A general sense of relief, mingled with admiration for the consummate ability and discretion with which Lord Cairns had managed his case, pervaded the House at this announcement. The compromise which he had agreed to on his own responsibility was adopted with hardly a dissentient voice, and the bill was then returned to the House of Commons, where (July 23) it received a final consideration. Mr. Gladstone did not conceal that he deemed the last grant of five per cent, in augmentation of the commutation fund to be a matter of great importance, and a concession against the principle of the bill. But looking to the mischief of leaving the controversy open, and in deference to the opinion of the House of Lords, and wishing to preserve the harmony between the two Houses (which had never been so severely tried, but which, he thanked God, had withstood the trial), the Government had not felt itself justified in refusing the overtures made to them on the point. The Lords' amendments were then agreed to; and the bill received the royal assent on the 26th July.
This important measure accordingly passed into law; and if, since it has come into operation, it has neither done all the good nor all the harm that its friends and its enemies predicted, a calm examination of the circum stances of the case will easily explain this neutral character of the results obtained. Those who declaimed against the disendowment of the Church as an act of spoliation - confiscation - sacrilege, and predicted that the disregard for the rights of property shown by the Government in this instance would fatally weaken the respect for property in the minds of the general community, forgot the fact, of which Mr. Chichester Fortescue took care to remind them, that " the bill was no more confiscation than the original transfer of the Church property from Roman Catholic to Protestant hands had been; and Parliament, which made that change, might now convert the property to other Irish purposes." On the other hand, the brilliant anticipations of future concord and contentment which Mr. Bright, in a laboured peroration, indulged in, have certainly not been realised. He said that the bill was put forward by the Government as the means of creating a true and solid union, and of removing Irish discontent, not only in Ireland,, but across the Atlantic. Again: " When I look at this great measure... I look on it as a more true and solid union between Ireland and Great Britain. I see it giving tranquillity to our people. When you have a better remedy, I, at least, will consider it. I say, I see it giving tranquillity to our people, greater strength to the realm, and adding a new lustre and a new dignity to the Crown." That the measure was one which tended to do all this seems undeniable; but the subsequent development of the Home Rule movement, and the unreconciled and irreconcilable tone of the "National " portion of the Irish press, permitted us to see how little real progress had been made. In connection with this point, some remarks of the Archbishop of Dublin, in a charge to his clergy (September, 1868), are deserving of attention. The Irish Church, he said, was assailed by Englishmen because Irish outrages had overflowed into England. He asserted that the Roman Catholic priesthood would never allow the Roman Catholic population under their influence to be thoroughly reconciled to imperial rule. The proposal to disestablish the Irish Church was made, he thought, with levity and precipitation; the Roman Catholics would be but feebly and languidly pleased, whilst the Protestants would entertain the liveliest and most enduring resentment for the wrong inflicted upon them. Thus both parties in Ireland, the Protestants as well as the Roman Catholics, ascribed the proceedings of the Liberal Government to fear; by neither was it credited with a simple love of justice. The Irish Roman Catholics could no^-but see that the bill, while disposing of such vast masses of Irish property, conferred on them no direct benefit whatever; but, on the contrary, inflicted loss, because it deprived them, with but scanty compensation, of the grant of £26,000 a year to Maynooth. They saw that all the changes which the bill underwent in its progress through Parliament were in the direction of making fresh inroads upon the surplus in favour of the disestablished clergy. Even before the Lords' amend ments had so greatly swelled the amounts to be given in commutation and compensation, the O'Donoghue ob served, on behalf of his Roman Catholic fellow-country men, that the compensation clauses went much farther than was the due of the Irish Protestants, and that to increase them would be an injustice to the Irish people. And while the disendowed Church was thus being, to a large extent, re-endowed, Lord Stanhope's clause - the one solitary indication of a friendly feeling towards the religion of the majority which the bill would have contained - -was summarily and inexorably rejected. It is true that this rejection was promoted by the Irish members themselves. A compact had been entered into between the Irish Liberals and those English and Scotch members who viewed with uncompromising hostility all national establishment or endowment of religion, by which, on condition of the Irish members renouncing anything in the nature of an endowment for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, the English and Scotch Liberals agreed to support the Irish Land Bill when it should be brought forward. Among politicians this was well understood; but to the masses of the Irish people the disestablishment of the Church must have seemed to be carried out in such a way as to establish no claim whatever on their gratitude.