§ Sir John Newport
brought forward his Motion on the state of the Established Church of Ireland, and commenced by claiming the indulgence of the House, necessary to him at all times, but more particularly at his advanced period of life. He was quite sensible that he was about to introduce a subject demanding much greater abilities than any he had ever possessed, but he hoped that his deficiencies would be amply supplied by the exertions of other Members. It was his most anxious desire that the revenues of the Church of Ireland should be apportioned to the duty discharged; that the emoluments should depend, in some degree, upon meritorious service; whereas he had good reason to know, that at present the payment was most disproportionate to the employment. Those who laboured in the vineyard most industriously ought to be paid most liberally; but the abuses that had crept into the Established Church of Ireland from an early period, had defeated any such just and reasonable arrangement, Pluralities and, unions 1266 of livings had been introduced, to the great injury of those who were the most deserving. Before he stated the precise nature of his Motion, he wished very shortly to call the attention of the House to the progress of the establishment at different periods, prefacing what he had to say upon this subject by the remark, that he had no wish to impair, but to support that establishment. The best friend of the Established Church of Ireland was he who, seeing abuses, exposed and denounced them; and not he who, knowing of their existence, endeavoured to uphold them. Lord Bacon, among the wise aphorisms by which he was distinguished, put a very pointed question upon this subject; he asked, "Why should the civil state be purged and restored by wholesome laws passed every three or four years in Parliament, devising remedies as time breeds mischiefs; and contrariwise, that the ecclesiastical state should continue in the dregs of time and receive no alteration?" It was most true, as was advanced by the same authority, that time was the greatest of all innovators, and remedies ought to keep pace with the growth of abuses. The commencement of the Reformation in Ireland presented one of the most extraordinary instances of legislation in the history of legislative absurdities. The Act of Uniformity, passed in the reign of Elizabeth, was verbatim extended to Ireland, with the addition of the following remarkable clause, providing, that as in some parts of Ireland neither the priests nor the people understood English, the matins and the rest of the service should be performed in Latin, of which both priest and people were equally ignorant. "And forasmuch as in most places of this realm, there cannot be found English ministers to serve in the church, or places appointed for common prayer, or to minister the sacraments to the people; and that if some good means were provided, that they might use the prayer service, and the administration of sacraments, set out and established by this Act, in such language as they might best understand, the due honour of God would be thereby much advanced; and for that also that the same may not be in their native language, as well for difficulty to get it printed, as that few in the whole realm can read the Irish letters, we pray that it may be enacted, that in every church or place where the common minister or priest hath not the use or knowledge of the Eng- 1267 lish tongue, it shall be lawful for the same common minister or priest to say and use the matins, evening service, and celebration of the Lord's supper, and administration of each of the sacraments, and all their common and open prayers in the Latin tongue, in such order and form as may be mentioned and set forth in the said book established by this Act." Nor would it be fair to impute this blunder to Ireland: she had enough of her own to answer for, without the addition of those of Elizabeth, Lord Burleigh, and the rest of the Privy Council. Coming down to the reign of James 1st, he would refer the House to the statement made by Sir John Davies to the Earl of Salisbury, on the ecclesiastical state of Monaghan, Fermanagh, and Cavan, which was this: "We did not, he says, omit to notice the number and value of parsonages and vicarages, repairs of churches, and qualities of incumbents. The greater number of parsonages were appropriated to two great abbeys, Fore and Kells, fourteen to the former, and eight to the latter. The vicarages were so poorly endowed, as that ten united were scarcely sufficient for an honest minister. The churches were mostly in ruin, those said to be in repair, covered with thatch. But the incumbents, both parsons and vicars, were such poor, ragged, ignorant creatures, as to be scarcely worthy of the meanest of these livings, albeit many not worth 40s. annually. This county doth he within the diocese of Kilmore, whose bishop was, and is, parson of Trim, in Meath, the best in all the kingdom. He doth live now in these parts, where he hath two bishopricks, but there is no divine sermon or service to be heard in either diocese. His Lordship might have saved us (the Lord Deputy Chichester and others appointed with Sir J. Davies to carry into effect this visitation of the district) this labour of inquiry, touching matters ecclesiastical, if he had been as careful to see the churches repaired, and supplied with good incumbents, as he is diligent in visiting his barbarous clergy, to make benefit out of their insufficiency, according to the proverb which is common in the mouths of our great bishops here, that an Irish priest is better than a milch cow." In the diocese of Kilmore, at the present day, one living had a glebe of 1,300 acres; yet the incumbent was non-resident, and lived in another diocese, where he had another glebe of 400 acres, The 12th 1268 George 1st was passed to remedy the evils of non-residence, but had failed to effect its object. The same act deprived Roman Catholics of the right of voting in vestries, because they obstructed votes for the repairs of Protestant churches; and as from that time Protestants had the sole management of the affair, if the churches fell into decay, they had only themselves to blame. Nevertheless, since the Union, large sums had been borrowed, to be repaid by all the inhabitants of the parishes, for the repair of those churches; and the Roman Catholics might naturally think it hard, that having been excluded from all share in vestry proceedings, they were required to pay because the Protestants had neglected their duty. They were shut out from all connexion, directly or indirectly, with Protestant congregation, and Protestant churches, which they were obliged, notwithstanding, to rebuild when decayed. By the twenty-first George 2nd, the Privy Council were empowered to unite and disunite parishes at pleasure. In 1819, a document had been laid upon the Table, showing the progress made in uniting and disuniting parishes in Ireland under that Act, and hence it appeared, that in the sixty-two years after it was passed, thirty-seven parishes had been united, and as many disunited. At that time the country was very much in pasture; but from about 1780 to 1800, the tillage of Ireland was much increased, and of course the necessity for uniting parishes was so far diminished; yet, in that period, twenty-five parishes had been united, and only seven disunited; so that the operation proceeded in an inverse ratio to what it ought to have been. In the eighteen years down to 1818, the same result was more strongly exemplified, for thirty-four parishes were united, and only four disunited. Notwithstanding the expense to which the country was put for the maintenance of the Established Church, notwithstanding the large revenues the bishop derived from lands belonging to the see, many of the cathedrals were out of repair; and of many that were not dilapidated it might be truly said, that they were not made use of for the purposes for which they were intended; there were in many instances no services performed in them. It had been long a source of regret to the well-wishers of the Reformation, that the principles of Protestantism had made such slow progress in Ireland: he feared the cause would be found to 1269 exist in this state of the Established Church of that country. Though there was no cathedral service, a rate was regularly levied on the Catholic population, not only for that service, but for the repairing and rebuilding those very cathedrals, which, he might add, to all intents and purposes, were useless as Protestant churches. It was not to be wondered at, when the state of the Protestant church in Ireland since the days of Elizabeth was considered, that the progress of the reformed doctrines should be slow; but perhaps the House were not aware of the extreme degree of that slowness. From a paper which bishop Pococke left behind him, it appeared that in his diocese of Ossory, in the year 1731, the number of Protestant families amounted to 1,180; and from the survey of Mr. Tighe, it appeared that in the year 1800, the number was reduced to 711. In the former year the aggregate population was 41,200, in the latter year 83,000. Among the matters to which he wished to call the attention of the House, as requiring amendment in the Established Church in Ireland, there was none in which he thought more abuses prevailed than in the system of parochial unions. Hon. Members would not readily credit the extent of the mischievous effects of these unions. He knew of one parish, containing 20,000 acres, in which there were 549 acres of glebe land, and yet no resident clergyman, the parish being united to five others, one of which contained but three acres of glebe. The attention of the legislature should be earnestly directed to the state of the Bishops' Lands, of which there were upwards of 600,000 acres in Ireland, an amount equal to the productive surface of the counties of Meath, Westmeath, and Dublin. This was the more necessary, when the grievance to the Catholic population, of paying taxes for a church and clergy whom they did not want, and who in some places had no flock whatever, was taken into consideration. He knew of one parish, which was united to another eleven miles distant, in which the Catholics were assessed 1s. 1d. per acre for the repairing, &c. of a church to which there did not belong, within his recollection, or that of the oldest resident, one Protestant inhabitant; except for two years, during which a Protestant gentleman had a shooting lodge in the neighbourhood. The injustice was so apparent, that the parishioners of the one parish 1270 came to a resolution that the others should pay only two-thirds of the rates heretofore imposed on them; and a noble Lord, the Member for Kilkenny, and he (Sir John Newport), took upon themselves to see that arrangement carried into effect; but they found they could not do it under the present Act. The inhabitants of the parish in which the church was not situated were obliged to pay as before. But he did himself and the noble Lord injustice—as they had undertaken to see that the thing should be done, they would not allow the poor people to suffer any disappointment; they paid the money themselves. The grievance of which he complained was one which called for an immediate remedy, for it operated one of the most flagrant pieces of injustice that could well be imagined—an injustice not surpassed in any country but in Ireland. Complaints had been made in various places of the unnecessary splendor of the new churches in Ireland—unsuited as they were to the circumstances of the people, and the character of the surrounding buildings. In answer to that complaint, he heard it said, that no more was ever granted by the Board of First Fruits for re-building than 1,400l., that was the highest sum. This he should not have mentioned, had it not been gene-rally stated, and currently believed throughout Ireland. He made it his business to inquire into the matter at the proper office in Dublin, and there he learned, that so far from 1,400l. being the maximum, there were instances as high as 3,700l. and even 4,000l. having been granted for rebuilding, and in one case the sum of 10,000l. Since the Legislative Union between this country and Ireland, a sum of 250,000l. was expended in the rebuilding of churches, the whole of which expense devolved upon the people—a people, not only not interested in the repair, but a people no way concerned in permitting the dilapidation which made that rebuilding necessary. These churches too had ample means in their own funds to keep them in perfect repair. One object of his Motion was the remedying the evils of the present system, by making the cathedral or the church to be repaired bear the expense itself,—that is, to devote a portion of its income to that purpose. He had a precedent in the reign of his late Majesty, when Litchfield cathedral was about to be repaired: to that effect the salary of two of the prebends was applied, the office, so 1271 to speak, being suspended till the repairs had been completed. He wished to extend the principle to the repairs of Irish churches and cathedrals. The subject to which he would next advert, was the condition of the unbeneficed curates; that condition was most forcibly exemplified in the case of a poor gentleman, from whom he had received a letter, some portions of which, with the permission of the House, he would read. The hon. Baronet then read extracts which, in substance, were as follows:—The writer stated that he was ordained on the 2nd of June, 1773—that he entered upon his duties at a salary of 40l. a year, that he had officiated at that rate during a period of thirty-six years, always, of course, residing with his parish, that for the first few years he lived in an old glebe house, which soon becoming uninhabitable, he was obliged to provide a residence for himself, and had ever since been paying rent for one. On the benefice where he did duty becoming vacant, he applied to be appointed to it, but a young gentleman was sent to fill the vacancy who had not been born till after the writer entered the church. The living again became vacant, and another young gentleman was appointed. For a period of fifty-five years he had done the duties of a curate for non-resident incumbents. That his salary was at first 40l. then 50l. then 60l. and at length, under the Act of Parliament, it was raised to 751. Irish currency, equal to 69l. 4s. sterling. During those fifty-five years he had been under the government of six several bishops, to each of whom he applied—they admitted his claims, but gave him no preferment. He was at the time of writing the letter seventy-nine years of age—was likely soon to be incapable of performing the duties of a curate, and as there was no fund for superannuated curates, he was in the utmost danger of being reduced to want. On this letter the hon. Baronet said, he had to observe, that it presented one of the strongest cases that could easily be supposed capable of occurring. He had made inquiries into the character of the writer, and found that that character was perfectly unimpeached, none need be more respectable; yet six successive bishops passed him by, and promoted those who were junior to him, and who had, to say the least, no better claims than his. It was rather remarkable that one of these six bishops happened to be the 1272 present bishop of Ferns; the transaction of which he spoke took place in the see of Limerick. Now it was pretty well known that the bishop of Ferns could see no abuse in the present state of the Irish Church; yet that bishop went out of the see of Limerick, leaving this poor curate exactly as he found him, though his claims were stated to, and admitted by, that prelate. It is generally supposed that the curates receive a salary of 75l.; that has been reduced to 69l. 4s., though the incumbents do not receive their incomes in the depreciated currency. But that was not the only deduction from their salaries; the law declared what their salaries should be, but it specified no deductions; nevertheless deductions were made. He next called the attention of the House to a letter from Cork, from which it appeared that in that city there were but three curates possessing salaries of 751. From this subject he again returned to the case of the curate whose letter he first read, and dwelt upon the injustice of leaving a man of his excellent character so long as thirty, forty, and even fifty years in the subordinate and distressing situation of a curate, at the same time putting boys, just ordained, over his head. He then mentioned the case of another curate, who had been, a curate eight-and-twenty years, and doing the duty of three parishes; for one of these he received 18l. 9s. 2d., for another 9l. 4s. 7d., for the third 9l. 5s. 3d., making his total income 36l. 18s.—that was an income upon which he could not live, did he not possess some private property. Could there then be a stronger case calling for a modification of the laws relating to the salaries of curates? The situation of the unhappy curate was just this—the rector might refuse to pay him anything but what he pleased; and in any manner he pleased; and the unfortunate curate was without remedy, for did he venture to complain the incumbent immediately would reply—"Do as you please; go about your business; I can do the duty of the parish myself, or I can find others who will." One object of his Motion would be to remedy this grievance, and to prevent men of character, who had spent the most valuable years of their lives in active duty, from continuing forty or fifty years as unbeneficed curates, merely because other clergymen—boys very often—happened to possess more family influence through which they were 1273 put over their heads. He also would endeavour that curates should be paid the salary stipulated for them by the legislature. At present they were frequently not paid half, though they discharged not only their duty, but that for which some non-resident Incumbent drew a large income. He would now come to the subject of Pluralities. He understood it to be the fact that the primate had no power of refusing faculties for holding pluralities, provided the livings are within thirty miles of each other. Some time since he introduced a bill for remedying that defect in the state of the law, and he was induced to withdraw it, on the assurance that the primate was doing all in his power to remove the inconvenience, and the injustice, against which the bill was directed. Those exertions, however, were not attended with success; and, therefore, some new measure on the subject became absolutely necessary—something of the sort must be done; there was no postponing it any longer, the time for legislating upon the subject of the union of Irish livings had arrived; and an attempt to protract the period must be attended with the worst effects. The right hon. Baronet concluded by moving an address to his Majesty, forThe appointment of a Commission, selected from the Privy Council of Ireland, instructed with as little delay as may be practicable, to proceed in a systematic examination of the several diocesses of Ireland, as to the state of the unions of parishes contained therein, the authority under which such unions have been effected, the value of the several parishes so united, their contiguity or remoteness from each other, and from the several churches contained therein, and the fitness or impropriety of their continuing so united whenever the benefices in which they are comprised shall become vacant by death or otherwise; and to report, from time to time, their proceedings in such examination to his Majesty.That his Majesty may be pleased to direct that strict inquiry be made by the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland from the beneficed clergy of Ireland, assembled at their visitations and otherwise annually, as to their exact payment of their several curates of the full sum of money stipulated by the Act of Parliament to be paid to them for performance 1274 of the duties devolving on such curates, in British currency, without any other deduction there from than such as is expressly stipulated by the said Act.That his Majesty may be pleased to direct that there be laid before this House such information, respecting the legal powers under which the granting or with holding faculties for possessing pluralities of benefices are now exercised, as may enable the House to judge of the expediency of proposing any modification of such powers, or of removing any obstruction which may now legally exist to controlling the same, and restricting them so as to be most beneficial to the real interests of the Church Establishment, and of the people committed to their care.That we particularly recommend to the consideration of his Majesty, the propriety of suspending the appointment by the Crown to any dignity or benefice within the gift thereof, as vacancies may hereafter occur, until inquiry shall have been made into the state and condition of the cathedral or other church connected with such dignity or benefice, and, where it is found necessary to rebuild or repair the same, of appropriating to such rebuilding or repair the revenues arising from such dignity or benefice, after deducting there from the necessary provision for the celebration of divine worship, and the temporary discharge of the duties connected with such dignity or benefice during such suspension of permanent appointment, as was some years since effected in the case of Litchfield cathedral.
Sir Robert H. Inglis
observed, that he had heard, since he had had the honour of a seat in Parliament, the right hon. baronet make, every year, the very same complaint of the Church of Ireland with which he had just favoured the House. But the right hon. Baronet should recollect, that the Reformation in Ireland was not universal; that therefore it was not to be expected that the whole state and Government of the Church should there stand upon as satisfactory a footing as in England. Upon former occasions the right hon. Baronet had explained to the House the grounds of his belief that the principles of the Reformation were not advancing, pari passu, with the population of Ireland 1275 but had, on these occasions, made the withholding of the Catholic Relief bill the cause of this declension. He thought, therefore, that the right hon. Baronet's Motion ought to wait for the progress of that improvement which the right hon. Baronet contended would be the result in Ireland. Or rather, he should say, not wait for that improvement; but be relinquished altogether; for its rapid progress might render any such motion unnecessary. He would not go back to inquire into the state of the Protestant church in Ireland in the time of Elizabeth, or of Primate Boulter, or Bishop Stone; but he would ask what was likely to be its condition under its present prelacy, and what was likely to be its probable success, as far as might be predicted from that condition. He could show that since the time mentioned by the right hon. Baronet there had been a large increase of the number of residents, in fact to an extent equal to the whole number of beneficed clergymen in the year 1796. Indeed, he believed that it was unnecessary to give the clergy of Ireland the assistance of the legislature to promote the residence of their body, as the tendency of all their acts was, to ensure so desirable an object. The number of resident clergymen had greatly increased within the last twenty years. The increase amounted to 697, which was nearly equal to the whole number of resident clergy in Ireland in the reign of George 1st. When such were the operations of the Church, when left to itself, he thought that any legislative Act of that House would only retard the reform which was already in progress. That there were insulated places where curates were pining in obscurity and poverty he admitted; but he did not think that they formed a sufficient ground for interference. There was already an Act in existence for the diminution of this evil, and it was in the power of the bishops and the curates themselves to obtain a fair hearing of their case. In the diocese of Armagh the number of residents in 1828 was equal to the whole number of residents in all Ireland in the year 1792. As to glebe-houses, he could say that, in the single diocese of Armagh, at present the number erected exceeded by 200 that in all Ireland in the year 1800. In his opinion, the facts stated by the right hon. Baronet were not sufficient to evince that the Church of Ireland was too largely endowed; and it 1276 was to be remembered that there were 1,480 glebes in the hands of laymen; so that if he could concur in any part of the right hon. Baronet's Motion, it would be for the purpose of ascertaining what portion of the property of the Church was in the hands of impropriators, being laymen; and he believed that it would turn out that the Church was in possession of a very small proportion indeed of Church property. If the right hon. Baronet had contented himself with moving such an address as that which he had moved on the 22nd of April, 1819, in which "the Prince Regent was requested to direct an inquiry, by communication, into the state of the Church of Ireland, by a communication with the Archbishops and Bishops of that part of the United Kingdom, similar to the inquiry instituted in June, 1806," he (Sir R. Inglis) would not have objected; though he still should have been of opinion that the better course would have been to have left the matter quiet. As it was, however, he felt bound to move the previous question. The right hon. Baronet had said, that the Reformation never fully took effect in Ireland, and certainly it was a long time before it was fully embraced and at work there. This being the case, he would ask whether the actual state of the Church of Ireland was not much better now than could have reasonably been expected, under the discouraging circumstances with which it had met? With such discouragement on the part of the Crown, from the period of the Revolution to that of the Union, he would ask whether there had not been more done, or whether there was not more doing by that Church, than could fairly have been anticipated? He put it to the right hon. Baronet's candour, whether this was not the case? and he therefore requested him not to retard what was already doing, by an attempt at any legislative measure.
Lord F. L. Gower
said, he was not able to assent to the proposition either of the right hon. Baronet, or of the hon. Member for Oxford. When the right hon. Baronet had quoted a passage from lord Bacon, in which he adverted to the operations of time, and stated that those operations which had effect on all things, were totally nugatory and inefficient with respect to ecclesiastical establishments—if the right hon. Baronet extended that doctrine to the Church of Ireland he must 1277 totally deny his conclusion. If he were disposed to agree in a considerable portion of the right hon. Baronet's Motion, it was because he thought that an inquiry would tend to show that the operation of time and events had been most salutary on that Church, and that the removal of those abuses, which it could not be denied had existed, was chiefly owing to that circumstance. It was his belief, that innovation had been more powerful with respect to the Church of Ireland than most others. The right hon. Baronet, in the course of his observations, had gone back somewhat further than was perhaps necessary; but there were one or two observations on which it might be as well to say a few words. He should say that the intention of Queen Elizabeth, in establishing the performance of service in the Latin language, was a proof that she was desirous of acting with more regard for the feelings and prejudices of the people of that country than her father, Henry the 8th. If he remembered rightly, one of the attacks which that king made on the prejudices of the Irish, was to compel them to tell their beads in the English tongue: it struck him that the sagacity of the daughter made her discover that an experiment of that nature would meet with a signal failure. The right hon. Baronet had said, that there had been a great increase of unions since the Revolution. He could not profess the great knowledge of the right hon. Baronet on this point; but as he looked at it, such a circumstance might have arisen without attaching any odium to the bishop. He believed that it had sometimes happened that unions of nine parishes had been dissolved into unions of three; and if that were the case, the account would stand—one dissolution against three unions; in which event, what the hon. Baronet was standing up for was substantially effected. With regard to the operations of the Privy Council, since power had been given to it over the hierarchy of Ireland, with respect to the unions, he did not know to what the right hon. Baronet had adverted when he expressed his disapprobation of them. Since he had had the honour of holding office, he did not remember any cases brought before that body; but he could take upon himself to say that the feeling of that body was in favour of dissolution, whenever it could be effected without prejudice to the interests of the 1278 country; and in saying this, he begged to state that he spoke from his own actual knowledge of the feelings of that body. Melancholy as the facts were which the right hon. Baronet had stated with regard to the curates of Ireland, he must say that he knew of no profession (not even excepting that of the law) in which the merit of particular individuals would so long linger on in obscurity. It was, perhaps, hardly consistent with that laudable tone in which the general tenour of the right hon. Baronet's speech had been conceived, to single out an individual, who, though he had been mixed up in the polemical matters of the Church; was in his powers of mind, of such a calibre as to need no compliment from him. It was, he repeated, hardly fair to single out this individual for reproof or sarcasm, because it happened that there were curates in his diocese who were living in poverty and neglect. He could take upon himself to state that there was every disposition in the bench of Ireland to bring forward and remunerate the curates of that country. For the reasons which he had stated, he should, in the Amendment which he was about to propose, agree with every part of the right hon. Baronet's Motion, which would tend to enlighten the House by information, and enable them to judge more accurately of the real state of the Church of Ireland. He was convinced that it would be wrong to attempt to wrap the situation of that Church in mystery, and he was confident that he spoke the sentiments of the heads of that Church, when he said they were ready to afford the fullest information on every particular connected with it. That information might show that there were difficulties, but the more it was extended the more it would add to the satisfaction of those who were already its well-wishers; and the more it would alter the opinions of those who had fallen into the idle and dangerous habit of indulging in contumely and a censorious disposition towards that Church. There was one paragraph in the right hon. Baronet's Motion to which he must offer his opposition. The right hon. Baronet proposed that the House should recommend to the consideration of his Majesty the propriety of suspending the appointments by the Crown to any dignities or benefices which hereafter may be vacant, and in the gift thereof. In proposing this, the right hon. Baronet had 1279 certainly proposed what was within the power of the Crown to do; but when he went on to propose, that in the event of its being necessary to build or repair any of the churches, his Majesty should be pleased to appoint the revenues arising from such dignities or benefices, after deducting what may be necessary for the celebration of divine service and the discharge of the customary duties, it was not within the Crown to make this arrangement—for he apprehended, that although, when benefices became vacant, they might remain so, it was obligatory on the bishop to sequester the revenue for the use of the next incumbent. He therefore had a distinct legal objection to this portion of the proposed Resolutions; besides which, he thought it improper to mix up with a Motion for information, anything so like a radical change of the present state of the law. The noble Lord then concluded, by stating that he should move the following Address as an Amendment: "That his Majesty may be pleased to appoint a Commission, to proceed with as little delay as may be practicable, to inquire into the state of the several parochial benefices in the respective dioceses of Ireland, with a view to ascertain how far the same consist of separate or united parishes, and to report, in the case of unions, the authority under which such unions have been effected, and the date thereof: the annual value of the several parishes so united; the contiguity of such parishes to each other, and of the churches or chapels within the same, and the possibility or fitness of dissolving such unions at any future period. That the said Commission be further directed, to examine and report how far the salaries required by law have in each case been paid to the several curates, residing within the said parishes or unions. That his Majesty would be graciously pleased to direct that there be laid before this House, an account of the number of faculties or dispensations which have been in each of the last ten years, granted in Ireland, for the purpose of enabling ecclesiastical persons to hold more than one benefice, and of the rules and regulations under which such faculties are now granted.
§ Mr. G. Moore
said, he should support the hon. Member for Oxford's Amendment in preference to the Amendment of the noble Lord. He was sure that the Church of Ireland could have no objection to afford the fullest information, which 1280 could only tend to advance its character still higher than it was at present. The right hon. Baronet, in making his Motion, had travelled back to a very distant period; and he must, in a great measure, agree in the picture which he had drawn; but he would ask whether that very picture did not show how much had been done by that Church of late to vindicate its character and elevate its condition—affording a most flattering contrast between the ministers of those days and of ours? He did not appear there as the advocate of the Church of Ireland, but as a witness in its favour; and he could give his testimony from his own observations and from public documents, sure of being supported by every Irishman who had watched the conduct of that Church, and its progress towards the amelioration which had taken place. The right hon. Baronet had stated, that in one district there had been an alarming decrease of Protestantism; and on that ground had insinuated, that the same circumstances extended to the whole of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet would find, that by the last census, which was taken—he believed in 1824—there had been of late an approximation between the number of Protestants and the number of Catholics, and that now the latter did not exceed the former in so great a proportion as they did some years back. There were, he believed, now 2,000,000 Protestants to 5,000,000 Catholics. It was stated that the Irish Church did not reform abuses; but in that Church, and particularly in the hierarchy, there was a great disposition to reform abuses. During the last twenty years, not less than 132 beneficed clergymen had been added to the establishment, by the dissolution of unions. During the same twenty years also, there had been a great number of pluralities done away; so that the 600 beneficed clergymen, of which the establishment formerly consisted, were now converted into 1,200. Something had been said by the right hon. Baronet of the bishop of Ferns, when bishop of Limerick, not having promoted a deserving curate. Of that particular case he knew nothing; but he knew that the bishop of Ferns, since he had been in possession of his present see, had shown a great disposition to promote deserving curates. He had promoted 15, from livings of 150l. to livings of 500l. a-year, though he had no other acquaintance with them than that which 1281 he had formed by becoming acquainted with their services. It was his intention to support the motion of the Member for Oxford, and get rid, if he could, of the motion of the right hon. Baronet. If his noble friend would afterwards make a motion for an address to the Crown, to bring down to the House a full account of what had been done to improve the Church of Ireland up to the present time, he should not have the least objection to it, as he should be well pleased that the House and the public should be put in possession of all the circumstances connected with the Irish Establishment; and he was sure, that if such information were made public, many false impressions would be removed.
§ Mr. Hume
was glad to hear these sentiments from the hon. Member; and should found on them a claim to his support, when he should make a motion for a Committee to Inquire into the State of the Irish Church. He thought with the hon. Member, that by inquiry many erroneous impressions would be done away, and the House and the public would be fully informed of the state of that Church. He agreed, therefore, with the hon. Member; and, before the Session was closed, should ask him for his vote. At the same time, the hon. Member's statements were quite inconsistent with his vote. The proposition of the right hon. Baronet was but a milk-and-water one. It was high time that the whole establishment of the Irish Church should be inquired into, revised, and reduced, so as to accord with the state of the country. He should vote for the Motion of his right hon. friend; but he did not do so from supposing that this Motion was adequate to the circumstances of the country. Inquiry must, in his opinion, go much further; and he hoped to see the establishment reduced to two or four bishops. He should like that sixteen or eighteen bishopricks were swept away at once; and he heartily believed that, in this respect, the population of England and Ireland would go along with him. Instead of repairing the cathedrals, if they could not be converted into parish churches, he would pull them down. Why should the people be compelled to keep structures of brick and mortar, of which they made no use? Instead of appropriating the revenues of benefices, as they became vacant, to clerical purposes, he would cause them to be paid into the 1282 Consolidated-fund. That would be of some benefit to the people. He would support the Motion of his right hon. friend, though he thought, it wholly inadequate, being persuaded that if the affairs of the Irish Church were inquired into fully, a great reduction might be made with great advantage. When he brought forward his motion on the subject, he should expect the support of the hon. Member for Dublin.
§ Mr. G. Moore
was understood to say that when the hon. Member made a motion for inquiry, he would second it.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
thought, that of the motions before the House, the preference was due to the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord. He was deeply interested in the Irish Church Establishment, and in his attachment to it he did not yield to the hon. Member for Oxford (Sir R. Inglis); but if that hon. Member thought that the interest of the Church was to be supported by resisting every change, every attempt at improvement, come from whatever quarter it might, he was mistaken. The members of the Irish Church did not participate in the hon. Member's views; and though they had been disposed to resist every change, they had now become sensible that changes were not necessarily injuries. They had at first opposed the Tithe-composition bill, but they had afterwards assented to it, and they found that much good had resulted from that Act to them. The Vestry Act was another act of the same kind. Whatever charges had been made against that Act, and a great many had been made, it had never been said that it was inimical in its results to the interests of the Clergy. If the hon. Member for Oxford looked at the acts of the legislature, he would know that the right of the legislature to interfere with Church property for Church purposes was recognized by many acts of Parliament, and acted on. The legislature might therefore again interfere with it to raise the stipends of curates, as it had before. The hon. Member also seemed to have confounded parishes with benefices; but in Ireland they were not the same. If the previous question should be carried, he hoped that then they should all concur in the proposition of the noble Lord. He looked to the result of the inquiry to make the Church of Ireland more efficacious than at present. Already a great improvement, he was willing to 1283 admit, had taken place, but there was no part of our Establishment in which improvement was yet so much wanted.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
expressed his surprise at the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Oxford; and he was still more surprised that the amendment was supported by the hon. Member for Dublin, who thought inquiry would remove false impressions concerning the Irish Church, and be a full refutation to the charges brought against it. He was sure that, the result of the inquiry proposed by the noble Lord would be, to show, what he had always asserted, that during the last twenty years the clergy of Ireland had zealously performed their duties, and that no church had a more zealous and deserving clergy. He hoped that the hon. Member for Oxford would withdraw his motion, and not compel the House to vote on it. As to what the right hon. Baronet had said of the present bishop of Ferns not having promoted a respectable curate when he was bishop of Limerick, he could say nothing; but since the bishop had filled his present see, he had selected for promotion men of abilities and long standing in the Church, with whom he had no connection whatever, except by their services as curates. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer also asserted that the primate of Ireland, had been more cautious and careful than some of his predecessors, in granting faculties, in doing which he had been actuated by a sincere desire to perform his duty; and he concluded by requesting the hon. Member for Oxford to withdraw his amendment.
§ Mr. Trant
maintained that the Church of Ireland was not to blame—it had no abuses, it was in the most progressive and satisfactory state of amendment; if the Church of England was to be pulled down, let it be pulled down by honest hands. The commission was to reform what needed not reformation, and the records of that House furnished the refutation of the charges brought forward against the Church.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he presumed that Gentlemen who had just entered the House, and had not been present at the debate, must, from the speech of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Trant) suppose that some formidable proposition was under consideration for the destruction of the Church of Ireland. The course of proceeding that the right hon. Baronet proposed was, that 1284 the Crown should be advised to appoint a Commission to examine into the state of the Church of Ireland, with reference to the union of benefices—that it should inquire into the value of each separate parish, which constituted such union, and into the proceedings adopted to sever such unions, as well as for the purpose of facilitating the appointment of a greater number of ministers of the Church of Ireland, as for' the purpose of the better performing the sacred duties of the ministry. It was proposed that a Commission, composed of privy councillors, should inquire into the grant of faculties, or dispensations, by which pluralities were held. A further proposition was, that the Crown should not appoint to any benefice in which there was a deficiency of a glebe-house, a church, or cathedral; and that the profits of such benefice should be appropriated to the building of such glebe-house or church, or to the repairs of such cathedral. His noble friend objected to that, and the right hon. Baronet had submitted to the validity of that objection; and the whole proposal, as it now stood, was for a Commission to inquire into the state of the union of benefices, and to facilitate a greater appointment of working ministers, and to prevent the holding of pluralities. Did the hon. Member for Dover, professing his anxiety to maintain the interests of religion, conceive that he could impose upon any man by his cry of the ' Church in danger.' Did the hon. Member not know—was he so totally ignorant of all that was passing around him as not to know that the Crown had already appointed a commission to inquire into the whole state of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of this country? That commission had not yet extended to Ireland. He would venture to inform the hon. Member, however, that the Church of Ireland was gaining in strength, by adopting moderate and well-considered reformation. For that Church he professed as sincere a respect as the hon. Member for Dover; and he could affirm, from his own knowledge, that for twenty-five years, great efforts had been made by the clergy to improve its condition; and, at that moment, the Church of Ireland could present a ministry, speaking collectively, as devoted to the discharge of its spiritual functions as the ministry of any Church or ecclesiastical establishment in any country. If the time should ever arrive when an attempt should be made to deal with the 1285 property of the Church upon other principles than with the property of other establishments, then would be the time for the exertions of those who dreaded the subversion of that Church. The hon. Member for Oxford could not mean to push his doctrine so far as others that night had pushed it. He could not mean to say that any part of the revenue of the Church, such as the stipends of curates, was beyond the reach of the law. With reference, however, to the appropriation of the revenue of the Church, the question ought to be approached with the utmost delicacy, and an enlarged view ought to be taken of the effect of an unequal distribution of that revenue upon the promotion of learning and religion. When any attempts were made upon the revenue of the Church, he would resist them; but he would not permit the imprudent sarcasms of the hon. Member for Dover to prevent his acceding to a motion which, he believed, was not couched in the spirit of hostility to the Church, and which would tend to promote its best interests.
§ Mr. Sadler
had not been present during the whole of the discussion, and he should address himself only to the observations of the right hon. Secretary opposite. He must say, that the proposition came with a peculiarly bad grace from those who refused all commissions of inquiry into civil establishments. It would as well become the House to attend to civil pluralities, which were evils as crying as the ecclesiastical; and in many cases civil pluralities were held which were totally incompatible with each other.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that the right hon. Secretary had argued that there was no harm in granting this inquiry quoad Ireland, because it was already granted quoad England [Cries of "No, no!"] If the right hon. Gentleman's argument was not so, why it was not so. If this were not his argument, whatever he said about the commission in England ought to be struck out of his speech; and if it were his argument, he would take the liberty of saying it was no argument at all. The Ecclesiastical Commission in England was confined to the amelioration of the Ecclesiastical Courts; and every body well knew that that branch of the administration of justice in England, like all other branches, required in a certain time to be rebuilt. But the present commission was to address the Crown to carry into effect the grossest 1286 violation of the law, if bishoprics were to be kept vacant where cathedral churches wanted repair. [cries of "No, No."] He wished his friends would set. him right, and not set him wrong. He did not mean to say that there were not provisions to prevent pluralities which the Crown might carry into effect, though, generally speaking, this was out of the power of the Crown. Two thirds of the Address called upon the Crown to violate the law and the Coronation Oath; and therefore, when Ministers approved of part of the Address, he did not think their approval was in very good company. This was not the mode in which the inquiry ought to be admitted. Every gentleman who had spoken from the Ministerial benches had given arguments against that part, of the Motion which they were disposed to support; and why? Because there already existed in the Privy Council a right to do that which was to be done by this commission, if the Privy Council of Ireland had violated its duty, that would have been a good argument for this inquiry; but instead of this, Ministers said—"We don't object to inquiry, although there exists a competent authority to make the inquiry, and which is unimpeached." This was to stigmatise the Privy Council of Ireland for not performing its duty, and yet the right hon. Baronet had not been able to state any thing against the Privy Council of Ireland. Under these circumstances, he did feel himself disposed to support the motion of the Member for Oxford. On neither side of the House had there been suggested any reason why the powers of the Privy Council of Ireland should not be called into action. He never could approve of any address which called upon the Crown and the Government to commit a gross infraction upon the rights and property of the Church; and though he concurred in the right hon. Baronet's object, he could not concur in the mode of attaining that object. "Where sits the Government? [laughter) There sits the Government, [pointing to the Opposition Benches] That Government opposed every thing proposed by this side of the House, whilst every thing they proposed was enacted by Ministers. There resides the initiative [pointing to the Opposition—loud laughter]; they are the persons who look after the agricultural and manufacturing distress; they put their proposals on the Table of the House; they are the active, efficacious agents who bring 1287 under the control of Parliament those great practical measures which the necessities of the country call upon the House to discuss." Under these circumstances, he should take the liberty to say, that if the hon. Member for Oxford carried the previous question to a division, he would vote for it; and if, afterwards, the right hon. Baronet brought forward his measure in better company—not to address the Crown to demolish and despoil the Irish Church [cheer]—"if that cheer comes from an Irish Lawyer"—
§ Sir C. Wetherell
.—"I, then, am in the wrong, and the cheer comes from an Emeritus lawyer (Mr. M. A. Taylor), who sits behind him—however, some person sarcastically cheered my statement; or if no person sarcastically cheered, why then I am in possession of my statement." [laughter] But he was to be put down not by cheers but by arguments.
rose to explain.—He must confirm the just and striking observation of the learned and hon. Gentleman, that if a certain argument was not his (Mr. Peel's) argument, why then it was not. He (Mr. Peel) had never represented the commission in England as precisely the same as that now proposed for Ireland, but he did doubt if the commission upon the whole Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of England, and upon the control of the bishops over the Clergy, were not as important and as extensive as the commission now proposed.
§ Mr. M. A. Taylor
said, he had certainly felt very indignant at his learned friend's expression of the spoliation of the Church; and he (Mr. Taylor) did express himself more loudly than he ought to have done. He would, however, say that the imputation of a wish to despoil the Church against those who only wanted to reform it, was unfounded and unjustifiable. He looked upon the Church Establishment of England and Ireland with veneration; and he considered that the only effect of the proposed commission would be to place the Churches of England and Ireland on the most solid foundation.
rose amidst cries of Question, and turning round and shaking his finger at the criers, he said, "You will have Question in proper time." He could not let the observations of the learned Gentleman pass without some explanation; for, without any explanation, he might be supposed to give his vote upon grounds which he repelled as much as any man. 1288 He had never heard a more complete misrepresentation, even in that House, than that given of the right hon. Secretary's speech by the learned Member. The hon. and learned Gentleman must surely have forgotten all that had taken place during the last three years. He must have forgotten, at that moment, that a commission was issued in this country for inquiring into matters connected with the Church Establishment. But then the hon. and learned Gentleman would say there was a difference between this English commission and the commission which had been moved for by his hon. friend the Member for Waterford; inasmuch as the latter referred to Ecclesiastical property, and the former to Ecclesiastical Courts of Judicature. But if there was any one thing which the Church was anxious to avoid, it was any interference with its courts for the administration of justice. There was no one right or privilege so dear to the Church as that administration. For ages the Church had most zealously defended it. By whom were the Judges in those courts appointed? In whom was the patronage vested? One of the highest of the Judges was appointed by a Bishop, and another by an Archbishop. If the Motion had been for an inquiry into the Ecclesiastical Courts of Judicature in Ireland, it would have been held to be more objectionable to the Church than an inquiry into its property. In no way whatever, however, did his hon. friend's Motion deserve the name of a spoliation of the Church. The hon. and learned Gentleman had declared that nine-tenths of the Motion consisted of illegality, and that it was contrary to the Coronation Oath. Were it not for his knowledge of the extraordinary vivacity of his hon. and learned friend's imagination; were it not that he knew his hon. and learned friend's imagination sometimes superseded his memory of facts he should have been exceedingly surprised at this last assertion. What was the case? At the end of the Motion there came a little clause which certainly did appear to call upon the Crown to exercise a power not justified by the law. To that clause an objection was made, and his right hon. friend (the Member for Waterford) candidly consented to withdraw it from his Motion. He objected, however, to the application of the phrase "spoliation of the Church," even to that small part of 1289 his right hon. friend's original Motion. All the rest of the Motion was mere inquiry. It had no tendency to any particular charge. It went to examine—not to decide. That alone—that small part—calling upon the Crown to order the suspension of certain ecclesiastical revenues until certain repairs of the church were carried into effect, was the objectionable passage. But who, except his hon. and learned friend, or one of equally inflated imagination, could consider this as an attempt at despoiling the Church. So far from being for the spoliation, it was for the protection and improvement of the Church. The same thing had been done by act of Parliament, in the case of the Cathedral at Litchfield. But his hon. and learned friend, in his indignation against his Majesty's Ministers for acquiescing in the substance of the present Motion, charged them with constantly adopting the measures of their political opponents. But that was no more their practice at present than it was during the period when his hon. and learned friend sat on the Ministerial benches. Why did he not then say that Ministers took their measures from their opponents, who were the real efficient Ministers? Never did anything of that sort drop from his hon. and learned friend until the Catholic Question had been carried; and yet there had been many measures adopted by his Majesty's Government which would have been liable to a similar remark. There were the Free Trade measures, the Commissions of Education, the abolition of the Orders in Council, the Commissions for Judicial inquiry, the Irish Census, and many other measures which proceded from the Opposition side of the House; but which, with great candour and bounty, were adopted by his Majesty's Government; although never, until now, had a charge for doing so been brought against Government by his hon. and learned friend; and yet there was no man of more honest and honourable feelings, and who had shown himself more disposed to speak his undisguised sentiments, at whatever sacrifice of personal advantage. To return, however, to the question before the House. In the first place, it was said to be an interference with the power of the Privy Council in Ireland. That he denied. They had the power, by the Act of George the First, of forming unions, and dissolving them, in 1290 particular cases. But he had yet to learn, that by either common or statute law, the Privy Council had the power of sending a roving commission all over Ireland. In the next place, it was said to involve a censure on his Majesty's Government. It did no such thing. What! Was every address of that House to the Crown to issue a commission, which the Crown had a right spontaneously to issue, to be considered a censure? It amounted to no more, in all cases of the kind, than to this—that the House advised the Crown to rouse into action a power which it possessed, but which was dormant. He altogether denied that the Motion was conceived in a spirit hostile to the Established Church. It was a Motion for inquiry, and for inquiry alone. It could never lead to any spoliation of the property, or violation of the rights of the Established Church. The hon. Member for Oxford, however, had told the House (and a new kind of legal doctrine it certainly was), that there was something so peculiar in the character of Church property that it was not competent to the House of Commons to interfere with it. That was denying the supremacy of Parliament. That was maintaining that the Church was not only sacred, but that it was sacro-sanct. He had frequently heard of Church and King; and he knew that, under that name, many abuses had been committed, and many false principles maintained; but he had never before heard the most wild or fanatical supporter of Church and King principles place the claims of the Church on a level with those of the Sovereign. That they were equal was not the language of the Constitution, or of the Law; which declared that the King was the head of the Church. But the hon. Member for Oxford went much further than this. He declared that the Church was higher than the King, that it was higher than the Parliament. According to the hon. Member, Parliament had no power to interfere with the property of the Church, But had Parliament never; so interfered? Why, it had done nothing else for centuries. It had changed the disposition of that property over and over again. It had altered the distribution of it among the members of the Church themselves. Did the hon. Member for Oxford recollect the Stipendiary Curates' Bill? Did he recollect that in old times 1291 —in good old times, as the hon. Member would call them, in good old Catholic times—that interference with the property of the Church was by no means infrequent? Did the hon. Member recollect the statute of Richard 2nd on the subject? The hon. Member for Oxford maintained that it was not competent in Parliament to interfere with the property of the Church. By that statute, a fourth of the proceeds of a living were set aside for the bishop, a fourth for the repairs of the church, and a fourth for the support of the poor. If his hon. friend, the Member for Aberdeen, or any other hon. Member, were to propose the revival of that statute, of course the hon. Member for Oxford would call the proposition a spoliation of the Church. Vet it would be only a return to what had been the law on the subject. He confessed, however, that he was surprised to hear any hon. Member at the present day urge the old and exploded doctrine, that inquiry weakened the authority of any establishment, or sapped its foundation. They who really valued an establishment, and highly estimated its privileges and authority, were, in his opinion, called upon to promote and not to discourage inquiry. The time had passed by when the character of any establishment was considered venerable in consequence of the obscurity by which it was enveloped. Let the light shine upon all our institutions. If they were calumniated—if the abuses imputed to them had no foundation in truth—let light in, and the calumny would be refuted, the imputation would be wiped away. But if they persisted in maintaining obscurity, they would play the game of the calumniators—they would give countenance to the grossest, and perhaps the most groundless accusations. On that principle, he was prepared to vote for his hon. friend's Motion. So long as the object was to inquire into the existence of abuses, that object he was always prepared to support; although he would be the last man in the House to retrench, eighteen bishops, or pull down the walls of a single Irish cathedral.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, after what had been stated on the other side of the House, he would withdraw his Motion.