HC Deb 29 July 1835 vol 29 cc1196-201
Lord Morpeth

moved the Order of the Day for the House resolving itself into a Committee on the Tithe and Church (Ireland) Bill.

The House went into Committee.

The Clauses to 100 inclusive were agreed to.

On the Clause 101 (the interpretation Clause) being put by the Chairman,

Mr. William Smith O'Brien

said, that it would only have been fair that the subject of Ministers' money should have been taken into consideration in the Bill, as well as the other incomes already enjoyed by the Irish clergy.

Mr. David Roche

could not do otherwise than express his concurrence in the observation of the hon. Member for the county of Limerick.

Mr. Shaw

said, that he conceived it was a very great hardship that the cases where the income of the clergyman depended upon what was called "Ministers' money" should not have been considered separately. If that part of the Bill which related to the property of the Church had been kept distinct from the appropriation provisions, all the friends of the Church would have been anxious and ready to give their assistance to effect a liberal and equitable adjustment of the property of the clergy. The whole annual amount of Ministers' money did not exceed 12,000l. per annum, and those clergymen who depended upon that description of income were as much deserving of consideration as those whose incomes depended upon tithes. He begged also to state, as he was now on his legs, two facts upon which the noble Lord opposite (Morpeth) had expressed some doubts when the measure was last under discussion. The first was, that the present income of the ecclesiastical Commissioners was now only 19,477l. as he (Mr. Shaw) had stated the other night; and secondly, that on account of the Perpetuity Purchase Fund only 80,000l. had been received, while the Commissioners owed a debt of 100,000l.

Viscount Morpeth

would not enter into any calculation on these points, as the matter would be set at vest by a Return which he hoped to be able to lay upon the Table to-night or to-morrow.

Mr. Charles A. Walker

said, that it was of little consequence to discuss the amount of Ministers' money, if, as was supposed, this Bill was to be rejected and not allowed to pass into a law by another branch of the legislature. He was himself a sincere friend to the Church of Ireland, and he could tell the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Shaw), and those who thought with him, that the real interests of the clergy of that Church would be best served by allowing the Bill to pass in its present shape, and that those were the enemies of the Church who opposed that course.

Mr. Shaw

said, that was not the first time the hon. Member for Wexford had put himself forward as the friend and advocate of the Established Church, describing other gentlemen as its enemies. He hoped the hon. Member for Wexford would allow him to inquire how the hon. Member had described himself to the Commissioners of Public Instruction.

Dr. Lushington

protested against the question which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had just put to the hon. Member for Wexford, which he declared to be utterly unparliamentary, and contrary to every principle of justice. "This is the first time (said the hon. and learned Civilian) in the course of my Parliamentary experience, that I ever yet heard one Member of Parliament take upon himself to put a question as to the religious sect and sentiments of another individual and independent Member of Parliament, and to require of him to state, in the face of the House and the public, whether he entertained the religious opinions of the Established Church, or of some other religious body. I tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that this House will not endure such inquisitorial practices, and I tell him further, that the hon. Member for Wexford will best discharge his duly to this House and the public by treating the inquiry with the contempt it deserves.

Mr. Shaw

"The hon. and learned Gentleman should first understand what was the question I asked, before he exhibited so much warmth. I did not enquire into the religious opinions of the hon. Member for Wexford. I believe him to be a member of the Established Church; and I believe the hon. Gentleman to have received the sacrament in the Established Church, a short time before the Return to which I alluded was made. The question which I asked the hon. Gentleman was, whether he described himself, to the question put to him by the Commissioners of Public Instruction, as a Member of the Established Church. The hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets has recommended the hon. Member for Wexford to treat my question with contempt. I can assure that hon. and learned Member, that that is exactly the sentiments which I now feel towards his lecture."

Mr. Hume

quite agreed in what had fallen from his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for the Tower Hamlets. The question put by the right hon. and learned Gentleman was such as he had never before heard put to any Member of Parliament. But it appeared to him to be in perfect agreement with the language used by the right hon. and learned Gentleman elsewhere; and he hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman would take this opportunity of re-stating in his place what it was he had said with reference to those who were opposed to him on the question of Church Reform. "I wish to know, (said the hon. Member) whether he means to say, that those members who sit on this side of the House, and who are now taking measures to promote reform in the Church and in the other institutions of the country, are the individuals whom he has characterized by the names of revolutionists and infidels? It appears to me, that from the situation in which the right hon. Member stands, he cannot have any objection to remove that ground of complaint which hon. Members on this side of the House now have against him; but if he will not do so, then we have a right to know to what degree the character of revolutionists and infidels is intended by him to attach to us.

Mr. Shaw

said, that certainly a most unfounded and incorrect report of what he had said elsewhere had gone forth to the public. He had seen it stated in some of the public prints, that he had said, that all those persons opposed to him on this question were infidels. He never said any thing of the kind. He would tell the hon. Member the substance, if not the very words of what it was he did say. He was talking of the different political parties in the State, and particularly of those who were called the movement or destructive party, and the conservative party; and he observed that those who were on his, the Conservative, side, would naturally be opposed by all who were restless in their conduct, revolutionary in their politics, and infidels in their religion, because they would naturally join the Movement party. That was what he had said. He admitted that he had expressed his belief that all who who were infidels in religion would naturally join the opposite or movement party; but he never said that all those who belonged to the opposite party were infidels. No one who had the least understanding, or who apprehended the simplest principles of logic and common sense, could for a moment argue, that because he had said all infidels in religion would join the movement party, therefore he meant to say, that all who belonged to that party, and were his opponents, were infidels.

Mr. Hume

No doubt the language of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was very charitable, and in the spirit of a true Christian. But did he mean to say, that the opponents of the conservative party in that House were infidels. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that though all were not infidels, yet there were some among them who were [No, no!] Well, to say the least of it, the opinion avowed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not a very liberal one; and the question which he put to the hon. Member for Wexford was of a kindred sort with that opinion. I wish (said the hon. Member) the right hon. Gentleman would tell us whom he calls the movement party. I take myself to be one of that party; and I wish to know what infidel associates I have. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to name one. Of course as there are so many infidels amongst us, there can be no difficulty in stating who they are. Either the right hon. and learned Gentleman ought not to make such a statement, or he ought to be prepared to substantiate it. I repeat my challenge, and call upon him to name one of the movement party who is an infidel? If he cannot, then I call upon him to withdraw his words, and acknowledge that they are not applicable to us. As a man of honour, he is bound to substantiate his charge, or retract it altogether.

The Chairman

(Mr. Bernal) interposed, and put it to the Committee whether it were proper that this irregular conversation should be continued. They were now upon the interpretation Clause, and he hoped the Committee would proceed.

Mr. Hume

quite agreed with the hon. Chairman that this conversation should not proceed further; and more especially so as he understood that an opportunity would be afforded to advert again to the language of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, on the presentation of a petition on the subject. But it must be admitted, at any rate, that the conversation began on the other side. There could not be the least doubt that it began there.

Mr. William Smith O'Brien

said, if this Bill did not pass the other House of Parliament, it was his firm belief that the Established Church in Ireland would not last three years. As the members of that Church constituted only about one-tenth of the population, it could not be surprising that those who did not belong to it should refuse any longer to contribute to its support. They did not, however, go that length; they were willing to enter into a compromise, and to continue to pay towards the support of the Church, provided the surplus of its revenues was applied for the general benefit of the community. Whether, in another year, they would be in a condition to enter into an arrangement so advantageous to themselves as they could now, he would not pretend to predict; but his conviction was, that if this opportunity were allowed to pass, it would never again return.

The Clause agreed to, as was also the Preamble.

The House resumed.