HL Deb 27 May 1823 vol 9 cc538-40
The Marquis of Lansdown

rose to present a petition, signed by about three-fourths of the beneficed; clergy and lay-impropriators of the united diocese of Limerick, Ardfert, and Abadoe, including the whole of the county Kerry, and a considerable part of the county Cork, praying for a Commutation of Tithes. The noble marquis observed, that the district from which the petition came was part of the most populous region of the south of Ireland, and the petitioners prayed the House, on the principles of Justice, to pass into an act some measure for enforcing such commutation. If the Opinion of any persons was entitled to peculiar weight on this question, it was that of the petitioners, who resided on the spot, who knew the subject practically, and who were acquainted with all the operations of the system under which they lived. It was reasonable to believe that such men felt an interest and regard for the happiness and prosperity of the population with whom they were concerned, as well as for their own. In both points of view, the petitioners considered the question, and they stated it to be essential to the happiness of the country, to the preservation of order, and to their own interests, that some equitable principle of commutation should be acted upon, and made part of the permanent law of the land. He trusted the House would feel it to be an additional argument in favour of such a measure, that it would take out of the Statute-book laws of the most oppressive and' tyrannical kind, laws which he was convinced nothing could ever induce the legislature to pass with reference to this country, but which were enforced in Ireland, on the alleged ground that they were absolutely necessary to carry into effect the system of tithes, as they now existed in that kingdom. Laws so tyrannical and so unjust ought not to be afforded the opportunity of execution. He should be doing great injustice to the Protestant clergy of Ireland, however, if he did not state, that they seldom had recourse to those laws, to the extent to which they might enforce them; but he should call to the attention of their lordships, that, under all systems liable to abuse, it was in the power of a minority, by acting up to the extent of the authority and discretion vested in them, to spread wider the sphere of disturbance, and lay the foundation, as it had been laid in places heretofore peaceable, of irritation, discontent, and even of actual insurrection. While there was a minority who were thus inclined to administer the laws, although the majority consisted of more humane, considerate, and patriotic persons, who took a right view of the system as it operated on themselves, their flocks, and the best interests of their country, yet their lordships would see substantial grounds for taking the prayer of the petition into their serious consideration. The argument chiefly replied on in opposition to a practical measure, was, that the property to be commuted was sacred and inviolable. That it was sacred, as the pos- session of particular persons, independently of the object and duties to which it had been originally appropriated, he could never allow; but he was free to admit, that such property was sacred to the purposes of religion, to the moral instruction of the people, and to their happiness. He hoped, that such steps would be taken as would diminish, instead of in creasing, the line of separation that an unwise system had drawn between the church and the people of Ireland.

Ordered to lie on the table.