§ The Order of the Day was read for going into Committee on the subject of Arrears of Tithes (Ireland).
§ Mr. Sinclair
wished to ask his noble friend whether he really thought, that the money about to be voted for defraying the arrears due to the Irish clergy would ever be reimbursed? He was inclined to think, that, in this instance, as well as in many others, a loan was synonymous with a gift, and that it would turn out so in the end, when the period for repayment arrived. If the landlord was to submit to this burthen, he 812 would, of course, raise it at the expense of the tenant, and would thus be placed in the invidious situation of a tithe proctor. He was not prepared to contend, that there might not be reasons to justify the payment of the sum asked for as a donation—but still he should be glad to know, if it seemed probable to his noble friend, that the whole, or any part of the money, would find its way back into this Exchequer of this country?
§ Lord Althorp
had no doubt but it would be paid into the Exchequer, as it would be levied in the shape of a general land-tax.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that he understood only such land as had not paid tithe should be subject to the proposed tax.
§ Lord Althorp
The plan Was to have all tithe able land taxed, but to allow receipts for tithes to be given in payment of the tax.
§ Mr. Barron
must take that opportunity of complaining of the extraordinary measures which had been lately used for collecting tithes. He had, that day, received a letter from the county of Waterford representing those measures as extremely harsh. That letter was from the inhabitants of a parish in the county, stating that the costs of tithe-prosecutions were enormous. He had a question to put to the noble Lord—how were the costs to be provided for? He advised that a total stop should be put to those proceedings; if not, Ireland would soon be in a worse state than she was in in the year 1798. His county was proverbially a quiet one, but now it was in the most dreadful state of disturbance, owing to the way in which tithes were exacted.
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that the hon. Gentleman must be aware that the power of Government extended only to the debts due to it, and not to those due to individuals. With those debts, therefore, the Government could not interfere. He hoped that Gentlemen would find, that it would not be necessary for the future to have recourse to the proceedings already so much complained of.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
said, that on a former evening, the hon. Member (Mr. Shaw) had said, that, if he (Mr. Henry Grattan) was not greatly belied, he was one of the worst landlords in Ireland. Now, when he was 813 about to make a statement as to a police outrage which had been committed on some of his own tenants—a statement, too, which would show, that he was not the bad laud-lord the hon. Member represented him to be—the hon. Member at once got up and interrupted him. Such conduct on the part of the hon. Member was anything but candid. The statement which he should now read to the House would show the absolute necessity there was for Government at once issuing positive orders to stop the police from interfering in the collection of tithes. The hon. Member here read a statement as to certain tithe proceedings in a parish in Mohaghan under the incumbency of Dean Roper. It stated, amongst other instances, that the House of one of the tenants of the hon. Member was broken into by the police in enforcing an execution for tithes—that the owner of the house was assaulted by them, and one of his eyes almost knocked out—that his daughter was knocked down, and, in short, that the whole family was subjected to the most outrageous attack on the part of the police. It further staled, that in another instance, where a man was dragged to gaol, the chief constable of police refused to let him go unless he would give bail for the payment of 4½d., which was the amount of tithe alleged to be due by him. If such proceedings were allowed to go on, the Government in Ireland, he must say, would be worse than no Government. If such tyranny was to be inflicted on the people there, it mattered little whether it was inflicted by Whigs or Tories, and he declared to God that he thought the Tories would have acted better had they been in power. The recent case of Mr. Walsh in Dublin, he was of opinion, reflected indelible disgrace upon the Irish government. He had never read of any thing more tyrannical under the sway of Buonaparte than was now practised, with the permission of Ministers, in Ireland. The tyranny of which he spoke was exercised by men employed under the Irish government—men whom that government had not the courage to dismiss, though it knew, as well as he knew, that they were doing all they could to undermine it. Such proceedings had spread universal discontent and dissatisfaction throughout Ireland. For his part, he thought that domestic tyranny was preferable to foreign tyranny at all events; and if ever the day should come that it would be necessary to fight the battle, he would be one that would be most ready to join in the ranks. Was it to be endured that, as 814 was the case in the instance of his tenants, the houses of men should be broken into during the night, and their wives and daughters insulted and attacked? Let the House only refer to the case of Serjeant Shaw, and see the libidinous answer which was in that instance given by a police-officer to a man who was taking care of his daughter. Some check should be at once imposed upon those instruments of injustice and of vengeance. He thought that his Majesty's Ministers should not lose a moment in declaring that those proceedings were unconstitutional—no, not unconstitutional, for they had no constitution in Ireland—but that they were illegal, and that they should cease directly. If the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, did not give a decided opinion to that effect, he should feel it his duty to move, as an amendment on the Motion of the noble Lord, the Resolution which had been brought forward by his hon. friend, the member for Waterford, the other night, and which, while it was not a censure on Government, would pass a censure upon the conduct of all those who had taken part in proceedings such as he had described.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, he was sure the House would pardon him for not entering into arguments and topics that might add to the excitement which already prevailed on this subject. He must say, that he had his doubts as to whether the statement which the hon. Member had read to the House with regard to recent occurrences in Monaghan would turn out to be a correct account. He had frequently heard statements of a similar description made in that House, and on reference to the Irish office, he did not find that they were at all borne out by the information that had been received there. With regard to the two cases adverted to by the hon. member for Kildare—namely, the cases of Sub-inspector Flinter and Serjeant Shaw—what was the course which had boon pursued in those instances by the Irish government? He would tell the House what it had been. Sub-inspector Flinter had been dismissed; and the moment that the Lord-lieutenant heard of the case of Serjeant Shaw, his Excellency ordered that Serjeant Shaw should be brought to trial. There had been two distinct charges against Serjeant Shaw. The decision to which the Magistrates came on the first inquiry, lie was ready to admit, surprised him as much when he first read it as it did any hon. Member in that House. He thought that the opinion 815 which the Magistrates then pronounced—namely, that the conduct of Serjeant Shaw had been injudicious—was, to say the least of it, an extremely lenient sentence. That inquiry was followed in a few days after by another investigation into the conduct of Serjeant Shaw, and the result of that investigation was, as he had already stated, that Serjeant Shaw was ordered for trial. That fact he trusted would prove the determination of the Irish government to do its duty. With respect to his illustrious friend now at the head of the Irish government, he was enabled, not only from his long personal intimacy with him, but from the correspondence which had taken place between them since he had entered his present office, to say this of him—that he was persuaded there did not exist an individual who had witnessed with greater pain than his illustrious friend had, the transactions which had recently occurred in that country with regard to tithes. It was only that day in a communication which he received from the noble Marquess, that his Excellency called his attention to the fact that in no case should military aid be granted unless where there was an affidavit made, that the life of the tithe-proctor or process-server, as the case might be, should be in danger. Of course when such an affidavit was made, it would be impossible for the Government to refuse the aid required. It was the obvious duty of Government to afford protection to property; and he could not allow it to be said, that tithe property was not entitled to the same protection as any other description of property. He would not go further into this subject on the present occasion. He trusted, that the statement which he had made with reference to the two cases adverted to by the hon. member for Kildare, namely, that of Sub-inspector Flinter who had been dismissed, and that of Serjeant Shaw who had been ordered for trial, would prove satisfactory to the House.
was certain that he was expressing the sense of that House, as well as his own, when he declared that the explanation of the right hon. Secretary was satisfactory. Nothing could be more proper than to put Shaw on his trial; and the Kildare Inspector, though he had heard his conduct on former occasions was praiseworthy, deserved for this last act of his to be dismissed. He and all the House must be satisfied with what had fallen from the right hon. Secretary respecting those two cases.
§ Mr. Fergus O'Connor
said, that nothing 816 could be more satisfactory than the right hon. Gentleman's explanation as to the cases of Sub-inspector Flinter and Serjeant Shaw; but there was another part of the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman which, in his opinion, was anything but satisfactory. With regard to the statement which had been made by the hon. member for Meath, the right hon. Gentleman said, in reply, that he had frequently heard similar statements, which, on referring to the information received at the Government offices, he had discovered to be unfounded. Now, that was what the Irish Members had to complain of. They complained that the Government received its information from corrupt sources—sources that were calculated to mislead it, and to conceal the truth. The case which had been mentioned to the House by the hon. member for Meath had not been contradicted, and the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman in that respect, so far from being satisfactory, appeared to him to hold out the most gloomy prospects for the future.
said, that the statement of such cases, instead of being delayed, as was generally the case, for two or three weeks, for the purpose of being mentioned in that House, should be brought at once under the notice of Government, by laying them before the Irish-office, and redress would be granted, if it should be proved that the parties complaining were entitled to it. If the hon. Gentleman would move for an inquiry on the subject, it should be granted; and if he would give him (Mr. Littleton) a statement with regard to it, he would himself institute an inquiry into it, and he would subsequently state to the House what had been the result of an inquiry which should be conducted without favour or affection.
§ Mr. O'Ferrall
observed, that if the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, acted up to the professions which he had made since he had been in office, Ireland would have reason to rejoice at the change which had placed him in the situation which he now held.
§ Mr. Ronayne
agreed with the hon. member for Kildare, who had just sat down, that they had reason to congratulate themselves upon the tone of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, so altered and so different as it was from the tone of his immediate predecessor in that office. It had been stated by the noble Lord, the member for Nottingham (Lord Duncannon), on a former evening, that the case of Captain, 817 Gunn was the only which had occurred in the province of Munster. Now, he (Mr. Ronayne) had that morning received a letter from Tipperary, which proved that such was not the case, and which, indeed, showed that the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer had nearly as much reason to complain of the conduct of the police in this instance as the people of Ireland had. The writer stated, that the police in that part of the province of Munster were at this moment actively employed by night, as well as by day, in hunting and driving the people for tithes; that the writer having asked a constable of police how he could act so, in the teeth of Lord Althorp's declaration in the House of Commons, his reply was, that they had received no orders to desist from such proceedings, and that they would not desist from them until they had received orders to do so: and the writer concluded by stating that the police had been much more active in those proceedings since the noble Lord's declaration had appeared in the papers. It was satisfactory to find, that the sub-inspector Flinter had been dismissed. Yet it was strange enough, that within the last forty-eight hours a letter from that officer had been triumphantly referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, the Colonial Secretary, amongst other documents in the course of a speech which he addressed to the House.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that he had certainly quoted the letter of Captain Flinter, but he had likewise quoted the answer sent to it by the Irish Government; and it was because the explanation given by Captain Flinter, in reply to that answer, was not satisfactory that he was dismissed.
said, that he had not said that the case of Captain Gunn was the only one which had occurred in Munster, but that it was the only one mentioned in the House.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, he was glad that the right hon. Secretary (Mr. Littleton) had already learned from his short experience in Irish affairs how little reliance was to be placed on such exaggerated statements as the House had heard that evening. The charge of costs being vexatiously put by the clergy on their parishioners was very easily answered. With regard to those arising out of the arrears of 1831, they were by Act of Parliament vested in the Crown. Sums large and small, returned as they must be on oath in the schedules of the clergy, were included in one order, but the people had abundant notice, that unless the 818 money was paid, they would be proceeded against, and the smallness of the sum was an additional proof of the combination against the payment. That arose from no inability to pay—if it did there might be some reason to feel for those persons—but the very basis of the Resolutions now about to come before the House—and the same fact was recited in the Act of last year—was, that a general combination against the payment of tithes existed, and that thereby the clergy had been reduced to extreme distress. The same cause prevented the clergy themselves from proceeding for the other arrears in the ordinary and cheapest way before Local Courts, for the processes issuing from these Courts could not be served, nor the decrees executed, unless at the risk of the lives of the subordinate officers of the law who undertook them. The hon. member for Meath (Mr. Grattan) would scarcely venture to affirm as a lawyer that there was no power to break open houses in case of debts due to the Crown. The question was not whether it would be wise, or politic, or expedient, but whether, in strictness, he was correct in stating that it was illegal. And suppose a single constable did transgress his duty, would that be a sufficient reason that the hon. member should so vehemently evoke the shade of Napoleon? He did not say that the hon. Member was the worst landlord in Ireland, but at the moment that the hon. Member was so violently attacking the clergy of the Established Church, he (Mr. Shaw) could not avoid mentioning a conversation that he casually had with one of them the same morning, in which he stated that no person's tenants were more hard driven than those of the hon. Member, and that he did not think if the hon. Member had been for three years deprived of his income that he would treat his tenants with one-tenth of the forbearance and lenity the clergy did their parishioners. It was really intolerable to hear a body of men whoso conduct was above all praise, thus spoken ill of in that House. If tithes as a system were to be assailed—if the Established Church was to be overthrown, let that be done in an open and manly manner, as some hon. Members, he would admit, had done, by candidly avowing in that House, that they had advised and would advise the law to be violated in this respect; but what he protested against was, the mean, petty, paltry, pitiful, personal abuse of individuals who, suffering under this very violation of the law, were seeking. 819 after having endured with unexampled patience three years' privation of their legal maintenance, to recover some portion of their just rights. He was sorry to have been a party to this irregular discussion; but he did not commence it, and could never hear these unjust accusations brought against the much-maligned and oppressed clergy of the Established Church in Ireland, without indignantly refuting them.
was disposed to recommend the House to proceed at once to the other Orders of the Day, rather than that it should prolong one of those desultory debates upon this question, which daily led to more altercation than beneficial discussion. His Majesty's Ministers were deluding themselves, and following an ignis fatuus, if they imagined that they would satisfy the people of Ireland by the course they were pursuing on the subject of tithes. If they laid on a land-tax, and had still a race of proctors to collect it, they might depend upon it that their measure would not at all satisfy the people of Ireland. He would advise hon. Members to take advice from the Commander of the Forces (Sir Hussey Vivian) on this subject, who had stated that the abolition of the tithe system was absolutely necessary for the tranquillity of Ireland. It was vain to expect peace, or harmony, or good feeling in Ireland, until the present justly obnoxious system of tithes Was abolished.
The House then resolved itself into a Committee upon the Arrears of Tithes' (Ireland) Bill.
The Chairman read the Resolution, "That it is the opinion of this Committee, that an advance of money should be made to the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland, to relieve the occupying tenantry from the payment of the arrears due for tithes, and composition for tithes, during the years 1831 and 1832, and from the payment of the tithes and composition for tithes of 1833; that such an advance shall be repaid, in a limited time, by a land-tax in Ireland, chargeable upon all the land liable to the payment of tithes, the owners, or occupiers of which shall not have paid the tithes, or composition for tithes, which shall have become due from them for such years."
said, he differed from some Gentlemen with whom he generally agreed upon this subject. He took those Resolutions as a proof of a disposition on the part of Government to put an end to the bad system under which tithes were 820 levied, and to the civil war which they occasioned. If there was anything to which he objected in the plan, it was the manner in which the land-tax was to be raised. One of the great grievances attending the tithe system had always been, that they were raised by distraint. Under the present plan, the same system of distraint, and all the distress which usually accompanied it, would continue. A great deal had been said upon the subject of breaking open houses in order to distrain for goods. He did not believe that under the Act of last year there was any such power given. His opinion was, that the clergy had done injury to themselves by their late conduct: they were very indiscreet in carrying the measures for the recovery of their tithes so far. They had broken doors in order to distrain, and that he would contend, was illegal. He thanked his Majesty's Ministers for those Resolutions, for he took them as a virtual extinction of tithes in Ireland. That was as it ought to be; and the only difference between his Majesty's Ministers and him on the subject was as to the amount of the land-tax or quit rent to be levied. He felt certain, that if some measures of this kind had not been resorted to, there would have been a civil war throughout Ireland in three weeks. The whole country had been racked from one side to the other by the exaction of tithes, and the distress occasioned by them had become quite intolerable. He was satisfied, that his Majesty's Ministers had done well and wisely in bringing forward that Resolution. Such a state of affairs had never been known before. The clergy, irritated by being deprived of their tithes for three years, had proceeded to recover them in the harshest (and he would say on their own account) most imprudent manner. He (Mr. O'Connell) thought, that the Government ought to interfere to prevent them from pursuing the present system. They had proceeded harshly, and he (Mr. O'Connell) thought that they ought in their turn to be harshly dealt with. He denied that there was any law which obliged the Government to send soldiers out to collect tithes. Such a system was not only improper, but it was unnecessary, as the clergy had a remedy by applying to the High-Sheriff who could recover their tithes by the ordinary course of law. With regard to the Resolution proposed by the noble Lord, he observed, that the noble Lord stopped with the ecclesiastical tithes. Was the noble Lord right in that? Was 821 he not aware that the lay tithes were fully as bad and fully as obnoxious, as the ecclesiastical tithes? He (Mr. O'Connell) had a letter in his possession, in which it was said truly: "The lay tithes are the worst of all, and the most oppressive." The system of tithes was not confined to the clergy, and he would ask why the assistance was given by this Resolution to the proprietors of ecclesiastical tithes, and not to the proprietors of lay tithes? He would answer the question. This assistance was given to the clergy because by their harsh conduct they had created excitement in the country. He thought that this was a species of bounty to the lay impropriators to follow the same course. It was as if the Government said to them: "If you succeed in bringing the country to the state in which the clergy have brought it, you will then get your money comfortably." He would therefore press on his Majesty's Government the propriety of extending this Resolution to lay impropriators. What the Irish people complained of was, that when a measure was proposed which was intended to benefit them, it was frittered away till it was not worth the having; but when a measure of coercion was intended, they got too much of it. It would be better and more genial to them if the Ministers only bestowed on them the fragment of coercion, but the full measure of the benefit. He was happy to think that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland (perhaps he would allow him to call him his hon. friend) had commenced his career in that country in a way which was likely to give satisfaction. The first act done by him was the dismissal of Capt. Flinter, and the second was to order Serjeant Shaw upon his trial. No two acts could gain the right hon. Gentleman greater popularity. His conduct was evidently dictated by a spirit of conciliation, and the Resolution before them was in the same spirit. He did not, however, see why one parish in which the tithes were ecclesiastical should be relieved, while the neighbouring parish remained subject to the oppression of the present system merely because the tithes happened to belong to a lay impropriator.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that as the hon. and learned Member called upon him to say to what extent he meant to carry those Resolutions, he thought it necessary to answer him. With respect to the lay impropriators, the hon. and learned Member would Bee that the Resolution then before the 822 Committee was not meant to extend to them; it was only meant to extend to ecclesiastical holders of tithes. He (Lord Althorp) did not mean to pledge himself whether he should extend the measure or not; but he would say, that the Government would take the point into their consideration. It was true, as stated by the hon. and learned Member, that the course pursued by the Government in this instance, might be an encouragement to lay impropriators to follow the same course which had been followed by the clergy; but whatever was done—whether they continued the present system, or attempted a remedy, they ran some hazard; and he (Lord Althorp) was satisfied that there was less hazard in the plan now proposed, than in continuing in their present state. It was on that ground his Majesty's Ministers had brought forward the Resolution under consideration, and he was glad to find that it appeared to give satisfaction. Their object was, to restore the country to quiet and peace, and he felt confident that the clergy would meet them half way in that endeavour, by not persevering in their attempts to recover the tithes at present due, especially as they would not be in a worse situation by desisting. He hoped and trusted that the measure would have the effect anticipated from it.
§ Colonel Perceval
said, that the question which he took the liberty of putting to the Noble Lord the other night, with respect to the lay impropriators, was put, not with a view of embarrassing his Majesty's Ministers, but in the hope, that, following up his suggestions, the noble Lord would render the measure so complete as to secure the peace of the country. It was broadly stated that night, by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, that oppression was carried to a much greater extent by the lay impropriators than the clergy. [" Hear."] Those cheers were a justification of the clergy of Ireland from the aspersions which had been so unjustly cast upon them. It was well known, that the lay impropriators were not confined, except in a very few instances, to that species of income; whereas, if tithe were withheld from the clergy, having no other resources, they must be reduced to a state of utter destitution—and yet, notwithstanding all the privations which they had endured, scarecely a solitary instance of harshness on their parts could be adduced. The grant of last year enabled the clergy to receive half their incomes for 1831, but up to this moment, 823 except in a few instances, they had been unable to recover a shilling of their tithes due since that period. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the member for Dublin, did not state the case fairly when he said, as he formerly did say, that the clergy in many instances were suing for tithe due the 1st of May. The fact was, that in these instances three years' tithe was due to the clergy, and it was a well-known fact, that when a landlord handed over his arrears of rent to be recovered, he invariably made out the account against the tenant up to the last gale day. And so it was with the clergy, although the account was made up to the 1st of May, there was, in point of fact, three years' tithe due. He, however, would take upon himself to say, on the part of the clergy, that the moment they were made aware of the intentions of the Government, a total cessation of the collection of tithe would take place. He merely rose for the purpose of shielding the clergy from the unjust aspersions which had been cast upon them. There never was a body of men who exhibited so much forbearance. This did not rest merely on his statement; he was fully borne out in it by the resolution of the tithe Committee, which described their forbearance as beyond belief. The Resolutions should have his cordial support.
§ Lord Ebrington
hoped that an arrangement might be made by which the claims of the lay impropriators would be taken into consideration, because he was persuaded that the work of conciliation, of which he trusted in God the present measure was the commencement, would be inadequate and incomplete unless the terms of the Resolution was extended to the lay impropriators. He, however, rejoiced at the satisfaction which had been expressed on the Resolution before the House, and he trusted that the able talents of the hon. and learned member for Dublin would be directed in aid of the Government in this work of the pacification and conciliation of Ireland.
§ Mr. Harvey
could not look at the terms of the Resolution with the narrow view under which it had as yet been contemplated. He objected, in the first place, that the people should be called upon to make up a deficiency which had been occasioned by, and which flowed out of, lawless violence.
§ Lord Althorp
intimated that those who had paid their tithes would be allowed to put in the receipt in payment of the tax.
§ Mr. Harvey
resumed, and contended, that the proposition amounted to a premium to lawless violence, and an invitation to resistance to tithes, because it could not be supposed that the tithe-payers in England, who paid 7 s. or 8s. an acre, would remain satisfied when the tithe-payers in Ireland, who paid only at the rate of 1s. 3d. an acre, by resistance, obtained the relief now proposed. He did not rise to oppose the Resolution, but to express a hope that in the present critical situation of the Government, they would assume the spirit of this Resolution as the basis of their future measures; and he regretted that the noble Lord opposite was not prepared to carry that principle at present into effect as regarded the United Kingdom. He was convinced that nothing would satisfy the expectations of the people, both of England and of Ireland, but the total extinction of tithes; he would raise a tax in any way to supply their place, and deal out the revenue to national purposes and the support of the Church. By such a policy he maintained, that the stability of the Government would be secured, and the duration of the Church establishment extended. The Government had difficulties to meet with in the Church question in another place; and of this they might be assured, that if the Resolution was not extended to this country, they would not only be defeated, but defeated with the execration of the people. On the other hand, he was satisfied that if the Government would come forward with any measure in this respect to meet the existing feeling in the public mind, if beaten elsewhere, they would fall regretted by the people. The great complaint, however, he had to urge was, that money was the source by which the Government relieved itself of all its difficulties. It was adopted to call in aid the support of tardy friends, or to quiet determined enemies. It had been stated, that with reference to the West India colonies, a loan of 15,000,000l. was to be granted, but that loan subsequently turned out to be a gift of 20,000,000l. He knew not how far this might be followed in the present case, but he objected to the taxation of the people for this purpose. If funds were wanting, he would suggest to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Ex chequer, to resort to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, who had 1,500,000l. of "cash in hand." The only certain thing in the present Resolution was, that it inflicted taxation upon the people, and the only good he saw was, that it issued a proclamation 825 to the farmers in all the counties in England and Ireland, that to avoid the payment of tithes they had only to say they did not relish them, and join in the Irish agitation to get rid of them. Reverting to the great principles involved in the terms of the Resolution now before the Committee, he could not but express a wish that the Government might have the firmness and fortitude to speak out boldly to the people of England on the subject of Church Reform and the abolition of tithes: if the Government should do so, they would secure a permanent hold on the affections of the country, and it would signify nothing what might be done in another place. Let the Government only do that much, and the support of the people would follow, and the same result be attained as when the Reform Bill was thrown out elsewhere. If the Government was to be defeated, let them be so on some specific and tangible question. To the Government he would say, now was their time or never; let them take their firm stand upon the great principle of ecclesiastical reform, and save themselves by saving the Church
§ Mr. Fergus O'Connor
said, that the Resolution would not give satisfaction unless altered according to the suggestion of the hon and learned member for Dublin—namely, by the extension of its provisions to the lay impropriators, who, the noble Lord must be aware, were the great cause of the Tithe Commutation in Ireland. If the same compensation was not extended to both the clerical and lay impropriators, an invidious distinction would be created between the tenants under each, and the agitation would still continue. He felt that he had been justified in advising the people not to pay tithes, because he was convinced that, but for the refusal, even this reduction of the immense taxation under which the people laboured would not be now proposed. He would himself resist the payment of tithes so long as they were so unjustly collected. Without the extension of the terms of the Resolution in the manner which had been suggested, no real benefit would be conferred, nor would the proposition answer the expectations of the people—expectations raised upon the pledges of the Government. Those pledges had not been fulfilled. True it was, that the Irish Church Temporalities Rill had passed, but the Government were afraid to carry it up to the other House; a Grand Jury Bill had been brought forward more complicated than all which had 826 preceded it, and though measures of conciliation had been promised at the commencement of the session by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, to go pari passu with the Coercion Bill, yet all the pledges merged now in the present proposition. The Irish Members ought no longer to be duped or smiled out of the discharge of their duty by the noble Lord opposite. He conceived the country could only be benefited in this respect by the extinction of tithes, and the application of a land-tax for the national purposes, and the fair and equitable maintenance of the clergy. He should be glad to hear the noble Lord's explanation of the object of the Resolution before the House.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the object of his Resolutions was precisely a land-tax; for the purpose of relieving the tenantry from the pressure of the arrears of tithe for the last three years, as well as for preceding periods. The proposed mode of effecting it was, that each parish should be applotted for the amount of tithe due, and that the parish should then have the power of applotting upon each individual in possession to the amount of his debt. And as it would of course be a great hardship that those who had paid their tithe should be subject to this tax, it was proposed to relieve them from it, and the receipts for the payment of their tithe would be a quittance in full. The object proposed to be attained by Government would be this; by the law, as it at present stood, after November next, the occupying tenant at will would be freed from the obligation to pay tithe, and the impost would tall upon the landlord. The Government intended to propose, that in every case where the landlord had not compounded, he might, within a certain time, come in and compound at a reduction of fifteen per cent. This would effect a great removal of pressure from the poorer classes in Ireland, from a body almost exclusively Catholics; while the landlords were almost as exclusively Protestants; and, therefore, the proposed relief would exactly apply to that part of the population most entitled to it. He hoped this explanation would suffice for the hon. member who spoke last, and he must now refer to what had fallen from the hon. member for Colchester (Mr. Harvey), whose support he was certainly glad to have; but he must confess, that had the hon. Gentleman not expressly promised his support, he should, from the apparent tendency of his observations, have antici- 827 pated a decided opposition. The hon. Gentleman animadverted upon the Government for an alleged readiness to lavish money on every occasion. The proposition of the hon. Gentleman went much further than this in its apparent tendency—for he could not suppose he meant seriously to make such a proposal—for the apparent tendency of it was spoliation, for he advised them to take Queen Anne's bounty. [Mr. Harvey: As a loan.] Very well it might be so ostensibly; but the hon. Gentleman prefaced his proposition by saying that the money would never be repaid, and he (Lord Althorp) could not but think that borrowing without an intention of repayment amounted almost to spoliation. [Mr. Harvey: The Directors of the Bounty would take care of themselves.] He thought Government would take equal care in providing good security, and he considered that the land in Ireland would be quite sufficient. The hon. Gentleman said, that the present proposal would only induce the people of England to refuse to pay tithes; but he had such confidence in the good sense of the people of England, that he did not expect that it would lead to any such refusal. He was satisfied, whatever the hon. Gentleman might say, that the people of England, the great mass of the community, were attached to the Church of England. The hon. Gentleman was like other persons, he kept company with a particular class of persons, and he fancied that their opinions were the opinions of the whole community. If the hon. Gentleman expected that the Church could be destroyed he was mistaken, and he was sure if the Ministers were to bring forward any plan to injure the Church of England, that such a proposal would destroy the Ministry. He felt confident that in making this statement he was speaking the sentiments of the people of England. The hon. Gentleman, and those who thought like the hon. Gentleman, were, he believed, utterly mistaken. The measure, if it were adopted, would do good to Ireland, and he hoped the House would express the same opinion as the hon. Gentleman meant to express by his vote, and not follow what the hon. Gentleman had aid in his speech.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
thought that the House might have been spared much acrimonious animadversion on the character of the clergy of Ireland, had the Irish Members formerly made the admissions 828 which had this night been made by some of their most violent opponents. It was admitted, that they had not exacted their dues with as much rigour as the landlords. Dr. Hall, he recollected, slated, for a piece of ground of 600 acres, a landlord gave him 40s. for tithes, which showed the character of landlords as payers; and what had been stated to-night showed their characters as receivers. He would not however, make any comparisons—he only rose to say that it was not fair to the clergy to speak of the tithes as connected with spiritual duties. He denied that they were. From the instant the tithes were separated from the Church nine centuries ago by law, they ceased to be given for any spiritual duties whatever. He believed that the noble Lord was correct as to what he said of the feelings of the people of England, in opposition to the member for Colchester, and that opinion would, he also believed be confirmed, when the experiment of attacking the Church of England was made. Admitting, (which, however, he denied,) that some clergymen had demanded more than their due, was that a reason why the imperial and supreme power of the realm should punish the whole body of the clergy, or even the same clergyman a year or two after he had made an improper demand? He would state, for the information of the hon. member for Colchester, that Queen Anne's Bounty could not supply a sure sufficient for the purpose of the Resolution. With respect to payments, he was sure that all payments were ultimately made by the landlord, and came out of land. He could not, therefore, admit that anything was or could be paid by the tenants. The hon. Baronet concluded by expressing his satisfaction at the measure.
§ Mr. O'Ferrall
did not see how any English Member could feel himself justified in opposing the grant of money proposed by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it was by the votes of English Members that the Church Establishment in Ireland was maintained. If Englishmen wished to enjoy the luxury of a sinecure Church, be had no objection; but they must expect to pay for it. He had no objection to the vote; but he hoped the amount of tithes due upon the land would be ascertained by a fair valuation. Not such as the average valuation of the last seven years, which would be anything but a fair one. The noble Lord must be well aware that the last seven years had exhibited a greater variation in the price of wheat and 829 oats than at similar periods during the last thirty years. It should be recollected, also, that the clergy had, in some parishes, conducted themselves with great liberality; whilst, in others, they had disturbed the tranquillity of the country by the severity of their exactions. Would it then be fair, that the former should suffer for their liberality, and the latter benefit by their rapacity? He hoped that some mode of valuation would be devised by which these anomalies would be avoided. He must allude to another circumstance in connexion with this subject. The Bill of the right hon. member for the University of Cambridge left it to the option of parishes to enter into a composition for tithes, but the Bill of last Session rendered it compulsory upon them to do so; and it also provided that if its provisions were not complied with at a stated time, the Lord-lieutenant should have the power of appointing valuators of his own. This provision had given rise to much abuse; for, as it was impossible that the Lord-lieutenant should know anything of the qualifications of the persons whom he appointed, the appointments had generally taken place as a matter of favour. He knew an instance of a person having applied to the late right hon. Secretary for Ireland to be appointed a valuator; and the right hon. Gentleman, after proper inquiry, promised him the appointment, but the Lord-lieutenant set this promise aside, and appointed an incompetent person. It must be evident that a stranger to the neighbourhood in which he came to make a valuation would not make so good a one as a person who resided on the spot, and was acquainted with the land. When a gentleman wished to have his estate valued, he always employed a person acquainted with it to execute the task. Notwithstanding the declaration of the hon Baronet, the mender for the University of Oxford, he thought it would be the tenant, and not the landlord, who would pay the tax which the noble Lord proposed to establish on the land. It was most unlikely that landlords would tell their tenants-at-will that if they did not pay the tax they must quit, and thus the noble Lord would have only transferred the tithes from the Church to the landlords. He was most desirous that some amicable arrangement should be come to on this subject, and it would very much facilitatt: the progress of the measure now proposed if the noble Lord would allow the Act of last Session to be sent to a Select Committee, with a 830 view of having some of its objectionable parts expunged.
§ Mr. Finn
said, that the whole system of tithes in Ireland roust he altered. The Established Church in Ireland, received from 17s. to 20s. annually, from each Protestant. In England, the Established Church received 10s. per head, from each Protestant; in Scotland, the established religion was much cheaper; in France, the Established Church got no more than 10d. per head from its members; and in America—the country which he approved of most—people paid what they pleased to their religious instructors, and went to heaven the best way they could find out. He begged to ask the noble Lord, whether it was intended that the ingoing tenant should be compelled to pay the tax. It might happen, that a man who had paid his own tithes, would take land on which arrears were due; in that case, it would be monstrously unjust to make him pay them.
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that the tax would be fixed upon the land; and, therefore, in the case put by the hon. Member, the person who took the land would be compelled to pay. So far, injustice would be done, but it could not be avoided.
§ Mr. Gisborne
said, it was clear that the Government, by their scheme, would merely shift the tithes from those who ought to pay it to the owners of the land, or, if it did not do that, it would merely make them the collectors of tithes instead of the clergymen. Last year, the House were told, that when the collectors of the tithes was transferred from the clergy to the Crown, all irritation would cease, and that they would, henceforth, be obtained with the utmost facility; but no one would venture to assert that this prediction had been verified; indeed, it was notorious, that it was more difficult to collect tithes now, than it had ever been before. Was it fair to put the landlords in the unenviable situation of collectors of tithes He disliked all this juggling—first, transferring the collection of tithes from the clergyman to the Crown, and then from the Crown to the landowner, whilst the substatitial grievance was allowed to remain behind. The real and substantial grievance was, that the people of Ireland were compelled to pay their money, to support a Church of which they did not approve, and that grievance, the present measure would not cure in the slightest degree. The proposition of Government was merely a miserable temporary palliative. He would other a single observation upon 831 the remarks, which the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer had made upon the speech of the hon. member for Colchester. The latter hon. Member had, perhaps, rather over-rated the feeling in this country against the Church; but he was sure, that the noble Lord had gone as much beyond the mark on the other side. On the whole, however, he had no doubt, that the Church Establishment in this country was approved of by the great majority of the people. With respect to the Church in Ireland, the case was very different. He was not in the habit of participating in the festivities of deans and chapters, nor of mixing in extravagantly Conservative societies, but in those societies to which he was admitted out of that House, it was generally acknowledged that the Irish Church could not, and all agreed that it ought not, to be maintained. When this was the general feeling, why did not Ministers speak out boldly? It was related of Dr. Johnson, that after he became eminent in the world, he always, when in presence of his first master, exhibited the greatest deference to his opinions, although there was no comparison between the intellectual powers of the two men. Johnson accounted for this by saying, that he never could divest himself of the feeling that his old master ought to have the same control over him, that he possessed when he was but a boy. He believed, that Ministers laboured under some involuntary feelings of that kind towards the Tories. They had been so long under the domination of their opponents, that they had acquired a feeling of deference for Tory opinions. Whenever they were about to propose a great measure, the first question which suggested itself to their minds was: "What will the Tories say to this."" He did not wish to see a collision between the two branches of the Legislature—he deprecated it as much as any man; but he could not shut his eyes to the fact, that, do what they might, they were not likely to avoid it. He hoped, that when the collision did take place, the House would act with firmness and temperance. Nothing but the feeling which he had referred to, could have induced the Government to bring forward such a measure as that, relating to the Irish Church, and to recommend it upon such grounds. They said it was a measure which would confirm and consolidate the Irish Church. That might be an excellent reason for Protestants, but it was anything but a good one for Catholics. Such a reason as that did not recommend the measure to him. 832 He would vote for it, on the ground that it furnished an instalment of 6s. 8d. in the pound, and that, as an inevitable consequence, the whole must follow. He would not shrink from avowing, that such was the ground upon which he supported the Bill for regulating the Temporalities of the Church in Ireland. In conclusion he stated, that he objected to the proposition before the Committee, because there was a risk that the money to be voted would never be returned to the public, that it would unjustly impose a burthen on the landlord, and would not allay the irritation which existed upon the subject of tithes.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, the precept of the hon. Member who had just sat down was certainly much better than his example; for he accused others of wandering from the real question before the House. He promised to call hon. Members back to the Resolutions moved by the noble Lord; and he had given a dissertation on Toryism in general—on the House of Lords—on the Portuguese question—and various other subjects, which no one would contend had any connexion with the present question. However, on the point of the Established Church, he would, at once, join issue with the hon. Member; first, merely observing that he trusted the Government would take a salutary warning from the admission of the hon. Member, that his sole object in supporting the Irish Church Reform Bill, was, not to reform, but to destroy the Irish Church. The hon. Member accused his Majesty's Ministers of a desire to uphold it, as if that was a crime in them; but he would boldly tell his Majesty's Ministers, that it was their plain and positive duty to uphold the Established Church in Ireland, and that they could not abandon that duty, without dissevering the union between England and Ireland; of which it was an essential and fundamental article, that the Churches of England and Ireland shall be united, continued and preserved. Neither could they advise his Majesty to such a course without a violation of his solemn oath. Yes! (said the hon. and learned Member,) I unhesitatingly affirm that. I have never been the advocate of extreme views in reference to the Coronation Oath. In the discussion on the Church Bill, which at least professes to conduce to the efficiency of the Established Church, I have never alluded to the subject; but will any man of common sense—of common honour—or of common honesty, tell me, that a minister of the Crown could advise the King of Eng- 833 land "to destroy"—unqualifiedly to destroy the Established Church? [Mr. Gisborne: It is disorderly to accuse any Gentleman of want of honour or honesty.] He meant nothing personal to the hon. Member. He did not hear him say that he would give such advice. He merely put a hypothetical case. The hon. Member, as an individual, had a right to hold what opinion he pleased, but he must take leave to say, with the freedom and liberty of speech which he claimed for himself, as an independent Member of that House, that no man in the responsible station of a Minister of the Crown, could advise his Majesty to give his consent to the overthrow of the Established Church, and thus counsel the base crime of perjury, without forfeiting all character for honour or honesty—for personal good faith—for allegiance to his King, and duty to his country. In respect of religion, too, he believed the maintenance of the Established Church to he of extreme importance. He could not agree with the hon. member for Kilkeimy (Mr. Finn) that each man should be left to pay for his own religion as he would for his lawyer, and in the words of the hon. Member "to go to heaven as he best could;" as if the hon. Member had been speaking of hiring a hackney coach. He would not enter upon any religious discussion, but would merely lay down as a maxim of mixed political and Christian economy—that while in all matters that concerned our temporal wants a demand was sure to create a supply—in regard of spiritual things, so far as they were effected by human agency and means, a supply must be laid before the mind to induce a demand or desire for their enjoyment. The hon. Member (Mr. Finn) had charged the established clergy of Ireland with tenaciously clinging to the temporalities of their Church. How little did he know them! or how grossly did be misrepresent them! Was it clinging to the mere property of the Church to remain with patience and almost without complaint, for three years, deprived of the legal and almost only means of their support? Hon. Members talked of the poor people having to sell their last cow and their last pig—not because they could not, but because they obstinately would not, pay the small sum which they well knew was due, and which before interested agitation commenced they used cheerfully to pay the clergyman. But he could heap instance upon instance where the clergy themselves sold their last horse and their last cow, some to give food to their fami- 834 lies, and others to give it to their still more suffering friends, on account of their lawful incomes being withhold. One case he had become acquainted with within the last few days, where a portion of the fund so benevolently collected in England for the relief of the distressed clergy bad been sent to one of them, and he returned it, stating "that he would not draw upon that source while he had a book and a silver spoon left, of which a few still remained to him, and that there were others of his brethren who wanted it more." Was it manly or generous to malign such men as these. The hon. member for Waterford (Mr. Barron) had drawn a Very strong picture of what he called the oppression of the clergy of his neighbourhood in respect of the costs they had imposed upon the people. Now, he had that day had an opportunity of conversing with a most respectable and worthy clergyman of that neighbourhood, and his case would illustrate many. His tithes had been systematically refused to him for the last three years. He at length applied to two gentlemen in his parish with whom he was personally acquainted—one owed about 5l. the other 2l. They both told him they would not pay him, in opposition to the general agreement to that effect which the parish had entered into, but that he must take his remedy. He replied that then they must not complain of his putting them to costs, and he desired his attorney to proceed against the two gentlemen, and as far as possible to spare the poorer parishioners. The attorney was obliged to sue them in the superior courts, and then no doubt the costs exceeded considerably the original demand; but surely under these circumstances the clergyman was not to blame. The intimidation prevailing in the county was such, that it was difficult even to procure an attorney to act; but he understood the one alluded to had conducted himself with propriety. Yet the hon. member for Waterford called him a "wretch of an attorney." Calling names proved nothing; and while the him. Member spoke of a "wretch of an attorney" at Waterford, it would be just as easy for the attorney at Waterford to speak of a wretch of a Member of Parliament—without either one or the other establishing any fact by the abuse. But really it was a loss of time to dwell longer upon that of which every reasonable man in the House had not only been reasoning, but for the last two years legislating upon, as an assured and admitted 835 State of things—namely, that a universal combination existed against the payment of I tithes, and consequently that the clergy were reduced to the utmost distress. He would not reproach the Ministers, although he could not but feel that to their want of vigour and vindication of the law the present difficulties were owing. He was fully impressed, too, with the justice of the observation that they were furnishing a most! dangerous precedent, and that their conduct would be referred to as a justification for the resistance of the law in other cases. The evil, however, as regarded the clergy had gone to so formidable an extent that some remedy must be provided. He therefore should support the Resolution of the noble Lord, but the noble Lord would, he hoped, allow him to suggest that a large arrear was due previous to 1831; and though, perhaps, the noble Lord might expect those of the clergy who were likely to derive the full benefit of the three years' tithes to forego some of their strict rights, the noble Lord could not expect that in the case of the representatives of deceased clergymen; and their demands, at all events, even though not included in the years specified in the Resolution, the noble Lord would, he trusted, allow. He (Mr. Shaw) had been misreported to have stated, that he would willingly accede to the proposition, on the part of the Irish clergy. He had no authority to make, and he did not malte, that statement. He merely said, what he was willing to repeat—that from his knowledge of their general feelings and dispositions he was persuaded they would consider any proposition for an adjustment of this question, in that spirit of candour and liberality by which their conduct had at all times been characterized.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that when the tithe collection bill of last Session was put into operation, there were 104,285l. (out of a total of 105,6,93l. arrears) tithe arrears, of which 83,334l. were proclaimed by Government to be paid within a certain day on certain terms; 21,000l. odd were not proclaimed. Well, of these 83,334l. thus proclaimed, the Government could only—such was the universality and energy of the resistance—recover 12,100l. In such a state of things, therefore, it was plain, that there was, between this almost national resistance to tithes on the one hand, and the duty of the Government to assert the authority of the law on the other, only the alternative of his noble friend's propositions, or something like them. Those were re- 836 commended by the circumstance, that whereas by the bill of last year, when 60,000l. was advanced to the Irish clergy, the Government had to levy the tithes of the occupier, the cottier, and the small farmer, with whom the clergy had, so prejudicially to their influence, brought us in frequent collision; while, by the noble Lord's measure, the clergy would not be brought into contact with either tenant or landlord, and the Government would not look to the tenant for repayment, but to the landlord, by a direct tax on his laud. Hon. Members were in error in ascribing greater severity to the tithe-collectors of laymen than to those of clergymen: they were both equally obnoxious to the charge I of severity, with this exception in favour of the clergyman, that he was wholly dependent for existence on his church property, which could not be in fairness said of the lay impropriator. There was also some error as to the charge that the Government had harshly insisted upon the payment of tithes due only on the 1st of May, after the Bill's coming into operation. So far from it, the Irish government gave explicit orders that such tithes should not be considered as arrear tithes, and that the Government would afford no aid in their collection.
§ Major Beauclerk
said, that in his opinion, the speech of the hon. member for Derbyshire was one of the most sensible he I had heard in that House for some time; and however it might be received within those walls, would produce a great effect out of that House. It was, in his opinion, very unfair of the Government to throw upon the Irish landlords debts which they had never contracted. Government would have acted much more fairly, if, out of the 3,000,000l. which they promised that! House from the Church Temporalities, they had undertaken to pay these arrears.
§ Mr. Baldwin
could assure Ministers that they greatly deceived themselves if they supposed that by shifting the burthen of tithes from the tenant to the landlord, they thereby got rid of the national outcry against tithes. The only effect of the transfer would be the uniting the landlord and tenant in a close phalanx against the tithe-collector.
without going all the length of the hon. member for Derbyshire; (Mr. Gisborne) could not but protest against the monstrous doctrine of the hon. and learned member for Dublin university (Mr. Shaw), 837 that, forsooth, to meddle with the property of the Irish Church would be to destroy the Constitution. According to that hon. Member, it mattered not that the members of the Established Church were only as one to 100 of the population, that 100 must be taxed, as if the Church was essentially national. The doctrine was monstrous. Hon. Members had better be aware in their appeals to what they called the '" fundamental laws on which rested the Protestant Church of this Protestant Constitution." To what did they appeal, unless to the legislative omnipotence of Parliament, which conferred those privileges on the Church? If Parliament had doubted its own omnipotence when the church property was wrested from the Catholic clergy, and in degree handed over to the clergy of the new persuasion, where would these fundamental laws be now? And if parliament was then omnipotent, that was there in the circumstances of the 19th century to prevent its exercising its legislative sovereignty over the property of a Church the members of which were only a fraction of the people—the Church of Ireland?
§ Mr. Bellew
would oppose the noble Lord's Resolutions, as he conceived they left the main evil of the tithe system in Ireland untouched—namely, the great disproportion between the remuneration of the clergyman of the Established Church and that possessed by the Presbyterian and Catholic pastors. The hon. Member read an extract from Mr. O'Brien's pamphlet on tithes, in order to show, that the cost of an episcopalian clergyman in Ireland was as twenty, while that of the Presbyterian clergyman but two, and the Catholic but one. Then, the revenues in the county of Clare, in which the writer lived, for the religious instruction of the members of the Established Church was 20l. a-family, while it was but 1s. for the Catholic. This flagrant and most unjust disproportion was the parent evil of the Irish Church Establishment.
§ Mr. Montague Chapman
was also opposed to the noble Lord's Resolution—because they provided no remedy for the parent evil of the tithe system. It should be remembered that Ireland was not a Protestant country—that the mass of its inhabitants professed a religion different from that of the Established Church. Now, an Established Church meant a national Church, and till Ireland was converted to the Protestant faith the Established Church could 838 not be said to be national;—that was, the Catholics, the preponderating majority of its inhabitants, would have a just right to complain of being taxed for the support of a Church which was not that of the people. It was not the amount of the tithes of which the Catholics complained, but of their appropriation to uses other than the support of their own Church Establishment, and so long as they were Catholics, they would and ought to denounce so unjust a principle.
§ Mr. James Talbot
said, that on a question of such importance on which the peace and prosperity of the country depended, he could not but be anxious to express his opinion. He had found it difficult to comprehend the meaning of the Resolutions under consideration. He supposed it was meant that the landlord should pay the tithes, and that this was described by his Majesty's Ministers to be an act of justice. This might be so; but he should like to know what the landlords would call it. As far as he understood these Resolutions, he did not consider them to be beneficial even to the Church. The measures they pledged the House to promote, would not be sufficient to suppress the combination against the payment of tithes—which extended to all classes and all interests in Ireland. The same feeling which induced an assembly to resolve, that he who paid tithes was an enemy to his country, was likely for some time to animate every party in Ireland, and to stimulate them to further opposition One point had been greatly misunderstood by his Majesty's Ministers, by that House, and he had almost said, by the country. The people of Ireland did not complain of the actual amount of the tithe levied upon them. However grievous the imposition might be in many instances, and however vexatious the mode of collection, it was not to the amount, but to the appropriatim, that they objected; and whatever commutation might be introduced, so long as that appropriation remained as it was at present, it would be a lasting source of dissension and bloodshed. No man could be more averse to a system of passive resistance than himself. He deprecated it as much as any man in that House, or as any noble Lord in the other House, considering it a system which must lead to the most injurious results; at the same time he felt, and had always felt, that the collection of tithes for the purposes to which they were at present appropriated, could not be justified on any principle of equity or 839 expediency. It was very fashionable, at present, to talk about imposing a tax upon Irish landlords, and it certainly seemed to be a question which pleased both sides of the House. He, however, must express his dissent from the principle. There were some unworthy men in every class of life, but there were many good resident landlords in Ireland. The hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin, who had with so much ability, with so much eloquence—he wished he could say with so much common sense—advocated the interests of the Established Church of Ireland, had gone into arguments involving very high considerations, higher, indeed, than were at all necessary to introduce into the discussion of this question. The hon. and learned Member had talked about the Coronation Oath, and had been very eloquent and very declamatory, upon what the deserts of a Government would be, if they proposed the destruction of the Established Church in Ireland. If ever there was a question calculated in all its ramifications to excite irritation, to engender all the evils which must arise from endeavouring to conciliate, without doing justice, and to dissever the Union—even to destroy all connexion between the two countries—it was the upholding, at all risks, and at all hazards, the present appropriation of the Church revenues of Ireland. The temporal interests of the Protestant Church, as had been well observed by the hon. Baronet, the member for the University of Oxford, were quite distinct from their spiritual. Many measures might be adopted to improve the condition of the people of Ireland. Of course, it was not expected that he should enter, on this occasion, into a detailed statement of that he might consider would be a proper appropriation of the revenues of the Church of Ireland; but he should think that, after the abolition of tithes, or rather the imposition of a land-tax, the proceeds to be appropriated to national purposes, the landed property of the Church of Ireland would even then be more than sufficient to serve the spiritual wants of the Protestants of Ireland.
§ Mr. Dominick Browne
said, he thought that the tithes could not be justly applied to temporal objects. Three parts of Ireland were Roman Catholics, and only one-fourth Protestants; and under such circumstances, the Catholics had a right to demand, that at least one-half of the ecclesiastical property in the country should be devoted to Roman Catholic purposes. Ireland would never be contented, until the Catholic Church 840 could resume that proportion which he had mentioned of the revenues which formerly belonged to it. Though a Protestant, he considered that every man in Ireland was disgraced by a system which placed so large a portion of the Irish people in a state of inferiority with respect to the support of their religious opinions. He was sorry to see that no Catholic Member came forward to claim the rights which his Church distinctly possessed. He was not a Catholic, but he looked upon himself as the Representative of the Irish people in general. He considered the possession of the whole ecclesiastical property in the country by the Protestant Church, as throwing odium upon every Protestant in Ireland. The sooner they got rid of such a system, and restored the people to their rights, the better it would be for the whole empire.
Sir Hussey Vivian
said, that though the numbers of the Protestants in Ireland were much smaller than those of the Catholics, yet the property in the hands of the Protestants was considerably greater; so that it was Protestant property after all which paid the greater portion of the tithe that was applied to the support of the Protestant Church.
§ Mr. Finch
observed, that if it were wished to destroy the Church of Ireland altogether, it would be better to bring forward a distinct Motion for that purpose. The property of the Church was undoubtedly once national, but it was no longer so, and could not be touched without a violation of justice. He considered the Church Establishment of Ireland to be one of the noblest institutions in the world. He should certainly vote for the Resolutions, but he did so with pain, as he felt that was only a choice of evils.
§ Mr. Ward
said, that notwithstanding the exhortations of the hon. Member who had just addressed the House (Mr. Finch), he could not separate the present Resolutions from the general question of the Irish Church Establishment. He considered the two as indissolubly connected, and he should, therefore, beg leave to state, with reference to both, the reasons for which he should support the Resolutions then before the House. He should vote for them, not because he approved of them in principle, but because, having modified his individual opinions as to the Reform requisite in the Irish Church according to the Government standard—having diluted them down to the milk-and-water consistency of the Bill which he held in his hand, he was unwilling 841 to raise a difficulty upon any new point, until he saw whether this Bill, embodying as it did those ameliorations, which upon the lowest possible estimate, the House of Commons held to be indispensable in the Irish Establishment, would be suffered to become the law of the land or not. If it were so, well, a useful principle would be established, which might be worked out gradually in after times. If it were not, the House would stand upon strong ground in the opinion of the country; for what improvement could be hoped for, in any branch of our system, if everything approaching to improvement were resisted in that branch where it was most required? There was one more suggestion which he should venture to point out to the consideration of his Majesty's Government—he meant the expediency of withholding the present grant, which he could not but regard as a bonus to the Irish clergy, until the fate of the Temporalities Bill, in another place, was ascertained. For, differing, as he did, toto cœlo, from the hon. and learned member for the university of Dublin in his views as to the Irish Church, which he (Mr. Ward) regarded, in its present state, not as a fundamental article of the Union, but as a fundamental article of the disunion, between the two countries, he should be very reluctant to contribute, in any way, to its support, without some security for those changes which could alone render its existence beneficial.
§ Mr. Edward Ruthven,
as the Representative of a large Catholic constituency, felt himself bound to resist any attempt to make that constituency support the ministers of a Protestant Church. It was as unjust to make a man pay for the maintenance of a religion which he did not believe, as it would be for a policeman to compel him with a bayonet to enter a Church where that religion was preached, and to remain there during the whole of the service. The people of Ireland were naturally averse from paying money which was diverted from the purpose to which it was originally applied; and for himself he would not pay it until he was forced to do so.
said, he had been anxious for some time to make a few observations upon the Resolution under discussion, but felt considerable satisfaction that he had not succeeded in catching the Chairman's attention before, as he had now the greatest pleasure in expressing how entirely he approved of the sentiments just expressed by 842 the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland. Those sentiments were of the more value, as several Gentlemen had spoken in so very different a strain; some boldly declaring, that Church property should be entirely confiscated, others, that the Protestant Church in Ireland was anti-national. As to the latter, though many Gentlemen in the House might desire that the Catholics should be relieved from the payment of taxes to that Church, he must suppose that this was from a hope that irritated feelings, which at present existed, would be done away with, and not because they admitted that the Church was anti-national, being the Established Church of the united empire. The right hon. Secretary had taken his stand on a firm position; he declared he would support the rights of property, and in doing so he must support the property of the Church, for that property was totally distinct from the spiritual duties of the Church; and if the Government attempted to interfere with it, they would have a troublesome account to settle with all lay proprietors of tithes, whose title was exactly the same, and no better than that of churchmen. With respect to the objections made by certain Gentlemen as to the landlords being liable to the tithe, he must express his surprise that these objections should come from the quarter they did, as those hon. Members had always been the most forward to boast in that House, that they only wished the poor to be relieved of their burthens, and that they desired no indulgence or benefits for landlords. For his part, he would say, that he would willingly bear his share, if this proposition was supposed to be useful for the poorer classes in Ireland; and though he generally voted against the measures of Ministers, he felt peculiar pleasure in supporting them when they were defending a just and righteous cause, such as he conceived the present. He should look upon this night as one of the happiest in his life, if he assisted in passing a measure which would produce tranquillity. With respect to some observations which had fallen from an hon. Member upon the speech of his learned friend, the member for the University of Dublin, he could only say, that they were not at all applicable. His learned friend, and those with whom he was in the habit of acting, were not the supporters of abuses, but they were the supporters of the rights of property; and whilst they were anxious to remove real grievances or do 843 away with real abuses, they would never consent to any measures which would upset the Established Church, or extinguish Protestantism in Ireland, valuing such privileges more than property or life itself.
§ Colonel Conolly
would not have obtruded himself upon the notice of the Committee, were it not for the observations which had been made by the hon. Gentleman, the member for the county of Kildare (Mr. Edward Ruthven). That hon. Gentleman had stated, that he was the Representative of a Roman Catholic constituency. "That cannot possibly be the case," said the hon. and gallant Member, "for I am one of his constituents." He (Colonel Conolly) must take the liberty of repeating, that the hon. Gentleman was grossly ignorant of the nature of the constituency of that county, if the hon. Member for a moment supposed himself to be the Representative of an exclusively Roman Catholic body. He however exculpated the hon. Gentleman from intentionally misrepresenting the fact, inasmuch as he was most probably ignorant of the character of the constituency of the county which he represented. The hon. Gentleman was not to be blamed for this, as he did not possess a single acre in the county. He would take that opportunity of stating, that the hon. Gentleman did not represent the property of the county of Kildare. He was brought into that House in consequence to his agitating the tithe question from one end of the county to the other. He would state it broadly, and without the fear of contradiction, that the hon. Member owed his seat in that House solely to the circumstance of his having entered into a crusade against the Established Church, and to his having decried tithes. He should be wanting to his own feelings—he should be wanting to common truth and justice, as well as to the character of the county in which he resided—were he not to lay before the House a statement of the circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman owed his return. He, in common with all those who felt anxious for the welfare of the Church and the peace of Ireland, could not withhold expressing his grateful thanks for the boon his Majesty's Ministers were about to confer upon that most exemplary class of men—the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland. He was rejoiced to find, that there was now a prospect of relieving them from the starvation and misery to which they had been reduced. He was most happy to see, that Ministers Were at length sensitively awakened to the 844 true state to which the clergy in Ireland had been reduced; and, as far as an humble individual was concerned, who warmly espoused the cause of the clergy, he begged leave on their behalf to tender his gratitude to the noble Lord and his Majesty's Ministers for the relief Which he was about to aiford them. He was glad to find, that in the course of that debate some hon. Members, who on previous occasions had vilified and traduced the clergy, had that night done justice to their characters. The truth was, that so far from being the rapacious monsters which they had been described to be, there never was a more exemplary class of men than the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland—men who, by their mildness and forbearance, not merely conferred honour upon the clerical character, but upon human nature. Their conduct, during the trials and privations to which they had latterly been subjected, afforded one of the most pathetic instances of self-sacrifice that could be imagined. He said this because he knew the fact to be so; he had witnessed the patience and forbearance with which the clergy had borne their accumulated and unmerited misfortunes; and, knowing these circumstances, he should be wanting in justice did he not give expression to his feelings. Although his Majesty's Ministers had at length recognized the rights of the Church, he must take the liberty of warning them against being led away by the spoliative propensities of many of their Supporters. Those hon. Members lost no opportunity of decrying the Established Church, and describing the conduct of its ministers as brutal and rapacious—and all this merely because the clergy used some means to obtain an existence. Having been driven to a slate of starvation—he did not wish to exaggerate their condition—it was not, in fact, susceptible of exaggeration—after having been driven to such a state of misery—to hear them abused and vilified, was more than the most patient could listen to, or the most forbearing tolerate. It was not necessary for him, in the present stage of the proceedings, to enter into discussion upon the plan proposed by his Majesty's Ministers. Other and more fitting opportunities would occur: but he could not sit down without offering, on the part of the Established Clergy, the humble tribute of his gratitude to his Majesty's Ministers.
§ Mr. Edward Ruthven
said, that an attack more wanton and unconstitutional—a more ungenerous attack was never made by any 845 man on another—and that other a young man and a young Member of that House—than had been made upon him by the hon. Member who had just sat down. The hon. Member had talked of his pretensions to represent the county of Kildare. His pretensions were easily told. He had been sent to that House by the people of Kildare. That was his only claim, and it was one more honourable and more just and honest than to have been sent there to represent the bigotry and fanaticism of a selfish and destructive party. As to the property he possessed in the county, it ill became the hon. Member to say anything about that. He had a qualification of his own, without being obliged to ask any man to lend him one, and he had a house of his own in the county, where every Gentleman present should be hospitably received. He thanked the House for its attention while he had repelled the attack of the hon. Member.
§ Colonel Verner
rose for the purpose of supporting the Resolution. The clergy were accused of tyranny and oppression, but he should like to ask those hon. Members who brought the charges how they would like to remain three years without their incomes. He much feared that many of those hon. Members would not in reality be satisfied with the abolition of tithe—what they sought fur was the destruction of the Established Church in Ireland. The clergy were accused of acting with tyranny and oppression—but their traducers had not the hardihood to state, that the clergy had not as good a right to their tithes as the landlord had to his rent; and yet for merely seeking by legal means to assert a legal right they were vilified and calumniated. Many of the clergy had been obliged to fly the country, and within the last few days one of that body had called upon him to state, that in consequence of his tithes being withheld and his life threatened, he was obliged to seek refuge in a foreign country. He stated, that previously to the late outcry being raised against tithes, he received his income regularly, and lived on the best terms with his parishioners; but when the minds of the people became inflamed, and he was forced to have recourse to legal means to recover his just rights, those kindly feelings which previously existed between him and his parishioners were severed, and the consequence was, that he was obliged to fly the country.
§ Lord Althorp
said: I admired in common with others, the temper in which the present 846 Debate was commenced, and I regret that that temper has not been preserved. I have been thanked by some hon. Gentlemen, and perhaps more than I deserve, for bringing this proposition forward. My real object in doing so was not altogether for the benefit of the Church, but because I thought that there was extreme danger in allowing the present state of things to continue in Ireland, and because I thought that it was indispensable that Parliament should interfere and put a stop to it. I was quite aware, that it was a proposition which was liable to certain objections; but I hoped, and I continue to hope, that it will be productive of much good; and therefore, that the House will overrule those objections, and agree to a proposition that, in my opinion, is calculated to benefit England as well as Ireland. It is, as the House must already know, intended by this measure, that the landlords should be entitled to recover from those tenants who themselves have not paid their tithes, and I am aware that this feature of the measure is open to some objection, and even to an objection of some apparent weight; but, upon reflection, I am sure the committee will agree with me, that the weight is only in appearance. I think the Committee will also agree with roe, that if the land tax thus intended to be imposed were to be collected in the same manner as the tithes have heretofore been collected, it could not be productive of satisfaction, as it must of necessity be looked upon in the same light as the whole burthen of tithes; if tithes were to be collected, in the same proportions as before, the present would merely be looked upon as a repetition of the measure of last Session, and not tend in the slightest degree to advance the pacification of the country. It is very true, and I do not shrink from the admission, that I do propose to lay on a land-tax; and however it may eventually be received by the landlords of Ireland, there is no shutting our eyes to the truth, that such a measure is unavoidable. While noticing this feature in our proceedings on this subject, I may be permitted to observe, that from the moment tins admission was first made, a change came over the views of Irish gentlemen on the subject of tithes. I never, upon any political subject, remember so great a change as that which seemed to have been wrought in the minds of those gentlemen from the instant that that announcement was made. The debates, which from that time forward took place upon the subject, were wholly altered in 847 their tone. Antecedently to that part of the measure being known, the Irish Members breathed nothing but approbation; but ever since they became exceedingly ingenious in discovering objections. Before that discovery, it was agreed by every gentleman, that the present state of things could not be allowed to continue, and that such continuance would be in the highest degree dangerous to the happiness and safety of the country; and gentlemen also agreed, that the adoption of the present measure, minus the paying clause, would be the best thing in the world, would remove all causes of discontent, and place things on a satisfactory footing; but now that the measure has been produced, we have had to encounter every sort of difference of opinion. I have never for a moment affected to say, that we have not been throwing a burthen upon the landlords of Ireland; but as I have on former occasions said, we had only to choose between two evils, and the alternative, which, from the nature of the case, became the more eligible, is one of which, after all, the landlords will have no real reason to complain—it was necessary for the peace of the country that the burthen should be shifted to their shoulders; and I do trust that, for the better consolidation and continuance of that tranquillity, they will submit to the burthen with a good grace. I am aware that it has been urged that this measure is only of a temporary nature, and can have no extensive or permanent effect. Now, the reply I have to make to that is, that the proposed measure has been brought forward as a remedy for a great present grievance; that it will now have the effect of relieving the occupying tenants from the pressure of the arrears accumulated during the past three years; and it will also have the effect of relieving the tenants-at-will from all their burthens; they will never have to undergo the grievance again. This, it must be confessed, is a great public benefit, and might have protected us from the censure of the hon. member for Derbyshire, who accused us of mixing a great deal of Toryism, with all our measures, so much of Toryism that he could not give us the benefit of his support. I rather think, that if those Members of this House who are in the habit of supporting Tory doctrines were consulted on the subject, they would have very little difficulty in saying, that a great number of our measures have in them but a very small spice of Toryism—too small to meet their views, or obtain their support. Of this I am 848 quite sure, that none of our measures relating to the Irish church would satisfy the express wish of those who profess Toryism. From the hour we came into office, till the present moment, we have felt it to be our duty (I say that, at all times, and certainly, above all others, at the present time) we have felt it to be our duty to bring forward measures, as, while they tended gradually to improve the institutions of the country, did not, by too rapid a change, incur the hazard of disturbing the tranquillity of the country. The course which we marked out for ourselves when we met the present Reformed Parliament for the first time, was that which I have now described, and the question which we had to put to ourselves was this—whether we should proceed with those gradual improvements which every man who wished well to the country desired to see accomplished, or whether by sudden and violent steps, taken at short intervals, we should produce the most calamitous effects? We have chosen the former of these alternatives, and upon the principle thus adopted we are resolved to act, so long as we receive the confidence of Parliament and of the country. So long, Sir, as we continue to enjoy that confidence, so long are we resolved to continue making the same improvements in the institutions of the country, and in such manner as shall secure us against hazarding their stability, or putting in jeopardy the peace and good order of the community. I do indulge the hope that, up to the present time, the course we have pursued has given satisfaction to the House and the country; and of this I can assure them, that whether it be so or otherwise, they will not find us inclined to adopt any other course. Our earnest wishes, and our fixed resolutions lead us to promote every safe and practical improvement, but we have no desire to have recourse to rash and dangerous experiments.
§ Mr. Ronayne
declared the proposed measure to be a miserable expedient, and one that would not be found to answer the object intended. It might, perhaps, give temporary quiet to the country, but it would never prove permanently effective.
§ Mr. Lambert
said, he was the landlord of two parishes containing several thousand acres, and he wished to known how the tithes were to be recovered from the tenants, in the event of their running away?
§ Lord Althorp
said, the landlords would have every right to recover the land-tax from such tenants as owed their tithes. 849 There certainly had not been any provision made for the case of tenants running away, but he had no reason to think that that class would prove very numerous, and, at all events, there would be no great difficulty in making such an arrangement as would meet any difficulties of that nature.
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, that the House must be prepared to give compensation to the Irish landlords, whose property by this measure they proposed to take away; it was impossible that they could otherwise carry their resolution into effect. Not only were they thus embarrassing themselves with the necessity of making this compensation, but they were creating a new source of animosity between the peasant and the landlord. It was impossible to look upon the measure otherwise than as a mere expedient, and it was at the same time impossible to look upon it otherwise than as a direct injustice and confiscation. When the tenant absconded in debt both to the landlord and to the parson, could there be anything like justice in affixing upon the landlord the double loss by compelling him to make good the debt to the parson? Nothing, therefore, could be more evident than that a compensation fund must be formed somewhere, and it would be the height of injustice to seek it from the resources of the nation at large, and still greater injustice to make the Catholic landlord pay that with which Protestant property alone should be encumbered. In his judgment, the best source from which to derive the means of compensation would be the Protestant Church property.
§ Mr. Charles Walker
agreed with the last speaker, that the measure of his Majesty's Government would afford nothing but temporary relief, and he hesitated not to add, that it would lead to ultimate dissatisfaction. He was a Protestant, but he fearlessly acknowledged that he was ashamed of the Protestant pastors of Ireland. The whole outcry about the preservation of tithes was raised on their behalf; and though a numerous body of laymen had endured extensive losses by the late occurrences in Ireland, there would not have been a voice raised on their behalf, were it not that the interests of the lay impropriators and of the clerical body were bound up together. There was no denying the fact, that the Irish Church was an extortionate church. Yes, he would repeat, that it was not only extortion, but grievous injustice, to make the landlord pay debts which he had never incurred.
§ Mr. Christmas
could not agree that the landlord should pay in every case where the occupying tenant held by lease; and as to what had been said respecting the clergy demanding their six-and-fourpences and thirteen-and-tenpences, he must be permitted to observe, that if they gave up those small sums, it would amount to giving up their whole income. He was aware that opinions opposite to those which he held were advocated by gentlemen who professed the highest respect for the Church, and who declared that they did not want to do anything with the Church but to take away its revenues. He begged the House to remember, that tithes were not a tax which could be imposed or removed at pleasure—that they did, on the contrary, constitute a separate property; and if they were to be considered as separate property, with what consistency could hon. Members talk of extinction?
Mr. O' Ferrall
said, that he thought, supposing the weight of the burden did eventually fall upon the landlords, they ought not to complain. In all arrangements of that kind, where a great national benefit was obtained, they could not expect to accomplish their object without encountering some difficulties.
§ Mr. Barron
was ready to pay his proportion of the tax as a landlord, if it were for the benefit of the people. This he considered as a temporary measure; but he hoped it would lead to a permanent Land-tax. The poor of Ireland had a right to maintenance and education out of the property of the Church of Ireland. The Church of Ireland and that of England were not in the same situation with regard to their property. The rights of the poor with respect to them were different in the two countries.
observed, that for the sake of preserving the peace of the country, he should willingly pay his portion of the tithes.
§ The Committee divided on the Resolution: Ayes 270; Noes 40—Majority 230.
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Hughes, H.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Ingilby, Sir W.|
|Clay, W.||Leigh, G. L.|
|Cookes, T. H.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Davies, Colonel||Parrott, J.|
|Fellowes, Hon. N.||Pease, J.|
|Fellowes, H. C. W.||Rippen, C.|
|Gisborne, T.||Roebuck, A.|
|Hill, M. D.||Romilly, J.|
|Romilly, E.||Grattan, H.|
|Staveley, T. K.||O'Brien, C.|
|Trelawney, W. L. S.||Ronayne, D.|
|Watkins, J. L.||Ruthven, E.|
|Gillon, W. P.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Wallace, R.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Blake, M. J.||Walker, C. A.|
|Baldwin, Dr.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Chapman, M. J.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Finn, W. F.||TEILERS.|
|Fitzgerald, T.||Ruthven, E. S.|
§ The House resumed.