HC Deb 31 August 1831 vol 6 cc948-51

The next Resolution was, that a sum not exceeding 21,741l. 15s. be granted to pay the Salaries of Non-conforming, Seceding, and Protestant Dissenting Ministers in Ireland, for the year 1831.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, there appeared a large increase upon last year's grant, when the fact was not so. In the sum now asked for was included a sum of 6,881l., heretofore charged on the Civil List, but which it was now proposed should be added to the annual grant made by Parliament.

Mr. Hume

objected to the vote. It was a new kind of grant which had arisen within a few years. The first grant was made in 1804; then a grant was given in a few years after, but now it was a regular grant voted every year. He did not see why the people of England should be called upon to pay these sums of money for the Dissenting branches of the Protestant Church in Ireland, while no such advantages were enjoyed by the Dissenters of this country or of Scotland. Within the last twenty-four years the Dissenters of Ireland had received half a million of the public money in this way. He did not say, that the parties who got it ought not to be paid; but the payment ought not to come out of the pockets of the people in this country. The Irish Church, which was the richest in the world, ought to be made to bear the expense of all its branches. Why should the people of this country pay for the Protestant Dissenting Clergy of Ireland more than those of England? or why should not this sum come out of some of the rich sees of that country? There was a fine of 25,000l. now payable for the renewal of some leases in the see of Derry, which the parties were not in time to pay before the death of the late Bishop Why not pay it out of that? The hon. Member was about to move a resolution against the grant, when

The Chairman

reminded him, that he could not move it in the Committee.

Mr. Hume

said, he would take another opportunity of moving it.

Mr. Stanley,

in answer to the hon. Member, stated first, that the grant was not a recent one: it was made in the first instance by Charles 2nd, increased first under William 3rd, and afterwards during the secretaryship of Lord Castlereagh. As for the revenues of the Church of Ireland, they were appropriated for peculiar objects, and could not be diverted to support Presbyterian Dissenters. He denied the right of Parliament to divert the property of the Church Establishment to any other purpose but what was properly connected with it. With respect to the see of Derry, he was ready to prove at the Bar of the House, that its yearly revenue did not exceed 12.000l. He supported the grant to the Presbyterian clergy, whom he described as being a most pious and loyal body of men.

Mr. O'Connell

was convinced, that it would be a gross injustice to stop this grant to the Presbyterian preachers. As to the right of Parliament to alter the disposition of Church property in Ireland, that was, he thought, quite clear. The Church Establishment was founded on Act of Parliament, and could be altered by the same authority. He was sure, that the yearly income of the see of Derry was not one shilling less than 20,000l.

Mr. Stanley

admitted the power, but denied the right of the Legislature to take away the property of the Church, as much as he denied its right to take away the property of individuals.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that there was a great difference in the nature of church property and private property. Church property was public property, and could be disposed of with perfect justice as Parliament thought fit.

Mr. Sheil

said, that the lands of the See of Derry were 94,000 acres; this appeared by the return of the order of the 10th of February, 1812. The Secretary for Ireland had, in touching on this subject, and the amendment of the member for Middlesex, taken occasion to reiterate the opinions expressed by him when he first came into the House, relative to the Established Church. This reiteration was of great importance, as he was now a member of the Cabinet, and held such important functions connected with the Government of Ireland. Were they to be told, that there was no change to be made in the Church Establishment? This was decidedly at variance with the declaration made by the Prime Minister in the House of Lords, who had proclaimed his decided conviction, that the Irish Church Establishment was not fitted for Ireland; so that a Cabinet Minister in the Commons dissented from a Prime Minister in the Lords. But how stood public opinion in England? Even from the great seminary of orthodoxy—from the Chair of Political Economy in Oxford—a distinct announcement had been made, that it would be necessary for Ireland that the Irish Bishoprics should be diminished. Mr. Senior had proposed to apply the revenues of eighteen Bishoprics to the purposes of the State. He owned that, as a Roman Catholic, he could not disguise the feelings with which he beheld one tithe of the nation's substance devoted to the religion of one tithe of the nation's numbers. He was no enemy of the Established Church. He was sworn not to conspire for its overthrow; but he could not be so far its friend as to be reconciled to its enormous opulence. He would not touch a single actual incumbent; but for the sake of that non-existent, and mere legal idealism, a successor, he would not desire to see a system perpetuated, against which reason, justice, policy, 7,000,000 of the Irish nation, and a large portion of the English people, concurred in remonstrating. A great retrenchment was requisite. A schedule A was required for the Irish mitres. It was not in these days of Reform that we should talk of the vested rights of the Established Church of Ireland, by which millions of the national wealth were dedicated to the maintenance of institutions alien to the nation. The Established Church might be left in its legal pre-eminence—its Bishops (although their number should be reduced) might be maintained in due dignity, and its priesthood in comfort, and at the same time much of its opulence might be applied to purposes more consistent with the national good. Thus the hostility of the nation would be mitigated, and one of the great sources of discord would be removed. Lord Grey, he trusted, would avail himself of the first opportunity afforded, to commence this most important Reform. Until it took place, it was idle to think that the prosperity and peace of Ireland could be materially promoted.

Sir Robert Ferguson

said, that the amount of the yearly income of the See of Derry, during the life of the late Bishop, had never exceeded 12,000l. The renewal fine mentioned by the hon. member for Middlesex, did not amount to more than 14,000l., instead of 25,000l., as he had stated it.

Mr. Hume

suggested, that as so many different statements had been made with respect to the value of this Bishopric, the consideration of the present vote should be postponed for one week.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, the vote before the Committee had nothing to do with the question of the See of Derry, and he saw no reason for its postponement. He thought that the question of the Irish Church ought to be discussed separately.

An Hon Member

said, that the Church Establishment ought not to be regarded merely as a matter between Protestant and Catholic, but should be considered upon the ground of its public utility.

Mr. Wyse

considered Parliament omnipotent not for evil but for good, and, if it thought proper, had a right to deal with church property in a manner beneficial to the whole community.

Mr. Briscoe

hoped and trusted, that there was no truth in the report which he had lately heard, that it was the intention of Ministers to recommend to the See of Derry an individual to whom he would not allude by name; but who, he must say, was not distinguished by high theological learning and attainments. He was convinced that such an appointment would inflict the most serious injuries on the church.

Lord Acheson

supported the vote. He said, that there was no body of men more attentive to their religious duties, or more distinguished by liberality of sentiment, than the Presbyterian clergy.

Mr. Hume

withdrew his opposition, stating, that he would take another opportunity of bringing the subject of the See of Derry under the notice of the House.

Vote agreed to.

"470l. 15s. 5d. to pay the salaries of Lottery Officers in Ireland," and "2,650l. to defray the expenses of Inland Navigation in Ireland," were voted without remark.