§ On the Motion of the Marquis of Lansdown, the first report of the Committee on Tithes in Ireland was read by the Clerk at the Table.
The Marquis of Lansdown
then rose and said—My Lords, the Report which you have just heard read, together with the evidence on which that Report is founded, having been for many days in your Lordships' hands, I trust that I am justified in assuming that the time has arrived when you may with propriety be invited to accede to it. In submitting to your Lordships resolutions confirmatory of, and founded strictly on, that Report, for your approbation, I feel considerably relieved from the difficulties which I should have to contend with if I had to lay it before you on my individual authority, or if I had to ask your Lordships' concurrence in these resolutions, as the result of an opinion entertained by myself alone, from that difficulty I am relieved by the nature of the Report, and I feel great satisfaction in stating, that it represents, not alone my own opinion, but those of a Committee of your Lordships' House, selected from amongst you, and composed of persons the weight of whose judgment cannot fail to be greater than mine in your Lordships' estimation. It is, however, my business, my Lords, to bring these resolutions before your Lordships, and in asking you to adopt them, it will be necessary for 1270 me shortly to call your attention to the three prominent features of the Report, namely, to the facts and circumstances connected with the state of opposition which exists to the execution of the law in Ireland, as respects the collection of tithes; to the effect of that resistance upon the fortunes and condition of the individuals most interested in that description of property; and, finally, to the general considerations arising out of the bearing of these facts and circumstances on the property which has been attacked, with a view to finding a legislative remedy. It will be, unfortunately, an easy task to satisfy your Lordships as to the existence of the facts referred to in the Report. You will find that not only has a resistance to the payment of tithes prevailed in many parts of the country, but that it has been effected sometimes by illegal acts and outrages, more frequently by combinations among the people, by which they availed themselves of such legal difficulties as enabled them to delay or prevent the payment; but together your Lordships will find systematic opposition has been organized for a considerable time, which has continued to extend itself, with various and comparative degrees of violence, through several counties of Ireland. The result of this opposition and combination has been that in those districts, the majority of the parochial clergy are driven into a most unfortunate, and, I fear, as respects their rights and character, a most cruel situation—they having been deprived in very many instances of the means of subsistence, and reduced to live on the charity of their friends. Some of them have been compelled to make efforts by means of the law to recover their property, which have been, in many instances, unsuccessful, although supported by the power of the Government when that power could be properly employed. Some have succeeded in obtaining by force a part of that which was illegally withheld from them; but it is not desirable that such means to recover their incomes should be resorted to by clergymen; and others, perhaps the most estimable of the whole, who, in such a state of things, were fearful of sacrificing the sanctity of their character, and of losing the influence which they possessed among the people, declined to act at all for themselves, and they have trusted altogether to your Lordships and the wisdom of the Legislature to 1271 make a provision for them, they desiring above all things, with a view to the efficiency of their ministry, to avoid all collision with the people. It is their duty to console and instruct. My Lords, this is the state of things in which you are called upon to legislate with respect to the tithe system of Ireland. I can hardly presume that your Lordships have yet perused the evidence attached to the report, but I may presume that you are acquainted with the chief facts, by the common vehicles of information, and that, therefore, it will be unnecessary for me to dwell long on this part of the subject, or to detain the House by proving the extent of the combination and of the mischief which has arisen. I will only advert to one or two points. Your Committee examined clergyman after clergyman, and magistrate after magistrate, all of whom were well acquainted with the state of the country, and they all concurred in stating, that the clergy were unable to collect their tithes, and the Magistrates, that applying all the means at their disposal they were unable to give effectual assistance towards recovering the tithes. My Lords, I will only state the answers of one or two witnesses. We examined Mr. Roberts of Kilkenny, who stated, that the greater part of that county was engaged in a systematic resistance to tithes. We examined Mr. Cotton, of Tipperary, and Mr. Hans Hamilton, of the same county, besides various other clergymen, all of whom united in describing the opposition as of the most determined nature. But, my Lords, I will not detain you with this evidence; I will turn to the evidence of Magistrates, in order that you may understand how far it was practicable to give to the clergymen the assistence or protection of the law. We examined Colonel Sir John Harvey, the inspector-general of police for Leinster, who, after stating the intensity and extent of the feeling of opposition to the tithes throughout his division, and the inadequacy of the law to overcome that opposition, was asked—Has it since prevailed in more parishes?—It has extended to more parishes. I have here a more detailed statement of every occurrence connected with the opposition to the payment of tithe; it recapitulates what I have already stated, with the addition of a great deal more matter. They are facts to which the resident Magistrate of the county would be more Competent to speak with precision than I can 1272 be, because my situation is one of a more general character. The gentlemen employed under me, and they are here in attendance can give the details, I can only, give the substance of the reports of others as they are officially given to me.What counties does it extend to within your district?—The counties of Kilkenny, Carlow, West Wicklow, Queen's and Kildare.In what parts of those counties, and to what extent, did it prevail, taking Kilkenny first; does it embrace the whole of Kilkenny?—That question will be distinctly spoken to by Mr. Green, who is the resident Magistrate of that county.Do you understand it to be general throughout the counties; that is embracing a larger portion than the portion that is exempt from it?—Certainly; particularly in the county of Kilkenny.Do you conceive that this system is extending itself thither?—Certainly. I am satisfied that it is now rapidly extending; the proof of it is the notices of intimidation, which are almost every where given.What is the extent of the resistance; is it by force, or is it by refusing to buy at the sales?—The ostensible means of resistance are those by which they are enabled to keep the law, but to give every legal obstruction and every legal opposition in their power to the collection of the tithe.Does it fall within your knowledge whether they have been advised to offer every possible resistance, so as not directly to violate the law?—I cannot say that it has been within my knowledge, but I have always been impressed with the belief that the system did not commence with the lower orders of the tithe-payers.And the evidence of Colonel Harvey is fully borne out by that of Mr. Fitzgerald, the resident police Magistrate, and Mr. Green, a resident Magistrate of the county of Tipperary. And in like spirit, and to the same effect, Major Tandy, a resident Magistrate in Kildare, informed the Committee that such was the extent and organization of the resistance, that the civil power was wholly incapable to enforce the payment of tithes. Major Tandy says, in his evidence that—"A few days ago, at Maynooth there were processes served upon different persons, and the process-server came to me, and told me, he received two threatening letters through the Post-office, to deter him from going to Maynooth. I told him he should have every protection. The man went there, but when the tithe cases came to be called on, the Attorney declined to proceed. He told me that he was afraid to proceed; that he had received two threatening letters, forwarded to his House in Dublin 1273 through the Post-office, and that he went to one of the principal clergymen by whom he was employed, and showed him those letters; and this clergyman said, 'I see your life is in danger, and therefore I will not press you to proceed upon it.' The consequence was, that this gentleman was afraid to proceed upon any of the tithe cases and they all fell to the ground, to the number of 160. There were four other Attornies in Court, but none of them would interfere." My Lords, I shall not detain you by further extracting from this I report. The facts which are contained in the evidence attached to the report will convince you of the unhappy state of things which now exists in Ireland; but if it were necessary, I could refer you to the additional evidence received by the Committee since that portion which is now on your Lordships' Table has been collected. But I think I have said enough, and that I need not dwell any longer on the extent of the resistance, the menacing appearance, and the serious nature of the illegal opposition to the payment of tithes which has sprung up, and spread itself in such a dangerous combination through so many counties. My Lords, I flatter myself that I need not say anything to enforce the performance of the duty which devolves upon you of adopting resolutions to administer an effectual relief to the respectable body of persons who, through no misconduct of their own, are placed in this unfortunate situation. To afford relief to the Irish clergy is not only a matter of expediency, or generosity, but of strict justice. When I recollect who are the persons brought into this unforeseen and unhappy position—that they are gentlemen of education, who have foregone other prospects in life, and devoted themselves to the Church, in expectation that the incomes allotted to them would at least have been secured to them; when I think on all that they have endured, I am sure it will not be necessary to urge many reasons on your Lordships to induce you to adopt that recommendation of the Committee by which his Majesty's Government are to be empowered to grant them assistance out of the Consolidated Fund, in respect of the tithes due for one year, that year being the one during which the spirit of resistance chiefly prevailed, on a scale which it is not necessary for me to enter into any explanation of, because you will find it in the appendix to your report. The scale 1274 is, of course, regulated by the annual income to which each clergyman is entitled; but the Committee in recommending that it should be adopted, have not forgotten that it was necessary to vindicate the law; and the Report recommends that a power to levy arrears in the districts where the resistance has been most effectually organized shall be vested in the Government, as the means of obtaining the repayment of its advances. Here, my Lords, I will quit this part of the subject; and I trust you will agree with me that the Committee have not neglected any remedy calculated to meet the existing evils, or to provide for the wants of that deserving body of men, whose claims are founded on right and justice, and who have, in common with all his Majesty's subjects, a claim on the full and complete protection of the law. My Lords, the Committee have not confined themselves in this investigation, to the evils suffered by the clergy, but they have felt it to be their duty, in examining into the causes of that system of opposition which has arisen, not to overlook the circumstances connected with the particular nature of tithe property which are calculated in a peculiar manner to promote dissentions, to engender broils, and to excite those animosities which have so long prevailed in Ireland on the subject, and which, if ever they remained dormant for a time, were soon afterwards put forth with increased activity. My Lords, it cannot have escaped the notice of such of your Lordships as have reflected on the nature of this species of property, and the circumstances with which it is connected, that though it is venerable for its antiquity, and though it has been found to exist, in some shape or other, in almost every country it has been more or less complained of as containing within it the seeds of great discontent. It is hardly necessary for me to contend in this place for the truth of a proposition so obvious, that tithe operates as a tax on industry. The question also has been mooted here, whether the tithe operates as a tax on the landlord, or the tenant in possession, or on the consumer. It is my opinion, that it operates either immediately or remotely, as a tax on land falling on the landlord. Putting out of view the opportunity the landlords may have by the changes of the law, by the prohibition or restriction on the importation of corn, to raise the price 1275 of that and remove the burthen from themselves, it must be clear, that whenever a lease comes to be renewed, the landlord will only get a rent proportioned to the claims which are upon the land, and the tenant will give a rent calculated on the diminution of a certain portion of his produce, which is pro tanto a diminution of the fertility of the soil or of its value to him. Its effect as a tax does not stop here; it not only acts upon the landlord but on the occupier, but as no one takes land without contemplating to expend capital and labour upon it, the tithe follows upon and increases in proportion to the increased produce obtained by that expenditure. The capitalist must take into account the returns he is likely to receive, and as those returns are diminished by the tithes in that proportion is his enterprise checked, and the employment of his capital, rendered profitless. Thus, my Lords, if you consider for a moment, you will find that it is a tax not only on the income of the landlord, on the industry of the tenant, but on the labour, power, machinery, and animals, in short, on all the capital which is brought to bear upon the land. The effect of tithe is, therefore, to deter, rather than to encourage improvement; it makes, on an average, all land less productive by one-tenth, and it deprives pro tanto the tenant of a part of the surplus which should remain to him, after paying his landlord, and for the natural outgoing of the farm. It obstructs the occupier in all his designs, and discourages him from laying out capital on land at present unproductive, lest he should have to share his gains with a person who has contributed nothing to the stock or to the risk. Besides bearing on the landlords, and on the occupying tenant, it falls heavily on the consumer, inasmuch as its effects are to cause a diminution of food, and a consequent advance of price in the market. As tithes have, on all occasions, borne hard upon the owners and the tenants of the soil, as well as of the consumers of the production of the land, the system has, from time to time, undergone modifications greater or less, in many of the countries where it has existed. Far be it from me, my Lords, to recommend those modes by which, in some places, the tithe has been removed on the principle of spoliation, and without an equivalent being paid to the Church to which it belonged; and I only allude to the modifications 1276 which hare taken place, for the purpose of showing that wherever the tax has been in operation, it has been dealt with according to the circumstances of the country. In some places, as I have said, the Church has been spoliated of its property; but this is an example to be avoided, and not to be imitated; in other places a different kind of property has been substituted for the tithes, and means have been taken to find an income for the clergy in another shape. The system of farming a public revenue, which has been sometimes done with tithes has always been productive of great inconvenience. It is uncertain and irregular in its operation. It cannot extend to a whole county in the same form and proportion. The amount to be collected is regulated by local customs, caprice, or the feelings of the persons entitled to the produce. In one district it is larger in amount than in another, and it is calculated to impress on those who are rated in a high proportion a sense of the injustice which has been done them. In some places, for instance, nine-tenths of the tithe is taken; in others only seven-tenths; and in others perhaps, but six-tenths; and to this must be added the vexations attending the collecting of it, consequently the man from whom the larger sum is exacted feels that a wrong has been done him, and he complains of the great injustice which he sustains, in comparison with that of his neighbour. I am aware, my Lords, that the great antiquity of the institution of tithes, associated as it has been with long habits, makes it, at least, a matter of hesitation to what extent the system should be interfered with in other countries; but I ask, my Lords, with what aggravated force, with what intolerable bearing do not those inconveniences press upon the particular condition of Ireland? In Ireland the Legislature has been repeatedly called upon to interfere to mitigate the evils flowing from the existence of the system. I will not occupy the time of the House, by any reference to the Acts of Parliament passed, both before and since the Union, in which the Legislature has assumed the power, or rather invested the Government of the day with a power, beyond the ordinary course of the law for the enforcement of tithes; I shall only allude to a measure which has been passed within the recollection of all of your Lordships—I mean the Tithe Composition Act. I lament, for the sake of the country, that 1277 at the time that Act was introduced it was not made compulsory; at the same time, I am bound to state, that I do not believe it was the fault of my noble friend who introduced the measure in this House that it was not made compulsory. If the Tithe Composition Act had then been made compulsory, we should have advanced a step forward, and the progress we are now called upon to make would have been rendered less difficult. I certainly shall not detain your Lordships by going through any considerable part of the evidence taken before the Committee; but I must beg leave to call your attention to the testimony given by one or two persons, in order to prove what they think as to the expediency and practicability of upholding the tithe system as it at present exists in Ireland. Allow me, first, to direct the attention of the House to the evidence of the Archbishop of Dublin, who had certainly no bias on his mind against the particular provision from which the clergy of the Established Church have derived their incomes; and, in adverting to the evidence of this distinguished Prelate, I must observe that I do not rely on his evidence alone, but on that of others given through him. I shall read the exact words of the right rev. Prelate, in which he states his opinion as to the impossibility of persevering in the present system. The emphatic words of the Archbishop of Dublin, as given in page 137 of the evidence, are these,But as for the continuance of the tithe system, it seems to me that it must be at the point of the bayonet—that it must be through a sort of chronic civil war. The ill feelings that have so long existed against it have been embodied in so organized a combination, that I conceive there would be continually breakings-out of resistance which must be kept down by a continuance of very severe measures, such as the Government might indeed resolve to have recourse to for once, if necessary, but would be very unwilling to resort to habitually, so as to keep the country under military government. And the most intelligent persons, and the mo3t experienced I have conversed with, seem to think that nothing else will permanently secure the payment of tithes under the present system.These, my Lords, are the sentiments of the Archbishop of Dublin, and they have been corroborated by the testimony of many clergymen of the Established Church, who were also examined before the Committee. I shall now show that those sentiments are 1278 not confined to the clergy, by reading the evidence of a layman connected, by situation and circumstances, with the Established Church in Ireland. I will quote the evidence of Mr. Grace, the Registrar of the Consistorial Court of the diocess of Ossory:—You have stated that the making the composition compulsory would be a very great benefit; you have stated also that the resistance to the tithes is the same in parishes where that Act is so now executed as in parishes where it is not. In what respect do you imagine that the making it compulsory would be beneficial?—I state my opinion that it would be beneficial merely as a preparatory step towards a commutation—the one, I conceive, could not be effectually obtained without ascertaining and fixing the other.You do not conceive it possible to come to a satisfactory arrangement by a temporary composition only, even if it were compulsory and universal?—No, I do not.You conceive that that must be the basis of a future commutation?—Yes.Do not you conceive that such a composition would afford a material, if not an indispensable, facility, for effecting an ulterior arrangement?—I conceive it is indispensable.He was subsequently asked, whether such a plan would be generally approved of by the clergy, and he stated, that he believed it would be generally acceptable to them. And, further, Mr. Grace has stated his decided opinion to be, that Ireland will never beat peace untilsomecommutation—such as an exchange of tithes for land—be effected. I have here only referred to the testimony of those two witnesses, as a sample of the evidence taken before the Committee, and which is now on your Lordships' Table. I feel that it would be quite premature, at this stage, to call upon the House to enter into details, or to adopt any particular plan. All that I call upon your Lordships now to do is, to sanction the principle adopted by your Committee in their Report. When, for the purpose of insuring and enforcing the collection of tithes, you are about to arm the Government with extraordinary powers, I ask, is it not fair and wise for your Lordships to look to what have been the effects of the system? Looking to the constantly recurring difficulties with which the collection of tithes has been attended in Ireland, aggravated, as these difficulties have been of late years, I ask, if you are satisfied that the extinction of that system is indispensable to the future peace and tranquillity of Ireland, whether you can hesitate in adopting the principle laid 1279 down in the Report of your Committee, and consenting that a great change shall be made? Your Lordships have seen that the whole machinery of the law, by which tithes are now recoverable, has become crazy and unfit for the purposes for which it was established. Attornies are not to be found to carry on the usual legal proceedings for tithes; and how can you be assured that they will hereafter be found? Even the tithe-proctors cannot be bribed in many parts of Ireland to undertake the collection; and if litigious and desperate Attornies are only to be found, and desperate and cruel proctors can only be selected, is it consistent with the peace of the country that the law should be administered by such instruments? Whether the sum due to the clergy should be raised in the nature of a rent-charge on the land, and the money paid, in the first instance, to Government, or whether a commutation should take place of the tithes for land, the Committee do not suggest. I may be allowed to observe, however, that the difficulties which suggest themselves to the latter proposition do not appear to me to be of an insurmountable character, as there are greater facilities for procuring land in lieu of tithes in Ireland, than, perhaps, exists in any other country. If your Lordships are of opinion that the commutation should be of this nature, I think the means of carrying such a commutation into effect may be found. On the other hand, if you think it wiser that the commutation should be in the nature of a rent-charge upon land, as now takes place in the case of many local and provincial taxes in Ireland, I do not conceive that such a plan presents any insurmountable difficulties; and the manner in which many other taxes are raised for local and public purposes, will afford facilities for carrying such an arrangement into effect, and raising a tax upon land in lieu of tithes. Contemplating all the evils which have occurred from the present system, it is for your Lordships to say whether you so far distrust your own power as legislators as to decide that you are not able to charge the land with a sum in lieu of tithes, or to provide in some other way for the subsistence of the 900 persons of which the parochial clergy of Ireland consists, by the adoption of a system which, if not perfect in itself, may at least be less objectionable than that which now prevails, with its crowd of civil-bill 1280 processes-tithe-proctors, appraisers, and all that complicated, expensive, and insufficient machinery, which is the frail foundation on which the Irish clergyman now depends for the receipt of his income. The mere simplification of that system would of itself be a great advantage; but if you adopt any system by which you get rid of the collision between the clergyman and his flock—always recollecting that the flock do not receive, or do not think they receive, any benefit from the services of the clergyman—it is impossible not to perceive that you will confer a great boon on the clergymau, and also on the country. I believe that if this great cause of collision was removed, from what we have seen of the conduct of the clergy in Ireland, they would be looked up to by the people with feelings of respect and attachment; and I have no doubt this would be the case, but for that perpetual grievance, as it is considered by the people, of being called upon to pay those from whom, in a spiritual sense, they receive no benefit. It is impossible for your Lordships not to see in what an independent condition the clergyman will be placed by a commutation of tithes, as compared with the mode in which he receives his income under the present system. He will be free from all the trouble and annoyance, of making ten or twelve collections in the course of a year: raising one part of his income by the tithe on potatoes, another by the tithe on flax, and so on through the different articles of agricultural produce. I say, my Lords, that, by such a commutation, you will place the clergyman in a situation in which he may hope for, and will doubtless possess the respect of his flock, at the same time that you give him far better security than any he now possesses, for the means of a respectable and decent subsistence. If you carry into effect such an arrangement in my opinion, my Lords, you will have effected a most glorious work; nor will it be altogether unprecedented, for your Lordships must recollect, that, in the time of Charles 2nd, tithes in Scotland were exchanged for land. Upon all those various considerations, then, the independence and respectability of the clergy, the improvement and tranquillity of Ireland, and the laying a foundation in that country for the exertions of industry, of which no country stands more in need, your Lordships are called upon to consider this question. I am satisfied that nothing will 1281 tend more to excite and stimulate industry in Ireland than a commutation like that which has been recommended in the Report of the Committee. I know that the clergy have not received their tithes in Ireland to the extent to which they were entitled. This, I feel, I am always bound to state, that there is no evidence which can lead us to suppose that in any instance the clergyman extorted more than his due; but all the evidence goes to prove, that the clergy generally received less than what they were entitled to. All the resistance—all the evil—then, has arisen from the radical defects of the system; and the Christian temper and endurance displayed by the clergy only goes to prove how bad must be the system, which, when thus administered, has produced so much evil. The alteration of such a system, I think, will entitle the Legislature to the gratitude of the country and of posterity. My Lords, I have now done. It gives me great pleasure to be the organ of the Committee, and, as such, to have had the honour of calling your attention to a subject on which, notwithstanding the heat arising from the difference which exists on political questions, I look for the absence of all party feeling—an absence which has sometimes distinguished the consideration of such questions in this House, and which has induced the House, as I trust it will on this occasion, to look to nothing but the adoption of measures tending to promote the peace and tranquillity of Ireland. I now beg leave to move the following Resolutions:—That it appears to this House that in several parts of Ireland an organised and systematic opposition has been made to the payment of tithes, by which the law has been rendered unavailing; and many of the clergymen of the Established Church have been reduced to great pecuniary distress.That, in order to afford relief to this distress, it is expedient that his Majesty should be empowered, upon application to the Lord Lieutenant or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland, to direct that there be issued from the Consolidated Fund such sums as may be required for this purpose.That the sums so issued shall be distributed by the Lord Lieutenant or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland, by and with the advice of the Privy Council, in advances proportioned to the in- 1282 comes of the incumbents of benefices, wherein the tithes or tithe composition lawfully due may have been withheld, according to a scale, diminishing as the incomes of such incumbents increase.That for the more effectual vindication of the authority of the law, and as a security for the repayment of the sums so to be advanced, his Majesty be empowered to levy, under the authority of an Act to be passed for the purpose, the amount of arrears for the tithes or tithe composition of the whole or any part of the year 1831, without prejudice to the claims of the clergy for any arrear which may be due for a longer period; reserving, in the first instance, the amount of such advances, and paying over the remaining balance to the legal claimants.That it is the opinion of this House that, with a view to secure both the interests of the Church and the lasting welfare of Ireland, a permanent change of system will be required; and that such a change, to be satisfactory and secure, must involve a complete extinction of tithes, including those belonging to lay impropriators, by commuting them for a charge upon land, or an exchange for, or investment in, land.
The Earl of Wicklow
did not rise to oppose the resolutions which had just been moved, nor was it his intention to follow the noble Marquis through the vast variety of topics on which he had touched, his object was, merely to make one or two observations, with their Lordships' permission, on the present condition of Ireland. In the present awful and alarming state of the country, he owned he could see no mode more effectual for relieving the clergy of Ireland than that recommended in the Report of the Committee. He was most anxious, too, that some measure should be adopted to establish the incomes of the clergy on a more secure and less obnoxious footing. At the same time he must express his disappointment at the statement which their Lordships had just heard. He regretted that they should be called upon to adopt a report recommending the total extinction of tithes, without any specific substitute being brought forward for the payment of the clergy in lieu of tithes. He would call the Report the Act of Government, for he found the same words in the Reports of both Houses. He had already said, that he considered a recommendation for the extinction of 1283 this species of property, without any recommendation of a substitute, as a very great evil. He had expected that, in the interval which had elapsed since the Report was brought forward, some progress would have been made, and that the noble Marquis would have been able to have given their Lordships a distinct notion of the measure which Government intended to bring forward. The House, however, was only called upon to approve of the Report, and to sanction the principle propounded by his Majesty's Government. In his opinion, the Committee had not entered into the difficult part of the question. The difficult part of the question was, the establishment of a permanent system, in lieu of tithes. As Government proposed to take upon itself the collection of the arrears now due, he hoped they would so far re-consider the subject, as not to allow the law for the recovery of the arrears to be confined to the one year referred to in the Report. The clergy were totally debarred from proceeding for the recovery of the arrears by the declaration of Parliament, and there must be a new law to enforce the payment. All the clergy could hope to recover was, this one year and nothing more. Now, what he asked was, that Government should have power to carry back the system they were about to adopt, and until a new law was enacted for placing the property in tithes on a permanent basis, that, the Government should have the power to levy the whole arrears. If such a law should be introduced, during the present Session, what difficulty was there in giving this additional advantage to those whom the noble Marquis so justly eulogised. Unless this was done, the clergy would have no income until the new system was carried into execution. It was admitted that the Crown was able to enforce payments from the people with greater facilities than individuals, and it was right, therefore, that the clergy, in this instance, should be sustained by the power of the Crown, until the Legislature agreed upon a permanent measure. Whilst on this subject, he must say, that he could not help being apprehensive, that, in the end, Government would not be disposed to enforce the payment of the arrears at all. They would probably consider that it was better to commence the new system with the concord and good will of the people, to let the agitation subside, and not to enforce 1284 payment of the arrears. That such a resolution would meet the approbation of the agitators in Ireland he doubted not, but he was convinced, that such a resolution would be detrimental to the security of all property in that country, and also to the property of the Established Church in England. He hoped, also, that Government would adopt some measure to remove the feeling which existed amongst the people of Ireland, as to the views of the Government on the subject of tithes. The Archbishop of Dublin stated, in his evidence, that he had heard of a Magistrate who said, "he would rather put his hand in the fire, than take part in enforcing a claim for tithes." That was the ground of a charge against the Magistracy of Ireland; but their Lordships would recollect that the Magistrates of Ireland were placed in a very peculiar and difficult situation. Captain Graham's name had been left out of the Commission—which was substantially the same as if he had been dismissed from the Magistracy—for his conduct at Newtonbarry; and yet, in the last newspaper he (Lord Wicklow) had seen, that on the trial of a man for that transaction at the assizes for Wexford, the Judge stated, that no imputation whatever rested on the conduct of Captain Graham. He begged to observe, that he had no acquaintance with that Gentleman, but he stood up in defence of the Magistracy of Ireland against what was stated in the evidence of the Archbishop of Dublin. He knew that the Magistrates thought they had not the hearty support of Government, and were consequently afraid to act with vigour. The Archbishop stated, in substance, that he attributed much of the success which had attended the resistance to the payment of tithes to the supineness of the Magistracy and police, and that their want of energy arose from an idea entertained by them, that the Government were not favourable to the cause, they, therefore, felt a difficulty in acting with promptitude; while it appeared, also, that there were not sufficient troops, and that the troops who were there did their duty with some degree of unwillingness, and seemed, according to the testimony of some of the witnesses, to be marching with ropes round their necks. The noble Marquis had quoted to them the opinions of the Archbishop of Dublin—that these tithes could not be collected but by the 1285 bayonet. That evening he had learned, that in some parishes the display of a small degree of vigour had procured the payment of every farthing that was due. That fact showed that the most rev. Prelate's opinion was not perfectly well founded with respect to all parts of Ireland. In fact, wherever a proper degree of vigour was exhibited on the part of the Government, resistance was put down; and he would further instance the case of the parish of Tullagh, near Dublin, as a proof that, when vigour was shown on the part of the Government by the employment of the military and the police, the resistance to the tithes was effectually and at once put down. He was quite certain that if the prompt measures taken in that instance by the Government had been employed earlier, and upon a larger scale, the evil would not have grown to its present magnitude. The great question, however, now was, what was the substitute proposed for the present law? It was not now laid before them; when it was likely they should have it he did not know. The noble Marquis had insinuated, two or three times over, the modes by which it was possible such a thing would be done. The first of these was to fix a charge on the land of the country; the other plan was, that of commuting tithes for land. Against the first of these he protested, for, in the present state of the country, a more injurious system could hardly be adopted. It would set the people at variance with the tended proprietors; it would place the latter in the situation of tithe proctors. In times of peace that might not be so injurious as at the present moment; but now, when the most angry spirit was existing throughout the country, he should much deplore such an act. The other plan of commuting tithes for land was by no means so injurious. It might appear difficult at first, but the difficulties would vanish when they were met with decided resolution. Every individual who was subject to the payment of tithes held his land in the way of a mortgage, and the law might oblige the whole country to pay the mortgage, and in that way there certainly would be no insuperable difficulty in the way of obtaining a commutation for tithes. But there was another point, to which neither the noble Marquis nor the Committee had alluded—it was with respect to the church cess. That cess was as much 1286 objected to in Ireland as the tithes. He trusted that, whatever plan might be adopted, it would comprise the church cess, so that the clergy would receive the amount of that as well as of the tithes. He begged to be understood as not offering by these remarks the smallest opposition to the resolutions of the noble Marquis.
The Bishop of London
said, that as one of the Members of the Committee from, whom the Report on this subject had emanated, he felt it his duty to say a few words in reply to some observations which had fallen from the noble Earl who had just sat down. The noble Earl said, that, in point of fact, the Report was not so much the Report of the Committee as the Report of his Majesty's Government. He begged leave to contradict that assertion of the noble Earl. It was essentially the Report of the Committee. As one of the Members of that Committee, he had put his name to it, and, unimportant as that name was, he certainly would not have affixed it to the Report unless he had cordially concurred in the whole of it. There possibly might be here or there a word in it, which he might think should be altered, but, in the substance of that Report he quite concurred. He had entered the Committee with a determination to do his duty, to inquire into the system, and report only according to the evidence. It was true, as the noble Earl had said, that the substantial parts of that report had been proposed to the Committee by the Government, which was the duty of the Government; but if he could refer the noble Earl to the proceedings which had taken place in the Committee, he should be able to show him, that so far from that Report having been submitted to, and adopted by them, without any thing like discussion or deliberation, as the noble Earl had said, the contrary was the case, and that the very word to which the noble Earl had so much objected was not in the original draught of the Report, but was afterwards introduced into it, and that, too, not at the instance of a Member of his Majesty's Government. This was not the proper occasion to enter into a discussion of the remedy which should be applied to the evils, as far as tithes were concerned, which afflicted the unfortunate country to which the Report of the Committee had reference. The noble Lord said, that the Report was not specific, and that it sug- 1287 gested no precise or particular remedy for the evils in question. As he viewed it, a precise remedy was offered, as far as the discussion of the subject at present could go. That remedy was, either to transfer the payment of tithes from the occupier of the land to the landowners, by making them a rent-charge upon the land, or to commute them for land to be purchased or given in exchange for them. It was not to be denied, that the project was a difficult one, but he could not see how it involved any principle of unfairness or injustice towards the landlords of Ireland. The landowner had no right to complain that he had to pay for the religious instruction of the country, for he inherited his property under such a condition, and he felt quite assured, that their Lordships, in extinguishing tithes, would not transfer to the landowners that to which, neither under the laws of the country nor the conditions of the hereditary succession of their properties, they were entitled.
was greatly surprised that the right reverend Prelate had not alluded, in the course of his observations, to that part of the noble Marquis's speech in which he had designated tithes as a tax. He remembered very well, some years ago, having heard a similar statement made once before by that noble Marquis; and he also recollected the correction which he then received from the noble Earl (Eldon) then on the Woolsack, who told the noble Marquis, that when a purchaser of land became the proprietor of it, he became, in fact and in law, the proprietor of only nine-tenths of it. That was a circumstance which their Lordships should always bear in mind in discussions of this kind. As regarded the question before the House, he (Lord Ellenborough), still thought, as he had expressed himself when the noble Marquis moved the appointment of the Committee, that his Majesty's Ministers ought, on their own ministerial authority, to have brought forward Resolutions, without any report or inquiry. It was indeed rather remarkable that the Report which the Committee had laid upon their Lordships' Table completely overthrew all the grounds on which it was granted. In the first place, when the noble Viscount moved for the Committee, he said, that if there was evidence of an undoubted organized system in Ireland to resist the payment of tithes, he would not have thought of call- 1288 ing for it. Now, the evidence distinctly proved, that, for a long time past, an organised system to resist the payment of tithes did exist in Ireland; and if such a system did actually prevail, it was all but impossible that Government was ignorant of it. The noble Marquis had argued, on the evidence of one of the witnesses examined by the Committee, in favour of the expediency of rendering the Composition Act compulsory. Unquestionably, the evidence of one of the witnesses had recommended such an enactment, but when the entire mass of the evidence was considered, it appeared that the resistance prevailed as much in those districts where composition was in force as in those in which it had not been introduced. The resistance was not to the mode of collecting the tithe: it was raised to the abstract principle. It might be recollected, that he had submitted this view of the subject to their Lordships when the Committee was proposed, and it had been amply substantiated by the evidence which had been examined. As to the proposed plan for remunerating the clergy of Ireland, by grants of the public money, he intreated their Lordships to pause before they adopted it, for it was impossible to say how soon they might be called upon to adopt the same course with respect to the clergy of England. If the principle of remunerating the clergy from the public funds in all cases where the payment of tithes was resisted, was established, there was no possibility of stating to what extent that resistance might proceed. He had expected that the Resolutions which the noble Marquis would propose, would tend to redeem the pledge which the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government had given, namely, that before their Lordships should be called upon to legislate on the subject, the authority of the law should be vindicated; but he was much surprised at not hearing, throughout the whole of the noble Marquis's speech, one word which could be construed into the redemption of that pledge. He thought the vindication of the authority of the law would have been put forward as a justification of the extraordinary measure which was about to be proposed; but in this expectation he was disappointed, and he could not avoid expressing his regret that it had not been placed in the foreground of the noble Marquis's address. He begged to remind their Lordships that 1289 they were then called upon to sanction a measure which, in all former times, and amid all kinds of disturbance, had not been deemed requisite. It was, indeed, a novel proposal to call upon Government to act the part of tithe-collectors. Even after the rebellion in 1798, when the tithe system was found particularly obnoxious, such a call had not been made on the Government of the country. Now, was it not of some importance to consider to what this state of things was owing? Of course, he did not mean to attribute its origin to the present Government, but it was rather singular, and deserved to be mentioned, that the state of things which called for such an extraordinary measure had grown up since the Administration of the noble Lords opposite. In every page of the evidence, it was shown that the combination to resist the payment of tithes commenced about ten days after those noble Lords had seated themselves on the Treasury Bench. It was said, that Government had no information on the subject of this combination. He really felt much difficulty in reconciling this statement with the evidence given before the Committee. Could they have been ignorant that, in the month of March, 1831, in one particular parish in Ireland, although the legal authorities were backed by a strong force, such was the effect of the combination, that not more than one-third of the tithe could be collected? They must have been cognizant of that circumstance. Ministers must have been as fully aware of the inadequacy of the law last April as they were at the present moment; and it appeared that, between the latter month and June, they had received information which ought to have induced them to have brought some measure before Parliament; and yet nothing was done. Ministers could not have been ignorant of the then state of Ireland; if they did not see the ordinary reports of what was passing in that country, could there have been any difficulty in collecting distinct reports from the magistracy of the country, or from the Superintendents of Police in all those districts where the disturbances prevailed? This information they were, or ought to have been, in possession of: and they ought to have come to Parliament for the purpose of obtaining legislative interference on behalf of those whose property was assailed. It appeared, too, that so 1290 far back as this time twelvemonth, a degree of resistance had been manifested in different parts of Ireland, which called upon the Government at once to come forward with some measure to put an end to it. So long since as July last, the Government knew that there was an opinion prevailing among the people of Ireland—a groundless idea, undoubtedly—that his Majesty's Government were inclined to put down tithes, and that they did not seem entirely to disapprove of the resistance which was made to the payment of them. That fact was distinctly brought to the notice of his Majesty's Government more than once; and so late as November last, it appeared that the clergy of the diocese of Armagh, who had previously presented a memorial to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to which a satisfactory answer had been given, expressed their opinion to the noble Marquis at the head of the Irish Government, that if he would make known, by proclamation, merely what he had said in answer to their memorial, it would have a most tranquillizing and beneficial effect. He was astonished that such a request was not complied with—he was really astonished that when his Majesty's Government knew the mistaken notion entertained by the people of Ireland as to tithes, and as to the disposition of the Government, that, in order to undeceive the people, they did not adopt so wise a course as that of declaring, by proclamation, what was the state of the law, and of expressing their determination to carry its provisions into full effect. With respect to the measures actually taken by Government to suppress the resistance made to the payment of tithes, none were adopted which had any beneficial effect, notwithstanding the subject was constantly urged upon their attention: and it was not until the 7th of February, of this year, that the noble Earl, for the first time, bestirred himself, when he came down to this House, and, in very emphatic language, and in a most statesmanlike manner, declared that it was necessary, in the first instance, to vindicate the law, and then to take into consideration what measures were proper to be adopted, to prevent the recurrence of those disturbances which made such interference on the part of the Government necessary. With respect to the Resolutions proposed by the noble Marquis, he could only state that, as far as they went to vindicate the 1291 authority of the law, they had his entire concurrence; but he had ample evidence for saying, that if ministers had complied with the earnest calls made upon them, and had, at an earlier period, come down to Parliament for additional powers to enforce the law, many of those scenes of agitation which had occurred in Ireland would never have taken place, and that country might now have been in a state of comparative tranquillity; at any rate, their Lordships would not now have been called upon to do what was unparalleled in the history of legislation, namely, to make the Executive Government the tithe-collector of Ireland. He confessed, he was greatly surprised to hear the third Resolution which had been proposed. He certainly had expected that the Resolutions would have gone merely to declare the determination to vindicate the authority of the law; or otherwise, that the noble Marquis would have proposed a plan for affording some relief to the clergy of Ireland; but the present Resolutions, so far as they were prospective, took him by surprise. He could not think that the noble Marquis would comprise in his Resolutions that part of the Report of the Committee which related to a prospective remedy. Neither Government nor the Committee itself, had come to any conclusion upon that part of the subject; for they were still proceeding to take evidence in reference to it. It seemed to him, therefore, premature for Parliament to be called upon to pledge itself upon the subject; that was to say, upon one of two propositions which might possibly be hereafter submitted to them. The noble Marquis stated, that he had no doubt Government would present to Parliament some measure for effecting that object; but he was not prepared to join in giving a formal and distinct pledge upon a subject of the greatest possible importance, merely because he might happen to entertain a high opinion of the fertile invention of the members of Government. It was, therefore, with reluctance that he allowed these Resolutions to pass.
The Marquis of Lansdown
said, that if the noble Baron had attended to his speech he would not have accused him of having termed tithes a tax and not a property. If he had applied the term "tax" to tithes, it was merely for the purpose of contrasting them with other property which did not come under that head. The noble Baron 1292 had also accused him of omitting to speak of vindicating the authority of the law. Such was not the case. He had, in the first place, in the course of his speech, distinctly stated, that it became both Government and Parliament to vindicate the authority of the law; and, in the second place, the necessity of such a vindication formed a part of the Resolutions he had proposed. If speaking in favour of and founding a Motion upon the necessity of vindicating the authority of the law, was not to be considered a redemption of the pledge which his noble friend had given, he knew not what was to be so considered.
admitted, that the words "vindicate the authority of the law," were mentioned in the Resolution, and had been mentioned in the speech of the noble Marquis; but he contended, that this should have been placed in a most conspicuous manner, indeed in the foreground of the Resolutions, and that it should have been offered by the noble Marquis as the best argument and sole justification of the extraordinary measure which he was about to propose. As to the noble Marquis's denial of having applied the term tax to tithes, he would only state, that it had been used throughout the noble Marquis's speech.
§ Viscount Melbourne
wished to say a few words in consequence of the observations which had been made by the noble Lord (Lord Ellenborough), and which, though they appeared to him to be of no weight, should not go without an answer. Undoubtedly it was the duty of the Government to bring forward measures on its responsibility when they were required; but then there were occasions of such paramount importance, and this was one of them, upon which it was the duty of the Government to fortify itself by inquiry, and by the authority of a Committee. If they had nothing more in view than to vindicate the authority of the law and to enforce the rights of the clergy in Ireland, he should say, that these were measures which it was the duty of Government to effect upon its own responsibility; but when it was considered that ulterior measures of a much more important nature were contemplated, when it was asserted, that they were imperatively necessary, when not the mere recovery of arrears of tithes only, but the actual existence of tithes themselves as a means of providing for the clergy was the subject to be dealt with, he did say, that question was of such magnitude, that it ought to be submitted 1293 to a Committee, to decide what measures should be taken, and it was necessary that Ministers should have their own opinions corroborated by the examination of witnesses before they produced whatever plans it might be proper to adopt. The noble Lord had been pleased to say, that the evidence taken before the Committee had shewn the previous opinions held by Government to be ill-founded. If that was really the case, it was one proof they had decided right when a Committee was appointed, as the result had enlightened their minds by the information they had obtained. The noble Lord further said, that the Government should have taken earlier measures to put down the resistance to the payment of tithes in Ireland, and that knowing of the existence of that resistance, it should have come down to that House at a much earlier period with measures of this description.
did not recollect to have made any such statement. What he had said, was, that if Ministers, instead of deferring to bring before Parliament the consideration of the question until summary measures were absolutely necessary, had come down when the evidence of a combination to resist the collection of tithes was before them, a much weaker measure, indeed weaker than that which was enacted after the Rebellion of 1798, would have answered, instead of the extreme measure which they then found themselves under the necessity of demanding.
§ Viscount Melbourne
had a perfect recollection of the noble Baron's having said, that within ten days after their accession to office the combination had commenced. But the very shortness of the time stated, was a sufficient proof they had had nothing to do with it. The seeds of resistance must have been scattered abroad long before they came into office. This was a conclusion in which the noble Lord himself must coincide, though the Ministers were not justified in making that resistance the ground of any extraordinary measures until they had clearly and fully ascertained, that the ordinary means afforded by the law to secure the collection of tithes were insufficient for that purpose. If Government had done so, he very much questioned whether they would have received the support of the noble Baron. It was said, that the remedial measure to be substituted for the abolition of tithes was not sufficiently distinct and defined. 1294 With respect to this, he had only to say, that the principle of that remedial measure was perfectly distinct and defined.
§ Viscount Melbourne.
—That henceforth the payment of the clergy should be provided out of the land itself, or a charge upon the land. This was the principle, and it was distinctly laid down. The machinery by which it was intended to carry this principle into operation unquestionably was not declared, nor did he think it would have been fitting to have declared it until the principle was agreed to. As he did not perceive much likelihood of opposition to the Resolution, he would not trouble the House with further observations.
§ The Duke of Wellington
entirely concurred with the noble Viscount in thinking that the House had derived some advantage from the appointment of the Select Committee. He regretted much that he had not been so fortunate as to have attended that Committee, for he thought he should have addressed their Lordships on. the present occasion with much more confidence, knowing, as he did, the importance of their Lordships' decision on the Motion before them, not only as it referred to the Church of Ireland, but of England, if he had had the advantage of hearing the opinions of those distinguished Prelates who had given their evidence before the Committee. Had he heard that evidence he should, perhaps, have been better able to judge whether there was aught in the proposed plan, likely to affect or injure their interests. However, as he had heard the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) who had just declared his approbation of the proposed plan, which approbation was not dissented from by any of the right rev. Prelates who sat near him; he conceived that the measure proposed, as far as it went, did meet with their approbation, and consequently, that the House might proceed with confidence to take it into consideration, as being approved of by them. He likewise conceived that the Report of the Committee laid open to their Lordships, not only the state of distress of the clergy of Ireland, which was so well described by the noble Marquis, and the extent to which the combination prevailed, but likewise the unanimous opinion of the Committee as to its origin. The noble Marquis in his speech had said, (and he, the Duke of Wellington, begged 1295 to remark, that in so saying, the noble Marquis had only done justice to the individuals to whom he alluded), that the organized combination to resist the collection of tithes was not attributable to the clergy of Ireland, nor was it attributable to the non-compulsive principle of the Composition Act. He (the Duke of Wellington) would tell their Lordships to what source the existing state of things in Ireland was to be attributed. It was to the system of agitation established there by persons who never would let it be quiet as long as the noble Lord opposite would permit them to continue that agitation. It was idle to hope that any relief from the payment of tithes would tranquillize Ireland. Their Lordships might rest satisfied, that disturbance and agitation would be carried on even after the passing of the present measure, unless means were taken effectually to put an end to that plan of organized agitation which was openly avowed to exist among a certain class of the people. He had hoped that means would have been taken to put an end to this system, as well as to the system of tithes, and indeed it was as much if not more required. What did the Report of their Lordships' Committee clearly show? Why, that the property in tithes was nearly annihilated in Ireland, and that the system of agitation which prevailed there had almost totally destroyed the prosperity of that highly-favoured country. As to the subject then under consideration, he thought it was essentially necessary that measures should be adopted for vindicating the law. That ought to be a primary consideration. There was one point to which he felt anxious to direct attention. From the evidence taken before the Committee, it appeared, that, in some instances the clergymen in parishes in which the Composition Act was in force, had found it impossible to collect their tithes for several years. It was admitted that the Government had greater advantages in recovering tithes than the clergy; and he therefore regretted, that their attempts should be limited to recovering the arrears for the year 1831. He begged to ask, whether the Government had not some sympathy for those unfortunate clergymen who lost their property, not only in the year 1831, but also for a great part of the year 1829, and the whole of the year 1830? He wished to know, whether there were not some suggestions made in the course of the examinations before the Committee, 1296 which might with propriety, be adopted to enable the clergy, whether their livings were under the influence of the Tithe Composition Act or not, to recover their arrears, even if it should not be thought proper for Government to recover them? This was not the only omission which characterized that part of the measure. He should have wished that the noble Marquis had been a little more explicit with regard to the expense of recovering these tithes by means of the Officers of the Government. It surely could not be intended, first of all, that the clergyman should lose his property for two or three years; then, that he should be paid a small proportion only of that property; and lastly, that he should be called upon to discharge the full expenses incurred by Government in recovering for him that part. But he confessed, that, although he was disposed to support Government in many, if not in all, of the plans which they proposed to adopt on this subject, he certainly felt great objection to the last Resolution. The only distinct proposition contained in that Resolution was, the principle that an extinction of tithes in Ireland was desirable. It was true that the Resolution stated, that it was intended to provide for the clergy by some other mode. But how was this to be done? The noble Marquis said, either by imposing upon the landlord a rent-charge, or else by purchasing land in lieu of tithes. But he wished to be informed, whether there was no injustice in fixing upon the landlord the payment of the tithe? Was it quite clear, that he would be able to recover his tithe from the occupier of the land from whom the payment was now due? Or was it quite clear, that although he might be able, that he would be inclined to exercise his power? Was it right or fair to impose upon the landlord the obligation of making this payment, without insuring to him the means of repayment. He understood perfectly the right of Parliament to force him to make this payment upon all future bargains for leases of land; but when Parliament imposed upon a landlord who had leased out all his property to individuals, the payment of the tithes due from those individuals, and left him to recover the repayment from his tenants as he could, it imposed upon him a most grievous hardship; for it might possibly happen that the tenantry might be unable, or might refuse to pay the tithe, and then the landlord could 1297 only indemnify himself by the vexatious and dilatory process of the law. The other plan suggested, was the purchase of land. To that he did not see much objection, provided it met with the approbation of the right rev. Prelates. But the consequence growing out of that system would be, that the Government must continue to collect the tithes of the clergy. Either the Government must continue to collect them, or throw the collection upon the landlord; and in either way it was involved in considerable difficulty. This would be the case, even, as applied to this country; but when such a system was adopted in Ireland, where there existed between the landlord and the occupier of the soil, two, three, or four intermediate tenants, or middle-men, the difficulty would become so great as to amount almost to an impossibility. This was not his opinion only, for, if their Lordships would refer to the evidence given before the Committee, they would observe, that the same sentiments were expressed in several places. He should have been better pleased if the last Resolution had not been proposed until the Committee and the Government, were prepared with a detailed plan to carry the extinction of tithes in Ireland into execution. He should have preferred had the House not been called upon at present to vote upon that Resolution, for he felt they were going to hold forth to the people of Ireland the notion, that a system of relief was about to be adopted, which they would hereafter find it impossible to carry into execution. They might go as far as the first part of the Resolution. He thought they could enforce, in every instance, an arrangement under the Composition Act; but if they endeavoured to go further without a matured plan for carrying it into effect, it would only afford fresh ground for agitation, and for the dissemination of that spirit of dissatisfaction and discord to which he had already alluded. Under these circumstances, although he certainly meant to support the Government in all those measures which, under the particular circumstances in which Ireland was placed, were imperatively called for, he should wish that their Lordships should not be required to vote on the last Resolution.
said, he had very great objections to that part of the plan which made Government the collectors of tithes; for, if the Executive were once to enter 1298 on such a task, they must go on with it. It was easy for the noble Duke to say that the law must be enforced, and, in ordinary cases, it was generally not difficult to enforce it; but, when a whole nation rose up against it, the case was different—it then fell to the ground, and the vindication of the law could only be effected by conquest. A right reverend Prelate, who had given evidence before the Committee, declared, that by a military force only could tithes be collected: if so, those Resolutions were something like declaring war against the people of Ireland. He entreated their Lordships to pause before they consented to Resolutions having such a character. He would readily allow that the general principle of tithes was most objectionable—it operated injuriously on the landlord, and all persons engaged in agriculture; it frequently prevented capital being employed in the cultivation of the soil, and thereby restricted the employment of labourers. He therefore, had no objection to the extinction of tithes in Ireland, upon principle, although he wished fully to understand what provision was to be made for the clergy, before their incomes were to be taken from them. He agreed with the noble Duke that Government ought to give a more definite plan of what they would substitute in the place of tithes; for, undoubtedly, the opposition to the existing system was spreading in all directions throughout Ireland.
§ The Earl of Eldon
said, that when a measure was brought forward which went directly to the annihilation of Church property, and when they were not even told, by those who brought such a measure forward, what they would substitute for that property, he was very much disappointed not to see a single Member of the right reverend Bench rise to defend the interests of the Church, now so vitally at stake, and to protest against a measure of such a description as the present. There was no argument which applied to the extinction of Church property in Ireland but what was equally cogent for the same purpose, if directed against Church property in England. He thanked his God, however, that he should not be amongst either the ecclesiastical or the lay supporters of this Motion; that he would not give his assent (his opposition, he saw, would be useless) to a measure which went to deprive the Ministers of the united Church of England and Ireland of that which constituted their en- 1299 tire support, and to which they had as much right as there existed to any lay property in any part of England. It was perfectly absurd to suppose that what would take place in Ireland in this instance would not be sure afterwards to take place in England also. His long life had been thrown away in supporting the interests of the united Church of this empire, if those to whom the interests of that Church were intrusted did not come forward to protect them, when a measure was proposed which extinguished Church property, unaccompanied by a plan providing a substitute for it. He so entirely despaired of support for the Church of Ireland from that quarter from which it should be expected, and to whose support it was entitled, that he begged to intimate to their Lordships that the humble individual who now addressed them would give them no further trouble on this subject.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
had always felt the obligations which the Church of England was under to the noble and learned Lord who had just addressed the House. He was obliged to him for the defence of the interests of the Church which he had that evening made, although he must say, that, in the conclusion of his speech, the noble and learned Lord had made an attack upon the representatives of the Church which was utterly unfounded. The noble and learned Lord asserted, almost in direct terms, that, because the Bishops had not opposed the Resolutions which had been submitted to the House by the noble Marquis, the President of the Council, they must be considered to have abandoned the interests of the Church. If their Lordships would bear with him for a short time, he would very briefly state what had been his view of the subject, as well as the motives which had influenced his conduct upon it. He perfectly agreed with the noble Duke who spoke before the noble and learned Earl, that the immediate cause of the resistance in Ireland to the payment of tithes, at the present moment, was to be found in a well-organized combination, supported from various quarters. That combined system of resistance the Government had exerted itself to put down; but the existing laws of the country were not found to be sufficient to enable it to do so. It became necessary, then, that other laws should be made, or, at least, that some new regulations should be adopted, to prevent a continuance of the 1300 mischievous consequences which resulted from the opposition to the existing tithe system. With that view a Committee was appointed, who were to institute inquiries into the subject, and report upon it. It appeared, from the Report of that Committee, that the existing mode of collecting the tithes in Ireland was a great grievance. For, although not more than half of the tithes collected reached the clergy, yet the mode of collection was vexatious and harassing in the extreme to the tithe-payer. Perhaps one cause of the existing evil was, the difficulty which stood in the way of enforcing the law with respect to the recovery of tithes; for it was well known that where there was a certain and speedy mode of recovering any just demand, there it was not probable that the payment of it would be resisted. He apprehended, from all the evidence which had been taken before the Committee, that the Tithe Composition Act had been received as a great benefit by the people of Ireland generally, not only on account of the relief which it afforded from the tithe proctors, but also because it compelled a more equal distribution of tithe than had previously existed. Although some resistance had been made to it by some of the landed proprietors, yet it appeared to have been received as a great benefit, and to have had a very soothing effect on the peasantry of Ireland. It appeared, in fact, that, in every parish in which a composition of tithe took place, tranquillity and harmony had prevailed. He need not say the reverse was the case in parishes where a composition had not been entered into. He could not bring himself to speak of the conduct of many of those from whom a different course might have been peculiarly expected, but who had contributed to prevent the beneficial effects of that Act. It was clear that the Composition Act would have answered every purpose for which it was framed, if it had been universally adopted throughout Ireland. The state to which it appeared that many of the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland had been reduced was almost beyond expression. Many who depended solely on the emoluments of their livings had been reduced to want the absolute necessaries of life. Many had been obliged to part with their household goods, and were left in a condition of utter destitution. It was true, that some had been relieved by the kindness of friends, and that others had been enabled to raise 1301 money on the hope of recovering at least a portion of the proceeds of their respective benefices; but, in general, their condition was lamentable. He certainly wished that a greater measure of relief could have been dealt to them, than that which was proposed by the Committee; but, under all the circumstances, he was satisfied with their receiving one year's amount of tithe from the hands of Government, although he was afraid the clergy would find infinite difficulty in recovering any further part of the arrears due to them. Thence came the Resolutions which the noble Marquis had moved. With respect to the third of them—against which so much had been said by the noble Lords on the opposite side of the House, and for supporting which, he and his right reverend brethren had been so severely reproached—all he could say was, that he considered it fully warranted by the necessity of the case. It was an acknowledged fact that, in times of disturbance in Ireland, the first object of attack Was the revenue of the Church—the payment of the tithe was invariably resisted. It occurred to him, then, that, by placing the property of the Church on a more secure footing, Parliament would be conferring a very great benefit, not only on the Church, but on the people of Ireland. To effect that, the first thing that he would do was, the first thing these resolutions proposed to do—viz., to introduce some measure which should make the composition for tithe universal. Three-fifths of the country had acceded to the Tithe Composition Act, and he wished that the other two-fifths should be placed in a similar situation. If this were done, both the clergy and the people would find themselves in a much better situation than they were at present. That ought to be the first step, and a most desirable one it would be. There would afterwards be no difficulty, or very little difficulty, in taking into consideration whether the clergy should be permanently provided for by a charge on land, or in any other manner which might appear most desirable. By pursuing this course, he hoped they would be able to secure the peace and tranquillity of the country. While he made these observations, he must be allowed to state that he would never consent to give up the property of the Church. He should always assert and maintain his conviction, that the Church had as much right to its property as any other body of men in the 1302 country had a right to their property; but if the mode of obtaining that property was found to be generally inconvenient, both to the people and to the Church itself, and if a full compensation were made for it, he really could not see how he was betraying the interest of the Church, which it had been stated it was his peculiar duty to defend in consenting to such a measure. He should not hesitate, therefore, to support the Resolutions which had been moved. It was not his intention to have said a single word upon the subject that evening, but having been alluded to so pointedly by the noble and learned Earl, to whose opinions upon such matters he had always been disposed to bow with respect, he felt himself called upon to offer a few observations in the way of explanation.
The Earl of Caledon
said, he felt called upon as a Member of the Committee to declare that, whatever the merits or demerits of the Report might be, they belonged to the Committee alone. They were wholly uninfluenced in their decision by his Majesty's Ministers.
The Earl of Wicklow
observed, that a large proportion of the Members of the Committee were the friends of his Majesty's Government, and he must be permitted to remark, as a strange circumstance, that the term "extinction of tithes" was to be found in the Reports of the Committees of both Houses. He also wished for some explanation as to the insinuation which had been thrown out by the most reverend Prelate with respect to the conduct of the clergy of Ireland with reference to the Composition Act
The Earl of Caledon
said, that the introduction of the word "extinction" in the Report of their Lordships' Committee, had been proposed by the Earl of Harrowby.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
observed, that the last resolution said too little and too much. Their Lordships' attention was directed to a commutation of tithes, founded on two plans, but no Member of the Committee had stated that they had come to a decision on either of these plans. He should be glad to know what plan the noble Marquis meant to propose? It would have been whimsical enough if the noble Marquis had called on the House to pledge itself to either of these two plans; but it was more whimsical when it was not demanded of them to support either the one or the other, to come down and request their Lordships to pledge themselves, without 1303 delay, to the extinction of tithes, on one of two principles, neither of which the Government themselves had declared that they had adopted. Might there not, he would ask, arise a third plan in the course of the discussion which was yet going on in the Committee? And if that happened to be the case, the effect of the present vote would be neither more nor less than to stultify the House with reference to its future proceedings on this question.
The Archbishop of Canterbury,
in reference to what had fallen from a noble Earl, disclaimed throwing any imputation on the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland, as having been instrumental in getting up a conspiracy against the Composition Act.
The Marquis of Lansdown
said, it was impossible for any individual to think that any observation which had fallen from the most reverend Prelate conveyed, or could convey, the idea that the resistance to tithes originated in the conduct of the clergy of the Established Church. It had been asserted in the course of the discussion that these resolutions ought to be considered as merely emanating from the King's Government, and not as the work of the Committee. The fact, however, was otherwise. The Committee was not partially selected, but was composed of individuals who held a variety of opinions. It ought particularly to be observed, that the proposition for the abolition of tithes did not originate with the Government, but came from a noble Earl who was not in the Administration. The noble Duke had said, that to throw the burthen of providing for the clergy on the land would be exceedingly unjust. He agreed in the abstract proposition. It would, he admitted, be unjust, unless that measure were accompanied by some arrangement that would satisfy, as much as possible, the landed proprietor. The collection of the tithe in Ireland had always been the great point of difficulty; and if they could induce persons to undertake the collection of what was necessary for the clergy—if they could induce individuals to come forward, who might collect it in safety, and without any injustice to the clergy—he conceived that they would effect a great and most beneficial object. If they could throw that duty on the landlord, by undertaking that he should derive a considerable advantage from the collection, and that at the same time the clergy should be fairly provided for, he 1304 thought that the evils of the present system would be avoided. The Committee then took into their consideration what prospect there was of attaining this end by commutation, for by commutation only could it be effected. Now he would say to the noble Duke, that if it were not for the demand made by the country, and which grew out of its present lamentable situation, he would be the last man in the House to call on their Lordships to state their opinion or to interfere with this question. But when imperious circumstances called for the expression of their opinion, it was their duty to state it, however harshly it might be received, or however unfairly represented. The great object of Ministers was not merely to extinguish tithe, but to prevent, in future, that direct collision between the tithe-payer and the clergyman which had produced so much evil. He was anxious that there should appear on the part of the House a determination to take up this question with a view to an equitable accommodation, not resting on the two plans to which the noble Earl had alluded, and, as he had said, leaving their Lordships to be stultified by the occurrence of a third. No; he wished that accommodation to be proposed, after looking with care and assiduity to all the various modes in which the amount and value of tithes could be taken from the land; and, let it not be forgotten, that from the land, and from the land only, it could be taken. He thought that the noble Earl would himself admit, that the individual must be completely stultified who would look to any resource beyond the land for the necessary provision. This was the principle on which the Report of the Committee proceeded. The noble Earl had censured the Committee for not having adopted one of the plans to which he had referred. Now he took no shame to himself that the Committee had not yet been able to come to a decision on these important points. Most rash would it have been on the part of that Committee, if, before they had closed their labours, they had come down and asked of their Lordships to give a preference to one of those plans. All they had wished to do was, to state their opinion that the burthen should be placed on the land, for the purpose of preventing that collision between the clergyman and the tithe-payer, which was unavoidable at present, and which every one of their Lordships must, deeply lament.
§ The Duke of Wellington
assured the noble Marquis that he did not mean to oppose the commutation of tithe, if it could be shown that such a measure could be adopted with advantage to the parties chiefly interested, but he had yet seen no proof that such an object could be obtained by either of the plans proposed.
§ Resolutions then agreed to.
§ The following Protest was entered against the last Resolution for the extinction of Tithes in Ireland:—
§ "DISSENTIENT.—Because no sufficient security is given in that Resolution, nor was any sufficient explanation given in debate by any Spiritual or Temporal Lord, to satisfy our minds that, when the House was called upon to sanction the extinction of Tithes, any safe or adequate substitute would be provided for the clergy in their stead.
- H. EXETER.
- GASCOYNE SALISBURY."