§ The House went into Committee on the plan for regulating the temporalities of the Church of Ireland.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the subject to which the Resolutions referred, which he was about to move having been opened to the House on a former evening, it would be then unnecessary for him to take up its time by going over the same ground. No doubt many hon. Members were prepared to discuss the principle of the measure in the Committee, to which, of course, he could not object; but on his own part it would be only trespassing on the tine of the House to re-open what he had stated on a former night. He would make only one remark. A part of the proposed plan, as the House was aware, was the abolition of the Church cess; but if the Bill which had been brought in had been carried through, there would not have been time enough to effect the abolition of the Church cess this year; but as it would be desirable that such cess should no longer be collected in Ireland, he thought it right to say, that Government would provide for that abolition this year by other means. The noble Lord moved the following Resolutions:—1. That it is the opinion of this Committee that it is expedient that the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland should be authorized to appoint Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the purpose of carrying into effect any Act that may be passed in the present Session of Parliament to alter and amend the laws relating to the temporalities of the Church in Ireland; and that the said Lord-lieutenant be empowered to order and appoint such salary or other emoluments as he shall deem fit to be paid to such Commissioners, not being Bishops.2. That it is the opinion of this Committee that it is expedient to make provision for the abolition of the first-fruits in Ireland, and in lieu thereof, to levy an annual assessment upon all bishoprics and archbishoprics, and upon all benefices, dignitaries, and other spiritual promotions above the yearly value of 200l., to be applied to the building, rebuilding, and repairing of churches, and other such like ecclesiastical purposes, and to the augmentation of small livings, and to such other purposes as may conduce to the advancement of religion, and the efficiency, permanency, and stability of the united Church of England and Ireland.13553. That it is the opinion of this Committee that vestry assessments for any of the purposes to defray which the annual assessment mentioned in the preceding resolution may be applicable should be abolished; and that any law, statute, or usage, authorizing such assessment, should be repealed.
§ On the question being put on the first Resolution,
§ Mr. Lefroy
said, that the order in which the Resolutions were brought forward was calculated to create some embarrassment. The first he looked upon as merely ancillary, creating in fact, the machinery by which the system proposed to be introduced by those that followed was to be worked. It was impossible, however, to discuss the first Resolution without feeling himself called upon to enter with some minuteness into the merits of the plan which was involved in the whole series. It was, therefore, that he rose to call the attention of the House to a subject which was unquestionably of great importance; and though, from the situation he filled as one of the Representatives in that House on whom the care of the interests of the Church of Ireland more immediately devolved, he yet did not mean to discuss the subject as one affecting the established Church in Ireland alone, but as one in which the interests of the Established Church in England were equally involved. It was not his intention to protract the measure by needless debate; but he hoped that a question of so much importance would receive a full and ample discussion, and that hon. Members would feel it their duly, before they came to a decision, to enter into an examination of the whole subject. He did not mean to trespass on the House at any extraordinary length, but he must claim the attention of hon. Members for a reasonable time, while he endeavoured to show that the Resolutions were unjust in principle, and were not entitled to support even on the ground of expediency. Before he proceeded to discuss the Resolutions, he begged to state that he had received a number of petitions on the subject of the Bill which had recently been withdrawn, but the leading principles of which were adopted in the Resolutions then under consideration. One of those petitions was from the great body of the Irish Prelates—others from large bodies of the clergy, and several of them were also from the laity. All the petitions expressed the greatest apprehension with 1356 respect to the measures proposed by his Majesty's Government—not, indeed, as to any new arrangement with respect to Church property within the Church, so far as might be deemed conducive to the interests of religion, but the petitioners expressed the greatest reluctance that the property of the church should be interfered with, in the way proposed to the prejudice of existing interests; and they deprecated in the strongest manner the alienation of the least portion of that property to any other than ecclesiastical purposes. He did not stand there to oppose any Reform with respect to sinecures and pluralities in the Church; but he should object, first, to the application of Church properly to any other than Church purposes; and secondly, he should endeavour to prevent any infringement of the rights and interests of the present possessors. The first Resolution of the noble Lord was purely ancillary to carrying into effect the second and third; and, therefore, it was not necessary to make any observation upon it. The second and third Resolutions embraced three distinct points, namely—first, the abolition of the First Fruits; secondly, the abolition of the parish cess; and thirdly, the substituting in place of the First Fruits and the parish cess a tax upon all benefices above the yearly value of 200l., the produce of which was to be applied to the purposes for which the First Fruit Fund and parish cess were now appropriated. With respect to the First Fruits, if the question were merely as to the abolishing the board of First Fruits and substituting an annual tax in lieu of the First Fruits, he would not object to it; but the project before the House went greatly beyond that. when the House was put in possession of the amount of the First Fruits, and of the tax which was proposed to be substituted for that impost, they would find, that under the colour of a commutation, the noble Lord was about to impose a tax much greater than that which was at present paid. That was not all; individuals would be called on to pay who ought to be altogether exempt from such charge, because they had already contributed to the First Fruits Fund, The House could not legislate on this subject unless the facts were fully before it, and these facts he would immediately detail. He had procured authentic documents connected with this question; documents could not err; and if any hon. Member in the detail upon 1357 which he (Mr. Lefroy) was about to enter could detect him in a mistake, then let everything he said go for nothing. By the accounts relative to the amount of First Fruits, produced in 1827 and 1828, it would appear that the sum total derived from First Fruits for thirty-one years was 9,947l. 11s. 2d. That was the sum paid, including benefices of every sort which were [liable to the charges. Those were exempt which were rated in the King's books as under a certain annual value. Of that amount the sum of 3,177l. 1s. 4d. was paid by Bishops; so that, taking the sum-total for thirty-one years, the average did not exceed the annual sum of 321l. of which 218l. was paid by the working clergy of Ireland on account of First Fruits. But what did the noble Lord propose? Why, that a charge of 42,000l. should be annually levied on the whole Church of Ireland. This, together with the tax on Bishops, would, in fact, amount to an annual sum of 65,000l., instead of 321l., which was paid at present on account of First Fruits. This sort of commutation was very like asking a man for change of a shilling, and taking from him a 10l. note in lieu of it. With what justice could this be viewed as a commutation in lieu of the First Fruits? Could it be considered otherwise than as plundering the Church? If such a transaction took place between man and man on the highway, it would be deemed a high-way robbery; but because it was brought forward by a Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a Reformed Parliament, he supposed it must be considered just and equitable. But the injustice did not rest here. The First Fruits fell only on a portion of the clergy, but this tax would be levied on all. Those who were not now liable to the payment of First Fruits would be exposed to the operation of this tax. All the clergy who were in possession of benefices paid the First Fruits, either on taking the preferment or immediately afterwards; but those who had already paid their First Fruits would now be amenable to the new impost. Was that just? The First Fruits were not one farthing in the pound, while this tax would be from five to fifteen per cent, and even on the noble Lord's own showing would amount on the average to seven per cent. He trusted, therefore, that if any sense of justice remained, the House would not sanction 1358 the substitution of such a monstrous imposition upon a body of men who were already suffering the greatest privations. In the next place, provision was to be made for the Vestry-cess. That, at present, amounted to about 60,000l. a-year, and was levied on 12,000,000 acres of cultivated land, being not quite one penny an acre, on all the cultivated land in Ireland. The whole of that cess, let it be observed, was not appropriated alone to the purposes of the Church; provision for the poor, coffins, foundlings, &c., the collection of the cess, the expense of the grave-yard—these were all included in its expenditure, and it certainly was not fit that the Church, as was now proposed, should make up that tax. At present the sum levied for ecclesiastical purposes connected with that cess was 17,717l. 16s. a-year, which was not one quarter of the tax that would be laid on by the new system. At present no part of the Vestry-cess was laid on the clergy; and he should be glad to know why that burthen, which was now placed on the land, should be transferred to the Church, and wrung from the pockets of the working clergy? It was said, that the revenues of the Irish Church were enormous; but he would lay before the House the exact state of the property of the Irish Church, and it would then be seen that the fact was not so. The noble Lord had himself admitted, on a former occasion, that there was no subject on which so much misrepresentation had taken place as on this, and that greater exaggeration existed with respect to the amount of Church property than on any other subject. The noble Lord in introducing the measure to the House, said—that even he, himself, had been led into most exaggerated views of the subject. It appeared from the reports of the Committees of Lords and Commons on the tithe question, according to the evidence of Mr. Griffith, that the whole amount of tithes in Ireland did not exceed 1s. d. on the Irish acre, and Mr. Delacourstated, that if lands tithe-free were excluded, the whole would not exceed, on a fair computation, 1s. per Irish acre. Mr. Erk, who was examined before a Committee of the House of Lords, produced a table with respect to the charge for tithes. In the province of Leinster it was 1s. 7½d., or 1s. the English acre. Tables were subsequently made out, by direction of 1359 the Lords' Committee, with respect to the other provinces; and it appeared that the charge of tithe in Munster was 1s. 2½d. the Irish, or 9d. the English acre; in Connaught. 10¾d, the Irish, or 6½d. the English acre; and in Ulster, where the two species of measurement were intermixed, the rate was 11½d. per acre. The average of tithes did not exceed the sum of Is. 1½d. the Irish, or 9½d. the English acre for the whole of Ireland. Now, so far as that went, he would ask was that an enormous amount to be vested in the Church? The income of the Bishops did not exceed 130,000l. a-year—the sum stated by the noble Lord; all above that went to the Bishops' tenants. It appeared from the statement of the noble Lord, that the income of the beneficed or working clergy was 580,000l. or 60,000l. a-year. There were, it was said, 1,401 beneficed clergymen; he believed there were 1,424—but he would take the smaller number, and then it would appear that their annual average income was 428l., excluding curates. Then, by the Bill which was passed last Session on the subject of tithes, there was a deduction from the clergyman's income of fifteen per cent, which the landlord now received: this, on an income of 428l., amounted to 63l. which thus reduced the salary to 365l. a-year. There were no fewer than 662 curates, who were paid by those 1,40l incumbents on an average of 30l. a-year to each—so that the income in reality only averaged 335l. a-year. That was not, of course, the proportion in which Church income was divided in Ireland. That was a matter of regulation; but what he had said was sufficient to show that the Church of Ireland was not extravagantly endowed. No man could assert that that Church was extravagantly endowed, in which the average income of the incumbents could not exceed 335l. If any of the livings should be found to be too largely endowed, let them be reduced. Be it so; but that could not detract from the weight of the observations which he had just made. He did not stand there to defend abuses. If sinecures in the Church were mischievous, although his Majesty's Government clung to them in the State, let them be abolished. If pluralities in the Church were injurious, although there were some enormous pluralists in the State unobjected to, let them be done away with, but their 1360 existence did not in the least impugn the truth of his argument—namely, that the endowments of the Irish Church were not too great. But the House had been led into one great error, with respect to pluralities in the Church, from which he begged to disabuse hon. Members. With respect to the union of parishes, that was frequently rendered necessary by the vast number of lay impropriators. He knew of one union of seventeen parishes, which produced only 250l. a-year. Those unions added greatly to the duties of the clergyman, but very little to his emolument. It was found necessary, in order to procure a decent maintenance for the incumbent, to unite a number of these parishes: they were enormous in the extent of duties to be performed—enormous as to the extent of country over which they were spread—but far from enormous as to the amount of revenue derived from them. Another error into which the House had been led was with respect to the parishes in which it was alleged not a single Protestant was to be found. It was not that there were benefices in Ireland in which no Protestants resided—but that in some of the parishes constituting those unions few Protestants were to be found; but in the parishes which constituted the rest of the union Protestants were numerous. He wished that the whole matter might be inquired into by a Committee of the House, or by Commissioners appointed for the purpose, in order that the House might ascertain for itself the true state of the Church in Ireland. Before they proceeded to legislate on the Church of Ireland in the way which was now proposed, the House should inform itself better on the subject than could be done by any casual debate. If there were anything enormous or extravagant connected with the Church of Ireland, let it be removed; but it was not consistent with justice to trench on the property of a Church which was so moderately endowed as he had proved the Protestant Church of Ireland to be. Let the House consider how Church property would be affected under this new system. In the first place, the landlord, by the act of last Session, was entitled to fifteen per cent on the tithes; then there was a charge of twenty per cent, for turning the tithe into land; and, lastly seven per cent, which the noble Lord now proposed to levy on Church 1361 property—making altogether an impost of forty-two per cent, upon all Irish Church property. He would ask on what principle it was, that the present incumbents were to be subjected to such a tax? Why were men who had embraced this profession—who had entered into certain relations of life, on the supposition that they would continue to receive a given income—who had, perhaps, quitted some other profession to adopt this—why were they now to be subjected to this visitation? Why should these men be dealt with in a manner contrary to that which had ever before been acted upon with respect to vested rights? Was it because the clergy did not sit in that House? He trusted the justice of the House would revolt from so unfair a proposition as that contained in the resolutions; and that they would not lend themselves to heaping additional hardships upon those who had already endured so much. If the noble Lord removed the Vestry-cess on account of its being offensive to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, how could he keep it up amongst the Dissenters of England, to whom the cess collected here was equally offensive. The House, in dealing with those Resolutions, must decide whether Church property was to be exclusively devoted to Church purposes; or they must come to this question—whether they were or were not to preserve a Church Establishment? Why was this Vestry-cess, he would ask, to be taken from the Protestant clergy of Ireland, and remitted with reference to the land? Why should the tax be taken off the lay proprietor, and placed on the working clergy? He was willing, if necessary, to relieve the Roman Catholic occupant; but he would not do so at the expense of the Protestant clergyman, which would only enable the Protestant landlord to get better rents for his ground. However reluctant Ministers might be to come to a decision upon the subject—however reluctant they might be in the Cabinet to look one another in the face on this question—they must come to the decision as to whether there should be a Church Establishment or not. That was a Reformed Parliament, and the question ought to be boldly stated. He could understand hon. Members supporting the Resolutions who considered no Church Establishment to be necessary. He could account for the support of such men as those who considered 1362 that, as had been said, a person ought to supply himself with a clergyman as he would with a physician or a lawyer; but he was unable to account for the conduct of men, who, under the pretence of maintaining an establishment, voted for measures which were calculated bit-by-bit to spoliate the property of the Church. If the House had made op its mind to abolish cess, because it was hurtful to the feelings of the Roman Catholics, why, he would ask, was the burthen to be transferred to the clergy? Why was it to be taken off the lay proprietors, on whose land it was a charge, and laid upon the working clergy? The working clergy gave a consideration in return for their incomes. Why was the clergyman out of his income to pay for the repairs of a church which was built and maintained for the accommodation of the Protestant landlord, and which was resorted to by his family? Why, he would repeat, was the clergyman to be taxed, while the land of the Protestant proprietor was to be free from the burthen? But if this burthen was to be borne by ecclesiastical property, why were lay impropriators to be exempt? In what proportion did the House think the lay impropriators of Ireland contributed to the discharge of the spiritual duties of their respective impropriations? He had formed a list of lay impropriators, and opposite to their names he had placed the sums which they contributed to the spiritual duties. Here was one of them, the lay impropriator of twenty-eight parishes, containing 10,481 acres, and what did he pay to the support of a minister? Not a single farthing. He alluded to the Marquess of Drogheda. On the contrary, the spiritual duties of that lay impropriation were performed by the clergyman of the adjoining parish, upon whom that additional burthen was laid without any remuneration for it. Was, he would ask, an additional tax to be laid upon the clergy of Ireland, in order to put money into the pockets of such lay impropriators as the Marquess of Drogheda, who did not contribute a single sixpence towards the performance of the spiritual duties in those parishes from which they derived their money? It was, he would fearlessly say, contrary to law to exonerate the Marquess of Drogheda and other lay impropriators from this burthen—it was directly contrary to the letter of an old Act of Parliament which still existed upon the Statute-book, If they were to have 1363 Reform let them go back to first principles, and not permit duties which the law imposed upon lay impropriators, to be shifted to the clergy. He would only call upon the House to act up to the spirit of that act, which enacted that lay impropriators should provide sufficient funds for the performance of spiritual duties in the parishes which they possessed. The next impropriator in the list to which he had already referred was a Mr. Stepney, who held 6,868 acres of pasture and arable land. There was another lay impropriator who possessed 9,670 acres, and he contributed nothing-. The next on the list held 15,000 acres, and he contributed but 31l. 4s. 3d. a-year for the spiritual duties those parishes in which his property was situate. There was another who possessed a whole tract of country in seven parishes, he meant Lord Shannon, and the amount of his contribution towards the maintenance of spiritual duties in those parishes was 35l. There was another, a Mr. Copley, who, in ten parishes, held 10,000 acres, and his contributions amounted to 25l. a-year. Were those individuals to be relieved from a burthen which in justice they should bear, and was it to be thrown on the working clergy? He had taken those statements us to lay impropriation from the public parliamentary documents, and therefore they must be deemed to be correct. Why, he would ask, should the great London companies, who derived vast incomes from their properties in Ireland, be exonerated from this vestry cess? These companies held large estates in Ire-laud. They derived vast incomes from those properties, which no doubt were expended very joyously in London, and he was ready to admit, that they were good landlords, so far as absentees could be so; but why in the name of justice and common sense, were they to be exonerated from vestry cess at the expense of the clergy? Why, in short, was this tax to fall alone upon the clergy, and why were the lay proprietors of all sorts to be exempted from it? It had been said in justification of the conduct of Parliament interfering with the Church property in Ireland, that the Church derived its property from the authority of Parliament. Now, though that assertion had been very generally made, he would say that there was no proposition more unfounded in point of fact, of history, and of parliamentary law. The Church of 1364 England and Ireland derived its property originally from private grants, or from grants of the Crown. It was true that at the time of the Reformation that property passed from one church to another, but it did not pass by the authority of an Act of Parliament. The national creed was changed—the consequence of which was, that old existing abuses were removed. He had used the word "changed" in order not to give offence, but the cheer he had heard called upon him to speak with more accuracy—it was not a change of the national faith in the proper sense of the word, it was a recurrence to first principles, such as they were told had been the case in the instance of the Reform Bill in modern days. There were not above 200 of the clergy at that time who did not become assenting parties to the reformed faith. The Church property therefore was not taken from one set of men to be given to another. Those who held that property, with the exception of 200, altered their views as to religion, accepted the reformed creed, and transmitted that property to their successors, who did not hold it under the authority of an Act of Parliament, The only property that was so transferred was the property of the monasteries. That property had been forfeited to the Crown, and the Crown made disposition of it afterwards—but even that property had been alienated from the Church, and on the suppression of the monasteries, the monastic property became vested in the Crown. The great body of the Church property the Church held still under the original endowments, and not by Act of Parliament; and what they take under grants from the Crown they take no more under Act of Parliament than any private grant of the Crown. The same thing that took place in England at the Reformation also took place in Ireland. The reformed faith was proposed to the clergy of the Church of Ireland, and they accepted it in a convention of the clergy. The property there did not change hands. The Protestant clergy of Ireland held their titles, their property, upon the same tenure, and no other, that private individuals held their property, and he would ask, whether it was a principle of constitutional legislation to interfere with, in the manner proposed, and to take away, the property of the Church, any more than it was a principle of legislation to take away their property from private individuals? If 1365 such a principle as that were once to be acted upon, might not the private property of individuals be the next object aimed at? Might it not be said that there were a great many Lords in England who possessed in their hands much too large estates, and that such a state of things required reformation? It might, with as much reason and justice, be contended that such property could be interfered with by Parliament, as that the Legislature could interfere with the property of the Church. But it was said, that the Legislature had interfered with the Church property in the instances of the restraining and enabling statutes. But let it be recollected that the restraining statutes were enacted for the purpose of preventing Churchmen from alienating their property to the prejudice of their successors. But in order that the present possessor might have a fair enjoyment of the property, he was enabled to a certain extent to make a lease binding on his successor. But surely there was nothing in these acts to warrant the principle now contended for. They were made for the preservation of Church property, for the successor, and the beneficial enjoyment of it by the person in possession. The present measure went to take away a proportion of the property from both. There was nothing to be found in the annals of legislation to warrant, much less to justify, such an interference with property. It was quite a mockery in the noble Lord to say, that he substituted one tax in lieu of another, when that which had heretofore been paid by the clergy under the name of first fruits was not one-thousandth part of the tax about to be imposed, and it was under the colour of such a mockery as that—that the House was called upon to plunder the Church. He had hitherto considered the case as one to be regulated by precedent, he would now with the permission of the House consider it on the ground of expediency. Upon the mere ground of expediency he would deny that such a measure was called for, or could be justified. The first result of the imposition of this tax upon the clergy of Ireland would be, that it would lead to the dismissal of a large number of the curates. This must follow because it would be utterly impracticable for the rectors, should the Bill pass, to pay them. This he was enabled to state, not merely on his own view of the subject, but from extensive 1366 information derived from his communications with the clergy. The next consequence would be disabling the clergy from performing those offices of humanity and charity to which their duty not more than their inclination prompted them. The clergyman was often, if not the only resident gentleman in the parish, the only one to whom the poor felt they had a right to look up to for relief and assistance, and he would venture to say, there never was a body of men that had more generosity, or had more faithfully discharged their duties, than the established clergy in Ireland. Any hon. Member who had resided in that country was competent to bear testimony to the character of the clergy which he had then given. The next results of the measure would be reducing the clergyman from that station in society which in a country circumstanced as Ireland was, it was most necessary he should occupy. There were two other results to which he felt it necessary to allude. It was with reluctance he touched upon them, but he did so merely to show that they had not escaped his attention, while at the same time he wished to press them upon the notice of the Government and the House, as matters well worthy of their most serious consideration. One of the most disastrous results to be expected from the passing of this measure would be the exciting of universal dissatisfaction among the Protestants of Ireland. If dissatisfaction and disgust should be excited among them at the passing of this measure—and such a result was sure to follow its enactment—was it not to be apprehended that the Protestants of Ireland would begin to doubt as to the utility of the legislative Union? To those apprehensions it should be added, that this measure not only violated the coronation oath, but also directly violated that act of the Legislature under which the union of the two countries under the Crown was established. Was it too much to suppose that the Protestants of Ireland, hitherto the firmest supporters of that Union, should join with those who called for its repeal? He did not like to dwell upon the subject, or suggest what his fears led him to anticipate, but when the petitions with which he had been intrusted should be laid before the House, hon. Members might judge for themselves what grounds he had for entertaining such apprehensions. If the Protestants of Ireland should find 1367 their sovereign violate his coronation oath and those principles which had established his family upon the Throne, where they had been maintained by those very Protestants, might they not consider themselves Treed from the reciprocal obligations which had been imposed upon them? These were times of liberal opinions. He did not teach such doctrines, but others might be found who would call upon the Protestants of Ireland to act upon them. If this measure should lead to a separation of the two Legislatures, without a separation of the Crown, what then would become of the absentee property? It had been already stated in Ireland, on authority of great weight, which even the noble Lord would not question, that no man should hold property in the two countries—that, in point of fact, he must be put to his election. One of the first results, therefore, of a Repeal of the Union must be, that the absentee landholder must give up his land, or if not it would be taken from him. He threw out these observations for the consideration of the House and the Government. Let the House not shut its eyes to the fact, that these were critical times, and with regard to Ireland particularly so. If the Protestants of Ireland should be disgusted with the legislative enactments of that House, there was an end at once of the Union. He felt that the present measure was the commencement of a system that must lead to the overthrow of the Established Church in Ireland—it was the commencement of a bit by bit system of spoliation—and he would implore the House, therefore, before it put its hand to such a work, to reflect upon what the prosperity of this country hitherto had been with a national religion; to consider that this country had been made by Providence the first amongst the nations while it possessed an established religion and a National Church. Let them try what experiments they pleased in politics—but let them not try the awful experiment how far a nation could prosper without a religion. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by saying he should not move his Amendment upon the first Resolution, but should reserve it for the second, which involved the principle of he measure.
expressed his surprise at the arguments which had just been addressed to the House. In his opinion, the Legislature had a perfect right to deal with 1368 Church property, if they did so for the public benefit. The hon. and learned Gentleman had compared the imposition of a tax upon the clergy as equivalent to taking away the estates of an individual. There was, however, no similarity between the two cases. The estates of private individuals were gained, either by the industry of the present possessors, or by the industry and services of their ancestors; whilst the income of the clergy was a stipend paid for public services. They were public functionaries as much as the Judge or the Minister of State, and as such were under the control and superintendence of the Legislature. The hon. Member was mistaken in the history which he had given of the First-Fruits. The fact was, they were taken by the Legislature from the Pope, and converted to the use of the clergy themselves. That was what he supposed the hon. and learned Member would call an act of spoliation. The hon. and learned Member had said much as to the value of livings in Ireland being exaggerated. That, however, if correct, had little to do with the question. If the income of the clergy were less than had been stated, the only result would be this, that the produce of the imposition would be less than what was contemplated. The argument, that the imposition of a tax upon Church property was equivalent to an alienation appeared to him most futile. Had they not repeated and repeated instances of peculiar taxes affecting peculiar species of property? Had they not some taxes which affected personal property only—others, the burthen of which was borne by the landed proprietors? Why, therefore, he should like to know, was Church property alone to remain untaxed? The intimation which the hon. and learned Gentleman had given of the course about to be taken by the Protestants of Ireland, if this Bill passed, was rather remarkable. They had certainly heard the same threat from other quarters; but that the intimation should also have proceeded from the hon. and learned Gentleman did much surprise him. He could scarcely have expected to hear that the Orangemen of Ireland were about to throw themselves into the arms of those who had hitherto been their bitterest opponents, and become active agitators for the Repeal of the Union between England and Ireland. He was sure there was no fear of the Protestants believing that it would be their inter- 1369 est to dissolve the Union between the two countries, in order to have sitting in Dublin a parliament of Catholics, or nearly so (for such certainly would be a parliament returned by a population four-fifths of which were Catholics), and whose first act would most probably be the total abolition of the Protestant religion. The hon. and learned Member would in vain endeavour to persuade the House that such were the feelings of the Protestants in Ireland. It was utterly impossible they could be so silly—it was utterly impossible they could so forget the interests of the religion to which they were so strongly attached, as for one moment to contemplate a measure fraught with such consequences. In the eulogy which the hon. and learned Gentleman pronounced upon the Protestant clergy in Ireland he most fully concurred, and he should give his humble support to the Resolutions proposed by his Majesty's Ministers, not alone because they were beneficial to the interests of the inhabitants of Ireland, but because he believed they would promote the interests of the clergy themselves.
§ Sir John Hanmer
said, that he should not honestly discharge his duty to his constituents if he did not take an early opportunity of entering his most decided protest against the Resolutions of the noble Lord. He presumed that these Resolutions were to be viewed as a prelude to a bill similar in its provisions to that which had already been under the consideration of the House. If so, he could only say, that the House was now called upon to assent to propositions which affirmed the right of the King upon the Throne to violate his Coronation Oath—to violate the provisions of the Act of Union, all the established principles for the protection of property; and, more than he had language to express—went to unsettle all the rights and equities of society. This being his view of the question, he had risen thusearly, young and unknown as he was, to declare his sentiments. From the mistakes already made in the introduction of the measure which had been withdrawn, the House would see that this was no ordinary matter of legislation that they were engaged in. If the delay that had occurred should have the effect of palling and blunting the prevailing appetite for change, it would have been well that the necessity for these Resolutions had been created. By these Resolutions it was proposed to lay a tax upon one portion of their fellow- 1370 subjects. For this purpose it was proposed to exercise the power of Parliament—a power, which, no doubt. Parliament, possessed, because it would be obeyed, although, constitutionally speaking, it was only when Parliament acted justly that its real power existed. Now, he stood there in his place in Parliament, to deny, in the broadest manner, that there was any principle of justice in these Resolutions. The other night the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had refused his assent to a graduated Property-tax. How, then, could the noble Lord reconcile his opinion upon that question with his course upon the present occasion, when he was proposing a graduated tax upon the property of the Church? He had not yet heard the reasons of the noble Lord, but he did not expect to find them satisfactory. He repeated, that he stood there to oppose these Resolutions upon broad constitutional grounds, as a violation of the Coronation Oath, the Act of Union between Ireland and Great Britain, and all the principles of equity and the rights of property, which were the boast of the English Constitution. But, leaving these considerations out of the account, he was prepared to contend that, if these Resolutions affected the welfare of the Church, the House was called upon not to pass them without adequate information upon which to guide their judgment, either as to the ratio of imposition upon ecclesiastical incomes, or the necessity of such imposts. Why had the country been agitated for two years, and brought to the brink of a giddy steep, from which it made the mind giddy with terror to look down? Was it not to establish this principle—that no man should have his property taken from him, or his rights invaded, without having an opportunity of being heard in defence of his interests? Yet had the Parliament not sat two months when a measure, framed in a spirit of despotism and tyranny, for the invasion of property, was introduced. Dignities and Prelacies, were the avowed, undisguised, objects of the pursuit of the noble Lord. He would now only ask Ministers to pause and reflect before they committed a gross and wanton spoliation upon the property of the Church. Their proposed taxation upon the Church would be neither more nor less than an act of tyrannous spoliation; and when once Church property was so treated, no man's private property could be secure for a single hour. In fact, he 1371 believed that the winter's snow would not be more evanescent than the property of the Church if the Bill, as it was contemplated by Ministers, should pass into a law. If that were carried, it would be, as it were, the fulcrum on which they would lean to move every other species of property; and, as such, he would give these Resolutions and the Bill to be founded upon them his most strenuous and decided opposition. Thanking the House for the patience with which they had heard him, he would not further trespass on their attention.
§ Mr. Sheil
said, that the argument drawn from the 5th article of the Act of Union had been relied on by Mr. Canning, and refuted by Mr. Brougham. In 1825, Mr. Canning had called on the clerk to read the article on a Motion of the member for Middlesex relative to the Church. Mr. Brougham observed that the two Churches were to be united in "Government, discipline, and faith." Temporalities were not mentioned. "Expressum fucit cessare taciturn." The framers of the Act of Union could not have omitted the word "temporalities" without a purpose. He thought that this observation was conclusive, unless "discipline and government" were a periphrase for riches, and in the vocabulary of ecclesiastics "faith" was synonymous with gold. He was the worst enemy of the Union who relied on it to sustain the Establishment, and he was the worst enemy of the English who associated it with the Irish Church, it was a junction of the fresh and living with the decomposed and dead, which did not vivify the one, but contaminated and imparted mortality to the other. The member for the University of Dublin had used some menacing intimations. He had threatened the Government with the anger of the Irish Protestants, and hinted that they might throw off their allegiance. Surely the hon. Gentleman, the Representative of the subordination and peaceful habits of a learned and tranquil body, did not mean to say, that Protestant loyalty was the result of Protestant monopoly—that the devotedness to England of that respectable body was of a mercenary character, and that their attachment to their Sovereign was derived from the meanest of all motives, and was little else than the sordid product of pecuniary calculation. He had given notice of an Amendment involving the great question of the right 1372 of the State to legislate for the Church; but another Gentleman having given a similar notice before him, he thought it due to courtesy to give way to that hon. Gentleman. The measures of the Government, besides, rested on the right of appropriation, and the principle was implied. He should apply himself to that question. It was plain to him that the property of a Corporation rested on a title as distinct from that of an individual as the nature of an individual was distinct from that of a Corporation, which was the mere creature of the law, and owed its entire existence to the law. Passing from theory to authority, the highest was to be found in favour of Church reform. Paley laid it down, that the chances being equal that the religion of the majority is as good as that of the Magistrate, the Magistrate ought to consult the religion of the people, and not his own. Warburton said, that the Church exists only for the benefit of the State. "Hence," he said in his Alliance of Church and State, "may be seen why the Episcopal is the Established Church of England and the Presbyterian in Scotland, and the equity of the conversion. Hence the duration of the Alliance. When the Church loses its superiority of extent, the Alliance becomes void; the united Church being no longer able to perform its part of the convention, the State becomes disengaged, and a new Alliance is of course contracted with the now prevailing Church." He expressed himself still more strongly in a note to Clarendon's Rebellion, where, observing on the demand of the Parliament for the alienation of Church lands, he said, that, "the State may resume what the State originally gave." But what had been the practice of all Europe? Peter the Great seized all the property of the Greek Church, and its functionaries were paid from the treasury. The Emperor Joseph seized all the Church property in his dominions. In Prussia, and all the German States, the clergy were paid out of the public coffers. Arthur Young, in his Travels through Italy, said, "Tithes have been abolished in Tuscany, the estates of the priests, with a slight land-tax, have been found adequate to all the purposes of religion, and almost universally through the Italian States the property of the Church is considered as the property of the State." in Adam Smith's chapter "on the Sovereign," in his Wealth of Nations, he said, "in several Protestant 1373 countries, particularly the Protestant cantons of Switzerland, the revenue which anciently belonged to the Roman Catholic Church—the tithes and Church land—has been found a fund suffcient, not only to afford competent salaries to the established clergy, but to defray, with little or no addition, all the other expenses of the State. The Magistrates of the powerful canton of Berne, in particular, have accumulated, out of the savings of this fund, a very large fund, supposed to amount to several millions." Here was a series of strong examples amounting to authority. Was all that spoliation? Had these changes been followed by the invasion of private property? Had convulsions ensued? Those who predicted would do well to look back. The French Revolution would probably be referred to. But what took place before it? The property of the Knights Templars had been seized. It was a constant custom to apply the revenues of Bishoprics to State purposes This was not spoliation before—was it after the Revolution? It was remarkable that Abbe Maury, in resisting the seizure of the French Church property, had relied upon it that it was the property of the poor. But come to England. He should commence with a very recent example. The revenue of the Church of Durham had lately been applied to the establishment of a university. Was this an ecclesiastical purpose? Had mathematics anything to do with mysteries, algebra with theology, chemistry with the Church Establishment? Alchymy had indeed "converso in pretium Deo." This was a strong case. The consent of the prebends was nothing. They could not consent and bar their successors, and plunder the Corporation, if the principles of churchmen were well founded. But go back to the fountain head of English legislation. Edward 1st determined to tax the clergy; Pope Boniface issued a Bull, setting forth strong conservative doctrines—the entire argument on spoliation may be found in this famous document. The British King being put by excommunication out of the pale of the Church, put the clergy out of the pale of the law. The latter gave way and paid the tax. In Rymer's Fœdera would be found the formal recognition of the Bishops in the time of Edward 2nd, that the temporalities of the see came from and belonged to the Crown. In the reign of Edward 3rd Wickliffe appeared. The 1374 Protestants accounted him the precursor of the Reformation, and beheld in his mind the dawn of that light which afterwards grew to the full splendour of day. He translated the Bible, and called on the clergy to obey its precepts. He insisted on the doctrine which the Irish Catholics now maintain—that the Church was under the control of the Legislature, and its possessions might be appropriated. That charge was set forth in the 9th article exhibited against him. In the 15th of Richard 2nd was passed the statute providing that a certain portion of the tithes should be given out of impropriate benefices to the poor. This statute was renewed in the 4th of Henry 4th, In the 6th year of that King's reign the Commons addressed the King, and entreated him to seize a part of the Church revenues. The Archbishop of Canterbury was present when the Address was presented, and, on his observing that the clergy spent their days and nights in praying for the weal of the State, the Speaker said, with a smile, "He feared that his Grace's prayers would make but a slender supply." He would speak next of the Reformation. The reign of Henry 8th was too notorious to require comment; but, in the succeeding reign, the Bishopric of Durham was seized by the Crown, and the Act confiscating the lands belonging to charities was passed. In the reign of Mary the right of the Legislature to seize Church property was recognized, and the titles of the purchasers of the monastic estates were confirmed. Every one knew that Elizabeth had possessed herself of the revenues of several Bishoprics; but observe the effect of the first statute of her feign. The whole Catholic hierarchy were ejected, with the exception of the Bishop of Llandaff, who was called "the calamity of his see." There was a direct transfer of the property of one Church to that of another Church, not with, but against, the consent of the incumbents; for they were all stripped of their authority, of their means of life, and thrown on the world. James 1st possessed himself, with one grasp, of the entire tithes of Scotland. He would next turn to the Church history of that country. His first extract should be from Robertson's third book. He said, "that in December, 1561, a convention of estates was held chiefly on account of ecclesiastical affairs. After much contention the following plan was approved of by a 1375 majority of voices, and acquiesced in even by the popish clergy themselves. An exact account of ecclesiastical benefices through the kingdom was appointed to be taken. The present incumbents, to whatever party they adhered, were allowed to keep possession; two-thirds of their whole revenue were reserved for their own use; the remainder was annexed to the Crown; and out of that the Queen undertook to assign a sufficient maintenance for the Protestant clergy." It was of great importance to consider the doctrines of the great reformers of the time, the fathers of the Scotch Church. In Spottiswood's history of that Church, their tenets would be found. An ecclesiastical Council appointed for the purpose reported to the Parliament a form of doctrine and of discipline. The words in Spottiswood were these: "The 5th head, concerning the provision of ministers, and distribution of the rents and possessions justly appertaining to the Church; "after providing for the clergyman and his widow, the disciples of John Knox went on thus: 'There rest two sorts of people who must be provided for out of the patrimony of the Church—to wit, the poor and the teacher of youth. The poor must be provided for in every parish, for it is a shameful thing that they should be universally contemned and despised. The poor widows, the fatherless, the impotent, maimed persons, the aged, and every one that may not work, or such persons as are fallen by occasion into decay, ought to be provided for'. In page 164 of Spottiswood, the following is stated to be the doctrine of the Church, as expressed in a second rescript:—'Two sorts of men, that is, the preachers of the word and the poor, besides schools, must be sustained from the rents of the Church, and because not only ministers, but also the poor and schools must be sustained upon tithes, we think it more expedient that deacons and common treasurers of the Church be appointed to receive the whole rents appertaining thereto than the ministers themselves. It was deserving of remark, that they rested their arguments on the canon of the Church giving the quarta pars to the poor. Such were the principles laid down at the Reformation in Scotland; and what eloquent lessons did the history of that country present to Statesmen, if they would open their hearts to the philosophy which leaches by example! From 1666 1376 to 1689 what events took place! The efforts made by the Government to inflict episcopacy on the people who repudiated the imposition, produced disaster, bloodshed, insurrection, multifarious crime. The covenant was sworn to at Lanark—the battle of Pentland-hills was fought—the Scotch were defeated—ten were hanged on the same gibbet; thirty-five were hanged at their own doors. Tortures followed—Macail was tormented, and died in a paroxysm of heroism and devotion. The cruelties of Lauderdale succeeded—the Highlanders were called from their savage hills, and quartered on the western counties—Sharpe was murdered in open day, and pierced in the arms of his daughter, who shrieked in vain for mercy—tbe battle of Bothwell-bridge was fought—a reign of terror commenced—Courts-martial, high Courts of novel judicature, were established—blood flowing in torrents—a country covered with soldiers and banditti—misery unspeakable—famine, pestilence, and anguish, were beheld on every side! At last a great event fell out; the Revolution took place, and on the 22nd of June 1689, the following Act of Parliament was passed: "Act Abolishing Episcopacy." It enacted, 'Whereas the estates of this kingdom declared that prelacy is and hath been a great and in-supportable grievance to this nation, and contrary to the inclinations of the generality of the people, and therefore ought to be abolished, our Sovereign Lord and Lady do hereby abolish episcopacy; and the King and Queen's Majesty do declare, that they will settle by law that Church government in this kingdom which is most agreeable to the inclinations of the people'. He had gone through a great deal of citation, and would limit himself to two references more. He would carry them across the Atlantic. In Canada, a case of most peculiar and powerful illustration was presented. By treaty, on the cession of that province, the Roman Catholic Church was declared to be the established one. The revenues of the Church were made payable to the Catholic clergy. That treaty was confirmed by the 14th of George 3rd. Well, what was done? The Protestants were exempted from the payment of tithes on those estates which they purchased from Roman Catholics. The mere sale was sufficient to discharge the property from all ecclesiastical impost if it passed to the hands of 1377 a Protestant. This was not accounted spoliation—this wasconsidered quite legitimate and just. The feelings of Protestants were not to be outraged by a payment to a Roman Catholic establishment. There was no plunder here. If this were wise and just on the banks of the St. Lawrence, how did the principle change on the banks of the Shannon? Did it depend on the latitude, or was it supposed that the Catholic millions of Ireland were less sensitive to wrong, and less alive to humiliation, than the Protestants who were located in the Canadian forests? But having thus sought for examples through the world, it might be asked, whether he could find none in his own country? The precedent of 1735 was universally known. The Irish Parliament passed a resolution against the tithe of agistment, and that resolution was turned into an Act of Parliament at the time of the Union in 1800. That Act had since been violated, and the tithe composition deprived the Irish gentry of a privilege which they had made matter of stipulation. He conceived that the tithe of agistment was virtually imposed by the Composition Act, because all land was now brought within the Act, and pasturage was formerly exempt. But the great point was this, that the Legislature had in Ireland directly interfered with the Church property, and stripped the clergy at once of a large share of their profits. Those accumulated facts established beyond all doubt the constant interference in almost every country with ecclesiastical possessions, and it only remained that the Legislature should, in the present circumstances of the country, act boldly and frankly on the principle which must obviously afford the basis of their enactments. A compromise among themselves would avail nothing. They must build their legislation on some principle, and what could it be except the right of appropriating the surplus revenues of the establishment? Let them say so—let them make proclamation of this principle, and it would do more for the pacification of the country than a whole code of rigorous laws could accomplish.
§ Mr. Halcomb
said, that he entered upon the discussion fully impressed with a sense of its overwhelming importance. He thought, however, that he should be able to show to the House that the proposed measure was unjust, inexpedient, unconstitutional, and, indeed, contrary to the 1378 law of the country. It was a measure which, if he understood the Resolution before the House, was intended to do away with two alleged grievances; namely, the First Fruits and the Vestry-cess. Now the First Fruits did not amount to more than 321l. per annum for the last thirty-one years, and the amount of the Church cess applicable to the Church, was not quite 17,000l. per annum, although the total amount might be from 60,000l. to 70,000l But the House should recollect that the Vestry-cess was a tax from which the Irish clergy had always been exempted, and he, therefore, asked whether it would be fair or just on the part of the Legislature to remove an impost of about 55,000l. from the proprietors of land, and place it on the shoulders of the ecclesiastical establishment? The Vestry cess was a tax which was paid, not by the Roman Catholic tenants, but out of the land; and hence it followed that, if the tax were removed, the remission would go as so much in abatement of the charges on the landlord, instead of his being, as the law intended, subject to the support of the poor in a country where there were no Poor-laws, It was also applicable to the payment of parochial officers, and the building and repairing of churches; and he could not help, therefore, protesting against a change by which the burthen was to be removed from the landed proprietors to be imposed upon the working clergy. He denied the right of interference with Church property, which the House assumed, and contended, that the course proposed to be taken by his Majesty's Government was neither based in justice nor founded upon expediency. He could not but concur with the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin, that such a measure would only tend to alienate the affections of the Protestants of Ireland from the government of this country. He did not mean, that the Protestants would go about promulgating sedition, but they certainly would find it their interest to support a Repeal of the Union; for, being left unprotected, they would have no alternative but to yield to the powerful agitation that was allowed to exist in that country, and to the suppression of which the energies of the Government ought to be directed. By the proposition of the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, he understood that it was intended to apply any surplus that might 1379 remain out of the revenues of the Church, after paying the clergymen of the establishment, to purposes of public utility; but to a proposition so monstrous, and, he would add, so contrary to law, he for one never could agree; for he was prepared to contend, that by law, Church property was exempt from direct taxation, and that that House had no power to apply its revenues for other than ecclesiastical purposes, or without the sanction and superintendence of the clergy. This, in fact, was the amount of the compact that existed between the Monarch and the people; for was not the King by his Coronation Oath bound to preserve the clergy of the Established Church their rights and privileges? If that was not expected of his Majesty, why was the question asked, and why did his Majesty solemnly promise to do so? The present measure was in direct contradiction of that engagement into which the Monarch had entered, and he should therefore like to know how, and in what form it was, that his Majesty had signified that it was his gracious will and pleasure to place at the disposal of Parliament, the temporalities of the Church of Ireland. He wished either that the document in which such a. signification was contained should be produced, or that the noble Lord or any other Gentleman connected with the Government, should explain to the House the authority upon which the statement was founded. He spoke, of course, with profound respect for men who had exhibited so much skill in the conduct of public affairs; and not being willing to attribute improper motives to any one, he did not doubt but that he should receive. I satisfactory answer to his question. He made the inquiry, not only on his own behalf, but on that of his constituents, who were deeply interested in the subject, and who could not understand how it was, that the revenues of the Church were tobe applied for other than ecclesiastical purposes, or that ten bishoprics, on being void, were to be altogether suppressed. They could not comprehend upon what principle of justice it was, that the lands, benefits, and temporalities of the Church were to be taken from the clergy and given in perpetuity to a body who were to supply the place of the convocation; and for his own part he nuist protest against the sort of dictation which had been used to the Throne. That dictation was resorted to, for the first time, on the occasion of the 1380 Reform Bill, but he thought it most irregular, and therefore it was that he objected to the thirty-first clause of this Bill. In making these observations, he was actuated only by honest motives, and instead of opposing the Resolutions, as he felt it his duty to do, he should have gladly voted with the Government if he could have done so conscientiously, as he well knew they required the most strenuous support. A perusal of the Bill had, however, convinced him that its provisions were not only dangerous, but involved a gross violation of constitutional principle. This was a reforming age, but, however desirous he might be of conciliating the Catholics, he would not do that at the expense, not only of the Protestants, but he might say of established principle and precedent, which declared that the Church Establishment was not liable to direct taxation by that House. He could never consent to the suppression of Bishops, and placing the revenues of the Church in the hands of Commissioners, who were to be under the control of the Lord-lieutenant; and, although he was ready to admit, that Ministers had brought the measure forward in the spirit of conciliation, he yet was satisfied that it would not attain that object for them; but, on the contrary, tend to alienate the Protestants from the Government, and lead ultimately to the final separation of the two countries by the system of miserable and diabolical agitation to which he had already alluded.
§ Mr. Warre
was surprised at the opinions he had heard to-night respecting the violation of the King's Coronation Oath, if he should consent to this measure. It seemed to him that there was no pretence for using any such argument. If he wanted authority to justify him in his opinion he might find it in the sentiments expressed by the Protestant Bishop of Llandaff, who, in writing to a friend in 1805, said, when mentioning this subject, "The Coronation Oath is a confirmation of the promises made by the King to the people. The obligation is broken when it is disregarded, though both the Parliament and the people claim its performance; it is relaxed when the people declare, through their Representatives in Parliament, that they do not require the performance of it." An hon. Member had referred to the fifth article of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland, with a view of showing that a measure like the present could not receive 1381 the sanction of the Legislature without breaking the compact made at the Union. That article declared that the Churches of England and Ireland should be united in one Episcopalian Church, to be subject to the same laws; and that the arrangement then made should be taken to be a fundamental part of the Union. But was he to be told, that no alterations were to be made in institutions of human device; and that they should, under no circumstances, be revised by human authority? Could man be so arrogant, as to say, that when he once legislated, he legislated for ever? Eternity and immutability could not belong to anything connected with the institutions of man. What Parliament had done, Parliament might do again; and, however great the wisdom of our ancestors might have been, they could not legislate for ever. With respect to the Church, he trusted that he should not be thought a lax churchman, if he expressed his concurrence with Locke, in saying that a Church was a certain number of people who agreed together in a certain opinion. Elsewhere Mr. Locke had called it "a convention of men." There was a most important distinction between the Church of Christ, and the various structures that had been raised upon it. These structures being formed by men, must depend on their opinions. And on this point he agreed with the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, that it was necessary to keep before their minds the fact, that that which was the true Church on one side the Tweed, was not the true Church on the other side. When, therefore, they talked of the "true Church," it must be remembered that that must depend upon the preponderating opinion of the majority of the community. It must also depend upon the feelings of the people, whether or not alterations should be made in the doctrines and discipline of the Church. He could not help feeling that the Church of England would have rested upon a much more secure foundation if the articles of that Church had been revised as from time to time had been recommended by some of the brightest of its ornaments; for instance, by Patrick, Talbot, Burnett, and others. He was sure that if this had taken place, when it was first proposed, it would have attracted a more numerous body of adberents to the Establishment. Some parts of the Litany might be altered with advantage 1382 to the Church, although he was of opinion that, altogether, it was the most beautiful form of human prayer that was extant. He felt anxious to state his opinion upon this point, as it was a subject in which he felt deeply interested. It had been truly said, that religion made the Church, and not the Church religion. It had also been remarked by a distinguished author "That whether we look to the Established Church, or any other institution, it must be remembered that we live in days when establishments are regarded and maintained, with a view to their utility, and not merely with regard to their antiquity." The truth was, that, in these days, it was necessary to act on sound principles. If the right hon. member for Tamworth had been present he should have reminded him of Bacon's expression, that "Laws which are not revised, are apt to grow sour." The House should seriously set about a reform in those institutions, into which abuses had imperceptibly been introduced. He had no doubt that a Reformed House of Commons would apply an effectual remedy to such abuses. With respect to the scale of taxation, which his noble friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed, by a slight alteration, it would be materially improved. It was suggested that there should be no charge upon a living of less than 200l. a-year; and that there should be a charge of five per cent, upon livings between 200l. and 500l. a-year. It was objectionable, that while the man with 200l. a-year paid nothing, the man with 205l. a-year should have to pay five per cent. That, in many instances, would operate as an inducement to the suppression of the truth. The difficulty, if not altogether removed, would be, to a considerable degree, obviated, by charging a small per-centage on livings between 200l. and 300l. a-year; and a per-centage of larger amount on livings of between 300l. and 400l.; and again, an increased per-centage on livings of between 400l. and 500l. a-year. With respect to the general plan of his Majesty's Ministers, it had his cordial approbation. It was impossible to avoid introducing an efficient reform as regards the Church establishment in Ireland? and the present moment was the best period for effecting it.
§ Mr. Gillon
said, that he too thought some change was necessary, but the plan proposed by Ministers was not sufficiently 1383 extensive; it ought to have embraced the abolition of tithes. The hon. member for Dover objected to it for going too far, he objected to it as not going far enough. The Church of Christ must be distinguished from the different Churches that had been founded upon it by the will of men. The Church establishment was a human institution, and as such must require change. Church establishments had been first established by Constantine; they had been marked in their progress with the existence of tithe-proctors, and the course of these persons had, in all countries, occasioned the tears of the widow and the orphan, and might now be traced in the blood of Ireland, which was yet reeking with the slaughter of her citizens. It was unjust to tax a whole; country to support doctrines which its population disavowed; and it was against all reason to suppose that seven millions and a half of Irishmen should willingly continue to pay tithes for the support of a Church to which in sentiment they were opposed. The attempt to make them continue this payment was absurd, as well as unjust, and must fail. To enforce it, a standing army was necessary. There could be no reduction of the burthens of this country—no reduction of the establishments, so long as they were determined to collect the tithes of Ireland. He wished for a reduction of the establishments—it was what the people expected; and as one of the most certain means of obtaining that end, he would move in the progress of the measure a resolution to the effect, that, after the death of the present incumbents, the revenues of the Church of Ireland should be thrown into the general mass of the public property.
§ Mr. Macaulay,
after stating, that he felt considerably embarrassed in rising to address the House on the present occasion, proceeded to say, that he had two species of opposition to contend against—that of those hon. Gentlemen who did not conceive the Bill went far enough, and that of those who either considered that it went too far, or of those who believed that such a measure never should have been entered upon at all. Now, with respect to the first, he was glad, at least, to learn from the hon. and learned Member opposite, that the Bill was satisfactory so far as it went, and that it would not have, in fact, been equally judicious, if at present it did go further. On this opinion of the 1384 hon. and learned Gentleman he was willing to rest his defence of the Ministers for having gone no further. He was heartily glad that the hon. and learned member for Tipperary had withdrawn his notice of Motion, which stood upon the books; and he wished sincerely that that hon. and learned Gentleman's example might prevail with others, and induce them in like manner to withdraw the Motions they had announced. He conceived that it was a matter of extreme importance that this measure should be carried; and he felt that the difficulty of carrying it would be most considerably increased if it were made stronger. He consequently should, if it were necessary, feel no difficulty in moving the previous question, should the hon. Member not consent to withdraw his Amendment. He had now, however, to approach the other species of opposition against which he had to contend, and which was much the more formidable of the two—namely, that the Bill went too far, or rather, that it proceeded on an erroneous principle. Among those who had supported this view of the subject, the hon. and learned member for Dover had contended, that if his Majesty should give his sanction to this measure, it would be given in direct violation of his Coronation Oath. The hon. and learned Member also said, that this measure was a violation of the rights of the Church, and of the rights of property. The argument respecting the Coronation Oath was urged when the questions of the Catholic Emancipation and the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts were before the House, and he had thought that that argument had been so completely refuted on those occasions, that it would not have been brought forward again. He was, however, prepared to show that the objection had no force. It was perfectly clear, from the words of the oath, that they could not bear the construction the hon. and learned Member had put upon them. What was the oath?—that the King would maintain for the Church "all such rights as do, or by law shall appertain to the Church." The whole force of the passage rested on the word "shall." In another part of the oath his Majesty says, "We declare to govern all our people according to the Statutes agreed to in Parliament;" but surely that did not mean that his Majesty swore to govern by the Statutes actually in 1385 existence at the moment he came to the Throne. Certainly not; for if that were the sense of the passage, every Act of Parliament to which the Sovereign gave his consent, in the course of his reign, would be an act of perjury upon his part. How much less, then, was there any doubt of the wording with respect to the rights and privileges of the Church. The fact was, the passage was introduced into the oath for the purpose of guarding the Church against such acts as those which James 2nd exercised as head of the Church. The present measure contemplated no interference of that kind with the Church, and it was perfectly clear to him, that the oath had not the smallest reference to the conduct of the King in his legislative capacity, and did not bar him from giving his assent to any measure agreed to by both Houses of Parliament. Allusion had been made to the articles of the Union as if they prevented any change in the established Church of Ireland. The words of the 5th article of the Union were, that "the doctrine, discipline, worship and government of the Church are to be maintained in both countries unchanged. If this measure were passed, all those things would be unchanged." No alteration was to be made in the Articles, the Book of Common Prayer was untouched, and the discipline would still be episcopal, the Archbishops and Bishops would retain all their authority, and the doctrine and discipline would be unaltered. Would it be said, that the union of certain sees in Ireland made any difference in the doctrine, discipline, worship, or government of the Church? He should suppose not. If so, all the fundamental principles of the government of the Church of England were compromised by the junction between the sees of Lichfield and Coventry. Nor were they destroying the Church of Ireland by arrangements contained in the Bill for a different distribution of Church property. Such arrangements had been frequently made by the Legislature. The present case was a parallel to the case of London after the fire. The number of parishes then destroyed was eighty-seven, and soon afterwards an Act passed by which they were consolidated, and reduced to fifty-one, and a commutation of tithes for a fixed money-payment was also ordained. Indeed local Acts of a similar description were continually passed, and every one of them was as much 1386 the destruction of the Church of England as this Bill would be, were it to become a law to-morrow. It had next been asserted that the rights of property had been attacked by this Bill; this, he maintained, was an assertion; if it could be proved, he would give up the Bill. The right of property was of immense importance. To preserve that, Kings, and Parliaments, and Coronation Oaths, all existed. For that alone, law was made. Admitting the momentous nature of this consideration, he denied, that the rights of property had been attacked by the framers of the Bill. No necessity existed which should induce Ministers to infringe on those sacred rights. On the contrary. Ministers felt bound to defend to the utmost the institution of property, believing, as they did, that it was to that institution mankind were indebted for the origin and the progress of civilization—believing that it was in consequence of that institution that we were not now, like our rude ancestors, naked and painted bodies, savages feeding upon acorns and sheltering ourselves in caves. They felt, however, at the same time, that in the institution of property there were many anomalies and evils; and yet these anomalies and evils were not only willingly, but cheerfully borne by the many, in consideration of the manifold blessings which the institution of property conferred upon society at large. He would admit, too, that the anomalies in the distribution of the property of the Church of Ireland were not greater than in the distribution of lay property in other countries. It was an anomaly, that a young man who had never served the commonwealth either with head or hand should hold possession of half a county, while other men, who had deserved well of the State in arts and arms, were left without an acre; and yet this was cheerfully endured by all, rather than derange the settled order of things. This was as great an anomaly as existed between the revenues of the Archbishop of Armagh and the poorest working curate. But, as mankind found no argument in the former for attacking all property, so the latter could supply no inducement to attack the property of the Irish Church. But, the more sacred he regarded the right of property, the more care did it require that the right should not be enfeebled and contaminated by abuses. It was by protecting the abuses with which it was mingled that 1387 the institution itself was brought into disrepute. The House had heard from an eloquent voice, which, alas! they would never hear again, some opinions upon the subject of the institution of property, to which he entirely subscribed. He alluded to his excellent and accomplished friend, the late Sir lames Mackintosh, who in one of the discussions on the Reform Bill, while he supported in the strongest way the institution of property, denied that it was fortified by the abuses which had accumulated around it. He said: 'Of all doctrines which threaten the principle of property, none more dangerous was ever promulgated, than that which confounds it with political privilege. None of the disciples of St. Simon, or of the followers of the ingenious and benevolent Owen, have struck so deadly a blow at property, as those who would reduce it to the level of the elective rights of Gatton and Old Sarum. Property, the nourisher of mankind, the incentive of industry, the cement of human society, will be in a perilous condition, if the people be taught to identify it with political abuses, and to deal with it as being involved in their impending fate.'* He entirely concurred in those observations, and objected strongly to those who cried out that the institution of property was endangered by removing-any of the abuses that had gathered about it. He believed the Government were most anxious to preserve the institution of property; but he thought that the best and truest friends of the institution of property had little reason to be obliged to those who talked of Old Sarum as being property, and vested rights existing in it; and of the anomalies and abuses of the Irish Church being sacred property. He wished to have it understood, at the same time, that he allowed an incumbent had a right of property in his benefice, but not of the same species with the right to landed property. The incumbent was a proprietor, but he was also a public functionary; and his rights in the former capacity were controlled by his duties in the latter. He held this property, as subject not only to the existing regulations, but also to such as the Legislature might choose hereafter to impose. The hon. Gentlemen opposite must allow that, unless they were prepared to charge a number of former Parliaments* Hansard (third series) iv. p. 685.1388 with spoliation, and many of the noblest characters whose names graced our history with having encouraged schemes of robbery, there was nothing in this Bill which could authorise the allegations which had been thrown out against it. It was not a spoliation of individuals; it was not a confiscation of property. It did not legalize rapine and plunder. If that were its character, what must the Act of Supremacy have been? That Act deprived Clergymen who took orders under previous circumstances, of their benefices. It was true they were not married, for that was not permitted; but they might have incurred debts, and involved themselves in pecuniary obligations. Yet, without any regard to their possible situation, the Parliament passed an Act of expulsion against any clergyman who refused to acknowledge the supremacy of Queen Elizabeth. He was aware that few clergymen were affected by that Act, because the great majority took the oath; but one instance of a clergyman expelled was as complete an illustration of the principle as a hundred. That Act was passed when the opinions of men were loose and unsettled, but nevertheless that House would not condemn an Act by which the Reformation was firmly established in England. Again, at the time of the Restoration, when the Act of Uniformity was passed, the Prayer Book was altered. It was changed from that which it had been in the reigns of James 1st, and Charles 1st; and those clergymen who might conscientiously object to the new Prayer Book, were liable to be turned out of their benefices. The Clergymen were all told, that if they did not, before a fixed day—and that day was St. Bartholomew—notify their assent to the new Prayer Books, they would be ejected from the Church. The consequence was, that several thousands of the clergy were obliged to abandon their livings, and the Church lost several distinguished men. He admitted, that the authority of many exemplary and excellent individuals was given, to add weight to the principles of this Act; and that it received the sanction of Sheldon, of Juxon, and of other equally celebrated men. That Act was either one of direct spoliation, or else there was an absolute distinction between Church property and other property: since the proprietors of benefices were deprived of their property, for refusing to conform to certain prescribed regulations which were not 1389 enforced until long after they were in possession of their benefices. He would not dwell on the changes at the Revolution, but he would come to an Act passed in our own time, introduced by one who could not be accused of any wish to lessen the right to church property—the late Mr. Perceval—and followed up and perfected by Lord Harrowby. According to the principles laid down to-night, this must have been as complete a spoliation of property as ever was committed. It provided, that all non-resident clergymen should, under certain circumstances, pay a salary to a curate, proceeding upon a graduated scale, almost similar to that re-commended in the measure now before the House. That was as much a violation of the incumbent's right of property as was contemplated by the present Bill. The right hon. member for Tamworth said, on a former debate, that if the Legislature imposed a tax on absentees, it would be neither more nor less than an act of confiscation. He said, that such a proceeding would be utterly inconsistent with the preservation of the rights of property. But, in the Bill he had just alluded to, and which was introduced by one who was a leader of the high Church party, within the last thirty years, there was either a recognition of the difference between Church property and other property; or else it was a positive confiscation of property. His own opinion of Church property was, that it was a sort of mixed property—that it was something more than salary, and something less than an estate; and no man could deny, after the cases he had quoted, that the Legislature had a right to deal with it. In one sense it might be compared to the half-pay of our army and navy. No man would say, that the total abolition of that half-pay would not be a grievous spoliation. Yet, though it was admitted to be the property of the individual, no man would deny the right of the State to regulate it in any manner it pleased. Such power had repeatedly been exercised, in changes and regulations respecting it, both in respect of the amount, and of the administration of the fund from whence it was paid, when the benefit of the service had seemed to require it. If the good of the Church, and the well-being of the community could be promoted by a new distribution of Church property, was there any reason why the Legislature should not make it—provided that exist- 1390 ing interests were honestly and liberally considered? He admitted that this measure would take something from the clergy; but in no case would it take such an amount as to reduce any of them to distress. The money to be taken from them was to be applied to purposes beneficial to the clergy themselves, and to the security of the Church in Ireland, by removing some portion of that odium, which was entertained to an alarming extent against the Establishment in that country. He did not expect to hear any hon. member of that House contend, that not filling up a vacant bishopric was a spoliation, or a violation of property. How could it? There could be no robbery where there was no person to be robbed, and there could be no injury where there was no one to be injured. The bishopric of Waterford, for instance, was vacant, and it was not the intention of Government to fill up the vacancy. To whom was the injury done here? Not to the bishop—for there was none; not to his predecessor, for he was dead; not to any of the 10,000 persons from whom a selection might be made, not one of whom would probably consider his chance of the appointment worth a sovereign. There was, then, no injury to any, unless it could be shown that those who had been under the spiritual care of the preceding bishop were to be left without future spiritual instruction; but if adequate provision were to be made on that head, there could be no injury to any party, but there would be a direct and positive good in the application of the revenues of that see to other Church purposes which required them. He had heard with astonishment the argument of the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin, who maintained, "that the whole property of the Church, even for the purpose of distribution, was beyond the control of Parliament, and that no Parliament could sanction any measure of this kind without being guilty of sacrilege." He denied the truth of the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Parliament had the same power to alter and remodel, as to frame; and the Church of England had no rights, except under the Act of the Legislature. Did the hon. and learned Member say, that the unity of the Church would be destroyed by the diminution of ten Bishops in Ireland, when the whole doctrine, and discipline, and worship, continued the same? Or did 1391 he mean to say, that that unity was to be kept up only by its temporalities remaining in the same hands? Did he mean to renew the doctrine of those who once held, that the gold was to be preferred to the temple which sanctified it? Had the clergy of England been as inflexible in doctrine as some of their Bishops at the period of some of the changes of doctrine and worship to which he had already alluded, would not the whole of the Church property of the country have changed hands? What would then have been said of the identity of the Church? What would the hon. Baronet, the member for the University of Oxford say to a revision of the wills of those pious men by which the colleges which he represented had been so liberally founded, and so munificently endowed? If he contended that any interference with Church property was spoliation, as no doubt he would contend, what would he say, on referring back to the wills and donations of some of the pious founders of the colleges of Oxford? William of Wyckham; Chicheley, the opponent of the Lollards; Flemming, the enemy of Wickliffe; Cardinal Wolsey, a candidate for the Papal Throne; Sir Thomas Pope, the follower of Mary and the teacher of Elizabeth—would have burned off their hands before they left bequests which they conceived were likely to be used against the religion they professed. If any one had told any of those pious founders, that mass would soon cease to be celebrated in the chapels which they had built, and that the refectories and chambers of the halls and colleges which they had endowed, would no longer be occupied by those who acknowledged the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome in England, they would much rather have left their money for the education of laymen without religion than have it used for the dissemination of doctrines which they considered as atrocious heresy. He would support the measure because he thought it would tend to the peace of Ireland—to the preservation of property there—to the real benefit of the clergy. It was the beginning of a series of judicious measures of reform, which would greatly promote the interests of religion and of the Established Church. He looked upon it also as one which would be for the interest of the people of England. But, before he concluded, he was anxious to remark that one of the objections urged against the 1392 Bill was, that by reducing the number of Bishops they left no room for the expansive force of Protestantism—no machinery by which the affairs of an Enlarged Church might be administered. Ireland was about half the size of England, and she was to have half the number of Bishops which England had. If Protestantism should expand, it would have the machinery necessary for such expansion; but he owned that he did not anticipate any such expansion, with all its wealth, and power, and learning. It had not been deficient in these aids—it had not lacked the aid of whatever they could give of penal laws in its favour; and yet the Protestants of Ireland at the present day were not a fourth of the population, and of that small number more than the half did not belong to the Established Church. Compare the expansive power of Protestantism in Ireland for the last century and a half with that which existed in the 16th century. The spirit—the restless and overmastering spirit—of Protestantism wasmuch changed. That spirit which displayed itself in so eminent a degree in the 16th century, which bore it along triumphantly against Popes and Csesars, and General Councils, and Princes, and Prelates—which enabled it to subdue conquerors, and armies—made it proof against inquisitions, and dungeons, and racks, and slow fires—had fled. The heart and mind of man, supported by the enthusiasm of a pure faith, had then triumphed over all opposition against all. Within a brief period Protestantism had spread from the Vistula to the Danube; from the Pyrenees to the Frozen Ocean. The same person who heard Luther preach his first sermon against indulgences, might, without enjoying a life protracted to a great number of years, have observed Protestantism expanding itself, and established in England, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the North of Germany, a part of Switzerland, and struggling in France, not for toleration, but for supremacy. But, as a Protestant, he regretted to say, that Protestantism had made comparatively little progress during the three last centuries. It remained, on the Continent, where it had reached in the days of Philip and Mary, or rather it had receded within the marks to which it had then extended. And what had already arrested its course in Ireland? Was it that the doctrines were less pure, or was it, that from the consti- 1393 tution of the human mind, as men became more and more enlightened, they were less and less capable of perceiving the pure truth? Was it that the Protestant Church in Ireland had not been supported by wealth, and dignity, and power, and by the aid of favouring and penal laws? Certainly not. How then was it? If he were a Roman Catholic, he might say, because the Catholic faith was strong in its strength, and founded on the immortality of truth; but, being a Protestant, he must look for some other reason, and inquire if they had not incumbered the Establishment by worse than superfluous helps, and whether in succeeding to the wealth and pomp of the religion of Rome, Protestantism had not become tainted with something of the languor of the old religion? Had the progress of vigorous and sound thought been arrested by that fatal languor which accounted for the want of success of a great general of antiquity, who declared he had lost more at Capua than he gained at Cannæ. How was it that the spirit of Protestantism had died out where it had been raised to honour and wealth, when it had formerly extended itself, in spite of opposition, over all the kingdoms of Europe? He would not however pursue that painful theme. For himself, at least, he must say, that he did not conceive that there could be any marvellous advantage to the cause of Protestantism, by the retention of the sees which the Bill proposed to dispense with hereafter. If Protestantism depended upon sees, there would not be a Presbyterian in Ulster, nor a Catholic in Connaught. It was time that they should try new councils, and that they should remove the grievances of the Dissenters, and restore peace to Ireland, and its just and proper powers to the Protestant Church.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
was compelled, by the allusion of his hon. and learned friend, to address the House on the present occasion. If he had reason, on most occasions, to request the indulgence of the House when he spoke, how much stronger reasons had he in this instance, when he rose after the able and eloquent speech which had just been delivered, and when, from indisposition, he could scarcely hope to be audible, and could not go into the subject as he could wish. He hardly expected when he came into the House that he should have been called upon to enter into a defence of the Protestant religion generally, 1394 and of the peculiar Protestant Church of our own country. His hon. and learned friend, in reference to the learned body of which he had the honour of being one of the Representatives, asked what the founders of colleges would have said had they been aware of the purposes to which the revenues they had bequeathed would be devoted. Now, the founders of these colleges certainly left their bequests for the promotion of the glory of God, and the education of the youth of this country. Was not, then, the general tendency of the Protestant religion for the last three centuries to promote the glory of God, and the instruction of the youth of this realm? If those great men had lived in our own times, there was reason to hope, that the same feelings which prompted them to found these institutions for the glory of God in their day, would have equally operated upon them in the better age of the Reformation; and they would have shared in the light and intelligence of that age, like their successors. He might ask whether Chicheley, and Wyckham, and Wainfleet, might not have been like Cran-mer, Ridley, and Latimer, and have been ready, like them, to sacrifice their lives for the pure faith when it was restored. The two last of those illustrious men, were burnt in that very city in the midst of those noble foundations, and exclaimed at the stake that the light was then kindling around them in England which never could be extinguished. His hon. and learned friend had directed his speech to the state of Ireland for the last two centuries, and had stated, that the expansive force of Protestantism, a phrase used on the first opening of this subject, was no longer apparent there. But the spirit of the Protestant Church had prevailed to a great extent in Ireland, and from the period of the Revolution to the Legislative Union, that Church was the only link between the two countries. No man could have read the history of that country without being sensible of the difficulties with which religion had to contend there. He was bound to admit—no man who had read Archbishop Boulter's letters, or knew anything of the Administration of Primate Stone, could fail to admit—that, for the sake of maintaining the connexion of the two countries (" the English interest" in Ireland, as it was always called), the churchmen of those days were, in many cases, too much secularized; and though 1395 there were splendid exceptions, their high and peculiar duties were too often overlooked. But many of these reasons ceased when the local legislature was removed; and it was from the time of the Union that he dated the spiritual foundation of the existing-Church in Ireland, Since then, reformation had been proceeding in the Church, and within the memory of many who heard him, the number of resident incumbents and ministers of the Church in Ireland had been doubled, and not less than 350 churches had been erected where churches did not exist before; further, a body of curates had been established in Ireland, exceeding in number the whole of the beneficed clergy to be found there in 1792. Moreover, wherever these churches had been erected, congregations of active and willing Protestants had been found, so that it had seemed only necessary to build a church for a congregation naturally to come to it. These churches, therefore, had not been built in the desert, or if they were, they soon formed an oasis in it, surrounded by congregations of devout communicants. in considering the expansive force which Protestantism had exerted in Ireland, it ought to be borne in mind how little had been done for it in Ireland from the time of Elizabeth downwards, compared with what had been done for the Church in England. Did the House recollect, that the bishoprics in the north of Ireland, where Protestantism was most prosperous, were not even filled up by Queen Elizabeth, with the exception of one, over which a bishop presided for two years; the queen, as the bishops fell off, appropriating the revenues to her own use. Indeed, this was not the worst particular he had to state, for not only were eight northern bishoprics kept vacant, but four were actually left in the hands of Catholic bishops for 100 years after the Reformation. Protestantism, therefore, had not the same chances of success afforded it in Ireland which were afforded it in England, and which it had a right to expect from those who called themselves the supporters of Protestantism. Short as was the speech of the noble lord, still it opened the whole question of our Church Establishment, and a most important question it undoubtedly was. The question was not now whether they should support the Protestant Church of Ireland, or the Protestantism of the university of 1396 Oxford, or whether they were to impose a graduated Property-tax on a small portion of the community without the consent of the ministers of the Church who were interested in it; the question was not as to the comparative merits of Protestantism and Catholicism, though all these subjects had been discussed. No, the immediate question was, whether an ecclesiastical Commission should be appointed to superintend the affairs of the Church. That was the practical effect of the first resolution, which alone was before the House, and which declared—" That it is the opinion of this Committee, that it is expedient that the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland should be authorized to appoint Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the purpose of carrying into effect any act that may be passed in the present Session of Parliament to alter and amend the laws relating to the temporalities of the Church in Ireland; and that the said Lord-lieutenant be empowered to order and appoint such salary or other emoluments as he shall deem fit to be paid to such commissioners, not being bishops." That Resolution went to divest the Crown in a great measure of the superintendence over Church property in Ireland. Hereafter that power was not to be exercised by the sworn advisers of the Crown, but by Commissioners appointed by the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, To such a proposition he could not agree. Was it fitting that one of the highest functions of the Crown should be delegated to that or to any other ecclesiastical Commission? He apprehended also that those Commissioners would have it in their power to suspend the worship of Almighty God in such places as they might think proper. He denied the power of the Crown of England to suspend the exercise of the Christian faith in any place whatsoever; and if the Crown did not possess such a power, how could it be vested in Commissioners? No reason whatever had been shown for taking from the Crown its right of superintendence over Church property, and as little had been advanced to prove the necessity of contracting the number of bishoprics. He should like to know what was to be done with the patronage of the reduced sees. Was it also to be placed at the disposal of these Commissioners? Much mischief had occurred in former times from Ecclesiastical Commissions in England. There was no power to be given to this Commission 1397 which might not be better and more appropriately exercised by the Church itself, through the medium of its dignitaries. He would not then trespass further on the House, but reserve himself for discussing the details of the measure.
§ Mr. Finch
said, the speech of the hon. and learned member for Leeds showed clearly enough that Ministers were not fit to undertake Church Reform. Much had been said by the hon. and learned Member as to the Protestant reformation not having been very successful in Ireland; but why was the reformation in that country so long delayed? He would answer, that it was in consequence of misgovernment. The Protestant clergy of Ireland had, however, exerted themselves with great zeal and with not a little success. They had entered on the task of disseminating education with much alacrity; and the consequence was that 200,000 Roman Catholic children were educated by their efforts. That success, too, it should be observed, was obtained in opposition to the exertions of the Roman Catholic priests. The next thing they endeavoured to do was to establish a standard of faith; and-with that view tens of thousands of copies of the Bible were distributed through Ireland; and that likewise in opposition to the exertions of the Catholic priesthood. The Irish language was also studied, and the clergy were thus enabled to preach in that language. So much for what the Protestants had done. But, on the other hand, what was the conduct of the Government? Did Ministers during the last Parliament, evince a desire to uphold that species of education in Ireland? They did not. Instead of proceeding on the old system, they had patronized a new system of education which had the good fortune to be approved of by Dr. Doyle. When Ministers thus gave their hands to the Roman Catholic party, and slighted the Protestant, was it fair for the hon. and learned Gentleman, who was a member of the Government to throw the blame on the Protestant clergy? There appeared to be three parties in Ireland who viewed the Church with angry feelings. First, there were the Dissenters; nothing would satisfy them but the separation of Church and State. Second, the Roman Catholics; they expected the restoration of their church; they wished to enjoy supremacy both in Church and State. The third was the revolutionary party, who hated the 1398 Church, because through it men were taught the duties which they owed to their Creator and their country. These were not the parties that ought to be conciliated. Ministers ought, on the contrary, strenuously to support the Church party. If the incomes of any of the Bishops were too large, why, let them be diminished, but let not the Legislature cut down the number of Bishops. As vacancies occur, let men of apostolic habits, of pure morals, who had studied the Irish language, and who could, like the Bishop of Tuam, preach in that tongue,—let such men be appointed and reformation in religion would soon spread throughout Ireland. The noble Lord, in introducing his proposed alteration, had declared it was necessary on account of abuses. He would ask what abuses, for certainly the existence of no abuses had been proved?
§ Lord Althorp
said, the hon. member for the University of Oxford had observed, that very serious duties would devolve on those Commissioners who were not sworn servants of the King, as in them would be vested the power of superintending Church property in Ireland, which now rested with the Crown. They certainly would be armed with authority to suspend appointments in cases where duty had not been performed for three years prior to the passing of the Bill. Some new powers would undoubtedly be given to them, but not such powers as the Crown now possessed for superintending the Church property of Ireland. The hon. Member had asked what was to become of the Church patronage that now belonged to the see which it was proposed to abolish? It was the intention of the Government that such patronage should remain with the Bishop, to whose see the diocess that was no longer to possess a Bishop should be annexed. It was not intended, as the hon. Member seemed to think, to place that patronage at the disposal of the Commissioners. The Commissioners would not have any of those powers which the hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine would supersede the authority of the Crown. No intention of the kind existed. The imiting of sees had not only been done in Ireland, but frequently in England, by Acts of Parliament. There was a remarkable instance of the union of Westminster with the see of London, which took place with the approbation of Cranmer and Ridley. Certainly the alteration as to the levying of the Church cess 1399 would impose a burthen upon the Church, but then it would be for solely ecclesiastical purposes. He did not feel it necessary to go further at present, confining himself as he did, to the Resolution immediately before them. When the other resolutions came successively under consideration, he should go into the details connected with them.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that if every Member who had spoken had adhered to the rule adopted by the noble Lord, and had confined himself strictly to the Resolution before the Committee, he should have been glad to follow such an excellent example. As the first Resolution was a mere resolution of form, a resolution to the effect that certain Commissioners should be appointed, and as the assenting to it would not deprive him of objecting to the appointment of such Commissioners hereafter, he should have made a shorter speech even than that of the noble Lord, had it not been that the whole debate of the night had turned upon the main object of the intended measure, contained in the Resolutions which were to follow; and as it appeared to him more convenient that they should now discuss the main question, instead of resuming the discussion upon it, with five hours and a half of debate lost, he would then enter into that discussion. He begged, before doing so, to observe, with regard to the present Resolution, that he doubted much whether they ought to establish the distinction of salaried and unsalaried Commissioners. It was plain that the ecclesiastical unsalaried Commissioners would be frequently called away to the performance of other duties; that some of them would be summoned annually to London, to attend their parliamentary duties in the House of Lords, and that therefore the whole practical work of the commission would devolve upon those salaried Commissioners who held their situations at the pleasure of the Crown. He should therefore reserve to himself the right of objecting hereafter to granting salaries to those Commissioners. He should now proceed to the main subject of the debate which had been raised by the second and third Resolutions. The second Resolution regarded the abolition of first-fruits, and the provision of a substitute in lieu thereof; and the third Resolution proposed the complete abolition of Vestry-cess. It appeared to him that it would have 1400 been a wiser and a better course of proceeding that the abolition should not take place until the substitute had been provided. In the way they were proceeding at present they were only re-acting the part which they had acted last Session, when they decided on the "extinction of tithes," without providing a substitute; and let the House mark what had been the result. Warned by that example, ought they not to take care that they did not practically put an end to Vestry-cess, from the moment they declared that it ought to be abolished. The second Resolution provided that any loss which the abolition of the Church cess might occasion should be provided for by a tax to be levied separately upon the clergy of Ireland. The noble Lord in his first speech, in introducing the Bill, calculated the Vestry-cess, the abolition of which was contemplated, at 60,000l. or 70,000l. a-year, and he said then that it would not be necessary to provide a substitute to a greater amount. Surely the noble Lord should recollect that there were two species of Vestry-cess—one, from the levying of which in vestry, Roman Catholics were excluded, and which was applied to the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, and other strictly ecclesiastical purposes. [Here the right hon. Baronet was interrupted by a stranger, who had occupied a seat under the gallery, and who, rushing forward up the floor to the Table where the mace lay, exclaimed, "Stop, Sir Robert Peel. I beg your pardon. I declare there he turned his face to the gallery) that I am a poisoned man. I am poisoned by Earl Grey. I am a poor unfortunate Irishman, and my name is William. I came here to look for justice, and I am poisoned by Earl Grey's orders! "There were loud cries of "Order, order," during the delivery of this incoherent address, and the Chairman having called the Serjeant, the offender was removed in custody out of the House.*] A portion only of the Vestry-cess was applied strictly to ecclesiastical purposes, and before the House of Commons undertook to legislate on a matter of this nature, it ought to ascertain the exact amount of the tax to be* At the close of the business, a medical gentleman, who had visited the individual (mentioned in the text) was called to the bar, and gave it as his opinion that he was of unsound mind. It was ordered, that he should remain for the present in custody:1401 taken off, and the amount required from other sources to supply the deficiency. It was only that part of the cess to which he had referred, the impost in lieu of which could with any justice be laid on the Church, and that was greatly exaggerated when its amount was stated by the noble Lord at 60,000l. or 70,000l. a-year. It was plain, that the noble Lord had very little information respecting its amount. But, surely, when the noble Lord proposed to lay a tax upon the clergy, he should know the amount of that cess for which the proposed tax was to be a substitute. Surely, if they wished to attach the principles of permanency to the reform which they were about to effect, they should go through all those preliminary considerations by which something like justice might be observed. If Gentlemen wished reform to be beneficial and permanent, it must be just. To be just they ought first to ascertain the amount of the sum, otherwise how could they say, that five, ten, fifteen, or any other per centage on the income of benefices would be sufficient? The intention of the last Resolution was, to relieve the land of Ireland. They were not about to give anything to the poor of Ireland by these Resolutions, but they would relieve the land of a certain burthen, from which however the immediate occupier of the soil would derive no benefit. What could prevent the owner of the soil, when he found the occupier relieved from this charge, from demanding an increase of rent. Was there any precaution to prevent it? He did not know whether it would be possible to prevent it, but that would furnish a topic for future discussion. It was, however, a practical part of the subject which had been overlooked by the hon. and learned member for Leeds. The speech of that hon. and learned Gentleman had nothing to do with the Resolutions before the House. His speech was as applicable to Church property in England as in Ireland, and the gist of it was, that Parliament, not on account of any grave necessity, but on any, the slightest allegation of expediency, had a right to lay a tax upon this species of property. The hon. and learned Gentleman even went further, and exclaimed: "Let us hasten to relieve ourselves from the opprobrium that has befallen us. Every nation in Europe has confiscated Church property, while we are yet behind in that noble career of improvement. Let us 1402 hasten to follow the example of others." The hon. and learned Gentleman was not content with declamation, but referred to authorities. He cited the practice of that great ecclesiastical Reformer—Peter the Great. Joseph the Second was another of his authorities—but the practical result of his Church Reforms in the Netherlands was surely not very encouraging. The hon. and learned Gentleman had gone so far back as Philip Le Bel for a precedent by which the fate of the Church of England was to be determined. They had a perfect right, it appeared, to dispose of the Church property, not only in Ireland but in England, because the hon. and learned Gentleman would find examples of confiscation upon the part of despotic sovereigns. He should now apply himself to the Resolutions before the House. He did expect that whatever tax the noble Lord intended to impose would have been specified in the Resolutions; but they had not even as specific a statement of it as was contained in the former Bill. The Resolutions merely contained the vague general principle that a tax should be imposed. What was the object in having a Committee of the whole House in the first instance, if they were not to have a detailed statement as to the nature and amount of this tax? The second Resolution merely established the principle that such a tax should be imposed—it merely stated that "it is expedient to make provision for the abolition of the first-fruits in Ireland, and in lieu thereof to levy an annual assessment upon all bishoprics and archbishoprics, and upon all benefices, dignitaries, and other spiritual promotions above the yearly value of 200l, to be applied to the building, rebuilding, and repairing of churches and other such like ecclesiastical purposes, and to the augmentation of small livings, and to other such purposes as may conduce to the advancement of religion, and the efficiency, permanency, and stability of the United Church of England and Ireland." The effect of that second Resolution, as he had already stated, would be, to relieve the land from a burthen to which it had been hitherto subject, and subject to which it had been taken, and to throw that tax upon the benefices of the clergy, who had entered upon them not subject to such a burthen. This tax, too, was to apply to existing interests. Now, he for one, would be ready to con- 1403 sent to the principle, that first-fruits should be abolished, for he thought the mode of collection a bad one, and that a better one might be devised; but surely every principle of justice required that existing interests should be secured from the imposition to be provided as a substitute. Was it consistent with common justice to throw this imposition upon individuals holding benefices who had taken them upon the implied condition that they should not be subject to it? He would take, as an instance, a benefice that had been entered upon, say three years ago, and the first-fruits of which had been paid, would it not be extremely hard, and most unjust, that the individual thus absolved from the first-fruits because he had already paid them, should be subject to this tax? This was not only subjecting to this tax existing vested interests, but subjecting to it a man who had already given the equivalent for it. There were many such cases in Ireland. He knew himself of the case of a living of l,300l. or 1,400l. a-year, wherein the incumbent, owing to family circumstances, had been obliged to ensure his life, and wherein he was now in the receipt of only 300l. a-year. A great portion of his remaining income would be absorbed by this tax? Was a person so circumstanced to be totally deprived oven of the means of subsistence for himself and his family? It was on the express condition that existing interests should remain untouched that Ministers had obtained his consent to substitute a tax for first-fruits, and he should hesitate to proceed further if the condition was not adhered to. There could be no doubt that Ministers did not originally intend the tax to fall on the existing occupants of benefices; for the Resolution of the Committee of last Session (the right hon. Baronet read the Resolution) declared that the tax in lieu of first-fruits was to affect only benefices hereafter falling in. It was clearly the intention of the framers of the Resolution that the impost was only to be levied upon future incumbents. Thus, then, was the faith of Government pledged to the protection of existing interests. The hon. member for Leeds (Mr. Macaulay) had endeavoured, but with a very light and timid touch,Et quæDesperat tractata nistescere posse relinquit,to draw a distinction between the property 1404 of ecclesiastic al and lay corporations; but not one word did he say upon the subject of vested interests. Indeed he seemed to imagine that none existed. He could not admit the justice of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, that because there had been a transfer of the property of the Church from the Roman Catholic to the Protestant Church; that therefore, they had now a right to seize upon that property whenever they pleased, and deal with it as they pleased. Parliament had a right to see that the trusts for which the property was granted were performed, and might interfere for that purpose; but that principle could never justify the right of interference, not only as to the distribution, but as to the diversion of the property, for which the learned Gentleman contended. The learned Gentleman seemed very much embarrassed to determine the precise character of Church property. He seemed to labour under considerable difficulty in discovering a resemblance between the condition of clerical property and any other. At length out came the hon. Gentleman's very original idea. A clergyman, he said, in respect of his property, was not like a layman—he was not like the inheritor of an entailed estate—but he was remarkably like a half-pay officer. Now, why he was like a half-pay officer the hon. and learned Gentleman did not condescend to explain; but he must say, that, if wit consisted in finding an analogy between things apparently remote, this observation of the hon. member for Leeds was one of the wittiest things he had heard for a long time. But granted that a clergyman, in respect to his clerical income, was circumstanced like an officer in respect to his half-pay—granted, that there was no wit, nothing but plain truth in the analogy,—how did this help the learned Gentleman's argument? Would he act by the officers on half-pay, as he proposed to act by the Irish clergy? Would he venture to allege, that, because it was inconvenient to the general body of the people to maintain barracks, that therefore taxes to the amount of their maintenance should be abolished, and the deficiency made up out of the vote for half-pay? If any man having a general knowledge of passing affairs, had been told that the House of Commons had been sitting and deliberating upon the Church of Ireland, he would naturally have imagined, considering the destitute 1405 condition of the clergy of that Church, that the object of their deliberations was to provide some adequate relief for the sufferers. What would be his just surprise to learn that that was not the object, but that it was to endeavour to discover the best means of extracting a tax from the impoverished clergy of the Church of Ireland? Many of that clergy had not for three years past, received one shilling of the dues they were legally entitled to. This tax, then, if extorted at all, must be taken out of the first tardy incomings of the clergyman whose family was already reduced to beggary. What would remain for their bare subsistence? How much was wanted in all for the Vestry-cess? Ought they not to be made acquainted with that fact? They had heard of great expectations from the sale of Bishops' lands. Would not the amount realised from that source be sufficient? The Committee would see how important it was, that they should have some estimate of the sum required to enlighten the darkness they were in on the subject. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Althorp) had told them that the measures of Government last year for the collection of tithe had failed, and that it was their intention to come forward with others. And then, before the noble Lord told them what were his new measures for the relief of the clergy, he called upon them to concur in a tax upon that very clergy. The preamble of the Irish Clergy Relief Act of last Session set forth the "existence of a conspiracy to prevent the collection of tithes, whereby the ordinary process of the law was of no avail," and that" it was expedient to devise some mode of relief for the clergy, who were then in a state of great suffering." The mode of relief was now explained—and it turned out to be a new tax. He felt the absurdity of multiplying arguments against the gross injustice of the noble Lord's proposals. The duty of the House was first to ascertain if there was any income at all collected by the clergy for them to tax; next, to ascertain how much was wanted; and, lastly, to avoid interfering with existing interests. Last year, when the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland, used the words "extinction of tithes" in his Resolutions, he (Sir Robert Peel) rose in his place and warned him of the consequences which had since ensued. Although the noble Lord did not intend that these words, going forth from the lips of a Minister of the 1406 Crown amongst a credulous and excitable population should be construed into their obvious meaning—namely, utter and unqualified extinction; yet to that phrase might be traced a great deal of the distress of the clergy of Ireland. The other night he had also cautioned his Majesty's Government against the proviso inserted in the Coercion Bill, that the Lord-lieutenant should not proclaim any district because of the "nonpayment of tithes." An illiterate peasant would naturally conclude that the meaning of the exemption was, that the Legislature looked with jealousy upon the collection of tithes, and encouraged him in his passive resistance to them. He admitted, that for the sake of Protestantism in Ireland, the Church of Ireland should undergo revision. But it must be done deliberately. Their first task was to do their duty to the Church of Ireland. They might then see what property there was to tax. At present there was none. For his own part, he was bound to say, that he did not think the Coronation Oath an insuperable barrier to the King's giving his assent to a well considered measure for the reformation of the Church of Ireland. He had been as active an opponent of the concessions to the Catholics as any one in Parliament, but he had never relied upon the Coronation Oath as an obstacle to those concessions. He had never thought that that oath bound the King to maintain the Church and all its members, in possession of precisely every right and privilege which they might have possessed in 1688. It did bind him to consult all the essential interests of the Church, to provide to the utmost of his power for its security; but it left him a discretion to take the course, which, in his conscience, the King might believe best for those interests and that security. It was a disgraceful fact, that the clergy of Ireland were now subsisting upon eleemosynary aid; and, if in such circumstances, the noble Lord were to interfere with existing interests, he would establish a principle which would assuredly be afterwards visited upon other property. He hoped that before to-morrow the noble Lord would consider this subject, and make some modification of his Resolutions. He would appeal to all Reformers upon this point, and he was sure they would not suffer the principle of Church Reform to be degraded and dishonoured by an act of paltry and unprofitable injustice.
§ Lord John Russell
would endeavour like the right hon. Baronet to confine himself to the question immediately before the House, but at the same time it was impossible not to see that the whole of the Resolutions were closely connected with the plan of Church reform propounded in the Bill already introduced to the House. He must observe with respect to the general object of these Resolutions, and of the Bill with which they were connected, that it was his wish to maintain the Church of Ireland, although not perhaps exactly in the same manner as some hon. Gentlemen appeared to desire. The right hon. Gentleman asked how it was possible to abolish Church-cess, until the House knew its actual amount. Though he did not know exactly the amount used for Church purposes, he believed that the whole sum levied was about 60,000l.—certainly it did not amount to 70,000l. The real question before the House was, whether or not they were prepared to abolish Church-cess; which, if it were not the most oppressive tax, was certainly the most obnoxious to the feelings of the people. Let the House conceive a case,—which was by no means of rare occurrence—where only twelve or fourteen persons in the parish were Protestants; and yet all the Catholic inhabitants were called upon to pay this rate. The right hon. Baronet had admitted that some measure should be passed with a view to getting rid of the Church cess. The Committee of last year said, that they thought that it would be well to abolish this tax, and to substitute in its place, a charge upon the clergy to the amount of from twelve to fifteen per cent. It must be recollected that the revenue given to the Church, was not intended for the benefit of individuals; but for general utility. But then, said the right hon. Gentleman, you cannot take the amount of the Church cess from the revenue of the Church, at present; you may impose a tax upon those who, for the future, derive an income from the Church cess; it was unjust and bad in principle to tax the present incumbent. It was desirable that there should be no misunderstanding on this subject,—such as was occasioned last year on the subject of tithes, in consequence of an observation of his right hon. friend who brought that matter under the attention of the House. He believed that it was not only the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, but 1408 it was the general feeling of the House, that the Church cess should be extinguished. Now it was the opinion of his Majesty's Ministers that it was desirable to abolish that rate at once, and for ever. If the plan of the right hon. Gentleman were adopted it would be a considerable time before that result could be attained. Let the right hon. Gentleman consider the effect of abolishing Church-cess in one parish, and continuing it, for the lives of the incumbents, in the adjoining parishes. Let him consider what would be the effect of such an arrangement in the minds of the Catholic inhabitants of that country. He was satisfied that the adoption of such a regulation would be attended with the very worst consequences. The hon. member for the University of Oxford said, that William of Wyckham, and the other founders of the academic institutions in that university, were actuated by a view to the promotion of the glory of God, and the good of the people. He was sure that this was the case as regarded the Church Establishment; and in furtherance of that object it was desirable to remove those things which tended to render that institution odious to the people, and to prevent that good resulting from it which would otherwise ensue. The right hon. Gentleman produced a great effect on the House by arguing that the clergy of Ireland required relief, and that instead of a plan of relief, this measure had for its object the taking away a portion of their incomes. But his Majesty's Ministers had proposed a measure to relieve the clergy from the difficulties under which they laboured; and at the same time, while Ministers provided for their relief, they added to their security by endeavouring to prevent those unfortunate collisions from arising between a Catholic population and a Protestant Clergy, which had often been attended with such deplorable consequences. Ministers were anxious to put a stop to the system, by which the occupier of a single acre was taxed for the support of a Protestant Minister, and the repair of a Protestant Church; and which necessarily must increase the odium which the Catholic population might feel towards a Protestant Church. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the situation of the Protestant Church. He admitted that that Establishment had been placed in a dangerous situation, by those who had made false and unfounded statements 1409 respecting the revenue, which the clergy of that Church derive from tithes. Instead of receiving one-tenth of the produce, it appeared that they did not receive one-tenth or one-fifteenth of the produce—but only one fifteenth of the rental. The average rent paid in Ireland (according to the evidence given before the Tithe Committee) was equal to one-third of the produce; so that while the landlord received one-third of the produce, the receipt of the clergyman did not exceed one forty-fifth. To leave the Church of Ireland in its present state was to leave it in greater jeopardy than it could be placed in by almost any regulation; nor would the Church of England escape peril if it were determined that the condition of the 1410 Church of Ireland should not be separately considered. He was satisfied that the revenue of the Church of England was not too much by a single shilling and he should be sorry to see it reduced. The proposed reform he was convinced did not go further than was necessary for the stability of the Church, and it was calculated rather to strengthen than injure the interests of the clergy of Ireland.
§ First Resolution agreed to; the House resumed; Committee to sit again.