HL Deb 03 September 1835 vol 30 cc1293-307
Lord Lyndhurst

, in presenting a Petition from Ipswich on the subject of the Irish Church Bill, said, that he wished the purport of this petition to be clearly and distinctly understood by their Lordships. That Bill, as their Lordships knew, was directed to the attainment of two objects, and one object which it had in view was the commutation and settlement of tithes in Ireland. It was stated in the course of the debates which had taken place on this subject, and the fact was admitted on all hands, as well by the noble Lords opposite as by the noble Lords who sat on this side of the House, that it was a measure of great and paramount importance, involving, as it did, the security and tranquillity of Ireland. Now, he apprehended that there was no connection between the settlement of the tithe question and the other part of the Bill, which had for its object the sequestration of 860 Irish benefices, and the appropriation of their revenues to other than ecclesiastical purposes. He thought their Lordships would concur with him in saying—indeed, they had already expressed their opinion on the point—that two objects in every way so dissimilar could not properly be embraced in a single measure—that they ought to form the subject in short of two Bills, and not of one. Their Lordships had agreed to all that part of the measure which related to the first of those objects, because they considered it of first rate importance, as every thing connected with the peace and tranquillity of Ireland was; but notwithstanding this, and even though they had assented to so much of the Bill as related to the settlement of tithes, he understood that his Majesty's Ministers did not intend to send down that part of the measure to the other House of Parliament. The reason alleged for this course was, that the Bill in its altered shape would not meet with a favourable reception from the other branch of the Legislature; but he on the contrary was prepared to assert, and that too on the best information, that if his Majesty's Ministers in the other House felt as the noble Lords connected with the Government who satin their Lordships' House had declared they felt, that such a measure was essential to the security and tranquillity of Ireland that a settlement of the Tithe Question in that country was indispensable, there could be no doubt, if they brought it forward that it would pass in spite of any opposition which might be given to it by a certain party who usually supported them on all other subjects. He felt that the Ministers of the Crown had taken a heavy responsibility upon themselves by pursuing a course which he was justified in saying was not only a grievous misfortune to the country at large, but not at all grateful to the Protestant interests in Ireland, and his reason for making this statement was, that the country might understand the real circumstances of the case, as well as the position in which their Lordships' House stood in respect to this Bill, the whole of the responsibility for refusing to proceed with which, rested not with noble Lords on his side of the House, but wholly and entirely upon the shoulders of his Majesty's Ministers.

Viscount Melbourne

had already stated to their Lordships that his Majesty's Government had felt it their duty to abandon the Bill, and it would not be necessary for him to take up the time of the House by repeating his statement. He admitted the great importance of effecting some satisfactory adjustment of the tithe question—he admitted the evil consequences which were likely to arise from allowing that question to remain much longer unsettled, but he could not agree with the noble and learned Lord that his Majesty's Ministers would be responsible for these consequences. On the contrary, he must contend that such responsibility would rest not with his Majesty's Ministers, who wished to carry the Bill through Parliament but with the majority of their Lordships' House, who had introduced alterations into it which were not only repugnant to the principle on which it is founded, but which rendered it utterly impossible that it could be entertained by the other House of Parliament. He had hoped that the Tithe Question would have been settled in the present year. The Government had done all in their power to bring about that settlement, but the measure which they bad proposed for the purpose had in effect been defeated. Their Lordships had been afforded two opportunities of settling the Tithe Question, and they had twice rejected the measures brought in to accomplish that object. They had opposed the Bill of the last Session, by which a settlement would have been obtained; and what was the consequence of their rejection of that Bill? Why that it became necessary to couple with it other Amendments than those originally proposed for adoption before the question could be settled. They had during the present Session rejected the second opportunity which had been given to them of setting the matter at rest, and when another opportunity would be afforded to them he really did not know. This, however, he must say, that the whole of the responsibility of having left the question open, and whatever the consequences to arise from it to the Church of England and Ireland might be, would rest with the noble Lords opposite—with the majority of that House by whom the Bill was defeated, and not with his Majesty's Government.

Lord Lyndhurst

We rejected no Clause in that part of the Bill which related to the settlement of the Tithe Question.

The Duke of Wellington

should like to know by what process of reasoning those who sat on his side of the House were to be held responsible for the not passing of a Bill over which they had no power? He insisted that whatever the responsibility was, which the abandonment of this measure might incur, that responsibility would rest with those who had the power over it, and might, if they pleased, have passed that portion of it to which their Lordships had given their sanction, and not with any other persons. The noble Lords on the other side of the House contended that the two parts of this Bill were inseparably connected, but this he denied. The first part of the Bill went to provide for the recovery of tithes, while the other part was neither more nor less than an act of spoliation—he meant the confiscation of a number of Church benefices, for the purpose of applying their revenues to secular purposes. He should like to know what possible connexion there was between two such subjects. He could see none. It was true that the noble Lords opposite asserted that they were connected; but they had given no proof from which a connexion could be even inferred. There was nothing but their naked assertion to show the fact. He, on the other hand, was prepared to state that they were not only distinct subjects, but that they should be made the foundation of separate Bills. If the noble Lord at the head of his Majesty's Government meant to bring the two questions before their Lordships fairly he would introduce them in distinct measures, in order that each might be decided upon its merits, and without reference to the other. The Tithe Question had really nothing whatever to do with the Question of Appropriation, and he could not understand why the noble Lord had mixed them together except it was for the purpose of accomplishing the destruction of the Church of Ireland covertly. Having failed in obtaining that purpose, what did the noble Lord do? Why, he accused noble Lords on that side of the House with having rejected a measure which threatened the Protestant Church of Ireland with annihilation. The noble Lord complained that the Tithe Bill of last year had been thrown out by their Lordships; but did not his (the Duke of Wellington's) noble Friend explain last night the grounds on which that measure had been rejected? That Bill was defeated, not because it proposed to convert tithe into a rent-charge, but because it was to remit two-fifths of the incomes of the clergy, and provided that one-fifth of their future incomes should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. Their Lordships very properly refused to agree to any such proposition, and it was on that ground that he objected to the measure. He voted against, the Bill of last year because he felt bound so to vote, and he supported an Amendment to the Bill of this year on the same ground. With respect to the part of the Bill of the present year which he had supported, all he would say now was, that neither he nor those who acted with him could be held responsible for the non-passing of so much of that Bill as had been approved of by them.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

My Lords, I should not have addressed any observations to your Lordships, after the complete and satisfactory declarations of my noble Friend, if the noble Duke opposite had not thought fit, in the course of what he has said, to make a declaration which I must distinctly deny—that the Bill recently, and, I must say, unfortunately for the Irish Church, rejected by your Lordships, was presented to Parliament under colour of another object, but with the real object of promoting the destruction of the Church of Ireland. It is easy to make such an assertion, but I as confidently deny it. My Lords, that Bill was, in my opinion, a Bill to save and rescue the Church of Ireland from the state of jeopardy in which it was placed by the vote of your Lordships last year, and that state of jeopardy in which, by the vote of this year, it is now again placed. But the noble Duke, and I suppose also the noble and learned Lord, for I did not hear the whole of what he said, asked if the meaning of the Government was to provide for the collection of tithes for the benefit of the Church, why that had been coupled with a provision distinct from such an object? I will tell your Lordships why—[Lord Lyndhurst: I do not ask that question.] I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord has asked that question; I concluded he had from the part of his speech which I did hear. The noble Duke did ask it, and to him I shall apply myself. My Lords, we coupled these two provisions for this plain reason, that by this Bill an immense boon was by the people of England proposed to be granted to the Church of Ireland, and I know not the means by which this great boon could be secured, but by connexion with what was a provision, not for the destruction of the Church of Ireland, no, but a provision for the application of funds not received and used by the Church of Ireland—but of funds inapplicable, vain, useless, abandoned by that Church, inasmuch as none of these funds were applied by it in any quarter, and even they were only proposed to be suspended, not taken away, and I say that the application of these funds to the purposes of the Church was renewable whenever the Church was in a state to use them. The use to which those funds were intended to be applied was the rational consideration—was the proper accompaniment of one of the largest grants ever proposed in Parliament; and what, my Lords, were the advantages which might have been secured, had you thought proper to go into the consideration of the whole of this question, not into one par of it or into another, but to look at it like statesmen, to weigh well the advantages which it would give to the Church of Ire land in the peculiar circumstances in which that Church is now placed? Noble Lords on the other side of the House say that they differ from us; if they do—if they differ from the Government—if they think that a Bill of this nature could be introduced or persevered with in the other House of Parliament, is it not open to any one of them to take up any part of this Bill; and if they think it is possible to carry such a Bill through Parliament, are they not abandoning their duty—are they not abandoning, in their view, the interests of the Church of Ireland, if they do not take it up, and offer it to the other House? Is it not for those who think it possible to attain what I am ready to admit would be an inestimable advantage, the final settlement of the Tithe Question, to attempt it? For myself, I know of nothing but danger and mischief that could accrue from the attempt to throw this Bill n its present state back upon the other House of Parliament, in opposition and defiance to the declared opinion of that House; and I think that the people of England, in making these concessions to the Irish Church, had a right to the abandonment of that which was not useful but useless, and to suspend its application, not for the purpose of destroying the Church, but of removing from that Church a stigma under which it appears to be sinking at this time, and under which, if doomed by this House to remain, it will, I say it with unfeigned and deep regret, I am afraid it will at last sink irretrievably.

The Earl of Roden

denied that this Bill was a boon to the clergy of Ireland. It was a Bill by which 860 benefices were, at one fell swoop, to be deprived of the means of religious instruction, of being taught the doctrines of Christ. That did not show that the Bill had for its object the establishment or maintenance of the Protestant religion in Ireland, and if he possessed the talent or the eloquence of the noble Marquess, he could show that it must have an exactly opposite effect. It would be folly to hide their eyes from the fact. There was no man that was not really aware that this Bill was only what it had been called elsewhere, an instalment to a party in the other House of Parliament. He believed that to be the fact, and that there was but good reason for saying so. He affirmed that this measure must be attended with the destruction of the Protestant Establishment in Ireland. The noble Duke had rightly stated his view of the subject, when he said that such must be the effect of this Bill; and he could not understand how noble Lords opposite, if they were anxious, as they said they were, for the settlement of the question, could refuse to carry this part of the Bill. They knew that they could carry it if they chose; but when they told noble Lords on this side of the House to take it up, they knew well enough that no noble Lord could carry through a Bill of this sort. He repeated, that this Bill had for its object, not by the noble Lords opposite, but by those who supported them, the destruction of the Church of Ireland.

The Earl of Wicklow

denied that the Bill was a boon to the clergy of Ireland, but was a grant made for the clergy in consequence of the interference of the Government in preventing them from the collection of tithes. The clergy, if they had received the aid which the Government were bound to afford, would not have required this grant. But the grant was made because the Government said, that the tithes should not be collected. It was gross injustice to call it a boon to the clergy. It was easy for the noble Marquess to say, let noble Lords on this side of the House take up the Bill, but he asserted, that it was the duty of the Government to carry through its own Bills. He understood why the provision which accompanied the Bill had been introduced. It was well known that the noble Vi count, when he took the reins of Government, stated that he was pledged to that principle, so that he (Lord Wicklow) was not surprised when this Bill came into this House, that it should have that provision in it; but surely when the noble Viscount had fulfilled his pledge, when he had introduced this Bill in this manner, when he had advocated this principle in this House, and found that though the principle was adopted by a small majority in the other House of Parliament, it was one which neither of the other branches of the Legislature would tolerate—rinding it impossible to continue this provision in the Bill, he might feel it his duty to recommend the Bill in its present state to his friends in the other House of Parliament, and with their support, of which he was sure, and with the support of those who had in that House voted against this provision, he might pass the Bill at once, and make it the law of the land. The noble and learned Lord, therefore, had been justified in asserting that the responsibility of the lamentable state in which the Church was now left was with the Government.

Lord Brougham

If your Lordships are, I was going to say excited, but I will say moved by the situation in which you now are, I am sorry for you: I am sorry for the painful feelings you must now experience. But it is not my fault, for just before the division I took leave to state, to lay before you rather, fully, the inevitable consequences of coming to that vote which you appeared to me bent upon coming to. I spoke strongly then, for I felt strongly. I feel strongly for you now; if you had only felt as you now feel, at the right time, before you did the deed, like some other persons in the same situation, you might have avoided it. After doing the deed, persons in this situation are apt to throw blame upon others. By such means they try to appease their consciences, to quell the remonstrances of their bitter feelings against their past misconduct. The attempt never succeeds. The noble Lords recommend his Majesty's Ministers to carry the Bill in its present state to the House of Commons, and to pass it there. It could not be done. The noble Earl opposite says, as in an answer to the unanswerable statement of the noble Marquess, and to the question, "Why don't you take up the Bill?" he says, "Oh, we cannot, but you ought; it is the duty of a Government to carry through its own measures." My Lords, no man can more fully assent to that proposition than I do, it has my plenary concurrence. It is the duty of any man, and still more of any Government, to carry through measures that are measures of their own. But they are not to carry through measures of other people—measures which they disapprove of—of which they have distinctly stated their disapproval in every stage—of which they gave notice of their disapproval, and of their intention to act on that disapproval; for not only I, as an individual, but my noble Friends near me, and the noble Viscount in particular, gave you full notice on the subject; he rose, as I thought, needlessly, just as you were going to divide, to declare that if you came to the vote which he then foresaw, he would not go on with the Bill. But suppose he were to go on with the Bill—not his own but your measure, a thing changed in the nursing, mutilated, imperfect, as some would say a bad measure, taking from one party and not giving to the other—suppose he were to go on with it, does any man pretend to say, who has read the Bill, and seen the clauses which you have cut out, does any such man pretend to say that the House which passed the Resolution pledging itself to carry both parts at once, and not to separate them, would not at once throw it out? This is matter of substance, but then comes matter of form—for these clauses were money clauses, and if all the House were for it in its present shape, it could not for matter of form be agreed to. It is a most painful thing, my Lords, for the clergy of Ireland. I am glad to hear that the evil is to be mitigated—that it is an act of fitness, and I will further say, of propriety, towards the poor clergy of Ireland, who are now suffering for the faults of others in the rejection of the measure.

Lord Farnham

said, that the House was most grateful for the warning of the noble and learned Lord, whether it was meant in kindness or in censure; but the noble Lords seemed to think that noble Lords who did not sit on his side of the House, were in a state of penitence for what they had done. He should have been in a state of penitence if he had not pursued the line of conduct now condemned; and if noble Lords had, for the sake of compromise with the interests of the existing clergy, given their support to a principle of confiscation—had they done so, they would have deserved the reprobation of the country. He knew that the Bill had been framed on a Resolution of that House of Commons. With all deference to that House, he said that the whole difficulty of the situation arose from that resolution. He admitted that with consistency to themselves, the existing House of Commons must insist on the adoption of that Resolution. That was the folly—he might say the wickedness of the thing. It was that mischievous Resolution of the House of Commons which had put an amicable settlement of the matter out of the question; for none of their Lordships who had given a positive opinion against that resolution could ever concur with it, and therefore an insurmountable obstacle had been raised in the way of an amicable settlement. But whose fault was that? it was the fault of those who, though not in the Ministry at the time, had proposed the Resolution; he would not say for the purpose, but all the world saw with the pro- bability, by carrying it, of ousting the other party. He agreed, that as long as that Resolution remained on the Journals of the House of Commons, he did not see the least prospect of an amicable settlement.

Lord Hatherton

said, that the noble Earl who had just sat down had fairly stated the case. The Resolution referred to had been respected by the late Government. Why, then, should noble Lords complain that the present Government should respect it too? The noble Duke had said, that he believed that the design of those who introduced the measure was the destruction of the Church of Ireland. He was sure that the noble Duke could entertain no such opinion. If he shared that opinion, attached as he was to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England, no consideration on earth could have induced him to support that measure; but the more he considered the Question, the more he was impressed with the conviction, that the sinecures of the Establishment were the weak points to the defence of the Establishment through which the enemy at any time might enter and call the Establishment in question on grounds the most unfavourable to it. He sympathized with the sufferings of that class whom the rejection of this measure would affect. Their respectability and piety were equal to those of our own clergy; but he denied that any part of their sufferings was to be attributed to the Government with which he had been connected, or to the present Government. The working clergy of Ireland bitterly regretted the rejection of this Bill; but they were more under the influence of their Bishops than our own clergy, and great efforts had been made by their diocesans to procure from them remonstrances against the Bill. He knew that their feelings were in favour of it, and were different from what were represented by the Irish Bishops in this House. Their feelings were not opposed to the arrangements proposed this Session; for he was in possession of documents which, if he had known of this discussion, he would have brought down, and which showed what he stated to be true. Their Lordships had had the opportunity of settling the Tithe Question last year. It was then told them, that if they rejected that, the measure of the following year would be one of a different kind. They did reject it, and had done so again this year. Next year another measure, with worse conditions, might be presented, and it would come with an increased feeling among the people of England, that the conditions ought to be accepted, and with an increased desuetude of the payment of tithes, which was deeply to be regretted, but which was their Lordships' own work; and it would come, too, with the remonstrances of the working clergy of Ireland, who would then shake themselves free from the authority which their diocesans had hitherto exercised over them, by which they had been controlled, and their Lordships misled. He believed that the measure of next year would not be modified, as their Lordships wished it, by the delay.

The Earl of Winchilsea

professed the same attachment to the Church of England as the noble Lord, although certainly he would manifest it in a very different way. He would not show his attachment by sanctioning the atrocious confiscation and sacrilegious appropriation of the revenues of the Church. He did not mean to place his knowledge of Ireland in competition with that of the noble Lord—though he had some slight knowledge of that country by communications both from the gentry and the clergy; and the information which he had received led him to deny the assertion of the noble Lord, that any considerable body of the Irish clergy were in favour of a proposition, the object of which was the confiscation of the property of the Church and its sacrilegious appropriation to purposes for which it was never intended. The manner in which the clergy of Ireland had been treated had excited a feeling of reprobation through every part of this country. It was an act of gross cruelty to them to mix up two measures that were perfectly distinct. The destruction of the Church of Ireland, in detail, was meditated, and the first blow was that of sequestrating 860 parishes at one time.

Lord Fitzgerald

said, without meaning to doubt the opportunity which the noble Lord (Lord Hatherton) had had for acquiring information relative to the Church of Ireland, still he must, for himself, lay claim to at least as intimate a knowledge on the subject as the noble Lord could have gathered in the course of his few weeks' residence in that country. When the noble Lord asserted that he had received communications from clergymen declaring that their opinions were controlled, and that they had been influenced to make false representations, he could state to the House that the information of the noble Lord was as new and as unexpected to him as it was irreconcileable with the sentiments which he had heard expressed by some clergymen, and in which he had reason to believe the great body of the clergy of Ireland participated. He joined with the noble Lord in bearing testimony to the merits of that excellent body of men, and he sympathized with him in the expressions that he had used with respect to their misfortunes and sorrows. But, as to their opinions, to their hopes, and to their fears, he would refer their Lordships to the numerous petitions which they had caused to be presented to the House. They there implored their Lordships, that, however great might be their sufferings, however severe their privations, however large the personal sacrifice they might be compelled to make, not, on their account, or for their sakes, to lose sight of the Church of Christ in Ireland. They implored their Lordships not to consent to any measure of confiscation or spoliation—not to set a precedent of revolutionary innovation—not to overthrow that which as Members of the Protestant religion they were bound to protect—not to destroy that Church and that Establishment of which they were the ministers. It was due to the working clergy to say this; it was also due to the dignitaries of that Church, with whom the working clergy wished to be united, with whom they desired to stand or full. He owed it to truth and to justice to state this in their behalf, and to express his belief that they did not wish to see a settlement of this question, by the junction of measures that had no necessary connexion—a junction which was agreed to as a compromise between political parties in the state, and not with any reference to the interests of the Church.

Lord Plunkett

was never more surprised than at the noble Lord's speech, after such an exordium as he had delivered. He must suppose that the noble Lord had not contemplated, but had been betrayed rather into the observations he had made; for the noble Lord had indulged, in the course of his argument, in a series of expressions such as their Lordships, and he should think, also, the public, would much prefer to see altogether avoided. He did not seek to bring back the debate of some nights ago, and to put in the question of the Appropriation Clause, but he must say that it appeared as if the noble Lord had availed himself of this extraordinary occasion to give vent to some dissatisfaction he might have felt that the ascendency of his talents in this House, as exercised upon the Bill relating to the Irish Church and the Municipal Corporations' Bill, was not likely to realize such triumphant results as he had at first calculated upon. The noble Lord had charged views of destruction and an intention to spoliate the Protestant Church in Ireland against those who differed from him in their views of this great question. He begged pardon, such an intention had been directly charged by the noble Duke (Duke of Wellington); contrary to the spirit which usually characterized the tenour of his observations, that noble Duke did last night state that the object of his Majesty's Government in bringing forward this measure was to destroy the Protestant religion. Now that was a bold assertion. He was not one of the Government, but as an individual connected with it, he must now throw back, with every degree of indignation, the charge that he was concerned in any measure for the destruction of the Protestant Church. What would the noble Lords on the other side feel if he were to say that the Opposition was influenced solely by a desire to turn out the government, that they might take their places, and that there throwing out of the various measures which they had rejected originated in a factious purpose? He must think that he should not be justified in making such an assertion; and surely the same justice which noble lords would call upon them to pay they were entitled to receive. He declared solemnly and conscientiously—and he trusted they had consciences on both sides of the House—that in giving his assent to the Appropriation Clause, he felt he was doing that which, under all the circumstances in which the unfortunate Church of Ireland was placed, was not only the best thing that could be done to provide for the Ministers of the Church, but also for giving stability to the Establishment. With respect to the clergy of Ireland, he would not pretend to say that his knowledge was as accurate or as extensive as his noble Friend's, but he was unquestion ably not a total stranger to the opinions of that respectable body. He had conversed with many of them, and he had learned from others the sentiments which were supposed to be entertained by the body at large. Such being the amount of his information, he would declare that he never met with one who did not express his regret at the rejection of the measure of last Session. [A Noble Lord. It did not contain the Appropriation Clause]. He would speak to that also. To be sure the measure of last Session did not contain an Appropriation Clause, and yet their Lordships rejected it. That was no act of sacrilege; that was no act of spoliation. It might have been brought forward under circumstances which made it objectionable to particular classes, but it contained no insuperable barrier to conscientious men adopting it, and he solemnly declared that he had heard many speak on the subject, and never one who did not lament the rejection of the measure. He would not pretend that he had the same degree of knowledge of the opinions of the clergy on the subject of the principle of appropriation; but if he spoke his belief, he would say that a great majority was in its favour. He did not deny that their judgments might be somewhat warped by the misery to which they were subject; but in supposing this possible, he must not be taken to imagine that any one of them would consent to sacrifice, for this worldly advantage, what the noble Lord had described as the "Church of Christ." He begged to add, that he knew the most extraordinary means had been used to procure petitions from the clergy against the Appropriation Clause, and he knew instances in which they had totally failed. The clergy were, no doubt, a body of men having the feelings of gentlemen; but they were necessarily in the situation in which they were placed considerably under the influence of their diocesan. He should be sorry to state it, if he did not believe it—but he would say that, in his opinion, in most of the cases in which petitions had been got up against the measure, they were procured by the influence and exertions of their superiors.

Lord Lyndhurst

said, what connexion there could be between the Irish Church Bill and the Municipal Corporations' Bill he could not see, though his learned Friend had brought them together in his speech. To be sure they were both measures of spoliation, and as his learned Friend supported the one, he was not surprised to find him supporting the other. He hoped his learned Friend would give him leave to say, as a Member of this House, and he believed he was speaking the opinion of the whole country, that he would never consent that the revenues of the Church of Ireland should be plundered for the purpose of inculcating the tenets of the Catholic Church.

Petition to lie on the Table.