§ Lord Althorp moved, that the House should resolve itself into a Committee upon the (Tithes Ireland) Bill,
rose to take the sense of the House on the question upon which he had given notice for the postponement of the measure for the present Session; for, whatever might have been the form of his notice, such was its object. Difficulties which had arisen prevented him from bringing his motion forward at an earlier period; and he should at present confine himself to as few topics as he possibly could. He had first to inform the House, that the Bill itself contained 172 clauses. This was what he might term the large Bill—while there was another, which added 30 clauses to the original Bill, making in all 200 clauses. It was unnecessary for him to remind the House, that they had now arrived at the 29th of July; so here were 200 clauses to be considered; and they were of such a nature as to affect the people of Ireland doubly—they affected both the tithe-payers and tithe-receivers—those who desired to be relieved from the burthen, and those who wished to make it the means of a large and emolumentary possession. Besides, in its nature, the Bill was of vital importance to Ireland. There was no man acquainted with that 714 country who did not know how much of the disturbances which existed there flowed from the fertile source of the tithe system. At the same time, there was no man acquainted with Ireland who would say, that all the disturbances which existed there flowed from the tithe system. It was mixed up with other causes, which accumulated as well as produced crime, and led to all its embittering effects. The object of the Government, it was his conviction, was to introduce a measure to quiet Ireland. No doubt the quietness of Ireland was the object they had in view; and he was the more convinced of this from the changes which had taken place in the Bill—some of them useful, but others, he regretted to say, of a contrary tendency. If ever there was a measure which required a fuller or more deliberate consideration, it was certainly this Bill. Nor would he be accused of exaggerating, when he said, that upon this more than upon any other measure or class of measures introduced into that House depended the tranquillization of Ireland. Perhaps hon. Members did not advert to the immense advantage which, during the last twelve years, tithe-owners had obtained by legislation over tithe-payers. Eleven years ago tithe-owners were amenable to public opinion, and even to those from whom they received their tithes; and the consequence was, that in nine instances out of ten the tithe-owner was obliged to assent to a fair and reasonable composition. He readily did the Irish clergy, as a body, the justice of admitting, that where they themselves levied tithes without the intervention of a proctor, with some marked exceptions, they were just and lenient. Another advantage to the tithe-payer was, that if the owner did not collect the tithe each year, he lost it for ever. Up to the period of which he was now speaking, there had been many partial insurrections, for such he called the disturbances on account of tithes. Afterwards the Composition Act was passed, and it gave to the tithe-owners a great advantage over tithe-payers, an advantage of which they did not neglect to avail themselves. They had powers of distraining, of sustaining actions without proof of contract, every possible power that could be bestowed on them, greater than those possessed by landlords themselves. His Majesty's Government at that time, as would appear from the de- 715 bates, exulted in the thought, that they had finally settled the question. And what had the result been? Why, that at the end of six years from passing the Act, Ireland exhibited a greater picture of disturbance and disunion than ever—disunion to everything but opposition to the collection of tithes. He implored the Government to reflect on this, and not, by persevering in the same system, to turn over another leaf in the same book of calamity. What were they now going to give the tithe-owners? a demand on the Treasury, to be secured by the proprietor by a rent-charge on the best property of the country—and this was intended to quiet Ireland! Now, what would be its effects. The measure was not a uniform one, and there would be an uncertainty and variation in the charges on the various parishes of Ireland. He could quite comprehend any measure for quieting immediate and existing discontents, even though that measure should require sacrifices from the tithe-owners or tithe-payers, or both. He could easily understand the value and importance of an immediate remedy; but this Bill, he would implore the House to recollect, could not come into complete operation till 1839. They might as well talk of postponing the settlement of the tithe question for ever. By this Bill, from the 1st of November next, and including that day, the present tithe-owners would cease to have any claim upon the land. But with regard to everything due before that time, they would be left to their usual and present resources. According to the Tithe Composition Act, the tithe-owner must distrain for his claim within twelve months after it was due, or not at all. Now, look what would be the effect of this limitation; it would just operate as Lord Tenterden's Limitation Act had—as a notice to every man to come forward and distrain, and urge all dormant claims, lest they should be for ever foregone. Then, in addition to this, from the 1st of November, they would begin collecting in the 1,000,000l., or the 800,000l. of it which had been expended. Indeed, whatever might be the feeling of the parties, there was one class of dormant claims which must be made against those of deceased testators; for if the executors forebore to make them, a Court of Equity would charge them with the amount as assets in their hands. He knew it had been said in private, that those dormant and out-standing claims 716 were not numerous. He believed, however, that the amount was greater than was imagined. At all events, their paucity in number was an additional reason for Government interfering by the present Bill, and taking into their own hands the entire of those claims. And then, in addition to all these, they would have to collect their own land-tax or rent-charge. So that, the month of November next, if this Bill passed in its present shape, would probably be a sanguinary month. He did not say it as a threat or taunt; but he deeply feared that such would be the effect of the harvest of litigation and contention which would then be reaped; thereby increasing the existing hostility to tithes, and aggravating the dangers of the country. How much better would it be to bring in a Bill founded on one uniform plan. By the present measure an allowance was to be made to landlords, varying from twenty-five to forty per cent. Now, what, he asked, would be the practical consequence of such a variation? Suppose three nearly adjoining farms, one paying the rent-charge of 100 per cent, the next, seventy-five per cent, and the third, in an adjacent county, divided only by an imaginary line, paying only sixty per cent, what would be said by those farmers when they met together at the same market, and compared their relative situations? How contented they would be! They would be told it was according to the law and the Act of Parliament! What great additional respect it would give them for laws and Acts of Parliament. How it would increase the filial respect which they felt for the species of protection they had been in the habit of receiving from Acts of Parliament! This, surely, was not the way to quiet the country. He did not doubt that Ministers were actuated by the purest intentions; but had they the most opposite notions, they could not have thrown together a more complete olio of contradictions and difficulties, or one more calculated to excite riot and disturbance. Forty per cent! He did not deny it was a boon; but why not give it at once and to all? Instead of bidding and huxtering with the landlords about it, let them give it at once, and levy the rate. The Government supposed, that by holding out this temptation, they would get the landlords to come into their plan; and probably many would—many honourable men—who would allow their 717 tenantry the benefit of what they received from the Government; but he feared there were many others who would jump at it as a bargain to benefit themselves alone. These landlords would be regarded by the peasantry as tithe-proctors, and every one knew in what degree of esteem they were held in Ireland. For his part, he should not like to be the man to collect that landlord's rents. It was a great evil that the feelings which had hitherto existed against the tithe-owners alone, was extending itself to the landlord. The waters of bitterness were swelling in that direction. This was no party question. It was admitted on both sides of the House, as one of the greatest evils of these agrarian disturbances, that they had the effect of assailing rent; and he very much feared that the position in which this Bill would place the landlords, would direct the agrarian disturbances towards getting rid of rent. How much better then would it be to postpone this Bill to next Session, and suffer all these serious objections to be weighed in the interim! Besides, there was another most important objection to proceeding with the present Bill. They had issued a Commission, a Commission approved of by themselves, a Commission, perhaps, too tedious in its details, but founded on a principle full of hope for Ireland. It was impossible for Government to go on next Session without some general plan of tithe appropriation. They could not form a judgment on this subject till they had obtained the Report of that Commission. How much better, then, to defer the final settlement of the question till then, and form the whole into one uniform system! Let them, then, moderate that little, if they found it too much, or increase it if they found it too little; for of this he assured them, that if the appropriation were satisfactory, they would find the collection of tithes in Ireland much more easy. The success of any or every system they attempted to establish, must depend upon the nature of the appropriation. If they postponed the measure, they would have time to deliberate whether they could not, with advantage, frame the Bill in a different way. Whether it would not be better to make the abatement of forty per cent certain for three years, with the power of diminishing the allowance to landlords by whom, or in districts by which it was opposed. In fact, all they ought to do would depend on the result 718 of the Commission, and if they did not postpone their Bill, they could not expect to make it anything but a piece of patchwork. With respect to the withdrawal of the redemption clause, about which so much had been said, it was clear that they could not properly settle, till they had settled the appropriation. He thought that such a plan of redemption might be devised as would get rid of dissatisfaction in Ireland—lead to the final extinction of tithes. Again, let them consider the advanced period of the Session—let them look at the thin state of the House on a discussion that at another period would have filled its walls. Two-thirds of the Members were out of town, and the majority of those who attended to its business were Gentlemen connected with the Government, who must necessarily feel disgusted at having a discussion forced upon hem when their votes were previously engaged. Surely it was not right to decide upon so important a measure, and now open to so many objections, under such circumstances; nor was such hop-step-and-jump legislation calculated to attract the confidence of the people of Ireland. But the question would be put to them, what they would do if the measure were postponed? He admitted that was a question which he was bound to answer, for it could not be left as it was. Well, this then, was what he proposed. There was from 200,000l. to 300,000l. of the million not yet disposed of. He knew, indeed, that 820,000l. had been claimed, but many of those claims had been disallowed, and reduced. He knew that, in the South especially, many improper claims were advanced; one especially, in the county of Cork, where the barrister (Mr. Antisell) actually had produced to him the receipts of the tithes claimed, and still the parson insisted on his claim, because the peasantry had forgotten to give the requisite notice of opposition. The barrister, however, refused his claim. In relation to what he had said before, he would remark that persons who made such claims, were not likely to fail in bringing forward before November next any which were at all colourable. Well, these claims were at present, say 200,000l.; to that he would ask them to add 150,000l. more, pledging the House by a Resolution, that it should not come upon the general taxation of the country, or upon the Consolidated Fund. But let it, if they 719 pleased, be raised by Exchequer-bills, especially and solely chargeable on the tithe-property of Ireland. He saw no objection to thus anticipating the tithe, and he would warrant they would get the money in half-an-hour. They were substantially arranging this question as a new Government, and should be bound only by their own opinions of expediency; and he urged them, therefore, to adopt a course which would lead to the most satisfactory settlement of the question; and if they thought any parties would not take the money, they had only to tell those parties, that they would not give them the assistance of the military or police in collecting their tithes, and they would not find it necessary to put forth any other Proclamation. He was sorry such a bad feeling existed amongst the clergy. What he was going to relate he could prove by an hon. Member of that House, who was coming in the packet from Cork with the clergyman in question. The hon. Member asked the clergyman, whether he would take any of the million, who replied, he would not touch a farthing of it, but that he sold his tithes, 800l., to a tithe-proctor for 450l. ready money, on the express stipulation, that he should not give up one farthing to the "rascals." The advance of this sum would suffice till the next Session, when the Commission would have made its Report, which Report, together with the plans of the Government, he should propose to be referred to a Select Committee, consisting of Gentlemen of all parties and opinions, who might give the subject their most deliberate attention; and if then they failed in tranquillizing Ireland, it would be impossible to deny that they had done their utmost to accomplish it. He was sure there was nothing in the temper or character of the Irish people to render it likely that an experiment of justice and kindness should fail. No man could say from experience, that it would, for very few such experiments had been tried, and one which had been made was accompanied by a rigid refusal to carry its consequences into effect. Let them only come to the determination deliberately, and it would he sure to be satisfactory. He apologized for detaining the House so long, and concluded by moving, that the Bill be committed that day six months.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to the 720 complexity of the Bill; but he assured the House, if the alterations which Government had to propose were acceded to, its length would be greatly diminished, and instead of 200, it would not contain more than seventy or eighty clauses. He could not think the hon. and learned Gentleman was really sincere in the proposition which he had made in the conclusion of his speech, to appropriate the residue of the one million, and take another grant of 150,000l. for the purpose of meeting the present necessities of the case, in order to the safe postponement of this measure. He, at all events, could never consent to such a course of proceeding. For what would be the effect of the proposition? He was not blind to the evil consequences that had resulted from the grant of last year. A long desuetude of payments must always be attended with most unfortunate effects. But the hon. and learned Member instead of one year's desuetude proposed two, and it was very much to be feared, if that proposition was acceded to, when the period of appropriation arrived, the House would find that a total annihilation of tithe property had been the consequence. He did not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman believed the House would ever accede to such a proposition. His only object seemed to be, by postponing the subject for another year, to render the collection of this revenue still more difficult. He did not mean to impute any improper or personal motives to any one; but he believed, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was so deeply pledged to a resistance of tithes altogether, that he never could consent to any plan which did not involve the total destruction of that species of property; and for that neither the House nor the country were yet prepared. Although the hon. and learned Gentleman had so far expressed his gratitude for the kindness in which the measure originated, he had not given that full and entire credit to Government which they deserved, for the efforts they had made to conciliate the feelings of the Irish people generally, and which he hoped, if successful, would he most beneficial. Indeed, he was convinced from the communications which he had received from those who were professionally connected with Ireland, that there was the greatest disposition on the part of the landlords in that country voluntarily to take on themselves the payment of tithes on the con- 721 ditions offered by Government, and a great proportion, he had no doubt would be disposed to give the benefit of the advantageous concession which had been made to their tenants, thus making, pro tanto, an absolute extinction of tithes. He should certainly oppose the proposition of the hon. and learned Member.
§ Mr. Sheil
supported the proposition of the hon. and learned member for the city of Dublin. The English Tithe Bill had been introduced at an early period of the Session, and had been abandoned in consequence of the disapprobation of certain gentlemen who came up as delegates from all parts of the country; and yet the Irish Tithe Bill, which had not been produced till a late period, was obstinately persevered in, notwithstanding the united opposition of the two Irish parties in that House. He opposed the Bill because it greatly exaggerated the value of tithes. The lay tithes, instead of being scheduled at 1,000,000l. were valued at 3,000,000l., and the clerical tithes were rated at twenty-five years, instead of twelve or thirteen years' purchase. The Bill involved the most important interests of Ireland; and why should it be discussed and decided in that advanced period of the Session, and in the unavoidable absence of the great majority of the English and Irish Members? He had heard hon. Members connected with his Majesty's Government say, that if necessary, Parliament might meet in October. Yes, they were ready to meet in the month of October, for the purpose of enacting measures of coercion; but nothing could induce them now that they were assembled to adopt any measures of relief or remedy. They, at that side of the House, had been charged with being factious; but this, at least, could not be denied, that a portion of the Members at his side, possessed something like a practical knowledge of the country, while on the opposite side, even the responsible advisers of the Crown might, with one exception, be said to know nothing of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Secretary for the Colonies, certainly had had a practical acquaintance with that country; he was a Gentleman who must be respected for his talents, and confided in for his integrity; he believed that that Gentleman loved Ireland, and earnestly desired to promote that which he believed to be its true interests, but if he persevered in sup- 722 porting such a measure as the present, it might with perfect truth be said of him, that he permitted his love altogether to overcome his judgment.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
said, that everyone of the various Bills introduced from time to time in that House, were declared to be for the pacification of Ireland, and for the permanent settlement of the tithe question. Especially the several Bills respecting tithes were declared to be in every instance for the permanent settlement of the question, and, in an eminent degree, the Bill of 1828 was expected to produce that permanent settlement. Yet by what a strange process was that object sought to be accomplished—by nothing less than the enactment of a law which would sanction the arrest of an Irish landlord in England for the tithe debts alleged to be due by him in Ireland. What was another feature? Why, that certain parties were to have a bonus of forty per cent for collecting that which he would undertake to say, never could be collected. Let it be recollected, too, that this bonus was offered to parties constituting a class, a very large proportion of which stood in rather peculiar circumstances—he alluded to the persons holding leases for lives renewable for ever. They were chiefly persons having incomes of 500l. to 600l. or 700l. a-year, belonging to that stamp, who had, up to the present moment, resisted the payment of tithes; and no man living, who had the slightest acquaintance with Ireland could doubt, that they would continue to resist them; putting power into their hands, or leaving it optional with them to facilitate or impede the operation of the measure at their own good pleasure, was the surest mode that could be adopted for defeating its provisions altogether. Would hon. Members be at the trouble just to look at the Bill as it stood, they would find that, stripped of the redemption and the appropriation clauses, it was almost nothing—a thing affording as little prospect of a permanent settlement of the question as anyone of tine several measures which had been introduced into that House year after year, and Session after Session, as far back as the recollection of the oldest Member could extend. If they wished to abolish tithes both in name and in substance in Ireland, let them impose a tax upon the land throughout the country. He remembered that when this doctrine was broached before, the right hon. mem- 723 ber for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) asked, whether the tax was intended to include houses, and his answer was "Yes," because, if the house-owner had the benefit of a Protestant clergyman, he had a right to pay for it, as well as he (Mr. Henry Grattan) or any other gentleman had who held a landed estate. He would say, let this tax be imposed generally—let the amount of it be placed in the hands of Government, and let a proper remuneration—say, 200l. or 300l. a-year—be given to the working clergyman, who preached, or otherwise officiated in his Church, fifty-two times a-year (few of them did so often). In this way the clergy would be respectably provided for, without being driven to solicit from a poor and almost perishing people, the mean and trifling offering which each was expected to make. After making this provision, they would find that a surplus revenue would remain, applicable to such charitable cases as might be agreed upon. Let Government propose such a measure as this, and the House and the country would at once understand it. But as the law now stood, clergymen called in the aid of the police and the military in the collection of their tithes; and what was the consequence? In a district in one county (Monaghan we believe), the troops and police had been called in—houses were broken open, and the lives of the inhabitants threatened if they offered to resist. And for what? For the recovery of poor and paltry sums due to the clergyman in the shape of tithe; and for these sums the clothes, furniture, and other articles, were seized and taken away without remorse. This outrage was complained of, and an Assistant-Barrister, Mr. Curran, was sent down by the Irish Government to institute an inquiry upon the spot; that learned gentleman, for whom he entertained the highest respect, appeared to him to have made a report certainly erroneous, and as certainly against the feelings of the people, and against what they believed to be justice and their own legitimate interests. That he should, in consequence of such a report, have incurred the odium which now unfortunately attached to his name in Ireland, was quite a matter of course, and he begged to say, that Government might have easily found a fitter person to put upon the Commission recently appointed in consequence of the Motion of the hon. member for St. Alban's, 724 than one who, whatever might be his private and personal merits, was the last man in the world who ought to have been placed in a situation which required to be filled by persons capable of commanding the respect and the confidence of the people of Ireland. Surely such men alone ought to be Commissioners to inquire into a question which involved interests affecting at least one-seventh of the property of the country, for if they took the trouble to reckon up the value of the Church-lands, the tithes, the Church-cess, the minister's money, and the other payments made to the Established Church, they would find that it amounted to at least one-seventh of the whole property of the country. Was this the way to afford satisfaction to the people of Ireland? Were they to go on continually experiencing this cruel and grinding system of oppression? In the year 1800 boundless promises were made to them—freedom, peace and comfort were to be at once their lot. Commerce was to flourish, and wealth was to flow in so rapidly as almost to inundate the country. These were the promises of Mr. Pitt in 1800. How had they been redeemed? There was no redemption—the whole ended in sad, comfortless, hopeless disappointment and despair. If there had been faith or truth, or honour in these promises, would not the Government at least have entered into inquiry with a view to redress? If the Ministers wished to act fairly and honestly towards Ireland, would they not take some steps to redeem those promises to which the English Government was pledged. If this had been done at an earlier period,—if it were proposed to be done, it would be the means of preventing those acts of outrage and violence which, if pursued, were likely to lead to consequences of a much more serious description. Were they, he would ask, to pass a question of this important nature without inquiry—without consulting the feelings and opinions of the Irish people? Were Ministers to propose this after having given up the English Tithes' Bill, and the English Poor-Rates' Bill, upon an expression of dissent on the part of the majority of the people? It was not so on the question of Reform; there the petitions presented by the people were counted, and their opinions consulted. He would say, that upon the whole, the Ministers were legislating against common- 725 sense and common-reason; they were acting with a total disregard to their own characters, and without the slightest consideration for public honour or national reputation. He was, for the reasons he had given, bound to support the Amendment of his hon. and learned friend the member for Dublin.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that the hon. and learned member for Dublin moved for delay, without stating the course which, in the event of such delay being granted, he was prepared to recommend Parliament to pursue. As far as he could understand the object of the hon. and learned Gentleman, it was limited to this—to postpone for the present Session the measure then before the House. The substitute which the hon. and learned Member proposed for the Bill was an advance of money, in order to enable his Majesty's Government to go on till the next Session of Parliament, without taking any definite step in the arrangement of the question of Irish tithes. His right hon. friend, the Secretary for Ireland, had, however, clearly stated, what must be the consequence of any such proceeding, namely, that so long a cessation in the collection of Church property, would make it almost a matter of impossibility ever to collect it at all. Now, he did not believe that that was the object of the hon. and learned Gentleman, or his friends; for, however they might differ from his Majesty's Government as to the appropriation of Church property, they all agreed that that property ought not to be abandoned. Unless, however, some step were taken to show, that that property would be collected, the total relinquishment of it would soon ensue as a matter of course. The hon. and learned Member had made some observations on what might be the effect of landlords, by this Bill, pursuing different courses; some taking the bonus offered by the Bill, and others not doing so; and he had stated, that in some cases the tenants would have to pay the whole of the tithes, in others only seventy-five per cent of the tithes, and in others only sixty per cent. In his (Lord Althorp's) opinion, the tendency of this would be to produce a more rapid commutation of the tithes by the prospect of benefit which that commutation would hold out. "But," said the hon. and learned Gentleman, "why not do that at once which you now propose to spread over the space of five years." That proposition had been under the serious 726 consideration of his Majesty's Government; but it had been thought better, instead of subjecting the landlords to any compulsory condition, to leave the matter to their own option. Most undoubtedly it was the wish of his Majesty's Government to carry their plan into effect at as early a period as possible, and he repeated, that the only ground on which they abstained from insisting on an immediate composition was not disinclination to that result, but a disposition to avoid throwing on the landlord a burthen which he might not be prepared at once to endure. The hon. and learned member for Tipperary argued, that because Ministers had postponed the English Tithe Bill they ought to defer to the wishes of the Representatives of Ireland, and postpone the Irish Tithe Bill. Now, he (Lord Althorp) begged to say, that the results of such postponement would be very different in the two countries. In England, there would be little, if any, of dissatisfaction; certainly no breach of the public peace, and tithes would continue to be paid. But in the present state of public feeling in Ireland, not only would no money be paid, but there would be confusion and bloodshed. Hon. Gentlemen had said, that they ought to leave to the tithe-owners the power of recovering their arrears. Now he believed that in amount they were very small. He believed, in fact, that with the advances made by Government, and the collection that had since been effected, the arrears were smaller than many hon. Gentlemen supposed. Therefore, by postponing the Bill, they would not prevent the danger which it was supposed would attend the collection of a large amount of arrears. Upon all these grounds, then, he was resolved to persevere in urging forward the Bill, notwithstanding that such strong objection had been taken to the measure on the ground of Ministers having left out the redemption clause. That certainly was the last accusation which he thought would have been brought against them, especially by the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, or any of those hon. Members from Ireland who were in the habit of voting and acting with him in that House. He had always understood from those Members that one of their chief objections to the Bill was its containing that very redemption clause, the omission of which was now made matter of complaint. In the criticism of the 6th clause 727 which the House had heard from the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, he to some extent assented, and was rather of opinion, that the Bill would not go through a Committee without considerable changes being made in the form of that clause. Before he sat down there was one other topic to which it was necessary that he should advert—namely, the notice which had been taken of the various other Bills heretofore introduced into that House respecting the affairs of Ireland. He begged leave to say, that he had never thrown on a late right hon. Colleague of his (Mr. Stanley) the sole responsibility of the previous Tithe Bills, or the sole discredit of their failure. It was not his habit to throw on others a responsibility or a censure which might partly apply to himself. He had in the beginning approved all those measures, and given them his hearty support, but subsequent experience convinced him, that they were not calculated to work out the great practical results which he, in common with his right hon. friend, and in common with the other ministers of the Crown, anticipated. Therefore, he must in fairness say, that a part of the shame of failure—if there were any, when they all did for the best,—most assuredly attached to him in common with his right hon. friend. The proposition now made by Government, had one great object, to throw the tithes on the landlord, and thus relieve the occupying tenant; and to induce the landlord to take this responsibility, by giving to him—or, more properly speaking, by giving to his estate, rather than to himself—a handsome bonus. By so doing, he hoped they did that which would ultimately tend to the satisfaction of Ireland, and the consolidation of the strength and resources of the two countries. He well knew the difficulty of the question—he was fully alive to the embarrassments which surrounded it; but he honestly thought that, in the course they were now taking, they were going far to supply a remedy to that great evil which so powerfully afflicted Ireland. It was said, "Why not wait awhile, and call Parliament together again at an early period, to adopt some measure in reference to tithes? but really this argument, in his eyes, carried with it no validity whatever. Then, too, it was said, that the Irish Members were away, or going away. Really, if the objections of those hon. Gentlemen to the 728 present Bill were not sufficiently strong to induce them to remain throughout the discussion, he did not think they would be justified in declining, for the present, to legislate upon the subject. This was rather a strange way of maintaining their own position. He thought it was the duty of that House to proceed with the Bill, and, at least, endeavour to do something to restore tranquillity to a distracted country. Let it be remembered, that the subject was not new—that the question had long agitated the public mind—that there had been ample time for the full consideration of the Bill before them. The case was urgent; and he conscientiously believed, that if they did not now take it into their serious consideration, with the view of settling the public mind, and coming to some practical decision upon it, that greater danger and confusion might ensue, which would entail upon them a responsibility which he, for one, was not willing to bear.
§ Mr. Lynch
said, that it was his intention to support the Motion of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Dublin; and he would do so, not only on account of the inconvenient season at which the question was brought forward, but because he objected to the Bill altogether. It was neither final nor satisfactory. Final it was admitted it was not, and satisfactory it could not be, for it neither gave a proper appropriation nor just redemption. The noble Lord said, that the question now was the preservation and security of the fund. They were called upon, therefore, to secure the fund, without knowing for what purpose it was to be applied. They were called upon to enter into a contract without being told what all the terms of that contract were. They were called upon to increase to an enormous extent the value of the property (if the expectations of the noble Lord were realised), without being informed for whose benefit the value of the property was to be so increased, except so far as they were informed by the Bill itself; and when he looked into the Bill, he there found that the appropriation was to be continued as heretofore for the support of the Establishment. He objected to this blindfold, this piecemeal legislation. He asked why this measure was not made final? His Majesty's Ministers had made up their minds, as they informed the House, to a different appropriation. Why 729 did they not settle that appropriation at once? It was said they had not sufficient information. Then, he asked, why not wait for that information? But the noble Lord would ask, what was to become of the fund in the meantime. He, however, would ask the noble Lord, what would become of the fund if this Bill passed? They would not be able to collect in either case. They might legislate; but they would legislate in vain. They might endeavour to collect, but their Exchequer would be empty. Call it what they might—tithes, composition, land-tax, or rentcharge—the fund would never be secured whilst they continued the present appropriation. That appropriation was continued by the present Bill. This was not his opinion alone, but the opinion of every witness examined before the Committee of 1832. Besides, he should object to any Bill which did not make a different appropriation from the present, not only because he objected to that appropriation, but because he was anxious to secure the fund; and, without a different appropriation, he did not consider the fund could ever be secured. For the sake of the security of the fund itself he objected to the present Bill, for of this he was perfectly convinced, that if the final settlement of this question was any longer postponed, the fund would be for ever endangered. He would endeavour, as far as he could, to put a stop to this wild legislation. In the course of two years they had passed three Acts of Parliament, all of which had proved abortive. They had failed in their object—that was, the collection of tithes; but they succeeded in bringing the laws into disrepute—in bringing the House and the Representatives of the people into disrepute. They had thereby shown the people what they might do by resistance—they had raised a power which they could only put down by good laws and wise legislation—they had alienated the affections of the people. He entreated them to take care that they did not by their Bill alienate the affections of the landlords. He called upon them to recollect what occurred in respect of the tithe of agistment in 1735, in the Irish House of Commons. The occupiers of land opposed the payment of that tithe. Both the Lords and Commons united in that opposition. He appealed to the Resolution passed in the Irish House of Commons on that occasion, and which 730 had the effect of an Act of Parliament—for, under that Resolution, no agistment tithe was afterwards paid in Ireland. He asked, what was that Resolution, but resistance to the payment of tithes? And by whom was that Resolution passed? By the Catholics of Ireland? No; but by the Protestant house of Commons and landlords of Ireland. He called upon the House, therefore, to look seriously at the evil, to apply the proper remedy, and to apply that remedy in time. He called upon them not to fall into the error of the former Parliament. The proper remedy, in his opinion, was a just appropriation—the reduction of the establishments to the full amount of the tithes; and if this he could not get, he would then ask for redemption on fair and equitable terms. But what was effected by this Bill? It was a mere re-enactment, with a change of name, of the Act of 1832, with complicated and expensive machinery. By it a Land-tax was to be payable for five years to the Crown, to the same amount, not only in the whole, but with respect to each tenant, to be levied and raised in the same manner—to be appropriated exactly for the same purposes. He asked what was this, then, but the same composition, the same substitution for tithes, payable to the King, and not to the parsons. By this Bill the parson was protected, but the people were neglected. By this Bill the odium of collection was, to a certain extent, removed from the parson, and thrown upon his Majesty, whose officers were to be the tithe-proctors of Ireland. Was that wise or politic? Every objection that was urged against the first Act of 1832 was applicable to the present Bill. The impolicy of causing the King's Government to come into contact with the people as tithe exactors—the inability of the Government to enforce the demand, strengthened by the admitted failure of that Act, were applicable to the present measure. The objections urged against the Composition-Act of 1832 were also applicable to the present measure. The inability thereby to enforce the demand, and the danger of confounding rent with tithe, were all equally applicable to the present measure. His Majesty's Ministers confessed that they could not safely bring that Act into effect; and yet what was this measure but a compound and mixture of the two? It was the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to omit the redemption 731 clauses in the Bill. He objected to these clauses—first, because the terms thereby offered were exorbitant and unjust, and, next, because the redemption money was to be laid out in the purchase of land. But it did not follow, if there was redemption, that the investments should be in land; and if the people of Ireland could not get the appropriation they asked for, he contended on their part that they were entitled to just and equitable terms of redemption. He called upon his Majesty's Ministers to ascertain what was the value of tithes previously to legislating, and at such value to allow the landlords of Ireland to redeem, if the Parliament would not alter the appropriation. By the Bill, after five years, the Land-tax was to cease, and the amount of such Land-tax, or composition for tithe, less by twenty per cent, was to become a direct charge upon the land. Every landlord of Ireland was to become a Crown debtor under the Bill. His person and all his property were made liable. This was a most important change. In the first instance tithes were mere voluntary offerings; they were afterwards enforced by ecclesiastical measures; but until after the Reformation, no remedy was given for non-payment of tithes in the temporal courts. To this hour the tithe-owner had no direct charge upon the land. He had a mere right to have the payment of tithes enforced. Previously to 1824 the income of the tithe-owner was uncertain, dependent upon the seasons and the crops. By the Act of 1824 the Parliament made that certain which was before fluctuating, and by this Bill they were about to make that certain income a direct charge upon the land. This part of the Bill appeared to him to be most arbitrary and unjust. He called upon the House to consider how other matters stood. A debt was due from the tenant to the parson. The parson had ample and sweeping remedies to enforce that demand. He failed—he was not able to enforce it—he called upon his Majesty's Government to assist him; and by means of the act of 1832 they gave him their assistance, and interfered on his behalf. They also failed in collecting the tithes. The parson called upon them for further powers, and by means of the Composition-Act of 1832, further and ample powers were given. It was acknowledged that that measure could not be brought into action—and the parson called upon the 732 Government again for assistance; and the assistance which the Government meant to give him was, to make the landlord pay the debt of the tenant. In this respect this Bill went much further than the Bill of 1832. By that the Legislature did not interfere with existing contracts; by this Bill all contracts between landlords and tenants were violated. He asked why should this burthen be thrown upon the landlords of Ireland exclusively? This was corporate property—the property of the nation—property which could not be recovered—property at this time employed for the support of the Church Establishment in Ireland. Why should the landlords of Ireland be called upon exclusively to support that Establishment. If he were told that it was for the good of the nation—if it were said let the nation support that establishment—he denied the right of Parliament to throw this burthen exclusively upon any set of persons. He called upon the House to consider how the collection of the Land-tax and rent charges was to be enforced. The King was to have a receiver after notice given to the tenants of the landlord, or owner of the first estate of inheritance. The receiver would proceed to enforce the Land-tax or rent-charges. The tenant would either pay his rent, or might act in collusion with his landlord, and refuse to pay the receiver. The receiver would distrain. He asked, how were they more advanced by that than under the Act of 1831? There might be a rescue; the military would be called out, who might finally succeed in seizing the cattle,—the cattle were brought to auction, but no bidders; so that the scenes of 1831–32 would be re-acted. But this was only the first scene of the tragedy. The Crown being satisfied, either by voluntary or by compulsory payment by the landlord, the landlord had immediately the same campaign to go through with the person liable to him. Let the House recollect that, call it what they would, until otherwise appropriated, the people would look upon it, and consider it, and call it tithes; so that, instead of a Bill in the Exchequer by the parson against the tenant, there might be three or four, or more pitched battles,—and this was called settling the question, and restoring peace to Ireland. In the first place, it was causing the Crown to come into collision with the people; and, secondly, either bringing the landlord into 733 collision with his tenants, and thereby endangering the rent as well as the Land-tax, or else causing the landlord and tenant to combine against the tax. The contest formerly was between the parson and the tenant; the contest, after the passing of this Bill, would be between the parson and the tenant, the tenant and the landlord, the landlord and the Government; and this was called settling the question. He would say, that, by this Bill, the very foundation of society would be sapped. It had been truly observed, that the objection of the people of Ireland to the payment of tithes was not merely to the payment itself, but to the manner in which it was appropriated. This was made manifest by the fact of the resistance being as great, if not greater, in compounded parishes than in those not compounded; and also from the fact, that they objected to the payment of the county-cess. They denied the right of any set of men to call upon another to support the minister of a religion which they did not profess; they further objected to the payment, as it was for the support of an establishment already mischievously large; and they also contended, that tithes were originally, and ought to be now, differently appropriated. He would not then enter into any of these objections, none of which were removed by the present Bill. It was true great concession had been made by the Government; but the chief objections were not removed; and he should, therefore, oppose the Bill.
§ Mr. Ward
had paid an earnest attention to the arguments brought forward in support of his Amendment by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, and after giving them his most serious and dispassionate consideration, felt bound to say, that though they carried much weight in their application to certain clauses, yet that they did not at all effect those general principles on which the Bill was founded. In his opinion, the question of arrears required the immediate consideration of the Government; whether those arrears were great or small was not then the point—there were arrears, and that point peremptorily demanded, and ought, without any delay, to have the best attention of the Government. Now, he acknowledged that in the principle of the measure then before them there was much that was sound, much that was rational—that 734 was fair, aye, and that was in a kindly spirit too. The removal of the obnoxious burthen from the tenantry to the landlord, he always considered to be a sine qua non in any measure which was really intended to settle the question of tithe. This was to be effected, and in a way, too, that he heartily approved, by offering such liberal terms as would induce the landlords to coincide with the views of Government. Some arguments which he had intended to have addressed to the House on this part of the measure had been forestalled by previous Speakers, and he should not repeat them; but he wished to say a word or two on the question of appropriation, which had been mooted by the hon. and learned member for Dublin. That hon. and learned Gentleman stated, that he, for one, would not take any steps to preserve tithes till he knew to what purposes they were to be applied. He looked at that as a totally distinct question. He certainly thought it desirable that they should have decided the question of appropriation on a former occasion, by which the subject would have been simplified, correct principles avowed, and an equitable settlement sooner obtained. But then the House thought otherwise, and declared, that they could not safely legislate on so delicate a subject without further information; but, at the same time, they had given a distinct pledge—a pledge that nothing could do away with—that the question should not be lost sight of, that it must and should be entertained at the commencement of the next Session, with a view of putting the principle itself into active operation. Every leading Minister of the Crown had declared his sentiments in such a way that there could, hereafter, be no doubt with regard to them. They had been plain enough, straightforward enough, explicit enough, to satisfy every reasonable friend of the principle of the State having the right of appropriation. He agreed with the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it was their duty not to postpone this measure to another year, which, perhaps, might prove fatal to the fund itself, and leave them nothing for appropriation. When, however, they did come to the principle involved in that question, it would be found how unflinchingly he would insist on the fullest latitude being given to its operation. At present he wished to confine himself to its preserva- 735 tion, with the view of its being applied hereafter (vested rights being respected) to national purposes. When those vested rights had fallen in, not one shilling would he allow, nor did he believe Parliament would allow, beyond the absolute justice and necessity of the case. The Bill, which in Committee might receive any alteration that was necessary should have his best support, as its leading principles had his warm approbation.
§ Mr. Waddy
begged to say, that though the Irish Members in that House might be outvoted, they still ought to be heard as evidence of some weight, and as witnesses possessing some knowledge of the matter, derived from practical and personal observation. Clumsy and lumbering Acts of Parliament, however they might be multiplied, could do no good for Ireland. The people of that country were oppressed by high rents—by higher tithes; the appropriation of tithes, however, was the great question which now agitated Ireland—the people never again would pay them; and, until that question was definitely settled, neither peace nor happiness could prevail in that country. The Imperial Legislature had, indeed, been ever since the Union in the habit every year of passing Act after Act to settle this question, and each, after it had served its temporary purpose, or rather after having served no purpose at all, was, like those which went before it, "consigned to the tomb of all the Capulets," there to moulder and be forgotten like all its ancestors, as absurd and as useless as themselves. In his opinion, it was idle to separate this Bill from the question of appropriation—that alone was the grand question; the question was not about levying tithes; they never could levy them until the people of Ireland became assured that they would no longer be applied to maintain the pastors of another church. He respected the Protestant Church—he respected the Protestant clergy, although a few improper persons, as in every other Church, might be found amongst them. He would not abuse the Church or the clergy, on the contrary, he would support them as far as he could. He did not wish to find the Protestant Church endangered, and but for the abominable system of tithes the Protestant Church would be respected. That was his wish and his hope, and if it was not realized, the fault, perhaps, was not with the clergy, but with the state of 736 the laws. When he heard there was a Scotch Attorney General for England, he expected much assistance from him upon the subject of Irish tithes. He expected to find a Presbyterian who, in his own country, resisted tithes, a valuable friend and an ally for the cause of Ireland, and he hoped that the Scotch Attorney General, who was, no doubt, as brave and as true as any of the clan of Campbell, would now in the hour of need do his duty by the sister country. All he sought for his country was justice, and if justice were not done her, the result must be frightful to contemplate. He hoped there would be no tithe war in Ireland, for it would be pregnant with ruin. He believed this Bill would be put off—he hated the Bill—for November next. "Let us have" said the hon. Member, "the little money that is due to us—I am grateful for it, but if threatened, we will resist your Tithe Bill." It might be more mild than its predecessors—but that was not enough for the people of Ireland. They had now a new head upon old shoulders, as far as the Cabinet was concerned, but yet he could not bring himself to vote for this Tithe Bill. Let justice be done to Ireland, and English money would not be required for their protection or support. Bad measures would always produce bad results—and, until the system of Government was altered, there could not be peace or happiness in either country.
§ Dr. Lushington
admitted, that the Bill was exceedingly complicated and difficult to be explained; but this was unavoidable with reference to the subject-matter for which the Bill proposed to legislate, and the Acts of Parliament which had been already passed to settle the question. Every mode of legislation had been resorted to, and, he believed it was the general opinion, resorted to in vain. In framing a Bill for this exigency, it was not the fault of the present Government if it were not able, under the circumstances of this question, and in the state of society in Ireland, to produce at once a plain, single, and intelligible measure. The other alternatives were, to do nothing, or to leave the Bill of last Session to operate; but he had the opinion of the hon. member for Wexford (Mr. Waddy), and of other hon. Members, that the Bill of 1832 was exceedingly injurious to the peace of Ireland. If the Bill of 1832 was reprobated, then should they adopt the Bill of 737 his right hon. friend with the alterations of the hon. and learned member for Dublin? As to the paltry sum of 200,000l., with the addition of 150,000l., if the probable consequence of granting that was, that it would set at rest a question which had agitated Ireland, no one member of that House, however devoted to economy, would deny, that it was a measure of prudence and of the best economy to grant it, and would not be ready to grant that and even a larger sum, provided such would be the effect. But he was not willing to grant a sum of money to the Church of Ireland, considering that the Church of Ireland was already in possession of a larger revenue than was necessary. He would with pleasure make a large grant to the people of Ireland, but he would not lavish on the Church of Ireland sums which it was not entitled to. It was impolitic to suffer the right to tithes to fall into abeyance, and he did not consider that the owner of the soil was entitled to the tax. He believed, that after the Church of Ireland had been amply provided for, there would be a surplus; and he hoped by the just distribution of that surplus to benefit Ireland at large. He honestly declared, that his mind was made up, and that, after maturely considering the subject, he had come to the conclusion, that the Established Church of Ireland was made to stand upon a basis, which no ingenuity, no eloquence could sustain, because it was not founded on justice. There could be no greater enemy to Ireland than he that would tie the living to the dead, and continue the system of past years, of compelling men by oppression to become converts to another faith, which was as opposed to true policy as he believed it was contrary to the word of God. He wished to wait, however, for the result of the Commission. He did not desire to deprive the existing incumbents of their incomes, or to interfere with vested interests; but he would not give one shilling beyond the actual wants of the Irish Protestant Church on the absurd ground of the expansiveness of Protestantism. The advantages offered to the landlord, by the conversion of a Land-tax into a rent-charge, were a sufficient boon to tempt him, inasmuch as it was a certain benefit of from twenty to forty per cent. If English landlords were offered thirty per cent, they would conceive themselves the most fortunate of individuals. If this 738 were the case in England, was there such a morbid feeling in Ireland, that landlords would rather reject this boon and live on in their existing state? He could not believe it. When Irish landlords and the people of Ireland knew the feeling of that House—when they knew that it was resolved to Reform the Church, and fairly to distribute and appropriate the revenues, was he not justified in thinking that the Irish people would give them some credit for consulting their wishes and interests, and for a readiness to remove any grievances that remained? Was it not better, then, for all to unite to render the Bill as efficient as might be, in order to diminish any evils which might arise under it, and to strike out all that might operate to oppress the people? And what was there to prevent the House from revising the measure next Session? Was it more difficult to deal with a tax than with tithes? With respect to the question of investment in land, he dismissed it from his view. To redemption we must come, but to an investment in land he (Dr. Lushington) would not come; for with the knowledge of all the evil consequences that resulted in this country from tying up land in mortmain, and aware of the effects of adding 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 more to the extent of land possessed by the Church, he could not consent to a measure that must be dangerous to the country.
§ Mr. Maurice O'Connell
could see no exigency which rendered the immediate passing of this Bill necessary; and as it was no effectual remedy or final measure, and gave no real relief to the occupying tenant, he would postpone it. In fact, it imposed upon landlords a tax which they would be unable to recover from their tenantry, and would only reduce the landlords to the same poverty as the tenantry. How could such a Bill be a benefit to Ireland? It compelled landlords to resort to more oppression and cruelty than before. Landlords, who wished to be kind and forbearing to their tenants, were taxed sixty per cent, and compelled to levy this tax from the tenant. Why not either take off, in a straightforward manner, forty per cent at once, or wait till the great question of appropriation was decided, and till they had the Report of the Commission?
§ Mr. Barron
said, that, in the absence of any other plan which was likely to 739 produce peace and tranquillity in Ireland, he must vote for entering into discussion, at least, upon the clauses, without pledging himself to the details. He thought, that some of his hon. friends were now dealing rather hardly with the Government. He remembered that, at a meeting of the liberal Irish Members, which he attended, it had been determined to press the Government to concede three points—first, the omission of the appropriation clause; secondly, that there should be a new valuation in all cases in which there had been any complaint; and thirdly, that the reduction on tithe should be increased from fifteen or twenty per cent to forty per cent. Now all these points had been conceded; and he accordingly considered it rather strange that hon. Gentlemen should now offer such strenuous opposition to the Bill. The landlords would, he was sure, make nothing by the Bill, but would give every farthing which was abated of the tithes to their tenantry. He was quite certain, imperfect as the Bill was, that it would be beneficial to Ireland; and he, therefore, would vote for the Committee.
§ Mr. Fryer
looked upon the Bill as a robbery Bill. The object appeared to be to take away money from the Irish Church and to give it to the Irish landlord. The Government, he considered, had acted in a cowardly manner. The full value of the tithe ought to have been imposed on the land. The Bill would never satisfy the people of Ireland. He was convinced they never would be the better for it.
§ Mr. William Roche
spoke as follows:—Sir, ably and amply argued as this question has already been, I shall not venture to detain you long. Apprehensive, Sir, as I am that this Bill is not calculated to create general satisfaction, nor to arrive at a speedy, sound, and equitable settlement of so momentous, so long floating and fluctuating a question. Believing, therefore, that it is susceptible of much improvement in order to render it perfect and permanent, and that it may, during the recess, experience that improvement, especially by the introduction of two most vital, but omitted principles, those of a salutary appropriation of any excess of income and of an encouraging plan for redemption of tithes, with a view to their final extinction, I do think it would be advisable, with these objects, to defer the measure to next Session, in expectation of 740 those improvements, without which it will be in vain to deem it conclusive. Sir, my hon. friend, the member for Waterford, has alluded to the dignified bearing which the landlords of Ireland will evince in this respect, as regards the reduction they are to enjoy; but even if so, Sir, I should like to see the same reduction rendered rather more than optional in favour of the tenantry also. He has likewise adverted to circumstances which attended some meeting of the Irish Members on this question, an explanation of which I shall leave to those Gentlemen who took a more prominent part than myself on those occasions; for, Sir, never having been personally connected with tithes, either as payer or receiver, I was not so conversant with their minute details and bearings as others of my hon. friends. But, Sir, I do not feel the less acutely on a subject so interwoven with the fate of Ireland, and always one of the most prominent and permanent amongst the many causes of Ireland's destruction and miseries. Important, indeed, Sir, should be the advantage of the Established Church to Ireland, in other respects, to counterbalance and compensate for the evils engendered by the injustice and severity of its tithe system, and the pride and oppression of its ascendancy. But, Sir, as we cannot recall or remedy the past, it is the more our duty to rectify and improve the future, and endeavour to bring about a conciliatory feeling throughout the various grades of religion altogether. My own impression certainly is, that it is not consonant with the true interests of religion itself, with moral justice, or even political expediency, to empower any one sect to levy forced contributions on another—I say forced, because there are many things which would and ought to be done from good feeling, from spontaneous and Christian-like principles, that it would be great injustice to render cornpulsory,—a principle of compulsion, Sir, that has tended materially to mar those kindly influences on the human mind which religion is otherwise calculated and designed to produce. But, Sir, meantime it is our duty to render the present system as little obnoxious as we can. I am, therefore, glad to see the impost put more directly on the landlords, preventive as it will be of those calamitous conflicts which have so often occurred between the parson or proctor and the peasantry, which 741 tended so much to degrade religion and demoralize Ireland; and furthermore, when the complaints of the peasant would be met with the bayonet or the Bridewell, the remonstrances of the landlords would be calmly heard and attended to. But, Sir, redemption, with a view to final extinction, should be, and I think and believe is, the wish of all classes, and of none should it be more so than that of the clergy, for they will, most assuredly, find the landlords more formidable adversaries than the peasantry in the event of any dissatisfaction. Sir, without extinction, you will be rolling the stone of Sisyphus and find you have your task to begin over again when you imagined your labours were consummated and concluded. Sir, I am sensible Government have endeavoured to do a great deal in this vexata questio towards mutual satisfaction; but, as I think and have explained, that most important point still remains to be adjusted, I would prefer to see a more perfect Bill brought in next Session than an imperfect one now, more especially as, by the suggestion of my hon. and learned friend the member for Dublin, immediate inconvenience can be provided against without, in my mind, those apprehended results occurring which are dreaded by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. I will, therefore, vote for postponement.
regretted he was under the necessity of taking a different view from some of his Irish friends, and that he could not vote for the proposition of his learned friend, the member for Dublin, to postpone legislation on the tithe question to the next Session; his reason for not supporting that Motion was, not that he would not be well pleased to obtain a longer time for the consideration of so difficult a subject, but that the people of Ireland stood at this moment in a most dreadful position as regarded the existing law; he meant that Act which passed last Parliament, and the operation of which, unless some alteration was made before the close of the present Session, would commence on the first of next November. He had in the last Parliament resisted that law to his utmost; it was a most atrocious and tyrannical law; and he was now placed between a choice of evils, the certain operation of that Act, which he knew would produce destruction of life and property, or the proceeding with legislation at this advanced, and therefore inconve- 742 nient period of the Session; and he had no hesitation in choosing the lesser evil, for he felt, that any amendment in the existing law would be serviceable; but really the proposed extensive amendments he looked on as a boon, and therefore should vote for their being carried as soon as possible, they being neither more nor less than the repeal of a bad law. He had very great hopes, before the Bill had passed through Committee, that it would receive such additional alterations as would render it an immediate and extensive relief to the occupiers of the soil. The professed principle of this Bill was to relive the occupier rather than the landlord, and therefore he was sure the Government could make no valid objection to extend this bonus to every occupier who might remain liable to the payment as well as to the landlord—he would wish to go further, and at once lay all pay-merits upon the landlords in the first instance, with power only to recover from their tenants the reduced amount which they themselves had paid. The House might rely on it, unless it removed at once the occupiers from all collision with the collectors, unless they secured the full bonus in every instance to the tenants, and unless they also relieved them from the collection of the arrears, as recommended by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, they would cause a renewal of all the oppression, misery, and expense to the public, which had taken place during the last three years; but if they did assent to those alterations,—and he believed there was an inclination on the part of the present Government to do so,—he thought the Irish Members would be wrong to let the present opportunity pass for legislating on them, and run the risk of any change of circumstances which in a future Session might prevent them from obtaining such favourable terms. He also felt himself bound in justice to support the Government in carrying the amendments which they had conceded, as he was one of those Members most active in endeavouring to obtain them. The Irish Members had required from the Government three principal alterations in the original Bill; first, the expulsion of those clauses which vested the tithes in land, and appropriated it for ever to the use of the Church; secondly, a power of appeal, and review of the valuation in aggrieved parishes; thirdly, a reduction 743 of the payments forty per cent, one-half of that per centage to be extinguished, and the other to be paid from the Consolidated Fund. Had those demands been conceded at once, it would have given great satisfaction; unfortunately they were delayed, and also were yielded in rather a complicated form; still, in spirit, and practically, they had been conceded; and that having been done, he would not feel himself justified in refusing his support to going into Committee upon the Bill, which was to enable the House to make those amendments in it.
said, that the plan which his hon. and learned Colleague had propounded would remove the difficulties which impeded legislation on this subject, and was founded on a principle of conciliation, which, if acted upon, would produce the happiest effects in Ireland. The legislation upon this subject had hitherto been adapted solely with a view to meet the exigency of the moment, a system which could not be too much condemned. He thought that Church property was public property, and ought to be kept for public purposes, instead of being frittered away under the pretence of giving a boon to landlords.
§ Mr. Shaw
could not support the Motion of the hon. and learned Member against going into Committee upon a Bill for the second reading of which he (Mr. Shaw) had already voted; for strange as the House might think it, after all the changing and shifting of the Government in their opinions and declarations on the subject, yet the Bill they were now about going into Committee upon was, in every letter of it, the very same as he had approved of, including the redemption and appropriation clauses; but, in Committee, as he understood, the Government were to abandon the only principle of that, their own Bill—namely, redemption, and substitute for it another and a totally different measure, the effect of which must be to prevent redemption. He could not but congratulate himself in having his opinion so fully justified as it had been that night by the statements of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Littleton), and of the noble Lord (Lord Althorp), with respect to the pernicious tendency of temporary grants to the clergy, in lieu of their regular and just resources. He need not remind the House how strongly he had deprecated such a course last year, as a 744 violation of all principle, tending to the destruction of property, and to bring the law into contempt. To the repetition of any such temporising expedient as that, therefore, he would give his warmest opposition. The hon. and learned member for Dublin had entirely failed in endeavouring to charge the opposition to tithes in 1830 to the introduction of the composition system into Ireland. There was no relation of cause and effect between them; on the contrary, the Tithe Composition Acts had been working, and would have continued to work extremely well, so far as regarded the clergy and the people—but that did not answer the purpose of the political agitator, who, as was most justly stated in the able dispatch of the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, recently laid on the Table of that House—was the true cause of that system of violence and outrage which peculiarly displayed itself in the organized and unlawful combination against tithe property; and the hon. member (Mr. O'Connell) himself would hardly deny, that political agitation was at its height in Ireland from 1824, the period of the introduction of the Composition Acts, to the year 1830, when the systematic opposition to the collection of tithe may be said to have commenced. Then from 1830 to 1832 the Government were ill-disposed, in the midst of the reform mania, to lay restraint upon any species of agitation or excitement. In the latter year the subject, however, forced itself on their attention, and they brought in an Act by which 60,000l. was advanced to the Irish clergy, and the tithe to be collected for the time by the Crown. He had often before stated, that great expense and delay had been incurred in consequence of the Government having, at the instance of the hon. member for Tipperary, expunged the provision enabling the clergy to recover costs. That, of course, proved a large bounty on litigation; but, notwithstanding, from an exercise of the powers vested in the Crown for the recovery of their debts, opposition had ultimately been overcome, and tithe was again being paid throughout almost every part of Ireland, when the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was induced, by the influence of representations, made, as he had no doubt, for the purpose of keeping the question still unsettled, to make that unfortunate declaration against the further collection of tithes, which he 745 was persuaded had been the principal cause of all the sufferings and misery which both the clergy and the country had since undergone. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) had alluded to the conduct of some clergymen in the south of Ireland, in respect of proceedings for the recovery of their tithes. He maintained that, as a body, there never was a class of men who, under circumstances such as they had been placed in, had shown more exemplary conduct, patience, and forbearance, than the Irish clergy. He never contended, that they were above the ordinary infirmities of human nature; and if an individual clergyman, who might have witnessed his family bearing the severest privations, in consequence of an unlawful combination against his property, spoke in language somewhat warm and severe of those who were the cause of it, he could not blame him much. Still less could he blame the principle on which the hon. Member stated a certain clergyman to have acted, who, while he received but half of the debt due to him from an agent, wished all to be collected from the refractory tithe-payer. That was the same principle which the Government themselves admitted they were bound to act upon, in withholding a bounty from the wilful defaulter. But with respect to the case where the hon. Member (Mr. O'Connell) stated, that a clergyman had, upon a mere technicality of law, refused to allow a receipt which he had signed himself—all that he (Mr. Shaw) could say was, that he did not believe any such case had occurred; and that, if it had, he would be one of the first to condemn the clergyman who had so acted. Then the hon. member for Tipperary (Mr. Sheil) spoke with sonic harshness of clergymen proceeding in the Court of Exchequer for sums within the Local Civil Bill jurisdiction; but the truth was, it was impossible to recover those sums in the inferior courts, on account of the difficulty and danger of having their processes served. He would be as ready as any man to censure a harsh or vexatious proceeding against a poor man; but if the refusal to pay a just demand did not arise from any inability on the part of the debtor, but from a spirit of unlawful combination, and determination to resist the law to the uttermost, he was of opinion that it was then not only excusable, but justifiable and right, to 746 resort to the most summary and effectual remedy the law would sanction in its own vindication, and to punish such a wilful defaulter. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Littleton) said, as to the question of redemption, that supposing they were agreed upon the principle—that the hon. and learned member for Dublin, and others would differ as much as ever upon the manner of redeeming. His answer to the right hon. Gentleman on that point was a very simple one—namely, that he proposed no plan of his own, but was content with the one which the Government had proposed, which was at that moment provided by their Bill, and for the abandonment of which they well deserved all the taunts that had been cast on them from all sides that night. The hon. member for Tipperary (Mr. Sheil) had justly observed, that the Government were not giving up redemption, because they thought it bad in principle; on the contrary, they approved of it. He would add, that not only did the Government approve of the principle, but they would not have had the least difficulty in carrying it into effect; for never was a Government backed by a more willing majority. The fact was, the whole object was to avoid the consequences which would result in their own Cabinet from the difference of opinion which, to that moment, still existed there on the subject of appropriation; and his Majesty's Ministers were willing then, as they had been on other recent occasions, to sacrifice principle, in order to avoid an inconvenience. Redemption was the whole principle of the Bill—it had been from the first its great object. The Bill was introduced for no other purpose. He had consented to the Bill, notwithstanding there were many objections to it—he had made every concession that it was possible, consistently with principle, to secure, under present difficulties, a fixed settlement of the question by redemption; he had for that purpose agreed to the provision, making over fur a limited time the property of the Church to the Crown in the nature of a trustee, in order that the property might be restored to order, and revested in perpetuity in the Church; on that account, too, in consideration of the power of redemption on advantageous terms, and for that consideration alone, was the rent-charge making the landlords liable, admitted. But now the Government proposed to 747 keep the form, and give up the substance—to abandon the principle of the measure, and retain the machinery which was to have served merely to carry that principle into operation. He objected to the landlord being rendered subject, and, without consideration, to a charge to which by law he not only was not liable, but had actually contracted against. He ridiculed the juggle, supposing a rent-charge was established, of having one rate for 1836 and another for 1839; in the one case allowing a bonus of 40 per cent, and in the other none. He deprecated the endless scene of litigation that would be opened by those clauses which overturned all compositions from the year 1824 to the present time, by allowing an appeal universally, where the parties in many cases were dead, and the evidence lost, and advancing public money, too, to promote these appeals. But his great and insuperable objection was vesting in the Government (not, as was originally proposed, for a limited time and a specific purpose, but permanently) the property of the Church, and for ever after making the clergy mere stipendiaries on the bounty of the Government. To that he would never consent; he should, therefore, resist the omission of the redemption clauses in Committee; and if he failed in that, he would find it his duty to vote against the third reading of the Bill.
§ The House divided on the Amendment:—Ayes 14; Noes 154: Majority 140.
|List of the AYES.|
|Attwood, T.||O'Connell, J.|
|Blake, M. J.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Roche, W.|
|Grattan, H.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Lynch, A. H.||Ruthven, E.|
|O'Connell, D.||Sheil, R. L.|
|O'Connell, Maurice.||Visors, N. A.|
|O'Connell, Morgan.||Waddy, C.|
§ The House resolved itself into a Committee.
§ Clause, No. 1, was postponed; Clause, No. 2, was agreed to. On Clause No. 3 being proposed,
§ Mr. O'Reilly
objected to the clause. Government could not collect tithes without the concurrence of the landlords. Many landlords would have no inducement to saddle themselves with the expense; and if they resisted, the Bill would be inoperative. The collectors should collect from several individuals in small frac- 748 tions from each. In place of that it would be better, as most of the country was divided into townlands, to collect the whole from one occupier of the townland; and he thought the landlords who urged on their tenantry to abolish tithes, in order to increase their own rents, should not have the benefit of any relief rather than their tenants. In place of the tithe composition, a rent-charge should be levied on the landlords, which they should be compelled to pay, and the arrangement should be immediately made, not postponed till a future period.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that it would be desirable to pass over the land-tax, and convert it into a rent-charge, if such a thing were practicable, inasmuch as the tenants would be at once relieved by such a proceeding. But there were great difficulties in the way of adopting such a course, and he thought it would be most unjust to compel the landlords to take the payment upon themselves at once. He hoped, however, the landlords would be induced to do so voluntarily, in consequence of the bonus held out to them to adopt the rent-charge voluntarily before November, 1836.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, that the noble Lord had now opened one of the many inconsistencies in which the Bill would abound, when altered according to the new proposition of the Government. The land-tax and the rent-charge had both been introduced with a view to redemption; and now the principle of redemption, which was the very essence of the Bill, was to be abandoned by the Government. The object of a final settlement by redemption had alone induced him and the other friends of the Church in Ireland, to support the measure. If, however, the redemption clauses were omitted, then, even on the principle advocated by the Government themselves, the rent-charge should not be retained; for the Government had introduced the rent-charge solely with a view to carry the redemption, and putting the payment on the landlords of tithes to which they were not liable by law, was alone justified by the Government themselves on that ground.
§ Lord Clements
said, that it would be much easier to collect the amount from the tenants, if it were made compulsory upon the landlords to take the payment upon themselves at once. He, therefore, thought, that for the sake of the landlords them- 749 selves, the clause ought to be made compulsory at once. Another inducement to do so was this, that every parish in Ireland would then be under the same system.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that he feared, that if the rent-charge were forced upon the landlords, their resistance to it would be general; and he never could consent to the abandonment of the Land-tax, or to putting the rent-charge upon the landlords, until the law had been vindicated, and the property secured by the Government collecting the tithe, and obliging the tithe-payer to become amenable to the law, otherwise it would be unreasonable to expect that the landlord could ever collect it from his tenant.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that he very much doubted, that when the House had got through this Bill, so far from settling the tithe question, they would have only passed one of the most complicated and mischievous measures that had ever passed that House; and so far from the question being settled, new elements of strife would be afforded by it. The occupying tenant would soon find out that there was no difference between Land-tax, rent-charge, and tithe-composition, except that the impost proposed to be levied upon him now would be higher than when levied upon him by the landlord, than when it bore the name of tithe.
§ Clause postponed.
§ The House resumed. Committee to sit again.