, for the convenience of the House, would state the course which he should pursue with regard to this Bill. After the decision to which the House had come on a former night, which intimated the intention of the majority to refuse that consideration to this Bill which the minority thought that it deserved, he should not think himself justified in wasting his own time, and, what was more valuable, the time of the House, in offering a variety of objections to the further progress of the Bill. No amendments could remove the objections which he felt to it on the score of appropriation. Nothing could reconcile him to the latter portion of it, which went to appropriate the property of the Church to purposes foreign from Ecclesiastical purposes. Nothing could induce him to consent to the reopening of the tithe composition, except distinct proof that the tithe composition had been accomplished under circumstances of fraud. He had come to that resolution, first, because such a re-opening of the tithe composition would tend to 1116 shake the security of all contracts respecting property; and secondly, because having been one of those who, in common with hon. Members on both sides of the House, had held out to the parties interested that the agreements into which they entered under Acts of Parliament should meet with the sanction and support of Parliament, he could not lend his aid to opening those contracts under circumstances which were a violation of honesty, and in which justice could not be done to the parties. His objections to the latter part of the Bill which he contended seriously affected the prosperity and security of the Church in Ireland, remained unchanged. He should therefore forbear from giving the House any trouble on the Bill in Committee, and should reserve any objections which he might feel to the Clauses to the period when those objections might be put upon record—that was, till the bringing up of the Report of the Committee on the whole measure.
The Order of the Day was read, and the House went into Committee on the Bill.
§ The Preamble postponed.
§ Viscount Morpeth
availed himself of that opportunity to state an alteration which the Government intended to make in one of the Clauses of the Bill. From certain quarters, to which they were inclined to look with every deference, a communication had been made to His Majesty's Ministers that strong objections were entertained to that provision of the Bill which directly assigned to the uses of the Board of Commissioners of National Education the excess of the Reserve Fund over and above all the purposes mentioned in the Act, on the ground, that it was calculated to give an invididious appearance in the eyes of some persons to the proceedings of that Board. Though it was to be hoped, that the liberality of Parliament would provide funds for the general education of the people of Ireland, should they fall short during the necessarily scanty beginning of the Reserve Fund; yet it had been inferred, unwisely he thought, that there might arise considerable impatience in districts liable to come under its operation—impatience, which might terminate in the most disastrou consequences. Now, as this was an alarm more apparent than real, yet it was of such a nature, and its existence had been communicated to him from such 1117 quarters, that Government wished to meet it in the first instance to the best of their ability. They therefore proposed to alter the destination of the funds by providing that the sums payable to the Reserve Fund, for the purposes of education should be paid by the Commissioners of the Land Revenue to the Consolidated Fund, and the Government therefore proposed to fix a charge of 50,000l. to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund from the 1st of April, 1836, by warrant of attorney, for all purposes connected with the education of the different classes of his Majesty's subjects, without any distinction of religious opinions.
§ On the Question that Clause 1st stand part of the Bill,
§ Mr. Finch
did not know whether he should not be out of order in adverting to the Clause just referred to by the noble Lord, which was not regularly before the Committee. He wished, however, that the noble Lord would explain to him what he meant by the terms "national education." The first destination of the Reserve Fund was to be to parishes from which all Protestant pastors had been removed in consequence of their not containing fifty Protestant inhabitants. If that were the case, these funds, instead of being destined to the purposes of "national," would be destined to the purposes of "Roman Catholic" education. The first claim for schools would come from the 300 parishes, in which were no Protestants whatever.
§ Lord Morpeth
intended, by the words "national education," that system of education, which was now carried on in Ireland by the Board of Education, and which had been commenced under the auspices of his noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire.
The first Clause was agreed to. On the second Clause,
rose to make a suggestion to his noble Friend, the Secretary for Ireland, on the course which he (Lord Morpeth) was going to pursue with respect to this Bill. That course was open to the same objection which had been made against the Bill proposed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who had preceded him in office. Before he entered into any explanation of that objection, he would state, that it was his wish in the first part of the Bill to offer such suggestions for the improvement of it, as he thought were 1118 desirable, avoiding at the same time all discussion on the latter part of it, to the principle of which no Amendment would ever reconcile him. The first suggestion which he had to make, referred to what was technically the ascending and descending scale of the Bill. He wished his noble Friend to consider, before he came to the 5th Clause, a part of it by which no compensation was provided for those who must be injured by its operation. He was sure, that the common object of all parties on both sides of the House, was to provide, that the owner of the soil, and not the occupying tenant, should be the person charged with the payment of the tithe, or tithe composition, or the rent charge in lieu thereof. That was the object of all the Bills which had been passed on this subject, from the year 1823, down to the present period. In 1823, by the first Tithe Composition Act, it was determined, that tenants paying composition should be entitled to deduct the amount from their rent, and under this arrangement the clergy were the receivers, and the occupying tenants the payers of tithe. To obviate the objection arising from bringing the clergy and the occupiers of land into collision, it was proposed by the Bill he had introduced, that all future leases of lands should be granted free of tithe, and that the grantor, and not the tenant, should be liable to that charge. A difficulty was felt as to the introduction of a like system with reference to current engagements and leases already granted; for it was considered to be a hardship, that the landlord, taking upon himself the entire burthen of tithe, should have to collect the amount in a number of small payments from a numerous class of occupiers. He therefore proposed, that any landlord, who, before the expiration of existing leases might voluntarily agree to pay the tithe should be allowed a deduction of fifteen per cent, with a right to collect the whole sum from his tenants. This was done with a view to compensate him for any loss he might sustain in collecting the tithe. It was now proposed, that the landlord should be compelled to take upon himself the responsibility of paying tithe, with a power of recovery against his tenants, and that he should be allowed a reduction, not of fifteen, but of thirty per cent, which, however, he was obliged to allow to the tenants. Thus, although the risk was entirely thrown upon 1119 him, the landlord reaped no immediate benefit from the arrangement; but it must be admitted, that at the expiration of existing leases, his land would become more valuable. This might be considered a sufficient compensation. However, the case of persons having an intermediate interest between the head landlord and the occupying tenant was different—here there was no compensation for the additional risk, and he suggested to his noble Friend, whether he might not be able to devise some remedy for the injustice. Suppose an estate let by a landlord to three middlemen, on leases of twenty-one years, and sublet by the middlemen at profit rents to fifty tenants. In this case, the head landlord incurred no risk with respect to tithes, the middlemen being liable and solvent. But what was their state? They were called on to pay to the landlord 70l. for every 100l. of tithes in a case where they had not covenanted to pay a farthing, and they were empowered to collect from the fifty tenants a sum not exceeding by a single farthing what they themselves must pay. Now, these middlemen had no permanent interest in the property to compensate them for any immediate loss they might sustain, —unlike the landlord, they would not be benefitted by the circumstance of the estate becoming eventually more valuable in their hands. He threw out this difficulty, which he felt to involve a serious practical evil, for his noble Friend's consideration. He did not mean to suggest any Amendment, but if his noble Friend had not time to consider the subject previously to the putting of the 5th Clause, on which the question arose, he hoped his noble Friend would pay attention to the subject before the Report, for if not, he apprehended an injustice would be done which the act provided no mode of remedying.
thought, that the middlemen ought not to be allowed to collect more from the occupying tenant, than the head landlord paid to the clergy. He took this opportunity of stating, that some Irish Conservative landlords, who were at first disposed, out of regard to the Church, and in order to avail themselves of the bonus of fifteen per cent, to take the payment of tithe upon themselves under the last Composition Bill, declined doing so when they found their tenants would not be likely to repay them.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
said, that by the 5th Clause middlemen were empowered to recover tithes as rent by ejectment, a power that they never had before, and which was quite sufficient for their protection without giving them any bonus.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the cases put by the noble Lord would become day by day fewer. The fact was, that in this Bill, as in that of the noble Lord, it was assumed, that as regarded existing leases, landlords and tenants would arrange so, that injustice should be done to neither party.
§ Viscount Morpeth
stated, that he could see no other way of steering between the reduction to be given to the landlord, and the relief to be afforded to the tenant than that proposed by the Clause.
§ The Clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 5,
objected to the Clause, as throwing a burden on those who had lately been exonerated from it, but he was willing to waive his objections for the sake of good to be effected by the measure. So little had the people of Ireland been in the habit of paying tithes of late years, that the re-enactment of them by this Bill was almost like throwing a new burden upon the people. What would be the consequence if this Bill were rejected? By the noble Lord's (Lord Stanley) Bill, the clergy would have recovered seventy-seven and-a-half per cent of their tithes; by the Bill of the right hon. Baronet opposite, (Sir H. Hardinge) seventy-five per cent; and the Bill now under consideration insured the clergymen seventy-three and-a-half per cent; but if the Bill were rejected, what would they recover? Little or nothing. The people would refuse to pay tithes, and only the enemies of the Church could desire to see the Bill thrown out.
was sure, that no member of the Church objected to the settlement of the tithe question, or to the amount that was proposed to be awarded to the clergyman. He hoped, that the House would not let it be supposed that the payment of tithes to the clergy as a body, was likely to cease; as for the present measure being a boon for the clergy, he 1121 doubted whether a larger amount of tithes would not be paid if this Bill did not pass, than if it did. In the Act which he had introduced, provision was made for the payment of the clergy by landlords, and payment had been made to the amount, of from 180,000l. to 200,000l. The payments which would be made under this Bill would not, at the utmost, exceed 280,000l. If this did not pass, 200,000l. per annum would be paid without any difficulty to the clergy, and certainly many difficulties would arise under this Bill. He did not urge this as an argument against a fair arrangement; on the contrary, he was most anxious to promote it. He protested against the assumption that tithes would not be paid if this measure did not pass.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that no doubt some tithes might be collected under the existing law; but he wished to call the attention of the House back to the case before them. He believed that, for the future, it would be highly dangerous to the interests of the Church, if this measure did not pass. If it were carried into effect, the clergy would never be brought in contact in any way with the tithe-payers, but would go and obtain the amount due to them from the collecting-officer of the Government. This, he thought, was highly advantageous to the clergy. He also begged his noble Friend to recollect, that the landlords were not always so willing to pay tithes.
§ Mr. Shaw
declared, on the part of the clergy, that they were willing to make any sacrifice for securing the peace of Ireland; but they could not, conscientiously or consistently with their duty, consent to sacrifice a principle. They never would be induced, by any apparent temporary advantage to themselves, to sacrifice the permanent good of the Church.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had not objected to the principle a few months ago, for he had applauded the measure proposed by the right hon. and Gallant Member (Sir Henry Hardinge), in which a deduction of twenty-five per cent, was to be made from the income of the clergy. By the Bill of last year, the clergy would have received 77l. 10s. percent; by the measure of the late Government they were to receive 75l.; and by the present Bill, 73l. 10s. per cent. The right hon. Gentleman 1122 said, that he would not consent to yield up the principle—which he had already done —or to allow the claims of the clergy to be lessened, which appeared also to be the case, for the advance, which they made was very much like that in a Dutch auction, where each bidding was less than the former. He would caution the clergy against listening to the suggestion of the noble Lord. It would be a matter of absurdity to rely upon the landlords, or to suppose that they would willingly consent to pay tithes. They might not choose to resort to the committal of Whiteboy outrages to prevent the payment of tithes, but still they would manifest the strongest possible opposition to the Church. He believed, that the number of landlords who consented to the payment of their tithes, under the Bill of the noble Lord, did not exceed twelve in number. If the clergy were to rely upon the noble Lord's Bill to procure the payment of their tithes, they would obtain merely a mouthful of moonshine. It was a gross delusion to suppose, that the clergy would obtain their tithes if this Bill did not pass.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 9 (compositions for tithes may be revised on application to the Commissioners of Land Revenue) being put,
objected to re-opening the cases of commutation that had been entered into respecting the payment of tithes. This could not be done without instituting inquiries into the circumstances under which each case was entered into. In the Act of 1833, provision was made by which the Lord-lieutenant in Council was enabled to re-open the question of commutation in any case in which it could be proved that the commutation had been entered into—not merely in cases of fraud and wilful concealment—but wherever the parties were ignorant of the circumstances of the case. There had been only two or three instances of such appeals. In the next year, in the Million Act, opportunity was afforded to parties to open the question of commutation, not merely before the Privy Council, but before the assistant Barrister, in any case in which it clearly appeared that injustice had been done. The course proposed in this Bill, however, would be attended with great inconvenience, and would occasion great confusion. He objected that it did not appear necessary that notice should be 1123 given of the nature of the evidence to be brought before the Barristers. If anything had been fixed, it was the amount of the composition entered into fourteen years ago. Now it was proposed that three Baristers should be called on to alter the composition as they thought fit, and there was to be no appeal from what they might decide.
§ Mr. Perrin
intended to move an Amendment to the Clause which would he hoped, remove some of the objections. The effect of the Amendment he should propose was this: That where the amount of the composition exceeded by more than one-fifth the actual amount really paid or adjudged to be paid on the average of the seven years preceding the time of the composition, the complainant was to prepare a primâ facie case; next, a notice by the party was to be posted upon the church doors; there every such application was to be accompanied by a statement in writing, specifying the facts, the grounds, and the reasons for making the same; and the same grounds and reasons were to be stated on affidavit. This was to be submitted to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, who were to certify as to the grounds of the revision to the Lord-lieutenant, and he thereupon was to issue his warrant for the revision. Thus the course to betaken would not be left altogether to the revising Barristers. They would be called upon to state the actual grounds of their decision.
thought it would be better to leave the Clause out altogether, than that it should be carried with such Amendments. If it were amended as proposed, it would be a mockery—an idle mockery. It was most objectionable to involve it in so many technicalities and obstructions. Six weeks was too little time for notice of the intention to apply for a revision; three months at least ought to be given. What the people of Ireland complained of was, that the sums agreed to be paid on the average were colourably agreed to. In some cases the average for a whole parish was founded on a single decree.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, the object of the Government was to secure to the clergy the full amount to which they were entitled, and, on the other hand, to relieve the people from burthens that had improperly fallen upon them. All he asked was, that they should go deli- 1124 berately through the Clause, strict justice between all parties being what the Government sought.
§ Mr. Serjeant Jackson
said, that in many of the compositions which this Clause might open, the evidence on which they were made was lost, or the parties perhaps were dead. Some of the compositions had been made years ago on promissory notes, memoranda of agreement, and field-notes. When once a composition was entered into, it was considered final.
§ Mr. Perrin
did not think his Amendment would be liable to the objections of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The party would have to state his complainton oath to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, who, if they saw fit, would grant a revision; and the Lord-lieutenant would issue his warrant for the revision, specifying what were the grounds. This appeared to him to be a simple course. He had no objection, however, to postpone the Clause, to afford time for the Amendment being considered.
§ The Clause, with the Clauses up to 12 inclusive,(those relating to revision of composition) were postponed.
§ On Clause 14,
§ Mr. Shaw
said, that there was no necessity for the new appeal to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, which the Clause established; the results of the present system of appeal to the Privy Council of Ireland, as provided by former Acts of Parliament, were fully sufficient to show that it could lead to no useful end. The decisions under the existing arrangements had been pretty well balanced; the cases of diminution and those of increase had been nearly equal, — very many of the appeals had been dismissed, and nothing whatsoever had been gained on the whole by the proceedings.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
contended that the new appeal was necessary to provide for the cases of hardship which would arise without it. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman, (Mr. Shaw) might apply if the property of the Church were to be viewed only as a whole; although a new appeal might not be necessary, because under that already existing the gross amount of composition had neither been increased nor diminished, still it was required for the sake of justice in individual cases, in which particular portions of that compo- 1125 sition ought to be decreased or augmented.
§ Lord Clements
said, that under the system established by former Acts, particularly by that called "Goulburn's Act," the expenses of appeal were so great as to prevent its being resorted to in many cases in which it otherwise would be. Another cause of the smallness of the number of appeals under that system was to be found in the constitution of the tribunal to which they were made— the Privy Council of Ireland.
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
observed, that there was no ground for throwing out any imputations upon that tribunal; the portion of the Privy Council by which their appeals were usually determined, consisted of some of the Judges of Ireland and other individuals whose characters were as high and unblemished as those of any persons, of whatever rank, in any profession whatsoever.
said, that he had seen many a tribunal, and that he never saw one half so bad as that in question; it was such that there existed not the smallest chance of bringing down a composition before it—unless, indeed, in some very gross case, The hon. and learned Gentleman might fairly eulogize the individuals composing that tribunal, but could he eulogize the tribunal itself?
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses to 49 were agreed to, with Amendments.
§ The House resumed—Committee to sit again.