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This he applied merely to what was called government patronage ; but as to the noble lord, he had confessed his crime; it could not be passed over, though he (Mr. Grattan) acquitted him of the intention to the extent of which the crime was capable; but still countenancing it, even on this principle, was conniving to the extent at the abuse of it. The House have before it the whole of the case and the defence. A writership might have been given to facilitate the return of a member to Parliament. The noble lord has not denied the offence, but only denied any intention of attacking the freedom of Parliament. I do not think it possible that the House can refuse to affix to such a transaction the deserved reprobation.
The House then divided, on the original motion of Lord Archibald Hamilton : Ayes 167, Noes 216; Majority against the rosolutions 49. Tellers for the Ayes, Lord A. Hamilton and Mr. Wm. Smith.
Noes, Mr. Wallace and Mr. Croker. The House next divided on Mr. Canning's amendment : Ayes 214, Noes 167 ; Majority for the amendment 47.
Mr. C. Wynn then proposed, that there be added to Mr. Can. ning's amendment words to this effect : “ That the House was confirmed in its opinion that it was unnecessary to proceed further in the case, from the openness which the noble lord had displayed, and the regret which he had expressed for his conduct." This amendment, however, was negatived without a division.
MR. HENRY PARNELL MOVES FOR LEAVE TO BRING IN A BILL
TO REGULATE TITHES.
May 19. 1809.
MR. HENRY PARNELL stated that several petitions had
been agreed to, of late, in Ireland, on the subject of tithes. The mode of collecting them, he stated, to be highly oppressive. The tithe-proctors were a species of local tyrants ; they oppressed the lower orders; they created discord between the pastor and the flock; and aggravated the evils of a system, which not only checked industry, but was injurious to the cause of religion. Much of the disturbance which had so long agitated Ireland arose out of the system of tithes. It appeared from the examination of the leaders of the Irish insurrection, eleven years ago, before a committee of the Irish House of Lords, that his system was complained of as a principal grievance. On that occasion, Doctor N Nevin, one of the leaders, and a man of acknowledged
ability, was asked -" If tithes had been commuted, according to the plan proposed by Mr. Grattan, what effect it would have been likely to produce upon the people ?" He answered: “ That it was a plan. by which a most powerful engine would have been taken out of the leaders' hands; and, that the people of Ireland wished to be relieved from the payment of tithe. Mr. Parnell 'conceived some alteration in the system would greatly tend to the improvement of Ireland. - He moved, ac
accordingly, “ That leave be given to bring in a bill, to enable ecclesiastical persons or bodies, rectors, vicars, and curates who are entitled to tithes in Ireland, to demise the same, at certain yearly rents, for a term of twenty-one years."
The motion was supported by Mr. Ponsonby, Colonel Hutchinson, the knight of Kerry (Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald), and Mr. Wm. Tighe. They stated, that the measure would highly conduce to the prosperity of Ireland ; and that the generality of ecclesiastical bodies were favourable to a change in the mode of collection,
It was opposed by Mr. Croker, Mr. M'Naughten, Mr. Canning, and Mr. Percival. Mr. Wilberforce stated his anxiety for a re. medy of the evils complained of. The House were in want of information on the subject of Irish policy; but, as he saw no prose pect of doing any thing effectual this session, he could not support the motion. Mr. French moved "the previous question." Mr. Canning, and Mr. Denis Browne 'declared they did not found their opposition upon the principle of the measure. Mr. Percival stated,' he had maturely considered the question, intending to bring forward some measure on the subject; but, on examination, the difficulties were so various and multiplied, that he abandoned his intention as impracticable. In his opinion, the whole of the tithes in their present mode of collection did not produce 501. per cent. of their real value. To ascertain that value, it would be necessary to institute a commission in the first instance. As the law now stood, a clergyman could grant a lease of his tithes during his incumbency; but it was true it did not bind his successor, because an obvious evil would be, the temptation of a fine to make a lease which would prejudice his successor. In regard to the pledge stated to have been made at the time of the union, as to a commutation of tithes, he could only say, he had never heard of it before.
Mr. Grattan observed, there was no subject that pressed more upon the feelings of the Irish people than tithes. It affected them in every way; first, it came in the shape of the proctor to the door of the poor man; backed by an indefinite demand, and followed by a law-suit, and a charge for agency. The proctor was odious to the Irish peasant. He was the greatest oppressor that ever roused the indignation of a people. He was a character, who, having no connection with religion, yet in Ireland seemed identified with it; indeed, with the powers that the present system of tithe-collection gave him, he
must always be an oppressor. . He was also a dishonest man; he not only oppressed the poor peasant, but he cheated the parson; he was also the cause of the odium incurred by the clergy. Mr. Grattan avowed himself a friend to the commutation of tithes. In establishing
that, all care should be taken that the clergy should not suffer by the depreciation of the value of tithes. He thought that the plan he once had the honour to propose to the Irish Parliament, very practicable, and that much of the disturbances that afterwards prevailed in that country might have been avoided by its adoption. As the system now stood, it operated with peculiar hardship upon by far the greater portion of the population of Ireland. It was a hardship upon the Catholic to pay two churches: one which he paid from choice, and another from necessity; from the latter of which, as it was well expressed by his honourable friend (Mr. Tighe), he received neither spiritual consolation, nor political protection. He was convinced the poor in Ireland would derive great advantage from a commutation. The question itself was to be debated on two grounds, both as respecting the measure itself proposed, and as leading to a system of commutation. To the latter he professed he had been always friendly: he was always friendly to the church establishment, yet he could not but think that the nature of tithes, served only to render the clergy disrespected. He would not diminish their income, although he considered it abundantly ample, but he would not have it remain uncertain. He allowed there was difficulty in applying a remedy to the evil, but be would not allow it was impossible. If gentlemen will not enquire, they cannot expect to be informed, and the only way to acquire information, is to go into a committee, and therein learn the state of the Irish Church. If the right honourable gentleman had good grounds for the change in his sentiments, he thought he was equally well founded in adhering to his. It was idle and ridiculous to talk of inquiring into the real value of tithes, for if they did so they would equally inquire into their application, and the purposes for which they were originally granted, and in that event he apprehended the clergy would be found to be no great gainers by this inquiry: the true object of inquiry would be, what was a fit and proper support for the clergy? And upon that inquiry, he was sure they would not be left less rich, and he did not wish they should be more so. A great hardship in tithes was, that they were not merely a tithe upon the produce of the land, but also of necessity upon the labour in the attainment of that produce; the uncertainty of that produce was likewise the foundation of disputes every year, unless they did that by agreement;
which should be done by act of Parliament. He had himself, at two different periods, proposed what he considered a remedy for the evil, and he thought either of them was preferable to the present system : in like manner, he considered the present bill as proposed, at least feasible. At the period of the existence of that description of disturbers called White Boys, he had proposed, and clergymen had adopted a system of commutation, by which they had obtained an income considerably larger, and with mutual satisfaction, than they could have obtained by the regular mode of levying tithes; the system of leases he considered as by no means impracticable: they would certainly have the good effect of enabling the farmer to follow and enjoy his industry, without the dread of any fresh demand being made upon that industry. He considered the principle a good one, and commutation eligible, as securing to the farmer the greatest blessing he was capable of receiving, curity against uncertainty; and if the right honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer doubted it, the best mode of deciding the question would be, to establish a commission to inquire into the subject. An acreable rate would satisfy the parishioners, and improve the income of the clergyman.
The previous question being put, the House divided : Ayes 137; Noes 62; Majority against Mr. Parnell's motion 75. Tellers for the
Ayes, Mr. Huskisson, and Mr. Barry.
Noes, Mr. Parnell, and Mr. Calcraft.
MR. CURWEN'S BILL TO PREVENT THE PROCURING SEATS IN PAR
LIAMENT BY CORRUPT PRACTICES.
June 9. 1809.
THE proceedings of Lord Castlereagh, and Lord Cláncarty, as
detailed in the evidence before the committee on India abuses ; the attempt made by them to traffic an office for a seat in Parliament, and the resolution of the House of Commons on Lord Archibald Hamilton's motion on that subject, called the attention of members to these corrupt practices; accordingly a bill was introduced into Parliament by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Percival) to prevent brokers from trafficking in seats and places, and on the 4th of May, Mr. Curwen obtained leave to bring in “ for securing the independence and purity of Parliament, by preventing the
procuring or obtaining seats in Parliament, by corrupt practices, and likewise more effectually to prevent bribery.” He
stated, that his object was to prevent the sale of seats in the House of Commons, and the trafficking for them by means of places and commissions, such as had been proved in the cases of Mrs. Clarke, and Mr. Beasley. It was supported by Mr. Ponsonby, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr.Percival). On the 18th it was read a second time, but in the progress of the bill several clauses were introduced by the minister, which wholly altered its nature. On the 1st of June, it was strongly supported in the committee by the Speaker (Mr. Abbott). On the 9th, the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a clause, imposing a penalty on any person who should make a gift or promise of money, in order to obtain a return to Parliament. The penalty was fixed at 1000l. On the clause originally proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, imposing a penalty, on persons for giving any office or place, on any “ express” contract or agreement, in order to procure a return of a member to serve in Parliament, Lord Milton proposed that the word "express” should be omitted: he conceived, that leaving that term in the bill would augment the influence of the Crown. Mr. Curwen stated that his bill had been entirely altered and loaded with clauses which he did not approve, and that its nature was completely changed. The amendment was supported by Sir William Lemon,
Lord Porchester, Sir John Newport, Mr. Whitbread, Sir Francis Burdett, and Mr. Lyttleton. It was opposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Solicitor-general, (Sir Thomas Plomer), and Mr. Canning.
Mr. Grattan agreed entirely with his right hon. friend, (Sir J. Newport,) in wishing for the adoption of the bill. The rejection of it, might insure ministers a corrupt majority in Parliament; the adoption of it, would afford the people at least a chance of independence. He declared his intention to vote against the term “ express” although it was his determination to support the bill, were that term even admitted to stand part of the clause. There were defects in the bill, which did not arise from the honourable mover, but were introduced from a quarter not equally interested in its success. Still, however, he would support it, because it appeared to him to be a declaration of the common law of the land, and a reassertion of the constitution. By the common law of the land, any minister who procured by money, seats in Parliament, was guilty of a breach of the constitution, and punishable by impeachment. He would suppose a consequence of that bill, which he was not inclined to admit in fact, that the entire monopoly of the purchase of seats would be exclusively confined to the ministers. If any minister acted upon
such principle, by taking advantage of his exclusive possession of the market, he (Mr. Grattan) was certain, that the notoriety would be enough to remove him. He would rather that the whole clause should be expunged, than the word "express"