§ The following passage in the King's Speech at the opening of the Session, was read, on the Motion of Mr. Littleton:—'I recommend to you the early consideration of such a final adjustment of tithes in that part of the United Kingdom (Ireland) as may extinguish all just causes of complaint, without injury to the rights and property of any class of my subjects, or to any institution in Church or State.'
§ The right hon. Gentleman then moved that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, on the subject of Tithes (Ireland), on the House having resolved itself into such a Committee,
§ Mr. Littleton
spoke to the following effect:—In rising to call the attention of the Committee, to the subject of which he had given notice, he would first express his regret that a question of so much importance had not fallen to abler hands He regretted it because, the question he was about to call on them to discuss involved principles deeply affecting property at large; and he would venture to say, that there never was submitted to the consideration of Parliament any question on which more entirely depended the future tranquillity of Ireland. He must beg leave before he proceeded further, to caution Members of all parties against supposing that, in discussing that subject they were considering a question which in any manner involved the appropriation and application of Church property in Ireland. That was a perfectly distinct question—it was one which had been made the subject of discussion heretofore, and might be thought, be constitutionally made the subject of discussion hereafter. He implored Gentlemen therefore, in entering on the consideration of the question, in 573 what manner they could best realise the property of the Church, they would not for a moment, mix it up with the perfectly distinct question of the appropriation or application of that property. The question which the House had to consider, was simply and entirely a question of property. It was as much a question of property, as if it regarded only the payment of rent; and that might be abundantly proved by the fact, that the opposition to the payment of tithes in Ireland had not only been extended to the property of the Church, but in an equal and perhaps greater degree, to such portion of it as belonged to lay impropriators. It would not, perhaps, be altogether unprofitable, if he were to invite the Committee to go back, and consider what the state of the law, and the condition of public feeling with reference to tithe property in Ireland had been during the greater part of the last century. He would not, exhaust the attention of the Committee, by referring, in detail, to the history of late periods. He would merely beg them to bear in mind, that the Statute-book had been loaded with enactments by the Legislature of both countries for the purpose of giving the proprietors of tithes effectual means to enforce the law. The whole of those enactments had proved ineffectual; many of them of the most severe description, extending even to capital punishment, had proved utterly useless; they had in some cases produced a momentary tranquillity and momentary concession, which, however, had generally been followed by fiercer outbreaks and more obstinate resistance. In saying that, he knew he was, in some degree, making-admissions to those whose opposition he might have to encounter. To such a height, however, had this resistance to tithe, and the state of public feeling in opposition to tithe property, arisen in Ireland in the year 1823, that his right hon. friend the member for the University of Cambridge, (Mr. Goulburn) who was then Secretary for Ireland, introduced an Act for the composition of tithes. The principle of that Act was of the utmost importance and the greatest value, and the general machinery of it, in his opinion, did great honour to the talent and ability of his right hon. friend. Indeed, the importance of that measure could not be underrated by any one who was aware of the benefits which it produced 574 in some parts of Ireland. Great, however, as were the beneficial results of that Bill, it did not reach the root of the evil, and to so great an extent had this opposition to the payment of tithe in that country increased in 1831, that his right hon. friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, then Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Stanley), was under the necessity of introducing two Bills, for the consideration of Parliament: the object of one was, to relieve the almost utter destitution of a very large portion of the clergy; and the object of the other was, to give, by a compulsory arrangement, more complete effect to the enactments of the Bill of 1823. But, valuable as those enactments undoubtedly were, they went only half way in the settlement of the question. The principle of composition, was right; and that principle having been universally adopted, it was the design of the Government to take it as the basis of the measure he meant to explain to the Committee. Valuable as the enactments of 1823, and 1832, were, they were manifestly insufficient; and the House would scarcely require to be reminded that, in the course of last Session, so general in Ireland, was the distress of the clergy, occasioned by the general resistance to the payment of tithe, that the House of Commons was induced to pass an Act, which did great honour to its liberality, to grant a sum of no less than 1,000,000l., for the purpose of defraying the outstanding claims of the Church for the arrears of 1831 and 1832, and the tithes of 1833. It would, perhaps, be interesting to the House, if he were to give some explanation of the results which had attended that enactment. The hon. and learned member for Dublin seemed to apprehend that the parties in Ireland who were entitled, under the Act, to avail themselves of the relief offered to them, had done so in a very few instances. In that respect the hon. and learned Gentleman was mistaken. The total number of applications sent in was no less than 2,486, of which no fewer than 2,414, had passed the Council, and been declared entitled to relief. He should weary the Committee were he to read a statement of the proportions in which those applications had come from the different counties in Ireland; generally speaking, they had emanated from those counties inhabited for the most part by a Roman Catholic population. They had, of course, come 575 in a larger proportion from those counties which contained superficially the largest amount of population. He would mention, however, some few counties from which there had been the smallest number of applications, and some few from which the largest amount of applications had been received. The number of applications received, was:—
These were the counties from which it appeared, by the schedules returned to Government, the fewest applications had come; and those from which the greatest number had come were—
From the county Antrim 3 Applications. Armagh 19 Cavan 23 Fermanagh 4 Londonderry 11 Monaghan 17 Tyrone 14 Leitrim 6
The total amount of the claims which had been put in, and subsequently approved of, was 751,731l. 1s. 3d. and in his opinion 774,000l. would cover the whole claims. The schedules contained much useful information—many facts which would forcibly illustrate the present system of
From the county Dublin 54 Applications. Kildare 101 Kilkenny 160 Donegal 44 Down. 30 Kerry 70 Waterford 98 Sligo 37 Mayo 61 Roscommon 67 Meath 63 King's County 64 Queen's County 52 Wexford 198 Clare 144 Cork 303 Limerick 114 Tipperary 248 Galway 94
576 tithes in Ireland. In order to show the House how very minute were the payment of tithes in Ireland, and how much they were multiplied, he had called for accounts giving him the five largest amounts payable in each county to any particular individual. In England, English gentlemen knew very well what was the average amount of tithe payments in agricultural districts. In Ireland, they varied very much. He would just state some of the largest payments receivable by any one individual:—
County. Parish. Tithe Payers in 1833. Average Amount. £. s. d. Carlow Ballymore 381 0 10 3¾ Cavan Dromg 630 0 9 7½ Cork Ahaina 112 6 7 5½ Buttevant 235 5 13 4½ Down Tullyglish 601 0 8 6½ Dublin Santry 29 6 17 3¾ Finglass 80 6 19 9½ Fermanagh Derryvoole 1,218 0 8 5 Galway Kilteckle 26 0 7 0¾ Kerry Knockane 580 0 8 11½ King's Ballikin 260 0 14 9¾ Longford Kilcomash 219 0 13 1 Louth Haynstown 31 5 4 0¼ Queen's Kilmanton 168 0 4 7 Roscommon Kilyglass 647 0 12 5 Tyrone Dysert Creagh 125 0 6 8½ Waterford Kilrosanty 59 6 7 0 Westmeath Ballynaslaney 89 0 7 1½
It was true, that in some cases, however, there were single payments, though they were very few, amounting to 40l. or even 60l. In one case, which had come under his consideration, there was one sum of 129l. But, when he read to the House the five largest sums payable to any individual in the counties he had named, he was sure that, had he called for the ten largest payments, the sums would be found to be very small indeed. To illustrate the statement further, he had called for schedules, for the purpose of taking the average amount of tithe paid by each individual: the first exhibiting the smallest number of names claiming the largest amount; and the latter exhibiting the largest number of names claiming the smallest amount; and it was as follows:—
£. s. d. In the county Antrim (not more than five persons paid each of them to one individual more than) 6 8 0 Armagh 7 5 0 Cavan 7 2 8 Donegal 8 14 0 Down 9 14 10 Fermanagh 4 4 0 Kilkenny 21 0 0 Leitrim 4 10 4 Londonderry 4 1 4 Mayo 10 0 0 Sligo 7 8 3 Tyrone 7 1 10½
577 The second table contained the largest number of names, claiming the smallest amount. It was as follows:—
He had also another account which exhibited the extreme and melancholy poverty of the tithe-payers, and from this statement the House might judge what difficulty there was in the collection of tithes. There were twenty parishes which he could name, and, in the great proportion of the whole, each person only paid 9d. He would read for the House a few parishes, stating the number of tithe-payers, and the average of their payments:—
County. Parish. Tithe Payers in 1833. Average Amount. £. s. d. Armagh New Town Hamilton 470 0 1 3 Lisnadil 1,201 0 10 0½ Carlow Dunleckny 472 0 8 6¼ Kilmore 733 0 3 2¼ Clare Kilaloo 529 0 1 3½ Cork Marshalstown 336 0 0 10½ Kilcona 830 0 1 11 Donegal Lower Mobile 317 0 1 3¼ Down Clanduff 1,018 0 4 4¼ Fermanagh Innis M'Saint 1,593 0 5 10½ Kerry Mollahiffe 268 0 1 3¼ Kilkenny Callan 903 0 1 10¾ Limerick Corcomohide 1,120 0 10 2 Londonderry Leekpatrick 1,243 0 0 6 Longford Tassidy 134 0 19 4 Mayo Ballinchally 238 0 1 7¼ Tyrone Pomeroy 528 0 13 0¾ Ardrastan 1,290 0 16 9
Taking twenty counties in Ireland in which there were 7,005 tithe-payers, it would be found that there were 2,344 of these who paid on an average less than 9d. each. The clerk at Dublin Castle had informed him that in a parish in Carlow, the total sum due by 222 defaulters, out of 481, was only 10s. 3½d., or about one farthing each; yet, in consequence of the larger sums due by the other defaulters, the average ran up to about 4s. 7d. each. The same thing occurred in most of the schedules, which contained such a mixture of large and small sum as to swamp the average, and 578 make it an incorrect index to the general fact. A return of the actual number of defaulters whose debts were under a far-thing, and rise by farthings up to a shilling, would exhibit a very large proportion of the gross number. In some instances the charge upon the land amounted to only seven parts of a far-thing. When he informed the Committee that many of the smaller sums were payable by three or four persons, some idea might be formed of the difficulty of collecting tithes in Ireland. The highest aggregate charge was against those who owed individually about 2d.; and he would then beg to remind the Committee, that it was not so much the sum as the situation of the individual, that rendered those charges oppressive. Two-pence to one might be as great an impost as 2l. to another. There was another great severity connected with the question of tithes. They were not simple. One proprietor alone did not come to the poor man to demand his tithes, but many, whose interests were irreconcilable and adverse, fastened upon him. There were different kinds of tithes—the vicarial, rectorial, and impropriate—all often fastening on the same individual, who was bound to meet the separate demands of each tithe-owner. The opposition to tithes, then, though it might receive an impulse from agitation, was not to be wholly traced to that source. There was a deeper source in the severity of the impost itself. 579 It was the nature of the tax, and not the extrinsic impulse of agitation, that raised the outcry against tithes. There could be no manner of doubt, at least he had no doubt, that agitation—he meant not agitation of any particular year, but that general agitation which had so long existed with respect to the subject—had materially interfered with, and prejudiced the maintenance of this description of property; and he was ready to admit, that, under other circumstances, the payment of tithes might have continued to be successfully enforced for many more years. But when the Committee had heard the statements he had made, and to the accuracy of those statements he pledged himself, he put it to any hon. Member to say, whether it was possible for such a system to have long continued. It had within it the seeds of its own dissolution, and it must eventually have failed, even had no other impulse been given to its fall. But he might be told, and no doubt he should be told, that the measure of last Session, introduced by his right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley) had for its object the commutation of tithes, and that by compulsory composition. Such was certainly the case; and it was also perfectly true, that it was a part of the measure of his right hon. friend to reduce the multiplicity of holdings upon which tithe was payable, and by so doing, to relieve the tenant from the present objectionable mode of collection, and also the tithe-owner from the vexatious and injurious opposition to which he was exposed. The Bill of his right hon. friend had, in truth, effected much, but much also remained to be done. Sufficient, however, had been done to show what might be accomplished; and with a view of setting before the Committee the actual effect of the measure of his right hon. friend, as to a reduction in the number of persons by whom tithes were now payable, and had been payable before that measure came into operation, he had collected the best materials available, and he would state to the Committee the results.-Prior to the measure of his right hon. friend being brought forward, it would have been impossible, but by the most arbitrary and inquisitorial proceedings to have arrived at any statement as to the list of persons by whom tithes were payed, the amount of those payments, and similar particulars. Even now there was very 580 great difficulty in obtaining any such information, but he had done his best; he had caused application to be made to the Commissioners, to the Clergy, and to those other sources which were the most likely to be able to afford accurate information; and therefore he was enabled to state to the Committee such particulars as might, he thought, fairly be deemed to give a just specimen with respect to the whole of Ireland. He had first endeavoured to ascertain what was the number of persons, whether tenants or not, who were liable to the payment of tithes before the Bill of his right hon. friend came into operation; and, secondly, what was the number now liable to the payment of tithes, as compared with the number previously liable. He would not pretend to state to the Committee the result as to the whole country; but he would state the result as to sixty-six parishes situate in twenty-two different counties.' He found that, in that number of parishes, there were, prior to the passing of the measure by his right hon. friend, no less than 16,231 tenants liable to the payment of tithes; and that, since the passing of that measure, by which yearly tenants and tenants-at-will had been relieved from the payment of tithes, and the imposition laid upon the land-owners, the number of persons liable to pay tithes was reduced to 7,047; making a diminution in the number of tithe-payers in sixty-six parishes of no less than 9,184 persons. That was the result of the measure in that number of parishes; and although he could not take upon himself to say, that it presented the exact proportions which would result upon an accurate examination of the whole country, he had no doubt that it would be found, if tried by such a test, pretty accurate. At all events it showed to a very considerable, and he thought sufficient, extent, how the measure of his right hon. friend had operated. Now, he was very well aware, that hon. Members who were determined to resist any change whatever, that had for its object, to rescue the property of tithe from its present difficulties, and to invest it with a character of security, that such hon. Members would at once say, that such being the effect of the measure of his right hon. friend, it had accomplished, or would accomplish, its objects, and therefore further legislation was unnecessary. He, however, must say, that the effect he had 581 noticed constituted one of the arguments upon which he should contend for the importance of the measure of which it would presently be his duty to sketch the outlines to the House. Circumstances had surrounded that property with difficulties and with danger, and it was the duty of the Government to provide for its adequate protection. He never could admit, nay, it would be impossible for the Government to admit, that tithe or any property, was not entitled to all that security which law and Government could afford. In the first instance, the clergy, as the lawful owners of tithes, had a right to be secured in their receipt. Whatever might be hereafter done with tithe property, the Government was bound to assert the rights of that property, and to use the same exertions to realize, and to enforce it, that would apply in any other case in which property was assailed. Having thus made these preliminary remarks, and which he had deemed necessary, because he felt it right that all the facts connected with, or bearing upon the question, should be before the Committee, he would at once proceed to develope the measure which his Majesty's Government, under the circumstances, felt it their duty to propose for the consideration of Parliament. The great aim and object of the measure was to afford that protection to tithes, to which as lawful property they were indisputably entitled, and to provide for their ultimate, entire, and absolute commutation into land. And first, in order to effect that, it was desirable and necessary that all the powers possessed by Government should, if necessary, be put in force; and if they were not sufficient, that then Parliament should strengthen the hands of Government. Pursuing that view, therefore, he should propose that, from and after the 1st of November next, the payment of tithe as tithe should cease, and that it should be commuted into a land-tax to be granted to his Majesty, and to be paid at the same time, and by the same parties, and to the same amount as the tithe composition. That done, as the best and most certain way of vindicating the property from difficulty and insecurity, the measure would next proceed to enable the parties liable to pay the land-tax so created to redeem it. To effect that he should propose that a period of five years be allowed for the redemption; such redemption to be effected by 582 any person having a substantial interest in the estate; and the terms of the arrangement would be such that he could not suppose but they would be deemed advantageous and satisfactory, both to the tithe-owner and to the land-owner. Of course he proposed to introduce every possible facility, and, to give every inducement for the commutation of tithes, which was the chief object of the measure; and, as he proceeded with his statement, the Committee would be enabled to judge in how far he had succeeded in embodying his design. He proposed, then, that on a land-owner redeeming the land-tax to be created by this measure within five years from its creation, he should be entitled to an abatement of one-fifth of the amount of the redemption due from him; and further, that, then standing in the place of the original representative of the property, he should be entitled to recover from the tenant, if he so saw fit, the whole of the sum for which the redemption had been effected. The next proposition was, that, in cases in which the land-tax was, not redeemed within five years, that tax should become a rent charge, and should, of course, be redeemable at any time, upon certain conditions to be clearly specified, through purchase, by the party having a substantial interest in the estate. They might be sold in the market like any other property for the best price they could bring. As to the mode in which the clergy or other owners of tithes should receive their incomes, it was proposed that the amount of such income should be certified by warrants of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, setting forth the amount to which each clergyman or tithe-owner was entitled. The amount would then be paid by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, who were to have the payment of those sums, subject to such deductions as might be considered fair, under the peculiar circumstances of each case, or class of cases, for the cost and trouble of collection. Those payments would, of course, be made out of the fund raised by the land-tax, or the money paid for its redemption, by the annual amount of the rent-charges, or their produce when sold. When, however, the money should be invested in land sufficient to give to the clergyman or tithe-owner what was considered a full equivalent for his tithe, the land would be transferred over to the party, and the 583 Government would be relieved from all further connexion with it. This was a brief sketch or outline of the general plan, which, as the Committee would observe, contained several propositions. The first was the conversion of tithe property into a land-tax. He would not enter into the question, of how far a land-tax being substituted for tithe might be popular with those who desired a change, in the first instance, with a view of getting rid of the tax at a future time. The proposition which he laid down was, that it was the bounden duty of Parliament to provide some means of realizing the property of the Church, and the best way in which that could be done would be to make a land-tax to some amount, and payable by the same parties. Any other mode would be subject to the objection, that it would be shifting the burthen from one class of men to another which ought not to bear it. The second proposition referred to the value of the redemption, and to its being fixed at the expiration of five years. If he were asked why he had fixed five years, he could not say in the abstract why a year more or a year less might not be just as good; but the reason why five years had been named was, that the sum of 800,000l. which had been advanced to the clergy of Ireland, would, during that time, be in the course of payment, and these payments would of course, be deducted from the sums which the clergy might be entitled to receive from the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. Then came the question as to the terms upon which the redemption should be permitted. It was quite clear that, consistent with the object for which the redemption was to be effected, there were but two ways by which it could be accomplished. It must be either by the transfer of land equal in value to the amount required for the redemption, or by the payment of a sum of money of equal amount by the tithe-payer, on account of the tithe-owner. With respect to the terms of a voluntary redemption he had already stated what practically amounted to this—that if the redemption was 100l., the landowner would have to pay not less than 80l., the abatement allowed being one-fifth. Then came the consideration as to how the amount of payment was to be calculated, supposing it was made in money. His right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley), in the Second Report 584 he had made on the subject of tithes to the House, had calculated that, taking Ireland through, the property of the Church was worth sixteen years' purchase. But he (Mr. Littleton) thought, that the data then taken would not now be available. His hon. friend had referred to the case of the Bishops' lands; but that had now failed, owing to the arrangements of the Legislature. They must, therefore, look for other means through which to arrive at a just and satisfactory valuation. He believed, and nobody who had given the subject the slightest attention could doubt, that he was right in stating that the matter was one of extreme difficulty, and, indeed, impossible to accomplish, if only existing data was to be had recourse to. He had looked in vain for such accounts as would enable him to enter upon the question. For a long period of years the sales of lay impropriations had been so extremely rare, and, he believed, under such peculiar circumstances, that it would be impossible to collect from them sufficient materials to form an accurate rate of value for the property to be dealt with. Again, with respect to advowsons, it was perfectly clear that each particular case was governed by particular circumstances, as the age of the incumbent and of the purchaser. The only course, therefore, that appeared to him to be just and practicable, was to determine how many years of purchase land was worth, and to fix the relative value which tithe bore to land, as to the period of purchase. That was the principle which he considered to be just, and he thought that, upon consideration, no objection whatever could be taken to it. Now, upon consulting such authorities upon the subject as he could find, it appeared that there was a general, and indeed, an invariable opinion that tithe property in Ireland was worth four-fifths of as many years' purchase as land was. He would therefore propose to take that proportion as a guide and standard; and having done so, he would propose the establishment of a Commission to inquire into, and estimate the number of years' purchase to which the land upon which a redemption was to be made was worth. At first, such an arrangement might not appear absolutely necessary; but he was convinced, upon reflection, that it would be found essential to a fair and satisfactory settlement of the matter. It was impossible to fix upon any average 585 number of years of purchase, which would be found applicable to the whole of Ireland, or even to the whole of a county. It would be necessary, therefore, for the Commissioners to ascertain the actual value in each particular district, and, that being ascertained, to calculate the redemption of the tithe at four-fifths of that value. For the sake of illustrating his meaning, and preventing the possibility of his being misunderstood, he would quote an instance or two how this plan would work. Supposing the land upon which the redemption of the tax was to be made was worth twenty-five years' purchase, then the tithe would be estimated at twenty years' purchase; if the land was worth twenty years' purchase, the redemption would be sixteen years' purchase; if sixteen years' purchase, the tithes would be worth fourteen years' purchase, and so on. Now, in a majority of counties in Ireland, twenty-three in number, the land had been valued at twenty years' purchase, which would give the tithe, upon the rule laid down, at sixteen; but it must be unnecessary for him to go further into detail upon the point, or to quote more largely from the table before him. He had stated that, in the plan devised for the commutation of tithes, the Government proposed to the landowner considerable advantage, and that without injury to the tithe-owner; and he was quite sure that if hon. Members would do him the favour of considering attentively the particulars of the measure he had to propose, they would fully admit that the facts justified his statement. Should the leave he sought for, that night, be granted to him, the Bill would be ready in a few days; and then hon. Members would have an opportunity of fully investigating the whole project, and determining in their own minds whether or not it would not benefit the landowner without loss to the tithe-owner. He did not merely mean, that the measure would be a benefit to landowners by rooting out those rancorous differences which had so often distracted districts, and depreciated property—which had driven away capital from Ireland, and deprived the landowner of the advantage arising from the enjoyment of credit; but he meant, if possible, a still more tangible advantage. He would state his meaning more fully. He had already declared one of his propositions to be to allow to landowners an abatement of one- 586 fifth of the amount to be paid in redemption, and also that they would be entitled to receive from the tenant the full amount of the redemption money. And he contended that that arrangement would be perfectly just. The tenant was legally liable for the full amount of tithe; and when the landlord bought the tithe, he had an unquestionable right to collect it in full from the tenant. But he would put a case, in order to make his meaning clear, as to the advantage the plan would give to the landlord. Suppose the land on which a redemption was to be effected was worth twenty years' purchase, then of course the tithes would be worth sixteen years' purchase. Now, if money was at all abundant in the market, the landowner would have no difficulty in procuring it at four per cent; therefore, if he wanted the sum of 1,600l., he would have to pay for it 64l., while he would be entitled to receive from the tenant 100l. It might be very well for the hon. and learned member for Dublin to laugh, but he would defy him to disprove his statement. It was a question of figures; and unless the hon. and learned Member was competent to overturn the rules of arithmetic, he would in vain attempt to controvert the position laid down. Of course it would be for the landlord to say whether or not he would avail himself of the advantage in whole, or in part, or at all; but he persisted in asserting, that the advantage did exist as he had represented it. He had stated another proposition, which it was right he should advert to in explanation. He had said, that a person possessing a substantial interest in land, would be entitled to redeem the tithe. By substantial interest, he meant any interest superior to a lease of twenty-one years. Of course, if there were another party with an interest superior to that one wishing to purchase the redemption, the person with the inferior interest must give notice of his desire to the other party, at least, three months before he would be allowed to carry his desire into effect. The Committee would not fail to bear in mind that, in legislating for Ireland, it was necessary to consider, that the interests there in estates were frequently very dissimilar to those in England. The fee-simple of an estate in Ireland was frequently of little value, owing to the manner in which leases and other incumbrances had been fixed upon the property in perpetuity. 587 The law, therefore, had always regarded the person holding the perpetual interest, as the first interest, and in the same way would the measure he had to propose be found to operate. Indeed, that principle had been acted upon in the measure of his right hon. friend, and, therefore, in his propositions there would be found nothing strange, but a mere following out of a principle already adopted. He had stated that the value paid on account of redemption, would be payable for the owner of the property for which it was received, subject only to the deduction of reasonable costs. Certainly, nothing, in his opinion, could be more just than that the Government should be exonerated from all loss in such a proceeding. It would be remembered, that this was a proceeding for the security of a particular kind of property; and if the holders of that property were relieved from a difficult, and sometimes almost impracticable collection, and insured against all loss, surely it was not too much to require, that the Government which so assisted and relieved them, should be held harmless. Certainly nothing could be more just, than that no loss should accrue to a Government under such circumstances. It was necessary, also, that the matter should be so arranged, as to prevent differences; and, in order to do that, the circumstances peculiar to every district to be dealt with must be carefully inquired into, and dealt with accordingly. It would be, consequently, impossible to fix any rate of charge; for in one case, the difficulties might be very slight, while in another they might be extremely arduous. It was then proposed to employ the Commissioners before alluded to, as they would have the best means of becoming conversant with the facts of each particular case, and to submit the matter to their adjudication. With a view, however, to equalize the expenses in as far as would be reasonable, it was intended that no tithe-owner should pay less in the way of costs, than ten per cent upon the amount of the redemption. The Commissioners to be appointed would, of course, be in duty bound to invest such monies as they received, in land, for the purposes of the tithe-owner, to be settled in the manner he had before stated. It might have occurred to some hon. Gentlemen that a difficulty might occur in finding objects for investment. He, however, upon looking at what had actually 588 occurred in Ireland with respect to the amount in the value in sales of land, felt no doubt upon the subject. He did not consider that the Commissioners were at all likely to find any difficulty in meeting with opportunities for desirable investment in land. He had before him the result of the sales of landed property in Ireland for the three years following January, 1830; and he found that the amount of capital employed during those three years, in Ireland, in the purchase of property, was 9,000,000l. Such was the fact, as it appeared upon the returns made on the best authority. Then he said, that he had no doubt but an adequate market would be found. Besides, a demand almost invariably produced a supply. But, even if that were not the case, he had no hesitation in expressing a conviction that there would be an ample supply, especially as every facility would be given by the measure to ensure it. Not only would care be taken to enable all persons so to free their estates of the incumbrance complained of with the least possible difficulty, but also with benefit to all the parties concerned, increasing the value of the property. It was proposed also, to enable the Court of Chancery to give permission, in the case of entailed estates, to sell part of them, or to fell timber for the purposes of the Act, though few cases of this kind were likely to occur, from the comparatively small quantity of timber in Ireland. It was also proposed that property invested in the hands of trustees, might be made applicable to the purposes of the Bill. The Committee were no doubt aware that, under the Act of last Session, many persons had availed themselves of the right of compounding at fifteen per cent less than the actual value. By the measure which his Majesty's Ministers contemplated, those persons would suffer no injury. Indeed, on the contrary, he thought he should be able to show that they would be benefited full five per cent. Such appeared to him to be the fact; at all events, those parties could not by possibility be injured, for all their advantages would be preserved to them. The Committee would bear in mind, that, during the last Session of Parliament, the sum of 1,000,000l. was made applicable to the relief of the Clergy in Ireland. Now, it would be satisfactory to the Committee to know that the measure he would bring before it, would not only 589 militate against the re-payment of that sum, but would provide for it in a way that he apprehended would leave no room for doubt upon the subject. By his Bill it would be the duty of the Commissioners to be appointed under it, to devote the first sums of money they received to the re-payment of whatever might have been advanced out of that million. Of the justice of that provision, he thought there could be no doubt. When the law failed to give due protection to property, that property was relieved by Government; but as soon as the law gave its rightful value to that property, it was but right it should take the first opportunity of relieving itself from the incumbrance it had incurred at the hands of Government. There was one objection, which, he had no doubt, would be urged against his scheme, and which, therefore, he thought it better at once to notice. It would, no doubt, be contended, that the plan would give an increased value to tithes in Ireland. It had been said by the hon. and learned member for Dublin the other evening that the Bill of last Session had, in nine cases out of ten, increased the value of tithes. On hearing that assertion, he (Mr. Littleton) had incautiously stated that he believed that, to the extent of one-third of the cases, such was the fact. He found, however, upon inquiry, that he was wrong; and that if he had said in one-tenth of one-third of the cases, he should have been far nearer the fact. He had before him the particulars of the cases alluded to by the hon. and learned Member; and he found that they were extremely rare, and all under peculiar circumstances, which prevented them from being considered as a proof that such would be the general result of the measure. The Committee was aware, that in the Act of last Session, there was a clause empowering the Commissioners to add one-fifth to the estimated Returns, provided they saw good grounds for so doing. Now it appeared that that power had been exercised only in a very few instances. Again, it had happened in some few cases that the tithe had been merged in the rent; and then came the necessity to separate the one from the other, which naturally had the effect of making the valuation ultimately very different from what it had been represented to be. Of course, in such cases, the suffering party was sufficiently clamorous; and, indeed, 590 he believed he might say, that every case of increased or altered value had been again and again stated to the public. In some parishes it had happened that one individual held almost the whole of the grass land, and, therefore, in such cases, the valuation was made to appear partial and oppressive; and, under such circumstances, it was very easy to procure a combination by intimidation (for anything of that kind could be done in Ireland, by intimidation) to prevent an attendance at vestry of ten persons to put the law in operation. There was also a variety of oilier causes which had, through misrepresentation, excited discontent. There was the case of abbey lands for instance. Abbey lands were by law exempt from tithes; but, in some particular instances, owing to the construction of the law, some abbey lands had been made chargeable with tithe, and he mentioned the case of some abbey lands in the county Down. He must, however, be allowed again to remind the Committee that, in such a matter, they could not but expect to find many difficulties; and he would only add to that suggestion the earnest desire of the Government to afford relief to all parties, as far as that came within the power of the Legislature. Some landowners might complain of the tax being commuted into a rent charge after the year 1839; and ask why should they, in the year 1840, be subjected to lose advantages now secured to them by law, by which, continuing subject to the tithe composition law, they would at that period, be entitled to a revaluation and re-adjustment of the amount, according to the price of corn? It might happen, certainly, that agricultural produce might at the later period have fallen to an extremely low price, and the landowner might ask should he now be able to have his rent charge valued in proportion to the prices as it was in the preceding period? He knew that that was a point which required consideration, and he was prepared to hear it discussed. He had not prepared any clause to meet or remedy such a case, yet the question would be considered with every disposition to apply the necessary remedy. He was not aware that he had omitted to notice any topic necessarily connected with the object of his proposed Bill, or any statement that might be necessary to the elucidation of the intended measure.
County in which the Parish lies. Number of Tithe-payers. Number who pay less than 9d. Carlow 446 289 Clare 434 254 Cork 1,270 419 King's County 505 97 Roscommon 243 119 Tipperary 331 125
§ Sir Robert Peel
suggested that the right hon. Gentleman had not informed the House from whom the expenses of law proceedings were to come.
§ Mr. Littleton
resumed: Some might have thought, perhaps, that the expenses ought to be defrayed out of the fund which would accrue from the operation of the Bill,—others that they ought to be defrayed by the tithe-owners,—others that they ought to be divided between the tithe-owners and the tithe-payers. All mention, however, of the subject was omitted in the Bill, and therefore the tithe-owners would for the present remain liable. He must again remind the Committee, that he had said nothing whatever about the appropriation of tithes, for that was a subject which, being perfectly distinct from the object of his present Motion, it was not his intention to bring it at all under the consideration of the House. The collection and the appropriation of tithes were perfectly distinct, and, desiring to keep them so, he should not now say anything about the latter; nor had he anything more to add than to impress upon the House, that it was the duty of Parliament to vindicate the existing law, and to realize that property, which, if it did not belong to the Church, at least belonged to the State. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the following Resolution:—"That it is the opinion of this Committee, that composition for Tithes in Ireland ought to be abolished on and after the 1st day of November in the present year, in consideration of an annual Land-tax, to be granted to his Majesty, payable by the persons who would have been liable to such composition for Tithes, and of equal amount; that such Land-tax shall be redeemable; and that, out of the produce, provision be made, in land or money, for the indemnification of the persons entitled to such composition."
did not perceive that the right hon. Gentleman had any right to ask the House to suspend its opinion until the bill should come before it, if the principles of that bill were the same as he had represented. A short time since he saw the right hon. Secretary at War in his place; whether he was still in the House or not, he could not tell; if he were, he (Mr. O'Connell) must take that opportunity of congratulating him on his not having yet brought in the Army 592 Estimates, because, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, it would be matter for his consideration how far the army would require to be increased in Ireland, in order to inforce the provisions of the proposed bill. An additional force would certainly be necessary for that purpose. The right hon. Gentleman's was the idlest thing ever yet proposed—of all the delusions ever attempted, he considered it the grossest of all. The people of Ireland would not be gratified by such a bill, call it by what name the right hon. Secretary would. The propositition of such a measure argued no doubt a lowly opinion of the intellects of those for whom it was intended, as well as utter ignorance of the subject in the proposers of it; but, whatever might be his notion of the abundance of the latter, he had no idea that the former would have been acted on to the extent it had been in the present instance. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman and the House had a very lowly opinion of the people of Ireland; but he did not consider that it could have been so lowly as to cause them to imagine that a change of name could so easily deceive them when their best interests were concerned. They might call it what they pleased, but they might be sure the people of Ireland would not be deceived by whatever they called it, however much they might imagine the contrary. The right hon. Gentleman had entered at length into a variety of topics, and made a speech which, from the quantity of numbers introduced into it, might well be deemed figurative. An hon. Member of that House had written a very useful book on rhetoric, in which he laid down the essence of the art as fact. "Stuff your speech as full of facts as you can, by all means," said he, "and then it will tell for itself." The right hon. Secretary for Ireland appeared to have studied that work, and had produced a figurative speech. But it was nothing more than figure after all; though he did not mean for a moment to say that those figures were facts. What for instance, could be a greater absurdity than the series of averages he had introduced among his figures? In five counties he had said that the payers of tithe composition were no higher, on an average, than 7l. to 8l. By the bye, he would observe, the right hon. Gentleman had not taken the averages of the southern 593 counties into his calculation. [Mr. Littleton had enumerated Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Kilkenny.] The right hon. Gentleman had not been misunderstood by him, as he perceived from his own enumeration. He had put forward to the House that the number of tithe-payers in Ireland had been diminished by the tithe composition Act of the last Session. Never was there a greater mistake, never had there been a greater degree of ignorance on such a subject exhibited. In place of being diminished they had enormously increased, and the process by which an additional increase would be made was, moreover, going on daily in all parts of the country. For instance in all the villages and small towns, and in the vicinity of most cities, the labourers had small kitchen-gardens connected with their cabins. These, from time immemorial, had been exempt from all tithe; indeed tithes have never been dreamed of in reference to them. Since the passing of the composition Act, however, they were all compelled to pay tithe. Therefore, in that respect, the old system was not better, but a shade less bad than the new one. Again, in many parts of Ireland, tithe had never been demanded on hay; and in the north of Ireland potatoes had never been charged with tithe—now all were to be made titheable by the commissioners under the Composition Act. After such misstatements of such obvious matters as these the House ought to hesitate before it proceeded to legislate on a subject of which it was evident, their informant was as ignorant as they. It was not going too far to say, that the House had not by any means sufficient information on the subject, and that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland was not able to relieve them from the dilemma. Another word on the averages. Every rood of land in the country was now tithed. Those places which had never paid before were now compelled to pay. It was, consequently, with this fact before them, easy to see the cause of increase, and the difference the farthings and three farthings of the wretched and hitherto untaxed cottiers made in the averages. He had entered into these details not with any view to combat the statements of the right hon. Gentleman, but with a melancholy foreboding of what would be the effect of his measure upon the people of 594 Ireland. It would be received with shouts of ridicule and derision in Ireland, and would be denounced as most miserable legislation. Surely it must be known that the opposition to tithes in Ireland was not the work of any living man. It was as old as 74 or 75 years—ceasing occasionally, but returning again, with redoubled force upon every new occasion. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the Statute-book was filled with enactments of the most cruel description, the object of which was to punish the opponents of tithes. This measure, then, which was to do away with consequences as enumerated by him, might possibly lull the opposition to tithes that at present existed, in the same way that the Coercion Bill had put down agitation in Ireland—but it would be only to make it return with twofold violence hereafter. This opposition had existed for upwards of seventy years. Must they not see that opposition such as this was not against the mere collection of tithes, but against the principle involved in their collection? And certainly the right hon. Gentleman had, in his place, held out no hope that that principle would be abandoned. There was at present a lull in the public mind, in consequence of its being supposed that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues intended really to do that which they had promised to do, namely, to abolish tithes altogether. It was true they were to hear no more of the word tithes, and he supposed that a man would be liable to punishment if he ever used the word again. They were to be changed into what was called a Land-tax. He contended that the Members of the Government knew nothing of Ireland. They proved it by the mode in which they attempted to legislate in respect to this question. They ought not to afford the people an opportunity of increasing their hostility to the Government and their measures. The people had no confidence in his Majesty's Government. What had the Government done for the people of Ireland, from the first measure introduced into this House respecting tithes down to the last most excellent humbug? Why, when they voted 60,000l., did they consider that they did a kindness to the people? They did all they could to get this money back again; and how did they succeed? They thought it of paramount importance to get back the sixty 595 thousand pounds; and what was the result?—They got back twelve thousand pounds only, and that at an expense of twenty—eight thousand, including the expense of military, &c. He should be sorry if he had misstated this; but he had it, or something very like it, from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman himself. What was the result? They took out horse, artillery, foot, and marines from one end of Ireland to the other, and they sent them thief-hunting, cattle-taking, and even taking clothes from the backs of the peasantry, women and men; and what was the consequence? Why, after they had, by these means got up a scene of agitation never paralleled, they, instead of coming forward with relief, came down with their Coercion Bill. Instead of following the suggestions of the Committee and the advice of the right honourable member for Dundee, who warned them on that occasion, and proposed continual Special Commissions as a preventative, they came down with their Coercion Bill. That was the first step—the second was the Bill afterwards brought in to compel composition. There never was a bill more adverse to the rights and privileges of the people than that. It demanded the submission of all to the commissioners appointed by the Lord Lieutenant; and what a set of commissioners were appointed! They succeeded, indeed, in the species of commissioners they appointed! Then a clause of that Act provided that the new compositions should be paid according to the scale agreed to within the last seven years, and not otherwise. That was the commencement of that Act. The 31st section of that Act had a marginal note, headed tobacco; and any one not interested in tobacco, would pass it over; but it so happened that the words of that section repeated the first clause of the Act, and actually threw it open to the commissioners to receive any terms whatever. It was stated that an appeal was left by that Act. So there was in words, but not in effect. The former Acts gave an appeal from the decision of the commissioners in this way. A species of vestry was selected to agree to, or disagree from, the composition. The commissioners having made out their certificate, the vestry was again called together, and, if it was agreed upon at the vestry, an appeal was given. But under the late Act the House appointed 596 a tithe commissioner, and there being no such vestry, no appeals, in fact, were made. The only party to whom an appeal was really left was to the clergyman. Having thus legislated for Ireland hitherto, let them see what it was now proposed to do. Government was about to turn the landowners of Ireland into tithe-proctors, calling the tithe they were to collect a Land-tax. It was not the amount of this payment, but its application, which had been the source of heart-burnings in Ireland. They should recollect that tithe agitation already threatened to extend to rent. They were to a certain degree necessarily mixed, but hitherto they had been kept tolerably distinct. Let the landlords of Ireland now turn their best attention to themselves Let them be turned into tithe-proctors, and the spirit which had continued the present agitation for seventy years, would be applied to rent as well as tithes. They were, therefore, legislating to entail still greater mischiefs upon the country, bringing that which was an attack upon a sinecure church, to a considerable extent, into an attack upon the rents of landlords and the prosperity of every human being. He protested, therefore, against the measure of the right hon. Gentleman; he protested against his proposed plan, as not holding out the smallest hope of relieving the miseries of Ireland. They were required to legislate upon the principles of common sense. Now, what was common sense in I Ireland? He thanked Gentlemen for that cheer. He deserved it for asking them to act with common sense towards Ireland; for when had they done so yet? What would the people of England think, if a monarch should come to the throne like James 2nd, and find himself with a subservient Parliament? Just suppose that a Whig of the illustrious House of Brunswick should take up the prejudices of the ex-illustrious House of Stuart, and getting reconciled to that once formidable monster, the Pope of Rome, should, with his subservience, pass a law to give all the livings in England to Roman Catholic clergymen—supposing all this to take place,—what would be the feeling of the Protestant people of England? He would tell them what feelings they would or ought to have. They would have feelings of indignation, of abhorrence, and just vengeance; and they would hurl that monarch from his throne, precisely as they had 597 hurled James 2nd. from his throne. That was found to be common sense in England, and he did not know that it was not common sense in Ireland. In one diocese there were thirty parishes in which there was not a single Protestant. In many Catholic parishes in the south of Ireland there was not a single resident Protestant. Why not, then, come forward with reasonable plans of relief for the people? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley) smiled. He, perhaps, would rather apply the blister to drive the people mad. The people expected some plan that would give them relief; and it could not be expected that they would be content with anything so delusive as this. But, it might be asked, what was to become of the clergy, who had left every other profession for that one to which they had devoted themselves? No man would regret more than he that gentlemen so circumstanced should be left unprovided for, and no person would be more ready to protect them than he was. No person would be more ready to preserve their interests during their lives; and wherever there was a Protestant congregation, he would allow the State to supply a provision for the clergyman, and he would most cheerfully bear his own share of the burthen of paying that provision; but when these two things were provided for, why should they persevere in forcing their sinecure church upon the people of Ireland? The right hon. Secretary (Mr. Littleton) did not say anything about giving any part of the money to be raised to the Roman Catholic clergy. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman was too manly and straightforward to say any such thing; but as a rumour to that effect had gone abroad, he would say, as the organ of a large portion of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, that the clergy would not, could not, accept any such money. The Bishops would not accept it; but, if they did, the parish priests would not accept it; but even if the parish priests accepted it, there would be no excuse to give any portion of the public money to the friars; and if the secular clergy disgusted the people so far as to put themselves into the pay of the State, the Catholic worship would, in future, be performed to thousands by the friars alone, so abhorrent to the feelings of the members of that persuasion was the alliance between Church and State. But when the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House with his measure of 598 alleviation, had not the Irish people reason to expect that this alleviation would be, in reality, the lessening of a burthen? Why, then, should they be attempting to fasten, with ribs of steel, the burthen of their sinecure church upon the country? He begged of them to consider their plan again, and to reflect whether they ought not to lessen the burthen upon the people before they finally threw their Bill upon the Table. If the people were not relieved from their burthen, what signified to them what hands the tithes might be placed in? And yet, they would express surprise, that after all this, the Irish people were discontented. It was like the story of a man receiving a flogging. It mattered little to him whether they flogged him high or low, provided they continued to flog him. He would ask them to legislate upon this question with some kind of common sense. Let them bid against those who were agitators for Repeal, by endeavouring to show that there was some chance of justice for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had divided all his sympathy between the Church and the landlords. He would call upon them to reverse their plan—to take the burthen off the land. He would propose to diminish the whole amount of tithes to the extent of two-thirds; the remaining third he would propose should be applied to the relief of the working classes by a diminution of the county cess, and for those uses of the poor against which no valid objection could be urged. Something of that sort would do infinitely more towards pacifying the discontents of the people of Ireland than by reading scolding speeches from the Throne, or bringing complicated and delusive Bills into the House.
§ Mr. Shaw
declared himself favourable to the principle of commutation, because it would have the effect of making a just and legal payment light upon those from whom the demand was due. The hon. and learned member for Dublin would not, however, be satisfied with that; nothing short of annihilation would please him. The hon. Gentleman had given them a history of agitation in Ireland; he saw that agitation existed in Ireland for upwards of seventy-five years on the subject of tithes. There could be no doubt but agitation did exist for that period, not only on account of tithe, but on account of other questions: there were those living who ought to recollect that they were considered the primary cause of all this agitation. There were persons who 599 carried on this system, not for the mere sake of agitation, but had an ulterior object.
rose to order, and objected to the line of observation pursued by the hon. and learned Member.
§ Mr. Shaw
had only to state, that it was not his intention to follow the hon. and learned member for Dublin through all his statements respecting agitation; and he did not conceive that he had said anything which called for the interruption of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He fully agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that it would be proper to give full time to consider his proposition in all its bearings and details, before he called upon the House to pass it into a law.
§ Mr. Feargus O'Connor
had listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, in the hope that, before its close, he might hear something in the proposition which might be beneficial to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman did not appear well pleased because he had smiled at an assertion which he had made, but he would like to know, notwithstanding, how much money it would require from the English people to carry his plan into effect. He confessed he was greatly astonished to hear the complicated measure which the right hon. Gentleman had proposed. There were to be a land-tax, mortgages, government loans, trust-money, and a variety of other ingredients, which proved the utter hopelessness and absurdity of the plan. The Irish Members were denounced for agitating the country; but he had agitated the county of Cork, perhaps more than any other county was agitated; but, in the midst of all the agitation, he had perfectly preserved the peace. The calendar of that county, during the whole period of agitation, had no crime upon it beyond that of misdemeanour. The right hon. Secretary had stated cases in which litigation had been carried on for arrears of tithe not exceeding ninepence—nay, in one instance, so low as fourpence; and in another a farthing. Was that a state in which Ireland should have been so long left? And was the proposed Bill the measure with which the right hon. Secretary hoped to satisfy that country? He considered it a mere delusion to suppose, that if tithes were taken off, the landlord would increase the rent. The same argument would apply to the Malt-tax, or any other impost upon land; and it might just as well be said, that the landlord would 600 raise the rent if the Malt-tax were taken off, as that he would do so if tithes were taken off. He and others had been reproached with having caused the agitation. But, in point of fact, who was it that put down the great meeting in Ireland? Certainly it was the hon. and learned member for Dublin, very much to his disappointment. But, on the contrary, who was it that advised the parsons to hold illegal meetings to resist the Government? Why, the hon. and learned Recorder for Dublin. He begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman, how was it to be expected that the Irish people would be able, in November next, to pay the arrears of a year and a fifth by that time? It was impossible they could do so. In the last Session the House had done a great and magnanimous act in favour of humanity. They had granted twenty millions of the public money to purchase the freedom of the Negroes; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House, in bringing forward his budget, that he would make up the loss to England by giving the people of England four millions of pounds of tea more than they had before. He would implore the House to show some of its magnanimity towards Ireland, and to put an end to those heavy grievances, the existence of which was proclaimed by the Government itself. What right had the Secretary to coerce the people of Ireland to pay an unjust tax, which never would be paid without force? Why not, instead of this tax for an unnecessary Church establishment, lay on a land-tax for the education of the people, for the relief of the aged, the sick, and the destitute, and for the employment of the poor upon public improvements? The hon. and learned member for Dublin had spoken of parishes in which there were few Protestants; but he could tell the House, that when he was last agitating the county of Cork upon the tithe question, and more recently upon the repeal question, he made it his business to make inquiries upon that subject; and he found two parishes in which there was not one Protestant, and of these the tithes amounted to 1,000l. a-year. And for the recovering of some of those ninepenny arrears, of which the right hon. Secretary spoke, the law expenses amounted to as much as 2l. or 3l. There was something so ridiculous in this plan of the right hon. Secretary, that, vexatious as it was, he could keep his temper and laugh at it. 601 The hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, had stated, that he would suspend his judgment till the Bill was fully and fairly before the House. The interest which the hon. and learned Member represented, would be protected; but what would become of the interest of all the people of Ireland which he and other hon. Members represented? Were they to be sent back to their own counties to tell their constituents to still the voice of agitation; because, where the tithe amounted to 90l., they would have to pay a land-tax of 100l. The right hon. Secretary (Mr. Stanley) shook his head; but it was his acts that had rendered Ireland feverish; it was his acts of last Session, which he said were to preserve it, which had rendered it such as it now was. The right hon. Secretary, last Session, with tears in his eyes, came down to the House, begging them to place confidence in his noble friend at the head of the Irish government, imploring them not to leave him in a minority. The right hon. Gentleman asked them whether the government had done nothing for Ireland, and whether they had not pledged both Houses of Parliament to the total extinction of tithe. The non-fulfilment of those promises was the real cause of the agitation of Ireland. The present plan would be more injurious to the connexion between the two countries—would do more to dispel all confidence, than any thing hitherto done, and, in the place of one petition, they would now have a hundred pouring in for repealing the Union between England and Ireland. He was pleased when he saw the recommendations of the hon. member for Dublin favourably received by the Government; and he determined, when he came down to the Parliament, to surrender to them on minor points; because he thought that when Government had agreed with the hon. member for Dublin, they had done more to tranquillize Ireland than any former governments. But now the Secretary for Ireland, the chosen Secretary, he who was to have done away with the effects of coercion, and to have tranquillized Ireland—who was to have satisfied everybody, but who had really satisfied nobody—when he saw the Secretary for Ireland come forward with a measure like the present, he could not help warning the right hon. Secretary, that landlords, as well as the tithe-payers, would rise up in arms against it. There were two great interests 602 in Ireland, who would unite to obtain justice at the hands of the Parliament. Those two interests would unite; and then let them see how the hon. Member's Bill would be received! Who would be blamed for the agitation which would follow? Would those who advocated the interests of Ireland? No! the hon. Secretary would be blamed for it! He begged of the hon. Member to reflect for a moment before he passed a bill into a law, which would have such destructive effects.
§ Mr. Benett
was surprised, that the hon. member for Dublin, who had expressed his disapprobation of the Government proposition, had not had the candour to state in what way he would be willing to commute tithes in Ireland. How did it happen that the hon. and learned Member had not favoured the House with any plan of his own? No man could be more hostile to tithes than he was; for he believed them to be injurious to the agriculture of the country, and the Established Church, and he was therefore happy to see—what he indeed never expected to have witnessed in his time—a just and honest commutation proposed, which could not fail of giving a stimulus to the agriculture of Ireland, and proving an inestimable blessing to both countries. He had no doubt, that in the end the landlords would gain an advantage by the commutation of tithes; but supposing that tithes were to be swept away without commutation, would the hon. and learned member for Dublin think it just to allow the Protestant landlords to gain as much as the Catholic landlords by such a measure? Would he, in fact, draw no difference between the Protestant and Catholic population? He was well acquainted with the ancient history of tithes, and he could not but express his surprise that the Catholic population of Ireland should feel such horror at them, since they were established by a long continued system of fraud on the part of the councils of the Catholic Church. It was, however, sufficient for his purpose that tithes were now legally established; and he never would consent to their abolition except by means of an honest and equitable commutation. 603 There was only one part of the right hon. Gentleman's plan in which he did not agree, and that related to the redemption; but the time was not come for discussing that. He expected, in England as well as Ireland, under the auspices of the present Government, a fair commutation of tithes; and thinking that the present measure would effect that for Ireland, he should give his support to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman below him.
§ Colonel Davies
felt great disappointment at the plan proposed by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. He had the less hesitation in expressing his disappointment and disapprobation of it, as, in some of its parts, it was precisely of the same import as the ill-advised measure of the last Session—that of paying a million from the Exchequer for the relief of the clergy of Ireland. The measure now proposed, instead of allaying the hostility to tithes, would, on the contrary, have a counter-tendency. Instead of the opposition now offered by the peasantry alone, it would excite the hostility of a new class, and array landlord and tenant against the impost. Indeed, it would have the effect of setting all Ireland 'in opposition to it. At present, notwithstanding the assistance afforded to the collection of this tax; al-although the collectors could call to their aid horse, foot, artillery, police, and marines, they found it a tax difficult enough to be enforced; and how much more so would it be when rendered obnoxious to this new class of opponents. It was impossible that a tax of this sort should continue to be drawn from a population of six or seven millions, for the support of a system which they believed to be bad, and the maintenance of a Church which, in their souls, they detested. It had been well put by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, when he asked how should we of this country act, if the case were reversed, and we were placed in the position of the Irish Catholics. Why, instead of passive we should resort to active resistance; and could they expect other than this from Irishmen? Were not they men—having the same feelings as Englishmen? But it seemed, that when they dealt with Ireland, they were to throw aside all considerations of common sense and common feeling, and resort to nothing but passion and prejudice, as if the people of that country were so many serfs who were to be trampled and trodden under foot. When he first heard of the intention 604 to bring forward this measure, he really did expect that something, in the shape of relief, was to be afforded. The right hon. Secretary said, he would not, at present, offer an opinion as to what might become of the Church revenues eventually. If it were his wish to conciliate the people of Ireland, he should have shown them that it was the intention of Government to appropriate these funds to the promotion of some measure productive of benefit to the people at large. He felt strongly on this question, and had, perhaps, strongly expressed himself; but feeling the measure proposed not at all adequate to the circumstances which called for it, he felt it his duty to oppose it.
§ Mr. Cobbett
would only trespass with a few words upon the House. The hon. member for Wilts (Mr. Benett) had said, that Protestants ought not to be blamed for the evils of a system which had originated with Catholics, and that tithes were the invention of fraudulent priests; but it was very odd, when the Reformation made the change, that the honest Protestant Church, notwithstanding its abhorrence of Popery, should still keep the tithes; they got rid of all the errors of the Whore of Babylon—scarlet rags—absolution, extreme unction—all—all but the tithes; and those they preserved with most holy reverence. If ever there was a shameful fraud committed, it was at the Reformation, and, therefore, the less the hon. Member said of fraud the better. The evil consequences of this boasted Reformation were felt even now. The lay impropriate tithes were fruits of the Reformation! Who took those tithes from the Church? Why, the Reformation; and by the complexity of interests which they caused, puzzled this question more than any other circumstance, and created all the present trouble. This was one of the consequences of the Protestant robbery of the Reformation. The Catholics had no lay tithes, and no thought of that monstrous thing which now gave them all the trouble. They might well say, in the language of the Scripture, "Our fathers ate sour grapes, and our teeth are thereby set on edge." Hon. Members, when speaking on this subject did not appear to understand, or seem to understand the state of Ireland, but confounded that country with England, where the people were only called upon to pay the teachers of their own religion. In Ireland, the people were compelled to pay the 605 teachers of a doctrine which they abhorred. The hon. Member blamed the member for Dublin for not having proposed a plan of his own. He would not disappoint the hon. Member, and would beg leave to suggest one. The question was simple. It was one of pounds, shillings, and pence. It was well known, that the maintenance of tithes in Ireland cost England no less a sum than two millions. They rendered necessary a police force of 500,000 men, besides 23,000 troops. Indeed, any army movements which took place, were almost as a matter of course intended as preparations for Ireland. If this source of everlasting contention were removed, Ireland would present another aspect. Irishmen were as industrious as Englishmen. The produce of the country was sufficient proof of this. They were content with a less return for their labour, in truth with less than ought to content them. The Parliament should consider the great pecuniary gain which would be effected by rendering Ireland peaceable; but above all, they should consider that, by doing justice to that country, by establishing peace in the land, and conciliating the good-will of its inhabitants, it would prove to them their right arm when called on to aid in the defence of their common interests. In the last Session, twenty millions had been granted to effect the emancipation of the negroes. Would it be too much to expect a similar sacrifice for the purpose of effecting the tranquillization of Ireland? He was certain twenty millions would effect this object. Even if it required twenty, why not make the same effort to tranquillize Ireland as to emancipate the Negroes? Parliament had a similar power in both instances; and he was sure no one would object to the means of producing so happy a result. This tranquillization would never be effected whilst the Church in Ireland continued to be supported as it was. He would not undertake off-hand to pronounce against a scheme so large and so full of detail as that of the hon. Secretary for Ireland. But it was too complex in its form, and it still left the sting rankling. It did not do what he (Mr. Cobbett) expected, for he had given the Government credit, and still gave them credit, for good wishes on this subject. He would beg of them not to make the Church in Ireland so strong as to obviate the good which might follow from beneficial measures.
§ Mr. Benett
, in explanation, said, that 606 tithes originated with the Jews; and that, on coming into possession of the Catholics, they retained the tenth, as the Jews had preserved it before them.
The hon. member for Wiltshire had professed that he had always felt the greatest attachment to Ireland. He was obliged to him for it. Ireland had many friends—many such friends—and she put him in mind of a certain fable, in which a poor creature had many friends, and found, in her distress, she was not much the better for it. The hon. Member had called on him to produce his plan. If the hon. Member had been much in his seat in that House, he would not have asked him such a question; but would rather have complained of fatigue at the frequency with which he had propounded his plans. He would, however, tell the hon. Member, that his plan was not to make any distinction between the Protestant and Catholic Churches. His plan was, to cut down the Protestant Church in its temporalities, and to take from it two-thirds of its tithes. Of the three portions, one-third he would give to the Protestant Church, one-third to the Catholic, and the remaining third he would pay in the shape of a quit rent to the public purse. This was the landlord's portion. His plan was comprehensive and comprehensible. The people of Ireland would rejoice in it; and instead of turning out at night with pikes, as they would do under the proposed plan of collecting tithes by way of land-tax, no more would be heard of predial agitation, except from the evil of absenteeism. The plan of giving more land to the Church was the worst of all. One of the greatest evils and miseries of Ireland arose from the great quantity of land in the hands of the Church. The land belonging to the Church, could always be distinguished by the eye from its poverty and bad cultivation.
§ Mr. Bellew
Sir, in the observations which I shall make on the present occasion, I trust that hon. Members will extend to me their indulgence for a few minutes, when they consider the great importance of the question, the peculiar interest that an Irish Member must feel upon the subject, and that there never was a time when the adjustment of the Church question in Ireland was of such vital concern to the entire empire. The right hon. Secretary has suggested to Members the expediency of suspending 607 their opinions on the details of the resolutions he has brought forward, until the Bill is in their hands, and in the propriety of this course I fully acquiesce. With the sentiments expressed by some, with regard to the right hon. Gentleman, I do not by any means concur; on the contrary, I consider his appointment to his present office a most fortunate circumstance. It is, however, with regret, I feel obliged to express my disappointment at the Resolutions he has now brought forward. I do not understand how, either to the landlord or the tenant, they will turn out the boon which the right hon. Gentleman seems to imagine. I only see in them the imposition of fresh burthens upon the landlord, and a decided increase in the charge upon land generally, as it is admitted by the hon. Secretary, without entering into any argument as to the exact number, that, in many instances at least, the late valuations have been grossly over-rated. Thus the Irish landlords must not only bear all the abuse, but must make up all the deficiencies of every other class of the community. The population at large refuse to pay tithes; all the power of Government is brought to bear upon them to enforce the collection, and fails. What is the remedy? Why, put it upon the landlord. Then comes the hon. member for Stroud with his panacea, and tells us that, until Poor-laws are established in Ireland, not so much on the ground of benefiting that country, as in order to raise the price of agricultural produce for the English farmer, there will be no peace. But who is to pay this new tax? Why the landlord to be sure. And how is it proposed to enable the landed interest to meet these new demands? Why, by a pleasant view in prospective of the repeal of the Corn-laws. But to return to the measure before the House—Sir, I object to that measure, because it embraces nothing of a real comprehensive principle of national relief. This is an endeavour to conciliate contending interests by temporary expedients, and bit-by-bit legislation, when nothing can give satisfaction to one party but the radical cure of the grievance, and to the other, but the full and entire maintenance of the present Church revenues. This is no new statement; for, often as the Irish Church question has been under discussion, on the occasion of the church temporalities last year, and the Tithe 608 Bills of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies the year before, it was always urged by Irish Members, that nothing short of a radical change would be successful. The right hon. Secretary, on introducing his Resolutions, particularly called our attention to the fact, that they did not, in the smallest degree, affect the question of appropriation. Now this, Sir, is precisely what I complain of, that there should be any legislation on the subject of tithes which omits this consideration, the only one about which, after all, the people of Ireland can feel any interest. It is but fair to ask, what are the prominent grievances of that system? There is first, the hardship of paying above a million of money by parties who receive no value direct, or indirect, in return—this may appear to some to be the beginning and end of the evil; but such is by no means the case; a far greater remains behind, namely, the feelings of strife, and animosity, and ill-will, spread over centuries from this cause, and from this alone. The Church Establishment in Ireland has been a bonus to the great mass of the landed proprietary, to take a view of their interests separate and distinct from the rest of the country. Under the old system, this was what might be expected. Up to the year 1829 the Government of Ireland was conducted on the avowed principle of Protestant ascendancy; and never was a system more completely organized—never was the influence of any one pervading principle more strongly felt in the benefits which it conferred upon all its supporters—but for what purpose was this system maintained? Why, for the security of the Church. The Church party knew well that it was only by the system which they adopted it could permanently be supported; and therefore say, that, quite independent of money considerations, a Protestant Church in Ireland, paid to its present amount by a Catholic people, be the mode of collection what it may, is totally inconsistent with the well-being of that country. Signal as have been the successes of sectarianism, and the triumphs of the conventicle in this country, still' the English Church is with every reduction entitled to be considered as a national establishment. It has a considerable numerical majority in the kingdom, and there is no district or parish where it has not a large portion of persons in connexion with it. 609 What I complain of then is, not a Church Establishment in the abstract, but its practical injustice in the case of Ireland? The common expression of, the Church as established by law, is full of meaning; never was there a phrase which more emphatically conveyed the nature of the Protestant Church as it exists in Ireland. It has no hold on the affections, no response in the sympathies of a people, to whom it has always been an object of aversion, and by whom it has always been regarded as an hostile and anti-national institution. What I complain of is, that the whole thing is a fiction; that bishops, rectors, and churches, are spread over the land, because by law it is ordained it should be so. The essential point of not one clergyman in five having an average congregation of ten persons is entirely overlooked. From what I know of my own neighbourhood, I am sure this is no exaggeration; and I only regret that the returns moved for by the hon. member for Cheshire are not on the table, as I have no doubt they would confirm the correctness of this statement—I do not, therefore, enter upon plans for enforcing residence, dissolving unions, or reducing emoluments to the standard of service. To restrain pluralities or augment the value of small livings, may be an important reform to members of the Established Church; but what does it signify to the people of Ireland whether these abuses are corrected or not? Were all the benefices of Ireland concentrated in the person of a single Protestant bishop, what, I ask, would it matter to the Catholic population of that country? The great, the overwhelming, the intolerable grievance consists in seven millions of persons of one religion having to pay for the religious establishment of half a million of another, from which they cannot, by possibility, receive the smallest benefit. This evil is not affected by the present Bill; and we are most sedulously guarded from, for a moment, giving into the impression that it is meant in any degree to affect it. The hon. member for Caithness stated, the other day, on presenting a petition, that unless some measure was adopted to put an end to the present system of church patronage, it would be impossible to maintain the establishment in Scotland. And yet what is the hardship in that country?—not that there is not value received, as I understand, 610 for the money paid, but that the election of clergymen has in a manner been monopolised by certain individuals. But, I ask that hon. Member, what would he say, if the whole Church Establishment in Scotland was in the hands of the Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, who bear pretty much the same numerical proportion to the people of that country as the members of the Established Church do to the whole population of Ireland? Here, Sir, I am anxious to guard myself from the imputation of being desirous that the landlords should pocket the tithes, instead of the clergy: quite the contrary—I conceive they have not the smallest claim to them. I consider, that after providing for the interests of the present incumbents, the whole of the tithes and Church lands should be treated as national property, available for such religious and charitable purposes as Parliament in its wisdom may deem fit. I do not deny that the present measure may have the effect of diminishing the ill-will felt at the present mode of collecting tithes; but I again repeat, that, as long as the great bulk of the revenues of the Established Church are employed exclusively for their present objects alone, no legislation on the subject can be considered satisfactory. His Majesty's Government have given to Ireland a national system of education, which is producing the greatest benefits; they have established a corporation commission, which will have the effect of breaking down one of the strong holds of party monopoly; they have shown a sincere desire to redress partizanship in the Magistracy, by their appointments as well as their dismissals; they are gradually reducing the public institutions of an exclusive character—they have, by such acts, as a natural consequence, forfeited the support of one party: let them not fear to do justice—full and entire justice, to the other, or rather to the nation—above all things, let them not act upon a statement often made in this House, as well as elsewhere, that the Established Church is the strongest bond of union between the two countries. It is a principle which sooner or later this House may depend upon it must be abandoned, and the sooner it is done the better.
§ Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
considered it most essential to the attainment and preservation of peace in Ireland that the Catholic clergy of that country should be 611 provided for; but the objections urged by several Irish Members to the present measure went as much against all provision for their own clergy, as against that for those of the Protestant establishment. He was surprised at the attack which had been made on the present occasion by the hon. member for Oldham (Mr. Cobbett), who had certainly well entitled himself to, if he had not already received, the thanks of the Pope. He should like to know who at present were entitled to the tithes? The landlord had no more right to the produce of the tithe, than he had to the produce of the land of any other gentleman in the kingdom. The landlord who thought of pocketing any part of the tithe money meditated what could not be considered as otherwise than a direct robbery of others, appropriating what never belonged to him. The hon. and learned member for Dublin had stated his willingness that one-third of the amount of the tithe should be preserved, not for the clergy of Ireland, but for a purpose which undoubtedly had originally been contemplated in their institution—namely, towards the relief of the poor and the purposes of education; to such a dedication of part of the tithes either in England or Ireland he never would object, provided there was found to be an excess over what was necessary for the due maintenance of the clergy, who certainly had the first and strongest claim. Not only was that a part of the original intention of tithe, but for a considerable period the practice prevailed among the faithful of the Christian Church; and if it could be restored to a certain degree, it would be most desirable. There was nothing in the present resolution to bind any one as to the appropriation of tithe. The first part of it merely went to declare that in future it should be a land-tax, and that was precisely what had been done in Scotland two hundred years ago. The tithe in that country now existed in the shape of a tax on land; and here he must be allowed to observe that the hon. and learned member for Dublin had been mistaken in his historical recollections: it was episcopacy, and not tithes, which Scotland had resisted in the time of Charles 1st. In point of fact, the Scots never resisted tithe; and the present state of the law in that country declared tithe to be the property of the State, subject to the maintenance of the clergy. Tithe as it now existed was a heavy 612 burthen on the landlord, and operated as a tax on improvement. He would not touch any part of the tithe of Ireland until he was satisfied that the clergy of the Establishment were amply provided for. He had a most unfeigned respect for them; and he hoped, while they were called on, along with every other member of the community, to make sacrifices of some sort, they would not be so imprudent,—he would even say insane,—as to offer any opposition to the present measure. If they did, the most lamentable and dangerous consequences would necessarily ensue.
§ Mr. Lambert
said, that there was a part of the proposed measure to which he assented, inasmuch as it admitted the principle of a land-tax as a fair mode of collecting this species of property; but he dissented from it in other respects, because he thought that, under existing circumstances, sixteen years' purchase was too large an amount to pay for its redemption. As to the application of tithe, it was a perfectly distinct question from that now before the House, but one, after all, which would be the great bone of contention in Ireland. He strongly objected to the valuation introduced by the Composition Act being made the principle of valuation under this new measure, because the operation of that Act, notwithstanding some wise and excellent measures introduced by the Government, had kept the country in a state of irritation from one end to the other. Whilst he pointed out the defects of that measure, he was bound to express his firm conviction, that there never was a Government more anxious to do good to Ireland than the present; but if the measures introduced by it did not produce the effects which were anticipated from them, he would put it to the House,—he would ask them calmly and dispassionately, as thinking men,—whose fault was it? He would say, that it was not 30 much the fault of the Government as of the difficulties with which they had to contend,—difficulties of long and rooted prejudices,—difficulties which they could not at once overcome; and the paramount difficulty of having to deal with a party which would neither allow the people to be at rest, nor the Government to effect any measure for the amelioration of the country. There would be no tranquility in Ireland until this question was set at rest. He was, on some points, opposed to this 613 measure, still he thought it dangerous that it should be sent forth to the people of Ireland, from an authority which they were always too willing to believe, that this measure was bad from beginning to end; that their suspicions as to the inefficacy of any measures introduced by Government should be encouraged; that they should be induced to think that all was despair, and that every enactment of the Legislature would be attended with discontent and interminable dissatisfaction. For his own part, he never attempted to raise hopes which were unreasonable; but he besought the Ministers to go to the full extent of their power in removing the grievances of that country; and he took leave to tell the Government, that he did not believe they were aware of the extent to which that House would support them in any measure that would be practically beneficial to Ireland. He hoped the right hon. Secretary would remove the objectionable parts of this measure, and make it just to all parties; that he would prove his determination to do his duty, by going to the utmost extent which his means would allow in maturing measures which would receive the concurrence of all those who looked at the question dispassionately, and who were sincerely disposed to promote the welfare of the country.
said, that the general panegyric of the hon. Gentleman on the Government was as uncalled-for as the vituperation which was said to have been used on his side of the House. Now, he would say, that there were some acts of the Administration which did not merit such an eulogy; and, just by way of parenthesis, he would mention a fact (rather inconsistent with the character attributed to it by his hon. friend),—namely, the obtaining a verdict by somewhat curious means on a late occasion, in Dublin. He would say, that he felt no slight curiosity; it would afford him no inconsiderable gratification; if he could discover what were the opinions of the present right hon. Secretary with respect to the Established Church in Ireland. The sentiments of his predecessor were well known. He started in life the acknowledged champion of the Church; he never concealed the fact; he boldly and unflinchingly maintained his chivalry in the cause of the Church. He believed, however, the present right hon. Secretary had had a good deal of experience in Ministerial changes; he had, he believed, 614 supported the cabinets of Lord Liverpool, Mr. Canning, Lord Goderich, and the Duke of Wellington, as well as the present. And he had, therefore, no slight difficulty in eliciting from these facts what the peculiar views of the right hon. Gentleman were. The views of the present Lord Chancellor of England were well known, and so were those of many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House; but the peculiar views of the right hon. Secretary on this subject merely afforded a field to the imagination of the hon. Gentleman who had pronounced a panegyric upon his policy. His hon. friend had said, that the question of the application of tithes had not yet been decided upon, and that it was not even yet a subject of discussion. Now, in the King's Speech were the following words:—"I recommend to you the early consideration of such a final adjustment of the tithes in that part of the United Kingdom as may extinguish all just cause of complaint, without injury to the rights and property of any class of my subjects, or to any institution in Church and State." Was there not, he would ask, something decisive in that? Could it be said, after the reading, that the question of application was not before them? Why, then, was not the question of application at once brought to issue? He asked the hon. Gentleman opposite, who had dealt in such eloquent praise of Ministers, what excuse he could give for such an omission? It was indigenous to the case, and should have been introduced and disposed of. The Tithe Bills which they had brought in were found wholly ineffectual; and many of the evils of those measures must necessarily be revived by the present measure. The one which vested the arrears of tithes in the Crown, though it armed the Attorney-General with the most extensive powers for their enforcement—though a large army was called out for their collection—completely failed in procuring the payment of tithes. But on what ground did the right hon. Gentleman believe that this plan would be more successful than those which had preceded it? Would it materially diminish the numbet of tithe-payers? Why, they heard from the right hon. Gentleman, that, in sixty-two parishes alone, they had now sixteen thousand tithe-payers, who, by the operation of this measure, would probably be reduced to 9,000. Thus, in sixty-two 615 parishes only, they would have no less than 9,000 occupiers paying, or rather liable to pay, this land-tax. Thus the diminution of difficulty in collection, so far as it depended on diminution of numbers, would be very little; and as the class of persons who would be liable to pay the land-tax was the same as that which now paid tithes, they would still be subject to the evils of which they now complained under the Tithe Composition Act. If the occupiers would not now pay tithes, how could they expect the same persons to pay a land-tax? He appealed, not to speculation, but to facts, and on the same ground that previous legislation had proved unavailing, on the same ground did he tell them, that the present proposition would prove equally futile. It was not fair to call on those who acted with him to produce a plan in opposition to this. Such extempore legislation could not be expected; and it was for the Government to defend their own plan on its own merits. If the Government had attended to the advice which his party had given it in 1832, they would have avoided many of the evils which they had entailed upon themselves. The question of appropriation was everything. They complained of agitation: let them take away its groundwork; but the present Bill would not touch the cause of the agitation complained of. He was not one who called for the subversion of the National Church, but he required that it should be put upon a footing more adapted to the wants and feelings of the people of Ireland. He would conclude with this remark,—that, before the Catholic question was settled the people of Ireland refused to submit to tithes. Before then, the peasantry revolted against their payment; and now that the Catholic Question was settled—now that Roman Catholics were placed on the same constitutional level with the Protestants,—now that thirty-three Catholics had seats in that House, and were backed by the support of a large majority of the people of Ireland,—now he told them, that it was not in their power to maintain the National Church as it stood; and that they who vainly endeavoured to maintain it, would themselves be crushed beneath its ruins.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
stated, that he felt much embarrassment, as he was sorry he could not agree to the Resolutions. On these grounds he objected,—first, that the 616 compulsory composition was the amount taken for future payment,—second, that land was to be given to the clergy in lieu of tithe,—and third, that no statement was made as to the ultimate appropriation and distribution. The King's speech, and that of the right hon. Secretary, held out the hope that this was to be a final settlement. Ireland had had many such promises made, and few of them kept. In 1782, she was told, that there would be then a final settlement; this Mr. Pitt denied, and said it was no final settlement. In 1799 and 1800, Ireland was told there would be then a final settlement; and on that occasion the present Lord Grey declared, it would prove not to be a final settlement; and, on the present occasion, it was probable there would be the same predictions and the same result. If the right hon. Secretary, of whose good intentions towards Ireland he was fully persuaded, had been more explicit on the points alluded to, he would have saved Government much trouble. A Reformed House ought, and would support them, in a resolution as to the future distribution of tithes, and would bring them back to their original purposes,—the support, not only of the clergy, but of the poor, the disabled, and the distressed. Charity, as well as religion, were just objects for a claim to support from this House; therefore he submitted, that a resolution with regard to the original division of tithes should have been introduced. With respect to the purchase of land for the Church, he conceived that the Church had land enough already. The complaint was, that Church lands were neglected, and could be distinguished in Ireland on account of their barren appearance and bad cultivation. Why, then, should they increase these lands, respecting which the House had heard loud complaints already? the amount, too, would be considerable; for a clergyman possessed of a living of 200l. a-year in tithes, should get, at least, two hundred acres of land—it would give to the country bad farmers, and to the people bad pastors, too much engaged to attend either to the cultivation of their farms, or to the performance of their clerical duties. Further, this allocation of land set at rest the other question of future appropriation; for, if the poor, and the lame, and blind were hereafter to be provided for, they could not be charged upon the land—but they might be provided for, if the tithes were in money 617 —so that there was an additional objection, inasmuch as this arrangement at the outset precluded the interference, and might prevent the House hereafter from opening the question of application. The resolution stated, that an amount equal to the amount of the present composition was to be the standard; to this a very fair objection might be made. The Bill known by the name of Mr. Goulburn's Bill, raised the tithes; it gave not only what was paid, but agreed to be paid, and this, too, with less cost, and trouble, of collection, for all which a great allowance should be made; for, was any landlord's gross rent-roll his nett rent-roll? Did any lay-man receive the exact amount of the rent agreed to be paid? The reverse was the case even after the late reductions; so that, while the landlords in Ireland reduced their rents, the clergy and this Bill had raised their tithes. This proceeding appeared worse when they took into consideration the Act of 1832, which rendered the compositions compulsory throughout Ireland. The petitions from the county of Down, which had been presented to the House that morning, and on which he had commented at the time, deserved peculiar notice; those eight townlands that had hitherto been exempt from tithes were brought as under the Act, and all were rendered in future liable to the composition. This was a gross and crying injustice; but it was not only in the county of Down that this occurred; in the county that he belonged to, lands hitherto exempt from tithe were, by the Act of 1832, brought under the composition, and forced to contribute, some at the rate of four and five shillings the acre. At the meetings where this took place there was no Commissioner acting for the parish—the individual named by Government was the sole actor, and the rights of the parishioners had, in many cases, been neglected or violated. This arrangement, therefore, required revision; and such a composition should not be made the standard whereby the future assessment should be regulated, and the incomes of the clergy finally fixed. It was easy to see that the measure was not the plan of the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland; it was in part, the project of his predecessor; his hand was visible throughout. The plan was one, not for the people of Ireland, but for the Established Chureh. They had had it before them in a less perfect shape since 1832; 618 the right hon. Gentleman at that period selected his Committee; he prepared and brought in the report—this was the plan—and it was stated in the report which lay on the Table. First, it declared, it would not say anything in favour of the allocation or appropriation for charitable or national purposes (the most important part of the case); next, it advised to compound, and then to give land to the clergy in lieu of tithes. To this the Irish Members objected both in and out of the House; they recorded their objections, and assigned their reasons; and those reasons he held in his hand. Further, they advised the Government—and if the Government were wise it would follow that advice, prepared, as it was, by the Irish Members at their meetings, and fully and well considered--it was as follows:—"They submit, by this third resolntion, that the fund to be substituted for tithes should be much lighter in effect than that heretofore produced by tithes; because, they are convinced, that no final or satisfactory settlement of Church claims in Ireland can take place without a previous revision of the appropriation of Church property, an abolition of clerical sinecures, and an arrangement of disproportionate clerical incomes." This was the advice; and Government would act wisely if they followed it; this was not the idle or inconsiderate expression of opinion by a few Members, but the sober and solemn result of discussions and meetings held for the express purpose of aiding the Government in arranging this important question in a manner which, while it secured every present possessor of tithes in the full amount of their rights, sought, at the same time, to set apart a provision for the poor and destitute, so that, according as the incumbents fell in, and their services were not wanted, such portions of tithes might be allocated for charitable purposes. The hon. member for Wiltshire seemed wholly to mistake the question as to tithes in Ireland. The hon. Member thought they always existed there; he was mistaken; tithes did not exist there till the time of the Synod of Cashel in 1172; then they were introduced; but, even then, they were subjected to the deduction of a portion for the poor as well as for the Church and the minister. The ancient records and history would satisfy the hon. Member on this point, if he would take the trouble to refer to them. It was worth remarking, that there was a meet- 619 ing of Irish noblemen, members of Parliament, and landed proprietors, held in London in 1822, some of the Members of his Majesty's present Government were present, and signed the resolutions then proposed. Those resolutions were favourable to commutation of tithe, but they took care to avoid recommending that land should be given as a provision to the clergy—the reverse, he believed was the opinion of the meeting, and, though not expressed, yet that, he believed, was the sentiment. The document still existed, bearing the names of some of the landed proprietors of Ireland. On this point, he begged to say, that the landlords did not seek to get the tithe for themselves, but they did not wish to become tithe-proctors for the clergy or the Government; whereas, the measure proposed would place them in this state, and, therefore, he objected to it. The landlords were to indemnify themselves for what they paid to the clergy by coming down upon their tenants. Who would do this? Who would succeed in doing it? And what landlord would undertake the office of distraining his tenants for tithes? Government had not been able to collect them; would the landlords be more likely to do it? He would state a conversation which passed between a landlord and his tenant in Ireland. After passing the late Bill, the tenant was told, that he was to be exempted from paying tithes, and that the landlords were in future to pay them, but that they were to be repaid by the tenant in the shape of rent. The instant reply was, "Do you think, that if we beat the police out of the tithes, we would not be able to beat the landlords?" Now, it was against such beating he protested; and he humbly begged to decline the office of tithe-proctor. The Irish landlords would do well to avoid any collisions with their tenantry; and the proposed plan would lead to it. He admitted, that the Government of Ireland was placed in great difficulties; it had to deal with two parties, which was not a very easy thing. He, for one, should be the last man who would feel disposed to embarrass the Ministers; but he anxiously hoped there was one party they would attend to, and whose interests they would alone consult, that was the people of Ireland. He believed that Ministers wished well to the country, and wished to act well; at they must listen to her voice. He did not think that Ireland would be 620 content unless there was another mode of appropriation of tithes, and a charitable distribution of them. For that reason, he should propose, by way of amendment, the sentiments expressed in 1832; and though he much regretted being obliged to oppose the Resolutions of the right hon. Secretary, yet as he did not think that they expressed what the people of Ireland wished for, be should move, after the first Resolution, that the following be substituted:Resolved—That, in coming to this Resolution we recognize the right of persons having vested interests, and declare that it is the duty of Parliament to provide for those persons, by making them a just compensation.Resolved—That we also recognize the liability of property in Ireland to contribute to a fund for supporting and promoting religion and charity, but that such fund may, and ought to be, quite different in the mode of collection, and much lighter in effect than that raised by the system of tithes.Resolved—"That we are also of opinion that the mode of levying, and the application of such fund, and its distribution ought to be left to the decision of Parliament.
§ Lord John Russell
said, he should not have risen, were it not for the appeal made to him by the hon. Member who spoke last. He could assure that hon. Gentleman, that any opinions he before expressed upon the subject of appropriation remained unchanged; and he could easily reconcile them with this proposition of a land-tax in lieu of tithes, and of a permanent redemption of that land-tax afterwards. As the hon. and learned Gentleman well knew, he differed from several of his colleagues in the Administration as to the appropriation of this property; but upon the question on which the hon. and learned member for Dublin had that night declaimed, he believed that there was no difference of opinion in the Ministry. The hon. and learned Gentleman proposed that two-thirds of the present amount of tithes should be utterly abolished, and that the remaining one-third should be applied to the same purposes to which the Grand Jury cess was now applied; or, in other words, that it should be substituted in place of another burthen to which the land was already liable. But this was nothing more than abolishing tithe altogether; it 621 was a direct act of robbery, neither palliated nor disguised; it was a mere act of confiscation, which assumed the appearance of giving relief to the miserable and vexed occupiers of the soil, but which, if it should be adopted by the Legislature, would give relief to none but the affluent landholder. On the question of appropriation, he might have the misfortune to express opinions at variance with those of some of his colleagues; but, on this question, he gave his vote, in the full reliance, that it would be in accordance with that of all the Ministers, and of the majority of that House, unless, indeed, they were prepared to abandon all the rights of property, and to say, that all means, even the most illegal, even such as were attended with tumult and bloodshed, might be used to conduce to an end not less disgraceful and calamitous than the means employed to carry it were violent and unholy.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
said, he had been silent hitherto, not because he did not entertain a just sense of the importance of the question, but from knowing that he should have other opportunities of speaking upon it. The origin of tithes, and their rights of appropriation, had been often and ably discussed, so that very little that was new could now be said upon the subject. His object in rising was not to repeat what had been said, but rather to supply what was unsaid. He regretted much that the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution, did not, in the course of his observations, advert at all to the question of appropriation. He lamented that he did not advert to it for the purpose of declaring explicitly, and at once, that he would never assent to such a principle as had been advocated by some of the Gentlemen from Ireland. As his right hon. friend proposed the Resolution in such a way as did not call upon the House to prejudge the question, he would not oppose it. It seemed to him, as he understood it, that the effect of the intended measure would be to reduce the property of every incumbent, not from 50l. to 32l.; but to something like 64l. per cent. His right hon. friend (Mr. Littleton), indeed, said, the reduction would only be in the proportion of 100l. to 80l., but, taking all circumstances into the account, the reduction must be greater than that. He would say no more, but reserve himself for some future stage of the measure.
§ Mr. Barron
said, that he must object to the resolution proposed by the right hon. Secretary, inasmuch as it held out no prospect of relief to the occupiers of land in Ireland. The right hon. Secretary seemed disposed to think the measure would be final. But it certainly could not be a final measure, and he much regretted that a final measure was not proposed. It must prove a source of great discontent. It would make the landlords coalesce with the occupiers, to get rid entirely of a contribution which he should be glad to see preserved for the purpose of being applied to State purposes. For his part he never did contemplate or desire any reduction in the amount of tithe property. He wished to see it applied beneficially and dealt with by the State for public purposes. The State had just as good a right to dispose of it as he or any other man had to dispose of his private property. In the Irish Parliament tithes had been always treated as public property; and it was going too far to alienate the whole of this fund for the use of the clergy of a minority of the population. He, and those who thought as he did, claimed for the poor and for the Catholic clergy part of that which was originally granted to them. For the space of five or six hundred years, tithes had been always collected with great difficulty in Ireland. The inhabitants of that country never gave a hearty assent to them. They were imposed first by a foreign King, by Henry 2nd, in the year 1172. He was the first who conferred the power of collecting tithes by force of arms; and this circumstance, he had no doubt was the origin of that hatred with which tithes had ever since been regarded in Ireland. They never had been freely paid for a space of even ten years together. The same objection would continue to be felt until this fund was made applicable to useful public purposes. Until this was done the people of Ireland would not be at peace. They would think themselves unjustly treated, and have no confidence in a British Legislature. Every person acquainted with Ireland must feel convinced that a measure of this kind must be mischievous, or at least that it would be productive of no useful object. His main objection to it was, that it would afford no relief to the peasantry; on the contrary, it would only aggravate their difficulties and 623 discontent, when the landlord, by the proposed measure, would pay only 80l. he might call upon his tenant to pay 100l. That was unfair. The tenant, and not the landlord, should have the full benefit of the measure. There were many Gentlemen in that House who were calling loudly for a system of Poor-laws in Ireland. This, if added to the land-tax now proposed in lieu of tithes, must almost beggar the landlords. It would amount to rapine, and robbery, and spoliation. What was worse still, it would put the landlords and their tenants at daggers-drawn. The inevitable consequence, in the long run, would be to rouse the whole of Ireland as one man against the Government, and shake it from its place.
§ Mr. Christmas
expressed his gratification at finding that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had at last put this question upon its right footing. Without entering into the question of its appropriation, he had called tithe the property of the Church. It was the property of the Church, and therefore, the property of the nation. It was foolish to determine on the appropriation of that property without ascertaining whether there was any property to appropriate. The hon. and learned member for Dublin had declared that his plan went to abolish two-thirds of the present amount of tithes. He did not exactly understand how the hon. and learned Member was to do that; but even, when it was done, he had not got rid of the difficulty. If one-third of the present amount of tithes were still to be retained, as the hon. and learned member for Dublin proposed, would the Irish farmer, who now refused to pay any tithes, consent to pay that portion? He thought not. He would, however, go still further, and say that the giving up of tithes altogether would be no benefit to the farmer of Ireland, but only a benefit to his landlord. The people of Ireland were always inclined to jump to conclusions. They seemed to think that systems, the growth of centuries, were to be removed, not by gradual and cautious alterations, but at a blow. This was the idea on which they ever appeared to act; but it would not always attain the desired result; and even the great agitator himself might find at last the fierce democracy he had roused turn round upon him and refuse to submit 624 longer to his control. With respect to the measure detailed by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, it appeared to him of rather a complicated nature. He would therefore refrain from giving any decided opinion upon it until it came regularly before the House. It was at all events evident that whatever became of the tithes, the occupying tenant must be relieved from them. He should vote for the original Motion.
§ Mr. Lalor
thought, that the tithes would never be paid again in Ireland but by compulsion. The great error of modern legislation was, that measures were framed and carried through without reference to the feelings of the people. He warned the House against falling into that error upon the present occasion. He hoped the landlords would not be made compulsory collectors of tithes.
§ Mr. Fitzgerald
I am very sorry to say that I am much disappointed and dissatisfied with the measure proposed this evening by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland; for while all the grievous burthen of tithes is proposed to be continued, the appropriation of them, which after all should be the main point of settlement, comprehending as it does the real object of relief, is not alone withheld, but postponed to an indefinite period. Sir, I repudiate the idea that the tithes should fall into the landlords' pocket, and as far as my knowledge goes, I know none who seek or desire such a benefit; but at the same time I protest against the landlords being thus made liable for an odious impost, or being converted into tithe-proctors for the Irish parsons. As well might this House call on the landlords of Ireland to undertake the collection of any other tax as to compel them, nolens volens, to gather in the tithe. If, however, they were willing to make such a sacrifice, they should at least be satisfied that the peace and welfare of their country would be the result; but any such hope must be wholly out of view from the present measure; for again I beg to say, that in my opinion it is the appropriation of the tithes in Ireland that constitutes the main source of all the evils and the heartburnings of the present system. Had the resolutions of the right hon. Secretary been met with a direct negative, I should have voted for them, in order that we might see the details of the intended measure, without any pledge of 625 supporting them; but looking to the amendment that is proposed, and particularly in the absence of any remedial measure whatever, I should not be doing justice to myself or the landlords of Ireland, if I did not support it, and oppose a measure of the description proposed in the original resolutions.
§ Mr. Charles A. Walker
—Sir, I cannot give my approbation to the measure proposed by the right hon. Secretary. It is as objectionable and as unjust as the compulsory Composition Act, passed in the last Parliament, and which it takes for its basis, and only differs from it in changing the name of the tax which is sought to be substituted for it. The objections to tithes and compositions for tithes in Ireland are fourfold—namely, the appropriation, which, after all, is the leading grievance; the amount levied; the unequal proportions in which that amount burthens the several parishes throughout Ireland, as compared with each other; and lastly the mode of collection. Now, the proposed measure does not remedy one of those objections; it leaves the appropriation as before; it continues the burthen undiminished; it perpetuates the unjust and unequal apportionment of the tax upon the several parishes; and it merely alters the old mode of collection, by substituting one more grievous, and which, for many years to come will still bring the collectors into collision with the occupiers in every part of Ireland which is at present under lease. The Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Meath is, in fact, the memorable resolutions agreed to by the Irish members in the last Parliament who opposed the compulsory Composition Bill. The Amendment acknowledges that tithes are public property, and that their appropriation is at all times open to the disposal of Parliament for public purposes—that the present incumbents have a life interest, and are entitled, in the first instance, out of that fund, to a fair and just compensation. What was meant by a fair and just compensation by no means goes to the extent that the clergy shall continue to receive incomes equal in amount to their former nominal tithes; for the composition unquestionably should be considerably below that nominal amount, as well on account of the increased facility of receiving it clear of expenses, as also its increased security, which would at least double the value of 626 that species of property, and which increased value the tithe-owner should purchase by a considerable reduction in the amount. His Majesty's speech, in recommending the settlement of this question, desires that the interests of all his subjects shall be attended to; but in the proposed measure no interest is preserved or attended to but that of the Church, while that of the laity is trampled under foot without mercy. In one small parish, near where I reside, in the county of Wexford, the small tithes never amounted to more than 30l. per annum; the commissioner has laid on 60l. to be paid in future for those tithes. In a parish in Meath it is stated the parishioners many years ago converted their tillage lands into pasture, and thus legally reduced the tithes, in amount, owing to the Agistment Law in Ireland; but the compulsory commissioner now rates them as if they had been under tillage, and has added to the tithes of that parish one-fifth increase of the amount, and has the impudence to state, as his reason for so doing, that it was to make up for the supposed reduction by the operation of the Law of Agistment; thus the tithes of this parish have been increased in defiance of the law. The great and intolerable grievance of the proposed measure is, that in its mode of apportioning this perpetual tax, it takes for its basis the unjust principle of the Composition Act; it subjects the parishioners of one parish to a land-tax perhaps double in amount to that to be paid by those of an adjoining parish equal in every other repect, merely on account of temporary circumstances having caused the actual amount of the tithes at the present moment to differ. Thus, if the tenants in one parish have chosen to grow more corn for a few years past—if they have had an extortionate, cruel, and litigious parson and tithe-proctor:—if the parishioners have not been litigious, but peaceable, industrious, and obedient to the law, then for the time being the tithes of that parish have been screwed up to the highest rate, and the reward that parish now meets from the present Ministry is, that the burden which is now great on them from temporary causes, is to be perpetuated upon them for ever. Again, let us look to some other parish: the land perhaps (and such is frequently the case) of a much better quality than the former, of equal extent, but for some years the 627 parishioners have considered it more profitable to graze than to till it, the agistment tithe not being legal; therefore in such parish the amount of tithe will be small, so long as that system of agriculture prevails there; or should the parishioners have been refractory and litigious, and the tithes could not be obtained, or if the parson has been a moderate and merciful man;—under all those circumstances, the amount of tithes paid for a few years past has been small, and this parish will thus derive perpetual advantage over its unfortunate neighbour, by paying a small proportion of the general land-tax, merely on account of temporary circumstances; while the quiet parishioners of the former parish will learn the useful lesson, that had they been as refractory as their neighbours, they would have been as fortunate in the result. The inequality being perpetuated, so will the discontent. Again, see what injustice will be done to the several landlords of Ireland—this law fixes henceforth a certain sum-total, as the amount which Ireland is to pay for a permanent commutation of tithes; and it says, that as each landlord has purchased or inherited his estate, subject to the tenth of its produce belonging to the Church or the public, that he shall, immediately or ultimately, as the case may be, be responsible for the payment of a portion of this tax, and be allowed to redeem it by paying a certain sum of money. Now, it is clear that every man's estate, which was not tithe-free, was inherited or purchased, subject in law to an equal liability, and the just mode of laying on this land-tax would be, to ascertain the relative value of each estate, and apportion it accordingly. But the measure proposes quite a different mode: one man's estate will escape from all future liability to be tithed, on paying a land-tax of perhaps only three pence per acre, while another less fortunate landlord will have to purchase off the same liability by paying, as his proportion of this tax, for ever, a land-tax of five, seven, and, as in one instance which I could mention in the county of Wexford, ten shillings an acre, for land of a much inferior description. No good reason can be given for thus making the unjust inequality of this tax perpetual, when it does not arise from natural, but from temporary and accidental causes alone.
§ A second division took place upon an Amendment similar to that moved by Mr. Grattan, which was moved by Mr. O'Dwyer. The numbers were—Ayes 66; Noes 190: Majority 124.
§ The original Resolution was agreed to.
|The Ayes—On the first Division,|
|Attwood, T.||O'Connell, D.|
|Blake, M.||O'Connell, M.|
|Bellew, R. M.||O'Connell, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||O'Connor, Don|
|Butler, Hon. Col.||O'Connor, F.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Evans, George||Parrott, J.|
|Faith full, G.||Roche, W.|
|Fielden, J.||Roche, D.|
|Finn, W. F.||Roe, J.|
|Fitzgerald, T.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Fitzgibbon, Hon. H.||Ruthven, E.|
|Fitzsimon, C.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Fryer, R.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Kennedy, T. F.||Wallace, T.|
|Lalor, P.||Wallace, R.|
|The Ayes—On the second Division|
|Attwood, T.||Lalor, P.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Lambert, H.|
|Butler, Hon. P.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Brotherton, J.||O'Connell, D.|
|Bellew, R. M.||O'Connell, M.|
|Briggs, R.||O'Connell, J.|
|Barron, H. W.||O'Connell, M.|
|Blake, M. J.||O'Connor, Don|
|Clay, W.||O'Connor, F.|
|Cobbett, W.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Ormelie, Earl of|
|Davies, Col.||Oliphant, L.|
|Divett, E.||Parrott, J.|
|Evans, G.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Ewart, W.||Richards, J.|
|Finn, W. F.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Fitzsimon, C.||Ruthven, E.|
|Faithfull, G.||Roche, D.|
|Fielden, J.||Roche, W.|
|Fitzgerald, T.||Roe, J.|
|Fryer, R.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Fitzgibbon, Hon. R.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Gisborue, T.||Talbot, J.|
|Hardy, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Hawes, B.||Vincent, Sir V.|
|Hutt, W.||Wallace, T.|
|Hall, B.||Walker, C. A.|
|Humphery, J.||Williams, Col.|
|Kennedy, T. F.||Wood, G. W.|
|Lloyd, J. H.||Wason, R.|
|Langdale, Hon. C.||Ward, H. G.|