Corruption of the Irish Parliament.—Pension-List.—Golden Age of Jobbing.—Achievements of the Captain in 1787.—Assumes the title of Captain RIGHT-State Physicians.
My father had predicted but too truly. The light of 1782 soon passed away, and left, in the hearts of those who loved Ireland, only a vague and restless imagination of what she might have been. The British Minister, no longer able to govern us by his Attorney-general, was driven to the more circuitous and expensive mode of ruling us by our own Parliament; and a course of corruption was now boldly entered into—a sort of frank, Lothario spirit was adopted by the Government, which seemed to say, “Think’st thou I mean the shame should be concealed?” and which soon succeeded in making political profligacy fashionable.
Had it been a regular trade-wind of Corruption, blowing steadily from the usual Tory quarter, servility would have been at least consistent, and might have even pretended to honesty, on the ground of having but one paymaster. But, just about this time, those Titans, the Whigs, had succeeded more than once in scaling the Olympus of office—and, though speedily hurled down again, they remained long enough each time, to puzzle both patriots and courtiers considerably, and to produce such a confusion in their votes and opinions, as made it no easy matter to distinguish one party from the other.
At length, however, Toryism and Corruption resumed their full and undisturbed empire. A regular market was opened at the Castle, and the price of every service, down to single votes on particular questions, was ascertained and tariffed with the most tradesman-like accuracy. So little decency did the Government observe in these transactions, that the Attorney-general (afterwards Lord Clare) did not hesitate on one occasion, when some of the train-bands of the Court had joined the Opposition, to hint broadly at the expense that would be incurred in buying them back again*.
A writer on Egypt mentions, as a singular phenomenon, the respect which the Mamelukes have for men who have been purchased—far beyond what they feel for the most ancient nobility. A Turkish officer, in pointing out to him some personage who held an important situation under Government, said, “C’est un homme de bonne race—il a été acheté**.” What homage, then, would a Mameluke feel for the “hommes achetés” of the Irish nobility—many of whom might introduce an auctioneer’s hammer into their coats of arms, so often have they and their illustrious sires been knocked down to the highest bidder!
*“‘Half a million or more was expended some years ago to break an opposition; the same or a greater sum may be necessary now;’—so said the principal servant of the Crown.”—Grattan’s Answer to Lord Clare.
**“Ce préjugé,” Reynier adds, “est tellement enraciné, que les enfans de ces mêmes individus n’ont le même degré de noblesse avec leur pere et mere qui ont été achetés.”
During the administration of the Marquis of Buckingham, the Pension List outstripped that of England by several thousands; and when at length, under Lord Westmoreland, as a momentary sacrifice to public opinion, a Bill was allowed to pass limiting the grants of pensions to 1,200l. a-year, advantage was taken of the few months that were to elapse before the commencement of the Act, to grant pensions to the amount of more than 12,000l.—being equal to ten years’ anticipation of the powers of the Crown.
This system was the consummation, the coronis, of England’s deadly policy towards Ireland. Having broken down and barbarized our lower orders, by every method that was ever devised for turning men into brutes, she now premeditatedly—by the example of a gay and dissipated court—by the encouragement of habits of expense, and the ready proffer of the wages of corruption to maintain them—so demoralized and denationalized our upper classes, that perhaps the most harmless part many of them have since played has been that of Absentees.
The venality, peculation, and extravagance, exhibited in the higher departments of the state, soon, spread through the lower -a,concordat of mutual connivance was es: tablished throughout.-and clerks, with a salary of 100l. a-year, entertained their priñ: cipals with fine dinners and claret out of the perquisites. In the Ordnance department, it was found in Lord Buckingham’s time, that the arms, ammunition, and military accoutrements, condemned as useless, were stolen out at one gate, brought in at the other, and charged anew to the public account.
Those were the glorious days of Protestant jobbing—for, let it not be forgot that to this privileged class alone, the robbery of the public has been always specially intrusted-then was, indeed, the Golden Age of the Ascendancy, when jobs and abuses flourished in unchecked luxuriance—when salary disownedall connection with duty, and when Boards of Custom, Boards of Excise, &c., were merely foundations for the support of a certain number of loyal and Protestant gentlemen, who would have considered it a case of “calling out,” to be asked what services they performed for their pay. Ovid has described such an age of gold exactly.
Poema metusque aberant: mec verba minacia fixo
AEre legebantur: nec supplex turba timebat
Judicis ora sui; sederant sine vindice tuti.
Or thus, in English, for such of my Family as Latin may not suit:
How tranquil then the loyal Placeman’s breast,
Ere rude Inquiry broke his golden rest,
Or cold Commissioners consign’d to fame,
In rude Reports, the much-wrong’d Jobber’s name-
Ere Orange Squires were seen, with rueful faces,
Round Frankland Lewis, crying “Spare our places;”
And Loyalty might yet her votaries solace
With funds, uncheck’d by honesty or Wallace!
The desperate habits of profusion, into which our gentry were seduced, by this lottery of pensions and places at which all tried their chance, were naturally followed by a considerable degree of pecuniary embarrassment, which, like the cause that produced it, soon affected all ranks. That race of little Protestant gentry,—between whom and the Catholic slave the Penal laws had left a chasm, which is not even yet filled up—had joined in this career of place-hunting and extravagance; and rents were raised, and money was borrowed, to sustain it. Judgements, and Mortgages, and all those other spectral things of the Law, that hover around the ruins of decayed property, were now seen flitting in all directions; and it is asserted that from about the year 1790, more lands have been sold under decrees, than had been for the preceding hundred years.
It will not require much ingenuity to show, how favourable such a state of things was to the general views of the Rock family. Often have I lamented that my good old father did not live to see the rapid fulfilment of his predictions, nor witness, at least, the beginning of that splendid career, which his son has now, for near forty years, with but little interruption triumphantly pursued.
The exorbitant rise of rents and the severe exaction of tithes*, were the grievances that, in the year 1787, drove the wretched peasantry of Munster to my banners.
Lord Clare, who was then Attorney-general, and, of course, defended the Church, said, “he knew the unhappy tenantry were ground to powder by relentless landlords.”— Mr. Grattan, on the other hand, proved that “the landlord’s over-reaching, compared to that of the tithe-farmer, was mercy.” No wonder, therefore, that, between both, the wretched people were maddened, to the full pitch that Captain RIGHT (as I was then nick-named by my followers) required. Not that even those double scourges, middlemen and tithe-takers, efficient as they were, could have accomplished the object for me so completely, had not the Government, as usual, come in to their assistance, and, by its premature and unqualified severity, exasperated discontent into frenzy.
*Mr. Grattan mentions an instance of a living in the disturbed districts, at- this time, being raised rapidly from 130l. a-year to 340l.; and another, in the same manner, being increased from 300l. to 1,000l.
**The Captain has here, in the original manuscript, entered into a long detail of his achievements at this period, under the assumed name of Captain RIGHT: but, as there is but little variety in his manner of relating these feats, and the public has long been acquainted with the nature of them, I.have thought it best to omit the narration altogether.—EDITOR.
The constancy of our State Doctors to their old remedy, the bayonet, is miraculous. Having exhibited it in 1787 with their accustomed vigour and success, they continued so to administer it, at convenient intervals and with increasing exacerbation, till 1798—when it brought on that violent, but imperfect, crisis, the Rebellion. They then resumed the same course of physic immediately after the Union, and have persevered in it, only with a greater frequency of doses, down to the present day. -Martial Law and the Insurrection Act having been in force fourteen years out of the four and twenty that have elapsed since that measure. It would take a whole page to enumerate the various forms and names, under which this one, sole specific for all the evils of Ireland has been administered, viz. Peace Preservation Acts, Seizure of Arms Act, Secret Society Acts, Constabulary Acts, &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. But, as Doctor Ollapod says, “Rhubarb is Rhubarb, call it what you will;” and there is no disguising by any change of name or phrase, that the bayonet is the sole, active ingredient in all these various formulas.
When Moliere was asked by Louis XIV. what use he made of his physician, he answered—“Nous causons ensemble; il m’ordonne des remedes-je ne les prends pas, et je guéris,”—but, when a mischievous physician, who orders steel in all cases, has the power also of compelling his dose to be swallowed, what is the unfortunate patient to do?
Conversation between the Captain and a Spirit.-Tithe systems in England and Ireland.—Differences between them.—Potatoes.—Tithe-farmers.–Proctors .—Ariosto.—Drivers.—Scale of the Irish Hierarchy.—Paying Tithe in kind.—Sinbad in the Valley of Diamonds.–New Tithe Bill.—Remarks on it.
If a Spirit on his travels, like Micromegas, were to apply to me for information concerning this part of our planet, and I should tell him—“There is a class of men among us, set apart to instruct the people in religion, and to place before their eyes examples of piety and peacefulness. In order to qualify them for this mission, and give them, in their respective neighbourhoods, that popularity which is necessary to ensure its success, the Law empowers them to seize annually a tenth part of the produce of all the cultivators, however indigent, entrusted to their care.
“As this annual depredation is seldom taken in good part, and sometimes even leads to bloodshed and rebellion, the time of the said teachers is almost exclusively occupied, in wrangling with their pupils” and, occasionally, having them shot and hanged—in consequence of which, they have but little leisure left for lessons of religion, and still less for examples of moderation and Christian charity.
“We have large law-books filled with cases, arising out of these amiable relations between the teachers and the taught. Yet, so fond are the former of this particular sort of wages of instruction, that they not only try to extract it from everything they can lay their hands on,** but declare daily, monthly, and quarterly, in newspapers, pamphlets, and reviews, that they prefer it to all other modes of getting money, that the wit of legislators or philosophers can devise.
*From a note on a speech of Sir Henry Parnell, in Cobbett’s Parliamentary Debates, it appears that in the year 1807, there were in five counties in Ireland, no less than 1286 actions on cases connected with tithes; and in the Galway Advertiser of the 18th of October, 1822, we find the following article:-“At the quarter-sessions at Gort, one tithe-proctor processed eleven hundred persons for tithes. They were all, or most, of the lower order of farmers or peasants:—the expense of each process about eight shillings.”
Anthony Pearson, in speaking of the law proceedings with respect to tithes, under the Protectorate, says, “Divers on this account have long lain in the Fleet, and yet are there. And I believe above an hundred suits are in the Exchequer depending, and proceedings stopt at this point, the very officers of the court relenting with pity towards such numbers of poor men, brought thither every term from the most remote parts of the nation, and some of them not for above twelvepence; such merciless cruelty lodges in the hearts of many, if not of most, of our pretended Gospelministers.”
Milton, too, in speaking of the same reverend tithe-takers, says, “I omit their violent and irreligious exactions, their seizing of pots and pans from the poor, who have as good a right to tithes as they, from some the very beds; their seizing and imprisoning, worse than when the Canon Law was in force; worse than when the wicked sons of Eli were priests. For those sons of Belial, within some limits, made seizure of what they knew was their own by an undoubted law; but these, from whom there is no sanctuary, seize out of men’s ground, out of men’s houses, their other goods, of double, sometimes of treble value, for that which, did not covetousness and rapine blind them, they know to be not their own by the Gospel which they preach.”—“Considerations touching the likeliest means to remove Hirelings out of the Church’”
**The Clergy,” says Lord Holt, make everything titheable; “but” he adds, “I do not regard thatthe Pope, from whom they derive their claim, though they depart from its alleged application, subjected to tithe the gains of the merchant, and the pay of the army: the Canons went further, and held the tithe of fornication and adultery to be the undoubted property of the church.”
Sir Simon Degge in his Chapter “Of what things Tithes shall not be paid,” says, “No tithes shall be payable for hounds, apes, popinjays, et similia.”
“When questioned as to their reasons for this singular preference, they sometimes say, that it is on account of a certain revelation to Adam, the particulars of which have not transpired-at other times, they tell you, that Apollo, and Hercules took the tenth of people’s property, and, therefore, so must they—but the reason most generally and confidently given by them, is, that as teachers of religion, some hundred years since, shared this portion with the poor, the stranger, and the fatherless, they have now an undoubted and even sacred right, to appropriate the whole of it exclusively to themselves?”
If I were to state this to the Spirit, would he not stare?—and, if he were a Spirit after Micromegas’s own heart, would he not laugh?
Obnoxious and oppressive as Tithes have always been considered in England, there are reasons, manifest at the first glance, why they should be, beyond comparison, a more odious infliction in Ireland.
In England,* where even abuses are forced to take a natural direction, tithes are paid to an Establishment in which the great majority of the people have a direct interest—while in Ireland, from that unnatural position in which her Protestant Establishment places her, thirteen fourteenths of the people are thus taxed for the instruction of the small remaining fraction. Thus, to all the ill-blood that this exaction ever engendered in England, between a pastor and flock of the same religion, is added that deep hostility with which the members of a persecuted faith must ever regard those who have been their bitterest political enemies, and whom they are thus compelled to subsidize for trampling them to the earth.
*Some of these points of difference between English and Irish tithes, are put strongly in an ex-. cellent article upon the State of Ireland, in the Inquirer—for which, I supect, we are indebted to the pen of that enlightened and patriotic member of parliament, Mr. Spring Rice.
**“Forced consecrations out of another man’s estate are no better than forced vows, hateful to God who loves a cheerful giver; but much more hateful wrung out of men’s purses to maintain a disapproved ministry against their conscience; however unholy, infamous, and dishonourable to his ministers, and the free Gospel, maintained in such unworthy manner, by violence and extortion.”
Milton on Tithes.
“He, who feedeth a flock (as our Reverend tithe-takers never cease telling us) hath a right to eat of the milk of the flock”—but in Ireland, where divine laws, as well as human, are reversed, it is from a flock which he does not feed, that the unconscionable shepherd extorts his milk.
When we consider, too, that this proscribed and fleeced race have also their own ministry to support, and that the poor peasant, placed between two Churches—the one his Good, the other his Evil Genius—is made tributary to both, for his misery* as well as his consolation, and with a blessing to the one, and a curse to the other, starves between them—can we expect any thing but discord and hate, from a system whose foundations lie so deep in anomaly and injustice,*—or can any modification or composition renderinnoxious, an inversion so monstrous of all the laws of reason and of nature?
**English legislators can be wise enough every where but in Ireland. In Canada, for instance, Mr. Weld tells us, “Every religion is tolerated in the fullest sense of the word, and no disqualifications are imposed on any persons on account of their religious opinions. The Roman Catholic religion is that of the great majority of the inhabitants, and by the Quebec Bill of 1774, the ecclesiastics of that persuasion are empowered by law to recover all the dues which, previous to that period, they were accustomed to receive, as well as tithes—that is, from the Roman Catholic inhabitants; but they cannot exact any tithes, or dues, from Protestants, or of lands held by Protestants, although formerly such lands might have been subjected to dues and tithes, for the support of the Roman Catholic church.”
However absurd some of the old ecclesiastical Ganons may be considered, it would have been well if the following principle laid down by the Canonists of the 11th and 12th century, had been consulted with respect to Ireland—“It is expressly held against the divine law, to convey tithes to any other church than where the owner commonly receives his soul’s food.”-Selden.
Beside this radical difference in the very principle of the tax, as applied to the people of England and Ireland, there are others which contribute to render the mode of its operation and enforcement, incomparably more odious and intolerable in the latter country.
In England, the burthen is equally distributed among the farming classes—while in Ireland, where there is no Agistment tithe, it rests almost exclusively upon the lowest orders. In a Tithe-book, now lying before me, which I seized some time since among the baggage of a defeated Proctor, I find three gentlemen, holding fifteen hundred acres of the best land in the parish, charged for their tithe only four pounds among them; while a poor Catholic farmer in the neighbourhood, cultivating twenty acres of tillage, is made to pay for his corn and flax eight pounds—being twice as much towards the support of the Protestant Church as these three Protestant gentlemen contribute all together. There is, indeed, nothing more common than to see the rich grazier, paying almost nothing to his own Clergyman, while the poor Catholic in his neighbourhood, who raises (we will say) five acres of corn, three for the market and two for his own support, is obliged, out of this pittance, to pay the Clergymen of both modes of worship.*
But there is still a more cruel exaction. The potatoe, the sole sustenance of the wretched peasantry of the South, is also pressed into the service of the Church—and there is not a parson in that part of the country, who does not live by the starvation of others.** Imagination, indeed, can hardly bring together a more incongruous compound, than the lofty Churchman, at one moment exalting his brow in spiritual authority, and, at the next, stooping to ransack the potatoe-pit of the cottager:
Quantum vertice ad auras
AEtherias, tantum radice in Tartara tendit.
*See “Letter from the Right Honourable Denis Brown, on the State of Ireland.”—p. 11.
**Mr. Grattan mentions several instances, in the South of Ireland, of enormous charges made for tithes in years of famine, and pours out, justly, the whole thunder of his indignation against the Clergyman, who thus “takes advantage of a famine—brings up, as it were, the rear of divine vengeance, and becomes, in his own person, the last great scourge of the husbandman.”
From a speech made by a Protestant gentleman, Mr. Colles, at one of the late Tithe meetings, it would appear that examples of such inhumanity are not infrequent. “In 1816,” he said, “they could not but recollect, that one half of the crop was completely destroyed, by the heavy rains which fell incessantly during the harvest season, and the other half so materially damaged, as really to injure life while it seemed to sustain it. At that unexampled period of public calamity, when their fellow-creatures were perishing every where around them with hunger and disease, did the tithe-owners, from humanity at least, if not from justice, reduce their impositions, in proportion to the injury sustained by the crops? No-far from abating one jot of either the rate or rigour of their exactions, they levied their usual charges with their usual severity.”
We have here, too, another instance of the different point of view, in which the Clergy regard their own prescriptive rights and those of others. I have already shown, with what invincible steadiness (though so ready tosetaside any modus in favour of others) they continue to profit by their own miserable modus of First-fruits. And, here, in the instance of the potatoetythe,—indignant as their Reverences have always been at the least innovation upon their own ancient rights—we find them quietly taking possession of an article, which neither law, nor old usage recognizes as titheable,* and establishing, by means of their own tribunals, a claim to it through the greater part of the South of Ireland.
Accordingly, in that potatoe-tithed region, have I always fixed my head-quarters of Rebellion; and if, by good luck, the encroaching spirit of the Church—which, modern as the introduction of the potatoe is, has contrived thus effectually to “mark it for her own,”should succeed in extending this tithe into the other provinces, the parsons and I shall, at length, like Jove and Caesar, divide the empire of the whole island between us.
The employment of tithe-farmers and proctors is another part of the machinery of this tax, from which England, luckily for the repose of her farmers, is exempt.** Surveyors of tithes, indeed, have been introduced into that country of late years; but, if they deserve the “lamentable” character given of them by Dr. Cove, they must differ essentially from Irish valuators—“they have been lamentably found (he says) by their employers to be at all times disposed to favour the tithe-payers.” In Ireland, however, by dint of poundage fees and patronage, Dr. Cove’s brethren manage to render valuators much more orthodox.
*In the same manner the Clergy of Ireland, at one time, illegally demanded tithe for turf, “I have two decrees” said Mr. Grattan, “in my hand, from the vicarial court of Cloyne; the first excommunicating one man, the second excommunicating four men, most illegally, most arbitrarily, for refusing to pay tithe of turf.”
**Not wholly, however. In one of the Devon Agricultural Reports, we read,—“In no part of England can the question of tithes be agitated with aless colourable pretext, than generally in the County of Devon. Some few instances of tyranny and extortion have occurred within this district, but these were occasioned by the tithe-proctors, or other persons renting the great tithes from the church of Exeter.”
Among us, the Tithe farmer is a sort of convenient step, by which livings are enabled to mount in value, without any very violent effort on the part of their possessors. For instance, an Incumbent farms his tithes to some neighbour, who, by a skilful application of that mechanic power called the Screw, increases the receipts sufficiently to afford an income for himself as well as the Parson. The next Incumbent claims as his due the whole amount received by this Tithe-farmer, and, in his turn, employs another Professor of the art of Screwing, who contrives, by the same process, to raise the value of the living still higher, and transmits it, thus improved, to the Incumbent who follows. So on, the mountain of oppression is heaped up, while those prostrate Giants, the People, groan and heave beneath it.
Of the Tithe-proctor I would willingly speak as becomes a generous enemy, in consideration of the many hard-fought fields in which we have met together; and, without comparing his humbler efforts in the cause of Discord to those of his superiors—of an Archbishop, or even a Chancellor—I must say, that, in all the minor requisites for teasing and goading a people, he performs his part in a manner worthy of the system to which he belongs. The harassing assiduity with which he hovers round the crop—the perverseness with which he conceals the amount of his demand, lest the farmer, apprised of its enormity, should proffer the tithe in kind—his promptitude at a Citation, and his delight at a Distress, all are perfect in their kind, and would turn Job himself into a Rockite. Ariosto, in describing Discord, whom the angel Michael finds in a church, where he had gone, in vain, to look for Silence, thus equips her:
Di citatorie piene, e di libelle,
D’essamini, e di carte di procure
Havea le mani, e il sen, e gran fastelli.
Di chiose, di consigli, e di letture;
Per cui le facultà de’ poverelli
Non sono mai nella citta sicure.
that is (as Ariosto might describe the same Church personage in Ireland)—
And Discord had her hands and bosom full
Of Tithe citations, Proctors’ bills, Distresses,—
Libels, red-hot from mad——————’s scull,—
Pert Charges of Archbishops—pamphlets dull
By Reverend F. T. C. D. A. double S’s—
And all the various boons the Church dispenses,
To drive us, paupers, out of our seven senses!*
After the Proctor, the next link in this ecclesiastical chain—and the lowest, if the hangman does not claim that place—is the Driver.
*The following more faithful version is from the forth-coming Cantos of Mr. W. Rose’s spirited Translation.
Examinations, summonses, and store
Of writs and letters of attorney, she
In both her hands, and in her bosom bore,
And acts and deeds, the law’s artillery
Against which arms the substance of the poor
Can never safe in walled city be.
Before, behind her, and about her wait
Attorney, notary, and advocate.
The office of this personage is (under the decree of a Court,* where Tithe-owners are the judges, and where a Citation for a tithe of 18s. 10d. costs the defendant £2 10s.)** to drive away the cattle of the insolvent farmer, or—as in the Rev. Mr. Morrit’s case—to “distrain five sheep for a tithe of five shillings, and buy them himself, under the distress, for a shilling each afterwards.”
*See for a statement of the exactions of these Courts, and of the iniquities of the Tythe system in general throughout Ireland, a Pamphlet, just pub, lished, intituled, “A Report of the Committee of the Parish of Blackrath, in the county of Kilkenny.” The following is a specimen of the expenses to which apoor man is put by a Citation to the Bishop’s Court: “The whole sum in dispute is 6s. ; the fee to counsel is a guinea. The very first step, therefore, that the poor man takes for his defence, he has to pay nearly four times the amount of the demand that he contests. He has next to pay two Citations for his two witnesses 13s.6d.—that is to-say, 12s. 6d. for the first, and ls. for the second.” The trial generally ends in a decree against the unfortunate peasant, which is followed up by a monition—and the costs of both are stated to add near 2l. 16s. 8d. to his losses. He is then handed over to the secular arm; “The parson processes his wretched parishioner to the Civil-bill Court : there he is decreed, as a matter of course, without being even allowed (strange to say!) to enter into the merits of his case. And what costs follow : The costs of the decree are ls. 11d.; the costs of the warrant Is. 1d.; the fees of the Bailiff who executes the warrants are 2s. 4d., the fees of the two keepers who watch the Distress for four days and nights amount (at 2s. 6d. a day for each) to 11.; and lastly, the Auctioneer’s fees come to 6s. 3d. making altogether the sum of 6l. 12s. 2d., so that the Clergyman sells the whole crop to satisfy the Tithes, and turns the miserable wretch, his wife and children, to the road, to beg or to steal, or to starve. High-spirited as the poor Irishman may be, he will never have the courage to renew the contest against such powerful odds”
**So stated by Sir Henry Parnell, July 5, 1820. I have given this more moderate estimate in order to be on the safe side, though convinced, myself, that the Pamphlet quoted in the preceding note has not over-stated the enormity of these proceedings. See, for an account of the tyranny and extortion of these Ecclesiastical Courts, Mr. Grattan’s admirable Speech on Tithes—one of the few specimens of Parliamentary eloquence, that deserve to be placed beside the great master-pieces of Burke. A Reverend pamphleteer, whom I have more than once quoted, (“Case of the Church of Ireland stated”) has had the good taste and feeling to refer to the glorious era of our great Patriot’s fame, as “the loquacious days of Mr. Grattan!’” This is quite worthy of the University, to which, I understand, the Reverend writer belongs—and which once expressed its feeling towards the same illustrious man, in an equally dignified and tasteful manner, by turning his picture in one of the public Halls upside down!
The ascent from these minor agents of the Irish hierarchy, up through the gradations of curate, vicar, rector, &c. into the loftiest regions of Episcopacy and Primacy, resembles that Scale of Being, which Locke supposes to exist in the Universe, ascending gradually from the lowest to the sublimest and most etherialized essences; and, between the two extremes—the Driver, who, for the good of the Church, puts the Catholic’s cow into the pound, and the Prelate who, for the same pious purpose, keeps the Catholic himself out of the Constitution—there is a sympathy of sentiment and unity of design, which is felt through all the intermediate range, and, like the sensitiveness of the spider, “lives along the line.”
Of the detestation, in which the payment of tithes is held, independently of its pressure as a heavy and unequal tax, we cannot require a more convincing proof, than is furnished by a fact which Lord Maryborough mentioned, on the occasion of Sir Henry Parnell’s motion on the subject of Tithes. “I asked,” says his Lordship, “an Honourable friend of mine this morning, a part of whose estate is tithefree, what was the difference of the rent which he received for his land that was tithe-free, and that which was not? He told me he received ten shillings an acre more for the land that was tithe-free than he did for the other. I then asked him, what was the amount of the tithe on that part of his land of equal quality and contiguous to the other, which was subject to it? He said about fourteen-pence an acre!”
From this we perceive, so odious is the nature of this tax, that, without any other difference between the two parts of the land, than that one was exempt from the harassing visitation of the Tithe-proctor, ten shillings more was given for this precious immunity alone—or, in other words, that the farmer willingly paid 8s. 10d. in the form of rent, to escape 1s. 2d. in the hateful form of tithe. This sample alone, though quoted by Lord Maryborough and the Bishop of Ferns for a very different purpose, speaks volumes as to the feeling of repugnance, with which this “Therumah of an evil eye” is regarded.
There is yet another strong proof of the hardship and disgust, which the present mode of paying these dues produces. The practice of setting out the tithe in kind, which in England is considered a grievance by the farmers, and accordingly very seldom adopted,* would,among us, be hailed as a most welcome relief** from all the worrying process of valuations, citations, promissory notes, &c. to which the mode of composition under the auspices of the proctor leads—and to be allowed the free exercise of this right of paying in kind (which, though the law permits, the Ecclesiastical Courts obstruct and frustrate)*** is, at present-next to the supreme bliss of not paying any such tax at all—the chief ambition of the great majority of tithe-payers.
*In looking through the County Reports of England, we find the instances of tithe taken in kind but rare. Thus, in one of the Bedford Agricultural Reports-“From minute investigation, not one rector in ten takes his tithe in kind, , and I heard of only one or two vicars who did so-and probably they were driven to this measure by the stubborn opposition of their parishioners.”
**Among the late efforts at composition, under the new Tithe Bill, there is an instance of a Rev. Gentleman who having refused 1,200l. a year, as being aninadequate compensation for his tithes, was required by his parishioners, in consequence, to receive the payment of them in kind—but this he also refused, and politely answered all the notices he received, by citations to the Bishop’s Court.
***Frequently, too, when the poor man sets out his tithe in kind, “the Clergy first suffer the teath. of the crop to rot on the ground, and then recover the amount of it in their own Court—thus compelling the peasant to pay the same tithes twice over; once in kind, and again in money.”—Statement relative to the Bishop’s Court.
Combination in serving notices is what the Parson dreads—and the Parson, Iown, is fully justified in dreading every possible inconvenience that his affectionate flock can inflict on him.* Wealthy as most of these Reverend persons are, there is no denying that they earn their opulence dearly. They are like Sinbad in the Valley of Diamonds—walking amidst wealth, but not at all comfortable. I have myself seen the Archbishop of Cashel,** taking his morning drive protected by a large escort of dragoons; and I could name more than one worthy Rector, whose pistols are, at least, as necessary a companion of his walks, as his prayer-book.
*A specimen of the way in which a spiritual teacher may be annoyed by his pupils, in drawing the tithe in kind, is found in an Agricultural Report of the County of Hants. The farmer gave the Clergyman notice, that he was going to draw a field of turnips on a certain day. The clergyman accordingly sent his team and servant at the time appointed, when the former drew ten turnips and desired the other to take one of them—saying he would not draw any more that day, but would let him know when he did,
**Not the present Archbishop—no-reprobate as I am, I can still admire candour, liberality, and humanity; and to such Churchmen as Lawrence, Jebb, and the late Archbishop of Tuam, I am ready to give a Safe-conduct through my realms at any time.
On this very subject of setting out the tithe in kind, such a charitable feeling is there abroad towards the Church, that some persons of considerable legal acuteness have taken the trouble of drawing up a code of instructions for the peasantry, by which they may, without disturbing a single curl of the Law, combine against the Parson, “sans que cela paraisse,”-and make the collection of tithes in this way almost as harassing to him, as his own favourite mode of enforcing it has always been to them.
With respect to the new Tithe Bill of Mr. Goulburn, which is at present running the gauntlet through the vestries of the South, I confess I do not apprehend much danger to the Rock interest from its success. Its first and obvious effect is, to increase the wealth and power of the Church—which is, as Shakespeare says,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold and paint the (orange) lily.
To say nothing of the tender care that has-been shown for the interests of the Clergy, by taking, as a standard of composition, the average of the most high-priced years—that rich Agistment Tithe, of which they were deprived in 1785, and which abridged their incomes, it was supposed, by one fifth, will, by this act, if put in force, be virtually restored to them. Thus, that Paradise* of fair demesnes and lawns, from which the “flaming brand” of the Irish Parliament chased them—
those fields, beloved in vain,
Where once the cureless priesthood stray’d,
and for the loss of which neither the fruits of increasing tillage, nor the Unions of many Parishes, nor the grants of many Parliaments, have been able to console them, will, under the kindly auspices of Mr. Goulburn, again be enjoyed.
*The deep feeling with which the loss of this Tithe is remembered, at a distance of nearly eighty years, may be judged from the pathetic and indignant terms, in which the Right Reverend author of a late pamphlet alludes to it. “If a tyrannical power has repelled the clergyman from the rich and extensive demesnes, which should have contributed largely to his income, &c. &c.”—Appendix to a Second Edition of an “Inquiry,” &c.
The misrepresentations in this. Appendix with respect to Lay Impropriators, are such as might be expected from the candour of a writer, who thinks Adam Smith a bad authority on the subject of tithes, because he was the friend, of Hume!–Far from wishing to “separate the cases of the Lay Impropriator and the Clergyman,” the Duke of Devonshire, in presenting the petition from the Corporation of Waterford in 1822, expressed his readiness, as an Impropriator of more than 20 parishes, to make every sacrifice on his part for a satisfactory arrangement of tithes. Lord Lansdowne has frequently made the same declaration; and few, I think, will join the Right Reverend writer, in questioning the sincerity of these two noble persons.
The additional powers given to the Parson by this Act are also considerable. In the first place, the owner of the soil, if not a farmer himself, is excluded from all interference in the disposal of his own property, and the Incumbent and his parishioners are left to settle the whole matter between them. In the next place, the parson is authorized, for the recovery of his tithe, to distrain, and exercise all the other powers, actually exercised by a landlord for the recovery of his rent. In the third place, the precedence given to tithes over all other claims, of rent, family incumbrances, &c. &c. leaves to the landlord, whose tenant has been a defaulter under the composition, only the gleanings of the parson’s Distress to satisfy his demand for rent. Such are a few of the features of this Bill, by which our sagacious rulers propose to moderate the exactions of the Church, and put an end to the dissatisfaction of tithe-payers.
Though but little inclined to pity our Landed Gentry, for any sacrifices they may be forced to make to their starving tenantry, I cannot but confess that the encroachments of this measure on their property, are such as to give very reasonable grounds of complaint. Selfish and unprincipled as was the vote of 1735, by which the Commons of Ireland transferred the burthen of tithe from their own rich pastures and demesnes to the con-acre and potatoe-garden of the cottager, it was yet confirmed and made a law of the land by the Act of Union. Its confirmation was, indeed, one among the many foul bribes, out of which that unnatural measure arose-like Frankenstein’s ghastly patch-work, made up of contributions from the whole charnel-house of political corruption.
Under the security of this arrangement, many who did not share in its infamy, have since taken and lett farms, bought and sold lands-without a view to the possibility of any future conjuror, like Mr. Goulburn, again evoking the spirit of the Agistment tithe out of that “vasty deep,” in which, with Ireland’s independence, it seemed to have been laid asleep for ever. Yet now, after a lapse of four and twenty years, forth comes the Secretary, holding the Parson by the hand, and, re-opening to him, in generous contempt of the law, all those “fresh fields and pastures new” which the Act of Union had pronounced to be sacred from him for ever, exclaims
I nunc, magnificos victor molire triumphos,
Cinge comam lauro; votaque redde Jovi.
Go now, in triumph tread the Squire’s domains,
And thank the Gods and Goulburn for thy gains.
Thus it is that one injustice generates another, and that the breed is propagated, with more than leporine fecundity, through every successive measure which these third-rate Legislators, these Statesmen in waiting, are sent to inflict upon Ireland.
If the poor tenantry were likely to profit by this infraction of justice towards the landlord if the advantage that ought to arise to the small cultivator, from a more equal distribution of the burden which now falls exclusively upon him, were really and practically to accrue from this measure—I should say, “do wrong,” for once, “with a right cause”—break as many Articles of the Union as you please—invest the parson with a tenth of the fee of every estate in Ireland—do any thing, so you lighten the load of misery, which at present weighs down the peasantry to the very earth.
But the fact is, the great increase of the general amount of tithe which this Act must produce—together with the summary powers given to the parson for the enforcement of his full demand-will render the pressure of the tax intolerable to the extensive farmer, from whom the miserable cottiers hold their small spots of land; and it will only be by raising the rents on the latter,—if, indeed, the back of misery can bear any addition without breaking-he can hope to meet the increased demands upon his means, or keep his property out of the fangs of that law harpy, Distress. Thus, the trifling advantage gained in one quarter (for to the small farmer of from 5 to 20 acres the Bill may bring some relief) is more than counterbalanced by increased misery in another.
The potatoe-garden, too, that last boundary between the peasant and famine—which, everywhere, but in the South, is still kept sacred from the Clergy—will, by the applotments under this Act, wherever they exist, be swept into the general mass of contribution, towards the further enrichment of the Protestant Church of Ireland.
I have here spoken of this measure, as any lover of tranquillity might, who wished to see some more rational remedy for the discontent that reigns among us. But, speaking in my own person as Captain Rock, I must say that, though perfectly satisfied with the results of the old system, I am equally ready to try this, or any other new strain of discord, which may be struck up for us by our State musicians—whose ideas of a concert, especially among themselves, seem to have been founded upon that famous charivari of Rousseau at Lausanne, in which no two instruments were upon the same scent.
It will be perceived that the capabilities of the Bill for all purposes of discontent are infinite. Indeed, the Clergy are, at present, the only class of persons satisfied with it—though, on the first announcement of the intended innovation, their alarm for the “silver shrines” of their Great Diana was so strong, as even to bring forth an address from the Archbishops and Bishops, declaring that the measure “would be unquestionably destructive of the independence of the Church Establishment, and, in their judgment, equally destructive of its respectability, its utility, and its permanence.”
This was a pretty strong declaration of the clerical feeling on the subject, and it was thought that a compulsory clause would be necessary–a sort of “douce violence”—to compel these Reverend persons to avail themselves of the Act. As soon, however, as they found out, from a nearer acquaintance with the measure, that, so far from injuring their silver Diana in the least, its object was to make her even more silver than before, their clamours against the Bill were at once turned into activity for it—they were the first to apply to the Lord Lieutenant for powers to act under it, and they have been the life and soul of all its movements through the vestries ever since-claiming, of course, in most cases, the full average, and expressing their regret that, under the Act, they were not “at liberty” to take less.
How far such open and officious zeal for the measure is decently reconcileable with the opinion expressed of it by the Prelates, it is not for me to inquire. But, prompt as the clergy have thus naturally shown themselves, to take advantage of all the worldly benefits of the Bill, I rather think that in their hearts they agree with the Archbishops and Bishops; and will not easily forgive the profanation which the Tabernacle has suffered, in being touched, even for the sake of enriching it, by the unholy hand of the Law. It is said of a certain King that, on being once saved from falling by the vigorous grasp of one of his attendants, he so far forgot the value of the service in the familiarity of the means, as to cry out pettishly, when restored to his equilibrium, “never touch a King”—and, in the same manner, I suspect, the Irish clergy will resent the violation, even while they profit by it. It is the first direct interference of the Legislature with the jus divinum of their property, and they naturally feel it may not be the last.
Hae mugae in seria ducent.
i. e. in English.
The hand that touches Tithes may, when it suits,— Prodigious boldness!—meddle with First Fruits!