HC Deb 04 August 1834 vol 25 cc923-8

On the Motion of Lord Althorp, the Order of the Day for taking into further consideration the Report on the Tithes (Ireland) Bill was read.

On the Question, that the Amendments be read a second time,

Mr. Sinclair

called the attention of the House to the extent and importance of the alterations introduced into this Bill, since it was first laid on the Table. He did not believe, that in the whole history of parliamentary legislation such sweeping changes had been effected in any great national measure; and it might especially be said, in reference to its passage through the Committee, Amphora cepit Institui; currente rotâ, cur urceus exit? There were two peat principles in view, when this Bill was first brought forward. The first, and certainly a most salutary one, to transfer the burthen of tithes from the peasantry to the landlords, so as to avoid the occurrence of painful collisions between the clergy and the people, and thus promote the tranquillity of Ireland. The second, that, in return for this benefi- cial arrangement, which ensured the payment of its revenues on a more popular and permanent footing, the Church should make a considerable sacrifice, amounting, he believed, to two-fifths of its revenues. To these concurrent propositions he had given a ready and cordial assent. But what was the case now? The sacrifice was still required from the Church; but the security for the remaining proportions of its income was taken away by the removal of those clauses from the Bill which appropriated the three-fifths to ecclesiastical objects, by providing an investment in land for the benefit of the Church. This was the change of which he chiefly complained. This was what he considered as paying the way for an act of spoliation and injustice. Not that the Bill actually proclaimed the expediency of devoting the Church revenues to national and secular objects; but, by leaving the question open, it tended to facilitate such a result; and the time was probably not far distant when, partly by sapping and mining, and partly by open intimidation, and partly by measures gradually adopted in this clause, the whole property of the Protestant Church would be sacrificed at the shrine of clamour and encroachment.

Mr. Cutler Ferguson

denied, that any security was taken from the Protestant Church in Ireland; or that the act was one of spoliation and injustice. His hon. friend had not, he was afraid, read the Bill, for one-fifth, not two-fifths, was taken away and to balance that, tithe-owners would be spared the whole expense of collection.

Mr. O'Connell

said, he had never witnessed greater ingratitude than had been shown towards Government upon this question by several hon. Members. Much had been said about unfairness towards the Protestant clergy; but how stood the fact? They were now possessed, say of 100l. a year, which would only sell for twelve years' purchase, whereas by this Bill they would be possessed of 80l. a-year (he spoke, of course, in relative proportions), which would sell for thirty years' purchase. The fact, then, appeared to him that in certain quarters, in Ireland, little attention was paid to the tranquillization of that country; while, on the other hand, every disposition was manifested to set the Government at war with the Irish people. But this system had been too long and too cruelly pursued; and for God's sake let the efforts of quietness and conciliation be resorted to, if only by way of experiment. That this was the course contemplated by Government he hoped and believed, and he hoped that no attempt would be manifested in any quarter to thwart that disposition.

Mr. Shaw

said, he was one who felt no jot of gratitude to Government for this measure, nor could the hon. and learned member for Dublin, for the measure was his own. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sinclair) was perfectly right when he said, that two-fifths would be taken from the clergy; and the hon. Member (Mr. Cutler Fergusson) was completely wrong when he asserted, that only one-fifth would be taken. Under the Bill of last Session one-fifth was taken, and that he had consented to in order to get a permanent settlement of the question; but, under the present Bill, two-fifths were sacrificed. Of course the hon. and learned member for Dublin advocated no measure, but to give peace and tranquillity to Ireland; but it was worse than mockery to talk of this Bill giving either peace or tranquillity. They were not arrived at this flagrant, gross injustice, and such was the character of this Bill. The Government had introduced a measure in February, founded upon three great principles; and from every one of those principles they had completely departed. Those principles were redemption of tithe, the restoration practically of the law with respect to tithes, and not permitting 1s. of the property to go into the pockets of the landlords. From each and all of those principles they had grossly departed. The Bill had nothing to do with redemption; the law had not been vindicated; and the Bill said to the landlord, "Let me do you an injustice at the present moment, and ultimately I will put double the amount in your pocket from the plunder of the Church." He repeated, that gratitude he felt none; nor did he for the million of last year. No, for that was merely a present sum to induce the Clergy to permit their ultimate spoliation.

Mr. Littleton

observed, that experience did not induce him to place much reliance on the predictions of the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin. All he would say, in answer to the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin was, that, upon mature consideration, his Majesty's Government were per- suaded that the present measure was calculated to be highly satisfactory to the greater part of the Irish people. As to the clause which had been introduced the other evening into the Bill, on the motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, he (Mr. Littleton) must admit, that it was one of great importance, although it strictly belonged to the details of the measure, as it referred to the question whether or not the period of five years, or any other period, should be compulsory on the landlord. The details of the Bill it was the duty of the Committee to determine. If, however, instead of the overwhelming majority by which the proposition of the hon. and learned member for Dublin had been sanctioned, a much smaller number had asserted that proposition, his Majesty's Government would still have felt themselves bound to consider whether or not they ought to persevere in their original intention. As to the question of redemption, let it be considered what, in the original instance, was its object. That object was, to invest the Church-property in land. But, by the present arrangement, the clergyman's income being derived from the landlord, a similar security would be obtained. When it was declared that the Irish landlords were ready to take upon themselves the charge of paying the tithe to the clergy, surely it would have been egregious folly on the part of his Majesty's Government not to have acquiesced in the proposition. He was by no means dissatisfied with the Bill as it stood; for, in his opinion, it gave to the Protestant clergy of Ireland a security which they never before possessed.

Colonel Davies

contended, that a more wavering, imbecile course had never been pursued by any Ministry than that which had been adopted by his Majesty's Government with respect to the present measure. As he had already stated, its tendency was to saddle the people of Great Britain and Scotland with a burthen which ought not to be imposed upon them. So far was the present measure from being calculated to restore peace to Ireland, that its evident effect would be, to increase war in that country. What had been the declaration of the hon. and learned member for Tipperary? That the present measure would be quite unsatisfactory in Ireland, and that, in the next Session, there would be a loud clamour for additional sacrifices.

Colonel Torrens

differed in toto from the gallant Member, and from the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin. To abate the payment of the Irish landlord by forty per cent was to give him too little rather than too much. The measure was founded in equity, and as such he would support it.

Mr. Hume

was at a loss to know why the Exchequer of England should be called upon to maintain the Church of Ireland. He did not think his Majesty's Government were warranted in their present proposition. Let those who wanted a Church Establishment in Ireland pay for it. If, however, he did not resist the proposition for a temporary recourse to the Consolidated Fund, it must be on the distinct understanding, that the advance from that fund would by-and-by be repaid. He trusted that his Majesty's Government, as vacancies occurred, would not appoint another individual on the establishment of the Church of Ireland; for it was clear that no more were wanted. Four-fifths of the patronage of the Established Church in Ireland was in the hands of the Government and of the Bishops.

Mr. O'Connell


Mr. Hume:

Whatever might be the amount, he trusted that, from the present day, no vacancy would be filled up by his Majesty's Government.

Mr. Sheil

observed, in explanation, with reference to what had fallen from the hon. and gallant member for Worcester, that all that he had stated with reference to the present Bill was, that it was not perfect, but that more must be done hereafter.

Mr. Lefroy

was more than ever opposed to the measure. The clergymen of Ireland were not satisfied with the Bill as it stood, and they must be fools or madmen if they were so. Were there no other objections to it? The clause which had been introduced on the motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin would be a sufficient one. It was clear, that the Church of Ireland was about to be robbed of two-fifths of its property. He begged also to know, what provision there was for the repair of the ecclesiastical edifices in Ireland? Unless some provision were made for that purpose, they would all go to ruin.

Mr. Littleton

stated, that there were ample funds for all the necessary repairs of ecclesiastical edifices in Ireland.

Mr. O Dwyer

observed, that it was very fashionable in that House to attack the agitators of Ireland; but it ought to be recollected, that there were two classes of those agitators; one, whose object it was to conciliate the people by the removal of their grievances; the other, who endeavoured, by the continuance of those grievances, to perpetuate national distraction.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that the effect of the clause would be to repeal that part of the Church Temporalities Bill of last Session which provided for the rebuilding of churches, and the decent performance of divine service.

The Amendments read a second time; and the Report agreed to.

Back to