HC Deb 30 November 1852 vol 123 cc782-804

rose to submit to the House the Motion which stood opposite his name in the notice paper. Having on three former occasions in the last Parliament submitted a similar Motion, it was not his intention to trespass at any great length on the indulgence of the House. But as he had the honour of addressing many hon. Members who had entered Parliament for the first time, and who knew but little of the subject under discussion, he felt it was due to them, and to the cause of which he was the humble advocate, as shortly and as succinctly as he was able, to place before the House the leading features of the question at issue. And, first, he would premise that he had no intention of interfering with the Church Establishment—that he was not coming forward in opposition to the wishes or the interests of the Protestant ministers who receive the tax called Ministers' Money— on the contrary, as he would show, that his Motion had their approval and concurrence, and that he was proposing nothing at variance with the objects, the purposes, or the preamble of the Church Temporalities Act. This vexatious, and he would call it odious, impost, amounted to the very paltry sum of 15,000l. a year levied off the occupiers of houses in eight corporate towns in Ireland for the support and maintenance—to use the language of the Act of Parliament—of the Protestants in these towns. These towns were Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Kilkenny, Drogheda, Clonmell, and Kinsale. Now it was a curious circumstance that these towns may be fairly called Roman Catholic towns, the Roman Catholic population in them being in the ratio of from 6 to I, to 4 to I. The important towns of Ulster where the Protestant population preponderates—Belfast, Londonderry, Armagh, Enniskillen, and Carrickfergus, are exempt from this impost. But it is not only that these Roman Catholic towns are alone subject to this tax; it so happens that in these towns it is most unjustly and disproportionately levied from the poor Roman Catholic inhabitants. To explain this to the House it is necessary to state that the valuation for Ministers' Money is altogether distinct and different from the poor-law valuation. In the first place, no house can he valued at more than 60?. for Ministers' Money, though its actual valuation under the poor-law may be 100l. or 200l. Now the House will readily perceive that as such houses are occupied by the wealthier inhabitants, who are generally Protestants, there is, by this provision of the law an unjust favouritism shown them. But that is not all. The valuations for Ministers' Money in the old parts of these corporate towns are of a very remote date—in some cases over one hundred years—as the law is that there can be no valuation of a house while a stone of the original tenement stands—even though it might be converted into cellars, warehouses, or counting houses, which are not subject to the tax. Now, at the time when this. original valuation took place, the houses in these quarters were occupied by the wealthy inhabitants, and were three or four times more valuable than they are now in their present state of dilapidation and deterioration, and consequently these houses are subject to three times the tax they would be if there were a new valuation. Now these houses are almost exclusively occupied by poor Roman Catholics. There is an admirable illustration of these two statements of what the law is, to be found in page 21 of the Minutes of Evidence before the Select Committee on Ministers' Money, where in a schedule furnished by one of the witnesses from the city of Cork, it is shown that while one great establishment valued under the poor-law at 2,000l. pays but the maximum of 3l. Irish, another person residing in a house in the old quarter of the city, valued now under the poor-law at 26l. pays also the maximum rate—his house being formerly valued at the full, value of 60l. There is another strong illustration of this inequality in the city of Cork. In the parish of St. Mary Shandon, principally inhabited by poor Roman Catholics, the Ministers' Money in 1846 came to 300?., and in the parish of the Holy Trinity, inhabited by a wealthy and principally Protestant population, the tax was then stated at 840l., while the present valuation of the one does not exceed 6,000l. and that of the other is over 30,000l. But this is not the whole of the injustice. These poor people are subject to vexatious distraints of their miserable furniture, if they are not prepared with the tax for the support of a minister of a religion with which they had no communion—for the support of a minister, be it remembered, who believes it to be his duty to revile and calumniate from the pulpit the religion of the people who thus support him. He would, harrow up the feelings of hon. Members were he to detail the miseries which the collectors of this tax have inflicted on the poor Roman Catholic occupiers of these houses. But his object was not to irritate; he would therefore forbear. To do the Protestant ministers who receive this impost justice, they are all anxious to have it abolished. This was the wish of several Protestant clergymen who were examined before the Select Committee, Dr. West of Dublin, the Rev. Mr. Elms of Limerick. It was the opinion also of Dr. Higgin, then Dean of Limerick, and he had himself communications from the present Dean, Dr. Kirwan, one of the most accomplished and exemplary dignitaries of the Established Church. And if he recollected rightly, there was one clergyman examined before the Select Committee who stated that he ceased to collect the tax at all, it was so truly odious to the people and to his own feelings. But it is said that all this injustice—this inequality may be got rid of by transferring the tax from the occupiers to the landlords—and by valuing all according to the poor-law valuation. Now in reply to this, he would say that this would not get rid of the odious nature of the tax—of the rancorous religious feeling which it engenders. It is in evidence before the Select Committee that the landlords of house property in Dublin and in other towns are principally Roman Catholics, and therefore this transference would not, like the tithe rent-charge, be placing the payment on Protestant landlords. Mr. Crean, a most intelligent witness before the Committee, and Dr. Higgin, Protestant Bishop of Limerick, strongly corroborated this view. He felt satisfied that if the grievous nature of this tax was in 1833 submitted to the present Earl of Derby, then Mr. Stanley, when he introduced to the consideration of parliament his Church Temporalities Bill, that noble Lord would have included it in his Bill, for the arguments he used against Church Cess applied with treble force to Ministers' Money; in fact, the arguments he used raised a strong presumption that he did intend to include this assessment in the provisions of the 73rd section of the Church Temporalities Act. This clause is very important in reference to the question now under consideration. It runs thus:— And be it enacted, that all parishes and places where, by virtue of any law, statute, or custom, provision may heretofore have been made by vestry or assessment, for the maintenance of any curate, lecturer, clerk, or other minister, or assistant, in the celebration of divine service, such provision by vestry or other assessment shall, from and after the passing of this Act, wholly cease and determine, and it shall and may be lawful for said Commissioners under said Act, by and out of the proceeds of said annual tax, and other funds aforesaid, by this Act vested in them, to provide for all such purposes. Now, if it be remembered that the words "Protestant minister" are used in the Act of Parliament as designating the person who was to receive Ministers' Money, it was not wonderful that the unlearned should imagine that this clause comprehended this obnoxious tax, and undoubtedly if the word "minister" had preceded the word curate in the clause, the enactment would have been complete. Now, though he had been hitherto unsuccessful in bringing this question before Parliament, he felt somewhat confident of success now for three distinct reasons. He was confident, in the first place, because of the recommendation of the Select Committee, made after a most anxious inquiry, and made in conformity to the views he had always entertained. This recommendation is embraced in the following passage of the report:— In this state of things, your Committee think it incumbent upon them to state that an augmentation of the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners may be rendered available as a substitute for Ministers' Money, and recommend that, with that view, an amendment of the Church Temporalities Act may be made. Your Committee are aware that the adoption of this measure will involve the interposition of a new trust, and the postponement or relinquishment of some of the ulterior objects contemplated by the Church Temporalities Act; but any objection founded on the displacement of the original objects of the Church Temporalities Act will be more than countervailed by the great advantages which, in a social, moral, and religious view, will arise from the removal of an obstacle to those feelings of amity and good will, which it will be essentially conducive to the general interest of the country to encourage between the working Protestant Clergy and the great body of the community, amongst whom, in the cities and towns of Ireland, their duties are usefully and honourably performed. Now, he did not go to the extent of the report. He did not require the Commissioners to "postpone" or "relinquish" the ulterior objects contemplated by the Church Temporalities Act. He was in a position to show that the amount of Ministers' Money may be included in the permanent expenditure of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, without requiring them to lessen their present expenditure for Church purposes. This he would come to by-and-by. He was confident, in the second place, of success, because of the solemn pledges given in the face of Parliament to him, by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) when Prime Minister of England— and to Mr. Reynolds last year by the Secretary of State (Mr. Walpole), that they would bring in a measure to abolish this tax in conformity with the recommendation of the Committee. Now he could assure the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman, that the result in Ireland of these pledges was, that the clergy found extreme difficulty in collecting their incomes, and he was informed that in Kilkenny the people absolutely refused to pay at all. This reminded him of the celebrated expression used on one important occasion by the present Earl of Derby. He announced in his speech in Parliament "the extinction of tithes," and the consequence of that declaration was, no tithes could be afterwards collected, and the massacre at Gurtroe was the consequence. Now, he assured the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman that their declarations had produced in the minds of the people a very similar feeling, and it was dangerous and unwise to disappoint them. Lastly, and above all, he felt confident of success, because of the very great increase in the revenues of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners since the year 1848, when the Select Committee made the report they did—and which removes all difficulty and takes away all excuse from the Government or the House. This brought him to the consideration of the most important branch of the subject, namely, the question of a substitute. The three great sources of permanent revenue in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are—the see estates, suspended dignities and benefices, and the tax on bishoprics and benefices. Now, the income derived from these three sources in 1847 and 1852, are as follows:—

See Estates £32,638 £50,259
Suspended Dignities and Benefices 11,531 15,749
Tax on Benefices and Bishoprics 7,541 11,785
Total £51,710 £77,793
being an increase of 26,000l., and the entire permanent revenue was estimated by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to be 71,574. The actual receipts up to August, 1852, were 90,677l., or 19,000l. surplus; and this was likely to be largely increased. On the other hand, the expenditure had decreased from 67,677l. in 1847, to 54,214l. in 1852. And this was to be expected, because of course year after year the expenditure for rebuilding and for repairs must of necessity diminish. But it may be asked, what became of the money? The answer is simple—over 28,000l. last year was invested in the funds, and 10,000l. paid for annual instalment to Government for the loan of 100,000l. sterling at the commencement of their Act. He had then fully demonstrated that there now existed ample funds to induce the House to assent to the recommendation of the Select Committee. But he would not rest there. He was in a position to show that, if his proposition was adopted, the revenues of the Commissioners would be Vastly increased from a source which now yields but a very trifling comparative amount. Under the provisions of the Church Temporalities Act, the tenants of bishops' leases being a tenure of twenty-one years—are enabled, if they agree to the terms now imposed under that Act—to convert by purchase their ten-tire into perpetuities, and the amount of this purchase-money goes into the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Now the entire value of these perpetuities was valued by Mr. Finlayson, the great calculator, at 1,200,080l.—of this sum nearly 700,000l. has not yet come into the hands of the Commissioners. Now it is evidently the interest of the Commissioners to induce the tenants of see estates to purchase these perpetuities, and their refusing to do so is of service to no person. Supposing, for instance, that the tenants under the Archbishop of Dublin declined to convert their leases into perpetuities. In that case the Commissioners would derive no benefit from the Archbishop's estates; but if these perpetuities were purchased, the whole amount of the purchase-money would come into the coffers of the Commissioners without diminishing one penny the Archbishop's income, or taking anything from the tenant without giving him a full equivalent. Now, it appears, that under the advice of an Attorney General for Ireland, the mode of computing the value of these perpetuities is altered so seriously to the disadvantage of the tenants that the annual receipts from perpetuities have diminished from 30,000l. and 40,000l. down to 3,820l. sterling, received in 1851, and 3,800l received in 1852. In former years the purchase-money was ascertained by taking what was called the diocesan value, and calculating that at twenty years' purchase, and from this amount deducting the present value of the tenant's interest, and then allowing 4 per cent bonus. At present It is the real bonâ fide market value which a solvent tenant would pay for it from year to year, which is estimated at twenty years' purchase. This market value is considerably higher than the diocesan value. Now, when it is borne in mind that fifteen years' purchase is the highest rate given in the Encumbered Estates Court, for property subject to a high head rent, it will be at once seen how impossible it is to expect the tenants will make these purchases without much greater encouragement. He would propose, then, without altering the present mode of Calculation, to allow a bonus of 10 per cent instead of 4. This would bring the rate of purchase down to seventeen years, which, considering the heavy head rent reserved, was quite enough for the perpetuity. If this were done, he was quite confident the funds of the Commissioners Would enormously increase. Again, at the Commencement of their Act, the Commissioners were allowed to Wake income of the annual receipts of the perpetuity purchase-money; and it was only in 1844 that Lord Heytesbury directed them to fund these receipts. Now, seeing what a large and almost exhaustless fund was this perpetuity purchase-money, he proposed until the permanent revenue of the Commissioners further increased, to allow the Commissioners, if they thought necessary, to appropriate a part of the receipts of the perpetuity money to be the substitute for Ministers' Money. Again, it appears that the tenants of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are not bound to pay their renewal fines every year, and they need not renew until the very last year of their tenancy, and then the Commissioners cannot refuse renewing for them on receiving the renewal fine. This new construction of the law diminishes very considerably the income of the Commissioners. To remedy this, an Amendment of the Church Temporalities Act was proposed by the Commissioners. This Amendment, which is printed in the Appendix of the Report, he proposed to embody in his Bill, and thus in another important way increase the income of the Commissioners. Again, the under-tenants of bishops' lands holding under toties quoties leases were allowed to purchase the perpetuity of their holdings. But there was such difficulty in ascertaining the value of their interests that no purchases could be effected. To enable this to be effectually done, the Commissioners also drew up a set of clauses, which are also printed in the Appendix. These clauses, if they became law, would again very considerably increase their revenue, and, therefore, he proposed to introduce them in his Bill, if he were allowed to bring it in. Lastly, he proposed that the Government should relinquish any further claim on the funds of the Commissioners for the outstanding debt. Of the 100,000l. which was lent to them at the commencement of the Commission, 20,000l. principal is still due, though the principal and interest already paid come to 120,000l. This money was borrowed to meet the demands for Church purposes at a time when no revenue existed, the Legislature having abandoned all claims for the arrears due of Church cess. Having given up these arrears, the money lent to replace them might reasonably be charged on the Consolidated Fund; and certainly it would not now be too much to expect that the balance due should be wiped off, if it tended to the final settlement of this vexed question. One million sterling was paid the clergy in lieu of the arrears due to them of tithes. 20,000l. would not, therefore, be a great sacrifice for a great nation to make towards the tranquillity and contentment of even a small portion of the Catholic people of Ireland. He had placed before the House the proposition which he made for the abolition of Ministers' Money. He assured the House that he was actuated by no sectarian or party feeling in making this Motion. He did so with the sanction and concurrence of many respected clergy of the Established Church. Its success would give great satisfaction in Ireland, He entreated the House to grant the prayers of the petitioners for relief in the matter, and it would tend much to secure the confidence and gratitude of the Irish people.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question put— That this House will, upon Thursday next, resolve itself into a Committee, to take into consideration the Law relating to the Rate or Tax called Ministers' Money, in Ireland, with the view to repeal so much thereof as relates to the said Rate or Tax; and further to take into consideration the Act 3 and 4 Will. 4, c. 37, called the 'Church Temporalities Act,' for the purpose of amending the same, so as to provide thereby a substitute out of the Revenues of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as a provision for the Protestant Ministers in certain corporate towns in Ireland, in lieu of the annual sums now received by them under and by virtue of the Act 17 and 18 Charles 2, c. 7.


said, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the city of Cork (Mr. Pagan) had brought forward his Motion in a spirit of great moderation and good temper, and that he had done everything which he could to avert a religious discussion. It would be his endeavour to follow the excellent example which the hon. Member had set, while explaining the views which he (Mr. Walpole) took upon this subject, and the course which the Government intended to pursue. He believed that there were inconveniences attending this impost, and objections to it which ought to be removed. The objections pointed out by the hon. Gentleman as to the mode of valuation were very considerable, and he believed that some alleviation of the hardships they produced was expedient and necessary. The House was probably aware that a house rented at 60l. a year was valued at 60l., although it might he worth treble that money, and that in many parts of Ireland the same assessment remained in force, although the houses had fallen into decay. But there was another objection stronger than these, and that was that the clergymen themselves objected to receive their money from their poorer Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. Perhaps the House would permit him to draw attention to the Report upon the subject drawn up by that able and eloquent statesman whom they had lost, Richard Lalor Sheil. After stating several objections, the Report goes on to say— But the paramount objection to ministers' money is of a political and religious kind. The direct payment of an ecclesiastical tax from Roman Catholic occupiers to Protestant incumbents, as a remuneration for services in which the former do not partitipate, is as obnoxious as church cess, and since its abolition, and the commutation of tithes, is the only remaining impost which is immediately levied upon the Roman Catholic occupier, who is not also owner of the premises in respect of which the charge is made. This tax is rendered more obnoxious by the course pursued in reference to other ecclesiastical demands, and is regarded as the remnant of a system of which the continuance has been practically condemned. It is not an exaggeration to say that popular odium attaches to this tax, nor is it to those by whom it is paid that this antipathy is confined. This source of livelihood is an object of aversion to the clergy, by whom it is most painfully collected from the reluctant and the poor. Several clergymen have been examined in the course of this inquiry, all of whom concur in the expression of a strong desire on their own part, and on the part of the clergy, that some substitute for ministers' money may be provided. From a feeling of compassion, which does them great honour, and from an anxiety to avoid a collision with those towards whom they are placed in the relation of pecuniary creditors, and not of religious pastors, the Protestant incumbents have made large sacrifices of their incomes. Evidence was given that the Rev. Mr. Roe, formerly a rector in the city of Kilkenny, had for nine years relinquished a claim from which his principal support was derived. It is obvious that some measure should be adopted to rescue the clergy, by whom important duties are performed in the towns already mentioned, from the deprivations to which they are exposed. Ministers' money operates as a tax upon the lenity of those who have hardly any other income for their maintenance. Strongly impressed with the conviction that a mode of payment attended with so much hardship to the clergy themselves should be discontinued, our attention has been directed to various expedients which have been presented in lieu of this tax. It has been suggested that a commutation of ministers' money, grounded on the same principle as the commutation of tithes, should be adopted; but the number of Roman Catholic proprietors of houses is so great, and after the remedy by distress had been abolished, the difficulty that must attend the collection of the commuted tax, and the litigation in which the clergy Would, in all likelihood, be involved in suing for small sums, of which the payment would be resisted from the motives which are now in operation, induce the belief that this project ought not to be entertained. Neither do the Committee conceive that the mischief for which it is essential to find a cure would be alleviated by any process of redemption which could be devised. If voluntary it would be inoperative; and if compulson was to be resorted to, an aggravation of evil would ensue. A charge upon the Consolidated Fund would be repudiated by the people of England. Convinced that by none of these means a satisfac-factory abolition of this tax could be brought about, your Committee directed their attention to the fund administered through the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, by the application of which the purposes formerly effected by church cess have been so usefully accomplished. He would not object to a Committee of the House to take into consideration the subject, although he should have felt it his duty to object to an abstract Resolution which had for its object the abolition of the tax. For the House should recollect it was not an impost upon persons, but upon property; and the House could not admit that property was to be relieved from the burdens of an impost, merely because there was an inconvenience attending its collection. If the House abolished the tax simpliciter, they would leave the clergymen in those towns in which the tax at present was levied totally without any means of discharging their duties. Upon this point the evidence of the Rev. Mr. O'Sullivan was conclusive. He said that the Protestant clergymen were generally opposed to Ministers' Money, and he thought that they would prefer receiving their stipends in any other mode. He would quote from the Report the answers to Questions 1863 to 1869:— Have you had an opportunity of forming an opinion regarding the effect of ministers' money in Cork?—Certainly; as an officiating clergyman among the people, it necessarily has come under my notice. You consider the tax to be very obnoxious?—Particularly so. Have you had an opportunity of speaking to members of the Established Church, as well as to members of your own persuasion on the subject?—To a great many, lay and clergy. Are the Protestants, generally speaking, opposed to ministers' money?—The Protestants of Cork, principally; I think they prefer any other mode of payment for the clergy. Does the collection of ministers' money lead to discord and rancorous feeling as between the clergy and the inhabitants of Cork?—I would hardly call it a rancorous feeling; there is a feeling of dissatisfaction, and a feeling that it is an injustice; but except in cases here and there, where collectors may have been oppressive, there is no feeling of rancour. The inhabitants of Cork, I presume, would think that the clergy of the Established Church, who have duties to perform, should not be deprived of their livelihood?—On the contrary, I think that the general impression among the respectable classes of Roman Catholics in Cork, and indeed generally, is, that any arrangement which would take from the present incumbents their full amount of subsistence, becoming their rank as clergymen and gentlemen, would be unjust. And you say that it is the wish of the Roman Catholic inhabitants that the clergy of the Established Church in Cork should be paid fully for the duties they perform?—No doubt; and as I know that my examination must be a short one, I hope I do not intrude on the Committee in saying that from experience for the last several years, as secretary to the relief committee of Cork, there has been such a cordial feeling between the clergy of both Churches, they have acted so well and so zealously together; that I do believe that if this cause of irritation were removed in cities a very beneficial change would be produced upon the face and surface of society. When the Church Temporalities Act was passed, a clause was brought in expressly to keep alive Ministers' Money. The hon. Gentleman said that the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commission were now sufficient to justify the appropriation of a portion of them, to get rid of an impost which was a cause of disagreement between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman should first prove that those funds were sufficient; because by the Church Temporalities Act trusts were imposed upon those funds which must be discharged—1st, to provide what was necessary for the celebration of service in the church; 2nd, for the payment of sextons and clerks; 3rd, for the repair of the churches; 4th, for the maintenance of the churchyards; 5th, for building new churches; and, 6th, for augmenting the smaller livings. It was clear that all the preceding trusts down to the last must be satisfied before funds could be appropriated to the object proposed. But he was told, in point of fact, that the funds in the hands of the Commissioners were not sufficient for any such purpose, and he should object that those funds should be taken away from the great purposes for which they were placed in their hands until those purposes were satisfied. The House should not altogether forget that a great portion of those funds came, in fact, from a rate or charge now placed by virtue of that Act upon the benefices of all clergymen in the Church of Ireland, that charge varying from 2½ per cent to 15 per cent per annum upon the value of the benefices. That portion of the fund, therefore, was derived from the clergy themselves, and to do away with this impost, and to place it in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, would amount to first depriving the clergy of a great portion of their incomes, and taxing them afterwards. He assured the hon. Gentleman that he had taken great pains to settle this question. He had had much conversation with the Lord Lieutenant, with the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, and with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, upon the subject. The result of all those communications was, that he thought the matter could be settled, and the last conversation which he had had with the Lord Lieutenant upon the subject, when in England the other day, was in fact arranging the greater portion of the measure which he thought it would be the duty of the Government to bring forward after the recess. There were details in the measure, however, which required information before he could finally give his assent to it. That was the state of the case as far as the Government was concerned. Under those circumstances, thinking that something ought to be done with reference to the question, but that it should be done with great deliberation, he should certainly not attempt to negative the Motion of the hon. Gentleman; and if he would accept what he (Mr. Walpole) now proposed —namely, that by way of an Amendment he should move the previous question, he would undertake after the recess to bring the matter forward.


said, it was quite apparent that this was a subject which was not mixed up with any spirit of sectarianism, but was one with reference to which those who differed in religion might agree in point of charity, and which it was as essential for Protestants as for Catholics should be speedily settled. But he asked what further pledge had they now for its settlement than they had had from a series of Governments? It was now some eleven years since he had first presented this question to the consideration of the House, and he was then met by the Government with words as conciliatory in spirit as those which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had just made use of. The answer had always been that they concurred in the propriety of abolishing this impost, and that they believed it to be a vexatious one, engendering heartburnings; but, while they made specious promises from time to time, nothing had been done. In his opinion they ought to have a more definite promise, and they ought to be informed as to the nature of the measure proposed to be introduced. Another very great objection to this impost was the mode in which it was levied. Houses which formerly let at high rents, were now occupied by poor families, at 2s. or 3s. a week. The rating was still kept up to the maximum; and it often happened the last remnant of household goods was torn from these wretched people to satisfy this unjust demand, whilst many rich Protestants, who were more in arrear, were never distrained upon at all. If the right hon. Gentleman's objection to the proposition were founded merely on the fact that this was a charge imposed upon property, and not upon persons, let him look at the Report of the Select Committee upon the Edinburgh Annuity Tax, which was a precisely analogous case, and he would there see it recommended that the funds should be taken from the Church, and remitted from the property of Edinburgh. If that were a wise proposition with regard to a rich city like Edinburgh, surely in justice it should be applied to Ireland, where many houses which had once been valuable belonged to most impoverished owners, upon whom this tax pressed with peculiar severity. He pressed it upon his hon. Friend (Mr. Fagan), that he should not he contented with this sort of yea-and-nay promise on the part of the Government, and that he should rest satisfied with nothing short of a declaration that the Law Officers of the Crown had prepared a Bill, or were about to draw one; that such a Bill should be laid upon the table after the recess; and that it should sweep away the anomaly of an impoverished Roman Catholic population paying for a ministration which they did not receive. They had abolished Tithes and Cess, and, if they did not adopt this principle, his belief was that it would prove to be but the narrow end of the wedge, which, as the refusal in the East Redford case had occasioned the Reform Bill, might have the effect of materially interferring with the entire establishment of the Church in Ireland.


said, when his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department stated last Session, that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take this question into consideration, that was no idle promise for the purpose of postponing it, but with the bonâ fide object of having it considered. He might say that since that time Her Majesty's Government had very fully considered the question, and he had himself given great attention to it; indeed, if his time had not been so much occupied, he should have been prepared with a Bill on the subject. During the time the late Government was in office, though he had no wish to thrust himself forward, he had been always willing to give his assistance to any measures for the good of Ireland. With regard to the late Government, also, he believed that their honest desire was to have settled this question; but he knew that the matter which stood in their way was, that on examining the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, it was found that this could not be placed upon those funds without postponing or displacing trusts which he was confident, when they were considered, the House would not consent to see postponed or displaced for the purposes connected with this particular measure. It was then to be considered, in the failure on any substitution of the mode of raising the amount, whether the inconveniences of the present system might not be met. With regard to the rating of houses which had fallen in value, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had just sat down had alluded, he freely admitted that it was most desirable to exempt houses of small value entirely from this charge. But while he concurred in that view, he did not think it fair or equitable to seek to put this tax upon the poor clergy, many of whom were in humble circumstances, for there were many beneficed clergymen in Ireland whose average income did not amount to much more than from 120l. to 170l. a year. It was important to consider that in its origin this impost was a charge on property, and not on persons, and that at the time when the Act was passed, in the reign of Charles II., the inhabitants of these towns were mostly Protestants. Circumstances had changed, and he thought it was desirable the humble population should be to a certain extent exempted. As to the amount when exemption should commence, that was a matter of detail, but the great object was to make the whole valuation equitable. In conclusion, he might say, he would pledge himself to bring in a Bill on the subject, to endeavour to settle the question on equitable principles, and to do justice among all classes.


said, that ever since he had been a Member of that House, Ministers' Money had been a subject of annual discontent and discussion, and he could not understand how any Government should not see it to be their interest to have the question settled as speedily as possible, especially when the Church Establishment was possessed of such ample funds, and when the sum in dispute amounted only to some 15,000l. a year. There was also the Edinburgh Annuity Tax, which stood in the same category, and which involved the sum of 17,000l. a year; and this, too, was a grievance which the Government should endeavour to remove. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had stated that he would, after the recess, bring in a Bill ON-the subject of Ministers' Money; but he had not told them what was likely to be nature of the measure. Would it remove the stigma which the present system east upon the Roman Catholic in forcing him, while professing one religion, to pay for another? For that was the grievance which ought to be remedied. And how could they remedy it more advantageously than—if there were funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, as his hon. Friend (Mr. Fagan) said there were— by applying those funds to the payment of Ministers' Money, even if the Church should be called upon to make a small sacrifice thereby?—for surely the interests of religion and the peace of Ireland were of much more importance than 15,000l. a year. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would endeavour, without delay, to settle this vexed question of Ministers' Money in Ireland, as well as that of the Annuity Tax in Scotland, for he believed there were ample funds for both within the respective Churches of those countries.


said, that hon. Members should recollect that this was a preliminary Session of Parliament, the avowed object of which was to settle an important commercial question, and that they ought not to bring forward questions of this kind on the present occasion, but allow the Government time to bring forward the measures they had in contemplation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had told them that he had directed his attention to the subject now under discussion, and that he had the details of a Bill in the course of preparation. This ought to be sufficient to satisfy the House for the present. The House should also bear in mind what had already been stated, that when this tax was originally imposed, it was imposed on the property of Protestants, and that all who had purchased the property since had purchased it subject to the tax; and it should likewise he kept in view that supposing the mode of collecting the tax were changed, and they were to place it on the basis of the Poor Rate, two-thirds of it would still fall upon Protestants, as the great bulk of the property in the cities subjected to the tax belonged to them. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) —following the hon. Member for the city of Cork (Mr. Fagan)—had proposed to take the Ministers' Money out of the revenues of the Established Church of Ireland. Now, in the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for Ireland, which was issued only the other day, he found it stated that, although some improvement had recently taken place in the state of their funds, the Commissioners could not promise to —"provide for the many pressing wants of the Church under the head of rebuilding, enlarging, painting, enclosing of churchyards, and other necessary works connected with the existing fabrics, even though they should be assisted largely by private subscriptions, until their income shall have been further augmented under the operation of the Church Temporalities Acts, inasmuch as it appeared from the architect's report, furnished at the commencement of this year, that a sum of 258,000l was required for those purposes. He could bear personal testimony to the fact that in the county in which he resided there were a number of churches in a most dilapidated state, and that the Commissioners told the inhabitants that they had no funds to repair them. He knew of other cases of incumbents who had refrained from applying to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, from the knowledge that from the numerous claims upon that body their application would he ineffectual. The members of the Church, at the same time, were under the necessity of subscribing to societies for supplying additional curates— thus plainly showing that, if the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were as much enlarged as some hon. Members imagined them to be, they would all be required to support the Established Church.


threw himself on the indulgence of the House for a few minutes, as he was a new Member, and as this was the first occasion he had attempted to address them. He assured them that he would not have risen on this occasion had it not been that the question before the House was one which was considered exceedingly important in some of the principal localities of Ireland. The immediate object for which he rose was to urge upon the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) to persevere in his Motion; and he did so in no spirit of hostility to the Government, for he had no hostility towards them on this question; but because the Government had given the Members representing Ire-laud no assurance that this subject should be taken into especial consideration, and because the Attorney General for Ireland had given the House no idea of the principle on which he intended to found his promised Bill. Had the Government given them any assurance that they would provide a satisfactory substitute for the existing mode of levying Ministers' Money, he would have advised his hon. Friend at once to withdraw his Motion, and accept the terms of Government. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the importance of avoiding religious controversy; but he should remember that nothing was more calculated to engender and keep alive religious rancour than such a grievance as this of Ministers' Money. He hoped, therefore, the House would bear with him while he stated some few reasons why he felt himself bound by a sense of duty to endeavour to bring this matter to a final and satisfactory adjustment. He, for one, did not object to this tax because it pressed on one description of occupiers or persons more than another. He objected to it entirely on the ground of principle. For the last fifty years the House had, with one sad exception, legislated in the spirit of the principle that no men should suffer restriction—that no one should be mulcted of his property, or deprived of his liberty, because of the religious principles he maintained. Now, in this spirit he asked the House to look upon the present Motion. Here was a tax levied upon the occupiers of houses in eight of the principal cities and corporate towns in Ireland for the support of clergymen of the Established Church; and it was a fact susceptible of easy proof that a majority of those occupiers were Roman Catholics. There were, besides, a large number of them Protestant Dissenters, including a considerable proportion of members of the Society of Friends. Now, from these persons money was extorted by the power and obligation of the law to maintain clergymen in whose faith they did not believe, whose ministry they did not solicit, and with whose persons, in many cases, they were unacquainted. Was this fair, or was it not? Surely this must be regarded as a violation of the civil and religious liberty which both sides of the House affected to respect. There was not a Gentleman in that House, or in the United Kingdom, who did not reverence the many virtues and active benevolence of the Society of Friends, and their admirable exertions for the destitute poor in Ireland at a time when their benevolence was most needed; and yet many of the members of that respectable body in Ireland were prosecuted from year to year, had their consciences outraged, and their property confiscated, in the most shameful and degrading manner, and all 'for the payment of this odious tax. The right hon. Gentleman had represented this as a tax upon property, and endeavoured to show what he (Mr. Maguire) did not believe was historically correct—that at the time of the first imposition of the tax a majority of the ratepayers were Protestants. He begged to refer the right hon. Gentleman to the evidence of the Rev. J. Elmes, where he would find it stated as the opinion of that rev. gentleman, whose authority, he believed, would weigh with the Government, that at the time the tax was created, in the 17th & 18th Charles II., most of the inhabitants and most of the occupiers of the houses in Limerick were altogether Roman Catholics. But supposing that it was right to continue the tax from generation to generation upon those houses which were originally made subject to it, how could hon. Members justify the imposition of the tax upon property which had since then been built by Roman Catholics? He knew a district in Cork, for instance, where about a dozen Roman Catholic proprietors had, within the last twenty years, built upwards of a hundred houses. Now, would it be fair to make these Catholics to pay the tax, whether as owners or occupiers? He admitted that places of worship should be kept in a proper condition; but the noble Lord the Member for Bandon (Viscount Bernard) had represented a state of things which rather existed in his own imagination than was susceptible of proof. But he could give the noble Lord some facts with respect to Protestant churches. He (Mr. Maguire) knew several Protestant churches in the county of Cork without congregations. There were four parishes in the diocese of Cloyne in which the congregation consisted of only three persons, and that congregation was migratory, lending their assistance sometimes to one parish and sometimes to another; such was the state of human, though not of spiritual, destitution, in the district. The proportion of Catholics to Protestants in the city of Cork was about six to one; in the city of Limerick it was, he believed, seven to one; in Kilkenny it was yet larger; and in the city of Waterford it was larger still. What, he asked, could be more galling and irritating to him as a Catholic than to be called upon to pay ministers whose faith he did not believe, however he might respect them personally? He thought he might justly regard such an impost as a badge of conquest and a brand of civil and religious inferiority. It must be remembered, also, that there were conscientious men in the various localities of Ireland who were prevented from voting at municipal elections because they would not pay this tax, preferring to have their goods distrained. It was not impossible that a measure might emanate from the other side of the House for amending and extending the franchise; yet, by maintaining this tax, they were continuing a system which prevented men who had the right to do so from managing their local affairs and exercising those powers which were given them by the law. In order to show the effect of continuing such a fretting sore, he might refer to a case which was mentioned by Mr. O' Flynn, one of the witnesses examined before the Committee. It was that of a respectable man who had formerly been an extensive merchant and farmer, but who had been reduced in circumstances. The collector called upon him for 1l. 7s., three years' arrears of Ministers' Money. The wife said they were unable to pay, but the collector seized all their furniture and sold it immediately. The collector admitted that the little property which be seized had been left by the sheriff as an act of charity; yet what was left this miserable couple by the charity of the sheriff's officer was torn away from them by the representative of the ministers of religion! He put it to the most ardent supporters of the Established Church what must be the effect of such odious scenes upon a lively and susceptible population? What must be thought of those who were found levying black mail in the name of religion? He had the honour of knowing the Dean of Waterford, the distinguished Protestant Bishop of Limerick, and many other clergymen of the Established Church, who benefited by this tax against their own wish. The Rev. Dr. West, of Dublin, stated also that the clergy of Dublin were anxious to avoid having to fight for their incomes; and the Rev. Mr. Elmes designated the tax not merely as obnoxious, but as exceedingly obnoxious. He might here say a word or two about the mode of seizure and of sale. One of the collectors was asked by the Chairman of the Committee whether he gave notice of the sales, and he replied, "No; I give no notice when or where the things are to be sold; the Ministers' Money Act does not require such notice." Wherever it was sold, however, and no matter what sum was realised, the owner of the property had no means of knowing what became of it. A few days before he (Mr. Maguire) left Cork, two sacks of flour were seized from a Quaker in Patrick-street by a flour-dealing collector. The Quaker was unable to gain any intelligence of the whereabouts of his property, but some persons were malicious enough to say that the collector was seen dispensing, with his orthodox hands, the ravished flour of the Quaker. It appeared from the evidence given before the Committee, that in cases where houses had fallen into ruin, and had been unoccupied for periods of eleven, eight, and seven years, when they were rebuilt by the owners, the whole arrears of Ministers' Money were extorted from the occupiers. Let them put this tax into any form they liked, it would still be odious and offensive. His own religious opinions were as strong as those of any man; but at the same time, being anxious for the welfare of the country, and that every man in his country should live in amity and kindness with his neighbour, he must declare that he could conceive nothing more degrading to religion than that clergymen and ministers of religion should be placed in the odious and invidious position in which they were placed by the maintenance of this tax. A short time since he went, as a member of a deputation, to several of the southern towns of Ireland, with a view of interesting persons in the National Exhibition, which had been so signally successful, and many of those from whom the deputation received the greatest assistance were Protestant clergymen. Now, if there ever was a time when it was necessary that good feeling should exist between men of all religious persuasions in Ireland, this was that time. An industrial movement was now going on in Ireland; it was becoming more and more developed every day; and he believed it might be the means of laying the foundations of local prosperity in many parts of that country. Protestants, Catholics, and Quakers united in promoting and patronising this movement, and he asked those who wished to establish good feeling between Protestants and Catholics, and to advance the interests of their country, to assist in doing away with every cause of rancour and dissension. If, however, he were told that he was to be taxed and mulcted, because he was a Roman Catholic, he could not entertain in his heart those sentiments which Christian men ought to cherish. He asked the House in the name of religion, which was dishonoured by this tax, and in the name of justice, which was outraged by its imposition upon Catholics, Presbyterians, and Quakers, not merely to sanction some temporary change of the burden from one shoulder to the other, but to get rid of it altogether, and to give up the building of a few Protestant churches, rather than hare the principles of the Protestant religion tarnished and disgraced by its ministers being placed in so odious a position.


said, be had come down to the House intending to give his support to the Motion; and what he had heard during the discussion confirmed him in the opinion that it was necessary this subject should be thoroughly investigated. He thought, however, after the assurances which had been given on the part of Her Majesty's Government, that they would bring in a measure on the subject early after the recess, that the hon. Gentleman who brought forward this Motion would rather damage than advance his cause by pressing the Motion under the circumstances.


said, that the statement of the noble Member for Bandon (Viscount Barnard), that it was absolutely necessary that additional funds should be appropriated to the rebuilding and repair of churches in Ireland, was fully borne out by the Reports of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He would be extremely glad if it were possible to provide for the payment of the Ministers' Money in some other way, but he must protest against the charge being thrown entirely upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It was, indeed, clear from the Reports that the funds in the hands of the Commissioners were utterly inadequate for the purpose.


said, that he considered the objects for which this obnoxious, unfair, and mischievous tax was levied, ought to be provided for from the funds of the Established Church in Ireland. He thought the revenues of those sinecure livings which disgraced that Establishment might, with great benefit, be applied to this purpose. He hoped the Government would not be too scrupulous in applying the funds of the Established Church to those objects.


said, he would suggest to his hon. Friend the Member for the city of Cork (Mr. Fagan), that he should not press his Motion after the promise made by the Government to introduce a Bill on the subject. It appeared to be admitted on both sides of the House that the tax was most obnoxious, and its recipients objected to it just as much as those who were called upon to pay it. If his hon. Friend forbore from pressing his Motion now, the House would judge, when the Government brought forward their measure, whether it met the case satisfactorily or not; and he thought his hon. Friend would be in a better position if he showed an inclination fairly to consider the proposal of the Government.


said, he felt himself bound by a sense of duty to divide the House. If the Government had held out any hope that this obnoxious tax would be abolished, he would not call for a division, but from the sketch placed before the House of the nature of the right hon. and learned Attorney General's Bill, he was quite satisfied there was no intention whatever of abolishing this impost, but simply of transferring it from the occupiers of the houses to the landlords. He therefore felt it due to his constituents, who would not be satisfied with such an arrangement, to press his Motion.

Whereupon the previous Question was put, "That that Question be now put."

The House divided: —Ayes 94; Noes 140: Majority 46.

List of the AYES.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Hindley, C.
Ball, J. Hume, J.
Barnes, T. Keating, R.
Bell,J. Kennedy, T.
Bellew, Capt. Kirk, W.
Berkeley, hon. C. F. Laslett, W.
Bowyer, G. Lawless, hon. C.
Brady, J. Loveden, P.
Bright, J. Lucas, F.
Brotherton, J. M'Cann, J.
Brown, H. M'Gregor, J.
Burke, Sir T. J. M'Mahon, P.
Butler, C. S. Magan, W. H.
Byng, hon. G. H. C. Maguire, J. F.
Challis, Ald. Meagher, T.
Cheetham, J. Masaey, W. N.
Clay, J. Miall, E.
Clay, Sir W. Milner, W. M. E.
Cobden, R. Mitchell, T. A.
Coffin, W. Molesworth, Sir W.
Crossley, F. Moore, G. H.
Devereux, J. T. Mulgrave, Earl of
Duffy, C. G. Murrough, J. P.
Duncan, G. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Esmonde, J. O'Brien, C.
Fergus, J. O'Brien, P.
Fitzgerald, J. D. O'Brien, Sir T.
Fitzgerald, Sir J. F. O' Flaherty, A.
Forteseue, C. Otway, A. J.
Gardner, R. Pellatt, A.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Pinney, W.
Goderich, Visct. Pollard-Urquhart, W.
Goodman, Sir G. Potter, R.
Gower, hon. F. L. Power, N.
Grace, O. D. J. Price, W. P.
Greene, J. Roche, E. B.
Greville, Col. F. Russell, F. W.
Hastie, A. Sadleir, J.
Hastie, A. Sadleir, J.
Heard, J. I. Scully, V.
Henchy, D. O. Shee, W.
Higgins, G.G. O. Shelley, Sir J. V.
Smith, rt. hon. R. V. Whitbread, S.
Sullivan, M. Wilkinson, W. A.
Swift, R. Williams, W.
Thomson, G.
Thornely, T. TELLERS.
Towneley, C. Fagan, W. T.
Villiers, hon. C. P. Murphy, F. S.

The House adjourned at a quarter after Seven O'clock