HL Deb 13 July 1831 vol 4 cc1169-73
The Bishop

of Ferns rose to present a Petition from certain beneficed Clergymen of a district in Ireland, which had lately been disturbed by disputes about tithes, and he begged in the first instance to move that the Petition be read at length. [The Petition was accordingly read by the Clerk. It complained, that there existed in that part of Ireland a systematic opposition to the payment of tithes, and that it was impossible for the incumbents to collect them without having recourse to the aid of the constabulary or military power.] The right rev. Prelate then observed that previous to moving, that the petition should lie upon the Table, he wished to address a few words to their Lordships upon the subject to which the petition referred. He was the more anxious to do so, because the petitioners complained of the evils to which they drew the attention of their Lordships upon no slight grounds, and because calumnies had of late been heaped in profusion upon the clergy of the Irish Established Church, by all those who hated the religion which they taught, or who envied the advantages which they enjoyed, or who were desirous to effect the destruction of the Constitution, of which that Church formed an essential part. He was anxious, under such circumstances, to state a few facts in reply to the calumnious attacks which had been made upon that Establishment, particularly in the recent publication of a Roman Catholic Bishop. In his Letter pointing out the necessity of establishing some provision for the poor of that country, the most unfounded attacks had been made upon the Irish clergy. He would not dwell upon the extraordinary daring which was manifested in addressing to a member of his Majesty's Government a letter in which a disobedience to the law was recommended, and which contained an exhortation to the people not to pay tithes, expressing a hope that they never would cease to resist the payment, whatever laws, whether civil or ecclesiastical might be had recourse to, to enforce it. He would not dwell on the audacity of a member of that Church, which had recently received from the State a considerable benefit exhorting the people of Ireland to resist the payment of the legal provision for the Irish clergy. His only business was with the calumnious assertions made by this author in regard to the clergymen of the Established Church. The first calumny which this publication contained on the clergy of Ireland was, that they were generally non-resident. Now, would it be believed by their Lord- ships, that in the county of Carlow, under the immediate eye of Bishop Doyle, the author of this publication, there was only one incumbent, who had duty to perform, non-resident, and the cause of his non-residence arose from the circumstance of his neither haying a glebe nor any ground to build upon. That incumbent had further endeavoured to get a house within the distance from the parish church regulated by law, but he was unable to obtain one. There were twenty-two beneficed clergymen in that county, and there was only amongst that number one non-resident who had any duty to perform. There were two other parishes where there were no churches, and therefore where the incumbent, if resident, would not have any duty to discharge. On the whole there were thirty-one clergymen in the diocese: of these, twenty-two were incumbents, and only three were non-resident, one having no place to reside at, and the two others no duty to perform. These facts were as well known to Dr. Doyle, who lived in the neighbourhood of Carlow, and was the titular Bishop of Leighlin, as they were to him. Dr. Doyle having thus endeavoured to excite a prejudice against them as nonresident, next proceeded, in the publication he had mentioned, to excite the people to make an attack on Church properly, by representing, that the provision which had been allotted for the maintenance of the Irish Established Church was immense and extravagant. It was unnecessary for him then to go into a refutation of that statement. The evidence of Baron Foster, which was on their Lordships' Table, an individual who was intimately acquainted with the details of the subject, and who was not inclined to represent that property as less than it really was—would at once show that the statement of Bishop Doyle was quite unfounded. Bishop Doyle represented the parishes in Ireland as being worth from 5,000l. to4,000l.,3,000l., and 2,000l. each, in many instances. There was not, however, he believed one parish in Ireland which altogether afforded to the incumbent 3,000l. a year, and he knew that the average amount yielded by parishes was greatly below that. In the county of Carlow, which was a highly cultivated county, the average amount derived by an incumbent from a parish was 350l. a year, as was apparent from the returns under the Tithe Composition Act. There had been disturbances in the district from which this petition proceeded, in consequence of the opposition offered to the payment of tithes. These disturbances had taken place in the parish held by the Rev. Mr. Allcock, who had been incumbent there for twenty years, who had constantly resided in his parish during that time, and who had exerted himself absolutely to court the favour of his Catholic parishioners. When he became the incumbent of the parish in question, he had resigned 200l. a year out of the total amount which the proceeds of the parish had averaged; and the fact was, that this avaricious rector, as he had been styled, received from his parishioners not more than about 7d. per acre. Was that too much for him? After he had presented this petition, he should certainly move for a return of the parishes in Ireland which had compounded for their tithes, specifying the number of acres in each parish. When that return was upon their Lordships' Table, they would be able to refer to it when any misstatement was made with respect to the amount of the revenues received by the established clergy in Ireland. He wished he could point out an efficient remedy for the evils of which the petitioners complained. It was easy to describe the multiplied and vexatious obstructions thrown in the way of the collection of tithes, but it was not so easy to remove them. It was even a hazardous thing at present to send a person to view a parish which had not compounded, not to speak of the danger of attempting to collect the tithes there. Not only was that the case, but even in parishes where the Composition Act had been introduced, the recovery of the tithe was prevented, for no man would venture to serve a process there, when the serving of it was menaced with the penalty of death by persons who never menaced in vain. In fact, to serve a process was forbidden by those legislators who enforced their orders by assassination; men who made war on the clergy, but who would not permit the clergy to go to law with them. It appeared to him, that the recovery of the tithe under such circumstances might be made an additional duty on the part of the police. He hoped it would not be said in that House, as was said in the public papers that the tithes were the cause of the disturbances in Ireland. It was not so; in those parishes where a composition had been entered into, they might be considered as rent, and yet, notwithstanding that, they were not paid. In such parishes tithe-proctors had disappeared, and with them, all the objections that had been made to the payment of tithes. The tithe, then, might in such instances be considered as rent, and if the opposition to the payment of the tithe-rent in those places should be successful, it did not require much sagacity to foresee that opposition would be made in the next instance to the payment of the rent itself. The right rev. Prelate then moved, that the petition should lie on the Table, which was agreed to. [He was proceeding to move for the return which he had already mentioned, when it being suggested by Viscount Melbourne that it would be more regular to give notice of the motion for to-morrow, he accordingly did so.]

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