HC Deb 01 August 1844 vol 76 cc1658-66

On the Order of the Day being read, for the House to resolve itself into Committee on the Charitable Donations and Bequests (Ireland) Bill,

Sir James Graham

was anxious to explain two or three Amendments which it was his intention to propose during the progress of the measure through Committee. Considering the vast amount of Roman Catholic charities which would come under the control of the Board to be constituted under this Bill—and considering also that five of the ten Commissioners to be nominated by the Crown would be Roman Catholics—it had been felt expedient that a gentleman of the Roman Catholic religion should be appointed to act us joint secretary for the Roman Catholic members of the Board. It might be erroneously presumed, considering the large powers given to this Commission, that judicial powers, independently of the Supreme Courts, were conferred upon them; and in order to remove all doubts on this subject, he intended to move that a proviso be added to one of the Clauses, enacting that nothing contained in the Bill should be construed to limit or affect the jurisdiction of any Court of Law or Equity with reference to these Bequests. But these alterations were of less importance than one he intended to propose in Clause 13. The House would recollect that when this Bill was last under discussion, he stated that there was an obvious legal imperfection in this Clause, as it came down from the other House. As the Clause now stood it failed to carry out the announced intention of the Government. The Government had declared it to be their wish to give facilities for voluntary endowments, not only for dignitaries of the Church of Rome, but for the parochial priesthood of that Church; and not only for those now in office, but also for those who might be their successors. The Clause, as it now stood, gave effect to the former part of this intention, with respect to the clergy now officiating; but it did not give effect to the intention of the proposers of the Bill, with regard to the successors of the present dignitaries and parochial clergy of the Church of Rome. It would, therefore, be necessary to alter the phraseology of that Clause. The Government, in framing this Bill, had been most anxious to avoid using any phraseology which could be offensive on the one hand, or which might fail to be explicit on the other. Some comments had been made the other night as to the omissions in this Bill of the titles "Archbishop" and "Bishop," with reference to the Roman Catholic Clergy. He believed, and he still thought that the words "persons in Holy Orders in the said Church of any higher rank or order than priests," did include, in a manner most unobjectionable, the higher dignitaries, Archbishops and Bishops. If, however, any feeling of dissatisfaction was entertained on this subject by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, he was bound to say that looking back to the Statutes of this country from an early period, there had been a recognition of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Rome; and the Church of England, with reference to many of her most solemn rites, admitted the authority of the Archbishops and Bishops of that Church. He had demurred, and he still demurred to the right of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Rome claiming titles as affixed to certain localities and districts in Ireland; but hoping to conciliate the feelings of those who were deeply interested in this measure—and having no other desire than, as far as was consistent with the maintenance of sound principles, to tender that which might be acceptable to their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects—the Government were anxious to make such tender in the form and in the terms which might be most satisfactory. He would, therefore, propose the omission of these words in Clause 13, line 5:— In trust for any Priest in Holy Orders of the Church of Rome, or for building a residence for his use, so long as he shall have the pastoral superintendence of any district, or of any congregation of persons professing the; Roman Catholic religion, or in trust for any person of the said Church, of any higher rank or order. And he would propose to insert, in their stead, the words:— Or for any Archbishop or Bishop, or other person in Holy Orders of the Church of Rome, officiating in any district, or having pastoral superintendence of any congregation of persons professing the Roman Catholic religion; and for those who shall, from time to time, so officiate, or succeed to the said pastoral superintendence; or for building residences for such persons. The Government had gone the utmost length in their power, consistently with the principles they must maintain, in order to meet the wishes of the Roman Catholic, and having made these concessions he must add that it would be their duty to resist any further alterations.

On the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair,

Mr. G. Vernon

expressed his gratification, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) was prepared to make the concessions he had now announced. In his opinion, the Protestant Church of this country could have no objection to recognize the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, so far as their spiritual functions were concerned.

Lord J. Russell

said, when he read this Bill he considered that it was a very useful measure, intended to secure a very desirable object; though some words were introduced which he regretted, and there were some omissions which, in his opinion, rendered the Bill imperfect. At the same time he must say, that it did not appear to him that the words to which he alluded were introduced with any offensive intention. They seemed to him rather to be mistakes which had occurred in the drawing of the Bill; and he was glad that the right hon. Baronet intended to propose the alterations he had mentioned. With regard to the first alteration mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, he never conceived it could be the intention of the Bill that power should be given to secure an endowment to a single priest, so long as he held a particular charge, and that when he ceased to hold that charge it should not descend to his successors. The right hon. Baronet had, however, intimated his intention to propose the insertion of words which would secure such endowment to the successors of the person to whom it was originally granted. He could not understand why words should not be introduced into this Bill simply and plainly mentioning the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Rome, for they could not be ignorart that there were Archbishops and Bishops of that Church, who had always been acknowledged in their spiritual character. With respect to the question of giving Roman Catholic Bishops titles derived from their dioceses, he would not raise that point at the present moment, but there might, he conceived, be easily devised means of assigning them titular districts in Ireland which would neither interfere with nor offend other parties. He entirely coincided in the opinion expressed by the right hon. Baronet, that it would not have been wise to insert any such matter into the present Bill, which had been framed for certain purposes, and it was very wisely limited to those objects, namely, that of giving effect to Roman Catholic endowments, and for granting to the Archbishops, Bishops, and other persons connected with the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland a more perfect enjoyment of such property than they at present possessed. He trusted, after the observations that had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, and the spirit in which the proposed Amendments were offered to the House, that the measure would now be acquiesced in.

Mr. M. O'Ferrall

, as one of those who had objected to the Bill in its original state, begged to tender his acknowledgments for the concessions that had been made by the Government, which he accepted most cheerfully, and which he valued more on account of the spirit in which they were offered than on account of the alterations in the Bill itself—though they possessed some importance. It was, he trusted, an unfounded fear that any captiousness would be shown towards the measure after the speech of the right hon. Baronet; but at the same time he hoped the House would believe that in a matter so deeply interesting to the religious feelings of a people as the Bill was, it was not only excusable, but also highly necessary, for those who represented that people to call the attention of the Government and the country to those portions of it by which their feelings were wounded.

The O'Connor Don

had felt it his duty to vote against the second reading of the Bill, though he did so with great reluctance, being convinced the Government had brought it forward solely with a view to promote the interests and consult the feelings and wishes of the people of Ireland. He now entirely approved of it, and he accepted the alterations that had been proposed in the same conciliatory spirit in which the right hon. Baronet had offered them. There was still one objection, however, which he entertained, and which was insurmountable as far as it went, and that was, to the interference of laymen in matters which they were by the very first principles of the Roman Catholic Church prohibited from touching—namely, questions affecting the doctrine, discipline, and tenets of that Church. He most earnestly wished to hear it announced by the Government, that some members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Ireland would be nominated by Her Majesty to act as Commissioners, and introduced as such amongst the laymen who were to be selected from amongst the Roman Catholic body, as by this means the only remaining source of jealousy and disaffection towards the Bill would be removed.

Mr. P. Howard

had heard the remarks of the right hon. Baronet in proposing the Amendments to the Bill with great satisfaction. The concession that had been made was valuable in point of feeling, but to render it so in point of practice the Government ought to nominate on the Commission one or more of the Roman Catholic Archbishops or Bishops, by which means efficiency would be given to the whole measure. Or, if he might suggest an alteration in the Bill, he would propose that the words "other dignitaries" be introduced in the Clause relating to that subject, by which means Archdeacons, Deans, &c, might become members of the Board of Commissioners.

Sir R. Peel

observed, that it would be more in consonance with the feelings of the House and with the manner in which its acceptance of the proposed alterations in the Bill had already been signified, if it were to be left in the state in which those amendments would leave it, and if the Crown also were to be suffered to remain entirely unfettered as to the Commissioners who were to be appointed in the same manner. That was observed with respect to exclusively Protestant Commissions; and it, he conceived, might very reasonably be anticipated that if, in the operation of the Commission, it were found that the nomination of a Roman Catholic Church dignitary would tend to increase its efficiency or utility, the Crown would regard this necessity with favourable eyes, and not render it necessary for the Parliament to exhibit such distrust as to bind it down by itself to make such nomination. He hoped, therefore, the House would consent to accept the alterations as the Government had proposed in the measure without exacting concessions that ought hardly to be demanded. All he could say at present on the subject was, that the same spirit of conciliation and desire to consult the feelings and welfare of those concerned which had already been manifested by the Government would influence the nomination of the Commissioners, and he trusted this assurance would be deemed satisfactory.

Mr. Shaw

said, that objections to the Bill after the proposed Amendments had been made, might, in his opinion, have been looked for from a very opposite quarter to that in which they appeared likely to arise; he, however, accepted the measure in the spirit in which it was offered, and should make no remarks hostile to that spirit, or calculated to discompose the feeling of harmony which had been exhibited on the other side of the House. He thought that there was an objection which still remained to the measure, and he made that observation with distinct reference to what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet below him, as to the expediency and propriety of leaving the Crown unfettered in its power of appointing the Members of the Commission to act under the Bill. He objected on this ground to the second Clause of the Bill, by which five Roman Catholic and five Protestant Commissioners were to be preremptorily nominated as members. He considered that this enactment would fetter the operation of the Bill, and create difficulties by keeping up distinctions which, it was professed, ought to be abolished, and which might occasion some one person in the Commission to take a different religious view of questions coming under its consideration from that adopted by another. Practically also the compulsory nomination of five Roman Catholics might be found extremely inconvenient, if not impossible to carry into effect, for a case might arise in which the Government would not be able to find five Roman Catholic gentlemen who were qualified and willing to act on the Commission, and how, under such circumstances, would the enactment be complied with? It would be far more in accordance with the conciliatory spirit which had been manifested towards the measure if the Government were to be left entirely unfettered as well on one side as on the other, giving the Crown the power of nominating such Roman Catholics to act in the capacity of commissioners as might be found willing and able to perform those duties.

Mr. Sheil

said, that the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, were such as to do him credit. He would not break in upon the general feeling of harmony which prevailed on all sides with respect to this measure, but he lamented that he could not coincide in the suggestion thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw), seeing that Ireland was in such a state as to render it expedient for her to secure her Jury, if it were within her power to do so. With reference to the adoption of the titles of Archbishop and Bishop into the Act, it was a mistake to suppose there was no precedent for the acknowledgments of those dignities in the Roman Catholic Church in the Parliamentary Records. In recent estimates, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Quebec was distinctly provided for under that title, and if it were objected that Canada was a Roman Catholic country, then he would point to Newfoundland, which was a Protestant settlement, the Roman Catholic Bishop of which place was likewise named, for a small sum to be sure, in the estimates; so that in two instances precedents for the Parliamentary acknowledgment of the title existed. The Roman Catholics of Ireland hoped that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) would grant them a majority of ecclesiastics as their representatives at the Board of Commissioners. He had intimated that some ecclesiastics of that creed should form part of the Commission, but the Roman Catholics would greatly prefer a majority of them there. They had it in the case of Maynooth, and why not the present case? There existed on this subject a very strong feeling both amongst Roman Catholic laymen and the hierarchy of that Church in Ireland. He had received a letter from a Roman Catholic Archbishop on the subject, where in the writer declared that the 6th Clause of the Bill was an infringement on the tenets of his Church, such as no Roman Catholic layman would venture upon. It might be regretted that such was the constitution of his Church, but the fact could not be altered. To any fiscal interference the Roman Catholic hierarchy and priesthood could entertain no reasonable objection as far as laymen were concerned, but where doctrinal matters and questions affecting the discipline of their Church were to come under such supervision, the objections which they had to such proceedings were insuperable on both sides.

Mr. D. Browne

had been informed by his own diocesan, that the Bill did interfere with the doctrine and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church. As a member of that Church, he could not do otherwise than believe this statement, and consequently he must oppose the 6th Clause, whereby a power was granted to certain persons to declare who were the Archbishops, Bishops, Deans, Archdeacons, and Priests of the Irish Roman Catholic Church, a power to which no person but one had hitherto ever laid claim, and which that person would never consent to see exercised by any one but himself. He hoped, therefore, the Government would not force a measure upon Ireland which the people there not only disavowed as a boon, but positively regarded in the light of an injury.

Mr. Wyse

, for one, was of opinion that it was impossible for any civilized country to leave its charities and its charitable institutions without any control. It was, therefore, wise and a provident proceeding of the Government to adopt and to enforce some general form of proceeding under which the charities of the nation were administered. But there was likewise a species of charity distinct from, and totally unconnected with, that class to which he had referred, and which fell under the denomination of religious endowments, which consequently could not fall within the cognizance of the General Board of Charities established by the Government. He had no objection to the first portion of the Bill, but at the same time he carefully guarded himself against expressing any approval of parties individually put upon the Committee. He thought it would be advisable to make exceptions in favour of religious orders which were established solely for the promotion of Christian charity, and that they should have endowments.

House in Committee.

On the 6th Clause,

Mr. Sheil

moved as an Amendment, that of the five Commissioners being Roman Catholics, to whom questions of doctrine or discipline concerning that Church shall be referred, three shall be Archbishops or Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church. He thought this an important principle, and he wished to obtain for it a legislative sanction.

Sir R. Peel

was against fettering the discretion of the Crown. He assured the Committee that the subject should receive from Her Majesty's Government the fullest and the fairest consideration, but he thought that the decision and the selection on the subject should be left in the hands of the Crown, as a matter of grace and favour.

Mr. D. Browne

was determined to take the sense of the House on it.

Mr. M. O'Ferrall

said, that Her Majesty's Government had plainly intimated that three Bishops should be appointed, and he hoped that the Amendment would not be pressed.

Sir R. Peel

said, that whether they decided against the Government or not could be to them a matter of no importance; for if they had no confidence in the advisers of the Crown the insertion of such an Amendment could afford them no protection, seeing that Ministers might, if they should feel so disposed, appoint three Prelates the least acceptable to the great body of the Irish people.

The Committee divided on the Question that the words proposed be inserted:—Ayes 14; Noes 36. Majority 22.

List of the AYES.
Archbold, R. O'Connell, M. J.
Bellew, R. M. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Bernal, Captain Somers, J. P.
Blake, M. Williams, W.
Browne, hon. W. Wyse, T.
Dawson, hon. T. V.
Esmonde, Sir T. TELLERS
Howard, P. H. Sheil, rt hon. R. L.
McGeachy, F. A. Dillon, R.
List of the NOES.
Beresford, Major Corry, rt. hon. H.
Boldero, H. G. Courtenay, Lord
Borthwick, P. Cripps, W.
Bowles, Adm. Duncan, C.
Brotherton, J. Eliot, Lord
Clerk, Sir G. Escott, B.
Forman, T. S. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T. Polhill, F.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E. Pringle, A.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Rawdon, Col.
Greenhall, P. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Herbert, hon. S. Smith, rt. hn. T. B.C.
Hinde, J. H. Spooner, R.
Hope, hon. C. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Humphery, Ald. Thesiger, Sir F.
Jermyn, Earl Wawn, J. T.
Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.
Lincoln, Earl of TELLERS
Meynell, Capt. Young, J.
Mitchell, T. A. Gaskell, J. Milnes

Clauses to Clause 13 were agreed to, with verbal alterations.

In the 13th Clause, Persons or bodies may by Deed vest lands, &c. in the Commissioners, in trust for building any Chapel or place for religious worship, of persons professing the Roman Catholic religion, or in trust for any Archbishop, Bishop, or other person in Holy Orders, in the Church of Rome, &c and such estate, interest, or property, in such lands, &c. shall vest in and be holden by the said Commissioners, subject to the trusts of such Deed, without any writ or license other than this Act.

Colonel Rawdon

moved to insert the following words:— Provided always, that if any question shall arise as to who is the Roman Catholic priest, or other Roman Catholic clergyman entitled to the benefit of any such Grantor Bequest as aforesaid, the same shall be determined by a certificate or other evidence from the Roman Catholic Bishop who is the ecclesiastical superior of the person who may be so entitled.

The Committee divided on the question that these words be inserted:—Ayes 19; Noes 38: Majority 19.

List of the AYES.
Archbold, R. Mitchell, T. A.
Bellew, R. M. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Bernal, Capt. Plumridge, Capt.
Blake, M. Sheil, rt. hn. R. L.
Brotherton, J. Smith, rt. hn. R. V.
Browne, R. D. Somers, J. P.
Browne, hon. W. Stewart, P. M.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Wawn, J. T.
Duncan, G. TELLERS.
Esmonde, Sir T. Rawdon, Col.
Howard, P. H. O'Connell, M. J.
List of the NOES.
Allix, J. P. Broadley, H.
Beresford, Major Clayton, R. R.
Boldero, H. G. Clerk, Sir G.
Borthwick, P. Corry, rt. hon. H.
Bowles, Ad. Cripps, W.
Brisco, M. Eliot, Lord
Escott, B. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.
Farnham, E. B. Knight, H. G.
Forman, T. S. Lincoln, Earl of
Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Polhill, F.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E. Rumbold, C. E.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Smith, rt. hn. T. B.C.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Somerset, Lord G.
Greenall, P. Spooner, R.
Henley, J. W. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Herbert, hon. S. Thesiger, Sir F.
Hinde, J. H.
Hope, hon. C. TELLERS.
Jermyn, Earl Young, J.
Jones, Capt. Pringle, A.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 14, No Donation, Devise, or Bequest for pious or charitable uses, shall be valid to create or convey any estate in lands, tenements, or hereditaments, unless the Deed, Will, or Instrument be executed three calendar months at least before the death of the person executing the same.

Mr. D. Browne

moved, that it be omitted.

Lord Eliot

said, the effect of the Clause would be, to place the Roman Catholics upon a better footing than any other class of Her Majesty's subjects. It did not affect personal property, and was only a relaxation of the Statute of Mortmain.

Mr. Sheil

opposed the Clause. It seemed to be very absurd that a man could leave 10,000l. to a Roman Catholic priest a few minutes before he died, but could not leave five acres of land. There was no real distinction between leaving money and leaving land in trust.

Mr. T. B. C. Smith

(Attorney General for Ireland) defended the Clause. The distinction referred to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been recognized in this country for a lengthened period.

The Committee divided on the question that the Clause stand part of the Bill:—Ayes 48; Noes 9: Majority 39.

List of the AYES.
Allix, J. P. Duncan, G.
Beresford, Major Eliot, Lord
Blackburne, J. I. Farnham, E. B.
Boldero, H. G. Fellowes, E.
Borthwick, P. Forman, T. S.
Bowles, Adm. Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.
Brisco, M. Gaskell, J. Milnes
Broadley, H. Gladstone, rt, hn. W.E.
Brotherton, J. Gordon, hon. Capt.
Clayton, R. R. Goulburn, rt. hn. H.
Clerk, Sir G. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Corry, rt. hon. H. Hale, R. B.
Cripps, W. Henley, J. W.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Herbert, hon. S.
Hinde, J. H. Round, J.
Hope, hon. C. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Howard, P. H. Somerset, Lord G.
Hutt, W. Spooner, R.
Jermyn, Earl Stewart, P. M.
Jones, Capt. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E Thesiger, Sir F.
Knight, H. G. Wawn, J. T.
Lincoln, Earl of
Peel, rt. hn. Sir R. TELLERS
Polhill, F. Young, J.
Rawdon, Col. Pringle, A.
List of the NOES.
Archbold, R. Sheil, rt. hn. R. L.
Bellew, R. M. Somers, J. P.
Browne, hon. W. Wyse, T.
Esmonde, Sir T. TELLERS.
O'Connell, M. J. Blake, D.
O'Ferrall, R. M. Browne, D.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses to the 19th also agreed to.

House resumed. Committee to sit again.

House adjourned at a quarter past eleven o'clock.