* In rising to propose the Resolution of which I have given notice, I assure the House that I do so with considerable reluctance; not because I stand in doubt as to its propriety, but because I am a young Member, a Dissenter, and destitute of that talent which is requisite in order to do the subject justice. The Resolution in question will be found to contain three general propositions. 1. That the Church, as by law established, is not recommended by practical utility. 2. That its revenues have always been subject to Legislative enactments. 3. That the greater part, if not the whole, of those revenues ought to be appropriated to the relief of the nation. With regard to the fate of the Resolution in this House, I am by no means sanguine; but it will be admitted to be one of great importance, in some measure involving the interests of religion, and closely connected with the peace and prosperity of the people. To distinguish between the Church and the Establishment is by no means difficult. To the religion of the Church I am not at all hostile; but the Establishment I detest, contending that each religious sect ought to support its own ministers. Let that be done, and I shall be content. Now the, first general proposition is, that the Church, as by law established, is not recommended by practical utility. And here I would ask, "has the establishment of this nation the sanction of Christ or of his Apostles?" Let Paley answer the question. "We find in his (Christ's) religion no scheme of building up a hierarchy or of ministering to the views of human governments. Our religion, as it came out of the hands of its Founder and his Apostles, exhibited a complete abstraction from all views either of ecclesiastical* From the corrected copy.179 or civil policy." No man who is at all acquainted with the Scriptures will be bold enough to assert that the New Testament contains a single expression calculated to lead to the conclusion that a religious establishment was deemed an eligible institution. But how was the fabric of Christianity raised? Not by means of the fostering care of secular authority, but in direct opposition to all the powers and establishments in the world; while it is well known to those who are acquainted with ecclesiastical history, that no religious establishment existed in the Christian world till the time of Constantine, when, being taken under the protection of the State, the Church immediately began to lose its purity.
Now, not only is it a fact that the Establishment derives no sanction from Christ or his Apostles, but a little reflection will be sufficient to convince any unprejudiced man that it is utterly incompatible with the very essence of Christianity. What is Christianity? Is it an empty name? Is there nothing substantial or valuable in it? If that be the case, then away with it at once, and cease to pay a set of men large sums of money for the purpose of its promulgation. No! Christianity is a religion of good-will and kind affections, while our Establishment generates ill-will, heart-burnings, and animosities. Do we want proof of this? Then let us look at insulted, oppressed, impoverished, and distracted Ireland. Put down your Church Establishment there, and by means of its revenues satisfy the wants of the poor, and tranquillity will immediately be restored. But is there no irritation in England? Indeed there is, whatever the noble Lord (Althorp) and his right hon. colleagues may affect to think. The people of England are weary of the tithe system, and its doom is sealed. Did our Lord or the Apostles exact from those to whom they preached the Gospel? On the contrary, they went about doing good, and rather than be a burthen to the people, they frequently wrought with their own hands in order to obtain the necessaries of life. It is clear, then, that the Establishment derives no sanction from Christ or his Apostles, and that the system is quite incompatible with the religion we profess. In the next place, the Establishment holds out temptations to hypocrisy; and here, again, I have the authority of Paley. "Though some purposes of order and 180 tranquillity may be answered by the establishment of creeds and confessions, yet they are at all times attended with serious inconveniences. They check inquiry; they violate liberty; they ensnare the consciences of the clergy by holding out temptations to prevarication." Is it not, I ask, a melancholy fact, that subscription tends to exclude the upright and conscientious, while it readily admits the subservient and unscrupulous?
Take a man of great learning and talent, blended with extensive zeal and piety, a man anxious to promote the honour of God and the spiritual interests of his fellow-creatures; and yet if this man cannot digest the Athanasian creed, and all the doctrines contained in the thirty-nine articles, he must violate his conscience, or be excluded from the ministry; while a man destitute of talent, zeal, and piety, a man whose god is his belly, and who glories in his shame, may be admitted to that sacred office, by saying that he believes that which he either does not believe, or knows nothing at all about. And yet this is a venerable and Christian institution! Then, again, it will not be denied, that persecution has generally, if not invariably, been the work of a religious establishment. Who was it that were the principal actors in the crucifixion of our Lord? The Jewish Priesthood. Who drenched the altars of their idols with the blood of the primitive Christians? The pagan priesthood. Who was it that subsequently stained their hands with Protestant blood? The Popish priesthood. And who, in their turn, persecuted unto death the Popish priests? Why the Protestant clergy. Yes; but then the Protestant parsons would not now be guilty of such monstrous barbarities. I, for one, will not take upon myself to answer for that. Give them as much power as they had in the time of old Queen Bess, and make an attack upon their temporalities, and I tremble for the consequences. What means the bustle which the clergy are now making for the purpose of preserving what they hypocritically call the Church? Is it that they are afraid Christianity will be swept away? No such thing: on the contrary, the whole of their anxiety is for the preservation of their revenues. But, in the next place, corruptions and abuses are inseparable from our Church Establishment. Here, also, I have the sanction of the clergy themselves. Bishop War- 181 burton, in his letters to Bishop Hurd, touching the practical authority of cabinets over the Church, says—" The Rabbins make the giant Gog or Magog contemporary with Noah, and convinced by his preaching; so that he was disposed to take the benefit of the ark. But here lay the distress; it by no means suited his dimensions. Therefore, as he could not enter in, he contented himself to ride upon it astride. Image to yourself the illustrious cavalier mounted on his hackney, and see if it do not bring before you the Church bestrid by some lumpish Minister of State, who turns and winds it at his pleasure." Now, hon. Members will bear in mind that this is not my language, but the language of a Bishop; and would to God that the Bishops of the present day would display that sincerity which evidently existed in the breast of Warburton. Paley also wrote to the same effect, but not in such a sarcastic and cutting manner. "The making of the Church" (says he) "an engine or even an ally of the State, converting it into the means of strengthening or diffusing influence, or regarding it as a support of regal in opposition to popular forms of government, have served only to debase the institution, and to introduce into it numerous corruptions and abuses." It is of no use to mince the matter, or to try to conceal the fact; the Establishment must be an engine of the State; the clergy must support the Government, however tyrannical or corrupt; they must fight, from the pulpit, the battles of the State. What, I ask, is the question in the selection of a Bishop? Having never appointed one myself, I may be mistaken; but doubtless the noble Lord (Althorp), if I be wrong, can set me right. It strikes me, then, that the question is not who is the fittest man to take the oversight of the Church, but who is the most likely to strengthen the Administration of the day. Truly it is a very venerable and Christian institution! But what shall we say as to religious liberty? Why, that the Establishment is utterly incompatible with it. Is religious liberty good? Then the Establishment must be bad. Upon what principle will you contend for an establishment? It must be an exclusive one; for if a man can be a good member of society, and ultimately gain admittance into heaven without passing through your Established Church in his way to it, what pretence is there for drain- 182 ing the pockets of the people for the purpose of supporting an institution which, to say the most of it, can produce no effect which is not capable of being produced by other means? I assert, then, that there should be no Establishment at all; or if there be one, that then you ought to put an end to what is called religious liberty. But have we that liberty? No. It is true, indeed, that you allow me to worship God according to the dictates of my own conscience; but, at the same time, you make me contribute to the support of a system which I abhor, and firmly believe to be an abomination to God as well as pernicious to man. Then, again, your religious Establishment is manifestly injurious to civil liberty; and that, too, in the judgment of one of your own Archdeacons. "In all exclusive establishments (says Archdeacon Blackburn) where temporal emoluments are annexed to the profession of a certain system of doctrines and the usage of a certain routine of forms, and appropriated to an order of men so and so qualified, that order of men will naturally think themselves interested that things should continue as they are. A reformation might endanger their emoluments." One hardly knows which to admire most, the truth or the sagacity of the remark; and I put it to the House—" Could the people have been robbed of so many of their rights and plundered of so much of their substance as they have been, if the clergy had, as it was their duty to do, advocated the cause of civil liberty?" However, while their duty pointed one way, their interest pointed another; and, seeing that "a reformation would endanger their emoluments," they fled from liberty, and stuck to corruption. And, now, to close my observations on the first general proposition contained in the resolution which I shall have the honour to submit to the House, I assert that the Church, as by law established, is a regular trading concern. Speaking of the ecclesiastical powers. Dr. Hartley uses these words:—" They have all left the true, pure, simple religion, and teach for doctrines the commandments of man. They are all merchants of the earth, and have set up a kingdom of this world, abounding it" riches, temporal honours, and external pomp." Who is not aware of this distressing fact? Is it not as notorious as the sun at noon day, that livings are advertised in the public papers, and bought and sold 183 as openly as cattle in a market? And what is the motive for entering into the sacred ministry? I do not say that it is thus in all cases; but in nine out of ten, or perhaps in ninety-nine out of a hundred, the motive is precisely the same as that which induces a man to enter into the army, the navy, or any other profession. They may say they are moved by the Holy Ghost; but the fact is, that they are influenced by a desire, which is common to us all, to make provision for the flesh. If the question were to be put to me—"Is the Establishment of no use?" I should answer, "Yes; it is very useful to the Aristocracy of the country;" and when I look at the Church, the army, the navy, the pensions, the sinecures, and the places, I am tempted to conclude that the Aristocracy take for granted that the Divine Being created all the rest of us for their convenience. However, be that as it may, Bishop Warburton's words touching the Aristocracy and the Church are very striking. "Our grandees," says he, "have at length found their way back into the Church. I only wonder they have been so long about it. But be assured that nothing but a new religious revolution, to sweep away the fragments that Harry the Eighth left after banqueting his courtiers, will drive them out again."
And now, having shown that your Establishment is not sanctioned by Christ or his Apostles—that it holds out temptations to hypocrisy—that it fosters a persecuting spirit—that corruptions and abuses are inseparable from it—that it is incompatible with religious liberty—that it is injurious to civil liberty, and that it is a trading concern, I put it to the House, whether I have not established the first general proposition, "that the Church, as by law established, is not recommended by practical utility?" However, a great deal more might be urged. For instance, is not the certainty of emolument a temptation to remissness in duty? To a clergyman of the Established Church, it is of no sort of consequence what his parishioners think of him. Whether they approve or disapprove of his doctrines or manner of life—whether he discharge or neglect his clerical duties, to him it is of no consequence, because his emoluments are sure; whereas, if he depended on his congregation for support, there can be no doubt, whatever the bent of his inclination might 184 be, that he would be more circumspect and attentive. Ought not a minister of religion to be zealous and laborious? Ought he not to be beloved by his hearers? Ought he not to give himself up to the study of the Scriptures? Now I ask, are the clergy of the Church of England more zealous or laborious than dissenting ministers? Are they more beloved by their hearers? Do they study more closely the Word of God? No hon. Member will venture to answer those questions in the affirmative; nor shall I be told that dissenters are worse members of society than churchmen. What advantage, then, do we gain, by this pompous and costly Establishment, and upon what ground will you contend for the necessity or expediency of its continuance? I will now trouble the House with a few more extracts from the writings of some of the Divines of the Established Church, and then proceed to the second general proposition contained in my Resolution. First, let us hear what Archbishop Newcome says, when speaking of Ireland: "Great numbers of country parishes are without churches, notwithstanding the largeness and frequency of parliamentary grants for building them; but meetinghouses, and Romish chapels, which are built and repaired with greater zeal, are in sufficient numbers about the country." Paley says, "I do not know that it is in any degree true that the influence of religion is the greatest where there are the fewest dissenters." Duncan, in his Travels in America, says, "It has often been said, that the disinclination of the heart to religious truth renders a State Establishment necessary for the purpose of christianizing a country. Ireland and America can furnish abundant evidence of the fallacy of such an hypothesis. In the one country we see an ecclesiastical establishment of the most costly description utterly inoperative in dispelling ignorance or refuting error; in the other, no establishment of any kind, and yet religion making daily and hourly progress, promoting inquiry, diffusing knowledge, strengthening the weak, and mollifying the hardened." Dr. Henry Moore, speaking of the Reformed Churches, says, "They have separated from the great Babylon to build those which are less and more tolerable, but yet not to be tolerated for ever." Bishop Burnet says, "I have always had a true zeal for the Church of England; yet I must say there are many things in it that 185 have been very uneasy to me." Simpson says, "Our confirmations, and I may add, even our ordination for the sacred ministry, are dwindling into painful and disgusting ceremonies." And again, "Who is to blame for the spread of infidelity. The Bishops and clergy of the land more than any other people in it. We, as a body of men, are almost solely and exclusively culpable." Bishop Laving-ton, speaking of moral preaching, says, "We have long been attempting the reformation of the nation by discourses of this kind. With what success? None at all. On the contrary, we have dexterously preached the people into downright infidelity." Hartley says, "It is evident that the worldly-mindedness and neglect of the clergy is a great scandal to religion and cause of infidelity." There, let those who attach no importance to what I have said, answer these men, if they can, touching the practical utility of our miscalled religious Establishment. And now I have to request the attention of the House to my second general proposition—namely, "That the revenues of the Church have always been subject to legislative enactments." That every national establishment must be at the disposal of the nation is a self-evident proposition; and why a distinction should be made between the Church and the Bank, I for one am at a loss to imagine. The right of the Legislature to dispose of the revenues of the Church, is as indisputable as its right to take away or alter the Bank Charter. But what do hon. Members mean by the Church? They talk about the Church and the sacredness of Church property with a great deal of fluency, seeming at the same time to take for granted that Church and parsons are synonymous terms; or, in other words, by the Church they mean the clergy. That, however, is a gross error; and if they wish to have a definition of the term "Church," let them look into their articles of religion, and they will find that the parsons do not constitute the Church, but that it consists of a congregation of faithful men, the clergy being mere office bearers or servants therein. The people make up the Church; its property is the property of the people; and they have an undoubted right to dispose of it at their discretion.
But has not the Legislature always acted upon this principle? And here the House will allow me to bring to its re- 186 collection what took place at the time of the Protestant Reformation. By the 27th of Henry 8th, all monasteries which had not above 200l. a-year in lands, tenements, rents, tithes, &c. were given to the king, that he might give, grant, and dispose of them to the honour of God and the wealth of the realm. Thus the King held those monasteries, not for his own benefit or the enriching of his sycophantic courtiers, but in trust for the people at large; and doubtless it would be entertaining and useful to trace the progress of this property into the hands of its present owners. That, however, may amuse us at a future time, when I imagine it will be found that many of our aristocratic families are greatly indebted to this plundering and wife-killing King. Then, again, by the 31st of Henry 8th, all the remaining monasteries were given to the King, his heirs and successors for ever; while, by the 37th of the same reign and the 1st of Edward 6th, all the possessions of colleges, free chapels, chantries, and hospitals, were vested in the Crown. Thus the whole of the revenues of the Church were swept off' by Acts of Parliament; and is there a man to be found who would expose himself to the ridicule and contempt of the world by asserting that those revenues are not now at the disposal of the Legislature? What was the subject of legislation with one generation must remain the same with all succeeding generations; and if I were to be asked what is the worst title under which a man can hold, my answer would be, "An act of Parliament;" and for this obvious reason: every Act is liable to be repealed. And now let us see what has been done with the revenues of the Church since the Re-formation. By the 3rd of William and Mary five shillings an acre was substituted for tithes in kind of hemp and flax. By the 2nd and 3rd Edward 6th, all barren heaths and waste grounds were exempted from tithes of corn and hay for seven years after their conversion into arable or meadow land. By the 40th of George 3rd it was enacted that no suit should be entertained for the tithe of agistment for dry or barren cattle, except where such tithe had been usually paid within the last ten years; and the 57th of George 3rd, provides that the stipends of curates shall be in proportion to the population and value of benefices. And here, let me ask, has the Legislature ever attempted to 187 regulate the salaries of stewards or bailiffs? It has however regulated the stipends of curates; and why, but because the latter were servants of the public, and the revenues of the Church were at the disposal of the people. But the Legislature has thought proper to increase the emoluments of the clergy; for to the eternal disgrace of a former Parliament during the reign of George 3rd, a sum of one million six hundred thousand pounds was granted for the augmentation of small livings. Oh! 'tis a delightful thing to get hold of the public purse! Now, at the time this grant was made, we had Bishops in the possession of twenty or thirty thousand a year; and if nothing else be done, I think this sum must be returned. But the clergy are under great personal restraints from which other men are free. By the 13th of Elizabeth, if is enacted that if an incumbent be absent above eight days in a-year, he shall lose one year's profit of his benefice, to be distributed among the poor. Have landlords been thus restrained? What would the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) say, if I were to move for leave to bring in a bill to confine him to his country residence under a similar penalty? But if the revenues of the Church be private property, or the clergy anything more than the servants of the public, this is the most tyrannical act that was ever passed, and ought to be torn out of the Statute Book. Several other Acts, with which I will not trouble the House, have since been passed, relating to the residence of the clergy.
Again, it is worthy of remark that clerical benefices cannot be alienated; and his Majesty's law-officers are aware that every disposition of a living by rent-charge, annuity, or otherwise, is absolutely void. I do not say, indeed, that the parson would not be liable upon his covenant to repay the money lent; but I do assert, without fear of contradiction, that the grant itself would be void. What, then, becomes of the doctrine of private property? To me it is a matter of astonishment how some honourable members can talk as they do about legal rights and vested interests. To be sure, a tenant for life cannot sell or charge the remainder or reversion; but he can, at his own discretion, sell or charge his life-estate. Not so, however, the parson. He is incapable of charging his living to any extent; and I hope we shall hear no more 188 of their legal claim. Let the ground of right be abandoned, and if any position at all be taken, let it be that of expediency alone. Once more I assert that the emoluments of livings are mere stipendiary payments, precisely the same as the salary of an exciseman or of a custom-house officer: and for this assertion I have the sanction of the Judges, it having been decided that the profits of a living did not pass to the assignees of an insolvent parson, but that his case was analogous to that of a half-pay officer. Thus a clergyman may get into debt, go to jail, cheat his creditors, get discharged and enjoy the emoluments of his living after all; and this, to be sure, is perfectly compatible with Christianity. I ask, then, have not the revenues of the Church been always subjected to Legislative enactments? Have not those revenues been increased by the legislature? Are not the clergy under personal restraints from which other men are free? Are they not restrained from alienating their benefices? And are not the emoluments of a living mere stipendiary payments? No man will deny these facts. I come now to the last proposition contained in the resolution which I shall have the honour to submit to the House; which is, that the greater part, if not the whole, of the revenues of the Church, ought to be appropriated to the relief of the nation. I say the greater part, because there may be some doubt as to whether the clergy were not at one time entitled to one third of those revenues; but I do not think, that, under existing circumstances, the benefit of that doubt would be great.
And here let me ask hon. Members what the state of affairs was before the Protestant Reformation? By the canons of Elfric, it appears that—" the holy fathers had decreed that tithes should be paid into God's Church, and that the priests should divide them into three parts; one for the reparation of the Church a second for the poor, and a third for God's servants who attended the Church." Now, if further information be required on this point, I beg to refer the House to Archbishop Egbert's Excerptions, 15th Richard 2nd, and the 4th of Henry 4th. And the fact, that all the revenues of the Church were derived from our Catholic ancestors is by no means unworthy of attention. That the whole of these revenues were ever intended for the purpose 189 of affording religious instruction, I positively deny and challenge contradiction; while it is clear that such part of them as was to be applied to that purpose was given to promulgate doctrines and to inculcate a faith from which our Church now dissents, and which the clergy declare to be damnable. I ask, then, would they like to account for by-gone rents and profits, and to hand them over to the popish priesthood? Probably they have no inclination to do that. Let them acknowledge, then, that they are indebted to Acts of Parliament for their present possessions; and with that acknowledgment let an admission be made that the Legislature has as great a right to dispossess them as a bloody-minded King and his rapacious courtiers had to dispossess the Catholics of old. But there are other and perhaps more substantial reasons for appropriating the revenues of the Church to the relief of the nation. It is a decidedly Antichristian institution—an institution which I believe to be no less an abomination to God than it is injurious to man. From our very infancy, we, as Protestants, were taught to rail against the Church of Rome, and to regard it as "Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." That may be all true enough; but if the Romish Church be a "mother of harlots," it is natural to suppose that she is not childless. Where, then are her daughters? To hunt them all out is a task which I am not disposed to undertake: but, in pointing to the Establishment of this country, I present to the notice of the House a harlot having all the features of her apostate and adulterous mother. When some men talk of religion and a Christian Church, they seem to forget that there is such a thing as the New Testament. To that I refer honourable Members, and ask them, whether they find therein anything bearing the least resemblance to our religious Establishment. Christ was not rich; the Apostles did not fare sumptuously every day; they did not ride in splendid carriages; they took no part in legislative affairs, neither did they "eat the fat and clothe themselves with the wool of the flock;" but, on the contrary, they fed that flock with spiritual food, working with their own hands in order to supply their own bodily wants. Not so, however, the clergy of our Established Church. It is true they caution us against the 190 pomps and vanities of this wicked world. They tell us that the love of money is the root of all evil—that those who will be rich fall into divers snares and temptations which drown men in perdition; and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven; and then again they declare that they are moved by the Holy Ghost to take the cure of souls.
Now, all this is very proper; but, unfortunately, they appear to contradict in practice what they profess in principle. They make a pompous and vain show, and take especial care of that which they declare to be a deadly evil; while as to the motions of the Holy Ghost in taking the cure of souls, they sometimes leave those souls to the cure of a half-starved curate, and move off to Paris, Rome, or some other place of fashionable resort, where they consume in indolence a great portion of the substance of their flocks. Now, I am disposed to take them at their word, to ease them of a little of that which they say, and which I believe, is pernicious to their souls, leaving them to the full benefit and enjoyment of their religion, to which I am sure there can be no reasonable objection on their part. But I have heard several hon. Members talk about respectability, and contend for the necessity of maintaining that of the clergy. I quite agree with them in point of terms; and yet there seems to be a substantial difference between us, for it is evident that by respectability they mean large parcels of money. Now I do not think that wealth has much, if anything, to do with respectability. A man may be a rich fool, or a rich rogue; while experience is sufficient to convince us that respectability is by no means incompatible with poverty. At any rate, our Saviour was not rich, neither were his Apostles; and yet who will venture to say that they were not respectable? If, indeed, it be necessary for a minister of religion to be in affluent circumstances in order to render him respectable, then we must cease to reverence the first teachers of Christianity; but God forbid we should do that. But this Establishment has been a great national evil. What have the clergy done? Why, instead of applying to their own purposes only one-third of the tithes, they have grasped the whole, and thrown the burthen of the poor and the expenses of the churches on the people. 191 Had they been less avaricious and more benevolent, there might not have been much cause for complaint. The evil, however, does not stop there. That the nation is in distress is admitted. Now, distress is the bitter fruit of taxation. Taxation is the consequence of wicked and disastrous wars. The clergy were the most strenuous advocates for those wars; and they have invariably supported tyranny and corruption. Was that the course which their sacred office prescribed? Was it compatible with the religion they professed to teach?
If instead of striking hands with the corrupt governments of the day, they had stood up in opposition to them, Pitt and his associates could never have plundered and enslaved the people as they did. When, I ask, did the Bishops and Clergy ever defend the rights and liberties of the people? Will the noble Lord (Althorp) tell me that they advocated the Reform Bill? To that they rendered all the opposition in their power. If they could, they would have crushed it in the bud; and sure am I that they have since strained every nerve to prevent the people from enjoying the fruits of that measure. They are bitter enemies to freedom. What is it that Ministers intend to do? That the distress of the nation is great, none will deny, although I am aware that the noble Lord (Althorp) is not disposed to admit the existence of the evil to that extent to which I believe it to exist. I affirm, however, that tradesmen, manufacturers, farmers, labourers, in short—nearly all those who do not live on an abominable taxing and tithing system—are on the brink of ruin, and that something must be done. What then will you do? Are Ministers prepared to sponge out the national debt? No, they will not do that. Will they put down the array, reduce the navy, break up some of their establishments, curtail salaries, and lop off sinecures and unmerited pensions? No, they will not do that either. To talk of relieving the people from taxation, without doing all or some of these things, is sheer nonsense; and I will never unite with those hon. Members, who, though they are not prepared to break up any of our establishments, are continually harping upon a reduction of taxation. The thing is impracticable. If you will have a large standing army, pay the interest of the debt, and let the parsons pocket the revenues of the Church, 192 it is folly, if not hypocrisy, to talk of relieving the people.
Relieved, however, they must be, and that speedily, or a convulsion will ensue; and however sanguine the noble Lord and his right hon. Colleagues may be,—however lightly they may think of the condition of the people,—and whatever reliance they may place on that power which they possess, I am confident that they will be unable to keep the present system together much longer; but if, in the exercise of a sound discretion, they will do justice to a suffering people, by properly appropriating the revenues of the Established Church and all other public property, then relief may be afforded, and the nation rendered more prosperous and powerful than at any former period. It is my humble opinion, therefore, that the greater part, if not the whole, of the revenues of the Church ought to be applied to the relief of the nation, because the Establishment is not recommended by practical utility; because its revenues have always been subject to legislative enactments; because the Clergy were never entitled to more than one-third of the tithes; and because this is the most equitable, if not the only way of preventing anarchy, by stopping the progress of distress. And now, however much the House may differ from me in opinion, hon. Members will, I trust, give me credit for sincerity. I assure them I have spoken conscientiously, and been actuated by a sense of duty; and whatever may be its present fate, I cannot refrain from submitting the following Resolution:—" That the Church of England, as by law established, is not recommended by practical utility; that its revenues have always been subject to legislative enactments; and that the greater part, if not the whole, of those revenues, ought to be appropriated to the relief of the nation."
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the House, he was sure, would not expect him to answer the speech of the hon. member for Brighton. He would only observe, that the hon. Member had stated that he was a Dissenter; and he must say, that he was a member of the Church of England. The question, therefore, as to whether that Church were. good or not was one on which they might very properly differ. The hon. Member said his Motion was most important. In that he could not agree with the hon. Member, for he could not conceive that it possessed any prac- 193 tical utility. He would not detain the House by going into a discussion of a polemical question which might be suitable for another place; but it was a question into which it was not fit for him to enter there. He should only say, that he would meet the Motion with a decided negative.
§ Mr. Cobbett
The noble Lord said, the House hardly expected him to answer the speech of the hon. member for Brighton. No, nor did I either.
§ Mr. Harvey
acknowledged, that he too was a Dissenter and a Non-Conformist; but, though he was prepared to support the abstract proposition made by the hon. Member, he could not agree to all its terms. The hon. Member had rather prejudiced the question, by directing his arguments to the abuses of the Church, instead of limiting himself to establishing the great principle of religious liberty, and the injustice of compelling Dissenters to support an Established Church; which, being at variance with all spiritual freedom, was a fair and open subject of investigation. The hon. Member had rather dwelt on the administration of the Church, than upheld the great principle of toleration. He could not say, that the Church was altogether opposed to practical utility, for that would imply that it had been of no utility at all times, to which he could not agree. He should like to have the principle of exonerating the Dissenters from paying to the Church brought under discussion; and he had hoped that the noble Lord would, at least, even on this occasion, have acknowledged the principle that the Dissenters ought not to pay to the Established Church. He subscribed to the latter part of the proposition, but not to the former; and he trusted the hon. Mover would withdraw the Motion, as to negative it might place the non-conformists in an improper light.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
would express his utter dissent from all the words of the proposition of the hon. Mover. He would make only one observation on the system of sermon and speech of the hon. Member. The hon. Member admitted, that he was a Dissenter, and he attacked those who in that House could not appear to defend themselves. He attacked them on account of their temporalities, and he attacked them also on their spiritual practices and motives. The hon. Member was, he believed, not only a Dissenter, but a 194 licensed preacher among that body, or he had been; and it was hardly fair in him to attack the Ministers of the Church of England as to their motives and conduct, when they could not come into that House to defend themselves. He felt, that the House had expressed its opinion so decidedly, that it was unnecessary for him to trespass on its time.
§ Mr. Aglionby
was friendly to the latter part of the proposition, but not to the first part of it, and had no other course but to oppose it.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
proposed an Amendment to this effect:—" That the Revenues of the Church of England have always been subject to legislative enactments, and they ought to be appropriated to their original institution."
§ Mr. Harvey
objected to the Amendment, as implying something to which no Protestant Dissenter could agree. He could not allow those revenues to be appropriated as they were originally.
§ The Amendment withdrawn, and the original Motion negatived without a division. Some voices called out "the Ayes have it," after the Speaker had decided; but
§ The Speaker
said, they were too late, for not one "Aye" had been uttered when he put the question.