HL Deb 11 July 1833 vol 19 cc550-6
The Archbishop of Canterbury

presented a Petition from the Archdeacon and clergy of the diocese of Limerick, against the Irish Church Reform Bill; and a similar Petition from the clergy of the diocese of Armagh. At the head of the signatures to the latter petition was that of the Archbishop of Armagh. He was anxious to call their Lordships' attention to this petition, because a rumour had gone forth, that the right reverend Prelate, had taken an active part in the changes to be made in the temporalities of the Irish Church, and because some of the clauses of the Bill upon that subject had been ascribed to him. He could state, were it necessary, the manner in which that most reverend Prelate had met the propositions of his Majesty's Government, and what were the concessions and sacrifices which, tinder the difficulties and dangers which surrounded the Irish branch of the Church, he and the clergymen, who signed the petition, thought might safely and reasonably be made. But, conscious of his inability to state their sentiments so clearly and forcibly, so correctly and so eloquently, as was done in the petition, he should read a few passages, from which it would appear, how far the most reverend Prelate alluded to, and the rest of the petitioners, agreed with the provisions of the Bill, and in what respect they disapproved of them. The most reverend Prelate read the petition, which stated, that the petitioners would not oppose a consolidation of a certain number of bishoprics, the revenues of which should be applied to diminish the tax upon the clergy; but implored their Lordships not to reduce them to the extent contemplated by the Bill. They prayed the House not to suspend the appointment of incumbents in parishes where divine service had not been performed for three years. To the sentiments of the petitioners he gave his most unqualified approbation, as he did to the moderation and piety shown by them, in their desire to correct the abuses of the Church, and to adopt such improvements as they thought consistent with the existence of the pure Christian faith.

Petition to lie on the Table.

The Duke of Wellington,

in presenting two Petitions from the clergy of the diocese of Clogher, and from the diocese of Cloyne, against the Church Temporalities' (Ireland) Bill, said, that although he should have another opportunity of stating his opinion of that Bill, still he could not present that petition without stating, that he considered it utterly inconsistent with the policy of the country since the period of the Reformation; but more especially that it was inconsistent with the policy of the country since the Revolution. Since the period of the Revolution, it had been the uniform object of the Parliament to maintain the Protestant Established Church in Ireland, in all its integrity. That object was clearly shown in latter times—in the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828, and to that greater measure which was introduced the year following—the measure of Catholic Emancipation. In both of those measures it was easily to be seen, that the first object of Parliament was to maintain, as far as possible, the Protestant religion in Ireland as established at the Union. Yet now a measure of reform in that Church was proposed to them, which was contrary to all former policy, and which, he would maintain, was the necessary consequence of the measure of last year—a measure which he could not cease to deplore. At the period of the Union, the Protestant inhabitants of Ireland had been told, that they were then a minority in a country, in which the majority of the people was of a different religion; but that, by consenting to the Union, they would become a part of the majority, and would acquire some advantages, of which they had been deprived from the period of the Reformation till that time. But how was this Bill consistent with that declaration, and with the Act of Union itself, which declared that the Churches of the two countries were united? If he thought it necessary to refer to further evidence, that this Bill was contrary to the policy of the country, he might add, that it was impossible to maintain the Coronation Oath in its integrity, if that Bill received the Royal assent. His Majesty positively swears at his Coronation, that he will maintain inviolate all the principles and Temporalities of the Church of England, and no one would deny, that the property of the Church was vested in the Church; and, therefore, that the Bill before the House, was diametrically opposed to the very spirit of that Oath. He could not draw a distinction between the Legislative and Executive capacity of his Majesty. He thought, that an oath was as binding in the one as the other; and he would defy any man to show that his Majesty could, by any possibility, give his assent to that Bill, or any one containing such provisions. He would ask the House, whether the King's consent to the introduction of such a Bill as this, was a Legislative or an Executive act? In his opinion, it was an act of his Executive power. He had before stated several reasons to justify the assertion, that this measure was altogether opposed to the policy hitherto pursued by this country. That oath was another evidence that such was the policy of the country at the time it was framed, and that policy ought never to be departed from.

Earl Grey

said, their Lordships would certainly have, as the noble Duke had stated, a more convenient and suitable opportunity for discussing both the principle and the details of the measure, against which the petitions were directed, than was afforded by the presentation of them; and he must regret that his Grace did not think it right and proper to postpone till then those observations which he had deemed it proper to make. Feeling that this was not a convenient opportunity for discussing the question, he should be disposed to pass over what the noble Duke had said, but he thought that such a course would not be consistent with that duty, which called on him to vindicate this measure, from what he conceived to be the erroneous description given of it. He could not refrain from offering one or two observations on what had fallen from the noble Duke. The noble Duke had stated, that this was a measure inconsistent with the policy which had been pursued by this country from the Reformation, and more particularly inconsistent with the policy pursued from the Revolution to the present time; and then, having given this character to the measure, the noble Duke objected to it in toto, not only to its provisions and details, but also to its principle. The noble Duke, it appeared, was prepared to oppose it on the second reading, on its principle, as inconsistent with the policy which his Majesty's Government had uniformly pursued. It was not for him to find fault with the view which the noble Duke took of this subject. The noble Duke would, undoubtedly, act on his opinion, but he might be allowed to state and to contend—to state then, and to contend hereafter-that this Bill was not inconsistent with the policy which this Government had uniformly adopted—namely, that of maintaining, from a strong sense of duty, the Protestant establishment. When the Bill came under discussion, he should be prepared to show, that it was founded on a sincere and honest attachment to the Church of England and Ireland, united as they were by law; he should be prepared to show that it was intended to strengthen and support that Church; that it did not at all deserve the character which had been given to it; and that, if it were carried into a law, it would be found not inconsistent with, but eminently conducive to, the best interests of the Protestant Church. He had heard, in some respects with surprise, the petition recently presented from the Lord Primate of Ireland, and other distinguished members of the Protestant Church—he had heard it also with very great pleasure, on account of the tone of moderation in which that petition was framed, and which well deserved the praise which had been given to it by the most reverend Prelate. That petition, so far from taking the general view which the noble Duke had done, as to the policy of the measure, seemed to allow, if he were not mistaken, that the principle of the Bill might be admitted, and that the objections were principally directed against its provisions and details. He stated, therefore—and he could state with confidence—that when this Bill came to be examined, it would appear not to be a measure of spoliation, as a noble Duke opposite (Buckingham) had designated it on a former evening. It would take nothing from the Church, and it proceeded on a principle which he maintained would be found useful and advantageous to the Church. It was not, he repeated, a Bill of spoliation, nor was it opposed to the policy of the country, nor did it in any manner militate against that duty, the obligation of which they all acknowledged—that of supporting the Protestant Church. On the contrary, the Bill had been carefully framed, with a view to the removal of those defects, which the enemies of the Church continually pointed at, as proofs that the Church ought not to be preserved. He should say no more on this general ground, but he should be ready, at the proper time, to meet the noble Duke's objections, and defend the principle of the measure; and he trusted that the measure would be discussed calmly and dispassionately—without any mixture of angry or party feeling—without acrimony, without animosity. Such feelings, though never to be indulged in, should be most especially avoided in considering a measure of such an important nature. He would say nothing more—but content himself with saying, that he should not have thought of proposing the measure to their Lordships, if it were not consistent with the duties which he, as a sincere member of the Church, owed to that establishment. He was surprised to hear what had fallen from the noble Duke on the subject of the Coronation Oath. He recollected when that objection was urged quite as strongly and as vehemently against the measure which was introduced by the noble Duke for the relief of the Roman Catholics, as the noble Duke himself now urged it. He remembered, in supporting that measure, that he argued this question, and he thought at the time, that he argued it, with the concurrence of the noble Duke. If the argument derived from the Coronation Oath was inapplicable, as the noble Duke must have felt it to be, looking to the principle on which the Catholic Bill was passed, the argument founded on it was, if possible, still more untenable now. [" No, no!" from the Duke of Cumberland.] He trusted that the illustrious Duke would have the decency not to interrupt him. The noble Duke had a right to maintain his opinion: he might, if he pleased, rise and defend it; but, because he had an opinion, he was not justified in interrupting those who differed from him.

Lord Kenyon

rose to order He appealed to their Lordships, whether the dissent expressed by using the word "no," deserved the character of indecency the noble Earl had ascribed to it?

Earl Grey

certainly did conceive, that the sort of interruption which he had received was indecent. He should still contend, as he had contended at the time to which he had referred, that the Coronation Oath did not prevent his present Majesty from giving his assent to this measure, more than it had operated to prevent his late Majesty from giving his assent to the Catholic Relief Bill. He did not understand what the noble Duke meant in saying, that when his Majesty gave his consent to any measure which passed the other two branches of the Legislature, it was in his executive capacity. ["No, no."] If he had misunderstood the noble Duke, he would say no more on that point. He should be sorry if their Lordships went away under the erroneous impression that this measure was inconsistent with that policy, which called on the Government to support the Protestant Religion and the Protestant Church.

The Duke of Cumberland

believed that there was no man in that House who would more unwillingly commit an act of indecency than himself; but if a noble Lord were not to be allowed to call "No, no!" when he felt inclined to dissent from a proposition, there would be an end to all liberty of speech. He felt rather surprised, that the noble Earl should have made use of such an expression.

The Duke of Wellington

explained that he meant, that when the King sent down a message to the House, he then acted in his executive capacity; but when he gave his consent to a Bill which had passed both Houses of Parliament, he acted in his legislative capacity. The noble Earl had referred to a measure formerly brought in by him (the Duke of Wellington). He had certainly been guilty of recommending to his Majesty to give his consent, in his executive capacity, to that measure; but he would not wait at that time to discuss the point, whether it was or was not contrary to the Coronation Oath. He would, however, venture the opinion, that the Irish Church Bill was contrary to the policy of the country and to the Coronation Oath.

The Duke of Buckingham

said, that as allusion had been made to an observation of his on a former night, when he designated the Bill as a measure of spoliation, he repeated, that he did consider this Bill to be a measure of spoliation, and, as such, he would resist it on principle. When the noble Earl said, that the Bill took nothing from the Church, he would request the noble Lord to be so good as to consider what would be the situation of the Church when the Bill relieved the community from the payment of that which they were now obliged to contribute, and imposed the burthen on the Church, which did not at present pay it. He should also ask, whether the annihilating a certain number of Bishops was not a measure that greatly affected the Church?

Earl Grey

When they came to the discussion of the details of the measure, it would be proved whether it were one of spoliation or not. He thought it would be better to have the Bill read a second time on Monday next. He should not oppose some short delay, but he should be glad if the noble Lord would appoint a day. He begged, then, in reference to what had formerly been said, to announce to the House, that he was authorised to declare his Majesty's formal consent, that their Lordships should entertain and discuss the measure.

Petition laid on the Table.

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