Sir, I beg to move that the Acts relating to the Established Church in Ireland be read.
§ Acts [39 and 40 Geo. 3, c. 67; 3 and 4 Will. 4, c. 37; 1 and 2 Vic. c. 109; and 1 Will. and Mary, c. 6] read.
The CLERK then read the following Article:—
That it be the 5th Article of Union that the Churches of England and Ireland, as now by law established, be united into one Protestant Episcopal Church, to be called the United Church of England and Ireland; and that the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the said United Church shall be and shall remain in full force for ever, as the same are now by law established for the Church of England; and that the continuance and preservation of the said United Church, as the Established Church of England and Ireland, shall be deemed and taken to be
an essential and fundamental part of the Union; and that in like manner the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Church of Scotland shall remain and be preserved as the same are now established by law, and by the Acts for the Union of the Two Kingdoms of England and Scotland.
§ MR. H. E. SURTEES
moved that the Clerk read that portion of the Act of William and Mary that now applied to the Coronation Oath of Her Majesty.
The CLERK read the following formula prescribed for use on such occasions by the Act referred to:—
ARCHBISHOP.—Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging, according to the statutes in Parliament agreed on and the respective laws and customs of the same?
QUEEN.—I solemnly promise so to do.
ARCHBISHOP.—Will you to your power cause law and justice in mercy to be executed in all your judgments?
ARCHBISHOP.—Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant reformed religion established by law, and will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the United Church of England and Ireland, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established within England and Ireland, and the territories thereunto belonging? And will you preserve unto the bishops and clergy of England and Ireland, and to the churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?
QUEEN.—All this I promise to do.
Then the Queen, taking the coronation oath, would say these words—'The things which I have here before promised I will perform and keep. So help me God.'
I now rise, Sir, to move that this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee to consider the said Acts—that is to say, the Acts relating to the Established Church in Ireland; and I cannot for a moment regret that the Gentlemen who have just interposed Motions, accepted as matter of course by the House, should, by the passages they have caused to be read from the existing laws of this country, have reminded us upon how solemn a duty we are now about to enter. I likewise construe those Motions as implying that there are in this House men who intend to meet the plain, the broad, and intelligible proposition which I ask the House to accept by other propositions equally plain, broad, and intelligible, and that the great controversy—the solemn controversy, for such it is—in which we are about to engage, is not to be degraded 471 into a warfare of trick and contrivance, but is to be conducted on the other side of the House, as well as on this, in a spirit which befits the magnitude of the issue. Now, Sir, I originally proposed the Resolutions which I have placed on the Paper under the expectation that I should have explained them to a Committee of the whole House; but the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) exercising a perfectly legitimate discretion, has appended to the comparatively formal Motion, as far as its words are concerned, which I now propose to make, an Amendment raising the merits of the case, and has thus thrown upon me the responsibility and duty of endeavouring to explain to the House without delay the general nature of the proposition which I wish to submit to it in antagonism to that of the noble Lord. Sir, I intend to ask the House, if it should go into Committee, to assert in the first place, that in our opinion the time has come when the Established Church of Ireland should cease to exist as an Establishment. I do not think it would become me, either at the present moment, or at any subsequent stage of the debate, which may or may not follow, to make myself responsible, in all its important and complex details, for a plan which shall have for its aim to give effect to my purpose. It would show, I think, entire forgetfulness both of the limits of my duty and of the resources which I have at my command, and likewise forgetfulness of the limits of duty pertaining to a party in opposition to Her Majesty's Government, were I to undertake responsibility for the details of such a plan. At the same time I think, on the other hand, that I should not be justified in endeavouring to shelter myself under the freedom of a Member of the Opposition from distinctly indicating to the Government, the House, and the country the general bases and conditions of the measure which I wish to suggest for consideration. Therefore, Sir, I say, partly repeating and partly enlacing words which I used on a former occasion, that the aim and purpose of that measure is to cause the cessation of the Established Church of Ireland as far as it is a national Establishment of religion. That cessation must, in my judgment—I will not merely say might, nor ought, but, in my judgment, absolutely must—be subject to the condition, in order to make it an honourable and worthy measure, that every proprietary and every vested right shall receive absolute compensation and satisfaction. And beyond 472 that I go one step by saying that as in an operation so extended there will necessarily arise matters to be considered which are as much or more matters of feeling than of strict rule and principle, and as there will be likewise points which may be subject to fair and legitimate I doubt, my opinion is that every disposition should exist to indulge and to conciliate feeling when it can be done, and in every doubtful case to adopt that mode of proceeding which may be most consistent with principles of the largest equity. Sir, if I am asked, what I look upon as the conditions under which the State should endeavour to enter upon a new state of things, as far as regards the religious Establishment in Ireland—if I am asked what it is that, in endeavouring to put an end to the present Establishment, I renounce for the future, I would again say that that which I renounce for the future is the attempt to maintain, in association with the State, under the authority of the State, or supported by the income of the State, or by public or national property in any form, a salaried or stipendiary clergy. But as those connected with the Established religion of Ireland are not the only poisons interested in this matter, it is right that I should say, in regard to other bodies who now receive grants for purposes of religion, either directly for religious worship or for education having religious worship for its ultimate end, that, in my opinion, the more limited cases of those bodies must be met by the application of analogous principles of justice, equity, and even, I would say, indulgence; but beyond that I hold that the aim of all these proceedings would be to comply—as far as I understood the words read by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) to: comply with the language of the prayer of a petition he has presented, and to: put an end within the realm of Ireland to all Grants from the Consolidated Fund to be applied for purposes of any religious denomination whatever. Having said this much I think I have only to add one more proposition, and to say that, when after satisfying every just and equitable claim, we shall have to contemplate at some future time the application of a residue, that residue will have, in my judgment, to be treated strictly and simply as an Irish fund for the benefit of Ireland. I think that with these words I have satisfied the duty incumbent on me, not of proposing a distinct and perfect project upon 473 this great subject, but of indicating to Parliament the line which I humbly ask it, and would fain urge it to pursue. I cannot fail to observe, in the preliminary skirmishing on this important question—whether it be owing to a scarcity of other arguments I know not, and, perhaps, it would not be fair for me to insinuate that it is so; but, undoubtedly, there has been thus far a most copious use of that kind of argument which sometimes indicates a scarcity of other kinds—I mean the argumentum ad hominem. Much blame has been bestowed upon Liberal Governments and upon the Liberal party for not having sooner addressed itself to a settlement of the question of the Irish Church: and it has been contended that, as the Liberal party has not done so in former years, it is neither entitled nor warranted to attempt it now. There is no doubt about the fact that for thirty years—that is to say, since 1838—no serious effort has been made by the Liberal party as a whole, or by any Government, Liberal or Conservative, to open up the question of the Irish Church, and those who may think fit to review the various Motions that have been made by Members anxious, at all events, to keep alive the discussion will find that, for the most part they have been Motions of an exceedingly indecisive character, sometimes for a Select Committee, sometimes for a general consideration of the matter, sometimes to recommend it to the consideration of the Government, but never going to the root—never proposing that the existence of the Irish Church as an Established Church, should be brought definitively to a close. And, for one, I do not hesitate to say that, in my judgment, the Liberal party and Governments of all kinds—both Liberal and Conservative—have been perfectly justified in that course. There has been no state of things, in my opinion, in this country, and especially in Ireland—in the feeling and opinion of Ireland—which would have enabled this great question to be opened upon a basis of that breadth which it requires; and I own that the voles which I have myself given upon various Motions have been given against partial measures intending partial application of remedial principles, and those votes I am willing to admit I would repeat. I hold, Sir, that those who profess Liberal principles in this House are open to no charge of having failed to bring under discussion this great question, with a view to definitive settlement, until they saw that 474 the time had arrived—this is a matter which I am not going to assume, but which I shall presently endeavour to prove—until they saw that the time had arrived when there was a prospect of carrying their views to a successful issue. As to myself, nothing could be more lowering to the tone of the debates in this House than that I should for a moment suppose that considerations personal to myself can affect the issue of a contest such as that which we are about to try. We have heard so much of late, not only of apostacy, but of sudden apostacy, that I will venture, without detaining the House for more than two minutes, to make this observation. Suddenness is a relative term; there are many in this House who know it to be a relative term. All I will say on that point is, that a change which extends itself over a quarter of a century, when estimated by the true standard—that is, with reference to the ordinary length of human life—is hardly to be esteemed a sudden change. In 1846 I was invited by a person of great influence—having then lost my seat on account of the Corn Laws—to oppose a Member of Lord Russell's Cabinet, and thus endeavour to obtain for myself a seat in Parliament. I have in my possession the reply which I made, and in which I state that it was impossible for me to oppose that Gentleman—first, because we were then engaged in the controversy of Free Trade, in which we had fought upon the same side; and, secondly, another great question which I then thought might come forward was the question of the Irish Church: he was opposed to it, and it was impossible for me to pledge myself upon principle to maintain it. In the following year I had a more searching test, for I had a contest of four months' duration for the University of Oxford. Application was made to me to know what position I took up with respect to the Irish Church, and my answer was that I did not anticipate the proposal of a plan which would lead me to vote for a change in the Ecclesiastical Establishment of Ireland; but that to maintain it in principle I must entirely decline. I saw no such likelihood. But in the year 1865 it appeared to me that in the then coming Parliament we probably should have to deal with this question of the Irish Church. And therefore I took the opportunity, for the fair warning and notice of my constituents, of making a speech in which I detached myself entirely and absolutely from the maintenance of 475 the Irish Church, either on a larger or on a more contracted scale. Having had that notice they, as they were perfectly entitled to do, took advantage of it; and the consequence is that I am not Member for Oxford University, but Member for South Lancashire. I pass on to describe what I own I have a strong persuasion has not presented itself in full to the minds of hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House—perhaps not in full to the minds of hon. Gentlemen on this side. Having undertaken the great and heavy responsibility—for a heavy responsibility it is—of making this proposal, I wish to indicate concisely to the House the position in which, as it appears to me, the proposal, if accented, would leave what I should then have to call, not the Irish Established Church—but, for the sake of distinction, I will call it the Anglican Communion in Ireland. We should begin by a recognition of every vested interest. And I am bound to say, in speaking of vested interests, that it appears to me at least a matter for argument and consideration, whether we can strictly and absolutely limit the phrase to those who are in possession of benefices, or whether some regard ought not possibly to be had—though it would be premature to give an opinion upon the point—to the case of those who have devoted themselves to an indelible profession, that separates them from the great bulk of profitable secular employments, in expectation of the benefices which we have kept in existence by law under our authority, even though they may not actually have entered upon them. Do not suppose that I wish to commit anyone by any admissions upon that subject, or to say that these cases rest on the same foundation as well defined vested interests. I say nothing of the kind. All I say is that I, for one, do not at this moment absolutely shut the door against them. Well, Sir, with regard to this question of recognition of vested interests, I apprehend that, if the Irish Church were disestablished, none would propose to deprive those who have worshipped in its sacred fabrics of the future possession and use of those fabrics, provided they are willing to maintain them, and to apply them to religious purposes. On that subject I feel the utmost confidence, and I feel almost an equal confidence that the very same lenient judgment which goes to the Church would go likewise to that which is inseparably connected with the Church—I mean the residences 476 of the clergy. In addition to this, we are told, and fairly told, that the great bulk of the proprietors of the soil of Ireland are members of the Established Church of Ireland. I apprehend I am not wrong in assuming, first, that the proprietors of advowsons would have the strictest and the most absolute claim to full compensation for the value of their property; and, secondly, that these proprietors of advowsons—who, I am aware, are not nearly as numerous, relatively to the whole number of benefices, as they are in England, the benefices in private gift in Ireland only amounting, roughly, to one-sixth of the whole—are in the vast majority of cases, members of the Established Church, and to them would be paid the money which the State would find to be the value of these advowsons. There is another class—I am afraid not a very extensive one—the category of recent endowments; of persons, some of them even now living, some of them but lately gone from among us, who have out of their own means and liberality, built churches and devoted funds for the purposes of the Established Church, in Ireland. Such endowments, I apprehend, would, under all circumstances, be respected. Now, putting together these various items—and this is but an imperfect sketch; it has no pretence whatever to be a definite statement—I believe that the effect of this much-dreaded disestablishment of the Chinch, conducted as I have endeavoured to describe it, would be this, that if the full money-value of the entire possessions of the Irish Chinch, fairly sold in open market, were estimated, certainly not less than three-fifths, possibly two-thirds, would remain in the hands of members of the Anglican Communion. I know not with what feeling hon. Gentlemen may listen to that announcement. It is an announcement which, as far as I am concerned with it, I make quite irrespective of the reception it may meet with. It is a matter of fact. It is the best estimate that I can make: and my belief is, that between these limits of three-fifths of the whole and two-thirds of the whole would be found the share remaining to the members of the Anglican Communion in Ireland. Nor let it be said that that which is paid on the score of vested interests would not be paid for the purposes of the Anglican Communion: because, I apprehend it is quite clear—indeed, I assume, without argument—that when you say you will respect vested interests, you do not 477 intend to say that you will give to the bishop and clergy, for doing nothing, incomes which they now receive under an engagement to do something. Their duties to their flocks, slight as they may be in some cases, onerous in many others, would still remain; and those gentlemen would still be available and remain engaged in the service of the religious communion to which they belong for their lives, even after the disestablishment of the Church. Well, but that proportion, whatever it may be, the Irish Church, the Anglican Communion in Ireland—call it what you like—would not only possess, but enjoy. It would hold its property no longer amid an estranged and alienated population; it would hold it, I believe, with the perfect and cordial good-will of all sects, all parties, and all persuasions, both in this country and in Ireland. And along with that share, at least, of its temporalities, which I apprehend it would receive—I have no authority to say so, but it appears to me a logical and moral necessity in the case—along with that, from the very moment when its title is cancelled as an Established Church, it must receive that freedom of action, that power of falling back on its own internal energies, and developing them for its own good, which so many religious communities in this country value at such a price that they feel it to be a treasure far greater than all that the Stale can protect or all that the law can give. I own I cannot see that the condition sketched prospectively for the members of the Established Church in Ireland is, in itself, at all a lamentable or a deplorable condition. That, however, is no reason why we should do the act that I now recommend. Nor will I endeavour to recommend that act by any plea which, as far as I can perceive, involves exaggeration. It is, in my opinion, an exaggeration to make the Irish Established Church, in its present form dating from the Reformation, responsible for the great grievances of ascendancy and of national estrangement in Ireland. It is very true, as has been said. I think, by Dr. Brady—I mean Dr. Maziere Brady—who has written on this subject—The Establishment was Papal, but anti-Irish from 1172 to 1560, and from 1560 to 1868 it was anti-Papal and anti-Irish too.There is no greater authority on this question than Mr. Burke. His writings, with regard to Ireland, as well as upon other, matters, are full of wisdom. In his tract 478 upon the Popery Laws he gives it as his opinion—Either that a 'religion not very remote from the Protestant' prevailed in Ireland before the English came there"—Or at least—That Papal authority was much lower in Ireland than in other countries.And that—It was the working of English power and influence, and the English immigration into Ireland, which first thoroughly Unit the Church of that country into organic communion and subjection to the Church of Rome.And he winds up by saying—No country, I believe, since the world began, has suffered so much on account of religion; or has been so variously harassed by the same persons, both for Popery and for Protestantism.But, dismissing any charge of that kind, I can only say that the case is much strengthened when we consider that it has been the particular misfortune, the dark fatality of this Church question, that all along, though no doubt in varying degrees, religious Establishments under English protection have been associated with British power, and, instead of tending to unite the feelings of the Irish nation in unity with the people of this island, have unhappily been—as Mr. Burke says, first For Popery and next for Protestantism—all along a cause of estrangement and disunion. Well, now the arguments very generally advanced for the maintenance of the Irish Church are something of this nature:—That to disestablish it would be contrary to the Act of Union and dangerous to the Church of England; that such a measure would be injurious to the Protestant religion; that it would be subversive of property; that it would be contrary to the assurance given by the Roman Catholic party; and that the tithe is paid by the landlord. Now, I think the tithe is not paid by the landlord; and as for the assurance of the Catholic party, I cannot consent that any such assurance should bind me to uphold what I conceive to be unfair to the Catholics and injurious to the Empire. In this matter I say we should exercise our own freedom and judge what is for the common good; and it is on the ground of the common good I ask you to consent to the disendowment of the Established Church in Ireland. Then it has been said that such a measure would be subversive of property. I have not heard that argument in the present controversy, though it was in vogue with high authorities five-and-thirty years ago. I shall 479 therefore abstain from dealing with it till it is brought before us. As for the measure being contrary to the Act of Union, I do not think that at this time I need dwell upon that point; but one remark I may make with reference to it, which is this—that when we come to argue the point in detail, it can, in my opinion, be shown that the view of the great Minister who framed the Act of Union was as far as possible from the view of those who are now maintaining that an Established Church in Ireland is the peculium—particular privilege and monopoly of the Protestants. Mr. Pitt, according to his biographer, used these words, and they are very important, as showing that he did not contemplate only a relief to the Catholics from political disability; but that his large and comprehensive mind contemplated putting them on a footing of religious equality with their Protestant fellow-subjects, as soon as the opportunity for so doing should arise. He said—By many he know it would be contended that the religion professed by the majority of the privileges.What was Mr. Pitt's answer to that? That it was a thing intolerable in principle? No, but that it could not be done while Ireland remained a separate kingdom; that—No man could say that in the actual state of things, while Ireland remained a separate kingdom, full concessions could be made to the Catholics without endangering the State, and shaking the constitution of Ireland to its centre.I think, therefore, there is ample room for the opinion that Mr. Pitt contemplated at least a system which is now becoming wholly impossible—namely, that of general endowment. But that general endowment was but a means by which he fought to attain an end, and the end which he sought to attain was nothing but religious equality. That we are endeavouring to reach by the means now open to us, and in doing so we are acting in accordance with the views and the spirit of Mr. Pitt. But it is said, Sir, that this disendowment would be dangerous to the Church of England. This appears to be a favourite argument. But assertion may be met by assertion; and while, no doubt, many persons may believe that the disendowment of the Irish Church would be an injury to the Church of England, I claim for myself the liberty to hold an entirely opposite opinion. I maintain that to relieve the Church of England 480 from a position which politically is odious and dangerous, and which socially is unjust, will be to strengthen her foundations, and give her fair play in the exercise of her great mission. We shall, no doubt, hear much more on that subject; but there is at least one form of that objection with regard to which I think sufficient attention has not been paid. There is a famous saying of Mr. Hallam—I do not remember the precise words, but of which this is the sense—that there is no medium in the policy of a State between persecution and expatriation, and toleration and admission to a footing of equality. Certainly, as far as the history of Ireland is concerned, it tends in a remarkable degree to afford proof of the wisdom of that proposition. I have, with such materials as were open to me, endeavoured to obtain the estimates formed at different times of the respective numbers of Roman Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. It is very remarkable, but this appears to be the case—that the un-Christian, barbarous, and abominable Penal Laws were in a manner successful. The number of the Roman Catholic community in a certain degree, though slowly, diminished so long as the pressure of these Penal Laws weighed upon; them; but from the time when those laws were relaxed and when the feeling of liberty and civil life began to glow in the breast of the Roman Catholic, and there was some field for the development and exercise of his energies—from the time of our embarking in an intermediate system to maintain the Established Church in Ireland—our experiment has been a total failure; the proportion of Roman Catholics to Protestants has increased in a remarkable degree. In 1672, Sir William Petty gave numbers, which when I reduce the fractions to a common denominator, as I have done in respect of all the figures I am about to quote, show that the Protestants were at that time to the Roman Catholics as three to eight, or forty-five to 120. In 1730, or about that date, a very careful inquiry took place, entirely under the direction of the Government, and it was found that the Protestants were as two to five as compared with the Catholics; they had grown to the proportion of forty-eight to 120. But at that time, according to another authority, Bishop Burke the Roman Catholic Bishop of Ossory, the Protestants were as two to four, or as sixty to 120, when compared with the Roman Catholics. In 1762 Bishop Burke published a work, 481 in which he complains that under the influence of the Penal Laws and the charter schools the Protestants had steadily increased; but, as there is no precise estimate of the numbers, I cannot give them. In 1784, only six years after the first relaxation of the Penal Laws, a computation was made, which must necessarily have been of a loose character, but to which great value appears to have been attached by persons of authority. I dare say it will create a smile in the House when I mention in what way this estimate was made. It was founded on the number of beggars who came to the House of Industry in Dublin. There were no Poor Laws in Ireland at that time; and, as it was believed that the applicants for relief at the House of Industry included persons from all quarters of the country, it was thought that they represented the different religious creeds in about the proportionate numbers which the members of those creeds bore to one another in Ireland. The result is important, as showing that in 1784 the proportion was the same as in 1730—namely, that of sixty to 120, or as two to four. In 1801 an estimate was given from the Protestant side. In Sir Richard Musgrove's History of the Rebellion in Ireland, second edition—the second edition was published in 1801, and I suppose the figures refer to 1800—there is an estimate which shows that the Protestants had sunk to the proportion of forty to 120. The Catholics themselves claimed still more. In 1834 there was an accurate investigation made under the authority of the British Government. By the Census Returns of that year it appears that the Protestants had still further sunk. Instead of being as sixty to 120 in their proportion to the Roman Catholics—as they had been 100 years before; or as forty to 120, as they had been in the beginning of the century—they were only as thirty to 120, or one-fifth of the whole population. In 1861 they were a trifle over one-fifth, but the change was so slight as to be scarcely worth notice. If we are told that the removal of a public religious Establishment from Ireland will be injurious to Protestantism, I would ask what is the meaning of the words "injurious to Protestantism?" The meaning must be this—that the maintenance of this religious Establishment has been beneficial to Protestantism. And yet it is shown by evidence which, although in all its details it may not be perfectly precise, is nevertheless 482 clear and conclusive for every practical purpose, that ever since you receded from the cruelty of the Penal Laws, the attempt to maintain your Establishment has had this effect—that along with it there has been an immense increase in the proportion of Roman Catholics to Protestants in Ireland. It may, indeed, be said, "Yes, the case is very bad, though it would have been still worse but for our religious Establishment." I trust, however, that that argument will not be used in a House of Commons which, by an overwhelming majority, is a Protestant House of Commons; for dismal, indeed, is our condition if, as professors of a certain religion, we cannot look our Roman Catholic fellow-citizens in the face and meet them on a fair field; and if, the moment we are threatened with civil equality, we are obliged to utter doleful vaticinations about the extinction of our faith, and to confess that we have only been prevented by extraneous and factitious aid on the part of the State from being swallowed up in the great vortex of the Papal faith. At the same time, I am bound to say I am not one of those who greatly regret the loss of what was termed the Appropriation Clause. I repent undoubtedly of certain arguments which I used against it in speeches, of which the most recent was delivered thirty-two years ago; but that Appropriation Clause did not satisfy the principle of justice, and it certainly tended, in my opinion, to give a new charter to the Protestant Church, upon a principle of pure personal preference to members of that communion, and to place it on a footing which, in my judgment, was not tenable. But there are other reasons why it is very well that these thirty years of trial should have afforded us an opportunity of arriving, as we all wish to arrive, at a determination as nearly perfect as possible; and I think it but fair to the Established Church in Ireland to admit that, until very recent times, it has not had a perfectly fair trial as a religious community, for so incredibly perverted was the system under which Ireland was governed during the last century, that the Established Church could hardly be called a religious institution. I must ask the House to listen to a most remarkable passage—and it is the only other one which I shall read to the House—from the writings of Mr. Burke. He is describing the spirit and operation of the Penal Laws—and the multitude of noble passages on the subject that might be quoted from him, if there 483 were time, would be far better than anything I could say. He says—From what I have observed it was pride, arrogance, and a spirit of domination, and not a bigoted spirit of religion that has caused and kept up these oppressive statutes. I am sure I have known those who have oppressed Papists in their civil rights exceedingly indulgent to them in their religious ceremonies, and who really wished them to continue Catholics in order to furnish pretences for oppression. These persons never saw a man (by converting) escape out of their power but with grudging and regret.I admit it is difficult to realize the whole spirit and meaning of these words, and to see to what depths of degradation a politico-ecclesiastical system misapplied can unhappily descend. But, undoubtedly, those days have gone by. Between the beginning of this century and the year 1830 there was a great revival of piety and zeal among the clergy, and great improvement in the ecclesiastical laws of Ireland. But by the year 1830, which was about the date when you had for the first time a zealous and active clergy in Ireland, they found themselves unhappily involved in the tithe wars, and at that unhappy period, before the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act, the collection of the tithes was in the hands of the tithe proctors, who levied them from even the humblest occupier of the soil. In such circumstances it was almost vain to think of the progress of religious work. This difficulty, however, was taken away in 1838, when the Tithe Commutation Act was passed without an Appropriation Clause. Undoubtedly, many of us are open to some reproach for having, by the Tithe Commutation Act and the Church Temporalities Act, wasted to some extent the ecclesiastical property of the country, in order to work down the argument drawn from the existence of the tithes. A commission of 25 per cent was given to the landlord for collection, and undoubtedly that was a most liberal percentage. I do not, however, intend by that remark to weaken the landlord's title in the slightest degree; for I believe that the arrangement which was come to has been regarded as a final arrangement, and therefore what has been done cannot be undone. But during the thirty years which have elapsed since 1838, what have we had in Ireland? In the first place we have had the clergyman pursuing his vocation in perfect tranquillity, and without an external barrier of any kind to impede him. In the second place, we have had a clergy claim- 484 ing and well earning the name of an able, a zealous, and a pious clergy. What more could be desired to test the capacity of the Church? And yet, Sir, more there has been, because there has been a great calamity—a famine, which pressed principally, though not entirely, on the Catholic population of Ireland, and which gave to the Protestant clergy, as the dispensers of alms, both on their own behalf and on that of England, access to every cottage in Ireland, and placed in their hands such a leverage of social power as can hardly be over-estimated. The plague was followed by emigration, and all these burdens weighed chiefly on the Roman Catholic population. Yet, with all these advantages on the side of the Establishment, and with that terrific calamity reducing the numbers of the Catholic population, it appears from the Census of 1861 that, although some change has taken place, it is so insignificant that we may fairly call it imperceptible; for I believe, if we contemplate the conversion of Ireland at the rate indicated by these figures, some 1,500 or 2,000 years at least must elapse before we complete the task. I have dealt with these general considerations, and now I will endeavour further to justify the proposal which I am going to submit to the House. I ask the House in substance to do two things. The first is to make a declaration which by itself is in the nature of an abstract Resolution—namely, a declaration that it is necessary that the Established Church of Ireland should cease to exist as an Establishment, due regard being had for vested interests and the rights of property. But I also ask the House to take a further step. I ask them to arrest appointments which might be made from this time forth, with a view of reserving to the new Parliament, in the most convenient form of which circumstances will admit, the final disposal of this great and complicated question. The object is to arrest in the first place episcopal appointments; the state of the law being such that where a vacancy occurs in a see, and no provision is made for filling it up, the law itself provides for the exercise of jurisdiction and the performance of all necessary spiritual acts. I need not, I think, go into details for the purpose of sustaining the correctness of this statement, nor do I think it will be maintained that any intolerable grievance would arise from a short suspension of these episcopal appointments, if we are to judge of the capacity 485 of bishops to perform spiritual duties for a given amount of population by the scale which prevails in England, and which, on the whole, is not an unfair scale. Undoubtedly there is in the case of the twelve Bishops of Ireland, with their 700,000 adherents, abundant space and scope to enable temporary provision to be made without any serious inconvenience. With respect to capitular appointments, I think the policy of suspending them still more clear. As to parochial appointments, I do not propose to attempt any interference with that limited number of parishes which are in private patronage; for we cannot touch those parishes without interfering with proprietary lights, and we can only deal with proprietary rights in a satisfacfactory manner when we come to consider the conditions of a final and conclusive measure. With regard to parochial appointments not in private patronage, I may point out that provision is already made for the case of certain parishes in Ireland which only contain a very few Protestants; and in reference to parishes having a larger proportion of Protestant inhabitants, there are provisions suitable in the main for the purpose to which I am now referring. Besides the stopping of such appointments, it appears to be necessary to stop the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in Ireland, and this, like the suspension of appointments, can only be done by passing an Act of Parliament. It would, in my judgment, be most unconstitutional, and I do not think the House would entertain it if I were to propose it, that any of these things should be done by the mere will of the House of Commons. It is plainly the affair of the Legislature; it is the business of the Crown Estate and the Bishops' Estate to continue to fill the office until the law is altered. In the same way it is the business, I have no doubt, of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to do all they are now doing with the large revenues which they possess until the law steps in to restrain them. In my opinion, it is very necessary that the law should step in to restrain the Commissioners, and for this reason—their duties are not confined to meeting the exigencies of divine worship, whether in the case of the expenses of service or the expenses of the necessary repairs of fabrics. The Commissioners from year to year lay out large sums in the entire re-fitting of churches, and in the renovation of the fabrics, and in the foundation of the new 486 churches. Not only so, but I find the erection of new benefices is within the jurisdiction of the Commissioners, and from time to time they perform that operation. In order to show how far I am justified in asking the House to endeavour to reserve the status quo, and to prevent the growth of new vested interests and new permanent charges, I would just take two cases of benefices. Newtown Lennan, in Lismore diocese, was erected into a separate benefice in 1867. It was appointed to by the patron—the Crown or the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. That now benefice, I understand, erected in 1867, has a population stated to consist of four Anglicans and 1,143 Roman Catholics, and the net annual value is £331. The other case is Kilmoylan-with-Cummer, and the appointment is in 1868. Here the statement shows that the population is four Anglicans and 2,769 Roman Catholics, and the net annual value is £291. The number of four Anglicans is so very remarkable that, if I had not received the same from a person of some authority, I should have suspected the accuracy of the statement; but whether it be accurate, or whether it be not, my contention—as is said in Courts of Law—is, that these new benefices ought not to be erected if the House of Commons intends to deal seriously with the question of the Established Church in Ireland. By the first part of the proposal I have to make, I wish to test the question, whether the House does or does not think the time is come for dealing thus seriously with the Established Church in Ireland; but if we do think that the time is come, then I must say that I hope we shall not be content to launch forth upon the winds of heaven that most unsatisfactory creation of human wit, when it stands alone, which is known within these walls by the name of an abstract Resolution. During all my public life I have seen nothing but discredit, false hopes, and bitter disappointments come from these abstract Resolutions. I do not think I have ever been responsible for one, and I am not willing to be responsible for one on this occasion. I know very well that this Parliament—competent as it is in all authority, and not less than any Parliament that has ever sat in this House—must, notwithstanding, look forward to a limited existence. It would be folly to attempt to charge it during that limited period of existence with duties which are beyond its capacities and its power. The duty I would point out to the 487 House is this: not of forestalling, not of determining the final arrangement that may be thought fit for disposing of this whole question, but the duty of preventing the fresh and constant growth in the interval which is yet remaining before a final measure—an interval which maybe shorter or which may be longer—a growth of a new crop of vested interests; a creation of permanent engagements which may fetter to a most serious extent the judgment of Parliament. In order to estimate the importance of that topic, suppose that we were in circumstances in which I could ask you, and in which you could agree, to pass a conclusive measure at this moment for this disestablishment of the Irish Church. If you chose to make the course for that measure such as Coleridge describes to be "the course of the cannon-ball, shattering that it may reach, and shattering what it reaches," then indeed you would have but a short future with which to reckon. But every man in this House denounces that. You are determined to give the fullest consideration, not only in a matter of property, but of privilege and of duty, to those who are now in possession. But, right and indispensable as this is, let us not conceal from ourselves that the practical effect is to involve us in many and complicated difficulties, and to postpone the sensible operations of measures for many years, and the final and full operation of it for almost one generation; because it will not be ten years nor twenty years—it will hardly be thirty years perhaps, unless prudence in the meantime should dictate, with the good-will of all parties. If you think it is right, in the language which will be proposed to you, that the Established Church should cease to exist as an Established Church in Ireland, and if you choose to adopt the mode of operation proposed, the final effect of this Resolution will have to be postponed. Is it not obvious common sense; is it not necessary, in order to give assurance in all good faith and to maintain our credit, that we should without hesitation do that which is perfectly simple in its character—namely, arrest the progress of operations which tend greatly to fetter the future discretion of Parliament? My noble Friend opposite (Lord Stanley) has given notice of an Amendment upon my Motion. I think—indeed, I have such a respect for the noble Lord's knowledge of the English tongue, that I feel satisfied that the Amendment has been drawn so as to allow of a critical consideration in regard 488 to its terms; but if my noble Friend can contrive to show that an inquiry now in progress can be called a pending inquiry, he certainly would be a new light upon the English language. But, passing from that trifle, I ask myself what benefit is to be attained by a dilatory Amendment such as that of the noble Lord. It is, I think, a safe assumption that that Amendment will carry no consolation to the mind of the Irish Church. I will illustrate my meaning. Suppose instead of proposing the disestablishment of the Irish Church, some hon. Member of wild counsels and intentions had put upon the Notice Paper of this House, a proposition that it would be expedient, with due regard to vested interests, to make provision by law for the extinction of the House of Peers, would the noble Lord have gone forward and have told us that he thought it was possible considerable modifications might, perhaps, appear to be expedient, as the result of the great constitutional change which he recently has been an instrument in bringing about; but that he was of opinion that any proposition tending to the disestablishment of the House of Lords ought to be reserved for the decision of a new Parliament? [Laughter.] That may seem like a jest; it is but too sad earnest. It indicates a mode in which, so far as depends upon the counsels of the Executive, this great question of the Irish Church is to be dealt with. For myself, I avow that I have carefully avoided all endeavours to stir agitation. I have waited until, as it appeared to me, the hour had come when the call of duty summoned. That having come, I thought it but due in justice to every one concerned to speak in the plainest language, and we are met with a Motion that says that the question of the disestablishment and disendowment must be reserved for the decision of the new Parliament. Well, Sir, much shall I be surprised if the House of Commons adopts an Amendment such as this. That Amendment cannot be meant to show respect to the new Parliament; because it only does, and I think much less perfectly, that which will be effected by the Motion—namely, reserves the final handling of the question to the councils and deliberations of that Parliament. The very words of the Resolutions I propose contain a reference to the decision of the new Parliament. In that respect, therefore, the Motions are alike. But, again, perhaps, I may be told that if we are not going to legislate finally on the question it is not 489 expedient to express an opinion on the question. Then, why are we invited to admit that "considerable modifications in the temporalities of the United Church in Ireland may, after the result of the present inquiry, he found expedient?" Why, I ask, is this House to be called on to give that opinion? The difference between us is this, the opinion I ask the House to express is an opinion no one can mistake, every one can understand. Who can understand what are these "considerable modifications?" What kind of modifications are they? Do they mean to carry the tithes of Connaught to the congregations of Dublin and Belfast? Do they mean to investigate the question of surpluses of capitular estates, and, after having competently provided to all eternity for Protestant rectors and curates, to hand over to those who are not Israelites the crumbs that fall from the table? Why go into the assertion of such vague generalities as these? But the noble Lord, I contend, shows no regard to the coming Parliament. I invite him to join with me, if he is anxious to show regard to that Parliament. I am trying to show regard for the coming Parliament by keeping out of its way all those embarrassments which, if these Resolutions are not adopted, will infallibly grow up. I certainly must say that the vested interests are a very great embarrassment. Why, it maybe the duty of the Commissioners—for aught I know they may be erecting a new benefice of four Anglicans at this very moment. I so respect the judgment of the new Parliament that I will endeavour—so far as depends on me—to clear up the ground on which it is to enter. But it is said there is no end to these concessions—that a liberal policy has been long pursued—that it has not produced its natural fruits—that the Roman Catholics still continue dissatisfied, and that, instead of gratitude, we are met with fresh demands. Well. Sir, my answer is—as we have sown, so we reap. The method we have pursued, according to laws higher and deeper than any we can make, has produced the fruits that were inevitable, and that we ought to have foreseen. It is quite true that we have conceded. There has been, as I said before, a connection of 700 years. Almost the whole of that connection has consisted of a succession of storms—fierce and bitter storms—and uncertain, temporary calms. From time to time the Irish problem has been dealt with; but it never has 490 been dealt with by removing the whole cause of dispute. For 100 years we have been moving at least in the same direction. In 1778 a great concession was made. In 1793 another onward stride was effected in the Parliament of Ireland. In 1800 the promises of Mr. Pitt for a moment gilded the sky of that island. In 1829 our Roman Catholic Colleagues in this House first took their seats among us, and obtained a substantial equality, which I rejoice to think was carried within the last year or two to its farthest limits by the removal of a useless and objectionable oath. But what have been the circumstances under which these changes have been made? Have they been freely made? Have they proceeded from our spontaneous bounty? Have they been drawn from us in our melting mood by our recollection of the woes and sufferings of Ireland? Sir, the dates, I am loth to say, speak for themselves. The first step was in 1778, when the prospects of the American war were growing more and more gloomy. The second was in 1793, when you began to be locked in a struggle of life and death with France. The third was in 1800, when that struggle, great and formidable as it was at all times, had assumed, per haps, its very darkest and most desperate aspect. And the last was in 1829; you gave to the Roman Catholics seats in this House when the Minister who proposed the measure intimated to you, in terms distinct enough, that unless you were prepared for concession you must look for civil war in Ireland as the only alternative. And when we thus have written, inscribed, engraven upon our own acts the motives from which they have proceeded—when we have ourselves, by the time at which they were carried, taken care to characterize them as more properly the fruits of our fearful anticipations than of our generous bounty, can we be surprised that they have failed to elicit the abundant gratitude it seems we were to expect? I believe the laws of human nature have been too strong for us, and they ought to have enabled us to predict what has happened. I Hence it has been that the proverb arose—England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity, and that Mr. Grattan, speaking of the in dependence of the Irish Parliament, said—The weakness of England made the strength of Ireland; for Ireland was saved when America was lost. When England conquered Ireland was coerced; when she was defeated, Ireland was relieved.491 Now, at last, let us see whether it is in our power to make some amendment upon this most deplorable method of proceeding. I hope it is not too late. It is certainly not too soon. I have urged that there is a crisis in the affairs of Ireland; and I am answered that the crisis is one made and got up by me—as if I were like the mysterious person who in a theatre behind, or rather above, the scenes has custody of what are termed the thunder, lightning, and rain, to do with them as he pleases. Sir, that is not the character of the Irish crisis. Much depends upon this. Let us sift the questions to the bottom. We had a crisis in 1829. What followed? Certainly nothing like a complete measure, but still a measure of relief. But about fifteen years afterwards the attitude of Ireland again became formidable. Sir Robert Peel endeavoured to meet the exigency of the day by measures he proposed of a highly liberal character; one relating to the establishment of the Queen's Colleges, the other to the increase of the Grant to Maynooth—a Grant opposed by the right hon. Gentleman now the Prime Minister of the Crown, on the ground that Sir Robert Peel was a person totally unfit to that time had lain in a different direction. But it pleased providence to interpose and to check the currents of the political atmosphere by the tremendous visitation of the famine. That famine gave another turn to the minds and thoughts of men. But we have gone on, I am afraid less alive than we ought to have been to the real demands of Ireland. It has only been since the termination of the American war and the appearance of Fenianism that the mind of this country has been greatly turned to the consideration of Irish affairs; and it is in vain to attempt to preach in the wilderness, to anticipate conclusions at which the nation has not arrived, even though those conclusions may be recommended by forethought as well as justice. But what has been happening all this time? Has Ireland been in a stationary condition? I do not speak of its material condition. I speak of other causes. The discontent of the agricultural population has continued; and the virtual pledge given by public authority in the Report of the Earl of Devon's Commission, twenty-three years ago, has for all these years remained unredeemed. If millions of the Irish people have taken an acuter view of their own rights and wrongs than we may approve, 492 and the cheap Press, which with myriad wings, we have sent among them, has stirred from time to time those breasts, that cheap Press, if causes of dissatisfaction had not existed, would only have attached all classes to the institutions of the country. It used to be said that steam had bridged the Channel—it has now bridged the Atlantic—steam now bridges the Atlantic—and the echoes of whatever dissatisfaction exists in Ireland come back to us over the waves of that wide ocean. These are fatal and enormous changes—they are changes preparatory and predisposing to the latest manifestation—the manifestation, I mean, of that Fenianism that has come into this country, which, and say it upon the authority of the noble Earl, who stated the fact in words that cannot be forgotten, found existing in the hearts of the Irish people a great amount of dissatisfaction—we may almost say of disloyalty and of dislike to England and to the English rule, the small occupiers to a great extent sympathizing with it, and in several of the large towns in the South the population being deeply tainted with it, and ready to participate in it to any extent. And then, with these words falling from the mouth of his own Colleague, that Colleague being the responsible Minister for Ireland, the Prime Minister for the Crown denies that a crisis exists, and ridicules it as the creation of a fevered brain. I want to know what is the sign of a national crisis. To those who refuse to read it in the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, four times, I think, successively, what answer is it to say to us, "You yourselves proposed the suspension?" Certainly we did; but this is an act which grows not less, but more significant by repetition. Does the right hon. Gentleman suppose that when we asked the House of Commons to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act we were not aware that that suspension would draw after it political consequences? It was my duty on that occasion, to follow the powerful and impressive speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and what I said was—I do not deny that we must persevere in legislation in the direction in which we have been engaged for some time, and which has already in a certain measure produced most satisfactory results. What I pleaded for was this, that we should provide for the exigencies of the day, for that is an absolute duty which cannot be deferred.On all occasions when the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act has been renewed 493 the same course has been pursued, and no impediment has been thrown in the way of that proposal. Indeed, we found that the Government were almost ready to complain of those who now propose remedial measures that they did not oppose that suspension. My opinion is that the readiness and the cheerfulness—no, that is a bad word—the readiness and full conviction with which the House has acceded to the proposal is a true measure of the conviction that the House entertains that it must at the earliest possible moment address itself in earnest to the work of remedial legislation. What does the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act mean? It means the giving up of the charter and Palladium of personal liberty in that country. And what are its accompaniments in Ireland? A police—which is virtually an armed force for purposes of repression—admirably discharging its duties, but not discharging the same duties that are discharged by the police of England and of Scotland. An army maintained in Ireland, unhappily not for the same purposes for which an army is maintained in England and in Scotland, but for purposes much more nearly approaching those which are most peculiar to some of the worst governed States of Europe. For my part, I know not what is worse than tranquillity purchased by the constant suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, unless it be that last extremity of public calamity—civil war. This being the state of things, I for one, Sir, am not willing to wait. It appears to me that our responsibility is quite sufficient for having waited thus long, and that it befits us now to do all that the time will permit towards clearing our account with Ireland. I know there is a feeling in this matter which. I admit, it is difficult to get over. There are many who think that to lay hands upon the national Church Establishment of a country is a profane and unhallowed act. I respect that feeling. I sympathize with it. I sympathize with it while I think it my duty to overcome and repress it. But if it be an error it is an error entitled to respect. There is something in the idea of a national Establishment of religion, of a solemn appropriation of a part of the Commonwealth for conferring upon all who are ready to receive it what we know to be an inestimable benefit; of saving that portion of the inheritance from private selfishness, in order to extract from it, if we can, pure and unmixed advantages of the highest order for the population at large—there is 494 something in this so attractive that it is an image that must always command the homage of the many. It is somewhat like the kingly ghost in Hamlet, of which one of the characters of Shakespeare says—We do it wrong, being so majestical,To offer it the show of violence;For it is, as the air, invulnerable,And our vain blows malicious mockery.But, Sir, this is to view a religious Establishment upon one side, only upon what I may call the etherial side. It has likewise a side of earth; and here I cannot do better than quote some lines written by the present Archbishop of Dublin at a time when his genius was devoted to the Muses. He said, in speaking of mankind—We who did our lineage highDraw from beyond the starry sky,Are yet upon the other sideTo earth and to its dust allied.And so the Church Establishment, regarded in its theory and in its aim, is beautiful and attractive. Yet what is it but an appropriation of public property, an appropriation of the fruits of labour and of skill to certain purposes, and unless those purposes be fulfilled that appropriation cannot be justified. Therefore, Sir, I cannot but feel that we must set aside fears which thrust themselves upon the imagination, and act upon the sober dictates of our judgment. I think it has been shown that the cause for action is strong—not for precipitate action, not for action beyond our powers; but for such action as the opportunities of the times and the condition of Parliament, if there be but a ready will, will amply and easily admit of. If I am asked as to my expectations of the issue of this struggle, I begin by frankly avowing that I, for one, would not have entered into it unless I believed that the final hour was about to sound.Venit summa dies et ineluctable fatum.And I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I say that before Friday last I thought that the thread of the remaining life of the Irish Established Church was short, but that since Friday last, when at half-past four o'clock in the afternoon the noble Lord stood at that table, I have regarded it as being shorter still. The issue is not in our hands. What we had and have to do is to consider well and deeply before we take the first step in an engagement such as this; but having entered into the controversy, there and then to acquit ourselves like men, and to use every effort to remove what still remains of the scandals 495 and calamities in the relations which exist between England and Ireland, and to make our best efforts at least to fill up with the cement of human concord the noble fabric of the British Empire.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee to consider the said Acts."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
Sir, I rise to move the Amendment of which I have given notice; and I can assure the House that I do so with a full sense of the gravity of the crisis which is impending, and with a desire quite as anxious as that of the right hon. Gentleman can be, that no trick, no contrivance, no ambiguity, shall interfere with the straightforward course of this debate, and that the ideas and intentions of Her Majesty's Government in objecting to the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman shall not be misconstrued or misunderstood, either here or out of doors. And I say that the more earnestly, because I think I see already that in the debate upon which we are about to enter, long as it inevitably must be, and impassioned as it probably will be—a debate in which party feeling must necessarily run high, and party prejudices be to some extent appealed to—every attempt will be made—I had almost said every art will be employed—to place upon a false issue the question we have to decide. Now, Sir, what are these Resolutions that are to be moved by the right hon. Gentleman? They have been repeatedly described out-of-doors, and I do not doubt we shall hear them described in this House, as Resolutions directly implying and involving the disendowment of the Irish Church. No doubt the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was calculated to impress that idea upon us. But when I look to the Resolutions, I find in them nothing of the kind. I they asserted the principle of disendowment, we should at least know not only what we are discussing, but, which is a different thing, what it is upon which we are favoured with any such information. Let us examine these Resolutions and see what principles they really do involve; for I need not remind the House that it is not upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but upon the Resolutions as they stand upon the Paper, that the Vote of this House is to be taken. My first objection, therefore, is that we are called upon to say 496 "Aye" or "No" to a plan which is no plan at all—to give or to refuse an assent to a proposition which is not before us in any definite shape, and which twenty different people may interpret in twenty different ways. Now, Sir, the first and leading proposition of the right hon. Gentleman is that the Church of Ireland ought to cease to exist as an Established Church. Well, but what do you mean by an "Established Church?" It is not so easy to define the meaning of that phrase. Does it mean merely a Church whose endowments were originally derived from the State—that is one view of the question; of course, as everybody knows, a great controversy hangs upon that question, whether Church endowments can be said to be originally derived from the State; or does it mean, what is entirely different, a Church controlled and regulated in its administration and discipline by the State? These Resolutions are so general that I can perfectly well understand an ardent and zealous Protestant accepting the words of the first Resolution, and admitting the propositions it involves—admitting it upon the ground that the State had often interfered in what he would call an injurious manner with the Irish Church, had crippled its efficiency, had discouraged Protestant zeal, and had restrained the vehemence of its more ardent supporters. Such a man might say, and say with perfect consistency, as regards both the words and the spirit of these Resolutions—'Very well, we accept the terms which the right hon. Gentleman offers, but we put our own construction upon them. Let us, if that be your decision, cease to be a State Church; let us choose our own Bishops; let us make that not very important sacrifice of ceasing to send them to the House of Lords; let us choose our own officers, sever our connection with the State—only recollect that, in so doing, we claim to retain all the endowments. They are ours; the State has nothing to do with them. We will keep them, and our self-appointed governing body will do with them as it pleases." If any man chose to accept the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman in that sense, I see nothing whatever in its words to prevent him; but I do not apprehend that an arrangement of that kind, which would leave the Church, not indeed the name of an Establishment, but all its wealth, with more power and more independence than it at present possesses, would exactly meet the views of those who 497 support the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman. That it would not meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman himself we have had evidence enough in his own speech. Then, I say, in the first place, that these Resolutions tell us absolutely nothing as to what you mean to do with the funds of the Irish Church, and that is the real question at issue. And I say further, that the acceptance of them would be perfectly compatible with an arrangement which should do the very opposite of that which you are meaning and intending. Whether the wording was purposely arranged, so that those who do not accept the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman may vote for the Resolutions, or whether—which, considering how many eminent hands have been employed upon these words, I cannot think likely—it is matter of pure accident and oversight, I venture to say that it is preposterous to ask this House to affirm a proposition which is so worded and so framed that when you have carried it no two of those who have voted in its favour will agree the next morning as to the principles you have been asserting, or as to what is to be the consequence of its adoption. If this were merely matter of verbal criticism I might allude to it in passing; I should certainly do no more. But I think it goes a great deal deeper into the root of the matter than mere verbal criticism. Disestablishment is one thing, disendowment is another. It is conceivable that a Church might be disestablished, and yet might retain all its endowments. It is equally conceivable that a Church might retain the style and title of an Establishment, whatever that may amount to, and yet be so deprived of the bulk of its possessions as to be compelled to rely for its support in the main upon the voluntary principle; and my objection is, that while you profess to be laying down a principle which is to guide the nation in its dealings with the Irish Church, you are touching only a corner of the question—you are avoiding all notice of the real difficulties—you are disposing of what, in my view at least, is very little more than an empty title, and you do not say how the taking away of that title does or does not affect the succession to the estate which has hitherto gone with it. I may be told, "Look at the second and third Resolutions; see what provision is made for vacancies not being filled up by the Crown; what can that mean but disendowment?" My answer is, that the 498 third Resolution, whatever its constitutional bearings may be—and there will be something to be said as to the legality of the course to be taken under it—leaves us just as much in the dark as the first, whether the House pledges itself to take away from the Church all its endowments, or half of them, or to leave them all as they are. The Resolutions are perfectly reconcilable with an arrangement which should leave the Church still endowed to the full amount, but relieved from State control; and they are equally reconcilable with the adoption of the purely voluntary system, or with a proposal for the division of the endowments between different religious bodies. They do, indeed, show that you contemplate the probability of Parliament doing something with these endowments; that you contemplate some legislation that shall affect them; but what that legislation shall be, by what principles it is to be guided, or what direction it is to take, we know no more than we knew before. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has done something in his statement to-night to supply the deficiency of the proposition which he has laid on the table. But that affords me still more reasonable ground of objection, because I want to know upon which of two questions we are to vote. Is it upon the specific plan the right hon. Gentleman puts forward in his speech, but does not bring forward in the form of a Resolution; or is it upon those general and vague Resolutions, which no doubt include the plan of the right hon. Gentleman, but which I have endeavoured to show would equally include a great many other schemes entirely different from it? I cannot consider this as a light or immaterial objection, because it seems to me that the real question which the next Parliament will have to consider will not be whether anything ought to be done as regards the Irish Church, but what the particular thing to be done shall be. Probably there is not one educated person in a hundred who will stand up and pretend that the Irish ecclesiastical arrangements as they exist are of altogether a satisfactory kind. I certainly am not that one. If we had thought so, or if the House had thought so, what would have been the meaning—what would have been the use of that Commission which is now inquiring into the whole subject, appointed as it was with the full concurrence of both the present and the late Governments? But the real perplexity of the question, and that which 499 during thirty years has rendered Parliament so unwilling to touch it, is this: If you alter in any way the present application of the endowments, what do you mean to do with them? And I say that we have a right to call upon those who invite us to approach what is undoubtedly the most difficult and perhaps the most dangerous question of our time, who invite us not only to discuss it, but to pledge ourselves to early action upon it—we have a right, I think, to ask them to say whether they or anybody else will undertake to produce for the consideration of Parliament a solution of that question which Parliament and the public will accept. Just look at the number of plans which you have had either now or quite lately brought forward. First comes the plan recommended by the names of gentlemen eminent in their line, the plan of which, I suppose I may say, Mr. Miall and Mr. Newman Hall are the principal champions—the plan that is of absolute and entire disendowment. These gentlemen are, I will not say denouncing, but they are, I see by the newspapers, expostulating with even the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) because he hesitated, and I thought very wisely, to go that full length. I do not know how numerous the supporters of that idea may be, but undoubtedly they have the advantage which the partisans of extreme ideas always possess, that of a logically strong and consistent position. Next in order is the plan lately propounded by the hon. Member for Birmingham. His idea, if I understand it rightly, was to take the Church property of all kinds, to assign a certain share to each religious denomination that would take it, and to turn over the bulk of the remainder to secular uses. Thirdly, comes Lord Russell with a scheme, which he also put forward in a pamphlet, published not more than six weeks ago—a scheme which, as I understand it, does not contemplate the appropriation of Church endowments to secular uses, but proposes to divide those endowments among all denominations in the ratio of their numbers. Fourthly, you have the old appropriation scheme of thirty-three years ago—a scheme which rested upon this basis:—Provide first for the reasonable wants of the Irish Protestant population, and then apply whatever surplus may be left, either to education or to making such provision for the Roman Catholics as they may be inclined to accept. Then we have the 500 proposal sketched out by the right hon. Gentleman, which has been too recently laid before the House to admit of discussion at this moment; and lastly comes an idea which finds great favour, I believe, among a portion of Irish Churchmen, although I am bound to say I do not think it is one that a reformed Parliament is likely to adopt—the scheme, I mean, of leaving untouched the Protestant endowments as a whole, but re-distributing them so as to get rid of the scandal which everybody admits to exist—of sinecure livings and empty churches. You have thus five, not to say six, projects at least, all of them differing in essential principles, each of them irreconcilable with all the rest, all of them supported probably by a respectable minority in the country; and that is the chaos in which the right hon. Gentleman asks us to plunge at a day's notice, when, whatever else public opinion may have decided, it is perfectly clear that it does not see its way as to which of any of these schemes it intends to adopt. Well, then, Sir, I think I have shown that the Resolutions before us come to very little more than this: that in the opinion of the House it is expedient that something or other should be done affecting the Irish Church; but that, at present, the movers of the Resolutions do not ask us to say in express terms what that something shall be. That does not seem to be a very practical conclusion, but that is not all. Suppose you carry your Motion. Suppose you go into Committee, and being in Committee you pass your Resolutions. Well, I should ask in the words on the title-page of one of Mr. Cobden's pamphlets, "What next, and next?" What do you mean to do with your Resolutions when you have got them? You do not intend to legislate this year. The right hon. Gentleman said as much.
That there may be no misunderstanding, I would explain, if the noble Lord will permit me, that what I disclaimed was final legislation. What I recommended, and what would be required by the spirit of the second and third Resolutions would be legislation to prevent the growth of new interests.
That is not legislation in the sense I mean. You do not intend to ask us to legislate so as to dispose of the question. But if the right hon. Gentleman had given me a different answer my case would have been just as strong, because the reply would obviously 501 have suggested itself, "If you have a plan, why do not you embody it in a Bill, and place that Bill before us, instead of proposing Resolutions?" But you say, "No, we cannot legislate this year, but we pledge the House." Whom do you pledge, and to what? If you meant to pledge this House to legislation on the question, there would be something in that; and, though it might be rash to give a promise as to action in a future Session, still the importance of the subject and the excitement of the public mind would perhaps justify such a step. But we stand in a very peculiar position. We all know that after the legislative changes of last year, it is simply impossible, according to all constitutional rule, that the present Parliament can continue in existence any longer than is necessary to complete the arrangements for creating new voters. You therefore—the present Parliament—will never have this question to deal with. It must be dealt with in a new Parliament, and that Parliament elected by a new and greatly increased constituency. What power have you over them? How can you give a pledge in their names? Either they will agree with your views or differ from them; that is one of the very few propositions not disputed even in an Irish debate. But if they do agree with you, what you propose to do within the next twelve months would simply prevent the filling up of one or two livings. You are, in fact, in that view of the case, advocating a superfluous measure, designed to secure an insignificant end. If you expect them to differ from you, then I do not see what you gain by placing on record what, on that hypothesis, is a mere protest by anticipation in favour of views which you cannot enforce. My opinion may be prejudiced, perhaps singular, but I hold that the Parliament of England is not a debating club; and that it is not its business to lay down general and vague propositions where it is impossible that action should follow. I have heard it said, "It is true this is a dying Parliament, but a dying man may make a will;" my answer is, certainly, but he can only bequeath what belongs to him, and, I say it with all respect, the legislation of the future is not within your competence to dispose of. The right hon. Gentleman claims a right precisely similar to that often set up by an Irish tenant-at-will, who bequeaths to some member of his family the farm, over which he has not the slightest legal right. 502 Well, seeing how obvious these considerations are, and that they cannot have escaped the notice of eminent politicians, I should have felt some surprise at the Resolutions being brought forward—some perplexity as to the motive and meaning of the Liberal party, if it had not been for a pamphlet which Earl Russell, the head of the great Liberal party, has most opportunely published—the same pamphlet, by the way, in which that eminent Parliamentary Leader has not thought it inconsistent with courtesy to describe his political opponents by comparisons derived from the brute creation. Earl Russell comments on a speech of mine, in which I said what I say now, and his criticism is as follows:—If the question is postponed till next year, the Tory party, whether forming a majority or a strong minority in the new House of Commons, may come from their elections so invigorated by hustings' speeches, and so intoxicated by the old Tory policy of Lord Eldon, as to refuse to their Leaders any reduction of the Irish Church Establishment.Now, I think that passage quite perfect in its way. In the first place, it is a good measure of the faith which a Liberal Leader feels in the triumph of Liberal principles when they are to be submitted to the judgment of the people. If the poorer class of voters in the new constituency are really so open, in Earl Russell's opinion, to what he would call prejudice or fanaticism, I should have thought it was hardly worth while for one who held that opinion to pass the greater part of his political life in unceasing Parliamentary efforts to obtain the right of voting for them. But, in the next place, I admire the political morality of the doctrine implied. "If we really appeal to the people," says Earl Russell, "there is every chance of their deciding against us. Therefore, don't let us run any risk; let us make all safe now. Let us do the thing in their name at once, and take care they are never consulted about it." But, looking at the matter from a different point of view, I should like to know what is the practical result which you expect to obtain—what is the danger which you desire to avert, by forcing through this Resolution, on which you cannot act, and to the displacement of other business hardly less important, and certainly more urgent in point of time? Do you think the new Parliament unfit to deal with it? Constitutionally and consistently you cannot hold that language. Are you really afraid that the new Parliament 503 will neglect or ignore the question of the Irish Church? No man will rise here, and, with a grave face, express that apprehension. The House knows perfectly well that under any circumstances, with any Government in power, it must be one of the first questions—probably the very first—which will attract notice from the House of Commons of 1869. Then, what is it you fear? Can it be that the apprehension entertained on that Bench is not that nothing will be done, but that something will be done—that opinion will declare itself in the constituencies—that the necessity of action will be felt—that the Legislature will take the work into its own hands, and that Liberal Leaders, if they do not preoccupy the ground now, will not be able to claim the initiative on which they rely for their popularity and power? If so, I cannot deny that they have good personal and party reasons for what they are doing; but it is a little hard that all the business of the Session should be interrupted, not to forward a public object, but to furnish the Liberal party with an election cry—that of Reform having ceased to be available. I will not say the course taken is unprecedented; we have not forgotten the Appropriation Clause—which is not exactly the brightest page of Whig history—and some may remember the Resolution of June, 1859, framed by the same experienced hand, and which ended, no doubt, in a transfer of power, but ended, also, in shelving the Reform question effectually for the next seven years. Are you quite sure that these two precedents are desirable ones to follow, or that a repetition of them will form the most dignified and desirable conclusion for the Parliamentary system of 1832? I am never fond of dealing with personal topics, and I do not mean to inquire how far the language and conduct of those who put forward these Resolutions are in accordance with their speeches and policy when they were charged—as for the greater part of the last generation they have been—with the responsibilities of power. I give the right hon. Gentleman the full benefit of his personal defence, though I do not think, by the way, that defence quite covered the case of some speeches which I have heard delilivered from this spot by those who held office with him—notably one, that of the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) no longer ago than 1865, to which I suppose the right hon. Gentleman assented—at least, he did not dissent from 504 it. I admit that in these days events move rapidly, and that in such matters we all have to make allowances for one another. But I do say that when a change of policy is conscientiously adopted—that there has been a change no one can deny, and I certainly will not say it is not conscientious—it ought, if only as a matter of prudence, not to assume a shape in which, by outside observers, it is likely to be confounded with an electioneering manœuvre. For thirty years Gentlemen opposite have had this question before them; and what have they done, or attempted to do, during that time? By their own confession, they have done absolutely nothing at all. I do not blame them for that. If they thought it best not to touch this question, they had a perfect right to abstain from doing so. But it is a little singular that now, being no longer in power, they cannot even wait for their own Commission to report—(for it was at the instance of Earl Russell that the Commission now sitting with regard to the Established Church in Ireland was appointed)—that they cannot even allow the most necessary business of the Session to be transacted, so great is their zeal to pass, without an hour's delay, a Motion on which by no possibility, even if they can agree as to what it means, can they act until next year. Sir, I think the country will form its own judgment on all this. And if the right hon. Gentleman repeats on the hustings the phrase which he uttered in his most emphatic tones the other night, "Justice delayed is justice denied," I think he will find among the crowd some one with common sense enough to ask, "If this be justice, by whom has it been delayed? You have had the power in your own hands for twenty-five years, why did not you do justice?" But then it is said, "The passing of these resolutions will be a message of peace to Ireland?" Will it be a message of peace to the North of Ireland? Do not let me be mistaken. I am not arguing that you are not to do what you think just and right—that you are not to follow your own conscience and conviction, whether by so doing you satisfy or dissatisfy either North or South, or both, though as to the time and manner of even doing acts of justice considerations of policy may intervene. But if you put what you are doing on the ground of conciliation, I think it only fair to ask you to look at both sides. You have in Ireland 1,500,000 of Protestants, Presbytc- 505 rians, and members of the Established Church, all, I apprehend, feeling alike on this matter. They may have their faults; but with all their faults they are by far the most energetic and active part of the Irish population. These Resolutions have undoubtedly come upon them by surprise; and if they pass I am afraid you will have created in their minds a feeling of rage and resentment that will go among many of them, in a country where passion runs high, very near to disaffection. Will you have conciliated the Catholic peasantry? I am not here to put forward any plea which I do not believe to be sound, and I admit that these Resolutions, or rather what is meant to be conveyed by these Resolutions, will find favour among the Catholic peasantry to a certain extent. But do not imagine that you can conciliate and satisfy the Catholic peasantry of Ireland by dealing with this Church question alone. The first question with them is the land question, and the land question, in the mind of a Celtic peasant, means something very different. Behind the question of the Church is the land question. Behind the land question, again, is the education question, on which your allies of to-day will be your most determined opponents to-morrow; and behind them all lies a difficulty more grave and permanent than any—a difficulty felt at this moment in almost every civilized country in Europe—the difficulty of reconciling the modern, the Protestant, and liberal (using that word not in any party sense) idea of administrative and social arrangements with the totally different notions of both which are held by a devotedly Catholic community under the influence and guidance of its clergy. This, I know, is touching upon delicate ground, and I am the more anxious not to let my argument be warped to a purpose to which I do not apply it. I repeat, do by all means that which you think right and just. Only guard yourselves against that common and tempting fallacy of believing that certain political consequences will follow from what you are doing, merely because from your point of view you think it right and just that they should. I do not propose to go at this time into the question of what I individually think ought to be done in the matter of the Irish Church. There will be plenty of opportunities for that. And it is not a question upon which anyone would wish to speak unadvisedly or impulsively. But I have seen and heard, and with extreme sur- 506 prise, some criticisms on the Amendment which it is impossible for me to leave with out answer. The right hon. Gentleman in the course of his remarks has called it "dilatory." Other critics out-of-doors have called it "disingenuous." How it can be dilatory I do not know; for I have endeavoured to give the House the earliest opportunity of voting "Aye" or "No" upon these Resolutions. How it is disingenuous I am still more puzzled to conceive; for I do not know what plain speak rag is if it be not found in the words which I have put upon the Notice Paper. We affirm two propositions—one of which I conceive to require no proof—namely, that some modification, be it what it may, in the status of the Irish Church Establishment is to all appearance inevitable; the other, that for which I have been arguing, that the question is one for a future and not for the present Parliament to settle. With regard to the verbal criticism expended upon the Amendment, I should be quite prepared to defend my own English, if it were worth while occupying the time of this House in so doing. But, whatever verbal criticism you may pass upon the earlier portion of the Amendment—striking out of consideration, if you will, the first clause—it does not affect my argument. We are all free to form our own judgment as to what will, or may, or ought to happen in the future; but the practical proposition remains, and it is on that that the Vote of the House will be taken. We deny the expediency of dealing, or rather of attempting to deal, with the question which you bring before us in the present Parliament. Then it is asked, "Why not meet the Motion by a direct negative, or by the Previous Question?" Simply for this reason: either one or the other of those courses would imply, or might possibly be considered as implying, that we objected to this question being dealt with at all, in any form or at any time. And that is a misconstruction against which we reasonably desire to guard. We say that the work of the Session is quite sufficient for the Session. Whenever action shall appear to us necessary and possible we shall be ready to tell you how we are prepared to act. But our case is that at present action is neither necessary nor possible; and that being so, we will not by premature propositions or vague assertions of opinion fetter our own discretion in the future, or interfere with the judgment of a reformed House of Commons. That is 507 our position, which we submit with full confidence both to the judgment of the House and of the country.
To leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "while admitting that considerable modifications in the temporalities of the United Church in Ireland may, after the pending inquiry, appear to be expedient, is of opinion that any proposition tending to the disestablishment or disendowment of that Church ought to be reserved for the decision of a new Parliament,"—(Lord Stanley,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. E. A. LEATHAM
said: I approach the consideration of this great branch of the question of Ireland, especially in its relation to Irish disaffection, with great diffidence and without the high hopes of political consequences which appear to actuate some. Do what we will, establish or disestablish what we please, endow or disendow what we may, I fear that the youngest Member of this House will never live to see Ireland what she might have been if our ancestors in their dealings with her people had not read backwards every precept of Christianity and every postulate of policy. But, by the magnitude of the wrongs which Ireland has sustained in the past, we are able to measure the strides which we have already made in the direction of restitution and right. It is true that we have taken nearly a century in learning to be just; but what is there in the condition of Ireland now to excite disaffection compared with the state of things less than a century ago? Then no Irish Catholic could inherit a single acre of land, discharge the humblest and simplest duties of the political citizen, fill any office of emolument or trust, exercise a single liberal profession, teach a child. Irish manufactures were shut out of this country by law, and, from one end of Ireland to the other, tithe was exacted by force of arms and with perpetual shedding of blood. Now, to say, as has been said, that the feeling against us in Ireland is as intense as ever it was seems to me not only to fly in the face of fact, but to utter a positive satire upon all that has been done. For if, after all these ameliorations, there is no amelioration in the fierceness of her attitude towards us, then, taking for granted as we must that the bond between the two countries is indissoluble, 508 the question which will present itself to some minds is not whether we have done enough but whether we have not done too much, whether we have not loosened our grip without tightening our embrace. But, Sir, they are not the best friends of Ireland who propagate these exaggerations. As injustice has abated so, too, has abated the sense of injustice. With the sense of injustice have abated the force and courage of sedition. Will anyone compare the vagaries of Fenianism with the outbreaks of former times? So long as you have two rival races and two hostile creeds face to face—so long as you have bitter memories on the one side and on arrogant assumption of superiority, backed by law, upon the other, so long will you have precisely that atmosphere in which disaffection do lights to breed; but in proportion as you remove inequalities—in proportion as you do away with any unfair advantage which one race or one creed enjoys to the detriment of the other, depend upon it you will strengthen that love of order which is an instinct in the whole human family, and which becomes a powerful and prevailing instinct in proportion as laws are just, and men are active, prosperous, and free. What, then, is the class of measures to which we ought to trust in attempting to deal by legislative enactment with Irish discontent? Not, I think, to those whose authors profess to cure everything by a single stroke, nor yet to those whose aim is merely to tide over the crisis of the moment, but to measures which, while they are gradual in their operation, are at the same time safe and sure. We must purify the air—we must give free play to the healing force of nature—we must remove those conditions which are the perpetual source of mischief. Is it not simple folly to hope for lasting tranquillity in Ireland while we leave standing in every parish a staring monument of everything which it is essential should be forgotten? The Irish Catholic can scarcely leave his own door without breaking his shins—I beg pardon for the homeliness of the phrase—over an institution which reminds him at every turn that he belongs to a subjugated race, and, moreover, one which is still made to wear a portion of its fetters in public. The existence of the Irish Church—the Church of a pitiful minority, regarded with hostility by the great bulk of the population, but fed publicly and ostentatiously from the proceeds of their industry—the existence of a Church alien—this is not my 509 epithet—parasitical, scandalous, yet still supreme, gives the lie to those who say we have abolished the inequality of race, and we have effaced the brand of conquest. It is impossible to take another step forward in the way of pacification while you leave this lion of Protestant ascendancy still in the path. But, Sir, if these inequalities are to be redressed, in what spirit are they to be redressed? I listened with the greatest possible pleasure to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman in this relation, for it is not in the spirit of a conqueror that we must proceed to exorcise the spirit of conquest. The fall must come, but let it be broken by every means in our power. But, Sir, the case is not to be met by a partition of revenues, You may joint-stock a private firm. You cannot joint-stock a National Church. For what is the fundamental notion of a National Church? Is it not an assumption of orthodoxy patented and guaranteed by the State? But you cannot have half-a-dozen true faiths. And if this principle be sanctioned in Ireland, what is to prevent a general scramble for the revenues of the Church of England?—and when that scramble takes place who can consistently withhold his share from Mormon? Now, Sir, let me say a few words with reference to the arguments which are adduced on behalf of the Irish Establishment. We are told that it is a corporate body, and that it has inherited its property from another corporate body—the Roman Catholic Church—and that, therefore, that property must not be disturbed. But putting on one side the fact that there has been a formidable break in the succession, it may, I think, be matter of doubt whether the Irish Church has a right to the full privileges of a corporate body, because there must have been an original and vital flaw in the constitution of a National Church which has never been able to identify itself with the nation. But even if we grant the existence of these privileges, we have still excellent authority for disendowment. What does Archbishop Whately say upon this point? "I freely acknowledge," he says—That the State has a right to take away the property of all or any of these corporations—indemnifying, of course, those individuals actually enjoying the revenue—whenever the manifest inutility or hurtfulness of the institutions renders their abolition important to the public welfare"—circumstances which we maintain have actually arisen. But it is contended that if 510 we disendow the Irish Church, we shall have established a fatal precedent against the endowment of the Church of England. I deny the parallelism of the two cases. Place the Church of England in the same position in relation to the mass of the population in England as that which is occupied by the Church of Ireland in relation to the population there—and does any one believe that the Church of England, in the face of the wide and free suffrage which you have given to the people, could endure for a single Session of Parliament? But the Church of Ireland is a Missionary Church, and therefore it is to be protected. Now, you have other Protestant Churches in Ireland which are Missionary Churches, but which are not established by the State, There are nearly 200 parishes in Ireland in which there is not a single Churchman—but in how many parishes does the House suppose that the Church of Ireland has gained a footing since the year 1834? In five. What have the other Protestant Churches been doing? The Presbyterians have gained during the same period a footing in 623 parishes, and "other Dissenters" in 526. So much for the efforts of this Missionary Church. Now, before this debate commenced two hon. Gentlemen opposite proceeded to knock us down with the 5th Article of the Act of Union and the Coronation Oath. I listened attentively to the 5th Article, but I failed to hear a single word about temporalities. And if I had, surely the Legislature is competent to undo what it has done. As regards the Coronation Oath, it is difficult to reply to the objection with gravity. Perhaps it is better to do so in the words of Archbishop Whately, who, when it was raised in his presence, is reported to have said, "Why this would give us four Estates of the Realm—King, Lords, Commons, and Oath." Material changes have been made in the Constitution since the Sovereign's accession. To these changes Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to give her Assent, but no one accuses Her Majesty of violating her Coronation Oath. There is one more argument which has been raised in these debates with which I will attempt to deal. It has been said that if we disendow the Irish Church, we shall cause the withdrawal from all parts of the country of a number of useful and amiable gentlemen who at present hold benefices. Hon. Gentlemen treat the Chinch as though she were a society for the diffusion of useful and amiable gentlemen. But 511 who is proposing that these useful and amiable gentlemen should leave their posts? Are we to suppose that the moment State aid is withdrawn the Church of Ireland will collapse like a punctured wind-bag? Is this what is meant by the force of Protestantism in Ireland? Is this the result of 300 years' petting and coddling by the State? Now, in the course of these remarks, I have said nothing about the abuses which—I will not say have crept into the Irish Church, but marched into it with head erect. I have avoided all such reference for two reasons—first, because any such allusion is calculated to embitter this controversy; and secondly, because any such allusion is altogether beside the mark. For it is not the pruning knife that we are asking for, it is the axe; it is not reform, but disendowment. But let me say a few words before I sit down with reference to the arguments of the noble Lord. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) tells us that he cannot understand these Resolutions, and that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) has left him in the dark. I imagine that the noble Lord is the only man in this House who, reading the Resolutions together with the commentary of the right hon. Gentleman has not had his eyes opened. But the noble Lord objects that the Resolutions contain no definite plan for the disposal of the revenues of the Irish Church, and therefore refuses to listen to them. But the right hon. Gentleman has told us how he would dispose of at least two-thirds of those revenues. Then the noble Lord proceeded to argue that this Parliament was incompetent to deal with this question at all. Be not let us pronounce so harsh a judgment against ourselves. This Parliament has been thought competent to deal with the most vital and most difficult question that can come before any Parliament; and it has dealt with it in such a manner as to excite the liveliest satisfaction in the bosom of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, and of the jubilant party which he instructs. But the noble Lord says that we are about to die. Do not let the serenity of the closing scene be disturbed by distressing importunities. Let us cat and drink, for tomorrow we die. But I have always understood that it was precisely upon their deathbeds that people were brought to a due sense of their responsibilities. "But," says the noble Lord, "we have made our wills; we have handed over everything to 512 our successors." Can hon. Gentlemen opposite entirely trust their successors? What in all probability will be the character of the Parliament which follows this? Will it be distinguished by the qualities which grace the Benches opposite? Will it be a peculiarly cautious Parliament, full of reverence for the past and of anxiety about the future? or will it be a Parliament of I buoyant hopes—a Parliament which walks by faith rather than by sight? But, is this exactly the kind of Parliament to which to entrust a question requiring great delicacy of touch, a nice regard for the rights of vested interests, a gentle handling of prejudices, and of those better and nobler predilections which, if they belong to the family of prejudice at all, are at least its most reputable members? I am quite of the noble Lord's opinion that the new Parliament will be prepared to deal with this question, and to deal with it resolutely. But will it deal with it kindly—will it deal with it as we are dealing with it—without passion? The hand which you have enfranchised is vigorous and strong. It will soon be skilful; but, of necessity, it comes, comparatively speaking, raw to its work. The new Parliament must be, in one sense, a 'prentice Parliament, and it is not to a 'prentice Parliament that we ought, in our indolence, to leave arrears of work—and work, too, which will tax to the uttermost the skill and experience of statesmen. Yet it cannot be contended that any decision which we may arrive at now will be flagrantly at variance with the wishes of those who follow us. The policy of the new Parliament is already casting its shadow over us. We have caught its tone without as yet catching what the noble Lord would perhaps call its temerity. In us the caution of the past and the courage of the future seem for the moment to join hands. Surely this is a great opportunity. "But," says the noble Lord, "You are not going to legislate." No, but we are going to lay down the landmarks which will limit future legislation. We are proposing to establish these three principles—disestablishment, disendowment—but disestablishment and disendowment in the gentlest, fairest, most indulgent way. And what is the alternative if you reject these Resolutions? A year's fierce agitation in Ireland. A year's angry recrimination in England. A year's passion. One would have thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite had had enough of popular agitation. Two years ago another great question oc- 513 cupied exactly the same position as that which is now occupied by this. You treated that question as you are treating this. You met argument and entreaty then as you are meeting them now, not in the old manly Tory fashion, but by equivoque. And what did it all end in? A leap in the dark! The right hon. Gentleman is already preparing to take another leap in the dark. Mark how punctiliously he follows the precedents of last year! You had a perpetual change of front then; you have had a perpetual change of front now. You had a fierce blast of the trumpet then; you have had it now. Will the education of hon. Gentlemen opposite never come to a close?
§ MR. O'NEILL
said, he did not know why the Irish Church should be subject to such severe attacks as had lately been directed against her from various quarters. Somewhat similar attacks were made in 1834, but she survived those attacks; she remained the Established Church of the country, notwithstanding them. Had her position changed so as to make her justly the subject of severe attack now? Her position had certainly changed since 1834; but he would tell the House in what manner. From 1834 to 1861 the population of Ireland had decreased; but relatively the Roman Catholics had decreased and the Protestants had increased; and, of all the Protestant denominations in Ireland, the Established Church had increased the most. During the same period the Irish Church had been dealt with severely by legislation. In 1838, one-fourth of her tithes had been given to the landlords; and in 1854, she lost £12,500, ministers' money. She had lost over £240,000 since 1834. But while the Church had been losing a portion of her revenues, she had increased in efficiency. Since 1826, the number of her clergy had increased by 195, of her churches by 387, and of her glebe-houses by 210. Then as to the missionary character of the Church. She had increased her labours among the Roman Catholic population. The late Bishop of Tuam had furnished statistics to show how the number of congregations and that of churches had increased in the district of West Connaught within the last twenty-five years. During that time the number of churches there had risen from 7 to 27, that of congregations from 13 to 57, and of clergy from 11 to 35; and, in a very interesting letter to The Times, the Archbishop of Dublin bore 514 testimony to the missionary work in the West of Ireland. In a Charge delivered by the late Bishop of Derry in 1866, the allegation that the Church Establishment was felt by the Roman Catholic population as a badge of servitude was ably met. The Bishop said—who desires its destruction? Not, surely, the great mass of the people belonging to the Roman Catholic communion—shopkeepers, small farmers, and labourers—who live in peace and harmony with their Protestant neighbours, and who recognize the Church clergyman, if not as their pastor, at least as their friend and neighbour, living among them, and expending at home, not only his Church income, but usually more or less of his private income also—ever ready to help them all with advice and assistance.It had been said that the Irish Church was a "grievous wrong," a "crying injustice," a "badge of conquest." He presumed that the alleged injustice consisted in the enjoyment of glebe lands and tithe rent-charge by the Established Church. Now, with regard to the glebe lands, many of them were given to the clergy by the native princes and landowners when Ireland was an independent country; while those in Ulster were granted at the time of the plantation of that province in the reign of James I. Those lands, moreover, were confirmed to the Church by the Act of Settlement, the same statute which confirmed to Roman Catholic proprietors lands which they or their ancestors had forfeited. The title of the Church to its property was therefore as good as that of any landed proprietor, resting as it did on a prescription of some three centuries, and it would surely be a great injustice to confiscate it. As to tithe, this was of the nature of a reserved rent, belonging neither to the occupier nor the landlord; and it was one of those charges which the landlord and tenant were bound to pay—although they might not approve the purposes to which they were applied—since they had come, the one into possession of his estate, the other into the occupation of the land, on the express or implied condition of bearing those obligations. In the North of Ireland, too, land in the country districts did not yield on an average a rental of more than 20s. per acre, and the tithe charge was of course proportionately small. It was true that the Established Church occupied a more favourable position than other communions, her clergy being paid, while the clergy of other bodies were not so to any great extent; but if the principle on which we acted in England and Scotland were a sound one, that the State was 515 bound to provide for the religious teaching of its subjects—a pure and scriptural form of religious worship, free of cost—he could not see why the Irish Establishment should be abolished, especially as such a step would be a flagrant breach of the Act of the Union, which provided that—The continuance and preservation of the said United Church as the Established Church of England and Ireland shall be deemed and taken to be an essential and fundamental part of the Union.It would also be a violation of the pledge contained in the Emancipation Act of 1829. The Resolution passed on the 6th of March in that year, and without which the Emancipation Act could not have been carried, provided—For the full and permanent security of the Establishments in Church and State; for the maintenance of the Reformed Religion, established by Law, and of the rights and privileges of the Bishops and of the Clergy of this Realm, and of the Churches committed to their charge.In fact, as Dr. Lee had well put it, in the event of the Irish Establishment being done away—The Act of Union in its most fundamental article would have to be repealed, much of the Act of Settlement cancelled, and the spirit of the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 openly violated: the Constitution will have received the most violent shock it has sustained since the Reformation. Let every English citizen count the cost before he embarks on this perilous crusade.And here he must express his acknowledgments to those whose writings he had consulted on this subject; and especially to the Rev. Dr. Lee, from whose able publications he had derived much valuable assistance. Then let the House reflect what would be the social consequences of this proposal. Political and religious feelings were perhaps the strongest which agitated men's minds, even when they acted separately, as in England they generally did. In Ireland, however, unhappily, they very often acted together, and each one was strengthened and intensified by the other. On the one side there would be an excitable Celtic population, who did not regard the Established Church as a grievance except as far as they were led to do so by persons who objected to all State Churches; but who, if public opinion in Ireland were excited on this question, would no doubt enter into the matter with all their native ardour; while on the other side would be an influential portion of the community who, while anxious to live on friendly terms with those of a different faith, yet believed that the solemn pledges given by Parliament con- 516 stituted their Church's property secure to them and their descendants, and would be prepared to use every constitutional means in defence of the property of their Church. If the political and religious feelings of these two parties were brought into conflict, the agitation would neutralize much of the harmonizing effect of the beneficent legislation of the last half century. And lastly, Ireland being an integral part of the kingdom of Britain, it was for the welfare and happiness of her people that they should participate closely in all that is intimately connected with the British Constitution. If the Church of Ireland were disestablished, on the ground that it was not the Church of the majority, consistency would require the application of the same principle to Wales, and it might next be put in operation in Scotland, since in some parishes the majority of the inhabitants were not connected with the Establishment. [Mr. HADFIELD: Hear!] The hon. Member for Sheffield agreed in that view, and was prepared to apply the principle of disestablishment universally; but be could not believe that the House would rashly commit itself to so vital a change in our Constitution. The principal ground, however, on which he defended the Irish Church was that it was the ancient Catholic Church of the land; that it existed 700 years before the English set foot in the country, and before the supremacy of the Pope was acknowledged; and that its apostolic doctrine was the same as that which was taught by St. Patrick, and which was re-asserted and restored at the Reformation.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, referring to the relative numbers of Protestants and Catholics in Ireland in 1861 and 1834, had stated that the proportion of Protestants had slightly increased. It was true that the proportion had increased, but only slightly; in spite of the severe sufferings of the people from famine and plague and the large emigration which had greatly thinned the Catholic population. The hon. Gentleman had argued for the maintenance of the Established Church in Ireland on the ground of its missionary character. But, if it was a missionary Church, that was a reason why it should no longer be retained as a State Church. He knew nothing more irritating to the feelings of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland than that a Church should be paid and maintained by the State 517 for the purpose of converting them from what they believed to be the only true religion. As long as an Established Church was retained in Ireland on these principles it would be a constant source of hatred to England, and would keep up the desire of getting rid of English misrule. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the increasing efforts that were made by the Protestants of Ireland. Well, he rejoiced that there was vitality enough still left among them to support their Church under any circumstances, and for that reason he hoped every sincere Protestant would give his support to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone). He could not help thinking that the two great debates of this Session—the one on the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), and the other now in progress must afford matter of astonishment to all our contemporaries who looked on at a distance, as they would also to our posterity when they came to view these things in a calm spirit. What was the reason that Englishmen had succeeded in the government of a colony which they had taken from France more than 100 years ago—indeed, had succeeded so well that the only difficulty would be in persuading that colony to set up for itself? What was the reason that they had succeeded so well in governing a vast tract of territory situated at the other side of the globe, and that they had failed in the case of Ireland, a country scarcely separated from Great Britain, and this after so many centuries of conquest, and after a legislative union nearly three-quarters of a century ago? There were simple people who said it was because they had attempted to maintain a State Church there, and to force, by more or less partial laws, a distasteful religion upon the people. He regretted the circumstances under which Parliament had been brought to think seriously about this matter. It had been remarked that the Penal Laws had been relaxed under the fear of Paul Jones and the American privateers; the Emancipation Act passed when the Duke of Wellington himself stood appalled at the prospect of a civil war; and that the miserable Maynooth Grant had been thrown as a sop to the people of Ireland, when, as Mr. Macaulay said, Mr. O'Connell and President Polk had made the House a little uneasy. And now, more than twenty years after, they had begun seriously to think whether the Established Church ought any longer to be maintained, because the murder of a police- 518 man at Manchester and the explosion at Clerkenwell had made them a little afraid.When the devil was sick the devil a monk would be;When the devil was well the devil a monk was he.These lines very well expressed the policy of this country towards Ireland. He regretted very much the way in which this Motion had been met by the noble Lord opposite, and also by some hon. Members on that side of the House. They fancied that, because the Fenian conspiracy was scotched and there was no immediate fear of war, the people of Ireland might be put off to a more convenient season. It was as if the personage already alluded to was, on feeling a little better, to say to his father confessor, "Go thy way, and when at a more convenient time I will hear thee." That game had been tried too long. There was a time when the Irish people looked with some degree of confidence upon the Imperial Legislature. That was during the period of Lord Melbourne's Administration. When Sir Robert Peel was in office in 1844, the Opposition made a Motion almost justifying Mr. O'Connell's Repeal agitation because the Government of that day was doing nothing for Ireland; and again, in 1846, they turned out Sir Robert Peel because he had done nothing for Ireland. But when the Whigs came in they said that was not the proper time for dealing with the grievances of the Irish people; the question would keep; let them go their way. When such had been our policy, was it any wonder that many well-meaning men in Ireland declared that they had no hope whatever except in a national Legislature; that many mischievous men had set up a party, the avowed object of which was to make representative Government altogether impossible; and that men still more mischievous had said,—"It is all in vain to look to England, you must look to the United States, there is your only hope;" and that they had found a great many foolish and deluded people willing to listen to them? He entreated the House and the Government no longer to carry on this game of delay. If they disapproved the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, let them meet it by a direct negative. They might think matters quiet now; but they did not know what a year might produce. Was Europe so tranquil; were our International relations with the United 519 States so good that they could dismiss all uneasiness? Was the public mind of Ireland so quiet because they had brought a few men to punishment? He had heard it said that if the Church were disestablished to-morrow there would not be a Fenian the less. There might still be mischievous men coming from America, but they would find very different materials to work upon. We ourselves might now laugh at little boys letting off squibs and crackers in the streets, but we should cease to laugh if we found this House was underlaid with gunpowder. Depend upon it, the whole of the social fabric was undermined with most explosive materials, ready to be ignited at any time. It was said that the people of Ireland themselves eared very little about the Established Church in that country, and that they complained of high rents and other material evils—very likely. A gouty patient often assures his medical adviser that he feels none the worse for his daily bottle of port; that what he really wants is something to sooth the pain in his hand or foot. The physician, if he is honest, will assure him that he will continue to feel pain somewhere if he does not adopt temperate habits. So it is with Irish grievances and ills. Why have they not found their remedy in Ireland, as like grievances had in other parts of the United Kingdom? This social virus of religious ascendancy had spread through the whole social system of Ireland, and so long as it continued to poison that system, so long would the material state of the country be unsatisfactory. He entreated the House to test this question thoroughly and resolutely. Once let these enormous iniquities cease to exist, then Ireland would soon after cense to be an anomaly and a by-word among nations.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he regretted that a question of such vital importance, and involving so many serious difficulties, should be made a party question. It was really lamentable that, while the whole House felt impressed with the grave importance of the subject, it should become a mere party discussion to decide who were to sit upon the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) had read the first Resolution submitted by him to the House, and had stated the second in substance. Granting to the right hon. Gentleman the first Resolution, what did the second amount to? The right hon. Gentleman, admitting that it was impossible to interfere with private patronage, 520 did not hesitate to come down to the House to propose a Resolution to interfere with and arrest the direct Prerogative of the Crown. The question, it must be admitted, was involved in great difficulties. The Established Church in Ireland presented an anomaly. There were 5,000,000 Roman Catholics, whose Church had no endowments, while the Church of 700,000 or 800,000 Protestants was amply endowed. He believed that no man of sane mind could be found who would propose the establishment of a Church under similar circumstances in a new country; and if a plan could be devised to remedy this anomaly, and which at the same time would protect vested rights and the rights of the State, he for one should be willing to enter frankly and fairly into the consideration of such a plan. But the right hon. Gentleman opposite came down to the House and proposed to destroy the State Church root and branch, by a simple Resolution, and would not even allow the next Parliament an opportunity of discussing this question. The Church in Ireland was an anomaly; but what was the precise quality of the grievance? Some persons said that the grievance consisted in the endowment of so small a number of Protestants, and that the Establishment as it stood was viewed by the Roman Catholics as a badge of slavery and an insult. Now with respect to endowment they met the startling fact that the Roman Catholics declared that they did not want the revenues of the Church—that they cared nothing for them, and would not, under any circumstances accept them. The same Gentlemen who expressed anxiety for the interest of the Roman Catholics in Ireland were also the very Gentlemen who, two years ago, in discussing the Italian question, were in favour of the confiscation of Church property in Italy. That seemed to be a very strange inconsistency. He could only apply the word confiscation to the object aimed at by hon. Gentlemen opposite, whether he considered their conduct in relation to the Italian question or to the Protestant Church in Ireland. Those hon. Gentlemen knew well that confiscation was one step towards very great changes. As to the Church being in a state of bondage in Ireland and an insult to the Roman Catholics there, he (Mr. Cochrane) might say that he was a Dissenter in Scotland, being a member of the Episcopalian Church. As a landlord he had to support the Presbyterian Church, the revenues of which were taken from the Episcopalian Church. While he did so, he did not regard, nor had he ever 521 heard in Scotland, that the people there regarded the giving of support in that way as a badge of servitude. On the contrary, the Episcopalians entertained the kindest feeling towards the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. When we begin to confiscate Church property we take one step towards revolution. It had been so in France in the Revolution, after the peace of Luneville. The same thing had been done in Italy. The whole of the Church property in Italy was confiscated. It was reserved for an honoured and distinguished and independent Member of this House, his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and for Members of the English Parliament on the Government side of the House, to rise up and plead on behalf of that noble and magnificent institution, the Monte Casino. At the recommendation of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) his noble Friend had a correspondence on the subject, while Roman Catholic Members opposite were perfectly silent with reference to it. The argument based upon the prevalence of Fenianism, and the miserable state of Ireland in consequence, his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland completely disposed of on a previous occasion. An admirable work had been written by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire); it was full of information, yet every word in that book refutes his own argument. If you go to such places as Canada, Prince Edward's Island, to Nova Scotia, or wherever the Irish people might be found, there they were a prosperous, a happy and contented people. There was not not one word in that book to show that the Irish entertained those bitter feelings towards England which hon. Members opposite were constantly alleging in support of their views, but the contrary was proved to be the fact. So that, indeed, the Fenian movement had not arisen from distress or dissatisfaction in Ireland; but, as had been truly said by his noble Friend, it arose from the American War. The Tenant Right Society in Meath, which was set on foot in November, 1865, by a Roman Catholic Bishop, Dr. Nulty, passed the following unanimous resolution:—The one, the great, the sole question for Ireland is the land question. Other agitations, such as that against the Established Church, are got up for party purposes, would infuse an clement of bigotry into the already disturbed relations of landlord and tenant, would effect the ruin of thousands of tenants, and precipitate that social catastrophe which we are anxious to avert.522 The Tablet, a Roman Catholic organ, a few years ago, said—If the Irish Church Establishment were abolished to-morrow; if its churches, lands, and rent-charges were applied to secular and even to Catholic purposes; or if the Catholic Church were put upon a level of perfect equality, we should only have dealt with one symptom, and not have reached the seat of the disease. The wound of Ireland is that, whereas the great majority of the population are Catholics, such a large proportion of the soil belongs to Protestants, and that Protestants form such a large portion of those classes which are raised in social station higher than the others.And only last May the same journal added—We are of those who think that the notion of settling the Irish Church question by simply confiscating the property of the Protestant Church and abolishing its privileges is a foolish notion, and ought to be opposed as foolish, futile, and wrong.The fact was, that these people liked a grievance. If you abolished the Church and gave them the land of Ireland into the bargain, they would still be dissatisfied; just as it was said of somebody that if you gave him Great Britain and Ireland for an estate, he would still want the Isle of Man for a potato garden. Apropos of this, Earl Russell, in his pamphlet, told a story which was taken from Spanish biography—It is related of Gonsalvo do Cordova, called the Gran Capitan by his countrymen, that he was promised by King Ferdinand the high post of Grand Master of the Order of Calatrava. But the King having afterwards altered his mind and disposed of the post otherwise, sent to the Great Captain to offer him the city of Loja. 'No,' said Don Gonsalvo; 'tell the King that I prefer my grievance to the city of Loja.'In 1838 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) wrote a pamphlet, which made a deep impression. He did not quote it now to show that the right hon. Gentleman had changed his opinions, but to cite the admirable arguments he had then used in defence of the Irish Church—arguments as sound and forcible now as they were then. The work was dedicated to the University of Oxford—Tried and not found wanting through the vicissitudes of 1000 years, and in the hope that the temper of these pages may be found not alien from her own.In that work were these passages—The governing body of the State, in order fully to discharge its duties, must profess, must support, must propagate a religion, must profess it personally and collectively. Upon us of this day has fallen—and we shrink not from it, but 523 welcome it as a high and glorious, though an arduous duty—the defence of the Reformed Catholic Church in Ireland, as the religions Establishment of the country. The Protestant Legislature of the Empire maintains in the possession of the Church property in Ireland the members of a creed professed by one-ninth of its population, regarded with partial favour by scarcely another ninth, and disowned by the remaining seven; and not only does this anomaly meets us in full view but we have also to consider the fact that the maintenance of the Church for nearly three centuries in Ireland has been contemporaneous with a system of partial government, and of gross inattention to the interests of a noble and neglected people. But, however, formidable at first sight these admissions are, they in no degree affect the foregoing arguments, they do not change the nature of truth, they do not relieve Government of its responsibility; a common form of faith binds the Irish Protestants to ourselves.He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman was most sincere in any change of opinions he had undergone, but the right hon. Gentleman had not succeeded, in 1868, in answering the arguments which he had urged in 1838. In another instance the right hon. Gentleman had not been quite candid with the House. He stated that his opinions had been undergoing a change for the last twenty or twenty-four years, But in 1865 there was a debate in this House on the Irish Church, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) then made, in the name of the Government, a speech, in the course of which he said—That being the case, Her Majesty's Government have no hesitation in saying, that they are not prepared to undertake the responsibility of proposing to Parliament a Bill calculated to effect that object. They believe that this object (disestablishment) cannot be obtained except by means which must inflict great injury upon Ireland. … We have the Irish Protestant Church established as an existing institution in Ireland; it is not of recent creation, it rests upon the prescription of centuries, and, to use the expression of a distinguished Roman Catholic layman, it is rooted in our institutions: the firm belief of the Government is that it could not be subverted without revolution, with all the horrors that attend revolution."—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 398, 400.]It was remarkable if the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman were undergoing a change at that time, that he should not have risen and denied the statements which his Colleague then made in the name of the Government. It was a strange example of inconsistency. Again Earl Russell said in 1853—I am obliged, then, to conclude—most unwillingly to conclude, but most decidedly—that the endowment of the Roman Catholic religion in Ireland, in place of the endowment of the Protestant Church in that country in connection with the State, is not an object which the Parliament of 524 this country ought to adopt or sanction. Sir, these opinions of mine may lead to conclusions unpalatable to many who belong to the Roman Catholic Church. They may lead to a persistence in a state of things that I quite admit to be anomalous and unsatisfactory; but I am obliged, as a Member of this Parliament, to consider—and to consider most seriously in the present state of the world—that which is best adapted to maintain the freedom and permanence of our institutions. … Seeing these things I give my decided insistence to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman for the abolition of the Established Church in Ireland."—[3 Hansard, cxxvii. 946.]Well, then, was there much encouragement to be derived from the course of policy which had been pursued towards Ireland of late years? The House would recollect the oath, not now taken, but formerly administered to Roman Catholic Members—I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm; and I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion, or Protestant Government in the United Kingdom; and I do solemnly in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I do make this declaration and every part thereof in plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever.He admitted the anomalous position of the Irish Church, alluded to by Mr. Gladstone in 1838, and if there were any means of removing that anomaly with a due regard to vested rights he would gladly do so. He felt the danger with which we were threatened. He concurred in the opinions he had quoted, that interference with the Irish Church would lead to revolution; at any rate it must lead to great disturbance, and that not among the Protestants only in Ireland. He dreaded all this because it involved the fulfilment of a prediction made by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) a few years ago. Speaking at Birmingham, he said, "Let the Reform Bill be carried, and I will at once attack the Establishment in England and the feudality of the dark ages." That was ten years ago, and the statement appeared in an edition of the hon. Member's speeches corrected by himself. He was delighted if he might infer from the gesture of the hon. Member, that he was now penitent, and was becoming moderate in his views under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire. For himself he thought the words of the Coronation Oath should be impressed upon every man's heart. He had been educated to support the principles of Church and State, 525 advocated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, to whom he owed a part of his education. Therefore he would do his best, as long as it was possible, to maintain that union, in the interests of this country and as a means of rooting religion in the affections of the people.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, he entertained a hope that from that time a better day was about to dawn for Ireland. Looking at the speeches of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) and the noble Lord opposite, it appeared that the obstacles that had so long stood in the way of the pacification of Ireland would, at no distant day, be finally removed. If no further obstacle were presented to that consummation than was contained in the Amendment which was the subject of debate, its ambiguous terms, and the faltering tone of the noble Lord who moved it, would afford no grounds for fearing the revolution or strife apprehended by the last speaker. The noble Lord scarcely realized the magnitude and importance of the issue. The Motion was only the offspring of the discussion which took place a few days ago. We were told that this was to be an Irish Session; that the state of Ireland was one fraught with imminent peril; that it was desirable, and it was intended, to have the matter discussed; and we were promised, some time ago, with some parade, a declaration of the policy of the Government. That was made in the speech of the noble Earl (the Earl of Mayo), which disclosed a policy which neither the House, nor Ireland, nor this country could accept. If we were to believe the Amendment of the Government, it amounted to a confession that their propositions did not amount to a cure for the state of Ireland. Under these circumstances, the right hon. Member for South Lancashire had offered these Resolutions as a contribution towards a policy for Ireland, and the question was, "Will the House accept that policy?" It was satisfactory to note that the Irish Church had met with no defence or justification. Many statements had been wade, and arguments brought forward; but not a word had been said in favour of the Irish Church Establishment itself. No wonder it should not be defended. Formed by injustice, nurtured in discontent, the fertile source of heartburnings—a great obstacle, as he apprehended, in the way of the Protestant religion—the scandal of the principle of Church Establishments, and an obstruction in the way of good government, 526 its history, associations, and principle alike precluded the possibility of defence. When the right hon. Gentleman gave notice of his Motion, the knell of the Irish Church was rung, and the mode in which Government met that Motion placed the matter beyond all doubt. The first note sounded was a letter from the Prime Minister to a noble Earl (the Earl of Dartmouth), published in the newspapers. The Prime Minister said—We have heard something lately of the crisis of Ireland. In my opinion the crisis of England is rather it hand; for the purpose is now avowed, and that by a powerful party, of destroying that sacred union between Church and State which has hitherto been the chief means of our civilization and is the only security for our religious liberty.The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs could not find disendowment in the right hon. Member's Resolutions; he could not find in them any indication of an intention to take away the endowments of the Irish Church; yet the Prime Minister had said, not only that the Church of Ireland was to be destroyed, but that the purpose of attacking the English Church was not only entertained, but avowed. This, according to the Prime Minister, was seen on the face of the Resolutions; but, at all events, it was only because they went to destroy the union between Church and State in England that the Resolution was to be opposed. As regarded the Church of Ireland, there was nothing to be said. When they came to the discussion of that night, the subject was treated with all becoming solemnity; but the noble Lord's Amendment was not in harmony with these demonstrations. The Amendment of the noble Lord might mean anything or nothing. It did not imply that the disestablishment of the Irish Church would destroy the security for our religious liberty; on the contrary, it looked forward with complacency to the possibility of a new Parliament dealing with the question in that way. I That view was supported by the fact that the noble Lord, in a moment of forgetful-ness, said, in effect, "The right hon. Gentleman is making a party move for party purposes; he and his party want the credit of doing it; they want to be the first in the field; we are quite ready to do it if only you will give us time. True, their proposition is to destroy the only security for our religious liberty; but if you leave this Establishment until the new Parliament, we will take the credit from them, and carry their measure ourselves." 527 He (Mr. Moncreiff) wanted to know the principle on which hon. Gentlemen opposite intended to discuss the question. Was it to be a question of the inviolability of Church revenues, the Coronation Oath, and the Articles of Union? Was the Conservative party going to maintain the ground it had so often maintained, or had it abandoned that ground? The House was entitled to a distinct and clear answer. If the cries of "Protestant ascendancy" and "No surrender" were once and for ever abandoned, surely the patriotic course was to say so plainly. The evil done by ambiguous speaking was not to be told. It was said this was a party move; but hon. Gentlemen opposite could if they liked destroy its party character at once. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department declared in 1865 that as long as he had a seat he would maintain the connection between Church and State. Had hon. Gentlemen opposite abandoned those opinions? If they had let them say so, and not palter with the House; let them state plainly whether the Irish Church was to be maintained, or whether both sides of the House were jointly to arrange a plan of adjustment based upon its disestablishment. The noble Lord said they were ready to admit that considerable modifications in the temporalities of the Irish Church might appear to be necessary after the pending inquiry. But why the House of Commons was to admit that he (Mr. Moncreiff) did not know. Why was the House of Commons to admit that something was to appear necessary on a pending inquiry—especially as this was a moribund Parliament? He could understand a person's declaring that the Irish Church was an anomaly, and therefore should no longer exist. What the noble Lord said was equivalent to this: "You may be perfectly right—I do not say you are wrong—but you must not say it in this Parliament." But it was forgotten that they were dealing with a crisis in Ireland, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown had said, a crisis in England also. It was not the Resolution of his right hon. Friend which made the crisis, but the subject of the Resolution. As a Scotchman, he entertained, in common with all his countrymen, the warmest sympathy for Ireland, produced partly by the analogy and partly by the contrast of the countries. Both had had their struggles. Scotland as well as Ireland had the Celt and the Saxon, and a climate not more propitious than that 528 country. Scotland had had her difficulties, ecclesiastical, political, social, and agricultural. But there the analogy ended, and the contrast commenced. The result produced in Scotland was one of unexampled prosperity and peace. There were 20,000 soldiers in Ireland, while in Scotland the number was so small that it could hardly be called a garrison. In fact, there were not sufficient to control a determined mob. He had listened with profound interest to the debate introduced by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire). In some respects, he thought the hon. Member had made but a weak case of grievance, although a strong one of disaffection. He did not think Fenianism could be said to be directly caused by any of the matters referred to. It did not arise from the land question, from mixed education, or from the Church, and certainly not from the want of Government subsidies, for whilst Scotland contributed one-fifth more to the revenue, she received only one-fourth of the amount of the Irish subsidies. But the fact remained, and if no grievance they could lay their hand upon was the cause of disaffection—if they had disaffection and no visible cause for if, there could be no more dangerous symptom. When they knew the precise evil, they could apply a remedy to it. They could remove disaffection by removing the cause. It had been said that the state of Ireland was not now so alarming as in 1798 and 1848, but he (Mr. Moncreiff) could not agree in that opinion. The Rebellion of 1798 was a common-place rebellion; that of 1848 was very much the same. There were recognized leaders; they struck the leaders, and the rebellion went out. But Fenianism was a monster without a head. It cropped up everywhere. It was not confined to Ireland; it made its appearance also in England and Scotland; its ramifications extended all over the country. There was nothing to take hold of; yet there were indications that, if it had succeeded, it would have been a rising against everything venerable, respectable, and valuable. It had no leaders, but spread down to the lowest basis of society. That was the evil they had to guard against. The noble Lord talked of leaving this matter to the next Parliament; but who knew what might happen in the interval? It had often been said that England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity, and that difficulty might arise. He might be asked, how would the reform of the Irish Church stop Fenianism? He said, in the only way in which it could 529 ever be stopped. Fenianism was the recoil of the wave of oppression, and it was only by removing the sense of oppression that it could be dealt with. They might think that a tardy repentance would atone for former sins; but it would do nothing of the kind. It was only Ireland that could put down Irish disaffection. They wanted to have the spirit and feeling as well as the act of loyalty; and this could never be had till they dealt justly with Ireland, and removed those things which were felt, and could not but be felt, as marks of degradation. He believed that passing the Resolution of his right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) would do more to bind the Irish to this country, and to renew those feelings which naturally sprung up in the breasts of the Roman Catholic population, than anything which had been done within this century. But it was said that this was only a party movement. The noble Lord said he respected a change of opinion, except in one particular set of circumstances—that was upon the eve of an election, and for a mere election cry. The noble Lord, he supposed, had no particular objection to changes of opinion under certain other circumstances—for instance, to maintaining one set of opinions on one side of the House, and another set on the other side. But when it was said that his right hon. Friend had got up this cry simply for the occasion, he must say a more unjust accusation could not be conceived. It was not true; but if his right hon. Friend had changed his opinion, no one could have blamed him—he was but acting the part of a wise statesman. He had seen everything else fail. Was it not plain that something must be done to put the axe to the root of the injustice complained of? His right hon. Friend did not see his way till now. [Ironical cheers.] But no one could read the speech he made in 1865 without seeing what his conviction was. There was not a sentence in it that did not breathe the sentiment expressed in these Resolutions; and he ended by saying that the evil of the Irish Church was not the superfluity of its funds, but its false position. So strong was the speech in this direction that the then Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) complained that his right hon. Friend had made a speech for the destruction of the Irish Church, while the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) said he read in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this great grievance was very 530 near its end. That was in 1865, before they had Reform, while Lord Palmerston was in office, and before any change of Government was impending. He denied, therefore, that his right hon. Friend was liable to the charge that was made against him. As far back as the year 1835 the Liberal leaders declared their policy upon the subject, and Sir Robert Peel accepted the position, and said that the promoters of this movement lagged behind their opinions. It was perfectly true that between that period and this no proposition had been laid before Parliament on this subject. But why? Because of the power of the Tories in obstruction. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered derisively when he said that the time had never come till now; but they should recognize the change which the events of last year had made in the whole course of political warfare. They must learn that since the action taken at that time political questions would be brought to a much shorter and sharper decision. The old modes of political fighting—the long sieges, the marches and counter-marches, the winter and the summer campaigns—would be no longer resorted to. When hon. Gentlemen opposite left the entrenchments which they had so long and sturdily defended, to march in search of a more advanced position, they left them for good. For one reason, among others, he did not in the least regret this. This Irish Church, and other great political questions, would now be brought to the test of truth and reason and justice as rapidly as the Prussian war of last year was decided—a war which, under the old system, would have lasted for years, but which was terminated in six weeks. The changes of last Session have produced another result which hon. Gentlemen opposite must also recognize. When the present occupants of the Treasury Bench called upon their friends to support them, no one believed that they were really going to fight. When they said they were going to nail their colours to the mast to-day, every one believed that those colours would probably be hauled down to-morrow. The Prime Minister shouted his war-cry of "No surrender;" and the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, in this House, like echo, gave back "Surrender." It was no wonder that the proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire was never made before. The party opposite were wont to obstruct, and they would and could have obstructed that proposition if made previously. The difference now is that al- 531 though they might have the wish, they had not the power, to obstruct now. It was suggested that the present Parliament was not competent to deal with the question. Apparently it was intended to be conveyed that, as the franchise was extended last year, the Members who had seats for English constituencies no longer represented those constituencies. In that case, what was to become of the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills? However, since the right hon. Gentleman opposite had told the House that it might deal with those measures as it pleased, perhaps there would be less difficulty in the matter. But was there any truth in the allegation of the incompetency of Parliament? The noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland proposed to introduce a Bill on the much-vexed question of the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland, with the view of having that subject dealt with by the present Parliament. He (Mr. Moncreiff), there-fore, did not understand what the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary meant by denying the competency of the Parliament to deal with the subject now under consideration. The Parliament was competent to promote the pacification of Ireland by doing justice to that country, and he was greatly mistaken if that House would listen to the plea that it was not competent to deal with what was, in his mind, one of the most urgent and important questions of the day. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs found nothing better to say than that he did not see anything in the proposed Resolutions which might not be made consistent with endowment. The right hon. Member for South Lancashire, however, explained that what he intended was that endowment should be withdrawn, excepting so far as related to life interests. There was, in fact, no doubt in that House, or in the country, as to what the right hon. Gentleman meant. It was said that the cause of Protestantism would suffer by the disestablishment of the Irish Church; but he thought that any one looking to the condition of the Established Church in Ireland must admit that Protestantism would gain by it. How could the Established Church in Ireland have weight with the people, when they regarded it as a badge of their inferiority, and when from father to son it was pointed out as a record of the degradation and humiliation of Ireland? In England the Norman and Saxon had mingled together, and in Ireland, if there had not been kept tip this landmark, this Church of the minority, giving to the 532 minority in the most sacred relations a position above the majority, he did not doubt but that the state of things in Ireland would have been very different from what it now was. It was idle to say that the Roman Catholics did not look upon Protestant ascendancy in their country as a grievance. Although his hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) said that he did not feel himself humiliated because Episcopalians, who were a minority in Scotland, had to contribute to the support of the Scotch Church, there could be very little doubt that their forefathers in Scotland would have felt greatly humiliated if there had been any successful attempt to uphold the Episcopal minority as a State Church in Scotland. With respect to the principle of Church Establishments, he did not think that any such alarm needed to be felt as that expressed by the hon. Member for Honiton. No one imagined that the Resolutions struck at the Church of England, or the Church of Scotland; and whoever would suggest that the standing or the falling of the Church of England depended on the fate of the Irish Church, must either be a concealed enemy or a very injudicious friend of the English Church. Nothing could be more unwise than to persuade the people that the Irish Church was mixed up with the existence of the English Church. The Irish Church was doomed; but he would be very sorry to think that the Church of England was in the same position. On the contrary, whatever might be its internal dissensions, the English Church was a strong and vigorous institution. With regard to Church Establishments, the only ground on which they could be defended was, that it was within the province of a State to establish what it deemed to be the true religion, if it thought that thereby religion would be promoted; but it could not be contended that it was right to establish in the midst of a community an alien Church, or that it was possible thereby to promote the spread of religion. It was said that these Resolutions, if carried, would lead to further attacks. He entertained a different opinion. The Motion for the Resolutions would be carried by the feeling of the Protestant people of this country; and he trusted that it would be accepted in Ireland, as from England and Scotland, as an offering laid on the altar of justice, as some atonement for past oppression, and as a presage of harmony and prosperity for the future.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the 533 Opposition has made a Motion to-night which he has rested on great principles, and which has raised important issues, The representative of the Government, my noble Friend the Secretary of State for: Foreign Affairs, has made a speech in which he has limited the issue to petty differences and excuses for delay. It is very difficult to know which of the two guides we ought to follow in the conduct of the debate; but my feeling on the whole is, that as we may have future opportunities of dealing with the Motion and sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, (Mr. Gladstone) we ought rather to confine ourselves to the issue which the Minister of the Crown has authoritatively laid down for us, and I will, therefore, merely indicate my views on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of a sentiment in favour of the Established Church with respect, although he avowed that he himself had escaped from its spell and felt bound to oppose it now. I most frankly avow, that I am not of his opinion, and that that sentiment still exercises a hold over me that I regard as sacred. It appears to me that there is no problem in the development of modern society more important and more difficult, and yet which touches more deeply the sacred springs of human feeling and the most important interests of human society than the connection that exists between Church and State. Under these circumstances, I cannot look upon the sentiment in favour of the Established Church as a thing to be praised, but to be disregarded. This sentiment appears to me to be bound up with our national life—to enter deeply into our Constitution, and, even if no higher motives restrained us, we could not, in my opinion, abandon it without imperiling all the greatness and all the material advantages of which we are so proud. And, therefore, although the principle involved in that sentiment be applied to a part of the United Kingdom where it is severely tested, and where we have to rely more upon abstract principle and less upon expediency than I could have wished, still my feeling is that, even as applied to the case of Ireland, it is a principle which I will not desert—it is a principle which has done so much good in past times—it is a principle from which we may hope so much hereafter—it is a principle which I have always supported, that even if I were inclined to doubt of its soundness it would not be in this moment of its trial and adversity that 534 I would shrink from upholding it. I do not wish to go to a lower motive; I should rather choose to rely upon the importance of maintaining the connection between Church and State, and of having some organization by public authority and of higher principle than the mere material interests which ordinarily guide politicians. I would rather look to something more noble than to the ordinary dictates of political economy or to the necessities of our political organization. But if I did seek for lower motives I think I could easily find them—I confess that I doubt whether the object for which this great change is to be effected would be attained, even were the sacrifice made. We seek for peace; peace above all things is what we desire in Ireland. And you are going to do what?—to secure peace? Why, you are going to draw down upon yourselves the certain and bitter enmity of one-third of the population—the most able, the most wealthy, and the most influential portion of the population of Ireland—without your having any security whatever that you will conciliate the remainder of that population. I have said that I should not argue the question upon this ground. I have merely made these few remarks in order that there may be no misunderstanding as to the position I hold upon this point. But now I must pass to the immediate issue before us—I mean to the Amendment of the noble Lord. I must frankly confess that, forgetting some of the dark passages of last year, I had indulged in a pleasing dream that when the question of the Irish Church was mooted there would be again a united party contending for a great principle—ready to fight for it—ready to sacrifice for it—ready to maintain its views without flinching, and if necessary, ready to carry the question before the great tribunal of the nation. In that anticipation I have been disappointed. We have had, instead, nothing more than the ambiguous utterances of a more than Delphic oracle. We have had this Amendment commented on in a speech from which I defy the most acute critic to extract any idea of the future policy of Her Majesty's Government. Now, what is this Amendment? I confess; when I first heard it I listened to it with great suspicion, and that suspicion has not been at all lulled by the speech by which it was recommended to us. The Amendment commences thus—That this House, while admitting that considerable modifications in the temporalities of the United Church in Ireland may, after the pending inquiry, appear to be expedient.535 Now, what are "modifications in temporalities?" The English of this Resolution has been commented upon before; but I confess that I am utterly unable to understand this particular phrase. There is only one thing it can mean. I put it to any landed proprietor in this House what he would think if any person came to him and proposed to introduce modifications into his landed estate? Or what would a gentleman think who, upon the high road, was requested by a man on the other side of the hedge to permit him to make modifications in the ownership of his purse. For my own part I can only describe it by using the words of which it is composed. It means the "modification in the temporalities." The phrase may cover anything or nothing. It may mean giving to Belfast what is taken from the South; or it may mean modifying the temporalities out of existence altogether. There is absolutely nothing in the phrase to tell us what it means. Still this Amendment is a concession. The House is said to be perfectly incompetent to pronounce upon any great question; yet it is held by Her Majesty's Government to be perfectly competent to pronounce an opinion that modifications are to take place in the temporalities of the Irish Church. But, going a little further, we are told—That any proposition tending to the disestablishment or disendowment of that Church ought to be reserved for the decision of a new Parliament.Is any hon. Member able to tell me that disestablishment or disendowment is excluded by that proposition? Some years ago a very eminent Gentleman (Mr. Miall) made a proposition in this House that all the temporalities of the Irish Church should be applied to lunatic asylums, roads, and canals; and I should like to know whether there is anything in this Amendment which should exclude the proposition from the répertoire of Her Majesty's Government? The noble Lord raised some objections to the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, because they only contained the word disestablishment and not disendowment; but I confess I should have wished the noble Lord had confined himself to the use of the latter word, and had left the former alone. We could not gather much from the speech of the noble Lord, in reference to the future policy of Her Majesty's Government, but he certainly said one thing that tilled me with astonish- 536 ment. He discussed the various alterations and treatment that might be applied to the Irish Church, and, in doing so, he talked of the solution of the connection between Church and State, of the exclusion of the Bishops of the Irish Church from the House of Lords as the loss of a mere empty title. That is the way in which the Minister of a Conservative Government is prepared to discuss the disestablishment of the Irish Church. I am bound, however, to say that I have something to re-assure me on this subject. We have had a letter of the Prime Minister to the Earl of Dartmouth. I hope I have it in my pocket, because I look upon it as the charter of the Irish Church. Oh, here it is, and now what does the right hon. Gentleman say in it—We have heard something lately of the crisis in Ireland. In my opinion the crisis of England is rather at hand; for the purpose is now avowed, and that by a powerful party, of destroying that sacred union between Church and State which has hitherto been the chief means of our civilization, and is the only security for our religious liberty.And that in the opinion of the Foreign Secretary is little more than a mere empty title. How am I to reconcile these conflicting authorities—what hope am I to draw from these differences for the security of the Irish Church? I dare say I shall be told that the Home Secretary and the Irish Secretary have uttered very earnest and able encomiums upon the Irish Church. That I am ready to admit, but I hope those right hon. Gentlemen will acquit me of any intentional disrespect towards them when I say that their utterances do not yield to my mind any consolation with regard to the security of the Irish Church. I cannot forget last year. I cannot forget that last year Secretary of State after Secretary of State pledged himself to a restricted franchise in boroughs; that one affirmed that he could not consent to household suffrage? and that another declared upon his honour that nothing could induce him to assent to the policy of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and yet, in two short months, all these pledges were mere waste paper, and were absolutely repudiated by the action of the very men who had given them. Therefore, while giving the right hon. Gentlemen credit for sincerity, in the views they have expressed, I am utterly sceptical of their power to restrain their erratic Leader. And I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman will have language of his own which he can quote in support of whatever policy he may 537 feel disposed to adopt; for it is part of the political skill of the right hon. Gentleman to be able to refer to phrases of his own in favour of any course he may deem it advisable to take. For instance, if it should suit him to take the Protestant line, here is the Dartmouth letter; should it suit him to take an opposite course, he can always refer to his speech of 1844, the spirit of which, as I heard him declare the other evening, is still right. Now, when we consider this Resolution, what inference are we to draw from precedents. We have for some years been voting against a £10 county franchise, and when in 1858 a Conservative Government came into office the proposal for a £10 county franchise was, to my great surprise, met, for the first time for many years, not by a direct negative, but by the Previous Question. I looked upon it, however, as one of the ordinary incidents of politics, and thought nothing of it. But, Sir, the next year the £10 county franchise was accepted by a Conservative Government. Well, in 1866 we had a Reform Bill, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, and the Resolution on the second reading of that Bill was seconded by the noble Lord who has moved this Resolution to-night. ["Question!"] I am very sorry to trespass so far on the patience of hon. Gentlemen at that end of the House (behind the Ministerial Benches); but when a Minister of the Crown will not tell you what he means to do, I maintain that it is within the Question to show from his past conduct what is likely to happen in the future. The Resolution on that occasion was pitched in the same key as the Resolution of to-night. There was the same balance of sentences—That this House, while admitting that considerable modifications in the temporalities of the United Church in Ireland may, after the pending inquiry, appear to be expedient, is of opinion that any proposition tending to the disestablishment or disendowment of that Church ought to be reserved for the decision of a new Parliament.That is the Resolution to-night. Well, the Resolution on that occasion, if I recollect rightly, was—That this House, while recognizing the necessity of a just and moderate measure of Reform, is further of opinion, &c., and that the Reform Bill ought to be deferred till the next year.That was the Resolution which was seconded by the noble Lord. On that occasion all who were opposed to the reduction of the franchise supported the noble Lord in a body, thinking very little of the 538 admission that was made and the postponement that was suggested; but what was the result? In the next Session, with the assistance of the same noble Lord, household suffrage was adopted. Here, again, we have the same phenomenon—an opinion steadily maintained by the Conservative party when out of office is changed when in office for the same plea for delay and the same admission that considerable modification is required. What will be the result? If we are to judge by what has happened before, the result will be that those Gentlemen from the North of Ireland who are especially anxious for the maintenance of the Established Church in Ireland exactly as it is, will find themselves much as we who were in favour of restricted borough suffrage were last year—they will probably find themselves voting very humbly next year in the wake of the right hon. Gentleman for the total disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church. I have seen the process once, and I do not want to see it again. It is quite clear that this ambiguous Resolution would not have been put forward by any Ministry, unless they either had no policy to bring forward, or had only a policy which they dared not avow. If it were otherwise, it would be easy enough for them to state on what principle they intended their policy to rest; it ought to have nothing to do with any inquiry, for the questions to to be decided are not dependent upon inquiries. The general facts are already perfectly well known; and if the Government refuses now to tell us what they intend to do, you may depend upon it that there is something behind which they do not wish us to know anything about. I cannot help feeling that this is one of the Motions which, to use the expressive words of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Osborne) are constructed on the principle of "cross-fishing"—that the Motion is one which is intended to fish on both sides of the House. It whispers to the Gentlemen from the North of Ireland, "Vote for me; I am the champion of the Protestant Church. I am seeking for delay in order to secure your interests." It whispers to other hon. Gentlemen, "Vote for me; I am educating my party, and the moment that the process is complete, all your wishes shall be fulfilled." And I have no doubt if I could unveil the secrets of the Lobby, we should find Gentlemen professing to speak in the name of the Government, whispering suggestions of this kind in accordance with the respective views of those whom 539 they address. Now, I hope I may not be mistaken. I do not pretend to predict the probable course of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. I should as soon undertake to tell you which way the weather-cock would point tomorrow. It may be that the Gentlemen who are taken by this device will find that the pea is not always under the same thimble, and that the hopes that they have been led to entertain will be frustrated. It may be that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, if they vote for this Motion and carry it, may next year find themselves in the condition in which we found ourselves last year—that by their party allegiance they have contributed to the very result they desired to avoid, and to the destruction of those principles to which the whole of their political life has been devoted. I cannot help feeling that such proceedings, such a system of management are unworthy of the House of Commons. It is to the Executive Government that we have to look for guidance. The speech of the noble Lord to-night seemed to me more like the speech of a Member in opposition than that of a Member of the Government, inasmuch as it assumed and even exaggerated all the privileges of a Member in Opposition. It was almost entirely confined to criticizing the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but it studiously and ostentatiously abstained from laying down any principles of its own. He told us, in the first place, that the question of the Irish Church must be the first, or one of the first subjects that must occupy the attention of the new Parliament, but then I he declined to make any statement that would fetter the Government when dealing with the question. Is that an attitude; which the Executive Government ought to assume towards the House of Commons? Hitherto it has been held that the Executive Government guides the deliberations of the House of Commons. It lays down its principles clearly, and argues them out, supporting them with all the weight of its authority and asking the House of Commons to express its opinion on them. Until the last two years we have not seen the spectacle of an Executive Government waiting upon the opinion of the House of Commons, refusing to lay down any opinion of its own, and almost openly avowing that it merely looks to see which way public opinion will point, admitting, that it will act as an instrument of that public opinion, and that it has no opi- 540 nions of its own to express. It seems to me that such an attitude is destructive of the position of the Executive in this House. I will go even further, and say that it is a fatal blow to the efficiency of Parliamentary Government. The House of Commons cannot initiate the policy; the House of Commons cannot undertake the functions of the Executive Government and point out the path which it is to take. It is the duty of the House of Commons to select those Ministers in whom it places trust, and as long as it places confidence in those Ministers to support the policy which they may announce. I know that with a certain number of Gentlemen on this side of the House this Amendment is popular. I have heard it spoken of as being very clever. It is clever, Sir; it is too clever by half. If the Government intend to conduct the Irish Church to a painless death, this is, probably, the best way to secure that result; but if they propose to defend and adhere to the principles contained in the letter to which I have alluded, it is the very worst way to attain the object they have in view and to revive the enthusiasm of the people. If you wish to support the Church, you must come forward and fight in the light, and not shelter yourselves behind ambiguous phrases and dilatory pleas. I admit that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has spoken to-night with perfect candour and openness in expressing his opinions, and I would reciprocate that candour by telling him that I shall meet his Motion with a straightforward and direct negative. But I cannot support an Amendment of which the object, as it appears to me, is merely to gain time—merely to retain the cards in the hands of the Executive that they may shuffle them as they like—merely to enable them to repeat on the Irish Church the process which they last year applied to Reform—merely to enable them to utilize great questions of public policy and matters which excite the feeling of the people out-of-doors to the utmost for the purposes of party and the maintenance of a Government in place. I think that such tactics are not honourable to the House of Commons, nor honourable to the Government which resorts to them; and, while earnestly resisting any attack upon the principle of the Established Church, I say that, in the interests of that principle, in the interests of the Irish Church, in the interests of all those convictions which the Conservative party has ever entertained, 541 it does not seem to me wise, it is not fair, it is not creditable, to lay on the table of the House, and to take issue upon, an. Amendment such as this.
§ MR. LAING
said, he thought that, as he had given notice of an Amendment to be moved when the House went into Committee, it might be convenient that he should now briefly state the object he had in view, so that they might know the position in which they would find themselves on going into Committee. He confessed that, if that or any other Motion on the present question had been brought forward merely for a party purpose, he for one would be found among those on that (the Opposition) side, whom the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) called "followers who did not follow." He was of opinion that Her Majesty's Government having, in the last Session, carried a Reform Bill which, on the whole, was accepted as satisfactory to the country, might, under ordinary circumstances, have been left to appeal to the new constituencies which they had created. He would also add that, with respect to several branches of administration, and more especially with respect to foreign policy, he, for one, preferred the course pursued by the present Government to that adopted by their predecessors. For those reasons he would not have been disposed to join in any mere party vote in order to drive the Government prematurely from office. But while he would not have been prepared to sacrifice the Ministry to party he was equally not prepared to sacrifice Ireland to the Ministry. The Motion now before them raised an issue of first-rate and Imperial importance. For the raising of that issue at the present time the speeches made from the Treasury Bench on a recent occasion were in a great measure responsible. If the question had rested simply on the able speech delivered that evening by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, there might have been a fair case for asking for delay. If the Government had merely come forward and said, "This being the last Session of an expiring Parliament, and this being a question of first-rate importance, which cannot be practically settled till another Parliament has been elected by the newly-created constituency, we regard this as an open question, and we ask for time to make up our minds upon it." That might have been a fair position for them to take. But after what had fallen from the Government on the subject of the Irish 542 Church in a former debate, and also after the letter of the Prime Minister, it was impossible for anyone calling himself a Liberal to shrink from the issue which had been raised, or any longer to avoid coming to a vote upon it. That issue distinctly involved this among other points. Could they maintain the existing Protestant Establishment and the present system of religious inequality in Ireland? On that point it was enough to say that when a prominent Cabinet Minister like the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told them that not one educated man in a hundred in this country would advocate the maintenance of that system, it was surely impossible that things could permanently remain as they now were in Ireland. While no impartial person would affirm that the Irish Church was a practical injury to Ireland, on the other hand no impartial person could deny that it was a practical insult to the great majority of the Irish nation. If such an institution were sought to be forced upon the people of Scotland, they would not, as history showed, stand it; neither would the people of England for a moment stand any such treatment of themselves. No people with any sense of national honour and self-respect could submit to the Church of one-sixth or one-seventh of the country remaining for all time to come the Established Church of their nation. That was a grievance which time would not remove, but, on the contrary, one which, as Ireland grew more educated, more prosperous, and more imbued with a feeling of self-respect, would become magnified, and would rankle more and more in the minds of her population. Then, he asked, was it consistent with the safety of the Empire to allow that state of things to continue in Ireland? He did not exaggerate the importance of Fenianism; but if we were unhappily to be involved in war with America or some other great Power, would any responsible Minister like England to enter the conflict with one arm tied behind her, as would practically be her position if Ireland were disaffected? What would have been the condition of Prussia, if in her late struggle with Austria, the whole of her Roman Catholic population had been in a state of discontent? Then, with regard to the suggestion of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that they should "level upwards," or, in other words, equally endow the Roman Catholic and the Presbyterian Churches with the Episcopalian Establishment in Ireland, whatever might have done in Mr. Pitt's time or fifty years 543 ago, that was now simply impracticable. What possible alternative, then, except disestablishment remained? It had been urged, as an objection to the Resolutions, that they had not yet decided what to do with the endowments of the Established Church. But he replied that before they could do anything else, they must decide that the disendowment should take place, and if they affirmed that principle they would accomplish two objects—first, they would hold out to the Irish people a pledge that England was now going to do them justice; and in the next place, they would bring that long-contested question to a practical issue, because at the next Election the question would be, "Would they or would they not ratify what had already been done by the last Parliament?" When it was said that a religious people must necessarily have a State religion, he would remind them that in the United States of America there was no such thing as a State religion, and yet no one could say that the Americans were not a religious people. There was no State religion in our colonies. On the other hand, let them look to France before the Revolution, and to the present state of Spain and Portugal. There they found a State religion existing, while the great mass of the people were profoundly irreligious. It was a question of political expediency whether the State should take charge of the religious organization of the people as of the telegraph or post office. He could understand the State maintaining an Established Church when the great majority of the people belonged to that Church; but the advantages might be overborne by the objections when the Church was that of a minority of the people. The worst enemies of both Church and State were those who, like Archbishop Laud, announced the highflying principle of a sacred union between the two. Laud had said that to touch Church property would be to render insecure all private property. He denied that. While the right of the incumbent to a life interest in his living was like that of any man to his private property, the right of the Church to its property was like that of a person enjoying a grant of an estate for a public purpose, but who would no longer enjoy that grant when the object that justified it ceased to exist. For these reasons he had resolved to give a vote at all hazards in favour of the propositions of the right hon. [Member for South Lancashire; but, at the same time, he felt the question could not be solved by the present Parliament, which 544 could only pave the way for a great national decision; and, therefore, although under ordinary circumstances such a Motion, carried by the Leader of the Opposition, would, in accordance with a most important constitutional principle, require either a resignation of the Ministry or a dissolution of Parliament, the circumstances of this case impelled a different decision. Considering that an appeal to the new constituencies must take place in the ensuing year, a dissolution now would be a perfect absurdity; and he did not think that because it would be absurd to appeal to the present constituencies it, therefore, followed that the Government should be driven to resignation. He accordingly intended, if the House should go into Committee, to declare that which the common sense of a great number of Members felt to be the only practical course—namely, that the carrying out of the Resolutions of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire must be deferred until after the new constituencies had elected a Parliament. If this proposal were adopted the Government would understand that its duty was to further the course of business, and that these Resolutions were not come to as a party vote for the purpose of turning them out of office, but as the assertion of a great principle on which the country should be asked to pronounce as early as possible.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, the decision which was asked for might be regarded in two lights: either as the decision of the House, or as the decision of the two great parties of which it was composed. It might well be that the House should decide that it would not now express an opinion on the policy suggested, while at the same time the two parties should clearly disclose each its separate view. If the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) intended only to force each side of the House to express itself clearly upon the great question of the day, and so prepare the way for a fair trial at the next Election, he would not object; but he suggested the right hon. Gentleman was not justified in asking for a decision of the House as such. He personally would not shrink from expressing a very strong opinion on the policy indicated; but he would first endeavour to show that the House ought not to give a decision at present, but should rather support the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley). That Amendment only amounted to this, that 545 the House should not come to a decision, but it did not at all say that the Government on one side or the Liberal Members on the other should not declare themselves. The plan of procedure sketched by the right hon. Member for South Lancashire clearly showed that he was of opinion that the House was not competent to determine the question, because otherwise the second and third Resolutions he had placed on the Paper would not have been needed, insomuch as they merely provided for an interregnum between the present Parliament's expression of an opinion and the final decision of the Parliament to come. If the right hon. Gentleman had rested only on the Resolutions, as he at first seemed to intend, he (the Solicitor General) would have had no hesitation in delaring the second illegal and the third unconstitutional. He suspected that when the Resolutions were first announced it was intended to rest content with them, but that the discovery of a defect had led to the conditional promise of Bills. It was now stated that the Resolutions would be incorporated in an Act of Parliament, though when the Act of Parliament would pass might be matter of considerable doubt. As to the second Resolution, he remarked that by the Irish Church Temporalities Act of 1833, 3 & 4 Will. IV., c. 37, Ecclesiastical Commissioners were appointed with arduous duties to perform, and those duties were imposed not for the destruction but for the regulation of the Church: he therefore maintained that if the Commissioners should fail at any time to perform those duties they could not answer a mandamus by pointing to the Resolutions of the House. Now, however, the House was promised a statute—a temporary Act, he presumed, until the new Parliament could pass another. It became necessary then to observe what were the terms of this second Resolution, the basis of the future Act? "That, subject to the foregoing considerations"—namely, those contained in the first Resolution. "it is expedient to prevent the creation of new personal interests by the exercise of any public patronage." How was that to be defined in an Act of Parliament? Should Bishops not be allowed to present? Should chapters and incumbents who had the right to present not be allowed to exercise it? The Resolution proceeded:—"And to confine the operations of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of Ireland to objects of immediate necessity." What 546 two people were likely to agree as to the meaning of the words "objects of immediate necessity?" And the Resolution concluded as follows:—"Pending the final decision of Parliament." When would that occur? It might be next year, or the year after; it was certainly an indefinite time. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that the next House of Commons was to be bound to decide finally or not? As to the third Resolution, the right hon. Gentleman had not stated that he intended to propose an Act giving effect to it; and, under these circumstances, that Resolution would be entirely unconstitutional. Had or had not the Sovereign duties to perform, or could the Sovereign act or refrain from acting by mere caprice? If not, then there must be a duty. And what imposed that duty? Clearly the Coronation Oath, the wording of which not only defined the duty of the Sovereign, but established at the same time a compact with the people—Will you to the utmost of your power," the Sovereign was asked, "maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant reformed religion established by the law?" "And will you preserve unto the bishops and clergy of this realm and to the Churches"—Obviously pointing to more than one Church—committed to their charge all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain unto them or any of them?The answers given to these questions constituted the duty of the Sovereign, and, therefore, he apprehended, the Queen was bound to appoint the Bishops, and to maintain in every way the rights and privileges of the Church. If there was a duty it was obvious that the Sovereign could not constitutionally refrain from performing the duty imposed by that Oath in consequence merely of an Address of the House of Commons, and not an Address of both Houses. The only way, he ventured to say, in which the Queen could act upon such an Address was by giving her consent to an Act of Parliament. What was it that the Queen was asked to do? To take a particular course, "with a view to the purposes aforesaid"—that is, to carry out the first proposition, "that the Established Church of Ireland should cease to exist as an Establishment." That was clearly asking the Queen to break the terms of her Coronation Oath. He knew that by a convenient doctrine it had of late years been held that if Parliament were willing to absolve the Sovereign, the So- 547 vereign was not bound to observe the Oath. And speaking as a lawyer he did not pretend that the Queen might not agree to a disestablishing Bill; but he did most distinctly aver that the Queen ought not to be asked to do aught in derogation of the contract with Parliament and Her People contained in that Oath on a mere Address of one House. The only way that She should be required, if at all, to act should be by asking Her Majesty's consent to a Bill. Then this Resolution was also open to the objection of unpardonable vagueness. What was meant by "placing the temporalities at the disposal of Parliament?" Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that before the final decision mentioned in the second Resolution—that is, before a final decision that the Church should be disestablished—Parliament might dispose of the temporalities of the Establishment? The words were open to that construction. And what was meant by Parliament? Did the right hon. Gentleman mean the House of Commons, or both Houses, or that the temporalities were only to be disposed of by Act of Parliament? And what was meant by saying that the Queen was to give up her interest in the custody of vacant benefices? Who was to have the custody of them? Was it the House of Commons, or were Commissioners to be appointed? And if the final decision were delayed, what in the meantime was to become of the Protestant inhabitants of vacant and populous benefices? The right hon. Gentleman, with a fallacy that was very transparent, had spoken of cases, which might or might not have been accurately stated, where there were only four Protestants, or "Anglicans," as he called them. But his Resolutions would apply to the largest parishes in Ireland, and to those which were fullest of Protestants, as well as to the smallest parishes. In the case of one of those parishes becoming vacant the right hon. Gentleman insisted that there should be no appointment. How, then, were the inhabitants to be dealt with? Were they to be left for an indefinite time without the offices of the Church? Were there to be no marriages, baptisms, burials, or sacraments? The fact was those Resolutions amounted to an excommunication of Irish. Protestants from all religious rites. He could not think that the House would agree to pass the second and third Resolutions; and, if not, of what utility would it be to pass the first as a bare Resolution which could not bind the next Parliament? 548 Even if the present Government were to resign, and the right hon. Gentleman were to form a Ministry, he could not attempt to carry out these Resolutions in the present Parliament; he could not pass any Act on the subject, during the present Session. As to the first Resolution it must be considered both with regard to the present action of the House and as an intimation of a future policy; and the first thing that struck one's mind was the immense importance of the question opened. What was the full meaning of that Resolution? First, it in terms applies to disestablishment only. But did the meaning end there? Remarks had been made upon the framing of the Amendment, which was said to have been put forward for the purpose of conciliating persons holding different views. But if it were the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, as he had declared it to be, to disendow as well as to disestablish the Irish Church, why was not that policy distinctly expressed in the first Resolution? Why was the Resolution couched so as to conceal the design of disendowment, unless it were thought that some persons might be frightened by such an avowal? Assuming, then, that it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to disendow as well as to disestablish the Irish Church, why was it stated to be necessary to do these things now? "Because" it was said, "the Church in Ireland is a minority Church, and there is a crisis." But it had always been from the beginning, from the time of its first establishment, a minority Church, and the crisis of Fenianism spoken of had already ceased to exist. Was it necessary, in order to heal the sentimental grievance of the Irish Roman Catholics, to outrage every sentiment of the Irish Protestants? If the Irish Church were disestablished, it could only be by repealing, in great part, the Act of Union. The 5th Article had been already read at the table, but its terms could not be too strongly insisted upon. These were—That it be the 5th Article of Union that the Churches of England and Ireland, as now by law established, be united into 'one Protestant Episcopal Church,' to be called 'the United Church of England and Ireland,' and that the doctrine, worship, discipline, and Government of the said United Church shall be and shall remain in full force for ever, as the same are now by law established for the Church of England; and that the continuance and preservation of the said 'United Church' as 'the Established Church of England and Ireland' shall be deemed and taken to be an essential and fundamental part of the Union; and 549 that, in like manner, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Church of Scotland shall remain and be preserved as the same are now established by law, and by the Acts for the Union of the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland.These last expressions well deserved the attention of Scotch Members, for the guarantee in the case of the Scotch Church was in language identical with that of the Irish. The solemn terms employed in the Irish Act of Union were, in fact, but a reproduction of those used on the occasion of the Union with Scotland, which ran as follows:—That the said Acts, with the Establishment in the said Acts contained, be and shall for ever be held and adjudged to be and observed as fundamental and essential conditions of the said Union, and shall in all times coming be taken to be, and are hereby declared to be, essential and fundamental parts of the said Articles and Union.The words employed being the same, it would therefore be for the Scotch Members to consider what would be the natural result of the step they were now invited to take as affecting the Church of Ireland. These solemn words in the Acts of Union respectively were borrowed from that still older national compact, the first Article of Magna Charter, by which it was declared—We have granted to God, and by this our present charter have confirmed, for us and our heirs for ever, that the Church of England shall be free, and shall have all her whole rights and liberties inviolable.And when they came to the Emancipation Act, they found in the 107th section the same words used—And whereas the Protestant Episcopal Church of England and Ireland, and the doctrine, disciline, and government thereof, and likewise the Protestant Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and the doctrine, discipline, and government thereof, are by the respective Acts of Union of England and Scotland, and of Great Britain and Ireland, established permanently and inviolably, &c.He would not now discuss whether it was necessary to repeal all these solemn Acts, but it was of great importance that the House should carefully weigh what they were about to do, and that between then and next Friday night they should weigh this much more carefully than there had been time to do since the right hon. Gentleman made to the House the startling disclosure of his conversion upon this question. The House and the country had a right to more time. It would be necessary to pass another Act of Parliament (if they disendowed) to repeal the principal section of the Act of Settlement of Ireland. It was, however, right to consider 550 the effect of disestablishing and disendowing the Irish Church. In what condition, if they did so, would they leave the Government of Ireland and the Protestants of Ireland? In order to support the right hon. Gentleman's assertion that Parliament ought immediately to disestablish the Irish Church, because it was a minority Church, they must treat Ireland as a distinct country and leave her without any Established Church at all. That might or might not be right, but, at all events, it was quite new. It was the first time such a principle had been established in these kingdoms. It had been heretofore one of the most fundamental propositions in this country that they could not have a Government that did not join a Church to it; that they could not have a Government that was not founded upon religion, and the main object of which was not to support religion. Put if Parliament thus destroyed the United Church, and reduced Ireland to the position of a kingdom without an Established Church, of what Church would the Irish Protestants be members? Parliament, so far as it could, would leave them of no Church at all. They must form a new Church, neither established nor endowed but a free and voluntary Church. And if they did thus form a new and free and voluntary Church, in what relation was it to stand to the Church of England, which also must be newly formed? How were the clergy of the new Irish Church to be ordained? How was discipline to be enforced? How many Acts of Parliament with regard to discipline did the right hon. Gentleman ask the House to repeal or alter? And, considering the question not merely as religionists, but as statesmen, what social advantages did they propose by taking from Ireland so many of the resident gentry? To whom did they propose to give the property? And what would be the natural result of disestablishing the Irish Church? Was there not great danger that Parliament would next be pressed to disendow the Church of Scotland, and afterwards to disendow the Church of England? The Church of Scotland stood as he had shown in terms on the same guarantees as the Church of Ireland, and the House would surely wish to know, whether those who drew up these Resolutions in Carlton Terrace, in the absence of their own party, confined their views to Ireland? They knew what was the opinion of many of their supporters, and the House would not fail to observe how guardedly the right 551 hon. Gentleman abstained from saying one word in favour of the Established Church of England. After the speech of that night it would be open to the right hon. Gentleman to come down, as he did the other night, and say that he had not expressed in 1868 any opinions inconsistent with the disestablishment of the Church of England, and that at that time be thought it ought to be disestablished. Taking, then, into consideration all these momentous results, was it right that the House should now decide them? He submitted that it was not. So much for the argument he had undertaken to maintain, but he must moreover take leave to say that he never would be party to a policy, the first step of which must be to leave in Ireland a Government not joined with any religion at all, and the inevitable consequences of which must be a similar Government in England. He would never consent to leave the Protestants of Ireland without an established and an endowed Church—nay, without any Church at all. He could see no excuse, much less any necessity, for such wholesale and dangerous confiscation. He did not deny that the condition of the Irish Church required great modification; but he did most heartily deny that any such portion of the united Church of England and Ireland as that which consisted of 1,000,000 of Protestants in Ireland should cease to exist. He declared that he would be no consenting party to a policy which, carried to the extent to which the right hon. Gentleman carried it, must result in a religion betrayed and a country ruined.
§ MR. LAWSON
said, he wished to say a few words on the legal argument they had just heard. The hon. and learned Gentleman (the Solicitor General) had told the House that the Resolutions were illegal and unconstitutional, and so they would be if they were not followed up by legislation. It was, however, the intention of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) to carry them out in the only legal mode—namely, by a Bill, and if the House should adopt the Resolutions of his right hon. Friend it would be the duty of the Government to carry out the wishes of the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that one of the Resolutions was illegal. But the words of the third Resolution were in fact the very words used in the Church Temporalities Act. That Act proposed to abolish certain Archbishoprics and Bishoprics. One was then vacant, and the 552 others were not to be filled, and the Bill set forth that Her Majesty had been pleased to place at the disposal of Parliament her interest in these sees. An objection was taken by those who were then in Opposition, because Her Majesty had not at that time sent any such Message. The question was decided by the Speaker, who said that such a Message was necessary; but that it might be made to the House at any time before the Bill became law. The course taken by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) was thus the very course which was deliberately pursued in 1833 upon the Church Temporalities Act. The hon. and learned Gentleman next said that the Bishops and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would be restrained from acting upon the Resolutions of the House. It was certain that the Bishops and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would not pay the same regard to a mere Resolution of the House of Commons as to an Act of Parliament, but the object of the Resolution was that a Bill might be founded upon it to prevent the filling up of the benefices. The hon. and learned Gentleman was quite mistaken in supposing that, if these Resolutions were passed, the Protestant Churchmen of Ireland would be in a state of excommunication, that there would be no one to baptize or to bury them. The Solicitor General when he said this could not have looked into the Ecclesiastical Law, or he would have found that the most careful provision was made in this respect. If a Bishopric were not filled up, the Archbishop of the province might be called upon to make due provision for the performance of the episcopal functions; if a patron did not fill up a benefice, the Bishop made the necessary provision for the discharge of the duties. Therefore, even without an Act of Parliament, the tremendous consequences predicted by the hon. and learned Gentleman would not occur. He now proposed to say something on the general question, and the only difficulty was that there were no arguments to grapple with. No one had defended the Irish Church on its merits, and therefore it was not unreasonable to suppose that it had no merits upon which it could be defended. It was said that it was not within the moral competence of the present House of Commons to legislate on this subject. The noble Lord had therefore raised a dilatory plea, and had brought forward an Amendment, not in defence of the Irish Church, but to postpone its condemnation for an- 553 other year. The noble Lord had said in effect—To-morrow? oh! that's sudden:Spare him, spare him!He did not know on what this doctrine rested—that the present House of Commons was not competent to pronounce an opinion as to whether the Irish Church was to cease to exist as an Established Church. It was a convenient doctrine for the Ministry, but was it a constitutional one? The present House of Commons was as competent as any House of Commons could be to decide the question. The House had agreed to abolish flogging in the army, despite the opposition of the Government. They hoped before long to deal with the Irish and Scotch Reform Bills in such a manner that their authors would scarcely know them, as they had done with respect to the English Bill. He wanted to know why the question of the Irish Church was to be isolated from all other questions? If the Government had hitherto avoided a condemnation of their policy it was because they had no policy to be condemned. Upon this question the Ministry seemed to have no policy but that of delay. They appeared not to have made up their own minds so far as to tell the House what they themselves intended to do. Was the policy of ascendancy to be upheld by the Government or were they prepared to act on the policy which had been inaugurated in 1829? That was a question which the House of Commons were entitled to have answered. The Executive seemed very anxious to avoid responsibility in this and other matters. They had delegated the greater part of their own responsibility to Royal Commissions, and the rest they placed at the disposal of this House. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland in the discussion on the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) announced to the House that a part of the Ministerial responsibility was to grant a charter to the Catholic University. [The Earl of MAYO: To a Catholic University.] If the noble Lord wished him to substitute one article for another he would readily acquiesce, and give the Government any benefit they might derive from the change. Well, a charter to a Catholic University having been announced as a part of the Ministerial policy, in a few nights afterwards the noble Lord, replying to a question from an hon. Member, said the Government was quite in the hands of the House as regarded the Catholic University. That was the cha- 554 racter of the policy of the Government. It was very difficulty to discover what were the arguments in support of the Irish Church Establishment. Protestant gentlemen of high rank and station had held meetings in Ireland in its favour. What did they demonstrate? That the Protestant population of Ireland possessed a sufficient amount of wealth to be able to maintain their own Church if deprived of the advantage—if an advantage it were—of State support. But the only argument adduced by these gentlemen was that of "No surrender," which was now abandoned by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It was said that his right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire was not in a position to bring this question forward because he had not dealt with it while he was in office; but the propriety of dealing with questions of this kind depended very much on the state of public opinion, and in respect of the Irish Church public opinion had ripened with extraordinary rapidity. Whom might they thank for that rapid ripening of public opinion? The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. That right hon. Gentleman had given the House during last Session a very remarkable illustration of how rapidly, under the process of education, an opinion of one character may change and become an opinion of quite a different character. Public opinion demanded an immediate consideration of and decision upon this Irish Church question. It had been supposed that, owing to the famine and to emigration, the proportion between the numbers of the different creeds in Ireland had been greatly altered, and it was asserted that the Established Church had made a great number of converts. In 1860 when the Bill for the decennial Census was before the House, his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford proposed that Returns of the number of members in each of the religious communions should be included in the Census of Ireland. That proposition was acceded to by the right hon. Gentleman who so ably represented the minority of Dublin, doubtless from an anxiety to arrive at the truth, and believing that the facts would turn out to be as he supposed. What was the result? By the Census Returns of 1861 it appeared that the whole of the members of the Established Church in Ireland numbered only 693,000 out of a population of 5,500,000. The House had heard a great deal of Protestant Ulster; 555 but what did the same Census show? That, though the Protestants and the Roman Catholics were nearly equal in Ulster, the Roman Catholics were actually in a small majority. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General had asked, whether the disestablishment of the Irish Church would be a message of peace to Ulster? Did the hon. and learned Gentleman know that the members of the Established Church were only 20 per cent of the population of that province? In Leinster they were 12 per cent, in Minister 5 per cent, and in Connaught 4 per cent. Looking at this question either as one of justice or one of statesmanship, ought the Church Establishment to be maintained in any one of those four provinces—even in Ulster, where the members of the Established Church amounted to what was said to be the large figure of 20 per cent? After the Census of 1861 was published public attention was turned to this question, and recently almost all Roman Catholics of position in Ireland had signed a declaration denying that they were by any means indifferent to the grievance involved in the existence of the Established Church, and demanding religious equality. He regarded the question of the Establishment less as a question of money than in its bearing on the social and political relations of life in Ireland; and he maintained that those relations could not be placed on a sound basis so long as the principle of ascendancy was maintained, and exclusive privileges given to a small proportion of the population. It could not but be a grievance to Roman Catholics, in a parish where they were numbered by thousands, to see a Protestant clergyman installed as rector, and entitled to treat their priest as an intruder, although the Protestant congregation might be numbered only by tens or even less. The existence of the Establishment moreover introduced a taint of rancour into almost every question that was discussed in Ireland. In case of an election of a surgeon to a dispensary or a clerk to a union, the question always asked respecting a candidate was whether he were a Protestant or a Roman Catholic, his creed and not his fitness being regarded as the important point. The disestablishment of the Church would not only take away this taint, but would, he believed, be of incalculable advantage to the vitality of the Protestant religion. Indeed, he would not for a moment favour such a measure did he not conscientiously believe that 556 it would have that effect. Froude tells us, in the 10th volume of his History, of a shrewd Devonshire man, named Tremayne, who was sent over by Cecil, to report on the state of Ireland. His report in substance was, "Give the Irish good laws, do not meddle with their religion, and leave their lands to themselves, and they will be good subjects." Unhappily this advice was not followed. The Establishment was associated in the minds of the people with persecution, conquest, and confiscation, and nothing could be more calculated than such a feeling to impede the spread of Protestantism. The House had been warned to beware of alienating the affections of the Protestants of Ulster; but surely this consideration was not entitled to any weight unless it could be shown that the maintenance of the Establishment was consistent with justice and expediency. If he might venture to address his Protestant fellow-countrymen he would exhort them not to embark in a struggle which could have but one result. Let them not excite the anger and animosity of rival creeds, but let them have confidence in the religion of which they were adherents, and fling aside the artificial supports which, instead of sustaining their Church, had really hindered its healthy and vigorous action. Let them be satisfied with a fair field and no favour; and for his own part he felt convinced that, when these supports were withdrawn, the Church would be maintained without difficulty by its own members, and would be in a more efficient state than it was at present. The duty of Parliament was clear, and the maxim which it was bound to adopt with reference to all religious denominations in Ireland was—Tros Tyriusque mihi nullo discrimine agetur.Until we acted on that principle we could never expect loyalty and contentment to prevail among the Irish people.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.