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of Irish grievances, the most urgent, at any rate in respect of the ripeness of opinion, was the existence of the Protestant Episcopal Church as an established and endowed body. The case against the Irish Church can be stated very briefly. It was the Church of a small fraction of the people; it had failed to spread Protestantism in Ireland; and its presence was a permanent cause of irritation, jealousy, and dissension. The census of 1861 showed the population of Ireland to be 5,788,415. The members of the Established Church numbered 693,357, or less than one-eighth of the total population; the Roman Catholics, 4,505,265, or about ten out of every thirteen of the people of Ireland. Observing how the members of the Established Church were localised, we find the disproportion still more remarkable. For while in Ulster the proportion of Anglicans to population was twenty per cent., in Leinster it was eleven, in Munster five, and in Connaught four. The figures for the different dioceses were as follows:

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Of the 693,357 Anglicans, 417,011 were found in the three dioceses of Armagh, Down, and Dublin. There were 114 benefices, with a total revenue of £18,735, in none of which did the Church membership exceed 25.3 Five benefices were remarkable for having each only one member. In 199 out of 2428 parishes in Ireland there was not a single Anglican. The total gross revenue of the Church was estimated at about £700,000 and the commissioners of 1868


Barry O'Brien, “Fifty Years of Concessions to Ireland," vol. ii. pp. 191, 192.

3 Ibid., vol.ii. pp. 192-200; Dr. Lee, “Facts respecting the Present State of the Church in Ireland,” Appendix D, p. 31.

3 Godkin, “ Ireland and her Churches," p. 484. 4 “ Report of Commissioners,” Appendix, p. 234. 5 See the list in Brady, “English State Church in Ireland," p. 159, note.





fixed the net revenue at £616,840; and of this amount the two archbishops and ten bishops received a gross income of £78,794, or a net income of £58,031. The income of all the beneficed clergy was £438,317; their net income, £393,833.1 The Church of a small minority, comprising the most prosperous inhabitants of Ireland, thus received an annual subsidy of more than half a million sterling, while the rest of the people were left to provide for their own religious wants. In no sense was it the Church of the people, and no unbiassed person believed that it ever would be. Great pains, indeed, were still taken, as in the years of the famine, to find some foundation for the fable that a great wave of conversion to Protestantism had swept over the west of Ireland. Had it not been for the religious census of 1861, the argument would have been much more effective, for undoubtedly the Established Church had strained every nerve in proselytising. But the facts did not bear out the plea. In 1834, when the previous religious census was taken, the members of that Church were a little less than a ninth of the population; in 1861 they were a little less than an eighth. In several parishes the total number of Anglicans was found to be less than that of the alleged converts. When we remember that the famine and the great emigration intervened, and that the Roman Catholics suffered far more in proportion than the rest of the people, the progress from a ninth to an eighth furnished small evidence for the opinion that the Established Church, as one of its advocates put it, had been quietly making its way in all parts of the country. “You call it a missionary Church," said Mr. Lowe; "if so, its mission is unfulfilled. As a missionary Church it has failed utterly. Like some exotic, brought from a far country with infinite pains and useless trouble, it is kept alive in an ungrateful

1 Brady, “English State Church," pp. 174 et seq. Killen, “ Ecclesiastical History,” vol. ii. p. 534. The Appendix to the Commissioners' Report, p. 249, gives their amended estimate. The ecclesiastical commissioners of 1864 had estimated the gross revenues of the church at £ 586,428.

* Obvious as it is, even this has been disputed. “The effect of emigration," wrote Sir J. Napier in 1863, " has told more against us” (Ewald, “ Lise of Napier,” p. 245).

climate and ungenial soil. The curse of barrenness is upon it; it has no leaves, it bears no blossoms, it yields no fruit. Cut it down ; why cumbereth it the ground ?” It had not only failed of its purpose; it had produced in Ireland a bitterness of religious feeling scarcely to be paralleled elsewhere. As it was not a church of the people in respect of its numbers, neither was it a Church of the people in zeal for their welfare. It has been well described as an endowed party rather than an endowed system of religion. The Churchmen who had once applauded Dr. Cullen for his efforts to keep priests out of politics, themselves rushed into political strife whenever their interests appeared to be threatened; but on no occasion were they found on the popular side. As they had opposed emancipation, so they were now opposing tenant-right. The establishment was thus the favoured institution of a minority, performing no public service, and doing much to widen the gulf between rich and poor. Such, in brief, was the case against the Church.

To review in detail the defence would take too long, though it would be instructive; and only a short summary of the principal arguments can be given. The Church should be maintained, it was said, because its doctrines were true, while the Roman Catholic doctrines were false. Disestablishment and disendowment would increase absenteeism, for what inducement would be left to the Protestant landlords to reside in Ireland ? The country would be deprived of the civilising influence exercised by the presence among an ignorant people of the intellectual and educated clergymen of the Irish Church. Protestantism, dependent on voluntary effort, would speedily lose its power. The religious feud, which was repeatedly asserted to be the cause of Irish troubles, would increase in bitterness. Disendowment would be an act of confiscation and robbery, an act exceeding the right of the state, which, as it did not give,

1 “This,” as Mr. Gladstone said, “was the only principle on which it could be properly and permanently upheld” (“Chapter of Autobiography,” p. 19); and this principle, as he rightly urged, could not be held by those who approved of the Maynooth grant (p. 30).




so it could not take away. It was not, moreover, a mere Irish question ; for the existence of the Church in England was at stake also, and the Liberation Society would not rest till they had completed the work of confiscation.

The plea that the Irish Church was the Church of a minority was met with exceeding boldness. When the famous 114 benefices with a total membership of 1589 were cited, the answer was that these were the very cases where the Church did most good. “It may seem paradoxical," said Dr. Lee, one of the ablest opponents of disestablishment, “but in many parishes in Ireland the smaller and the more widely scattered the Church population, the more necessary it is to maintain the Church there.” 'Remove it (the admission was remarkable), and in a few years these parishes would become religiously and politically Romish. Thus not only was the Irish Church a missionary Church, but the success of its missions, which was magnified with much statistical courage, depended on its connection with the state. Dr. Lee went further, and urged that it was a mistake to treat the Catholics as forming the great majority. “Why, in discussing the Irish Church question," he asked, "is Ireland always considered as a separate country, and not as an integral part of the United Kingdom?" and he showed with much satisfaction that, while the Catholics might form seventy-seven per cent. of the population of Ireland, they formed only eighteen per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom. With like ingenuity did Dr. O'Brien, Bishop of Ossory, protest against the statement that the Church in Ireland was the Church of the minority; to treat it as separate from that of England,” he said, “was to repudiate the fifth article of the Act of Union." 2 Round this fifth article the political controversy raged most fiercely. After declaring the unity of the Churches of England and Ireland, the article provided “that the continuance and preservation of the said united Church as the Established Church of England and Ireland shall be deemed and taken to be an essential and fundamental part of the Union.” To

1Facts respecting the Present State of the Church in Ireland,” p. 18. 2 “Case of the Established Church in Ireland," p. 48.


touch that provision affected England as well as Ireland, and raised grave constitutional as well as religious questions. It would be more than to change an Act of Parliament; it would involve the breach of a solemn compact-in short, it meant nothing more nor less than repeal. “You cannot,” said the Rev. Mr. Oulton, Rector of Keady, “destroy that which is essential to a thing without destroying the thing itself. A sphere can no longer be a sphere if you destroy its sphericity. ... Whenever the Church in this country shall be disestablished, the Act of Union between the two countries shall be ipso facto abrogated.” " Ireland,” said Bishop Gregg, “is an integral part of the United Kingdom. The Church in Ireland is an integral part of the United Church. If the Church in Ireland be destroyed, where will be the integrity of the United Kingdom ?”2 "If,” said Dr. Lee, "we do away with an essential and fundamental part of the Act of Union, what will that which remains be worth ? "3 In almost every speech and pamphlet of the time this argument formed a chief part of the case for establishment, and if the Union and the Act of Union were one and the same thing it would have saved the Irish Church. But it was only the verbal argument of men who shrank from facing the real facts of their position. Seriously to contend that the Union depended on the continuance of the Establishment was to make the most damaging admission in favour of repeal. Dark indeed were the prospects of English rule in Ireland when the AngloIrish colony believed, with the first Lord Plunket, that the Protestant Establishment was the very cement of the Union, and that, if it were destroyed, the foundations of public

1 “The Repeal of the Union,” by Rev. Richard Oulton (1868), p. 13. " True," he said also, " a British Parliament may retain the civil union when the ecclesiastical, once declared essential to the Act, shall have been abrogated ; but such would be an exercise of tyranny, not of legitimate power" (p. 32.)

Charge to the Clergy of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross,” by John Gregg, D.D., October, 1867. One step in the argument Dr. Gregg, as a bishop, was entitled to assume and to omit : "the united Church is an integral part of the United Kingdom.”

3 “Facts respecting the Present State of the Church in Ireland,” p. 13.

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