§ Viscount Melbourne
spoke to the following effect: My Lords—Before I proceed to the Order of the Day, I have it in command from his Majesty, to give his assent to this measure, and to acquaint this House, that his Majesty has been graciously pleased to place at the disposal of this House, for the purposes of this Bill, his interest in the Ecclesiastical dignities and benefices in Ireland.
It now becomes my duty to attempt to induce your Lordships to make another effort for the final settlement of the question of Tithes in Ireland, a subject which has given rise to so much trouble, vexation, and evil, which has produced that unfortunate disregard and contempt of the law, which has now for so long a period prevailed in that country. I am now called upon to attempt to persuade your Lordships to make another effort, in order, to use the language of the petition which has been presented, and which is signed* From a corrected Report, published by Ridgway.716 by so many of the prelates of the Established Church, to restore tranquillity to that long distracted portion of his Majesty's dominions. Lest I should forget it, your Lordships will perhaps now allow me to say, with respect to that petition presented by the most reverend Prelate at the head of the Church, and just now read at length, that I do not think it fairly represents the object of the Bill; neither can I agree in the language in which the petition is couched, nor the consequences which it anticipates from the measure; at the same time, although I disagree with the objections urged in that petition, I do not consider them to be unfairly stated, nor do I take exception to any part of that document, except to those imputations which are cast by it upon the opinions and practice of the Roman Catholic Church. Language of such a character as the following, should not be employed on such an occasion nor directed to such an object; "in a land where disaffection to the British name, contempt of legal authority, and blind obedience to the Papal See appear in their undisguised forms." This, my Lords, is not charity and conciliation, nor are these the expressions which the Ministers of one religion should hold towards those who profess another faith; it is language totally unbecoming and uncharitable. It is in the highest degree impolitic, and more particularly inconsistent with the statements generally made, and the opinions held and professed upon this subject. You charge the Roman Catholics with superstition, with implicit obedience, with an unreasoning adherence to error, and with a blind submission to their priesthood. Recollect, the more superstitious a religion is, the more unreasoning and tenacious is the attachment and devotion of its adherents; the more impatient are they of anything in the shape of contumely or insult, and if you employ any weapon of this description, you do your utmost to counteract your own objects, and to build up insuperable obstacles to your own success. Your Lordships will forgive me, if I repeat a very old story from a very ancient historian upon this subject, a story which has always appeared to me to be pregnant with wisdom delivered in a form striking and impressive from its simplicity. It is said by Herodotus, that it was a question in those times, whether the crimes and extravagancies of Cambyses, the conqueror 717 of Egypt, were to be attributed to malignity of disposition or to derangement of intellect. "For my part," concludes the historian," I consider him to have been mad; and for this single reason, that being anxious to establish his power and dominion in Egypt, he yet outraged and insulted the sacred rites of the Egyptians." Depend upon it, those who are anxious to establish their influence in any country, ought not to begin by offending the religion of the majority of the community.
My Lords, I have said that it is my wish to induce your Lordships to make another effort to put an end to the misfortunes which have under the tithe system grown up in Ireland. Formidable, we now know has been the opposition, and great the outrages committed against the property of tithes in that country; but I would beg your Lordships to recollect that it is not only in Ireland that in the present day opposition has arisen to this description of property. My Lords, we are very apt to know little of what is passing in foreign countries, and particularly in those countries where there being no representative assemblies, no publicity is given to the questions which agitate and divide the public opinion. But this indisposition to pay tithe is at the present moment epidemic throughout Europe; and prevails in countries where this species of property belongs not to the clergy, but to laymen, and where therefore it is not liable to the objections arising from differences of religious belief. In Germany the tithes have almost universally passed into the hands of laymen. At the time of the Reformation, the continental Reformers laid heavier hands on the Church than in this country. The tithes belonging to the parochial clergy became the property of the lords of the soil, and the tithes of the abbies and of the bishoprics became the property of the State. This was the case in those countries which embraced the doctrines of the Reformation. In the Roman Catholic States also, the tithe has, by other means, by contracts of various descriptions, by lease, by sale, passed almost entirely out of the hands of ecclesiastics into those of laymen; and yet this charge, thus disposed of, is found in many, if not in most of those countries, to be liable to so much objection, to be pregnant with so much discontent, and to be so likely to produce resistance, that the Governments have thought it prudent to 718 take measures beforehand for a more satisfactory settlement and arrangement between the parties paying and the parties entitled to payment. Such has been the case in Prussia; a provident and long-settled government; a government which well administers its own affairs, which makes the most of its resources, which sees beforehand the difficulties which are coming upon it, and the means of obviating them, and which possesses the power, in such circumstances, of taking the necessary measures. Prussia took steps for this purpose immediately upon the conclusion of the peace; other states of Germany followed her example; and I am assured, that in countries which have not acted with this prudence and precaution, in countries which are supposed to be the most tranquil and contented, in which the authority of the government and the law appears to be the best established, I am assured, I say, that there prevail, at this moment, the most lively apprehensions with respect to the security of this property, the greatest doubt whether it will continue to be collected, and a serious question, whether measures of composition and agreement have not been delayed, until it has become too late to adopt them. I state these facts shortly, but positively, to your Lordships, in order to show you, that we are not alone embarrassed by this question; and to prove also, that there is something in the nature of the property itself, in its character, in the mode in which it is imposed, and in the manner in which it is paid, which renders it naturally pregnant with discord, with difficulty, and with dissensions.
My Lords, I know I shall be told, as has been set forth in the petition of the right reverend Prelates just read to your Lordships, that the tithe is an original charge upon the land; that it is, in fact, part of the property, of which the tithe receiver is a part owner, and not an incumbrancer. Political economists wish to prove, that it is paid, not by the proprietor of the land, but by the consumer of the produce. Both these positions may be true; and I believe they are so. But every statesman of a mind at once enlightened and practical, will consider with respect to every measure, and particularly with respect to measures of finance and pecuniary charge, that there are two material considerations to be kept in view, the real effect of a measure, and its moral 719 effect. In imposing a tax, it is most important to be certain in what quarter the burthen of it really falls; it is hardly less essential to consider, where it is thought and believed to fall; and, my Lords, your Lordships may establish clearly that the tithe is a tenth part of the produce belonging originally to one party, whilst the other nine parts belong to another; or you may prove, by the most conclusive train of reasoning, that the tithe is not paid by the tenant of the land, who appears to pay it, but that it is paid by the consumer in the price of produce; you may reason to this effect as long as you please; you may illustrate it by the most felicitous examples; you may elucidate it by the clearest deductions; you may place it before the people in the most easy and popular form; but you will never persuade the bulk of mankind, that it is not paid by those who give the produce, or lay down the money in the first instance; and that the burthen does not really fall, where, according to the common sense, according to the eyes and the ears, it appears to fall.
The fact is, it is a mode of payment belonging to earlier times, and preserved to the present by extraordinary and accidental circumstances. The influence of religion, and the consequent power of the clergy attempted, and in some degree succeeded, in extending this charge to profits of every description. It was orginally introduced among the Jews—a pastoral nation—where it was easily levied, there being no difficulty in taking the tenth goat, the tenth calf, and the tenth lamb. From these it extended to agricultural produce, to which it was less applicable; but still in the rude state of agriculture, in early times, it was not so onerous, as it afterwards became. But, as society increased, and improvement grew, it became an impost impossible to be endured—an impost of the heaviest and most vexatious character:—an impost in any country likely to produce difficulties; but when we consider the particular circumstances of irritation under which it is levied in Ireland, it is impossible to believe that it could have been much longer continued to be discharged with tranquillity in that country. I know it may be said, that the observations I have made naturally lead to some measure of change with respect to tithes in this country. My Lords, I admit it. Such a measure has long been con- 720 templated. Such a measure I think called for, and it has been demanded by a noble Lord whom I now see opposite to me (Lord Ellenborough). I admit that it is a question which necessarily must become the subject of the earliest attention, both of the Government and of Parliament. It is now however my intention to propose a measure relating exclusively to Ireland, with the provisions of which I believe your Lordships are already for the most part acquainted. It is nearly the same measure, as far as tithes are concerned, which was submitted to your Lordships, and which your Lordships rejected, last year. It is very nearly the same measure which was opened to the House of Commons, by a gallant Officer, late Chief Secretary to the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. That your Lordships rejected the Bill of last year, is no reason why your Lordships should not now entertain the present measure. I can recollect but one argument upon which you rejected the Bill of last year—it was, that the Bill had been materially changed in its progress through the other House, from what it had been when first introduced by his Majesty's Government. [The Duke of Cumberland: hear.] The illustrious Duke admits that that was the ground of objection. [The Duke of Cumberland: No—no—I did not say that.] I understood from the cheer of the illustrious Duke that he assented to what I said—and I was about to add my hope—that as the chief grounds for the rejection of the measure last year were personal and temporary—that as that time had now passed away, and the feelings it excited were cooled down—the rejection of last year would not be adopted as a precedent for the present occasion.
Indeed I remember to have heard but one reason urged in that debate, viz. that the principle Amendments in that Bill had been proposed in the other House of Parliament by an hon. and learned Gentleman, whose name we often hear in this House. This appeared to me then to have been a very bad argument; it strikes me in the same light now; but a considerable interval has elapsed; time has been given for angry feelings to cool; and I trust that the provisions of this Bill will now be considered upon their own merits, and not with reference to personal prejudices and objections.
The object of this Bill is chiefly to throw the payment upon the landlords, 721 upon whom it imposes for every 100l. of tithe due, a rent-charge of 70l., to be levied by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, who are to deduct for the expenses of collection sixpence in the pound, thus giving to the tithe owner 67l. 10s.
Now though this is less than the amount proposed in the Bill of last year, yet the payment is much better secured, and so far a considerable improvement has been effected. We have, however, a new difficulty to contend with, a difficulty produced by the rejection of the Bill of last year, and which will be still further increased should your Lordships think fit to reject the measure now under consideration. That difficulty arises from the arrear which has accrued due for the year 1834. It is intended to give no relief for any arrears previous to 1834. Suits commenced for the tithes of the preceding year will proceed in their ordinary course; but all claims for which legal proceedings, have not been instituted, are extinguished by this Bill. For the arrears of 1834 it is required that the tithe-owner shall state the amount due to him from such landlords as have not undertaken to pay the tithe. For the recovery of these sums, it will be the duty of the Attorney-General to institute summary proceedings.
This Bill also contains provisions for reopening the Composition for Tithes. This was on a former occasion deemed objectionable, and in point of principle I do not consider it to be entirely defensible; but there was in the original compositions so much of neglect, they were so hastily and imperfectly concluded, and so often effected by fraud and false representations, that it is expedient to introduce provisions for reopening and reconsidering them in the present Bill. To effect this re-opening of the compositions, the tithe-owner and the tithe-payer must apply by memorial to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, stating the grounds of objection, which, if found sufficient, the matter will be referred to three barristers, who will be empowered to proceed to the revision. I shall not enter further into the details of the measure, as from the frequent discussions they have undergone in another place, they must before the present time have become quite familiar to your Lordships. But without further delay, I shall come to a point in which I know your Lordships take a deep interest, and which is of vital im- 722 portance, inasmuch as it affects the religious feelings and the religious interests of the country. It is true that the Bill provides for the diminution in some cases, and for the extinction in others, of certain benefices of the Church of Ireland. Your Lordships are aware of the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the state of the Established Church in that country. That Commission was executed without any difficulty, and I believe without any of the evil consequences which were anticipated from it. The Commissioners received the zealous co-operation of men of all religious denominations, and I apprehend there is no substantial reason to be dissatisfied with the mode of conducting the investigation, or with its results. From the Report of the Commissioners, it appears that there are 1,250 benefices in Ireland. Some of these are made up of unions of parishes, those unions consisting in some cases of three, four, and five, and in others of eight and nine parishes. Of these unions there are 520. The others consist of single parishes. There are 975 single parishes, in each of which there are less than fifty Protestants, but of which the united income is 170,000l. a-year. There are 155 parishes with an income of 12,000l. a-year, which do not contain one Protestant; there are 173 parishes of which the income is 19,000l. a-year, and in each of which the number of Protestants is under ten. There are 406 parishes of which the joint income is 54,000l. a-year, and in which the Protestant population seldom exceeds fifteen, and never exceeds fifty.
The Bill provides that, whenever the number does not exceed fifty Protestants, the benefices should be sequestered into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, until the Lord-lieutenant shall otherwise direct. But if any Protestants are found to exist in a parish, however few their numbers, the Commissioners are either to appoint a curate, or commit the parish to the care of some neighbouring minister. The income of the curate is not to exceed 100l. per annum, with a house and glebe-land of the value of 25l., but this is only where there are already a church or chapel, and glebe. All benefices above the value of 300l. per annum, are to be regulated and reduced by the Lord-lieutenant in Council, according to the peculiar circumstances of each. But no benefice is to be reduced below 300l. 723 a-year, in any case in which it now exceeds that sum. Of the proceeds of these suspended benefices it is intended to constitute a fund, to be called the Reserve Fund, to be paid into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. This, with the residue of the grant of a million, and the sums which shall be recovered from the landlords, not being undertakers, is subject, in the first place, to the various expenses of opening the compositions, and to the payment of, and the relief to the clergy, and the residue is then to be paid over to the Consolidated Fund, which fund, in consideration of this receipt, is charged with the annual payment of 50,000l. for the moral and religious instruction of the people of Ireland without distinction of religion.
I have thus, my Lords, briefly gone through the principal provisions of this part of the Bill—and now, if I am asked on what grounds I rest my justification of the introduction of this important measure? I answer that, in the first place, I rest it on the 116th Clause of the Church Temporalities' Act—I rest it upon that Clause by which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are enabled to suspend the appointment to any vacant benefice in which Divine Service has not been performed for three years previously to the passing of that Act. This establishes the principle of the power of suspension of benefices which is adopted in this measure. I do not contend that it establishes the principle of the appropriation of the proceeds; because, undoubtedly, by that Act, the application of the fund is limited entirely to purposes of a strictly ecclesiastical nature. But, my Lords, by that Act, we reformed the hierarchy of Ireland. Your Lordships I know will not allow me to say that we thereby strengthened the Protestant Establishment. You will not permit me without contradiction to affirm that effect; but I do say, my Lords, that we have not weakened the Protestant Establishment—we have relieved it from the reproach of excess and extravagance; and since the passing of that Act, we have not heard the same clamour and invective directed against that part of the Establishment which we were in the habit of hearing previously. But if I am asked, on what further ground I rest my justification, I state distinctly that I found myself upon the resolution of the House of Commons, "That any surplus revenue of the present Church Establishment in Ireland, 724 not required for the spiritual care of its members, be applied to the moral and religious education of all classes of the people, without distinction of religious persuasion; providing for the resumption of such surplus, or of any such part of it, as may be required by an increase in the number of the members of the Established Church." This resolution displaced the former Administration and established the present. When I accepted the office which I now hold: and when the Government, of which I am unworthily the head, was formed, I was asked in this House, whether I came into office pledged to carry into effect that resolution. I answered distinctly that I was so pledged. Your Lordships heard that reply, and knew the grounds and principles of that Administration. You permitted the formation of that Administration—you have since permitted it to conduct the affairs of this country, differing from it undoubtedly upon some of the measures which it has introduced, but at the same time not obstructing the measures of the Government necessary for carrying on the public service; but on the contrary giving to them your general support and acquiescence.—I ground, therefore, my Lords, my justification for venturing to undertake that Government,—and no man, my Lords, was more apprehensive of that step, nor more unwilling to take it than myself—no man was more sensible of the narrow grounds upon which the Administration was formed, nor of the formidable and powerful opposition which it had to encounter; but, my Lords, my justification for accepting office, and for continuing to hold it in the present circumstances, is to be found in the conduct of the majority, which every evening is opposed to me in this House. Your Lordships form a great popular assembly, a numerous body; your Lordships are men, and every large assemblage of men, whatever may be their rank or station, is of the same nature and character; is governed by the same laws, actuated by the same feelings, impelled and agitated by the same passions. Now it is not in human nature that a great and decided majority should continue to suffer a minority to conduct the public affairs, unless they felt themselves under the pressure of some strong necessity, unless they were conscious that such conduct was prescribed to them by the most over-ruling considerations of 725 prudence, policy, and discretion, and unless they were compelled by a force almost irresistible, to observe an abstinence and forbearance not natural to them any more than to the rest of mankind. I say then, that your Lordships' conduct in refraining from the exercise of your constitutional power, and in not interposing more effectually for the removal of the present Administration, is a justification of the course I have pursued, as full and as decided as if I could command the support and approbation of the majority which I now see arrayed over against me.
It is therefore upon these grounds that I propose this measure to your Lordships; but there are other and still larger and more ample grounds on which I rest my assertion of its necessity—I rest it on the anomalous, the paradoxical state of the Ecclesiastical Establishment of Ireland, considered with relation to the population of that country. My Lords, I have often had occasion to state that the circumstance of a great Protestant Establishment in the midst of a great Catholic population must be productive of great difficulties; such difficulties have existed at all times, since the existence of the anomaly which I have noticed. The responsibility of this state of things, we, in our complacency and self-approbation, are very apt to cast upon the conduct of those who have gone before us; upon the centuries during which we acknowledge that Ireland has been subjected to every form and mode of misrule and bad government. In our vanity we sit in judgment and pronounce very absolute condemnation upon the measures and conduct of former kings, former ministers, former parliaments, and former generals. We are perpetually exclaiming, this was wrong and that was wrong.—He should have done this; he should have done that; what blindness to pursue this line of policy; what an erroneous judgment to adopt these measures. Why, my Lords, it is probable that if those, whom we so positively condemn, were here to defend themselves, it is probable, I say, that they would be able to shew in one sentence, perhaps in one word, that we know nothing about the matter, and that amidst the prejudices, which then prevailed, under the influence to which they were subjected, in the general state of circumstances by which they were surrounded, they could in fact 726 pursue no other course than that which they did pursue,—and most certainly upon this Question of religion and religious establishment they would have something to say for themselves, something to urge in their own defence, and in their own behalf. They would say, a Roman Catholic population and a Protestant Establishment is a state of things which we never either contemplated or intended; our policy might be violent, our measures might be cruel, our objects might be impracticable; but still we had definite and reasonable objects in view. We intended the eradication of the Roman Catholic and the substitution of the Protestant faith—such was our end, and such our means from the reign of Henry the Eighth down to the enactment of the Penal Code. If you abandon our policy, as you have done, you must abandon it entirely, and you must adopt not only a different, but precisely the opposite course.
But, my Lords, whatever may have been the conduct of our ancestors, it is left us to meet the difficulties of the present state of Ireland, and greater or more perplexing difficulties no Government or Parliament ever had to contend with. It is your Lordships' duty to approach the consideration of these measures with great caution and great temper. The maintenance of a large Protestant Establishment, where there is a very small or no Protestant population, is not consistent with any principle or with any policy. Your Lordships have been told, in several petitions, that you ought not to divert the property of the Church to other than Ecclesiastical and pious purposes; but I must contend that, by the provisions of this Bill, you are not diverting it from such purposes; on the contrary, I maintain that you are restoring it to those purposes for which it was originally intended. Will it be said that, of a Protestant Clergy with a large income, where there are no Protestant inhabitants, that it serves any useful purpose, any Protestant purpose, any religious purpose—what character does such a Clergyman support or bear? Pastor he is not, for he has no flock to tend, no care of souls—missionary he is not, he cannot be an effectual missionary, because he is not disinterested—he has no part of the character which belongs to and constitutes a missionary to convert the heathen; but supposing he is considered as a missionary, I must say, 727 referring to what has been stated in the petition from the Protestant Prelates of Ireland, which has been presented this evening, and in which stress has been laid on the gross superstition of the Roman Catholic Church, that much as I may lament the great errors of that Church, and much as I may deprecate some of its doctrines, yet I, grounding myself upon the authority of the prudent and tolerant doctrines delivered by the reverend Prelate at the head of our Church upon a former evening, assert that the main opinions of that Church being essentially the same as those of our own, it is not fitting to treat the Roman Catholics with insult, by sending amongst them missionaries, as if they were worshippers of Juggernaut, or the votaries of any other barbarous superstition.
At the same time, my Lords, that I propose this Measure, I am fully aware of the effects which it will produce, and of the objections which may be urged again. I am deeply sensible and much concerned at the impression which I feel that it will make. I cannot conceal from myself that it will be in the first instance, and for a certain time, a heavy blow and a great discouragement to Protestantism in Ireland; that it will be also a great triumph to the adverse party. I am well aware that it is not the same thing to destroy as never to have constituted; to demolish as never to have built up; but this evil, which I trust will be but temporary, is forced upon me by the untoward circumstances which I have already described. I cannot avoid it, and that which I cannot avoid, I must submit to with as much patience as I can command, and temper with as much remedy and alteration as it is in my power to administer.
I admit the great peril and danger which necessarily attends upon and accompanies such mighty and fundamental changes. The shake and convulsion which they create, render doubtful the safety not only of the Establishment, but of the Constitution itself. It is, however, only in popular governments that such fundamental alterations can be made consistently with the public tranquillity. The gradual manner in which they are introduced, and the public discussion of their principles exhaust and expend much of the zeal and violence of the contending parties, and the mind of the people is prepared for their adoption, before they are actually carried into effect.
728 Upon the present occasion, I trust that the measure which I propose, will be carried solely by its own reason; and by its own justice.
Amongst many wise and prudent remarks delivered by Sir Robert Peel in the course of that struggle for the Government of the country, which marked the commencement of the present Session, one observation peculiarly commanded my respect and approbation. I do not remember the exact words and cannot express the substance with the same force and felicity as the hon. Baronet, but the import was, that his advice to the Crown had been upon no account to divest itself of that moral force which it derived from restraining its action strictly within the limits of the Constitution. With a voice of much less weight and authority, but with equal sincerity, I would venture to address to the people of Ireland and of England the same advice which Sir Robert Peel gave to the Crown, I would suggest that they must not attempt to urge on, or carry any measure which they may deem one of justice to themselves by illegality or violence; and that any attempt of that nature must only weaken and contract that influence which it is their wish to strengthen and extend.
My Lords, I have little more to add, than to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I ask your Lordships to give it a fair, attentive, and serious consideration. I beg your Lordships to weigh well the responsibility under which you are acting. I beg you to consider that you stand at the head of a great and mighty Empire, an Empire larger than any that has existed since the downfal of Rome, and that its future destinies are committed to your charge. It is now many years since Mr. Burke, imitating one of the great orators of antiquity, exclaimed in Parliament, "We may have rivals, we may have enemies:—I do not fear the power of our rivals; I do not fear the greatness of those enemies; but there is one thing which I do fear, and that is our own power and our own greatness." "Our Indian Empire is an awful thing." Since that time not only that Empire in India, but the whole of our territories and our dependencies have swelled, and been increased and augmented by acquisition, by conquest, and by their own internal growth and expansion. With an Empire so vast, extended, and scattered in every part of 729 the globe, and containing within its very bosom every form of government, every code of law, every modification of society, and every race and condition of man,—it is impossible to expect that there ever should arrive a time when there will not exist in some part of such vast dominions some circumstance which creates uneasiness and alarm. I may, my Lords, be sanguine, I may be short-sighted; perhaps both; but it appears to me that at present there is as little ground for serious apprehension, as little probability of the occurrence of trouble or danger, as it is possible at any time to look forward to. I see nothing to fear except our own differences and dissensions, and these, I cannot conceal from your Lordships, I look upon not without real and grave alarm. In this state of affairs I propose to you this Measure. I pray you to consider it without any narrow views, and casting away from you all prejudices,—I pray you to consider it with reference to the extent of that great Empire, the affairs of which you have to administer, and which by sound and enlightened policy may be maintained and aggrandized, but the safety and continuance of which cannot be secured, unless you legislate according to the interests and feelings which prevail in every constituent part of his Majesty's dominions.
Lord Fitzgerald and Vesey
said, that being connected with that part of the United Kingdom to which the Bill referred, and this being the first occasion on which he had had an opportunity of stating his opinion on the subject, he hoped he should be pardoned for obtruding himself thus early on the notice of the House, in attempting to reply to the noble Viscount opposite. In one respect he would endeavour to follow the example set by the noble Viscount, in the calm and temperate tone in which he had discussed the Question; he did not undervalue (and he was sure their Lordships did not undervalue) the importance of approaching the subject with calmness and without prejudice. He would not follow the noble Viscount into his historical illustrations, for with great respect he must say that he did not think the illustration of King Cambyses and the Jews was very felicitous as applied to the present Question. He must also observe, that the remarks of the noble Viscount on the petition presented from the Irish Prelates were not made with his usual 730 discernment and candour. He had, in common with their Lordships, listened with the attention it deserved to the petition of the right rev. Prelates, which appeared to him to be marked with the tone and feeling which ought to belong to men of their sacred office. He owned therefore that he had heard with surprise and regret the noble Viscount attack that petition for its illiberality, and for language unbecoming the petitioners as prelates of that church which had been committed to their care. He had looked over the petition, and he could find nothing in it which could justify the noble Viscount's severity. The only part of it which at all referred to the professors of another religion was that in which they stated, that in the measures proposed by this Bill they could discern a design to forward the views of a party which intended nothing less than the destruction of the Protestant Church, and putting the superstitions of Popery on its ruins. That was the only passage which could at all call for any comments from the noble Viscount, and certainly it appeared to him not to call for the severity of comment with which the noble Viscount had visited it. It did not become him to be the advocate of those right rev. Prelates, they did not need it, but he considered it the duty of every Irish Protestant to do justice to that most exemplary body. In another part of his remarks he would add a few words with the intention of doing something like justice to another body of the Irish Clergy, to whose zeal and piety the petition of the Prelates of Ireland bore testimony. The noble Viscount had dwelt on the impolicy of the tithe system, and had gone into its early history. The noble Viscount had also dwelt on the objections made to it in several states on the Continent, from its mode of collection; but would not any one who heard the noble Viscount have thought from what the noble Viscount had said, that he was applying his remarks to a country where tithe as such was collected? Would it not be thought that tithe was collected in that objectionable manner in Ireland? Was there, he would ask, any parity of circumstances between the case of Ireland and those countries to which the noble Viscount had alluded? In Ireland for nearly the last fourteen years a composition for tithes had existed, at first a voluntary composition, which was at last made compulsory. The noble Viscount 731 had met one objection which must have occurred to any one who had considered the subject. He had anticipated the question—why do you apply yourself and your remedy to that country where tithe is not paid, and omit the country where it is collected as tithe and not by com position? He (Lord Fitzgerald) would admit, that the noble Viscount had spoken of the difficulty of dealing with the question in England; but he had reason to complain that the noble Viscount, in doing so, arguing as he did with respect to England, did not apply his principle to that country, but that he should carry it to a country to which it did not apply. It was not his intention on this occasion to go into the details of the Bill, as it was not his intention to oppose the second reading. With respect to the principle of a rent charge of 70l. to be paid to the clergyman, he thought it a great sacrifice; and when the noble Viscount said that the present Bill was the same as that of last year, he could not concur with him. That Bill, the noble Viscount said, was very different when it came to that House last year from what it had been when it was framed under the Government of the noble Earl whom the noble Viscount succeeded in office. It came to that House under circumstances which were not calculated to insure it a favourable reception. It had come up after debates and discussions on it in another place which must have alarmed all who regarded the safety of our institutions. The noble Viscount could not, under such circumstances, have been surprised at the reception it had met; but at that time those principles had not been insisted on which, if carried out, would lead to the conclusion that no Protestant Establishment should be kept up. In one respect the present Bill was an improvement on that of last year, as it gave a better security for the payment of the clergyman by placing the charge on the land. Before he came to the other parts of the Bill, he would say that he did not desire to throw any obstacle to that part of it which referred to the immediate pecuniary interests of the Clergy. However he and those with whom he acted might lament the loss of 30 per cent., however much they might lament the outrage committed on property, they would not object to the principle of securing a rent-charge to the Clergy, even at a considerable loss. He was therefore ready to assent to the second 732 reading, and to go to the Committee, not with the view of defeating it, but of rendering it more efficient for its object; but he would ask, had their Lordships, in the course of the noble Viscount's eloquent address, heard one word to show that the measure of appropriation and that which secured payment to the Clergy were inseparable, and that they must adopt or reject both together—thatthey must adopt a principle of spoliation or do an act of gross injustice to the whole body of the Irish Clergy? Their Lordships would, of course, from what he had said, naturally conclude that one object of going into the Committee would be to separate those two parts of the Bill, which he must contend were in no degree necessarily connected. When he said this, he did not speak on his own authority alone, he had the authority of some of the leading supporters of the Bill to show that no such necessary connexion existed. [The noble Lord here referred to the opinions of Mr. Littleton (now Lord Hatherton), of Lord John Russell, and Lord Althorp, as given in their speeches of last Session, to show that it would be impolitic to mix the question of provision for the clergy with that of appropriation of a surplus church revenue.] He would not, he said, add a word to what had been so much better expressed on this subject. The next part of the speech of the noble Viscount referred to the reopening of the composition. Against that he must protest, as a measure which would be fraught with injustice. The noble Viscount himself had admitted that it would be unjust. The composition had been a most salutary measure. He maintained that if there was anything for which they ought to be specially obliged to the Government of which Mr. Goulburn was a member, it was the Tithe Composition Bill. For his own part, he had taken a share in the discussion on that measure, and he now saw reason to regret that he had opposed the compulsory Clauses, and left all to be settled by voluntary contribution. But now the noble Viscount asked them to overturn this voluntary composition, which was an act of injustice as regarded both the contracting parties. In fact, of all the provisions of this generally objectionable Bill, that was the most decidedly objectionable. The composition under the Act of Mr. Goulburn was a voluntary composition; but, independent of that fact, the time 733 which had elapsed since they had been entered into—the difficulty which the present incumbents would have in procuring evidence of the composition—the trouble, the expense, the uncertainty, the delay, made it a monstrous proposition. He admitted that the Clauses guarding against the re-opening of a composition without sufficient grounds provided for some of the evils; but these were only the minor evils—the greater were left untouched. He would ask their Lordships whether it savoured of justice to oblige the unfortunate incumbent of a parish, in a country banded as it were against the law, to reproduce the evidence of a contract which had been entered into, perhaps by his successor, the documentary and traditional portion of which might be lost; and to reprove his right in the face of a community hostile to him, at an infinity of expense, and incalculable trouble and danger? He would beg to call the attention of their Lordships to two or three points respecting these representations on which the noble Viscount founded his reason for that portion of the Bill, and defended its justice. With respect to the justice of the case, it would be sufficient for him to observe that these compositions had been entered into about thirteen years since in an average of the cases, and that they were all voluntary. These representations were, therefore, rather retractions of a contract by the one without the consent of the other contracting party. But how did these voluntary compositions stand? It would be remembered that an appeal was allowed to the Lords of the Privy Council. The compositions since the passing of Mr. Goulburn's Act were 1,505 in all. From that number there were only thirty-nine appeals; of which a portion was from tithe-owners as well as tithe-payers. Out of that thirty-nine, fifteen were withdrawn, and six referred to the Judges of Assize; eighteen remained for the consideration of the Privy Council. Of that number only three were reduced—the remainder were affirmed. With these facts staring him in the face, the noble Viscount wished to re-open the compositions. He should now approach a part of the Bill to which he felt, as a Protestant—an Irish Protestant—his language could not do justice—he could not do justice; he meant that part which sequestrated parishes having under a certain number of Protestants residing 734 in them—a part which the noble Viscount had described as a recurrence to the principles on which the Church was founded, not a departure from them—a restoration, not a spoliation. At the time the Union between England and Ireland was effected, the integrity of the Protestant Church was guaranteed by one of the articles of the Act. Any abuses that might be proved to exist in the Established Church he should be ready to meet in a fair and honest spirit of reform. He did not stand there as the defender of sine-curists and pluralities—he should not be opposed to any principle of Reform consistent with the constitution and discipline of the Church. It was, he contended, well understood and provided for at the Union between Great Britain and Ireland, that the Protestant religion was to be maintained in Ireland. He was willing, as he believed all true Protestants were, to do everything he might to promote any Christian Reform in the Church Establishment, which might be necessary and consistent with its discipline; but he earnestly raised his voice against spoliation. To show that Parliament had always hitherto felt bound to observe that article of the Union which provided for the security of the Established Church, he need only refer to the measure of Roman Catholic Emancipation; which, though opening the doors of the Legislature to persons of all religious persuasions, still imposed upon the Catholic Members certain obligations with respect to any course they might adopt on questions relating to the Established Church. Again, the grounds on which the Church Temporalities' Bill was recommended were, that it was to secure the remainder of the Protestant Establishment; yet the Church Temporalities' Bill was now quoted by the noble Viscount as a ground for further aggression. He confessed that this induced him to look with more suspicion and jealousy at the measure proposed. He did not for a moment wish to reflect upon the gentlemen of whom the Irish Church Commission was formed; but he must take leave to say, that, in many respects, their Report was extremely erroneous. This was the necessary consequence of their want of knowledge of the country, and of their consequent inability to judge between the exaggerated statements that might be made to them on both sides. As matters then stood, however, he thought 735 that the parishes proposed to be sequestered ought to be made the subject of further inquiry. He was most strenuously opposed to the sequestration of parishes on a numerical principle—to depriving the Protestants of a parish of all religious ministration, because they did not come up to the "parson's point," as it had been called. In repudiation of this numerical principle, he read several extracts from the Edinburgh Review, and went on to say, that not alone upon the grounds on which he had already opposed the Bill, which were merely political, but upon yet higher considerations he objected to it. He resisted certain provisions of the measure because he looked upon them as adverse to the reformed faith, which nothing, not even the destitution of its Clergy, would induce him to abandon. For the sake of that faith which he professed, and which was professed in Ireland—in that land in which they had been told there was a bloody brotherhood, and where the ascendancy of the law and its power were as flax, while the ascendancy and power of crime were as iron—for the sake of that distracted land, which had little to hope in the cause of order beyond what it might receive from the existence and prosperity of the Protestant Church, he would never consent to abandon the surplus revenues, as they were called, to any but Ecclesiastical purposes. He would leave the Protestants still power to worship, in its purity, the God of their Fathers. They had been told that the ministers of the Protestant Church were poor and few, and that eleemosynary Clause had been lauded which gave to the clergymen the sum of 5l. per annum. They might be poor, and that Church might be sapped and undermined, but he thanked God their Lordships were in the breach to defend it, and repel the assailants. Before the 800 parishes were swept away, a cry would ascend to heaven, and be heard by the people of England, which would prevent the measure before the House, should it pass in its present state, from being carried into execution. If in this year 800 parishes might be suppressed, because they had sunk below a certain arbitrary limit, why, in the year 1841, might not 200 more be sacrificed, because they had sunk in population below the parson's point? The argument against the sequestration of Church-property, and against the absurd notion of a surplus, had been so ably urged by a right hon. 736 Member, in the other House, whose discretion, judgment and learning demanded all his praise, that he would not attempt to weaken the effect of his advocacy by dwelling upon that topic. He apologized to their Lordships for having trespassed so much upon their time. He knew how little he was entitled to the indulgence he had received; yet, before he sat down, he would ask leave to say a word or two upon the subject of that class for whose benefit it was pretended this Bill originated, although the subsequent Clauses of the Bill were well calculated to inflict the greatest injury upon them. He alluded to the parochial Clergy of Ireland, than whom, he firmly believed, there was not a more meritorious or exemplary set of men in existence. The Act establishing unions of parishes in Ireland was the first act of robbery committed upon the parochial Clergy. Then followed that resolution of the Irish Parliament, which declared every man an enemy to his country who should pay the tithe of agistment. He had read an account in the letters of Lord Strafford, the Minister of Charles the 1st, of the method that Nobleman adopted to revenge himself on a clergyman who had provoked his displeasure. He advised the King to appoint him to the vacant Bishopric of Clogher, for, said he, nothing is paid in the diocese to the Bishop. He presumed it was from some similar feeling that a pretended provision was made for the Irish Clergy. The Irish Clergy were a devoted, suffering, and high-minded class of men, and he hoped no measure would ever pass that House to deprive them of their insufficient emoluments. The state of the poor, he believed, had been improved by their efforts more than was generally known. There were other points in the Bill, of which, perhaps, it would be necessary for him to advert in Committee. At present, he should merely content himself with observing, that he should certainly urge a change of that provision or regulation according to which the land-tax for the benefit of the Clergy was, in the first instance, to pass through one of the Government departments—that of the Woods and Forests. Now, with all the respect which he entertained for the noble Lord at the head of that department, he must be permitted to say, that, in his opinion, it would be much better if the Clergy of the Established Church were not to be made mere stipendiaries of the 737 Government, but rather derived their income through the hands of Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The noble Lord concluded by expressing a hope that the House would give the Bill a second reading, and proceed in Committee to make such changes in the measure as would render it not unacceptable to the great body of the Protestants of the empire—as would supply means to avert those evil and dangerous consequences which would inevitably result from the Bill if it became law in the shape in which it was introduced by the noble Viscount.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
felt renewed regret, looking at the character of the present discussion, that their Lordships had last year rejected the measure sent up to them for the settlement of this question. If that measure had not been thrown out, they might now have discussed, with much greater advantage, the question of appropriation. It was objected by those who were opposed to this measure, that the State had no right to direct the appropriation of ecclesiastical revenues, under any circumstances. Now, he would ask, what ought to become of the funds of a parish in which there was neither a Protestant clergyman nor a Protestant inhabitant? To whom, legally, according to the principles either of common law or equity, ought the funds in that case to revert? Clearly, he contended, to the State, which was the representative of the whole people for such a purpose. There was a particular Act in the statute law of the country, regulating the appropriation of funds bequeathed by donors, where the original purposes for which the funds were destined were impracticable, or incompatible with the customs or observances of the times. The statute in question directed, that in such cases the appropriation should be to such purposes, as it could be fairly supposed, the donor would have devoted his bequest, if the living. Here then was a solemn recognition of the principle of diverting from their original destination, funds invested with the most sacred rights of property But the noble Lord who had just sat down insisted that the Appropriation Clause was a violation of the Act of Union. Mr. Pitt had not so interpreted the Act of Union; for he had expressly declared, in the House of Commons, that it was no necessary to make any provision for the Established Church. But it was absurd 738 to contend, that the Legislature of the United Empire had not equal power with the Legislature of a country it had incorporated with itself. Still, the great argument, the stumbling block was, that the revenues of the Church could not be interfered with by Parliament—that they could not deal with Church-property. When they regulated the stipends of curates making it imperative upon the rector, to give his curates a certain income at least, was not that dealing with the property of the Church by the compulsory power of Parliament. In another place, it had been contended, that even if there remained but one Protestant in Ireland, the Protestant Church Establishment must be kept up. A more absurd doctrine was never, he believed, broached in any assembly of rational men. Such were the arguments in opposition to the provisions of the measure before their Lordships' House. His noble Friend opposite asked, whether the Protestant Establishment was at present virtually or substantially maintained in Ireland? Had they, in fact, the power to maintain it? His noble Friend must admit, that the law in Ireland was not strong enough to sustain that Church in all its present immunities. But the suppression of 870 parishes in Ireland was held to be tantamount to putting an end to the Establishment. The better way of putting the question was, to ask whether sequestrating the revenues of so many parishes could have the effect of putting down the Reformed religion? When the State suppressed all the monasteries, benefices, and religious institutions of the Catholics, did that religion fall away? On the contrary, it had acquired strength. If the Protestant religion had not been forced upon the people of Ireland, it would have been the almost universal religion of Ireland. The doctrine that the appropriation of property could never be altered was a doctrine in favour of abuses. Upon the manner and temper of their going into Committee would depend the interests of the Establishment itself, and perhaps the interests of their Lordships' House. If the Bill should be rejected, serious consequences would, he feared, ensue. It was notorious in what temper the people and their representatives were upon this subject. Their sentiments were not of hasty growth. After a general election, of which he would say no more than that it had taken place under circumstances highly favourable to the op- 739 ponents of this measure, it would be weak and mischievous to attempt to coerce the other House out of their settled opinion. He hoped their Lordships would go into the Committee really and sincerely with a view to pass the Bill. If they went into the Committee with intentions hostile to the measure, and to avoid expressing opinions not tenable in these days, he warned them that their object of concealment would not be attained. The people would well know their real sentiments. If they went into the Committee merely to seek a safer opportunity to mutilate and destroy the Bill, they would endanger the Church first, and afterwards every institution in the country, not omitting even their Lordships' House.
§ The Earl of Ripon
did not think the House was fairly dealt by in being called upon to pass in one Bill two principles entirely dissimilar. Part of the Bill it was incumbent on their Lordships to pass; but the revenues of the Church, and the tranquillity of Ireland were not necessarily connected. The provision for the clergy might insure tranquillity, but the plan of appropriation would prevent it. Two resolutions had been agreed to on the subject in the Lower House of Parliament. The first, in fact, declared a surplus, adopting the fact without the knowledge of any human being to support it, so that the existence of a surplus might be alleged, at the same time, a deficiency might be established. The second Resolution declared, that no measure of relief for the Irish clergy could be beneficially acted upon unless it embodied the principle of appropriation. Negatively that principle led to the extinction of the Irish Church. It was most extraordinary, to pass a Bill upon the ground that it will give satisfaction in Ireland, when the necessary consequence of it must dissatisfy the whole body of the Protestant population. Not having been able, from anything he had read or heard upon this subject, to discover what the real motives for this measure were, he listened with the greatest attention to his noble Friend at the head of the Government, in the hope that he would throw some light on the Cimmerian darkness with which it was hitherto surrounded. The speech of his noble Friend abounded in eloquent passages, in bursts of passion, in elucidations from ancient and modern history, but he looked in vain for any elucidation of the principles on which the Bill 740 proceeded. His noble Friend stated no reasons for cutting off from the Established Church of Ireland at least the one-third. It was not impossible to conceive some severe necessity that might at least palliate this ecclesiastical revolution. A revolution he must call it, because it completely altered the relation between the Church of Ireland and the State. But his noble Friend did not attempt to show any such necessity. The Bill, if not an actual breach of the Union, touched very closely upon it. If there was any one thing for which the Act of Union provided with more jealousy and caution than another, it was to give as complete security to the Church of Ireland as to that of England. This Bill did, pro tanto, dissolve the Union. It was not upon the Act of Union alone, it trenched, but upon other Acts since passed, and one in particular, the Church Temporalities' Act. The present measure, as regarded that Bill, he held to be nothing more or less than a breach of Parliamentary faith. The Church Temporalities' Act pledged the House to certain acts and principles which, if the present measure became law, it would be utterly impossible to fulfil. By the Church Temporalities' Act no Bishopricks were suppressed, as stated by his noble Friend who spoke last. Bishopricks were united but not suppressed, and such was the practice in Roman Catholic as well as in Protestant times. That Act directed, that the revenue of these Bishopricks and of other ecclesiastical livings, as they became vacant, should go to the formation of a fund; first, for the payment of Churchcess, in order to relieve the Roman Catholics from that payment, and afterwards for the increase of small livings, the building of churches and of glebe-houses, and for all other objects essential to the efficiency, the security, and the stability of the Protestant Church of Ireland. Pass this Bill, and they would violate every one of these provisions. This was a most dangerous course of legislation, and he sincerely regretted to see such a principle acted upon by men whom he respected. Two years ago, the Church Temporalities' Act, was granted to the Church of Ireland, and within that short period Ministers went to Parliament and said, "We will take away those very revenues by which it was proposed to provide for all these important objects." Commissioners were appointed to manage the Perpetuity 741 Fund, and to apply it to the purposes mentioned in the Church Temporalities' Act. The fund was estimated at 40,000l. a-year. What was it now? Nothing. The whole produce was gone. The Commissioners were bankrupt. This Bill charged upon the Perpetuity Fund the 5l. per cent. to be paid by the clergy; but it took away from them all the benefits that might arise from the suppressed benefices. This was dangerous, because it was faithless, legislation. How was it possible, that after this the people could have confidence in them? He could prove, that this Bill was a mass of contradiction from beginning to end, and of the most gross inconsistencies. It talked of giving peace to Ireland, and how? By applying to the use of the people certain monies which it was supposed would so much delight them that no further disturbance could ever after arise; that all would be content and satisfaction. The Bill, however, did not give all. It gave but a part. It provided for the maintenance of a clergyman in every parish, with power to the Lord-lieutenant to increase the salary, with the increase of duty. Must not the people in these parishes naturally feel a hankering to get for their own uses the sums that have been retained; and would they not make an effort to bring those parishes into a situation which would give them a title to it? So far from producing peace, it would be the source of perpetual, and endless, and ruinous division, and render it utterly hopeless to effect by legislation any amelioration of the condition of the people of Ireland. The whole argument of his noble Friend at the head of the Government, and of his noble Friend who spoke last, was limited to the matter of tithe. He did not admit that they had a right to dispose of tithe in this way. It was very naturally painful to Roman Catholics to pay it, and no person was more friendly than he was to such an alteration of the system as might render it as little irksome and burthensome as possible. But the Bill did not apply merely to tithe, which might be considered the substantial pinching grievance affecting those who did not belong to the Protestant Church; the glebe-houses, which by no possibility could be a subject of discontent, and constituting with the glebe lands the only remaining link between the Church and the state, were also to be destroyed. That link was to be dissevered for no reason on 742 earth; and yet they were told to look upon this Bill on large principles, while it involved the absolute overthrow of every principle on which a Church Establishment could be maintained. After all, what was to be gained by it? According to the Bill it was pretended, in what precise manner did not appear, that they would get 50,000l. a-year. One might have supposed that they would have gained enough to pay off the national debt; but in the meanwhile the consolidated fund was to be charged with 50,000l. in order, it was said, to "avoid dangerous impatience," which was afterwards to be paid by all that could be screwed out of the suppressed livings. If they wanted 50,000l. for education, why not vote it at once? He so entirely approved of the system of education in Ireland, that he for one would most willingly consent to any sum which might be necessary for that purpose; but why, in connexion with such a subject, rouse up and bring into collision the strongest and most dangerous feelings of human nature? Besides, when he coupled the amount of this sum with a representation recently made by the Commissioners in their certainly very magnificent scheme of education, which would require 200,000l. a-year, he could not help thinking, that in the course of five years, the present 860 parishes would, at least, be doubled for the purposes of confiscation. Let them vote 50,000l. or any other sum for education, the House of Commons would, he had no doubt, be ready to grant it; but why reduce the Protestant establishment and those unfortunate individuals who officiated at its altars to misery and want? The Church of Ireland was spoken of as the most richly-endowed of any in Europe, abounding in wealth, pampered and bloated, and some compared it to Juggernaut, crushing thousands of victims beneath its wheels. It was not even now a rich Church; but let this sum be deducted, and the Protestant clergy would be reduced, to utter destitution. The pittance for a clergyman would be so small that no man, with any pretensions to respectability or education, would accept of it. The clergy from their poverty would lose all power of being useful, and, from an active, zealous, and respected body of men, would fall into contempt and utter inefficiency. He felt the difficulties of the present question as much as any of their Lordships, but he could not 743 adopt a measure to which in principle, he felt an insuperable objection, and which must lead to the most dangerous consequences. In his humble judgment, if the object were simply to provide for education, and to relieve the people of Ireland, not belonging to the Church, from the inconvenience and hardship of paying tithes to the Protestant clergy, a plan might without difficulty be devised by which all that could be attained without violating any principle, or containing in it that germ of eternal dissension which, if this Bill passed, would produce such fearful results to the Protestant interests both in Ireland and in this country.
The Bishop of Exeter
merely rose to state, that while he would not vote against the second reading, he felt it his duty to protest against the main part of the principles announced in the preamble, and that, he would rather forfeit his life than be in any degree a party to the greatest injustice, and he would add the grossest impiety, which that House or the country had ever been called upon to perpetrate. Their Lordships were certainly indebted to the noble Viscount who had opened this question, for the frankness with which he had told them the situation in which they were placed. He had told them that they were in the hands of a Government which had cast off all regard to principle ["Oh, oh!"]. He repeated it, for a Government that brought forward measures, which at the same time it avowed to be indefensible in principle, must be said to have abandoned all regard to principle. While he said this, however, he did not mean to assert that the Government were at this instant ready to strike down every thing that the country was accustomed to hold in respect; but they announced that they had started upon a course from which nothing would deter them—in which nothing could stop them. They declared that they would proceed on their own official convenience to destroy every thing which this country had ever honoured, or for which it had ever been honoured by others. He had no hope that his voice would have any effect at this alarming juncture. What he said was ridiculous to some; but unless the course which the noble Viscount proclaimed were stopped, either by that or the other House of Parliament, or by the good sense of the people of England, no man would have occasion to smile who honoured any thing 744 that was sacred, and anything that was good. They were told to-night that they must be prepared to make every sacrifice—that the career which was now begun must be pursued, and that it would not cease to be followed up until all was sacrificed, if the convenience of the Government required it. He would not now go further, but he begged to give notice, that when the Bill should go into Committee, he would move that the 61st Clause, and all the clauses consequent upon it, up to the 91st inclusive, should be struck out.
The Earl of Winchilsea
did not mean to oppose the second reading of the Bill. He trusted, however, that before the question was decided, their Lordships, in this stage of the proceedings, would permit him to make a few observations. He was quite overpowered by the importance of the measure. The abolition of the Test and Corporation Oaths, the Emancipation Bill, and even the Reform Bill itself, all of which he had opposed—which had thrown down all those barriers which had been so wisely erected in defence of the Protestant religion, and which had destroyed the balance of our constitution, and infused into it a spirit of democracy dangerous in the highest degree, all those measures., however, sunk into insignificance when compared with that before the House, the whole tendency of which was at once to destroy the very existence of the Protestant religion in Ireland. The question at issue was simply whether they should have an established religion or not in that country? If this measure were to pass, the Protestant religion in Ireland would at once be surrendered to its enemies. He should not oppose the second reading of the Bill; but he could boldly say, that he felt confident that the Protestants of the two countries would do what was right, and would sacrifice everything even to property and life, in defence of that religion which had been handed down to them by their forefathers, and which had been the source of all our national greatness and prosperity.
§ Lord Glenelg
could not permit (if he might use the word) their Lordships to separate without saying one word in allusion to what had fallen from the right reverend Prelates who had addressed them. It was certainly with him a matter of astonishment, that these right reverend Prelates who should be the first to set 745 the example of moderation, temperance and charity—to temper any severity of feeling, and to mitigate the acrimony of debate—should have so warmly entered the arena of personal warfare, which was attended with no other consequence than to disgrace those who engaged in it, and to engender feelings of exasperation and ill-will. In answer to the warning which had been delivered in an oracular voice by one right reverend Prelate to their Majesty's Ministers in that House, he should only say, that as long as they were conscious of being actuated by no other feeling than a sense of public duty, and pursue a course which was directed by their notions of right and wrong, such expressions as those which had been used by the right reverend Prelate, would neither induce them to abandon their duty, nor lead them into an imitation of the same description of language. The noble Lord expressed his conviction that the wants of the Protestants in remote and secluded parishes, so far from being (as was contended) neglected under the provisions of this Bill, would be more adequately answered than they had ever hitherto been.
consented to the second reading of the Bill, on the ground that it was necessary to make some provision for the clergy. To the principle of the Bill, however, he entertained the strongest objection.
§ Lord Cloncurry
observed, that a vain attempt had been made to force on the people of Ireland a Protestant Establishment, which was proved to have anything but the effect of increasing the converts to the Protestant religion. When that preferment was first made, the Roman Catholics were in number no more than a million. They were now seven millions, and the whole number of the Protestants (including Protestant Dissenters) amounted only to a million and a half. There were 700,000 acres of land which were taken from the Catholics and given to the Protestants for the support of the Established Church. The Roman Catholics did not require that these lands should be restored to them, but they only claimed relief from a half million of tithes which were levied in the most vexatious manner possible.
§ Viscount Melbourne
replied, notwithstanding the observation which he had made—that the religion of a country was generally found to be in accordance with 746 the religious opinions of the majority of its inhabitants—was declared to be unworthy of a Protestant Minister, he found it impossible to retract it. He had never said that the religion of the world was to be decided by the majority of the world, as he appeared to be understood; but that the religion of every country should be decided by the majority of those who professed the same faith in that country was certainly the most convenient and natural rule, and one which he believed was generally followed, except in the case of that country now under consideration—Ireland. With respect to the imputations which had been dealt out by a right reverend Prelate, he should say no more respecting them than that they were altogether unjust and unfounded.
§ The Bill was read a second time.