§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said: My Lords, it is not the first time that I have had the honour of proposing measures of importance to your Lordships, nor is it the first time that I have required all your indulgence to enable me to perform the task. Your Lordships may have observed that after the first reading of this Bill there was a kind of race between two noble Lords who should first give a Notice of Motion for its rejection. I hardly know whether I ought to regret or feel pleasure that my noble Friend on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) won that race. Nobody is better aware than I am of the infinite power and fertility of the objections which my noble Friend can raise to any course which is not precisely that which he has shaped and, as I shall be the only Peer to precede him, I shall be exposed to the full force of his criticism. At the same time, I am aware that my noble Friend will lay down principles and apply those principles in a manner which must be completely repugnant to the arguments that will probably be urged by his competitor in the race, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I hope your Lordships will give me credit for some magnanimity if I say that I wish no greater punishment to either of the noble Lords than that which they will have to undergo—the noble and learned Lord and Her Majesty's Government, in hearing the terms which will be used in proposing the Motion for which they are about 2024 to vote; and my noble Friend in hearing for at least two nights the reasons which will be urged in support of his own Motion. My Lords, the outbreak of Fenianism, its attacks in Canada, its extension to this country, accompanied with outrages of a most peculiar character, have filled the public mind with honor and indignation; but at the same time they have caused the people of this country to reflect more calmly and dispassionately upon the state of Ireland than perhaps at any former period. The impression which has thus been made upon the public mind—an impression reflected by the large majorities which have supported this Bill in the House of Commons—is, I believe, as follows:—Since the passing of the Emancipation Act Ireland has made progress, social, political, material. That progress has been slow, but it has been gradual. It has been owing partly to the improved general legislation of the Imperial Parliament, partly to milder institutions introduced into the sister country, partly to a more equitable and impartial government by the Irish Executive. In the midst of this progress you have au insurrection directed against property, against religion, against order, against authority, with objects of the most insensate character. That insurrection is opposed by all the richer and superior classes in Ireland. It is opposed by many of those who in former times might have been found to give it encouragement. But it has found support from a small portion of the Press; it has found support from some of the small tradesmen and farmers, and from not an unintelligent class of clerks and artizans; and it has, in fact, been received with a sort of sullen acquiescence by a very large proportion of the population. The general opinion in this country seems to have been that, in order to meet this extraordinary state of things the Government should, on the one hand, be armed with powers to maintain order, and, on the other hand, that measures should be passed of a remedial and conciliatory character, in order to insure the peace of Ireland. No persons admitted more frankly that Ireland was the question of the day than Her Majesty's Government. In this House our curiosity was not entirely satisfied as to the future policy of the Government. My noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal, in answer to a question, and also the noble Duke the President of the Board of Trade, referred to a statement which was 2025 about to be made in the House of Commons by Lord Mayo, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and a Member of the Cabinet, with regard to Ireland. The Prime Minister made the same reference in the declaration he made that that policy would be of "a truly Liberal" character. Accordingly, Lord Mayo made the promised statement. He said with regard to the Irish Reform Bill that it was not the intention of the Government to abandon that measure. He said also that the question of the Irish Railways would be referred to a Committee. With regard to the land question he promised a certain amount of legislation; but said that could not be finally settled without further inquiry, and that also he proposed to refer to a Commission. The subject of primary education was also to be referred to a Commission. With regard to the education of the upper and middle classes among the Roman Catholics, I beg leave to read the words of Lord Mayo's declaration. He said—It is proposed, in the first instance, that a charter should be granted in the same way that a charter was granted to the Queen's University; that the governing body, under the original constitution, should consist of a Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, four Prelates, the President of Maynooth, six Laymen, the heads of the Colleges to be at first affiliated, and five Members to be elected, to represent the five educational faculties, all being Roman Catholics.Then he explained how future vacancies were to be filled up, and after some arguments in favour of such a University, hi went on to say—With regard to endowment, it will be essential, of course, if Parliament agree to the proposal, in the first instance to provide for the necessary expenses of the University—that is to say, the expenses of officers of the University, of the University Professors, and also to make some provision for a building. It is possible that if Parliament approve the scheme it may not be indisposed to endow certain University scholarships. But, with regard to the endowment of Colleges, it is impossible to make any proposal of that nature at present, and to that extent the question will be left open to further consideration.That was the declaration made by Lord Mayo with regard to the University. With regard to the Church of Ireland, the noble Lord entered into still longer details, deprecating the principle of levelling down; and there were certain passages which your Lordships will perhaps allow me to read. Now, I am in some difficulty here, because I was not aware until lately that Lord Mayo had published a revised edition of his speech, differing in some parts from 2026 the speech as reported in The Times and in Hansard. Thus after giving some account of the evil consequences of levelling down, Lord Mayo is reported in The Times and in Hansard to have said—I believe the arrangement we propose is eminently suited to the people of Ireland.That passage is omitted in the revised speech. Again, in speaking of the Presbyterians, Lord Mayo said—The Presbyterians now receive a grant from this House, which is miserable in amount, and totally inadequate to their requirements.That is the passage according to the revised speech. In The Times report a sentence is added that he had reason to believe that the Protestant Church would not at all object to an alteration of their position. With regard to the Irish Church, Lord Mayo said—Justice and policy may demand a greater equalization of ecclesiastical arrangements than now exists. If it is desired to make our Churches more equal in position than they are, this result should be secured by elevation and restoration, and not by confiscation.In the report of The Times, and in Hansard, it runs thus—There would not, I believe, be any objection to make all Churches equal, but the result must be secured by elevation, and not by confiscation.These are the statements that were made at that time, and I believe there is no doubt as to what were the inferences then drawn from them by the great majority of those who heard or who read them. With regard to the establishment of a Roman Catholic University, it clearly appeared from those statements that it was intended to propose the endowment of an exclusively Catholic University in Ireland, and that with respect to the endowment of the Colleges the Government would make no declaration at present, but that that point should be left for further consideration. But with reference to the Established Church, the inference drawn at the time was that Her Majesty's Government had no distinct plan, but that they had sketched out a policy—namely, that of the concurrent endowment of the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, and the Roman Catholic Churches. Those inferences, I am aware, were contradicted, but not until about two months after the statement was made. I do not wish on this occasion to inquire in the slightest degree whether the explanations afterwards given were satisfactory, at all events to minds not well constituted for understanding that which is not clear; nor will I enter into 2027 the question whether it was right for the Government to have allowed their intentions to be misrepresented during so long a time without due explanation. All I will say is that, if the announcement of their policy had been even less definite than it was, it would, in my opinion, have been the duty of the Opposition to take some action on the matter. The Government did show some conciliatory disposition towards the other religious communities in Ireland, though their manner of doing it I could not approve. And it could not have been conceived—after the intimation they had given of their intentions on that subject—that the "truly Liberal policy" spoken of by the Prime Minister meant nothing more than that things were to remain absolutely in statu quo, only on the understanding that the number of Roman Catholic chaplains in prisons and in workhouses should not be diminished. The Opposition, believing, as I have said, in the necessity of accompanying measures of coercion with sound measures of conciliation and remedy, and having the assurance that there was springing up in Ireland a feeling almost of despair as to obtaining from the Imperial Parliament a settlement of some of the questions which its people had deeply at heart, deemed it impossible that they could appear in the eyes of England and Scotland as well as of Ireland to acquiesce in the policy or no policy of the Government. In consequence of that conclusion the Opposition have had imputed to them motives of an almost dishonourable character. My Lords, I am strongly in favour of party Government, and I believe that anybody who broke up that party Government would injure our representative institutions. At the same time, I hold that to adopt any principle in which you do not believe for the sake of a political or a party advantage is highly dishonourable. On the other hand, the promotion of great principles, the advancement of a great question when a favourable moment presents itself, is one of the most glorious operations of party Government in this country. A right rev. Friend of mine opposite lately made an eloquent speech on this subject, of the opinions expressed in which I do not in the least complain. That such opinions should be entertained by members of the Episcopal Bench is extremely natural; but I do regret that my right rev. Friend should have permitted himself to impute un-worthy motives to those who differ from 2028 him, and, indeed, I think he must himself have regretted it in his cooler moments, when he saw that his example had been followed not only by laymen but by clergymen—some of them in high position—in a much coarser and more offensive manner. I do not know, my Lords, whether we shall be deluged with arguments ad hominem in this House as well as elsewhere. I believe I am not personally very open to that sort of small shot which may be annoying to individuals but cannot in the slightest degree affect the issue of a great contest. Having now been in Parliament for more than thirty years, I thought I had learnt two lessons: the one the indefensible character of the Irish Church, the other that there existed in this country, and also in Scotland, feelings of prejudice which made me think it impossible that I should live to witness a change which I desired to see accomplished, and with respect to which I first expressed my opinions in the House of Commons about twenty-four years ago. As to the latter lesson, I cannot help remarking with satisfaction that an extraordinary advance has now been made by public opinion on this subject. Even if the charges to which I have referred were made against myself, they would be of very little account; but I must say I have felt strongly the injustice of some of them as directed against a most distinguished Friend of mine. Most of your Lordships, I believe, would be candid enough to admit that it is quite clear from explanations given by him both in public and in private, that Mr. Gladstone has for a long time shown that he also was convinced of the impossibility of defending the maintenance of the Irish Established Church by sound and just argument. The charge, however, I believe, now made against him is that, although entertaining those opinions, he has never acted upon them till this year, when he could find an occasion for embarrassing Her Majesty's Government. ["Hear!"] The noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal, I perceive, cheers that somewhat unworthy imputation. Now I observed lately that the Earl of Mayo, in defending himself in the other House in connection with this question, thought fit to refer to some private conversation which he had with his own political Friends. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to take a similar course, and to refer to a private conversation which I myself had with Mr. Gladstone rather early in the 2029 Session of last year, at a time when the Government appeared to be in great difficulties—we were not then aware of the great tenacity of life which it has since exhibited—and when it seemed likely that it would succumb to the difficulties which surrounded it. Mr. Gladstone then spoke to me on the course which any possible Liberal Government might have to take. Among other things, he said, "There is one question which any Liberal Government must be prepared to deal with; it is the Irish Church." He said, "I am aware of the difficulties of the question. I am aware that that Government will run the risk of being destroyed in the endeavour, and even the party of being broken up again on that very question; but it is a duty from which a Liberal Government cannot in honour shrink." My Lords, I believe I have told you the precise words, I am quite sure I have told you the precise substance of my right hon. Friend's remarks. They made an impression upon me at the time, and I know there are other political Friends of mine and of Mr. Gladstone who at the same time received from him the same declaration, and to them I could point if—as I believe is quite impossible—your Lordships should entertain the slightest doubt as to what I have just stated. I am justified, therefore, I think, in feeling some indignation at finding it imputed to Mr. Gladstone that he has tried to steal a mean political advantage when I am personally aware of the risk and the sacrifice that he was prepared to encounter. The Opposition then had to take a course. I am extremely curious to know what is the course which my noble Friend on the cross-Benches will suggest that the Opposition ought to have taken. I have thought much on the subject, but I really cannot come to any conclusion on the matter; but I do hope it is impossible that my noble Friend will suggest, under the circumstances I have stated, that it was the duty of the Opposition—that it would have become them—to have remained perfectly quiescent under the vague assurances of Her Majesty's Government, and to have waited until the Government thought fit to adopt any particular plan which my noble Friend might dictate to them and the country. It was impossible for any one not in the Government to propose any general Bill dealing with the complicated and difficult details connected with the disestablishment of the Irish Church. On the other hand, an 2030 abstract Resolution was bad in itself; it was still worse when you consider that the inefficiency of previous abstract Resolutions was fresh in the memory of the Irish people. We resolved to take another step, one which, while it gave the people of Ireland an earnest of the good-will of the present House of Commons, without fettering in the slightest degree the discretion of a future Parliament, enabled them to deal with the question with more case and less embarrassment than they could otherwise could have done. The Resolutions proposed to and adopted by the other House are be famous that I need hardly read the substance of them to your Lordships. They are embodied in the Bill which I have the honour of asking your Lordships to read the second time. But one of the provisions has been framed to avoid the practical inconvenience which might arise from the suspension of ecclesiastical appointments, and there is also a limitation of the powers given by the Bill until August, 1869. Those Resolutions and this Bill were approved by the House of Commons, in opposition to Her Majesty's Government, by enormous majorities, the lowest of which was 54. Now, Lord Stanley, than whom there is no man who more clearly sees thing as they are, speaking on behalf of the Government, stated that there was not one educated man in a hundred who would be bold enough to maintain that the existence of the Irish Church in its present state was satisfactory, and I rather think, though I have not his exact words before me, that he referred to it as a scandal. Now, if that opinion of Lord Stanley's be right, as I believe it is, there is not a single Member of your Lordships' House who might not with perfect conscientiousness vote for every enactment to be found in this Bill. Lord Stanley referred to a plan regarded with favour by some members of the Irish Church for re-distributing its revenues within its limits, and he said he, for one, could not believe such a proposal would be entertained by a Reformed House of Commons. Even supposing, however, that some of your Lordships should approve that plan, it would clearly be of advantage to avoid a waste of ecclesiastical revenues by preventing any fresh appointments from being made, and thus to facilitate the execution of those beneficial recommendations which the Commissioners may be expected to make. There is another class who are for totally disendowing the 2031 Irish Church and re-distributing its revenues among the various religious bodies in Ireland. This reason applies to them also, while to those who believe that the only final and satisfactory settlement will be the disestablishment of the Church the reasons for supporting this Bill are still more conclusive. It would prevent the creation of fresh vested interests, and, by precluding the appointment of young men to benefices which may become vacant, it would limit, possibly by a considerable number of years, the prolongation of the existing system after disestablishment had been decided upon. There is another body in this House, I mean those of your Lordships, whether lay or spiritual, who possess ecclesiastical patronage, and who, I think, would be placed in a most invidious and disagreeable position if this Bill is not passed. They would be bound to fill up benefices as they became vacant, and to appoint to sinecures or benefices which very likely the Commissioners would recommend should be abolished. They would do so notwithstanding the strong expression of opinion on the part of the House of Commons, and in face of the probable result of the Commission of Inquiry. Now, that appears to me one of the most difficult and invidious positions in which the dispensers of patronage can be placed. There is another body who can hardly with consistency refuse their assent to the provisions of this Bill—I mean Her Majesty's Government. The noble Duke the Secretary for the Colonies (the Duke of Buckingham) will, perhaps, be good enough to correct me if I am wrong when I state that the Government have just given their assent to the suspension of appointments of an ecclesiastical nature in Jamaica, with a view to an inquiry which may result merely in the redistribution of Church revenues, certainly in the diminution of them, and possibly in their total abolition. I apprehend from the silence of the noble Duke, and from the answer given by a Member of the Government to a Question put a day or two ago in the House of Commons, that I am correct in that statement, and this circumstance seems to me a reason why they should support this Bill.
It would, however, be disingenuous on my part were I to pretend that the practical advantages of the Bill are the only grounds on which I ask your Lordships to give this measure a second reading. I think it is most important that your 2032 Lordships should concur with the House of Commons in giving this assurance of good-will to the people of Ireland, thus undertaking to give a fair and impartial consideration to the question of the Irish Church. My objections to that Church are very simple. One of them is that it has entirely failed to fulfil the objects for which it was established, and another is, that which was urged in the petition of distinguished clergymen—which excited the wrath of my noble Friend (Lord Redesdale) and caused some merriment on the part of a right rev. Prelate—that it is an injustice towards the great majority of the people of Ireland. With regard to the object of the Irish Church, I believe everyone who has given any attention to the subject is perfectly convinced that the object of Queen Elizabeth, when by somewhat arbitrary means she established it, was that it should give spiritual consolation and religious instruction to the mass of the population of Ireland. Queen Elizabeth and her Government, as Hallam has pointed out, never entertained the idea that a great majority of the people would permanently adhere to the Roman Catholic faith. Lord Macaulay has repeated that statement in still stronger terms, and Mr. Froude, having had the advantage,—very much through the public spirit of my noble and learned Friend (Lord Romilly)—of consulting papers which hitherto had not been accessible to the literary world, lays it down as positive that the bishops, clergy, and people of Ireland adhered to their ancient creed, and that if it had not been for the establishment of the Protestant Church there would have existed no ground of discontent which might not have been removed. Queen Elizabeth's object was not successful at the time; has it been so since? The terrible Penal Laws which followed the great battle of Boyne—were they successful in their operation? Let me again cite the testimony of Hallam, who says that even under the House of Hanover, in the reign of George II., the whole system of constitutional law in Ireland appeared to subsist exclusively for the purpose of maintaining the privileges and the property of a small ecclesiastical body. And what is the result now? Why, my Lords, I find by the last Census that there are in Ireland only 700,000 Anglicans, and I do not wish to take advantage of any criticism which might possibly reduce that number, while there are more than 4,500,000 of Roman Catholics. 2033 There are only four dioceses where the percentage of members of the Established Church is above 20; there is only one where it exceeds 25, and that very slightly; and there are nine where the percentage is under 2 or a little above 3. That is sufficient to show that the object of the establishment of the Church has not been fulfilled. And now with regard to the injustice. The small minority for whom churches, ministers, and all the appurtenances of religion are provided are the rich; the enormous majority, who, with the exception of the Grant to Maynooth, have no assistance from the State with regard to their religion, are the poor. That, I think, is sufficient to justify those clergymen who have been called sacrilegious, and some of whom were treated with contempt by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford) because they were not beneficed clergymen, in stating that it appeared, to their sense of justice that the Irish Church was an injustice.
With regard to the effect of this state of things on the feeling of the people of Ireland, I believe that it excites discontent, as a symbol—the last symbol—of conquest, and not only of conquest but of conquest oft repeated, and always followed by an amount of oppression towards the majority, which, as Hallam remarks, has never been equalled in the annals of European history, except, perhaps, in the case of the oppression of a small minority of Frenchmen at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Is it possible that such a state of things should not be a legitimate cause of discontent? Nothing, I am sure, that I could say would add to the force of the naked facts which I have so meagrely given. I have no doubt that in the course of this debate we shall hear some eloquent speeches in defence of the Irish Church; but I very much doubt whether any one of the speakers will deny the facts which I have stated, and upon which I am content to rest my case.
My Lords, at the same time, I am anxious to refer to some of the objections which are likely to be made to the disestablishment of the Irish Church; and in doing so I shall avail myself of the assistance of my noble Friend the Chairman of Committees. My noble Friend has sup plied me with objections which, as they have been published in a pamphlet, I shall have no hesitation in using. The first argument by way of objection is that dis- 2034 establishment would be a grievous wrong to the Irish Church and would shake the principles on which the security of private property is based. My noble Friend is generally a moderate man in the expression of his views; but I must say that the other day he spoke on this subject with a warmth which must have surprised your Lordships, even though you are well aware of my noble Friend's attachment to the Church. My noble Friend said that the disestablishment of the Irish Church would be a sin—that it would be taking from God the things which belong to God. My Lords, these are grave words, and they ought not to be lightly spoken. We have all been brought up to believe that all things belong to God, but there are some things which are believed to especially belong to God. Can we place in the latter category the temporalities of an institution which never has accomplished the object for which it was intended, and which has generated feelings which are not very Christian between those within and those without its pale? My Lords, with much respect I must say that to describe such things as belonging to God in the sense that it would be a sin to touch them is really a profaning of the words. My Lords, Henry VIII. found the ecclesiastical revenues of Ireland in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church, which had possessed them for many more centuries than the three which we now speak of. He took a large portion of them and distributed them between himself and his friends. He gave the rest to a Church which he had established, partly by force and partly by his Prerogative, in a country which, unlike England, was entirely unprepared to receive the blessed truths of the Reformation. Queen Mary took the latter portion of those revenues back again for the Roman Catholics; Queen Elizabeth re-took them for the Established Church; Cromwell handed them over to the Puritans, and his successor took them from them. I want to know which of those appropriations of those revenues was sacred—whether they were all sacred, or whether none of them are sacred? My Lords, I am happy to feel that I can relieve myself from what I may almost style the excommunication of my noble Friend, by citing in favour of the course which I ask your Lordships to take, not only the opinion of lawyers and statesmen, but also of prelates and clergymen of the Established Church. What says Bishop Warburton?— 2035The alliance between the Church and the State is not irrevocable. It subsists just so long as the Church thereby established maintains its superiority of extent, which, when it loses to any considerable degree, the alliance becomes void.The right rev. Prelates will remember that on a former occasion Bishop Butler was quoted by a noble Lord, one of the warmest friends of the Church, as having declared that tithes might be alienated at the discretion of the governing body. Again Paley states—If the Dissenters from the Establishment become a majority of the people, the Establishment itself ought to be altered or modified.I am sure the right rev. Bench will attach due weight to the opinion of Dr. Arnold, and he said that whether the Irish people lapsed into barbarism again, or reached a higher state of civilization, in either case it was utterly impossible for the Irish Church Establishment to remain. In the works of Archbishop Whately are to be found these words—I freely acknowledge that the State has a right to take away the property of all or any of these corporations—indemnifying, of course, those individuals actually enjoying the revenues—whenever the manifest inutility or hurtfulness of the institutions renders their abolition important to the public welfare.My Lords, those words really seem to anticipate the Resolutions contained in the Bill which I now ask your Lordships to read a second time.
My Lords, I now come to the question whether the disestablishment of the Irish Church would have the effect of shaking the principles on which the security of private property is based. I must say that to my mind such an assertion is an insult to common sense. Indeed I think your Lordships must all feel that the argument is a most fallacious one. Sir James M'Intosh remarks that the principle of private property is co-eval with society itself, whereas, with regard to corporations, civil and religious, they could be maintained when beneficial, improved when impaired, and destroyed when useless or harmful. To be in a state of security private property must be situated in the midst of a contented and happy population. I think, my Lords, that any step you can take to diminish discontent in Ireland will tend to strengthen the security of private property more than any subtle arguments founded on the connection between Church and State. I believe, my Lords, you can strengthen the security of property in Ireland to an enormous degree by taking 2036 away what, on the one hand, has been a source of jealousy to the mass of the people, and, on the other hand, has led to an assertion of rights on the part of the minority which has very much embittered the relations between landlord and tenant. The next argument of my noble Friend is that if you interfere with the Establishment in Ireland you will endanger the position of the Established Church in this country. Now; I want to clearly understand what that argument is. I apprehend my noble Friend would not state that the disestablishment of the Irish Church would lead to such political advantages and to such an advance of the Protestant religion in Ireland that disestablishment would become contagious and reach this country. On the other hand, I presume that if the political consequences of disestablishment in Ireland were nil, and that it injured the Protestant religion there, the effect would be to strengthen the position of the Established Church in England. But I ask, is it true to assert that it is impossible to deal with the Irish Church as an Establishment without making it logically impossible to deal with the English Church also? My Lords, I am a member of the Church of England, and I protest against that assertion. You cannot compare the positions of—I was going to say—the two great bodies, but of the small body the Irish Church and the large body the English Church. A great deal has been said about the Article in the Act of Union which unites the two Churches; but there is not a word in that Article about the temporalities of the two Churches being united. The Article declares that the two Churches shall be united in doe-trine, worship, and discipline. But in 1861 or 1862 the clergy of Ireland addressed the Queen, asking for changes in respect of these matters—requesting that there should be Convocations, and that the Irish Prelates should be represented on the Committee of Appeal of the Privy Council, in order, as they said, that "there might be a real union between the two Churches." The application was refused; and I believe that many of the most rev. and right rev. Prelates of this country did not wish that that should be done which an Archbishop thought essential in order that the two Churches should be really united. I do not, however, attach much, importance to that fact in connection, with the question now under discussion. But I believe that the Church of England 2037 is one of the most tolerant Churches in the world. She is also very comprehensive. On the one side she almost touches the Roman Catholic Church, and on the other her sympathies are widely extended to our Dissenting brethren. I believe she commands the warm—I might almost say the blind—devotion of men of the highest station and education; and, at the same time, she has the respect of a large body outside her own members. My Lords, I have the honour to be acquainted with a great many members of the English Church. I have not the honour to be acquainted with, many members of the Irish Church. I am told there has been a great improvement in the character of the clergy of the Irish Church, and it is not to them, but to the system which places them in an invidious position, that I attribute the failure of the Irish Church. There is another reason why the Church in this country does not fail to commend itself to the people. For many years past it has furnished bright exam-plea of a clergy who have not been slow to adopt a course—even to the extent sometimes of placing themselves in the van—by means of which not only some of the greatest social reforms, but also some of the greatest political reforms, have been secured, thereby conferring immense benefits upon the English nation. I do not think, therefore, that the separation of these two Churches will he an injury. On the contrary, I believe it will be an advantage to the Church of England. And there is one danger, as matters stand, to which your Lordships, I think, cannot be blind. Many of your Lordships think, no doubt, that disestablishment may be delayed, and some that it can be prevented. But after the immense impetus which has been given to this question by the great majorities in the House of Commons, do you think that this is a question which can be shelved, put aside, and heard of no more? The thing is impossible. And will it be an advantage to the Church of England to be constantly mixed up with the Irish Church, and to be made with it the object of a combined attack? Will it be useful to the Church of England that persons who really entertain no enmity towards it at present—for I believe that the persons in this country who are in active hostility to the Church of England are only a small minority—should be enrolled in the number of its assailants merely in order that they may reach another Church against which they have just reason of complaint, 2038 and with this object that they should be driven to discover and expose every weak place in the armour of the Church of England? I venture to go further, and say that it is not desirable in the interest of the Church that there should be a continuation of some of the speeches which we have heard ostensibly in its defence.
The next argument of my noble Friend is one that he will excuse me for saying I consider not only very weak, but very dangerous. It is this, that the people of Ireland do not care about this subject. He does not produce one single fact to support that opinion. I ask whether, from â priori reasoning, they should be likely to be satisfied. There is one supposition which it is painful almost to make—that of the possible conquest of this country; but I remember a good many years ago that a man, who was gallant to excess itself, bearing a name that was borne by hero after hero in our military and naval annals, and which has received such glorious illustration within the last few weeks, did not shrink from entertaining this supposition. He said this—If the Emperor Napoleon had conquered this country, would we have submitted to his constituting the Roman Catholic religion the established religion of the country?That illustration has been repeated time after time, till it has become almost trite and stale; but I am not aware that the answer to it has become in the slightest degree trite or stale, because I have never heard of any answer being given to it. I have never heard of any one venturing upon the supposition that any lapse of time would reconcile us here in England to submit to the domination in religious matters of n small minority, and I shall be very much surprised if any noble Lord controverts that view. And does the noble Lord think that the Irish are either so superior, or so very inferior to us, that they do not freely share the unanimity that among us would be created by such a conquest? The noble Lord may have read the declaration made by everything that is distinguished by wealth, position, and intellect among the Roman Catholics of Ireland protesting strongly against this notion, and asserting that it is contrary to the dignity of their religion and of the people of Ireland that the Church of Ireland should be maintained, and that without religious equality there cannot be generated that security, that respect for law. and that natural good-will which con- 2039 stitutes the true foundation of national prosperity. But the noble Lord is not satisfied with that. He uses the argument, which I have heard used before, that the people are apathetic. I think I heard that argument used against a very moderate Reform Bill proposed by Her Majesty's Government only two years ago. And what happened? We were defeated, and the Bill was withdrawn; we had tumultuous riots of a disgraceful character in the metropolis, and we had the most peaceful and orderly meetings of the working classes all over the country. What was the result? Why, that a Conservative Government last year passed a measure of Reform which, when some years before it had been proposed by Mr. Bright, had been deemed of the most revolutionary character. Will the noble Lord not be satisfied till the Irish people show some of that spirit which the Scotch people once exhibited—till they show some of that spirit which induced a great Conservative statesman, a man of iron will, to ask you to make your choice between concession and civil war; are these the sort of evidences my noble Friend requires of the feelings of the people of Ireland? The noble Lord says—"It is not the people of Ireland, it is the clerical influence brought to bear upon them, that does all this." According to his view, it is not the waters that make the waves, but the winds that blow upon them; and we are on that account wholly to disregard the heaving of the ocean. I believe that argument is false to the uttermost degree. I agree with my noble Friend in thinking that one of the main objections to the clergy of the Roman Catholic religion is the exaggerated influence which, as it appears to us, they assume, and which they certainly exercise, over their flocks in Ireland, as well as in other countries; but my Lords, do you think you will diminish that influence in the slightest degree, when, in addition to any spiritual arms they may at present make use of, you put into their hands this acute political weapon, which they can employ in their addresses every day in the week, and with special point upon the Seventh Day—the position in which the religion so dear to their hearts is placed by the side of the favoured Establishment? Is not this a stimulus to the increased exercise of their influence—is it not a stimulus to them to exercise this influence in the way most unfavourable to the Government? I have said I think this in- 2040 fluence exaggerated. But I must say that if ever there was a question upon which it would be perfectly legitimate for them to use their influence, it is this. We were told some weeks ago that in consequence of this Bill 20,000 clergymen of the Church of England, who had never before mixed in party or political questions, would become political partizans. I own I can hardly imagine where the 20,000 clergymen are to be found who have hitherto abstained from using their rights as citizens in political matters. But if there is sufficient in the menaced attack upon an institution which I have endeavoured to show is so very dissimilar from that to which they belong, to justify all these clergymen of the Church of England in coming forward, is it not justifiable that the poor Irish priests should also come forward, who are obliged to extract from an almost starving population means, in some cases, to erect chapels, and in others to supply their personal needs, while their rich neighbours of the Established Church—who have hardly any flocks to attend to—are provided with everything they can possibly desire? These, I think, are the arguments of the noble Lord, to which I should be sorry to do injustice by allowing any to escape my recollection. And I will frankly admit that my feeling upon finishing that pamphlet was one of relief—["Oh, oh!"]—I have no intention of saying anything uncourteous to the noble Lord—was one of relief that the noble Lord had abstained from introducing into it any argument connected with the Coronation Oath. I am sorry to add that in the speech which my noble Friend made the other day he did not observe the same prudent course. I assert that the argument derived from the Coronation Oath is opposed to all reason, and that it has been fully answered by accomplished facts. The obligation of that Oath certainly extends to Her Majesty's dominions as well as to the United Kingdom. I will ask my noble Friend, or anybody else who wishes to support that view, whether he is going to assert that King George IV., in acting upon the advice of the Duke of Wellington, of Sir Robert Peel, and of the then Lord Chancellor, violated the obligations of the Coronation Oath when he gave his assent to the Emancipation Act? Further, I will ask whether it is contended that the most constitutional Sovereign who ever sat upon the throne of this kingdom violated the obligations of the Coronation Oath 2041 when, acting upon the advice of successive Ministers, and once of a Committee of the Privy Council assembled for the special purpose, she gave her assent to Acts which secularized the property of the Church both in Canada and in the Australian colonies? I say, if you are not prepared to make these assertions, it is most objectionable to state in public, or endeavour to disseminate the opinion, that there is the slightest difficulty upon that subject. And I am bound to say, when the noble Lord went further and gave a hypothetical supposition as to the personal feeling of the Queen connected with this Coronation Oath, he took an unconstitutional course. I am sorry to say that I think it almost verges upon disrespect, after the Sovereign has by her public acts shown that she does not share in the view of the noble Lord, to talk in the tone which he has done of obligations imposed upon the Crown, There is another argument which has been relied upon—that to disestablish the Church would be to repeal the Union. Either this objection is a technical or a substantial one. I should have thought that if it were effective for that purpose mention would have been made of the Church temporalities. But there is no mention of them; the fifth section of the Act settles that question. Then, if it be a technical objection nothing can be easier than by a technical mode to obviate that objection. But I deny that an Act of Parliament should bind to all eternity. I admit that the Act of Union is of a peculiarly sacred character, and that it should not be touched without care and consideration; but when you tell me that it cannot be touched, even supposing England, Scotland, and Ireland were of one mind on the subject, I say that is simply a reductio ad absurdum. Another argument which I should not think important, except that it came from a Secretary of State, declares that if you disestablish the Irish Church you despoil the people of Ireland by taking away their almoners. This is simply inconsistent. If the Church is to be considered without respect to its spiritual character, we may as well advocate the distribution of alms by a body of civil engineers. But you allege, however, the Irish clergy are so poor that they are hardly able to support themselves. What would you say if any of those distinguished Roman Catholic Peers here present were to propose to you to place public funds in the hands of Archbishop Manning and 2042 his clergy not for purposes of giving instruction or spiritual consolation to their flocks, but for the purpose of distributing alms impartially to the people? I think, my Lords, I need go no further with this. But there is another argument which has all the freshness of novelty, and deserves to be treated with great consideration. The Prime Minister has stated that the disestablishment of this alien Church, as he calls it, which he admits is one of the principal obstacles to order, and, therefore, to Imperial rule in Ireland, would be fatal to the Protestantism of Europe. This is an affair upon which the foreign Protestants have a right to say something, and with your Lordships' permission, I believe I have heard the opinion of foreigners belonging to every Church on this subject. I have heard those of persons belonging to the Greek Church, Roman Catholics of extreme views, and of Roman Catholics who profess to value religion only as a very powerful political agent. I have also heard the opinions of Protestants on the subject, and I have never heard a single word of approbation from any one of them regarding the Church Establishment in Ireland. And I would ask what is the language of the American Protestants, of the Prussian Protestants, and of the Swiss Protestants. One and all of them tell us that their great stumbling-block is the Irish Church Establishment; they say that of all the attacks upon them by the Roman Catholics that which is most often repeated turns on the Irish Church, and they assure us that it is a taunt they have been utterly unable to meet. These foreign Protestants are as good judges as even the Prime Minister on this subject as regards foreign Protestantism, and I repeat their judgment with confidence that it will not be wanting in weight with your Lordships. The Prime Minister, too, has offered certain other arguments, perfectly original, but so very much above the level on which men with ordinary minds reason that it is quite impossible for me to take them up. But, my Lords, I should like to bring all the arguments on the subject to something like an historical test. I have mentioned the case of Scotland; now let me remind your Lordships of Lord Macaulay's famous statement of the result to Scotland and to England and to the connection between the two countries, from the fact that the Scotch were firm enough to resist the imposition of an Established Church of the 2043 minority of the people upon them, and that we were weak enough or wise enough to yield to them. That, however, is some time ago. So I will take a more modern instance, and ask what has been the result in the Australian colonies of setting up a free Church. In former times there used to be a compulsory annual Vote of £28,000 from the Civil List, one-half of which was devoted to the Protestant Church, one-third to the Roman Catholics, and the rest to the Presbyterians. What has been the result of abolishing that grant? I am told that the increase to the Protestant Church since that occurred has been in the proportion of five to two. I hold in my hand a Report from "The Church Society," established in the diocese of Sydney, presided over by the Bishop, and numbering among its members the clergy of the diocese and a large number of laymen. I notice this passage in the Report—Instituted in 1856 for the purpose of maintaining clergymen, catechists, and missionaries to the aborigines, and of building churches and parsonages throughout the diocese, it has succeeded in raising more than £84,000 for these objects, and through its instrumentality the numbers of the clergy have been very largely increased. By grants of money and payment of interest upon loans a great stimulus has been given to the erection of churches, so that 120 places of worship in connection with our Church have been opened within the last eleven years, to the greater part of which the Society has rendered some aid.Passing over the enumeration of the many advantages conferred by the Society, I find the Report makes this statement—Nothing more is needed than such a united and sustained effort on the part of her members to enable the Church to carry their ministrations to the utmost bounds of the diocese.Will you tell me with such facts as these before you that the Irish Church is unable to maintain itself? Will you re-assert that when you consider what this small and by no means wealthy population has done? My Lords, I will offer another consideration. I have lately had the advantage of seeing the late Governor of that colony (Sir John Young), himself an Irishman, and well acquainted with Irish affairs. Your Lordships will remember him as a singularly impartial man, and what does he say? He tells me that there is perfect harmony among all the sects in New South Wales, and he wishes to God a similar feeling existed in Ireland. I pass on to Canada. Some twenty-eight years ago Lord Sydenham, then Governor General 2044 of the colony, wrote to this effect to the Home Government—The clergy reserves have been and are the great overwhelming grievance—the root of all the troubles of the province, the cause of the rebellion, the never-failing watchword at the hustings, the perpetual source of disorder, strife, and hatred. If you attempt to give the Church of England any supremacy, five-sixths of the province will never submit to it, and you will have a sound, loyal, stirring population against you.In consequence of the wise policy adopted in that colony in other respects, prosperity was the rule throughout the country, but the embarrassment caused by the clergy reserves was such that under Lord Aberdeen's Government, a Bill was presented to your Lordships which enabled the colony to disestablish its Church, and to secularize her revenues. That Bill was opposed, on the ground that to pass it would be to commit sin and sacrilege, and to do what Parliament had no right to do respecting the Established Church. A noble Friend of mine, then Leader of the Opposition, said he would sooner see the Empire dismembered than give his consent to the passing of that Bill. Another noble Lord, a great Judge, told us that measure was subversive of morality and justice, and of all those principles by which private property was secured. Others attacked the measure on the ground that its enactment would produce great spiritual destitution among members of the Church of England in the colony, the Act of Union was appealed to, and we were told that the good faith of the country would be utterly forfeited if the Bill passed. We were also appealed to in the name of those loyal colonists, the minority belonging to the Church of England, and urged to sustain them in the possession of their rights, since they formed the chief element of strength in the connection between this colony and the mother country. And, finally, we were exhorted in the name of the Coronation Oath, which I hope will not be appealed to this evening, to withhold our hands from that measure. My Lords, could any two cases bear more striking resemblance than the case of Canada and Ireland respecting the Motion to disestablish the Church of their minorities? The arguments of that day were precisely the arguments of this, and what has the result proved? I may say that one right rev. Prelate, after stating that the proposal was sacrilegious and sinful, reminded your Lordships of the fate of that Assyrian tyrant who ventured 2045 to drink out of the cup dedicated to the service of God in His temple, and how, by that act, one of the fairest and mightiest kingdoms of the earth ceased to exist in one day. See how those terrible prognostications have been fulfilled. I will ask whether property in this country or in Canada has fallen one shilling, one sixpence, or one farthing in value in consequence of the "unjustifiable" vote with which, by a majority of nearly 40, you passed that Bill? I believe these arguments are unreal in their nature, though they may possibly answer very well as election cries. I believe that they do very well to fill up speeches when the subject itself does not admit of very close and serried argument; but I cannot conceive any one bringing them forward in the hope that they can in any way support his views. Now, my Lords, with regard to Canada, I have a letter here from one of the Members of the Legislature, and in that letter, which is too long for me to read, though I shall be happy to show it to any noble Lord who desires to see it, the writer mentions several curious circumstances. He says that while the Churchmen in his neighbourhood were able to fall back upon the Clergy Reserve Fund they obstinately refused to do anything for themselves. They had no church, no minister, and no public performance of religious duties. When they desired to be married or christened, or to have their friends or relatives buried, they went to the Methodists, who provided what was necessary; but directly the Clergy Reserve Bill was carried they built a rectory and provided for their spiritual wants, and nothing could be more satisfactory than the state in which they now are. I have seen another letter, in which the writer says—The Episcopal Protestant Church in Lower Canada is in a very satisfactory state, both as regards revenue and efficiency. It has a sufficient number of clergy. They are earnest, but not fanatical; they are not unduly under the influence of their congregations, and are generally paid fixed incomes, as the contributions of their flocks and other revenues are paid, not to a parochial, but to a diocesan fund. There are a sufficient number of decent places of worship. The laity show much more zeal for their religion than the members of the Established Church in Ireland do. A man of the class that in Ireland would give five or ten pounds for his religion there gives hundreds.That letter almost exactly tallies with the information which the Governor of New South Wales furnished—that the same success, and, doubtless, owing to the same 2046 cause, had resulted there; that not only had there been a voluntary endowment of Bishops, but there had also been introduced a very large amount of the lay element. I think that these facts are sufficient to show that the prophesied spiritual destitution of Canada has not by any means been realized. I would venture to appeal to some of the right rev. Prelates opposite who have seen the Bishop of Montreal lately, and ask them whether he does not substantially give the same account and say that nothing would induce him to go back to the previous state of things. And, my Lords, what has been the result as far as concerns the relations between the two countries? What effect has it had upon those who were known as the "loyal colonists?" Why, the "loyal colonists" or "loyal Canadians" no longer exist. They have disappeared, not because those who formerly bore the name are less loyal than they used to be, but because the great majority of those who were formerly disaffected have become equally loyal with themselves. The Canadians are now greatly attached to you, and you are enabled to intrust Volunteer Roman Catholics with arms, while in Ireland you are not only afraid to do so, but you have the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act and the presence of a large military force. Now, my Lords, I will quote some words, much more powerful than any I can use. Your Lordships must all have been horrified at the cruel political murder of Mr. M'Gee. Mr. M'Gee had himself been a revolutionist; but for many years he had been one of the stanchest adherents to the mother country and to the Crown. The last letter that he wrote was, I believe, written to a Member of the Government; and I shall, therefore, no doubt be corrected if I misquote his words. In that letter, and referring to the Catholics, he said—We are a contented and a loyal people. We are so because we have a just Government and religious equality. If we had not it would be otherwise.My Lords, I have no words to add to that statement. I think it is possible that some of the arguments I have adverted to may be repeated to night. I do not think it possible that we can prevent the ultimate disestablishment of the Irish Church, and if that disestablishment does occur, I, for one, have the fullest confidence that history will give the same crushing reply to those arguments and prophecies with re- 2047 gard to Ireland that history has already-given with regard to Canada.
I am far from contending that there is any constitutional reason why your Lordships should not negative the proposal for the second reading of this Bill. On the contrary, I am aware that there are many plausible arguments for such a course, and that they will be urged with all the skill and ability which eloquence and long Parliamentary experience can supply. But, my Lords, I would venture to ask whether such a course is a wise or a prudent one to adopt. The Constitution has undergone a great change. That change was described by my noble Friend, who was himself one of its authors, as "a leap in the dark." That phrase has been so generally accepted that only a few days since I found it translated into a foreign language. There is no one more sanguine as to the results of this leap than I am; but, whether sanguine or not, I would ask whether it is the part of a wise man, of a sane man, to cover the spot on which he is to alight, with broken glass, flints, and pointed rocks? Can you blind yourselves to the fact that these Gentlemen who form such large majorities in the House of Commons must have some idea of the opinions of the constituencies they represent? Can you desire that those constituencies should receive as their first impression that the House of Lords and the Church—two Conservative institutions—are mixed up with a question which, rightly or wrongly, they conceive to be a question of justice and equality, as opposed to a question of privilege? Is it wise on your part to adopt a course which will induce the people of Ireland to believe that a House composed almost exclusively of landlords and Protestant Prelates is the only obstacle to the realization of that which they have so long and so ardently looked forward to? Some of you, probably, however much you may deprecate this disestablishment, believe that, sooner or later, it must happen. I would, therefore, ask you to consider the words which Lord Palmerston, whom I believe you all respect, employed when speaking on this subject—The great mistake made by all Governments, not only in this country, but everywhere, is to be too late in the measures which they adopt. Government comes down with its measure when the time of proposing it with effect is gone by, and a measure which may be the result of conviction and the spontaneous offering of modified opinions, and a concession to a sense of justice, wears to the public all the appearance of a surrender to car.2048 These words are worthy the sagacity of the great statesman by whom they were uttered, and I would implore your Lordships to assent to the second reading of this measure—not only because it is a useful and practical enactment, but because you would show that you are prepared to give a fair, deliberate, and impartial consideration to a proposal which professes best to deal with the Irish question. I will conclude, my Lords, after thanking you for the patience and indulgence you have extended to me, with the words of the giant champion of civil and religious liberty, who, at a great age, has lately passed away from us—The grand abuse of the Irish Church, so incommensurate to the benefits it renders to the State, so grinding to the millions who dissent from its worship, the master evil—a source of perennial discord—a thing of impossible duration.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl Granville.)
I am afraid I must appear to your Lordships to have been guilty of great presumption in having anticipated the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack by giving Notice of the Amendment I am about to move, and in having afterwards declined to comply with the request made to me that I should waive the priority to which I was thus entitled by the usage of the House, and leave the Motion in the hands of the noble and learned Lord. But I can assure your Lordships I have not done this through any want of a due sense of my inferiority to the noble and learned Lord. I know well how much higher are his claims to your attention than my own, not only on account of his official station but of his distinguished talents. But inferior as I am to the noble and learned Lord in these respects, there are reasons of a public nature, which make it I think desirable that this Motion should be made by me rather than by him. If your Lordships should refuse—as I trust you may—to pass the Bill, recommended to you by my noble Friend (Earl Granville), it seems to me of the greatest importance that your rejection of it should not wear the character of being either a party vote, or one implying a determination on the part of your Lordships to withhold from the people of Ireland what I believe to be only just to them with respect to the Established Church. It is impossible that I can have any party object in moving the rejection 2049 of this Bill, and I trust that my past public conduct will equally exempt me from the suspicion of intending to maintain the existing state of the Established Church. From the first moment of my entrance on public life it has been my opinion, that to maintain the Church of a small minority of the Irish people in its present position was contrary alike to justice and to good policy. And since that time, during more than forty years, I have never lost a fair opportunity in this or the other House of Parliament, in or out of Office, of declaring that opinion without reserve, and striving to the very utmost of my power to give practical effect to it. That opinion I have in no degree changed. On the contrary, I have been only confirmed in the view of this subject which I adopted at the commencement of my Parliamentary life by all that has since occurred, and now at its close I hold that opinion more strongly than ever. I think now, as I thought then, that to maintain the Irish Establishment in its present state is a scandal to the country; a disgrace to us in the eyes of the whole civilized world; a source of weakness and of danger to the Empire; and, what is not the least of its evils, injurious to the true interests of religion. Notwithstanding the general excellence of the ministers of the Church in Ireland, it seems to me impossible to doubt that the effect of maintaining it in its present position is not to promote peace and good-will, and the spiritual improvement of the Irish people, but on the contrary, by the fierce dissensions it occasions, and the violent animosities it creates, it tends to check the growth of Christian virtues, and to foster in their place rancour and ill-will, in the minds of both Protestants and Roman Catholics. Entertaining this opinion it is no part of my duty to attempt to answer by far the larger part of the speech of my noble Friend who has just sat down. So far as his arguments were directed to prove the justice and good policy of a great change in the Irish Church Establishment, they command my entire concurrence. The only feeling I have to express with regard to them, is one of regret that my noble Friend and those who act with him were not sooner alive to their full force, and that they had not adopted those views two years ago when they stood in a position to give effect to them. The fault I have to find with my noble Friend's speech is, not that 2050 his argument on this point was wrong, but that he failed to follow it up and to show how it applied to the support of this Bill. He laboured to prove—and I agree with him that he laboured successfully—that a change of system is necessary, but he did not go on to show that this Bill is the right mode of arriving at it. This essential part of the subject he touched upon very briefly and imperfectly; he seemed to feel that he was treading upon very delicate ground, and that if he was not careful, the thin crust would break down with him. We have been told that this Bill is intended to prepare the way for the entire disestablishment and disendowment of the Protestant Church in Ireland. Perhaps my noble Friend did not use the word disendowment; but certainly this as well as disestablishment has been proclaimed by others to be what is intended. My Lords, I will not conceal my own opinion that this would not be the best mode of redressing the crying injustice of the existing system. I believe that a much better mode of doing this might be found; still I so far concur with my noble Friend that I would rather consent to go the full length of disestablishment and disendowment than allow things to remain as they are. But even if it could be proved that there were no alternative, and if I were therefore convinced that we must come to disestablishment and disendowment, I should not the less object to this Bill as not being the right mode of arriving at that end. I should condemn it as being calculated to increase instead of to diminish the difficulty of accomplishing the settlement that is desired, and to render the measure, when passed, less beneficial than it ought to be.
My noble Friend told us that the object of the Bill was very simple and very limited; that its only effect would be to suspend, so long as it remains in operation, making appointments to any benefices or dignities in the Irish Church that may fall vacant, except such as are in private patronage; and that it would do nothing to fetter the discretion of Parliament as to any permanent arrangements. This was a very euphemistic way of telling us that the Bill, in virtually destroying the existing system, does nothing towards establishing any other in its place—that it does not take one single step towards effecting a permanent settlement of this question, or towards determining what is to be the future position of the Church, or 2051 what is to be done with the property of which it is to be deprived. But allow me to remind you that the authors of this Bill have always told us that in proceeding to disestablish and disendow the Irish Church they admit that we are bound to respect vested interests and rights fairly created under the existing law, and also to enable the members of the Protestant Church in Ireland, like other religious communities, to make the best arrangements in their power for obtaining religious services according to the forms they approve. Now it is obvious that respect for vested interests and existing rights implies a good deal more than merely continuing their existing income to the clergy who now hold preferment. It is acknowledged that the property acquired by the Church by private benefactions since the Reformation cannot possibly be taken away from it; and these benefactions amount to a very large sum. Your Lordships all know that a member of the Church, whose recent death has been greatly lamented by all his countrymen, spent no less, I believe, than £150,000 in restoring, or rather in almost re-building, St. Patrick's Cathedral. No one proposes so flagrant an injustice as that the Cathedral restored by this magnificent liberality of one of its sons should be taken from the Church. Again, we are told that within our own time, in one diocese in Ireland no less than £27,000 has been placed at the disposal of the Bishop for Church purposes by two individuals: it is admitted that the property on which this money has been laid out cannot be taken away. Further than this, it has been announced that the churches and parsonages generally are to be left in the possession of the Protestant Church. But if so large an amount of valuable property is to be left to the Church, some arrangement must be made as to who is to hold it, and how its due application to the purposes for which it is intended is to be secured. It seems to be imagined that this can be provided for much more easily than will really prove to be the case. In some speeches on the subject, which must really have been made with very little consideration, it has been asked why should not the members of the Established Church in Ireland, when it loses the character of an Establishment, manage their own property just in the same way as the Roman Catholics and the various Dissenting Churches? It is apparently forgotten that all the pro- 2052 perty of these Churches, which exist as voluntary associations, has been acquired by donations or bequests, in which the donors or testators have appointed trustees for its management, and defined the purposes to which it is to be applied. There is generally, therefore, no doubt as to who is entitled to this property, and how it is to be managed; when a doubt does arise it is determined by the Courts of Law ac-corning to the terms of the legal instruments by which the property is held. But with respect to the Established Church there is no such machinery—for the very reason that it is established, and exists as a public institution. Therefore, when it ceases to do so, it is absolutely necessary that there should be some legislation to determine to whom the property is to belong, by whom it is to be administered, and to what purposes it is to be applied. Legislation is equally necessary for the other object of enabling the Church to apply her diminished resources to the best advantage. It is universally acknowledged that justice requires that she should have this power. When you cut off the greater part of her resources you are bound to allow her to make such changes in the application of the remainder as may render them of most service to her. No authority which can do this now exists; and without the aid of Parliament none can be created that would have legal power to deal with the property, or to take a single step for rendering it more useful. Let me remind you that this Bill not only does nothing to remove this difficulty, but does much to paralyze the existing machinery of the Church. If a large see should become vacant while the proposed law is in operation, no new Bishop could be appointed, and there would be no one in authority to regulate the affairs of its parishes—to make the various arrangements, whether by uniting these parishes or otherwise, for meeting the difficulties of the new state of things. If we pass this Bill, the means and revenue of the Church will immediately begin to undergo reduction; and I ask you whether it is consistent with justice and fairness that this process should begin before you have provided the machinery by which the difficulties it will create may be met?—whether it is right to cripple the existing organization without taking any step to create a new one? But this is not the worst. Observe the position in which the Irish Church will be placed if this Bill 2053 should be passed. From that moment the filling up of all the vacancies in its benefices and dignities will be stopped. Now if that suspension should be continued, the Church, to use an expression I have heard, would "die by inches"; it would gradually be extinguished as an organized body. I am told that there is no danger of this, because this Bill is only to continue in operation till the 1st of August of next year. My Lords, it is a positive insult to our understandings to pretend that if we once impose this suspension of appointments we shall be able again to remove it. If the permanent legislation with respect to the Irish Church, which this Bill is intended to assist, cannot be accomplished next Session, we are sure that before its close a short Bill for the renewal of the Suspensory Act would be brought before us, which it would be impossible to refuse. Bach succeeding year, while permanent legislation was delayed, there would be a stronger case for renewing this temporary provision, because each succeeding year there would be greater inconvenience in allowing the whole of the increasing number of vacant appointments to be suddenly filled up. No man who has the smallest experience of how things are practically managed in Parliament, and how easily temporary arrangements are prolonged from year to year, can doubt that that is what would happen. Well, then, the Church being thus reduced to a condition in which it would gradually die out if no further legislation should take place, you cannot fail to see in how disadvantageous a position it would be placed in considering measures of permanent legislation, Remember, that in deciding upon permanent arrangements there will be many most difficult questions to be considered. To legislate with respect to the Irish Church is a task which will prove embarrassing to the most experienced statesmen and the ablest lawyers. In discussing the measures that are to be adopted we also know that the Church will have to deal with bitter and not very scrupulous enemies. What security then can we have that the consideration of these measures, and with it the suspension of all appointments may not be indefinitely prolonged? Is it then fair to call upon the friends of the Church to consent to the passing of a Bill, the effect of which will be to compel them to come hereafter to the consideration of any permanent arrangement under this great 2054 disadvantage, that if they decline to accept the settlement that may be proposed to them, precisely as it is offered, they will be left under the operation of a law by which the Church will be gradually dying away? Would anything of this kind be considered reasonable in private life? Suppose there were a large property to be divided between two claimants, would it be fair that till the terms would be settled, one of them should be debarred from the exercise of any rights whatever, and be left without anything until he would consent to such an arrangement as his adversary might be pleased to offer? My Lords, one of the most distinguished advocates of the disestablishment of the Church has recently said with great truth and great wisdom, that it is good policy in a Government when malting great changes of this kind to deal graciously and generously with those whom they must affect. Such reforms must of necessity bear hardly upon many persons; but all that is possible ought to be done to soften the blow, and to make the transition from the old to the new state of things as little painful as possible. Such is the wise maxim that was laid down, but how is it acted upon? Instead of dealing generously with the Church by this Bill you will refuse to it even bare justice; in a case in which of all others it was most necessary to avoid creating needless irritation, you propose to take a course which is wantonly offensive to the friends of the Church, and must produce a sense of wrong in their minds which will prevent the settlement you may ultimately make from being accepted, or even acquiesced in, as we must wish.
Such, I say, is the character of the measure we are called upon to pass, and I would ask you why are we to do so? I listened very attentively to the speech of my noble Friend. I have read the reports in the newspapers of many other speeches in support of the Bill, and I can find only one useful purpose which it is alleged that it will answer. It is said that by passing this Bill we shall prevent new vested interests from being created while some permanent arrangement is under consideration; that is to say, if we do not pass this Bill, but wait till we can legislate permanently on the subject next year, it is probable that in the interval some vacancies will occur in livings and Church dignities in Ireland, to which persons must be appointed who will thereby acquire 2055 claims which will have to be considered when a final settlement is made—that a demand to the possible amount of a few thousand pounds additional may arise upon the property of the Church. If that property were urgently wanted for some useful purposes, for which it was likely to prove insufficient, I should acknowledge the force of this argument. But far from this being the case, it is notorious that the great embarrassment of those who insist upon the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church is what they are to do with the property of which they are resolved to deprive it. The authors of the Bill cautiously avoid giving us even a hint what is to be done with the property, and we quite understand why. It was impossible for them to say to what purposes this property should be applied without creating division in the motley army by which the Church is assailed. My Lords, it is to treat us like children to ask us to believe that the ostensible object for which we are asked to pass the Bill is the real one. We all know that this is a question which rises above one of mere money; it is a question of policy and of feeling, and a petty sum of a few thousand pounds is as nothing in considering it. When the professed object of the Bill is thus palpably insufficient to account for its introduction, can you be surprised that this should generally be regarded by the public as a mere party move, especially when you remember what passed in 1866? I ventured in that year, after you had renewed the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, to ask your Lordships to take into consideration the state of Ireland which had made that severe measure necessary, and I proposed to you to deal with this question of the Church as that which most demanded your attention. It was not in the slightest degree less necessary to do so then than it is now—all the circumstances which point to the need of a change with respect to the Irish Church existed at that time in as full force as at present, and there is not a single argument in favour of the measure which my noble Friend has now brought forward which I did not press upon your consideration in 1866. I acknowledge that I urged them with inferior force, but the arguments of my noble Friend are identically the same with my own. There is one circumstance, and one circumstance only, in which a change has occurred, and I confess that I heard with extreme astonishment my noble Friend re- 2056 fer to the outrages perpetrated by the Fenians, and their open outbreak, as reasons for considering the questions which did not formerly exist. [Earl GRANVILLE made a gesture of dissent.] My noble Friend denies that he said this. I certainly will not impute to him a statement he disclaims; but my ears must have strangely deceived me, and I am totally unable to comprehend the observations he made if they were not intended to bear the construction I have put on them.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
What I said was that these events had led the English people to think calmly and dispassionately upon this question.
Well, that is very much what I understood my noble Friend to have said, and it appears to me to be an argument of a most dangerous character. Are we to tell the people of Ireland that the people of England will only consider their grievances calmly and dispassionately when an insurrection has broken out? Yet this is the real effect of my noble Friend's own explanation of what he said. If these events were necessary to make the English people think "calmly and dispassionately" upon the question of the Irish Church, the inference is plain that they will not so consider Irish grievances without being driven to it by violence and insurrection. In my opinion no more dangerous argument can be used in favour of any measure. I will go further, and say that it is in every respect a worse moment than 1866 would have been, for attempting so great a change. Such a proposal would have been received with far more gratitude coming from a Government acting on its responsibility than when made by a party in Opposition. It would have been received with far greater gratitude if it had been made after the authority of the Government had been asserted by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and before the English people had been taught to look at these matters "calmly and dispassionately" by means of murder, fire, and outrage. I do not think that the outrages that have been perpetrated by the Fenians afford the slightest reason for withholding a measure I believe to be just; but I cannot conceal from myself that it would have been far better if the offer of concession had preceded the acts of violence, because I fear that postponing it till afterwards, and then making the proposal in a manner showing so much precipitation, 2057 must lead the Irish people to think that the violence has had something to do with obtaining for them the boon they are now promised. And I have been informed by a gentleman well acquainted with Ireland, who spoke to me of his own knowledge, that in some parts of the country the language actually held by the peasants shows that such is the impression made upon their minds. When they are told that the Protestant Church Establishment will be put an end to, their answer is, "Well, it is those poor Fenians that have done it." This is, I think, a great misfortune. It is much to be lamented that this change was not attempted in 1866 instead of in 1868; yet, my Lords, you cannot forget that when the proposal was made in 1866 it was condemned in the most decided terms by my noble Friend behind me (Earl Russell), who contended that such a measure would do far more harm than good, and would tend to inflame instead of to appease the religious animosities which so unhappily prevail in Ireland. I will not quote Hansard, but I am sure your Lordships know that this was the substance of what was said by my noble Friend. Nor did my noble Friend speak for himself alone. He spoke as Prime Minister, and declared for himself and his Colleagues the opinion of the Government. Within this very month Mr. Gladstone himself is reported to have rebuked severely an attempt to question the responsibility of the present Administration as a whole for opinions expressed on this very subject of the Irish Church by one of its Members. Mr. Gladstone said, and with great justice, "That it is one of our first duties to decline to acquit any Member of the Cabinet of responsibility for the announced and declared policy of another." In 1866, therefore, my noble Friend must be considered as having spoken not only for himself but his Colleagues in declaring the policy of the Ministry, so that I can feel no astonishment that the change in the conduct of the party by which that Bill is brought forward should be very generally ascribed to the change in their position; and that the public should believe that it is to be accounted for by their impatient desire to recover what they have lost, which has led them to avail themselves of any weapon that came most readily to their hands to help them to force the doors of Downing Street. I will not impute to them such motives—I am 2058 ready and willing to believe that they have had other and better reasons for proposing this measure, though I am unable to comprehend them. But I do say that it is a great misfortune that they have taken a course so well calculated to create suspicion in the public mind upon this point. Few greater evils could befall the nation than that it should come to be believed that those who take a principal share in conducting its affairs, look less to the public good than to their own private interest, and the gratification of their own ambition. If this sort of distrust in public men were to become general, it would be a very great misfortune. I fear the events of last year have done much to create such a feeling; und the manner in which this question of the Irish Church has now been dealt with is calculated to make it even deeper than before.
But this is not the only, nor the principal ground on which I condemn the course that has been taken in bringing forward this Bill. I object to it still more as being calculated to increase the difficulties of this very difficult subject, and to prevent a conciliatory and satisfactory settlement of the question from being effected. Let me remind your Lordships that our object should be not merely to redress a grievance, and to correct an injustice as regards the Church of Ireland. As statesmen our object ought to be something more than this. Our desire should be to assuage, and gradually to extinguish, those violent religious animosities which have been the bane of Ireland. Every man who really values the welfare of this great country must feel how extremely important it is that in doing justice to the Roman Catholics, we should endeavour to avoid alienating and offending the Protestants—that we should aim at a settlement which may conciliate both Protestants and Roman Catholics. But the course that has been taken makes it far less likely than it was that this result should be obtained. A short time ago there was, I think, a fair prospect that the settlement of this question by a compromise might be accomplished. In the debate in the House of Commons on the state of Ireland in the early part of the Session, the weakness of the position of those who would maintain the Irish Church as it is, was so clearly disclosed—it became so manifest that the existing state of things would not long continue, that there could be little doubt that if the question had been allowed to rest after the 2059 advantage that had been gained until the meeting of a new Parliament, it would then have been found absolutely necessary by the Ministers of the Crown, whoever they might have been, to propose some great change upon this subject. At the same time it was perfectly clear that nothing practically useful with regard to it could be accomplished in the present Session. Even if there had been time to consider and decide upon the various arrangements that must be made before permanent legislation can be attempted, the state of Public Business, the necessity of completing the recent changes in our representation, and the fact that a General Election with an enlarged constituency was impending, would have made it quite impossible that the subject would be properly dealt with during the present Session. What, under such circumstances, was the conduct to be expected from an Opposition led by judicious and sincere lovers of their country? It seems to me that such Leaders, while distinctly declaring their opinion as to the necessity of dealing with this question, would have abstained from bringing forward any specific proposal with regard to it at the present moment, and knowing how highly desirable it is to avoid kindling the passions of religious animosity during the General Election, they would, from prudence and a sense of public duty, have allowed this question to wait for settlement by a new Parliament. Unhappily a very different course was adopted. Resolutions were moved in the House of Commons, so drawn that it was impossible that they could be accepted by the Government, while they were highly offensive to the friends of the Church, and at the same time left it quite uncertain what permanent arrangement would be proposed. And these Resolutions were followed up by bringing in that Bill which, as I have endeavoured to show you, would, if passed, settle nothing with respect to the future, and would answer no really useful purpose, and would operate most unjustly to the Church. The effect of these proceedings has been to produce—as it ought to have been foreseen that they would produce—a great party fight on a subject which, above all others, it was desirable to keep so far as possible out of the range of party excitement. They have prepared the way for making the coming elections the means of stirring up the pernicious passions of religious hatred between Roman Catholics and Protestants in every part of the United King- 2060 dom, and especially in the North of Ireland, where their passions have already run so high, and done such infinite mischief.
My Lords, the evil arising from making this the subject of a party conflict has been increased by the manner in which that conflict has been carried on. The Opposition Leaders have fastened upon expressions used by Members of the Government—which have been again referred to by my noble Friend to-night—as proving that they had contemplated adopting a policy which would have involved the grant of some pecuniary assistance to the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland; and to have entertained such an intention has been treated as a crime on the part of the Ministers for which they ought to be placed under a sort of popular ban. They on their side have disclaimed the intentions thus imputed to them, and both parties seem now to vie with each other which shall most vehemently disavow any intention of allowing public money to be applied to Roman Catholic purposes, and which shall most successfully rouse in its own favour and against its opponents in the forthcoming elections what I must call the unchristian feelings still entertained by many Protestants against their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. This, my Lords, I most deeply deplore. Whether any grant should be made to assist in maintaining the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland is a very important and difficult question, on which statesmen may well hesitate before they pronounce a decided opinion; but it is of all questions that can arise, that which it is most expedient to reserve for calm deliberation, and not to prejudge by appeals to popular passion, before it is understood, and before any distinct proposal on the subject and the reasons for making it can be explained. It is no light responsibility that the Opposition have incurred in making it more difficult than it already was to propose a grant of this kind. For, my Lords, I think that any man looking dispassionately at this question must feel that the great controversy which has been raised with regard to the Protestant Church in Ireland, can be finally settled only in one of two modes; either by some sort of compromise agreed on between the two parties of the assailants and defenders of the Church, or else by an extreme measure entirely depriving all the Churches that exist in Ireland, of any endowment whatever. A settlement of the last kind could probably only be 2061 obtained after a long and severe struggle; but that we must ultimately come to this, unless an amicable compromise can be effected, seems to me a matter of certainty. When I compare the strength and the moral power, in the actual state of public opinion, of the two parties arrayed against each other—the one to assault, the other to defend the existing arrangement—I cannot doubt that the final issue of the struggle must be to produce in one way or another a very great chance in the present system. I am equally persuaded that for the interest of the whole Nation, for the welfare of Ireland more especially, and for the sake of producing peace for the future among all the Queen's subjects, it is infinitely desirable that that question should be settled by a compromise, by doing something for all the principal Churches, rather than by totally diverting from all religious uses the property now held by the Established Church of Ireland, I hold this opinion not merely because 1 hold that, as a general rule, it is better that the religious instruction of the people should be in part at least provided for by some public endowment, than by what is called the voluntary system. Without attempting to enter now into the general question—for which this is not a fit opportunity—I would merely say that I have always believed, and still believe, that in an old country like ours, the voluntary system cannot adequately provide for the spiritual needs of the people; and I also believe that it is not for the true welfare of either the laity or the clergy of any Church, that the pastors should be solely dependent on the pecuniary contributions of their flocks. The experience of the United States confirms me in that opinion. I cannot forget that before the breaking out of the late civil war in America, none or scarcely any of the various Churches in the United States ever ventured to take up that strong ground against slavery which the principles of Christianity fully and fairly acted upon would have required. Why did the clergy in these States shrink from condemning as they ought the sin of maintaining slavery, but because they were entirely dependent on their flocks? But without pursuing further the general argument in favour of a system of endowments for religious instruction, as opposed to the voluntary system, I would point out to your Lordships that there are special reasons arising from the actual state of Ireland, which make it pecu- 2062 liarly desirable that this question should be settled by a measure based on the principle of dividing the property of the Established Church in that country among the different Churches, instead of confiscating it for any secular purposes. I have already remarked that our great object ought to be to appease the religious dissensions which prevail in Ireland, and mitigate, if we cannot remove, the feelings of rancour between different classes of the people that these dissensions have created. But in the first instance at all events—after a time we might hope that the result would be different—I fear that a simple confiscation of the property of the Church might rather increase than diminish existing animosities. Such a measure would throw the ministers of the Protestant Episcopalian and Presbyterian Churches for their support entirely on voluntrary contributions, and to obtain such contributions they would be driven to use their utmost exertions in order to raise and to keep up the spirit of religious enthusiasm among the people. It is probable that for this purpose no topics would be found so effective as vehement denunciations of what are called the errors and abominations of Popery; and the sense of wrong arising from the confiscation of the property of the Church, together with the belief that the Roman Catholics had mainly contributed to bring it, about, would tend to inflame the zeal of ardent Protestants in their attacks on the rival Church. We know that there are even now a large number of persons both in Ireland and in this country, who are earnestly striving to convert the Irish Roman Catholics from what are regarded as their religious errors, and that large sums of money are collected for carrying on this work. Mr. Bence Jones, in his excellent pamphlet giving a layman's view of the Irish Church question, states that no less a sum than £30,000 a year is raised by subscriptions in this country for the conversion of the Irish people to Protestantism. I cannot doubt that the opinion he expresses is correct, and that the effect of the disendowment of the Established Church in Ireland would be to give a great stimulus to these subscriptions, and that far larger sums than heretofore would be raised in this country to be applied in carrying on the labour of proselytism upon a greater scale and with more eagerness than ever. I do not believe that these exertions, however sincere and earnest the persons by 2063 whom they might be carried on, would be conducive to religious peace, or to the growth of a true Christian spirit among the Irish people.
There is another objection to the settlement of this question by the disestablishment and disendowment of the Protestant Church in Ireland, which has great weight in my mind. I mean the effect that this would have on the security of the Church in England. We are told indeed that the Church stands in so entirely different a position in England from what it does in Ireland, that a change which may be made with respect to the latter will have no effect upon the former. That argument has been used by my noble Friend, and he pointed out that the abolition of Episcopacy in Scotland had not injured, but had on the contrary been of service to the English Church. I agree with him that this has been the result of the wise course taken with respect to the Church in Scotland at the time of the Revolution, nor do I doubt that if you were to take a similar course in Ireland and were to preserve for religious uses the property now devoted to these purposes, only altering the mode of its application, not the smallest injury would arise to our own Church. I believe that to use the words of my noble Friend that it would be strengthened by such a measure. But the case will be very different if you determine to establish the voluntary system in Ireland. If you should determine that in that part of the United Kingdom all religions shall be left to depend upon the voluntary exertions of their members, that no funds under the control of the State, whether derived from the National Treasury, or from property set apart in past ages for religious uses, shall be applied to religious purposes—and if you should thus establish the pure voluntary system in Ireland on the ground that this is what is best for the people, the example, it seems to me, will be full of danger to the Church of England. And my fears as to the effect of this example were not a little increased when my noble Friend, referring to what had taken place in the Australian colonies, described in such glowing terms the increase of strength and of power which our Church had gained there from being deprived of all pecuniary assistance from the State. Without stopping to point out some important facts with reference to the Australian colonies, which I think my noble Friend has mistaken or overlooked, I must observe that 2064 his argument was a most dangerous one, since the logical conclusion to be drawn from it is that we ought to get rid of the encumbrance of an Establishment in England. I am persuaded, therefore, that by secularizing the property of the Church in Ireland, you would inflict a heavy blow on the security of the Church in England, while no such injurious consequences would arise from adopting the principle of dividing the property between the great religious bodies, which include almost the whole Irish population. This last measure would also enable you to accomplish another important object. I cannot forget that from the time of Pitt downwards it has been the opinion of a vast majority of our most able and enlightened statesmen and political writers that in some form or other the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland ought to receive pecuniary aid from the State. This, I say, has been the general opinion of the highest authorities, and even so lately as since the beginning of the present Session it has been expressed by a noble Friend of mine (Earl Russell), who has expressly declared in a pamphlet, which he has published that, in his judgment, a portion of the Church property ought to be assigned to the Roman Catholics. If he has now withdrawn that opinion, it is, as I understand, only on the ground that he believes the measure he considers to be right in itself could not be carried. And among men of experience and knowledge of public affairs, I will venture to say, that your Lordships, like myself, have seldom found anyone who will not in private conversation admit that it would be greatly for the good of Ireland that some grant to the Roman Catholic Church should form part of any measure to be adopted on this subject. But while the advantage that would arise from making some provision for the Roman Catholic clergy is that generally recognized—that acknowledgment is too often followed up by the remark "Unfortunately it is impracticable." Yes, my Lords, it is indeed impracticable if those who know in their hearts that the measure would be right, have not the courage and the honesty boldly to avow their opinion. It may now have become impracticable—though I would hardly yet quite despair of it—but if it is so, it is in consequence of the conduct of those who have brought forward this Bill, and great is the responsibility they have thus incurred. They have asserted that Her Majesty's Government at 2065 one time contemplated a measure involving some grant to the Roman Catholic Church. I confess I should feel much greater respect than I do for Her Majesty's Ministers if I thought this assertion were well-founded; but, unfortunately, I have not sufficient confidence in their wisdom and statesmanship to believe that they had ever seriously contemplated adopting a large and generous policy on this subject. But however little they may have thought of doing so, I believe that if they had not been forced by party attacks to a premature decision and declaration of their policy,—if they had been allowed to apply themselves seriously to this great question at the close of the Session, unhampered by declarations of opinion extorted from them beforehand, they would have been almost irresistibly led by the force of circumstances to decide on some measure which would have included a grant to the Roman Catholic Church. After what had occurred in the early part of the Session they must have felt on the one hand the impossibility of standing still and maintaining things as they are; and they would have been met on the other hand by the equal, or rather the still greater, impossibility of discovering any other mode of dealing with the subject which they could have proposed with even a chance of success. The circumstances of the time, moreover—but for the bringing forward of this unfortunate Bill—would have offered singular advantages and facilities for attempting the settlement of this question on the principle of a compromise. Men's minds were prepared for some great change with respect to the Irish Church, and all felt its necessity. It would in this state of things have been in the power of the Government to propose an arrangement to the leaders of the different Churches, which probably might and certainly ought, to have commanded their acceptance. To the Protestant Episcopal Church they might have held out the prospect of obtaining in return for a surrender of all offensive claims to a higher social position than the Roman Catholics and of a portion of its property, security for its greatly diminished income, together with liberty to apply that income to the best advantage, and a hope of increased usefulness from being relieved from the odium and the imputation of injustice which now attach to it. To the Roman Catholics they might have offered the absolute removal of the last traces of 2066 the old Protestant ascendancy and complete social equality, with a large share of the Church property granted to them in such a manner as to give material relief to the poorest part of the population, without trenching in the slightest degree on the independence of their Church. And to the Presbyterians they might have offered an increase of the very inadequate grant they now enjoy in the Regium Donum, with an improvement in the terms on which it is held. If the Servants of the Crown had been able by confidential communications with the leaders of the several Churches to bring them to agree to some such arrangement as this, I think your Lordships will agree with me in believing that the proposal would have been hailed with the welcome of an immense majority of the most intelligent part of the nation; that a Bill for carrying it into effect, submitted to a new Parliament, not elected under feelings of religious bigotry studiously excited, would have commanded its assent; and that the Ministry which carried it, would have performed a greater public service than it has been the lot perhaps of any administration for the last 100 years to achieve. I do not mean, my Lords, to assert that the Ministers would have adopted the policy I have described or would have succeeded if they had; but I do say, that as it was at least possible, and I believe probable, that they might if they were inclined to make the attempt; no difficulty ought to have been thrown in their way. Unfortunately such a difficulty—I fear an insuperable one—has been created by bringing forward this Bill and the Resolutions on which it was founded. The effect of these proceedings has been to place Ministers in the dilemma of being compelled either to subject themselves to odium and mis-representation by avowing an intention to deal with this most difficult question of the Irish Church, before any scheme for doing so could be explained or matured, and before there had been time to enter into previous communication with those whose interests would have been affected; or else to disclaim, as they have done, any intention of a change of policy, thus making it more difficult for them hereafter to propose a satisfactory measure. This may help to bring together a new House of Commons which will pass a Vote of Want of Confidence in the present Government; but this will have been purchased by a sacrifice of the national interest, and even as a party move, I believe, 2067 in the long run, the course taken by the Opposition will prove to have been a mistake. If I do not mistake the signs of opinion which I observe, it may be found that this course has not tended to secure for those who have advised it the confidence of that large body of calm and impartial men in the nation, who seldom interfere in politics, but generally in the end give the preponderance to one or the other of contending parties. I do not believe that men of this sort will be disposed to look up to the promoters of this Bill as wise and conscientious statesmen whom they may safely follow.
There is only one more topic on which I must trouble your Lordships with a few words. My noble Friend (Earl Granville) at the close of his speech endeavoured, though in a very guarded manner, to impress upon you the inexpediency of rejecting a Bill which has come up from the other House sanctioned by such large majorities. My Lords, I have great respect for the House of Commons, and I know that neither this House nor the other can resist the deliberate and settled opinion of the nation; but I deny that the opinion of the nation is always to be collected from the vote of even a large majority of the House of Commons. The shifting currents of party contests sometimes give large majorities in that House in favour of measures not approved by the deliberate judgment of the nation, and I believe this to be the case with regard to the Bill now before us. It was most imperfectly discussed in the other House; many of the chief objections to it were never even stated, much less considered as they ought to have been, and it was hastily passed by a mere party vote. I am persuaded that the country already begins to see that this Bill is not the right way of proceeding even with a view to what is professed to be its ultimate object. And if we reject it, not as being determined to resist a complete change of system with regard to the Church in Ireland, but on the ground of its being a crude, partial and mischievous proposal, calculated not to promote but to impede a fair settlement of the question—if, by so doing, your Lordships mark your disapproval of the manner of dealing with this question, I believe you will establish a new claim to the confidence of the nation, and that your decision will be hardly less useful from its tending to maintain the character and authority of this House, than from its 2068 arresting the progress of a most unwise measure of legislation.
§ Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this Day Six Months.")—(The Earl Grey.)
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I am fully aware that many of your Lordships are anxious to address the House, and therefore I rise with a promise not to detain your Lordships very long; at the same time I throw myself with some confidence on your indulgence, as it is my duty to inform your Lordships of what the views of the Government on this subject are. This is the reason why I take the unusual course of rising after the delivery of the speech of the noble Earl (Earl Grey), which is made on the same side as that we have adopted. Before I enter into the merits of this most important question—for no words can magnify its importance—since I entered Parliament twenty-eight years ago no measure that I can recollect has made the same impression on my mind—before I enter on its merits, I cannot help adverting to the manner in which it has been introduced to your Lordships. I may say, looking to the importance of this measure, that it has been flung on your Lordships' table, I will not say in a disrespectful manner, but certainly in a manner not usually adopted on occasions of such gravity. Considering it deals with a most sacred part of the English Constitution—that it deals with the Act of Union between the two countries—it appears to me not a little strange that the Resolutions to which it would give effect were adopted by the other House, and this Bill passed, without any preliminary communication to your Lordships' House to prepare us for what was about to engage our attention. No doubt we, who are Members of the Government, heard from our Colleagues who sit in the other House of the Resolutions which were engaging the attention of that Assembly; and no doubt we learnt through the newspapers that a great change was threatened, and that one party in that House was bent on the destruction of the Established Church in Ireland, and that a measure on that subject would be sent up to your Lordships' House. But why was not the usual practice followed—why not confide to the House of Lords that which you were about to do? If you hoped to have this change effected, and if you thought that difficulties might be thrown 2069 in the way which you might desire to avoid, it would not have put you to very much trouble to have followed precedents, and—in accordance with what I might call the Parliamentary affection between the two Houses—to have communicated the Resolutions of the House of Commons to the House of Lords. As you did not adopt that course, am I wrong in thinking you did not appreciate the importance of this question? Am I wrong in saying that your conduct has been attributed to other than patriotic motives and a desire to consult the interests of the Irish people? Would not an observance of the ordinary courtesies between the two Houses have been better calculated to prevent difficulties than the course which has been followed? What is the result? Why, that, as the noble Earl (Earl Grey) has said, this question is thrown on the House and the country without time being given for its consideration. One House seems to be legislating entirely for themselves, without any respect for the other. Could we have expected that this question would be brought before Parliament during the present Session? It may perhaps be alleged that it was of so pressing a character, and one so universally felt throughout the whole country, that we must have expected it to be brought forward. The reverse is the fact. So far from expecting this question to be raised and to emanate from the quarter it has come, we did not expect it to be raised at all, and much less did we expect that it would emanate from the quarter in which it has been initiated. If your Lordships consider what has taken place within the last two years, you will be somewhat surprised at what has recently happened. At the last General Election this question of the Irish Church was not even mentioned upon the hustings; the Reform Bill completely absorbed the attention of the public. The very mooter of this question now—I have no wish to speak disrespectfully of him, though he has thrown the Business of the entire Session into confusion by his Motion—this very Gentleman declared two years ago to a constituent that he had no idea of even considering this question of the Irish Church. For, what did Mr. Gladstone say? It appears that a member of his; committee, suspecting that he was not as staunch as he formerly had been to the principles which he held with respect to the Irish Church, communicated with Mr. 2070 Gladstone, desiring to know what were really his ideas; and Mr. Gladstone in his answer said—The question of the Irish Church is remote"—mind, this is only a couple of years ago—"and apparently out of all bearing on the practical politics of the day. I think I have marked strongly my sense of the responsibility attaching to the opening of such a question. One thing, I may add, because I think it is a clear landmark. In any measure dealing with the Irish Church, I think—I scarcely expect ever to be called on to share in such a measure—the Act of Union must be recognized, and must have important consequences, especially with reference to the hierarchy.I ask any noble Lord whether he could have expected that within little more than two years from the writing of that letter, Mr. Gladstone should be the very man to raise this storm? I am willing to extend to the speeches and the policy of Ministers and statesmen a very handsome statute of limitation; but when we find statements deliberately made upon so sacred a subject, we are entitled to refer to them, even after the lapse of years. Could we have expected that Mr. Gladstone would have been the man to move in this matter after the speech which he made against the noble Earl opposite on the question of the Appropriation Clause?
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
The 31st of March, 1835. On that occasion Mr. Gladstone said—The most important consequences would attend the Motion before the House. In the first place, it would enfeeble and debase, and then altogether overthrow the principle on which the Church Establishment rested. The noble Lord invited them to invade the property of the Church in Ireland. He considered that there were abundant reasons for maintaining that Church; and if it should be removed he believed that they would not be able long to resist the repeal of the Union, and then they would become fully aware of the evil of surrendering the principle which the noble Lord called upon them to give up."—[3 Hansard, xxvii.]Extending, as I have said, a handsome statute of limitation to politicians on both sides of the House, could we have expected that, after such a speech, and, still more, after the letter so recently written to a Member of his own Committee, we should have this Bill presented to us at the instance of Mr. Gladstone? And I will ask your Lordships not to be misled by the clauses of this Bill. The real meaning of this Bill is found in the first Resolution passed in the House of Commons, and it means, in plain English, 2071 that the Church of Ireland is to cease to exist. However, you twist the matter—whether you desire it or whether you fear it—that is really the question before your Lordships to-night. The Bill itself is framed and brought before this House in a very insidious manner, and my noble Friend who introduced the measure in effect said of it—If any of your Lordships entertain moderate views with respect to the Irish Church, if you wish to improve, but still to preserve it, you will be quite safe in voting for the Bill, and the measure itself will be perfectly innocent, because if such are your sentiments you would wish, of course, equally with us, to suspend, till there has been further legislation, the action of the Crown with regard to appointments. As to whether such a course, if proposed bonâ fide, would be a proper one, I do not now pause to offer any opinion. I will only point out that Her Majesty's Government proposed the issue of a Commission with the object of getting all the information they could upon the subject of the Irish Church. But the Report of the Commission has not been waited for. And it certainly does appear upon the face of it that if the object were to insure the adoption of such reforms as may be recommended on the face of that Report, the presentation of the Report itself would form the natural prelude to any action of that nature. But a stop is put to any expectations of the kind by the language of the first Resolution. There is an end of all modifications, of all reforms, of all moderate measures, because you say in the first Resolution, "Delenda est Carthago." I beg you not to lose sight of that; you have no choice; this Bill is a mere prelude to the putting in force of the first Resolution passed by the House of Commons. And as the noble Earl on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) very correctly pointed out, we have not the slightest hint meanwhile of the intentions of the Opposition, either now or if ever they come into Office: they do not give us the slightest indication of what is to become of the churches, the incumbents, or the people who profit by their ministrations. The whole thing is left in the dark; and your Lordships are told to vote this night for a preparatory Bill to some totally unknown measure. My Lords, however courageous may be your political aspirations, I do not believe you will venture to take such a step. Now, why is this Irish Church to be destroyed? 2072 why is it to be disestablished and disendowed? There can be but one excuse for such an act of spoliation, as I must call it—and that is that it would pacify Ireland completely and assuredly. That, I suppose, is the object which the noble Earl has in view. But does he suppose that this object will be accomplished by the present Bill, which he, no doubt, had a hand in preparing? [Earl GRANVILLE was understood to dissent.] Well, he certainly ought to have had a hand in preparing a measure of this kind, if he intended to make himself responsible for it. But, whether or no, I put it to the noble Earl himself does he believe in the bottom of his heart that this measure will, without doubt, pacify the Roman Catholics of Ireland?
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
No, not this Bill merely, but what is to follow this Bill—will that pacify the Roman Catholics? If he entertains that opinion I will not quote any Protestant speech or writing in answer to it, but I will ask your Lordships' attention to what has been said, not by Englishmen, but by Irishmen and Roman Catholics. What does the Tenant Right Association say—a society inaugurated in November, 1865—at a meeting of the priests held in the county of Meath?—The one, the great, the sole question for Ireland is the land question; other agitations, such as that against the Established Church, are got up for party purposes, would infuse an element of bigotry into the already sufficiently disturbed relations between landlord and tenant; would effect the ruin of thousands of tenants, and precipitate that social catastrophe which we are anxious to avert.That is the opinion of the Tenant Right Society. What does Cardinal Cullen say? At a meeting of the Catholic Defence Association, of which Cardinal Cullen was President, a declaration to the following effect was adopted:—As citizens, therefore, and on the temporal side of the question only, we can conceive but one object for a Catholic Defence Society, and that is to root out every law and every administrative practice which interferes with the perfect freedom of the Church and our perfect equality before the law. What are these laws, and what are these practices? Of course, the Ecclesiastical Titles Act is one of them. Upon that item of the account we need not enlarge; another is the existence of the Established Church—not in its religious character, but a favoured corporation; its unjust possession of tithes and glebes acquired by robbery and retained by fraud and bloodshed; the legislative and political authority conferred 2073 on its so-called Bishops; and whatever else belongs to its temporal character as an Establishment. Another set of cases is the penal laws directed against the Jesuits and other religious Orders, those odious enactments which make the greatest benefactors to religion and humanity felons, for rendering the truest services to God and to their neighbour. …. And the Coronation Oath and the Act of Settlement, which limit the possession of the Crown to Protestants, and make the conversion to genuine Christianity a forfeiture of title.According to that declaration, therefore, Cardinal Cullen would by no means be satisfied with the disestablishment of the Irish Church, but insists that the Crown shall be thrown open to the professor of any religion whatever. At a meeting of Roman Catholic priests, held at Limerick, on the 23d of December, 1867, four Resolutions were adopted, of which the fourth ran as follows:—That the very nature of the remedies required to make Ireland rich and contented renders it impossible for a British Parliament to adopt and apply them; and, besides that, home aspirations and the plea for Irish intervention from abroad can never be met unless by restoring Ireland her nationality, re-establishing the Sovereign and the Lords and Commons of Ireland.In vain do I look for any hope of realizing those dreams sketched for us by the noble Earl. If we could entertain any such hope we might be encouraged to pass those measures which the Resolutions come to by the other House foreshadow. I have been deeply impressed by a letter written on this subject by a right rev. Prelate, whose position as regards Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church is of such importance that every word he says must be weighed with the greatest attention. It is true Dr. Manning, to whom I refer, has not risen to the highest ranks of his Church, but his prestige is so high, the regard in which he is held is so great, and his zeal as a propagandist so unquestionable, that he becomes a most dangerous opponent in controversy, while at the same time his conscientiousness enforces our respect. Now, let us see whether he encourages us to hope that the disestablishment of the Irish Church would pacify the Roman Catholics of Ireland. In his letter to the noble Earl on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) he tells us in the first place that all the penal statutes and everything that would mortify Irish Roman Catholics must be abolished; he then proceeds to say that the main question, which nothing else can over-ride, is the land question. Now, my Lords, let me ask you to listen to what 2074 a Roman Catholic priest of the greatest authority says of the land question—And now, my Lord, I will not shrink from venturing even upon the land question, because it is the chief and paramount condition on which the peace of Ireland depends. In comparison with this question all others are light.….I will begin, then, by affirming that there is a natural and divine law, anterior and superior to all human and civil law, by which every people has a right to live on the fruits of the soil on which they are born, and in which they are buried. This is a right older and higher than any personal right. It is the intrinsic right of the whole people and society, out of which all private rights to the soil and its fruits are created, and by which those created rights must always he controlled. A starving man commits no theft if he saves his life by eating of his neighbour's bread so much as is necessary for the support of his existence. The civil law yields before the higher jurisdiction of the divine, as the positive divine law yields before the natural law of God.Dr. Manning denies and is bound by his religion to deny the Bible to the labourer, but he has substituted for that Book one of the most inflammatory pamphlets I have ever known to be published. I ask any of your Lordships whether, if this passage which I have quoted were read, to an uneducated man, that man would not think his Bishop was authorizing him to steal whatever he conceived he needed? Dr. Manning goes on—The poor are joint owners of the usufruct. The land being a fixed quantity, and the people an extending quantity, it is inevitable that the pre-occupation of the whole area of the country by a small number of landlords must have the effect of excluding or disinheriting the greater part of the people from all possession of the soil.Why, my Lords, this is nothing but pure communism written by the leader of our Roman Catholic populations; and I ask your Lordships whether after this you can hope to pacify Ireland by the violent measures recommended by such priests, and produce those good fruits which alone can justify the passing of such a Bill?
Now, my Lords, one of the charges made against the Church of Ireland is that it does not fulfil its mission; these, I think, were the words of my noble Friend. But I have a statement here by the Roman Catholic Bishops of Cashel and Clonfert, strongly recommending that Catholic Universities should be established. They say—How many a Catholic lost his faith in Trinity College, let the long array of names familiar to the public testify—of sizars, and scholars, and fellows, of high dignitaries, too, even of Bishops—some living, some dead, all witnesses to the danger of such a place to Catholics, for they were 2075 born and baptized in the bosom of the Catholic Church, and they lost their faith in Trinity College. If some Catholics have passed through Trinity College without having lost it, quasi per ignem, others have made shipwreck of the faith by openly passing over to Protestantism, and others again have had their faith so undermined as on their deathbed to refuse the ministrations of religion.So the Roman Catholics, at all events, bear witness to the fact that the union of Protestants and members of their own Church in Trinity College has brought about many conversions to Protestantism. Then the Irish Church is complained of because it does not proselytise, and that the number of Protestants does not increase; but here is a letter to my noble Friend near me (the Earl of Derby), signed by an incumbent of eight years, and the writer says—When a young man I was appointed to a curacy in a midland county. The population was rural, and consisted almost entirely of small farmers, with from twenty acres to fifty acres each, and these they generally managed to cultivate by the hands of their own families. The property belonged to an English proprietor, who had cleared the estate of all the old tenantries, and divided it in this manner. About one-fourth of the population was Protestant and the rest were Roman Catholics. The Holy Scriptures had found an entrance into almost every house, and the results were remarkable. Every Sunday morning in the Communion Service, as I concluded the Nicene Creed, one or more Roman Catholics, each accompanied by two Protestants, left their pews and came to me at the Communion-table, and asked to be received into the Protestant Church of Ireland. Each of these Roman Catholics had been carefully examined by myself some time before, and I now received them publicly, according to a form prescribed by my Bishop. The effect of this going on Sunday after Sunday was very striking, and continued for six months without the exception of a single Sunday. During those six months I received 110 persons, being an average of more than four persons each Sunday.The writer proceeds to say that the greatest terror existed among the Roman Catholic population lest their conversion should be known, because many converts had been shockingly persecuted. These cases, all of which occurred in his own parish, he fully describes with names and dates.
Something was said by the noble Earl (Earl Granville) regarding the fears your Lordships might entertain if the Irish Church were disestablished; but I cannot help thinking that as he proceeded in his speech my noble Friend's arguments were rather directed against Establishments of all kinds. He gave us an account of the prosperity and Christian feeling existing among the members of the Churches in 2076 America, Australia, and Canada, where, to use the expression of an American gentleman, every man is his own parson. I cannot help believing that there must be a very great change in the feelings of the people of this country before they can wish to see their State Church swept away as you now propose to sweep away the State Church in Ireland. This very gentleman to whom I referred is a Dissenter, and he spoke to me of the way in which religion was conducted in some place in America. I forget the name of the place, but the people seem to have charming ideas on the subject, for they have a large church, which is used by several sects at several periods of the day without producing any confusion. At eight in the morning it is occupied by the Roman Catholics for a couple of hours; one class of Dissenters follow; and they in turn are succeeded by the Anglican Church for two hours, and by the Quakers for another two. I asked him how they finished up the day, and he replied with a religious promenade—they walked up and down, mixed together, and engaged in disputations on religious subjects. And the gentleman seemed to think that nothing more was wanting to the happiness of this country than the adoption of a similar plan. I did not argue the question with him, but I make a present of the idea to my noble Friend opposite, who may perhaps like to put it in execution. [A laugh.] It is not in my opinion a laughing matter; because I am convinced that it is as impossible to touch, or rather overthrow the Irish Church—for touch is not the word—without injury to the English Church as it would be to cut off a man's leg without affecting his whole body. But on this head we are bound to see what are the sentiments of those who head the attack. Mr. Gladstone in the House of Commons entirely repudiated the imputation of intending to attack the English Establishment, and pooh-poohed the idea of its being in danger. And if Mr. Gladstone were standing alone, and were not liable to pressure, that might be the case. But who are the men with whom he is associated, and who would be his Colleagues if he came into Office? Among them are men who have openly, deliberately, and consistently maintained that all State Churches are a nuisance and a mistake. It was only a month ago that a declaration of that kind was made by Mr. Bright at Liverpool, and your Lord- 2077 ships, from your acquaintance with human nature, must know that when a strong will and a vacillating will come side by side, the latter is absorbed by the former, and the strong becomes stronger than before. The right hon. Gentleman may have no intention of the sort at present; but, looking at his own position, and bearing in mind the character of his Colleagues we may, before many years are past, see him coming forward and vindicate his consistency, employing similar arguments against the English Establishment that he now uses against that of Ireland.
Now, my Lords, we have heard a good deal said about the respect which is to be paid to vested interests, and, as far as I can understand, those vested interests relate to the Archbishops, Bishops, and clergy of the Church. But, my Lords, I want to know what is to become—not of the vested interests of Bishops and Archbishops—but of the vested interests of the poor? The poor of this country have a right to their churches, and the clergy cannot refuse to attend them in their last moments, or to visit them in time of sickness. That right has been theirs since Saxon and Norman times; for there has always been a State Church, though the form of religion may have changed. What is to become of the poor in Ireland if this measure is carried? Why, my Lords, one thing above all astonishes me, and that is, that this Bill should be supported by so large a number of Dissenters and Nonconformists in this country. I should like them to re-consider their opinion on this matter, because I cannot conceive anything more blind on their; part than that they should contend for the; destruction of the English Establishment. Where we look upon the Roman Catholic religion with mistrust and suspicion, their feeling is one of positive repugnance. The gulf between them and the Roman Catholics is far greater than the one between the Roman Catholics and the members of the Established Church. The destruction of the Established Church involves the destruction of the rampart; which that Establishment now presents between them and Roman Catholicism. When that rampart has disappeared it will be impossible for them to contend with the superiority of the Roman Catholic organization. They must disappear; they will be swept away, and, in a religious sense, perish and lose their entire indepen- 2078 dence. This desire for the destruction of the Established Church is not, I know, held by all Dissenters. There are some Dissenters as much opposed to the spoliation of the State Church as we are; but I look with regret and great astonishment at the favour with which many of them view this change. If your Lordships will permit me, I will remind you of the opinions held by men as great as any now sitting in either House of Parliament. Sir Robert Peel, speaking in 1833, not of the disestablishment of the Church, but of the abstraction of a portion of its re venues by the Appropriation Clause, said—If long possession and the prescription of more than three centuries were not powerful enough to protect the property of the Church from spoliation, there would be little safety for private property of any description, and still less for that description of public property which was in the hands of lay corporations."—[3 Hansard, xv 370.]The Duke of Wellington spoke as follows on the 18th of March, 1844:—With respect to the Church of Ireland, I beg of your Lordships to recollect that the Protestant Church in Ireland has existed in that country for a period of nearly 300 years: that it was maintained in that country during a century of contests, rebellions, and massacres; that during a contest for the possession of the Crown the Protestants of that country encountered that contest and kept possession of their Church; that during another century it was maintained through much opposition, and under difficulties of all descriptions; that at the period of the Union the Parliament, who had the power either to consent to the Union or to refuse their consent, stipulated that the Protestant Church in Ireland should be maintained, and maintained on the same footing as the Protestant Church of England in this country. My Lords, the Parliament of Ireland had, under the auspices of the King of this country, the power of either making or not making that compact. Your Lordships entered into that compact with the Parliament of Ireland, and I entreat you never to lose sight of the fact; I entreat you not to suffer yourselves to be prevailed on to make any alteration in, or to depart in the slightest degree from, the terms of that compact, so long as you intend to maintain the Union between this country and Ireland. It is the foundation upon which the Union rests—it is a compact which you entered into with the Parliament of Ireland, and from which you cannot depart without being guilty of a breach of faith."—[3 Hansard, Ixxiii. 1171.]Dr. Slevin, Professor of Canon Law at Maynooth, said in 1826—I consider that the present possessors of Church property in Ireland, of whatever description they may be, have a just title to it. They have been bonâ fide possessors of it for all the time required by any law for prescriptions, even according to the pretensions of the Church of Rome, which requires 100 years.2079 That is the opinion of the Roman Catholic Professor of Canon Law at Maynooth. Mr. Plunket, in advocating Roman Catholic claims on the 6th of May, 1824, said—The hon. Member (Mr. Hume) evidently thought that Parliament were at liberty to deal with the property of the Church exactly in the same way as if it were a tax or any other property of the State; and this opinion he grounded upon a supposition of public necessity. Now, that the property of the Church might not be interfered with as well as the property of the State in a case of public necessity he would not assert; but be it observed that upon the same principle the private property of every man in the kingdom was equally liable. He knew very well that both the property of the Church and the property of individuals must yield to the exigencies of the State; to those the property of the hon. Gentleman himself, as well as of every other Member who heard him, must give way; but he would maintain that the property of the Church was as sacred as any other……With respect to the Protestant Establishment of the country, he considered it necessary for the security of all sects, and he thought that there should not only be an Established Church, but that it should be richly endowed, and its dignitaries be enabled to take their stations with the nobles of the land. But, speaking of it in a political point of view, he had no hesitation to state that the existence of the Protestant Establishment was the great bond of union between the two countries, and if ever that unfortunate moment should arrive when they would rashly lay their hands on the property of the Church to rob it of its rights, that moment they would seal the doom and terminate the connexion between the two countries."—[2 Hansard, xi. 571–2 & 574.]My Lords, I have quoted these passages from the speeches of men who occupied a distinguished position in both Houses of Parliament, and it certainly does seem to me that I do not weaken them when I repeat them, for the warning they give appears as it were a voice from another world. These are the deliberate judgments of men of vast ability and experience—all of whom served their country, one of whom saved it—all of whom loved it, and watched over its interests with a passionate devotion. If ever you regarded with gratitude and veneration their great services, I entreat you now calmly to consider and give weight to their opinion, and then I am satisfied you will follow the course to which I invite you, and will reject the proposition which has been made for reading this Bill a second time.
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
My Lords, I will commence with the same promise which was given by my noble Friend who has just sat down—to be brief—and as the best way of keeping to that promise, I will 2080 not attempt to follow either of my two noble Friends who last addressed the House. But I really cannot help expressing my regret that my noble Friend on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) should have been the person to take the lead in opposition to this Bill. I think really he was about the last man in this House that ought to have done so, considering the very active and able course he has taken towards discrediting and abolishing the Church Establishment in Ireland. My regard for my noble Friend, however, leads me to reflect with some degree of satisfaction upon the tone of his speech. He contrived to displease all parties in turn; for while he kept up a running fire of bitter attack upon the Opposition, he made the Government feel all the humiliation of accepting his support. He told the House that if they had accepted his proposition of two years ago this would not have happened. My noble Friend, in fact, was in the position of the obstinate juryman who complained of the other eleven that they hindered him from returning a verdict. But when my noble Friend was so severe on the motives of those who had brought forward this measure, he must have a little forgotten the circumstances under which he brought forward his own proposition in relation to the Irish Church while he condoled with your Lordships for not having adopted it. My noble Friend referred to the Fenian conspiracy; but he appears to have forgotten when he made his great speech on this subject of which we have heard so much to-night from his own lips, that conspiracy had been actually in activity for two years. When he said that this Bill would be so sweeping, so inconvenient in every way, what did he himself propose two years ago? He said—That the application of the whole revenue of the Irish Church for the exclusive benefit of a small minority is unjust and ought not to be continued, and that with the view to the correction of this injustice it would be expedient to vest the whole property of the Church of Ireland in the hands of Commissioners empowered to manage it and divide the net income derived from it in such proportions as Parliament may prescribe between the Episcopalians, the Roman Catholics, and the Presbyterian Churches.He would, therefore, take the whole income of the Irish Church and put it into the hands of Commissioners to distribute to different sects; yet he now complains, as of a hard and intolerable thing, that a Bill should be introduced for suspending until the 1st of August next year all ap- 2081 pointments in the Irish Church. I will not follow my noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) for the same reason. In fact, he knows as little of Ireland as he does of any foreign country. He has, indeed, read us the account of a gentleman who he says has signed his name; but the same gentleman has sent his accounts to everybody else, and we all know that it is thirty-four years since his prosleytizing success occurred. My Lords, knowing that many Peers are most anxious to address you on this subject, I long hesitated before I ventured to trespass on your attention; but having been long officially connected with Ireland, and having the warmest interest in that country, I am desirous of explaining the vote I shall give and taking my share of the responsibility which attaches to my noble Friend (Earl Granville) and those who have brought forward this Bill. I wish, also, to protest against being thought either sacrilegious or adverse to the interests of religion because I presume to discuss or desire to alter the social status and political power of the Established Church in Ireland. I wish, also, to express my strong disbelief that this Church has so utterly failed to root itself in the hearts and consciences of its members that its inestimable benefits are not sufficiently appreciated to make it independent of what is called Establishment—of State aid and countenance. I think that the State—that is Parliament—has a right, clear and undoubted, to sever the connection between the Church and State whenever it deems it to be for the public good to do so; and I believe it to be for the good of Ireland and for the good of England that the Established Church, so far as Ireland is concerned, should cease to be connected with the State. I say this, because my noble Friend seems to think the Bill now before your Lordships is not a bonâ fide Bill—that it does not carry its real purpose on the face of it, and that its real meaning is disestablishment. I do not agree with the noble Earl. I understand it to be a Bill for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and nothing else. That is, at all events, what I mean. Looking at it in this light, it only remains to ask, Does the Irish Established Church fulfil the objects for which it exists? Does it satisfy the hopes and intentions of its supporters? Is it a cause of peace and union, and the means of propagating the truth; or is it a source of constant complaint and ill-blood to a large portion of 2082 Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland? I say it does cause bad blood, and I say it has completely failed as a Missionary Church. I say it is the direct source of continual discontent to the Native population. I would ask still more—whether this Church is kept and maintained by reverence and affection, or by force? I ask your Lordships whether, supposing Ireland at this moment to be a tabula rasa, and the question had to be settled by the Lords Spiritual and temporal, would you plant such a Church in Ireland? What does all your knowledge and experience teach you? That it has utterly failed as a Missionary Church—that it is notoriously, necessarily impotent. It is a constant source of grievance to millions of your fellow-subjects whom it is our interest to conciliate, and whom we have no right to offend. It is also the occasion of contempt against us to foreign nations, who regard it as a practical commentary on all our lectures of morality, moderation, and the rights of the people, and in reply to all our arguments for toleration invariably point to the Irish Church, and tell us to pluck the beam out of our own eye before we presume to pull out the mote in our brother's eye. I say it is impotent as a Missionary Church, not on account of its doctrine, but on account of its social status and political power—Protestant ascendancy meaning in Ireland Catholic subjugation and inferiority; and when it is called nothing but a "sentimental" grievance, let us ask ourselves how long we ourselves should be willing to submit to such a grievance imposed upon us by those whose only right to do so was that some of their religious opinions were different from some of ours? We should also bear in mind that it is absolutely a point of honour with the Roman Catholics of Ireland not to leave their Church, because to do so would be to leave a Church that has been stamped with the stigma of inequality and inferiority in favour of one which the State has invested with adequate revenues and with a position of superiority. I was long enough in Ireland to know what missionary work really was, and I know it was scarcely attempted by the Established Church, but was carried on by means of money from England, and therefore was entirely the result of voluntary effort. Well, if there be any truth in this—if we cannot boldly and conscientiously stand up in the face of the world and defend the Established Church as an 2083 institution, why should we not have the courage to pass a final sentence of condemnation? My noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) says there is a Royal Commission still sitting, and that great reforms will be introduced. But, my Lords, they will come too late—it is too late now to adopt a middle course. The time has gone by for such a policy. The friends of the Irish Church were not wise in time; they did not see that concessions made in time might have produced a different policy, and that a house without a foundation was not likely to stand an assault. But now a crisis has come in Ireland—I do not speak of the Fenian conspiracy or the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; but I mean that general conviction which has taken hold of the minds of men that things are not right, that justice is not done; and, notwithstanding indications of material prosperity, discontent is greater and more general. I say, therefore, that until the evils which exist in Ireland be remedied, the right arm of England is paralyzed, and we cannot hold our true position among nations. Well, if it be admitted, and it cannot be denied, that the Irish Church constitutes one of those evils, why not make a vigorous effort to do away with it? I should myself be most happy if I thought it possible to do justice to Ireland without disestablishing the Church; but I declare I see no other means of arriving at that religious equality which is necessary for Ireland, and indispensable to the character of this country, both at home and abroad. My Lords, I can only say that I have been much with foreigners, many of them ardent admirers of our institutions, of our liberties, of the vigour of our character, and the general rectitude of our rule; but none of them have ever been able to reconcile the maintenance of the Established Church in Ireland with that love of justice and toleration which manifests itself in Englishmen in other respects. Many a time, in answer to their inquiries I have felt deeply humiliated at my inability to defend the Irish Establishment. My Lords, I will take the liberty of reading a very short extract from a widely circulated journal; and I ask your Lordships to listen to it because it shows in a striking manner the anomalies of the Irish Church. It is said to be from the pen of an illustrious foreign resident in this country:—As we have already stated, the Established Church of Ireland numbers 12 Bishops, 622 vicars, 2084 and 1,500 parish clergymen, and the net revenue amounts to 11,191,750f., or nearly £450,000. The number of its adherents, counting among them all those who at the last Census could not say to what religion they belonged, amounts to 693,357. Without contesting its privilege as a State Church to put its mark upon all sheep without a shepherd, and to reduce, as Mr. Bright does, the flock to between 500,000 and 600,000 souls, we will admit the 700,000 souls that the Church claims. With this figure she possesses one clergyman for 340 persons, and costs 16f. per head. If the Catholic population of France, which is fifty tunes more numerous than the Anglicans of Ireland, was as well provided as them in the ecclesiastical point of view, they would possess 100 Archbishops, 500 Bishops, 75,500 cures, a budget of 576,000,000f. (£23,000,000) sterling annually for its culte, and more than three milliards of churches and presbyteries. If these 700,000 Anglicans were the only inhabitants of Ireland, this costly fancy might be regarded with a mixture of astonishment and respectful admiration; but they form only 12 per cent of the total population of the island, which alone supports the charge; the remaining 88 per cent are divided into 9 per cent Presbyterians, to whom the State grants a certain subsidy; 1 per cent belonging to insignificant sects, and 78 per cent Catholics. The inequality appears still more flagrant when it is borne in mind that these 12 per cent, whoso clergy are so largely endowed at the common cost, are the richest portion of the population, the descendants of the ancient conquerors of the island.Nothing could he stronger than that. That statement goes forth to the world, and I need not tell what will be its effect upon the mind even of the most friendly foreign critics. My Lords, if you say, "We don't care what foreigners think of us," I confess I cannot share in that sentiment. In the first place, it is not true; and, in the second place it ought not to be true, because the respect and esteem of foreign nations are elements of our strength. We all pride ourselves, and with great justice, on the moral effect all over the world of the success of the Abyssinian Expedition. We undertook that expedition at great risk, and still greater expense, in the cause of humanity, justice and duty, and how faithfully have we redeemed our pledge that no thought of aggrandizement had entered into our policy everybody knows. That is an enormous advantage among the nations of Europe; but the injustice of the Irish Church does us enormous harm, because people say that we have justice and moderation on our lips but injustice and oppression in our hearts. My noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) asked whether the disestablishment of the Irish Church will immediately produce great good in Ireland. My Lords, my acquaintance with Ireland is of no recent date, and I know 2085 too much of that country to think that it will at once produce contentment, loyalty, and prosperity "as by the 6troke of the enchanter's Wand." Old wounds, my Lords, do not heal so quickly as that. But let us do what is just and expedient; let us satisfy our consciences, and if we do we shall disestablish the Irish Church. The Royal Commission may recommend great reductions in dignitaries and Bishops, and a different distribution of revenues; but that will not allay the grievance of which the Irish people complain. The same argument applies to this proposal to disestablish the Irish Church which applied last year to the Government measure of Reform. The late Government introduced a moderate measure for the reduction of the franchise; a measure which I say advisedly would three years ago have produced general satisfaction, and would have lasted for ten or twenty years. But the Government which turned them out for attempting an increase of the constituency, which was denounced as revolutionary, were at that very time passing through that unconscious curriculum which enabled them, I will not say to go out with honours, but to open the gates to the great democracy. Well, my Lords, I hope that the same principles will be acted upon now—that your Lordships will feel that "bit by bit" reform with the Irish Church will not do, and that you will also apply that true Conservative doctrine of not making wry faces at what is inevitable. I say that this measure is inevitable, because right opinion and sound policy is in its favour. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Prime Minister to get up a religious cry—notwithstanding his statement after dinner that the Liberal party was divided in a policy hostile to religion, property, and law—notwithstanding all this the Irish Established Church will be disestablished. My Lords, the only reason that I heard to the contrary—the only reason that my noble Friend who has just sat down put forward is, that if you disestablished the Irish Church the English Church will be involved in the same fate. I utterly deny the truth and validity of such reasoning, because, in the first place, I believe in my conscience it will bring safely, and not danger, to the Church. But even if it were true, that would be no reason for persevering in a wrong course. If you proclaim your fears, whether real or imaginary, that if you act justly towards Ireland it maybe the means of injuring 2086 the English Church, I cannot fancy any better argument for a repeal of the Union. As I have said before, I am perfectly convinced that the reason to which I have alluded is no reason whatever with regard to the English Church, because the case of the two Churches is entirely dissimilar—they do not occupy similar positions—they are in a different category. The position of the Irish Church was so well described by my noble Friend behind me that I will pass it over. But this I will say, that if the position of the two Churches were alike then the same measure would apply to both. But they are wholly dissimilar. The Church of England depends on the good-will of the majority of the nation; her clergy minister to the spiritual wants of the people in a manner that is acceptable to them; and be assured that it is that good-will and acceptable ministration, not the pomp and circumstances of Establishment, which enable her to hold her own. I have not lived so long in Ireland without having learnt to appreciate the signal virtues of the Irish clergy—more especially of the working clergy. I know there are exceptions; but still the conduct of the Protestant clergy of Ireland as a body is most exemplary; to the extent of their small means they are very charitable; they are not distrusted by their Catholic neighbours; and their removal from the parishes in which they labour would give cause for much regret But is such an event likely to happen? Why, it would be shocking to think that there could be a doubt of a future provision for them, when we remember that nine-tenths of the soil of Ireland belong to Protestants, whereas only one-sixth of the population are of that religion. My noble Friend opposite says that such a change as this measure contemplates is alarming, on account of its bearing upon the Constitution and the Coronation Oaths. But during the last forty years, whenever any reforms of this nature have been proposed, we have heard so much of these Protestant Oaths that I confess that sort of appeal moves me very little. Many of your Lordships will remember the threats and the wails which proceeded from the same quarter when the Duke of Wellington told his party that he preferred the grant of Catholic Emancipation to the civil war which he thought was otherwise inevitable. Again, when the Church Temporalities Bill was brought in, there was a great meeting of all the Bishops and clergy of Ireland, who agreed to a pe- 2087 tition saying that they viewed the Bill with the utmost alarm as being calculated to undermine and ruin the Church, and as a direct violation of the Act of Union. My noble Friend who had charge of the Bill would not listen to such threats. What can we think of their belief in the truth and efficacy of their own faith and doctrine when we find Protestants solemnly declaring that their religion would be undermined and would cease to exist on account of a change which left in Ireland ten Protestant Bishops for a Protestant population not so large as that contained within the single diocese of London? And what reasons have we now to listen to such fears as these? We are told that the two Churches are so indissolubly linked that the fate of the one is bound up with that of the other, so that we cannot deal with the Irish Church as reason and justice require, because thereby we should affect the Church in England, where reason and justice do not require such a measure. According to this opinion, the two Churches are like Siamese twins, owning but one life between them; and though it is known that one of the twins is paralyzed, we must not treat it for fear of injuring the other, which is healthy and vigorous. I hope we shall not be deterred from dealing with the Irish Church by such arguments as these. We cannot be blind to the fact that the Church of England is in considerable danger; but that danger arises not from without but from within; not from external legislation, but from internal dissensions and from that danger which proverbially threatens "a house divided against itself." It is High Church, Low Church, and Broad Church, with their bitter animosities, their unseemly brawls, and the trouble they give to quiet, thoughtful men seeking for authority and for peace but finding none—these are the things which really and truly imperil the Church; and compared with them, the danger which it fears from disestablishment in Ireland is small indeed. Instead of danger or harm I believe the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland will be a strength and benefit to the Church in England.
Before sitting down I cannot help following up what was said by my noble Friend at the close of his speech. This Bill is merely the corollary of that liberal Resolution which was passed after long and exhaustive debates in the House of Commons. I believe, as my noble Friend says, that some such Bill as this will be 2088 recommended by the Royal Commission. Report says, however, that the Bill will be thrown out in this House by a majority even larger than that by which it passed the House of Commons. My Lords, I humbly venture to think that such a decision will be most unfortunate. I think it is not expedient that on the eve of a General Election, the results of which will be unlike any other which ever preceded it, so wide a difference of opinion between the two Houses of the Legislature should exist. I think it undesirable that on the hustings men should be tempted to speak, and pledge themselves to act, against the House of Lords, as they will if you reject this measure. I am the last man to wish that the independence of this House should in any respect be abridged; but I think we might exhibit our independence by marching with and not lagging behind the House of Commons. Your Lordships have in general shown a final, though sometimes a reluctant, deference to public opinion; but henceforth we must watch public opinion more narrowly, we must follow it more closely, and bear in mind the accelerated pace at which it will move. We shall be under a special obligation to respect the feelings of the new House of Commons, for we are largely responsible for its composition. In no niggardly spirit your Lordships passed the Reform Bill of last year. A great revolution was thereby effected, and thousands of our fellow-countrymen were for the first time endowed with political power. If, however, anyone thinks that, having passed that Bill, there is an end of the matter, that things will go on in their old train, and that the Reform Bill is not simply a means to an end, I think he is greatly mistaken. In the new House of Commons we must expect to find many new men with many new ideas, which will possibly be persisted in all the more strongly because they are new and because they will jar with routine opinions and prejudices. It behoves us, therefore, to look well at our position—because it will never do for the House of Lords to jog along by the Parliamentary train while the House of Commons travels by the express. We have given proof of our belief that the House of Commons did not faithfully represent the wishes and feelings of the people of England, and our desire that it should henceforward do so. But if we were right in desiring that Parliament should conform to public opinion, I think we are now 2089 bound not to disregard that public opinion. Such a result cannot be secured by Act of Parliament, but it may be attained by a moral determination on our part, individually and collectively, to look at great questions in a somewhat more liberal spirit than that in which we have been wont to look at them, so as to do away with the constant doubt and suspicion which now exists out-of-doors as to what the Lords will do upon the great questions of the day. There is as much ability, there is as much knowledge, there is more experience in this House than in the House of Commons; and there is no reason whatever why we should not stand well with our fellow-countrymen and retain the position we once held by consulting their feelings and their wishes. I trust your Lordships will not deem me presumptuous for making these remarks. I make them with the conviction that both sides of this House must equally desire to stand well with the country. I look upon the disestablishment of the Irish Church, however it may be delayed, as inevitable. Your Lordships' vote against this Bill may be viewed with indifference, because there will be a conviction in men's minds that you will be compelled to reverse your decision; but if it is not viewed with indifference, it will, I fear, be because it will be regarded as a, proof that your Lordships refuse to do an act of justice and fair dealing to Ireland.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I propose to detain you but for a short time; but I cannot bring myself to give a silent vote on a question which I deem to be pregnant with such serious consequences to the Church and to the country as that which is now before us. My Lords, I think it is very difficult to exaggerate the importance of the matter under discussion, I feel, in common with many others, that principles which we hold most dear, and which, in connection with our institutions, we believe to be of essential and vital importance, are imperilled by the measure before us. You may deal with the question of religious Establishments and the union of Church and State; I can only say that, believing that union to be of the most vital moment, I, with many who think with me, feel it my duty to contend to the last for its maintenance. It has been asserted that this question of the disestablishment of the Irish Church does not, and ought not, to affect the English branch of the United Church of England and Ireland. My Lords, I conceive it to 2090 be my duty to maintain the contrary of that proposition, and for this reason—It is not that I do not acknowledge that the position and the circumstances of the English Church are very different from those of the Irish Church; but I cannot but recollect that the great principle on which the assault is made upon the Irish Church equally affects all existing Establishments, and that is the principle of religious equality. I ask, after this particular Establishment has been destroyed, can the English Establishment, can the Scottish Establishment, stand before that principle, if it be carried out consistently? I do not attribute to all the supporters of this Bill a desire to overthrow all religious Establishments; but I find in their ranks such a latent connection with those in this country who are well known as the strenuous advocates of the overthrow of all Establishments that I cannot but see great danger in the distance for our own Church. To my mind it would be a less evil to continue, with certain modifications, the existence of the Irish Establishment than to sanction a principle that would tend to subvert all Establishments. In early days I was myself a consistent supporter of Catholic Emancipation. That was at a time when the advocacy of such opinions was a certain barrier to one's temporal advancement; but I believed the protestation then made that that great measure would involve no danger for the Protestant Establishment. But, my Lords, I have lived to be undeceived; I have lived to see that no concessions of that character can possibly satisfy those to whom they are made. Justice to Ireland has been loudly insisted on. My Lords, I am strongly convinced that the great majority of the Irish peasantry will rue the day on which the Irish Church Establishment is subverted. I have visited Ireland ten times in the course of my life; and although I do not pretend to know as much of it as many of your Lordships, this I am quite persuaded—that, looking back to the period of the Irish famine and the Irish fever, the Protestant clergy were the great benefactors of the Irish peasantry. The people remember that fact with gratitude, and they will lament the day on which those benefactors are, to a certain extent, deprived of the means of subsistence. I should like to read to your Lordships part of a letter giving the opinions of a distinguished statesman in America. It is to this effect. He says that by sacrificing 2091 the Irish Church a strong inducement is offered to the Fenian Brotherhood to redouble their efforts at agitation and to persevere in the commission of terrible crimes; so as to force concession after concession, till there is nothing more to give on the one hand, and Ireland not worth retaining on the other. The disendowment of the Irish Church would prove an incentive to fresh depredations. My Lords, it is quite certain that this proposal will give no real satisfaction to such persons. What do they tell us? They say they want Ireland for the Irish; the land must be given up to them; the Union must be repealed; short of all this they will accept nothing as a real boon. I hold in my hand an extract from a New York organ of the Fenian Brotherhood, called The Irish People, which states that—The object of the Fenian Brotherhood is to procure our country's total separation from England, and to set tier up before the world as a nation among the nations, free and independent.…It is almost superfluous to say that nothing short of that national independence and total separation will content us.…Every concession granted by the English Government strengthens the Fenians.…Therefore we counsel the acceptance of concessions, and therefore we recognize every concession as a victory.The same article adds that the effect of this measure, if carried, will be this—he uses a familiar phrase—"Out go the parsons, neck and crop, the landlords to follow at an early day." I recollect that, many years ago, in a Legislative Assembly in a neighbouring country, it was said, "Ici nous sommes ni Catholiques ni Chrétiens." Now, I believe that the acknowledgment of Christianity by the State is the only true safeguard for the national prosperity, and when the time shall come that either in this or in the other House of Parliament it shall be said "Here we are neither Catholic nor Christian," it will be an evil day for the country.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I fear that my strength—more especially at this late hour—will render me very little capable of treating this question in a manner worthy of its gravity and importance; but there are occasions on which strong feelings and earnest convictions overpower the sense of physical weakness; and I trust this may be so far the case with me now that I shall be enabled to express to your Lordships some portion at least of the aversion and apprehension with which I regard this most dangerous measure. When I say "this most dangerous mea- 2092 sure," I do not refer to the Bill which now lies on your Lordships' table, because I take that to be but a small part of the matter. I speak not of this Bill, but of that ulterior measure of which it is intended to be the introduction and the preliminary, and I must consider it in conjunction with the Resolution passed by the House of Commons for the entire disestablishment and disendowment of the Church in Ireland. My Lords, as to that measure—fraught, as I think, with so much danger and mischief—I cannot reconcile it to my own conscience to give only a silent vote in opposition to it. My Lords, undoubtedly if you are prepared to disregard altogether the prescription of more than 300 years—to set at naught and treat as null and void the legal grants of Protestant Sovereigns to their Protestant subjects, and the gifts and bequests of pious individuals to their co-religionists—if you are prepared to abandon the support and maintenance of that Protestant religion, the support and maintenance of which was the great moving principle of the Protestant Revolution of 1868, and which was further guaranteed by the Articles of Union between England and Ireland, as an essential and necessary condition of the union between the two countries—if you are prepared by disestablishing the Irish Church to cut off from your communion and fellowship your Protestant brethren in Ireland, and by the disendowment of that Church to confiscate to your own secular purposes the revenues which never belonged to you, and which were solemnly devoted to the service of God—if you are prepared to declare that for the present at least Ireland shall be the only country in Europe to which the Government of the country formally proclaim that they will have nothing to do with the religious instruction of their fellow-subjects—if you are prepared to come to these conclusions, at the dictation of a would-be Minister—who, I must be forgiven for saying, appears to be ready to sacrifice the cause which he at one time held it to be his high and holy privilege to defend and uphold, and that in furtherance, I must say, of his own personal ambition, and at the dictation of a majority of a House of Commons which has not six months' life in it, which is self-condemned, and of which my most rev. Friend who has just sat down (the Archbishop of Canterbury), but whom I do not now see here, told us that we had given the strongest proof of our 2093 belief that it does not represent the opinion of the country now—if you are prepared, upon the opinion of that dying House of Commons, to take this important step—a House of Commons, moreover, which was elected by a constituency to whom this question was never submitted, and so far as it was brought forward at the General Election had every reason to believe that, if the question should be raised, it would encounter the determined opposition of the Government, which it was returned to support—if, my Lords, you are prepared to do all this, then I have not a word to say, and you will puss this Bill as a necessary preliminary. On my part, however, I must enter my protest—my solemn protest—against the doctrine that we are entitled to deal as it is proposed to deal with this Church property in Ireland, any more than we are justified in dealing with the property of any personal corporation in the kingdom. I go further, perhaps, in this respect, than some of those even who are prepared to vote against this Bill, and for the maintenance of the Church in Ireland; but I, for my part, deny the moral competency of Parliament to pass a measure such as that indicated by the Resolutions of the House of Commons. When I spoke just now of a prescription of more than 300 years, I did very little justice to the argument I am bringing before you, because the prescription of more than 300 years would point to the Reformation as the first period in which the Church obtained a right to its possessions. Now, the right of the Church of this country—the Church, whatever it might have been—the right of the Church to the possessions of the Church dates from a period antecedent not only to the Reformation, but antecedent to the existence and creation of Parliament. It was stated in a debate a few years ago by a right hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), now a Secretary of State, that there is actually at this moment a living in the diocese of Heath which was the property of the Church in the sixth century—that is 600 years before the conquest of Ireland by England, and before the subjection of Ireland to the power of the Papacy. My Lords, the Reformation did not create Church property. The Reformation was partly political and partly religious. It was a protest against Roman Catholic doctrine, and against the usurpation of the See of Rome. It was the termination of a long struggle, for 2094 which the minds of the people had been long prepared, and it laid down certain conditions for those who were to share in the pecuniary benefits of Church property, which conditions were complied with to a great extent by the great majority of the Bishops and clergy of that day. There were transfers from individuals, but there was never a question of transferring Church property to the State, or of secularizing it. There was, indeed, one exception—the confiscation of the property of the monasteries. It was a deep and dark blot upon what would otherwise have been a glorious page of the history of this country. There is no doubt those monasteries required reform—that there were many abuses—that their property might have been applied more advantageously to the service of the Church of which they were members than according to the system which existed: but that was no ground for an act of which I am happy to say there has, up to the present moment, been no similar example—the confiscation of ecclesiastical property and the distribution of that property among the rapacious nobles and courtiers of the time. Yet we look back to that period, and, acknowledging the infamy of the transaction by which this property first came into the possession of those noble families, we do not at the present moment dispute the validity of their titles. We acknowledge that, however faulty the; original acquirement, long prescription affords a title to those who by unjustifiable means became possessed of it. Now, why is it that you do not apply similar principles to a Church which has been much longer in possession of its property, and which has a much older and stronger title—one untainted, too, by an act of injustice—than that of the donations of monastic property to those families? But what I am surprised at is that this principle should be adopted and this measure sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Members of your Lordship's House. I think it is a maxim which has always been strictly adhered to by all Roman Catholics that nullum tempus occurrit Ecclesiæ that, however long the Church's right may be in abeyance, it never can be utterly abolished; that it is always capable of being revived, even alter the lapse of 300 years. But we seem inclined to read that maxim as a certain person is reported to read Scripture—namely, backwards. Not nullum tempus occurrit. Ecclesiæ—no time 2095 shall injure the rights of the Church—but nullum tempus occurrit Ecclesiæ—no length of prescription shall give a right to the Church. Individuals at the end of fifty or sixty years have an indefeasible right to their property; the Church has held its property 300, 500, or 600 years; yet, because it is the Church, you claim the right to take away its property. I trust that such a principle may not be adopted by your Lordships; and as long as it is in my power I shall protest against it, in the conviction that I am speaking in the cause of justice and right, and of the maintenance of property. A noble Lord (Earl Russell), when I mentioned this question about monastic property answered, "Oh, yes, that is all very well; but there is a personal representative in the one case and no personal representative in the other." Now, I confess I cannot draw such a distinction. There is no personal representation by inheritance or entail; but in the case of every clergyman who succeeds to a benefice there is a personal representative of the original corporation. The endowments of the Church were not conferred upon the individual clergyman for his own use or benefit. They were conferred upon the clergyman as a corporation sole, as a trustee, bound to hand down to his successor that property which he enjoyed in consideration of the duties he performed; and that individual corporation sole was a member of a large aggregate corporation, which corporation was responsible for the due maintenance and application of the property of the Church. The right hon. Gentleman who has the credit—or discredit—of this Bill objected, I recollect, in the strongest terms to the principle of a salaried or stipendiary clergy. I agree with him, and I think the great merit of the constitution of the Church of England is that its clergy are neither salaried nor stipendiary. They are men in possession of a freehold for life, and they are trustees of that freehold for their successors. They receive that property, and they are bound to maintain it. They are free in all respects from the inconveniences, on the one hand, of the voluntary system, which subjects the clergyman to the caprice of his parishioners; and, on the other, they are perfectly free from being overborne by the influence of the Crown, or the Minister. They enjoy their freehold for life, and their right to it is as complete and entire as that of any of your Lordships to the property you possess. When you speak of 2096 there being no personal representative, and, therefore, no interest, you appear to me to act—and the Bill which we are led to expect acts—upon the principle of ignoring the party most deeply interested. You propose to make allowance for the personal rights of individual clergymen during their lives; you propose—which is a much more doubtful question—to make compensation to the patrons of livings for the value of the patronage which is at their disposal; but you propose no compensation and no allowance to those for whose benefit the Church property was designed—namely, the parishioners, who, according to the law of the land, are entitled to spiritual assistance and spiritual superintendence from the clergy, of which right you are preparing to rob them. I must say that this principle of "no personal representative" puts all other corporations in a very serious position. What do you say to great corporate bodies possessed of large landed property? Some of the great London Companies possess large landed estates in Ireland. They have the perpetual right of succession, they appoint their successors; but personally and individually they derive, I believe, no advantage. According to the doctrine which is now brought forward, if there is no personal and individual representative Parliament is free to do what it pleases with the property of these and all other corporations. The other great London Companies—do they fulfil the purposes for which they were originally formed? Most undoubtedly not. They are possessed of very large property—down, then, with the property at once! They do not fulfil their original purpose, they have no personal successors, no lineal inheritors—take away their property and devote it to other uses! That, my Lords, it seems to me is the logical consequence of the principle which is now put forward. But, it is said, "Parliament gave these endowments, and therefore Parliament can take them away." I deny the fact in the first place and the inference in the next. I say, in the first place, Parliament did not give this property; and in the next that if it did give it, it has no right to take it away. Parliament, some years ago, for signal services rendered to the country, conferred upon the ancestors of my noble Friend who now sits near me (the Duke of Marlborough) and of another noble Duke, Blenheim and Strathfieldsaye. They were given by Act of Parliament. But 2097 will any human being contend that, while leaving the present possessors to enjoy them for their life, Parliament which granted may resume the gifts, and at its pleasure despoil those two noble Dukes oft their inheritance? But I say Parliament did not grant the property which is now held by the Church in Ireland. As I have already said, there is at least one benefice which has gone through all the changes that Ireland has passed through—which has gone to the independent Church of Ireland in the first place, then to the Papal Church which was imposed upon it by the unjustifiable act of England, and lastly, has been transferred to the Established Church of the country, Parliament had certainly nothing to do with that benefice. It is notorious, moreover, that six-sevenths of the glebe lands were conferred from confiscated estates by the legal grants of Protestant Sovereigns; and it would not be difficult to show that the immense preponderance of the property now held by the Church in Ireland has been granted since the Reformation. It has been granted by Protestant Sovereigns, or given or bequeathed by pious and munificent Protestants, and, more especially since 1833, it has been the produce of the taxation of the clergy. Now, do you mean to take away property which never belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, and to take it away upon the ground of injustice to the Roman Catholics? Do you mean to violate all those solemn obligations? Do you mean to run counter to all the principles which led to the great Revolution of 1688? I do not require to be told that the Revolution of 1688 was mainly caused by the unjustifiable violation of the laws of the country by James II.; but upon what ground were those violations committed? They were all of them in obedience to Roman Catholic councillors for the purpose of introducing the Roman Catholic religion into this country, and for the purpose, as far as could be done, of putting down Protestantism. It was the resentment of this country at the attempt to set up the Roman Catholic religion, from which it had suffered so grievously before, that led to great discontent and to the Revolution which introduced William III. to the Throne of England. I have heard it said, "How wisely William III. acted with regard to Scotland; why did he not act in the same manner with regard to Ireland?" I answer that William III. 2098 was not an idiot. He was a very shrewd, a very sagacious, and a very far-seeing Sovereign; and I cannot help thinking that in respect of the different phases of Protestantism he acted much more from political than from religious considerations. He found that in Scotland the Presbyterians were the steady opponents of the fallen family, while the Episcopalians were the supporters of that family. Consequently he did not interfere with the religion of the Presbyterians, who were favourable to himself; but had he adopted in Ireland the policy which it is said would have been similar to that which was pursued in Scotland, what would he have done? William the Deliverer came into this country to free it from the chains of the Roman Catholic religion and the Papal See; but if he had done what it is now said he ought to have done, he would have re-introduced the Popish religion as the established religion of Ireland, and thus have overthrown the very principles which he had been brought over to this country to vindicate and uphold. It really is not necessary to answer the question; by its ridiculous absurdity it answers itself. Again, Queen Anne, dealing with an independent country, entered into an arrangement by which the Presbyterian was for ever to be the established religion of Scotland. Many of my noble Friends here who hold property in Scotland are Episcopalians; but I do not believe they object to being obliged to contribute to a Church of which they are not members. But what is the case in Ireland? The Protestant religion is the religion of the minority, no doubt; but it is the religion established in that country by an independent Parliament—Protestant, no doubt, but for the return of Members to which Roman Catholics had a right to vote. That Parliament at the time of the Union between the two countries entered into a stipulation by which the Churches of both should thenceforth be one united Church, and that the Protestant religion should be maintained as the religion of Ireland. Considering that arrangement was declared to be a fundamental condition of the Act of Union, I do not think it is too much to say that to do away with it would be to imperil the Union, and that such a step ought not to be taken by the Imperial Parliament without the strongest motives and without the deepest conviction of its necessity. My Lords, what is it that 2099 the Roman Catholics desire in Ireland? I am told it is equality. I want to know in what respect is it they have not equality? I want to know whether with regard to property, to civil rights, to admission to public offices, with regard to everything in social and political positions, they are not on a footing of equality with all Her Majesty's other subjects? Nay more, I ask whether the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is not more free and independent, more free from all Government control, than she is in any other country of Europe, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic? I only hope that in some cases she does not abuse the liberty she has in Ireland of conducting her own affairs, subject only to the observance of the law of the country. My Lords, there is only one thing the Roman Catholics in Ireland do not possess, and that is the property belonging to their neighbours. That is their only cause of complaint. Mind you, there is as much security for property possessed by the Catholic Church in Ireland as for the property of the Church of England in Ireland, or for the property of any private individual. But, my Lords, it is a most dangerous principle to lay down that equality in possessions is necessary for social and political equality. What right is sacred—what right is secure—if we listen to the person who complains that because he is not equal in possessions to his neighbour—because his property is not as large, not as extensive—therefore he has neither equal social rights nor equal political power? That principle goes to the root of all property. It cannot be maintained; its consequences cannot have entered into the mind of those who use this argument in favour of what they call perfect equality. When you take that position and use that argument in the case of the Irish Church, I want to know how you can escape applying it to the Church of England or any other Church? Mind, I am not saying that the case of the Church in Ireland and that of the Church in England are similar, or that the two Establishments stand on precisely the same footing; but I say that, when you come to the argument of equality founded on the possession of property, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland are involved in the consequences of that argument just as much as the Church of Ireland. My Lords, for the six-and-forty years during which I have had the honour of a seat in Parliament, I have been, as 2100 your Lordships know, the steady supporter of all claims of the Roman Catholics to be relieved from any disabilities. I voted cheerfully and readily for granting them the full rights of citizenship, and for their admission to Parliament. I voted for various privileges conferred on them since then; and, for some of my votes in that direction, I have incurred a certain amount of obloquy on the part of some of my Protestant fellow-countrymen. I am disposed to act still in the same spirit. There is no concession I am not prepared to make to Roman Catholics; but to no aggression on the rights of others will I ever give my sanction as long as I have a seat in your Lordships' House. This movement is strictly and entirely aggressive. When in this movement we find united two bodies whose views and principles on all other subjects are opposed, we must regard the combination as extraordinary which has united them for a common object. The Roman Catholics hold to the principle of the inviolability of their own religious endowments. The other body hold that all religious endowments are vicious and ought to be got rid of. Yet the two parties holding those opposite views take a common ground on this occasion as a means of obtaining a temporary majority in a dying House of Commons. Noble Lords say that the circumstances of Ireland are so different from those of England that the principle of disestablishment, even though adopted in Ireland, cannot extend to England. But, my Lords, when the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this measure says, "I am one of those who advocate religious equality all over the world," and when the principle which he lays down is supported by those who object to all religious endowment—it may be sooner or it may be later, but an attempt will be made to apply to this country the principle which is now laid down as the one which ought to be adopted in Ireland. How can the right hon. Gentleman make head against his present supporters? There used to be told a story of the ostrich hiding his head in a bush, and then imagining that he could not be seen by his pursuers, and was free from all danger. I will not insult the sagacity of the bird by comparing it with those who think that they can escape from the consequence of this movement by hiding it from themselves. The future may be obscure to them now, but the consequences will come as inevitably 2101 as light follows darkness. Let me first call your Lordships' attention to a passage which represents the views and opinions of the Nonconformist party. Here is a passage from a recent number of the Nonconformist—The Irish Church question will not be finally disposed of before the public mind will be prepared to entertain proposals in reference to the Scottish Kirk and the Church of England. As it has been with our Establishments, so probably will it be with the others. Their time is fixed. Mr. Gladstone is but now treading on the verge of a wide region of change. He knows not whither his convictions will ultimately impel him. He may be regarded as raised up and qualified by Divine Providence for great and beneficial purposes.If the right hon. Gentleman has been "raised up and qualified by Divine Providence" for the extinction of all endowments, he must now be walking on the verge of a precipice of the existence of which he professes to be entirely unaware. I will not trouble your Lordships with many quotations; but, as bearing on the justice and safety of the measure now proposed, perhaps I may be allowed to read one passage from Lord Plunket, than whom no person was a stronger advocate of Roman Catholic claims, and than whom no one entertained a stronger conviction that the granting of those claims was entirely consistent with the maintenance of the Established Church in Ireland. Lord Plunket used this language—An honest Roman Catholic cannot choose whether there shall be a Protestant Establishment or not. That is not the question which an honest man asks himself. What an honest Roman Catholic says, is—'I find the Protestant Church Establishment a part of the State for these 300 years: it has imbedded itself in the Constitution, and is so amalgamated with it that it cannot be overturned without overturning the State itself, and the valuable privileges, rights, and liberties which we enjoy, and which we expect our families and posterity to enjoy, under it. The English Church Establishment is intimately connected and bound up with the Established Church in Ireland; and neither the English Establishment, nor the State authorities in England and Ireland, will ever permit the Church of Ireland to be injured, or the Protestant ascendancy, in the proper sense of the word, to be destroyed.'"—[2 Hansard, iv.]I need not quote opinions to the same effect which were given by many Roman Catholic gentlemen, by Mr. O'Connell himself, by Mr. Blake, a well-known Roman Catholic, and by others at that time. I will not refer to the declarations made by the Bishops in 1826, although these were the conditions upon which the 2102 Roman Catholics were admitted to those Parliamentary privileges which I for one fully rejoiced to see them obtain; but I will read a short passage from the expressed opinions of a highly respectable Roman Catholic Judge very lately removed from among us, the late Mr. Justice Shee, who spoke in this manner—The Church by law established is the Church of a community everywhere considerable in respect of property, rank, and intelligence. It is strong in the prescription of three centuries and in the support which it derives from the supposed identity of its interests with those of the Church of England. Nothing short of a convulsion, tearing up both Establishments by the roots, could accomplish its overthrow.My Lords, I have said—and I but repeat what others have already stated—that this measure was introduced in a manner and at a time leading to the natural conclusion that it was prompted rather by party objects and a desire to gratify personal ambition than by a conviction of any immediate necessity for the change. Allow me to remind your Lordships of the circumstances under which this measure was introduced. In 1866 the lute Government felt it to be their duty, upon being defeated on a leading principle of their Reform Bill, to throw up their offices, and to insist upon the acceptance of their resignations. I was called upon at that time to undertake the responsible duty of forming a Ministry. I could not for a moment do those noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen the injustice of believing that their resignation was merely a sham resignation, intended to be followed by a declaration upon my putt that a Conservative Government could not be formed. I do not impute that to them; I believe that their resignation was perfectly sincere, and without any such arrière pensée as I have described. But it must not be forgotten that I came into Office with a standing majority against me of 60 or 70; and 1 should have been a madman if I had accepted Office without a full conviction—though, of course, I did not deem it respectful or decent to make any conditions with my Sovereign—that if I found the majority hostile I should have the right of appealing to the country and ascertaining whether they were willing to support me in carrying on the Public Business, or whether they preferred my predecessors, or the formation of any other Ministry. It so happened, however, that in 1867 we were enabled to carry a most important measure—the 2103 English Reform Bill—but unaccompanied by the Scotch and Irish Bills, the necessary complements of that measure, or the other Bills which it was absolutely necessary to introduce. Moreover, under the conditions of the Reform Bill itself, it was impossible that the new Parliament could be summoned before the end of 1869 or the beginning of 1870. The Government therefore had not the option of appealing to the country—which would, after all, have been an appeal to the old constituencies, and not to the new; and it was taking advantage of that supposed helpless condition of the Government that those in Opposition took the opportunity of introducing suddenly, and without any Notice, a proposition which till that time they had strenuously opposed, and forced it upon the Government and the House to the great inconvenience of Public Business and to the exclusion of important questions which it was most desirable to deal with. The point thus chosen was one upon which the constituencies had no opportunity of expressing their opinion; for in the votes which they had given at the General Election in favour of the Government of Lord Palmerston they had every reason to believe that the Members of that Government were pledged as deeply as men could be to resist any measure of the kind now before the House. It is a long time ago certainly—at the time when Lord Palmerston, according to the language which has been used by some of our opponents, was a "stupid, bigoted, blind, benighted Tory"—it was in 1828, immediately previous to the passing of the Catholic Belief Bill, that the noble Lord in a striking speech declared his sentiments upon this subject. And observe in what manner Lord Palmerston treated this very question of the possible danger to the Protestant Establishment in Ireland from the admission of the Roman Catholics. He says—The changes which the Catholics are supposed to aim at are changes which could only be effected by the concurrence of the whole of the Legislature, and see what various improbabilities, not to say impossibilities, must combine before these fears could be realized. I will suppose that a Government hard pressed to carry some measure of their own, or to resist some measure of their opponents, were to purchase the support of the Catholic band by promising to introduce some change injurious to or subversive of the Protestant religion. In the first place, the consent of the Sovereign on the Throne,"—whom Lord Palmerston was by no means 2104 inclined to treat, as some persons now seem disposed to do, as a cipher,—who by law is a Protestant, must be obtained; but I will suppose, for the sake of argument, that which I hold to be impossible, that an English Cabinet should agree to advise and a Protestant King could be found to sanction. Yet the very foundation of the supposed case is a weak Administration"—or, I will add, an Opposition desirous of obtaining their seats—tottering in their seats, and certain of support neither in Parliament nor in the country, what would be the effect upon such a Government of such a proposition? Why, to give instantly to their opponents ten times the strength which their profligate bargain had purchased from the Catholics. Every honest and independent Protestant would fly their standard, and their adversaries would raise round their heads a storm of public indignation which would sweep them from their places with ignominy and disgrace. Such apprehensions may fairly be pronounced groundless and chimerical."—[2 Hansard, xx. 1242.]These were the views of Lord Palmerston in 1829, and I doubt whether any of your Lordships can point to a single case in which Lord Palmerston expressed any opinions conflicting with these, or ever gave the slightest countenance to the subversion, of the Church Establishment of Ireland. But I particularly wish to call the attention of the noble Earl (Earl Russell) opposite to what I am about to state; because the noble Earl the other day laid it down as a matter of primary importance that it was the bounden duty of every Government, especially before a General Election, to lay before the country a clear view of their policy upon general subjects. The election was in 1865; and very shortly before a Motion had been made by Mr. Dillwyn in these terms—That the present position of the Irish Church Establishment is unsatisfactory and calls for the early attention of Her Majesty's Government."—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 384.]That was a very moderate way of putting this question. Nevertheless, under the auspices of Lord Palmerston himself, and immediately before the General Election—at a time moreover when the noble Earl (Earl Russell) was holding high Office in Government—and in the presence of Mr. Gladstone himself who spoke in the debate, Sir George Grey, as the organ of the Government, declared the opinions which the Government entertained upon the subject. Your Lordships, I doubt not, will allow me to read a few passages from Sir George Grey's speech, to show how distinctly and clearly—according to the conditions laid down recently by the noble 2105 Earl—the policy was announced which Her Majesty's Government intended to pursue with respect to the Irish Church Establishment—I think it right at once to state that Her Majesty's Government deem it their duty not to give their assent to the Resolution proposed. …. The real issue is not whether any part of the Establishment can be reformed, but whether it shall continue to have any existence whatever as an Established Church. That being the case"—observe Sir George Grey does not speak merely for himself—"Her Majesty's Government have no hesitation in saying that they are not prepared to undertake the responsibility of proposing to Parliament a Bill calculated to effect that object. They believe that this object cannot be obtained except by means which must inflict great injury upon Ireland and involve the country in the risk of very great dangers. The object can only be effected by exciting the bitterest animosities in that country, by producing a conflict of opinion—and I do not say that matters would stop even there—which must throw back the improvement of Ireland to a great extent, and must retard to an indefinite time the arrival of the period that we are sometimes inclined to hope for, when Irishmen, irrespective of creed and politics, will combine together with unanimity and energy, to promote the moral, social, and material well-being of their country."—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 396, 398.]But that is not all, for Sir George Grey goes on to say—We have the Irish Protestant Church established as an existing institution in Ireland. It is not of recent creation, it rests upon the prescription of centuries, and, to use the expression of a distinguished Roman Catholic layman, it is rooted in our institutions. The firm belief of the Government is that it could not be subverted without revolution, with all the horrors that attend revolution. …. As a matter of feeling, no doubt there is a grievance. I am not surprised at discontent existing from the cause I have mentioned, and I should be glad to redress it. But it is impossible to do so without producing evils of far greater magnitude than those which now exist, and without involving the country in dissensions which would be totally destructive of peace and of progress. For these reasons, believing that the object avowed by those who have brought forward the Resolution is one which could not be attained without great mischief, being of opinion that no practical grievance exists, and that in attempting to redress the theoretical grievance a great shock would be given to our laws and institutions, I can have no hesitation on the part of the Government in opposing the Motion."—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 400, 402.]That was on the 28th of March, 1865, immediately before the General Election, and was the manifestation to the country by the Government of the day of the line of policy which they intended to pursue if elected.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
Oh, certainly I will read it. Would you like me to read the whole of it r Independent Members are particularly fond of calling upon the Government, more especially just previous to a General Election, to pledge themselves. Mr. Dillwyn did so, and Mr. Gladstone answering him interprets his Motion as declaring that—Within a very short period—if not in the dying days of this Parliament—the Executive Government of the country ought to grapple with these anomalies and inequalities which subsist in the ecclesiastical state of Ireland, and to propose a measure for the purpose of settling them. Is that so?"—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 432.]Mr. Gladstone then goes on to argue; he does not deny that the Irish Church is in an unsatisfactory state, but in common with his Colleagues he repudiates the obligation to propose remedial measures. He then asks Mr. Dillwyn to place himself in the position of a Minister, and says—But where are the materials with which my hon. Friend would proceed to work? I suppose him to be in the position of the Government, and to have introduced his Bill. What support does he think he would receive? Would the Presbyterians of Scotland readily support a measure which transferred the endowments of Ireland to the Roman Catholic clergy? Does he think the Nonconformists of England would support him? Were he on the Treasury Bench what support does he think such a project would receive with the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) at his post? But it may be said there is another mode of proceeding; you may transfer these endowments from religious to secular purposes. I am bound to say that in my belief the mind of the country is against such a project, and I think my hon. Friend would find this a more difficult proposal still."—[Ibid.]I have acceded to the request of the noble Earl who wished for extracts from Mr. Gladstone's speech. Your Lordships have heard what he said when he declined to pledge the Government in the last days of a dying Parliament, and in what way he showed how repugnant to the Nonconformists would be any proposal to hand over the emoluments of the Irish Church to the Roman Catholics; and as for the suggestion that the property should be secularized, Mr. Gladstone, it appears, thought that the most objectionable of all. These points formed the basis of the advice he gave to his hon. Friend, and in them we have Mr. Gladstone's opinions in 1865. I must remind you then that when the General Election took place in that year not only was not the question of the Irish Establishment brought to the test of the 2107 hustings; but the constituencies had every reason to believe that, if ever it should be raised, it would meet with the strongest opposition from the Government of Lord Palmerston. Lord Palmerston unfortunately died, and events have brought about the conversion of the right hon. Gentleman; I do not wish to say anything disrespectful of him, for though his con version may have been sudden, I have no doubt it was sincere. I have made these quotations, not to show inconsistency, but that the constituencies of the country had no reason to believe such measures as those now advocated would be passed by the Government of that day.
With respect to the manner in which these Resolutions have been brought forward, I agree with my noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) that it would have been more courteous if the House of Commons had communicated to your Lordships the Resolutions they had passed before proceeding with the Bill which they have now sent up to us without any remark or offering any reasons in support of it. The Resolutions, however, are now public property, and when we come to look into them, it is certainly extraordinary that from first to last the word "disendowment" is not mentioned; we read only of "disestablishment." ["Hear!"] Do the noble Duke and the noble Earl opposite who gave that cheer wish to intimate that disendowment is not contemplated? But disendowment is one thing and disestablishment another. There may be disestablishment without disendowment, and disendowment without disestablishment; but I am certain that noble Lords opposite will not resort to such a quibble as that because the word "disendowment" does not appear in the Resolution disestablishment only is meant, while they at the same moment press on the Government a measure which contemplates both disestablishment and disendowment. Regarding disestablishment I confess I cannot see in what way it is contemplated—whether suddenly or gradually—and if gradually, in what, condition the Church in Ireland will be left during the process? The real Leader of the Liberal party, however, (Mr. Bright), addressing a meeting the other day in Liverpool, told his hearers that the Church in Forth Wales was in a considerable minority with reference to the population, and that the people there might consider it a hardship that they were in the same position as the Roman Catholics of Ireland; and his only excuse for not taking 2108 immediate action in Wales was that they had better do one thing at a time; but he promised the Nonconforming majority of Wales its turn in the march of liberation; and he explained what he meant by disestablishment, he said—What will happen will be this—The Irish Episcopal Church would call what in America they call a Convention. In reality, the Archbishops, the Bishops, the clergy, and their congregations, if they can bring them together, would meet in Dublin a 1,000, or 500, or any smaller number of thoughtful, earnest men of the Church, to determine on their future organization. When they come together they can determine all questions of creed and all questions of discipline; and they would require, of curse, to originate what they call in the Free Church of Scotland a sustentation fund—that is, a fund to which everybody gives who is able and willing to give—a fund out of which Ministers are supported in remote parishes and districts, where the congregations are too poor to maintain them.Therefore the whole of the affairs of the Irish Church, which are now subject to the laws of the land and liable to be checked and controlled by Parliament and ecclesiastical authority and subject to the laws of the land, would be banded over to the absolute disposal of the Archbishops, Bishops and clergy, and those 1,000 or 500 faithful men—I do not know how they are to keep the unfaithful out—who would have the absolute power of laying down rules for the guidance of the Church without having any power whatever to carry any one of their resolutions into effect. For my part, I much prefer to such Conventions the mild government of Parliament, or even of the Committee of Privy Council.
My Lords, when you talk about disestablishment it leads me to what I frankly admit is a very delicate subject to touch upon. I am forced to turn to the Coronation Oath despite the deprecatory observations of my noble Friend (Earl Granville). I do not require to be told that the Sovereign can do no wrong and is not responsible for the action of Parliament; but, my Lords, the words of this Oath are real or else the Sovereign of this country is the cipher which some persons would represent her to be. She has her opinions and her obligations, and She has the right to press upon any Ministers whom She may call to her service that She should not be called upon to do acts which are in violation of solemn engagements She has undertaken. Her Majesty has been asked— 2109Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant reformed religion established by law, and will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the United Church of England and Ireland, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established within England and Ireland, and the territories thereunto belonging?This Her Majesty has solemnly sworn to do; and, my Lords, these words constitute either a solemn and personal obligation on the Sovereign or else they are unmeaning and even blasphemous. You cannot relieve the Sovereign from that obligation. Her Parliament may pass a measure which in that case She has practically no longer the power of objecting to; but that fact does not relieve the Sovereign from the obligation, the right, and the duty of re presenting to any Ministry which She may call to her counsels the position in which She would be placed if, acting on their advice, She were to take a step in direct violation of her solemn declaration and Oath that She will maintain inviolate the United Church of Ireland and England. That Oath would be violated if Her Majesty were advised to disestablish; it would not be violated by regulating the Church—it would be violated by disuniting the Church the union of which She has sworn to maintain.
What, then, is the real object aimed at by the promoters of this measure? Who are they whom it is sought to gratify; still more, who is to be satisfied by this measure? Now, my Lords, I confess that, notwithstanding the statement of my noble Friend, I do not believe that the Protestant Church is any grievance whatever to the people of Ireland. I do not deny that by disestablishing and disendowing the Protestant Church you will gratify the Roman Catholic hierarchy—you will gratify them—but you will not satisfy them. You may give them greater opportunity for exercising that preponderating authority which enables them to keep the priests and people in a complete state of servitude—I had almost said, of absolute slavery. I believe that many of the Roman Catholic priests feel that the existence of a Protestant Establishment side by side with their own Church is a security for civil liberty, and protects the Roman Catholic laity against aggression on the part of the hierarchy which would be otherwise intolerable. I am quite certain that there is a growing desire among the lower classes of the Roman Catholics to consider not 2110 what they are to gain, but what they are to lose by a measure of this kind. They have now among them in every parish an educated gentleman, of moderate income, the whole of which is spent among his immediate neighbours, and the greater part of it in works of kindness and charily. He is the man to whom they go in times of difficulty—he is the man to whom the labourer takes his money for sale keeping, and whom even the Roman Catholic parishioner frequently consults instead of his own priests. They feel, moreover, that they are at the present moment living in amity and friendship with their Protestant fellow-countrymen; they have no cause of complaint against them; they feel that upon the Protestant clergy they depend for a great portion of their livelihood and for many acts of kindness. Bishop Moriarty himself bears testimony to the character of the Irish clergy. I am perfectly willing to confess that in old days—but those days have happily long since gone by—nothing could be more disreputable, nothing more scandalous, nothing less likely to promote reformation of any kind than the character of the great body of the Irish clergy. That was the case from the days of Spenser to those of Dean Swift, and even later; but during the whole of the present century it has been impossible to find a body of men more pious, better educated, and better informed than the Irish clergy; as I have said, Bishop Moriarty, the Roman Catholic Bishop, bears testimony in the most handsome manner to the pureness of their lives and and to their gentlemanly bearing, and particularly to the charity with which they treat persons of all denominations. And, my Lords, let me ask what is the chief evil under which Ireland labours? Is it not non residence? And yet you now propose to remove a body of gentlemen who are always resident—often the only resident gentleman who is to be found in many of the parishes of Ireland. Do you think that such a proposal will promote peace and contentment among the inhabitants of Ireland? Will they not feel that you are removing from among them their best friends?
My Lords, I think it has been urged that the Established Church in Ireland has signally failed as a Missionary Church; but your Lordships should remember that the situation of a minister of the Irish Church in a Roman Catholic district is a very hard one. If he confines himself to 2111 the diligent superintendence of his own flock, he is told that the great work of the Reformation is making no progress—that he makes no converts, and that the whole of his labour is therefore a failure. If, on the other hand, he acts energetically—if he endeavours to proselytize and spread the doctrines of his Church among his Roman Catholic neighbours—he is denounced as an ecclesiastical firebrand; no term is too opprobrious, no obloquy too great to be bestowed upon him. These are the Scylla and Charybdis between which the Protestant clergyman has to steer. If he confines himself to the duties of his Church he is said to be doing no good. If he is energetic in his conduct the emphatic term of "souper" is bestowed upon him; and, as in the case of the relief administered by the English clergy during the time of the famine, all his communications, actions, and kindnesses to Roman Catholics will be attributed to a desire to proselytize. I say again that the Roman Catholic population of Ireland will, in my belief, lose rather than gain by the removal of the Protestant clergyman—a removal which will in any case be far from contributing to the peace and tranquillity of Ireland. For what will be the result? In place of the clergy you propose to remove—men of whom you complain if they confine themselves to their own flocks—you will have an irruption of agents from the Missionary Societies. These persons, whose zeal is not always tempered by discretion, will suddenly spring into activity, and at once occupy the vacant ground. From the moment that that happens you may have an increase in the number of nominal Protestants, but it will be accompanied by such a storm of animosity as has not been witnessed for many years past. It will give rise to religious feuds and animosity in places where nothing of the kind prevails at the present moment. That, and not universal peace and contentment, will be the result of carrying this measure into effect. One word, my Lords, with regard to the alleged grievance of the Irish Church, And here I shall again quote from what is considered to be the Roman Catholic organ—namely, the Tablet. That journal says—The wound of Ireland is, that whereas the great majority of the population of Ireland are Roman Catholics, a very large proportion of the soil of that country belongs to the Protestants, and the Protestants form the majority of those 2112 who enjoy superior wealth and the advantage of a high social position. We are convinced that if the Legislature were to confiscate to-morrow every acre of land now belonging to the Protestant Church Establishment in Ireland, and to deprive the Protestant Bishops of every legal privilege they now enjoy by virtue of their belonging to a State Church, the real Irish grievance would not be abated. That grievance can only be removed by the Catholics getting possession of the land held by the Protestants.Now let me ask are your Lordships prepared to follow that plan? Will you say, that because the Roman Catholic peasantry imagine that they have a right to recover the land of which they believed themselves to be once possessed, that you will take the step thus indicated, because, as is alleged, there will be no peace till the land question is settled—a declaration in which they are much encouraged by certain of the Roman Catholic clergy? If you are prepared to take that step, you will tend to sever all connection between this country and Ireland, and you must be prepared to witness the ruin and destruction that would infallibly overtake Ireland if left to herself. It would be better in that case to wash your hands at once of the whole concern, and to declare that the Union having failed the parting between the two countries ought to be effected in as amicable a manner as possible. That is the conclusion to which such a plan would, in my opinion, inevitably lead; and it is a conclusion which, however injurious to England, would, I am sure, be utterly fatal and ruinous to the interests of Ireland.
I have troubled your Lordships at greater length than I intended, and I have now only a few words to say with regard to the position in which your Lordships stand in respect of this matter. This measure has been passed in a dying House of Commons by a majority that is certainly considerable. If your Lordships refuse to assent to the second reading, the subject will come without prejudice under the consideration of a new Parliament. Your Lordships are, I know, always disposed to yield as far as you can to the deliberately expressed and well-ascertained opinions of the country. For my own part, I may say that it must be a very decided expression of opinion to alter my judgment on such a question as this, but we should, I think, be simply prejudging the case, and dealing unjustly, not only by ourselves, but unjustly by the people of this country, if, 2113 before we know what is the opinion of the country, we were at once to adopt the course proposed to us by the Lower House. Your Lordships are perfectly well able to judge for yourselves what course will be most consistent with your principles, your position, and your dignity as an independent branch of the Legislature; and I do not think that your Lord ships will be affected by the declaration that by rejecting this measure you will be seeking a cause of quarrel with the other House. If any party is to be made liable for bringing this House into collision with the other House, I must hold it to be that party which, immediately before a General Election, brings questions like this under the notice of Parliament, and calls upon you to pass a measure to which they know you will not consent, merely on the ground that the House of Commons has passed it, and that it is your duty to defer to their opinion. My Lords, there is a portion of the Press, more especially a journal which claims to itself supremacy amongst the journals of this country—a journal which sometimes acts the part of the candid friend, and sometimes in a tone of concealed menace warns the House of Lords as to the course they are to pursue—not, indeed, that it signifies much what course they take except for their own interests—but they must take care not to adopt a course which shall run counter to the declared feeling of the people of this country. But, my Lords, that feeling has not yet been tested or declared: we do not know that it is the feeling—we do not believe it is the feeling—of the people of this country. But we do believe that we are called upon by the promoters of this Bill to do violence to the principles which we hold most dear; to agree to that which in our belief will be injurious to the Protestant religion—a religion which we are determined to uphold; to agree to that which in our opinion is an invasion of the rights of property, and which must ultimately extend to all other kinds of property; which is based upon principles which, being once applied to Ireland, cannot fail in time to be applied to England also; which will create confusion and discontent for a long period, and which will be sure to create angry feeling among different classes on a subject which of all others is most calculated to give rise to those feelings. For my own part, I am told that the course I am taking in resisting this measure is not a popular one. 2114 My Lords, I do not pretend—no one, I suppose, does pretend—to be entirely indifferent to the feelings of my fellow-countrymen; but I have never yet courted popularity for the sake of popularity. As long as I am a Member of this House—which is an independent branch of the Legislature—I shall, without caring whom I offend or whom I please, express the honest conviction of my mind; and your Lordships, in dealing with this question, will, I doubt not, be actuated by the same feelings. Your Lordships will, I am sure, adopt whatever you believe to be right in principle, safe in policy, and wise in performance, undeterred by menace on the one hand, and by persuasions on the other. But if you were not to pursue that independent course, and were simply to register the opinions of the House of Commons, it would be better not to be than to exist under such a slavery. I am satisfied that your Lordships will deal with this question according to your consciences and your judgment; and I believe that in so dealing with it, and in rejecting the hasty measure to which you are invited by the House of Commons to give your assent, you will give fresh cause to a grateful country to thank God that they have a House of Lords, and to thank God that by the firmness of that House of Lords incalculable evils have been warded off from the people of this nation.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I never felt so much in need of the indulgence of your Lordships as in rising to follow the noble Earl, and attempting to answer some of the arguments he has used with an authority and force to which I know I cannot aspire. My Lords, when the noble Earl rose, I thought we should have had some answer to the speech—which I believe was unanswerable—made by my noble Friend who moved the second reading of the Bill (Earl Granville). That speech was certainly not answered by the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal, nor was it answered by the noble Earl who has just sat down. My noble Friend who moved the second reading recommended the Bill as a measure of justice to Ireland; but the noble Earl who has just sat down (the Earl of Derby) carefully avoided dealing with that argument. He did not even refer to the word "justice"—he referred mainly to the Reformation instead. The main argument of the noble Earl was that this Bill was an interference with property. But there is a great difference 2115 in the nature of property; and the argument of the noble Earl condemns not only the course now proposed to be taken, but that which has been taken over and over again in this country. The noble Earl referred to the fact that the family of my noble Friend near me (Earl Russell) possesses many of the former abbey lands. Now we all know that the changes made in the time of Henry VIII. were made with more or less violence; but suppose all the lands then belonging to the great abbeys had remained Church property and had been tied up in mortmain, what would now have been the position of affairs? If anything could have inclined the sober English to revolution, it would have been the perpetuation of such a state of things as was almost recommended by the noble Earl. The noble Earl spoke with great acrimony with reference to the policy of this measure. He said we were going to rob the corporations of their property. Now, I never thought that the property of corporations rested on the same footing as private property. If anything would produce a feeling of insecurity it would be to say that the property of corporations and private property stood on the same footing. I adhere to the distinction which has been drawn between private and corporate property; the former being that to which there are lineal successors, and the latter having no such lineal successors. It is said that the clergy have a vested interest in Church property of the same kind as private property; but if there be no distinction, how did the noble Earl deal with the Irish Church when he took away so many Bishops and made an arrangement with regard to tithes by which 25 per cent of the tithes were deducted from the property of the Church in Ireland? If tithes are private property, it was a robbery of the corporations sole—to use the noble Earl's phrase—so to deal with them. I hardly thought that argument could have been brought forward by the noble Earl. The noble Earl used another argument. He said that the property of the Church of Ireland did not rest on Parliamentary titles. But the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack used a very different argument last year. My Lords, my view is this—the whole nation are the heirs of property such as that of the Irish Church. You can compensate the present holders of Church property, or you may respect their vested interest; but Parliament has a perfect right to deal with the property of the 2116 Church. The noble Earl passed from this subject to an attack upon my noble Friend near me, and especially on the right hon. Gentleman, who was the mover of this Bill in the other House. The noble Earl produced several passages from his speech in order to show his inconsistency, and that of other Members of the late Government, Now, a tu quoque argument is not much worth; but I was surprised to hear the noble Earl talk as he did of the extreme impropriety of sudden changes of opinion. I admit that the question now before us is one of the most important ever brought before Parliament; but I think there is another even more important, and that is the political Constitution of the country itself. Now, let me remind the noble Earl of the speeches he made in former times about the necessity of stemming the tide of democracy. That was a very intelligible doctrine, and for some time he adhered to it. But then came the change of the Government. What, then, did he say? He said, I would not have consented to take the head of the Government unless I had had a fair chance of maintaining my position; and in order to do that it was necessary to bring in a Reform Bill. He constructed a Conservative Government—to do what? To bring in a measure in the very teeth of Conservative principles.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I need hardly point out that there was some little difference between the Reform Bill of 1858 and that democratic Reform Bill he eventually passed in 1867. I do not for one moment reproach the noble Earl—I have no wish, I have no right to do so; but when he taunts my noble Friend near me with inconsistency, I must say that taunt is not well in his mouth. The noble Earl proceeded to point out that we dealt very differently with the question of the Irish Church in 1865. I admit he was perfectly entitled to that argument; but, my Lords, have no events happened since that time? My noble Friend (Earl Granville) has been rebuked for referring to the Fenian conspiracy as one justification of this measure. But let me remind my noble Friend on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) that the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended in Ireland in consequence of the Fenian conspiracy in March, 1866; and in the same month my noble Friend brought before the House the whole state of Ireland, distinctly referring to the ex- 2117 istence of disaffection as the reason for bringing it forward. My noble Friend who introduced this Bill was therefore perfectly justified in referring so far to the Fenian conspiracy as an argument for considering this Bill.
My noble Friend who introduced this Bill declared that in 1866 there was no outbreak or acts of violence on the part of the Fenians; and I expressly stated that there was a conspiracy.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I must request the noble Earl to confine himself to an explanation of his own speech, and not explain my speech, which he has totally misrepresented.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
The noble Earl draws a distinction between outrages having been committed and out-rages not having been committed. But I say the existence of the Fenian conspiracy was as well known then as it is now. And observe, my Lords, how dangerous the argument would be to say that when you know of the existence of disaffection that is not sufficient. Will my noble Friend allow me to ask him at what time those questions ought to be considered? Are we to be told that the people of Ireland are apathetic, and that therefore there is no need of legislation, or that if they are not apathetic they are in a state of conspiracy? Are we to be told that disaffection is not enough, and that we must wait for tumults and rebellion? My Lords, my own view is this—not that we should consider any subject of this kind without regard to consequences, but that when it is manifest that dissatisfaction exists that is a reason why all fair men should consider whether there is not some radical vice in the state of things in Ireland, and if there be, should apply a remedy as soon as possible. Parliament has shown—the present Government have shown quite as much as the former Government—that they can repress disaffection and maintain law in Ireland; but I say that, having done this, Parliament and Government are bound to see whether there are not grievances of which the Irish justly complain, and, if there are, to show an eagerness to consider them—and especially at a time when the civil liberties of the country have been suspended. But to return to the argument of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby). The noble Earl referred to the policy of William III., and told us that that Monarch could not pursue the same policy in Ireland as he did 2118 in Scotland, because the people of England would not allow him. But let me point out to the House what an inconsiderate thing it is to adhere to a policy the greater part of which has been abandoned. The noble Earl joined in measures for the emancipation of the Roman Catholics; but is it logical or wise to preserve one part of a policy and to abandon the rest of it? You think that our ancestors, who perhaps were as wise as ourselves, would not approve our policy. Our ancestors were, I dare say, very good Protestants—I am afraid they would be called "good Protestants" in some parts of the North of Ireland. They thought it their duty to extirpate the Roman Catholics of Ireland; they endeavoured to do so by penal laws and by excluding the Roman Catholics from civil and political rights. No doubt they succeeded to some extent in diminishing the number of Roman Catholics in that country; and if they had been as cruel as the Inquisitors in Spain, or the persecutors of the Albigenses in France, they might have extirpated the Roman Catholics altogether. But what have we done? We have admitted the Roman Catholics to equal political power with ourselves; and is it reasonable, then, to pursue a policy which gives us the advantages neither of the policy of exclusion pursued by our ancestors, nor our own policy of religious freedom? I believe our ancestors would condemn such a policy quite as much as I condemn it. The noble Earl repeated the argument which had been used before—that the interests of the Church of England were bound up with those of the Church of Ireland. But that argument was so well disposed of by my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) that it is scarcely necessary to refer to it. I will ask your Lordships, however, is it a wise thing to make the cause of Protestantism in Ireland identical with that which a large portion of the people of Ireland regard as an injustice? The noble Earl then touched on an argument which he justly said was one of great delicacy, and he referred again to the question of the Coronation Oath of the Sovereign. He said, "Beware lest you recommend a measure which is in direct violation of the Oath of the Sovereign." Now, I ask the House whether this is not a dilemma which the noble Earl should not have raised? What is it but a dangerous dilemma which places the Sovereign in a position in which She 2119 may have to submit to a violation of her duty or of her Coronation Oath? That is dangerous ground, which ought not to be lightly entered on. My Lords, the constitutional doctrine is that the Sovereign is left to transact these matters with her responsible Advisers, and Parliament looks for a policy to the responsible Advisers alone. Further than that it is not wise for us to go. If we want a warning, have we not had it in our past history? Cannot the noble Earl remember that one of the most unfortunate circumstances that ever happened in our history was when the scruples of George III. prevented Mr. Pitt and Lord Castlereagh, as they notoriously did, from carrying out the whole of the policy they intended at the time of the Union? That is a precedent the most unhappy that could be quoted—a precedent which, whether by the advice of the noble Earl or any other, I hope no Sovereign of England will ever follow. Before I sit down I wish to refer shortly to the speech of the noble Earl on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey), because he touched on a branch of the subject on which I have expressed opinions not altogether different from his own. And here I may remark that I do not think noble Lords opposite are to be congratulated on the support given them by my noble Friend. Certainly anything more utterly opposed than the views of my noble Friend and those of the noble Earl opposite it is difficult to conceive. My position is not precisely that of my noble Friend, but it is, unhappily for me, nearer to him than that of the noble Earl opposite; and because I approach nearer to him he will no doubt entertain a stronger feeling against me. He it was who first set the question of the Irish Church in motion in the country; and now, when he finds a great party prepared to bring it to a crisis, he calls them a "motley crew;" and the noble Earl, because he finds some difference of opinion among those who upon the whole rather agree, goes at once and joins himself to those from whom he entirely differs. The noble Earl's view is, that the best system of dealing with the Churches in Ireland is by a system of concurrent endowment. Last year, when my noble Friend (Earl Russell) brought this subject under the attention of the House, I ventured to express an opinion that there were considerable advantages which might be derived from the concurrent endowment of the religious denominations in Ireland. 2120 I retain that opinion; I think there might be considerable advantages in such a plan, but no such plan can be carried into effect unless with the general concurrence of all parties and of the different religious bodies in this country. The fact of my noble Friend being in favour of such a plan, however important in itself, does not, let me assure him, decide the question. There are a large number of persons who feel deeply on this subject, and I believe the plan is not practicable. I will venture to point out in what manner the proposal has been received, because it gives your Lordships an opportunity of hearing the different views of different classes on this question. Here is the opinion of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland. They say that—Notwithstanding the rightful claim of the Catholic Church in Ireland to have restored to it the property and revenues of which it was unjustly deprived "—But here let me point out, when the argument from property is relied upon, that the Roman Catholics take a very different view of the subject from what your Lordships do. They look upon much of this property as the rightful property of the Roman Catholic Church, of which they were unjustly deprived at the time of the Reformation. Let me remind my noble Friend (Lord Redesdale), who has dwelt upon this argument, of the Bull In Cæna Domini which used to be read at Rome on a very remarkable date, "Maunday Thursday,'' and which denounces anathema on those who were concerned in depriving the Roman Catholic Church of its property. Now that denunciation exceeds in vehemence anything which is likely to fall from my noble Friend the Chairman of Committees just in proportion as the feeling of Roman Catholics is stronger than that of Protestants, however deeply the latter may feel on the subject. That is the principle of the Roman Catholic Church; but, so far as I understand it, it is not the principle of the Reformed Church. The Roman Catholic hierarchy declared—That, notwithstanding the rightful claim of the Catholic Church in Ireland to have restored to it the property and revenue of which it was unjustly deprived, the Irish Catholic Bishops hereby re-affirm the subjoined resolutions of the Bishops assembled in the years 1833, 1841, and 1843; and, adhering to the letter and spirit of those resolutions, distinctly declare that they will not accept endowment from the State out of the property and revenues now held by the Protestant Establishment, nor any State endowment whatever.2121 That is scant encouragement to those who propose the endowment of the Roman Catholic Church. Again, the Presbyterians have met and have passed the strongest resolutions setting forth their extreme abhorrence of any endowment of the Roman Catholic Church. The last quotation I shall read is equally strong to the same effect from some of the representatives of the Established Church; for a deputation which waited upon the Prime Minister from the Central Protestant Defence Association in Dublin submitted to him the following resolution:—That we strenuously oppose any attempt to endow the Roman Catholic Church or the Roman Catholic priesthood in Ireland, whether out of the so-called revenues of the Established Church or otherwise, and will use our utmost endeavours to defeat any proposition which may be made for the purpose of so endowing the Roman Catholic Church or priesthood, either directly or indirectly.So the Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and members of the Established Church, equally repudiate any such endowment. Well, then, we are driven to the alternative which my noble Friend (Earl Grey) mentioned when he said that he should prefer disestablishment to the maintenance of the existing religious inequality in Ireland. That is exactly the position which I take, and to which I think we are driven. I believe that religious inequality is the source of great evils, and may lead to still greater evils. The noble Earl said, "Why should you single out Ireland to be the one country in Europe where the voluntary principle is exclusively to prevail, and where there is to be no connection between Church and State?" I reply, "Why should you single out Ireland to be the one country in Europe in which the flagrant injustice prevails of the Church of the small minority—of one-eighth of the population—being maintained against the wishes of four-fifths of the population; a Church which, instead of being enthroned in the hearts of the nation, is looked upon as a landmark of subjection and disregard of the national sentiment?" That is a position of singularity in which it is most undesirable that the Irish Church should stand. For these reasons, I venture to support the Bill proposed by my noble Friend (Earl Granville); and I cannot do better in conclusion than quote the words of my noble Friend (Earl Grey) who moved its rejection. In 1866, speaking of the principles by which our 2122 legislation for Ireland ought to be guided, my noble Friend said—The first is, that we should legislate, as far as possible, according to the wishes of the Irish. people; and the second is, that on the important question of the Irish Church, we ought to do full and impartial justice to the Irish people, in the same spirit as, if the circumstances of the two countries were reversed, we should desire the Irish people should do to us."—[3 Hansard, clxxxii. 378.]These, my Lords, are the principles upon which I ask you to act in accepting this Bill. So long ago as the time of Queen Elizabeth, it was said by Spenser in his well-known essay upon Ireland, that no proposals meant for her good could be brought to a good end. I say, act upon principles of justice towards Ireland, dismiss old feelings and prejudices, and you may yet put an end to that fatal spell which has so long estranged from you the hearts of the Irish people.
THE BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, I cannot agree with either of the noble Earls, formerly Lords Lieutenant of Ireland, who have spoken this evening, in regretting that the noble Earl on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) was the person to move the rejection of this Bill. I think it is of the greatest importance that a question such as this should be lifted out of the region of party politics; and, in my opinion the noble Earl has done good service in drawing the attention of the country to the importance of discussing this question quite independently of such party considerations. The noble Earl opposite me (Earl Granville) referred to some words which fell from me on a former occasion, and which I regret that he misunderstood as insinuating improper motives on the part of the originator of this Bill "elsewhere." Far be it from me to impute such motives to one for whose ability and character it is impossible not to entertain the highest admiration. What I did mean to say was that the circumstances under which this great question has been brought before the country have been such as to raise in the minds of many a feeling that it has been made more of a party question than is desirable, seeing it involves so many great and sacred interests. I trust that in discussing this question I shall approach it with an earnest desire to act in a spirit, not only of justice but, of conciliation towards those who are supposed to be oppressed by the existence of the Established Church in Ireland. I think I may say, 2123 in the name of my right rev. Brethren, that every concession which it is right to make we are quite ready to make; but we are not convinced that the particular measure which lies before us is likely to benefit either Ireland or the Empire. In the course of this debate we have heard very little about the Bill. Indeed, I doubt whether, short as it is, the Bill has been carefully read, except by a few persons here present. The Bill is a very short one, but it is not so unimportant as the noble Earl who moved its adoption seemed to think. It does not appear to me to be, as has been said, a mere corollary of the Resolutions passed in the other House of Parliament. The noble Earl on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) pointed out that, whether intentionally or not, it is so devised as to kill the Irish Church by a lingering death. Now, it is generally declared that the Bill is founded upon the precedent of the Act of 1833. I altogether deny that statement. What was done in 1833? At that time Parliament deliberately considered what changes should be made in the Irish Church, and they embodied those changes in an Act specifying certain sees which were not to be filled up, and declaring that the occupants of certain other sees were to perform all the spiritual duties of the lapsed bishoprics. There was no suspension of spiritual functions in the Irish Church. Everything was regularly provided for. But what is proposed here is that after August, 1868—and probably for an indefinite period—there shall be no appointment whatever in the Irish Church; and I maintain that no provision is made for carrying on the spiritual concerns of any diocese which may fall vacant in the meantime. No doubt I shall be told of the clause which in case of vacancies embodies certain provisions in the Act of 1833. But who is the person to act in case of a vacancy? Not a Bishop at all. He is the dean, the vicar general or the archdeacon; and by the Act of 1833 he is not called upon to carry on the spiritual work of the diocese but to refer certain things to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and do certain things which are in no way a carrying on of spiritual work in the diocese. What I maintain is, that, whereas the Act of 1833 provided for the complete performance of spiritual duties in the diocese, the measure now before your Lordships is so constructed, whether per incuriam or from malice prepense, that it entirely stops, and that for an indefinite time, the action of 2124 the Church in whatever diocese may fall vacant. Now, let us suppose that within the period specified in this Bill the diocese of Dublin becomes vacant. I hope that my most rev. Brother may preside over that diocese when this Bill is forgotten; but if a vacancy should occur there who is to administer the spiritual affairs of that great Protestant community? Everything will be thrown into confusion; and on that ground alone I should oppose the Bill in its present form. But this Bill is totally different from any other Suspensory Bill I ever heard of. What is a Suspensory Bill? We are told that one is to be laid before us with reference to Jamaica; and it will, no doubt, as in other Suspensory Bills, say that any person appointed to any office after a certain time will take that office subject to any pecuniary changes which may be hereafter made by Parliament. So in the case of a Suspensory Bill proposed with regard to certain offices connected with education; but there is no example, so far as I know, for saying in a matter which concerns a great and important body like the Irish Church that, whereas five-sixths of the livings, benefices and dignities in Ireland are in public patronage, no future appointments are to be made to these offices. The Bill is really one which in this single clause provides for the abolition of the Irish Church, and whether you mean disestablishment or disendowment is, therefore, a matter of little importance. Let me now refer to another suspension, which has not been mentioned in the course of the debate—namely, that proposed in the Bill in the case of the College of Maynooth. The Bill deals in a more kindly spirit with the interests of Maynooth than with those of the Established Church. Instead of saying that no man is to be appointed to any office at Maynooth, the Bill says—as ought to be said in regard to the Established Church—that the persons who might be appointed should hold office subject to any pecuniary arrangement which might hereafter be made by Parliament. And not only is that so with respect to the Roman Catholics but also with respect to the lawyers. There are certain ecclesiastical lawyers who must always be thought of in these cases. They likewise are under a suspensory provision; but the way in which they are treated is that their pecuniary interests are to be subject to the revision of Parliament, but the offices are still to be continued and persons appointed to 2125 them. This shows us that there must be some mistake somewhere as to the mode in which this Bill has been drawn up, and it confirms the impression which the noble Earl on the cross-Benches expressed, that it is a hurried piece of legislation of which few can tell the result if it should be carried, But now with regard to the general principle on which alone this Bill, even if altered and its defects removed, can be justified—namely, that it is desirable to disestablish the Irish Church—there is a great difficulty in knowing what is meant by disestablishment. But, besides that, it surely is not a thing to be adopted without having some plan before us. How in the world is a body like this House to give its assent to a mere name, without, understanding what is intended by it? What the noble Earl on the cross-Benches called on your Lordships to require was that the scheme should be produced; and when produced I am sure there is no Member of the right rev. Bench who will not be glad to give it his full consideration in the hope that some satisfactory solution of the very difficult questions connected with the Irish Church may be arrived at. But, my Lords, to disestablish and disendow the Irish Church does not, I confess, appear to me, so far as I can form any notion of the process, a measure which is likely to do good to Ireland. The noble Earl referred to the case of Canada, and mentioned in glowing terms the great success that had attended the Canadian Church after it had undergone that process; but I do not know that the Canadian Church has ever been disestablished. According to my understanding of that case it was this—that whereas the clergy in Canada were in possession of certain lands, by a Bill brought into Parliament those lands were commuted for a money payment of some eighteen years' purchase; and it was generally understood that a very good bargain had been made by the Canadian clergy, who were quite willing to accept the arrangement, and who found themselves in pretty nearly as comfortable a position as they occupied before the change. There was a transmutation of their lands for a large sum of money vested in the Church So eiety, which paid them good interest for it. Thus far as regards the disendowment of the Canadian Church. Then as to its disestablishment. I know that the present Bishop of Montreal was appointed by the Crown; and I believe until very recently every Bishop was appointed by the 2126 Crown. I know that a recent Act of the Canadian Legislature enables the Church to carry on its affairs; but I do not know that there is not still an appeal from its Courts to the Privy Council at home. I do not believe anyone can say for certain that that power of appeal is destroyed in the Canadian Church. Therefore, this disendowment and disestablishment of the Canadian Church is certainly very unlike the position which many of those who have been most anxious to press forward this question—I do not say their Leader—have contemplated as the future position of the Irish Church. As to the Church in Australia, its Bishops are still appointed by the Crown. Are we to understand that after the Irish Church is disestablished and disendowed the Crown is still to go on appointing its Bishops? If so, I do not think the Roman Catholics will find themselves to be in a very different position from that which they now occupy. In fact, there is such a confusion of thought as to the proposition that it is impossible for anyone to tell what it means; and your Lordships are almost asked to assent to a scheme without having it explained to yon what it intends. And, my Lords, I must doubt whether the Irish people are really anxious for this measure, whatever it may be. Where is the proof that they are anxious for it? The Irish people are to be considered in two aspects. I suppose there is no doubt there is a large body of agitators in every country, and that in Ireland there are more of them than exist elsewhere. Those agitators in Ireland are to be divided into two classes—some of them are political, some ecclesiastical agitators; but the body of industrious, honest, and moderate men who are the mainstay of every country, whether they be Catholics or Protestants—where is the proof that they are in favour of this measure? I know that a document has been published declaiming against the Protestant Establishment; and I know that when a manifesto like this is put forward it becomes a question of honour, and it is difficult for persons to desert their co-religionists by refusing to put their names to the document; still, I believe that the great body of the moderate Roman Catholics of Ireland are not in favour of this proposal. I believe most fully, with the noble Earl, that there are no persons who benefit more by the existence of the Established Church in Ireland than the moderate Roman Catholic body. Your 2127 Lordships are aware that a great change has occurred lately, not only in Ireland but in the whole of Europe, with regard to the position and the sentiments of the Roman Catholic body; that in every country perhaps of Europe there is a growing progress of the Ultramontane party—that so influential are they even in this country that they were able, not long since, to silence the Home and Foreign Review, a work conducted by some of the ablest and most liberal Roman Catholics in the country. And where the Roman Catholics are left entirely under the dominion of the Ultramontane party, there they cease to retain their liberties. The existence of a power like the Established Church in Ireland is by no means unfavourable to their liberty. But, my Lords, I do not know why the feelings of the Protestants of Ireland are to be left out of view in considering whether this measure is desirable or not. Your Lordships may have seen a book written by one of the Masters in Chancery in Ireland, and read the testimony he bears to the way in which the Protestants of that country form the marrow, the sinews, and, indeed, the life of its industry. Is it then to be thought that if this measure is looked upon by them as a slight and an injury we are to pay no heed to their feelings? I believe that what Ireland wants is peace and quietness, and the carrying forward of that admirable policy which has been going on ever since the late Earl Grey was Prime Minister of this country—the policy of gradually bringing up together those who have hitherto been estranged in a combined system of education, which the persons you desire to gratify are determined to destroy—a combined system of education both for the poorer and the upper classes. Who are the opponents of the national system of education in Ireland but this Ultramontane party, who alone seem to be satisfied with this measure? Who are the great enemies of the Queen's Colleges, and of the combined system of education in them, but that very party? So that those measures which seem to me the best remedial measures for Ireland will be inevitably stopped by the triumph of that party. As to the future of Ireland, my hope for it is that Parliament, calmly considering all the difficulties of the case, hearing the Report of the Commissioners, which is likely to be laid before us in the course of the next month, should make such changes as are dictated 2128 by a desire for conciliation and for justice—the Established Church in Ireland still continuing, perhaps on a very modified scale, to do its work in the same way as now, but with greater facilities from there being no sinecures left in the whole Church—doing its work, I say, much in the same spirit as now; for I was glad to hear the testimony of the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) who has left the House, and the high opinion he had formed during his Viceroyalty of the manner in which the clergy of Ireland did their work. He fell, indeed, into the common error that the Church was inefficient because it does not make converts, and he talked of sending over civil engineers or commissioners as more fitted for the wants of Ireland than a clergyman. I regret that he used such words. If the Irish parish clergyman is a man of Christian character, known to the whole of his neighbours as a good man, a charitable man, looking on his Catholic and Protestant parishioners in the same kindly spirit, my Lords, I believe that is the sort of person who does more in the way of conciliation by his bounty out of the smallness of his store, than all the civil engineers or other agents who could be sent out from England to ameliorate the condition of the people. I trust for the sake of the poor in the desolate parts of Ireland that these, their best friends, will not be removed from among them. Remove if you please those who have almost no parishioners, or join their parishes to others; make whatever change you like in the dioceses—but do not say you will disestablish, disendow, and destroy their Church. I believe if such changes were made in a wise and conciliatory spirit, we should have every hope of seeing Ireland pursue that course of prosperity which, with whatever accidental interruptions, has now been proceeding for some thirty years. If, on the other hand, you rashly destroy an ancient institution without any reason assigned, except that you wish to establish religious equality, which is perfectly impossible in dealing with the Roman Catholic Church, you are likely to produce far more harm than good. As to religious equality, there can be no equality between a disendowed Protestant body and a powerful Roman Catholic body with a foreign Prince at its head, who has the power of conferring titles of honour, and placing the chief dignitaries of his Church in a position which no clergyman of a disendowed Protestant Church can 2129 possibly assume. It is vain therefore to say that you are simply going to remove the Established Church and bring about religious equality. What you are going to do if you do not take care is this—to hand over Ireland altogether to the Roman Catholic Church, leaving the Protestant Church to do its work as best it can, principally supported by contributions from societies in England. In the course of a short time in three-fourths of Ireland; the Protestant religion, I do not say will disappear for it will not do that, but it will be maintained by great effort; whereas you will have the rival and dominant Church in the most exaggerated form of its doctrines, most difficult for you to manage, always working on to the further questions of the land and of the repeal of I the Union.
§ On the Motion of Lord LYTTELTON,
§ Further debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at half past Twelve o'clock, A.M., till half past Ten o'clock.