§ On the Motion of Mr. Stanley, the House resolved itself into a Committee on the subject of tithes (Ireland). The fourth Resolution read as follows:—'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 be 1043 empowered to levy under the authority of an Act 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 legal claimants.'
§ Mr. Lambert
wished as he had not hitherto intruded himself on the attention of the House on this interesting subject, that he might meet with some degree of indulgence while he made a few observations prior to submitting an Amendment with which he meant to conclude. It was a matter of deep regret to him, that his right hon. friend did not yield to the request of so large a portion of the Irish Members, and allow some time to elapse before he again brought; forward these Resolutions. He also regretted that, in order to produce a favourable impression on the House, on behalf of the clergy of the Established Church of Ireland, the right hon. Secretary drew an unfavourable character of the landlords of that country. As an Irish landlord, he would not submit to a charge of that nature, but must give that part of the right hon. Secretary's statement the most unqualified contradiction. He must also say, as far as he was acquainted with the character of the ministers of the Established Church of Ireland, that although he believed them to be, for the most part, men of moral character, he knew very many who extorted from the poor peasantry a sum greatly exceeding what the law allowed. He recollected a case that occurred in his own neighbourhood, where an attempt was made to practise the greatest exaction upon the peasantry. There was an attempt made by a clergyman in the Lower Court, to make his parishioners pay him tithes, although they had paid them to an agent authorized by him. He recovered in that Court; but the peasantry, after great trouble and delay, succeeded in bringing the case before a higher Court, when the former decision was instantly reversed. This was by no means a solitary case; and he felt bound to say, that from what he knew of the character of the clergymen of his neighbourhood, he could not join in that praise for moderation which had been so liberally bestowed upon them; there were too many instances of the contrary, to warrant an assumption of that sort, He certainly could not for one mo- 1044 ment, consent that such animadversions should be thrown upon the landlords, as the right hon. Secretary had indulged in in consequence of the feeling that might exist towards making out a case to relieve the clergy. He was aware that it was extremely popular at present to cast censures on the landlords, and more especially on the Irish landlords. He knew, however, that this class had had to submit to diminution in their incomes, which they had no reason to expect, and which they could not have calculated on when they had received their estates. The incomes of the clergy, however, had not been decreasing; on the contrary, the amount of tithes received the year before last, was greater than in any former year. Therefore, if any class was entitled to complain, it was the landlords. He agreed with his hon. friend the member for Tipperary (Mr. Wyse), in thinking that a case of distress had not been made out on behalf of the clergy; but at the same time, he did not think it would be desirable to oppose the advance of money proposed in the former Resolutions. With respect, however, to the Resolution before the House, he could not assent to it; for he was of opinion, that ally attempt to carry it into effect would be mischievous. It called upon the House to give authority to his Majesty's Ministers to collect the arrears of tithes—to give additional powers to carry into effect a system which it was subsequently admitted, was so bad that it must be abolished. The right hon. Gentleman said, that the law on this subject was so severe and bad at present, that it could not be enforced; and yet he asked the House to give the Government additional powers to enable them to attempt, to do so. He really hoped that his Majesty's Ministers would again look to the evidence before the House, and consider whether it was expedient to pursue the course they had adopted. The evidence on the Table did not prove the existence of very great distress on the part of the clergy, nor did it exhibit any grounds of alarm for the state of the country, on the contrary it went to prove, that the public, peace would not be disturbed if the present mischievous system was removed. The absurdity of the present course was this:—One of the Resolutions declared, that the system was so bad, that it must be altered; and at the same time they were called upon to give power to the Government to enforce it with greater severity for a time. It was 1045 stated in the evidence of Mr. Green—and he attached great credit to the evidence given by that gentleman, because he knew him to be a man of high character, and one who possessed great local knowledge;—Mr. Green said, that every force in the power of the Magistrate had been employed to enforce the payment of tithes; and he added, that he did not think that any force would be sufficient for that purpose, either under the Composition Act or by valuation, if the people wished to give opposition. The people of Ireland objected to this tax as unjust, and they evaded the payment without a breach of the peace; but if force was resorted to, it was impossible to state what would be the consequence. He regretted, that the right hon. member for Tamworth was not in his place, as he was desirous of making some observations on what fell from him the other night on this subject. He regretted that that right hon. Member expressed the sentiments he did, as he entertained a high degree of respect for him. For he could not forget that, even in the worst of times, he made an excellent Secretary for Ireland, and acted fairly and uprightly; and, also, that be sacrificed the opinions of his youth, and abandoned the violent party, with which he was connected, to a sense of public justice. That right hon. Gentleman blamed the hon. member for Kildare, for saying that the Catholic population felt aggrieved at having to pay tithes to the clergymen of a religion which they did not believe to be the true one, and for coinciding in that opinion himself. With respect to this, he (Mr. Lambert) did not hesitate to declare, that he thought the people were wronged and insulted by being compelled to pay tithes; and, for his own part, he never paid them without feeling that there was no just right to compel him to do so. He might be told that the law gave this right; but he contended, although he might yield obedience to this law, still, that it wronged him. He could only designate the infliction of this payment by the term "the right of the conqueror." He was willing to obey the law as long as it was so; but he knew that such was the feeling in Ireland on the subject, that it never could be enforced again without leading to a great deal of bloodshed. He had been reminded also that the Catholic Members, before they took their seats in that House, had a solemn oath administered to them, that they would not make use of any power 1046 they might possess to the prejudice of the Established Church. He took that oath with a full determination to preserve his faith, but he never contemplated that it could apply in a case of this nature. He never could have imagined, because he wished to get rid of the present mode of collecting the revenues of the Church of Ireland, that he was, therefore, endeavouring to subvert that Church. He did not intend to do anything injurious to the Protestant religion, but he could not imagine there was anything in the oath he had taken, to prevent him from overturning the tithe system in Ireland. Indeed, he did not believe, that any attempts would be successful in subverting the Protestant religion. He believed there was no other Church whose doctrines were so similar to those of the church he belonged to from the fullest conviction that they were founded on truth; and that, when so many wise and good men professed the Protestant faith, it would be an act of madness to destroy that Church. Dr. Doyle said, that of all the churches separated from the Church of Rome, he felt the greatest reverence for the Church of England: and in this opinion he entirely concurred. He could not think that the shedding of human blood in torrents was the way to increase reverence and attachment for the Church. He would not charge Christian clergymen with countenancing deeds of this kind, but it should be recollected, that these transactions were carried on in their name, and that the people of Ireland might impute to them a portion of these crimes. He totally denied that the abolition of tithes, and a different appropriation of the enormous riches of the Irish church, would tend to injure, or to subvert the Protestant religion. On the contrary, he was persuaded that it would have the effect of greatly exalting and purifying that religion, by the removal of this foul source of so much strife, this immediate cause of so many horrible murders, and by putting an end for ever to the unhallowed struggle on the part of the Christian ministers, for the possession of that wealth which the Gospel so repeatedly and emphatically condemns. If his Majesty's Ministers thought fit to advance a sum of money for the relief of the Irish Protestant clergy, let it not be accompanied by measures that would transfer the odium of enforcing an oppressive impost from the tithe-proctor to the Government. Some better mode of providing for the clergy has 1047 been announced as in preparation, and he entreated his Majesty's advisers most respectfully, most earnestly, that the repayment of the sum to be advanced might be conducted on that better principle, and levied by those less objectionable means, by which they were led to expect that the future provision for the Irish clergy would be raised. He would move, as an amendment to the Resolution, "that the sum to be advanced by Government for the relief of the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland, shall be raised, for the purpose of repayment, by such means as the Legislature may adopt for the future support of the clergy in that part of the United Kingdom."
§ Mr. Dawson
said, that the subject then before the Committee was of the last importance to the clergy, and to all the Protestants of Ireland, who, in fact, had now to fight pro aris et focis. As a sincere admirer and supporter of the Protestant establishment, he felt called upon to state his opinions on this subject, which not merely affected the welfare of Ireland, but of the whole British empire. He had great pleasure in giving his support to the Resolutions, and he felt called upon to say, that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had shown himself to be a friend to the Established Church. To the principles laid down in the Resolutions he did not object, but there was one word of which he did not approve—he meant that of the extinction of tithes. In the present state of Ireland, the use of that word was extremely injudicious. With respect to the first Resolution, he cordially gave his consent to it. The proposed sum was but a small relief to the clergy, whom he well knew to be moderate, forbearing, and most exemplary, in their dealings with the people; while it would not prevent them pressing their claims till the tythe system was altered by the Legislature. They had been placed in a most unpleasant situation, and deprived of their rights by a most illegal and unconstitutional conspiracy. He was glad, therefore, to learn, that the strong arm of the law was to be exerted against those who resisted the payment of tithes, and that money was to be ultimately forced from those who really owed it, and who deserved to be punished for their turbulence. It was a curious fact, that, in all the evidence before the Committee, there was not a single case made out of a Protestant clergyman being the aggressor. They had used no menaces nor intimida- 1048 tions, and though goaded by injustice, outrage, and robbery, they exhibited a meekness, forbearance, and every virtue that could adorn a Christian clergy. They had not even had recourse to any strong means to recover their income, till they had been driven by the most extreme distress. He had, therefore, heard the observations of the hon. Member who last addressed the House with extreme regret. He had called the clergy extortioners, and when such language was used by gentlemen in his high station, it could have no other than the worst effect on the people of Ireland. He was sure that the clergy would submit to the most rigorous investigation, but they properly objected to being condemned and calumniated unheard. He regretted that hon. Gentlemen could think it right to go out of their way to arraign the character of clergymen such as Dr. Butler and Dr. Hamilton—men of as high integrity, and of as pure Christian feeling, as any men in existence. It had been asserted that Dr. Hamilton called upon the Government to employ troops to force the people to pay him his tithes; but there was nothing whatever in the evidence to warrant, in the slightest degree, this charge. And he could not help observing, that it would have been in better taste if the charges had come from Gentlemen of a different religious persuasion from that of the hon. Member's. The hon. member for Wexford said, that he admired the tenets of the Protestant religion, but that he objected to the Catholics being called upon to pay tithes, and that he never paid them himself without feeling that he was injured and insulted by being called upon to do so. He felt surprised that a Roman Catholic Gentleman, of the talents of the hon. Member, should make an attack of this nature on the revenues of the Church of Ireland. He (Mr. Dawson) trusted to be able to show the fallacy, as well as the injustice, of the reasoning of the hon. Member. At present there were four payments to be made by the Irish tenantry. The first was rent—the second, tithes—the third, the Grand Jury assessments—and, lastly, the Church-rate and cess. He found, by referring to the evidence on the Table, that one of the most intelligent witnesses that was examined said, that, in his part of the country, the rent, on the average, was one-third part of the produce—while, in England, it varied from a fifth to an eighth—that is; that, if the produce were 1049 worth 9l. an acre, one-third, or 3l., would be taken as rent; that the charge for tithes would be about 5s., 10d. an acre; the Grand Jury assessment 3s. 4d. per acre, and the Church-rate and cess 1s. 1½d. per acre. Thus, it appeared, that the charge for tithes on land, which paid the landlord 3l. an acre for rent, was not equal to one-tenth of that amount, or one-thirtieth of the produce. Again, Mr. Palmer gave a table, or general statement, of the amount paid as tithes in seventeen parishes in the county of Tipperary and diocese of Cashel which had compounded. This statement showed the proportion of rent and tithes paid in these parishes. Now, it appeared, on comparing the amount of rent with tithes in these seventeen parishes, that the latter, on the average, was one-twelfth of the former. If, then, the rent was equivalent to one-third of the produce of the land, the clergyman got only one-thirty-sixth part, instead of one-tenth, of the produce to which he was legally entitled. He was sure that no Gentleman who considered the real state of the case, would think that the clergymen, in these instances, were extortioners. The same witness also gave a similar statement of twelve parishes in the county and diocese of Dublin, where it appeared, that, on comparing the tithes with the rental, the former was only one-twenty-fourth of the latter. Thus, if the rental was equivalent to one-third of the produce in the diocese of Dublin, the clergyman only obtained one-seventy-second part of the produce of the land, although he was entitled to one-tenth. He thought these facts were sufficient to show, that the clergy did not deserve the imputations which had been so liberally cast upon them. Another witness, Dr. Erck, the Secretary to the Commissioners of Ecclesiastical Inquiry, gave nearly similar evidence. That Gentleman had had more experience in valuing tithes than any man in Ireland. He took eighty-one parishes in the nine northern counties of Ireland, and he calculated the average rental, and the amount of tithes paid by the parishioners, and what did the House think was the actual amount of tithes per acre in these eighty-one parishes? It appeared, that while the actual charge for tithes was only 11½d. per acre, on the average, the rent paid to the landlord was between 35s. and 40s. He would venture to say, that this general statement would be confirmed on referring to the returns of those parishes in which the Tithe Com- 1050 position Act had been brought into operation. Was this to be called a system of cruel exactions—or could it justify the people of Ireland, excited by demagogues, to rise as one man against the payment to the clergy of their just rights? Hon. Gentlemen say, that the Irish peasantry would rather pay 3s. or 4s. an acre more rent to their landlords, than 1s. an acre as tithes to the Protestant clergyman. But he assured the House, the people of Ireland were not such fools—they were not so simple as to give 3s. when 1s. would be sufficient; and, indeed, they were not possessed of sufficient money to enable them to indulge in these whims. It had been said, that the clergyman often charged 3s. for tithes, when he was only intitled to charge 1s.; but the answer to that charge was the actual receipt of tithes in several districts of Ireland, as compared with the rental. The House should give the subject the highest consideration before it was determined that the name of tithes should be got rid of; and consider whether, in so doing, they did not give up the rights of the United Church of England and Ireland, and risk the stability of these establishments. He trusted that the House would never consent to give up the rights of the Church, in consequence of the clamour of the Irish Catholic peasantry. He did not wish to say anything offensive to the Catholic Gentlemen in the House; but he questioned, whether, as Catholics, they were justified in acting to the injury of the Protestant establishment of the country. He admitted, that the question had been put fairly and manfully by the hon. member for Kildare, and he had declared his entire concurrence in the doctrine of the hon. member for Middlesex, that the Church of Ireland should be deprived of a large portion of her revenues. The hon. Gentleman said, he felt that he was bound to comply with the law, but that every time he did so, he felt that he was injured. He did not quarrel with the hon. Gentleman for making that declaration, for, if he (Mr. Dawson) was of his religious persuasion, probably he might think the same; but the very declaration was sufficient to put the friends of the Church Establishment on their guard. The declaration which had been made amounted to this; that, as long as the Protestant religion was the established religion of the country, hon. Gentlemen thought there was no harm in endeavouring to evade the law. The hon. Member said, that he yielded obe- 1051 dience to the law, but he did so unwillingly. He called, then, upon hon. Gentlemen, to be cautious of the steps they took respecting the religion of the country. He asked them, whether, in compliance with the notions of any hon. Gentleman, the Protestant Church Establishment of Great Britain was to be rendered insecure, and the Protestant Church of Ireland destroyed. The hon. Gentleman said, that nine-tenths of the gentry of Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, hold the same opinions as himself with respect to tithes. This certainly might be the opinion of the hon. Members, but he assured them, that many differed from him, and he (Mr. Dawson) was one of that number. He would admit, that the hon. member for Kildare might be descended from the Aborigines; but, from the name of the hon. member for Wexford, he should infer that he was descended from the Pale, or the English, settlers. Now, he should much like to know, whether the latter hon. Member did not hold his estate on the tenure of the Conqueror. In that case, what would he say, if the descendants of one of the Aborigines should come to him and say, "I will no longer pay you rent—I consider it a mark of dishonour to do so; and I will do more than this, I will urge the descendants of the Aborigines to refuse to pay the descendants of the settlers any rent, for it is a badge of the Conqueror." If the doctrines now broached with respect to tithes should be successful, let not the hon. Gentleman be surprised hereafter, if what he had now stated should occur. In his opinion, the question between the Aborigines of the country and the settlers was similar to that between the tithe-owners and the tithe-payers. This was the way in which the answer of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, to the payment of tithes, should be received. It should be recollected, that nine-tenths of the land-owners of Ireland were descendants of the settlers, and they could not get rid of their Catholic tenantry. He asked, what right had the Roman Catholic gentry to oppose the payment of tithes, any more than the tenantry to refuse the payment of their rent? He was sure, when the people of England saw how much their tenure of Ireland depended on the security of the enjoyment of their rights by all classes, they would insist upon the Government adopting firm steps to put a stop to the present state of excitement. It should be recollected, that this was a time of great ex- 1052 citement in all parts of the empire: in England and Scotland the excitement was in favour of Reform, and in Ireland it had been directed against the Established Church. The demagogues in that country had taken advantage of the excitement in England to kindle a flame which it would require the utmost caution and firmness to allay without bloodshed. There was a strong feeling of attachment, in the minds of Englishmen, to the religion of their country, and, above all, there was a strong feeling against the establishment of a Roman Catholic ascendancy. He trusted that hon. Gentlemen would not suppose, that, if the Established Church was pulled down, anything else could take place than a Roman Catholic ascendancy; and he would venture to assert, that, if this should happen, it would be followed by the repeal of the Union. He knew it was not probable, that there would be a separation of the two countries; for Ireland, being situated in the immediate vicinity of the western coast of England, that country never could submit that Ireland should become an independent State, and, in case of war, affording every opportunity of annoying our coasts. It was clear that, as was formerly said, Ireland could not be buried under the sea—that it must either be a source of friendship or annoyance to this country. If united, they might be strong; if dissevered, they might ruin each other. With reference to the proposed extinction of tithes, he should not object to a mutual compromise between the clergyman and his parishioners, but to the total extinction of his income, at the will of the Legislature, he should always object. It had been proposed to commute the tithes for land, and he believed, if the clergy had land allotted to them in each parish, it might remove discontent. At present, much land belonged to the dignitaries of the Church, and he never heard that they had a greater difficulty in collecting their rent than other landlords. He certainly never would consent to give up tithes. The plan of the right hon. Gentleman, if it were pressed to its full extent, would only imbroil the Government and the gentry of Ireland with the peasantry. If the House determined to make the landlord responsible for the tithes, the clergy would have to contend with the landlords, and would thus have more formidable opponents than at present. He was certain that plan would not succeed. It would not last two years. The Resolutions would 1053 not do. The landlords would become as troublesome as the peasantry, and ultimately the Irish Church would be destroyed, unless the strong line of policy lately laid down by the Secretary for Ireland should stop further demands.
§ Lord Althorp
stated, that his right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley) had been much misunderstood, if it was believed he had made any attack upon the landlords of Ireland.
Nothing could give me greater pleasure than the explanation of the noble Lord. The expression of the right hon. the Secretary was this—that the tithe of the clergy did not amount to a tenth, a fifteenth, or even, in some cases, a twentieth of the rental, while, on the contrary, the landlord, very often, exacted two-thirds of the produce from the wretched tenant. [Mr. Stanley said, one-third.] Well, then, one-third be it. Whatever may have been the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman in making use of this phrase, it does, certainly, appear to be an attempt to praise the clergy at the expense of the landlords. If the sentence went to prove any thing, or was uttered with any meaning attached to it, it must have been to this end—to show how very moderate the clergy are in their demands; while, on the contrary, the landlords exact a greater share of the produce of industry than that to which they are entitled. On hearing it, my first impression was that of unfeigned surprise; for, if it is the fact, how can those landlords who are represented to be so knowingly alive to their own interests, how can they resist, as they do on very many occasions, these very moderate demands of the clergymen, and pay their tithes in kind? Either they are the veriest idiots in existence, or the tithes are not so moderate as it is represented—they are either not extortioners, but fools, or the impost amounts to something very like a tenth part of the produce. It is one thing to say that the clergy are moderate in demanding their rights, which, I am perfectly ready and willing to admit, and another and very distinct thing to assert (as has been asserted by the Secretary for Ireland), that they demand only a comparatively small portion of those rights. This I am quite prepared to deny; for, what are the rights of the clergy in Ireland? Let not English Members imagine that they are similar to those of the English clergy. No; in Ireland a decision of the Legislature, in 1735, denied to the clergy the right of the tithe of agist- 1054 ment—a right so important at the time, that Bishop Boulter stated the tillage land to have amounted, at that period, to only a fortieth part of the whole surface. In parts of Ireland the clergy do not receive tithe for meadows or potatoes. I do not say whether or not they have any legal claim to them; but this I will say, that they would be resisted as illegal demands, and that they are not received. Thus, then, a great portion of the soil being not subject to tithe, what does the right hon. Secretary do? He compares the rent which is paid upon the whole of the land, with the tithe, which is a legal impost only upon a portion of it. Is this a fair or a just comparison? To show an example of what errors it leads to, I will read a sentence of Mr. Grace's evidence. Mr. Grace is a clergyman, and the Registrar of Ossory; therefore, his testimony upon this point is particularly valuable:—In 1827 he was asked—"Will you state the average rate of tithe not compounded upon an Irish acre in the diocese of Ossory?—I believe (was the answer) the average rate to be about 8s. on land producing titheable crops—not including all land generally—but on land titheable, that is, meadow and arable land in the course of producing crops. What is the average rate per acre under the Composition Act?—1s. 9½d." Now, Sir, what would the right hon. Secretary's method of comparison with the rent lead to? We hear, on evidence, that the average rent is 30s.; and he, instead of comparing the 30s. with the 8s., would merely compare it with the 1s. 9½d., and then talk upon the low value of the tithe, as compared with the rent; and in this very unfair and mistaken proceeding he has been followed by, I believe, every Member who has taken his side of the question, and particularly by the right hon. member for Harwich, who has just spoken. But, Sir, that right hon. Member has also made some other statements, to which I will call the attention of the House. He has stated, the peasant in Ireland is weighed down by four imposts, and that tithe is the lightest of the four. The rent, the tithe, the Church cess, and the county cess. Now, Sir, as to Church cess, I hope very soon to see him relieved from it by the success of Sir John Newport's Motion on the First Fruits, and as to the county cess, I will say, that a great portion of it ought to be paid from this very sum of tithe, namely, all that portion which is collected for county hospitals and such other charities, the expense 1055 of which is now laid on the various counties by the Grand Jury, and serves to add to the odium, in great part undeserved, under which they labour. The charity which the Church has ceased to furnish, adds to the load of local taxation, and directs popular odium against the landed proprietors; but now, Sir, to return to the statement of the right hon. Secretary, and to the charge brought against the landlords, that they exact too great rents, I must be permitted to say, that, admiring so much as I do the extraordinary abilities of the right hon. Gentleman, I regretted extremely that he brought forward a charge which is contradicted by one of the first axioms of political economy. Why, surely, he ought to be aware that the relative amount of produce received by the landlord proves nothing as to the actual amount of his rent. The relative amount of produce received by the landlord must altogether depend upon the quantity of capital and labour, laid out by the tenant upon the land. If that amount be considerable, as in England, of course, the tenant's portion is relatively large. If it be comparatively trifling, as is the case in Ireland, of course, the landlord's share must be large. Look to the instance of an acre of tobacco—there, the rent of the land, suppose 2l., the return for the capital expended perhaps 100l.; here, then, the tithe, compared to the rent, would be as 10l. to>2l., and yet neither the landlord nor the clergyman would receive more or less of their rights than they do with respect to any other crop. Apply this principle, and the different proportion of the whole produce received in England and in Ireland is at once accounted for, and the Irish landlord is freed from any improper charge of exaction, and a too sedulous regard to his own interest and advantage. Now, Sir, there is another part of the speech of the right hon. member for Harwich which I wish to allude to. He has stated, that all those Members who vote against these Resolutions do so because they are determined not to vindicate the authority of the laws; but this is not the case. We vote against these Resolutions not because we do not wish to vindicate the authority of the law, but because we doubt whether this is the way of doing so—because we doubt that it is possible and politic to vindicate a law which is opposed by, and is obnoxious to, a whole people, by enacting another more obnoxious, and more certain of being opposed. It is as men anxious to preserve the 1056 authority of the law that we are unwilling to bring it into a prolonged contest with an irritated and determined multitude. It is as men anxious for the security of property—for surely the hon. member for Armagh, and many others who vote against this Resolution, must be allowed to have some stake in the country. It is as men anxious for the security of property that we are unwilling to trail the law through the mud of a popular contest. We would vindicate the law, if necessary, by coercion, and I do not at all say that coercion may not be necessary; but we would accompany our vindication of the law with a real and effective remedy for the grievance which has caused its infraction. This, then, is the difference between us and the right hon. Secretary. We both admit that the insecurity of property, and the convulsed state of Ireland, arise from laws being made, not for the people, but against the people. We would insure the present obedience to existing laws by a distinct promise of the immediate repeal of those which are unjust—and the right hon. Secretary by making the remedy distant, and the coercion immediate. We all recollect the case of the Catholic Association—we recollect that a Bill to put it down, without remedying the grievance which gave it its being, failed completely—we recollect that, on the mere announcement, at a later period, of a remedy for time grievance, it dissolved before you had time to pass an Act to put it down—we recollect this, and we ask, will you never profit by experience? We all know the sentence, "Individuals may profit by experience—nations never." What is the case here—have the individuals profited, and do not the members for Tamworth and Harwich support, with all their influence, this Government in their copy of their Acts? Was not the present Chancellor of Ireland, who, perhaps, for all I know to the contrary, may be, at this instant, employed in correcting and altering and improving the Bill which my learned friend opposite will soon introduce to the House—was not the present Chancellor of Ireland the very individual who attempted to put down the Association, and vindicate the outraged law, without taking away the cause which had occasioned its breach? So much for the improved experience of the individuals—but for that of the nation, the maxim is at fault. The nation has profited by experience—England is not with you in this attempt at coercion—my only hope is in 1057 public feeling—you may succeed for a time, but you must eventually be defeated—you may enact these measures—they can continue in force but for a short season—England is with us in the struggle, and nothing can prevent our final success.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, that it having been decided that the clergy of Ireland were in a distressed condition—owing to no fault of theirs, but to a system of violence, or, at least, of open resistance to the law, carried on in that country, and that they were entitled to some relief, which relief was to be afforded by allotting them a sum of money out of the Consolidated Fund, he was rather surprised that the hon. member for Wexford should have stated, when moving his amendment, that the clergy of Ireland had no claim upon this country, and were not entitled to that which, it had been agreed, should be conferred upon them. He remembered the manly and candid speech of the hon. member for Armagh, on a former occasion, in which he did the clergy of Ireland merely justice in declaring—what, indeed, all who had read the Report of the Committee must know—that they had, as a body, acted with great moderation. The hon. member who spoke last had followed up the contest between the landlords of Ireland and the clergy; but no person in that House had attacked the landlords. When they were so ready to stand forward to defend themselves when no charge was made, it seemed to imply that such imputations as they had denounced could be laid against them. That, however, was not his object; he rose chiefly to say, that it was his intention to give his support to these Resolutions; and he did so with great sincerity, as the real friend of Ireland. Whenever his vote had been called for upon any measure affecting the civil and religious liberties of that country, he had invariably voted in favour of their extension, and should, at all times, continue so to do. He belonged to a country which had been fortunate enough to preserve and enjoy its property without the infliction of the practical evil—tithes. He had no landed property except in that country; so that whatsoever course might finally be pursued with regard to the tithes of Ireland or of England—whether they were abolished or upheld—he had no personal interest in the question; nor was he in any way concerned in its decision beyond the desire which he naturally felt for the promotion of every thing connected with the welfare of the people at large of the United Kingdom. 1058 The House having resolved that the clergy of Ireland were entitled to assistance and relief, the question was, not in what mode that assistance should be given, because that had been already determined, but how the money thus advanced was to be repaid to the public. If he understood the hon. Member's Amendment right, he proposed that the recovery of this money should not be by process of law; but there was no other means by which the arrears could be recovered. There might be persons who could not be sued with effect by the present law; but if the clergy had a legal right, which they could not exercise, it was the bounden duty of Government to adopt measures by which they might obtain justice. He did not agree with the hon. member for Louth, in the distinction which he had made, by asking whether they were about by additional severities to enforce a bad law. The question was, not whether they would enforce a bad law, but whether they would enforce the payment of a just debt. The question was, not whether they were to continue the present system of tithes, but whether they were to do justice to the clergy of Ireland by enforcing the payment of a debt already incurred. If the landlords would not consent to pay any thing as a commutation for tithes, was it consistent with common justice that the hon. Members, as landlords, should support the Motion for the extinction of tithes? Was it not obvious to every man who could reason upon the subject, that, unless some charge were imposed in lieu of tithes, the landlords would alone derive a benefit from the abolition? For it was clear, that the tenant now paid the landlord a reduced rent on account of the clergyman's demand for tithes; but if the land were made free of that charge, the landlord would increase his rent, and thus become the sole gainer by this measure. So strongly did he feel this, that he very much doubted, if he was satisfied that the landlords would not consent to have a charge on land substituted for tithe, whether he should give his sanction to any of these Resolutions, for he might then suspect they would afford grounds for an apprehension entertained by the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, that they would produce a determination on the part of the people openly to resist all contribution whatever to the Church, and that the landlords would, in such a case, encourage the peasantry by making a common cause with them. This, he hoped, was not the motive 1059 that led to the Amendment, and otherwise he saw no grounds for anticipating any such determination, which, he hoped, the people of Ireland were too just to adopt. This question might be decided without any violence, or angry collision of feeling, upon fair, just, and honest principles; as set forth in the fifth Resolution, namely, that there shall be an entire extinction of tithes. When the terms of that Resolution were taken in the sense in which his Majesty's Ministers understood them, implying, not a total abolition of tithes without an equivalent, but the abolition for ever of the system of tithes now existing, there was nothing in them unjust to the clergy, while they promised a great boon to the people. If men had purposely set about devising a measure with the view of exciting discord between the pastor and his flock, they could not have more effectually attained their object than by establishing the system which imposed on the clergyman the necessity of obtaining remuneration by a personal collection of tithes. He was much surprised at the turn which the hon. Members for Ireland had given to this question; and, at their assertion, that any person who might vote for these Resolutions would preclude himself from interfering with any proposal for an improved distribution of the property of the clergy. He would at once say, that he thought the present unequal distribution of the property of the Church highly objectionable. That there should be 1,000 curates receiving less than 60l. a-year each, while immense incomes were enjoyed by others of the clergy, who perform little or no duty, was an evil that ought to be remedied even in this country; and he would agree to any proposition that was made to relieve that meritorious class of men from the degraded condition to which, by the present system, they were necessarily reduced. Nor did he see any valid objection to the Church property being more equitably distributed for that purpose. He thought that, proper and adequate provision for the working clergy should be made, some of whom were actually paid worse than the menial servants of any hon. Member of this House. Under the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, he did not consider himself precluded, by assenting to these Resolutions, from taking into consideration any proposition that might be brought forward respecting the distribution of Church property. But he should not have troubled the House on this subject, except for the purpose of suggesting to the right hon. Secretary for 1060 Ireland the necessity of speedily bringing under consideration the remedial measure. Indeed, he should not give his consent to these Resolutions, unless he supposed that his Majesty's Ministers were far advanced with their plan to relieve the people of Ireland from the present monstrous system. It seemed far better to let the discussion take place in the House rather than in a Committee; for, he was sure that, with the assistance of the hon. members for Ireland, that House would be better able to consider this question than any Committee. The difficulty of devising a remedial plan, was, in a great degree, lessened by the existence of a model, which might, with propriety, be imitated—he meant the system of tithes which prevailed in Scotland. It was a mistake to suppose that Scotland was not subject to tithes. It was; but the whole of the tithes were valued, and were held to be a fund subject to the maintenance of the clergy. There was no such thing as a claim on the part of the poor of Scotland to any portion of this fund. It was very true that, at the Reformation, the reforming clergy who were just as rapacious as any clergy that had gone before them, insisted upon having the whole of the tithes, subject, they said, to the maintenance of the poor; but the Legislators of that day had sufficient experience to know what would have been the portion allotted to the poor, had this modest request been complied with. The claim was resisted, and the tithes seized by the State. Grants of tithes were then made by the Crown to different individuals, and these titular and lay impropriators existed at the present day in Scotland as well as in England. But tithes were the constant subject of dispute, and the cause of broils in Scotland, before and after the Reformation up to the time of Charles 1st. At length, an amicable arrangement was made of the differences occasioned by the then existing system of tithes; to which arrangement he attributed much of the subsequent prosperity of Scotland. By that he, as a landed proprietor, was now protected against the claims of any party to tithes for the improvements he might make on his property; those claims being confined to the value set upon such property at the time the arrangement was made. But, as he had already observed, Scotland was in a state of ferment, with constant broils both before and after the Reformation, until the time of Charles 1st. The Minister in Scotland of that Monarch advised a course which 1061 was agreed to by the clergy, the titulars, and lay impropriators, and also the lessees of all proprietors of tithes, namely, that the whole matter should be referred to the consideration and arbitrament of the King himself. There were four separate submissions—that of the titulars, that of the lay impropriators, that of the Bishops, and that of the clergy. According to the articles of the decree made by Charles 1st, on these references being made to him, every person who was desirous to ascertain to what charge his land was subject, might go before the Commissioners, and, upon a valuation being made, he was assured that, in all time to come, whatever improvements might be made on the land, the person who did not assist in making those improvements should not gain by them; but that they should be for the benefit of the landlord and tenant of the soil. The result of this wise arrangement was, that the clergy were from that moment freed from coming in collision with their parishioners, and that the persons who paid tithes had no future grounds of complaint that their labour and capital were taxed in the shape of tithe, when applied to the improvement of their land. He saw no reason why this system should not be established in Ireland. If the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, and the Solicitor General for that country, and the Lord Advocate for Scotland, were to sit down in the library for two days, they might completely adapt this plan to the circumstances of Ireland. But, whatever arrangements might be made, the liability of the lessees must be taken into consideration; for they could come to no decision, unless it was well ascertained what proportion ought, in fairness, to be paid by the lessee as well as by the landlord. He did hope that, by some such arrangement, this question would be brought to a happy termination, and he, for one, would give his consent even to that Resolution which conferred a coercive power on Government, with the view of accelerating the final settlement of the question. Government were taking a great responsibility upon themselves, and he sincerely hoped that the measures they adopted would be effectual. He was led to think they would, from the fact, that the tenants in Ireland had not universally, in any one parish, refused to pay tithes, but that many had paid them even at the risk of the loss of life. There were some most ludicrous instances of this kind mentioned in the evidence. Mr. Robinson said, that 1062 one of his tithe-payers was very desirous of paying his tithe, and he sent him a cow, but desired that it should be kept a secret. "Another writes to me," says Mr. Robinson, "with a note for 5l., inclosed, 'Don't tell that I have made this payment, but give out to the country that I am the greatest rascal in the world, otherwise I shall become a victim.'" He felt justified in denouncing a system so appalling as this. When persons could not give evidence in a Court of Justice, for fear of personal injury, and when even Juries were deterred from returning verdicts according to their consciences, the community was in a most dangerous state. The law, certainly, ought to be enforced, but in an ordinary manner, and by the regular course of law. He would never give his consent to the plan, if he thought it was to lead to the enforcement by the military power of a civil debt. He did not believe that all the military in the world could inflict upon Ireland a continuation of the present system of collecting tithes. Being of that opinion, he supported these Resolutions, because he looked upon them as equitable means of putting an end to a system which could by no possibility be continued.
Though it is extremely painful to me to be under the necessity of opposing the views of his Majesty's Ministers on the present or on any other occasion, feeling, as I do, that those Ministers deserve, in an eminent degree, the confidence, the approbation, and support of all really interested in the welfare of the British empire, still I feel myself called upon to declare my cordial concurrence in the view that has been taken of the two last Resolutions by the hon. member for Wicklow, and many other hon. Members, during the progress of this debate. Conscious as I am that their opinions are founded on a perfectly unprejudiced view of the case, as well as on the soundest and most rational principles, I feel assured that no hon. Member will deny, that, next to the question of Reform, there is none so vitally important to the best interests of this country and Ireland as the question of tithes; and, for this reason, it is right and proper that, before we enter upon the consideration of this question, we should endeavour to make ourselves masters of all the information and knowledge of its different bearings which such a question so imperatively demands, and which it is possible for us to obtain. Now, Sir, can it be asserted for one moment that we are 1063 at the present period in possession of such information? It is true that we have before us sufficient evidence to justify us in agreeing to a declaration of the necessity of a change in the present system—such declarations as we agreed to last night; but such evidence furnishes us not with ground whereon to found resolutions declaratory of the nature of that change. I have no doubt that further inquiry and strict investigation will demonstrate the necessity of much more effectual alterations than appear to be at present contemplated by his Majesty's Ministers. It, therefore, stands to reason that, until we have before us sufficient evidence to enable us to come to a final and satisfactory conclusion with regard to the course to be adopted on this all-important and complicated question, we pause, before we bind ourselves to any limited or partial declaration, which, before long, the new light that additional investigation will unquestionably throw upon the subject will, in all likelihood, oblige us to abandon. If we legislate, let us legislate on fair and rational principles—such principles as shall give the stamp of permanence to our acts—such acts as shall be received with approbation and satisfaction by a grateful and a reasonable people. But let us not have to undo to-morrow that which we have done to-day. Let us not measure the goodness of our intentions, nor expose ourselves to the derision of other nations, by any unworthy exhibition of political vacillation. Sir, with respect to the Resolution immediately before the House, I cannot but deem it exceedingly impolitic at the present moment, and likely to be productive of the worst consequences, because I am firmly convinced, now that the people of Ireland perceive that an alteration in the system so much and so justly complained of is not only contemplated, but determined on, by his Majesty's Ministers, they will readily and rejoicingly come forward, and, without even the application of those coercive measures which are at present in force, pay up the arrear as far as their means will admit. This assumption those who are best acquainted with the real causes of the opposition to the payment of tithes in Ireland will readily support. Whence arose this opposition? Was it from distress? Was it from inability on the part of the people to answer the demands made upon them? No, Sir, it proceeded from an unanimous 1064 determination to bring about the abolishment of an impost which was oppressive, not so much from its amount as its injustice. Having, therefore, a fair—I may say a certain—prospect of success—knowing that much will and ought to depend on their compliance with the law as it at present stands—so long as that law shall exist, is it to be supposed that they will be such fools to their own interests, as, by a continued opposition to obstruct the good intentions of the Government, and darken the bright prospects that are dawning upon them? I cannot believe it. Under these circumstances, therefore, I doubt not that any person who will view with an unprejudiced eye the real state of the case, will readily admit that compulsory measures, however justifiable and beneficial on other occasions, on this can have no other effect than fomenting and perpetuating that spirit of animosity and ill-will which, at the present moment, prevails to such an alarming extent in Ireland, and destroying the anticipated good effects of the promised boon by the measure of impolitic and uncalled-for severity with which it is coupled. These, Sir, are my motives for opposing the further consideration of this Resolution; and I feel assured I am supported in such opinions by all who have impartially considered the subject; and, in conclusion, I will say, therefore, to his Majesty's Ministers—"Try the people of Ireland for a time, and if they do not prove themselves worthy of the trust, the same power to apply for extraordinary measures that exists at the present moment will be equally available in a future Session: you will then have reason and justice on your side, and cannot in reason and justice be opposed;" but let me beseech his Majesty's Ministers to abandon for the present a Resolution so uncalled-for, and give a fair trial before they condemn.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that this question was deserving of particular consideration, not only as it related to Ireland, but as it might affect England. This part of the subject did not appear to him to have received sufficient attention in that House. The law which had been propounded on the subject, might be good at Nice or Antioch, but it would not do in England. There never was a time, however, when the decree of a foreign council made the law in England. In that doctrine, he expected the cordial con- 1065 currence of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland. They would agree with him, also, in saying, that the Church was entitled to the full value of the tithes, and, notwithstanding what the hon. Member for one of the Irish counties had asserted, that the whole of that property did not belong to the ministers of religion, yet, he was sure the noble Lord and the right hon. Secretary, would not pay any attention to that doctrine; nor, in any new arrangement they might make as to the distribution of the revenues of the Church, could they intend to take from that Church one guinea, and assign it to the eleemosynary purposes of supporting the poor. They must see that it was necessary they should entirely repudiate the patriarchal law laid down by the hon. Member, and which, if it ever was the practice in any of the continental states, never was so in England or in Ireland. He was not then disposed to enter at large into the Resolutions. One of them was, that Government should assume to itself the duty of collecting the arrears of tithes in Ireland for one year. The details of the plan by which this was to be done had not yet been laid before them, and, therefore, it would be convenient to postpone the consideration of that part of the case, until the Bill was brought in, and until they could understand what that arrangement was. The second proposition laid down by these Resolutions was the extinction of tithes. To that expression he had an insuperable objection. It had been said, indeed, that they ought not to consider that expression by itself, but couple it with the terms of the last Resolution. Notwithstanding that, however, he would rather have used the words—commutation of tithes. He would prefer any word to that of extinction; because, although the measure was in effect only a commutation, yet the use of that expression afforded an opportunity of construction unfavourable to the future interests of the Church. But, he would not trouble the House with a mere verbal argument, because the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman had said, that the one expression could not be separated from the other, and that the word ought to be understood as expressive, substantially and operatively, of an intention not to extinguish, but to commute, the tithes. The substitution proposed was, either an equivalent in land, or a rent- 1066 charge on the land. The equivalent in land was subject to one very serious objection, namely, that it would necessarily throw a great portion of the land into mortmain. That land would become inalienable, and thus a great portion of the territory of Ireland would be taken from commerce. That was an objection to this mode of substitution; but he did not say that it was insuperable. The other alternative, that of giving a rent-charge, was attended with many difficulties, but without dwelling on them, he would observe, that one of his objections to the language of that Resolution, was founded on the fact that the substitution was attended with such difficulties. The Resolution went to abolish tithes, without any certainty of being able to devise a substitute for them. He should have been glad, therefore, not to have seen the determination to extinguish tithes so positively expressed. He should have preferred a resolution to the effect, that this House would take into its consideration what, if any, commutation or substitution could be had for tithes. He had lately seen some letters, written by a noble Lord, who, could not be a very firm supporter of Government, as to giving a rent-charge in lieu of tithes; because, he said, that a rent-charge, would soon become as onerous on the land as the tithe itself. He merely mentioned this, to show that he was not singular in the opinion he entertained as to the difficulties of this question; notwithstanding the necessity that existed for some measures being immediately resorted to: a necessity, for which, if he was disposed to be ill-natured, he should say his Majesty's Ministers were very much to blame. He had at all times declared his opinion openly, and he now should not shrink from declaring that a great part of the excitement, both in Ireland and in England, was attributable to his Majesty's Government. If they looked at the case as it stood in Ireland, it was demonstrable that some did not pay more than a twenty-fifth, some a fortieth, some a fiftieth, and some even not more than a sixtieth part of what they were legally liable to pay; whereas, in England the tithe amounted to a fourteenth or a fifteenth. He wished, therefore, to impress it upon the minds of the gentlemen of Ireland, that if they give an equivalent either in land or in the shape of a rent-charge, they must pay more than they did at the present 1067 moment. When they came to make this arrangement, those who took the land, or the rent-charge, would take more than was now paid for tithe. With regard to what had been suggested by the hon. member for Kirkcudbright, he would take the liberty of observing that, he also, could not be a more efficient supporter of his Majesty's Government on this occasion than the noble Lord, the member for Northamptonshire. The hon. member for Kirkcudbright said, "Here is a plan ready made for you; you have only to send into the Library, the Scotch Lord Advocate, who was not, he supposed, particularly acquainted with the system of tithes in Ireland, and the Irish Solicitor General, who was not very conversant with the tithe-system of Scotland, and they would cook you up a bill in five minutes." You have only to do in Ireland what was done in Scotland, confiscate all tithes, and abolish episcopacy to make all right. If they first absorbed the revenue of the Church, which was its aliment, they would soon see the physical part of it fall to the ground. But he did not think either the noble Lord, or the right hon. Secretary, of whose sincerity in the declaration to support and protect the Church he entertained a high opinion, would be quite prepared to adopt the Scotch plan of his hon. friend, which was nothing less than to confiscate the property of the Church and abolish episcopacy. But the hon. Member would not find it quite so easy to unseat an Archbishop of Tuam, as it was to unseat an Archbishop of St. Andrews, or to unmitre the members of the Church of England, as those of the Church of Scotland. He was sure his hon. friend could not mean to recommend to the noble Lord the adoption of any part of the proceedings which took place in Scotland for the destruction of that Church; for the confiscation of tithes led to the destruction of the Episcopalian Church of that country. It would be well, however, to examine whether it was desirable to destroy the Irish and English Church, before they followed this Scotch example. He, for one, would not go into the library, nor have any part in the work, but would give every opposition he could to any Bill that might issue from that secret seat of legislation. Some of the Irish Members whom he always heard with great satisfaction, though he could not always go along with them in their able, various, and extensive disser- 1068 tations, had been pleased to say, that the payment of tithes was a badge of the conqueror; and they called for their abolition, because the payment was an evidence of the British conquest. But how did this matter stand? Suppose there should be a person of the name of Wallace, a payer of tithes—was he an Irishman? Impossible; it was an English name. Then, suppose there should be another of the name of Lambert, he surely could not be an Irishman, for he had not got the great O prefixed to his name; nay, the name of Grattan was not Irish, nor was Sheil. No name was Irish unless it had the prefix of the great O—O'Connell and O'Connor, he admitted, were Irish names. He allowed that a name with the great O, or with the Mac, would be evidence that they were not left there by the conqueror. But Gentlemen did not recollect, that with the exception of those names, all persons not bearing an Irish name at the present day, were the descendants of families that came over at different periods. But this was only part of the argument; for with such an argument they might supplant their titles to the whole of their property. These Gentlemen, therefore, would not urge an argument against the property of the Church which was equally forcible against all other kinds of property. Having full confidence in the intention of the noble Lord, he would not comment at any length upon the expression made use of by him—namely, as to his intention to apply the revenues of the Church to Church purposes. The noble Lord had adopted some of the patriarchal language. If the Bill should substitute for tithes a pecuniary payment, and take the control and possession of the property out of the hands of the spiritual persons, whether Bishops, members of chapters, or others, that would be a perfect invasion of the rights of the Church, contrary to the law and history of tithes. He, therefore, objected to the words "Church purposes;" and thought that the language would have been less equivocal if it had been the "maintenance of the clergy." That would have implied that if tithes were taken away, the property substituted would be given to the clergy. Certainly the Resolution itself did not convey the sense implied in the language of the noble Lord. As this was a matter affecting as well the Church of England as the Church of Ireland, whatever precedent might now be formed, would, no 1069 doubt, be hereafter followed up. Every member For England must seriously weigh the subject, before he made up his mind to agree to the present measure. And as it was intended that this measure should apply to lay impropriations in Ireland, so also would it hereafter be made to apply to lay impropriations in England. Now, Gentlemen should recollect the immense quantity of land that would necessarily be thrown into mortmain in England by the adoption of such a measure. He did not believe that more than one-third of the tithes in England belonged to the Church; a great part belonged to various chapters, to layholders, to hospitals, and other public endowments. This appeared, therefore, to him an insuperable difficulty in the commutation of tithes in England, either for rent or for land; and he cautioned the noble Lord, and the right hon. Secretary, as to the probable consequences of the magnitude and extent of the principle laid down by the Bill. He had been told that when Mr. Pitt oridinally considered a similar plan, he felt that the project was wholly impracticable, by reason of the immense quantity of land that would be thrown into mortmain. He thought it right, as a country Gentleman of England, to enter his protect against this Resolution—not going to the length of declaring that a substitution of a rent-charge or of land was impossible, but accompanied with more difficulty that appeared to have occurred to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would not enter into the question of agitation, nor into the plan of distribution, but should reserve his observations on those points to a future opportunity. He must go along with Government this far: that if the clergy of Ireland could not collect their revenue, the Government was bound to give them every assistance. So far as that principle went, these Resolutions had his approbation; but whether the mode by which this principle was to be acted upon be good, remained to be considered. Upon the whole, his opinion was, that the Resolutions were not put in a proper form of expression; that the words "extinction of tithes," were used improperly, and that he foresaw great difficulty in acting upon the proposed plan.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
hoped no hon. Member would understand him as having called upon his Majesty's Ministers either to confiscate the tithes of the Church of 1070 Ireland, or to abolish episcopacy, in referring to the history of the Church of Scotland, of which his hon. and learned friend was so completely ignorant. The Bishops were abolished by a very different government to that which put the tithe-system on its present footing: in fact, the abolition of episcopacy, as the Established Church, did not take place till 100 years after the period of which he had spoken. What he referred to wholly related to tithes; and so far from confiscating tithes, his proposition was, to let every person have what he was entitled to; but, at the same time, let justice be done to the tithe-payer, and do not take his improvements, while you have a right only to charge the land.
regretted that he was not able, at an earlier stage of the debate, to offer his reasons for opposing the Resolutions; but, as to those now under discussion, the right hon. Gentleman proposed the mode of repayment for the advance made last night, and, in so doing, stated, that he did not ask that new or extraordinary powers should be granted to the Attorney General, but merely such a curtailment of the forms of court, and of pleading as would render very summary that which he would designate as justice, but which they would both agree in calling conviction; in other words, the right hon. Gentleman did not shape his motion that power should be given to the Crown to break open the door of a house, but merely that the inhabitant should be prevented from fastening his door, or preventing intrusion. He would pass the question how far passive resistance was a breach of the law; for even the primâ facie report, the Grand Jury finding, admits that, in the great majority of parishes, the resistance is of a mere passive nature, perhaps in some, perhaps in many, little or no more than in this more fortunate part of the empire. Every one of the numerous society of friends thinks it his duty to oppose this same impost of tithes, and the breach of the law being the same, if the Quakers here were as numerous as the Catholics in Ireland, there would be the same necessity for a law; but, if a resistance, merely passive, was such a breach of the law as to call for the grant of new and extraordinary powers to extend over a whole island, and which, from the remote districts where they are to be exercised, though the greatest care be used, and the purest intentions to manifested, must be liable to great abuse, 1071 he would pray the Committee to notice that these Resolutions did not aim at preventing future evils; they proposed that, as one party was without its dues, it should be relieved, and that the same party should be enabled, by means of the Attorney General, to punish such individuals as it might please that party to point out. The Resolutions did not propose that repayment should be levied on the parish; they did not propose levying on all the defaulters; they proposed that a selection should be made. And he would ask, who was to make it? Must not the clergyman produce his books? Must he not point who had, and who had not, paid his dues? Must it not be from his knowledge of the habits and character of those under his pastoral charge? And, if he were non-resident, must it not be from the statement of his agent or his tithe proctor that the selection must be made? Was the clergyman, his agent, or the tithe proctor, free from human failings and human weaknesses, and could they doubt that this power would not be used to revenge past injuries, and gratify past enmities? He should leave to the landlords of Ireland to point out the consequences which must ensue, if this Resolution was carried into effect. Most hon. Members had heard that great part of the distress of Ireland was attributed to want of capital—many were aware that it was a custom in Ireland to leave in the tenants' hands an arrear of a half-year's rent, too often part of the capital of his farm. Did they think that the landlord would leave this to be seized by the clergyman? No. On the first rumour of an Attorney General's process, he would distrain, and then the Attorney General might bring the thousands of actions which this Resolution enabled him. He might fill the gaols—he would leave misery and desolation, where he found poverty and wretchedness—but the arrears of tithes and his costs he would not get, and each person selected world fancy himself unjustly pointed out, and animosities deeper than those of religion, would be engendered. His principal objection to the last Resolution was, its indefinite nature, and the time that must elapse before they could consider. The House had, in former years, gone a step further than they were now called upon, and no results of importance ensued; and now, with the question of the bank and the circulation; India, its territories and patron- 1072 age, colonies, poor, and twenty others, it was impossible to consider it till a greater lapse of time, during which, the Catholics would be labouring under the same irritation, and the agitation of all classes must increase. For these reasons, he could not agree; and, as respected the present Resolution, he begged to say, that, never would he give his consent that the claim of one individual upon another, should be redressed by means of the immense and irresponsible power of the Attorney General. It was not arraying subject against subject, which would be bad enough, but unjustly arming one with the power and irresponsibility of the Crown—it revived that practice so productive of litigation and animosities, against which the statute of "William," the great restorer of our liberties, was directed, which forbade one subject, for his own benefit, to sue, through the Law Officers of the Crown, another subject; it prevented the irresponsibility of the Crown being assumed as a shield by a subject. The clergyman and the farmer were the parties here, and he could not imagine that that practice which our ancestors found injurious in England, and against which they legislated, would prove beneficial when tried in Ireland.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, the hon. member for Wexford, by the tone of his remarks, appeared to have endeavoured to persuade the House to give relief to the clergy of Ireland, at the expense of the people of England. Nobody was more ready to give assistance to the clergy of Ireland than he was, but he could not consent to pay them money out of the Consolidated Fund; and then not to enforce the repayment of that money, by those who ought to have paid it in the first instance. He had paid his tithes in England; why, then, should he be called upon to pay the tithes of Ireland, because those who ought to pay them did not choose to obey the law? He was content to advance the money to the clergy, at even the chance of a loss, but he was not willing to make this advance for the benefit of those persons who had openly resisted the law of the land. The hon. member for the county of Wexford had endeavoured to affix upon the clergy of Ireland the character of king extortioners; one hon. Member said, that he could not speak in unqualified praise of the landlords of Ireland; and, as there were some unkind landlords, so, undoubtedly, there were some extortion- 1073 ate clergy. It was impossible to speak in terms of praise of any large body of men, without, at the same time, making some exceptions. He was glad that the hon. Member bore testimony to the good character of the great mass of the clergy in Ireland. Was it not, then, tyranny in the people of Ireland, to resist the enforcement of the just rights of the clergy? There was no greater tyranny than the tyranny of the mob; and as he would resist the tyranny of one, so would he resist the tyranny of many. There was nothing more dangerous to the very existence of the country than what, by a curious junction of words, was called "passive resistance," and which hon. Members seemed so anxious to inculcate on the people. Passive resistance! It was a gross disobedience and violation of the law, more dangerous than actual rebellion, for that could be met and put down. How was this passive resistance justified? No man could be indicted for the non-payment of tithes, and, therefore, the non-payment of tithes was no breach of the law. All that was said is, "I will not pay—you may help yourself." But, if a man did go to help himself, he met with the trifling impediment of a broken head; and, if he should succeed in helping himself, he could not sell that which he had taken. Now, men who thus violated the law were not deserving of the protection of Government. He would hold no communion with a man, whatever might be his political opinions, if he could act upon such sentiments. The hour would come when those Gentlemen who so cried up passive resistance would rue the day they first broached such sentiments. Would the peasantry of Ireland or of England, who heard these sentiments, fail in following them out in all their consequences, till, at last, they came "passively" to resist the payment of rent. A pretty situation a gentleman would be in, who was expecting to receive, or who had appointed his steward to receive, his rents, and who was not able to offer the same "passive resistance" to his trades people. The hon. member for Wexford said, that it was inconsistent to enforce the payment of these tithes, when it was, at the same time, proposed to abolish them. Now, although he had supported the Government in this measure, because he thought it ought to be supported by every person, without reference to party feelings, he found fault with that expres- 1074 sion in the fifth Resolution, which spoke of the extinction of tithes. This was evidently thrown out, he would not say as a sort of bait, for that might be offensive, but as a sort of concession to those who opposed the resolutions. The effect of it, however, was this, that they at once said, "how can you ask us for additional powers, when you yourselves mean to extinguish tithes." He knew the right hon. Secretary said, there was to be an equivalent for the tithe; but why encourage hopes that would not substantially be realized? The hon. member for Wexford further said, that he considered himself robbed and insulted by the demand of tithe—robbed and insulted, because, being born in the nineteenth century, he had inherited from his ancestors an estate which had always paid tithe! Did he expect that the payment of tithe could be resisted, and the payment of rent, at the same time, enforced? It was quite absurd to suppose that the first could perish, and the other survive. Would those who were so clamorous against tithe like the substitute which was to be proposed for it—a substitute which would act as a perpetual rent-charge on their estates, which, let there be corn-laws or not—let prices be high or low—let there be a good season or a bad season—they would still have to pay? From what the hon. Member had said, he should not think he had referred to the words of the oath he took, as a Roman Catholic, on entering this House. The words were these, 'I do swear that I will defend, to the utmost of my power, the settlement of property within this realm, as established by the laws; and I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm.' He did not mean to assert that there was anything in that oath to prevent Gentlemen from entering upon the consideration of an alteration of the existing law; but he denied that, consistently with that oath, any Gentleman was at liberty to advocate the doctrine of passive resistance to the payment of tithe, or to argue that he was robbed, and insulted, and the peasantry injured, by being required to make the payment. No man, in his character of a legislator, was debarred the privilege of proposing what might be an amelioration of the law; but no man, who had taken this oath, ought to strike so fatal a blow at the settlement of property as to encour- 1075 age the 'evasion of the law. The clergy held their tithes at least by as good a title, in old times it would have been said, by a higher title—as the hon. Member held his own estate. Doctrines like these would be the result of the Reform Bill, which had already passed that House; but if they were to travel on this way, they would leave nothing for a reformed Parliament to do.
§ Mr. Lambert
trusted he might be allowed to say a few words in explanation. The hon. and learned Gentleman accused him of having charged the established clergy with oppression and extreme severity. He did no such thing; he merely said, that it had been his misfortune to find the majority of the few clergymen he had known conduct themselves in the most oppressive and tyrannical manner. He did not extend his censure to the whole body. God forbid that he should not at all times be willing to admit that there were many clergymen most deservedly respected for their benevolence, humanity, and lenity, in levying their tithes. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that his arguments were calculated to produce extreme mischief, and had represented his speech as a violation of the oath he took on entering the House; and himself as the advocate of disturbance in Ireland.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that he did not rise for the purpose of continuing the debate; on the contrary, as he had heard that no less than fifteen Irish Members were anxious to address the House on the subject at present before it, he rose to move, "that the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."
put it to the House, whether, after five nights' discussion on the whole question, it would not so far accommodate the Government as to consent to the remaining Resolutions by which he would be enabled to bring in the Bill, when the whole question could again be fully debated, and discussed through the various stages of that Bill. He himself had not, nor should he endeavour to thwart or impede the discussion of the subject of which he was as determined in his support as hon. Members seemed to be in their opposition, and he would ask of the House, to assist so far in the public business of the country, as to permit the Resolutions to pass their present stage.
§ House resumed. Committee to sit again.