§ Mr. Littleton
, in moving the third reading of the Tithes (Ireland) Bill, begged to occupy the House for one minute, while he adverted to what had fallen, on a late occasion, from the right hon. member for the University of Cambridge, with respect to the efficiency of the Perpetuity Purchase Fund. The right hon. Gentleman here repeated the detailed statement which he had made on former occasions, on the various receipts and expenses of that fund; the general result of which was, that the income was altogether 91,033l., and the expenditure 66,000l.; leaving a surplus of above 25,000l. to be employed in optional purposes, such building chapels, aug- 971 menting small livings, &c. The right hon. Gentleman concluded, by moving, that the Bill be now read a third time.
said, that as the subject had been discussed very fully already, it was not his intention to enter much at length into the merits of the question, but, having voted for the second reading of the Bill, he felt himself called upon to state to the House, as well as to justify himself to his constituents, his reasons for now moving, that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. What he intended to offer to the House should consist of a short summary of what appeared to him to be the distinction between the first Bill—that which had been read a second time—and the Bill which his Majesty's Ministers now proposed to have read a third time; and in comparing the present Bill with the former, he thought it right to call the attention of the House to what was the foundation of the Bill as originally introduced to the House by his Majesty's Ministers. That Bill purported to be founded upon a passage contained in the Speech of his Majesty from the Throne at the opening of the present Session of Parliament. The passage was as follows:—"I recommend," said his Majesty, "to you the early consideration of such a final adjustment of tithes." (That Speech was delivered in February, and now, in August, the House was fulfilling the recommendation of taking the subject into its "early consideration.") "I recommend to you," said his Majesty, "the early consideration of such a final adjustment of the Tithes in Ireland as may extinguish all just causes of complaint, without injury to the rights and property of any class of my subjects." Now the Bill which was brought in in February last, in pursuance of the recommendations contained in the Speech from the Throne, was in conformity with the recommendation, and was calculated to give effect to the wise and prudent counsel contained in it. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill, in the course of his speech on that occasion, adopted as a leading principle the necessity of realizing the property of the Church, and with a view to that object, he stated, "the first thing to be done in the estimation of the Government will be to confer upon this description of property all possible security which it is in the power of Parliament to confer upon it." The right hon. Gentleman 972 accordingly at that time proposed, that the Crown should take upon itself the collection of the Land-tax or Rent-charge—that time should be allowed to the landlords to redeem it; but in the event of their not doing so, that the Land-tax should be saleable, and the produce vested in landed property for the use of the Church. With respect to the proposal for subjecting the landlords to the burthen by any compulsory proceeding, and without a power of redemption, the House, he trusted, would permit him to call their attention to the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman at that time: his opinion then was—"that such a measure could not be recommended to the consideration of Parliament on any principle consistent with honour, justice, or good faith." The measure which the right hon. Gentleman now recommended to Parliament, backed by the weight of the Government, was precisely that which he then declared would be at variance with every principle of justice, honour, and good faith.—Now, with respect to the reviewing of the compositions, he (Mr. Lefroy) wished to show the varying sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman; it appeared then, as now, to have been the object of the hon. and learned member for Dublin to open the compositions throughout Ireland, and expose them all to a review. What, was then the language of the Secretary for Ireland? He said—"The hon. and learned member for Dublin stated, on the first night of the Session, that he believed that at least in nine cases out of ten, the effect of the Composition Act was to increase the amount of tithe in Ireland. I somewhat indiscreetly (says the right hon. Gentleman), as it appears to me now, admitted, that a trifling increase might have taken place in the case of one third of the parishes in Ireland;" but he added—"I have since found on calculation, that if I had limited my admission to one-tenth of that third, I should have been nearer the mark." He, therefore, had the testimony of the right hon. Gentleman, founded on a calculation then made, that not in one-tenth of one-third of the parishes in Ireland, was there even a pretence for a review of the composition. He had thus referred to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman upon introducing the Bill of February as a criterion, which the right hon. Gentleman could not object to, for, comparing and judging the Bill which 973 he now called upon the House to pass: the great principle of the Bill of February last, pursuant to the recommendation of the Crown, was, the extinguishment of tithes. That Bill did accordingly not only in name, but in reality, provide for the extinguishment of tithe, for by that Bill, the composition was redeemable, and the proceeds of it were to be vested in land, and the tithe-owner put in possession of land as an equivalent for what he had previously received for tithe. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland had stated last night, that if that plan had been pursued, the clergyman would be then as much at the mercy of the peasant as he was at present. But there was no reason to suppose any such thing. The fact was, that the clergyman was already in possession of some portion of land, and he knew of no instance in which a conspiracy had been entered into to defraud the clergyman of the rents arising out of glebe lands, no more than there had been to defraud any other description of landlords of their rents. That, therefore, appeared to him to be a mere speculative or notional objection—at all events, by the possession of land the clergyman would have the means of subsistence for himself and his family, and not be left, as many of them had been lately, in a state of actual want and destitution. It had also been said, that there was a great objection to bringing so large a portion of land into mortmain. He had already pointed out an answer to that objection—in the quantity of Bishops' land taken out of mortmain by the Church Temporalities' Act—but the objection was merely of a speculative nature. It was true, if the lands were to be held, as they were formerly held by the monasteries, occupied by the monks themselves, there might be something in the objection, but not where in general they would be let out to farmers like the lands of any other landlord. The first difference then between the two Bills was this, that the one provided for an actual extinguishment of tithes—while the other kept up the thing, though it changed the name. The one Bill met that prejudice of the people which, it was said, prevented them from paying the clergy of a Church from which they derived no benefit; while the other left the collection of the rent-charge open to every objection that ever was urged against tithe; for it was idle to suppose that it 974 would not be well known to the peasantry of Ireland, that the amount of the rent-charge was to be appropriated to the maintenance of the clergy of the Established Church. it was said, indeed, in answer to this objection, that by the present Bill the rent-charge was to be paid by the landlord. But how was the landlord to be reimbursed? If his land should be in lease, and the tenant should hold under a lease prior to 1832, the landlord would be entitled to levy the amount from the tenant. But what security was there that the tenant would not resist, and if the landlord could not recover the amount from the tenant, it would furnish him with an excuse; nay, if the landlord should be as ill affected to the Church as the tenant—or if a portion of the land-lords, from their straitened circumstances, should find it inconvenient to pay—what inducement did the Bill hold out for an understanding between the landlord and tenant?—and thereby leave the clergy worse off than before for the portion of his income which the Bill nominally leaves to him. Supposing the Commissioners of the Woods and Forests, in order to enforce payment, to appoint a receiver under this Act, and he was to distrain, would not the same objection that formerly existed to levying property distrained for tithe—would not that objection be urged with equal force to purchasing property distrained under the present Bill—well knowing, as the peasantry of Ireland must do, that the proceeds were to go into the clergyman's pocket? He voted for the second reading of the former Bill, because, though it took away from the clergy one-fifth of their income, it effectually secured the remainder, and put an end for ever to a fertile source of agitation and disturbance of the public peace. But the present Bill left untouched all the grievances, whether fancied or real, which existed before. The next great difference between the two measures was this—that by the first Bill one-fifth only of the clergyman's income was abstracted, while by the present Bill two-fifths of the property of the Church was taken away for ever. He was not in the least desirous of imputing to the Bill greater injustice than it was calculated to effect, but no man could doubt, that by it two-fifths of the Church-property was spoliated. It was true, there was a provision for repayment of one-fifth out of 975 the Consolidated Fund, and this advance was to be repaid out of the Perpetuity Fund. Was there, he would ask, ever anything so preposterous as this? The Bill first extinguished two-fifths of the property, and then they found a substitute for one fifth. But it was a mere delusion to say, that this was to come out of the Consolidated Fund. His Majesty's Ministers could not believe that the House would go on annually voting away money for the support of the Irish Church. It was unreasonable to suppose they would, and the result must be, that the one-fifth, which was nominally to be made good out of the Consolidated Fund, would eventually be left to be provided for out of the remaining property of the Church. As to the Perpetuity Fund being at all adequate for the purposes of making up the deficiency, he would take it upon himself to prove it was impossible. The Perpetuity Fund, taking it at the most exaggerated amount, was not anticipated by his Majesty's Ministers to produce more than 1,200,000l. and that statement was made on the supposition that the tenants of all Bishops' leases would purchase the Perpetuity. In the ten suppressed sees, however, no purchase of the fee simple would be effected. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners in these sees were bound to renew. There would be no Bishop to run his life against the tenant's; then why should any man pay even a quarter of a year's purchase for the fee simple of the estate? Formerly there might have been some object to be achieved when, for electioneering purposes, it became advisable for a landlord to have a number of forty shilling freeholders; but now the case was otherwise, as leaseholders had the power to vote, and it was therefore manifest that in the suppressed sees no purchases of the perpetuity would take place, and the estimated amount of the fund must, therefore, be reduced to a sum much lower than had been originally stated. But supposing the sum to be 1,200,000l., the interest of which would amount to only 42,000l., the amount proposed to be supplied out of the Consolidated Fund to make good the one-fifth of the tithes was 120,000 l. annually. To meet this there would be at the utmost but 42,000l. a-year arising from the Perpetuity Fund. The difference, therefore, was 78,000l. a-year; and what prospect he would ask was there that that sum would be annually 976 voted to the Church? But if it were to be made (as was signified by the right hon. Secretary) a permanent grant, it would be open to the House to call to mind the ground upon which the sum had been granted—namely, that it should be made good out of the Perpetuity Fund—and that fund failing, must be made a ground of repealing the Act, and the Church would then be thrown on its own property for support—the amount of that property having been diminished two-fifths by the present Bill. But if the Perpetuity Fund should be appropriated in the manner proposed, what was to become of the several matters to which it was now appropriated: and that brought him to the statement made by the right hon. Secretary which appeared to him to show that it was perfectly impossible the Commissioners could discharge the duties that at present devolved upon them, without the aid of the Perpetuity Fund. The outgoing of the Commissioners was stated to be 66,000l.; to that, however, must be added the sum of 4,000l., being the interest of the 100,000l. which the Commissioners had just borrowed. But what was the amount of their income? The right hon. Gentleman stated it at 42,000l. a-year; but he must totally dissent from that sum being considered as annual income. In that sum the right hon. Gentleman included the amount of two years' income of the see of Waterford; and he had also included a sum of 7,000l. which was to be repaid by the clergy for their debt to the Board of First Fruits, though it was well known the clergy were incompetent to pay it.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, he had no doubt that it would be, and he believed part of it would have been paid but the clergy waited for the result of same petitions presented to the House on the subject.
would take the earliest opportunity of moving for a return which would show not the estimate but the actual sum in the hands of the Commissioners; and he (Mr. Lefroy) had the strongest reason for supposing that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had not sixpence at their disposal. The churchwardens of St. Thomas's parish addressed a letter to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, in the month of May, in which they stated that they had no means of providing for the celebration of divine service, or of paying the officers of the 977 church, who were in great distress. This it would be admitted was an urgent application, and he called the attention of the House and of his Majesty's Ministers to the reply of the Commissioners.—"The Commissioners have not for some mouths past had money to make any payment on account of claims arising out of Churchcesses—as soon as a measure which has been brought before Parliament has become law, they will have the power of borrowing money to enable them to discharge all just claims of that description." Here was a statement from the Commissioners themselves, setting forth that they had not one sixpence to keep the roof of the church in repair, and that their only hope of having funds at their disposal arose out of their being enabled by Parliament to borrow money. He, therefore, doubted exceedingly the accuracy of the statement put forth by the right hon. Gentleman—it did not certainly satisfy him. If the House found that to be the situation in which the Commissioners were placed, what, he would ask, was to become of all the churches in Ireland (for the application to which he referred was by no means a solitary instance)? If the Perpetuity Fund were alienated from the purposes to which it was appropriated last Session, the churches in Ireland must go to ruin, and divine service be completely put an end to in that country. He (Mr. Lefroy) doubted whether the House would sanction another loan to the Commissioners; but if they even did, the fund would be so eaten up with the interest in these loans that it would be impossible for the Commissioners to meet the other charges upon it. The landed proprietors of Ireland were last year relieved from the vestry cess; and when Government were asked what they would provide in lieu of it, the House and the country were told that a substitute, beyond all doubt, was found for it in this Perpetuity Fund. The Commissioners had had an opportunity for one year of trying their hands, and upon their own showing, if the Perpetuity Fund were to be taken away, there would be a deficiency of twenty-eight thousand pounds per annum. He thought the deficiency greater, inasmuch as he did not consider their present income more than 20,000l. a-year. He said, therefore, when the Bill differed so materially from that which had been read a second time—when the very existence of the Church was 978 brought into jeopardy by turning aside the fund which was appropriated for its support—when the principle upon which the original Bill was founded had been totally abandoned—he felt not only justified but called upon—on the score of what he owed to the interest of those he more immediately represented in that House—and on the best consideration he was able to give the subject—to resist to the uttermost the passing of the Bill. Before he sat down, he begged to remind the House that when it was last year proposed to levy a tax upon the present incumbents to make good the amount of the vestry cess, the proposition was rejected by a strong expression of the sense of the House. Then he would ask why it was that these incumbents were to be now more severely dealt with? He could well understand, if the Bill had remained as it was, why, although one-fifth was sacrificed, it should have been supported by the friends of the Church. He had voted for the second reading of the Bill—because, although one-fifth was sacrificed, perfect security was given to the remainder; and he should have supported the Bill to the last, if it had remained what it was. But the property of the clergy was not only to be reduced without any consideration, or adequate inducement, but what was left was exposed to the jeopardy to which the re-opening of the compositions left them liable. There was a new source of vexation and expense, and all the old ones still remained. He would ask did all the conscientious scruples, as they were called, of which the House had heard so much, exist as strongly to the payment of the rent charge of three-fifths as they did to the payment of the full composition under its old appellation, or could the House forget what had been within a few nights so emphatically stated by the hon. member for Tipperary (Mr. Shell), that nothing would be considered by him, and those who acted with him, as having been done, until the remaining property of the Church should be differently appropriated. The clergy of Ireland he (Mr. Lefroy) would say got nothing by this Bill, and he should be wanting in his duty to the clergy, and acting contrary to their wishes, their feelings, and he would add, their interests, were he not to oppose its further progress. With respect to that great principle of asserting the rights of property, of which the right hon. Gentleman in opening the 979 measure to the House in February had said so much, how stood the case now? By the present Bill that principle had been abandoned. There had been no vindication of the law or of the rights of property, but, on the contrary, a great bonus had been given to agitation; and those who had been the instruments and the agents—if not the destroyers of this property—had been rewarded with the spoil. It was not at the call of the landlords of Ireland that this concession was made—it was notoriously a concession made to the hon. and learned member for Dublin. Instead, therefore, of property being realized, it had been sacrificed. By the former Bill the compositions were to remain fixed—but the present measure opened them all. Should the present measure pass, no clergyman in Ireland could state what his income really was to be; all the compositions, at whatever period made, were to be exposed to review, and they were to be examined into, not upon the principle upon which the compositions had been entered into—but upon new and different principles. That he would fearlessly assert, was an anomaly in legislation unparalleled in injustice. On all these grounds he felt coerced to oppose the Bill; and he should therefore move that it be read a third time that day three months.
§ Mr. John Young
in seconding the Amendment, wished to make a few observations in consequence of the great change made in the Bill by the Amendment, which the doubtful opposition, or rather the connivance of Government, had enabled the hon. and learned member for Dublin to carry in Committee. When it had been proposed on the 20th of February last, "that all compositions and commutations of tithe should entirely cease after the 1st of November next—that his Majesty should, after that period, be empowered to impose a land-tax, which should be redeemable, the charge to be collected from the occupying tenant, who should be entitled to deduct the same from his rent"—he, in common with those Gentlemen whom he usually acted with, had been induced to vote for the proposition, rather as a choice of evils, under very difficult circumstances, than as any thing per se beneficial. The clergy of Ireland, as he understood, with a generosity and forgetfulness of self which well became that pious, learned, and unjustly maligned body, had put themselves into the hands 980 of their friends in Parliament, and requested them not to look to their temporary embarrassments, or the pressure of want which many individuals amongst them were suffering; but rather to consult for the permanent advantage of the Establishment. The measure, as at first produced, gave an assurance that the revenues of the Church should be but little diminished, and that no part of them should be diverted to other than ecclesiastical purposes, while the scheme of redemption held out, in his opinion, the only just and practical means of arriving at something like a final adjustment, and real abolition of the obnoxious payment. Since February, the change of men in office had been considerable, and the change in counsels still more so. So many withdrawals of principle—so many substitutions of clauses had taken place, that scarcely a single feature of the original plan remained. The chief inducements to support the measure were gone, while several most objectionable points had been introduced. The re-opening the compositions could only lead to the infinite annoyance of clergymen, and unlimited litigation and perjury throughout the country. The greatest and worst change in the Bill had been effected by the hon. and learned member for Dublin; the Church was at once deprived of two-fifths of its tithes—the remainder was vested in the Crown, and the landlords made tithe-proctors. How far this proposition was made in good faith—how far its proposer's judgment and opinion really supported it, could be best ascertained by a reference to what he had before declared. On the 20th of February that learned Gentleman addressed Ministers with: "What are you about to do now? You are about to turn the landowners into your tithe proctors to gather in the tithes, calling them a Land-tax. I do ask you to pause before you do that. Recollect that it is not the amount of the payment which is in question—it is the application of the money which constitutes the grievance. That has been one of the heart-sore spots of the people of Ireland. Recollect, that tithe agitation necessarily threatens a rent agitation—for it unavoidably mixes with it. Hitherto it has been kept separate.—Landlords of Ireland look to yourselves! If you be made under this Act, Tithe-proctors, that very spirit which has continued to agitate on account of tithes for seventy years, will 981 be now applied to rent as well as tithes. Therefore by legislating as you propose to do, you will entail still greater misery on that country than you have yet caused her." It was impossible that one so deeply conversant with Irish politics, so consistently bent on the destruction of Protestantism for thirty years, could have altered his views in the last few months. It was, therefore, clear that his Amendment had been proposed, not to relieve the Church, not to clear difficulties away from the path of the Legislature, or to restore peace to the country, but to gratify his own party with a large bonus of the plunder, and encourage them by making a stride towards the subversion of the Established Church. The men of landed estate in Ireland were placed in an irksome and invidious, and probably dangerous position, as the collectors of a long-resisted payment—and that in a country where the rights of property have never been well supported by popular opinion—where eleven-twelfths of the land are held by title derived from a right of conquest, and where there exists in the minds of the multitude a vague idea of a right of re-assumption as soon as occasion may offer. The enemies of the Church had still further reason to be well satisfied with the Amendment; for, as appeared to the hon. Member, from the explanation of the Chief Secretary, that point on which parties had been contending all the Session—on which a Cabinet had split, and which was said to be still left open—was in reality conceded. Two-fifths of the tithes were given up to the people; but the Consolidated Fund was to pay the clergyman one of these fifths; the fund was to be re-imbursed out of the Perpetuity Fund; in other words, a robbery of the Church, and a Government outlay made for the satisfaction of a particular party was to he repaid out of the Church's Own property. It required little wisdom to foresee how easily this could be perverted into a precedent for alienating Church-property, and how certainly it would be made use of to stay for a moment the clamour and impetuosity of those whom no concession could ever satisfy, while anything remained to be conceded. The hon. Member repelled the charge of bigotry brought against those who supported the Church. They had no wish to domineer over their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. They defended it, because they thought the means its enemies were taking to destroy 982 it, and raise another establishment on its ruins, were pernicious to the rights of property, and their end to be struggled against as fatal to civil liberty, on account of that influence which their priesthood invariably aspired to and exercised over the consciences and conduct of the laity. The men of property were not actuated by religious intolerance; but where they had so deep a stake were quite right—Not to wait upon necessity,And leave, themselves no choice of vantage ground,But rather meet the times where best they may,And Shape and fashion them as best they can.He looked with regret to the past, and with mournful anticipation to the approaching winter, when he recalled to mind the waverings and uncertainties of ministers throughout the Session, and looked to the state of feeling and excitement in Ireland, where agitation, every where triumphant, was extending that which one of the clearest-minded and most enlightened statesmen of the age termed "inseparably its effect"—crime and outrage—into districts hitherto peaceable; while Ministers, yielding to choice or intimidation in the House, had suffered the repressive powers Parliament was ready to intrust them with to be diminished and impaired. He should oppose the measure to the last, as grossly unjust to the Church, and injurious to the landlords, while it could satisfy no party and produce no peace.
was of opinion, that the Coronation Oath, and the Articles of Union prohibited the Legislature from appropriating the property of the Church. At the same time, when a case of necessity arose like the present, something must be done. Parliament had certainly the power, if not the right, to act. Ministers were, he admitted, justified in proposing some measure; but he disapproved of the provisions of this Bill. On that account, he should feel himself bound to oppose the Motion for the third reading. The measure in his opinion gave the clergy no security for that property which was left them, and was therefore unworthy to receive the assent of that House.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, that frequently as he had had occasion to trouble the House since his Majesty's Ministers had transformed the Bill which they had themselves introduced, into a measure inconsistent with, and violating every principle of that original Bill, he still could not suffer that last opportunity to pass without expressing 983 his srongest dissent from the substituted measure; and the devious, vacillating, and uncandid course which the Government had pursued in reference to it. The very title of the Bill was a mockery—to that moment it was "to abolish tithes, and to substitute in lieu thereof, a land-tax, and to provide for the redemption of the same," and the Bill passing under that name did not accomplish any one of those objects, but did the very reverse. Instead of abolishing all yearly payments in the nature of tithes, (which, under the unhappy condition to which those who misgoverned Ireland had permitted all law and property in that country to be reduced, might have been some benefit), that Bill only reduced the amount to two-fifths, thereby confiscating that proportion of Church property, but leaving behind whatever evil belonged to the principle of an annual payment. It provided no Land-tax, which, under the Bill as at first introduced, was the favourite means of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr Littleton), for vindicating the law, and restoring the value of tithe property, by taking the collection into the hands of the Government for a limited time, and a specific purpose: but all idea of re-establishing either the law or the rights of property was relinquished—and the principle of redemption which constituted the whole essence of the former measure, was not only abandoned, but a species of rent-charge substituted for it at so low a rate of interest as to form an effectual bar to its ever being redeemed; and the only remaining principle upon which the Government professed to act when they brought forward the measure—namely, that the Irish landlords should receive no part of the property of the Church, was also most grossly violated by the measure in its present shape. In short, at first sight, it would appear as if the Government could have no other object in their course than to afford an example of unparalleled inconsistency in their own conduct, and of a Bill in its progress through the House, violating every principle upon which it was introduced. However the Government had another, and to him a very obvious motive—they sought by that Bill to do indirectly, what they had not the manliness to do directly—that was, to appropriate Church property to secular purposes, avoiding the differences in the Cabinet, and the embarrassment in other quarters which must arise if they 984 openly professed to act upon that principle. They did not venture to yield to the hon. and learned member for Dublin on that point, when he attempted to take them by storm, but they willingly fell into his ambuscade. His noble friend (Lord Acheson) had charged him with having accused the Government of truckling to the hon. and learned Member in the mock division of the other night. He certainly did—but then that was not the first nor the most striking instance of a mean subserviency to the views of that hon. and learned Gentleman which the Government displayed in respect of that Bill. He (Mr. Shaw) alluded more particularly to that great change from the principle of redemption to the flimsy subterfuge of three-fifths the present year (as the grounds of further reduction the next and every succeeding year, till all was gone), a plan, which it appeared from the confession of the hon. member for Waterford (Mr. Barron) the other night, had been concocted at a meeting of what were called "the Irish Members," and which the right hon. Gentleman, (Mr. Littleton), endeavoured to palm upon the late Secretary for the Colonies as his own. That right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley), however, quickly detected the imposture—boldly snatched the "honorable board "from the hands of the right hon. Secretary (Mr. Littleton), and exposed the whole trickery. Yes; he, (Mr. Shaw), would maintain that a more complete hocus pocus of uncandid and unfair dealing had never been attempted. Church plunder was the end, and the means by which the Government sought to attain it, was offering to all the parties concerned a share of the spoils. To the Clergy they said,—allow us to divest you of the title to your whole property, and become State-pensioners for three-fifths of the amount; in which case we will give you an annual charge of one-fifth on the Consolidated Fund (ready, by the way, to be withheld at any moment), and insure you for the present year four-fifths of your income. To the landlords, or more properly to the landed interest, the bribe was ultimately two-fifths of the entire Church property, provided those who held their estates leased would, for the present, submit to the payment of tithes to which their tenants were liable, and from which the landlords were by law exempt; thus doubly violating the rights of property, and endeavouring to 985 justify one injustice by another. The inducement to the House to contribute from the public purse towards carrying into effect that mystified scheme of spoliation was, that without much regarding by whom the first fruits were enjoyed, they were establishing the all-important principle of the alienation of Church property from Church purposes, and, at the same time, stripping the Irish branch of the Established Church of the means of its support. It was a part of the measure that the sum advanced from the Consolidated Fund was to be the first charge on the Perpetuity Purchase Fund, which had been last year appropriated to the sole use of the Established Church, it being at the same time notorious that the Commissioners were, at that moment, without funds to meet the ordinary expenses of repairing Churches, paying salaries, and providing things necessary for Divine Service. He (Mr. Shaw) had that day received a petition from Mr. Hamilton, of Hampton, complaining that a Church in his immediate neighbourhood, at which the average congregation was more than five hundred, had been shut up from the month of December last, owing entirely to the want of funds for its repair; and though Mr. Hamilton had offered to advance the money, (the Church having been principally built and endowed by his, Mr. Hamilton's, father), the Commissioners said they could not reckon upon funds to repay him. The fact was, they had but 6,000l. in hand for the purposes of the commission—owing 20,000l. to the treasury for money advanced last year, and 100,000l. for money borrowed this year, independently of the 100,000l. by that Bill about being charged. And would the House believe, or be deluded by the hope of repayment, when he informed them, that the entire sum as yet realized, from the Perpetuity Purchase Fund, and out of the interests of which the 100,000l. a-year was to be refunded, amounted to 1,860l. 18s. 3d.? He had predicted last year, that the million would not be repaid; and now the noble Lord had postponed the first instalment for another year, and given up two-fifths beside.—[Mr. Littleton: You predicted, that no clergyman would take any part of it.]—He had expressed a strong hope, that the clergy would not accept tint money, and he was sure that those difficulties had been increased by their acceptance of it. In 986 a letter he had received from a friend in the county of Cork that day, the observation of a shrewd Roman Catholic was mentioned to him—"that another rebellion was all that was wanting to knock up the Church for ever." He was persuaded, that while some of the Irish clergy were driven to accept that money from the severe pressure of want, many of them accepted it from the apprehension of the undeserved reproach that would have been cast upon them, had any disturbance arisen from the enforcement of their rights, while any substitute, however inadequate, was offered them. He thought, then, the taunt came with an ill-grace from the right hon. Gentleman, (Mr. Littleton), that the clergy had darkened the Courts of the castle-yard, in Dublin, with their importunity for the wretched pittance that was afforded them—many of whom had been reluctantly compelled to seek it by the privations and misery endured by their families, in consequence of the imbecility, and the timid conduct of that right hon. Gentleman's Government. The right hon. Secretary said, that he paid no great respect to his (Mr. Shaw's) opinions or political principles. He did not feel that to be a censure. His principles and opinions were at least consistent, and disinterested—they had not been taken up for any particular occasion—he had had the misfortune never to have been the supporter of any Government—while he believed the fate of the right hon. Gentleman had been rather of an opposite description—as all Governments, whether Whig or Tory, had enjoyed his (Mr. Littleton's) support and he (Mr. Littleton') seemed even now inclined to lend his aid to a radical one, expecting that to be next. But could the right hon. Gentleman be so wilfully blind as to suppose that the line he had taken that Session with regard to the affairs of Ireland could procure him the respect of any portion of the people of that country. His Majesty had recommended in his Speech from the Throne, a final adjustment of the tithe question without injury to the rights or property of any class of his subjects, or of any institution in Church or State—and the right hon. Gentleman then proposed a plan, which it was not pretended could be a final settlement—and it must be admitted, injured the rights and property of all classes of his Majesty's subjects in Ireland—and by subverting the Church 987 Establishment there, must shake the foundation of every institution in Church and State. Then the right hon. Gentleman outraged every notion of common sense in employing the hon. and learned member for Dublin, the great inventor of dangerous associations, to bring in a Bill for suppressing them; and now the same hon. and learned Gentleman was the author of the present Bill for securing (as they were assured) the welfare and permanency of the Established Church, when the leading and avowed object of his life was to destroy it. Suppose the Church to consent even to receive three fifths of their income, what greater security was there for that than for the whole? In a letter written by the hon. and learned Member in December, he said, tithes both in name and in reality—call them by what name you will, must be totally abolished—the system must go root and branch." The principle of his public life was, that no one Christian should be compelled to contribute to the support of a Church to which he did not belong. How then did the present measure meet that view by merely altering the amount? And what did the hon. and learned member for Tipperary (Mr. Sheil) say?—That "it would be a delusion to tell you that reducing tithes forty per cent would produce pacification." Forty per cent will not do. You must strike off more Bishops. And you may depend upon it next Session Ireland will appear before you and call aloud for a larger measure of relief; no other expectation has been held out to you?" Then they had been told the Irish landlords would be satisfied. He believed they never would approve of injustice; they might indeed, as would be natural, in the midst of the general scramble for property, which seemed to be approaching in Ireland, take what they could get; but it would be without satisfaction. If Church property were confiscated for their use, they would receive it sullenly and contemptuously, well knowing, that it was but a bounty upon insubordination and outrage, the price of crime, and the earnest of the insecurity of their own properties, persons and lives. It could not be said with truth that he was standing on old and bigotted notions of abstract rights. He had consented to make many concessions and many sacrifices in supporting the Bill as brought in by the Government, because it would, 988 through the medium of redemption, have finally adjusted the whole question of tithes; but to that Bill, in its present form, he never could give his assent. It violated every principle of justice, and every right of property. If he was asked what would then become of the Irish clergy for the present year, he would answer, that in November next the composition would be universal throughout Ireland under the Act of 1832. The old system of tithes would be completely done away; and if we were to have any law, or any protection for property at all in Ireland, the clergy would have every possible remedy and power known to the law for the enforcement of their rights. He was convinced the clergy would use those powers as they had ever exercised their rights, with consideration and forbearance—they would never press upon a poor man, really unable to pay—but he hoped they would not abandon their just claims, nor hesitate to use the most summary and effectual process of the law against those who were contumacious, and unwilling to pay, from a spirit of unlawful combination. To the clergy, he would say, "Be just, and fear not." He thought they could recover the principal amount of their just demands by the ordinary process of the law, if they did but receive that protection due by every Government to those intrusted to its care; but even if it were otherwise, and if they were to fall, then, he would say, let it be with magnanimity, and not by their own hands—let them bear in mind the sentiments of the eloquent moderator, who, in his address at the close of the late Session of the general assembly in Scotland advised the Ministers of that Church, in a language, the spirit, if not the words of which, he hoped he recollected, and never would forget, that in the event of an anti-Christian administration infringing the rights and privileges of the Church, "then," said that eminent and faithful man, "it will become our duty to remember the men and the deeds, and the courage, and the steadfastness of former times—to withstand every attempt to deprive us of our rights, or to corrupt our principles; and if the Church must perish, rather let her perish with an unsullied fame, than live by the sacrifice of any one truth for which God hath enjoined us to contend—or of any one principle, in defence of which our forefathers bled and suffered and died."
§ Mr. Littleton
said, he was sensible that the Government had exposed itself to the hostility of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr Shaw) by their opposition to those exclusive principles, of which the hon. Gentleman was the strenuous advocate; and he took credit, on behalf of the Government for having deserved his reproach.
§ Mr. Sinclair
said, that it would have been deemed unreasonable and unjust in any House of Commons, except the present, which claimed to itself the honour of being reformed, to have rudely interrupted one of the Representatives of the people, especially at the early hour of half-past eight, when endeavouring to discharge a solemn and important duty. He should not, however, be deterred from avowing, that, if this question were pressed to a division, he should vote against the present Bill, because its provisions were essentially changed since he supported it on its first introduction. He knew that such conduct would be unpopular, both in this House and in the country; but he should not shrink from acting according to his conscientious conviction. He had not objected to this amendment of the hon. member for Dublin, but had voted in its favour, because he had always maintained that the burthen of tithes devolved on the proprietor and not on the tenant, and he was desirous to accelerate the arrangement as much as possible by which this principle was practically carried into effect. But he felt that there was no security provided in this Bill for the three-fifths, which still continued to be the nominal patrimony of the Church. The appropriation was now declared to be an open question, and before many years elapsed, the whole would be absorbed by a faction, half Popish and half Dissenting, whom nothing, would satisfy but the destruction of the Protestant Church, and the subversion of the Protestant faith. He had, however, chiefly risen for the purpose of recording his deep and unfeigned regret at the system which his Majesty's Government had adopted in reference to the Church. He trusted that the few remarks which he intended to submit would be couched in the language of respectful remonstrance, not in terms of acrimonious hostility. He would gladly have abstained altogether from taking part in the discussions on this subject, and he dissented most reluctantly from the views of the Administration; but 990 this was a question of principle, and therefore admitted of no compromise—this was a crisis of peril, and therefore required decision. He firmly believed that the measures which the House was called upon to adopt were as infallibly calculated, as they were assuredly not intended, to shake the very basis of confidence and protection on which the social fabric rested. The clergy, instead of being the legitimate owners of their property, become tenants at will, removable at the pleasure of the Legislature; and the wedge, which they were now about to introduce, would serve for the accomplishment of that object, which he as strenuously deprecated as the Dissenters imperiously demanded—he meant the severance of the connection between the Church and the State; or, in other words, the confiscation and embezzlement of all Church property throughout these realms. His Majesty's Ministers had often said, that it was their desire and their duty to speak out; he intended to follow their precept, though he could scarcely add, their example. It appeared to him, that they were pursuing a tortuous and inexplicable, not a straightforward or intelligible course. The House was, indeed, assured, that on this great question they were all of one mind; but when they compared what was said within these walls with the sentiments uttered in another place, was it possible to avoid arriving at the conclusion, that the unanimity so often contended for was rather nominal than sincere? It resembled a ray of light, which appeared homogeneous to superficial or ignorant observers; but which, when submitted to the prism of strict and searching scrutiny, was resolved into constituent elements, exhibiting a striking diversity, or rather an absolute contrast, both in color and in brightness. Two of the most brilliant tints had unhappily disappeared from the ministerial spectrum in that House; the blue, as represented by his right hon. friend, the late First Lord of the Admiralty—the orange, or true Protestant, as denoted by the distinguished Ex-secretary for the Colonies; and ever since that period, the beams, reflected by the Cabinet upon the Church, had displayed feeble, ambiguous, ill-defined, and flickering light; his Majesty's Ministers were "willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike;" they longed to propitiate the Dissenters, and yet were loth to break with the Church. He believed, that they 991 had many secret misgivings as to the tendency of their present course; and, when about to descend the precipitous declivity, they almost involuntarily recoiled at the contemplation of the gulph which yawned below. By what means did they expect to arrest the downward progress of their own career? Where was the line of demarcation which was to separate concession from resistance? When were they to say to the Church destructionist, "So far shalt thou go, but no further?" He, at least, would so express himself as not to be misunderstood. He was certain that it was equally inconsistent with law, with equity, with justice, and with sound policy, to divert any portion of the ecclesiastical property in Great Britain or in Ireland from purposes in the strictest sense ecclesiastical—by which he meant the erection and endowment of places of worship in connection with the Established Church. If, therefore, he was asked at what point they ought to begin to withstand encroachment, his answer was, "Commence it now—here let us fight the battle—here let us take our ground." Compliance served only to engender fresh demands, to stimulate the ardour of their enemies, and to damp the courage of their friends. The opponents of the Church were as insatiable as they were implacable; they thought that they themselves had gained nothing, whilst the Church had anything to lose. He trusted that the friends of true religion would rally round that banner which God had given to them that fear him, and that the machinations of her enemies would terminate in their own confusion. Instead of obtruding upon a reluctant audience many other arguments, which under more auspicious circumstances he should have ventured to adduce, he would conclude by reiterating his intention to vote against the third reading of this Bill.
contended, that, by the Bill as it now stood, a better security would be given for the collection of the three-fifths than could otherwise exist for the collection of the whole tithe. In fact, there would be no security, unless this Bill became a law, for the collection of any portion of tithe; but now that difficulty would be got rid of. The speech of the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin seemed to him the dying note of the heretofore ascendancy party in Ireland; that hon. and learned 992 Gentleman deplored this Bill as an injury to the clergy of Ireland; but how could it injure them? It was admitted on all hands, that they could not collect more than a fraction of their tithe. By this Bill they were secure of eighty per cent. upon their former nominal amount. They would not be reduced to such straits as some of the clergymen had been, to sell—not their wines or their carriages, but their books. That resource would not now be necessary; they would obtain exchequer bills bearing interest at three-halfpence per day for every 100l.; and these bills they could get cash for at Cheltenham, or any other fashionable place where they might choose to reside, without any difficulty or discount. The hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin was strangely inconsistent in his logic. One day he objected to this Bill as a robbery on the landlords of Ireland; on the next day he objected to it as a bonus to them. On Monday he said they were robbed by the Bill; comes Tuesday, and his tone was altered,—the landlords had a great bonus of forty per cent by it; and in a kind of play-house whisper he informed the House, that the Bill would have both effects. Why, none but the representative of an Irish university could have adopted such extraordinary logic. The Bill was one which would have a conciliatory tendency. It would have the effect of collecting the tithe without any effusion of blood. It would form a new epoch in the history of the English government of Ireland during a period of 670 years. This was the first great step towards a conciliatory system in Ireland; and it would succeed, if the Government had the firmness to persevere in it. He would repeat, it would stop the effusion of blood for twelve months at least. He said twelve months, as not knowing whether the system might be allowed to go on beyond that time. In a pecuniary point of view it would be a saving to this country. At present the collection of tithe in Ireland cost the country 1,500,000l.; and though this country might be called upon for some present small pecuniary penalty, still it would be money well laid out, and would prove an ultimate saving. The hon. and earned Gentleman had expressed a hope that he might see better times. In that hope he concurred, though he had no doubt that his views of better times applied to very 993 different circumstances from those which the hon. and learned Gentleman contemplated. He (Mr. O'Connell) hoped for such times as would stop the effusion of blood—to prop up a bad system of tithe collection. He hoped there or elsewhere no obstacle would be opposed to this healing measure—that no party in that House or elsewhere would be found to stand between the Government and the Irish people. He hoped that at the end of more than six centuries of misgovernment no attempt would be made to blast this first step towards the pacification of Ireland. He hoped that when certain parties considered the security of their property and their dignities, they would not oppose this healing measure, and prefer another twelve months of discord, not, and bloodshed. Whatever opposition the King's Government might receive on this question, he hoped they would have the manliness and the firmness to resist it; and there could be no doubt the resistance would be successful. It had been said, that this was his Bill. It was not. He had not brought it in; but he wished to make it such a Bill as would be useful to Ireland. The House of Commons had consented to reduce it to its present state; and he had no doubt that the people would stand by and support their faithful Representatives in this measure. He hoped that they would not suffer it to be defeated by the efforts of disappointed ambition—of vexed, and fatigued, and expiring bigotry.
The Bill was read a third time. Some Clauses were added, and verbal Amendments made, and the Bill was passed.