§ Lord Althorp
Sir, in coming forward to propose the measures with respect to the Irish Church Establishment, of which I gave notice, I think it necessary to explain why this task has not devolved upon my right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley), whose official duties render imperative upon him to make himself better acquainted with the state of Ireland than I can possibly be supposed to be. I am sure that no one who heard the admirable speech of my right hon. friend on the subject of Irish affairs, on a former night, will doubt for a moment that he is far more competent than I am to do full justice to any subject connected 562 with his department, and with Ireland in general; and I agree that, if my right hon. friend had been charged with the task of bringing forward these measures, they would have been much better managed than I can flatter myself with being able to manage them; but it has been agreed that these measures should be brought forward as the measures of the Government; and it has, therefore, been thought best that, on the present, as on former occasions, the measures of the Government should be proposed to the House by the person who fills the situation in the House which I fill, rather than by the particular Minister with whose department in the Government of Ireland they are more especially connected. I shall, however, require all the indulgence of the House in coining before it under such circumstances; but I will detain you no longer with apologies; and I will now proceed to endeavour, as far as I can, clearly to explain to you the grounds of the measures which I have to propose and the nature of these measures themselves. However, Sir, before I go into the question respecting the plans which I have to submit to the House, I think it desirable to go back a little into the history of the legislation of Parliament relative to Ireland, in order to consider what the conduct of Parliament with respect to it has been, and what it ought to have been. We shall then be better able to consider what the remedies are which ought to be applied to the diseases which have so long afflicted that country. Another reason for my wishing to do this is, because I am desirous of going back to a period some years ago, when I myself submitted to the House of Commons a Motion respecting the state of Ireland at that period. I was then not so well acquainted as I have since had occasion to make myself, with the condition of Ireland. I do not pretend, unconnected as I was with the country, that I was well informed of all her grievances. Yet it may be well to call the attention of the House to those which I then selected, because at that period, they were the most prominent. I wish therefore to call to the recollection of those who then heard me, what the grievances were to which I then pointed the attention of the Legislature, conceiving them to be the most onerous for the people. I then stated, as I do still, that there were many grievances which were beyond the 563 reach of legislative enactments, and which could only be remedied by the exertions of the people themselves. These could only be removed by the good feeling of parties towards each other, by the mutual feeling between the rich and the poor, and of the poorer classes with each other. The grievances which I then stated as the most prominent of those under which Ireland at that period laboured, I will now state again in the same succession as I did in 1824. The first grievance that I then enumerated was the Catholic disabilities. I placed, foremost of all, the exclusion of Catholics from offices. The next grievance which I particularized was the existence of Orange and Ribbon Societies, which were at that period productive of the greatest evils. I then mentioned the evils arising from the system by which tithes were collected, the disproportionate magnitude of the Church Establishment, the improper manner in which Grand Juries were chosen, the pressure of certain taxes, the want of capital, and the nature of the connexion which existed between landlord and tenant. These were the grievances of Ireland to which I then alluded; and I wish now to call attention to the difference which has since arisen with respect to these particulars. The Catholic disabilities have been entirely removed. In the course of the debate on a former night, an hon. and learned Member complained that Government had not appointed any Catholics to offices of trust which had recently been at its disposal. The only true course, in my opinion, in appointments to office, is not to consider religion at all; but to weigh the fitness of the man for the office impartially. In the debate to which I have alluded, it was stated that not one Catholic had been appointed to any of the twenty-six stipendiary magistracies which had been filled up during the Administration of Lord Anglesey. I believe that this is a mistake. Mr. M'Can and Mr. Galway, are both Catholics. But whether it be so or not, I am sure that no question about their religion had arisen previously to the appointment of any of the stipendiary Magistrates who have been alluded to. The appointment being of a temporary nature, the persons appointed have been selected from the police establishment; and I doubt not that the selection has been made impartially. There is another point on which some animadversion was made at the same 564 time: I mean the appointment of Sheriffs. The non-appointment of Catholic Sheriffs for the present year, I am sure, must have been entirely accidental. In former years, Catholic Sheriffs were frequently appointed; and I am sure that the difference in the present year could not have been intended. They are, I believe, all Protestants. With respect to the Lord lieutenants of Counties, several of them are Catholics. As to other appointments, Catholics have frequently received them; and Government would not be doing its duty if it did not appoint Catholics, if qualified to fill situations, as well as Protestants; and since a great majority of the Irish nation are Catholics, as their education and fitness for office increase, the greater proportion of the offices in Ireland will in time be given to Catholics. The next grievance to which I on that occasion referred, was the existence of Orange and Ribbon Societies. I fear that the feelings which produced these societies still continue to exist; but they are much diminished, and the conduct of the present Government, as far as legislative enactments could go, has shown their inclination to put down these societies, particularly by the Bill which they brought in last Session for that purpose. The next grievance which I mentioned was the Tithe system, and the mode in which it interferes with the cultivation of the land, preventing the occupier from improving the land, without a great portion of the profits arising from his improvements falling into the hands of others. By the principles upon which we have proceeded for remedying abuses in this department, we have not succeeded in giving satisfaction to Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House; but it always has been our principle to take away from the occupier the pressure of the tithes; but not to put the benefits into the pockets of the landlords, who are bound still to bear the burthens to which the land was subject at the time when they acquired it. To the subject of Grand Jury Presentments, the next grievance which I mentioned, I will not now call the attention of the House, as my right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley) has given notice of a motion for bringing forward a measure, which, when it comes before them, it will be for the House to accept or amend as they think proper. With respect to the internal taxes which press heavily on Ireland, they are not at 565 present many; but a heavy pressure is produced on the people of Ireland in the article of soap. That article is taxed in England, and not in Ireland; but the mode in which the drawback is paid in England, on exporting this commodity to Ireland, produces an undue pressure upon the people of the latter country. I have already in preparation a plan for remedying this grievance. Want of capital is the next evil of which I complained. It cannot be remedied by anything which this House or the Legislature can do. Whatever can be done, his Majesty's Ministers have shown their inclination to do it. I can assure the House that they will continue to do every thing in their power for the good of Ireland. Want of capital can only be remedied by the continuance of quiet, and the preservation of peace and good order. That, therefore, is a point with respect to which the Legislature can do nothing; it is entirely without the range of legislative enactments, except in as far as they can contribute to promote peace and tranquillity. The only other point to which I alluded at that time, was the nature of the connexion between landlord and tenant. This, also, is without the range of legislative enactments. At the time I made the Motion to which I have been alluding (1824), great complaints were heard (and I think I stated so at the time) of the manner in which contracts between landlord and tenant were evaded, from the mode of interpretation adopted in Irish Courts of Justice. I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) stated that in his list of grievances; but many witnesses who had been examined by the Committee of the House of Commons, made great complaints on the subject; and a Bill was brought in for remedying the evil; but that Bill had a retrospective operation, and was therefore objected to by the Members for Ireland. I agree that the principle of a retrospective enactment is bad; and therefore it is proposed to bring in another Bill which shall not have a retrospective effect. Its object will be, merely to compel Courts of Justice to give effect to contracts between landlord and tenant. Thus I have stated the grievances which I mentioned on that occasion; I have explained what the situation of Ireland was; I have mentioned what legislative enactments have been since applied to redress its grievances, 566 and what enactments it is intended now to apply. I do not say that the grievances, which I have enumerated, are all to which Ireland is subject; but I state them thus partially, because they were the most prominent nine years ago; and because it has now become fashionable in this House to talk about consistency; and, therefore, I wish to refer to the opinions which I held in 1824, to show that they were the same as they are now—without, at the same time, claiming any merit for not having changed. I now come to the subject of the measures of which I gave notice. With respect to the question, it will be allowed that it is one of the deepest importance; and it is the more difficult, as the remedies, which were so imperatively called for, have been so long delayed. It is always to be observed, that the longer the remedy of evils is postponed, the greater the difficulty of applying the remedy becomes. This has been the case in all the great measures which have been carried by the present Administration. The delay of the remedy even diminishes the good effects of it when it is applied. I will now proceed to the immediate question respecting the Church. Though, looking at the proportion of the population attached to the Protestant Church, the people certainly have reason to complain of the greatness of the revenues of the Established Church in Ireland, yet a very great exaggeration has prevailed as to the amount of these revenues. I can say conscientiously, that a greater exaggeration has prevailed on this subject than has prevailed on any political topic which I recollect. Before I looked more narrowly into the question, I myself greatly exaggerated to my own mind the amount of the revenues of the Irish Church Establishment. There must, no doubt, be a difference between the way in which we look at the Church of England, and the Church of Ireland, in consequence of the difference in the religion of the majority of the population; and the Irish Church ought not to be placed on a footing of expense, even in proportion to the population of the country. Even with these considerations, the revenues of the Church of Ireland have been greatly exaggerated. One great exaggeration has arisen concerning the amount of the revenues of the Bishops. I think I shall surprise the House when I mention the amount of all the revenues of the different sees in Ireland. 567 The nett revenue of all the Irish Bishops is only 130,000l. a-year; their gross revenue is 150,000l.; but their net income is only 130,000l. a-year. There is certainly a great tract of country which belongs to the Bishops; but they do not enjoy the whole of the benefcial interest in that land. The tenants who occupy it have five-sixths of the yearly value of it. The estimated amount of the annual value of these lands is about 600,000l., of which the Bishops have only 100,000l. This circumstance accounts for the exaggerated statements which have obtained credit with respect to the incomes of the Episcopacy of Ireland. The Deans and Chapters in Ireland are on a different footing from those in England; and the Deans, and Prebends are principally paid by holding other benefices. The gross amount of the revenue payable to Deans and Chapters as collective bodies in Ireland, is only 23,606l., of which 21,400l. is required to cover their expenditure—leaving them only a balance of 2,206l. With regard to the value of other benefices, I am not prepared to give a very accurate statement. The only estimate of their yearly value must be obtained from the Returns called for by the Church Commission; and my calculations must be founded on the assumption that those Churches for which no Returns have been received, are of about the average value of those of which we have Returns. The number of benefices in Ireland is 1,401, of which 1,149 have sent in their Returns; and the amount of the whole thus returned is 478,000l. If the remaining 252 benefices are about the same average, the whole value will be about 580,000l. a-year. If, therefore, I take it at 600,000l., I do not think I take the value under the fair amount at which it may be reckoned. Thus, according to the statement which I have made, the income of the Bishops is 130,000l. a-year; that of Deans and Chapters is 23,606l.; and taking the value of other benefices at 600,000l., the whole annual income applicable to the support and maintenance of the Church does not exceed 800,000l. a-year. I have to go into these details before entering upon the consideration of the measures which I am about to propose, and to press these facts upon the consideration of the House at this time, in consequence of the grossness and the general belief of these exaggera- 568 tions, in order that Gentlemen may not come to the discussion of so important a subject, without knowing what the true calculations are with respect to those points. Now, I apprehend, that however great the differences of opinion may be as to the right of Parliament to apply the property of the Church to the purposes of the State, both those who think that they have a right to apply it to such purposes, and those who think that they have no right so to apply it—all will agree in thinking that the first claim upon the property of the Church, is the claim of the Church itself. No parties are likely to dissent from this opinion, but those who either think that there ought to be no Church Establishment at all, or those who think that a different Church ought to be established in Ireland. With the exception of those who entertain these opinions, it will be generally agreed that the present property of the Church Establishment ought to be applied in the first place to the purposes which may be necessary for extending the benefits of the Church to the people of Ireland? Are these purposes sufficiently provided for as matters now stand? We have heard frequently of benefices in which no duty is performed at all, or where there is no Church, or where there is no resident minister. We have heard these statements frequently made; but it is also well known that there are many places where there are congregations in which there is a difficulty in the due performance of public worship, and that the working clergy, while their superiors enjoy large revenues, have very inadequate incomes, and are frequently placed in the most distressing circumstances. There are 200 livings in Ireland, which are of less value than 100l. a-year. While this is the case, where there are Protestant congregations, who require to be provided with the means of attending divine worship, it cannot surely be said by any one that the Church of Ireland itself ought not to have the first claim on the property of the Church. For the purpose of supplying these deficiencies in the incomes of the working clergy, both in England and Ireland, a grant was made of the first fruits to the Board of First Fruits; but both in England and Ireland, in consequence of the lapse of time, and the difference of the value of benefices at the time of their valuation, for the purpose of estimating 569 the amount of the first fruits, they do not amount to nearly so much as they ought properly to do. They are, indeed, of such extremely inconsiderable importance in contributing to the objects for which they have been appropriated, that one might almost say they do not exist at all. The first measure which I have now to propose is, one for abolishing the Board of First Fruits, and the system of first fruits altogether. To effect this object it will be necessary that there should be an Act of the Legislature. What his Majesty's Government propose is, that instead of the first fruits, deductions should be made from the various Ecclesiastical benefices in Ireland in proportion to their value. The scale on which those deductions should be framed has been the subject of some consideration, and I will now state to the House the result. We propose that from benefices of 200l. a-year, nothing whatever should be taken. We propose from benefices of from 200l. to 500l. a-year to take five per cent; from benefices of from 500l. to 800l. a-year to take seven per cent; from benefices of from 800l. to 1,200l. a-year to take ten per cent; and from all benefices of above 1,200l. a-year to take fifteen per cent. It is difficult, for various reasons, to state what the exact amount of these deductions will be; but it is presumed that, upon the average, it will be about seven per cent on the annual value of the whole of the Ecclesiastical benefices in Ireland, making probably a sum of 42,000l. I ought to have observed, that it is proposed in this arrangement, whenever a minister holds more livings than one, that the deductions should be made as if the produce of all the livings were the produce of one living. Thus, if a clergyman hold one living of the value of 700l. a-year and another living of the value of 300l. a-year, take from him as if he had a single living of 1,000l. a-year; in other words, deduct from his annual receipt ten per cent, instead of the smaller deduction to which he would be liable if the amount of his two livings were estimated separately. We propose that the incomes of Deans, Chapters, and Prebendaries, should be subjected to the same scale of deduction. It must be evident, however, to the House, that if the same ratio were observed in the case of Bishops, it would be an exceedingly unfair proceeding. The necessary expenses of a Bishop are much greater in proportion 570 than those of the inferior clergy, and it would therefore be most unfair to deduct from their incomes upon a scale the lowest amount of which would be fifteen per cent, and which would ascend to an enormous amount. We propose, therefore, a separate scale of deduction as applicable to the Bishops in Ireland. We propose to take from all Bishoprics below 4,000l. a-year in value, five per cent; from all Bishoprics below 6,000l. a-year in value, seven per cent; from all Bishoprics below 10,000l. a-year in value, ten per cent; and from all Bishoprics above 10,000l. a-year in value, fifteen per cent. Sir, I am well aware of the inconvenience of touching what are termed vested interests; I am well aware that in such cases we should not go one step beyond what strict justice warrants; but when I consider the amount—the nominal amount—of first fruits in Ireland—when I consider how highly important it is to the members of the Church Establishment in that country to submit to some new arrangement for the sake of securing the affections of the people—I entertain the greatest hopes that no strong opposition will be made to this proposition; nay, I may go further and say, that I have every reason to believe that no strong opposition will be made to this proposition. There is one other point I must mention, as it will be immediately connected with the measure which the Government has in contemplation. The House would recollect, that at the time of the appointment of the present Bishop of Derry to his see, it was stated, in consequence of a question put by an hon. Member, that the Bishop received that appointment with the understanding that his emoluments should be reduced whenever a general arrangement of the revenue of the Church of Ireland should take place. The time of that arrangement has now arrived. The revenue of the Bishopric of Derry, like the revenue of the Church of Ireland generally, has been grossly exaggerated. I believe that its actual amount is 12,159l. We propose, in consequence of the arrangement recommended by his Majesty's Government, to reduce the revenue of the Bishopric of Derry to 8,000l. When from that sum shall be taken the deductions which I have just been describing, it will leave the Bishop of Derry only a nett income of 7,200l. These are the sums, Sir, which will be immediately placed at the 571 disposal of the House by the plan proposed by his Majesty's Government. In order to carry these measures into execution, we propose that a Board of Commissioners should be appointed for the management of these funds. Although it is indispensable that that Board shall be com-, posed entirely of members of the Church of England, we are anxious that every means may be adopted of rendering the Board as independent as possible. That Board will have at its disposal the management of the sums which I have mentioned, and will have a most laborious and important duty to perform. Sir, I think that every hon. Member will agree with me, that whenever you have a Church Establishment, it is the duty of the Legislature to take care to provide the means of building and repairing the necessary edifices, and furnishing them with everything suitable for the performance of Divine worship. Such a provision is essential to the maintenance of an Establishment. But in Ireland there is great complaint—and, in my opinion, well founded complaint—of the mode in which this provision is made. The complaint is, that in a country in which the great majority of the payers of Church-rates are Catholics, those rates are exclusively under the management of Protestants. The Church-rates are not of the nature of a burthen on the land, which the person who purchased, or the person who rented the land, knew must be paid. They are of a very different character. The rate may be increased by the abuses of those who administer it; on the other hand, it may be diminished by frugal management. It is exceedingly grievous to the Catholics of Ireland to be obliged to pay Church-rates at all; and a great addition is made to the grievance in consequence of the management of the rate being exclusively in the hands of a Protestant Vestry. Having taken all these circumstances into consideration, it is our intention in the Bill which I am about to move for leave to bring in, to abolish Church-rates in Ireland entirely. The amount of these rates at present is about 70,000l.—from 60,000l. to 70,000l. The means which I have already stated, which will be at the disposal of the House, amount fully to 60,000l. There may be some deficiency: but as it is probable that a reduction may be made in some of the articles of expense, I have little or no doubt that the Board of Commissioners 572 will have sufficient means in their hands to meet all the demands which may be made upon them. Among the various laborious duties which will fall upon the Commissioners, will be that of building glebe-houses and new Churches, and adding to small livings where required. In order, however, to prevent the erection of new Churches where they are not required, it is proposed that the Commissioners shall not have the power of applying any funds to that purpose, unless a certain sum shall have been raised by private individuals, or a certain amount of pew-rents subscribed for. It is intended that the Commissioners shall regularly lay before Parliament, Reports of all their proceedings. Sir, I have described some of the measures which his Majesty's Government intend to propose. But there are others, which we consider to be highly important to the welfare of the Church of Ireland. I fear that the reserves which I have described from the yearly value of the Ecclesiastical benefices will go but a little way to secure that well-being, unless seconded by reductions in the revenues of the dignitaries of the Church. It is proposed, however, that those reductions shall be prospective—that they shall not take place until the death of the present incumbents. The present revenues of the Archbishop of Armagh, the Primate of Ireland is 14,460l. It is proposed, on the expiration of the present incumbency, to reduce it to 10,000l.; and that sum subjected to the reserves to which all the other episcopal revenues are to be subjected, will be further reduced to 9,000l. With respect to the Deans and Chapters, it is intended, when it is found that they have no ecclesiastical duties attached to them, either to abolish them altogether, or to attach certain duties to them, so as to render their offices efficient; so that all sinecure seats in Cathedrals will be entirely abolished. The next point. Sir, to which I wish to call the attention of the House, is one on which there has also been great exaggeration, but which I am perfectly ready to admit it would be exceedingly injurious to leave in its present state. I allude to the case of livings in Ireland in which no duty is performed. It is proposed, where it shall appear, after the decease of the incumbent, that no duty has been performed for three years, to give the Commissioners a discretionary power to 573 suspend the re-appointment of a Minister in such a parish. The House will at once see the reason why I have stated a period of three years, because, if it had been for a shorter period, it is likely some course Would have been pursued in order to show that service had not been performed, and thereby to secure the disqualification. Sir, a great deal has been said with respect to the number of Bishops in Ireland, as compared with the number of Bishops in England. I do not consider that, however, to be quite a fair mode of making the comparison, because the duties of the Bishops in Ireland do not depend wholly on the number of souls in their dioceses, but on the space over which those duties are to be exercised: the duty of a Bishop requiring the regular visitation of the different parts of his diocese. So that, although it is contended that twenty-two Bishops are more than are necessary for Ireland, we ought, before we decide on the proper number, to consider the great space over which their duties are to be performed. I am perfectly ready, however, to admit that twenty-two Bishops are more than are necessary in Ireland. With that impression, his Majesty's Government have looked at the circumstances of the case, and have considered how many Bishoprics may be reduced in Ireland, after the decease of the present holders, leaving the means of performing the episcopal duties of the country fully and efficiently; and on the best consideration which we have been enabled to bestow upon the subject, we think that the number of Bishoprics in Ireland may very fairly be reduced by ten. The Bishoprics which it is intended to reduce are, Dromore, Clogher, Raphoe, Elphin, Clonfert, Killaloe, Kildare, Cork, Waterford, (at present vacant, and which vacancy will, therefore, not be filled up), and Ossory. In order that the duties of those dioceses should be properly performed, it is proposed to unite Dromore to Down and Connor; Clogher to Armagh; Raphoe to Derry; Elphin to Ardagh and Kilmore; Clonfert to Killaloe; Killala to Tuam; Kildare to Dublin; Cork to Cloyne; Waterford to Cashel; and Ossory to Ferns. The province of Tuam it is proposed to unite to that of Armagh, and the province of Cashel to that of Dublin, making Tuam and Cashel Bishoprics. Thus there will be only two Archbishoprics in Ireland; an arrangement 574 which I hope will give satisfaction to the House and the country. The sums which these various arrangements will place at the disposal of the Commissioners, will, I hope, enable them to augment some of the smaller livings, and enable them to render the revenue of those livings adequate to the support of a clergyman in a gentlemanly manner. Sir, I have already stated that the nett revenue of the Bishops of Ireland amounts at present to 130,000l.; 60,000l. of which will be deducted when the plan which we now propose comes into operation, and with that sum the legislature may deal as it thinks fit. I believe, Sir, I have now stated all the sums which will fall under the cognizance of the Commissioners; but there is another source of benefit to the public, which I think may be immediately opened. Even those who may feel most strongly upon what they may consider the injustice and even the want of power on the part of Parliament to interfere with the revenues of the Church, will agree with me, that, if by any Act of the Legislature a new value can be given to any property belonging to the Church, that new value will not properly belong to the Church, because it is an acquisition dependent on such Act of the Legislature, but that it may be appropriated immediately to the use of the State. It is well known, that by the law as it now stands, the Bishops in Ireland have no right to grant longer leases of their lands than for twenty one years. In practice, however, I believe those leases are annually renewed, and the fine, together with the rent, may be said to form the revenue of the Bishop. As I understand the matter, the value of a Bishop's lease in Ireland is twelve and a half years purchase. The tenants labour under this disadvantage—that, although the leases are usually renewed every year, it is in the power of the Bishop (and the power has been exercised) not to renew them. A new and young Bishop may run his life against his tenants, and thereby deprive persons of the property of which they have been in possession all their lives, leaving them without remedy. The tenant is also placed in this situation—namely, that if the land bus been much improved, he is liable to an increased fine, and consequently to the loss of the value of his improvements. It is not proposed to diminish, in the slightest degree, the just 575 incomes of the Bishops derived from this source; but to enable any Bishop's tenant, who may choose to demand it, to have a perpetuity of the land which he now occupies, at a fixed corn rent. Upon inquiry we find that the value of such a lease—a perpetual lease, at a fixed corn rent—would be twenty years purchase, instead of twelve and a half; that is, that the tenant may be called upon to pay seven and a half. What we propose is, that the Bishop's tenant, who chooses to require that his tenure may be made perpetual, may have it rendered so, upon a tender of six years purchase. There are a great many persons at present holding Bishop's lands; and it is evident that this proposition will confer a great benefit on those persons, as it will give them a permanent advantage, from the improvement which they may make in the value of the land, and will provide against every claim which the Bishop may make to their injury; and the Bishop will continue to receive the same rent as at present—the only difference being, that he will not have the power, by running his life against the leases of his tenants, to withhold from them that to which they are justly entitled. This can be done only by Act of Parliament; and, therefore, it will be necessary to pass an Act, extending the provisions of the Act which gives the Bishops their present power of making leases. Even the objections of those who deny the right to interfere with Church property will not apply to this proposition; and I confidently expect their concurrence in it; as, whatever fund may be raised by the purchase of these perpetual leases, will be placed at the disposal of Parliament. I cannot, at the present moment, tell what may be the probable amount of the purchases in the first instance. We know what may be the amount of the whole if so converted; for it is stated that 500,000l. is the value to the tenants, and only 10,000l. to the Bishops. Of course I do not look to any such benefit as that statement may seem to imply. But whatever may be the amount gained, it is evident that it will be acquired with great advantage to the tenant, and without any injury to the Bishop. Sir, I have now stated the whole of the plan of his Majesty's Government. I do not mean to say that this is the only measure required with respect to the Church of Ireland. I do 576 not mean to say that there are not other measures necessary with respect to non-residence, with respect to pluralities, and to induce the landlords of Ireland to take on themselves the payment of the tithes. All these measures must be brought under the consideration of the House: they will undoubtedly be so during the present Session of Parliament; but this is the measure which I now propose with respect to the temporalities of the Irish Church. Sir, I hope and trust that this is a plan which will give general satisfaction. [cheers]. That cheer assures me of it. I will not detain the House any longer. The measure I have proposed provides for not continuing the scandal of persons holding benefices and receiving the revenues of a living where no duty is performed; and it provides to as great an extent as is practicable or advisable for the reduction of the number of the Irish hierarchy. I would also beg to observe, that it does not lay down any abstract principle. Indeed it is not necessary to do so for any practical purpose. It is not necessary now to decide whether Parliament has or has not a right to interfere with Church property. As I have already observed, all who think that there ought to be a Church Establishment at all, must agree that the Church has the first claim to be provided for out of these revenues. But when a practical plan like this is brought forward, it is quite unnecessary to call on the House for a determination on any abstract principle; or to decide whether or not Parliament has any right to interfere with the property of the Church. The effect of such a call would be only to delay and obstruct the progress of a practical and necessary Reform. The plan which I have now detailed to the House is what his Majesty's Ministers feel themselves justified in proposing at present; without meaning to preclude Parliament from considering the future appropriation of Church property to other purposes than those of the Church. Whenever the purposes of the Church are fully satisfied, Parliament may, if it think fit, proceed to the consideration of the manner in which the surplus ought to be applied. The question will be perfectly open. All we have in view on the present occasion is to submit a practical proposition for a practical amendment of the law. I will not detain the House any longer, but will at once 577 move for leave to bring in a Bill to alter and amend the law relative to the Church Establishment of Ireland.
said, it was not his intention to detain the House for any great length of time; but he could not refrain from expressing the great satisfaction and delight which he felt on the introduction of such a measure as that which the noble Lord had described. Although he sometimes spoke strongly and warmly with reference to measures which he thought injurious to his country, still he could assure the House that he was as ready as any man to give his honest and conscientious support to every proposition which appeared to him to be calculated for the benefit of that country, let it come from what quarter it might. He thought that the measure now proposed, with respect to the Established Church of Ireland, was a wise one; it contained within itself the seeds of future amelioration. It had been insinuated formerly that there was a class in Ireland who wished for the establishment there of a different Church. Let the noble Lord, however, throw such an idea out of his contemplation; there was no wish in Ireland to forward or support any such plan. If such a plan were formed, if any such claim were asserted—there was no Member in that House who would more decidedly oppose it than he would. At the same time he was, and ever had been, of opinion, that the passport to office in Ireland should be merit alone, and not religion. He meant not now to go into any discussion of the revenues of the Irish Church, because there would be an ample opportunity for entering on that subject hereafter. The land revenue of the Church in Ireland was amply sufficient for the support of that Establishment. If the Church lands were properly attended to, that revenue would be more than sufficient for every necessary purpose; but the fact was, that at present the Church lands were at once known in Ireland by the wretched manner in which they were cultivated. The miserable state of the peasantry, and the badness of the cultivation, immediately struck every person who approached Church lands in Ireland. He greatly approved of this Bill, because it was clear that it recognized a principle which would be applicable to all property of the same description. He thought it his duty to express these sentiments, and he thanked 578 the House for hearing him with so much patience; but still he would trespass a little further on their time. The measure now proposed, though it should have his support, did not give so much relief as he could wish. It was, however, founded on a valuable principle, since it recognized the right of Government to look into the state of ecclesiastical property hereafter. They had, in Ireland, fever hospitals, receptacles for the insane, and institutions where individuals afflicted with various maladies were received. These institutions might be supported by a portion of that ecclesiastical property. It would, he thought, be found hereafter that, by a due appropriation of part of those Church revenues, the country might be relieved from the Grand-Jury cess. The Vestry-cess was perhaps even more onerous than the other, for it was a subject of the greatest abuses. Into those abuses he would not then enter; he would merely content himself with pointing out one instance. He knew, a parish in which the Church had, in the course of twenty-one years, been built no less than three times, the expense coming out of that particular fund. He, therefore, was most desirous that this obnoxious Vestry-cess should be removed. Such a measure would do away with much irritation and vexation; for they must all know, that nothing could be more annoying than for a man's neighbour of a different religious persuasion to go into a church, or the ruins of a church, and there decide on what he chose to abstract from his fellow-parishioner's pocket. He felt extremely grateful to the noble Lord for the plan which he had brought forward; and though, it did not go so far as he could wish, for it did not extinguish so soon as it ought some particular causes of grievance, still it came recommended to the House by many useful features, and he should most heartily support it.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
said, that there was no subject, whether of an ecclesiastical or a civil nature, connected with the country, in which he should be willing to follow the example of the hon. and learned Member. Differing as he had done from the hon. Member, both before and since he had come into that House, it would be sufficient for him that a measure connected with his (Sir Robert Inglis's) Church should meet with the hon. and learned Member's unqualified approbation for it to call forth his censure and resistance. It was not 579 that he wished to attribute to the hon. and learned Member anything inconsistent with the due discharge of what he considered to be his duty, but he drew, from the circumstance of the hon. and learned Member supporting a particular measure hostile to the establishment, a new argument against the Act of 1829, which introduced into a Legislature called together to consult for the good of that Church, persons necessarily luke-warm at least towards the interests of that Church. After the discussion which had taken place within these few days, with respect to the oath taken by those Gentlemen in that House who were not in communion with the Established Church—if the noble Lord, one of the sworn Privy Councillors of the King, standing there with the authority of the King's Government, and proposing a measure in the name of the King, under the sanction of that Speech which he had advised the King to address to his Parliament—if, he said, the noble Lord still thought, that this measure was one which the King, as head of the Church, ought to be recommended to submit to Parliament, it would be vain for him to taunt the hon. and learned member for Dublin—and he assured him he did not taunt him—it would be vain for him to taunt any hon. Member of a different persuasion for wishing to overthrow the Church, when those who were summoned to consult for the good of the Church brought forward a measure which he (Sir Robert Inglis) held to be utterly inconsistent with all the principles upon which the Church Establishment was founded. The hon. Gentleman who cried "No," would have ample opportunity, in the course of the discussions which must take place, of opposing more fully than by that emphatic monosyllable the assertions which he (Sir Robert Inglis) was now about to make. But, he would ask, did the House recollect the oath taken by the Sovereign as to the preservation of the rights and property of the Church? Did the hon. and learned Member, or, he might ask, did the noble Lord recollect that oath? The King, at his Coronation, took an oath that he would maintain the law of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant reformed religion, as established by law. His right hon. friend opposite (Mr. Stanley) cheered him before he came to the passage 580 to which exclusively, perhaps, he ought to have called the attention of the House. The King proceeded to swear that he would preserve unto the Bishops and clergy, and to the Churches intrusted to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law did, and hereafter should, appertain to them or any of them. He could understand being fold that an oath was good for nothing; but he was at a loss to conceive how any one admitting the obligation of an oath, and reading this oath word for word, could consider that, when the King consented to an act which annihilated one-half of the Bishops of Ireland, he preserved to the Bishops and clergy, and the Churches committed to their charge, such rights and privileges as at the time of his taking the oath belonged to them. What casuistry could reconcile these flagrant contradictions it was not for him to say. He saw no means of escaping from the difficulty but by ingenuity the most perverted, or injustice the most flagitious. He contended that this measure was a violation not only of the written sense of the King's Coronation Oath, but equally contrary to the general obligations which Members of that House incurred when summoned to consult together for the good of the Church. But even let the oath go for nothing. An hon. Member had said, that he wished there were no barriers of that kind between the person elected and his constituents—that the voices of freemen unrestricted should send their Representatives to Parliament—that there were no oaths for the maintenance of any institution; but that the single fact to be inquired into by that House should be, whether a certain individual were returned by the electors. Let oaths then be nothing—were Acts of Parliament nothing? Was the Act of Union, which was not only an Act of Parliament, but a treaty, nothing? And were these things nothing with the noble Lord, when he considered that the twenty-two Bishops in Ireland were permanently provided for at the Union, and that the 29th and 40th George 3rd enacted that the continuance and preservation of the United Church, as the Established Church of England and Ireland, should be an essential and fundamental part of the Union? He understood, from the look of a right hon. friend of his opposite, that he did not consider the excision which the 581 noble Lord proposed in the Church as any violation of that provision. Then, he begged to ask, if the excision of ten Bishops was no violation, at what point would that violation begin? Would twelve be a violation? would fourteen? would sixteen? would eighteen? In short what number were his Majesty's Ministers prepared to state would be sufficient to maintain inviolably the pledge which the two nations gave to each other at the time of the Union? Or, if they were not prepared to state any number, they must allow him to consider that the excision even of one Bishop was a violation of the compact. But this was not all: by the Roman Catholic Relief Act another security was given to the Established Church. And how was that security met? The preamble said, "Whereas the Protestant Episcopal Church of England and Ireland, and the doctrine, discipline, and Government thereof, and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland (if the one was attacked, the other would soon be undermined, and the hon. member for Middlesex had said, that there was as much hostility to the Presbyterian Church in Scotland as to the Established Church here), are, by the respective Acts of Union—namely, the Union between England and Scotland, and the Union between Great Britain and Ireland—established permanently and inviolably." Now, he could not understand the reasoning by which any man could conceive himself at liberty to destroy one half of that establishment in either of the countries, and yet hold that he preserved the establishment. To his judgment it was perfectly obvious that if a man swore to preserve certain institutions, and destroyed one half of those institutions, the oath was broken, the compact was annulled, the treaty was violated, as much by the destruction of a part as of the whole. The integrity of the institution was destroyed as effectually by the removal of one as by the removal of the whole. This was his preliminary objection to the measure of the noble Lord. When, on the 1st of March, 1831, he felt it his duty to rise in that House to oppose the Motion of the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, for a Reform of that House, he was not more taken by surprise than he was now; the measures on both occasions having far exceeded every expectation even of the warmest friends of Reform of the State or of the Church. He was sure the hon. and learned member for Dublin could 582 not, after the speeches which he had addressed to his Majesty's Ministers during the last four days, have expected anything that would give him such cordial pleasure as this proposition. ["Hear, hear," from Mr. O'Connell.] And what had his Majesty's Ministers to gain by pandering—["No, no," from Lord Althorp.] Did the noble Lord mean to state that if he (Sir Robert Inglis) were right in viewing this measure as contrary to the Coronation Oath, to the Act of Union, to the Emancipation Act, and the oath of Members of Parliament—and supported, as it was, out of doors, by every party which was hostile alike to Church and State—that he used too strong an expression when he spoke of Ministers as pandering to the bad passions and every baser interest of the people, when he saw them sacrificing the rights of the Established Church by proposing a measure which he thought pregnant with unutterable mischief to the Church in Ireland, and through it to the Church in England, and to the interests of true and pure religion? He had never laboured under a deeper sense of distress and pain than when he saw such a measure proposed by such men. He had hoped, after the conduct of the noble Lord during the last week—after the way in which he had resisted the measures of his political opponents, and the support which he had received from the House in defence of the constitutional principles which he asserted—he had hoped that the noble Lord would not be the man to introduce a measure so destructive as this must be to the Church. In the observations which he had made he looked only at the temporalities of the Church. But he never could admit, that the House was at liberty to consider, as the noble Lord seemed to do, that those temporalities were the only considerations which ought to engage attention on an occasion when the interests of the Church were concerned. The noble Lord's first proposition was, that the Church of England in Ireland was excessive, as compared with the population, however exaggerated its revenues might be. By using the expression excessive, the noble Lord seemed to refer solely to financial concerns, and to leave out of the question higher considerations, to which he (Sir Robert Inglis) attached greater importance. He would not admit that the establishment was excessive, even in regard to the actual re- 583 quirements of the people; but the measure of the noble Lord not only made no provision for the expansive force of protestantism, but fettered and restrained its actual energies. There were many details in such a question with which it would be improper for him at present to detain the House. But on one point he must say, that he did not understand how the friends of the liberty of the people could feel themselves justified in proposing attacks upon the possessions of one particular class. The noble Lord proposed to subject clerical property to a tax, rising from five to fifteen per cent. If the tax were proposed on other property also, he (Sir Robert Inglis) might not feel him self justified in raising the same arguments against it. A graduated property tax, however, appeared to him objectionable in any case, even if it were only on the score of political economy. But the noble Lord confined this tax to one class, and also made it graduated. With regard to Church rates, he had so often had occasion to contest that question, particularly with the learned member for Dublin, that he would not repeat his arguments now; but every one knew that if a farmer were subject to church rates, and if you relieve a particular acre of land from the Church rate, you put the money into the hands of the landlord. He could not understand how, if you took away from the Church its legitimate source of maintenance, you did otherwise than give the money to the landlord or his tenant. With respect to First Fruits, the noble Lord appeared to hold a popular error. First Fruits were originally a papal usurpation, at least a tax paid to the Pope. On the Reformation they were restored to the Church: the next year Henry 8th resumed them, and annexed them to the Crown; and, in the Crown, they remained till Queen Anne gave them to the Church. But throughout all this time they were a money-payment, fixed by law, and not bearing any given proportion to the value of benefices; and, if this tax were illegal in its origin, the utmost which could be done was to continue it at its ancient rate, since any increase would only heighten the illegality of the exaction. With respect to the restriction of bishoprics, the noble Lord had not stated how that was to be reconciled with the attendance of the Bishops in the House of Peers. He did not know how the Act of Union, violated in so many 584 other respects, was to be preserved in this particular. And what was the time which the noble Lord chose for making these changes? Was it when the Church in Ireland answered more or less to the purposes for which it was designed? The noble Lord had not ventured to state that the Church had not, from year to year, advanced in the useful discharge of its duties. But the Church in Ireland had been suffered to be attacked from more than one side of the House, and often by the noble Lord's own supporters, without his having, either on this or on any other occasion, stated his conviction that at no period of the history of the Church, from the time of the Reformation down to the present moment, had the Church ever less deserved so sweeping a condemnation as that which was now denounced against it. At no period, from the time of Henry 8th to the present, was there ever a body of men who did so much for the maintenance of the interests of religion. And he stated this, not from his own personal observation only, although he had the honour to know many most distinguished men belonging to the Church in Ireland, but he stated it also on the authority of certain speeches made at meetings held in Ireland, on the subject of the Church. At a meeting held in Cork, in the year 1829, under the presidency of the Earl of Mountcashel, one of the speakers bore a testimony to the merits of the clergy of the Established Church, which he would quote with the more satisfaction and confidence, because it proceeded from an enemy rather than a friend of the Established Church. He felt that, supported as the noble Lord was by the cheers not only of his own friends, but of the Irish members at the opposition side of the House, his measure was too likely to pass into a law; but, whatever indulgence the House would at any time extend to him (Sir R. Inglis), he would not be wanting to expose the mischief, the evil, and the wickedness of this measure. The individual to whom he referred said, in reference to the existing clergy of the Established Church, that they, and particularly the younger clergy, were now devoting themselves in earnest to the duties of their sacred calling—that every pulpit echoed with the glad words of the gospel,—and that in consequence of the zeal of the pastors, the Churches were becoming crowded. 585 He quoted this testimony, because as he had said, it was given not by a friend, but by an enemy of the Church establishment. And yet it was this Church that the noble Lord was preparing to weaken, if not to destroy. Looking at the objects for which the Members of the Legislature came together, and at the words of the oaths and acts of Parliament to which he had referred, he (Sir R. Inglis) could not but regard this measure as one fraught with the greatest injury, not merely to the Established Church in Ireland, but to every other ecclesiastical establishment and corporation, but more particularly to the Church in England. Let not the Church in England suppose that by sanctioning this measure, and sacrificing the Church in Ireland, it could secure more than a precarious existence for itself. The hon. and learned member for Dublin very candidly told the House that he considered the measure valuable because it established a principle which might be acted upon hereafter. He said, at the commencement of his speech, that he regarded the measure with great satisfaction, and, at the close, that he hailed it as establishing a principle. He (Sir Robert Inglis) asked, whether that principle did not give a very precarious existence, perhaps of some ten, or twenty, or thirty, years, to other institutions, and whether it was not sure to lead to their ultimate destruction? He would give the measure his heartfelt, earnest, and persevering resistance. It was hopeless, he feared, but he was too long accustomed to vote in minorities, and to lift up his voice in vain in defence of those objects to which he felt his attachment to be due, to be deterred in the present instance by the fears of defeat. So long as God should give him life, and health, and strength, he would oppose such measures as the present, believing in his conscience, that they tended not less to the injury of civil rights, and the destruction of the property of every man who heard him, than to the subversion of the rights of that Church which alone seems to be in question; and, above all, to the cause of Protestantism, of which that Church is the shrine in Ireland.
§ Sir Francis Burdett
differed toto cœlo from the hon. Baronet who had just addressed the House, in the consequences he apprehended from this measure. So far from its having a tendency to weaken the ties of property, he felt assured the 586 tendency would be of a direct contrary character, and that by giving as he was sure it would, increased confidence to the country, it would strengthen all the ties of civilization in Ireland, and increase the value of property. But what gave him the most gratification was, that the announcement of this plan of Irish Church Reform seemed to have scared away from the hon. and learned member for Dublin that horrible legion of frightful shadows, arising from a dread of impending evils, and to have restored to him a calmer comprehension—that reason had again assumed the sway over passion—that dictation was likely to cease—and that the views of his Majesty's Ministers appeared likely to gain from him a candid interpretation, more in accordance with the acknowledged generosity of his country. He hoped all irritating feelings, arising from contrary conceptions, would be laid aside. The hon. member for Dublin knew full well how kindly he felt towards him; and that no man—no, not even himself—had a stronger feeling of affection and regard for Ireland. He hoped and trusted that the happiest consequences would result to that country from the proposed measure. It was but just and fair to the Administration, to which the hon. member for Dublin had himself given the meed of his praise, to say that they had nobly redeemed their pledges, and merited the confidence which had been reposed in them. It would be an earnest of their good intentions, and of what they meant to do; it would bind Ireland to this country by bonds stronger than any other; and would promote those good and confiding feelings, from which he augured the happiest results. He believed that this measure would do away with the necessity of putting into practice those other measures to which objections might be felt, and that it was at the same time, an earnest that if those measures were granted, and the Ministers claimed from the Parliament the grant of extraordinary powers, those powers would not be abused. This plan was deserving of support for another reason—for the confidence with which it would inspire the people of Ireland, that no measures of unnecessary severity or force would be resorted to. It would, besides, convince every one that if measures of force and extraordinary power were required, they would be placed in the hands of Ministers entitled to the confidence of the 587 country. They stood in a different situation from that in which any other Ministers had ever been placed, for there was now a real Ministerial responsibility. This was no longer a party and a packed House of Parliament, that was at the command of the Minister, who might come down and ask for any powers, get them when he pleased, use or abuse them at his will, and be certain of indemnity after all was over. This was a Parliament that would exercise a controlling power—would grant only what was necessary—would watch most strictly the execution of the powers it had confided, and would take care that, in ail that was done, the attainment of that one object was kept in view, without which all else would be fruitless—peace. This Parliament would only consent to grant extraordinary powers to do that which the hon. and learned member for Dublin, as well as any other Member, must wish to see done—to repress violence, to punish violations of the law, to put a stop to atrocious crimes, by the commission of which the law had become no longer the shield of the innocent but the screen of the guilty. All must desire to see the system of intimidation got rid of, and honest men obeying the law without fear and without danger. He repeated that he believed this measure would tend more than any other to do away with the necessity of measures of force and coercion. He had the strongest hopes that the different parts of the United Kingdom would, by the effects of this measure, become really united. This was, in every respect, a measure which entitled the Ministry to the confidence of the people. It showed that the Administration had determined to correct the evils that had so long been pointed out; and, above all, it gained for them credit for this great merit that the measure was so well concocted, and so wisely framed as a practical measure, that it met with the approbation and unanimous support of those most likely to know the grievances it was intended to correct. It was a measure on which they must have deeply reflected, and for which the country at large would become attached to them, and would place confidence in them. At the same time he must say, that those persons who were advocates of the Established Church, and who had given their acquiescence to the measure, would not lose credit with the public for that acquiescence, but would be the more admired, 588 as it would show that they were really anxious to make those just concessions that the spirit of the times required. The details of this measure would be discussed when the measure itself came before the House. He believed that, in introducing it, the Ministers were doing more than any one thing could do to preserve that Union which, in his opinion, was necessary to the safety, the prosperity, and the grandeur of the empire.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, he felt under considerable embarrassment in rising to make a few observations on the outlines of the plan just presented to the House, because he was not prepared to go into the details of such a measure on the spur of the moment. He rejoiced however, that the debates on such an important subject were to be conducted in a spirit of conciliation; but the hon. Baronet could not expect that he and other Members could give up principles that were as dear to them as their lives. He had come to the House that evening prepared to expect a considerable alteration, but he imagined that this alteration would be effected in the spirit of the Report of the Tithe Committee last Session. He had been a Member of that Committee on the subject of tithes—the Report on which, and the course the examination had taken, had prefigured to him the views of the Government with regard to the Church of Ireland. On that occasion be had made his sentiments known; but, making allowance for circumstances, he had not made any objections to the Report, though on a subsequent occasion he had expressed his sentiments on the matter. To those sentiments he now adhered. He did not object to that distribution which would insure an equal remuneration to the resident clergymen—he did not object to the more general diffusion of the revenues of the Church, nor to the more general provision for Protestant Ministers throughout the country. Having concurred with some part of the Report, and on the grounds he had stated, he was much disappointed by the Motion that had now been made. If he felt it to be his duty in the different stages of the measure to canvass its necessity, or to scrutinize its details in a certain spirit of hostility, he should have no other motive but a desire for the welfare of the country. Of this he was convinced, that the Church must ultimately be one of the best means of the salvation 589 of the country. He regretted, therefore, most deeply that the influence of the Church should be diminished. The first principle of the measure was the destruction of more than one-half of the hierarchy of the Church of Ireland. He could understand why the noble Lord should think such and Such incomes were too large; but why should he wish to withdraw from the Church its influence and power? On what principle was it that the noble Lord found that the area of Ireland was insufficient for twenty-two Bishops, or that the present number was only required in England? There was not a man who would not think that it would be an advantage to divide the area of the Bishoprics in England, so that the hierachy might exercise an effectual and constant control over the people. In the early ages of the Church there had been always a great number of small Bishoprics, because it was always found that the duties of the higher clergy were always better performed when they had to superintend only a small space, and that was the more necessary when they were surrounded by people of different persuasions. Did the noble Lord find from the Roman Catholics themselves any authority for such a principle? Did the Catholics think that ten Bishops were sufficient for the area of Ireland? The number of Bishops in their Church was equal to that of the Church of England, so that it was evident they did not agree with the principle of the noble Lord. There was another objection to the measure. Five out of the ten Bishops were taken by the noble Lord from the Protestant part of Ireland—from that part where, even on his own principle, they ought to remain, and the people not allowed to be destitute of spiritual control. He objected to the measure with regard to the religious wants of the country. The noble Lord had said, that if there was any living in which during three years, there had been no duty performed, such living should be placed at the disposal of a certain number of Lay Commissioners, who should determine whether any other person should be appointed to it. Was there ever any proposition so monstrous? He repeated—monstrous proposition—as the noble Lord himself could not but know that such had been the state of things in Ireland since the accession of himself and his colleagues to office, that many of the most religious and exemplary clergymen 590 in Ireland had been compelled, under the penalty of death, to abandon their glebe residences, and fly for safety to Dublin or this country. So that if a conscientious clergyman, who might at that moment have been two years exiled by violence from his parish, were thus compelled to not return for a third year, the Protestants of Ireland were to be deprived of the very existence of a Church in his parish. In what he had said, he was actuated by no political feeling whatever. The noble Lord had stated that this measure involved no question of principle. But what did the hon. and learned member for Dublin say to it? He did not seem to agree with that observation, for he spoke of Ecclesiastical Corporations, and the House must look to see the principle carried into other Corporations. This was a measure of conciliation. Could he forget what had occurred with regard to former measures of conciliation? If he argued from past times—though he hoped that such emergencies would not again occur—yet it was possible that occasions might arise when the vigour of Parliament must again be appealed to. Then see the dangerous principle which the noble Lord's measure would establish—a principle the more dangerous from the extensive application which it admitted. Measures of coercion were necessary to the restoration of tranquillity to Ireland; yet such was the—should he call it pusillanimity?—of the Government, that they seemed afraid to propose them without some counter measure, involving a great sacrifice of existing rights and interests. If, then, the law could not be enforced against the Catholics without an injury to the Protestants, he would tell the noble Lord his measure would not stop there. Occasions must, in the course of things, again occur for restoring the empire of the law in Ireland, and if it be again necessary to conciliate the persons against whom coercive measures are directed by co-measures, sacrificing the interests of persons of another persuasion, he could assure the noble Lord that it would not be long till persons would be found to whom twelve or ten Bishops would be as obnoxious as twenty-two are at present, and who would be as eager to lay their greedy hands on the 4,000l. or 5,000l. per annum which the Bishops would have under the new system as on their present higher incomes. He trusted no Protestant Mem- 591 ber of that House would sanction such a doctrine, leading as it necessarily must, to the destruction of Church property in this country no less than in Ireland. He would enter more fully upon the subject when the noble Lord's measure came before them, contenting himself then with entering his protest against its principle, as destructive not only of the interests of property and the Church, and indeed civil society, in Ireland, but the interests of the Church and property in England.
§ Mr. Barron
, as a Catholic Member, begged leave once for all, to enter his emphatic protest against the taunts thrown out by the learned member for the Tower Hamlets, and other hon. Members, against the Catholic Members, as violating their oaths when attempting to reduce or interfere with the temporalities of the Protestant Church. He thought that the Catholic Members had better be excluded altogether from the House, than be insulted as they had been. Such observations were most useless, to say the least of them, and he thought that they should not have been made, as they had been, by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had introduced such remarks into the discussions of the House, and that they were most indelicate when uttered by others. He begged to tell those Gentlemen, that he and those who thought with him were incapable of a breach of their oath, and he hoped there would be no repetition of imputations of that kind. He thought he had as good a right as any other man to legislate upon Church property. As an Irishman, not as a sectarian, he said, that he considered the Church as one of the greatest grievances of Ireland. He never should think of meddling with matters of doctrine in the Church of England, and if such subjects came into discussion he might think himself called upon to withdraw, but the property of the Church was, in his opinion, that of the State, and the State had a right to make what arrangements it pleased with respect to that property. The State had taken the property of the Church from the Roman Catholics, and had given it to the Protestant Establishment. The property was given by the State to the dominant religion of the State, and the State had both the right and the power thus to dispose of it. It was thus disposed of by the King, Lords, and Commons, who did what they did in a legal and constitutional manner. In his 592 opinion, the measure proposed by the noble Lord would strengthen the Protestant Establishment more than any other. If some such measure were not shortly passed, he believed that there would speedily be no Establishment in Ireland. The Government felt they must give way, and they had done it wisely, and moderately, and temperately; and that wisdom, and moderation, and temperance would be of use to the Church; and if the Ministry had not so acted. Church Property would have been trampled under foot by the unanimous voice of the people of Ireland. To show the feelings of the people of Ireland, he would only mention that on one occasion tithe was demanded, and the persons from whom it was claimed thought they could resist it legally. They went round to raise a subscription, and asked him among others to subscribe. He told them that the amount was small, and that the expense of resisting it would be greater than the advantage they would gain, should they succeed; but such was their determination, that they answered that they would resist, if it cost them double the amount of the tithes. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, he only wished to observe, that in England the number of Bishops and the other parts of the Church Establishment were calculated, not by the surface of the country, but by the number of souls. Applying that rate to Ireland, the plan of the noble Lord was amply justified. It seemed to him that the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had conferred a great boon upon the Roman Catholics, by doing away with the Church cess, and he hoped that the Measure would be unanimously supported. He was convinced that the Bill would allay bad passions, and keep down the excitement existing in Ireland, and which, according to his letters to-day, had been much increased by the nature of the King's Speech.
§ Lord Ebrington
, from the interest he had always taken in this subject, was anxious to make a few observations, more especially after the speeches delivered by the two Members for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (Sir Robert Inglis and Mr. Goulburn). He assured them, as far as he was acquainted with the dispositions of Ministers, there was no intention to overthrow the Church Establishment of Ireland, and expressed his surprise that the hon. Baronet had departed a little from the habitual mildness of his nature, 593 when he indulged in such terms of vituperation against the plan of the noble Lord. He would not retort upon the hon. Baronet or upon the very few who thought with him in the same strain; but what the hon. Baronet called the integrity of the Church, he (Lord Ebrington) considered to be its spots, stains, and abuses, which not only made it an object of dislike and hatred to the Catholics, but of disgust to conscientious and religious Protestants. He spoke as a member of the Church of England—a member not indifferent to the interests of religion and yielding to none, as far as his humble efforts would go, in a desire to maintain that Establishment in its purity and completeness and integrity. But he spoke, at the same time, with a strong conviction that nothing had been more injurious to the security of the Establishment in this country—nothing more likely to expose it to fresh danger; and, if anything could do it, absolutely to overthrow it—than the attempt to bind up together the separate Churches of England and Ireland. He hailed the measure of his noble friend with cordial satisfaction, which, while it provided abundantly for the religious instruction of the Protestants, at the same time removed a great portion of abuses which had brought the Church of Ireland into odium and contempt. The hon. member for Oxford had complained that no provision was made by the noble Lord for the expansive force of Protestantism in Ireland; but he thought that the hon. Baronet was mistaken upon that point, for a power was reserved of renewing and endowing churches, should the necessity arise. To his knowledge, there were parishes in Ireland without churches, glebe-houses, or Protestant population; in such cases, the example of a Protestant minister, however unexceptionable and useful in his private character, deriving an income for the performance of no clerical duties, was highly detrimental, and nothing less than a scandal upon the Establishment. The hon. Baronet. (Sir Robert Inglis) had argued that this measure would tend to check the growth of the Protestant religion in Ireland. He believed, however, that if they looked to the history of the world they would find—what he was sure they would find in the history of Ireland—namely, that the growth of religion was not commensurate with the amount of the revenues of the clergy, 594 but that the converse was the fact; for, so far from Protestantism having increased, it had rather diminished in proportion to the extension of the population. The proposed measure, by reconciling the feelings of the people in general, he was satisfied would do more than the continuance of the hierarchy to its present extent, not merely to ensure the safety of the Church of Ireland, but to promote the growth of Protestantism. The hon. Baronet, the member for Westminster, had expressed a hope that the introduction of this Bill would render coercive measures in Ireland unnecessary. He wished that he could partake in so sanguine a view of the subject; but he hoped and believed, that the miscreants against whom coercive measures would be directed, were as unconnected with party feelings in the House, as with the benefits to be derived from the permanent and satisfactory settlement of the Church of Ireland. He was as unwilling as any man to grant extraordinary powers, nor would he concede them until a case of necessity was made out; but he must say, that the manner in which the present Government had thus redeemed its pledge of conciliation, kindness, and redress of grievances, was a happy earnest of the future; it afforded security, coupling it with the known reputation of the members of the Cabinet, with the character of the present Viceroy, the Marquess of Anglesey, and he must add, with the character of his right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley), to whom he was more especially anxious to pay this tribute of respect and good-will, in consequence of the manner in which he had been attacked—that the powers, if granted by Parliament, would not be abused. Nay, more, he was convinced, that Ministers would themselves be unwilling to ask or to receive them, unless a clear case were made out that it was impossible to do without them.
apprehended that the measure of the noble Lord, would not, by any means have the effect anticipated on the other side of the House. As to the number of Bishops, he was of opinion that four would be adequate to the discharge of the whole duty to devolve upon the twelve, and the people of Ireland would certainly be much better satisfied with the four than with the twelve. The best part of the intended Bill was unquestionably the abolition of Church-rates, and for this he gave the noble Lord and his colleagues 595 all the credit they deserved. Church lands and tithes were public property, and as public property might be disposed of, and dealt with by Parliament. It was his conviction, that no religious establishment, in point of revenues or encouragement, ought to have the advantage over another, and least of all, ought any members of any establishment to be paid so liberally as to enable them to live in luxury, and to lead them away from the active discharge of their clerical duties. He considered the chief nature of the present measure merely this: that it was the preface and prelude to a more complete Reform of the Church of Ireland. As a preface and prelude it might do some good; but the people of Ireland would not consider it final, and would not he satisfied without more. He was aware that Irish subjects were distasteful in the House, and he should, therefore, do no more at present than propose the following Amendment, on the Motion of the noble Lord:—"That it would be expedient to appoint a Committee to inquire into the state and circumstances of the Church Establishment in Ireland, inasmuch, as it appears that the Church property in that country requires revision and modification; and that a reduction of the Church Establishment has become necessary and expedient, so as to facilitate the ultimate appropriation of its revenues to the uses of their original objects—viz.; the maintenance of the clergy, the building of churches, and places of public worship, as well as the relief of the poor; but that, under existing circumstances, the present incumbents of parishes in Ireland are entitled to protection in the arrangement of Church property, the future regulations of which should be made upon a basis calculated to afford a proper and suitable provision for the ministry of the several congregations in the respective parishes of Ireland, and also to supply means of materially relieving the poor."
§ Mr. Warre
did not rise to enter into the merits of the extraordinary Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Dublin, and which seemed calculated to accomplish no other purpose than to thwart the first great salutary measure of Reform and improvement in Ireland. He was prepared to see his hon. friend, the member for the University of Oxford (Sir Robert Inglis), rise as the antagonist Of this proposition, but he would say, he 596 did not expect, and he thought, in his maturer judgment, he would hardly be prepared to have gone into the revival of the exploded idea, of its being a violation, on the part of the King, of his Coronation Oath, to give his assent to such measures as his advisers and the two Houses of Parliament might think fit to recommend, not for the destruction, but for the reformation, and, he would add, the confirmation and stability, of the Established Church. That question was so fully entered into, and so completely set at rest, while the Catholic disabilities were yet unremoved, that he did think his hon. friend ought not to come forward and obtrude it again as an argument against the measure proposed by his hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If, indeed, it were true, that it was a violation of the King's Coronation Oath, to assent to any measure interfering with Church property, he did not know to what extent that might not be pushed, and a bill for the restraint of pluralities, or a curate regulation bill, might be met in this way. If such a principle was to be maintained as immovable, he trusted his hon. friend would also consider that it might be pushed to the extent of becoming an absolute veto upon anything like a salutary Reform. If such were the opinions of his hon. friend on this question, he would refer, by way of answer, to the opinions of some venerable members of the Church itself. If such were the opinion of the hon. Baronet, it was not the opinion of some of the most distinguished and venerable members of the Church; and he (Mr. Warre) begged particularly to refer the House to the excellent (and not less excellent because it was short, occupying only forty-two pages,) pamphlet of Archdeacon Glover. The hon. Member then read an extract from a letter to Earl Grey by the Archdeacon Glover, in which the writer, after having completely disposed of the argument in favour of the divine origin of tithes, says, in reference to Ireland: 'The anomalous situation of that long-afflicted country claims, in a religious view, all our pity—in a political view, all our tenderness and indulgence. A total and entire abolition of the tithe system is imperatively demanded. The Reform, however, must not be confined to this branch only; it must begin at the very head of the Irish Church, and descend from thence to the lowest members. The unnecessary estab- 597 lishment of her hierarchy—I mean on its present scale and extent—and in this term "hierarchy" I include the cathedral dignities and appointments, as well as Bishoprics, should be thoroughly sifted, and their positive usefulness and propriety fairly weighed. Whatever is not required for the interests of pure religion operates only as a positive detriment and incumbrance, which ought to be removed.' These were the opinions of a Church dignitary, and the House would gee how they accorded with the arguments of his hon. friend, and those of the right hon. member for the University of Cambridge, who spoke with such vehemence against this proposition, or, as he should rather say, against any Reform in the Irish Church. The right hon. Gentleman had, in the whole of the observations which he had thought it fitting to address to the House, declared, or, at least, pretty plainly intimated, that he should oppose himself to any plan of Church Reform, of any description whatever. That right hon. Gentleman had taken his stand upon that desperate ground, declaring that he would consent to nothing in the shape of alteration; and, certainly, nothing else could be expected from him, when the whole tenor of his parliamentary and ministerial life was considered. It was in perfect accordance with the whole tenor of his public life, and with the principles which he at all times professed, that he should oppose himself to vesting in a commission, the right of abolishing a benefice in which no duty might have been performed for the space of three years. The right hon. Gentleman, who could agree to nothing so reasonable as that proposition, could not be expected to give his consent to a proposition for reducing the number of Bishops, from twenty-two to twelve. If he differed from the right hon. Gentleman on the ground already stated, how much greater must his dissent be from the objection to the plan, which rested itself upon the assumption, that, since there were twenty-two Titular Catholic Bishops, there should, at the same time, and in the same place, be as many Protestant Bishops? Surely, there was no one in that House, or out of doors, who would pay the slightest attention to an argument which proceeded upon such a total disregard of the relative proportions of the flocks of the two classes of the clergy. Having thus briefly adverted to the sentiments 598 which the House had heard from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he should now bring his remarks to a close, by stating, that, upon the general question, then for the first time brought under their consideration, he should be sorry not to pronounce an opinion. It was his decided conviction, that the measure now propounded to the House was one fraught with the means of immediate benefit to the great body of the Irish population, and with general advantage to the empire at large. He rejoiced to see that his Majesty's Ministers had derived experience from the lessons of history—that they had come forward with measures of improvement at the proper time, and that they were prepared to give up a part in order that they might save the whole, and were willing to make some sacrifice, in order that they might promote the well-being and the prosperity of all.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, he wished, in the first place, to make an observation on a point of form rather than of substance. He had considerable doubts whether it would not have been more in conformity with the practice of the House to have brought forward a proposition like this, relating to matters of religion, in a Committee of the whole House. There was a Standing Order to that effect, and, of course, the next question would be, whether the present proposition was or was not a question relating to religion. He apprehended, if, in proposing the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts for the purpose of admitting Dissenters to civil privileges, a noble Lord thought it a subject so intimately connected with religion that he made that proposal in Committee, the same course ought to have been pursued with the present question. He, himself, in bringing forward the Repeal of the Catholic disabilities, proposed the measure in a Committee of the whole House. Considering, then, what had been the practice of the House, he thought a proposition a part of which was the extinction often out of twenty-two of the Protestant bishoprics in Ireland, should have been so far considered a matter of religion as to be made in Committee. If it was intended to abolish the former practice of the House altogether, that might be an answer for the future; but the order stood the same as in the last Session, and therefore the question was, whether they should adhere to the established custom of the 599 House, and whether the noble Lord should not be required to make his proposition in a Committee of the whole House. With regard to the main proposition of the noble Lord, he must say that his confidence in the justice and policy of that proposition, or in the wisdom of the House, was not much confirmed by the universal acclamation with which it was received, and by the apparent determination at once, without further consideration, to adopt this plan, which was said to be fraught with benefit to Ireland. The proposal was too important to be disposed of suddenly; it involved many questions connected with the security of the Established Church, many considerations of so much importance, that hon. Gentlemen must place great confidence in their own judgment to be enabled on the instant to pronounce it full of wisdom, and recommend its immediate adoption. It was not his intention, however, to attempt to diminish the satisfaction felt by some hon. Members, but to ascertain whether he exactly understood the proposal. He understood from the noble Lord that the Tithe Composition Act of the last Session was to remain in force, and that other Acts were to be passed to further the operation of that Act, so as to enable the possessors of land to rid themselves of the annual charge of tithe and tithe composition, by commuting that charge for a payment to be made once for all. He was not sure whether the proposal made last Session for appointing diocesan corporations was to be abandoned, nor did he rightly understand what the corporation which the noble Lord intended to establish was to do.
§ Lord Althorp
said, it was not quite correct to call it a corporation. Commissioners were to be appointed who would have the power of managing those matters, such as repairs and buildings, the expense of which was now defrayed by the Church cess, and the other duties which he had described would also devolve on them. Those Commissioners would not be in the nature of diocesan corporations.
§ Lord Althorp
Government meant to encourage commutation, and the proceeds would, of course, be paid to the clergy. That was a subject, however, which was not comprehended in this Bill. The Commissioners appointed under this Bill would have nothing to do with it.
§ Sir Robert Peel
admitted, that it was hardly fair to ask the noble Lord to enter upon any detailed explanation of his measure at the present moment; and, in asking the question he had just put to the noble Lord, his object was rather to suggest to the House the propriety of suspending their judgment upon a measure which was imperfectly explained and little understood, than to give it at once their entire and unqualified approval. He understood the noble Lord to propose that the whole amount of revenue belonging to the United Church of England and Ireland, as it existed in Ireland, whether vested in commissioners or any other body, should be applied, at least for the present, to ecclesiastical purposes; that the payers of tithe should have the option of commuting the tithes for a fixed payment in lieu of all future demand on account of tithe; but that the whole amount of revenue, in whatever shape it existed, should be at present applied to ecclesiastical purposes. He thought it but right to state with what impression he had come down to the House, and what was the general principle upon which he was prepared to consider any proposal for altering the condition of the Established Church in Ireland. He admitted that the time was now come when the whole state of that Church must undergo an enlarged and comprehensive consideration. The time had come when it was desirable that it should undergo that consideration, not so much for the purpose of conciliating any party hostile to the Church, but for the purpose of determining whether anything could be done to add to its stability and security. He had come down prepared to consider favourably any plan which might tend to correct the abuses of the Church—such as the holding of pluralities the duties of which could not be satisfactorily discharged by the individuals holding them, or the conversion into sinecures of functions which ought to be actively discharged. He was prepared to receive, favourably, any scheme of Reform, which, whatever might be its tendency to diminish the utility of the Church as a source of patronage to Government, might tend to propagate and extend the blessings of the Protestant faith. There were many parts of Ireland in which there existed no means for the support of the Protestant clergyman. There were many districts in which there was no Church and no glebe house. 601 They ought to apply themselves to discover the best mode of supplying those deficiencies, whether by the means heretofore employed for the support of the Church—by a public fund set apart for that purpose, or by a tax paid by the people. He did not object to the appropriation of some portion of the revenue of the Church of Ireland to a purpose which he considered strictly ecclesiastical, and which, he believed, would tend to increase its utility. He was prepared—and he now only repeated those sentiments which he had expressed in the last Parliament—he was prepared, he repeated, to admit that he thought that no settlement of the question relating to the Church would be satisfactory and consistent with the safety and security of the Establishment, which did not involve an arrangement on the subject of Church-cess, and Vestry Rates. He thought that it would be an immense advantage to remove the Protestant Church in Ireland from contact and collision with the Catholic peasant. As the landed property of that Church was chiefly in the possession of Protestants, he saw no injustice in placing upon the Protestant holders of land in fee those charges which both law and equity imposed, and to which the Church had as much right as the landlords of Ireland had to the enjoyment of their property. Even if they should succeed in removing all complaints arising out of the exaction of tithes from the Roman Catholic tenant of the Protestant landlord, they must not suppose that their arrangements would be complete unless they also released the Roman Catholic tenant from the payment of Church-cess. Though the amount of that cess was not great, yet it would be considered a still more aggravated grievance than it was at present if it should be retained after tithes were abolished. In what way that charge should be provided for was matter of detail, but probably some arrangement might be made just towards the Church, and satisfactory to all other parties. Such were the changes with respect to the Irish Church which he was prepared to make. The noble Lord's proposal involved some matters with respect to which he entertained great doubt. The noble Lord proposed the abolition of ten out of twenty-two bishoprics in Ireland, and the House had received that proposition with very general acclamation. He 602 was of opinion, that before they formed a final judgment on this subject, it would be well to inquire what were the duties performed by the existing Bishops, and what would be the duties devolved on those to be retained under the new arrangement; and whether some other plan, which, while it did not entail any additional charge on the Church Revenues, strengthened the Church Establishment, might not be preferable. He was by no means prepared to decide on the instant that twenty-two Bishops were too many for Ireland. The great object he had always understood of those who contended most strenuously for Church Reform was, to separate the existing unions of five or six parishes, and by building Churches and glebe-houses in some parishes where none existed at present, to bring nearer to the Protestant population the means of attending divine worship. This he understood to be the object of the noble Lord; and by this part of his plan the duties of the Bishops would be increased. If they dissolved the unions of parishes, and built glebe-houses, they would multiply the number of the working clergy, and in like proportion, augment the duties of the Bishops. In his opinion, the circumstances of Ireland were such as made it the imperative duty of the House to requite the strict performance of his duty from every Protestant clergyman there. He thought that, even for the sake of the civil interests of that country, and still more for the sake of its spiritual interests, there should be in every part of the country, where circumstances would allow, a resident Protestant clergyman. They had heard of late many complaints of the evils of absenteeism of the non-residence of landlords. The hon. member for Bolton (Colonel Torrens) had indeed declared the other night, that the more capital was sent to Ireland, the more would the evils of that country be aggravated; and he supposed it was a recognized doctrine of modern political economy, that it was a curse for a country circumstanced like Ireland to possess capital. He was ready to admit that it would be very unwise to force capital into Ireland; but if it was one of the new discoveries of political economy that the voluntary transfer of capital into Ireland would entail a curse on that country and not a blessing, he must say that his faith in the science would be greatly shaken. He 603 recollected that another great political economist had asserted, and demonstrated, as he imagined, by strict mathematical proof, that it was no sort of consequence to Ireland whether an Irish proprietor resided in Ireland or France—whether he spent his money, drawn from the soil and industry of Ireland, among the retail dealers of Dublin or Paris. Until the universal sense of all mankind, who were not political economists, were proved to be erroneous, he must continue to think the residence of landed proprietors an advantage to a country, and, therefore, to infer that, even in a temporal point of view, much benefit would result from the establishment of a resident clergy. He agreed with Bishop Berkeley, in thinking that an Irish Gentleman was not a worse man for wearing a black coat, and saying his prayers twice a-day; and he might add for spending his income among the people from whom he derived it. To encourage—to compel this would be a far better plan than to put the revenues of the Church into the pockets of Irish landlords, to be spent by them in any other place but their own country. He thought that every clergyman ought to be maintained in a situation consistent with the condition of a Gentleman. It was fit that he should be enabled to hold up his head in society on an equality in point of station and respectability with those to whom, in point of education and manners, he was at least equal. Any change, therefore, in the distribution of Church property ought to involve, not only a competent, but a liberal maintenance for the clergy of Ireland. One word with respect to the present condition of that clergy. He did not believe that there could be any Irishman in the House who was not impressed with the gross injustice which was at present inflicted upon the ministers of the Protestant Church in Ireland. They were willing to perform their spiritual duties, but they were prevented doing so by violence; and many there were who had commenced legal measures to recover their undoubted rights, and had abandoned them in order to prevent collision between themselves and their parishioners. He did not believe that that Reformed House would view with dissatisfaction some proposition to give them present relief out of the public funds; for it was painful to see the ministers of the Establishment dependent 604 for the means of existence on the eleemosynary contributions of the people of this country. He admitted the difficulties which on account of the state of society, of population, of religious differences in Ireland, attended all questions connected with the Church of Ireland; but that was only an additional reason for taking an enlarged and comprehensive, and deliberate, and dispassionate view of the state of that Church. If they multiplied the duties of the clergy—if they required from them residence in their parishes—if they severed the unions—they would, of course, multiply the duties of the Bishops, who, he understood, were to be intrusted with new powers to compel the satisfactory discharge of their functions on the part of the inferior clergy; and it was this consideration which made him doubt the policy of the proposed reduction of the number of Irish Bishops. The noble Lord had not explained whether he intended to propose any corresponding reduction in the number of the Irish Bishops who were now entitled to sit in the House of Lords. If he was about to reduce their number, that reduction involved a constitutional question of great importance, independent of Church Reform. If the number of the Irish Bishops sitting in Parliament was to remain the same, the number left in Ireland during the sitting of Parliament would be reduced from twelve to eight. These were matters of great importance, and, in common decency, the House ought to go through the forms of deliberative consideration before it pronounced an opinion on questions deeply and permanently affecting the best interests of the country. The noble Lord proposed that the Commissioners appointed under the Bill should have the power of deciding whether spiritual duties should continue to be performed in any particular parish, or be extinguished altogether. This seemed a very novel and extraordinary power to be exercised by any authority inferior to that of Parliament. He was ignorant of what qualifications or limitations were to be attached to this power. He had no wish to invite any explanation on this subject at the present moment, but he should reserve to himself the right, at a future period, of soliciting all information which might throw light on it, and of forming, by the help of that information, a judgment as to the details of the mea- 605 sure. The noble Lord had said nothing with respect to the lay patronage of the Church, and probably that was a subject not intended to be comprehended in this Bill. He knew not how that might be, but with respect to lay patronage, though he had no desire to interfere with that, or any other description of private property, yet he must say, that there was a condition annexed to that property which ought to be enforced—namely, that the spiritual duties connected with it should be effectually performed. There was one part of the noble Lord's speech which he had heard with great apprehension, because it appeared to him to establish a precedent by which the most dangerous inroads might be hereafter made upon the property of the Church. The noble Lord proposed to give the power to every tenant of a Bishop to possess himself in perpetuity of the land which he occupied by paying six years purchase on the improved value of the land. [Lord Althorp intimated to the right hon. Baronet, that the tenant would also be obliged to pay the rent.] He knew that; but still he considered this to be an enormous power. If a Bishop had been moderate in the demand of rent, his tenant would have the power to possess himself of the land in perpetuity at a rent less than its value, and thus deprive the Church of part of its property. The noble Lord then said, that a portion of the proceeds of these purchases of a perpetual interest in the land by Bishops tenants was to be considered as applicable to secular purposes—and maintained this alarming doctrine, that if any benefit was conferred on the Church by Act of Parliament, the amount of that pecuniary benefit might be applied to secular purposes. He was not surprised that that proposition was hailed with acclamation. The noble Lord had said, that he would not trouble the House with details. The noble Lord was quite right. The House was indifferent about details after the establishment of such a principle. [Cries of "hear, hear."] Yes, but it was the joy of those hon. Members that made him serious. It was because they acquiesced in those principles—because they considered details of so little importance—that he begged time to reflect upon and understand the plan before he received it with acclamation. The noble Lord had said, that the chief merit of the proposed plan was, that it steered 606 clear of all principle—that those who thought Church property might be devoted to secular purposes, and those who thought it ought to be extinguished altogether—[Lord Althorp intimated dissent.] he believed an exception was made by the noble Lord with respect to the latter party, but that those who thought Church property ought to be applied to strictly ecclesiastical purposes, under a different distribution, might shake hands, and join in approbation of this plan. He differed here from the noble Lord. If ever there was a time when the Government should have guided the public mind by pronouncing a decided opinion upon principle, it was the present. What the noble Lord considered the chief beauty of his plan he regarded as its chief defect. Though he agreed with the noble Lord in wishing to abolish the charge of Vestry cess—though he thought that no arrangement could be valuable which did not include the abolition of that levy—though he thought that a different distribution of Church property might be made if the appropriation still remained exclusively applicable to Church purposes. Though he agreed with the noble Lord upon these points, there were many others connected with his proposition upon which he totally differed from the noble Lord. He thought it necessary, for example, that the noble Lord should have told the House that he was ready to stand by the principle which the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had declared he should act upon—a principle which was necessary for the preservation of all property, corporate or individual—namely, that while all abuses were reformed, and all causes of complaint removed, the property of the Church of Ireland, though received by different hands, and subject to a different distribution, should still be kept inviolate, and applied solely to purposes connected with the Church. It was because the noble Lord had not made that declaration—because he had left the public mind in doubt and uncertainty as to the opinions of Government—nay had warranted the impression that a difference of opinion existed among his colleagues with respect to that principle—that he feared great evils would arise. To the whole plan of his Majesty's Government he should give his most serious consideration. There were parts of it which he should support, and parts to which be felt inclined to give his most 607 determined opposition; and he could not conclude without repeating that nothing which he had heard had given him so much pain, and excited so much apprehension, as this declaration of the noble Lord—that the King's Government was not prepared to stand by a fixed principle with respect to the exclusive appropriation of Church property to Church purposes.
said, that the almost unanimous concurrence of the House in the principles of the Bill proposed by his noble friend, might have rendered it unnecessary for him to trespass on the attention of the House, had it not been for one or two observations which fell from the right hon. Baronet. He also thought, that the House would feel that, on this particular question, he individually stood in a peculiar situation, which gave him a claim for a few moments to the indulgence of the House. If it had been possible, that he could have felt any regret whatever, that, having so often had the painful duty imposed on him of being the organ of Government, in bringing before the House measures affecting Ireland, not his measures alone, but of the Cabinet with which he had the honour of acting; if he could have regretted, he repeated, that having had that painful duty frequently imposed on him, it had fallen to other hands than his to have proposed a measure to the House, which had been so cordially received, as a messenger of peace and goodwill, if he could have had any personal feelings on the subject, those feelings would have been removed—exist they did not—by the manner in which his noble friend had introduced that measure, and by the gratifying reception which it had received. He hailed that reception as an omen of the happiest nature—as an omen, not only of the good wishes and kind benevolence which were manifested towards Ireland on all hands, but he hailed it also as a proof of the sound sense and calm discretion, which, he trusted, they might anticipate from this Reformed House of Commons in the discussion of great and important questions. When he saw the present liberal measure, founded on principles, to every one of which he gave his cordial, and entire, and unhesitating assent—when he saw this plan brought forward by his noble friend, and stated, at the same time, in terms of such moderation, to be fraught with such benefits, that while it delighted the advocates 608 of the most liberal measures, it almost disarmed the hostility of the most conservative Member of that House—he could not help hailing it as a happy omen of the temper in which, hereafter, questions of the deepest interest would be discussed; and, as a vindication of the anticipation of those who said, that by a Parliament representing the sense of the people, no dangerous innovations and no headlong measures would be countenanced. Such a Parliament would do justice—ample justice. It would give Reform, and a large Reform; but it would not give that which would be dangerous to the happiness of the country at large. He had never shrunk from the responsibility which attached to the various measures, which it had fallen to his lot to propose to the House, and with respect to which he had often to bear more than his individual share of responsibility; and it was with feelings of deep gratification that he now stood forward, and declared his unqualified adherence to the principles and details of the present measure. He never would consent to any measure which he thought in his conscience and judgment would destroy or injure the Protestant Church in Ireland, or would interfere with the extension of the Protestant religion, which, on political as well as religious grounds, he was anxious to see extended and prosper; and he gave his support to the present measure because he was convinced that, instead of weakening, it would tend to strengthen the Protestant ascendancy—he used not these words in their odious signification; but he meant that this measure would tend to the maintenance of the Protestant religion, the extension of Protestant feeling, and the creation of good will between Catholic and Protestant. He rejoiced that the present measure had met with the approbation of many who might have been expected to dissent from it; and he could not agree with the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down, that because the hon. and learned member for Dublin, with whom he had fought many battles, and with whom, perhaps, he had yet many more to fight, had given his cordial and hearty concurrence to the measure, his assent made the measure bad, and called upon the House to regard it with suspicion. He admitted the measure ought to receive full consideration before it met with the assent of the House; but he could not agree with the right 609 hon. Baronet that it was such a measure as ought to have been introduced through the medium of a Committee of the whole House. If he was not misinformed, three or four measures had been introduced by the right hon. Baronet, of nearly the same character as the present, without the intervention of a Committee. In 1824, the right hon. member for Cambridge introduced the Tithe Composition Act; in 1826 the Vestry Bill, and afterwards the Pluralities Bill and the Curates Bill, all of which related to the temporalities of the Church, without going through the ordeal of a Committee in the first instance. It was undoubtedly true that the Test and Corporation Act and the Roman Catholic Relief Bill were introduced through a Committee of the House; but they related to matters involving questions of faith in religion, and what oaths were necessary to be taken by particular persons as a security to the Slate. But, in whatever way the Bill had been introduced, it would, of course, be subject to the fullest discussion. The right hon. Baronet had stated, that he did not object to a new appropriation of the revenues of the Church. He went still further, for he had stated that the time had come when the Church could not stand as it was; that its own security required a different distribution of its revenue; and that no arrangement would be satisfactory to the country which did not include a different mode of providing for Vestry-cess in Ireland. The nature of that cess was entirely different from tithes; and it was impossible to apply the same principles to both. They were all agreed that a different arrangement in the distribution of Church property was necessary. ["No, no."] He begged the hon. Member's pardon (Sir Robert Inglis); he did not hope to convince the hon. Member; but it was the general opinion, that, for the sake of the tranquillity and good order of the country, a different distribution of Church property should be made; for let it be understood that the mode in which the money was collected, in many cases, was more annoying to the Catholics than the mere burthen of the amount collected. Would the House allow him, in order to show that this was no new opinion of his taken up for the moment, or different from that which he had already expressed, to read an extract from the Report of the Committee of that House on tithes, which sat 610 last year—a report for which he had incurred no slight blame. The right hon. Gentleman here read an extract, which described the general odium in which the collection of the Church-cess was held in Ireland. The Report then went to state that without entering into the abstract question of the appropriation of any Church property, it recommended a new valuation of all benefices, for the purpose of laying a tax of fifteen per cent., to be paid to the Board of First Fruits, on a fixed valuation of the livings, which was to go to the payment of the Church-rates. On that principle (the right hon. Gentleman continued), in which the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), and several other hon. Members on the other side, had expressed their concurrence, did the measure now before the House proceed; and he should be prepared at another and more fit occasion, when the details of the measure should be more fully gone into, to show that this was the proper and legitimate mode of proceeding. But the right hon. Baronet said, and so far he went with the proposed Bill, that we should provide for the residence of the clergy, and for their decent and suitable maintenance, so as to ensure the residence on their livings of an efficient body of clergy in Ireland. In all this he fully concurred, for it was in fact to be a part of the measure which was about to be submitted. He would now come to the diminution of the number of Bishops in Ireland. On this part the right hon. Baronet had expressed a doubt, but he (Mr. Stanley) would not argue against a doubt; but beyond that doubt the right hon. Baronet did not go to the principle of the measure. The difference was not here as to the application of the funds of the Church. On this point they had the consent of a large number of the clergy of Ireland. He had been in communication with very many of that body, of many high in the Church, and he felt bound to say, that he had on all occasions found it less difficult to enter into arrangements with them, on matters requiring a sacrifice of their own immediate interests, than on those which affected the rights of their successors. Many of them had said, "Rather tax us if you will—we are ready to bear it—we even think it would be for our advantage, but we are unwilling that you should do any thing to affect the rights of our successors and those for whom we hold." This he believed was the 611 general feeling among the clergy, and therefore he did not think that as a body they would be found opposed to the measures then before the House. With respect to the number of Bishoprics, he should, at the proper time, be able to show, that neither in the extent of the dioceses, nor in the number of clergy under their jurisdiction, would the duties of the remaining Bishops be greater than they would be able to superintend. The last point to which the right hon. Baronet had adverted, was the arrangement proposed as to Bishops leases, and as there was some misapprehension in the House on this point, he would, at the hazard of being tedious, re-state what his noble friend had said on this point. In the first place, the same principle was intended to apply as in the case of the inferior clergy, where a fixed and permanent composition was to be made for tithe. It was intended to give to the tenantry the full amount of the value of their capital and skill employed on the land held under such leases, subject only to the varying price of corn, for the permanent rent. The leases were, as was well known, held for twenty-one years, beyond which the Bishops could not grant a lease. The lease was renewed from year to year, subject to a fine, which fine constituted the chief part of the Bishop's income. It was only a few years ago that an arrangement was proposed, which tended to give greater security to this kind of property, though it was somewhat different from the one now before the House, yet both led to the same result. On the one hand, the Bishop would be afraid of losing the benefits of his See by refusing to renew the lease; and on the other, a young Bishop who might be disposed to run his life against the lease, might leave himself without sufficient means of supporting his station. Or the tenant, by refusing to take a renewal, might deprive the See of the revenue for his term. All these inconveniences would be prevented by the plan now before the House. The whole revenue was calculated at 100,000l. a-year, and here the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) took an erroneous view of the case, when he said, that if the Bishop had given the lease at a low rent, an advantage would be gained by the tenant, who would, in purchasing the permanent possession, have it at a rate of purchase for the average rent of six years; but if the Bishop had let it at a low rent, his amount 612 of fine was greater in proportion. But this would make no difference to the Bishop. The hon. Baronet (Sir R. Inglis) doubted this; but he ought to know that the value of this property was regularly calculated by fixed tables, and the average of the fine was one-fifth of the beneficial interest of the tenant. There had been many instances of Bishops running their lives against leases, but they were in general found injurious to the tenant, and not always to the advantage of the party who so ran his life, though they might be of some immediate profit to his successor. What was the plan now proposed? It was, that the land should be valued at a certain corn rent, and that neither the tenant nor the Bishop should be at liberty to refuse that valuation. But to whom was to belong the benefit of the increased value thus derived from the land? He would say, it ought to belong to the State. He said this without in any degree weakening the proposition that the property of the Church should not be diverted to other purposes than those for which it had usually been applied. But why did he say that the value was to be given to the State? What was the value of Church property? By the conditions which the State had annexed to it, it could not be leased for a longer term than twenty-one years, subject to this condition: if it were brought into the market it brought a certain amount of purchase money. But a new mode of dealing with it gave it an increased value. What right, then, he asked, had the Church to claim that increased value, which it never had, and never could have, unless the State had passed an Act to give it to it? It had no right; and the difference between the former value and the increased value might, he contended, be applied to secular purposes, or to any purpose that the State might direct, without any violation of the property of the Church. But then the right hon. Baronet objected that the Bill in this view went on no principle at all, and he further added, that there was no agreement in the Cabinet on the abstract question of the right of the State to dispose of the property of the Church. Where, he would ask, could fifteen men be found, who, though they might agree upon general measures, should also be found to concur in a number of abstract questions, arising out of or connected with many of them? It was no objection to the Cabinet 613 to say, that they differed, if they did so, upon an abstract point, if they were agreed upon practicable and efficient measures. If they all concurred in submitting such measures to the House, the House had no right to call on them to know whether they also agreed on some abstract question which was not in any way involved in those measures. They were not, therefore, he contended, hound to enter into any such discussion here. The measure which they submitted was one of relief from a burthen which was found oppressive; it was one which the best friends of the Church thought would be not only a relief to the great mass of the people of Ireland, but also a great advantage to the Church itself, and on such a question he thought it was no valid objection to it, that those who proposed it were not agreed on some abstract question, which, he repeated, was not at all involved in it. It was, he repeated, a practical measure—a measure of conciliation—a measure which would, he hoped, prove not only one which would unite Protestant and Catholic in bonds of closer union, but which would serve more closely to unite England and Ireland. He would, before he sat down, say one word as to himself. He had been supposed to be—he had been charged with being—an enemy to Ireland. God knew, and those who were best acquainted with his feelings and wishes could bear testimony, that no charge could have less foundation in fact. He had never had, in any one of his acts, public or private, which related to Ireland, any other object than the benefit of that country. He had, not only in his political life, but before that political life had commenced, the good of Ireland most sincerely at heart. Long before his political life had commenced he felt that, having connexions with that country, he owed to it duties which he considered himself bound to discharge. He had long felt the evils which absenteeism had brought upon that country, and he thought, that, from his connexion with the country, he ought not to swell the number; he therefore built there, for the purpose of at least a partial residence in it. He had resided there one year before his official connexion with its Government, and during that time he had, he was proud to say, received proofs of affectionate attachment, and, he might add, of gratitude, from some of its peasantry, which never would be absent from 614 his mind. One great—he would say the main object, of desiring a connexion with the Government of Ireland was, that it would afford him the opportunity of doing-it good. In his endeavours to attain that great object he might have failed—he might have exposed himself to misunderstanding and to ill-will from one side and the other, but, notwithstanding that, he now solemnly declared that he did not, and had never entertained any ill feeling towards any one of those who had crossed his path, or endeavoured to obstruct his measures. He might, he repeated, not have given the satisfaction to one side or the other which he could have wished—he might have failed in accomplishing the good which he had intended—but that should not hinder him from devoting himself to what he had reason to believe would serve Ireland. It was in this feeling that he should give his cordial support to the measure before the House, a support that he would not give to any measure of which he did not fully approve in all its parts. He thanked the House for its indulgence, and felt obliged for its having allowed him, in a question of such vast importance, to intrude on their attention so insignificant a subject as one relating to himself.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, he was persuaded that he should best consult the feelings of the House at that hour and the then stage of the proceedings, by not entering into the various objections which occurred to his mind to the measure proposed by the noble Lord. He wished, however, to guard himself from any supposed acquiescence in it, and to reserve to himself the right, at a more fitting opportunity, of opposing the principle as well as the details of the measure. He feared the noble Lord had introduced a principle of innovation, which he would find it difficult to restrain, and he protested against the doctrine of the noble Lord and the right hon. Secretary—that when the Legislature, by a measure of improvement, added new value to property, the fruits of that improvement were not to be enjoyed by the proprietor; that would, in fact, be to improve with one hand, and confiscate with the other. He lamented that the noble Lord, the member for Devonshire (Lord Ebrington), who usually supported his Majesty's Ministers, should, at the very moment that his Majesty thought it necessary to ask for additional powers to maintain the 615 Legislative Union, repudiate one of its fundamental articles by declaring that the interests of the two Churches were not united. He also regretted that that measure had taken precedence of the more urgent ones that formed the prominent topic of the Speech from the Throne. ["Hear, hear,"from Mr. O'Connell] He (Mr. Shaw) understood that cheer, and suspected that the altered tone of the hon. and learned member for Dublin towards his Majesty's Government, might be intended to have an effect upon the measures to which he alluded. He thought the authority of the law should have been vindicated before an unavailing sacrifice was made to appease those who were systematically violating it.
§ Sir Richard Keane
begged to express to his Majesty's Ministers his unmixed delight and unfeigned gratitude for the measure which they had that night proposed for the consideration of Parliament—a measure of a healing and wholesome nature, which would secure the confidence and gratitude of the Irish people, and serve as the keystone of peace and good order throughout Ireland. In this age of transition in which we lived, was it right, or just, that England, ascending to the summit of prosperity with happy and moral Scotland in her train, should leave Ireland to grovel at the bottom. He hailed with satisfaction the salutary interposition of the Government. A perseverance in a similar policy would convert Ireland into a tower of strength. Such just and generous policy was worthy of his Majesty's Councils, and becoming this great country, renowned in arts and arms, and, he might be allowed to add, grown Grey in State Affairs.
§ Mr. O'Reilly
, as a Catholic Representative of Ireland, also expressed his satisfaction at the measures proposed by Government. He could not sit quiet and hear an Amendment proposed to what he was sure would be hailed with such pleasure by those for whose benefit it was intended. He was anxious that it should be received there in the same conciliatory spirit that he knew it would be at the ether side of the water, and, therefore, he begged that the hon. member for Dublin (Mr. Ruthven) would withdraw his Amendment.
then said, that he did not mean to trouble the House by pressing his Amendment to a division. He would not 616 withdraw the Amendment, but he merely wished to have it recorded on the Journals of the House.
§ Amendment negatived. Motion agreed to.