect declare, that the property of the hierarchy was public property, and was liable to be disposed of for purposes of religion, or for any other purposes. This would prepare the way for the downfall of the hierarchy: that of the throne must follow; and this would, of course, involve the overthrow of the constitution. He was no advocate for the divine right or the sacredness of church more than any other kind of property. But be was an advocate for the sacredness of all property. He spoke language which came home to the breast of every Englishman, when be said, that the church of England was an integral part 408 of the constitution, and could not be interfered with without interfering with the constitution. But, the hon. gentleman said, that parliament had interfered with the revenues of the crown, and had the same right to interfere with the revenues of the church. He admitted that it had the same right to interfere. But, when the House interfered with the revenues of the crown, it was not to commit an outrage, but to make a compact, to which the crown was a consenting party, which was to last but till the expiration of the life interest of the reigning sovereign. But, the proposition of the hon. gentleman attacked the property of the church for alleged irregularities; and, without limiting his measure to a life interest, he demanded that its property should be taken away altogether. But, then, an equitable adjustment was to be made. And, what was the equitable adjustment proposed? Why, that full compensation should be made to the individuals now in the church. This compensation was to be given to the individuals, of whose misconduct he complained; and the property belonging to the church was to be taken from their successors, who had never offended. And this was the "equitable adjustment" proposed by the hon. gentleman, as it was the custom to call every plan of spoliation and injustice. If he deprecated this as applied to the Protestant establishment of England, he deprecated it still more as applied to the establishment of Ireland. The church establishment in Ireland, as in England, was an integral part of the constitution, but in Ireland it was also the bond of connexion with this country. To his hon. and learned friend who spoke last, he felt nothing but gratitude for his zealous support of the cause of the Roman Catholics; but he would put it to him, whether it could be serviceable to that cause to mix it up with the subject now before the House? For himself, he would say, much as he regarded the Roman Catholics, devoted as he was to their cause, incorporated as it was with his very nature, impossible as it was that he should slacken in it while life remained, if he thought that its success would shake the Protestant establishment in Ireland, he would fling it to the winds. But, one of the strongest grounds on which he advocated that cause was, that he believed in his conscience, that he was satisfied, on the most mature consideration, 409 that no one object was so calculated to strengthen that establishment as the restoration of the great body of the people to their long lost rights.
§ Mr. Monck
agreed with the hon. mover, that the ecclesiastical revenues were not so much intended to benefit the clergy as the people at large. When the House was called upon to vote millions for the building of churches, where could be the harm of asking whether the ecclesiastical revenues were not equal to bear the expense? Where could be the harm of taking something from the hierarchy of the church to be bestowed upon the inferior clergy? It was with this view that he should support the resolutions, and not with any desire of spoliation; because he did not think that either the church of England or of Ireland were too well endowed.
§ Mr. Grattan
said, that from what had fallen from the other side, he was apprehensive that no effectual measures were intended to be proposed by the government on this important subject. Inquiry was certainly necessary: he should, therefore, support the resolutions, without agreeing, in all the doctrines advanced by the hon. mover. He should never support any principles of spoliation; but he was of opinion, that the officers of the church in Ireland, and its revenues, ought to be regulated. By the present system, Ireland had been made a Catholic country; for there were Dot now more than four or five hundred thousand Protestants in Ireland.
§ Mr. Hume
, in rising to reply, put it to the right hon. gentlemen opposite, if his language, or if any thing which he had said, deserved the warmth which the right hon. gentleman had displayed. He should have scarcely troubled the House again, as the facts in his speech had not been met; but an attempt had been made to misrepresent his expressions, and he owed it to the House—he owed it to himself—he owed it to the cause he was advocating, to meet that attempt as it deserved to be met. The right hon. secretary for Ireland had attempted to mistify, and grossly to misrepresent his propositions, by comparing them to the proceedings of the parliament of 1640, which went to sweep away the whole property of the church from the then possessors, whilst his proposal was, to secure to the present incumbents their full incomes for their lives, and only to propose a change for 410 their successors. The right hon. gentleman had stated, that those proceedings did not go much beyond the principle which he (Mr. Hume) had proposed; whereas, no propositions could be more distinct, or more opposed to each other. He would not only say, that this was grossly misrepresenting him, but wilfully misrepresenting him; for his resolutions said, that no injury should be done to the vested interests of any existing individual. There never was a grosser attempt to lead away the House from the real object before it, than this; and it appeared, from such proceedings, that his opponents were much in want of arguments to meet his statements.
§ The Speaker
here called the hon. member to order. He said he had waited till the last moment, and had even not stopped the hon. member when he used the unparliamentary term of gross misrepresentations; but, when he went on to attribute motives to right hon. members, he felt it his duty to call him to order.
§ Mr. Hume,
in continuation, apologized for trespassing on the rules of the House, as he by no means wished or intended to apply any term improper or unparliamentary to any member of the House. The secretary for Ireland seemed to have entirely forgot his (Mr. H.'s) speech, and not to have read his resolutions. He (Mr. H.) had certainly a right to complain, that his opinions had been placed in an improper light, although no attempts had been made to answer his arguments. The right hon. gentleman had conjured up something said by some one else, in some other place, and this phantom he had combated with great vigour. In what instance, Mr. Hume asked, had he ever attacked individual property? He had specially guarded against such an interpretation both in his speech and his resolutions, by expressing his wish to respect all vested rights. What similarity, therefore, was there between his arguments and those which the right hon. secretary had been combating? The right hon. secretary had said, he would on no account be concerned in bringing forward resolutions which implied a sacrifice of honour, honesty, and justice. He (Mr. H.) was not, however, ashamed to put forth such resolutions; and he felt himself as incapable as the right hon. gentleman of supporting any thing which was dishonourable, dishonest, or unjust [Hear, hear!]. Because he differed from other gentlemen 411 on many points, every statement of his only brought upon him violent personal attacks! He appeared to be individually marked out for such attacks, though he was not conscious of making such himself; but, from what he knew of the House, he thought they were not likely to receive countenance from it. One right hon. gentleman had said, that he was the greatest enemy of the country.
Mr. Secretary Peel
rose to correct the hon. member. He had not stated, that the hon. member was the enemy of the country, but the enemy of inquiry.
§ Mr. Hume,
in continuation, said, that he wished to avoid personalties, and to have arguments—weighty arguments, which alone were worthy of such a subject. The right hon. the attorney-general for Ireland had said, that he could not suffer the first resolution to pass, without expressing, in the strongest terms the English language could supply, or parliamentary usage would permit, his detestation of the desperation and folly of the individual who proposed it [Hear, hear!].
rose to correct the hon. member. He had never mentioned the individual who brought forward the measure; but he had described the measure as full of desperation and folly.
§ Mr. Hume
, in continuation, said, that as the measure was declared to be full of desperation and folly, and as he was the agent who introduced it to the House, he could not but suppose these epithets were applied to himself. But really to listen to the speech of the right hon. the attorney-general for Ireland, the House might have supposed that church property was touched, or rather attempted to be meddled with, for the first time. In the last session, the question had been discussed, and he was happy to see the discussion had already done good. The right hon. gentleman had then talked of commutation of tithes, when proposed by him (Mr. H.), as a profanation; but now, this measure was sanctioned by the government, and brought forward by the secretary for Ireland. Some progress, therefore, had been made in church affairs; and he hoped soon to see more. The right hon. attorney-general for Ireland had said, the Catholic question was completely incorporated in his whole nature. He (Mr. H.) hoped the time would therefore come, when, to support it effectually, would be conformable to his interest. If my whole 412 nature (continued Mr. Hume) were incorporated with that question, I could not, and would not, continue to act with men who were hostile to it. I would not continue to act with men who, whilst they admitted the evils, opposed the remedy; and, in my opinion, the man who can so act, is not the sincere friend of Ireland [Hear, hear!]. What will the right hon. gentleman say, or rather all the three right hon. gentlemen, for I put them all together; what will they say to the folly and desperation of my resolution, when they find it has the support of many eminent characters, and of a bishop, and a very learned bishop? Why did they not charge that bishop with desperation and folly? Bishop Watson, in a letter to the duke of Rutland, dated January 1787, states, "There would be no injustice in altering the value of a benefice, when it reverts to the state, on the death of an incumbent." This is what my resolution states; it has the sanction of a distinguished prelate, who was not only a very learned, but a very honest man; which, perhaps, was the reason why he never participated largely in the emoluments of the church.—He would ask the right hon. attorney-general for Ireland, who accused him of spoliation, how it happened, that he had been a party to that great act of spoliation of the rights of the Irish clergy, the act relative to the tithe of agistment? Did he not know, that a court of justice, in Ireland, in 1720, had solemnly decided the tithe of agistment in favour of the clergy; and did he not know, that a resolution of parliament declared, in 1735, that man an enemy to his country, who should levy a process on account of that tithe? The right hon. gentleman was not the attorney-general at the Union, but he took a part in the proceedings at the time: how, then, could he charge him (Mr. H.), "in the strongest terms the forms of the House will allow," when he set his seal to an act which despoiled the clergy of Ireland of thirty-nine-fortieths of their property?
Archbishop Boulter had declared, that the arable land of Ireland then consisted only of one-fortieth of the whole; whilst the tithe of agistment constituting the remainder, was permanently taken front the clergy, by the act of Union, to which the right hon. gentleman acceded. He (Mr. H.) was quite aware, that there was a difference of opinion respecting his first resolution; and, therefore, he was not at 413 present disposed to press it; but, on the second resolution, he should divide the House. This resolution he would read, that the hon. members who had lately entered the House, might at least know the subject on which they would be called to vote. The hon. member then read his second resolution. He had said enough before to show what was the state of that church, into the condition of which he wished to inquire. He had proved, that between 5 and 600 clergymen were absentees; he affirmed, that the duties were ill performed; that the church revenues were far too great for the services performed; that those revenues were very unequally distributed; that the lower and most useful part of the clergy were kept poor, half starved, and unable effectually to do their duty; and be called on the House to inquire if all these statements were true!
Gentlemen might shut their eyes to the facts, but they could not deny them. This great church establishment, it was said by the right hon. secretary, was to be kept up; this hierarchy was to be supported for the sake of morality and learning. We must, it would appear, have archbishops to render men moral and religious, and bishops to promote literature. But, how did it happen that Scotland was, he would say, not inferior, in many of these points, to England and Ireland, and yet had no hierarchy—no archbishops? But, in truth, the clergy of Ireland were paid to promote the morality of some other people, for they were not to be found in Ireland. If they were paid, ought they hot to work? In Ireland we had this novel circumstance—there was, in some places, a congregation without a clergyman, and in other places there was a well-paid clergyman without a congregation!
The right hon. secretary of state had quoted Magna Charta to prove, that the property of the church should not be despoiled or meddled with; but it was rather unfortunate for the argument of the right hon. gentleman, that that Magna Charta applied to the Catholic church, which, we all knew, had been despoiled, and its property partly taken away, and partly transferred to the Protestant reformed church.
Scripture had been quoted that night by the secretary for Ireland, who had offered the state of the glebe houses as an excuse for non-residents; and he (Mr. H.) too, would quote Scripture in support of 414 residence, and the performance of duty. St. Paul said, in his epistle to the Thessalonians, "If any man will not work, neither shall he eat." And all he wanted was, that those clergy who were absentees, and would not work, should not eat [Hear, hear!]. In addition to the non-residence, the right hon. member for Waterford had stated as an instance of gross abuse in the Irish church, that ten or twelve parishes had, in some cases, been united for the emoluments of an individual. Was not that a fit subject for inquiry? But what put his case in a strong point of view was, the comparative state of the population of Ireland. The hon. member for Kerry had said, that in the time of archbishop Boulter, the Protestants of Ireland amounted to one-third of the whole population: at present they only amounted to one-fourteenth, and their number was daily decreasing. It should be remembered, that this very great church establishment was kept up for this small part of the people. Was there to be no reduction of the church establishment if the Protestants became the hundredth instead of the fourteenth? [Hear!] His wish, however, was to detect abuses, and to apply remedies; not, as had been imputed to him, to spoliate the resident clergy. He wished (to use the language of lord Blaney) to see the clergy resident, to have them visiting their sick parishioners, and administering comfort and consolation in disease and distress.—In opposition to what had been quoted from Magna Charta, to prove the sacredness of church property, he would quote an act passed in the reign of Edward 6th, by which, for the erecting and endowment of schools and other purposes, it was enacted, to give to the king certain churches and chapels, and their property for ever. There were many other acts in the reign of Henry 8th, and also in subsequent reigns, taking away the church property. But the right honourable gentleman, perhaps, thought that such an appropriation of church property was not spoliation when it was made for kings, although it would be if made by the present government for the people. As the antiquity of the tenure and the original destination of the tithes was held by the right hon. gentleman as the grounds against any change, he would state what was the ancient destination of tithes and church property. Selden had stated, that the church property was originally divided into four parts: "One part was 415 allotted for the maintenance of the ministry, out of which every parochial minister had his salary; another for the relief of the poor sick, and strangers; a third for the repairs of churches; and a fourth for the bishops." All he wanted was, that the House would provide, that the church property in Ireland should be applied to the purposes for which it was originally intended, and that it should not be misapplied and wasted as it now was. He had before read an extract from Adam Smith, to show that men might be rendered inefficient to perform their duties both by being too well paid and too little paid. The secretary for Ireland had asserted, that the church and state were united by reason, as well as by law, and that what affected the one, affected both. He would read what Paley, in his Moral Philosophy, had said on that subject: "The authority, therefore, of a church establishment is founded in its utility; and whenever, upon this principle, we deliberate concerning the form, propriety, or comparative excellency of different establishments, the single view under which we ought to consider any one of them is, that of a scheme of instruction; the single end we ought to propose by them is, the preservation and communication of religious knowledge. Every other idea, and every other end, that may have been mixed with this, as the making of the church an engine, or even an ally of the state; converting it into the means of diffusing or strengthening influence; or regarding it as a support of regal in opposition to popular forms of government; have served only to debase the institution, and to introduce into it numerous corruptions and abuses." The church of Ireland was in this state. It had become a mere engine of government. If ministers were left undisturbed, they would continue it in the same state as it had been for 50 years past, and do nothing to reform abuses.—He would not persist in taking the sense of the House on his first resolution, but he would call on it to support the second [Hear hear!].
§ Mr. Goulburn
begged to deny the having charged the hon. member with any want of honour or justice. All he had said was, that, consistently with his own sense of honour and justice, he could not vote for the motion. His objectionwas—and with him it was a decided one— that the spoliation of the church must 416 inevitably lead to the spoliation of private property.
The first resolution was put and negatived. On the second resolution, the House divided: Ayes, 62; Noes, 167. The third and fourth resolutions were negatived without a division.
|List of the Minority.|
|Barratt, S. M.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Becher, W. W.||Martin, John|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Maxwell, S.W.|
|Benyon, B.||Normanby, visc.|
|Birch, J||Palmer, C.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Palmer, C.F.|
|Campbell, hon. G. P.||Philips, G. sen.|
|Carew, C. S.||Philips, G. jun.|
|Caulfield, hon. H.||Power, R.|
|Clifton, visc.||Price, R.|
|Colborne, N. W. R.||Pryse, Pryse|
|Creevey, T.||Ramsden, J. C.|
|Craddock, col.||Ricardo, D.|
|Davies, col.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|De Crespigny, sir W.||Robarts, A. W.|
|Denman, T.||Robarts, G. J.|
|Ebrington, visc.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Ellis, G. J. W. A.||Sefton, earl of|
|Farquharson, A.||Smith, John|
|Fergusson, sir R.||Smith, George|
|Fitzgerald, lord W.||Smith, W.|
|Fitzgerald, M.||Stewart, W.|
|Glenorchy, visc.||Taylor, M. A.|
|Grattan, J.||Titchfield, marquis|
|Griffith, J. W.||Webbe, col.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||White, Luke|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||White, col.|
|Honywood, W. P.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Hutchinson, hon. H.||Wood, alderman|
|James, Wm.||Wyvill, M.|
|Lambton, J. G.||TELLERS.|
|Leycester, R.||Hume, J.|
|Macdonald, J.||Monck, J. B.|