said, he was desirous of asking the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), if it was consistent with the statement of a former evening to press the second reading of this Bill at that moment? The noble Lord had said, on the occasion referred to, that he disapproved of coercion, but that, whenever it should become necessary, while he would pass a Bill to coerce, he would take care, at the same time, also to pass a Bill which would remove the grievances which rendered coercion necessary. In compliance with this sentiment, the noble Lord ought to postpone the second reading of this Bill until after the bill which was to be considered as a boon to the people of Ireland was introduced. Unless he pledged himself instantly to bring in that other bill, so that both might proceed through their stages together, he thought the present coercive measure should be postponed.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he did not think that, in the present Bill there was any departure from the statement he had made on a former occasion. He had said, he could not, on any principle, agree to any measure of coercion, where the cause of the evil was a grievance, unless he meant to remove the grievance; and the resolution pledged the House to do so. There was an evil pressing and urgent, and all that could be done was, to pledge the House to remove the grievance, but to bring forward at once a measure to put down an illegal combination. The arrangements for the commutation of tithes were necessarily complicated, and all that Parliament could do was, to press the measure forward as quickly as possible. He objected to the postponement of the Bill.
§ Mr. Leader
said, he perfectly agreed with his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, not only on the inexpediency of forcing on the House this harsh and coercive law at the eve of the Easter recess, but, even before a full and ample report of the evidence given before the Committees was in the hands of Members. His Majesty's Ministers might be assured that, odious as the measure of combining the revenues and powers of Church and State against the people, for the recovery of the arrears of tithes for the year 1831, must he to the people, it would be rendered much more so by the right hon. gentleman introducing the second 1365 reading of the Bill at so late an hour of the night, when it was known that several of the Irish Members, after a constant and unwearied attention to the business of England, were reluctantly obliged to leave town, and when every one would suppose that all new and important business would be adjourned over the recess. He should be sorry to think that the constituency of Ireland were not far more reasonable than his Majesty's Government. That constituency would not expect that, with the interval of one or two months in fourteen, that the whole time of their Representatives, to the injury of their private affairs, and at great personal inconvenience, should night after night, be exclusively devoted to their interests; and it was extremely severe that important Irish business should now be brought on, when the English business was nearly closed for the recess. For his part he totally differed from the right hon. Gentleman as to the urgency of the present measure. He did not think if the right hon. Secretary had his bill for 60,000l., the sum to be advanced towards the arrears of 1831 in the districts that have passively resisted, that he would be anything nearer the payment of the tithe of 1832, and that his intense solicitude for power to recover the small arrears of 1831 should, in point of prudence and policy, be of little consideration in comparison with the magnitude of the question of tranquillizing Ireland, and giving the clergy the prospect of a comfortable and secure provision for 1832. It was his opinion that the distress of the clergy had been greatly exaggerated—for the purpose of accelerating the passing of that coercive measure. When he looked to their See lands in the disturbed dioceses, and saw their glebes, and glebe houses, and saw fifty of these distressed reverend gentlemen in possession of 227 parishes out of 359, and with land more than sufficient to provide for them, and when he knew the length of time in which they were in the enjoyment of these valuable preferments, he did not consider the preamble of the Act maintained by the evidence. And although he admitted the delay of the payment of one year's tithe might be of individual inconvenience in any district in Ireland, he maintained that he could prove the distress could not be as great as it was represented. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman had worked himself into the belief, whether from com- 1366 munications officially, or representations in England, or a strong opinion of his own, that this Bill was to put an immediate end to all disturbance, and all further resistance to tithe. The right hon. Gentleman had deceived himself, and the House would be deceived, if they thought a coercive measure for enforcing the arrears of 1831, in one district, would ensure the payment of tithe in 1832. The best mode of recovering the arrears would be, the introducing and passing a bill for the total abolition of tithes. It was a measure of great and urgent necessity. Whether the arrear of 60,000l. or 70,000l. were recovered a month or two earlier or later, was of little or no importance. There was another reason that should induce the right hon. Secretary not to press this measure with breathless and precipitate haste. It was the uniform practice of every person filling the office the right hon. Gentleman held, to visit Ireland during the recess of Parliament. Did the right hon. Gentleman imagine that the state of Ireland was not such as to require the superintending care of an officer responsible for the prosperity and peace of the country? Was it possible that any communication from Ireland, from those who thought they knew the country better than those who represented it, would be equal to the right hon. Gentleman's observation of the state of the country, and the advantage of a free and unrestrained association with persons of different political opinions and sects? He thought the importance of a responsible public officer's going to the country, the government of which it was his duty to superintend, could not be too highly estimated. He could not help saying, he thought it hard, after so many months' attendance, that the prospect of a month's relaxation was not permitted to the Irish Members.
said, it was far from his wish to hurry the Bill, and to put any one to inconvenience. The hon. Member said, he required relaxation, and yet he complained that he (Mr. Stanley) had not spent so much time in Ireland as some of his predecessors. There was a notice before the House of a motion for a return of the number of days he had been in Ireland since he had accepted office. If ever that motion should be brought forward, he should be prepared to shew that he had passed three months of the last year in Ireland, and that he had not been 1367 absent from his public duties fourteen days since he first entered upon office. He wished to forward the measure, not so much because of the distress of the clergy, as because there was an organized and systematic opposition to the law of the land. This was a state of things which ought not to be permitted to continue, and which could not be permitted to continue, without striking at the root of order and law, and reflecting disgrace upon the Government that allowed it. He could not, therefore, accede to the Motion of the hon. Member. The measure had already been much discussed.
felt that both parties were, on the present occasion, called upon to yield in some slight degree to each other, by which he thought much general benefit would be accomplished.
§ Mr. James Grattan
thought that, by delaying the second reading of the Bill until after Easter, much time could not be lost, while much good might be effected, and, therefore, he could not but recommend to the noble Lord (Althorp) the adoption of the suggestion of the hon. member for Middlesex. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, if he were to visit Ireland, would see the propriety of a postponement of the question. However, he was prepared to go on if necessary.
§ Colonel Torrens
conceived that measures of coercion and conciliation ought to go together, and he, therefore, should recommend delay, particularly as those who now sought to carry the measure of coercion might not be in office to bring forward that of conciliation.
§ Mr. Wyse
had that day received a petition from the county he had the honour to represent, bearing the signatures of 17,000 of his constituents, praying for delay in the decision of the present question. In that prayer he fully and entirely concurred. During the approaching recess, the right hon. Secretary would have an opportunity of personal investigation, as well as the Irish Members being afforded that of consulting their constituents upon this weighty and important question. He, therefore, entreated the Government to defer the consideration of the measure until after the recess, by which they would be enabled to bring forward at once their measures of coercion and conciliation.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
hoped the Secretary for Ireland would not follow the ad- 1368 vice of his five-and-twenty Irish friends; for, if he did go to Ireland, in all probability he would never return. Besides, if the Secretary for Ireland did go there, he would be alone, and would have the duties of Lord Chancellor, and Lord Lieutenant, besides that of Secretary, to perform. Such a state of things as the present he believed had never before occurred. He believed the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Chancellor, and the Irish Secretary, had never before been absent from that country at the same time. Certainly it might be said, that the tranquil state of that country rendered the presence of those functionaries unnecessary, particularly as there was at present in that country an hon. and learned gentleman who sometimes sat near him in that House, and who united in himself political and legal talents such, as to fit him for the office of Chancellor, the vice-regal character, or any other. He hoped, however, that the Bill would not be postponed, whether the Right hon. Gentleman went to Ireland or not, for the subject of the Bill required to be treated at once, and with decision.
§ Mr. Ruthven
said, that, if there was one reason which ought to have sway over the minds of the Government to accede to the postponement of this measure, it was the existence of a very impatient feeling on the part of the House to listen to the details, or to discuss them. There was already a great feeling of irritation abroad in Ireland, which would by no means be appeased by the demonstration of such a feeling on the part of the House and the Government. He implored the Government to grant the delay required, and to show some natural feeling for their fellow subjects.
§ The Order of the day read,
§ The Speaker put the question—"that the Bill be read a second time."
did not wish to create delay, but he begged to inquire of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, since the Bill was to be proceeded with, at what time the other Bill with respect to tithes would be brought forward. He put the question because the noble Lord had himself admitted that coercion ought to be accompanied with conciliation, and, therefore, he should be glad to know when the measure of conciliation would be ready. He expected a reply, because he thought it might influence those who were anxious that the cause of irritation should 1369 not be unattended with remedial measures.
§ Lord Althorp
was not prepared to reply to the inquiry of his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, The Tithe Committee was still sitting, and he, therefore, could not give a positive answer.
§ Mr. Ruthven
said, that he felt it to be his duty to rise, though he was well aware of the probable impatience of the House, and its aversion towards the discussion of a question, which some might imagine to be wholly Irish, and in which there could not be any hope of effectually resisting the right hon. Secretary if he continued to press the matter without even allowing a short interval and pause for enabling himself and the House to increase the information already obtained. A Committee above stairs was still sitting—its labours had not terminated—further evidence was required—and he believed witnesses were yet expected to arrive for examination before the Committee could make any additional Report to the imperfect one upon the Table of the House. However, he feared there was a strong disposition to legislate upon the question of tithes prematurely and oppressively, without any pause admitting of calm dispassionate deliberation, founded upon a knowledge of Ireland, and of the mind of the Irish people, which he thought requisite to supply better means of proving how to govern and to manage the interests of Ireland, than seemed to be apprehended by those who had the power in their hands at the present moment. He had endeavoured to solicit, or rather to join with his hon. friends near him in the attempt to procure a small respite for the people of Ireland on the present occasion. His hopes were lessened, perhaps, they now scarcely extended to anything of a positive kind, but he would not be wanting to his country in not offering his efforts, feeble as they might be, in its cause. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir Charles Wetherell) had said, now was an opportunity of seeing whether the twenty-five Members who had opposed this Bill, were the real or pretended friends of the right hon. Secretary. He would not make any remark on the observation, beyond saying, that it would be by their conduct they ought to be appreciated and judged, and he trusted they would pursue their even 1370 fair course, unaffected by any sarcasm or colouring given to their motives. Of the Bill he could say nothing that was good. The preamble set out with making a charge against the people in certain parts of Ireland, which was unsupported and unjustifiable. The combination, the existence of which had no shadow of illegal existence, at least beyond those every-day assertions of lawyers which were never wanting, where there was an object to gain, consisted of a general feeling, a simultaneous concurrence of feeling tending to the one point, without anything of that kind of illegal combination, which some persons anxiously hoped to find the people involved in. Their word never had been given, and it became, therefore, necessary, for their total control, to resort to cruel, severe, and unjust laws. The people had submitted to insult and oppression with a submission and forbearance that disappointed and alarmed their enemies; they had not been provoked into breaches of the law, by tumult or not at any one of the numerous meetings held to petition Parliament against the unequal and unjust burthen of tithes. The course which, in many instances had been pursued, was by no means uncommon or new; he could point out many parishes where there had been a disagreement between the tithe collector and the tithe payers. The parishioners, thinking too much was demanded, refusing to pay in money, or to become the purchasers of the tithe produce, it was set up and carried off in the usual mode provided by law. However, it had often happened that the clergyman had found that it was his interest to relax in his demands, and take a moderate value for his tithes, in preference to engage in what was called drawing the parish, and taking tithes in kind. Now, what had been done recently to require this threatened coercion? The process of the law had not been resisted, even under oppressive provocation to do so; an alarm had been excited, and not from a very creditable source, and a temptation held out to the enemies of the people, to support and encourage the enactment of new and unheard-of laws for their oppression, and, he might call it, persecution; for this the proposed Bill would be likely to produce, if ever it unfortunately became the law of the land. The old practice should not be interfered with in this hasty and rash manner, and the clergy should be left to the discreet 1371 management of their parochial affairs, according to their individual discretion, regulating their agreements for tithes with their parishioners, receiving in kind, or in money, as their reciprocal interest heretofore regulated the arrangements according to the established law and custom of the country. Though these laws required alteration, and though it was admitted that the extinction of tithes had become necessary, why this premature coercion, this cold blooded persecution, this threat, which arrogated to itself the efficiency of every thing desired, by terrifying the people through the means of an example in the persecution of one or two individuals? But all this project was fallacious—this Bill—this ephemeral law—would become abhorred and despised; its memory would be detested as long as it was preserved by the recollection of its insulting offensiveness and inefficiency. But did the supporters of the Bill fear to allow the opportunity of any further expression of public opinion in Ireland to reach this House? Were they afraid of the people coming to their senses, and finding the folly of their disunion? Did they begin to feel that the northern Protestants were not likely to continue the dupes of passion, and of their heated party animosities, which, on all sides, tend so much to impede the comfort and prosperity of Ireland? In the north of Ireland there had already been meetings, he might say of parishes exclusively Protestant and Presbyterian Dissenters, almost wholly the latter description, at which the desire for the abolition of tithes had been expressed as fully and as strongly as in any other part of the country. Were these meetings likewise to be classed under the sweeping denunciations which he was astonished to hear applied to men of the highest respectability, of anarchists, combinatory, conspirators, and all these epithets which reflect little credit upon any person resorting to them, to impose on the ignorant and timid, in the vain attempt to prop up their own want of reason and justice? From high authority, he could state, that a great body of the Presbyterian Protestants considered the payment of tithes militated against their conscientious feelings and opinions, and were, therefore, opposed to them on religious principle, though they submitted to them as an impost and grievous taxation imposed by laws, from which, however, they anxiously desired to be relieved. Ireland should also 1372 be looked at in the new point of view it was placed in by Catholic Emancipation. The Catholic was improved and elevated in society—he walked more erect, and estimating himself as he ought, he felt that he had new duties to perform, and hailed the approach of the day when Protestant and Catholic would no longer look at each other mutually suspicious, but would merge in the common character of Irishmen, and be heartily disposed to promote the general happiness and welfare of their country. Reform had also agitated the country. Had this agitation impeded its rapid strides?—and had not that agitation been looked upon with no unkind eyes by many of them, who now changed their position, and appear in the inconsistent characters of friends to Reform in the State, but enemies to Reform in the Church? How could this be reconciled? Such Reforms must proceed, pari passu. The people required it, and would not be long imposed upon. In this country hope and expectation of Parliamentary Reform, had produced a calm, but an anxious—an awful suspense. Parliamentary Reform was the cause of the people; it could not be long withheld—it was supported by the good and the wise—by those who seek to meet the corning times, and to substitute an honest Representative of the people as their best protection and safeguard against the horrors and dangers of a revolution. Ancient institutions had been overthrown, and the fairest fields of Europe desolated, from a most senseless obstinacy in opposing every wish, every fair demand, of the people in various countries. Let them avoid such calamities, and let justice be done, that the miseries of revolution may be averted by the wisdom and firmness of a wise and just policy, so that no inducements might exist to resort to measures leading towards real anarchy and a revolution, too probably accompanied with crime and outrage stained with blood. It was impossible to consider the present state of Ireland without deep concern and apprehension. The question of tithes was vitally important to the peace and well being of that country, perhaps as much so as that of Parliamentary Reform, for it could not be separated from that. Reform in Church, as well as in State, could alone meet the demands and the future interests of Ireland. Tithes were paid, not by the miserable, wretched paupers of the country—they were collected from the industrious 1373 occupiers of the whole land—the real representatives of the landed property—the agents and managers of territorial soil, which they occupy and cultivate for the landed proprietor—such were the farmers—such was their position and true character. Were they to be classed with the most degraded members of society? Ireland had too many enemies, or rather too few friends. Why, in this new project, there were proclamations to commence with, as if proclamations in Ireland for special, particular purposes, were in good odour in that country. They were rather out of fashion; had produced a great deal of irritation; became inefficient and contemptible, and latterly their perfect insignificance was accompanied with every feeling of disgust. He was satisfied, so abhorrent would be the mind and feeling of the people, to the present proposition of law proclamation, under the manœuvres and regulation of the Attorney General, with all the consequent persecution of individuals, with law costs, decrees, imprisonments, and all the machinery of legal invention, that they would with much more satisfaction read the proclamation of a military commandant—a general officer, with all his train of attendants, and even arbitrary authority, because it would be less offensive to their feelings. They might also expect the benefit of the influence of High military honour, ever to be found in the breast of a gallant British soldier. This, indeed, he believed there might be reason to receive with more respect and hope than the wily legal intricacies so often, where opportunity exists, directed towards entrapping and destroying the best men in an unfortunate country. It would be no discredit to the right hon Secretary to show some little kindness to Ireland, and the concession of the delay of a very short period, indeed, was now only to be sought by the Amendment which he would beg leave to move. He believed the delay of one month could not materially affect any objects of the right hon. Secretary. Many great and important matters respecting Ireland had been postponed; he would rather say, postponed, than forgotten, for such things as the Grand Jury laws were of no trivial moment. There were also various other affairs relative to Ireland worthy of some notice. He, however, could not sit down without observing, that, upon this day, when it appeared in the regular entries of the busi- 1374 ness and Orders of the Day, that the Bill for Reforming the Representation of the people in Ireland was to have been read a second time, that we heard nothing of that; but instead of doing so, were called upon to receive, as its substitute, a Bill of extreme severity and coercion, compromising all the old understood principles and practices of law, in order to give powers unknown to the Constitution, and to place them in the most objectionable hands. This seemed so closely allied to persecution, that he felt a hope that its inefficiency would be likely to divest it of the mischief which must arise from the intended severity. He concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time this day month.
was certainly among those who had voted for going into Committee upon the propositions which formed the basis of the present Bill, and he had also supported them in Committee, but he certainly did not feel that he was thereby pledged to the support of the Bill before the House. He had supported the Resolutions brought forward by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, upon a distinct reliance upon the unequivocal declaration of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Althorp) that the measure of coercion should be accompanied by the measure of relief. Now, he thought the present measure of coercion quite unnecessary and quite uncalled for; and feeling as he did upon the subject, he unquestionably should consider it his duty to vote against it. He could not find any sufficient reason for the precipitancy with which the right hon. Gentleman was endeavouring to hurry this measure through the House. He must declare the present to be a measure of most unnecessary coercion. Any good that was sought could have been for the present sufficiently effected by the Resolutions that had passed through the House. These Resolutions must, by showing to the country what the feelings and intentions of his Majesty's Government were, have the effect of completely checking any combination that might exist against tithes. The people of Ireland loved justice, and if they got fair play it was all they asked. He had, perhaps, exposed himself to some censure by the former vote he had given on this question, but in any vote he gave, he was influenced by no other consideration than a conscientious wish to act as his convictions prompted him. However, 1375 in voting for the former measures, he felt that he had gone as far as he consistently could, and he should feel it his duty to oppose the further progress of the Bill at present, and until the measure of relief was laid before Parliament. No possible good could result from urging forward this measure in the manner in which his Majesty's Government were pressing it forward. The impatience manifested in urging it through the House would increase, rather than allay the irritation existing in Ireland; and feeling a conviction that such would be the result, and that any object which the Government could reasonably have in view would be sufficiently accomplished for the present by the Resolutions which had passed. He should support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Long Wellesley
rose with sorrow to notice the deep tone of despondency used by the hon. Members of Ireland. There was evidence to satisfy every man that the law had been violated in Ireland, and no one, in his opinion, could fairly object to arming his Majesty's Government with a moderate power for the enforcement of the law. He viewed this Bill as a most important measure, and was desirous that a commutation of tithes might be accomplished upon due consideration of what was due to the Church. He could not advocate spoliation. He did not wish to destroy Episcopacy, but thought there should be a fair arrangement of Church property in Ireland. That was, however, a question of great importance, and the Government could not be expected to rush incautiously into it.
§ Colonel Torrens
supported the Amendment for postponing the second reading of the Bill for one month. He did so on the principle stated by the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), that the coercive measure for the enforcement of the arrears of tithes should go hand in baud with the conciliatory measures for their final commutation. The commutation involved difficult and nice calculations, and could not be immediately carried into effect; and, on the principle stated by the noble Lord, the coercive measure should be delayed until the conciliatory measure could accompany it. It was not wise to legislate in haste upon a subject imperfectly understood. The speeches which had been delivered were a proof that the nature and operation of tithe were not sufficiently attended to. Hon. Members had 1376 complimented the clergy of Ireland at the expense of those of England, because the tithe demanded by the former bore a less proportion to the rent than the tithe demanded by the latter. But hon. Members wholly overlooked the fact, that the difference in the amount of their demands was caused, not by the greater disinterestedness of the Irish Church, but by the greater amount of capital employed by the English farmer. When land was cultivated in an expensive manner, it must produce four or five rents to replace the capital laid out, with an adequate profit; while land of equal natural fertility, cultivated in an unexpensive manner, might yield only two rents. But when the highly cultivated farm yields four rents, the tithe of the whole produce must be equal to half the rent; while, when the land which yielded only two rents, a tenth of the whole produce would be equal to no more than one-fifth of the rent. The tithe of a hop-garden in Kent might be 30l., that of a potatoe garden in Ireland not thirty-pence. Tithe was in its nature a growing evil, inflicting an increasing pressure as cultivation improved; and he was surprised to hear the Member for a great agricultural county assigning the greater liberality of the clergy of Ireland as the cause of the low proportion which in that country the tithes bore to the rent. The commutation of tithes was a difficult question. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, had said, that, on this subject, he saw his way; he, for his part, could make no such boast. In the principles propounded by the right hon. Secretary, he could see nothing but "darkness visible." He saw him involved in the mazes of a labyrinth, but he could see no gentle Ariadne by his side offering a clew by which he could escape. The right hon. Gentleman had informed them, that tithes constituted a portion of rent, and were paid by the proprietor of the soil. Were this the real state of the fact, the commutation of tithes would be a simple operation, and might be accomplished by calling on the landlord to pay directly the same amount which he now paid indirectly. But he could not assent to the principle laid down by the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland. Tithe did not form a deduction from rent, and was not paid by the proprietor of the soil. Tithe was a tax upon the production of the necessaries of life; and, like other taxes, was paid by the consumer. Hence the 1377 difficulty. It might be easy to execute that part of the right hon. Gentleman's plan which went to the extinction of tithe, but how was he to carry into effect that part of the plan which was intended to provide the clergy with a substitute of equal amount? Would it be equitable—would it be practicable—to call upon the landlords of Ireland, who might receive no benefit from the extinction of tithes, to indemnify the Church by giving up a portion of their land, or a portion of their rental, in the form of a land-tax? Could such a plan he executed it would prove more dangerous to the Church of Ireland than the present system. It would, as had justly been observed by the right hon. member for Harwich on a former evening, cause the passive resistance of the peasantry to be exchanged for the active hostility of the gentry of the country. He was fully aware that the House of Commons was not the most proper place for discussing abstract principles; yet, as the arrangements now under consideration were avowedly framed and based upon the principle that tithe was a deduction from rent, and as such paid by the landed proprietor, he trusted the House would permit him to state the reasons which induced him to believe that the doctrine propounded by the right hon. Secretary was erroneous. If, upon the extinction of tithes, the price of corn were not to fall, then, as leases expired, and new contracts were entered into, the landlords would obtain an increase of rent just equal to the amount which had been paid as tithe. But, after the extinction of tithes, the price of the produce of the soil would speedily decline, in consequence of increased supply. As soon as the tax upon industry was removed, it would become profitable to cultivate lands which could not before be beneficially tilled, and to apply additional capital to the lands already under the plough; and the power of thus increasing the supply would reduce the price of corn in the same proportion in which the abolition of tithes had reduced the cost of bringing it to market. Rent would not rise, and it would be only as a consumer that the landed proprietor, in common with the other consumers, would be benefitted. It was possible, indeed, that the landlord might obtain a remote and a contingent benefit. If population and demand continued to increase, prices might rise to their former level, and 1378 the cost of production being reduced to the extent of one-tenth of the whole produce, land yielding nine quarters of corn might be cultivated with the same advantage which was formerly obtained by the tillage of land yielding ten quarters. Should things arrive at this state, rents could be increased to the amount which had been paid for tithes. But it should be observed, that the arrival of such a state of things was only a possible contingency. If population and demand should not increase—if a permanent check were given to manufactures and trade—if emigration should be considerable—if the progress of knowledge rendered the people more prudent in contracting marriages—or if the restrictions on the importation of foreign corn were relaxed—then, on the occurrence of any one of these not very improbable events, the abolition of tithes would cause a permanent reduction in the price of corn, and would not be followed by any rise of rent. He would, therefore, again ask the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, whether it was equitable or practicable to exact from the landed proprietors of Ireland a provision for the Church equal in amount to the tithes now proposed to be extinguished? An equitable commutation of tithes might be effected, but on principles different from those of the Secretary for Ireland. When that right hon. Gentleman, however, had succeeded in effecting such a commutation, he would have performed a very slender portion of the task he had undertaken. The grievance of Ireland was not so much that tithes were paid, as that they were paid in a wrong direction; that they were paid by a Catholic people to a Protestant Church. Did the right hon. Secretary for Ireland see his way in that direction? Did he see how it was possible to conciliate Ireland, while he retained the standing grievance of her sinecure and alien Church Establishment? If he did, he saw his wav where men as able and distinguished had confessed that they had failed to distinguish theirs. When the question of the Union forced on Mr. Pitt the consideration of the Church Establishment of Ireland, he was obliged to admit the existence of a difficulty which he was unable to surmount. It was true that Dr. Paley did see his way upon the difficult question of a Church Establishment for a country circumstanced like Ireland; but then the way seen by the eminent divine and philosopher was 1379 diametrically opposite to the way seen by the right hon. Secretary. The doctrine laid clown by Dr. Paley, was, that the established religion of a country should he that which the majority of the people professed. Of what value was a measure of conciliation respecting tithes, when the main grievance remained untouched? Would the people of England allow themselves to be taxed in order to support a Catholic Church? Would the people of Scotland consent to pay tithes to an Episcopalian Church? Certainly not. Why, then, expect that Catholic Ireland should tamely submit to be taxed for the payment of a Protestant Church? The idea was preposterous. They must fairly meet the real difficulty of the case. They must come forward and do complete and equal justice to Ireland. These half measures—these timid and inadequate attempts to redress the wrongs of Ireland instead of conciliating, served but to increase irritation. Ireland ought not, must not, should not, be so governed. He was an imperialist. He believed that the Legislative Union between the two Islands was calculated to advance the prosperity of both. But if, on questions of local interest to Ireland, the Imperial Parliament refused to legislate on the same principles upon which a local Parliament fairly representing the people would legislate, then it would become the interest and the duty of Ireland to dissolve the Union. That country could not be held in political connexion with Great Britain except upon the principles of full and reciprocal justice. The measures proposed by the right hon. Secretary on the subject of Irish tithes were impracticable, partial, and incomplete; and, instead of allaying, must aggravate the dissatisfaction of the people. He should oppose such measures, and give his vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. James Grattan
must resist any measure which went to throw the burthen of tithes upon the landed proprietors of Ireland. A motion stood on the books respecting the repeal of the Corn Laws, and if it should chance that the Corn Laws were repealed, the rent which, if subject to this tithe, they, the landed owners, would be able to raise, would not be more than sufficient to cover it, and the taxes. The system of tithes had always been a forced one in Ireland, the people had been constantly at war with it; and they ought rather to be surprised at the 1380 tithe being so high there, instead of its being so low. With respect to this Bill, he objected to its being hurried forward, and supported the postponement of the second reading, in order that hon. Members might have an opportunity of consulting their constituents. It was only yesterday morning that this Bill was left with him. How was it possible that he could now be ready to agree to the second reading? He opposed this measure not in hostility to the Government, for he believed that the present state of Ireland was the result of the ill-judged measures of the late Administration, which had given that country the thirty years' discontent and organized resistance. The present Administration was endeavouring to legislate in the best way it could for Ireland. But this measure would only bring the Protestant, and the Protestant clergy into greater odium with the Irish people than ever. If anything more obnoxious to an Irishman's feelings than another could have been adopted, it was this proposal—to placard his name on the chapel-door as a defaulter, whilst its only effect must be to make him a greater enemy to the Protestant clergyman, and determine him more to resist than before. The measure would remedy no existing evils. Where was the landlord of Ireland, who would consent to place his tenantry in the situation of being at the same time proceeded against by the Crown for the tithes of 1831, and by the clergyman for those of 1829 and 1830? He was sure that the Tithe Committee had nearly closed its labours, and when it made its report, the course would be pretty clear. The right hon. Gentleman had had some hard work already, and deserved some rest; but in the course of a month he would probably be able to submit a plan of conciliation to the House, that might be passed along with this measure of coercion, which was not likely to produce any other effect in Ireland than riots and disorders. To give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of bringing in a measure that would more gratify the country than anything he had yet done, he concurred in the Amendment.
said, he was aware that in opposing this Bill with an undaunted steadfastness, the Irish Members had incurred the condemnation and displeasure of Government. They were accused of a serious offence—a want of parliamentary 1381 complaisance. But they owed it to their country and to themselves to resist a measure fraught with public detriment, and they preferred the approval of their constituents, seconded by that of their own conscience, to the applauses of the House and the smiles of the Administration. Their opposition would be unavailing in Parliament—not fruitless beyond its walls. The day of reform and of retribution was at hand. Heated and exulting majorities would pass away and be forgotten, while a permanent impression by the disclosure of truth would be made on the public mind. England, by every discussion on church abuses, would be prepared for their correction, and they were opening the way for a measure as important to the interests of the empire as the Reform of the House of Commons. The latter, he felt, must be the precursor of the other, and create the avenues for its advent. He should turn to the Bill. It was replete with incongruities and anomalies. The King was to collect the tithes of 1831, and the clergy the tithes of 1830 and 1829. Thus a hot bed of multifarious litigation would be created. Two suits might be instituted in two different courts, for tithes chargeable on the same premises. Then how were the tithes of 1832 to be collected? Under a system of which the plan lay in embryo in the conceptions of the minister. Wherefore not collect the arrears of 1831 under the same arrangement? Why not bring forward the entire measure at once, which would assert the right of the actual incumbents, and remove the grievances of the people? This Bill would be attended with no benefit except to the law officers of the Crown: to them it would be productive of a great variety of large emoluments. Cases for the opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor General, draft petitions, briefs on hearing interrogatories, and all the et cæteras of official perquisite, would be thrown up in great abundance by this exceedingly fertile Act of Parliament. Passing from details, look to the general principles on which the Bill was founded. It recited that the law must be vindicated. He denied that to enforce a bad law a worse ought to be enacted. But who was it constituted the judges whether a law was bad? He asked, who were the judges in the case of loans and of benevolences, in the case of ship money, in the case of the Massachusetts imposts, in the case of Catholic 1382 Emancipation, and, above all, in the case of Parliamentary Reform? When was an abuse ever corrected, or a grievance redressed, without the interpositions of the people? The right hon. Gentleman had said that Ireland needed a lesson.
I have already explained that sentence, which has been misrepresented, and it is unfair to charge me again with it.
The right hon. Gentleman was too precipate in supposing that he meant to make it matter of accusation; all that he intended to say was, that England stood fully as much in need of a lesson as Ireland, but if she were introduced into the academy of which the right hon. Gentleman was the head, he would probably find her a very indocile and refractory pupil. This Bill was un-sustained by evidence, it was unsupported by precedent, and was equally at variance with all principle, and all policy. Although the evidence was most partially collected—although seventeen Protestants were examined out of eighteen witnesses—although the evidence was taken from the vestry room and the barracks, and was either clerical or constabulary—still it established this important fact, that it would be impossible to levy the arrears. This Bill was against precedent. In the English statute no instance was found by which a subpœna and a civil bill were to be suspended by a proclamation and a placard, and by which all the forms and protections given to a defendant were to be entirely put aside. It was necessary to have a recourse to the Draco legislation of an Irish House of Commons, which passed such an act immediately after the rebellion, in the insolence with which victory trampled upon defeat, and a triumphant ascendancy set its foot on the neck of a degraded people. But even the Irish Legislature had refrained from making an assignment of the public to the Crown. The King was not to levy the arrears, nor was the splendour of the Crown to be tarnished by the dust of a court of Pie Poudre. This Bill was against all principle, for surely it was contrary to all justice to inflict immediate coercion, and to leave the relief of a heavy grievance to futurity, or rather to accident. Ireland, which was admitted to be overladen, was first to be lashed up to the Bill, and then the burthen was to be diminished. It was monstrous to precipitate infliction, and to 1383 procrastinate redress. This proceeding was opposed to all policy. It would fail, and nothing could be worse than its failure, except its success. Failure would produce derision, and success deep and inveterate resentment. But the truth was, (and it was right to speak it), that the Ministers must, in order to effect a real cure of the evils of the country, proceed at once to a more equitable appropriation of Church property, and immediately commence the business of Church Reform. Every thing else must needs be utterly useless and abortive, or if productive of any effect, would generate none but baneful results. The Irish Church could not—must not—stand as it is. Let Englishmen, who remonstrated against the boldness of such language, and the vehemence of such sentiments, and to whose sensitiveness such a start was given by the strenuousness with which Ireland clamoured for redress, look a little at themselves, and determine the conduct and the feelings of Irishmen by their own. They used a microscopic scrutiny in detecting the faults of Ireland—they saw every nice particle of offence, and perceived the mote in the eye of Ireland—but how did Englishmen comport themselves on the question of Parliamentary Reform. If an Irish Member exclaimed against the abuses of the Church—if he told them that Ireland would not submit to the application of one-tenth of the nation's wealth to one-tenth of the nation's numbers; that their penal statutes would be evaded, their Acts of Parliament enacted in despite of justice, set at naught, and their fetters, no matter how ponderous, would be brittle—they exclaimed, "seditious, turbulent, insurrectionary." But if an advocate for Reform in the Parliament, if a champion of change in the State, if an apostle of innovation in the House of Commons, denouncing those abuses which rested on the same basis of law as the abuses of the Irish Church, employed the language of far more minacious intimidation, and said that the question was not whether they ought not, but whether they must not pass Reform; and told them that the will of England was omnipotent, and that the Lords dare not resist the Bill, and that the sceptre ought to be put forth to appal the turbulent nobility of England into acquiescence—[cries of "hear,"]—yes; he understood those cheers; but who could deny that this language had been used; 1384 had not a Member, amidst the acclamations of the House, exclaimed, that "the best swords are made out of ploughshares?" and if it was thus that the cause of Reform was pleaded, where was the man who would deny to Ireland the right of asserting her title to redress in the same peremptory tone, and withhold from her that prerogative of complaint, in the use of which the English people were so fearlessly prodigal, and for which no Minister would be found to bring them to task? He for one, would call for the Reform of the Irish Church as loudly, as determinately, and as careless of reproof, as the fiercest champion of Parliamentary Reform; and he would cry out against churches without congregations, as boldly as they exclaimed against boroughs without constituents. Never, till redress was given to Ireland, in this her deepest and worst of grievances, and until an end was put to that system which offered an equal affront to reason, justice, and christianity—never, until that monstrous pile and accumulation of abuses was redressed, would he desist from calling on the Legislature for its thorough and radical Reform. The Irish Members might be encountered by great and vehement majorities, but they looked to their country, and they derived confidence from the contemplation. They were few, but by few many were represented—a small mirror could reflect a vast image: they were few; but not more few than were once the advocates of Reform; they were few, but they were disciplined by integrity, and directed by a singleness of purpose. They were the vanguard of a nation—there was a whole people behind them—they had millions at their back.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, he had been so much challenged to come forward on this occasion, that he felt he should be wanting in the duty he owed to himself, and to the office he had the honour to hold, if he did not accept the challenge. He did not, however, rise for the purpose of entering, with the hon. and learned member for Louth, into the contest of declamation, and exaggeration, into which he had allowed himself to be led—but he rose merely for the purpose of answering so much of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman as related to the subject before the House, and, he must be allowed to say, but a very small part of his and the hon. member for Wicklow's observations partook of that character; 1385 indeed, it had been the fortune of this debate, that almost every hon. Gentleman who had spoken since its commencement, had touched upon subjects having little or no connexion with the question before the House. The last observation of his hon. and learned friend he must beg leave to notice in the first place. He (Mr. Sheil) said, that he, and those Irish Members with whom he acted on this particular occasion, were the Representatives—the vanguard of the Irish people. He would not exaggerate anything, and he would "nothing extenuate," but he would state what he believed to be the truth on this occasion, and the truth he would not shrink from stating. He would tell, then, his hon. and learned friend, that he and the Gentleman to whom he alluded were not the Representatives of the Irish people; that was a character they did not deserve. He begged to tell them that they did not represent the sound and unbiassed opinions of the Irish people, but that they were the Representatives of the fevered imagination, of the worked-up factions and diseased opinions of a portion only of the people of Ireland. His hon. and learned friend arrogated to himself the notion that he, and those who acted with him sat in that House as the Representatives of the Irish people. He believed they acted with the best intentions, but were they doing justice to themselves and their country, by merely recommending themselves to an unsound portion of the people. His hon. and learned friend had complained that the provisions of the Bill had not been detailed by his right hon. friend the Secretary for Ireland. He believed his right hon. friend had exercised a sound discretion in introducing this Bill without any comment, because the Resolutions on which it was founded had been amply discussed d tiring a debate which had lasted six or seven nights. The Bill consisted of a few provisions which were all embodied in those Resolutions, which had already met with the sanction of the House, and which were introduced for the purpose of putting an end to the combination which existed against the payment of tithes to the clergy of the Church of Ireland. He did not hesitate to pronounce this combination illegal; it had reduced the clergy to very great distress; it was, therefore, expedient that funds should be raised by the Government to give them relief, and that these funds should be levied on, and paid, not by the 1386 country at large, but by the defaulters—by those who were in arms against the law of the land. These were the provisions and the principle of the Bill; as to the details, they would be a matter of future consideration. But his hon. friend said, that this Bill contained measures of coercion which were gratuitously oppressive to the people of Ireland. and yet, at the same time he affirmed there were no remedies vested in the Crown that could not already be exercised. How he could reconcile these two propositions he was at a loss to understand. If this was a measure of coercion in the Crown, was it not a measure of coercion in the clergyman? The real truth simply was; the arm of the law was strong, but that of the Church was weak; the Church could not enforce the law; but put the weapon in the hands of the Crown, and it would be wielded successfully. The objects of this Bill were to transfer from the clergy to the Crown the enforcement of the law, to compel the debtor to pay his just debt, to put down illegal combination, to vindicate the law, and to pacify and tranquillize the people of Ireland. His hon. and learned friend declared it would certainly fail to accomplish these objects. If there was any one thing in existence which could tend to produce the failure of this measure, it was the predictions of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and those who acted with him. These predictions had excited a fever in Ireland, and had lit up a flame in the minds of many of the people of that country. He was well assured this illegal combination was limited in extent, and that it did not prevail beyond the boundaries of the six counties; but in the language of one of the witnesses examined before the Committee on this subject, there were a number of persons standing by to wait the decision of the House. He would, to bear out this position, read a short passage from the evidence of one of the witnesses. In answer to a question put to him he said—'I am not aware of the existence of any case in which they have committed any overt act of violence in the resistance of the payment of tithes. I know of cases in which the tenants are afraid to pay, in consequence of the threats of those who oppose the payment of tithes.' This was not the evidence of the Church or the police, on which his hon. and learned friend had dilated with so much severity, but it was the 1387 evidence of Sir John Harvey, formerly a distinguished officer in his Majesty's service, who, having successfully fought the battles of his country, had now accepted the situation of Superintendent of Police. He had not, adverted to the evidence of a clergyman—although that would be as respectable testimony as could be adduced—but he had produced the evidence of a country gentleman—of a Magistrate residing in Kilkenny—and, above all, a Roman Catholic; and this gentleman said, in strong and emphatic terms, that numbers were prevented by intimidation from paying their tithes; that they were awaiting the issue of the decision of that House; and that, with the assistance of the Government, and with the arm of the Government extended in support of the clergy, those tithes would be paid. The hon. and learned member for Louth, and the hon. member for Wicklow, challenged him to produce a single witness in support of such measures as were contemplated by this Bill. He would produce such evidence, and show them that this Bill was not merely the measure of those who had now introduced it. The hon. and learned member for Louth said there was no precedent for this Bill; but he afterwards acknowledged that in the Irish Statutes there was a bad precedent of a bad year—namely, in the year 1799, immediately after the rebellion. These Resolutions had been taken from the Act of 1799; but the hon. and learned Gentleman objected to that Act, on account of its having been passed in that very year. But did not the hon. and learned Gentleman know that the Act of 1799 was not the first on the Statute Book? Did he not know that, in the year 1787, a Bill in almost the same terms was passed? And why? Because a combination against the payment of tithes existed, in seven counties of Ireland, to the same extent and in the same degree as now existed. But did not the hon. and learned Gentleman know that that combination extended to the payment of rent? and did he not also know that, by means of the Act of 1787, that combination was successfully put down? The hon. and learned Gentleman might then turn to the Statute Book, and find a similar Act of Parliament in a subsequent year—in the year 1788. He might call it a measure of coercion if he pleased, but it was successful; it twice pacified Ireland, 1388 and it was now resorted to again for the same purpose. He said, however, that the former Act differed very materially from that which was now proposed. It undoubtedly did so in one single instance. It transferred from the hands of the clergyman into those of the Crown, the power of enforcing, by means of the law, the payment of arrears of tithes. He would now turn again to the evidence of the witness whose name he had already mentioned, and he said, that the only mode by which tithe could be successfully collected, was taking the collection of it out of the hands of the clergy, and putting it into the hands of the Government. Now, in this case did his hon. and learned friend represent the opinions of the people of Ireland—particularly the Roman Catholic people? Certainly not. Against him he quoted the opinion of a respectable gentleman, of an uninfluenced and unprejudiced Roman Catholic, who said, that the only mode that could be successfully devised for the collection of tithes, and the pacification of the people, was putting that collection in the hands of the Government: so much for precedent. And he now requested to make a few remarks upon the principle of the measure, which was said to be outrage to the feelings of the people of Ireland. Was it an outrage of principle to call on the debtor to pay his creditor? The hon. and learned Gentleman appealed to justice. Was there justice in taking force and strength into one's own hands against the law, for the purpose of depriving the clergy of their rights and property, and disregarding the feelings and character of a body of men as much distinguished for learning, benevolence, and piety, as ever existed in any country in the world. The hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to sympathize deeply with what he called the people—but who more truly deserved the name of Terry Alts, midnight conspirators—who were armed in combination against the law of the land? There was no man in the slightest degree acquainted with law who must not be fully of opinion that those persons who combined against the payment of tithes were conspirators and criminals. These were the persons for whom the hon. and learned Gentleman expressed such sympathy, and on behalf of whom he exclaimed against what he called measures of coercion, though, at the same time, he had no sympathy what- 1389 ever for those who had lost their all, and been reduced to a state of the greatest distress by this conspiracy against the payment of tithes. On the part of those persons, he exclaimed. "What, will you allow two actions, one at the suit of the Crown, and the other at the suit of the parson? How monstrous this is; how oppressive is such a proceeding." But did not the same power exist now, if there were arrears? he knew it would be unjust on the part of the clergyman, if he were to bring an action for one year's tithe, and leave a subsequent year unsued for. Was there anything in the law, however, that prevented his doing, so? But what was the reason that the clergyman could not now sue for his tithes? Because of the expenses in which he would be necessarily involved: the expenses were so great, and the difficulties he would have to encounter were so numerous, that he was disabled from proceeding. But what was done by this Bill? Why, last year's tithe was transferred to the Crown; the Crown was enabled to call these tithes in without any expense whatever to the defendant. The clergyman was unable now to sue for any portion of his demand: he might be able, perhaps, to do so when he had received assistance from the Crown; but was there any Member in that House who would undertake to say that it was an actual injustice to entitle the clergyman to sue for the arrears of tithes justly due to him? There had been combinations against the payment of rent on exactly the same ground. Was there any man in that House who would say that if the Legislature were to make advances to relieve the landlords, it would be an act of injustice to enable the Crown to sue for the arrears of rent? The cases were precisely the same in this respect, although not in all. There was nothing in the objection that the Bill was founded in injustice. The clergyman was entitled to sue: the tithe was as much his property as the estate of any hon. Gentleman was his. His hon. friend said then, "how are the arrears of 1832 to be coltected?" Why, they were not dealing with these circumstances—these was a crying grievance existing—a mischief pregnant with danger—a combination that must be promptly put down, and he did not hesitate to say that, if the Government were to stand quietly by—and remain neutral on this occasion, they would 1390 be traitors to their country. They were hound to take the one side or the other—they must take part with the clergy to assert their legal rights, or with their opponents, in violation of the law. This combination was composed of men acting under a delusion. Instruments had been made use of to agitate and disturb their minds. Persons had industriously circulated the most unjust and unfounded rumours, such as that the Government were favourable to the combination. But when the Act had become the law, that delusion would be destroyed, and all those who had combined under that pretence would return to peace and quiet. This law would also liberate all those now under intimidation, who would then side with the Government and with the law; they would join with those who were attached to peace and good order, and combination and conspiracy would melt away,—Like snow before the summer's sun.To provide for the payment of tithes, and to obtain a sum sufficient to relieve the distressed and suffering clergy, was all that was required. But the hon. and learned Gentleman had stated, that this Bill would be productive of great emoluments to certain law officers, such as the Attorney General and Solicitor General for Ireland, the expense of which would fall on the unfortunate tithe-payer. This remark was not made with the usual caution of the hon. and learned Gentleman, for by a special enactment there were to be no costs of any kind or description as against the defendants and, therefore, they were not to pay the costs of fees to the Attorney and Solicitor General, who were to carry the provisions of this Bill into operation; but the clergy were to pay them. Nor was there any hardship in that case, for every clergyman who received relief under this Bill was a volunteer. He knew the terms on which the Government offered relief; and if he was unwilling that his tithe should be recovered at his expense, he was not called upon to derive any benefit under the Bill. His hon. and learned friend had made another observation, which he felt it necessary to touch upon: he had compared the case of tithes with that of Reform. He said, that the deference paid to public opinion on the subject of Reform, ought to have been also afforded to the opinions of the people on the subject of tithes. His hon. and learned 1391 friend had consulted his imagination much more than his judgment, when he made that observation. There was no analogy or similitude whatever between the two cases. Those who advocated the cause of Reform were advocating the cause of the Constitution. They were not the supporters of combination—they were not the supporters of breaches of the law—they were not the supporters of criminals, but they were the advocates of the cause of the Constitution, and the restoration of the rights of the country. But what was the cause of those who advocated the combination against the payment of tithes? It was the cause of those who advocated a system directly in contravention to the law, who took up the cause of criminals—of persons who, by the common and statute law, were subject to punishment by Courts of Justice for the combination into which they had entered. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman deny this fact in point of law? If he did, he was ready to prove it by the best authorities. He was surprised, and he might add amused, to hear his hon. and learned friend, the member for Drogheda, state that the combination against the payment of tithes was a legal combination. But, if it was so, a combination against the payment of rent, or an association for the purpose of smuggling would be legal also. With great deference for his opinion on points of law, would the hon. and learned Gentleman, the member for Louth, who seemed to acquiesce in the dictum of the hon. member for Drogheda allow him to say, that a combination for an illegal purpose even by legal means, was a conspiracy against the law. He would even go further, and tell him that if any number of persons combine to carry even a legal object into effect, they were conspirators, and as such were liable to be punished by the law of the land. That was the doctrine of the common law, but there was an Irish statute expressly on this subject, by which all persons entering into an agreement against the payment of tithes were conspirators—they were held to be so by the Statute of 29 George 2nd cap. 12. He need not allude to the Act more particularly, for he had no doubt his hon. and learned friend was well acquainted with it. He would only trespass upon the attention of the House for one moment longer to allude to an argument, which had struck him forcibly as made 1392 use of during the debate. An hon. and learned Member had denominated the resistance to the payment of tithes "a passive resistance" and other hon. Members had compared it with the conduct of Quakers, who were known to decline the payment of tithes upon conscientious scruples; but if that sect ever did combine, it was for the purpose of charity and benevolence: they declined to pay their tithes directly, but they scrupled not to allow the tithe-owner to pay himself; he wished their conduct was imitated in Ireland, he had never heard of the Quakers combining to murder a process-server, to shed blood, or to violate the law. Those who were guilty of such practices must be put down with the strong hand, if gentle means failed. He trusted this measure would put an end to the combination. It could not be called a measure of coercion, for it only compelled the debtor to pay his creditor, when he refused to do so by fair means. It was a measure of which justice and mercy formed the concomitant characters.
maintained that the opinions which had been advanced by the hon. and learned member for Lowth were not those of the mere rabble of Ireland, but of a very respectable portion of the inhabitants of that country. He had stated, that the people of Ireland were strenuously opposed to the present tithe system, and there could be no doubt that his remarks were perfectly correct. He (Mr. O'Ferrall) warned Ministers; if the Bill passed, its effect would be, to make them exceedingly unpopular in Ireland.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, the necessity of this measure was not sufficiently explained. There was no case analogous to it in the history of this country. He should, however, vote for the second reading, hoping to hear some further explanation in Committee. He doubted the wisdom of not instituting the suits for arrear of tithe in the name of the clergyman to whom it was due. The machinery of the Bill was very circuitous and cumbersome: it would occasion trouble and expense where they ought not to be, and would lead to Chancery suits. He hoped to see these points further explained in Committee. The responsibility of the measure, however, must rest with the Government.
proceeded: He should trouble the House but with a very few words. His task had, indeed, been lightened by the able speech of his hon. and learned friend, the Solicitor General for Ireland. Whatever objection had been made, as connected with the justice, or with the supposed operation and effect of this measure, or as connected with the real object Ministers had in view, his hon. and learned friend had given the most satisfactory explanation. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir C. Wetherell) did not, indeed, object so much to the Bill itself, as to certain supposed principles which it involved, that was to say, he approved of the object of the Bill, but entertained doubts as to the adaptation of it to the accomplishment of that object. He should accept the proffer of the assistance of the hon. and learned Gentleman with the greatest satisfaction. He wished the Bill to be in Committee; and if in its progress there, his (Sir Charles Wetherell's) knowledge and abilities should enable him to discover where Ministers had fallen short of their object, and if he would give them information how to effect that object, he (Mr. Stanley) should not only refrain from opposing his suggestions, but receive them with pleasure. At the same time he must say, with regard to the provisions of the Bill which relate to the recovery of the arrears of tithes, that they were taken almost verbatim from the Irish Acts of 1787, 1788, and 1799, which upon all those several occasions were found to be effectual, and, therefore, he could see no reason to suppose that they would not be effectual now. It was true that the present Bill differed from those Acts in one respect—in a clause involving a principle of very considerable importance—the name of the Crown was proposed to be substituted for the name of the clergyman: but on a former occasion, he had stated the ground on which it was thought proper that that change should be made; and that ground was, that it was considered more likely to conduce to that harmony which ought to exist between the pastor and his flock; because it was conceived that the Crown would be more likely to proceed with greater leniency, forbearance, and discretion, than might be expected in Some cases where the individuals were left to seek the redress of wrongs which they 1394 themselves had suffered. He was ready to admit, that it was an important question whether these suits should be carried on in the name of the Crown or not: and, although he did not think, in point of practice, it was very material, yet in point of principle he admitted it to be so. But the hon. and learned Gentleman said, that Ministers would not succeed, inasmuch as the resources of Government, and the powers which were at the disposal of the Crown, were not sufficient to carry the provisions of this Bill into execution; for if they were, why could not the clergy, who had an equal legal power with the Crown, enforce their own rights? The resources of the clergyman were insufficient, not because the law was not open to him as well as to the Government, but on account of the delay of litigation; and because the enormous expenses in which he was involved, made it impossible for him to submit to the process requisite to carry the law into effect. Indeed, the point of expense was, perhaps, the principal reason why the Crown had taken the matter into its own hands; and when the hon. and learned Gentleman talked of the expenses of the proceedings under this Bill, he would remind him, that one of the great objects of the present measure was, to remove all those previous litigious proceedings, which were the main source of the difficulty and expense, and the main impediment to the clergyman recovering his rights. The hon. member for Kildare had complained that the notice was not to be served personally, but was to be posted upon the door of the chapel. Every body knew that the serving of process had been the invariable cause of all the conflicts and feuds that had occurred upon this subject in Ireland. Government had in this case followed the precedent of 1786 and of 1799, by dispensing with personal service. If there was one place above another, where the notice could be posted with a probability, if not a certainty, that every individual concerned would have full knowledge of it, it was upon the door of the Roman Catholic chapel. But then the hon. Gentleman said on behalf of these Roman Catholic defaulters, that it was really a violation of delicacy; and that no man liked to see his name put up as a public defaulter! But was a person who deliberately signed his name to a resolution, made at an open meeting in his parish, that he did not mean to pay hid 1395 debts, though he was solvent, to complain that his feelings were outraged, because he was placarded as not having paid those very debts? To talk of violation of delicay, in such a case was requiring a little too much forbearance in favour of those Gentlemen who were now making a passive resistance to the legal demands that were against them. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Charles Wetherell) had referred to the expense that would be incurred by the proceedings in Chancery. There were but few steps to be taken prior to obtaining the decree; but the hon. and learned Gentleman said, it was easy to ascertain the amount of tithes payable in those parishes where the Composition Act had been adopted. It was so; but it was not so easily ascertained whether the party had actually paid them or not; and yet it was absolutely necessary to ascertain that fact, before any ulterior proceedings could be taken. When this had been done, then the party was to receive one month's notice before those subsequent proceedings were resorted to; and he was surprised to hear the hon. and learned member for Louth propose that the period of notice should be shortened. It was necessary that such a notice should be given to the parties, in order that they might know that the arm of the law was pending over them, and to warn them that Government would not be trifled with; at the same time it apprised them that Government was ready to receive a portion (according to circumstances) of their debts, and abstain, even at the eleventh hour, from enforcing the payment of the whole by legal proceedings. If the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Charles Wetherell) could suggest a readier, a more simple, or a less expensive course, both to the clergyman and to the defendant, than that which he had just described, it would give him (Mr. Stanley) great satisfaction to receive his objections; at the same time, he had a confident hope that in very few instances only would it be necessary to put this measure into force. Let but the law be rigidly applied against a solvent tenant, who did not choose to pay his tithe, although he was perfectly able to pay, but who set himself contumaciously in opposition to the law, if the law were once energetically made to bear against either the goods or the person of such a passive resistant, and his word for it, the neck of the obstinate and pertinacious 1396 resistance now displayed would very easily and shortly be broken; and having once subdued the solvent and more respectable class, their poorer neighbours who had been led astray by their example, would soon be brought within the whole some restraints of the law; and by a speedy application of the provisions of this Bill, a very beneficial and moral effect would be produced, and due subordination to authority would be restored and made secure. He did not think it necessary to enter further into the consideration of the principles of this Bill, as they were fully discussed when the Resolutions upon which they were founded had been introduced.
said, he agreed to the Bill so far as it transferred to the Crown the right of recovery, and of requiring payment from the defaulters. He wished to see the law vindicated, but at the least possible expense. He thought, however, that the details of the measure were pressed too far and too precipitately, and objected particularly to the petition to the Court of Chancery in the first instance. The defaulters ought, in his opinion, to be brought to the Courts nearest to them.
§ Mr. Wyse
said, that the hour of the morning, now nearly two o'clock, and the desire of many hon. Gentlemen who wished to express their opinions on this Bill, would have been quite sufficient of itself to justify him (Mr. Wyse) in persevering in his motion of adjournment; nor should he have consented to abstain from making it, except on the express understanding of an opportunity for further debate being fully afforded before going into Committee. They had now to consider the principle—in Committee they had to debate the details, and adverting to such details at this stage, except when they bore immediately upon the principle, though sanctioned by the desultory example of the right hon. Member opposite, he could not but consider as some what travelling beyond their brief. He wished, therefore, that a full opportunity should be preserved to such Members especially as had not yet spoken, to discuss this principle at a proper time. If this could be done before going into Committee, with that he should rest content—at the same time, he could not altogether, let pass, even at that hour, some of the assertions of the hon. the Solicitor General. He had expected from him, he must says something more calculated to 1397 remove or qualify his objections to the Bill than what he had heard that night. He had listened attentively to the whole train of his argument, and, giving him full credit for legal ingenuity he must candidly state that at the end of his speech, he left him precisely where he was when he set out. He had not advanced in his mind one step beyond what had been generally conceded—the real difficulty stood as immoveable and unchanged as ever. He still felt as strongly and obstinately averse to the measure as when it was first broached. It was not shown, granting the arrears ought to be recovered (almost an obvious consequence from the grant to the clergy)—it was not shown by a single argument that the mode proposed by this Bill was the shortest, surest and most satisfactory mode which could be devised to recover them. He still continued to think that the mode suggested the other night, from those benches, was in every particular far preferable. He begged pardon of the House for touching at all at this late hour, upon these topics. The hon. Solicitor General had forced them again upon their consideration. Granting that the notices were better served, that the clergyman was rescued from the passions of the excited people, and the people from the passions of the excited clergyman (he did not know that clergymen had passions, or could be excited); granted, all the increased new facility, which was so much spoken of in carrying into effect the preliminary proceedings, were they one jot advanced by all this to the main object of the whole—the recovery of the arrears? "Let us suppose," continued the hon. Member, that the decree is made, how are you to execute the decree? That, blink it as you may, is the simple and entire question—how are you to execute the decree? There is abundance of illustration—abundance of proof, how easy it is to get over all the other difficulties; but how are you to get over this, the main difficulty, the greatest of all, the real, the only difficulty—not one single word. Nor is this at all extraordinary. What can be said? What can the Solicitor General, or the Attorney General say? What can they offer beyond what has been already tried? They can not ask for more than imprisonment of person or sale of goods, by way of penalty, nor for more than army and constabulary, by way of a public force, to carry these penalties into 1398 execution. These instruments have been tried, and these instruments, it is universally admitted, have failed; there is no reason to think they will cut sharper or surer by being transferred to other hands. If Mr. Hamilton or Sir J. Harvey be on one side, Mr. Langrishe is on the other. He knows the present system is totally ineffectual, and he says directly, in answer to a question "whether he could suggest any alteration in the law that would enable the clergy or the government to recover the existing arrears?" "No."—We, indeed, on this side of the House, did not go quite so far: but we asserted, and do still assert, that, if the clergy or Government wish to recover these arrears, they must go about it in quite a different way from what they now do. A good remedial measure brought in first would do more for such an end than decree, army, constabulary, Exchequer, Chancery suits, sales, and imprisonments, to boot. The Irish people have made larger sacrifices, larger returns than this on former occasions, for the concessions and graces of a just and liberal Legislature; and that man must know them little who does not know they will do this if necessary, again. The hon. Solicitor General says, however, they ought to be quite contented with this measure, for it is founded on the good precedents of 1787 and 1799. But what care the great mass of the people of Ireland for precedents? If they care for them at all, it is only to execrate them. I, too, reject them. The precedents of Irish legislation have left on their minds far other impressions than what they leave on the mind of a lawyer. They recollect them, for the greater part, by circumstances only of untiring oppression, undiminished wretchedness and wrong. But, says the hon. Member, those very bills worked wonders in those days—they smote the evil at once to the earth—they scattered the combination at the very first touch—this will do as much again. But has the hon. Gentleman read history? Does he believe in history? Are his eyes open to the present as well as to the past? Does he not know there is little or no resemblance between them? The year 1787, indeed I and is the Ireland of 1787 to be compared with the Ireland of 1832? Does he not know that Catholic Emancipation has passed? Past, did I say—does he not know that Catholic Emancipation had been delayed? The wonders, the total 1399 alteration, produced by that alarm are yet but half known: this House perceives them by intervals and glimpses—the time is yet to come for full developement. Every partial exhibition of change is here regarded as the effect of some single individual, or some paltry local cause. I can assure the House they arise from a far broader and deeper source; from the moral change which has taken place in the people of Ireland, from the highest to the lowest—a change brought about by yourselves, by the education you sent amongst them, and the wrongs you allowed to endure—by the opposition which taught them union and the delay which forced them to activity and perseverance, almost against their will. This House, and this Legislature, have been the great agitator of Ireland. This House it is, which has disciplined, organized, and excited the people of that country to what they now are. You have reprobated the association, but you have effectually established associations in every village in the land. You may call them combinators and conspirators? I do not know what combination or conspiracy is, in a legal sense, but if it depend on forms, on oaths, on words, these conspirators can do without them all. They are held together by the invisible, but not less invincible, chain of a common sentiment growing out of a common wrong. The Irish of 1787 were mere tumultuary slaves, bursting out into rude Agrarian insurrections from their bondage, easily excited, and easily put down; but not so the Irish of 1832. They have learnt the value of continued and unanimous constitutional exertions, of moral force, exerted firmly and perseveringly for a great end. Such a conspiracy as this is not to be rooted out by anything less than good and just law; but law, to be truly good, must be law in time. The noble Lord (Althorp) has said, that the association was suppressed before the emancipation was granted. But measures went hand in hand—the one, as has been already proved, would have been utterly impossible without the other. In that way only can you henceforth legislate for Ireland. It becomes a truly wise Government thus to go before the demands of the people, to understand, and, if possible, to anticipate, their wants; its moral force will thus be doubled; it will thus be enabled to marshal events, "in the way they should go;" and it will thus be able to 1400 conduct the people, unimpeded, to their own good. The Government may do this if so it will; but if it will not do it, as surely as we deliberate here this night upon evils unredressed too long, so sure will such a Government be obliged, in a season not of its own choice, in a manner, perhaps the most opposed to its will, to follow after that very people whom it first rejected, to adopt those very measures which it once most scoffed at—to follow and to adopt unthanked and unrequired—dragged, as other Governments before have been at the chariot wheels of a sudden and unrelenting necessity. I shall not trespass on the House longer, but withdraw, on the understanding already mentioned, my Motion for adjournment.
§ Mr. Leader
when a measure was introduced to combine the powers and the revenue of the Crown and the Church for the purpose of coercing the people should consider himself as destitute of a just regard to those interests which he was sent to represent, if he did not promptly and explicitly declare, that he never could be induced to give his assent to any new or extraordinary powers reducing the King's subjects in Ireland to King's debtors, and placing their persons and properties at the disposal of the Attorney General for enforcing the arrears of tithes for 1831, unless this coercive measure was accompanied, as he undoubtedly understood to have been promised, by a remedial measure for their total abolition. He asked, when new legislative and penal powers were looked for by the Irish clergy, what did the House propose doing for the neglected, overlooked, and pauperised agriculturists of Ireland? Was there no faith broken with the tithe-payers of Ireland? If there was great sympathy for the suffering of a few of the clergy, was all sense of justice extinguished as regarded the Irish tithe-payer? He contended warmly, that for thirty years since the Union, the tithe-payer had been duped and deluded by the most specious, and, at the same time, the most hollow promises; he relied on it that the prospect of the settlement of the tithe question was part of the advantage held out by Mr. Pitt when he proposed the measure of the Union between great Britain and Ireland. It was idle, nay, unjust, to bring forward whining complaints of the sufferings of the Church, and to see a reforming Member 1401 postponing the consideration of the sufferings of the people. When he heard taunts and calumnies on the people of Ireland, were they to indulge in no animadversions on those who, by violated promises and and cold apathy, and long-disdainful neglect, had shaken, if not destroyed, the confidence of the people in their rulers, and had in truth left them nothing to rely on but themselves. He, for one, set little importance on the evidence of the Magistracy as to the resistance to the payment of tithe—and of the clergy as to their distresses. In the first place, it was impossible the distress could be great when a very rich Church was sought to be relieved by so small a sum as 60,000l. In the next place, if a few of the clergy had been disappointed in the payment of one year's tithe, how numerous were the classes of society who were occasionally exposed to greater vicissitudes and distress? These, and other subjects which had been relied on with much affectation of their being of paramount importance, were as nothing when compared with the great and important fact that false hopes were held out at the Union to the agriculturists in Ireland—that they were deluded by the specious promise that the tithe system, which Mr. Pitt admitted in Ireland to be a great practical evil, should be redressed. Administration after Administration had rolled on, every one admitting the importance of the measure, but without one of them, from that time to the present, coming forward to redeem the pledge. Instead of reading the words of Mr. Pitt, which would be found at length in Hansard's Debates, he would, at that late hour, merely state the substance of his declaration on pressing the measure of the Union. He (Mr. Pitt) avowed that something was necessary, and should be done, to relieve the Irish agriculturists from the pressure of tithes, which were a great practical evil, and likewise avowed the necessity of an effectual provision for the Catholic clergy, without breaking on the security of the Protestant Church. It would be found in Hansard, that, on these grounds Mr. Pitt proposed the Union, 1402 as those measures when conceded would provide an effectual remedy for the distraction which unhappily prevailed in Ireland; while otherwise those causes which had endangered would still endanger its security. And on those grounds, if none other existed, he said, he should feel it his duty to submit the measure of Union. This was the promise—this the pledge of the Minister who effected the Union. Would any Gentleman rise in his place and say, that all commiseration was for a clergy? Was the payment when tithe had been delayed for one year, to be enforced, and was no allowance to be made for the people who had been looking for thirty years to the performance of a sacred promise given for the best consideration—the union of the two countries. He had no difficulty in declaring, that the Bill never would answer the sanguine expectations which were so vauntingly and triumphantly entertained of its importance and the certainty of its success.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he had been appealed to during the debate, on the ground that he had promised not to call for this measure of coercion without accompanying it with a measure of relief. He admitted that he had stated, that such was his intention; and he should have produced a measure of relief at the same time that this Bill was introduced, but that such a measure was one of a more complicated nature than a measure of the sort now before the House, and, therefore required greater time to prepare it.
§ The House divided on the Amendment: Ayes 21; Noes 119—Majority 98.
§ Bill read a second time.
|List of the AYES.|
|Bainbridge, T.||Macnamara, W.|
|Bourke, Sir John||Mullins, H.|
|Callaghan, D.||O'Connell, M.|
|Chapman, M.||Power, R.|
|Duncombe, T. S.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Evans, Colonel||Shiel, R. L.|
|French, A.||Torrens, Colonel|
|Grattan, J.||Walker, C. A.|
|Hume, J.||Wyse, T.|
|King, Hon. R.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Leader, N. P.|
§ END OF VOL. XI.—THIRD SERIES