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indispensable chief. “I do not think,” observes Mr. Sheil, in writing to a friend in Ireland, "this Government will last. On the Russian loan they received a dreadful shock. Last night Lord Althorp admitted that he had made an error in his financial computation of 350,0001.; he forgot that the beer duties expired in October, 1830. There was a burst of laughter. He also admitted that a new convention was necessary for the payment of the interest on the Russian-Dutch loan, though he has already paid it. It is evident that Ministers cannot retain the confidence of the country after the Reform Bill goes through.” He notices a rumour that he was to succeed Mr. Crampton in the Irish Solicitor-Generalship, as being wholly unfounded, adding that he did not desire it: he “must make more way in the House
.' In committee on the Reform Bill, Mr. Sheil moved that Petersfield instead of being allowed to return one member in future should be wholly disfranchised. He contrasted its population, property, and number of electors, with those of Amersham, which the House had already agreed should be included in schedule A.
* Extract from a letter to W. H. Curran, Esq., 7th February, 1832.
In the last-named borough the population was 2015, while in Petersfield it did not exceed 1443. In Amersham there were a hundred and one 101. houses, and the rental was stated at 70001. ; in Petersfield there were but eighty-nine 107. houses, and the rental only amounted to 25001. How then could the right of the smaller, poorer and less populous place to return a member be vindicated, after the claim of the larger and wealthier borough had been disallowed ? He wished to try the question on the plain ground of principle, and he would therefore state frankly, that if he succeeded in this instance he should proceed to apply the same rule to Wareham, Eye, Midhurst, and Woodstock. There would thus be at the disposal of the House five additional seats, some of which he thought as a matter of justice, ought to be conferred on large and populous places in Ireland which were now very inadequately represented. Lord Althorp did not affect to defend the retention of Petersfield upon general grounds, nor could he deny the seeming anomaly which had been pointed out; but on the score of expediency, it was obviously requisite that the bill should be framed in such a manner as not to preclude the hope of its passing the House of Lords. The motion was negatived without a division; but it
is not unworthy of remark, that the five towns above named are amongst those which, in 1854, it was proposed entirely to disfranchise.
On the proposition of Mr. Stanley, to consider in committee of the whole House a plan for the abolition of tithes in Ireland, and the substitution for them of a rent-charge upon real property, Mr. Brownlow objected that full information had not been given as to the general scheme of the Government before they were called upon
into committee; and he moved an amendment, which would have had the effect of compelling Ministers to do so.
It was supported by Mr. Sheil at considerable length. “Tithes are to be abolished how ? By providing for them a sepulchre from which they are to arise in immortal resuscitation.” The amendment was lost by a large majority, and a bill was subsequently introduced, founded on the resolutions of Mr. Stanley, which encountered a good deal of opposition.
Many taunts having been thrown out in the course of these discussions against the Catholic members, on account of the oath prescribed on their admission to the House, Mr. Sheil thought it right to vindicate his own consistency, and to explain the
construction which, in common with many others, he put upon the terms of the obligation referred to. He declared that according to his interpretation of the oath, he would feel bound in conscience and in duty, if a proposition should be made to strip the Protestant Church of all its temporalities, to oppose such a proceeding; but he did not think that the oath prevented him from supporting, like member of Parliament, measures which went to reform that establishment, and to settle it on a more liberal and legitimate basis. Such was his reading of the oath; such he was sure would be the reading of it in the eyes of men of common sense; and he was equally certain that it never was the intention of the Legislature in imposing that obligation, to prevent Catholic members from acting like other independent members of Parliament.*
Another bill was introduced for the commutation of Irish tithes, on the same principle as the land tax in England, and it passed the second reading without opposition. On going into committee, Mr. Sheil moved that the preamble should recite that the firstfruits should be applicable in future to the maintenance and repair of churches, and to such other uses as Pur
* Debate, 6th April, 1832.
liament should hereafter deem fit. He desired to obtain a declaration from the Legislature favourable to the relief from the payment of church rates of those who did not belong to the Established Church. Mr. Stanley intimated his concurrence in the general proposition, though he could not assent to its adoption as moved; and on a division there appeared to be but eighteen in its favour, against seventy-nine. In the following session however, the principle was embodied in a bill which obtained the sanction of the Legislature.
The second reading of the Irish Reform Bill on the 26th May, was opposed by Sir Robert Peel and the whole strength of the Conservative party, not only upon the same grounds as those upon which they had resisted the English bill, but because any increase of popular influence in the representation of Ireland would tend to endanger the stability of the Irish Church. The most prominent defenders of the bill were Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Sheil. The former argued against the recognition of religious distinctions in the framing of organic laws, and prognosticated that the new county constituencies instead of being 52,000, would be only 25,000, which could not fail to be regarded as wholly incommensurate with the