The Captain’s opinions of Church Establishments in general—of that of Ireland in particular.-Archbishops and shoulder-knots.-Increase of the Catholic population.—Diminution of the Protestant.—Wealth of the Church.—First Fruits.-Church Rates.-Preliminary articles of a negotiation between the Captain and the Church.
“By Jupiter Ammon,” says Clincher junr. in the play, “all my religion is gone, since I put on these fine clothes;” and just so has it happened, since the time of Constantine, to every creed that has assumed the pomp and splendour of Establishment:—what it has gained in wealth and worldly power, it has lost in purity and spiritual usefulness.
That principle of exclusion, too, on which all sects are more or less founded, though comparatively harmless when applied to the world to come, is, when brought into play in the concerns of this life, and backed by the strength of a secular ally, productive of no ordinary inconvenience and mischief.
As long as Popery had the whole Christian world to herself, and the same livery of belief was worn by all, this peculiar evil of Establishments had not yet developed itself. But when the Reformation, unclasping the sacred book, invited every man to read it by the light of his own reason, such a multiplicity of creeds and opinions sprung up through Europe, as made the selection of any one, to be the sole, exclusive partner of the State, a choice as pregnant with discord as that of the Shepherd of Ida himself.
And here began the interminable mischief of Establishments. The Romish Church, strong in primogeniture and possession, held fast by her majorat of power wherever she could, and employed all her old inquisitorial arts to maintain it. The Reformed Faith, while professing to stand up for freedom of opinion, still retained the old Popish antipathy to dissent; and when she said, “I leave you free to interpret the Scriptures as you think proper,” added, “but I will disfranchise, imprison, and occasionally burn you, if you do not interpret them in the same sense that I do.”
Hence sprung those struggles between rulers and their subjects—that war of the two principles, Force and Opinion, which, at first religious, and then, by a natural transition, political, has spread itself like wildfire every where, and is at present agitating the whole world.
From this statement it will readily be concluded, that I consider a Church Establishment eminently calculated to serve the cause of discord, in whatever form it exists, and as it exists in Ireland, supereminently so. In all other countries, the laws of reason and nature are so far consulted in this institution, that the creed of the majority of the people has been the religion adopted by the State; and so essential does Paley consider this arrangement to the first object of an Establishment—the religious instruction of the people*—that, according to this sensible Divine, “it is the duty of the magistrate, in the choice of the religion which he establishes, to consult the faith of the nation, rather than his own,” and—still more strongly to the point in question—“if the Dissenters from the Establishment become the majority of the people, the Establishment itself ought to be altered or qualified**.”
In Ireland, however,—where everything is done (as astronomers say) in antecedentia, or, contrary to the order of the signs,—so completely has this obvious policy been reversed, that the Church of about 500,000 persons out of a population of seven millions, is not only chosen and crowned as the sole Sultana of the State, but the best interests of the State itself are sacrificed to her pride, and a whole people turned into slaves and beggars for her triumph.
The present Archbishop of Dublin, in his celebrated Charge, pronounces the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland to be “a Church without a Religion,”—meaning, I presume, not that such names as Fenelon and Sir Thomas More are to be erased altogether from the page of Christianity, but that we poor Irish Papists, having no well-paid Archbishoprics, are therefore without a religion—“That fellow has no soul,—where is his shoulder-knot?”
But what will such haughty Ecclesiastics say, when, by the operation of causes which seem as progressive as time itself, this people of Catholics whom they insult so wantonly,—whose number is at this moment as great as that of the Protestants of England in 1688, and who are, in spite of misery and Malthus, every hour increasing—shall, like the disloyal waves dashing round the feet of Canute, encroach still further on their sacred precinct—when this Church without a Religion shall have left them a Church without a Laity, and when one who inquires, “Where is the Protestant People of Ireland?” may receive nearly the same answer as that Inspecting Colonel, who, on asking, “Where is the Donegall Light Troop?” was answered by a solitary voice, “Here I am, your Honnour!”
*Because, as he justly says, “more efficacy is to be expected from an order of men appointed to teach the people their own religion, than to convert them to another.”
Warburton, too, lays down the same self-evident rule, that “where there are several religions existing in a State, the State should naturally ally itself with the largest.”—Alliance between Church and State.
**The Bishop of Cloyne (Woodward), in quoting this opinion, considers it “decisive against the Protestant Church in Ireland.”
The rapidity, indeed, with which the proportion of Protestants to Catholics has diminished and is still diminishing, seems nothing less than a judgement—a judgement of insulted Nature upon that perverse and vicious policy, which dares to set itself in array against the wants and wishes of a whole nation, and, like the absurd people mentioned by AElian, who opposed the coming-in of the sea with shields and swords, thinks to stop the great current of nature by means of penal statutes and bayonets.
One of those Reverend Orange pamphleteers, who are at present so busy at their old favourite task, of insulting and calumniating the people from whom they derive their wealth, affects to consider this smallness of the Protestant population as rather a lucky and providential circumstance. “There are,” he says, “certain compensatory advantages, which may diminish, if not remove, the regrets of a statesman, that the sphere of the Established Church has not hitherto been wider. It was necessary that the aristocracy of this country—the aristocracy, not of wealth and power only, but of spirit, industry and intelligence—should be entirely devoted to England, and should comprehend, in their love of it, every thing that was English*,” &c. &c.
“Our Church is great, because it is so small-
Then it were greater, were it none at all.”
And to this Euthanasia it must speedily come—unless, in conformity to Paley’s wise advice, such alterations and modifications are promptly made, as shall, by diminishing its powers of mischief, delay, if not wholly avert, the catastrophe.
In the mean time, if what Tissot says be true, that “tout ce qui hâte les battemens du coeur fait qu’il battra moins long tems,” every violent display of vigour—such as an Archbishop charging, at the head of his clergy, right into the midst of six millions of people—or, in a humbler way, a Reverend gentleman, like Mr. Fitzgibbon, ordering a party of soldiers into the church-yard, and attacking at once both the quick and the dead—all such perilous manifestations of redundant vigour ought, in the present plethoric and ticklish state of the Irish Church, to be avoided as dangerous: and this hint, though from an enemy, will, it is hoped, not be despised.
*“Case of the Church of Ireland stated, by Declan.” This Reverend pamphleteer has had the sagacity to discover some dark design against Church and State in the following lines of one of Moore’s Melodies, which he has thus marked in Italics in order to render the awfulness of the menace more striking:
Then blame not the bard, if in pleasure’s soft dream
He should try to forget what he never can heal;
Oh give but a hope—let a vista but gleam
Through the gloom of his country, and mark what he’ll feel.
This is like old Croaker, in Goldsmith’s play, discovering a threat of arson in a love-letter: “Blood and gunpowder in every line of it! Little Cupid indeed! Go to the devil, you and your little Cupid together; I’m so frightened I scarce know whether I sit, stand, or go.”
To return to the subject of Population:—Even in the North of Ireland, which was, not many years since, the strong hold of Protestantism, emigration and intermarriage with Catholics have so far diminished its numerical preponderance, that in many places the scale now leans considerably the other way. About sixty years ago, as we are told in Stewart’s History of Armagh, the manor of Newry contained twice as many Protestants as Catholics; and, at present, the latter are to Protestants, of all denominations, as three to one. In Belfast too, where about the same time back, there were not in the town and its neighbourhood more than 300 Catholics, there are now, it seems, at least 3500, who attend the two Roman Catholic chapels in that town. In some parishes of the North, indeed, the proportion of the Roman Catholics has become almost as overwhelming as in the South; thus in the parish of Clonmany, in the Diocese of Derry, I find the population rated at 85 Protestants, 40 Dissenters, and 4650 Catholics!
In the South, of course, the disproportion is still more strikingly increasing. According to a return made in 1733, by the collectors of the Hearth-money, the Catholics were to the Protestants in Kerry in the proportion of 12 to 1;—and when Mr. Wakefield visited Kerry in 1808, he was informed that the proportion of Catholics was “as 100 to 1, or perhaps more.” The same writer has given the following account of the United parishes of Kilbarry and Donagh-Patrick, in the county of Meath, “as furnished to him by the Rev. John Fay, P. P. of the said parishes:”
In 1797, Protestants 51 Catholics, 3750
In 1811, do. 15 do. 4120
In the Report of a Committee on the State of Popery in 1731 it was stated that in the County of Mayo the Catholics were to the Protestants as 12 to 1. “We may very well believe,” says Mr. Newenham, “that this proportion has nearly doubled since that time.”
It appears, by Bishop Pocock’s census in the year 1781, that there were at that time in the parish of Tullaroan, county of Kilkenny, 64 Protestants and 616 Roman Catholicsand, in 1818, the numbers were only 5 Protestants* and 2455 Catholics. It is worthy of remark, too, as explaining the way in which this enormous defection from the Establishment takes place, that in this parish, which forms a part of the Union of Callan, (comprising six rectories and six vicarages,) there is no church, and that, during one incumbency, 140 persons went over from the Protestant to the Catholic Faith**.
I could bring many other instances; but these will be fully sufficient to prove that, every where throughout Ireland, by a sort of natural tendency, the waters, on which the ark of the Establishment rides, are ebbing from beneath it with a degree of rapidity, which threatens, ere long, to leave it dry and motionless***.
*See the “Statistical Account of Tullaroan,” by the Rev. Robert Shaw, in Mr. Shaw Mason’s Parochial Survey. “There are,” he says, “but two Protestant families, consisting of five individuals, in the parish, one of whom settled there only last summer.” We have here, too, a proof of the self-frustrating power, which the Penal spirit is fated to contain within it. In this very parish, where Protestantism has thus melted away, “it appears by the old leases, that in the purchases made from ‘the Hollow-blade Company’ it was stipu. lated that the grounds should be let to Protestants only.” Id.
**In relating an instance of a much rarer sort of conversion, that of a Catholic to the Protestant Church, an Irish newspaper some time ago committed the following whimsical erratum:—“Yesterday Lord Dunboyne renounced the errors of the Popish faith and embraced those of the Established Religion.”
***Seneca tells us that when a proposition was once made to the Roman Senate, that slaves should be distinguished by a particular dress from freemen, it was instantly felt what danger might arise, if the slaves should by this meansbe enabled to numbertheirmasters:—“deinde apparuit quantum periculum immineret, si servi nostri numerare nos capissent.”—De Clementia.
That the same sort of alarm is felt among our Orange masters, appears by the following extract from a letter written by the late Catholic Archbishop of Dublin in the year 1811—“A complete enumeration of the inhabitants of Ireland, distinguishing their respective religious creeds, cannot be effected without the sanction or permission of Government, which the present Administration will not permit. The partial enumeration referred to by Mr. Newenham, excited uneasiness in the minds of the Ascendancy and Orange partisans, who represented them as records of Catholic numbers to threaten the smaller number of Protestants. A similar enumeration even in a single parish must be conducted with caution and delicacy.”
With such results before our eyes of the old and long-tried system of Catholic exclusion and Protestant ascendancy, I can only say, “God comfort their capacities,” who can hope for any better effects from the same system in future; or who, with a real danger of their own making full before them, can conjure up imaginary ones to divert their attention from it. A sailor, who would first scuttle the boat in which he is embarked, and then lustily cry out “Fire!” as he is going down, would show just as rational a consciousness of his situation as they do.
Let us now see how the Church, that has the care of these few select souls—these “âmes choisies” of the Establishment—is paid for its important guardianship.
It is by no means wonderful that the startling statements which have appeared, of the enormous revenues of the Church of Ireland, should have been received with some degree of incredulity as well as surprise. When, in addition to her usual share of the produce of a country which feeds seven millions of people, we hear of this Church possessing estates to the extent of two millions of acres—when it is stated, that in one Diocese alone (that of Derry) the Church property, over and above the tenth part of the gross produce of the land, must be worth not much short of three millions*—we can hardly conceive it possible that such monstrous wealth should have been suffered by any Government, however absurd, to accumulate in the hands of the teachers of so small a part of the population; nor can well understand by what process, even of Irish exaction, an establishment so preposterously, so insultingly rich, can have been spun out of the entrails of the very poorest people in Europe. Indeed, the old notion of extracting sun-beams from cucumbers, seems rivalled by the art with which this Church has contrived, to extort splendour and magnificence out of a population of paupers.
That there has been some exaggeration with respect to the value of Irish Bishoprics, I am not disposed to deny. Mr. Wakefield and, still more, the author of “The Consumption of Wealth by the Clergy,” have needlessly over-stated the incomes of some of these Reverend Personages”, whose prosperity is already sufficiently florid, without the aid of any such additional colouring. The suspicious refusal of the Church itself, to furnish a full and regular account of its revenues, has hitherto made it difficult to arrive at much accuracy on the subject; and leaves every statement of the wealth of the Irish Clergy open to the same convenient charge of incorrectness and exaggeration. With a similar feeling, Dr. Beaufort, one of their body, having at first intended, in his Ecclesiastical Map of Ireland, to mark with a particular colour the lands belonging to the Church, found the space through which this sacred line meandered so vast, that thinking it wiser, like Dogberry, to “give God thanks and make no boast,” he cancelled this betraying line altogether, and published his Ecclesiastical Map without it.
*The present Archbishop of Cashel, whose opinions are entitled to every respect, and whose candour an liberality furnish an example, well worthy of imitation, to his brethren of all ranks, has in a late Charge endeavoured to remove the impression that exists, with respect to the excessive wealth of the Church of Ireland. His Grace, however, has done little more than refute the errors of a writer already acknowledged to be erroneous, and has left the chief grounds, upon which the received notion of the riches of the Irish Church rests, wholly unshaken.
The returns of Glebe Lands, however, are among the authentic documents before the public, on which a pretty competent notion of the great wealth of the Irish Church may be formed. When to these we add the estimates of their own incomes, brought forward by the Incumbents during the late proceedings under thenew Tithe Bill, and fully justifying the high average of 800l. per annum, at which the benefices of Ireland have been rated*—when we know, too, that three Archbishops, who have died since the Union, (Agar, Porter, and Fowler,) have left behind them, though possessing originally nothing of their own, no less a sum than 800,000l.—we shall be inclined to conclude that the statements which have appeared, of the immense possessions of this Church, are not far beyond the truth; and may add to the other monstrous anomalies of which Ireland is the victim, that of a Clergy better paid for not teaching six-sevenths of the population, than the Clergy of any other country in Europe are for instructing the whole of theirs!
*According to an accurate return made to Mr. Newenham in 1809, the value of the 56 benefices in the Diocese of Cloyne amounted to upwards of 40,000l. a year; and, at the same time, “in the small Diocese of Ross there were eight benefices worth 1,000l a year each and upwards.”
With respect to the way in which this unparalleled wealth is employed, we have already seen, in a preceding chapter upon Education, how few scruples have been felt by either Bishops or Clergy, in releasing themselves from the obligation to contribute to the charges of Public Schools, which the laws and their own oaths so solemnly impose upon them. Their evasion, too, of the payment of First Fruits exhibits altogether—both on the part of the Church which profits by such conduct, and the Government which sanctions it—such a magnanimous contempt of justice, consistency, and even common decency, that, in putting on record the examples of dishonesty and rapacity, which have been set before us by our betters, both lay and ecclesiastical, this certainly deserves a high and most conspicuous place.
The First Fruits, it is well known, are the first year’s income of every ecclesiastical dignity or benefice—and were paid to the Crown from the time of the Reformation till the reign of Queen Anne, when they were given up to form a Fund for the increase of small livings and the purchase of glebes. Although, in the Statute of Henry VIII., which appropriated these revenues to the Crown, there was a provision made for revising, from time to time, that valuation of ecclesiastical preferments under which they were then paid, this old rate, notwithstanding the great rise in the value of Church property, has continued to regulate the payment of First Fruits ever since—the same Clergy, who are so anxious to keep pace with the increasing wealth of the times in what they receive, preferring rather to abide by the antiquated valuation in what they give.
The consequence of this is, that the Fund in question, which may be estimated in England, I believe, at about 12,000l. a year, is found to be altogether inadequate to its purposes; and, unless (as the Bishop of Landaff recommended) a new valuation of benefices is made, and the Bishops and rich Pluralists* compelled to pay real First Fruits and Tenths, some hundreds of years, it is computed**, must elapse, before the operation of Queen Anne’s Fund alone shall have raised the value of the smaller livings, even a single degree above the starving temperature.
*The only tax that I know at present upon Pluralists is their being shut up in a room at Lambeth, on receiving a second living, and compelled to write a Latin Essay upon one of four given subjects. This, to some of these Reverend persons, who are just classical enough (like the Divine mentioned by Balzac) to mistake “Seneca de Beneficiis” for a work on Church Livings, must be, in no ordinary degree, incom” venient—except that, indeed, criticism is bound to be indulgent to the works of Pluralists, on the rule laid down so clearly by Horace:—“ubi Plura nitent…… non ego paucis offendar maculis.”
**Dr. Warner, in the Appendix to his Ecclesiastical History, published in 1757, observes that “it will be 500 years before every living can be raised to 60l. a year by Queen Anne’s bounty, supposing the same money to be distributed as there has been for some years past.”
Bad as this is, the case in Ireland is a hundred-fold worse. The valuation of livings at the time of the Reformation having, in consequence of the unsettled state of the country, been effected only in certain parishes, the Clergy have, with their usual adroitness, taken advantage of this omission, and founded upon it, in spite of the positive law, a claim to exemption from the tax altogether;—so that, between the few who pay according to the low old rate, and the many who do not pay at all, this Fund of First Fruits, from the richest Church in the world, does not average more than 370l. a-year!
Nor is even this pitiful amount always duly forthcoming; for it appears from the official statement returned to Parliament, that there was not a single penny paid on account of the First Fruits, either in the year 1803, 1810, 1814, or 1822.
Attempts have been made to prevail on the Legislature to authorize a new and complete valuation, under which, even with exceptions in favour of smaller livings, this Fund might be made to produce between 20 and 30,000l. a-year. But no:—Such a tax, it was answered, would be “a hardship,”—a hardship upon that abstract but sensitive personage, the Church. One of the Members of the Commission appointed some time since, “to examine and search for the just and true value of the said First Fruits,” when proceeding lately to exercise his powers, according to what himself and his legal advisers considered to be the true and express intent of his Patent”, was suddenly stopped in his career by letters from Mr. Goulburn and Mr. Gregory,-informing him, for his edification, that the only justand truevalue of First Fruits was that which had been set upon them two hundred years back; and intimating that, if he persisted in finding out any other “just and true value” than the aforesaid, he should, for such officious discovery, be deprived of his Patent.
So watchful a dragon is Mr. Goulburn over the golden fruits of the Clergy—so anxious is he to keep this mighty reservoir of wealth, the Church, sacred from all purposes of utility, in its present state of stagnant plenitude, without a single drain or outlet by which Charity or Duty can draw off the smallest portion of its sacro-sanct stores.
In the mean time, for the purposes to which this clerical tax, if paid according to the intention of the law*, would be applied—namely, the increase of small livings and purchase of glebes—immense sums, to the amount of more than a million since the Union, have been granted to this omnivorous Church by Parliament. The people have been thus doomed to see the produce of such fiscal plagues as the window-tax, which shut out the air and light of heaven from their already miserable dwellings, squandered away in the purchaseof glebes, even in that rich Diocese of Derry, whose Bishop** was, in the meantime, spending his enormous income in Italy, unshocked by the sight of that misery which such exactions were producing at home.
*In the course of ten years, ending January 1821, it appears that one Archbishop and nine Bishops paid for First Fruits 11311. 12s. 9d.; whereas the sum they ought to have paid, under a fair valuation, would have been at least 30,000l.
**The present Bishop, too, upon being consulted with respect to the poor livings throughout Ireland, could propose no other mode of increasing them, than “by the bounty of the King through Parliament!”
Is a country, thus treated, to be called “barbarous,” because it rebels? Say, rather, what name would it deserve, if it did not rebel?
Let us now inquire a little into another blessing, which the Establishment confers upon us, under the name of Church Rates.
The repairs of churches and all the other expenses connected with them, are charges to which a Fund, constituted as that of the First Fruits ought to be, would naturally be applied; and, far from inflicting “hardship” any where, such a just and obvious mode of lightening the burdens of the people, would in the end materially serve the interests of the Establishment itself, whose idle and invidious load of wealth is at present weighing it down to earth. Not only ought it to bless every opportunity that occurs, of devoting some of its redundance to useful purposes, but it should even adopt a form of prayer, like that of Midas, to be relieved, as much as possible, from the golden plethora under which it is sinking:—
meritus torquetur ab auro;
Ad coelumque manus et splendida brachia tollens,
Da veniam, Lenoee pater, peccavimus, inquit,
Sed miserere, precor, speciosoque eripe damno. OVID.
Umpitied sinking with the splendid weight
Of riches, once his pride, but now his hate,
To heaven he raised his glittering arms, and pray’d-
“Forgive, ye Powers, a wretch whom wealth has made;
And ease, in pity of a sinner’s cries,
This golden malady of which he dies!”
Instead of this, however, through thegreater part of Ireland, scarce a shilling is expended in building, repairing or ornamenting the Protestant places of worship, that is not wrung, by parochial assessment, from the unfortunate Catholic occupants of the district. Excluded, too, by law, from attending the vestries, where these levies are voted* and their applotment agreed upon, the wretched Catholic is obliged, without even knowing for what, to pay his last penny to the parish officer—or else to see the cow driven away from his famishing children to the pound. All this, perhaps, for the repair and decoration of some church, whose congregation is as select as that of Swift, with his “dearly beloved Roger,”—or else to gratify the architectural taste of some Prelate, like the last Bishop of Limerick, who persuaded himself, that he had civilized the County of Kerry by means of ornamental spires**.
Doctor Darwin had a plan for getting rid of volcanos, by making chimneys in the earth, to let the fire or steam escape: but this scheme of tranquillizing Ireland by means of Protestant spires, erected, as conductors, throughout its most electric regions, is an idea still more original and happy.
It will hardly be believed, that one of the Church Rates levied by rich Protestant ministers upon the famishing peasantry around them, is “for the purchase of elements for the Holy Communion.” The Bishop of Cloyne (Woodward), in giving an account of some tithe transactions, which occurred in the year 1787, and in which I recollect having played rather a distinguished part, thus enumerates a few of our achievements in the ecclesiastical line: “They attacked the servants of the clergy—they demanded of them a surrender of old tithe notes—they intimidated vestries from levying money for the repair of churches, for the payment of the legal officers attending the church, and for the purchase of elements for the Holy Communion.”
*“It follows that, in Ireland, the Protestant parishioners actually enjoy the privilege of assembling together, nnder the name of Parish Westries, to the exclusion of the Catholics, of legislating and imposing such yearly land-tax upon the Catholics, as they may think proper, for the alleged purposes of building, repairing, refitting, &c. Protestant houses of worship:—and of providing lucrative occupation for each other.
“To accommodate the Protestant carpenter, new seats, doors and other wood-work are voted; to the mason, repairs of walls, or perhaps a spire, belfry, or other subject of employment; to the glazier, new windows; to the clerk, a salary, &c. Thus this Westry, like an Irish Grand Jury, creates lucrative presentments for its members; and the amount is levied rigorously upon the defenceless Catholics.”—Scully.
The following particulars extracted from the vestry book of a parish, where a new church was built in 1808, will show the mode in which this tyranny of Church Rates is exercised.
“Organist—two first years paid by subscription (among the Protestant parishioners), 30l. per annum—third year, subscribers refused to pay; on which a levy was made on the parish, and raised to 50l., ever since continued. Parish Clerk—should be 20l., but was raised to 30l., with a deputy at 10l. Singer—5l.”
Among other charges in the book is “13l to the Rector for consecrating the church at —.”
**It is but justice, however, to this Prelate to say that he is at present actively and liberally employed in the improvement of his new Diocese, Cloyne.
Well might an honest Dissenter, who answered this pamphlet of the Bishop, exclaim, “What!-do the Lords of the land even commemorate their Saviour at the expense of the Poor?” An extract from one of the Acts in force with respect to Church Rates, will sufficiently show the “tricks before offended Heaven” which our Protestant legislators play in Ireland.—After reciting that “several parishes are united by charters granted by the Crown, in some of which there are but very few Protestants inhabiting, and in others none at all,” it proceeds to enact as “just and proper, that such parishes of the said Union as have not any church or chapel, or church or chapel fit for the celebration of Divine service, should contribute to the payment of the annual instalments of the loans granted, and to be granted, for the building, and rebuilding, and repairing of the churches or chapels of the parishes* to which they are or may be so united.” That is to say, a parish where the inhabitants are all Catholics, and which neither has a Protestant church, nor wants one, is yet, in consequence of being capriciously united to some other parish, (for the purpose of forming a rich benefice for some non-resident,) obliged to contribute to the expense of “building, rebuilding, and repairing” the church of that parish to which it is so united**, and in which there may happen to be a few Protestants, to avail themselves of such a place of worship.
*Lord Liverpool, last session, in a Debate on this very Bill, said, in answer to a speech full of argument and wit, by Lord Holland—that he “would not enter into the general question of the propriety of requiring Roman Catholics to assist in building and repairing Protestant Churches.” This was, at least, prudent in the Noble Minister.
**Even in England, such contributions a to church in another parish, though from persons of the same faith, has been considered a grievance. “There was a question made,” says Sir Simon Degge, “whether one that holds lands in one parish, and resides in another, may be charged for the ornaments of the parish church where he doth not reside; and some opinions have been, that foreigners were only chargeable to the shell of the church, and not to bells, seats, or ornaments.”Parson’s Counsellor.
As it may be imagined by the reader, that this preposterous enactment is only one of the few remains of that Anti-Popery system, which modern liberality has long disavowed, it is necessary to mention that the Act in question is dated March 1823, and is “marqué au coin” with the wisdom of the present Secretary of Ireland.
I have said that our Clergy are paid for not teaching six-sevenths of the population—but it will be seen by the foregoing statements, that they do teach us some most notable lessons. Of uncharitableness and bigotry they have long set us examples, by denouncing us as idolators and infidels, in their charges, sermons, and pamphlets, and by always voting for the continuance of our slavery in the senate. But the instances which I have just given of their evasion of the payment of dues, which shame alone should have extracted from them, if the law did not say a syllable on the matter, sufficiently prove that, in our motions of honesty also, we have been indebted to the same exemplary instructors; and that, in refusing to pay the various dues exacted from us, we but follow humbly and at a distance in the track of our Reverend and Most Reverend prototypes*.
The very next time, indeed, that it is my lot to encounter a Parson in the field, I will demand a parley, and propose to him the following terms:
“As a preliminary to any pacificatory arrangement between Captain Rock and the Church, it is expected that the latter will begin by acting with a little of that honesty, which she rather unreasonably requires should be practised only by the Captain. She must discharge, in future, those obligations which the law enjoins upon her, and abandon for ever that old and favourite principle, that payment should in, all cases, come from the Poor alone.
“It appears that, since the Union, 47 episcopal appointments have been made, the First Fruits of which, if assessed and levied according to their “just and true value,” would have amounted to at least 300,000l.,-without taking into account the immense sum, which the dues payable from the inferior Clergy would have produced in the same time.
“How much misery, tears and bloodshed. might have been spared to the wretched people, if these sums had been applied to the purposes for which the law intended them, and thus rendered unnecessary a few of those most odious taxes, by which a starving peasantry is compelled to make up for the deficiencies of a rich but wilfully insolvent Church—how much odium, ill-blood, and discord might have been avoided, if such a Fund had even been employed towards the remission of those disgraceful Rates, by which the pig-stye of the poor Catholic is made tributary to the ornamental spire of the Protestant, and wretches, who are all but starving themselves, are taxed to provide the Church with sacramental bread and winehow far such salutary effects might have been produced, by a little more obedience, on the part of the Church, to the laws not only of the land, but of humanity and religion, it is not for Captain Rock to insist upon at present, in an instrument which is intended to be neither retrospective nor criminatory.
“But the Captain hereby engages for himself and his People, that—if the Church, as the most considerable and wholesale aggressor, will but take the first step in a return to the paths of honesty and justice, by discharging in future those dues which the law requires from her—he will be most happy, without delay, to meet her on the grand question of Tithes, and on all other matters at issue between them, in such a conciliatory spirit as shall not only facilitate discussion, but lead at length to a complete and final arrangement of all their differences.
“In the mean time, Captain Rock begs the Church to accept the assurances of his high consideration, &c. &c. &c. &c.”
*It is not at all wonderful that the Church Establishment of England should feel alarmed at these malpractices of her Irish sister, and should hesitate as to the prudence of making common cause with her. It has been, indeed, for some time, a subject of consultation among the English Prelates, whether they would better consult the safety of their own Church, by taking up the defence of the Irish Establishment, or by leaving it, as a desperate case, to itself:—and the total omission of all reference to Ireland in the late Ecclesiastical Manifesto in the Quarterly Review, seems awfully ominous of the latter alternative.