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in the soil of the country. But it should be done through their own industry, and it should be free from the slightest taint of injustice, or of spoliation upon the present proprietors of the soil.
Coming to the question of the Irish Church, Mr. Bright said he suspected there were very few faithful and honest-minded Protestants in Ireland who would say that they approved of the ecclesiastical arrangements made for the country by England three centuries ago. There were now not more than 500,000 persons attending places of worship in connection with the Established Church in Ireland, and yet they had provided for them by the State more than £600,000 per annum. If the State were to provide in a similar manner for the other religious bodies of the population of the United Kingdom, it would absorb an annual sum of at least £36,000,000. If he had before him faithful and earnest Christian men of the Protestant Church, he would ask them whether, if they had to begin afresh, they would make such ecclesiastical arrangements as at present existed; whether these existing arrangements had been such as to justify the principle on which they had been based; and whether the State Church in Ireland had done anything to promote effectual union with England, or whether it had not rather been a bar to that union. As a political institution, the Church had had much to do with the tendency to rebellion in Ireland, and it would be impossible to find another example of such a state of things. The Church was a symbol of ancient terror, and not in any sensible degree a symbol of present peace. It stimulated the hostility of those whom it insulted against the English power. It was as much anti-English as anti-Irish, because it made it impossible for the Irish people to be in perfect harmony with England.
Mr. Bright referred to the alarms which the prospect of disestablishment was producing, and insisted upon their groundlessness, illustrating his view by the case of the abolition of the stamp and paper duties. It was predicted that the respectable journals would be ruined by the competition of inferior productions, but instead of that the new papers were quite equal to the old, and the latter had been improved. He was one of those who did not believe that the Established Church of Ireland would go to absolute ruin in the manner which many of its friends were so fearful of. The churches and parsonage houses, which had cost millions, would be left to the congregations so long as they would undertake to keep them in repair. Under a free voluntary system, the members of the Church would have power to control their organization, free from Acts of Parliament, and thus quietly regulate their own creed and discipline. A grand bond of sympathy and union would thus be established, and instead of the ravings of frantic Orangemen, they would see the enlightened zeal of Christian men and women, acting in the spirit of a free and zealous Church.
But, whatever might be the fears indulged on this subject, he believed that the changes which were dreaded were now unavoidable. The hour appeared to have come; and the House of Commons had pronounced a sentence which the new constituencies of the United Kingdom would confirm by a still greater majority. Would not the Irish counties make one supreme and stupendous effort in that great coming crisis? It was not a time for shams, and it would add greatly to smoothing the operation of this important change, even to those who were most fearful of its consequences, if they found the almost unanimous opinion of the three kingdoms in favour of it.
In closing his address, Mr. Bright said there came to his aid, when he thought of this question, a deep and abiding faith in justice—the miracle-worker amongst men. The people of England and Scotland were preparing to tender to Ireland a great offer of justice at the general election in November. "But the Irish people must help them with will and with heart. There can be no great measure of this kind accomplished unless all concerned lend willing hands; and there can be no great act of national and historic reconciliation unless all the parties hitherto opposed are willing to be reconciled. We are met—your kind address has referred to it—we are met in the city of the violated treaty-violated, as I admit, incessantly during almost two centuries of time. Let us make a new treaty—not written on parchment-not bound with an oath. Its conditions should be these: justice on the part of Great Britain; forgiveness on the part of Ireland. It shall be written in the hearts of three nations; and we will pray to Him who is the common Father of all peoples, and in whose hand are the destinies of all states, that He will make it last for ever and for ever inviolate.'
The forecast of the elections in which Mr. Bright indulged was amply borne out by the event. In November, Mr. Disraeli's appeal to the country was made, and the electors by an enormous majority pronounced against the Ministry, and in favour of Mr. Gladstone's Irish Church policy. We shall have something to say elsewhere concerning the elections, and Mr. Bright's acceptance of office in the Cabinet formed by Mr. Gladstone. Suffice it to state here that the Premier resigned office at once, without waiting for the assembling of the new Parliament, and Mr. Gladstone became Prime Minister.
DISESTABLISHMENT AND THE LAND QUESTION.
Mr. Gladstone introduces his Irish Church Bill. Provisions of the Measure.
Debate on the Second Reading.- Powerful Speech by Mr. Bright.-Eloquent Peroration.-Great Majority for the Bill. -Debate on the Condition of Ireland. -Passage of Arms between Lord Claud Hamilton and Mr. Bright. — The Church Bill passes the Commons.-Mr. Bright on the House of Lords.Great Debate in the Upper House on the Government Measure.—Majority for Disestablishment.--Mr. Bright at Birmingham in January, 1870.-The Irish Land Question. - National Education.- Reciprocity.-Free Land.Mr. Bright and the Land Bill of 1870.—Provisions of the Measure.—The 'Purchase Clauses of the Act. --Mr. Bright's Plans for Land Reform.--His Irish Addresses.
PEING thus supported by the country in the
D great work to which he had put his hand, on the 1st of March, 1869, Mr. Gladstone introduced his bill 'to put an end to the Established Church in Ireland, to make provision in respect of the temporalities thereof, and of the Royal College of Maynooth.' The House of Commons was densely crowded in every part by those eager to listen to the Premier's exposition. He described the object of the Ministerial plan to be final legislation, so that all controversy between rival religionists should be at once put aside. To allow time for necessary arrangements, the Act would not take effect until the 1st of January, 1871. A Commission would be appointed for ten years, in