§ Mr. Stanley rose, and moved that the passage in the King's Speech which related to the Tithe-laws in Ireland should be read.
§ The Clerk of the House accordingly read the paragraph, as follows:—"In parts of Ireland a systematic opposition has been made to the payment of Tithes, attended in some instances with afflicting results; and it will be one of your first duties to inquire whether it may not be possible to effect improvements in the laws respecting this subject, which may afford the necessary protection to the Established Church, and at the same time remove the present causes of complaint."
then said:—In rising, in obedience to the recommendation in the most gracious Speech from the Throne, which has just been read, to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the state of the law relating to Tithes in Ireland, and to ascertain whether such legislative enactments can be framed as shall combine security to the property of the Established Church, with the removal of those grievances which may be considered to exist under the present system, I am undertaking, I am well aware, a task of no ordinary responsibility. I know that I shall be told, on the one hand, by those who inflexibly adhere to the support of whatever exists, that we are introducing unnecessary innovations—that we are creating needless agitation upon subjects which would be better left in quiet—that we are lending the sanction of official authority to idle clamour and unfounded complaints—that we are originating measures which will invade the very foundations of the vested rights of property, and giving encouragement to unprofitable and dangerous divisions. I am also convinced that, on the other hand, some Gentlemen will tell us, that we see the existing evils clearly, but shrink from applying the remedy which alone can be efficient; that our judgment is warped by our prejudice; that we dare not look at the question as we ought, and that nothing less than what would amount to a sweeping demolition of existing institutions, and an extensive spoliation of property and subversion of right, is sufficient to remove the causes of those grievances which have spread to so wide an extent, and produce such ruinous consequences. But, Sir, as I should hold it to be unworthy of his Majesty's Government to shrink before the magnitude of the difficulty or delicacy of the 260 task, so in the particular situation in which I find myself—honoured with a place in that Administration, and charged in particular with the superintendence of affairs which, at this moment, involve questions of not less deep interest and importance than at any former period of the history of this empire—I should deem myself unworthy of the trust which is confided to me, were I to refuse to offer myself, however inadequately, as the organ of his Majesty's Government, in bringing before the House our view as to the existing evils, and those points to which we conceive, most especially, legislative interference ought to be directed. But, Sir, I own that I feel more than a common responsibility on this account, that it is not alone as a Minister of the Crown, and, therefore, anxious for the security and tranquillity of Ireland, which, in my conscience, I believe cannot be effected by any other means than we propose—it is not only in that character that I present myself on this occasion, but it is, indeed, the higher responsibility of a Christian and a sincere Protestant—an ardent supporter of that Church to which I belong, anxious for its respectability, its security, and its very existence, but still more anxious for the support of the religion which that Church is calculated to maintain and to propagate—that I now call upon the House of Commons, a large proportion of whom belong to that Church, seriously and earnestly to consider what is the state in which that Church and our common religion are at present placed. A right hon. Baronet opposite, the member for Tamworth, in commenting upon some observations which I made the other day upon this passage of the King's Speech, expressed the greatest alarm at the notion of a Committee of Inquiry, and argued, with no inconsiderable plausibility, that so long as this question should be pending before the House of Commons, so long as it should be known, that the attention of Parliament was turned to the question, the foundation of the compact between the Clergy and their parishioners would be broken up, the payment of tithes would cease, and a complete anarchy would take place, as respected the Clergy and the people. But let the right hon. Gentleman recollect, that tithes are not a case in which payments from week to week, or from day to day, are going on. They are not one of the ordinary transactions of trade or commerce, in which, whenever any uncertainty arises, a stagnation of business necessarily takes 261 place, and a consequent depression is felt. Tithes are paid half-yearly, for the most part; and let it be recollected, that one of those periods of payment has but recently elapsed, and no further demand can be made until after the Easter recess. Therefore I say, that, if there ever was a time when it was safe to enter upon the consideration of the subject, the present is the time, as we have a longer period for the discussion, without that difficulty arising, than we could have at any other time. But the right hon. Baronet objects to our proceeding by Committee, and says, that it would have been better to have taken upon ourselves the responsibility of placing before the House a bill for the remedy of the grievances which we consider to exist. Now let me put it to the right hon. Baronet himself, if we had pursued that course—if, without notice in the King's Speech, or even with notice, we had brought in a bill to make such alterations as we conceived necessary in the existing laws—would not the right hon. Baronet have been the first man to call upon us to act with great caution—well and deeply to consider what we were going to do not—to hurry ourselves or the House of Commons into a decision—but to lay before the House all the information which we might possess, but of which it was not in possession, and neither to act ourselves, nor to urge the House to act, without the fullest investigation and the most minute inquiry? The right hon. Baronet would have used all those arguments which he, as a political opponent, so well knows how to apply. [Sir Robert Peel said, across the Table, that the right hon. Secretary was mistaken as to his feelings on the occasion]. I am, surely, not mistaken in saying, that the right hon. Baronet objected to our not taking the responsibility upon ourselves, but asking for a Committee; and I am endeavouring to show, that we should have been liable, from the same quarter, to an opposite accusation. [Sir Robert Peel said, you should not assume, that I mean to oppose the Motion]. I am sorry if I annoy the right hon. Baronet by my observations; I had not an opportunity of answering the right hon. Baronet's remarks the other day, when they were made; and I had hopes, that he would not object to my taking notice of them now, when he will have an ample opportunity of replying. [Sir Robert Peel again objected to the right hon. Gentleman's arguing upon the inference that he meant to oppose the Motion.] 262 Then, if the right hon. Baronet will allow me, I will argue as if the opposition might come from some other quarter. I will suppose it might be possible, that an objection might be taken in some quarter to the mode we are pursuing, and that objection I am anxious to answer, before I proceed further with the subject. I will suppose it might be objected that we ought not upon a question of this importance, to have taken notice of the subject in the Speech from the Throne, unless we were prepared to follow it up immediately by a bill for the remedy of the existing evils. I will suppose it might be argued by some, that we are only unnecessarily protracting agitation, which ought to he kept still and quiet—that we ought not to have alluded to the subject which is now distracting one-half of Ireland, but that we should have postponed the matter till after Christmas, leaving the Recess to be a period of unanswered observations, the Government not having had an opportunity of stating their views, and taking no notice of the subject during that interval. I say, that if we had done so, we should have been trifling with the feelings of the people of Ireland, and disregarding the evils which prevail in that country; and I for one felt, that we best discharged our duty, by advising his Majesty to notice the subject in his Speech from the Throne, and by taking the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of the House to it. It may be said—and this the right hon. Baronet did not say—but it may be said, and it will be said, that the present tithe system is working well—that no complaint can be made—that nothing ever exceeded the harmony between the Protestant clergyman and his Catholic parishioners—that all we have to do is strictly and vigorously to enforce the rights of the Protestant Clergy, and to support the violated authority of the law. If that be the case, the Government certainly is without excuse, because, in that case, we should have introduced an unnecessary subject of agitation, and proceeded to make changes where none were called for. But if I can show, that the question is one which, whether it be discussed here or not, must be agitated elsewhere—if I can show, that the state of Ireland on this subject is such, that the law can hardly, if at all, be enforced, and, if enforced, that your very success will ruin your own cause, and produce redoubled mischief—that your triumph will only engender fresh discontent and in- 263 creased discussion—if I can show, that the tithe laws, as they stand at present, place the clergy in the painful situation of being exposed, on the one hand, to the danger of absolute penury, beggary, and exile, or of being liable, on the other, to the charge of avarice, extortion, and oppression,—if I can show, that the system is injurious to those who ought to receive the tithes, and not less oppressive in its effect on those who are bound to pay them; if, I say, I can make out this case, I shall have a fair ground for calling on the House, without any further delay, to take into its serious consideration, the law which produces such disastrous consequences, and to apply a remedy to the evil, both as regards those who are to receive, and those who are to pay tithes. But we are told, in some quarters, that we are yielding to clamour—that we are giving way to an unjust call, which has been repeated over and over again, and over and over again put down by strong measures. I do not mean to deny, that if the question had been earlier taken up—if former Governments had not abstained from meeting it—we might now have entered upon it with a better prospect of success; or, rather, with a greater certainty of arriving at a satisfactory adjustment. But are we to be blamed for a delay which we did not occasion? or, because others have increased the magnitude of the danger by delay, will it be said, that we ought to delay in our times, and leave to our successors the remedy of an evil which will then have become all but insuperable? But if we do not yield to the clamour, as it is called—if we acknowledge that the cry has been raised over and over again, and over and over again suppressed—is that a proof that your strong laws and rigorous enactments, however effective—that the exercise of the power obtained from complaisant Parliaments—has remedied the evil? or is not rather a proof that the evil still remains and cannot be remedied, unless you remove the cause which has produced the excitement? It may be pardoned me, although I do not say, that his Majesty's Government is driven by clamour to this measure, although I repudiate such an assertion—I may be permitted to state, however painful the inquiry may be, what is at present the condition of that country, and what has been its condition for nearly twelve months, only differing in the increasing intensity of the evil, and the consequent difficulty of the remedy, what are the feelings and opinions 264 of the people, resulting from the system which now exists with regard to tithes. The House will recollect, that in the course of last winter, when various attempts were made to excite tumult and discord, and to violate the laws and settled institutions of the country, amongst the different modes and descriptions of agitators, men went about the country under the pretext of playing at certain games. Parties calling themselves hurlers, assembled for the purpose, as they denominated it, of hurling against tithes. They denounced both the incumbents who presume to exact, and the people who presume to pay tithes. I do not charge them with having originally produced the spirit of discontent; but they succeeded in spreading it. Those bodies were put down. The ordinary operations of the law were found sufficient for that purpose. The hurlers ceased to go round; but the spirit which incited them did not cease when they ceased to assemble. The discontent began in the county of Kilkenny, and has proceeded through the counties of Carlow, the Queen's County, a considerable part of Wicklow, Wexford, Tipperary, the King's County, Longford, and Westmeath. Through the whole of these counties the system has been more or less in operation of tacitly, but determinedly, resisting the payment of tithes, and of intimidating those who claimed them. We are told, that we should have rigorously enforced the exercise of the law—that police and military were at our disposal—that we might have protected the persons of those who were engaged in enforcing the claim, and have secured the payment of all that was due, and put down this wide-spread conspiracy. My answer to this is, that if this House should think fit to appoint a Committee to inquire into the subject, I shall be ready to lay before it the fullest information as to the means which have been in the power of his Majesty's Government, the course which we have pursued, and the results which that course has produced. But let the House remember, that, in this case, there has been, in many instances, no disturbance—nothing that the law could take hold of—no resistance to established authority; but, at the same time, as I have said, a tacit and determined resolution to avail themselves of all means in their power, without rendering themselves liable to any risk. The right hon. Baronet told us, the other day, that we were in this dilemma—either, that 265 the claims of the clergy are legal or they are not; that if they are legal they ought to be enforced; and all opposition to them is illegal, and ought to be put down. I fully acknowledge to the right lion. Baronet that the claims of the clergy are strictly legal. I never denied it—I always supported that opinion. But I will take the liberty of saying, that there may be, on the one hand, a strictly legal exercise of a right, and, on the other hand, an equally legal opposition to the enforcement of that right. With regard to tithes, I say, that the case stands precisely in that situation. The Clergy are entitled to tithe as their property, surrounded by certain restrictions, subject to certain outgoings and conditions; and the same law which enforces the exercise of that right, and acknowledges it to be legal, gives also to those who are subject to that claim a legal protection against exorbitant or oppressive demands. If any man is possessed of a landed estate producing a gross income of 1,000l. a-year, and if the expenses of management, or the risk or difficulty of collection, reduce its amount to 700l. a-year instead of 1,000l., he has no right to call upon the Legislature to remove those restrictions to which he is liable, and cannot complain of the operation of the law, which leaves him but 700l. a-year, although the value of his land is reduced by 300l. This, then, I say, is precisely the case in the instance of tithes. The Clergy have a right to protection against any resistance to their claims, except such as is sanctioned and authorized by the law. But, amongst the various accusations which have been made against his Majesty's Government, there is one which I confess I heard with some surprise, because it came from a quarter from which more than any other, I did not expect such an attack. Whatever I might have expected from some other Members of this House, I certainly did not think that the right hon. member for Harwich would have charged us with neglecting the interests of the Clergy, or failing to protect their rights; because, at the moment when the right hon. Gentleman made that charge, he might have known, and I cannot but think he did know, that if there be a single clergyman who, in the strict and rigid enforcement of his rights, met with ampler support from the Government than others, that clergyman is the Dean of St. Patrick's the brother of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Dawson
said, that the right hon. 266 Gentleman was under a misapprehension: he had made no such charge—on the contrary, he distinctly exculpated the Government on the occasion to which he alluded.
I understood the hon. Gentleman to accuse the Government of not having used the power which they had in their hands. If the hon. Gentleman did not say so, then I shall abstain from stating the full and ample assistance which the Government gave in the case to which I was alluding. I will only say, that not only were those who went to collect tithes protected by the police and military, but in many instances the cattle seized under distraint for tithes were led, guarded by an escort of police and military, to the seaside, in order to be transported to this country to be sold. I know that we are now exposed to the most opposite imputations, and that it is difficult to avoid the charge of negligence on the one hand, and, on the other, of acting with needless severity. In speaking of the state of those districts, especially of Kilkenny, Carlow, and the Queen's County, I do not mean to say, that in some instances there was not violence: but the general system of opposition was such that it was extremely difficult to deal with it. When a distraint was appointed, the cattle were kept shut up in the houses in the day, and only turned out to pasture at night, when a seizure could not legally be made; and, on the approach of the Proctor with the military and police, signals were sent round to have the cattle put out of the way. If the seizure was effected, there was usually no resistance. When the cattle were brought to sale in due time, no man would expose himself to the consequences of violating the silent compact that they were not to be purchased. The collector then bought them in himself. They were taken from the spot and carried to the sea-side. On the road no man would sell provender for their support, and at night no man would admit them to be sheltered in his stables. They were brought over to this country, and here a similar determination has been acted on, so that no man will buy cattle that is branded as having been seized for Irish tithes. In this state of affairs, I will only say, that there must be some alteration in the law. What the remedy may be is not the subject for discussion now, but may best be considered in the Committee. According to the present system (I fear that I am fatiguing the attention of the House with these 267 details), according to the present system, the clergyman has three modes for enforcing payment of his tithes. When the sum is under 10l. he may issue a summons by process against the tythe-payer, returnable before two Magistrates, on whose order he is able to distrain for the amount due; but in this mode the litigation may not be so speedily at an end, for the tithe-payer has no difficulty in offering a sham plea before the Magistrates, without the smallest foundation in fact; but which at once takes the case out of the jurisdiction of the Magistrates, and transfers it to a higher tribunal. The second mode is by summons to the officer of the Ecclesiastical Court; but that court is one of extreme vexation, and when the clergyman has succeeded in it, he has obtained nothing more than a monition, which is only evidence of a sum being due, and then process issues, under which he may resort to the civil jurisdiction. But here again the defendant may put in a sham plea; and, if so, the superior Court will, upon that, although it may be, as in the other case, utterly without foundation, issue a prohibition. If the case itself should be removed into the Superior Court, which it may be, then both parties will be subject to a most inordinate expense. I believe I am correct in saying, that no costs are received or paid by either party to the other, so that if the clergyman, on each individual case, should be successful, and obtain the right he demands, he will subject himself to ten times the expense of the sum he is seeking to recover. There is a third mode, but it is one of a most harassing, vexatious, and oppressive kind; and, to the honour of the Clergy I may mention, that, I believe very few indeed among them have ever resorted to it. It is, to file a bill in Equity. In that case, the greatest part of the difficulty which in the other modes presents itself in the way of the clergyman, is removed; for, by thus proceeding in Equity, the clergyman may combine all the different parties in one suit; but even there, should he ultimately be successful, the result will be, that the clergyman, though a gainer on the suit, will be a loser in his pocket. I will not trespass on the time of the House by making general observations on the evils of the system of tithes, with which every man in England and Ireland must be practically conversant. There is no man who is not aware, that tithes act as a burthen on improvements, and on the skill of the farmer; they check pro tanto, 268 successful industry; and above all, there is no clergyman, in this country particularly, who does not feel that they are a source of litigation and of ill-will between the parson and the tenant; that they place both in a situation, and on a footing towards each other, from which both must equally wish to be relieved; that they destroy that mutual kindness, and suspend that mutual exercise of spiritual duties, and those mutual acts of friendship, which it would be the happiness of the one to give, and of the other to receive, if clergymen and parishioners were as they ought to be—united and living in harmony together. But if that is the case in England, I ask how much more must it be the case in Ireland? I entreat English Members and Protestant Members to consider this—I do not ask Irish Members (for I know the terms they would use, in speaking on this subject); I say I do not ask Irish Members to state the feelings that are engendered in Ireland by this system, between the Clergy of the Irish Church and their Roman Catholic parishioners. I will not introduce here any remarks about that endless vexation—that system of harassing, petty grievances—by which extortion is practised by the tithe collectors unknown and unsanctioned by the clergyman, who, in the necessary execution of his duty, can know nothing of them, but in whose name they are perpetually practised by the Tithe-proctor. I will now leave this part of the subject, and go to a more pleasant part of my duty: and giving every credit to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the member for the University of Cambridge) for the bill which he introduced, I am bound in honour and fairness to say, that that bill remedied a great portion of the real evils and abuses that had existed in the Irish tithe system. That bill removed in a great measure the bad effects of a tax proportioned in its pressure to the success of the individual in life, but it left the tithes, or an equivalent, assessed upon the whole parish as a burthen, which the landlord, when he took the land, and the tenant, when he took the lease, equally covenanted and understood he was bound to pay. So far, however, as removing particular local grievances goes the greatest possible benefit has resulted from the Tithe Composition Act wherever that measure has been, as in many instances, adopted. It has been I admit, of great advantage; but even under the bill of the right hon. 269 Gentleman there are many grievances still subsisting which want redressing, and in which the evils of the old system are still felt, though the Protestant Clergy, instead of possessing only the remedies I have already described as belonging to the old system, are now in possession of the rights and remedies of landlords. Even, however, under this new system, there are evils to which I may be allowed to refer, and they are mentioned in a letter from Archdeacon Cotton, the Rector of Thirles, who states in language in which I can make no improvement, some of the prominent difficulties which the Clergy have still to contend with:—"I am not asking payment for any tithes of this last harvest, but am merely suing for arrears of former years, and suing in the only way which the law provides—namely, by civil bill process at the Quarter Sessions, for notes voluntarily passed by the tithe-payers, which notes ought to have been paid long ago, but which the parties uniformly decline paying, until compelled to it by course of law. More than 1,000l. is now due to me on such notes; and as these sums are owing by about 500 persons, the law requires that each person at his house, shall he served with a process before he is brought into Court: how great a difficulty, if resistance be made, presents itself even in this first stage! Yet this is far from the whole; for even if these processes be served by means of extraordinary military succour, the presence of the person who served them, and is oath to that effect will be required at the Sessions: should he be prevented by violence or deterred by threats (a very likely matter in the present state of things), the whole of these, accomplished with so much difficulty, becomes as mere waste paper. Again, if the person who witnessed the promissory notes be deterred in the same way from appearing, the notes become useless; and the clergyman is not only defrauded of his rights, long and painfully sought for, and acknowledged even by the parties themselves, but moreover is put to considerable expense in legal proceedings, all of which will then fall upon himself. Still further, if these obstructions are surmounted, and the assistant barrister is satisfied as to the justice of the claims, and grants all the decrees, is the end now gained? Far from it. Another stage of difficulty is yet to be passed, and the same brute force will be brought forward to resist execution of the Court's judgment; and 270 who will dare, in the present state of that district, to execute a single decree? In the mean time, for every one of these I must have advanced 7s. 6d., the whole 500 of which may possibly be entirely useless." That, Sir, is the statement of a Protestant clergyman of the circumstances attending his endeavour to enforce claims, not denied to him as a matter of right by any man, but denied to him in fact by the process to which, by the law, he was obliged to have recourse in order to enforce them. Of the state to which clergymen are reduced under this system—of the state in which they are placed, it is difficult to conceive that any man in this House, who has not been in Ireland, can have an adequate idea. Many are in a state bordering on destitution, if not in absolute want. They have been compelled to part, not only with the luxuries, but in many cases, with the comforts to obtain the necessaries of life, and, I may add, that sometimes even, the necessaries of life have scarcely been obtained. If I wished to place their condition in a strong light before the House, I could not do better than give to the House, the statement made by a clergyman of the Established Church, a Mr. Butler, of the parish of Burnchurch, exhibiting the state in which he and his family are existing. With the permission of the House I will read his statement and I shall have nothing more to do than to repeat in his very words the description which he has given—"You are aware that a meeting of hurlers, persons unconnected with the parish, assembled at my house, and that I would not submit to their intimidation. Since that day one of my proctors was most cruelly murdered. The other has been obliged, privately, to leave the country. An unfortunate server of latitats was taken by force from twenty-five police, and by a miracle escaped death. The most foul and false calumnies have been published concerning me in the Kilkenny Journal, and myself and two of my sons have finally been obliged to fly the country: and after a residence of more than thirty-six years, during which time my sole endeavour was to benefit my parishioners, I have been banished from my home and my duty, a starving exile. The income of the parish is above 2,000l. a year: the sums payable out of that income amount to more than 600l. a year, to wit, interest on money borrowed for building the glebe-house; quit rent; Crown rent; instalment to the Board of First Fruits; rent of glebe; schoolmaster's sa- 271 lary rent of school-house; four curates' proxies; and exhibits; insurance of house and offices which the law requires to be paid, and the charge for management. The money to pay these demands must be provided and paid. I have sold my horses, advertised my carriage, parted with all my labourers and servants, and broken up my entire establishment. I have now but one woman servant; and I believe that I am not the only clergyman in the same situation—reduced from comfort to absolute poverty. No remuneration could tempt any person to view the parish—no process-server appointed by the assistant-barrister will serve a tithe process—no bailiff dare make his appearance; and if legal decrees were obtained, they could not be executed. The farmers say, that they have completely abolished tithes; and that they never will pay, until they know what Parliament will do." Under these circumstances, if only for the sake of the Protestant Church of Ireland, I have felt it my duty to come before Parliament, and to call on Parliament to examine, what are the laws which leave the clergy in this destitute condition—for their sake alone, I say, I might ask this. But if, besides what I have already stated, I am able to show, that the same causes which have created this distress among the clergy, have been the occasion of vexation to the tithe-payers, I think I shall have made out a case, both on the one side and the other, to justify me in calling on you to relieve the Clergy, and by doing so, at the same time to remedy the evils under which the peasantry are suffering. You will thus dry up the sources of oppression, injurious alike to both parties, and place both in that situation which both ought to occupy, while you will destroy those causes of complaint which, not for years, but for centuries, have afflicted Ireland, arising out of the system of her tithes. I believe, that there are but few cases in which there are charges against the Clergy for extortion or oppression: that there are some, I am aware; but, for the honour of the Clergy, I believe they are but few, and I believe, too, that the Clergy would have a right to demand, that on going into this investigation, you should see what is the acreable rate of charges in Ireland, compared with that which is really charged upon the land, by the clergy of the Church of England. I have at this moment in my hand, a complaint of certain parishioners, in answer to which the clergyman states the rate of the acreable tax. The com- 272 plaint is in the form of a petition. The right hon. Gentleman then read the following statement:—The Petition of the Landholders of the Union of Kells,Humbly showeth,—That your Petitioners, from the depression of the times, the exorbitant rents and taxations with which they are encumbered, and unable to discharge much longer, are under the necessity of applying to your Reverence for reduction in the amount of the tithes which are levied on them, and your Petitioners humbly hope that your Reverence will take their state of destitution into consideration, and comply with their earnest and reasonable request; and Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.In reply to this petition the clergyman made the following statement:The Union contains by the applotment book, 9,585021 acres; is set for 1,075l. late currency, which amounts to 992l. 6s. 2d. Of this sum a lay impropriator receives 200l. per annum. The average amount per acre is not quite 2s. 2d. It is almost all tillage, and produced before the composition was entered into 1,600l. per annum. It was reduced to what the Union paid fifty years ago when the composition was effected. The parishioners do not complain of the amount, but say they are forbid to pay. I have two curates to pay out of my income, and have been compelled to build a glebe out of my own pocket, which has cost upwards of 2,000l.I will not, Sir, make further extracts from this statement; I only mention this, for the sake of showing, that I believe in many cases, as in this, it is not the amount of the tithes that is felt as a grievance, but the mode of exacting them under the old system, by the conduct of the tithe-proctor. Under the new system, the process-server has taken the place of the tithe-proctor, and the peasantry are still harassed with the constant and vexing applications for petty sums; and, above all, they are irritated by the notion that the Catholic peasantry are paying a Church, the doctrines of which they are taught not to believe in. I have heard the case argued, but I have never heard it argued in a way to convince me, that the tithes, except in consequence of the uncertainty in the old forms, fall upon the occupying tenant; for, whatever may be the amount of that charge, I believe that that charge falls not on the tenant, but on the landlord. If I had any doubt whatever on the subject, that doubt would have been removed by the Tithe Composition Act, which enacts that all lessees, after the passing of that Act, shall set-off the payments they make 273 of tithes as and for a certain portion of rent, and the tenant shall be entitled to this set-off on exhibiting the clergyman's receipt for tithes. Does it not follow from that, as the tithes are allowed as a deduction from the rent, that if they were not paid to the clergyman, they would be paid to the landlord, who would have the right to demand them? So that I believe, that if the right to demand these tithes were removed to-morrow from the clergyman, and were vested in the landlord, the peasantry would reap no benefit, for they would be exacted with more rigour by the Protestant landlord than they are now by the members of the Protestant Church. But, then comes the positive grievance, which is felt throughout the country—namely, that it is a direct payment made by a Catholic population to a Protestant Church, which is even more objected to than if made to an absentee landlord. But if it is argued, as it has been, that the competition among the farmers is such, that the landlord has only to take what sum he pleases, and put it on the land he lets, in order to induce the tenant, not to pay, but to promise to pay, it is right that that fact to which I have already alluded, should be known—and that it should be known where the pressure really does come from; and if the pressure is from the exorbitant demand of the landlord, it should not, as it cannot in justice, be charged on the moderate demand of the clergyman. I have confined myself almost exclusively to the vexation to which the tenant and the tithe-payer are liable, under certain circumstances. I will not tempt Irish eloquence to describe what the peasantry suffer under other circumstances—that eloquence which is the true Irish power, as it is founded upon Irish feeling and Irish experience of the injuries felt by the peasantry of Ireland, but which, I must say, cannot fairly be charged upon the Irish Church. I will quote from a letter I have received on this subject, the circumstances to which I allude. It is a letter from a clergyman, a most active Magistrate, residing in one of the disturbed districts of the country. He states circumstances of such a nature, that I believe every man of feeling will agree with me, are enough to rouse the indignation of the most torpid, so that it would be almost impossible for the peasantry, or for any human being, to submit to them in silence. He states his experience of what the circumstances of the peasantry were before 274 the Tithe Composition Act was passed. "There are a vast number of instances in my own parish, where one poor man, whose whole tithes annually do not amount to more than 1s. 8d. per annum, and yet subject him to have his cow, sheep, pig, or horse, taken and driven to pound six times in the year for tithes, and liable upon each and every driving to a charge of 2s. 6d. driver's fees, besides the expense of impounding and waste of time from his labour in seeking the person duly authorised to give him a receipt. He is liable to be summoned, moreover, and decreed for vestry cess once in the year, making annually seven calls on account of the Church, to his little plot of one acre: besides, his little holding is liable to two calls in the year for Grand Jury public money, and frequently to two calls more for Crown and quit-rent. Thus eleven calls are made upon his small holding in the year, besides his landlord's rent, and for sums trifling in themselves, but perplexing and ruinous in the costs which attend them. Surely such are hardships that ought to be removed." On each of these occasions of a distress being levied, an exorbitant fee also is payable. Is it possible then, I say, for any peasantry under such circumstances, not to be roused into excitement by such a system; or is it possible to believe, that such a system can be for the benefit of the Protestant Church; or that it can receive anything but injury from these exactions? The clergyman, indeed, has nothing to do with them. In the first instance, he often pays 2s. 6d. in the pound to a person to collect the tithes; that person pays something less to another to undertake that duty, and so the matter goes on till it gets into the hands of the very lowest class of men, who almost live in the whiskey shops, and who eke out the remuneration by means which the Protestant clergyman, if he knew how the payment of the tithes was enforced, would shudder with abhorrence at the instruments he unknowingly employs. What I conceive is the cause of the great grievances that the clergy suffer in the pursuit of their legal rights, and of the claims which the law gives them a right to demand, is, that they are compelled to obtain payment of their tithes from a number of occupants for small amounts, which subjects them to most vexatious expenses, and which, in the ordinary mode of levying the tithes, compels him to put the other parties to great expense. It seems to me that this is a 275 grievance that renders it impossible for the clergy to substantiate their rights—it is a source of great vexation—it is most harassing equally to those who have to receive, and to those who have to pay. Then, again, the persons who are subject to pay this small tax are generally persons in the lowest situation of life. There is a difference, too, between the landlord and the clergy. The landlord may subdivide his property as much as he pleases—he knows, from the amount of his property, how much he expects to obtain from each of his tenants. He has certain modes of enforcing his claims, which are also definite and settled by mutual agreement. The clergyman has the same remedies, but he can exercise no power over the sort of persons who shall become liable to him—he can exercise no choice, whether they shall be a pauper tenantry or not, but must take them as the landlord chooses to make them. These persons, too, are often not able to pay, and even when they are most willing to pay, they are most liable to be intimidated. If in the parish there are a small number of persons who consent to defraud the clergyman of his rights, those persons who are willing to pay have no protection afforded them against midnight violence, against intimidation, and against threats; and I could show numerous instances in which the tenants have been perfectly willing to pay, but they dared not, for they would have been placed, if they had consented to pay, under the ban of an anonymous assailant, who generally is able to enforce his arbitrary decrees. The Tithe Composition Act having effected so much good, it becomes necessary to look to those causes which have prevented it from having a more general extension. There are two or three causes permanently acting, which prevent its coming into universal operation. The Composition Act divides over the whole of the parish those tithes that were originally raised from the tillage of the land alone. Those, therefore, who possess grazing land, have a strong inducement to resist the application of the Act, and their opposition has been one of the causes which have prevented the Act from coming into general operation. Another cause arises from the opposition which the Bishops have, in many cases not improperly, offered to the terms agreed on between the clergy and their parishioners. In many cases, the incumbents have been willing to agree to a reduction of what they had legally a right 276 to demand; but as every agreement of this sort was necessarily submitted to the Bishop, for his approval, the Bishop, in many cases, refused his consent, as he thought that these agreements were sometimes of such a nature, that, if established, the permanent interests of the Church would be endangered by them. There is another cause, which, to a great extent, has interposed to prevent the adoption of the Tithe Composition Act—I mean where the tithes have been divided among several proprietors, and where some of these proprietors have been trustees for charities or hospitals. In such cases the resident incumbents have often been willing to compound for a smaller sum than they were legally entitled to demand, but the trustees have, from a sense of duty, refused to accept any composition that was one farthing below that which by law they were entitled to. They thought that by the nature of their trust, they were bound to demand the utmost farthing that the law guaranteed to them. Another, and the last cause of the evils of the existing system is, that in the collection of the tithes, in the ascertaining of their amount, in the driving and in the process-serving, the clergyman becomes the most prominent person with his parishioners. With regard to most of them, this is the only point of view in which he is brought into contact with them. I say, therefore, that it is not possible to conceive a system more hostile to the interests of the Church, than one in which the clergyman is seen chaffering with his parishioners on pecuniary matters. There are various modes in which the existing system might be altered. In the first place, it is said, that the Government ought to take into their own hands the whole revenues of the Church, and that out of these revenues the Clergy ought; to be paid. I think there are strong objections in principle to that course, and that, if adopted, it would be found very inconvenient in practice. In the first place, it would afford no relief to the persons who pay the tithes; for it would be the duty of the Government to enforce the payment of them more strictly than the clergy do now. The clergy, too, would be put in a situation of less permanent security of their income, and from the circumstance of their having a fixed income, they would not have the interest they now have in the improvement and increasing value of the land. Another plan to remedy the evils of the present system has been, to adopt a perpetual corn- 277 rent, but in that case the clergy, as it seems to me, would not have the same security, nor would obtain the same relief, as in a complete change of system. In bringing forward this Motion, I do not wish to pledge the House to adopt any particular system; but there is one mode in which, as it seems to me, all the grievances might be remedied, and all the necessary securities obtained, and all the evils to the parishioners and to the clergy avoided, so that hardly even the pretence of complaint would be left to either party, I look, as to the ulterior object of this Motion, to a commutation of tithes for landed property, That commutation does not seem to me impossible. It will be our duty to take those rules which will produce a mutual benefit to clergy and parishioners, that will increase the amount of good will between them, which alone will be productive of great advantage to the clergy, and these objects, I think, can be obtained by making a general and extensive, if not an entire, commutation of tithes for land. I am fatiguing the patience of the House in thus going at length into this subject, which, in some of its details, is necessarily very dry. When I have proved, as I think I have done, that the present system is vexatious—is prejudicial to all parties, and actually ruinous to the Church; that it is, and always has been, and will be, a ready handle to agitators—to those who wish to disturb the peace of the country—I think I have said enough to induce the House to grant a Committee to examine into the state of that law which produces such consequences. I call upon hon. Members, as they value the tranquillity of Ireland, the peace and prosperity of her people, the advantage of the Church, the happiness of her peasantry, and of the lower, aye, and of the higher orders of her ministers of religion—nay, as they value religion itself—I entreat them to consent to the inquiry; and, in the terms of his Majesty's Speech, to adopt such legislative "improvements in the laws respecting this subject as may afford the necessary protection to the Established Church, and at the same time remove the present causes of complaint." I beg to move, that a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the collection and payment of tithes in Ireland, and the state of the law relating thereto, and to report their observations thereupon to the House.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that from the manner in which the right hon. Secretary had 278 alluded to him, he (the right hon. Secretary) must have supposed that he had come down to the House to give his most strenuous opposition to the present Motion. Now there was nothing in the expressions used by him on the first night of the session, which could justify the right hon. Secretary in entertaining such a notion; and he never recollected an occasion on which the propriety of abiding by the rule of not referring to what had fallen from hon. Members in former debates, was more forcibly illustrated than it had been that evening. A great part of the speech the House had just heard, turned upon expressions which the right hon. Secretary had imputed to him, but which, in point of fact, he had never employed. Although he was not prepared to offer any opposition to the present Motion, he must be pardoned if he said a few words upon it. He was too deeply impressed with a sense of the melancholy condition to which Ireland was reduced by agitation, to lend himself to the views of any persons who thought that they could forward their party or personal objects, by opposing the Government on this question. He could not imagine any thing more wicked than an attempt on the part of individuals to obtain benefit for themselves from embroiling the politics of Ireland. Wherever else they fought the battles of party, let not Ireland be the arena selected for them. Entertaining these sentiments, he could not at the same time, help declaring it to be his opinion, that though the importance of the subject might require notice in the King's Speech, it was impolitic to make a reference to it there, if the Government were not prepared with a distinct plan for remedying the grievances of which they admitted the existence. The evil would be considerably aggravated, in case the interval were long between the mention of the subject in the Speech, and the introduction of the remedial measure contemplated by Government. He hoped, that when the Committee was appointed, it would not lose a day in inquiring whether the Government had properly enforced the existing laws relative to the payment of tithes. He had not heard any charge made against the Government, for having neglected its duty in this respect. He had not preferred, nor did he intend to prefer, any such charge himself; and if such a charge were preferred, he trusted, that not this, but another Committee would be appointed to examine into the truth of it. He had hoped, that the right hon. Secretary would have explained his plan more 279 in detail than he had done on the present occasion. He fully admitted the existence of the evils of which the right hon. Secretary complained. He could not know what he did know of the Protestant Church of Ireland, without feeling the necessity of relieving its ministers from a condition the most deplorable that could be imagined. He believed, that the right hon. Secretary had not at all exaggerated the melancholy situation in which they were placed. If a plan for the alteration of the present system of Tithe-laws had been regularly laid before the House, he could suppose the necessity for appointing a Select Committee to examine its details. But the intimation of the existence of any such plan was very vague. The suggestion of the right hon. Secretary, that some mode might be devised of commuting tithes for land, even if it could be acted upon, would provide no immediate remedy. It might be proper to adopt such a measure, however remote its operation, but he thought the policy of it at least questionable, and that it would avail little, if it were the only measure in contemplation. They were now on the point of separating for the recess, and as nothing explicit had been stated that evening by the right hon. Secretary, all Ireland would he at a loss to know what was meant by the allusion to it in the King's Speech. He had before stated, that the declaration of the right hon. Secretary, that in any measure which he might introduce on this subject, he should pay respect to the property of the Church, gave him great satisfaction and encouragement. He lamented, however, the necessity for appointing a Committee to examine into the state of the Church of Ireland, apart from the Church of England. The two Churches were united Churches, with interests inseparably interwoven. At the same time, the melancholy picture which the right hon. Secretary had drawn of the condition of the clergy of the Church of Ireland, rendered it impossible for him to press any objection on that score to the present Motion. Every day increased his apprehension; and he cordially concurred with the right hon. Secretary, in hoping that the House would do nothing either to inflame the public mind, or to increase a peril which was now too palpable to be denied. It was with a view to the example which so humble an individual as himself might set, that he now refrained from entering into topics which might lead to an angry and acrimonious discussion. He should, therefore, offer no objection to the 280 appointment of a Committee. He hoped, however, that the Committee would proceed at once to the examination of any plan to be submitted to it; for, whatever importance the House might attach to the question of Reform, he thought, that hon. Gentlemen would see, that the present was a vital question, affecting the peace and prosperity of the empire, and that the consideration of no other question should interfere with the settlement of one which, having been once agitated at the instance of the Crown, pressed with peculiar urgency for immediate, and, if possible, final adjustment.
§ Mr. Leader
expressed his regret, that the right hon. Secretary, did not enlarge the ground to which the attention of the Committee was directed, or that he had thought it right to limit its inquiries to the question of tithes alone. He did not think that, was an unimportant question in itself, but it formed only a part of the subject to which he should wish to see the attention of the Committee directed, which was nothing less than the consideration of the general condition of the Established Church in Ireland. He must, however, rejoice that even the question of tithes was to be submitted to the investigation of both Houses of Parliament, and the only regret which he had with respect to that question was, that it had not at a much earlier period excited a larger share of the attention of those who, from their official connexion with Ireland, must have been aware of the intolerable evils which that system had entailed on that country. He spoke chiefly with reference to the right hon. Gentleman, formerly Secretary for Ireland, and those with whom he was connected in the government of that country, who had the best opportunities of knowing how the system worked. It was also a matter of regret to him, that the subject had been brought forward in the absence of one who had paid the greatest attention to it, and who had collected a mass of the most important information respecting it; but his chief regret was, that the right hon. Secretary had not referred the whole question of the Established Church in Ireland to the Committee. When hon. Members considered the immense—he would say the extravagant—revenue drawn by the Established Church in Ireland from the resources of that country, they would be impressed with the necessity of extending the inquiry into the whole subject of that 281 Establishment. The amount of its revenues was now not a matter of uncertain calculation. They had it from official returns, which could not be denied. From these it appeared, that from tithes alone, the Church of Ireland derived an income of 780,384l. a-year. Besides this, several sees of Ireland were in possession of 550,280 acres; added to which, there belonged to Corporations and other ecclesiastical bodies, in glebe and other lands, property amounting in value to about 250,000l. a-year. So that in land and tithes it was now ascertained, by official returns, that the Established Church of Ireland derived a revenue from that country of 1,785,000l. a-year; and this, let it be remembered, was paid for the religious instruction of comparatively a very small portion of the inhabitants of that country. He was one of those who thought, and indeed no one of those who objected to the tithe system in Ireland disputed the proposition, that the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland should be well paid for the services they performed; but when it was known, that nearly 2,000,000l. a-year were drawn from the country by the religious instructors of about one-sixth or one-seventh of the population, it must be admitted, that the continuance of such a system could never give satisfaction to those of a different religion, by whom so large a portion of that revenue was paid, and who had, in addition, to support their own clergy, to whom they were devotedly attached. The case was very different in England, where the great body of the people belonged and were attached to the Church which they were called upon to maintain. The tithe system here, therefore, though in many instances it was found to be vexatious in its operation, was looked upon with different feelings from those which were entertained respecting it by the great mass of the population in Ireland. Those feelings were such, that no law which could be devised would be able to reconcile the people to the support of such an immense establishment, which seemed to be kept up, not for the instruction of the many, but for the aggrandizement of a few. In the answers of some of the Bishops of the Established Church in Ireland, to queries put to them, the House would find still stronger proof—if proof were necessary—of the enormous magnitude of the Church revenues compared with the Protestant population for whose religious instruction it was kept up. From 282 these answers it appeared, that in the southern and western districts of Ireland the number of Protestants was very small, and in some extensive districts there was scarcely any. In the counties of Sligo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Mayo, and Galway, the proportion of Catholics to Protestants was as twenty to one; in Clare they were twenty-five to one; in Kerry fourteen to one; in Limerick nineteen to one; in Cork twenty to one, and in some others of the southern and western counties in nearly the same proportion. It farther appeared from the official sources to which he had alluded, that there were 6,000,000 of acres, with a population of nearly 3,000,000, which were almost exclusively Catholic, and yet that portion of the country paid to the Protestant establishment nearly 1,000,000l. a-year. Could peace or content be expected in a country where such a disproportion existed, or could it be expected that a system of this kind could continue? It was impossible, and therefore, some system of commutation, some other and some fairer mode of payment was absolutely necessary, not more for the peace of the country, than for the quiet and comfortable subsistence of the Protestant clergy themselves. He had not risen to enter into the whole question on this occasion, as a more fit opportunity would occur hereafter for that purpose. His chief object in rising was, to express the regret he felt, in common with many other Irish Members, that the Government had not thought proper to refer the whole subject of the Established Church in Ireland to the investigation of the Committee From one part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement he differed. He thought he had understated the means which the Protestant clergyman had of recovering his tithes by legal means. He might, do so by a summons before two Magistrates, or by civil bill, or by application to the ecclesiastical courts; or, if he did not choose to avail himself of any of these, the courts of common-law were open to him; or a court of equity would attend to his claim. But it would be said, that all these had been tried, and in many instances had failed. He admitted the fact, and the cause of the failure had been, and would continue to be, the aversion of the Catholic population, to be taxed in that manner for the support of the Protestant Church. He lamented, as much as any man, the unfortunate disputes which had recently taken place in some parts of Ireland; but it was a mis- 283 take to suppose, that these were caused by the question of tithes alone. There were other and deep causes for the distress and consequent discontent which existed in so many parts of that country. Since the year 1800, the state of Ireland was becoming worse. He spoke not now with reference to the removal of the local legislature, for into that he would not then enter. For a time after the Union the loss of the local government was supplied in a great degree by a resident gentry, but of late years these had gradually disappeared from Ireland. Not only those who had large incomes from land had become absentees, but that system had extended to large numbers of men with incomes of from 1,000l. to 500l. a-year, who now resided either in this country or on the Continent, and there spent the whole of that which ought to be circulated amongst those by whom it was raised. Besides these, Ireland had to regret the removal from her of those army, naval, and ordnance establishments which had been the means of circulating millions of money in that country, but which had within a few years been transferred to England. Besides these, she had lost nearly the whole of her linen trade, and thus, with the loss of a local legislature—of her resident gentry,—of large naval and military establishments—of civil boards—of the bounties on her fisheries and coarse linens, she was now reduced to a state of almost hopeless misery. Let these facts be considered, and it would be seen, that the evils of Ireland lay, not in the tithe system, though that was bad enough, but in a variety of other causes, which an attempt to remedy that system only would leave untouched. If hon. Members would bear in mind the drains which were constantly made on Ireland, they would see that it was impossible she could go on as she was at present. She had to pay 4,000,000l. a-year to the Government, 3,000,000l. to absentees, nearly 2,000,000l. to the Church. If to these were added the extravagant amount of Grand Jury Assessments, it would be found, that the country was charged with about 14,000,000l. a-year on a produce that was some millions below that amount. It was evident, then, that some of the charges must go unpaid—either the landlord or the Grand Jury rate, or the tithe proctor, for she could not pay them all; she could not pay 14,000,000l. a-year out of a produce of 8,000,000l. If there had been an increase in the agricultural exports of 284 Ireland, they were more than counterbalanced by the decay of her trade. Were not these all subjects which required investigation as well as the tithe system? He could tell hon. Gentlemen, that they much deceived themselves who thought that an inquiry into that system would remedy the other evils to which he had referred. An inquiry into the great incumbrance of the Church would do much, but the whole subject should be gone into. He knew that there were difficulties in the way of such an inquiry; but they must be met, for the evils of the system would not cease to press on them until they were met by some plan for commutating tithes altogether, and providing some other mode of paying the Clergy. He would not go into that at present, but would take an early opportunity of moving an instruction to the Committee to take the whole of the Church Establishment in Ireland into its consideration. He must express an earnest hope, that the subject would be considered dispassionately when brought forward, for he was convinced, that nothing but a commutation would place the Protestant Clergy on a comfortable footing. His only object in bringing these matters under the consideration of the House was that which alone had induced him to desire a seat in it—namely, a most anxious wish to improve the condition of Ireland, for by that means would the peace and prosperity of the United Kingdoms be most effectually secured and strengthened.
Mr. Dominick Browne
had always been of opinion, that the payment of tithes was more vexatious than oppressive, because he thought that if the tithes were taken off by the Clergy, they would be put on in another way by the landlord; but the real point was, that the Roman Catholics felt most vexatiously their having to pay the pastors of another religion for the performance of services in the benefit of which they did not in any way participate. It was for this reason that he was afraid that the evils would not be got rid of by commutation. In his opinion the only proper way of settling the question would be, by causing a general valuation to take place, and when that was effected to have the tithes publicly sold, as in the case of the land-tax redeemed. For this purpose the Government ought to take the matter into its own hands, and when the sale was effected the money might be converted into a sort of Consolidated Fund, out of which the 285 Clergy of Ireland ought to be paid. He did not say this because he was friendly to the maintenance of the Established Church, in its present extensive ramifications; for he had always been of opinion, that if it was the wish of the Legislature to preserve Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom, it was absolutely necessary to reduce the Established Church of Ireland to a size that should be in proportion to the Protestant population of that country. He was a sincere Protestant himself, and no one could be a greater enemy than he was to reducing that Establishment below its proper level. That appeared to him to be the real footing on which the matter ought to be placed: they had now, for 300 years, been endeavouring to make the population of Ireland Protestant in their faith—but in vain. But though he should, for these reasons, be friendly to a great alteration in the present arrangement of Church property in Ireland, he was perfectly willing to look upon the claims of the actual incumbents of livings as intangible; but their right being respected, it was the duty, as well as within the power of Parliament, to sell all the tithe and Church lands, and to make a new modification altogether. He was not prepared to go the length of supporting the instruction to the Committee mentioned by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last; but if he (Mr. Leader) would propose a separate Committee for the purpose of inquiring into the state of the Church of Ireland, he should have his best support. Still he would rather that nothing should interfere to interrupt the great object in which they were engaged, for he was firmly convinced, that they only wanted a Reformed Parliament in order to have full justice done to Ireland.
§ Mr. George Dawson
spoke nearly as follows:—As I have been accused of having an unfriendly feeling towards the present Government, I am the more anxious to pay my tribute of praise to the manner in which this subject has been introduced by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland; and I can assure him that I have great pleasure in doing justice where justice is due. I therefore beg leave to say, that in my opinion, there never was a more clear, or a more able statement in this House, or one better calculated to illustrate the subject which drew it forth. As the right hon. Gentleman, however, has thought proper to accuse me of stating what was unfriendly with respect to the present proposition of the Government, I hope that he 286 will allow me to have the pleasure of undeceiving him, and I can assure him, that I am not able to recal to my recollection one single expression used by me, that could be construed into a reflection against the Government, for having been indifferent to the difficulties under which the clergy of Ireland have lately been labouring, or conniving in any way at the progress of those difficulties. I therefore was certainly surprised at the statement that fell this evening from the right hon. Gentleman; and got up to express that surprise on the spur of the moment. Since then I have referred to those records of the proceedings of Parliament which we fortunately possess in this country, and on looking into them, I am unable to find any allusion, even the slightest, to those expressions which the right hon. Gentleman attributed to me; and I think that if he will allow me to put the passage into his hands, he will perceive that it contains any thing rather than a charge against the Government for neglect towards the Church of Ireland in its present difficulties. The reason why I derived so much pleasure from the right hon. Gentleman's speech was, because I saw in it (and I trust that in this it will prove but an echo of the intention of the Government) a firm determination of upholding the property of the Church of Ireland—a determination which appeared to me to be in full accordance with the Speech of his Majesty on the opening of the present Session, where he declared—"In parts of Ireland a systematic opposition has been made to the payment of tithes, attended in some instances with afflicting results; and it will be one of your first duties to inquire whether it may not be possible to effect improvements in the laws respecting this subject, which may afford the necessary protection to the Established Church, and at the same time remove, the present causes of complaint. But in this and every other question affecting Ireland, it is above all things necessary to look to the best means of securing internal peace and order, which alone seem wanting to raise a country, blessed by Providence with so many natural advantages, to a state of the greatest prosperity." These words the speech of the right hon. Gentleman appears to me entirely to uphold and justify; and as I have ever been firmly and warmly attached to the interests of the Church of Ireland, it was with the greatest pleasure and satisfaction that I listened to his address. I 287 can assure the right hon. Secretary, that I received with exceeding comfort and consolation his declaration, as announcing the resolution of the King's present Ministers to uphold against all its enemies—whether they be open or concealed—the property, the privileges, and the rights, of the Established Church of England and Ireland. For the same reasons that the right hon. Gentleman's speech gave me satisfaction, it was with regret that I listened to the address of the hon. member for Kilkenny, and with still more, that I heard him announce his intention of moving an instruction to the Committee, concerning the state of the Church of Ireland. As to my hon. friends' (Mr. Dominick Browne's) opinions, I have long been acquainted with them, and have often lamented his hostility to the Established Church of Ireland; but I must confess that my sorrow on that head is much mitigated when I recollect the authority with which those opinions have been opposed by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. With such aid as that—with the aid of the good sense of the country, and its attachment to the Established Church—with the aid of the firmness and zealous support of the Protestants of Ireland—I think we may, after the declaration that we have heard this night, be prepared to meet the enemies of that Church, wherever they may appear whether among the Members of this House, or among those of the Political Unions, either in England or in Ireland. I am convinced that this report of the right hon. Gentleman's speech will be the source of as much pleasure and satisfaction to the Protestants of that latter country, as of dismay to those who have hitherto been in the habit of raising their voice, and of late, I am afraid, with increased violence, because they have imagined that they had more friends in this country than I trust they will be able to count, should a day for reckoning them arrive. In full confidence of the right hon. Gentleman's sincerity, I beg to say, that though I differ from him in many parts of the picture which he has given to the House, I am ready to afford him my most complete support for going into a Committee. At the same time I must observe, that many portions of his Representation appear to me to be highly exaggerated. He did not, however, in his description, refer to that part of the country with which I am connected; but though we may not agree altogether 288 as to the degree, still it cannot be denied that a sufficient quantity of mischief exists to justify the Government in making the call for a Committee which has this evening been made. I do not, however, think that the appointment of this Committee can be made with any view to the finding of an ultimate remedy for the evil, or one that shall prove satisfactory to the people of Ireland. In the north of Ireland, as has already been observed, the same irritation on this subject does not exist; and the cause of this has been very properly stated by the hon. member for Kilkenny to be, because the inhabitants of the north have a more friendly feeling towards the clergy, when they are called upon to pay, owing to their being for the most part Protestants, though it is true that many of them are Protestant Dissenters. The real cause of the discontent of the Roman Catholic population to the payment of tithes is, because those to whom they are required to make the payment are of a different religion to themselves. We may beat about the bush as long as we please—we may look at this side of the picture or at that—we may endeavour to find a remedy in corn-rents or in the commutation of tithes, but the real solution of the discontent that exists is, that the Roman Catholics do not like to pay tithes to the Protestant clergy. I trust, however, that the right hon. Gentleman has said enough to convince the Roman Catholic tenants that the burthen of tithes is really a burthen on the land of the country, and not on them individually; and, at the same time, that it is a burthen from which they have no right to claim to be relieved, because they profess a different religion from those who have the claim upon the land. The Protestant religion is a portion of the law of Ireland, and whether the number of Protestants in any particular district be ten or 10,000, that religion must be maintained by virtue of that law—by virtue of the constitution of the Parliament—by virtue of the King's Oath itself. It is for these reasons that I apprehend that the right hon. Gentleman will never be able to relieve the Government from its dilemma, by proposing a commutation of tithes. I shall not, however, as I said before, oppose the appointment of the Committee, but I trust that one of its first results will be, the unquestionable acknowledgment of all the rights and all the privileges of the Established Church of Ireland.
Mr. Dominick Browne
disclaimed having said anything which could warrant the right hon. Gentleman in asserting, that he was inimical to the Established Church. On the contrary he was a great friend to that Church, but he was sure, that a great change must be made in the law of tithes to save it from ruin.
§ Mr. John Browne rose to say a few words, being the Representative of one of the largest counties in Ireland. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley) for having brought forward the subject of tithes, although he regretted some settled plan for the improvement of the system had not at once been proposed by his Majesty's Government. He sincerely admired the Protestant religion, as he believed it to be the work of God, but he must confess he was in no degree enamoured of its temporalities, which he equally believed to be the work of man. The Catholic people of Ireland were adverse to pay for the support of the Protestant clergy, and he could not attach any blame to them for entertaining such a feeling. However, as a sincere friend to the Protestant Church, he was disposed to support the motion for the appointment of the Select Committee.
said, if he were not restrained by higher motives from entering into this discussion at any length, it was not because several observations which he had heard from many of the preceding speakers had not furnished him with sufficient materials. But as he fully appreciated what had fallen from his right hon. friend (Sir Robert Peel), he must say, that upon an occasion like the present, when they were called upon to go into a Committee of Inquiry, that was not the time to enter into any discussion which might lead to irritation. When he had the honour of filling the situation in Ireland now held by the right hon. Gentleman who brought forward the Motion, he had occasion to contend with some of the grievances which were complained of as growing out of the tithe system, and he then felt it his duty to pursue a different course from that now sought to be adopted by the right hon. Gentleman. He found great grievances to exist in Ireland, especially as to tithes, which were made the handle of every agitator, and in order to deprive them of that source of irritation he proposed the direct measure of the Composition Act. For a considerable period that Act appeared to him to have a most 290 tranquillizing effect, without causing the violation of any right as to tithes or property of any other description. What fate had attended that Act since he left Ireland he could not take upon himself to say, and he would not have adverted to it if he did not think it necessary to shew, that as it had been stated not to have worked so well as he had expected, he was fully justified in supporting the motion of the right hon. Gentleman. Although he thus far supported the Motion, he owned he should have been much better pleased if the right hon. Gentleman had come down with some legislative measure, rather than leave the subject open to that acrimonious discussion which he feared would elsewhere take place while it was under the deliberation of the Committee of that House. And yet, so anxious was he upon all occasions to remedy any of the evils under which the Protestant clergy of Ireland laboured—so highly did he value their pious labours—so anxious was he to co-operate in any measures which would relieve them, and restore them to their rights, that he would certainly support the Motion now before the House.
said, that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) had offered incense to the Secretary for Ireland in return for that which had been wafted to him, and had then proceeded to expatiate on his own merits in the construction of the Tithe Composition Act. It had been always understood that it was the production of Lord Wellesley. This, however, had not been confirmed by the right hon. Gentleman; and it was to be taken for granted, that he would not dress himself in feathers borrowed from the splendid plumage of that illustrious person. It was, however, rather remarkable that the hon. Gentleman should take credit for this master-piece of legislation, when the Secretary for Ireland had announced that it had failed to produce the good results anticipated from it. The Secretary for Ireland had stated, that its provisions were inadequate to its objects, and that the most dreadful disturbances had taken place in the parts of the country to which it had been applied. He would not follow that topic any further, but advert with some distinctness to the malevolent encomiums pronounced upon Government by the right hon. member for Harwich (Mr. George Dawson). That right hon. Gentleman was in the habit of using a quotation, 291 which was peculiarly apposite in this instance——"Ulla putetis. Dona carere dolis Danaum?To paraphrase the celebrated interrogatory he should say, can the praise of such a man be destitute of design? Is there not evil in his commendation, and poison in his honeyed sentences? The right hon. Gentleman affected to speak of the Established Church as the model of ecclesiastical perfection; yet that right hon. Gentleman had once allowed his moral sense (strange to say), to overcome his political predilections; and when an application was made for money to repair the Cathedral of Derry, he burst forth into an exclamation against the monstrous revenues of the Bishop, and presented to the House a very picturesque description of the episcopal territories. Now the right hon. Gentleman was not only contented with passing the most unqualified panegyric on the entire Church, but he insisted on involving the Government in a most inauspicious participation in his sentiments. But against his praises he would set up the acts of the Government, and the declaration of the Prime Minister. The Secretary for Ireland might entertain what opinions he thought proper; but what said Earl Grey? Had not Earl Grey denounced, since he was Minister, the enormous anomalies of the Irish establishment, drawn a distinct line of separation between it and the English Church, and stated that it must be adapted to the condition of the country, and to the feelings of the vast majority of the English people. He therefore would rescue the Government from the political embraces of the Gentlemen on the opposite side. But did the matter stop there? When the see of Derry (that prodigious see!) became vacant, the hon. member for Middlesex, whose absence was to be lamented on so many accounts, but especially for its cause, gave notice that he should move an Address to the Crown, praying the King not to fill up the see. The Chancellor of the Exchequer came down, after Dr. Ponsonby had been appointed, and announced on the part of the whole Cabinet, that Dr. Ponsonby had been promoted on the express condition that he should take the see, subject to such diminutions and regulations as should afterwards be introduced. He had not yet done. The hon. member for Waterford moved a Resolution respecting First Fruits, and was supported by the Government, which declared, that the clergy 292 should, if possible, be taxed to the full amount. The House resolved, that the opinion of the Irish Law Officers should be taken. The Irish Attorney General—a friend of the Church—the Solicitor General who is not, at all events, its enemy—gave an opinion adverse to that of another lawyer who had been consulted by the Remembrancer of the Board, and said that no valuation could be made. But did the matter rest there? No: the Government was bound, in consistency and upon the principle of political integrity, to bring in an Act of Parliament to redress the gross abuse, by which, in place of 132,000l., the Bishops pay about 1,2001., and out of nearly a million of money, the clergy pay only about 3,000l. Still he had not done. Where was the Vestry Bill, which the Secretary for Ireland was to bring in, in its amended and more reasonable shape? Was not Government also pledged to put an end to that iniquitous and exasperating system, by which a few Protestants could assemble in a conclave of village ascendancy, and mulct the Catholics at their caprice? Thus, therefore, the imputations on the Government, conveyed in the damning praise of the member for Harwich, were utterly unfounded. He trusted, that the Government would take an early opportunity of disabusing the Irish people, and divest them of that fierce and determined resentment, which would be the result of even a suspicion that it was intended to betray the interests of the country. For his part, he must say, in reference to the power of the Government to remedy the evils of Ireland, that he utterly repudiated the idea that Church property was not under the control of the Legislature. What had the English Government done in Canada? The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had been there, and he saw, that while a Catholic was subject to tithes, a Protestant was exempt; and if the latter bought the property of the former, he held it discharged from tithes. Did principles depend on the latitude and longitude, and did the Secretary for Ireland consider that to be robbery on the banks of the Shannon, which was only simple justice on the banks of the St. Lawrence? But suppose, that the application of tithes could not be legitimately changed—what followed? The Church had plundered the poor—what had become of the poor man's quarta pars? It was not so obsolete a right. It was recognized by the 1st George 1st in Ireland. While the dis- 293 tressed clergy excited the sympathy of the Irish Secretary, had he no compassion for the hundreds of thousands of famished, houseless, and homeless peasants, to whom, even on the principles of Churchmen, restitution should be made? Let the Committee look to this, and let Government remember, that it was folly to think of pacifying Ireland without an utter change in the ecclesiastical system. The axe must be laid to the root. Take down the golden domes of the Establishment in time, or they would fall in under the shocks of the moral earthquake with which the country was threatened, and bury the whole edifice in ruin.
§ Mr. Shaw
, feeling deeply interested in the welfare of the Established Church of Ireland, believing that with its fate were identified the best interests of that country, begged permission to offer a few observations on the question which the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, had introduced to the notice of the House. He was ready to acknowledge, with those hon. Gentlemen who had already spoken from this side of the House, that the right hon. Gentleman had brought it forward with much ability and good taste—in a spirit of kindness to the Protestant clergy, and with a desire to do justice to their exemplary conduct; but still, whatever might be the opinion of others, he could not conceal his own—that the right hon. Gentleman was now endeavouring to provide a remedy for a disease which had been produced by the weak and vacillating conduct of the Irish government. He could not but consider it a part of that system of yielding to clamour, and making concession to violence, which commenced by permitting that law to expire which had been found effectual in the suppression of unconstitutional associations, now revived with increased vigour—which was acted on by the Government in repudiating the scriptural education of the poor, and substituting a plan, in which, he believed, no conscientious Protestant, who ever evinced an interest in their instruction, would take a part. Again, in reference to the Yeomanry, the Arms Bill, and the appointment of Lord-lieutenants of counties, the same principle of intimidation was successful, the same deference was shewn to idle outcry, and thus arose that systematic opposition to the payment of tithes alluded to in his Majesty's Speech; those who had to pay them being beyond the control, and those who were entitled 294 to receive them without the protection, of the laws, executed by a responsible and rigorous government. This clearly appeared from the documents referred to, and the admissions made by the right hon. Gentleman himself. In Archdeacon Cotton's letter, what was complained of but an obstruction of the law by brute force? So in Dr. Butler's—in that from Kells it appeared, that the people were forbidden to pay tithes; and the right hon. Gentleman seemed to countenance the objection to pay them to the Protestant Church, although his argument, was, at the same time, quite conclusive, that the burthen rested not upon the tenant but the land, and that he would rather lose than gain by its transfer, either to his landlord or the State; and did not the right hon. Gentleman, by giving weight to such a prejudice, while he admitted there was no just ground to support it, hold out encouragement to those who had forbidden the poor deluded peasantry to satisfy the legal claim on them? and did not the right hon. Gentleman well know, that persons high in authority in the Roman Catholic Church, and equally high in the confidence of the Irish government, had issued their mandates, that tithes should be resisted by all the wit and talent of the Irish people, and hated with "a hatred as intense as was their love of justice?" Could the right hon. Gentleman then be surprised at the condition of the Irish clergy, which he had so feelingly and truly portrayed that night; and when he said the late Government should have proposed measures of the kind he then suggested, to meet the evil when first any symptoms of opposition appeared, did not his reasoning impose upon himself a similar duty with respect to rent and taxes, and all other legal dues?—for there was already an incipient opposition manifesting itself to every payment of the kind, and it was not by thus yielding to intimidation that such a spirit would be suppressed. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in some of his observations on the nature of tithe in the abstract; while he held, that the title to it was as good in the Established Church, as that of any Member of that House to his estate, he thought the mode of payment of a certain proportion of the produce, operated as a tax upon industry in the same manner as rent would do, if reserved according to a proportion of the produce of the soil, instead of being a sum certain, and for that reason he approved of the principle of the 295 Tithe Composition Act, and would willingly support its extension. He would, however, refer those persons who made so light of the security of Church property, and maintained, that in England and Ireland it stood upon wholly different grounds, to the Act of Union; the fifth Article of which provided, that the Churches of England and Ireland, as then by law established, should be united into one Protestant Episcopal Church, and that they should remain in full force for ever, and that the continuance and preservation of the said united Church should be deemed and taken to be an essential and fundamental part of the Union. The right hon. Gentleman would perhaps feel, that, in touching any article of the legislative Union, he was on very tender ground, inasmuch as the Irish government had violated the feelings, sacrificed the interests, and feigned to despise the support of those, the whole tenor of whose lives and conduct had ever been to strengthen and consolidate that Union, and preserve and promote the connexion between the two countries; while those whom the Government were vainly endeavouring to conciliate, and who, by the evidence of the hon. and learned member for Louth, appeared very desirous of still holding them in their trammels, were becoming so impatient, that they would not even brook the delay of the certain means, which, in his conscience, he believed the Government were preparing, in the Irish Reform Bill, for carrying a Repeal of the Union; and the leaders of that party had already proclaimed their determination to pull down the standard of Reform and raise that of Repeal. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he did not make these observations in any factious spirit, but in all the sincerity of truth, under a serious conviction, that Ireland was fast approaching some calamitous convulsion, and with as deep and ardent feelings of affection for that country, as were possessed by those of his countrymen who would fain monopolize all patriotism to themselves: his sentiments on the subject might be mistaken—he hoped they were, but, at least, he entertained them honestly, and he felt it his duty to express them openly. He should not oppose the appointment of the Committee, but should deal with the question in its progress through that House, without bias or prejudice, and give to it that full and calm consideration which its vast importance demanded.
§ Mr. James Grattan
would not have said a word, but for an observation of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. The systematic opposition which that hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of, and attributed to the present Government, had existed long before they came into office, and even long before the Union. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman forget the Tithe Composition Act, brought in by the right hon. Gentleman sitting behind him, in 1823, and brought in under the pressure of the same necessity as that which now compelled the Government to touch the subject? The hon. and learned Gentleman had forgotten all history, or he must know that the same opposition to the collection of tithes existed long before the Union between the two kingdoms. He admitted, that the Protestant Clergy were at present in a very low condition, and he admitted the necessity which existed of providing for them; but he hoped that all compassion would not be thrown away upon them, and that, in any arrangement that might be made of the tithes, the poor would not be forgotten. He was sure that nothing good could be done for Ireland if they were overlooked. The question seemed of more importance to him than other Gentlemen apprehended, for he thought it was a question between the tithes and the Protestant religion. If the tithes were preserved, the Protestant religion must be sacrificed; they ought to take all possible care to attach the Catholic population to the Protestant Church, and without they did that, he should be afraid for Ireland. He could have wished that the right hon. Gentleman had unfolded his plans more, for he had not understood what the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do. He seemed to have given up every other plan, but that of commuting tithes for land; but that plan would be too slow in its operation, and it was a great evil that the Clergy of Ireland had already too much land. He apprehended that some other system must be proposed in the committee; the state of the Church property in Ireland was such, that it must be examined into freely. For his part, he wished much, being a Protestant himself, that the Protestant Clergy should be provided for; but the temper and disposition of the people in Ireland were such, that it would be quite impossible to provide for them by the existing system.
§ Motion agreed to, and the Committee appointed.