§ Order for Second Reading, read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, when the right hon. Gentleman introduced the measure of which he has just now moved the second reading, he admitted that he was submitting to our consideration a gigantic issue, and he went on to say that a greater and more profound question had never been brought under the consideration of Parliament. Sir, I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his own appreciation of his measure, and I deduce from such an admission on the part of the First Minister of the Crown this conclusion—that if ever there were an instance which required on the part of this House its utmost judgment and deliberation, this is the case. I might add—not forgetting the peculiar character of many of the considerations involved in it—that it is one which also demands from both sides of the House much self-control and mutual forbearance. Now, Sir, it is more than 200 years since gigantic issues were decided on by the House of Commons. They were decided then with an earnestness of conviction not inferior to that which I am sure pervades this Assembly now; but, unfortunately, with a degree of passion and prejudice on both sides which turned out to be very detrimental to the country. The decision pronounced by the House of Commons at that time on gigantic issues was followed by a period of civil discord, not more distinguished for its long duration than for the costly sacrifices which both sides in the contest had to endure. That period of civil war was followed by one of violent tranquillity—if I may so style it—but one in which certainly the principles of civil and religious liberty did not flourish. At length the two parties, alike irritated and exhausted, terminated this great experimental chapter of our history with a passionate carelessness that recalled the old state of affairs without securing 1663 any of those objects for the attainment of which they had originally entered into the contest. Now, I cannot help feeling that what thus passed in the times of our predecessors may be profitable for us to remember; and that we may derive some instruction from it, and may resolve that, whatever may be the ultimate decision of Parliament on this gigantic issue, the country, which we fully represent, shall at least have the satisfaction of knowing that we have arrived at the conclusion to which we may come in the light of reason, in the healthy atmosphere of an instructed public opinion, with a deep sense of individual responsibility on the part of every Member in this House, and after the most vigilant and mature deliberation.
The right hon. Gentleman, in the measure which he has placed on the table of the House, proposes to accomplish two objects. The first is to sever the union between Church and State—which for the convenience of debate we call disestablishment. The second is to empower the State to seize the property of a corporation, which for the convenience of debate we call disendowment. Before I investigate the mode by which the right hon. Gentleman seeks to accomplish these objects, or speculate upon what I think will be the consequences if those objects are accomplished, I would ask the House to allow me for one or two moments to make a few general observations on the subject of disestablishment and disendowment. They are, to my mind, totally different matters, though they are frequently mixed up together, and the consequences of the one attributed to the other. In our debates last year—and, unfortunately, frequently upon the hustings—I observed the erroneous mode in which the consequences of disestablishment are attributed to disendowment, and in which the same process is followed vice versâ. Now, it seems to me that it will tend to the satisfactory conduct of debate if there is some general understanding as to what we comprehend by those words; and if, on the whole, we can contrive in our discussion to attach the same meaning to the same expressions.
Now, Sir, with regard to disestablishment, I myself am much opposed to it, because I am in favour of what is called the union between Church and State. What I understand by the union of Church 1664 and State is an arrangement which renders the State religious by investing authority with the highest sanctions that can influence the sentiments and convictions, and consequently the conduct of the subject; while, on the other hand, that union renders the Church—using that epithet in its noblest and purest sense—political; that is to say, it blends civil authority with ecclesiastical influence; it defines and defends the rights of the laity, and prevents the Church from subsiding into a sacerdotal corporation. If you divest the State of this connection, it appears to me that you necessarily reduce both the quantity and the quality of its duties. The State will still be the protector of our persons and our property, and, no doubt, these are most important duties for the State to perform. But these are duties in a community which rather excite a spirit of criticism than a sentiment of enthusiasm and veneration. All, or most of the higher functions of Government—take education for example, the formation of the character of the people, and consequently the guidance of their future conduct—depart from the State, and become the appanage of religious societies, of the religious organizations of the country—you may call them the various Churches if you please—when they are established on what is called independent principles. Now, the first question which necessarily arises in this altered state of affairs is—are we quite certain that in making this severance between political and religious influence we may not be establishing in a country a power greater than the acknowledged Government itself? I know this is a philosophical age. I know there are many who consider that the religious influence is a waning influence, and that it is a mark of an enlightened Statesman to divest the exercise of authority, as much as possible, of any connection with religion. These are not my views. I do not believe that the influence of religion is a waning influence in public affairs. I have, for a considerable time, rather been of opinion that we are on the eve of a period when the influence of religion on public affairs may be predominant. It is very difficult in a popular Assembly, as we all know, to touch upon subjects in which religion is concerned, and thirty years ago or so, when questions connected 1665 with religion were first constantly cropping up—if I may use the expression—in this House, it was curious and interesting to observe how both sides mutually agreed that, as it was necessary to legislate on these questions, Parliament should confine its attention as much as possible to the mere technical details of the Bills before it, avoiding any unnecessary reference to religious sentiment or principles. All this, however, has entirely changed. The religious principle; its influence upon man; its material consequences in endowments, in ecclesiastical establishments, in sects and synods; how far it is necessary in the exercise of political power that it should, to a certain degree, be consecrated; and how far it is necessary for the enjoyment of religious liberty that the civil authority should exercise some control upon the religious organization of the country—these questions have now become not only political questions, but the greatest of political questions. It is impossible for us any longer to avoid that discussion. All we can do is to meet these questions fully and frankly, and, if possible, in a spirit of charity, and of good temper, placing upon any expressions used on either side a favourable and friendly construction. I can only say that, if I make any of those rhetorical mishaps which are necessarily incident to our free habit of discussion in this House, I am sure no Gentleman opposite, or on my side of the House will suppose for a moment that I wish to wound his feelings or offend his conscience.
When we have to decide whether we can dissociate the principle of religion from the State, it is well to remember that we are asked to relinquish an influence that is universal. We hear in these days a great deal of philosophy. Now, it is my happiness to be acquainted with eminent philosophers. They all agree in one thing. They will all tell you that, however brilliant may be the discoveries of physical science—however marvellous those demonstrations which attempt to penetrate the mysteries of the human mind—greatly as they have contributed to the comfort and convenience of man, or confirmed his consciousness of the nobility of his nature—yet all those great philosophers agree in one thing—that in their investigations there is an inevitable term where they meet 1666 the insoluble—where all the most transcendent powers of intellect dissipate and disappear. There commences the religious principle. It is universal, and it will assert its universal influence in the government of men.
Now, I put this case before the House. We are asked to commence a great change, for it is impossible to consider the effect of this measure merely with the limited, though important, bearing, which is on the face of it. The right hon. Gentleman has himself given a frank and fair warning to Parliament. He has told them he was going to call for their decision upon a gigantic issue. He has himself admitted that a greater or more profound question was never submitted to Parliament. When, therefore, we are called to the consideration of these circumstances, it is absolutely necessary that we should contemplate the possibility of our establishing a society in which there may be two powers, the political and the religious, and the religious may be the stronger. Now, I will! take this case—Under ordinary circumstances, a Government performing those duties of police to which it will be limited when the system has perfectly developed the first step to which we are called upon to take to-night—such a Government under ordinary circumstances will be treated with decent respect. But a great public question, such as has before occurred in this country, and as must periodically occur in free and active communities—a great public question arises which touches the very fundamental principles of our domestic tranquillity, or even the existence of the Empire; but the Government of the country, and the religious organizations of the country, take different views and entertain different opinions upon that subject. In all probability the Government of the country will be right. A Government in its secret councils, is calm and impartial, is in possession of ample and accurate information—views every issue before it in reference to the interests of all classes, and takes, therefore, what is popularly called a comprehensive view. The religious organization of the country acts in quite a different manner. It is not calm; it is not impartial; it is sincere, it is fervid, it is enthusiastic. Its information is limited and prejudiced. It does not view the question of the day in reference to 1667 the interests of all classes. It looks upon the question of the day as something of so much importance—as something of such transcendent interest, not only for the earthly, but even for the future welfare of all Her Majesty's subjects—that it will allow no consideration to divert its mind and energy from the accomplishment of its object. It, therefore, necessarily takes what is commonly called a contracted view. But who can doubt what will be the result when, on a question which enlists and excites all the religious passions of the nation, the zeal of enthusiasm advocates one policy, and the calmness of philosophers and the experience of statesmen recommends another? The Government might be right, but the Government would not be able to enforce its policy, and the question might be decided in a way that might disturb a country or even destroy an empire. I know, Sir, it may be said that though there may be some truth in this view abstractedly considered, yet it does not apply to the country in which we live, because this is a country in which we enjoy religious freedom, and in which toleration is established; and because only a portion of Her Majesty's subjects are in communion with the national Church. I draw a very different conclusion to that which I have supposed—and I believe fairly supposed—as the objection made to the argument I am now offering. It is because there is an Established Church that we have achieved religious liberty and enjoy religious toleration; and without the union of the Church with the State I do not see what security there would be either for religious liberty or toleration. No error could be greater than to suppose that the advantage of the Established Church is limited to those who are in communion with it. Take the case of the Roman Catholic priest. He will refuse—and in doing so he is quite justified, and is, indeed, bound to do so—he will, I say, refuse the offices of the Church to any one not in communion with it. The same with the Dissenters. It is quite possible—it has happened, and might happen very frequently—that a Roman Catholic may be excommunicated by his Church, or a sectarian may be denounced and expelled by his congregation; but if that happens in this country, the individual in question who has been thus excommunicated, denounced, or ex- 1668 pelled, is not a forlorn being. There is the Church, of which the Sovereign is the head, which does not acknowledge the principle of Dissent, and which dares not refuse to that individual those religious rites which are his privilege and consolation. I therefore hold that the connection between Church and State is really a guarantee for religious liberty and toleration; that it maintains, as it were, the standard of religious liberty and toleration just as much as we, by other means, sustain the standard of value. If you wish to break up a State, and destroy and disturb a country, you can never adopt a more effectual method for the purpose than by destroying, at the same time, the standards of value and of toleration.
Now, I would wish to make one or two observations on this question of disendowment. I consider that if the State seizes the properly of a corporation, without alleging any cause, it is spoliation. But if the State alleges some penal cause for its violence, though it may be an unfounded, tyrannical, and oppressive one, then I understand the act of the State to be confiscation. I make that distinction between the two processes, and I think the House will find, that there is something in it. I am not about to uphold the doctrine that there is no difference between corporate and private property. I acknowledge the difference fully and frankly. The State has relations with all property; but the relations of the State with private and with corporate property are of a different character. I would attempt to express them thus—The relations of the State to private property are the relations of a guardian. The relations of the State to corporate property are those of a trustee. The duty of a guardian to his ward is mainly to protect his ward. The duties of a trustee are of a more complicated character. Undoubtedly his first duty is to see that the intentions of the founder are fulfilled, as far as the varying circumstances of generations will permit. I will make the admission—for I wish to argue the case fairly—that unquestionably if he finds that the resources at his command are extravagantly beyond what are necessary for the object in view, or that the purpose of the trust is pernicious, it is his duty to consider by what means a re-distribution of those funds and of that property can be safely accomplished. But 1669 this I do lay down as a principle which I will maintain against all comers—that under no circumstances whatever ought a trustee to appropriate to himself property of which he is the fiduciary. If that were to be permitted there would be no security whatever for property of any description. A Minister of State might throw his eye upon a wealthy corporation, and say—"I will confiscate this property, and apply it to the partial discharge of the National Debt or the entire discharge of the floating debt." Or he might say—"Taxation is never very popular; the taxation of the country which I rule is, on the whole, founded on just principles; but there are great murmurs not only against taxes but also rates; I will confiscate the property of this corporation, and I shall consequently be enabled sensibly to relieve the country, and thus, of course, obtain a great increase of power and popularity." But if that course were pursued, I am certain that the tenure of no property would be safe, and the credit of the country must collapse.
Having made these observations with respect to private and corporate property, I would now ask permission to state the grounds why I am, on the whole, entirely opposed to confiscating the property of corporations; why I view it alike with dislike and suspicion. The reason, Sir, is that, in the first place, whatever may have been the origin of corporate property—whether the gift of the nation, which was rarely the case, or the donation of individuals, as was generally its source—one thing is clear, that it is from its use and purpose, essentially popular property—the property of the nation, though not of the State. The second reason why I dislike all confiscation of corporate property is that I find that no great act of confiscation was ever carried into effect without injurious consequences to the State in which it took place. Either—generally speaking—it has led to civil war or established, what in the long run is worse, a chronic disaffection for ages among the subjects of the Crown. But if there be any corporate property the confiscation of which I most dislike, it is Church property, and for these reasons—Church property is to a certain degree, an intellectual tenure; in a greater degree, a moral and spi- 1670 ritual tenure. It is the fluctuating patrimony of the great body of the people. It is, I will not say the only, but—even with our most developed civilization—it is the easiest method by which the sons of the middle and even of the working classes can become landed proprietors, and what is more, can become resident landed proprietors, and fulfil all the elevating duties incident to the position. But there is another reason why I am greatly opposed to the confiscation of Church property, and that is because I invariably observe that when Church property is confiscated, it is always given to the landed proprietors. Sir, I hope that in this House I shall not be accused of being opposed to the interests of those connected with the land of this country. I look upon landed tenure of this country as, on the whole, one of the most beneficial and most successful institutions that has been created out of the feudal system. It is a tenure that, by dispersing over the soil a number of residents deeply interested in it, has secured local government, which is the best safeguard of political liberty; and, on the other hand, it is a tenure which, while it has attained for us these great social and political advantages, has been consistent with making the soil of this country, on the whole, the most productive in the world—that is to say, not only in the Old World but in the New World you cannot find a tract of land of equal size with that of the United Kingdom which is so generally and so uniformly productive. Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that it is a tenure which, both on account of its social and political advantages, and the great material consequences it has secured to the country, may be truly described as one of the most advantageous. I have not the slightest objection myself to the landed proprietors of the country increasing their wealth and increasing their power, so long as they do it by legitimate means—by the improvement of their estates, or in the fulfilment of those duties which the Constitution of their country generously, but wisely, has assigned to them. Sir, we know very well that the landed interest of this country will have their position examined and challenged as every institution and class in this ago will be; yet I believe that, for the reasons I have indicated, 1671 they will give a triumphant answer, and issue from that scrutiny with the approbation and sympathy of the great body of their countrymen. But I am sure of this, they cannot, especially in this age, and in the circumstances under which we live, take a more short-sighted course to increase their property and their influence than to have any hand in sacrilegious spoliation.
Now, Sir, having made these remarks on disestablishment and disendowment, I would ask the House to examine the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman intends to put this process into practice in Ireland; and to consider, the while, what may be the probable consequence of the course which he recommends. The Government of Ireland is not a strong Government; its sanctions are less valid than those of the Government of England. It has not the historic basis which the English Government has. It has not the tradition which the English Government rests upon. It does not depend upon that vast accumulation of manners and customs which in England are really more powerful than laws and statutes. The Government of Ireland is only comparatively strong from its connection with England; and the reason the Government of Ireland is a weak Government is, that a considerable portion of the inhabitants of Ireland are disorderly and discontented. Now, I will not go at this part of my observations into an investigation of the causes, alleged or real, of Irish discontent. They are like Martial's Epigrams, some are just, some unjust, some are well founded, some fantastical, some are true, some false. But no one will deny that discontent exists; and I think no man will deny this also—I am speaking to both sides of the House, with candour to all parties—no one will deny that among the causes—I do not say the only or the chief, or anything of the kind—but I say all will agree that among the causes of Irish discontent is this, that a powerful clergy, exercising their influence over numerous congregations, have no connection with the State. Well, Sir, what is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman? "Ireland is discontented—one of the causes of its discontent is that a Church is not connected with the State; I will regenerate the country, and I will have three Churches not connected with the State." 1672 What must be the consequence of such a policy?
There is another point to which I would draw attention. Whatever be the sanguine expectations of hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the consequences of this measure if we pass it, I think they will agree that of itself it is not sufficient to terminate discontent in Ireland. There are other measures of equal importance, or even much greater importance, that are already mentioned in political circles of authority. Even the Prime Minister has not only acknowledged that the question of the land of Ireland is one of immense importance that must be attended to, but he has, I believe, pledged himself to take it in hand; at any rate, some of his Colleagues, before they were his Colleagues, have left in memorable and burning sentences what they consider the best plan for at least the partial remedy of this deep-rooted grievance of Ireland. I am, therefore, right in saying that when this measure is passed, if it do pass, we must still be prepared to encounter Irish discontent. That is a conclusion in which all sides agree. Well, now, Sir, have we a better chance of encountering Irish discontent when three Churches are disconnected with the State than when we have only one? How will it probably work? There will be great discontent in Ireland; and, whenever there is great discontent in Ireland, the Church that is not connected with the State always supplies a body of learned, disciplined, and eloquent men who are the exponents of that discontent. Well, you will then have discontent in Ireland, and you will have three bodies of learned, organized, and eloquent men who will only be doing their duty to their congregations by being the exponents of this great disaffection. It is not a wild assumption on my part, if I were to suppose that with the cause of the next great Irish discontent the land may be in some degree connected; and what will be the necessary and natural feelings of the three Churches on the land question? Sir, I do not, as some do—I do not myself contemplate the immediate cessation of all dogmatic differences between the three Churches. I am in hopes that year after year any asperity of this kind arising from such a source may be softened; but I think I 1673 may venture to say this—that there will be one dogma in which the three Churches will entirely agree; which will be as unanimously adopted as any that may be sanctioned by any impending ecumenical council; and that dogma will be this—that the clergy of the three Churches, whether they were disendowed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth or in the reign of Queen Victoria, have all been equally ill-treated. And where there is this general discontent upon the land question, they will naturally say—"We entirely agree with the feeling of the nation; the land question is a question that must be settled." They will say—"The people have lost the great estate which belonged to the Church as their trustees, and where it is neither the clergy who were disendowed in the reign of Elizabeth, nor the clergy disendowed in the reign of Queen Victoria, will be able to tell you." Therefore, I have not the slightest doubt myself that the general discontent prevailing, from the City of the Tribes to the capital of the linen manufacture, will find learned, earnest, and eloquent exponents of the wrongs of the country, without any reference to differences in religious creed. The land question will assume many forms with one purpose. The multiplied demand will be irresistible unless we meet it with an alternative, and what that alternative is I will notice subsequently. Such, Sir, in my mind, are the probable—I will not say immediate—consequences; but consequences that will occur in the early experience of many men who sit in this House of the policy of disestablishment in Ireland, as it is advised by the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister. And, Sir, such are the prospects which disestablishment affords us of rendering a people contented and a Government strong.
Well now, Sir, disestablishment offering a prospect of so ambiguous and unpromising a character, let us see how the right hon. Gentleman intends to act in regard to disendowment. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to deprive the Protestant Church in Ireland of its property. The natural question that immediately arises is—Why? Does anybody claim the property? Nobody claims it. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that any other Church would use the property with 1674 more advantage? Certainly not, for he does not propose to give it to any other Church. Is the tenure of the property of the Church unsatisfactory and feeble? Quite the reverse. It is the strongest tenure in the country, and it does not merely depend on the Act of Settlement, as the estates of most gentlemen do, because it has a prescription of three centuries. One is naturally and necessarily anxious to know, under these circumstances—when no one asks for the property, when the right hon. Gentleman does not pretend that any other Church would carry out the intentions of the founders better than the Protestant Church, and when he does not deny that the tenure of the Protestant Church is a complete and powerful tenure—why he deprives it of its property? That, I submit, is a natural question to ask, and it is one on which we ought to have a satisfactory answer. So far as I could collect from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, to which I listened with unbroken interest and attention, the reason why he deprives the Protestant Church in Ireland of its property is, that the feelings of the Roman Catholics in Ireland are hurt by the Protestants having endowments, although the Roman Catholic Church wishes to depend on voluntary contributions, and although they are clearly of opinion that, because the Protestant Church is endowed, is the reason why the Protestant Church in Ireland is a comparative failure. I must say that this is the most extraordinary reason that has ever yet been adduced by a Minister for a great act of confiscation, and it becomes the House well and narrowly to consider it. It is an entirely new principle to take away the property of one corporation, because there is another body—to which he does not propose to give it—jealous of that corporation having the property. This, let me remind the House, is not only a new principle, but a new principle which may be applied to all kinds of property, and for this reason, because it has no peculiar reference to corporate property. It does not touch any of the attributes of corporate property, whether good or evil. The right hon. Gentleman, as the representative of the State—the great trustee in this matter—confesses that the property of the Protestant Church in Ireland 1675 is not greater than its needs. He professes that the provisions for the management of that property are not only good, but excellent and admirable. The right hon. Gentleman does not, for a moment, pretend that he has any other body in his eye that can carry out the intention of the original founder or donor better than the body whose property he is going to confiscate. It is not in his character as a fiduciary, or with reference to corporate property particularly, that this rule is laid down. It is a new principle that may be applied to private property to-morrow. It is the principle of forfeiture without a pretext. So far I ought indeed to correct myself. It is a new principle since we have had a settled Constitution, and since we came to live under the laws of progressive civilization. Otherwise it is an old principle enough, because it is the principle of tyranny and oppression in the darkest ages. But now see in what inscrutable mischief we may be landed if this principle is sanctioned. It cannot be confined to corporate property, because it has no affinity to corporate property. Apply it to private property. We are so used now to plundering churches that the moment a corporation is known to be in possession of a large property an hon. Member gives notice of his intention to bring the subject before the House. The fact is that our eyes are shut to the enormity of the circumstances when they are tested by objects with which we are daily familiar. Therefore, let us try this principle, which is an open principle, and not peculiar to corporations and apply it to private property.
I will ask the attention of the House to this part of the subject. In Ireland there are many estates—many large and many rich estates, and they belong, most of them, to Irish gentlemen. There are also many Irish gentlemen in Ireland, amiable and accomplished men, the most agreeable companions in the world, who have not large estates, and some of whom have no estates at all. After the announcement by the right hon. Gentleman of this startling principle of sheer forfeiture without the application to the property of any other machinery to carry out the intentions of the founders—after the proclamation by the right hon. Gentleman of this astounding principle 1676 —what will be the natural course of an Irish gentleman in the position I have described? [A laugh.] His argument would be this—it is a very serious matter for hon. Members, and it is only by proceeding in this way that you can test the validity of the principle—his argument would be this—The Irish gentlemen in the unfortunate position which just now excited the laughter of the House, would attend upon the Minister and say this—"We find ourselves in an anomalous position. Our breeding is not inferior to that of our habitual companions; our education is the same; our pursuits are similar; we meet in the same hunting field; we drink the same claret; we stand opposite to each other in the same dance; and our feelings are hurt by some of our companions having estates of £6,000, or £8,000, or £10,000 a year, with broad acres and extensive woods. We know well the spirit of the age, that the sentiment of selfishness is not to be tolerated. We do not ask for the estates of our more fortunate companions. All we ask is that you will take their estates away from them and establish, as one of the great principles of Irish regeneration, social equality; and let all Irish gentlemen, like the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, live upon voluntary contributions." And yet this is the great principle which I am told, several hon. Gentlemen opposite have pledged themselves to support, and that without even being acquainted with it. I do not wish to press the case; I believe the parallel to be a sound one, and I am sure that great changes in the relations of property must follow from the success of the right hon. Gentleman's propositions. Still it may be said there is a distinction between corporate and private property, and therefore you press the case too much in the instance you have given. I do not think so. I have well considered the principle which the right hon. Gentleman has brought forward. I believe it is not peculiar to corporate property, and that gentlemen who have private property will do well to consider whether it does not touch their case. But I am willing to apply it to corporate property. I speak in the capital of an ancient nation, remarkable above all the nations of the world for its rich endowments. Charity in its most gracious, most learned, and most humane form, 1677 has established institutions in this country to soften the asperities of existence. There are three great hospitals alone in this city endowed with estates which would permit them to rank with some of the wealthiest of our peers. Their united revenues alone considerably exceed £100,000. The House knows well these great establishments—St. Bartholomew's, St. Thomas's, and Guy's. But there are other hospitals in the country, where the physicians are not less celebrated, the surgeons not less skilful, the staff not less devoted, and which give all their energies, thought, learning-, and life to mitigate the sufferings of humanity. Well, I say, would it not, according to the new views and the new principle, be as painful as the existence of an Endowed Protestant Church is to the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland, for these eminent physicians and surgeons and their devoted staff to feel that their greatest efforts were often unable to accomplish all that they desired, and that their position as a voluntary body sometimes entailed upon them humiliation? Why should not the Minister come forward in a like spirit with that which now seems to inspire his policy, and concede to these gentlemen that the painful anomaly should be terminated, and that St. George's Hospital, Middlesex Hospital, University College Hospital, and, perhaps, Westminster Hospital, all depending upon voluntary contributions, should be placed on a footing of equality with those great institutions which, by their endowments, imparted to those connected with them a factitious importance in the profession, by the process of depriving these latter of their estates? Well, there might, no doubt, a good deal be said in favour of that view. The Minister would have £120,000 a year to dispose of, and he could in the handsomest manner give it to the farmers of England towards the reduction of the county rates. And I ask you seriously, if you are to adopt these principles for Ireland, is it possible that you should not apply them also to England? As I proceed, with my comments on this Bill we shall have some further opportunity of considering this question. There still are English Members with some influence in this House, and I hope they will consider on both sides of the House the 1678 position in which they will be placed with reference to this question. They are asked to make ducks and drakes of millions in Ireland, to assist persons who have only to meet the same duties and difficulties experienced in this country.
And now let us see how the right hon. Gentleman proposes to apply the power which you are going to concede to him of depriving the Church of Ireland of its property, and that on no plea whatever. Now, it is a very curious part of the measure to which I am about to call attention. Disendowment in itself, is not a complicated transaction. If a Government is strong, if a Prince has the power, it is remarkable with what facility he can disendow his subjects of all their possessions; and so a Minister, if he has a majority in Parliament, may disendow any corporation to-morrow. But when you have disendowed, if you have any regard not merely for principles of law, but also for the principles of a high policy, you offer some scheme in return by which the original intentions of the endowers may be fulfilled. In performing an office of that kind the difficulties of a Minister would not be great. For instance, there is the disendowment of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, which is often referred to in discussions and in speeches having reference to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. There the course was very simple. The Government of that day determined to take away the property from the Episcopal Church of Scotland, and to give it to another body. A very short Act of Parliament did the business—it will be found among the Scotch Acts and is, probably, in the Library. By this it was declared that the property hitherto enjoyed by the Episcopal body, its manses, and churches, and tithes, should in future belong to, and that the duties should be performed by, the Presbyterian body, and the Act created a roving Commission to carry that piece of legislation into effect. In those days no great difficulty was experienced in such a transfer. But that is not the position of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman, stepping out of his duties as the great fiduciary of the State, has made up his mind to confiscate the property of the Irish Protestant Church, 1679 but he has not made up his mind to give that property to any other body that could fulfil the intention of the original foundation. And therefore this has occurred to the measure of the right hon. Gentleman—one of the most remarkable results ever brought about by a Minister. Coming forward entirely to plunder the Irish Protestant Church, he finds that the only way in which he can accomplish his purpose is to ask the Irish Protestant Church to co-operate with him. This is the most notable part of this extraordinary measure. If the Irish Protestant Church does not co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman to carry out his policy he will be placed in a most difficult position. By his Bill he has confiscated the whole property of the Church; he will have on his hands some morning 1,500 churches, an immense number of glebe houses, property without end, and a very complicated trust to fulfil. Plainly, therefore, the Irish Protestant Church, if his plan is to succeed, must co-operate with him in carrying into effect all the details of his policy. I do not deny that the right hon. Gentleman may have a purpose so patriotic that it might so strike the Irish Protestant Church that it was desirable for them to sympathize with his appeal and say—"The blow, no doubt, is very great; but still, if it be as you say, absolutely necessary for the tranquillity of the country, for the advancement of good government, and for the general welfare of Her Majesty and her dominions that we should bear this legislation we will endeavour to do so." I can conceive a Minister making such an appeal, and I can conceive a great body answering in such a spirit, because I give Ministers and corporate bodies credit—which some people do not—for patriotic and enlightened feeling. But a Minister appealing to such a body, under such circumstances, would at least make the appeal in a most conciliatory manner, and would frame his propositions in a way calculated to soothe their feelings, and, as far as circumstances would admit, to respect their interests.
Now, how does the right hon. Gentleman act, and what are the terms which he offers to the Irish Protestant Church to induce them to co-operate with him to consummate his confiscation? As in- 1680 ducements, he makes them four propositions. The first is that the vested interests of every individual shall be respected. Well, I say that goes for nothing. There is no combination of circumstances under which at this moment any Prime Minister, in this country, proposing a confiscation of property—could hope to carry this without at the same time accompanying it with security for vested interests. You would outrage the feelings of Parliament and the conscience of the country by adopting any any other course. Respect for vested interests are the common-places of confiscation. I therefore pass them by. We come to the next proposition. The right hon. Gentleman offers the Church of Ireland, by a means to which I shall afterwards refer, and which I need not dwell upon now—he offers to those whom he is about to plunder—the possession of their churches on the condition that they undertake to keep them in repair. At least I understood, from the right hon. Gentleman that such was the case. There is a variance sometimes between the Bill and the right hon. Gentleman's statement, as often occurs in these matters, and some confusion may therefore arise in attributing to the Bill what was in his speech. But I believe I am correct in saying that, according to the speech, they are to have possession of the churches.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Yes, but what is a declaration of intention? I really do not know. It may be a deed sealed, signed, and delivered, and may involve engagements of the highest character and consequences. However, I do not want to split words with the right hon. Gentleman. There is no doubt about this—the Irish Church are offered the possession of their churches on condition of making a declaration of their intention to maintain them. But is that any great concession? By this policy the right hon. Gentleman will find himself one fine morning in possession of 1,500 churches at least. Somebody must keep them in repair. Even the Liberation Society would not tolerate that the churches should be allowed to tumble down. "You must keep the fabrics in order," they would say, "or you must raze them 1681 to the ground. We must not allow such a scandal through Christendom as that one of the kingdoms of Her Majesty is covered with sacred edifices tumbling to pieces, and that the aspect of regenerated Ireland is that of a general ruin." I say, then, that the right hon. Gentleman who will have these 1,500 churches to keep up, ought to be, as a prudent man, very glad if he can find any persons who would take a certain quantity off his hands. I can hardly believe that among his inducements to the Irish Church to co-operate with him in accomplishing its total confiscation the offer of their churches is—I will not use a coarse word—an inducement of a paramount character. And therefore I think we can hardly look upon it as a consideration valid enough to secure this extraordinary aid and union. There is a third offer; and hero, again, there is a greater difference between the statement and the Bill. I am sincerely anxious not to misrepresent anything, and I shall state what I believe to be the true proposal. The Irish Church, or those who will represent it, are, as I understand, to retain the glebe houses, provided they discharge the debt upon them, which is so great as to make these houses unmarketable. Well, that proposition does not appear to me to be invested with those glowing colours which ought to induce the Archbishops, Bishops, deans, and clergy of Ireland to co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman in what I shall show you is a scheme of entire and complete confiscation. Then there is a fourth proposition, respecting which, it appears to me, that there is a very considerable misconception, and that is the appointment of a Commission for the benefit of those gentlemen who are possessed of vested interests. The object of that Commission, we are told, is to enable the clergy to capitalize their vested interests, which will then become the trust property of a certain body, to which I shall afterwards have to advert. It is estimated that the interests thus capitalized would be certainly not less than £6,000,000—some say it would be much more; but that includes two small items which, strictly speaking, are not vested interests, and, therefore, I will not dwell upon them. But I suppose there is no doubt that the capitalization of those vested interests, if all 1682 the incumbents would agree to capitalize them, would produce a sum of £6,000,000, and a great many people are under the impression that the Irish Protestant Church would thus be left with an endowment of £6,000,000. Sir, that is a great misconception. I do not mean to say it is a misconception of the right hon. Gentleman; far from that. It is a misconception which people who do not trouble themselves with details, and are captivated with fine statements, lightly run away with. But the fact is, it is a delusion. Now, in the first place, is it the interest of the incumbents to capitalize their vested interests? These vested interests will be secure, if anything can be secure in these days of spoliation. They will be secure by the engagements of the Government, and they ought to be paid with the punctuality and the precision of the dividends. Why, therefore, should the person who possesses and enjoys a vested interest come and exchange it for a security of less value?—for the security of an unknown body cannot be equal to the security of the Government. But there is another reason why I doubt whether the possessors of vested interests will be apt to capitalize them, because, even if they considered the security of this new body were equal to that of the Government, or, from an esprit de corps, were willing to accept an inferior security, must they not feel that they have no security whatever that these £6,000,000 put into the hands of this unknown body may not be confiscated? No one can suppose, after such a rude shock to public credit and to national feeling, as the confiscation of any corporation in Ireland must produce, no one can suppose that the 2,200 incumbents and Bishops would come, and at once make a new fund, which, after all, is tainted by having originated from the old confiscated fund, and which, in a moment of political passion, may be considered to have retained all its odious characteristics, and therefore to be worthy of confiscation. Having, therefore, given some reasons why incumbents will not capitalize their vested interests, I want it to be clearly understood that, even if their vested interests are capitalized, no permanent endowment can grow from that capitalization. That appears to me to be perfectly clear. It is a point of the 1683 utmost importance, and I mention it now in order that it may be well discussed in Committee. I do not see how any permanent endowment can accrue. As the body to which I shall have afterwards to refer is in the position of an insurance company—if it gain on one life it may lose on another; but on the average there are 2,000 clergymen, and when all the lives have terminated, and all the vested interests come to an end, it will be found that the debtor and creditor account will be pretty nearly balanced. Therefore, I cannot believe that those who are possessed of vested interests will take advantage of this proposition, and if they do I want to impress on the House—for there are many ton. Gentlemen on the Liberal side who do not wish for confiscation—I want to impress on the House that no permanent endowment can accrue from the scheme. That is the main conclusion which ought to be borne in mind, and which, I trust, will be borne in mind in this debate.
Now, Sir, I have shown the House that the right hon. Gentleman is in an extraordinary position, and it will require all his genius to get him out of it. He comes forward as a great confiscator, and then he finds that he cannot accomplish the act of spoliation without the cordial co-operation of those whom he is going to rob. It did require the fervent spirit of the First Minister of the Crown to have devised such a scheme; and, whatever the result, I think its ingenuity is really an honour to the British Parliament. I have shown that, having devised the scheme, he has offered four inducements to the Irish Protestant Church to co-operate with him, and I have also shown that the four inducements are utterly futile. For the sake of time, I will not recapitulate what they are, because I am quite sure they must be in the mind and memory of every hon. Member. Well, but is there anything else in the Bill which might justify the Irish Church, however disappointed, to this act of supernatural patriotism? The manner in which the Roman Catholic Church is treated in this Bill as regards the College of Maynooth—is that an inducement to the Irish Protestant Church to co-operate in its own spoliation?
Now, in making any comments upon 1684 Maynooth I am anxious not to be misunderstood. If this measure is to be earned, or any measure of the kind, I cannot consider the case of Maynooth with any prejudices arising from the objects for which the endowment was made. I only view the case of Maynooth as I view that of any person disturbed and distressed by a Bill of this kind. If the safety of the State does require measures of this kind, I say that the interests you deal with should be dealt with justly, and in the highest sense liberally. That is the principle I would lay down, and I could make no exception of course of Maynooth. Therefore, if I make any comments as to the arrangements proposed with regard to Maynooth, it is not because Maynooth is concerned that I make them, but because there is exceptional treatment in this as in other instances, and because it does not appear to me that equal justice is meted out. I will not touch upon the point upon which an hon. Baronet (Sir George Jenkinson) addressed a Question to the right hon. Gentleman this evening. I think the hon. Baronet was quite entitled to put that Question, because I know that men of the highest authority think that part of the scheme founded on principles of the most ambiguous nature. I willingly accept the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, although it was an explanation which, as far as justice was concerned, was not altogether satisfactory. But I do not dwell upon that. I apprehend that, when we come to consider this question, the life interests, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, ought to be estimated and appraised on the same principles. But, Sir, in the arrangement with respect to Maynooth—and that arrangement is one of those which are to induce the Irish Protestant Church to co-operate with Ministers—there are circumstances which appear to me to be of an invidious character. Now, we shall assume for a moment that the same number of years are taken in calculating vested interests, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. But in the case of Maynooth the vested interests, on no pretence whatever, could be estimated at fourteen or even seven years' purchase. You have applied to all the students of the College, so far as I can understand the scheme of the Government, the same principles which, 1685 according to the version given by the right hon. Gentleman this evening, are applied to those who enjoy vested interests in the Protestant Church. Now, Sir, that is not just. The position of a student or scholar at Maynooth is not analogous in any degree to that of an incumbent in the Irish Church. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the vested interests of the Professors. No one grudges the vested interests of the Professors. They are entitled to the full and liberal appreciation of their vested interests; but we have the best evidence of what the amount of the vested interests of the Professors is. I was in the House when Sir Robert Peel brought forward the Maynooth Endowment, and I remember the particular impression that was made on the House as he proceeded, but not in detail, to propose the amount of salaries to be given to the chief officers of Maynooth. For reasons which are obvious he said that he should propose for that purpose an endowment of £6,000 a year. Now, therefore, we know that the vested interests of the Professors, on which the right hon. Gentleman enlarged, must be calculated on the basis of an endowment of £6,000 a year, and with those figures I confess I never could arrive at the results to which the right hon. Gentleman has come. Now, Sir, are there any other reasons with regard to Maynooth which should also make the Irish Protestant Church refrain from accepting the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman? I think that such reasons may be found in the source from which the right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged, not only in his speech, but in his Bill, that the compensation for the College, of Maynooth is to be derived. This appears to me to be a subject of great seriousness, and one on which the right hon. Gentleman owes an explanation to the House. If there was anything which we understood from the debates of last Session, and from the speeches of last autumn—if there was anything which was more clearly understood than another from the fervid declarations made on the impassioned hustings of Lancashire, it was this, that although the Protestant Church of Ireland was to be plundered, none of its property was to be given to the ministers of any other religion, and none of its property was to be applied to 1686 Imperial purposes. These were the reiterated pledges given to the country; and upon the understanding of those and of similar declarations, no doubt, the vote of the country was taken. Well, Sir, are those pledges redeemed by the measure before us? Is that double engagement of the Prime Minister fulfilled? I put it to the candour of both sides of the House. I have referred to the debates of the last Session of Parliament, and to the declarations made from the hustings of Lancashire last autumn; but, Sir, I need not have revived any painful memories, I might have appealed to the Preamble of the right hon. Gentleman's own Bill. In the Preamble it is said that it is expedient to do several things—that the Irish Church should cease to be established by law, that the proceeds of the property of the said Church, after satisfying all just and equitable claims, should be held and applied for the advantage of the Irish people, but not for the maintenance of any Church, or of the clergy of any other communion, nor for "the teaching of religion." Why, Sir, that is the Preamble of the Bill. One would have supposed that the arrangement was made after the Bill had been drawn, and that by some inadvertence—nobody attends to a Preamble—the original Preamble was allowed to remain. It must be the Preamble of the first Cabinet Council—it cannot be that of the last. But how stands the case as regards the fulfilment of the pledges that all the property of the Irish Protestant Church should be devoted to Irish, and not to Imperial purposes? Maynooth is supported at this moment by the Exchequer of the Empire. The Regium Donum is supplied from Downing Street. But now they are both to be supplied by the confiscation of property which, whether it be Roman Catholic or Protestant property originally—I do not now go into questions of that kind—both Roman Catholic and Protestant must agree with me is Irish property, and to that amount the Imperial Exchequer is to be relieved, in the face of pledges which all must acknowledge were repeatedly and solemnly given, and under which no such result could have been contemplated.
Now, let us see what may be the general result on the state of the Pro- 1687 testant Church when this measure is carried to completion; because, however unnatural, however impossible it may seem that the Church of Ireland should co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman, we cannot discuss the merits of this measure unless, as we proceed -with it, we assume that the Church will, however unwillingly, co-operate with him. Assuming then, that they will co-operate with him—assuming that his plan is carried, let us glance at what in a few years will be the position of the Protestant Church in Ireland. And I put this before hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House convinced that, in respect to a great measure of this kind, they must be impressed with the wisdom of acting with generosity as well as justice. Now, it is quite on the cards—it is not only possible, but highly probable—that in a certain number of years, probably in the ten years which the right hon. Gentleman fixes upon, the Irish Protestant Church will not have a shilling of property; while they will see, on the other hand, a richly endowed Roman Catholic clergy and a very comfortable Presbyterian body, and both provided for out of their own property! Well, is it desirable that such results, not of severe justice, but I say of unnecessary injustice, should be accomplished by Parliament? It is very true that it is said there is the sum of £500,000 which will go to the Irish Church in satisfaction of the private endowments created since 1660. I do not touch now on what I thought the highly unsatisfactory part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, fixing on the year 1660; for, in criticizing this measure, with the great indulgence of the House, I must, of course, omit many points. But the interest on that £500,000—which is by no means clear to me will be £500,000, though I will take it as £500,000—the interest of that sum would not keep in repair the churches of which we have heard so much. If they are to undertake the repair of those churches, there must be a fund for the purpose, and £16,000 or £17,000 a year would be absorbed in that way. Well, what else have they got? What is most extraordinary, the right hon. Gentleman has absolutely proposed that £20,000 a year for ten years, or £200,000 in all, should be given to the body of Church Commissioners in Dublin who 1688 are to manage this great transaction. Why, will not the New Church Body have as large a task to fulfil, which will probably cost them £10,000 a year, or it may be £20,000?—-for if they do their work completely, it can hardly be less expensive than that of the Church Commissioners. There must be funds to create and organize that new ecclesiastical world to which the right hon. Gentleman looks as the means of accomplishing his purpose.
So much for the general result upon the condition of the Irish Protestant Church; but I wish now to place before the House the general result of the whole scheme of confiscation. And what is it? It is the old story. Assuming—which I will do for the sake of argument—that the good sense and good temper of the House will modify all the arrangements about Maynooth, will take care that justice, ample justice, shall be done to that institution, but at the same time no injustice done to the Protestant Church, and that the engagements of the Ministry shall be completely fulfilled in that respect—assuming that to be the case, what do I see in this Bill? Why, that the whole property of the Church of Ireland, generally speaking, will go to the landlords. Well, the landlords of Ireland have had a slice of that property before. For thirty years they have had £100,000 a year. They have probably had £3,000,000 of that property, and what good has it done them? Is the state of Ireland more tranquil and serene, or have they better preserved the institutions to which they were devoted, because they for a moment accepted any share of that plunder? Why, we all know that nothing of the kind has followed. And what is it that is now proposed? Why, a scheme which, when we come to investigate it, clearly shows that the whole of the tithe rent-charge is to be absorbed in the land. The right hon. Gentleman says that every landowner may buy up the tithe rent-charge on his land, when his tithe rent-charge will be instantly absorbed in his land; and then if the landowner will not buy the tithe rent-charge the right hon. Gentleman makes out a compulsory account by which the landowner shall seem to buy it. But the result is that the whole of the tithe rent-charge will be immediately absorbed in the land, 1689 and that there will be a complicated system of pecuniary transactions extending over a period of forty-five years. Five-and-forty years' engagements of Irish landlords! And that, too, in a country which confiscates Church property—in a country where there is a land question looming in the future. Do you not think that the landlords will want justice done to the land? Do you not think they will come forward and say—"Well, if the land question must be settled, we will take a part in its settlement?" Depend upon it when the great rising occurs—when the great demand to which I have referred is made, and expounded by the eloquence and learning of the clergy of the three Churches—the Irish landlords will wonderfully sympathize with that new Act of Settlement. And when that demand is made, the right hon. Gentleman will have either to accede to it, or he must take refuge in the alternative, which I will in a moment mention. Well, the tithe rent-charge is to be absorbed in the land, with engagements spreading over forty-five years. There nave been engagements with the English Exchequer for shorter terms which were never fulfilled. And what is to be done with the surplus? The surplus is given to the maintenance of pauper lunatics and other purposes of that kind. Well, but there are pauper lunatics in other countries besides Ire- land. I have been looking into the number of pauper lunatics in Ireland and in England; and although we are told, as a Cabinet secret, that there are idiots peculiar to Ireland, I do not find that the number of pauper lunatics in Ireland is greater, relatively to the amount of population, than in England, or that in Ireland they cost more in proportion than they do here. English county Members generally are able to speak on this point. In my own county of Buckingham we have built within a very few years a lunatic asylum upon a costly scale. We did it in deference to the commands of an Act of Parliament, and it has added considerably to our rates. It may have been a necessary and proper expenditure, but it was a very costly one. We have not yet fulfilled all our engagements in respect to it, and this has been one of those subjects which have occasioned considerable dissatisfaction among the great 1690 body of the population. No doubt the object is a proper one; but how can you justify yourself to your constituents who are grumbling about the county rates, especially supposing that you should have to pay £3,000 next quarter sessions, if they say, "We understand that the Prime Minister, who affects to be the friend of the land, so far as Ireland is concerned, is going to have pauper lunatics paid for out of the Church funds? Now, if the Irish Church is to be confiscated, and the funds applied in this way, why should not our pauper lunatics have the same sort of support?" Sir, whatever is given for the maintenance of pauper lunatics or any object of that kind, will go, or at least the great bulk of it will go, to the proprietors of the soil, whatever hocus pocus we may be told to the contrary. I entirely disapprove of that.
There is another subject to which at this hour I shall only very briefly advert. I will now assume that, notwithstanding the apparent impossibility of the Irish Church being induced to co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding the unjust, and, as I think, preposterous arrangement which, if they did co-operate with him, they would assist in accomplishing—I will for the moment assume that this body will so co-operate with him, and will endeavour to carry out the purposes of this Bill; and therefore it is necessary to consider how the New Church Body is to be created. Consider the possibility of the thing. There are 700,000 Protestants scattered over Ireland. Sometimes they form a tolerably adequate portion of the population, but often a very sparse one. Although alarmed and aggrieved and smarting under what they consider intolerable injuries, and many of them under the influence of great fear, they are suddenly called upon by the Prime Minister of the country to accomplish that which would require all his ingenuity and all his statesmanlike power to achieve—namely, to create a new ecclesiastical power independent of the State which shall accomplish all those offices which the Church in union with the State, and with its admirable temper when assisted by the State, has found it extremely difficult to fulfil and agree about. And this is to be done in the course of a few months. The clergy and the laity—the plundered and 1691 perplexed clergy and laity—are to do that which, would require constant Cabinet Councils, and even years of mature and experienced deliberation. Who are the clergy and laity of Ireland? How are you to call the voices of these 700,000 scattered people? We are often told about the case of the disendowment of the Church in Canada—an absurd instance to bring forward, as there is no analogy between the two cases. In Canada, indeed, you did say that the clergy and laity were to come to some decision on these important points, but then you defined the laity. In your Act you said that the laity should be represented, and you stated by what franchise the laity were to be elected. But nothing of the kind is proposed to be done now. No single step is taken to assist these men if they were willing to overcome the immense difficulties and obstacles which they must inevitably encounter. What is to be the result if they do not do that which no human being under such circumstances can do? Why the State is to seize upon the whole property of the Church thus violating the first duty of a trustee, and shaking confidence in the tenure of property of every kind in the country. The State is to take the whole property of the Church to itself, and to do what it likes with it, defying law and justice, and treating the claims of the Protestants of Ireland with the utmost contumely and contempt.
Now, Sir, this is to be the remedial policy for Ireland. You have been disturbed and distracted by a clergy not connected with the State, and therefore you are now to have three sets of clergy not connected with the State. You have complained over and over again that one of the great evils of Ireland was the want of a variety of classes. But here is an Act which destroys a class. You have told us, night after night, that the curse of Ireland was the want of resident proprietors, but here is legislation to do away with a great number of resident proprietors. The curse of Ireland, as every one knows, is its poverty, and here is an Act to confiscate property!
Sir, I said there was an alternative. When I ventured to express to the House the probable consequences of this scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, I stated to the House that they must contemplate 1692 the possibility of great and continued discontent in Ireland—that that discontent would be connected with the question of the tenure of land—that the clergy disendowed according to their own statements at different periods, but both of them agreeing that they had been disendowed, would become the natural and powerful mouthpieces of this general discontent; and that you would have to yield to the demands which the whole nation through its most powerful organs would advance, and with which demands I venture to say the Irish landlords would unite. Their claim would be for restoration. All classes would call upon you to restore the popular estate which you have confiscated, and, whatever difference of opinion might still subsist between different Churches all Churches would agree that Irish property was national property. I say, then, that you would have to consent to that restoration unless you took refuge in an alternative. I think the alternative would be this. I think you might resist what was called a restoration of their rights, and which would probably bring about a scene of universal tumult. Instead of complying with this demand you would say to them—"There shall be religious equality between the two countries. You disendowed clergy shall not have ground to complain of being treated differently from any clergy, and we will apply to the Church in England the same principles which we have applied to the Church in Ireland." That conclusion appears to me to be inevitable. I have no doubt that there are some Gentlemen who hear me who would not regret such a consummation. I am perfectly aware that there are Gentlemen sitting in this House who approve such a policy, and that they have in the country a party which likewise approves such a policy. But I do not approve such a policy, and I am sure, whatever may be the majority those Gentlemen have in this House, they will not grudge me the right of asserting the propriety of my opinion. Sir, I believe that that result will be inevitable. Indeed, it may be inferred from the language of the Prime Minister that he himself, though he may not now approve, still contemplates it. Now, I cannot believe that the disendowment of the Church of England could occur without very great disturbance. I am convinced that it 1693 might lead to consequences which those who have not given a very long consideration to the subject may think impossible or remote. I believe that these consequences would be near at hand. England cannot afford revolutions. England has had her revolutions. It is indeed because she had revolutions about 200 years ago, before other nations had their revolutions, that she gained her great start in wealth and empire. Now, Sir, what have we obtained by those revolutions? A period of nearly 200 years of great serenity and the secured stability of the State. I attribute these happy characteristics of our history to this circumstance, that in this interval we did solve two of the finest and profoundest political problems. We accomplished complete personal and, in time, complete political liberty, and combined them with order. We achieved complete religious liberty, and we united it with a national faith. These two immense exploits have won for this country regulated freedom and temperate religion, and these blessings we have I am bound to say, secured mainly by the action—sometimes the unconscious action—but entirely by the action of the two great political parties in the State. I have often, when I have had to consider the history of what are called "Whigs" and "Tories," been surprised that, after great national vicissitudes, and notwithstanding the enormous blunders and mistakes which confessedly both have made, and the occasional violence, not to say faction, of their conduct which our annals record, these two great parties should always re-appear. That fact proves that there must be something very deep in their roots, and that they must have touched the heart of the people. Speaking now, not as a partizan, I believe the Tory party, however it may at times have erred, has always been the friend of local government, and that the instinct of the nation made it feel that on local government political freedom depended. It has been the glorious privilege of the great Whig party to achieve religious liberty, because, by as wise an instinct, they felt that religious liberty must be based on the connection between civil authority and ecclesiastical influence. These have secured to us the advantages we enjoy. In this age we seem to have forgotten by 1694 what heroic efforts the great blessings of regulated freedom and temperate religion have been secured, and how much they have tended to the greatness and the glory of our common country. Custom has made this a strong and tradition has made it a wise nation. There are now highflying statesmen who make war on tradition and scorn custom. I, for one, will not take upon myself the responsibility of their courses. I have expressed fully, but freely, as our political life permits, my view of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. I believe the Bill he has introduced for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church in Ireland to be a dangerous measure, and, what is more, a great mistake; and I leave its consideration with confidence to the prudence and patriotism of Parliament.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Disraeli)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
said, that no one who had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman could fail to have perceived that, to use the words of the Bishop of Down and Connor, quoted in The Times that morning, the verdict of the country had cast its shadow over the path," and that continued resistance to the measure before them could have no other effect than to broaden and lengthen that shadow. There were many in the House who remembered the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman some twenty years ago, in which he denounced the Irish Establishment as one of the main grievances of Ireland. He had since characterized that speech as "heedless rhetoric;" but those who heard it would contrast the vigour and earnestness and conviction, when the right hon. Gentleman was before his time, with the laboured triviality of his present speech, when he knew well he was lagging behind the age. If he judged the right hon. Gentleman aright he would prefer that the verdict of posterity as to his sagacity as a statesman should be based on the "heedless rhetoric" of twenty-five years ago, rather than on the solemn convictions he had delivered that evening. Now, before joining issue 1695 with, the right hon. Gentleman on other points, he (Mr. Gregory) was glad that there seemed one topic of agreement between them. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the irritation of all three Churches in Ireland which would be caused by this measure. He hinted that he would be in favour of doing something to gratify all three Churches, and he would have been right in doing so. He (Mr. Gregory) was ready to admit that if he had full power of dealing with this Church question as he thought best, he would have dealt with it in a broader and simpler manner than the present plan. He had the same feeling about these ecclesiastical endowments which was entertained by Mr. O'Connell. He considered they should be strictly applied to the uses for which they were originally intended—namely, religious purposes. He did not go so far as to say that he had conscientious objections, or that he would raise the cry of sacrilege if they were applied to objects of general utility; but he was of opinion that, so far as Ireland was concerned, more satisfaction and less irritation would have arisen had these revenues been devoted to purposes strictly religious. In fact, he would have reversed the Preamble of the present Bill, and enacted "that the property of the Church of Ireland and the proceeds thereof should be held and applied for the maintenance of the different Churches and their ministry and for the teaching of religion." He should have done this by capitalizing the property of the Established Church and dividing it between each denomination strictly according to the ratio of numbers, leaving each to deal with their own share precisely as they pleased, but with this one provision—that a glebe house and a certain number of acres should be procured for the use of clergymen of every denomination wherever a congregation of a certain size existed. There was hardly a parish in Ireland which such a course would not have cheered and gratified and brightened. Those were the opinions he had always held; but it was one thing to see one's own way, and another thing to get others to view matters like oneself. He had not been in London five days after Parliament met when he saw,—as, of course, the Government had long foreseen—that it was impossible to deal with this question in this manner had 1696 they been even so disposed. They would have been opposed by the great bulk of the Scotch Members, by the Nonconformist English Members, and by many other hon. Gentlemen who sat near him, who were neither Scotchmen nor Nonconformists, but who would not tolerate the idea of a great scheme of re-distribution, or rather of re-endowment. The attitude of so many Presbyterians in the North of Ireland, to judge by the late meeting in Belfast, objecting to any allocation of the funds to religious purposes, must have confirmed the views of the Government; and the silence of the Roman Catholics as to their acquiescence in any scheme of re-distribution, which might give rise to the imputation that the hope of gain rather than the hope of justice and equality had influenced their action, was another strong-argument against the feasibility of the plan preferred by him. But what would the Conservative party have done had such a proposal been made, even had it undoubtedly been the best for the future of the Protestant Church in Ireland? It was clear they would at once have linked their fortunes with the Gentlemen below the Gangway, and have overthrown the Bill. Was he not justified in saying this—that their zeal for the Protestant Church was but secondary in comparison with a political success? Did they not remember that memorable night last year when the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Aytoun) tacked on his provision for the disendowment of Maynooth to the Resolutions of the present Prime Minister. Now the Members opposite, the friends of establishment and endowment, must have known that, if a purely collegiate endowment like Maynooth should be introduced into a measure for ecclesiastical endowment, Trinity College, the pride and boast and bulwark of the Church of England in Ireland, must go also; yet how well he (Mr. Gregory) remembered the eager anxious faces of the supporters of the late Government,—their ill concealed triumph, in the hope that the Opposition Leader would refuse this provision. But they were disappointed. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) accepted it. He kept his word—Maynooth was to be disendowed; but they had heard the ominous announcement that Trinity College was next to be 1697 overhauled. They who were Liberals rejoiced at this; but they had every reason to be indebted to the Conservative party for the absolute necessity they had forced upon the Government of immediate dealing with Trinity College. Thus it was clear that it was hopeless to think of any plan of re-distribution; and all that remained was to accept any plan that was based upon principles of equality, was immediate in its operation, and filial. He (Mr. Gregory) had found these requisites in the present Bill, and he would, give it his unremitting support. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had asked, did they think this Bill would produce calm and contentment in Ireland? He (Mr. Gregory) would not affirm that it would; but he did affirm that without such a Bill it was impossible there could be; calm or contentment. There were various disturbing causes still in Ireland—a strong feeling of nationality, which the Protestant clergy seemed all of a sudden to have taken up—disatisfaction about land and education; but he had invariably held that religious animosity, produced by religious ascendancy, had hitherto tainted and poisoned; the whole atmosphere of Ireland. Everything in that island had been set awry by long-continued injustice, practised under the name and shield of religion. In the north they had the Presbyterian, Scotch in blood, character, and religion. In his own country he would have been a stout Liberal; but in Ireland he had been, until recently, a most rampant Tory. Religious animosity, and the pride of ascendancy, had done this. He (Mr. Gregory) used the words "until recently," for the presence at that moment of the hon. Members for Belfast, Carrickfergus, and Londonderry on the Benches near him showed that another spirit was evoked, and that the men of the north preferred the concord of their country to a miserable and mischievous ascendancy. Then let them turn to the other parts of Ireland. There they had the Irish Roman Catholic peasant, deeply and even passionately attached to those above him, if kindly treated—intensely aristocratic in feeling—Conservative by thought, habit, and tradition—yet they found, him allied with those who professed the most advanced and unsettling doctrines. They found also, in many instances, the Roman 1698 Catholic clergy—members of the most conservative religion under the sun—forced, by the feeling of wrong, to sympathize with their flocks, and to fight under the same banners. Religious injustice has clone all this. He (Mr. Gregory) had ever before him the words of a chorus in one of the Greek tragedies when he thought of the strange position of Ireland—"The fountains of the sacred rivers flow backward to their sources, for justice is not in the land." The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down did not raise the "No Popery" cry on this occasion; but most of the Gentlemen around him had done nothing else this autumn. They had declared this act of justice was to subjugate Ireland to the Roman Catholics, who would never be content until they had obtained that ascendancy of which we were now divesting ourselves, and that even then they would never tolerate a Protestant Government. But were these observations founded on facts? Did they remember what occurred in Canada six years ago, when war was threatening with the United States? Did the Roman Catholic Prelates assume a sullen or even doubtful attitude towards their Protestant Monarch? No; they issued addresses, calling on their Roman Catholic flocks to be loyal to the flag of England—for that under no other form of government could they enjoy more thorough equality, justice, and protection. A friend of his—Mr. Ussher, a Protestant gentleman—a few years since visited Prussia, in order to see how they managed their religious matters there. He wrote a most interesting pamphlet called The Church of Rome in its relations with Protestant Governments. He described the perfect equality that prevailed in Prussia in the dealings of the State with all religious bodies, and he summed up—We here see the Roman Catholic Clmrch—far from being, as she is to us in Ireland, a source of weakness and frequent trouble—turned into an arm of strength for the State, and that not by being given any privileges or by being favoured more than other creeds, but by being simply placed on the same footing as others, suffering no disadvantages and enjoying no superiority.Now, he asked, could anyone suppose that Prussia could have done the great things she had done, had she been a kingdom divided against herself? Did they think if her citizens had been mur- 1699 dering and shooting one another to the cry of "To hell with the Pope on the Spree," or to "Perdition to Martin Luther on the Rhine"—and they had recently read of such scenes in the most prosperous and enlightened Ireland—that she would have formed a united Germany, amalgamating Protestants and Catholics into one Fatherland? And yet national weakness and national discord is what Gentlemen opposite wished to foster and maintain. They conjured up every species and variety of fear, and yet they shut their eyes to the real and greatest fear of all—a distracted and divided State. Last year the Conservative Benches resounded with every imaginable prophecy of woe; but this year the attitude of those who were called the friends of the Church was absolutely extraordinary. Instead of recognizing the verdict of the country as inevitable, and providing for the coming change by wise and prudent counsels, they seemed to look to visionary schemes of resistance, and to some kind of angelic interposition in the House of Lords. At a meeting reported that morning in the north of Ireland, the cry of "No Surrender" was raised more definitely than ever, and a rev. Prelate who took the chair, and who recommended wise and prudent counsels, was shouted at as "Judas." Was that the way to save the Church? He confessed he dreaded the future of the Church, if she were allowed to drift hopelessly without compass and without pilot and without chart. That was the real danger. Their Church had been subjected to centuries of fostering, and, if he might so call it, to hot-house care. Now she had to be exposed to the rude winds of heaven, and to take her chance—she had to enter the race with other denominations on the voluntary principle, and though, like Hamlet, they were "fat and scant of breath," the Irish Protestants seemed determined not to undergo the necessary training. Yet let them take courage, and deal with their altered circumstances like men. If they would but work out the provisions of the Bill, there would be ample means for a fresh start. "But," said hon. Gentlemen opposite, "how can the few Protestants in Ireland support their Church?" Surely the wealthiest portion of the Irish community could support an adequate ministry. But no one who had visited America ought to 1700 have any feeling of despair. He must have seen in every young and poor community, in every town which sprang up as it were in a night, commodious edifices erected for God's worship, the ministers supported, and the services conducted with solemnity and decorum. It was the voluntary zeal and united efforts of these poor communities which built these numerous and handsome churches. He said "united efforts," for he remembered walking with a Roman Catholic gentleman in the town of Trois Rivieres, in Canada, where he was greatly struck by the appearance of the many and handsome churches. "This is the Protestant cathedral which we have just built," said his (Mr. Gregory's) companion. He (Mr. Gregory) was surprised, and said, "Which you built! Did you, although a Roman Catholic, contribute to a Protestant place of worship?" "Of course I did," said he, "and not only that, but our Roman Catholic Bishop was invited also to subscribe." "I cannot, of course," said the Bishop, "subscribe to an heretical Church, but I suppose you mean to put a spire on it?" "Of course," said the applicant. "Well," replied the Bishop, "that will be an ornament to the town, and I have much pleasure in subscribing my thirty dollars to its adornment." Such was the spirit on the other side of the Atlantic. He confessed that when he returned to Ireland, when he saw the offensive religious placards in the streets, reviling all that was held sacred and reverential by the great mass of Irishmen, when he read, the fierce invectives in the Press against his fellow-Christians, and when he listened to the frantic denunciations in the pulpit, he felt he had got into an atmosphere where only theological salamanders could exist, and he welcomed the voluntary system or any system which would compel Irishmen to look after their own religion, and to leave their neighbours to their own worship and belief. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had occupied nearly an hour in his essay on the necessity and advantage of the connection of Church and State. He showed that such a system had every grace and merit, and that disconnection was fraught with every mischief. But who gave the first precedent for disestablishment and disendowment? Why, the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was the main- 1701 spring. Did he not try his 'prentice hand on Jamaica? Well, he (Mr. Gregory) would not upbraid him for that; but he would bid him and his Friends around him to derive comfort and encouragement from this very act. He (Mr. Gregory) had recently cut out of The Times an account of what was going on in Jamaica, owing to the disestablishing and disendowing enactment of the Conservative Government. This account stated that though the Bishop was still in hope of Imperial assistance, yet that the Church was preparing for what must take place next year. That—The measure in question had produced a revulsion in the Church; that it had suddenly sprung into life and become full of activity in its operations, and exhibited an amount of earnestness and vitality never known before.Jamaica was thus indebted to the right hon. Gentleman, and the inference was that Ireland ere long might be similarly indebted to the right hon. Gentleman who sat opposite to him (Mr. Gladstone). Before sitting down, in addition to this crumb of comfort from Jamaica, lot him give to hon. Members opposite some other encouragements from the past. Let them look at all the great successive measures of justice to Ireland which had passed, and the result of those measures. Let them begin with Catholic Emancipation. The country, according to the authority of the Duke of Wellington, was on the verge of civil war. That measure was passed, and there was at once a comparative calm. The Tithe Commutation Bill found the peasantry in a state of frenzy. It became an Act of Parliament, and there was instant peace; every single measure of justice, not excepting the Abolition of Ministers' Money, had brought with it its own blessing and reward, and yet every single one of; these salutary Acts was accompanied with prophecies of ruin, and jeremiads and denunciations and invectives more lugubrious, more despairing, more menacing, than at present. Let those, then, who were swayed by the terrifying assurances of the right hon. Gentleman that the present measure was as "disastrous as foreign invasion," take comfort; from the fact that the terrors which the right hon. Gentleman was often inspiring—and which no doubt he felt—were; nothing more substantial than those uncomfortable dreams, the result of a disordered stomach, from which men awoke 1702 and felt very comfortable. The right hon. Gentleman had a special fondness for arousing terrors. Here was an example of one of these bugbears. In 1861 the right hon. Gentleman addressed a meeting at Aylesbury. After harrowing his listeners by narrating to them the designs of reckless men "in the most exalted place in the realm—in Parliament," against the Church and against religion, he proceeded to say—How many Bills were introduced in the last Session of Parliament, all under different forms, having one sole end in view—to undermine the Church and the most precious privileges of Churchmen. Our mode of distributing charities is called in question, our cemeteries threatened with invasion, our adversaries aim at changing our marriage laws, at 'facilitating' our public worship, as they pretend, and of despoiling of its national character the sacred constitution of our Church.And here came the bugbear—As to church rates, my opinion is well known. I believe their complete abolition would be a terrible blow struck at the alliance between Church and State, and that under no possible or imaginable circumstance should such a concession be made.And yet after all this he (Mr. Gregory) found the abolition of church rates passed last Session with the greatest equanimity; and he further found the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) congratulating his constituents before the late election that the church rate question was settled, "as it alienated more friends from the Establishment than the money was worth." Thus it turned out that the most terrible blow which could be struck at the alliance of Church and State, according to the opinion of one of the heads of the Conservative party, was a subject of positive congratulation on the part of another of its Leaders, as being an actual benefit to the Church. He had no fear of the overthrow of the Protestant religion in Ireland; he had no fear but that a moderate ecclesiastical system might be substituted for the present one, if instead of abandoning themselves to resentment, or standing there, "gazing idly up into Heaven," the heads of the Protestant Church would look their position in the face, and adapt themselves to the conditions which the Legislature was determined to impose. The Protestant laity would have to make sacrifices to support their Church, and, in making them, they would insist on the clergy availing themselves of the facilities for providing for the future which the Bill afforded. He 1703 thought the worst friends of Protestantism were the right hon. Gentleman and his followers, who counselled the Irish clergy not to avail themselves of the provisions of the Bill. Hints were thrown out that the House of Lords would reject it. He did not believe for a moment that such a suicidal course could be pursued by a body of prudent farseeing men; but this he did say, that if this Bill was thrown out, no matter on what pretext, they would see springing up in one hour, through the length and breadth of Ireland, a sullen feeling of wrath far deeper, far wider, than any that had prevailed in the wildest periods of agitation, and an impetus, the strength of which could not be measured, would be given to that conviction daily gaining ground, that justice from an English Parliament was a hopeless thing, and that it was from the great Republic of the West that "cometh their salvation." It depended on the great Liberal party to prevent such a catastrophe—it was by closing their ranks, by presenting an unbroken front, by sinking all minor differences of opinion. There were many differences of opinion. He (Mr. Gregory) might think that Maynooth ought never to have been inserted in this Bill—he might think that the compensation to Maynooth and the Presbyterians, as the payment came originally from the national income, should be defrayed from national resources and not out of these emoluments; but, on the other hand, there were other Gentlemen about him who held views very different from his, in fact, views absolutely, contradictory. He (Mr. Gregory) was ready to waive his opinions in deference to theirs for the sake of unanimity, and he in return expected similar deference from them. He was convinced that the supporters of the voluntary system would act in this cordial spirit when they considered what an enormous gain this Bill was to the principles they held, and of what vast importance it was to Ireland. If Catholic Emancipation was the foundation of religious equality in Ireland, this was the coping-stone of the edifice. He did not detract from the merits of those who passed Catholic Emancipation, they overcame the prejudices of years, and admitted their fellow-subjects to the privileges they possessed; but we were going further, we were divesting ourselves of the privileges and emoluments we possessed that our 1704 relations with our fellow-countrymen might no longer be tainted with the smallest savour of injustice. Her Majesty's Government might well affix to this Bill, when it became law, the inscription of Pope Sixtus V. on the completion of St. Peter's—Magnus bonos magni fundamina ponere templi, Sed finem cæptis ponere, major honos.In conclusion, he would say to those who were of the same religion as himself—let them be hopeful and not despairing; let them not confound the inner or the vital with the mere external condition of a Church; let them not take that to be essential which was but an accessory; let them not fix their gaze alone upon the gift which lay on the altar and avert their eyes from the altar which sanctified the gift. It is true they might lose the pride and pomp and wealth of a stately hierarchy; they might not have spiritual Peers of Parliament legislating exclusively for their particular form of belief, but they might have, if they only willed it, a power, a vitality, an active earnest co-operation among all their members such as they had never seen before. Their Church had never had a chance. It had ever borne along with it the damnosa hœreditas of injustice. They had been floundering and stumbling like the old pilgrim Greatheart in the Slough of Despond with a burden round their neck. That burden was injustice. They were now about to throw off that burden to reach terra firma and to stand erect an honest and a fair-dealing Church in the sight of God and of their fellow-countrymen. Let them think of all this. Let them recall the memorable words of Jeremy Taylor, words which he (Mr. Gregory) had recently quoted on the hustings, but which in this matter could not be quoted too often, words, the truth of which the conscience of every one who listened to him would recognize, words which every page of Irish history for the last 200 years confirmed, and they were these—"That a prosperous iniquity is the most unprofitable condition in the world."
§ SIR. GEORGE JENKINSON
said, he would not have risen at that moment to take part in this debate, but having put an Amendment on the Paper to the same purport as that which had been so ably moved by his right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, he 1705 wished to take that early opportunity of rising to support the Motion that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He craved the indulgence of the House while he attempted to argue the question on the broad general grounds of justice; for he should avoid, as much as possible, all technical details. When a great wrong was contemplated, in amelioration of, it was alleged, some; greater wrong, it was only just and proper to consider what in reality the alleged wrong was. Before they inflicted a great wrong on any man, or any class of men, they should satisfy themselves that a greater wrong was being endured by some other man, or class of men, which could only be redressed by the infliction of the wrong they contemplated; in fact, that the greater good to be effected would counterbalance the lesser wrong to be inflicted. But even that view at the best was but a rule of the Jesuits—to do evil that good might ensue—and was contrary to all morality, But in the case before them where was the wrong? The Protestants did not in any way interfere with the Roman Catholics. The latter had their own clergy, their own churches, and their own endowments, all unmolested. As to the assertion sometimes made, that they paid tithes to the Protestant Church, that had now repeatedly been shown to be utterly groundless. He quoted the late Sir George Lewis in confirmation of that—This grievance is commonly stated to be that the Roman Catholics are compelled to contribute by the payment of tithes to the support of a Church from the creed of which they differ. Now, in fact, the Roman Catholics, although they may pay the tithe, contribute nothing, inasmuch as in Ireland tithe is in the nature, not of a tax, but of a reserved rent, which never belonged either to the landlord or the tenant.He contended that the remedy in this case was worse than the evil to be cured. This measure was most unjust in principle, and it was also erroneous in policy. The hon. Gentleman who last spoke laid great stress on the argument that if the Irish Church was robbed of its property there would be no lack of enthusiasts and good people to relieve her necessities and contribute to her wants; but surely it was small encouragement to the charitable to give again that endowment and those funds of which the present Government was now about to despoil her. 1706 That process—robbing the Church with a view to fresh funds being given to her—was simply a sheep-shearing process, which would probably lead to the same result at any future time, when the fresh crop was ready for shearing again. The hon. Member appeared to think that concession had always been followed by peace and contentment in Ireland; but he must be allowed altogether to deny the truth of that assertion. The state of Ireland did not justify it. Was this measure likely to produce peace? On the contrary, it would light up the flames of religious discord, which few of them might live to see extinguished. Instead of leading to peace it would lead to incessant turmoil and renewed discontent all over the country. If no material wrong existed, why should they for a sentimental grievance disturb the most solemn engagements of centuries, and substitute the supremacy of the Pope for the rule of our Queen in Ireland? It was in every sense entirely inexpedient to make such a change. They had heard a great deal of justice—equal justice to Ireland; but what the First Minister of the Crown called justice, he could only designate as injustice; what the right hon. Gentleman called charity to lunatics, he called spoliation and sheer confiscation. There was a paragraph in the Queen's Speech with, reference to this subject, which he would take the liberty of quoting. It was as follows:—I am persuaded that, in the prosecution of the work, you will bear a careful regard to every legitimate interest which it may involve, and that you will be governed by the constant aim to promote the welfare of religion through the principles of equal justice, to secure the action of the undivided feeling and opinion of Ireland on the side of loyalty and law, to efface the memory of former contentions, and to cherish the sympathies of an affectionate people.Was it equal justice to take the tithe rent-charge and apply it to other purposes, and to leave the land still liable to maintain the Protestant churches and ministers? Was it so, to endow the Popish College of Maynooth with £400,000 of money robbed from the Protestant Church? How could it be said that the above conditions were carried out, when they proposed to pass a measure, repealing a vital clause of the Act of Union, and to commit an act stigmatized by the late Attorney General of Lord Palmerston's Government as a "mere act of 1707 confiscation," affecting the interest of a loyal class, comprising the owners of eight-ninths of the landed property of Ireland, while they left the Roman Catholics in full possession of all theirs? If they were bent on carrying out an act of disestablishment, at all events leave to the Protestant Church the property which was justly her own, by private endowment and otherwise, as much as the property of the Roman Catholic Church was hers. If property given by Parliament or Royal grant many years ago, and since much improved in value, was liable at any moment to be taken away, what became of the title of properties given for public services to the ancestors of some of their noblest titles? But, he asked, was it consistent with the words he had quoted to endow the Roman College of Maynooth with very nearly £400,000 taken from the Irish Church? Would that contribute to the contentment of Ireland. Could it be called equal justice to take the tithe rent-charge now allotted to a specific purpose and apply it to another purpose, partly the endowment of a Roman Catholic College? The hon. Gentleman had rightly interpreted the feelings of the Protestant landowners; and, therefore, although their land would still be liable to tithe rent-charge, they would still be willing to support their ministers as before. And in reference to this part of the subject they had heard to-night from the Prime Minister, in answer to a Question he (Sir George Jenkinson) had asked him in the earlier part of the evening, that in taking the income of the Irish Church at £700,000, they must not calculate it at that value, because part of that consisted of glebe houses and glebe land. But could a more weak or foolish argument be used? Were not glebe houses and glebe lands of money value to a poor clergyman who occupied them? Did not anyone acquainted with practical life know that if they paid any servant so much wages per week, and in addition gave him a house and garden free, it was so much additional wages. Therefore, what could be more weak or unreal than such an argument? His argument, therefore, remained untouched—that if they gave the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth fourteen years' purchase of the income now paid to that establishment out of the Imperial Consolidated Fund, and if they took that 1708 sum—£400,000—out of the funds of the Protestant Irish Church, they were bound in justice to give to the Protestant Church at least as much out of then-own funds, which, taking their income at £700,000, and multiplying it by fourteen, would give them £9,800,000, instead of the £5,700,000 now offered by this iniquitous Bill. The Bill of the Government really proposed to repeal a vital clause of the Act of Union, the 5th clause of which provided for the perpetual unity of the Church of England and Ireland. The clause was as follows:—That the Churches of England and Ireland, as now by law established, be united into One Protestant Episcopal Church, to be called The United Church of England and Ireland; and that the doctrine worship, discipline, and government of the said United Church shall be, and shall remain in full force for ever, as the same are now by law established for the Church of England: and that the continuance and preservation of the said United Church, as the Established Church of England and Ireland, shall be deemed and taken to be an essential and fundamental part of the Union; and that in like manner the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Church of Scotland shall remain and be preserved as the same are now established by law, and by the Acts for the Union of the Two Kingdoms of England and Scotland.It had been said that Parliament made the Union, and that therefore Parliament could break it. Perhaps so; but it could not break one vital clause of it, and cut it and carve it, and leave the rest. It must break all or keep all, like a lease or any other covenant; and not break part, and hold part to the advantage of one set and to the injury of another set of Her Majesty's Irish subjects. The whole Act of Union must be retained intact, or repealed. In furtherance of this view he would here quote the opinion of Lord Russell, for many years the trusted Leader of the party opposite—In Ireland not only is there a vast proportion of the property, but also a vast proportion of members of the learned professions, and of others, whose importance cannot be denied, who are attached to the Protestant Church, and by whom anything that could be considered as at all tending to overturn the Established Church would be looked upon as placing them in a state of political inferiority to their fellow-countrymen. And besides that, we must recollect that the Act of Union made the Irish Church Establishment a part of the Church Establishment of England. From these considerations, Sir, I cannot but come to the conclusion that…..any measure involving the destruction of that Church would involve a breach in the Act of Union; endanger- 1709 ing the integrity of the Empire in the first place, and in the second place—considering how many years have elapsed since the Act of Union has passed into the law of the land—probably occasioning such a rent in the whole ecclesiastical constitution of these realms, that I think the Church of England would suffer deeply from such a measure."—[3 Hansard, xlii, 1178.]He also referred to the opinion of Lord Plunket—I look upon the Protestant Establishment of Ireland as a fundamental principle of our Imperial Constitution; I take it to have been unalterably settled at the Union, and that to talk of changing the Protestant religion of Ireland without shaking the Protestant Establishment of the Empire is idle. I speak no new language, now that, for the first time, I have an opportunity of delivering my sentiments in the presence of the right reverend Bench. I utter but the opinions I have entertained and expressed in the other House of Parliament. I think a religious Establishment essential to our well-being, and that, without a dignified Establishment in times like these, religion itself would be degraded. I am, therefore, persuaded, not only that the Establishment is necessary, but that the rank, affluence, and dignity of the hierarchy is important to our best interests. I think, further, that its power and influence are, and ought to be, so great that, unless that hierarchy be connected with the State, it may be too powerful for the State, and hence the necessity of maintaining that connection for the benefit of the State. On these grounds, and not for any fanciful and theoretical reasons assigned by some writers upon this subject, I never for a moment would consent to anything which could endanger our Protestant Establishment. I further feel that the Protestant Establishment of Ireland is the very cement of the Union. I find it interwoven with all the essential relations and institutions of the two kingdoms; and I have no hesitation in admitting that, if it were destroyed, the very foundations of public security would be shaken, the connection between England and Ireland dissolved, and that the annihilation of private property must follow the ruin of the property of the Church."—[2 Hansard, xix. 1259–60.]These men had earned the character of great Statesmen, and their opinion was entitled to great weight. He would next refer to the stringency of the Coronation Oath, and ask any man who read it to put his hand upon his heart and say whether Her Majesty, after taking such an Oath as that, ought to be asked to assent to such a measure as the present? He would read to them the words of that Oath—ARCHBISHOP: 'Will you, to the utmost of your power, maintain the Laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant Re-formed Religion established by Law? and will you maintain and preserve inviolably the Settlement of the United Church of England and Ireland, and the Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government thereof, as by Law established within 1710 England and Ireland and the Territories thereunto belonging? and will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England and Ireland, and to the Churches there committed to their Charge, all such Rights and Privileges as by Law do or shall appertain to them, or any of them?'QUEEN: 'All this I promise to do.'Then the Queen arising out of her chair, supported as before, and assisted by the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Sword of State being carried before her, shall go to the Altar, and there being uncovered, make her solemn Oath in the sight of all the people, to observe the premises; laying her right hand upon the Holy Gospel in the Great Bible, which was before carried in the procession, and is now brought from the Altar by the Archbishop, and tendered to her as she kneels upon the steps, saying these words—'The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep; So help me, God!'Then the Queen kisseth the Book, and signeth the Oath.He asked how could any loyal Minister go to Her Majesty, who had so sworn, and ask her to sign the Bill by which he proposed to disestablish that Church, and to rob it of the funds belonging to it—and to bestow part of them on the Roman Catholics? He asked again, what solemn pledge could be held sacred if that Oath was to be violated, and torn in pieces by any Act of Parliament? They talked of the repudiation of the United States, but what repudiation of their National Debt, or what breach of faith could equal or surpass the robbery and confiscation contemplated by this Bill? ["Oh!"] Hon. Members might cry "Oh!" but they could not alter the English language or the plain sense and meaning of words. How could any pledges be held sacred if these were allowed to be broken? There were two characters in the Old Testament—Ahab and Jezebel—of whom many evil things were said, but who only appeared to have lived a little before their time, when their proceedings were read by the light of the present day. They only wanted to buy a piece of land, but, unlike certain Ministers of the present time, they were ready to give any price the owner asked for it. But hon. Members opposite by sheer numbers and by confiscation proposed to take the property of the Church and refused to give that which the Church was entitled to receive for it. A measure of that kind would be such a blot and disgrace upon the so-called justice of England that he, for one, hoped it would never come to pass. They were told that in Ireland the great majority of the population 1711 were Roman Catholics and the great minority were Protestants. Leaving out of view that the Protestants owned eight-ninths of the property of Ireland, he contended, that in dealing with the Protestants of Ireland under the terms of the Act of Union, they had no right to reckon the numbers of the Protestants in the one country alone, any more than they ought to reckon the Protestants in any county of England only, and to take the property of the Roman Catholics in such county because they were in the minority there. But in dealing with an Imperial matter, affecting the Established Church of the whole United Kingdom, they should reckon the total number of Protestants and the total number of Roman Catholics for the whole kingdom, and if that were done the latter would be found to be in a minority of fully one to six. But that would not give the Protestants any title to rob the Roman Catholics of their churches and endowments. If they went to the argument of numbers there would be no lack of claimants, because the proportion of those who held property in various parts of England was numerically inferior to the number of those who had none. But such a plea would be the grossest form of Communism and Socialism. There were Noblemen whose ancestors had deceived gifts from the Crown for eminent public services; and if it were once laid down that what the Crown had given the Crown could take away, a principle would be established invalidating the security, not alone of property thus conferred as public rewards, but of all property held from Parliament or under the Crown. He opposed the policy of the present Bill, because it would revive the smouldering embers of religious discord, because it would alienate a large body of loyal men who were induced to acquire property and to reside in Ireland on the faith of the Act of Union, and because it would not effect the object aimed at—namely, the pacification of the country. It was asserted that with the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church discords would cease. But all who knew the country were aware that the real bone of contention was the land; and even those who merely read the newspapers could not fail to perceive that the settlement, as it was called, of the Church question, would have no influence upon murders and agrarian crimes. The hon. 1712 Member read portions of the charges delivered by the Lord Chief Justice and Mr. Baron Deasy at the opening of the Assizes with regard to the large amount of crime undetected, and making special reference to cases, in one of which a farmer, taking a piece of land from which another had been evicted, had his house set on fire; in another case an armed party went to the house of a farmer and threatened to shoot him if he took a specified piece of land; and to a further case in which a letter was sent threatening a farmer if he did not give up a piece of land which he had held for seventeen years. None of these offenders were brought to justice, and the very nature of the outrages showed that they had no connection whatever with the Church. On this subject some memorable opinions had been expressed in the House in 1847. He well remembered the time, for he was quartered with his regiment in Longford, and was called up at three o'clock in the morning to go in aid of the civil power to the place where Major Mahon lay murdered. An hon. Member, speaking in the debate on the Crime and Outrage (Ireland) Bill in that year, said—The reason why the law is carried into effect in England, is, because the feeling of the people is in favour of it, and every man is willing to become, and is in reality, a peace officer, in order to further the ends of justice. But in Ireland this state of things does not exist. The public sentiment in certain districts is depraved and thoroughly vitiated. We have in that country a condition of things not to be matched in any other civilized country on the face of the earth, and which is alike disgraceful to Ireland and to us. The great cause of Ireland's calamities is, that Ireland is idle. I believe it would be found, on inquiry, that the population of Ireland, as compared with that of England, do not work more than two days per week. Wherever a people are not industrious, and are not employed, there is the greatest danger of crime and outrage. Ireland is idle, and therefore she starves. Ireland starves, and therefore she rebels."—[3 Hansard, xcv. 982, 985.]Those were the opinions of a Gentleman, then an hon. Member, but now holding high office on the Treasury Bench; they were the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. Considering the part which that right hon. Gentleman always took in Irish debates, the great scheme which he himself had propounded for breaking up the estates of the aristocracy in Ireland, and for selling them out in small parcels to persons who were not to pay for them—it was evident that words 1713 of such gravity as he had just quoted, falling from the right hon. Gentleman, were entitled to very great weight. The speech from beginning to end would well repay perusal by Members of the Liberal party, and yet there was not one word in it about the Irish Church. It was altogether a delusion to suppose that disestablishing the Irish Church, and robbing her of her revenues, would tend to pacificate that unhappy country. If the Irish people were really to reflect upon this matter they would view the proposals of the Government with some suspicion. The Whigs had been in power from 1846 to 1866, almost without a break, and what had they done for Ireland, especially during the last seven years, when they had a majority of 70? If the Irish Church had. been the real cause of all the crime, and misery, and wretchedness in Ireland, how was it that the Liberal party through all those years had never once alluded to it? The right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government thought the question so remote in 1865 that he never expected to be called upon to deal with it. Now it was with him the question of the hour. In 1865 he held that in any dealing with the Irish Church the Act of Union must be recognized, and must have important consequences, especially with reference to the position of the hierarchy. He now proposed, without any compunction, to set at nought the Act of Union, and utterly to ignore the hierarchy. How could such inconsistencies be reconciled? What was the condition of Ireland when the Whigs left Office in 1866? After their long tenure of power what mark of favour did they leave to Ireland, or what mark of legislation to sooothe her wrongs and appease her discontent? Why, they left the Habeas Corpus suspended and the island full of Fenians in open rebellion. After the Fenians had murdered policemen in Ireland, a policeman in Manchester, and had blown up a prison in Clerkenwell, destroying harmless women and children, the task devolved upon the Conservative Government of arresting these turbulent spirits and sending them to prison. No sooner were the Liberals restored to power than they took the first opportunity of releasing forty-nine of these rebels. No doubt, by the time more policemen had been killed, more prisons blown up, and more helpless 1714 women and children injured, the Conservatives would be recalled to power to set matters right again. [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh, but it was no laughing matter for the ratepayers of the country, who had to bear the ex penses—first, of capturing and prosecuting these Fenians, then of keeping them in prison, and, finally, of sending them to Australia—and, perhaps, though he trusted they would be spared that infliction, of bringing them home from Australia again. He trusted that the people of Ireland would remember the story of the introduction of the wooden horse filled with armed men into Troy, and recollect the words of warning which were uttered on that occasion by Laocoon—Sic notus Ulysses?Aut aliquis latet error; equo ne credite, Teucri.Quicquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.They should not put their faith in the present occupants of the Treasury Bench; for the measures of which they boasted and which they were prepared to offer were such as to excite only religious discords and feuds, of which it would be absolutely impossible to foresee the result. And, in conclusion, if he might venture to address a few words of warning to the House, he would say, do not by their vote on this question light up the flame of a religious feud, the end of which neither they nor their children would see. Do not, by their vote now, brand the otherwise prosperous reign of our Protestant Queen and darken her page of history with the disfiguring record of the backsliding and abandonment of an integral part of her kingdom to the supremacy of the Pope of Rome. All the old Roman Catholic countries of Europe—France, Spain, and Italy—were even now struggling to free themselves from the thraldom of Papal rule. The teaching of all history showed that wherever such existed it was subversive of all good government and destructive of all civil and religious liberty. Was this, then, the moment for Protestant England to choose to relapse into the ago of darkness and bigotry, inseparable from Papal supremacy, from which she emerged centuries ago at the expense of the best blood of her noblest sons. Party claims, he knew were strong, and he was the last man to ignore them. But they were not sent here for party purposes only. 1715 There were sometimes claims and duties, higher even than those of mere party, and on this occasion the claims of their country, of their religion, of their Protestant fellow-subjects—he would add of their Protestant Queen,—ought to be paramount and to take precedence of all minor feelings. Think only of those higher claims, and be assured that by so doing they would in the end best serve the interests of their party and of their country. Bear in mind that Protestant England awaited their verdict with anxiety, and whatever that verdict might be—be it for weal or be it for woe—remember that their children would reap the fruits of it, and the page of history would record it in irrevocable lines.
§ MR. BOWRING
said, that it was perhaps scarcely necessary for him as a new and inexperienced Member to make any personal appeal for that kind and courteous consideration which he observed the House was always prepared to extend to those who addressed it for the first time; but if any special ground for such an appeal was required in his case, he would venture to base it upon the fact that he appeared there as a real political phenomenon—namely, as the first living specimen of a Liberal Member who had ever been sent to Parliament by the City of Exeter in modern times to assist by his vote a Liberal Colleague. That city had always been considered to be Protestant to the backbone, and until a recent period it had been the annual custom there, every 5th of November, to burn the effigy of the Pope in the Cathedral yard, to the sound of music and amidst universal popular rejoicing. But despite all its Protestant antecedents and all its Conservative sympathies he had been sent by the City of Exeter to that House, in conjunction with his hon. and learned Friend (Sir John Coleridge), to assist in doing a great act of justice to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects in Ireland, and, incidentally and parenthetically, to assist in executing a great act of justice upon Her Majesty's late Advisers, which, however, they had anticipated by means of "the happy despatch." As an earnest member of the Church of England he had approached the consideration of this question of the Irish Church with a deep sense of responsibility, feeling that where political interests were inconsistent with religious interests, the for- 1716 mer must give way to the latter, and nothing could induce him to be a party to any political act which he in his conscience believed to be likely to be injurious to the true interests of the religion which he professed. It was, therefore, with real satisfaction that he found that upon this question his innate sense of common justice and his ordinary political predilections went hand in hand with his religious convictions. The public had been informed the other day by a right hon. Baronet opposite, on a highly convivial occasion, that the present measure was one of spoliation, injustice, and irreligion. He, on his part, looked upon it as essentially one of redress, justice, and, above all, of religion. If any public act deserved the hard words he tad quoted, with the accompaniment of cruelty and bloodshed, it was the Irish Reformation. He begged to protest against two assumptions invariably made by the supporters of the Irish Church. The first was that its disestablishment and disendowment were synonymous with its destruction and abolition. He was not aware that when, in a well-known Court, Sir James P. Wilde pronounced a decree of dissolution of marriage, he accompanied that decree by the physical act of knocking either husband or wife upon the head; and he, for one, supported the present measure because he believed that when placed in its proper position as a missionary Church it had a career of usefulness and prosperity before it such as its present supporters had no idea of. The other assumption which he objected to was that separation of Church and State in Ireland, must necessarily and logically lead to a similar separation in this country. He did not see why, because it might suit him to walk in a westerly direction as far as "Oxbridge, he was logically bound to continue his walk as far as the Land's End and fall over the cliff there. He approved of this step in the case of Ireland, not because he did not agree with the religious tenets of the Irish Church—not because its clergy were not of holy and exemplary lives, but because it was the Church of an insignificant minority and a standing insult to the vast majority; whereas, in England, this state of matters was entirely reversed. Since this question was before Parliament last Session the position of matters had been materially altered by two circumstances—the presentation of the Re- 1717 port of the Irish Church Commission and the General Election. As to that Report, all its recommendations were invalidated by the fatal flaw which appeared at its commencement, where the Commissioners stated that they—Felt bound to proceed without reference to the Resolutions adopted by the House of Commons and upon the assumption that this branch of the United Church shall continue by law established and endowed.In fact the Report merely amounted to a second edition, revised and enlarged, of the Church Temporalities Act of 1834. Nor did the Commissioners' suggestions offer the slightest chance of a settlement of this question. The internal re-distribution proposed by them would be absolutely valueless in the eyes of the population of Ireland, to whom the continued presence of one single established Bishop or even the ghost of a Bishop would be intolerable. He apprehended that the House of Lords would scarcely be likely to approve of the introduction of the principle of paid Members of that House, as recommended by the Commissioners—a proposal apparently emanating from the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Taylor) whose name, however, was not attached to the Report. Least of all was the plan of the Commissioners for disendowing 200 parishes containing a Church population of 4,859, and with revenues amounting to £37,000 a year, likely to give satisfaction. That large revenue was, at any rate, now spent in the neighbourhood where it was raised, whereas it would, if the Report were adopted, be henceforward sent up to a central office in Dublin and thence sent down again to some more thriving districts a hundred miles away, with which the places it was derived from had no sympathy or connection whatever. The very notion of thus disendowing parishes where there was a large Roman Catholic and only a small Church population was inconsistent with the favorite theory that the special mission of the Irish Church as an establishment was to be a missionary Church, and to propagate the doctrines of the Reformation in places where they were not now admitted. The whole scheme of the Commissioners would indeed abate the existing scandal but leave untouched the fundamental injustice of the present state of things. A few years ago its adoption might have been possible, but now, as in so many other cases, 1718 it was "too late." The only alternatives left to the country were, on the one hand, the endowment of all three Churches, called by hon. Gentlemen opposite, the "levelling-up policy"—and by a right hon. Gentleman on that (the Ministerial) side the "hot potato policy"—and on the other hand the solution proposed by the present Bill. The course pursued by the late Government and the decision of the country had rendered the latter alternative the only feasible one. With respect to the results of the General Election, he begged respectfully to differ from the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, the other night, to the effect that the decision merely meant that the right hon. Gentleman, now at the head of the Government, should be the person to deal with this question. He believed that the verdict of the country wont much further, and that it was given in clear and unmistakable language in favour of the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church. As to the statistics of the question, the great inferiority of the numbers of the Church population of Ireland would appear the more clearly if the country were divided into two unequal halves by a line drawn from Sligo Bay on the North-west to Wicklow on the South-east. It would then be seen that of the 690,000 Churchmen, 530,000 were in the smaller half—including nearly 50,000 in the City of Dublin alone—and only 160,000 in the larger half compared with 2,700,000 Roman Catholics, being only 5½ per cent of the whole. Nearly half the total Church population was in four dioceses—Armagh, Clogher, Connor, and Dublin—out of the thirty-two into which Ireland was divided. The percentage of Churchmen to the population had actually decreased in nine dioceses since 1834, and was far less now in the whole country than it was 200 years ago. But the statistics of the City of Dublin itself were especially striking. That City was the seat of a Protestant Viceregal Court; it possessed a great Protestant Defence Association, which kept up the glow of Protestantism in the Irish breast by means of the Kentish fire; it faced full upon Protestant England, and was almost within reach of the Protestant breezes wafted westward from the hills of North Warwickshire. Yet it appeared that in 1719 Dublin the number of members of the Established Church, which had been 61,833 in 1834, or 26 per cent of the population, had fallen off in 1861 to 49,116, or only 19¼ per cent; whilst the Roman Catholic population had increased from 174,957, or 72½ per cent, to 196,495, or 77 per cent. He could not better express the causes of the failure of the State-Church system than in the following words which had been placed in his hands:—If the great design of its existence be to convert a nation of Roman Catholics into a nation of Protestants it has lamentably failed. After the centuries, during which it has enjoyed all these supposed advantages, the Irish Church is in as decided and as hopeless a minority to-day as when it first commenced its work. In no country of Europe has the Roman Catholic priest more absolute sway, in none is the faith which he inculcates held with a more passionate devotion. When the Irishman leaves his native country, and is freed from the influence of its surroundings, his loyalty to his Church is often shaken; but in his own land his feelings are so irritated by the signs of Protestant ascendancy, that Protestant appeals lose all their power. With all the warmth of a generous nature he clings to a Church whose sufferings have endeared it to his heart; with all the fervour of patriotism he hates its rival, which he regards as the enemy alike of his race and of his creed. Protestantism is to him the synonym for Saxon oppression, and thus its ministers, however distinguished for personal excellence, fail to exert upon him any favourable influence. Instead, therefore, of advancing, the State-Church has hindered the progress of Protestantism.He commended to the attention of the Irish Bishops and clergy the noble words used by the Bishop of Aberdeen, who spoke as follows in his pastoral charge of last Autumn:—It does not require any great sagacity to predict that this kingdom and this Church are on the eve of great changes. In our position we who may be spared for a short time will be able to look quietly on, our Church having, centuries ago, passed through these very changes, which seem now to be imminent to the religious Establishments of this land. We have passed through the storm which swept away from us all our earthly things. But it could not affect the Divine authority of the Church, and during the quiet of succeeding years the Church has gradually been recovering from her depression, and now that we have survived our evil days, when I look around, I, for one, do not regret that our Church is free, and dependent upon the zeal and love of her faithful members. …. Our increasing prosperity may be an en couragement to Churches who have to depend upon their divine constitution, in the promises of God, and the alms of the faithful, instead of the authority of the human law, and the favour of earthly Princes.He rejoiced to see the language employed on this grave subject by that distin- 1720 guished Prelate the Bishop of Down, and he believed that we should soon see many of the Irish clergy prepared to endorse the opinions of the Protestant Archdeacon of Tuam, who had just published a pamphlet, concluding with these words—By observations like these, gathered in an experience of more than thirty years in the Church's ministry, I have been led to the conclusion that we, her members, for our own sake as well as for that of the whole nation, would do well to descend, of our own accord, from our privileged position, and to lay willingly on the altar of our country a portion of that wealth the abuse of which has been the just occasion of our Church's reproach, and the very use of which has been to her a source of weakness. How dignified, nay, how grand a position would her Bishops and her clergy occupy, were they seen approaching the Throne with the prayer that Her Majesty, with the co-operation of her Parliament, would restore peace to a distracted country, and a feeling of security to a threatened Empire, by placing all her subjects in Ireland on a footing of complete civil and religious equality!If he (Mr. Bowring) were a member of the Irish Church, and anxious to make the best possible terms for himself in a worldly point of view, he would far sooner trust to the provisions of the present Bill, than to the tender mercies of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. He remembered the story which was told of the famous Admiral Benbow, showing how, when he was a young man, he first attracted the attention of the world to his deeds of prowess. He was said to have once entered the port of Cadiz having in his possession a large bag, which he refused to allow the Custom House officers to open, saying that it contained provisions for his own consumption. They believed it to contain contraband articles, and to end the dispute he was brought before the magistrates. On the latter ordering him to open the bag, he quietly undid it, and forthwith there rolled out of it upon the table, before the eyes of the astonished magnates, thirteen well-salted heads of pirates whom he had slain in action, with fierce resolution inscribed upon the brow of each; and when the ghastly sight had filled the Spaniards with the needful degree of awe, he quietly replaced the heads in the bag from which they had fallen. Now if he (Mr. Bowring) were, the member of the Irish Church he had spoken of, and if the present Bill were rejected and the present Government retired from Office and were succeeded by the hon. Gentle- 1721 men opposite, he should expect to witness a modern edition of this story of old Benbow. He pictured to himself; some modern Benbow rising on the Treasury Bench, and producing from his official box and placing on the table of the House thirteen well-preserved heads of compromise on the subject of the Irish Church, with "Resolution" inscribed upon each, and bristling with safeguards in every direction; with a dual vote for Bishops in Convocation here, personal payment of tithes there—and so on; and then, when the sight of these thirteen Resolutions had failed to inspire the House with proper awe—and in that respect the parallel failed—he should expect to see the gallant Admiral in charge of the vessel of the State quietly put them back in the official box, and—after two or three Cabinet Ministers had resigned, and a whole Sunday had been spent in investigating the statistics of the question—re-place them by a Bill for the abolition of the Irish Church pure and simple, with no safeguard, compromise, or compensation whatever. He (Mr. Bowring) unfeignedly rejoiced that the first vote of importance which it would be his privilege to give in that House would be a vote in favour of social progress and of religious equality; a vote in accordance with the solemn verdict which had lately been returned by the vast majority of the people of these realms; a vote responsive to the appeal for justice now being imploringly addressed to them by 4,500,000 of their fellow-subjects in the sister Isle; and lastly, and most of all, a vote in direct furtherance of the best and truest interests of that Divine religion which bade them do unto others as they would others should do unto them.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he should have been contented to give a silent vote against the second reading of the Bill, were it not that the question it involved was regarded with the deepest interest by the large constituency he had the honour of representing. He believed they had arrived at a stage of that discussion when they were acquainted with the main facts and the leading bearings of the question. The First Minister of the Crown, in submitting his measure to the House, dwelt with becoming gravity on the momentous issue which was proposed for their decision, and on the 1722 importance of the results which might flow from it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must admit that they could justify the measure they were now asked to read a second time upon three considerations only—namely, first, that in their view the situation of Ireland at the present time was such as called for what had been termed "heroic remedies"; secondly, that the heroic remedy peculiarly called for by the situation of that country was the disendowment and the disestablishment of the Irish Church; and thirdly, that the scheme proposed by the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was the most fitting mode in which the disestablishment of the Irish Church could be carried into effect. Now, he was prepared to join issue with hon. Gentlemen opposite on every one of those points. He denied the accuracy of their premises, and, even if their premises were correct, he denied the soundness of the conclusion which was drawn from them. He would deal with the arguments in the order in which he had stated them. In the first place, he was prepared to contend that the state of Ireland at the present moment—although it was far from being all they could desire—was also very far from being one in which she stood in need of "heroic remedies." That was a point on which he was ready to acknowledge that it was not enough for any man to state the results of his individual experience; but he was fortunately able to appeal to documents of public interest and which admitted of public verification. He took the Returns of the Poor Law Commissioners for 1867–8—the last year for which they had been laid upon the table—and from them he found that the condition of the labouring class in Ireland had never at any other period been so prosperous. The Irish labourers were at present better housed, better fed, better clothed, and they were incomparably better paid than they had been twenty or even ten years ago. There was a total absence among them of those wasting diseases which at one time were wont to devastate the country at short intervals of time—small-pox had almost entirely disappeared from among them, and cholera and dysentery were much less fatal than they were in former years. Under these circumstances it could scarcely be disputed that the condition of the working classes 1723 had greatly mended. Then as regarded the tenant-farmers, it appeared that they paid their rents with a regularity and cheerfulness which had formerly been unknown. The deposits in the banks, which consisted for the most part of the savings of the agricultural classes, had never been larger than they were at the present moment, and there could not be a better proof than that of the general prosperity of the country. He next came to the state of the commercial classes, and in reference to that subject he had been informed that in all the larger departments of commerce there was nothing which could be said to approach to stagnation. He was aware that in the smaller towns there had been considerable depression in trade in consequences of circumstances to which he would afterwards advert. But although Ireland was still at least fifty years behind this country, they must not draw a hasty conclusion from that circumstance. They must not look at what she might be but at what she had been; and he said there were evident signs of improvement among every portion of her population. Then he came to the next point. If Ireland did not stand in need of "heroic remedies" at the present moment; if, as he believed, she merely required rest to become the country she might be—rest from political agitation; rest from being made the stalking-horse of parties; rest from being used as the lever—he employed the phrase in the sense in which it had been used by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade—by which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen were to be transferred from one side of the House to the other—what had she to gain by the present measure? "What would Ireland gain by the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church? "Who had asked for such a remedy? People might suppose from the language of some Gentlemen that Ireland had at one time been happy, contented, and prosperous. They seemed to forget that three centuries and-a-half elapsed between the time of Henry II. and the Reformation. If Gentlemen wanted information on the subject let them refer to the pages in which the late Mr. Hallam, the Tacitus of our day, amused us, with his usual historical impartiality, and with more than his usual terse felicity of language; that sad his- 1724 tory of wrong, outrage, and robbery, and this at a time when the Reformed Church of Ireland had not come into existence. He might be told that there was another cause why they should resort to these "heroic remedies," and that was Fenianism. He had possessed as close an opportunity of making acquaintance with Fenianism as any man in that House except the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), and he would challenge any hon. Gentlemen on the other side to point out any proclamation, manifesto, or circular, issued by the Fenians, which made a single mention of the Irish Church. The object of these wretched and misguided men was not to pull down the Church, but to obtain possession of the land. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), had told the House what the Prime Minister had not—namely, that the land question must be dealt with, and if they dealt with that the question of the Irish Church might be set aside or postponed to the Greek Kalends. Then as to the scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman as a panacea for all the wrongs and miseries of Ireland, the scheme now before the House differed very widely from the scheme propounded by the right hon. Gentleman when he was "starring" it in Lancashire, not merely on the points to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had adverted, but there were other promises made to the ear which he (Mr. Brodrick) feared would not be realized. One promise that the right hon. Gentleman opposite made was that three-fifths of the property of the Church should be preserved to it. Perhaps it would not be generous to press that point further, because he understood the right hon. Gentleman to admit that all his original figures and calculations were fallacious, and he had to begin afresh. There was one point, however, on which he was perfectly explicit, and that was with respect to the glebes and glebe houses, which he stated it would be unfair to take from the Church. Now, speaking of the South of Ireland, which, he was best acquainted with, he could say that the glebes consisted only of a few acres close to the house, with a gravel walk around them, and planted with a few trees. And yet, so far from these being left to the Church, they were 1725 to be sold to it only at twelve years' purchase, and any debt which remained upon the house must be taken upon their shoulders by those who wished to possess it. Was that fair or just? It would be utterly impossible in Ireland to let them for any thing approaching their value. The only thing that rendered them valuable had been the generosity of the incumbents, who, from time to time, had spent their money upon them; in many cases having built the house; in many more, perhaps in all, having contributed to its embellishment and to the improvement of the land which surrounded it. But all that was now to be taken from them, or they were to be compelled to buy it at twelve years' purchase. Again, the House had been told that none of the surplus was to be devoted to religious purposes of any kind. Now, he wished to call special attention to the 59th clause, which proposed that the surplus should be devoted to the care of lunatics and other afflicted classes. But hon. Gentlemen opposite knew perfectly well that the clause as it stood would simply hand over the money to the monastic and conventual establishments in Ireland, for they would at once undertake the prescribed duties. Then, there was no provision for inspection, nothing to prevent the institutions becoming denominational, none for Government control—so that £500,000, £600,000, or £800,000 would go into the hands of the convents and monasteries in Ireland. How was it proposed to "gild the pill," so as to make it palatable? The proposal spoke wonderfully for the right hon. Gentleman's accurate knowledge of human nature, for it went on the principle of "making things pleasant all round," as the phrase was understood in the railway world. There were five classes, each of which was offered a gigantic bribe—the landowners, the tenants, the clergy—using the word in its largest signification—the Roman Catholics, and the Presbyterians. The landowners were bribed by the remission of the tithe; for, as to the purchase of the tithe rent-charge at twenty-two and a-half years' valuation, they all knew in Ireland that would be simple moonshine. There were but few small landowners in Ireland who lived with prudence enough to make it possible for them to purchase the tithe-rent-charge, and if it were they might buy it at a 1726 much lower rate in the Incumbered Estates Court. Then, as to the large landowners, most of their property was settled in strict entail, and the tithe rent-charge could not be bought without a heavy mortgage. He knew several estates on which the charge borne was as large as from £1,000 to £2,000, and there were very few owners who would be prepared to raise a capital sum of £40,000 or £50,000 to make the purchase. The result would be that the alternative would be accepted, and that at the end of forty-five years the tithe would expire by the process which the right hon. Gentleman described. Then, the tenants were to be offered the bribe of the county cess. That would be regarded as a concession, no doubt. In the part of Ireland with which he was acquainted it amounted to about 3d. in the pound; but when the rent came next to be settled, whether it went upwards or downwards, the diminution on account of the county cess would be taken into consideration, and he was sorry to say that it, too, would find its way into the pocket of the landlord. Then there were the clergy, who were to receive a life provision which they might commute. But not one in ten would think of commuting it. They would prefer an Imperial guarantee during the term of their lives. If the provisions with regard to Maynooth and the Presbyterians had been extended to the Irish Church it would do much better. Money could be invested in Ireland at 4½ or 5 per cent, and the result of the present proposals would be that the Roman Catholics and the Presbyterians would, at the rate of fourteen years' purchase, be in possession of a capital sum amounting probably to about seven-tenths of what the grant was now. But with respect to the clergy, if they should commute they could not expect anything like fourteen years' purchase, and even that would be a very scant measure, because in Canada, where the same process had been carried out, they got sixteen years' purchase, and money there could be invested at 7 and 7½ per cent. The two other classes—the Presbyterians and the Roman Catholics—were dealt with on nearly the same footing. They would both receive a large capital sum, which they would be at liberty to administer in whatever way they thought proper, and they would retain something like seven- 1727 tenths of the income they now derived from the State, in addition to which the Roman Catholics had the prospect of obtaining, through the medium of their religious communities, the lion's share of whatever spoil might remain after the other parties had been satisfied. There was one class who were utterly lost sight of in the course of these arrangements—namely, the laity of the Established Church in Ireland. Every possible arrangement was made for the comfort of all other classes concerned; but the laity were to see their Church stripped naked and bare, and then sent forth into the world to eke out a miserable subsistence from voluntary charity. It was the fashion to say the Established Church in Ireland was composed of the wealthiest and most well-to-do part of the population. But what were the wealthiest and most well-to-do people in Ireland in comparison with the same classes in England? Professional incomes in Ireland were not one-half of what they were on this side of the water; the incomes derived from trade and commerce were probably not above one-third of those gained in England; and the money spent in every district, except perhaps in the immediate neighbourhood of the large towns, was probably not one-fifth of the sum spent in districts of the same area and size in England. He would test the results of that measure by the diocese with which he was best acquainted—namely, that of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross. What was the state of the western division of the county of Cork? In the eastern division of that county it was true there was a considerable sum for the maintenance of the Church in almost all the larger parishes, and that, in many cases, where the income was large he was afraid the congregation was small. But in the western division the case was quite different. There, in many instances, there existed a large Protestant population, with a considerable proportion of poor in each parish, while the endowments were now very insufficient. But what would those endowments be when the property of the Church was taken away? A great number of people there must then either be left without the means of spiritual instruction, or would have to be massed in centres so large, that to attend the services of the Church on Sunday they would have to travel ten, fifteen, and even twenty miles in some 1728 instances. There were but few resident gentry there, and it would be absolutely impossible to keep up public worship unless some endowment were provided. That was not all. Within the last six years £37,000 had been raised in that diocese by the efforts of influential laymen, and expended on the churches, glebe houses, and the restoration of the cathedral, on the faith that the services of the Church would be provided for out of the property from which for the last 300 years they had been sustained. But the endowments for maintaining those services were about to be taken away, and he said it was not common honesty to ignore the fact that that large sum had been contributed within six years by persons who could ill spare it, on the faith of those arrangements being continued, to which it was now sought to put a summary end. He would take another case, He could point to a parish which was formerly a union in the east of the same county. That union was divided, because it was found that one clergyman was in receipt of the tithes of more than one parish, and that the duties of those distinct parishes—three or four in number at one time, he believed—were, as might have been expected, inefficiently done. What followed? Two churches were built, each at a distance of about three miles from the mother church, partly by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and partly from local resources. He did not say that the congregations of either of those churches were large, but the churches afforded the means of grace to those who would otherwise have been practically without them; and that money had been raised, and those churches built, on the faith that the arrangements now in force would be continued. But they were going to undo, in that instance, everything that had been done within the last twenty-five years by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with the sanction of the Government, and they would place that parish in a far worse position than it would have occupied if the change now proposed could have been, contemplated as likely to happen. He would give one more illustration. The borough of Bandon Bridge—now, for the first time for thirty years, represented by a Gentleman on the opposite Benches—was composed of two parishes. The tithes of the larger parish of the two amounted 1729 to £600 a year in all. £300 of that sum was enjoyed by the parson, who had a population of about 1,750 Protestants, from 1,300 to 1,400 of whom belonged to the Established Church. That clergyman had no glebe house; he had two curates, and after paying the rent of a house to live in, and paying also his curates, his income from the parish amounted to the magnificent sum of £20 per annum. For upwards of 200 years he and his predecessors had done the duty of that parish, and the remaining £300 a year belonged to a lay impropriator, the rector, a nobleman well represented in that House, and well known in the country. He believed the hon. Member for Bandon (Mr. Shaw) owed his return mainly to the influence—he did not say the improper influence—of that Nobleman. At all events, his agent was one of the most active—he would not say the most unscrupulous—supporters of that hon. Member. But this he did say, that it was a shame and a scandal if the Church was to be deprived of her property in that parish, for which she had done duty for three centuries, and if the head of the house of Cavendish was to continue to receive his £300 a year as lay impropriator. He did not wish to put the matter in an offensive light, but that was a curious anomaly; and he could not see that the Duke of Devonshire had any better title to his moiety of the tithes than the poor parson who had done all the work. He had now to thank the House for allowing him to enter his earnest and heartfelt protest against a measure fraught, he believed, with infinite mischief to the future not only of Ireland but of the great Empire of which she formed a part. He said that the Bill before them, revealed as it was in all its naked deformity, was not a measure of conciliation, nor one of equitable compromise, but, as the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer)—whose voice would, he hoped, be heard in that debate—called it, it was a measure of confiscation. He said, moreover, that confiscation was simply an euphemism for an act of monstrous Wrong and robbery. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) had declared with something of prophetic vision that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was treading on the verge of a wide region of change. Wide, indeed! so wide that 1730 its limits were altogether beyond the reach of human ken. And now, in conclusion, he would remind the House that there were times and seasons in the history of most nations, as also in the lives of most individuals, when the fabled choice of Hercules was presented to them—when on the one side there lay the broad and easy downward path of political expediency, along which the merest tyro might run with ease, and when on the other side lay the steep and narrow track of duty and of principle, which it would tax all the energy and all the ability of the full-grown statesman to climb. But on the choice which was then made, on the question whether the good was chosen and the evil refused, was wont not unfrequently to turn the future of that nation or of that individual, as the case might be; and should a fatal mistake be made in that choice, repentance, when it came—as with time and reflection it was almost certain to do—would in all probability come only when it was too late.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, the right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate (Mr. Disraeli) declared that it was not his intention to say anything personally offensive. He (Mr. Dillwyn) accepted that declaration, as he could bear witness to the courtesy with which the right hon. Gentleman had always conducted the debates in that House. But at the same time the right hon. Gentleman had that night used strong language when he characterized this Bill as one of sacrilegious spoliation. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down called it a great wrong and robbery." The right hon. Gentleman, however, favoured the House with his notion of the difference between confiscation and spoliation. As he (Mr. Dillwyn) had always been in favour of such a measure as this, he wished to deny the applicability of this language. He did not consider the measure to be an act of spoliation. He viewed the Established Church in Ireland as a standing wrong to the people of that country, and, being such, he thought the Government of this country only discharged a duty in endeavouring to remove it as soon as possible. He was aware that some Gentlemen took a view of the Church which would justify them in thinking that its disendowment would be an act of spoliation. Those who believed the Church, to be a 1731 Divine institution teaching infallible truth by means of an infallible priesthood, might well be of opinion that to interfere with its property would be spoliation and robbery. In his judgment, however, that was a superstitious view of the question, and would not bear examination. He could not agree with those who held that the Church in this country had never undergone a revolution, but that it was the Church of St. Augustine still. To him this seemed like special pleading; as, after the Be-formation, the Church—having separated from the Roman Catholic Church—practically assumed the position of a new Church. ["No, no!"] Such, at all events, was the common sense view in which it was regarded by most of the people of this country. In Ireland especially the Church stood in this position; and was, in fact, a standing protest against the doctrine of the infallibility of Churches. ["Question, question!"] Well, he would put away the question of the infallibility or Divine origin of the Church. He looked upon it as a mere State institution—as a public property, of which the public had a right to resume the user when in the public interest it appeared necessary so to do. In all countries, whether the Government was constitutional, mixed, or republican, the supreme power of the State exercised the right of dealing with all sorts of property, whatever it might be, when it interfered with the interests of the community generally. Both private and corporate property had to subject itself to this power; and everybody in this country knew to what an extent the rights of private property were interfered with when railway companies, upon the plea of public necessity, required it. Whether that interference with private and corporate property was right or wrong, he was not going to argue; he only stated the fact; the power of the State in this respect was every day exemplified, and he could not understand why the exercise of that power should only be termed spoliation and robbery when applied to the Irish Church. The Government now proposed to deal with the Church in Ireland. He looked upon this Church in the light of a trust committed by the State to a certain body; and the State having subsequently ascertained that this trust had failed in its purpose— 1732 that instead of promoting peace and good-will amongst the people, it had produced the very opposite effects in Ireland—the State had a right to resume that trust, and to administer the property connected with it in a manner more in harmony with the wants and feelings of the people. The failure of the trust, he admitted, was not so much owing to any shortcomings on the part of the clergy as to the inherent vice of the institution which the present measure proposed to disestablish, and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had therefore dealt not only liberally, but munificently, with the interests of that clergy, and he (Mr. Dillwyn) rejoiced he had done so. In conclusion, he must say he should never give a vote with greater satisfaction than the one he intended to give in favour of the present measure.
§ MR. W. SHAW
said, he wished to make a few observations, as he felt he had been pointedly referred to by an hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Benches (Mr. Brodrick). He had listened with great gratification to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate that evening, and he confessed he had learned some things he had not been acquainted with before, and other things that enabled him to see what the result of the proposed change would be. He had been instructed upon one point in particular—namely, that they need not trouble themselves discussing the principle of the Bill, and that the sooner they entered into the consideration of its merits the better. He must enter a protest, however, against that style of oratory, which seemed unable to get on without the use of words of five syllables at least. He (Mr. Shaw) had not the slightest doubt, if he had Johnson's Dictionary before him, he should be able to hurl upon hon. Gentlemen words of equally "learned length," and such as would equally apply to the points under discussion. If the right hon. Gentleman could show him that the Bill of the Government dealt in any particular unjustly, or even that it failed in generosity in its dealing with those whom it affected, he would, without hesitation, vote with the opposite party, and against his own on this question. From the commencement of the controversy he had endeavoured to look at it as much as possible from the point of view of an Irish 1733 Churchman. He said of an Irish rather than of an English Churchman; for, in point of fact, there did not seem to exist much sympathy between the English and the Irish Churches; indeed, he had lately seen some publication in which the Irish Church was spoken of as a kind of mongrel Puritanism. The Irish Churchman will also recollect that it was English Churchmen who had originally placed his Church in the false position she occupied for the aggrandizement and political purpose of their own party. Also one of the arguments now most frequently dwelt on was that this measure would imperil the existence of the English Church; so that it would strike the Irish Churchman that you are thinking much more of yourselves than of what is for the best interests of the Irish Church. Looking at the question practically, two proposals might be submitted to Parliament with a view to the settlement of the Irish Church difficulty. One was to carry out the recommendation of the Irish Church Commission, which would reduce that Establishment by one-half, and no doubt that could be done; but if they thus reduced the Establishment they must apply the surplus funds to some other object, for the misuse of property was desecration. Its proper use was consecration. His opinion was that Irish Churchmen ought without hesitation to reject the settlement proposed by the Irish Church Commission and accept that of the Government. He ventured to say that if any gentleman went over to Ireland, and met the thinking, intelligent members of the Church, excluding, of course, clergymen and ladies, he would find them ready to give their votes for the Bill before the House rather than of one founded upon the recommendation of the Commission. Now, see the position in which such a measure would leave the Church. Still all the vices of the present system, an object of dislike and jealousy to seven-eighths of the population, suspended between earth and heaven, and still exposed to the hostile attacks of political parties, what would this Bill enable the Church to do? Of course when it passed, as pass it would, the Church of Ireland, would organize its governing body—that governing body would arrange with the incumbents and the Government to commute the life annuities for a fixed sum—they would deal with 1734 certain classes of clergymen whose services they could dispense with, such as the very old, the delicate, those who had independent means and were desirous of living elsewhere. Thus they could get rid of considerably more than half the ministers with much less than half the fund, and they would have left, the working clergymen of the Church and a large fund; and, by a moderate effort, supplementing the fund, they might keep it nearly intact; the only thing that would lessen it would be the providing retiring allowance for these clergymen in their old age. He was quite I sure, and he spoke from extensive knowledge of Ireland, that the Church would be bettor officered, and its work much better done with less than half the number of its present ministers. An hon. Member had remarked, in the course of the debate, that by the action of this Bill the Church would be turned out into; the cold. He had for a long time studied this question from a belief that this measure must sooner or later come upon the Irish Church, and he believed that Providence had been preparing it for this great event, and he rejoiced to say that he Church had made greater strides in organization and everything to fit her to take her position as a free Church, and; her ministers among ministers were highly gifted and excellent men. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire that the Maynooth and Presbyterian Grants should not be provided out of Church property, and if the right hon. Gentleman moved that the £1,100,000 should be placed on the Consolidated Fund he (Mr. Shaw) would support him. In passing a great measure of national conciliation such as this, he thought it was desirable to rise above considerations of bare justice and to act with something like generosity. He was, therefore, of opinion that both the Presbyterians and the Roman Catholics had some claims on the House. The Presbyterians were an industrious and an intelligent community, and it would not, in his opinion, be an unwise course to adopt to make some provision for assisting them in providing manses and places of worship in poor districts. The Roman Catholics of the South and West of Ireland were also an industrious as well as a religious people, and their clergymen devoted themselves zealously to the improvement of their 1735 flock. Their chapels were in many instances miserable buildings, and the residences of the priests but too frequently unfit for educated gentlemen to five in; so that it would be but right for the House to consent to make some provision in that direction as well as for the Presbyterians. It only remained for him to say he heartily supported the Bill.
§ MR. CROSS
said, that he had anxiously and honestly considered this question, and he had formed an opinion upon it irrespective of party feeling. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, that a greater and more arduous task had never fallen upon a Government or that House than that immediately under consideration; but he was afraid that, lost in the greatness of the work they had undertaken as regards the Church, and absorbed in the details of their measure, they had been drawn away from what, after all, was the main object of the Government—namely, the pacification of Ireland. This Bill would certainly destroy the Church in Ireland, but it would, not strengthen or improve Ireland. It was a powerful and ingenious instrument for destruction; but that was not the object which the House and the country had in view, they wished rather to render Ireland a happy, peaceful, and a contented country. This subject ought to have been accompanied with a broad outline of the policy of the Government towards Ireland, including the land and education questions. Now, he had endeavoured to look at the proposal of the Government as far as possible from an Irish point of view. The question must be considered in a generous spirit, with a view to discover what was, on the whole, the best for the country. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) in his well-known speech, had drawn a doleful picture of the state of Ireland. He painted it as a country in which a strong force of soldiers and policemen could hardly preserve order. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act had deprived the people of their liberties; trade and manufacture was declining; in all respects Ireland was declared to be going backwards. But what, on that occasion, was the first Irish grievance put forward by the hon. Member? Not the Church, but the land question. And when the hon. Member came to touch upon the ecclesiastical part of his subject, it soon appeared 1736 that the real grievance was not the existence of an establishment, but of a Protestant Establishment; not that there was a State Church, but that that was not a Roman Catholic State Church. In a word, it was not a grievance of the people of Ireland, but of the Church of Rome. He thought that, in undertaking to legislate for Ireland, the Government ought not to have confined itself to the question of the Church; the House was entitled to know also what, if any, was their policy with regard to the land. For his own part, he entirely differed from the melancholy view of the Member for Cork. He believed that Ireland was in a state not only of great but of rapid improvement. No fair estimate could be formed upon a short review of ten or fifteen years; the growth or decline of nations required a greater space in which to exhibit itself; but if they compared the state of Ireland at intervals of ten years for the last half-century, her material and moral improvement would be placed beyond all question. On the three vital points of national progress—wealth, education, and diminution of crime—Ireland was now infinitely better off than she was fifty years ago. She still required rest—to be let alone—remedial, but not violent legislation—time in which to recover her strength and energy; and he believed that no greater mischief could befal her than such a violent shock and disruption as would be produced by this Bill. One main cause of the evils under which she had suffered was that her population was greater than a mere agricultural country could maintain. It was a fallacy to suppose, with the President of the Board of Trade, that the division and subdivision of the land among the peasantry could cure this evil. The case of Belgium—which was sometimes quoted—offered no true parallel. In Belgium there were large manufacturing towns, which afforded a market for agricultural industry, and an outlet for the superfluous population of the rural districts. In Ireland were none of these things. If Ireland were well stocked with manufacturing towns the establishment of small holdings would be an efficient remedy for the ills which afflicted her; but she was not a manufacturing country, and small holdings would, therefore, help her but little. He believed, with Sir George Lewis, that if Ireland could be stretched 1737 out as a sheet of indiarubber the tenantry would be as happy as any in the world; as it was, the population had outgrown the producing power of the country, and want resulted. As Mr. Cobden had said, it had become England's duty to undo what she had been doing in her jealousy and fear of Ireland during the last two centuries. Ireland's commerce and manufactures had been systematically crippled by England, and the Archbishop of Cashel announced with perfect truth that the way to make Ireland prosperous was to develop her commerce and manufactures. In regard to the Irish Church, the Prime Minister had made four charges against her. First, he had described the parishioners in many of the livings as merely an official population; but at the worst that criticism could only apply to the 199 livings which the Commission proposed should lapse after the death of the present incumbents. Secondly, he denied that the grants to Maynooth and the Presbyterians were in any sense—as they had been termed by the Prime Minister—buttresses of the Church of England, The Maynooth Grant was bestowed: before the Revolution to prevent the Irish sending their children to France for an education, and the Regium Donum was granted, by Charles II. for secret service, and afterwards renewed by William III., not as a buttress to the Church of England but for political services rendered. Nor would he waste time by dealing with the third charge—namely, the waste of funds with which the Church had been charged, in the face of the reckless proposal to confiscate her possessions, and by the manipulations of the Bill to reduce £16,000,000 of property to £7,500,000. Fourthly, stress had been laid upon the Penal Laws which had so long oppressed Ireland, and it was sought to damage the Church by making her responsible for their origin; but the fact was that those laws were demanded equally by Conformists and Presbyterians; they were in accordance with the spirit of that age, and it was unfair that all the odium should now be thrown upon the Protestant Church. He did not consider that the Resolutions passed last Session, were binding upon the present Parliament, and respecting them he would remind the House that the Fourth, which affected Maynooth and the Regium Donum, was added afterwards 1738 by the House, and was not introduced by the right hon. Gentleman—a fact which probably accounted for the different treatment in the Bill of those grants and the Church endowments. Again, the elections last year were not taken as the simple issue of the Irish Church, for more votes were influenced by the charge of excessive expenditure brought against the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) than by the Church policy of the Government. Therefore, notwithstanding the Resolutions of last year, and the elections, and the large Ministerial majority, he trusted that they would still approach this measure not in a party or sectarian, but in a large and generous spirit; and if they did so that measure would not, he was assured, become law, for he was convinced that the more the country understood it, the less it would like it. Two subjects, it seemed to him, had not been fully discussed, in the House in connection with this matter, and those subjects were disestablishment and disendowment. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, he maintained that they had never been discussed as abstract principles, traced to their source, and examined as to their consequences. He wanted to know whether the House was prepared to come to the conclusion, as an abstract principle, that religion should not be established in connection with the State? If the principle were not argued now the result would be that, when they came to argue it in a few years hence, they would be told—"You ought to have taken your stand upon this principle in the debates on the Irish Church." Should we have within the realm of England an Established Church or not? In the words of the right hon. Gentleman and of Sir Robert Peel, at Glasgow, in 1837, he was not prepared to wipe out the name of God from the statute book of England; he believed that every nation as a nation, like every family as a family, should be bound to have Home national public acknowledgment of God. They found even in the American States, when they were first founded, that it was declared by statute that it was the duty of the nation as a nation openly to worship God. No one could deny that in discharging its natural duties a Government must go further than the protection of persons and property; and as the Vice President of the Council lately had 1739 shown the necessity of attending to the education of the people, so he held it equally necessary that the nation as a nation should acknowledge that which must be the foundation of all education—namely, religion. He, for one, was not prepared to set the example to the age of a departure from, the national practice. What was there in Ireland to take it out of the general law? His answer was, nothing. If there was anything in Ireland which prevented the establishment of the English Church there, the only logical conclusion which could possibly be drawn from the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman was that they ought to establish the Roman Catholic religion. A great deal had been said about English interests; but he ventured to say that the only reason why the right hon. Gentleman did not follow his line of reasoning to a logical conclusion was because English interests would step in and would not allow the Roman Catholic Church to be established. Therefore, because he could not do that, the right hon. Gentleman came to the most illogical conclusion to sweep away every religion from the statute book. It had been well said that night that the Church was never put forward by the Irish as a grievance. No Fenians had made complaint of it, and they had not heard of a single clergyman who had been abused or shot at from end of Ireland to another. On the contrary, he believed that the Irish clergy from one end of the island to the other were the men in whom the greatest faith and confidence were reposed by the people. That was shown at the time of the famine; and he agreed with the Dean of Westminster that though by such legislation as was now proposed, the Church might become an aggressive or proselytizing sect, it would cease to be the one religious institution which had constantly fostered liberty of thought and action, and most steadily exerted a moderate and civilizing influence over the whole country. As to the question of disendowment, it was perfectly distinct from that of disestablishment. The property of the Church, as Dr. Arnold—no friend to the Establishment in Ireland—had said of it, was something saved from the scramble for the purposes of religion, and for his part, he was not there to assent under any circumstances, to the taking away of that property. He 1740 did not say that there was no difference between the property of a corporation and of a private individual; but he said that they had no right to take away the property of a Church and apply it to secular purposes. Then, too, we should remember that in the case of such a corporation as the Church of England the beneficiaries were not alone the clergymen or the corporation sole, but the vested interest lay in the whole Protestant people. If the Church were disestablished, she should be left in possession of the property which belonged to her, and he regarded the measure as lavish to everybody connected with the Church except those for whose benefit the Church existed. He had cited the case of America. In America, the statutes declared that the property, the churches, and the glebes belonging to the Church of England were to remain her property for ever in spite of disestablishment. Surely, in Ireland the same view of the case ought to be taken. He denied that this was a liberal measure to the Church of Ireland, and he denied that it was a final one. No measure would be final. He thought they had had enough of finality, when they found a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church saying that he was not content with it, because it left too much in the hands of the Church of England. These were the words of Bishop Goss, of Liverpool, who said he hoped the measure would content the people of Ireland, but he would be very much surprised if it did, because he did not see how the Prime Minister could allow the Established Church to carry off all her private endowments, while he did not give back to the Roman Catholic Church the property that had come to her through private endowments. No measure would be final which 700,000 people believed to be a measure which treated them with gross injustice. He wished the House to consider what would be the position of the Irish Church if the measure passed in its present shape. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of three periods, during which the process of disendowment was to take place. What would be the position of the Church during the first period? There were 700,000 Churchmen scattered over Ireland, from one end to the other, and they were now told to do that which by law it was illegal to do— 1741 to form a Convocation of some kind or other; and unless they could satisfy the Queen that they had formed a proper representative body the Government would have nothing to do with them, and all their churches would be taken away. It was not only unjust but positively cruel to tell people who had hitherto been forbidden by law to meet, and who had no experience in meeting, to tell them that they must meet within eighteen months, and that if they were not prepared within six months after to say what churches and what glebes and glebe lands they were prepared to take over, they would not get anything. And were there no dangers to be apprehended from within? Could there be any time more dangerous to call people together than when they were smarting under a sense of injustice? But he would come to the second period which the right hon. Gentleman had sketched out. The right hon. Gentleman undertook to provide for the life interests of clergymen. He supposed it would be admitted that a person who held a freehold office in Ireland was at present entitled to hold it without permission from any person; but if the Church representative body decided not to occupy a particular church, that church became vested in the Commissioners, subject to the life interest of the incumbent, who, according to the proposition of the Government, was not to receive his income unless he performed his duties in that church; so that, though he might be willing to officiate in some other part of Ireland for the same income, he was compelled to remain at a place where his services were but little required Then they were told that the Church was to retain all the private endowment; she had received since 1660. But why did the right hon. Gentleman stop there? It was a new thing to say that the older the tenure the worse was the title. And so with regard to the churches themselves he wanted to know how much money had been spent in the repair and enlargement of the churches? Did money that was spent on the building of churches cease to be private endowments, though it would have remained private endowment if it had been lodged in the funds? It would be found that 203 new churches had been built in Ireland since 1833. He was aware that the Bill provided that if it could be proved a 1742 church was built by a private individual it was not to pass into the hands of a church body. But the churches were built for the most part not by private individuals, but by public subscriptions. Money had been given in this way to the extent of £642,000, exclusive of the £150,000 that had been spent on St. Patrick's Cathedral. Now, he asked, were these private endowments, or were they not? If they were, what right had the right hon. Gentleman to talk of giving them up to the Church, only because they were of no marketable value? There was another question. They were to have their churches, on condition that they would keep them in repair. He wanted to know whether the State would be entitled to come down upon the Church, and to say—"You are not keeping the fabrics in repair, and therefore we will resume them." Again, he wanted to know what title the State would give? They had now a prescription of 300 years; it was proposed to give them instead a Parliamentary title of the date of 1869. What security would that be, if the Roman Catholics were to set up a demand, as he believed they would set up a demand, for these churches V Then, with regard to the glebes and glebe houses? If hon. Gentlemen would refer to Swift's description of the Irish globes and glebe houses in 1710, they would find that there was hardly anything then in Ireland worth the name. Everyone knew that vast sums of money had since been expended on these glebes, not only by public subscriptions, but by the holders of the livings themselves, who subscribed money out of their own scanty salaries for the good of the Church, and of those who were to come after them Before sitting down, he must say one word about Maynooth and the Regium Donum. He wanted to know what had the Presbyterians done that they were to be deprived of the money which was so readily and cheerfully voted them by this House? Protestant ascendancy might offend the pride of the Roman Catholics, but there was no ascendancy connected with the Presbyterian Grant. They had done nothing to offend the religious pride of any denomination. What had they done that they should be deprived of the money voted by this House, and which they expended to such good purpose? Then came the matter of Maynooth. He could 1743 not make out that the money granted, £26,000 a year, was commuted in the same way as the money belonging to the Church. This £26,000 a year was taken at fourteen years' purchase. The grant to the Presbyterians of £45,000 was taken at such a rate that together they would have £1,100,000 as compensation. The property coming from tithes, land, and other sources, actually paid to the beneficed clergy, amounted to £395,000, and to the Bishops £74,000, making together £469,000. If that was commuted at the same rate as the commutation of the grants to the Roman Catholics and Presbyterians it would amount to far more than £4,000,000. Exclusive of I all the glebes, land in occupation, and paying all the charges on property, it would amount to considerably over £6,000,000. Therefore they had not commuted the money paid to the Roman Catholics on the same terms as the money paid to the clergy of the Church. The Roman Catholics were to have the money, and might invest it, and do as they pleased with it. The Protestant clergy were not to have a farthing, except on the condition of performing their duties. He hoped, whatever might become of the Bill, that the Irish Church would never think of making terms with clergymen in order to induce them to give up a farthing out of their small pittance. It had been said—"We are not going to apply the money to other than Irish purposes." But it had been "shown that the money was not going to be applied to Irish purposes, but to relieve the Imperial fund of the country. It was said—"We are not going to secularize the money;" but it appeared from statements which had been made public that the question had been discussed in the Cabinet whether the money might not be applied to Irish railway purposes; to the making of bridges or harbours; and, generally, for the relief of the ratepayers. It had been said—"We are not going to give this money to any religious body," but practically the whole management of the funds would, under the Bill, fall into the hands of the Roman Catholics. It was a very bold question, and the end of it could not be seen, as he could prove from the words of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman, in a speech which he made at Wigan, used an expression which ought 1744 to put the House on its guard with respect to the steps now being taken. Although it did not show the extent to which the Government were going, the direction was clearly pointed out. The right hon. Gentleman said—It is clear the Church of Ireland offers to us indeed a great question, but even that question is but one of a group of questions. There is the Church of Ireland, there is the land of Ireland, there is the education of Ireland; there are many subjects, all of which depend upon one greater than them all; they are all so many branches from one trunk, and that trunk is the tree of what is called Protestant ascendancy. Gentlemen, I look, for one, to this Protestant people to put down Protestant ascendancy, which pretends to seek its objects by doing homage to religious truth, and instead of consecrating politics desecrates religion. It is upon that system that we are banded together to make war. It is still there like a tall tree of noxious growth, lifting its head to heaven, and darkening and poisoning the land so far as its shadow can extend.He (Mr. Cross) asked whether that passage did not point out the direction in which the House was asked to go. First, there was the attack upon the Church of Ireland. But that was not all. There was the land of Ireland; there was the education of Ireland; and if that speech was read by the small light given to them in answer to questions which had been put from that (the Opposition) side of the House, although the Church simply was included in the Bill, there were the land and education questions looming in the distance. So far as regarded the land, the policy of the right hon. Gentleman was shadowed out in his speech as to the pre-emption of the tenant, and the trial of the experiment on a limited scale of the breaking up of large properties. There was also evidence of what was to be done regarding education in the suggestion which had been made respecting Trinity College. He would ask, was the House prepared to go on this downward course without having some policy shadowed out more fully as to the course which the Government intended to pursue? In that interesting book relating to Ireland, written by Mr. Trench, a conversation was related, in which it was intimated by one of the parties that the Church was what might be called a dominant Church, and that if they once get hold of the Church's lands the landlords' lands would follow. If it was intended to take that course, and make open war upon the Protestant inhabitants of Ire- 1745 land by Act of Parliament, and in any shape or form get possession of the land by the means shadowed out by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, by giving the tenants the right to purchase over the owners, there would be an end to peace in Ireland. If, on the other hand, they wished to show the people of Ireland that they wanted not only toleration but to live on terms of equality, desiring to live under the same laws, and that there should be some religion established in the realm—he did not say what that religion should be—he believed that the Roman Catholics themselves, and also the Presbyterians, would say that if there was to be any Church Establishment no Church could be established but one—and if it were to be left to the three Churches in Ireland which should be the Established Church, provided they might not choose their own, and provided they were prohbited from choosing their own, the majority would say, it was the English Church that should be established—that the Roman Catholics would not vote for the Presbyterians, and the Presbyterians would not vote for the Roman Catholics. If they went on treating Ireland with justice, in a free, generous spirit, they would rouse a warm feeling in the minds of the most generous people on the face of the earth, and make Ireland happy, and contented, and prosperous.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
I wish to congratulate the House upon the delivery of the two speeches to which we have just listened, and to thank the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) for recalling the eloquent words of my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, which faithfully express the policy of the Government and from which none of us mean to shrink ["Oh! Oh!"]—words I mean, like these—that while there are other great subjects of Irish legislation that have to be dealt with, we yet find one of those subjects before us with which it is our immediate duty to deal—a subject that forms a very large part of that whole, and which is a sine quâ non of all successful legislation for Ireland. Sir, I congratulate the House also on the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Bandon (Mr. Shaw); it was the honest and able expression of a sincere member of the Established Church in 1746 Ireland, who told the House his views of the work in which we are engaged, and gave them good reason to believe that that work will do no hurt to the real interests of that Church. But there was another speech which I confess I listened to with admiration, yet with regret—and that was the first speech we heard this evening. To me, I confess, it was a subject of regret to hear the great powers, the remarkable intellect of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, used for the purpose of resisting the great measure which is before us. Remembering the antecedents of that right hon. Gentleman, and remembering the most remarkable speeches that he ever, in my judgment, delivered in his life some years ago, I think I may truly say that if we had not been undeceived by recent experience, we might have hoped that his powerful and naturally unprejudiced mind would be on our side on this occasion. But it was not to be; and although I confess he said nothing that I could trace definitely in support of the Irish Church, dealing in vague generalities and ingenious phrases, the right hon. Gentleman has been the Mover of the Amendment for the rejection of this measure. He has thrown in his weight as Leader of the party opposite, on the side of error and of wrong. I regret, without being surprised, that the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends and Supporters, many of whom I regard with the highest possible respect, should endeavour at this time of day to prolong the existence of a State Church in Ireland. I may safely say that the vast majority of thinking I men, and even of unthinking men, in this country have made up their minds that the continued existence of a State Church in Ireland under the circumstances of that country is no longer possible. The marvel, indeed, is that it should have been possible so long. For years and generations it has been regarded by the leaders of opinion at home and abroad as an anomaly and a monstrosity scarcely; to be paralleled. ["Oh!"]. Hon. Gentleman will not mistake me. I speak with strong respect for the Protestant and Episcopal Church to which I belong; but I speak of its connection with the State, and I say that for years and generations its existance in Ireland, under the circumstances of that country, has been condemned by all foreign na- 1747 tions, and denounced by almost all leaders of thought in this country, and has only been maintained so long as it has been, partly by the want of knowledge and of sympathy on the part of the people of this country, and partly, perhaps, by a certain inertness and acquiescence on the part of the majority in Ireland. I fear that some part of that want of thought and sympathy must in candour be attributed to the fact that in this case a great Protestant majority were dealing with the fortunes of fellow-countrymen in another island and professing a different creed. I say this in no invidious spirit, because, probably, if the case had been reversed the result would have been the same. But, I own, dealing with such subjects, I often heartily wish that we could get rid altogether of these denominational and religious names and phrases. We talk of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, but that is only another name for the great majority of the people of that country. If it were possible to get rid of these religious phrases and religious ideas, and to remember that the phrase is simply a convenient and habitual way of describing the great majority of the inhabitants of Ireland, it would tend, I think, greatly to the clearness of our ideas, and perhaps to the correctness of our policy. But, Sir, if the existence of the State Church in Ireland has been prolonged by a want of knowledge and sympathy in this country, I admit it has also been prolonged by a certain amount of acquiescence on the part of the majority of the people of Ireland; and that acquiescence is accounted for—it is the fruit and result of the unhappy history of that country. It has not been till of late years that the Roman Catholics, bowed down by a long series of repressive laws, bestirred themselves to insist on those terms and conditions which, if we were in their place, we should undoubtedly have insisted on—namely, absolute equality with their fellow-citizens. That Ireland has improved, and that the mass of the people especially have advanced in material prosperity, there can be no doubt. I rejoice to admit it. I attribute the fact to a perseverance of some length in that policy which we hope this Session we are about finally to crown. But a majority of the people are not satisfied with that increase in their material prosperity. It is true of nations as of individuals, that 1748 they "do not live by bread alone." None of us in this House ought to deny that a people's feelings of self-respect have demands which go beyond mere physical and material prosperity, and when they reach a certain stage of progress they make those demands heard. That stage has been reached by the great majority of the people of Ireland, and no stronger or happier proof of it can be given than the fact that they have made demands on their countrymen on this side of the Channel on the subject of religious equality which I am happy to say have been met by the responding voice of the great majority of the people of this country. Well, at last the time has come when it is necessary to deal with this great question. I need not tell the House that no internal reform of the State Church in Ireland would in the slightest degree meet the necessities of the case. I will not, therefore, waste time on the Report of the Church Commission. There is, no doubt, a large amount of useful information collected there for which we may be grateful to the able men who collected it; but as to the proposals of the Commission for the internal reform and re-distribution of the revenues of the Irish Church, I venture to say they will occupy very little of our attention. There are but two modes in which the great end we have in view could possibly be reached; one is the mode of general endowment, the other is the mode of general disendowment. Some eminent men still cling to the first of these two methods. I am not ashamed to say myself that at one time I thought the end might be so attained. But I venture confidently to say that I never treated that mode of proceeding except as a means to a great end—an end that must be attained one way or another, and an end which I never dreamt of sacrificing to the means. But by whatever road we may approach the end of religious equality it must be attained by the Parliament of this country; and as we drew nearer to the object in view, undoubtedly the difficulties in the way of a system of general endowment increased in magnitude, and had even grown into evident impossibilities. There was the difficulty of the distribution of this fund among the several denominations of Ireland. There was the aversion on the part of the Ro- 1749 man Catholics of Ireland to conditions that might be necessary to enforce in the case of large endowments being conferred upon their Church. There was, I was going to say, the hatred of a very large proportion of the people of Great Britain, and no insignificant number of the people of Ireland, of the idea of the creation of new endowments in any part of the United Kingdom, and there was the evident fact that, in spite of the threatened loss of their endowment, a great portion—the most active and intellectual portion—of the Presbyterian body in Ireland were opposed to such an idea. I do not know whether the House is aware of the fact; but it is a striking one, which happened in the Presbyterian Church last summer. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian body in Ireland met last year to discuss the question of general endowment or general disendowment, involving the loss of their own endowment. A resolution was proposed in that body which declared that general disendowment, including the loss of the Regium Donum, was to be preferred, and decidedly preferred, to the general endowment of all denominations in Ireland, including the Presbyrians. That resolution was put to the vote, and was only defeated by a small majority. Some of the most distinguished Presbyterian ministers voted in its favour, and since that discussion the opinion had gained ground that the disendowment policy of the Government was preferable to the other policy, although the latter implied the retention of the Regium Donum. We found no desire expressed by any portion of the public for a general endowment of all Churches. We found, on the contrary—and the fact is most significant—that the late Government, when they attempted in a tentative way to induce the House to entertain that subject, found it necessary to beat a speedy retreat. Theirs was a policy which I once heard described by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a "hot potato policy," by which my right hon. Friend meant that they had taken up a very warm article which burnt their fingers, and which they dropped with the utmost possible celerity. Well then, Sir, we have plainly seen that there is but one road by which we can reach the end, the equality and justice we aim at—namely, entire disendowment in Ireland. We have entered confidently upon 1750 that road. We feel it to be the path of duty, and we hope to pursue it until we have attained the object we have in view. We have heard a great deal of confiscation, and of the sacrifice of religion as a consequence of the Government Bill. If I thought there was any truth in such an allegation I should be the last to support such a policy. But what does confiscation mean? Are we to be told that the State has lost the power and right of dealing with public endowments in Ireland?—the State which 300 years ago diverted these endowments to a use entirely different from that to which they were formerly applied. ["No, no!"] Why, the State imposed theological conditions upon the endowments of the Roman Catholic Church which limited them to a mere fraction of the population—conditions which had the effect of making these endowments absolutely useless to the great body of the people, and making them the monopoly of the few. So far from pleading guilty to the charge of confiscation, I should rather say that the change which diverted these endowments to the Church of a minority was an act of confiscation against Ireland, and that what we are about to do is an act of tardy and righteous restitution. Discarding ambiguous and misleading phrases, are we to be told that the Government of Ireland is to be less moral and religious than in times past, because, when we find a State Church existing under circumstances in which it ought never to have existed in Ireland we propose that it should exist no longer? The arguments of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire and the Member for South-west Lancashire are based upon the assumption that the State Church in Ireland is in a normal and natural condition. I am not opposed to State Churches on principle. I will only say that there is no institution in the world more absolutely dependent for its justification upon the circumstances of the case and upon the adhesion and sentiment of the people than a State Church. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite have forgotten the facts of the case of the Irish Church. They have forgotten the multitudes which lie outside her bounds and reject her ministrations. They have argued like those Whig patriots spoken of by Mr. Macaulay, who were so zealous for all the Whig doctrines of liberty as applied 1751 to the Protestants, but gave no thought to the claims—scarcely, indeed, to the existence—of the great mass of the Irish people. So much for the generalities of the case. I now come to the provisions of the Bill, and will briefly refer to a few of the more serious objections made to its principal provisions. In the first place I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire offer the advice he did to the Protestant clergy of Ireland, because it appears to me that more mischievous and disastrous counsels could scarcely be given by the Leader of the Opposition to a great body of his fellow-countrymen. The advice which appeared to be offered by the right hon. Gentleman was that the Protestant clergy should take up the policy of mere resistance, should refuse to have anything to do with the Bill, and reject all ideas of co-operation with the Government. And the right hon. gentleman threatened the Government that if they did refuse to co-operate with them our measure would be a failure. A greater delusion it would be impossible to imagine. The only effect of following that advice would be that very grave and unhappy consequences would result to the Irish Church. The progress of the measure could be in no way defeated. All that Parliament would have to do would be to wait until the last life interest of the Irish clergy had fallen in, and then the end which the Government had in view would be obtained, but by means which the Government would not desire to see adopted, and under circumstances which they would earnestly deprecate. In connection with this subject the right hon. Gentleman has talked of the plan of commutation of life interests as if it were no benefit to the Established Church, and was, on the contrary, rather a slight and insult upon that body. I entirely dissent from that view of the matter. We have endeavoured to treat the Established Church on those principles of policy which have governed the construction of this Bill. If we were to take into account—as I know some persons desire we should do—the personal interest of the minister alone, without regard to the prosperity of the Church, we should be putting that Church in a worse position than any other religious denomination. We satisfied ourselves that it was not our duty to deal with individual dignitaries and clergymen, and that we 1752 should not do right in paying them off as if they were officers of some institution that was about to be suppressed, but that it would be proper to continue to impose upon them those conditions on which they now hold their offices and emoluments, and that they should continue to perform their duties. We did not consider the Irish Church as an institution to be superseded or to treat it as Henry VIII. treated the religious houses in his day, when he paid off the members and prevented the continuance of those institutions. We knew that the Church would continue to exist and prosper under the new system proposed by the Bill, and we thought it right to put no obstacle to the transition, and to avoid what might introduce dislocation into its ranks. And, therefore, we required continued service as a condition of receiving compensation from the State. And as to commutation, knowing that you cannot follow a lump sum of money in a man's pocket in the same way that you can supervise an annual income, we required that commutation should not be made without a body fairly representing the Church as a whole being a party to that commutation. The right hon. Gentleman and others who followed him then referred to the question of churches and of glebe houses. I will only say one word about the churches. The hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) was in error when he spoke of the churches of Ireland as if they had been mainly raised by private contributions. Of late years there has been a fair amount of private contributions, though not so much as might have been expected under happier circumstances; but the great bulk of the expenditure upon the churches of Ireland has been expenditure of a public character. Parliament has from time to time granted enormous sums of money, amounting, I believe, since the beginning of the century, to something considerably over £500,000. But we need not enter into that, because, by the general feeling and understanding of all parties, the churches, as we know, have been left to the Established Church. With respect to the glebe houses the case is peculiar. There is no doubt that the expenditure upon glebe houses has been one of a singular and complicated character. They also have had their share of public help, partly from Parliament; in some degree they have been supported out of 1753 private funds, but not to any very great extent. But considerably more than a moiety of the whole cost of glebe houses has been provided out of the profits of the respective benefices under the Church Building Act, and that fact has led to a controversy of rather a perplexing kind. Upon one side, the side of severity, it may be said that this was a matter which the incumbents were bound to carry out; that no incumbent had a right to the whole profits of his benefice, but that he was bound to provide himself with a residence, and that the Bishop had power to compel him to do so. On the other hand, it is said many of these houses would not have been raised by the incumbents under these Acts if they had any suspicion that what they considered the perpetual lease of the Church was about to terminate. I venture to think that between these two opposing views the Bill before us hits upon an arrangement which can hardly be considered harsh or unfair to any one. The House is aware that the building charge now lying upon the glebe and see houses of Ireland amounts to a very large sum, something like £230,000 or £240,000; and the arrangement is that whore there is no building charge upon a glebe house no charge will be made, but that where the building charge does exist there the Church body will be required to re-imburse the State. The payments to be made will be limited to a moderate number of years' purchase of the very moderate value placed on these houses by the general valuation of Ireland, wherever the building charge exceeds that value. That seems to me, upon the whole, a fair arrangement, and one that has been certainly well considered. Another matter, which has been a good deal mixed up with this subject, is the question of glebe-lands. And, in connection with this, I should like to explain more fully than was done by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government the other day the intentions of the Government with respect to a system of loans applicable to all denominations in Ireland, but first to the Established Church itself, for the purpose of providing, where necessary, ecclesiastical residences and a limited quantity of land in connection with them. The quantity of land fixed in the Bill with respect to the Established Church in connection with each glebe house is tea acres, and that, of 1754 course, would be the governing amount with regard to loans to be named in the Bill on this subject, which I hope soon after Easter to place before the House. That also would, be the amount fixed with regard to all other denominations. The state of the case is shortly this—Under the existing Public Works Act there is, at least in frame and principle, a very large power of lending money to religious denominations in Ireland upon personal security for purposes which are not specified, but which have generally been used, as far as they have been used, for building churches and chapels. The terms, however, were very onerous, re-payment being required within so short a time as five years, and therefore I need not say the offer has not been largely accepted. What we propose to do is very greatly to improve the terms on which such loans will be granted, and to offer them according to the principle of the last Land Improvement Act, the re-payments being spread over thirty-five years. We hope under that offer that all denominations in Ireland, including the Established Church itself, will be able to provide themselves, when necessary, with residences for their clergy, and a moderate amount of glebe land attached to them. That is a system to which Her Majesty's Government attaches very considerable importance. And for my own part, I venture to say that having been led for some time back to take a great interest in this matter by several Friends—among whom I would specially mention one, the hon. Member for the city of Cork (Mr. Murphy), who has written in a very useful and practical sense on this matter—I confess I entertain great hope that this will be found to be a matter of much larger significance and even greater utility than at first sight may appear, and that it will put the clergy of the other Churches in Ireland, both Roman Catholic and Presbyterian, on a far more respectable and desirable footing in respect of their residences than they are now. So much for glebe houses and lands. I now come to the question of Maynooth, on which the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire has dealt at some length. I confess that when I turn from the vast sums of money which we are about to secure to the Established Church in Ireland—most rightly and justly I admit— 1755 but still vast in amount, and when I look to the large amount of fixed property which we are about to leave with it—I mean the churches and glebe houses—and when I turn to the fourteen years' purchase of the Parliamentary Grant to Maynooth, which is the only point in which the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has any thing whatever to say to the pecuniary provisions of this Bill, I cannot help feeling a certain painful feeling of disproportion between these amounts. I do not say we are doing wrong; we are creating no new inequality—this is merely the necessary result of those gigantic inequalities which have hitherto prevailed. But still it seems impossible for any fair mind to approach the consideration of the subject without the feeling I have described. "We desire to deal with this great educational establishment of Maynooth in a fair and generous spirit. Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that the College of Maynooth is a very special case which deserves great consideration and care. It is a denominational College, but not denominational in any sense to which, I think, the most ardent advocate of united education could object; for it is a College for the education of the Roman Catholic clergy. It is a College which has received in very recent times the deliberate sanction of Parliament under the guidance of Sir Robert Peel. It is a College, I might add, which depends absolutely on the endowments furnished by the State; indeed, if it had not been for this, the Bill would have had no concern with it. If the College of Maynooth had been in any other country in the world it probably would have been in the enjoyment of ancient educational endowments, as Trinity College is at this moment, and this Bill would have had nothing to say to it, just as this Bill has nothing to say to Trinity College, Dublin. Then, we say—Let us deal fairly with this College. Let us remember the difficulties which beset the maintenance of a great centre of education of this kind as distinguished from those local and religious objects, the maintenance of the clergy, and so on, which are comparatively easy. With reference to the case of Trinity College, Dublin, I heartily desire to see within the limits of the endowments of Trinity College sufficient means permamently retained for the education of the clergy 1756 of the Anglican Church in Ireland. But if we are to urge to the utmost every argument which can be used for the purpose of cutting down to the last farthing the compensations we are about to make in winding up the affairs of Maynooth as a State Establishment, I do not see how we are to deal as we should wish to do with the Divinity portion of Trinity College, Dublin, without running the risk of exhibiting a very discreditable and unseemly contrast. This House has, we all know, shown considerable jealousy in relation to Maynooth. Under Sir Robert Peel's Act the expenditure for the buildings and repairs of Maynooth was not provided for out of the Consolidated Fund, but the Commissioners of Public Works were constituted by an express clause in the Bill Commissioners for this purpose. That was maintained for three or four years, and an annual grant of, I think, £1,250 was made by Parliament; but one evening a majority of the House refused to renew the grant. Since that time every Government has entertained a wholesome dread of coming into collision with the House on the subject, and has consequently never proposed a renewal of the grant. Maynooth has thus been thrown upon its own resources, and the College has been obliged to borrow the necessary funds from the Board of Works. We propose in this Bill to wipe off that debt and. not to call upon Maynooth for re-payment. I venture to say that the whole history of this proceeding affords additional reason why the House should exhibit fairness and consideration in the case of Maynooth. Now, it has been said that these compensations to Maynooth and to the Presbyterian body for the deprivation of the Regium Donum ought to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund—out of the taxation of the country. No doubt there is a good deal to be said in support of that view, but, on the other hand, these great changes are to be made solely for the benefit of Ireland. Ireland will obtain the benefit, Ireland will pay the cost, and Ireland will enjoy the surplus. I think, therefore, that these compensations should be paid out of this fund, which we may fairly regard as the property of the Irish people. Now, Sir, there is one observation with reference to this surplus which was made by the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) which I cannot pass by in silence. The hon. 1757 Gentleman said that this surplus would find its way to the Roman Catholics. Well, Sir, I defy the hon. Gentleman to find any means by which you can confer any advantage or good upon the people of Ireland without a large portion of the money expended for that object finding its way to the Roman Catholics. In a country like Ireland, where the Roman. Catholics are in so large a majority, if there is to be a fair and equal and useful application of the national property, a very large share must fall to the members of the Roman Catholic Church Now, there is, I think, only one more point on which need detain the House, and that is the question which has been touched upon so often to-night—the post-Reformation lands in Ulster, which it is said were given by Protestant Kings to the Protestant Church. Our answer is that they cannot be regarded in any other light than public property. They were either given by the Crown to support the national Church, as I assume the Anglican Church in Ireland was then expected to be, in which case the expectation has turned out to be a failure, or to support a colonial Church, in which case we deny the propriety of such a Church existing in Ulster. For this reason I say that we have no right to draw any distinction between these lands and any other property of the Church. Besides this, it will be evident to anyone who will look into the matter that these were not new grants, but the restoration to the Church of old property of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Dr. Ball), who knows so much upon the subject, whether the so-called grants of the Ulster lands were not in fact restorations? When the Ulster Inquisitions or Commissions issued to ascertain the Church lands which had been gradually appropriated during the troubled times which had passed, are examined, it is found that the denominations of the land in these Inquisitions commonly correspond almost word for word with the so-called grants to the Church; and what we might otherwise imagine to be new grants turn out to be restorations. This matter is not essential to my argument; but it is not without its importance. I will detain the House no longer: but this, Sir, I must say for myself, that, as a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Ireland, yielding to no hon. 1758 Gentleman opposite in my desire for her prosperity, I rejoice to witness the time at which we have arrived. I rejoice to have lived to see this great measure brought forward. I rejoice to have been allowed, under the guidance of my right hon. Friend, to bear my share in its preparation. My feelings on this subject have been for many years the same. I can only describe them in this way. I have long felt the Irish Government to be what I may call a Provisional Government. I have long felt that there was something inevitable waiting in the background. We seemed to me to live upon palliatives and make-shifts. I feel now at last that the natural and normal history of Ireland is about to begin. It is true the Bill is sweeping and severe. It would be weakness and folly if it were anything else. It would be the cruelest kindness to the Established Church of Ireland itself if we left anything to be done hereafter—if we missed the great object of reconciliation which we have in view, and threw away the sacrifices which are inevitable in such a case as this. No, Sir, what we say is this—Let there be no Church question in Ireland any more!—no Church question to poison the national life, to set Irishman against Irishman, to turn kindly and liberal men into angry zealots, to give cause for Party Processions Acts, to spoil and pervert the relations between landlord and tenant, and to stifle the active feelings of loyalty in hundreds of thousands of Irishmen. Sir, that is the work we are engaged in. I have the strongest hope and confidence that it will be successful—not in a party sense—but for the permanent good and blessing of the country to which I belong, and I pray, as Lord Macaulay prayed, when terminating a dark page in the history of Ireland—That the future historian may have to tell that what had done the good work in Scotland did the same work in Ireland; and that, under the influence of wisdom, justice, and time, all the various races which inhabit these islands may at last be blended together in one indissoluble union.
§ Dr. BALL moved the adjournment of the debate
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.