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State of the Cabinet on Irish Ecclesiastical questions-Mr. Ward's Motion for a Reduction of the Irish Church Establishment-Schism in the Ministry on the subject of the appropriation of Church Revenues Resignation of Mr. Stanley, Sir James Graham, the Duke of Richmond, and Earl of Ripon―The King's Declaration in favour of the Church-Commission issued to inquire into the Irish Church-Debate on Mr. Ward's Motion--Discussion in the House of Lords regarding the Issuing of the Commission-Resolutions by Government concerning Tithes in Ireland, proposed-Opposition of the Agitators-Bill founded on the Resolutions brought in-Debate on the Second Reading-Alterations made in the Bill to conciliate the Irish Opposition-Debate on Motion, by Mr. O'Connell, to appropriate Church Revenues to purposes of Public Utility-Farther Alterations introduced into the Bill-Debate on the New Resolution proposed by Government.
N opposing an open and de
demand of the Irish agitators for a repeal of the union, ministers carried along with them the sense and feeling of the people; that was a question on which no man differed from the government, except O'Connell and his followers. The questions connected with the Irish church stood in a different situation. The agitators supported the repeal of the union, not more as being a measure which would tend to perpetuate their own domination, than as one which would secure the downfal of the Protestant establishment. Many, likewise, who resisted repeal, demanded changes and curtailments in that establishment, which they considered to be the principal cause of all the turbulence and misery that disfigured
Ireland. Others, who disliked it,
but because it was a religious establishment, inveighed against what they termed the unhallowed connexion between church and state, and the practical injustice of compelling men of one belief to contribute to the support of the institutions of a different creed; and they were ready to attack the revenues, or even the existence, of the church of Ireland, as the first step towards assailing the churches of England and Scotland. Union in the cabinet, with an honest resolution not to be driven farther than they would themselves have been inclined to go, would have rendered the ministry sufficiently strong to resist successfully these destroying reformers; but the cabinet unfortunately was, on this question at least,
the chosen abode of dissension. When ministers introduced, in the preceding session, the bill for regulating the church of Ireland, which passed into a law, they had not announced any intention of following it up, within a few months, by a measure founded on a different and a fatal principle, which would confiscate the property of the church, or part of its property, to other than Protestant ecclesiastical purposes. From that very bill they had withdrawn a clause which bore this character; and, by doing so, they had incurred the reproaches of the heterogeneous mass of church reformers. One portion, and numerically the strongest portion, of the ministry, now seemed inclined to yield the contested ground, and admit the principle, that the revenues of the Irish church should be pared down to a proportion approaching more nearly to that which its members bore in numbers to those of the church of Rome. The minority, on the other hand, however willing they might be to remove striking and useless inequalities in the distribution of that revenue, or to adopt measures which would prevent irritating collisions in its collection, resisted, on principle, any appropriation of it to other purposes, and above all, refused to acquiesce in any proposal for making the efficiency of the Protestant establishment depend on the comparative strength or weakness of the opposing church. This discordance of opinion, and the impropriety of so soon impugning the settlement of last session, would have prevented ministers from voluntarily starting the question. Even the majority
amongst them were more ready to concede than to originate. They would not of themselves have headed the march against the church, though they might be disposed to fall into the ranks, in order to secure the countenance of a numerous and noisy party, who made up in fury and zeal for their infinite deficiencies in knowledge and discretion, and who objected to them, moreover, that, in attempting to shield the Irish church, they were apostatizing from the great principles of reform.
That party, however, forced the question upon them. On the 27th of May, Mr. Ward, one of the members for St. Alban's, moved a resolution declaratory of the justice and necessity of immediately depriving the church of Ireland of part of its temporalities. In supporting his proposition, he contended, that vital and extensive changes in the church of Ireland had now become unavoidable on grounds of mere expediency. The tithe system was the source of all the disorganization that prevailed in Ireland. Resistance to it had become almost universal, extending from the north to the south, comprehending Protestants as well as Catholics, and threatening a determined opposition to all legal dues. Mere commutation would effect no good: nothing less than a new appropriation of church property would produce even a momentary calm. The great grievance consisted in the levying of tithes on a Catholic population for the support of a Protestant church; and this could not be cured by any change merely in the manner of collecting the impost. The system too, of ad
vances and repayments had been tried only to fail. The crown had assumed the character of creditor; but it had found the debtors no less impracticable than when the demand was made by the clergyman. It had been able to collect only 12,000l. at an expense of 26,000l.; combined and violent resistance had continued; and government had been compelled, in the preceding session, to purchase a truce by granting another million. That truce would expire on the 1st of November, when the clergy must either return to the old system, or again become a burthen on the resources of the country. Military force and civil process had proved equally ineffectual. Between 1825 and 1832, the military force maintained in Ireland had varied from 19,000 to 23,000, being as nearly as possible the same amount of force that was required for the whole of our Indian empire, and within one-third of the force required to occupy all our colonies in the other three quarters of the world. This army had cost the country, during the last year, up wards of a million of money, besides the annually increasing expense of a police force, amounting to nearly 300,000l. Civil process had not been more effectual, though it appeared, from a return ordered in 1822, that during the five preceding years, 17,981 tithe causes had been heard annually in ecclesiastical courts, or at quarter sessions before the assistant barristers. Large sums, likewise, had been granted to schools and institutions which had Protestant proselytism for their main object; but the religion of the people of Ireland seemed to be rendered
dearer to them, not more by every attempt to shake its hold on their affections, than by the flagrant abuses of the established church itself, of which none was more striking than the disproportion between its wealth and numbers, and the small fraction of the population which profited by this oppression of the whole.
By the census of 1831, continued Mr. Ward, the population of Ireland was 7,767,404; it might now be taken, in round numbers, at eight millions. Not one-fourteenth of that number adhered to the communion of the established church. He had returns from the different counties, taken, he said, without the slightest regard to party, furnished by persons of whom he had endeavoured to ascertain that their accuracy might be relied on. These returns comprehended 70 parishes, which comprised a population of 329,000 Catholics, and only 14,057 Protestants. The average of Protestants to Catholics in all the parishes was 1 to 23; in some it was 1 to 40; in others, 1 to 95, and even 1 to 134. He therefore felt justified in assuming, that Episcopal Protestants did not exceed one-fourteenth of the whole population; and consequently the magnificent establishment of the Irish church was kept up to supply the religious wants of only 600,000 persons. It was kept up, too, at an expense of nearly 1,000,000l.; for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he stated all the ecclesiastical revenue last session at about 600,000l., should have added more than one half on account of the glebe lands. The true estimate stood thus:
Glebes attached to Benefices, and not included in returns
120,680 23,606 135,500 657,670
Deans and Chapters
Returns of Tithes
which was the maximum. There were 407 livings varying from 4007. to 800l. per annum; and 386 livings exceeding 2007., which was the maximum of remuneration amongst the Presbyterians of Munster. No wonder that nonresidence should exist where there were so many men and so little work. In 1819, a return had been made of non-residents, from which it appeared that there were, in 1814, 664 residents, 543 nonresidents; in 1817, 665 residents, 544 non-residents; in 1819, 758 residents, and 531 non-residents. There were non-residents by exemption; non-residents by dispensation, faculty, and license; nonresidents without dispensation, faculty, or license; and miscel
laneous non-residents. With regard to the resident clergy, some of them did the duty for the most trifling remuneration, in some cases so low as 187. a-year; but, taking the whole of the residents as averaging 70l. a-year each, what sort of feeling was it calculated to create in Ireland, when men saw the whole actual work of that wealthy church done for comparatively so small a sum? There was no better reason for having divines without congregations, than for having boroughs returning members who had no constituents. He did not mean, however, to abolish the establishment altogether; what he wished was, to do away with the glaring disparity between the scales of duties and compensation; he
would not give 8007. or 1,000l. ayear to the rector of a parish containing only ten or twelve Protestants, and even these forming, as in many cases they did, merely the family of the rector or vicar, brought into the parish for that very purpose. In cases where only the remnant of a Protestant flock existed, provision might be made for a curate, without going to the expense of a rector. The income of a Presbyterian clergyman in Dublin, Armagh, Newry, Belfast, and the adjoining districts, varied from 250l. to 500l. a-year, and averaged throughout the country 1601. The government allowance was divided into three classes, allotting to one 100%., to another 75l., and to another 551. a-year. In the established church of Scotland, the minimum payment was 150, but generally, in the country districts, 1801., and 2001. a-year. Some few were 2501., but none exceeded 3001. yet where were the duties of the pastor more faithfully performed, or the ministers of religion more loved and respected, than in Scotland? He thought, therefore, he should not deal illiberally with episcopacy in proposing, as a fit scale of remuneration, a provision as ample as that which was received by the Presbyterian clergyman in the north of Ireland, and the whole Protestant clergy of Scotland. He intended to accomplish this object by means of commissioners, giving them the power of assigning certain salaries in particular cases, under the control of parliament, which was to fix the cases, and the amount of salaries to be given. A strong proof of the facility with which this could be carried into execution, might be found in France, where provision was made in the budget of every year for all
ministers, without distinction of religions. All that was required was, a notification to the minister of the interior, under certain forms, on which he assigned a certain sum out of the taxes. Under existing circumstances, he thought it might be a very fair question whether, in the case of Ireland, it would not be wise to apply some portion of the church income to the decent support of the ministers of the various religions prevailing in that country. Mr. Ward admitted, however, that he could not ask the house to accede to this, or to any other plan, if parliament did not possess the right of laying hands on the property of the church; but that right he maintained to be unquestionable. An argument against it had been drawn from the tenth article of the treaty of union, but the true inference went in an opposite direction. That article provided "that the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the said United church," not a word about temporalities,' "shall be, and shall remain, in full force for ever, as the same are now established for the church of England." In 1825, indeed, no less a statesman than Mr. Canning had said, that the argument of the union was conclusive, not only against reduction but inquiry; and the same line of argument had been followed by sir Robert Peel. But, without indulging in casuistry, or special pleading, he thought that, coupling the declaration of Mr. Pitt, in his speech before the union, with the omission of the word
temporalities' in the act of union, he had a right to assume that it was not the intention of the government of that day to include the temporalities of the Irish Church.