HC Deb 13 June 1854 vol 134 cc114-39

* Sir, if I needed any apology for asking leave to present a measure relating to the Temporalities of the Church in Ireland, I should find it in the example of many distinguished Members of this House, in its own deliberate Resolutions, and in the recorded opinions of some of the most eminent statesmen of our times. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Admiralty, the noble Lord the President of the Council, have all, in the course of their Parliamentary careers, exerted themselves for the correction of an abuse, which is acknowledged on all hands to be a perennial cause of political embarrassment in England—the chief difficulty of British Government in Ireland—a scandal to the religion of the State, and to the Constitution of the United Kingdom. Adequately to describe and denounce this abuse, the resources of our language have been strained by its ablest masters.

As long," said Lord Brougham, "as the foulest practical abuse that ever existed in any civilised country continues untouched, or touched only with a faltering hand—the Irish Church as lavishly endowed for a sixteenth part of the Irish people as if more than double its whole number could partake of its ministrations—there assuredly never can be peace for that ill-fated land. My own opinion," said Mr. Macaulay, "is that the Church of Ireland is a bad institution. It is my deliberate opinion, that of all the institutions now existing in the civilised world, the Established Church of Ireland is the most utterly absurd and indefensible. There is but one country in the world that presents to you the spectacle of a population of 8,000,000 of people with a Church established and richly endowed for only 800,000 of that population. I regard," said Lord Grey, "the Irish Church, in the actual condition of that country, and upon the footing on which it is placed, to be opposed alike to justice, to policy, and to religious principle. I regard that Church as the great obstacle to the spread of Protestantism in Ireland. I believe," said Lord Campbell, "the Protestant Church in Ireland to be one of the most mischievous institutions in existence. I believe it is so considered now; I believe it will be so considered by posterity; and it is only because your Lordships are familiar with it, that you are not shocked by the picture. Can there be any wonder that the Roman Catholics are discontented? The Irish Church," said Sir George Grey, "was unjustifiable in its establishment, and is indefensible in its continuance. The appropriation," said Lord John Russell, "of the whole of the revenues which the State allows and recognises as the revenues of the Established Church, to the clergy of a small portion of the people, is in itself an anomaly and a grievance. What reasonable man, I ask the House, can complain that a question, the urgency and importance of which have been thus attested, should be calmly and dispassionately submitted by a Member for an Irish constituency to the Parliament of the empire? With an earnest conviction that I am right in so doing, and satisfied that the declarations of these eminent persons are but the expression of the intelligent judgment of the English people, I approach this subject, not indeed free from anxiety, but with less of diffidence than I could do without such encouragement. I am, indeed, in some degree comforted by the consciousness that it is not open to me to recommend the extreme remedy to which the language of Lord Brougham, Lord Grey, Lord Campbell, and Mr. Macaulay would appear to point. Fortunately, as I hope for my object, you have placed me under recognisances to propose nothing which can alarm the consciences of sincere friends of the Protestant establishment—nothing which can tend, in my opinion, to its subversion, or to the weakening of the Protestant religion. In that restraint I cheerfully acquiesce. It is not inconsistent with my own view of what is wise and expedient in dealing with a question of so much delicacy as the religion of the State—and I proceed, therefore, at once to consider, on what grounds, and for what ends, according to the principles of the Church itself, a Church Establishment is justifiable—and how far those ends have been attained hitherto, and are now attainable, in Ireland, by the establishment of the Protestant Church:— A religious establishment," says Dr. Paley, "is no part of Christianity; it is only the means of inculcating it. he authority, therefore, of a Church Establishment is founded on its utility; and whenever, upon this principle, we deliberate concerning the from, propriety, or comparative excellency of different establishments, the single view under which we ought to consider any of them is that of a scheme of instruction;—the single end we ought to propose by them is the preservation and communication of religious knowledge. I request," says Bishop Warburton, "my reader to have this always in mind, that the true end for which religion is established is not to provide for the true faith, but for Civil Utility, as the key to open to him the whole mystery of this controversy, and the clue to lead him safe through all the intricacies and perplexities in which it has been involved, In the opinion, therefore, of these eminent divines, the civil utility of promoting a knowledge of those Christian truths, and the observance of those Christian precepts on which all Christians are agreed, is the only legitimate foundation and justification of a Church Establishment. Religious instruction in youth, religious observance in maturer years, are the best securities which Governments can have for obedience to human laws—for peace, order, industry, the cheerful subordination of inferior to superior rank, and the general well-being of nations. The man who fears God will honour the king; the man who strives so to order his life as to be justified in the sight of God, will be just in all his dealings with his neighbours; the man who dreads to offend God by sin of any kind, will be proof against all temptation to commit the more grievous sins which are by human laws designated as crimes. It is obvious that to effect this end, the religious establishment of a country must be so ordered as to embrace, if not all the people, at least a considerable portion of all ranks and classes of the people, and of that class in particular which stands most in need of the safeguards which religious teaching affords—the poor. A Church Establishment from which the wealthy and the well-to-do derived no benefit, would fail in an important element of its utility; but a Church Establishment, from which the body of the people was excluded, must be a mockery and a fraud. The law by which such an establishment was set up would be a law against the people who were compelled to submit to it; and such laws, beyond all question, at the time of their enactment (whatever may be the case now), were the laws which established the Protestant Church of England in Ireland. I am not about to trouble the House with any minute references to the Statute-books; but it is necessary, for the purpose of ascertaining to what extent the civil utility, on which alone the authority for a Church Establishment depends, has hitherto been attained in Ireland, and the means by which, for the future, it may be more effectually promoted, that I should briefly call attention to two classes of Statutes. The first, as respects the distinctive character of the Protestant Episcopal Church in its relation to other churches, may be called Acts of Constitution. They are the Acts of Elizabeth and Charles II. for the uniformity of divine worship in Ireland, and the fifth article of the Act of Union. In the second class are Acts of Regulation—the Church Temporalities Act of 1833, the Tithe Composition and Rent Charge Acts, the Acts relating to the building of churches and glebe houses. Abstaining from all points of doctrine, I beg the attention of the House to the nature and operation of these enactments, not for the purpose of mere fault finding, but to ascertain by what means, consistent with the maintenance in honour, dignity, and effi- cieney of the United Church of England and Ireland, in Ireland, we may best promote that civil utility, on which, according to Dr. Paley and Bishop Warburton, all religious establishments must rest for their authority and justification The Act of Elizabeth, for the uniformity of divine worship in Ireland, was a mere transcript from the English Statute-book. With the exception of some few converts to the Reformation during the short reign of Edward VI., the Irish nation, acknowledging the spiritual jurisdiction of the see of Rome, was at that time Catholic to a man. It held to a man the doctrine of the Seven Sacraments, for the defence of which the King of England had then recently received from the Pope the title of Defender of the Faith; it knew of no morning service but the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; no evening service but the Vespers and Benediction, the ritual of which, in the Latin language, was at that time used in all the churches of the Christian world; no archbishops and bishops except those for whose appointment and jurisdiction, by an Act of Parliament, then so recent as the 23rd of Henry VIII., "Bulls ensealed with lead palls and brieves from Rome" were declared to be "requisites." In the hope, no doubt, of preserving the civil utility of a Church Establishment, notwithstanding the abolition of all these things, the Act of Elizabeth, still in its main provisions the law in Ireland, was passed. It recited an Act for the same object, passed in England in the reign of Edward VI., and enacted— That all and singular ministers in any cathedral or parish church within the realm of Ireland should be bounden to say the matins, even-song, and administration of each of the sacraments, and all their common and open prayer, as was mentioned in the Book of Common Brayer, and administration of Sacraments and other rites and ceremonies in the Church of England, authorised by the Parliament of England, of the 5th and 6th years of the reign of King Edward VI. under pain in case of their refusal, or of their using any other rite or ceremony, of forfeiture for the first offence, of one year's profit of their benefices and six months' imprisonment; for the second offence, of one year's imprisonment, and deprivation of their benefices at the pleasure of the patron; and for the third offence, of absolute deprivation of their benefices, and imprisonment for life. And forasmuch as every common priest or minister had not the knowledge of the English tongue, and that the same might not be in the native Irish language, as well for the difficulty to get it printed, as that few of the whole realm could read the Irish letters, that it should he lawful for the common minister or priest to use and say the said matins, even-song, celebration of the Lord's supper, and administration of each of the sacraments, and all their common and open prayer, in the Latin tongue. The immediate effects of this Act, had they not continued to our own times, would be matter rather of historical interest than of profitable inquiry. The clergy abandoned their cures; it was impossible to find educated men to supply their places. The churches fell to ruin, and but for the zeal of the bishops ordained by the authority of the Pope, of whom, as appears from Lalor's case, there was one at the commencement of the reign of James I. in almost every diocese, the people had been left without any observance of divine worship or means of religions instruction. Let us now see, in the hope of discovering a remedy for it, to what extent this evil has continued to our own time. A great distinction must be observed between what Lord Liverpool used to call Protestant Ireland—namely, the ancient ecclesiastical province of Armagh; and Catholic Ireland—the ancient ecclesiastical provinces of Dublin, Cashel, and Tuam. We will first look at it in the gross. In the year 1834, the year in which the Census last distinguished the numbers of the people according to their religions creeds, Ireland had a population of 7,944,000 souls, of whom only 852,064 derived any benefit from the Establishment; 7,100,000 souls of British subjects were excluded by the conditions which the Act of Uniformity imposed, from all the advantages of that civil utility, for which alone religious establishments are justifiable, and to secure which all the material means set apart for the holy purpose of deterring men from crime and relieving human justice from the necessity of its repression, had been made over to the Church of England in Ireland. Still more striking is the terrible failure of the Church in the cud and purpose of its establishment when viewed in the detail of dioceses and parochial districts. And first, as to Catholic Ireland; I select dire dioceses, with the circumstances of which I am well acquainted by personal observation and by the study of their ecclesiastical statistics—the diocese of Ossory, Ferns, and Leighlin—of Cashel, Emly, Waterford, and Lismore—of Limerick, Ardfert, and Aghadoe. They extend over the counties of Kilkenny, Carlow, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, Limerick, and Kerry, and contained before the famine a population of 1,729,680 souls, now diminished by about one-fourth. The diocese. of Ossory, Ferns. and Leighlin contained a population of 610,957 souls, of whom 562,619 were Catholics—only 47,514, of all ages, members of the Established Church. This small minority, composed of the landed proprietors, their families, connections, and dependents, have their spiritual interests attended to by a bishop and 192 beneficed clergymen, who share among them, and some 92 curates, an episcopal and parochial church revenue of 60,000l. The bishop occupies a handsome residence at Kilkenny, one of his cathedral cities, in which a great majority of the inhabitants are Catholics. The beneficed clergy reside in glebe houses, erected in modern times at an ascertained cost of 98,000l.; they officiate in churches which afford accommodation for 37,000 persons, erected (besides those of them which are ancient) at an ascertained cost of 105,000l., the expense of divine worship in which is defrayed by a public board, free of all cost to those who worship in them. Take next the diocese of Cashel, Emly, Waterford, and Lismore. It contained a population of 566,336 souls, and of whom 546,462 were Catholics; only 18,692, of all ages, members of the Established Church. Again, this small minority is composed of the landed proprietors, their connections and dependents, and has its spiritual interests attended to by a bishop and 131 beneficed clergymen, dividing among them and their curates an episcopal and parochial church revenue of 42,000l. The bishop has a hadsome residence in one of his cathedral cities, Waterford, a great majority of the inhabitants of which are Catholics. The beneficed clergy reside in glebe houses, the ascertained original cost of which in modern times was 54,220l.; they officiate in churches which afford accommodation for 15,000 persons, the ascertained cost of erecting, which (in addition to those which are ancient) was 51000l., and in which all the expenses of divine worship are defrayed by a public board, free of cost to those who attend them. Take again the diocese of Limerick, Ardfert, and Aghadoe. It contained a population of 562,837 souls, of whom 543,463 were Catholics—only 18,678, of all ages, members of the Established Church. This minority, too, is composed of the landed proprietors, their families, connections, and dependents, and of the more wealthy by of the commercial classes; and their spiritual interests are attended to by a bishop and 114 beneficed clergymen, dividing among them and their curates a church revenue of 31,500l. The bishop has a handsome house in the great Catholic city of Limerick. The beneficed clergy reside in glebe houses, the ascertained cost of which in modern times was 41,789l. They officiate in churches which afford accommodation for 19,000 persons; the ascertained original cost of which, in modern times (in addition to those of them which are ancient), was 53,098l., and in which all the expenses of divine worship are defrayed by a public board, free of cost to those who attend them. Let us pause for a moment to collect the startling contrasts which these statistics present. A population of 1,729,680 souls, of whom 94,000 only are members of the Established Church. For the spiritual care of these 94,000, a church in every benefice affording together accommodation, that is sitting room, for 71,000 persons, besides glebe houses and competent incomes for their clergy, secured as a first charge preferably to all incumbrances and family settlements on the lands within their benefices. For the 1,644,000 Catholics and some few Presbyterians (about 700) who scruple obedience to the Act for the Uniformity of Divine Worship—nothing! Nothing for the residence of their clergy! Nothing for the maintenance of the fabrics of their churches! Nothing for the expenses of divine worship in them! I do not propose to prolong the statement of these statistics by going into the detail at any length of particular benefices, but I cannot refrain from adverting briefly, for the purpose of illustration, to the state of things in three benefices of the counties of Kilkenny, Tipperary, and Limerick—Thomastown, Thurles, and Rathkeale. The first is the benefice in which I reside when in Ireland, and with the circum stances of which I am perfectly well acquainted. It contained in 1834 a population of 3,958 souls, of whom only 152, of all ages, were members of the Established Church. It has a church revenue at the disposal of the rector of from 400l. to 450l. His glebe house was built at the expense of 1,025l. His parish church, the erection of which cost 1,168l., provides accommodation for 120 persons. Its congregation never exceeds 60, consisting of two country gentlemen, a banker, two or three wealthy millers and land agents, and the officers of police, with their families—a most respectable congregation. Close to that church and within sight of it, is a building in which I have. during the last ten years, attended divine service, together with nearly the whole population of the benefice For them, and their public worship, and for the maintenance of their church, there is no provision. It has an earthen floor; its roof is unsafe; it is unworthy of repair, and no means exist for rebuilding it. Take next Thurles, in the diocese of Cashel, the place where the Synod of the Irish Church was lately held. The population was 12,449, of whom only 294 were members of the Established Church, yet the rector had a revenue of 952l., and his glebe house cost 2,846l. For the 12,000 persons who did not belong to the Establishment, for their church, their public worship, or the residence of their parish priest—the venerable Archbishop of Cashel—not one shilling of provision. Rathkeale, again, in the diocese of Limerick, had a population of 10,175 souls, of whom only 737 were members of the Established Church, and vet the rector enjoyed a church revenue of 800l., lived in a glebe house which cost 2,861l., and officiated in a church, the erection of which cost 1,500l. Will the House believe it—in the forty-nine churches of the diocese of Ossory, with its population of 150,000, only 1,043 on Good Friday, and 3,097 on Easter Sunday, of the year 1853, attended the morning service of the church. I had them counted for the express purpose of giving this information to the House. In the sixty churches of the great diocese of Cloyne, including a large part of the county of Cork, with a population of 1250,000 souls, on the same days the attendance was 1,797 on Good Friday, and 4,429 on Easter Sunday. I think I may conclude that in the counties of Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary, Limerick, Kerry, and Cork—and they are only fair specimens of all the counties in Leinster, Munster, and Connaught (indeed the contrasts are greater in the province of Tuam, where there were only 44,599 members of the Established Church, out of a population of 1,234,336 souls—the Irish Church Establishment has failed as a scheme of religious instruction in the promotion of that civil utility in which alone a justification of its existence and maintenance can be found, For anything that Government, through its instrumentality, has done to promote the fear of God and the knowledge of God's law by the great body of the Irish subjects of the English Crown, it had been as well for them that their rulers had been heathens. The people have been left without religious worship or institutions, and society without the protection, which they only can afford.

It may be said, however, that the dioceses to which I have referred have been unfairly selected. Not so as respects Catholic Ireland—the three ecclesiastical provinces of Dublin, Cashel, and Tuam. In Protestant Ireland the case is certainly different, and gives rise, in the interest of the Protestant religion, as well as of that civil utility which is the end and object of all religious establishments, to different considerations. Let us see how the case stands in the more Protestant counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Louth, and Tyrone. The primatial diocese of Armagh and Clogher had, in 1834, a population of 899,885 souls, of whom 3,366 were Protestant Dissenters, 119,460 Presbyterians, 569,688 Catholics, 207,371 members of the Established Church. The diocese of Derry and Raphoc had a population of 574,871 souls; of whom 1,762 were Protestant Dissenters, 147,253 Presbyterians, 341,999 Catholics, 83,857 members of the Established Church. The diocese of Down, and Connor, and Dromore, had a population of 738,415 souls, of whom 10,387 were Protestant Dissenters, 361,486 Presbyterians, 230,225 Catholics, 236,317 members of the Established Church. The bishops and beneficed clergy of these dioceses divide among them a church income of 170,000l. The bishops have handsome residences. The beneficed clergy reside in glebe houses, the ascertained original cost of which, in modern times, was 247,000l. They officiate in churches the ascertained original cost of which in modern times was 293,000l.; and in which all the expenses of divine worship are defrayed free of charge to those who worship in them by a public board. The church accommodation provided in these dioceses for its 500,000 members is sufficient, but not, as in other provinces, more than sufficient, for their need. No beneficed clergyman is without a respectable congregation; but on the other hand, even in this Protestant part of Ireland, the Church Establishment, as respects the authority and justification of religious establishments, civil utility, is in its relation to a population of 1,685,626 out of a population of 2,213,171 souls—an utter failure.

The frightful contrasts which these statistics present between the spiritual super- fluities of the wealthy few and the spiritual destitution of a vast majority of the Queen's subjects—Presbyterian and Catholic—in Ireland, was, of course, well known, though not in its minute details, to English statesmen, and to Members of both Houses of Parliament, during the thirty years which followed the Legislative Union with Ireland. It was not, however, until the Reform Act, and the Catholic Emancipation Act, had brought into public life men more likely to be impatient of a flagrant ecclesiastical enormity of this character, that the attention of the Government of England was directed to it. But in the year 1833, a Commission was appointed by the Crown to make full and correct inquiry respecting the revenues, patronage, see houses, demesne and mensal lands, belonging to the several archiepiscopal and episcopal sees, cathedral and collegiate churches, and all ecclesiastical benefices, with or without cure of souls, in Ireland, and to report from time to time thereon. It is from the returns of the dignitaries and beneficed clergy of the Irish Church, and from the Report of the Commissioners of Religious Instruction in Ireland. appointed in the following year, that I have taken the statistics with which I have troubled the House. In anticipation of those returns, and, probably, in some degree to diminish the shock which their publication was likely to occasion to the Protestant Church Establishment in both countries, the Whig Government of 1833 presented to the House of Commons, through Lord Althorp, a Bill which, in the course of the Session, became the 3 and 4 Will. IV. chapter 37, "An Act to alter and amend the Laws relating to the Temporalities of the Irish Church."

No matter to what church or denomination of religionists a man may belong, it is impossible for him, with a knowledge of the state of things which then existed, and which still exists in Ireland, to read that Act without a sense of shame and humiliation. If the thing were not in the Statute-book to be seen and wondered at, it would stagger credulity to believe that in the thirty-third year after the Irish people had intrusted all its chances of reparation for past injustice, all its hopes of happiness and good government for the future, to the honour and magnanimity of the people of England, such a measure could have passed the Imperial Parliament. It dealt with the whole of the ecclesiastical revenue of a country containing a population of 7,944,000 souls, of whom 7,091,867—that is, more than all the inhabitants of many considerable States—Sardinia, Bavaria, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Wurtemburg, Tuscany—had for three centuries been excluded by conditions to which they entertained conscientious scruples from deriving any benefit from the ecclesiastical revenues of their country, and not one word in it from which it could be suspected even, that any portion of the Queen's Irish subjects were other than Protestants of the Episcopal Church of England and Ireland! Taking notice of the fact that the archbishops and bishops of Ireland were possessed in right of their sees of 600,000 acres of land, let for the most part on leases of twenty-one years, which were annually renewed upon terms so improvident as respects the permanent interests of the Church, that the bishops received no larger income from them, fine and rent included, than 120,680l.; it provided that leases in perpetuity at utterly inadequate rents and rates of purchase, should be granted to the church tenants who applied for them. It reduced the number of the bishops from twenty-two to twelve, thereby virtually declaring that the enormous sum of 75,000l. annually, or, since the Union, two millions sterling, had been received by bishops alone, for no purpose of general utility—civil or religious. It dealt in like manner with an annual income of 20,000l., theretofore received by Church dignitaries, who, as such, had no cure of souls, and no duties to perform. It authorised the lease in perpetuity of twelve episcopal palaces to persons, and on terms to be approved of by the Lord Lieutenant. It imposed a tax varying from 2½ to 15 per cent on all spiritual preferments of the annual value of 300l. and upwards, and vested the income economised from all these sources in a Commission composed chiefly of bishops of the Established Church, to be by them applied to the augmentation of small livings and to the purposes theretofore provided for by the levy of church rates and parish cesses—that is, in supplying stoves, candles, surplices, bibles, prayer-books, and sacramental elements, in defraying clerks' and sexton's salaries, for the wealthiest members of the community, and in building, rebuilding, repairing, and furnishing for their accommodation, and the health of their souls, the parochial churches in which the matins, even-song, and celebration of the two sacraments, as is mentioned in the Book of Common Prayer, were read. As to the millions, for whose ignorance or forgetfulness of God's law, the safety of society could allow no excuse to be admitted in their Sovereign's courts of justice, they were treated as they had been before in the days of Elizabeth and of Charles, of William and of Anne, and by all Acts of a later date relating to a similar or cognate matter—the Acts of Settlement and Explanation—the Acts relating to glebes and glebe houses, to churches and diocesan schools, the Charitable Donations and Bequests Acts, the Act of Union; that is, in the emphatic language employed in the Act of Uniformity, to fix the status of the Presbyterian ministers, at the Restoration as if they were all naturally dead" (17 & 18 Charles II. c. 6, s. 8), or rather as if they were beings without souls to save, unaccountable as the beasts which perish.

The Act had scarcely become law, when the very men who had recommended it to Parliament were dissatisfied with its shortcomings. The attainment of the only end of a Church Establishment, the civil utility of disseminating a knowledge of Christian truth, was as far off as ever. The law, like all former ones on the same subject, was a law for the benefit of a privileged class and against the body of the Irish people. I am not about to weary the House with a detail of the discussions which took place in this House during several successive Sessions on the subject of the temporalities of the Irish Church. Suffice it to say that on the Motion of Lord John Russell, Sir Robert Peel being then in power, this House, on the 7th of April, 1835, passed the following Resolution— That it is the opinion-of this house that any surplus of the ecclesiastical revenue, which may remain after fully providing for the spiritual instruction of tie members of the Established Church in Ireland, ought to be applied to the general education of all Christians. That it is the opinion of this House, that no measure on the subject of tithes in Ireland can lead to a satisfactory settlement which does not embody the principle contained in the foregoing Resolution."—[3 Hansard, 879.] It was during the debate on that Resolution—which displaced the Government of Sir Robert Peel, and restored the party of the noble Lord to power—that he made the remarkable speech which will form a prominent object in the history of his great career, the engagements of which he stumbled fearfully during the last Session in Isis attempt to overleap, and which contains promises and pledges too emphatic to be ever forgotten, and too solemn to be creditably unredeemed— To an Address," said the noble Lord, "of this House, assuring His Majesty of our Resolution to maintain the Legislative Union inviolate, His Majesty was pleased to return an answer, in which he stated that he should he at all times anxious to afford his best assistance in removing all just causes of complaint, and in sanctioning all well-considered measures of improvement. This was the answer of His Majesty to the claim on the petition of a large portion of the people of Ireland, enforced by a Member of this house (Mr. O'Connell), in whom they had the greatest confidence, and who undoubtedly possessed abilities to place his arguments in the best and strongest point of view. In pursuance of this answer, which was adopted by the House of Lords, and thereby became as it were a solemn compact between the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the people, given by the King, received by the Commons, and approved by the Lords, I come before you to represent to you what I consider a just cause of complaint by the people of Ireland, and to induce you if I can, to take a step to obtain a well-considered measure of improvement. My complaint is, that nothing of that kind has yet been done or attempted. Either you are prepared to do justice to Ireland, to consider her grievances, and redress her wrongs, or you are not. But if you tell us that our position is such that any measure for these objects would be injurious to England, and dangerous to her Church Establishment, which prevents the remedy of the abuses of the Church of Ireland, you surely then have no right to say you will maintain the Legislative Union. I do hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will grapple with this great question on clear and intelligible grounds. I must protest against any proposition not founded in distinct and known principles, and which does not tend directly to the good of the State. But we are told, in define of the present mode of applying Church property it Ireland, and the greatest another, fifteen to one, it is said, of the owners of land in fee, are members of that Church. Sir, if I could fancy that any one would hold such a doctrine as this—that a Church Establishment was intended originally for the exclusive benefit of the rich—that spiritual instruction should be given to men only who had an estate of inheritance, that none but a man who possessed a freehold estate should be entitled to the comfort and consolations of religion—I could then understand the argument to which I have alluded; but when I refer to the great authorities I have quoted, who cannot be questioned or repudiated, and when I find it laid down that a Church Establishment is intended far the benefit of all classes, and more especially for the benefit, the instruction and consolation of the poor, it is not enough to tell me that those who originally contribute the sums which constitute the revenues of the Church are Protestants and members of that Church, for I am bound to look at the effect of the payment of tithe on the whole as a system. I am not sorry, in some respects, that the noble Lord is not present, to be reminded by me of an opinion thus deliberately declared by him.

Twenty years have gone since that speech was uttered, and "nothing of the kind" suggested in it has yet been done. I read it as the well-considered conclusion of one who, on constitutional questions, has long been of the highest authority in this House—the acknowledged leader of a great political party a strenuous supporter of the Protestant Government and religion. I read it, to vindicate the course which I am pursuing, and for the purpose of inducing time English people and its representatives in this House to reflect whether it be not now possible, by well-considered measures of improvement, to remove once for all the great difficulty of British rule in Ireland, the admitted impediment to the success of every scheme of useful legislation. The ecclesiastical revenues of Ireland, under the operation of the Church Temporalities Act and the Tithe Rent Charge Act, may be stated as follows—

Income of Ecclesiastical Commissioners derived principally from the revenues of the suppressed sees, the revenues of suspended dignities and benefices, and the tax on bishoprics and benefices £95,000
Income of archbishops and bishops 68,000
Parochial church revenue 438,000
Revenue of dignitaries 12,000
Revenue of prebendaries, canons, &c. 10,000
The item of parochial church revenue is subject to some deductions; and it may be very true, as often stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, that if divided among all the beneficed clergymen, it would afford but a reasonable income for each. But in my opinion, unless for the purpose of correcting the exaggerated notions which some people entertain of the wealth of the Irish Church, it is quite idle to look at its revenues thus in the gross, or to estimate by a system of averages the policy of their actual distribution. To arrive at any satisfactory conclusion we must look at the detail of the expenditure, at the extent of the spiritual need supplied, and the spiritual usefulness effected by it, in the hands of its present recipients, and if we are willing to do so in a fair and charitable spirit, we shall, I doubt not, arrive at a very clear conviction, that the civil utility which alone can justify a religious establishment, might, without impairing the dignity or efficiency of the Church, or weakening the Protestant religion, be materially promoted by a change in the distribution of the Church revenues.

To begin with the income now at the disposal of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I propose, in time first place, by the Bill which I ask leave to present, to lessen the amount of their disbursements, by providing that the requisites for divine worship in the churches and chapels of the Establishment shall henceforth be supplied at the expense of those who worship in them. The wealthiest portion of the community may well support the cost of the sacramental elements, the Bibles, Prayer-Books, surplices, stoves, candles. clerks' and sextons' salaries, from which they alone derive any benefit. This would effect an annual saving of 35,000l. Secondly, I propose that on the death of the now incumbent prelates, no archbishop shall receive for his own use a larger income than 4,000l., free of all deductions; and no bishop a larger income than 2,500l., in addition to the value of the episcopal palace, demesne, and mensal lands belonging to his see; and that the surplus revenue beyond these amounts should be paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for Ireland. This would, in due time, increase their receipt by an amount of 32,000l. Thirdly, I propose that the appointment of clerks to certain benefices in the provinces of Dublin, Cashel, Tuam, 395 in number, all of which together did not (1834) contain more than 16,000 members of the Established Church out of a population of 900,000, but of which the parochial revenue is about 80,000l., shall, on the death of their incumbents, be suspended, and that they shall be annexed, where they conveniently may be, to contiguous benefices, or consolidated in groups of three or four benefices into unions of an annual value of not less than 200l. per annum, and if outlying, to be served by curates at stipends not less, in any case, than 100l., with the use of the glebe house, if any, at a nominal rent; the churches, for the event of future serviceableness, being in all cases kept in substantial repair, and an option being reserved to the members of the Established Church, with the approbation of the bishop, to have them used for divine service on giving security to provide 100l. for the stipend of a curate, and the cost of the requisites for divine service. After making reasonable provision for these objects, estimate an eventual available surplus from this source of 50,000l.—leaving 30,000l., in addition to churches and glebe houses, for the spiritual instruction and attendance on probably not more than 13,000 members of the Established Church. Fourthly, I propose that after the death of all the present incumbents, except those whose benefices form part of the larger cities, no beneficed clergyman in the dioceses of Armagh and Clogher. Down, Connor, and Dromore, Derry and Raphoe, and Kilmore, should have a larger income than 400l., and no beneficed clergyman in the remaining dioceses a larger income than 300l., free of all taxes and deductions, in addition to his glebe house and twenty acres of glebe, should there be glebe of that amount belonging to his benefice. Lastly, I propose that the annual remuneration of the Ecclesiastical Commission shall, after the death or resignation of its officers now receiving salaries. not exceed 4,000l.

By these arrangements I think there can be no question that the receipt of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for Ireland would at once be relieved from a disbursement of 35,000l., leaving a present disposable income of 60,000l.; and that, eventually, their receipt would be increased by the addition of sums of 32,000l., 50.000l., 50,000l., and 2.000l., to—229,000l. From this sum, however, there would be two large items of deduction; first, the amount of curates' stipends. If the income of the benefices should be reduced in the way proposed, the incumbent ought not to bear the whole charge of the necessary assistance of curates, of whom there are now about 600, with stipends varying from 50l. to 75l. per annum. No reasonable man can be satisfied that an educated gentleman, a minister of the Established Church, perhaps a married man, with a family, should have a less official income than 100l. per annum, of which I propose that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, should they think fit, shall be empowered to supply three-fourths, leaving only one-fourth a charge upon the incumbent. This would probably (the number of curates being to some extent reduced) require a sum or about 50,060l.; and inasmuch as the tax on benefices, which now amounts to 10,000l., would cease, I may estimate the cost to the Commissioners of the change at 60,000l. to Le deducted from their eventual income of 229.000l., leaving a suns of 169,000l. They have now, therefore, a present permanent income of 95,000l. They would under the proposed arrangement have a permanent eventual income of 169,000l. Now, this is public money at the disposal, for the purposes of that civil utility for which religious establishments exist. of the Crown and Parliament of the United Kingdom. Those who dispense it should be accountable to the Crown and Parliament. It is idle to suppose that it can be made applicable to those purposes of civil utility, which are the fruits of religious instruction and religions observance, except through the medium to a great extent of the Presbyterian and Catholic Irish Churches; and I therefore propose that there should be appointed, on terms as nearly as possible the same as the terms under which the present Ecclesiastical Commission is appointed, and like it accountable to Parliament, two more Ecclesiastical Commissions—one Presbyterian, the other Catholic; and that the whole of the eventual ecclesiastical revenue received by the Ecclesiastical Commission should be divided into six parts, of which two-sixth parts should be retained by it for the purposes (except the disbursement for church requisites) to which it is now applied—one-sixth made over to the Presbyterian Commission, and three-sixth parts to the Catholic Commission, to be by them applied in building, rebuilding, repairing, and furnishing the churches and chapels in which the Presbyterian and Catholic people assemble for public prayer. The Bill will contain certain provisions to prevent the reduction of the sums in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, for the purpose of their commission, in any event, below the sum of 55,000l.; but subject to that arrangement it will provide that a sum of 30,000l. shall be forthwith annually transferred by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to the Catholic Commission, and 10,000l. to the Presbyterian Commission. The Church Temporalities Act made it obligatory on the bishops who continue in the receipt of the revenues of their sees, and on the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in Whom are vested the revenues of the suppressed sees, to convert the leases under which the church tenants held, into perpetuities, subject to fixed rents, at rates of purchase much too liberal for the tenants and most improvident for the Church, as a permanent corporation for the cure of souls. I do not desire to disturb that arrangement, beneficial as it undoubtedly was to the Protestant lay interest of Ireland. The value of the fee simple of the see estates, estimated on the principle prescribed by the Act for its computation, and subject to the rent of 120,000l., was 1,200,000l.; and of the sum of about two millions of money received and disbursed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, since the date of their commissions, 500.000l. was the produce of these perpetuities. There remains, as I understand, to be realised, purchase money of perpetuities to the amount of 600.000l.; and I propose that this sum, subject of course to the rents reserved, should be applied to the purchase, in every Catholic parish, of a glebe not exceeding twelve acres, and the erection thereon of a suitable residence or residences, for the parish priest and his curates. The Presbyterian minister receives from the Crown an annual stipend of 75l., which ought to be increased to 100l., and may perhaps be considered an equivalent to him for this arrangement; but I should be very glad to make provision, if it were agreeable to them, for the erection of manses for the clergy of the Presbyterian churches. I propose also that the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church, should, like the bishops and clergy of the Established Church, be corporations, that is, endued with that legal immortality which will enable them to take property to them and their successors, without the intervention of trustees, or the roundabout machinery of Boards of Charitable Donations and Bequests, subject, of course, to the Acts in the nature of mortmain now in force. It will be necessary for this purpose to remove any doubts which may arise upon the construction of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, as to the legality of the spiritual office and jurisdiction of a Catholic bishop. In prohibiting the use of territorial titles it was not the intention of this Government of the now President of the Council, and cannot have been the purpose of Parliament, to deprive the Catholic prelates of the legal status in their native land which was secured to them by the 21 & 22 Geo. III. c. 24, in Ireland, and 18 Geo., III. c. 60, in England, and by the Emancipation Act. I trust no objection will be made to a declaratory statement to that effect in the Bill which I have prepared. The provisions which I have explained to the House, having for their object the suspension of the appointment of clerks to benefices with a very small Protestant population, would interfere to some extent with the ecclesiastical patronage of individuals and of the Crown. As far as I have been able to collect the opinions of churchmen, it seems to be considered that the influence of such patronage, by widening the access to its ministry of candidates for holy orders, is conducive to the interest of the Establishment. The patronage of the Irish bishops is enormous; the Bill will contain provisions for giving equivalents out of it after the next avoidance of the sees, or compensation (as provided by 3 & 4 Will. IV. c. 37, s. 114), to lay patrons and the Crown, which will obviate, as I think, the possibility of injury or injustice to them. I include under this head the large patronage of the University, which, being now disposable for the encouragement of a high standard of theological and general attainments among those destined for the ministry of the Church, could not be diminished without impairing the most legitimate of its influences, and indirectly weakening the Protestant religion.

Having thus stated the provisions of the Bill which I ask leave to introduce, I may be permitted, I trust, to refer generally to the benefits I expect from its adoption, and the recommendations which it presents to sincere members of the Catholic and sincere members of the Protestant Churches—to all who have at heart the promotion of that civil utility which is the fruit of religious instruction as well as the just influence of the Queen's Government in Ireland, and the peace, strength, and harmony of the empire. Under it the diminution of income in every bishopric and benefice would be contemporaneous with promotion, increase of rank, and of worldly means to a new incumbent. It would preserve to the Protestant prelates that temporal precedence in Courts and Parliaments which is the fitting attribute of their connection with the Ecclesiastical Establishment of the seat of empire, and the authority which they derive from the head of the Church and of the State. It would leave all vested interests, and all episcopal and parochial incomes during the lives of those who now enjoy them, untouched. It would deprive no Protestant congregation of the opportunities of religious worship, or the blessing of pastoral superintendence; it would increase the incomes of the incumbents of small livings, and of the working curates; it would secure that share of church patronage which is in lay hands, or an equivalent amount of patro- nage to those by whom it is now dispensed; it would relieve the clergy of the Established Church from the disheartening consciousness, that for spiritual service to a small and rich minority, they receive the whole of the ecclesiastical revenue of their country.

Without departing from the settled policy of the Catholic Church of Ireland, which rejects all connection by means of a pecuniary provision between its clergy and the State, it would secure to every parochial minister a suitable residence, and a certain amount of visible inalienable comfort, leaving him still dependent for his personal support on the voluntary offerings of his flock. It would preserve to the Catholic prelates that entire freedom from control, influence, and interference, which is much better in their estimation than temporal dignity or State favour, and essential to the independent exercise of their authority and jurisdiction. It would relieve the Catholic and Presbyterian people from the burthen of maintaining the fabrics of their churches. It would secure as much of visible religious equality in every parish as is consistent with the connection of the Protestant Church with the State, and the repugnance of the Catholic Church to such a connection.

My firm conviction is, and I would not say so if I did not know that many persons of weight and influence are of the same opinion—that it would go far to close the deep wounds which the unhappy contests of past ages—the Reformation, the Restoration, and the Revolution—have left in the national mind of Ireland. I believe that whatever concessions it contains would be repaid by an increased security to the Protestant Church in all its essential usefulness, and to the Protestant Government in the cheerful loyalty and durable contentment of the Irish people. In the earnest desire of promoting these happy results, and not with any object of sectarian triumph or sectarian gain, I ask permission to bring in this Bill.


seconded the Motion.

Motion wade, and Question proposed, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to alter and amend the Laws relating to the Temporalities of the Church in Ireland, and to increase the means of religious instruction and church accommodation for Her Majesty's Irish subjects.


said, that as the House had been sitting till two o'clock on the previous morning, and it was now after twelve o'clock, and this was an important debate, He should move that it be adjourned.


hoped that there would be a bonâ fide adjournment. He did not shrink from, but courted, inquiry upon this subject. The hon. and learned Serjeant had quoted the statement which he had made to the House, and he (Mr. Napier) recommended hon. Members to read the reply which had been given to it by the Archdeacon of Meath, who had shown that, taking the allowance made to it by the hon. and learned Serjeant, the Established Church would require an addition of 78,000l. to its present actual available income. When the adjourned debate came on, he trusted that it would be shown that the propositions of the hon. and learned Serjeant were contrary to every principle of the Constitution, contrary to the oath to which he had himself alluded, and contrary to the Act of Union, and to all the obligations which were binding upon the parties to that engagement.


said, he hoped that there would on a future day be a debate upon this subject, because he was prepared to show, upon the statement of the hon. and learned Serjeant, that the revenues of the Established Church were not sufficient to provide the allowance which he had said that he was willing to give to the ministers of that Church. There were many other points on which the hon. and learned Serjeant might be met, and when the adjourned debate came on, he should be prepared to state the grounds on which he should meet the proposition for the introduction of this Bill with a decided negative.


said, that according to the understanding of every Protestant Member of that House, it was not competent for the hon. and learned Serjeant, consistently with the oath which he had taken, to make the Motion which he had proposed. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members might deny their understandings, but the words of the oath had recently been debated, and he did not doubt that it could be shown that the understanding which the hon. and learned Serjeant appeared to entertain of what that obligation was, was not such as an Englishman and a Protestant would place upon those words, according to their common and grammatical interpretation, without mental reservation or evasion whatever.


said, he could not allow the last observation of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire to pass without saying that he should on a future occasion be prepared to show, by reference to the history of the oath, and by reference to authorities, among whom were the Earl of Derby and Lord St. Leonards, that the interpretation to be put upon it differed entirely from that contended for by the hon. Member (Mr. Newdegate). As to the observation of the right hon and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier), that all the statements of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant) were capable of ample refutation, he would only say that it was not then very late, and debates had been forced upon the House by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland at a much later hour. The "whips" of both sides had about half an hour before been very busy emptying the House; and though that might be a mode of giving the go-by to a matter, it was not the way to meet a question which was believed to be capable of ample refutation.


said, he would not at that hour go into the question of the oath further than to say that his interpretation of it differed from that put upon it by the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) who had referred to it. His only objection to the proposition of the hon. and learned Serjeant was, that it did not deal in a sufficiently sweeping and radical manner with this great and enormous grievance, which had been too long endured with patience, but which he believed would not much longer be patiently endured. He also objected to that part—a very large part—of the proposition which would give a portion of the funds taken from the Established Church to the Roman Catholic Church; and he believed that that was generally disapproved of by the Roman Catholics of Ireland.


said, he could not comprehend how any Gentleman in that House in the position of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), having plenty of time to answer him, should take a book in his hand, and state that that book refuted what lie had said. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had read that book, he knew that it did not. So little did it do so that it only pointed out errors in the whole of his figures to the amount of between 15,000l. and 20,000l., half of which was in favour of the Church. Did not he (Mr. Serj. Shee) know that the writer of that book had complimented him on his respect for his oath, and had caned on him personally to evince his respect for him? The right hon. and learned Gentleman knew he could not refute what he (Mr. Serj. Shee) had stated; but he had the um fairness, late in the evening, and contrary to his knowledge of what was in that book, to let it go forth to the country that (Mr. Serj. Shee) had stated what he had before written, and what was not true. He declared upon his honour as a Gentleman that he believed every word which he had stilted to be true, and he defied the right hon. Secretary for Ireland and the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) to refute a word of it. So cautious had he been that Archdeacon Stopford, having objected that the amount of seine benefices in his diocese had been overstated, he had abstained from referring to income except in three cases, and had called attention not to income, but to population. ["Question, Question!"] He did not wish to trespass upon the House a moment longer than was necessary; but upon the subject of the oath might he be permitted to say this? ["No, no!"] What! not permitted, after he had been charged with something like perjury? He thought he could understand an Act of Parliament as well as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Enniskillen.


begged to say that when the hon. and learned Serjeant brought forward a Motion he must expect to hear it criticised, and argument met by argument. With regard to the book which had been referred to by his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Napier) being a refutation of what had fallen from the hon. and learned Serjeant, he could only say that no man who had written a book was willing to allow that the facts contained in it had been refuted.

Debate adjourned till Monday next. The House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.