§ Mr. Littleton
said, that the House was aware that by the 53rd clause of the Irish Tithe Bill, it was proposed to fix a varying rate of reduction for each county or district, but he intended to propose, in lieu of this provision, that a uniform rate of reduction should be made on the payments to tithe-owners at fifteen per cent., except in cases where landlords had already taken upon themselves the payment of compositions, and, in such cases, to meet the additional costs of collections, the deductions he proposed would be 17½ per cent. The next alteration he should have to propose was, that when leases of tithes had been made to the possessors of lands, the rent reserved on such leases, or the composition, whichever was the smaller in amount, should be the measure of the Land-tax, but the incumbent lessor was to receive the amount of the refit, subject, of course, to a reasonable charge for collection; the deficiency, if any, being made good out of the funds arising from the deductions. Another provision would be, that where tithe-free lands had been subjected to composition, an arrangement should be made for the exoneration of such lands, and the principle of Lord Tenterden's Act, 2nd and 3rd William 4th., c. 100, should be extended to Ireland. The next alteration he should have to propose would be, that instead of providing an office for the receipt of voluntary payment of the Land-tax under the 29th clause, the collector of Excise should be employed for that purpose. Another alteration would be, that instead of appointing paymasters of warrants, the transactions should be managed through the instrumentality of the Bank of Ireland, if practicable. The next alteration was, that forms for all the conveyances under the Bill should be supplied by a schedule, with a view to the reduction of law expenses. The next would be, that the 62nd clause, authorising an abatement of ten per cent. on the redemption money in the case of estates much subdivided, should be struck out, and, that power should be given to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, to direct a valuation of any individual estate for the purpose of redeeming the Land-tax. The last alteration he should have to suggest was, that powers should be given for the exchange at any 426 time of the lands annexed to benefices. These were the alterations he proposed to make. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. More O'Ferrall
regretted, that the alterations which the right hon. Gentleman meant to make in this Bill could not change his opinion of its impolicy. In opposing the measure, he had no desire to throw any impediment in the way of the settlement of the tithe question; on the contrary, he was deeply anxious that that question should be brought to a satisfactory conclusion; and it was because he was convinced, that the present measure could not have that effect, that he was induced to oppose it. He thought, that tithes were public property which Parliament was bound to preserve, although all might not approve of the present appropriation. He differed from those who thought that this fund should be applied solely to the support of the Established Church; but, in the present discussion, it was necessary to distinguish between the mode of collecting the fund and its future appropriation. He would endeavour to show, that the measure now brought forward, would not succeed in rendering the collection of that fund more easy than it had been, and that it did not remove the obnoxious provisions of former Acts. It was necessary to state what the legislation had been on the subject of tithes, for the information of those Members who were not present in the late Parliament, when this subject was discussed. From the reign of Henry 8th, several Acts were passed to enforce the payment of tithe. The wealthy proprietors of grass lands were the most formidable opponents of the tithe-system to 1735, when, by a resolution of the Irish House of Commons, grass-lands became exempt from tithe. As tillage increased, the clergy levied their income almost exclusively on the cultivated lands, and the opposition which they formerly experienced from the upper classes, was then evinced by the poorer cultivator of the soil in the various illegal combinations known under the names of "Hearts of Oak," "Peep-o'-day Boys," and "Ribandmen," all of which originated in the collection of tithe. In the year 1787, the evil had grown so great, that Mr. Grattan brought the subject forward in the Irish House of Commons, by proposing a commutation of tithe; his Bill 427 was rejected, and the evil continued to increase up to the Rebellion in 1798. In 1799, Dr. M'Nevin, a leader in the insurrection, was examined before a Committee of the Irish House of Lords, and being asked what effect would have been produced on the population if Mr. Grattan's Bill for the commutation of tithe had passed in 1787, he answered, "that it was a plan by which a most powerful engine would have been taken out of the leaders' hands." The words of Dr. M'Nevin, were true to the present hour; if tithe were now settled, a powerful engine would be taken out of the leaders' hands; if it were not done, and the present excitement should end in convulsion, you would receive the same answer in 1839. Was all experience to be lost on his Majesty's Government? Would they persevere in an obstinate career which had hitherto been the cause of much insurrection? From 1800 to 1810, disturbance continued. In that year, Sir H. Parnell moved for leave to bring in a Bill to regulate the collection of tithe, which was lost by a majority of seventy-five. In the year 1821, tithes had again produced an insurrection, and in 1823, a Bill was passed to effect compositions. The two principal features of that Bill were, first, the abolition of the law of agistment, by which grass lands had previously been exempted from the payment of tithe; and, secondly, that all tenants taking leases at and after the time of the passing of that Act, should not be liable to the payment of tithe, but that all tithe, for the future, should be deducted from the landlord's rent. That Bill came into very general operation: under its provisions, half the parishes in Ireland compounded: the tithe being extended over grass lands, afforded relief, in a certain degree, to the occupiers of tilled lands. Owing, however, to defects in the Bill, the clergymen were enabled to increase, to a very considerable extent, the amount of the demands. Under the old law, the clergy were entitled to claim one-tenth of the produce of the land; but under the Act of 1823, they acquired the extraordinary advantage of being entitled to the payment of tithe from the landlord, although the land produced neither rent nor crop. The clergy by that derived an enormous advantage; and, at the same time, it inflicted great injury upon the occupiers of grass lands, many of whom had taken leases under the Act of Agist- 428 ment, which was confirmed at the Union. The Bill, however, was, for a time, well received; and continued, to all appearance, to work well up to the year 1830, when the resistance to the payment of tithe was renewed. A Committee was appointed in that year to investigate the cause of disturbance, and this remarkable fact came out before the Committee,—that the parishes in which the resistance to the payment of tithe had commenced, were the parishes which had compounded under the Act of 1823, which shewed that, what at first sight appeared to be a useful and beneficial measure, no sooner came into operation, and became generally known, than it was found more oppressive than the old law, in consequence of having given to the clergyman the power of increasing his demand, with additional powers to recover it. This was one of the great objections to the Bill of 1823, upon which the present measure was founded—therefore, if he showed, that the provisions of that Bill were bad, and that the same provisions were all adopted in the present Bill, he should prove that it could not be an efficient remedy. Another objection to the Bill of 1823 was,—that under its provisions, the amount of tithe was unequally assessed. The same inequality was enforced by this Bill, and would be made perpetual by it. He would beg leave to read an extract from a report of a Committee of the House of Lords, to show the mischief of unequal assessment:—"And even where the tithe demanded was less than was due, it has become a source of complaint, when compared with the demand of a comparatively smaller amount in an adjoining parish. Unfavourable associations are at the same time created in the minds of the occupiers upon whom the payment of tithe falls in the first instance, especially where a large majority, as is the case in the greatest part of Ireland, are not members of the Established Church."
The hon. Member then read the following:—
Average of Tithe in Compounded Parishes.
Ulster 11½d. per acre; 1–19th to 1–26th of rental.—Connaught, 10¼d. per acre; 1–20 to 1–31 of rental.—Munster, 1s. 2½d. per acre; 1–15 to 1–21 of rental.—Leinster, 1s. 7½d. per acre; 1–12th to 120th of rental.—On 14,000 acres in King's County, tithe is 5¾d. per acre; or 3½ per cent on rental.—Parish of Kellane, county of Wexford, rent 7s. 6d.; under Mr. Goulburn's Act, 2s. 6d. composition.—Parish of Corn, rent from 20s. to 40s.; tithe composi-
tion varies from 5s. to 8s.—Land in Roscommon, let at 2l.; tithe 4d. to 10d.
Government, in introducing the present measure, seemed to have lost sight of these glaring inequalities, and had continued them. Besides, they had jumbled together a number of Acts passed within a few years. He alluded more particularly to Mr. Goulburn's Act, and the Act of last Session, introduced by the right hon. Member, the Secretary to the Colonies. By the present Bill, all the evils of tithe would continue. The Bill was not indeed a Bill to levy tithes; for it set forth, that tithes were thenceforward to cease and determine; but it imposed a Land-tax which was tithe to all intents and purposes; and tithe every one considered it to be, just as much as if it were called so; The first objection to the Bill was, that it was almost unintelligible. As far as he understood it, it was neither just in principle nor detail. Not the least of its objectionable points was, the power it gave landlords to oppress such of their unfortunate tenantry as they happened to take a grudge against. Tithe, under whatsoever name it might be demanded, the Irish people would not pay; and their resistance to the payment of that impost, and even to some of the King's taxes, if that were continued, would be most determined. He thought the Irish landlords should be very chary of undertaking to collect this tax; for they would find, not only that the tenantry would resist the payment of that demand, but, while they were about it, would refuse to pay their rent; and thus, in their endeavour to get in tithe, the landlords would lose their rent. Captain Rock, instead of directing his efforts against the clergy, as heretofore, would thenceforward set himself up in opposition to the landlords. There were none more interested in preserving the peace of Ireland than its Clergy and landlords; and if any sacrifices were to be made to secure that peace, the landlords ought to be the first to make those sacrifices: if a tax were necessary for the alleged purpose, it should be paid by those parties who could best afford it, and who at the same time were most interested in keeping the country peaceable. He had intended to move as an Amendment, on the hon. Secretary's Motion, a series of Resolutions; but he found that the forms of the House prevented him from bringing forward the Resolutions in
that manner. He would, however, read the Resolutions, in order that the House might see what his views were. The hon. Member read the following Resolutions:—
- 1. That all lands in Ireland shall henceforward be tithe-free.
- 2. That a tax be levied on lands in Ireland, and granted to his Majesty, to compensate the owners of tithe property in such proportions as shall assign to each a just equivalent, due regard being had to the increased security for future payment.
- 3. That the tax be levied as a poundage on rent, estimated by the last valuation, which shall be subject to revision.
- 4. That it is just and expedient to relieve the occupiers of lands held at a rack-rent from the payment of Land-tax. That it shall be payable by the possessor or possessors of the greatest beneficial interest, in just proportions out of each denomination of land called town lands.
- 5. That the land-tax of each county shall be payable by half-yearly instalments at the office of the collector of excise, under the same regulations as the payment of quit-rent.
- 6. That the Land-tax shall be redeemable at a rate of purchase equivalent to the average rate for which tithes sold in Ireland during ten years previous to the year 1830.
- 7. That the amount of Land-tax to be levied, the apportionment to each province, and the rate at which it shall he redeemed, be referred to a Select Committee of this House.
- 8. That it is the opinion of this House, that on the demise of the present incumbents of livings in Ireland the salary of their successors shall be regulated in proportion to the duties to be performed; the surplus, if any, to be applied to such purposes of religion and charity as Parliament may direct.
§ Mr. Carew
said, he had understood that the hon. Member who had just addressed the House intended to move, that the Bill be read a second time that day 431 six months, and had he done so he should have been obliged to vote against the Motion. He ardently desired to have the question settled, and therefore should regret to see the present Bill thrown out, although he disapproved of many of its details. He thought, that if the right hon. Secretary would consent to postpone the discussion for a week, with a view to collect the opinions of Irish Members on the provisions of the Bill, a beneficial effect would be produced upon public opinion in Ireland. He was anxious to maintain the union between the two countries, but, at the same time, he desired to see them governed by equal laws. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing the English Tithe Commutation Bill, proposed, in order to prevent clergymen, who had been in the habit of exacting their tithes rigidly, from profiting by their harsh conduct, that an average should be struck in each county. Why was not that principle extended to Ireland? He was glad to find, that it appeared now to be generally admitted, that tithes were public property, to be dealt with by the State. It was agreed that the money should not go into the landlord's pockets, but must still continue to be paid. The only question was, how was that payment to be fairly levied? The hon. Member said, that the landlords from their interest in maintaining tranquillity, ought to pay the proposed tax, but there were many landlords in Ireland who would be unable to pay the amount of tithes on their estates. Tenants under existing leases held their land subject to the payment of tithes, and therefore they had no reason to complain. When landlords granted new leases they could make what bargain they pleased with their tenants, but certainly it would be unjust to interfere with existing contracts. The hon. Member concluded with moving as an Amendment that the debate be adjourned to this day week.
§ Mr. Finn
denounced the measure, because while sinecures in the State were condemned by all parties, it went to establish and maintain their existence in the Church. In ten parishes in the county of Kilkenny there was not a single Protestant; in his own parish there was no Church, and yet the people were called upon to pay tithes to clergymen who had nothing to do but collect their incomes. So long as the present appro- 432 priation of the surplus Church property was adhered to, nothing could be done to satisfy the people of Ireland. If an establishment was to be supported at all, a census ought to be made in the first place, to ascertain the number of Protestants in Ireland, in order that its extent might be proportioned to the actual necessities of the case. He had little hope of making any impression on the House upon this subject, as Members seemed to have already made up their minds; but he appealed to English Members what their feelings would be, if the Church Establishment in this country formed only one sixteenth, and the whole population were obliged against their consciences forcibly to contribute to its maintenance and support? In Scotland, he was sure such a thing never would be submitted to.
§ Mr. Ward
was willing to enter into the consideration of the Bill brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Littleton) in order to ascertain whether, by the machinery of its clauses, it was calculated to attain the end it had in view—namely, the securing of the tithe-fund, which might be disposed of hereafter as Parliament should direct. He was anxious the Bill should be committed with that view. He was certainly willing to allow the hon. member for Caithness-shire (Mr. Sinclair) an opportunity of discussing whether the Irish Church was really as beneficial to the population of the country as was supposed. For his own part, he (Mr. Ward) considered it one of the greatest evils which now afflicted it; its greatest bar to tranquillity; its greatest obstacle to prosperity. Putting, at present, out of view the ultimate appropriation of the fund, which by-and-by would be pressed upon them, he should vote for the original proposition, and not for delay.
§ Colonel Davies
felt an anxious desire to see the unfortunate condition of Ireland ameliorated, and looked upon the present measure as one of the greatest importance in that view. In fact, the tranquillity of the empire might be said to depend on it. If he rightly understood the Bill, it was fraught with injustice: its operation would be most unfair, because it was calculated to transfer a particular burthen from those who properly bore it, to another class having no right whatever to be saddled with it. It amounted to nothing less than a direct and gross act of spelia- 433 tion to benefit one class of the community at the expense of another. The tenantry of Ireland were called on to make certain payments of tithe to the clergy, which they refused, and the Bill thereupon threw the burthen on the landlord. But how was the landlord to recover the amount of the tithe? What power had he which the clergyman had not? If, armed with all the power of Government—with police, artillery and foot—the clergy had failed to raise the tithe, how could the landlord be expected to do so? In fact, the plan was fraught with the utmost danger to the existence of society in Ireland. The hon. and gallant Member referred to the evidence of Mr. De la Cour, a protestant gentleman, Dr. Doyle, and the Rev. Henry Montgomery, for the purpose of showing, that persons of all religious denominations concurred in the opinion, that such a measure as the present was impracticable, and could never be carried into execution. Its effect would be, to apply a torch to the combustible materials already existing in Ireland. What had been the course pursued towards that unhappy country? Why, they had gone on blundering from one measure to another, the last always being worse than its predecessor, and each professing to settle the question. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Colonies, had promised the House great things when it passed his Bill, but woeful had been the disappointment, in fact the whole people were united against them; and if they persevered in this measure, they might desolate a country, indeed, and tear up the roots of national prosperity; but they would never advance the cause of religion, or consolidate the interests of the two nations. Notwithstanding the immense Protestant establishment, which was upheld at so much cost, the poor persecuted Catholics had increased in Ireland in much greater proportion than the Protestants. If Ireland was to be made serviceable, as she ought to be—the right arm of this country instead of a canker in her side—she ought to be treated with that justice which England herself, if placed in the same circumstances, would require. At all events, the Protestant establishment should be nothing more than commensurate with the ascertained extent of the Protestant population in Ireland. He was not prepared to vote for the original question, nor 434 for the Amendment, because be thought a temporary postponement would do no good; but if the latter were carded, he should, at the expiration of the week move, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Mr. Littleton
must beg leave to occupy the attention of the House for a very few minutes. It was quite true, that many Bills had been at different times submitted to him, but they generally contained principles which were quite inadmissible, and calculated to entrench upon the rights of property. Much as had been said upon the subject before the House, numerous as were the objections made against the plan which had been proposed, yet it was very difficult to find any one to suggest anything better. It was true, that the hon. member for Kildare had suggested a plan, and one which, from his position, was by no means discreditable to him; but it had the objection of not being sufficiently careful to protect vested interests. In some cases where representations were made of the incompetence of the Commissioners they had been changed. These cases he felt, however, bound to say were very few. With respect to the Voluntary Commutation Act referred to by his hon. friend, he felt no hesitation in saying, that if that Act had been made compulsory instead of voluntary it would have been attended with the most beneficial results. It had been found in the highest degree successful wherever it had been introduced. At present nothing could be more unjust than an equalisation of the composition. Let the House, for instance, reflect upon the effect of it where voluntary composition had been already entered into. For the inequality of this composition many reasons might be assigned. In some parishes there was more grass land than in others. The customs were different in different parishes. For example, in some potatoes were titheable, and in others not. To show the great variety of circumstances under which different parts of Ireland were placed with regard to tithes he had extracted from various reports of commissioners twenty descriptions which might enable the House to judge of the real difficulties with which the framers of the measure had to grapple. The paper which he held in his hand presented twenty different and specific grounds of increase— 435Prevention by obstruction—tithes withheld.Tithes paid in one part, withheld in another part, of a parish.Additions made for tithes on certain articles withheld for seven years.Demesne lands brought in (does not affect the parish).Ownership of rectorial tithes (paid) in dispute during seven years.Tithes in long lease (one-fifth added).No tithes paid for fifty years previously.Agreement for so much per acre (acres omitted).Tithes had in great part been leased in with lands, or rent only paid—composition fixed on average of adjoining parishes.Tithes in lease, low rent, high fine.Rectorial or vicarial tithes leased under value, one fixed in proportion to the other.Parishioners had long agreed to pay a certain sum free of costs. This advantage estimated at 15 per cent.Addition for clear and undisputed rights not enforced.Landlords admitted that the late agreements were under value.Rights not having been enforced—average of adjoining parishes taken.Tithes disputed in part of the parish—valuation made.Amounts paid to lessees could not be ascertained.Agreement in vestry—raised by.Agreement in vestry for part—one townland raised.Tithes on some lands, formerly in the hands of proctors, no account given to the rectors.He here stated the results, but he had caused a circular to be sent round to the Commissioners who had finished their respective departments, requesting to know the particular cases in which the composition had been raised. He had their answers in a tabular form before him. [The right hon. Gentleman here read a document to prove that, taking the compositions for seven years, in a number of cases, nearly double the amounts were below the average.] He had attentively considered the resolutions which had been put into his hands by the hon. member for Kildare, who had adverted to them. The circumstance of the inequality of the composition in Ireland made it an impossibility to establish a uniform standard. He had certainly when in Ireland entertained the popular opinion upon this part of the question, but upon mature consideration he found its practical working would operate injuriously. In the case of a man holding land to which there attached only a nominal tithe, for instance, would it not 436 be unjust to lay the same proportion of tithes on that land as that paid by the occupant's neighbour? The proposition had been made to relieve the land from the payment of the Land-tax. Now, he should be glad to see some other plan, if practicable, adopted instead of the voluntary redemption of the Land-tax in five years. The next proposition was, that the Land-tax should be payable by the possessor of the greatest interest in town lands. He knew not whether his hon. friend was in possession of the facts as to the rate at which purchases of tithes were made; but if it were so, he must have had more means than he (Mr. Littleton) had had at his command; for when he was in Dublin, he had made every possible effort to ascertain the number of sales of tithes in the last ten years, without arriving at any satisfactory data. Now, the number of advowsons with tithes attached to them formed no criterion, but must serve to destroy the elements on which to calculate tithes. Tithes in Ireland were a property which had been much deteriorated from the continued agitation which prevailed in reference to this claim. The only course to pursue, therefore, to ascertain the value of tithes was to ascertain the value of the land; the payment of rents had not ceased, and land had a just marketable value. He did not, however, think it necessary to trouble the House further on this subject. The state of Ireland, indeed, with reference to Church property was not one to give rise to a satisfactory feeling in the mind of any man who felt an interest on that subject. He would not go further into the question, as other opportunities would hereafter present themselves; but he must deprecate any attempt being made, to mix up the question of appropriation with that of realization. It was the duty of the House to resort to all just means in order to give a character to this species of property which had been unfortunately attacked by the most unjustifiable means; and if it should be his fortune to continue to hold his present office, he was perfectly convinced that in the event of Parliament passing this Bill, he should have no difficulty in carrying it into effect. To those who had used the means to destroy this property, he would say, that he hoped there were others who would protect the property in tithes. There were those in Ireland who 437 now had as much power as the Government or the law; and he hoped that they would recollect that his Majesty's Government, come what would, would do its duty.
§ Colonel Conolly
thought, that many of the hon. Members who had preceded him had gone very wide of the question. For his own part he thought this would be the final adjustment of the question of tithes, and he hoped that the Government would not be driven from their determination by menaces from any quarter whatever. He regretted, that many hon. Gentlemen mixed up this question with that of appropriation, and he could not agree with his hon. friend, the member for Kildare, in condemning the Composition Act. He approved greatly of the first Tithe Composition Bill, and thought if the right hon. Gentleman who had brought it forward had never performed any other public service he still would have ample cause for pride. When the hon. Member talked of an average payment of tithes he would ask him to remember the great inequalities and the injustice which must necessarily result from such a measure. He himself paid in one instance 4s. 6d. an acre, and in another 4d. an acre, and yet he thought the 4d. the dearest. Of course he meant in proportion to the value of the land. Though he would advocate the present proposition, he should strenuously oppose any measure which contemplated an appropriation of the Church property other than the present. He would, at the same time, not withdraw his approbation from the effect of the Composition Act, which did away with the Agistment Tithe in the south of Ireland. Where great difference in the quality and value of lands existed, he was decidedly averse to equalization; but he would again impress upon Ministers the importance of not being deterred by menaces from their present course. He was certain, if they persevered resolutely, they would be firmly supported by the Irish proprietors. He was also convinced that the Bill might be enforced throughout the country, except, indeed, in cases where the land was let at an exorbitant rate.
§ Lord Clements
said, he would follow the example of the gallant Colonel who spoke last, in intreating his Majesty's Government not to be intimidated from realizing the property of the Church, but he would add to that recommendation by 438 begging of them not to be intimidated by the threats which they might receive from any quarter, from considering, and that at no distant day, the question of the appropriation of tithes. The question now before the House was simply whether the right hon. Secretary's Bill adopted the best method that could be devised for realizing the property of tithes. Now, in his humble judgment, the difficulties by which the question was beset, and the difficulties of realizing the property of tithes, were by no means lessened by the Bill now before the House. The right hon. Secretary had said, that when he first went over to Ireland he had endeavoured to adopt the more popular view of the question, but he found, that such a course would be attended with what he considered great injustice to certain individuals. He however must contend, that this Bill committed the greatest acts of injustice, without lessening the original and glaring evil by which the tithes of one parish were fixed at an immoderately high rate, while those in the neighbouring parishes were accidentally much lower. It was said, that it was exceedingly desirable to assimilate the principles of legislation in England and Ireland. Now, in England, the basis which was taken for the perpetual tax in lieu of tithes did not depend upon the accidental amount levied in each particular parish, but the value of the tithes in a given county having been ascertained, it was proposed by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to levy that Church income by a fair and equal tax upon land, according to its value. This was an intelligible basis for legislation, and he did not consider it was asking too much of that House, if he intreated them to pause for one week, while they ascertained whether a Bill founded on such principles could be rendered palatable to the Irish Members. It was said, that no increased value had been put upon tithes by the Bill now before the House; but this Bill perpetuated the increased value put upon tithes by the Bill called Stanley's Bill. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had read a list of twenty reasons which the Tithe Commissioners had given for increasing the amount of tithe over and above the averages. Some of those twenty reasons, however, which seemed so satisfactory to the right hon. Secretary, would be most unsatisfactory to the Irish public; but he took up a higher ground, 439 and maintained, that the averages having been taken on the sums agreed for or adjudged to be paid, had the effect of raising the income of the clergy, in every instance that came within his knowledge, and that the Bill had thus had an injurious effect on the landed interest, even in cases where the Commissioners had not thought fit to add anything to the averages. It was perfectly well known, that the averages were taken not on the tithe actually paid, but on the tithes agreed or adjudged to be paid, which, in most cases, exceeded what the clergyman was enabled to levy. Those cases included debts, too, which the incumbents never expected, and never did receive from their tithe debtors—that in almost every parish in Ireland this amounted to a very considerable sum, and that in some parishes the amount of bad debts was enormous. He had lately presented a petition to that House from a parish in the county of Leitrim, where the tithe payers complained that their rector was willing, at a Vestry, held under the voluntary Composition Act, to take 700l. per annum in lieu of tithes, but that the parish-loners were unwilling to agree to more than 600l. at that time, yet the Tithe Commissioners had fixed no less a sum than 1009l. under the Compulsory Composition Act, which was 309l. more than the rector Was willing to have taken. This might be all well and good for those hon. Members who wished to give to the Church its utmost rights, even where those rights had not been hitherto exercised to the full; but for the Government to suppose, that a measure of this nature would be more palatable to the people than the old tithe-laws, which were found insufficient, was to him astonishing. Under the old system, the parishioners might easily bring the incumbent into terms favourable to themselves, for in many poor parishes the holdings were so subdivided, that the tenth of the produce, if set out in kind, could never be carried home in a marketable state by the tithe owner, and though valuable to the farmer, was in fact of very little worth to the incumbent. With the knowledge of this fact in his mind, the incumbent would always treat with his parishioners on advantageous terms to them, and if he understood his own interest, must always consent to take a much smaller sum than would be adjudged to him if he entered a Tithe Court. Now he was most anxious to continue to the pre- 440 sent incumbents the full amount of their present incomes, but he did not think that it would be satisfactory to the people of Ireland to discover that the late Acts placed them in a worse position than they were in under the Voluntary Composition, and the Bill now before the House perpetuated the provisions of those Acts. In his humble judgment the averages ought to have been taken on the actual bona fide receipts of the tithe owners, and not upon their bad debts, which they would almost always have voluntarily resigned; and the greater number of the reasons assigned by the right hon. Secretary for increasing the amount of these averages appeared to him very insufficient. The English tithe payers had successfully resisted the introduction of a Bill, which made the basis of the perpetual tax in a particular parish depend upon the accidental amount levied by a particular tithe owner, and he would put it to the House, whether a measure, founded on the same principle, ought to be adopted for Ireland, where something more equitable was demanded than the confused and unintelligible Bill now before the House, the effect of which was merely to continue the old Tithe Acts, under the name of Land-tax.
said, that, on reviewing the conditions which were contained in the Bill then before the House, the question was, not only whether with regard to the Church the terms were fair and equal, hot also whether they were so to the possessor, who held his property in tithes as sacredly, and by as good a tenure, as any gentleman held his estates. The next question for the House to weigh was, whether the application of the funds to be raised by the sale of the rent charge was not a violation of justice. By the operation of the present Bill, a living worth 200l. a-year would be reduced to 164l. 8s., unless land should be purchased at five per cent. Reduction of the incomes of the clergy was the principle of the Bill. However unpalatable the doctrine might be to those who advocated the Repeal of the Union, and who sought the destruction of the Church, he would observe, that the people were against the destruction of the Church. The question of the Established Church, however, was no longer an open one any more than that of Repeal. Both were set at rest by the Act of Union; and he hoped that his Majesty's Government would take the same firm tone in respect 441 to the Church Establishment of Ireland, which they had taken on the late occasion of the Repeal Question. With regard to the Church Establishment of Ireland, the hon. and learned Gentleman observed, that her whole endowments did not amount to above 300l. to each benefice, or if they took the average of the whole, it would not exceed the sum of 320l. True it was, certainly, that the endowments were unequally divided: that Church paid 662 curates, and the amount of her revenues was not above 1s. in the pound on the rental of Ireland. This was not the occasion upon which he felt called to enter minutely into the question; but he would gladly avail himself of a future occasion to meet the arguments of the hon. member for Middlesex, or those of the hon. and gallant Officer who had attacked the Church Establishment of Ireland. He would be glad to show whether this Church was correctly stated to be "a monstrously endowed Church." He spoke from documents which had been laid before the House. The value of tithes in Ireland was 600,000l., from which was to be deducted by the Bill a sum of 120,000l. thus leaving a sum of 480,000l. to provide for 1,401 beneficed clergy, with 662 curates. In conclusion the hon. and learned Gentleman said, that he trusted his Majesty's Government would not subject themselves to the reproach of taking the spoil from the Church to give it to the agitators. He would, therefore, give his support to the measure proposed.
§ Mr. Feargus O'Connor
said, it was not his intention to occupy the attention of the House at any length, but he thought this new Bill was one which called for a few observations on his part. This new measure was full of alterations, while, according to the announcement of the right hon. Secretary himself, its technicalities, instead of being removed, were multiplied. It was a subject of outcry in Ireland that by this new Bill an additional security would be given to the clergy for the continuance of tithes in Ireland. This he considered one of its most objectionable features, and he would tell Ministers that if they mixed up but one farthing of tithes with 1l. of rent, the whole would be tainted in the eyes of the people of Ireland, and neither would be paid. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had told them on a former evening that the revenues of the Irish clergy were not 442 too great, and now a new security was to be given them by having a new valuation, and commuting or giving an equivalent for tithe in a Land-tax. And how was this new valuation to take place? The averages were to be taken for seven years, at a period when prices were high, and the landowner or occupier was to be called upon to pay at that valuation now when corn was at a low price. Was it right that parties should now be permitted to come forward and call for an equivalent for that which was altogether obsolete? There was then another objectionable course of proceeding; lands were to be purchased for the clergymen in the different districts, and thus they were to become a sort of small farmers, and obliged to occupy themselves in looking after their temporalities, instead of directing their attention to spiritual concerns. Let the Ministers bear in mind that, under a former course, they were obliged to expend no less than 25,000l. in the collection of 12,000l. tithe: and he would tell them that still greater and even insurmountable difficulties lay before them if they passed this Bill into a law. If they did, he would tell the right hon. Secretary that he would have to send over to Ireland a much larger force than had been ever sent before to Ireland to collect the tithes. After what they had already witnessed in Ireland, after the dreadful examples before them, were they determined to go on still blindly legislating for that country, without for a moment consulting either the feelings or interests of the Irish people? Suppose his Majesty's Ministers were to send a body of Catholic priests into Lancashire, or any other English county, and state to the people that a Papal bull had been issued directing that they, the people, should support them by tithes, what would be the result? The attempt would, of course, be indignantly resisted. Well, then, just such a feeling would the proposed measure create in Ireland. Much had been said in that House about Irish agitation and Irish agitators. He had agitated as much, if not more, than any person in Ireland. He had presided at fifty or sixty tithe meetings, and he defied any man to say that disturbance had arisen out of any of them, except in one melancholy instance, and that was owing to very peculiar circumstances. He had exerted himself to preserve the public peace—he had the power to preserve it; 443 he had advocated, heartily advocated, that which the people wished—the total abolition of tithes—but he had done so peaceably. To that, however, he was sure it must eventually come. On the total abolition of tithes the people of Ireland had set their minds. No declaration on the part of the Imperial Parliament could change that determination. No Act which the Imperial Parliament could pass would prevent its accomplishment. What did the Bill hold out to the people but an encouragement to oppose its execution? It told them that the clergy found it impossible to collect their tithes, and, therefore, the Government were determined to make the landlords liable, and to bind them over as security to the clergy. Did they think they could dupe the people of Ireland by this evasion? Did they think that by ceasing to call it tithe they could make the Irish people pay a tax which they held in abhorrence? He implored the House to reject this measure. He implored the House to abolish the compulsory payment of tithes in Ireland. He implored the House to let this be one of the first acts of grace towards that country. Until that great object was obtained they could not expect to put an end to agitation or to faction. He avowed that he belonged to a faction. Ireland felt that she had been wrecked on the Act of Union; she could not obtain her rights by a legitimate influence in the Legislature, and faction, or what was in that House termed faction, was her only resource—her only hope. Ireland felt, that she could not expect her rights to be fairly discussed in that House. He blamed the Ministers for their treatment of Ireland. When the Members were returned under the old borough mongering system he was not surprised at the neglect of Irish interests, but under a Reformed Parliament there was no excuse; and when Ireland found that a Reformed Parliament did not do her justice, she could have no hope but in the wisdom of a domestic Parliament. He repeated, that the people of Ireland had set their faces against the payment of tithes, and, notwithstanding that House might pass measures to enforce it, such measures could not overcome the determination of the Irish people. The moment this Bill should be passed, to preserve the people in peace would be out of any man's power—it would be out of the power of the Government to preserve peace. Why, 444 then, should they inflict this additional misery on Ireland, racked as she was by dissension, and torn by intestine factions? Was Ireland never to receive even-handed justice from the British Government? He did not blame them so much for what was done formerly, because they legislated in total ignorance of the feelings, the interests, and the wishes of Ireland. But at present no such excuse could be pleaded, and yet they went on legislating for that unhappy country in such a manner as to cause a revolution in it. He could refer to military officers holding seats in that House as to the painful and degrading service which they had been called upon to perform in the execution of these laws. He had seen the widow's pig, her geese, her poultry, seized for tithes, and he had seen military men, men clothed in scarlet and gold, standing by and performing the odious (and to them most painful) office of protecting the disgraceful seizure. He called upon the House in the name of God not to renew the scenes of disturbance and disorder which had so long existed in Ireland; he implored them not to rob the tenant in order to enrich the landlord. "I call upon you," said the hon. and learned Member, "not to pass this Bill; if you do, so help me God, you will revolutionize Ireland."
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
objected to the working of this Bill, so far as it affected the landlords. In that respect its operation was most unjust. He agreed with the principles laid down by the noble Lord, the member for Leitrim. They had first endeavoured to raise the tithes by enforcing a compulsory composition; and having effected that, they proceeded to transfer the burthen of that composition to the land; and so far from its being, in any respect, a benefit to the tithe-payer, many things were now made tithable which never paid tithes before. Many of the clauses of the Bill, too, were of a most jobbing and objectionable nature. How was the Government realizing its promise of endeavouring to allay irritation and agitation in Ireland? This measure would have the effect of increasing both. The present Ministry, on coming into office, found the people in collision with the Government; they found the people in collision with the Church; and now they were about to bring them into collision with the landlords. But, said Ministers, we will arm the landlords with 445 powers to enforce the payment of tithes. Why, had they not already armed the Church with all the powers that the law could give? and had not those powers proved ineffectual? Had they not given the clergy troops, artillery, and bayonets; and what was the miserable result? This—that out of the immense sum due, they collected 12,000l. at an expense of 25,000l. It would be wise for that House to consider whether, if they placed the landlords in the situation of the clergy, they were likely to be more successful in their attempts at collection. The fact was, that they might call it rent, but it was in reality tithe; and whatever name they gave it, the people of Ireland would not consent to pay it. Why had they attempted to impose on Ireland a measure which the English would not submit to? Let any man take the Irish Tithe Bill in the one hand, and the English Tithe Bill in the other, and see if the former was not an act of confiscation compared with the latter? When the English Members saw the English Tithe Bill, they waited on the noble Lord opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), and coolly informed him, that they would not support his Government if he pressed the measure; and the consequence was, that the noble Lord was obliged to give it up, and now a different Bill was introduced to meet their wishes. Let hon. Members examine the different clauses of the English Bill and the Irish Bill, and see if the one at all resembled the other. No such thing. There was not the slightest resemblance between them. What, then, became of the argument in support of the continuance of the Union, that equal laws were dealt out to England and Ireland? The argument went for nothing; and he who doubted, had only to compare the clauses in the English with those in the Irish Bill, in order to be cured of his suspicion. The goods of the tenant and the body of the landlord were both to be liable for debts due to the Crown. Really the system was monstrous. It was based upon ignorance, and crowned by confiscation. But the English Bill was different. The fact was, that Government dared not treat the English as they treated the Irish people. But, to be sure, in Ireland they had the Coercion Bill, by which this Bill could be carried into execution, and the payment enforced. By this Bill, property of his, 446 which had been in his family upwards of 300 years, and upon which no tithe was charged, would now be made liable to 5s. per acre. Was not that a gross injustice? This was not equal justice—these were not equal laws. This Bill was proposed to establish a system for supporting what the hon. member for the University of Dublin called "a moderately endowed Church." But if they were to take the evidence of Judge Foster, this moderately endowed Church possessed, including tithes, and glebe, and Bishops' lands, no less than 1,700,000l. for its maintenance; and for what kind of a Church was this sum levied? Was it for a Church adapted for administering to the religious wants, and consonant to the religious feelings of the inhabitants? Oh, no! Let the House remember what Lord Anglesey said. Let them remember what the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland—the official representative of the Government in that country—said in this respect, and he called on the Ministry to adopt the advice of their colleague. If they did not, what was the use of having a Lord-lieutenant at all. If his advice were not to be adopted—if his opinions were not to be regarded—let them have no Lord-lieutenant at all—let them abolish the office as an expensive sinecure. Lord Anglesey, in his official memorial, dated 9th October, 1832,—more than eighteen months ago—told the Government what he now repeated to them. He would read to the House the very words of the noble Marquess:—'First and foremost in importance, and in its immediate pressure, is the question of a Reform in the Protestant Church of Ireland. This Establishment, which at all times far exceeded the religious wants of the Protestant congregations, has hitherto been upheld by the State, mainly on the ground that it served the temporal use of consolidating the connexion of the two countries.' It was admitted, therefore, on the best authority, that the Church of Ireland was kept up for temporal, and not for spiritual purposes. Had not it, however, failed of accomplishing this object? Why, then, should it longer be kept up—why should this enormous burthen longer be imposed upon the people of Ireland? What said my Lord Anglesey on this point? 'But this service it no longer performs. Instead of strengthening the connexion, it weakens it. Any Government hence- 447 forth pledged to maintain that Establishment as it now exists, must be brought into constant and permanent collision with public opinion, and the prejudices and passions of the Irish people.' Would it not, then, have been wise to have changed their policy in time, instead of incurring the danger which an obstinate resistance to the settled determination of the Irish people must inevitably create. Hear the words of the Lord-lieutenant—words that prove him to be a wise and prudent statesman:—'However attached myself to the doctrines of the Protestant Church, and however anxious to discountenance any violent changes in its temporal condition, it is impossible for me not to see, that the prevailing resistance to its legal pecuniary claims is only symptomatic of a deep-rooted, wide-spread conviction in the minds of the Irish community, that the continuance of this Establishment in its present extent and splendour, is no longer justified by the condition of this country; and that the time has arrived for such just and practicable reforms in respect of it, as may eventually place at the disposal of the State a national fund, to be applied to necessary national purposes.' Let the House mark the expression, "A national fund for national purposes." This was not the language of a political opponent. It was the language of the King's representative, placed in a high and responsible situation. It was, eighteen months ago, the language of the Government, because it was the language of their officer. If they did not approve of his sentiments, they ought to have dismissed him from his situation. He would particularly call the attention of the House to the next passage, and he requested them to remember, that it was the evidence of a reluctant witness: 'Such, I have been reluctantly compelled to feel, is the general and unchangeable opinion of the Irish people upon this subject; and I am equally impressed with the apprehension, that unless the Parliament takes the lead in the work of now inevitable innovation, the recent confederacy against tithes will prove to have been only the first of a series of deplorable struggles between the Government and the national antipathies—that every day, during which those struggles are protracted, the Government will find itself less in a condition of imposing its own terms—and 448 that, sooner or later, the final result must be, an extorted and undignified compliance with demands which we had not the foresight, or rather, perhaps, the power, to concede.' He called on the House to follow the wise advice of this statesman; he would call upon them, in his own words, to consider the claims of Ireland:—'I know that the times have passed when the will of the Minister could determine the acts of the Legislature, still I cannot refrain from urging on the attention of my colleagues the claims of this suffering and too long-neglected country, to a participation in the benefit of that enlightened policy which has already conferred so much benefit on other parts of the empire.' Too long suffering and neglected country indeed it was. Government might have showered down blessings upon Ireland, but they had worked ruin and destruction. "Suffering and neglected!" Suffering, from whom? and neglected by whom? Neglected, he replied, by the British Parliament, and suffering under the baneful influence of the British Government. But this was a subject into which a man ought not to suffer himself to be carriedaway. [A laugh.] Hon. Members might laugh, but they should not forget the cause which his countrymen had for excitement. He could not suffer this opportunity to pass without saying that, although the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Anglesey) had in some respects disappointed the expectations of the Irish people, yet the letter which he had read convinced him, that the noble Marquess had not been justly treated. He now believed the truth of the assertion, and he thought his hon. friend the member for Cork was erroneous in denying it, that the Lord-lieutenant had some plan for the pacification and improvement of Ireland: but that his plan had been thwarted and over-ruled by the Ministry at home. He called on the House to oppose this Bill, which he could not but pronounce a Bill of confiscation. It was nothing but confiscation. He might lose 300l. or 400l. per year by it. He cared not for that; but he should care for the establishment of a system which would raise up in the breasts of the Irish tenantry a feeling of hostility and antipathy towards the landlords which nothing could ever overcome. He objected to this Bill, for it was unjust; and no wise, honest, or just man could, in his 449 opinion, wish to see such a measure carried into a law. He called on the House to listen to the advice of his hon. friend, the member for Kildare, and adopt a plan which, whilst it gave a decent maintenance to the Protestant Church, would at the same time give peace to the Irish people.
§ Colonel Perceval
said, the House should bear in mind that the letter referred to by the hon. Gentleman was written by the same noble Lord who had recommended the people of Ireland to "agitate, agitate, agitate." He, therefore, for one, placed as much value on the document as he did upon the recommendation. It was quite clear, that if his Majesty's Government had suffered themselves to be led away by the advice which they received from the Marquess of Anglesey, the consequence would have been a revolution in Ireland. He would not follow the hon. Gentleman through all his extravagance, but he must deny, that the revenue of the Church derived from tithes amounted to any such sum as 1,700,000l., or to more than 600,000l. a-year. That sum would be reduced by the present measure to 480,000l., so that in fact the property of the clergy would be confiscated to the extent of 20 per cent for the benefit of the landlord. Such was the proposition with which they had to deal; and when confiscation was talked of, he should like to know whose property was to suffer from the confiscation? Were the clergy to benefit by this measure, or would it confer any advantage whatever on the occupying tenant? Undoubtedly it would not. Who, then, were to benefit by it but the landlords? If tithes were altogether abolished—if the whole 600,000l. were to be done away with—into whose pockets would the remission go? It certainly could not go into the pockets of the working clergy, to whom the tithes belonged, but it would, after a very brief space indeed, find its way into the pockets of the Irish landlords. The arguments which had been used to show the unreasonableness of the clergy tended only to prove their moderation. It was stated by the noble Lord, the member for Leitrim, that a Clergyman had offered to accept 700l. a-year for his tithes, which were afterwards ascertained by the Commissioners to be worth 1,009l. Surely that was a proof of moderation. Much had been said about the unpopularity of obtaining rents 450 if the tithes were paid by the landlord; but to such an objection he attached very little importance, knowing that the system of letting lands tithe-free had in many instances proved most satisfactory. By this Bill a bonus was given to the landlords, which he supposed was intended to operate as a sop to Cerberus. But to show the fallacy of the arguments to which he alluded, he had only to mention, that he held two estates in the county he had the honour to represent, one of which paid tithes, and the other was tithe-free. From the latter he now received a rent equal to that which he could obtain if this Bill passed, while he was obliged to make a due allowance out of the rent of the other for the tithe with which it was charged. These arguments were nothing more, therefore, than an ignis fatuus intended by those who used them to delude and mislead the people, and, by causing a sensation throughout the country, to keep up a system of the most baneful underhand agitation. If there were confiscation at all in the measure, the whole of the injustice would fall exclusively on the clergy, who were to have 20l. per cent taken from their incomes. But he would ask whether the rights of the clergy ought not to be as sacred as those of the landlords, and if it were just to benefit one class of persons at the expense of another? He certainly should give his support to this Bill, and the reason he did so was, because he hoped the landlords would use their best endeavours to make it palatable to their tenantry, by giving them a corresponding reduction of rents. Menaces that were not creditable to the parties who used them had been thrown out; but he trusted that his Majesty's Government would not depart from the course they were pursuing on account of such threats.
§ Lord Clements
, in explanation, said, that he never meant to cast the slightest reflection on the clergyman to whom he had alluded. He merely said, that the parishioners of that clergyman had offered him 600l. a-year for his tithes, that he had been willing to take 700l. and that the Commissioners raised his income to 1,009l.; all this he stated, not as affecting the character of the clergyman, but as an argument against the Bill.
§ Mr. Dominick Browne
was of opinion, that this Bill would go to injure, not the Church of Ireland, but the national pro- 451 perty which had been improperly given to that Church. He must object to any Bill which went to affect that property, until it was declared how it was to be disposed of. For his own part he thought that the surplus of it should be differently appropriated. He thought that it belonged to the Roman Catholics, the Presbyterians, and other Dissenters. If the Roman Catholics would not receive it as a support for their clergy, then he would bestow it otherwise for the benefit, of the country. He thought that great injustice had been done to Ireland by the misappropriation of these funds. He disliked the resolutions of the hon. member for Kildare, with the exception of the seventh, which stated that, after the clergy were provided for, the surplus should be appropriated to religious and moral purposes. He thought the surplus would be most advantageously bestowed upon the Roman Catholics; he spoke without authority, but he thought, that if properly offered they would receive it. If it were given without Government assuming any power over their clergy—if it were given in a good spirit—he thought they would not refuse it. But hitherto they had looked upon it as a sort of Regium Donum which might be at the disposal, and, of course, under the control, of any Ministry. He was aware however, that this was a question upon which there existed much difference of opinion, and he was anxious to extend to others that indulgence which he claimed for himself.
§ Mr. Goulburn
felt it impossible to adopt the course of giving his vote for the second reading of this Bill without expressing shortly the reasons which induced him to support a measure, of which he could not approve, and which, under ordinary circumstances, he should have felt it his duty to oppose. They were called upon to judge of two propositions which, though unjust in principle, differed in the degree of their injustice. On the one hand the hon. Gentleman the member for Kildare proposed, a Resolution the effect of which would be destructive of tithe property, while on the other, a considerable sacrifice of the rights of that property would take place under the provisions of this Bill. They had, therefore, but a choice of evils, and consequently he should vote for that proposition which he conceived least injurious, in the hope that when this Bill got into Committee it 452 might be so altered and improved as to answer the equity of the case. He would not enter into the question of appropriation or the other topics, which, though foreign to the subject before the House, had been introduced into the discussion. This Bill related to the mode in which one species of property in Ireland was to be dealt with, and he should exemplify the injustice of its provisions by arguing it as if it applied only to lay impropriators. He would show how it would operate in this way, and then put it to the House whether it was in accordance with equity and justice, or could in fact be fairly and impartially executed. What, then, was the real object which this Bill was intended to effect? Its object was, in fact, to declare, that whereas the lay impropriator who purchased tithes as a provision for his family under the sanction of existing laws, believing them to be property and relying on the Legislature to protect his rights, vet still found that his income was to be reduced at least twenty per cent. He asserted, that this would be the operation of the Bill, although its real object was not as directly stated as in common candour it ought to have been. It required the utmost application to the 69th clause, which the Bill contained, to be able to develop what the operation of the measure was likely to be; but he had had the patience to go through it carefully, and he was convinced he had not been guilty of anything like exaggeration in the description which he had given of it. The right hon. Gentleman opposite shook his head as if he doubted this, as if he did not believe, that it would effect any such reduction as he had stated. If, however, the House would attend to a few of the details, he was fully persuaded that he should be able to satisfy them, that the ultimate result of the measure would be precisely such as he attributed to it, even though tithe was commuted for land. By the Bill tithe was intended to be made a charge upon land. This arrangement was to endure for five years, and at the expiration of that period, it was to be converted into a land-tax or rent-charge, and in either case a reduction must necessarily take place in point of amount. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the 3rd section of the Bill to show the injustice which it would work upon the lay impropriators, and contended that, by the 53rd clause, which made various deductions, 453 their income would be reduced in the proportion of one-fourth or one-fifth. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Littleton), however, stated that he proposed a decrease of only fifteen per cent in every instance, while it was clear that, under the Bill as it stood, the tithe-owner who was entitled to 100l. would receive only 80l.; or, according to the right hon. Gentleman's statement 83l. or 85l. But would this be any relief to the party actually paying? Undoubtedly it would not, for he, under all circumstances, would have to pay the 100l., although the Government would retain fifteen per cent out of it in their hands, and to be disposed of as they thought fit. But there was also another point which would more explicitly show the injustice of this measure. Suppose a lay impropriator had, under the Act introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Colonies, availed himself of the power which that Act gave him to commute his tithes, what would the result be? Why, that, instead of receiving 100l. he would only get 68l., and this was a necessary consequence of the wording of the 40th section, which empowered the Commissioners to make their decision, not according to the original composition, but according to the sum which would become due and payable on the 1st of November after the passing of this Act. But the sacrifice of property which must take place did not stop here. After tithe had been converted into a Land-tax or rent-charge, the owner of the land might redeem it at sixteen years' purchase. This would give the lay impropriator, whose income amounted to 100l. a year, 1,600l.; but although that was the sum to which he was entitled, he was still to suffer a deduction of fifteen per cent, which would reduce the purchase-money to less than 1,400l. It was true, that until this money was invested in land he was to derive an income out of the interest it produced; but all this was accompanied by incalculable difficulties, for was it to be supposed for a moment, that the instant the redemption money was received it could be profitably invested either in land or otherwise? The principle of this Bill was only taking a step towards dealing in the same manner with any other property, whether lay or ecclesiastical he cared not, whenever the popular cry should rise in that direction. 454 He defied the right hon. Gentleman to deny any one of the statements he had made with regard to the provisions of the Bill, and he would put them into his hands for that purpose. Under this re, presentation of the Bill he felt that, under ordinary circumstances, it would have been his duty to oppose it; but when he was told, that he must choose to take this measure or be prepared to adopt the; wilder views of those who professed to agree in the principle, but would carry it to still greater extremes, in this situation he had no choice, and had only to console himself with knowing that he had opposed to the best of his power the very first steps in this unjust and most impolitic course in which the Government were I engaged. He was driven to this course by the steps the Ministers had taken some time ago, and had they avioded those steps, the present measure would not have been needed. Now they had involved him and others in a dilemma. They had embarked upon an untried ocean without chart or compass, and even ignorant of the port to which they were steering. He had done what he could, to prevent them putting off, but as they had persisted and carried him and others with them, he had no alternative but to make the best he could of it. He therefore was an unwilling supporter, although he should vote for the second reading of the Bill. Before he sat down he might take the liberty of saying, that the measure he had introduced was calculated to be of great service to Ireland. It molested no property, it was founded on justice, it was carried voluntarily into execution, and he was persuaded that if it had been persevered in, his Majesty's Government would have avoided the present danger.
§ Mr. Lambert
had given the Bill before the House his best consideration, and deeply regretted that he could not give it his support. He regretted this the more because there was no prospect of establishing peace in Ireland until the question of tithes was set at rest. He had several objections to the Bill. In the first place it was unintelligible; in the second place it was unjust; and, above all, it was not final. If great talent, good calculation, and the strictest honesty could have settled the question, it would have been settled already; all these qualities were possessed by the right hon. Secretary; but besides these an intimate knowledge of the 455 subject was requisite. The late commutation had increased the value of tithes in almost all places. As an instance, he would mention that, on a late occasion, he spoke to a Commissioner regarding certain tithes which had been commuted, but to which five per cent had been added; and on asking the reason why the addition was made, his only answer was, because it was necessary to do something for the money they received. In the place he alluded to, only five per cent had been added; but in other cases as much as twenty-five per cent was actually added to the value of tithes. What, then, became of the bonus spoken of by Ministers, as having been given to landlords. He had another objection to this Bill. By it the tithes were to be paid to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests; from which it might be supposed that they were to be carried to the Treasury, and distributed thence; but that was a mistake: from the Commissioners of Woods and Forests the money was to be paid over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. If there was no other objection to this arrangement but the expense, he should consider that a great one; but he saw no difference between transferring the money from the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and paying it into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at once. With respect to the landlord, he was deprived of several of his rights by this Bill. In the first place, he was deprived of the right of paying the tithes in kind. This might, perhaps, be thought no hardship to the tithe-payer, and it was true that the payment of tithe in kind was frequently annoying; but on the other hand it was also frequently a great convenience. Another great hardship was, that tithes were made preferable to rent, by allowing the tithe-owner previous distraint. By this the Churchman was put exactly in the place of the landlord. If they were to do an act of injustice, let them do one by which they might hope for some reasonable compensation in tranquillity,—let it be an injustice of such a kind that there might appear some show of reason in it—for in Ireland, there might be reasonable injustice; but the present Bill had neither of these qualifications. It would, however, have been received with gratitude there three years since, but now it would by no means give satis- 456 faction. He called on the House to concede where they could not command—to conciliate where they could not coerce. He asked, would they go to war with Ireland? He was certain they would not, but would adopt such measures as would save them from such a misfortune. He had suffered as much as any man from the changes of the law which had affected property in Ireland, but he declared that if he had but 50l. a-year left, he would rather take that and let all the rest go, so that he could have it in peace. A bare subsistence, with peace, was better than any amount of property in the present state of Ireland, which the measure before them would not relieve. In the policy of this measure he could not concur, and he would therefore give it his most strenuous opposition.
§ Mr. Sheil
begged to address the House, and but for a very short time. In the first place he begged to recall to the attention of hon. Members, the enthusiastic acclamations with which his hon. friend the member for Wexford had been heard upon a former evening when he was speaking against the Repeal of the Union, and that they would contrast it with the dead silence with which his observations were now received. Why take his advice upon a question of Repeal, and reject it on the question of the Church? He did not call upon the Government to be advised by him. He had no connexion with them, and consequently his opinion could be no authority. But ought they not to place some reliance upon those who were their firm and staunch supporters. Would they not pay some attention to the majority of the Irish Members? Upon a former occasion it was said, that a minority only were in favour of a particular measure, and that there upon the proposition ought not to command attention; but here a majority of the hon. Members were opposed to this Bill; and again he asked, was their opinion entitled to no respect? The hon. member for Donegal, to be sure, said it was a lesser evil, and that he must therefore support it; but he thought it was greater, and therefore he would oppose it. But then there was the hon. member for Mayo (Mr. D. Browne), whose advice was worth ninety-nine Members on that side of the House—and what said he? Was he in favour of the measure? Was there—he put the question plainly to them—one Irish Member out of one hundred 457 and five, who approved of the Bill? Who, he begged to know, concocted this measure? Did they consult, as was formerly the custom upon Irish questions, the Representatives for Ireland, or any portion of them? Did they consult the hon. member for Wexford, or his hon. friend, the member for Kildare—the head of the Irish Poor-law Commission? They thought fit to confer upon his hon. friend this very important and arduous office. The noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had, a few nights ago, spoken in the highest terms of the judgment and experience of that hon. Gentleman, in respect to the agriculture of Ireland. Upon these points, he conceived his opinion of great importance; but, upon the question of tithes, his advice was not to be taken into consideration. Who governed them? He did not mean anything disrespectful to the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, but he declared to God, that he could not conceive why a man, who knew just as much about Ireland as about Japan should be allowed to concoct a bill deeply affecting the interests of Ireland, without deigning to consult its Representatives. He objected to this Bill, in the first place, because it increased the patronage of the Crown by creating an enormous number of new places, which would, no doubt, be filled by their own friends. Receivers were to be placed over the estates of Irish landlords, who were to receive five per cent Commission. In the next place, he objected to it, because it was vague and indefinite. For instance, by this Bill, on one side of a hedge a landlord must have to pay the tithe, and, on the other, the tenants. What confusion this state of things would produce! They knew how much blood had been already shed, to uphold the tithe system. They had resorted to the bayonet of the soldier, the sabre of the dragoon, and yet they failed in compelling the people to pay the odious impost. By the present Bill, the King was to be made the assignee of the landlords, and the landlords were to pay six per cent upon the tithe. Protestant landlords of Ireland, for to them he now addressed himself, how would they relish this? How would they like to pay six per cent to the King after the 1st of November? This measure was certainly a novel one; and if it had no other merit, it certainly had the merit of originality. They sent the soldier to assist the parson in the collection of his 458 tithes, What assistance would they afford the landlords? Did they imagine that the landlords could collect them when the parson was unable to do so, even with the assistance of a military force? Must not every man see, that this Bill would be a brand of dissension and distrust between landlord and tenant? He had heard, that his Majesty's Ministers were divided on the question of the appropriation of Church property. The Speech from the Throne said, that Church property should be maintained, but now, by the Bill before them, the tithes were to be paid into the office of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests; and when they asked Ministers what was to be done with them, the answer was, that "We shall see." Was not that an appropriation of the Church property? Now, he wanted an answer from Ministers on the question of appropriation. He called on them, on the part of the people of Ireland, to remove this ambiguity and doubt. Had they not a right to have an answer? He should like to know what the opinion of the Secretary of the Treasury was. He should like also to know what was the opinion of the right hon. President of the Board of Control, who was lately employed in making new Bishops in India? What, too, was the opinion of the First Lord of the Admiralty? There were two members of the Government whose opinions were well known. The right hon. Paymaster of the Forces—would he agree to a Bill by which the property of the Church should be declared inalienable. As to the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, he supposed the right hon. Gentleman had recently had so much experience with respect to Canada, where the religion of the people was not at variance with the Church, that something satisfactory might be expected from him.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that if the learned Gentleman (Mr. Sheil) had addressed the House with considerable vehemence, at least he did not trespass on its patience at any great length; and without following the hon. Member's example with respect to the vehemence of his speech, he would endeavour to imitate him in the more praiseworthy quality of brevity, and not detain the House for any unnecessary length of time. The learned Member had taken four grounds of objection to the Bill, and, of the whole four, not one was ex- 459 ceedingly weighty, nor did the whole of them carry to the mind an idea that the hon. Gentleman had very minutely studied the provisions of the measure now on the table; for certain it was, that any gentleman who had never looked into the Bill, might have picked up from the scraps of former debates on the subject of tithes every one of the (he would not call them arguments, but) declamatory assertions of the hon. Member. He would take the learned Gentleman's last observation first, though in what way the hon. Member made it an argument against the Bill he could not see. However, the learned Gentleman objected to the measure because the Ministers had not informed him whether, with respect to the subject of appropriation, his Majesty's Ministers were all agreed. Perhaps this was not very material to the merits of the Bill. But the learned Gentleman, although he stated, that the House was left in the dark as to the assumed differences of the Cabinet on this subject, had done him and his noble and right hon. friends, the honour to say, that he was well acquainted with their opinions on the subject. Now, whether or not Ministers were all agreed on the speculative question of appropriation would not be thought of so much importance as this—that they were all agreed, that the first duty of the Government and Parliament was, to maintain the existence of the property. They would not be deterred from maintaining that property which might be afterwards disposed of by the Legislature. Ministers were all agreed as to its appropriation at present, and they would not suffer it to be wrested away by violence, or frittered down by fraud or collusion. The learned Gentleman objected to the Bill, because it conferred a certain degree of patronage on the Government. If the hon. Member could point out any mode by which money might be collected without the assistance of collectors, or by which collectors could be got to do their duty in a satisfactory manner without being paid for it, he should be exceedingly happy to avail himself of the learned Gentleman's advice on the subject; but until he could find persons so disinterested and enterprising, he was afraid they must be content to pay out of the sum collected, a proportion to those who collected it. The learned Gentleman said, the Bill established no uniform system, and therefore 460 he objected to it. He could not be satisfied with seeing the tenant paying upon one side of a hedge, and the landlord paying on the other. But how much more monstrous would it be, to have a tithe-free estate on one side of a hedge, and a tithe-paving estate on the other! How monstrous for the tenant of the tithe-free land to pay more rent to the landlord, because it was tithe-free, while the occupier of the land chargeable with tithe, paid a rent proportionably less on the ground of the liability! Here, then, was the learned Gentleman's objection to a great and just measure—it consisted in the different circumstances of different farms, and went entirely upon the fact, that two farms were not precisely in the same situation. Would the learned Gentleman agree with the proposition of the hon. member for Kildare? Differing as he did from that hon. Gentleman's plan, he must admit, that he had never heard anything more candid, temperate, and honest, than the hon. Member's speech. The hon. member for Kildare said, "Throw the whole burthen on the landlord at once." "No," said Ministers, "to throw it all upon the landlord might, as matters stand at present, be attended with many and well-founded objections, therefore we had rather allow existing interests to subside; we will not interfere with them; we will give the tenant time to enter into a new agreement; in this manner, much inconvenience will be avoided." But the learned Gentleman said, there was resistance to tithes, and that was his objection to the Bill. What did the learned Gentleman mean by his argument? Did he mean, that we were to give up the collection of the revenue, and leave it to the landlord or the tenant, as the case might be? [Mr. Sheil made an observation.] He should be sorry to lose any remark of the hon. Member, but he really did not hear or understand the expression that had just fallen from him. [Mr. Shed:—I merely used a short and simple word—'Church-rates.' The right hon. Gentleman will probably understand me.] He was doubly sorry, but still found himself equally remote from a glimpse of the hon. Gentleman's meaning. The learned Gentleman's objection, founded on the resistance to the payment of tithes, showed that we ought either to persevere in the system which he condemned, in preference to levying from miserable objects, 461 "at the point of the bayonet," or in future leave the amount to be divided between landlord and tenant. The Ministers, however, did justice; they followed up the principle established a few years ago, by which, under existing leases, the tithes charged on the landlord could be removed by him, and allowance was made for expenses, and, on account of the redemption. The learned Gentleman said, "You are unable to collect tithes, how can the landlord collect them?" Surely the learned Gentleman did not seriously mean to put the difficulties subsisting in either case in competition? Tithes varied in amount from one-thirtieth to one-twelfth of the rent in different parts of the country; in some extraordinary cases, they were stated at one-third of the rent; but he was satisfied that taking the whole of Ireland, the average amount of charge for tithe was not 1s. 3d. in the pound. The charge was divided into a multiplicity of small portions, and, in many cases, where the clergyman got in sums of 6d., 2d., or 1d., from individuals, these parties were all tenants of the same landlord, who would be able to collect, when applying for 20s. of rent, 21s., including rent and tithe, without additional trouble. The landlord had his remedy of ejectment, if the tenant refused to pay. The learned Gentleman would say, "Oh, but there is so much excitement on the subject." He knew that; he was aware that excitement existed; and the landlords of Ireland must take the consequences of the course of agitation which had been pursued. He wished it were otherwise, but landlords holding property according to existing rights could not escape the inconveniences arising from the excitement and agitation which had unfortunately existed for so many years. It would be unjust to put the money into the landlord's pocket; and if, by a collision between landlord and tenant, tithes were retained and an exorbitant rent paid, that would be a gross fraud upon the Church, and an undeserved benefit to the landlords. Irish Gentlemen might say, "Give us the same measures as you give to England;" nay, some hon. Members had claimed that privilege. He had heard taunts levelled against the Government for not following up English measures in Ireland, with a view to effect a real Union between the two countries, and give to both the same laws. Irish Gentlemen were not entitled to take 462 part of the English Bill, and to refuse the whole. Gentlemen might cry, "Oh, oh!" but would they show him the fallacy of his argument? He said, that if Irish Gentlemen claimed the benefit of the same laws as England, they must take the whole laws. The object of Ministers was to give them that benefit. They were told early in the evening, that all that was wanted was a fair commutation, but the basis of that now proposed had been objected to, and an equal poundage on rent was preferred. He did not think it would be more satisfactory to fix an equal poundage all over Ireland, when he considered that tithe varied in the different provinces from one-twelfth to one-thirtieth of the rent. Gentlemen attacked the provisions of the Bill; but with the exception of the member for Kildare, they did not offer to provide any substitute for the plan of which they expressed their disapprobation. The hon. member for Wexford said, it was necessary that the question should be settled, because there would be no peace till it was; yet Members could not agree as to the basis of an equitable settlement. His noble friend now suggested to him, that in England, a rate of poundage was to be taken with regard to a single county; but one of the great complaints against tithe commutation consisted in its unequal pressure, and undoubtedly an equal rate of poundage in Ireland would, from the peculiar circumstances of that country, be the grossest injustice. Hon. Gentlemen complained of the pressure upon the agriculturists of Ireland. The basis of the Tithe Composition Act, of which those Gentlemen complained was, to rectify the injustice committed by a former Parliament, by giving encouragement to the smaller class of agriculturists—to those who held arable land—to till it, at the expense of those who had been previously exempt from payment. How was that done? By distributing the total amount previously paid by a parish over the arable and grass lands of that parish equally. It was done for the avowed purpose of encouraging tillage in Ireland; and it had that effect. Suppose there were two parishes, in one of which nine-tenths of the ground had been previously grass land, and in the other of which nine-tenths of the land had been previously arable, in the case of the poundage being diffused over the whole surface of a county, one of these parishes would be very 463 heavily, and the other very lightly taxed. Take the case of the lightly-taxed parish. Upon the faith of the permanent composition thrown upon the parish by which the amount of the tithe did not exceed 5d. or 6d. an acre throughout, the whole land of that parish had been brought into tillage under the Act passed for the avowed purpose of encouraging tillage. A proposition was made—when this land had been brought into tillage by your encouragement—to equalize the poundage throughout the country, and to make the parish lightly taxed under your previous encouragement and sanction pay the same amount of tithe, or tithe composition, for the support of the clergy as the heavily-taxed parish. Such a case could not exist in England, because, in England, the tithe of agistment had not been abolished. In England, the calculation for commuting the tithes might be spread over a county, without causing gross injustice; but the same arrangement carried into effect in Ireland, would be an act of insufferable injustice. It was impossible, consistently with justice, to adopt the principle recommended by his noble friend for England—which had not yet, by-the-bye, received the sanction of Parliament—in the case of Ireland. Supposing, for a moment, that it were adopted, what would the hon. and learned Gentleman say of the redemption? The landlords in England had no hesitation, in proposing—at least, his noble friend had proposed for them—that the redemption of tithe in this country should be at the rate of twenty five years' purchase; but we offered an opportunity of redemption in Ireland at an average not exceeding sixteen years' purchase. Let Irish Gentlemen, when they complained of injustice being done to Ireland, look at that. Besides, tithes in Ireland were calculated on a scale which would yield less by twenty per cent on the produce to clergymen than in this country. He hoped that the objections which had been raised did not touch the main principle of the Bill, and presumed that the hon. member for Wexford did not mean to press for an adjournment of the question. Looking at the different objections that had been urged, as mainly applicable to the details which would afford ground for discussion in Committee, he trusted, that the second reading would not now be objected to. The absolute necessity of some 464 measure had been admitted by most, and denied by none. Considering this circumstance, and that the charge was to fall ultimately on the landlord, and not upon the tenant; and further, that the right of redemption was fixed on equitable terms—looking also at the objections urged by one side and the other, one party complaining that the terms offered were too favorable for the Church, and the other denouncing the measure as being almost one of spoliation, he trusted, that the House would permit the Bill now to be read a second time, reserving the consideration of the conflicting plans and arguments on the subject of details for that stage which would afford a fit opportunity for their discussion.
§ Mr. Blackney
said, that to carry this measure into effect would require an insurrection act, in order to support the landlords in collecting the tithes. He had received many communications from persons in Ireland on this subject. He was a magistrate; he was a justice of the peace; and he was a deputy-lieutenant. He had had many petitions brought to him on the subject of Repeal by persons who were opposed to Repeal, and who said that if this measure was carried, they would become repealers. His Majesty's Ministers must be prepared for such scenes as had not, perhaps, been experienced for centuries. He spoke as a gentleman, anxious for the peace and harmony of the country. He spoke the sentiments of the populous counties of Kilkenny, Tipperary, Carlow, and Kildare. This measure would transfer the odium from the clergy to the landlords. It would render a new insurrection act necessary, and the re-embodying the Yeomanry. Scenes worse than Whiteboyism would be acted if this Bill passed.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the House had sat later than the present hour (a quarter to 1) this Session, and it would be very inconvenient to adjourn the debate.
said, many Members had come in since the Motion to postpone the second reading of this Bill for one week had been made by his friend, the member for the county of Wexford; he, therefore, wished to call the attention of the House back to the real question before it, especially as the debate had for some time taken a turn quite foreign to it. The 465 Irish Tithe-bill displeased the majority of the Irish Members of all parties—it was true their motives might differ, but none approved of it; it dissatisfied the Church, it dissatisfied the landlords, and it dissatisfied the occupiers of the soil. Unless it was rendered palatable to the people of Ireland, the property was rendered insecure, and a valuable fund, hereafter applicable to national purposes, would be lost to the State; and any attempt to collect it would be attended with vast expense, and produce disquiet and misery. The present Bill was so bad and unjust in principle, so complicated and expensive in its machinery, that it was utterly impossible to amend it, and nothing but a new Bill could answer. He and several other Irish Members who took the same views, had already remonstrated with Government—they had reason to believe that their reasons had made some impression, though as yet they were unsuccessful; but he hoped, that if English Members would now come forward and assist, that if the second reading was postponed for even a week, a better Bill would be conceded to them; and he put it to English Members if so short a postponement was not a reasonable request? He would ask English Members if, after their vote on Tuesday evening, by which they declared Ireland an integral part of the United Kingdom, would they now say that a Tithe-bill, containing principles which they refused to submit to in the English Bill, because they were unjust, should, by their vote, be forced upon Ireland against the will of her Members and her people? Last Session a Bill was brought in for England similar to the Irish Bill, the English Members at once disapproved of it, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as immediately gave it up, but the obnoxious principle was persevered in for Ireland; this Session a new Tithe-bill was brought in for England, and the principle which the Irish Members asked for was given to England, but was still refused by the Government to Ireland. English Members said, a union existed; would they prove it by their votes? Remember this Bill was the declaration of either peace or war to Ireland. The objections to the tithe system were the appropriation, the exaggerated valuation of that property, and the unequal proportion of its burthen on the several parishes as compared with each other; this Bill con- 466 tinued and perpetuated those objections. Much misapprehension existed as to the opinions of those who advocated the abolition of tithes, and the old war-whoop of the high-church-men was still raised against the Irish Members; they were told, "Oh, you want to put the tithes into the pockets of the landlords." This was an unfair accusation. There were certain points on which the people of Ireland and her Members were agreed. First, it was admitted, that a certain fund belonging to the public should be levied from the land of Ireland. Secondly, it was conceded, that for the present that fund should be appropriated to the payment of the present incumbents, for their life-interest was acknowledged in all the petitions against tithes which had been presented to that House; consequently, the existence of the fund and its present appropriation was conceded. All the Irish Members asked was, that that fund should be fairly ascertained and justly applotted. As to the future appropriation of this national fund, he did not mean to embarrass the question by taking it into consideration. It ought to be, and he knew it would be, differently appropriated by a future parliament, no matter what decision the House might come to. He had been asked what the Irish Members meant by abolition of tithes, if it was not sweeping away that public fund, and putting it in the landlords' pockets? He would tell the House he meant by abolition what the Secretary for the Colonies meant by extinction, and that was, first to ascertain fairly the total sum paid by Ireland for tithes. Suppose that to be, as stated, 600,000l., he would reduce that total sum by whatever percentage might be just, regarding the increased value it obtained from increased security, facility of collection, and the changing it from a variable into a permanent tax. Some time ago the tithe owners were willing to have submitted to a reduction of 25 per cent. This Bill admitted one of 20 per cent; that, however, was matter of detail. But suppose the sum to be raised was 500,000l. from the whole of Ireland, in the first instance, to reimburse the Treasury for paying the salaries of the existing incumbents, and afterwards for whatever national purpose Parliament might judge right, his first step would be to declare all tithes and compositions of tithes extinct for ever. He would then say, the nation requires a 467 fund of 500,000l. for those purposes; and he would levy that sum over the people of Ireland according to the real value of the land, as an ad valorem Land-tax, or as a poundage on the rack value of the land. In other words, he would abolish every thing which made the old system obnoxious. He would lay on the tax as any other new tax would be laid on in modern times. He would not adhere to injustice, because it was antiquated. He would sweep away everything which, by adhering to the ancient character of tithes, would continue and perpetually revive its offensive associations. The advantage of this plan would be that, by spreading the whole tax over so large a surface, it would fall so very lightly upon each proprietor, that no man could reasonably object to the payment of it on the score of amount; in fact, he believed that sixpence in the pound of the rack-rent value of Ireland would raise more than the required amount; next, this being an ad valorem tax, each proprietor would only pay for what he had good value; thus, if his estate rented at 1l. per acre, he would pay 6d. an acre to the national tax; if it rented at 2l. he would pay 1s.; if it was only worth 10s. per acre, his tax would be only 3d. Now it was objected by Ministers, that if this plan were adopted, it would work injustice and excite dissatisfaction among those proprietors who inhabit the grazing districts in Ireland, inasmuch as they would be paying to relieve the tillage districts; but he thought, if the reduction was made in the first instance from the gross sum before it was so applotted, the tillage districts would be relieved, and the grazing ones not more burthened than at present; but he would ask, did this Bill satisfy any one, and would not his proposition satisfy the majority? Now, he would endeavour to prove, that it was just to levy the 500,000l. as an ad valorem tax, at least so far as lands not legally tithe-free at present were concerned, and the quantity of such land in Ireland was very small. It was a gross mistake to suppose, that being exempt from tithe of agistment constituted land in law tithe-free; the legal a liability to tithe equally existed on a grass land estate, as it did upon a tillage estate; that is, if the grass land were tilled, for that year it paid tithe, and if the tillage land was laid down to grass, it paid no tithe that year—the legal liability to tithe was 468 not extinguished upon the grazing farm, it only lay dormant, it merely slept. Now, so long as tithes were an annual payment, it was quite fair that the tillage land alone should pay, because it had the tithable produce to reimburse the payer; but it became quite a different matter when this annual payment was converted into a permanent tax, the amount of which would bear no proportion, or reference whatever, to crops or produce of land; and so strongly was this felt by the Legislature, when it passed the old voluntary Composition Act, that it broke down all distinction in each individual parish throughout Ireland, between corn and pasture land; and, quoad the parish, levied the tax ad valorem over every acre in it; then again the compulsory Composition Act of last Parliament, now just put into operation, had levelled all distinctions between grass and tillage land, in those parishes which had previously refused the voluntary composition; so that if the principle he now proposed, to spread the 500,000l. over grass and tillage land, according to its real comparative value, was condemned as unjust by Ministers and their supporters, they placed themselves in the dilemma, that they must admit, that their compulsory Composition Act, which was the foundation of their present Bill, was also unjust. They could not uphold their plan and condemn his on the score of principle, for the principle of both were the same, namely—abolishing the distinction between grass land and tillage. That principle which they applied to parishes, he was for applying to the whole of Ireland. But the right hon. Secretary to the Colonies, in opposing this plan, said it would be unfair to make a landlord who had a grass estate in one part of Ireland, pay to relieve the tillage estate of another landlord in another part of Ireland. Now, unfortunately for the right hon. Gentleman's argument, the Composition Act he so much prized compelled the owner of a grass estate in one end of a parish to pay a part of the burthen formerly paid by the owner alone of a tillage estate in another end of the same; and he could name several instances. He wanted to apply the principle universally; by so doing, it would spread the applotment equally, and the tax would not be burthensome to any one; whereas Government equally violated principle in every individual parish through Ireland, 469 but by confining it within parishes, they increased the burthen so heavily in some, that it would be oppressive almost to confiscation; whereas in others, it was unfairly small. Again, it should be considered, that in calling on the landlords of Ireland to pay a tax of 500,000l. for this purpose, that all landlords holding estates, whether grass or tillage, subject to tithes, held them subject to certain advantages and liabilities. Every man purchased or inherited his estate subject to the legal liability to tithe—while tilled it paid, while in grass the claim slept, but was not extinguished. The owner of the tillage estate possessed the vested right, and a valuable privilege it was, to cease paying tithes if he chose to turn his land to grass. That privilege was to be taken away from him now, but he was to be allowed an advantage by paying a diminished sum as his proportion of the gross sum of 500,000l.? Again, if the owner of the grass estate tilled his land, he would have to pay tithe under the old law; was he now to be allowed to purchase off all future liability to pay tithe for ever, for a portion of the gross amount of tax, which would literally amount to the Legislature making his land tithe-free for ever? and was that he asked, giving to the landlord no consideration in return for the losses he might sustain because he was now subject to pay no tithe on grass land? One man, because his estate chanced to be in tillage at the present moment, had to pay 5s. or 10s. an acre, to procure an exemption from future tithes; while another, with much better land, perhaps, purchased the same immunity for 4d. per acre: that was unjust. Again, the value of tithes in the English Bill was taken at the present deteriorated value of land. In the Irish Bill, it was taken in the most exaggerated manner, from the sums paid, or stated to be paid by the proctors, in the seven years before 1830, when wheat was 33s. a barrel; and those sums were to be paid now, when it was only 23s. The right hon. Secretary for the Colonies had made a great boast, that Ireland had got a better principle than England, because he said, the Irish Bill allowed the tax to be redeemed for sixteen years' purchase, whereas the English Bill required twenty-five years' purchase. The principle was, however, the same in both, that was, to allow redemption on paying the supposed value, and 470 the difference between the number of years in the two countries was not a principle, but a detail. The right hon. Secretary had confounded principle and detail together; but even here England was better treated than Ireland, for in the former country, twenty-five years was named, because that was the present rate of purchase of English tithes; whereas Ireland was to be charged sixteen years' purchase, although Irish tithes never at any time sold for more than thirteen years. The Irish Members asked for the English principle of valuation and applotment. He could assure the House, if the present Bill passed, it would fail; and he much dreaded that the ensuing winter would be a bloody one.
§ Mr. Ronayne
inquired of the hon. member for Wexford, whether he intended to withdraw his Motion; if not, he thought the debate should be adjourned.
§ Mr. O'Reilly
hoped, that his Majesty's Ministers would not confound the opposition a portion of the Irish Members had deemed it their duty to give to the Bill, with the opposition given to it out of hostility to Church property. He fully admitted one of the principles of his Majesty's Ministers, that the tithes ought to be secured in the first instance. His main objection to the Bill was, that it held out a premium to landlords to come forward and assist in the collection of tithes. He contended, that if any premium was to be afforded, it ought to be given to the tenants of Ireland, and not to the landlords, for he believed that much of the opposition to tidies arose from the avarice of the landlords, who granted lands at rack-rents. The struggle really was between the tithe-owners and the land-owners, whether or not the small interest of poor tenants should be destroyed or preserved, and the tenants were indifferent as to the result, in the hope, that in the general struggle or scramble their little properties would be altogether freed from this species of taxation. He was satisfied, that this class of tenants would prefer the Church 471 itself as their landlord, rather than remain under the present system. He repeated, that if any premium for the collection of tithes was given, it ought to be contributed to the tenants.
begged to remind the hon. member for Wexford (Mr. Carew) that in the event of his Amendment being negatived, it would still be competent to any hon. Member to move the adjournment of the debate. He thought the hon. Member could not be aware of this when he refused to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. Littleton
hoped, that an adjournment would not be persisted in. The difficulties which would ensue had already been fully stated by his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had stated, that the whole of Monday would be occupied with a discussion which by possibility might be adjourned. He would therefore submit, as a suggestion to the House, that the Bill should now be read pro formâ a second time (by that consent of course no hon. Member would be pledged by his vote), and he should further propose, that the discussion on the principle of the Bill should take place on its next stage.
regretted, that it was not in his power to acquiesce in the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, though he should be most happy to accommodate him. Such, however, was his opinion of the Bill, that he would take the sense of the House upon every question referring to it put from the Chair. As soon as the sense of the House was taken upon the Amendment, he should certainly move the adjournment of the debate.
§ The House divided on Mr. Carew's Amendment: Ayes 74; Noes 241—Majority 167.
§ The Debate was adjourned till the ensuing Tuesday.
|List of the AYES.|
|ENGLAND.||Trelawney, Sir W. L. S.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Vincent, Sir F.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Warburton, H.|
|Bish, T.||Wason, R.|
|Davies, Colonel||Gillon, W. D.|
|Handley, Major||Acheson, Viscount|
|Hutt, W.||Baldwin, Dr.|
|Jervis, J.||Barron, W.|
|Parrott, J.||Barry, G. S.|
|Pease, J.||Bellew, R. M.|
|Potter, R.||Blackney, W.|
|Staveley, J. K.||Blake, M.|
|Browne, J. D.||O'Callaghan, Hon. C.|
|Browne, D.||O'Connell, Daniel|
|Butler, Hon. Colonel||O'Connell, Maurice|
|Callaghan, D.||O'Connell, Charles|
|Chapman, M. L.||O'Connell, Morgan|
|Dobbin, L.||O'Connell, John|
|Evans, G.||O'Connor, Don|
|Finn, W. F.||O'Connor, Feargus|
|Fitzgerald, T.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Fitzgibbon, Hon. Col.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Fitzsimon, C.||O'Reilly, W.|
|Fitzsimon, N.||Roche, D.|
|French, F.||Roche, W.|
|Grattan, H.||Ronayne, D.|
|Howard, R.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Jephson, C. D.||Ruthven, E.|
|Lalor, P.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Lambert, H.||Stowell, Colonel|
|Lynch, A. H.||Sullivan, R.|
|Macnamara, Major||Talbot, J. H.|
|Macnamara, F.||Talbot, J.|
|Martin, J.||Vigors, N.|
|Martin, T.||Walker, C.|
|Mullins, F. W.||TELLERS.|
|Nagle, Sir R.||Carew, R. S.|
|O'Brien, C.||Clements, Viscount|