§ Mr. T. Attwood
considered the Appropriation Bill the most important measure in the Session, and yet it had been usual to pass it through the House literally in the twinkling of an eye. He was not disposed now to trouble them with any kind of remarks, but as several little matters had already been occupying their attention, he thought he might as well ask of the noble Lord one little question. He wished to know whether the foreign honour of this country was in safe keeping. He had lately paid some little attention to foreign affairs, and his opinion sincerely was, that England had every year been sinking deeper and deeper in political degradation. He did not particularly allude to the state of affairs in the Peninsula, but generally to Holland, Turkey, and Russia. Russia had been for a long period encroaching on England, and daily and hourly insulting her; and he wished in good faith and sincerity to ask the noble Lord whether, when all these immense resources were placed at the disposal of Government, their object was to purchase the degradation of England? If the effect would be to support the foreign honour of the nation, he should be quite content, although it was at the expense of domestic misery. He had no objection to their 1112 maintaining great armies and magnificent fleets, if it was not to be altogether in vain; but he would decidedly object to the passing of bill after bill if, under the pretence of supporting English interests, they were allowed to sink every year deeper in degradation and disgrace. Were they, after permitting Russia, in defiance of the honour of England, to retain quiet possession of Poland, to sit down and allow that power also to usurp the dominion of Turkey? He did not wish the noble Lord to make any disclosure that might be inconsistent with a due regard to the public service, but he trusted he should receive an assurance that the honour of England, athough long suspected, was not altogether sacrificed.
§ Lord Althorp
was happy to be able to give the hon. Member the assurance that the honour of Great Britain was supported abroad, and that it had sustained no detriment.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that the 100,000l. was taken, in the first instance, from the perpetuity fund as far as it would go, and the deficiency was to be supplied from the Consolidated Fund.
§ Mr. Littleton
expressed his firm conviction that the result would, in all respects disappoint the hon. and learned Gentleman's expectations. But if it should not be so,—if it should turn out that some sacrifice was necessary,—it must be recollected that that sacrifice was for the pacification of an entire country. The measure was one to which the Protestant clergy of Ireland were looking with hope and confidence. Among other representations on the subject, he had received a communication from the whole of the Protestant clergy of the diocese of Dromore, declaring, that if the Irish Tithe Bill were not to pass into a law, they should regard the consequences with the utmost apprehension and alarm.
§ Order of the Day read. On the Motion that the Bill be read a third time,1113
§ Mr. Shaw
maintained, that so far from giving satisfaction in Ireland, the Bill had occasioned entire dissatisfaction: he could pledge himself, on his honour as a gentleman, to prove from the clearest materials that four-fifths of the clergy of Ireland were decidedly hostile to it. And not only was he enabled to affirm that such was the opinion of the clergy, but that the opinion of the laity fully coincided with theirs. He might be allowed to say, that he represented the clergy and the gentry of Ireland. Surely hon. Members did not suppose that he meant to say, that his opinions represented the great body of the educated class throughout Ireland; he had not the slightest idea of saying anything more, than that the constituency which he had the honour to represent was composed of the clergy and the gentry of Ireland. The University of Dublin had 2,500 electors, and they all belonged to the classes of the clergy or the gentry. He was, therefore, in communication with those. He believed he had a larger correspondence with Ireland than any Member of that House; and he thought himself fully warranted in affirming that the opinion of the majority ran decidedly in opposition to the tithe measure which had been introduced by his Majesty's Government.
Mr. Secretary Rice
observed, that the hon. and learned Gentleman, to be assured of that fact, must have had communications with twelve or thirteen hundred persons. He congratulated his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the great increase of the Post-office revenue, which that circumstance must have occasioned. From what he knew of Ireland, however, he must deny the hon. and learned Gentleman's conclusion. If ever there was a measure which was considered to be for the good of the Protestant Church and the Protestant laity in Ireland, it was the Irish Tithe Bill. He should like to know, to what kind of representations, and what kind of incitements, the 1,200 letters received by the hon. and learned Gentleman were replies. He trusted that the prophecies of the hon. and learned Gentleman on this subject would prove as fallacious as all his former prophecies. Nobody could for a moment believe, that the Protestant clergy of Ireland would experience the inconveniences in their transactions with the landlords of Ireland, who were also chiefly Protestants, 1114 which they would have reason to apprehend in any transactions with the impoverished peasantry. He was sure nothing of that kind would occur. He was sure that the landlords of Ireland would give every possible facility to the arrangements on the subject. But in what condition would the Protestant clergy of Ireland be placed, if, instead of obtaining the advantages of the Bill, they were thrown back on the peasantry of that country, under new circumstances of excitement and discontent? He was convinced, that by placing the burden on the landlords they had got rid of the greatest cause of complaint and dissatisfaction. He considered the Irish Tithe Bill as one of the best answers that had ever been made to the cry for the repeal of the Union; and that, connected with the generosity which this country had exhibited on the occasion, it would do more to cement the Union, than any act which could be imagined. If the, hon. and learned Gentleman's predictions were to be verified, and if the Bill were to fail, the Church of Ireland would be in extreme danger. No man was more attached to the Church of Ireland than he (Mr. S. Rice) was. He had supported the Bill, for the sake of that Church; for he could not contemplate a continuance of the existence of the Church of Ireland if the Protestant clergy of that country were, by any circumstances, to be driven back to contend for their rights with an impoverished tenantry.
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, that if some such Bill as the Irish Tithe Bill were not adopted, there would be an end to the Protestant establishment in Ireland. He believed, that by the adoption of that measure, the Protestant clergy of Ireland would be placed in a much better situation than they had ever been before. He considered it a great advantage to them, and that it would save them from utter destruction.
§ Colonel O'Grady
was in constant communication with his constituents, and he was happy to say, that out of all the clergy who resided in the county which he had the honour to represent, he had not received a single letter against the Bill. He understood, also, that all the gentlemen of the Grand Juries of Cork, Limerick, and Kerry, concurred in entertaining a favourable opinion of the Bill. He trusted 1115 that it would succeed. If it failed, it was clear that the whole of the tithes would go into the pockets of the landlords, and the Protestant establishment in Ireland would be irrecoverably lost. It was an awful moment, but he trusted that all classes would do their duty.
was satisfied, whatever certain persons might have communicated to the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, that the great body of the laity would never join the conspirators in their endeavours to overturn the Church of that country.
§ Mr. Hume
said, those persons were greatly mistaken who supposed that the clergy of Ireland would be dissatisfied with this Bill. If the Bill did not pass, what would they do—what would become of them? For his own part he almost wished it would not pass, and then they would see in another year how different a shape the Church question would assume. The present measure was, undoubtedly, one of great liberality, and if defeated, would never be followed up by anything half so advantageous to the Church. The hon. and learned Recorder of Dublin (Mr. Shaw) would surely not allege that the clergy were indifferent to the peculiarity of their present situation, or that they did not know their own interest. If they did not choose to take what was now offered, he (Mr. Hume) would tell him that they might go without, for that House, he was satisfied, would vote them no more English money. Therefore, let them take that or none. That was the understanding, and it must be abided by. But what they had done he contended was wrong—it was wrong to vote 100,000l. to keep up the Church in Ireland. Instead of thus voting money to keep it up—they ought rather to cut it down to the real wants of the Protestant portion of the community. They burthened the Exchequer, and did not do away with the dissatisfaction. He wished in that, the last Act of the Session to say a word or two to his Majesty's Ministers. And he must tell them plainly, that the country had been wholly disappointed in its reasonable and just expectations of amelioration and reform. Before the Parliament met, the people had naturally been indulging the hope that substantial reforms were preparing—that during the recess Ministers were maturing and perfecting those plans of relief which naturally sprang out of the great measure of reform. They 1116 had indulged the hope not only of reforms of a civil and financial character, but of a great and searching reform of the abuses connected with the Church Establishment, and the Sovereign himself from the Throne had adverted to these necessary reforms, thus giving the fullest sanction to them. They had also expected that those who were looked upon in some degree as an exclusive class in the country—as men beneath their fellow-men belonging to another creed—would receive an early and full relief from disabilities under which they had too long been permitted to labour. Did the Acts of his Majesty's Ministers satisfy any of these reasonable expectations? Assuredly not. Why, what was the amount of all that had been effected by the Government? Only one Bill which could be called a public Bill—that for the Amendment of the Poor-laws—had yet been passed. The Tithe Bill had been carried through that House certainly, but it was not yet passed. Every other measure introduced by his Majesty's Ministers had failed. Therefore was it that he (Mr. Hume) said, he was not at all surprised at the feeling of disappointment which so generally prevailed throughout the country. At the same time he must admit, there were some redeeming matters on which the public might look with satisfaction. They had fortunately removed from the Cabinet the Members who were most strongly adverse to those reforms on which the people were most bent. He could congratulate the country on being in a better situation in this respect. He did not wish to refer, in support of what he said, to any of those hon. Gentlemen who more peculiarly coincided in his views and acted with him, but he would appeal to the most moderate man in that House to stand up and say, if the expectations of the people had not been most signally defeated? He trusted these complaints would not have to be made at the close of the next Session. He hoped for better things. They had now got a Government which he hoped, by its acts, would prove itself a firm, steady, and liberal one. If this were the case, the people would soon cease to complain—they would not look back with dissatisfaction, but would rather look forward with confidence and hope. He would, before sitting down, take the liberty of saying a word or two to the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The noble Lord and his colleagues 1117 would now have time to look about them—they would have six months before them in which to prepare those measures which must infallibly be decided during the ensuing Session of Parliament. Those measures must necessarily be of a bold and decisive character, or they would not be final. They must have in that House no more piecemeal legislation—no scrapwork—no bit of reform here and bit of reform there—but they must have those large and comprehensive measures which would have regard to the interests and the welfare of all. They must cut down the Irish Church to its proper dimensions—they must give the most ample relief to that class which, in his opinion, formed the majority of the people—they must apply themselves to the reform of the Church of England—they must do away with the abuses of Corporations—a subject, by the way, which the noble Lord himself admitted to be next only in importance to the great question of Reform itself; and they must again go unsparingly to work in reducing the expenditure of the country. With respect to the latter subject, he had no hesitation in saying, that considerable reductions might be made in several of the great departments without impairing the efficiency of any branch of the public service. The collection alone of the public revenue amounted to between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l. a-year, and this, he was satisfied, without doing injury to any party, or to the State, might be reduced by one-third. The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had, on many occasions, expressed himself friendly to the consolidation of various departments of the public service. Now what was there to hinder the noble Lord from consolidating the Excise, Customs, and Stamp-Duties' Offices? The Army, Navy, and, above all, the Ordnance, must in the next Session be greatly reduced. By the weakness of the late Administration the control of the army was taken from them, and, therefore, there could be no great wonder that reform had not been more efficient. Was the army still to be beyond the control of the Government? Such a state of things ought never to have been, and if it did continue, means ought to be promptly taken at once to put an end to it. The army was far too great—its numerical amount ought to he reduced. Now, that they had applied a real and substantial remedy to the great grievance of Ireland— 1118 and a costly one it was for this country—they had a right to expect a reduction of 10,000 to 12,000 of the 24,000 soldiers at present quartered in that country. If the sacrifices made by this country were not to be followed up by such results, where, in the name of God, was the policy in agreeing to them. He (and with him he was sure the country at large) would look for most material reductions in the expenditure for the army, as well as that for the Colonial and Ordnance Department. Why, in the latter department he found that the salaries of officers for preserving the stores amounted to very nearly twice as much as the stores themselves: the stores cost 40,000l., the charges for management 73,000l. Could any one suppose, that the country would rest satisfied with such glaring abuses? The fact was, the whole of the military branches ought to be consolidated. These ameliorations must be followed up by others, more especially those which bore upon the manufactures and productive industry of the country. Ministers must meet the question of the Corn-laws fairly and manfully, and if they gave way to a little pressure from without, he (Mr. Hume) did not think they would do the less justice to the manufacturer. Those laws injured all classes without doing any real or permanent good to that one which it was intended should be benefitted by their enactment. They, in fact, starved one portion of the community on the plea of giving warmth to the other. However, he should not go further—he thought he had marked out work enough for the noble Lord, and yet not more than with his many assistants he was able to accomplish. Let it, however, be recollected, that the noble Lord had plenty of hands to assist him—it was his duty to direct—to divide and portion out the work—he was the good genius to whom the people looked to superintend those ameliorations which other individuals must shape into forms. And if he, the noble Lord, only laid down the principles upon which the subordinates were to act, neither he nor the people of this country would, he thought, have much reason to fear the result.
§ Lord Althorp
would not attempt to follow the hon. member for Middlesex through all the details of his speech, but would make one or two observations on the main points which he had brought under the consideration of the House. As 1119 to the Estimates for the different branches of the public service he must say, that he perfectly agreed with the hon. Gentleman, that they ought to be reduced to the lowest amount consistent with the due efficiency of the public service. He certainly felt it his duty to reduce them as much as possible; but he would put it to the House whether his practice had not been in accordance with his creed—whether real and substantial reductions had not been effected by the Government to which he belonged? Then as to consolidation of offices, the hon. Member had certainly not mistaken his opinions. He always approved of such a course—he had always adopted it when it was possible to do so. At the same time the principle might be carried out to too great an extent, and this he considered would be the case if the Customs, Excise, and Stamp Offices were consolidated. The public service would, he was sure, be inconvenienced by the adoption of the principle in this instance. Indeed, he did not hesitate to say, that great confusion would be the result. But the hon. Member said "how little had been done." He, however, would ask the House to look back. He would freely admit, that more might have been done, but he really believed that no one would fairly charge the fault to the Government. He would ask the hon. Gentleman if he did not think it right to pass the Estimates early in the Session. If that were so, how could Government, at the same time, force on Bills of a complicated nature, involving, perhaps, new principles, and various and important details? Every day on which the courtesy of the House had given priority to the Government, Ministers had strenuously exerted themselves, certainly not to force their measures through, but to get them on as rapidly as was consistent with their own intrinsic importance, and with the respect which was due to the Members of that House. The Estimates were not passed till Easter, and then the Government had pressed on the Poor-law Bill, esteeming it of greater importance than any other measure. But many other important subjects had been entertained though not introduced by the Government, and many discussions had taken place which he hoped would be productive of good. If the Government, however, was to blame, he was the person on whom the censure of the House ought to fall. The fault was in him if business 1120 had not been properly pushed. It was, he admitted, very possible—nay, lie knew nothing more probable—than that he had not conducted the business in that House in the best possible manner; but of this he was sure, that he never interrupted its due course by long speeches. It was not by addressing the House oftener than his duty required—or by the length of those addresses—that the business of the country was impeded, and if it had been impeded, he did not see by what means he could remedy the evil. If, as had been suggested, he were to bring forward half a dozen important measures at the commencement of the Session, and to throw them at once upon the Table, he would be obliged to abandon most of them, while the progress of those which were pressed forward would be impeded to a very inconvenient degree. He, therefore, considered that it would be the duty of the Government, first to select the measures of the most pressing urgency, and then to adopt the requisite steps for preventing any unnecessary delay to their discussion and progress through the House. He was not enabled, at the present time, to state what were the most important measures, but he could assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government were resolved to introduce such as were necessary for carrying forward, in a temperate and proper manner, the reform which, he must admit, was required in various establishments of the country. He sincerely hoped that the measures which they should introduce would be such as to meet the approbation of the House. The hon. Gentleman had stated, that the Government ought not to heed any slight obstacles which they might find in their way: he would only say, in reply, that their conduct, in regard to the Poor-law Bill, was not such as to afford any ground for the observation of the hon. Member. As to the different details of the Estimates which had been referred to, he did not think it necessary to enter upon them, but he would admit, that it was undoubtedly the duty of Government to make reductions in the establishment, as far as was consistent with the public service. In conclusion, he should only observe, that the Government would take care that in every department, either of collection or expenditure, the most efficient economy should be observed.
trusted, that a satisfactory 1121 adjustment of the Tithe Question would be taken into consideration. Such an adjustment was of the utmost importance both to the landlord and the tenant.
§ Mr. William Peter
agreed with the hon. members for Cambridge, and Middlesex, as to the necessity of settling the two great questions of English Tithe Commutation, and of Corporation Reform without delay. The people were most anxious on those subjects; and he trusted that they would not be postponed beyond another Session. With respect to the question more immediately before the House,—the Consolidated Fund Appropriation Bill; he concurred with the hon. member for Middlesex, in thinking that the mode, by which it was proposed, to supply the deficiency of the rent charges by payments out of the Consolidated Fund, was not altogether free from objections. Still the objections were greatly out-weighed by the arguments on the other side, by the probable, or, as he should rather say, by the sure and lasting benefits which must result from the measure. The hon. Member had said, that the money advanced from the Consolidated Fund, would never be repaid. Well, for the sake of argument, suppose such were to be the case; even then he (Mr. Peter) would maintain that the good of the plan greatly preponderated over the evil, that the money was judiciously laid out, was wisely, and advantageously applied. Better, ten thousand times better, that the sum should be expended in peace than in war; better, ten thousand times, that it should go in deeds of conciliation and kindness, than in deeds of violence, and bloodshed, and oppression, than in compelling hollow truces, and reluctant obedience by means of reinforced armies, and renewed coercion Acts! Admitting, then, that the money to be advanced, were never repaid, still he would contend, that this country would be a gainer, even in a pecuniary point of view. But why should this be the case? Why should the money be not repaid? Parliament had the means of repayment within its own power. Should the Perpetuity Purchase Fund; should the funds in the hands of the ecclesiastical commissioners be inadequate, still there were means, ample means, within the reach of Parliament. Let the Consolidated Fund be reimbursed out of the surplus revenue of the Irish Church as soon as that surplus 1122 should have been ascertained, and the spiritual wants of the Protestant population, in the fullest and amplest manner provided for. Such an application would be strictly just and warranted by the occasion; it would be an appropriation to purposes strictly Protestant and ecclesiastical. Let the Irish Church have whatever might be required for the spiritual wants and comforts of its Protestant congregations; but do not refuse, do not grudge, some little portion of its surplus funds, of its superfluous revenues, to the payment of so just a debt,—a debt contracted in the service of that Church, for the support of its interests, for the security of its property and institutions. One of the hon. members for the University of Dublin, had reprobated this as a strong, as an unprecedented measure. But was it not a strong case; and did not strong cases require strong remedies? But let that hon. Member, let him and his learned colleague look at Ireland; let them look at the state of public feeling in that country, and consider the difficulties with which the tithe question was encompassed on every side; let them seriously and honestly contemplate all these things, and then let them say, whether they really believed any better mode could be found for setting the question at rest; for settling it with any thing like justice or advantage to all parties? Gentlemen must know the danger of delay; they must all be aware that every month's, every week's uncertainty would embarrass the question with further difficulties, would involve Church property, and Church institutions in deeper peril, and more inextricable confusion. Suppose for a moment (though he could not contemplate the possibility without alarm), suppose the measure should be rejected by the other House of Parliament, what would be the consequences? what would become of the Irish clergy? what would be the fate of their Church? what the situation of Ireland altogether? Would any one pretend to say, that tithes could continue to be levied under the existing law, that even armies could overcome the passive resistance now in operation against them; or, did any one flatter himself that Parliament would again come forward with further advances in aid of the Irish clergy? What then was to be done, or how would the clergy be supported? how were tithes, or any portion of them to be rescued and secur- 1123 ed, should the proposed measure be rejected? The more he considered the subject, the more firmly was he convinced, that the only chance which remained of doing anything for the relief of the Irish clergy, or of securing any portion of Irish tithe property, was by adopting the proposed measure; was by transferring the burthen from the shoulders of the occupying tenant to those of the landlord: for this, indeed, the landlords should be fully indemnified, should be largely, and liberally remunerated. For the additional risque and labour thus thrown upon them, they were justly, they were legally entitled to the amplest compensation. But did not this Bill afford it to them? He contended, that it did so, and that the bonus of two-fifths, or forty per cent was adequate and ample. By the first proposition of the right hon. Secretary, in the Bill brought forward by him at the commencement of the Session, the bonus was only one-fifth. For every 100l. due from the tenant, the landlord was to pay 80l., retaining the difference, or twenty per cent for the risque and trouble of collection. But this was doubly objectionable; it was neither a sufficient compensation for the landlord, nor did it in any way relieve the occupying tenant, who would have had as much to pay as before,—with the sole difference of paying it to the landlord instead of paying it to the tithe-owner. The right hon. Secretary, therefore, instead of deserving blame, had acted wisely and judiciously in altering his plan—in increasing the amount of compensation to the landlord, and in allowing the tenant to reap the benefit of it during the remainder of his term. So far all was right; but one objection still remained behind, and that was the delay which must have occurred in carrying the measure into execution. The case was urgent, calling for immediate remedy; but the relief might have been postponed for years, might have been deferred until 1839. Ireland might have been in flame,—torrents of blood might have flowed,—Church property might have been irrecoverably lost, before the Act could have come into effectual operation. This was a serious and fatal objection; but, thank God, that objection had been removed, and there was at length, he trusted, every prospect of settling this long-agitated and unhappy question, and of thus extinguishing one of the most prolific sources of 1124 Ireland's discords, and of Ireland's woes. The hon. member for the University of Dublin, had, indeed, prophesied that the proposed measure would not succeed. He (Mr. Peter) would not say, that the wish was father to the thought; but he would tell those hon. Gentlemen why he differed from them, and why he thought that it would succeed. It would succeed, he thought, because it was palpably the interest of all parties, of tenants, landlords, and tithe-owners, that it should do so. It was a measure, which would be more or less advantageous to them all. The occupying tenant would be at once relieved by it from two-fifths, or forty per cent of his present burthen; the landlord would be remunerated for his share in the the transaction, by the tranquillized spirit and subordination of all around him, by the improved state of his tenantry, and by the consequently increased value of his property; and finally the tithe-owner would be an equal—nay, a greater gainer; for, though not receiving the strictly lull amount, though receiving but 80l. out of every 100l., to which he was nominally entitled; he would still receive more, infinitely more, than he could otherwise, by any possible means have hoped to obtain; he would receive it, too, clear of all deductions, free from all risk, and peril, and anxiety. Thus, then, would the measure be for the advantage of all parties; thus, would it be the interest of all to yield it obedience, and to promote its success. He rejoiced, therefore, to see such a measure passing the House of Commons; and he hoped, he prayed, for the sake of Ireland, for the interests of its Protestant Church, for the peace and welfare of all classes and denominations of its inhabitants, that the Bill would not be prevented by opposition in any other place from becoming a law. Sure he was, that the rejection, or even long retardment of such a measure would be fatal to Church property in Ireland,—would be detrimental to the best interests of all classes of the community, whether Catholic or Protestant, throughout that distracted country. Let the opponents, therefore, of the measure pause; let them reflect well on the course which they were pursuing, and on the awful responsibility which they would incur to their King, to their country, and to their God, should they succeed in throwing out, or in long retarding this beneficent measure.
§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
was surprised at the pertinacity with which the Irish Tithe Bill had been opposed, as he considered it likely to be of great advantage to the tithe-owners. But he considered that the interests of the clergy were secondary, as compared to those of the farmer. The farmers, or peasantry of Ireland, were, however, all ruined, and considering that their rights were quite as sacred as those of the clergy, or, he might say, much more sacred, they had a stronger claim than the clergy on that House for protection. But he regretted to say, that the most useful classes, in the community, found neither commiseration nor relief.
§ Mr. Ewart
suggested, that the indirect taxation of the country should be apportioned on the various classes of the community, in a manner more approaching to the ad valorem, system. There were many articles used by the poor, which could be easily distinguished from articles of the same character, but of a better quality, which were consumed by the richer classes; and if an ad valorem duty were levied upon them, it would be like an indirect Property-tax.
§ Mr. Richard Potter
hoped, that the circumstance of the Dissenters not having pressed their claims this Session, would not be against them; but that the Government would feel itself bound to place the redress of their grievances among the foremost of its measures.
§ Mr. Warburton
trusted, that the Government would, early next Session, propose the abolition of all taxes on knowledge,—printing, pamphlets, newspapers, ["malt."] No, no; he would say nothing about malt at present. With regard to these taxes on knowledge, their effect was, to transfer the instruction of the humble classes to persons destitute of moral character, who scrupled not to infringe the law, and mislead the people.
§ Mr. Baines
said, that a general system of education should be adopted, so as to diffuse useful knowledge throughout the country.
§ The Bill was read a third time.