Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [30th March],
That this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee to consider the said Acts,"—(Mr. Gladstone:)
And which Amendment was,
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 again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
There is no Member of this House who is more inclined to rate highly the gravity of the question now occupying our attention than I am. I quite admit that it is one of those questions which long ago it was thought must engage the attention of the House at no distant period; and, though we take exception to the particular period at which it is brought before the House, it is a question which we are prepared to meet on any occasion, and under any circumstances. It has been brought before the House in a speech of great power and eloquence, and by one who, from his position as a Leader in this House, and from his position in the country as a man of the greatest 576 ability, has recommended the subject with additional force to the consideration, not only of the House, but of the country. But I cannot help observing that this question, which is of such momentous gravity, has been treated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by those who support the right hon. Gentleman, not merely as a question affecting the Church of Ireland, but with a degree of bitterness and acrimony against the Ministry who sit on these Benches which makes it at once an attack upon the Church of Ireland and upon the Ministry; and not only have we met with this reception in front, but even on our flank we have been assailed with incredible hostility. I will for a moment speak upon the subject of the Ministry that is attacked, and, if I am permitted, of myself, who have been personally assailed. I feel that it is one of the highest honours that I ever achieved to have sate in the same Cabinet with my noble Friend (Viscount Cranborne). No one valued more the resources of the genius, eloquence, and power which he brought to the Ministry of which he formed a part; and I acted with him with cordiality and sincerity in all the transactions of the Government. The noble Lord, in the position he has assumed in this House—that of speaking as the censor of the Ministry, and of attacking them one by one for the course they thought proper to pursue last year—has forgotten, I think, how far he himself proceeded in the path they followed. He has apparently forgotten that the course he finally took was not taken on account of the lowering of the franchise to the point to which it was lowered, but on account of the want, as he thought, of sufficient checks to moderate and to balance that enfranchisement; and he forgets, moreover, that we, entertaining the same view as he himself held, were defeated on it, not merely by those who sit opposite, but by the overwhelming feeling of Gentlemen who sat behind the Government. I do not mean to say that the Reform Bill of last year is in everything such as I could have wished for if I could have entirely controlled it; but I should like to know where is the man who, sitting, I will not say in the Cabinet, but in any Assembly whatever, has not been compelled in some respects to compromise his own opinions and give way to the feeling of those with whom he sits in order that they may all act together with uniformity and unity. That I consider is all I have done. I have sacrificed no principle. ["Oh, oh!"] I say I 577 sacrificed no principle. I consider that the question of Reform brought before the House was a question, not of principle, but of degree. We had been parties to lowering the franchise, we had assented to the second reading of the Bill introduced in 1860 by the other side of the House, which effected that lowering to a great extent, and we had assented to the lowering of the franchise in the Bill of 1866; and I say that it became evident—not on account of disturbance out-of-doors, but on account of the Parliamentary attitude that the question had assumed—that it became absolutely necessary to deal with and, if possible, settle it. I say it was a question of degree and not of principle. I should not have said a word about myself if my noble Friend had not brought my name forward somewhat unnecessarily, In fact, my noble Friend took especial pains, as it appeared to me, to compliment my sincerity at the expense of my pliability. But I trust that, as concerns principle, I shall be found as ready to maintain those I principles in which we both agree as he himself has been. Let me for one moment, in passing, advert to the course my noble Friend has thought proper to take this year. My noble Friend has been the firm consistent advocate of church rates; but this year he has taken a different view, and this suddenly — unexpected no doubt by those fitting near him, and certainly by those who have hitherto acted with him. Far be it from me to say that this was from any want of principle. I believe that he acted from a patriotic feeling, and from that principle for which I hope he will give credit to others. I am sorry to have detained the House so long on this matter, and will now come to the question before the House. We are called on at a special and peculiar moment to go into Committee upon a question of the greatest possible importance, and one that cannot be settled or terminated—I will not say in this Parliament, nor probably in the next; nor for many years to come, in my opinion. This is met by an Amendment on the part of my noble Friend, to which great exception has been taken. I will for a moment take notice of a remark that has been made on that Amendment. My noble Friend claimed for himself freedom of acting in future Sessions on this great question, without expressing his full opinion now; but, at the same time, he said that he wished to make it manifest by the earlier part of his Resolution that the present course of the Government 578 was not adopted from mere motives of obstruction, from no conviction that there was nothing to redress, or nothing to reform in the Irish Church, for an admission to the contrary was made by the issuing of the Commission now sitting, which may be taken as an acknowledgment that there are reforms to be effected and Amendments to be made; and though some wish to go far beyond what I should desire, yet many, who think as I do, acknowledge, as I have already done before this time, that there are evils within the Church: that, as has been said by many of her Bishops, many of her clergy, and many of her attached friends, with a view to strengthening and giving more effect to the administration of that Church great reforms, great alterations, and, if I may, without offence to Gentlemen opposite, use the word, great "modifications" are needed. It would have been idle and absurd, after having assented to a Commission upon the Irish Church, if the Government had not been prepared to act upon the facts which may be proved before that Commission, and to ameliorate where it was found necessary. I do not mean to say that the present Parliament is not competent to deal with the subject, because it is obvious that so long as the House is in existence it must have all the powers and functions of a legislative Assembly. It is not a question of competence, but of time, occasion, and opportunity. The facts are these:—At a comparatively late period of the Session, with very little progress made in Supply; with Boundary Bills, involving the interests of eighty-one boroughs and of one or two counties; and with two Reform Bills—one for Scotland and one for Ireland—in which Amendments of great importance will be moved, and which must take a long time—it is with these things before us, and with the necessity of calling for an early dissolution of the House and an appeal to the country — I say, with these things before us are we not right in saying that the House is incumbered with business, measures of great importance are pressing upon us, and therefore this is not the time to come forward with an abstract Resolution? The first Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman is distinctly and solely an abstract Resolution, which cannot pledge the new Parliament that will have to assemble in a few months, and which he himself admits cannot be carried into effect by legislation in the course of the present Session. I say, then, that this question is one which has been suddenly 579 started upon the country; it has taken the people by surprise. If it had not been started so suddenly, if it had not come but recently on the minds of those who produced it, why—when the opportunity was afforded by the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) to go into Committee on the state of Ireland of submitting this question of the Irish Church to the consideration of the House—why did not the right hon. Gentleman produce his Resolutions then, and ask the House to consider them in connection with the state of Ireland? If this had been done we should have had time to consider them, and they could certainly have been discussed at an earlier period of the Session than they have. Is it unreasonable that we should ask for time to consider so important a matter? Is it unreasonable to ask for time in order that the country should consider the question upon which it must eventually decide? Even within the short week we have had the rustle of petitions increasingly heard from both sides of the House day by day. As time goes on I venture to say that more and more petitions will be brought here, and as the question becomes more thoroughly understood in the country they will yet increase. Already, too, I notice that many of the Nonconformist body have petitioned against the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman, so that the feeling against them is not confined to Churchmen. And, after all, the right hon. Gentleman himself stated last night he did not anticipate that this great measure which he had in hand could be carried into effect under much less time than thirty years, and yet now, forsooth, it is a question of hours; it is not to be adjourned for a few months in order that it may be placed in all its integrity before the country. I will show before I sit down that the proposition is one which evades the chief difficulties of the question, and only deals with those portions of it upon which unity of action can be obtained; whereas, if the right hon. Gentleman had developed his whole plan it would be certain to split his supporters into many sections. The Resolutions aimed a blow at the property of the Irish Church, which I, as a Churchman, maintain, has, during the last 300 years at the very least, and indeed, as I believe for a much longer time, passed down in regular succession into the hands by which it is now held. If this be not so, where are the Acts of Parliament transferring 580 the right to that property at any time before or during those 300 years? In what way has that transfer been made? I will not, however, enter now into that question, because if I did so I might possibly call up opposition on the other side. But I contend that when we are dealing with a mass of property of so much importance and of so long prescription it is not a matter for haste, and you have no right to force it upon the country until it has the whole case before it, and until we have an opportunity of consulting the constituencies upon it. Supposing we had met these Resolutions by a direct negative—which, as far as I am personally concerned, I should be, and am, perfectly prepared to do—and I think you will find that not only I personally, but all who sit on this side of the House will be ready to take the same course—but supposing, I say, that we had met these Resolutions with a direct negative, what would be said by hon. Gentlemen opposite? I know what would be said. It would be said that we object even to enter into an inquiry upon this question—that we object to go into Committee, and that we are not prepared to admit that there is any reformation needed in the Irish Church.—Whereas, by the Amendment we propose, we say that if it were shown before the Commission that reformation was needed we are prepared to act upon such Report, and to show that when we assented to the Commission being issued we were prepared to receive its judgment with respect. The right hon, Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Moncreiff), in his speech last night, did me the honour of calling attention to something I said in 1865. I have only to say now that I have nothing to alter as to the opinions which I then expressed. I expressed those opinions in all sincerity and candour in favour of the Establishment of the Irish Church and the retention of its endowments. I do not mean to express a difference of opinion, and I speak now precisely as I spoke then. But I am told I am to renounce all the old arguments in favour of that Church. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire said yesterday that those arguments were of such a character that no one would think of using them now. Sir, I trust I shall be able to show that there are authorities which might even have influence with the right hon. Gentleman — authorities who have used these arguments, and who, like myself, are not ashamed to use them still, because they are just and apposite to the question we 581 have in hand. I have on a former occasion called attention to a speech of the right hon. Gentleman in 1865. I should not enter into this matter now; but the right hon. Gentleman himself has challenged discussion as to the propriety of his bringing this question forward, and as to the consistency he has shown in doing so. The right hon. Gentleman said that for a period of twenty-five years his opinions have been forming on this subject, and that they have gradually arrived at the position which led him to assume the position which he now occupies. The right hon. Gentleman paid that in the year 1846 it was impossible for him to pledge himself on principle to maintain the Irish Church. Now, I wish to ask him to whom he made that statement known? [Mr. GLADSTONE: To my Committee.] The right hon. Gentleman says it was proclaimed to his Committee; he must have had a singularly judicious Committee, for until the right hon. Gentleman rose last night the declaration was a secret that had never been revealed to the public. ["Oh, oh!"] Before I go further I think it but right to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to statements which have appeared in the public Press, so that if they be incorrect the right hon. Gentleman will be enabled to contradict them, or if not, how he can reconcile his statements last night with his former professions. I say nothing of the right hon. Gentleman's opinions now; but even in papers most earnest in his support there is manifest surprise at the announcement of a change of opinion in 1846 or 1847. The right hon. Gentleman now says, in his speech of last night, that in 1865 he gave a warning to his constituents of the course he was to take on the question of the Irish Church. The speech alluded to was no doubt a warning that the right hon. Gentleman saw something very unsatisfactory in the Irish Church; but it was certainly not a warning of the particular course which he has now taken. The right hon. Gentleman now states that this is not a question of surplus or of amendment; but a question whether the Irish Church Establishment should be disestablished and disendowed. In 1865 the right hon. Gentleman said—It would be their duty to consider—whether surplus or no surplus—what obligations of the Act of Union remain to be fulfilled, and how they ought to be performed."—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 434.]And now I find, in a letter published in the newspapers, it is stated by a gentleman 582 —who does not certainly sign his name ["Oh, oh"]—although he has not signed his name to this letter he undertakes to produce the document to which he refers if any doubt be thrown upon his statement. It is, I presume, very well known that many letters are published in newspapers anonymously—nay, it is the commonest thing, I believe, for gentlemen to have their letters published without their names being attached to them, at the same time to furnish their names privately to the editors, with the intention of coming personally forward to substantiate their statements in case they should be questioned. The right hon. Gentleman had said last night that in 1865 he looked for action in the coming Parliament; and therefore it was that he had made that speech. But did he look for action in the coming Parliament? Was there a hint of such a thing in the speech itself, however distinctly it made known his opinion on the Church in Ireland? Was not the speech of 1865 a statement that the difficulty was so great, the problem was so difficult of solution, that he could not make up his mind when the subject could be brought before Parliament with any chance of its settlement? But let us see what the right hon. Gentleman is said to have written at that very time, for if the statement is untrue it is most unjust; if true, however, it bears with remarkable force upon the question as to whether the right hon. Gentleman really gave warning in 1865, coupled with the expression of his opinion that this question of the Irish Church was a pressing subject immediately coming before the House. The writer of the letter I have referred to says that just before the Oxford University election of 1865, "one dignitary, a consistent supporter" of the right hon. Gentleman, made his vote conditional on his explanation of the doubtful point. The writer adds—A mutual friend was the medium of communication, and the reply contained the following assurance, which was then deemed to be as satisfactory as it was intended to be. The document itself is at your disposal if its authenticity be called in question. It may suffice, however, to quote the following passage.Then comes the quotation from the right hon. Gentleman's assurance, as follows:—The question of the Irish Establishment is remote, and apparently out of all bearing upon the practical politics of the day.Did the right hon. Gentleman write that to one of his Committee or to one of his supporters? If he did it seems to me wholly 583 inconsistent with his other statement of last night, that he made his speech in 1865 because he believed that the question was to come before the Parliament about to be elected. But he goes on—I think I have marked strongly my sense of the responsibility attaching to the opening of such a question. One thing I may add, because I think it a clear landmark. In any measure dealing with the Irish Church, I think (though I scarcely expect ever to be called on to share in such a measure) the Act of Union must be recognized, and must have important consequences, especially with reference to the position of the hierarchy.[An hon. MEMBER: Where does it come from?] The letter came from The Morning Herald, in which paper it appeared. The right hon. Gentleman has the letter now in his hands: I have brought the matter before him—I thought it my duty to bring it before him—and he will know whether the statement is accurate or not. The right hon. Gentleman having stated that in 1865 he made a particular speech, because, in his opinion, the question of the Irish Church was to come before the next Parliament, I have drawn his attention to a published statement that in 1865, in writing to one of his electors, he wrote that this same subject was so remote that he never expected to be engaged in such a measure. If the right hon. Gentleman did not write the words attributed to him, and rises in his place and says as much, I shall, of course, apologise for having brought it forward, and for having used it as I have done. But when I saw that letter published—and not in one paper alone—I did not think it my duty to abstain from bringing it before the House in connection with the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made. I say, then, whether the letter was written by the right hon. Gentleman or not, it is clear that his opinions between 1847 and 1865 had not been openly professed, and that he was using what is called by divines "economy and reserve," and abstained from professing those opinions which in this great emergency he has so suddenly brought into prominence. My right hon. Friend who sits opposite (Mr. Cardwell), in 1863, stated that he also was in favour of maintaining the endowments of the Church. He said—I believe this House will not surrender the principle of the Established Church. I believe it will not alienate the property of the Church from the ecclesiastical uses to which it has been devoted."—[3 Hansard, clxxi. 1586.]Now, when one sees these things, and 584 when these are the last utterances that we have had upon a great subject, surely we have a right to say that this comes suddenly upon us, that it comes upon the House and the country by surprise; and those who did not know that the right hon. Gentleman had changed his opinions twenty-five years ago, may feel that their confidence in former days was not well bestowed. I will now pass from personal questions. [Ironical cheers from the Opposition.]. Yes, if it be a personal question to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has expressed such and such opinions without saying anything of him inconsistent with respect? If the right hon. Gentleman says he has not written the letter in question, I should at once apologise to him and withdraw all I have said upon that point. Gentlemen opposite appear now to be averse to personal questions; but I listened to the cheering when the most envenomed shafts were shot at Members sitting on these Benches, and I noticed that it proceeded from the very mouths that object to personality now. I would ask, whether this question of the Irish Church is to be disposed of hastily and without discussion? Is this Church, which has stood for so long a time, and has battled for centuries in defence of the truth, to be at once given up without consideration, and are all the arguments of the many great men who defended her in former days to be ignored or declared to be of no avail? Am I to be afraid to say that the Union of Great Britain and Ireland was a compact—a treaty of a solemn and a binding character? Am I to be forbidden to say that the 5th Article of that Union was so important that it was made the fundamental basis and the very essence of that Union? Let those who doubt this look at the Act of Union itself, and see how differently other conditions are treated which were not regarded as fundamental or essential. This Article respecting the Church was made, if I may say so, the very bait for the Irish Protestants to yield to that Union. It was put forward on all occasions as a main inducement to them to establish their Church upon what was represented as a firmer footing, by uniting it, as was supposed, indissolubly, to the Church of England. And have we any right now, because this connection may, in the opinion of some, be a burden or source of weakness to us, to throw it aside and say, "We will renounce the Union of the Churches, and leave the Irish Church to 585 take care of itself?" Let us see what has been said in former debates by eminent politicians: what, for instance, was said by the Lord Chief Justice of England (Lord Ellenborough) as to the effect of the Union upon the United Church of England and Ireland. On the 13th of May, 1805, Lord Ellenborough thus expounded this Article of the Treaty in his place in Parliament—By the 5th Article of the Union it is declared 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. By fundamental is meant, with reference to the subject-matter, such an integral part of the compact of union formed between the two kingdoms as is absolutely necessary to the support and sustaining of the whole fabric and superstructure of the Union, raised and built thereupon; and such as, being removed, would produce the ruin and overthrow of the political union founded upon this Article as its immediate basis."—[1 Hansard, iv. 814.]The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire escaped from this point by saying—"Oh! but Mr. Pitt meant to do this in connection with other things," that intention being expressed not in the Act of Union, but in State Papers which are now accessible to us. But there was no engagement either in the Act of Union or in any statement on the part of Mr. Pitt that anything would be done more than was done by that statute. Nothing can be produced that ever was stated by Mr. Pitt to show that anything forming part of the compact was, in the slightest degree, neglected or left undone by him. My right hon. Friend opposite says that there were other inducements. I am sorry to say that there were, and that the Irish Parliament of that day may be said to have been corrupt in the strongest sense of the term. But the Parliament of England, which accepted that compact and joined in that treaty, was it also as corrupt a Parliament? [Mr. BRIGHT: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member for Birmingham says it was; and therefore I presume that, in his opinion, the Acts of that Parliament are not to be attended to, or, at least, are not to be attended to in the same way as he would doubtless conceive they ought to be if they were the Acts of some more perfect legislative Assembly. [Mr. BRIGHT: I did not say so.] I am perfectly aware of that. But just now, when I was asking whether the Parliament of England, which also joined in the Act of Union, was as corrupt as the Irish Parliament, the hon. 586 Gentleman interrupted and said "It was." And that either has some meaning or it has not. If it has a meaning, does it mean that the Acts of that Parliament are in any sense invalidated? If so, we shall be entering upon a very difficult question. And if we are to question the intentions of Parliament and its freedom from corruption, and so to judge of the acts which it performed, I am afraid that some of our creditors will not be in a very favourable position for obtaining payment of their debts. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire has stated that whatever else might be the ultimate effect of his Resolutions, they could not be injurious to the Protestant faith; and he went into statistics as to population and the proportions of different creeds. With regard to those, I will only say that any one who heard the statistics given as to the different creeds and different professions in Ireland must have felt that the sources from which they were derived were not such that they could be treated as a particular and demonstrative statement with regard to the population. The only statistics, I may say, that were thoroughly gone into were those in 1834 and in 1861. The right hon. Gentleman said that when the penal laws were most strictly enforced the Protestants had increased; but that when the penal laws ceased to be enforced and liberty was freely accorded, the Protestants began to diminish in proportion to the Roman Catholics; the right hon. Gentleman taking those things as cause and effect. Now, if there were a period during which there was a more general relaxation of the penal laws it was that between 1834 and 1861, and yet it will be found that the proportions of the populations had then increased in favour of the Protestants. I know that the right hon. Gentleman says that such increase is to be accounted for by the emigration of the labouring classes, whom he assumes to be all of the Roman Catholic faith. But the right hon. Gentleman has made no allowance whatever for the large emigration of Protestants from Ireland. I believe there is not an Irish Member who will fail to tell you that among the emigrants there were a very large number of Protestants, who carried themselves and their religion to another country. But the right hon. Gentleman says that the disestablishment of the Protestant Church in Ireland will not be injurious to the Protestant faith. I should be ashamed of the religion which I profess, 587 if I thought it would be unable to meet any other form of religion with or without the aid of endowments; but am I on that account to say that I think it is incumbered by having endowments? If so, that seems to me an argument which goes far beyond the case of the Irish Church. I do not know why in one country it is to be considered advantageous to be without endowments and in another country to possess them. And if religion in this country can exist, although cumbered, as the right hon. Gentleman would have us think, with large endowments, why do you object to our Protestant friends in Ireland retaining that which they believe to be of service to them, and that to which they believe they have a right? In respect to the voluntary principle, there is a great part of Ireland in which the voluntary principle is hardly applicable — parts where the Protestants are but thinly scattered, and where it would be almost impossible, without parochial organization, that they could obtain for themselves the means of grace; and therefore it is necessary that in those parts of the country there should be some means of providing them with the means of grace to which they are new entitled by law. The right hon. Gentleman, in holding out these Resolutions as an olive branch to Ireland, forgets how much he is alienating—how much he is distressing those who are members of the Church, and those who, though not actually members of the Church, feel towards it a friendly interest. We are here, as it were, lookers-on at a picture which is passing before us in the distance; but it touches the hearts and the homes of many. It is to such not only a sentimental grievance, but a practical wrong. While they feel deeply upon the matter, is it for us, in our apathetic indifference, to give up the dearest interests of all those with whom we are united by the ties of religion, of honour, of treaty, and of compact — to allow such considerations to be thrown over without regard to their feelings, with the view of reconciling others who may, after all, remain hostile to us, whilst we alienate our old friends who have ever been faithful to us? Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman said he did not think that any one would venture to use the argument that the subversion of the Irish Church would tend also to the subversion of property. It is, however, an argument that has been used by some of our greatest authorities, and, not the least, by that great man, Sir 588 Robert Peel, whose memory probably the right hon. Gentleman opposite respects. It was an argument that Sir Robert Peel did not disdain to use, and urge with great force on more than one occasion. He did so at some length; but I will merely read a short extract from a speech of his on the Appropriation Clause, to show the terms in which he spoke of the Church property. He said—If long possession and the prescription of three centuries were not powerful enough to protect the property of the Church from spoliation, there is little safety for any description of private property; and much less for that property which is in the hands of lay corporations.And it was no idle fear, for there are symptoms that property in the hands of lay corporations is in danger, and language has been used in this House on the Irish land question which seemed to verge very near an attack on the Irish property of the City companies. Language has been used with reference to their possession of land in Ireland which must certainly give them the hint that the time may soon come when they will have to set their houses in order. And with reference to another great corporation possessing land in Ireland—the Law Life Assurance Society — language has been used which shows there is a design in some persons to carry the attack beyond the property of the Irish Church, and not stop short of the landed interest; for I do not hesitate to state that the schemes proposed for dealing with the land in Ireland are in themselves on a revolutionary scale. These schemes do attack the rights of property, and those who argue that you may justly take corporate property from the Church depend upon it will not be very squeamish hereafter in dealing with other property. Well, Sir, in speaking of this question I will not hesitate to adopt what may be considered a legal statement upon the question of corporate property made by the Lord Chancellor. He says—It was always admitted that so long as the corporate body which possessed the title to ecclesiastical property remains, so long as the property is not greater in amount than can be usefully applied by that corporate body, there is no right of principle on which Parliament can interfere to alienate property of that kind.I concur in that principle. It is a principle acted on with respect to all charity property by the Court of Chancery. I believe it is a just rule, and one which we cannot violate without assailing the interests of property. The right hon. Gentleman 589 says we are going to deal tenderly with our victim, for we are going to preserve vested interests, and we even propose going beyond that; but at that moment the cheer which had greeted the maintaining of vested rights died away—and at the more than vested rights, the interests of curates and those who had entered on some miserable benefice with the hope of advancing to better tilings—I found that cheering checked; and it is manifest that it will not be so easy for the right hon. Gentleman to carry into act his tender regard for those who have no vested interests in the property of the Irish Church. The rights to which he alluded were the vested rights of the clergy; but how are yon going to deal with the rights of the laity? This is a question of the laity. You may deal with the clergy, so far as they are personally concerned, by paying them off, pensioning them, or by arranging with them in any other manner you please; but when you come to the vested interests of the laity, which are held in trust for them by the Bishops and clergy, and not for themselves, how are you to compensate them for the vested interests you are about to rob them of? The right hon. Gentleman says it is absurd to talk of what was promised in former years in order to gain concessions, when engagements were made that if a particular thing were done, it would produce peace and harmony, and that at length we should see our efforts in respect of Ireland crowned with success. Certainly those who prophesied at the periods to which I allude that those effects would not follow have had their fears amply justified by the result. I think it a great misfortune for Ireland that the hopes which then actuated those who were pleading the cause of the Catholics, and the promises which they made, have not been fulfilled. Those who are now advocating the disestablishment of the Protestant Church in Ireland do not hold the opinions of Plunket, Blake, and Peel, or of the Roman Catholic prelates, or of the Canonists of Maynooth, who said that the title of the Established Church in Ireland would be recognized by Rome itself, which only requires a prescription of 100 years, while the Protestant Church in Ireland has lasted for 300 years. I am bound to say that on this occasion we are not in danger of being led away by promises, for no promises are held out that what we are asked to do will in any way tend to the pacification of Ireland, or that it is o be more that a step to new demands. 590 It is true that in speeches in this House something of that kind may be said; but those for whose benefit the property of the Church is to be taken away are holding out no promises. They are not saying that they have not in reserve a demand for concessions which they regard as of much greater importance and magnitude. Those "calm men of Limerick," to whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) alluded a few nights ago, say that they do not believe anything will do justice to the feelings of the people of Ireland except a repeal of the Union, committing Irish interests to an Irish Parliament in Dublin. My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. B. Cochrane), in his speech last night, quoted a remarkable passage, which I am afraid was not heard by as many as ought to have heard it, because it shows that the persons who are agitating for tenant-right in Ireland put aside the Church altogether as a grievance. At a meeting of the Meath Tenant-right Society, of which the Bishop and the Roman Catholic Vicar-General are members, this statement was put forward, the Vicar-General presiding on the occasion—The one, the great, the sole question for Ireland is the land question. Other agitations, such as that against the Established Church, got up for party purposes, would infuse an element 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.And yet we are told that by holding out this olive branch to the Irish people we are doing all that is required; whilst Lord Russell has thrown the land question over as unworthy of his consideration, and bids us bestow on the Roman Catholic people of Ireland what they themselves regard as a concession of infinite insignificance. ["No, no!"] Well, Sir, I now come to an important question, one which is not solved by the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman, and of which in his speech he offered us no solution, and without an answer to which, I say, we cannot fairly and honestly vote on these Resolutions. It is essentially necessary that we should know the whole of the scheme that is to be proposed. Are you, or are you not, going to secularize the revenues of the Established Church in Ireland? If you are going to secularize them, to what do you propose to apply them? We have been told over and over again that if there is any one in these days who objects on 591 principle to such secularizing he is rather to be pitied. The right hon. Gentleman said he had a sort of sympathy with such a feeling, he pitied such a weakness, but it was one that he could not countenance. Sir, it was a feeling of a distinguished Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman, expressed in most solid and effective terms. Sir James Graham ended a great speech on the subject in language very strong and very decided; and he declared that he had that feeling of weakness which the right hon. Gentleman pities. Sir James Graham, in the speech to which I refer—[An hon. MEMBER: The date?]—used this language. The date is 1834; but I am not aware that in any subsequent speech he qualified it, or I should not now quote it. He said—The Church property was set apart by the piety of our forefathers, whether in England or in Ireland, to maintain and propagate the Christian religion, and I tell you it is sacred and must be applied to that purpose. Those who minister at the altar shall live by the altar; this decree is as high as Heaven; you cannot take it away. It is strong as the Almighty; you cannot overthrow it. It is lasting as the Eternal; it can never cease to bind you. It is binding on you as Christian legislators and as Christian men, and, for one, there is no consideration on earth which shall induce me to compromise or violate it.I can quite understand that some hon. Gentlemen will condemn the weakness of feeling of Sir James Graham; but I am content to feel with him, and to express the opinion which he expressed, and to avow that there is in this secularization of Church property something inconsistent with the sacred uses to which it has been dedicated. I might also quote Lord Brougham who has also expressed a strong opinion upon the subject—namely, that not one farthing of the money of the Church should be diverted to other purposes until sufficient had been taken for the purposes of the Church, and then it should only be taken for Church education; and, above all, on no consideration on earth would he give one farthing of it to assist the Roman Catholics. The right hon. Gentleman has, to a certain extent, revealed his plan, and he tells us that his mode would be to deal very tenderly with the question, and that he thinks no one will be at all aggrieved at the glebes, parsonage houses, and the churches being left in the possession of the Protestant clergy of Ireland. So, at least, I understood him to say. Now, I want to know whether you are going to provide glebes and parsonages for any other 592 clergy? Do you mean, for instance, to build parsonages for the Presbyterians, the Roman Catholics, or any other denomination in Ireland? I ask this, because I find it is put forward in a pamphlet by an Irish Roman Catholic Member of Parliament (who may be now in the House) that, so far from the right hon. Gentleman's plan giving satisfaction, it would give the greatest dissatisfaction. According to this Gentleman, so far from it being a prudent thing to leave the glebe houses in the hands of the Protestant clergy, without providing them for the Roman Catholics also, nothing could be more irritating and vexatious. He says—Now, if there is one fact more than another which in the eyes of the Irish people at large exemplifies the evil of ecclesiastical inequality, it is the difference between the glebe house and land of the Anglican minister and the humble and often wretched habitation of their priest. This is a palpable, tangible fact. It is one which, even if the Anglican Church were disendowed to-morrow, would, until rectified, still evidence a contrast calculated to provoke discontent and irritation.The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech in 1865, said he thought it was essential in any well-considered measure—and nothing but a well-considered measure should be brought before Parliament — that they should arrive at the conclusion whether the Church property should be applied one way or the other. Now, I ask whether these Resolutions give us any hint on this subject? Have we anything to guide us in the slightest degree as to what is to become of this money? Many hon. Members agree that it is badly applied at present. Be it so; but there are worse purposes to which it may be applied, and probably many others will consider that, until they know to what uses it is to be applied, there is no scheme before them upon which they can be fairly and honestly called to vote. The right hon. Gentleman says also that to show that he is in earnest, he proposes immediate legislation upon the subject. Now, let us see what kind of legislation it is to be. It is not to be legislation to settle the question, but legislation to stay the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and of patrons of public livings, so that there may be a suspension of everything in Ireland till the next Parliament has met. I believe that is a correct statement of what fell from the right hon. Gentleman. Now, I want to know whether, when we are told that we are not to conclude this question, we are really to decide it practically, by suspending the whole process of the 593 Church in Ireland, and all that is going on there, for several months before next Session, and then to say that we have not in the least prejudiced the question? Why, if there can be any prejudgment it is by adopting a course which will render necessary the repeal of an Act of Parliament in order to set things in motion. And how is the time to be found during this Session to discuss a Bill which, unlike a Resolution, must pass through a first and second reading, be considered in Committee of the Whole House, and be then read a third time? This is the way in which great questions are generally treated, and in which they always ought to be treated. The right hon. Gentleman says that nothing can be so bad as an abstract Resolution; and I will defy anyone to show that the first of the right hon. Gentleman's Resolutions is anything but an abstract Resolution. I want, therefore, to know, if the other House of Parliament is also to be tested on the Resolutions, in order to ascertain what prospects there are of obtaining their assent to such a Bill; or is this House to usurp the whole power of expressing the opinions of and guiding both branches of the Legislature? In that case it would be an unconstitutional proceeding, and if you are to pass Resolutions of this kind and Addresses to the Crown, they ought to be joint Resolutions and joint Addresses of both Houses. The main question after all is, "What are you going to do with the funds of the Irish Church?" And until we have an answer to it you have no right to get together a number of persons to vote on one side of the question without any idea of the principles that are to guide them hereafter. The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill) has his scheme, and would apply the funds to un-sectarian education. But, I would ask, is that the way to conciliate the Roman Catholics of Ireland? If there is one thing which they have been setting their faces against more than another it is un-sectarian education. The right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday that it was not to be endured that the tithes of Connaught should be taken and applied for the benefit of Churchmen in Ulster; but I want to know whether it is to be endured that the tithes of Connaught are to be applied to the building of lighthouses near Dublin or anywhere else, and whether when improvements are made the funds are to be applied for Irish purposes generally, or expended in the locality whence they are derived? If the 594 funds are to be taken in order to supply the wants of the people of Ireland generally, such a plan will be quite as inconsistent with the right hon. Gentleman's powers of endurance as the application of the tithes of Connaught for the benefit of the Churchmen of Ulster. This is not a separate property, and does not belong to the people of Connaught in particular. It belongs neither to the landlord nor to the tenant, but to the laity of Ireland; and if it is for the improvement of their religious instruction, I say it may fairly be taken and applied in any part of Ireland where it may be wanted. I pass by Earl Russell's scheme of distribution, which no one is ready to adopt, and which the noble Lord himself condemned with such great effect very recently before he adopted it. We might, therefore, rely on his condemnation as sufficient for our purpose. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), as I understand it, would leave something to the Church, though he would take away a good deal and secularize it; but he has not told us what particular mode of procedure he would recommend. We do not know, therefore, in what way the money is to be dealt with. That there is to be an unsettlement of everything is clear, and it is also clear that there is to be a settlement of nothing. You say that this is a sentimental grievance, and I, for one, do not assert that the circumstance of a grievance being sentimental is not enough to cause persons to resent it; but I maintain that, when you have a sentimental grievance on the one side, and are going to make a more than sentimental grievance on the other, it is only fair and just that the persons on whom you are going to make the experiment should know what is to be the destination of the funds of which you are about to despoil them. But I am told, of all things, that it is not legitimate to say in this debate that the question of the Irish Church affects the stability of the English and Scotch Churches. I can quite understand that there are those who are, like the mother in her extremity, who threw away her children to save herself from the devouring wolf; but, at the same time, I do not remember that incident to have been regarded as a very happy instance of maternal feeling. The course taken by that selfish mother does not commend itself to those who feel themselves bound to Ireland by sympathy and the ties of blood and religion. I am not so disposed to 595 throw her overboard; and I am still less disposed to do so when a course is taken which affects—and materially afffcts—the principles upon which the Church Establishment rests in the sister country; for, whatever may be said, the main arguments which have been used by the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members who sit below the Gangway, and with perfect consistency by the latter, in support of those Resolutions, are in favour of religious equality. Now, religious equality I do not understand, either in principle or practice, to apply to only one part of the Empire. I say, therefore, it is not unreasonable in us to object, if you are going to touch part of our Church, that on that principle you are, in fact, touching the whole, and upsetting the grounds upon which alone the Establishments of the country—Church and State—can be defended. If it is necessary for religious equality that there shall be no endowments or privileges accorded to the ministers of the Established Church, then I understand the argument. It is the voluntary system pure and simple, and one fairly to be debated and argued; but you cannot justly put forward religions equality when you are only going to apply the principle to a small part of the Empire. What will be gained by this great sacrifice of principles on our parts if we are to accede to it? You have promised us nothing, and you have brought nothing before us to justify such a sacrifice; but if you can show that at this dear rate you can bring perfect harmony and concord in every part of our dominions, Heaven knows how many prejmlices—how many sacrifices of a deeper nature everybody would be ready to make to obtain so desirable an object. If justice required that we should give up those things on which our hearts are set—that the interests of the whole country required it, and there was before us a certainty of obtaining that which we all desire, then there are reasons for renouncing opinion, and I, for one, if I could not assent, would at least withdraw out of my way and let others carry this measure for the benefit of all. But when I do not see that the desired end would be attained, I then continue advocating on this side of the House principles which I advocated from the opposite side; and if changes in those principles are to be made it shall not be by my hand that the stab shall be given, and not on these Benches that the change shall be made. I will leave to others to effect purposes 596 which I may no longer be able to resist. Well, Sir, what is the great emergency that has arisen calling on us to make these enormous sacrifices, which, likewise, if we had made, we should have been taunted for making them on an occasion which did not require it to be done? Is it the miserable Fenianism that has prevailed in this country, or the base Fenianism in Ireland, spoken of the other night, calling on us to make this sacrifice of our time, of our duty, of all that is dear to us, in order to get rid of what would not be affected by it for a moment? Is it the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act? We have had the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act for many years. Has it interfered practically with the liberties of Ireland in the way it has been used? Has it interfered with the ordinary progress of business? Has it interfered with religious freedom? Has it interfered with ordinary freedom of intercourse? Has it not rather been used in emergencies, in order to give greater security to the real freedom of Ireland, by checking that which is lawless and upholding real loyalty and liberty? If you are to take this ground you will only be adding another to the right hon. Gentleman's list of dates which were last night cited to prove the imbecility and weakness of the English Parliament — its injustice, its unfairness, its readiness to do wrong so long as the wrong could be done with impunity; and he told us that up to the present time we had abstained from doing justice to Ireland, but now these things must be swept away, and he threw it in the teeth of Parliament that it had never done an act of justice to Ireland without having been compelled to do so. That, I think, is one of the disgraces of Parliament, which ought not to be recorded as a merit, or held up as an example to be followed on the present occasion. Well, I think I have shown that the present is not a fitting time at which such a change, if it were necessary, should be made; and I state boldly that nothing which has been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman is sufficient to convince the House that the people of this country reposes any confidence in the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire on this question. Surely, then, the people ought to be consulted before such a change is made. I further say that the first Resolution, if you should pass it, is not binding on the Parliament to which it will pass on 597 from the Journals of this House. I say that if you throw aside a compact, a statute made as a treaty, and say, "that is not to bind Parliament," how can you say that this Resolution, passed by a dying Parliament, is to bind its successor? You are putting this branch of the Legislature in an undue position. There is a complaint that the House of Lords has nothing to do. The reason is because you will not test its power to work. But it is an Assembly equal to this; and when you are calling upon us to proceed upon this dangerous and revolutionary path—for so it was called by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey)—you ought, at all events, to call into council that branch of the Legislature without which you cannot legislate. Again, I say, suppose you carry the Resolution, you do not show us the object in view or that you obtain the peace of Ireland. On the contrary, you would increase many of her evils. You complain of absenteeism; well, by the adoption of your scheme, I believe that you would increase it, and cause it to extend among the landlords as well as the clergy. [Laughter.] In answer to that laugh, I may observe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire admitted that in all great emergencies the clergy in Ireland had been found at the bedside of the sick and in the cottages of the poor. I believe that the charities of Ireland owe more to the clergy than to any other class of the community. We have been asked what course we intend to take upon this question. In the first place, if, in spite of the objection that we have taken, I believe justly, to the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman, you succeed in overthrowing the Amendment, our course is clear. We shall oppose the Resolutions themselves. If you ask what we would do—not in this Parliament, because it would have no opportunity of doing anything in the matter—but in the next Parliament, in the event of the Resolutions being carried, my reply is that I will give the right hon. Gentleman no other pledge than this—that we will act in accordance with the former part of the Amendment, and if, on the Report of the Commission, we are satisfied that it would be for the benefit of the Irish Church that certain modifications in it should be made, we will make them with a fearless hand. But if you ask us to go further, I will say, at least for myself, as I have upon former occasions, that I will not be a party to a measure for disestablishing 598 the Irish Church. I am not prepared to sever Ireland from England in religious matters, and present the spectacle of a Government in Ireland of a purely secular character, and a Government in England partially religious. [A laugh.] My form of expression is not, I am aware, as perfect as I could wish; but what I meant to say was, that I will not consent to the anomaly that Church and State should be dissevered in Ireland and remain connected in England. The right hon. Gentleman said that the disestablishment of the Irish Church would, as respected the Irish people, "Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow; Raze out the written troubles of the brain;" but he quite omitted to quote the preceding line, "Can'st thou not minister to a mind diseased?" It is the mind of Ireland that is diseased—a disease caused by a long traditionary hatred of the Saxon, and kept alive by constant agitation and misrepresentation. It is thus you have, as I believe, diseased the kindly and generous mind of Ireland, which, but for that pernicious agitation, I believe would have been in harmony with us at the present moment. The drug, however, which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to administer would not be a "sweet oblivious antidote," to appease the distempered mind of the disloyal, who would rather ask for some "purgative to scour these English hence." The measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would not tend in any degree to the desired end—to conciliate those who first of all told them that the land question was to be settled on a basis and in a way to which the present Parliament would never assent, and that in the end there is to be a repeal of that Union the inviolable and fundamental basis of which was the United Church of England and Ireland. I have looked through the speeches that have been made in this House for a statement of the specific wrongs—wrongs which call for specific remedies; I have looked in vain to find to whom you are to give these funds which you are going to take away from those now in possession of them. I have looked in vain for any statement in former debates or in this which will lead me to a conclusion upon this vital question. I say your Resolutions are founded on principles repugnant to, and far away from, the theory and the practice of the Constitution of the country, and will be provocative of strife, of enmity and of dissension, instead of paving the way for peace and harmony 599 between England and Ireland. If they conciliate one party, they will irritate another; and, although I will never believe that the Protestants of Ireland will become disloyal, yet there can be no doubt that will excite among them discontent and disaffection, there will be the injustice which is done them which must in the end react upon England. I feel bound, where no wrong has been done in the use of property by those to whom it belongs, to protest against the spoliation of it. I feel doubly bound, both as a just man and as an Englishman, to be true to the compact which is in force between the two countries. As a Churchman I cannot be indifferent to the condition of my brethren in the Faith in Ireland. I cannot be indifferent to the clergy who so zealously and so effectually have performed their duties in that country. To that fact I call to witness those Gentlemen who are the most opposed to the old endowments. I cannot be a party to sever that union between Church and State under which it is the glory and the privilege of the State to uphold the light of the Reformation in Ireland.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the speech he had just delivered, and the party opposite for the manner in which it had been cheered, because they could now understand the construction put by the Conservative party on the Amendment. He recognized the true Conservative accents in the speech of the Home Secretary, so different from that of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment. Which interpretation were they to place upon that Amendment—that of the noble Lord or the right hon. Member for Oxford University? They knew very well what "considerable modifications" meant. They meant—not any reformation in the Irish Church, that would do justice to Ireland, in the sense the Liberal party understood it. They were to be modifications within the Church itself. If that was so, why was the fact not stated on the face of the Amendment, so that every one could understand it?—that, while the Government thought they might make a certain re-distribution of revenues, they would not touch the question of disestablishment or disendowment? The right hon. Gentleman was so eloquent at the end of his speech, he uttered sentiments so noble, that he was loth to recur to the recriminations of his right hon. Friend, in which he indulged at the commencement. It was, indeed, a 600 curious phase in political vicissitudes that it should have fallen to the lot of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford to speak of the sudden conversion of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone). And how did he prove the rapidity of that conversion? He brought forward letters which had been published in newspapers. He referred to anonymous communications. ["No, no!"] Then let them have names. He (Mr. Goschen) called communications anonymous which had no name appended to them. To the public at least the letter was anonymous. But if the right hon. Gentleman wanted to know what were his right hon. Friend's sentiments in 1865, why had he not turned to the debate? Why did he not refer to the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside)? He would then clearly have seen what were the views of his right hon. Friend in regard to the Irish Church. In the letter attributed to his right hon. Friend it was stated that the question of the Irish Church was remote from the policy of the day. Did the right hon. Gentleman consider that three years ago the question of household suffrage was remote from the question of the day? He thought that accusations of inconsistency came rather awkwardly from the right hon. Gentleman. But he would not dwell upon this. There was one remark which fell from the right hon. Gentleman that would be received with pleasure on that side of the House. He said, if the question of justice to Ireland could be made out, if that were really at stake, he would have to consider whether he should not be obliged to surrender cherished convictions, and, in spite of the Church to which he belonged, to do justice to Ireland. This was the plea of those who sat on that side of the House. Justice required this to be done. It was no use to speak of dangers to other communities. Justice must be done in this matter to Ireland by the Imperial Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the price that was to be paid. It was not a question of price, but of justice. If it was just to Ireland that the Irish Church should be disestablished, then it was impssible he should speak of price. The right hon. Gentleman had entirely abandoned the line of argument adopted last night. He repeated the usual arguments in favour of an Established Church — vested interests, the Act of Union, danger to the Church in England, and the animosity 601 of the Orangemen in Ireland. It was said the Treaty of Union deprived us of the right to deal with the question of the Established Church of Ireland. How could this be? The Act of Union last year was called a compact between two nations; but what if both agreed to a revision of their compact? It was the majority of the people in England who wished to revise the Act of Union as regarded the Established Church of Ireland; and who opposed it? One branch of the people alone — the Protestants in Ireland. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to maintain the Act of Union? The 4th Article had been dealt with again and again, and why should not the 5th be also dealt with? Then, as to vested rights, the right hon. Gentleman attempted to prove that not only the clergy but the laity had vested interests in the revenues of the Irish Church. What were those vested rights? They were no more vested rights than were those rights with which right hon. Gentleman opposite had dealt over and over again. Did they remember the action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners? Did they forget the action of the Government itself in regard to the public schools? This property was the property of the State, and Parliament retained the full right to deal with it. The title of the Irish Church to most of its revenues was a Parliamentary title only, and Parliament had a right to deal with it. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of secularizing the property of the Church; but they had already secularized a portion of its revenues by putting 25 per cent of the tithe into the pockets of the landlords. The right hon. Gentleman shifted his ground to suit his convenience. His whole argument was untenable. The Church of Ireland was a Parliamentary Church, like the Church of England, and Parliament had a right to deal with it. There was another argument to which he had listened with great surprise. It was this—that the Church of England might possibly suffer through the action we might take in regard to that of Ireland. He must admit with regret that such an argument was not only pusillanimous on the part of English Churchmen, but was also immoral. Nothing could be more unjust than for England to say to Ireland, "In order to preserve our Church we will refuse you yours." What was the object of the letter which had been written by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury? It was simply an invitation 602 to the clergy of England to preach to their flocks against encouraging justice being done to Ireland. ["Oh, Oh!"] Was not the impression such a letter was likely to make upon the minds of the clergy that their interests were bound up in those of the Irish Church. Was not its object to appeal to religion to the prejudice of justice? These were the only results that could flow from an attempt to tie up the questions of the English and the Irish Churches together. For his own part he did not believe that the English Church was in danger; but, even assuming that it were, what would the Irish people say of a Union which enabled the argument to be used that, for fear we in England might suffer, we should refuse to do justice to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the effect that any Motion of this kind might have upon the Protestants of Ireland, and he pointed out very accurately and graphically that, when the House began to touch any part of a nation on its religious side, they were sure to raise feelings with which it was difficult to deal. The fact was, that the grievances which touched the religious sentiments of a people were always most serious, and it was for that reason that they were now endeavouring to deal with the question of the Irish Church Establishment. The right hon. Gentleman, while declaring that the grievance of the Irish people in this matter was only a sentimental one, acknowledged its gravity. But he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any of those sentimental grievances existed in England or in Scotland as well as in Ireland? Was not the grievance of the Irish people in this respect greater than that of England was with regard to the church rates with which that House had just dealt? Why, in Scotland even so small a matter as the Annuity Tax had raised a storm that it was difficut to quell, and yet hon. Members were surprised that Ireland should feel strongly upon this question. The right hon. Gentleman said that, supposing that House should consent to the disestablishment of the Irish Church, they had no guarantee that Ireland would be pacified by the sacrifice. But the question was not whether Ireland would or would not be pacified by the sacrifice, but whether it was the duty of England to make it. In his opinion, however, the disestablishment of the Irish Church would be no small step towards the pacification of that country. Would not the fact of England 603 doing an act of justice have a good effect upon the minds of the Irish people? Had that country no representatives in that House who could appreciate such an act of conciliation? The right hon. Gentleman objected to the time when this Motion was brought forward, and had pleaded for delay; but why was it that this question had not been dealt with before? It was because of the opposition of the Conservative party, who were too strong to allow the Liberals to carry any measure which they might have introduced with the view of settling this question. But now that the Conservative party occupied the Benches on the other side of the House the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench sat there more or less to do the work of the Liberal party. When they were in Opposition it was impossible to carry great measures of this kind, because great questions could seldom be settled when there was but a slight difference in the numerical strength of parties. If the Conservative party were at that moment to come forward with a policy for Ireland worthy of the name, they would meet with the hearty co-operation of the Liberal party. The right hon. Gentleman asked why this question was forced on at the present moment. It was because Her Majesty's Government had made it necessary to deal with this subject by coming forward with a policy for Ireland which was, in point of fact, no policy at all, and had so thrown out a challenge to the Liberal party. Had not the Liberal party accepted the challenge, depend upon it that the Irish Members would not have permitted it to pass unnoticed. He was glad to hear that night from the right hon. Gentleman that he had abandoned the theory that this question could not be dealt with by a moribund Parliament which, if he was not mistaken, was started by the Prime Minister.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he was glad that the Parliament had been declared competent to entertain this question, and hoped that the Conservative press would take notice of that declaration, and would leave off saying that the Parliament was not competent to deal with the question. In his opinion, the House was quite competent to deal with the subject, and it was most important that they should do so without further delay. The right hon. 604 Gentleman asked whether they were to pledge their successors; but the real question was, did they wish to pledge themselves upon this question? Was it not important that public opinion should ripen upon this subject? If Her Majesty's Government would only lend the Liberal party some assistance the question might be easily settled; it was the will and not time that was wanting. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the action that the other House might take; but it would merely have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire explained that, before the Irish Church could be dealt with, a Bill must be introduced into Parliament, and must pass successively through all the usual stages, and that the introduction of such a Bill must be preceded by an Address to the Crown upon the subject. The question would be amply discussed, and there would be every opportunity offered for either of the two great parties, and for individual Members, to pledge themselves either for or against the principle of such a Bill. He was not aware what opinion the right hon. Gentleman held with respect to the continuity of such promises; but he was convinced that any action taken by the present Parliament would not fail to have an influence, and a very strong influence, upon the new Parliament. He did not see why they should be so tender of the feelings of the next Parliament, nor why they should be so frightened of hampering them by any action they might take in this matter. It was difficult for the House to comprehend the policy of Her Majesty's Government, although they had certainly heard the negative portion of it announced that night. It was evident from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that nothing was intended to be done. Were not the words of the noble Lord's Amendment, proposing to defer all action until after the conclusion, of the pending inquiry, sufficient of themselves to condemn the Government policy? What necessity was there to inquire further to arrive at a conclusion one way or another, whether the Irish Church ought to be abolished, although it might be necessary, before the details of any plan for dealing with the Irish Church could be determined upon? The reproach that the Opposition had not shown their hands enough came curiously from the Government. Why did not they show their hands? Why were the Opposition to bring forward their measure now? 605 The noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland made use of some extraordinary phrases; he talked about the degradation of the English Church in Ireland, and said the policy of the Government was not to degrade, but to produce equality by elevation. Nothing had escaped from Ministers to throw the slightest light on that oracular statement. It was important the country should know what it meant. Did it mean anything? Did it mean the endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy? The official representative of the Irish Government said the policy of the Government was to level upwards. Could anything be more natural or necessary than that the Opposition should bring forward a counter policy and say that the Church of England in Ireland ought to cease to exist as an Establishment? He (Mr. Goschen) objected altogether to what was said by the noble Lord as to the degradation of the Church. The Establishment would not necessarily be degraded if disendowed and disestablished. He rejected the theory that this was degradation; it was far more elevating that a Church should stand on its own basis where it was in a minority. Disestablishment would strengthen rather than weaken the Church of England in Ireland. We had no right to treat this question according to our private views of what we wished to be. We had only to ask what was just and right, and no time could be too early to do that. That sufficient Votes in Supply had not been taken was no reason for delay. The pacification of Ireland and the additional strength Government would derive from it would amply compensate for any inconvenience resulting from a little delay. The argument of time entirely broke down; and the right hon. Member for the Oxford University (Mr. G. Hardy) did not attach much importance to it; indeed, he wished to fight this matter on its merits; and it was upon its merits that the Liberal party would be prepared to deal with it.
MR. PEEL DAWSON
said, that as this was not the first occasion on which he had addressed the House on the subject, and as his general opinions upon it were well known, he would not speak at any length, or be the means of preventing other hon. Members who might not have had the same opportunities as himself from expressing their sentiments upon this all-important question of national interest. His intentions were, as heretofore, to support those ecclesiastical institutions in Ireland 606 which had so long existed as connecting links between the two countries, and which could not be dissolved without the possibility, nay, to his mind, the certainty, of universal disaster. If we allowed all prescriptive rights to property, which had been sanctioned by a duration of more than 300 years, to be swept away at the instance of political caprice, and to suit the exigencies of a party struggling for office, what security could there be for property of all other descriptions? Was it fair and just to the descendants of men who undertook as it were to colonize Ireland for the purpose of assisting to promote British interests? If it had not been for the supposed security of the Protestant religion under the full guarantee of the whole power of England, the emigration of English and Scotch settlers in the seventeenth century would not have taken place, and we should not have possessed in the population of Ireland that loyal element which desired to remain British in allegiance to the Crown, in legislative union, and in the profession of the same religious creed. The Protestants in Ireland, and in the northern provinces especially, would feel deeply the proposed infringement of what they had a right to assume was their recognized position. Let the House remember they had always been the best friends of this country in all periods of danger and difficulty. The English Church had been built up at British instigation, and its friends objected to the sudden reversal of the policy of centuries, which alone had maintained in Ireland the germ of a friendly connection with this country. In dealing with a purely Irish question upon party grounds the Parliament of the United Kingdom was assuming a vast responsibility, and that at a time particularly inopportune, because its days were numbered, and any solution it could arrive at could not in any way be considered permanent. Why, therefore, should the peace of Ireland be prematurely endangered? Why should man be set against man, when disaffection was rampant and stalking through the country? Was it to be done merely because it suited parties to raise the hustings' cry of religious equality, which in this case meant nothing more than pulling down one form of religion in order to establish another? No doubt such an intention would be disavowed in that House; but the matter was easily understood in Ireland, and the object was scarcely denied or contradicted in certain circles of society. The Irish 607 were naturally a religious people, and they would not long permit the absence of a State recognition of religion. They might do without it for a few years; but he felt certain that the disestablishment of the Protestant Church there would inevitably be followed by a vigorous and unscrupulous struggle to raise up another ecclesiastical Establishment on its ruins. As a resident Irishman, and one strongly interested in the internal order and prosperity of the country, he at once admitted that he would not refuse, in a further reformed and new Parliament, to consider and accept certain modifications with regard to the position of the three chief Churches existing in Ireland. He would desire to see a satisfactory arrangement made by the State for adequately endowing the Roman Catholic Church, and liberally increasing the Grant to the Presbyterian Churches, so that the officers of each religion in Ireland might be placed in a more suitable and, at the same time, in a more thoroughly independent position. This, however, should be done without any infringement upon the endowments of the Episcopal Church in Ireland. In his opinion, and that of the people among whom he lived, her revenues belonged to herself, being derived, as they were in a great measure, from individual benefactions, after being confirmed and ratified by repeated Acts of Parliament. A halfpenny in the pound of additional income-tax, if properly distributed, would place every officer of religion belonging to the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches in Ireland in a suitable and proper pecuniary position. If England was in earnest in the promises of good-will she had been lavishly making for the pacification of Ireland, he would suggest that this aid should be spontaneously offered, feeling sure that it would be gratefully and advantageously accepted. All parties seemed agreed that Ireland's great grievance was proprietary absenteeism, and would not that be greatly increased and aggravated by any weakening of the Protestant Church? We had been trying to induce the landowner to reside upon his estate; would he be more inclined to do so if we destroyed his Church and deprived him of the comfort and consolation derived from the presence of his clergyman? Common sense and reason forbade it, and he maintained that it would be impossible, in many rural and sparsely-populated districts to keep up even the semblance of a Protestant place of worship if voluntary contributions were solely to be 608 depended upon. The social condition of the Protestant clergyman must be deteriorated, and in the present condition of Ireland that must be considered not a social only, but would be a national calamity. A compilation of figures had been made one of the ground works of the argument in favour of the Resolutions; but how fallacious must it be when the whole population of Ireland had been for cars retrograding. The loss to the Roman Catholic Church had been reckoned at one-third, whilst the less to the Protestant Church, from emigration and other causes, had been less than one-fifth. He maintained that the position of the Church was now stronger, because more efficient, than at any anterior period. The clergy were almost universally resident, and pluralities had been almost entirely abolished; and until this question had been recently disinterred from the oblivion in which, happily, it had rested, there was no disposition amongst the people of Ireland to re-open the question of religions endowment. But there was yet an additional fact which ought not to be forgotten in England. He was one of the last persons who would desire to widen the broach of religions asperity, or make invidious or sectarian comparisons; but when a subject which involved the future peace of Ireland was discussed, was it possible to overlook the fact of the vast amount of industry and energy which characterized Protestant Ulster as contradistinguished from the misery and disaffection which abounded in the Southern and Western districts. Which class of the population cost the Imperial Exchequer most? In the Protestant North there were few soldiers and fewer police—not amounting to one-third of the available force stationed in the South and West. Was it possible to deny that this superior prosperity, order, and morality were attributable to the influence of the two Protestant Churches? He could assert that from the day they undermined the loyalty of the Protestant population in Ireland by alienating their affections—as they would do by passing the Resolutions before the House—the might date a change in the Government of the country which he feared would prove not only overwhelming, but also insurmountable.
MR. M'CULLAGH TORRENS
said: Sir, fault has been found with the speech of the noble Lord who moved this Amendment for want of candour. But candour is of two kinds—that which is articulate and that which is mute; and there is a 609 silence which is more significant than any speech. The noble Lord uttered some admissions for which we ought to be obliged to him. He confessed that no man could stand up with grave face and say that this question of the Irish Church would not be the first debated in the new Parliament; that he did not think anyone would deny the scandal of the present condition of things; and that the question was not whether anything should be done, but what ought to be done? I am not surprised that these admissions should be rather too much for the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranborne); but on this side of the House we received them as promissory notes at twelve months, payment of which is certain to be demanded when they are due. Meanwhile, the noble Lord asks for time, that his party may arrange their affairs; and his critics call this covering his intentions with a thick veil of reticence. But enough of the veil has been raised to show us what is behind. The noble Lord gives up sectarian ascendancy. He is even half inclined to abandon the principle of Establishment, which he calls little more than an empty title. But I agree with the noble Lord (Viscount Cranborne) that the principle of an Establishment is anything but "an empty sound." Misused as it has been in Ireland for three centuries, it has been the ever intermittent tocsin of civil feuds; and it is just because it is not an empty title that we wish to see it brought to an end. But I am bound to go somewhat further on this point, and to say plainly that if the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman committed us to disestablishment without disendowment, I, for one, could not vote for them. He has himself disclaimed any such intention in terms free of all ambiguity. The scheme for endowing all sects, while establishing none, in the hope of thereby directly or indirectly obtaining a controlling influence over the minds of men, is based upon notions of Government fit for a commissioner of police, but wholly unworthy of a statesman. That which gives dignity and grandeur to the principle of endowment is Establishment. It is policy in partnership with religion. The partnership may be ill-advised, or it may not; when unsuitable as in Ireland, it works ill and ends in failure. Elsewhere the union of Church and State has a different aspect. But why does it not work satisfactorily in Ireland? Because the Establishment does not represent the preponderant wealth, intelligence, or worth of the community; 610 because from the beginning it has been, in the words of the Prime Minister, "an alien Church." Bishop Mant has this remarkable expression in his well-known history of that Church, of which he was himself a prelate, that the first step taken in the Reformation in Ireland, was the sending over Brown to be Archbishop of Dublin. Three-and-twenty Archbishops have succeeded him in the metropolitan see; and of these, sixteen have been Englishmen, but seven Irishmen. In the same period twenty-two prelates have filled the primacy, of whom I find that there have been Englishmen sixteen, Irishmen but six; and yet you call this a national Church. What manner of men these have chiefly been, and to what class the belonged, I shall have a word to say by-and-by. What I contend for is, that the representative character of an Establishment, that which can only dignify and justify the connection of Church and State, never belonged to the ecclesiastical institution which you imposed on Ireland; and it is demonstrable that, in point of fact, that institution was used systematically, generation after generation, as a draw farm whereon to fatten needy members of governing families in this country, and in Ireland, or their immediate dependents. Take the primacy in the last four reigns. It was held for thirty years by Lord Rokeby, who made the fortune of his family out of its revenues. It was next given to a younger son of Lord Bute. At his death it was conferred on Lord John George Beresford; and upon his decease in 1862, another member of the noble family of Waterford was raised to the primatial see. In 1768 a man was promoted to the rich diocese of Derry, of whom it is impossible to speak even now with the reticence of contempt — I mean Lord Bristol. Facts might be mentioned regarding him, paralleled only in the annals of the reprobate clergy of France before the Revolution. Lord Bristol was succeeded by a relative of Lord Ranfurly; and he was in time followed in the see, which was then regarded as, in point of emoluments, the counterpart of unreduced Durham, by Dr. Ponsonby, the brother of an Irish Nobleman, and the brother-in-law of the late Earl Grey. I will only instance one other diocese, that of Tuam, the population of which has always been in an overwhelming portion Catholic, and which for more than a century has, in unbroken succession, been used by the Governments of the day, whatever their party principles may have 611 been to confer fortune and the honours of the spiritual Peerage on members of noble families. The present Bishop is the brother of Lord Bandon; the late Bishop was Lord Plunket; his predecessor was the brother of the Earl of Clancarty; his predecessor was one of the richly endowed house of Beresford; and his predecessor was an ancestor of the noble Lord the present Secretary for Ireland, son of a former Bishop of Waterford, and himself an Irish Peer. And what is the present condition of the Irish Episcopal Bench? Out of twelve prelates, who, at the present hour, bear ecclesiastical rule in that country, both the Archbishops and four of their suffragans are either Peers or the immediate relatives of Noblemen. Can this then be called the Church of the nation? Or can it be contended with any show of reason or truth that, in the sense in which the Church in England is representative of the talent, learning, worth, and piety of the community in general, the Anglican Establishment in the sister country is a national Church. For myself, I should be sorry if even inadvertently any word should fall from me disparaging of the character of the working clergy of that Church, whom, as a body, I believe to be exemplary, useful, and accomplished men. I am sure that nothing can be further from my intention than to utter a disrespectful word of the Liturgy or the tenets of a Communion, in which are numbered all who have been and who are most dear to me in life, and of which, though an humble, I have always been a sincere member. But I speak not at second hand but of personal knowledge, when I say that Anglican Protestantism in Ireland—all that is most vital and influential for good in that system of religions teaching depends, as it has long depended, not upon the legal Establishment maintained for its support by law, but upon the voluntary sympathy and support of those who value its consolations; and my firm persuasion, not of yesterday, but of a date as far back as I am able to recollect the formation of a deliberate opinion, is, that after you have decreed that compulsory payments in support of that Church shall cease and determine, its ministers will still be supported wherever there is work for them to do, by the energy and earnestness of the laity to whom they minister. I confess I have always thought it incomprehensible that the section of society in Ireland, which possesses by far the greatest share of wealth in money and wealth in land, 612 should profess to fear its inability to do for its clergy what the Presbyterians and Catholics do for theirs. I am confident that when the Establishment shall have been brought to an end, and its present revenues shall have been devoted to general use, the Anglican Faith will continue to find many and worthy pastors in Ireland; but they will be distributed congregationally in-stead of parochially, and adequately remunerated according to their labours. I heard the Home Secretary dwell, I own with much surprise, upon the stipulations made and the inducements held out at the Union as reasons why Parliament should not even entertain any question affecting the Establishment of the Irish Church. It may be true that to the friends of ascendancy assurances were given, that in a united Parliament the stability of the Establishment would never be disturbed; and I will not pause to dispute that the 5th Article of the Union seems to confirm that implication. But I must say the conduct of the Government at the time of the Union and the means by which that great Act of Policy was brought about, are the last topics on which judicious friends of the Church would do well to rely. The history of that Act is one shameful chronicle of wise intentions baffled, and splendid promises unfulfilled. The intention of Mr. Pitt was, undoubtedly, by conciliating the just claims of all classes and creeds of the people of Ireland to consolidate the Empire. The project of Union was in itself unpopular; and confessedly it could never have been carried had the great body of the Catholic clergy and laity persistently opposed it. In the memoirs of Lord Cornwallis and of Mr. Pitt, there is damnatory proof in abundance that the Union could never have been obtained but for the inducement held out to the Roman Catholics, not only that their civil rights should be conceded, but that a provision should be made for their clergy. A remarkable letter of Lord Castlereagh's has been preserved, in which he expostulates gravely and temperately, but with eloquent force and point, upon the way in which he had himself been made use of to gain over the Catholics to the Union. He reminds the Premier how often the measure had been rejected in 1799; he had been summoned to attend the Cabinet where the claims of the Catholics were fully discussed, and how, being referred for official instructions to the Duke of Portland as to the intentions of the Government, he had been 613 authorized to communicate those intentions to Lord Cornwallis, by whom they had been regarded as instructions for his guidance as Viceroy. And there is a letter describing the beneficial effects thus produced after the Union was carried, and while yet its illusions remained undispelled. On the 2nd of February, 1801, Lord Cornwallis wrote to his Chief Secretary—Nobody would have believed, three years ago, that the Union, Catholic Emancipation, and the restoration of perfect tranquillity, could have taken place in so short a time.But the Union having been carried, faith was broken; the Catholics found themselves egregiously duped; the Premier and the Viceroy, to save their personal honour, resigned; and Catholic Ireland fell back into despair; agrarian crime and political sedition resumed their alternate away. For nine-and-twenty years the civil disabilities of the Catholics remained unremoved. Nine-and-thirty years have passed since then, and the religious disabilities still continue. The pledges given at the Union are still but half-fulfilled; and you are still unable to govern Ireland without suspension of the Habeas Corpus; prosecutions of the Press; and a garrison of five-and-twenty thousand men. I am one of those who wish to see the Union maintained, and all question of its stability set at rest. But I fearlessly assert that you have no moral claim to the acquiescence of Ireland in the continuance of the Union until you have redeemed the forfeited word by which it was carried, and without which you have the documentary evidence contained in the confession of the Minister by whom it was brought about that it could not have been carried. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire had been taunted with having come forward—no doubt at a great sacrifice of personal feeling—to do what he considered an act of duty—to rescue a much stricken land from its deplorable condition. Much had been said of the hasty conversion of the right hon. Gentleman, but he thought they had got beyond that. If any persons should desire to seek exemption from Hansard taunts, surely it was right hon. Gentlemen opposite. When last year the Members of the present Government were twitted with sudden conversion to household suffrage, what was their reply? They said they had always desired a permanent settlement of Reform if any change were to be made; and they said that they yielded from a sense of duty 614 in the pressing exigency of the case. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone), may fairly defend himself on similar grounds. He has always been a friend of religious liberty, though hitherto a defender of the Church Establishment; but convinced at last that sectarian justice cannot be secured without its surrender he has the courage to avow his change of opinion on the subject; and, looking at the condition of Ireland and the external position of the Empire he may honestly and conscientiously plead his sense of duty as inspiring him to take his present course. Well, I am no more a sudden convert to religious equality in Ireland, than I was last year to household suffrage. The policy we are now about to initiate by a Vote of this House is one for which I have longed and striven from the day when I first entered public life. I have had some opportunities of estimating from within as well as from without the difficulties as they are called of governing Ireland. I had the honour of being associated many years ago with Sir George Lewis and other men of public worth and character, in the memorable inquiry, directed by Lord Melbourne, into the condition of the labouring classes of that country. I had also the privilege to act in a confidential capacity in the administration of the Government of Ireland by Lord Bessborough, during the deplorable period of the famine; and I can testify from personal observation and intimate knowledge of the wants and the feelings of all classes of the community that Ireland is a country as easily governed as any other upon earth, provided you will govern it justly. What was said by Sir John Davis, three centuries ago, is still true, though hitherto you have not believed it, that there is no people in Christendom that appreciates so quickly the spirit of justice in their rulers, or who value more highly the equality of laws. We had seen this evidenced during the fearful days of the famine; in the midst of all whose troubles the country was perfectly quiet and still. With the exception of one solitary outrage, there was no violence, there was no outrage committed upon property, although there was not in the island the means of restraining any which might have arisen. He believed there was no anti-Protestant feeling among the peasantry of Ireland; but, on the contrary, a sincere Catholic feeling, which he, as a Protestant, hoped would continue to exist, for of all the evils 615 which could befall a country, he thought indifferentism was the worst. He believed our safety depended greatly on the respect in which the Irish people held their priesthood, and on the genuine and just influence which that priesthood exercised over the people, and he prayed that the opportunity of destroying that confidence between the priesthood and the people might never arise in the course which some persons, both in and out of that House, advocated, of endowing that priesthood. He did not wish to see the bribe offered or taken; the Established Church in Ireland ought to be disendowed, and its property applied to the benefit of all, irrespective of creed. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary had inquired what was to be done with the money which would be obtained. He believed that the true application of the property of the Church would be in this wise. There were two Irish questions which were perpetually before Parliament — the land question and the Church question. Whenever the Church question was under consideration they were told that the land question was the really vital difficulty, and whenever their attention was called to the land question it was the Church which was said to be of vital importance. He believed this alternation to be a miserable trick of logic. The two questions should be dealt with simultaneously; and the property which would be obtained from the disendowment of the Church he would apply to solve the land difficulty. The great evil of Ireland had been at all times the want of a middle class; and he did not concur in the hope expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill), that a class of small peasant proprietors might be created, because the time had gone by for that species of holding. The world was tending rather too rapidly the other way, and it was impossible to go against the stream. But he did not despair of seeing the property which was now misapplied to sectarian uses ultimately applied to the creation of a permanent fund of improvement, by means of which property could be bought up at its full value, and re-let on long leases and in large farms. He could not think that anyone would be injured thereby, and as to the Church of Ireland and its Protestantism being undermined, because that which was invented by the Tudors was not perpetuated in the reign of our Gracious Queen, and because certain Bishoprics were not given to members of noble families, and 616 deaneries to favourites of those in power, he no more believed that than he believed that the House was capable of doing a wilful wrong to any one class of the people of this country. He believed that the Anglican Church in Ireland was in the main indebted for its vitality to the voluntary principle. He remembered hearing it said upon one occasion by a witty friend that Protestantism in Ireland stooped for gold and Popery won the race. He hoped to see at an early period the Established Church in Ireland disendowed, and its revenues applied in the manner he had suggested.
SIR HERVEY BRUCE
Sir, as one of the representatives of the Protestant North, alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, the House will perhaps bear with me while I make a few observations on this most important subject which is under discussion; but before I do so I must allude to the observations just made by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. M'Cullagh Torrens) — observations I believe without the smallest foundation, and accusations the most unwarrantable I ever remember to have heard in this House. He has accused a right rev. Prelate who has been in his grave for nearly seventy years (a circumstance which makes proof of his inaccuracy difficult) — he has accused Lord Bristol, when Bishop of Derry, of inviting his clergy to dine with him to propound to them his disbelief in the existence of a God. I feel confident no such occurrence ever took place; and if the hon. Gentleman is as inaccurate in his assertions as to what took place in the far past, as he is in those which we cannot contradict, much value will not attach to his unsupported statement. He has told us Dr. Ponsonby was the last Bishop of Derry, ignoring altogether the existence of the late Dr. Higgins, who came to Derry as an Englishman, a stranger to us, elevated, not for aristocratic connections, but for his own merits, and who was taken from us, regretted by all who were brought in contact with him, after fifteen years' occupation of that See. The hon. Member for Finsbury wished to show that none but members of noble families were made Bishops, therefore to acknowledge the episcopate of Dr. Higgins did not suit his argument. So when he can misstate as to the present, much value will not attach to his aspersion on the memory of the dead nearly seventy years back. I will 617 now leave the hon. Gentleman, and come to the matter under discussion; and in doing so will first explain my reasons for placing an Amendment on the Paper. It was with no wish to embarrass the Government, more particularly after the straightforward and manly statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. But the Amendment of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary has been called obscure—and indeed I do not myself altogether like its wording; therefore I was determined to put down words which could not be misunderstood. I have no intention at the present time to enter upon the history of the Church, her undoubted rights, her ancient privileges, and her title to her property before the Church of Rome ever held sway in Ireland; and my reasons are two-fold. First, it has been so often and so ably done before, that anything I could say, following those so much better qualified to speak on the subject than I am, would fall flatly on the ears of the House. Secondly, as the Motion now is only for going into Committee, a more fitting time will arrive to discuss the subject from its foundation. Nor will I use the argument ad hominem, because in the varying circumstances of time opinions must change upon some matters. Therefore, an argument founded upon the circumstance of your opponent having once thought differently from his present convictions does not of necessity make your position right. But there are times for and modes of changing, if weight is to be attached to your change of opinion, and I cannot think that the time and mode chosen for the expression of his new conviction by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) will add weight or dignity to his present expression of them—a weight which otherwise must always be given to the views of a gentleman of such unrivalled eloquence, intellectual genius, and unvarying industry as the right hon. Gentleman; and I say new convictions, because they are new as far as the outside world has hitherto known, though the right hon. Gentleman tells us his more intimate friends and former constituents were well aware of his changed opinions twenty years ago. For my part, I prefer being guided by the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman as expressed in his earlier and happier days, maintained with eloquence and power during twenty-five years of his more vigorous manhood, to the new opinions, the result apparently of those more unhallowed inspirations which 618 induced him to quote last night a passage from the most beautiful instance of faith recorded in the life of our Saviour, for no purpose of argument which I could see except to compare his Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen even to the dogs which eat the crumbs. I am told there are some on these Benches who will leave us on this occasion. I cannot understand their reasons; but I could well understand why some hon. Gentleman on the other side might consider their Leader in his newly-inspired zeal was leading them too fast, and their telling him they could not follow. And I cannot help saying I listened with the deepest regret to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranborne)—a speech of a bitterness I hope never to hear again. I cannot help thinking he accused unfairly the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, when he said his votes in favour of Reform last year were at variance with the words of the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor), which he seconded in 1866. I will take the liberty of reading the words of the Resolution—That this House, while ready to consider, with a view to its settlement, the question of Parliamentary Reform, is of opinion that it is inexpedient to discuss a Bill for the reduction of the Franchise in England and Wales until the House has before it the entire scheme contemplated by the Government for the Amendment of the Representation of the Fcoplo."—[3 Mansard, clxxxii. 1156]and ask the House, whether they did not rather pledge the noble Lord to support Reform than otherwise? The speech of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford was loudly cheered by hon. Gentlemen on the other side. I can understand and appreciate cheers won from an opponent by the expression of a generous sentiment; but I can neither understand nor appreciate cheers won by taunts and abuse of those among whom you sit — imputing motives to those with whom, during your political career, you have been associated in close and intimate terms; because there were portions of their policy with which you differed—a course of conduct which embraced in its censure not only the Chief, whom the noble Lord may personally dislike, but the whole of the great party who followed that Chief to victory—a victory which I believe will be for the good of the nation. I should now like to say a word to the Roman Catholic Members of the House. I cannot understand how men of undoubted honour and integrity in all the 619 social affairs of life can reconcile it to their conscience, having regard to their oath, and the pledges made on their behalf in 1829, to vote for the abolition of the Established Church of Ireland; and I would be the last man to say a word willingly disrespectful to them, or tending to hurt their feelings, for in my political career I owe them many obligations, and I have among them many personal friends; but it seems strange to me how they can vote for the destruction of the Established Church of Ireland. If there is anything in the teaching of their Church which justifies such a course, it behoves us, as Protestants, to be more watchful over our interests. Well, then, we are told that a State Church is not necessary. Is the State to ignore its duty to provide the means of worship for its people? Is the State to say, I care not whether you have means of worship or not? Bad for a country when its Government proclaims itself indifferent as to providing the means of worship for its people. I maintain that the State ought to offer the means; but the State cannot enforce the using of the means; and what the State offers must of necessity be the religion of the State. The alliance now formed between the voluntaries of England and the Roman Catholics cannot last. They have no object in common but the overthrow of the Protestant Establishment. I should have fancied that the Church of England, with the greater liberty of opinion given to its members than the Church of Rome grants, would have better accorded with the views of the advocates of voluntaryism. But the Church in Ireland must fall, say both; hence the temporary alliance, an alliance unreasoning and unreasonable, save for the exigencies of the moment; but voluntaryism, speaking for itself, must of necessity be more hostile to the Church of Rome, with its unbounded demands for spiritual power, than to the I Church of England. We are again told that in England the Established Church lives in the hearts of the people, and in Ireland that it does not. Let us analyze that statement. I ask you voluntaries of England, Does the Church of England live in your hearts? Does it live, and leave its impress on the heart of the hon. Member for Sheffield? No. I believe he and you taste it more bitterly than any Roman Catholic tastes the Established Church of Ireland. I venture to say that the Church of Ireland is more dear to its members than is the Church of England. Both, 620 perhaps, are distasteful to those who differ; but are we for that reason to overthrow an ancient Establishment, the growth of centuries, and respected, as I know, by many of my Roman Catholic countrymen. Protestants of England, I ask you to pause. Depend upon it, if our Church falls, the argument of living in the hearts of the people will not save yours. You may endure for a little; but as surely as you destroy the Established Church of Ireland, so surely will the Church of England fall with it—the great bulwark of our free and glorious Constitution. Well, now, for a moment, let us suppose that the House goes into Committee, and passes the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, let us look at the position of affairs. The House will remember the Resolution passed by Lord John Russell in 1835—That the House do resolve itself into a Committeee of the Whole House to consider the temporalities of the Church of Ireland.The Ayes were 322; Noes, 289: so that the Motion was carried by a majority of 33; and yet, from that time to this, no action has been taken. Let us look for a moment at the results of the Member for South Lancashire carrying his Resolutions. They go farther than Lord John Russell's, and they are intended to place the right hon. Gentleman in power. What has the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London just told us? Why, it is this—that when his party is in power they can do nothing Liberal, because we prevent them. Yet, these so-called Liberals approved our Reform Bill, but when we are in power, with their assistance we can do anything. But let us suppose for a moment (a result, I believe, impossible), these Resolutions carried, the Member for South Lancashire in office on the strength of them, what is the position of affairs? All action in the Church of Ireland suspended by the passing of a simple abstract Resolution in this House, with no Act of Parliament, and, perhaps, another thirty-five years (the Liberals having gained all they want, and returned to power), may go over our heads before an Act of Parliament is passed, either to sanction or disapprove of these abstract Resolutions, which would in the meanwhile stop all action in the Church, and leave matters in hopeless confusion. This Church is called an "alien Church." Its history, when the time comes for again reciting it will be proved to be otherwise, and it was promised to us—what in other times would have been called secured to us—by the Act 621 of Union, and yet your English and Scotch Members propose to take it from us; for I venture to assert that the Division List will show that Irish Members by themselves would respect its prescriptive title. The right hon. Member for South Lancashire has told us there are anomalies in the Church. When are there not anomalies in everything? We have often been told that anomalies are the glory of our institutions. Well, the right hon. Gentleman has produced two. If there were more, his research would have discovered them. I say at once, reform them if they are there. Let no such abuses exist; but for such things do not overthrow an ancient Church, the growth of centuries—a Church established before the See of Rome pretended to have sway in Ireland; and if we talk of anomalies, is it no anomaly that the worthy Baron the Member for the City of London, with his wealth of European extent, should simply have one vote in the return of its Members, on equality with the man who occupies a house and pays his rate. I do not say such a state of thing is unjust. All I say is, is it an anomaly? Now for a moment, before I sit down, let us look at the reasons given for the necessity of at once overthrowing the Establishment first to satisfy the demands of the Church of Rome. Has not that Church told us by its ministers that the Establishment, though a grievance, is by no means a first-class one—that there are others of far greater importance lying behind. So you wound in their tenderest feelings the most loyal portion of your Irish fellow-countrymen; because this question will offend all Protestants; and I have not sooner alluded to my Presbyterian brethren, because the present question does not at once affect them; but if the Establishment goes, the small and far too small pittance which has been given to them will go to, the rights of property will follow, and then the Repeal of the Union. Your second reason for urging the necessity of immediate action is the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; but you thoroughly misunderstand the feeling of Ireland. You try to meddle with us; you mistake the ravings of demagogues who trade upon the credulity of an excitable, but kindly and easily governed people, for the feelings of a nation. Treat us kindly; do not be always offering legislation impossible, and raising expectation where yon cannot perform. Do not suppose the conduct of strangers from another land let loose upon Ireland to be sanctioned by the masses of 622 her people. Ireland is loyal, but Ireland is excited; and because she is so, how do you propose to legislate? You offer a sop to one portion of her population, certainly not that portion most attached to your rule—a sop which they tell you plainly they regard but as a very small instalment—confiscation of property, and Repeal of the Union, being the further demands. Are you prepared for such concessions? If not, why wound in their most cherished convictions, and injure in their most inalienable rights, that powerful portion of your fellow-subjects, who, in your hours of difficulty and danger, have been your firmest friends? Pause well before you enter upon the path proposed to you. Think of it. Consider whether the affections (you may be sure of their loyalty) will be of more value to you than the praise of demagogues, who, having raised themselves by appealing to the passions of a people, care not for the people when their own objects are attained, and have no abiding influence. I will only make one quotation, but I wish to read to the House the words of a very eminent Roman Catholic Judge, lately passed from amongst us—Mr. Justice Shee. What does he say of the Established Church?—The Church by law established is the Church of a community everywhere considerable in respect of property, rank, and intelligence; it is strong in the prescription of three centuries, and in the support which it receives from the supposed identity of its interests with those of the Church of England. Nothing short of a convulsion, tearing up both Establishments by the roots could accomplish its overthrow.I will now say a word to the right hon. Member for South Lancashire. Two years ago, he said to us with menacing gesture, "Be wise! And be wise in time." I now say to him, Beware, lest the brittle ladder upon which you hope to rise to power break beneath your weight, and overwhelm you in its fall; or if, on the other hand, it shall acquire the momentary strength to raise you to that giddy eminence you—having sapped the foundations of an ancient Empire—should, instead of finding yourself the ruler of a mighty nation, worthy the ambition of a statesman, discover too late you were only the Minister of divided kingdoms, only worthy of a man who loves power more than his country.
said, that he should not have offered himself to the attention of the House, even for the few moments that he should occupy it, but for the fact that his 623 election had taken place since the day on which the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire had been placed upon the Paper. The result of that election, therefore—bringing as he did the opinions of his constituents fresh from the hustings—might be taken as some indication of the course of opinion in the country on the subject of the Irish Church. That consideration alone was his excuse for trespassing on the attention of the House. His opponent was one of Her Majesty's Counsel, a learned gentleman with whom in eloquence he could not pretend to compete, and who had laid before the constituency the reasons which naturally occurred to him against the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman. His constituents, however, were plain men; and they could not understand why an injustice, which it appeared no one was prepared to defend, should be allowed to remain for a single day beyond the time when it could be removed. They could not understand how delay in such a case could be anything but a new injustice; and it appeared to them that there ought to be no delay in remedying the existing state of things. During the election, the subject of Ireland and the position of the Irish Church had occupied a main part of the attention of his constituents, who could not be made to understand that it was just, or wise, or fair that the Church of the few should be dominant over the many. They thought that the sooner such a state of things was put an end to the better; and instead of returning the eloquent gentleman, who would have opposed the right hon. Gentleman's Resolutions, they had returned a much more humble individual, because they thought he would more truly represent them. He (Mr. Carter) hoped the House would consider that some weight was to be attached to so recent an expression of opinion. His own opinions entirely coincided with those of his constituents on the subject before the House; and it would be the greatest satisfaction to himself—no less than his duty—to give his first vote in the House of Commons in support of the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman, and against the Motion of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary.
§ MR. SERJEANT ARMSTRONG
said, he had heard with astonishment the allegation that there was any substantial novelty in the proposition before the House. He admitted that a Resolution so conceived and so exactly expressing the direct object in 624 view as the present one had not hitherto been brought before that House; but, from the course of events and the drift and tenour of the public mind on that question, any man might easily have foreseen for years past that the time was fast approaching when that Resolution would be introduced; and he himself three years ago on the hustings at Sligo had ventured to predict that the right hon. Member for South Lancashire would be the person to introduce it. The frank and honest speech of the Home Secretary that night had removed the mask under which the Foreign Secretary had sought to debate that question, and to shroud the opinions of the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman could not have spoken in the eloquent manner he did without belief in the soundness of the position he was advocating. The cheers with which that speech had been received, not only behind the Treasury Bench, but upon it, was a distinct announcement to the House and the country that the issue now raised was simply this—should Protestant ascendancy in Ireland be maintained at all costs and all hazards, or should that country in future be governed on the only principle on which he believed in his conscience it could be governed consistently with the safety and the integrity of the Empire—namely, perfect equality, religious as well as civil? As a Member of that House and a lawyer, he certainly would not advocate any measure involving a violation of Her Majesty's Coronation Oath, or interfering really and substantially with the Articles of Union; but what, he asked, was the object of those hon. Gentlemen who had moved that the Coronation Oath and part of the Act of Union should be read before the opening of that debate? Why, evidently to frighten the House from its propriety. He supposed it must have been some consolation to hon. Gentlemen opposite to have the Oath read, as they had greeted it with cheers. But what had the Solicitor General, the responsible Law Adviser of the Crown, told the House on that very point? Why, that he had considered the Coronation Oath, and that, in his opinion, the Royal sanction to an Act of Parliament disestablishing the Irish Church would involve no violation of that Oath, and that he could not as a lawyer pretend that it would. There was not a lawyer in that House—nay, he would go further, and say that there was no gentleman of education versed in the terms of plain language who believed that the Coronation Oath pledged the 625 Royal conscience to do more than govern the country in accordance with the statutes then or thereafter to be passed. When certain Archbishoprics and Bishoprics were suppressed by the Church Temporalities Act, was it suggested that the then Monarch violated his Coronation Oath in giving his assent to that Act? But then it was said that the right hon. Gentleman's Resolutions were an interference with the Act of Union. He had always understood that the present Parliament represented both the parties to the Act of Union, and that the same authority which made that or any Other Act could repeal it. He maintained that there was nothing in the Union to prevent the repeal either of the Union or of any Article in it. They now had the authority of the Solicitor General of England in support of this proposition, and he hoped they would hear no more twaddle either about the Coronation Oath or the Act of Union. The property of the Irish Church was committed to a certain corporation upon a certain trust. The distinguishing mark of private property was that it could be alienated; but the Church could not alienate an inch of property. A most unfounded statement had been made that the Roman Catholic population looked upon the Irish Church with complacency. Knowing the people of that country intimately, he believed that they saw in that Church an existing symbol of the oppression to which they had been subjected. They derived no comfort from its ministrations. They did not believe in its doctrines, and they knew that some of the clergy who were esteemed the bulwarks of that Church were employed to vilify the Church of the Irish people. It was said that the Irish Church was supported by the landlords, but that would open a wide question. Whatever political economists might say, the Irish people understood perfectly well that they paid the Church and the landlord too. He remembered having a conversation with a plain man, one of a party who were at work in a field getting potatoes, and who asked him, "Is it any harm, Sir, for a clergyman to speak to the priest?" If there was a rural parish in Ireland in which the Roman Catholic priest and the Protestant clergyman exchanged words it was the exception. Though the Protestant clergyman had a congregation of, perhaps, only two or three people, and the mass of the population were Roman Catholics, he was an aristocrat, and looked upon the priest as an intruder. In the cities, owing 626 to there being more of social intercourse and from other circumstances, the case was different; but, as a rule, there was a total estrangement between Protestants and Roman Catholics, and this was owing to the maintenance of a Church which the latter regarded as a symbol of oppression. When he said to the peasant to whom he had before referred, "The landlord pays the tithes," the man replied, "But who pays the landlord?" The feeling pervaded the peasantry—and he believed that the feeling was undoubtedly correct—that they themselves paid for the Irish Church. The question really was, was this Church an insult or a grievance to them? Such a state of things would not be tolerated in England; nor would anyone think of introducing a priori such a system into Ireland. Then came the question, ought the Church to be continued, and the question was not so much an Irish as an Imperial one. There ought to be no occasion for the standing army which was now in Ireland; nor would there be only for the efforts made to uphold ascendancy. The Government and Parliament ought to at once decide whether Ireland was to be governed on the principle of ascendancy or that of religious equality. Nothing could be more unconstitutional than to say that this House of Commons was moribund, and incapable of expressing an opinion. It was true that it could not bind its successor; but it could send a message of peace to Ireland, and the announcement that justice was to be done would have a most beneficial effect. The statement of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the Church Establishment could not be put an end to without a fierce and protracted struggle, had brought out the Liberal party, who had a Leader who would conduct them to victory. All the talk about what the Orangemen of Ulster would do was mere bluster. They had threatened a great deal before the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act; but when it passed they returned to their fields and their looms, and had remained there until very recently, when more auspicious times seemed to afford them an opportunity of again disturbing the country. There was no danger that the Protestants of Ireland would be alienated by a measure such as that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire. He (Mr. Serjeant Armstrong) did not believe that the disestablishment of the Protestant Church would abate the loyalty of the long-pampered population of the 627 North of Ireland. It was assumed that there was an unanimous feeling among Protestants in Ireland upon the matter; but this was by no means so. He did not wish to speak with any disrespect of the clergy of the Church, of which he was a member; but he must say that the clergy were like other people who were paid in an inverse proportion to their work. He made this remark because what they were about was spoken of as though they were going to sacrifice an army of saints, when in truth there were among the clergy good, bad, and indifferent. His experience of them was that, while they did their duty in the Church, they troubled themselves very little about what their parishioners or the children of their parishioners were doing at home. He knew a parish close to the palace of Armagh, where a visit from the rector to a humble Protestant was never known; and it was a constant complaint, in Dublin and other places that the Protestant clergyman never visited his flock unless to ask for a subscription towards a charity. If one wanted to hear eloquent sermons in Dublin the churches in which to hear them were those which were supported by pew-rents. It was not the fact that the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland held that place in the affections of the laity which some hon. Gentlemen would lead the House to suppose. Too much must not be expected even from the disestablishment of the Church, for there were other things behind it. He was not, one who was frightened by the term "revolution," and, indeed, it was a mere term, The settlement of the land question on a fair basis would, however, rapidly follow; for the difficulty on that point consisted in the refusal of the landlords to grant leases: that refusal was designed to wield political authority over their tenants, and the object of that authority was the maintenance of Protestant ascendancy. The Church and land questions were thus closely connected, and the settlement of the former would pave the way for the social regeneration, of Ireland. He supported the Resolution because he believed the right hon. Gentleman by whom it was proposed was heartily prepared to carry out a policy which would allay agitation, banish discontent, and diffuse loyalty and tranquillity over the length and breadth of the country.
COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, after the able, manly, straightforward, and he might say glorious speech—not of the hon. and learned member for Sligo (Mr. Serjeant 628 Armstrong), but of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department—he should not have thought it necessary to take a part in this discussion; but that, being the Irishman that had ventured to interfere between the House and the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, by moving that the 5th Article of the Act of Union be read by the Clerk at the Table, he felt it his duty to say a few words in justification of the course he had pursued. He looked upon the Act of Union as the safeguard of his country, and, although he could not justify the means by which it was obtained, he contended that the ends had been of advantage to Ireland. He saw in the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the destruction of the fundamental Articles of that Union, and virtually of the Union itself. For what, he asked, would come next? Why, hon. Gentlemen opposite would begin to clamour for a Parliament on College Green. For his own part he would rather have met the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman by a distinct negative; but, like a shipwrecked sailor, he was willing to seize upon any plank that offered safety. He believed that that plank had been honestly thrown out by Her Majesty's Government, and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department proved to him that such really was the case. If the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman should be adopted, what would be the result? How, he asked, would the Coronation Oath be affected? They had heard from the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last that it was all a pretence. Was that true? Would Her most gracious Majesty look on it as such? Was it possible that she would be asked, by a mere Resolution of the House, to violate it? He did not venture to say so. The Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) called in effect, upon Her Majesty to violate her Oath. He looked upon the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman as the most cowardly one that had ever been made in that House. Why had not the right hon. Gentleman undertaken to bring in a Bill upon the question? And what about the oath which he had taken as a Privy Councillor? Did that justify him in the course he was pursuing? But leaving this as a matter for the right hon. Gentleman's own conscience, he would ask, whether the effect of the Resolutions before the House would not be to alienate the loyal and honest people of 629 the North of Ireland? He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he really believed that this proposed robbery and spoliation of the Irish Church would satisfy the people of Ireland? It was ridiculous to suppose SO. The right hon. Gentleman said that the opinions which he held twenty-five years ago upon this subject were somewhat similar to those he now expressed. It appeared, therefore, that although he was then Member for the University of Oxford, he was always ready to aid in putting down the Established Church in Ireland. Did not the right hon. Gentleman obtain votes at the last election for the University of Oxford, when he was a candidate, from dignitaries of the Irish Church under the belief that he would give his support to the maintenance of the Irish Church? Until the right hon. Gentleman answered that question by a negative, he (Colonel S. Knox) would assert it as a fact. A good deal had been said about Protestant ascendancy in Ireland—they wanted no ascendancy—they had none. The only penal law in operation now was one against the Protestants. They had the Processions Act in existence which was a penal law only against the Protestants of Ireland. All they asked was that the law should be made to apply to all parties in the country, and then they would willingly support it. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal to buy off the rights of those interested in the Church savoured very much of what the right hon. Gentleman had himself said about "trick and contrivance." He contended that the property of the Irish Church was the property of the members and not of the ministers of that Church. The hon. member for Sligo (Mr. Sergeant Armstrong) spoke of the clergy of the North as living merely for their own interest and benefit. That was untrue. He (Colonel S. Knox) knew that the clergy of the North—both Protestants and Presbyterians—devoted their time and attention to the interests of their parishioners. The taunt was an unworthy one, and should not be cast upon so estimable a body of men. A Radical Friend of his (Colonel S. Knox's), a Member of that House, had recently told him that they (the Radicals) had succeeded in getting nearly everything but the Crown. This he feared was almost true; and therefore it was that he stood up to protect the Crown and the remnant of the Constitution.
§ MR. O'REILLY
remarked that the 5th Article of the Act of Union, which had been 630 so frequently referred to, provided for the maintenance, doctrine, discipline, and government of the Church of Ireland, but contained not a word respecting its endowment or its ascendancy in the country. One of the arguments advanced in favour of the Established Church in Ireland was that it was a missionary Church, and there was another argument that lay behind, which was that it was an English garrison. As to its being a missionary Church, he could not better describe its position than by quoting the words of a beneficed clergyman of the Establishment — Dr. Gregg, incumbent of St. Nicholas Within. That gentleman said—I am a beneficed clergyman, but without cure of souls. I cannot help that. Every man's vocation is what God has given him. My vocation is to hold my tongue.And then Dr. Gregg proceeded to say that he himself had taught the whole Roman Catholic population of Dublin, though he was a sinecurist of St. Nicholas Within; for, though he preached every Sunday in an empty church, yet, when he stood in the midst of Roman Catholics and told them they were going the broad way to destruction, he was thereby teaching them and doing his duty. Well, the Established Church in Ireland had been a missionary Church for 300 years, and what had been its fruits? He did not wish to rake up the memory of evil days, though they had been told to-night by the Home Secretary that it was only forgers of tales that had invented such legends to delude the Irish people. Now, he would tell the right hon. Gentleman that the bitterest edicts against the Catholics of Ireland had been signed by prelates of the Established Church—from Loftus to Hoadley—the first of whom ordered the torture of Archbishop O'Hurley, and the latter signed the last edict against the celebration of the Mass. It was necessary to recal some of this bitter history in order that it might be understood in what manner this missionary Church was regarded by the Catholic population. It was but little exaggeration to say of that Church that its text to the Irish people was, "I came not to bring peace, but the sword." Now, what were the results? The Protestant religion was first introduced by law into Ireland in 1537. It was re-established in the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth. Nearly 100 years after, or in 1641, Sir William Petty — no contemptible authority — stated that the population of Ireland was 631 1,466,000, of whom the Protestants were 224,000 and the Catholics more than 1,250,000. Then came the only really successful missionary of Protestantism in Ireland, who really did increase the relative proportion of Protestants — Oliver Cromwell. He came with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other, and sought to exterminate those whom he could not convert, and it was remarkable how successful he was. Within eighteen years after Sir William Petty had given the population of Ireland as nearly 1,500,000, that population was reduced to exactly 500,000; of whom 83,000 were Protestants of English or Scotch birth, and 150,000 were Irish Protestants of an earlier date. These numbers are taken from the Census of 1659, lately discovered among the Lansdowne Papers. Therefore, after the exertions of Cromwell, the proportion of Protestants to Catholics was exactly equal. This missionary Church, supported by the law, continued its efforts until 1834, and then the proportion of Protestants in Ireland had sunk to 20 from 50 per cent. Then came other successful missionaries of the same sort — the famine of 1816, and the pestilence of 1847 — which raised the proportion of Protestants to 22 from 20 per cent. But let them examine how matters stood in the metropolis, for there was no part of the country where the law-Established Church was so strong, so well endowed, or had so much wealth, intelligence, or education. In 1664, the population of Dublin consisted of 5,500 Protestants and 2,400 Catholics; or in other words, the Protestants were as two to one. In 1861, the Protestants of Dublin were 56,000, the Catholics 196,000; or, in other words, the Protestants from two to one had become to the Catholics as one to three. Such had been the result of the missionary efforts of the law-protected Church. How could it be otherwise? Even truth could not prevail, if loaded with such a weight of injustice, if linked with such a memory of wrong. Then there was the other argument which lay behind, that the Anglican Establishment was an English garrison. In the last Quarterly Review these words were used—The Protestant garrison in Ireland, with whom we cannot break without gravely imperilling the integrity of the Empire, will not hear of such a proposal.And Chief Justice Whiteside, when a Member of that House, had made use of the same argument, for he said that as 632 soon as they destroyed the Irish Church they would destroy the Monarchy, and uproot British power in Ireland. Now, he would meet that argument completely and boldly. He (Mr. O'Reilly) would admit it was in a great measure true that the Anglicans in Ireland were zealous supporters of English institutions. But, suppose it was India, not Ireland, they had to deal with. Suppose they had for centuries persecuted the religion of the Hindoos—that they had established a privileged class, few in number, among them, and had set up in every district a church and minister that were not the Church and minister of the people—did they think they would want to inquire whether English rule was popular in India or not? Was it not plain that as long as England upheld the ascendancy of a class, she must expect the alienation of a people? Well, what was the garrison worth? Its loyalty was lately stated by one of their principal orators, amid loud cheers, to be conditional. Then it was said it was impossible to conciliate the Roman Catholics. It reminded him of a story of O'Connell's. A man complained to him that he could never fatten his horse, though he tried all the quack medicines he could get. Whereupon O'Connell asked him, "Did you ever try oats?" Let them try equal justice for Ireland. The Irish Roman Catholics were quite content in Canada and elsewhere out of their native country, simply because they had equal rights and equal justice away from Ireland. The assertion that the Roman Catholics do not care for the ascendancy of the Church was answered most emphatically by a protest signed by every Roman Catholic of rank, of birth, or of position, as well as from the great mass of the people, in numerous petitions to the House, and but for the prudence of the leaders, the answer would have been sent back from hundreds of angry meetings. So long as the Irish people loved justice and hated wrong, so long would they resent what Mr. Burke so well describes as "wholesale robbery." Both clergy and laity declared that they would not accept any portion of the property at present enjoyed by the Establishment. As many as 2,000 churches had been built at a cost of £3,500,000; every district had an Anglican church, built out of the funds of the nation; and the Roman Catholics of Ireland might now fairly ask that England should give back the mouldering ruins of their monasteries and churches, and the 633 lonely graveyards, where rested the ashes of their dead. Let not the House proclaim themselves, as they had been invited to do, morally incompetent to do justice, or they would also proclaim themselves morally incompetent to enforce obedience. If the people of Ireland could not look to England for justice, they would look to the West for revolution. ["Oh, oh!"] Let not hon. Gentlemen opposite misunderstand him. He had never advocated revolution, and he now said that under no circumstances would he recommend it; but it was not wise to tell the people of Ireland that they must not look to Parliament for justice. If they did so, the natural consequence was that they would look Westward. The tree of oppression and injustice would bear its bitter fruit in alienation and discontent; but do justice, and we should meet any shock of foreign war or invasion with the strength of a contented and united people.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
said: Mr. Speaker, Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last but one from the Benches opposite (Mr. Serjeant Armstrong) with cruel skill protracted the painful operation which is familiarly known as that of "catching your eye;" but even at the price we paid, we should be sorry to have missed the last remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The overthrow of the Irish Church was, he confessed, to be the prelude to a "revolution," but we were not to be frightened at the word. The hon. and learned Gentleman began by pulling down the Orange flag, but before be ended he raised the red flag in its place. Sir, I highly appreciate the candour of an opponent, which admits the whole matter in dispute. Now, Sir, during the short time that I have had the honour of a seat in this House, questions of the gravest interest have been before us, and some of them have been solved in a manner the very opposite of that I could have wished: but none has ever caused me so much anxiety and pain as the question raised by the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman. Because, connected as I am by many ties with Ireland, and knowing the Irish people well, I cannot banish from my mind the melancholy conviction that, whatever may be the immediate issue of this debate, the day which saw those Resolutions laid upon the table of this House will be the beginning of many sorrows both to Ireland and this Empire. It was therefore, Sir, with profound satisfaction that I heard the speech of the Home Secretary 634 earlier in the evening. It did much to redeem the debate from the air of unreality which marked the discussion of the previous night. Its earnestness corresponded with the gravity—I might say, the solemnity—of the occasion, and it furnished a saving contrast to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley). It is true his speech was exhaustive of the question of present time and opportunity, but it gave no assurance that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, the disestablishment of the Irish Church never could be opportune. I have said that the speech of the noble Lord was exhaustive of the question of present opportunity; but there was one consideration which he forgot, and which as Foreign Secretary he might have been expected to remember. Foreign governments, Sir, know nothing of the necessities of the Liberal party, and when they see this sudden proposal in the face of a dangerous conspiracy, which has been rather "scotched" than "killed," they will think that England is yielding to the Clerkenwell syllogism what she refused to reason and to justice. These Resolutions at the present juncture will be, in their eyes, a tribute to the importance and the strength of Fenianism; and if capitulation to Fenianism is an ultimate necessity for England—which I deny—at least her dignity in the eyes of foreign nations might have been saved by its postponement for the present. With this remark I leave the question of opportuneness, and come to that of expediency. These Resolutions are to be a "healing measure" for Ireland. Whoever says that, believing it, knows little of the Irish people. They will largely alienate Protestants from the English Government; they will not conciliate a single Roman Catholic. The antipathy of the native Irishman for England is not primarily a matter of religion. It is the hatred of the conquered for his conquerors, who have confiscated the soil. That is a fact which we did not create; but which we inherit, and which we cannot but too plainly recognize. There is no Irish peasant, Sir, who is not "crazed" upon the question of his title to the land which we have taken from him. [Mr. OSBORNE: What nonsense!] Well! the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of expanding that remark in a speech which will no doubt be replete with eloquence and good taste. The fact being as I have stated it, it is now proposed to conciliate the native race by taking from 635 one of the possessors—the Church—her right to one-tenth of the produce of the soil. Yes, Sir, but nine-tenths remain behind; and while they remain the native Irishman encouraged by concessions, will never be conciliated. But that is not all. Behind there lie the priesthood and the hierarchy of a Chinch whose policy it is to prevent the Roman Catholic population ever being reconciled to the Government of a Protestant country. They know the deep feeling of the peasant on this question of the soil, and they keep it alive and foster it for use. They are using it now against the Protestant Church, and when the time comes they will use it against the possessors of the land. [Cheers and interruption.] Well, it is not I that say this; I will read you what was said by a Roman Catholic newspaper, The Tablet—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.That, I apprehend, is an authority—not mine—which Roman Catholic gentlemen will no longer question. Sir, the noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary, in a few words he said last night, showed that he perfectly understood what is the real Irish question. He said it was the land; and he glanced at the habit of Irish tenants-at-will disposing of farms to their relations. But why does the Irish tenant do that? Because he believes the soil to be his own to dispose of; and if we surrender to him the temporalities of the Church, it will only stimulate his appetite for more. Well, then, shall we strengthen the Union? Sir, we repeal it in idea, by legislating for Ireland as a distinct and separate country. We repeal it in effect, by estranging and exasperating the loyal friends of the English interest and connection. And what will you gain in return? The increased contempt of the enemies who trade upon your fears. But will you promote religious peace? The Church of Ireland now mediates between extremes. Her overthrow will leave room for the zeal of none but voluntary agents. In what spirit, do yon think, will the battle of opposing creeds be 636 fought when Exeter Hall supplies the funds which disendowment will withdraw? These Resolutions, Sir, will bring not peace, but a sword. It seems, then, that there is little in expediency to recommend them, But, shall we violate no principle by their adoption? Yes, Sir, the principle of the solemn and public dedication of money to the highest uses to which money can be put—a principle in comparison with which the fate of Ministries and the ambition of a Minister, in my sight, are as nothing; and in the long days of trouble and excitement which now lie before us I so intend, Sir, to regard it. Well, then, what are, or were, or ought to be, the forces at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government wherewith to fight this battle? Till last night they might have commanded the unswerving allegiance of every man who regards as sacred the principle of an Establishment. They might have summoned to their aid the zeal of every Protestant who sees in the overthrow of the Irish Church an aggression of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Because, Sir, the Irish Church is not only Protestant, but she is established; she is not only established, but she is Protestant. Such, Sir, is the affluence of strength which the Prime Minister seems not indisposed to squander. He chills the zeal of every Protestant by a charter to a Roman Catholic University; and he puts up his Secretary for Foreign Affairs to alienate Churchmen who would have fought for an Establishment. The Roman Catholic charter, Sir, is an anachronism and a blunder. Is it to be persisted in? The desertion of a Church Establishment is an apostasy which no Conservative Government can commit and live. But, Sir, "when bale is at highest, bote is nighest;" and if the debate of last evening filled us, at its opening, with dismay, we have had comfort in its course. We have seen that there are men in this House ready to devote their high powers and great influence to the defence of the Protestant Established Church of Ireland; and in my noble Friend the Member for Stamford, and the Home Secretary, we have found Leaders whom any man might be proud to follow in such a cause. They never "palter in a double sense" their language is plain for all to understand; and their earnestness will find a responsive chord in the heart of the great English people. With such leaders, Sir, all is not yet lost. Large masses of educated and Protestant opinion will rally to their side; and, with the aid 637 to be looked for from "another place," we shall be able to maintain a protracted struggle before we suffer this deed of injustice to be done. And, if we fail, at least, Sir, we shall fail with honour: but we shall not fail; for, in the hour of our need, the Protestant people of England will defend the right. Sir, to the proposal for going into Committee on the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman I shall oppose a hearty negative. As to the vague and colourless Amendment of the noble Lord—which I hope will be withdrawn—I do not know that I shall care to walk into the Lobby in its support.
, as the representative of an Irish constituency, felt that he could not allow that question to be discussed without taking part in the debate. He confessed to having experienced, in common, he believed, with a majority of that House, and the whole of the Irish people, a feeling of intense disappointment at hearing the intentions of Her Majesty's Government to pursue in this matter a policy of procrastination and delay which must be as dangerous to their own existence as it was distasteful to the Irish people. It was obvious, however, that the time had at length arrived when, at the hands, if not of the Government, at least of the Imperial Parliament, the Irish Church, like other ancient institutions, in a Reformed House, must undergo a searching scrutiny, which could only result in a complete and radical reform. That such reform was necessary, he conceived there could be no reading or thinking man who would deny; for no one who knew anything of Ireland could assert that the ecclesiastical arrangements of that country were in a satisfactory condition, with the exception of a party whose line of action was predetermined, and whose representatives were bound to support the Established Church, and upon whom, of course, all arguments, however forcible and convincing, were thrown away. The disputants in this question had resolved themselves into two great parties—one for a broad scheme of reform, based on the re-distribution of Church revenues, yet advocates for the retention of the Establishment; and the other, those who urged those arguments—first, that the Irish Church was an anomaly of the most unparalleled nature, when they considered the numerical proportions of the different creeds. Those who supported this view argued that no solution could be arrived at but a total disendowment. The second argument was that 638 no Protestant could advocate the present state of things who believed in the truth of his religion. He, for his part, held that this disendowment was necessary to the fusion of races, and the establishment of that perfect equality, religious as well as social, without which no Government, however subtle, or however well meaning, could ever secure the great end of peace and good-will amongst the governed. Holding as an Irish Protestant these opinions, he could not blind himself to the fact that the Irish Establishment had not in the present debate been defended on its own merits. It had been defended on the grounds of State policy and of State necessity; but he denied the necessity, and disputed the wisdom of the policy. He did not see how it should be that the great mass of Her Majesty's loyal subjects should be treated with grudging toleration whilst so many favours were lavished on a small minority. He (Captain White) was unable to appreciate the policy, which for three centuries, had sown discontent through the length and breadth of the land. There were two arguments advanced in favour of the retention of the Establishment, both of which had been maintained in the debate, and both of which were equally weak and fallacious. The first was, that the statesmen of this country ought to be especially careful how they ventured to touch the Irish Establishment; because they ought to look on the Irish Establishment in the light of a part of the connection of that country with Great Britain. It was said we ought to bear in mind that the Protestants were the English garrison in Ireland; and that we ought to remember that in stopping the pay of that garrison we were alienating their affections. He thought such an argument was unworthy of Protestants, and that, in spite of the ravings of certain ecclesiastics which had been alluded to by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly), it was a deliberate insult to the good sense and good feeling of Protestantism in Ireland. But, even admitting the argument, might it not be fairly said that the genuine gush of loyal feeling and gratitude from a whole people, which would be the result of generous legislation, would amply compensate for the loss of such venal, corrupt, and conditional loyalty? The other argument was that this was merely a sentimental grievance. That, however, was an argument which was fairly open to denial. He thought it might fairly be urged that the funds still flowed from 639 the pockets of the Roman Catholic tenant farmers, and that the hardship remained in all its glaring injustice in the case of every Roman Catholic member of the community. But what grievance was so great and so intolerable as one which, while galling the honest pride of men, and lacerating their tenderest feelings and sympathies, outraged their sense of justice, and made them writhe under the torture of an undeserved lash? The Roman Catholics of Ireland had covered that country with most magnificent cathedrals, monuments of their religious zeal, which would endure almost to the end of time, and it was impossible that such people should not bitterly resent the existence of the Established Church. It was said that the Roman Catholic hostility to that Church was founded merely on a sentiment; but was it not sentiment that had led to the accomplishment of some of the noblest deeds recorded in history? Suppose the religion of the Roman Catholic minority in England were to become the dominant religion, would not the Protestants of England cry out and protest against such an arrangement? And yet in doing so they would be impelled by what had been ridiculed as mere sentiment. He believed that the existence of the Established Church was the primary obstacle to the pacification of Ireland. What was it that arrayed Irishmen against Irishmen, and made the streets of Belfast periodically flow with Irish blood but the ascendancy of the Irish Church Establishment? ["Oh, oh!"] What was the principal obstacle to a feeling of sympathy between landlord and tenant in Ireland, and what was it that arrayed them in opposing ranks at every succeeding election? It was principally the existence of the Irish Church, and its peculiar character of ascendancy. One was determined by all means, unconstitutional as well as constitutional, illegal as well as legal, to maintain that Establishment; the other struggling against what he believed to be a gross injustice. It had been said that the Irish Church was one of our bulwarks; but an institution that was founded in injustice ought not to receive our support because it happened to be of advantage to us. His belief was that the Protestant religion only languished in Ireland in consequence of the State pampering it had received. He knew that it would erect its head wherever it could do so. But he would rather see it encounter almost any risk in standing upon its own merits than he would see it continue clinging for its 640 prosperity to a system which he knew to be based on the greatest injustice to the great majority of the people.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. WARREN)
said, that there was a time when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire stood forward as the defender of the Irish Church, and declared "Upon us as has fallen the defence of the National Church;" and he used the expression, that he defended it on the grounds of conscience and truth. He (the Attorney General) concurred in the opinion that it was to be defended upon those grounds. Whether these were still the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman he knew not, for—Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis.The Defender of the Faith now appeared before them, for the destruction, the demolition, and the annihilation of that Church. The right hon. Gentleman came forward with three Resolutions by way of remedy for the ills of Ireland. They suggested to him a charade:—My first is unpractical; my second is unlawful; my third is unconstitutional; and my whole is eminently factious. It was a fact that for between 300 and 400 years the Church of Ireland had been in possession of certain dignities, powers, and privileges which were ratified and confirmed by at least one solemn national obligation. It was incumbent on the spoliators to show the grounds of their spoliation. It was to be assumed primâ facie that she was justly entitled to what she had so long enjoyed. On what grounds was she to be dispossessed? The hon. and learned Member for Sligo (Mr. Serjeant Armstrong) had made a bitter attack on the personal character and conduct of the clergy of Ireland. But he would not waste the time of the House by vindicating their personal character, and if he wished to do so, he might refer, not only to the opinions of a Roman Catholic prelate of the highest character—Bishop Moriarty—on that point, but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), in 1865, had himself borne testimony both to their high personal character and the manner in which they had discharged their duty. One argument, however, he must disclaim; he altogether repudiated the sentiment that if they disestablished the Irish Church they would shake the loyalty of the Protestants of Ireland. They might spoliate the Church of her property; but the Protestants of Ireland would remain loyal to the Crown and the United Kingdom 641 so long as England remained the centre of religious liberty. Much discussion had taken place, both within and without that House, respecting the amount of the property of the Irish Church and the manner in which it was to be distributed. The amount of Church property in Ireland had been grossly exaggerated, and an entirely erroneous view was entertained upon that point in this country. Earl Russell, in a book published thirty years ago, trebled the amount of the Irish Church property, and when he re-published the book, although the inaccuracy had been made known to him, he omitted the misstatement, but had not the candour to make a correction of the mistake. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs admitted that the property of the Church required a re-distribution. The Government concurred in that opinion; and a Commission was now inquiring how this was best to be done. He now came to the arguments on the question before the House. It was contended that the first Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman must be carried, because justice demanded and expediency required that the Irish Church should be disestablished. But where was the injustice of the possession by the Irish Church of that which was her own property? He believed the title of the Church to the property of the Church was as good as the title of any gentleman to his own property. The only hon. Mem-who alleged this injustice was the hon. Member for Tipperary (Captain White), who last spoke. But his argument he (the Attorney General) could not understand. Every man who owned an acre of land in Ireland had acquired it according to law subject to the tithe rent-charge. A man wishing to purchase an estate ascertains the rental and the rent-charge, and calculates his purchase-money upon the amount of the rental, diminished by the amount of the rent-charge. There was therefore no injustice on this score. Why was it harder for a Roman Catholic than for a Protestant to pay it under those circumstances? Upon this point the right hon. Member for Portarlington (Mr. Lawson) had once said—I ask, to whom does the existence of Church property do injury? Does it injure them (the Roman Catholics) in their purses or property? No; it is a property distinct from that of the owner of the land, a property to which the Church has as good a title as the title of any landlord: and I have yet to learn that our national condition would be improved by taking the revenues of 642 the Church and transferring them to other and different purposes.The right hon. Gentleman further said—The existence of that Church property injures no man in purse. No man has a right to complain that his neighbour has an estate which he inherited from his ancestors, and which he will not transfer to him; and as little right have any other persons in the community to try to wrest from the Church the property which it enjoys and which it rightly and beneficially uses… You remember the legislator of old, who was asked why he had allotted no punishment in his laws to the crime of parricide, and he answered, because he did not believe such a crime could be committed. Was I, incoming before you, to negative the monstrous supposition that my sacrilegious hand could ever be raised to take away the life of that Church which gave to me my own.And what right or claim had the Roman Catholics to the revenues of the Established Church? For 300 years they had been out of possession of the property; and even according to their own laws, 100 years was sufficient to create what Sir Robert Peel said was the best title in the world—a title by prescription. Not only had the Roman Catholics been out of possession, but they had acquiesced in the adverse possession. At the time of the passing of the Catholic Relief Act it was distinctly understood that they agreed, in consideration of that Act, to recognize the inalienable right of the Established Church in Ireland to its property. The right hon. Gentleman said that injustice was involved if the existence of the Established Church in Ireland made the possession inconsistent with religious equality. The right hon. Gentleman treated the existence of the Irish Church as a grievance, because it was inconsistent with religious equality. But did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that religious equality was an essential condition of right and justice? If that were so the proposition could have nothing to do with any mere question of majorities and minorities, and the existence of the Chinch of Scotland with its endowments was a grievance to the members of the Free Church; while in England the maintenance of the Established Church was a grievance to the Roman Catholics. That was a necessary consequence of the principle laid down by the light hon. Gentleman; and who could say whether—on some future occasion, when the right hon. Gentleman, after having held office, should be again in Opposition and the Liberal party should be like a flock of sheep who did not know their shepherd — he might not declare in the 643 House that the existence of the Established Church in this country was an injustice and a wrong, and might not tell them, if he should be taunted with the charge of inconsistency, that they must be very shortsighted not to have perceived that he had furnished the germ of his argument in the speech in which he introduced the present Motion. There was no drawing back from that. If the right hon. Gentleman applied the principle of religious equality to the Church of Ireland he was bound to apply it also to the Church of Scotland. For his own part he disputed the principle of religious equality, while he held to the principle of religions toleration. Would the right hon. Gentleman say that the Pope's Archbishop of Westminster stood in a position, or ought to stand in a position, of equality with the Queen's Archbishop of Canterbury? But it was further said that the maintenance of the Established Church in Ireland was inexpedient. And upon what ground was that statement put forward? Irish discontent! There could be no doubt that discontent existed in Ireland. But there was no evidence to show that the existence of the Established Church was the cause of that discontent; while they had before them ample evidence that the discontent was embodied in a craving for nationality and a hatred of British rule. There was also evidence to show that absenteeism was one of the causes of the Irish discontent; but he would ask the House if the angulation of the Irish Church would tend in any way to its removal. Irish disaffection might be regarded as having found its exponent in Fenianism, and in a desire for the repeal of the Union. On that subject he would refer to the highest authority he could adduce—John Mitchell, who only a few months ago had been offered and had refused the leadership of the Fenian movement. No man probably knew more about Fenianism, and John Mitchell, writing in November last, said—The Irish Established Church seems to be given up as an untenable post; and the Established Church is the main stronghold of British power in Ireland. The whole British system hangs together, and stands or falls together. Let no man believe that the question of Irish independence is an isolated question—that Ireland can be constituted an independent kingdom, or republic, and that Great Britain and she can go on peaceably side by side, each in her own way. No; Irish independence means the abolition of British monarchy—and so much the better. It has cumbered the earth too long.644 He would now call the attention of the House to a speech delivered at Limerick a few days ago by the Roman Catholic Dean O'Brien. After speaking of justice and national life, he proceeded to say—Everyone knows that our Bishops will be with us when the time comes, for none love Ireland better; and they have always blessed the cause which justice sustains by the pleadings of truth and prudence.And he ended by saying—Let us also honestly say that the Church established by the law is a premium to anti-national sentiment. We shall make more Irishmen by the repeal of the Union between Church and State than we have lost by five years' emigration; and, better than all, we shall make unity in the land.While, therefore, it would be impossible by the overthrow of the Established Church in Ireland to diminish Fenianism or the desire for the repeal of the Union, they should take care not to contribute in any way to an increase in the animosity which existed between the Protestants and Roman Catholics. Was it not extremely probable that the members of a voluntary Church would be less likely to live in harmony with their Catholic neighbours than the members of an endowed Church? The overthrow of the Church, far from curing absenteeism, would lead to an increase of the evil; because the Protestant gentry who resided in the Southern and Western parts of Ireland, in the remote districts, would leave the country when they found themselves and their families deprived of the consolations of their religion in life and of its ministrations in death. If they over-ruled the Act of Union by passing such a Resolution as this they would be breaking a national compact solemnly entered into—a compact the more solemn inasmuch as, at the time it was agreed to, a declaration was made by the Roman Catholic laymen and Bishops of Ireland that the property of the Established Church should be safe and should not be disturbed by them. He trusted that the House would not again have to listen to sneers at "the cant of national faith." He therefore appealed to the House, unless the injustice were glaring, unless the expediency was demonstrated, unless they were prepared to cast to the winds the obligations imposed upon them by the Act of Union, not to pass the Resolutions proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, but to vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
The House will not expect me to follow the legal argument of the light hon. and learned Member who has just sat down. I entertain a firm belief that those legal cobwebs which are spread, and which are supposed to, and do in the minds of many Gentlemen, interpose between the conviction of a great evil and the necessity of justice, will be swept away before long by the almost unanimous opinion of the people of the Three Kingdoms. During this debate, which now has only lasted two nights, there has been, if not a remarkable change of opinion, a remarkable change of expression. Last night we had on interesting speech from the noble Lord who generally sits opposite me, the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranborne). I refer only to the beginning of his speech, in which he spoke of his affection for the principle of the Church Establishment. There was a hesitation in his manner; be had a strong love for his principle, but it appeared to me that he thought the time was come when even that cherished principle would have to be surrendered. From the Treasury Bench we had a speech from the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and when he sat down it is difficult to say what was the precise impression made upon the House at large. But I think, on the whole, the impression made on the other side of the House — his own side—was by no means a comfortable one. Now to me it is—and I think to the House it is—a misfortune that we have a Government that speaks with a different voice from night to night. We had it last year, and I presume, from the example of the debate which lately took place on the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), and on this Motion, we are about to see a repetition to it. Now, the fact is, that the position of the Government is one of great difficulty and perplexity. In point of fact, the position of the Government is one which I should call, in our Constitutional system, altogether unnatural. They are the Ministers, the Leaders of a minority of the House; and whilst they sat as Leaders of the minority in Opposition they defended the principles of their party, and they regarded apparently with satisfaction all their past career. The moment they are transferred to the Treasury Bench they find themselves in this difficulty, that although their party may still wish to cling to their past opinions, there is something in the very air, there is something throughout the 646 mind of the whole kingdom, which teaches them that their past opinions are impossible in their new position. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn made a speech not long ago at Bristol. In that speech he expressed what I am quite sure were his honest opinions with regard to the condition of Ireland. He stated that the condition of Ireland was one painful and dangerous, and to us, in appearance at least, discreditable, and, in fact, he used many other words of the same character. He said we had a strange and perplexing problem to solve; that in Ireland there was a miserable state of things. Then he said, "If we look for a remedy, who is there that can give us an intelligible answer? Ireland is the question of the hour." Well, that was not altogether at variance—in fact I should say not at all at variance—with the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Chief Secretary, in that candid and fair manner in which he always addresses the House, told us, I believe, as far as he knew, the facts as regards his country. But immediately afterwards we had a declaration from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that there was no crisis at all—that, in point of fact, the condition of Ireland was a normal condition, and that there was no necessity for anything remarkable or unusual in the legislation that was required. Now, to-night we had a speech from the Home Secretary, and I may say that every speaker on that side of the House has admitted that that speech was entirely in opposition, in its tone, its purpose, and its principle, to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn. Now, it seems to me the Home Secretary to-night answered the Foreign Secretary of last night, and I suppose, if the debate goes on until Thursday, probably the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, or perhaps the Secretary of State for India, will answer the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. But all this shows us that the House is in a wrong position. We have a minority in office, which cannot assert its own views with safety; nor can it with any more safety directly adopt our views; and thus, when on that side of the House a Minister gets up and makes what is called a Liberal speech on this question to us who are in Opposition, that creates discontent; and then another Minister gets up and makes a speech of an exactly opposite character, in order to 647 reconcile the discontented adherents of the Government. Now, what is really absurd about it is this, that there is a kind of confusion and chaos in the House. We have a Government which is not a Government, and we have an Opposition that is not an Opposition, because really we do not oppose anything that you propose. Your propositions are not based upon your own principles, which you held when you sat on this (the Opposition) side of the House, but on our principles, and therefore we are not in Opposition at all, but we help you as much as possible to carry out, not your own principles, but ours. Whatever compensation it may be to right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Bench and enjoy the dignities and emoluments of office, I think there are many honourable men, on whom I am looking at this moment, who do not observe the course of these proceedings with entire satisfaction. But now, notwithstanding these difficulties, there remains this great question which we must discuss, and which, if possible, we must settle. I say, notwithstanding some observations to the contrary I have heard, that the people of the Three Kingdoms are looking with anxious suspense at the course which Parliament may take on this question. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on one occasion spoke of this question, of this proposition, as being something in the nature of a revolution. But, if it be a revolution, after all it is not so great a one as one would suppose from the force and energy of the speech which he has delivered to-night—a speech which, although I differ from his views, was, I must say, a very good speech—in which he brought into the House a good deal of the force and energy of the people of that great county (Yorkshire) from which he comes. But, the fact is, that we are only about to deal with a question which affects, according to the Census, something under 700,000 people. I observe hon. Gentlemen talking of the Protestants of Ireland as being one-fourth of the whole population—of being 1,500,000. All that is fanciful exaggeration. According to the Census they are not more than 700,000, and let hon. Gentlemen bear this in mind—when the Census enumerators go round, if a man is not a Catholic or a Presbyterian, he is put down, unless he can state he is of some other sect, as an Episcopalian. Judging from what takes place in this country, we may believe that out of those 700,000 persons there must 648 be a considerable number who never go to church, and who, politically or religiously, have no interest in the Church. Therefore, I believe, speaking correctly, it would not be possible to show that there are Episcopalians in Ireland in intimate connection with the Established Church to the amount of more than from 500,000 to 600,000. Now, that will not come to more than 100,000 families, and that will not be very much more than the population of Liverpool, or Manchester, or Glasgow; so that, in point of fact, this question, which is held to be a revolution, and which eminent lawyers talk about by the hour from dark recesses into which we never enter—this great question affects only about the population of the city of Glasgow, or of Liverpool, or of Manchester. And it is for a population so small as this, I am told—for I am not versed in computations of this kind—you have no less than twelve Bishops and two Archbishops, and that you have devoted for their services—for their religious services—not less than the annual income arising from a capital sum estimated at, at least, £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 sterling. Now, if their system of teaching is really very good, I must say there ought to be in Ireland a more perfectly moral and religious population among the Protestants than there is in any other country in the world. Now, what are we going to do? What is the House going to do if we adopt the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire? If the House accept the advice of the majority sitting on this side, what are we about to do? We are not going to commit any vital wrong upon that one city population of 500,000 or 600,000. When we have done everything that I have suggested should be done, we shall leave them in as comfortable a position as the majority of the people of Scotland are in at this moment. ["Oh."] We shall leave them as well off as eight or nine-tenths of the population of Wales are; we shall leave them as well off as half—and not the least religious half—of the people of England are; we shall leave them as well off as the English, Scotch, Welsh, and Irish people who form the population in in our colonies, whether in North America or Australia. And what can be more monstrous than for Gentlemen to come here from Ireland—and there may be some from England—and tell us we are bringing about a revolution, that we are committing an enormous oppression, that we are 649 hazarding the loyalty of the people of the North of Ireland, when, after all, the most any of us proposes to do is that the population will be left at least as well off as any of the various populations of the Empire I have just described? I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will be convinced it is not a bottomless abyss we are going to plunge their friends into. Although it is a very small question for the Church in Ireland and for the Church people, I hold it is an infinitely larger question for the Catholic population of the United Kingdom. Now, the right hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last relies much upon law. I suppose it will be admitted that there are only two pretences on which the State Church—the Protestant Church—can exist in Ireland. The one is religious—the other is political. Now, has anybody been able to show that, as a religious institution, it has not been a deplorable failure—because clearly, the original intention, the original hope, was that the people of Ireland would be drawn from the Church of Rome and brought into harmony with the Church of England. Well, I undertake to say, from the time of the first establishment of the Protestant Church in Ireland until now—reckoning up all the Catholics on the one side and the Protestants on the other—it could not be shown, and it is not to be believed—it has ever added really in 100 persons not even one person of the actual number of Protestants in that kingdom of Ireland. The thing has been an entire failure—a failure deplorable, and almost ludicrous, as an engine for converting the Catholic population. But it has not only not made Catholics into Protestants, but it has made Catholics in Ireland more intensely Roman than the members of that Church are found to be in any kingdom in Europe or country in America. And what is more than that, I think it can be demonstrated that the existence of the Protestant Church in Ireland—whether missionary or not in pretence—has not only not converted the Catholics themselves, but has made it absolutely impossible that anybody else, or any other Church, should convert them. Because, if you look and see how the Protestant Church has been connected with the State, and with the politics of the country, with the supremacy of the landed proprietors, with the supremacy of the Protestant party, with all the dark records of the past, you will see the effect has been to make of Catholicism in Ireland not only a faith, but absolutely a patriotism. I think I might 650 appeal to every Member of the House who now hears me whether, if he had been placed in Ireland with his father before him among the Catholic population—I ask him whether he would not have felt that if he threw off his allegiance to his Church, and if he entered the portals of this garrison Church, that would have been to him not only a change of faith, but a denial as it were of his birth and of his country? I have felt always in considering this question—and I have considered it much for twenty-five years past—that all the circumstances of that Church in Ireland have been such as to stimulate the heart of every Catholic to a stronger adherence to his own faith, and to a determined and unchangeable rejection of the faith and the Church which were offered to him by the hands of the Conquest. Now, there is one point on this, too, which is important, that the more you have produced in Ireland dissatisfaction with Imperial rule, the more you have thrown the population into the hands of Rome. Now, I hope I shall offend no Catholic Member in this House when I say that I consider it one of the great calamities of the world that there are in many countries millions of Catholic population who are liable to be directed in much of their ordinary conduct, and ofttimes in their political conduct, through the Bishops and clergy from the centre of the city of Rome. I think that is a misfortune—I think it is a misfortune to the freedom of the world. And I think more than that, that it is a misfortune to every Catholic Church in every country; for it tends rather to prevent it from being wholly national, and it prevents also such changes and such reformations as, I believe, are necessary in the progress of every Church. Well, now we see some result of it in other countries of Europe—notably, at this moment, in Austria. There is a contest going on with the Roman power even in that country, which lately we thought was the very last in the race for freedom. There is no country in Europe probably at this moment in which the Catholic Church and population are more entirely subject to the direct influence of a certain number of persons, of whom most of us know nothing, who pull the strings of the Catholic world in the city of Rome, than the country of Ireland. Well, I attribute much of that which I think a great evil to the existence of the Protestant Church in Ireland. ["Oh!"] Why, you know perfectly well that the great discontent 651 of Ireland is marked out mainly by the Catholic population, and you know that that population is even at this moment, morn than it was some years ago I am afraid, subject directly to political influences from Rome; and I am satisfied that it is for the interest of the Catholic population of Ireland in that respect, and it is for the interest of this great nation and of this Imperial Government, that whatsoever be the tie between the Catholic population of Ireland and the Government in Ireland, that at least we ought to take away every obstacle that can lessen in the smallest degree the loyalty of that people to the Imperial Crown. Well, if this Church has failed as a religious institution, how stands it as a political institution? Why, it was appointed not only to convert the Catholics, but to secure the Union. An hon. Gentleman with a courage that I should not like to imitate, said, that if the 5th Article of the Act of Union should be altered, then, in point of fact, the Union is as good as abolished. I see the hon. Gentleman up there, and I think he is not the only one who said it in the course of this discussion. It is a very old and not a very strange device to expect the people to be made loyal through the instrument of the clergy. I know that many centuries ago a monk of some celebrity at the Court of Louis of Bavaria told the monarch, "You defend me with the sword, and I will defend you with the pen." Well, we have been during all this time defending this Church with the sword. The sword has scarcely ever been out of the hand of the governing power in Ireland. And if a fair, simple, and unadorned narrrative were given of the transactions of this Parliament with Ireland, with regard to its different enactments—coercive restrictions, suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Act, and so forth—it would form a narrative which would really astonish the world, and would greatly discredit us. Well, Sir, after all this supremacy I am afraid it is not too much to say that many victims have perished on the scaffold in Ireland, and that the fields of Ireland have been more than once drenched with the blood of her people. But, after all this is done, we are not a bit more secure. It is no matter which Government sits on the Bench opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire was there two years ago, and on that occasion, by the consent of his Colleagues and the then 652 Home Secretary, had to introduce the Bill for the suspending of the Habeas Corpus Act. Now you are on that side of the House, and you have to do the same. Nobody says it is not necessary. I am not prepared to say it has not been necessary at other times. But surely if this be necessary—and if there is this painful duty to perform at various times—it shows that this matter is not very secure in Ireland. In fact, Sir, this is the most painful thing that we have witnessed lately that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act has become so common that it causes no remark. The measure is introduced into the House. An Irish Member makes some remarks about it, and it is passed, and we suspend the liberties of one of the Three Kingdoms from year to year. And the Prime Minister has the courage—I might also use another word—he has the courage to get up and say there is nothing in the nature of a crisis in Ireland, and that things, in point of fact, are going on there very much as usual, and that the House of Commons is not required to do anything in particular for that country. What you have in Ireland is this. There is anarchy, which is subdued by force, and after centuries of rule—not our rule, but that of our forefathers—we have got no farther than this. We have not reconciled Ireland to us, and we have done none of those things which the world says we ought to have done; and at this moment—in the year 1868—we are discussing the question whether it is possible to make any change with reference to the Established Church in Ireland which will bring about a better slate of feeling between the people in that country and the Imperial Government. Well, Sir, I am afraid there has been very little statesmanship, and very much neglect, and I think we ought to take shame to ourselves, and, if possible, to try to get rid of some of our antiquated prejudices on this matter, and look at it as men would look at it from a distance, and whose vision is not impaired by the passionate condition of things which in this country has so often prevailed with regard to this question. Well, now, what is the remedy that is now offered? What do people say of it? Now, I challenge hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House to deny this if they can. Do you not know that out of 500,000 Episcopalians in Ireland there are many—there are some in the Irish nobility, some landed proprietors, some magistrates, even some of the clergy, 653 a great many Irishmen—who believe at this moment that it is of the very first importance that the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire should be carried. Now, I am not going to overstate my case. I do not say that all of them are of that opinion, or that half of them, or that one-fourth of them are. I state no number; but of this I am certain, that there is an influential, a considerable, and, as I believe, a wise minority, who are in favour of distinct and decided action on the part of Parliament with regard to this question. But if you ask the whole of the Catholic population of Ireland—be they nobles or be they commoners, landed proprietors, magistrates, merchants, shopkeepers, tenantfarmers—perhaps, of the whole number of Catholics of Ireland, being, I do not know how many times—I suppose eight or nine times—the number of the Episcopalians, these are probably, without exception, of opinion that it would be greatly advantageous and just to their country if the propositions submitted on this side of the House should receive the sanction of Parliament. Now, if some Protestants and some Catholics are agreed that they should remove this Church what would it be if Ireland was 1,000 miles away, and we were discussing it as we might discuss the same state of affairs in Canada? It we were to have in Canada and in Australia all this disloyalty among the Roman Catholic population, owing to the existence of a State Church there, why the House would be unanimous that the Slate Church in these colonics should be abolished, and that perfect equality and freedom in such matters should be given. But there is a fear in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that the malady which would exist in Ireland across the Channel should appear in England; that, in point of fact, the disorder of getting rid of the State Church in Ireland, like any contagious disorder, should cross the Channel — the west wind — lodging first in Scotland, and then crossing the Tweed and coming to England. I think the right hon. Gentleman went so far as to say that he was so much in favour of religions equality that if it were insisted on that it should exist in Ireland by the disestablishment and disendowment of the Protestant State Church, that he would recommend the same policy for England. Now with regard to that, I will just give the House an anecdote which has reference 654 to Scotland. Some years ago I had the pleasure of spending some days at the house of the late Lord Aberdeen, after he had ceased to be Prime Minister. He was talking of the disruption of the Church of Scotland, and he said that nothing in the course of his public life, he thought, had given him so much pain as that disruption and the establishment of the Free Church in that country. But he said he had lived long enough to discover that it was one of the greatest blessings that had ever come to Scotland. He said that they had a vast increase in the number of churches, a corresponding increase in the number of manses or ministers' houses, and that schools had increased, also, to an extraordinary extent; and there had been imparted to the Established Church a vitality and energy which it had not known for a long period; and that education, morality, and religion had received a great advancement in Scotland in consequence of that change. Therefore, after all, a change of this kind is not the most dreadful thing in the world—not so bad as a great earthquake—or as many other things that have happened. I am not quite sure that the Scottish people themselves may not some day ask you—if you do not yourselves introduce and pass it without their asking—to allow their State Church to be disestablished. I met only the other day a most intelligent gentleman from the North of Scotland, and be told me that the minister of the church he frequented had £,250 a year from the Establishment fund, which he thought very much too little, and he felt certain that, if the Establishment were abolished, and the Church made into a free Church, the salary of the minister would be advanced at least £500 a year. Well, that is a very good argument for the ministers, and we shall see by-and-by, if the conversion of Scotland makes much advance, that you may be asked to disestablish their Church. The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. B. Cochrane) last night quoted something which, I dare say, he did not recollect accurately—something which I had said respecting the Church of England; but the fact is that the Church of England is not suffering from the assaults of the Liberation Society; it is suffering from a very different complaint. It is an internal complaint. You have had it before one of the Courts of Law within the last few days, and a very curious decision has been given that candles are lawful, but incense is something horrible and cannot be allowed; 655 and then the newspapers tell you on the very next Sunday there is more incense in that particular church than there ever had been before. I will tell hon. Gentlemen opposite what it is that endangers the State Church now—I mean a State Church like this in England, against which there is no violent political assault. It is the prevalence of zeal. Whenever zeal creeps into a State Church, it takes naturally different forms—one strongly Evangelical, another strongly High Church or Ritualist, and these two species of zeal work on and on in opposition, until finally there comes a catastrophe, and it is found that it is not Mr. Miall and the Liberation Society—although they have prepared men's minds not to dread the consequence when it really does happen—but it is something wholly different, within the Church itself, that causes the disruption of the Church. The Scottish disruption did not take place from any assaults from without—it took place from zeal and difficulties within; and if you could keep the whole of the Church of England perfectly harmonious within its own borders, it would take a very daring prophet who would undertake to point out the time when it would be disestablished. We will confine ourselves, therefore, to Ireland, and I will ask hon. Gentlemen this: I believe hon. Gentlemen opposite do not usually reject the view which we entertain, that the abolition of the State Church in Ireland would tend to lessen the difficulties of governing that country. I think there is scarcely an hon. Gentleman on the other side who has not some doubt of his previous opinions, some slight misgiving on this point, and some disposition to accept our view of the case. Well, why should you be afraid? Even children, we know, can be induced, by repeated practice, to go into a dark room without fear. You have always, somebody said the other night, lions in the path; but I will not dignify them with the name of lions—they are hobgoblins. Now, when you have seen and handled them, as you have a great many times since I have been in the habit of speaking opposite to you, these things are found, after all, to be only hobgoblins; you have learned, after all, that they are perfectly harmless; and when you thought we were doing you harm, and upsetting the Constitution, you have found that, after all, we were doing you good, and the Constitution was rather stronger than it was before. Let me point out for a moment some of those changes 656 that were found at the time to be of great difficulty, but have been found to be very wise and good afterwards. When I came into this House, nearly twenty-five years ago, our colonial system was wholly different from what it is now. It has been altogether changed—Sir William Molesworth and his friends were mainly the authors in Parliament of those changes. Well, all our colonics, as we all admit, are much more easily governed and much more loyal than they were in those days. Turning then to our financial system — and I really do not want to offend anyone by mentioning this—you know that our financial system, since Sir Robert Peel came into office in 1841, has been completely changed, and yet the Revenue of the country is larger, which I regard as a misfortune—and not only larger, but more secure by far, if Parliament requires it, than it was at any previous period of our history. Take the old protective system, which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) and some others have not forgotten. Free Trade, I believe, was a frightful monster. But the protective system is gone; and now every candid man amongst you will admit that industry, being more free throughout the country, is better rewarded; and that the land, which you said would go out of cultivation, and become of no value, sells for a higher price in the market than it ever brought before. There are two other points on which I wish to add a word. One was mentioned last night after most of the Members had gone home. The balance of power was once considered—what shall I say?—the very beginning and ending of our foreign policy; indeed, I am not sure that there are not some old statesmen in the other House who believe in it even yet. What was done last night? Why, the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), who comes up from Scotland brimfull of enthusiasm for impossible projects, proposed to put in words which had been rejected from the Preamble of the Mutiny Bill relating to the preservation of the balance of power. [Lord ELCHO: I only proposed to re-insert them.] What did one of your most distinguished Ministers, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for War, say in reference to the proposition? He said he thought it singular that the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Otway) should have proposed to remove the words, because they really meant nothing; but he was still more surprised that the noble Lord should 657 have asked to have them replaced. Well, thus you see that this balance of power is gone, and yet England, I will undertake to say, under the national and fair administration of Foreign Affairs by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, is just as much respected by all foreign Powers as ever it was when we were ready to meddle in every stupid quarrel that arose upon the Continent of Europe. Now, there is only one other thing to which I will advert — the question of the representation. You know, in 1830, there was almost no representation. There were a few towns in which there was almost universal suffrage, and many scores of rotten boroughs — in fact, the whole system had got into such a state of congestion that it could not be tolerated any longer, and we had a small, but which might have been a very large, revolution, in amending that state of things. Last year you, who had seen this hobgoblin for years, who had thought, I have no doubt—many of you—that I was very unwise and injudicious in the mode in which I had proposed to extend the suffrage—last year you found out that it was not so monstrous a thing after all, and you became absolutely enthusiastic in support of the right hon. Gentleman's Reform Bill. Well, you believe now, and the First Minister, if this was an occasion on which he had to speak about it, would tell you not to be afraid of what was done. He would tell you that, based on the suffrage of a larger portion of your countrymen, Parliament would henceforth be more strong and venerated by the people than ever it had been before. If that is true of Parliament, what shall we say of the Throne itself after all these changes? I will venture to say that, whatever convenience there may be in hereditary monarchy, whatever there may be of historic grandeur in the Kingly office, whatever of nobleness in the possessor of the Crown, in all these things is it not true that everything is at least as fully recognized by the nation as it ever was at any previous period of our history? I do not mention these things to reproach anybody here. We all have to learn. There are many in this House who have been in process of learning for a good while. In fact, I am not sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire did not admit to me that on this very question of the Church his opinions have been greatly expanded, and have been ripening for a series of years. 658 That is greatly to the credit, not only of his head, but of his heart. We have seen even amongst you on that side of the House a progress in many things—a progress which I say is most gratifying to me—though that, of course, is a very small matter—and it is also a very wholesome indication that the minds of men are becoming more open to the consideration of great principles in connection with great public questions. And this lets us see that in future we shall have—as, no doubt, we shall have — a Government more in accordance with public opinion and public interests than we have had in past times. Now, in my opinion, the changes that are made in our time are the glory of our time. I believe that our posterity will regard them as the natural and blessed fruits of the growth of intelligence, and of the more comprehensive justice of this age. I mention these things to ask you not to close your ears to the arguments, nor to close your hearts to the impressions of justice which must assail you with regard to this question which is now being debated so much in Great Britain and Ireland. I might appeal to a right hon. Gentleman who perhaps is in the House—the Member, I think, for the county of Limerick—who was at a very remarkable meeting held the other day in Limerick on this very question. I have heard from sources which cannot, I think, be questioned, that it was a very remarkable meeting—one of the most remarkable that has been held in Ireland, I will venture to say, for the last twenty years, or, perhaps, I might say for a longer period; that there was a far more healthy tone of mind, of expression, of conduct, of feeling, of everything we wish to sec, than has been known there for a very long period. I believe and know—because I am told by witnesses who cannot be contradicted—that that change arose from the growing belief that there was a sufficient majority in this House—that the general opinion of Parliament was sufficiently strong, to enable this measure of justice and reconciliation to be passed. Now, I ask you, if, after what has taken place, you are able—unhappily able — to prevent the progress of the movement which is now afoot for the disestablishment of the State Church in Ireland; are you not of opinion that it would create great dissatisfaction, that it would add to the existing discontent, that it would make those that are hopeful despair, and that men—rash men if you like 659 —strong and earnest men, would speak to those that hitherto have not been rash, and have not been earnest, and would say, "You see at last; is this not a proof convincing and unanswerable, that the Imperial Parliament, sitting in London, is not capable of hearing our complaints and of doing that justice which we, as a people, require at their hands?" Do not imagine that I am speaking with personal hostility to the right hon. Gentleman who is your Chief Minister here? Do not imagine for a moment that I am one of those, if there be any, who are hoping to oust hon. Gentlemen from that (the Treasury) Bench in order that I may take one of the places occupied by them. I would treat this subject as a thing far beyond and far above party differences. The question comes before the House, of course, as all these great questions must, as a great party-question; and I am one of the Members of this party. But it does not follow that all the Members of a party should be actuated by a party spirit, or by a miserable, low ambition to take the place of a Minister of the Crown. I say there is something far higher and better than that; and if ever there was a question presented to Parliament which invited the exercise of the highest feelings of Members of the House, I say this is one of those questions. Then, I say, do not be alarmed at what is proposed. Let us take this Irish State Church, let us take it not with a rude—I am against rudeness and harshness in legislative action — but if not with a rude, still with a resolute grasp. If you adopt the policy we recommend you will pluck up a weed which pollutes the air. ["Oh, oh."] I will give hon. Gentleman consolation in the conclusion of the sentence—I say you will pluck up a weed which pollutes the air; but you will leave a free Protestant Church, which will be hereafter an ornament and a grace to all those who may be brought within the range of its influence. Sir, I said in the beginning of my observations that there were the people of three kingdoms who were waiting with anxious suspense for the solution of this question. Ireland waits and longs for it. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell); I appeal to that meeting which he can describe, and perhaps may describe, to the House; and I say that Ireland waits and longs for a great act of reconciliation. I say, further, that England and Scotland are eager to make atonement for past 660 crimes and past errors; and the last thing I shall address to the House is this—I say it depends upon us—this House of Commons — this Imperial Parliament — whether that reconciliation shall take place, and whether that atonement shall at length be made.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Thursday.
§ House adjourned at Twelve o'clock.