HC Deb 17 February 1831 vol 2 cc634-40
Mr. Grattan

rose to move for certain papers relative to the Union of Wicklow. His object was, to obtain some information on the subject, which had occasioned considerable discussion in the county of Wicklow, and given rise to a correspondence between some of the Magistrates of the county and the Government. Some dissensions had arisen in the parish of Wicklow, in consequence of the present incumbent refusing to enter into a commutation of tithes, which led to the union. He might, perhaps, be allowed to say, that the effects of the Tithe Commutation Act had been most beneficial wherever it had been brought into operation. He believed that no opposition would be made to this Motion; but it would be right for him to state some of the circumstances connected with the Union of Wieklow. The House must be aware that there were parishes in Ireland, the income of which was too small to support the clergyman in decency: in consequence of this, an Act was passed some years ago, to allow the Privy Council, on the recommendation of the Bishop of the diocess, to form a union of two or more parishes, provided the income did not exceed a certain amount. In the present instance, the parishes he alluded to were in the diocese of Dublin; and, in the course of last year, in consequence of a certificate of the Archbishop, presented to the Privy Council, the decree for the union was issued. The income from the united parishes was 1,200l. a-year. Such unions were improper; and the Act, if it could be evaded in this way, ought to be remedied. In this case, the union consisted of not less than six parishes; one of which was worth 600l. a-year. The right of presentation was in the Archbishop of the diocess who instituted his son, the Archdeacon of Kilmain. What was the value of the other livings he knew not; but some of them were of sufficient value to support an independent clergyman. Most other gentlemen would have been satisfied with a union that gave a large income; but the tithes were soon raised. The Archdeacon had refused to commute his tithes for the yearly sum of 1,800l.; when the Privy Council was induced to sanction the union of the livings, inconsequence of the declaration of the Archbishop, that their united value did not exceed 900l. a-year: He refused any offer to commute for his tithes unless he could get the full value of them. He felt bound to say, in behalf of the Protestant clergy of the county of Wicklow, that in nearly every instance they had acted with propriety and forbearance, and had readily assented to the offers of their parishes to commute their tithes, which had been attended with the most beneficial effects, and the best feelings existed between the clergy and their parishioners. It was a most unfortunate thing that this clergyman refused to compound with his parishioners, for the Privy Council, if it had been led to issue the decree of union in consequence of incorrect information, was able to recall it. He did not bring forward this subject with a view of making any attack on the Church, but he wished the House to adopt some proceedings on the subject of tithes. The hon. Member concluded with moving for a copy "Of the Report made in 1830 by the Archbishop of Dublin to the Duke of Northumberland and Privy Council in Ireland, respecting the Union of the Parish of Wicklow."

Sir John Newport

wished to know how far the clause of the Act of Parliament was operative as regarded this subject, and whether a specific clause of an Act of Parliament could be rendered of no effect by conduct of this sort. It was distinctly stated, that until the union of the parishes had received the direct sanction of the Privy Council, no such union could take place. This was done with a view to prevent the union of valuable parishes; and, under any circumstances, it must be considered an evil. He was not aware whether there were any previous instances of evading this Act, but he conceived it to be the duty of the House to inquire into the subject. In the present case, the Archbishop, in the certificate which he sent to the Privy Council, stated, that the value of the living did not exceed 900l. a year, and it was in consequence of this representation that the Lord Lieutenant and Privy Council consented to the Union. It was quite clear that they would not have done so had they been aware of the real value of the living, and that the Archbishop of Dublin intended to institute his son to the vicarage of these united parishes. The father estimated the income of these livings at 900l. a-year, and the son refused to commute his tithes for 1,800l. a-year. The House ought to have all the circumstances of the case laid before it, with a view to prevent such an occurrence taking place again, as well as to see whether there was any defect in the Act, by which it might be so easily evaded. A proceeding of this sort was most detrimental to the interests of the Protestant Church of Ireland; and he called upon the House, as it respected that Church, to come forward and defend it on the present occasion. He was a sincere friend of that Church, and he called upon the House, for its sake, to assent to the present motion, with a view to future proceedings.

Mr. Lefroy

meant to confine his observations to the statement made by the hon. member for Wicklow and the hon. member for the city of Waterford. He rose for the purpose of vindicating the character of the Archbishop of Dublin, feeling that the integrity and purity of the conduct of that venerable and eminent Prelate rendered him superior to any insinuations that could be thrown out against; him; neither did he wish to oppose the motion of the hon. Member, but rather to court inquiry, being convinced that every information which could be elicited on this subject would tend to prove the strict propriety of the course which his Grace adopted. It had been truly stated by the two hon. Members, that the return made to the Privy Council, on the occasion alluded to, was 900l. per annum, and that now the Union, including the Prebendary of Wicklow, was valued at 1,600l. per annum. A little explanation would satisfy the House as to the cause of the difference. On the death of the late incumbent, who had held the parishes for the preceding thirty-five years, they fell, for the first time, into the gift of the Archbishop of Dublin; it was then necessary, in order to continue the union of these parishes, and to comply with the Act of Parliament alluded to by the hon. Member, to make a return to the Privy Council of the value of the tithes, and, deeming it the best source of information, the Archbishops procured the affidavit of the Sequestrator, who had the management of the tithes for the preceding thirty-five years. On the appointment of the present incumbent, a son of the Archbishop, when he came to receive his tithes, he found that a very considerable portion of the lands of the union had never paid tithe, owing to the neglect or mismanagement of the Sequestrator, which was the cause of the difference between the return made to the Privy Council and the present estimated value of the tithes. As this return appeared to be the chief cause of crimination, now that he had explained the reason for it, he should hope the unfounded charges and insinuations made against the Archbishop would cease. He should go no further into the subject until the case was brought before the House, but then he should be prepared to substantiate the statements he had made.

Mr. Shaw

did not rise to offer any opposition to the motion of the hon. member for Wicklow being satisfied that when the returns were laid on the table they would be accompanied with the most satisfactory explanation on the part of the parties concerned; but he wished to set him and the hon. Baronet, the Member for Water ford, right as to one fact. No such union of parishes had taken place as that described by them. He had been only informed of the facts since he came into that House; but he had every reason to believe his information was correct. The Prebendary of Wicklow, and four Chapelries, were quite distinct from the union in question, and to which alone the certificate related—it was only the continuation of the union of the vicarage of Wicklow, and of the two small livings of Kilpoold and Drumlay, which, taken together, did not amount in value to above 120l. per annum, a sum insufficient to maintain their Curates. The value of the vicarage and these two small parishes was alone necessary to be stated to the Lord Lieutenant and Council. So that the Archbishop returned a much greater value than necessary by the Act of Parliament; although in point of fact, the value of these parishes and of the prebendary (which it was unnecessary to return) taken together, did not exceed the sum of 900l., which had been returned to the Archbishop by the person who had been Sequestrator of the parish for many years in the time of the late incumbent. The whole charge, he was sure, would be satisfactorily met when the proper time arrived. He would only observe, that he could not help lamenting that this complaint should have been brought forward at a moment when the individual principally concerned, who had been so remarkable for energy, activity, and great talents—was incapacitated by illness from taking any part in public business—an individual who had been, as even his political opponents admitted, one of the most distinguished ornaments of literature, of the Established Church, and of the country. As to what had been said about the Church Establishment, he would not enter into its defence; nor would he attempt to throw a cloak over its abuses, for time produced abuses in the most perfect of human establishments; but he wished to see those abuses corrected by the hands of the friends of the Church, and not submit her to the mercy of those who, while they professed to reform, would be only anxious to destroy. The Church and State had long stood together, each supporting the other—so must they fall together; and if the Church were pulled down, the Crown and the Constitution would perish with her.

Mr. North

was convinced, that the circumstances of this case could be explained in a satisfactory manner. With respect to a reform of those abuses that may have grown up in the Church, there was a Commission sitting in Dublin, composed of some of the most distinguished Prelates and members of that. Church, and they were most zealous in the reform of that great institution. He had no doubt that the greatest benefit would result from the labours of this Commission.

Mr. Ruthven

was sorry that there should be even the appearance of opposition to granting these papers. The hon. member for Dublin supposed that this was an attack upon the Church of Ireland; but he was satisfied that neither the hon. Member who brought the Motion forward, nor any other Member, had the least idea of doing anything of the sort. Every one must regret the indisposition of the Archbishop of Dublin, but the charge of unfairness ought not to be brought against the hon. Member for making the present Motion during the illness of the Archbishop. He did not impute any blame, in this case, to the Archbishop, but some misrepresentations had been made, which he hoped would be explained and rectified. According to the paper presented to the Privy Council, the annual value of these livings was 900l., but it appeared that the Archbishop's son refused an offer of 1000l., and stated that it was worth 1,800l. With respect to the quantity of land in the union, it was stated to be 17,200 acres, but it actually was 34,000 acres, though he did not charge the Archbishop of Dublin with misrepresentation, because he believed that he was not aware of the circumstances of the case.

Mr. Grattan

could assure the hon. Member, that he had not the least idea of making any attack upon the Archbishop of Dublin. He was not aware of his indisposition, and should be loath to say anything which could have the least appearance of an attack upon him under such circumstances. No person had made an attack on that Prelate, unless it was the hon. member for Longford. He said, that the certificate with respect to the value of the livings was made by the Sequestrator, and that the Archbishop had no opportunity of knowing the real value. How came the Archbishop to present this as an accurate return if he was not aware of the real value of the union? The hon. member for Dublin said, that we should leave the Church to reform itself; but he was satisfied that the people never would have obtained the Commutation Act, or any other measure, if it had been left to the Church, The certificate of the value of those livings was made under the signature and seal of the Archbishop, and, in consequence of that certificate, the Privy Council made a decree in favour of the union. He meant to bring forward the subject again when the papers were laid on the Table.

Motion agreed to.