§ Viscount Morpeth
moved the order of the day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Church and Tithes Bill (Ireland). On the question that the Speaker leave the Chair.
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford
rose to move the total extinction of tithes in Ireland, as prayed for by petitions he had just now presented, as well as upon many former occasions, and he hoped the House would indulge him with their attention while he supported his position with a few plain statements and facts. The only claim he could put forward for such indulgence was, that he brought forward his motion from an honest conviction that he was only performing his duty to his constituents. The principle he advocated was not whether the Catholics of Ireland should be relieved from a fractional portion of the tithe assessment, but whether they should still continue to pay that odious impost which stamped them with the name of slaves in the land of their birth. But there was a still higher question—it was the religious (and consequently the civil) liberty of all Protestant as well as Catholic non-conformists in the British empire. It was the 1136 right of conscience against the tyranny of establishments.—It was whether man should be accountable for his religious faith to his God, or to his fellow-man. It was, whether the State was entitled to set up an idol of its own, and say, you shall worship this idol, or pay the priests who minister to it. On this doctrine— on the right of the state to govern religious opinion the assumption of tithes by the church established was founded—the principle was clearly asserted by the Acts of uniformity of Elizabeth and Charles, and under that Act the tithes were monopolised in Ireland. The Presbyterian ministers of the north, after the colonization of Ulster, were for a time in the possession of tithes. Under the Acts alluded to, the tithes and Church preferments were seized, and both the ministers and the laity were persecuted and expelled their country. This ought to be treated as a Protestant question. Presbyterians of the north were as determined against tithes as the Catholics of the south. The same principle operated in this case which had produced persecution in every age of the world. All persecutors deny that they controlled religious opinion; they said they persecuted because men refused to obey the laws. On the very same principle was the tithe persecution founded in Ireland, and the persecution of Scotchmen for the non-payment of the annuities' tax in Scotland. How could Protestants support this infringement on religious liberty? On what grounds did they dissent from the Church of Rome, unless on the maintenance of religious liberty? Did they hold themselves entitled to enforce the profession of religious belief according to the dictates of the State? If they did not, what right had they to compel the people to pay for the diffusion of doctrines they believed to be false? It was said that the payment of tithes was no grievance on the proprietors of estates, because they purchased subject to the tithe assessment— but did the appropriation make no difference? Tithes were originally for the payment of the clergy of the whole people and for the support of the poor. The purchaser was subjected to tithes on condition that those duties should be discharged by means of that payment. Now, the whole was monopolised for the clergy of a portion of the community, and the non-conformist was obliged to pay his own clergyman and the poor, over and above the tithe assessment. Thus he was actually robbed of a portion, 1137 of his original bargain, and the tithe assessment, from being a benefit, was converted into a nuisance and an extortion. Was that no breach of contract? Then, again, it was said, the late purchasers of estates purchased subject to the present application of the tithes. He maintained they purchased so from necessity—but was that a reason why the purchaser should be precluded from endeavouring to correct that injustice. This position is aptly illustrated in a late publication. It was asked—if a man purchase an estate subject to the incursion of wolves, was he not to destroy these nuisances? and if he did so, was he to be deprived of the advantages of his labours. Again, with regard to the Irish tenant, it was stated, his landlord paid the tithe and not the tenant, and that the landlord allowed for it in the rent. Could any one assert that allowances of any description were made in setting the lands to the poor Irish tenants. But there were three special points on which this position might be controverted. First, by the law of Ireland, pasture lands were excluded from tithes—some years back the greatest part of Ireland was let as pasture lands; they were afterwards improved and cultivated; and he asked, was it not the tenants paid the tithe? 2d.—A great part of the lands of Ireland were let to tenants in a state of nearly barren wastes; the tenants improved these wastes, and became responsible for the tithe. 3d.— When the land was sub-let to the miserable cottier at a rack-rent, had this poor man any allowance for tithe from his immediate landlord? Another grievance imposed on Ireland arose from the composition acts—a voluntary Composition Act was first provided. The people were entrapped into temporary agreements, under particular circumstances, and then those agreements were rendered perpetual by a succeeding Act, and new agreements imposed under an arbitrary valuation, without any allowances for expenses of marketing, collection, &c, as by the English act, or for that still more important cause of reduction, the exemption of pasture lands by the laws of Ireland. Thus, the composition as a permanent charge, was at least double what it ought to have been. Then as to the provisions of the Government Bill. One proposition of the Bill was to sink a portion of the tithes; another proposition was to appropriate another portion of the tithes in a different manner; and a third proposition was to force the tithes to be paid 1138 by the landlord. He insisted that this payment was merely nominal, as the Bill gave full right and title to the landlord, when he paid tithes, to enforce repayment in the same manner as rent was collected. So that, although tithes might be nominally imposed on the landlord, he asserted that they were actually paid by the people. One of the great evils that would arise from the propositions of the Bill was, that it combined together rent and tithes. By combining a tax that was unjust, with a payment that was just, and for which the people received value, they would be induced to make opposition to that, as well as tithes, and a complete confusion of property would be the consequence. The effect of the Bill would be, to put the landlords in the position of proctors for the clergy; and if other gentlemen desired to be placed in that position—if others conceived it to be a position of honour, he did not. The proposition might be exemplified in this way—Suppose a man paid 10d. tithes. By the present composition 3d. would be sunk—he would then pay 7d. From this sum one-seventh was appropriated to purposes of education, and the remaining sixth-tenths was paid by the Catholics of Ireland, for the use and support of the Established Church. He would wish to ask, would that satisfy the people of Ireland? He would refer the House to the numerous petitions presented by himself and other hon. Members, and ask what was the demand of the petitioners? Was it not in almost every instance for the total extinction of the tithes in name and in substance—for the principle that every man should pay for his own church? These sentiments were embodied in the petitions in such distinct terms as not to be mistaken. He would not trouble the House with referring at length to these petitions, but he would shortly state the prayer of one presented from the Protestant parish of Tullylish, in the county of Down, which stated that nothing short of a complete abolition of tithes would secure the peace of the people—restore the clergymen of the Established Church to the station in society they should occupy, and unite all classes of his Majesty's subjects in one common bond of brotherly affection. Such were the sentiments of the Protestants of that parish—and he would now refer to a petition from the rev. W. Handcock, rector of Clontarf, a clergyman of the Established Church, who stated, that so long as tithes were levied in Ireland it would have 1139 the effect of continuing agitation, perpetuating sectarian strife, renewing scenes of slaughter, and extending the system of lawless terror. These were the sentiments of a clergyman of the Established Church, and he thought they were entitled to some weight. He would now refer to the words of an eminent character, a member of a former government (Lord Stanley), which expressed the feelings of the people of Ireland. That noble Lord said, in substance, that the amount of the tithes was not the real grievance, but the conscientious feeling which prevented Dissenters from the Established Church contributing to its support. He would refer also to an authority far greater than his own, and one which, from the station the individual held, must have its due weight; he alluded to a letter which he had received two years ago from the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny. That letter stated, that in the opinion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, so long as tithes existed, emancipation was but a mockery. He would next read his first resolution to the House:—That it is expedient that tithes and all compositions for tithes in Ireland should cease and be for ever extinguished, compensation being first made for all existing interests, whether lay or ecclesiastical; and that it is also expedient that measures should be adopted to render the revenue of the Church lands more productive and more available for the support of the working clergy of the Establishment, and that all persons not in communion with the Established Church of Ireland should be relieved from all assessment for its support.He would first explain that part of the resolution which respected the making a more effective provision for the working clergy out of the revenue of the Church lands. He conceived that the tenants had most beneficial terms offered to them on which to purchase the fee under the Act of the 2nd and 3rd of William IV., and, in his opinion, an Act ought to be passed to render it compulsory on the tenants to purchase the fee, or that if they did not, they should be deprived of their right to purchase the fee, which should then be sold to the best advantage for the state. He should also propose that a change should take place with respect to the Archbishops and Bishops after the decease of the present possessors. With respect to the Archbishop he should propose that a gum not exceeding 2,000l. a year shold 1140 be allowed, and for the Bishops a sum not exceeding 1,000l. a-year, the surplus to be obtained by such a reduction, should be applied in aid of the stipends of the working clergy of the Established Church. He would also propose that the revenues of deans and chapters, minor canons, &c, should entirely cease after the demise of the present possessors, except in so far as they might be connected with special application to the cure of souls. He would state to the House some particulars relative to Church lands in Ireland. The hon. Member accordingly read the following statement.
"By a parliamentary return in 1833, the number of acres in the Bishops' lands are stated at 669,247 acres. In this return the Bishopric of Raphoe is not included; and as some of the best lands in Ireland are in the possession of the Church, and one Bishopric is not returned, the average on the acres returned may be estimated, without danger of exaggeration, at 1l. per acre, or 669,247l. annual income.
"The Act of 3rd and 4th of William 4th, chap. 37, provides that the tenants may purchase the fee at the improved value, on certain terms therein specified; a rent being reserved for ever, equal to the rent and fines now paid. The amount of the present reserved rent and fines is 151,127l. The future revenue from the Church lands will then be ascertained by estimating the value to be paid for the fee by the tenants over and above the reserved rent. It may be calculated as follows:
Then the Bishops' lands would produce a revenue as follows:—
Gross amount of income (as assumed) £669,247 Deduct the perpetual reserved rent, equal to the present income of the see lands, from rents and fines 151,157 Net amount to be purchased 518,140 Value of this at five per cent., or 20 years' purchase 10,362,400 Deduct, agreeably to the act, four per cent., or 1–25 414,496 Value of the fee £9,947,904 From the above sum the value of the tenants' interests is to be deducted. That interest, except in some special cases, cannot exceed a term of 21 years—although in many cases it may be less; but assuming the whole at that term, the value of the above profitable interest, calculated as an annuity of twenty-one years, would be worth (according to the common tables of calculation) 1,282,115l. (or nearly thirteen) years' purchase, which in this case would produce 6,612,894 Balance to be derived from the sale of the fee £3,305,010
Rents per annum £151,127 Capital produced by sale of fee, 3,305,010l.; interest thereon at 4 per cent. 132,200 283,327
Revenue omitted in the above calculations with a view to cover errors or deficiencies, or debt already incurred.
To this is to be added the income arising from the rents of glebe lands as per returns 86,572 Ditto from dignitary and chapter lands 30,124 Total annual revenue £400,023 The charges on this would be as follows:— Four archbishops at 2,000l. per annum; eight bishops at 1,000l. per annum 16,000 Estimated annual expenses of vestry assessments 59,112 75,412 Balance applicable to the stipends of the parochial clergy £324,611
By these calculations then, it would appear that a revenue of upwards of 300,000l. per annum might be made applicable to the parochial clergy. His second resolution was,—
In the above calculations the value of the fee of the glebe lands and chapter lands (which it is proposed shall be purchased by the tenants) is not included. The rent now paid is— Glebe lands £86,572 Chapter lands 30,121 £116,696 If we take the difference between the value of a twenty-one years' interest, and the fee at seven years' purchase, this would amount to £816,872 It appears by return No. 46l, the Commissioners are entitled to an annual sum of 7,500l. for fifteen years, being the amount of annual instalments repayable on loans. This, at ten years' purchase, and five per cent., is worth 75,000That it is expedient that the monies necessary for the aforesaid compensation should be advanced out of the public revenue, and afterwards repaid by instalments from the proceeds of a tax to be imposed on the profit rents; such tax to cease and determine as soon as the said debt shall be discharged.It was necessary he should show the practicability of ascertaining and levying the tax proposed; and for this purpose he would read all the resolutions which he should submit, in the event of the first and second resolutions being agreed to.
Resolution 3.—"That for the purpose of ascertaining and levying the centage required by the second resolution, power be given in the respective parishes to the churchwardens (or such other officer as may be appointed for the purpose) to ascertain by an inspection of the leases or receipts—or by such other means as they may deem expedient—the amount of rent paid by each occupier of lands or tenements—and to make a return of the amount so paid, and to whom paid, and of the total amount paid to each landlord.
Resolution 4.—"That the per centage shall be charged on the landlords accordingly (allowing a power of appeal against error, and a drawback on rents reduced or in arrear,) which per centage (after due notice) shall be paid by the landlords, within a time to be limited, to the officers appointed to receive the same. That such per centage if not paid shall be re- 1142 coverable as any other debt due to the Crown; and in case of non-payment on a decree of any Court, a power shall be given to enter into the receipt of the rents of the premises till the percentage be discharged.
Resolution 5.—"That in all cases of per centage chargeable on sub-landlords, such sub-landlord and all intermediate landlords shall be entitled to deduct a like amount of percentage from their superior landlords respectively, till it ascends to the landlord having an interest in fee, or any other interest which for the purpose of this assessment shall be declared equivalent thereto. That in like manner, landlords subject to rent-charges, or other incumbrances secured upon lands, shall be entitled to deduct a like per centage from payments made under such securities."
The hon. Member then read the following estimate, with reference to the amount of compensation:—
The rental of Ireland, at the lowest calculation, amounted to 12,000,000l.; one shilling in the pound on this income would amount to the annual sum of 600,000l., which would repay the debt with interest at 3½ per cent, in less than five years. But it was probable that much less compensation would be required, because if the estimate of revenue from the Church lands proved correct, it would be nearly sufficient to pay the whole incomes of the existing incumbents, under reasonable deductions. He would appeal to the representatives of Ireland upon this question. He would refer to the statements and declarations that had been made on various occasions by gentlemen who represented the liberal party of Ireland. He called upon them to declare to the House distinctly what it was the people of Ireland wished to have, and what it was that they would be satisfied with. They had frequently stated that the people of Ireland would not be satisfied with any thing short of the total extinction of tithes; and how, he would ask, could they accept the Bill that had been offered to them by his Majesty's Government? Would the people of Ireland agree to sacrifice the principle upon which they demanded religious liberty, freedom of con- 1143 science, and a right to worship their God as they thought fit? Would the Catholic Members of Ireland desert the grand principle of religious liberty for the paltry bribe offered by the Government Bill? Would they thus desert the Protestant interest of the empire in their efforts to throw off the restraints of religious monopolies. If the Catholics were willing to take this course, he would tell the House there was a Protestant interest in Ireland, which, if he knew their principles, would not succumb to this degradation—he alluded to the great mass of the Presbyterians of Ulster, who were determined to demand the extinction of tithes on the noble principle of religious freedom—who were ready, to give up their own regium donum, on the condition of tithes being extinguished—or even, he believed, without that condition. He called upon Irish Members, representing the Catholic Community, not to permit his Majesty's Government—that House —or the British Nation, to be deceived with reference to the objects and demands of their constituents—and not to agitate the minds of the people for any object which they would not support in that House. They told the people that it was contrary to conscientious principle to pay tithes to the Established Church—by those means resistance was generated—blood was spilt; for this blood, then, they alone would be accountable, if they excite the passions of the people for objects which they were not themselves determined to sustain by their votes in that House. He was himself a proprietor both of lands and tithes—and, therefore, in the proposition he submitted, he should not be liable to the imputation of forcing upon others, who had interests in those properties, any measures which he was not willing himself to submit to. He must also state, that he was a member of the Established Church— and he advocated the extinction of tithes, with a view to the advancement of Protestant principles—from a feeling that the diffusion of these principles had been retarded by the offensive position in which the Protestant Church had been placed by that impost. He stated, that he could not give a vote in favour of the Government Bill, from the objections he had already submitted. But there was another objection— which, as a Protestant, he could not overcome—it was this—that by the intended Bill the stipends of the clergy would be left in so great a degree at the discretion of the Government, as to their amount, 1144 that the clergy would be rendered the degraded expectants of the favour of whatever Administration might be in power; they would receive their stipends like the regium donum of the Presbyterians, which was sufficient to debase and paralyze any church, and to render its ministry ineffective to the cause of religion. The hon. Member concluded by thanking the House for their patient indulgence, and by moving his first resolution.
Lay tithes, as per returns, amount to about £100,000 yearly Deduct three-tenths, 30,000 £70,000 Compensation on this sum, at sixteen years' purchase, would amount to £112,000 If the reductions which would take place on the revenues of incumbents should amount to 250,000l, yearly, and if we suppose their life interests to be worth, on an average, ten years' purchase, the sum required for compensation would be 2,500,000 £2,612,000
§ Viscount Morpeth
said, that after the full discussion and decided opinion which the House had given on this subject, he hoped the hon. Member would not think him chargeable with disrespect to him if he declined entering into any reply to his speech, and called upon the House to proceed to the practical matter in hand.
§ Mr. Dillon Browne
rose to second the motion, and begged to make one preliminary observation. He did not second the motion for the purpose of embarrassing his Majesty's Government, but for the purpose of fulfilling a duty to his constituents, and redeeming the pledges he had given them. He did so for this purpose, that if hereafter he thought it necessary to agitate this question amongst those persons who had sent him to the House, it might not be stated that he expressed sentiments out of doors which he had not the manliness to maintain and justify within the walls of this House. In supporting the propositions of his hon. Friend, the Member for Dundalk, it might be stated that he was embarking on a wild and visionary scheme, but such arguments had been offered in the infancy of every measure affecting the liberties of this country. In days gone by, the advocates of Catholic emancipation had been considered as vainly speculative as he might on the present occasion, and within his own recollection, he could point to the period when as a boy, he read with delight the speeches of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, when within those walls he propounded his schemes for the reform of that House to an inattentive audience, and supported only by a few but faithful friends. In advocating the propositions of his hon. Friend, he begged to state that he did so reservedly. He did not altogether approve of all the points embraced by his hon. Friend's resolutions: but he supported them because they embraced a great principle, the total abolition of tithes in Ireland, or rather the diversion of tithe property to other, 1145 and, what he conceived to be, better purposes. Did he do so at the suggestion of the people of Ireland? He begged to state that he advocated a measure recommended by the universal prayer of the people of that country; for let the House regard the different petitions forwarded from that country, and they would find the sentiments of the people expressed in this strong and unequivocal language— "We pray for the total abolition of tithes, not in name but in reality." Here there was no mention made of an adjustment of this question by appropriation clauses, no speculation upon surplus estimates, but a bold and unanimous call for the total and unqualified abolition of that impost. He might be asked what he meant by the total abolition of tithes—did he mean that the tithes should be taken from the Church establishment to be added to the rent-charge of the landlord? He contemplated no such change. Such an arrangement would only abolish the word from the vocabulary of the language, while the substance which the term tithe represented would continue as a burthen upon the people, though not in the same noxious and offensive character. He cared not whether it was called tithe or rent; but he considered it nearly an equal infliction to the unfortunate tenant to have his property distrained at the command of a Carlow landlord, who might justify such proceedings by saying it was "his right," as had been stated in that House; or to have himself handed over by a charitable preacher of the Gospel (one of the gentle Beresfords forsooth) to the tender mercies of the Barons of the Exchequer. What he meant by the abolition of tithes was, that the tithe property should be subjected to a valuation—that the present incumbent should be provided for for life—that the surplus should be devoted to the relief of the poor, and that each religion in Ireland should in future contribute to the support of their respective church establishments. He begged to state, that it was an anomaly in Government that millions should contribute to the religious worship of a few thousands. Did the missionaries of the Established Church mean to convert the Papists by this means? They speculated wrong; and he believed, that the benighted children of Rome, though they made them pay toll for the road they took to Heaven, would not be induced to go that way, but would rather go round by purgatory, than take the short cut which had been recommended to them. The Irish Church had been aptly 1146 compared to an Irish regiment, which had the whole train of officers from the Colonel downwards, but only one private. So with that Church establishment; it had its goodly apparatus of Archbishops, Bishops, Deacons, Prebendaries, Canons, Rectors and Curates, and what was better still, its tithes, glebe-lands, cathedrals, churches, but no flock. The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, he believed it was who had used the term "Cerberian." The Irish Church might be as aptly compared to that many-headed gentleman. He did not mean to say that it was the guardian of the same portal; but it had as many heads stretched out for sops, and but one lean and emaciated body. Let them suppose three goodly Bishops, followed by a meagre sexton, and a sexton comprised in his person generally the aggregate of an Irish congregation. Let them suppose these things, and they would have an apt personification of the many-headed monster and his spectre-like frame. Hon. Members had spoken of the immaculate purity of the church and of the piety, zeal, forbearance, and other Christian virtues of her clergy; but as long as these men continued to be tithe-campaigners of that Church, were they calculated to conciliate the people? He could imagine nothing more heinous, than that men, wearing the garb of religion, should be prodigal of the lives of their fellow-beings. They might have revealed truth in their mouth, but the uncharitable would say, they had the mammon of iniquity at their hearts. They laid one hand on the sacred hook, and they grasped the sword in the other. He had already said, that he was grateful to Government. Ireland ought to be grateful to the present Government, for it was the only Government which had given earnest of doing justice to that country. The British people ought to be grateful to the Ministers, for they had candidly avowed that they had made reform the great principle of political architecture on which they meant to continue the structure of the constitution. Reform had taken deep root in the soil—no legislative power could impede its growth. Coercion Bills might be passed, but such measures, by exciting the indignation of the people, only produced a re-action that must tend to the extension of civil liberty: and from the wounds they left on the Constitution there sprang a thousand fresh and vigorous shoots. What he desired was, that tithes, as at present existing, should be subjected to a revaluation—that the clergy 1147 of the Established Church should be provided for life—and that the surplus should be devoted to the relief of the poor. By that, not alone an act of justice would be done, but it would be accompanied with a favour and a blessing. It would not alone remove the serpent from its victim, but would extract from the body of the dead a remedy to heal the wound that had been inflicted.
Mr. Randall Plunkett
said, that as he had a strong conviction on his mind that the Government did not intend to yield one iota of the principle of appropriation, and as hon. Members on his side of the House were as determined to oppose that principle, he could not conceive what object the noble Lord could effect by going into Committee on this Bill, unless the noble Lord was prepared to say that he had an object in carrying it where there was a majority, in order that it might be rejected where there was an opposing majority. He believed the hon. Member for Dundalk was sincere in the course he was taking, but he denied he had any right to assume that the Presbyterians of the North were by any means unanimous in favour of an extinction of tithes. For his part, he protested as strongly against the Bill of His Majesty's Ministers as the resolutions of the hon. Gentleman, for he did not think it behoved a Protestant Government, by subtracting from the means for maintaining its own Church Establishment, to provide instruction for those from whose doctrine they conscientiously dissented.
said, that this was a most fruitless discussion. His hon. Friend the Member for Dundalk, had made what they would call in Ireland an "out-of-a-face speech"— no compromise — nothing but eternal justice; yet what the hon. Member moved began with those miserable words, "it is expedient." He first rested his case upon justice, and then turned round and talked of expediency. He (Mr. O'Connell) could not agree with the hon. Member's resolutions for the abolition of tithe. But then they made compensation. Yes; but he would ask where was the good of taking money out of one pocket to put it into another? Persons not connected with the Established Church were to be relieved from all assessment, and instead of which it was to be supported out of the public revenue. Now, this part of the hon. Member's proposition was most contradictory; for did not Roman 1148 Catholics and Presbyterians contribute to the revenue as well as Protestants? But he proposed to repay the revenue by a tax to be imposed on profit rents, to which the very same answer applied, namely, that that tax would fall upon Roman Catholics as well as Protestants. His hon. Friend, the Member for Mayo (Mr. Browne) had supported both the abolition and appropriation of tithe; but if tithes were abolished, he (Mr. O'Connell) should like to know how they were then to be appropriated. In his opinion no man could support the motion of the hon. Member for Dundalk.
§ Dr. Bowring
thought that every proposition of his hon. Friend, the Member for Dundalk, was entitled to the approval of the House of Commons. His eloquent Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, had argued that the expediency of putting an end to the tithe system was a different thing from its justice. He could not perceive the distinction. In legislation justice was expediency, and expediency was justice. The proposition went on to say that tithes ought to be extinguished, but it did not deny that the rights of living proprietors should be respected; on the contrary, it insisted that they should be recognised, and made more available for the purposes of religious instruction. It proposed that the really meritorious, the working clergy, should be more liberally remunerated; but went further, it proclaimed the greater and the higher principle, that no man should be compelled to contribute to the expenses of a religion of which he disapproved. This was the true, the simple application of the Christian principle.
§ Mr. W. Smith O'Brien
had already stated that his opinion was, that the fairest way of dealing with the question would be to raise a land-tax, which should fall equally on persons of all persuasions.
said, he in part agreed and in part differed from the resolutions of his hon. Friend; but he thought the better course for him to take would be to withdraw his resolutions.
§ Mr. Crawford, in explanation, said the proposition he now brought forward was suggested to him by the hon. Member for Kilkenny himself.
§ Mr. Shaw
believed he should better consult the feeling of the House, as well as abide by the understanding which existed between both sides on the subject, by not dwelling at any length upon the observations which had been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite in that stage of the measure. With regard to the proposition of the hon. Member for Dundalk to abolish tithes and tithe compositions altogether, it might be more honest and consistent than the plan of the Government —but still, as it was not even entertained by them at present, it would be a waste of time seriously to argue it—then as to the various allegations which had been made against individual clergymen, he had no doubt, if he had an opportunity of inquiring into the facts of these cases, he could satisfactorily answer or explain them—but after all, what had it to do with the merits of the present question, whether this or that particular curate was well treated or otherwise by his rector? He (Mr. Shaw) was as anxious as any one could be for the better provision of what were called the working clergy—to put an end to non-residence, unions, pluralities, and every defect which might exist in the church, but that was not the object of the present Bill. He could, too, disprove the calculations as to numbers and property of the church, which had been adduced as arguments by gentlemen on the other side, but he felt he should be departing from the agreement to which the House had bound itself, and he would, therefore, confine himself to matters of detail in the Committee.
§ The House divided on the original Motion—Ayes 61; Noes 18: Majority 43.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Hardy, J.|
|Balfour, T.||Heathcoate, John|
|Barclay, C.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Hector, C. J.|
|Bentinck, Lord W.||Howard, R.|
|Bernal, R.||Howard, P. H.|
|Bewes, T.||Hoy, J. B.|
|Blamire, W.||Jephson, C. D. O.|
|Brodie, W. B.||Jones, W.|
|Brotherton, J.||Jones, T.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Lister, E. C.|
|Crawley, S.||Mangles, J.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Martin, J.|
|Dunbar, G.||Moreton, hon. A. H.|
|Entwistle, J.||Morpeth, Lord Visct.|
|Ferguson, Sir Rob. A.||Murray, rt. hon. J. A.|
|Fergusson, rt. hn. R.C.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|French, F.||O'Connell, D.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Shaw, right hon. F.|
|O'Connell, M.||Smith, J. A.|
|Parker, J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Pinney, W.||Stuart, V.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Poulter, J. S.||Thornely, T.|
|Price, Sir R.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Pringle, A.||Wakley, T.|
|Pusey, P.||Walker, R.|
|Roche, D.||Warburton, H.|
|Rundle, J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Stuart, Mr. R.|
|Scott, Sir E. D.||Stanley, Mr.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Blake, M. J.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Pease, J.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Power, J.|
|Brabazon, Sir W.||Ruthven, E.|
|Brady, D. C.||Thompson, Colonel|
|Bridgeman, H.||Walker, C. A.|
|Butler, hon. P.||Westenra, hon. J. C.|
|Finn, W. F.||TELLEES|
|Grattan, H.||Crawford, Mr. S.|
|Musgrave, Sir R.||Browne, Mr.|
§ The House went into Committee.
§ Clause 1. Compositions for tithes abolished, &c.
§ Mr. Shaw
begged the attention of the Committee to one of the most unjust provisions that he believed had ever been attempted in an Act of Parliament—he meant, that by which all arrears due to the Irish tithe-owners—except those payable by the landlords—were by this clause to be swept away without compensation or consideration. In the various bills that had been introduced on the subject, such a gross and glaring injustice had never before been contemplated. He defied the noble Lord to produce one precedent in the whole statute-book of such a total disregard to the rights of property. The case was so monstrous, on the face of it, that argument was impossible and unnecessary. Let the noble Lord grant the balance of the million yet remaining in hands for the purpose, if he pleased. He would prefer that; but he appealed with confidence to the noble Lord and to the House, that upon the commonest and first principles of justice the idea was not to be for a moment entertained, that you could, without compensation or consent of the parties, take away the existing legal remedy—nay, further, cancel an existing legal debt; thus, too, punishing the obedient, and rewarding those who had been disobedient to the laws. He (Mr. Shaw) would not insult the good sense of the Committee by stopping to argue so self-evident a proposition, but at 1151 once move to strike out that part of the clause which related to arrears now due. The words to be struck out were—"heretofore accrued or." He could not believe, that the noble Lord could oppose the amendment.
§ Mr. French
could not conceive in what manner his Majesty's Government could justify this clause as it at present stood; and although he was convinced it must be abandoned, he thought some explanation ought to be given as an excuse for its introduction. A number of unquestionable debts, legally and justly due by one set of private individuals to another set of private individuals, were to be cancelled; the debtor was to be discharged from his debt, the creditor was to be degraded, and no compensation to the injured party was contemplated by the Bill. If public expediency required that private claims should be arbitrarily extinguished, the individuals whose rights were sacrificed were at least entitled to compensation, and that course had been pursued, in all the measures which had hitherto been proposed on this subject. In the Bill of last year the arrears of tithe were proposed to be cancelled, but provision was made for their payment out of that portion of the million loan which remained unappropriated; there was at the present time an additional year's arrear to be provided for, and the provision for payment was altogether omitted. Not only were the debts due by the occupiers when their enforcement might lead to breaches of the peace to be cancelled, but the landlord who had become liable under Lord Stanley's Act (not by certificate or agreement, but as owners of estates, the tenants of which hold at will), were to be exempted from payment; a distinction was taken in favour of those who had adopted legal proceedings, who had enforced their claims by filing writs of rebellion, of the fatal consequences of which they had heard so much, and those were the persons who would be protected; those alone who had for born to take legal proceedings were to be mulcted and punished. The class which was most deserving of consideration, those who had been lenient and forbearing, who had preferred to forego their incomes rather than have recourse to harsh measures, and to come into collision with their parishioners, were to be the sufferers. If a measure were to be devised to diminish respect for the laws—to make all parties feel it to be their interest to resist, not to obey them, this was exactly the measure, 1152 and all this for a miserable, paltry saving of the balance of the million fund—a saving, he contended, Ministers had no right to propose, as this House had twice sanctioned the application of this money, for the purpose of giving peace to Ireland. He would move the omission both of the proviso, and the words "heretofore accused or"—
§ Viscount Morpeth
said, that for some reasons which had been stated before, the Government did not think fit to call upon this country to advance 200,000l..or 300,000l. to meet the arrears of tithes. He admitted, that there was some difficulty on the face of the clause, but that might be obviated by fixing a time, up to which, after the passing of the Bill, an opportunity would be afforded for recovering arrears.
§ Mr. Jephson
considered this as one of the most monstrous clauses that ever was introduced into any Bill. He himself was a tithe-owner, and he waited before taking steps for the recovery of his tithes to see how Parliament would deal with the subject. He was obliged to give directions to his solicitor to commence upwards of seventy actions for the recovery of the arrears due to him; and he begged to assure the noble Lord that he was determined not to sacrifice his property. He would tell those hon. Members from whose mouths the words "justice to Ireland" dropped, that this would not be an act of justice. What would be the effect of the clause? A tithe-holder, who, from the best motives, had suffered his tithes to run into arrear until he could ascertain what Parliament would do, both in reference to the security of the tithe-owner and the relief of the tithe-payer, would be deprived of his arrears, unless he adopted those forcible means which he had been so anxious to avoid. He thought some indemnity ought to be given for the arrears.
§ Mr. W. Smith O'Brien
thought it was useless to discuss the likely effects of the Bill, when, as had been intimated by an hon. Gentleman opposite, it was not probable that it would be carried.
entirely concurred with the hon. Member for Limerick. It was clear that they were only wasting their time, for no measures for the pacification of Ireland, respecting tithes, or anything else, were likely to be passed in the other 1153 House. He felt that they were wasting their time most miserably; and he was sorry that the hon. Member for Wenlock, who had taunted the notion of Irishmen having any rights, was not in his place to confirm that feeling. Any Bill which might contain anything like solid relief for Ireland would be destroyed by that party, which was in reality the destructive party. The mischiefs, then, which were anticipated as the result of the clause, were not likely to occur; but, if possible, they ought to be guarded against. Perhaps something might be done with respect to the remainder of the million; but he was afraid to propose any plan. In fact he was legislating in despair.
§ Viscount Morpeth
saw no difficulty in carrying the clause into effect with respect to tithes that would hereafter become due; but he was quite willing to allow of some modification of the other part of the clause. He would suggest that three months should be allowed for the recovery of arrears after the passing of the Bill.
said, that the clause prevented the parties from recovering the arrears, while it gave them nothing in lieu. This he thought most unjust. His noble Friend proposed to give time for the recovery of arrears by action. Continual complaints had been made, that Ireland was overrun with suits and actions for tithes, and yet his noble Friend now proposed to renew and protract those objectionable proceedings. He could not conceive why his noble Friend should hesitate to strike out the words relating to the arrears.
wished it to be recollected what was the intention of this Bill. It was intended to pacify the people. By consenting to strike out the words referred to, his Majesty's Government allowed litigation to remain, and all suits for the arrears of tithes to continue. When there was a wish for the pacification of the country, he was surprised that any paltry consideration as to the saving of the remnant of the million could be thought of.
§ Mr. Shaw
could safely undertake on the part of the Irish clergy, that they would allow their personal and private interests to interfere with any equitable and permanent adjustment of the question of tithe property, and in that spirit he was sure they would be ready to acquiesce in any reasonable arrangement for meeting the surplus of the million, applicable to the settlement of existing arrears.
§ Mr. Thornely
objected to the giving up the remainder of the loan for the purpose of paying off the arrears.
§ Lord J. Russell
agreed with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and said, he was not inclined to consent to such a disposal of the remainder of the money advanced by this country. He also remembered, that the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, when the loan was first proposed, denounced it as a measure pregnant with the greatest mischiefs to Ireland, and said it would be a bonus for the non-payment of tithes.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, he held precisely the same opinion still, and felt that the result had fully justified his prediction, that a suspension of the payment would encourage opposition, and ultimately effect the security of the property in tithes; but now, that an entire new arrangement as to the future payment was making, he was willing to agree to a compromise in all that related to the past, and so close the account as to existing arrears.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 2.—All sums payable by instalment under the 3rd and 4th William 4th, c. 100, remitted; and any money heretofore paid thereunder to be refunded.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, that if the government meant to apply the remainder of the million to the liquidation of the arrears, the present was the clause by which that should be effected; but as the Government declared that no part of the Bill should pass without the appropriation clause, he rather threw this out as a suggestion than for any practical purpose, as he (Mr. Shaw) was well persuaded that the Bill never could pass with the appropriation clause.
said, that there were names in the list of those who had availed themselves of the million loan, that he thought would have sooner cut off their right hands than have applied for any portion of that loan, which was intended by Parliament for a very different purpose indeed. There was one case connected with the grant of money to tithe-owners which came under his observation, and which he should just mention to the House. It was well known that where lay impropriators were compensated for the loss of their tithes, they delivered in lists of the parties who were indebted to them. One of the claims founded upon those lists was disallowed upon very sufficient, but rather remarkable, grounds. The individual, whose name he should not mention, made his claim in the usual way; 1155 the list he had given in was observed to contain one name exactly the same with that of the claimant; the explanation he gave of the matter was this—that while he was a tithe-owner he ought to have been a tithe-payer; he, therefore, owed tithe —to himself. Thus had he become a defaulter, for he never paid himself; he thought he was entitled to payment from himself to himself, and, therefore, he had included his own name in the list of the defaulters.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 3—All lands subject to the payment of tithe compositions, charged with an annual sum, by way of rent charge, equal to seven-tenths of such compositions, to be payable by the party having the first estate of inheritance, &c, in such lands.
objected to the words "seven-tenths," and proposed "three-fourths" instead. He had before consented to a reduction of twenty-five per cent, thinking on the whole that was too large, but still feeling that, as a consideration must be allowed to the landlord, the Church was disposed to make a liberal allowance, and not to stand upon too nice a calculation of what the cost of collection from the occupier had actually been. He knew that in many parts of Ireland, and particularly in the south, before the tithe agitation had been excited, the tithes had been collected at a cost of five per cent; but as to thirty or forty per cent, that would be an appropriation to the landlords to which he never would give his consent.
§ Mr. O'Loghlen
was glad to hear from such competent authority that the opposition to tithes did not commence with the Roman Catholics, as had been so frequently stated, but with the Protestants of the North of Ireland. He was also glad to hear from the right hon. and learned Recorder for Dublin, that he had no objection to the appropriation—that was his phrase of twenty-five per cent of the tithes to the landlords. What, he would ask, became of the right hon. Gentleman's sweeping objection to appropriation generally, if he approved of appropriating twenty-five per cent of the whole amount of tithes?
denied that he had said the opposition to tithes commenced with the Protestants of the north; but he did say, that, on the whole, the Roman Catholics of the south paid them cheerfully, until they were urged on to opposition by selfish agitators and a relaxation of the law. He was surprised at the misrepresentation of 1156 his words by the right hon. Gentleman. He studiously avoided the term appropriation, when he spoke of the twenty-five per cent agreed upon as a consideration for throwing upon the landlords a payment to which they were not liable by the existing law; and he took credit to the clergy for dealing with them liberally and disinterestedly on that point. What he did say was, once go beyond what could fairly be considered as a deduction in consideration of the landlord's new liability, and you would then virtually be appropriating to the landlords the property of the Church. Against that he protested, and deducting forty per cent would palpably be such an appropriation.
would wish to bring forward an amendment of which he had given notice. What he would propose to do would be this—that the tithes should be reduced forty per cent—he would have the deficiency supplied out of the money collected by the Woods and Forests, from Ireland, and generally expended in England. From that sum he would take 50,000l. to make up the deficiency. This would make the income of the clergy equal to what it is under this Bill, and it would also afford the means for appropriation. The appropriation was most important, as it would mitigate the objections entertained against the payment of tithes. He did not want to press his motion to a division; he had no desire to waste the time of the House. There was, he said, no possibility of the Bill passing as there was a determination in the other House not to do anything to quiet the country. The other House had linked itself with the ascendancy party—of that party who appeared determined to sink or swim. He did not think that there was much buoyancy about it; but this connexion was most disastrous — certainly disastrous to Ireland at this moment, and likely to be equally so to that House at a future period. He would not, having briefly explained his views, press his motion to a division.
§ Clause agreed to,
§ On Clause 9—Rent-charges to be under the management of Commissioners of Land Revenues.
objected to the rent-charges being vested in the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for seven years; and he would ask the noble Lord what was to become of them then? He had not objected to the provision introduced by the noble Lord near him (Lord Stanley), giving them the 1157 temporary management of the property as trustees for five years, while the quinquennial payments were making, and then to restore the property in an improved state to the church; but this contained no such provision.
§ Viscount Morpeth
said, it was objected last year that the Commissioners of Land Revenue were too secular a body, in whose hands it would be proper to place the management of this revenue permanently.
must also object to the proposal of opening this question every seven years. The Bill, in fact, invited parties to re-open it. His noble Friend opposite spoke of the measure as a final measure. He could not avoid congratulating the opposite side of the House on the prospect of finality afforded to it, by the division which took place that evening; nor could he avoid congratulating his noble Friends on the prospect which that division held out of its proving satisfactory. No measure ever could—it was a mere delusion to hope it ever could, unless the rent-charge were redeemable. In the then state of the committee he should not divide upon the subject, though, if the attendance had been fuller, he should have done so.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that on the whole a Bill might be final, even though some particular portions of its enactments, were intended only for temporary purposes. He never meant to pledge the Government against redemption.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ On Clause 11.—Compositions for tithes may be revised, on application to the Commissioners of land revenues.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, that they had now arrived at a class of clauses which in respect of injustice and harshness towards the Irish clergy, were, perhaps, among the most objectionable in the Bill; he meant those which gave a power of reopening composition that had been entered into for many years past, and considered, under the faith of an Act of Parliament, as final and conclusive upon all parties. He would read to the House a paragraph from a Petition, from the clergy of the united diocesses of Ossory, Ferns, and Leighlin, which he then held in his hand, on the subject. The petitioners entreated the House on no account to open the compositions for tithe. They said, that the best means had been adopted to have them fairly executed, and, that more than 1158 seventy-three of them were made under the direction of Government, by persons who had no interest in raising the incomes of the clergy—that if they were opened, dissentions and angry conflicts would be continued, and the excitement on the tithe question, inflamed instead of extinguished. They also stated, that as the compositions had been considered final, no care was taken to preserve the original documents—many of the persons engaged in the arrangement had died, and it would be most difficult, if not impossible, for the clergy to make out proofs of the former value of the parish. As a proof how unnecessary the re-opening these compositions was, he would state a few facts in reference to them:—Under Mr. Goulburn's acts 1,505 compositions had been entered into—from these there were on both sides but thirty-nine appeals. Of the thirty-nine, fifteen were withdrawn, and twenty-four heard; and in three only was the certified amount reduced. In Lord Stanley's act, passed in 1832, he introduced a clause allowing, upon appeal under Mr. Goulburn's Acts, for three months from that time, and what was the result? There were six appeals in the whole, four of them were dismissed, in one the certificate was diminished, and in one increased. Under Lord Stanley's act for compulsory composition, there were altogether 820 compositions. There were eighty appeals lodged, of which twenty-four only were disturbed—fourteen being reduced, and ten increased. With these facts and circumstances before them, was it reasonable to give a power of re-opening agreements which had been entered into some ten or twelve years ago, when the parties were changed, many of the witnesses dead, and the documents either lost or destroyed upon the faith of Acts of Parliament making such compositions final. He admitted there might be extreme cases wanting revision, and he would provide for them, but he protested against the general principle of these clauses.
§ Mr. W. Smith O'Brien
said, it was a complete farce to go on talking about the details of the Bill in the way they were now doing, when it was quite certain that the Bill would not pass through the other House of Parliament, and their labours would thus come to nothing and prove a mere mockery. Except for the pleasure of hearing themselves talk, he (Mr. 1159 O'Brien) knew not for what purpose they were there at all.
said, that hon. Gentlemen opposite had repeated so often that it was a mere mockery to discuss the details of this Bill, because there was little chance, as they alleged, of its passing into law, that he really was inclined to believe that his Majesty's Government had no inclination to go on with the Bill, But if it was not the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to stop the progress of the Bill, he considered that it was not a mockery for the House of Commons to assemble in Committee for the purpose of expressing their opinions as to what portions of the Bill they approved of, and which they dissented from. He certainly was not prepared to say that he expected to see this Bill pass through the other House of Parliament When he recollected the very small majorities by which certain principles of the Bill had been supported in the House of Commons, varying from thirty-seven to thirty-nine, and the very large majorities by which they had been rejected in the House of Lords, he certainly was not prepared to hazard an opinion on the prospects of the future. At the same time, however, he thought it highly important that the country should have an opportunity of seeing what points there were in this measure upon which both branches of the Legislature were agreed. He had no objection that where concealment or fraud had taken place, that the compositions should be re-opened, but to open the compositions generally since 1823, when it was morally impossible the present incumbents could be in possession of the requisite proofs, he thought would be a measure of the grossest injustice, and one calculated to produce greater mischief than it was proposed to rectify. At all events he thought justice required that no compositions should be re-opened later than the passing of his Bill in 1832. That Bill gave the tenants three months to appeal under Mr. Goulburn's Act, and if they neglected to avail themselves of it, they should not now be permitted to do so after such a lapse of time, as rendered almost impossible that the existing clergyman should have the proof required to substantiate the fairness of the composition into which his predecessor had entered.
§ Viscount Morpeth
laid, that the prin- 1160 ciple of this clause was one which had been very often discussed, and had always been decided in the same way. Undoubtedly, many cases of hardship existed; and it was, he thought, both fair and expedient that a power of revision should be allowed.
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
said, that ten out of twenty, or, he might say, ninety out of every 100 clergymen in Ireland would find it impossible to bring forward the proof required. At the time the compositions were entered into the clergyman thought they were final, at all events for twenty-one years? Was it likely, then, he would ask, that they were now in possession of the evidence upon which those compositions were formed? But was the House aware of the nature of the evidence? It was composed principally of the promissory notes of poor farmers for a few shillings each, and the tithe proctors' returns. Was it, therefore, at all improbable that the clergyman should have put such documents in the fire? Where injustice or fraud could be proved he had no objection to re-open the compositions, but to re-open them generally, he thought an act of the most flagrant injustice. The hon. Member for Limerick had characterised the proceedings as a farce, but he knew not why. He understood that it was the intention of an hon. Member to bring forward a motion for expunging the appropriation clause. If that clause were expunged, he thought the Bill might be made a beneficial Bill. He thought it too much to taunt the proceedings as a mockery and a farce, but if it be either, who brought us here.
§ Mr. Finn
asserted that the appropriation clause was the only clause in the Bill of any value to the people of Ireland—the only clause for which they cared one button; and if that clause were not preserved the Bill would be valueless.—As to the question of the re-valuation of tithe, he contended that you would commit an act of the grossest injustice, unless the compositions were to be re-opened in many cases.—It was quite a delusion to hope that the appropriation clause could be expunged, and without it there was no chance of passing the Bill through that House, unless the Government and the House were satisfied to disgrace themselves for ever.
§ Sir Robert Bateson
As a lover of the peace and tranquillity of his country, re- 1161 gretted to find, from the statement of the hon. Member who had just sat down, that the hopes had been removed which, within the last few days, were entertained that there was a chance at last that this question might be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. All parties were agreed upon the necessity of finally settling it; but that settlement was impossible so long as the appropriation clause was retained. The question of appropriation was brought forward for the purpose of upsetting Sir Robert Peel's Administration. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said to his Majesty's present advisers—we will support you upon the terms of giving us the revenues of the Irish Church, and upon no other. He would contend, that the re-opening of the tithe composition must be attended by the most mischievous consequences, and he would say, not merely for the sake of the clergyman, not merely for the sake of the tithe-payer, but also for the sake of the country, that any settlement of this question ought to be final. If the Government would abandon the appropriation clause, they might be enabled to prepare a measure which would give peace and tranquillity to the country, and remove the agitation, crime, and misery, with which Ireland was filled. He regretted to observe the apathy and indifference with which this subject was treated by those who claimed to themselves the merit of being the only friends of Ireland, and whose feeling on the subject was indicated by the deserted state of the benches opposite; but he was quite willing to give every assistance in his power towards making this an effective and serviceable measure.
§ Mr. O'Loghlen
agreed fully with the proposition that had been laid down, that to open the composition generally, without guarding against an unnecessary re-valuation, would be very injurious. But the hon. and learned Member opposite would find, if he referred to Clauses 12, 13, and 14 of the Bill, that a person who felt himself aggrieved by composition was bound, in the first place, to send in his statement of facts, accompanied by an affidavit, to the Commissioners of Land Revenue, and if they thought that a prima facie case was made out, they were to transmit it to the Lord Lieutenant, who was to refer it to three Barristers. If an appeal had been made before the Lord Lieu-tenant was at liberty to allow the case to go to the Barristers or not, as he thought best. 1162 Well, then, the party complaining would be bound to make out his case before the Barristers, and sustain it by evidence, and neither the clergyman, nor the parish, nor any other tithe-owner, would be obliged to produce evidence, till a fair prima facie case was made out by the defendant. If this Bill passed, there would be no appeal, or petition of appeal, unless in cases, one or two of which might be found, where It would be desirable that a composition made under fraud, or rather too hastily made, should be opened.
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
agreed with his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General for Ireland in the views he entertained with respect to the cases in which it was desirable that the compositions should be opened, and if he could arrange it so as to meet those special cases only, he would offer no further objection to the clause. He would observe, that although the complaint was to be received on affidavit, the unfortunate clergyman was put to his proofs, and his oath was not taken. What he wanted was a statement of material facts, and those facts positively sworn to.
§ Dr. Baldwin
contended, that the appropriation clause must be part of the Bill, and declared, that he was not influenced either by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny or by the Government, to whom he owed as little as any man.
§ Colonel Perceval
said, that the two sides of the House were very near coming to an agreement upon the matter now at issue. The affidavit on which the composition was permitted to be opened, might be founded upon matter true to the best of the deponent's knowledge and belief. Now, if the affidavit were confined to matters of fact, that would be all they wanted. In the county which he had the honour to represent, the compositions were entered into after the minutest investigation. In other parts of Ireland, it perhaps, might have been different, but so far as regarded his part of the country, he must rescue it from the imputation of having entered into these compositions under any delusion.
If he thought it likely that the Bill would pass into a law, he should object to the clause as too stringent, and confining the cases in which the composition might be opened within limits too narrow. With respect to the compositions entered into in Sligo, he could only say, 1163 that a Protestant gentleman, Captain Willis, complained most bitterly of having been overcharged.
§ Mr. Estcourt
said, that from communications he had received from Ireland, he could corroborate the statements of hon. Members on his side of the House, that the clause as it stood would be productive of serious evils to the Irish clergy, amongst whom the greatest apprehensions prevailed.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 12, being proposed by the Chairman.
objected to the provisions of this clause, which took the decision of a supreme court of appeal—that of the judges of assize and the Privy Council, and gave the jurisdiction to the three barristers who were to be appointed Com missioners under this Bill. The provisions of the clause would have the effect of still further opening the composition, and that, too, in a manner most objectionable.
§ Mr. O'Loghlen
remarked, that the merits of any case once decided by a judge of assize, of course that decision would be acted upon by the Commissioners.
§ Mr. French
contended that if any objection was to be made to these clauses, it ought to come from the Liberal Members. They were, if anything, too restrictive. The maintenance of these clauses was absolutely necessary both to the voluntary and compulsory composition. The hon. Members who objected, to interfering with existing arrangements, seemed to forget that they were about to interfere with them in a most important manner, viz., without the consent of the parties concerned, converting agreements for a short and limited time into perpetual ones. Injustice might be submitted to for a short time, but it was rather much to ask it to be permanently borne. The hon. Member for Bandon had altogether mistaken those clauses, all compositions were not by them necessarily opened; on the contrary, nothing could be more guarded against vexatious proceedings. First, it was necessary that a case should be made out to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and unless they were satisfied of the necessity, no revision could be allowed. The statement before them must be verified on oath. It was then to be referred to the Lord-Lieutenant, and ultimately to be adjudged by barristers of standing in 1164 their profession appointed for that purpose. He really could not imagine how it was possible to guard more effectually against vexatious proceedings.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ The House resumed—Committee to sit again.