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Listed Under:  Ireland, Economic Problems  |   Ireland, Legislation

Daniel O'Connell

Tithes (Ireland); Date, January 15, 1838

Citation Information:Daniel O'Connell, "Tithes (Ireland); Date, January 15, 1838," in Cusack, M. F. The Speeches and Public Letters of the Liberator. Vol. 1. Dublin: McGlashan & Gill, 1875, p. 515.

Date, January 15, 1838.

Mr. O'Connell spoke to the following effect:—I can safely promise the House that, if they extend me their patience, I will not trespass long upon their attention. I rise after the right hon. Gentleman, but not by reason of anything he had said—post hunc, sed non propter cum. The right hon. and learned gentleman is singularly liberal in his advances. He offers the noble lord, that if the noble lord will consent to do nothing, he will help him. These are the terms of the proffered holy alliance. These are the terms on which the noble lord may insure the assistance of the right hon. the learned gentleman. As to the rest of the right hon. gentleman's speech, it was divided into two unequal parts, both of which, however, had equally little to do with the subject before us. The first part referred to resolutions which are not under discussion at the present time; the second contained the history of what was said and done on the other side of the House, and what was said and done on an occasion some time gone by, having no bearing on the present discussion, and just as interesting to us as the History of Cock Robin, which has been much spoken of to-night, or if the noble member for Marylebone prefer the comparison, as the Life and Adventures of Tom Murphy. The noble lord near me has asked the House to go into committee in order to consider the details of this subject. The right hon. Gentleman might just as well have favoured us with his speech in committee; but as it is, I trust he will give us the benefit of the instalment. The question, however, before us is, whether we shall rescind the resolutions of 1835 or not. This is, I say, the only question before us apparently; but what is the real question? The real question is—and it is vain for shallow hypocrisy to deny it—the real question is, how shall Ireland be governed? Yes; disguise it as you will; put it as you will—under cover for your love of Protestantism, and your abhorrence of Popery; this is the question; this is the question which is now under discussion, and which has been under discussion for the last seven hundred years (laughter; and "oh, oh!"). yes; you may affect to laugh and sneer; I make no blunder about the matter. I know as well as you that Protestantism was not your war-cry seven hundred years ago, as it is now; but I say that for seven hundred years back the question has been how dominant England shall treat subject and oppressed Ireland. This is the only question, and this is the real question between you—the Tory and the Whig—at least, as far as professions go, for most of you profess in other matters nearly the same principles as the Whigs; the only difference is, in carrying these principles into effect. But the real great question ever is, how shall Ireland be governed—shall she be governed by a selection? (hear, hear). Oh! I thank you for that cheer (shouts). Yes, shout as you will; I care not for the shouts of an insolent and despicable domination (Uproar, which drowned the hon. and learned gentleman's voice, until the Speaker succeeded in restoring partial order). Oh! Sir (continued the hon. and learned gentleman), let them shout; 'tis a senseless yell (continued uproar); it speaks the base spirit of party (continued uproar, which prevent the hon. and learned member from being more than partially heard). You may sneer at me if you please. I speak the voice of seven millions. Why should not the son of Grattan say to you that which he has told you (order). The English people are aware of your conduct—they know what you have done amongst them of late in order that you may command us hereafter. You may carry bribery further than that which you have practised. Yes; you have practised it, and the highest amongst you have shrunk from investigation (cheers; question). If the hon. Gentleman who cries "question" wishes to know what it is, I tell him it is as to the mode of governing Ireland—for it is impossible to think that such a paltry attempt as that which is included in the motion of the hon. Baronet, the member for North Dover, can be the mode or the means of inducing us to wander from that which is the real question between us. Why, let me read to you what is the question; whether you will rescind this resolution is the nominal question; but in reality the question is, by what mode you mean to govern Ireland? Before I read the resolution, let me remind you that not only the people of England and the people of Scotland and the people of Ireland but the inhabitants of Europe are attending to the debates of this House, and the questions which you have reserved for your determination. From the camp of Don Carlos to the throne of Nicholas, they are attending to your proceedings; the world is listening to you; and do you think that they will not look upon you with contempt if they find that you permit paltry party spirit to enter into your deliberations, and bearing upon your decisions, by which you will distinguish one nation from the other, and make those whose powers ought to be united, consolidated, and identified with each other, a division and a disunited people? But what is your resolution that you want to rescind? This is the resolution:—"That any surplus revenue of the present Church Establishment in Ireland not required for the spiritual care of its members—" The scope and object of the resolution, then, are these: to provide for the spiritual care of the members of the Established Church. You say, then, that the money is not enough. This is what is said by the hon. Member for Donegal, who has highly praised the establishment; but, then, how is this difficulty met as to the money being applied to political objects? It is declared that the surplus revenue "shall be applied to the moral and religious education of all classes; of the people, without distinction of religious persuasion." Now, there is the resolution that is so terrific; that which is to come between us and justice—that which is to stop us—that which is so monstrous, which is so frightful, that the rev. clergymen of the Church of Ireland declare that they are afraid that the funds of the Church will be exhausted, that they never will be sufficient for all which the wants of the Protestants of Ireland may require. They are for the spiritual wants of the Protestants being supplied, and they declare that when they are supplied the surplus should not be employed in any other way. How; not employed in instruction—not employed in giving a moral and religious education to the people? Remember, it is for the moral and religious education of the people. Oh, you tell us it is not right to employ it in that manner! Why, how many of you are there who go about amongst us—how many of your missionaries are there amongst us—who tell us that it is the benefit of education and the advantages of intelligence that are wanting to us, to induce us to become Protestants?

If you believe yourselves, then, why not act upon the resolution? You tell the world we want education, and you show the world you do not believe what you say. You prove to the world that you do not rely upon the Bible, but upon the strength of your party. You prove to the world that the only riches of the Church that you value are those which you can bring with you in Judas's scrip. If we are to be benefited with education—if we are to be made Protestants by education—then why not allow us to be educated? If you believe that Protestantism is the religion that will be preferred by educated men, then why have you such a horror of the surplus fund of the Church being devoted to that education which you say is the best method for making men Protestants. But then you may tell us, that, though Protestantism may increase as education is acquired, yet it may happen that giving the surplus to education may not allow hereafter enough for the spiritual wants of Protestantism. What, in such a case, does the resolution provide? It says, "providing for the resumption of such surplus, or of any such part of it as may be required by an increase in the number of the members of the Established Church." And yet that is the resolution which has so frightened the persons of Devonshire that they have put forward their member to move for its being expunged from the journals of this House. This, then, is the awful, this the dreadful, resolution. Oh! How I rejoice that in the struggle in which my country is engaged, and in which you are combined against her, that you stand before the world the parties to such an absurd, such a contemptible, and such an unjust resistance to her rights—that you, despite of the scorns and in defiance of the sneers of mankind, should stand thus before civilized Europe? That is the proposition you oppose, and that proposition goes no further than this—that the surplus is to be applied to the purposes of education, which education you yourself say will make men Protestants; and then if, in consequence of education, more Protestant clergymen are to be required, then the very resolution you want to rescind allows the resumption of the surplus for all the purposes required by an increased number of Protestants. You object to that. The shout you gave awhile ago was, indeed, a fitting honour for the hon. baronet—not on account of his speech; for never in all my life did I hear anything more harmless that that was. Hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have given him credit for purity of intentions—they have spoken of the purity of his motives. Really, sir, when there was a rule of the House that no one member is to impute bad motives to another, no matter how bad his acts may be, I do think it ought not to be suffered to impute good motives to any man who has made a bad motion with impunity. And yet that is the position of the hon. Baronet. He has brought forward an unjust, an unfair, and an absurd motion, and then we are told of his good intentions. Now if any man were to tell us that the hon. baronet was actuated by a desire of notoriety, that he was instigated by vanity, and that he was carried by the blast of Conservatism into a region which he never otherwise would have reached—oh! then the delicate and fastidious would have been shocked, and it would be said you are not at liberty to impute bad motives, nor to accuse another of having bad intentions. The hon. baronet has made a bad motion with good intentions; but did the hon. baronet never hear of a Dutch proverb, which declares that a very bad place "is paved with good intentions?" I impute no motives to the hon. baronet, and as far as Parliamentary language will allow me to go, I say that I "laugh to scorn" any one who can say, that a man can come forward in this House and propose to expunge the resolution which I have now read, and that in doing so he can be actuated with good intentions. But after him came the hon. baronet, the member of Warwickshire, who told us that it was with delight he seized the opportunity of seconding the motion for expunging these resolutions. If that delighted him, I must say that it is very easy to please him. He said he would not consent to "give to the enemies of the Church the property of the friends of the Church." Will he tell me whose property is it? will he also answer me another question, and tell me whose property it was? I have heard of one gallant officer on the opposite benches, the hon. member for Donegal, who endowed a church in Ireland. I do not at all doubt it, for I can easily credit the liberality and piety of the hon. and gallant member in this respect; but then, I ask, with that single exception, whose property was that of the present Church? Was it not the property of the Roman Catholics; and was it not given for the purpose of having prayers for the dead, for the celebration of Masses, for the invocation of saints, and for the maintaining of such other "superstitious and damnable doctrines?" Yes, you thought the doctrine was bad, but then, you said, "the money is good"—and, accordingly, you protested against the doctrine, whilst you took care anxiously to clasp the money to your hearts. And, having done this, you now refuse to do justice, under the paltry pretence of religion. It is a paltry and a hollow hypocrisy. There is a kind of morbid humanity abroad; it is to be found amongst men who affect philanthropy—who are tenderly alive to all the evils which may be endured by those who are not of an agreeable colour, and who are to be found in distant regions; they are men who overflow with the milk of human kindness for black men and women, but who can with patience, with equanimity, and even with approbation, look on, and see all the injuries you inflict upon Irishmen, and all the injustice you do to Ireland. I wish the Irish were negroes, and then we should have an advocate in the hon. baronet. This erratic humanity wanders beyond the ocean, and visits the hot islands of the West Indies, and thus having discharged the duties of kindness there, it returns burning and desolating, to treat with indignity and to trample upon the people of Ireland as enemies. The hon. baronet has used the words, "he would not allow the property of friends to be given to enemies." Is it to pay the priesthood of the people that the property of the Church is sought to be applied? No; for we, true to our principles, and finding the Catholic religion to prosper unconnected with the State, would not allow it to be contaminated by mammon, and will only have it sustained as it has flourished, upon the voluntary contributions of its own members. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock, who is not now in his place, but I suppose he is in the House, was kind enough to speak upon that side of the House also; and he, with a dexterity which was more to be admired than his candour, read half a sentence of mine, and took particular care to omit the other half. I alluded to the resolutions, and observed, that as Protestantism diminished, the contributions to the purposes of the State would be increased, and I also showed that the expenditure for the purposes of Protestantism would be enlarged with the increase of Protestantism. Was it fair, then, in this House, to quote the first part of the sentence and to omit the other part? The hon. Member for Pontefract is not here, and I am, therefore, willing to pass by the philippic he was pleased to make on her Majesty's ministers. He told us, indeed, of "a cat lapping milk." But I shall not follow him; I shall only give him one line of poetry for his "cat lapping:"—

"The cat may mew, the dog may have his day."

But the real point to be decided is this—whether you are disposed to make the Union permanent or not. My hon. friend, the hon. baronet, the member for Drogheda, told you that which you would not believe me if I told you; but can you disbelieve him? He told you how deeply the people of Ireland feel as to the contest which is now going on. We may say we are eight millions. I say you may take the whole of the Protestants of Ireland—and it would be hard, indeed, to take them from the people of Ireland, for I am at this moment surrounded with Protestant friends who are ardent in the cause of Ireland—but if I give you all, you will have a million and a-half, including the Presbyterians, who do not love tithes. Taking, then, man for man, woman for woman, and child for child, there is a balance in our favour of five millions. You have a million and a-half—we have six millions and a-half; deduct the million and a-half, and then you find a clear balance of five millions. "It is the total of the whole." For my own part, I never have disguised my opinion. I always have said that a nation of eight millions was too numerous, if they had common sense, to permit themselves to be treated as a province. We were not treated as a province for near 700 years, though we were misgoverned; and, for the last twenty-five years of her independence, Ireland was rising in prosperity unexampled in the annals of any nation. This, too, was happening at the time when you were running a course of profligacy; you were then sending your troops to America; you attempted to trample upon its liberties; but, thanks to the patriotism and spirit of its sons, they met you in arms, they defeated you, and they established their independence. (Question!) It is a question of which you will hear more than once. But, then, having fomented a rebellion in Ireland, you availed yourselves of the diminished strength of the people and the distracted state of parties, and with 150,000 troops in the county you carried the Union. I am ready to consent that that Union may continue. (Oh! Oh!) You may sneer at that declaration, and show you do not value my consent; but then you sneered at America, and you got your answer. Let the hon. baronet tell the people of Ireland he does not value their consent; but I tell him that, if the Conservative faction, or the Conservative party, trample without hope of redress upon the people of Ireland, he may find that, though victory may not be inscribed upon the banners of the Irish, they never would consent to lie down degraded and willing slaves. The Union should be one in which there ought to be no distinction between Yorkshire and Carlow—between Waterford and Cumberland; there ought to be an identity of laws, an identity of institutions, and an identity of liberties. It may be said that I push the argument too far, when I make use of the word identity; for the Church of the State in England is the Church of the majority. I find that, in England, there are twelve thousand places of worship connected with the Established Church, and that the Dissenters have eight thousand meeting-houses. The religion, then, of the majority of the people of England is that professed by the Church of the State. In Scotland, the religion of the people is recognised as the national religion. In Ireland, you have trampled upon the religion of the people, and you perpetrated your tyranny in the worst form and in the most odious shape, until at length the people of Ireland spoke to you in a voice too loud not to be heard, and too unanimous to be misunderstood, and you found yourselves unable to continue them in their former state of degradation. In Scotland, the people turned out upon the mountain side—they met you in battle, and have defeated you; you were obliged to yield in Scotland. In despite of you there the Church adopted by the State was the Church of the people. What, then, should be the effect of the Union? That the Church of the people should be the Church of the State. There is no principle—I mean no political principle—to prevent it; but there is a principle upon our part which must for ever prevent such an occurrence taking place in Ireland. It is this—that we are thoroughly convinced that it would be the surest mode of decatholicising Ireland. We believe that tainting our Church with tithes, and giving temporalities to it, would degrade it in the affections of the people of Ireland, Offers have been made before to the clergy of Ireland, and they have been rejected—the offer of any connection with the State will ever be rejected. But, then, treating Ireland as you do upon this very question, you tell her that there is no Union with England. These resolutions do not go far enough. I admit it. But, then, I am ready to accede to these resolutions. My disposition is for an amicable settlement. The Protestant landlords are now beginning to feel the weight of tithes equally with the Catholics. From the county of Cork we perceive vast numbers of petitions proceeding from all classes of politicians. The Conservative landlords are becoming heartily sick of the payment of tithes. They may call it "rent," but the tenant understands it is an additional burden to his rent. If the tenant appeal to the agent for distraining for rent before the man is prepared to pay it, the agent tells him that the clergyman of the parish is pressing the landlords for his tithes, and he is obliged to collect his rent sooner than otherwise it should be done, for the purpose of paying the clergyman's demand; and thus it is that, though you may call it rent, the people feel it to be tithes.

The Protestant landlords, and even many of the Protestant clergymen, are calling for a settlement of the question. Even within the last week the letter of Archdeacon Hoare has been published, in which he calls upon his brother clergymen to accept the admirable terms offered by the Queen's Government. Will it not be allowed to accept these terms? It is true that here Protestantism is mixed up with politics, and the interests of religion are apt to be overlooked in the advantages of party. Piety is combined with the love of place, and the tranquillity of Ireland neglected for the hope of the enjoyment of office. The Protestant gentry, as well as the people of Ireland, call for conciliation now. Let, then, Ireland be now tranquillized; and, as far as an humble individual can do, I have set the example already, and I am ready to follow it up. I have paid my tithes: I did not pay them for five years; I had four parsons attacking me at once. They have now been paid, because I wish to set the example of being prepared for an amicable settlement. But, then, the hon. baronet will not allow that: his "good intentions" will prevent it, and induce him to rescind a resolution to which common sense cannot object, but to which political Protestantism can offer some opposition. We want equality with you, and you will not permit us to have it. You gave us a Reform Bill—it was a stingy and despicable Reform Bill. Why? Because you would not trust us. Your political Protestantism again met us. We ought to have had the same franchises which you enjoy. We were entitled to them by the Union. Why not give us an equality of civil rights? Political Protestantism could not permit us to have them. England has Municipal Reform; Scotland has Municipal Reform; but Ireland has not obtained Corporation Reform. Why? Your political Protestantism again. How wisely do you preach Protestantism in Ireland! You make it the pretext for depriving us of every species of equality with yourselves, and then, having rendered it odious, you send forth your missionaries to preach it amongst the people whom you have made its victims. It is despotism aided by hypocrisy, and yet you proclaim a Union, a Legislative Union, between subjects of the same realm. You may do so, but you will be laughed at and scorned. I am making an experiment amongst you, and frankly and fairly I tell you, I am convinced you will not do us justice. What prospect is there of it, when I find that, owing to the enormous bribery practised by you amongst the freemen, you have got such numbers into the Commons, that the Lords think nothing of a majority of this House. It is of no avail to her Majesty's ministers to bring in useful measures; we hear them taunted with the little they have done. Why, you won't let them do what they would. First, you taunt them with not doing more, and then, when they purpose to proceed, you place yourselves in opposition to them, and tell them that there is another place. We know that there is another place. And we know that it needs only to be said, that it is intended to extend political advantages to the people of Ireland to insure a veto being pronounced against the proposition. This is your triumph; yours is the power to insult; yours is the authority to oppress; you glorify yourselves in your haughty station; and while you pretend you wish us justice you exert all the powers you posses to prevent the identification of our rights and liberties with yours. I did not intend to occupy the House half so long. The question is simply this—are you disposed to do justice to Ireland? You make us an offer; you say you are disposed to go into the consideration of the resolutions with good temper, but first the approbation principle must be struck off. The meaning of this is plain: "Walk under the yoke, good gentlemen. Make the best of your way to the common place of execution; walk under it—bow your head to it—and then, forsooth, when you have rendered yourselves as contemptible as degradation can make you, when you have satisfied us of your unmanliness and worthlessness, then we will consider you fit objects of conciliation, and entitled to participate with us in the enjoyment of rational liberty." That is precisely what the noble lord, the member for North Lancashire, promised us; that is the way in which the noble lord gave us to understand we might excite his good temper, and ensure to ourselves his countenance and all that is genial and winning about it. The hon. the learned Recorder also, protesting that he never made speeches as a judicial partisan, except at the monthly meetings of those liberal and enlightened men, the Corporation of Dublin, told us what might things we might expect at his hands if we would but submit to this degradation. Do the hon. gentlemen opposite taunt her Majesty's Government with not having carried this resolution into effect? Surely it is we who ought to complain of that. We are the parties who are entitled to ask why it has been allowed to slumber? No attempt, however, has been made to act upon it; and now the hon. gentlemen opposite deem even the sound of it too much for our Irish ears. Its being allowed to remain upon the books is too great a submission to the wishes and feelings of the people of Ireland; and, consequently, one hon. baronet moves, and another hon. baronet seconds, both with the best intentions, a motion to obliterate it from the Parliamentary records. Heaven preserve us from your English baronets. They are the oddest cattle I ever heard of. I find them voting for the principle of appropriation at one time, and calling for its condemnation at another. The hon. baronet who has seconded this motion has given a most unpleasant, I will call it a most awful, turn to the debate; it was in his speech that for the first time the distinctive appellations of religion were given to a party in this House. He said, "the Whigs in 1688 had driven away a Catholic King, and he in 1838 would assist in driving a Catholic Opposition from the Senate." If this be the way in which the hon. baronet pleases to talk of the Catholic party in this House, I beg to tell him that we have to the full as good a right to be here as he has. (Sir E. Wilmot had spoken of Catholic domination.) The newspaper reports correspond with the note I took at the time; but I am content to believe, that Catholic dominion was the phrase used by the hon. baronet. There is no great difference between the two. What do we demand—what do we wish? We wish this resolution to remain in your books, and then the hon. baronet talks of Catholic dominion; for I must take him to have meant dominion, if he says so. Now, let me ask, is not this the first time the distinction of religious parties has been introduced into the House? I assure the hon. baronet that I am as little disposed to Protestant as he is to Catholic dominion; I beg to tell him more, that if Catholic dominion diminished his rights as a Protestant, there is not a man in existence who would more zealously and actively exert himself to destroy it than I would. At the same time the hon. baronet made that distinction, the hon. member for Malton, who is a Protestant, the hon. member for Armagh, who has belonged to the Presbyterian Church for twenty-five years, and another hon. member, who is a dissenter of one of the persuasions, sat around me; and we four, each differing from the other in our religious opinions, joined in one expression of abhorrence at such a distinction being introduced amongst us.

Shall we have polemical discussions in this House? I beg the hon. baronet to understand that I am quite ready to meet him for any such encounter, but not here. I am as prepared and as disposed as he can be to give reasons for the hope that is in me. But we sit here as the representatives of the people; and, as a representative of the Irish people, I call on you to remember that your Union is one of parchment; it may be one of cobweb, and it may be one of adamant, but the latter I will not be unless you do justice to Ireland.