The Bishop of Exeter
said, there were circumstances connected with this measure which rendered it impossible for him to agree to go into Committee on it. Feeling as he did on the subject of this bill, he could not permit himself to consent that it should go through any further stage. He considered the bill as one pregnant with the most serious mischiefs to that Church to which it was his happiness and pride to belong; and, feeling that the bill must inevitably produce such effects, he considered it to be his duty to offer to it all the opposition in his power. He thought the fact, that the measure was calculated to injure the Protestant Church was too plain to require any arguments to convince those who considered the question coolly and deliberately in all its bearings. When he heard it asserted, that the Protestant Church could not, in any degree, be endangered by this measure, he begged leave to remind their Lordships that the bill would increase, greatly increase, the power of a very large body of persons in Ireland—of persons who were not only not members of the Church of England, but who were acknowledged to be fiercely opposed to that Church. The number of corporations that would be immediately affected by this bill was very large; but, large as it already was, that number might be still further increased, to a very great extent. Why, every town in Ireland having 3,000 inhabitants might, hereafter, under this bill, if the Minister of the Crown pleased, become the seat of a municipal corporation. A great number of corporate bodies might thus be created by the Minister under this law, bodies hostile to the Church, and who would, therefore, be anxious to use and exert all their newly-acquired powers to do injury to the Church. Let him remind their Lordships how this bill would act, by reference to what had occurred in the corporation of Tuam. That corporation 1284 was thrown open; and what was the consequence? Why, that it was completely in the power of the Roman Catholics; and, amongst other proceedings, they had appropriated all the funds of the corporation to the support of the Roman Catholic cathedral in that city. Yet the commissioners, in their report, had the confidence to recommend that the course adopted with reference to Tuam, should be acted on as the general rule for all the corporations in Ireland. To show that such was the fact, he should read an extract from their own report, under the head of "Tuam." After saying that all the corporation are "Roman Catholic," the commissioners proceeded to observe, thatNo particular individual can be pointed out as exercising paramount influence in the corporation since the change of its members in 1811, arid the proceedings of the Sovereign and free burgesses are of a more popular character than those of any other corporate body which we have visited. The admission of the commonalty to some share in the corporate proceedings, and the perfect freedom from religious distinction between the free burgesses and the great majority of the community, are strongly calculated to prevent the dissension which too commonly prevails in other places between the corporation, so called, and the inhabitants.In other words, the tyrant majority of Roman Catholics was so great that the Protestant minority would not, and could not, have the slightest chance of successfully opposing any of their measures, however detrimental they might appear to be to the Established Church. Such was the opinions of those commissioners who set up the corporation of Tuam as that which was to be the rule for all other reformed corporations. But it was said, that amendments would be introduced of such a nature as to secure a just property qualification, by which the apprehended evils would be, in a great degree, avoided. But, if any one fact was more clearly and decidedly proved than another, it was, that a property qualification in Ireland was a mere delusion, and could never be taken as a fair representation of the property and intelligence of the country. In the first place, no possible mode could be adopted for ascertaining a real property qualification; and in the next place, if they had a property qualification of 5l., or 8l., or 10l, they must see, by what had occurred under the Reform Act and under the Poor-law Act in Ireland, 1285 that the qualification afforded no guarantee of independence, when the parties were so completely under the control of the priests as they were in that country—when, in fact, they were obliged to act as the priests directed. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin said two or three years ago, in another place, that he wished to transform the corporations into normal schools of popular agitation. Therefore, if this bill were passed, they were likely hereafter, in every town consisting of 3,000 inhabitants, to have a normal school of agitation, creating confusion and disorder throughout the country. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin, speaking of corporations in Ireland, had said, "Give me corporations as I wish them to be, and I will secure every thing else." He trusted, therefore, that their Lordships would not, by passing this bill, place great and extensive power in the hands of those who were likely to make an evil use of it. There was a very great difference between meeting agitation that was exercised in a disorderly, irregular, and illegal manner, and that which might be practised under the sanction of law. If this bill were passed, then the law of the land would favour agitation in Ireland, for it was said, that these corporate bodies would be normal schools of agitation, encouraging other bodies of agitators in every part of Ireland. A few years ago, the Minister of the day came down to Parliament and said, that in consequence of the dangerous agitation which prevailed for the repeal of the Union, it was necessary to apply to the Legislature for a Coercion Act. Would any Minister, he wished to know, come down to Parliament and ask for a Coercion Act in consequence of any agitation for the repeal of the Union, however violent, that might be carried on in the corporations created under this bill? No; it would not be endured that corporations coming forward, and trying by constitutional and legal means to effect the favourite object of the agitators in Ireland—the repeal of the union—should be interfered with. The new state of things created by this bill would alter the case; and no Minister-would dare to ask for power to put down this agitation. Why was the present bill to be passed? Where was the necessity for it? He hoped it would not be argued that to pass it was for the purpose of conciliation. He could say from experience and conviction that true conciliation 1286 was the policy which wise and good men were always anxious to adopt. But he confessed that he was no friend to that false and spurious sort of conciliation, which sought to silence an enemy whom they feared to oppose—that sort of unsatisfactory conciliation which implied that they were too weak to withhold anything that might be demanded from them by their opponents. That species of conciliation he did not admire; he was sorry to see that such a policy was now acted on. But the meaning of that course of proceeding was now so well known, that the word "conciliation" was scarcely ever adopted as a plea for making any demand on the Government. It was said, that the people of Ireland had a right to possess corporations, as they were possessed, and because they were possessed, by the people of England and Scotland. But it should first be ascertained whether the population of Ireland was fit for them; whether the condition of the people of the two countries was the same. Because, if it were not, that which might be beneficial in England and Scotland might be the very reverse in Ireland. Corporations in England and Scotland had grown up and been established for the protection of commerce—for the security of property. They were cherished by wise governments to prevent the arbitrary invasion of rights by feudal Lords, and to guard against the encroachments of the Crown. They were upheld by the people of England and Scotland as guardians and protectors of public property. Certain persons, however, now held, that even in England and Scotland the period had passed by for corporations; and, without agreeing in the opinion, he might remind their Lordships that Adam Smith had said, that in all countries which had arrived at maturity it was better that corporations should cease. But, without arguing that point, it might be stated without fear of contradiction, that with whatever object corporations had originally been established in England and Scotland, they were from the first established in Ireland for very different purposes. They were, in fact, founded on the principle of exclusion. They were established for the especial assistance and support of those who were settled in towns, and who were exposed to the attacks of the Irish, the latter being at ail times ready to endeavour to throw off what they conceived to be an ignomi- 1287 nious yoke. The new settlers were in a hostile country, and the Crown granted them those privileges to enable them to maintain themselves—against whom? Against "the Irish and the King's other enemies." Exclusion was, in fact, the great principle of the Irish Municipal Corporations; and they answered the purposes for which they were created. The ancient corporate towns were fastnesses against "the Irishry;" and "murage," that was, customs for the expense of maintaining the walls, was an ordinary privilege under the ancient charters. To prove that his statement was perfectly correct, he would read the heads of several charters. Henry 5th in a charter recited,That the town of Balygavoran, in the county of Kilkenny, in the march of that county, was situate far from the aid of the English, and surrounded by Irish enemies, who had lately burned it, granted to the burgesses and commons certain murage and pavage customs for a term of forty years.New Ross, by a charter of 1 Henry 5th, hadA special privilege to treat and traffic with the Irish enemies.The charter of 1 Richard 3rd,Grants licence to pursue the Irish enemies who carry off the settler's property, and to make reprisals from them.The same charter forbidsA burgess holding a tenement to let the same to strangers, without permission of the sovereign, and forbids Irishmen to reside in the town without licence, and the registration of their names.The charter of Henry 6th to Waterford,Grants 30l. per annum out of the fee farm of the city for thirty years for the repairs of the walls and towers. No lieutenant or other lord to bring into the said city any Irish enemies, English rebels, &c.Richard 2nd (A. D. 1389), by charter to Kinsale,Exonerated the commons of Kinsale (the town being in the marches, among the Irish enemies and English rebels) from attendance on wards, musters, and Parliaments.Henry 5th, in his charter to Limerick, recites "services of the citizens against the King's Irish enemies granted," &c. The same charter directs,That no one of Irish blood or nation should be mayor, or exercise any other office 1288 within the city, and that no person should take or maintain any man or child of Irish blood and nation, as apprentice, on pain of losing his franchise.Richard 2nd, by charter,Granted towards the fortification of Trim, where all the fideles of the county of Meath were congregated, certain tolls," &c.The ancient charters of Dublin repeatedly recited the services of the citizens against the King's enemies. James 1st incorporated forty towns, and the charters recited that they should maintain a certain number of soldiers to protect the towns against the King's enemies, and all those corporations were empowered to send Members to Parliament. An ancestor of a noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Enniskillen) was authorized by James 1st to form the town of Enniskillen. By letters patent dated the tenth of James 1st, the grantee was bound, within four years, to erect a town at Enniskillen. And the letters set forth, thatHe shall bring, or cause to be brought, in or to the said island of Enniskillen, twenty persons, being English or Scotch, and chiefly artificers and mechanics, to make, erect, and construct a town; and the said William Cole was bound within the aforesaid four years, to procure the same persons to be incorporated into one body politic, to endure for ever, as is necessary for the defence and security of the town aforesaid, as well for the defence and protection of all our faithful liege subjects there inhabiting, as for repressing and restraining rebels and other our enemies whatsoever,Within nine months afterwards the charter of incorporation issued, constituting the town a borough, with right to return Members to Parliament. The charter of Jamestown county of Leitrim—Incorporates the land mentioned in the charter, under the names of the borough and town of Jamestown; the said town to be built, erected, and made in the most convenient place of the said lands, which shall be next adjoining the river, called the Shannon.In like manner at Killybegs, twenty houses and a church were to be built in four years; five in each year. The mayors were to take the oath of supremacy. Charles 2nd. gave a charter to Longford, in the county of Longford which recites—That the Lord Aungier intended to plant and settle the same in the hands of the King's English and Protestant subjects, and for the better planting the same, and for the better 1289 encouraging the King's English Protestant subjects to settle the same, incorporates it, &c., the Sovereign to take the oath of supremacy.The charter of James 1st. to St. Johnstown Donegal, directed that the grantee, the Duke of Lennox, should within four years bring thirteen English settlers, &c. It contained a clause making void the grant, if the Duke should alienate or demise the premises to the mere Irish, or to any who should not have taken the oath of supremacy within a year previous. With respect to St. Johnstown, county of Longford, Charles 2nd's charter ordered, that there should be a town founded on some part of the four score and six acres granted; that it should be a borough; and the grant should be void, if premises were aliened for a longer term than forty years to any of the mere Irish, or who should not be sprung of the English or British stock or race. Thus, it appeared that from first to last those corporations proceeded on the principle of exclusion. That such a principle should be acted on was very natural, when they found that the whole province of Ulster had been forfeited for three successive rebellions. It was, therefore, not extraordinary that power had been all along refused to those who were decidedly hostile to the Crown of England. Not only, therefore, was property given to the settlers, but privileges were conferred on them to enable them to enjoy and maintain that property. The plain fact was, that the charter of almost every corporation in Ireland was granted with a view to sustain the British and Protestant connexion. It had been said, when it was proposed to extinguish these corporations, instead of new modelling them, that that would not be a conservative measure. But he contended that the extinction of those corporations would be a conservative measure, compared with merely preserving the name, and wholly destroying the principle on which they had been founded. He had heard with great regret that it was the intention of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Lynd-hurst) to introduce certain amendments which would put the bill in the same position as the bill of last year—at least, though the noble and learned Lord had not exactly said so, vet such an interpretation might be placed on his words. He regretted the noble and learned Lord's intention, because he did not think that the 1290 bill could be so flamed as to afford proper security for the Protestant Church. Here he might be permitted to say, and he said it with the most unfeigned sincerity, that he felt the highest respect for the noble and learned Lord, that he felt as high a degree of respect for him as he could feel for any man. But he admired him for his talents, which were of the first order, and for his principles, which were of the most firm and honourable character. He thought that the Protestants of England, but more especially the Protestants of Ireland, had a serious claim on the consideration of the noble and learned Lord, and he hoped that he would be guided on this occasion by a just view of the situation in which they were likely to be placed by this measure. Many of their Lordships must deeply deplore the legislative arrangement which had been adopted with regard to the temporalities of the Established Church in Ireland. They must also deplore that still earlier concession, of which the Roman Catholic population of Ireland had since done so much to prove that they were unworthy. He felt it to be a particular duty to take every possible means of protecting the Irish Church. And he appealed to the noble and learned Lord to second his exertions. He recollected the time when he was told, that if the Irish Church Temporalities Bill were passed, and the Roman Catholic population persisted in their treacherous and unprincipled assaults on the Church, the very Ministers who proposed it would be prepared with some more stringent course to stop the agitation against the Church in Ireland. Circumstances had interposed to prevent the fulfillment of that promise, else he thought that the pledge would have been faithfully and honourably redeemed. The Reform Bill was carried; and by extending its provisions to Ireland, an enormous increase was made to the Roman Catholic influence. If Roman Catholic power was thus inevitably increased at that period, surely it was the duty of every honest Protestant to prevent every increase of that power, which no one could doubt would be employed against the Established Church. He could not over estimate the influence which this bill, if passed into a law, would enable the Catholics to exercise in Ireland. If the noble and learned Baron opposite thought that this was a good bill for the Protestant Church of Ireland, and 1291 that his duty urged him to contribute to passing it, let him do so. But if, on the other hand, he thought it a bill which might in any degree tend to weaken the influence of that Church, he called on him by every consideration most sacred in his eyes, to resist it to the utmost of his power. The noble Duke had said, two years ago, that he would not give his consideration to the Irish Municipal Bill until he saw two things done—namely, a property franchise established, and the safety of the Church secured with regard to tithes. Looking; it these two points, he ventured to intimate that the noble Duke could not think that either of them had yet been obtained. There was obviously anything but a real property franchise; and the little artifices of the supporters of the bill upon this subject had been ably exposed last year by the noble Duke. With regard to the Tithe Bill, what had happened? Had that been found, in point of fact, to provide any security to the Church of Ireland, even for the possessions remaining to her after that act of spoliation? Was there no danger in her present position? They did good in preventing the Irish peasants from starving the ministers of the Established Church under the dictation of their priests; but had they given to the Church anything like solid security? Why, a noble Lord in another place had rejoiced at the bill, expressly because it lessened the security of the Church in Ireland, and was shortly afterwards selected to represent her Majesty in person he alluded to the present Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. He did not know whether that noble Lord was now in his place or not, but he wished that he were. Another noble Lord, who was an officer of her Majesty's household, hail encouraged the people to agitate against the tithes. Was this a specimen of the security which the Irish Church was to have for her possessions? It was perfectly frightful to contemplate the envenomed hostility of which that Church was the object. An individual, who was a Member of the other House of Parliament, and to whom he would not allude but that it was absolutely necessary, had made the following statement lately in an address of the National Association of Ireland to the people of Ireland, which address was signed "Daniel O'Connell, Chairman of the Committee:"—The ecclesiastical state revenues of Ireland are applied to the Church of a comparatively 1292 very small minority of the Irish people. This is a master grievance: whilst it continues, there may be a parchment or a legal union, but there is no real union. To redress this grievance is the first and greatest object of our association.This address had been widely circulated; a copy of it had been sent, he believed, to every one of their Lordships. He had received a copy from Dublin, forwarded, apparently, by the Association. He must, therefore, do that with unwillingness which he felt that the occasion made necessary, as he entertained no hope whatever that the offence would not be repeated. Now, what was the oath which had been taken by this individual, who thus proclaimed himself bent on destroying the Established Church in Ireland? It was this:—I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment, as settled by law, within this realm; and I do solemnly swear, that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant Government in the United Kingdom; and I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever.The word "Establishment" was wisely introduced into this oath to prevent any person from availing himself of the miserable quibble (which had, nevertheless, been attempted) of denying that the Church itself was assailed. "Observe," this person had said, "I don't mean to attack your Church, but your property." But what he had sworn was not to subvert the "Establishment," in other words, the property. The solemnity of the latter part of the oath made it painful to any mind to contemplate that such an oath should have been violated. He asked their Lordships, or any one of them, to get up (find if any Member of their Lordships' House entertained such an opinion he hoped to hear his reasons) and state whether he did not consider that the individual who had taken the oath contained in this paper had grossly perjured himself. Upon a former occasion he (the Bishop of Exeter) had been told by the noble and learned Baron the Chancellor of Ireland, thatTo make a charge of this description was to charge all those who supported that individual with subornation of perjury.1293 To be sure, he meant that. He had intimated so much then, and he repeated it now. He did not hesitate to state his belief that every individual who was cognizant of this gross violation of a sworn pledge taken by that person—every one who did anything to increase the power of that individual, or showed him favour—was guilty of subornation of perjury. They had been told that, in another House, another noble Lord, very high in office, and only inferior in power to the noble Viscount at the head of her Majesty's Government, had, subsequently to the issuing of this proclamation of perjury and perfidy, spoken of the individual by whom it was signed as "esteemed by many." The noble Lord did not think proper to say whether or not he was one of those who esteemed him; but he said nothing whatever against that individual. The noble Lord proceeded to state, that he was "considered by most persons in Ireland to be the friend of his country." What the individual who had stained his own soul with the crime of perjury, and, having done so, stained also the souls of those who were his supporters and adherents? What said this person about the present bill, in an address of the National Association prepared by him, and dated "April the 21st, 1840?"—?The corporations of England and Scotland have been long reformed; but so strong is the prejudice against Ireland, and the disposition of the British Legislature to refuse her justice, that even the Ministers of the Crown, who are favourably disposed towards us, cannot venture, with any hope of success, to bring in a bill to give Ireland the same corporate reform which is possessed by Scotland and England. A paltry and inferior measure is in tardy progress through the Legislature; should it succeed, it will be inadequate; should it fail, it will be an additional insult. In either case it will continue a grievance, rendering the union a mockery and not a reality.This was the measure of conciliation and justice which their Lordships were called on that night to cook up and make palatable to that learned person. It was disgraceful to see them solemnly deliberating on the benefits of a measure which was absolutely repudiated by those whom it was intended to conciliate. In conduct like this he would not be a sharer; and he certainly would not say "content" to the motion.
§ The Duke of Wellington
was desirous to address a few words to their Lordships, in explanation of the course which he in- 1294 tended to pursue. He had not been in the House when the arrangement took place, into which his noble and learned Friend below him had entered. It would tend greatly to the convenience of the House, if that arrangement were carried into execution. He hoped that his noble and learned Friend would present his amendments at once, that the Mouse might have an opportunity of considering them. The right rev. Prelate's objections might be properly taken into consideration in Committee, or at the bringing up of the report. But it really appeared to him, that when both sides were agreed as to the particular mode of proceeding with the discussion, it was desirable that this arrangement should not be departed from.
The Bishop of Exeter
observed, that it had been distinctly declared on the previous night, at both sides of the House, that the arrangement then made, must not be considered as pledging any noble Lord to consent to go into Committee. If this were the case, what had he done that either was strange or extraordinary? He had risen once or twice on the previous night, but hesitated and resumed his seat, thinking upon re-consideration, he might be able to consent to go into Committee. Reflection had, however, satisfied him, that unless by opposing this motion, he could not adequately discharge his duty to the Church of which he was a Bishop.
§ The Duke of Wellington
disclaimed the intention of throwing any blame on the right rev. Prelate.
Their Lordships went into Committee. The preamble was postponed. Lord Lyndhurst proposed several amendments which were ordered to be printed; House resumed, Committee to sit again.