HC Deb 16 April 1856 vol 141 cc1113-40

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


in rising to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said that if he could believe that there was any injustice in the present system of raising Ministers' money, or even any substantial grievance affecting the religious feelings of the people, he would not for one moment stand in the way of the rectification or removal of that injustice or grievance; but Ministers' money was a charge upon property not upon persons, and every grievance connected with it was removed by the Bill passed in 1854 when Sir John Young was Secretary for Ireland. He looked upon the Church as subsidiary to the interests of religion, and he conceived that it did not tend to the advancement of those interests that the support of the Church should be based upon what was manifestly unfair; but, while he was ready to make that admission, he must, upon the other hand, say that he regarded as extremely wrong a line of policy which would induce the Legislature to submit to have palmed upon it as a grievance the existence of a state of things which, properly speaking, could not be regarded in that light. A plain statement of the origin of the tax would prove conclusively that it inflicted no injustice upon individuals. The Bill establishing Ministers' money was passed in 1665, and was contained in the Act of Declaration, 14th and 15th of Charles II., c. 2, which was in the following terms— Provided always, that whereas the corporations of Ireland are now planted with English, who have considerably improved at their own charges, and brought trade and manufactures into that our kingdom, and by their settlement there do not a little contribute to the peace and settlement of that country, the disturbing or removing of which English would in many respects be very prejudicial, all such of the Popish religion of any corporations in Ireland, who have been for public security dispossessed of their estates within any corporation, shall be forthwith reprised in forfeited lands, tenements, and hereditaments near the said corporations, to the full value, worth, and purchase of such estate as they were dispossessed of within such corporation; and that particularly the Popish inhabitants of Cork, Youghall, and Kinsale shall have undisposed forfeited lands let out to them in the baronies of Barrymore and Muskerry, in the county of Cork, according to the respective decrees passed in that behalf. 34. That we do lastly declare that Protestant plantations shall be settled, corporations created, churches erected, maintenance for preaching ministers provided, within the limits and precincts of the lands so to be settled on the adventurers and soldiers, in such manner as the Commissioners to be nominated shall set down. The provisions of that Act were specific; and if, after it, persons acquired property in these towns they did it subject to the liability under which the property was sold. He could not see how a measure of this kind could be regarded as a just proposition when its effect would be to relieve property bought under certain restrictions of the duties to which it was liable, and to deprive ministers of the Church of endowments to which they were entitled. The noble Lord at the head of the Government was quite right when he said two years ago that this was a question of property; because, clearly, it was a question of that nature, and not one of religion. In the system as originally carried out there were, no doubt, grievances, but all those had been amended. He would admit that the valuation on which the assessment was made had been unfair and inequitable; but the valuation of the Poor Law Board was now adopted in preference to the antiquated foundation, and there was no longer in his opinion any ground for complaint, either as respected the mode or the amount of the assessment. He thought that a final and conclusive arrangement had been made two years ago, and he trusted that the Government would not now disturb it. He would not refer in detail to the effect of this measure if carried; but he believed that it would set at nought the whole of the provisions of the Church Temporalities Act, and that it would most unjustly interfere with the distribution of the funds which were placed at the disposal of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He therefore hoped, that the Government would support his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day Six Months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, he could not regard this as a question of property, but as one affecting the religious feelings of the public. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to the Act of Settlement, which was one of the penal Acts against Roman Catholics, and he had reminded them very appropriately that the Ministers' Money Act had followed as a sort of supplement to that measure. It was precisely because it was a relic of the penal code that he was anxious for its repeal. If Dissenters in England felt it a grievance to be called on to contribute towards the performance of divine worship, towards the building and repairing of churches, it must be equally a grievance to the Roman Catholics of Ireland to have to pay this tax. It was not true that the tax had always been payable on the property on which it was now charged—there were many new houses to which it had of late years been extended. As for the burden the abolition of the impost would throw upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, he had only to remark, that livings had lately fallen into their hands in the neighbourhood of Waterford more than sufficient to meet the additional charge.


said, that although he was not locally interested in the immediate question before the House, yet he could not refrain from observing, that in the city which he had the honour to represent (Edinburgh) no tax was regarded as so oppressive or so unfair as the annuity tax—a tax similar in its nature to the charge of Ministers' money in Ireland. He considered that it was neither just nor equitable, that a man having paid for the support of the minister of his own religion should be called upon by his neighbour to contribute to the maintenance of the clergyman of a different creed; and the adoption of a contrary principle was the cause of much soreness of feeling, not so much on account of the amount of money to be paid as in consequence of the sense of injustice which the necessity for its payment engendered. In illustration of the truth of his position he might state to the House, that he knew an instance in which a magistrate in Edinburgh had been placed in gaol because he would not pay the annuity tax, and that he had seen a troop of dragoons in the same city selling the tables and chairs of persons, who, from conscientious motives, had objected to its imposition. The tax was one, he might add, which fell upon the tenant rather than upon the proprietor, and he should very much wish to know why those Gentlemen who were prepared to oppose the Bill before the House, upon the ground that it would tend to an infraction of a Parliamentary compact, had not taken a similar course upon the previous evening when a Motion, which also operated as an infraction of an Act of the Legislature, had been introduced by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, Mr. Spooner.


said, that after the decision which the House had come to with reference to the withdrawal of the grant from Maynooth, one would have supposed that those hon. Members who had voted in favour of that withdrawal would have been inclined to do the utmost justice to the parties whom they thereby wished to deprive of an endowment which for some years they had enjoyed. In all those questions, however, the right of the strong seemed to prevail; and it was upon that principle that our ecclesiastical policy seemed to be bused. The defence of the injustice which that principle tended to inflict upon the weak was rested upon the plea of compact; upon the plea, in other words, that our forefathers had behaved unfairly, but that in doing so, they had made such arrangements as compelled their successors to tread in their footsteps. The tax under the consideration of the House had originated in confiscation, and had subsequently no doubt been confirmed by Act of Parliament. But was the House of Commons of the present day, he would ask, bound to lend its sanction to injustice, because it happened to be authorised by a law passed in former times? But it was said that Ministers' money was a charge upon property and not upon individuals. He, however, was at a loss to comprehend the distinction, inasmuch as the tax was founded upon the principle of taking property out of one man's pocket to place it in that of another. He must also observe that wherever new property sprung up it was immediately made liable to the payment of church rates, a charge which was also sought to be justified upon the ground that it was simply a tax upon property. Be that, however, as it might, he felt assured that if the House of Commons were to consult the peace and social tranquillity of Ireland, and of England too, they would take immediate steps to get rid of all those anomalies in the shape of taxes for ecclesiastical purposes, which were a great national grievance, and of whose justice no amount of argument could convince those upon whom the burden of their payment fell. Entertaining those sentiments, he should give his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Fagan) every assistance in his power in his endeavours to abolish a charge which pressed with great injustice upon a religious sect from which, but the evening previous, the House of Commons had decided upon withdrawing an endowment, for which the sanction of Parliament had some years ago been obtained.


said, he must, in the outset of his observations, bear testimony to the very moderate manner in which the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) had brought forward this subject. The question could no longer be considered by any one as a religious grievance. From the evidence taken before the Commissioners two or three years ago, it appeared that a strong opinion had been expressed by the clergy who received this money in favour of some amicable arrangement of the question. Those clergymen made a voluntary and considerable sacrifice in the hope of obtaining what they believed would be a permanent arrangement. The Bill passed two years ago transferred the payment of these dues to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and therefore it could not be urged that the clergy were in the slightest degree brought into collision with the inhabitants of those towns. He should add that in those towns a large proportion of the higher classes belonged to the Established Church. But the real question was, whether the payment was not a debt due upon property. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hamilton) had shown that the tax was imposed upon corporate towns at a time when no Roman Catholic could hold property, and therefore any Roman Catholic who had since bought property in those towns had taken it subject to this impost. The Government—the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland—had said that they did not intend to disturb the settlement of a question so deliberately made. He (Lord Bernard) only rose for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to the circumstance that no religious grievance could now be urged against the question, which was simply this, whether or not the property of the country was liable to this tax.


said, that he would now state, on the part of the Government, the course which they thought it their duty to adopt. The question was one of much embarrassment; and if he (Mr. Horsman) was asked whether he was disposed to agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) in the conclusions he had come to, or with the noble Lord who had just sat down, he must say he should have great difficulty in doing so. They both justified the continuance of this measure on the ground that it is impossible it can be said that the tax was originally intended to apply only to Protestants, who were the only inhabitants of those towns at the time when it was made; and that now there was no justification for the Roman Catholics to say that they obtained no benefit from the tax. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Protestants were the only owners of property in those towns at the time when the tax was first made, and that the Roman Catholics could not now complain of that tax, which was originally intended to apply to Protestants only. Now, the question relating to Ministers' money in Ireland was not, as at first sight it appeared to be, a local or an isolated question, it involved subjects of Imperial interest. It had been stated that the tax of Ministers' money did not depend upon persons, but upon property, and that it was the possession of property, and that alone, which rendered persons liable to the tax. Now, putting the matter upon that footing, it became one of a class of questions with which that House was familiar. In England there were the church rates, and in Scotland the annuity tax, both of which were defended upon the same ground. The fallacy of that argument appeared to him to be that it was assumed that that House had no right to entertain any principle which was contrary to law, however wise and politic it might be to make some alteration in the law; and it was matter of experience that the particular class of questions which had of late years been most urgently pressed upon the attention of Parliament was that which involved the consideration of liability to taxation as connected with property. The question of church rates was an example. In the year 1836 the Government of the day endeavoured to deal with that question; but in every subsequent Session some hon. Member had proposed a change, which successive Governments had year after year resisted until last year, when public opinion, acting through its representatives, defeated Government upon that question. During the present Session no less than three Motions upon the subject had been brought before the House, and at last Government, acting upon public opinion thus ascertained, determined, as a matter of policy, to support the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay). Riots broke out in Edinburgh, and Mr. Shaw Lefevre was sent down by the Government. That question was also treated at law as one of property. Mr. Shaw Lefevre afterwards made a Report, embodying an attempt at a settlement, which unfortunately failed. Then, in the year 1852, a Committee of that House was appointed to examine the Report as to the annuity tax in Edinburgh. That was a question precisely analogous to the present. Now, what conclusion did the Committee come to? They reported that, both on account of the interests of religion, and of the peace and good government of the city of Edinburgh, it was necessary to come without delay to some settlement and decision of the question, in concurrence with the proposal of Mr. Shaw Lefevre. Now, the present was a much larger question than many hon. Gentlemen seemed to think. There were rallying against it a large section of persons, and a certain part of the resistance was made to it in England and Scotland, which induced successive Governments and successive Parliaments to come to the conclusion that some settlement ought to be accomplished. The question of Ministers' money in Ireland was, however, in some respects, different from the question of church rates in England, though the principle was exactly the same. In England, church rates were an old tax, and the origin of church rates was part and parcel of the Church law. The principle of the two complaints was precisely the same—namely, that the professors of one religion were compelled to support the professors of another. But in Edinburgh the annuity tax was not an old tax; and it applied exclusively to the ministers of the Established Church in Scotland. The two cases, however, were precisely analogous in principle. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) by great perseverance and energy—accompanied by great temper and judgment—continued to urge his view of the question, until, in 1854, his (Mr. Horsman's) predecessor in office was compelled to undertake some legislative measure. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) had distinctly said that this was a great grievance, and he had pledged the Government of that day (the Earl of Derby's) to some legislation on the question. That pledge was not a mere form of words, but a promise that there should be some final settlement of the matter. The right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted the grievance, and said that some remedy ought to be applied, but he seemed to have committed himself to giving a pledge without having resolved in his own mind how that pledge was to be fulfilled. He (Mr. Horsman) would now consider the Bill which had been brought in by Sir John Young. Great difficulties undoubtedly attached to the subject, but those difficulties had been immensely increased by the recent legislation on the question. There was nothing by which the Government was so much impeded as by the Act of 1854. That Bill was a sort of compromise between conflicting parties. But he thought it was a sort of mistake, as, indeed, every small compromise of a great question always was. What was intended to be effected by that measure was as follows—1st. The alleviation of a grievance complained of under the existing tax; 2nd. To relieve the ministers from the odium of being themselves the collectors of the tax. To accomplish the first object, there was a provision to exempt all houses under £10 in value from the operation of the Act. Their contribution was about one-fifth of the whole. The whole sum raised was about £15,000, of which the portion contributed by houses under £10 in value was only £3,000 a year. The remaining five-sixths were contributed by houses above £10 in value. So that, although they were relieving a great number of persons, the relief was only nominal. Those houses had paid, some 1s. and others 2s., so that, in fact, the ministers would not take the trouble and incur the odium and expense of collecting it, and therefore altogether abstained from claiming it. They relieved, in fact, a class of houses which practically made no payment whatever. Under those circumstances, he had been surprised to hear the right hon. and learned Member (Mr. Napier) say, that the incomes of the clergy were diminished by that Bill. The measure certainly had the effect of relieving the clergy, by throwing the burden of payment upon the members of corporations and the guardians of Poor Law Unions. The Municipal Boards were to advance to the paymaster of the civil service, and if that were not done the payment became a Crown debt, and there was a power of recovery if that debt was not paid. The fact was, that in relieving houses under £10 they went upon wrong data—they did not smooth down any of the discontent raised by the previous state of things. But the real mistake was, that they took from under the feet of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the principle upon which he was now taking his stand. How could they consistently say that the owner of a £10 house was to pay this tax, but that the owner of a house worth £9 19s. 11¾d. was not to pay it, if that were a question of principle, and not of property? Then, instead of giving the clergy an uncertain and precarious income, they gave them £75 per cent upon whatever they were entitled to in the year 1853, to be paid by the secretary of the Church Commissioners. They threw the payment upon the municipal corporations and the Poor Law Guardians, who were mostly composed of Dissenters, the very persons who complained not only that they made them pay the tax themselves, but compel the payment by others, who had conscientious objections to do so upon religious grounds. With respect to every one of those Municipal Boards, they had met to record their determination not only to resist payment of the tax themselves, but not to allow others to pay it. When he (Mr. Horsman) was in Dublin, a large deputation waited upon him, who stated, in strong and decided terms, but in language respectful to the Government, that they would resist the payment of the tax to the uttermost. That was the communication which had been made to him, though at the same time, it was not to be supposed that any Government would give up its duty. Although he had felt it to be his duty to make that statement, yet he must add that it would be the duty of Government to see that the tax was paid. The third omission in the Act was, that of the means of proceeding against those corporate bodies. Some of them, as he was advised, had no property. Whenever that was the case, if the parties—as the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had said a short time previously—were not worth the powder and shot, the Government would be unable to proceed on that ground. Another provision in the Act was, that the tax might be redeemed at fourteen years' purchase. The result of the returns showed that that provision was not worth much, for it appeared that there was only one single individual in the city of Dublin who had taken advantage of it and had redeemed the tax. A fifth provision was, that of throwing the payment upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The hon. Gentleman who moved the second reading referred to the origin of the Ecclesiastical Commission. That was an unfortunate precedent; for it showed that the relief proposed was not suggested by the necessities of the case, but had its origin in a recent Act of Parliament. For the reasons, then, which he had mentioned, first, that the attempt to alleviate the grievance of the tax by exempting houses under the value of £10 a year bad proved an alleviation merely nominal; secondly, that the collection of the tax had been thrown into the hands of those very persons by whom the opposition to it was chiefly carried on; thirdly, that from the defective machinery of the Act there was great difficulty in enforcing it; and, fourthly, that the power of redemption had proved inoperative; he was disposed to look upon the Act with no great degree of favour. He (Mr. Horsman) willingly confessed the difficulties in which the Government now stood. If the state of the law were not what it was, he should have shrunk from an annual contest of this kind; he should have considered it better to make some concessions; but now no alternative was left to the Government—they were bound to proceed firmly, manfully, and upon principle—they were compelled to carry out the law. Upon the part of the Government, then, he (Mr. Horsman) had stated the views they adopted, leaving it to be inferred that every means of carrying out the present system had been tried in vain. The question had long engaged the attention of Government, and he had carefully endeavoured to ascertain by what means a legislative change might be made which might do justice and be satisfactory to all parties—a result which could only be arrived at by all parties in the House concurring in not making this a party question, but endeavouring to obtain such a settlement of it as would ensure general approbation. He could not, however, resume his seat without drawing the attention of the House, and especially of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) to a clause in an Act of Charles H., which removed the duty of collecting church rates from the churchwardens to the ministers. The Act recited that, whereas the duty of collecting the church rates had been thrown upon the churchwardens of the different parishes; and whereas that portion of the duties of churchwardens required by the existing Acts was, in many respects, grievous to such churchwardens, the duty of collection was then removed from them and thrown upon the clergy of the Church of England. If such duties were grievous to churchwardens, let the House consider how irksome they would be if they were thrown upon corporate bodies. As soon as they could see their way clear, the Government would be prepared to act; and if the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought that the question required settlement, let him remember that the Government of which he was a member, gave a pledge that they would consider the subject. He (Mr. Horsman) believed that some arrangement might be made which was safe, just, and satisfactory to all parties.


said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland had told the House he was quite sure that when he he (Mr. Napier) had, as one of the Law Officers of Lord Derby's Administration, admitted the necessity of settling the question, he must have had in his mind some specific plan for the accomplishment of that object. The right hon. Gentleman was quite correct in that impression; and he should add, that he only regretted the right hon. Gentleman himself was not as frank upon the present occasion as he (Mr. Napier) had then been, for he had distinctly stated to the House the exact nature of the measure which he then meant to propose. That measure was one which would substantially embody the recommendations of the minority of the Committee which had inquired into the subject, and in which Sir John Young had concurred. The right hon. Gentleman had said that this was one of the class-property questions. But, if it were so, did it become Government to encourage a certain class of men to resist the law? The right hon. Gentleman had also said that in case of the failure of payment on the part of the occupier the Act afforded no means of enforcing its payment. He (Mr. Napier), as a lawyer, would venture to say that there were such means. The Bill was endorsed with the names of Sir John Young, Mr. Keogh (the then Solicitor General for Ireland), and also of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), who supported the measure throughout. It was read a second time on the 20th of March, 1854, when the numbers were—Ayes 203, Noes 97; majority 106; and among the names of its supporters were the present Solicitor General, the present Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), who made a distinction between the case of Ministers' money and church rates. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) had said that the Bill of 1854 had not yet had a fair trial; but why did not the right hon. Gentleman let it have a fair trial? Ministers' money was a direct tax upon property, and not, like church rates, a tax upon the person in respect of property. The abolition of church rates in Ireland was expressly grounded on that distinction, and Ministers' money was retained because it was a charge on property. At the same time he would admit that there had existed great inequality and injustice in the mode of collecting the tax, and Sir John Young proposed as a remedy, that all houses rated at and under £10 per annum should be totally exempt. It was argued that by making this exemption the principle of the tax was given up; but the evidence which poured in upon the Committee established the fact that the pressure of the tax upon the small occupiers constituted the principal grievance. The moment, however, it was proposed to remove that grievance an objection was raised from the most unexpected quarter—namely, those who themselves complained of this grievance. He remembered that one of the witnesses examined before the Committee, who was most decidedly opposed to the continuance of the charge, said he did not wish to have that portion of the grievance removed, because he was anxious it should remain in as objectionable a condition as possible. He (Mr. Napier) said that wherever there was a charge upon property no legal objection could be raised to its payment; and he would tell the Government of this country that if they were to throw doubts on the validity of the claim to Church property, they would shake the title to all kinds of property in the kingdom. If the Government thought that there was anything objectionable in the mode in which the money was at present collected, why did they not propose a measure to place the collection on a better footing? Why had the right hon. Gentleman come down to the House that day to make a speech calculated to inflame popular prejudice against the existing law? If the right hon. Gentleman thought that the tax was in itself objectionable, he ought to have frankly made a declaration to that effect, and expressed his readiness to aid in any effort to obtain its removal. That would have been a manly if not an honourable course to pursue. But it was not consistent with the duty of a Government that one of its members should come forward and denounce a tax levied under a law which he was not prepared to repeal—that he should state he was disposed to retain the law and to give it a fair trial, but that there were no means of enforcing its execution—that he should add he had received a courteous visit from a deputation determined to evade the law—that he gave them to understand that he would be prepared to consider the question in the course of a little time, meaning, probably, when he should have a seat on that (the Opposition) side of the House—and that in the meantime he would keep it as a convenient nest-egg. He (Mr. Napier) could perfectly understand the course which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Black) and other Gentlemen would pursue upon questions of that kind. Those Gentlemen were so fond of the voluntary system that they would actually make its adoption compulsory—they would sweep away all endowments, no matter by what title they were held; but their views were at least consistent, and were frankly avowed. But where was the consistency of the right hon. Gentleman? Where was the fair trial he said he was prepared to give the existing Act?


said, he must beg to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He had never said a word about a "fair trial." He had merely said that the Government were compelled, under the existing law, to enforce, as far as possible, the payment of the tax; that they would enforce it if they could; and that if they could not, they would try to propose some arrangement in its stead.


said, he had understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there was to be a fair trial of the existing law, and if the right hon. Gentleman did not mean that, what was he waiting for?


said, that the Government had consulted the Law Officers of the Crown for the purpose of ascertaining what steps they should take for the enforcement of the existing law; they were taking proceedings under the advice of those officers, and they were waiting for the result of those proceedings before they determined what future course they should pursue.


said, he certainly thought that the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the great defect had been left by Sir John Young in the Act—namely, that while insisting upon the necessity of the enforcement of the payment, no means were given for carrying out its provisions, and that, therefore, in truth, the Act was abortive. It was very true that in Ireland church rates had been dispensed with, but no argument could be drawn from that that Ministers' money should be done away with, because it was originally put as a charge upon property, and he was struck with the words of the oath which the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald), had just taken: "I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property in Ireland." He was struck by that part of it, as it related to the settlement under the Act of Charles the Second. Great encouragement was given to Englishmen at that time to go over to Ireland and colonise it, who went over with English views and English feelings, and the Crown had a perfect right to deal with them according to its bounty, or to make any charge upon the property given to them for the support of the Protestant religion, which it thought fit. But if in process of time the property which was subjected to that charge passed out of their hands into that of Roman Catholics he was at a loss to understand the injustice of its retaining this charge. Supposing that he bought an estate in the Encumbered Estates Court to-morrow which was subject to an endowment for the maintenance of the clergyman, what right would he have to say, "I do not agree with these religious opinions?" and thus raise a question of religious grievance. The reply was obvious enough, "It is a charge upon property, and you have taken that property subject to such a charge." Independent, however, of that, he was prepared to say that in the majority of instances the owners in fee of the property upon which this charge was made were, in a very great proportion, Protestants; and, so far from it being a tax upon the tenant, it in point of fact regulated the rent, because the first question asked was, "What is the amount of the Ministers' money?" and those houses upon which no such charge was made were always let at a proportionally greater rent. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland had tauntingly asked whether in point of fact the fees of the clergymen. had been diminished in consequence of the refusal to pay Ministers' money? He had no hesitation in saying that they had, and he had supported the views of Sir John Young in bringing in his Bill partly on the ground that this was a charge upon property made by the Crown at a time when it had power to put it upon that property. Those who afterwards obtained possession of that property took it subject to all the charges to which it was legitimately liable, and he thought it was proved, by the testimony of Roman Catholics themselves, that upon all occasions the ministers who were the recipients were most respectable and honourable men. There could be no doubt that the Crown had a perfect right to charge the property in question for the support of the ministers, and if they took it away how was the deficiency to be supplied? Where was the money to come from? It would be relieving the Protestant proprietor from the necessity cast upon him of supporting his own minister, and doing no good whatever, except in a few isolated cases, to Roman Catholics. It might be said that the money should be paid out of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' Fund; but that income was made up from the taxation of the clergy, and it was, in fact, exhausted, because in the very last Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, issued not long ago, they say— With regard to the purposes to which that money should be applied—the repairing and building of many churches recommended to be built—they must necessarily be postponed, because the sum available is quite insufficient either for that purpose or the augmentation of small benefices under the Church Temporalities Act. When church cess was abolished it was thrown as a charge upon Church property, and the whole possessions of the Church were not adequate to meet the lawful demands upon them. If, therefore, the Church had not sufficient property already, and the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were exhausted, was it just or fair to abolish Ministers' Money, the result of which would be to afford relief, not so much to Irish Roman Catholics as Protestants, who were to a very great extent the proprietors of the houses upon which it was leviable? But why introduce the religious element into the question at all? It was a question of property alone; and if it was argued upon that assumption, he was quite willing to listen to any suggestions to simplify the remedy for its collection. But he did say, that, as a question of absolute and abstract resistance to the law influenced by religious prejudice, he thought it unworthy of the Government to listen to it for a moment. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman), he should have thought, would have been the last to have interfered with the rights of property in Ireland, and, indeed, he gathered that he did not mean to support the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) on the present occasion without first ascertaining whether means could be provided for enforcing the payment in question. Up to the passing of Sir John Young's Bill it was always alleged that this tax was an impediment to the improvement of property, thus showing that it was considered entirely a landlord's tax. Sir John Young's Bill stopped that, and prevented its extension to any new houses. Whatever might be said of Sir John Young, he (Mr. Napier) would say that persons filling similar offices should apply themselves with the same industry and ability as he had to the amelioration of Ireland, and then something might be done. But although it was very easy to criticise, it was not so easy to apply a remedy; and no attempt whatever had been made by the right hon. Gentleman who supported the Motion to suggest any such: so that whatever might have been the difficulties of the question before, he did not think that those difficulties had been removed by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He thought that the application of the principles of Sir John Young's Act to enable the owners of property to redeem it, might, perhaps, be attended with benefit, but he would never countenance an open resistance to the law of the land; and to the release of the property from a just charge, in the manner now suggested, he would never give his consent.


said, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had appealed to him more in the character of a lawyer than in that of a politician, and in that light he would answer him. When the Bill of Sir John Young was introduced in 1854 he (Mr. FitzGerald) opposed it in several of its stages, because he was fully persuaded that as a measure of relief it was a deception, and its provisions mischievous and unjust; but he could not forget that when the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier) proposed to deal with this question in 1852 his propositions were, to a, great extent, of the same nature as those embodied in the Bill of Sir John Young, in 1854. He (Mr. FitzGerald) certainly did not understand his right hon. Friend (Mr. Horsman) to say that the difficulties in the way of recovering this rate were insuperable, but that great legal difficulties existed, and that the Government would he involved a collision year after year with corporate bodies. As a law officer of the Crown he had endeavoured (excluding mere political and sectarian views) to ascertain whether the Act of 1854 could be efficiently carried out, conceiving it his duty to carry out the law, and not to pause and question its policy. What was the state of affairs now? By the Act of 1854 an alteration in the law was effected, and the collection of this tax, which was before effected by the clergy, was imposed on certain corporations and poor law Guardians. These bodies had complained that so invidious a duty had been cast upon them, and had expressed their determination to resist, and there was reason to suppose that they would not collect the tax. They had then to look at the Act of Parliament, in order to see what remedy could be suggested. The tax was made a debt to the Crown, and he did not mean to say that there was not sufficient existing means to enforce a debt due to the Crown; but the Act of Parliament had rendered corporate bodies, and not individuals, liable, and payment of the amount could only be enforced against the property of the corporation. The tax, therefore, having become a debt due to the Crown, the question was, how was the Crown to proceed to recover the amount? The right hon. and learned Gentleman said, by mandamus; but he (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) apprehended that the Crown could not go into Court for a mandamus, as there were other remedies; and that the means by which the Crown could recover the money, after default, was by information or extent. But against whom was the Crown to proceed? Evidently against the corporate bodies, and not against any individual. Then, this anomaly arose—many corporations had no property. Such was the case with Limerick, which, by a judgment in the Court of Queen's Bench, had been deprived of its old property in tolls, and had, therefore, obtained a special Act to levy rates; but the effect was that such a debt as that he had alluded to could not be defrayed out of the corporate property, because none existed, nor out of the rates, because they were devoted by Act of Parliament to special purposes. The same was the case with respect to the corporation of Kinsale, and other bodies subject to the tax. In fact the whole question was beset by difficulties, which the Government were engaged in an endeavour to overcome. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier) had said that in his view this was a tax on property, but he (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) apprehend that the true light in which to look at it was not as a property tax, but as a tax on persons; the ability to pay it being ascertained by the occupation of property. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to the oath just taken by him (Mr. FitzGerald) at the table of the House, and alluded to it in a manner which compelled him to rise. He wished to assure the House that he had attended to every word of that oath, with the conscientious intention fully and faithfully to observe every word of it; but if he thought that the true construction of that oath had the effect of restraining in any degree his perfect freedom of Parliamentary action, or prevented his voting as he thought right upon all the questions brought before them, he would at once vacate his seat. He could not, however, believe that the Catholic oath, or any other oath taken by hon. Members, did, according to the true interpretation, fetter the freedom of Parliamentary action. Many distinguished persons agreed with him in this view. He should be prepared at any time to meet Gentlemen opposite in debate on the subject, and for the present contented himself with this statement.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Horsman) was very often in the habit of sneering at his predecessors in office, who, he (Mr. Whiteside) thought, had dealt by him with great fairness and moderation. But he ventured to be of opinion that what had been suggested by himself and his right hon. and learned Friend near him was neither wrong in principle nor injurious in practice. He considered that he had discovered that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland belonged to that party who spoke one way and voted the other. Seemingly affected by the air of Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman had made a very Irish speech. He said, the Act of Sir John Young, which this Bill proposed to repeal, was impracticable, mischievous, and absurd, and therefore he would support the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Hamilton) to read that Bill a second time that day six months. Could any one understand that course of conduct? But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) gave them hope in the future; for, although he had been meditating on the subject many months without its resulting in any measure, yet a year or two hence he might bring in some Bill to remedy what he declared to be a great abuse. Were they quite sure that two years hence they would enjoy the inestimable blessing of the right hon. Gentleman occupying an official position? Was the right hon. Gentleman himself so certain that his Administration was growing in public opinion in Ireland? He begged to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill of Sir John Young was supported by Mr. Keogh, who had recently been made a Judge by the present Government, and that the noble Lord at the head of the Government thus expressed himself with regard to this much condemned impost:— He would beg the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Maguire) and those who acted with him, to consider what was involved in the principle they advocated—that no person of one religion should ever be called upon to contribute to anything connected with another. * * * This tax had nothing to do with any religious question. It was a tax upon property, and it would be perfectly preposterous to make the rate upon a house dependent upon the religion of its owner. Was the imposition or non-imposition of the tax to be regulated by the religion of the head or of the immediate landlord? or was it to depend upon the religion of the occupier? If they adopted any such principle is that of the proviso, they would be involved in endless absurdities. The tax was one upon property, to which every man knew that he was liable when he purchased it, and had really nothing whatever to do with religious feeling."—[3 Hansard, xxxi., 1378.] He saw no principle in this Bill. For example, in the parish of St. George, Dublin, in which he resided, the Protestant householders were as nine or ten to one. What practical grievance, then, could there be when the greater portion of the rate was paid by Protestants? He hoped, when next a deputation waited upon the Chief Secretary for Ireland, submitting that they did not want to do their duty, he would give them for answer, that they ought to do their duty; and, notwithstanding the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, he did not doubt, where the State imposed a duty, the common law would be found strong enough to enforce it.


I have listened with almost breathless interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and during the course of that remarkable address. I have experienced every kind of moral atmosphere; at one moment I have glowed with hope, at another chilled with despair. He has led me with one sentence to the confines of hope, and with the next has drawn me back; and after tantalising my mind by a variety of emotions, he has at length, by his unaccountable wind-up, given the coup de grace to all illusions. What has the right hon. Gentleman done? He has rendered the tax more unpopular, and resistance to it more just, than ever. The people affected by it are under great obligations to him for his extraordinary speech. Like the client whose case was detailed by Curran, they will think, when they read that speech, that they were never so wronged before. But what does he do, after all his eloquent exposure of the blunders and oppressiveness of the Bill of his predecessor in office? Does he come forward, as the organ of the Government, and tell the House that he will repeal that heap of blunders and free certain towns in Ireland from an odious and allowed imposition? No, but he tells the House that he will search amidst the legal armoury of Dublin Castle for some rusty but ingenious thumbscrew, under the pressure of which he will endeavour to extort the tax through the forced acquiescence of the corporations which have indignantly proclaimed against it. Let me be candid with the House, and especially with English gentlemen, and tell them this tax cannot be collected, but will be resisted. If the right hon. Gentleman persevere in his attempt, he will only ensure this result, that he will bring about violence, collision, scandal, and discontent. If the Catholics alone were hostile to this tax, perhaps I might not be able to speak so confidently; but every corporation, consisting of Protestants equally as of Catholics, is unanimous against putting the present law in operation; and of this determination the right hon. Gentleman had abundant evidence in the constitution of the deputation that waited on him in Dublin. What does the right hon. Gentleman hope for?—does he imagine that, after his exposure of the defects, of the bungling, of the oppressiveness of the present law, that it ever can be enforced? I tell him it cannot. I tell him, advisedly and with all deliberation, that the Corporations are resolved on not acting; and that, should an attempt be made against the members of those bodies, they are resolved to abide the result, in their pockets and in their persons, and that in the full confidence of the sympathy and support of the public whom they represent. It is better to let this matter be openly stated, so that the House may understand more clearly the difficulty upon which, for a contemptible result, the Government are persevering in a course as futile as ill-judged. After his exposure of the law, his analysis of its glaring defects, can the right hon. Gentleman calculate on the slavish acquiescence of indignant communities, to give life and action to the wretched mass of blunders which he has himself exposed. If he do, I assure him he will be mistaken in his calculation. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment (Mr. Hamilton) flung down a challenge which I willingly take up. He first laid down as a proposition that to which I willingly assent,—that religion is not benefited by injustice, or served by a grievance; and he added, that nothing was so despicable as to palm off an imaginary for a real grievance. In this I also fully agree. But is there a real grievance, or is there not? Let us see—Cork is one of the places in which this tax is collected, and in round numbers the population of that city is little less than 100,000. Of that large population, how many are Catholics, and how many Protestants? The Protestants are about 15,000, while the Catholics are about 80,000. Now this tax is, it is quite true, collected from reluctant Protestants; but it is collected from the mass of the population for the support of ministers of a different faith. In Limerick, the population is almost wholly Catholic; for out of a population of 56,000, there are not more than 6,000 Protestants. Waterford is also an eminently Catholic city; and from the Catholic inhabitants of these and other cities and towns, this odious tax was collected, and is still sought, if the Secretary for Ireland can succeed in finding out an efficient thumb-screw, to be enforced. I ask any hon. Gentleman is that a real or a fictitious grievance? The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) would give a different idea of Dublin, by his selection of a single parish, St. George's. It may be quite true, as he states, that the inhabitants of that wealthy parish are principally Protestants, and that it contains but few Catholics. I am quite willing to take his own statistics; but I think his representation is more ingenious than candid. He has dealt with the question with somewhat of nisi prius dexterity. Let me ask that hon. and learned Member, is St. George's the only parish in Dublin, or is it a fair type by which the House can judge of the entire city? Are there no parishes of Dublin in which the tax is collected, and in which the Catholics as largely preponderate as the Protestants do in St. George's? For what object was this tax originally imposed? For what is it now collected? For the "cure of souls." Whose souls? Not those of the majority, who still pay it, but of the minority. Which is this—a real or an imaginary grievance? I would appeal to the honour, to the conscience, to the sense of justice of any hon. Gentleman, is it a fair or a just imposition? Could I take hon. Members from the heated atmosphere of this island, inflamed as it is by the efforts of fierce zealots, I would then put the question to them with the certainty of this answer—that it was an outrage on conscience and on liberty. And this was the feeling under which the corporations, now made the instruments of enforcing the tax, acted, when, year after year, they petitioned and prayed for its abolition. This was the feeling in which they loudly protested against the Bill of Sir John Young's invention—not so much because it was defective in its details, absurd in its provisions, impossible of being worked—but because it was bad in its principle. Reduce the tax to a shilling, and compel the Catholic to pay that shilling for the support of a hostile Church, and it is still an outrage on his conscience, to which no wise Legislature ought to submit him. Let it not be said that the representatives, the corporations, or the people of Ireland are in any way responsible for the law now inoperative from the blunders of its authors. Remonstrances were frequently and urgently made in this House—meetings were held to petition against it—and those provisions were placed on that table; but Sir John Young took, as I think, a malicious satisfaction in thrusting an odious task on indignant public bodies, which had been the very organs through which the people had protested against his Bill. The corporations now to be coerced, if means can be discovered to do so, will not endure the stigma of being made the collectors of the tax—the distrainers and worriers of their fellow-citizens; and the wisest course the Government can take, is to deal in a bold and manly fashion with this pitiful grievance, and wipe the miserable oppression at once from the Statute book. But the Government exhibits its helplessness, but will not manifest its courage; it is content to irritate, and not bold enough to redress. Much has been said about this tax being a burden on property—a thing paid by the landlord. This is all a mistake. It is a tax not so much on the house as on the tenant who occupies it; it is on the individual, not upon the property. The house is, as it were, the instrument—the occupier the victim. I assert that the tax does not enter into the consideration of the tenant and the landlord with respect to the rent; houses are taken and bargains are made without the least consideration of the Ministers' money, which the landlord or owner has nothing to do with, and which the tenant pays as a matter of course; so that it is not a burden on property, but a tax on the individual. Take a case which often happens. There is a bare piece of ground not subject to the tax; a house is built on it, and its owner makes his bargain with the occupier for the rent. That is all settled when the Ministers' money valuator comes, includes this house, and compels the individual who occupies it to pay according to the valuation. To say that the owner pays it, as a tax on property, is therefore absurd. But whether it be or not, it is an outrage on conscience, and an offence against civil liberty, which ought to be got rid of. For the sake of peace and mutual charity, I principally desire its abolition; for so long as it remains, in any shape or in any form, there cannot be that mutual confidence which is so much to be desired. I willingly bear my testimony to the merits of the Protestant clergy of the city which I know best. I have the happiness to be on intimate terms with some of them, and I find that they are foremost in good works—that they cordially unite for humane objects, and for promoting the intellectual advancement of the community. But I tell Protestant Members in this House, that they would be the best friends of the clergy of their own persuasion in Ireland if they freed them from the odium of being paid, by any process, from the pockets of their Catholic fellow-citizens; for so long as the Catholic is compelled to pay one sixpence, against his conscience, to a clergyman of another creed, he feels that he is still a slave, and that the recipient of the tax is his oppressor, the representation of a dominant and hostile Church. If hon. Gentlemen will read the Report and evidence of 1848, they will find that the right rev. Dr. Higgin (Bishop of Derry) denounced this tax, and characterised it as "a fretting sore," which could be healed only by its abolition. It was not to the mode of collection so much as to the principle that he was opposed. There were other Protestants, besides that distinguished person, who condemned the tax on principle, and who advocated its repeal, and not the shifting of the burden from shoulder to shoulder. At any rate, let the Government distinctly understand that the cities now subject to it will not be content with any new mode of collection, however ingenious. It is to the tax as an outrage on conscience, rather than as a burden on the pocket, that they object to and will resist its further imposition. The noble Lord at the head of the Government paid all kind of graceful compliments to the Catholics of Ireland last night on their loyalty, their peacefulness, their bravery and their devotion; and I ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland is his contradictory speech, is his extraordinary conclusion to it, the means by which that loyalty and devotion are to be repaid, by which that peace and tranquillity are to be maintained? I call on the House, I call on the Government, for every reason—because of the utter confusion into which the present law has driven them—because of the hopelessness of inducing the people subject to the tax to pay it, or the corporations to collect it—and because it is hurtful to the religious feelings of the majority of the inhabitants—to get rid of it and the impost for ever. Parliament, as the representative of this great Empire, has great and important matters to attend to, from which it is distracted by a miserable topic of this kind; but so long as the law is suffered to exist, so long must these discussions take place. I would therefore implore the House, most earnestly and respectfully, to agree to the second reading of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork.


said, that the defects of the Bill of 1854 were defects in principle as well as in machinery. If that Bill had been just in itself, and if the duties imposed by it on the corporations were such as might justly have been cast on them, he could understand how a want of proper machinery might be a reason for coming to that House to ask for fresh powers to enable the Government to enforce the Act. It was, however, admitted that the Bill was bad in principle and defective in the machinery, but it was said that instead of seeking a total repeal they ought to consent, to discuss a measure, which did not interfere with what was bad, but merely sought to improve the machinery. A good deal had been said of the nature of the tax, and of the distinction between a tax on persons and a tax on property. His answer was, that this was a tax on persons in respect of property. It was said this was a tax which had been imposed on property by the then owners of it; but in looking to the Act of Charles II., he did not find the Crown was owner of the property when the tax was imposed. The city of Dublin was the only place mentioned in the Act, but it empowered the Lord Lieutenant in Council to make appointments in towns and levy 1s. in the pound for the purposes of the Church. It was only within the last 100 years that the tax had been imposed on Kilkenny. The Bill of 1854, by diminishing the amount and exempting certain houses, disposed of the argument as to principle, and showed that the House of Commons had a right to deal further with the tax. The foundation of that Bill was that the tax made the clergy obnoxious and created ill feeling, and should be reduced; surely it would be only carrying out the same principle now to repeal the Bill. It would be much better for Her Majesty's Government to give their assent to the repeal and reverse the Act; if they did so they would earn the approbation, not only of the members of his profession but of a great number of Protestants. The town council of the city which he had the honour to represent, many of whom were Protestants, were unanimous in their anxiety to have the tax repealed.


said, he wished to say a few words on the subject, as he had been referred to by his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who had pointed out what he contended were a number of defects in the existing Act. Without going into a detail of those defects, he (Lord John Russell) would say that one at least of the objections was unfounded, namely, that by relieving all houses under £10, they had given up the principle of the tax. He denied that inference. An individual interested in the proceeds might, if he found that it pressed too heavily on the poor, to whom 1s., 6d., or 3d. was an object, give up a portion of his claim, without abandoning his right, and he (Lord John Russell) conceived the Legislature had the same power. In the case of the tithes in Ireland they had given up 25 per cent. It was also stated by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Horsman) and by the Attorney General for Ireland that defects existed in the machinery of the Act, that the corporations in Ireland would not carry it into effect, and that there were great difficulties in finding means to oblige them to carry out its operation. That, however, did not in the least diminish the right to enforce the tax, though it might throw difficulties in the way of the machinery. If such was the state of the case, he very much wished that his right hon. Friend had declared precisely what the intentions of the Government with respect to this question were. It appeared to him that there were only two courses open to the Government; one was to declare that they would put the existing Act into operation, and apply to the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland to see whether they could not enforce it, and if they found the measure was defective, bring in an amended Bill by which the mode of collection might be improved. The other course was to adopt the plan of the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the Bill—a course which he must say he thought far from being without defence—to say that really this same tax was not worth the contests it occasioned—and that there were sufficient means to supply the wants of the Protestant Church in Ireland. He was quite ready to adopt either of these two courses if proposed by the Government, but he must confess that for the Chief Secretary for Ireland to come forward and say that though he had considered the matter for a long time, he was not prepared at present to adopt either principle, but would leave the matter to agitation, was by far the worst course. He would certainly vote with the Government against the Bill, but he trusted that the Government of Ireland would not leave the matter in suspense, but take either of the two courses he had referred to; he could not conceive there was any third course. Let them enforce the Bill of Sir John Young, in favour of which his noble Friend now at the head of the Government had, when Home Secretary, expressed so strong an opinion; if they took that course he was quite ready to support them, or he would support them if they proposed to do away with the tax altogether, and so give peace to Ireland.


said, he must beg to explain that the first course referred to by the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, was the course which the Government was adopting—namely, that of taking proceedings in the courts of law. When the result of those proceedings were known, it would then be for the Government to consider what could be done to meet the question.


said, he had naturally supposed that, when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) acceded to office he would have induced the Government to adopt the views which at all times, when out of office, he had expressed in favour of a total abolition of Ministers' money. When he found the Government coming down and supporting a measure for the abolition of church rates in England, an impost amounting to £700,000 a year, he did suppose that, as there was no difference in principle between church rates in England and Ministers' money in Ireland, the time had come when he might cease to be a humble agitator in this question, He owned he felt deeply disappointed at the course which the Government had intimated they intended to adopt with respect to the Bill now under consideration. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had made an eloquent speech in favour of the measure which he (Mr. Fagan) proposed. Was it his object to strengthen the hands of the Government upon a future occasion for the agitation of this question? That, surely, was not a manly course to adopt. In England the refusal to pay church rates was to be a sufficient ground of exemption. In Ireland there had been also an absolute refusal to collect this tax, and upon the same grounds that the Government supported the abolition of church rates they ought to support him. The right hon. and learned Member who had moved the Amendment had said that if he could be sure that this measure was not a sham or a delusion he would be found among its supporters; but did he believe there was no injustice in collecting a religious tax from eight towns, principally inhabited by Roman Catholics, and exempting from the tax all the towns inhabited mainly by Protestants? He trusted that those hon. Members who usually supported the Government would rather incline to support the arguments and the statements of the Chief Secretary for Ireland than the course which that right hon. Gentleman had adopted as a Member of the Government. [Cries of "Divide."] He would not detain the House further than to express a hope that hon. Members would be persuaded by the right hon. Gentleman's speech to go into the lobby with him (Mr. Fagan) and against the Government.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes, 121; Noes, 201: Majority, 80.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.

The House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock.