§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, observed that it was inseparably connected with the Irish Church Bill of last year, and might be regarded as nothing but a corollary of that great measure. Although this Bill was separated by a Session from the Irish Church Bill, it had never been separated from it in the intentions of the Government, which were fully declared on the introduction of the Irish Church Bill by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and he himself also referred to the subject more at large on the second reading of that measure. The object was to give facilities for the erection of glebe houses to members of other communions than the disestablished Church. Under the existing Public Works Act there was a very large power of lending money to religious denominations in Ireland, partially on personal security; but that power, owing to the conditions imposed, had not been largely accepted, and it was now proposed to improve the terms for the borrower. It was felt that the Irish Church Act would inevitably place other communions at a disadvantage in comparison with the disestablished Church in respect of glebe houses. The disestablished Church was, not indeed universally, but very largely supplied with excellent residences for the clergy, and it would continue on liberal terms to retain those residences with certain moderate portions of land attached. Other denominations were in a different position. The clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, in spite of many efforts made to improve their condition, often lived in mere cabins by the wayside, and sometimes even lodged in public-houses. That was the case in the comparatively wealthy county with which he was connected, and, there 957 fore, it might readily be imagined that the clergy in the poorer districts were in a much worse position. The Presbyterian ministers in Ireland were also most inadequately provided for in this respect. Efforts had been made, especially by the Presbyterians, to overcome this evil; but what had been done was but partial, and had been accomplished with great difficulty and pain. It was felt that this state of things presented a most disadvantageous comparison, and formed a very serious drawback and hindrance to the starting of the new ecclesiastical system which last year was introduced into Ireland. The Government thought it would be very desirable if some temporary means could be devised by which the different denominations in Ireland would be enabled to put themselves on a better footing in this matter. They felt themselves precluded from proposing either that any portion of the funds now belonging to the Church should be granted to other denominations, or that grants from the Exchequer should be made for this purpose. But an obvious way of meeting the difficulty was to enable the Board of Works, with the consent of the Treasury, to make loans to members of all religious bodies or congregations in Ireland, for the purpose of facilitating the building of residences for their clergy, and of procuring small portions of land attached to those residences. Under an Act long subsisting, the Board of Works had power to make such advances, but upon terms which had proved almost prohibitory, repayment within five years being required. Even under these rigid terms, however, some use had been made of the powers of the Act by Roman Catholic congregations; and what was now proposed by the Bill was to enable the Board of Works to make advances to any religious body upon the same terms on which money was lent by the Board to landlords in Ireland for purposes of improvement or building. Under the Bill any congregation of the now Established Church which did not happen to possess a residence for the clergyman, would be enabled to obtain a loan for the purpose of providing one; but, of course, the bodies which would mainly need this assistance would be the great denominations outside the Established Church—that was to say, the Roman Catholic and the Presbyterian. He had 958 hoped that the proposal would be looked upon as a reasonable, natural, and useful supplement of the Irish Church Bill. But his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish), from the Notice which he had given, seemed to fancy that he saw lurking under this Bill the shadow of religious endowment. He begged to assure his hon. Friend and the House that there was no such intention on the part of the Government. It was not proposed to give a single farthing of public money to any person in Ireland. It would merely be lent on the same terms as all other moneys that were advanced in Ireland, and the conditions of repayment would be precisely the same as in all other cases, and every shilling advanced would come back into the Exchequer; and, moreover, the Act was of a temporary character, being limited in its operation to five years. From the many communications which he had received from different parts of Ireland he was well aware that the granting of such facilities as were here proposed would afford satisfaction to great numbers of persons, and, on the other hand, that the refusal to grant them would inflict great disappointment. After all that had passed, after the pledge—for it amounted to a pledge—given by the Government that it would endeavour to meet this case, the House, he ventured to think, would not deprive them of the power of fulfilling their undertaking. The grant of these facilities would much increase the probable success of the first starting of the Irish Church Act, and he believed that hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House might support this Bill without infringing any principle they had hitherto supported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Chichester Fortescue.)
§ MR. CANDLISH
, in moving, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time upon this day three months, observed, that the Bill would enable the Government, through the Board of Works, to advance public money to the Archbishop, Bishop, clergyman, priest, curate, or minister of any religious denomination whatever, and one of the first objects of this advance was to pay off any existing debts contracted in the erection of dwelling-houses or the purchase of glebes in connection with them. 959 The second object was to make advances for the erection of new dwelling-houses and the purchase of new glebes. The repayment of the money in each case was to extend over 35 years. The question was, whether these advances could in any respect be considered endowments for the purposes of religion? The money was to come out of the resources of the State for carrying out purposes which could not otherwise be attained, and it was no great stretch of the imagination to say that that was a money endowment. The Bill was really founded upon the principle of endowment. He admitted that it was a mild form of endowment; but the degree in no way affected the principle. If it were an endowment at all, it was a violation of the principle that the State should not endow religion in any way, much less all religions. Such a scheme of concurrent endowment—for it was really that—was in direct contradiction of the principle of the Irish Church Act of 1869. No one had denounced concurrent endowment in stronger or more eloquent terms than the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, and so hostile was he to that principle that he even risked the loss of that great measure rather than submit to have such a principle forced upon him. But now, in making the proposal contained in the present Bill, the right hon. Gentleman was utterly at variance with himself. What he (Mr. Candlish) complained of was, not that the right hon. Gentleman had introduced this Bill in compliance with the pledge which he made last Session, but that such a pledge should over have been given by the Government at all. He regretted that the Government should have thought it needful to continue the irritation and excitement which always resulted from religious discussions in that House, and of which there had already been more than enough during the present Session. He objected also to the mode and time in which the Bill had been introduced. It was not fair or reasonable that a proposal of this magnitude should have been introduced within the last fortnight of the Session, when it was utterly impossible that the country could pronounce any opinion upon its merits. Such a measure ought to have been introduced in the early weeks of the Session, when the Government could have 960 ascertained the views of the country thereupon. All pledges given by a Government were necessarily governed and controlled by time and circumstances, and there were many of the Governmental pledges which the right hon. Gentleman had been compelled to postpone this Session for want of opportunity to fulfil them. The Pilotage Bill, the Mercantile Marine Bill, the Licensing Bill, the Mines Regulation Bill, and the Parliamentary Elections Bill, embodying the principle of the Ballot—all of them most important measures, for some of which the country was loudly crying out—had been postponed; and, under the circumstances, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to postpone this Bill also, in order to give the country an opportunity of expressing its views upon it. If the Bill were passed now it would be simply evading an expression of national opinion upon the subject.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Candlish.)
In the observations of my hon. Friend who has moved the rejection of this Bill we have, at all events, the advantage of a frank and outspoken opponent, and there can be no doubt as to the nature of his opposition, for he has stated it broadly and clearly. For my own part, I should have been satisfied to have allowed the Bill to stand on the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. There was not one word wanted in his speech, nor a word which I should have desired in any degree to qualify; but my hon. Friend has put a question to us in the most pointed manner, and therefore I think it necessary for the convenience of the House, and in order to shorten the discussion, to attempt to meet that question in the most explicit manner. My hon. Friend complains of the lateness of the period at which we have introduced this measure. If we could have dealt with the subject of the Bill last Session we should have been glad to do so, and that would have been the best time to do it. That was what we earnestly desired, and at the time the Irish Church Bill of last Session was introduced we had the hope that we should be able to deal with this measure during that Session. It was 961 drawn up and ready for introduction, and it ought to have been a concurrent measure with the Irish Church Bill; but we were not able to introduce it. So far as this Session is concerned, what have we done? My hon. Friend says we should have introduced the Bill at an earlier period, and no doubt we might easily have done so; but would there have been any advantage in merely bringing it in and then postponing it from month to month, as we should have been obliged to do? That is a course which might be adopted in the case of Bills which do not involve contested principles of much importance; but with a Bill containing such principles as this one there could be no more fatal course than that of throwing it on the Table of the House, and then postponing it from month to month. Could we have brought this Bill in at an earlier period? I fearlessly challenge my hon. Friend to differ from me when I say we could not—we had no time. [Mr. CANDLISH: The purpose of the Government would have been known.] The purpose of the Government would not only have been known, but it would have been discredited, and the Government itself would have been discredited for casting such a measure on the Table, and then not proceeding with it as soon as possible. I affirm, on the ground of general Parliamentary practice and authority, that when a Bill of this kind, containing most important principles which are capable of being contested, is introduced, it should be speedily brought under the practical notice and discussion of the House, Our excuse for not bringing in the Bill at an earlier period is the impossibility of our having done so. My hon. Friend says that the country would have had an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion on the subject—and I admit that the country has not had the separate provisions and clauses of the Bill before it; but surely my hon. Friend does not question this—that the country has been made, in every way in which it could be made, aware of the full intention of the Government to bring the subject before the House. It was the constant subject of discussion with deputations last year, and of repeated Parliamentary declarations of the most explicit kind—and I myself during the Recess made communications to those who were most likely to look with jealousy upon the 962 Bill—of our intention to proceed with it, so as to take another and additional security that there should be no possibility of misunderstanding. My hon. Friend also says—"Why not postpone this measure until next year, as you have already postponed many other Bills of great importance?" No doubt we have postponed other Bills of vast importance; but there is a difference between the importance of those Bills and the importance of this one. The importance of those Bills is equal in all years—there is no greater reason for dealing with the subject of licensing this year than there was last year, or than there will be next. The Pilotage Bill also is a Bill of general policy; but in this present Bill the whole importance of it rests upon the moment. If we were to delay it for one or two years the whole importance of the occasion for it would disappear, and its provisions would be inapplicable, and we should then be open to the charge of attempting to introduce a system of re-endowment into Ireland. We are now at a crisis of circumstances which renders this Bill necessary—we are within five months of that time, and it is now or never that the House must consider this measure. Let me put the case as fairly as I can. My hon. Friend says that this Bill is one for the endowment of religion, and he thinks he demonstrates that by the assertion, which we grant, that the Bill will allow the use of public money to several religious denominations in Ireland upon terms on which they could not otherwise get that money. We admit that the Bill will give them an advantage over and above that which they could gain in the open money market; and my hon. Friend then says—"I, therefore, fasten upon you the guilt of proposing a Parliamentary endowment." But is he prepared to say that he will apply such a mathematical rigour of construction to political affairs as to contend that when Parliament allows the advance of public money on easy terms it has endowed the purpose or object for which that money is advanced? Have we endowed the railways of Ireland or the landowners all over the country? Those whom we refused to endow; but allowed them to have advances of public money? Have we endowed emigration to Now Zealand? I will not lengthen the catalogue; but we have engagements of that kind which 963 we have constantly entered into. When such things have been done, it is a mere straining of words to say that they are in the nature of public endowments. My hon. Friend says that this is a proposal of concurrent endowment, and that leads us very nearly up to the main gist of the whole case. It is alleged that it is at variance with the principle of the Irish Church Act, because the purpose of that Act was to get rid of endowments. My hon. Friend has correctly stated that we steadily resisted concurrent endowment, and we are not ashamed of it, but would be content to take the same course if the same circumstances recurred. But he has not taken the whole case in his view. There are two principles in the Irish Church Act, and it is in the conflict or competition of those two principles or aims that the difficulty arises which this Bill is meant to resolve. My hon. Friend says that the object of the Bill was to put an end to religious endowments in Ireland, and so it was; but it had also another object—to apply equality of treatment to all religious bodies in Ireland. I entreat my hon. Friend to look at the whole of the position in which we stand; and I ask him whether it is not necessary in the provisions of a great measure of this kind, which has more than one aspect, to shape your conduct according to the combined effect of its different aspects? It would have been flagrantly at variance with our principles to have refused to introduce this measure, For whose sake is it introduced? No doubt the Roman Catholic Body will obtain some advantage from the disestablishment of the Church; but among the three leading persuasions in Ireland, if I may judge from the vigour and tenacity with which this demand has been pressed on us, it is the Protestant Presbyterians of the North who feel the greatest interest in this measure, and to whom the refusal of this measure would carry the bitterest disappointment. Their position was peculiar. They had the responsibilities of endowment, with but a moderate portion of its sweets; for though the State gave them a pittance, yet it was but a pittance, and I should, be extremely sorry, with respect to them in particular, if we were to appear by an exaggerated construction of terms to drive home abstract ideas to an extent making it necessary for us to disappoint their expectations. I put it to the House 964 and to my hon. Friend that these expectations which are entertained by the different religious bodies in Ireland are expectations which they have been justified in entertaining, and which we have permitted, encouraged, and I would even say compelled them to entertain. From time to time this matter has been announced; but at no period, either last Session or this, has any word of protest or warning gone forth from the numerous vigilant and able advocates of Nonconformity and voluntary principles in this House, to intimate that a plan of this kind would meet with strong resistance. Under these circumstances, we really have given to these bodies in Ireland a right to expect that we shall not recede from the fulfilment of the engagements which the Government had made. This is an arrangement which is of a wholly retrospective character. The principle is already in the statute book; for the principle of State aid already exists, though in severe terms, in the Act of Will. IV. We propose to make these terms easy, and to give them an efficacy which they have not now got; but when this Bill expires, which, as at present drawn up, it will do in five years, we are perfectly willing to meet my hon. Friend, and to cut off the link which the existing law now establishes between the State and the various religious denominations for building houses or churches for the purposes of religion. We are prepared to make this the winding up of the whole matter, and to provide in this Bill that, so far as religious purposes are concerned, the operation of the Act of Will. IV. shall entirely cease. The principle of equality between the different religious bodies is not less sacred than the principle of putting an end to religious endowment in Ireland. By the 27th section of the Irish Church Act, the section relating to ecclesiastical benefices, which gives easy terms with regard to glebe houses, and which was forced by the House on the Government and not by the Government on the House, it is provided that the glebe houses shall be handed over to the Representative Body of the Church on payment of ten times the annual value of the land on which they are built, or, at the option of the Church Body, on payment of the building charge that may exist over them. I may fairly call that a merely nominal payment, and in that case we deliberately 965 adopted terms so easy as to amount to a very large gift of money to the Church. Now, I ask, when our principle was to give all religious bodies a fair start in Ireland, was it possible for us to maintain the principle of equality of treatment for the various religious denominations, by saying to the Presbyterians and Roman Catholics and others—"We will give every facility, and more than facility, to the members of the disestablished Church; but we entirely decline to look at the position in which you stand?" We feel that we are under an honourable obligation to put forth the best efforts in our power—and we are really making them at the earliest moment which was within our reach—to extend for this valuable purpose some amount of public assistance, which, without involving a grant of one shilling of public money, is, notwithstanding, a great help and security to those who receive the benefits of such efforts. It is not in accordance with any secret plan or plot—it is not for any fanciful preference that we have proposed this scheme. It has not sprung out of our brains; but is rooted in a sense of justice and a desire to maintain our promises. Under these circumstances, I cannot help hoping that my hon. Friend will see that we have been acting under the pressure of considerations which it was hardly competent for us to put aside; that there is no wanton or gratuitous intention on our part to run counter to the principles on which he desires to see us act; and that if there is a Division on the second reading, and the House should pronounce by a very decided majority in favour of the Bill, he will feel he has done his duty, and will allow the measure to go forward through its subsequent stages.
§ DR. BALL
The Government having said a year ago, when the Irish Church Bill was before the House, that a measure of the character of the present would, at a subsequent period, be introduced, very naturally conceive that there is some necessary connection between the Irish Church Act and the present Bill. In my judgment, there is no necessary connection between them; and, for my part, I am of opinion that this Bill might have been introduced with the greatest propriety whether you had passed the Church Act or not. Sir, I do not consider this Bill as part of a policy laid 966 down with regard to religious questions; but as one which you have laid down generally in respect to Ireland—namely, that you give assistance towards everything which tends to advance the civilization and general interests of the country. You lend money from the Board of Works to the proprietors of land on the same terms as those embodied in this measure, for the improvement of their estates, for building, for drainage, for fencing, and for other purposes, which, although they may be primarily beneficial to themselves, have been regarded by the Legislature as being of advantage to the community also. What does this Bill do? It does not give one farthing as a direct gift. It makes no endowment. It does not give one single advantage beyond lending money at a low rate of interest, and it does this for a class which has one advantage over almost every other—that its members are coercively resident, and moral in life. The reason for the low rate of interest reserved is obvious. A nation does not go into the market to make money by obtaining a large rate of interest. You give the money at a rate of interest which saves you from loss—and you get back your principal and a small amount over to cover risk. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) seemed quite sensitive, as if this was a great boon, and he characterized it as concurrent endowment. I confess I am amazed how a person so shrewd in relation to money matters could take such a view of a transaction by which the State lends money and gets it back without a particle of loss and also without profit, and gives it on those terms, because the State could not consistently with its character aim at making money by the process. Nothing but an anxiety to assume a belligerent attitude towards all teachers of religion could induce anyone to propose the Motion made by the hon. Member to prevent the progress of the Bill. There is an easy way of getting rid of objections founded on the Bill being brought forward at this period of the Session—to let the Bill pass without discussion, and then the Member for Sunderland will have the time requisite to bring forward any other measures he wishes.
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
reminded the House that last Session he desisted 967 from moving that some of the money of the Irish Church should be devoted to the purchase of glebe lands for Roman Catholic priests, because the Roman Catholic Members of the House would not listen to it lest they should be suspected of breaking faith with the Scotch Members and the Nonconformists, together with whom they were fighting the battle of religious equality. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Fortescue) said a Bill would be brought in to grant glebes to all religious denominations in Ireland, and that would have been the time for hon. Members to protest against it as concurrent endowment.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that there was no pledge given by that House last year directly or indirectly. Even the right hon. Gentleman himself (Mr. Gladstone) stated that, with the exception of the Government, no other parties were pledged. He (Mr. M'Laren) utterly denied that there was any ground for the Bill in consequence of anything that occurred last year. It had been assumed that some great advantage was conferred upon the Church of England last year in Ireland; and that, therefore, a corresponding advantage ought now to be conferred upon the Roman Catholics, and upon the Presbyterians, and upon other denominations. He denied that any advantage whatever was conferred upon the Established Church of Ireland last year, and maintained that what was then done was to take something away from her, still leaving her something, no doubt—perhaps, in his opinion, a good deal too much; but still it was undeniable that no new advantage was given to the Church of England in Ireland, while an advantage was undoubtedly taken from her. He could easily conceive how a good argument might have been adduced for the Bill a few years ago. It might have been pointed out that all the Church of England ministers were in independent circumstances, with large incomes; and that, under those circumstances, they ought to do something for the other sects. But when they pulled down the Church of England in Ireland from its pedestal, and put it on the same platform as the other disestablished Churches, he altogether denied the force of the argument, and maintained that 968 what took place last year rendered it quite inexpedient and impolitic to bring that Bill before the House. It had been stated that they had security for that money, and reference was made to it by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Dr. Ball), as if they were grumbling about the small rate of interest charged. He (Mr. M'Laren) agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that whenever the Government lent money for important public purposes it should lend it without any view to profit, and if there was a necessity for it, then he thought no fair objection could be taken. But in this case the necessity had not been proved. He did not profess to know the value of land in Ireland, its value must greatly depend on its nearness to, or distance from town; but, take it at any value they pleased, to carry out the objects of the Bill would require a large sum of money. They had about 3,000 ministers of religion of all kinds in Ireland, and each of them was entitled to have a house, and a glebe of 10 acres, and they were bound by the Bill to pay off the debts of all the houses in Ireland now existing. Taking all that into consideration, and remembering that ecclesiastical persons would include Bishops and Archbishops, for whom suitable residences would have to be supplied, £500 would not be too high a figure for the average sum, which would require £1,500,000. That was a large amount. They were going to lend that in a way which filled him with great doubts whether they would ever get it back. It had been said that the Presbyterians in the North of Ireland would be most disappointed if they did not get the promised loans. He could conceive such to be the case, and he could look forward a few years and see, in his mind's eye, a Motion made on the opposite side of the House praying that those payments might be remitted in consideration of some period of distress, and he could equally see the Members on this side seconding that with all their hearts. They had had an example of the wonderful alacrity and unanimity with which money matters were sought by the two parties united when it was wanted in the case of the statue of Lord Gough. He saw little hope of getting that money back. Under the circumstances, he thought the best thing they could do was to postpone the measure till next 969 Session. For himself, he could say that he knew the opinions of the Nonconformists to be opposed to such a course, and to be on that matter entirely different from those of the First Minister of the Crown. For, since the Irish Church Bill passed, he had seen on that subject the greatest distrust in the minds of Nonconformists, as they feared that a Bill of that kind might be brought before Parliament; and he ventured to say that, if the Bill had been brought into Parliament two months ago, they would have had hundreds of Petitions against it from the country with which he was connected. He thought that a Bill of such magnitude and importance ought not to be brought forward at that late period of the Session; and, for his own part, he did not think the arguments adduced were at all satisfactory; and, therefore, he cordially supported the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, as a Catholic Member, he wished to offer a few remarks on that stage of the Bill, and in reply to some of the observations of his hon. Friends at that side of the House. It might be in their memory that, in March, 1868, he brought before the House of Commons what was then known as the Irish Question; and on that occasion, when dealing with one of its divisions—that relating to the Church—he read the declarations made continuously for nearly three-quarters of a century by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, who consistently refused to accept for their Church any portion whatever of the property then in possession of the Anglican Church—refused to accept any benefit or advantage whatever for themselves or their Church, save what would necessarily arise from the abolition of an injurious supremacy, and the removal of a cause of bitterness between the people of the same country. The policy of the Catholic Bishops was adopted by the people and carried out by their representatives. The Catholic Members not only did not encourage any attempt to give their Church a share of the spoil, as it was termed, but they distinctly repudiated every such attempt. They did so on clear and intelligible grounds—they did so to keep faith with the English Members who supported them; but they also acted as they did as matter of pride and principle. They 970 maintained the voluntary principle in their votes, and they showed that their motives were pure, and that they only desired to get rid of a great wrong not in a spirit of hostility, but from a desire to promote amity and good feeling. Therefore, on the question of endowment, they, and those they represented, were above all suspicion. When they were offered concurrent endowment they repudiated it, and would not give it the slightest favour or continance. But they were told that Bill, by which advances were to be made to assist Catholics and others to provide glebes for their clergy, was endowment; and, therefore, that they were wrong in accepting it, and that his hon. Friends were right in rejecting it. But, sincerely speaking, could any man really call that endowment? His hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) was a first-rate man of business—a rational, sensible man; and how he could turn a loan into an endowment passed his (Mr. Maguire's) power of comprehension. Let him ask his hon. Friend—did the money-lender, who lent his money on security and at a certain rate of interest, endow his borrower? Did the banker, who lent at a fair rate of interest, or the usurer who lent at exorbitant interest — did either endow the person to whom he lent his money; or was such loan an endowment? And where was the difference between such loans and the proposal in the Bill? The real question was, was it necessary and right that the measure should be brought in? The conduct of the Irish Catholics during the passing of the Church Bill rendered it necessary; for they refused endowment—refused to take share in the spoils. Then there was the want of roper houses or glebes for their clergy. That was notorious. Many lived in miserable houses, many in actual cabins, in a manner in which the clergy of the national faith ought not to be found. Now, as his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) said, a great deal was left to the Protestant clergy. He (Mr. Maguire) was himself pleased it was, and he would not personally have objected to their having more, if more could be fairly given; but they had their glebes, their lands and houses, their decent and comfortable mansions, and the Catholic clergy were without them—and this Bill was intended to as 971 sist their parishioners, not the State, to endow them with residences becoming their positions; and that was the entire the Bill did. At present, there was no visible equality, and the Bill sought to bring it about; and if there was not an equality perceptible to a quick and sensitive people, injury to charity and good feeling must be the result. But his hon. Friend departed from his usual good taste in his eagerness to rest a great principle upon a false issue. He hinted that the money was not to be paid back, and suggested that the same unanimity that influenced Irish Members with respect to Lord Gough's statue, would actuate them on a future occasion in reference to those loans. In the instance mentioned—that of paying a tribute of respect to a noble Irish soldier—their action was creditable to their feeling; in the other instance it would be an act of public dishonesty. And as to the paltry eight tons of gun-metal to commemorate the deeds of a gallant soldier, were that soldier a Scotchman, Irish Members would readily have aided Scotch Members to procure it. Indeed, one gallant Scotchman (Colonel Sykes) did, to his credit, insist on this material being given to honour his old comrade. But his hon. Friends were indignant that the Bill was not brought in sooner. He was glad it was not. They could now discuss it in good temper, and with moderation of feeling; but had it lain on their Table since February, what Petitions from Scotland against it! [Mr. M'LAREN: Hear, hear!] Yes; but they knew what a no-Popery feeling might be excited, even amongst Scotch Liberals, at any proposal which would benefit Roman Catholics as well as Presbyterians. Much ill-feeling and much absurd opposition had been spared; and he hoped his hon. Friends would now be able to see this proposal in its true shape—as a means of assisting parishioners to do that for their clergy which they would not allow the State to do for them. But why, they were asked, postpone the Shipping Bill, and the Ballot Bill, and other great measures, to pass this? Why, the Merchant Shipping Bill contained 800 clauses, and this contained eight. The Ballot was a great measure that might well stand for next year, considering that two vast measures, the Irish Land Bill and the Education Bill, had signalized the 972 legislation of this Session. That was a good Bill, but it was the very opposite of endowment. Endowment gave and did not take back—that lent, and insisted on repayment. Considering the position which the Irish people had taken up through their Members on this question of endowment, he really wondered how his hon. Friends could think of raising opposition to that simple, just, and necessary proposal.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, he would not oppose this mite of justice to the people of Ireland. It was an insult to suppose that the Nonconformists, after receiving a loan under this Bill, would afterwards refuse the repayment. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had quite overstated the case with respect to the Presbyterians of Ireland, and it would have been well had he left that body to have pleaded their own case. He did not rise to speak upon the merits of the Bill, but merely to put a question to the Government. Last year, when the Irish Church measure was under discussion, both the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in answer to questions that were put to them, distinctly stated that money would be lent to build churches as well as manses. What he wanted now to know was, whether the Government intended to redeem that pledge, and whether they would lend money for the building of churches. If such was their design, a clause to that effect would have to be introduced in Committee.
§ MR. O'REILLY
said, the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had put the matter in a false light by stating that the Government were about to provide palaces for the Roman Catholic Prelates. Nothing of the kind was intended, nor, indeed, would the priests desire such a thing. Only such houses would be built for them as their state required and their revenue would permit, and they themselves would have ultimately to pay for these dwellings, and advance a considerable proportion of the money that would be requisite. Roman Catholic Bishops were numerous in Ireland whose whole income amounted only to between £300 and £500 a year; and that was in itself a guarantee that extravagant or enormous palaces would not be erected. Such buildings would be entirely unsuited to their means, and would, in fact, be very far from being a 973 boon. Objections had been raised to the Bill; but they were not founded on fact. The real issue raised by the measure was not one of concurrent endowment, but was one for carrying out the principle of equality between all religious denominations in Ireland, as recognized in the Church Bill of last year. He himself had had a conversation with the President of the Board of Trade upon this very subject long before that Bill was introduced. That right hon. Gentleman laid it down as a broad principle that if strict justice and equality were meted out to all denominations, some such thing as that contemplated by the Bill would have to be done. He further maintained that the glebes were part of the assets of the English Church in Ireland, and that they would have to be sold and turned to account by the State like the other assets. Finally he declared that if the glebe-houses were given to the disestablished Church, either gratuitously or at a merely nominal price, the glebes would also have to be given to the other religious denominations in Ireland. He (Mr. O'Reilly) quite concurred with the right hon. Gentleman that it was neither fair nor just to give glebes at a merely nominal value to one denomination and withhold the power of procuring houses to the other. He attached importance to the present Bill not in the interests of Roman Catholics, but in the interests of the Empire, inasmuch as, if passed, it would show that the Legislature was prepared to carry out fairly, to the fullest extent, and quite irrespective of religious prejudices, the principle of the equal treatment of all religious denominations in Ireland. The Bill was absolutely necessary in order to fulfil the principle of religious equality which was contained in the Irish Church Bill. His belief was that the Bill would do much to promote good feeling in Ireland, and to root in the minds of her people that the House of Commons was prepared to do justice to every one, irrespective of prejudices or of party considerations.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM
said, it was with regret that he felt himself bound to differ from his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish). If this measure stood alone upon its own merits, he should not hesitate to support him, for he thought it was impossible to deny that this measure, in however attenuated 974 a degree, made provision out of State funds for religious communities; it was, in fact, a part of a system of State endowment. But the measure did not stand alone. The Prime Minister had put it on its just footing when he said that it was part of the scheme of the Irish Church Bill of last Session; and it was because he had a distinct recollection of what passed during the debates upon that Bill with reference to this measure, that he felt bound not to vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend. Supposing this Bill had been inserted as a clause of the Irish Church Bill, would they have risked the safety of the Bill by opposing the clause? He felt sure that they would not have done so, but would gladly have accepted the clause for the sake of the Church Bill, even although that clause had been at variance with their own principles. That being the case, he maintained that those who accepted the Irish Church Bill were bound also to accept this; for whilst the Church Bill was passing that House the Prime Minister had distinctly stated his intention of bringing forward such a measure this year. If it were admitted that it was desirable to give facilities for the erection of manses, he could conceive of no plan which was easier, more simple, or less at variance with the convictions, or even prejudices of other denominations, than the Bill now before the House. Upon these grounds he would support the second reading of the Bill. It would not be fair, after passing a clause providing glebes for one Church, if no provision were made for the others.
§ MR. M'ARTHUR
said, he regretted that he would have to oppose the second reading of the Bill. He voted for the Irish Church Bill in the interest of the then Established Church, and he believed that measure had conferred great advantage on that Church by the spirit of zeal and liberality it had evoked. He opposed the present Bill on broad and general grounds, and because he did not believe that the measure had any connection whatever with the Irish Church Bill. Hon. Members might call the Bill by any name they pleased; but, substantially, it was a Bill for endowing certain religious bodies in Ireland, and upon that simple ground alone he would oppose it. He contended that neither the Presbyterians nor the Episcopalians of Ireland had asked for the Bill. He 975 hoped, under these circumstances, that Government would at least postpone the measure. It was all very well talking about loans; but he should like to know how the money which had been advanced for public works in Ireland had been obtained. He himself was of opinion that they had no assurance of the money which might be lent being ever repaid. He believed that in many of the poorer districts the people would be unable to pay the money, and the Government would not, under such circumstances, like to seize the glebes. He regretted having to oppose the Government in this matter. His belief was that the only way of promoting peace in Ireland, and good feeling among the people, would be to let all denominations build their own churches and manses, and give them no State endowment whatsoever.
§ MR. VANCE
believed that the Bill would be accepted by the Presbyterians; but it would not redeem the pledge given last year that loans should be made for building churches. On many grounds, which he need not enter into, this would be towards the Presbyterian body an act of justice. He saw no reason, however, why the operations of the Bill should be limited to five years; on the contrary, considering the interests which were at stake, the arrangement ought, in his opinion, to be made in perpetuity.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, he should not have addressed the House on this question had it not been for the remarks of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. M'Arthur). He (the Solicitor General for Ireland) was well aware that this Bill would be acceptable to every denomination of Presbyterians in Ulster. The Moderator of the General Assembly had pressed upon the Government, when the Irish Church Bill was under consideration, the necessity of introducing some measure of the kind now proposed, and the only reason why no further pressure had been put upon the Government this year was, he believed, because reliance was placed upon the promise already given. He was surprised that any doubt should have been cast upon the repayment of the money to be advanced. The hon. Member for Lambeth, although representing an English constituency, was an Irishman, and he should have been the last to join in an 976 attack upon his own countrymen. Public loans in Ireland were repaid as punctually as similar loans in England or Scotland. This had been stated so frequently, and always in general terms, that he should take no notice of any suggestions of this kind in future unless the name of the man who had not paid was mentioned, together with the amount of his debt. As would be seen by a reference to the provisions of the Bill, the Commissioners would not allow money to be advanced without receiving the security of a mortgage, or the security of three solvent persons, and all was to be under the supervision of the Treasury. None of the arguments put forward in favour of the Bill had been answered during the debate.
§ MR. MIALL
believed the Government were bound in honour to bring forward this Bill, and if it had formed part of their general measure last year for the final adjustment of the relations between Church and State, most of those even who now opposed this Bill would have acquiesced in the arrangement, and he himself should have given it his support; but, after the interval which had elapsed, it would be difficult for Members to satisfy their consciences, or their constituents, that the two measures really formed part of one and the same adjustment, and therefore he should feel bound to vote with the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish). This undoubtedly was something like the establishment of relations between the State and the different religious communities—and if he believed the measure represented a settled policy of the Government, or was intended to be a perpetuity, instead of being merely the fag-end of a measure already passed, he should take much more decided steps in opposition.
§ MR. BAINES
said, he should vote in the same way as the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham), although he did not accept all the arguments of that hon. Gentleman. He denied that in the Government proposals there was anything in the nature of endowment; for, although it would confer a pecuniary advantage, that accommodation would be accompanied by liability to repayment. Therefore there was no gift in the first place; and next, the transaction would involve no patronage on the part of the State, or subjection on the part of the persons accommo 977 dated. He thought the Nonconformists were overstraining a point in opposing this Bill, which was a measure of equality, justice, and humanity.
§ MR. HADFIELD
regretted the Bill more for the sake of the Catholics than for the Protestants. Last year he was able to boast before his constituents that the Catholics would not have endowments, and he regretted exceedingly that they were now coming forward to borrow money from the State. It was stated by the Prime Minister that more applications for Government loans had been received from the Presbyterians than from the Roman Catholics, and that was because the former body were so accustomed to lean upon the State for support. The members of the various Nonconformist denominations in this country had not asked Parliament for a shilling, and he objected to the Bill as tending to produce further inequalities amongst religious bodies. His confidence in the Prime Minister was not shaken, however, by the circumstance that he had brought in this measure.
§ MR. GREENE
said, he did not believe the money would be repaid. He could cite Irish loans which had not been repaid — namely, the loans for Limerick and Galway Harbours. This Bill was neither more nor less than the beginning of concurrent endowment, and he asked where the economists were that they would permit this money to be lent? He had opposed the disestablishment of the Irish Church; but as the measure of last year had been passed he now wished that the Church should stand by itself, and that other religious bodies should be left to take care of themselves. He should therefore oppose the Bill.
also regarded the Bill as the first step towards concurrent endowment, and urged the distinction between this and the Irish Church Bill, that that dealt with ecclesiastical funds and this with the Consolidated Fund. "Money for Ireland!" seemed to be the only cry which would unite Irish Members on both sides of the House.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 161; Noes 58: Majority 103.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.