§ Sir John Newport
did not mean to intrude long upon the House, but he conceived the subject to which he meant to call the attention of the House, though not for the first time, to be of essential importance to the well-being of the Church of Ireland. The House, he believed, was well aware of the nature of the First Fruits, but what he contended for was, that they ought to be appropriated according to the beneficent intentions of the Crown. At the period of the Reformation, the First Fruits came into the hands of the Crown, and were part of its revenue, but, in the year 1710, in the time of Queen Anne, they were made over to the clergy, both in England and Ireland, for the building and repairing of Churches, for the purchase of glebes, and for the maintenance of the clergy when the parochial revenue was not sufficient. The clergy of Ireland were, about the same period, exonerated from the payment of the twentieth they were to pay the Crown, but the clergy of England were not released from the payment of a tenth that had been habitually demanded from them. The valuation of livings had never been high in Ireland, and the First Fruits were so small, that 408 Parliament had frequently been obliged to make grants for that purpose for which if sufficient, they were destined. He believed, that under proper management, they would be sufficient, and as the burthen which they were meant to bear fell upon Roman Catholics and Dissenters, it was very necessary that the First Fruits should be made available to the utmost. The real cause of the insufficiency of the First Fruits, and of this burthen being so oppressively felt by the people, was, that the valuation of the First Fruits still remained the same as at first; so that now what was called First Fruits was scarcely more than nominal. Besides this, many parishes had never been valued at all; there were, in fact, 2,479 parishes in Ireland, and 467, or one-fifth had never been rated to the First Fruits, and 366, though rated, contributed nothing. For the ten years ending January 1821, the gross sum of the First Fruits in Ireland amounted to 3,75l., and in the following ten years to 5,142l., or in twenty years 8,894l.; and the expenses being 1,557l., they really netted only 7,337l. The whole revenue of all the Archbishoprics and Bishoprics of Ireland, was in fact estimated at 3,177l. per year. The revenue of all the other benefices in the King's books was only estimated at 14,118l. while under the Tithe Composition Act, the tithes of three-fifths of the parishes of Ireland had been compounded for by the annual payment of no less than 326,000l. to the ecclesiastical incumbents, exclusive of their glebe lands. In consequence of the insufficiency of the First Fruits, Parliament had been repeatedly applied to, and for the sixteen years ending in 1823, had advanced no less a sum than 632,000l. for the benefit of the Irish Church. Since then, the average grants have amounted to very nearly 40,000l. a-year. The object of his Motion, was to ascertain if the First Fruits, properly levied, could not be made available to the service of the Church, instead of forming, as now, part of the emoluments of individual Churchmen. A late Chief Secretary for Ireland had stated, that not more than 1,400l. was ever granted at one time for building or repairing Churches. He was able, to contradict that assertion, from the information he possessed. The contradiction was contained in a Letter which he would beg leave to read to the House. The right hon. Baronet accordingly read the following Letter;— 409Lord Treasurer's, and Second Remembrancer's Office, Four Courts, Dublin.Sir,—On reading a report of the proceedings on your motion, relative to the tax on Roman Catholics, on building, re-building, and repairing churches in this country, I was surprised at the reply of the Secretary for Ireland, wherein he stated, that there never was more than 1,400l. allowed or lent for building a church here, and then specifying the interest, &c. chargeable.The report of the Debate states you to have asked the hon. Secretary, 'Are you certain of this?' when he replied confidently in the affirmative. Now, Sir, from your asking the question, and being in some measure ruled by the answer, I naturally infer you lay a great stress on the amount of the sum so lent, and, of course, levied on the people. His assertion (if truly reported) is so contrary to the fact, and shews such a want of knowledge on the subject, that I conclude it will be acceptable information to you, to shew you, from unerring documents, that Mr. Goulburn is quite wrong as to the extent of the injury, to remedy which seems to be your earnest wish; and, as every other action of your public life is of a similar complexion, I feel pleasure in sending you a short abstract of the orders issued from this office, in which I hold a situation, to levy the amount of any instalment of any loan made by the Board of First Fruits to any parish for building, rebuilding, or enlarging or repairing any church in said parish, and this under the 15th section of the Act of George 4th, chap. 86. A blank form of the Bishop's or Archbishop's certificate (on which said order is grounded) of the twenty-one days' arrear of said instalment, I send you for explicitness, and in which you will be greatly surprised to see Mr. Goulburn's statement often more than doubled.' 8th November, 1825.'First Fruits against Parish Tawney, County of Dublin.—Order to the Sheriff of the County of Dublin, to levy 151l. 8s., being one instalment of 3,784l., made by the Trustees and Commissioners of First Fruits, &c. in Ireland, for building a church. KEMMIS,'Solicitor to the Crown and First Fruits.''8th November, 1825.'First Fruits against Parish Swords, County of Dublin.—Like order to levy 46l.,late currency, being one instalment of 2,500l. granted for rebuilding church in the said Parish.''8th November, 1825.'First Fruits against the Parish of Aughrun, County of Galway —Like order to levy 20l., being one instalment of 1,500l., granted for the like.''8th November, 1825.'First Fruits againstParish Roscrea, County of Tipperary.—Like order to levy 94l., being one instalment of 2,350l., for rebuilding a church in the said parish.'410' 8th November, 1825.'First Fruits against Parish of the Union of Roscre, and Kyle, Diocese of Killaloe County, Tipperary County, and Queen's County.—Like order to levy 188l.,being one instalment of 2,350l., for building a church in the said parish.'This and the above order for building and rebuilding at one time will appear severe.The above are levied as absolute executions; the sheriff, on receiving the orders, gets the churchwardens and constables to assess, without ever summoning a person interested, and apportions it as to him may seem equitable and just, but apparently without control; and, so absolute is this order, that the most celebrated man we have, when High Sheriff of the County of Dublin, Mr. Latouche, the banker, was actually attached, through the neglect of his sub-sheriff, for not paying over the money immediately.The above extracts are as good as ten thousand to shew that the principle is at variance with Mr. Goulburn's assertion. From my hurry to send it to you, and being late when I thought of it, these are all I have time to send, but I will give, at any future time, such further information as is in my power.He had stated on a former occasion that Mr. Shaw Mason, an active and conscientious individual who held the office of Commissioner for estimating the First Fruits of Ireland, had endeavoured to perform the duties of his office, and had applied for those sums which he thought were due. His conduct excited great alarm among the clergy; the clergy applied to the Government, and the Government, instead of supporting their officer, commanded him to desist, telling him he had no right to make the application, and threatening him with the loss of his patent place. The Government did this although Mr. Shaw Mason acted by the advice of one of the most eminent counsel in Ireland, he meant Mr. Allen. This was one of the rare instances of servants being censured for too well performing their duties. It appeared by returns on the Table, that the balance of loans to the Commissioners for the Church, in January, 1830, was 391,824l., and of this, 142,780l. had been advanced for building Glebe Houses. In eighteen years, ending 1830, 1,381 ecclesiastical promotions had taken place, and the First Fruits of all their benefices amounted only to 7,000l. The number of parishes comprised in this promotion was 2,058, and of dignities 345; now the tithes of 1,208 of these parishes had been valued under the Tithe Composition. Act, at upwards of 411 300,000l. According to his estimate the First Fruits in that period ought to have amounted to 660,000l. In the same period the parliamentary grants to the Church had been upwards of 600,000l., and, in all, the Church had received in that time from the public, independently of its revenues, 860,000l. In his opinion the First Fruits, the real First Fruits ought to be made available for all the expenses of the Church. It was time that the wealth properly belonging to the State should be devoted to that purpose for which it had been intended, and neither the Consolidated Fund, nor parliamentary grants, nor local taxation, ought to be had recourse to for ecclesiastical purposes till the whole of the real First Fruits were appropriated as it was intended they should be. He believed that in the motion he was about to make, he consulted the interests of the Church establishment. If the clergy were acquainted with the signs of the times in which we live, they would be careful not to insist too pertinaciously on claims that were in opposition to the claims of the State and the poor. He had drawn up his proposition in such a form, he believed, as not to be liable to objections. He proposed to move an Address to the Crown, detailing at length all the facts which he had brought before the House, and which were connected with this subject, and praying his Majesty, in order to render these First Fruits efficient for the purposes for which they were granted, that he would direct a reference to be made to the Law Officers of the Crown, to ascertain if it were legal to make a new and complete valuation of the First Fruits, exempting from the payment all benefices of 100l. and under, in order, out of them, to make good deficiencies in the revenue for ecclesiastical purposes, so that they might no longer be defrayed by grants from Parliament, or by local taxation. The right hon. Baronet concluded by the following Motion.
"That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, humbly to represent to his Majesty, that the Annates, or First Fruits, being the first year's income of every ecclesiastical dignity and benefice in Ireland, became, at the period of the Reformation, a part of the revenues of the Crown, as head of the Church, and continued annexed to the Royal revenues till the year 1710.
"That her Majesty Queen Anne did 412 then, as an act of grace and favour to the Church of Ireland, by letters patent, confirmed by authority of Parliament, vest in trustees the produce of this branch of the Royal revenue, for the purposes of building and repairing churches, and other objects specially affecting the maintenance of the Church of Ireland, and did, at the same time, absolutely release the clergy thereof from the annual payment of 12d. in the pound out of the income of all ecclesiastical benefices, before paid to the Crown, although a corresponding payment was retained by the Queen, and still remains annually payable by the clergy of England out of their dignities and benefices.
"That it appears from returns laid before this House, that the gross amount of this royal grant, paid in to the Commissioners of First Fruits, during ten years, ending in 1830, has only produced the sum of 5,143l., and after deducting an allowance for salaries and incidents of collection no more than 4,302l.
"That 467 of the dignities and benefices of Ireland, being nearly one-fifth part of the whole, have never been rated or valued for payment of First Fruits; and 366 more, though rated, do not contribute thereto, on account of the low rate at which they were valued in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth, King James, and Charles 1st., in which valuations the whole of the Archbishoprics and Bishoprics, more than twenty in number, are estimated at no more than 3,177l. annual value.
"That the entire amount of these valuations of the other benefices is 8,474l.; whereas under the Tithe Composition Act, the tithes of about three-fifths of these parishes have been compounded by an annual land-tax of above 300,000l. payable to the ecclesiastical incumbent only, exclusive of the glebe lands in his possession,
"That the deficiency created by this imperfect valuation has rendered the fund wholly inadequate to fulfil the objects of royal bounty, and been supplied by parliamentary grants in sixteen years, up to 1823, amounting to 630,000l., the greater part of which being advanced as a loan for building churches, is from time to time repaid to the Commissioners from the produce of parochial taxation, levied on the occupying tenantry.
"We therefore humbly pray your Majesty, in order to render this branch of royal revenue, liberally appropriated by 413 the Crown to salutary objects, specially connected with the maintenance of the Church of Ireland, efficient for their attainment, that your Majesty may be pleased to direct that a new and complete valuation of the property included therein be made, in such a manner as to your Majesty may seem meet, and that, exempting from payment under such valuation, all parishes not producing above 100l. the deficiency created by the present imperfect valuation may be no longer supplied by additional charge on the body of the people, either by parliamentary grant or parochial taxation."
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, it would be an ungrateful task to go at any length into a subject like the present before an unwilling audience. He was not sure that he very well understood the object of the right hon. Baronet.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, his object with respect to small parishes was—if the Jaw officers of the Crown declared that his Majesty had the power to order a new valuation—to propose that all parishes of a less annual value than 100l. should be exempt from payment of First Fruits,
§ Mr. Goulburn
must nevertheless censure the course proposed to be taken by the right hon. Baronet, as unnecessary, not to say unconstitutional. What occasion was there for an address? He did not know why, as he presumed that his Majesty's present Ministers approved of this motion, they could not direct the law officers to make the necessary inquiries. The right hon. Gentlemen might do that of their own accord, and there was no occasion whatever to call on the Crown, by an Address of that House, unless the right hon. Baronet supposed that his right hon. friends would not do their duty. He thought the Motion was consistent neither with public advantage nor justice; he should resist the Motion. The right hon. Baronet appeared to think the First Fruits of a living were the entire first year's revenue. He denied this altogether. Even the Pope never claimed such First Fruits except from benefices to which the presentation was with the See of Rome, and even then he never demanded above half the annual value of the living. He must affirm, then, that the Annates never were the whole gross profit of any benefice. It was also an error of the right hon. Baronet to suppose that the Acts of Parliament which empowered Commissioners to appro- 414 priate the First Fruits gave any power to the Commissioners to ascertain the value of the First Fruits. The right hon. Baronet was also in error in thinking the Act of Henry 8th conferred the power of making a valuation with a view to ascertain the full annual value of benefices; the valuation was instituted only with reference to the First Fruits— a very different thing from the total annual value. It was true the Act of Twentieths (28 Henry 8th c. 14.) did give the power of ascertaining the annual value of benefices; but this was with a view to give the twentieths to the Crown not with reference to First Fruits. The valuation of First Fruits never was intended to have been regulated from time to time, as the right hon. Baronet had asserted. Queen Elizabeth, on coming to the Throne, resumed the powers which had been granted by Henry 8th (which Queen Mary had interfered with), and she specifically exempted from First Fruits benefices of a certain value. Now could it be supposed that she would exempt from the operation of this system, for ever, benefices which, at some future time, might prove extremely valuable, if the principle of ascertaining the amount of First Fruits, from time to time, had ever been contemplated? If any doubt existed as to the real law of the case, let it be submitted to the proper law authorities for their decision. Such was the course pursued by him when he held the situation which the right hon. Gentleman opposite now filled. He had submitted the point to the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the present chief Baron of the Exchequer, two lawyers of the highest eminence. He would always contend in that House, that it would be a very great hardship on every incumbent to demand the yearly value of his benefice after he had resided on it for several years. The legality of such a proceeding had not been affirmed by any law officer; the opinion last given was hostile to such a course, and the practice of above 200 years, during which no such system had obtained, was decidedly against the proposition laid down by the right hon. Baronet. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman observed that it appeared to him to be very unfair, in arguing this question, to assume that the point of law would be given in favour of the right hon. Baronet's opinion, and then to point out the course which the Crown ought to take, supposing that assumption to be correct.
§ Mr. Leader
said, he felt greatly obliged to the right hon. Baronet, who had for so many years brought under the consideration of the House the commutation of tithes, the grievance of Grand Jury taxation, and the abuse of the system of First Fruits in Ireland. With respect to this last question, he had read all that the right hon. Baronet had said with respect to it, and he found this distinction between his former motions on this subject and the present—namely, that there was now brought forward a mass of information which had never previously been laid before the House, and which demanded the most serious attention. He was one of those who, all his life, held the opinion that a premium for residence ought to be given to the clergy; and therefore he would never agree to any measure that tended to spoliate them. But, though he still entertained the same opinion, he was nevertheless firmly convinced, that the First Fruits system called for alteration and amendment. He was sure, indeed, that a bonâ fide payment of First Fruits would go far to put down angry discussion in the 2,400 parishes of Ireland, and do more to uphold and establish the Protestant Church than any of the ill-timed efforts of the right hon. member for Armagh, or the hon. member for Oxford, to divert the attention of Parliament from this important subject. He held in his hand the return of the "sums applotted during the year 1827, by the several vestries of Ireland, under the head of parochial rates, specifying the articles for which such rates were imposed, and particularly distinguishing the sums allotted for rebuilding and repairing of churches;" and also a summary view, taken from official documents, of the comparative value of the First Fruits, tithes, and Church lands in Ireland, and the actual state of the Irish Church, up to the 1st of March, 1831. He asserted, without fear of contradiction, that by far the greatest part of the burthen imposed on the occupying tenantry and landowners in Ireland had been laid on for rebuilding and repairing churches, and this notwithstanding the Parliament of the United Kingdom had actually granted near 700,000l. for building churches in Ireland. He wanted to know what had become of this money, and how it had been applied? That sum was ample to build the churches which had been erected, without local burthens and the sum required for other 416 parochial purposes was so insignificant, that a Catholic never need be taxed to pay one shilling for the maintenance of the Protestant Church of Ireland, if the First Fruits were fairly valued and fairly paid, and rendered unobjectionable by being collected by easier instalments than at present. The wants of the people, and the state of Ireland, would prevent this important subject being longer slightingly passed over, or treated with indifference or neglect. It appeared on the face of the returns of the parochial rates, that if the building and repair of churches were deducted from the gross amount, the tax would be inconsiderable. The sum required for other purposes was so small that it could and ought to be paid by the voluntary assessments of the Protestant parishioners. He could not see the justice of a few Protestant gentlemen assessing a Catholic people for the payment of their clerks and sextons, and repairs of their churches—when the Catholic Church set them the laudable example of paying its own servants, clerks, and repairs, and when, in truth, the sum required for this purpose was so small, that it might easily be provided for, and thus preclude the necessity of a Protestant vestry ever assembling in Ireland to tax a Catholic people. From the slovenly mode in which the parochial returns have been made up, it would be dangerous to attempt to state the precise sum which might be necessary for the payment of the parish-clerk sexton, and repairs of Protestant churches; but he was certain if the Board of First Fruits was compelled to embrace the alternative, either, to pay the parochial rates, or to hand over the First Fruits, it would pay the parochial rates. He had a Protestant church and Catholic chapel, and residence for the Protestant rector and for the Catholic clergyman, built on his own estate; and he had introduced a Protestant establishment into a part of the south of Ireland, where none ever before existed; he had served the office of churchwarden in an union of three parishes, 100 square miles in extent, and consisting of a population, almost exclusively Catholics, amounting to nearly 50,000 people. It would appear in page 115 of the Parochial Rates, No. 16, that the annual rate for these three parishes did not exceed 30l. a-year; and if there was an extra charge for making churchyards and burial-grounds, it was a charge 417 made at the request of the Catholc parishioners themselves. In the north of Ireland, where Protestants, who pay the cess, lay it on, the cess is very light; but in the south of Ireland, where the Protestants levy and the Catholics pay, the reverse is the case—for instance, look in the parochial returns, to Derry;—the levy does not exceed 2,300l. for the year 1827; and look at Cork; why the levy is 7,000l. for the same year. In Derry diocess, there were forty-nine parishes, and in Cork diocess fifty parishes. He did not wish to take one guinea from the Protestant Church which properly belonged to it, but
|Summary View of the Comparative Valuations of First Fruits, Tithes, and Church Lands in Ireland.—Feb. 1831.|
|Provinces.||Promotions from Aug, 1812, to Feb. 1831.||Dignities in said Promotions.||Parishes in said Promotions.||Dignities Taxed and Paying First Fruits||Parishes Taxed and Paying First Fruits||Amount Of First Fruits.||Parishes Valued under the Composition Act.||Annual Amount of Tithe Valuations.||Parishes having Glebes annexed.||Acres in see Lands on Promotions.||Acres belonging to Bishopricks|
|N. B. Besides the Income under Composition and the Land, a sum of £.686,000 was granted to the First Fruits by Parliament for building Churches in Ireland.|
§ It would appear by the foregoing summary—1st. That between the month of August, 1812, and the date of this return (28th of February, 1831), 1,381 promotions spiritual, comprehending the same number of benefices, have taken place within the several dioceses in Ireland. 2ndly. That the 1,381 benefices to which promotions have been so made, contain 345 dignities, including the Archbishoprics and Bishoprics, and 2,058 parishes &c. 3rdly. That 290 of the aforesaid dignities, and 405 of the parishes, have been taxed, and are paying First Fruits, to the amount of 9,740l. 16s. 2½d.; and that the remainder, consisting of fifty-eight dignities and 1,653 parishes, are either exempted from payment under the Statute of Elizabeth, or have never been taxed or put in charge. 4thly. That valuations have been made, under the Tithe Composition Act, in 1,208 of the above-mentioned parishes, to the annual amount of 300,768l. 8s. 5½d. 5thly. That 1,038 of said parishes have glebes annexed to them, amounting to 101,362 acres, and that the see or bishop's lands, on promotions occurring, amount to 504,990 acres. 6thly. That the total number of acres contained in both glebe and See lands amount to 606,352 acres.418
§ he could never consent for the sake of that church to its putting to its own uses the property which belonged to the Crown, or to its taxing the people to pay for matters for which funds were already provided. No man who knew the income of the Irish Church would contend that it was not amply endowed without its appropriating what belonged to the Crown and the people. He was prepared to go into detail on the subject but he had already thrown his information into a tabular form which he would read to the House. The hon. Member then read the following summary.
§ 7thly. That the total number of acres belonging to the several Sees in Ireland, with the exception of the diocesses of Down and Connor, Raphoe and Dromore, amount to 502,021 acres, the pecuniary values of which have not been officially ascertained. Such was the state of the Established Church in Ireland; and that was what the right hon. Gentleman described as a case that did not loudly call for inquiry. He was most anxious that the proposition of the right hon. Baronet should succeed, because, if it did, it would tend to the removal of the vestry system, which would be the first and best harbinger of tranquillity in Ireland. It was evident, in his opinion, that the Crown intended, and the Parliament contemplated, an actually efficient, full, and fair valuation, and bonâ fide payment of First Fruits. There was no Irish Clergyman who, if the fund were properly applied, and the amount made payable by lighter instalments, who would make objections to pay the First Fruits. It was admitted that there could be no better application of the fund than the lightening the burthen of the Catholic population, who had now the weight of two Churches: the one established and the other recognised, by law. Under all these 419 circumstances, the time, in his humble judgment, was come, for Parliament to take up the question of inquiry, whether the trust which it had itself created was fairly and properly executed or not. The moment the discussion on this subject was terminated, it would be followed by a debate on the Army Estimates, in which the propriety of granting the sum of l,000,000l. for the maintenance of the Army, Ordnance, &c. Yeomanry in Ireland would be considered and discussed. Since the Union, it would be found that nearly 100,000,000l.. had been expended with no benefit to Ireland, and great injury to England, in supporting an immense military establishment in that country, and in building fortresses and barracks. Was another 100,000,000l. to be expended before the condition of the people was ameliorated, and they rendered tranquil? It was idle to contend that tithes and taxes and local cesses did not drive the Irish to despair, and into rebellion; they were the substantial grievances. A legitimate means was offered to the House of lessening most of these burthens and pacifying the people, and the House would not do its duty if it did not procure the First Fruits to be fairly valued and fully paid.
§ Mr. T. Lefroy
said, it was only just, that a fair and proper provision should be made for the clergy, and he could not see why that useful and excellent class of men should be exclusively taxed more than any other body in the State. If they were to be thus taxed, why should not others be visited in the same manner? Why, for instance, should not his Majesty's Ministers be taxed for the building of public offices? or why should not military officers give up a Year's pay to build their barracks? Why, he demanded, should the clergy be compelled to give up the value of their first year's promotion? Had they no families to support? Had they no expenditure to meet? It would, he believed, be found on inquiry, that the clergy would want their first year's Revenue as much as any other body of men. As to the reasonableness of this measure, he would say, that it was one on which the House was not called on to act, and ought not to act: and he felt this the more strongly, because the law authorities of Ireland were opposed to the principle contended for by the right hon. Baronet, and had declared it illegal. It would be unjust, too, for the people 420 ought to provide for the repairs of the churches. In fact, too, that was the law of the land. It would also be a gross innovation, for he was prepared to show by a history of the First Fruits, from the time of Henry 8th to the reign of Queen Anne, a period of 300 years, that the present system had never been altered. In Queen Anne's time the subject had been frequently before Parliament, but Parliament never thought of doing that which was now solicited. He could bring many proofs that the Parliament never thought of taking the first year's full income as the First Fruits. Thus the annual value of the First Fruits had frequently been stated to Parliament, but it never took any means to procure a new valuation. If they went back to earlier times they would find, that by the 6th of Henry 4th Parliament denounced, in the most severe terms, the exaction of the full value in the amount of First Fruits, from the clergy; and the same feeling was constantly manifested, down to the time of Henry 8th. As to the valuation of the livings, for the purpose of ascertaining the amount of the First Fruits, the last made in this country was in the year 1292, and from that time to the period of Henry 8th there was no valuation: but the object in. that valuation was not so much to see what was the amount of tenths and First-Fruits, as to ascertain what was to be transferred to the Crown. But it was not then pretended that the amount transferred was the first year's value of the living. When the First Fruits were transferred by Queen Anne, Commissioners were appointed here and in Ireland, for their collection; and the Lord Chancellor, or Lord Keeper, for the time being, was one of them; yet, though he must have known that the amount received was not anything like the annual value, we never find him issuing a Commission to ascertain what was the exact annual value. He was satisfied, that the full enforcement of the rule laid down by the right hon. Baronet would prove the ruin of the clergy; and he hoped that, if it was to be done at all, it should not be done by a side-wind, and at a moment when the law on the subject was at best exceedingly doubtful. Indeed, he conceived that it was wrong, in a discussion of this kind, to deliver a positive opinion on a doubtful point of law, which was done by the right hon. Baronet's proposition. If the clergy were to be 421 taxed for the building of churches, let it be done gradually—let the tax be levied de anno in annum, and not all at once. When a property-tax was imposed on the people, it was levied in a gradual maner —no man was asked to give up his whole year's income on the moment. He could not conceive why the clergy more than the laity should be taxed in this manner. He did not see either, why the lay impropriator and the remainder-man, who has an interest in the lay tithes, should not be compelled to pay a tax for the repairs and erecting of churches, as well as the clergyman. The course proposed by the right hon. Baronet was certainly most unjust to the clergy of Ireland, than whom a more meritorious body of men did not exist. It was a fact, that within the last thirty years the number of the clergy resident in Ireland had been doubled, and that in the last fifty years there had been more churches built in that country than in the preceding three centuries. The adoption of the principles of these Resolutions would be, to take away from the Established Church in Ireland that which was guaranteed to it at the Union, and by several Acts of the Irish Parliament before the Union. It would be most unwise and impolitic, by such a course as this, to bring the clergy of Ireland to make comparisons between the protection afforded to them now, and what they had enjoyed under a local legislature.
said, that he should not have felt it necessary to offer himself to the attention of the House on this question, concurring as he did in the Motion of his right hon. friend, but for what fell from the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed the House. If he had not heard some of the concluding observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he should have thought that he had wholly misunderstood the question before it. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in the earlier parts of his speech, seemed to think that by these Resolutions his right hon. friend (Sir J. Newport) was calling on the House and the Crown to do an act which was violent and illegal towards the clergy of Ireland, in making a new valuation of all livings; whereas, in fact, the Resolutions, in a spirit of due caution, only called on the House to address the Crown to lake the advice of its law officers as to the fact whether it had the power of making such a valuation. The hon. and learned Member was quite 422 mistaken in supposing that this was a measure which would fall with great severity upon the poorer clergy of Ireland. Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman could not have heard what was stated by his right hon. friend, that in the event of the measure contemplated by these Resolutions being carried into effect, it was intended to exempt from it all livings not exceeding 100l. in value. The hon. Member had referred to the opinion of the law officers of the Crown in Ireland on a former occasion on this subject. Had that opinion been such as he seemed to think it, it would be presumption in him (Mr. Stanley) to question it; but he believed the question proposed to the law officers in Ireland on that occasion was very different from that now proposed to the law officers. It was not whether the Crown had the power of making a new valuation, but whether Mr. Shaw Mason, a patentee under the Crown, had the right to make such a valuation on his own authority. The two questions, then, were totally different. He was prepared to contend, that from the Act of the 28th of Henry 8th, it was quite clear that the whole of the First Fruits, the annates and twentieths, in full value, were vested in the Crown; and though the whole value of them might not have been exacted, still it was clear that a very considerable sum was derived from them; for upon a benefice becoming void, it was enacted that the King, having the First Fruits, should provide out of those funds an able priest to perform the duty of the living until the living was filled up. The hon. and learned Member had referred to the feeling manifested by Parliament on this subject in the time of Henry 4th; but it should be recollected, that at that period the First Fruits were paid to a foreign power, and not applied, as at present, for the support of our own Church. When the Crown had resigned those funds for the repairs of churches and improvement of small livings, it was not too much that Parliament should see that they were applied to the end intended. The payment of First Fruits could not be looked upon as a tax on the new incumbent. It was a condition on which he took a benefice, that a certain portion of it should be paid to improve the condition of his poorer brethren in the Church. The question at issue was, how far the first composition was final and conclusive. That was a point of law on which he did not feel com- 423 petent to pronounce; but it appeared to him, that it would be very strange if a clergyman were warranted to bind his successors for ever. It would surely be more reasonable to suppose that the clergyman who made the composition bound only himself. Whether it was legal was another point, but most certainly there had been repeated valuations in Ireland subsequent to the Statute of Henry 8th. They had been made under letters patent twice in the time of Elizabeth, and after in the reign of James 1st. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Lefroy) could, then, with no shadow of reason deny the fact of these valuations. Further, he had no hesitation in saying, that should it be in the power of the Crown to order a new valuation of benefices in Ireland, it would be infinitely for the benefit of Ireland, of the Crown, and the Church, and would greatly help towards maintaining the Establishment in the plenitude of its rights without any odium. With this view he should feel highly gratified at seeing the First Fruits, of all benefices, exempting those not above 100l. in value, appropriated to the purposes of the munificent donation of Queen Anne. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman observed, that such a measure as he supposed his right hon. friend contemplated, as the result of these Resolutions, would tend very much for the advantage of the Church.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that he and his hon. friends were placed in a very embarrassing situation by this Motion. They did not object to the abstract proposition of referring the question to the consideration of the law-officers of the Crown; but they certainly had strong objections to affirming a whole string of Resolutions without being allowed any time for their consideration. He hoped his right hon. friend would in candour consider, that if they were to send the subject for the opinion of the Law-officers, they ought not to accompany it with declarations of the opinion of the House, which might tend to bias the opinion of those learned persons. The right hon. Baronet then read two of the Resolutions, and contended, that in addition to the recommendation that the opinion of the law-officers of the Crown should be taken, they contained a declaration of opinions which it would be much better to defer until that opinion was pronounced. There were statements of facts which ought not to accompany a dry ques- 424 tion of law, about to be submitted to the legal advisers of the Crown. The course proposed on this occasion was, he conceived, altogether unprecedented.
§ Mr. Stanley, in explanation, said, that the facts stated in the Address were put forward as a ground why the House should agree to that part of it for referring the question to the opinion of the law-officers of the Crown. It was not intended, of course, that those facts should form any part of, or accompany, the case on which the opinion of the law-officers was to be taken. At the same time, as far as he was concerned, he was indifferent whether the parts of the Address which the right hon. Gentleman had read should be inserted or not.
§ Mr. O'Connell
hoped the House would not allow the Resolutions before it to be frittered away by any special pleading. It was of the greatest importance to Ireland, to know whether there existed a legal fund from which the churches might be repaired, and, if there were, whether or not it could not be so disposed as not to allow the expense to fall on the poor people who derived no benefit in any way, either in or out of the church. The present system of making the repairs, and building of churches in Ireland—a large portion of which ought to be borne by the revenues of the Church—fall on the people, the great mass of whom never went into those churches, was a great hardship in Ireland. He was surprised at what had fallen from the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin, that by the common-law the burthen of building and repairing churches should fall on the people. This, he would venture to say, was not the common-law in England. By the common-law the revenues of the Church were divided into three parts—one was for the repairs of the church, the other was for the maintenance of the poor, and the third for the support of the clergy. Now, the whole revenue was absorbed by the clergy; and this was the greater hardship in Ireland, where the great mass of the people had so little connexion with the clergy. The hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin had said, that there had been more churches built in Ireland in the last fifty years than in the preceding three centuries; but that could not surprise any one who was aware that 630,000l. of public money had been voted 425 for that purpose, besides the produce of the First Fruits. And how had they used these parliamentary grants? In some places they had bestowed gifts; for instance, to that poor man, Lord Oriel, they had given 2,000l. It was this doubling the number of churches that caused such outrages amongst the Irish peasantry, upon whom fell all the expense of them. Jobbing, also, amongst Protestant architects, and glaziers, and slaters, prevailed to a great extent. But that could not last if a fund really belonging to the Crown should be restored to it; and the only question of law that could be raised sprung, not from the words of the Statute, for they were clear and imperative, but from the uniformity of the practice in violation of the Statute. There could be no doubt the Crown had a good title to this improved fund. The present practice was highly injurious to the peace and tranquillity of Ireland, because it gave rise to great discontent in the Catholic body particularly, who were called on to defray almost the whole expense incurred in the erection and maintenance of churches for the few Protestant parishioners. This First Fruits' fund, too, was the cause of much jobbing and extravagance in the building and repairs of churches. The present system of First Fruits in Ireland was quite different to what prevailed in other countries. By the Statute of Henry 8th, every person obtaining ecclesiastical promotion was bound to give up the annates, or First Fruits, to the Crown, and the annates were described to be the revenues and profits for one whole year. By the common-law, the burthen of building churches fell upon the ecclesiastics themselves, and not upon the people. But what was the case now? Why, the Catholic people were taxed for this purpose, and were excluded from any control over the amount raised. He knew an instance of a parish in Ireland that of Joragh—where there were about 5,000 inhabitants, only twenty of whom were Protestants; fifteen of that twenty were water-guards, and the remaining five levied taxes on the rest of the population. He believed that the whole House was agreed as to the propriety of the first Resolution, —that no living under the value of 100l. should pay First Fruits; and he hoped the Resolutions would be allowed to pass, and that in future the rights of the Crown would be ascertained.
Sir R. Inglis
objected to the Resolutions, because they assumed that the right to the first Fruits was in the Crown. He thought that if the case was submitted to the Crown-lawyers, joined with Resolutions of such a nature, their judgment was likely to be prejudiced. He trusted that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland would concur in the suggestion of his right hon. friend (Sir R. Peel) and withdraw the Motion, with the understanding that the case should be submitted to the law-officers of the Crown, without being encumbered by a declaration of the opinion of that House on the subject. The amount of assessments, of which the hon. and learned Member complained, was so trifling, being in some instances 2d. on the acre, and never more than 1s. 6d., while the land let for twelve or thirteen guineas, that in this respect it was hardly worth contending about. If, however, the inquiry were to be pursued, it would only be prudent to refer the question of law to the legal advisers of the Irish Government, unmingled with any opinions.
Mr. S. Rice
said, that if the law-officers of the Crown did their duty faithfully, as he was sure they would, all that they would have to do would be, to state their opinion as to the legal right of the Crown to the First Fruits, without any reference at all to the Resolutions of that House. The only question for the Crown lawyers to consider was, whether the Crown could or could not re-value the livings in Ireland. The last objection that could be urged against the Resolutions was, he thought, their novelty, because the subject had been already several times under the consideration of the House and he did not see that there could be any difficulty in adopting them. The hon. Member then referred to the observations which had fallen from the hon. member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. Inglis), respecting the low charge on the land in Ireland, and stated his surprise that that hon. Member, unacquainted as he was with the feelings of the people of that country, should have so expressed himself. No matter how low the tax. might be, if it produced ill will and dissatisfaction it was injurious. He was sincerely attached to the Protestant Church; but was anxious to amend a system which occasioned perpetual heartburning and discontent in Ireland; it was also a system most injurious to the 427 Church Establishment in Ireland, for it put it in a position little calculated to recommend it to those who dissented from it, when they saw that it was a cause of augmenting taxation. Great abuses, he observed, had prevailed in the building of churches in Ireland. Churches had been erected in remote parishes, where the Protestant part of the population was next to nothing; and although it might be pleaded, in justification of this, that they were necessary for the accommodation of the police and water-guards, he did not admit the force of this plea, or allow that it afforded a sufficient reason for levying a tax upon the parish. He congratulated his right hon. friend (Sir J. Newport) that the object which he had been so long endeavouring to effect, was now about to be accomplished.
§ Sir R. Peel
explained. His object was, to have a reference made to the Crown lawyers, unaccompanied by any opinion of the House on the subject.
§ Mr. M. Fitzgerald
did not think that the right hon. Baronet's (Sir Robert Peel's) observations ought fairly to have been characterized as special pleading. He did not propose to enter into any special pleading; all special pleading was bad, but the special pleading of the House of Commons was abominable. He thought it desirable to have the opinion of the law-officers of the Crown on the subject; but, whatever their opinion might be, he hoped that the proceedings of Government, which seemed to have adopted the opinion of his right hon. friend (Sir J. Newport), would not prove abortive.; but that, if it was decided that the Crown had not the right to re-value the livings in Ireland, that Government would corns down to Parliament and obtain permission to revalue them. He was sure that such a proceeding was essentially important to the interests of Ireland, and calculated to strengthen the Protestant Establishment in that country.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, he should offer no opinion on the subject before the House, for if the opinion of the Irish law-officers of the Crown were to be taken on the case, it would be improper and indelicate in him, being one of those officers, to offer any remarks on the subject.
§ Mr. Wyse
was not of opinion, that because the rate on land was low, as had 428 been stated by the hon. member for the University of Oxford, that therefore there was no grievance in it. The great body of the Catholics felt it to be a grievance to be taxed by a few Protestants; and if that practice had not led to outrage and disorder, then the whole history of Ireland was a he. The grievance was one which was felt by nine-tenths of the population. A few days ago, a petition, signed by Protestants, had been presented, requesting that House to adopt nearly the same principles as were embodied in the present Resolutions, for the sake of maintaining the security of the Protestant Establishment; and it was on that very ground that he supported the Motion.
§ Mr. North
considered, that the point proposed to be referred to the King's law-officers was one on which no reasonable doubt could be entertained. He had no doubt in the world that the Crown had the right to order a new valuation to be taken; but the question then to be considered was, whether the Crown had a right to take the First Fruits according to the new valuation or the old; and whether or not the words of the Statute of Queen Anne were to be extended to the new valuation.
here read the words of the Motion,—namely, that the law-officers of the Crown should inquire how far his Majesty had a right to re-value the livings in Ireland.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
thought the question ought to be submitted to the law-officers, unaccompanied by any Resolution of that House. He considered that there were three questions to be submitted to the law-officers;—whether the Crown had the power of ordering a new valuation to be made; whether the Crown would compel payment of the First Fruits; and whether, by the Act of Queen Anne, livings should pay First Fruits according to the re-valuation, or only according to their understood value at the time of the passing of the Act.
suggested, that it would be better if his right hon. friend would withdraw his Resolution, and allow him to substitute for it a simple Resolution to this effect, "That the opinion of the law-officers of his Majesty in Ireland be taken, how far his Majesty is now empowered to issue a Commission for the revaluation of 429 benefices in Ireland, with a view to the levy of First Fruits."
§ Sir John Newport
expressed his willingness to agree to this suggestion, and withdrew his own Motion.
§ An address in the form proposed by Mr. Stanley was agreed to.