HC Deb 29 April 1825 vol 13 cc308-36
Lord Francis Lawson Gower

rose, he said, for the purpose of moving a, resolution, which should record the opinion of the House, that it was expedient that a provision should be made by law, towards the maintenance the Secular Roman Catholic clergy exercising religious functions in Ireland. If, during the period which had elapsed since he had given notice of his intention to bring this subject before the House, he had felt considerable anxiety, and even apprehension, at having pledged himself to the execution of a task far beyond his humble powers, the circumstances which had occurred since the recess had not tended to diminish that anxiety. When he had heard an hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. Brougham) on a recent occasion state it to be his opinion, that this question was in importance scarcely inferior to the great question of Catholic emancipation, he could not but feel his own confidence rise in proportion to the magnitude of the subject. Differing as he did from that hon. and learned gentleman in degree, but not in principle, he did not despair, that he would do him the honour to go with him, and that the discussion would have the benefit of the eloquence and talents of one with whom he had nothing in common, but a sincere wish for the welfare of the sister country. The measure which he was about to propose appeared to him to be inseparably connected with the welfare and the good government of Ireland. It had been advocated by men whose authority still possessed the weight it deserved, although their exertions were now lost to their country for ever. The names of Pitt, of Castlereagh, and of Cornwallis were found among the first of those who had recommended a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy. He had also great pleasure in finding, that the opinions which he entertained on this subject were backed by those of an hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. L. Foster) whom he now saw in his place, and whose laborious research into all matters connected with the affairs of Ireland was every where entitled to serious attention. He would take the liberty of reading to the House an extract from the debate in the year 1812, on Mr. Grattan's motion for a committee on the Catholic question, in which the hon. member had said—" Had the parliament of Ireland at that time contemplated the, question in all its bearings—had they said to the Catholics at large, 'we are anxious to admit you within the pale of the constitution, but there are some practical points which we must first discuss with you—there is something for you to modify for us, as well as something for us to concede to you—the policy of our ancestors has fatally estranged your clergy from the state, yet placed, without intending it, great influence in their hands; we propose to connect this body with the government, at least enough to disunite them from a foreign power; we do not like to see them depend for subsistence upon the feelings of their flocks—we are ready, nay, we insist on paying them stipends for their maintenance,'" In this opinion he most cordially concurred. The course here pointed out he was most desirous to adopt; and if the hon. member for Louth would let" his little bark attendant sail," he would willingly renounce all claim to "pursue the triumph," content to follow in the wake of so able and wary a navigator. Whatever might be the merits of his proposition, he knew that the great question of Catholic emancipation must precede it, in order to make it available; and in this respect he concurred fully in the opinion which had been expressed by the right hon. Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, whose absence he regretted, as well for its cause as for its effect" The House would be aware of the constitutional reasons which prevented him from bringing before it the substance of his resolution in the shape of a bill. The objects which he proposed to obtain by his resolution were, to connect the whole body of the Secular Catholic clergy with the state, to effect an improvement in the condition of the Catholic peasantry, and to provide for the security of the Protestant church. It was not his intention to propose any increase in the body of parochial clergy; and in point of emolument he should leave them nearly as they were. When the sources from which the income of the clergy was derived were considered, it could not be doubted that it would be highly expedient to substitute a fixed and unfailing stipend for those uncertain sources. It might be objected, that one effect of this would be to cut off the connexion of the clergy with their flocks. In order to meet this objection, he would remind the House, that in the evidence of a distinguished prelate of that body, which had lately excited so great an interest, it was stated, that one fourth of the incomes of the priests was derived from the offerings of their parishioners on certain solemn festivals in the church. These it was his intention still to leave untouched, that a lively remembrance might be kept up in the minds of the parishioners, of the spiritual services of their pastors, and that they might upon such solemn occasions, testify by their contributions to his support in this world, the sense they entertained of the value of the priest who pointed out to them the road to salvation in the next. The evidence of Mr. O'Connell showed, that the ranks of the Catholic clergy were almost exclusively filled from the lower orders of the people. He would not insult, by the expression of any aristocratical feeling, so meritorious a body, but it must surely be a matter of reasonable regret, that any circumstances should occur to prevent a mixture of the higher classes of the community among the Catholic clergy. The necessity of a competent provision was also strikingly enforced by another consideration. Was it fit that, in times of danger and popular tumult, the clergy should be so entirely dependent upon the people, that any attempt to discharge their duty to the government must be followed by the loss of their means of subsistence? When the storm was up and the vessel was in wreck, was it right that they should be lashed to its shattered remnants, and exposed to all the fury of the tempest? He would return, however, from a supposed case, to the more pleasing conviction which had been produced on his mind by the perusal of the evidence on this subject, and which proved, that a close intimacy and unanimity subsisted, in many instances, between Catholics and Protestants. He alluded particularly to the monument which had been erected by Protestants to the memory of Mr. Egan. This was a prouder triumph to his memory, than if his name had been united with glory or victory in the history of Ireland. It was delightful to turn from the records of violence to pastoral scenes such as these: it was refreshing to turn from Sectarianism to Christianity. We owed to the Catholic clergy, a debt of respect and gratitude—he now came to an insinuation which had been thrown out against this measure, to which he felt it necessary to reply. It had been insinuated, that its object was to undermine the Catholic faith. He would take that opportunity, for himself and those who supported him, to deny the imputation. He had told the Catholics openly and fairly, that he preferred his own faith to theirs, and that he would be most happy to see the differences between the two religions done away with. But, that he, or any rational man, could entertain the chimerical project of changing the religion of the Irish people, it was worse than idle to suppose. His object was, to promote a community or interest between the clergy of both religions, with a view to their own and to the general welfare; and when, in the pursuance of that object, he disclaimed any idea of undue interference upon the part of government, he did not mean to rest his argument upon theory, but would appeal to precedent and practice. What interference had, for example, taken place between the government of the country and the Presbyterians of the north of Ireland, ever since the payment of their clergy had been established by law, in the reign of James 1st.; and what class of men had, by their uniformly good conduct, proved themselves more deserving of the patronage of government, than the class of Dissenters to which he had alluded? If he wanted an argument to prove two things, first, that the payment of a clergy on the part of government, did not necessarily imply (as some persons maintained it did) an undue influence in religious matters upon the part of that government, and secondly, that it was productive of good conduct and increased zeal in the clergy themselves, where could he so triumphantly appeal as to the Presbyterians of the north of Ireland? He was not anxious to indulge in declamation, or to recur to the twice-told tale of Irish distress. That distress must have reached the heart, and pierced the ear, of every one who heard him; and it was to the honour of the British nation, that when an appeal had been made to them on behalf of their suffering fellow creatures in Ireland, that appeal had not been made in vain. But, he would ask whether true charity did not consist as much in alleviating the distresses of the mind, as in relieving the wants of the body; and whether it would not be worthy of the generous people of England, who had stepped forward in the hour of distress to minister to the corporeal wants of the inhabitants of Ireland, to consummate their glorious work, by now granting to them those privileges for which they had so long sighed, and without which it was impossible ever to attach them sincerely to oar interests? Should he be here told, that motives of economy ought to prevent the granting of such a boon, he would say, "away with such economy;" and lie was confident that in the feeling of that House and of the country, he should find an echo to his cry. He was confident, he repeated it, that no motive of petty economy could ever weigh with the people of England against the concession of a measure which would have the effect of wiping away the recollections of unmerited wrongs, which now rankled in the hearts of the Irish Catholics—which would restore peace and confidence to the breasts of millions of our fellow-countrymen— And with a sweet, oblivious antidote, Cleanse the foul bosom of the perilous stuff That weighs upon their hearts. Aye, and which not only weighed upon their hearts, but which fired their brains, and nerved their arms, to the commission of midnight assassinations. It was with these feelings that he come forward to propose his resolution, convinced from the precedent to which he had alluded in the payment of the Presbyterian clergy in the north of Ireland, that it could not be productive of harm, and equally convinced that it must tend to the most beneficial results. The scale which he was induced to follow upon the present occasion, would be adapted to that which the late lord Londonderry had applied to the payment of the Presbyterian clergy, in the year 1803. He found that, the number of Catholic priests in Ireland amounted to about a thousand, and that of the coadjutors or curates to nearly the same; making the whole estimate of parish priests about 2,000. He proposed to divide these into three classes, in the same way that the Presbyterian clergy were divided, and to allot to 200 of them an annual stipend of 200l. each; to 800, a similar stipend of 120l.; and to 1,000, a similar stipend of 60l. To the four archbishops, 1,500l. per annum; to the 22 bishops, 1,000l.; and to the 3OO deans, 300l. each. The total amount of expense would be about 250,000l. per annum. This sum, he was sure neither the House nor the country would grudge, to secure the peace and tranquillity of Ireland. By this plan, accompanied, as he trusted it would be, by the great measure of Catholic emancipation, the rulers of the land would have a strong and unalienable hold on the affection and the duty of the Roman Catholic priests and population. They could say to them— "We give you this sum, not for the purpose of undermining your religion, or of making you apostates to your faith; we give it to you in the spirit of Christian charity, and we trust that you will receive it in the same spirit, Do not, however think to employ it for the purpose of subverting our religion, or making us swerve from the faith of our ancestors. Should such an opinion be entertained by you you will find yourselves grievously mistaken; for we are resolved to maintain that religion, and to cling to that faith even to death. We now give you a proof that we have no disposition to imitate the persecuting spirit of our ancestors; and we entertain a confident hope that you will shew yourselves deserving of our kindness, by inculcating peace and good order, and toe principles of our common religion, on the minds of your flocks. Any attempt upon your parts to interfere with our religious establishment must, we repeat it, prove abortive; for the star of England, before which all the nations of the world hate quailed, must set for ever, ere you can hope for the accomplishment of such an object."—The noble lord concluded, amidst loud and long continued cheering, by moving the following Resolution:—" That it is expedient that a provision should be made by law towards the maintenance of the Secular Roman Catholic Clergy exercising religious functions in Ireland."

Colonel Bagwell

said, that he rose to support the motion of the noble lord, from a feeling that in so doing he should facilitate the question of Catholic emancipation. The great opponents of that question were the clergy of the established church; a class of men whose opinions, from early feelings and associations, he was bound to respect. He was born and educated in that church. For the purity of its doctrines, and the excellence of its institutions, he had the highest esteem; and nobody could appreciate more highly than he did the exemplary conduct and the unostentatious piety of those venerable persons of whom that church was composed. However, therefore, he might differ with them upon the present occasion, he was bound to respect their motives. He nevertheless could not help observing, that the opposition was confined to the clergy of England, and that not a single petition against the Catholic claims had been presented upon the part of the Pro- testant clergy of Ireland. He was confident, that if once the professors of the two religions were put upon an equality as to civil rights, there would be no hesitation in the minds of the people as to which was deserving of greater respect, the Bible or the Missal. He did not say this in the spirit of undue hostility to the Catholic religion. Although he could not subscribe to the doctrines of that religion, he was far from attributing to the Catholics those monstrous opinions, those idolatrous practices, which had been ascribed to them by some. He thought, on the contrary, that we owed to that church a debt of gratitude which could not be too often acknowledged, or too deeply felt, for being the medium by which that most invaluable of all books, the Bible, was introduced into the Christian world. This was a fact which ought not to be lost sight of; for if; at any future period, the Presbyterians, or any other sect of Dissenters, should think proper to apply to parliament for an establishment for their clergy, similar to that which we were now about to bestow upon the Catholics, we might fairly turn round and say to them, "We owe you nothing. What claim have you, therefore, upon us for an establishment?" To those who asked what claim the Catholic clergy had upon us, he would answer, that to their exertions we were mainly indebted for the preservation of tranquillity in Ireland. Of this he was sure, that had it not been for their efforts to inculcate the precepts of Christianity, the disturbances in that country would have been much more extensive and much more frightful, than they had been. It had been said, that some gentlemen would support Catholic emancipation, in order to secure the passing of the 40s. freeholders' bill. That, however, was not his case. He had formed his opinion on the Catholic question long since. He did not vote for the 40s. freeholders' bill as a Protestant security, but as an act of substantial justice; because he considered the present system of voting in Ireland was bad in itself. The rejection of that measure would not cause any alteration in his opinion with respect to the question of emancipation. The gallant officer concluded by expressing his cordial approbation of the measure of the noble lord—a measure which he was confident would tend greatly to increase the general prosperity of the empire.

Mr. L. Foster

said, he was anxious to take an early opportunity of offering to the noble lord his sincere thanks for the able manner in which he had originated the present motion. He was desirous also to correct a misconception into which some persons had fallen; namely, that he had maintained that there was any irresistible barrier to the concession of the Catholic claims. It was natural that a difference of opinion should exist upon the subject of those claims. He had his own opinions upon that subject—opinions which he had maintained in early life, and from which he saw no reason at present to depart. With respect to the Catholic laity (the aristocracy in particular) he had never seen any difficulty in the way of concession, as far as they were concerned. He had never maintained that they were unfit to participate in the enjoyment of civil rights. On the contrary, he was acquainted with most of the leading men of the Catholic aristocracy of Ireland, with those who, if the measure of emancipation passed, would be most likely to obtain seats in that House, and his knowledge of those gentlemen enabled him to state, that there were no persons more calculated to do them honour by their co-operation. The misfortune of this question, however, was, that the laity formed but a part of the Catholic body, and that the most influential and the most dangerous was the clergy. Such was his feeling; and it was with this feeling that he wished to attach the Catholic clergy to the existing government, and by that means prevent the evils which he could not but apprehend from leaving them in their present state, forming a kind of imperium in imperio, exercising a predominant influence over the minds of the lower orders, and with no motive of attachment to the state. He had been favourable to the principle of the veto, when originally suggested, but had thought it did not meet the evil for which it was proposed as a remedy—because it only gave to the Crown the right of interference in the appointments to the highest ranks of the Catholic clergy.—The hon. member here read an extract from a speech made by him on a similar subject, in the year 1817, to prove that, in opposing the question before the House, he was not acting inconsistently with his former expressed opinions. He was principally opposed to the measure, because it was a provision, by a Protestant state, not merely for the support of the Catholic clergy, but to enable them to promote those objects which were always uppermost with them; namely, the advancement and glory of the Catholic religion. He did not now, nor at any former period, oppose the claims of the Catholic laity to the full benefits of the constitution, provided sufficient security were given against that over-reaching and innovating principle, which history proved was the essence of their religion. It was contended, that no danger would attend the admission into that House of a few Roman Catholics, for that once admitted they would lose their distinctive character. That assumption he denied. On this point he might direct the attention of the House to the conduct of those members who represented the West-India interest. On subjects in which their interests were not involved, they could not be recognized as a body of men possessing a community of feeling; but the moment any question arose which affected their West-India interests or prejudices—let it relate to the cotton of Egypt, the sugar of Bengal, the coffee of Macao, or the brandy of France—they formed a compact phalanx, and acted as one man. In like manner, the Catholics would, if admitted, be found acting as one man in that House, on Every occasion in which the interests of their religion might be concerned; and they would, probably, succeed in associating with them some Protestant members, under the mistaken notion of joining with the liberal side. These were his grounds for not going the length of voting for this motion. If the other arrangements to which he alluded were agreed upon, the question of stipend would stand upon another basis, and he should then have no hesitation in acceding to the resolution in the hope that it would confer a benefit upon Ireland, and the empire. So far from opposing a provision for the Catholic clergy, he should then feel great satisfaction in supporting it; but, this he would do on the principle, that this provision should be an alleviation to the people from the charges of the priests, and not a provision for the Catholic religion by a Protestant state; for he could not see how a Protestant state could conscientiously, or consistently, apply its revenue to the support or extension of the power of the Catholic religion.

Mr. Hume

said, he could not give a silent vote upon so important a proposition. The two questions, this and Catholic emancipation, were totally separate; and though he did not yield to the noble lord in an anxious desire to promote a conciliation, and secure the peace of Ireland, he must oppose the present motion. With regard to the observations of the noble lord upon economy, he would say, that he never opposed a fair and proper remuneration, to all persons employed by government; but the public had a right, in return, to require the performance of adequate services. He would not follow the course of the noble lord, in advocating the superiority of any religion, and though he lamented the variety of religious creeds, he was convinced of the folly of attempting to change any of them by compulsion. It was indifferent to a state of what religion its subjects were; for it was his opinion that the members of all sects, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Church of England men, &c., were capable of being equally good and loyal subjects, and that all should, therefore, be put on an equal footing as to civil privileges. His opposition to the present measure was founded on its injustice to the Dissenters of England and Ireland, because it excluded them from a provision for their clergy. Circumstanced as they now were, without evidence or information to guide them, they could not be excused in hastily adopting a proposition which was an innovation upon constitutional principle, inasmuch as it operated as an exclusion itself, by paying the Catholic, and and not the Dissenting clergy. If his opinion were to guide the decision of the House, the clergy of all sects should be paid by the state. France, Prussia, and all the continental powers did so. If even all the benefits anticipated by the noble lord were to be realized, he would not agree to a provision for the Catholic clergy if the Dissenting clergy were excluded. The noble lord had stated nothing which could reconcile him to such a measure. He had not said, whether the 250,000l. was to be provided by an annual vote, or by a large grant at once. And, above all, the noble lord had not stated from what fund this provision was to be drawn; nor who was to have the distribution of it. Had these been stated, they might have tended to remove the difficulties which the measure would have to encounter. He was sure no hon. gentleman would contend, that the Dissenters were not entitled to as much consideration as the Catholics, in proportion to their relative numbers. The Dissenters of Ireland were estimated at 800,000, their clergy at from 300 to 400, who were paid about 200l. per annum each. The exact sums were 8,905l. for the Dissenting clergy, and 4,989l. for sending members from the synod; in all 13,894l. This small and paltry allowance to the Dissenting clergy, could form no precedent for granting so large a sum as 250,000l. to the Catholic clergy. All he wanted was the appointment of a committee, to ascertain hop far it would be proper to pay both the Catholic and the Dissenting clergy. He objected to the measure, because it purported to give exclusive advantages to the Catholic above all other Dissenters. As far as he could learn, for there was the greatest dearth of evidence, it did not appear that the measure would please any party. What means had the House of knowing that the Catholic clergy themselves would be satisfied with it? In the absence of information, therefore, he thought a committee before which evidence could be taken, was preferable to acceding to a motion of this nature. He had, therefore, prepared an amendment to that effect, and would conclude by moving, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire, whether the Catholic priesthood, and all Dissenting ministers from the established Church of England and Ireland, and the Catholic priesthood and Dissenting ministers from the established Church in Scotland, should be paid annual stipends; and to consider and report to this House what sums, if any, should be paid to each sect, and from what funds and under what particular stipulations the said payments should be made."

Mr. W. J. Bankes

said, that the proposition of the noble lord appeared to him excessively unreasonable. He had himself admitted that he did not know whether it would meet the approbation of the Catholic clergy. There prevailed a great difference of opinion on that point amongst the witnesses examined before the committees of the two Houses. One of the Catholic bishops had stated, that possibly the clergy might be brought to agree to a stipendiary allowance, but another had declared, that he had much rather remain as he was. It was admitted on all hands, that the measure was not very agreeable to the lower orders of the Irish Catholics, who would never consider it a boon. It had been said, that any measure which went to make the clergy less dependent on the people would give them an interest in preserving peace; but, was not this unnecessary, if it was true that the peace of Ireland would be permanently secured by Catholic emancipation? He considered this the most uncalled for grant that ever was made. Gentlemen must surely have their money burning in their pockets who would thus vote away 250,000l. a year without any stipulation. The Catholics certainly offered no terms, nor did they ask for this grant. On the contrary, they would reject it by every means in their power. The Catholic clergy were no worse off than the ministers of any other non-conformist congregation. With the exception of the Presbyterians of the north of Ireland, all other Dissenting ministers were paid by their own flocks. What would be the consequence of placing the Catholic clergy on a different footing from other nonconformists?—that the other Dissenters would have to pay three descriptions of clergy; those of the Established Church, their own, and the Roman Catholic priests. The hon. member for Aberdeen had proposed, that the state should pay the three; and, in truth, he did not well know how to answer him. He could not see what difference there was between Roman Catholics and other dissenters in this question of stipend. Every thing like an Established Church would come to an end if the principle of this bill should be adopted. The Protestant church might remain the established one in England, because the majority of the nation was Protestant; but in Ireland, the fact was otherwise, and the consequence would be different. This bill was said to provide securities for the safety of the Church establishment. But what were those securities? He could see none. Many who objected to the annual grant of 250,000l. for this use would say, why not give away the Church establishment in Ireland to the Catholics, rather than put the state to the expense of supporting two churches in that country? And, how could that be answered? Yet, if it took place, it would have the effect of destroying the Protestant religion in Ireland. On these grounds, he called on gentlemen, by the regard which they owed to that religion, to give a decided negative to the motion before the House. As to what had dropped from an hon. and learned member a few nights ago, relative to the declaration made by clergymen on taking a benefice, that he was "moved thereto by the holy spirit," he was anxious to say a word or two. The clergyman took no such oath; he merely took the oath of supremacy, the oath of allegiance, an oath against simony, and an oath of canonical obedience. He did not swear that he was moved by the holy spirit to accept the benefice; he merely made a solemn declaration that he was [a laugh]. The words occurred in the ordination service; the bishop asked the question and the clergyman simply answered "yes" [a laugh]. The subject was not deserving of ridicule; the words were befitting the solemn occasion. He would not have troubled the House on that topic, but that he wished to prevent the hon. member's incorrect assertion from going out uncontradicted to the world. The hon. member sat down by declaring, that he should look upon the success of the present measure as an incident, after which the established Church of England could hope to exist no longer.

Mr. Thomas Courtenay

said, he had always supported the great question of Catholic emancipation, on the broad ground, that there ought to be no political exclusion because of religious differences, and because there was no objection raised against the Catholics, which was not equally applicable to all other Dissenters. It was one thing, however, to restore all the king's subjects to an equality of rights, and another to take the clergy of any particular sect into our pay. The payment of the Catholic clergy might be just and necessary; but he should require other reasons to induce him to vote for it, than those adduced in support of Catholic emancipation. There was more affinity between the Protestant and the Catholic church than between the tenets of the Protestants and the Dissenters. The Catholics were not enemies to the Protestant establishment on abstract principles. He thought that they would not seek to subvert the Established Church, unless they hoped that they could substitute their own in its place [a laugh]. That was more than he could say for the Dissenters; who would destroy it if they could, even though they might not be able to substitute their own in its stead. But, he certainly thought, that the acquiescence of the House in the measure before it, would give the Roman Catholics reason to hope, that their church would, in time, become the established religion in Ireland. It was said, on the other hand, that the Catholic clergy would, when salaried by the state, desert their flocks. If that desertion would have the effect of inducing the Catholic peasantry to turn to the Protestant church, he should rejoice at such desertion; but he thought it would not have that effect. The alternative would be, not adhesion to the Established Church, but indifference to all religion. He must equally protest against the measure, as a bribe to the Catholic clergy to induce them to support the state; and he never could consent to pay ministers of religion inculcating doctrines which they believed to be false. It had been said, that we ought not to have so influential a body as the Catholic clergy unconnected with the state; but, he saw counter balancing disadvantages in making them stipendiaries of the state. He respected them too much to offer them a bribe; he approved of them too little, to give them an establishment. There was another subject upon which he was desirous to say a word; and yet he scarcely knew whether he could do so without calling down reprehension. He had long been of opinion—it was an opinion which he had been many years in forming, and many more in making up his mind to express—that all churches, not excluding the Church of England from the number, required from their adherence too great a conformity. He thought that the time was come when the Establish d Church ought to revise its Articles of Faith. If any gentlemen would take the trouble to read the thirty-nine articles [a laugh].—It was not his practice to stand up against the sense of the House; and rather than expose such a serious subject to ridicule, he would abandon it altogether [hear! and cries of "Go on"]. The very laughter which had been caused by the mention of the subject was an argument in support of his opinion; for he was convinced that a great majority of those whom he was addressing had never read them. They made no part of our general education. The most religious parents had ceased to instil into the minds of their children the necessity of reading them. They must see how much more closely they related to the particular period at which they were framed, than to the present. They referred to the heresies of the times, and had been originally forty-two in number, but had been reduced to thirty-nine in the reign of Elizabeth. That was a precedent for a further revision. The greater part of them were unnecessary to be read or considered, one way or another, The differences to which they gave rise were not material—were not influential on any great moral or religious principle. This was his honest opinion. A zealous friend to Catholic emancipation, he felt himself (as we understood) compelled to oppose the measure before the House. [hear]. He could say much more on the subject; but at present he was unwilling to press it further; and should conclude by saying, that although he was a staunch friend to Catholic emancipation, he could not vote for the proposed provision for the Catholic priesthood.

Lord George Cavendish

said: —The hon. gentleman who has just sat down, has predicted of this proposition, that it would array the Catholic priesthood of Ireland in more formidable opposition to the Established Church. Now, if I thought that the Catholic priesthood had any intention of ever coping with the ministers of the national church—if I thought that there was a disposition to bring, for a moment, the great, splendid, overweening, or rather extended hierarchy of the Catholic persuasion in competition or collision with, I would be as backward as that hon. member in supporting this measure. I look to it only as a maintenance for the Catholic clergy. And; will any man say, that the question is not, whether six millions of Irish Catholics—the great proportion of the population of that country—are for ever to remain in a state of ignorance? I think that by giving their clergy, I do not say an ample, but a proper provision, you make them more enlightened, and enable theta more to enlighten their flocks. As you cannot put down the Catholic religion in Ireland, you ought to have proper pastors; and the best way to procure them, is to make such a provision for them as will render them respectable. In that view I support this, in common with the other measures, from which I expect the happiest results. The particular manner in which this measure is to be carried into effect has not yet been decided upon; but care will, of course, be taken to obviate the objections of preponderance on the one side or the other. You attribute much of the disorders of Ireland to the unenlightened state of the lower orders. Make their clergy respectable, and nothing can tend more to reform and civilize them. In what way, but by means of religion and information, do you make any people moral? Look into the calendar of crime at the Old Bailey, and you will find that the career of vice was first entered upon, in most instances, from the absence of a protecting parent, and the want of having imbibed in early years proper notions of religion and morality. If the whole race of the lower orders in Ireland were left in ignorance, what can you expect from them? It is because I think that this measure will have the best effects in reforming the morals of the Irish peasantry that I support it; and upon that ground alone I would support it, even if it did not go hand in hand with the great measure of emancipation.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, he had imagined, that all parties would agree in treating the present measure as totally distinct from the proposition for removing Catholic disabilities; and he, therefore, regretted that any attempt had been made to connect or couple the two questions together. What he should say on the subject would be extremely short. It was proposed, without—as he thought—any explanation, for the House broadly to declare, that it was expedient to provide by law for the future maintenance of the secular Roman Catholic clergy. We were to pay 250,000l. a-year to the Catholic priesthood, and were to have no power in the nomination of them. They were to receive that large amount of money from the government, but to be in all respects independent of it, and free from its control. He by no means wished to have the control to which he alluded. He did not say that it was at all desirable that the Crown should have so much additional patronage; all he wanted was, to show what would really be the effect of the measure. Looking at such a grant only constitutionally, and apart from any theological consideration altogether, it was at least one upon which it behoved the House to pause for information. It was said, that the Presbyterian body in the north of Ireland stood exactly in the same situation in which it was now proposed to place the Catholics. He denied the parity of the cases; and that very argument was one upon which he founded considerable complaint. There was evidence before the committee above stairs as to that particular point—evidence which he desired to quote, but which he found had not been printed. The moderator of the synod of Ulster had distinctly stated the nature of the connexion between the Presbytery of the north of Ireland and the government; and his declaration came in fact to this—that there was scarcely any difference between the Presbyterian system and that of the established church. Certainly, if the measure before the House did pass, he should so far agree with the hon. member who had lately spoken, that, without any delay for consideration, he should say, the thirty-nine articles ought to be got rid of; for, surely, after passing such a measure, no man could ever again be called upon to subscribe to them. The hon. gentlemen opposite smiled. He understood what was meant. It was intended to quote what we had already done with respect to the college of Maynooth. But surely the cases were widely different. We objected to the education of the Irish Catholic priests abroad, and therefore we founded a seminary for them at home. But surely this was not like providing 1,0001. a-year for every Catholic bishop; 1,500l. a-year for their archbishops; and an income for every clergyman, of whatever degree. One effect of such a course, as it appeared to him, would be directly to create a rivalry for influence between the secular clergy of Ireland, and the regular clergy. The first, being paid by government, might be doubted by the people; the last would then step in to interfere in their duties; and the contest would necessarily be as to which party should evince the most zeal for every circumstance, of whatever character, connected with the Catholic faith. He doubted, too, how far it would be possible for the House to make such an arrangement as that contemplated without a communication with the pope. If the archbishops and bishops were to receive a large salary, government might probably think some alteration in the oath they took advisable; and Dr. Doyle, though he was of opinion that this might be done, thought it could not be done without an application to the see of Rome. Surely, if we were to pay the Catholic bishops of Ireland 1,000l. a-year, it was too much that the pope should have the nomination of them. At least, there ought to be some stipulation, that he should institute the person recommended to him from Ireland. At present there was nothing to hinder the pope from nominating a foreigner; and no normina- tion but his could have any force or value in Ireland. He did not mention these circumstances as insuperable objections to the measure; but why, he asked, was it necessary to press it at that moment? As soon as this measure was passed, if parliament should agree to it, the claims of the Dissenters would be altered, and become much stronger than they were at present. Let it be recollected, that we had made no provision for the Episcopalian clergy of Scotland; and not having done so, he could not see why we should commence our provision for any other church by giving a stipend to the Catholic clergy. What would be the situation of the Dissenters, if this bill passed? They would see the Protestant established church provided for by tithes, and the Catholic clergy by taxes, to both of which they, the Dissenters, were obliged to contribute; while, at the same time, no provision was made for them. Such a measure as the present would, he contended, be contrary to the spirit of the Revolution. It would be in direct hostility to that spirit, to select any religion, distinct from the Protestant church as established by law, for a permanent provision and establishment. He would not object to this principle, if the House had agreed to remove all the disabilities of the Catholics; but that measure had not been adopted. The House were now engaged in an inquiry, the whole of the evidence on which had not yet been printed; and considering the want of sufficient information on the subject, he thought it would be premature to press it, and he had no doubt that if so pressed, honourable members would have reason to repent their precipitancy.

Mr. Wynn

said, he thought that one of the great recommendations of Catholic emancipation was, that it was to be accompanied by some measure of this kind. There were many honourable members who supported the former for the sake of the latter; and, so convinced was he of the necessity of the great question, that if he thought he could make even one convert to it by the passing of the present measure, he would most cordially support it, and give precedence to this in order to pass it first, as an inducement to honourable members to consent to the other. His eight hon. friend had asked, why the two measures should be connected? He answered—the connexion was most politic. It was a connexion which had been supported by Mr. Pitt, by the late marquis of Londonderry, and by other eminent friends of the Catholic question. He remembered the words of Mr. Pitt, when the Catholic question was discussed more than twenty years ago. They were, that some securities were necessary, not depending on the test of religion, but some which should afford a permanent connecting line between the government and the people. This was the opinion of that great supporter of the question twenty years ago; and it was the opinion of all those who had taken an interest in it ever since. That man must be an idiot who could imagine that Ireland would be tranquillized by the passing the measure of Catholic emancipation, unless it was accompanied by some such arrangement as the present. It was objected, that we were about to give salaries to the Catholic bishops, without provision that the pope should not have the power of appointing a foreigner to a bishopric in Ireland. Supposing that this was not already provided for, it would be a fit matter for consideration when the House went into a committee on the bill. It was urged that the Catholic clergy, if this provision were made for them, should give up their present sources of emolument. Undoubtedly, that would be required to a great extent; but, there were certain fees on the performance of parts of their ministerial duties, which it might not be proper to abrogate. The Protestant clergy, though paid by tithes, were allowed to take fees, in particular cases; and he did not see how the restriction could be made to the Catholic clergy in some instances; but, the amount of fees which they would be allowed to take would be inconsiderable. The great objection to this bill was, that it ought not to be extended to the Catholics, unless it was also extended to the Dissenting clergy. He would contend, that the two cases were different. The necessity in both was not the same. The numbers were not the same; nor could the same danger exist from one quarter as from the other. The Catholics in Ireland were smarting under the influence of penal laws, which even when repealed, would leave an impression that could not be removed all at once; and it was most important that there should be some link to connect the future teachers of that people to the state. In conclusion, the right hon. gentleman contended, that the pre- sent measures must be considered, as having the sanction of the people of Ireland; for, since they had been first mentioned in parliament, sessions and assizes had been suffered to pass over, and no public meeting had been held to petition parliament against them. Under these encouraging circumstances, therefore, he felt himself fully justified in giving the resolution his cordial support.

Mr. Marlin,

of Galway said, that from what had fallen from the noble lord who had moved this question, and from some comments which had been made on his speech, one would naturally imagine that he had presented a petition from the Roman catholic archbishops, bishops, and clergy of Ireland, supplicating the House to make some provision for their support, out of the public purse. The fact was, however—and he spoke from a personal knowledge of the sentiments of most of the higher order of the Irish Catholic clergy—that they were by no means desirous of any such provision. They had much rather be without it; and, if they did consent to accept it, it was not on their own account, but from a wish that the general measure affecting their lay brethren might not be retarded, in consequence of any opposition on their part to one of its contingent arrangements. They themselves did not wish to be indebted to parliament for any grant whatever. This was the language of every member of the Irish Catholic hierarchy, and of all the clergy with whom he had conversed on this subject. In supporting this motion, therefore, he did not feel himself called upon to answer all the objections which had been urged against it. It was not his proposition: it was not the proposition of the supporters of the Catholic question: it was, in many instances, the measure of those who had previously opposed any concession to the Catholics, and who were disposed to withhold that concession, unless it should be accompanied by this measure. He did not, therefore, feel himself called upon to say what might or might not be its effects, That the Catholic clergy were sincere on this subject, he could not doubt, for they would lose by it a great portion of the influence which they now held over their flocks in Ireland; and, if they consented to any measure which would have that effect, it was because they felt it would forward the general measure of emancipation. The Catholic priesthood at present received more from their flocks, than they would be likely to get by any pecuniary arrangement of the nature of that now proposed. If he were asked for any other reason why he supported this question, he would answer, that he did so, because he wished to take from the Protestants that which he considered so just a reproach to them. The Protestants at present in their vestries, assessed the Catholics for the payment of their church rates, for the repairs of churches, and other matters; but now, if this measure were carried, the Catholics might say, that if they were assessed for the support of the Protestant church, the Protestants were taxed for the payment of the Catholic clergy. On the whole, he would give his best support to this measure, and he thanked the noble lord for introducing it; not because he looked upon it as necessary in itself, but because he thought it would be auxiliary to the great question of Catholic emancipation.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, he would give his vote for the noble lord's motion; first, because he thought the Catholic clergy were more powerful in their influence than any other body of men in Ireland, and he should therefore wish to have them placed in amicable relation to the state; and next, because he thought the Catholic laity were poor, and ought to be relieved from the burthen of supporting their own clergy, being already by law bound to contribute so largely to the support of the Established Church. As a measure of finance, he thought it would, in this respect, be a most seasonable relief to the poor Catholics, by taking from them so heavy a burthen. He wee not one of those who thought it better to have no religion than the Catholic religion. He respected that mode of worship, not because it was Roman Catholic but because it was Christian; and he was anxious that where it existed, its moral precepts should be carefully inculcated by means of general instruction; and that instruction was, in a great degree, debarred by the want of funds among the Catholic clergy. As a friend to emancipation, he should wish to see this question carried; but as a friend to civil liberty, he would oppose it, if he thought its object was to give the government unlimited control over the Catholic clergy. In that case, the influence of government would be too great, and the influence of the priests for the purposes of instruction would be reduced. However, he did not believe that the pro- vision was sought for by government, with any such view. The power of the bishops over their clergy would remain the same; but the bishops would form the connecting link between them and the government. The hon. member then proceeded to state the many services which the Catholic clergy had rendered to government, by their constant exertions to maintain or restore tranquillity in that country. They had, he observed, on all occasions proved themselves the most able and useful auxiliaries to the civil power. This was proved in evidence before the committees of both Houses, particularly in the evidence of Judge Day and he, also, could attest it from his own personal experience. In conclusion, the hon. member implored the House, for the sake of the tranquillity of Ireland—for the sake of the general prosperity of the empire—to pass these bills. They had not a moment to lose. A little delay might deprive them of an opportunity which might not occur again for years. Circumstances to which it might not be proper to allude more directly, showed the absolute necessity of despatch in these most important questions. He did hope, therefore, that to the present, as forming part of the general measure, the House would give its sanction, and also to the others when they came before them.

Mr. Goulburn

said, he did not mean to advert to the question with reference to the expense which it would entail on the country, as ha did not think that the sum of 250,000l. a-year was a point of sufficient importance to impede the measure, if it could be proved to be a beneficial one. But he should oppose it on the ground that the House was not in the possession of sufficient information to enable it to come to a correct conclusion. The resolution now on the table was too general in its terms, and was brought forward in order to facilitate the passing of another bill, and he thought that such an arrangement was a most prejudicial one. He saw every thing in this resolution that was calculated to excite dissention and dissatisfaction, among that clergy whom it as intended to benefit. He contended that it was the duty of the noble lord who proposed it, to lay down, in the first instance, the amount of the payment which he intended to make to the Catholic clergy, and the conditions and stipulations with which he intended to accompany it. The House was bound to consider the number and situation of the regular clergy, before they determined to confine their bounty to the secular clergy of Ireland. It ought likewise to reflect what would be the effect of bestowing that bounty upon them. He believed, that just in proportion as the House increased the emoluments of the Catholic priesthood, would it diminish the confidence which their flocks at present reposed in them. He contended, that if they agreed to make this grant to the Roman Catholic clergy, they were bound, in point of principle, to make a similar grant to the clergy of every other sect which dissented from the Established Church. An hon. friend of his had said that he would make this grant to the Roman Catholic clergy because he considered them dangerous to the state, and that he would withhold it from the Dissenters, because he knew them to be harmless to it. Was not this holding out to the Dissenters a premium to be seditious? Was it not, in point of fact, saying to them, "You are now quiet and submissive, and therefore not worth remunerating; but, become turbulent and disaffected, and we will immediately provide for you?" Such a defence of the present resolution was utterly untenable, and was as paltry a fallacy as had ever come under his observation. It was true, that the grant did not entail any very great expense on the country, in a pecuniary point of view; but, though the 250,000l. which it called for, was not much when considered by itself, the expense of such a system would be found serious, when there were added to it the sums necessary to provide for the clergy of the Dissenters. He maintained, that this measure ought to stand upon its own merits alone, and not upon those of any other measures with which it was connected. As far as he was concerned, he would say that the resolution received injury rather than benefit from the measures in whose company he found it; and that if it was intended to render the question of Catholic emancipation more palatable to him, it had utterly failed in producing that effect. He conceived that, so far from harmony being thereby promoted between the Protestant and the Catholic church, a great jealousy of each other would be excited among them, when they found themselves placed under the protection and support of the state. In conclusion, he objected to the measure, because he had not sufficient information regarding it; because, as far as his in formation went, it convinced him that the measure made provision for that part of the Catholic clergy who were the most inclined to do mischief to the establishment, and withheld it from that part who were the least inclined to injure it; and lastly, because it would hold out a false expectation of relief and protection to other sects, who had never yet declared themselves in want of them.

Mr. Calcraft

said, that if he entertained any doubts upon this subject, before he entered the House, they would have been removed by the right hon. gentleman who spoke last, and by the right hon. the Secretary for the Home Department. He now saw how thoroughly this measure connected itself with the great one of Catholic emancipation. The opposition of the two right hon. gentlemen must have arisen from thinking that the failure of the motion would contribute to the overthrow of the bill before the House, for the relief of the Catholics. The reason for confining the provision to the secular clergy was quite obvious; it was because they were the officiating parochial clergy of Ireland. He was prepared to vote for the great measure, unaccompanied either with this, or the other, relating to the franchise. It was, however, much better to take them together as a general arrangement. It was most singular that the two right hon. gentlemen should be the most craving for further information relative to the affairs of Ireland; they who, from their official situation, must have had the very best opportunities of obtaining it [hear! from Mr. Goulburn]. The right hon. gentleman said, "hear!" but, if there was any one man who discovered more ignorance than another of the affairs of Ireland, it was that right hon. gentleman. He had been left, the other night, in the greatest minority of Irish members, on a subject connected with that country, that was ever recollected in that House. As to the sum, it was trifling compared with the importance of the object to be obtained. So anxious was he to complete these measures of conciliation, that there was hardly any thing that could deter him from making the experiment. From the evidence in the report, and from the conversations he had had on the subject with many who were best acquainted with it, he had no doubt that these measures would be the seal and bond of tranquillity. in Ireland. If this measure had been proposed alone, sure he was, that many of those who now opposed it, would have been its firm and zealous supporters. They opposed it, because they thought it would tend to the completion of the other great measure. The House should go forward with the grant. The motion had his most hearty concurrence.

Mr. Creevey

said, that he rose to oppose this resolution, for a reason which had not hitherto been adverted to in the course of the debate. He felt deeply for the wretched situation of the lower orders of the Irish peasantry, and for the aggravation which their poverty received, in consequence of the various sums they were called upon to pay to the Roman Catholic clergy. He should have no objection to see the Roman Catholic clergy properly remunerated; but to paying that remuneration out of the taxes of the Protestant people of England, he for one could never consent. He thought that the Roman Catholic clergymen might easily be paid out of the funds of Ireland itself. When he recollected that in Ireland there were six millions of Catholics, and that the remaining million of its population was equally divided between the established church and the dissenters, he did not see any reason why the funds of the established church should not be applied to the payment of its Catholic clergy. Why should great families be allowed to send their relations and their tutors out to Ireland, and to quarter them upon the rich livings of that country? He never would consent to make any provision for the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland, unless it were made out of the property of the established church. He would leave the two sects to settle the division between themselves. He would have nothing to do with it; but, this he would again say, that to tax the Protestants of England for any such object as was contemplated in this resolution, he never would for one moment give his consent. When he voted for Catholic emancipation, he voted for it, not as a favour, but as a matter of right.

Mr. Brougham

commenced his observations by apologizing to the House for trespassing upon its attention at that late hour, after the many protracted and exhausting debates to which they had listened during the last week. From the deep interest which he felt in the success of the Catholic cause, and from the part which he had taken in opposing the elective franchise bill, he deemed it necessary, in justice to the cause, and also to his own consistency, to state, as briefly as he could, the reasons which induced him to support the present resolution. He felt no difficulty from want of information upon this subject, because it was not encompassed by any of that obscurity in which the measure relative to the 40s. freeholders appeared to be involved. The facts relating to it lay in a narrow compass, and had often be en presented to the consideration of parliament. The principles on which it must be decided were familiar to them all; for he might say, that, often as the Catholic question had been discussed, from the time when Mr. Fox first brought it forward twenty years ago, down to the present moment, there had never been one occasion in which it had been discussed, without the necessity of a provision for the Catholic clergy being either maintained or denied in it—without such a provision being fully admitted to be germane to the grand question, and almost impossible to be severed from it. He could have wished to have gone on to that grand question, without having his path crossed, either by the present measure, or by that which he had felt himself called upon to oppose on Tuesday last. It was no fault of his, that either of these measures had been submitted to their notice; but, as they had come under it, and as one of them was a measure on which he had no inquiry to desiderate, he had no hesitation in giving it his decided and positive support. He begged leave to say, that the generality of the words, in which this motion was couched, formed one of the grounds on which he supported it. His hon. friend who had spoken last, might have voted for it consistently with the principles by which he appeared to be animated; for, it prescribed no manner of proceeding; it pointed out no funds from which this remuneration was to be taken; it only recognized the principle, that it was expedient that the State should, in some way or other, make provision for the Roman Catholic clergy. Did any member think that the provision which the noble lord had mentioned was too large? Nobody was tied, by acceding to this resolution, to approve it. He might vote either for half the sum, or the whole sum, or double the sum mentioned; and that no scale, or that any scale, might be adopted, with regard to the payment of the bishops and of the priests. With respect to another point, on which he had felt some alarm before he had heard the nature of the proposition then under the consideration of the House—an alarm founded on the evidence of the Roman Catholic bishops, and on the questions put to some laymen before the committee—with respect to the possible increase to the influence of the Crown from this measure, he must now say that all his alarm had ceased. He desired it to be distinctly understood, on the part of himself and of several gentlemen on his side of the House, that they gave their assent to this measure on a distinct understanding, that it was to lead to no dangerous increase to the influence of the executive government, which he thought was already too large in England, both in the state, and in the church separately, and also in the impolitic alliance between church and state, of which they unfortunately heard so much upon all occasions, and which he was certain was too large in Ireland, where the state had much greater means of corruption than it had in England, and where the church possessed an influence and a property of which it was scarcely possible for any Englishman who had not been in Ireland to form an adequate conception.—He begged to state, that he considered the granting to the Crown the power of direct nomination over the priests, or the power of putting a negative upon that nomination when vested in another quarter, or the granting to it a veto on the appointment of priests, either directly or indirectly, or any measure which would put the payment of the clergy entirely into the hands of the Crown, to be one and all of them measures which went to plant in each parish of Ireland a hired officer of the government; and he repeated, that if any of those measures had formed part of the present proposition, he should have been among the first to hold up his hand against them. They were not to be found in it; and he therefore felt himself justified in giving to it his support.—He would now say one word respecting the alleged necessity of providing for the ministers of other sects, if we provided for those of the Roman Catholics. He contended, that there was neither consistency nor sound principle to bear out such necessity. In point of consistency, this grant would not give to the Roman Catholics a greater sum, if regard were paid to their numbers, than was now given to the Presbyterians by the regium donum. When the Presbyterians amounted to 5,000,000, and the Catholics only to 500,000, he would vote for giving to the Presbyterians the sum which was now given to the Catholics, and for restricting the Catholics to the sum now granted to the Presbyterians. In point of principle, it was necessary to support the grant, because the clergy were the natural instructors of the people. We had adopted at home the principle which acknowledged the propriety of educating the people. Let us proceed onwards in the performance of our duty, and adopt the same principle with regard to the people of Ireland. We were not called upon to provide for the ministers of every sect: if we were, we should have sects which were unknown to us at present, which had few or no followers, which had only a priest and thirteen or fourteen devotees—for instance, Johanna South-cote and the believers in her Shiloh—claiming from the government support and remuneration for their religious instructors. To say that we were bound to provide for the ministers of all sects, was not to take a statesman-like view of the question. We were not bound to do any such thing, until a sect became populous, as the Catholics were in Ireland, and included, as they did, the majority of the inhabitants of the country. These were the reasons which led him to intrude at present upon the House. He must, however, before he sat down, protest against one position which had been set up in the course of the debate. Nothing could be more dangerous to the great question of Catholic emancipation, than to admit, that we gave this provision to the Catholic clergy as a security. He denied that we did so. If we gave it as a security, we must admit that danger existed; which he for one could not conscientiously do. If we admitted the danger by giving a security, we must be prepared to do more—we must be prepared to raise the security, in case it were deemed imperfect or insufficient. He denied the danger. He denied the security. He considered this resolution, as he had always considered the veto, the control, and the commission, to be entirely foreign from the great question. That question was Catholic emancipation. Grant that to the people of Ireland, and it would allay all dissentions and disturbances. It would give us their hearts; and in giving us their hearts, it would secure our dominion over them, so that a world in arms would not be able to wrest it from us.

Mr. Plunkett

rose amid deafening cries of "question." He said, that he had only one observation to make to the House, and that he should not presume to make it at that stage of the debate, if it did not appear to him to possess some weight, and not to have been noticed by any of the speakers who had preceded him. With a great deal of what had fallen from his hon. and learned friend he fully concurred; and particularly with his last observation, that it was not dealing fairly with the Catholic question to consider this measure as a security against danger likely to accrue from conceding Catholic emancipation. He begged gentlemen who were anxious to support the Protestant ascendancy to listen to what he was now going to say. The hon. member for Aberdeen had, to a certain point, supported his opinion. He said, that he was sensible of the injustice and impolicy of leaving six millions of people without an adequate provision for their religious instruction. He agreed that these instructors ought to be paid. All that he objected to was the mode of paying them; and maintained, that the provisions shouldcome from the funds of the established church. Now, the advantage of this measure was, that it would be an answer to those who said it was most unfair that the Protestant clergy should be supported from tithes paid by the Roman Catholics. Because, if the Roman Catholics made such an objection, would they not have here a direct answer? Might they not say, "We, the Protestants, contribute to the maintenance of your church." Those, therefore, who might be alarmed as to the effect of concession on the established church in Ireland, should feel, that this measure would operate as a buttress to support it.

The House divided: Ayes 205: Noes 162.