HC Deb 18 May 1835 vol 27 cc1172-4
Mr. Sharman Crawford

presented a Petition from the Presbyterians of the county of Down, signed by 800 persons praying for the Abolition of Tithe, not only in substance but in name, and altogether denying the truth of the statement made by the noble Member for Down (Lord Castlereagh), that the Presbyterians of that county were willing to pay tithe. He was proud of the Presbyterians of Ulster, and proud that they had made him their organ. Another subject touched upon in the petition was the Regium Donum, on which the House was aware Other petitions had not long since been presented. He would venture to say, that it was the universal feeling of the Presbyterian body of Ireland that if they were relieved from the payment of tithes, no increase of the Regium Donum would be necessary. The petitioners were highly respectable landholders in the most Protestant part of Ireland, and Protestants in every sense of the word. The House would perhaps recollect the assertion of the noble Member for Down that he could raise the "No Popery" cry there, but this petition was a most effectual answer to the threat. The same noble Lord had said that a petition formerly presented subscribed with between 4,000 and 5,000 names, had been hawked about in order to obtain signatures. He asserted, on the contrary, that not one name had been so obtained, and that this petition represented fairly the sentiments of the whole body of Presbyterians. He challenged the other side to dispute the statement, that the feeling of many Protestants, even of the Established Church in Ireland, was favourable to the extinction of tithes.

Lord Castlereagh

wished only to say a few words, and expressed his obligation to the hon. Member for Dundalk for contradicting the statement he (Lord Castlereagh) had made on a former day, that the Presbyterians of the county of Down were anxious to maintain the tithe system. The petition would carry with it whatever weight it deserved, and it certainly came from a body to the sentiments of which he was decidedly and constitution ally opposed. He was glad that they had found so able an advocate as the hon. Member for Dundalk. The petition went at once to the establishment of the voluntary principle; and upon that, and upon the Question of the Regium Donum, he could not agree with them. The hon. Member had mentioned that the two parishes from which it came contained fifteen thousand Presbyterians; if so, it was very odd that it was signed by only eight hundred names. As to its representing the sentiments of the whole Presbyterian body of the county of Down, it was hard to say that a representation coming from only two parishes spoke the sentiments of a whole county. He was inclined to doubt the deduction, although the hon. Member might, perhaps, hereafter be able to prove that his statement was correct. The petitioners complained of the tithe system: he had hoped that the Bill introduced by the late Government would have had some effect in removing the prejudices existing on the subject; but now that the hon. Member for Dundalk had gone over to the other side of the House, no doubt he would be able to support the intended Tithe Bill of the present Ministers, retaining, of course, the appropriation clause; and when once it was carried, the petitioners would, of course, no longer object to the payment of tithes.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that his only reason for obtruding himself upon the attention of the House at that moment was, that the petitioners had done him the honour to request him to support the prayer of their petition. If the noble Lord thought that the agitation of the Tithe Question was likely to raise a "No Popery" cry, he was totally mistaken. The selection of him (Mr. O'Connell) for one of their advocates was some evidence that the petitioners were not likely to fall into that error. Though the petition was signed by only eight hundred out of fifteen thousand Presbyterians, the eight hundred names were those of landholders. Hearing that 123 signatures of persons who were not landholders had been affixed, they had been struck out. They claimed from the House the benefit of the Christian principle, that no man should be compelled to pay any clergyman but his own.

Petition to lie on the Table.