HL Deb 04 August 1848 vol 100 cc1127-35

The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE moved that this Bill he now read 2a.


said, that they had it stated that in consequence of the financial difficulties of the country, it was impossible to give effect to the Militia Acts, as the 150,000l which Government proposed at the commencement of the Session to devote to that object could not be spared; and yet they were now asked to devote the large sum that was to be repaid on account of advances in Ireland for the next seven years to the purposes of new loans in that country. He alluded to this fact in order to show that it was no unimportant boon that they were about conferring on Ireland, and not with the view of offering any objection whatever to the principle of the Bill. On the contrary, he was disposed to carry out, as far as it could be carried, the principle on which the Bill had been framed, namely, that the Imperial Treasury would forego, for imperial purposes, its claim to the repayments of all money due by Ireland; that all these moneys should be still collected, but that they should be devoted as they were received to Irish purposes alone. He was perfectly ready to acquiesce in that principle, because it tended to show that there was nothing which Parliament could do to promote the welfare of Ireland that they were not ready to undertake. But he wished it to be understood what the amount of the boon was, which, in this instance, they were about to confer on that country. He believed that ultimately the sum to be devoted to purely Irish purposes, if the principle of this Bill were carried out fully, would be no less than four and a half millions of money. Now, that being the case, and the principle being established that these sums as they were received were to be appropriated only to Irish purposes, they should consider whether the objects provided for by this Bill were the most important objects which the Parliament of this country could have in view, having at its disposal a sum of four millions and a half of money to be appropriated for the benefit of Ireland. He was of opinion that, however important it was to improve the soil of Ireland, that was not the most desirable object which could be effected with this sum, because he was convinced that, unless they improved the social state of Ireland, everything that they could do for the improvement of the land would be of no avail. The social state of Ireland was a scandal to this country, and a scandal to the age. There was no country in the world, pretending to civilisation, of which the social state was so bad as Ireland. Now, from what circumstance did that defect in the social state of Ireland arise? But on this subject he ought not to speak of all Ireland as coming under the same description. He recollected well hearing the late Lord Liverpool say, "I do not understand what noble Lords mean when they talk of Ireland as being all one; there are two Irelands—North Ireland and South Ireland—Protestant Ireland and Catholic Ireland; and the remarks adapted to the one are wholly un-suited to the circumstances of the other." That was one source of all the difficulties which they had to meet in legislating for that country. But it was not in the Protestant part of Ireland that the disorganisation in her social state existed. There was nothing in the character of the Roman Catholic religion that ought of necessity to lead to the disorganisation of the social state which was found in Ireland. Some of the very best and most prosperous parts of Europe were places in which that religion existed in all its purity. Neither was it because Ireland was a conquered country, nor because large portions of the lands of that country had been confiscated, nor because there had existed in that country for many years laws of persecution. There was hardly a country in Europe or in Asia that had not passed through the same circumstances—that had not been conquered by aliens, and had not been confiscated and subjected to vindictive legislation. But in all other instances the vanquished and the victor were found living in the same community, under the same laws, and mingling in the same social state. But having removed the Roman Catholic disabilities in Ireland—disabilities of which the Young Ireland party had never seen the effect, and of which they knew nothing—what, he would ask, was there still in the state of Ireland —for there must be something peculiar—which produced this anomaly in its social state, such as never did exist, or never could exist, in any other country in the world? It was, that the Church of the great majority of the people was repudiated by the State. Where would he seek for a remedy for this evil? Not where some had suggested, by attacking the property of the Protestant Church, for the purpose of endowing the Roman Catholic Church. Nothing could be worse in point of justice or in point of honesty than such a course would be. The establishment of the Protestant Church in Ireland rested on the Union, which should be considered sacred; and, besides, such an Act would alicnate the Protestants of Ireland, who were the best friends of British connexion, and who might be called the natural garrison of the country. But he would do it by making the Roman Catholic clergy stipendiaries of the State, and at the same time subjecting them to the right of patronage on the part of the Crown of this country. He did not see his way satisfactorily to the administration of Roman Catholic patronage by a purely Protestant Government. But they sought merely for peace, and did not wish to yield to the prejudices of any party, but desired to do justice by all. He would now call their Lordships' attention to the large fund which they had at their disposal to be appropriated solely to the purposes of Ireland, and he thought that no one could reasonably object to devoting it to the support of the Roman Catholic clergy, for the building of glebe-houses and attaching them to the glebe. He did not see upon what ground the most conscientious person could object to such a proposition. The only effect of it would be to place the Roman Catholic priest in a station of respectability and independence, and to so place him for purposes of good over the people to whom he was a pastor. These were no new opinions in his (the Earl of Ellenborough's) mind; he was no late convert to them; he had formed them at a very early period of his public life, when the late Lord Castlereagh was in power, and they were in consonance with those held by that noble Lord, for Lord Castlereagh, when carrying the Union between the two countries, never contemplated the removal of Catholic disabilities, which was to have accompanied it, without connecting the measure in his own mind with the endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy; but he was deceived in the expectation that he would live to see the project carried into effect. He (the Earl of Ellenborough) had thought it his duty upon that occasion to state his opinion. He considered that the time of difficulty was the time for those whom the constitution entrusted with the duty of legislation to come forward and state their opinions, and not leave them in any doubt. He thought they were bound to do so at the risk even of their popularity, and that the man who hesitated, at a time like the present, to do his duty boldly and fearlessly, by stating his opinions to their Lordships, would be undeserving of the station which he held.


said, the noble Earl who had just sat down, would deserve the thanks of the friends of liberal measures for the courage as well as the wisdom of his statement made at the present moment to the House. He (Lord Mont-eagle) approved highly of the sentiment expressed by the noble Earl. He especially agreed cordially with him in his observation that the Roman Catholic clergy should not be endowed out of the funds of the Protestant Church. For if there were any mode by which the matter could be made more distasteful than another to the public, and productive of evil rather than of good, it was a proposition which had sometimes boon popularly put forward that the Protestant Church should afford the funds from which the Roman Catholic clergy should be pensioned. He (Lord Monteagle) also believed, that if they wished to make the proposition distasteful to the Catholic clergy themselves, they would best do so by a proposition which should make it appear as though they wished to place them in a position that they would be subservient to the Government of the day. His noble Friend had wisely rejected such a plan. The great danger which he (Lord Monteagle) apprehended, arose from the condition of dependence of the Roman Catholic clergy. They could not at present act independently. At this side of the water people thought that the priests directed the Irish people; but he could tell them that the people, on the contrary, impelled the priests, and the priests did not act willingly in nine cases out of ten when they took prominent positions in political movements. He, of course, admitted there were exceptions. But in many cases it was under the threat of absolute starvation, which he had actually known to have been held out to them, that the priests had been obliged to come forward and become agitators. The Irish priest was not in a situation in which any clergyman should be placed. Their Lordships, whatever might be their political or religious sentiments, had all a deep interest in the moral and religious instruction of the Irish people; and it should be the great object to secure them such advantages. Those confederate leaders and members of clubs were persons who had thrown off the trammels of their religion; and the priest knew at once that the persons whom he missed from their religious duties were those who were connected with illegal confederacies. He begged of those who said that their Protestantism prevented them from entertaining the question, to recollect that George the Third, whose Protestantism had never been called in question, opposed as he was to the concession of the Catholic claims, was favourable to the endowment of the Catholic clergy. They might depend upon it that the discussion which the subject would now receive would lead to the general conviction that the great boon suggested by the noble Earl ought to be granted. One word as to the funds from which the endowment could be effected. Should all other sources be found objectionable, no better subject for taxation of Ireland itself was ever submitted to that country, than the raising of a fund for such a purpose. He would say no more upon the subject at present; but in the further progress of the Bill, it would be necessary for him to ask two questions of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the food of the people of Ireland.


could not but express some regret that his noble Friend the noble Earl who sat behind him should have thought it necessary or expedient to take that opportunity of entering upon the discussion of a speculative view of a most extensive and important question, which was not brought regularly under the notice of the House by the measure then before their Lordships. He said "a speculative view," because he did not understand that his noble Friend suggested, nor that he signified his intention of being about to suggest, any direct proposition to the House. Nor, indeed, was it competent to the House to divert to the purposes to which it was proposed to divert the sum of money with reference to which the present Bill had been introduced, even if no difference of opinion on the subject should pre- vail among their Lordships. But he apprehended that the Bill was brought in for the purpose of legalising the re-issue to Ireland of certain sums which had been repaid out of certain other sums formerly advanced to Ireland out of the Imperial Treasury, and that the re-issue was to be for the same purposes as those for which the grants had been originally sanctioned by Parliament. He apprehended the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), in making the remarks which he had made upon proposing the second reading of the Bill, had distinctly specified such to be the object; and had stated that, partly from neglect, and partly from circumstances over which the Government had no control, many of the works commenced by means of the former loan, which, if completed, would have been of great national importance and advantage, had been left unfinished; and unless more money were advanced, it would be not only impossible to complete them, but those parts of the country in which they were, could not even be restored to the state in which they were before they were commenced. Now, that was the plain and legitimate purpose of the Bill, and it was one which should not have led to any discussion such as had been raised. That was the legitimate and natural application of the capital. But undoubtedly the circumstances connected with the proposition of his noble Friend would be exceedingly different. He (Lord Stanley) certainly should decline answering to the call of his noble Friend, and discussing upon the subject of a Bill for finishing the unfinished works of Ireland, the propriety of dealing with large sums of money drawn from the Imperial Treasury, and applying them for the purpose of endowing the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland. For, disguise it as they might—wrap it up as they pleased—the proposition was, whether they would, out of the Imperial Treasury, endow the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland. Now, that was too large a question to be discussed upon the occasion of a Bill for the purpose of merely advancing a loan for a few hundred thousand pounds, to be expended in public works. His noble Friend had laid it down as a fact, that as these few hundred thousand pounds were a payment made by Ireland, they were consequently Irish funds which their Lordships had to deal with. He (Lord Stanley) denied that. He said that it was an expenditure made, not by England solely, or by Ireland solely, but by the Imperial Treasury, which had made the original advance of the money, and which now proposed to forego payment of the advances immediately. But to say that because Ireland had repaid those funds, they should be deemed to be Irish funds, was, he should say, the most Irish way of looking at the question he had ever heard of. Ireland owed 900,000l. to England, and had repaid it, and they proposed to deal with it as an imperial fund. "No," said his noble Friend behind him, and "no" said his noble Friend opposite; "remember it is an Irish fund which you are going to lend." But Ireland was not going to pay the money to England. Ireland was only going to repay to England the money which England lent to her before; and to say that therefore it was an Irish property, was a suggestion so strange that he could not properly designate it. He was not going to discuss the question of payment of the Roman Catholic clergy; but theoretically his noble Friend thought that it would be well to expend 900,000l. for the purpose of erecting glebe-houses.


Four millions and a half.


His noble Friend's proposal then was, that out of an imperial fund, 4,500,000l. should be applied to the building of glebe-houses, and to the payment of the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland. That was not a question of policy only, but of principle also. It was a question of religious principle with a largo portion of the population of this country. He (Lord Stanley) did not look upon it in that light. He did not look upon it as a violation of the Protestant feeling, that this country should make a grant for the endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy, for the purpose of making them more respectable in their position. But with a large portion of the people of this country, it was a religious question. With himself, he avowed it was merely a question of State policy; but it was with many a question of religion alone. And when their Lordships approached it, it should not be merely incidentally, but directly upon a proposition made by the Government, and not in the terms of a measure which proposed to regrant four or five millions for the advancement of public works in Ireland. He admitted that the Roman Catholic clergy were frequently too much under the control of their flocks. He admitted that it was desirable they should be less under such a control; but he con- fessed he was not satisfied with the doctrine laid down by his noble Friend behind him, in the plan which he had mooted, that the Roman Catholic clergy, in being placed in a condition of perfect independence of their flocks, should at the same time not be connected with the State. It would be a matter of policy, or he would plainly say of police with him (Lord Stanley); and he could not assent to the proposal that in doing as had been suggested, they should take no steps to connect the Roman Catholic clergy with the government of that clergy. But the subject was one upon which the whole question should be plainly brought before them before any proposition should be assented to. It was not therefore for the purpose of saying thst under no circumstances would he consent that any grant to the Roman Catholic clergy should be made by the State; nor, on the other band, was it for the purpose of saying that he would consent to such a grant without knowing what quid pro quo was to be demanded in return, that he addressed their Lordships. It was merely for the purpose of deprecating any hasty declaration of opinion being made upon a question which could not be fairly brought under the consideration of the House at present, that he had risen; and he also wished to express his regret that an opportunity which was so inexpedient should have been taken for the purpose of expressing any opinion upon a question that was wholly unconnected with the subject of debate. Her Majesty's Government, if they intended to make such a proposition as that of granting salaries to the Roman Catholic clergy, should bring it forward distinctly upon the full responsibility of the Government, and with a statement of the funds from which the endowment was to be provided, and of the terms upon which it was to be granted. He concurred in the declaration of his noble Friend that the source should not be the funds of the Protestant Church of Ireland; and that as it would be a local charge it should not be paid out of the Imperial Treasury, but out of funds raised upon Irish property. At the same time he confessed he thought that such a proposal would deprive his noble Friends of the support of many who now favoured the idea of endowing the Roman Catholic clergy. The proposition would meet with a great deal of opposition from the Protestants of England and of Scotland, and the north of Ireland; but he should conclude by repeating that the question was of far too great importance to be discussed until it should be brought before them with full notice, and upon the responsibility of Government.


said, that whenever the question of the endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland was raised, the question of the Established Church was considered to be directly involved in it. That should not be. The Established Church of Ireland might be an anomaly, but it was not a grievance. But the anomaly would be considerably increased if they were to have the clergy of another Church connected with the State as well as those of the originally Established Church. They would, besides, cause a division amongst the Roman Catholic clergy if they were to connect them with the State. What they ought to do should be to make the Catholic clergy independent of their flocks and of the State besides. He thought the plan proposed by the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) was the best that could have been suggested. The great advantage which would result from the adoption of the course suggested by the noble Earl opposite, would not only relieve them from any coercion they were now under on the part of their flocks, but it would enable them to avoid all political altercations. They would then be in a position to attend solely to the religious instruction of their parishioners. Instead of being mere citizens of the world, as they then wore, and looking to themselves merely as a largo body scattered over the country, and not more attached to this empire than to any other—for this feeling no doubt pervaded a large portion of the Catholic clergy in Ireland—they would become strongly attached to it. He should be glad if, by some step on the part of the Government; such as by a grant of money, or by other means, they could see the priests attached to British connexion, and have a direct interest in the welfare of the State. He believed that this would be a great measure of good to Ireland; and, above all, he believed that the greatest good would be produced by a great impetus being given to education, and he should grudge no amount of money for this purpose.

Bill read 2a.