§ MR. FAGAN
said, that since 1847, when he first had the honour of a seat in that House, he had on five different occasions brought the question of "Ministers' Money" under its attention, with the view 553 to its abolition. He then rose for the sixth time to make a similar Motion. He did so, with the same desire that ever animated him, namely, to avoid all sectarian discussion—not to wound the religious susceptibilities of any Member—to steer clear of everything which would produce irritation or strife. It was not necessary for his purpose. He was there the advocate as well for the Protestant clergyman, who received the obnoxious stipend, as for the Roman Catholics and Dissenters who were forced to pay that anomalous and unjust impost. He called it "anomalous and unjust" advisedly. Was it not an anomaly, that eight towns in Ireland should alone be subjected to this imposition? Why should Cork be liable to it, and Belfast free? Why should Limerick be compelled to pay it, and Londonderry exempt? Why should the inhabitants of Waterford be subject to the odious impost, and the town of Enniskillen escape? Why should Kilkenny, Clonmel, Drogheda, and Kinsale, be forced to maintain by taxation the Protestant minister, and the towns in Ulster be exempted? And this anomaly is to be continued, and his Motion, which was to get rid of it, was to be resisted. An anomaly somewhat similar exists in Scotland; but the Government brought in a measure, which professed to get rid of it, and would have got rid of it, did the substitute which was proposed meet the views of the Dissenters? In the city of London this anomalous tax exists, but it exists founded on an agreement between the clergy and their parishioners, so far back as the year 1200, as a substitute for the oblations which on festival days it was then the custom to make at the churches, for the support of the clergy. In Ireland, then, the anomaly exists in all its deformity, for there it is upheld, and there it is accompanied by injustice. Can anything be more unjust than that the eight most Catholic towns should be subjected to pay a tax for the support of the Protestant incumbent, while the Protestant towns of Ulster and elsewhere should be exempted from its imposition? Nay, more—that the poor Catholics in these Catholic towns should pay more in proportion to their means than their Protestant fellow-citizens? Can anything be more unjust than to force a man against his conscience to pay for the support of a minister with whom he held no religious communion, and who was in the habit from his pulpit of denouncing the religious doctrines of those who supported him? But he would 554 not on that point express further any opinion of his own. Being a Roman Catholic, and conscientiously dissenting from the doctrines of the Established Church, he might be considered prejudiced. He would rather quote to the House the opinions of a staunch Churchman—a Member of that House—the heir to the honours and name of Derby. He meant the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley). That noble Lord's father abolished church rates in Ireland, and he, following in his footsteps, proposed in a very able pamphlet to free the Dissenters from the imposition. Let him quote to the House a few passages from that brochure expressive of the noble Lord's opinion of the injustice of coercing parties who dissent from the Church of England, to pay for her support. In the extracts he would venture to substitute ministers' money for church rates, and the case of injustice he was endeavouring to make out would be fully established from the lips of the noble Lord. The noble Lord says:—It can scarcely be said that a churchman taxed for the support of his own church, while attending its duties and profiting by its instructions, is thereby exposed to any injustice. With the Dissenter the case is different. He pays that others may profit by the payment extorted from him.He further observes:—It is probably the wish of every one—it is certainly the wish of every Conservative to remove from our legal and social system whatever tends to break up the community into hostile sections, whenever such removal can be effected without involving the sacrifice of important national interests. In the present instance, by the exemption of Dissenters from church rates—(read ministers' money)—no national interest will be sacrificed—a very trifling pecuniary loss will be inflicted on the church establishment—the church will gain in return the respect, or at least the neutrality, of numerous classes now arrayed in bitter hostility against her—a prominent cause of dissensions and heart-burnings everywhere felt, but felt more especially in provincial cities and boroughs, will disappear; and from the English Statute-book, the stigma of an ancient and still existing injustice will be washed out. The clergy of the establishment will no longer be driven to choose painfully between their sense of professional duty, leading them to seek the enforcement of the law, and their desire to maintain peace, which can only be done by letting the law rest in abeyance. * * Local agitators will lose their best stock in trade—a grievance, and a mark of inferiority, at once invidious and unprofitable assumed by one religious denomination over another, will have ceased to exist.Again, the noble Lord says:—The vast amount of the revenues enjoyed by the establishment is not, as far as I know, contained in any statistical return, but they are gene- 555 rally understood to fall little short of five millions yearly. Is a sacrifice of one-fiftieth of this sum (namely, the amount of church rates paid by Dissenters) too much to make if not to justice, yet to a policy of pacification.It was the same amount of sacrifice—onefiftieth of the Irish Church revenues, which he (Mr. Fagan) asked the Church to make, if not to justice, yet to a policy of pacification. The noble Lord then makes this strong allusion:—"To me, at least, the claim of the Nonconformists to be exempted from ecclesiastical taxation, appears unanswerable." Thus, from the pen of the noble Lord, he had fully proved the injustice of taxing Roman Catholics and Dissenters for the support of the clergy of the Established Church. Well then, the injustice being admitted, why is it continued? There are, as far as he could ascertain, but two objections to its abolition. The first is, that the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, where it is proposed to find a substitute, are not adequate for the purpose, and scarcely adequate for the purposes for which that commission was instituted; and the second is, that the church ought not to be called upon to make a present of their property in ministers' money to individual owners of house property. He would apply himself to the first objection, in the first instance, and here he would read a passage from the report of the Select Committee on ministers' money, which sat in the year 1848:—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 goodwill, 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 what was the state of these funds, as compared to the present time, in 1848, when that recommendation was made by a committee of that House? He would first take the three great sources of permanent revenue, see estates, suspended 556 dignities and benefices, and the tax upon bishopries and benefices:—
or nearly 37,000l. a year increase without including the increase caused by the recent death of the Archbishop of Armagh. Again, he would take the entire permanent revenue of the Commissioners including, together with the three sources he had already stated, dividends from the funds, interest on perpetuity mortgages, the payment of 4,239l. a year from the see of Derry, and private subscriptions for church buildings. This permanent revenue was estimated by the Commissioners in 1848 at 71,574l.; and in 1852 it came to 90,677l., and last year to 101,869l., being an increase of 31,000l. a year since 1848, and of 11,000l. in one year from 1852 to 1853. Besides this, the debt to the Government in 1848 was 40,000l., and for years back the Commissioners appropriated to its payment 10,000l. a year—that debt is now discharged. The Commissioners not only were enabled to purchase into the funds 44,000l., but also to pay over 20,000l. to the Government. Thus then there will be in future 10,000l. a year more than heretofore available for the purposes of the Church Temporalities Act, or over 40,000l. a year more now than in 1848, when a Select Committee recommended the Protestant ministers in these eight towns to be paid, as the Dublin curates now are, out of these ecclesiastical funds. In 1848 Mr. Quin, the able Ecclesiastical Commissioner, estimated the full future increase of their revenues at the sum of 44,857l. This included a sum of 18,744l. which he expected to be realised when the sales of perpetuities were completed. Now, the income from that source amounts but to 2,200l. a year, and therefore, according to Mr. Quin's calculation, there is over 16,000l. to come in from that source. Indeed there is more than 600,000l. in money value yet unsold, and here he would refer to another recommendation of the Select Committee. It is thus:—
1848 1853 See estates, £32,683 £61,521 Suspended dignities and benefices, 11,531 16,609 Tax on bishoprics and benefices, 7,541 10,157 Total, £51,574 £88,287The large item of 18,744l. in his, Mr. Quin's, estimate will be the result of the sale of land, which the tenants of episcopal estates are empowered to purchase. Its realisation depends at 557 present upon the disposition of the tenants to buy, and is therefore in some degree contingent. But by an alteration of the law, and by holding out inducements to purchase, or by putting up the land to public and general sale, the contemplated increase might be readily accelerated.Now, following up that recommendation, he had year after year endeavoured to point out how by altering the mode of estimating the purchase of these perpetuities, and by giving a large bonus to purchasers, that enormous sum which, yet outstanding, and without benefit to any one, could be speedily brought in instead by the following amount of 3,000l., which is now the annual sum allowed for sales of perpetuities, instead of 40,000l. as formerly. However, he now abandoned to the Commissioners themselves, or to the Government, that part of the question. It was no longer necessary for this purpose. The funds were now amply sufficient as they stood—they were 40,000l. a year at the disposal of the Commissioners, more than in 1848—and all that he sought to place on them was about from 12,000l. to 14,000l. a year. He, therefore, would not trouble the House with that complicated branch of the inquiry. It may be said, and indeed is said, that though the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have so enormously increased, that still they are not adequate for their present purposes without this new appropriation. Well, all he would say to that statement was, that it appeared to him inconsistent with the fact that the Commissioners were every year making large purchases into the funds, and also inconsistent with the fact that the expenditure in 1847 was 67,677l., whereas, in 1852, with an enormous increase of revenue, the expenditure fell down to 54,214l. It is true that last year (1853) it reached 80,000.; but the Commissioners state that enormous outlay was incurred with the view to economy in future years, and that for the future it will, in consequence, be largely diminished. And again comes the question, is all the expenditure easily and prudently incurred? With that branch of the subject he was not acquainted; but he had received a letter from a gentleman, a magistrate of the county of Cork, and a Protestant, in which he pointed out that it was owing to the Commissioners having built churches sixtravagantly large and in the most expensve manner. It is not unreasonable to impose that the same system is pursued through Ireland, and if it is, it is easy to account for the want of funds by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He hoped he had now satisfied the House that there 558 were ample funds at the disposal of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for all the purposes of the Church Temporalities Act and for ministers' money in addition. He had shown them how, since 1848, when a Select Committee had recommended a substitute for that tax to be found in these funds—how they had increased over 31,000l. a year—nay, over 41,000l. for the purposes of expenditure—while from 12,000l. to 14,000l. would be the utmost of the increase of expenditure arising from the abolition of ministers' money. He had shown them how the expenditure had lessened, while the revenue had increased—and how money unemployed was vested in the Government securities—and he gave his authority for suggesting the inquiry, whether the expenditure just now was not extravagant and wasteful. He would now come to the second objection—namely, that the church had no right to be asked to make a present of its property to the owners or occupiers of house property in those eight corporate towns, who either purchased, or built, or tenanted these houses, with a foreknowledge of this tax, had their calculations accordingly. Well, this kind of argument would tell against any Legislative improvement whatever, because there is scarcely anything, of the kind ever effected without injuring or wronging individuals; and if no real public good was ever achieved, because it benefited some at the expense of others, nothing would ever be done. The very Church Temporalities Act itself, which took possession of the property of ten bishops' sees—that taxed the beneficed clergy—and the perpetuities of bishops' leases—took possession of suspended livings—would never have been passed, because it made a present of 70,000l. a year church rates to the owners of house properties in Ireland. The tithe rent charge as a substitution of tithe composition, which was equally secured on the land, would never have been law, because it made a present to the landlord of one quarter of what belongs to the Church. If that argument held good, church rates wold never be abolished in this country; and yet Lord Althorp proposed their abolition, and proposed a portion of the land tax and of the church lands as a substitute. Sir Robert Peel was for giving those rates to the owners and occupiers of house property, and placing them on the Consolidated Fund, and Lord Monteagle, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, carried a resolution to the effect that in lieu of church 559 rates "a permanent and adequate provision should be made out of an increased value to be given to the church lands." Why even the Bill of the Chief Secretary for Ireland made a present of nearly one-half the ministers' money tax, to the owners of house property, in some of the towns subject to the tax. Thus he would dispose of the second objection with this further observation, that most of the house property belongs to Roman Catholics. According to Lord Stanley and every lover of justice they had a claim for this exemption. Again, it should be recollected, that the Ministers' Money Act was passed by the most violent anti-Catholic Parliament that ever sat—a Parliament elected purposely for hostile purposes against the property of Roman Catholics; and so much was the iniquity of this act felt, that in a few years after James the Second's Parliament, after his abdication, and when he was de facto ruler of Ireland, repealed it. He was anxious, before he sat down to say a few words on the Bill announced by the Government last Session. His right hon. Friend (Sir John Young) would believe what he now stated, for he was aware that he (Mr. Fagan) had incurred some odium for having expressed his determination to give that Bill a second reading with a view to amending it in Committee. Now he assured his right hon. Friend that, without a single exception, every town affected by that tax was for the rejection in toto of that Bill. Why then, it might be asked, was he (Mr. Fagan) for giving it a second reading? Because, as the Bill proposed to relieve the poorer classes from the tax, he did not feel he was justified in keeping the tax on them, the more particularly as he knew it would in no way lessen his chance of success in striving to get rid of the entire; and, even if that Bill had passed into a law, he would at this very moment have been moving for total repeal and he ventured to say that he would have had as large a division as he should have that night, because the principle was the same whether 15,000l. or 5,000l. was the amount of the tax, or whether or not the poor were exempted. The dissenting body in that House, and those for religious equality, were the parties from whom he expected success, and by them he would have been supported on principle whether the poor were free from the imposition or not. On the other hand, so long as the Tories, who were for not giving up a penny, though they may alter the incidence of the tax, united with the Government, nothing would 560 be got but what the Government desired. That was a different question from the conversion of the tithe composition into tithe rent charge. In that case he fully admitted that but for that conversion, tithes would stand the national shock another year; and though he always appreciated Mr. O'Connell's humane and patriotic motives for the course he took, he was still persuaded that, with the excitement then produced by a whole people in arms against it, the system could not have continued. But the matter is different with ministers' money. In that case there never was any popular excitement, and the Bill of last year would not have removed a single person from the existing agitation. These were his reasons for the course he intended to have pursued last year. However, he was not sorry that the Bill had not passed, because he felt a hope the Government would take a more liberal view of the subject. Their Bill of last year would never get rid of the discussion in that House or out of doors; it would never prevent the heart-burning and irritation that existed. It was said that the Home Secretary (Lord Palmerston) was about to take up the question of church rates in England. With what consistency could that be done, while the equally odious impost was pursued in Catholic Ireland? He would appeal to his right hon. Friend, the Chief Secretary of Ireland. He did not speak of him because he was present, or because he was a member of the Government, or because he had received from him in his public capacity much of courtesy and attention; but he spoke of him independently of those considerations, and he fearlessly expressed his conviction that there never was a better Chief Secretary for Ireland if he would follow his own impulses. There was no better Irishman, or one more anxious for the welfare of Ireland; and though he knew he was an ardent churchman, still if left to his own feelings, he would remove this grievance, and take away this crusher from the establishment. He appealed to him earnestly and warmly at length to accede to the petitions of his countrymen, and allow this odious tax to be abolished. He appealed to the Government not to reject this proposition. He knew that its rejection would not prevent the Irish people rallying round their sovereign at this juncture. It would be absurd of him to make such a statement. But, this he knew, that all these denials of justice without cause were deeply injurious. One-fourth of the sailors 561 of their navy, being Roman Catholics, were prevented worshipping God according to their consciences on ship-board, and were denied when dying for their country the consolations of religion, because it was said none but the State religion could be recognised in the navy. Again the temporalities of the Church of Ireland could not be interfered with, because it was part and parcel of the Church of England. Well, these were the reasons alleged by statesmen for these denials of justice. But what reason would be given for preserving this paltry tax to irritate and annoy? None whatever, of any kind or substance. He appealed, then, to the Government to adopt his proposition. He appealed to the great party opposite, who, when in power, advised Her Majesty, in Her Speech from the Throne, to call on Parliament to redress the great grievances of Ireland. Here was a just and proven grievance; and, if they were sincere, he demanded their votes in favour of his Motion.
said, he would second the Motion, because, should any objection be taken to his hon. Friend the Mover, being a Roman Catholic, the same objection could not be taken to him (Mr. Hume). Ever since he entered the walls of that House this had been one of the constant themes of complaint on the part of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. The existence of church-rates and ministers' money in Ireland depended entirely on the same principles, and ought to have been abolished at the same time. He thought, if ever there had been a means through which religion had been made the cause of disunion in a country, the present grievance was one. Instead of religion bringing peace upon earth and goodwill among men, they had, for a paltry sum of a few pounds, kept a perpetual blister, as he might call it, upon the Roman Catholics of Ireland. The Irish church-rates were removed, from the conviction that it was absolutely necessary to do away with every cause of discontent in religious matters, and he thought that that man would prove the greatest friend to the Established Church who could show that, as there were means to remove church-rates, so there might be to remove this tax. A tax to be just ought to be general; but this was confined to a few towns; and, surely, if it could be shown that injustice was heaped on the head of Roman Catholics, the sooner they could remove it the better; the longer it continued, the greater was the disgrace. It had been most unwisely continued, and how they could think 562 of removing church-rates and leaving this was to him most surprising. Neither side of the House, when in power, had the courage to act honestly. He would appeal, therefore, to the House to act independently. It was not a party question. It was a question whether Ireland should be at peace with England, and whether an insignificant cause of discontent should be continued when there were ample funds for its removal. It was a badge of servitude—it was a badge of oppression—and ought to be removed, and he appealed to those who were friends to the Irish Church to remove it. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to show, by supporting this Motion, that he was desirous of placing the Roman Catholics on an equal footing with the rest of the community.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That this House will, To-morrow, resolve itself into a Committee to take into consideration the Law relating to the Rate or Tax called 'Ministers' Money' in Ireland, with a view to repeal the same; and further, to provide a substitute therefor 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 & 18 Chas. II. c. 7.
§ SIR JOHN YOUNG
said, he must state in explanation of the notice he had placed on the paper, to move as an Amendment that the Acts relating to ministers' money be read, that it arose purely from the forms of the House. The hon. Member for Limerick had moved, as a necessary preliminary to the abolition of the impost, that the House resolve itself into Committee, and it would have been open for him to have seconded the Motion, and, when in Committee, to have explained any difference of opinion between them; but he thought it better, by the terms of the notice, to indicate that difference of opinion, and he would state at once the views which he should have humbly to suggest for the guidance of the House in opposition to the views of his hon. Friend, and then proceed to explain the provisions of a Bill which he should be prepared to introduce upon the subject. He had listened to his hon. Friend with all the attention which was due to his interesting statement, and to the earnestness with which he had advocated this question, and he should endeavour to follow his example, and, in the course of the observations it would be his duty to make to the House, to avoid giving utterance to anything like irritating expressions. His hon. Friend had pointed 563 out the grievances which resulted from the present state of the law in reference to the ministers' money. Those grievances were admitted upon all hands, and had been acknowledged upon many occasions. The tax applied to eight towns in Ireland, and, the valuation upon which it was levied having been founded, in the first instance, upon erroneous principles, had become in the course of time more and more unequal and unjust, inasmuch as houses which were originally let at a high rent, but had fallen into decay, were still assessed at the higher rate, without reference to the depreciation which had taken place in their value. Then the mass of the occupiers of these houses were Roman Catholics; and he could conceive that whether the burden fell upon persons or upon property, Roman Catholic occupiers would regard it as a great grievance to be obliged to pay it while their own Church remained unendowed. But, as the matter stood at present, the clergy of these towns had to look to this tax for the maintenance of themselves and families, and they must either give up that upon which their maintenance, in part at least, depended, or, if they considered it to the interests of their successors, and of the Church, that they should, at all events, collect it, they were obliged in many instances, to obtain it from very poor people, and even in many cases to recover it by distress. No doubt great grievances resulted from such a state of things as this, and they had often been admitted and deplored. But then the question arose, "Why has no remedy been applied?" The reason, he thought, why no remedy had been applied was this, that although the amount was so small, amounting to no more than 15,000l. a year, the principle of the inviolability of property was involved; for it was impossible to take it away without violating property, and spreading considerable alarm among persons attached to the Church. If this property were taken away, it would be asked, what would remain inviolable? Then, on the other hand, there were other parties who would accept nothing less than the total and entire abolition of the tax. The question had been pressed very often upon successive Administrations, and attention had been given to it with a view of endeavouring to find a substitute, but as yet no substitute had been found, and the proposal to repeal it without a substitute was one which no Minister had ever yet ventured to make. He could not assent to the validity of any argument in favour of such a 564 proposition, based upon the amount of property possessed by the Protestant Church; because that would be tantamount to saying that a debtor might claim to be excused from payment of his debt, by saying to his creditor, "I am a poor man, and you a rich one, and therefore I won't pay you: you may make it up as well as you can." One substitute suggested had been the transfer of the tax from the occupiers of houses to the owners; but it had been found quite impossible to do that with success, because the owners of houses were almost as numerous as the occupiers. It was a very good arrangement with respect to the tithe commutation; because the lands of a parish were frequently in the hands of two or three proprietors, while the tithe payers might amount to several hundreds. It was different, however, with respect to the house property; the number of the immediate lessors would render the successful adoption of such a course impracticable, even if it were possible to find them, which in many cases it would not be; nor would it, if sanctioned by the Legislature, obviate the complaints which were made under the existing state of things. The next course suggested was to abolish the tax, and to reimburse the Church and the clergy out of the Consolidated Fund, He need hardly say that that was a proposition which was not likely to meet with much favour in that House. The last suggestion was that made by the late Mr. Spiel, and carried by him in Committee, but not by a very large majority, that a substitute should be provided out of the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. But the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were the funds of the Church, and this suggestion amounted to saying to the Church, "We will take so much from you, and leave you to find a substitute as best you can." His hon. Friend had gone into a long argument to prove that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had ample funds at their disposal for all purposes. That statement he was not prepared to admit. The funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had been given them for several purposes, among others for the building of churches; now, many of those churches were not yet built. In reference, therefore, to a remark that churches had been unnecessarily built, he thought he could clearly show that such was not the case, and he would refer his hon. Friend (Mr. Fagan) to the very last Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, which would tend to correct that impres- 565 sion. It appeared from that Report that ten churches had been built in part by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and that towards the erection of those churches they had received upwards of 6,000l. from private sources. He believed that the amount expended by the Commissioners upon these churches had been very much overrated, and that, instead of being anything like 5,000l. upon a single church, 800l. would be much nearer the mark. But to show that these funds were not ample for all purposes, be would turn to the next page of the Report, where it was stated that thirteen churches had been built entirely from private sources; and that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had given no assistance towards them, because they had not been able to do it. The next paragraph stated as follows:—The Commissioners continue to receive applications for aid toward the building of chapels of ease in unions of parishes, or in parishes of large extent, where the mother churches are not sufficient to accommodate the parishioners who might resort thither for divine worship, or where they are at an inconvenient distance from a great number of the inhabitants. In answer to these applications, many of which are of a very pressing nature, they have been obliged to state that it will not be in their power, tinder the provisions of the Church Temporalities Act, 3 & 4 Will. IV, chap. 37, to aid in the erection of such churches or chapels until there shall be a surplus fund at their disposal, after provision shall have been made for the several other church works mentioned in the 63rd section of the Act, and for which, according to the estimate now before them, a suns exceeding 200,000l. would be required. We have, however, the satisfaction to state that, in some of these cases, churches are being erected through the liberality of individuals, or by means of subscriptions raised in the respective unions or parishes, or elsewhere; and where such could not be accomplished, the Commissioners have, in many instances, granted the usual requisites for the celebration of divine service in schoolhouses, or other places licensed for the purpose.In no cases, with the exception of two or three very poor parishes, had the Commissioners given assistance towards building churches, unless private funds were contributed to some extent, and in many they had been obliged to decline aid altogether. The Report stated:—The sum of 2,500l., set apart for the enlargement of churches, has been distributed among twenty-nine cases, the contributions from private sources in aid thereof being 2,367l. 6s. 11d.; and the sum of 1,500l. for inside painting and colouring among 112 cases, the parishioners in each undertaking to defray half the cost of the work.Now, he really thought that, in that state of affairs, it was scarcely right or well- 566 grounded to say that the Commissioners had funds in their hands to apply to other purposes. Let him remind them also, that, in addition to the building and repairing of churches, there was one great trust which had been given to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners which had not been touched at all; it was that trust which had enabled the Church Temporalities Act to pass through Parliament without opposition. It was one of the objects contemplated by that Act that parishes of large income should be heavily taxed, in order that those of small income might be benefited by an increase of the means available for the religious instruction of the people. Now, really this was a matter of so much importance that he must dwell upon it for a moment; for it was a question of considerable moment, whether great and settled arrangements made by that House and by Parliament should be disturbed prematurely, and before an opportunity had been afforded of carrying them into effect. In explaining to the House of Commons the provisions of the Church Temporalities Bill, in the year 1833, Lord Althorp said:—Now, I apprehend that, however great the differences of opinion may be as to the right of Parliament to apply the property of the Church to the purposes of the State, both those who think that they have a right to apply it to such purposes, and those who think that they have no right so to apply it—all will agree in thinking that the first claim upon the property of the Church is the claim of the Church itself. No parties are likely to dissent from this opinion, but those who either think that there ought to be no Church Establishment at all, or those who think that a different Church ought to be established in Ireland. With the exception of those who entertain these opinions, it will be generally agreed that the present property of the Church Establishment ought to be applied in the first place to the purposes which may be necessary for extending the benefits of the Church to the people of Ireland Are these purposes sufficiently provided for as matters now stand? We have heard frequently of benefices in which no duty is performed at all, or where there is no church, or where there is no resident minister. We have heard these statements frequently made; but it is also well known that there are many places where there are congregations in which there is a difficulty in the due performance of public worship, and that the working clergy, while their superiors enjoy large revenues, have very inadequate incomes, and are frequently placed in the most distressing circumstances. There are 200 livings in Ireland, which are of less value than 100l. a year. While this is the case, where there are Protestant congregations, who require to be provided with the means of attending divine worship, it cannot surely be said by any one that the Church of Ireland itself ought not to have the first claim on the property of the Church."—[3 Hansard xv. 568.]567 This was the opinion put forward by Lord Althorp, in order to carry the Church Temporalities Act; it was acquiesced in by Sir Robert Peel, and by the operation of that Act ten sees were suppressed, and the proceeds of them were applied to the payment of the church cess in Ireland. Now, the church cess in those days amounted to 70,000l., and his hon. Friend had shown, by a reference to the accounts of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, that the amount which had come into their hands up to this time had amounted to no more than 61,000l. a year, which was 10,000l. a year short of the amount of the church cess given up in 1833. But Lord Althorp had said that at that time, in the year 1833, there were 200 livings in Ireland of less value than 100l. a year. This was before the tithes were commuted, and before the passing of the Poor Law, by which the clergy were assessed to the poor rate both as occupiers and owners, a tax which amounted to 10 per cent of their incomes. There were, therefore, a greater number of livings of less value than 100l. a year at this time than there were in 1833. He thought, then, it could not be said that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had in their hands ample and abundant funds which could be applied in lieu of ministers' money. They had not yet been able to build a sufficient number of churches, and in very few cases had they been able to increase the stipends of the poorer clergy. Looking at the frequency with which this question had been brought forward, sometimes by hon. Members for Dublin, but more usually by bon. Members for Cork, he had thought it might be advisable to try the experiment of offering some compromise to the consideration of the House. He (Sir J. Young) would therefore beg leave to submit to them this proposition, that after the 10th of next October all houses rated at and under 10l. per annum should be totally exempt; that no house in future should be liable to the tax; that means should be taken to ascertain, with respect to those tenements and houses which had been in past times liable, what amount they had paid, and that they should be liable to that amount and no more; and that there should also be a power of redemption at a fixed rate; that the funds so accruing, whether from the rate annually levied or from the redemption money, should be paid into the general funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who should pay their stipends to 568 the clergymen in these eight towns; so that in future these clergymen would have nothing to do with the assessment management or collection of the rate. His hon. Friend would, perhaps, say that this was not a very extensive proposal. It might not be a very extensive proposal in the opinion of those who wished for the entire abolition of the tax; but when he was told that the present law was mischievous, because of its bringing the clergy into conflict with the people, he might fairly call upon the House to look at the number of persons who would be withdrawn from these unseemly and injurious contests, if this proposal should be carried out. In Dublin, 3–7ths of the houses would be exempt; in Cork, 4 out of 5; in Clonmel, 8 out of 9; in Drogheda, 10 out of 11; in Kilkenny, 10 out of 13; in Kinsale, 6 out of 7; in Limerick, 13 out of 14; and in Waterford, 9 out of 12. The greater part of the population—and especially of the Roman Catholic population—would thus be withdrawn from the operation of the tax, and from the contests which arose out of its collection. The poorer classes would have the benefit of the exemption, and those who would remain liable would be only those who were in comparatively easy and comfortable circumstances, while the clergy would be exempt from all litigation and obloquy in their parishes. He believed that this measure would be found sufficiently extensive to meet all the requirements of the case, although he knew that as a measure of compromise it would not satisfy those who held very strong opinions on either side. It must, however, be remembered that houses had been taken subject to the tax, and that really, if they gave it up, they would be making the householder a present of the amount, a proposition which he did not think could be seriously defended. He was fortified by the opinions of gentlemen whose names, if he could mention them to the House, would justly carry with them great authority, not as politicians or partisans on one side or the other, but as men thoroughly acquainted with the state and circumstances of these towns and of those who resided in them. They held that the reasonable requirements of the case would be met by the arrangement he proposed to make. The objection which was made to the present state of things, upon the ground that houses which had fallen into decay continued to be highly taxed, would be altogether got rid Of, and the clergy 569 would be saved the necessity of resorting to a grievous remedy in order to obtain the means of subsistence, because such portion of the tax as continued to be levied would be paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the amounts which would be payable to the clergy would be paid by the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commission. The tax would no longer be demanded from the poor, and he thought that all parties would be benefited by the change. He made this proposition, knowing, as he had said, that, being a compromise, it was liable to be objected to on each side, but in the same spirit which would animate him if he were called in to arbitrate between two parties for whom he had great respect, and whose mutual goodwill and harmonious action were of great importance to their neighbourhood; and he believed that if the House would give to it a favourable consideration, it would go far to remove those causes of enmity which had so long prevailed.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words the Acts relating to Ministers' Money in Ireland, and the Church Temporalities (Ireland) Act, be now read,' instead thereof.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, it was impossible not to perceive and to share in the pain which the right hon. Gentleman felt in being obliged to propose a compromise of this kind. Five-sixths of the population of Ireland were separatists from the Established Church, and the Protestant Dissenters, including the Presbyterians, were alone equal in number to the members of that Church. The amount of the revenues of the Established Church of Ireland, according to the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan), was 600,000l. a-year, and yet it was now proposed to make a compromise of 15,000l. a-year, as if that luxurious Church, which was gorged with wealth, could not afford the loss of so small a sum. This, it must be remembered, was not a question of property, but of a tax which was levied principally upon Roman Catholics in order to add to the wealth of a rich Establishment. It had been condemned by a Select Committee of that House, and the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that successive Administrations had pledged themselves to its abandonment. Dr. Higgin, the present Bishop of Derry, of whom Lancashire was justly proud, when Dean of 570 Limerick, one of the places subject to this tax, had written thus:—I know not where the burden can be placed, save and except where it ought to have been placed when the Church Temporalities Act was passed—namely, on the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; and on the same principle on which they make payments for curates in small livings, they ought to provide for the clergymen whose misfortune it is to have their incomes, in all or in part, dependent upon ministers' money.He went on to state that there were funds from that source not then immediately available, but which have been since released, which were sufficient, and might be used for this purpose. They had, then, a Church with a revenue of 600,000l. a-year, and with funds perfectly at liberty, which might be appropriated to the payment of those clergymen in whose behalf this tax was now levied. Why did they not; therefore, at once abolish it? They had had, very lately, a declaration of Protestant feeling in that House. Now, there was not a more earnest Protestant than himself; but he considered that the first act of Protestantism ought to be to do justice to the Roman Catholic population. Could they expect the Roman Catholics of Ireland to submit to pay this tax, or to acquiesce in the sale of their goods and chattels for the support of Protestant clergymen? There was another reason which he would urge upon the House. Catholics or Protestants, they all professed to be Christians, and he would ask whether, in insisting on the maintenance of this tax, they were advancing that cause which they professed to love and honour, or were acting in accordance with the revealed will of Him whom they professed to love and honour? It was unjust to make any man pay, by force of law, for the maintenance of principles which he did not profess or believe. This tax was imposed at a period which would be ever memorable in the history of this country—in the reign of Charles the Second—a period when acts were committed for which we might well be ashamed.Those were days," says the eloquent and right hon. Member for Edinburgh, "never to be recalled without a blush, the days of servitude without loyalty and sensuality without love; of dwarfish talents and gigantic vices; the paradise of cold hearts and narrow minds; the golden age of the coward, the bigot, and the slave. The King cringed to his rival, that he might trample on his people; sunk into a Viceroy of France, and pocketed, with complacent infamy, her degrading insults, and her more degrading gold. The caresses of harlots, and the jests of buffoons, regulated the measures of a Government, which had just ability enough to deceive, and just religion enough to 571 persecute. The principles of liberty were the jest of every grinning courtier, and the anathema maranatha of every fawning dean. In every high place, worship was paid to Charles and James, Belial and Moloch, and England propitiated those obscene and cruel idols with the blood of her best and bravest children. Crime succeeded to crime, and disgrace to disgrace, till the race, accursed of God and man, was a second time driven forth to wander on the face of the earth, and to be a byword and a shaking of the head to the nations.In these times of degradation this shameful tax was imposed on Catholics and Dissenters, for the support of the Church of a minority of the people. He trusted that the House would submit to no compromise, but abolish the imposition altogether. The tax was opposed to every principle upon which they could hope to give peace to Ireland, or to get a fair hearing for Protestantism; above all, it militated against Christianity itself, and the sooner it was taken from the Statute-book the better would it be for them all.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
, said, he thought it incumbent on all who desired to promote peace in Ireland and uphold the principles of civil and religious liberty, firmly but respectfully to decline the proposition of the Government, which ran directly counter to the wishes of the people of Ireland. He could distinctly answer for it, and he would call upon the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Fagan) to support his assertion, that there was not a Protestant lay gentleman in the city of Cork who was not most anxious to have this question set at rest for ever. He was perfectly surprised that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Young) should propose to introduce the same Bill which he perfectly well knew was rejected last year by every town in Ireland in which ministers' money was now paid. He really thought that the very decided expression of opinion in Ireland in reference to this proposition ought to have had some little weight. Last year that opinion had been pronounced in a more public and popular manner than it had been this year; but they had had during the present Session petitions from the corporations of Dublin and Limerick, and, he believed, Waterford, and he knew Cork, all emphatically protesting against the tax, and praying for its total abolition. Any State provision was distinctly, solemnly, and emphatically repudiated by the Catholic Bishops some time since, when a proposition of that sort was before them. They asked, not that, but simply justice, to which surely they were entitled; yet the Government, regardless of their claim, came forward at last only 572 to offer a most paltry compromise, which it was as unworthy of them to propose as it would be of the Catholics of Ireland to accept. He believed that the people of Ireland had great cause to complain of the manner in which questions affecting their interests were treated in that House. The case, however, was very different with matters interesting the people of Scotland, and of that they had a very striking instance last year, when the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate introduced a Bill which was called the Annuity Tax Bill, showing how respectfully deferential the Government were to the Report of a Select Committee when Scottish interests were in question. In Ireland, however, although every Government since 1847 had made promises on the subject of this tax, no thing had been done as yet beyond offering the people of Ireland a miserable Bill, which was nothing more than a paltry compromise, unworthy of the English Government to offer, and degrading to the Irish representatives to accept. For the Bill introduced last year by the Government conferred no benefit whatever upon the tax-payers of Ireland, and left the obnoxious principle of the existing law exactly where it found it. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Young) had, indeed, informed the House that it conferred an immense boon upon the payers of the tax of ministers' money in freeing all houses under the value of 10l. from the payment of it. Now, that was a statement which was very industriously circulated, and had had some weight with many; amongst others, with the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan), whose good sense was not altogether, as he (Mr. Maguire) was sorry to say, proof against its influence. But how did the case stand? The right hon. Gentleman opposite stated that 8,000 houses in the city of Cork would be relieved from the tax. Now so far from that being true, he himself had been informed by the chairman of the Cork Union, that in that city there were no less than 5,113 houses valued at between 1l. and 2l.; of that number there were 3,469 houses valued at only 1l.; and that the number valued up to 5l. were 7,877. Now in all these cases it was very well known that a complete exemption from the payment of the tax was already enjoyed through the forbearance and delicacy of the Protestant clergymen themselves, who were well aware that the poverty of the occupants wholly prevented the possibility of the tax being collected. Was it not, then, a mockery to say that 573 the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman would relieve 8,000 householders from the payment of the tax—when it was allowed on all hands that they were never called on to pay it? He was prepared to state most emphatically that under the Bill in question not 1,000 houses would be relieved from the obnoxious impost. Archdeacon Kyle, whose views ought to be allowed some weight, stated before the Select Committee of 1852, that, in his case, "he had given distinct orders to his collector never to ask any one to pay the tax who was unable to do so." In fact, he (Mr. Maguire) would say at once, that no clergyman could incur the scandal of requiring payment in the case of the wretched requiring holders he had been just speaking of. And Ire would just ask the attention of the House to this fact. For some nine or ten years back the different corporations of Ireland had been memorialising Parliament on the subject of the tax; but in the face of that fact, in order to perpetuate the tax, or, rather, to use the peculiar phraseology of the Rev. Mr. Holly, one of the witnesses before the Committee, in order to "cover and disguise the tax," the right hon. Gentleman would compel, by his Bill, those very corporations to become the imposers of the tax, the collectors of it, and even the distrainers of it. Now, was that fair? Hon. Gentlemen in that House were very fond of saying they wished to put an end to strifes between Protestants and Roman Catholics, and here they saw Her Majesty's Government, instead of leaving this question to agitators on the platform, introducing its discussion into the very Council Board. The right hon. Gentleman declared in his Bill that whenever the amount of money collected under this tax did not reach to eighty per cent of what it was at present, that the deficiency was to be made good out of the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. But he (Mr. Maguire) could not for the life of him discover why the right hon. Baronet, if he was consistent with his own principle, was not prepared to go further. On some occasions, no doubt, that deficiency would amount, in all probability, to forty per cent of the tax; and why, therefore, not say at once that you are prepared to throw the whole of the impost upon the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners? And there was another anomaly in this Bill which Her Majesty's Ministers would have the people of Ireland regard as such a boon. Although it would appear from the returns of Encumbered Estates 574 Court, that during the last three years seventeen years' purchase was a very high rate of purchase for land in Ireland, and that in some cases it had been as low as eleven and twelve years, the right hon. Baronet, by the 6th section of his Bill, permitted that any householder might compromise for the tax by the payment of a sum sixteen times the amount of the annual payment. Successive Governments, as he had said before, had promised to redress the injustice of this impost; and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London stated upon the 30th of May, 1850, thatThe question of ministers' money was under the consideration of the Government, and that there was a plan by which it was hoped the grievance would be remedied."—[3 Hansard, cxi. 486.]And what was that "grievance," he (Mr. Maguire) would ask? Why, he would tell them; it was the compelling the Church of the majority to support the Church of the minority—it was the forcing people of one persuasion to contribute to the demands of people of another persuasion. They had not yet seen the redemption of the noble Lord's promise; and now, when they had waited so long for the removal of this grievance, they were asked either to go on paying as heretofore, or to redeem at once by paying sixteen times the annual value of the tax. There was a strong feeling against this tax, and the feeling was one of principle—of principle shared in by Protestant clergy and laity, and appreciated by them as much as by the Catholics, who were aggrieved. [The hon. Member, in proof of this assertion, quoted the evidence of various Protestant clergymen who had professed themselves ashamed and unwilling to receive money for religious purposes which was extorted from men who must always give it with ill-will.] To prove to the House that the grievance was such as he had just been describing, he would state that in the city of Cork, according to the census of 1834, the Protestant population stood at 15,000 as against 79,000 Catholics; while in the parish of St. Paul, in the same city, the Protestants numbered 900 and the Catholics 5,000; and in St. Anne's, Shandon, there were 3,500 Protestants and 20,000 Catholics. Again, the population of Kinsale, in 1834, numbered 1,070 Protestants and 5,334 Catholics; Clonmel, 1,700 Protestants and 15,000 Catholics; Limerick, 4,500 Protestants and 50,000 Catholics; while in the city of Waterford there were only 4,253 Protestants as against upwards of 23,000 Catholics. Now, he would wish to 575 know how would hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite like to live under such a state of things? Would they pay the tax? Would it be not most inconsonant with their pride to endure such an injustice for an hour? They ought not, therefore, to inflict it on others. The tax ought to be put on the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, a course which would cause no offence to any one. In that way an end would be put to a grievance, which, otherwise, would give rise constantly to complaint, and which certainly would never be considered satisfactorily dealt with while such makeshifts as the present were all that was given in answer to the Irish Catholics' earnest appeals. As regarded the actual benefit done, he pronounced it very small; and as regarded the matter of principle, he said that there was this difficulty—if you exempted the man under 10l., why did you put it on the man above? Was not a tax for a religion not his own as great an outrage to the Catholic who occupied a 12l. house, as to the Catholic who occupied a 6l. house? On a former occasion some of the hon. Members now on the Treasury bench voted for the abolition of this tax. The hon. Secretary for the Admiralty (Mr. B. Osborne) was in favour of abolishing it without finding a substitute. The hon. Clerk to the Ordnance (Mr. Monsell) said that an early opportunity ought to be taken for removing the impost. And the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Keogh) expressed a hope that the House would force on the attention of the Government the necessity of removing an impost which was insulting and obnoxious to the Roman Catholics, whilst it did no good to Protestants. After the expression of such opinions, he thought he had a right to calculate on the votes of those Members in favour of the Motion. He earnestly wished Protestants and Catholics to meet together in harmony, which they would soon do if the rulers of the country would legislate in a proper spirit. He begged those hon. Members who had the interest of Ireland at heart to refuse their assent to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, and he had no hesitation in saying that he should consider himself guilty of a violation of duty if be consented to so mean a compromise. He believed there was sufficient good sense and honour in that House to encourage any Minister who would have the courage to deal with the subject in a liberal spirit, and he had no doubt that, if the hon. Members on the Treasury bench to whom he had 576 alluded would act on their professions, the House would support them. If the Government wished to encourage a good feeling in Ireland—if they wished to make the people of Ireland loyal—if they wished them to lay aside religious differences, they must act in a different spirit from that which had hitherto been manifested. Unless they were prepared to do so, the table of the House would be covered with petitions, and the excitement would become much more extended than it was at the present moment.
§ MR. CROSSLEY
said, that this tax of ministers' money must have one of two objects, either it was to secure a good living for the ministers, or to promote the cure of souls. If it was the former, he thought it was wrong, because those who were taxed did not require the services of the ministers. If, on the other hand, it was to save the souls of Christians, he did not think it was going the right way to obtain that object to take money from a man against his will. The notorious Joseph Ady when he applied to parties told them that if they would send him a certain sum of money he would tell them something to their advantage, but here the ministers did not ask for the money, they demanded, they seized upon it, and then said, "if you will come and listen to us you will hear something to your advantage." Now that was not the way to promote Christianity, at all events it was not the way the Founder of Christianity and his disciples promoted it, and he thought the best thing the House of Commons could do was to abolish the tax altogether. He should give his vote with all his heart in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, however the rights of the clergy might be interfered with by the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Young), he felt himself bound in honour and in consistency to support it, because when he sat on the Ministerial side of the House he had given a pledge that he would consider this subject, and had intimated his willingness to propose a settlement of this question, which he thought substantially coincided with the proposition of the right hon. Baronet. He confessed he was one of those who were opposed to any Government provision or charge for Roman Catholic priests. It was satisfactory to him to believe that he held this view in accordance with the Roman Catholic representatives in that House. It was not, however, his wish to involve this question with any collateral or irrele- 577 vant matters, but to confine it to what he thought was the real point to be considered. The nature of the provision was stated in what was called the Act of Settlement. He concurred with the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, as to the spirit in which the ministers of the Church should preach the Gospel; but he apprehended that it was always intended that some provision should be made for their support. It was not the fault of Charles II. that Englishmen were invited over at that time to introduce trade into Ireland. The property of those towns in Ireland upon which this impost was placed was then forfeited to the Crown, which made such conditions in respect to it as it thought just and fitting. He thought that it was both wise and politic of the Crown at that time to impose a charge upon those towns for the permanent provision of the ministers of the Established Church. That charge was part of the original arrangement, and those who afterwards took those houses took them subject to this charge. The property belonged to the Crown, and it had a right to make its own settlements. If he were to buy an estate in Ireland under the Encumbered Estates Court Act, and were to find that the population on that estate had all emigrated, and then, in order to obtain a new tenantry, he were to make a charge upon the estate to provide for the maintenance of clergymen to instruct them if they came, the person who had the reversion to that estate could not on any just ground refuse to pay that charge, because the clergymen so provided for were of a religion differing from his own. Such appeared to him to be the exact case with regard to the charge for ministers' money. He would admit that there might be some grievance in the mode in which the charge was levied, not by personal demand, but there was remedy by distress. In the case of the occupiers of small houses clergymen did not like to get a collector to distrain upon the furniture, and it was well known that they in many instances gave away the rate rather than do so. He could confidently appeal, even to the Roman Catholic Members of that House, for confirmation, when he stated that there was no body of men who discharged their duties more conscientiously or more efficiently than the Protestant clergymen in Ireland; it was also admitted that they had a right to their income, and he did not see upon what ground there could be objection to this charge. A few years ago, when a Com- 578 mittee of that House was appointed to consider this question, Mr. Reynolds, the late Member for Dublin, and who was one of the Members of it, proposed that in their Report they should recommend a Bill to be brought in by which the claim of the Protestant clergy should be charged upon the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commission. The Committee were equally divided upon the point, there being three in favour of the proposition and three against it. The late Mr. Sheil, however, gave his casting vote against the proposition, thus negativing the very identical proposition now made by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan). Now, he would ask the House how was the Ecclesiastical Commission fund made up? It was made up by the taxation of the larger incomes of the clergy for the purpose of contributing to the smaller ones. The beneficed clergy, on an average, had only about 200l. a year—a sum which surely could not be considered extravagant for the support of a gentleman of education and ability. It was out of this ecclesiastical fund that the hon. Member for Cork proposed to pay the clergy. The contributions amounted to something like 15 per cent. And what did the hon. Member propose to do? Why, he actually proposed to pay these town clergymen from that fund, in order to make a present to the proprietors of houses of this impost that was charged upon them. And who were those proprietors? They were rich landlords, the great proportion of whom were Protestants. He would ask the House whether the Protestant clergy had not as good a right to their property as any other man in the community? The Government proposed to exempt from this charge all small houses under the value of 10l. Now, this was a point upon which a great difficulty arose. It would take from the clergy something like 25 per cent, and give to the proprietors of those houses the opportunity of redeeming them. The proposition of the hon. Member for Cork was one that was opposed to justice and sound policy. The Church Temporalities Act, which abolished church-rates in Ireland, expressly saved ministers' money. The late Mr. O'Connell, who was in the House at the time, and was a good lawyer, must have admitted the justice of such a provision, for he made no objection to it, probably from the fact of his believing that it involved a question of property. The Church Temporalities Act was drawn up with great care. He would ask the House 579 whether they were prepared to unsettle that Act? They were told from time to time that, if they made this concession that was asked for by the hon. Member for Cork, they would have peace in Ireland. Now, he (Mr. Napier) was as great a lover of peace as any one; but he never could indulge in such sickly sentimentality. In his opinion, it was impossible where they had two antagonistic Churches but there must be ever a great opposition between what was considered truth on the one side and error on the other. He wished to maintain good feeling towards all, but, at the same time, he was quite prepared to state his opinions upon the subject. It was stated that the people of Dublin were greatly against this tax. Why, the people of Dublin, as well as the people elsewhere, were always against paying money if they could avoid doing so. An Irishman was well known to have strong objections to the payment of money. The operation, no doubt, was most unpleasant, if it could not be got over. Now, as to the charge called ministers' money, if they were to get rid of it at all, they must get rid of it upon a principle of justice. The fund in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was far too low to discharge the trusts that had been provided by Act of Parliament. They could not do anything towards the building of churches. They could not give more than 1,000l. a year to the augmentation of small benefices. Nor had they been able to satisfy the recommendation for the repairs of churches. The Commissioners said that they would require 200,000l. before they could get a surplus applicable to these cases. It appeared, indeed, that the cost of repair of the church exhausted the sum now in hand, he would, therefore, appeal to the hon. Member's sense of justice whether, in that state of things, it would be right to adopt the course he now proposed. On the other hand, according to the right hon. Baronet's (Sir J. Young's) proposition, if the funds went on improving, in a short time they might have such an amount as would enable them to effect an equitable redemption of the tax. With regard to the comparative number of Protestants and Catholics, that, he did not think, had anything to do with the question. On a former night the hon. Member for Cork stated that five-eighths of the population of Ireland were Roman Catholics. But let it be remembered that the proportion varied in different places. In some parts of the country the great majo- 580 rity consisted of Protestants, as was the case, for example, with portions of the city of Dublin. Be that as it might, however, he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite always took this view of the question, and had this idea uppermost in their minds—he meant the great value of the voluntary principle. His (Mr. Napier's) answer to that was, that there was room enough for voluntary effort. Calculate the Church alone. They took property subject to this charge. What was the difference whether they paid that charge to the Protestant clergyman or the Protestant landlord? Then there was room enough outside the Church for the efforts of voluntaryism. But what he complained of was, that hon. Gentlemen wanted to make their voluntary system compulsory. He should be glad to see the voluntary system working in harmony with the Established Church, but he did object to being compelled to adept that system. His voluntaryism was permissive in its nature—not, what hon. Gentlemen would make it, compulsory. The only charge which had yet been brought against the clergy, so far as he could discover, was, that they were Protestants. Their conduct was unexceptionable, and they had a legal right to their income, which was confirmed to them at the time of the settlement of the Church Temporalities Act. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Young) now proposed to make an arrangement to which, for peace sake, he (Mr. Napier) did not object, although he still thought it an infringement on their rights. And, with the view of settling the question, he conceived the House would act wisely by adopting the proposition. In the course of a little time he had no doubt the charge would be redeemed by the Protestant proprietors, and thus the question would be got rid of on a principle which would not interfere with the rights of property.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he was of opinion that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had delivered a most persuasive speech for negativing his own Amendment, and, for the very reasons which the right hon. Gentleman had advanced, he (Mr. Fitzgerald) should vote in favour of the original Motion. The right hon. Gentleman had argued that the property of the Protestant Church should not be interfered with, and yet his own Bill would be a direct infringement of the principle he thus laid down, by depriving these clergymen of 25 per cent of their income, and exonerating from the tax a great 581 majority of the houses now paying it. It was also said that the fund at the disposal of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was not more than sufficient for the repair of old and the erection of new churches. Certainly, if they complied with every demand they might receive from any minister to build a new church, four times the amount of their present property would probably not be sufficient for the purpose; but, how was the circumstance of their having vested in the public funds a sum of about 40,000l. of surplus money consistent with the representation that they had no sums at their disposal? The right hon. Baronet advocated the Church of the rich minority, endowed more richly than any other church in Europe, and with respect to which Sidney Smith said, the distribution of its funds made it the Church of bishops and beggars. Let the House, however, take into consideration likewise the case of the poor majority, who, by voluntary subscriptions collected from, among others, the poorest of the poorest, raised large sums to build their own churches. With regard to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, he had never witnessed so much inconsistency compressed into so small a space. The right hon. and learned Gentleman objected to tax the country for the support of the Roman Catholic Church, and yet he is perfectly willing to tax the Roman Catholics of Ireland fur the support of the Church of the rich minority. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the property of these corporate towns so taxed became after the rebellion of 1641 Protestant property; and that the Protestants had a right to tax their own property. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's fact, however, was an historic delusion without any foundation. No doubt, at the period when might was right, Roman Catholics could not be mayors, councillors, or hold other corporate offices, but the property remained the same, and never was heard a more unfounded statement than that the property of these towns was confiscated. The right hon. and learned Gentleman argued that people took the property subject to the charge, and therefore had no right to complain; but, according to the authority of Lord Campbell, as appeared from a speech delivered in that House, this charge, like that of church-rates, was a personal charge, imposed upon an individual in respect to the property he held. He denied, too, the statement of 582 the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that household property in Ireland mainly belonged to Protestants, and he would also state, on the authority of a gentleman who had had experience in the revising courts, that the greater portion of house property was in the hands of Roman Catholics. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not wish to be relieved from this tax, it would always be in his power voluntarily to pay it; but he maintained that it never was Church property, and in trying to abolish it they were not interfering with Church property. At a time when injustice was daily perpetrated, and when the Legislature did not represent the people, they were oppressed by an unjust demand, and surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not say that any lapse of time could make that which was wrong just.
§ MR. POTTER
said, he certainly could not help expressing surprise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the representative of the University of Dublin should have given his consent to a proposition of the Secretary for Ireland which would take 25 per cent from the incomes of Protestant clergymen. He did not think those persons should be the sufferers; but that the money should be supplied from other sources, and he was of opinion that Trinity College, Dublin, might very well contribute something for the purpose from its large revenues.
§ MR. COWAN
said, he fully concurred with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. D. Fitzgerald) in considering the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) as contradictory and inconsistent, and he would ask if this tax were a grievance, as it had been fairly admitted to be, was it not one of the first duties of the House of Commons to redress that grievance? With reference to what had fallen from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he considered it to be wholly inconsistent within itself. He did not know of anything more destructive of the interests of anything country than class legislation. Without detaining the House with any further remarks, be would conclude by expressing a hope that if justice were dune to Ireland, it would also be done to Scotland in respect to the subject of the annuity tax, and he more especially demanded justice for the city of Edinburgh.
§ Question put, "That the wards proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."583
§ The House divided:—Ayes 88, Noes 103: Majority 15.
§ Words added:—Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to:—Acts read; Committee thereupon To-morrow.