§ Mr. Littleton
(on moving the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Irish Tithes Bill,) wished first to state the nature of another considerable alteration, which, after deliberation, Ministers had deemed it expedient to recommend for adoption. For the last six months, they had been daily more impressed with the necessity of adopting, in the present Session, some measure to prevent the total annihilation in Ireland of tithe property; nevertheless, they had never ceased to feel the greatest solicitude to accomplish their wishes in a manner the least injurious and oppressive. He particularly alluded to the interest of the landlords, through whose instrumentality Ministers could alone hope to effect any considerable change. The House was aware, that there existed on the part of Irish landlords an objection to being compulsorily made liable to a rent charge, 979 without the power of relieving themselves from it. They looked to the redemption clauses as the means of relief, but Ministers having thought it expedient to omit that portion of the Bill, the landlords would be left without those means. The measures, therefore, being restricted to the conversion of tithes into a land-tax, and of a land-tax into a rent-charge, the subject which had naturally occupied the attention of Ministers was, the best means of relieving the owner of the first estate of inheritance of the rent-charge. They had determined to recommend a provision of which the following was an outline. First, they proposed to provide what they hoped might prove a considerable inducement to the owners of first estates of inheritance to incur the rent-charge voluntarily. Where the owner should think proper before November 1st, 1836, to incur the rent-charge, he should be at liberty to do so, and his land should forthwith cease to be subject to the land-tax. Then arose the question in what way the rent-charge should be ascertained, and it was proposed that the amount should be determined by the relative number of years purchase fairly applicable to the land. The Commissioners of Land Revenue were to ascertain the number of years purchase, and then the Land-tax was to be multiplied by four-fifths of the number of years purchase applicable to the land, which was to constitute the amount of the rent-charge on the particular estate. It was proposed, by way of inducement to the land-owners, that they should be subject to no higher rate of interest than three and a-half per cent, and it had been judged expedient, that the difference between the amount of the Land-tax and of the rent-charge should not be less than twenty, nor more than forty per cent on the amount of the rent-charge. This arrangement would obviously give a considerable bonus to the land-owners, who would not have to pay more than two and a-half per cent as the expense of collection. It would naturally occur to everybody, that the amount of the bonus thus offered would create a considerable debt, and it was proposed, in the first instance, that the Consolidated Fund should be made chargeable with the deficit by reason of the difference between the amount of the bonus to the land-owner and the amount of reduction to the tithe-owner. Then came the question in what 980 manner should the charge on the Consolidated Fund be made up, since it was too much to expect, that the State would incur such a burthen, though Ministers were thoroughly persuaded, that it would be the general sense of Parliament and the country, that the money would be well sacrificed if it purchased the peace of Ireland, which never could be obtained but by a satisfactory settlement of the Tithe question. After a full consideration of all the difficulties and exigencies of the case, Ministers had resolved to apply to it the amount of the perpetuity purchase fund in the hands of the Commissioners, and indemnify the country for the loss. He would state what was the amount of the fund; but first, he might observe, that there were already two funds in hand. One was a fund for the augmentation of small benefices, consisting almost exclusively, at present, of Primate Boulter's and Robinson's bequests, amounting, in the whole, to about 16,500l. There was also the principal fund in the hands of the Commissioners for the general purposes named in the Act, to pay salaries of certain clerks and officers, to provide necessaries for the performance of divine service, for the repair of 1,250 churches, the expenses of the Commission, &c. The whole amount of indispensable charges might be stated at 66,000l. per annum. He would now state the amount of the fund to be derived from other sources. First, there was the nett income of ten suppressed sees, of 50,873l. To this was to be added 10,600l., the reduction in the revenues of Down and Derry; and 22,000l., the produce of the annual tax on benefices exceeding 300l. a-year. The repayment by instalments of advances on glebe-houses would afford 7,500l.; and, on the whole, the amount of the fund in the hands of the ecclesiastical Commissioners might be stated at 91,033l., which, after deducting 60,000l., which would probably be the amount required for the purpose he had mentioned, would leave a balance of 25,000l. for such other optional purposes for the improvement of the Church of Ireland as the Commissioners might think fit. In addition to this, there was the perpetuity fund, which already amounted to about 60,000l. and would probably amount on the whole to not less than 1,200,000l., affording an annual income of 42,000l. at an interest of three and a half per cent. He was of opinion that no detriment 981 could arise from applying this money to other purposes than those to which it was originally destined, while great additional security would be given to the Church, by inducing land-owners to take the rent-charge voluntarily on themselves. Hence Ministers had deemed this the most prudent course, and he had no doubt that such would be the sense of all parties in Ireland. Ministers were also persuaded that on a full and calm consideration of the merits of the question, the plan would be equally approved by the people of England, and they had not hesitated to recommend it to the adoption of Parliament. He would only remark in conclusion, that it was not intended that landlords incurring the rent-charge, either voluntarily or compulsorily, should be permitted to levy more from their tenants than the amount they themselves actually paid. He moved, that the Speaker leave the Chair.
§ Mr. Littleton
answered, that the rent-charge might be incurred voluntarily before November 1836: the land-tax would continue for five years afterwards, and those who had not then incurred the rent-charge voluntarily would then be compulsorily subject to it.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman recommended this Bill to the House after cool and calm consideration; but what time had he given to the House for cool and calm consideration. Was it fair, he would ask, to press going into Committee upon that alteration, which was different from anything that had hitherto been offered to the House. It was different in principle from the Bill that had been read a second time. The original Bill had been printed months ago; but this Bill was no more like what had been then printed than it was like the English Poor-law Bill. It had been altered over and over again, and since it was first printed eight or ten new clauses had been introduced into it, and now an alteration was proposed, which rendered it virtually a new Bill. He could form some conjecture as to the nature of the proposed alteration, but he was by no 982 means sure that he understood it, and he felt quite certain that nine-tenths of the House did not fully comprehend its import. Before they proceeded further he would suggest that the Bill with these alterations should be printed, in order that they might see what it was. He paused for an answer. There surely could be no objection to give a respite for publication, and the strongest argument he could use in favour of postponement was the nature of the amendments themselves. He hoped he might be allowed to pause and inquire if the right hon. Gentleman would postpone going into Committee until the House should have an opportunity of understanding this new project?
§ Mr. Littleton
thought the proposal for delay unnecessary, for the alterations would not have to be discussed until the Committee should have arrived at the 152nd clause.
said, that the proposed charges were an alteration in the principles of the Bill, a solid and substantial alteration. There was no part of the empire for which Government would attempt to legislate in this way except Ireland. The Bill was one of vital importance to Ireland, and surely time ought to be afforded to understand it, particularly as it appeared that the Government itself after all its deliberations had not agreed upon its measures until that very day. It had not decided what measure it would adopt against the people of Ireland, nor what should be its details. At one time they came forward with a proposition under the pretence of serving the people, and at another they offered a bonus to the landholder, and endeavoured to screen themselves behind his prejudices, or what was still worse, his interests. He was never so astonished as he was at the plan proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. Let the House take up this Bill and endeavour to understand its principle, and see its tendency. He would ask the House if it was ready to declare war against the people of Irelandl.war unmitigated in its evils? Would it support a Government which did not appear to understand its own measures for one half hour? Would it suffer that Government to commit the country into the worst species of civil war? They might do it if they pleased, and if they had confidence in the present Ministry; but he wished them to understand distinctly how near a pro- 983 clamation of war the Bill was. He called upon the House to recollect the course hitherto taken on this Bill. He had in the first instance proposed a plan which would have taken less from the Church than would be taken by the proposed alteration, and would ultimately extinguish tithes in name, while it would have preserved four-fifths of the amount for the purposes of religion. He now boldly denounced the measure as one not of conciliation towards, but of actual war upon the people of his native country. He, in lieu of such a measure, so fraught with objections, had proposed that one-fifth of the tithe should be raised compulsorily on the landlord. It would be easy to effect it by loan if not otherwise, as soon as they had the sanction of an Act of Parliament to enable them to raise it; that one-fifth of the charge for tithe should be abated: that another fifth should be paid by Government out of the Consolidated Fund; and that two-fifths, or eight shillings in the pound should be paid by the tenant. Four-fifths of the tithes of Ireland were available for ecclesiastical purposes until the Legislature should decide otherwise. He had proposed this plan in contradiction to the popular feeling in Ireland, though no part of the plan was to give a boon to the landlord. It was in his mind enough that they were left what they already had; but it would have ensured that four-fifths of the tithes in Ireland would have been preserved in monies numbered for the use of the Protestant clergy. The plan of the right hon. Gentleman was now to give, as he had explained, one-fourth of the whole for the benefit of the landlord. No relief to the tithe-payers was to follow from the plan of the right hon. Gentleman. Nothing would be taken off which pressed on the poor farmers and the poorer peasantry. The former Bill contained a clause of appropriation, to which there was a strong moral objection taken. There was a division of opinion among the members of Government, and no greater diversity of note was to be found in the music-shop over the way, from the deep bass of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to the shrill treble of the right hon. member for Cambridge, than amongst the members of his Majesty's Government. But he had the misfortune to find that the resolution he had proposed was negatived. To speak with historic reference to the course 984 he had pursued, he would observe, that he had first proposed that there should be an arrangement made for the diminution of the amount of tithe, so as to effect the extinction of part of the charge upon the land. But, taking even the Bill as it now stood, he should call upon the House to postpone the Committee on a Bill, upon which they had been deceived and tricked by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. This Bill, in truth, had yet never been before the House. That which they had read once and twice was not this Bill at all. Many supported that Bill, looking to the clause of redemption of the charge in it. But not one member, who supported the Motion of the right hon. Secretary that this Bill should be read, supported this Bill. It was not the Bill, but the shadow of that Bill that was now under discussion. On this ground he must vote for its postponement. Until 1825 the remedies given by law against the defaulters for tithes were the same as in England. In 1825 the law was changed without producing any good effect, and to the old law they should have returned. But no, A new project was broached to-day. A Bill was brought on in a new shape; and both the clergyman and the lay impropriator were to be thrown aside. "You have," said the hon. Member, "been from ancient times the robbers, the plunderers of Ireland; true to the principle which, then and since, has actuated you, and which Lord Clare admitted had been pursued undeviatingly towards Ireland beyond any precedent in the history of civilised nations. The sword of the King is now to be raised against his liege subjects in Ireland, with the object of raising by the troops there a compulsory and reluctant land-tax. You declare you are the owners of the tithe, and are prepared, by the assistance of the army, navy, and police, to enforce tithe in this new shape. The old stories of oppression, outrage, and massacre, of which Lord Clare spoke, are all about to be reduced to reality by the King's Government. De te fabula narratur. You are the actors, appointed to figure in the tragedy, and will you do that which will make it necessary you should again attempt by blood and destruction the re-conquest of Ireland? The King is the owner of the tithes by the Bill. Is it not so? If I had to address men at all acquainted with Ireland and her condition, I might hope for an impar- 985 tial division; but how do I laugh to scorn the assurances given by hon. Members in debate that there are in this Housechivalrous spirits which will extenuate the faults of my country to make national sacrifices for the securing to her peace and prosperity." It was not in nature, the hon. Member continued, that, uninformed as most who heard him were on these topics, they should be prepared to act otherwise than they did; to make war in fact on Ireland. That war was first commenced by determining to get, by process of law and military force, 60,000l. for the aid of the Irish clergy. But their wicked scheme was unproductive; it cost 28,000l. to enforce the collection of 12,000l., and they gave up the struggle, but not until the British troops were forced to take shelter behind the buildings of a close town from the fury of an irritated unarmed peasantry. But he would tell them it would require all the force they could spare to send to Ireland to accomplish the enforcement of tithes by this Bill. He would point to them as a ministry, found four or five times wavering on this very subject, and he would ask them as English gentlemen, would the majority in that House halloo on that Ministry to injustice and bloodshed, in order to keep them in place, which they had already more than once done as by a miracle? But let the high-flying Protestants about him beware. The abstraction of the 147th clause let out a secret. It was a step from the high-flyers to his party as the Consolidated Fund was to pay for this manœuvring. But he would tell those Ministers, that this juggle and manœuvring deceived nobody. The amount of lay and ecclesiastical property in tithes was about 600,000l. a-year, according to the report; but suppose, for example, they struck off 150,000l. and took it at 450,000l. This Bill provided, that the 450,000l. was to be paid hereafter out of the Consolidated Fund, and the clergyman or impropriator was to receive it by Exchequer Bills the day it was due, bearing five per cent interest. This was a bank note in effect, receivable at the Custom-house or Excise-offices. So far, then, it was a sort of stock with which— mark! the British Treasury was hereafter to be encumbered, and the British people burthened. He was sorry the hon. member for Middlesex was absent through illness; because he should have been happy to have heard his opinion of this useless 986 extravagance in this department of our finances. Because it was to be observed, that whether this sum in tithes were to be collected or not, the clergy and the lay impropriator were to be paid by the treasury the whole 450,000l. It would have been a magnificent thing, worthy of the Legislature, and for which boon they would have received an equivalent in the peace and tranquillity of Ireland, had they voted the whole sum should be paid for the pacification of Ireland, as they had done the twenty millions to settle the question of negro slavery. But now, he would ask, would 500,000l. or 1,000,000l. pay the expense the country would be put to by enforcing payment of these tithes? Well, then, the expense altogether would be two millions to the public treasury, and to collect this 450,000l., if ever collected, war would be waged on the people by the Irish army from one end of the island to the other. Did they ever read the Irish newspapers?—if so, they would find how he had been found fault with and carped at, for having at all listened to any terms short of extinction of tithes in Ireland. He warned the high Protestant party, that if this Bill were passed, they would find a dreadful reaction carried on, not in the open field of battle, in the public streets, but at midnight, and in secret the hand of the incendiary would fire the tithe-payer's barn, the farmer's homestead. The assassin and the lawless band of infuriated men would render darkness dreadful to the peaceful and unoffending. Oh! it was a dreadful consideration—but no exaggeration, and borne out by the experience of the deadly war waged in Ireland in this way for the last seventy-four years. It was not worthy of the title of a Government which saw not the throbbing of the public mind through the national press of her country. It deserved not the name. But the object of this measure was to put the landlords between the Ministers and the tithes. Let them beware, however, lest the distinction were lost in the public mind between that which was extorted as tithe, and demandable as rents. This was dangerous ground, and might be fatal to the interests of the landlords. Let them keep aloof from such a confusion of rent with tithe. The war levied against tithe might serve—nay, would serve—as a pretext for a war against rent—all rent, particularly absentee rent. The Bill originally brought in had proceeded on principles 987 known and recognised, not by him, it was true; but now the Government proposed alterations which sacrificed nine-tenths of its principles. The first Bill had a redemption clause; but that was struck out. What next? It had an appropriation clause; but that also was struck out, after a shock which split the Cabinet asunder. What in Heaven's name would be the next alteration? None knew—not even the right hon. Gentleman and the Cabinet. Now, before 1831, there was a market price tithe in Ireland; it was twelve years' purchase, whilst the price of land was twenty-two years' purchase in the very same counties. The right hon. Gentleman was by this Bill going to add one-fourth to the burthen of tithes in Ireland. Was there any meaning in their Bill? Was Ireland better under this Reformed House of Commons or the present Government, than under an unreformed House and the Tories? Not a whit. Were the Ministers not unanimous in coercion, but plentifully divided whenever measures of concession were about to be adopted? Indeed, they not only did nothing; but they promised nothing; except, perhaps, that dreadful promise that the power of the State was to be used to force the payment of that which the voice of the nation proclaimed to be an exaction. Would it not proclaim to the people of Ireland, trumpet-tongued, their degradation, in consequence of the want of a domestic legislation? He required of the House the postponement at least of this measure till after this Session. That was much more reasonable than to go into Committee on a Bill admitted to be no longer the Bill they had read a first and second time. He would throw out a hint—they were a new Cabinet—let them pause; take time to consider what they were about, as to this measure, so as to be certain, they were now thinking and acting together. Aye, but it was apprehended, that if the law was left as it was, there would be some difficulty in getting in this year's tithes. He would suggest they should take a vote for 300,000l., in addition to the vote of last year, and apply it to the payment of the tithe proctor, and thus purchase peace for next winter, till they could bring in a proper measure. Had they done rightly, they would have taken the advice of Irish Members on a Bill which was to heal animosities, and give peace to all classes. He had given 988 them his advice, he had obtruded it; but they would not notice it. No one else had been, he believed, consulted. They would not fail to put all the people of Ireland in array against them by this Bill. His conviction was, they were endangering the peace of Ireland, the lives of thousands, by playing off this fearful game of their enemy. Since their accession to office, their system of Government had led to twice as many prosecutions as had taken place in the same period during the former Tory Administration. Their Attorney General was mischievously and constantly busy, and three times as much blood had been shed in their time of power, as had been shed in a similar period of the Tory Administration. Litigation and bloodshed marked their course of political power. He again conjured the Cabinet to pause in its design—to think not so much of the majority they always had for all their measures in that House, but of the people and those interests to which this law was to apply. It was a mistake: they were not called to govern a great country by means of exaction and coercion, but by mingling with a consistent firmness the attributes of all good Government—kindly concession and redress of admitted grievances. He felt it his duty to oppose this frightful Bill, and should therefore move, that it be committed this day six months.
§ Lord Clements
had heard with surprise and regret, many of the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman. There were others of his statements from which he dissented. He denied, that there had been, as alleged by the hon. and learned Gentleman, more blood shed in Ireland for the last few years than at any former period of Irish history. The hon. and learned Gentleman had forgotten the insurrection and bloodshed of 1798. He regretted the highly-coloured statements of the hon. and learned Member on other points, to which he would not more particularly allude. He thought, that though there were points in the measure which were not sufficiently understood, that Government nevertheless deserved great credit for it. The subject of tithes was one which was surrounded with difficulties, and, therefore, the measure now before the House ought, he conceived, to be allowed to go into Committee.
rose to make one remark in explanation. When he said, that 989 there had been more disturbances and a greater quantity of blood shed in Ireland within the last few years than at any former period, he meant since the union of the two countries, and consequently did not intend to include the period of the Rebellion in his observations.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman's temper had so completely got the better of, and forestalled his reason, that the House, he was sure, would not be at all surprised to hear him state, that he could not understand the Bill. He trusted, nevertheless, that in his calmer moments the hon. and learned Gentleman would have the candour to admit, that the present measure included many of the provisions of his plan, or, in other words, that the plan which he (Mr. Littleton) had now submitted to the House was, in a great measure, the same as the plan of the hon. and learned Member. He trusted, that hon. Members would concur with him, when he said that it was extremely desirable, that, at this late period of the Session, they should be allowed to go into Committee at once. With regard to what had been said by the hon. and learned Gentleman, in the way of complaint that the Bill had not been printed, he could assure the House, that the fault did not rest with him (Mr. Littleton). He was desirous, that the Bill should have been printed a fortnight ago, and intended that it should be so; but had been induced to change his opinion in consequence of a suggestion to that effect made by the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin. He was, therefore, not to blame for the Bill not being printed. The hon. and learned Gentleman next proceeded to complain that the Irish Members had not been consulted about this Bill when it was in the course of preparation. The complaint of the hon. and learned Gentleman was altogether unfounded: he could not have preferred one more groundless. Never was there any Bill respecting Ireland in the framing of which the Members for that country were so much consulted. For more than a fortnight almost the whole of his time had been occupied in corresponding with the Irish Members on the subject of this Bill; and the house of his noble friend (Lord Althorp) had always been open to the Irish Members, whenever they wished to communicate with him on the subject. He would, therefore, repeat, that there never was an 990 Irish measure in which the Irish Members had been so much consulted. He would not refer to the splenetic assertions of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that nothing had been done by the present Government for Ireland. He was sure the House were aware, that they had done every thing they could for that country, and that they had conferred several important boons upon it. Had they done nothing for Ireland on the subject of tithes? Had they not done everything in their power to conciliate the Irish people, by a plan of commutation? And not only had the present Government persevered in its efforts to bring about an adjustment of tithes; but they would still persevere in their endeavours to accomplish that object, as they knew it was necessary to the peace and tranquillity of the country. Was it, he would ask, no boon to the people of Ireland, that fifteen per cent was to be remitted to those who were liable to the composition? [Mr. Shaw: No.] Did the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin mean to say, that that reduction was no relief to the tenantry of Ireland? It was impossible to carry the reduction of the amount of tithes much further without seriously injuring the property of those affected. He had only to express his hope, that the House would consent to the measure going at once into Committee, when he should be able to satisfy the Committee, that the alterations he proposed were great improvements in the Bill.
had not before thought, that any one could have proposed a plan with regard to the Church of Ireland which could by possibility have brought the hon. and learned member for Dublin and himself to vote upon the same side. He must confess that he had great doubts whether, after the declaration made by his right hon. friend, it would not be better to await and have the Bill printed, for the purpose of allowing the House and the country to judge of the alterations which had been made in it. His right hon. friend admitted, that the measure was not the same as when first introduced. That was with him a reason for postponing the consideration of the measure. Though, therefore, under such circumstances, he should vote with the hon. and learned member for Dublin, yet still he felt great hesitation on the subject, because he knew the responsibility that would de- 991 volve on that House, and on himself in taking such a step in the present state of tithe property in Ireland; and because he was persuaded it was the intention of the Government to propose what they considered the best and most effective measure for the enforcement of the law and the preservation of property in Ireland. His right hon. friend said, in answer to the objection of the hon. and learned Member against going into Committee on the Bill, that it was not his fault that the Bill had not been printed a fortnight ago for the consideration of the House; that he was then ready to go into Committee pro formâ, for the purpose of having it so printed; but that in consequence of the hon. member for the University of Dublin declaring at the time, that he would take the opportunity to raise a discussion upon the principle, he was prevented from doing so. The alterations which, at that period, had been made in the Bill were merely alterations of omission; but the clauses which his right hon. friend now proposed, must be viewed in a different light; could they, he asked, be looked upon as part and parcel of the original Bill? He would ask, whether it was not intended to omit a great portion of the Bill for the purpose of introducing the clauses that his right hon. friend had indicated to the House, and whether, amongst them, there was not the introduction of a new principle by which out of funds that had hitherto been devoted to ecclesiastical purposes, the Government proposed to give a bonus of 100,000l. a-year to the landlords of Ireland? ["No, no!"] He thought so. He had no means of knowing whether he was right or wrong. His right hon. friend did not afford him such means. At the last moment, his right hon. friend came forward with a Bill so different from that which had been formerly introduced—so exceedingly different from it, not merely on account of the clauses that were to be omitted, but also on account of those which were to be inserted, that he (Mr. Stanley) could hardly conceive it possible that those who had voted on principle for the first Bill could support this as the same Bill. He would call the attention of the House to the state in which the Bill was. He begged the House to observe, that last year difficulties, especially with regard to individual clergymen, had been thrown in the way of collecting tithes to such an extent, that 992 it was necessary for the Ministers to ask the House for an advance of 1,000,000l., in order that a measure finally to put an end to tithes might be submitted in the present Session of Parliament. What had been the argument upon that occasion? Why, that nothing would satisfy the interests of Ireland, or permanently secure the tranquillity of that country, unless the tithe question was put an end to, not by temporary measures, but by altogether redeeming the tithes. Such was originally the main principle and object of the Bill which he held in his hand. It was that principle which had justified strong measures. Those measures had been adopted for the purpose of encouraging redemption, and thereby securing the extinction of the payment of tithes in any shape, and that redemption and extinction consequent thereupon could only be effectually accomplished by a conversion of tithes into a Land-tax. Of this the Government was to undertake the collection, and almost all parties united in saying that it was the duty of the Government to secure that from the individuals who were bound and able to pay it. The Government had consented to waive the objections which might arise from the substitution of the claims of the State for those of the Church, and the payment was made from the Consolidated Fund by and at the risk of the country. The House could not forget, that all former measures had proceeded on the principle that the miserable cottier—he meant the occupier— should not be the party liable to the payment of tithes, or, the person to be brought in collision with the tithe-owner. In all previous measures also the Legislature and the Government had studiously abstained from interfering in any shape with existing interests, created by bargains made and entered into between landlord and tenant, and on the contrary the Government had taken upon itself the inconvenience of collection, in order to support the rights and claims of both parties. What, however, would the present Bill, with its amendments, effect? Formerly the doctrine, had been admitted, that the rent charge should be paid, not by the occupying tenant, but by the landlord; and though it had been felt that such a course would be an interference with property, yet it was vindicated on the ground that the ultimate object—namely, the extinction, by redemption, of 993 tithes—was of so great importance, that the rights of landlords, and the rights of property ought not to stand in the way. He (Mr. Stanley) had always thought, that the landlords of Ireland ought not to escape from this burthen, subject, however, to being redeemed by them. But, by the present Bill the burthen was left, and at the same time it took away all chance of redemption, which was the object chiefly proposed by former Bills. This was a manifest departure, not merely from the details, but the main principles of all the measures which had previously been submitted to the consideration of the Legislature. His right hon. friend the Secretary for Ireland, however, said that this might be rectified in Committee, and down came he with a proposal which had been brought forward by the hon. and learned member for Dublin on a former occasion. It was not easy to follow his right hon. friend, but he had understood him to suggest, that it would be very desirable that the landlords should take upon themselves the rent-charge for the period of five years, holding out an inducement to them to take upon themselves the burthen. Formerly fifteen per cent had been held out as an inducement, but now that did not appear a sufficient boon, and therefore forty per cent was suggested. This was most undoubtedly an enormous bonus to be enforced by a most summary proceeding. If the landlords did not complain, on being thus made responsible, the people of England had a right to complain; and the Church of Ireland was also justified in raising the voice of complaint. After much discussion and great deliberation, the House of Commons had, under the expected difference of opinion with another branch of the Legislature, abandoned the principle of converting to the use of the State that very property which his right hon. friend now called upon the House to appropriate. Because the Parliament would not do that, the 147th clause of the Bill of last year had been abandoned. On the discussion which ensued upon that clause the doctrine of appropriation of Church property to State purposes was repudiated by the House. It was true, his right hon. friend had said, that it was not an appropriation to the State, but a bonus to the Irish landlords of forty per cent. With all these considerations he must ask the House whether it would not at least he 994 more decent to give them time for the consideration of the great alterations, now proposed, and the deviations from the principles adopted which were now in contemplation. He conceived, that the change ought at least to be made after the fullest opportunities for full and impartial deliberation. He spoke under very great doubts as to the course which, upon the present occasion, he ought to pursue, but he sincerely trusted his right hon. friend would not now press for the House to go into a Committee on the Bill. He felt all the responsibility which would devolve upon those who divided against going into Committee upon the Bill; but he confessed that, in voting with the hon. and learned member for Dublin, he did not think he should vote against this Bill or any other which might be introduced with reference to the same subject. He certainly thought, that his right hon. friend would do well to postpone further proceeding with this measure until the Bill, as proposed to be amended, was again printed, and in the hands of hon. Members. In the mean time he must call upon the House and the Government to consider, that upon them ultimately must rest the responsibility of supporting the laws of property. Satisfied that the Government had this responsibility, he should be inclined to be guided by their judgment rather than his own. It was for the Government to protect tithe property as much as the property of any other of his Majesty's subjects, and he should therefore be disposed, as far as he could, to yield his own judgment to that of those who, with the introduction of this Bill, were also charged with carrying the existing laws into effect. He, however, did trust, that the House would be allowed a better opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of this Bill than it could have from the mere statement of his right hon. friend, before hon. Members were called upon to deal with its provisions.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that, notwithstanding his right hon. friend had declared it to be his intention to vote with the hon. member for Dublin, he very distinctly understood the principles upon which he so voted to be widely different from those upon which the hon. Member's Amendment was based. The Amendment was framed for the purpose of obtaining the defeat of the Bill; his right hon. friend's opposition was offered with a view to obtain the postponement of the Bill till the new clauses were 995 fairly before the House. It might, however, be observed, that even if the House did go into Committee now, the clauses to which his right hon. friend referred were not likely to come under their consideration, for the previous clauses would occupy their time, for some nights, perhaps; and, therefore, there would be plenty of time for their being printed and laid before the House previous to their consideration. But he would go even further, and say, that if the House desired, and expressed that desire, that the clauses should be printed before they went into Committee on the Bill, there was nothing unreasonable in that desire, or unfair in his right hon. friend's demanding it. The change in the principle of this Bill might be resisted as well in the Committee as at present. His right hon. friend had very fairly stated the fact, that the chief object of the Bill originally was the commutation of the tithes into land, so as to get rid of them for ever. But he forgot to state that the principle upon which the advantage now proposed to be given to the landlord had been already admitted on a former occasion. His right hon. friend had stated, that by leaving out the redemption clauses, the Government pressed hardly on the Irish landlord, more hardly, indeed, than according to his conviction the Government desired. But then it ought to be recollected, that the landlords had the alternative offered them solely in consequence of this circumstance; and as a compulsory rent-charge on the land, in lieu of the existing bargains relative to the tithes, appeared to be a hard measure, the Government resolved to offer them the boon now proposed, by way of mitigating hat hardship. Besides, it was no boon; it was only a fair equivalent for what was taken from them. With respect to the other part of the question entered into by his right hon. friend—the difference, namely, in the amount received by the Government on account of tithes, and that paid by them to the clergy—his right hon. friend had overstated the sum at 100,0001. It was not so much as that. He admitted, that in thus applying the perpetuity fund, the Government went back to the principle contained in the 147th clause of the Bill of last year; but the difference was this—that according to the Church Temporalities Bill, the perpetuity fund was to be applied to state purposes, while by the present measure 996 it was to be applied to increasing the security of the revenues of the Church, as an inducement to the landlords to take upon themselves the rent-charges, the effect of which would be greatly to facilitate the collection of the impost, and secure the safety of those who were to receive it. He thought, however, that his right hon. friend could hardly with any consistency go the length of voting against the Bill. He had declared it to be the duty of Government to protect the property of his Majesty's subjects, amongst whom the Irish clergy must of course be included; but he must remind his right hon. friend, that if the House at his instigation, and by his aid, deprived the Government of the means of affording them protection, it was hardly fair to look for it at their hands. If, therefore, the House would consent merely to go into Committee on the Bill, he would consent to postpone the discussion of the principle of the new clauses until the House was in full possession of their purport, and with this understanding he trusted the Amendment would not be persevered in.
§ Mr. More O'Ferrall
was not altogether surprised at the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman, the late Secretary for the Colonies, but he was at the course taken by the hon. and learned Gentleman, the member for Dublin; he had never expected to see them join in anything, but above all in opposing an Irish Tithe Bill. Lest misconception should exist in any quarter, he thought it right that Irish Members particularly, should understand the position in which they stood with regard to the question before them. The law under which tithes in Ireland would be collected in November next, was the 2nd and 3rd of William 4th, which had been introduced by the late Secretary for the Colonies in 1832, the object of which was, to place every parish in Ireland under composition. Under that Act a compulsory composition took place throughout Ireland last year, which had the effect of raising the value of tithes to a higher amount than under the old law. When the present Bill was first brought forward by the Chief Secretary for Ireland he (Mr. O'Ferrall) had joined in opposing it, because it provided that the redemption money should be invested in land, which would have conferred great political power upon the Protestant clergy. That Bill was now entirely altered. In the first place the 997 new clauses which it was proposed to insert, provided a remedy for the excessive and objectionable valuation — the principle which they had so recently contended for, namely, the appropriation of the property of the Church to useful and public purposes, was conceded in the proposition of the Secretary for Ireland, for the right hon. Secretary stated, that the sum allowed as a reduction to the land-owners would be made up out of the Church fund. If these alterations were made, he certainly thought the Bill before the House would be a great improvement on the Bill of 1832, but if by any extraordinary combination of the hon. and learned member for Dublin with the late Secretary for the Colonies, those alterations should be prevented from taking place, he would then reserve to himself the right of voting against this Bill upon its third reading. He would advert to the proposition which had been made by the hon. member for Limerick, and adopted by the hon. and learned member for Dublin. That proposition claimed a new valuation, and a reduction of two-fifths; one-fifth to be paid by the Consolidated Fund, the other deducted from the clergy. The Bill before the House adopted these two propositions, and, under circumstances, would give a reduction of three-fifths. As he understood, it was proposed by this Bill, that the rate at which land sold should regulate the price of redemption of tithe; and where the value of land amounted to twenty years' purchase, the reduction per cent on the tithe would be to the amount of 40l. Although the proposed alterations did not go the length which he and many others desired, was that a reason, when so many positive advantages was offered, that they should reject it altogether? Would they, by rejecting the present proposal of Government, leave the tithes to be collected under the Bill of 32—would they expose the people to the renewed evils of a harassing persecution? He was placed in that House to represent not the passions but the interests of his constituents, and the question for him to decide was, whether it was better for his constituents, that reduced tithes should be collected from the landlords, for the relief of the tenants under this Bill, as was proposed, or under the Compulsory Composition Act of 1832. He defied any Member of that House to assert, that this 998 Bill, with the proposed alterations which he had described, was not an improvement on the present law, and so far a benefit to the people. He repeated, if the Amendments were not carried in Committee, he would vote against the third reading—but because he felt anxious to see these improvements introduced into the Bill, he would support the Motion for going into Committee on the Bill.
§ Mr. Shaw
had no objection to any course which might be for the convenience of the House, provided it did not involve a sacrifice of principle. He would not oppose the formal introduction of the new matter stated that evening by the right hon. Gentleman in order to its full discussion, but he never could agree to the omission pro forma, without the question being discussed and decided by a vote of the House, of the redemption and appropriation clauses—because they were of the very essence of the measure as first brought in by the Government—in short, all the rest of the Bill, and all that the Government now proposed to retain of it was, the mere machinery to promote redemption and appropriation, and thereby to abolish all yearly payment in the nature of tithe, by whatever name it was called, whether tithe, composition, land-tax, or rent-charge. To accomplish that object the friends of the Church had, although somewhat reluctantly, consented to vest the property of the Church, for the limited period of five years, in the Crown, as a private individual might his estate in trustees; that during that time the law might be enforced, the rights of property asserted, and then the whole restored to the Church again. On the other hand, the rent-charge was to be imposed after the same period of five years, as a strong inducement to redemption, while the most advantageous and tempting terms were offered by the Bill to the landlords upon which to redeem; but now the whole plan of the Bill was altered; all that was substantial in it was omitted, and nothing kept but its form and machinery—intended for a far different purpose, but to be used for that of divesting the clergy permanently of their property, and rendering the landlord liable to a perpetual irredeemable rent-charge. The Bill was most objectionable, and the conduct of Government evasive in the extreme—shifting their ground from day to day, and not having yet discovered any one principle, in re- 999 spect of Church property, on which they could agree. Under these circumstances of indecision and vacillation, on the part of his Majesty's Ministers—seeing that the Bill was brought forward in a new form every night, so that one could not tell to-day in what shape it would appear to-morrow, he was not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley) should feel disposed to agree with the hon. and learned member for Dublin, in postponing the measure altogether; but, admitting, as he did most willingly, that every respect and deference was due to the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman upon a question, in reference to which he had made a great and honorable sacrifice; yet he was very apprehensive, that by voting with the hon. and learned member for Dublin, a way of escape would be opened to the Government, of which they would gladly avail themselves from the vast and fearful responsibility they had incurred, by re-opening and re-agitating the whole of the tithe question in Ireland, and which was to have been permanently settled under the Act of 1832, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, then Secretary for Ireland. He had never concealed his opinion, that the failure of the Government in their proceedings under what was called the 60,000l. Act, was attributable to themselves—first, because they expunged from the Bill the power of charging costs in any case, no matter how litigious or vexatious the resistance to a just demand; but, even after that difficulty had been overcome, and the force of the law had prevailed over the tumultuous resistance of those who systematically opposed it, came the act of unaccountable infatuation of the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) in declaring, at the very moment that the tithe was being universally paid in Ireland, that the Government would enforce it no longer. He did not mean to impute to the noble Lord personally any sinister motive in that declaration; but he verily believed, that it could alone have been induced by the wilful misrepresentations of some person or power acting behind the scenes, whose object was, to produce disturbance, and to prevent the settlement of Church-property in Ireland. The confusion caused by the noble Lord's declaration led to the necessity of the Million Act of last year, which he had always sincerely deprecated, as one of those miserable shifts and temporary 1000 expedients which it was vainly attempted to substitute for the ordinary law and the established rights of property. What he now dreaded was some similar device of the Government, for the purpose of enabling them to scramble over the present Session, and keep the ill-used and persecuted clergy of Ireland for another year in a state of cruel uncertainty and suspense. He felt the strongest objections both to the principle and details of the Bill at present proposed by the Government, as far as it was possible to understand it; though that was not easy, for it was as changeable, unfixed, and inconsistent, as Ministers themselves; but what he was desirous to avoid was, affording the Government an excuse for throwing up a measure which they were incompetent to conduct, and transferring to others the blame with which they themselves were most justly chargeable. Let them not suppose, that by now abandoning this Bill, they could restore matters to the condition in which they would have been if they had never introduced it. The great interests of society could not thus be made the sport of every idle speculation and ill-digested theory. If a Government used their influence to unsettle men's minds, in the expectation of great changes—to disturb the usual course of vested rights, and shake the foundations of property—they would be grievously deceived, if they imagined that, by the abandonment of the particular measure which had produced the evil, the evil itself would be remedied, and that the various relations of society could re-adjust themselves as if they had never been deranged. While he was persuaded, therefore, that the measure would fail in the end, he did not wish to enable Government to get rid of it in the indirect manner proposed by the hon. member for Dublin; but to leave the entire responsibility of such failure where it ought to rest—upon the Government themselves. He would consent to any postponement necessary for informing Members what was the last edition of the alterations proposed by Government; but he would certainly resist the withdrawal, as a matter of form, of the redemption and appropriation clauses.
§ Mr. O'Connell's Amendment was withdrawn, and the Committee postponed to a future day.