§ MR. EDWARD JENKINS
, in rising to move—That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the circumstances of the distribution and application of the property of the late Church of Ireland, particularly as regarded commutations and compositions, whether under proceedings of the Church Temporalities Commissioners, or of the representative body of the Irish Church.1032 said, he did so, because he maintained that it was contrary to the intention of the people of the United Kingdom in passing the Irish Church Act, that the Disendowed and Disestablished Church of Ireland should be practically re-endowed. It had been stated by a great authority in that House that out of the £16,000,000 of which the late Church of Ireland was possessed, £8,500,000 would be sufficient to cover all the liabilities arising under the Act; whereas, in fact, those who had to administer the funds had already expended £11,500,000 of the property, and it was said that £2,000,000 more would be required before the whole of the liabilities were cleared off. It was time to draw attention to the subject, when monies placed in the hands of a Christian Church, as a solemn trust to be used for the purposes of the Christian religion, were put into the pockets of the clergy, many of whom left their duties and carried the money to other Churches and other lands. He felt obliged to bring forward this matter both as a Christian and as a Liberal who had approved of the disestablishment of the Irish Church as a measure based upon justice and equality. There were three grounds upon which he based his claim for this inquiry. His first ground was, that by the Preamble of the Act, it was declared that the surplus property of the Irish Church was to be appropriated in such manner as Parliament should thereafter direct. It was therefore perfectly plain that the disendowment of the Irish Church was to be carried out on principles of equality as between the several religious denominations in Ireland. Now, how had that great, that paramount, object been accomplished? Let him call the attention of the House to a few facts. The accounts of the Commissioners recently presented to Parliament showed that, out of £16,740,000 of property received by them, they had paid the Presbyterian Churches about £750,000; to the Roman Catholic Church, for Maynooth, £372,300; to the Episcopal Church-first, in lieu of private endowments—and they knew how excessive that estimate was—£500,000; second, in commutations, annuities and gratuities, &c, £8,310,000; making a total of £8,810,000 paid to the Episcopal Church. Out of that, it appeared, by the last Report of the Representative body, that the Church 1033 had already managed to secure in composition balances £1,137,234; constituting a permanent endowment, which would be largely increased, and that £2,028,630 had been handed over, in compositions and advances, to the clergy, without any reservation of their services, or regard for their parishioners. In addition to that, the Church received the fabrics of the churches and the ground free, and the glebes and glebe lands at something over half their value. He might explain that this last estimate he based on a passage in the last Report of the Irish Representative Church Body, from which it appeared that they had sold glebes for £16,630 1s. 3d, for which they paid the Commissioners only £7,524 11s. 9d.; leaving, after deducting £688 10s. for expenses, £8,416 19s. 6d. Thus, it would appear that the result of that Act of Disendowment had been to re-endow the Church of the minority with a sum of money in cash probably exceeding £2,000,000, with edifices in a state of repair, with glebes and glebe-lands at half their value, and that the principles of religious equality emblazoned on the forefront of the Act turned out, in effect, to have been a delusion. That consummation raised several very serious questions. Was that the intention of Parliament? Was that the intention of the people of Great Britain? Was it due to deficiencies of legislation, or to faults of administration? And lastly, and most important in all its aspects, was the question, Would the majority of the Irish people be content to accept this as a final settlement? Such a result was inconsistent with the principles of the Act, and it threw considerable responsibility upon Parliament. As to the financial administration of the Act, it appeared that it unfortunately compromised seriously the official character of the Commissioners. First of all, he would direct attention to their method of business. Hon. Members had probably read the two Reports which had recently been presented to Parliament, and which disclosed such a state of things between the Commissioners and the Controller and Auditor General as was a disgrace to the public service. It would naturally be supposed that if the Controller and Auditor General asked for a Report, it would be given to him, and that if he wished to examine a taxed bill of costs he would be allowed 1034 to do so. Instead of this, however, it would be found that underlings of the Commissioners sent impertinent letters to the Controller and Auditor General, and the Commissioners even hinted that he was actuated by personal motives in the course he was pursuing. The Controller and Auditor General asked for an increase of salary, which was refused by the Treasury; but it was almost a mean thing for the Commissioners to print the Correspondence on the subject, as if that were to be the explanation of the manner in which the Controller and Auditor General was endeavouring to perform the important functions entrusted to him. In the Reports presented to Parliament there was a curious, and he hoped with regard to the public service, a unique discussion with reference to the position and salary of Mr. Ball, the Commissioners' solicitor. The Lords of the Treasury agreed to increase his salary from £800 to £1,500 a-year on the condition of his undertaking the preparation of the merging orders. It was subsequently stated that now the Commissioners had relieved him of the duty of preparing the merging orders, because he had so much other work to do, and in one of his letters Mr. Ball spoke of the large amount of private business he had to transact; but it seemed very curious if he had time to attend to his private business, that he should not be obliged to do the duty for which he had received an increase of salary. In addition to this, however, he was allowed to receive taxed costs in all actions which the Commissioners might win, although they had to pay the taxed costs themselves in actions which they lost. Moreover, when purchases were made from the Commissioners, Mr. Ball was allowed to act as solicitor for both the purchaser and the vendors. It certainly seemed highly desirable that there should be an investigation into the relations subsisting between this gentleman and the Commissioners. He knew an instance in which a friend of his had purchased some valuable land in the centre of Belfast, and according to the terms of the Act he had taken a mortgage upon it for three-fourths of its value. His friend was entitled to a mortgage which would place no restrictions on his treatment of the land; but the solicitor to the Commissioners had introduced a proviso, that the purchaser should not sublet without 1035 the consent of the Commissioners. The sub-leases might be very numerous, and in every ease the papers would have to be sent up to Dublin to Mr. Ball, who would get fees upon them. Another point of disagreement, which it was impossible to justify, arose from Mr. Ball's habit of paying the funds received by him in the course of his duty into his private fund, where they were allowed to lay at intervals varying from 10 to 90 days. Objectionable as it was the Commissioners fought it out for a period of over four years with the Comptroller and Auditor General, and appeared only just now to have given way on the eve of the presentation of their second Report. He would now say a few words on the manner in which the Commissioners had executed the trust assigned to them by the Church Act. The financial results, as well as the method by which they arrived at them, would somewhat astonish the House. On the 8th of March, 1869, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, in introducing his measure, referred to the inequality that then existed, and deplored the wanton waste which had so often taken place. What had been the actual result of the administration of the fund by the Commissioners? The right hon. Gentleman said that it was estimated the proceeds of the Church property would be £16,000,000. As a matter of fact, they amounted to £16,740,000. He stated, moreover, that the value of the life interests of the incumbents, including the dignitaries and parochial clergy, would be £4,900,000; but, in fact, they had received£6,257,500—a difference of £1,357,500. He estimated that the value of the life interests of the curates would be £800,000, and the number of curates was repeatedly stated in this House to be about 500. In fact, 900 curates had commuted as permanent, for the sum of £1,820,247; besides which, an unknown number of curates had received gratuities as temporary curates; creating a difference on the estimate for curates alone of over £1,000,000, an excess, he might add, exhibiting payments enormously above the average for the old curates. But let him contrast the results in relation to the other Churches. The estimate for Presbyterians and Maynooth was £1,000,000—the actual cost was only £1,122,000. The total estimate of the right hon. Gentleman of the cost of 1036 disendowment was £8,500,000; of the surplus, £7,500,000. The actual result had been, that the proceeds were £16,740,000; the liabilities and payments already amounted to £11,560,000, leaving the probable surplus of £5,180,000, which, however, would probably fall some £2,000,000 short of it. Now, from whatever cause arising, those facts were sufficient to justify the demand for an inquiry. They were entitled to ask to what were these enormous discrepancies due? To the legislators, or to the administrators? The right hon. Gentleman was, as he submitted, deeply concerned in the inquiry. He was one of the greatest masters of finance in this House. He had the advantage of means of information which were unexceptionable, and if those facts were not explained—those discrepancies to the extent of about £3,000,000—the right hon. Gentleman would be placed in this dilemma—that he must either have erred egregiously in his estimates, or have been a party to a political juggle which had deceived the whole country. In the Irish Church Act there were two sections by which the Commissioners were empowered to take up the obligations which had been undertaken by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, obligations for buildings, for repairs, and for other church purposes. Until 1871 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were empowered to expend such sums of money as they might deem desirable to preserve buildings in a proper state of repair for the performance of Divine service. The total average annual expenditure of the late Irish Ecclesiastical Commissioners from 1863 to 1868 was £28,280. The largest amount ever paid in one year was £44,170, whereas the Irish Church Commissioners, during the 18 months which ensued from the passing of the Act to the 1st of January, 1871, under that restrictive clause—the 48th—decreed a payment of £92,334. The average annual expenditure for the five years from 1863 to 1868, for building, enlarging, and repairs was £54,300, to which, however, there was an average annual voluntary contribution of £ 11,844, leaving the average annual expenditure out of Church funds, which was all they had to deal with, £42,456. The utmost gross expenditure for those three items, including voluntary contributions, in any single year, was £72,000. Yet the Commissioners 1037 paid in 18 months £162,630! Then, again, as to Church requisites, the sum paid by the Irish Ecclesiastical Commissioners was £37,250, making for 18 months an estimate of £55,890; whereas the sum paid by the Irish Church Commissioners was £64,450—a difference of over £9,000. Under Section 49 the Commissioners were empowered to ascertain what sums were necessary for the repairs of churches. In many cases the documents had not been produced, and grants were frequently made to the clergyman on the presentation of a certificate that the work had been done. The consequence had been that instead of a sum of £90,000, the sum handed over by the Commissioners had been £257,500. There were yet graver facts to which it was necessary to call the attention of the House. It was in connection with the commutations that the greatest discrepancy between the estimates of the right hon. Gentleman and the results of the operations of the Commissioners existed. A mere glance at a Return issued last year upon his (Mr. Jenkins's) Motion, showing the number of ecclesiastical persons who had commuted, would convince one that there were grounds for some inquiry. It showed that instead of about 500, as estimated, the number of curates who had commuted was no less than 900. At the time of the passing of the Act, it was stated that there were 467 curates and 82 curate-rectors; constituting a little under 500 actual curacies in Ireland. Were they not entitled to ask from whence the Commissioners fished up the 400 additional permanent curates, not to mention 494 temporary curates, to whom it would appear that orders had been issued for gratuities, under the 15th section of the Act, making altogether 1,394 curacies to be accounted for? But, leaving out the temporary curates, he would ask—On what principle were 900 curates admitted to be permanent under the 14th and 15th Sections? And there was a very extraordinary circumstance connected with that valuation of the curacies. The average estimate of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich for the commutation per head to Irish curates was only £1,600; whereas the average actual payment to curates had been £1,923 10s. per head. When they saw such tremendous 1038 discrepancies between estimates and results, there would appear to be good ground for inquiry. But perhaps a glance at the Return which he held in his hand might help the House to form some idea of the manner in which those results were arrived at. After looking down the list one would be led to believe that in so poor a country as Ireland the large majority of the curates received salaries amounting to £100, £200, and in some cases as much as £230, or £250 per annum. Surely, there must have been some monstrous juggle; some means must have been used to deceive the Commissioners, or else they must have been most willingly deceived. And it seemed to him that it was a very serious matter for the Commissioners. Could they really have believed that in so short a time 400 bonâ fide permanent curates had been created?—that curates' salaries below £100 were the exception, and above £100 the rule? Though the Commissioners were empowered to act as Judges, they were also responsible as administrators. There was no legal or technical appeal from the decisions of the Commissioners; but when they gave decisions which were contrary to law and common sense, there ought to be an appeal to this House. After the passing of the Act, curates' salaries went up at a bound from £50 to £100 per cent; but the demand for them increased threefold, for the Bishops could not ordain fast enough. The consequence was, a number of incumbents had a sudden call to act as curates, in addition to the labours of their incumbencies. Bishops hurriedly laid hands on men in order to qualify them, apparently, not so much for the labours of religion, as for the purpose of increasing the amount of plunder to be derived from the State. In The Belfast News Letter, of September 28th, 1870, an advertizement appeared—Curates Wanted.—Wanted immediately two or three curates in full, or deacon's orders. Annuities almost certain. Apply, by letter, Wednesday, 28th December, 1870, or Thursday, 29th December, 1870, to R. H., Box 259, Post Office, Belfast; or by telegraph to George Hughes, Donegall Place, Belfast;and it was in that indecent haste that men who professed to be the servants of Christ made an effort to plunder the Church funds of their country. He would refer 1039 to what had taken place in the diocese of Down and Connor. In 1869 there were 51 curates, but those who received commutations were 139, and taking the Return for the Diocese of Connor alone, he found that in 1868 the total net income of incumbents was £13,504 6s. 7d., or deducting vacant charges, £12,387 1s. 10d. The actual commutation annuities paid to beneficed clergymen by the Commissioners was £17,601 15s. 1d. In 1868 the curates in the Diocese of Connor numbered 31, with an income of £2,547 10s. In 1857 they numbered 57, with an income of £7,055 per annum. Thus, the increase in that single diocese was 26 curates, and £4,507 10s. per annum—an increase also in the rate of salary of about 100 per cent! Before the Act the total income of the clergy in Connor was £15,034 11s. 10d. after disestablishment it rose to £22,109 5s. 1d. In Belfast and its neighbourhood there was, also, on the passing of the Act, a sudden outbreak of sacerdotal zeal. Every church had two clergymen at least, and in some cases three. In 1868 the total State endowments were £851 per annum. In 1870 the Commissioners' endowments were £6,623, an increase of nearly 800 per cent—that was, the commutation capital lost by disestablishment was £19,500; the commutation capital gained was £99,500. These figures needed no comment. But further, the Commissioners appeared to have made grants of annuities which were positively illegal. Under the 15th section they were to make grants to permanent curates, and gratuities to curates only temporary. Now, what were permanent curates? It was the intention of the Legislature that in deciding who were permanent and who were temporary curates, the permanency of a curacy should be determined with reference to the length of the term of service, the duties discharged, the non-residence, age, infirmity, or other incapacity of the incumbent, and his habit of employing a curate. But the Commissioners appeared to have granted to persons commutations upon pew-rents, which they would continue to receive after the annuity; upon voluntary subscriptions, upon chaplaincy fees, and in eases where there had previously been no salaries at all. It would be no answer to tell the House that the Commissioners had acted in open Court, and 1040 that there was nothing more to be said, for he ventured to submit that they had acted contrary to the law and common sense, and that there must be some power in that House to correct what had been done. There was a third reason why there should be some inquiry, and that was the notorious dissatisfaction which was felt in the. Church of Ireland against their Representative Body. It appeared that many clergymen had deserted their charges and churches, and had taken themselves and the commutation money away from Ireland, and it was alleged that over £2,000,000 had thus been squandered on ecclesiastical conspiracy and immoral greed. It never could have been conceived by the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill in that House that a number of the clergy of the Church of Ireland would be able to absorb two-thirds of the money which was to be used for ecclesiastical purposes, and go away with it, and the Church cease to have the use of it. The last Report of the Representative Body of the Irish Church contained one of the saddest pages which it was ever his lot to read. At Page 13 there was a total of the compositions effected in each diocese, and after stating that £1,169,650 had been paid to compounders, in addition to which there had been advances bringing the sum up to £2,028,630, there was a small note to one of the items in these words—To this sum may be added £28,278 9s. 2d. duo to eases in which certain clergymen devoted their compositions to parochial endowments.£28,000 only, out of £2,028,000, handed back, by the clergy to whom it was paid over, to be devoted to the purposes for which it was intended! But let the House also look at the circumstances of the manufacture of curates. In 1868, 500; in 1870, 900 [or apparently 1,394!] And yet, a little later, the Organizing Committtee, containing representatives of all the dioceses, recommended the Representative Body to offer—Fair and liberal terms of compounding with a view to a reduction in the number of the clergy!Did any body, either politic or ecclesiastical, ever so stultify itself in the face of mankind? Bishops hurriedly laying hands upon men in order to create new claims upon the property of the State; 1041 young men trooping from schools and from Wesleyan and Independent chapels to be transformed into Episcopal clergymen. The transaction was one which it was difficult properly to characterize. Now, without offence to any hon. Member on either side of the House who might be a Churchman, he would ask him to allow him to pray the House to consider, candidly and solemnly, those facts. What did they mean? Contrast them with the noble action of the Free Church when it departed, without endowments or prospect of aid, from the Mother Church on a point of principle. Had the Church of Christ degenerated? Had Christianity in that case been enervated by State endowments? It was impossible to help contrasting such a state of affairs as that with the sublime scene which took place at the Lake of Galilee when Christ gave the charge to feed his sheep, and the only motive he used was love to him. It had been left to a Christian Church in the 19th century to come back to that morality which the rugged heathen poet satirized—Peccat et hæe peccat: vitio tamen utitur: at vosDicite pontifices in sancto quid facit aurum!He had submitted his case to the House. It might have been strengthened; but he had adduced facts which appeared to justify an inquiry. All those circumstances required to be cleared up, otherwise they might have to face that momentous question—Whether or not the majority of the Irish people would be content to acknowledge this as a final settlement? He had to thank the House for its forbearance, and its kind attention, throughout the long time which he had occupied; and he would only say, in conclusion, that he hoped, whatever course the House might adopt with respect to it, no hon. Member would feel that he, at all events, had imported into the discussion any of the elements of bitterness of feeling or of bigotry. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Address.
§ MR. W. SHAW
, in seconding the Motion, said, he did not belong to the Irish Church. He thought nine-tenths of the discrepancy which existed between the Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich and the figures which had 1042 just been laid before the House were attributable to the Act of Parliament itself, which placed £16,000,000 to be administered by the hands of three Commissioners; and that, when one of them died, the remaining two were left to deal with that immense interest without any appeal from their decisions, and without any direct responsibility. Indeed, he only wondered that, under the circumstances of the case, there was so little to complain of, knowing what they did of human nature, especially Church human nature, and seeing that the proceedings in question had been carried on for years all in the dark. It was but to be expected that many of the clergy who were poor should try to get as much of the money as they could, and he was surprised that even so much of it was left to be applied to national purposes in Ireland. He thought, however, it would be hardly fair that the House should suppose that the clergy had put the entire amount mentioned by his hon. Friend into their pockets, although he was afraid the interests of the Church had not been taken into account by them as they ought to have been, for it appeared that over 700 of them, having received their composition, left the country and came over to England. It would be for the interest of the Church itself that some light should be thrown upon what had been done, for a considerable sum of money must, of course, have been kept by the Church Body, and when the subject came to be investigated, he believed the case would be found not to be near so bad as the speech of his hon. Friend would lead the House to imagine. He did not think that the Commissioners—one an eminent Judge, and the other a noble Lord of good business habits—had acted outside the law. He hoped that the Government would grant a Commission, for he looked with great interest at the surplus from this property; but he now feared it would be very small, and that there would not be enough to lighten taxation. If, however, there should be a surplus, he would suggest, by way of addition to the Motion, that the Commission, if appointed, should be directed to inquire into the possibility of providing glebes with the money for the Roman Catholic parish priests and Presbyterian ministers in Ireland, who had great difficulty, especially in the poorer districts, in obtaining suitable 1043 residences. That was an object to which the surplus funds might, in his opinion, be most legitimately devoted. Some of it might also be usefully applied in providing a University for Ireland; for they were both, in his opinion, great and important questions which required settling. In a country like Ireland, where there was so much poverty, no application of the money would be more suitable or acceptable. He hoped the suggestion would be acted upon.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the circumstances of the distribution and application of the property of the late Church of Ireland, particularly as regards commutations and compositions, whether under proceedings of the Church Temporalities Commissioners, or of the representative body of the Irish Church,"—(Mr. Edward Jenkins,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ MR. MULHOLLAND
said, he felt the responsibility of taking so early a part in this debate, but as a member of the Representative Body of the Irish Church who had taken part in all their financial operations, he hoped the House would extend to him their indulgence while he made some answer to the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Jenkins). At the same time, he must say he would not so willingly have undertaken the task had he been aware of the line he was about to take; for the greater part of his speech should certainly have been answered by hon. or right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the front Opposition Bench. The first part of the speech consisted chiefly of an attack on the Irish Church Act; but it was followed up by an attack on the Commissioners who were appointed to carry it out, and on the Representative Body. He was not in a position to speak for the Commissioners. He would only say this, that the characters of Lord Monck and Mr. Justice Lawson stood too high to allow anyone to suppose that they had erred designedly, and their abilities were too well known to permit anyone to believe that they erred through incapacity. As a member of the Representative Body, he might say he had on certain occasions taken part in deputations to the Commissioners, when he might have found them rather difficult to persuade; 1044 but certainly, in all cases, very strict and vigilant guardians of the interests they were appointed to protect. With respect to the charges against the Representative Body, he should have no difficulty in showing that they had no foundation whatever. He was, however, of opinion that the Church of Ireland had great reasons to be grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing these charges before the House in a definite shape, inasmuch as the present discussion would have the effect of removing an impression which doubtless prevailed in England to some extent that the clergy of the Disestablished Church had not in all cases acted as they ought to have done, and that they had done things, aided and abetted by the Representative Body of the Church, which would not stand the test of inquiry. To a great extent that state of feeling was owing to letters which had appeared in leading newspapers, some of them written by a gentleman who had been already mentioned by name in this debate, and to which unusual prominence had been given; but the replies were either not inserted or did not receive the same prominence, and thus many saw the charges who did not see the replies. He was rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman had committed himself to charges which would be clearly shown to be unfounded, and which had been made in total ignorance of the nature of the transactions. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion (Mr. W. Shaw) had anticipated a good deal of what he (Mr. Mulholland) had intended to say with reference to the nature of commutation, and had, in fact, answered a great part of the speech of the hon. Mover. Commutation had been much misunderstood. There were even clergymen of the English Church who, to that hour, imagined that there was something discreditable in the act of commutation; whereas commutation was a direct advantage to the Church. In what position did the Representative Body find themselves when they entered on the duties of their office? They found themselves confronted by the heavy task to reorganize the Irish Church—to re-construct it as an organized body. They found the only way in which the Church could be preserved from falling into a sort of chaos was to take the average 1045 value of the lives of annuitant clergymen, and that an average contribution should be paid by all the parishes in the country. They would have preferred one central fund to which all contributions would be given, and from which all stipends would be paid, but it became clear that it would be impossible to provide a fund in that way which would be sufficient to meet the requirements. The consequence was, that the country was divided into its different dioceses, and each diocese was allowed to form a financial plan of its own, based on the principle of life insurance, taking into account the wants and necessities of the diocese. In the accomplishment of this object commutation was a great assistance. The consent of the clergy was, of course, required for commutation, and they were asked to exchange, as it were, Government annuities for annuities of what might be called a financial association dealing with £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 of capital. They knew if errors were made, total ruin to themselves would be the result. One inducement offered to the annuitants was, that they should have the right to receive a portion of the capital sum in lieu of the annuity. The clergy laid considerable stress on that. It gave them a large amount of freedom, and enabled them, if they preferred it, to leave the Church. On the other hand, the Representative Body believed the result of composition would not be injurious to the Church. Was it not right in dealing with a subject of so much magnitude to proceed upon a general rule? Retirement, pensions in the Army and the Civil Service, all proceeded on general rules. The amount received as commutation up to the present time was £7,557,000, which was charged with life annuities amounting to £590,000. The hon. Member had spoken of that as a re-endowment of the Church; but the members of the Church of Ireland could not too early and too earnestly protest against any such phrase being applied to it. The fact was that Parliament did not give one single 6d. to the re-endowment of the Church. It gave precisely the life interest of the clergy, except that as the value of clerical life was supposed to be greater than had been calculated in those life tables, for that and expenses of management 12 per cent was 1046 added to the original amount, and if it had not been added the Representative Body would most decidedly not have undertaken their task. The amount of composition paid up to the present time was £1,169,000, which had extinguished annuities to the extent of £172,000. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of this money as if it had been squandered—a most absurd word when it was considered that annuities had been bought up to a more than equivalent extent. The hon. Gentleman had also spoken of the dissatisfaction which existed in Ireland with the Representative Body. But that body was elected by the Church every two or three years; several vacancies had already occurred, and in almost every instance the retiring members had been re-elected. And at the last general Synod last month, a resolution was passed unanimously expressing complete satisfaction with the proceedings of the Representative Body, and entire confidence in the general affairs of the Church. And that Synod was composed of members freely chosen from every part of Ireland. The figures which the hon. Member had quoted with respect to the newly-appointed clergymen were singularly inaccurate. The interregnum between the passing of the Church Act and the 1st of January, 1871, was understood to be a probationary period, during which the clergy and curates might acquire annuities. The number appointed was 201, which was, no doubt, above the average; but it was understood during the passing of the Act that some consideration would be shown to young men who were preparing to enter the Church. He wished to point out a fallacy in the speech of the hon. Member, when he spoke of the life service of the clergy being a gain to the Church. The composition of annuities during the lives of the clergy was not necessarily a gain to the Church as an organized body, though it might be a gain if, in the meantime, individuals came forward with contributions and accumulated them for endowment. The Representative Body found, for many reasons, that it was desirable that a general system of contributions should be established throughout Ireland, and the arrangement with respect to compositions had materially assisted them. Diocesan contributions had come in to a greater amount than could have been expected, and there was now 1047 £1,400,000 in the hands of the Representative Body, the accumulated contributions of the last four years. That was a large capital sum, but it represented only £56,000 a-year. A more important point was that under the system of diocesan contributions for the purpose of providing stipends for the clergy, the Representative Body got last year £137,000, notwithstanding the fact that the acquisition of glebes put an unusual strain upon the Church. That £137,000, being allowed to accumulate during the lives of the existing clergy, would produce the very substantial nucleus of a fund which would probably amount to £3,000,000. Now, how would those £3,000,000 be acquired? Not by a re-endowment of the Church by Parliament; but the contributions of which he had spoken, being allowed to accumulate at compound interest, would at a certain period reach that amount. As to the charges made against the clergy, if the rules framed by the Representative Body were for the benefit of the Church, the clergy were not to be blamed for accepting them. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the special terms which had been granted in certain cases. The reason was this—A legal doubt arose whether curates whose rectors had died, or who had been dismissed by their rectors, could be compelled to take other duty, and additional terms were offered to those in the tables with a view to overcome this difficulty. He hoped he had now succeeded in vindicating the conduct of the clergy and the Commissioners from the imputations cast upon them by the hon. Gentleman. In conclusion, he felt sure that every fair and generous mind would sympathize with them in the crushing blow that had fallen upon the Church, and would rejoice if he had been able to show that the clergy and laity had not given way to despair, had not neglected their duty, but were heartily combining in an honest and single-minded endeavour to rebuild her walls.
said, that after the full and able defence which had just been made, little need be added in rebutting the charges of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jenkins). It had been stated that the annuities granted were much greater than they were expected to be, but that arose from the fact, that the Irish clergy derived a large portion of their incomes from glebe lands; for these 1048 lands had probably been valued originally upon the Ordnance valuation, and in calculating the annuities, however, they were valued at much above the Ordnance valuation, and the Church had to buy them back at 21 years' purchase. This was the explanation of the great difference between the annuities as calculated and the annuities as given. It was reckoned a manly English trait not to kick a man when he was down, but the hon. Member had certainly not acted upon that maxim.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that although the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Jenkins) in making the Motion before the House was pleased to say that he was simply fulfilling the duty of a Christian man, and was regarding this as involving a pure question of finance, yet the hon. Gentleman had used, in the course of his speech, a bouquet of epithets such as the following:—that the Commissioners had been guilty of prodigality, if not corruption, and had squandered £2,000,000 in ecclesiastical conspiracy and immoral greed. These were words used by a Christian man in the British House of Commons. For his own part he could not think language like that was dictated by Christian charity. No case had been made out by the hon. Gentleman for a Commission of Inquiry. The hon. Gentleman had brought forward many charges, but had proved none; and even if he had succeeded in making out his case, and a Commission were to report, no action could be taken upon their Report. The hon. Gentleman had not suggested any action that he would take in such an event. No charges graver than those preferred by the hon. Gentleman against Gentlemen filling responsible positions had been brought forward in that House within his experience—charges, too, of which no Notice had been given, for the terms of the Motion simply were that the hon. Gentleman would call attention to commutation and compounding, and not even a vivid Irish imagination could discover between the lines such charges as corruption, ecclesiastical conspiracy, and immoral greed. If the hon. Gentleman pressed his Motion, he thought the division would give a substantial answer to those charges. Who were the Church Temporality Commissioners? The ablest and best men that could have been found to discharge the delicate and important 1049 duties connected with the winding-up of the great Church of Ireland. They were Viscount Monck, a Nobleman who had administered the affairs of England with great honour to the country in Canada. Mr. Justice Lawson, formerly an Attorney General and now a trusted, able, and impartial Judge, and the late Mr. George Alexander Hamilton, than whom a more honoured Member had never sat in that House. Against these Gentlemen a charge was now brought of corruption.
§ MR. EDWARD JENKINS
said, he had not brought a charge of corruption, but said there had been mismanagement, if not corruption. ["Oh!"]
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he failed to see the difference. What was the meaning of importing the word "corruption" into the debate, if the hon. Gentleman meant nothing by it? The hon. Gentleman must either have meant something or nothing. Surely, he would not desire the House to have such a poor opinion of his intellect as to wish them to believe he meant nothing. Let the House remember that every single circumstance which the hon. Gentleman had called into question had occurred while the late Mr. Hamilton was living and taking an active part in the work of the Commission. Although the Commissioners were empowered to deal absolutely with all questions of law and fact that might be brought before them, the hon. Gentleman now sought to constitute the House of Commons a Court of Appeal on such points as did not meet with his approval. The Commissioners awarded 6,251 annuities after the most careful and minute inquiry, heard 417 appeals—a fact which proved that they did not err on the side of extravagance—and refused no less than 1,127 claims, many of which at first sight seemed to be founded on the most grievous hardship, and which were represented before them by counsel; and yet they were to be brought before the House of Commons and accused of something which the hon. Gentleman would not call corruption. It was also to be remembered that, in calculating the amounts to be paid in cases of commutation, they adopted the tables of the National Debt Commissioners, the work of the eminent actuary, Mr. Finlaison, and had made their calculations from them, and so unsatisfactory did the Irish clergy consider them at first that it was at one time 1050 thought that very few would commute at all and that the scheme would in consequence be a complete failure. Notwithstanding, the Commissioners were now charged with neglecting their duty, and with prodigality. They had proceeded, not according to some fancy standard of their own, set up by sentiment, but upon the tables most in repute in England, and arranged by a gentleman supposed to have more experience than anybody else. So much for the extravagance of the Commissioners in that respect. But the hon. Gentleman went beyond the terms of his Motion, and, without giving the House the slightest Notice of his intention, charged the Commissioners with having given too large a sum for Church requisites and repairs. No opportunity had been afforded to hon. Members for replying to his charges under that head, but as regarded Church requisites there were plain facts which could be stated at once. The Irish Church Act was passed in July, 1869. In the October following, one entire year fell due, and thus by the 1st of January, 1870, when the Church became disestablished, two years and three months charges had to be paid in a lump. Was the hon. Gentleman's accusation, then, a reasonable one? To the second head of this miserable and unworthy charge an answer was to be found in the Act of Parliament itself. The hon. Gentleman said sums had been voted by the Church Temporalities Commissioners in excess of those usually spent by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. But the Act imposed upon the former the duty of ascertaining and finding out what were the accumulated promises of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and instead of spreading the performance of those promises over a great length of time, they fulfilled them within a period of two years. The undertaking cast upon the Commissioners was a great and arduous one, requiring broad intelligence, great acute-ness, and rigid conscientiousness, and he ventured to think that they were fairly entitled to expect a little more generosity of treatment and a little more Christian consideration than they had received. The duty of the Irish Church Temporalities Commissioners being in the first place, to ascertain the compensation and then to assess the commutation, all the Representative Body had to 1051 do was to receive the amount which the Commissioners fixed, and to dispose of it as they could for the advantage of the Church whose Representatives they were. It was suggested by the hon. Gentleman that this Body had done something with the Church property that was not right and proper; but Parliament was not in the habit of inquiring into what people did with their private property. If there was any injustice in the matter, the Courts of Law and Equity were open to any complaint, and the very fact of the hon. Gentleman opposite bringing this subject before the House was in itself an admission that nothing illegal had been done, and that there was no complaint which any Court of Equity would listen to. What was the hon. Gentleman's justification for bringing this question before the House? There had not been presented a single Petition from any member of the Irish Church, nor any suggestion of any grievance or injustice whatsoever. An hon. Member representing a Scotch constituency, and not even representing the Church himself, came forward with no other justification than that his duty as a Christian man compelled him to do so, in order to show that a whole lot of his brother Christians had behaved in a most improper way—that they had been guilty, not of corruption, but of an ecclesiastical conspiracy, and—noble Christian words to add!—immoral greed. The Irish Church Representative Body was composed of persons of the highest character and consideration in the country, who had without fee or reward given their time, experience, and money to the performance of the duties they had taken upon themselves, but it was these gentlemen whom the hon. Member for Dundee charged with having acted in the manner referred to. The Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Bodies received compensation under the provisions of the Irish Church Act; but what would be said, if Parliament was called upon to inquire as to the mode in which they had dealt with the funds awarded to them? To have such inquiries proposed Session after Session would not say much for the freedom secured to the Church by disestablishment. With regard to commutation, that was justifiable on several grounds. Without it there would have been in Ireland a series of congregations and no central power for 1052 the distribution of the fund; and it was a desirable thing for other reasons, as would be seen from the pamphlets which had been written upon the subject. Then it was suggested that, commutation having taken place, there was something wrong in compounding. But commutation merely made the Representative Church Body into a kind of great annuity society, and to diminish the risks with which it was attended compounding was introduced. Moreover, everything that had been done in relation to compounding was done in express pursuance of the 23rd section of the Irish Church Act. Surely, then it was unreasonable to say that the Irish clergy in following the express terms of that permission had done something which exposed them to the greatest possible censure. Compounding enabled a reduction of the clergy to be made from 2,000 to 1,460; it rendered possible a re-arrangement and re-distribution of parishes and an adjustment of boundaries. Anyone would imagine from the speech of the hon. Member that the clergy were better off than before, but the fact was, that the average income of incumbents was between £200 and £300. The best paid rectors had an income of about £300. Commutation and compounding had worked admirably. For 26 per cent of capital the Representative Church Body had got rid of 41 per cent of annuities. That fact spoke volumes for the admirable results of those processes for the Church taken as a whole. The greatest care was taken with reference to every application to commute or compound. Special terms were demanded in a not considerable number of cases by the exigency of the case, and for the welfare of the Church. The hon. Gentleman made some allusion to the poor fishermen who commenced the ministration of Christianity. Did he mean that the clergy should beg from door to door because they were entrusted with a sacred mission? It would be very poor charity to ask men to preach a mission about our everlasting salvation without making any provision by which these men should be properly housed, and properly clothed, and for the decent sustenance of themselves and their families. It was said that there had been a "wholesale migration of Irish clergy to England." That was not true. 736 Irish clergymen compounded; 405 1053 of them were still working in the Irish Church; 154 were dead or had retired, and 136 only had gone to England or the Colonies. Had a single case come under the notice of anyone in London of misconduct in the slightest degree on the part of any of the Irish clergymen who officiated in London? It was admitted that they were men of piety and learning, and were devoted to their sacred calling. It was said that between the announcement of Disestablishment and the carrying out of the Disestablishment Act, the Irish Bishops ordained 700 curates, and the hon. Member talked about the Bishops not having used sufficient care in laying their hands upon the heads of those whom they were ordaining to the sacred office. [Mr. EDWARD JENKINS: I said "hurriedly."] It did not matter what was said, for it came to exactly the same thing, if the hon. Gentleman meant that the Bishops did not take sufficient care that they laid their hands on the right head. He denied that there was any ground for saying that ordinations had been conducted without due consideration. It appeared that the actual number ordained was 201, and in no case was a man improperly passed. If any persons had been hurriedly or unbecomingly ordained during the last four years, there must remain some trace of the circumstance; but he ventured to assert that such a case had never been even suggested in any diocese in Ireland. All the gentlemen, he believed, who were admitted into the ranks of the clergy during that period had shown by their subsequent lives that they were properly ordained. The hon. Member for Dundee made a suggestion that some incomes which were £500 before disestablishment suddenly jumped up to £900. On this he would remark that it was the duty of the Church Temporalities Commissioners, if they found a man was entitled to, say, £150 for a benefice and £50 for a curacy, to make two awards to him. This would account for the increase in some cases. As the diocese of Down and Connor had: been specially referred to, he might mention that included the large city of Belfast where there were numerous chapels of ease, the clergy of which were compensated by the Commissioners, who determined that they possessed the status of permanent curates; and surely this was most 1054 reasonable, inasmuch as each chapel of ease fulfilled the functions of a church in the parish wherein it was situated. It would be preposterous to suppose the decision of the Commissioners could be overruled on account of what Lord Carlingford said when he sat in the House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman had referred to a sum of £28,000, which was mentioned at the end of one report. Well, it only meant that certain clergyman gave up to that extent to the Church everything which had been awarded to them. The hon. Gentleman asked for a Commission, but what would he do with it? He had not shadowed out a single thing that was to be done. If it were to inquire into the conduct of public servants who were clothed with judicial functions, that would be tantamount to a censure. On the other hand, was a Royal Commission ever appointed to inquire into the doings of a private company in respect to private property? He thought that the more the question was looked at, the more it would be found that the hon. Gentleman was asking something which ought not to be granted. The hon. Gentleman had no clients within the ranks of the Irish Church, and only last week the General Synod assembled at Dublin, in which the laity outnumbered the clergy two to one, passed a unanimous vote of confidence in the Body which managed their affairs. That was the opinion of the accredited organ of thought within the ranks of the Church, both clerical and lay, and could it be fairly said that the hon. Gentleman knew what was good for the Church and what should be done for it, better than those whose business it was to look after the Church and its affairs? He was glad that the Motion had at last been brought forward, and he trusted that the House, after fairly considering the question, would arrive at the conclusion that no case had been made out for the appointment of a Royal Commission, but that they would say that those to whom the responsibility of discharging those duties had been entrusted had done so with wisdom, integrity, and forethought, and that the clergy of the Irish Church had conducted themselves in this most trying and important crisis in a manner not unworthy of their sacred calling and not unbecoming their solemn duties.
§ MR. LAW
said, that, with regard to the question of commutation on the part of the curates, it was only fair to remember that a number of young men were qualifying themselves to serve as curates at the time when the Irish Church Act suddenly passed, and a short period was allowed to enable them to become ordained and so be entitled to compensation. Under such circumstances, 201 could not by any means be considered a large number for the year and a half that intervened before the 1st January, 1871. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Jenkins) asked for a Royal Commission to inquire into the commutations that had occurred. The number had been considerable, because commutations had been designedly encouraged by Parliament giving a bonus for the purpose, the object being to wind up the business within a limited time. The hon. Member impeached the management of the funds by the Commissioners, and accused them of prodigality and carelessness, if not of corruption. It had been said that their proceedings were of a hole-and-corner description, and that nobody knew what had been done. If anybody was in the dark it was, however, his own fault. By the 37th section of the Act, the Commissioners were bound either annually or at shorter intervals to forward to the Auditor General accounts of every penny of their receipt and expenditure, with the vouchers, and these accounts had been annually laid before Parliament, and printed for the use of hon. Members. Had any one heard before of a case in which, when a Commission had been constituted by Parliament, another Commission had been afterwards appointed to see whether the first Commissioners were doing their duty? If that were done, why should there not be a third Commission to look after the second, and so on indefinitely? He had some curiosity to know in whose interest the hon. Member had moved in this matter. It was certainly not in the interest of the Irish Church or its members. Was it in the interest of the general public? Was it for the purpose of impeaching the propriety or integrity of the Commissioners? The hon. Member disavowed that, but he distinctly asserted that they had been guilty of carelessness. He (Mr. Law), however, thought that when the nature of the work which the Commissioners 1056 had had to do was taken into account they could not be accused of inattention to the interests of the public. They had to ascertain the exact equivalent of every clergyman's rent-charges and other interests; and this it would be found they had accomplished with great success and in a very short time. It must be recollected that there was a long contest in that House on the compensation of curates under the 15th section, the result of which was that they secured much better terms than it was originally intended to give them. It was the same with the glebes and glebe houses, with the Capitular Bodies, and also with reference to the sum appropriated in lieu of private endowments. Was it fair to base a charge of culpable negligence against the Commissioners upon the fact that the Prime Minister, in March, 1869, when introducing the Irish Church Bill, gave an estimate of liabilities that was eventually found to fall short of the amount needed by between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000? Did the hon. Gentleman forget the various concessions that had been made in order to ensure the passing of the Bill through Parliament? In a question involving so large a sum as £16,000,000 or £17,000,000, it was impossible that a very exact estimate could be made beforehand, and it could not be denied that an excess of expenditure over estimate had been caused by the changes made in the Bill as the price of its passing through this and the other House. As to the charge that had been made against Mr. Ball, the hon. Member, who had read through these Reports and the accounts of the Commissioners, must have known, and it was desirable the House should know, that Mr. Ball was for many years solicitor to the late Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the new Church Commissioners thought it desirable to let him continue to be employed as solicitor for the tenants also; cutting down his scale of fees, however, so as to tempt people to buy without the necessity of employing a solicitor of their own. That was done, and done, too, with the sanction of the Treasury as well as of the Commissioners; and, in fact, when Mr. Ball was employed by a tenant the only charge made was for the actual expense and labour of the transaction; the solicitor's work was done for next to nothing. So far, indeed, 1057 from there being anything wrong in the action of the Commissioners in this respect, their object had been to render the property more easily disposable. With regard to the individual case mentioned, it appeared there was some prohibition of sub-letting, but was it for the House to inquire into a matter of that kind? What was the object of the proposed Commission? Did the hon. Member think that upon the accounts of the Commissioners he could found any charge against those Gentlemen? If so, there were the accounts on the Table of the House, and let him proceed to specify his charges. The accounts of the Commissioners had already been scrutinized with considerable sharpness by the Auditor General, between whom and them there had been some unpleasantness. His scrutiny had shown that nothing had been passed over that could possibly be objected to. There was, for example, an error of 7d. in some Order, and they were called upon to recover the capitalized value of this sum, which would probably have caused an expense of £20. Not that the Auditor General had exceeded his duty; but his duty had certainly been most effectually done, and with no possible leaning towards the Commissioners. No doubt, as he had said, the ultimate liability of the Commissioners exceeded by £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 the estimate made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich when he first introduced his Bill, before opposition was bought off by concessions, everyone of which meant the addition of a large sum to the estimate of liabilities. Besides, in comparing the compensation paid to the clergy with the tables set forth in the Report of 1869, it should be borne in mind that it was the interest of the clergy in 1867–8 to make their incomes as low as possible, and thus when the claims came to be paid off, it was found that there were more than had been calculated. There was he (Mr. Law) submitted no ground for issuing another Commission, with the object of founding some charge against the Commissioners, who had performed their very onerous and trouble-some duties with most entire uprightness and integrity, and with very great ability.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
, in supporting the Motion, said, he thought the hon. and 1058 learned Gentleman who had just sat down had discharged his task with great ability; but he could not help thinking it rather extraordinary that none of the right hon. Gentlemen who spoke last night so strongly from the front Opposition bench against the fractional deficit in Savings Bank interest which then occupied the attention of the House, had come forward to-night, when the deficit was even larger than the £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 admitted by the hon. and learned Gentleman. There appeared to be an actual deficiency of £4,300,000, as compared with the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. He (Captain Nolan), however, would rather deal with the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson). He asked what right had the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Jenkins) to deal with this question; and he (Captain Nolan) had been asked the same question. His answer was, that he had to pay tithes towards this fund. He believed that if the Commission were granted, this matter would turn out to be a great financial scandal. The Irish Church had been disestablished, but it had been only nominally disendowed. £400,000 had been given to Maynooth; but £12,000,000 had been given to the Irish Church for the life interests, and so on, so that for every shilling given to Maynooth there were 30s. given to the Irish Church; whilst of Catholics was a population of 3,500,000, and of Protestants only some 800,000. In reality, it amounted to this—that a Royal Commission would discover to what extent it was still endowed; and whatever it still retained of endowment was not private property, but was State property, about which it was perfectly right that inquiry should be made. If there had been but partial disendowment, the Roman Catholic Church might fairly come forward and ask for endowment. His stand-point was, that there was a large public fund, of the help of which Ireland stood very much in need. She wanted endowment for education—for her Universities and for intermediate education—and, then, if there were anything to spare, for the relief of the local rates. The people thought they were being defrauded if their funds were being given away to a disendowed Church, or in over-compensation to private individuals. It was said that a 1059 large number of curates were ordained in order to increase the claims for compensation, and a great many stories were told about clergymen being encouraged to set up claims they had previously no idea of, and about land being sold at an unfair price to Protestant landlords, for the sake of putting additional Protestants in the parish. The impression produced was, that the Commission had realized as little as possible, and dealt as liberally as possible with what they had realized. By refusing the inquiry they would be practically filching £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 from the people of Ireland. It had been asked why should the acts of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners be dragged into the light of day by a Royal Commission, when they were really dealing only with the property of the Church, and not of the public. That was the very point at issue, and believing that the appointment of a Royal Commission would have 'a most beneficial effect, he would vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Dundee.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLUTKET)
said, that the hon. Member who introduced the Motion might congratulate himself on having elicited a very full discussion, but could not congratulate himself on much more, seeing that his speech, in spite of its undoubted ability, was received with indifference if not dissatisfaction throughout the House. He could not understand why the hon. Gentleman should make himself the champion of this attack on the Disestablished Church of Ireland. He was aware that in this country a strong feeling existed in the minds of some against Established Churches; but he did not think until tonight that such a feeling would be found to follow an Established Church to the grave. He rejoiced, however, that with the exception of the hon. Member who seconded the Motion, and the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last (Captain Nolan), not a single Member who had taken part in the debate had spoken in any spirit of antagonism to the Disestablished Church of Ireland. It was not his duty to defend the Act of Parliament which disestablished the Church, or the machinery by which that Disestablishment was effected. But as an official of the present Government, it was his duty to defend, in the execution 1060 of their office, those who were entrusted by Government with difficult and responsible duties, and it was because he believed there was not any foundation whatever for the wild language used by the Proposer of the Resolution in attacking the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in Ireland, that he asked the House not to consent to the issuing of a Royal Commission to inquire into their conduct. It was not his intention to follow the speech of the hon. Member in detail. The House had already heard the answer given by his hon. Friend the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) in his clear, calm, and luminous statement, and also the reply of his hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. Gibson), as well as that of the Law Officer of the Crown of the last Irish Government (Mr. Law), who was thoroughly acquainted with the policy and intention of the Act and the manner in which it was to be carried into effect, and who had assured the House that there was no ground for the charges made by the hon. Member for Dundee, who must be admitted to have distinguished himself as an officious volunteer. It was not for him. (Mr. Plunket) to add anything to the praise bestowed upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. One of them, now no more, had been his friend, and there was no man in Ireland whose character for probity and for business capacity stood higher. Another was a noble Lord who had held high office at home and abroad, and the third was a learned Judge who occupied an eminent position on the Irish Bench and was respected by all parties. This learned Judge and this noble Lord were accused of lavishing the funds of the Irish Church on objects to which they ought not to be applied; and the object of a Royal Commission, if granted, would be to inquire into some mismanagement or misapplication of the funds. He did not gather from the hon. Member whether the charge was legal misinterpretation, or merely financial carelessness, or excessive liberality in the distribution of the money. But if the accusation was that the law had been wrongly administered, he could only say that the greatest care had been taken by those who had drawn the Act that no such thing might happen. Not only did they name a most able lawyer as one of the Commissioners, but they gave an appeal from their decision. No 1061 doubt the decisions of the Commissioners had been sometimes reversed on appeal; but, more frequently, in the way of increasing their award than in the opposite direction. As his hon. and learned Friend had said, they could not go on appointing one Royal Commission after another to inquire into those questions, and it would be perfectly antagonistic to the whole spirit of the Act to subject the legal decision of the Commissioners to review by a Royal Commission. Besides, it was the duty of the Auditor General to inquire into these accounts; and the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, with the criticizms of the Auditor General, was year by year laid before this House and subjected to the scrutiny of the Committee on Public Accounts. In fact, their periodical Report was now under the scrutiny of that Committee, and the House was therefore asked to appoint a Commission to deal with a matter which was already under the consideration of the House. Another part of the attack of the hon. Member was directed against what he might call the domestic administration of the funds which had come into the hands of the Disestablished Church. But what the Church was doing at present was paying out of her own funds and out of the subscriptions of her members life incomes to the clergy to whom compensation was given under the Irish Church Act. He was sorry that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway (Captain Nolan) should have spoken as if the Church was thus appropriating what did not belong to her but to the public.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
explained that what he said was, that any sum given to the clergy above the value of their life interest was public property, but that the value of the life interest was private property.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IERLAND (Mr. PLUNKET)
said, it had been arranged by the greatest financiers of the day and upon the most accurate calculations, that the value of the life interest only should be given to the clergy, together with that 12 per cent which had been added by the unanimous consent of all parties to save the country from the expense of carrying out the arrangements. Nothing could be further from the truth than to suggest that 1062 money now being gathered from private resources by the Disestablished Church partook in any degree of the character of a public endowment. There was abroad in England a wide-spread notion that the Irish laity were dissatisfied with the conduct of the Irish clergy. Now, Mr. Bence Jones stood absolutely alone as an Irish Churchman in the opinion that there was any feeling of resentment or distrust between the laity and clergy of the Disestablished Church in Ireland. He (Mr. Plunket) had had ample opportunities of testing opinion among both clergy and laity, and though differences of opinion existed upon religious subjects, as must always happen in every healthy, vigorous Church, it was a mere delusion to suppose that any difference of interest was felt to exist or that there was any discontent whatever on the part of the laity towards the clergy. Speaking as a member of the Disestablished Church, there was nothing in the transactions referred to by the hon. Member for Dundee of which they need be in the least degree ashamed. All their affairs were discussed in open Synod, and were reported in the public papers. They concealed nothing, and had no desire to conceal anything; but he should resist the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into their domestic affairs. Many of the points mentioned by the hon. Member had been embraced in the Reports of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and would be thoroughly investigated and sifted by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. But no foundation had been laid by any of these charges for issuing of a Royal Commission, and no ground whatever existed for such an inquiry.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 148; Noes 34: Majority 114.