HC Deb 11 July 1836 vol 35 cc94-6

The order of the day for going into Committee on the Personal Tithe Bill having been moved,

Mr. Goulburn

wished to take that opportunity of expressing his surprise at the introduction of this Bill, which had been read a second time already, the nature of which he did not ascertain until it was sent to him. It appeared to him to be one of the most extraordinary bills that he had ever seen laid upon the table of that House. "Without the slightest preamble, that Bill went on at once to say, that all personal tithes should be abolished. With-out any plan of compensation, without any inquiry into the effects of such a Bill, it declared that personal tithes should be abolished. Why were these tithes to be abolished without reference to any valuation, or provision of compensation for the loss of them? Was it because it was found difficult to assign any reason why they should be abolished? He had never heard of such a Bill before. There was no preamble whatever; and yet it seriously enacted that personal tithes should be abolished. To pass such a Bill as that would be a defective act of Legislation: and he felt that he should neglect his duty to his constituents, and to those whose interests he had always anxiously watched, if he did not strongly express his opinion against this extraordinary Bill.

Lord John Russell

was aware that the right hon. Gentleman took a great deal of interest in questions of this nature, but he believed that the right hon. Gentleman was not present in the House during a very long discussion which took place recently upon that question. The general sense of the House was, that personal tithes were very oppressive, that it was difficult to collect them, and that they ought not to be suffered to remain any longer. On the other hand, it had been stated that the clergy were not much interested in them. He had no objection to introduce a preamble to this effect "whereas it is expedient that personal tithes should be abolished," and so on.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that if the noble Lord would take the trouble to inquire, he would find that personal tithes formed the greater part of the property of many in- cumbents. To abolish these tithes without affording the slightest compensation, appeared to him to be a most extraordinary proceeding. Had he been present on the occasion alluded to, he should certainly have opposed the principle of the Bill.

The Attorney-General

said, he believed that the only personal tithe that would be abolished by the Bill, was tithe on labour. There could be no doubt that tithe on labour could be legally enforced, but to the honour of the clergy, there had been no case of their being exacted for very many years. With regard to the preamble, he believed that this was not the first Bill that had been introduced without a preamble, though such instances had but seldom occurred. He was anxious to see this Bill passed into a law, for the purpose of delivering the Church of England from a source of much inconvenience and odium.

Mr. Thomas Duncombe

believed that it was in consequence of a motion that he had brought forward that the House came to the determination that personal tithes should be abolished; and it was in consequence of that determination that the noble Lord had introduced the Bill in question. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) seemed to ask what reason there was for the abolition of this tithe? He would answer, the reason was, that the cause of humanity demanded it. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman in what parishes did personal tithes form the greater part of the property of the incumbents? On the evening he brought forward his motion, he stated to the House, that he could find only one case in which the tithe was demanded;—that was the case of a parish in Yorkshire, the clergyman of which endeavoured to obtain 4s. 4d. from a poor day-labourer, who, in default of payment, was committed to the House of Correction for three months. Was not that fact alone a sufficient reason for the abolition of personal tithes? He was sorry the Bill did not go further, and abolish the tithe on fish. A right rev. Prelate in another place had declared that these tithes ought not to be, and could not be collected—he alluded to the Bishop of Exeter. He believed that Easter offerings were originally substituted for personal tithes, on account of their offensive character.

The Bill then went through Committee, and was ordered to be reported. House resumed.

On the Order of the Day for a Committee on the County Elections Poll Bill being moved,