Page images

Irish grievances, had he been allowed to carry it out. He proposed to abolish the Irish Parliament as a separate body, and by uniting the Irish, Scotch, and English representatives in one assembly, to be called the Parliament of the "United Kingdom," so to effect a complete legislative union between Great Britain. and Ireland. He desired also to emancipate at the same time the Roman Catholics from civil disabilities, and to make a State provision for the Irish Roman Catholic clergy. Unhappily the policy of the great minister was stultified by the narrow bigotry of George III. The union with England, the least popular part of the scheme in Ireland, was carried out. To the rest the king and his friends absolutely refused to agree. In consequence Mr Pitt resigned. It is sad, indeed, to read this page of our history, which exhibits the melancholy spectacle of the just and liberal designs planned by such an intellect as that of Pitt, brought to nought by an intelligence so petty and so poor as that of George III. The emancipation was not granted for nearly thirty years, and then only on compulsion, the Duke of Wellington declaring that if it were refused he could no longer answer for the tranquillity of Ireland. Thus this great act of justice lost nearly all the benefit that might have been reaped from it, on account of the tardy and ungracious manner in which it was bestowed. The College of Maynooth, for the education of students designed for the Roman priesthood, was established by Mr Pitt in 1795. The Protestant Dissenting ministers continued to enjoy the Regium

Donum, a grant the origin of which appears to have come from sums given by Charles II. out of the "secret service money." It was not, however, until the reign of William III. that the grant was publicly conferred and enlarged. It has been continued ever since, and increased from time to time; its present amount being about £40,000.

But the tithes, and a part of the ecclesiastical property,* were, from the Reformation downwards, appropriated to the exclusive use of the small Protestant Episcopal minority and their State Church. Mr Pitt's scheme of paying the clergy of both churches may doubtless be considered less good, and certainly less suitable to our own days than that of paying no church. Still it was a just and liberal policy, which, if adopted, as it might have been in his day, would have been an immense improvement upon the injustice of forcing Roman Catholic Ireland to maintain a Protestant Establishment for the benefit of a wretchedly small minority.

But this injustice was greatly increased by the way in which the tithes were collected, even up to so recent a date as the year 1832, when the Irish Tithe Commutation Act was passed. That Act was only at length wrung from the Legislature, when the aggra- . vating and oppressive mode of collecting the tithes in Ireland had produced such violence and such resistance, such bitter hatred and such fearful outrages,

* Some of the ecclesiastical property was secularised, portions being bought by laymen, and not a little of it being handed over to courtiers and favourites.

that it had brought about a state of things so nearly bordering on general insurrection as to be called the "Tithe War."

refer to these circum

Firstly, because it is

It will, perhaps, be asked, why stances which no longer exist? well that we Englishmen should remember that such a system, so fraught with evil, was in actual operation only thirty-five years ago; its memory therefore rankles still, it may be, among other past wrongs, in the hearts of the Irish (as it would in our own had we been subjected to it), and therefore, in some degree, accounts for the ill-feeling still only too prevalent in Ireland. Secondly, because we should never forget that although the oppressive mode of collecting tithes alluded to has been abolished, the injustice itself of compelling Roman Catholic Ireland to pay tithes in support of a Protestant Establishment still exists; tithes whose history is inseparably connected with the recollection of conquest, and which, when first imposed, were imposed for the maintenance of the Roman Catholic Church. To that Church they continued to be paid for 400 years; after which lapse of time it seemed good to Englishmen who had become Protestants, to oblige Irishmen who remained Roman Catholics to pay those tithes, and to hand over much of the ecclesiastical property to the Protestant Anglican Church, thus by force established and maintained even to this day. Therefore is it that we Englishmen should be reminded of these things, we who boast so often of equal laws, of ancient liberties, of the rights of conscience; we

whose Protestant faith proclaims the freedom of private judgment.

But it has been said that after all the Irish State Church is only a "sentimental grievance." A very few questions will dispose of that assertion. If at the time of the Reformation Ireland had been the strong country and England the weak one; if England having become, as she did, Protestant, Ireland had imposed by force a Roman Establishment upon England; if at this hour to such an establishment, hateful to the great mass of Englishmen, they were yet obliged to pay tithes; if our English bishops and clergy (ignored by the State) depended on voluntary contributions, while Archbishop Manning and his brother prelates inhabited palaces, enjoyed large or comfortable revenues, and graced with their presence the House of Lords-would Englishmen describe the existence of that Papal Church Establishment in Protestant England as merely a "sentimental grievance?" Some object to the abolition of the Irish Protestant Establishment, on the ground that it would do little or nothing to pacify Ireland. Even if this could be proved before the event, which it cannot be, it would be no sound argument against abolishing the grievance in question. "Be just, and fear not," is a good moral maxim, and not a less good political one. To do right without being deterred by a consideration of consequences is as wise and Christian in public as in private life. There is, however, no occasion to take up time with mere argument, because there lies at our doors a fact which throws no little


light upon this matter. There exists a province subject to England, the great majority of whose population is neither English nor Protestant, yet there is no county in Great Britain more loyal or more attached to England's crown than that province of Lower Canada, Roman Catholic though it be by religion, and French by origin. It was the writer's good fortune, while in America' ten years ago, to make an expedition from Quebec down the St Lawrence and up the Saguenay river in company with several Canadian Roman priests. The conversation turned chiefly upon Canada, its condition and politics, a subject which led the priests to speak in the highest praise of the English government, while bearing testimony at the same time to the good feeling prevalent throughout Canada towards England. Yet but some twenty years before, Lower Canada was, and had been for a lengthened period, discontented with the manner in which it was governed. This discontent more than once broke out into vioopen lence, and even actual rebellion. Now, no one who has sought impartially to investigate that unhappy condition of things can rise from such investigation without being convinced that its chief cause lay in the attempt to maintain, more or less, the ascendancy of the British Protestant element over the French Roman Catholic element. Nor is it less evident that the Clergy Reserves were also a great source of discord. These Clergy Reserves were created by an Act of the English Parliament in 1791, which directed that in respect of all grants made by the Crown, a


« PreviousContinue »