§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that in rising to call the attention of the House to this important subject, he was deeply sensible of the difficulties with which any individual had to contend, who undertook to submit to parliament a legislative measure on the subject of Tithes. All questions which involved the right of property were of a delicate and embarrassing nature; but there were, in this particular question, so many, and such important interests—so much of passion and prejudice to be reconciled, that it presented far more than ordinary difficulties. The antiquity of the system, and its necessary connection with the most valuable part of our institutions, made it doubtful how far any measure for its regulation could be satisfactory. It was not enough to see the evils to which the present system gave rise; it was requisite that the remedy proposed should not produce a derangement of other parts of the system, more dangerous than those which it was intended to repair; and it was, from these circumstances, more than probable, that any proposal would appear inadequate to the object in view. He begged to assure the House, that he had not approached the subject with any idea of superior competence for a task which others had in vain undertaken, but had been influenced solely by that anxious desire which animated the head of the Irish government, to remedy the evils under which Ireland had suffered, and to advance one step, at least, on the road of amelioration and improvement. He might have flattered himself that a measure brought forward in this spirit, and with this object, would have received the general, if not the universal concurrence of the House; and although he had been apprised that this was not likely to be the case, he nevertheless did not despair of so explaining the measure as to entitle it to the favour and approbation of the House. If, indeed, there were any persons who entertained an idea of finding in this bill a sanction for those wild and erroneous schemes which had been recently given to the public, or who con- 1030 sidered that it was expedient to invade the property of the church, with a view to relieve other classes of the community from the burthens under which they laboured—to such persons he could only say, that, as he neither expected nor courted their support, he did not feel any apprehension of encountering their opposition. He was clearly convinced, that any such attempt at spoliation would not only be an act of the grossest injustice, and a violation of the most sacred rights of property as affected the church, but would lead to consequences, of which it would be impossible to calculate the final result. It required very little sagacity to foresee, what history had sufficiently proved, that, if that principle was once applied to the property of the church, no species of property would be safe from its operation; and to such a principle, whenever and by whomsoever proposed, he should always be prepared to contend in argument, and to offer every resistance in his power. He did not, indeed, apprehend that he should be met in the House by any such opponents. He was, however, given to understand, that the measure which he was about to propose would be opposed on the ground that the only remedy that could be applied to the acknowledged inconveniences of the tithe-system in Ireland, was general commutation. Certainly, the plan which meant to propose to the House was not founded upon that principle. If gentlemen meant by a commutation of—tithes a just and full equivalent given to the clergy for that property to which they had the most absolute and incontestable right, and that that equivalent was to be voluntarily accepted, he had no objection to the entertainment of such a principle; but he must add, the settlement of it on these terms was not a matter of easy execution. But, if by the term commutation it was meant that the church should be forcibly dispossessed of its property, ands should be compelled to accept what might be called an equivalent in lieu of it, and if that equivalent was to be estimated and settled by persons unconnected with the church, and uninterested in the maintenance of its rights—to such a plan of commutation he should give the most decided opposition, because, in his opinion, it would differ very little, if at all, from the direct spoliation to which he had previously adverted. But, although the plan which he was now about to submit was 1031 not founded upon the principle of commutation, he begged not to be understood as pledging himself, in the slightest degree, against a measure founded upon that principle, provided he could see any mode of disentangling it from the numerous difficulties and embarrassments with which it was enveloped. When, however, the House considered the immense mass of information which it would be necessary to collect, before a well-digested and practicable plan of commutation could be prepared for the consideration of parliament, it would pardon him, he hoped, for coming forward, at this early period, with a measure of another description, which, though it did not embrace commutations would be found to afford very material relief to the grievances at present resulting from the mode administering the tithe system in Ireland. He would now state the principles upon which the bill he proposed to bring in was founded. That principle was simply this:—that tithes were, to all intents and purposes, private property—property held under the most ancient and unobjectionable title—the property of a class, the most respectable of the community; and to be approached with a degree of carefulness and delicacy to which no other description of possession could lay claim. He was bound to declare, too (setting aside occasional exceptions), that the property of the church was beneficially administered for the general interests of the country. Apart from the indulgence of particular opinions, the merits of the clergy, as a body, must be confessed. The fact, were it otherwise, no way touched the subject in question; it was no waver of a man's title to his property to say, that he spent it improperly; but the fact, as to the church, was as he (Mr. G.) stated it; and he defied the most anxious inquirers to disprove its accuracy. Public emergencies occasionally did require sacrifices of private property. The clergy admitted the justice of that principle; they had been, and still were, prepared to share those sacrifices with the rest of the nation; and demanded only that their fair proportion should be allotted to them. They claimed no exemption on account of the sanctity of their character—no favour on the score of their influence over the community; but they desired that those circumstances might not be made to weigh against them. The natural consequence, then, of considering tithe as property was, 1032 to reject the idea of compulsory interference with respect to it. The bill, therefore, rather gave the power of remedy, than compelled it; and if he could satisfy the House, that if adopted, it would give a power of remedying the existing evils, and would make it the interest of all concerned, to avail themselves of the per mission which it gave, he thought he could not fail of receiving their support. It was necessary, then, to consider what were the evils of the tithe system. And here he begged to observe, that many evils were attributed to the tithes which did not belong to them—many arose from causes more or less unconnected with them—but was assignable to the peculiar of tenures of land, and the administration of landed property in Ireland, and to the habits of the people, which, gave to the tithe system in Ireland an operation and an effect unknown to the same system England. He wished particularly to impress upon the House, that it was not so much the tithe itself, as the operation of tithes on a peculiar state of landed property, which gave rise to the evils complained of; because it was this circumstance which formed his qualification for bringing forward a separate measure, with respect to the tithe of one part of the united church. He begged not to be understood as throwing out any general aspersion upon the people of that country; neither did he mean to attribute any of the abuses to a disposition on the part ell the country gentlemen of Ireland to violate the rights or infringe upon the property of the clergy; for he was convinced, that, upon the thorough union of the clergy and the country gentlemen of Ireland, depended, in a great degree, the tranquillity and the safety of that part of the united kingdom. It would be, therefore, most culpable in him to let fall any expression which could excite dissension between those two most important classes of the community.—It was necessary, he repeated, in the consideration of this subject, always to bear in mind, that tithe property in Ireland was subject to many inconveniences which did not attach to the same species of property in England. Independently of the peculiar nature of the tenure of land in Ireland, which led to serious inconvenience, there were many and great evils that arose out of the mode of the collection; not that he meant to attribute to the clergy of Ireland any undue severity in enforcing the payment of tithes. He 1033 had accurately examined the amount of their demands; he had had returns from every diocese, and almost every parish, in Ireland; and the result was, a conviction that the clergy universally manifested the greatest forbearance, and demanded, in general, much less than that which they were legally entitled to receive; and, indeed, however strange and paradoxical it might appear, some of the evils arising from tithes in Ireland arose from that very forbearance, on the part of the church, which induced a postponement of the payment to a period more distant than was usual in England. The great evil of tithes was, the uncertainty of the amount to be demanded. This was an evil applicable to tithe in all countries; but it applied with additional force to Ireland. The character of the Irish was not peculiarly distinguished for providence; they were little accustomed to make provision for distant and uncertain contingencies, when requiring a sacrifice of immediate enjoyment. In saying this, he meant to throw no slur upon their character. The evils of which he complained had their origin, if not in their virtues, at least in their warm and generous feelings; but this circumstance aggravated, with respect to them, the evils of uncertainty. Another great and leading evil of the tithe system in Ireland was, that the clergyman was, generally speaking, compelled to receive the bulk of his tithes from the very lowest and poorest parts of the population. In England, tithes were, for the most part, drawn from a higher description of individuals—from farmers, who, in general, employed considerable capital in agricultural operations, and who had therefore more ready means of meeting the demands of the incumbent, than any which the Irish cottager possessed. In Ireland, the case was very different and the clergyman was frequently reduced to this distressing dilemma, either to exact his pittance of tithes from the poorest individuals, or to abandon his lawful right, and consequently his income together. In England, the clergyman might be liberal to the poorer tenant, end might forego his demand—the bulk of his income was drawn from a more wealthy class; but, in Ireland, it would be impossible for the clergyman to forego the exaction of tithes from the poor, without giving up the whole of his income. He had before him a list of Irish livings, and, in order to illustrate what he had stated, he would mention one case to the House, 1034 not selected for the purpose of effect, but casually taken from the list before him. In the case of the parish to which he alluded, which was in the county of Kerry, the income of the incumbent amounted to 480l. a year, and he had to collect his tithes from no less than 1,960 persons. It was obvious how difficult it must be to collect tithes from such a number of individuals; and, consequently, how uncertain the income of the incumbent most be. For, though the amount of the sum to be collected from each Individual was small, it was not, on that account, collected with the less difficulty.—Another cause which tended to increase the evil in Ireland, arose from the mode in which lands were let. It was, he believed, well known, that lands in Ireland were generally let by competition, and such was the attachment of the Irish to the place of their birth, and their desire to reside upon the spot where their fathers had lived, that small farms and tenements were eagerly tenanted at sometimes an exorbitant rent. To provide for that rent was the only care of the tenant, and therefore no provision was made for the payment of tithes to the incumbent. The clergyman; possibly with a large family, was therefore under the necessity of giving up his income or of instituting a number of law processes, both expensive and harassing in their nature. This led to another and a most serious evil; it brought the clergyman into close and hostile contact with the poorest of his parishioners, who being generally of a different religion from him, were the more averse from payments of this kind. With a view, then, to apply a remedy to those evils, he should now move to bring in a bill to enable the incumbent to enter into leases for 21 years for the tithes, not with the occupiers, but with the proprietors of the soil. One beneficial effect resulting from this plan would be, that during the continuance of the lease there would be no uncertainty of payment; the poorest occupier might therefore be induced to make provision for the payment of his tithes. It might be said, that the system of leasing tithes was already in operation in Ireland; but there was this material difference between that now, in existence in Ireland and that which he was about to propose—that now, the lease being during the life of the incumbent, or while he should retain the living, such a lease could not bind the successor to the living. A moment's consideration 1035 would show, that leases of this description must be liable to great inconvenience, on account of their uncertainty. The incumbent was secure, but the lessee was not. The death of the incumbent—his promotion—the exchange of his benefice, at once violated the contract, and left the tithe tenant without notice, at the mercy of his successor. To the new incumbent also the evil was not less; it imposed upon a stranger, perhaps unaccustomed to business of the kind, to ascertain, immediately on his induction, the value of his living, either to agree to lease a property of which he knew not the value, or to embark in all the evils of a collection of tithe through the medium of a subordinate agent. Now this bill, by making the lease certain for twenty-one years, and binding for so long on the successor to the living, would give a fixed security, and place both parties upon an equal footing. In enacting such a bill, care should be taken to prevent any abuses to which it might give rise, by unfair valuation. To prevent this, he would propose that the tithe should be leased without fine, at a fair valuation, and subject to the approbation of the ordinary and patron. To remedy the other evil, the bill would allow the incumbent to enter into a lease for tithes with a person having a freehold interest, or a reversionary interest, in the land, who would thus have the means of paying himself the sum which he might agree to pay for tithes.—The question would here naturally occur, whether the plan he had proposed would be likely to be effectual for the end in view? Upon this point he had the satisfaction to state, that he did not rest his hopes of its success on argument or speculation. The advantages of the plan might be proved by what had been already done on similar principles in more imperfect operation. From all the inquiries he had made on the subject in most of the dioceses in Ireland, he had learned this—that in every one in which a composition had been entered into for the tithes, there had been such an improvement in the condition as well of the people as of the clergy, as was evident to any one capable of forming an opinion on the, subject, while precisely the reverse was, observable in those dioceses where a similar practice of composition was excluded. In other places in Ireland, agreements had been entered into between the incumbent and the better class of parishioners, by which a certain sum was to be paid, the pa- 1036 rishioners undertaking to collect it. In all such places, though the plan was not yet sanctioned by the law, he had learned that the utmost tranquillity prevailed; which gave him the happiest anticipation of the results of what he now proposed. If he had now shown, that the necessity and convenience of such a measure had been proved by its voluntary adoption in so many instances, there could be no doubt its general extension by law would be most willingly received throughout the country. The clergy would, he was satisfied, he anxious to avail themselves of arrangements which would enable them more effectually to discharge the sacred duties of their office; and he would not pay so ill a compliment to the patriotism of the country gentlemen of Ireland, as to suppose they would be hostile to a measure which would get rid of so many evils. There would, he was persuaded, be a corresponding disposition on each side to meet and obviate the difficulties of the present system.—One great objection which he supposed would be urged against this plan would be, that it would materially interfere with any future measure for a general commutation of tithes. Now, he denied that it would have any such effect: so far from being an obstacle to, it would greatly facilitate such a measure. He apprehended it would not be denied by those who had considered the question of tithe commutation, that one of the greatest obstacles opposed to it was, the extreme difficulty of ascertaining the emoluments of the clergy, with the view of seeing what would be the fair amount to be given in lieu of their tithes: but, if the present measure were adopted, that obstacle would be mainly removed, because a good ground would be established for forming a correct opinion as to the value of the tithe. That this measure was calculated to facilitate a general commutation, was admitted by an hon. baronet (sir H. Parnell), who, when he introduced his plan for the leasing of tithes, urged as an argument in its favour, that it would render the principle of commutation much more easy at a future period. He (Mr. G.) would now say the same of his measure. With respect to the general question of commutation of tithes in Ireland, it was at present, as it had been for some time past, under the consideration of the government in that country. They were, at the present moment, giving their most serious attention, for the purpose of ascer- 1037 taining how far the impediments against that measure might be removed, and how its adoption might be consistent with justice to all parties. If the result of that consideration should be, that it would not be convenient or proper to adopt the measure, he would be ready to state the grounds on which such a decision rested. If the measure should appear to be practicable, he should be most happy, at a future period, to submit a measure of commutation to the consideration of the House; but at all times he would be ready to listen to the plan of any gentleman on this subject, not with the view of opposing it, but with the best disposition to ascertain how far its adoption might be calculated to removed the evils of the tithe system in Ireland; and he could assure the House that he would at all times lend his best assistance in support of any measure calculated to produce so great a benefit to the country. [Hear, hear!] In conculsion, he expressed a confident hope, that the measure he was now about to introduce would be productive of immediate benefit, and that it would be productive of immediate benefit, and that it could not interfere with any future more general remedy; and under these circumstances he earnestly recommended its adoption to the House. He then moved, "That leave be given to bring in a bill to enable ecclesiastical and other persons in Ireland to grant Leases of Tithes so as to bind their successors."
§ Sir H. Parnell
said, he was happy to observe, that the government had at length taken the important question of Irish tithes into their consideration. Such a step ought to have been taken years back. That it had not, was not his fault; for at a very early period after he had the honour of a seat in that House, he had called the attention of parliament to it. The measure had made some progress by the liberal manner in which the right hon. gentleman had that night introduced it into the House; but the evil was so great as to require the application of a more general remedy than the one proposed. The chief evil of the system was not to be found in the amount of tithes received by the clergy, for he believed that the clergy in general acted with great generosity and humanity, but in the manner in which those tithes were too frequently collected. There was a wide difference between the tithes which a clergyman could take by law, and those which he took by custom; indeed so wide, that a clergyman might disturb a whole county 1038 by putting the law into execution in opposition to the custom. The tithe system, as it existed at present, was the source of endless expense and litigation in Ireland. One principle cause of the oppression belonging to it, arose from the uncertainty of the sum to be paid, and of the time of paying it: this placed the poor in the power of the proctors: and whenever great powers were vested by law in the hands of the lower orders, to be enforced upon paupers, every species of fraud and oppression was sure to be the consequence. He did not wish to make the case worse that in really was, by entering into particular instances of abuse. There was one instance, however, which he could not help noticing. Tithe was claimed of a man to the amount of 11s. 4½d. for the year 1816, and of 7s. 6d. for the year 1817. The collector of tithes took out process in the Exchequer to recover it, and the man was in consequence compelled to pay 3l. 8s. 10d., though he offered no defence whatsoever. He begged the House to recollect, that the abuse which he had pointed out in this case was likely to extend through the whole of Ireland. After stating that the Catholics, who suffered most by this system, complained least of it, the hon. baronet proceeded to defend the landlords of Ireland from the charges which his right hon. friend, the member for the University of Dublin, had recently brought against them. His right hon. friend had stated, that the landlords extorted so much in the way of rent from their tenantry as to leave them nothing wherewith to pay their tithe. This was a doctrine which proved that the right hon. gentleman, had not sufficiently examined the nature of rent, and those circumstances which governed the bargains between landlord and tenant. It was utterly impossible that such a system could be universal; for if the farmer had nothing left to pay tithe after paying his rent; he could have no return in the shape of profit for his labour, and no means of supporting himself and family. The business of cultivating lands could not go on, unless those who pursued it, obtained the ordinary rate of profit, which was established in the country, as the return of all labour and industry. Indeed, to make out a general charge of extortion against the landlords, it was necessary to suppose the existence of a general combination among them against their tenantry. Now such a combination could lead to 1039 nothing else than their own ruin, as it was impossible for the landlord to stand long after his tenant had fallen. The right hon. secretary had referred to his (sir H. P.'s) bill of last year, to defend that part of the plan which enabled the incumbent to grant a lease binding his successor. Now, he was free to confess, that since he had introduced his bill, he had heard that the remedy which it proposed was not likely to be so effective as he could wish. Taking the fact into his consideration, he was bound to object to the present measure, because, if it were carried, there would be little chance of introducing with success a more general one. If such an attempt were made, the party making it would be told that the measure was already settled, and would thus be prevented from making any farther improvement in the system. The right hon. secretary had stated, that there were great difficulties in the way of a commutation of tithes, but had not pointed out from which quarter those difficulties were likely to arise. He had not shown, that the clergy were hostile to it; indeed, not one petition had been presented against such a plan from the clergy, though several had been presented in favour of it. He could state from good authority, that the clergy were strongly in favour of a commutation of tithes; and as a proof of his assertion, he read to the House three different plans for effecting it, which he had received from clergymen. He made these observations to induce the House not to agree to the bill now before it; first, because it was an inefficient measure; and secondly, because it would be a bar, if carried, to the success of a more general proposition. He therefore trusted that the right hon. secretary would not press it at present, but would take time till the next session to consider whether some better measure might not be devised.
§ Sir J. Newport
thought it would be better to press no measure at present, rather than the one under discussion. He was convinced, that if the parochial clergy of Ireland could be polled without their names being disclosed to their episcopal superiors, four-fifths of them would be in favour of a commutation. Such a commutation had been promised at the time of the Union; and it remained for those who had made the promise to show why it had not been carried into effect. Out of eleven or twelve counties in which the tithe on potatoes was levied, 1040 there was hardly one without insurrection and disturbance. Where those exactions were not attempted, comparative tranquillity prevailed. The mode of exacting this tithe was also nefarious and unjust, and made most improperly dependent upon an arbitrary rate of price in the markets. For all these evils he knew but one remedy—commutation; and he did not see what was to impede a valuation under the act of Charles 2nd., by valuators appointed by the privy council, as in the case of ministers' money in towns? It was the duty of government to apply a remedy to the evil. The present measure only put off that evil day which ultimately must be met. There was nothing remedial in this bill, and sooner than press the matter now, he had rather the Irish government should refrain until next session from introducing a legislative measure upon this subject.
said, it would not be fair dealing with the government, called on as they had been to introduce a remedial measure, to interpose at the outset, before its details could be known. He denied that this bill would stand in the way of an ulterior measure founded upon the general principle of commutation. On the contrary, it would facilitate it, by establishing a nearer principle of valuation. For his own part, he could not see his way through the principle of commutation. On what principle would they commute? Would they give the clergy what was called a fair and liberal remuneration, or would they elect an arbitrary standard? The difficulty was, how to touch the property of the church without affecting the rights of property of every other description. Suppose they were to take the broad ground of right in their scale of estimate—then they must practically levy a larger sum than the clergy collected; for the actual receipts were nearer 1–20th than 1–10th. But the great difficulty in the way of commutation was, to draw a distinction between church and other property. If they opened the chapter of the church, they would be next called upon to open the chapter of the landlord. He must, from his own professional experience, deny that tithes were the cause of local disturbances is Ireland, unless so far as tithes were an ingredient in property; for it was against property that the insubordination was directed, and against that alone. His right hon. friend attributed the disturb- 1041 ances in the southern districts to the collection of the tithes on potatoes. Now the disturbances in 1820 commenced in the counties of Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, and Mayo, where no tithe on potatoes had ever been levied. The great mistake was, in imputing every thing to tithes, which were in fact only a coexisting ingredient. The real fact was, that in the price of the land upon the tenant, the latter had to pay three times the proportion in the shape of rent, which the clergyman would have exacted in tithes. Where the clergyman would have been satisfied with 3s. an acre in tithes, the landlord, where the land was tithe-free, levied 12s. for rent. As to the parochial clergy, he must always defend their characters from the unjust imputations cast upon them; and no authority—not even their own approbation, should ever induce him to consent to compromise the rights of the church.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that from the speech of the right hon. and learned gentleman, it was quite clear that all hopes of a commutation were at an end. If a fair and equal system of commutation were adopted, he would venture to stake the whole success of the measure on the approbation of the parochial clergy; but a proposition like that now brought forward would be totally ineffective. Would the right hon. and learned gentleman accede to a commission emanating from the Crown, the object of which should be to inquire into the practicability of commuting tithes, and which should be instructed to lay the information it might collect before that House? More good might be expected from such a commission; for while Irish members, session after session, were talking about what was proper to be done, nothing was effected. As to this commission, however, the House must call for it, or, he was afraid, it would never be constituted. It would be necessary that some gentle violence should be used with ministers on the occasion; but, anticipating the happiest results from it, he was most anxious to see it carried into execution.
Mr. Dennis Browne
declared, that from the time when he was quite a boy—for the last 50 years, the tithes and their collection had disturbed the peace of Ireland. The peace of his country never could be secure whilst such a system continued. He was in favour of a commutation but he would vote for the present 1042 measure, because he thought that it laid a foundation for the commutation desired.
§ Mr. Dawson
said, he should certainly support the motion. But he must be allowed to argue this question as one of property. No body of men had so clear a title, perhaps, to their property, as the clergy possessed to tithes. It was a right so ancient, as to be, perhaps, anterior in its origin to any now existing. He would briefly consider the effect of rent and tithes as operative in producing the present distress. The rent generally bore more severely on the peasantry than tithes. In Ulster, the tithes were extremely moderate, and compositions were generally admitted. The law of agistment was there unknown, and that law he considered as one of the prominent causes of discontent. In Connaught, the people were free from the tithe on potatoes, but the law of agistment was in full operation. Still, however, little dissatisfaction prevailed. The rich man was contented, because his pasture paid no tithe; and the poor man experienced comparative content, because his food was also exempted from the operation of the tithe system. In this province compositions were scarcely ever entered into, except when a rich grazier wished to convert a part of his pasture into arable land. In Leinster no potatoe tithe was demanded; and it was worthy of observation, that those counties were the most disturbed in which that tithe was paid. Munster was the great source of all the complaints made against tithes; and it appeared to him, that the law of agistment there was the real cause of the evil. It was not the rapacity of the clergy which produced such disastrous consequences. They hardly received the 1–20th part of what they had a right to claim; and ample time was allowed for payment. It would be asked, if tithes were so moderate, and the clergy so forbearing, why was this general outcry raised against them? The reason was this—the population of Ireland consisted of Catholics, Presbyterians, and Protestants. The members of the Protestant church formed a comparatively small portion of the community. But in their hands all power was placed, and they constituted the landed proprietors of the country. If they found their rents not regularly paid, they were sometimes apt to attribute the circumstance to the tithe system. So that religious, political, and self-interested feelings produced this outcry. 1043 Nothing, however, should induce him to agree to any proposition that tended to deprive the clergy of their rights.
§ Mr. O'Grady
viewed the tithe system as the great cause of the disturbed state of Ireland. The bill would not do all that he wished, but it would do something. He would not support any kind of commutation that would put in the pockets of the clergy of Ireland more than they had at present; which, in fact, was already too much. The tithe system operated as a heavy tax on food and labour, and tended to discourage the cultivation of waste lands. Waste and barren lands were exempted from the operation of the tithe system, which was a sort of premium for keeping them in that useless state. The hon. gentleman then proceeded to point out the hardships which the farmer suffered under the existing regulations for enforcing the payment of tithe. If he gave his note, and failed to pay it, a decree was had against him; then a monition, which took him into the Assistant Barrister's Court; and ultimately he had an appeal to the Judge. These vexatious proceedings weighed him down by their expense. There was, however, a summary mode of recovering tithe to the amount of 5l.. In that case the farmer was summoned before a magistrate, who decided on his case. The clergyman himself, though a magistrate, could not act in such a case; but h brother magistrate, who was sometimes invited for the purpose, heard the cause. The consequence was, that the magistrate could not shield himself from the suspicion of such an acute and distrustful people as the Irish were;—and the effect was, to bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Besides, the magistrate was frequently unable to attend; and the farmer, having appeared to answer to the summons repeatedly, disgusted and irritated by the delay, neglected to attend when the magistrate was in readiness. When that happened, the case was decided behind his back, and he was punished as if he had been contumacious. Was it surprising that this should have an effect on the education of his children? What was education, but inculcation? And what would he instil into the minds of his children, but hatred and hostility to the law of the land. The potatoe tithe was most oppressive. There was scarcely a county where the potatoe tithe was demanded to 1044 which a special commission had not been sent for the trial of offences. He wished the English law, relating to the tithe on flax, to be extended to Ireland. It was remarkable that in that country the progress of discontent and cultivation had been the same. They had proceeded pari passu, and in proportion as she exported she became dissatisfied. The tithe system had mainly contributed to this effect; and if it could not be abolished, something ought to be done without delay to ameliorate it.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, that while the question was under the consideration of ministers, he should be sorry to see gentlemen enter into any discussion which would have the effect of pledging them to one particular line of proceeding to the exclusion of every other. For himself he was sincerely anxious to adopt such a course as would produce permanent relief to Ireland. It had been said, that in Catholic countries the tithes had been totally abolished. He should be sorry that this should operate in any other way than as a caution against those dangerous and revolutionary doctrines, the yielding to which had produced such devastation in the world. This bill would produce many good effects, and, among others, that of removing the middle-man in the tithe system. His right hon. friend, in bringing it forward had shown that he looked at the question with the enlarged views of a statesman, anxious to preserve the estates of the church on the one hand, while he secured the property and happiness of the people on the other. His right hon. friend had not stated that he was decidedly against all commutation, but had left it for future decision. He must deprecate the decisive tone in which hon. members had spoken. Some of them seemed to consider it quite as easy a matter to commute tithes and to settle the value as it was to buy or sell a quarter of wheat. He should tremble for the whole property of the country if parliament were not to sanction the principle, that the possessions of the clergy were to be touched with as much delicacy as those of any private individual. He begged it to be understood, that ministers had by no means decided against a commutation, if it could be effected on the principle of a full and lair equivalent. At present, leave was only asked to bring in a better bill than an hon. baronet had, for three sessions, been pressing upon the House.
was disposed to give leave to bring in the bill, without however pledging himself to support it, or committing himself in any way against the necessity of a commutation of tithes in Ireland. If leave were refused, ministers, in despair, might abandon the subject, or at least have a fair excuse for doing so. He begged to remind the noble marquis, that during the discussions on the Union, Mr. Pitt, besides impliedly promising emancipation, had particularly alluded to the tithe system of Ireland as a crying grievance.
§ Sir N. Colthurst
thought a commutation necessary, with a view to the tranquillity of Ireland, and the security of the established church. He would not consent to any commutation that did not meet with the approbation of the clergy.
contended, that the effect of the bill would rather be to excite than to tranquillize Ireland.
§ Mr. R. Martin
said, he would vote for the introduction of the bill, and he should vote for it in all its stages.
§ Colonel Forde
supported the motion as a stepping-stone to a full consideration of the whole question.
§ Leave was given to bring in the bill.