§ Lord Ebrington
rose for the purpose of presenting a petition which had been intrusted to him from the owners and occupiers of land and other inhabitants, paying tithes, of both divisions of the county of Devon, and which had been agreed to at a public meeting of the county, most respectably and largely attended. The petitioners stated, that they had presumed to address the House of Commons, in consequence of understanding it to be the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to introduce a Bill during the present Session of Parliament, for effecting certain changes in the existing Tithe-laws. They complained that the demand for the tenth part of the gross produce of the land, by those who contributed nothing towards its production was at variance with the dictates of reason and the principles of justice, and most oppressively grievous, when, as frequently happened, the value of the whole crop did not equal the expense of raising it. They, therefore, prayed, that the subject of tithes might be taken into the serious consideration of 1039 the House, and that they might be permanently commuted, on the basis of supposing the tithe-owner the tenth-part proprietor of the soil; but, anxiously as they desired a change in the existing Tithe-laws, oppressive and unjust as they considered them, they would nevertheless prefer their continuance, to the enactment of any other measure that would have the effect of exempting the holders of tithe-property from bearing their just portion of all parochial and other assessments, thereby severing their interests from those of the rest of the community. He could not avoid saying, that the petition had been agreed to by an overwhelming majority of the thousands who composed the meeting; and the sentiments it contained were, he believed, the sentiments of a numerical majority of the owners and occupiers of land paying tithe in the county;—he said numerically, because a small portion of the great landed proprietors in the county had attended the meeting, and, of that class, he might say, a majority was opposed to the prayer of the petition. The painful duty devolved upon him of expressing an opinion differing from that entertained by so large a portion of his constituents, and that pain was increased by the consideration that the individuals from whom he differed on the present occasion were those to whom he mainly owed the honour conferred on him of representing the county in Parliament. It was, at the same time, satisfactory to his own feelings to know that his opinions had never been disguised from them on that subject. From the moment he had become a Member of the House, representing that constituency, he had been an advocate for a fair commutation, because he thought that an equitable commutation of tithe would be equally beneficial to the proprietor of tithes and the occupier of the land. He was of opinion, that, had an equitable commutation been effected many years ago, much of the difficulty and discontent which attended the settlement of the question would have been avoided. At the same time he could not admit, that the principle prayed for in the petition, that the tithes be commuted for one-tenth of the rent, was a fair one upon which they could regulate the commutation. Without trespassing further upon the attention of the House, he would move, that the petition be read.
§ The Petition was read at length.1040
§ Lord John Russell
, as a member for the southern division of the county of Devon, and from having been requested to support the prayer of the petition, begged to intrude for a few moments upon the attention of the House. He agreed with his noble friend who presented the petition, as to the general feeling among the yeomanry of Devonshire, from whom the petition emanated, which was signed by upwards of 9,000 persons. He had great pleasure likewise in agreeing with their opinion, that tithe, in itself, was both unreasonable and unjust. There could be nothing more unjust, or more impolitic, than a law which tended to discourage the cultivation of the soil, which it ought to be the policy of all good government to promote. Nothing could be more impolitic than to interfere with the skill and capital of those desirous of improving the land, and taking from those persons a great portion, if not all, the due returns of their skill and capital, thus depriving them of all motives for making improvements. He considered, therefore, tithes in themselves, as properly the institution of a barbarous age; and his only wonder was, that it was left to these days to provide a remedy for this great and oppressive evil. He believed that the most perfect integrity, and a sense of fair dealing towards the clergy, animated these petitioners; and though he had the misfortune not to agree with them in the conclusion to which they had come, he believed, in drawing that conclusion, they meant to do full justice to the clergy and the tithe-owners. They had been led into what he considered an error, he believed, by the attempt made to place the property of the Church on too high a ground, and considering it as if it were private property. In his opinion, Church property was intended to be enjoyed and used for the public good. But, having heard this assumption put forward, and having heard it said, that Church proprietors were the same as other proprietors of the soil, the Devonshire yeomanry were doing what was not unnatural for those to do who considered Church property like other property. They thought, that, while claiming only a part, the Church took the whole profit; but if the profit were large, they took a tenth of that large profit, and if the profit were small, they only took a tenth of that small or inconsiderable profit. This reasoning was not 1041 unnatural, and upon this they proposed a plan of commutation. At this point, he (Lord John Russell) was compelled to differ from the petitioners, and he did so with great pain, because he knew them to be honest and excellent men. He did not think, as the clergy were legally entitled to a tenth of the produce, that this would be fairly commuted by giving them a tenth of the rent. It was said by the hon. member for Liskeard, who, less than any other man, followed the popular opinion, that the rent of the land in Devonshire, was a third of the value of the produce, therefore, what the petitioners asked was, that the legal right of the clergy to the tenth of the produce, should be commuted to the tenth of a third, or to a thirtieth of the produce. He must say, having considered the subject both last year and the present, and wishing, as he did, to see a fair commutation, that he did not think an exchange for a tenth of the rent would be a fair commutation. He would only say again, that he participated with his noble friend (Lord Ebrington) in his regret at differing from the petitioners. He, however, did not find in the other counties of England that the farmers saw the subject in the same light they did not come forward in those other counties; and, as they had manifestly an interest in so doing, he must conclude that the general opinion of the people of England was, that the proposal of the Devonshire yeomanry would not be a fair commutation.
§ Mr. Bulteel
declared his decided dissent from the proposition contained in the petition, and, in doing so, he concurred, he knew, with a vast majority of the inhabitants of the county from whence the petition emanated. In adopting this course, he begged it to be understood that he was not arraying himself against the general tenets expressed in the petition; but he firmly believed the great majority of the county were opposed to the plan laid down for a commutation. At the same time the whole county entertained a conviction that the grievances complained of must be removed, and they looked to the Government for some perfect and decided remedial measure. He congratulated the House upon the sentiments which had fallen from his noble friend (Lord John Russell), from which it was to be anticipated that some measure would be proposed by his Majesty's Government 1042 upon the subject, and he hoped that it might settle the point for ever, and remove all disputes between the farmer and the clergyman. He hoped, that all tithes on productive industry would be done away, and the farmer enabled to improve his farm without being haunted by an apprehension of the clergyman.
Sir William Chaytor
, in supporting the prayer of the petition, stated, that he did so being a tithe-owner himself, for he was ready and willing to give them up.
§ Mr. Feargus O'Connor
observed, that Ministers had repeatedly stated what they would do; but he would ask, in the face of the assertion, what had they done? Why they had admitted the right of the clergy to tithes, at the same time admitting that they had no right to collect them under that denomination. He was happy to see that petition, and to the principles it expressed he gave his most cordial support.
§ Mr. Parrott
begged leave to put the House in possession of the principle upon which the petitioners asked for the commutation, which had not yet been touched upon. Before he did so, he would notice a few of the observations which had fallen from the noble Viscount (Ebrington) opposite. The noble Viscount said, that the petition was not supported by the great landed proprietors of the county. There was no doubt that the petition was not signed by the great body of the great landed proprietors; but, on looking at the signatures in the very first page, he found those of nine Magistrates of the county; so, that though the great body did not support the petition, it was clear that a considerable portion of them were not averse from it; and, besides those names, there were many others that he recognized as being those of most respectable landowners. Without in any manner intending to speak harshly of the great proprietors of land, he thought he could easily point out one very good reason why their signatures were not attached to the petition. They were almost the only class who were the proprietors of tithes, which properly belonged to the Church; and, of course, were quite contented with the system as it at present existed. He believed there was very little doubt, but that a strong feeling existed against that system in Devonshire. He also believed, that the same feeling prevailed in other counties—in fact, there was an almost 1043 universal feeling throughout the country against the payment of tithes in kind—and every one now claimed exemption from that payment. But if the tithe-owners were to be paid in money to the full value of the tenth of the produce of the soil, how could there be any redress of grievances? In place of a redress of the grievances, it would be an aggravation of them. If such were to be the measure passed by the House, the tithe-owner would have the whole profit of the land. The prayer of the petition did not seem to be understood. What the petitioners stated was, that, seeing the great difficulty of the tithe question, they came forward in a constitutional manner to point the way in which they thought it might be, and ought to be settled. With regard to what they prayed for, he believed there was some misconception. What they prayed for was this—that the land should be valued as free from tithes, rates, and taxes, and that a tenth should then be taken and set apart for the support of the Church; that tenth also to be liable to rates and taxes the same as the other nine-tenths. The present rent, which was a portion of the nett profit paid for the occupation, might be high or low, but the value of the land as he had described it, was independent of such a bargain. At present the average rate of composition for tithes in Devonshire was 2s. 6d. in the pound; and he believed that the tenth estimated in the way he had described, would amount to a greater sum than the composition. The petitioners did not ask to have tithes valued at one-tenth of the present rent, but at one-tenth of the real value. The petitioners prayed that there should be no commutation of tithes until such a valuation was taken of the land, otherwise the tithe-owners would be doubly taxed. The misconception which existed would be removed by impressing on the House, that it was the desire of the petitioners to have the land valued free of all taxes, and one-tenth then reserved for the tithe-owners, and the other nine-tenths given to the occupiers. This was a simple statement, and would set the matter at rest. He (Mr. Parrott) could not help reverting to the original state of tithes, while on that subject. When a tenth part of the land was first appropriated to the Church, it was in a state of nature—quite uncultivated. The tithes were not then oppressive. They were devoted to four 1044 different purposes—the maintenance of the clergy, the support of the Bishops, to the necessaries of the Church service, and the relief of the poor. Subsequently, they were used for only three different purposes. When they passed into the hands of the Protestants, they were wholly given up to one purpose. Thus they became a burthen on, and attracted the odium of, the people. It was impossible for him (Mr. Parrott) not to revert to that topic when they were speaking of tithes. Under all the circumstances, he considered the demands of the petitioners to be most reasonable; they praying from his Majesty's Ministers no commutation of tithes, but, in a manner least favourable to themselves, and quite compatible with the subsequent arrangement, for a fair adjustment. They had been most submissive to the law; they did nothing but struggle against a great grievance, and in a constitutional manner. They expected from his Majesty's Ministers that the Reform Bill would be productive of great benefit. The first and paramount object they considered to be, the getting rid of tithes. What was the use of the Reform Bill, unless it led to such alterations as would remove that greatest of all grievances? He concurred fully in the prayer of the petition, and should not have done his duty if he had not supported it with all his power. He would beg to direct the attention of Government to one point. The present was a golden opportunity to attach a large body of the people to them. If it was thrown away, it might not be easy again to find such another. There was not a single measure which could attract and fix the affections of the people so soon and so firmly, as that act of justice which would relieve them from the pressing grievance of tithes.
§ Colonel Seale
said, that representing a borough in Devonshire, he had been requested to support the prayer of the petition, and he begged to express his entire concurrence in its prayer. He agreed with the noble Lord who had presented the petition in most of the sentiments he had expressed, and he gave the noble Lord credit for the fairness with which he had stated the manner in which it had been got up. He could bear testimony to the respectability and wealth of the persons who had attended the meeting; at the same time, he must say, that the noble Lord could scarcely have assumed, although 1045 he had done so from a feeling of candour, that the great landed proprietors were adverse to its prayer. If they were, why had they not come forward and expressed their disapprobation? They had a fair opportunity of doing so. He dissented from the opinion expressed by the hon. member for Devon (Mr. Bulteel), that the great landed proprietors were opposed to the prayer of that petition, and he would put it to the test in this way. He would ask his hon. friend, whether he could get up a petition of an adverse nature? If he could procure 20,000 or 30,000 signatures in that county to a petition of an adverse nature, let him produce them. He had heard the expression "spoliation" applied to the valuation called for by this petition, viz. that the tithe-owners should be one-tenth proprietors of the soil, but he believed such a charge was unfounded. For the last twenty years the maximum of valuation was 2s. 6d. in the pound, and only nine years since, an observation was made that the highest amount that could be claimed by the tithe-owners was from 3s. to 3s. 3d. in the pound; therefore, the charge of spoliation was as applicable to one side as the other. Another charge was brought against the landlords, viz. that the occupiers of the soil were not so much interested in that question as the landlords, who would derive all the benefit from the commutation of tithes, and put the profits into their own pockets. It was very true that where one farm was tithe-free and another paid tithes, the one that was free paid a higher rent in proportion to the amount of the tithe, and if tithes were swept away from the land, rent would be one-third higher in the market. The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had stated it was his intention to bring in a measure at an early period, which would be consistent with the wishes of the country, and he hoped that such would be the case. He cautioned the noble Lord, however, not to bring in any half measure, for it would meet with general disapprobation. He gave his most decided support to the prayer of the petition.
§ Mr. Wilbraham
was willing to concur in any measure for the relief of the agricultural interest, but at the same time he must protest against any particular county dictating to the rest of the country. As to the exact mode of commuting tithes, that mode which might suit the county of Devon might be unjust to the rest of the 1046 country. It should be left to the wisdom of that Parliament in which the people were fairly represented, and in which (as far as regarded the other House) the clergy were also represented. Although he agreed in the general allegations of the petition, he protested against a particular mode of redress laid down by one class of persons.
§ Mr. Divett
having been present at the meeting at which the petition was agreed to, and having been in the minority on that occasion, was anxious to state his reasons why he dissented from the petitioners. He fully agreed with his noble friends as to the high respectability of the petitioners, but he must say, that most of the persons who assembled at the meeting came there with strong opinions previously formed. The petitioners thought that, from the plan which had been proposed by the Government, the farmers would derive no benefit; but he thought they would derive great benefit, for this reason, that in Devonshire there was a great number of small occupiers and leaseholders, and, therefore, they would be greatly benefitted during the continuance of their holdings. It was true that tithes originated in barbarous times, and he attributed their continuance so long to the moderation with which they had been enforced. They had also been greatly extended during the war, when the high prices existed, and they had not been decreased in proportion to the decrease in the prices. He trusted, however, that the measure of the Government would be productive of much good, and that a clause would be introduced for the redemption of tithes. He knew it was of great importance that all the bickerings and heart-burnings between the clergy and the people should be speedily removed. As to the dictation spoken of by the hon. Member who preceded him, he denied that anything of that kind prevailed at the meeting at which the petition was agreed to. He knew that the feeling against tithes was stronger in Devonshire than in most other counties; and he should like to see the question settled so as to remove all the existing ill-feeling upon the subject.
said, he had a few words to address to the House in consequence of some observations made by the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell), both in that House and at a public meeting in Devonshire. The noble Lord, at that 1047 meeting—[Lord John Russell, I did not attend the meeting]. No matter; at some other meeting. Then the noble Lord was reported in the public papers to have condescended to notice so humble an individual as himself, and also to have attributed to him (Mr. O'Connell) a wish not only to abolish tithes, but that he would support a Motion for restoring tithes to their original owner—["No, no," from Lord John Russell]. It was so stated in the newspapers.
§ Lord John Russell
said, he did not know what was attributed to him in the public papers, but he was glad to have that opportunity of stating that he did not think that he had said anything resembling what the hon. and learned Member alluded to. The only thing that occurred to him that he (Lord John Russell) did say was, that at some meeting, speaking of abbeys and nunneries, he expressed a supposition that nobody except the hon. and learned member for Dublin wished to see them restored. He said this in consequence of that hon. and learned Member having been represented at some meeting at Kildare to have lamented pathetically over the ruins of the nunneries of that part of Ireland.
said, that the noble Lord did him justice. Whatever might be his speculative or individual opinions upon the value of those institutions—and he did consider them very valuable—he had never said even one word that contained any idea of the transfer of that species of property to the original owners, vested as it was under several Acts of Parliament, and settled by a long course of time. For himself, individually, he would add, that the greater part of that property which he possessed was of that nature. There was another observation of the noble Lord which he did make, for he used it in the House that morning—viz. his attributing the origin of tithes to barbarous times. They certainly did not exist in Ireland till they were introduced by the English, so that the English were the barbarous bestowers of tithe upon that country. If they could get rid of that barbarous novelty it would be no small blessing. The noble Lord had promised a Bill to make some alteration with respect to tithes; but it should be recollected that every alteration was not an amendment; they should see whether it aggravated or diminished the evil, and if it did the latter, every one would concur in it; but if it aggravated 1048 the evil, then it was incumbent on the Government to give up their plan. They were bringing forward a plan, not after speculation, but after a trial and a failure. It had been tried in Ireland and it had failed, for it had aggravated the evils. Whilst the tithe system existed, the tithe-payer had a choice either to give up a tenth part of his corn and potatoes, or to pay it in money. If corn was dear, then, of course, his choice would be to pay it in money; but where the corn was cheap and abundant, then, on the contrary, it would be his choice to pay it in kind. The peasantry in Ireland had very little ready capital, and this choice was, to them, of no small importance. The Tithe Composition Act not only took away the choice, but it gave the clergy many facilities of recovering their tithes which they did not possess before. It gave the clergy a grinding power over the unfortunate farmer—it gave them power to distrain even the growing crop; and whereas, before, the clergyman could enter the ground only once a-year, he was enabled to come twice, and to carry away with him anything he could lay his hands on. Whatever was wanted for daily consumption, the clergyman came and marked for distraint, and the poor peasant might be thrust into gaol for daring to give a potatoe, which he had grown by his own labour, to his family. That alteration, in his (Mr. O'Connell's) opinion, instead of being an improvement, had made matters worse. No good could be effected by a change in commutation. He felt it to be his duty most solemnly to protest against the Government Bill, for altering the levy of tithes in Ireland for it was only calculated to aggravate the mischiefs complained of, as it gave the power of distraining without that of replevying. And he, therefore, implored hon. Members, before they consented to a commutation in England, he had already shown its bad effects in Ireland, to ascertain whether it would be productive of good or evil. He felt great delight that a petition of such a character should have been presented from so great a county, and did not consider that it had been at all disparaged by what had fallen from the hon. member for Cheshire.
Mr. Ruddel Todd
concurred with the last speaker—the discussion would be of a more legislative nature when the Bill was before the House, and would be attended with real advantage.
§ Sir Henry Willoughby
would not object to the petition being allowed to lie upon the Table, but he very strongly condemned the prayer it contained. He thought that if the House acceded to the prayer of that petition it would be guilty of as great an act of robbery and plunder, as had ever been perpetrated. This was his firm and decided opinion. The average rent of tithe paid in England was 5s. an acre. Well, suppose it was 3s. If they reduced that 3s. to 2s., would they not, he put it to the House, be guilty of a pure and unadulterated act of confiscation? The hon. and learned member for Dublin had spoken a good deal about the origin of tithes. He (Sir Henry Willoughby) thought this question had been long since set at rest; he conceived that it had been consigned to the tomb of the Capulets. If the hon. and learned Member had any wish to revive it—if he were prepared to argue the question in that House—he could find an hon. Gentleman who would discuss it with him, and he was satisfied would be able to prove to the satisfaction of any hon. Member that such a division on the question never existed in England. He could not think that the people of this country, as a people, had any interest in trenching upon those funds dedicated for the support of the Church, religion, and morality. Important questions might arise upon the distribution of those funds; but he denied that the people, as a people, had any interest whatever in the confiscation of a single shilling of the property of the Church.
considered, that the discussion was at that time unnecessary; there was no general view drawn up for the adjustment of that question. Various plans and schemes were proposed, but they seemed to have emanated either from the private opinions of hon. Members, or to have been only the mere instructions of their constituents. His Majesty's Ministers would do well to take warning from the dissatisfaction that was felt throughout the country last year, at the postponement of such an important question as the Commutation of Tithes. It was quite impossible to do justice to the property of the clergy, and make concessions to the people such as they demanded. The question was encompassed with great difficulties; hon. Members should be expected to yield a good deal, and not be so unreasonable as to expect perfection in 1050 all the parts of a measure, that would require much discussion. It would become the House not to irritate the country, nor to irritate themselves, by useless and premature discussions.
§ Mr. Sheil
was willing to allow the expediency of not immediately pressing forward to the termination of so important a subject as the Commutation of Tithes, so that time might be allowed to examine into the principle on which the alteration was grounded, as well as to the extent to which it should be carried. He was willing to meet the hon. Baronet opposite on Church property. It followed as an irrefutable consequence, that if the State originally appropriated a revenue to the Church, it was in the power of the State to release itself from that revenue again without any spoliation. As to lay tithes, he would not touch them. They were a distinct property, but the tithes which were set apart for the use of the clergy, the State was justified in applying to its own use, by recurring to the enlightened appropriation of that property in barbarous times. He was not for disturbing the present incumbents. It was not fair to do so. Strong instances were before the House, from former times of incumbents being secured in their then possessions. An Act was passed in the time of Queen Mary, and confirmed by the Pope, which secured Church property to those who then had been invested with it.
§ Mr. Ayshford Sanford
hoped, that in any measure that might be brought forward, no distinction would be made be-ween the tithes held by lay impropriators, and those in the hands of the Church, but that it would embrace all. If it was the intention of the Government to make any new arrangement for the payment of the Church, that suggested by the petition presented by the noble Lord would be, perhaps, a fair mode; but the sum stated in that petition, would not be a fair valuation.
§ Mr. Benett
agreed with the hon. member for Tipperary, that the lay tithes were different from those in the hands of the Church, but he did not think, that the State would act fairly in appropriating the property of the Church to any other purposes. Something had been said respecting Dissenters, of which body he (Mr. B.) had a great knowledge; and he would say, that he never met with a Dissenter who entertained any idea of doing 1051 away with tithes without giving a fair compensation to the clergy. That Dissenters were hostile to the payment of tithes, there was no doubt, and he also was hostile to them. He trusted whatever measure might be introduced, the tithes would be fairly and honestly commuted; but for the effecting this, the bargain must not be too high. Church property was now a very hazardous species of property. The resistance to the payment of tithe had lessened its value considerably; and if it were offered in the public market now, it would not fetch more than two-thirds of what it would have brought five years ago. That circumstance should be taken into consideration in any commutation that might be made, and, for his part, he thought it would be exceedingly desirable if a fair commutation were effected.
§ Sir Robert Peel
hoped, in legislating on this question, they would act with great caution, as it had hitherto been, under the salutary control of public opinion. They should bear in mind, that those who were about to dispose of the Church property, were either lay impropriators, or possessed of large landed property, with a direct personal interest in remitting tithes. If anything could sink that House in the public estimation, it would be by affording ground for the imputation, that, in disposing of Church property, they had consulted their own personal interest. He hoped the House would listen with caution to any suggestions establishing a distinction between lay tithes and tithes paid to the Church. They might say, if they chose, that this clergyman or the other had too high a stipend; and they might propose to reduce it; but let them beware not to appropriate the money to any but ecclesiastical uses. An hon. Gentleman had told them, that tithes were State property, with which they might do as they pleased. But while that right of gift was contended for, let them take care, that they did not give this property to themselves. He thus early put in a claim on behalf of the vested interests of the people of England, for whose benefit tithes were intended. They had a deep interest in the appropriation of this property to its original uses, for it was bestowed in trust for them. If the House directed that property to any other purpose, above all, if they turned it to their own advantage, they would be guilty of an act of spoliation which would be 1052 fatal to their characters. He would not, at present, enter into the question, whether there should be any other appropriation; but, under the pretence of giving a portion of them, the tenth of the rent, or any other portion, they should be aware, that they did not, by making the payment 2s., instead of 5s. or 6s., as it was reported they now were, commit an act of spoliation towards the great mass of the people of this country, who were not individually proprietors, either of tithes or of land, but who were deeply interested in the proper appropriation of Church property. He was anxious, that the Bill of the noble Lord should be speedily brought forward; and he sincerely hoped it would be founded on the principle of strict justice. If it contained a principle of spoliation, he was Sure not two years would elapse before the same principle would be acted on towards other property.
§ Mr. Harvey
remembered, that the sentiments uttered by the right hon. Baronet, were precisely those which he himself had expressed upon a discussion upon Irish tithes, and well remembered, too, that certain of his Irish friends around him were not quite pleased with the view he took upon the subject. The real fact was this—and it was incumbent upon hon. Members to know it—that it was the duty of the House to see, that the funds of the Church were not improperly diverted from their destined purpose. Let the tithes of this country belong to whomsoever they might, whether to the Church or to the nation, of this fact there could be no doubt, that they did not belong to the landlords. The House was greatly indebted to the noble Lord, the member for Devon, for affording hon. Members an opportunity to deliver their sentiments upon that important subject. If the noble Lord brought forward any proposition for a commutation of tithes, which would turn the tithe now levied into money's worth, it would be universally disapproved of. What the people wanted was, the real value of the tithes ascertained, and then dealt with as might be thought proper. No Dissenter wished to put the tithe into his own pocket; but there were, certainly, a kind of nonconforming nondescripts in the country, who did not speak out as well as the Dissenters, who, preserving existing interests, wished to see the revenues of the Church not applied for the purposes of the Church. Notwith- 1053 standing, he thought, however, that he saw a disposition on the part of the great landed interests, even in that House, to fight their battle quietly, and without any display of what was called dangerous principles, behind petitions of this kind, which ought, properly speaking, to be called petitions pointing out how each man might best help himself to a share of the public property. The tithe which was now paid, was about 5s. per acre, and what these very disinterested, and very respectable petitioners—these nine thousand honourable men—wanted, was to put three of those shillings into their own pockets,—one of the most barefaced propositions he had ever heard. The hon. Member had stated, that tithes were every day becoming more and more unpopular. This, no doubt, would be a very good suggestion from a landlord. There could be no doubt but the landlords would, for their own sakes, take care to propagate this doctrine, because the tithes would go into their own pockets; but, for his part, he would much rather see it in the hands of the Church, than in the pockets of the landlords. But the first thing to be done, was, to ascertain the value of tithes in every parish in the country. This done, let the property be secured and appropriated afterwards to such purposes as might be deemed necessary, provided that House saw the necessity for any alteration.
§ Sir Robert Peel
wished to say one word in explanation, for the purpose of disclaiming a compliment paid him by the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House. What had been stated by the hon. Gentleman, would induce the House to believe, that there was a community of feeling between him (Sir Robert Peel) and the hon. Gentleman on the subject of tithes. He certainly agreed with the hon. Gentleman that the property of that great Corporation, the Church, should be sacred. But he was most hostile to the property of the Church being taken by the State, and applied to the purposes of the State. This doctrine he had been always opposed to, and he would contend against it upon all occasions.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
called upon the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) in the name of his constituents, who received no spiritual instruction from the Church, to support him (Mr. O'Dwyer), in relieving them from the burthen of tithes.
said, that his constituents sympathised very strongly with the people of Devonshire, and were equally anxious to obtain a fair commutation of tithes.
supported the petition, having been requested to do so by the petitioners. He was glad that the people of Devon had taken the lead upon this occasion, for he was sure that their example would be speedily followed by the rest of the country.
§ Lord Ebrington
said, that he must protest against the expressions used by the hon. member for Colchester with respect to the petition; and he would add, that men more honest, and more incapable of being biased by unworthy motives, did not exist. There was another expression also which gave him great pain; for an hon. Member, whilst he admitted that the sentiments of the great land-owners were not in unison with those of the petitioners, insinuated that, in their dissent, they were actuated by their private connexion with Church patronage, or by their private interest as lay impropriators. On their part he threw back the expression; and be begged leave to say, that they were incapable of being actuated by other than the most honest and conscientious motives in the course which they had thought fit to take.
§ Petition to lie on the Table.