moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Irish Tithes Composition Bill, and that the Speaker then leave the Chair.
§ Mr. Ruthven
said, that, at this late period of the Session, and in the state of attendance which the House exhibited, he did not think it was very unreasonable to call upon the right hon. Secretary for Ireland to pause, and to discontinue, at the present moment, the pressure upon the House of carrying through a Bill which was considered in Ireland as peculiarly offensive and oppressive. He did not expect that any argument was likely to have much effect in altering the course of Ministers upon this occasion. They did not know the people for whom they desired to legislate, and they had adopted views ill suited to the exigencies and difficulties of the circumstances connected with the management and better government of Ireland. The situation of the House yesterday, it not then containing forty 997 Members, precluded the possibility of forwarding this Tithe Bill. The numbers of this day gave no encouragement to do so, unless there was the fixed, irrevocable disposition to enforce, by all the weight and authority of Government, the enactment of a law at total variance with the feelings and interests of the people of Ireland. Their interests were, indeed, deeply concerned, for the security of society, the maintenance of all its relationships, and the tranquillity of the country, were involved in a question not less important than any which had yet been the cause of agitation in it. His hon. friend, the member for Clare (Major Macnamara), had, yesterday, with that firmness and independence which had ever distinguished him, withstood the progress of this miserable Bill. It would be well for Ministers to take advantage of that circumstance, and retrace their steps. Their denunciation of Ireland, and their manifestation of the desire to rule over that country with the iron hand of a despotic sway, were exciting general discontent. Was it becoming—was it consistent with principles of sound policy, and with the cool judgment of reflecting Statesmen—to hurry, in this precipitate manner, with all the impatience of an unseemly irritation, the completion of a law so erroneously described as tending towards the better regulation of the tithe system, and the restoring tranquillity to Ireland? The evidence which had been given upon this subject afforded no foundation for the proposed measure, although no means were left untried to produce such evidence as might have the colourable appearance of propping it up—yet, in this respect, there had been an entire failure; the great error in endeavouring to legislate without reference to the real condition of a country—a spirit of conciliation, combined with firmness, would effect more than the parchment regulations of law, in opposition to the general public mind. If Ireland was happily governed by those estimable qualities of conciliation and firmness which have marked the distinguished career of the hon. person presiding over this House, it would be blessed and happy indeed, and it would be well for Ministers themselves, if they made a just and proper application of the generous, the kind, and conciliating sentiments which had been so recently delivered in that House, and received with so much general satisfaction— 998 if they did not feel such sentiments, let them at least follow such an example, and they would meet their reward in a support from those who would receive the kindness, and repay it with gratitude. This was worthy of their consideration; for although Gentlemen in that House, or in the country might consider the state of Ireland with perfect indifference, and though its difficulties and miseries might not in any respect interfere with their happier hours, and enjoyments of the charms and engagements of life—yet, for those who had the destinies of their country under their control, it was a sacred duty, and it became not them to trifle with even those portions of their fellow-subjects whom they might not view with very partial eyes. Ireland certainly must feel the leading star, the charm of hope—fading, rather than flourishing, with all its flattering seduction. Nor should it be overlooked, that if they pursued an unrelenting pressure upon that country, and withheld the sweet delusive words of hope, it would be impossible to govern it, while a very moderate expression of intention to place the future arrangement of tithe upon a fair and equitable basis, would accomplish what acts of severity and persecution would utterly fail in. Arrears of tithes would then be paid, and the present incumbents would have the prospect of living in peace and harmony among their neighbours and parishioners of all denominations. But this Bill and its application—its severe and threatened persecutions—forbad the exercise of all those reciprocal interchanges of kind sentiments which should be taught and practised by the ministers of religion. His Majesty's Government could not desire to oppress and misgovern Ireland; but it was misled and deceived, and gave a false importance to things really insignificant Was not this exemplified in the case of Colonel Butler, who had been recently dismissed from the situation of Deputy-lieutenant in the county of Kilkenny? This highly respectable gentleman had attended at a meeting, for the purpose of petitioning Parliament for the abolition of tithes—the extinction of which had been promised by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland—and for this Mr. Butler was indecently and offensively insulted—not injured, he would say, because the petty, paltry attempt to affront recoiled upon itself, while that gentleman would only acquire a new, as 999 well as a renovated claim upon his countrymen, for all that approbation which unqualified integrity of purpose and of conduct demands, and justly merits. Let Irishmen be true to themselves, and the impotent shafts of angry venom would fall inert upon the ground. Colonel Butler did not stand disgraced—his character was not assailed—while contempt naturally arose at the silly puerile attack upon him. If Deputy-lieutenants were to be placed in the situation of creatures to be disposed of in this manner, contemptible and dispicable truly must their post and nominal rank become. Public offices, particularly unpaid ones, should not be thus degraded, and ultimately confined to those of whom servility of mind and character was the sole recommendation. The office of a Magistrate was only respected when exercised by those men whose acceptance of it and discharge of its duty were a sacrifice of much private comfort and convenience for the advantage of their own neighbourhood; and it was neither respected, nor respectable in the case of too many Irish Magistrates, who had been in the Commission of the Peace, disgracing the country, and annoying the people by the abuse of authority, and by playing the part of low petty tyrants. But Ireland must undergo a great alteration—the Government must reform itself, or the people would be driven back to a reliance upon their own means, and a Repeal of the Union would be sought for by every man possessed of honest Irish feeling. There was a great and growing change in this respect; he felt it in common with his countrymen, and he feared, without a domestic legislature and an Irish Parliament, little expectation could be entertained of improving the condition of Ireland, and of giving a due attention to its local concerns and important interests. There was no other corrective for growing absenteeism—a perpetual wasting of the strength, and an inefficient application of the capabilities of that country. An Irish domestic legislature might better preserve the Union between England and Ireland, than the continuation of a hurried, unmeaning, impatient attention given to Ireland in a Parliament occupied by matters of so much greater concern than the comparatively inferior concerns of Ireland. There was a jealousy—a sort of offensive suspicion of Ireland in too many instances in this country, He did not complain of it. 1000 It was natural, and it existed. He had regretted to hear expressions used in that House, accompanied by threats of the power of England, and the reference to civil war. That was not the way to treat Ireland, and it rather tended to incite the indignation than to subdue any irritated feelings that might exist. He had ever recollected this circumstance with deep regret, and what was to be the case now? Why, they were threatened with a tithe war—a combination, indeed, not an illegal one, however, in the language of lawyers, but in the language of common sense, an ill-omened combination of legal, ecclesiastical, and military ingredients. The law, to be sure, had all its accustomed machinery and expense ready to pounce upon the people. There never had been times when a Government, desirous of prosecutions, failed in procuring legal countenance, and that kind of protection it sought for in the opinion of law officers, sanctioning the cases laid before them with due official importance, though often in opposition to all the dictates of common sense and knowledge, and having no other foundation than the absurd speculation of shallow politicians. The page of history, even in the days antecedent to the Commonwealth, proved that. Then the ecclesiastical corps was to be formed—a new corporation, a truly church militant—the ministers of the Gospel forming its staff, with a long list of every tribe that could be enlisted in the service—proctors, constables of all descriptions, informers, and all that kind of gentry which circumstances concurred in allowing the wickedness and infirmities of human nature to avail themselves of. The Bishops might become generals, at least a great proportion of their numbers, as twenty-two episcopal dignitaries could not have much to do with the spiritual affairs of the Church, when their estates were placed under the future superintendence of an improved arrangement. Yet, all this would not do without the last resource—the soldier's bayonet. In that the whole strength of the corporation would consist, leading only to a precarious peace, and probably producing consequences deeply to be deplored. He conjured them not to drive on to the last extremity, a people, from whose persecution no pleasing results could by possibility accrue. He feared the day of bitter regret might arrive too late. He did not impute bad motives to any persons who, 1001 under any circumstances, might be intrusted with the Government of this country; for he did not think such persons could be found wicked enough to wish to see Ireland bathed in blood, and the British bayonet plunged into the Irish breast. It was for a Ministry, however, to interpose with mild and pacific counsels between parties in a country over which they ruled; they should not seek to govern by the division of a people, nor should they attempt to delude the people, and deceive themselves by resorting to measures of ephemeral consequence, calculated only for the moment of irritation, and for existing divisions. The right hon. Secretary's Party-processions Bill was a mere tub thrown to the whale, a puny effort to conciliate Catholics by affronting Orangemen, while there was no more real value or efficacy in the measure, than in the attempt to tamper with and please yeomanry, Orangemen and Protestants, by trifling insignificant compliments, of paltry value from the mode of their being conferred. Such a manner of administering the affairs of the country marked a vacillation of purpose, a clinging to the old mode and practice of putting off the evil day, and governing by the weakness of a people, whose unhappy divisions reduced all to one common, civil, and general degradation. All orders of society were deeply interested in the application of the present measure—he knew not the good that was to be hoped for—the misery was obvious, even to the poorest peasants. They were too often forgotten, and their interests not thought of on the present occasion—their privations, their sufferings, their frequently famishing state, and hunger, imperatively called for relief—and this very measure would tend greatly to impede that relief. Hunger—yes, the Irishman often suffered, and in silent quiet submission, that hunger which Englishmen would not bear; which to them would be actually intolerable while the festive boards of their superiors, the higher orders, groaned under the load of the choicest viands and a possession of all the luxuries of the table; but the wretched poor man in Ireland, unprotected and unaided by the law in extending towards him the slightest assistance from the property and wealth of the country, resigned himself to his fate, and submitted to the hopelessness of his situation. Yet poor laws must one day or other be resorted to, and the corn laws themselves 1002 were likely to be the objects of new regulations. It appeared to him, looking at the course which Ministers were pursuing, and the nature of the Bills which they had introduced, that Ministers wished to establish in Ireland a real church militant—not a church, the pastors of which would preach and teach peace and good will, but who would act as task masters to goad and oppress the people. The people had peaceably assembled at large meetings, for the purpose of declaring their wrongs; but now it appeared that such meetings were to be denounced as illegal, and the people were to be dispersed and insulted. It was, he repeated, insulting to prevent men, who were smarting under a sense of oppression and injustice, from assembling to speak their minds. The object of Ministers ought to be to conciliate the people; but if they followed up such measures as these, there was not a man in that country, who possessed the honest feelings of an Irishman, that would not call aloud for a Repeal of the Union. There never yet had been given a proper explanation of what Ministers meant when they spoke of the "extinction" of tithes. It was a mere delusion on the people. When they were told that there was to be an "extinction" of tithes, they took the phrase in its obvious meaning, and had no right to expect such a measure as this. He believed that the word was used unadvisedly, and without consideration. The Bill, having for its object the payment of the arrears of tithe, would require other measures to accompany it, before it could be carried into effect; and the consequence would be, a greater separation than ever between the clergy and the people. Ministers could not carry such a measure as that before the House, except they proceeded with an indecent degree of hurry and expedition. A bill thus forced on, would he more like an ordinance of Charles 10th, than a deliberate Act of the British Parliament. When the question of Reform was set on foot, the people of Ireland were actually called on by the friends of Ministers to meet in large numbers, to express their opinions on that subject. No notice was taken of any violent language that was then used. And now, instead of befriending the people of Ireland, Ministers made a crusade against them, with a series of laws of a most oppressive character. It was unfair to Ireland to proceed with this 1003 Bill at so late a period of the Session. There were 600 Members absent, and instead of going on with the measure when the benches were nearly empty, it would have been more proper to direct a call of the House. This question involved the whole state of Ireland, and the reciprocal feeling of amity which ought to subsist between the two countries. It was far more important to Ireland than the Reform Bill, because it was intimately connected with the security of property and the internal peace of that country. He protested against proceeding with the Bill in the then state of the House, and recommended the House to proceed to the other Orders of the Day.
§ The Speaker put the question, and the House resolved itself into Committee.
§ The Preamble to be postponed.
§ On the first Clause being read.
said, he had endeavoured, at a former stage of the Bill, to show that this Bill was anything but what the people of Ireland had been taught to expect, that it was unjust in its principle, and would be productive of consequences the most mischievous, instead of tending to restore content or tranquillity in Ireland. It was his intention, with a view of showing what the Bill ought to have for its object, to introduce as an amendment that passage of the first Report of the Commons' Committee, in which they expressly declared that "an extensive change in the present system of providing for the ministers of the Established Church in Ireland ought to take place and that such change, in order to be satisfactory and secure, should involve a complete extinction of tithes, both lay and ecclesiastical, by commuting them for a charge on land, or a permanent investment in land. If the Ministers really wished in this Bill to adopt the opinion of their own Select Committee, and give substantial relief according to its advice, there could be no imaginable objection to adopting such an amendment as stating the scope and object of the Bill. He certainly, however, had no hope that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland would adopt the amendment, for, as the Bill stood, it was quite inconsistent with it.
said, that the preamble having been already postponed, the insertion of such an Amendment was inadmissible, for to introduce it into the enacting clause would render it absurd and unintelligible, and he did not think it was ne- 1004 cessary for him to state then the other grounds on which he would oppose the introduction of the words.
§ On the Chairman also observing that the preamble having been postponed, the amendment could not for the present be proposed with reference to that,
said, that he would, therefore, for the present, withdraw this Amendment, and would propose one to be inserted in lieu of the first enacting clause of the Bill, which goes to enact that all future compositions to be had under the tithe Composition Act now in force, and which are enumerated in the preamble of the Bill, should be calculated on the average of the seven years preceding the 1st November, 1830. The object of this Amendment would have reference to a mode by which, instead of unjustly throwing the burthen of tithes from the occupiers of the land, who, oppressive as it might be to them, were the only persons who, by the principles and enactments of every tithe law, were liable to tithe—upon the landlords, who were never yet beld to be chargeable with tithe in any form. It was to show that in lieu of tithes, which ought to be extinguished, absolutely and totally, the provision for the Church should be sought for in a fund provided either by a tax on property generally or by a tax on land calculated, not upon any tithe calculation or tithe principle, but on the abstract value of the land. If it were to be a tax on the land, then that the burthen should be placed not on one class of landlords only, but on all who had any interest in the land, from the owner of the fee down to the occupying tenant. The hon. Member concluded by proposing his Amendment, which was in substance, "that from and after the passing of this Act, all the Tithe Composition Acts enumerated in the preamble should be repealed—and that, with a view to a commutation, commissioners to be appointed under that Act should make a valuation of the whole of the land of Ireland, fo the purpose of forming a sufficient fund for the support of the ministers of the Established Church, and to make compensation to the lay impropriators of tithes in Ireland."
§ Mr. Leader
was bound to support every amendment calculated to insure the tithe composition being fairly laid on, and the parishes assessed according to their fair value. This composition was intended to be fixed, 1005 permanent, and compulsory; and every Member connected with Ireland was bound to take care that the system of valuation was the best, and that every arrangement was suited to meet the searching eye of the most scrutinizing observer: the changing a voluntary agreement for a temporary composition into a permanent one, without the consent of parties, and the compelling parishes, which never before compounded, to enter into composition, were certainly severe measures; but if the House was determined on adopting them, there ought at least to be no objection to the mode of valuation, or to the persons selected for the purpose of ascertaining the amount. He regretted that every effort on the part of the Irish Representatives to improve the present Bill was met with the insinuation, that it was intended to destroy the present provision of the Church, without compensation, or an adequate substitute. It neither was, nor could be denied, that the Bill would have the effect of placing the incumbents of the Protestant Church as mortgagees in possession, with extraordinary powers against persons not heretofore liable, and with powers over the land, and occupiers of the soil, which were never before authorized or allowed; and there appeared no consideration for subjecting the landlords next to the occupier to those new penalties, but the miserable premium of fifteen per cent on the collection. The Representatives for Ireland had declared that tithe was a great grievance, and that its abolition would be a blessing; indeed, the greatest that could be conferred on their country: and in proposing the land and property of the country as security for an equivalent in lieu of tithe, they evinced no disposition to benefit themselves at the expense of the Church. In place of tithe composition, the Land-tax which was proposed did not violate a single principle of just taxation. It was not oppressive to the contributor, nor uncomfortable to the receiver—it was a tax which could not degrade, and could not paralyze, the exertions of the profession it was intended to uphold. If the composition were now to be fixed permanently, and to be made compulsory in parishes which had not yet agreed, would the public be ever satisfied that the arrangement of that complicated transaction should be left to one Commissioner to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, with- 1006 out an appeal to any tribunal but to the Privy Council, of which the Lord Lieutenant was the President, and some of the members of which had a deep interest in Church property. The assessment, probably, of 700,000l. per annum for ever, on 2,400 parishes, was a measure of a most important nature, and requiring a greater degree of skill, experience, and judgment, than was likely to be possessed by any individual. He objected, therefore, to the foundation of the composition—namely, the sums paid, or agreed to be paid, for the seven successive years preceding 1831. He objected to the valuation being made by a single Commissioner appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and to the appeal to the Privy Council. As to the liability of the landlords next to the occupier, he was satisfied that if the rector or incumbent did not come in connexion by his proctor, he would, eventually, by his Chancery receiver; and tithes and rent would be frequently lost by the combination, and that the amount of the law-costs of the incumbent would often exceed the tithe; and that, although the clergyman might not gain, the landlord might be involved in the deepest and most severe distress. As for the Members of Ireland, when they saw the measure forced on their country by a majority of English Members, it was not for them to expect that their suggestions would receive the smallest consideration; and they could only express their disapprobation by divisions on those clauses of the Bill, which were calculated to arouse the indignation and resentment even of those who were favourable to a just settlement of the rights of the Church, and devotedly attached to the best interests of their country.
§ Mr. Wyse
concurred in the Amendment, and in the grounds stated in support of it. If the House should adopt a Bill so teeming with errors as that under consideration, it would pursue a most fatal course. It was most desirable that, when they were about to collect a fund, such as every civilized state ought to provide for the religious and moral education of the people, they should proceed upon sure grounds. It was not with a view to curtail the amount of this fund that he supported the Amendment of the hon. Member; but because the Bill, as it stood threw the burthen on persons who ought not to bear it, and also because it did not fairly apportion that burthen. By an exa- 1007 mination of the tithe composition returns, and by inquiries of a personal nature, he had ascertained that there was the utmost inequality in the collection of tithes. In parishes where neither party had proceeded with a desire to overreach the other, and where both had acted with a desire to come to a fair and just arrangement, his observations would not apply, but in many parishes they would. On the occasion of election difficulties, landlords had been in the habit of taking a promissory note from their tenants, for no other purpose than that of holding it over them as a rod. The Church had acted in a similar manner. In places where the tithes had been placed at a high value, the clergyman had said, "I will not exact from you the immediate payment of my demand, but will take your promissory note for it." That had been given; and afterwards, when offended, he had brought these promissory notes into the Court, and enforced them against the tithe-payer. If, therefore, instead of taking for their criterion what had been paid, or what the value of the land would admit of being paid, the House were to take what was payable, it would have to take these very promissory notes, granted under peculiar circumstances, and which were often for sums double and treble the value of the tithes. This was not to be a temporary measure, which might be altered in the next Session, but an arrangement to last for ever. This had made it the duty of the Irish Members to press upon the House the fact that the basis proposed by the Bill was fallacious. It had been said that Ireland had been fortunate in never having had to pay the full amount of tithe; but no country of Europe had ever paid a full tenth. In the most palmy and flourishing times of Papal ascendancy, it never was paid, and never even claimed. It might be said that an equal Land-tax would work injustice to individuals possessing property tithe-free. Undoubtedly there were portions of the country tithe-free, owing to the tithes having, by donation in early times, been bestowed upon the landlords, and, undoubtedly, this was as much a right of property as impropriations, and ought to be placed upon the same footing. He was sure that his hon. friend did not intend to impose a Land-tax upon such portions of the country as were tithe-free, without compensation. The Land-tax might be levied upon tithe-free land as 1008 well as upon any other, paying the landlord the value of his exemption from tithes. No doubt the making a valuation of the lands, if carried on like the Ordnance survey, would occupy a long time; but it might be rapidly made, if a sufficient number of persons were employed in each county, or they might employ the machinery which was employed in collecting the property tax in this country. Some advantages would accrue from this plan to the Protestant clergy. This Bill would still leave the clergyman in collision with the people. In Ireland, there were leases which ran for sixty or seventy years, so that one part of the Bill would not come into operation for a very long period. Till the end of that period, the clergyman must still have recourse to the tenant, and not to the landlord; and all must allow that there would not be greater ease in levying distresses upon tenants, at any future period, than now. The same collisions would take place. The way to avoid those collisions was, to exempt the clergyman from the necessity of having recourse to the tithe-proctor, and let him be paid by the Treasury. He would then have a certainty; there would be no arrears; none of the numberless disasters to which he, personally, must be subject, if he, being of a different religion from those who pay the tithes, have to collect them himself. Why was it that Ireland alone, of all the countries of Europe, adhered to this old, obsolete, disgraceful, and injurious system of taxation? There was scarcely a country in Europe which had not been obliged to commute tithes; and one of the most recent instances of a forced commutation had occurred in South America. The tithes were not paid, and the Government was called upon to change the mode in which the clergy were remunerated. It accordingly abolished tithes, and imposed a general Land-tax, to be paid into the hands of a Board of lay Commissioners, who afterwards distributed it according to a regular scale, by which a certain portion went to the dignitaries, and a certain other portion to the parochial clergy. No doubt some of the dignitaries had lost by this arrangement; the Archbishop of Caracas had had his income reduced from 70,000 to 5,000 crowns; but the condition of the poor clergy had been improved. He would suggest, that the present incumbents in Ireland should be paid the amount of their claims in full during their lives; 1009 but that, on their decease, if there was no Protestant in their parish, let no priests be appointed in their stead. Such a diminution of the Church Establishment would surely meet with the assent of every reasonable Protestant. As incumbents died off, the fund would have a surplus which might be applied to other portions of the Ecclesiastical Establishment, to education, or some other purposes of the Protestant community. It ought not to go into the coffers of the State, and least of all into the pockets of the landlords. As a landlord of Ireland, he had never contemplated any increase of his income, any base advantage to be gained by the proprietors of Ireland from opposition to this Bill, but had only looked to the general interests of the country. He should give his earnest support to the Amendment, for the Ministers knew not what would be the effect of the present Bill. Ireland was turbulent and agitated; but day after day fuel was added to the flame, by new legislation aggravating the evils of the old. Bills were hurried through the House at the close of a Session, on which the destiny of millions depended, without the feelings of Ireland being consulted, or the voice of her Representatives listened to. There was not an Irish Member in the House who would not be willing to give the Protestant clergy temporary relief, if a sincere and earnest desire were manifested on the part of this House to reform the Church of Ireland. Let his Majesty's Ministers say that they would govern the people of Ireland according to their wants and wishes, and they would find in Irish Members their most strenuous supporters.
§ Mr. Shaw
wished to make one single remark. Hon. Gentlemen were not offering this Bill boná fide opposition, but were practising delay, in order to leave Ireland in its present unsettled state. He could not sit silent, and hear the clergy of the Church of Ireland accused of exaction and oppression, of which he believed them to be guiltless. He had been surprised to hear the hon. member for Kilkenny, who was well informed upon such subjects, say that the average of what was received by the clergy in the seven years preceding 1830, was more than they ought to receive, when he must have known, that so far from having received that to which they were entitled—a tenth of the whole produce—they had not received a thirtieth 1010 of the rental, and that the tithes, even including the lay impropriations, could not have amounted to a twentieth of the rental. The hon. member for Kilkenny said, that it was oppression which had produced the opposition to tithe; but the hon. member for Tipperary said that it was the amount of the tithe; but they both well knew that it was the tithe itself that was objected to, and that the present agitation had been produced by the priesthood and the agitators. Many of the Irish clergy were now begging their bread; many had shut up their houses, and fled for refuge where they could find it; and all were in the greatest state of anxiety and alarm. Their distress was an important reason for proceeding with this measure; but much as he sympathized with them, there was a still greater reason for proceeding with it—the necessity of vindicating the law. Trampled upon as that was by brute force, it was high time to bring to issue the question, whether the law was or was not to be supreme in Ireland. They ought to know whether they were to live under a system of law, or under a system of organized opposition to law—whether they were to have a regular Government, or were to live under the dominion of a lawless multitude; for such was now the state of Ireland. Even within a few miles of Dublin, a lay impropriator was lately obliged to have his grass cut with fire-arms at hand, and a regular guard of armed men to protect the mowers. It was important for them to know whether they were to be bound by the laws of civilization, or whether they were to consider those laws as abrogated. The Government might be deceivers, or deceived; but the question must be decided, whether those who were attached to law—who wished to live under a regular Government, enjoying rational freedom, were to do so, or whether they must give up the hope, dispose of their property, and fly elsewhere for safety; or, a worse alternative still, whether they were to consider society dissolved, and each man was to be obliged to enter into a desperate and bloody conflict for the security of his life and property. God forbid that they should ever see such a conflict in Ireland! but he feared it was coming.
had said, that the clergy had been extortionate; and as often as he heard it denied, he would repeat the as- 1011 sertion. It was extraordinary how any man, who had read the evidence in the tithe reports, could fail to see that the present opposition to tithes had been the fault of the clergy, not merely of this generation, but of past generations. It had been said that tithes were not paid by the tenant; but this very Bill, as must be seen by every person of sense, did no more than employ the landlord to collect the tithe from the tenant. If the tenant ultimately paid the money, of what consequence was it who paid it to the Church? To be sure, if the state of Ireland were such that the landlord could not get his tithe from the tenant in the shape of rent, it was really the landlord who paid the tithe. Suppose, for instance, that a landlord now got a rent of 20l. from a farm, and that the tenant paid 5l. to the clergyman, it was clear that the value of the estate was 25l., 20l. of which the landlord obtained; but if the landlord paid 5l. to the clergyman out of his pocket, and the tenant would not pay an additional 5l. for rent, it was clear the estate was worth only 20l., and the landlord had only 15l. to spend. The object of the Irish Members was the same as that of the Government—namely, that the clergy should obtain payment; but they wanted that two estates of equal value should pay the same sum towards the tithe-fund. By the Bill, however, because one estate happened to be laid down in grass, it was to escape for ever on a payment of 4d. per acre; whilst another estate which grew corn was to be saddled for ever with a charge of 4s., 5s., 6s., and, in some instances, 10s. per acre. It was unjust towards one description of landlord, and too favourable to another.
§ Sir Henry Willoughby
could not conceive anything more desirable than that tithes, which were a charge upon agriculture, heavy in proportion to the enterprise of the agriculturist, should be turned into a rent-charge, distinct and fixed. Were that done, a country so formed for agriculture as Ireland would speedily show symptoms of more extended cultivation. A charge had been made against the clergy, of having exacted too much in Ireland. No doubt, among so large a body of men, individuals who might have exacted overmuch were to be found; but surely Gentlemen from Ireland would not infer a general rule from one or two particular cases? He had been surprised at 1012 hearing the charge; for if there were one point better established than another upon the evidence, it was, that tithes had been rated in Ireland so low, that it was hardly possible to conceive how the charge could have been brought. In Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, the value of the tithe did not exceed one-twentieth of the rental, and in Ulster the case was much the same. A Catholic witness, not very favourable to the Church, admitted that his tithe amounted to only 1s. in the pound. As this was only one-fortieth of the value of the produce, it was clear—and to this point he wished to direct the attention of the hon. and learned member for Louth—that the clergy of Ireland did not receive the fourth part of the real value of their tithes. He put it to the hon. and learned member for Louth, who, when the tithe discussion originated, showed so much research into the records of ancient times, to say whether the whole evidence did not prove that the clergy of Ireland did not receive one-fourth of the tenth? Tithe was an existing species of property almost reduced to destruction lay illegal combinations of the very worst description. He would remind Irish landlords, that if a combination against the payment of tithes was successful, a combination against the payment of rent must and would speedily follow. There was evidence enough to warrant this assumption. In Galway, before any refusal to pay tithes took place, there was a combination against the payment of rent. Mr. Mahoney's evidence disclosed some most important facts on this subject. He trusted that the landlords of Ireland would not oppose a measure that would be beneficial to the whole country.
said, he believed his hon. friend, the member for Dublin (Mr. Shaw), did not distinctly understand the question on which the Debate was proceeding. There was no question about the actual state of Ireland. It was admitted on all hands that there was discontent, and such a degree of discontent as might eventually endanger property, and life itself, if some measures were not adopted to put an end to this dangerous and most alarming state of things. The question at issue between the Ministers of the Crown, and the Members at his side of the House simply was, whether the present Bill—enforcing, and perpetuating the tithe system—the composition tithe system—or a measure totally altering and extinguishing 1013 tithes in name and substance, and substituting some other mode of supporting the established clergy—was the better mode of restoring peace and contentment to the country. That Ministers had no other plan than this Bill in contemplation to quiet the country was evident; for if they had, this was surely the time to introduce it. Could this measure satisfy, would it content anybody? Was there a Member of that House who entertained the smallest degree of doubt, that tithes, composition tithes, were a great cause of all the discontent, disturbance, and outrage which distracted the country? If so, could this composition Bill—for such, and such only, it was, tend to remedy a state of things which tithes only had created? Could such a measure be carried into effect? Or would not the peace of the country be better preserved—content and safety be more effectually secured, by the total extinction of the cause of those evils—the entire abolition of tithe as a maintenance for the Church, and substituting in its place a provision of another kind, payable from another, but an equally full, and much more secure fund? Would it lessen the evils of Ireland, that to the discontent of the occupiers of land, the present tithe payers, the landlords of whom they hold, should also be added? He opposed the measure relied on by the Ministers, as their sole remedy for the admitted evils, because it must tend infinitely to increase the mischiefs which the hon. member for Dublin so pathetically deplored. But let the annual sum of 500,000l. be collected for the clergy in any other way than tithe, whether by a tax on the occupier or landlord, and the consequence would be a speedy restoration of tranquillity to the country. It was probably true, that to raise this sum by a Land-tax different from that proposed, and on a principle bearing equally and fairly on all, and to which all ought to be liable, might require some, perhaps considerable time, and to apportion it properly might be a task of some difficulty; but the temporary difficulty of doing what was at once expedient and just ought never to stand in the way of so momentous an object.
must say, that the Irish laity were made the victims of a deception practised on the English, who he was certain would never agree to inflict this injustice on their Irish brethren,
§ The Committee divided upon the Amendment: Ayes 8; Noes 60—Majority 52.
§ Clause agreed to.
|List of the AYES.|
|Hunt, H.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Leader, N. P.||Walker, C. A.|
|Macnamara, W. N.||White, H.|
|Ruthven, E. S.||Wyse, T.|
§ In Clause 3rd, Mr. Stanley moved an Amendment, leaving out the part which made the consent of the patron of any living not necessary for the composition.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ On the 4th Clause being read by the Chairman,
said, it was his intention to introduce a change in the original form of the Bill, so far as to render it optional on the part of the Lord Lieutenant to send down a Commissioner to superintend the arrangement of the composition of the tithe, so that in those cases only would a Commissioner be sent down where an opposition was made to the composition, and that it was necessary to have recourse to the compulsory powers of the Bill.
Sir John Bourke
said, he had the strongest objection to the alteration made in this Bill as to the number of Commissioners employed to determine the composition. In the former Tithe Composition Act, three Commissioners were required for that purpose; by this Act there was but one required. He said that, to meet this objection, and others which he had to the compulsory part of the Bill, he found it his duty to move, that the part of the Bill from the second page to the fourth, which referred to and contained the whole of the compulsory part of the Bill, should be left out.
thought, that the change now introduced was a departure from the whole principle of the former composition system, and the original machinery of the Commissioners, without any proper reason for the change being assigned.
said, it was extremely objectionable that one Commissioner should have such an arbitrary power as was given by this Bill. He should support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Crampton
defended the Bill, because it left the parishes at liberty to have the question settled, either by a Commissioner sent down by the Lord Lieutenant, or by the old plan, through 1015 the medium of two Commissioners and an umpire. In addition to this option, there was a provision in the Bill that an appeal lay from the decision of the single Commissioner to the Lord Lieutenant in Council, which he hoped would obviate most of the objections urged against giving, by this Bill, powers too arbitrary and extensive to the single Commissioner.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 10; Noes 57—Majority 47.
|List of the AYES.|
|Bourke, Sir J. Bart.||White,—|
|French, A.||Wallace, T.|
|Leader, N. P.||Walker, C. A.|
|M'Namara, W. N.||Wyse, T.|
|Ruthven, E. S.||TELLER.|
|Sheil, R. L.||Hunt, H.|
§ On the Clause being put,
said, that the provisions of the present clause, which went to take away the right of the tithe-payers of a parish to appoint their own arbitrator, enjoyed by them under the Tithe Composition Act, would be felt to be arbitrary and injurious. The clause made the decisions of the Commissioner appointed by the Lord Lieutenant peremptorily final, and so far, must be productive of justly-founded dissatisfaction.
could not deny the force of the learned Gentleman's objection, and would therefore assent to placing the clause on its original footing—namely, that the Lord Lieutenant's Commissioner's decision should not be given for three months, and even not then, unless required by the parishioners.
said, that an Amendment to that effect would, in a great degree, remove his objections to the clause as it stood.
§ Amendment of Mr. Stanley agreed to—Clause agreed to.
§ On the next Clause being read,
said, the right hon. Gentleman might make alterations if he pleased, and the House might pass the Bill if it pleased, but he could tell them, that the people of Ireland were resolved not to pay tithes, no matter under what pretext or modification. They felt them to be a grievous tax upon the industry of the country, the more obnoxious, as it was levied by the enormously richly-endowed Church of the comparative few Protestants upon a people professing another reli- 1016 gion. Ministers might dismiss his hon. and gallant friend. Colonel Butler, from the Deputy-lieutenancy of Kilkenny, merely for presiding over a peaceable meeting of his fellow-countrymen, whose object was to petition the Legislature against this monstrous tax; but that act of ill-judged severity would not for a moment prevent the gentlemen of Ireland from joining the people in their cry for its abolition. For his own part he would tomorrow act as Colonel Butler had acted, even though Ministers should visit his conduct by erasing his name from the list of Magistrates.
§ Several Clauses of the Bill were agreed to with verbal Amendments.
§ The House resumed—The Committee to sit again.