HC Deb 25 February 1834 vol 21 cc756-64
Mr. Sheil

presented a petition, very numerously signed, indeed by some thousands of the inhabitants of the town of Thurles, in the county of Tipperary, praying for the total abolition of tithes and the Repeal of the Union. The hon. Member said, that the petition stated that the majority of the Members of that House were ignorant of the interests of Ireland. It also stated, that the Repeal of the Union was as much required by Ireland as the Reform Bill was by England, and that the majority of the English Members were as indifferent to the interests of Ireland as the Members of the boroughs formerly were to the interests of their constituents.

The Speaker

said, the hon. Member must be aware, that he could not present a petition so worded.

Mr. Sheil

said, the petition merely stated that the English Members were not acquainted with the interests of Ireland.

The Speaker

said, that it appeared the wording of the petition was, that the majority of English Members were indifferent to the interests of Ireland [Cries of "Read, read!"]

Mr. Sheil

said, as his object was not to delay the time of the House by any discussion, he would read the petition. The hon. Member proceeded to read the petition at length. The petitioners complained of the grievances inflicted by the tithe system, that it had brought odium upon the Church Establishment in Ireland, and that the Tithe Bill of last Session was likely to increase that odium, and bring about some frightful crisis. That, without the total abolition of tithes, all hope of peace or prosperity for Ireland was in vain. The petitioners contended, that from the various and important duties the English Members had to discharge relative to the local concerns and the colonies of that country, they could not find time, even if they were acquainted with its local wants, to attend to the interests of Ireland. They, therefore, prayed for a repeal of the Legislative Union. The hon. Member said, that, perhaps, he had expressed himself in stronger language than he was warranted by the wording of the petition. He moved that the petition be brought up.

Mr. Finch

said, that it was a bold assertion to say, that the affairs of Ireland were neglected, whilst there were one hundred Irish Members in that House. Those hon. Gentlemen must want either the power or the will to attend to the affairs of that country. He did not believe, that the accusation was well founded, for nothing could be more inconsistent than to say, that hon. Gentlemen of such talent wanted power; and it would be as uncharitable to suppose, that they wanted will. When the House considered that there were reports from Ireland upon agriculture, manufactures, population, the criminal jurisprudence, and when there were two debates a week upon Irish affairs, that one-half of the English Members had visited that country, and that they had one hundred Irish Members to give them all the information they could require—it was rather a bold assertion to say, that they were utterly unacquainted with Irish interests; and he was bound to say, in justice to the hon. Members for Ireland, as well as the other Members of the House, that, in his opinion, the charge was without the slightest foundation.

Mr. O'Connell

observed, that there was a great deal of truth in what the hon. Gentleman had just stated; but that it happened to be totally irrelevant, to the case at issue. The hon. Gentleman made a statement, in the course of his brief observations, which fully bore out the allegation of the petitioners respecting the ignorance of Irish affairs generally prevalent in the British House of Commons. He had stated, that there were one hun- dred Irish Members, and that they were all awake and watching over the interests of their country. Now, if the hon. Gentleman had known as much of Ireland as he had given credit to the House for knowing, he might be aware that this hundred was not entirely composed of representatives of Irish feelings—Irish wants—or Irish wishes. Many of them, very respectable Gentlemen, no doubt, in private life, were the representatives of the contrary. They were the representatives of the system of oppression which had ground Ireland to the dust; they were the representatives of that misrule which had cursed that beautiful, but unfortunate country; they were the representatives of the bitterest polemical spirit which ever actuated human beings, the representatives of individual feelings, individual wants, individual interests—the representatives of any and everything but Ireland. The hon. Gentleman ought, therefore, to have known, that though some of the eyes of Argus were not and would not be closed, while they were permitted to open on the light, others were shut most effectually to all which could benefit that unhappy country. What information, he would ask, could Government give them that they were not already in possession of? Why, the Irish Members were there day after day to listen to their Coercion Bills and other arbitrary measures. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, could not instruct them about the state of Ireland. The very observations of the hon. Gentleman suggested the ignorance of the House on Irish affairs. He did not mean to say, that English Gentlemen were not desirous of serving Ireland; he believed many of them were; but what could they do when they were totally ignorant of anything relative to that country; unless, indeed, such information as they received from the poisoned and corrupt sources which the press of this country supplied? But the English Gentlemen would require, at least, 100 schoolmasters to teach them, before they could understand legislating for Ireland. The people of Ireland, therefore, felt they had no resource but in a Repeal of the Legislative Union. They felt that the claim for the Repeal was a just one, and they were determined to persevere in their demands. The Union had been carried by every species of the most profligate bribery and corruption. The blood of mothers and of infants had been shed in order to accomplish this abominable measure. In fact, there was not in the records of Spanish brutality towards South America, anything half so brutal as the treatment Ireland had received at the hands of those who were the instruments in carrying that iniquitous measure.

Mr. Finn

said, that he and other Irish Members were most anxious to give every possible information to the English and Scotch Members on the subject of the Union and its effects upon Ireland. As an instance of the system of legislation adopted by this country towards Ireland, he begged to advert to an observation made the other evening, when an hon. Member said, that if there was not one Protestant in Ireland, still the Protestant Church ought to be kept up in Ireland. Surely, this was a strange jumble to legislate upon, and yet, absurd as it was, it appeared to be acted upon, in a very great measure, by the Parliament of this country whenever Ireland was concerned. To show the manner in which the Protestant Church was supported in a country the great portion of the population of which were Protestants, he begged to read a statement to the House. The hon. Member accordingly read the following table, exhibiting the state of population in fourteen parishes in the county of Kilkenny, indiscriminately taken, showing the total number of inhabitants and Protestants in each parish in the period of a century, namely, from 1731 to 1831, and demonstrating the progress the State religion had made in the last 100 years; together with some brief notes that would explain what would be generally found, in Ireland, the state of residence of the beneficed clergy;—

Parishes. Population in 1731. Population in 1831.
Total Inhabitants. Total Protestants. Total Inhabitants. Total Protestants.
Killcoan (a.) 83 none Return in 1831 none
Ballygurram (b) 214 none 693 none
Killbride (c) 75 none 937 none
Killmackavogue (d) 250 23 1027 1
Killcollum (e) 300 49 2139 none
Rathpatrick (f) 490 67 1627 none
Killculliheen (g) 422 92 1353 6 families or 24 souls
Rathkyran (h) 445 34 1,511 none
Aglishmartin (i) 148 none 1,485 none
Portnescully (j) 630 23 no return none
Poleroan (k) 697 38 1246 1
Tubird (l) 71 46 1,103 none
Ballytarsna (m) 201 32 no return none
Clonmore (n) 227 27 1,147 3
4,258 391 14,268 29
  1. (a) It is situated in the barony of Ida. This and Killbride held by one incumbent, who resides in another diocese.
  2. (b) Tithes 165l., of which 110l. is payable to the Corporation of Waterford, and the remainder to the Vicar, who is not resident, having five other parishes in the diocese.
  3. (c) Incumbent not resident.
  4. (d) Incumbent not resident, same as Ballygorum, being one of the six parishes that form the union of Rosbercon.
  5. (e) Tithes 480l., of which 320l. is payble to Sir E. Leighton the impropriator, the remainder to the Vicar, who is non-resident, having two other parishes in the diocese.
  6. (f) Incumbent not resident, being one of the six parishes that form the living of Rosbercon.
  7. (g) Incumbent, or Curate, not resident: the former has also another parish in this diocese, and two in that of Ferns, where he resides. The Curate is allowed for the cure of the twenty-four souls 50l. per annum.
  8. (h) Incumbent not resident.
  9. (i) Incumbent not resident; lives on a preferment in the West of Ireland (Dunmore.)
  10. (j) Incumbent not resident. This parish is in the barony of Iverk, on the Suir, and one of the three parishes that form the union of Poleroan.
  11. (k) Incumbent resides, keeps no Curate, and has two other parishes in the diocese.
  12. (l) Incumbent not resident, has four other parises in the diocese.
  13. (m) This parish is half a mile in length, by the same in breadth. Incumbent not resident.
  14. (n) The incumbent resides in his glebe-house, which was built for him, by the Board of First Fruits.
Here were fourteen parishes, indiscriminately taken, in eleven of which there were, according to the recent census, 14,268 inhabitants (the other three parishes not enumerated, or appearing in the population abstract). In ten of the fourteen parishes there is not a single Protestant, and in the other four there are but thirty-two Protestant souls. Could such a monstrous state of things be continued, and a gorgeous establishment retained and kept up to provide for men, who, for the greater part, have no duties to perform, and are, consequently, absent from the places from which their income is drawn? It was a stain upon England, and on civilized man, to draw from a people one-10th of their scanty subsistence, with a peasantry half-sheltered, half-clothed, whom want, neglect, and suffering, have made reckless; who, without employment, food, or sympathy, linger out life in idleness or mendicancy, or sacrifice it in crime or despair. This would give the House an idea of the blessing which the Protestant Church and the collection of tithes conferred upon Ireland; and, surely, Ireland ought to bless the Protestant Church and this House for upholding that Church in all its splendour in so wretched, so impoverished a country. He must also complain that, owing to the compulsory Tithe Composition Bill, a great increase had taken place in the amount of tithes originally collected. In one case, a gentleman residing in the county of Kilkenny, who, heretofore, only paid 15l. tithe, and who was most punctual in his payments, had his tithes raised to 53l. His hon. friend (Colonel Butler) had a petition to present from this gentleman, complaining of this increase of the assessment. Here was an instance of the impolitic operation of this Bill, which had the effect of burthening those on whom the Government could heretofore rely—and for what object? Why, to perpetuate the injustice of supporting, in an extravagant manner, a Church unconnected with the great mass of the people; and, as far as had yet been learnt, there did not appear to be the least intention to do away with this burthen and lighten it in the smallest degree. Did they think that this cunning injustice would be borne tamely? If they did, they were much mistaken.

Mr. Littleton

complained of hon. Gentlemen for ever dragging in the subject of the Church upon petitions totally foreign to that question. Here was a petition upon the Repeal of the Union. [Mr. Finn And also praying for an abolition of tithes.] He was aware that the tithe question was mixed up with the Repeal of the Union, for it seemed to be the principle upon which those who got up Repeal Meetings, acted, to also mix up that very popular subject with it—the tithe question; fearing, no doubt, that the Repeal of the Union would not be attractive enough to command an attendance at meetings, to be called for that purpose alone. But still he must complain of hon. Gentlemen for ever lugging in the subject of tithes, no matter whether the question was or was not before the House; and he particularly complained of the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House, making the statement he did, when he at the same time stated, that a petition was to be presented on the subject of the increase of tithes, upon which occasion an opportunity would have been afforded to the hon. Gentleman to make the statement which he had just made. He would not now enter into the subject adverted to by the hon. Member; but he would just observe that the cases stated by the hon. Gentleman were those of ecclesiastical unions—they were not substantial parishes—if they were, they would be nothing more nor less than sinecures; but they were not; and this he would prove upon another occasion. The hon. Gentleman said, that the Compulsory Tithe Bill had increased tithes in Ireland, but he had not stated the reason for this increase. When he brought forward the second reading of his Bill relative to the abolition of tithes in Ireland, he was sure that he should be able to satisfy the House that there were good and sufficient grounds for the increase in the amount of composition adverted to by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Feargus O'Connor

contended, that there were good reasons for mixing up the question of tithes with that of Repeal of the Union; for they were both grievances which the people complained of, and they were determined, whilst petitioning to be relieved from one, to be, also, relieved from the other. The complaint against Irish Members last year was that they did not go into the details of the question; but it was now especially their duty to go into the details after the introduction of the extraordinary and iniquitous measure of the right hon. Secretary—because, when the Bill was brought before the House the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, and the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, would run away into declamation, and no opportunity would be allowed of fully and fairly discussing the details. Why, the right hon. Secretary himself had said that he found it necessary to go into the subject at very great length, because the House was in a state of ignorance respecting it. He begged that right hon. Gentleman not to lend his immaculate private character to so nefarious a measure. He had a great respect for that right hon. Gentleman; but it was not by the graces of the drawing-room, or the amiabilities of the nursery, a man was to be qualified for the duties of a Secretary of State for Ireland, in the present distracted condition of that long misgoverned country. He begged the right hon. Gentleman not to be persuaded that his Bill would give satisfaction in Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman would introduce a measure founded upon the 147th Clause of the Church Temporalities Act of last Session, which Clause was abandoned in the progress of the Bill, he would be indeed the pacifying Secretary. It was vain to say that the Catholics were the agitators of the tithe question; for, since 1824, when the grass lands were subjected to tithes, under the Commutation Act, the Protestant Gentlemen had taken pride in the agitation; and now the Duke of Devonshire was one of the defaulters.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, that though he did not mean to commit himself to any part of the Bill to be brought in by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, he would say, that in his opinion, the most convenient form of collecting tithe funds was not by a composition, but by a land-tax—that principle he would most strenuously support. It had been said by the honourable and learned member for Dublin, that nearly all the English Members, and part of the Scotch, were ignorant upon Irish affairs. Now he would say for the whole of the Members of that House not Irish, that no subjects whatever received more attention, or took up more of the time of the House, than those connected with Ireland. Although Members might differ in opinion with the hon. and learned Gentleman, that was no good ground for saying that therefore they were inattentive to Irish affairs—it was quite possible to obtain in Ireland information of a very different nature from that which that hon. Gentleman gave them. He remembered an instance in that point took place upon the Coercion Bill. The Member for a county, in very flowing language, stated that it was in a state of the greatest tranquillity—while the Lord lieutenant of the same county, who was resident upon the spot, stated it to be very much disturbed, and in a state of almost complete anarchy. He might charge upon the Irish Members, that they were ignorant of Scotch affairs, and unfit to legislate upon them; but as he knew their persevering nature, he would not; then why should the other Members be so often told that they were both ignorant of, and inattentive to, those affairs they were called to legislate upon? The House, in his opinion, had in general shown great attention to, and a complete knowledge of, the state of Ireland.

Mr. John Browne

considered the proposition of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, on a former night, a most improper one. To take two-thirds of the tithes away would be something like a national robbery; for those two-thirds belonged to the poor of Ireland. He approved of the principle of the proposed Tithe Bill, as he thought the collecting it as a Land-tax would put an end to such horrible scenes as had lately been transacted in Ireland.

Petition laid on the Table.

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