§ Lords' Amendments to Commons' Amendments to Lords' Amendments and. Reasons considered.
I rise, Sir, un-der a heavy sense of responsibility, but with profound satisfaction, to move that this House do agree to the Irish Church Bill, as re-amended by the House of Lords, without any exception or reservation. It is my duty, considering what has passed before, briefly to state to the House what are these Amendments to the Bill, I do not mean as technically expressed on the Paper printed for the use of Members, but according to their substance and effect; and I have likewise to sketch the manner in which we have arrived at these Amendments. Sir, in the Amendments to the Bill, there are six points which call for particular notice. In the first place, we, the Government, assent to the excision from the Preamble of the entire words which were struck out by the House of Lords on the first occasion when the Bill was in Committee in the other House. That portion of the Preamble is cast out which related to the application of the surplus in a negative sense, specifying that it was not to be appropriated to religious uses; and also that part of the Preamble which declared in a positive sense that it was to be appropriated to the benefit of the people of Ireland. We could not have consented to part with those words, had there been no provision in the Bill relating to the surplus; but inasmuch as there will be a provision—passed by the House of Lords last night—relating to the appropriation of the surplus, we feel that it would be invidious and unnecessary to require a theoretical or abstract declaration in the Preamble of that which will be found briefly and simply, but sufficiently, indicated by enacting words in the latter portion of the Bill. The next point necessary to be noticed is the date. I am quite satisfied, after what has passed "elsewhere," that those Gentlemen who considered that we evinced an undue tenacity in replacing the date of the 1st of January will not be inclined to persist in any charge against us on that score, for we have the gratification of knowing, or of at least believing that 565 we know, that it was declared last night by a person who is a most influential organ of political opinion in the House of Lords that, provided the other enactments of the Bill were reduced to a satisfactory condition, he was of opinion that the earliest date for disestablishment would be the best. The date of the 1st of January, therefore, stands in the Bill, not as a token of contest and victory, but as indicating the joint and harmonious opinion of both Houses of Parliament. The third point that requires notice relates to the deduction of the stipends of curates from the incomes of the incumbents. As the Bill last left this House the majority of the House had introduced into this portion of the measure a change which, I think cannot have been understood, or it would have received an earlier and more favourable notice. We had assented to the framing of clauses in such a way that none of the poorer incumbents in Ireland—none the income of whose benefice amounts to less than £300 a year—would, under any circumstances, be liable to a deduction of a curate's salary from his clerical income. When the Bill reached the House of Lords, it was found that other provisions, and particularly those which related to the certainty of the criterion for determining who was and who was not a permanent curate, admitted of further consideration and amendment; and it was suggested that it would be extremely hard that the rector who, from some accidental cause, had, within a particular and limited period, employed a curate, contrary to his usual habit and to the absolute necessities of the benefice, should, on that account, have the stipend of the curate deducted from the income of the benefice. Acceding to the justice of that representation we cheerfully proposed two things — in the first place, that no man should be adjudged a permanent curate simply on the ground of having been employed within the stipulated time, but only after the terms which would give a statutory definition of a permanent curate should have been found to have been fulfilled; and, in the second place, that the period of service for which a curate's stipend should have been allowed for in reckoning the income of the living for taxation should not be one year, but should be extended to five years. The next provision I 566 would notice is that which relates to the glebe houses, and with respect to that important portion of the Bill I will simply say that in substance it has not undergone alteration. A change has been introduced—and here again with the perfect good-will of the Government —to the effect that any person desirous to commute may, if he likes, commute as to all his other interests, but except from the commutation the house which he occupies, and likewise any land of which he may be himself not only the landlord, but the occupier. That change is one which I think can cause no possible offence. With respect to the moderate charge which this House consented to leave on the glebe houses as the Bill originally stood, it was possible that in the last resort, so far as the view of the Government was concerned, that might have been a subject for consideration; but the discussions which have arisen both here and "elsewhere "have established so close a relation between that moderate arrangement and the question of the maintenance or non-maintenance of the principle of religious equality in the arrangements of this Bill that I think it is generally admitted, as it has been conceded by the vote of the House of Lords, that these provisions ought no longer to be the subject of discussion or change. Then, with respect to the surplus clause, that will be reduced to a very simple form. It will declare that it is expedient the proceeds of the property of the Irish Church, remaining after the satisfaction of all equitable claims, shall be appropriated mainly to the relief of inevitable calamity and suffering, yet not so as to cancel the obligations attaching to property under Acts of Parliament for the relief of the poor; and it will also enact that the appropriation of the surplus shall be effected in the manner which Parliament shall hereafter direct. And here I may be permitted to add a few words of explanation, in order to say that to us this enactment is perfectly satisfactory. Upon the introduction of the Bill I hinted to the House that in all likelihood the 68th clause might require some subsidiary legislation before the money could be astually appropriated, but we had no desire to retain in the hands of the Executive the appropriation of the money. At no time have we made it an essen- 567 tial portion of our proposal, or desired to treat it as a subject of conflict. It was quite enough for us to ask, and all we could ask, that Parliament should make a solemn legislative declaration of the general purpose to which the money should be applied, and should reserve to itself all other discretion. Of course even that discretion is likewise reserved. We, who are modifying the Act of Union, could not and should not wish to set up any higher claim for ourselves than we allow to others; but we did think it a great and important object that this large sum of money should not be suspended as it were before the eyes of every party, of every section of a party, of every local community, of every candidate at an election, to become the subject of promises, bargains, and intrigues, which would tend to corrupt both the representative and the constituencies. We have been censured, and perhaps not unnaturally—for I will admit that the case is open to observation both ways—for the introduction of some minute and careful specifications into the clause which are said to be open to objection; but I ask those disposed to criticize us—what would have happened, how should we have fared, and, what is more important, how would the Bill and the public interest associated with the Bill have fared, if we had introduced the Bill in the condition, as regards the surplus, in which it came down to this House from the House of Lords? I do not think any man would deny that in that case we should have laid ourselves open to the gravest charges, and interposed the gravest obstacles in the way of the passing of the measure. I would call on the man who thinks that we could have presented a Bill for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church, which would have wholly and absolutely relegated to the future the question of the application of the surplus, to recollect the history of the Reform Bill of 1866, and what happened when the proposal was made to separate the questions of enfranchisement and disfranchisement. Sir, this is not, so far as I am concerned, intended to be more than an explanatory and apologetic plea. Not one word have I said, nor will I say, conveying the slightest reproach to any one. My task is one far more agreeable. I am sure it must be the desire of all who hear me, now that 568 we have arrived at this solemn point in the history of the nation, that every man should discharge from his recollection whatever words may have tended, be it much or little, needlessly to embitter this great controversy. And, Sir, to support by practice that which by precept I have suggested, I call to my own mind that I used an expression in the discussions of last week that gave offence "elsewhere," when I described, perhaps, by an ungainly figure, not, as those who recollect my words will know, any general unacquaintance on the part of the Lords on the subject of public affairs, but their necessary comparative unacquaintance with the details of the engagements and obligations between Members of Parliament and their constituents; but the expression has given offence, and I therefore regret that I used it. Sir, I have now gone through the Amendments, excepting, advisedly, the main one, which I am desirous of placing in that position of prominence that in every way belongs to it. The main Amendment is the Amendment in the commutation clause. We have agreed to accept as our own, to make part of our policy, and earnestly to recommend to this House, with whatever urgency we may presume to use, the adoption of provisions which will materially alter the operation of the commutation clause. The changes to which I need refer, I think, are only two. One of them is that the proportion of clergy in any diocese who are to agree to commute before certain effects can follow is to be altered from four-fifths to three-fourths. We do not see the advantage of that arrangement, but we can understand the motive by which it has been dictated; and this is palpable, as we think, that it in no way adds to the burden likely to be imposed on the funds by the alterations in the commutation clause. We therefore have adopted it because it was desired. But the main alteration is this — that subject to the same condition of working by a large majority within the limits of each diocese, and, of course, with the perfectly equal application of the principle to the Presbyterian Church in its various and separate divisions, the sum of 5 per cent shall be added to the sum of 7 per cent which was the increment of commutation which the House sanctioned when the Bill was last before it. The pecuniary effect of this change it is not easy 569 to compute with precision. I think its operation will probably be somewhat reduced by the change from four-fifths to three-fourths; but if it is largely acted upon, it will lead to an additional charge upon the fund for the disestablished Church to an extent somewhat exceeding £250,000, and there will be a corresponding sum, though my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derry (Mr. Serjeant Dowse) may not admit that it will be a corresponding sum, but there will be a corresponding percentage laid on the fund for the benefit of the Presbyterian Church. Now, Sir, this is the important change, as far as the principle of the Bill is concerned, to which we have assented. And. I ought, in recommending such a change to the House on the part of my Colleagues and myself, to acquaint the House with the grounds on which we recommend it, and the manner in which we have arrived at it. Sir, from the first moment of the conception and of the introduction of this Bill, our dominant idea, to which every other has given way, has been the sense of our duty of keeping strict and loyal faith with the people who have sent us here. The engagements at the last General Election were no ordinary engagements. In general, a candidate goes before a constituency with general declarations of opinion, which are liable necessarily to very large varieties of application. It rarely happens that an issue perfectly distinct on a question of primary national importance is submitted to the country at a General Election. Such an issue was submitted at the beginning of 1784, when Parliament was dissolved upon the question between supporting George III. and the Ministry of Mr. Pitt against the coalition of Mr. Fox and Lord North. Such an issue was submitted when, in the spring of 1831, the country was asked whether it would rally round and sustain the Reform Bill of the Government of Lord Grey. Such an issue was again submitted in the November of last year, and these three occasions of questions so put with such distinctness, and upon interests so vast, before the country, are the only three, so far as I know, that the Parliamentary history of an entire century affords. Sir, we had no choice— whether as persons engaged together in government, or as persons actuated by a sentiment of individual honour—we 570 had no choice, except to make strict fidelity to our engagements, the cardinal consideration to govern our course. Subject to that, we were desirous to make every concession to the Irish Church about to be disestablished that was compatible with the principles of religious equality which we desired to run like a silver cord through the whole tissue of the Bill. That being so, when the Bill came back from the House of Lords to be discussed in this House, we carefully reviewed and severely tested the provision we had made, and asked ourselves what were the points on which it would be possible for the House of Commons, without derogation from the principle of the Bill, to make further concessions either to the Church or to any other religious body. The result of the conclusion at which we arrived was exhibited in the Amendments which we recommended, and which the House was pleased to adopt in the debates of Thursday and Friday last; and the pecuniary effect of those Amendments, so far as we could judge, was to grant to the disestablished Church a sum of money little short of £800,000, besides the sum corresponding in respect to the commutation which was granted to the Presbyterians. These were our overtures towards the settlement of the question, and I refer to them now because they form an essential link in the chain of the transactions. Other overtures were made to us; and after we had concluded the process in this House we again considered what our course was to be in the event of such overtures being made, and whether it was still possible for us to make any step in advance. We still concluded that we had done all that the principle of the Bill, strictly considered, would admit—nay, that in respect of private endowments we had done more than the principle of the Bill, strictly considered, would admit. But, notwithstanding, we at once arrived at this conclusion, that considering all the great interests involved in the case, the benefits of passing the measure, the mischief of its rejection, the value of peace, the desire we entertained for it, and lastly the deference which none of us should be ashamed to own that he owes to the other branch of the Legislature—the combined force of these considerations, we at once concluded., would lead us, 571 provided the question ever reached that issue, to recommend strongly to the House to make some one further sensible and substantial concession in order to bring about an agreement with the House of Lords. Now, Sir, that is a plain, unvarnished tale; and it is upon that tale that we wish our case to stand. I have no doubt that considerable collateral benefits will arise from accelerating commutation by increased inducements, for every commutation where the clergyman is a landlord, puts an end to his position as a landlord; and that, in Ireland, we think to be no small or secondary benefit. But still the main grounds on which we recommend the concession —as it is certainly in our view a concession beyond the principle of the Bill —are those I have briefly detailed— they are the immense public interests involved, the great objects we have in view, and the desire to defer to and concur with the House of Lords in the exemplification of that harmony of our institutions which, perhaps, has rarely been more severely tried than during the discussions of the present year; and which, I thank God, has stood the trial. Sir, I know not that I need add anything in explanation of these Amendments, excepting to say that, immediately that we found that a disposition existed which gave us hope of a common basis, my noble Friend, Earl Granville, in that spirit which all would desire, and with that capacity which I think all admit, entered into the detailed communications which have resulted in the settlement which we now recommend. And, Sir, it is but fair that I should repeat, what I have before gladly said, that I owe my acknowledgments to the Opposition in this House for the manner in which— abstaining from every effort to clog the course of this Bill, whether by open or by secret obstruction—they allowed the issue to be taken fairly, and while fighting the battle with the courage that becomes them as English Gentlemen they stooped to no unfair advantage. And further, Sir, I must refer to "another place," and must acknowledge with satisfaction and thankfulness, not only the ability which I grant to be a great ornament and glory of the other House as displayed in debate, but that comprehensive sagacity and forethought, that power of realizing the future and of preparing for it, which alone, I think, has 572 brought about on the part of the House of Lords the recommendation of the settlement which I am now authorized to urge upon this House. Sir, we have arrived indeed at a great period. When this Bill receives—as I trust it will receive within a very few days—the Assent of the Crown, every man must be conscious that a change has begun to pass over the moral atmosphere of Ireland. I think, too, that, quite apart from the differing views which we have taken of this measure, every man will feel that, at the introduction of this new period, it is a solemn duty for each of us, in his sphere, to labour to accomplish his own prophecies, if they have been sanguine, and to defeat his own predictions, if they have been gloomy and unfavourable. And, moreover, I am confident that this will be the spirit in which this measure will be ushered into the world. So far as we are concerned we have urged it as a remedy, in part, for the diseases of Ireland, because we are convinced that in equality, as it is understood in this country—and it is here a term of far different import from that which the corresponding phrase bears across the Straits of Dover—that in equal laws and equal rights there is a potency of charm for healing political and social wounds, and for creating that concord which is the strength and glory of a nation. On such grounds it is our duty to test to the utmost the power of that principle, and as a portion of that process it is that we have urged this Bill. But, Sir, in endeavouring to put an end to a state of privilege for the minority, it is not, I hope, to introduce a state of tyranny on the part of the majority. I trust that the majority will disclaim that tyranny both in word and action, and indeed if they should not we should be compelled to admit that although it might exhibit a condition of things less odious than that which we have put down, yet it would still be a condition of odious and intolerable wrong To the Roman Catholics by this Bill we offer nothing but that which we believe to be their strictest due. With the Presbyterian community we have endeavoured to deal on principles of equal justice. To the Church that is now disestablished, and towards which not one of us can ever feel a sentiment other than that of earnest good-will—to the Church now about to be disestablished we simply record our wish and prayer that there may be de- 573 veloped in her, according to her means, those masculine qualities by which a great crisis can be met. And we bid her God-speed on her new career. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that the Lords' Amendments be now considered and agreed to.
§ MR. VANCE, who rose amid cries of "Agreed," said, that, as the representative of a cathedral city (Armagh), he had a right to deliver his sentiments upon this subject. He looked upon these Amendments less as a compromise than as an unconditional surrender. In the question of the commutation, a noble Lord in the Upper House proposed that the commutation should take place at fourteen years' purchase, which was strictly analogous to what had been allowed in the case of Maynooth. But the right hon. Gentleman only offered a bonus of 7 per cent, which, in fact, only represented the greater longevity of the clergy; and the addition of 5 per cent would not prove of much real benefit to them. Indeed, he doubted if the clergy would commute at all under such disadvantageous circumstances. He regretted that the Lords did not adhere to their views respecting the ecclesiastical residences and the preservation of the glebes. In many of the poor and remote districts the means for purchasing those residences would not be found, especially if the landlord were an absentee; and in that case the gift of the churches would be useless, and the purpose of giving them would be altogether defeated. But he further objected to yielding on this point, because those residences had been promised by Cabinet Ministers whom he now saw before him, and who had pledged themselves on their canvass that the glebes should be restored to the Church. He did not blame the noble and learned Lord who conducted these negotiations (Lord Cairns) so much as he did those noble Lords who deserted him at the last moment on the subject of the Ulster glebes. Those glebes ought never to have been given up. They never were the property of the Roman Catholics; they were the gift of a monarch on conditions that had been strictly fulfilled; they had been restored from the wilderness, drained and fenced by their owners; and he was sure that the people of Ulster would look with indignation at the confiscation of these lands. It had 574 been carried out against every principle of right and equity; and it was an act of the English Parliament which would neither be forgotten or forgiven. Then there was no provision made for the maintenance of the cathedrals. It would be impossible for the disestablished Church to maintain them, especially in the remote districts; she would have enough to do to maintain the churches, and the cathedrals would gradually sink into ruin. Then he thought the House of Lords ought to have maintained the surplus intact, as the minority in this House wished it to be; and it ought to be remembered that the minority was greater on that point than any other. He would remind the House that at the very moment when the House of Lords was engaged in making these concessions the Solicitor General was charging them with being ignorant of the feelings and regardless of the wishes of the people of England. He thought their Lordships had carried concessions much too far, and the consequence of the compromise come to last night would be that the Church of Scotland would be next attacked. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had put himself into the hands of the voluntaries and Dissenters, and they had aided him in this work of the demolition of the Irish Church, because they knew that it would give them a power which would before long be used against the Church of England. Indeed, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a voluntary church in one part of the Kingdom, and an Established Church in the other—at all events, it would be a subject of constant agitation. He believed the Lords would live long enough to repent of the act they had now committed.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
I do not think it would become those who, to the best of their power, have maintained the opinions of the minority during this long, anxious, and arduous discussion, now that they think the course taken is, under all the circumstances, wise, and right, and creditable to all concerned— I say I do not think it would become them to be silent, and not to accept the responsibility of declaring that opinion upon the present occasion. In all human affairs there is a point at which persons must accept an adverse decision, and bow to the superior force and power of 575 those with whom the practical control of affairs remains; and it is not the course of true wisdom when that point has been reached, to refuse to see and to acknowledge it, or, without a hope of improving the position of any class, to maintain a struggle against public opinion, simply for the sake of that conflict and that struggle. If here or "elsewhere" it had appeared to any who had the responsibility of judgment that, by keeping this question open and deferring a settlement, better results for the country—or, speaking on the part of those who had the interests of the Church at heart, better results for the Church—would have been likely to be obtained, that belief would have justified a corresponding course of action. But, for my part, I cannot conceive that anything would have justified a deliberate choice of policy which would have kept this question, having attained to its present position, longer open and unsettled, to be a constant source of irritation and mutual recrimination and excitement, inflaming the passions and feelings of large classes of men both in England and Ireland. Nothing could possibly have justified that but a strong and, I venture to say, a reasonable opinion, that by so doing some good practical result was likely to be attained. I, therefore, cannot blame as if it were an ignominious surrender—I rather applaud the wisdom and generosity of those who, having done all that they could, felt that the limit had been attained, and that by persisting in a fruitless opposition they should be doing harm and not good to the very interests they desired to protect. And I must say it appears to me that on the side of the Government there has been substantial concession, both of feeling and of something of real practical value, to the disestablished Church. Of feeling, because all men have their feelings, and when a Minister is in the position of my right hon. Friend, supported by so great and so loyal a majority, sure to be able in this House to carry by a great majority anything on which he thinks fit to insist, and having no reason to doubt that he would be supported out-of-doors in any course that he might adopt— when such a Minister, conducting a measure like this, has taken a strong, strict, and severe line, and has from time to time spoken as if any deviation from that line on the side of greater liberality to- 576 wards the disestablished Church might be, perhaps, a deviation from the principle of the Bill, it did require some courage in himself, and some confidence in the generosity and wisdom of this House, before such a Minister could make up his mind, under the influence of those considerations—which my right hon. Friend has so worthily spoken of to-day—to make the concessions for the sake of peace which he has announced to the House. And I venture to say that the motives for making those concessions which my right hon. Friend has mentioned are such as increase their value, such as are honourable to himself, and, I may add, are motives the absence of which from the mind of anyone occupying so high a position I should have thought matter to be deplored almost more than any calamity which could happen to the country. If there be any duty of a Minister so powerful as my right hon. Friend—I venture to say none can stand higher than this—to contribute what is in his power to the maintenance of the authority of all the branches of the Government, and of the Constitution under which we live, and do his best to avoid conflicts and irritation between the two branches of the Legislature, and to bring into harmony all the parts of our system of government. To that responsibility and to that duty my right hon. Friend has shown himself not insensible. He has been met in a corresponding spirit by what appears to me to be the unanimous sense of this House. And I must add that the disestablished Church could not certainly have had a worse fate before it than to become disestablished, not now, but some years hence, perhaps, after a prolonged period of conflict, and after other great interests in the country had been endangered unnecessarily for her sake. In the interest of the disestablished Church it is better that she should go forth into the world with something less than than what her advocates consider justice, than that she should get more as the price of such perils and dangers as otherwise might have been incurred by those other great interests. I cannot conclude without saying one word to express my personal feeling as to the way in which my right hon. Friend has conducted this measure—in a way in which all of us must, I think, appreciate. He has referred to an unguarded 577 expression which was used by him upon one important occasion, not with the intent of conveying any species of disrespect to another Assembly, but which, having been so taken and so understood, he has, in disavowing the construction put upon that expression, retracted it with the best possible grace. I feel bound to say, as far as I myself am concerned, not only that from the very beginning I have been certain that my right hon. Friend, in the course which he has taken in this matter, has been actuated by the purest motives, but that it seems to me that, from the beginning to the end of the discussion, he has conducted it with temper, moderation, and dignity, with courtesy towards his opponents, and respect towards this House.
§ SIR FREDERICK W. HEYGATE
said, that, the supreme moment of the political death of the Irish Church having arrived, he was anxious it should die with dignity. The principles which the Church held were true, and it would take far more than any measure that had ever passed the Legislature to do them harm. He deeply regretted the injustice and injury which had been done to the Church; and he was more satisfied than ever of the impolicy of the arrangement which had been made. But he rejoiced with the hon. and learned Gentleman who had spoken last, that if the passing of the Bill were inevitable, and if they were simply to retain through its rejection a respite of a few months, or possibly of a year, the period of suspense had been put an end to. Nothing had been more painful to him, and he was sure to most if not all of those who sat behind him, than to have mixed up with what to them was a great religious question subjects of a pecuniary and humiliating character. But, situated as they were, it would have been wrong in them had they neglected to support, as far as lay in their power, the just claims of all persons concerned to liberal compensation. It had been freely asserted that the Church, though disestablished and disendowed, would still carry off a very substantial portion of its endowments. He entirely denied that assertion, and he could not comprehend the arguments by which it was supported; and he must say that if there were any one thing more unfavourable to the future of the disestablished Church than another it was to carry off the sem- 578 blance of endowment without the reality. He ventured to offer his thanks, and those of Members sitting around him, to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Roundell Palmer) for the sincere and valuable assistance which, all through these debates, he had given to the friends of the Church; on all occasions, perhaps, they had not been able to agree, but they felt that the support given them in his advocacy was that of a just and powerful friend. The fact should also be recalled to mind that all through these debates not one word had been uttered in any way reflecting on the character or energies of the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland; that would be a pleasing memory which would remain with those who had advocated the cause of the Church. And, looking back on the brilliant display of eloquence which had been made in "another place," perhaps the most ornate and effective speaker of all who had addressed the House of Lords was one who, though his title was Bishop of Peterborough, owed his origin to the soil of Ireland, and his training to the Irish Church. While he regretted the change, he would say, speaking for the great body of the Irish Churchmen, that into the future, however black or dark for themselves, they would not carry any resentment towards those individuals of differing faiths in Ireland who would be the gainers by the change. He could hardly bring himself to believe that it would do so, but he hoped that out of the present trial and depression might grow the materials of a better understanding among all classes in Ireland, conducing to the peace and prosperity of the country.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he rose to express a hope that the assurance given by the First Minister of the Crown that the Bill would be a means of conciliating differences and restoring peace and harmony in Ireland would be verified. On former occasions similar assurances had been given by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but time after time those assurances had not been fulfilled, and further concessions had been called for. He trusted that those who presided over the Church of Rome would not now violate the pledges which had been given on their behalf by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government; and that they would stand them in better 579 stead than the obligations on which they relied in vain during the last sixty or seventy years.
SIR JOHN ESMONDE
said, he hoped it might not be considered unbecoming in him, as some Irish Catholic of more importance had not risen, to tender to Her Majesty's Government his sincere and hearty thanks for the result at which they had arrived upon that day. Indeed, he thought that the thanks of the country were due to both sides of the House for the manner in which they had borne themselves during the long and exciting struggle which was now about to close. The Government generally, but especially the Prime Minister, deserved the highest praise for the earnestness and intelligence which they had manifested from first to last in grappling with this momentous question. He did not think it would be becoming if they were to separate without bearing testimony to the great services of his right hon. Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. Throughout the whole of that trying time he did not think any hon. Member could recall one instance in which his right hon. Friend was not to be found at his post; ready against all comers, with untiring energy and thorough acquaintance with the subject, from the great principle of the Bill down to its minutest detail. He could assure his right hon. Friend that he had watched him with pride since the time they were at College together grasping one after another the honours of his profession until he had capped them all by the honour of that day. He wished to be allowed to include his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his tribute. He felt rejoiced in being one of that band of Irish Members who had been lately described by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade as having supported Her Majesty's Government all through "almost unanimously and with great fidelity," although, in so doing, they only obeyed the wishes of the country. He reciprocated words of conciliation spoken at the other side of the House by the hon. Baronet the Member for Londonderry, and he trusted this might be the beginning of an era when Irishmen would be drawn closer together. The First Minister of the Crown might well feel proud of the great occasion for which they were assembled that day. Looking 580 back along the line of history an event stood out to his view which he thought bore some analogy to his position. When Columbus returned to Spain after the discovery of America, by the favour of his Sovereign and amidst the acclaim of the nation it was granted to him to bear upon his escutcheon the proud legend, "For Castile and Leon Columbus found a new World." The policy which the right hon. Gentleman had inaugurated towards Ireland would, he believed, yet entitle him to a greater fame than that of having, by just legislation, changed an integral part of this United Kingdom from a weakness and a danger into a glory and a strength.
§ MR. LEFROY
said, he had honestly and sincerely opposed the Bill in its progress through the House, and deeply regretted that it had ever been introduced. He should not, however, hesitate to admit that he had listened to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that day with pleasure, seeing the tone and spirit in which it was couched. He trusted that the silver cord which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of as running through the Bill would extend to the working of the measure, and that those happy results would flow from its operation which he (Mr. Lefroy) had not been sanguine enough to expect. So far, at all events, as he personally was concerned he should do everything in his power to make it work for the benefit of his country.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he wished, in the name of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, to tender his thanks to the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, and not only to them but to that rank and file of Members for England, Scotland, and Wales who supported him and his co-religionists in the endeavour to secure an act of justice for their country. Though the day might be called one of triumph he desired to say that Irish Roman Catholic Members did not desire to treat it in any manner as a triumph over their Protestant fellow-countrymen. In the great struggle which had taken place their only idea had been to break down the barrier which had so long separated different classes in Ireland. He hoped the time was now nearly approaching when Irish struggles would no longer be of a religious character. Religious dissensions 581 were responsible for creating a strange set of circumstances in Ireland; but he hoped they would all be wiped away by the passing of the present measure. The time might come when great polilitical changes might occur in Ireland. As a Catholic he might become Conservative, although he did not think that was likely to be the case; and, on the other hand, perhaps some of the friends of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Frederick Heygate) in Derry might be inclined to relinquish some of their long-cherished Conservative opinions. He had risen in no feeling of triumph, but simply to express the joy he felt that the great difficulty which had so long kept Protestants and Catholics disunited in Ireland had been removed. For that great event they had to thank the right hon. Gentleman who presided over Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. CHARLEY
said, he had to thank the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government for the uniform courtesy which he had extended to him personally in the course of these debates, and he must bear testimony to the admirable good taste which had characterized the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman had just addressed to the House. If he (Mr. Charley) had on any occasion used strong language, it had been under circumstances of great provocation; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would believe him when he said that there were Protestants in Ireland who had gone so far as to request him to impeach the right hon. Gentleman at the Bar of the House of Lords. For the admirable good taste which the right hon. Gentleman had displayed on this occasion, and the lenient way in which he had used his oratorical dictator ship, he bogged to thank him. At the same time, he deeply regretted that the House of Lords had read the Bill a second time, and that they had assented to the present compromise. If the House of Lords had thrown themselves unreservedly on the Conservative democracy of the country, they would have been supported in throwing out the Bill. He had hoped that they would at least have adhered to their Amendments, and, on the Prime Minister refusing to accept them, have given the country another opportunity of considering the question. He believed that if Parliament had been pro- 582 rogued, and the Bill had been sent to the Lords a second time they would have thrown it out on the second reading. As a representative of the Conservative democracy, which was totally opposed to the Bill, he felt functus officio, and would gladly resign his seat, did he not feel that so long as the oratorical dictatorship of the right hon. Gentleman continued, no part of our Constitution was safe. It was the Church of Ireland that was attacked to-day. It might be the Church of England to-morrow. And he regretted that the most reverend Prelates who presided over the Church of England had, by abstaining from voting against the second reading of the Bill, admitted the most pernicious principle that the State could seize upon and secularize property which had been solemnly dedicated to the service of Almighty God. Against that principle he entered his emphatic protest, and if it should be applied to his Dissenting friends opposite no doubt they would be happy that he should retain his seat to assist them in combating it. What had the House done by means of the present Bill? Disunited two Churches which had taken sweet counsel together for centuries. The homes of the clergy, their glebes, and their tithe rent-charges they had devoted to secular purposes, and had told Protestant Christianity in Ireland to go forth bare and naked, as if Ireland were still the Pagan country that she was when Patrick first set foot on her benighted shores! The time would come when the Presbyterians of Scotland and the Dissenters of England would regret the union which they had effected with the Church of Rome in order to strike down a Church which was apostolic in her discipline, and which, although episcopal, was the least prelatic and the most evangelical Church in the world.
§ MR. KIRK
said, he had been returned to that House to support the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church, and to effect, as far as possible, the equality of all religious sects in that country. He objected to the present settlement, therefore, inasmuch as it did not secure that equality; for while the disestablished Church was to have £250 to £800 a year for each of her clergy, the clergymen of the Presbyterian Church would receive not more than from £36 to £30 a year. He felt, 583 therefore, that his pledge to his constituents was not fully redeemed by the Bill, but at the same time he did not wish to disturb the unanimity which seemed to prevail in all parts of the House on the present occasion.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I think it quite unnecessary, and certainly inconvenient, that, on an occasion like the present, we should enter into any discussion of the principle of this Bill. My opinions on the subject remain the same, but it does not appear to me that this is an occasion that requires an expression of opinion from any hon. Member on that important point. If there was a difference between the two Houses as to the principle of the measure, I could easily understand, though the consequences might be of a grave character, that a delay in the settlement or further consideration of this question might have been advisable, and not only expedient, but, upon the whole, wise and. politic. But, when the difference between the two Houses has resolved itself into what we all must acknowledge to be matters of detail, I must say that I have always felt that delay in the settlement of this question, while bringing with it very doubtful advantages, might lead to difficulty and disaster to no inconsiderable extent. We should therefore remember that we are called on to consider to-day, when differences between the two branches of the Legislature have taken place on this question of the Irish Church, whether it is possible to come to an agreement with respect to details, and not in the least with respect to any principle involved in the Bill. Both the House of Lords and the House of Commons have accepted that principle. Now, I hear some talk of unconditional surrender, instead of amicable compromise in this instance; but I cannot help thinking that those who use expressions of that kind must really associate the acceptance of these Amendments with the acceptance of the principle of the Bill. I can easily understand that if an hon. Member is of opinion that by dissenting in some very small points of detail the defeat of the measure might be secured, he should wish that course to be taken; but it can be owing only to a confusion of ideas of that character that the phrase ''unconditional surrender" can be applied to the settlement which is proposed for our con- 584 sideration to-day. Let us see whether this is a just view of the case. The points of difference between the two Houses are really reduced in number to four. Considerable modifications have been agreed to by the Government in three of these— modifications, indeed, in a very important proposal, which amount, I might say, almost to a total change of its character. If that be the case; if, when there are only four points of difference between the Houses, points of detail, Her Majesty's Government has consented to a scheme which in three of these points introduces considerable modifications—I cannot understand how any hon. Gentleman can be justified in describing an arrangement of that kind on our part as one of unconditional surrender. It appears to me, on the whole, to be a wise and conciliatory settlement of the points of disagreement, and, although I do not wish to introduce my own opinion upon the subject—for it is not necessary —if I had really to decide which party had the best of the arrangement, I should think it, for the purposes of debate, more prudent to hold my tongue. Very likely the same feeling may influence Gentlemen on either side, and if, therefore, there is a reciprocal feeling of that nature respecting the settlement, I think we may arrive at this conclusion—that the compromise is a fair and just one. If the differences between the two Houses involved, as I ventured to observe before, the principle of the measure, I could understand hon. Gentlemen expressing, in terms of becoming indignation, their opinion of what they considered an unconditional surrender. But, even from their own point of view, it could only be an unconditional surrender of points of detail, not of any principle of policy, and when you come to examine into the terms of arrangement, you find at least, to use the mildest phrase, that as many of these points of controversy are conceded to us as have been conceded by us to the Government. If any arrangement was to take place upon this matter I cannot understand how it could have been brought about in any other way. I know there are some who very much regret that the point as to the glebe houses has not been insisted on. But allow me to say that that has been considered by some of the best judges at all times a questionable demand, 585 and that, if conceded, it might involve conditions as regards the future right of the State to interfere with the general property of the disendowed Church, which might he inconvenient and, perhaps, even dangerous hereafter. There is no doubt whatever that the strong feeling that exists upon the subject of the glebe houses and the necessity of that concession being made to the disendowed Church of Ireland, arose from certain expressions of the right hon. Gentleman and some of his Colleagues upon that subject during their canvass last year. They have frankly admitted that those views were then held by them and those expressions used, and I have no wish whatever to enlarge upon the subject further than to repeat what on another occasion I did mention, merely because it is a political truth which ought not to be forgotten — that I trust this will be the last occasion on which political questions will be dealt with on abstract principles. If the right hon. Gentleman had not laid down so broadly and abstractedly the principles on which he would settle this business he would have been able to have settled it more easily and in a manner which would have conciliated the feeling of powerful classes now much —I will not say outraged, but certainly much pained and offended, and we might have brought about this settlement in a way that would have been infinitely more satisfactory and more advantageous to the country. It must be remembered that there is not a single principle that was laid down on which this legislation was to take place from which, in practice, the right hon. Gentleman has not been obliged to deviate. It is not merely in certain cases where, contrary to his principles, he has been obliged to do something for the disendowed Church. Take, for example, the case of vested interests. Every vested interest and every personal position was to be respected in this settlement. But what was the first thing you did? You were obliged to attack some of the most important vested interests, and deprive individuals of some of their highest offices, such, for instance, as the ecclesiastical baronies. I do not say you were not justified in doing it. I do not say it would have been a wise thing to leave the Bishops of the disestablished Church in the House of 586 Lords, but their expulsion from that House was a complete violation of the principle of respecting all vested interests and personal rights. It shows you, therefore, that you could not adhere strictly to your abstract propositions; and that being so, I wish the right hon. Gentleman had deviated from them a little more, and had been a little more liberal to the clergy and laity of the disestablished Church of Ireland. He would have made a more satisfactory settlement if he had not been hampered by the enunciation of abstract principles by which, practically, he has not been able to abide. I only wish to impress upon the House that we really were on the eve of circumstances in our political life which we ought most to dread and avoid—namely, collision and misunderstanding between the two branches of the Legislature, and that at a moment when both Houses had so comported themselves that they really deserved and possessed the respect and confidence of the country. We have assembled here to-day to sanction and ratify upon matters of detail the settlement proposed by the Government, which will terminate the chances of such a collision not by sacrificing any principle, not by giving up any great doctrines in politics which we have supported under difficult circumstances in the face of the majority that has asserted them, but by assisting in a conciliatory and, I hope, satisfactory adjustment of points of detail which, on the whole, have, I think, been arranged with due consideration to the claims of both parties. Let us view what we are doing in that light. Do not let us consider what we are sanctioning this morning under the perverted and erroneous supposition that we are settling and deciding great principles of policy, and particularly the principles upon which this measure is founded. That is finished. The House of Commons has agreed to disestablish and disendow the Church of Ireland. I regret it. The House of Lords has agreed to it, and by no mean majority, and the affair is at an end. But when hon. Gentlemen regard what after all should be looked upon by both sides of the House, under the circumstances, as a statesmanlike and satisfactory settlement of a most difficult question from an erroneous and perverted point of view — namely, that 587 we are now settling the principles of the measure, whereas we are only arranging in an amicable and conciliatory manner for all parties certain details of the measure — they may believe with my hon. Friend (Mr. Vance) that there has been an unconditional surrender of principle, although there has only been, I repeat, a satisfactory and statesmanlike settlement of detail.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, that upon any other occasion but the present he should have felt it necessary to dissent from some of the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) as to departures by the Government from principles which they had laid down on this question. He might also have protested against the tone of some part of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, in which he appeared to undervalue the enormous importance and gravity of the questions of which the House was now disposing. Upon this happy occasion, however, he had no wish to enter into matters of controversy. He hoped he should not be violating the rule he had laid down for himself, if he asked his hon. Friend the Member for Newry (Mr. Kirk) to re-consider the remarks he had made, and he thought it would become clear to him that the Presbyterians of Ireland had been treated in a spirit of the utmost impartiality. There was no point affecting them which had not been anxiously considered by the Government and settled upon terms at least equal to those given to the Established Church. As to the statement that the compensations given to the Presbyterians were far inferior to those of the Established Church, it was not inequality in the true sense of the word, but it was an inequality arising out of the inevitable circumstances of the case, for compensation must bear a strict and equitable relation to the endowment of which it was to take the place. He knew the candid mind of his hon. Friend, and hoped he would explain to his co-religionists the principles on which this Bill was founded. And now a word upon the termination of this great and memorable contest. No one sitting on that Bench could possibly have taken a deeper interest in the measure which had now reached its final stage in this House, and of which, for many years, he had been an advocate. Now, he agreed in what had been said 588 by the right hon. Gentleman opposite— that this was not a case of unconditional surrender, and that a settlement had been arrived at, creditable to both sides, and to the other House of Parliament; and it was a triumph, not of abstract principles, but of the great policy which the Government and the Liberal party had been pursuing. He held this to be a great satisfaction. He regarded the spirit both of the majority and the minority, with the best hope for the future, when he recollected the tone of the speeches which had been delivered, and he would particularly refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Dublin University (Mr. Lefroy). He looked upon the measure which was now brought to a successful issue, as one of the greatest acts of justice and wisdom ever adopted by any legislative assembly in the world, and he trusted that an era of constantly increasing peace, prosperity, and concord in Ireland might date from the period of this great historic event.
§ MR. MACFIE
said, he thought the country had much cause to be satisfied with the issue of this great conflict; and he could tell the Members of the Free Irish Church, from the experience of Scotland, that she had nothing to fear, and might throw herself boldly and with reliance on the Christian sympathies and support of those who belonged to her communion.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
said, he had no desire to prolong the discussion, but he was unwilling to remain silent after having heard the observations of his hon. Friend the Member for Newry (Mr. Kirk) in disparagement of the great measure now about to be completed. He would, therefore, however unwillingly, ask the indulgence of the House for a few minutes in order emphatically to express his dissent from those observations. He would remind his hon. Friend, who so efficiently represented Presbyterian interests in that House, that while the Presbyterian community, who number about 600,000, obtained something, and that a very considerable something, under the Bill, the 5,000,000 of Irish Catholics, to whom originally belonged all the Church property now being dealt with, got absolutely nothing. He would ask the House to mark the difference— the Presbyterians complained because having got much they did not get more, 589 while the 5,000,000 of Catholics, who asked nothing for themselves and who got nothing, were content because they saw in the great act of the hour a recognition by both Houses of Parliament that they were entitled to stand on the same platform of equality as their Protestant fellow-countrymen. He (Sir John Gray) regretted that even one Irish Liberal Member expressed dissatisfaction at the results attained. He rejoiced, however, that the dissent did not come from a Catholic representative, for he believed the whole Catholic party were content with the signal advance made. ["No!"] He heard one voice say "No;" but he would ask who ventured, when the demand for religious equality was made in 1866, to hope that in 1869 that demand would be conceded with the concurrent assent of both Houses of Parliament? He (Sir John Gray) could at least speak with authority, and, more important still, with authority based on recent communications, for the great Catholic community he had the honour to represent; and with that absolute and recent authority he would say that his constituents in Kilkenny, most of whom were Catholics, would accept the great act of justice with gratitude and with entire contentment; while for himself he would say—and possibly it would be conceded that he had some right to offer an opinion in the matter—that it far exceeded the most sanguine hopes entertained three years ago as to what might be obtained in the direction of religious equality within so brief a period. The right hon. Gentleman who led the Opposition, with that personal caution and political prudence which he invariably displayed in all cases of party difficulty, stated, when addressing the House, that he would abstain from expressing any opinion on the question as to which party had the best of it in the adjustment arrived at. He (Sir John Gray), standing in a sense apart from both parties, would not hesitate to express his opinion, though he might have to use somewhat of a paradox, and say that both parties had the best of it. He never looked upon and never treated this question as a mere party question. He looked upon the act now about to be completed as a great act of national justice about to be accomplished by the public assent of all parties for the benefit of the Irish nation, and from this 590 great national measure of right and justice all parties in the State and all sections of the community would reap signal advantages. Men interested in party may dispute as to who has the best of it. It ought to be their duty to see the great good that will come to all parties from establishing in Ireland content and confidence in the wisdom of Parliament. He would say of the House of Lords that the course adopted by them at that critical moment was most creditable and generous, and from it they would reach the rich reward of securing the confidence of the Irish people by demonstrating that the Lords as well as the Commons of this great Empire are willing on cause shown—on a fair case being clearly and conclusively made out—to lay aside the cherished prejudices of centuries—bow to the public opinion of the nation, and by a great act of retributive justice redress at any personal sacrifice the grievances and remove the wrongs of the Irish people. The Lords and Commons then had both "the best of it," for from that day forth the Irish people would judge of the Imperial Parliament by the great act of conciliation now being adopted by all, and would feel that one by one all the wrongs they complain of will in a similar spirit of justice be removed, when calmly and fairly brought under discussion. The Bill now about to become law would heal the wounds of centuries; and he felt bound to add that the tone of the last debate in the House of Lords—the kindly and generous tone and the conciliatory words used in that House that day, but more especially the language of conciliation and forbearance in which the Irish Conservative representatives accepted this great revolution, would sink deep into the Irish heart, and he hoped be imitated by all public men in Ireland so as to prepare the way for future co-operation in securing peace, prosperity, and unity amongst all classes of his countrymen.
§ MR. MIALL
Sir, I cannot part with this subject without one word of farewell. I will not, however, detain the House for long, for after all that has passed my emotions are too deep to admit of my addressing the House at any length. But this is a question on the settlement of which I really think it becomes some representative of the Nonconformist Body to say one word. I cannot but 591 rejoice that one great and important principle of the Nonconformist Body has now received legislative adoption. I believe it to be a principle of justice, and I think that in regard to Ireland the consequences of its adoption will soon appear, in greater harmony, greater social confidence among the people, and truer and more earnest exertions for the promotion of their religious ends. I trust, Sir, that the religion to be henceforth propagated in Ireland will be far less political and polemical in its character than it hitherto has been; and I wish to say, so far as I can say it on behalf of the body whose sentiments I represent on this occasion, that now that the Church of Ireland ceases to be a political body, we shall on our part be ready to afford her any assistance that we can in promoting her views and in placing her in a strong position. There never has been any feeling in our minds which would tend to the destruction of that body as a spiritual institution. We never have wished it to occupy a position of disadvantage. We do not believe that the money which has been left with it now will be of essential service to it in the future, but that the only way in which that Church can triumph over the difficulties of her position will be by putting forward the true spirit of self-sacrifice which our common Christianity demands from all Churches. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having conducted this great controversy to a successful issue, and I trust that the end of it will be the initiation of a new era of peace, harmony, and prosperity for Ireland.
§ MR. SERJEANT DOWSE
said, he had taken a great interest in this great question, never having been absent from a single division having reference to it. As an Ulster man he wished to say that he believed the glorious settlement which had been arrived at would be satisfactory to all the Irish people. During his canvass of the city of Londonderry, the Roman Catholic electors never asked for anything more than perfect religious equality; the name of Maynooth was never mentioned, and he was convinced that they would have abandoned all claim on account of Maynooth rather than forego that glorious settlement. He believed the Presbyterians of the North of Ireland would also approve of that measure. It might appear to them at 592 first sight that there was some inequality in the mode of dealing with them and the members of the Established Church; but it should be remembered that the principle of the Bill was compensation, and the amount of the compensation must, of course, depend upon the nature and value of the life interests. He thanked the Government and both Houses of Parliament for having brought to a final issue that great question by a settlement which, in his judgment, was thoroughly and entirely satisfactory.
Amendments and Reasons read a second time.
Resolved, That this House doth not insist upon its disagreement to the Amendments insisted upon by the Lords; and doth agree to the Amendments made by the Lords to the Amendments made by the Commons to the Amendments made by the Lords, and to the consequential Amendment to the said Bill.