HC Deb 15 March 1831 vol 3 cc473-8
Mr. Grattan

rose to move for a copy of the memorial to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from the parishioners of the Union of Wicklow. The hon. Member adverted to the numerous preferments which were held by Archdeacon Magee, the incumbent of the Union, which he stated gave him a very large income. He had to complain of the contradictory statements respecting the value of the living, which had been made by the Archbishop of Dublin, in his report to the Privy Council of Ireland. He declared it to be worth only 909l. a year, while Archdeacon Magee, at a meeting of the parishioners of the Union, had declared it to be worth 2,255l. He thought that when the memorial was produced, the House would be able to ascertain what measures could be taken to reconcile the unhappy difference existing between the Archdeacon and his parishioners. He said, that the question was not one of Catholics against Protestants, nor ought the House to regard it as any attack on the Church. The hon. Member concluded by moving for a copy of the Memorial presented by the parishioners of Wicklow to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

Mr. Shaw

did not rise for the purpose of offering any opposition to the production of the memorial moved for by the hon. member for Wicklow, but having seen a copy of that memorial, he must protest against the correctness of its statements, and he thought he could briefly explain to the House the misconception out of which the complaint of the memorialists seemed to him to have arisen. The parish of Wicklow consisted of four chapelries, and was divided into prebendal, or large, and vicarial, or small, tithes, though the prebend is a sinecure, held altogether independent of the Union now in question, and incapable in law of being episcopally united to it. The Union to which the Archbishop of Dublin's report related was the Vicarage of Wicklow, and the small parishes, Drumkey and Kilpool, and the value of these united, instead of exceeding 909l. a year, was considerably lower than that sum, being about 500l. This Union, as well as the Prebend of Wicklow, had been held for many years by a Clergyman who was in embarrassed circumstances; his preferments were under sequestration, and it was from the written return of his sequestration (the original of which he had seen) that the Archbishop took the value, extent, and particulars of the Union. It was unprecedented that an Archbishop under these circumstances should employ a professional valuator, and he resorted for information to the person who had been interested in making the value as high as possible, and in point of fact, he returned a much higher value than was necessary for the object of the Union, though not as high as the entire value, including the Prebend. He did the same as to the Glebe Lands, all of which with the exception of the eight acres returned by the Archbishop, were attached to the Prebend. Now, as to the policy of this Union, supposing it a new question, the vicarage and the two parishes as he (Mr. Shaw) stated, were worth about 500l. a year and the present incumbent kept four Curates at 100l. each, and which, allowing for deductions of collectors, would leave him about 50l. a year out of this Union; there were besides three churches in the Vicarage; and, none in either of the small parishes, so they would be insufficient to maintain an incumbent and church of themselves, and therefore it would appear highly expedient to unite them with the vicarage of Wicklow—and also desirable (to say nothing of the principle of sinecures, which he was not defending) under existing circumstances that this Union should be held by the Prebend of Wicklow, in order that, out of the large income attached to that sinecure, he might support the Curates and expenditure necessary for the whole Union. As to the complaints against Archdeacon Magee, it was alleged that he had been exorbitant in his demands; but how did the facts support this allegation? When he received this preferment, he had a valuation made of the tithes he was entitled to, and it amounted, including the entire preferment, to 2,300l. For this he was willing to accept l,500l. a year as compensation, and had never asked for more than 1,600l.; and he further offered, if the parish did not agree to the composition, to take 1s. instead of 2s. in the pound compared with the value of the ground, his strict right, and to let the maximum value of the ground be taken at 3l. an acre, whereas a considerable part is worth 6l. Then as to the charge of his claiming tithe upon some lands which had not paid tithe before, it was a question as to a very small extent of land, depending not between him and any poor parishioner, but between him and the Corporation of Wicklow. The claim for glebe lands was a question between him and Lord Fitzwilliam. With respect to the other preferments mentioned by the hon. Mover St. John's, in Dublin, is of very inconsiderable value above the curate's salary, but it confers a vote in the Chapter of Christ Church; and the Archdeaconry of Kilmacduagh is a sinecure of small amount, and from which Archdeacon Magee has as yet not received a shilling. It is situated in the county of Clare, and the hon. member for Waterford knew that it was not very easy to collect tithes there. He knew many of the individuals who signed this memorial, and they were of the highest respectability; they did not profess to speak from their own knowledge, and he (Mr. Shaw) believed the real explanation of the circumstance was, that they received their information from a curate of one of the parishes, himself, he believed, a respectable and talented clergyman, but suffering under the bitterness of some disappointment, arising, as stated by the Archbishop of Dublin, out of a misconception of a conversation held with him upon the subject of this Union.—Under all the circumstances, he could not but lament that it had been thought advisable to bring a matter of this nature before the House, when it admitted of an easy explanation between the parties themselves; more particularly, as he was satisfied that the very respectable individuals who had signed the memorial, had not been actuated by any hostile or invidious feeling to the Established Church of Ireland. He could not, however, help regretting that so inappropriate a period had been selected for the purpose of making this complaint, when the distinguished Prelate against whom a charge of unfairness was insinuated, was suffering under severe indisposition, and at a moment when organised opposition was taking place in many parts of Ireland to the payment of tithes—which, if successful as to them, would be found equally applicable to rents and every other claim of right— when, if he might use the expression, it had become rather the fashion of the times to be weary of our ancient institutions, and when especially the Irish branch of our Established Church was much reviled by its opponents, but whose clergy, he could boldly affirm, were, taken as a whole, as enlightened, as zealous, and as eminently pious a body of ministers as belonged to any religious order in existence. The Established Church was, no doubt, subject to those defects which are indispensable from every human institution, but withal, he Believed it in his conscience to be one of the best and surest pillars of the State, an honoured and an acknowledged instrument of an authority paramount to all human institutions for checking infidelity, and all its train of evils, and for promoting true religion and all its accompanying blessings, throughout the land.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

lamented that this subject had been brought forward, and he also lamented that any grounds had been given for complaint. He considered, however, that such an accumulation of preferment as Archdeacon Magee was loaded with, was a great scandal and a great injury to the Church. The hon. and learned member for Dublin (Mr. Shaw) had said, that the livings joined to the vicarage of Wicklow were only worth 200l. a year, as if that were not a sufficient income to support an incumbent. He knew many men of exemplary character and good education, who performed the duties of ministers for no higher a remuneration than 100l. a year. He thought that persons who held preferments ought to be resident, and he was sorry to be obliged to declare, that due regard had not been paid to the interests of the Church, and of religion, by those whose especial duty it was to provide for both.

Mr. O' Connell

did not doubt the legality of the proceeding which had been brought under the consideration of the House, but he hoped it would make the House understand how the system worked in Ireland, and how much irritation it gave rise to. It appeared from the statement of the hon. member for Dublin (Mr. Shaw) that Archdeacon Magee did not hold the living in Dublin for the purpose of attending to the duties of the office, and looking after the wants of his flock, but merely for the purpose of possessing the privilege of having a voice in the Chapter. He did not think it proper that gentleman should hold so many livings. He was already in possession of two livings before he was put into possession of that of the Union of Wicklow, from which it appeared that he received at least 1,500l., and gave at most 500l. to the curates who did all the duty. He was paid, therefore, 1,000l., for doing nothing. What right had he to that when the people were suffering from great distress? At any rate, the Archdeacon ought not to receive any more than 500l. from the Union of Wicklow, and the remaining 1,000l. should be applied to the relief of the parishioners.

Mr. Shaw

, in answer to what had fallen from the right hon. Member, the Secretary of War (Mr. C. W. Wynn), stated, that he had not said that the reason for uniting the two parishes, Drumkey and Kilpool, to the vicarage of Wicklow, was the insufficiency of the income to support an incumbent: but that there was no church in those parishes, and therefore no duty could be performed in them, unless they were joined to the vicarage.

Mr. Goulburn

was well aware of the difficulty of arguing the question of tithes, because it always sounded harshly to take the tenth potatoe from the poor man, but it was a small contribution from a great many, to support a most meritorious class of men. He was not disposed to take the character of the clergy of the Church of Ireland from the hon. and learned member for Waterford. Considering all circumstances the Union was most desirable, and there was no pretence for stating that the Archbishop of Dublin had made any statements to the Privy Council of Ireland which were not founded in fact. So far from undervaluing the livings, he had overvalued them.

Mr. Grattan

said, if the livings were undervalued, the statements of the parishioners were most false. He was happy, however, to believe, that the time had arrived when no more faculties would be granted for unions.

Mr. Lefroy

vindicated the character of the Archbishop, and said, that upon inquiry the conduct of that right rev. Prelate would appear unimpeachable. He saw no ground for the interference of the House, and he was sorry to see in it a disposition to vilify and condemn the clergy of the Irish Church.

Mr. Hume

said, that the hon. Mover had not brought forward the subject with the view of vilifying the character of the Archbishop. The hon. Member who spoke last seemed inclined to defend what was a tissue of abuse. The Church of Ireland was a tissue of abuses from first to last, whatever hon. Members might say. There were parishes without churches or resident ministers, the inhabitants of which consisting chiefly of Catholics, were called on to pay large sums to the members of the Established Church. If that were not an abuse, he did not know what the word meant. The clergy of Ireland were actuated only by a desire to acquire money, instead of attending to their religions duties. He thought that the time had come when the Irish Church must be remodelled, and no man be allowed to receive a shilling who did not perform efficient duties.

Mr. S. Rice

said, he could not concur with the unqualified censure which the hon. Member had passed upon the members of the Irish Church. At the same time he thought the case which had been brought; under the consideration of the House, had been properly so brought.

Mr. Hume

admitted that some of the members of the Irish Church discharged their duties in the most praiseworthy manner.

Mr. Wyse

said, that if any ill-feeling prevailed against the Established Church in Ireland, it was owing to such circumstances as had been brought under the notice of the House that evening.

Motion agreed to.