moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into Committee on the subject of Tithes (Ireland), and the question being put that the Speaker leave the Chair,
said, that he could not consent to the House going into a Committee, until sufficient time should have been given to the Irish Members to consult their constituents. Circumstances were occurring every day in Ireland to show that the measures proposed by his Majesty's Government would, if persevered in, be attended with disastrous consequences. He would divide the House.
§ Mr. Bodkin
said, that no man was more sensible than he, that it was necessary to cut down the Irish Church Establishment to a condition better suited to the circumstances of Ireland; but he thought it was not expedient for the Irish Gentlemen with whom he generally voted, to take a course which might seem only calculated to impede the public business.
§ Mr. Brownlow
said, that although his own opinion respecting the measures contemplated by his Majesty's Government was unaltered, yet he thought that after the opinion of the House had been so decidedly expressed by so large a majority, it 135 was not for the minority to stand in the way of the public business.
Sir John Bourke
concurred with Mr. Brownlow, and requested his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Wallace) not to persevere in his opposition to the Committee.
§ Mr. Leader
was placed in such a position in respect to the proposed measures, that he would compromise nothing. He would lose no opportunity of procuring a postponement of those measures, in order to give the people of Ireland time to express their opinions as to the necessity or the justice of enacting a new penal and coercive law.
thought, that the division would effect no good purpose. For his part he would join in pressing for a division if he thought that any advantage would result from it.
said, in rising to propose to the Committee the Resolutions on which it was intended to found the future proceedings of his Majesty's Government respecting the important recommendations of the Select Committee upon tithes in Ireland, he could not refrain from expressing his regret that any course which he had felt it to be his duty to pursue should be looked upon by any Gentleman as intended to deceive them, and to entrap the House into an implied approbation of measures which had not been formally brought before it, but which he felt bound to submit for its consideration. He begged leave to assure the House that he was deeply aware of the importance of the task be had undertaken. He knew that there was no question in the whole range of our domestic policy more liable than this to offer familiar topics for popular declamation—no one upon which the public feelings, and prejudices, and passions, and religious opinions, were more warmly and strongly excited than upon this very question of the provision, by the payment of tithes, for the Established Church of the country. At the same time, he was quite sure that the Committee would agree with him, that there could hardly be a question upon which—with a view to the most important interests of the country, with a view to its own peaceable and tranquil, and satisfactory settlement—it was more incumbent upon the House to discharge these popular topics, and to waive, as far 136 as might be, the prejudices that, on one side or the other, we were all more or less liable to yield to. But he would not now call the attention of the House to what he felt to be a most important and difficult question—the connexion which in all Christian countries the Legislature had thought fit to establish between itself and the religion of the State. Such a question ought not to be raised without the most deliberate consideration, and, on the part of the Government especially, it required the plea of the most imperative necessity to justify any interference with existing relations, or any alterations of the law relating to what might be considered part of the property of the country. If it were said, that he now pressed the House to decide upon a partial consideration only of some portions of this question, he would answer, that he did so because there was lying on the Table of the House a statement of facts which made it impossible to resist coming to an immediate investigation of them, and he was justified in this opinion by that of the Select Committee to whom the whole of this subject had been referred. It was unnecessary for him to inform the House, that it was now about eighteen months since a systematic and determined opposition was first manifested to the payment of that which, whatever might be the abstract opinion of hon. Gentlemen as to its propriety or origin, they would not attempt to deny was a legal impost; legally claimed by the one side, and legally due from the other. He could not, perhaps, more strongly impress upon the House the importance—the absolute necessity—of taking some immediate steps upon this question, than by pointing out from how trifling an incident this smothered flame broke out in an insignificant parish, and had gradually spread itself over, perhaps, one-third of Ireland. When he spoke of systematic resistance extending over one-third of Ireland, he did not mean the violent and forcible resistance offered to legal payments, but the deeply-settled conviction that prevailed in certain districts on the part both of those who had to pay, and those who had to receive tithes, that it was of no service for the latter to demand them, as the attempt to enforce the demand would inevitably lead to a disturbance of the peace. By mutual consent, as it were, both parties were at this moment looking with breathless anxiety not only 137 for the final decision of the Legislature, but for the most trifling expression of its opinion as to the claims of the contending parties. It was only in the month of November, 1831, in a parish free from the most odious part of the tithe-system, because that parish had been brought under the operation of the Tithe Composition Act, that the first systematic opposition to the payment of tithes made its appearance. It was successful; and the example flew like wildfire over parishes and provinces, till now, after the lapse of only sixteen months, it threatened the extinction of the legal claim throughout the whole, or the greatest part of Ireland. In considering the space over which this resistance now extended, he would call the attention of the Committee, in the first instance, to the evidence given by Sir John Hervey, Inspector General of Police in the province of Leinster. He stated that his district comprised the counties of Wexford, Wicklow, Kilkenny, Carlow, King's County, Queen's County, East Meath, West Meath, Longford, and Louth, and, upon being asked whether there was any part of his district which he conceived to be free from this combination, he said, that in that part of his district where resistance had not been actually made, threatening notices had been circulated, he had no doubt that the same determination to resist existed as in the other parts, and he did not conceive there was any part of his district which he could state to be wholly free from that combination, in some of its variations. Major Tandy said, that a similar spirit prevailed in the county of Kildare. Mr. Fitzgerald declared that the resistance was spread over Tipperary, and the South of Ireland, and other witnesses described it as extending over Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and existing in a trifling degree in Kerry; while the noblemen and gentlemen who held the responsible situation of Lords-lieutenant of counties gave the same information with respect, not to Catholic counties, but to the counties of Londonderry, Armagh, and Donegal. The first duty of the Government, when this systematic and organised resistance commenced, was, no doubt, to use all the ordinary means which the law placed at its disposal, to preserve peace and order, and to enforce the legal demands of the clergy. And it would be found, by referring to the evidence given before the Committee, that 138 all which could be legally done with this view, had been effected. The present Government was not to be charged with having either caused, or connived at, these outrages. The seeds of this violence and insubordination must have been—and it was well known that they had been—long sown, and deep rooted. This at least he could say, that before he had the honour of holding the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, the firstillegal notices and declarations against the payment of tithes had already been issued, and the general resistance he had adverted to, was in progress at the time of the present Government coming into office. Every possible protection which a large and even an overwhelming military force, and the employment of the whole body of the police could afford, was given for the recovery of the debts which were due, and the protection of property. He was well aware how tedious it must be to the House for him to recur to the evidence on the subject, and to make quotations from it, but on the present occasion such reference was necessary, as it was that evidence alone which formed the justification of the measure which, under existing circumstances, he should feel it his duty to bring forward. Let, then, hon. Members look to the evidence of Major Brown, who had been on duty in the police, in the county of Kilkenny, and than whom there could not be a more temperate, more able, or more efficient officer. Major Brown thus stated, "on the 3rd of March, I marched into Graigue, with 120 men of the county of Kilkenny constabulary, and on the 4th, the drivers went out with an adequate escort. I was employed upon this duty until the 4th of May—a period of two months, during which time, the police were indefatigable in their exertions, out every day, and frequently twice a day, and traversing a great extent of country upon every excursion." This evidence of Major Brown was abundantly confirmed by that of other witnesses, who spoke on the same subject; and above all, he might refer to the letter of Sir John Harvey, in Appendix No. 11, for the purpose of showing how rapid was the spread of the feeling of resistance. Sir John Harvey, in his letter to Sir W. Gossett, dated Kilkenny, March 27, 1831, said,—This county continues in a very unpleasant state of determined hostility to the payment of tithes. I do not allude to the parish of Graigue, where they have been behaving 139 better than in any other, owing to the presence of a large force, and to the unwearied, firm, and very temperate conduct of Major Brown. It will be seen, that the presence of a company of infantry at Castlecomer is indispensable; it can be completely accommodated there. The only measure of relief which I have been enabled to afford Mr. Langrishe, of Knocktopher, has been, to order the chief constable from Piltown (Besborough), where all is quiet, to establish himself, with all the disposable constables of his district, until farther orders, at Knocktopher, to protect the drivers and process-servers of those reverend gentlemen. So soon as the company of infantry, therefore, is placed at Castlecomer, the tithe proceedings will be in operation in the greatest part of the county, as well as in the adjoining county of Carlow. The people, however, appear to me to be still looking for some legislative relief upon the subject.Thus, within two or three months after the first intimation of an organized resistance to the payment of tithes, a military force, in conjunction with the police, was put in active operation through two counties of Ireland, their most active services being fully required by the state of those counties. It must also be observed, that the mode of opposition offered to the Government, and to those who were employed in the collection of the tithes, was such as to render all operations most difficult. These modes of opposition were various, though none of them, perhaps, altogether new in the history of Ireland, for, unfortunately, the tithe system was no novel grievance in that country; but, at all events, various they were, and certainly never before carried to so simultaneous, and, consequently, to so dangerous an extent. Intimidation and violence against the process-server—combination against the seizure and purchase of cattle—in short, every symptom which could mark a determined opposition on the part of a whole population, acting as one man, against the imposition of a legal due, have been developed in Ireland on this occasion. It was impossible for him to refer to all the instances quoted in the evidence as to the amount to which that intimidation and violence went. It would suffice to say, that so much had this system been acted on, that, in the progress of the proceedings, it had not only been difficult to get a process served, but even a matter of impossibility, in many of the towns of Ireland, to get an Attorney to take a fee from a client, or to give his legal assistance for the purpose of obtaining the execution of the law in tithe processes. 140 He assured the Committee that this was a fact, though, no doubt, it would appear so incredible, that he felt it incumbent on him to substantiate the statement by a reference to the evidence. What then did Mr. Fitzgerald say on this subject?—"Supposing even that this difficulty were got over of the serving of the process, the next is to find an Attorney who will undertake to move those processes at quarter sessions; and, in most places, of late the Attornies have, generally speaking, been so intimidated, that they have refused to move tithe processes. In fact, one case came under my own knowledge, where four Magistrates, from a remote part of the country, on their way to attend the Thurles Quarter Sessions upon magisterial business, were mistaken at the entrance of the town of Thurles for four Attornies; and the mob told them on no account or pretence to dare move the tithe processes, for if they did, they would never leave that part of the country alive." The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to say, "In speaking of intimidation in Ireland, let it be remembered, that the state of the country makes it a very different thing from intimidation in England. English gentlemen, who are used to that habitual security which they derive from the law, who know that the feeling of the whole population of the country is embarked on the side of the law—for there is scarcely any man in this country who does not think it rather creditable than otherwise, to forward the ends of justice—English gentlemen, I say, can have no idea of the extent to which threats and anonymous notices, which in England would be looked on with contempt, have power and influence over the minds, not of the lowest and most degraded, but of persons in a comparatively high and respectable situation in Ireland; nor can they understand how much more easy it is for this system of intimidation to give strength in Ireland, where there is a poor and scattered population, residing in miserable and easily destroyed houses. Let hon. Gentlemen, too, remember, that the population of Ireland is a population short of work, and, therefore, always ready for violence, all of which circumstances render it the more easy for these threats to be carried into effect in spite of the best police, and the most vigilant conduct of the best Government that ever existed. Sir, I have mentioned these things merely to account for that which, without this ex- 141 planation, might have appeared incredible to English gentlemen, namely, that mere threatening notices, which here would be scorned, should exercise such strong irresistible influence over the minds of respectable persons in Ireland. But, after all, there is no necessity for us to dispute about the question of how far it is reasonable that such methods of intimidation should carry weight with them. It is enough for us to know that they have their influence, and have had long before the present time. From the earliest days of Ireland do we not hear of similar violence being exhibited on the subject of tithes? Has there even a year, or even a month passed, without our hearing of process-servers being exposed to popular violence, carried to such an extent, as frequently to terminate in bloodshed and murder? Nor is this all. The whole of this re-acts again on itself; and the consequence of this violence has been, to render the office of process-server taken up by none but men of desperate fortunes and doubtful characters, who, from their conduct, have, doubtless, too frequently provoked violence in such a way as, if not to justify, at least almost to palliate, the outrages that have been committed against them. But, even supposing that no violence whatever had been exhibited, there would still be sufficient difficulty remaining, for the consequence of the tacit combination that has taken place among the people, has been, that no seizures can be sold. On this subject Major Brown states:—'The whole population was constantly on the watch, and signals made announcing the approach of the drivers and police; the cattle were driven home by the farmers, whenever it was possible, and placed under lock and key; and, as the law did not permit doors to be broken, the seizures made were not so numerous as would otherwise have been the case. The cattle, after seizure, were placed in the pound, and invariably bought by the owners on the day of sale.' The evidence of Sir John Hervey on this point is, also very important:—'By doing what we did at Graigue, employing an overwhelming force, and applying that force to one particular parish for a period of two months, we were enabled, at the end of that two months, to collect about one-third of the arrears due to the clergyman; and by that period another arrear of half a year had become due; so that with all the force the 142 Government could bring to bear in the county of Kilkenny, not a tithe of the tithe of the clergy was collected in the course of two months, but only one-third of one parish.' I have gone thus far into the evidence on this part of the subject, in order that the first Resolution which I have to propose may be fully borne out; and I am quite sure, that if any Gentleman will take the trouble to look over the evidence, he will find that it is impossible to deny that the facts stated in the Resolution are correct. It is true, that at one time we heard a great deal about this opposition being confined to one parish, and, perhaps, it may now be contended that it does not extend beyond two or three dioceses. I am willing to admit that actual resistance has not been displayed in more than two or three dioceses; but if we suppose that the same spirit is not extending to very many more districts in Ireland, we shall very much deceive ourselves; for we shall find, that if we refer to the evidence, that the clergy are under a deep sense of the impossibility of recovering their rights, and the responsibility to which, as men and Christian ministers, they are exposed in insisting on a right which tends to bloodshed and tumult. But, because they feel this, are they to submit to a total annihilation of their income, and to be reduced to the extremest distress? That such is the condition of the clergy is so well known, that it would hardly be necessary to quote single passages in support of the position, were it not that, on a former night, it seemed to be maintained that the clergy were not suffering under that pressing distress which the Government would represent to Parliament as the real fact of the case; and as this is a point on which I should be sorry that the Committee should proceed on imperfect information, I trust that I shall be excused if I subtantiate this part of my argument by one or two extracts from the evidence given before the Committee. Mr. Fitzgerald, in answer to question 173 states, that 'Archdeacon Cotton and the reverend Mr. Woodward have both positively declined pressing their claims. Mr. Woodward said, that he could not conscientiously seek tithes that must be enforced with the probable effusion of blood.' Mr. Fitzgerald is then asked, 'Is it within your knowledge that many of the clergy are, in consequence of this opposition, reduced to great distress?' To which 143 he replied, 'I know that they are in great destitution; men who last year had an income of 800l. to 1,200l. a year, are this year in want of the necessaries of life.' The evidence of Sir John Harvey is pretty much to the same effect; take this portion as a sample—'You have stated the destitute condition of the clergy in Kilkenny; can you state how many years' tithe may be due to any one of those gentlemen?—I have heard, in some instances, two or three years. What do you mean to imply by their being in a destitute condition; do you mean to say that they have not resources to buy food?—A gentleman, with whom I am well acquainted, told me that he had just been sending a sheep and a few potatoes, and a small note, to a gentleman who was formerly in comparative affluence, and that he had neither a shilling nor a pound of meat or bread in his house.' But I need not quote any further; it is sufficient to say that this evidence is corroborated over and over again by persons who can have no interest in making the matter appear stronger than it really is. Let me, however, just say, that Sir John Harvey, in another part of his evidence, describes the clergy as in a state of most pitiable distress; and in the Appendix, Dr. Hamilton states that the clergy are really in a most pitiable state; he knows two in absolute want.' But, perhaps, the strongest instance I can mention is, the statement contained in the letter of the rev. Mr. Moore to Sir W. Gosset. Mr. Moore, at all events, is not one of those sinecurist clergymen against whom there has been such an outcry; he is not one of those pampered individuals who have been abused and cried out against for living in the luxury of the land; on the contrary, he is an individual living—or, I should rather say, starving—on a miserable pittance of 70l. or 80l. a year, which he cannot get paid. But I will let his letter speak for itself 'Three years have elapsed since the appointment to my present curacy took place; for the first year my salary was punctually paid, but for the last two years I may say it has ceased. Although my rector is most anxious to pay me my small pittance, yet, from the continued reluctance and increased resistance to pay tithes, he has not the means. It is true, I could apply to my diocesan; for even if the parish were sequestered, I would be unable to collect the tithe; but why should 144 I be so devoid of feeling as to worry and harass an unfortunate gentleman situated as he is, having a family consisting of a wife and seven children to support, for whom he can with difficulty procure food and raiment, although at this moment upwards of 1,400l. are due by his parishioners. In the mean time, I would respectfully inquire, what am Ito do? In another month two years' salary will be due, and in less than another month, I shall be obliged to make up the sum of 100l. Small as my salary (70l. per annum) is, still to a man having a family and small establishment to support, as well as to try to support an appearance with those in my own rank, it must be very distressing to want that trifle such a length of time.' After such a statement as that, any talk of the clergy holding large livings, and the receipt of one year compensating for the loss in another, would be absurd; but supposing that the clergyman is a conscientious man, and thinks it his duty not to hoard up his income, but to spend among his parishioners that which he receives from his parishioners, am I to be told that that is an argument for abandoning him, and refusing to do anything to alleviate his unmerited distress? Now, Sir, having thus stated what the distress among the clergy of Ireland is, what the system of opposition to the tithe is, and what is the general result of the whole facts of the case, I will take the liberty of reading to the Committee the first Resolution which I have to propose. It is to this effect:—'That it appears to this Committee, that in several parts of Ireland, an organized and systematic opposition has been made to the payment of tithes, by which the law has been rendered unavailing, and many of the clergymen of the Established Church have been reduced to great pecuniary distress.'—This Resolution, in conjunction with the others which I shall presently read, form a series which I hope will be adopted by this Committee, by which means I shall be enabled, on the part of the Government, to introduce a measure founded upon them. In the first place, I conceive that I may assume that there is no one in this House who will say, that such a body of men as the Protestant clergy of Ireland are not entitled to every assistance that Parliament can afford them. Those who have most objection to the course proposed by the present Government, do not pretend 145 to say that the clergy should not be relieved. Then, if so, next comes the question—how are we to relieve them, and on what principle ought we to proceed? Let me ask, are you prepared to say that, because there has been a systematic opposition made to the payment of these legal dues—because the clergy are deprived of their income in certain districts of Ireland—the Parliament and the country ought to step forward, and make good their loss—and, there stopping, refuse to take any ulterior steps to prevent the recurrence of such circumstances in future? Surely no one will argue thus; or, if they do, then I say that this would not only be an injustice to the clergy, but be a premium given to disaffection—a bribe held out to the violation of the law—a temptation afforded to riot and turbulence. And is this an encouragement which ought to be held forth? Is it the pleasure of this House to say, that because Leinster has been disturbed, tranquil Ulster, tranquil Munster, and tranquil Connaught, tranquil England, and tranquil Scotland, are to pay for the resistance of one unruly portion of the empire? Because Leinster has revolted—yes, revolted, for I cannot use a milder term—against the law, are we for this to relieve the sufferers out of the pockets of the public, by which we shall actually be putting that very amount in the pockets of those whose misconduct has created the whole of this mischief? Are we, in short, to say, that for peaceful men there shall be no remedy, and that for the turbulent there shall be instant protection? Sir, I for one am not prepared, and I do not think that the people of England, or of tranquil Ireland, are prepared to act on such a mistaken principle; and yet surely we are nevertheless bound to see that the clergy do not suffer for that which is no fault of theirs. I know that it has been asked what we would do if an opposition, similar to this tithe-payment-opposition, were to spring up against the payment of landlords' rents. I am willing to meet that question. Let us suppose that a whole district was up in arms against the payment of rent; then I say, in the abstract, that it would be the duty of the Legislature to step forward, and indemnify the landed proprietor, as well as enforce the wholesome action of the law. But, on the other hand, if from the demand of exorbitant rents, and from general oppressive conduct on the part of the landlords, the tenants 146 were driven into outrage, then I should feel that the landlords would come with no case before Parliament, and that if they did so come, they would deserve to be spurned, and scouted from the doors of this House. But is this description applicable to the case of the clergy in Ireland? Have the clergy so acted? Is it the clergy who have fixed the amount of their receipts? Is it the clergy who have imposed on the tenantry an exorbitant payment? Have they ever been charged with demanding more than their right? [hear, hear!] I know not whether I am to interpret that cheer into an intimation that the clergy have made themselves liable to that charge; but this I know, that my hon. friend, the member for Armagh, in moving his Resolutions on a former night, distinctly stated that they had not; and certainly the evidence before the Committee shows that the clergy have never been, as a body, extortionate in their demand; and I believe, that if we were to examine this point to the utmost, the conclusion to which we must come would be, that of all the burthens on the occupiers of the soil, that imposed for the subsistence of the clergy was by far the least onerous, as well as the least harshly exacted. This will be the more distinctly seen if we compare the Irish tithe with that which is paid in England. In England the tithe amounts to one-fifth of the rent, and the rent may be fairly computed at one-fifth of the produce; but in Ireland, from all the evidence adduced, and, indeed, from figures that are incontrovertible, it can be shown that the tithes of the clergy scarcely ever amount to one-fifteenth of the rent, and, on an average, are much nearer to one-twentieth of the rent. With these facts before us, I ask with what face Gentlemen can charge the clergy, in the teeth of the evidence, and in the teeth of these facts, with being extortionate in their demand, or can compare them with an oppressive landlord who demands an unjust proportion of the produce of the soil. But the fact is, that the question of the payment of tithes does not rest on the amount of the claim: it is a very different feeling that has given rise to the strong and systematic opposition that for the last eighteen months has been gradually increasing in Ireland, till it has at length risen to its present extraordinary height." He begged pardon of the House for the digression, and returned, then, 147 to the proposition which he had been proceeding to consider. In what manner was it expedient that the sum due to the clergy should be levied? And to him it appeared consonant with all rational ideas of justice and good government that the sum, if levied, should be levied from those who ought to have paid it without any Legislative interference. Well, then, what was the course which his Majesty's Government proposed to pursue, and which had been already pursued in similar cases (for similar cases had arisen on former occasions)? He begged the House, however, to look at the peculiar nature of the resistance in this case. There were precedents in 1786, 1787, 1799, and 1800, and on those occasions—although he did not mean to say that they were alike in ail their circumstances—God forbid that he should say the cases were parallel!—but owing to the disturbed state of various parts of Ireland, the clergy were, from the combinations which were then entered into, unable to assert or vindicate their claims. The opposition was to the previous proceedings, and there was this peculiarity in the case of tithes—that a clergyman had occasion to collect from a number of persons making small payments, and was consequently placed in a situation of peculiar difficulty, by the expense and delay to which a combination to resist payment, exposed him. It was with reference to the previous proceedings that former legislative measures had reference; and it was in that way that his Majesty's Government proposed now to legislate in the Bill which would be brought in, if the Committee agreed to these resolutions. On former occasions, it had been left to the clergy to dispense with the notice which, according to the ordinary forms of law, it was necessary to serve upon every parishioner, and in serving which, almost all the scenes of violence, outrage, and bloodshed, occurred. Those measures made a notice exhibited in some conspicuous place in the parish, a sufficient intimation, on the part of the clergyman, of his intention to enforce his claims. This was the case on former occasions, and to this extent the plan which he should propose on the present occasion was the same. But then he might be told that they were using coercive means, and arming the Government with a dangerous authority, by taking from the clergyman the remedy which he ought to possess, and placing it in the hands of a 148 powerful body—the state itself. He must observe here that the charges of extraordinary severity, and of enforcing the payment of tithes at the point of the bayonet, and all such violent language and extravagant charges, were totally inapplicable to the measures proposed by his Majesty's Government, and only tended to prejudice the House and the country unjustly against them. He said that, if it was right to enforce the payment of tithes at all, the course proposed by his Majesty's Government, while it would be effective, was the most lenient, the most indulgent, and the most mild, towards those who were to be subjected to its operation. They proposed to advance to the clergyman a sum of money, forming a very small proportion of his demands of arrears for a year, in consideration of receiving which he should surrender all his claims against his parishioners individually, and place the assertion of his rights in the hands of the Government. In this he deviated from the course pursued formerly, and he thought he should find no difficulty in vindicating that deviation by this view of the case—that in former instances extraordinary encouragements and means were given to those who suffered from the combinations to visit their own wrongs upon those from whom they had sustained them. The present was, in his judgment, a more lenient and a more equitable plan. He would trust nothing—he would not say to private revenge, but to private irritation, or feelings of retaliation or prejudice—and he would leave in the disinterested and indifferent hands of Government, the enforcing such portion of the arrears as they judged could be recovered from solvent tenants, without pressing upon the laborious, industrious, and oppressed classes of the people. The Government felt that they might, perhaps, be enabled to do away with the litigation between the clergyman and his parishioners, by placing itself in the condition in which the former now stood, and by taking such steps for the recovery of his arrears as he was unable to take himself. It was well known to individuals present in the House, that never was there a more abundant harvest than that of last year, and never were the rents better paid in Ireland than in this year. Yet, when 1s. 6d. or 2s. an acre were demanded for tithes, landlords dwelt upon the privations and indigence of the holders of small 149 farms. In levying the arrears, it was not proposed to inflict any severe penalty, but merely to do away with the previous proceedings, which formed a source of litigation, and prevented the clergy from bene-fitting by the law. The two parties would come, as heretofore, with the same evidence before the same Court, only the full powers of the clergyman would be in the hands of the Government. He begged distinctly to state, that the proposed measure would preclude the interference of private feeling, would cause the clergy to be content with less than one half of the amount due to them—the remainder being left to the discretion of Government—consequently he thought it was impossible for any measure to be more peaceable or more lenient than that which had been stigmatized by the expression of 'cramming the tithes down the throats of the Irish people with the point of the bayonet.' The present was not a Government quick in calling for extraordinary powers, but he must say, that it would not be worthy the name of a government, if it should suffer the population—he meant that part of it which avoided the payment of its just debts—to persevere in successfully daring the constituted authorities, and setting the law at defiance. He knew not what might be the opinion of the House, but this he felt, that, if the Government were thus to be taunted day by day, of such a Government he would not continue a member, and God forbid that it should be ever seen to guide the counsels of the country. Hereafter it would be time enough to enter upon the details of the Bill, if it were brought in; but he had gone thus far to show that it was not a measure calculated to provoke disturbances, or create a civil war in Ireland. He would now state the Resolutions providing for relief, which he meant to propose to the Committee:—'That, in order to afford relief to this distress, it is expedient that his Majesty should be empowered, upon the application of the Lord Lieutenant, or other chief governor or governors of Ireland, to direct that there be issued from the Consolidated Fund such sums as may be required for this purpose. That the sums so issued shall be distributed by the Lord Lieutenant, or other chief governor or governors of Ireland, by and with the advice of the Privy Council, in advances proportioned to the incomes of the incumbents of benefices 150 wherein the tithes or tithe composition, lawfully due, may have been withheld, according to a scale, diminishing as the incomes of such incumbents increase.'" It had been thought right to give the larger proportion to the smaller incumbents. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to read the next Resolution:—"That, for the more effectual vindication of the authority of the law, and as a security for the repayment of the sums so to be advanced, his Majesty may be empowered to levy, under the authority of an Act to be passed for this purpose, the amount of arrears for the tithes or tithe-composition of the whole, or any part, of the year 1831, without prejudice to the claims of the clergy for any arrear which may be due for a longer period, reserving, in the first instance, the amount of such advances, and paying over the remaining balance to the legal claimants." He had gone thus far through the immediate measure; at the same time, he felt bound to state, that he should entertain great reluctance in pressing these Resolutions upon the House, if they were not to be looked on as pledging the House to the necessity of making an alteration in the existing tithe system in Ireland. He was aware how much the feelings of Ireland had been excited by this question—he was aware that the appointment of the Committee had only delayed a collision—if a collision were to be—and he was aware how much the feelings of the Irish people would be disappointed if nothing emanated from that Committee, and if it failed to express its conviction of the necessity of a change in the system. Though he was not prepared to say what the change should be, the very measure for which he now called was in itself proof that an alteration was required in a system which had continually invoked the interference of Parliament, and which had been for centuries the fruitful source of disunion and bloodshed in Ireland. The laws as they stood might put down disturbances, but he wished he could say that they were sufficient to remedy grievances. He begged not to be misunderstood. There might be radical grievances, and the popular indignation might be directed against a quarter where the evil did not lie. He would boldly say, that the amount of the tithe was not the real grievance of the people of Ireland. It was not because they paid 1s. or 1s. 3d. an acre, under the cover 151 of tithe, that they felt impatient and anxious for a change. He was not going to inquire by whom the tithe was paid; the fact could not be doubted that it appeared to the people to be a charge paid beyond the rent, and to persons who, according to their expression, gave them nothing in exchange. He had no doubt that, in the competition for land in Ireland, covenants were entered into, in the first instance, by landlords, knowing that they would not receive, and by tenants, conscious that they could not pay, the stipulated amount. The removal of the tithe would only afford an additional facility for collecting an exorbitant rent, and no relief whatever would be afforded to the tenant. He would admit the grievance, as it was felt by the tenant, of being called upon to pay the minister of a religion not his own. He (Mr. Stanley) did not assert that the burthen of the payment ultimately fell on the tenant, but the money came directly, and, in the first instance, out of his pocket, who was not a member of the Protestant Church, and it went into the hands of a Protestant clergyman. So far as the religious argument was concerned, he begged to remind the Commit the that it made no difference whether the payment was one shilling or one farthing; for the payment of the latter sum was as great a burthen as the payment of the former on every man who was a conscientious dissenter from the Established Church of Ireland. It might appear extraordinary, but so the fact was, that the grievance consisted in the smallness of the sum which each individual paid in the shape of tithe. He did not mean to say that any tithe-payer wished to pay a larger sum; but there was evidence to prove that, if the charge for tithe were 5s. an acre, that charge would not be lost sight of either by landlord or tenant, when they were bargaining for a farm of forty or fifty acres, whereas, at present, the charge per acre was so insignificant that neither tenant nor landlord took it into consideration at the time of taking the lease. When he said that the smallness of the sum paid constituted a grievance, he meant also to say, that the demand of the clergyman on the holder for a sum in itself so insignificant, being repeated in different shapes at different times, acted as a perpetual blister upon the person who had to pay it. On this point he would appeal to the analysis of the returns of 152 the number and value of applotments assessed for the payment of tithes in each of the last fifty parishes in Ireland in which the Composition Act was carried into effect, the two last parishes in each diocess having been taken. According to that paper he found that 12,824 persons were called upon to pay 11,300l. tithe. Now, this 11,300l. tithe was not all paid at one time, nor to one person; but it was paid to the rector, to the vicar, sometimes to the curate, and always by half-yearly payments. Thus there were often six, seven, or eight claimants on the tenant, and, as they made their demands twice a year, the amount paid to each claimant, on which actions might be brought, and, what was worse, heavy fees might be paid, was often as low as three farthings for each half-year. They had been told, that in England no such demand could be made, and that it was harsh in the clergy of Ireland to enforce it. Let hon. Gentlemen recollect that the minute subdivision of land in Ireland—that fatal curse under which it now laboured—was the cause of this grievance, and that, if the clergyman were to forego the tithe which he was entitled to receive from the garden of the cotter, he must often forego the whole of his income. Let them also recollect that it was the landlord and not the clergyman of Ireland who was guilty of making this minute subdivision; and then he was sure that it would be unnecessary for him to vindicate the clergyman from the charge of extortion in getting his living out of the tithe extracted from these minute portions of land. Independently of the grievance, that tithe was to be paid on religious grounds, and also on the immense number of persons who had to pay it, he thought he might put forward as another ground for a change of the present system that the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland themselves required it. They felt that a system which brought them into perpetual collision with the occupying tenants of the land was a system which ought not to exist in any Christian congregation between the pastor and his flock. They felt, too, that, differing as they did in belief from a majority of their parishioners, they ought to avoid the discussion of all irritating topics, for the sake of themselves—for the sake of their parishioners—for the sake of harmony—for the sake of the peace and tranquillity of Ireland; and of this he was certain, that they would catch 153 with eagerness at any change of system, which would secure them a respectable maintenance, and place them in a situation in which they could act, if not in the character of clergymen, at least in the character of resident gentlemen, upon the inhabitants of the land, which afforded them subsistence. If the Committee would only look upon the clergy of Ireland in the right of resident gentry, it would see that, in that capacity, if in no other, the clergy were of inestimable benefit to the poor of Ireland; and he believed that if tithe were abolished in Ireland, and the connexion of the clergy with the landed property of the country were destroyed, the peasant, when he lost the resident clergyman, would lose one of his best friends, and one to whom he would look up with esteem and gratitude as the minister of a Christian Church, though not, perhaps, the minister of his own Church, on account of the benefits he had received at his hands. With a view, then, to remedy the real grievance which now pressed upon Ireland—with a view to the alteration of a system which was the fertile source of litigation and bloodshed—with a view to place the clergy of the Established Church in a situation in which they might be more useful than they were at present—with a view also to promote the harmony and consequent prosperity of all classes and denominations of his Majesty's subjects in Ireland, Parliament was bound to hold out some definite hope and pledge to the people of Ireland that it would give to them an extensive change in the present system of maintaining the clergy of the Established Church. In whatever way that change might be made, at whatever time it might be effected, it must ultimately prove a charge upon the land. Gentlemen might flatter themselves that they could relieve one class at the expense of another—they might do so in a certain mode and for a certain time; but ultimately all their legislation would be defeated by the free competition which, in this country existed between the different classes of the community. He did not, therefore, call upon the Committee for any definite resolution as to the mode in which this change was to be effected. But when he pointed out the way in which the present system operated as a grievance he thought that he did sufficient to call the attention of Parliament to that branch of it in which the 154 remedy ought to be applied. There was one point to which he had hitherto for gotten to advert, and which he considered to be important, namely, that it was in the essence of tithe to be a tax, not on land, but on the successful cultivation of land; in other words, that the amount of tithes was proportioned to the labour and the talent which the tenant employed in making the soil productive. That was a point in which he thought that the law must of necessity be altered. The tithe Composition Act had fixed the rate of tithe to a certain amount for a period of twenty-one years; but the tithe Composition Act did not, in his opinion, go far enough. It did not go the full length of placing the bur-then so that it should not be increased on the improving occupying tenant. He did not, however, mean to say, that the income of the clergyman ought not to bear a proportion to the improvement of the country, but it was for that very reason that he wished the charges of tithe to be fixed on land, because that portion of it which was allotted to the Church would be open to improved cultivation as well as the other parts, and the whole of the parts would continue to bear their present relative position. In proposing to the Committee the Resolutions which he had already read, he wished it to be distinctly understood that he was desirous of obtaining the approbation of Parliament to them as a whole. He earnestly entreated the Committee to bear in mind the language used in the Report.Your Committee, in the meantime, will devote their unremitting attention to the prosecution of the important inquiries intrusted to them by the House; but they earnestly entreat the house to bear in mind that the satisfactory operation and permanent maintenance of any plan that can be adopted must depend upon mature previous consideration of its practical details. An arrangement is to be made, not merely of a prospective nature, and attaching to new and unsettled relations between the parties concerned, but an arrangement by which existing and frequently conflicting interests are to be affected, and which is to be general in its operation throughout a country wherein the tenure of land is peculiarly complicated and various in its character."If, then, Ministers," said the right hon. Gentleman, "before they are prepared to lay a measure of relief before the House, call upon it on the one hand to give a pledge for an alteration of the system, and, on the other, to vindicate the authority of the law before the violations of it which now exist 155 become more grievous, their excuse must be found in this consideration—that much of the efficacy of their remedy depends upon the promptness with which it shall be applied. We, therefore, call upon the House to teach Ireland a lesson of which she stands too much in need. We call upon the House to teach her that she may safely look to the justice of England; but that she must not expect to work upon us by fear—that we are willing to yield to her well founded complaints, but that we are not to be overawed by turbulence and violence—that we are as ready to remedy her real grievances as she is to point them out to us for redress; but that we will not allow those who are guilty of violence or disobedience to the law to profit by their own wrong, and to benefit by their own misconduct. In a word, we call upon Ireland to put herself into friendly relations with England; for such a union will afford the surest means of remedying every grievance which may happen to exist in every portion of the British dominions, and is above all things necessary to the successful issue of this measure, on which not merely the prosperity but also the existence of Ireland, as an integral part of the empire, essentially depends." The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolutions, which he had already read to the Committee.
was convinced that the right hon. Gentleman, and the Government of which he was the organ, were deluding themselves in supposing that tithes were the real grievance of Ireland. To that delusion he would be no party, for he verily believed, that if they were to convert the tithe into a land-tax unaccompanied by other measures, the effect would be to convert the gentry of Ireland into White-boys and rebels, and to add them as leaders to the discontented peasantry. He predicted that there would be no satisfaction in Ireland until they made a revision of the Government, the discipline, and the revenues of the Church of Ireland. Tithes, he repeated, were not thereat grievance of Ireland. Neither were the clergy such harpies as some persons had represented them to be. They ought not to be blamed, because the law had devised a mode of recovering their tithe, which was at once grievous and expensive. He would not do away with tithe altogether, and, for this reason, he was not an advocate for a free trade in religion. A free trade in religion 156 might do in a new state like America; but if it existed here, he was afraid that many of our pastors would do nothing but prey upon the passions of their flocks. He looked on tithe as a fund set apart for the religious purposes of the country—that, so far was he from wishing to deprive the Established Church of a maintenance from the tithe, that, conceiving that the tithe fell upon the landlords eventually, he claimed that the landlords, being generally Protestants, had a right to demand that their clergy should be maintained out of this fund; but, at the same time he did not think they could properly claim a monopoly of the whole sum, or more than was sufficient for the decent and respectable support of the clergy. The remainder ought to be applied to the religious wants of the rest of the community. The Popish church, when expelled from Ireland, had taken its revenge upon the country by leaving behind it the poisoned garment, which, in the shape of an aristocratic clergy, and a richly endowed bench of Bishops, had eaten into its heart, and all but destroyed its powers of vitality. He would conclude, by protesting against the third Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, on the ground that tithe was not the cause of the agitation now prevailing in Ireland. The real cause was the large revenue of the Church of Ireland, and the scanty manner in which the comforts of religion were extended to the poorer classes in that country. Until some alteration were made in that system, it would be vain to look for the restoration of tranquility in Ireland.
§ Mr. Brownlow
said, that the Resolutions before the Committee involved to a very serious extent the interests of Ireland. He could not suffer them to pass without observing that they were then upon a question involving the consideration of the religion and the Church property of Ire, land—a subject which few Members of that House approached without great timidity and solicitude. When he called upon the House the other evening to defer going into the Committee on the subject of Irish tithes, he by no means meant to deny that the question of the Church property of Ireland was a most serious and a most important question, nor that it demanded the deepest consideration; he, on the contrary, felt it to be of such moment as to wish to delay the proceedings in that House until the information 157 was complete. He was not disposed either to deny, for one moment, the difficulties under which the clergy of the Church of Ireland laboured, for they were involved in evils which demanded as instantaneous a remedy as the House of Commons could devise. His only motive for opposing the proposition that the Speaker should leave the Chair, was from a conviction in his own mind that, if the Committee upstairs was prolonged for a very few days, the additional information which they might thereby gain would enable them to Report to the House on the whole question. Such were his reasons; but, as they had been overruled by a large majority, he felt the sense of the House was adverse to his opinions, and he had ceased to oppose going into a Committee. He had listened to the Resolutions proposed by the right hon. Gentleman with great attention, and now they were before the Committee, the question was, what answer the Committee was to give them? The first Resolution, as he understood it, related to the condition in which the Irish clergy found themselves. He acknowledged that it was a grievous condition; and he was also ready to adopt the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and say, that they had not been brought into it by their own fault, for he would admit that there never was a body of men who had acted with more moderation, or who had more truly exemplified, in their own personal demeanour, the Christian doctrines which they taught, than the great body of the clergy of the Church of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had stated several individual cases of hardship, but he might without difficulty have found others equally strong. Among others, the right hon. Gentleman had adduced the case of the reverend Mr. Moore whom he stated to be a curate, at a salary of 70l. a-year, not one farthing of which he had received for the last three years; but he had overlooked one of the most distressing parts of it, for in a part of the letter he had quoted, that reverend Gentleman stated that, if he could not raise 100l., which he had been compelled to borrow on the non-payment of his salary, he was likely to go to gaol, and thus be disgraced in his profession and ruined in his prospects. Another most lamentable case was that of the reverend Mr. Faulkner, the curate of Templemere; it appeared, that had it not been for the allowance made by the Government, for his per- 158 forming Divine service to the troops, he would have been actually deprived of the means of subsistence. He came then to the question, were the clergy the owners of tithes? Who were the owners of them? If they belonged to the clergy and no other persons, they ought to be protected by the law, otherwise the law was of no use to them. The Legislature was bound to protect them in the peaceful and secure enjoyment of their property. How could they be expected to obey the law unless the law gave them protection? "Behold the plaintiff in the pulpit and the defendant in the congregation," was the eloquent and accurate description given by Grattan of the situation of the clergy in 1786 and 1787. He thought that description painted in strong colours the true situation of the Protestant clergy. Behold the clergy now heading the King's troops or the constitutional police to levy their tithes, and their opponents the whole population of the country. If that were the true state of the clergy, was it not time to provide some remedy? If it was just and right, as the Government proposed, that the amount of tithes now due should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund, it was in his opinion, equally just and right that the sum thus advanced should not be paid at the expense of the ordinary tax payers, nor from the pockets of the peaceful subjects of the Crown, but that it should be on all occasions exacted from the parochial defaulters. This was the view he took of the question; and, in connection with it, he would take leave to ask the right hon. Secretary one question. In this attempt to render justice to the clergy, by recovering the sums legally due to them, had he calculated on the state of the farmer and peasant who would be called on to pay—and was he prepared to protect them from the consequences of the system of intimidation which had been so long prevalent in Ireland? He knew—although for obvious reasons he would not mention names or places—that many of the peasantry were, although hostile to the system, still willing to pay their tithes, but that they did so under fear; and that when they came to comply with the demands on them, they entreated the receiver not to say he had been paid, and begged him, in mercy, to keep secret the names of those who had come in. He now begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he had provided protection for these persons, or if he 159 was prepared, as it was the duty of the Government to be, to put down the system of intimidation which would probably be renewed on the attempt to collect the arrears of the tithes. He wished to know what means had the right hon. Gentleman proposed to introduce by his Bill to infuse new spirit and life into the dead letter of the Irish law, and to afford protection and succour to the person thus running the risk of incurring the resentment of those who, being leagued against the law, had denounced those as traitors to the public cause who complied with, and obeyed the law? This was a consideration of great weight with him ere he gave his acquiescence in a project of improvement such as this, though recommended by the ability and sincere desire of his right hon. friend for the true welfare of that alarmingly agitated country. With far different feelings from that of any hon. Member paying his ordinary debt, and filing the receipt given for it, must that farmer or peasant ponder on that receipt which would be looked on by those opposed to him in feeling, on this subject, as evidence, clear as noon-day, of his guilty acquiescence in that which the people had denounced. With what agony of apprehension and terror must not that individual look upon that receipt, which, in the present state of the inefficiency of the law, was but too likely to prove the cause of the consignment of his property to the flames, and the death-warrant of himself and family—executed, possibly, in the lonely hour of night, by the relentless hands of his near neighbour? Most Catholics, it was known, had a positive moral objection to the payment of tithes, and that objection serving in the place of conscience and opinion, made them too reckless of what else they did to fulfil that. He approved of the substance of the three first Resolutions, but he disliked the fourth, or the coercive portion of the plan, and his reason for it was, that it was not accompanied by anything which would satisfy the great body of the people, or mitigate that ground of discontent which had overspread the country. The plan was imperfect to this extent, that it introduced no substantial change in the system which had created all the disturbance, and which the people of Ireland had united to condemn. The right hon. Gentleman's Resolutions might, it was true, be satisfactory to those who contemplated the continuance of the 160 present state of the Established Church of Ireland, but he would only say at once, that the system could not last—that it was founded in a great mistake—that it was bottomed in delusion—that it was a gross anomaly. Of what advantage was it to the country or the people? You could not hope it would give the people moral or religious instruction, for the great mass were Roman Catholics, and how could they expect that there would be any exercise of charity or good-will when the Ministers of the Established Church lived in a state of perpetual warfare with the whole body of the population? If they hoped to put an end to the dissentions of Ireland and to give satisfaction to the people, they must at once make up their minds to deal with the property of the Church as they would with other public property, and to make it applicable to its original purposes to the furtherance of charity by the support of the poor in conjunction with a proper maintenance for the clergy. By adopting that course—by rendering the Church Establishment one which answered the purposes for which it was instituted, and which, therefore, presented grounds on which it could be defended, were the only means through which they could hope to maintain that Establishment in Ireland.
reminded those who were now so anxious to adopt some measures to redress the grievances of Ireland, that when he proposed to them to be wise in time and to avert by concession the evils which he saw awaited them, he was greeted from all sides with the cry of spoliator and plunderer. What the Government were about to do now, was precisely what he recommended then; and although he could not but approve of a portion of their plan, he must say he could not see why they did not go along with him still further and remodel the whole Establishment of the Church of Ireland—for until that was done he was confident the people never would be satisfied. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that it was the intention of the Government to hold out the hand of conciliation to the people of Ireland; but how did he propose to commence his system of conciliation? Why, by calling on the House for extraordinary powers to suspend the laws in order that the people might be compelled to pay up the sums already due to the Church. They had 30,000 men, they were told, in Ireland at that moment, and if they 161 were found insufficient hitherto to collect even a tithe of the tithe, how, he would ask, did they hope to collect it hereafter, or what force did they suppose would be necessary for that purpose? How did they imagine they could overcome the resolves of a united people—of a people determined to resist to the last. He could read to them, if it was necessary, speech upon speech, delivered at the commencement of the contests which led to the American War, in which one Member of the House after another said, that all they wanted was more force and efficient laws; and yet what, after all, did the whole power of England do against an united people? In just the same way would the Irish resist, if they were driven to extremities. He was rejoiced that the Government had determined to make sacrifices to conciliate the feelings of the people; and although an hon. Member expressed doubts respecting the willingness of the people of England, to consent to give money out of the Consolidated Fund for such a purpose, he thought the hon. Member was mistaken. He, for one, was quite willing to give the money. He gave it in confidence to the Government: not because they were about to put the law in force with additional severity, but because tithes were at last to be abolished, and a system of compensation introduced in their stead. He was confident the people of England would not object to the arrangement. The question was not an Irish, so much as it was an English question, because it would enable England to conduct the Government of Ireland, for the future, without an immense expenditure, and that unfortunate spirit which had hitherto marked their connection. Let the Government try to bring the Irish within the pale of the Constitution by acts of kindness and conciliation. They asked but for justice. Let the Government give them that justice; but let it not, at the same time, profess to bestow a boon on the Irish, while it insisted on the rigid Administration of laws which were in themselves unjust; but rather let the Government give to the Irish those improved laws which they had long claimed and deserved. By the Resolutions before the House the Government professed to conciliate the people; but, at the same time, in the last Resolution it intimated that it would first try again what coercion was likely to do, and how far fire and the sword could com- 162 mand success. He was confident, if the House adopted this recommendation, England would be placed in a situation with regard to Ireland which few of them would like to contemplate. He thought it would be both wisdom and prudence, on the part of the Government, to declare an intention to go into a review of the whole Church Establishment of Ireland. He knew that Ministers had business enough on their hands; but if they were once to announce such an intention, they might take their own time to carry it into execution; and if they were to allow the Committee now sitting to take all the evidence they could collect, and make a Report on it, he was certain that evidence would satisfy every impartial man in this country that all attempts at coercion would utterly fail for the collection of tithes. He believed the Ministers meant as well as any men could do; but they were proceeding under bad advice, and they would fail. For his part, he regretted being compelled to differ with them, but he could not give his consent to the third Resolution, and he should vote against it.
The present discussion involves a question of such vital importance to Ireland, that it is almost impossible for any man who feels an interest in the welfare of that country to refrain from expressing his anxiety for such a settlement of the question as might be equitable, at all events, and satisfactory if possible. Nevertheless, I must say, that for my own part I should infinitely prefer consigning its adjustment to fair, impartial, and intelligent Protestants, to making even the slightest suggestions myself, lest they might be supposed to emanate rather from that jealousy to the Church establishment which has been so charitably imputed to persons of my religious persuasion, but which I wholly disclaim, than from a deep conviction of the miseries inflicted upon Ireland by the present tithe-system, and an anxious desire to co-operate in any endeavour to mitigate their enormity; but, however reluctant I might have been on that account to take any part in any discussions on the subject, and however determined I was to refrain from doing so, yet, as I have been given to understand that I shall receive little credit for delicacy of feeling by observing silence on the one hand, and that on the other I should be accused of indifference or remissness, I hope I may be allowed to make a few ob- 163 servations on the Resolutions that have been submitted to the House by the right hon. the Secretary of Ireland. Appreciating the difficulties by which the Government is encompassed, and being fully impressed with the conviction of the sincerity of the intentions of Ministers and their wishes to promote the general good of the country, I own that it is with great reluctance that I feel obliged to dissent from any part of any of the measures which are proposed in the Resolutions that have been submitted for the consideration of this House. The first of these Resolutions is merely declaratory—the others recommend the advancement of a sum to meet the exigencies of the present incumbents, from whom tithes have been withheld—the recovery of the arrears of tithes by extraordinary measures of coercion—the abolition of tithes in future, and the substituting for them either a land-tax or a portion of the land itself. In the first proposition I sincerely concur. I think that with the present incumbents the country has contracted a solemn Covenant which it would be cruelty and injustice to violate, though the history of England might furnish precedents for such a violation, and from whatever funds their wants can be supplied, they ought to be relieved from their present privations, and protected from the recurrence of them. With respect, however, to the collection of the arrears of tithes by measures of extraordinary coercion, I question its possibility; for, in every free State, there is a moral force which is paramount to every physical power that can be brought against it—I mean the force of public opinion; that force which, in many cases, supersedes the necessity of all law; and, in other cases, is the sanction that imparts to law its stability and efficacy—that force of public opinion is most undoubtedly at this moment running in full tide against the tithe system; and I do think, that any recourse to extraordinary measures of coercion will only precipitate the ruinousdownfall of that establishment, which might have been remodelled and secured by an earlier adoption of measures to lighten its pressure on the community. But the recovery of the arrears of tithes has been always one of the features in the system that has excited peculiar aversion, and been the source of the most unjust exactions. And upon whose testimony are those arrears to be recovered? Upon the oaths of tithe proctors, the most heartless, the most unprin- 164 cipled set of men in existence. I speak of them from experience as a Magistrate; I have known the most exorbitant demands to be made and sworn to as just and equitable, and at the lowest valuation, and yet upon inquiry they were found to be most unjust exactions; but without dwelling on these instances, I shall mention a circumstance that lately occurred in the county which I have the honour to represent. Two of the most upright and intelligent Magistrates were impeached on the oath of a tithe-proctor for neglect of duty. The Lord Lieutenant deputed two of his Deputy-lieutenants to inquire into their conduct, and these Magistrates had to descend from the Bench, where they administered justice with credit to themselves and to their country, and to appear as criminals at the Bar before Deputy-lieutenants who differed from them in politics, but who, being men of honour, pronounced the charge to be false, frivolous, and vexatious. But, Sir, it is asserted that it is necessary to vindicate the majesty of the law. Without at all meaning to detract from that reverence to which the law is entitled, may it not be questioned if the law does not divest itself of half its majesty from the moment that it forfeits that high attribute that best entitles it to respect the attribute of justice? From that moment, it may still, it is true, retain power, but may it not too closely resemble the power of despotism? And certainly there arises this worst of all possible consequences from its continuance, that the hatred it engenders, and the hostility it awakens are extended to the most just, the most equitable authority. The remedies for the grievances of the tithe system should have been earlier applied; delay has been dangerous; the evils were known to exist, and yet they were not redressed until the people extorted from the country and this House the confession of their existence. The right hon. the Secretary for Ireland, when he first brought this question before the House, detailed some of these grievances, and this House acquiesced in the truth of his statements; but it should not be forgotten that but for the reclamations of the people the injustice with which they were treated would have remained unnoticed. I wish not to palliate the excesses which they have occasionally committed. I deplore the commission of these offences deeply, sincerely, and unaffectedly; but let those who condemn 165 them remember the grounds of dissatisfaction which were so long allowed to remain unredressed; and let them not be disposed to undervalue just complaints because, they were attempted to be redressed, unhappily, through the infraction of the law. If the endurance has been long, and the grievance most oppressive, it may be wise to make some remission of arrears which may be difficult to ascertain, and still more difficult to collect. At all events, before this House accedes to the proposal to invest the Government with additional power, the Government should distinctly state what that measure of relief is which is to compensate for extraordinary coercion. If the measure be satisfactory, coercion will be unnecessary; if it be unsatisfactory, coercion will be useless. That relief from the present system should be granted is universally conceded. Ought then the balance of the former evil to be rigorously exacted, because it is so written in a bond which ought long since to have been cancelled? The physical power of the executive there is no necessity to prove; convince the people that the measure in contemplation will effectually relieve them, and they will, I trust, cease to offer even passive resistance to the collection of much of these arrears. What that measure should be is, I am aware, a question of such complicated difficulty, that I do not presume to be equal to its solution; but when arguments have been advanced in which I cannot agree, I may be allowed to express my dissent from them. I must premise that I concur with those who are of opinion that the landlord should not derive any advantage from the abolition of tithes, but I cannot conceive that tithes fall on the land alone, and that, therefore, the land alone should be responsible for the whole amount. I must confess that I ought to distrust my opinion when it is at variance with that of the noble Lord, who stated that such an opinion could only result from gross ignorance, or worse; of the former he may, perhaps, easily convict me, but I trust I shall be acquitted of intentional error, or intentional misrepresentation. I think I can adduce a case in which the tithe did not fall on the land in the least; I know that an experiment was made on a bog thirty-six feet deep, and so wet that it was necessary to place boards under the feet of the men who were tilling it, and yet with considerable labour, and an immensity 166 of manure, that bog that very year produced the finest crop of potatoes I ever saw. Now, if the tithe of these potatoes were exacted, would it not be entirely the tithe of the labour and capital, and not of the land, which was worth nothing—which was absolutely nothing but the locale on which to expend labour and capital—and which ceased to be worth anything from the moment the crop was extracted from it? And, therefore, is it not fair to infer that tithe is a compound, and not a simple charge, and that industry and capital are some of the ingredients of the payment? A landlord may lease ten acres of ground to each of two tenants: one is idle and poor—the other industrious and rich; the one will, of course, pay no tithe—while the other will pay tithe to a considerable amount. In short, I think there are numerous instances which would prove that tithe does not fall on the land alone; and that, therefore, the landlord alone should be responsible for the full amount. I know that in refutation of this my opinion it is asserted that the landlord receives even a higher rent for land that is tithe free, than the amount of tithe added to the usual rent. This does not bring conviction to my mind; he now receives a higher rent because such land is used for the evasion of tithe. A man will till that ground alone; he will have on that ground all his titheable articles, and thus free the rest of his grounds from their produce. But it does not follow that if all lands were tithe-free they would rise in the same proportion. Again, it is said, that the abolition of tithes would benefit the landlord alone; would it not benefit the occupying tenant—would not new leases be modelled by the surviving leases of the adjoining grounds? Is it not a well known fact, that the more a landlord is distressed the more he will distress his tenantry; and if it be true that the tenant will not be in the least benefitted by the abolition of tithes because the whole amount would go into the pocket of his landlord, it must follow that he cannot be benefitted by the whole amount being taken out of the pocket of his landlord, except in so far as the landlord might be a more merciful tithe-proctor. Do I wish, in saying this, to assert that the landlord should be allowed to profit by the abolition of tithes? By no means; but if a new mode of assessment be proposed for the express purpose of relieving the peasantry, it should be 167 much smaller in amount, or it should be allocated for advantage, otherwise you leave the evil unredressed, and only increase the unpopularity of the landlord by making him the tithe-proctor; and thus endanger both rent and tithe. I certainly feel that the landlord should make some sacrifice for the benefit of his country; but if he be willing to assume, upon his own shoulders, the collection and payment of the whole present amount of tithes, without any prospective provision for the poor, let him recollect that imperious necessity will, ere long, inflict another charge upon the land, by the inevitable introduction of Poor Laws into Ireland. It must also be recollected, that the very first act of a Reformed Parliament will most probably, be the repeal of the Corn Laws; all agricultural produce will thus be depreciated, and tithes would be depressed, were their payment continued. This consideration ought not to be overlooked in adjusting the mode and the amount of any future permanent provision to be substituted for tithe, whether that provision be a land-tax, or land itself. With respect to the latter, whatever arguments tend to show that it would be an injury to the landlord, or little benefit to the people, to substitute a land-tax for tithe, equally militate against assigning land itself for that purpose. Besides, so many various and conflicting interests would have to be consulted and reconciled, that the difficulty of a satisfactory adjustment, in this respect, would be infinite. Perhaps it might not be even quite consistent with the safety of the Church itself, to add more land to the millions of acres which she already possesses. Were these lands sold or leased for their full value, and the amount well administered, how splendid might be the Church Establishment! Above all, if the number to whom it is beneficial be taken into account—a million of acres for the clergy of half a million of Protestants. Still, I am of opinion, that the rights of the present incumbents should be respected; but when they pass away, according to the ordinations of Providence, the general opinion is, that their incumbencies revert to the Crown, are at the disposal of the State, and, thenceforward the clergy should be remunerated according to the ratio of services required from them in the first place, and performed in the next. As ministers or the Established Church, they should be sup- 168 plied with all that is necessary to supply the wants, and contribute to the comforts, and even the elegancies, of life; but their best friends ought not to wish for them such an accumulation of wealth as would seem incompatible with the simplicity of a Christian Church, especially in a nation of paupers. I hope I have abstained from any observations that could give pain or umbrage to any individual. I am anxious for the maintenance of law, the preservation of religion, and the security of property; but I do not think that the disturbances relating to tithes necessarily tends to the subversion of property, or that a different allocation of part of them would endanger the Protestant religion. Tithes were transferred, at the Reformation, from one religion to another—tithes were materially affected by the Agistment Bill in Ireland—tithes have nearly vanished from the whole face of Europe; and yet, in all these vicissitudes with respect to them,! private property has been respected, because, in its preservation, the great body of society must feel a community of interest—an identity of feeling—as well those who possess, as those who hope to acquire and transmit property. Neither do I think, that the payment of tithe necessarily involves the diffusion and preservation of the Protestant religion. In the parish in which I reside in Ireland, there is not one single Protestant inhabitant; and can it be said that, because tithes are collected in it, the Protestant religion is thereby diffused or preserved in it? Of that religion I wish to speak with all possible respect; for some of its ministers I entertain the most sincere regard and esteem; and if there be some individuals who avail themselves of every opportunity to disparage the clergy of my religion, I have too much respect for religion in general to recriminate, even if I had the opportunity of doing so. But I do not measure religion by the amount of temporalities annexed to it. On the contrary, were I asked what would be the most efficacious expedient to alienate the Catholic people of Ireland from their clergy, I should say, most unhesitatingly, that it would be, the compelling them to pay to their clergy the same amount of tithe which they now pay to the Protestant hierarchy, collected in the same way as at present; according to which, a man may pay, this year, 1l. for his tenement, and 2l. the next, if he be industrious; and 3l. the next, if 169 he irritate a tithe-proctor; and nothing the year after, if he neglect his farm, and prefer voluntary ruin to the galling necessity of succumbing to unjust exactions. Thanks to the Government, the mode of collecting tithe will, at all events, be altered. This good will result from inquiry. I wish I could support the whole measure; but, to invest Government with extraordinary powers of coercion, I, for one, cannot consent, while ignorant of the remedies to be applied to the evils of the tithe-system.
§ Mr. William Peel
said, that it was impossible that a more important question than the present could come before the House, being neither more nor less than whether illegal combinations and base conspiracies should attain a power above the law, or whether the rights of property should be respected, the rents of land paid, and the taxes imposed by that House collected. That was the real question they had now to determine. He was of opinion that the existence of the Protestant Establishment, both in England and Ireland (for he would not separate them as the noble Lord, the member for Devonshire, had done) depended upon the course now taken by the Government and the House. He did not believe, that that Establishment would have been so attacked, or placed in a position of such jeopardy, if a feeling had not existed amongst its enemies, that those in power were not very anxious or zealous in its defence. He believed that they would never have heard of this question of tithes if the present Government had not been formed. If that Government had not existed, Ireland would not have been in its present state. Was it not natural that the enemies of the Protestant Church should be encouraged in Ireland, and the confidence of the Irish Protestants towards the Government destroyed, when they saw that, upon a motion formerly made by the hon. member for Middlesex, for despoiling the Church of its property, of forty-six English Members who voted for it, eleven were now connected with the Government, and two of them members of the Cabinet? It had been stated frequently by that hon. Member, that the revenues of the Church were public property, and that, therefore, that House could apply it to what purposes it thought fit. He would tell the hon. Member, that the House had no more right to 170 touch the property of the Church than they had to vote away his private estate. They had no right to do it whatever; and if ever such a right were usurped, he should then feel himself equally at liberty to vote for the confiscation of the hon. Member's estate, if he thought proper. He would put a case to the hon. Member. In a township with which he was connected, a pious individual had formerly built a church for the convenience of the inhabitants, and endowed it with lands for its support. With what show of right could the hon. Member, or that House, seize upon that land as the property of the State? He cordially concurred in the vote of the proposed sum from the Consolidated Fund, to meet the claims of the incumbents of those benefices where tithes had been refused, depending upon the Government for afterwards enforcing the law. He was aware, that some alteration was necessary to be made as to the mode of collecting the revenues of the Church in Ireland; but what he insisted upon was, that there must be no surrender to dishonest conspiracy, or illegal combination. The King had taken a solemn oath to protect the Protestant Church in its possessions, and God forbid that the King should ever have a Minister capable of advising him to disregard its obligation.
thought, that it was necessary to administer some relief to the clergy of Ireland, but it ought not to come out of the pockets of the people of England. He must add, that he had the utmost confidence in the present Government with regard to their measures for Ireland, and he should support them so long as that confidence remained unbroken.
fully concurred with the hon. member for Middlesex, that the question was as much an English as an Irish one, and that whatever was now done with regard to Ireland could not hereafter be refused in England. He was glad to hear the subject brought forward with so much ability and clearness by the right hon. Gentleman, and he did hope, that the law would hereafter be better enforced in Ireland than it had hitherto been. It was evident, that an armed combination for the subversion of property existed at present, which combination ought to be immediately put down. The present state of that country was most awful. It was much worse at this moment 171 than it had been at any time during the last thirty years, and he hoped that Government would use with energy the means that were in its power to put an end to such a state of things. He thought that the wants of Ireland did not so much consist in legislative enactments as in the enforcement of the laws which already existed; although he should be very glad to see some arrangement adopted, by which the anomalies connected with the Tithe-laws would be removed. There was nothing new in a proposition of that kind, because the Tithe-composition Act had already effected a considerable change in the system; but the application of the funds of the Church to any other purposes than those of the Church would be the most daring robbery that ever was perpetrated. It had been assumed in the House, that the whole body of the Irish people were in combination against the payment of tithes. He denied that to be the fact. For two years he had been in constant correspondence with the clergy of Ferns and Leighlin, and he knew that people paid their tithes without compulsion, but secretly, for they dreaded the vengeance of the conspirators, who, he verily believed, had been emboldened by the Government, which had not pursued a straightforward system. Had the Ministers made the declaration which the clergy called upon them to promulgate in the month of October last, they would have prevented that delusion in part, which had since taken possession of the minds of the people, that the Government were adverse to the claims of the clergy. He himself felt, that the land was fairly subject to the tithes. He spoke as a landlord, and, therefore, he had no objection to the transfer suggested. That was the way the question ought to be viewed, and if viewed so, there would be little difficulty in making an arrangement to carry it into effect. The landlord ought to bear the tithes, but then the landlord ought to have the same powers for collecting the tithes that he had for collecting his rent. By such a proceeding the question would be divested of all its anomalous and objectionable character, and do great good. It would certainly throw new responsibilities upon the landlord, but he, for one, would readily bear them. He highly approved of the proposition of a grant for the payment of the tithes due to the parochial clergy.
said, that, if they wished 172 to cause the laws to be respected and revered in Ireland, it was necessary that those who framed them in that House should adopt a different tone and temper from that which some Gentlemen had assumed in the course of the evening. He gave his most hearty concurrence to the proposition for the relief of the clergy. They were distressed by no fault of their own, and ought to be relieved. That was not the time to inquire into the conduct of the clergy, but to assist them. He wished to see the law respected, but he wished also to see the just claims of the people attended to. He and his hon. friends about him said thus—There is a gross abuse; endeavour to remedy that abuse; and, having done so, whatever measures are necessary for the support of the amended law we will cordially assist you in enforcing. The people of Ireland were tired of this contest, and would readily accept of any terms which were consistent with their honour. It was not, he conceived, just, that, at the very moment when the Government admitted that the law was bad and ought to be abolished—it was not, he repeated, just that it should, at the same time, demand those extraordinary powers for enforcing the law. He could assure the House, that the objection against the payment of tithes in Ireland was not so much to the manner in which they were levied, nor to their amount, as to their appropriation. He had never paid tithe, without feeling himself degraded—without considering it as a tribute paid by the conquered to the conquerors. If Louis 14th had invaded and conquered England, and had established Catholicism as the religion of the State, would the Protestant inhabitants of the country have paid tithes to the Catholic clergy, except on compulsion. It was of a similar compulsion towards the Catholics of Ireland that he complained. Let the English Members of that House suppose themselves placed in the same situation, and what one would stand up and say, that he would not resist to the utmost such an imposition? "Oh, but," it would be said, "the countries are united." To this he would reply, that the Union was carried by bloodshed and corruption, and against the earnest wishes of the whole of the Irish nation. The Union was adopted to perpetuate the galling yoke the country complained of, and which they resisted in resisting tithes. He, therefore, should 173 strenuously oppose the Resolutions which went to give compulsory power to the Government. He did not deny the superior power of England. Ireland might be desolated and colonized, but still the old spirit would prove unconquerable, and spread, in spite of cruelty, suffering, and confiscation. He complained of the hasty manner in which this subject had been brought forward. The whole subject ought to have been considered by the Committee, before the House was called on to express en opinion. No proceeding ought to have been founded upon a partial Report. He, therefore, regretted the course which had been taken by the Government, but the first Resolution had his cordial support.
§ Sir Rich. Musgrave
said, the only way to ensure the peace and tranquillity of Ireland—the only way to sustain the Protestant Church in that country—was immediately to adopt some efficient measure for the relief, not only of the clergy, but of the people. It was said, that the dignity of the law was to be maintained—that the dignity of the Government was to be maintained—but how was that to be done? He supposed by force. That, however, had been tried, and the Government had been baffled. Troops had already been resorted too in this contest. They had been called upon to perform a most harassing duty—a duty which they disliked, and their efforts were unsuccessful. Let not the House deceive themselves. The people of Ireland would not be intimidated. Some Gentlemen might suppose that the Irish were ignorant, but those Gentlemen were in error. His countrymen might be poor and suffering, but they were not ignorant—they were shrewd and ingenious, and often discussed political questions which bore on the interests of Ireland. Their misfortune was, not that they were ignorant, but that they had individuals amongst them, high in office, who were ignorant of the situation of the country. It was proposed to make an advance of money to the Protestant clergy, which money was afterwards to be repaid by a levy on the country. Now, he was perfectly certain that the people never would be satisfied unless they saw a more equal appropriation of the Church property. In meeting this question, the House laboured under many difficulties, in consequence of its having been prematurely brought forward before all the evidence was gone 174 through. It was a question between the great body of the people of Ireland, on the one hand, and the Protestant clergy on the other; and, before all the evidence had been heard, Ministers had decided to reward the clergymen, and to punish the people. They had been told that a conspiracy or combination existed in Ireland against the payment of tithes, but they had not been told of the cases of individual oppression that led to it. No account had been given of a case in which it was shown that a poor man had to carry potatoes four miles on his back to meet the tithe-proctor. No statement had been made with respect to a widow, from whom tithes were exacted, although, on account of her poverty, and in consequence of her affording support to an insane female, she had been for thirty years exempted from the payment of rent; neither was any notice taken of the fact that the horse of the parish priest of Graigue was sold for tithes alleged to be due to the Protestant clergyman. Acts such as these had given rise to the combination, as it was called, which prevailed, more or less, in every part of Ireland. To put down that combination strong powers were demanded. Now, Mr. Hamilton was the only person examined who called for martial law. He asked for martial law against his Roman Catholic parishioners, from whom, principally, he received between 1,700l. and 2,000l. a year. One of the Magistrates who had been examined expressed a very different opinion. He declared that, to coerce the people, it would require, not merely a large, but an enormous army, and that even then the project would probably fail. He, therefore, should oppose those compulsory measures which it was now proposed to direct against a people burning with the recollection of ancient wrongs, and exasperated by the pressure of recent injuries. If he wished more powerfully to portray the distressed state of Ireland, he need only point to the outcasts from that country who were seeking for employment in England. But he hoped the time was not far distant, when the Irish peasant would find a resting place in his own country; he hoped the day would soon arrive when the landlord, the clergyman, and the tithe-proctor, would cease to persecute him, and when unjust laws would no longer oppress and grind him.
Mr. Dominick Browne
thought that, before many years elapsed, some ad- 175 justment must be made with respect to the Church property in Ireland, by which it would be appropriated to the support of the three prominent sects in that country, instead of being wholly bestowed on one that comprised not more than one-third of the population. To a reformed House of Commons, Ireland must appeal for her rights, and a reformed House of Commons would, he was satisfied, grant her those rights. He did not blame Ministers for the measure which they had brought forward, but he was quite ready to have gone much further. He admitted, however, that this was not the proper time to enter fully into the subject. He even regretted that any measure upon the subject of the tithe system of Ireland had been brought forward at the present moment; because he felt that, until the all-engrossing and all-important question of Reform was disposed of, it would be vain to expect that any other subject could be properly discussed. Ministers, however, could not avoid it. It had been pressed on his right hon. friend by the general opposition to tithes which prevailed in Ireland, and by the consequent destitution of the Protestant clergy. He agreed with Ministers that it was expedient and necessary to afford relief to that clergy; he also agreed with them, that it was necessary to abolish the existing mode of collecting tithes; but to the resolution by which it was proposed to commute the tithes by a tax upon land he never could consent. If possible, he would have the whole of the Church property of Ireland placed in one consolidated fund, out of which should be paid not only the Protestant clergy, but the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian ministers also.
§ Mr. Jones
should not have risen on the present occasion, but for a mistake into which the hon. Baronet (Sir Richard Musgrave) had fallen. The hon. Baronet had asserted, that the Protestant clergy had even gone so far as to call upon the Catholic priesthood to pay tithes, and in proof of that statement he had adduced a particular instance. In that instance the hon. Baronet was mistaken. The fact was this:—the Roman Catholic priest in the parish alluded to, after the Commutation Act had passed, took forty acres of land. When he agreed to take it the landlord introduced a clause into the lease by which he exempted himself, and bound the priest to the payment of the tithe. The priest took the land upon those conditions, but 176 subsequently tendered the amount of the tithe as so much rent. This was rejected by the landlord, and a horse belonging to the priest was seized for tithe. The case was afterwards carried into a Court of law, but did not come to trial; it was referred to the decision of Dr. Doyle, who eventually determined the question in favour of the landlord and against the priest.
§ Sir Richard Musgrave
, in explanation, said, that he had only stated, that the priest's horse was sold for tithe, and that fact was fully borne out by the evidence.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, that the hon. member for Kildare (Mr. O'Ferrell) had set himself up as the advocate of the people of Ireland, but the hon. Member, from his tone and manner, could be considered in no other character than as the advocate of the agitators and the disturbers of the peace of that country, who were banded in illegal associations and were endeavouring to set themselves above the law. The hon. Member argued for the entire and unqualified abolition of the tithes, but yet he had agreed to the appointment of a Committee for the purpose of inquiring into the subject, with the view of protecting the Church. The proceedings proposed were said to be premature. He held a very different opinion. If the subject was not at once taken up, ruin and general destruction must occur. In seven counties there were illegal combinations against tithes, and in many places against rent also, and all other property. [No, no.] An hon. Gentleman said No. But to prove he was correct, he would beg leave to refer to documents: the first which he should notice was, a letter from a Lieutenant of Police, dated the 24th of January, 1832, which was to be found in page 225 of the Appendix to the Report, and contained these words:—I was on duty yesterday morning before day-light; and, on my return to quarters, about twelve o'clock mid-day, I heard horns blowing in all directions, and saw the peasants pouring out of the villages and down the mountains in vast numbers, carrying flags, and accompanied by fifes, and firing shots in the most open and undisguised manner; in fact, the roads were actually covered with them to a great extent. They went in this manner to all the respectable landlords here, threatening and demanding that the rent should be lowered to the scale that they pointed out; and they actually forced, through terror, the gentlemen to sign a written document, binding themselves to the measure required of them, vowing vengeance if they refused to do as they desired! In the evening 177 they assembled here in thousands, with different banners, and entered into resolutions to "pay neither rent, tithe, nor taxes, until O'Connell got new laws for them.Again, in the same page, he found an extract from a notice, which was, perhaps, worthy of attention—Vast numbers of people, to the extent of 6,000 or 7,000, marched to the house of a Mr. Michael Dogherty, who is agent for different small estates around him, and also tithe agent for some clergymen in the neighbourhood, and, by threats, compelled him to refund what he had collected. The man was so terrified, that he would not swear examinations against any of the party.He contended, therefore, that the Government were compelled to take up the subject, or to abandon the execution of the laws altogether. If hon. Members thought the rents in no danger, let them peruse the notice signed "Lady Clare," now in circulation throughout Queen's County. It was in these words:—John Harrison—I am sorry to find your tenantry are paying a very high rent; now I hereby give you notice, that, unless you make your tenants an abatement of 5s. an acre, you will put me under the disagreeable necessity of visiting you personally, and terminating, not your lease, but your existence. I give you ten days to consider whether you will do this; if not, prepare your coffin. "A friend to youLADY CLARE.The present combinations, however, did not extend over more than a part of one province, but if the Government took no steps to put down illegal combination, they would increase, and the other three provinces would follow the example of the fourth. If it was found, that, by having recourse to such means, the lawful payments to which persons were liable, could be evaded; if the law did not put down the combinations, the combinations would put down the law. There was no alternative. But it was said, that no proceeding ought to have been proposed until the final Report of the Committee was before the House. Had such a course been taken, Ireland would have been abandoned to confusion and anarchy. He not only thought the plan proposed necessary, but he seriously believed that it would check combination, and restore peace to the country. The clergy could not resist the combination, but the case would be very different with the Government. Much had been said on the subject of coercion, but really there was none in the proposed 178 measure. The task of collecting the tithes was transferred from the clergy to the Attorney General. No new pains or penalties were imposed, but great relief would be afforded even to the tithe defaulter. This was not a measure of coercion, but lenity. The moment the fiat of the Legislature was pronounced, combination against tithe in Ireland would be broken. The arm of the law would suppress the combination. It was a measure practicable, because it was not coercive, and would, therefore, be effective. A case had been made out for relieving the clergy, but the Government of the country must be reimbursed. The people of England and Ireland who had not opposed tithe, were not to pay for those who had combined to plunder the Church. Another consideration was, whether the tithe system, which had worked badly hitherto, could not be changed or made subject to a commutation which might operate to the advantage of the public and the clergy? Some objection had been made to the use of the King's name in the intended process; but it was well known that the name of the King was often a mere fiction in some cases, such as extents in aid issuing from the Exchequer; the people knew that the Crown had but little or no interest in the suit. The measure was one of favour and lenity, and could not fail in accomplishing the object all must wish to see carried into effect.
said, that he did not think that the language used by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, towards the conclusion of his speech, had been, to say the least of it, the most judicious that could have been employed. It appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman should not have dwelt with such emphasis on the putting down of disturbances; while admitting, as he did, the existence of grievances which caused those disturbances, he made little or no allusion to their removal. On the contrary, it would have been wiser, it would have been more statesman-like on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, speaking as the organ of his Majesty's Government on this important subject, to have said, "We will try what justice will do; we will try what a removal of acknowledged and crying grievances will effect, and if we find that success shall not crown our efforts, then we will change our course." The right hon. Gentleman had acquitted the Protestant clergy of all 179 blame arising out of those proceedings. Now, he (Mr. Sheil) did not stand forth as their accuser, but he could not avoid observing, that the language of panegyric had, in this instance, gone somewhat beyond the bounds of truth and justice. He was ready to acknowledge, that in their ranks were to be found men of the highest character, and of the most unblemished conduct; but he begged to observe, that they must go to the evidence which had been given before the Committee, in order to get rid of the cloud of incense which had been wafted towards these reverend gentlemen by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, and that they must recur to the plain matter-of-fact statements contained in that evidence as the only sure and proper medium for ascertaining the truth. Could any man, acquainted with the condition and circumstances of Ireland, doubt that, in many places, and on many occasions, the Protestant clergy had allowed themselves to do and say much, which it would have been infinitely better never to have ventured on? For the purpose of establishing this position, he must refer to the evidence of Sir John Harvey, relative to the seizure of the horse of the Catholic priest of the parish of Graigue, county Kilkenny, the rev. Mr. Doyle, by the Protestant rector, the rev. Mr. M'Donnell—that gentleman went so far as to declare, that, when the Bishop of Ossory was applied to on the subject, he condemned the conduct of the parson in that affair, and there could be little doubt that that outrage had been the origin of the bursting forth of the torrent that had subsequently swept the country. He must ask, whether proof was not afforded, in this instance, that there were Protestant clergymen whose conduct was deserving of blame, and whether it was not made out, that offence had been offered to the feelings of the people—such offence as had given origin to the great public evil that it was now sought to remedy. It had been also proved by the witnesses examined before the Committee that the payment of tithe was demanded in English currency instead of Irish currency; and he begged to ask whether such a demand as that, on the part of the Protestant clergyman, was a just or a right one? Though, however, he was of opinion that much of what occurred was to be attributed to the conduct of the Protestant clergy, he was as ready as any hon. Mem- 180 ber in that House to give them relief, and he thought that it was enough to know that many of them had suffered severely in the moral hurricane which had taken place, in order to justify a measure to succour their distress. He did not think that the Resolution with regard to the change which was to be made with respect to the property of the Church, at all pledged the House not to appropriate that property as it might deem fit hereafter, and he hailed the substitution in the Resolution of other words for the words "revenues of the Church," which were to be found in the Report, as a proof that the question as to the appropriation of that property was left perfectly open to the future consideration and determination of the House. It was his settled conviction that nothing short of a distinct and immediate appropriation of a large portion of that property to other purposes would answer the need and relieve the deep distress under which Ireland at present laboured. The Government, no doubt, might find the case one very difficult to deal with, and it might deem it convenient to wear a mask in order to conceal its intentions; but to him it appeared that such dissimulation, in a matter of such pressing urgency and momentous importance, involved within it a great and grievous mistake. The Government might find it convenient to wear a mask; but there must be a new appropriation of Church property; to that they must eventually come. This question had been proposed to be referred to a Reformed Parliament, but there would never be any Reform unless what had been some time talked of was executed. The present Government might rest assured that they would never carry an efficient Reform, unless they set out with reforming the other branch of the Legislature. The Bill would never come back to the House unmutilated without fifty new Coronets on its head. They might rely upon this, that the present measure would do nothing more than excite the scorn and the anger of the people of Ireland. And he called upon the House, in the name of God, to endeavour to conciliate them instead of using means which would exasperate their already strongly-excited passions. It was impolitic to make the Crown the collector of tithes, if for no other reason, for this, at all events, that it would transfer to the Crown the odium which the tithe-system had brought upon the Church. But what 181 were those arrears, for the recovery of which the Crown was to become a suitor in every civil Court in Ireland? Tithes upon potatoes—a tax which was exacted only in the south of Ireland. The north was free from the oppressive exaction; but yet one-third of all the arrears now due were tithes of potatoes. He made that assertion on the authority of the rev. Mr. Langrishe, in the examination of that gentleman before the Committee. Why, then, should the Lord Lieutenant become the collector of tithes in the south of Ireland, which the clergy in the north of Ireland had never claimed. He implored the House not to legislate hastily upon so vital a question—to wait until the final Report of the Committee should be brought up. Justice consisted of two parts—the redress of grievances, and the punishment of offences. The House was about to reverse this order, and to punish first. He would conclude by asking, could any Gentleman, who had the welfare of Ireland at heart, stand up in that House and say, that he could approve of any Bill that should be founded on those Resolutions.
§ Sir Robert Peel
Sir, I am desirous, before this discussion terminates, of explaining the course which it is my intention to adopt with respect to the Resolutions which have been moved by the right hon. Gentleman; and although it is the usual practice for persons addressing this House to magnify the importance of the subject on which they are about to speak, yet I think I can truly state, without any rhetorical exaggeration, that, in the course of a parliamentary experience of twenty years, I never recollect a discussion, the issue of which was of more importance to the foundations of Government, and to the security of the institutions of this country, than must be the issue of the discussion before the House. I consider, Sir, that although there are five Resolutions moved by the right hon. Gentleman, yet two of them are of so much more importance than the rest, that to these two, I shall exclusively direct my attention. The two Resolutions to which I allude are these: the first pledges the House to enable the executive Government of Ireland, having advanced certain sums for the relief of the suffering clergy, to recover the amount of these sums from those by whom they are justly re-payable; and the other pledges the House to take into consideration an extensive change in the mode of 182 providing for the maintenance of the ministers of the Established Church, which change will involve the commutation of tithe, either for an equivalent in land, or for a rent-charge upon land. I shall invert, in the consideration which I shall give to these two propositions, the order in which I have stated them, and consider the latter in the first instance. I own, that, abstractedly, and on general principles, I object to pledge the House prospectively to the adoption of any particular course, at a future period. I have uniformly objected to this course. I can scarcely recall to my recollection a single instance in which I have been a party to a pledge that the House would, on some future occasion, adopt a certain measure. A vague engagement that the House will, on some future occasion, do that which is best for the country, is unnecessary, because the presumption should be, that at all times Parliament will be ready to act as may be most conducive to the interests of the public. I object to such a course, because I think it is an improper mode of relieving ourselves from present difficulties to enter into engagements, when we are not prepared with measures of practical detail, without the accompaniment of which, those engagements cannot be redeemed. The whole history of Parliament has a tendency to discourage the hasty adoption of pledges of this nature. With respect to this very question of tithes, there is a proceeding somewhat analogous to the present, which may be quoted as an example of the danger—the extreme inconvenience, at least—of entering into pledges. There was a time when a pledge was given by the House of Commons in favour of commutation of tithes; but to this day that pledge remains unredeemed, and the subject of that pledge continues now in the same state in which it was at the time the pledge was made. At the period of the Commonwealth, on the 9th of April, 1652, the House of Commons came to a Resolution of this nature—That it be referred to the Committee appointed to receive proposals for the better propagation of the Gospel, to take into speedy consideration how a convenient and competent maintenance for a godly and able ministry may be settled in lieu of tithes, and present their opinion thereon to the House.Whether any proposals were ultimately made for better providing for the ministry 183 of the Gospel, or whether the Committee reported their opinion thereon to the House, I know not: but, at any rate, no commutation of tithe took place, nor was any alteration made of the system that had theretofore existed. The account given by the historian of the circumstances preceding and subsequent to the appointment of this Committee, is both interesting and instructive. He says, that—The payment of tithes was a source of continual grievance to the country people, and was the subject of repeated petitions to Parliament, and Parliament was forced often to promise redress; and so, for a pretence of ease and quiet, they referred the question to a Committee, to consider how a convenient and competent maintenance for a godly and able ministry might be made in lieu of tithes. But (says the historian) the lay impropriators in the House would never consent to extinguish their own interests, and, therefore, the whole plan was abandoned.Now, I beg the attention of the House to the course which even that Parliament took in the year 1652. Although they entered into an unwise engagement to abolish tithe by commutation, yet they did not think it just, when they entered into that engagement, to encourage the refusal of the payment of tithe in the interim that might elapse between the appointment of the Committee and the final adjustment of the question by Parliament; for even that Parliament which had abolished monarchy—that Parliament which had abolished the House of Lords—that Parliament which was adverse to the established religion of the country—had still this sense of justice to resolve on the very occasion when the question of another maintenance for the clergy was under discussion—"That tithes shall be paid as formerly, until such maintenance be settled." Upon the question being put, a Resolution to that effect was moved as an Amendment, and a division took place, when it was carried in the affirmative by a majority of twenty-seven votes against seventeen. That very Parliament, I say, which had entered into an unwise pledge of abolishing tithes, by the very same vote came to a Resolution that the existing law should, in the mean time, be maintained, and the tithes be paid. Why then, Sir, I say, if we imitate the example of that Parliament with respect to the destruction of tithes, let us, at least, also follow it in the second precedent which it has set us, and, by a simultaneous engagement, pledge our- 184 selves to maintain the law and vindicate the authority of Parliament. I stated before, Sir, that my general course has been to object to Resolutions involving such pledges as the Resolution I am now considering involves. But such is my sense of the difficulties of this question—difficulties for which some immediate practical solution must be found, that I am content to make an exception with respect to this case, if I must pay that price, in order that I may have an assurance from the King's Government that the law shall be vindicated. I do not think I should be acting with due regard to the interests of the Protestant Church, if I did not, on this occasion, make that exception. I am, therefore, ready to agree to a Resolution which pledges me to the consideration of some plan, for the maintenance of the ministers of the Established Church in Ireland, as a substitute and just equivalent for the provision by means of tithe. To the wording of that Resolution I do certainly objects not because I entertain any material difference of opinion, as to the main object of that Resolution, from the right hon. Gentleman who moved it, but because I fear the danger of misconstruction in Ireland. I think, Sir, it is most unwise, in that Resolution, to use the words "extinction of tithes." I am aware that, in almost every Inclosure Act in this country, those words are used; but they are not used until the land for which the tithe so to be extinguished is commuted, is actually provided and allotted to the owner of the tithe. But here we use the words before the equivalent is provided, nay, before any plan for its provision is matured, or even proposed, for consideration. Therefore it is, that I fear we are exciting false hopes. The words "extinction of tithes" will, I am afraid, be construed by the peasantry of Ireland, to mean, that tithes are extinguished, and, therefore, are no longer payable. Now, as I think two years must elapse before any plan which Government may determine upon can be carried into effect, I fear that such an erroneous impression prevailing in Ireland, in the meantime will lead to the spreading of the combination against tithes, and tend to defeat the object which his Majesty's Government has in view. I give my consent, Sir, to the last of these Resolutions, upon the distinct understanding that it is meant to provide for the Church of Ireland a just and fair equi- 185 valent. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last, says he attaches great importance to the omission of the words "the revenues of the Church will be effectually secured," which words, he observes, though omitted here, are contained in the Report of the Committee. Now, I think, and I shall continue so to think until I am contradicted, that the right hon. Gentleman who prepared the Report of which these words stand a part, clearly meant it to be understood that, in commuting tithe for land, the appropriation is to be to the Church in Ireland, and that he means, as the Report expresses it, effectually to secure the revenues of the Church. I do not intend to exclude (for I think an inquiry may be necessary)—I do not intend to exclude a fair and just consideration of the present state of the Church in Ireland; but this is what I mean—I give my support to that Resolution, upon the clear understanding that those revenues which are to be provided for by the Church, in lieu of the tithe at present payable to that Church, are to be appropriated strictly to ecclesiastical purposes. These were the grounds upon which I consented to the Report—these are the grounds upon which I consent to the Resolution; admitting, at the same time, that there are other matters connected with the Church (the question of Church-rates is one) which ought to be placed on a different footing from the present; of all such matters I wish to see the final adjustment, and thus to prevent, if it be possible, the seeds of future agitation from being left to germinate among an easily-excited people. One of my main reasons for resolving to adopt this course is, the support which his Majesty's Government will derive from it in carrying into effect that other Resolution, in my opinion of equal importance to the one to which I have been alluding; I mean the Resolution which enables the Government to recover from those who are justly and legally liable to the payment of them, the arrears of tithes, so as to reimburse the sum which the Government may advance out of the public funds to the suffering clergy of Ireland. But, Sir, before I approach the important question that is involved in that Resolution, the hon. Gentleman, the member for Kildare, must allow me to refer to one part of his speech, which it was with great pain I heard him deliver—a speech which, in manner and matter, completely observed the precept given by an hon. 186 Gentleman, who said, that, in discussing the question of tithes, it was desirable it should be done suaviter in modo, et fortiter in re—a speech which more literally corresponded with that precept I never heard than the speech of the hon. member for Kildare. The argument which he advanced, if well founded, must almost preclude the necessity of any further discussion of this subject, because that argument tends to show that it is utterly impossible to hope for the future repose of Ireland, adopt what principle we may for the commutation of tithes. The hon. Gentleman said—and it was with extreme pain that I heard the obseryation—that he objected altogether to the payment of tithes in principle, and that he considered the payment as a degradation and as a badge of conquest and of servitude. I regard this, Sir, as proceeding from a Roman Catholic, to be a most extraordinary objection. I did hope that the removal of all civil distinctions, and the footing of perfect equality upon which that Gentleman and all his fellow Catholics of Ireland had been placed, had merged in oblivion those irritating topics which arose from ancient conflicts and ancient triumphs. Alas, Sir, how dangerous is the doctrine which this argument involves! how fatal to the security of all other property in the State! Does the hon. Gentleman recollect by what title three-fourths of the property in Ireland are held? If a prescription of 300 years can plead nothing in favour of the present settlement of the property of the Church, how unlikely is it that a prescription of 150 years can plead in favour of the settlement of lay property! Does the hon. Gentleman know how much of Ireland has been subject to confiscation and forfeiture, on account of those very conflicts to which he has referred, and against the recurrence of which we had fondly hoped, and had a right to believe, a barrier had been raised for all future time by the act of emancipation? But now the hon. Gentleman—notwithstanding that the settlement of the estates of the Church is coeval, not with the Rebellion of 1641, not with the Revolution of 1688, but with the Reformation—comes forth and declares, that he considers it as a badge of servitude to recognize that property, and that no Roman Catholic can avoid considering it in that degrading light. He reserves this doctrine until after the period when the Roman Catholic disabilities have been re- 187 moved. A different doctrine was advanced before that period, when, in 1825, a Committee was appointed, for the purpose of considering the state of Ireland, the evidence given on that occasion had a material influence on the public mind, and tended greatly to reconcile it to the emancipation of the Catholics. Throughout the whole of the evidence given before that Committee, by some of the highest authorities in the Catholic Church, is there, I ask, a single expression from which it could be inferred that the disabilities of the Catholics being removed, the payment of tithes would be considered by them as a degradation and badge of servitude? Many of them objected to tithes, on the same ground on which a Protestant might object to them; but not a man said, "After you have removed our civil disabilities, you must remove the burthen and degradation which we endure in the payment of tithe to the clergy of a Protestant establishment." This, I conceive, Sir, to be a most important part of the question now under discussion; and, therefore, for the purpose of proving that I am right, and with a view to show that, at that period, no Roman Catholic thought that the payment of tithe involved any degradation of the Roman Catholic, I shall adduce evidence which the honourable Gentleman himself must admit to be of the most unexceptionable and conclusive character. I will not take the evidence of the Roman Catholic layman; I go to the fountain head upon this point. I take the evidence of those men who, from their religious stations, and from their opportunities of intercourse with their flocks, must have had the best means of speaking decidedly upon this matter. The question is not—and do not let any man attempt to divert us from the real question now at issue between the hon. Gentleman and myself—the question is not, whether tithe be an unsuitable and unwise provision for the clergy; but the question is, whether, at that time, the Roman Catholics thought that the payment of tithe was a badge of servitude and degradation, and whether it is now just to argue that the act of emancipation will be incomplete if it be not followed by the total extinction of tithe? I will first take the evidence of the most reverend Dr. Kelly, who, I believe, was the titular. Archbishop of Tuam. This evidence will bear equally upon the other 188 points involved in the present discussion. He said that, in the year 1820, there were very serious disturbances in Mayo and Galway. He is asked, "Were the complaints made against the pressure of tithe rather than against the pressure of any other change?" His answer is—"No; they complain equally of high rents, Grand Jury cesses, and Church-rates." The next question is—"The efforts of these Ribbon-men were not directed specially against tithes?" His answer is—"Not by any means—they were directed more against landlords." The next witness whose evidence I shall refer to is Dr. Murray, who was titular Archbishop of Dublin. He says, "It is a general feeling, among Catholics as well as Protestants, that the establishment is unnecessarily rich; but I do not observe any feeling in Catholics, as Catholics, to exert themselves for its curtailment more than Protestants." Why, Sir, is that not an express declaration that the Catholics did not consider tithes in the light of a badge of servitude? But, to proceed:—Dr. Murray is asked, "Do you think the Catholic population would exert themselves more strongly to get rid of tithe than they would the burthen of any other tax?" The answer is, "I do not think they would." The other witness, from whose evidence I shall quote, is no other than Dr. Doyle. I have reserved for the last, the evidence of this reverend prelate. He is referred, in the course of his examination, to certain letters, published under the title of "I. K. L.," and is asked if he concurred in the opinion given in those letters of the Established Church of Ireland? His answer is, "The Established Church of Ireland I look at in two lights—as a Christian community, and as a corporation enjoying vast temporal possessions. As a Christian Church consisting of a hierarchy, and professing the doctrine of the Gospel, I respect it, and esteem it more than any other church in the universe, separated from the See of Rome." He is then asked this question: "Do you entertain any objection to the establishment of the Church of England in Ireland, in the respect now adverted to, which a Protestant might not equally feel?" His answer is, "I do not suppose that I do." He is then asked, "Would the objections to tithes, as they now stand, be removed, in any degree, by giving admissibility to political power to the Roman Catholic laity?" His answer is, "Yes, I 189 do conceive that they would be greatly removed. "He is asked," How would tithes become less objectionable, considering they are to be paid by a people chiefly engaged in the tillage of land?" His answer is, "I think, if the present Tithe Composition Bill were universally adopted, or a compulsory clause inserted in it, and the tithe levied by an acreable tax, that it would excite infinitely less discontent than exists at present." Now, Sir, have I not adduced evidence which proves that, even before the Catholic disabilities were removed, tithes, although considered as a burthen, were not so considered in any other light than that in which every species of tax is so regarded? And if these were the feelings of Catholics even before their disabilities were removed, may we not justly claim from them, now that every vestige of civil distinction between Catholic and Protestant is done away, that recognition of the right to tithe which even before was not withheld; more especially when it is recollected that the admissions made by them on this very point materially influenced the minds of the people of England to consent to the removal of their disabilities? I will now address myself to the speech of the learned Gentleman, (Mr. Sheil), who spoke with great ability, but whose speech was more remakable for its choice of language, than for the weight of its arguments. I must say, Sir, that those arguments looked at through the fog and mist of metaphor and oratorical figures, are apt to loom rather larger than they ought to do, and to attract more attention than their natural proportions entitle them to receive. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, "For God's sake, conciliate the people of Ireland;" and his mode of conciliating them is to relieve them from the payment of their arrears of tithe. "I admit," says the hon. and learned Gentleman, "that the clergy ought to be paid, and that the landlords ought not to benefit by the remission of the tithes." Now, Sir, I mean to avail myself of these admissions, and to contend that such admissions being made, first, that those having vested interests should be provided for; and, secondly, that it is not conformable with justice that the landlord should benefit by the extinction of tithes; cadit quœtio, and the learned Gentleman is bound to support these resolutions. The first admission is, that the clergy ought not to 190 lose their property; you admit they have done no wrong, and must not be the sufferers. Well, then, who is to pay them? It is very easy to say, "let them be paid out of the Consolidated Fund;" but such a proposal is neither more nor less than this, that those persons who pay taxes are to pay these tithes also. The hon. and learned Gentleman advises conciliation in the arrangement of this question, but I ask which party will he conciliate—those who have paid all the demands that are due from them, or those who have refused to pay? Why are the people of England, and that part of the people of Ireland who have paid their tithes, to be called upon to pay the arrears of tithe due by the defaulters. What justice, what conciliation is there in saying to these persons, "Here are parties who have not paid their tithes, and, therefore, although you have paid yours, still you must contribute to make up these arrears?" Why, here is a double act of injustice;—first, the learned Gentleman gives impunity to the defaulter by sheltering him from the process of the law, and then he proposes to mulct all those who have already paid their tithes, in an additional sum, because others have refused to pay theirs. It is very well, Sir, to talk of conciliation and justice, but what sort of conciliation and justice is this? The hon. and learned Gentleman then says, "Why should the Irish Government become the tithe-proctor-general for the clergy?" And, for the purpose of making an impression, he describes my Lord Anglesey going forth to dig potatoes with his own hands, in order to raise the sum requisite to reimburse the Government. Who can be deceived for a moment by such exaggerated pictures? The question is this; the learned Gentleman having admitted that some one ought to pay the arrears, in what mode shall those arrears be recovered? The law at present is set at defiance. The Protestant clergyman is defrauded of his due. Is there any injustice in employing the authority of Government for the purpose of enforcing an undoubted equitable, and legal right? Is it not better, after what has taken place, that that right should be enforced by the Government, rather than by the party himself—that party an interested one—obnoxious from his spiritual character, irritated, possibly, by the sense of the grievous wrong he has already sustained. 191 But, says the learned Gentleman, where is the great public evil if the clergyman does not receive his tithe. Why, Sir, there is great public evil in any man sustaining a wrong and being denied a remedy? What is society instituted for? What is the end of all government? Why do we pay taxes, and submit to a thousand restraints, but to protect individuals from wrong? If any individual can be deprived of his just rights with impunity, it has a tendency to shake the foundations of every other right. Depend upon it, that if legal rights of one description can be defeated or evaded, the interval is short between such defeat and the invasion and destruction of other property. To show this, I call the hon. and learned Gentleman as my witness—for what has he informed us? Why, that such is the impatience of legal restraint in Ireland, that the common practice is to make the process-server swallow the process; nay, not only to swallow, but to digest it. Is there no danger that a people with such dispositions and such habits, will soon learn to defeat the claims of the landlord by the same artifices and the same combinations which have been successful in defrauding the clergyman? The learned Gentleman may depend upon it, that those physical laws of nature which regulate the motion of material bodies, are not more certain in their operation than the moral laws which teach us, that successful injustice in one case, will propagate injustice in others. No, Sir, you can no more gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles, than you can sow the seeds of injustice, and hope to reap the fruits of obedience. The whole course of Irish history—the sad succession of those troubles which have defaced the fair fame of Ireland for the last ninety years, tends to show, that however the disposition to disturbance may have originated, it was not confined to the primary cause, but rapidly extended to every other object of real or imaginary grievance. No doubt the demand of tithe has been among the most obnoxious. To no other demand was resistance more easy. The grievance was not the heaviest—there were other and far weightier imposts on the peasantry—but the clergyman was the most defenceless of those who had claims upon them. The waters of bitterness were ready to overflow, and they burst the containing mounds in the weakest place. The learned Gentleman 192 has alluded to cases of individual oppression by the clergy; but does that learned Gentleman think that these individual cases of extortion and oppression, even when proved, can justify the evasion of the law? The learned Gentleman said, that the law which is unjust ought not to be enforced. But who, Sir, is to be the judge? Does he mean to argue that the poor peasant, or the wealthy farmer of a thousand acres, are at liberty to decide for themselves whether laws shall be obeyed? The injustice of the law, the inexpediency of the law, the popular dislike of the law, may all be fitting elements of consideration with the Legislature; but if any individual is to be at liberty to declare, whenever he has a burthen to discharge, that the law is unjust and he will, therefore, resist it, then, I say, the functions of Government have already ceased, the State is dissolved, and all the obligations of society must shortly be at an end. There are instances of exaction among the clergy—granted—are there none among the landlords? Did the learned Gentleman ever hear of Con acre in Ireland? Did he ever hear of the land out of lease subdivided and let to the highest bidder, without regard to the claims of the ancient tenantry? Does he know the ordinary amount of rent in many parts of Ireland—its proportion to the whole produce of the holding? If you condemn the whole body of the clergy on account of the exaction of a very few—if you justify general resistance to a legal demand on account of such rare instances of exaction—I ask again, what will become of the character and of the rents of Irish landlords? I trust, Sir, that I may say with truth, that I have ever felt a deep interest in the prosperity of that country with which I was for some years officially connected; and I have ever taken a melancholy interest in tracing the history of those periodical disturbances with which Ireland has been afflicted for the last ninety years. The impression on the minds of English Gentlemen is, that those disturbances have arisen almost exclusively from the disputes concerning tithes. Nothing, Sir, is more fallacious; that is not the fact; but fact or not, this I will prove, that there never was an insurrection, or a spirit of resistance evinced on account of tithes in that country without its extending rapidly to, and being directed against, every other burthen which the te- 193 nant had to sustain. This is one of the main grounds on which I now support these Resolutions; for, if Government were disposed to connive at the present invasion of the law, the day of resistance and of open violence would be but postponed for a short period, an intense feeling on the part of the peasantry would soon be excited against rent and the landlord, against the Grand Jury cess, and every other species of charge upon land; and there would either be universal anarchy, or a desperate and bloody effort to re-establish the supremacy of the law and the rights of property. I ask you to profit now by the experience of former periods of Irish history. I am aware, Sir, that, with respect to Irish history, the credit due to any statements depends materially upon the quarter from which they come. Unhappily, the spirit of party has infected the historians of that country so much, that, as their minds are swayed, so are their facts coloured, exaggerated, and distorted. But, Sir, I will take my facts from an historian of Ireland, to whom there can be no exception as a witness for my purpose. He shall be a Roman Catholic—a gentleman taking an active part in the affairs of his country—I mean Mr. Plowden, who has collected a vast number of important documents bearing upon the recent domestic history of Ireland. Mr. Plowden quotes a remark which was made by Mr. Arthur Young, that, before the year 1760, in Ireland local disturbances were but little known. Mr. Young's expression is, that "there was no Leveller, no Whiteboy, known before the accession of George 3rd." In the list of those strange designations given to parties in Ireland, the Whiteboys, I believe, claim precedence in point of date. This is the account given by the historian of the more immediate rise of that party:—Various causes produced the most abject wretchedness among the forlorn peasantry. An epidemic disorder among the horned cattle had spread from Holstein, through Holland into England; the prices of beef, cheese, and butter were raised to exorbitancy. Pasturage became more profitable than tillage; numerous families were turned adrift, without the means of subsistence. The cotters, being tenants-at-will, were everywhere dispossessed of their scanty holdings, and large tracts of grazing lands were set to wealthy monopolizers, who, by feeding cattle, required few hands, and paid higher rents. The landlords demanded extravagant rents from their cotters, and, to reconcile them to their settings, they allowed them ge- 194 nerally a right of common, of which they soon again deprived them by enclosures.He then says,—The absolute inability of these oppressed tenants to pay their tithes, besides their landlord's rent, made them feel the exaction and levying of them by the proctors as a grievance insupportable.Why, Sir, that was natural enough. The clergyman was the man who was the most easily attacked. And by whom, according to Mr. Plowden, was the attack encouraged? He says:—The loudest and most lasting of the complaints were against the extortions of tithe-proctors. The landlords and graziers, in order to divert the irritation of their wretched and oppressed peasantry from themselves, did not scruple to cherish, or at least connive at, resistance to the ever unpopular demands of the clergy.Well, Sir, in 1763 appeared the Oak boys, so called from the circumstance of their adorning themselves with the leaves of the oak tree.Their first object was the overseers of the roads—the second, the clergy, whom they resolved to curtail of their tithes—the third, the landlords, the price of whose lands, particularly the turf-bogs, they set about regulating.Now here, Sir, I show that, even at that early period, although the tithes might be the original ground of complaint and resistance, yet the rent of the landlord soon became an equally obnoxious demand. The learned Gentleman will see, by the instance I have quoted, how rational is our apprehension that a successful invasion of tithe will lead speedily to the successful invasion of rent. The next in order of these lawless parties are the Steel-boys. The rising of these was not so general. The source of it, says Mr. Plow-den, was this:—An absentee nobleman, possessed of one of the largest estates in the kingdom, instead of letting it for the highest rent, adopted a novel mode of taking large fines and small rents. The occupier was willing to give the highest rent, but could not pay the fine, and was dispossessed by the wealthy undertaker, who, not content with a moderate interest for his money, racked the rents to a pitch above the reach of the old tenant. Upon this the people rose against forestallers, destroyed their houses, and maimed their cattle, which now occupied their former farms. When thus driven to acts of desperation, they knew not how to confine themselves to their original object, but became, like the Oak-boys, general reformers.195 The general Reformers of the present day do not I trust partake of the disposition of the Steel-boys of 1764. In 1786, Mr. Grattan made his memorable speech in the Irish House of Commons on the subject of Irish tithe, in allusion to a splendid passage of which speech the learned Gentleman had exclaimed, "For God's sake let us follow the example of Mr. Grattan." And what, Sir, did Mr. Grattan propose? Did he denounce tithe as a badge of servitude and degradation? No such thing. He considered it a strict legal right, in lieu of which a full equivalent should be granted to the Church, and that equivalent secured upon the land of Ireland. Surely, it will be more to the purpose, to act on the authority of Mr. Grattan in the practical part of his measure, than to repeat an oratorical passage of his speech, which, however splendid has no practical application whatever. But, Sir, to resume. In 1786, those persons who began their insurrection upon private property by an attack on the tithes, took upon themselves to regulate the payment of hearth-money, the rent of the land, and the dues to the Roman Catholic clergy. I now speak to Roman Catholics, and I dare say the name of O'Leary is familiar to them. In 1786, Mr. Grattan received a communication from that gentleman, which complained as loudly of the refusal of the peasantry to pay the dues to the Roman Catholic clergy, as it is now complained that the Catholics will not pay tithe to the Protestant clergy. I come to more recent instances of the character and tendency of these parties in Ireland En 1806, the friends of the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) were in power: Mr. Plunkett was Attorney General. In that year a special commission was sent into the counties of Sligo, Mayo, Leitrim, Longford, and Cavan, in order to check the great excesses committed in those parts by the party called Threshers. In the course of that commission, a gentleman with whom I had the honour of being acquainted—Mr. Denis Brown—was examined as to the origin of those excesses. This is Mr. Brown's account:—The first object of the association was the reduction of tithes and priests' dues. In different stages of its progress it professed different objects—all kinds of payments, whether of tithes, industry, labour, or farming. They delivered messages in the chapels threatening the priests that, if they did not lower their 196 dues, avoid the payment of tithes, and alter the wages of labour, the Threshers would visit them, and that the priests might have their coffins prepared.In 1811, Mr. Bushe, then Solicitor General, was sent upon a special commission to Tipperary, Waterford, and Kilkenny. This is the account which that eloquent man gave of the proceedings of the Caravats and the Shanavests. He asks, "What is the first avowed object of these associations?"It is the regulation of landed property and its produce. It is the vain and idle attempt to fix a maximum for rent, and to prescribe the price of labour. Land, say they, shall never rise, and property shall never change its possessor. To the gentlemen of landed property they proclaim, that the land which his ancestor had demised thirty or sixty years before must not rise on the expiration of the lease, or must only rise according to their standard. I fear that some persons have folded their arms and looked on with patient apathy, while the plunder of the clergy, and the collection of tithes, were the only objects of insurrection. To others, the obstructions of public taxes might appear venial. When the people rose against the claims of the Roman Catholic priesthood, and affected to regulate their dues, many did not foresee that the habit of popular interference could not be confined to one object. Out of the apathy, indolence, or connivance of the gentry, has grown the dominion of the mob.Sir, that sentence contains the history of all these evils. Every word is pregnant with instruction to us at the present moment. I think I have proved to you that, even if tithes were the original object of these insurrections, yet successful resistance to tithe extended rapidly, not only to the county cess, but to the landlords' rents, and even to the dues to the Roman Catholic priests. It must be so; and out of our apathy, our indolence, and our connivance, will grow the dominion of the mob. It is absolutely necessary that some precaution should be taken to prevent this increasing disposition to resist legal demands. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, wait and let us see whether resistance will be further offered; but, if it is true that resistance has been already offered to the extent alleged, and that success stimulates to fresh outrages, it is mercy to check the destructive disposition now. A combination exists in six counties, and is rapidly extending to others. Any additional success will give additional impetus to the work of insurrection. What, Sir, must be the effect of postpon- 197 ing any measure now, which ultimately it will be absolutely necessary to adopt? One consequence will be, to aggravate the evils; for every man will suppose that we are indifferent to these illegal proceedings; and, instead of having six counties to contend with, we shall have thirty-two. Instead of having tithe only to recover, we shall have rents and taxes also. I therefore say, Sir, that if' interference is necessary—and I think it has been proved to be necessary—both in justice and mercy, it ought to be immediate. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, it will take 100,000l. to recover 30,000l. Be it so. Even in that case I shall not think the 100,000l. expended in vain. I will consent to the expenditure of a million rather than permit the systematic and universal violation of legal rights. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, that every mild course ought first to be tried, before severe coercive measures are resorted to. I should be the last man to counsel unnecessary severity; but this I do hope, that the measure will be effective. I would rather that nothing should be attempted than that Government should be involved in a contest when they had not obtained power sufficient to insure success. If it be just that these arrears should be recovered, neither open force nor technicalities of law should be permitted to obstruct the recovery. I am not speaking of arrears of rent, or of arrears occasioned by distress. Where, indeed, is the gentleman who has not arrears due upon his property; and where is the man who is mad enough to call for the summary interference of the Executive to recover such arrears? No, Sir: I am speaking at a time when the rents of the landlords of Ireland are all well paid. I am speaking of those who, being perfectly solvent, expressly say they will not pay tithe; who expressly say that the law is unjust, and, therefore, they will not pay obedience to it; and who confederate together for that especial and openly-avowed purpose. Speaking of these parties, I think it right that the Government shall be able to say to them:—"If you are solvent, you shall not rob the clergy, in order that you may be the better able to pay the landlord." The landlords themselves declare, that they are not desirous to rob the clergy, and they have too honourable feelings to seek their own advantage indirectly at the expense of the Established Church. But if this system 198 is to proceed the landlords, however they may be opposed to it, cannot help profiting by its continuance. In the nature of things, how can this be avoided? If tithes be abolished by these illegal means, however repugnant it may be to their feelings, the landlords must receive a benefit; a temporary and delusive benefit—because, as I have attempted to show, the spoliation of the clergy must endanger the security of all other property. To avert that danger I support these resolutions. I support them also on higher grounds—on the ground that the Established Church is the main defence of the best and purest doctrines of Christianity, and that that church is entitled on considerations of the soundest policy, and of moral and religious duty, as well as on considerations of strict legal right, to the protection and assistance of the Legislature. That protection, and that assistance, will be, in my opinion, most unjustly and unwisely withheld, if we permit the ministers of the church to be robbed of their legal dues, or the revenues of the church to be appropriated to other than ecclesiastical and religious purposes.
said, when he rose at the same time with the right hon. Baronet, he most gladly gave way to him; and he did not regret that he had done so. The right hon. Baronet had, throughout his speech, expressed that which he (Lord Althorp) should have wished to express; but so much more ably, that it was a source to him (Lord Althorp) of gratification, that the right hon. Baronet had preceded him: but these feelings were mixed with regret, at finding himself opposed to many hon. Gentlemen with whom he had usually agreed. He regretted it exceedingly, but the difference was one with which he must bear, feeling, as he did, that it was his duty to stand by the Resolutions which Government proposed, and which, he was firmly convinced, were such as were proper to meet the occasion. These Resolutions were divided into two parts; one of which gave the power to Government of enforcing the law, and protecting the rights of the Church—rights which, as the law at present stood, had, of late, in many instances, been openly attacked and successfully resisted. The other part was intended to provide for the future welfare of the Church. The hon. members for the counties of Louth and Kildare had objected to the speech of his right hon. 199 friend (Mr. Stanley) both as to its temper and tone. He had listened most attentively to that speech, but had heard nothing in it calculated to excite hostility. It was necessary to show the people of Ireland that turbulence must be suppressed, and the authority of the law supported. There was nothing in the observations of his right hon. friend which could lead to the construction which had been put upon them: he stood upon the necessity of supporting the law, and the vested rights of the clergy—a body who, it had been admitted, had not claimed exorbitant tithes from the people of Ireland, and whose just demands had been resisted by open violence. It was the duty of Government to repress turbulence in Ireland as in any other part of the United Kingdom—to show that, whenever turbulence appeared, it must be suppressed, and that the power of the law must be asserted; and a Government that would hesitate in doing this, would be unworthy the support of Parliament and the country. When the hon. Gentleman looked to the case of the Protestant clergy in Ireland, he appeared to consider it as one of an emigrant clergy, who were dependent on charity, and that it was a degradation to the Roman Catholic to be called on to pay their tithe. He (Lord Althorp) could not conceive how any man could think it a degradation to submit to a charge which was attached to his property previously to its coining into his possession, whether by inheritance, or otherwise. Again, it had been said, that this measure ought to be delayed, and that it had been too hastily introduced. These observations were made at a time when combinations against the payment of tithes were forming and spreading from parish to parish throughout the country; and yet the Government was called on to hesitate. Any government, which would submit to such a state of affairs as this without exerting its energies, would be undeserving the confidence of that House and the country. It had been said, that the course Ministers were pursuing was calculated to lead the people of Ireland to infer, that there was a combination in that House, guided solely by the principle of showing the power of England over Ireland; but he most sincerely hoped that such an opinion was not entertained. When the House went into the details in the Committee, the statements of his right hon. friend would be clearly established, 200 and the measure proposed would not be considered in the light in which it appeared to be at present, by many of those hon. members for Ireland, with whom Ministers had had the honour of voting during the sitting of Parliament. With respect to the fifth Resolution, the right hon. Baronet had properly understood the intentions of his Majesty's Government when he said he should support that Resolutions: and, having said this, it was but just that he (Lord Althorp) should state the grounds on which it was supported by Government. From existing circumstances it had become necessary that a change in the system, with respect to the collection of the funds of the Church of Ireland, should take place. It was not necessary to apply Church property to any other purpose than that for which it was originally intended, namely, the use of the Church, giving to that term the most liberal construction. The landlords of Ireland had no right to any part of that property: the relief proposed was to the occupying tenantry. If the contrary were intended, he should not lend himself to any such measure. It had been said of that Resolution that it was no remedy for the grievance, and that the words in the Resolution, as to "a total extinction of tithe," could not be applicable to this measure. The present Resolution would clearly effect that for which it was intended—it would relieve the tenantry from a burthen of which they had loudly complained. It did not pledge the House to the total abolition of the charge arising from tithe, but only to an arrangement tending to relieve the occupying tenant. Were the tithe totally extinguished in Ireland, the competition for land was such, that high rents would still be maintained; and the probability would be, that the tenantry thereby would in no great degree partake of the benefit derivable from the change. Tithes, as they now stood, were a direct tax on their industry; for the greater the exertions of the tenant in the improvement of his land, and the greater the increase in its production, so much the greater was the claim for tithe. This would be removed by the operation of the Bill proposed, and the tenant would be encouraged to pursue his labour in the improvement of his land without any such unpleasant reflection as that he now entertained. Under these circumstances, when the House pledged itself to place additional power in the 201 hands of the Government, it did so with a pledge that it would have the effect of giving a great relief to the occupying tenantry of Ireland, and he hoped that, on these grounds, it would meet with the support of the House. At so late an hour of the night he did not feel himself called upon to detain the House any longer by further observations.
said, the subject now before the Committee was one of such overwhelming importance to Ireland, that, even at that very late hour, and reluctant as he was at all times to take up the time of the House, he felt himself imperatively called upon to make a few observations on the proposition brought forward by the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland. Before he proceeded to the consideration of the Resolutions proposed to the Committee, he was anxious to say a word or two in reference to the conduct of himself and those with whom he had voted on this subject a few nights ago. He had heard that the conduct of the Irish Members on that evening was considered what, in parliamentary language, was called factious, and that they were accused of ingratitude, and a wish to embarrass his Majesty's Government. He should have thought that the name and character of his hon. friend, the member for Armagh, who proposed that amendment, would have been sufficient to protect them from such an imputation; and, as for himself, he declared that he was actuated solely by a wish to delay the consideration of this great subject till the evidence was complete, and the subject more thoroughly understood. He had been favourable to delay, and his opinion had been much strengthened since he heard the opening speech, that evening, of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. Standing, as he did, on that side of the House, anxious for the well-being of the present Administration, it was with deep regret he heard some parts of his (the Secretary for Ireland's) speech, which he must consider as most disastrous to the popularity of the present Government in Ireland. He had been anxious for delay, because the Report of the Select Committee was incomplete and unsatisfactory. The proposal of the right hon. Secretary, though divided into five Resolutions, might be considered as consisting of three points: the first he considered, not as a measure of charity, but one of retribution and justice; the second 202 was one of coercion and severity; the third, one of prospective relief. To the first he should offer no opposition whatever; the second he felt to be objectionable; and the third to be vague and indefinite. If these three measures had been contemporaneous, there would be no necessity whatever for coercive measures; because, if a hope of present and immediate relief were held out to the suffering people of Ireland, the arrears would be paid, without having recourse to such extraordinary powers. He complained that, while two of the measures were present and immediate, the third, and most important of all, was indefinitely postponed; and the right hon. Baronet (the member for Tamworth) told the House, that he believed it would be two years before an adjustment of the Tithe Question could take place. He agreed with that right hon. Baronet, that the rights of the present incumbents should be respected, and the arrears paid; but even he admitted that, after the expiration of what he called the vested interests, new arrangements should be made to consider the peculiar circumstances of the Church livings in that country—with a view, he must suppose, of adapting them more to the circumstances of the relative situation of the clergy to their flocks. In the situation in which he stood in that House, he might, perhaps, be suspected of entertaining a hostile feeling to the Established Church, because it was known that he dissented from its religious tenets. He was aware that, upon questions of this nature, his conduct, and that of those other Members who agreed with him in religious opinions, was closely watched. The right hon. Baronet had, indeed, exemplified this by his observations. He did not complain of this—it might be quite fair, quite natural; but he could assure the House, that he viewed this subject solely as an Irish Member of Parliament, and was not desirous to seek the overthrow of the Established Church. He trusted he should not be considered an enemy of that Church, when he declared his conviction, that it must be suited more to the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, and that it could never be secure, till it was more popular, and less rich. The right hon. member for Tamworth had commented severely upon an expression which had fallen from his hon. friend the member for Kildare, when he said he considered the payment of tithe as a badge of degrada- 203 tion, and one imposed upon a conquered Country. He (Lord Killeen) did not go the length of his hon. friend, and could not consider that, in paying tithe, he was paying a tribute to a conqueror. He did pay it reluctantly—most people did; and he, of course, could not but feel that while, by law, he was obliged to contribute to the support of a rich clergy, those from whom he received spiritual consolation were very inadequately remunerated. In the discussion of this important question, it must be recollected that he was acting as a Member of the Legislature; and he could not forget that, when he entered that House as a free citizen of this great country, he was sworn, at that Table, not to exercise any power to which he should, as a Member of Parliament, become entitled, for the purpose of overthrowing the Established Church of this country.
§ Mr. Ruthven
moved, that the Chairman report progress; which Motion was acceded to, and the Committee appointed to sit again.