HC Deb 21 August 1833 vol 20 cc812-20

Mr. Littleton moved the Order of the Day for the Third Reading of this Bill.

Mr. Hume

wished to ask a question of the right hon. Secretary, which would determine the course he should take on this occasion. He wished to know whether, if payment was not made from the sources provided in this Bill, there would be any objection to render Church property liable?

Mr. Littleton

said, he should most undoubtedly object to a clause with such a provision.

Mr. Hume

must, then, move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. Notwithstanding all that had been said by the noble Lord, and those who supported him, he (Mr. Hume) could not see the least probability of the money being repaid to the British treasury. He could not get a single Member from Ireland to say, that there was the slightest prospect of it. He asked, then, whether it was not a fraud to pass a Bill avowedly holding out security for repayment, when there was, in fact, none. This Bill was objectionable on many grounds; but he would oppose it on the ground, that it would support that establishment which had hitherto been the cause in Ireland of almost all the evil and discontent that had prevailed. The acts of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, with respect to tithes, had failed, and he hoped the present, and all other unconstitutional acts, would fail; He would recommend the Government to accept the offer made by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, and, reducing the Church Establishment in Ireland to the absolute spiritual wants of Protestant inhabitants, to levy the necessary amount then required upon the landed proprietors. As an honest man he did not think the property in tithes should be lost, but, he thought, the measure before the House only calculated to perpetuate the evils of the system. The hon. Member concluded by making his Motion.

Mr. Sinclair seconded the Amendment.

Mr. O'Connell

begged leave to offer his most hearty thanks to the Ministry for the Bill; he hailed it as the commencement of pacification for Ireland. The hon. member for Middlesex had not correctly quoted what he (Mr. O'Connell) had said on the subject of levying tithes on the landlord. What he had said was, that he divided the amount of tithes into three portions, as regarded their operation on the payers—namely, the landlord, as owner of the land, the tenant's capital, and the tenant's labour; and what he wished was, that neither the capital nor the labour should be called upon to contribute, but what was absolutely necessary to be paid should be paid by the landowner. Was it fair, he would ask the House, that the Catholic people of Ireland should pay for the support of a Protestant Church?—keep up an establishment foreign to their feelings, and opposed to the principles of their religious belief? The present Bill would have the effect of relieving the people of Ireland. Indeed, it had already done so. In his own parish—he would take the thing by parishes—a parish which had 15,000 Catholic inhabitants—there was one Protestant clergyman, with a curate, to whom he allowed the sum of 64l. 9s. 4d. present currency, and there were there six Catholic clergymen—the people had been relieved of Church-rate to the amount of 2,500l. Since the passing of the Coercion Bill he (Mr. O'Connell) had changed his opinion of the Protestant clergymen, for their conduct had been lately most vexatious and tyrannical. Instead of suing by one process, they had sued, in many instances, upon three or four, to recover a few shillings due at one year, or at one period, and other small sums due at other periods—and, by suing sometimes in different ways against the same person, the costs were frequently swelled to 20l. Those who had taken such vexatious courses ought not to receive any compensation until they had repaid to the poor peasantry the costs to which they had been put. He denied, that the resident landlords deserved the charges which had been, again and again, brought against them in that House, and as frequently received with cheers. There were some whose conduct was most oppressive and tyrannical; but that was not the general rule, for the general rule was the other way. He hoped an inquiry would be made into the population of the country, that the number of Protestants would be ascertained, and that the Church Establishment would be reduced to agree with the amount of that population. If this were done, there would be ample funds to repay every shilling of the million to be advanced by this Bill. If it were not repaid, he could only say, that if the people of England found any amusement in continuing a Church Establishment in Ireland—if, as Franklin had said, they would have their whistle, they should pay for it. Were the people of Ireland, in 1834, to become cheerful in the payment of tithes, when they had so long objected to them? Certainly not. The Government, however, had done exceedingly well in bringing forward this measure. They had secured tranquillity for a year and a-half—they had put an end to disturbances for that period; the moment it was discovered that the police and the army were not to be occupied in enforcing tithes, that moment tranquillity took place in Ireland. Under the circumstances in which they stood at present, he was decidedly in favour of the Bill, as it would give both Houses time to consider the subject before the next Session, and it would give to the people of Ireland time to look into the measure; it would give to the Government an opportunity of considering whether it would keep up a Protestant Church at the expense of a Catholic people. The people of Scotland were not satisfied with their Church Establishment until it became identified with the people, and, until that was the case, they fought for it with their broad swords in their hands. On the same principle that the people of England and Scotland had obtained their Church, ought not the Irish to have a Church of their own? There was no Protestant in the House who would, with more vehemence than himself, object to the Roman Catholic religion being the religion of the State, he was too sincere a Roman Catholic for this; but if he were disposed to deprive religion of its expansive power—he would ally it to the State—he would make its clergy rich—he would make them familiar with the Castle of Dublin, and would estrange them from their flocks— For Satan, now grown wiser than before, Tempts man by making rich, not making poor. He could assure the House, that no sincere Catholics wished their religion to be the religion of the State.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, the hon. and learned member for Dublin had taken his metaphors from every subject—from grave to gay—from lively to severe—from the whistle to the broad-sword—and in a very indiscriminate manner. In reference to one point, the hon. and learned Member had said, that his own parish had been relieved to the extent of 2,500l.; that was one of the things of which he (Sir Robert Inglis) had all along complained, for it was relieving one class of persons at the expense of another. Would the hon. and learned Member say, that his house was not worth so much the more in proportion to that relief, and that the measure of relief was not a mere matter of bargain and sale?

Mr. O'Connell

begged to say, that, when he went into the parish, seventeen years ago, the Church-rates were but 400l. a-year, and now they were 2,500l.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, that whatever had been gained by the hon. and learned Gentleman had not, perhaps, been lost by the Church; but it was lost by other parties. With regard to the present Bill, he concurred in the views which had been origin- ally developed by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, as, he believed, they were calculated to do good to that country; but he feared, that the Bill in form and substance was calculated to do more harm than good, as it would put to hazard all the pecuniary interests of the clergy. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Althorp), by his untoward declaration in respect to tithes, had effectually prevented the collection of tithes in Ireland, and all the letters which he had received upon the subject convinced him that that assertion was founded in fact. He thought, that some consideration should be given with regard to the arrears of tithes before 1831, and that the clergy should not be compelled to sacrifice their claims. Under the whole he came to the determination, and he did so with reluctance, to concur with the Amendment of the hon. member for Middlesex.

Mr. Warburton

begged to request, that the hon. member for Middlesex would not press his Amendment upon the third reading of the Bill, but that he would take the sense of the House upon the introduction of his clause to secure the repayment of the money by the Church property, in failure of payment by the parties to whom it was advanced.

Mr. Shaw

would not be provoked by the attack of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. O'Connell) on the Church and clergy of Ireland, to go into a general defence of the conduct, as he had so frequently had to do before throughout the Session. When the hon. and learned Gentleman, however, accused the Irish clergy of vexatious and tyrannical conduct, he most emphatically denied it—and he could not help thinking, that the hon. Member, and those who acted with him, would not have shown equal forbearance and moderation under similar circumstances—he might, indeed, refer to a recent instance, and comparing the necessities of the clergy with the mere vanity of the hon. member (Mr. O'Connell), ask whether, when the public Press did not supply all that the hon. and learned Member's appetite craved, he evinced the same temper, good taste, and good conduct that had characterized the Irish clergy throughout the course of their unprecedented privations? He agreed, however, in the reasoning of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell), and of the hon. member for Bridport (Mr. Warburton), that the present Bill was intended, by the advance of a million of money, to buy off the future payment of the Irish clergy, and the maintenance of the established religion in Ireland; therefore, their inducement to support the Bill was the same which led him to enter his most earnest protest against it. It was difficult to speak of the present measure with coolness or temper—it would be ludicrous if the cruel and intense sufferings of those whose interests it trifled with did not forbid merriment—it was, at all events, monstrous to think that this was the Bill held over the friends of the Church throughout the last Session, as the inducement to permitting all others that injuriously affected the Church to pass, lest this should be withheld. It was quoted by a noble Duke elsewhere as a reason for not exercising a free judgment on the Church Reform Bill—that, perhaps, then, this boon, which had been partly promised by the resolution of this House, might be withdrawn; and then when it came, the supporters of the Church repudiated it on its own merits, and disdainfully rejected it as incompatible with the present character of the clergy, the welfare of the Church, or the peace and good order of society in Ireland. Of all the unjust, injurious, and bad measures that were proposed this Session, he believed it to be the worst; there was no bad principle in legislation that it did not contain, and no good one that it did not violate—it was fraudulent, as professing to borrow what it never could repay—it was a premium on outrage—an invitation to resistance of all legal rights, while, in the very same proportion, it must operate as a discount on forbearance, and a discouragement to those who had honestly and justly obeyed the law. The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) said, the Bill was not a fraud, because the money would be repaid. He differed from the reasoning of the noble Lord, but it was equally easy to refute him on his own ground. The noble Lord could never extricate himself from this dilemma, that either the parties to repay the money were materially altered, as the noble Lord said, or they were not, as he (Mr. Shaw) maintained; if they were, then the noble Lord's reason, that the Government failed before, does not sustain his position that they should not make the attempt again; and if they were not materially altered, the noble Lord could never get himself out of the manifest conclusion, that if the Government and the clergy could not recover the arrears in conjunction, the clergy could not do so alone. What, then, became of the security for repayment? One or other, the Government or the clergy, must be the power to recover the arrears; and whether that power succeeded or failed, it ought to be the Government. If they succeeded, they recovered a just debt—vindicated the law, and afforded some security to the clergy for their future incomes. Supposing they failed, the Government would be accountable, and not the unfortunate and destitute clergy, who were to be mocked with the cruel insult and injury, added to their loss of property, that they were all to be crown debtors for sums one farthing of which they might not receive from the real debtor. He trusted the clergy would never submit to the terms of being delivered over from the date when the first instalment was payable, bound hand and foot, to the mercy of a tyranny which might be exercised by the hands, at which they had already received the most flagrant injustice. The Government first induced them to stay proceedings, and to desist from prosecuting their just and legal rights, upon an express undertaking that it would provide for the tithes that were due to them, and when the time of reckoning came, the Government offered them little more than half their due, and that half upon terms which they could not accept without a dereliction of their highest duty, by undertaking what they knew they could not perform—by selling their birthright, as it were, for a mess of pottage—involving the future rights of themselves and their successors with the arrears now due—making themselves crown debtors, so that in one hour a wicked or a timid Minister might incarcerate them all; besides being parties to the high premium on resistance to the laws. The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) said the 25l. per cent. deduction and the remission of the arrears due prior to 1831, were to cover the cost of collection of bad debts; but he forgot that the clergy were still to be liable to both, and that deduction was to go in the first instance as an absolute bonus into the pocket of the defaulting tithe-payer—the honest one who had paid not being re-imbursed one shilling. He (Mr. Shaw) could tell the true reason of this great deduction; it depended upon the simple rule that a half (or little more) was less than the whole; and the noble Lord, therefore, thought he could have a better chance of persuading the House to grant him the reduced sum, in order that he might appear technically and colourably to redeem his pledge to the clergy, while he (Mr. Shaw) contended, that the noble Lord was virtually and really violating it. The noble Lord and the Government had on this, as well as on other occasions, treated the clergy in a manner they could not have ventured to act towards the members of a Political Union, or even to the very persons who were unlawfully combined against the just rights of the clergy. It was by their fears alone the present Government, were to be controlled, and they had ungenerously taken advantage of the fact that the clergy were too high-minded to complain in the same tone of menace and clamour that their opponents would have adopted, and too high-principled unjustly to retaliate, although they had been unjustly oppressed. He desired not to speak under the influence of warmth or excitement, but his calm and deliberate opinion was, that it was the design of the present Ministry to subvert the Established Church in Ireland—aye! and he would go further and say, that he believed they contemplated the establishment of the Roman Catholic religion in its stead—but of this they might be assured, that they never could accomplish that object, without producing a dismemberment of the empire, and the irreparable injury, if not the entire ruin, of both countries. He might be wrong, but he expressed the honest conviction of his mind. He meant nothing personal to any member of the Cabinet—but as an independent Member of that House he had a right to judge and speak of public men according to their public measures—from that source alone, and especially from the present Bill, he drew his inference as regarded the Cabinet generally. He only attributed to the Cabinet as a body an intention which many Members of that House openly avowed and boasted of. He certainly would not vote for the Bill, but he did not mean to vote against it, and he would tell the House why. He wished to leave the entire responsibility of the measure upon the Government: it must be harmless, however, in its nature unless the clergy became parties to it, and the passing of the Bill would serve to show the Government in its true colours; while, by contrast, he trusted it would reflect double honour on the clergy. They had been spoliated, if not by the Government, at least under their permission and countenance, of their property, and their children of their future prospects. But he knew little of the clergy of Ireland if they would surrender into the hands of that same Government what still remained to them—their reputation and their independence. Having strongly protested against the Bill, he would leave it in the hands of the Government. He certainly should wish, when the Speaker was putting the question on the title of the Bill, that the present specious title was laid aside, and the truer and more appropriate title substituted, of "an Act to destroy the Established Church, and to encourage rebellion in Ireland."

Mr. Hume withdrew his Amendment.

The Bill read a third time.

Mr. Hume moved a Clause, to the following effect:—" Provided always, and be it enacted, that if the sum to be granted and advanced under the provisions of this Act shall not be paid from the sources provided and within the time specified in this Act, any balance then remaining due to the public shall become chargeable on the funds of the temporalities of the Church of Ireland, and shall be placed at the disposal of the commissioners under the Temporalities (Ireland) Bill, to be annually paid to the public until the principal and interest have been satisfied."

The clause was read a first time.

On the Motion that it be read a second time,

Lord Althorp

rose and said, as he conceived such a clause, instead of securing the payment of the advance, would secure its non-payment, by the parties to whom the money was to be granted, he could not agree to it. It would be a more straight forward course at once to charge the advance of money on the funds which would fall into the hands of the Commissioners.

The House divided on the Clause-Ayes 27; Noes 47: Majority 20.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Hallyburton, Hon. D.
Bewes, T. Murray, J. A.
Blamire, W. Sinclair, G.
Briscoe, J. I. IRELAND.
Dykes, F. L. B. Blake, M.
Evans, Colonel Browne, D.
Ewart, W. Mullins, F. W.
Hall, W. O'Cohnell, D.
Hawes, B. O'Dwyer, A. C.
Hughes, H. O'Ferrall, M.
Hutt, W. Vigors, N. A.
Lloyd, J. H. Wallace, T.
Potter, R. TELLERS.
Torrens, Colonel Hume, J.
Tynte, C. J. K. Warburton, H. S.
Young, G.
List of the NOES.
ENGLAND. Peter, W.
Althorp, Viscount Pryme, G.
Baring, F. T. Skipwith, Sir G.
Barnard, E. G. Smith, V.
Bentinck, Lord G. Spankie, Sergeant
Bernal, R. Stanley, Rt. Hon. E. G.
Byng, Sir J. Todd, R.
Campbell, Sir J. Tower, C. T.
Chichester, J. P. B. Tracy, C. H.
Childers, J. W. Ward, S. G. H.
Clive, E. B. Willoughby, Sir H.
Crawford, W. SCOTLAND.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Jeffrey, Right Hon. F.
Gordon, R. Kennedy, T. F.
Graham, Rt. hon. Sir J. Macleod, R.
Grey, Sir G. Steuart, R.
Grey, Colonel IRELAND.
Inglis, Sir R. Jephson, C. D. O.
Lamont, N. Jones, Captain
Langston, J. H. O'Reilly, W.
Littleton, Rt. Hon. E. Perrin, Sergeant
Maberly, Colonel Sullivan, R.
Macaulay, T. B. Walker, C. A.
Morpeth, Viscount TELLERS.
Palmer, C. F. Rice, Hon. T. S.
Parker, J. Wood, C.
Pelham, Hon. C. A.

The Bill passed.