HC Deb 02 June 1834 vol 24 cc6-9
Colonel Butler

presented a Petition from the parish of St. John, in the city of Kilkenny, very numerously signed, in which the petitioners stated, that they were by no means hostile to the clergy of the Established Church being fairly remunerated for them services, but, as they were convinced the hunted property of the church, if fairly let at anything like its real value, would amply afford to the Government the means for so providing fur them, they prayed for a total abolition of the odious impost of tithes, as they were the constant source in Ireland of misery, outrage, told too often of bloodshed, in the rigorous exaction of them. He perfectly agreed with the petitioners in every respect, most par- ticularly so as regarded the shameful mismanagement of the Church-lands in Ireland; and he should take the liberty of trespassing on the patience of the House, while he quoted an authority on the subject in proof of what the petitioners stated—an authority that certainly could not be suspected of any desire to exaggerate the said mismanagement; on the contrary, he verily believed, that great care was taken in the document in question to conceal as much as possible the manifold instances of the monstrous misappropriation of the property which actually existed. The authority to which he alluded was the first report of his Majesty's Commissioners on ecclesiastical revenue and patronage in Ireland, dated, Council Chamber, Dublin Castle, March 1st, 1833. Colonel Butler then proceeded to read the following extract from the said report:—"That the general mode of regulating the renewal fines according to the most approved tables, appears to be nearly at one-fifth of the profit rent of the land, after deducting the rent paid by the lessees to the Archbishops and Bishops, and not debiting the tenants with the value of their buildings. The tenants, however, under the see of Armagh are charged one-eighth, instead of one-fifth of the clear yearly profit, after deductions; and it is observed by the Lord Primate, that were his Grace to adopt the same mode of renewal as that practised in other dioceses, it would have the effect of increasing the annual income of the see of Armagh by the sum of 6,260l. 14s. 5d. The mode of calculation is taken from the Bishops' returns." Among the signatures affixed to this report, were those of two Archbishops, three Bishops, the right hon. member, the late Secretary for the Colonies, the Irish Master of the Rolls, and half a dozen highly influential gentlemen, who, acting as Commissioners, must have been fully informed on the subject. Thus, then, it was proved, that in the see of Armagh seven-eighths, and in all the other dioceses in Ireland four-fifths of the rents of that property, paid by the occupying tenantry, which ought alone to be appropriated to Church uses, were actually in the possession of private individuals, owing, as he understood, to an Act, certainly not of the reformed Parliament, which allowed the right reverend guardians of it the power to receive what are called tines for renewing leases, at so gross an undervalue, that it rendered the rents of their lands in point of fact merely nominal; yet it was a power generally acted upon, and often he was sorry to say, in a manner that was very discreditable to the highest dignitaries of the established religion. He had made a calculation from the report to which he alluded, on the admitted principles as regarded the rate of the amount of the renewal fines, on six cases in the see of Armagh, and sixteen in other dioceses, in which property is so held on Bishops' leases for one and twenty years, containing from two to twelve thousand acres each and he found that, in the first six cases, an income was extracted out of the lands by these lessees or middlemen, of no less a sum than 13,500l. per annum, and in the latter sixteen 32,753l. 7s. 5d. per annum, the total amount being 46,253l. 7s. 5d., not taking into calculation the value of buildings, which, in many cases, might amount to thousands of pounds, and which, no doubt, when added, would bear out the general impression on the subject, namely, that the Bishops, and other high dignitaries of the Church, did not receive more than one-fifth or one-sixth of the actual value of their lands. He concluded by saying that, as he had a motion on the book on the subject for the 1st of July, he would not at present enter into further particulars; at the same time he would request hon. Members, and particularly his Majesty's Ministers, carefully to peruse the authority which he quoted; for if they did, he had no doubt they would not sanction the present almost total perversion of Church property, whether or not the same was hereafter to be appropriated to the uses of the Church or State. Both of them might have a strong claim on it; but certainly there was no claim to it, founded upon any principle of common sense or justice on the part of private individuals further than the residue of their existing leases, to which he was willing to admit they were entitled, but only entitled as a vested right for that period, and not one hour longer. As for dealing with these lessees for a perpetuity of leases so obtained and held heretofore, no matter for what length of time, under such a corrupt system of renewal, he considered that it would be a fraud on the Church and the people of Ireland generally. On the Church, as it would deprive it of the most legitimate means of providing fir the clergy of the Establish- meat; on the people, as it would destroy the only way in which a total abolition of tithes could be effected, without endangering the complete overthrow of the Protestant religion in that country, which God forbid should ever take place.

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