HC Deb 07 July 1842 vol 64 cc1105-13
Mr. Sergeant Murphy

rose to move the resolution on this subject which he had placed on the paper. He merely wished to call the attention of the Government to a pressing and sore grievance, which was one, moreover, that he believed a vast majority of the Members of that House were wholly-unacquainted with. Some months since he had the honour of presenting a petition, signed by 13,000 persons, on the subject of this impost. It was signed by persons of all denominations, and it emanated, not from any sectarian notions, but it came before the House because the persons who signed it were persuaded they were appealing to be relieved from a heavy grievance, and one which called for legislative redress. But as, in his opinion, the House was not acquainted with the nature of this impost, it was necessary, in the first instance, briefly to state in what the grievance consisted, and he should preface his description of the origin of the tax by only one remark— that after tithes and Church-rates had been abolished in Ireland, it struck him as extraordinary that a payment equally onerous and unjust should be suffered to remain in existence. By an act passed in the year 1665, which was for the purpose of providing for the payment of ministers' money in corporate towns, it was provided (as stated in an extract of the statute embodied in a report of the commissioners) that the Lord-lieutenant and Chief Governor, with a certain number of the council, might assess the liberties and suburbs of Dublin, and other cities, to such an amount for the cure of souls out of each house as they might deem fit, provided that the assessment did not exceed ls. in the 1l. on the yearly value of each house. It then went on to state this should be the measure of the allotment for each house up to those of 60l. a year, and not exceeding that sum. Now on the bare statement of those provisions of the statute, he thought it must be obvious to every person, that the valuation which had been sanctioned by this act must press with a very unequal severity on many classes, and these the most indigent of the population. The first valuation was made shortly after the passing of this act, and from that time to the present no change had been made in the principle of the allotment. The corporate commissioners made an observation on this subject, which was well worthy the attention of the House, and which was to this effect—that the improvement which had been made in modern times rendered many of the houses in old parts of the cities comparatively valueless, and the consequence was that the greatest inequality prevailed in the imposition of this tax. Indeed it must be obvious that the fluctuations in the value of property since 1655 must render the impost, one of peculiar hardship; the more especially as the assessment being limited to houses up to 60l. a year, a house of twice that value was taxed in the same proportion as one only worth 10l. a year. When the period at which this law was originally introduced into Ireland was taken into account, it became plain that the circumstances of the time did not render it any peculiar hardship. It must be borne in mind that, according to the policy of those times, the corporations represented nothing but the predominant sect; and it was quite consistent with the number and influence of their members that they should set apart for the sustentation of their spiritual ministers such a sum as they deemed adequate to compensate their services. Had that principle been retained in its former integrity, he should be the last man to quarrel with it, because it was his opinion that the legislators of a country were quite justified in maintaining that the ministers of religion should be sustained by those who looked to them for spiritual consolation. But how completely had the affairs of Ireland been altered since that period! In the town which he represented, the inhabitants amounted to 110,000, and the Roman Catholics were to the Protestants as 5 or 6 to 1. And, according to the late census, the proportion throughout Ireland was as 8 to 1. Tithes, which were a charge and burden on the land, had been done away by legislative enactment; Church-rates, which had been long sustained as the peculiar favourites of the Church, had also at length been done away by legislative enactment within the last seven or eight years, and ministers' money ought to be treated in the same manner. Let no one who heard him suppose that in bringing forward this motion he was at all actuated by any spirit of hostility against the integrity and maintenance of the Protestant Church in Ireland. He had no such notion. He thought Protestants entitled to the same rights of conscience as he claimed for himself; and he believed it would do much to assuage the differences which unhappily sprung from religion in Ireland, and to amalgamate all classes, if they adopted his proposal to allow contributions to be made by each religious persuasion in the towns, according to the spiritual services which were rendered it. This was no novel doctrine. It had been promulgated in that House already; and though it might be said that in trenching on the revenues of the Church he was not acting in accordance with the spirit of that oath which he took on becoming a Member of that House, he was happy to say that when a similar objection was made in 1834, the noble Lord the present Secretary for the Colonies'—one whose devotion to the Establishment was unquestioned—one who separated himself from his own political connections by reason of their supposed hostility to that institution in its integrity—rebuked the taunt that hon. Members of the Roman Catholic persuasion violated their pledge when they voted for the abolition of Church-rates. The noble Lord stated that he supported the measure then proposed, not because it would injure the Protestant Church, but because it would extend that Church, by making religion more beneficial, and giving security to the Establishment. He had witnessed the heart-burnings to which this payment gave rise, and how it fomented political animosities. If, then, in 1834 they had abolished Church-rates, and in 1835 they had mitigated the burden of tithes, he left it to every dispassionate mind to say whether the system which enabled the minister of religion, through the agency of the proctor, to enter the humblest hovel, which was rated at 1s. in the pound, and, without any preliminary notice, except the mere fact of non-payment, to sell the wretched furniture of the occupant by public auction, ought not to be at once discontinued. He did not mean to infringe longer upon the time of the House. He had heard, and he admired the sentiment of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, that when any abuse was proved, he and the Government were bound to remove it. He had stated to them an admitted abuse; he had shown that two imposts on the same footing had been abolished, and when it was added that the burden fell with a different pressure on the rich and the poor, he thought he had established such a "proved abuse" as called loudly for abolition. Let them act on their own principles and adopt his resolution, and they would calm the dissensions which prevailed amongst the upper and lower orders, and make religion—what of all countries it was necessary it should be in Ireland—the union of peace and good will amongst men of all persuasions. [Mr. Shaw: What is the substitute for this tax?] The right hon. Gentleman might as well have asked for a substitute of Church-rates or tithes, when they were proposed to be abolished. The Government had avowed their desire to deal with "proved abuses." They had done so in the two instances he had stated, and the right hon. Gentleman's logical and perspi- cacious mind must be satisfied that his case was made out for the extinction of this, when he had proved its existence. There was the evil before them, and it was the duty of the Government, on its own showing, to apply a remedy. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving the following resolution:— That this House will, on Wednesday, the 13th day of this instant July, resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the act 17 and 18 Charles 2nd, c. 7, intituled, 'An act for provision of Ministers in Cities, Corporate Towns, and making the Church of St. Andrew's, in the Suburbs of the City of Dublin, presentative for ever,' with a view to the repeal of so much thereof as relates to the provision of ministers in cities and corporate towns in Ireland.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

said, that the act provided for the revision of this impost every seven years, and if it were unequal, that was an argument for a new valuation, but no ground for abolishing the means of support which the clergy enjoyed in the towns. His hon. and learned Friend seemed to contend that there was nothing analogous to this impost in England. Now that was not the fact, for the 2nd and 3rd Edward 6th provided for the payment of personal tithes in several towns in England, but excepted Canterbury and London, on the ground that in the latter a poundage rate (such as that enforced in Ireland) existed. This rate was exceedingly low, and the means of support which it afforded the clergy were as moderate as was consistent with their station.

Mr. Sheil

thanked his hon. and learned Friend for having brought forward the question, which was one that greatly interested the people of Ireland. Unless the Government should exhibit a disposition to accede to the wishes of the Irish, they might expect to have the Roman Catholic question revived, in all its force, in the course of next Session. He maintained that the property of the Church of England belonged to the State, and might, purposely, be subjected to such modifications as the Legislature might determine upon. The Legislature abolished Church-cess in Ireland, on the ground that it was an obnoxious tax so was Ministers' money, and ought, therefore, for the same reason, to be abolished. His hon. and learned Friend was asked to point out a substitute for the tax which he sought to get rid of. Now he thought that it would not be difficult to find an equivalent in the Irish church temporalities fund. If the motion should be lost now, he trusted that it would be renewed next Session.

Mr. Shaw

could not believe that the proposition before the House was brought forward seriously. He did not like the mode of paying Ministers' money, nor did the clergymen themselves approve of it. He believed that nothing would be more agreeable to them than to be paid in another manner. If an arrangement of that kind could be devised, he would cheerfully assist in carrying it into effect; but he never could consent to deprive a clergyman of his income without offering him any compensation.

Mr. M. J. O'Connell

said, that if the present proposition had been brought forward by the Government, it would have been very proper in them to provide a substitute for the tax which it was sought to abolish; but individual Members who complained of a grievance were not bound to take that course. They would leave to the Government the task of finding a substitute. If, however, he felt himself called upon to say whence a sum equivalent to that of Ministers' money might be derived, he would point to the sinecure bishoprics and sinecure livings in Ireland. It was a remarkable fact, that most of the clergymen of Dublin and Cork had other sources of income besides Ministers' money. He would give his hearty support to the motion, and he believed that Government could not follow any course more calculated to conduce to the peace of Ireland than by taking up this question.

Sir R. Inglis

said, that the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvon, that they might expect the Roman Catholic question to be revived in all its force next Session, coupled with the fact of a motion being now brought forward to deprive a portion of the clergy of Ireland of their incomes without giving them any compensation, was a proof of the perfect inutility of all the concessions which had been made to the Roman Catholics. The experience of the last twelve years ought to convince the House of the folly of continuing in the same course.

Sir W. Somerville

said, that the Government ought to do something with respect to this question. If the present state of things should continue, it would be hopeless to expect that amalgamation of parties and removal of religious bickerings which was so desirable. He believed that the Irish people's objection was not to the establishment, but to the payment for its support. If the Protestants would only pay their bishops, the Catholics would not care how many they had. He trusted that the present motion would be the precursor of many others on the subject.

Mr. Litton

said, that the Ministers' money was not a tax on occupiers, but on landlords, for when a lease of a house was granted, the amount of the rent was always measured by the amount of the local impositions to which the property was liable. He certainly thought it was desirable that the mode of levying this tax should be altered. He wished some arrangement might be made similar to that made with respect to tithes.

Mr. Callaghan

felt obliged to his hon. and learned Colleague for having brought this motion forward, even at this inconvenient period of the Session, where it only for the admissions which had been elicited from the other side. It was now generally admitted that the manner of levying this tax was an objectionable one, and that the only thing to be wished was to find a substitute. Many of his constituents shared in the opinion that the Church Establishment was a burden on the country, and that the sooner it was put an end to the better.

Lord Eliot

said, the grievance, so graphically described by hon. Gentlemen opposite, was now for the first time, brought before the House of Commons, He, holding the situation of Secretary for Ireland, had not received a single memorial on the subject. He agreed that it was desirable a less objectionable mode of levying the tax should be devised; and if it could be shown that in some other manner an adequate provision might be made for the clergy, he for one, should not be disposed to object to such an arrangement. He could, not, however, look upon the clergy of Ireland as an adequately remunerated body of men, and could not consent to see them deprived of any of their present sources of income, unless a proper substitute was proposed. The hon. and learned Gentleman had- not moved for a committee of inquiry, but demanded at once a committee to repeal this source of income, without attempting to suggest a substitute. Under these circumstances, he thought the House was called on to reject this motion by a very large majority.

Mr. Serjeant Murphy

said, that though the question of this grievance had never been mooted in Parliament since 1665, yet every man connected with the Irish government who had spoken on this question, had admitted, that it was a grievance which the whole clergy wished to see modified. Was not that admission in itself a justification of his motion? An admitted grievance was now shown to exist, and it was not his business but the business of Government, to provide a remedy. Surely, it would not be said, that the Church was not rich enough for its own maintenance?

The House divided:—Ayes 56; Noes 85: Majority 29.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Hawes, B.
Aldam, W. Hume, J.
Bannerman, A. Macnamara, Major
Barnard, E. G. Marsland, H.
Bowring, Dr. Mitchell, T. A.
Brodie, W. B. Muntz, G. F.
Brotherton, J. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Browne, hon. W. O'Brien, J.
Busfeild, W. O'Connell, M. J.
Butler, hon. Col. O'Connell, J.
Cave, hon. R. O. Phillpotts, J.
Cavendish, hn. C.C. Rice, E. R.
Chapman, B. Roche, E. B.
Cobden, R. Scholefield, J.
Collins, W. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Corbally, M. E. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Crawford, W. S. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Dennistoun, J. Tancred, H. W.
Divett, E. Thornely, T.
Duncan, G. Wall, C. B.
Dundas, Adm. Wallace, R.
Ellis, W. Ward, H. G.
Elphinstone, H. Wawn, J. T.
Esmonde, Sir T. Williams, W.
Ewart, W. Wood, B.
Fielden, J. Yorke, H. R.
Gibson, T. M.
Gore, hon. R. Murphy, F. S.
Harris, J. Q. Callaghan, D.
List of the NOES.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Douglas, Sir C. E.
Arkwright, G. Duffield, T
Baring, hon. W. B. Eastnor, Visct.
Bateson, R. Eliot, Lord
Blackburne, J. I. Escott, B.
Boldero, H. G. Fitzroy, hon. H.
Bruce, Lord E. Flower, Sir J.
Campbell, A. Ffolliott, J.
Chetwode, Sir J. Forbes, W.
Clerk, Sir G. Fuller, A. E.
Corry, rt. hon. H. Gore, M.
Courtenay, Lord Gore, W. O.
Cripps, W. Goring, C.
Damer, hon. Col. Goulborn, rt hon. H
Denison, E. B. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Dickinson, F. H. Greene, T.
Grimston, Visct. Nicholl, right hon. J.
Grogan, E. Norreys, Lord
Halford, H. Northland, Visct.
Hamilton, W. J. O'Brien, A. S.
Hamilton, Lord C. Palmer, G.
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H. Peel, right hon. Sir R.
Hardy, J. Peel, J.
Henley, J. W. Pigot, Sir R.
Herbert, hon. S. Pringle, A.
Hervey, Lord A. Rushbrooke, Col.
Hope, hon. C. Scarlett, hon. R. C.
Hussey, T. Scott, hon. F.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Shaw, right hon. F.
Jackson, J. D. Sheppard, T.
Jermyn, Earl Sibthorp, Col.
Jones, Capt. Smyth, Sir H.
Knightley, Sir C. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Lawson, A. Trench, Sir F.
Lefroy, A. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Litton, E. Vere, Sir C. B.
Lygon, hon. Gen. Verner, Col.
Mackenzie, T. Vesey, hon. T.
Mackenzie, W. F. Vivian, J. E.
Mc Geachy, F. A. Wodehouse, E.
Marsham, Visct. Young, J.
Masterman, J. TELLERS.
Meynell, Capt. Fremantle, Sir T.
Mundy, E. M. Baring, H.