§ Lord Morpeth
presented petitions in favour of an alteration of the law relating to tithes in "Ireland, from grand jurors and land owners of the counties of Mayo and Longford, and from a parish of the county of Cork.
Mr. Bingham Baring
presented a petition from a body of the Protestant clergy of Ireland, suggesting, that Government ought to buy up tithes, and invest the money in land for the endowment of the Church.
§ Lord Morpeth moved the order of the day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on Irish tithe laws; and far- 205 ther, that the part of the King's Speech at the opening of the Session which related to that subject be read, and referred to the Committee.
§ The House resolved itself into a Committee.
§ Viscount Morpeth
spoke to the following effect. If I rise on this occasion with anything short of that feeling of confidence and alacrity which, perhaps, ought to accompany every discharge of a public duty, it arises from the recollection that I made a similar attempt last year, and that I now renew it with the depressing consciousness of a former failure. In saying thus much, I hope I am not permitting any merely personal consideration to enter into my feelings—that it is not any individual mortification, nor any fear of undergoing labour or responsibility, or of exciting tedium in my hearers, which makes me shrink from the task I have undertaken. The naturally inherent difficulties are sufficient to account for any anxiety. I will not predict, at present, whether I can hold out any reasonable hope of being able to overcome those difficulties; but most sure I am that more than ever they join their testimony against all further delay, disappointment, or defeat. I am aware that indications to a contrary effect have not been wanting, for I find that, in the course of the present Session, a petition has been laid before the other House of Parliament (I am not certain whether we have seen it also here) coming from the clergy of the arch-diocese of Tuam, and dioceses of Ardagh, Killala, Achonry and Clonfert, stating the desire of the subscribers, with all due submission, to disabuse their Lordships from the impression that tithe composition cannot be collected in Ireland. They then detail certain circumstances connected with assessments, and proceed as follows:—"Much has been done already, much is in progress, and we have good reason to expect that by patience and perseverance, and the due execution of the law as it now stands, under the 2d and 3d William 4th., c. 119, especially under its 15th section, we may at no distant period secure the undisturbed possession of our rights, and be at peace. While we confess ourselves ignorant upon what principle of justice reduction in our income can be contemplated—while we would refuse to sanction such an extraordinary procedure by any act of ours—while no remonstrance or expostulation shall ever go from us tending to impede the progress of Parliament upon 206 things purely temporal—yet, in conformity with the conviction above-stated of the efficacy of the law as it now stands, we should pray your Lordships not to change or alter it, without being fully satisfied that the substituted measure will be more consonant to strict justice, and more likely to promote the peace and prosperity of the country." I own that I read this expression of opinion with some surprise. I do not mean to convey any censure; and throughout the whole of this discussion, whatever may be thought of the part I have felt myself called upon to take, or of the principles which I make no secret of avowing, yet, considering what their peculiar position has been, and continues to be, from me the body of the Irish clergy have not had, and shall not have, any expression bordering upon slight or disrespect. Still I confess my utter inability to assent to the opinion recorded in the document I have just read. I admit that a somewhat larger amount of tithe may have been collected in the present year, chiefly owing to the vigour with which law proceedings have been carried on, than in years immediately preceding; but I believe that the entire amount collected has in the first place been greatly inadequate to the wants of the clergy; and, in the next place, and above all, that it has been most partial and capricious. They have gleaned, perhaps, in some abundance in some districts from comparative good will, and in others from apprehension, but gathering very scantily from the most valuable sources of emolument. The munificent contributions of the British public bear on this point; but large and liberal as they undoubtedly have been, no one will be found who will contend that they ought to be looked to as a permanent source of endowment for the Irish clergy. Whatever opinion may have been expressed by a portion of the Irish clergy. I do not believe that it corresponds with the sentiments of the body at large. Among the communications I have myself received, I will merely quote one letter addressed to me, because the day when I was to bring forward my present motion was merely adjourned. The writer, in a letter dated Rectory, Roscrea, March 25, 1836, says: —MY LORD—The clergy of the diocese of Killaloe have heard with dismay the postponement of the Irish Tithe Bill. As vicar-general and ordinary (in the unavoidable absence of the bishop) of the diocese, it is my duty to give them every information in my power; and as I have to meet many of them 207 next week, and know that they have staid proceedings for the recovery of their incomes, in the hope that the question would have come on, and will, if it be much delayed, be obliged, most reluctantly, to carry into execution the writs of rebellion, I beg to be informed how soon we may expect the general measure to be brought forward.Truly may I say for them, as well as for myself, that 'hope deferred maketh the heart sick.' Our situation is pitiable in the extreme. We cannot sit down and starve; and we cannot proceed but at the hazard of our own lives, or the lives of the persons we employ.May God of his infinite mercy behold and visit his church, and thus be pleased to direct and prosper all your consultations to the advancement of His glory, the good of His Church, the safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign, and his dominions.This, it will be seen, is directly at variance with the petition from which I just now read one or two passages. I think, therefore, to comply with the advice there given, to leave things in their present condition would, in the first place, be most disasterous to the Irish clergy. But, let me ask, would it be more generally acceptable to Irish proprietors? Upon this point I may quote to the House the language of two petitions I have just presented, which are from such a character and quality of persons as to render it a most unsuspicious and pregnant document, as to the sentiments of the persons they may be taken to represent. One of them is from the grand jury of the county of Mayo, who say that they are "anxious to call the attention of the House to the vexatious operation of the tithe system." They add, that "they have heard with surprise and regret the assertion of some tithe proprietors, that the law at present is sufficient for the recovery of tithes, although it was known that the attempt had, in many instances, been attended with ruinous expense, and, in some instances, with loss of life." They, therefore, pray the House to adopt such legislative enactments as may remedy present evils, and lead to a general obedience to the law. The petition from the high sheriff and grand jury of the county of Longford expresses similar sentiments: they say, "viewing with alarm the unhappy state to which this country has been reduced by the present tithe system, we are anxious to call your attention to its vexatious operations. We have deemed it essential to express our feelings on the present occasion, and we 208 have heard with surprise and regret the assertions of some tithe proprietors, that the law, as it at present exists, is sufficient for the recovery of tithes, although we know that the attempt has been, in many instances, attended with ruinous expense to the landholders, and in some instances with loss of life. We, therefore, pray that you will take into consideration the present unhappy state of the law on this subject, so pregnant with evil to all classes of society, and that you will make such legislative enactments as may remedy the present evils of the system, and lead to a general submission to the law." During the limited period of my own residence in Ireland, and in the casual intercourse of society, several instances came to my knowledge of gentlemen who had paid their tithes, but who found it necessary to accompany the payment with the condition that it should be kept a profound and impenetrable secret. This is certainly a novel mode of treating a legal claim. On an early evening of the present session the House had the advantage of hearing read a letter from the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary, written, as I felt at the time, in a spirit which did him great credit; we have there a very speaking proof that the duty of vindicating the law and upholding the just claims of property, about which much has often been glibly said, is not, however, abstractedly incontestable, so very easy and simple in its execution. When we find, that the hon. and learned Member with all his talents, with all his influence, and certainly no very backward supporter of the popular cause, feels that all would weigh lightly in the estimation of his attached constituents if placed in a balance against the damning evidence of his discharge of a legal obligation—surely we require no stronger testimony. But, granting for a moment, and for the sake of argument, that success should so far attend the present course of operations, that the clergy should generally receive their dues under the existing law, I ask, would the House be reconciled to the ordinary, habitual, and daily enforcement of those means and processes by which, and by which alone, to all appearance, that object can now be attained? I pass over all the variety and number of applications which, during the whole series of recent Irish Administrations have been continually poured in upon the executive Government for the assistance of the mili- 209 tary and police in the collection of tithes; because, whether censure may be thought on the one side or on the other, to attach to the conduct of any Government in individual instances, they must at present, and I believe until you effect a palpable alteration of the law, constitute part of your executive policy under all administrations there, and under all Ministers here. But I will remind the House of the very latest features that have marked the present mode of operation in Ireland, by reference to the last dispatches from that campaign, as the whole procedure for collecting the revenues of the Church may, alas! without a metaphor, be termed, "the enforcement of the writs of rebellion," and particularly their enforcement by night, under circumstances of considerable outrage have led (says my informant) to so much excitement, especially in Kildare, as to induce the Lord-Lieutenant, after the decision in the court of Exchequer, to order that the aid of the police should be afforded to the commissioners of rebellion whenever it should be required. I have felt myself compelled to issue an order that it should not be extended to the enforcement of those writs by night. One of the most recent of these communications runs thus:—The sub-inspector states, in the accompanying letter, that he was prevented, by indispensable attendance with his police at an inquest, from affording protection to the Commissioner in the execution of the writs of rebellion referred to in his previous communication of the 30th March, which I forwarded from this office on the 1st instant; and he inquires if the police of other districts may be assembled for the purpose of aiding in the performance of such duties, as he deems the presence of a considerable force necessary for the preservation of the public peace. I shall inform him that his earnest endeavours should be used to prevent the shedding of blood; and that it would be better to bring together the whole constabulary of the county than incur the hazard of losing a single life by engaging in the service in question with inadequate means.
§ Mr. Brownrigg,
though a most active officer, has not contrived to ingratiate himself with that portion of the Irish people, which is generally supposed to be the most favourable to the present Government, and from him the subsequent communication has been received:—Tralee, March 30,1836.SIR—I have the honour to acquaint you that I have been called on by a man named Daniel Flynn, one of four Commissioners named in certain writs of rebellion, to afford 210 him protection whilst employed in the execution of said orders in the parish of Currens, which is about ten miles from this. I have accordingly made arrangements to give the required aid on Saturday next.I feel it my duty to observe, that if the entire county were to be searched, four more disreputable, drunken, or unfit individuals to be employed upon so onerous and responsible a duty, could not be found; they are, in fact, the very worst description of the common bailiff.I will, of course, be particularly careful not to permit the police to be involved in any embarrassment by the above person.—I have, &c.J. BROWNRIGG, Sub-Inspector.Major Millar.I submit that what I have read—unless you can make some settlement of the question more consonant with the feelings of the people of Ireland—presents a melancholy prospect for the future condition of Ireland. Looting at the state of society there—at the condition of the clergy, of the proprietary, and of the peasantry—I cannot come to any other conclusion, than that it is for the interest of all parties that an alteration should be made in the present system, and a permanent settlement completed; and that until it is achieved the peace and prosperity of Ireland will be indefinitely hazarded and postponed. Having now given the reasons why I think it was the duty of Government to bring forward a measure, it follows that I should proceed to state what the general provisions of that measure are. And here, having already alluded to a similar endeavour made last year, I feel that upon this occasion I derive at least one advantage from that experiment, however abortive; it is this, that it materially tends to diminish the extent of my present trespass on the indulgence of the House. Where the provisions of last year are retained, they occupied so much time in discussion, and excited so much interest, that they must be sufficiently fresh in recollection, not to require more than the general mention that they are preserved in the plan I am about to propose. Where they are altered, and others substituted, I shall offer what I hope will be an adequate, though I believe it need not be a lengthened explanation. The Bill, then, that I now ask leave to introduce, follows the uniform precedent of three previous Bills of, I think, four successive Administrations, in converting the tithe composition into a rent-charge, payable by the owners of what is called the first es- 211 tate of inheritance. The Bill also preserves those terms of commutation, which, in the Bill of last year, were adopted by both Houses of Parliament. For this reason I think they ought not to be changed without a sufficient reason, and they confer a reduction of 30 per cent, upon those subject to the payment of the tithe composition. I have said that I think it not expedient to alter the terms of the commutation proposed by the Bill of last year; but circumstances have since occurred—the rejection of another Bill, the lapse of another year, and the variety and number of the proceedings instituted in the Law Courts of Ireland, whether under the sanction of the Lay Association or otherwise— which induce me to think that I could not, either becomingly or successfully, invite the House to apply any remaining portion of the national funds to the payment of arrears of tithe. The attempt to do otherwise would involve in endless complications. Neither do I recommend the imposition of any burden on the Perpetuity Purchase Fund. I, for one, deeply regret to be debarred from doing full justice, or rendering complete relief to any body of men illegally deprived of their dues, or undeservedly suffering privations; but this is an accumulating evil, which every fresh postponement of the measure necessarily carries along with it, and must proportion-ably extend and aggravate. At the same time I shall again abandon all thoughts of requiring repayment of sums already advanced under the Million Act, amounting in the whole to 637,000l., and to remit which the consent of all branches of the Legislature was repeatedly signified. Although there are some upon whom the demand might properly be made, yet the attempt to enforce it would probably not pay the expense of the pen, ink, and paper employed upon it. Besides, it would occasion a renewal of demands upon the occupying tenantry, whom, all along, it has been the first and foremost object to relieve. On this, which has always been comparatively the undisputed portion of the Bill, some doubt has been expressed as to the quarter where the collection of the rent-charges, to be substituted for tithe compositions, should be lodged. In the Bill of last year, we proposed to intrust this duty to his Majesty's Commissioners of Land Revenue—the Board of Woods and Forests—with the single intention of rendering the collection as se- 212 cure and as available as possible to the clergy. This we considered only a just equivalent for the large permanent deduction made from their incomes. It was objected, on the one hand, that this arrangement had a tendency to put the Church in the condition of salaried and stipendiary dependance upon the State; while it might be urged, on the other hand, that it was permanently pledging the revenues of the country to out-goings which it might be hazardous, at all times, to guarantee. Without, therefore, deciding the question, with a view to a permanent arrangement, we have thought that the exigency of now realizing the object in the manner most likely to be effectual, and less productive of collision between the clergy and the laity, far overbalances any merely theoretical objections. We, therefore, propose intrusting the collection of the rent-charges to the Board of Woods and Forests for seven years, and, without venturing to anticipate what the then subsisting state of affairs may suggest, for as long afterwards as Parliament shall direct. We hope that we shall thus adopt a method of meeting the disordered and complicated condition of affairs with which we have to deal, while we avoid every appearance of laying down a permanent rule of interference as a fetter for the free judgment of those who we hope will have to exercise it under circumstances of diminished difficulty and subdued excitement. We renew the provision for allowing a revision of the present tithe composition, in the cases and under the limitations specified in the Bill of last year, because we believe that those limitations admit any instances of real and substantial grievance, while they shut the door against all false and frivolous pretexts. More valid objections seem to have been taken last year against the Clause respecting a re-valuation of corn averages, and as the lapse of another year has brought us nearer to the period of adjustment which must finally take place under the present law, we only propose to apply to rent-charges the rules which govern subsisting tithe compositions. This seems to me all that it is necessary to state on that part of the Bill which refers to immediate arrangements and affects present incumbents. I now, therefore, arrive at that more debateable field, still smoking with the heat of former conflicts, which comprises the plan for the future regulation of the 213 Church Establishment. I can assure the Committee I do not approach this question with any presumptuous feeling. I wish it were in my power to hold out the hope that now at length there is ground for believing that we can come to an amicable convention, or determine on a truce from conflict. And here I may be permitted to say, that I do not think any explanation is due to the House of the answer which I gave to the right hon. Baronet on Friday last respecting the terms of the resolution which I mean this evening to submit. I think that everybody in the House — I am sure the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth—will acquit me and my noble Friend, the Secretary for the Home Department of any intention of giving the question which he asked any other answer than that which it obviously called for, namely, to ascertain whether the terms of the resolution which I meant to propose were such as to call for any division of the House. I, in fact, meant that my motion of to-night should be analogous to that for leave to bring in a Bill. At all events, I will now state frankly, and without disguise, the motives and principles on which we are prepared to proceed. His Majesty's Government feel that they cannot abandon the declaration of principles with which they entered on office. They feel that they cannot shake off the engagements under which they conceive themselves to stand, of doing justice to the Irish people. And the tenor of that virtual, and to them I contend most honourable contract, I conceive to be, that if, in the future disposition of the revenues of the Irish Church, any portion of them should, in their view, be superfluous for the legitimate and becoming uses of the members of her community, that it shall, after the satisfaction of all existing interests, be applied to the religious and moral instruction of the entire of the Irish people. In pursuance, therefore, and in conformity with those principles they do not refuse to meet—nay, they are anxious to obviate—any just and well-founded objections which might have been brought forward during the last discussion of the measure against the mode of carrying their own object into effect. His Majesty's Ministers have every disposition to adjust the details in such a way as may enable them to receive and entertain suggestions, no matter from what quarter they proceed, provided their adoption can be rendered 214 compatible with their adherence in steadiness and good faith to the essential principles of the measure. Now, Sir, I feel that, on this occasion, I may consider it as an established and conceded principle that Parliament has a right to deal with the revenues of the Church, if it shall deem them superfluous for church purposes; because, as long as the resolution adopted by this Parliament stands on our books uncancelled and unrepealed, I have a perfect right to consider that principle admitted. I cannot, of course, answer for the result of the future deliberations of Parliament; but I appeal to the responsibility and discretion of this House for a confirmation of the statement which I have made. Now, it will be remembered by the Committee, that the main feature for effecting this purpose in the last measure was the suspension of all livings in parishes in which the number of the members of the Established Church did not amount to fifty. This motion encountered much opposition and reprobation; but still I consider it perfectly tenable. However, it will be in the recollection of hon. Gentlemen, that the main portion of the arguments brought against that Bill did not fall so much within the line of the suspended benefices as without it.Your system (it was said) tends to spoliation, to confiscation, to revolution, to murder, or, to sum up all the evils in one familiar word, to Popery. Supposing it to be fair and just that the parishes which do not contain the number of inhabitants which you have fixed upon should be suspended, still I see, with respect to the parishes to which your principle does not apply, what anomalies you still leave unremoved—what deficiencies you neglect to supply—how little interest you appear to feel in the moral efficiency of the Establishment. Here still there will be churches without Protestants, and flocks with no pastor; extended and exhausting duties, with scanty and inadequate remuneration. After you have dissevered the union of parishes, there will be some without any income at all, and others with a yearly income of 10l.This view, I need not say, was taken with especial and with prominent effect by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth; and if, in what follows, I appear at all anxious to pay deference to his authority, and to embody his suggestions in the measure I mean to propose, let him not interpret my willingness to avail myself of what he may justly conceive to be, in some respects, a well-earned triumph, in any 215 other sense than as proving my consent to follow the same track with him, although it may not lead to the same end. In the speech of the right hon. Baronet, on the measure of last Session, there is the following passage:—There are 670 benefices in Ireland, with Protestants of the Established Church varying in number from 50 to 500. There are 209 benefices in Ireland, with Protestants of the Established Church varying in number from 500 to 1,000; there are 242 benefices in Ireland containing more than 1,000 Protestants of the Established Church. I have thus divided the benefices of Ireland into three classes, varying with the extent of the Protestant population." "Now, take the three classes of benefices to which I have referred—assume that you are at liberty to apportion the revenue of their church according to some rule having reference to the extent of duty, and the number of the Protestant inhabitants, will any man propose a more moderate allowance than that of 200l. a-year to the 670 benefices of the first class, 300l. a-year to the 209 benefices of the second class, and 400l. a-year to the 242 benefices of the third class?"*Now, I do not dispute the reasonableness of this suggestion, if, in adopting it, we can do so consistently with what is justly due from us to the interest of those parties to the general adjustment, without whose sanction and approval no adjustment of the question can have the slightest chance of success—I mean, in fact, the Irish nation itself. We accordingly propose, on the future vacancy of any benefice, to make, as before, compensation for the patronage of private individuals who may be in possession of them. The Lord-lieutenant will also direct the Board of Ecclesiastical Commissioners, now sitting in Dublin, to submit to the Privy Council a Report of all the particulars relating to the vacant benefices. A Committee of the Privy Council will be established with a view to this especial purpose. This Committee is to consist exclusively of members of the Established Church, and to be nominated by his Majesty. We propose that this Committee shall be intrusted with powers of altering the boundaries of the vacant benefices, subject to such modifications as the subsequent vacancies of contiguous benefices may render it desirable to effect. Now this part of the scheme was not shadowed out in the suggestions of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth,*Hansard (Third Series) vol xxix. p. 809–810.216 but follows more closely the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. B. Baring), in conformity with which I was glad to perceive that the hon. Gentleman presented a petition from some members of the Established Church this evening. The powers thus intrusted to the Privy Council are closely analogous to those which have been already exercised with respect to the formation and dissolution of unions. I find, since the year 1718 to the present time, the Lord-Lieutenant and Privy Council have united and erected 289 parishes into 94 benefices, consisting of a union of two or more parishes, thereby making each union consist, on an average, of three parishes. And within the same period there appear to have been 60 cases in which the benefices, as formerly subsisting, have been remodelled by the Lord-Lieutenant and Privy Council, by disuniting parishes, or parts of parishes, from one another, and erecting new benefices there out; or by annexing the disunited part of a parish to an adjoining benefice. Thus, after fixing as they may think proper the relative duties of future incumbents, the Committee will proceed to affix the income to be paid to each incumbent, taking care to confine it within such limits as every friend to the Church must wish, and to apportion it on the scale which was suggested in the speech of the right hon. Baronet, a part of which he had already read to the House. We propose, in the same way, that in all those benefices where it shall appear by the Report of the Commissioners of Public Instruction of last year, or by the evidence of the documents on which that Report was founded, that there will be, in future, from 50 to 500 members of the Established Church, the income of the clergyman shall be fixed at a sum not exceeding 200l. per annum. Where the number of Protestants may vary from 500 to 1,000, the income of the clergyman is not to exceed 300l. And where the number is from 1,000 to 3,000 Protestants, the income is not to exceed 400l. per annum. Thus far I use the precise proportions of the right hon. Baronet, according as they stand in the speech which I have read to the House; but I add a little to his computations at each end of the scale. The right hon. Baronet did not advert to the benefices in which the number was below fifty; and it would not indeed be consistent with the tenor of his argument to have done so, 217 Wherever this is the case, I assign to the incumbent an income not exceeding 100l.; thus not necessarily suppressing any part of the benefices which now exist, but placing the incumbent in a situation correspondent to the exceedingly light duties which, in the parishes to which I have just referred, he will be called on to perform, and remunerating him in a manner at least as liberal as they can be from the income which this useful body of men are now able to realise. Where the members of the Established Church are three thousand and upwards (which will generally occur in cities), the amount of duties being increased, and the expenses of living greater, we raise the income of the incumbent of such benefices to 500l. per annum. Now, before I venture to talk of any surplus, I ought in the first place to state to the Committee what I calculate upon as the future available revenues of the Established Church of Ireland:
There are nominally 1,385 benefices in Ireland, of these a considerable number are sinecure. I do not mean that they have no members of the Established Church, but such as that no duties could be performed in them, they being held by the dignitaries of the Church. There are also benefices which cannot be presented to according to the Church Temporalities Bill, which has already passed, divine worship not having been performed in them for the last three years. Now, I admit that I give the power to the Privy Council to constitute new benefices, a power which they are likely to exercise in those instances where extensive unions of parishes prevail in Ireland. I think, however, the number of benefices may be taken at 1,250, and in the computation which I have made I have selected a high rate of expenditure.
The clerical tithe payable to the parochial clergy may be fairly stated at £511,500 Remitting 30 per cent. leaves rent-charge 358,050 Ministers' money 10,000 Primate Boulter's Fund 5,000 Glebe lands are supposed to be worth £92,000, and after deducting £5,500 for rents, they will be 86,500 Total £459,550
For 129 benefices, containing less than 50 members of the Established Church, at £100 each, will amount to £12,900 For 670 benefices, varying from 50 to 500 members, at,£200 each 134,000 For 209 benefices, from 500 to 1,000, at £300 each 62,700
This surplus, it will be recollected, is much larger than the sum contemplated last year. For the reasons I have already stated, this surplus will be liable to further encroachments. And in calculations with regard to which much will depend on future arrangements, it would be presumptuous to pretend to perfect accuracy. I only, thereupon, venture to point out the probable results of the change we propose. It will also be remembered that no part of the surplus to be realised can become available until existing interests are satisfied, and purchases of advowsons effected, together with other charges appertaining to the plan we propose. With this surplus it is proposed to deal precisely as in the Bill of last year. After satisfying all the ecclesiastical uses to which it is to be applied, the remainder is to be paid into the consolidated fund, on which an immediate fixed charge of 50,000l. a year is to be made for promoting the religious and moral education of the Irish people. There are other clauses in this Bill, providing some additional facilities for the purchase of perpetuities, and making some further additions to the ecclesiastical fund in the obvious spirit of the measure of last Session. These are the principles of the measure which I now submit for the adoption of the House, not pretending that there may not be (indeed, I myself can perceive them) some objections urged to certain portions of the measure; but being thoroughly convinced that without some powerful objections no scheme can be framed for remedying the condition of affairs with which you have now immediately to deal, I have great doubt whether in strict logic the definition of the difficulties which are to be encountered in the settlement of this question do not fall short of two opposite extremes—either that of keeping up the Church in its present state, or that of suppressing the 219 Church altogether, and establishing or giving a concurrent endowment to all churches, one with another, I have already stated at the outset of my observations, why we cannot consent to leave things in their present state; and if the other alternative were ever thought of for a moment, every one who considered the consequences of its adoption, must admit that it could not be attempted to be carried into effect without the greatest difficulties, that it would shake the whole framework of society, and, that from the collision of opinions, and the conflict of parties, such an event would be attended with even worse consequences than those by which the present condition of Ireland is marked I do not, however, seek to dissemble my opinion, that if we annually repeat the experiment of adjusting and regulating the Established Church, without bringing our efforts to any practical result, the time will come (if even this experiment be not the last), when the object. of our conflict will be extinguished; and that when we have marshalled our opposing forces, we shall discover ourselves pressing upon a lifeless corse, and untenanted armour. Seize the occasion, I implore you, whilst it is yet yours. I do not deny that here and elsewhere you will be able to bring out a large array of opposing forces; but I do not believe that there is any fortress for you to fall back upon, so as to recruit your strength for future campaigns. The measure which we now submit is liable, I admit, to probable objections in certain quarters, particularly when I call to mind that whilst we have endeavoured to obviate many of the grounds of opposition taken to our former measure, we have not abandoned the essential principle, nor, of course, consented to forego its practical results. So far as it relates to the present clergy, it ensures to them a secure income below that, perhaps, to which they are now legally entitled, but far above what they are able to realise from the good will of the Irish landlord, the intimidation of the Irish peasant, or even the generosity of the British public. With respect to the future, we do not propose to extinguish any of the existing benefices. On the contrary, on the vacancy of any benefice occurring, this measure calls in, in the first instance, the aid of a competent, friendly ecclesiastical tribunal, to which it then adds another of gracious character, high authority, and great dignity, in order to ascertain the most advisable arrangement 220 for the future apportionment of ecclesiastical population and territory, with a view of proportioning the income to the services rendered. This scheme is not subject to the risks which are clearly incident to any large plan to be carried into effect on an extensive scale at once and on a sudden. The working of this scheme must be gradual—it must be carried into operation slowly; no great amount of mischief can be done by it when the course of its proceeding would come under the constant cognizance of Parliament, which may interpose any remedy it thinks proper, supply any defect, remove any obstacle, and either partially or entirely amend or supersede the whole. I am not prepared to contend that in a Church establishment, in a country under the most favourable auspices, it may not be advisable that there should be great inequality of preferment. I do not deny that there are some left in Ireland to which a larger amount may be fairly and becomingly assigned; but I do hold the peculiar position and present circumstances of that country to be such, that we must make some sacrifice of feeling and opinion if we wish to preserve anything of the form and substance of the Established Church. We are not at liberty to frame and work out a system which would be consistent with our notions of an ideal establishment under the most favourable circumstances; but we must take the system which we find, and when we perceive that it stands in alarming and imminent danger of being destroyed, preserve the most we can of its essential spirit and practical benefits. The Irish Church has been compared to a Missionary Church. This measure, while it does not diminish the number of benefices, assigns to the clergy duties more conformable to the example set by those to whom they were compared. I mean those duties, the performance of which will confine them to their own appropriate circles and peculiar districts, and not permit them to harangue and to bewilder in the cities, the watering places, and even the theatres of Great Britain. I don't mean to speak in terms of censure of the clergy generally; and if any portion of the inhabitants of Ireland have a stronger interest than another in the settlement of this question, I do in my conscience believe that Class to be the clergy. And notwithstanding the high ecclesiastical authority to which I have alluded in 221 the beginning of my observations, as to my being influenced by contrary motives, when I perceived such a sore and rankling evil to remain praying on the vitals of the community, I should take regret and shame to myself if I omitted any opportunity of endeavouring to remove it. Amidst all the elements of prosperity and greatness by which Ireland is characterised, the worst symptom of disease under which she has so long suffered, still continues— namely, the religious rancour which animates the different creeds to which her inhabitants belong; and happy and fortunate beyond all the efforts of legislators, and all the skill of statesmen, will it be, when, from all her pulpits —Protestant and Catholic, Episcopalian and Dissenting—they will be ready to raise no longer any attacks or fierce denunciations of reciprocal errors, but will enter on the nobler and holier emulation of brotherly forbearance and Christian peace. And it is with these views and hopes, the hopes of contributing to such a settlement, that I now beg leave to move, "That it is expedient to commute the composition of tithes in Ireland into a rent-charge, payable by the first estate of inheritance, and to make further provisions for the better regulation of ecclesiastical duties."
For 188, varying from 1,000 to 3,000, at £400 each 75,200 For 54, containing 3,000 and upwards, at £500 each 27,000 Allowing glebe to the value of £25 per annum to each of the 1,250 benefices 31,250 Curates 18,888 Total £361,938 Amount of Church revenue under proposed plan £459,550 Amount of remuneration to the clergy under proposed plan 361,938 Difference and surplus to be applied to other purposes £97,612
§ Sir Robert Peel
. The noble Lord had concluded his clear and able speech by moving a resolution, which from its terms, and the intention with which it was submitted, did not, he apprehended, involve the House, or any part of it, in the necessity of expressing its dissent by a vote. He understood the noble Lord, and the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department, to have declared on Friday, that the resolution to be submitted tonight was framed with a view of avoiding a hostile discussion. He understood the present motion as not pledging the House with respect to any principle, but merely to enable the Government to bring in the Bill, reserving to those who were unwilling to assent to its details an entire right of protesting, on a future occasion, against the change which it was proposed to effect. That being the case, it was infinitely the better course not to provoke a premature, and as it appeared to him, unavailing discussion, by entering into the consideration of all the topics embraced in the noble Lord's speech. Feeling a necessity of entering into a full discussion hereafter, he would wait or that opportunity; but 222 he waived his right on this occasion, with the distinct understanding that he should then be prepared to enter fully into the whole of the principle and details of this measure, and that his acquiescence in the present resolution was not to be considered as an abandonment of the objections which he had urged to the former measure of the noble Lord. It would then appear, that in acquiescing in the present motion, he had not waived any one of the objections he had formerly urged to the measure. The noble Lord, in the course of his speech, appealed to him personally on one or two points, to answering which he should confine his present remarks. In the first place, the noble Lord asked whether the answer which had been given to his question on Friday last was considered by him as equivalent to an expression of his departure from the pledge which had been given last year respecting the appropriation of the surplus funds of the Church of Ireland. He was bound to say, that on the answer the noble Lord gave he did not put any such construction. Neither did he consider that the promise of the noble Lord to submit a mere formal resolution implied that his Majesty's Government were prepared to abandon their former principles. At the same time, he could not help feeling that there was something in the expressions used by the noble Lord that night as to the inability of the Government "to shake off" the engagement into which it had entered—there was something in the expressive and significant action with which that expression was accompanied, formed, according to the models of the ablest orators, that did convince him that the noble Lord would have fled if he could from the embarrassment of his position. The noble Lord's manner and appearance, during that part of the speech, reminded him forcibly of the graphic picture drawn by Horace, when he wished to get rid of a troublesome ally—Demitto auriculas ut uniquæ mentis assillus,Cum gravius dorsa subiit onus—He trusted the noble Lord would not consider him as intending to apply to him any expression in the slightest degree offensive. The noble Lord could not imagine for a moment that he entertained such a meaning, when he called to mind that Horace addressed the expression which he quoted to himself. He could well believe that the noble Lord was very 223 anxious to "shake off" the troublesome incumbrance, but he found himself in a state which rendered it impossible for him to make the attempt with any chance of success. The second reference which the noble Lord in his able speech made to him, and which he then felt called upon to notice, was to a speech of his, an extract from which the noble Lord had read. With the respect which he entertained for the noble Lord's attainments and abilities, he did feel some regret at being compelled to disown the justness of the eulogium which the noble Lord had pronounced upon him. The noble Lord had expressed a great wish to accommodate his Bill to some principles laid down by him, and had referred to a speech which he (Sir R. Peel) had made in the course of the last Session of Parliament, exulting in the prospect that, without alarming his own friends and supporters, he had been enabled to embody in his Bill the valuable suggestions which he (Sir R. Peel) had thrown out. He held in his hand the speech in question, and, as to appropriate to one's self the merits which justly belonged to another would be, manifestly, almost an act of dishonesty, he was prepared thus generously, and on the instant, to relinquish all the praise which the noble Lord had so lavishly bestowed upon him, and to give it up to its proper owners. It was quite true that on the occasion in question he had stated, in directing arguments against the Bill then before the House, that he would assume the principle of its supporters to be correct; that he would attempt to show that, in conformity with their own principles, they had no surplus to appropriate; and, therefore, the pretence of having a surplus to appropriate was only brought forward to relieve them from the pressing political difficulty in which they were involved on account of their unwise engagements. But he never meant, in the course of urging that argument, to state that it was his plan, or that if it were adopted it would afford him entire or unqualified satisfaction; and, in order to leave no doubt on the matter—to show the danger which he had had frequent occasion to point out, arising from partial quotations, he would perform the generous part which he had promised to act, and would give to the proper owners the merits which belonged to them. The part of the speech which the noble Lord had quoted, referred to the 224 division which he (Sir R. Peel) had proposed; but before he came to that division, he had, in order to preclude the possibility of that misconception into which the noble Lord had unwarily fallen, expressly said and repeated, that he took the data of the Government. His words then were, "Now, as I have already stated, I wish to argue this question on the narrow grounds which his Majesty's Government have afforded me, I wish to discuss this measure on those principles assumed by the King's Government itself, admitting for the sake of argument those principles to be correct, and that my own views are erroneous. I take this course solely for this reason, that I can afford to make the concession, and having made it, I can show that the Ministers are, on their own principles, and with their own admissions, bound to accede to my motion. Arguing from their own evidence, I can show that there is no surplus to distribute, and, according to their own principles, therefore, they are bound not to sanction any alienation of the revenues of the Irish Church."* These observations had preceded his remarks on the division of benefices which the noble Lord had quoted, and he had afterwards said, "I may be asked why I have assumed 200l. as the minimum in the scale of allowance to be made to parochial ministers? My answer is, not on any vague assumption of my own, but on the facts and recorded declarations of the authors and supporters of the present Bill. The estimate is theirs, not mine. I may think 200l. (as I do think it) a very insufficient provision—but I am arguing throughout on the principles of my opponents, and claiming their support of my proposal on those principles. The Church Temporalities' Bill assumes that 200l. a year is the lowest sum which ought to be paid as a stipend to any clergyman who has the care not of a benefice but of a parish. I find that opinion confirmed by all the authorities which I have been able to consult upon the subject."† He had then referred to the authorities favourable to his division—namely, Mr. Littleton, a Roman Catholic gentleman named Finn, and Mr. Perrin; and had concluded by asking, "now have I not proved, not upon vague reasonings, not upon general assumptions,✶ Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, vol. xxix. p. 807.† Ibid. vol. xxix. pp. 810, 811.225 but, as I have said that I would, out of the admissions of the noble Lord and his supporters, that the House ought to allot to Ministers in benefices where there is a church or where there is a congregation of more than fifty Protestants of the Established Church at the very least 200l. or 250l. a year as the minimum of stipend."* That was the whole scope of his argument upon the occasion referred to by the noble Lord, and, therefore, the noble Lord must not expect that he had any right to claim his support, even to the limited proposition now brought forward, because he had made a partial quotation from his (Sir R. Peel's) speech. The praise which the noble Lord had given him was doubtless meant as the reward of merit, though fully unmerited; the noble Lord had too much delicacy to pass that unqualified eulogium upon his own immediate supporters; and therefore he had very skilfully given him (Sir R. Peel) the whole credit of the proposal. With a liberality proportioned to the desire which he should have had to retain the noble Lord's panegyric, had he deserved it, he now restored it to the quarter to which it belonged. In conclusion, he would repeat, that it not being his object to provoke a discussion on the present occasion, he should reserve to himself the opportunity of recording his sentiments at a future time; he would therefore fulfil the engagement which he had entered into, and abstain from referring to one detail. If he did refer to one detail he might lead to an inference that he assented to others; and wishing to take a complete view of the question, and making no concession whatever of the great principle on which he, in common with his friends, had stood on the last occasion, he would not refuse his formal consent to this formal motion, and they might have a full and unreserved discussion hereafter.
Baring, in reply to the allusion which had been made to him by the noble Lord, begged leave to say, that a part of his suggestions only had been adopted, and that the noble Lord had destroyed its usefulness by embodying in it a principle of his own. Ministers seemed resolved to stop all business, unless they could induce Parliament to adopt a principle which would undermine all the property of the country.
said, that the surplus✶ Hansard, vol. xxix. p. 813.226 which his noble Friend expected to have paid at once into the consolidated fund amounted to 97,000l.; of that sum 50,000l. was to be charged at once for the moral and religious education of all classes of the community. He wished, before he went further, to ask his noble Friend what he proposed to do with the balance of 47,000l., which would remain unappropriated?
§ Viscount Morpeth
replied, that for some considerable time to come there could be no surplus under this head. He and the Government with which he was associated, never could and never would be parties to its appropriation to any but religious purposes; it should be devoted, in conjunction with the sum of 50,000l. already-alluded to, to the religious and moral education of the people.
proceeded to observe, that it was his intention to adopt the example set by his right hon. Friend near him, and to abstain from entering, upon the present occasion, upon the general question before the House. Of course, he retained the whole of the objections which he had so frequently and so earnestly pressed with regard to the principle of appropriation, and he would only say, that the speech he had just heard, proved to him clearly, not only that the House had adopted the principle of appropriation unnecessarily, but that the noble Lord felt himself compelled, for the purpose of creating a surplus, to do that which he was convinced the noble Lord himself believed to be an injustice and a hardship. In the opinion that it was extremely desirable to come to a final settlement of the Church question, he entirely agreed with his noble Friend; but he could not agree with those of that House who, allowing that it was practicable to make such an alteration in the law as, while it should prove generally satisfactory, would not require any Members of the Legislature to violate principles which they held to be sacred, contended that it was far from being desirable to do so, and that, no matter how useless or superfluous the adoption of the principle might prove, it was incumbent upon the Legislature to assert the right of Parliament to deal as it pleased with the surplus, or, more properly speaking, contingent surplus revenues of the Church. What, in point of fact, was the gravamen of the noble Lord's argument? It was 227 this:—"Feeling strongly as we do," observed the noble Lord, "that it is the object of both sides of the House to come to an early settlement of this question, agreeing as we do in that object, aware as we are that it is an object, in the expediency of which both branches of the Legislature concur; we, the Government, tell you that we will not attempt to reform the Irish Church, unless you acquiesce with us in the principle of appropriating its surplus revenues to such purposes as we may decide upon." And on what did that surplus depend? It depended upon the reduction of the income of every clergyman below 500l., which 500l. was only to be earned by a close attendance upon a congregation of three thousand souls. The evil in the Church Establishment, throughout a great portion of Ireland, being the immense extent of the benefices, the noble Lord, for the sole and avowed purpose of creating a surplus, proposed to reduce the number of those benefices from 1.380, containing a proportion of souls admitted to be much too large for the flue performance of the clerical duties to 1,260, necessarily containing a much larger proportion. In other words, the evil being that the clergy had too large a flock to attend to, the noble Lord proposed as a remedy a measure by which those flocks must of necessity be considerably increased. It was, however, to his mind quite clear, that if the Government left to every Irish clergyman for the support of himself and his family, and for the necessary distribution of charity among his parishioners, the miserable pittance the noble Lord proposed, the minimum being 175l. and the maximum 5751, that the whole of the surplus upon which he calculated would be altogether absorbed. By clinging, therefore, to an imaginary surplus — by clinging to the principle of appropriation in regard to a surplus which could only be made available by the adoption of a course calculated to increase the evil of the existing system, his Majesty's Government were about taking that course which must effectually prevent the two branches of the Legislature from coming to the so-much-desired settlement of this question. How far they were justified in encountering such a responsibility—such an awful responsibility—he must term it—he must leave to themselves and their consciences to say.
§ Lord John Russell
My noble Friend, I am quite of opinion, is ready to agree in the course of conduct suggested by the right hon. Baronet, and to allow, that upon this formal motion a discussion of the general question should not take place; but unfortunately he is unable to repress his indignation at the notion of the revenues of the Irish clergy being in any respect rendered proportionate to the duties they shall have to perform. What, in point of fact, is the grievance?—that great and dreadful grievance against which my noble Friend has protested, and to which, in terms of such combined alarm and wrath, he has called the indignation of the Commons of England? Why, simply, that a clergyman having to attend to 3,000 parishioners, should not have more than 500l. a-year. Now let us for a moment consider what hitherto was the state of these clergymen— of that body of which my noble Friend has been so long the ardent and enthusiastic defender? What is the case as regarded those clergymen brought out by the discussions of last year? Was it not most clearly proved on the testimony of more than one individual, that in many instances there were absentee clergymen receiving from their livings 800l. and 900l. a-year, while the superintendence of their parishes was committed to a curate receiving not more than 75l. a-year. Sir, such was the state of things which was permitted, and continued even after the Reform of the Church of Ireland, and now that my noble Friend near me proposes, that there shall in future be some proportion between the income to be received and the duties to be performed by the clergy, up starts my noble Friend opposite, and in a speech of great brevity, but proportionate acerbity, plainly evinces that the very idea of such a proposition excites his indignation, and calls for the expression of his determined hostility. If not in words, in substance at least, my noble Friend tells us, he cannot bear that the stipend of the Irish clergy should be in proportion to the duties they shall have to perform; and so alarming in his eyes is the idea of such a proposition that he finds it impossible to wait for that discussion which the right hon. Baronet promises shall take place upon the general question—a discussion which I have no doubt, as far as that right hon. Gentleman is concerned, will be conducted with all that temper and discretion for which he is so remarkable—but, upon the occasion of a merely formal resolution, my noble Friend starts up to tell 229 his Majesty's Government, that by supporting this alarming proposition, they are likely to endanger the settlement of the Irish Church question. Doubtless it is through a desire to show off by the force of contrast the temperance and unassuming bearing of his right hon. Colleague in opposition, that my noble Friend upon every possible occasion enacts the Hotspur of his party. It is clear he has closely studied the character, and so admirably has he caught up the picture which Shakspeare drew, that there seldom passes an occasion upon which the hot-headedness of his declamation fails to get the better of his reason, and make him diverge from that more natural course which the more prudent and less impetuous leader of his party prescribes. Upon this principle, and on this principle alone, can I account for the noble Lord's refusing to postpone his observations until the measure before the House comes to a more regular debate and discussion. For my part I shall wait for that debate. I think it is wise and prudent to reserve the discussion until we can go into all the details, and see whether or not the plan which my noble Friend proposes is feasible and proper for our adoption. Before I sit down I must say, I fully admit to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that he did not in submitting to us the proposition alluded to by my noble Friend, offer it as a proposition good in itself, and in accordance with the principles he entertains, but rather as a proposition which, if our principles were to be adopted, was better than the proposition of the previous year. I must, however, say, I think my noble Friend near me was justified in asserting, that in one respect the authority of the right hon. Baronet was with him—conceding the principle of appropriation; a principle which I and my colleagues never wish to shrink from, or to parry—a principle which we think it both wise and proper to maintain, because it is one on which we believe the future happiness of Ireland must depend. Conceding, I say, the principle of appropriation, I maintain my noble Friend was justified in appealing to the former speeches of the right hon. Baronet to show that as far as his opinion went, the plan we now propose is wiser than that we formerly contemplated. I do not further wish to enter into this discussion, nor should I have at all risen upon the present occasion, but that I felt it was incumbent on me not to leave the manner in which the noble Lord's observations were delivered, unnoticed.
did not rise to reply to any of the noble Lord's Hotspur allusions, which had clearly resulted from the quotation he had made some evenings past, but which he had long since dismissed from his recollection. He only rose to observe, that the noble Lord had completely misstated his argument. He was far from objecting to an appropriation of the revenues of the Church, in proportion to the duties performed, to the clergy. All he had meant to say was, that for the purpose of establishing a principle, which it was probable would never be called into operation, his Majesty's Government were materially embarrassing a question upon the speedy and satisfactory settlement of which so much depended.
§ Lord Morpeth
It is to be applied to the moral and religious education of all classes of the community without distinction of sect.
§ Mr. F. Buxton
wished to know whether, in the event of the increase or the extension of the Protestant religion in Ireland, any provision was made for the proportionate increase of the Church Establishment?
§ The resolution was agreed to, and the House resumed.
§ The Report was brought up, and a Bill founded on the Resolution was ordered to be brought in.