Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

bitterness evinced by our statesmen, whether Whig or Conservative, in their defence of the hierarchy.

If there be one point of ecclesiastical policy on which reflecting men of all parties are more agreed than on any other, it is the anomalous character and gross injustice of the Protestant church in Ireland. Members of Lord Russell's administration have expressed themselves on this point without hesitation, and the national mind has been rapidly preparing for the abrogation of this branch of the national church. In no other case, save that of the corn-laws, has such rapid progress been made. Even churchmen have been compelled to admit the outrageous character of the institute, and politicians of nearly all classes have concurred in affirming that the peace of Ireland cannot be maintained without it. Far different, however, is the view entertained by our present Premier. Lagging behind the most intelligent of his party; inaccessible alike to the claims of the Irish catholics, and to the dictates of righteous principle ; his lordship, in reply to Mr. Thomas Duncombe, expounded his views in the following remarkable passage, distinguished alike for fatal errors and for an apparently utter ignorance of what has been passing in Ireland for many years past.

• With respect to the church in Ireland, and the endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy, said Lord Russell, I voted with my honourable friend the member for Sheffield in favour of providing for the establishment of Maynooth out of the funds of the Established Church. We were defeated by a great majority, the opinion of the House being adverse to that proposition. I afterwards continued to the end to give a zealous support to the bill which provided for the establishment of Maynooth out of the consolidated fund. I made no difficulty in supporting that bill because the motion of my honourable friend was not carried. Well, I now say that I retain my opinions with respect to the Protestant church, and with respect to Roman-catholic endowment; but I do not think that it is necessary that I should urge these opinions at the present moment, for I should be doing that which I must confess at the present moment to be impracticable. I believe that with respect to what some have proposed, namely, the destruction of the Protestant church in Ireland, there could be no worse or more fatal measure sanctioned by Parliament. I believe that it would be politically injurious, because I believe that many of the most loyal in Ireland-many of those the most attached to the connexion with this country, would be alienated by the destruction of that church, to which they are fondly attached. I believe that in a religious point of view, it would be the commencement of a religious war; that there would be that which does not at present prevail, -the most violent and vehement attack on the Roman-catholic religion; and that the Roman-catholics themselves would be the first to complain of the destruction of the Protestant church.'

The sacrifice of the many to the few-long the favourite policy of our rulers—is sufficiently indicated by his lordship, whilst the apprehensions expressed of 'a religious war,' and of 'violent and vehement attacks on the Roman-catholic religion,' can only be explained on the supposition of an absolute failure of memory as well as a paralysis of the reasoning faculty. But enough of this. His lordship is not content with maintaiuing the existing hierarchy. He would create another, and only waits an opportunity to do so. The temper of the day does not permit him to carry out his views, but they are distinctly enunciated, and we know what politicians mean when they speak thus. They are too wise in their generation to give utterance to their thoughts, unless they intend, when occasion serves, to reduce them to practice. Let our readers therefore ponder well what follows. They are words ominous of evil; they portend an approaching revolution in our Irish ecclesiastical policy, and are evidently designed to prepare the way for it. His lordship is willing to bide his time, but we should be infatuated beyond the common fate of mortals, if we did not see in his words the shadow of coming events. He that runneth may read. The Premier, at least, is honest. We concede his manliness, but there is in the nation less of truth and of enlightened conviction than we imagine, if his policy should be permitted to triumph. He has divulged the secret, and it remains with us to say, whether an organization shall not instantly be devised suffi. ciently powerful to meet the crisis which must arise. Come it will in one form or other, and the result will mainly depend on the position assumed by protestant dissenters.

· Can you found or endow,' his lordship enquires, 'the Roman-catholic church? It is quite evident from Mr. Pitt's speeches, and the memoranda left by his friends, that he was of opinion that it was pos. sible to endow or to make some provision for the Roman-catholic church by the state. My belief is, that if Mr. Pitt had carried that measure, he would have carried a measure conducive to the welfare of Ireland, to the maintenance of the Union, and to the peace of the United Kingdom. In conformity with that opinion I gave my vote in 1825, twenty-one years ago, in favour of a motion made by Lord F. Egerton, now the Earl of Ellesmere, who moved that a provision be made for the maintenance of the Roman-catholic church. But what do I find at this moment? I see, generally speaking, that the Church of England, that the Dissenters of England, that the established church of Scotland, that the free church of Scotland, that the established church in Ireland, that the Protestant Association in Ireland, and lastly, that the Roman-catholics of Ireland themselves, are all vehement in opposition to such a plan. I received only this morning a placard from Edinburgh, in which the Roman-catholics of Edinburgh declared that they would resist, to the utmost of their power, any plan for the payment of the Roman-catholic clergy. I cannot see, then, that that is a measure which I am bound, consistently with my duty, to bring under the consideration of the House, until I see some kind of more favourable disposition towards it on the part of the people. I should say if that measure, or any other measure were urgent, that though impracticable, I might still be bound, by my duty to the Crown, to propose it, and resign office if I should not carry it; but I must confess, that with respect to ecclesiastical questions in Ireland, admitting, as I do, that neither the state of the Protestant establishment, as affecting the south of Ireland, nor the voluntary system, as affecting the Roman-catholics, is satisfactory to my mind ; yet I do see that there is not that cause of urgency that any immediate measures need be proposed with respect to them There are many questions which are more beneficial to Ireland, and more practicable; and, there. fore, I do not see the necessity of urging forward those questions which I confess to be impracticable. If any member of this House chooses to express, or feel, and act upon a want of confidence in my administration, on the ground that I am not disposed to rest for ever satisfied with the present condition of ecclesiastical affairs in Ireland, or inclined to say that the state of these affairs is consistent with justice, and that it must be kept up in perpetuity on the principle of endowment for the Protestant minority, and of the voluntary principle for the Roman-catholic majority-if any persons are disposed to favour a vote of want of confidence on that account, I cannot help their acting on such an opinion. But I cannot, in my own mind, say that I am satisfied perfectly with that condition of affairs. I cannot pledge myself, if I find the people of England and Scotland disposed to what I think a more just and useful arrangement, I will not pledge myself to be an opponent of such arrangement.'

His lordship, while disclosing with sufficient clearness his own views, has not done justice to those who withhold their confidence from the Irish policy of his administration. Some, it is true, may do so for the reason he has stated; but others, and throughout the country a much larger number, refuse such confidence, on the ground that nothing short of an entire severance of the episcopal and of all other churches in Ireland from the State, can meet the justice of the case, or calm the outraged feelings of that island. This is the ground taken by all consistent voluntaries, by many members of the established church of England, and by politicians of various grades and complexions. Were we reduced to the alternative of maintaining the present system, or of conceding to the Catholics a fair proportion of the ecclesiastical revenues of Ireland, we should unhesitatingly

prefer the latter. There would be more of justice, or rather less of injustice, in it. It would be less glaringly vicious, less adapted to keep the country in a state of perpetual irritation. But the diminution of evil accruing from such a policy would be purchased at a fearful cost. Irish patriotism would lose its element; the voices which are now raised on behalf of a suffering people would be hushed; a conservative influence would be spread throughout the land ; and government stipendiaries would be substituted for an unbought and earnest priesthood. To this dilemma, however, we are not reduced. There is another course open to us, one more accordant with religious truth, more commensurate with the rightful claims of all the parties concerned, better adapted to allay the animosities and heal the wounds of a bleeding country, and more richly fraught in consequence with the elements of social welfare and of • religious progress. Let the state-holding all vested and life interests sacred-resume the property from which its ecclesiastical functionaries are paid. Let it withhold all grants of public money from religionists of every name, and confine itself henceforth to its legitimate sphere. Let such property, in whatever it consists, be applied to strictly national purposes, and religion be left to the zeal and earnestness of its disciples. A new era would thus arise, not more agitating, at first, than that which will spring from the government plan, but a thousand-fold more certain of ultimately securing the peace and welfare of the people.

We are the more concerned on this matter, as there is reason to apprehend that the government scheme is already concocted, and has the approval of the O'Connell as well as of the Peel section of our statesmen. Rumours have reached us, on the substantial truth of which we are disposed to rely, that the government, as such, will maintain silence on this point, until a general election has taken place; but that immediately afterwards, when a seven years tenure of parliamentary existence has been secured, the establishment of popery in Ireland will be forced through the legislature, however hostile it may be found to the national will. We can merely hint this now, in order to put our friends on their guard, but we shall return to it again, with the additional information which the ensuing month may supply. Should Lord John Russell be able to effect the en. dowment of the Romish priesthood, to which he is committed by past professions and votes, a tremendous blow will be given to every hope of better times. Were he to make the attempt, and be prevented from carrying it out, as we hope he may, by the voice of public opinion, the failure might be pregnant with the elements of social regeneration. We have

our fears, however, unless the country meet the case at the approaching general election, that the Whigs, backed by a portion of the Tories, may, in spite of the indignant voice of the British people, carry the measure. Our expectation, therefore, of good from the Whigs, is not great. We look with more hope even to Sir Robert Peel. His recent conversion to free trade principles is a sufficient proof that he is capable of being enlightened on great questions. Now what Ireland wants is just the application of these principles to religion. Give Ireland free trade in religion, and you place her at once in a fair way of improvement; you heal her most dangerous malady; you close up the fruitful source of her discontent, and open the way for a fair application of the other social remedies which legislative wisdom may suggest. Abolish, we say to our statesmen, whether Sir Robert Peel or Lord John Russell, the state church of Ireland, remove that hideous monopoly, and you will thereby encircle your brow with prouder laurels than have been gained from the abolition of the corn laws, bright and fresh as they may be ; you will secure for yourself a position in the first rank of the ablest and most energetic of modern statesmen, and transmit to posterity your name, embalmed in the grateful recollections of an oppressed but generous people.

But why do we look to man? Our confidence is in God; in Him by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice. Ireland, long misgoverned, degraded, and alienated, is not overlooked. He who hath a name written on his vesture and on his thigh, King of kings, and Lord of lords, will yet arise and plead her cause. Even now we behold some presages of his speedy advent, already we think we hear the sound of his chariot wheels. In what way he may vindicate the honour of his truth, and the rights of man, it is impossible to prognosticate. Thunderings and lightenings may go before him. He may speak from the midst of the cloud in apparent anger. He may suffer the man of sin to triumph for a time. A social earthquake may be permitted to shake the foundations of society, ere deliverance come, but come it will. Magna est veritas et prevalebit. The mighty force of truth, will be impelled by the united energy of the sons of freedom, against the state church, till its hoary turrets shall yield to the impulse, and the proud fabric be levelled with the dust. Religion, no longer wounded in the house of professed friends, will then reign in truth, and the people of God of every name, pouring their liberality into his treasury, will send forth devoted men to preach -the gospel over the length and breadth of the land, 'taking nothing of the Gentiles.'

ti fotons of eld to Religiother liberalita

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »