moved the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Irish Tithes Bill.
doubted whether there was not some misunderstanding respecting this order, as several Irish Members were not present, the hon. member for Kerry among the rest. They had arrived, too, at a stage of the Session when a matter of such serious importance ought not to be entertained. He concurred in the first measure, but could not agree to the others. With the state of feeling of the Irish Members, he thought it would be very difficult to get the Bills through during the present Session. He wished he could impress upon the right hon. Secretary the policy of dropping the Bills altogether for the present Session. The state of the business before the House, but, above all, the hostility of the Irish Members to the measure, rendered it impossible to carry it with any advantage at that late period of the Session. Knowing, as he did, the difficulty of carrying it, not only on the part of Irish Members, but of several English Gentlemen also, he entreated the right hon. Secretary to consider the propriety of abandoning it for the present. He felt that it was a most important subject, because it was impossible to dispose of the question of Church property in Ireland without implicating the Church in England. His decided opinion, therefore, was, that no plan would be attended with any advantageous results until there was a complete revision of the system of the Established Church, both in Ireland and in England. He hoped his Majesty's Government would not press the measure at present, but allow it to stand over till the country had a new Parliament. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether he meant to carry the three Bills this Session, or only one Bill; bethought that one Bill would add to the existing difficulties of the Irish Government.
said, that he had stated, upon a former occasion, that his intention was, to lay before the House a connected plan, but not to press all the Bills this Session. He agreed that it was not possible to press the entire measure this Session. He did not think it possible, in the present state of the Session, and of the public business, to pass more than one of these Bills—the first; but to the pass- 228 ing of that measure the Government felt itself distinctly pledged. The Government would not press the other measures, though they had been stated as part of a general measure; but it was considered essential to the character of the Government, and the tranquillity of the country, that the Bill for rendering the Tithe Composition Act permanent and compulsory should be passed into a law with as little delay as possible. The hon. Gentleman objected to prejudging the question; but, in fact, it was not the Bill which prejudged the question, but the resolutions moved the other night by the hon. member for Wicklow. The Bill only said, that a commutation and arrangement for a fixed mode of payment should take the place of the fluctuating impost of tithes. It proposed that, in future, the tithe should be chargeable, not upon the occupying tenant, but upon the person letting the land; and, if any person having an interest in the land should think fit to take upon himself the collection and payment of that composition, he should have an allowance made him for doing so, but the clergyman should have no claim upon him. This was merely a mode of carrying into effect, practically, throughout the whole of Ireland, a principle of commutation, and for establishing a fixed mode of payment. The question as to the future application of the revenues of the Church was left perfectly open. If the hon. Gentleman's amendment were adopted, the question would be prejudged, and those resolutions would pledge the Parliament. His object was to leave the question open, but, at the same time, to get rid of a system of tithe, which all agreed in saying, might be commuted for a more equitable mode of payment. Ministers proposed that, unless the parties should agree on the terms of the composition, Commissioners should be sent down to examine into the bona fide value of the land, and fix the rate of the money payment. As to any question of the application of the money when raised, and the persons to whom it should be paid, it was as open as ever, and would be as open when this Bill had passed as at the present moment. But, unless the Government took some such step as this, it would have no fund whatever at its disposal. He would again fairly say, that Ministers did not intend now to persevere with the two last Bills. He had stated that the whole of them formed one con- 229 tinued and connected plan, and it was essential to the character of the country, and of the Government, that the first Bill should be carried through without delay, as that part of the general plan without which it was impossible to stir one step. Under these circumstances, he hoped that the objections to the introduction of the Bill would be withdrawn.
§ Mr. Leader
was glad that two of the obnoxious tithe measures were abandoned for the present, particularly the measure for introducing ecclesiastical corporations into Ireland; but he regretted to hear that his Majesty's Government had determined to press the other most objectionable measure. The right hon. Gentleman took upon himself a serious responsibility in bringing forward a measure which there was great reason to apprehend would suspend the agricultural industry of Ireland. It would thereby not only reduce the population to a still lower condition of misery, but stop the transmission of 6,000,000l. of taxes to England. The wild and visionary measure of the right hon. Gentleman would not merely extinguish tithes, but tend to the total extinction of rent, and introduce confusion and anarchy. No man could contemplate the probable future condition of Ireland without the deepest anxiety. He must assert that the first Bill—the Bill to be carried through—was also a measure of injustice. What was the right hon. Secretary doing but attempting to enforce that Composition Act, which had already failed in 800 parishes in Ireland? It was not to the principle of the Bill alone that he was opposed, but to the machinery, which would not for a moment be tolerated in England. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have consulted professional persons as to the extent of the law expenses which would be incurred under this Bill. What would be the feelings of the people of England, if an attempt were made to allow clergymen to have the power of having receivers over English estates? Such a preference to the Church above the landlords would be most unjust. He could not see what objections could be made by the right hon. Secretary to the resolutions of the hon. member for Wicklow. All that the Government required was, a certain sum of money to pay the clergy, and that could be better raised as a land tax than under this Composition Act. If the right hon. Secretary 230 could raise the half million which was necessary by a land tax, fairly spread over the country, abolishing the name and character of tithes, and thus get rid of the mischievous machinery of his Bill, why should he object, while at the same time he would give satisfaction to a whole people, who knew the horrors of having two establishments to support? One thing, however, he could tell the Government, and it was this, that the Representatives from Ireland would stand or fall by the resolutions which had been proposed as an amendment. They would stand by those resolutions, or fall with the country. They could not go back to their constituents unless they opposed such measures; and this observation did not apply alone to the southern Members, but he believed in the most Protestant parts of the north of Ireland, the Representative would be afraid to face the hustings if he had not opposed these measures.
The Earl of Belfast
said, that he was from a northern county, and he would make it an additional claim on his constituents that he had supported this Bill, which went to afford some maintenance to the clergy of the Established Church.
Mr. John Browne
said, that he had supported his Majesty's Government on all former occasions, because he was of opinion, that the members of it were sincerely anxious to promote the real interests of the empire at large; but he lamented that, in the present instance, they had departed from that course, and had adopted a line of proceeding by no means calculated to conciliate the Representatives or the people of Ireland. He would implore his Majesty's Government, in the name of the public safety, to pause before they determined to persevere in such a course, which was pregnant with the most dangerous consequences, not only to Ireland, but to the empire at large. He contended that an entire alteration of the Church was imperiously called for, not only in the application of the Church property, but in the state of the Church government in both countries, and that such an alteration was absolutely necessary for the satisfactory settlement of the peace of the empire. He saw no just reason why this alteration should not take place. He had given the question his best consideration, before and since he had the honour of a seat in that House, and the more he con- 231 sidered it, the more was he convinced that a great change should take place, that a different appropriation of Church property was necessary. He looked into the holy records, and he endeavoured, in vain, to find an argument in favour of the enormous wealth and appendages of that Church; on the contrary, he found that such things were condemned by those sacred records, and declared inconsistent with its duties and its objects. If he looked to Scotland he also found a powerful argument against the abuses of our own Establishment, and an incontestible proof that large possessions and immense wealth were not so necessary to the preservation of the Church as its partizans would make them believe. If he looked to Spain, and to other countries, he also found that a great reformation had taken place in the fiscal concerns of their Churches, to the advantage of the people, while the only country in Europe in which some species of ecclesiastical reform had not taken place, was in the Reformed Church of England and Ireland. There was one circumstance which was greatly calculated to strengthen the growing prejudices against the established Church of these countries—the unjust, cruel, and tyrannical conduct of the higher orders of the clergy towards the hard-working portion of that community—towards that class of men on whom all the laborious duties devolved, and who derived such wretched and beggarly remuneration for their labours. He had long observed this, and deeply did he lament the calamity. He had himself many near and dear relations in the Church, who had repeatedly told him that they disliked the existing state of things, and that they only required a moderate remuneration, such as would afford them a decent subsistence. He believed that there were a great many clergymen who would willingly give up the tithes, and accept half the amount in this way. This, he repeated, was not a time to bring forward a question of this kind; the House was not then in a situation to discuss it, and it should certainly be postponed until the next Session. He had not taken part in former discussions on the subject of tithes, because he conceived that it was not the time; he preferred waiting for the report of the Committee, before he pronounced any opinion on the subject. He had read the report, and he declared it to be his conviction, that the right hon. Gentleman's measures, 232 instead of being calculated to establish peace in Ireland, would only tend to disorganize all that yet remained of tranquil civil society in that country.
thought it most unfair to proceed with the Debate in the absence of Irish Gentlemen interested in it. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had stated, in answer to some inquiries which were made of him, that this question could not be brought on to-night; in consequence of this assurance, a number of hon. members for Ireland had left the House. He, therefore, felt it his duty to move the adjournment of the Debate until Thursday.
§ Mr. Ruthven
seconded the Motion. It was a question of too much importance to be debated in so thin a House. For his part, he was quite prepared to go on, but he thought it would be most unfair towards other hon. Members who were absent, supposing that the question would not have been brought forward on that night.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that the Motion just made by the hon. Member quite surprised him. The question now under discussion had stood in the Orders of the Day, and it was generally understood that it would be brought on if the business of the House was so disposed of as to allow of that being done. He was, certainly, ready to admit, that it had been doubtful whether the other business for the evening could be so disposed of as to allow of this question being discussed this evening, and if he had last night been asked whether he thought it probable that the Irish tithe question could have been entered on this evening, he should, no doubt, have answered that he thought it improbable that the other business would be got through in time; but, he should have added, that could that other business be disposed of, the question would, undoubtedly, be brought on. Under these circumstances, he thought the hon. Gentleman was hardly justified in moving an adjournment of the debate at the present moment. In the early part of the evening there had been but a small number of Members present, and at that time the question might have been brought on; but the Government purposely introduced other business, of a less important nature, in order to enable hon. Members to come down. Under all the circumstances, therefore, he thought there was no reasonable ground for the Motion, and he should oppose it.
§ Sir John Brydges
would also oppose the adjournment. With respect to the question itself, he begged leave most positively to deny the assertion made by some hon. Members, that the higher classes of the clergy in Ireland were indifferent to the wants of the lower classes of the people there. The question now before them was one of great importance, and, for the comfort of all the parties whom it concerned, it ought to be brought to a conclusion at once.
§ Mr. Henry Lambert
was opposed to an adjournment; at the same time, he felt himself bound to say, that most unfair means had been resorted to on the part of some one (he would not say whom) to get Irish Members to leave the House. He had himself been applied to four or five times, and assured that the Debate would not be brought on. He, however, refused to leave his place, unless a declaration was made in the House by the right hon. Gentleman, that the question would not be brought on that night. He thought it the duty of Irish Members to attend, because he remembered, most distinctly, the statement of the right hon. Secretary, that he should bring the Bill on if there was an opportunity; and, as he (Mr. Lambert) was opposed to all sort of trickery, by whomsoever practised, he should oppose the adjournment.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman should have pursued the same course, with regard to this Bill, as had been adopted in reference to the Party Processions Bill; upon that occasion the right hon. Gentleman had agreed not to bring it on after eleven o'clock; why, then, should he be so solicitous in pressing this discussion in the absence of so many Irish Members who were anxious to express their opinion on the subject of this measure? But the Irish Members were not the only persons who were absent tonight; there were other Gentlemen who also took an interest in this question, and he did not see them in their places. Where, he would ask, was the right hon. member for Tamworth? Where was the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had been the framer of a legislative enactment on the question of tithes? Where were these Gentlemen? It was pretty evident that there existed a strong impression (he would not say from what cause), amongst many hon. Members, that this question would not have been brought 234 on to-night. It had been said, that there would be ample opportunity for discussion in the future stages of the Bill. He admitted this, but, at the same time, he must say, that they were fully justified in taking every advantage to defeat a measure which threatened the safety of their country. If it could be shown to him that this Bill of the right hon. Gentleman would feed the clergy, or procure any immediate advantage, he would not oppose it; but the contrary was the case. He admitted the disastrous state of Ireland—but would the present Bill remedy the evil? They should, therefore, beware how they introduced legislative enactments, which, while they tended in no degree to remove the mischief, most assuredly would have the effect of exasperating the people, and increasing the very disorders which they were intended to restrain.
said, that the argument of the hon. and learned Member went as much to putting off the question for this year as to putting it off for the day. It was true that the Government had entered into the contract referred to about the Processions' Bill; but that Bill had been read a first time, ordered to be printed, and read a second time, without opposition; and then it was, not wishing to pledge the House without giving a fair opportunity for discussion, that he made the contract now referred to. The case with the present Bill was quite different. He had not been allowed to introduce it without opposition, nor to read it a first time, although, in all other instances, such a permission was conceded to a Government. An adjournment had been unexpectedly moved in a further stage of the Bill—it had been again postponed on another night, on account of the lateness of the hour; and now another adjournment was moved, and it seemed to him that every species of delay was resorted to in order to prevent, and not to obtain, a fair discussion of the Bill.
§ Mr. Maurice O'Connell
defended what had been done to delay the progress of this Bill, and declared, that this unreformed Parliament had no right to pass a Bill of this kind for Ireland. It was only fitting that such a measure should be produced before a reformed Parliament. Let the right hon. Gentleman pass what measures he pleased, they would only be a dead letter.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
thought, that, to 235 use a familiar expression, the, hon. Member had let the cat out of the bag. What was the effect of his declaration? That that House had no authority to legislate with respect to the Irish Tithe Bill; that with respect to that, they were self-condemned. He had been no party to that self-condemnation, and should, therefore, deny the consequence now attempted to be deduced from it, and he hoped that the proposition would be received as it deserved—with the marked contempt and indignation of that House. Though the Reform Bill was passed, the Members could not allow it to be asserted, that the House was officially and legally extinct.
Lord John Russell
agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman, that that House ought not thus to be overborne by propositions of this kind; and, at the same time, he wished to remind the hon. member for Clare of the necessary consequence of admitting the proposition, which was, that not only was that House unfit to legislate with regard to the Irish Tithe Bill, but with regard to all other Bills that affected Ireland; and, consequently, it was unfit to pass the Irish Reform Bill itself. The circumstances already mentioned by his right hon. friend, the Secretary for Ireland, and the advice to go away, of which an hon. Member had spoken, showed a settled disposition, in some hon. Members, to get rid of the question by other means than those of fair discussion.
§ Mr. Maurice O'Connell
explained. He had not meant to say that that House was unfit to legislate on Irish questions; he only intended to state, that with respect to this Bill, his constituents thought that it ought not to be legislated on by an unreformed House of Commons.
admitted, that the right hon. Gentleman (the Secretary for Ireland) had stated, he would bring on this question on this evening, if the state of the business of the House enabled him to do so; but, he considered it would be very impolitic for the Ministers to persist in passing a Bill, which they admitted to be only part of the measure proposed by them. It would be much wiser, instead of postponing the consideration of part to the next Session, to postpone the whole.
§ Amendment negatived, and Debate re- 236 sumed; the question before the House being Mr. James Grattan's Amendment on Mr. Stanley's Motion, for leave to bring in a bill for a compulsory commutation of tithes in Ireland.
§ Mr. Henry Lambert
said, he was never struck with so much dismay as when the right hon. Secretary declared the determination of the Government to carry the first of these Bills during the present Session. It would create the greatest agitation in Ireland, and render the ultimate settlement of the tithe question infinitely more difficult. The measure would be most objectionable to the landlords of Ireland. The Bill made the composition compulsory, but it never could be carried into effect. The landlords would not be degraded into tithe proctors. For his own part, he could not, he would not pay tithes; they might take his goods if they thought proper—he would submit to the law, but he never would pay tithes. It had been the fashion to speak of the oppressive conduct of Irish landlords; he was aware of no instances of such conduct in his neighbourhood, but he was prepared to prove many cases of oppression in the exaction of tithes. He implored his Majesty's Government not to pass this Bill. He warned them of the opposition which it would most assuredly meet with. He did not often intrude himself on the House, but he felt it his duty to oppose it, not out of mere opposition to his Majesty's Government—to whose measures, generally speaking, he wished success—but because he could not but feel that it was fraught with additional evils to Ireland, and never could be carried into execution.
Sir Robert Peel
felt it his duty to state his opinion upon this most important question. There were two courses, one or other of which the House must determine to follow. It must either adopt the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley), which did not require that they should then determine upon the details of any measure—which did not even of necessity involve the appointment of a receiver—which merely, in conformity with the Report of the Committee, asked leave to submit a legislative measure for the deliberative consideration of the House. The other course proposed that they should agree to certain Resolutions, the effect of the adoption of which would be, to postpone all consideration of the question for an indefinite period. He was 237 bound to declare his opinion, that the latter course was unjust and impolitic, and therefore he should give it his most decided opposition. He repeated, that the latter proposition was unjust; and, if he required any authority to support that assertion, he would take the Resolutions themselves, to the adoption of which he was called upon to give his consent. The second Resolution stated, "that in coming to the previous resolution, we recognize the rights of persons having vested interests, and we declare that it is the duty of Parliament to provide for those persons a just compensation." Well, then, before he agreed to that Resolution, he required to know from those who proposed it, what was the mode in which they expected that Parliament would fulfil the admitted duty of providing for the sufferers a just compensation? Was it not notorious that there were persons of the highest respectability, both from character and station, possessed of as valid, as legal, as equitable a claim to property as any man in the country possessed, who were deprived of that property by what he had heard described in that House as a moral combination? What! was that a moral combination which robbed persons of property to which they had as good a claim as any landed proprietor of the country had to his land? The Resolution proposed, admitted their right to just compensation. By whom was that compensation to be provided? Not, surely, by the Treasury? [Mr. James Grattan; No.] Not by the Treasury. He presumed also that it would be admitted at once, that the people of England, who obeyed the laws, and paid tithes larger in amount than those which were paid in Ireland—that they, who were not exclusively members of the Established Church, many of them being persons who dissented from that Church, but who still fulfilled the obligations of morality, obeyed the decisions of the law, and rendered unto others that which was their due; it surely would not, could not, be contended, that the English people were the parties who could be fairly or justly called upon to make up this deficiency. Every Gentleman appeared to admit the justice of that proposition. By whom, then, was this just compensation to be made? He presumed that the next admission would naturally be, that it must come from the landed proprietors of Ireland, who were to benefit 238 by the remission of tithe. But, if this were so, and if, at the same time, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, insubordination was marching through the land with giant-strides—if, according to his own declaration, he himself would refuse to pay tithes—voluntarily to pay tithes—if, as he stated, there was an array of physical strength directed against the payment of tithe; if these things were true, could they believe that, if they postponed this question for six months, without any expression of opinion on the part of Parliament, when, according to the admissions of hon. Members, the claim to tithe would have been practically extinguished, if not by open violation of the law, at least by that which was tantamount to it—could they believe that, six months hence, the "just compensation" would be easily recovered from the parties from whom it was admitted to be due? If there were a claim on the part of individuals, now possessing property, to receive an equivalent for the loss of it; and if it were the duty of Parliament to provide that equivalent, was it not its duty to do so without delay? Why devolve that duly on a succeeding Parliament? Why should not the same hands which inflicted the injury grant the reparation? In the terms of this Resolution itself, therefore, he found sufficient reason for establishing some principle of legislation, which, whatever might be its other deficiencies, should, at least, mark the sense of Parliament, that it was the bounden duty of the people of Ireland to obey the laws, to respect the rights of property, and to continue to afford that support for the Established Church to which the Church had an unquestionable legal claim. The whole of the proposition made by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland was, that he should be allowed to bring in a bill, making that composition which had been voluntarily entered into by both parties—the tithe-receiver and the tithe-payer—in two-thirds of the parishes of Ireland, compulsory in other parts of Ireland, and permanent in all. And with what view? Why, for the purpose of laying the foundation of that very commutation of tithe which, he in-ferred from the admission of the hon. Gentleman, was indispensable to the peace of Ireland. It was impossible, by the declaration of hon. Gentlemen themselves, to derive the equivalent admitted to be due from the land of Ireland on the 239 extinction of tithe, without some such compulsory measure as this. It was offered as a preliminary measure. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. James Grattan) admitted, that it was right that there should be this charge upon the land. But that was a very barren admission, unless he informed the House how it was to be obtained from the land. He could scarcely thank the hon. Member for that admission; nothing was gained by it. It was easy to say that vested interests ought to be protected—that it was not right that the Treasury should provide compensation out of public money—and that it was quite fair to levy the equivalent for tithe upon the land of Ireland. Nothing was more easy than to come down with abstract resolutions, admitting the justice of certain undeniable propositions, but failing to show how any one of them was to be practically enforced. Why, it appeared that the same Gentlemen who were foremost to admit the just liability of the land, objected to that of the landlord. Then what was the alternative? Why, distress upon the tenants. If the charge was to be upon the land, show us at least in what manner it is to be made. Here is an existing charge upon the land—a charge confirmed by repeated Acts of Parliament; that charge was resisted—passive resistance was brought to bear against it; the remedy was against the occupying tenant, through the medium of a distress upon his goods. What other remedy could the hon. Gentleman give, if the landlord was not to be responsible? And if it was still to be distress on the goods of the occupying tenant, how should they be in a better condition hereafter? The hon. Gentleman said, that tithe was not a tax upon the land, that it was not a legal charge upon the land. He could not see the least force in that observation. The hon. Gentleman said, that the clergyman was not entitled to take tithe from the land, but that he must wait until the produce was separated from the land. Why, if he had a legal right to one-tenth of that produce, was it, or was it not, a virtual charge to that amount upon the land? In case the tenant refused or neglected to pay his rent to his landlord, what was his landlord's remedy? An ejectment and a distress. What was the nature of a distress? Not a seizure or confiscation of the land, which already belonged to the landlord; the remedy was against the produce of 240 the land. But what said the hon. Gentleman to all that portion of the land of Ireland in which voluntary compositions had been entered into? The hon. Gentleman objected to the law proposed to be introduced, because tithe was at present levied, not upon the land, but upon the produce. But in two-thirds of the parishes of Ireland, in consequence of voluntary arrangements, to which the tithe-payers were parties, the composition in lieu of tithe was made chargeable upon the land. It had been made a charge upon the land, because the parties subject to tithe preferred it rather than that the clergyman, exacting his strict right, should have the power of taking the full amount of tithe in kind. The distinction drawn by the hon. Gentleman, in point of fact, amounted to nothing. The fact was, that there existed a legal right, which was opposed, either by an array of physical strength, by actual combination against the law, or by that evasion which was backed by physical strength, and depended upon physical strength alone to give it support to defeat the law. But let no landlord, let no proprietor of property of any kind in Ireland, trust to the security of his property five minutes after such a combination shall have been successful, after it shall have been able to defeat the Legislature. The hon. Gentleman argued as if, in point of fact, no violation of the law had taken place—as if the combined plan entered into by those who were dissatisfied with what they termed an unjust impost, was a legitimate means of escaping from a just debt. Now, if that position were correct, he would ask both English landlords and Irish landlords—for he wished not to separate them; and he had had too long a connexion with Ireland to entertain a desire to say a harsh word with respect to any of its landed proprietors—he would ask the landlords, whether the same instrument of evasion, of practical defeat of the law, might not be again applied, for other purposes, and to other objects? Why, two years hence, if this feeling and these opinions should prevail, why might not some man of authority start up and advise, that absentee property should be the subject of another and a similar combination? Might he not say, and say with equal semblance of truth, "I pay my rent upon the supposition that I have the advantage of the residence of my landlord; I, however, 241 receive no such advantage; he takes the money over to England—and I, therefore, consider myself absolved from my obligation to pay the rent?" He could assure the House, that they had better decide this matter in time—better put a stop to such proceedings before it was too late to arrest their progress; for the same argument now used against Church property might be directed with equal force against all other property. Might not the tenantry of Ireland say, at some future period, if these combinations were not arrested:—"The clergyman was resident; he did fulfil some duties, although his Roman Catholic parishioners dissented from him as to religion; yet, as we have succeeded, with the consent—at least with the tacit connivance—of the Legislature, which closed its eyes to the gigantic march of insubordination—which had not the courage to look the question in the face—as we have succeeded with respect to tithe property, let us try the same experiment upon other dues, and apply the same principles to rent?" Was it not in human nature that there should be such reasoning as this in regard to other burthens? On these grounds, then, and looking, at the same time, with the most anxious apprehension to the state of Ireland, he was convinced that they could not by possibility gain anything by abandoning the claims of justice. He did not see how it could be a conciliatory measure—at least, he could not reconcile such conciliation with common justice—to tell those who had a right to protection, that they were to be left, not only without a present, but without a future, chance of that protection, by abandoning this question in the present Session of Parliament. It appeared to him that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was in conformity with justice. It might be met by an array of physical strength, but he hoped that a British Government, and a British Parliament, would be prepared to take upon themselves the responsibility of supporting it. He would not detract, on the present occasion, from any little support which it was in his power to give the Government, by dwelling upon any minor points upon which, with respect to this Bill, he might differ from them. To the substance of the Bill he was a party. In that part of the Report, also, which stated that the Committee did not overlook the great importance of the question; that, on the con- 242 trary, they thought it one which involved, in many cases, a more adequate remuneration for the resident clergy—the abolition of the sinecures of the Church—and a more general appointment of resident Protestant ministers throughout the country; in that part of the Report he agreed—those opinions he was ready to maintain. He was perfectly willing to consider, fairly and deliberately, every proposition for the redress of just grievances, knowing, as he did, the just force of many of the objections which had been made to the present tithe system. When the House evinced the disposition to redress every well-founded grievance, it stood on high ground, and had a right to require the people of Ireland to obey the law, and to respect the rights of property. The measure which the right hon. Gentleman proposed, was not merely one marking the sense of Parliament as to the necessity of an observance of those rights, but it was absolutely necessary as a preliminary towards the remedy of many evils. It was a preliminary step, necessary to be taken previous to making that commutation for which almost every Gentleman professed himself a zealous advocate. By postponing this measure, therefore, they would postpone, at the same time, the introduction of that which was admitted to be so desirable. On these grounds he felt himself bound to give his support to the Government; and he could not conclude without expressing his regret at the opposition which the measure had received from the landlords of Ireland. He regretted it with all sincerity, not only on account of the violation of the rights of other parties, but because he believed that their opposition, if it succeeded, would be ultimately fatal to their own rights, and tend to their own spoliation. He should support, cordially and firmly, the proposition of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, for leave to bring in this Bill.
§ Mr. Wyse
was happy to hear the right hon. Baronet, in the beginning of his speech, desire the House to stand upon the moral right of the question. The Representatives of the people of Ireland did stand upon the moral right, and did not go one jot beyond it. He thanked the right hon. Baronet for having grappled with the subject, being the first, among the number who had spoken on that side of the House, to advert to the resolutions proposed by his hon. friend, the member for Wicklow; but he was sorry to per- 243 ceive throughout the whole of the speech of the right hon. Baronet, a considerable degree of misconception of some of the most important provisions of the Bill. The first thing the members for Ireland looked for was, a remedy for the present state of distraction and misery into which that country was plunged—the first thing which they called for was, a remedial measure, and the first ground of their opposition to this measure was, that it was merely coercive, without having any remedy whatever attached to it; and they felt convinced that, if such a measure were applied to England, its effect on the popular mind would be, to produce one cry of execration throughout the land against it. Now, he asked the right hon. Baronet—he asked the English and the Irish Members of the House—was any one of the Bills which the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, had proposed, truly and bona fide a remedial measure? The first point stated in the resolutions with respect to tithes was, not that the name, and the name alone, should be taken away, but they called for the total extinction and abolition of tithes. They used the words contained in the first Report of the Tithe Committee, and, he hoped, used them in the same sense. They called for the absolute extinction of tithes. In this, perhaps, they differed from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, who might wish to give a quibbling and doubtful meaning to the words. He, however, and his party, gave to them their true and legitimate sense. So did the people of Ireland. When they spoke of abolition, they meant the abolition of the thing itself, not of the mere name. They required a total change in the system. They knew well that the assertion of such a principle would be instantly opposed—that many objections would be made to it—that they should instantly be charged with destroying vested rights, with pulling down the sanctuaries of the Church, with laying prostrate all the religious institutions of the country, and exposing them to spoliation of every description. They were aware they should be attacked with a charge of waging war against the Protestant religion—with spoliating property, and plundering legitimate rights. They had expressly guarded themselves, however, against the last charge, because they stated openly and fairly in their resolutions, that they recognised the rights of parties hav- 244 ing vested interests. With reference to any charge of wishing to destroy the rights of the Church, common sense told them that they must have an Established Church, and an established religion, unless they would relapse into a state of brutal ignorance and unenlightened barbarism. These were not their principles; such never had been, and never would be, the principles of the party with which he had the honour to act. Having said thus much, he now came to by far the most important point of consideration, to which he would beg to direct the peculiar attention of the House, because he thought it afforded a direct answer to the objection of the right hon. Baronet. His objection was, that, if this measure were not taken into consideration, there would be no security for vested rights. In this point, the resolutionists had been far more specific than the right hon. Baronet seemed disposed to give them credit for being; if they had not, he would certainly admit, that that would have been an objection of the first magnitude. With reference to the resolutions which had been proposed by the hon. member for Wicklow, at this period of the Session, it was most important that the House should not shrink from expressing its opinions, and from boldly stating to the country on what principle they proceeded. He was well aware that they could not now enter into all the various details of this question; but there was nothing to prevent their taking that course which, instead of being a singular one, would be the usual course to pursue. By expressly declaring their opinions, in this last hour of their political existence, they might do much. If they did so—and there was nothing to prevent their adopting such a course—they should clearly evince the intention of the law—the rest they might leave to future Parliaments; taking such a step as this would alone tend to satisfy and tranquillize the country, and by those resolutions they would stand or fall. He did not make this statement merely from his own opinion on the subject, but he had founded it on the evidence which had been taken before the Committee. Doctor Doyle had stated specifically on the subject of tithes, that simple legislation would, in his opinion, be sufficient to produce this effect. They had not said, that the Treasury should provide the necessary composition; but they did say that it could be made through the Treasury. 245 Was it a matter of greater difficulty than the establishment of the land tax? This was a preliminary measure on which to found a land tax. The Composition Act, which this Bill was, in fact, intended to follow up, had completely failed in its operation; it had not only failed to produce good results, but it had, positively, been productive of evil where good existed before. This assertion would be corroborated by the very best authority. The Protestant Archbishop of Dublin stated, that one of the great evils of the Composition Act was, that, under its operation, the most unfair advantage was taken, sometimes by the servants, and sometimes by the landlords; and he stated also, that either the peculiar legislation of this House, or political circumstances, had led to conclusions which must terminate in a thorough review of the whole subject. The Composition Act should, therefore, be revised; and would it not be just as easy to pass it by and to legislate anew? Let the estates in Ireland be surveyed by parliamentary Commissioners, and the whole value of the landed property, including that of the absentees, be ascertained, and then a sum of money allowed to be paid into the Treasury—the future application thereof to be directed and controlled by Parliament. The right hon. Baronet had touched upon the true state of the case. The House was debating in the nineteenth century on a question of the greatest importance; they could not legislate by reverting to ancient documents, and the usage and custom of by-gone times; they must look to the state of the country; they must direct their attention to the circumstances in which the people were placed. They stood in a position in which they could not adopt precedents—in which they had to create precedents for posterity; they must make up their minds to abolish the present system of combination in Ireland by such legislation as should effect that object most sincerely. He felt, in common with the right hon. Baronet, that it was a combination much to be deplored, and much to be feared, not only as regarded its present results, but with reference also to those results that it would hereafter produce. It cast before them shadows of the most fearful import; it was pregnant with importance to all the occupiers of soil, and owners of rent in Ireland. Years ago, the Roman Catholics of Ireland were united by a strong but in- 246 visible bond: these men, year after year, presented petitions to this House, when they were trampled under foot; and now, it was impossible to legislate without taking away the causes of the present state of feeling in that country. Their rights were acknowledged, these principles admitted, by acceding to Catholic emancipation. Catholic emancipation was in Ireland what Reform was in England. In the first ebullition of popular feeling, it might perhaps be conceived, that this was a mere Roman Catholic combination against the Protestant religion; but government had now reached that crisis, that, if it advanced one single step beyond it, it would find it impossible alike to retrace its steps, or to proceed. If to-day a cry was raised against tithe, to-morrow there would be a cry for the Repeal of the Union, and every candidate that stood upon the hustings in Ireland would be required, and called upon, to support these views. Those who would stop the torrent of popular feeling in Ireland by coercive legislation, would find behind them men stronger than themselves, who would hurl them down the precipice, to the brink of which they so rashly ventured. It became every one sitting in that House to call upon the Government to recollect the precipice on which this country now stood. They were legislating for Ireland; but they ought to act as they would for England; for, unless proper measures were taken, the same combinations—the same resistance to the payment of tithes would be acted here, and they would have the same battle to fight again. The time was approaching; there was but one instant to deliberate; if neglected, the opportunity was gone, and the next would be too late.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he could not but view this question in the same light as that in which it had been considered by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, as being one of the very greatest importance. Yet he did not concur with the hon. Gentleman in the line of argument which he had adopted with reference to it. The hon. Gentleman said, that this was no time to go back to precedents, but that they ought to pursue a new course under the circumstances of the case? But what sort of course were they to adopt? Were they to empower the people of Ireland to set the law at utter defiance, and to carry any measure which they might think fit to advocate? There could be no doubt that this 247 was the very last precedent they ought to establish. With respect to the resolutions which had been proposed, they undoubtedly professed to respect existing rights, but they stated vaguely, without mentioning any precise mode, that it was fitting that Church property generally should be applied to purposes of religion and charity only; but they did not directly point out what it was intended to do, and, indeed, they did not touch upon any part of the question in such a manner as to enable the House to enter into the consideration of the subject. Leaving the question in such a state as this would be worse than doing nothing at all. On the other hand, what was it Ministers proposed to do? They proposed to carry a measure, which should make such an arrangement with respect to the property of the Church of Ireland, as, for the future, to prevent the occurrence of those scenes which every Gentleman must deeply lament. They might differ in opinion as to what those arrangements should be, as to the mode of carrying them into effect; but all must agree, that it was absolutely necessary some arrangement should be made to settle the question. The hon. Gentleman said, what was so easy as to appoint Commissioners to ascertain the value of the land, and of the tithe payable out of it? Yet a length of time must interpose, and an acreable value on the whole of Ireland must be made. If that was the mode by which they were to proceed to settle this question, it would almost indefinitely postpone any arrangement. But what would be the effect of such an arrangement if it were adopted? If a fair equivalent in land was to be given for the tithe, it would be taking away one-tenth of the land of Ireland. He could conceive no measure less likely to settle the question, than entering upon such a calculation. The hon. Gentleman said, "Consider what you will do for England." He (Lord Althorp) was perfectly satisfied that, in those parts of the country where the question of tithes had been lately agitated—particularly in the western counties—nothing would be more gratifying to the tithe-payers than that the amount of tithes should be for ever settled upon the principle of a corn-rent. It had been asked, whether such a measure as this would be endured by the people of England? He assured the gentlemen of Ireland that nothing would be more gratifying to the 248 landlords throughout England, than such an arrangement being made on the subject as would permit of their letting the land tithe-free. It had been said by the hon. member for Wexford, "You begin by a coercive measure, and end by a compulsory one." But did that hon. Gentleman mean to say, that taking tithes in kind was better than having a composition? It was quite impossible he should say this. It was true, the proposed measure was compulsory, but it was, at the same time, undoubtedly beneficial to every parish in Ireland, because, if it be more beneficial to have a money payment than to pay tithe in kind, then this must be a beneficial measure. But the benefit was certainly greater to the tenantry than the landlords. The effect of this measure would be, to remove the immediate burthen from the tenants, and to impose it more directly on the landlords; but he was quite satisfied, that if the landlords looked at their real interests, nothing could be more beneficial to them than to relieve their tenantry from the collection of tithes. He had heard it argued—and it was an argument which had extremely surprised him—that this measure was, in fact, doing away with the law relating to agistment. He never understood that the getting rid of that law was considered an objectionable measure. If ever there was a law which reflected disgrace, on the Legislature, it was that law. English Gentlemen could hardly be aware of what that law was. It was simply this:—persons of large property in Ireland obtained this law, by which all the pasturage land was relieved from the payment of tithe; and the whole burthen was thrown upon the arable land, which was mostly occupied by the poorer tenantry. The Composition Act, however, spread the whole amount of the tithe over the whole parish, whether the land be pasture or arable. If this was not a benefit to the people, he knew not what could be. If this law had the effect of spreading tithe over all the parish, certainly, so far from that being an objection to it, it was one of its great merits. A great many complaints had been urged against that part of the measure which related to the appointment of a receiver; but, as was stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, this was hardly a question to be discussed on the first introduction of the measure, being more a matter of detail, to be considered hereafter. But how was this arrangement so extremely 249 objectionable as Gentlemen had stated it to be? If it was right that these payments should be based upon land, that the payments should be made by the persons holding the lands, surely it was right that means should be given to recover those payments when withheld. These receivers were only to be appointed after all other means of obtaining payment had failed. In point of fact, it placed the case simply in the light of a mortgage. Cases had been stated in order to show the great difficulties in which gentlemen would be placed whose rents were not regularly paid. But the same difficulty happened to every man whose estate was in mortgage, and the interest on which was to be defrayed out of the rents of his estate, when those rents were unpaid. A person might have an estate nominally of 8,000l. a year, but, owing to the encumbrances on it, he had only 600l. a year to spend for his own support; what would happen, then, it was said, if the tithe of that estate were to amount to 600l. a-year? He would have to pay it all to the clergyman. But, in the first place, the estate being under lease, it would be a matter of choice with him whether he would take the payment of the tithe upon himself; if he did, then he would have the power to recover the 600l. from his tenantry; and, allowing for the charge of recovering being imposed on the clergy, he would pay 510l. only; therefore, instead of being injured, he would be benefited to the amount of 90l. a year. Some Gentlemen said, that the landlord could not recover the tithe at all from his tenants. But he would be able to recover his tithe and rent together, just as easily as it was now recovered by taking the tithe separately or in kind. In his opinion, therefore, the case supposed ought not to be put as one of extreme hardship on the landlords. But the hon. member for Wexford said, the landlords of Ireland would not be made tithe-proctors. He (Lord Althorp) was not aware of the feelings of others, but if he had land, and could let it tithe-free, by paying the tithe to the clergyman, he should be most happy to become, and his tenantry would also be most happy that he should become, a tithe-proctor. For, after all, how was this done? Look to the effect of offering land to the tenant tithe-free. The tenant considered the advantage of not having the tithe-proctor coming on his land. There was the advantage of not having the 250 charge increased in proportion to the increased value of his land, and the improved state of his crops. He was at liberty to invest his capital and his skill in the improvement of his farm, without having that capital and skill taxed by the additional demand of the tithe-proctor. These were advantages for which but a very inadequate recompense was given, by a small additional sum paid to the landlord in the shape of rent. Under these circumstances, he hoped the House would pass the measure, which was absolutely necessary before the question of tithe could be settled. It was absolutely necessary to consider, what was to be the tithe, and how it was to be collected, before considering what was to be done with it. When this measure was determined, it would be much easier to ascertain the second question—namely, what was to be done with the tithe so collected, or the composition so raised; and on that ground alone he should strongly advocate the measure. But, besides that, it was absolutely necessary that Parliament should not separate without having declared its decided opinion upon this question; and that Parliament should not allow a combination, such as now existed, to overcome the law, without at least declaring, that they were determined to stand by the law, and do what was just for those persons who were now the sufferers by that combination.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
would support the amendment of his hon. relative, the member for Wicklow, because he believed that the measure of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland would overturn the laws relating to private property, and cause the most disastrous consequences in Ireland.
thought that the measure would only spread combination, and make it more virulent. It would fail, because it was founded on the measures which had already been tried and failed. It would continue to make the occupying tenant pay, and would not lessen one of the evils suffered under the present system. He protested, upon the part of the landlords of Ireland, that they had no wish to throw the burthen off their own shoulders, or appropriate tithes to themselves. On the contrary, if they could, by taxing themselves, relieve their tenantry, they would gladly do that. A charge which had been preferred against them by certain persons, who professed to be the 251 supporters of the Church, was, that the landlords wished to take advantage of a public commotion to get rid of this tax. He denied this assertion. The amendment proposed by his hon. friend, the member for Wicklow, showed the falsehood of the allegation. The landlords admitted tithes to be public property, but the country demanded a different appropriation of the revenue derived from them. He must deprecate the line of argument adopted by the supporters of this Bill. There was, he was afraid, too much of fanatical cant mixed up with it. They talked about vested rights, and put Church property upon the same level with private property. He recognised the right of the present incumbents to a decent provision during their lives, but he denied that tithes or Church property should be regarded in the same light as private property.
thought the plan proposed by his Majesty's Government, one of the most extraordinary propositions he had ever heard of. They found that the Composition Act had completely failed in Ireland; that the opposition prevailed to a greater extent in those parishes where it had been adopted; and yet the remedy which they proposed was to extend this Act all over Ireland. When the Government formed the determination to make new legislative enactments with regard to Church property, they should, before they passed laws for the levying of the tax, decide and define the precise objects for which this tax should be appropriated. It would not be contended, that the Irish Church establishment should be allowed to go on in the old way, with all its abuses on its head. If, therefore, Government thought proper to make any alteration, why not first direct their attention to this most important of all considerations? If they wished to make their law palatable to the people, they should commence by lopping off all sinecures, and improving the condition of the working clergy. If this were properly carried into execution, there would be a very considerable fund, which might be applied to the support of the clergy of other religions. The proposed measure he was convinced, would only create mischief and he was afraid it would lead to bloodshed.
fully agreed with his hon. friend, the member for Mallow, that the Government had committed an egregious 252 blunder in introducing a measure of this description. They should have, in the first place, considered the appropriation of the fund before they proposed a law for the enforcement of the tax. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was anything but calculated to allay the ferment of the public mind. For his own part, he clearly foresaw, twelve months ago, what had taken place since, and it was now more than six months since he stated it to be his opinion, that it would be impossible in future to collect tithes in Ireland. He knew this through the best possible sources of information, and every thing which he foretold had come to pass, and all the enactments of the right hon. Secretary would never restore the system which was now completely exploded. The refusal to place any Catholics on the Tithe Committee had induced all the people of Ireland, more strenuously than before, to stand up against tithes; this, together with the line of conduct which had been pursued by the dignitaries of the Established Church in another place, had made the opposition to tithes general throughout Ireland. The whole plan, then, was a farce, for it would be perfectly impossible, even with a large military force, to collect the tithes in Ireland.
thought the question was so important as to require a further adjournment. He accordingly moved, that the debate be adjourned to next day.
said, that he was exceedingly unwilling to adjourn the Debate, but he should not oppose the Motion, if there remained many Members desirous of expressing their opinion on the subject.
§ Debate again adjourned.