Commons upon Introducing the Established Church Bill, I March 1869*
The Motion, Sir, which, in concluding, I shall propose to the Committee is—
That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to
bring in a Bill to put an end to the Establishment of the Church in
Ireland, and to make provision in respect of the Temporalities thereof,
and in respect of the Royal College of Maynooth.
I do not know, Sir, whether I should be accurate in describing the subject of this Resolution as the most grave and arduous work of legislation that ever has been laid before the House of Commons; but I am quite sure I should speak the truth if I confined myself to asserting that there has probably been no occasion when the disproportion was so great between the demands of the subject that is to be brought before you and the powers of the person whose duty it is to submit it. I will not, however, Sir, waste time in apologies that may be considered futile, and the more so because I am conscious that the field I have to traverse is a very wide one, and that nothing but the patient favour and kindness of the Committee can enable me in any degree to attain the end I have in view—namely, that of submitting with fulness and with clearness both the principles and the details of a measure which, as far as regards its principles, is singularly arduous, and, as far as regards its details, must necessarily embrace matter of a character highly complex and diverse. Now, I cannot but be aware that, under ordinary circumstances, any one who undertakes to introduce to the House of Commons a subject of grave constitutional change ought to commence by laying his ground strongly and broadly in historical and political reasons. On this occasion I shall feel myself in the main dispensed from entering upon them. Under ordinary circumstances, in discussing the subject of the Church of Ireland—I mean had nothing already occurred in this House or elsewhere in relation to it on which I might take my stand—I should endeavour to pass in review the numerous—I may say the numberless and powerful arguments which, in my opinion, may be adduced to prove that this Establishment cannot continue to exist with advantage to itself or without mischief to the country. I should be prepared to show how many benefices there are in Ireland where, although there is a Church population, it can hardly be said to be more than an official Church population, for the members of those benefices are too often restricted to those whom we may reasonably suppose to
* Hansard, 3. s., CXCIV, 412–22, 425–33, 454–66.