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with many who have similar interests, to promote some equitable reform therein, that may best remedy a grievance so generally complained of. But as the pressure is confessedly more immediate and severe in Ireland, he now ventures to suggest what appears to him the most effectual remedy in a case of the most imminent danger. He does it not, however, under the whimsical idea of the Dean of St. Patrick, "as a preparatory step to make it go down smoother "in England, after the manner of discreet physicians, who “first give a new medicine to a dog, before they prescribe it "to a human creature!"
If the opinions here advanced should render the author of them obnoxious to the self-interested, he can console himself with the reflection, that he has intended no offence to the liberal-minded of any faith, or profession whatever.
The slight observations on the State of the Irish church, are offered with a consciousness, how ill qualified the observer is to become a censor in any line of his own profession; but if they should promote a more appropriate investigation, they may not be found altogether useless.
A SHORT ADDRESS,
YOUR Grace will require no prefatory apology for any candid address made to you upon a subject, in which the chief interests of our Church are essentially involved.
In whatever light it may be viewed, the long existing mode of collecting TYTHES in Ireland, will be found injurious, and harassing to all whom it concerns. Agriculture has been depressed by it for centuries in all its branches!-Not limited to the sufferings, or personal inconvenience of the individual, its influence has extended, until it affects the moral welfare of a state, and virtually counteracts the great objects of the establishment which its reve nues are drawn to support. There is at all times a disposition to question the propriety of any tenets, which men are harshly called upon to sustain. No wonder then if the grievance, now meant to be considered, should have loosened in its progress the common bond of christian charity, and spread a spirit of religious dissension much wider, than polemical prejudices alone could have effected.
The origin of tythes is too anciently founded, and too solemnly recognized by the laws of the land, to render any discussion of it necessary on the present occasion. As an abstract right, it is not even disputed by the best informed Romanists themselves. No inconsiderable pains, however, have been taken to impress this er
roneous idea on the public mind, "that tythes are nothing more than a legislative tax." Was this the fact, like all other imposts of the same kind, tythes also would be subject to increase-to diminution-and even to a total repeal under the authority that imposed them. But, on the contrary, they are found, and admitted to be an indisputable freehold, and less liable to alienation than most other freehold property of the realm. But all this will not afford to the present system of tything, a plea of peculiar exemption from legislative interposition. Disquisitions have abounded of late, on adverse sides of this important subject; these, however, have gone but little further than to demonstrate, how ingeniously an hypothesis may be founded on a favorite prejudice.
The nearest way to the object of this brief address, will be to consider tythes as a property strongly titled as the soil that yields them and to remove a difficulty that might otherwise arise to interrupt the inquiry, it may be as well at once to contravene the illiberal position of those who assert, that it would be a sacrilegious act to commute, or even to touch the property of the church, rendered secure from alienation, by the pious purposes to which it has been devoted.
The law of moral and political necessity superseding all titles, pays but little regard to the fanciful intangibility of any distinct species of property, however insulated by prejudice, or sanctioned by time. If it be found requisite to construct a new bridge across a river-to erect a barrack for the soldiery;-or to cut a public canal through the heart of a beautiful demesne sacred for centuries in the veneration of a family; in all these instances of deprivation, the feelings, with the property of the possessors, are constrained to yield to the public necessity. What, then, can reasonably be urged against an equitable change in the system of tythes, on which the happiness of a people, and the security of a government, so materially depend? The authority that went so far as to alter, in order to amend the ceremonials of the church, may, without any
In cases of treason, where other freehold property on conviction becomes confiscate for ever to the crown, that of tythes is affected only in the immediate interest of the traitor, this property descending unimpaired to his clerical successor.
further stretch of power, safely exert itself to ameliorate the collection ofits revenues.
The principal objection, it seems, to any modification is, “ the danger of innovating on the title of a property, the most ancient of all others." If this could apply to the tythes of England, it is quite out of the question as supposed to regard those of Ireland; since more than half a century past, a single branch of her legislature innovated on this principle so far, as to abolishher agistment tythe altogether; the moral equity of which no one will venture to defend. This singular and sweeping deprivation, happened in 1735, not by any legislative enactment, but by a most extraordinary resolution of the Irish House of Commons: viz. “that all persons who should hereafter institute a legal process for the recovery of tythes of agistment, and also the solicitors, &c. prosecuting such suit, should be deemed enemies to their country!" Although the bench of bishops entered a spirited protest against this violent declaration, it had the full effect of a statute ordinance until the Union, when this deprivation of agistment was ratified by one of the first acts of the Imperial parliament, and has certainly operated very injuriously to the Protestant establishment. In several counties of the province of Munster, which are chiefly grazing lands, the wealthy possessors of large districts are totally exempt from tythe for their rich meadows; and, in consequence, the pressure of tythe is more severely felt by the occupiers of the small portion of land in tillage, descending with additional weight, down to the poor cotter, who tills with his spade but a rood or two of potatoe-ground for the sustenance of his family. The income of the clergy thus rendered so scanty, too well accounts for the small number of churches to be seen throughout this, and other feeding countries. Thus, however, has already been experienced, that innovation in the tythe system, which took from the church a considerable portion of its just revenues, and this, not by any statute of remunerative justice, under which a modification is now sued for. It is not improbable, however, if some liberal commutation or modification, had been previously considered of, and acceded to, but that the rights of the Irish church had to this day remained. entire.
One of the ablest, though not the most dispassionate pamphlets against any alteration whatever in the system of tythes, was pubfished by a late Bishop of Cloyne [Dr. WOODWARD.] Indeed it continues to be the main source from whence most of the arguments of the present day are drawn, on the immutability of tythes. In this, his lordship has descanted rather speculatively, on the danger of "unsettling the ecclesiastical part of the constitution," But the followers of this respectable writer, in adopting his prejudices did not consider, or have found it convenient to forget, that this tract was sent forth principally to prove, that the clergy were legally invested with the right of tythes, of which a daring banditti in the diocese of Cloyne were endeavouring, by force, to deprive them. The partial atrocities committed in this quarter of the country in resistance of the just payment of tythes, were certainly sufficient to create considerable anxiety in the mind of that amiable prelate ; and hence those alarms about a commutation, which, under a cooler judgment, might not probably have existed. Irritated at the personal sufferings of his clergy, he set his foot rather iudignantly on the point of right (in this instance not materially affected,) and invoked the whole protestant faith to rally round him in defence of the Irish church. The insurgents of the present day attempted a similar plan of tythe-depredation in the counties of Mayo, Sligo, and Longford; and yet no clergyman has found it expedient to convince these marauders by argument, that their title to the reve nues of the church is not legally valid. The executive government took a shorter, and better way to supersede their pretensions.
"But," say some inconsiderate zealots, "any modification will undermine, and eventually overturn the national church! All that has yet been advanced in support of this wild position, is found
The deep interest which the Bishop took in the fortunes of his clergy, might naturally excite a benevolent warmth of temper, open to wrong impressions respecting verdicts, and decisions of those days unfavorable to the interest of the church; these were, no doubt, recorded by his lordship under a perfect conviction of their truth; although from the living testimony of an eminent barrister, who was an advocate in all those causes, the most material of his Lordship's statements appear to have been incorrectly founded,