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pointedly commented on, was written by Woulfe. So that the letter may well be described as the joint production of Drummond, Lord Morpeth, and Woulfe. The letter shows, that at that time the Government was engaged in the revision of the Magistracy, and the papers (or copies of them) were accordingly transmitted to Lord Plunkett, then Lord Chancellor, by whom they were acted on."*
Colonel Verner, by bringing this matter before Parliament, did good service to the Government, by publishing the evidence of its principles and methods of rule. On his motion that the correspondence be laid on the table, a debate took place, which was resultless, except as a discussion of these methods and principles. It figures in Hansard as “The Debate on the Battle of the Diamond."
By this time the position of the Melbourne Administration had become exceedingly insecure. To see the causes of this, and the comparative failure of legislation for Ireland within the period with which we are concerned, it is necessary to glance at the state of parties in Parliament, and the relations of the Ministry to Irish measures and to Irish members.
Had the Melbourne Administration been as strong in the Upper as it was in the Lower House of Parliament, it might have done much in the years that had passed for the redemption of Ireland. The principal Irish measures which the Ministry had attempted to carry related to Tithes, Municipal Reform, and the Poor Laws.
The leading feature of the Tithe Commutation Bill, and that which alone prevented its passing, was the
* Letter to present writer, from the Right Honourable Maziere Brady, dated 29th March 1867.
appropriation to general Irish uses of the surplus to be obtained by reducing the Church establishment. The bill proposed to commute the composition of tithes into a rent charge, payable by the owners of the estate. The owners would, of course, reimburse themselves from the tenants. It was thus that. Sir Robert Peel, taunting O'Connell for supporting the measure, could call it “a mere swindle of the Irish peasantry!”-a device for getting over the difficulties of collecting the tithes, which for some years it had been found impossible to collect. But the bill, further, proposed a scale of payments to the clergy proportional to the number of Episcopalians in their cures, L.100 per annum to be a minimum ; and it proposed that the surplus, obtainable through this arrangement, should be applied to national uses. It was in respect of these clauses that the bill was a measure of justice to Ireland. What was the injustice appears from the following statistics which were before Parliament. The whole population numbering 7,943,940, the Catholics numbered 6,427,712; the other dissenters, 664,164 ; and the Episcopalians only 853,064. That is, in the population there were 7,091,876 dissenters and only 853,064 adherents of the Established Church! In one diocese there was less than one Episcopalian to a thousand acres of land. There were 151 parishes without a single Episcopalian, and 860 parishes with less than 50 Episcopalians. It may be added, though somewhat irrelevantly, that, on the other hand, in 903 benefices the Protestants held 10,500,000 acres of the land; while the Papists, not all representatives of the native race, held only 645,000 acres.
By the Municipal Reform Bill it was proposed at once to destroy the corrupt corporations, and to establish
local self-government in Ireland as it was established in England and Scotland. There were in all, in Ireland, 71 municipal corporations, of which between 40 and 50 had been erected by James I. expressly in the interests of Protestantism. The corporations embraced a population of 900,000, of whom only 13,000 were corporators. In these communities plunder and peculation were systematized, the interests of the public being sacrificed to the interests of the few. Since 1792 the corporations had, in law, been open to Catholics, but, up to 1835, only 200 Catholics had, in fact, in all Ireland, been admitted to the freedom of any of them. The corporations thus constituted performed at least one important function which affected materially the administration of justice. The Sheriffs were chosen from the corporate bodies, and the panels for special juries again were chosen by the Sheriffs. The majorities in the panels were, of course, corporators; and, as a consequence, a nation of Catholics found themselves obliged to submit such suits at law as they engaged in to the arbitrament (practically) of Protestant juries. This was one of the chief of the many evils (left at last unremedied) which the Municipal Reform Bill proposed to remove.
The proposed Poor Law system, it was hoped, would prove a relief to distress, a check upon mendicancy, and a tonic and alterative to the whole social system.
Had these legislative measures been timeously carried, they must have done much good and averted much evil. Their promoters were, however, repeatedly defeated, and their failures were so many springs of discontent and agitation. When a measure of success came at last, the people were in no mood to rejoice in it, or even to be satisfied by it.
The Tithe Bill had been lost in 1834. In the spring of 1835 the Whigs, by resolutions on the appropriation question, overthrew the Peel Administration. Thereafter, in that year, the Melbourne Government carried their Tithe Bill in the Commons, and abandoned it on the surplus and appropriation clauses being struck out in the Lords. The bill had the same fate in 1836. In 1837 it passed the Commons, was suspended in the Lords, and dropped on the death of the King. It became law in 1838, as a mere commutation measure, on the final abandonment by the Whigs of the surplus and appropriation clauses, which alone recommended it to the Irish. By insisting on these clauses the Whigs had driven Peel from office, and obtained it for themselves ; and now, to retain office, they gave up the clauses. The small end of the wedge, which might by this time have been inserted, was withdrawn, and has never since been exhibited. Five years were lost of the good effects which the measure was calculated to produce as a mere aid to social order. The deep-seated injustice remained undiminished and more felt than before. That a majority in the popular branch of the British Legislature for five years proclaimed the Irish Church, as established, to be an injustice, is a fact hitherto resultless, save as an encouragement to the leaders of Irish agitation.*
* Nearly thirty years have passed since the abandonment of the principle of the appropriation clauses ; yet, according to some, whose business it is to be informed of the state of public opinion, the country is not one whit more prepared now to support such a measure than it was in 1838. The belief seems to be that the influence of the Church of England would be sufficient to secure the overthrow of any Ministry that renewed and persisted in a proposal to reduce the Irish Church Establishment and appropriate its surplus funds to national Irish uses. It is hard to believe this, and harder to believe that within the last thirty years there has not been a growth of liberal feeling in the country, and even among
In regard to Municipal Reform, the Whig majority in the Lower House was similarly neutralised by the Tory majority in the Upper. The Government bill shared the fortunes of the Tithe Bill in every year from 1835 to 1838—carried in the one House, rejected in the other, or dropped on being disfigured by amendments. That the Irish corporations were indefensible was on all hands admitted. The fear was that the Reform would give the political preponderance to the Catholics. In the Lower House it was said that the bill would establish Town Councils “as normal schools of agitation and authorised engines of the Popish priesthood.” It was more pointedly put in the Upper House, that it would deprive the Protestant minority of their political supremacy. The Emancipation was as yet to a considerable extent an unreality; many even of its promoters feared to carry it through the institutions of the country. And what most influenced these wavering friends of Emancipation was the dread of danger to the Church. The Church, it was said, would crumble at the touch of free institutions. “ This is the real mischief of that Church,” said Mr Buller, in the debate on the bill in 1837. “Its mere existence has been a dreadful evil; but the train of its auxiliary evils has been still more dreadful. To maintain the Church in defiance of the hostility of the nation, you have been obliged to pervert every other institution that belongs to it.” The perversion of the municipia had certainly the classes of ecclesiastics. What was so often carried through the Commons might be expected to be successfully carried through it again. The House of Lords of to-day is more liberal than that of 1838, and might be expected to pass such a measure, should the Liberals insist upon it. To make an attempt at least, in this direction, would appear to be one of the most obvious duties incumbent upon the leaders of the Liberal party.