§ On the motion of Viscount Melbourne, the following passage from the speech of her Majesty at the commencement of the Session was read by the clerk:—"The laws which govern the collection of the tithe composition in Ireland require revision and amendment. Convinced, that the better and more effectual administration of justice is among the first duties of a Sovereign I request your attention to those measures which will be submitted to you for the improvement of the law."926
§ Viscount Melbourne
then stated, that he had received her Majesty's commands to announce her consent to the introduction of the measure before the House, and he begged leave to move, that their Lordships go into Committee on the Tithes (Ireland) Bill. As it had been agreed to without any observation on the second reading, it might be expected, that he should at least state generally what was the object and intention of the bill in its present stage. Although he felt the deep importance of this measure, and of this subject, and although he felt, among many great and pressing measures which forced themselves on the attention of the Government, upon the attention of Parliament, and upon the attention of the country, that this was perhaps the most pressing, and urgent, yet, at the same time, it had been so repeatedly discussed in that House, the principles upon which the bill was founded had been so repeatedly stated to their Lordships, the opinions of most of their Lordships were so well known upon them, and the great principle of the bill had been upon all occasions so generally admitted, that he did not feel it necessary, notwithstanding the great importance of the question, to address many observations to their Lordships upon the present occasion, or for any very long time to interfere between their Lordships and the Committee, into which he trusted it would be the determination of their Lordships to enter. When questions were of very great and deep importance, when they very deeply and strongly affected the interests and feelings of great bodies of the Queen's subjects, when they were in themselves of an exceedingly sensitive and inflammatory nature, and when they were extremely difficult of solution, when, in fact, they presented almost insuperable difficulties, it appeared to him unquestionably to be more prudent not to stir or agitate such questions unnecessarily, or to make them topics of superfluous discussion. He should, therefore, on the present occasion and in the few observations which he had to address to their Lordships, entirely refrain and abstain from touching upon any of those great questions, the very important questions of civil and ecclesiastical polity, with which their Lordships all knew this question was closely and deeply connected. He should confine himself to the bill at present before their 927 Lordships, and to the statement of the great principles of that measure. This bill was founded upon the principle which had been the principle of all former bills on this subject, and with respect to the adoption of which there had been, as far as he recollected, no difference of opinion amongst their Lordships, the only questions arising upon the details of the measure. The principle and the chief provision of this bill was, to convert the present tithe composition of Ireland into a rent-charge payable by the person who held the first estate of inheritance, that first estate being accurately and strictly defined by the bill, and being such an estate as might be considered as to extent amount and duration, to all practical purposes equivalent to the possession of the fee simple of the land. It was not necessary to state the reasons or object of this change and alteration. It was not for him to point out—it was obvious to their Lordships—that to relieve the occupying tenant from the liability of discharging his tithe, and to throw the discharge of what was due on those who were in every respect more able, in every respect more willing, upon those who were few in number and higher in station, would unquestionably put an end to, and close the unfortunate discords and tumults that had arisen from this cause in Ireland, or at least would put an end to them in the form in which they had hitherto existed. This was the great principle and object of this bill. There were two points which were new, and which had not been adverted to in the former measure on this subject. These were the provisions with respect to that portion of the million which had been advanced under the act of the year 1833 for the relief of the clergy of Ireland and also the provision with respect to the arrears of the tithes that had accrued due during the last four years, and during the unfortunate difficulties which had been met with in the collection of tithes. It was perfectly obvious, that unless they closed up all questions with respect to the arrears, unless they put an end to all collection of those arrears in that country they would not be giving this measure fair play, and they would not be taking the best means for accomplishing the end in view. If they left the arrears still to be collected by the clergy from the occupying tenant, they could not make the measure so complete as they 928 ought to make it; they would not be giving a fair chance of accomplishing the beneficial object which they expected from it. By the clause, therefore, of this bill the Lord-lieutenant was empowered, and not only empowered, but directed, to remit to the clergy the instalments due from them of the million which had been advanced to them, and thus exonerate them from the necessity of levying it from those by whom it was due. With respect to the residue of the million, which amounted to about 260,000l., certain sums having been advanced to the clergy and certain sums having been appropriated to other purposes it was proposed to apply this residue to the satisfaction of the arrears according to the claims of the titheowners with respect to the arrears accruing due during the last four years, namely, 1834, 1835, 1836, and 1837. It was to be remitted only to the clergy and was not to be remitted to those lay impropriators who possessed both the land and the tithes, nor to those clergymen who had already received from their debtors that portion of the tithes that was due to them. It was impossible in a debate to go into calculations on this subject and he would, therefore, refrain from doing so. He had some calculations that had been made, but he was rather fearful of future calculations, particularly in pecuniary matters, as he knew they were very apt not to be justified by the result. It had, however, been supposed, that for the last four years 500,000l. was due upon the amount of tithes, and about 270,000l. previously. By the 260,000l., together with the sums that had been received and that were to be received from lay impropriators, it was supposed, that they would raise 500,000l., which would be sufficient to pay the clergy about 70 per cent. upon those arrears. This was the calculation which had been made; but he begged, however, not to be understood as making himself responsible for its perfect accuracy, or as pledging himself as to the future result. Those provisions were new, and it was perfectly evident what were the grounds and object of introducing them into the present bill. Whatever objections might be urged to them, those objections were overborne by the greater advantages, and, in present circumstances, the necessity of them for the welfare and the beneficial operation of this measure. He did not know, that it was necessary for him to 929 make any other observation upon the other clauses of the bill, which were subsidiary to the main object, and only framed to carry into effect those principles which he had stated to their Lordships. But there were unquestionably certain clauses which were not new, which they had had in all the bills sent up from the House of Commons on this subject, and to which, as their Lordships very well knew, very great objections were entertained by many Members of this House—he meant those clauses which provided, in certain cases of excess, in certain cases of alleged fraud, in certain cases of mistake and want of care, for the re-opening and the re-consideration of the composition for tithes as it at present existed. He knew this was very much objected to as unnecessary, as breaking into and re-opening and ripping up contracts founded upon parliamentary sanction, and which had been solemnly decided upon. On the other hand, it was perfectly certain, that there were many cases in which these compositions were extremely beyond the mark, and beyond the real value of the property, in which they had been made with very great carelessness and neglect, and where, in consequence, very great excess prevailed in the amount with which the land was charged for tithe; and it was generally admitted, that, with respect to a certain class of compositions, those which had been compulsorily formed under the act commonly called Lord Stanley's Act, at a time when great violence existed on one side, they had been carried into effect without that care which was required, and whether the charge had been made fairly or unfairly in those cases, unquestionably those compositions could not be relied upon as being in any degree fair representatives of the property which they were intended to assess and to represent. Upon those grounds, he might say extraordinary grounds, those clauses were introduced which gave to a certain number of persons, possessing a certain portion of composition, the right to apply for a revision and reconsideration of the contract upon certain alleged and specific grounds mentioned in the bill, namely, want of care, excess, fraud, and misrepresentation in the beginning and in the formation of the contract. He knew very well, that their Lordships would look with jealousy on a principle of this sort, because there might have been one or two exorbitant or extrava- 930 gant cases; but at the same time, if there had been a great deal of remissness, if the country suffered under these charges, as it did suffer, he trusted, that upon a fair consideration the House would be disposed to sanction the revision of those contracts, carefully guarded and secured as such revision was by the bill. These were the principal provisions of this bill, and he did not know whether it was necessary for him to trouble their Lordships with any public observations upon them, or upon anything connected with them. He knew nothing was more dangerous than to anticipate anything like success upon any measure. He knew, also, that nothing was more unwise, or more likely to end in disappointment, than to prognosticate anything like supposed contentment or tranquillity; but he begged leave to say, that although he did not draw any flattering picture of that description, yet knowing, that he had himself the same object as all their Lordships had in view, he presented to their consideration this bill on the present occasion, as the best and most prudent from which it was possible to hope for success under present circumstances. The noble Viscount concluded by moving, that the House resolve itself into Committee on the Tithes (Ireland) Bill.
If I could agree with the noble Viscount, not merely in the opinion with which he concluded his address, that this is the best bill that could be framed, and that it is the measure most likely to attain the end we all have in view with respect to Ireland under present circumstances, and particularly if I could agree with the observation with which the noble Viscount commenced his speech, that the subject matter now before you had been so often already discussed as to make it superfluous to moot again points that had been so frequently dealt with and decided, my present task would indeed be reduced within limits more commensurate at once with my own inclination and the patience of your Lordships. But it is because I do not take that view of this measure with which the noble Viscount's speech closed, and it is because I know—for this is no matter of opinion, it is matter of fact—it is because I also know, that the noble Viscount has misstated, doubtless from not accurately recollecting the relative position in which he now stands, and in which he for- 931 merly stood when this question was last before the House, that I feel it to be my indispensable duty, a duty from which I may not shrink, to enter my protest in this first stage, in which I have had an opportunity, in debate at least, of doing so, and of expressing my dissent, and the reasons of that dissent, from the measure of the noble Viscount. As to any picture that can be drawn prospectively, flattering to the hopes of those who are its friends, or as to any past kind of sketch that might be given by those who, feeling deeply apprehensive of the consequences, avow themselves its adversaries, I purposely, for the present at least, would abstain, as the noble Viscount has done, from any such expressions, deeming it generally rather rash, inasmuch as expectations raised are often disappointed, and fears entertained as frequently afterwards prove to be unfounded. But there is one remark of the noble Viscount's in which I entirely agree, in which the noble Viscount said, that calculations were dangerous as well as perspective sketches, and that those calculations which were made of what was to happen in future were very often frustrated by the event. This bill, my Lords, at once gives a very remarkable instance of the truth of the proposition, and it is the first of the grounds which I have stated to your Lordships for not feeling it possible to retire from the discussion of this subject, namely, that it is not the measure we have formerly discussed. The calculation is this. When my noble Friend, Lord Althorp, with my entire concurrence as a Member of the same Government with himself and the noble Viscount, propounded the million advance to the Irish Church, the calculation (to use the phrase of the noble Viscount) then was, that it was a loan, and the expectation raised by that calculation necessarily followed, that like other loans, the party advancing it was to have a claim of repayment; and also like other creditors, the repayment was sooner or later to take place by the payee in the calculation—the Church to whom it was advanced; or if it were not advanced to the Church, but only to relieve the payers of tithes, namely, the Irish landowners, that after a time these Irish landowners would repay, as it suited their convenience, but still sooner or later repay the money so advanced. Well might the noble Viscount say, in open- 932 ing the measure to-night, as a general proposition, that calculations are not always realized, for it is not above four years since that calculation was instituted, and with that result; and we are now converting the loan into a gift, and at the time when we had well hoped that the repayment of the million might have been effected, instead of the repayment we have been favoured with a conversion, and what was a loan we are to abandon at once and for ever. Now, therefore, I have a right to say that this is not the measure which has been so often discussed before—that this is not the same argument into which we have already entered—that they who approved of the former measure may most consistently as they do conscientiously, disapprove of this measure. But that measure sinned against no principle, and, if I am not much deceived, I shall satisfy some at least of those who agreed with me in patronising that measure, that the present measure sins against all. My Lords, so much for the changes in the bill as regards what is still in it; but a great deal has been left out. The bill wants the jewel in the head of the former measure.—I find nothing of that which mainly recommended the former measure. I see a blank in that portion of the bill which in former times contained all that smoothed the path to the support which many a man gave it, and, at all events, to that which chiefly made many who desired much more, rest satisfied with the little that was then bestowed. I allude to what was commonly called the appropriation clause. What has, in the name of wonder, and in the name of consistency—and I wish to say nothing offensive when I add in the name of principle—what is it that has expunged the appropriation clause entirely from the present bill? My watching and longing eyes search for it in vain. There is nothing whatever in the present bill to console those who approved of it on principle—there is nothing to comfort my noble Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, one of the most strenuous advocates for that principle, both in the Cabinet, where I had the honour of sitting with him, and out of the Cabinet, and in the country, and in his writings, and in his speeches, and in his motions in the other House of Parliament. No comfort has either he or I in looking at the provisions of this new-fangled, new fashioned bill; appropriation is as much passed over 933 —as much given to the winds—as absolutely and as entirely abandoned—as if it had never been mentioned, or the name never coined, or the word derived from the Latin, or the thing never debated in the other House of Parliament. Those who sit on the opposite side of the House must be as much surprised as myself—but for a different reason. I wished to have seen it in the bill—had hoped to find it there; because of the principle which it asserted, and the bill was said to derive its whole value, because of the principle which it did assert. Those who sit opposite dreaded to find it in the bill—they could scarcely expect to be relieved from it—they hardly dared to hope they would not find it. For why? They well recollected how much they, in other times, had suffered under that word and from that cause. I might have forgotten the recent history of this bill, for it has a tendency to pass from one's recollection—it has a tendency to obscure and obfuscate one's memory on the subject—but if I have not very much forgotten the state of parties in this country—I go no further back than three years—there was a motion somewhere or other—for the very express purpose of asserting this great principle which no liberal man could possibly abandon—the principle of appropriation as to the Irish church. As one of the great political parties felt it impossible honestly to abandon that principle in which I partly join with them, so another of the great parties found it as impossible to accede to that doctrine of appropriation—and in that other House of Parliament I may speak of it without great irregularity, because it was on the votes at the time, and as that House has since died a violent death, and is no longer in existence—in that House there was a vote passed, the result of which was that one government was broken up. And the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lyndhurst) whom I remember I saw on the very day of his going out—will recollect, that I had the pleasure of some conversation with him on the subject, and we ventured to offer predictions as to the future, almost all of which have been by the event fulfilled. But amongst those predictions in which our fancies that morning indulged, I will freely confess that I never did reckon on one, and I believe he was as guiltless of fancying as I was, that we should ever live to see the day when appropriation should 934 be given to the winds as if the thing had never been talked of, as if it had never been the means of seating one Ministry and unseating another. So much for appropriation—the chapter of appropriation, its origin, history, flourishing, decline, and fall—its use, how it has been taken up, how used for the purpose of unsettling one government and settling another, and how, in the fulness of time, having answered every good purpose, it has been gently laid aside, and put to rest with a single requiem sung over its grave, not even in one sentence of the noble Viscount's address, but in one or two words, namely—and this is what is meant as a tribute over the grave of the late appropriation, that useful and excellent friend—that the present measure, excluding the late appropriation "is as good a measure as, everything being taken into account, we can now hope to pass." To have passed over so dear and valued a treasure, to have paid it less honour would have been the grossest ingratitude—ingratitude worse than the witchcraft, and that worst species of witchcraft, which gave rise to the transformation of the bill we have now witnessed, but surely it was unnatural and unkind in the noble Viscount to a deceased and valued friend to have dismissed it uncerimoniously. To have said less upon such a subject—to have paid a slighter tribute to the vast services of this extremely important and valuable assistant dum fuit, to have said less in its praise, was absolutely impossible for even the most concise of all the orators who ever uttered a funeral oration in the city of Lacedemon. Now, my Lords, it is on these two grounds of what is in the bill for the first time, and what is now for the first time left out, that I take my stand, and give my serious and solemn protest against the course about to be pursued by her Majesty's Ministers. That it may be lawful, that it may be consistent with the most perfect and scrupulous regard to the rights of conscience, and the great interests of religious liberty—and that it may be also consistent with the most perfectly sound administration of the principles of the civil laws of the realm, as regards its duties and obligations to all parties, for the Government to interpose in difficult circumstances with a temporary loan, and an advance of money to parties, whom it is the policy of the State to protect, and who, from acci- 935 dental circumstances, or under the pressure of immediate ones, from the non-performance of the debts, the duties, or the obligations of others, are compelled to resort to it, is a proposition which I am perfectly ready to admit as true. It is one which all Governments have in difficult circumstances acted upon, whether it be the clergy now, or the laity at a different time—whether it be mercantile men in one state of distress, or the agricultural interest at another period of public suffering, or the Colonial interests at a third period, in each, and all of those cases temporary advances have been made by way of loan from the public funds, to relieve the necessities of private individuals; the church, in this case, being in one sense a public body, but for the purposes of the present argument, I view it in the capacity of a private individual—in that of tithe-owners, as contra-distinguished from tithe-payers—in that of creditors, as contra-distinguished from debtors. No principle of religious liberty, or perfect toleration could ever be said from any act of temporary accommodation, or mere succour, to have been infringed. So long as the Church was to be protected at all—so long as the State took upon itself the task of providing a remedy for the violation of rights, no one could deny, that this act, which was indeed further recommended to all parties, and most of all, to those parties, whose consciences were most tender, by the amiable name, and pleasing character of a charitable measure, was a measure not inconsistent with justice, and sanctioned by sound policy. Therefore, I will say, that I never met any persons, either those who were against all religious establishments, or those who, not being for the voluntary principle, were still against any further endowments of the Church, other than that derived from tithes, and Church-lands which had been already given to the Church—I never heard from any of these quarters, objection taken to the principle of a temporary advance of money. But, my Lords, it is indeed otherwise with gifts out-and-out, and not to be repaid. These gifts I maintain, are exceptionable on every ground. The Church is endowed with lands and with tithes; and no man, be his creed what it may, be his dissent as wide as you please from the Church in doctrine, and be his disapproval of the ordinances of the Church as wide, and his 936 practice as different as you please, can have any right whatever to disapprove of a loan. But he has a right to disapprove—he has a duty to disapprove—not of the loan made in the first instance—not of tithes in their regular course—not of Church-lands in the ordinary case, and for why? Because these properties never were in him—he never had more than nine-tenths of his freehold, the remaining tenth belonging to the Church; and as for Church-lands, they never were his at all; but he has a right to disapprove of gifts, and therefore, although I am one of those who hold that all Church-property—tithes in England, tiends in Scotland, and Church-lands in England and Ireland, are all properly speaking, public property; and may be dealt with by the country and the Legislature for national purposes, if the wisdom of Parliament so think fit—for purposes immediately connected with the Church, if the wisdom of Parliament so think fit; or for purposes not immediately connected with the Church, because the State having its faith inseparably bound up, and connected with the Church, nothing which the wisdom of Parliament can do for the appropriation of its property, either to temporal or secular purposes, can at all be said to be alien to the interests of that Church; yet I have no hesitation in acknowledging the rights of the Church to receive such temporary advances as it may require upon its own property. If a national establishment be held in the opinion of the country to be fit for the people, and beneficial to them, the support of that establishment may be said to be immediately and directly the interest of the State itself; but I take it, nevertheless, that there is a broad and deep line to be drawn between that Church-property, the tithes, and the Church-lands, hitherto wholly enjoyed by the Church in severalty, and never enjoyed by any other party, and money raised by taxes off the people of this country, raised by way of loan, the interest upon which loan, the people in the shape of taxes must pay—and this difference is all and everything. You will observe, that no Dissenter, be he Quaker or Presbyterian, Baptist, or Unitarian, ever makes the slightest objection (except the Quaker), to the payment of tithes; but none of them ever make the slightest objection to the Church retaining for the present, and until the wisdom of Parlia- 937 ment shall otherwise decide, entirely and exclusively its property in the Church-lands. Is it the same with rates? Name but the subject of Church-rates, and every Dissenter, of every shade of religious opinion throughout the island, from one end to the other, is up in arms. The strongest Government that ever existed in this country, even in the most flourishing period of its power, when public affairs prospered most, and when private influence at home was most extensive, and kept pace with the prosperity abroad, the strongest Government has not the power in the times in which we live to levy from the people of this country the fraction of a farthing for the fabric of the Church by the increase of church-rates. The question is, can you with all the mechanism of the State, with all the influence of the Government, and with all the supreme power of Parliament, can you maintain church-rates on the footing on which they now rest? No man, be he the greatest zealot in politics or religion, or both, not intimately bound up with that unnatural alliance between Church and State, which must be stigmatized as having been productive of nothing but clerical corruption—no one of these zealots could maintain the physical possibility of raising one penny additional for the rates of the Church by force of any new law. No Act of Parliament sanctioning such gross oppression, cruelty, and injustice, can or will pass in the present day. Why is it cruel and unjust? Because those men are taxed on account of their religious scruples, their honest conscientious dissent, and they are compelled to pay twice when they should only pay once. They are compelled to pay to the support of your Church; and they choose to pay, under the influence of their conscientious opinions, for the support of their own, and they therefore pay a double tax, as a tax upon worshipping God according to their own consciences. Why, then, my Lords, what is this measure? What is the object of this bill? It is by a tax to take 900,000l. from the people of England to pay the Irish Church. That is the plain English of it. Now, my Lords, I have presented hundreds of petitions from Scotland, in which many parts of England sympathized against one farthing additional endowment to the Scotch Church. They say, "You—the Government, who were the authors of the appropriation clause; you—with all your pro- 938 fessions of liberality and sound principle? you—who brought forward a plan for relieving Dissenters—can you think of giving additional endowment to the Church of Scotland, which must be paid by taxes to be levied on Dissenters from the Church?" Your answer to that—how will it be received? "Oh, no, we mean to do no such thing. There is a difference between the seceder and the member of the Church—not in doctrine, but in discipline—on a question of Church patronage alone—not upon conscientious scruples, or religious principle at all. The seceder differs from the Church, therefore God forbid that we, the patrons of Religious Liberty, that we, the authors of the appropriation clause—we, the proposers of the abolition of church-rates, on the grounds of Religious Liberty ! God forbid, that we should use any such violence to your conscientious scruples, as to make you pay one farthing for a Church, in every one article of whose profession of faith you textually and entirely agree, and from which you are only separated by some slender, evanescent, and hardly tangible difference on political grounds." "But, do you mean to give any money to any other Church?" "Oh? to be sure," is the reply, "we mean to give—not 20,000l., or 50,000l. as was asked and refused, for the Church of Scotland—no, but we, the advocates of civil and religious liberty—we, the great patrons of the Dissenters—we, who without the Dissenters could not exist as a Government for half an hour—we, who to repay them, brought in a measure so ill framed, that it could not pass either House—but which was founded on the principles of civil and religious liberty—we, to manifest the consistency between our professions and our conduct, we mean to give not 20,000l., but 900,000l.—not to a Church from which the Scotch Dissenters differ only on points of discipline, but to a Church of bishops, priests, and deacons, which all good Presbyterians, and all Dissenters, regard as an utter abomination!" Well—well, my Lords, may this be looked upon as a violation of all principle—as a "heavy blow, and great discouragement"—to the hopes of the Dissenters. But, my Lords, is there nothing in the peculiarities of this case, which make it worse? Everything. I will not enter, my Lords, into the great question of religious establishments. I do not stand here upon the ground of what is called "the voluntary 939 principle." My opinions are strongly in favour of a religious establishment. I think it is better for the teaching of religion. I think it stands upon safer grounds than the American experiment—for I can hardly call it a doctrine, it has not lasted long enough to have stood the test of experience, or the American plan, of letting every man choose his own religion, and having none to whom the Government lend its support. It is quite unimportant to me which way this argument is determined. My present proposition stands entirely apart from it. If I were the enemy of religious establishments—or if I carried my regard for religious establishments to the utmost extent—I should still hold precisely the same opinion on the present measure. Dr. Paley, and all those who have ever argued this question in favour of Church establishments, hold that such institutions ought to be in accordance with the opinions of the great majority of the people. I do not remember one argument in support of these establishments which would sanction anything so monstrous as a Church amply endowed, richly provided for at the expense of the whole community, which only ministers to the spiritual wants of a very small fraction of the people. I well remember a phrase used by one, not a foe to Church Establishments—I mean Mr. Burke—"Don't talk of its being a Church!—it is a wholesale robbery!" My Lords, I should hesitate to use such language—it would be called everything noxious, and grating to your Lordships' ears, attuned as they are to more silvery tones on questions relating to Establishments. Yet this is the language of Mr. Burke who sometimes carried his advocacy of Church Establishments into the bounds of enthusiasm. My Lords, here is a Church supported by a people in number 8,000,000 of whom nearly 7,000,000 are Catholics, and upwards of 1,000,000 Protestant Dissenters. I say nothing of the endowment of the Church by tithes, which is—most wisely, I think—by this Bill to be converted into a rent-charge. But I say, that the principles of religious liberty are outraged by a Government who, while they will not allow it to be said, that 1s. is to be paid by the Seceder to the Scotch Church, bring forward a measure to which the Seceder, and all Dissenters will be compelled to pay 900,000l. to the Irish Church. My Lords, I object to the measure therefore as being at variance with all the princi- 940 ples of religious liberty. But I object to it upon another, and, though perhaps a lower, not an unimportant ground. I object to the Bill upon this principle, that it allows persons to escape the payment of tithes, which is a debt due from them, and because they will not pay it, the State is to step in and pay it for them. That is, persons refuse to obey the law, for the payment of tithe; and you, the Government, instead of lending, which would be the natural course—all facilities to the Church to obtain payment of its lawful dues, you interpose and tax those who have already paid their dues to relieve those who have refused to pay. That is the character of this bill; is it, my Lords, according to the principles of justice, or is it consistent with common sense?—Certainly not; it is contrary to every principle of justice, and a gross violation of common sense. Far different is it to the old doctrine of the English Common Law; far otherwise were the old institutions of the country with which I have been acquainted from a child. According to those institutions, every man was made answerable for his own acts, and the defaulter was not allowed to go free; parties were made to keep watch and ward over their neighbour, and in case be should escape them, the law brought him to justice; but here the case is different; by the present bill it is said, you have committed yourself; you have been contumacious; you have refused to pay the dues of the Church; the Church was a creditor of yours; you have not paid your debt, and therefore, we will make others who have discharged their lawful obligations, not those who have shown a refractory spirit, we will make them pay for you. Instead of your paying twenty shillings in the pound, you shall not pay one farthing, but we will make those pay who have not broken the law. Upon what principle of justice, or upon what principle of common sense, can such a measure, my Lords, be framed. My Lords, I look upon the gift of 900,000l. which is to be paid by the Dissenters to the Irish Church, 'as one which is made in violation of all the great rights of which men in the ordinary transactions of life are so justly jealous and tenacious. Is there anything, my Lords, in the situation of the Irish Church that makes it advisable that such a state of things should exist. I should think that every reasonable and sensible man would 941 say no; and how those who wish to perpetuate such a state can bring their feelings to justify themselves upon it, I do not know. It is no argument with them that the appropriation clause might be dispensed with, because, if there should be a surplus, it might be but small, and might be long ere it arrived, come it soon or late, be it great or small, at all events it is a beginning; it is a principle asserted, it is a matter of principle, and we are here upon principle. We are, say the propounders of this measure, men of principle, and we would sooner die than give up our opinions upon civil and religious liberty, and our opinions, above all, upon the question of the Church. We would sooner die than give up this dear, cherished, and sacred principle—we would sooner suffer anything, except, indeed, to be shut out of official existence. Anything short of that species of suicide they were prepared to encounter and defy, sooner than give up that principle. How, then, is this matter of principle to be given up. In this House and the House of Commons, there may be a difference of principles. A few nights ago, on a question of great importance, one of the highest importance, as it affected the relation of this country with neutral powers, two noble Lords in the same Ministry, had differed most materially from each other, yet strange to say, they kept their opinions, and what was infinitely better, their places. So it may be here, my Lords; there may be the same adhesion to principles, though differing toto cœlo, and here may be also the same adhesion to office. Now, how has the principle been abandoned? I declare to you, my Lords, that I should have preferred anything rather than have given up the appropriation clause—I should have infinitely preferred the bill with that principle being rejected, rather than have the bill carried without the appropriation clause. The only thing said by the noble Viscount, in the few words he uttered upon the subject, was, that "in present circumstances, and situated as they were, it was all that they could do," it was carried in the House of Commons by some small majority—eight or fifteen—[Great Laughter.] Noble Lords on the other side of the House may laugh, but I firmly believe, if they had been in the Ministry, they would not have had a larger majority. The days are gone by, when you will see great majorities in the 942 House of Commons; they have been put an end to—whether that be good or bad, I will not say—but great majorities have been put an end to by the Reform Bill. The Ministry have been obliged, in order to lighten their sinking bark—to throw the most valuable part of their cargo overboard—the appropriation clause. The present state of the measure is, in my opinion, very much like a certain animal which when hunted emasculated itself in order to escape its pursuers. The pursuers who were in chase of this bill, your Lordships, would not be satisfied with anything short of cutting out and emasculating this appropriation clause. The Ministry cut it out, and are now flinging it in the face of their pursuers. The object of the noble Lord in resorting to this operation—I mean to this measure—is to reduce it to such a woeful plight and such a pitiful condition, as to render it unworthy of being caught, and thereby enable it to escape, and prevent your Lordships from wreaking your vengeance upon it. Is not this most unnatural conduct on the part of the parents of this measure? I confess, my Lords, that it seems to me it would have been far more feeling that the measure should have suffered from the hands of your Lordships than from those of its unnatural and wretched parents. The inconsistency of those who introduced this measure, and then deprived it of its vitality, I never before saw exceeded or equalled. Now, my Lords, before I close the remarks I have to make, I must say, that I see nothing in the prospects of the Irish Church which would induce me to expend upon it the enormous sum of 900,000l. There is nothing in that Church that reconciles me to part with the money or the principle. I have upon former occasions stated my conviction, my painful conviction—I did so on the last stage of the Irish Poor-law Bill—that the Church of Ireland was so unnaturally circumstanced, so surrounded by pressure from without, that all the improvements you can bestow upon it will be fragile in comparison with that pressure. Such being the case, my Lords, it appears to me, that the Church of Ireland is incapable of lasting much longer without change, that change which the friends and advocates of the Church would say would lead to its destruction. It cannot be expected, that it will last in its present state many years longer. Does 943 any body, or can any body, really suppose, that this Magna Ecclesia, I will not give it a harsher term, can be perpetuated much longer. That six millions of Catholics, and one million of Dissenters, will remain without an Establishment, while the whole of the wealth of the country is given to an Establishment of some 800,000 individuals. There is something, my Lords, in such a state of things that is shocking to think of, and inconsistent with common sense. [Cheers.] If the noble Lords who sat on this side of the House were on the other, instead of five or six, I should have had fifty or sixty cheers. I have heard it called by various names—one of them your Lordships have heard me use, only in a more decent disguise. I have, my Lords, heard it called an anomaly, and I say, that it is an anomaly of so gross a kind, that it outrages every principle of common sense; and every one endowed with common reason, must feel, that it is the most gross outrage to that common sense, as it is also of justice. Such an establishment, kept up for such a purpose, kept up by such means, and upheld by such a system, is a thing wholly peculiar to Ireland, and could be tolerated nowhere else. That such a system should go on in the nineteenth century—that such a thing should go on while all the arts are in a forward and onward course—while all the sciences are progressing—while all morals and religion too—for, my Lords, there never was more of religion and morality than is now presented in all parts of the country—that this gross abuse—the most outrageous of all—should be allowed to continue, is really astonishing. It cannot be upheld, unless the tide of knowledge should turn back—unless we return to the state in which things were a couple of centuries ago. There is a sophistry which was used by Mr. Burke—but it is impossible that any person possessed of reason or common sense but must see through it at once, nor do I think that that eloquent man believed in it himself—it is impossible that a man with his powers could. At the time of the Union the proportion of Catholics to Churchmen were as five to one; but Mr. Burke said, It is not the Church of Ireland, but the united churches of England and Ireland, and by that means he brought the proportion of churchmen to assume the relative proportion of three to one Catholic. Any one who could put faith in such an argu- 944 ment must have lost all sense of right and wrong. Why, Mr. Burke in using it must have forgot the position of the Bristol Channel; he must have forgot, that they were a different people, of a different country, of a different lineage, with different habits and prejudices—I will not call them "aliens," &c. I knew, that my noble and learned Friend had that word on his lips—but I, my Lords, never was one of those who cried out against my noble and learned Friend for the use of the words, for I always considered, that it was merely a very unfortunate expression. I understood it as it was afterwards explained by my noble and learned Friend; and it having been so explained away, we are bound to believe, that it was not used with any intention of insult. I, however, am now using it in favour of the Irish people, and not against them; therefore, I will go back to my position, as I may so use it. Why, my Lords, what a knowledge of geography those must possess who use such a monstrous argument—they must forget that the sea cut and divided the two countries—they must forget, that the Irish people have old feelings and associations different to the English people—they must not only forget, that their very blood and language were different, but they must also forget the habits of the Irish people which are broadly marked by the hand of nature, and more strongly still, by the monstrous nature of the civil polity under which they have been ruled for centuries. It is easy, then, but it is idle, for the people to talk of making one kingdom of the two countries so far as the Church is concerned, it is easy so to join them for the purpose of making the Catholics appear in a minority. The question is, what is the relative proportion of Catholicism and Protestantism in Ireland now. My Lords, it is as ten to one—there are now in Ireland ten dissenters to one churchman. The answer, as regards the Church, is decisive and triumphant. As regards the Church, the answer, then, is decisive. If you assume the proposition of Mr. Burke, then you must assume, that the Church of Ireland and the Church of England being the Establishment, is so for the whole of the people of England and Scotland, as well as the people of Ireland. What, my Lords, is the fact? Why, that in Ireland the Churchmen amounted to 800,000 out of a population of 8,000,000, and that is the fact, my Lords, which makes it the mon- 945 strous abuse which it is felt and declared to be. Therefore it is, my Lords, that I humbly stated my opinion a few days ago to be, that even the oldest Member of your Lordships' House may live to see a very great change in the endowment of the Irish Church Establishment, even if he might not live to see the end to its very existence. I have not a word to say respecting the endowment of a Catholic church. No Catholic church will be borne by the people of England or of Scotland, or even of Ireland. Make a stated stipendiary provision for the Catholic clergy, which would not only be borne, but would be hailed as the one real mode of solving the difficulties in which we are placed, as the only mode of restoring peace to that distracted country, and it would be at once easy and safe. I am the last man in the world to desire the establishment of the Catholic religion; I verily believe, that the Catholics themselves would spurn at it—they disavow such a wish, and I believe them to be sincere. Can that, however, be any additional reason for me to embark the million, as well as my principles, in so frail a bark, to help it to go down by lading it a little more, without the chance of saving it, and so perish in what I fully believe to be a political wreck? Surely, no. Yet, my Lords, strange, most strange to tell—at least, I have been informed, and I believe my information to be correct—strange, I say, to tell, that has been given as a reason for inducing us, the country, contrary to all economy, contrary to all principle, contrary to all the great principles of toleration and religious liberty, that has been given as a reason why we should embark the 900,000l. in a frail bark that is going down. That reason was given by a noble Lord, out of whose book I shall be happy to take a leaf, but I stand liable to the same curse as the German, who complained, that some other persons had said all the good things he intended to have said. In my place in Parliament, here, where I now stand, some fortnight or three weeks ago, I said the same things as regarded the Church of Ireland, but certainly, my Lords, I did not expect that I should so soon be confirmed, and that by a noble Lord who formed one of the cabinet of her Majesty's Ministers. I did not expect, that I should so soon hear from one of the Government that the Church of Ireland is doomed. I confess, that I was not 946 sanguine enough to expect to hear such language deliberately, for I have been informed, that the noble Lord repeated the expression, after his attention had been strongly called to it, by an attack made upon him and the Government to which he belonged, for that expression—I say, my Lords, I was not sanguine enough to expect to hear from such authority, and so soon, that its days are numbered—that the bark is frail—that it is impossible that it can last any longer, or keep the sea, and that, therefore—mark that, my Lords, I could not myself so soon arrive at such a conclusion from the same premises—that, therefore, it is worth our while to embark a million of sterling money in it. This, my Lords, is not acting up to the old adage of "throwing good money after bad." No, it is throwing good money away—throwing it into a frail and sinking vessel, without the hope of the slightest benefit; and, in addition to the million, not content with that which might have been considered enough—not content with that—they are preparing also to throw in their principles, as well as to sacrifice in the same frail bark the whole principles of toleration. My Lords, by this step you disappoint the fervent hopes of seven millions in Ireland—you disappoint the expectations of four millions of Dissenters in this country; they have been fervent in their prayers for perfect equal liberty and exception from all taxes, which they cannot pay, conscientiously pay—you will deeply disappoint the hopes of those millions who regard their principles more than the pressure of the amount, and who would object on principle to the tax, were it only a farthing, because they feel that the principle is a violation of their consciences. Yet, my Lords, you are about to pass a bill, to close a Session in which you have done little or nothing else, which will damp their hopes, and they will, having lost all confidence in Parliament, look in vain for relief, and the Irish portion of them will no longer know where to turn. Do the Government hope, that they are recommending themselves to the country, or do they hope, that by this abandonment of their principles, they can solve the question which presses upon them, or can pacify Ireland? I recollect meeting in my reading a phrase which was used by Charles the First, which is most applicable to the present case. That monarch, in writing to his favourite, the Duke of Buck- 947 ingham, said. "Ireland is the only egg we have been sitting on for some years, but the shell of it is so hard that we have not hatched anything yet." These are my sentiments, and they have always been the guide of my conduct. The affections of the people I will never court at the expense of their interest; their delusions, their passing delusions, I will never share, though, by thwarting their wishes, I may incur their displeasure. But their deliberate opinions, their well-considered principles, those judgments which they form, after long observation and much experience, we are bound to regard with profound respect; and I never will be deterred from supporting their sober and reasonable prayers, by any senseless apprehension of wild and urgent demands succeeding. Never fear the people. Believe me, the safest rule is—trust that you may be trusted. The more you confide in them, the more they will have confidence in you—the more you listen to their prayers, the less they will vex you with greedy encroachments and unreasonable demands. I now give you the result of all my observations all my experience—all my intercourse with them—I have never feared them—citizen, senator, statesman, minister, I never for an instant feared the people. Why should I now? Liberty and popular rights are mixed up with our whole Constitution. Oppression, exclusive monopoly, oligarchy any sacrifice of the many to the few, whether in State or in Church—is utterly alien to its whole nature. How often have we seen popular rights and liberal principles of Government almost prostrated and oppression and intolerance bearing an unnatural sway! Even then I never despaired of the good old cause—I never turned away from the cap of liberty, even when it hung upon a bush, or was nailed to the scaffold. Surely I will not now, when it should surmount the Crown—the Crown that was fabricated for its support and maintenance. I may stand alone, but I stand undismayed, I have honestly and fearlessly delivered my opinions, the opinions of my whole life, and upon which the public conduct of thirty years has been invariably framed. I stand among the ephemeral supporters of an ephemeral, though an enormous abuse. But the day is fast approaching, when their eyes will be unveiled, and my principles bear sway—when truth, because it is truth, will prevail—and right, because it is right, 948 triumph; for the principles which I have declared are founded in eternal justice, and adopted by the understandings, and engraved upon the hearts, of twelve millions of the people.
Lord Fitzgerald and Vesey
said, that he felt all the difficulty which he imposed upon himself in attempting to address their Lordships after the eloquent and elaborate oration of the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down. It was neither his intention nor his wish to follow that noble and learned Lord through the whole of the wide and varied course of argument which he had pursued. But while there were points of the noble and learned Lords' argument against which he was bound to protest, he thought it not unfitting, although it would place him in the singular position of defending the greater portion of the bill which had been introduced by her Majesty's Government, that he should shortly state the grounds which influenced himself and those noble Lords with whom he acted in recommending to their Lordships the adoption of this bill, and in the mean time he entreated their Lordships to approach this discussion in a spirit and a temper calculated to promote the settlement of this important question at issue. Before, however, he adverted to that view of the question, there were passages in the noble and learned Lord's speech so calculated to alarm the feelings, not of their Lordships alone, but the country at large, that he could not suffer them to pass without observation. The noble and learned Lord at the conclusion of his speech, had ridiculed the argument by which Mr. Pitt, had recommended the act of a Legislative union. He could only say, that if it had always been the noble and learned Lord's opinion, that the maintenance of the Church Establishment in Ireland was inconsistent with sound and honest legislation, why had the noble and learned Lord remained silent when, in 1829, the Catholic Relief Bill was recommended to the people of England as a measure calculated to promote peace and tranquillity, and to give security to that very Church Establishment in Ireland—security to that Church Establishment which the noble and learned Lord now in such unmeasured terms condemned? With a view to the fair discussion of the bill which was now before their Lordships—of a bill surrounded by special difficulties—it 949 would have been more becoming in a citizen, a senator, and a statesman, and in one who had been a Minister of the Crown, to have treated this question in a different spirit, to have examined the provisions of the bill with more temper, and not to excite against the bill—not in that House, for the noble Lord had confessed, that he stood alone in their Lordships' House—but out of doors, the strongest feelings and most vehement passions which can actuate the minds of men, the religious prejudices, in short, of millions, as he himself declared, against the settlement of a measure which all parties and all sides were ready to make the greatest sacrifices to carry. He would now apply himself to the consideration of that noble and learned Lord's objections to the bill. His first objection was to the relinquishment of the claim on the public for that portion of the advanced million which had not been repaid. The noble Lord averred, that this single circumstance was sufficient to justify his opposition. But did the noble Lord remember, or was it necessary to remind him, that in two bills which had already received the assent of their Lordships House, as well as the support of that noble and learned Lord, a similar provision was imported, and that the noble and learned Lord had never once urged this objection? In 1835 he had given his assent to a bill sent up from the House of Commons remitting the whole sum, which, up to that time, had been paid to the titheowners in Ireland. And another bill of a tendency nearly similar had also passed through the House, without any remonstrance on the part of the noble and learned Lord. [Lord Brougham: I was not a party to that.] The noble and learned Lord was exercising the duties of a senator and a statesman, if not of a Minister of the Crown. He should, however, first wish to notice another point; that which was the ground with the noble and learned Lord for resisting the bill—namely, the omission of the clause for appropriating the surplus revenues of the Church to other than ecclesiastical purposes—might be a ground with him for resisting the measure; but he was happy, in thinking that, with the majority of their Lordships, formed one of its chief recommendations. The noble and learned Lord said, that he would consent to no other bill than one which contained the principle of 950 appropriation. Might he be permitted to ask how it was, that the noble and learned Lord consented to the bill which was introduced by Lord Grey? How was it that those great and eternal principles on which he had dwelt with so much eloquence and force were then less valid and less powerful in his mind? It was not his intention to have adverted to this part of the subject; and had it not been from what had fallen from the noble and learned Lord, he should have said nothing which could by possibility be regarded as a taunt upon the noble Viscount, or partaking of the character of recrimination. But that subject had been introduced by the noble and learned Lord, and it was but due from those who had always opposed themselves to the mischievous tendency of an appropriation clause to say, that so far from thinking, that any blame ought to attach to the noble Viscount, he, on behalf of those individuals, congratulated their Lordships on the abandonment of a provision which would have stood in the way of any settlement, because he was convinced, that it never would have been borne by their Lordships, or by the Protestant people of England, that they should secure to the Church of Ireland a short-lived possession of their property, by adopting that principle of spoliation against which their Lordships had successfully protested. He thought that so far from this abandonment of the appropriation clause being a matter of sorrow, so far as those who had resisted it were concerned, or a matter of reproach, so far as related to those who had withdrawn it, their Lordships had reason to be happy in finding, that by their firmness and perseverance, aided as they had been by the press, by the public, and by public discussion, the principle maintained by the majority of their Lordships had received the support of Parliament. He must not omit to add, that after the patience and fortitude of the Protestant clergy, and the severe sufferings and dangers to which they had been subjected, he had had additional reasons for congratulating their Lordships upon this event. So much for the two points which stood in the front offending so far as the bill was characterised by the noble and learned Lord. He wished now to recall the attention of their Lordships to the subject as treated by the noble Viscount and to state to the House the reasons which operated with himself 951 and those who were anxious to join the noble Viscount in endeavouring to effect a settlement in such a manner as would give it a chance of success. The noble Viscount in opening this subject to the House had adverted to the two principal points in the bill—namely, a relinquishment on the part of the public of 900,000l., and the opening of compositions which had already taken place under acts of Parliament. Now, with respect to the remission of the million loan, he confessed that so far from desiring that the Church of Ireland should be dependent on the bounty of the public—so far was he and others from thinking that it was desirable for them, or that the bargain was made for their advantage—he must say, that this was a part of the bill to which he felt the greatest repugnance, and to which he gave his assent more reluctantly than any other. He could not overlook the fact that this remission was the purchase-money for the extinction of their legal rights, and this in his opinion was a most inadequate and disproportionate equivalent, if the word "equivalent" might be used in such a sense for the rights which the clergy were compelled by the bill to relinquish. It would have been much more satisfactory to him, and he believed to their Lordships, had this bill come up to that House leaving to those who had right of property to maintain an option of taking a rateable amount under the bill, or of enforcing by legal process their rights to property which was recoverable by the law of the land. He thought he understood the noble Viscount to say, that there would be 750,000l. available for this purpose.
§ Viscount Melbourne
, 500,000l. might be thus applied, but 250,000l. of it has to be recovered from clergymen and lay impropriators.
Lord Fitzgerald and Vesey
. The noble Viscount calculated upon recovering 250,000l. from the clergymen and lay impropriators. Now, in the first instance no such statement as this was made in another place, where this clause was vigorously contested, and where the principle of optional or compulsory payment was so much and so fully discussed. It was never said, upon any of those occasions, that a sum of 500,000l. might become available, including 250,000l. to be recovered from clergymen and lay impropriators. But the noble Viscount and his government might still regrant 952 100,000l. which was diverted from its original object to public works. So far as he had heard, he believed it would be found that the arrears, which were spread over four years, amounted to 600,000l. [Viscount Melbourne believed 500,000l.] Yes, 500,000l. for the last four years, and 100,000l. besides. He would state the difficulty, and he might almost say the compulsion, by which those had been acted on who desired to have the interest of the Church protected. They were quite aware of the injustice of this part of the measure, and indeed it was impossible to be satisfied with it. They were strongly desirous of the insertion of the optional clause to which he had alluded; but with the view of giving the best chance to the success of the measure, they desired to see the measure which the Government had introduced fairly tried, and they felt that to continue proceedings for the recovery of tithes, after tithe itself and composition for tithe had been abolished by the adoption of a landed rent-charge, would have interfered with the chances of the success of the measure itself. They were bound, notwithstanding their unwillingness to interfere, to make this concession with a view to the best interest not only of the Church but of the establishment, and not the interest of the present time only, but of the future. They were the more induced to consent to the extinction of these proceedings, as by continuing them they would be keeping alive animosity, religious discords, and religious conflicts, which exasperated the public mind in Ireland, and would diminish the prospects of success by which they hoped the measure would be attended. He might also say, that they were not so neglectful of the interests of the Irish Church as they themselves might at first sight have conceived themselves to be. It was obvious that a clergyman, however fully the right of property might be vested in him, would be prejudiced to a great extent in attempting the recovery of his tithes by the principle of an act which abolished such property for the future, and he would come into court without any strength in his claim, as it were, when Parliament had declared against the claim which he sought to enforce. He really thought upon consideration that the clergyman would obtain more under this act than he would recover if left to the process of law, Parliament having declared against the principle of tithes, Re hoped, there- 953 fore, that the House would feel, and that the clergy of Ireland would feel, that no indifference had been exhibited with respect to their interests, because in this particular the bill was left as it came from the House of Commons. He might be permitted to say, that this course had had the sanction of those heads of the Irish church who were near enough to be consulted on this subject, and that they had felt the responsibility of rejecting this clause, or of obtaining the re-introduction of the amendment which had been proposed in the House of Commons at the hazard of endangering the bill itself. He came now to the subject of revising and re-opening the tithe compositions which had been made under the authority of former Acts of Parliament, which the noble Viscount had so strongly, or perhaps he should rather say so vaguely, recommended. It would be his duty, or at least he had undertaken, when this bill came to be committed, to propose in place of those clauses the insertion of the clauses relating to this part of the subject which formed part of former tithe bills. The noble Viscount had in very general terms indeed recommended that a power should be given for re-opening and revising the tithe composition under Mr. Goulburn's Act of 1821 and the Act of Lord Stanley. Those who had not read the bill or examined the clauses it contained would hardly believe the nature, the extent, and he might say, the oppression, of the clauses which the noble Viscount had recommended in terms so general and so vague. Their Lordships were, no doubt, aware that under the Act of 1821 all the compositions were voluntary. The tithe-owner and the tithe-payer were the contracting parties. In few instances, indeed, when compared with the great number of compositions under that Act, was it necessary to call for the arbitration for which the bill contained a provision, by the appointment of commissioners to settle and define the amount of composition. That Act gave, moreover, an appeal against the amount of composition. Now, when he stated to their Lordships, that the whole number of compositions under that Act had been 1,505, and that only thirty-nine appeals were lodged, they would perceive that there was a pretty general acquiescence in Ireland in the compositions made under Mr. Goulburn's Act. Of these thirty-nine appeals, fifteen were withdrawn as irregular 954 and informal, and twenty-four went to trial. Of these twenty-four appeals, eighteen were heard before the Privy Council, and six were referred to the Judges of Assize. In three cases, and in three cases only, was the amount of composition reduced. Now, he would ask their Lordships, if there were not in the circumstances which he had read to them almost evidence from which there was no appeal as to the satisfaction which must have been felt in Ireland with the compositions made under this Act? But what the noble Viscount proposed to do was, not only to re-open the compositions made under Lord Stanley's Act, but to re-open the whole of these 1,505 compositions made under the Act of 1821–2, with respect to which, at the time they were concluded, there were in the whole only thirty-nine appeals. Now, he had here expressed in much better language than in any with which he could clothe his argument, a statement of the difficulties and injustice which the clauses now in the bill would work. He would read the passage which the noble Viscount, who had advocated the opening of compositions, would find well worthy his attention. He did not believe, that the noble Viscount would be willing, because a clamour existed against some compositions in Ireland, to work an injustice—he did not believe, that the noble Viscount would, because these clauses had been introduced in another place, in order, as it had been said, to make the bill go down, to enable those who supported them to tell the people of Ireland "It is true we have not extinguished tithes, but we have opened compacts (deliberately entered into) not for the sake, perhaps, of upsetting and destroying these compacts, but for reducing compositions." He did not believe, he repeated, that the noble Viscount would recommend these clauses to work out injustice under circumstances like these. This was the passage to which he (Lord Fitzgerald) alluded:—"When the clergy formed these compositions, they depended on the faith of the Legislature that they were to be final." And that general arrangement having been made, he marvelled much whether any interference with them would not partake of a far greater degree of injustice than any that would arise from a taxation of the people as elaborately stated by the noble and learned Lord opposite, The noble and learned 955 Lord had not, in speaking of injustice, at all adverted to the injustice of opening compositions made under faith of an Act of Parliament, and which both the contracting parties deemed to be final. But the passage proceeded—"When the revision of the compositions took place, not a few of the clergy were called upon to prove several particulars; and supposing that the settlement was final, every one of them might now have parted with the necessary papers and documents, might have since lost his proctor and collector, and not one of them be now prepared to make good the claim he had before proved and substantiated. Again, many of the incumbents had since the composition been changed, and the successors of those by whom the composition had been effected might not now possess one atom of evidence. There, again, might be many clergymen whose parishes were members now of unions, and had a separate composition, and received a separate revision. Now, under this bill, three barristers were to be appointed, with two guineas a day each, and on hearing before them a clergyman might be called upon to resist objections to tithes which had been raised twenty years before, and of which he had never heard until that day." Now, he must say, that considering the time which had elapsed, since the composition, the nature of the evidence necessary to establish the claims, the fleeting character of that evidence composed, as it was, of papers, receipts, and documents, of which it was not likely that any clergyman would preserve a trace—he should be glad to learn on what evidence these barristers were to proceed to an adjudication, especially in parishes where the incumbencies were held by individuals who knew nothing of the statement of accounts on which the compositions had been founded; many of the compositions, (those of 1821) were known to have been based upon average returns for the preceding seven years, and when it was remembered that many of the present incumbents were then not even in orders—many were at school, nay, some of whom might not then have been born, they were yet expected and called upon to prove the grounds and basis on which the compositions, which their predecessors had considered to be final were, founded. He was sure such a violation of justice had never before been proposed in any Act of Parliament, He begged 956 pardon, it had twice before been brought up in Bills from the House of Commons, and twice had the House dealt with the proposition, as he trusted it would in the same spirit of justice deal with it, when the amendment on the clause which he should have the honour to propose was presented in Committee to their Lordships. Now the compositions under Lord Stanley's act, might certainly be considered of a different character from those under Mr. Goulburn's act. The Act of Lord Stanley had very different objects in view, it provided for the commutation of tithes, to composition by compulsory enactments, it provided an allowance of 15 per cent. to be given to Irish landlords on their undertaking to pay the tithes due from their tenantry. And it also provided, that all tenants at will should be discharged from the payment of tithes, and that in all leases that fell out, that charge should be fixed on the landlord, the tenant having power to deduct the tithe he paid on account of his landlord from his rent. Now he was far from admitting that this alteration of the law, which made compositions compulsory, would alone entitle Parliament to open compositions which took place under that tithe act, but still it was an element in the fairness of the transaction, and therefore it was, that he should propose in Committee the clauses which had been on two former occasions proposed in place of the clauses to which he had referred, as having before been expunged by their Lordships. Until the House got into Committee, he would not trouble the House by reading the clauses he meant to move as amendments, nor would he now enter into any further specific observations on the points opened by the noble Viscount opposite. He might, however, be permitted, (not in reply to the noble Viscount, but in reply to others, and in vindication of those who adopted the course which he intended to pursue, to state that there was one cause and source of regret to him and others, arising from an important omission from this Bill. It would be in their Lordships' recollection, that not only on the discussion of the proposition of the appropriation of the surplus revenues of the church of Ireland to other than church purposes, but on other occasions, both here and elsewhere, the most exaggerated representations had been made of the wealth of the Church of Ireland. Since he had himself been a 957 Member of Parliament, he had heard statements made on the subject of so exaggerated and outrageous a character, that the authors were now ashamed to come forward and avow them; and now, happily the legislature and the country had arrived at better and more accurate views of the revenues of the Irish Church, which formerly had been so grossly misrepresented. It would also be remembered that a commission, called one of public instruction, had been issued by the Ministers of the Crown, and that on the report of that commission a Bill was introduced, which professed to be for the settlement of the tithe question. That Bill provided for the suppression of about eight hundred benefices in Ireland, as not being called for by the state of their Protestant congregations. The cry was then raised that although the revenues of the Trish Church, were not, on the aggregate, so large, so monstrous, and so indefensible, as had been supposed, still that the distribution of those revenues was a grievance, which called for parliamentary interposition and reform. In another place, a noble Lord who had shown himself, by the measures he had introduced while in office, no inconsiderable church reformer, introduced a series of provisions for the more just distribution of the ecclesiastical revenues amongst those who performed the duties of the church, and it then appeared that the appropriation of the revenues did not overpay any of the incumbents. These amendments were rejected by the House of Commons. The noble and learned Lord opposite had expressed his regret that the appropriation of the revenues of the Church, to other than ecclesiastical purposes did not form part of this Bill; but he on the part of the Protestants of Ireland—of the members of that condemned and derided establishment—must express his regret that the reform heretofore proposed for a more just distribution of those revenues amongst the working clergy of the Church, was not to be found in this bill, as then they would have a better answer to give to the views expressed by those who exclaimed against the disproportionate establishment of the Irish Church. This reform was well deserving the attention of her Majesty's Government; and he much regretted it was not to be found in the Bill, and he trusted that it would not be forgotten that the objection to the reform 958 did not come from his side of the House, or from the defenders of the rights of the Church, but had been repudiated by those who had been foremost to call for that reform. There had been many subjects introduced into the present discussion, which it would have been much better to have avoided, because there were many with whom he had the honour to act who were sincerely anxious for the settlement of this question; a settlement which this bill promised—he would not say ensured—if it was permitted to go forth without a re-excitement of angry jealousies and feelings. He was not called upon to vindicate the Church of Ireland, or the Church establishment, which had been called the united Church of Great Britain and Ireland, a name given to it by that compact in right of which alone the imperial Parliament could legislate for it—it was a Church the maintenance and preservation of which was secured by its union with the Church of England, and which formed the principal ground and basis of the legislative union. It might now be convenient to cast the enactment of that union to the winds; but let it not be forgotten that, though the two islands were separated by the seas—though these people were different in lineage, in language, and religion, still their interests were united and identical. Let those who agitated the question of the union remember that the compact with the Protestants of Ireland under that union was, that their Church should be maintained and preserved. If he were called upon to state the merits of the ministers of that much calumniated Church, and what were their recommendations to support and favour, he should take a ground hardly less sacred or interesting than that afforded by the terms of the Legislative union, and by the pledge Parliament had given, and the oath the sovereign had lately taken to maintain and preserve the Church. In addition to these, he would refer to the conduct of ministers of that Church during their days of persecution, and he would maintain, that nothing was to be found in the history of this or any other country at all to compare to the patient endurance of the persecuted clergy of Ireland. Neither ought to be forgotten the conduct of those who regarded that body of men as the ministers of the faith they professed in reference to the manner in which those ministers and their Church had been assailed. That 959 Church and those ministers required not his humble advocacy or feeble defence—they had the higher probation of purity and truth—they found favour in a higher source than even Parliament; and he would not believe, despite the prophecy of the noble Lord, that the Church was doomed to perish so soon or so unworthily. They had been told that the clergy of Ireland ought to have enforced their rights by law. Good God! was it in this House, was it before a British Parliament, where the facts were well known, when all were aware that when the clergy had attempted to vindicate their rights, they had been met in the armed field and had been made responsible for the blood of the aggressors, that such an argument was to be raised? Was this to be urged against them, when they did not get even the reluctant aid of a reluctant Government to assist them in enforcing their rights, and when Lord Althorp himself had stated the law could not be enforced by the Government? He trusted this bill, stripped of its obnoxious provisions, would (as he believed it would) be allowed to pass. He would not embarrass the question, sufficiently difficult in itself, with exasperating topics, and thus take away the chance of a settlement. But whether it passed or not, he believed, that both in this country and in Ireland, there existed a sufficient attachment to the reformed faith to preserve it inviolate, bearing in mind that it was connected with that disclosure of religious truth which had not only conduced to the advancement of civil freedom, but had extended and preserved it.
in explanation, denied that he had imputed any blame to the Irish clergy for not enforcing the claim by law. He had said, however, that if the law had been found insufficient, Parliament ought to have been called upon to strengthen it, but from the beginning to the end of his speech he defied the greatest ingenuity to convert any thing he had said, into an expression of blame upon the Irish clergy. It was said, that he had supported the bill of 1835. He never took the slightest part in it; he never opened his mouth on it except once, and that was just before the question was going to be put, and after the debate was over. He then said, "My Lords, it is just as well that you should know what you are about, and act with your eyes open; if you do so and so the consequence will be, that on 960 such a day, the 1st of August he believed, a process of Exchequer will be issued against the clergy, for the recovery of the money advanced." His argument that night had been not against converting the loan into a gift. It was said that when he was in office in 1833 he was inconsistent, because he did not then insist on an appropriation clause. His present argument was, not why was there no appropriation clause now, but why was the appropriation clause which was in the bill in 1835 not in this bill? No doubt he approved of the bill of 1835; but if asked why did he not put it in the bill of 1833, he replied, that bill had nothing to do with the subject, it was a bill for reducing the hierarchy in Ireland; it was for cutting off ten Bishops.
. Yes, there was another bill. But my objection was, that having put an appropriation clause into the bill of 1835, that clause should not now be abandoned.
The Earl of Wicklow
said it was rather unfortunate, that the speeches of the noble and learned Lord always required so much explanation after they were finished, that a much longer speech was necessary to explain them. Had it not been for the interruptions which occurred he should have already told their Lordships that he was as anxious as his noble Friend that nothing should take place on this occasion to embarrass the measure, and to see it carried into effect as a remedy for the evils it was intended to cure. But when his noble Friend for the purpose of avoiding embarrassment thought it advisable to refrain from alluding to the circumstances of the last few years, he must say, that he could not consistently with his sense of the duty he owed the country in which he resided, pass over, as his noble Friend had done, certainly with a most kind and benevolent intention, those circumstances to which allusion had been made by the noble and learned Lord opposite, and which were materially connected with this question. He must express his deep surprise that the noble Viscount in opening the question had entirely passed over those circumstances, and had thought it unnecessary for him as a Minister of the Crown to explain why this bill was now in its present shape before their Lordships. Might he not well ask how it happened that they were now called on, in 1838, to 961 discuss a measure which might have passed in any year since the present Ministers came into office? That being the case was he not justified in asking, why had the country been allowed to suffer all the evils through which it had passed, and why the law had been violated, and blood shed, and the Church of the country placed in jeopardy? Why was the bill introduced by Sir Robert Peel in 1835, and by Lord Stanley in 1836, censured and rejected? It was incumbent on the noble Viscount to have apologised, and to have accounted for his conduct on the principles of justice and propriety if he could. When he looked to the course which had been pursued by her Majesty's Ministers, he endeavoured to discover what excuse a Minister of the Crown could offer for that course. But one excuse had suggested itself, and it was this:—What he expected from the noble Viscount was, that he would say, that it was true that in former Sessions he had advocated the principle of appropriation—true, he and his Government had determined that a portion of the Church revenues should be applied to secular purposes, and that they had resolved to maintain their position, but latterly, finding that even at his own council board, and in his own cabinet, revolutionary principles were afloat, that noble Lords, and members of his cabinet, not satisfied with advocating the destruction of the Protestant Church, and the establishment of the Popish Church in the cabinet, openly avowed those principles in their places in Parliament, and not wishing, though he gave the Church this heavy blow, to have it entirely destroyed, he had now resolved to do something to rescue it from destruction. He had expected, that the noble Viscount would honestly and candidly confess, that he had abandoned the appropriation principle for the purpose of saving the remnant of the Church. But the noble Viscount had assigned no reason whatsoever for what appeared, at first sight, to be the most total abandonment of principle that ever discredited any administration. But he must say, that after attending Parliament some years, and observing the proceedings of Ministers for some time, there was no proof whatever of their inconsistency. Her Majesty's Ministers now were, and always had been, consistent. He believed they had but one object in view, the great polar star of their conduct 962 was this—their continuance in office. When they saw a revolutionary spirit abroad, a desire to pull down the Church, and to set that House at defiance, and to bring it into contempt, believing that such principles would render them popular, they favoured them. But a change had now come over them, an election had taken place, and had shown them that the people of England were not that reckless people which they thought them, and that when excitement had subsided, they soon returned to sound constitutional views and, therefore, the Ministers now saw that, in order to keep in office still, their course must be one of a Conservative character. He remembered the remarkable language which had been used by the noble Lord on this very subject—"Let the representatives of the people be firm to their own views," said he, "let them determine to stand by their own sound opinions, the House of Lords can never stand against them, the House of Lords must succumb, it may be a year more or a year less, but eventually the measures supported by the people must be carried in spite of the House of Lords." What did the noble Viscount say now? He seemed still to maintain the same opinions, but he thought the most prudent course to pursue was that he now proposed. "Because there is no chance hereafter," said the noble Viscount, "of getting the House of Lords to acquiesce in our views, we must take what the Lords will give us—we must throw to the winds all the declarations we have made, and those which have been embodied in resolutions in the House of Commons—those declarations through which we climbed to power, and unjustly hurled others from it." Having gone thus far, the noble Lord then came down to Parliament, and expressed his desire to desist from all topics of an angry and debateable character. All that might be very convenient for the noble Viscount, but he must say, that such a course would redound to his eternal disgrace, and there would be no page so black in the history of the politics of this country which would afford the reader so much matter for contempt and censure, and no doubt some Hallam or some Hume would hand down to posterity the complete history of the whole affair, for its warning and its wonder. He spoke warmly on this subject, but it could not be said, that he had been a sufferer by the change in the ad- 963 ministration. It was a matter of perfect indifference to him who were Ministers, if he saw good Government caried on. But most assuredly when he saw such conduct as this, he must be anxious like others to see the Government placed in more worthy hands. With respect to the measure itself it was in the main principle the same as majorities of that House had always been ready to adopt, but there were parts of it founded on the rankest injustice. It was unjust towards the landlords, to the tithe-payers, and to the clergy. To the landlords it said, "You, who have taken on yourselves the burden of the tithes for the sake of peace, and rendered yourselves subject to this impost with a desire to promote the tranquillity of your districts and your estates, you shall gain nothing, you shall be sufferers; you shall pay all." To the tenantry it said, "You who have been honest men and obeyed the law—you who have paid the tithes, you shall remain as you are." But to those who had resisted the law even to the knife—who had associated together for the avowed purpose of opposing it by every means in their power—to them it said, "You shall keep your money in your pockets." Again, to the clergy it said, "You who have been meek and humble, who have acted in the spirit of patience, and suffered every thing rather than create discord and strife, you shall have 5s. in the pound. But to you who displayed a manly character, and braved all the dangers of enforcing your just rights, and insisting on payment, you shall obtain the same advantage, and whatever little arrears remain, you shall get them with those who have received nothing before." Now, was it possible to conceive a bill founded in more rank injustice? Still they were desired to submit to it. Was it not a degradation to the House, to the Parliament, to the country, and to her Majesty, in the first year of her ascension to the throne, that principles like those contained in this bill should be forced upon the House? Had the Government done its duty at first, the confusion and mischief that had taken place would have been prevented. True it had been stated on authority, that tithes were always odious to the people; but did it happen that such results had never been produced by them till the present Ministers were in office? The million grant was said to be for the relief of the clergy; but it was no such thing; it was taken from the public purse 964 to save Lord Althorp from the embarrassed position in which he placed himself by a most unstatesmanlike declaration which he made in his place, that tithes should cease on a certain day—a declaration he was entirely unable to fulfil. His noble Friend who had last spoken, had expressed a hope that the measure under consideration would give general satisfaction, and be productive of tranquillity; and he had attentively listened to the speech of the noble Viscount opposite, in order that he might learn from the noble Viscount, whether he and the other Members of her Majesty's Government entertained any hope that such would be the results of the measure. But the noble Viscount had expressed no such hope; there was nothing in the speech of the noble Viscount which could lead any one to entertain the opinion that her Majesty's Government expected that tranquillity would follow the passing of this measure, or that it would give general satisfaction to the people of Ireland. On former occasions, the Government had expressed their opinions, that no measure relating to tithe could be satisfactory which did not contain the principle of appropriation, and that opinion had been embodied in resolutions setting forth, that there could be no final settlement of this important question which was not based upon that principle. But that principle was entirely abandoned in the present measure; and he was anxious to learn from the noble Viscount, what were the opinions of her Majesty's Government as to the final results of the bill now under consideration. Did they think, that it would be productive of tranquillity, and that it would give general satisfaction to the people? The noble Viscount had not expressed a hope, that it would do so; but he trusted he would yet inform their Lordships what opinion the Government entertained as to the results of the measure under consideration. He confessed, he was astonished, that the other House of Parliament, which was generally so parsimonious, and many of the Members of which were so anxious about candle-ends, had allowed this measure to pass, and a large sum of money to be taken for the purposes contemplated in the bill, when the Government was afraid to say, that it would have the effect of restoring tranquillity to Ireland, and when the measure was not held out as a final and satisfactory settlement of the tithe question. But let him 965 remind their Lordships what had been said by an authority on this subject, who, although he was not inclined to put a high value on all his opinions, yet was, on a point of this nature, certainly entitled to consideration. He alluded to Mr. O'Connell. That Gentleman, on the third reading of the bill now before their Lordships, said, that "he now announced to the great supporters of the Protestant Establishment in Ireland, that they never aimed so destructive a blow at the temporalities of that Church as by assenting to this bill. Let them look at the meetings which were taking place, tumultuous because so large, throughout Ireland on this subject."—Again, "many Protestants of great property and station in the country were coming forward to join in the agitation of the question; and if the battle was now to be between the landlord and tenant, a worse class of Whiteboyism would arise than they had ever yet heard of in Ireland." That was the declared opinion of one who was now a friend and supporter of the Government, and who, he believed, had also supported this bill. It was openly declared, that if the bill passed, and that if the battle was to be between landlord and tenant, a system of Whiteboyism would arise such as they had never seen in Ireland. Such was to be the result of this measure, in the opinion of no mean authority on the subject, provided the landlord was made the responsible party; and such was the effect of the bill. On a former occasion, he had pointed out how this measure might be adapted to the circumstances of Ireland; and his opinion was, that the burthen should not be entirely thrown on the landlord. He approved fully of the protection given to the clergy, but he could not approve of throwing the whole burthen and responsibility on the landlords without some precautionary measures in their favour being at the same time adopted. That warfare would now be between the parishioners and the landlords; and he much feared, that tranquillity would not be the result of such a state of things. It had been stated, that the bill gave a bonus of twenty-five per cent., to be put into the pockets of the landlords; but that was not true; for the deduction, and very properly, went to the occupying tenant. He did not know on what grounds the calculations of the noble Viscount were made, but he could not help regretting, that they had 966 not the power of making some alterations in regard to the Million Act. He could not conceive anything more monstrous, than that compositions for tithe, of many years' standing, and which had been voluntarily entered into, should now, in 1838, be re-opened, and, as far as he could see, solely for the purpose of gratifying those who were anxious to disturb all the institutions of the country. He trusted, their Lordships would not consent to any part of this measure which gave the power of re-opening those compositions, as such a course would be highly impolitic and unjust. He trusted, the bill would be productive of some beneficial effects, but he much feared that it would not give satisfaction, and that it would not be considered a final settlement of the question, and that it would not give peace and tranquillity to Ireland. On these points he was anxious to hear the opinions of her Majesty's Government; and he trusted the noble Viscount would inform their Lordships, whether they might expect this measure to prove final and satisfactory. He should be sorry if any of the observations he had made, should have the effect of keeping up the agitation which existed, and he begged to disclaim the idea that it was his wish to obstruct the progress of the present measure; but he considered he had only done his duty in bringing before their Lordships and the country, the true view of this measure, and of the conduct of her Majesty's Government in reference to this important subject.
The Bishop of Derry
said, that he was not in the practice of trespassing often on the time of their Lordships, but the subject under consideration was one on which he could not remain altogether silent. He had long believed that a measure of this nature was essentially necessary, in order to restore peace and tranquillity to Ireland, and that opinion he had formed independently of considerations of the benefits which the clergy were likely to derive from it. It was because he held that opinion, that he urged their Lordships to pass the bill now before them, and that he had in 1834 urged them to permit the second reading of the bill which had been introduced by Lord Grey. On the former occasion, to which he had alluded, he had felt much regret at what had occurred, and for this reason—namely, that if the bill had passed, those calamities and tragedies 967 which they had witnessed in Ireland would never have occurred. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) said, what terrible people those Dissenters were who held bishops in abomination, but the Dissenters in his diocese were as exemplary as any other people. The churches in that diocese were every Sunday filled with Presbyterians, and the reason was, because the clergy, highly to their credit, avoided touching upon doctrines which could irritate their feelings. Under the whole circumstances, he implored their Lordships to pass this bill for the sake of peace and tranquillity, and in order that the clergy might no longer be exposed to those miseries from which the liberality of this country had, in a great measure, relieved them. He regretted that there should have been so much of feeling displayed in the debate, and he had always thought that it was highly desirable that discussions in that House should be conducted with temper and calmness. He had heard with much sorrow some comments which, on a late occasion, had been made upon the most rev. Prelate. For that most rev. Prelate he had the most profound respect, and the most sincere veneration for his humility. His opinions were at all times expressed with the utmost calmness, while he was always actuated by the most sincere anxiety for the welfare of the Church, and he could not but regret the observations which he had heard in regard to the conduct of the most rev. Prelate on a late occasion.
The Earl of Mansfield
was willing to make great concessions for the sake of securing peace and tranquillity to Ireland; but while he was willing to make great sacrifices of his own opinions and of his own views, he would not consent to make any sacrifice of principle. In making concessions they might be liberal in sacrificing their own feelings or property, but when they came to make concessions out of the property of others, they would not be justified in dealing so liberally with it. In considering this question, he should point out the difficulties with which it was surrounded, he should show where the measure was unjust, and he should also endeavour to ascertain what was its ultimate chance of success. He feared that this measure would not be productive of a durable peace, and that it would only lead to a hollow truce. He thought the noble Viscount opposite did not anticipate from 968 the bill complete success, and he had said that it would only make a difference, and that the dissatisfaction in regard to tithe would not be entirely removed. He objected to the injustice of the measure, because by the 7th clause a very great deduction was to be made from the incomes of the clergy. He could not conceive that such deductions were in accordance with the principles of reason and justice, and he thought 10 per cent. for the security of collection a sufficient deduction, while that amount was a sacrifice which he was certain the clergy would not object to make. It ought to be recollected that already the collection of tithe was much easier than it had formerly been, and that under Lord Stanley's act, that collection had been rendered much less expensive. With respect to tithe, he had ever been of opinion, that it was a most improper impost, as nothing could tend more to obstruct agricultural improvement. However, the clergy had agreed to the deductions with, perhaps, a wise liberality as concerned themselves, but he feared with questionable justice as respected their successors. In assenting to it, however, they had fully justified the eulogium which the noble Lord had passed upon them, and therefore, though reluctantly, he should consent to this part of the measure, because the clergy themselves had consented to it. With respect to the arrears, without entering into any calculation on the subject, he thought, by the plan proposed, the clergy would sustain a considerable loss—in his opinion about 30 per cent. In his opinion it would have been better to have estimated the amount of arrears,—to have paid that amount to the clergy out of some fund devoted to that particular purpose, and then thrown the collection of arrears upon the Government. In making that proposal, however, he would have provided that the power vested in the Government for the collection of those arrears should have only been exerted in cases of contumacy, and never when the parties were really unable to pay. There was, however, another point to be taken into consideration, for the people of Great Britain were called upon to pay for this arrangement, and they might be certain that they would inquire why they were called upon to do so, when they had a Government to execute the laws, and to see equal justice administered to all men. For his own part, however, as a native of 969 Great Britain, he was willing to make the sacrifice, and to pay even a larger sum, if by so doing he could secure peace and tranquillity to Ireland. What was the great inducement to the clergy to give their consent to this measure? It was the hope that it would give tranquillity to Ireland. He believed that was the sole object which they had in view, but he very much doubted whether such a result would proceed from the measure before their Lordships. The portion of the speech of a Member of the other House of Parliament which had been read by his noble Friend, had made a deep impression on his mind that success would not attend the measure, and he was still more convinced, that the measure would not restore tranquillity to Ireland, from reading a public letter which had lately been written by the same individual to the people of Ireland. In that letter, it was stated, that the anomaly of a church, providing only for the spiritual wants of one in ten of the population, would still continue to exist, and the influence of that individual in Ireland was universally acknowledged. He feared, the landlords would find, that even the Protestant tenants would refuse to pay any portion of the tithe, and in regard to the Catholics, he was afraid, that agitation would still be continued, and that they would be persuaded, that they could not pay any portion of tithe, however small, or in whatever shape, without an abandonment of principle. But if the proposed concession did not produce that satisfaction in Ireland which was expected from it, what was to follow? The noble Viscount at the head of the Government had, the other night, clearly and forcibly stated the maxim, that when Parliament was called on to effect any great object by concession, it ought not to be niggardly in its concession, and thereby leave the germ of future discontent. He believed, that when the noble Lord uttered that maxim, there was no one who did not admit its truth; but in the application of the maxim, there appeared to be a great difference of opinion between the noble Viscount and the majority of their Lordships. The noble Viscount had frequently in that House, declared his intention of supporting the Protestant religion, and establishment; but he must say, that some of the noble Viscount's methods of showing that intention, were not very satisfactory; and 970 he, for one, never could admire the noble Viscount's conduct—when the Church was oppressed by its enemies, and but little protected by those who ought to have been its supporters—viz., the Government—he could not admire the noble Viscount's homœpathetic remedy of applying to the Church a very great disco ragement, a species of remedy which caused a great aggravation of the disease, with the expectation of a complete ultimate cure. In the course of the debate, certain differences in the Government had been adverted to, and the opinion of the noble Lord, the Secretary-at-War, had come to their Lordships' knowledge, through the usual channels of communication. That noble Lord's opinion was, that the present measure could not effect a final settlement—that it was impossible, that the Roman Catholics of Ireland should be satisfied with it; and that noble Lord coupled himself with those Roman Catholics, adopted their sentiments, and said that it was impossible, that the present Protestant establishment in Ireland could be maintained. He was not disposed to cavil at the opinion expressed by the noble Lord; and, indeed, in one part of that opinion, he had concurred. He had taken the liberty, when the Roman Catholic Relief Bill passed, of stating in his place, in their Lordships' House his opinion, that it would be difficult, upon the grounds on which that bill was passed, if not impossible, to support the religion of the minority as the established religion of the state in Ireland. He should ever believe, that there were some who participated in that opinion, but who were too prudent to express it, since, coming from them, the supporters of the bill, it might have had a great effect on others, who only gave a tardy and reluctant assent to the measure. His apprehensions were, as their Lordships' knew, treated as visionary, and their Lordships came to the determination, that the religion of England in Ireland, should be the established religion of the State, a determination which they had, on more than one occasion, repeated; and he would take the liberty of saying, that whatever his apprehensions, with regard to the safety of the Church in Ireland were, he had never joined in any measure which was likely to make his prediction realized. However, it was useless for their Lordships to determine, that the 971 Protestant religion in Ireland should continue to be the established religion, unless by the line of policy they prescribed to Ministers, they forced them to adopt a course which was consistent with that determination. It was for this reason, that he made a reference to the opinion expressed by the noble Lord, the Secretary-at-War; and he put it to their Lordships, whether it would not be satisfactory to hear from the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, in his own name, and in the name of his colleagues, whether he differed from, or participated in the opinions of the noble Lord, the Secretary-at-War. He meant no disrespect to that noble Lord, when he said, that he was not, perhaps, so important a member of the Cabinet, with respect to the present question, as other members, who were more immediately connected with the Government of Ireland; and he, therefore, thought, that something was wanted to neutralize the complimentary letter written by the Secretary of Ireland to the chairman of an anti-tithe meeting in that country, which, though not approving of the resolutions, yet, being highly complimentary towards the chairman, did, in his (Lord Mansfield's) opinion, give a Government stamp to those resolutions, and augmented their value in currency. He therefore asked, whether it would not be satisfactory to hear what the opinions of the Government were on the point to which he had alluded. It was true that the appropriation principle had been withdrawn, but it was his belief that the object was not abandoned; and if the bill was not calculated to give peace to Ireland; and to appease religious dissensions in that country, would it not be a mockery to call on the clergy to make all those sacrifices which had been demanded of them? He trusted he should elicit from the noble Viscount opposite the declaration of his resolution to support the Protestant Establishment in Ireland, but he did not think that the Protestant Establishment could be supported if the Church in Ireland was to be mutilated for the gratification, or taxed for the support, of its inveterate enemies.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
said, that if their Lordships were resolved to pass no measure which was not in all its parts in accordance with the principles of strict justice, they must make up their minds to admit of no remedy to the great evil to 972 mitigate which the present bill was proposed; and it was from many years' experience of the impossibility of introducing such a measure with the chance of success that he was induced to approach the present discussion with a determination to make a sacrifice, not merely of personal vanity or assumed consistency, but of that which was more painful, a sacrifice of what was in itself strict justice to others, for the purpose of attaining that object which it was the first duty of Parliament and the Government to attain—the prosperity and tranquillity of Ireland, as connected with the safety of its institutions. Let it not be supposed that this observation was solely applicable to the present measure—it was equally applicable to every measure on the same subject which had been introduced, and which, if weighed in the strict scale of justice, it would be impossible for their Lordships to sanction. The question, therefore, resolved itself into this, whether the measure which their Lordships were now called on to adopt was not on the whole calculated, he would not say with certainty, but in all probability, to extinguish the evil, connected with the present tithe system in Ireland to which he had adverted. It was not his intention to follow the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Wicklow) through all the topics of party irritation which he had introduced into the debate, and he should most willingly bear with the censure of the noble Earl, since he was convinced that by the passing of the present bill a great good would be effected both for this country and for Ireland. Considering the peculiar position which the Protestant Church in Ireland occupied it was not extraordinary that different plans for its preservation should have been proposed, but with none of those plans did the present measure conflict, which, indeed, was only inconsistent with what the noble and learned Lord who opposed the bill stated to be the necessity of the speedy downfall of the Irish Protestant Establishment. Undoubtedly with such a necessity the provisions of the bill were inconsistent, for the object of the measure was to preserve, he would not say to perpetuate (for that man would be bold indeed who spoke of the perpetuity of any institution in so peculiar a state), but to preserve and sustain the existence of the Church in Ireland This was therefore, a measure of sacrifice upon the part of all—of sacrifice upon the 973 part of the clergy, of sacrifice upon the part of the landlord, and of sacrifice upon the part of Parliament, and all for the attainment of the common object in which they were all interested—the preservation of the peace and tranquillity of Ireland. With respect to the question which had been asked by the noble Earl opposite, whether the Government confidently entertained the hope that the passing of the measure would produce tranquility in Ireland, all that he (Lord Lansdowne) could say was, that the manifest tendency of the measure was to prevent the recurrence of those scenes of violence which demoralized the whole of the population, who resolved a question which ought to be one of peace and principle into a question of brute force, and that in a country consisting of 8,000,000 of people, 7,000,000 of these being directly opposed to the collection of that species of property. In his (Lord Lansdowne's) opinion, anything which rescued the Church of Ireland from a population so disposed towards it, and occasionally so incensed and exasperated against it, was an object which it was well worth their Lordships' while to endeavour to obtain, even at the risk of outstepping the strict limits of justice. Although he concurred in that which the wisdom of the other House of Parliament had adopted, and in which they exhibited unusual liberality—namely, the extinguishing of the tithe arrears by a large grant of money, still he would not concur in the expediency of it if it were to be regarded, as his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) who sat below him was disposed to regard it, as an additional endowment to the Church of Ireland. It was, however, no such thing—it was merely the giving compensation for claims which it was for the interests of the country the clergy should forego. It was, in fact, not a payment to the church, but to the public peace. He confessed he was at a loss to understand the distinction which the noble and learned Lord had drawn in the present case between a loan and a gift, between the 650,000l., the amount of the original loan, and the remaining 260,000l., which was no new donation. A loan was a loan as long as payment of it was required by the lender, but the moment that payment was abandoned it became a gift. There was one point upon which he concurred with the noble and learned Lord, and that 974 was the expediency under favourable circumstances of making some state provision for the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland. That such a provision would be desirable, was his opinion, and he was not ashamed to avow it. It appeared to be something like inconsistency upon the part of the noble and learned Lord to advocate such a proposition, at the same time that he withheld his assent from the present bill; for they could only make a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy by taking Presbyterians and Dissenters in common with the rest of the people. That the noble Lord was willing to do, because he thought it would be productive of good. Now, the present measure did precisely the same for the support of the clergy of the Established Church, and yet the noble and learned Lord opposed it. There was really no difference between both propositions. For these reasons he trusted their Lordships would allow the bill to go into Committee.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, he collected from the general tone and tenour, and the course of the present debate, that there would be no serious impediments thrown in the way of the committal of the bill. So many serious animadversions had been cast upon him in the course of the debate, that he could not allow their Lordships to go into Committee upon the bill without offering a few observations. The speech in which he had the honour of introducing this question to their Lordships, had been characterized as insufficient and meagre, as an abortion, and exhibiting want of care; while the noble and learned Lord had severely remarked upon the bill, both for what it contained and what it did not contain. The absence from the bill of the appropriation clause appeared to affect the noble and learned Lord in the same way that the Roman historian described the people of Rome as being affected in the triumphal procession. They were more moved, says the historian, by seeing the places empty which the statues of Brutus and Cassius should have occupied, than they were by the presence of those of all the other worthies which were introduced in the procession. The noble and learned Lord said, that he had dealt unkindly with a friend which had served him in his hour of need, alluding to the appropriation clause. The noble and learned Lord also complained, that he had sung but a meagre dirge over the appro- 975 priation clause. Now, with respect to the appropriatiou clause, and its being absent from, and not appearing in the present bill, he (Lord Melbourne) could say, that he had abandoned no principle which he had ever entertained upon the subject—he still held to all the opinions which he formerly held upon the subject. He had renounced none of them, but he held himself justified in that he had acted with prudence in looking to the time for bringing forward such a measure. For a justification of this course, he would appeal to the highest authority in that House, he meant that of the noble Duke opposite, (the Duke of Wellington). That noble Duke stated, upon the occasion of the last debate upon the subject of municipal corporations, that he disapproved of corporations altogether; that he did not think, they worked well in England, and therefore he would not wish to see them extended to Ireland; but that, as so strong an opinion in their favour had been expressed in another House, and by persons for whose opinions he entertained a high respect, and as the people themselves appeared to wish for them, he would agree to the measure, although he could not approve of it, and still retained his own opinions upon the subject. That was the language of the noble Duke on the occasion referred to. That was the language of good sense, and of a wise man, and a statesman. The noble and learned Lord had alluded in terms, he would not say violent and abusive terms, but certainly in most unmeasured language, to the character and condition of the Established Church in Ireland. Now, he must say, that considering the nature of that Church—considering the manner of its introduction into Ireland, and the circumstances under which that country was planted, that nothing could be more unjust and un-statesmanlike than the strictures of the noble and learned Lord, who, in quoting Mr. Burke, did not overstate his merits when he described him as a very high authority. No doubt, he was a man of the greatest natural abilities, cultivated in a degree worthy of such gifts; but the noble and learned Lord should have, at the same time, remembered, that Mr. Burke was a man of violent, of intensely violent passions; that he was a man as unmeasured in his invectives, as he was profuse in panegyric, that he disregarded the moral maxim ne quid nimis—that such 976 was the extreme recklessness, such the unequalled eccentricity of his conduct, that he often proved a most pernicious and dangerous guide. He was an unsafe guide when he lived, and now a most unsafe guide to follow when dead. Looking at the history of the English settlement in Ireland, every man must agree, that it was impossible for them to have done otherwise than they did in reference to the Irish Church. When Henry 8th denied the supremacy of the Pope in England, how could he have avoided doing the same in Ireland? He was aware, that of late, great attacks had been made upon Church Establishments. It was said, that the Established Church in Ireland was not the Church of the majority—that it was not the Church of the poor. He was not insensible to the force of these observations, and he thought, that the best course would be, to preserve the establishment, but so to reduce it, as to meet the exigencies of the time; he therefore had supported an appropriation clause, and on the same principle he had supported the Church Temporalities Act, and if the appropriation clause could have been carried with anything like credit for motives, he was not without hope, that advantageous results might be anticipated. Still he did not mean to deny the influence of present circumstances, and he thought, he might fairly give way to that influence, without any dereliction of principle. But, above all things, he wished to impress upon the minds of their Lordships, this—that they ought not to give up the positive advantages of the measure as it stood, merely because they could not hope to carry all that they thought desirable. He was far from saying, that the payment to be made under this bill, was not open to many objections, but let the House recollect, that it was a sacrifice for the sake of peace; that it would produce that effect he could not doubt; and, of course, he could not despair of the effects of a bill which he had himself brought forward.
§ The House resolved itself into a Committee, the Clauses 1 to 12 were agreed to.
§ On Clause 13,
Lord Fitzgerald and Vesey
proposed, as an amendment, that Clauses 13 to 25 be omitted, and in lieu of these, he should propose two clauses which would give the same power of appeal respecting compo- 977 sitions, which was secured under Lord Stanley's Act, giving also the same time for appeal—namely, six weeks from the passing of the Act.
opposed this change, saying that it would have the effect of preventing an immediate and decided settlement of the questions on which it might be brought to bear.
§ Their Lordships divided on the question that clause 13 stand part of the bill:—Content 38; Not Content 77: Majority 39.
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|St. Vincent||Saye and Sele|
|Bp. of London||Conyngham|
§ Clause and the subsequent clauses to clause 25 inclusive struck out.
§ Remaining clauses of the bill agreed to—the House resumed.978
I. Because, beside many other grounds of objection, it is open to this, that it converts into a gift the large sum originally advanced as a loan to the Irish clergy, contrary to the faith upon which the country was induced to permit the advance, contrary to the true principles of equal religious liberty, and contrary to the spirit of our Constitution—compelling men to pay for a Church from which they conscientiously dissent, giving to the clergy of the small minority of the Irish people an indemnity for the loss of their appointed dues at the expene of the vast majority, and making those who have broken no law, and withheld no dues answerable for the conduct of such as have refused payment of what the law, be it a good or a bad law, still unrepealed, prescribed.
II. Because there is no adoption in this bill of the important principle of appropriation, but rather an abandonment of that principle, if not a disapproval of it in substance and effect,
CAMPERDOWN, for the First Reason.