HC Deb 15 March 1832 vol 11 cc243-5
Mr. Leader

presented fifteen Petitions from parishes in the county of Cork against Tithes, complaining of the amount of the sums charged upon them, and of the manner of collection, and praying for the abolishment of the tithe system. The petitions contained several statements, proving that many frauds were practised under the Tithe Composition Act. He was prepared to maintain, in common with the great proportion of the gentry and inhabitants of Ireland, that the time was come when the prayer of the petitioners must be complied with. The landed proprietors and landholders, for example, of the united parishes of Killbrew and Tryvett, in the county of Meath, in which, by-the-bye, there were but three Protestant landholders resident, and their signatures were affixed to the petition, stated, that the incumbent insisted upon obtaining a greater sum for tithe than was received by any of his predecessors; and they quoted this instance:—"One of the petitioners holds in the union 114 acres of land, on which, in 1828, he had thirty-three acres of titheable crops. In that year they were of very inconsiderable value, yet the rector demanded 36l. tithes, and peremptorily refused to take less: this sum the petitioner refused to pay, and having given notice, threw out the tithes in kind, which the rector took into his care, but declined removing the tithe, and left it to rot upon the land. He then filed a bill against the petitioner in the Court of Exchequer; the cause was tried on the 25th of June, 1830, and the bill was dismissed; but the petitioner had to pay his own costs, which amounted to 98l. Os. 2d., where the whole amount of tithe adjudged by the Court to be unwarrantably claimed was only 36l." Another instance was this—"In the harvest of 1830, the rector demanded of one of the petitioners no less than 1l. per acre on the average of his crops of wheat, oats, and peas, and meadow land. In 1828, another of the petitioners endeavoured to arrange with the rector for his tithe, but was unable to do so on any fair terms, in consequence of which the tithe was thrown out in kind; and, although the rector was served with the accustomed notices, yet he suffered it to rot upon the ground, and filed a bill in the Exchequer Court, which, like the other, was also dismissed, but the petitioner was saddled with 100l. costs, where the whole value of the crop was under 40l. The petitioner bad never since grown any titheable crop. The petitioners further stated, that, with the poorer farmers, the hardship was extreme—for they had to yield to exorbitant demands, rather than encounter the ruinous expenses of the law. In another instance a parishioner was charged for his tithe within 3l. of the amount of his rent, for a farm taken only eleven years ago. Another instance was set forth in the petition, where a sum of 75l. 2s. 3d. was demanded for tithe, although the property was viewed by three Protestants and one Roman Catholic, who found, that 38l. was above the just value of tithe. By these harassing and vexatious proceedings, a spirit of deeply rooted animosity had been generated. One petition to which he was anxious to call the attention of the House, was from the Protestant and Roman Catholic inhabitants of the parish of Timoleague, in the county of Cork. The petitioners stated, that they had been taken by surprise, and a fraudulent composition had been established, under the Act, of 370l. per annum. They appealed to the Privy Council, and were ordered to go by the average from the years 1814 to 1821, which were years of the highest agricultural prices, and by which the 370l. a-year was raised to 414l. per annum. The number of acres in Timoleague is 2,800: of these, 2,000 may be valued at 10l. per acre, and the remaining 800 at 1l. per acre. One farm paid 4s. per acre tithe, though the rent amounted to 12s. per acre only. To pay 414l. per annum, the first quality of land paid 9s. per acre; the second 6s. 10d.; the third 4s. 8d.; the fourth 3s. 4d.; and the fifth 2s. 10d. per acre. The petitions referred besides to the severity of making a Catholic population pay for the support of a religion which neither they nor their ancestors ever professed, and to the rigorous and severe laws by which this unjust impost was levied.

Mr. Henry Grattan

most heartily supported the prayer of the petitions, he fully agreed with the petitioners that the Tithe Composition Act had failed of its intended purpose. It had given no relief, for, on the whole, the amount collected under it was rather more than would otherwise have been obtained by the clergy, he wished these petitions to be referred to the Committee now sitting on the subject of tithes, for he verily believed they contained nothing but facts.

Mr. Shaw

said, that he had every reason to believe that the petitions contained great exaggerations, and he could not suffer them to be presented without thus briefly stating his opinions. He hoped, however, by and by to have an opportunity of stating them more fully.

Mr. James E. Gordon

affirmed, that the particular allegations set forth in the petitions were utterly false, and without foundation.

Mr. Speaker

said, if the petitions contained mis-statements they should not be presented to the House, and to assert that they did unless it were followed out, was not proper.

Mr. Leader

assured the House that the statements in the petitions were founded on facts, and he had strictly examined into them before he had presented the petitions.

Petitions to be printed.