§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House on that part of his Majesty's Speech which related to Church-rates.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
** From a corrected Report.1208 spoke as follows:—Mr. Bernal; I shall not occupy your time, or that of the Committee, by soliciting your kind consideration, or by advancing any peculiar claim to your indulgence. Sir, I shall simply say, that under no circumstances have I ever risen to address the House with so deep a sense of the responsibility that attaches to me, whether as a Member of Parliament, or as a Member of the Government. The important question which I am now about to propose to the House, I consider to be one of that character which absorbs all ordinary considerations. It is a question in which the speaker not only forgets himself, and all political or party connexion, but in which he loses sight of all considerations whatsoever, except the great and mighty interests that are involved, not in the discussion, but in the solution of this subject. We are about to try to give religious peace throughout the land. We seek to extend farther the liberal principles upon which this House has, in later times, acted. Sir, the difficulties of discussing this question are greatly aggravated by the circumstances of the times in which we live. If I entertained a hope that we could approach the discussion without passion, without prejudice, without party excitement, then, indeed, I should not hesitate in anticipating a successful issue to the debate; but when we see the character of the times in which we live,—when we see the disposition that exists, upon all occasions like the present, to excite a prejudice, to raise a cry, to persuade certain parties that the Church is in danger,—I feel that the difficulties which would exist even under ordinary circumstances become in the present instance overpowering.
Sir, I may be allowed to state, in reference to the spirit in which this measure is recommended to Parliament, that the Government propose it in no spirit of hostility to the Established Church; on the contrary, we feel persuaded that the settlement of the question is that measure, above all others, which, at the present moment, will give peace and security to our Establishment. Sir, let not hon. Gentlemen think, that, in thus anticipating danger and difficulty, I am drawing purely from my imagination. It is no such thing. Within a very short period of time, before the intentions of his Majesty's Government on this subject had been communicated to Parliament, I saw it proclaimed,— 1209 and that on the authority of an individual who is valued, respected, and loved by his friends,—that the public at large were to anticipate a measure calculated to rob God of his glory and the poor of their rights. Such was the character given of our measure by anticipation. Sir, I allude to this for the purpose of denying the assertion; and of entreating the House to believe that the intentions of those who have framed this measure—the intentions of him who humbly proposes it,—are to advance the cause of religion; to give peace—to give stability—to the Church; and that, so far from robbing the poor of their rights, we seek to affirm those rights, and to establish those rights more particularly in reference to the subject of religious instruction. Sir, it was but a short time since, that, in a debate upon another question, a noble Friend of mine animadverted on the absence of petitions. No individual can make a similar observation on the subject of Church-rates. On the contrary, what subject has excited throughout the land so deep and earnest an attention? No person who has a large class of constituents, can venture to say,—and, thanks to the Reform Bill, most of us may now appeal to a large class of constituents,—there is no hon. Gentleman, I repeat it, on either side of the House, who can be prepared to say that this subject is not one which comes recommended to the House as having excited the strongest public interest. Nay, I may almost put it, whether this is not a subject which we may approach within the walls of Parliament upon the admission that a great evil exists, and that the evil calls for an immediate and an effective remedy? I hope I may assume within this House, though I know a contrary opinion has been entertained without "these walls, that a remedy, prompt and decisive, is called for—I hope I may assume that the question at issue between the two sides of the House, and which we must decide, is not whether we can remain as we are? but, what is the course that it behoves the Legislature to follow?
Sir, I should wish, in the first branch of my argument, to refer to certain high authorities on this subject, because the House would feel that I neglected my duty if I did not strengthen my position as far as possible, and more especially when I appeal to authorities which cannot but have weight with the hon. Gentlemen 1210 opposite. I shall not argue merely to satisfy Gentlemen who are disposed to support me; but I shall argue, if possible, to convince those hon. Gentlemen also who are prepared to oppose my resolution. I may assume, that hon. Gentlemen who have already presented petitions in favour of the measure, from this side of the House, are prepared to support me. It is therefore from the other side that I must seek to make converts. I seek to influence votes, by calling the attention of hon. Gentlemen to the fatal consequences which may, or rather which must, arise from allowing this question to remain unsettled. The first authority to which I shall allude is the authority of a Commission proceeding from the Crown, issued during the Government of the Duke of Wellington. I do not allude to t is Report in support of the particular remedy which I propose, but as establishing the preliminary fact, that the present state of the law is one which we cannot allow to continue;—that some remedy is called for, and that such remedy it is the duty of this House to provide. In the extract which I shall quote from the Report of the Commissioners, I find it set forth, that the whole subject of Church-rates demands immediate attention; as the mischiefs arising from the present state of the law are rapidly spreading. To prove the correctness of this statement, it is only necessary to refer to the actual state of the law. It is clearly indisputable in practice, and I believe it to be equally so in point of law, that if a vestry is assembled to consider the proposition of a Church-rate, that vestry has full means of refusing its assent to the rate. I do not anticipate that there are any hon. Gentlemen in this House who will defend the present state of the law; but if there are, let them not defend it upon the ground that there now exists any fixed, permanent, or satisfactory mode of providing for the repair and maintenance of the churches of the Establishment. That, surely, cannot be considered as a fixed, permanent, and established income, to which the majority of any parish vestry may refuse or postpone its assent. You may defend the present state of things on any other ground you please; but to defend it on the ground of its affording a permanent and stable support for the maintenance of the parish Churches, is a complete misapprehension of all the facts of the case, and is contradicted by the 1211 events which are passing before our own eyes. Let the Committee recollect, that the vestries of England and I rejoice at the circumstance) are not confined to any particular sect or denomination of his Majesty's subjects. In Ireland that is not the case; but in England you invite, at the commencement of the year, all the King's subjects to meet in vestry, and determine whether there shall or shall not be a Church-rate. Upon the vote of the vestry so assembled, the imposition and levy of that rate are determined. Let us ask, Sir, to what has this led? It has led, in numberless cases, not only to conflicting opinions, but a determined spirit of resistance;—it has arrayed the Dissenter against the Churchman.—It has produced annual bickerings, and annual divisions. It has led to results that, in a great number of parishes and cities and towns, have been anything but favourable to the stability of the Church, to the promotion of Christian knowledge, or the extension of Christian charity. Let it not, therefore, be said, that this present state of things does furnish any efficient support to the Church Establishment; on the contrary, I maintain that it leads to results of the most opposite character. On the first discussion of this subject, some years back, I think my hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir Robert Inglis), stated, that there had not then been manifested a resistance to the payment of Church-rates in more than fifty parishes. Upon the authority of another hon. Member of this House, it was, on a subsequent occasion, stated that the number of recusant parishes had doubled, and then amounted to more than 100. But, for my argument, I care not whether there are 50 or 100 parishes in which a determined stand is made against these rates: I should be blind indeed to the interests of the Church Establishment, and to the interests of all who are connected with it, if I thought the danger would be confined within the limits of these 50 or 100 parishes, if I did not attempt to correct what I consider must be a progressive evil. It cannot be said that this resistance is confined within particular localities; on the contrary, it resembles a plague-spot breaking out in one place, but which, in a very short time, will spread its contagion generally. I shall take the liberty of describing to the House what that spirit of resistance, and its consequences, have 1212 been in certain cases. I have many examples which I might state to the House, but I shall select only a few as specimens. First, I shall take the case of Sheffield. In Sheffield, the opposition to Church-rates commenced in 1817 or 1818. On that occasion, the adjournment of the vestry was moved, and the same scene followed year after year, till the year 1822. There was a decided contest in that city, the effect of which was to cause an evident separation between the Churchmen and the Dissenters between the years 1817 and 1822. The meetings were held in the Church, where scenes took place disgraceful to all parties,—scenes which were fit illustrations of the working of the system. The writer, from whom I derive my information, proceeds to say,—One scene I shall never forget;—an actual trial of personal strength between two Gentlemen, each trying to eject the other from the chair, the partisans on each side backing and encouraging the combatants. There was no further attempt made to obtain a Church-rate until 1824; and in that year, the active opponents of the rate on the former occasion being dead, the Church rate party called a vestry meeting to lay a rate; and so disgusted had I been at the scenes at former meetings, where the rate was only got rid of by a quibble, that I proposed a resolution negativing the granting of a rate, on the ground of its injustice. This was carried, and there has been no attempt to lay a rate since then.The consequence has been, that in Sheffield no rate has existed since 1817 or 1818. Here was a meeting held in the church itself, in the face of the whole congregation,—here we find the Dissenters and Churchmen arrayed against each other—the contest resolving itself into personal violence,—and this as a lesson of peace and charity to the assembled parishioners! all this has actually occurred; and with what result? Why, not the collection, but the extinction, of the rate, the subject ofcontest;—the utter extinction of the rate during the period I have referred to.
The next case to which I shall refer is that, of Manchester. I refer to these great towns because I wish to show the magnitude of the evil; because I know that public feeling; is more alive in these great towns, than elsewhere; because the excitement that originates there, whether it be of a political, of a religious, or of an intellectual character, soon extends,—first, through all the great towns, and, subsequently, 1213 throughout the whole community. At Manchester, I find that the Dissenters, in 1833, resisted Church-rates, and a poll was demanded, after a rate had been proposed in vestry and lost. A poll was demanded, for which no preparation was made; and after five or six days' struggle, and after polling 7,000 and 8,000, the rate was lost by a majority of one. The churchwardens held a scrutiny, the majority was declared to be in favour of the rate. This is a case in which the rate was successful; but the examples of cases in which the rate has been carried, speak as strongly for my motion, as those of a different character. The rate was carried; but was it collected? To this I shall refer hereafter. The church wardens conducted the scrutiny, and declared that the final majority was in favour of the rate: but what has been the result? My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Philips) knows. Was the rate levied? Was it paid? Was the Church supported by the produce? No such thing; no step has been taken to enforce this rate. No levy has been made under it: the Church-wardens have not judged it prudent to attempt a levy; so that even when, in vestry, the rate has been successful, it has failed for any real good and practical purpose. The subject has excited a storm, and all for nothing. Confusion, and contest, and party dissensions have been produced. The writer of a letter which I hold in my hand proceeds to say,—In 1834 a contest again took place in Manchester. The election of the Members was nothing to it. The poll lasted five or six days and nearly 15000 votes were polled, and there was a majority against the rate of 11,000. It appears that a scrutiny was demanded; but what was the result? This large majority was declared to be a minority; but though dared to do so, they declined to try the case at law.Was it politic, in such a community as Manchester, to array 15,000 persons in controversy upon a church question? And I have stated that, when they had succeeded, the church wardens did not dare to try the case at law, or to collect the rate thus established. In the year 1835, another parish meeting was called, and a very large assembly came together, but the show of hands was so decisive, that the church wardens declined to go to a poll, and from that time to the present, in the town of Manchester, there has been, no 1214 attempt to raise a Church-rate. Can, or ought, this state of things to continue? If you depend upon the Church-rate for the maintenance of the Church, can you depend upon the present state of the law to enable you to enforce that payment? It is not sufficient to assert that the law must be strengthened: if you wish to maintain such a proposition, you must carry the House of Commons with you. Can you do so? Can you get any House of Commons to grant such new and additional power? Colonel Sibthorp.—Hear! hear!'] The hon. Member for Lincoln, I know, holds, that if the church rate cannot be collected under the present law, nothing can be more easy than to persuade the Legislature to give additional power. I confess, I should like to see, not the person, but the party, however combined in force or number, who could come down to this House, and ask the Parliament—not to give the people of England a settlement of this question, but—to grant additional power for enforcing the payment of Church-rates, and persisting in the present system. I will say, that be that individual who he may, who thinks he can obtain from the Legislature additional powers to enforce the payment of Church-rates, he will soon find that he miscalculates the character of the Legislature, as well as miscalculates the people whom that Legislature represents.
There is another case which, as it establishes the first part of my proposition, I must take the liberty of adverting to. The case I allude to occurred in a township in Yorkshire, called Applethorpe. In this case there had been a large church built: heavy rates were demanded and were agreed to at the vestry meeting, and a rate of 2s. 9d. was actually ordered to be levied. I have already shown you a case in which a rate has been refused by the vestry; I have also shown you a case in which a rate, being made, was not enforced; and the object of the present illustration is to show you, farther, what, even where a rate has been granted and enforced, sometimes are the consequences of that enforcement of rate, and how strongly those consequences prove the inconvenience of the existing law. In this case the rate of 2s. 9d. was proposed to be levied on a certain Captain Flower, a Dissenter, who contested the rate. He was summoned before a magistrate, again 1215 persisted in his refusal, and denied the legality of the rate. The legality of the rate being contested, the magistrate was deprived of jurisdiction; the case was taken to another and an ecclesiastical tribunal, and the result was, that Captain Flower had to pay the rate, with costs amounting to 250l. Of this I do not complain. I admit, that if he, or any one else, resists a demand and goes to law to try the right, if the law be against the appellant, he is bound to abide by the consequences. I suppose that I have understood the meaning of the cheer from the hon. and Gallant (Colonel Sibthorp) and that I have answered his supposed inference. But, without claiming for Captain Flower any sympathy for the payment of his costs, there is another circumstance, connected with this case, which, perhaps, when the Gallant Colonel hears, he will not be disposed to cheer: it is this,—that no rate has been granted in that parish ever since. The case therefore proves that for the recovery of the rate of 2s. 9d. contested on the ground of its legality, costs of 250l. were inflicted on the party, and the rate has not been repeated. If you read that lesson to the people of England, depend upon it that their sympathy will be excited for the man who has paid these enormous costs, and their feelings will rise against the existing law.
I trust that hon. Gentlemen will see that all these illustrations, however tedious, are made for the purpose of establishing the first point of my argument, namely, that the law cannot be permitted to remain as it is. If there be hon. Gentlemen in this House who think that the law can stand as it is, let them come forward in reply, and maintain that argument. But they cannot do so if, as I hope I have been enabled to prove to this House, the law is defective and needs amendment. This is the first duty of every one who suggests any important change of the existing law. Until that foundation be laid, I do not conceive that I have a right to come to Parliament and recommend an alteration. It has been with that view that I have referred to the matters of fact I have brought before the House. But I rely not only on fact, but on opinion also. I may appeal to one authority on the subject which cannot fail to have great weight. with those hon. Gentlemen, on the other side, who suppose that the present system can be maintained. It is the authority of 1216 my noble Friend opposite, and I rejoice to have an opportunity of quoting to the House any authority of his, in support of an opinion of my own; for, though we have differed on some important questions, and on more occasions than I could have wished, we have never been engaged in discussion upon any terms but those of sincere and affectionate friendship. When I appeal to his authority on this subject, I have no right to claim it in behalf of my specific plan of remedy. But I know his high authority; I appeal to that authority in condemnation of the present system; and I therefore call upon the House to listen attentively to the opinion which he eloquently expressed upon this subject in 1834. My noble Friend stated, that "true it was, that though Church-rates had been resisted, the Church itself had been successful in overcoming the resistance;" and then he proceeded to state, with a truly wise and statesmanlike view of the subject, what must be the consequences even of that success:—Suppose (said he) that, year after year, the Church should be triumphant in maintaining the payment of these rates to the uttermost farthing, and in maintaining every abuse connected with their collection and distribution; does my hon. Friend (the hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford) think that such a course of proceeding would be advantageous to the interests of the Church, or lead to the promotion of true religion?My noble Friend well knew on what grounds to appeal to the hon. Member for Oxford. He appealed to him on the grounds of the interests of the Church itself, and the advancement of true religion. I say, Sir, how can the interest of the Church itself, and the advancement of true religion, be promoted or maintained by the present system of making and enforcing Church-rates? My noble Friend, following out the same course of argument, next asked,—Does my hon. Friend consider the heart-burnings, the acrimonious revilings, the constant quarrels, the jealousies, the recrimination, the profanation of the Church itself, where these meetings take place, by which, year after year, the cause of true religion is violated and profaned, the house of God desecrated, and the very worst possible feeling excited among the majority of the people at large? I say, 1217 that such a state of things imperatively calls for relief.I do not appeal to him as an authority in favour of my plan, of which he knows nothing; but I do appeal to him as a conclusive authority in favour of my first principle, which affirms that the present system cannot be allowed to continue. If hon. Gentlemen stand up and tell us that the Church has been victorious, I ask them, in the words of my noble Friend, will not such victories be fatal? Or, if the Church continue to be triumphant, can such dangerous triumphs be considered as a set-off or counterpoise to the mischiefs which my noble Friend so eloquently described in the speech which I have just quoted? I feel that I must have occupied the attention of the House for a longer period than I could wish, even on this first part of the subject; and I should not have done so, but that I feel and know that, though not within these walls, yet beyond them, some have maintained that no remedy is required, and that no alteration of the law is called for. I know that there is an opinion prevalent in certain quarters, and more particularly among churchmen, that we may struggle on as before. I know that an opinion has been inculcated, that the law, as it now stands, is sufficient to enable the Church to enforce the rates; and I have, therefore, thought it necessary to prove—on authority, to me conclusive—that change of the present system is necessary to the interests of the Church itself—to the just feelings of the Dissenters—and to the maintenance of good order and peace throughout the country. Now, Sir, if I am right—and I may be permitted to assume that I am so for the moment—let Gentlemen remember that we are not called upon to decide absolutely upon my plan: on the present occasion I am only bound to explain its principle, and to prove that it is worthy of consideration. It is not so much the question, at the present moment, whether a particular remedy should be adopted, as whether any remedy is called for, and whether my proposition may be entertained.
Various remedies have been proposed from different quarters; to these, I shall proceed to direct my observations. Of these, the first is, the total abolition of Church-rates: leaving the repair of the fabric of the Church to be provided for by the voluntary contributions of the 1218 members of the Establishment. This is, in point of fact, no less than leaving the maintenance of the fabric of the Church to depend on what we understand and refer to, in our debates, under the name of the voluntary principle. Now, Sir, I for one say, that to that principle I must ever, and under all circumstances, express my decided opposition, whether with regard to the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, or to the support of the ministers of the Establishment. I am a member of the Established Church. I am sincerely attached to that Church by conviction, no less than by birth and education. I am not called to argue as against the voluntary system, at the present. It is sufficient for my purpose to enter my protest against it, in whatever shape, or under whatsoever modification it may appear. My noble Friend, the Secretary of State, has made this declaration on various former occasions; I repeat it, and I state it the more boldly now, because it is on the rejection of this principle that I invite the House to the consideration of my proposed remedy; and, therefore, it need not preclude any person from adopting my conclusion, and doing that which I contend is just, not only to the Established Church, but to the Dissenters. I repeat it advisedly—for the plan I am about to propose, so far from having any connexion with the voluntary principle, and so far from leaving no settled provision for the maintenance of the fabric of the Established Church, proceeds upon a principle the very opposite; and it affirms absolutely, that of the duty which is incumbent on the state of securing, for ever, the means for religious worship within his Majesty's dominions. If more were called for, and it were considered as insufficient for me to record my dissent from the voluntary principle, I might be tempted shortly to add, that when any hon. Gentleman can satisfy me that the independence and honour of the country can be defended—when our army and navy can be supported—when public instruction can be provided for—when the administration of justice can be maintained—upon the voluntary principle—then, and not till then, I shall apply the voluntary principle to the Church; sooner it cannot be applied, unless it be contended, indeed, that religious instruction is, as a principle, less important to the whole community than the other duties 1219 to which I have alluded. In such an event, but in no other, can I admit that the voluntary principle in religious matters may be relied on. But, inasmuch as I feel that it is impossible to establish any one of these propositions, and when I know that the religious Establishment of the State is, at the least, as necessary to be maintained as the army, navy, or administration of justice; then, I must say that I can never submit to leave the Church Establishment to the chances and instability of the voluntary principle.
Sir, a second proposition is, that the Church should be left to the voluntary principle, but that a distinctive system of taxation should be introduced—these taxes being levied exclusively from the members of the Church for its maintenance. I think, Sir, this involves, though in a minor degree, the objection to which I have already alluded, as applicable in the former proposition. It is inconsistent with the first principles of our Establishment; and how, Sir, are we to distinguish who is or who is not a Churchman? Are we to establish a new test? Are we to renew the odious principle of the Test and Corporation Acts, in order to know who is to be hereafter compellable to contribute towards the Church Establishment? But, Sir, I need not pursue this line of argument further—the plan is too absurd, and manifestly objectionable, to require further observation.
Another proposition is, that there should be a fund created by a tax levied upon the clergy, by the imposition of a rate of taxation levied by a graduated scale upon all the benefices of the Church. It is suggested as a sort of income tax, to be levied upon the clergy for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church. Neither to that proposition can I agree. You have stated to Parliament, in a Report laid upon your Table, what is the actual amount of the revenues of the Church of England. After considering that Report, I think no hon. Member will deem that an income tax upon the clergy is a proper mode of meeting the expense. That. Report shows, that the average income of the clergy of the Church of England, amounts to no larger a sum than 285l. per annum. Sir, I am not now called upon to enter into the question of distribution; but, assuming, for the sake of argument, that the distribution was equalised, it will only yield an average of 285l. 1220 But then, some exclaim, "there are the bishops, deans, and chapters—why not abolish them?" Sir, in answer to that, I say in the first place, that the proposal would be, in fact, abolishing the episcopal character of our Church. It, would alter the whole system of the Establishment. But, again—conceding for argument's sake, that all these dignitaries were swept away, and that their whole revenue were thrown into the average, it would not yield, even then, to each clergyman, an average much exceeding 300l. per annum. I am not, for one, prepared to say that this income is in excess. On the contrary, I feel that it is not. an income from which I am prepared to make any deduction, when I consider the duties cast upon the clergy, and the large means of usefulness which are open to them; when I think on their charity and their benevolence, and the claims upon both. On these grounds, I am not disposed to make any deduction from the income now assigned to the parochial clergy of the Established Church.
Another suggestion has been made, by which a fund should be raised solely by pew-rents, and by which the sittings in the Church should be applied to maintain the fabric of the Church. Sir, I should be very reluctant to acquiesce in this principle, stated without limitation. Then, indeed, I must appear to justify a second part of the urgent cry to which I have already alluded; then it might be said that I did propose to rob the poor of their rights. Sir, I think, if all admission to our churches were made dependent on money payment, we should rob the poor of their rights; which I will never consent to—and, therefore, if there be any who impute such an intention to me—to his Majesty's Ministers—or to those who may support the plan we propose, such persons do us a manifest injustice. Sir, I contend that it is the duty of the Government, on the contrary, to provide, as far as is practicable, seats for the poor; and instead of limiting or abridging their rights, I propose in my Bill to confirm and extend them. If we were to place the support of the fabric of the Church upon the system of pew-rents, without regard to the rights of the poor, or without providing adequate means of religious instruction to the poorer classes, I say, that it would be a vicious settlement of the question. Therefore, I utterly and entirely disclaim all intention of wishing to pro- 1221 vide exclusively by pew-rents for the support of the fabric of the Church; reserving to myself, in the further development of my plan, the right of suggesting the appropriation of pew-rents, paid by the rich for the support of that fabric, and thus extending the means of religious instruction to the poor.
Another plan to which I shall advert is of a very different character; and this is the scheme of those who are so surprisingly contented with our vestry system, that they are anxious that Church-rates should remain in their present condition, and only wishing to obtain a little additional authority and control over those who vote the rates, namely, the persons who are called on to pay them. This plan is set forth in some resolutions entered into at a meeting of the Archdeacons of England. I entertain the deepest respect for these gentlemen; but they will, I am sure, allow me to comment freely upon their opinions, as expressed in these resolutions. One of the resolutions is—"That this meeting earnestly deprecates all interference with the principle of Church-rates, being persuaded that no other mode of attaining the same object, equally safe and permanent, can be devised." Now, Sir, if there be any force in the opinion of my noble Friend—if there be any force in the opinion of Lord Spencer—or if there be any force in the opinion of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, in adverting to this subject, it is impossible to acquiesce in this ecclesiastical judgment of the Archdeacons. But, Sir, this is not all. Like the postscript to a lady's letter, the most important part of the communication remains for the last. The second resolution is—"That nothing more is required than additional enactments for better raising or making the rate, and for securing the rate-payer every possible satisfaction as to the faithful application of the money so raised." Now, Sir, let us inquire what may be these additional enactments? Either that power should be given to churchwardens to levy a rate without the consent of the vestry; or to give to the magistrates at quarter Sessions, the power to impose a rate upon parishes, without the consent of the parishioners. Neither proposition can be maintained, or even tolerated, for one moment, let it come from what quarter it may.
1222 I now proceed to another proposition, which I approach with much more of respect as well as of doubt and hesitation; the propositions made by Lord Grey's Government,—the proposition made by Lord Spencer to this House. I must be permitted to discuss that proposition, and state to the Committee the reason why I think it is open to objection; and that the House, though I admit that it contained an improvement of the existing law, would not now be warranted in adopting it. Lord Spencer proposed that a sum of 250,000l. should be voted by Parliament for the purpose of maintaining the fabric of the Church. That proposition was submitted to the House. No one proposed, distinctly, to negative it, but amendments were moved to this effect,—"That until it was shown that the funds of the Church were inadequate for the purposes of the Church, the House was not disposed to entertain the proposition." My noble Friend did not persist in his plan. His Majesty's Government feel the utmost respect, of course, for a plan in which so many of them formerly concurred. But I shall take the liberty of stating to the House the reason why I think that proposition, though good in many respects, ought not to be made, and why another and a preferable proposition ought to be adopted. In the first place, the House is to recollect that the present system of church rates is one which allows to the parishioners, in vestry assembled, the power of saying aye, or no, to any proposition for a rate. It is, in point of fact, founded on the constitutional principle of parochial government. I object to this, not on the ground of any injustice, because I think in all communities the majority must have a power of governing on such subjects, but because these vestry meetings lead, as they are calculated to lead to perpetual discord and contest. Still, I say, that if the parishes of England have a free right, as at present they have, to say whether 1,000l. or 500l. shall be levied from themselves and expended, I am not surprised that they should say, "We don't choose that our money should be expended upon objects in which we are so deeply interested, without our opinion having been once asked upon it." That is the first objection which is fairly applicable to Lord Althorp's plan. It would deprive the parishes of the control they now possess. But there is another objection, which 1223 I think is more powerful, and to my mind appears quite decisive; and I wish my noble Friend, who was a party to that proposition, to give me his attention while I state this objection. In a publication which has recently issued from the press, in defence of Church-rates,—and which has obtained a circulation proportionate to the ability by which it is characterised,—I find it stated, that in 5,000 parishes no rates are levied, and that more than one-third of the parishes of England are free from this burden. I find it so stated, and, though I have no direct evidence of it, I assume the statement to be correct. But I know this confirmatory fact,—that, by the Charity Commissioners' Report, in very many instances in parishes, there does not seem to be a necessity for the levying of any Church-rates at all, because, in those parishes provision is already made, by the endowments of pious persons, for the maintenance and erection of churches. In the county of Norfolk, for instance, there appear upwards of 100 parishes that have some endowments for their churches: I do not affirm, nor do I know whether those endowments are adequate; but to take the extreme case stated, that of 5,000 parishes in which it is said that there are now no Church-rates collected and wherever there may be an existing adequate endowment, is it fair to tax—which you do if you raise the Church-rates from the general taxation of the country,—is it fair to tax those parishes who have funds adequate to maintain their churches—is it fair to tax them for the support of other churches in other parts of the country? I contend that, there being subsisting endowments in many parishes connected with the established religion of the country, it is unjust, because it is partial, to levy an indiscriminate taxation throughout the kingdom for the general maintenance of the churches. I may be permitted to state one instance in illustration. I find that in the reign of Queen Mary a charter was granted. and considerable property given to a corporation at Sheffield, called the Church Burgesses; that those persons who have now adequate funds for the maintenance of the church at Sheffield, that they do maintain the church at Sheffield, and hat all Church-rates at Sheffield have ceased. Would it not be rather hard, in this case, to say to the inhabitants of Sheffield, "You are to make a provision for the maintenance of churches in other 1224 places where no such endowments exist?" The difference of religion in the case of Scotland and Ireland will give this argument additional force. It was frequently asked, on the part of Scotland, when Lord Althorp's plan was brought forward,—"Why should we be taxed for the support of the Episcopal Church in England? For, if funds for the maintenance of that church are taken from the general taxation of the country, you do, in fact, compel us to aid in its support." And I think I could recognise something of the old spirit of opposition to episcopacy by which the Scottish covenanters were actuated, in the tone in which some Gentlemen echoed these sentiments. I say, then, of the plan of Lord Spencer, that, though it was a great step in advance,—though it tended to put a stop to the pernicious conflicts which have so long raged between Dissenters and Churchmen,—it was based upon a principle which I cannot admit to be free from all just objection. Nor were the objections entertained to this plan entirely confined to Dissenters. I find in The Quarterly Review—a publication certainly in no wise connected with the dissenting body—the following observations:—If the plan be adopted of upholding the churches out of the national purse, and the repairs be charged on the Consolidated Fund, where is the relief to the Dissenter? for the principle by which he is made—indirectly to be sure, but still substantially—to contribute to the maintenance of a building which he never enters, is just in as full force as under a system of rates.I do not concur in all the arguments contained in the paper from which I have read an extract; but I have no hesitation in asserting my conviction, that, by taking the course here alluded to, we should but have adopted a palliative, and a kind of half measure, which would not have been considered as satisfactory or final by a large body of his Majesty's subjects.
Sir, I have thus endeavoured to prove, that the present state of the law is defective; and, secondly, that the various remedies which have been suggested would not turn out to be effectual. I know I have occupied the House at great length; but I am resolved, even at the hazard of trying their patience, to omit nothing that may recommend the plan that I am about to introduce, or may protect the supporters of that plan from misrepresentation. Sir, the plan of his Majesty's Government—the plan which I am now about to explain 1225 to the House—proposes to abolish Church-rates altogether; not for the purpose of leaving the fabric of the Church unprovided for, but with a view of providing for its repair, and maintaining it in a manner equally permanent, equally fixed, as before, but by a mode differing from the present in this main and essential distinction, that while the present system seeks for its support through contests painful in their prosecution, and doubtful in result—while in levying rates it creates religious animosity—we propose to maintain the fabric of the Church without injury to the Church itself, or to any class of persons, and under a system by which these heats and animosties will be extinguished. Our Bill provides for Church-rates out of a surplus to be created by a better management of lands which are now the property of the Church, and in the hands of the archbishops, bishops, deans, and chapters throughout England. Hon. Gentlemen will understand that I do not propose to touch the income, whether in glebe or tithe, of any one of the parochial clergy throughout England; neither do I mean to interfere with the settlement of the income of any archbishop or bishop as fixed and regulated by the Bill of last Session, and recommended by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I do not propose to vary any ecclesiastical arrangement made, or proposed to be made, last year. My proposal is, that, out of the lands in possession of the higher ecclesiastical corporations, means may be provided for supporting the fabric of the Church. I think that by this means a sum of 250,000l. a-year, at the least, may be secured. Such was the amount proposed to be taken from the Consolidated Fund, by Earl Spencer. If this can be done without injury to the Church, I believe that those who are anxious -for the abolition of Church-rates will, and I know that they ought to, be content; and I hope also to satisfy all who are desirous to put an end to contests, injurious alike to Churchmen and Dissenters—two classes who, notwithstanding differences in faith and discipline, should be combined for the attainment of the common object of promoting improvement, religious, social, and political. Sir, I propose to create a commission for the management of the Church estates.
I was sure that the word "commission" would be followed by a cheer from the gallant Member for Lincoln,—as I am 1226 sure that light will, to-morrow, succeed to the rising of the sun. But let hon. Members hear a little more. I propose, that there shall be a commission for the management of the Church lands to consist of eleven persons; of these five to be of high rank, ecclesiastical rank, namely, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of London, the Dean of St. Paul's, and the Dean of Westminster: the others to be the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for the Home Department for the time being, the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests for the time being (for reasons I shall presently explain), and. as in the Tithe Bill, I propose that there be three paid commissioners, one of them to be appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the two others to be appointed by the Crown. Such is the constitution of the commission that I recommend. Hon. Gentlemen will observe, that the object of the appointment of this commission is solely for the management of the Church lands. I do not propose that the legal estate shall be transferred to them; on the contrary, I think the legal estate should remain as at present, but that the management of the Church lands should, as in the case of the Crown lands, be transferred to these Commissioners. I then propose that the present leasing powers of the Church shall altogether cease. [Hear, hear.] Gentlemen will, when they have followed me through my arguments, be enabled to judge whether any injustice, either to the Church or to individuals, is intended. I need not refer to the present system of leasing—the power of taking fines—of granting leases for lives, of leases for years, and the power which the bishops, with the approval of the deans and chapters, possess of granting concurrent leases. All these must be familiar to hon. Gentlemen who may have considered the subject; and, if not, in the course of my address, the proposition I have to make will be sufficiently explained. The I greater portion of the income derived from the Church lands is raised by fines upon the renewal of leases. The rents are, for the most part, fixed, and they constitute a comparatively small portion of the income. The Church is thus in the state of a person who lives by raising money upon a reversion, which, where the renewals are made as at present, is decidedly 1227 the most improvident of all modes of proceeding. Every hon. Gentleman, at all acquainted with the world, must know that such is exactly the conduct of a spendthrift. I propose, therefore, that the system of levying fines shall be entirely discontinued, and that the present leases be allowed to run out, then to be renewed on certain conditions in reference to their full value. It will be said, no doubt, and said with justice, that if my plan stopped here—if the measure which I have to propose were limited to this condition only—a great injustice would be done to the lessees. They have, in many cases, inherited their leases from their ancestors—those leases have been the objects of mortgage and of family settlements; and they, therefore, maybe considered to hold their lands under a qualified species of right. It cannot, of course, be considered as a strictly legal right, but one which, at least, entitles the lessee to some equitable consideration. Our Bill is founded upon the admission of such a principle. For, however great the inconveniences which we wish to remove, we ought not, in endeavouring to remove them, to injure the rights of individuals.
The Bill which I propose to introduce is founded on the principle of giving a reasonable consideration to the rights of the present lessees. We not only propose that, according to the improved value of the lease, the existing tenants of the Church should be entitled to a right of pre-emption, but that such right should be secured by allowing his renewal at five per cent, below the improved value. This is the principle adopted with the tenants of Crown lands; and I propose, with respect to the tenants of the Church, to give them the same advantage. But I am far from satisfied with this—I do not think it fully meets the equity of the case. If we merely continued the system of leases, I think a great portion of our duty would still be unperformed. Any one who has seen—not only in agricultural districts, but in large cities—the course of improvement which is interrupted, and great national undertakings checked, by the uncertainty of church leases, must admit that we could not be satisfied with the regulations to which I have alluded. I propose, therefore, to give the existing tenant not only the pre-emption of the lease, but the power of purchasing the fee-simple of the Church estate, subject to an increased 1228 rent payable to the Commissioners. When I say a fixed rent, I mean, that when the rent has once been ascertained, it shall afterwards fluctuate according to the value of corn. It may, therefore, be called a corn rent, and the fluctuations will be calculated upon the principle laid down in the Tithe Act of last Session. I propose that the Church lessees shall be enabled to purchase the fee-simple of the land at the rate of twenty-five years' purchase, the existing leases being valued at the rate of four per cent. If, for instance, a tenant has a lease equal to fourteen years' purchase, that interest shall be estimated at four per cent.: the difference between that sum and twenty-five years' purchase of the improved value of the fee-simple, shall be the amount the tenant will be called upon to pay for the enfranchisement of his land. Hon. Members are not, however, to suppose, that the plan which it is my duly to propose will make it imperative upon every lessee to pay this amount of difference in actual money. In order to facilitate the transaction, I propose that the amount should be commuted into an increased rent, to be added to the rents and fines which are now payable. I offer to the tenant the entire enfranchisement of his land—I offer to make that which is now an uncertain and doubtful tenure a tenure fixed and certain—a tenure in fee simple—one which will secure to the Church not only that which she now receives, but also that surplus upon which I confidently rely as a substitute for the present church-rates. There will also be clauses to enable persons who are life-renters to raise money, as well as to effect the exchange of lands. By these clauses the life-renters will have power to exchange Church lands for others which may be more suitable to their views and enjoyments. Sir, in cases in which persons being sub-lessees hold leases under a covenant of perpetual renewal, or renewal toties quoties, their rights will also be regarded, and their interests will be regulated as in the case in dealing with the sub-lessees of Crown estates. The sublessee will have the power of appearing before the Commissioners, of proving his interest in the land, and obtaining from them such decision as the justice of the case may demand.
Sir, I have already stated, that, by my plan, the rights of the present dignitaries will not be at all affected; and, in order 1229 to provide more especially for such cases, we propose, that if a bishop pleases, he may continue to keep up his receipts as under the present system of fines and rents. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent his continuing that practice, so far as he is concerned; though we hope he may find it more to his advantage to accept the provisions of this Bill at once. But the moment that the present incumbents' interest ceases, their successors will come absolutely under the provision of the Act. Sir, I believe that the funds which the Bill provides will be more than adequate for all the purposes for which this is intended. It is our intention, by the Bill we are about to introduce, to enact that the surplus, after paying the present fines to the bishops and ecclesiastics, and after providing, in addition, for the charge of church-rates, shall form a reserve fund, and shall be applicable to the endowment of small livings. Next, I have already stated that in many parishes there exist local funds applicable to the repairs of churches. I am decidedly of opinion that these funds ought to be brought under the consideration of the Commissioners intrusted with the administration of the Church estates. Those funds we accordingly propose to bring under the control of the Commissioners, though not to vest them in their hands. I have omitted to state that the commission to which I have alluded will be charged with the primary duty of paying over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, as at present constituted, the sum of 250,000l. per annum, to provide for the maintenance of the Church, the amount of the existing fines. Another source of income which will be brought under the notice of the Commissioners will be the pew-rents. I am very far from being desirous of limiting the attendance of the people on the service of the Established Church, to those who will pay a sum of money for their sittings. Nothing can, in my mind, be more unjust, nothing more injurious, and, therefore, nothing deserving to be more strongly deprecated. It would be most improper to raise, between the poorer classes and their religious duties, obstacles of this description. But, undoubtedly, where pew-rents have been received,—and in all cases where they can justly be demanded from the rich, they ought to be received,—they should be employed for the support of the Church, 1230 This is already the case in many parishes of the metropolis. In the parish of St. James, the pew-rents produce a sum fully adequate to the maintenance of the Church; and the church-rates in that parish have consequently ceased to be collected. There are many other parishes in which a similar practice prevails. I propose intrusting the management of these pew-rents, first to a committee elected by the pew-renters themselves, reporting to the bishop and the commissioners: the former will be enabled to take care that these pew-rents shall not be collected in the parish, unless upon the condition that free sittings shall be provided for the poor on a scale more liberal than the present. I know not whether some hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have been taking notes, may be inclined to quarrel with me on this subject: they may possibly object on the ground that they consider the levy of such rents unjust in all cases; but they certainly can not, with any pretension to truth and fairness, find objection on the score that we leave the wants of the poor unprovided for: on the contrary, it is of the very essence of the Bill that a provision should be made for the accommodation of the poor, and a provision far larger than that which at present exists. The Bill will enact that the minister and churchwardens, with the consent of the bishop, shall reserve, at the least, one fifth part of the seats as free for the poor; and if the same have been usually let previously, then one third, as if the church had been erected under the Church-building Acts; or one half, if pews have not been usually let before. As I observed in the outset, it has been imputed to me, and to those with whom I act, that we are disposed to rob the poor of their rights. The House will now, I think, be satisfied that this accusation is most unfounded. I feel that I am compelled to press this point, because there is none upon which a strong feeling can be more easily, nor, if true, be more justly excited. The provision which it is proposed to introduce into this Bill upon the subject of free sittings in the churches, is, I believe, of a larger and more liberal nature than that which at present exists; and if the only difference which subsists between hon. Members and myself has relation to the subject of extending a greater degree of accommodation to the poor, I do not believe that they 1231 can justly quarrel much on this score. They will find me, upon this subject, at all events, ready to carry my principle as far as they may desire. It is also proposed by the Bill which I shall ask leave to introduce, that the whole of the present system of visitation fees, and fees upon the swearing in of churchwardens, shall be abolished. In this respect my proposition is the same as that of Earl Spencer. For my part, I cannot see how any benefit can possibly be derived from the perpetuation of the present foolish system of swearing in churchwardens, when all that is required may be done without expense, either before magistrates or neighbouring surrogates; and, by the alteration I propose, a saving of from 150,000l. to 180,000l. per annum will at once be effected.
I now proceed to a point of very considerable importance. Hon. Gentlemen must be aware that a very large debt has been already contracted on the security of the Church-rates. Public and private money, both to a very great extent has been advanced. How is this to be provided for? I must say, as one most friendly to the reform of the existing system of Church-rates—I will say, as one feeling deeply convinced of the necessity of maintaining the Established Church,—that it would be unjust to seek to attain these objects, however useful, by proposing that a debt, contracted under the sanction of the ordinary laws of the land, and warranted by Acts of Parliament, should be in any the slightest degree affected or impaired in its security of repayment. Well, then, Sir, as by my Bill there will be an end put to Church-rates absolutely for the future, it will be necessary that the whole amount of debt already incurred by the parishes should be secured on the parochial rates. It would not be just that we should relieve property from engagements already contracted. Those debts should still be made good out of the funds, and by the persons by whom they are now owing. I will not bring forward a proposition founded on any other principle; I should shrink from making any which I believed to be practically unjust, or which contained within itself the elements of injustice. It would be surely most unjust to transfer to one man's shoulders a burthen contracted by another. The parties who now owe this debt, are the parties who are bound to pay it.
1232 Sir, it is now necessary to state, for the satisfaction of the Committee, that, out of the income of archbishops and bishops and other ecclesiastical functionaries, which amounts to 541,000l., my measure only affects that portion which is represented by fines, and which amounts to 260,000l. I do not mean to diminish, in any degree, the actual receipts of any one archbishop, bishop, dean, or other dignitary. I have already alluded to the mode by which I expect to obtain an adequate surplus; and, to make a subject which is complicated in itself somewhat more intelligible, I shall explain it by an illustration. My object will be to prove, that the Committee may rely on obtaining an increased revenue of 250,000l. by the introduction of an improved system of managing the estates of the Church. In the first place, I shall be asked on what authority my reasonings rest. I cannot hesitate to name my authority, more particularly when I can refer to a gentleman for whom I have a great respect and regard, and to whose official assistance, on the present and on former occasions, I owe great obligation. I mean Mr. Finlayson—a gentleman whose authority will not be objected to on either side: indeed, on the other side of the House, when hon. Gentlemen wished to oppose our Irish Church Bill, the authority of Mr. Finlayson was, to them, all and every thing. His calculations were laid upon the table of the House, and they endeavoured to prove, from the conclusions to which they led, that our proposition was indefensible. Mr. Finlayson is the authority to which I now appeal. As the question is an abstruse one, I shall rather state Mr. Finlayson's conclusions, than endeavour to follow his reasoning in much detail; but, as I am bound to prove that this sum of 250,000l. can be obtained in the way I suggest, those who are prepared to oppose, or to support, my plan are equally interested in giving me their attention. I shall come to the result without going through all the calculations. The point to be discovered by Mr. Finlayson was—the improved rental of the Church lands. This was to be inferred from the value of the fines received; the average subsisting terms; and the rate of interest allowed to the lessees on renewal. From these elements the rental is inferred. Now, taking the leases for lives and the leases for years together, the average subsisting terra may fairly be 1233 estimated at twenty-four years; the average rate of interest allowed upon renewals may be assumed at seven per cent.: the amount of fines is 260,360l. From these data the deduced rental would, I feel confident, be considerably within the mark; and I am satisfied that the fullest investigation would confirm this supposition.
The computations to which I am about to refer are founded on the best data within my reach, and will, I am convinced, be fully confirmed by the actual facts. I have endeavoured to ascertain the real value of this property of the Church from the following elements; the amount of fines received; the average duration of the subsisting terms; and the rate of interest allowed to the Church lessees. Results deduced from thence, by a close and scientific inquiry, have afterwards been brought to a test derived from the actual examination of Church leases in particular dioceses; and the comparison has given a complete confirmation to the theoretical discovery. The fines received are as follow:—
These fines are calculated to be distributed in the following proportion:—
Archbishops and bishops 74,812 Deans and chapters 164,059 Prebendaries, &c. 21,760 £260,631
Now I am inclined to estimate the subsisting leases as leading to the following results:—
Fines on lives 150,671 Fines on terms of years 109,960 £260,631
giving a general average of twenty-four years. I assume the average rate of interest allowed at seven per cent.; I believe that the closest investigation would bear out this hypothesis: and from these facts Mr. Finlayson is enabled to deduce the value of the rental of these estates. That rental may be assumed to be, at the very least, 1,323,000l.; and in stating this amount I feel satisfied, from Mr. Finlayson's calculation, that I am placing the estimate very considerably below the mark; but even at this rental I can show what is my probable surplus. Assuming 1234 the total rental to be 1,323,000l. subject to the existing term of twenty-four years, that sum will be represented by an annuity of the amount stated, deferred for twenty-four years. This deferred annuity, turned into an annuity in possession, will be equal to 516,000l., and the amount will consequently stand as follows:—
Years. Average subsisting leases for lives. 29.6 Average subsisting leases for years. 15.7
being 5,000l. a year more than is required for my immediate object. This operation may be wholly effected, as I anticipate, by the sale of the reversions to the tenants at the rate of twenty-five years' purchase; valuing the subsisting terms at the same rate, by allowing interest at four per cent. But it will be asked me how I can feel certain that the tenants will purchase? Sir, my conviction arise from my belief that it will be the tenants' interest to do so. Let me entreat the leaseholders to consider the proposition which I make them. I propose that, on he conditions I have stated, they shall be permit ed to convert their present most uncertain and unsatisfactory tenure into a fee-simple title, subject to a perpetual rent. I have stated the computed rental at 1,323,000l., subject to the annual fines of 261,000l. The tenants' existing interest during the present leases would therefore be 1,062,000l. Supposing that the increased commuted rental amounted, as has been shown, to 516,000l., the tenants' perpetual interest would amount to 807,000l. But what is the actual value of the terminable interest in the perpetual estate? From the best inquiry I have made, I am led to conclude that the highest average value of these church leases cannot be taken at more than twenty-one years' purchase. Now, a net rental of 1,062,000l. at twenty-one years' purchase amounts to 22,302,000l. But the perpetuity of 807,000l. held in fee-simple may be valued at thirty years' purchase: 807,000l. at thirty years' purchase amounts to 24,210,000l. Thus it would appear that although the tenants should lose in income, their gain in exchangeable value would amount to l,350,000l. These figures are taken as affording the best illustration of my principle; and the practical result will, I feel convinced, bear out the reasoning. Though 1235 thirty years' purchase may not be obtained in certain cases for the fee-simple, neither will twenty-one years' purchase be given for the terms; and it is the difference between the one and the other which will determine the question.
Immediate income £516,000 Deduct the fines 261,000 Surplus applicable to church rates and received fund £225,000
If I am asked why I have fixed the rate of purchase at twenty-five years, I reply, that I find that the Legislature has, in an analogous case, acquiesced in this rate. An Act passed in 1827, at the instance of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, to enable him to sell the reversion of an episcopal estate; and it was enacted that the reversion should be sold at the rate of twenty-five years' purchase. It, therefore, cannot be said that I am doing any injustice to the Bishops, or the lessees, in adopting this principle, which has already been sanctioned by King, Lords, and Commons. I may be asked, upon what authority I consider seven per cent, as the average rate of interest allowed upon renewals of church leases? For the present I shall not appeal to other witnesses, but shall content myself to answer this question by reading an extract from a publication of a dignitary of the Church, the Rev. Sydney Smith, bearing on this subject:—The Legislature has not always taken the same view of the comparative trustworthiness of bishops and chapters as is taken by the commission. Bishops' leases for years are for twenty-one years, renewable every seven. When seven years are expired, if the present tenant will not renew, the bishop may grant a concurrent lease. How does his lordship act upon such occasions? He generally asks two years' income for the renewal, when chapters, not having the privilege of granting such concurring leases, ask only a year and a half; and if the bishop's price is not given, he put a son or a daughter, or a trustee, into the estate, and the price of the lease deferred is money saved for his family. But unfair and exorbitant terms may be asked by his lordship, and the tenant may be unfairly dispossessed; therefore the Legislature enacts, that all those concur, rent leases must be counter-signed by the dean and chapter of the diocese, making them the safeguards against episcopal rapacity, and, as I hear from others, not making them so in vain.I may state more generally that the proposition I have made is not without a conclusive legislative precedent; I allude to the precedent afforded by the statutes for the management of the Crown lands. In 1794, the case of the Crown lands was brought under the consideration of Parliament, A report on the subject was 1236 made by the Surveyor General of the Woods and Forests, in the year 1797; in which Report it was set forth, as it might be now with regard to the Church estates, that the Crown lands were greatly mismanaged; that there was a great check to all improvement in consequence of the system of leases renewed on fines; and that by such means the rental was wholly inadequate. A proposition was made that the whole of the leases should be allowed to run out—that they should then be relet; a preference being given to the lessees in possession, at a deduction of one eighth, in consideration of their supposed tenant rights. When this proposition was considered, two statesmen, whose names are entitled to the highest respect, attended as members of the Treasury Board. They took this Report into consideration;—and, to give the utmost weight to the resolution adopted, I need only mention that the members of the Government to whom I allude were Mr. Pitt and the present Marquess Wellesley. So far from having any doubt as to the policy of carrying into effect the recommendations of Mr. Fordyce, the Surveyor General, Mr. Pitt and Lord Wellesley entirely agreed with him; and, indeed, in one point went beyond him. Mr. Pitt thought it unreasonable to give a reduction of one eighth to the tenant in possession. He decided that he could only allow one twentieth, or five per cent.; and this was all the favour which was granted to the Crown lessees in consideration of their claim for renewal. The first principle upon which we now propose to act was thus adopted by the Treasury of 1797, although the same objections were then made by the Crown lessees as may generally be now advanced by the tenants of the Church. A memorial was laid before the Treasury, on the part of the lessees of the Crown, which, from the signatures to it was not likely to have been considered as undeserving of the most serious and respectful consideration. This memorial set forth that their leases were taken, or purchased, under an expectation of renewals, upon the payment of the releasing fine, and a small reasonable increase of rent, in the same manner as the renewals under the Crown were usually granted. The memorial added, that the tenants had acted under the expectation that they had a clear tenant right; that, in reliance on the right, they had laid out large sums of money, in the improvement 1237 of the land; and that, by the mortgage of these lands, money had been borrowed, and securities given, for the fortunes of children and the jointures of wives. This memorial is signed by the Duke of Marlborough, and the Duchess of Dorset, Lord Essex, the Duke of Leeds, Lord Balcarras, the Duke of Richmond, and many other persons of influence and importance. I mention this to show that a memorial more entitled to attention, from the names affixed to it, is seldom addressed to the Treasury. But to what did that memorial lead? Did it lead to the result of setting aside the arrangements of Mr. Pitt? On the contrary, these arrangements were persevered in; and the result has been the extraordinary improvement of the Crown lands, as, under the new system, those who possessed the property as tenants, acquired a far more permanent tenure than they had formerly enjoyed. It may be well to mention, before I pass to another subject, that in this memorial the parties state that the terms imposed upon the Crown lessees are so very hard that the lessees will never acquiesce. Now, I have had the curiosity to obtain a return of the number of persons who signed this petition, the number of the Crown tenants interested, and the number of those who afterwards renewed on the terms of Mr. Pitt. From this account I deduce the following curious result;—there were eighty-five lessees represented by the memorialists; and those who refused to renew, amounted to the small number of fifteen only. Fifty-one renewed; and the eighteen remaining were only prevented from renewing solely because their lands were taken for public uses. I have, therefore, in my favour the authority of the Legislature in the steps taken deliberately for the more productive management and improvement of Crown lands; and I have a proof that this step was taken without real prejudice to the Crown lessees themselves. But, in addition to the terms granted by Mr. Pitt, I propose to the Church lessees the more important advantage of purchasing their lands at a fixed and advantageous rate.
Now, Sir, I shall endeavour to bring my concluding observations within as narrow a compass as is practicable. I have first sought to prove, that the present state of the law is wholly indefensible. I have endeavoured to show, that various remedies hare been suggested to which objections, 1238 more or less powerful, exist. I have endeavoured to describe to the House the nature of the remedy which I propose; and I have finally proved that my proposition comes recommended, not only by reason, but by precedent and authority. I am not one to undervalue the rights of the Church in this matter,—far from it. But will hon. Gentlemen carry their opposition so far as to say that the Church, in reference to its temporal interests, is to be considered as being more sacred and inviolable than the Crown? Will hon. Gentlemen say, that the lessees of the Church are entitled to more consideration than the lessees of the Crown? Surely, both stand precisely on the same footing. The Church property I view in the same light as I view the Crown property. The Church lessees I consider in the same condition as the Crown lessees. And if this be so, we then have got the authority of the Legislature in favour of my proposition. We are entitled to say, that our remedial measures are adapted to the nature of the case, and are supported by the highest precedent. Are we not entitled, therefore, to claim a fair consideration for our measure; and, above all, are we treated justly if it be denounced as adverse to the Church? I know that, when any one from this side of the House expresses his attachment to the Established Church, there is too frequently a disposition manifested by our opponents to signify their distrust of that declaration. Sir, it will be for this measure to speak for itself. It will be for hon. Gentlemen to weigh well the probable consequences of this measure.
I well know the difficulty as well as the importance of all Church subjects at the present time. I feel the difficulty and danger of approaching them. So far back as the year 1237, one of our ancient statutes begins by a solemn warning, circumspectè agatis, in rebus tangentibus Episcopum. If this warning was necessary six centuries since, it is at the least as necessary in 1837, in reference to the politics of our times; because, if any person, and more especially a Whig, presumes to touch this subject, except with the greatest circumspection and care, he is exposed to be stigmatised as an enemy to the Church, and as one who wishes to overthrow that Establishment. I assert that, though all will be benefitted, it is the Church that 1239 will derive the greatest advantage from the proposed arrangement. Is it nothing that rest and peace should be given to the Church? Is it nothing to the Church of England that a time should arrive when there shall be no more of these annual meetings, at which discord and strife predominate, and at which theological asperities are embittered by a union with questions of money payments? I think all theological controversies are dangerous when they are not approached in the spirit of moderation and charity. But if you seek to add to that danger in the case of any particular church, bind up your theological argument with the imposition of taxation; select as the place of discussion a popular meeting, to which all parties are freely admitted. Continue this system if you wish to endanger, and finally to overthrow, any institution, however sacred. Continue this system if you wish to pervert all Christian charity into hatred and fanatical malignity. If such be your object, perpetuate a system of distraction, which it is the object of my Bill to destroy.
Again, I contend, the Church would have a further and most essential benefit from my proposition. The management of these lands would be taken out of the hands of the Bishops and other dignitaries; and every thing which tends to raise the character of the heads of the Church must improve the condition, and extend the usefulness of the parochial clergy also. I wish to touch this part of the subject very lightly; but, have we never heard of suspicions that proceedings occur with regard to fines and renewals of Church leases, which lower the clergy of this country in public estimation? Does not the mode in which the bargains have been struck,—and further, does not the power which a young bishop, or young dignitary, possesses, of running his life against the interest of the lease,—do not these causes introduce a collusion and a jealousy far from being useful or creditable to all parties? I find the following passage in this pamphlet of the Rev. Mr. Sydney Smith, to which I have already referred. The author is discussing the mode in which the patronage of Bishops is disposed of:—The worst case is that of a superannuated bishop. Here the preferment is given away, and must be given away, by wives and daughters, or by sons, utterly unacquainted with ecclesiastical matters; and the poor dying 1240 patron's paralytic hand is guided to the signature of papers, the contents of which he is utterly unable to comprehend.If this be true with respect to the church patronage of bishops, is it not equally true with respect to the grant of ecclesiastical leases? Will not a plan which puts the leasing power of the Bishops upon a better principle, and removes from our prelates—I will not say all temptation, but—all suspicion,—will not such a plan be eminently beneficial to the Church? Further, if there bean advantage in this to the bishops, I humbly contend there is also an enormous benefit to the lessees. Let it not be asserted, for the purpose of raising an argument here—or let it not be said elsewhere, for the purpose of raising obstacles to the passing of this Bill—that the Church lessee has a defined, legal, tenant right of renewal, capable of enforcement, and one for which he is entitled to claim compensation. He has no such right—he stands precisely in the same position with the Crown lessee. Though almost afraid of the charge of pedantry and presumption in venturing to quote a high legal authority, I must ask permission to refer to the observations of Mr. Butler, in his edition of Coke upon Littleton, upon the question of tenant rights, as bearing on this subject. Mr. Butler observes that—The favour which is shown to old tenants, by granting them a renewal of their leases, preferably to a stranger, has given them, in the eye of the law, an interest beyond their subsisting term, and this interest is generally termed their tenant right of renewal. This is particularly applicable to leases from the Crown, from the Church, from Colleges, or from other Corporations. These circumstances have produced what is called tenant right. Attempts have been made to establish an obligation in landlords to renew, but they have not succeeded. The renewal, therefore, is still a matter of favour and of chance; but is so far valuable, that it enhances the price of the property on sales.How, then, can that be considered a right which, in the words of Mr. Butler, is thus left to "favour and chance?" I will say, further, that those who are interested in ecclesiastical leases well know to what they are now exposed, and to what they are only compelled to submit. They know not only the amount of renewals, but the charge of fees; and they know, to their cost, that every lease is a matter of heavy costs, payable to the secretaries 1241 and officers of the bishops. All this will be necessarily abolished under the proposed Bill. They will also have the power of exchanging Church lands for other lands of equal value, a power which at present they do not possess.
In anticipation of some of the objections which may be urged on the part of the lessees, I ask permission of the Committee to read an instructive passage from a speech which was delivered upon this subject in the House of Commons, so long since as the year 1600; which may give to the shrewdness of modern times some aid from what is called the "wisdom of our ancestors." A Bill was introduced in the reign of Elizabeth, to prevent bishops from giving leases in reversion, until within three years of the expiration of the existing tenure. A country gentleman then stood up, as country gentlemen may now do, and opposed the Bill, contending, that it would be prejudicial to the Church, to the bishops, and to their tenants. His argument was to the following effect:—This Act would be prejudicial both to the bishop present, and the successor, and their servants, and to the bishop's own farmers and tenants. To the bishop present, in the maintenance of his estate, which cometh only by continual fines; which, if they be taken away, then are they not able to maintain that hospitality, or keep that retinue either belonging to their place, or answerable to their living; for consider the revenue of the greatest bishop in England, it is but 2,200l. per annumObserve, the greatest income then enjoyed by a Bishop was 2,200l. a year [Colonel Sibthorp.—That was 200 years ago.] Very well. But this is not all; let me proceed. This gentleman thus continued:—Whereof he payeth for annual subsidy to the Queen 500l. per annum.Now, the hon. Gentleman opposite, by his remark, implied, that the income of 2.200l. was at that time, equal to what the income of a bishop is at present. [Colonel Sibthorp.—Hear!] The hon. Member agrees with me. Very well. But if he contends that the income of the bishops should be raised in reference to the altered value of money, he cannot object to raise the nominal amount of the subsidy on the same principle, and in the same proportion. What bishop now pays one fifth of his income as a subsidy to the State? The speech from which I have quoted, goes on to argue, that it would be a great hardship if the bishops, who were 1242 so poorly endowed, and who had a heavy subsidy to furnish,—if they were disabled from providing for their old and faithful servants, by granting them leases in reversion. But the chief ground on which this Gentleman opposed the Bill was the following:—And what damage we shall do both to the bishop and to his successor, his revenue being so beneficial to her Majesty, I refer to all your judgments. To the successor it must needs be more hurtful; for, when he first cometh in, he payeth first fruits, and yet is not allowed to make his benefit by fines, which all bishops' farmers are contented to do, so that he is cast one whole year's revenue behind hand; and, perhaps, hath no power, neither to make leases in twelve or sixteen years. This, Mr. Speaker, will be a cause to induce the ministers of the word not to seek bishoprics, whereby we may bring the clergy both to poverty and contempt, from which they have ever been carefully defended and provided for, even by the most ancient statutes and laws of this realm now extant. Hurtful it is to their servants, for this may be every man's case. We know many good gentlemen's sons served bishops; and how can they reward their long and faithful service, but only by means of granting over of these fines, or some other means out of the spiritual functions. But this Act is good for the courtier; but I must speak no more of that. Lastly, Mr. Speaker, myself am farmer to a bishop; and I speak this as in my own case, (on my knowledge) to the House; that it is ordinary upon every grant, after four or five years ever to fine and take a new lease. But, I refer it to the consideration of the House to do their pleasures herein; only this I certify, that I have the copy of the Bill the last Parliament exhibited to this purpose, which I having compared, together with the present Bill, do find them to be, word for word, all one; and that was rejected;—and so, I doubt not, if the reasons be well weighed, but this will have the like success.Thus it appears, that it was not because the interests of the Church, or because the principles of public justice, would be compromised by the Bill, that this good Member of Parliament opposed it, but because he was the farmer of a bishop.—[Hear! hear!] I am rejoiced that hon. Gentlemen, on both sides of the House, cheer this suggestion; they, therefore, disavow an opposition which rests on these selfish grounds. Those who say, that the whole of this property should belong to the Church, and those who maintain that it should be the property of the lessee, unite in their cheers. But if there be any who maintain that this reversion- 1243 ary value is the property of the Church, then they ought to take it from the lessees; and if the lessees have a legal right to keep it for themselves, then they must not unite with their opponents to give it to the Church. Therefore I may have some chance of the votes of each of these cheerers against the others; and they may support me in sanctioning a vote for the application of their funds to provide for Church-rates; but they cannot, with any consistency, confederate together. Let not those who wish to get this property for the Church, and those who wish to regain it for the lessee, unite; for it cannot, without a miracle, be applied to these two and opposite objects.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite cheers me. Sir, this brings me to consider whether it can be argued that this surplus does or does not belong to the Church. Sir, I maintain, that it does not belong to the Church, but that it does belong to the State, though I only contend for its application to a strictly ecclesiastical use. I have an authority to that effect on my side, and I entreat the attention of the Committee to this authority. I call your attention to this authority, in order that I may protect myself and the Government from the accusation that we are sanctioning or recommending any misapplication of Church property. My first authority may not have weight with Gentlemen opposite, but it is one on which we at this side rely,—it is the authority of Lord Spencer. The case we seek to make out is this;—that when we give, by law, a new value to Church lands, we acquire a right to apply the funds derived from this new value to such purposes as the Legislature may sanction. I have the authority of Lord Spencer for this. That noble Lord in 1833, in introducing the measure relative to the Church of Ireland, said,—Even those who declared that it is unjust and improper to interfere with the revenues of the Church will agree with me, that if by the Act of Parliament which will be introduced, on this subject, any new value is given to benefices, that new value, so created, would not properly belong to the Church; and whatever is raised by it may be immediately appropriated to the exigencies of the State.….I feel, therefore, that those gentlemen who object to any interference with Church property will fully and readily agree to this proposition. If, therefore, as I have already observed, an increased value will be created by the contemplated Act of Parliament, then I 1244 have a right to assume that that increased value cannot be claimed by the Church. I therefore feel that even those individuals who object to the interference with Church property, or the appropriation of it to any other than Church purposes, may, without any scruple, agree with me in the proposition that, whatever additional proceeds are realised by the new system, may be applied to such purposes as Parliament may think fit.But, Sir, this is not the only authority to which I can appeal on this subject. I am entitled to claim that of my noble Friend opposite, also (Lord Stanley). Nay, he goes beyond what I contend for. My proposition does not imply that you are authorised to apply the increased value to the purposes of the State generally. I only ask the House to affirm that it may be applied to the purposes of Church-rates,—that is, to an admitted ecclesiastical purpose. My noble Friend has gone further: he maintains the doctrine, that the surplus may be applied, without limitation, to the uses of the State. Then let it not be said, that my plan interferes with, and is inimical to the interests or the property of the Establishment; for it is founded on principles more moderate and limited than the principles of my noble Friend, whose attachment to the Established Church has never been questioned. My noble Friend, in proposing the Irish Church Temporalities Act, proposed to increase the value of Church property, but he also proposed to devote the increased value to state purposes; whereas we propose to devote it to purposes that are definite as well as ecclesiastical:—What is it we propose? That the land shall remain charged with a certain corn-rent; and that the tenant shall have no power, nor the Bishop either, to alter that arrangement. The tenant shall pay a regular sum—a larger sum—the amount to be calculated by a public accountant. To whom, then, shall be the benefit of this payment? The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth says, 'to the Church,' I say, 'to the State.'And again:—Why do I say that this is applicable to the State? What is the present value of Church property? The Bishop, by the conditions which you—the State—have imposed upon him, and on which he holds his land, cannot grant a lease for a longer period than twenty-one years. The lease, subject to this condition, if brought into the market, is worth about twelve years and a half purchase. You pass an Act which increases the value of those leases to the extent of seven, eight, or, it may 1245 be, nine years' purchase. Whatever the increased value is, you give it to the Church. She does not possess it without the Act of the Legislature; and I ask if you, by your Act, give an increased value to Church property; has the Church any right, or can she have any claim, to say,—'It is to me you must pay this increased value, which my property never had, and never could have had, but by your Act? I say, it is perfectly consistent with the principle that the revenue of the Church ought not to be appropriated to other purposes, that you should appropriate to secular, or any other purposes, the increased value you now give to Church property, convertible into pounds, shillings, and pence, which it never would have been without your own Act.I say, it is not competent for my noble Friend to object to the principle on which we act. He may not agree in our plan,—he is not bound to assent to it; but then he is not at liberty to say that we violate any principle, when proposing to increase the value of Church lands. We propose to appropriate the new funds, not to the State, but to the Church. "The bishops," the noble Lord then truly asserted, "cannot grant leases for more than twenty-one years, the value of which lease is about twelve and a half years' purchase. If you pass an Act, which increases the value of the leases to the extent of eight or nine years, are you to give that increased value to the Church; or should you not, rather, when by an Act of the Legislature, you increase the value, give the benefit of it to the State, by applying it to secular purposes?" I do not use the high name, and the great authority of my noble Friend, for the purpose of throwing any difficulty in his way. I admit there is a difference between the two cases of England and Ireland, and no doubt, I shall be told so. Let us hear that argument when the Irish Church Bill comes under consideration. I repeat, I do not use the high name of the noble Lord, and the weight of his authority, for the purpose of embarrassing him; but to meet the charge and the invective directed against us out of doors, and the suggestion that we are actuated by a spirit prejudicial to the Established Church. I contend, on the contrary, that we seek to apply this property to what is strictly an ecclesiast cal purpose. Now, in the discussion to which I allude, the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, said, he would not object to appropriate a part of the revenues of the Church to what were strictly ecclesiastical purposes; and he admitted, further, 1246 that the repair of the Church is an ecclesiastical use. I, therefore, have the authority of both my noble Friend and the right hon. Baronet for my line of argument. I am reluctant to refer to historical facts, or to detain the House by quoting from antiquarian authorities; but to those who love antiquity, I say, look to the origin of Church-rates. Even so late as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when funds were required for the repair of St. Paul's Cathedral,—what was done? Why the Queen, at once, had recourse to the clergy, and, by imposing a heavy taxation upon the Church, she produced funds, and laid down the principle that the ecclesiastical estates might justly be made to contribute to the repairs of the fabric. The account of the transaction is as follows:—In the year 1561 a fire happened in St. Paul's Cathedral, which burnt down the lofty spire, and otherwise damaged the edifice. The Queen, Elizabeth, resolved to have the damage speedily repaired; and what steps did the Queen take to effect this object? 'Being,' as Strype observes, 'church work, she reckoned the bishops and clergy would especially be contributors thereto.' She sent a letter, therefore, to the archbishop, 'that he should consult with the bishops of his province, and the chief of the clergy, to devise among them some convenient way for collecting money from them for that use.' The archbishop accordingly issued his order to the bishop of London, and the other Bishops of his province, 'that they should contribute the twentieth part of their promotions in the diocese of London, and the thirtieth part elsewhere, with the exception of stipendiary curates, and beneficed men, exempt by statute from first fruits, unless they should be brought to contribute by good persuasion of the Bishops, and to pay one fortieth.' Some of the clergy being backward with their payments, Queen Elizabeth's council issued a letter to the archbishop, desiring him to collect the arrears, and informing him that 'further orders' would be taken if the clergy should refuse to pay. Such was the mode adopted by Queen Elizabeth for repairing St. Paul's.Again in the time of Charles 2nd., many of the leases of Church lands having been allowed to expire in the time of the Commonwealth, and a vast sum by way of fines, being due, and most undoubtedly the property of the clergy of that day, a course somewhat similar was taken. The Church had an undoubted right to those fines in law and justice—the lessees, too, were fairly entitled to be considered in the renewal of their leases. But was 1247 either of these principles strictly adhered to? No such thing. Part of these funds were applied in rebuilding St. Paul's, and another portion of the money was wholly diverted from ecclesiastical purposes. Then, again, as to the lessees; so far from any preference being given to those who might have been entitled to consideration, the lessees, who suffered for their attachment to their King and to their Church, were, I am sorry to say, in many cases, set aside; and the incumbents are said to have looked more to their profits as landlords, than to any other consideration. An account of these transactions is to be found in the writings both of Burnet and of Clarendon, and may be referred to as most curious illustrations of the subject now before the Committee.*
§ * Extract from Bishop Burnet's History of the Reign of King Charles the Second.
§ "Almost all the leases of the Church estates over England were fallen in, there having been no renewal for twenty years. The leases for years were determined; and the wars had carried off so many men, that most of the leases for lives were fallen into the incumbent's hands. So that the Church estates were in them; and the fines raised by the renewing the leases, rose to about a million and a half. It was an unreasonable thing to let those who were now promoted, carry off so great a treasure. If the half had been applied to the buying of tithes, or glebes for small vicarages, here a foundation had been laid down for a great and effectual reformation. In some sees, 40,000l. or 50,000l. was raised, and applied to the enriching the bishops' families. Something was done to Churches and Colleges—in particular to St. Paul's in London; and a noble collection was made for redeeming all the English slaves that were in any part of Barbary. But this fell far short of what might have been expected. In this the Lord Clarendon was heavily charged, as having shown that he was more the Bishops' friend than the Church's. It is true, the law made those fines belong to the incumbents; but such an extraordinary occasion deserved that a law should have bean made on purpose.
§ "And with this overset of wealth and pomp, that came on men in the decline of their parts and age, they, who were now growing into old age, became lazy and negligent in all the true concerns of the Church: they left preaching and writing to others, while they gave themselves up to ease and sloth."
§ Extract from the Life of Clarendon, written by himself.
§ "The old bishops who remained alive, and such deans and chapters as were numerous enough for the corporation, who had been1248
§ Before I sit down, I will take the liberty of referring to one further authority on this subject, well worthy of our consideration. It may be urged, that such of the petitions for the abolition of Church-rates
§ long kept fasting, had now appetites proportionable. Most of them were very poor, and had undergone great extremities; some of the bishops having supported themselves and their families by teaching schools, and submitting to the like low condescensions; and others saw that, if they died before they were enabled to make some provision for them, their wives and children must unavoidably starve; and therefore, they made haste to enter upon their own. They called their old tenants to account for rent, and to renew their estate if they had a mind to it; so the old tenants and the new purchasers repaired to the true owners as soon as the King was restored, the former expecting to be restored again to the possession of what they had sold, under an unreasonable pretence of a tenant right (as they called it), because there remained yet (as in many cases there did) a year, or some other term, of their old leases unexpired, and because they had, out of conscience, forborne to buy the inheritance of the Church which was first offered to them, and for the refusal thereof, and such a reasonable fine as was usual, they hoped to have a new lease, and to be re-admitted to be tenants of the Church. The other, the purchasers (amongst which there were some very infamous persons), appeared as confident, and did not think that, according to the clemency that was practised towards all sorts of men, it could be thought justice that they should lose the entire sum they had disbursed upon the faith of that Government, which the whole kingdom submitted to: but that they should, instead of the inheritance they had an ill title to, have a good lease for lives or years granted to them, by them who had now the right. But the bishops and clergy concerned, had not the good fortune to please their old or their new tenants. They had been very barbarously used themselves, and that had too much quenched all tenderness towards others. They did not enough distinguish between persons; nor did the suffering any man had undergone for fidelity to the King, or his affection to the Church eminently expressed, often prevail for the mitigation of his fine; or if it did sometimes, three or four stories of the contrary, and in which there had been some unreasonable hardness used, made a greater noise, and spread farther, than their examples of charity and moderation. And as honest men did not usually fare the better for any merit, so the purchasers who offered most money, did not fare the worse for all the villanies they had committed. And two or three unhappy instances of this kind brought scandal upon the whole Church, as if they had been all guilty of the same excesses, which they were far from."1249
as come from Dissenting bodies, are entitled to less weight than if they came from members of the Establishment. But the prayer of those petitions I find to be supported by an authority of the most unquestionable orthodoxy—the authority of one of the dignitaries of the Church—a divine of great learning, and great eminence, in the University, of which he was a member and an ornament. I allude to the late Dr. Burton, canon of Christ Church, and Regius Professor in the University of Oxford. His words and arguments are most emphatic, and, indeed, they warrant conclusions going far beyond my resolutions. The following is an extract from his "Thoughts on the Separation of Church and State:"—
If a person is not a member of the Church of England, I can hardly think it right to make him pay for the repair of the fabric, or for any of the appendages of a worship in which he takes no part. I am aware that there is a practical difficulty in admitting this doctrine; because, when the churchwarden goes to collect the rate, it holds out a pecuniary inducement to every person to say that he is not a member of the Church of England and thus, not only will many parish churches go without repair, but hundreds and thousands of persons may be tempted to tell a falsehood in a matter of religion: it will, in fact, be a man's interest (in a worldly sense) to attend no place of public worship. I have sometimes thought, that the Legislature might reasonably call upon every person in the country, who is now liable to be rated to church and poor, to pay a small annual rate (and it need be but very small) to the maintenance of some place of public worship. It would hardly be intolerant in a Christian Legislature to require that every person in the country should declare himself to belong to some form of Christianity. In parishes where there are no Dissenters, the whole of this rate would be expended, as now, for the repair of the parish church, or for uses connected with the ritual of the Church of England. In parishes where there are several sects, the money would be divided in proportion to the relative members belonging to each sect: and it might be made imperative upon each sect, as upon the Church of England, to appoint some responsible officer, who should account publicly for the expenditure of the money. If it should happen that the Church of England, or any of those sects, did not want that exact sum in any particular year, I can see no objection to its being put by as a fund in case of need; but the rate should be collected every year, and thus no pecuniary inducement given to any person to declare himself a member of the cheapest church. There may be difficulties in the plan, of which I am not aware, and I only put it forward to be con-
sidered by others; but, at all events, the payment of Church-rates by Dissenters ought to be abolished. If they feel the payment to be a grievance, it is one.
§ I have, therefore, the authority of the Regius Professor of Oxford for the course I am pursuing.
§ I will just say one word, in explanation, before I sit down. If the alternative I propose should fail, viz.—if the lessees should decline to conver their tenures into perpetuities, or if that conversion should produce a sum below my estimate, this contingency is provided for by another mode of raising money. In such event, though I do not anticipate its occurrence, I propose that we should have the power of advancing from the Treasury, upon the security of the Church lands, repayable out of the produce of these Church lands, on the same principle on which advances are frequently made to other public bodies for public purposes. These advances, if required, will meet and supply every possible deficiency. I do not believe that this power will ever be exercised. I do not believe it will be found necessary to resort to such collateral security; but I know perfectly well how our proposition would be dealt with if I had not proposed this collateral security. I know it would have been said—"All your calculations are matter of doubt and uncertainty—we cannot rely upon the realisation of the increased fund you promise us—we shall leave the support of the Church dependent upon a mere contingency." I think I have proved to demonstration, that the proposed Bill would supply the means of meeting every necessity; yet, to obviate all cavil and objection, if it should become requisite to make an advance from the Treasury, to give effect to a measure formed for the purpose of giving peace to the country, and security to the Church, it is but right that such an application of the resources of the State should be sanctioned—should be adopted.
§ I thank the House most sincerely for the attention they have given me. I know the statement I have made has been extremely long and tedious. But I have had much to explain. I have endeavoured to make that explanation as intelligible as I possibly could. It has been with the view not only of convincing the Committee, but for the further purpose of avoiding misconception out of doors, that I have thought it necessary to go thus fully into 1251 the argument. If, by any effort of mine, I can prevent it, I will not allow hon. Gentlemen who are inclined to support me—I will not allow my Colleagues in the Government—to be open to the imputation, that the plan which I have been authorised to introduce, shall be stigmatised as a plan of persons who seek "to deprive God of his honour, or the poor of their rights." The measure is founded on the most conscientious regard to the interests of religion. I have shown to the Dissenter that it will give him a full and effectual relief; and I have shown to the persons who have lent their money, on the security of Church-rates, that their right will be protected, and their claims adequately secured. I hope that I have done all this, but, to do it, it has been necessary to fortify myself with many high authorities—to refer to the former opinions and names of Gentlemen opposed to me. I never allude to names and opinions for the purpose of taunt or vituperation; I have made these references for the purpose of supporting my own argument by the weight of their authority, and the arguments they have advanced. Would that I might hope we could approach this subject without the bias of contentious or party feeling—would that it might be considered simply on its own merits!
§ Sir, I do not quarrel with the course suggested the other night, by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth; I rather rejoice that the suggestion was made by him. It has been readily adopted by me. I rejoice, after the resolution shall have been read, and the explanation given, that the people will have an opportunity of examining their details. I think the interval that must elapse, will prevent a cry from being raised, suggesting either, that we have forgotten the fair claims of the lessees, or that we have forgotten the permanent interests of the Church itself;—that, we have undervalued the petitions of the Dissenters, or overlooked our obligations to the established clergy. Under these circumstances, I rejoice that time will be afforded for the full consideration of this important question. I know that it may be difficult to follow a statement like mine, even if it had been recommended by powers superior to those I possess. It embraces a vast variety of matter, on which no hon. Member could wisely pledge himself without full consider- 1252 ation; and I shall conclude by once more humbly and earnestly thanking the House for the very kind manner in which it has listened to me; and by repeating my earnest hope, that a candid examination of my proposition may prove to the two parties whose interests and feelings must be considered, that it is the earnest desire of his Majesty's Government, if it be impossible to produce between Churchmen and Dissenters the "unity of the spirit," that it may at least combine them by the "bond of peace."
§ I conclude by moving the adoption of the resolution I hold in my hand.
§ The Chairman then put the resolution as follows:—"That it is the opinion of this Committee, that for the repair and maintenance of parochial churches and chapels in England and Wales, and the due celebration of divine worship therein, a permanent and adequate provision be made out of an increased value given to Church lands, by the introduction of a new system of management, and by the application of the proceeds of pew-rents; the collection of Church-rates ceasing altogether, from a day to be determined by law: and that, in order to facilitate, and give early effect to this resolution, the Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury be authorised to make advances on the security, and repayable out of the produce, of such Church lands."
§ Mr. Hume
wished to know what the right hon. Gentleman meant to do where parishes were in debt? He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, that the abolition of Church-rates should take place from a certain day, but that where parishes were in debt the same rates as those now in force were to be continued.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that where parishes were in debt, those debts must be paid out of a parochial rate to be levied till they are fully liquidated.
§ The Attorney-General
begged leave to say that, in the event of a parish being in debt, it was not a voluntary payment; but it was a compulsory payment on a mandamus being granted, upon application to the Court of King's Bench. The parish authorities had the power to levy a rate to pay that debt. This case, however, was widely different from that of a Church-rate, which could not be imposed but by a voluntary proceeding; because unless the majority of the rate-payers approved of it it could not be levied.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
said, that after the manner in which the attention of the Committee had been excited and sustained by the speech of his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was certain that no Member could rise on the present occasion under circumstances of greater disadvantage than himself. Though he did not approve of the plan of his Majesty's Government now propounded by his right hon. Friend, it would be more satisfactory to him in the first place to state the points on which he agreed with his right hon. Friend opposite. He concurred with his right hon. Friend in four of the propositions he had laid down this night to the Committee. He must reverse their order, and come first to deal with the last point urged by his right hon. Friend. His right hon. Friend's last proposition was, that under no circumstances would he consent to a separation in this country between Church and State. In that sentiment he most fully and completely concurred; but it ought not to be lost sight of, that much of the arguments brought forward by the Dissenters against the present system of Church-rates might be said to be founded on the existing connexion between the Church and the State. He therefore was glad to have the authority of his right hon. Friend, pledged as strongly as any man could pledge himself, that he would not consent to any separation. The next point to which his right hon. Friend adverted was, that under no circumstances would he ever consent to what was popularly called the voluntary principle. In this declaration he also rejoiced. The third proposition was one in which he felt that degree of interest which fully justified his right hon. Friend in appealing to him upon it. The proposition was, that he never would consent to any measure which would deprive the poor of access to the religion of their country. There his right hon. Friend had touched on a point deeply interesting to the poorer classes of the community, who, because the gospel was preached to them, valued the religion of the land of their birth. The fourth proposition of his right hon. Friend was, the immense importance of the subject—a subject on which he stated that he almost forgot himself in its consideration. He would not use that expression in the way of taunt to his right hon. Friend, but there had been those now connected with his Majesty's Government 1254 who had not only forgotten themselves, but had also forgotten their own previous arguments. His right hon. Friend had said, that he would first consider the evils of the existing system of Church-rates, and that he would then state the proposed remedies for those evils. Now, though he admitted that those evils were undeniable, yet he was not prepared to recommend the doctrine propounded by his right hon. Friend—a doctrine most hazardous in principle and calculated to be destructive of all Government. The principle of resisting the law until the law should yield was not new, though it had a most injurious tendency. And yet such was the substance of the argument of his right hon. Friend, who had instanced the augmented numbers of the opponents of the existing system, as an argument in favour of the proposed change, ought his right hon. Friend not, rather than so give way, say that so long as the law exists so long shall it be enforced, and therefore his right hon. Friend had no right to make the resistance of the law a ground for its repeal. The case of Sheffield, with its endowed ecclesiastical corporation, had been cited by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but might well be removed from the arguments he had adduced, for he would ask his right hon. Friend whether out of the whole population one person in a hundred had refused the payment of Church-rates? Yet the right hon. Gentleman not merely asked the legislature to abandon the law, but to repeal it. If the ecclesiastical report which had been cited was worth anything, it was worth double the value which the right hon. Gentleman had placed upon it; for it not only showed the evils on which the right hon. Gentleman relied, but also the remedies to which he had avoided any allusion. But the great question was, not the detail of the plan now laid before the House, for the right hon. Gentleman had stated that hon. Members could not now be expected to meet him on those details. He had claimed a right to be judged by his actions, and not by any prejudice raised out of doors—he had prayed that he might not be met by the cry of "The Church in danger." Now he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to read the petitions presented against Church-rates by those whose opinions he professed to respect—he asked him if they did not state their objections to a Church Establishment, and he would also ask him 1255 if it was not as belonging to that Establishment that Church-rates were now attacked? It could not be denied that the objection did not lie to the amount of Church-rates, but to the principle on which they were based. The objection to that principle went against the Church as an Establishment, and went to destroy its nationality. If the plan of the right hon. Gentleman were adopted to-morrow, though a fund might be found sufficient for all Church purposes, yet the nationality of the Church of England would be destroyed, and it would be considered as a Church not supported by the nation, but by itself. He would not then enter into the question respecting the law of Church-rates, or the mode of collecting them, but he would contend that they formed a portion of the estates of the Church, and that she held them by a tenure which was older than that which secured the title of any other property whatever to its possessor; and that those rates were held by the Church for the purpose of maintaining the worship thereof. Long before the House of Commons existed as a body, the Church had a right to this property, and there was not a house or an estate in England which had been bought and sold that had not been bought and sold subject more or less to payment of Church-rates. He would ask any hon. Gentleman whether he had not himself purchased his house, or occupied his land, with a distinct statement on the part of the person from whom he received his property that it was subject to such an outgoing? He would then ask whether it was consistent with common sense, and, he would add, with common honesty, for the party who held the property to turn round, and say to those who had this interest in it, "our conscience will not permit us to respect your interest, or to pay this rate?" He was quite willing to have the case decided by the customary condition of bargain and sale; and if his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would appeal to any given number of auctioneers in London, he would find that the outgoing of Church-rates was always taken into calculation, as well as the outgoings arising from the sewer-rate, the poor-rate, or any other rate. Could it then be deemed consistent with common honesty, that a Dissenter having purchased a house under the condition that he should pay so much less to his landlord because he would have to 1256 pay Church-rates, should say, that although his conscience would not prevent him paying his rent, yet it would not allow him to pay the Church-rates? He believed that no hon. Gentleman, whether Churchman or Dissenter, would defend such a course as that. Let them object if they pleased to church-rates or to tithes on political grounds, and he believed the objectors to the latter were fewer than those who objected to the former; but let them not, whatever objections they might urge against the one or the other, put those objections on the ground of asking for a relief on the score of conscience. It was utterly inconceivable that property which a man held to-day subject to the payment of Church-rates should cease to be so if transferred to a Dissenter to-morrow. Absurd as was this doctrine, it had been stated, but nothing could be more delusive. If carried into practice, it would be at once a premium for hypocrisy, an encouragement to dissent, and a penalty on adherence to consistent principle. He believed no one would attempt to defend it, or, at least, could defend it, either in or out of the House, by sober argument; and he was glad to observe that his right hon. Friend recognised the truth of that opinion. Under this view of the subject, then, resistance to the payment of Church-rates was unreasonable and indefensible. It was unreasonable also that the oldest tenure of Church-property should be hazarded, and, what was much more important, that the existence of the Church as a national establishment should be put in jeopardy, and that the recognition of the Church as a great state blessing should be compromised. The national existence of the Church was compromised, he might say almost sacrificed, by the plan of his right hon. Friend. By that plan the Church was made to support itself, and he defied the right hon. Gentleman to come to any other conclusion than this—that the nation as a nation would cease to recognise the Church in the character of a national establishment, if all persons who professed not to be members of the Church of England were to be relieved from all contributions to Church-rates as now levied, or to any distinct fund for the same purpose. It was not necessary to follow his right hon. Friend through all the remedies he had mentioned. He had abandoned four: he had given up the proposition of annihilating Church- 1257 rates; he would not throw the Church-rates upon the clergy; he would not throw the expense of the repairs of the Church on the pew-rents; and he had with perfect justice repudiated in like manner the throwing of the present expenses, defrayed by the Church-rates, on the Consolidated Fund. But his right hon. Friend had spoken of the latter remedy as a kind of makeweight to his other plan, and it was argued, that in proportion as the consolidated fund was touched, would the conscience of the Dissenter be violated, because, whether he paid a farthing, or the sixth part of a farthing, he would still pay just so much towards this "odious impost." How far the plans of his Majesty's Government would satisfy the lessees, was to him but a very minor point; his interest was much more excited in behalf of those who had no direct representatives in that House, as the lessees had—he meant the Church and the clergy. He was more anxious about them than he was for those hon. Gentlemen opposite, whose welfare his right hon. Friend wished to serve, particularly those hon. Gentlemen who came from the northern parts of the country. But he would remind all those who were so anxious to deal with Church property, that they ought to feel they were dealing with the property of those who had no regular representatives in that House. The great principle of appropriation having been decided in that House last year, and the House, or rather Parliament, having assumed the right of transferring the property raised in one county or diocese to another, it was, perhaps, of less consequence now to observe, that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proceeded on precisely the same principle, though on a smaller scale, in settling the question of Church-rates. He apprehended that he did not misunderstand his right hon. Friend in supposing that he had stated that 50,000l. a-year, some said 70,000l. a-year, was raised in the different parishes of England, from the estates vested in each for the repairs of the Church; and that sum, it appeared, was also to be taken and merged in the great gulf, which his right hon. Friend was now opening for the destruction of Church-rates. Had not his right hon. Friend also proposed, that the improved rents should be paid over to the Commissioners, and was he not thereby departing from a principle which he had 1258 professed to respect? It might be considered as a matter of minor importance, but it affected a great principle. In substance, he objected to the plan of his right hon. Friend, because it would go to destroy the national character of the Established Church, and to release the nation from its present obligation to support that Church; and because it would discourage, instead of support, the principle of a national Church, which had been hitherto considered as part and parcel of the Constitution. He could not conceive that this plan would in any degree give increased stability to the Church, although it had been said it would. There was but a very small minority of the parishes in England in which Church-rates had been successfully resisted, and he believed that many of the most respectable Dissenters would be found amongst those who supported the Church, and paid the rates. One of the petitions which he had that evening presented to the House, was signed by a numerous body of Dissenters, who did not consider it to be at all inconsistent, or any violation of their conscience, to pay tribute to whom tribute was due; and he wished the doctrine of that great man among Dissenters, by whose name they most claimed a title to respect—he meant Matthew Henry—was more generally and strictly adopted and acted upon by those who professed to be his descendants, or to belong to the same body of which he was an ornament. It had been well observed, in a former part of the evening, that our Saviour worked a miracle to pay tribute, at a time when the seat of authority was filled by those of whose principles and practice he did not approve; and Matthew Henry had, in his Commentaries on the Scriptures, expressed himself in such a manner upon that part of our Saviour's life, that he must venture to tell it to the House, begging them to remember that he was not quoting a Churchman, but a Dissenter, and that the argument was not one of his, but of one of the great leaders of dissent, Matthew Henry, who said, that at the period alluded to in New Testament history, the temple had become a den of thieves, and the temple worship was made a pretence only for evil purposes; but, continued this commentator, "church dues, when legally imposed, are to be paid, notwithstanding the existence of Church corruptions. We must take care not to use our liberty as a cloak for covetousness 1259 or licentiousness. If Christ himself, the great founder of our holy religion, paid tribute, who shall object to do the like?" He trusted, then, that those who spoke so much of conscientious scruples, would consider how far they could sustain their argument against the authority of Matthew Henry, one of their great leaders, or against the great example of Him who ought to be considered as the great leader of ail who professed to be Christians. He would not attempt to go further into the scheme proposed by his right hon. Friend, but he would reserve any observations that might be necessary to a future stage of this discussion. He had, at least, endeavoured to show his right hon. Friend, that while he was anxious to agree with him, and hailed with satisfaction and thankfulness several of the propositions which he had discussed, he could not agree to the general proposition upon which the measure was founded. The first position which his right hon. Friend had taken was, on the popular dislike to Church-rates; but did not that resolve itself into this proposition—"Resist the law, and it will be repealed?" Unless they were prepared to strictly maintain the law in the first instance, he ventured to say that this principle would be carried out, until the next thing would be, a demand to be relieved from the payment of rents, on the ground of conscientious scruples.
§ Mr. Gally Knight
would not detain the House long, but he wished for an opportunity to express his astonishment at the proposition which had been brought forward by his right hon. Friend. It appeared to him that the scheme was altogether an attempt to get rid of this troublesome question by an act of spoliation on the Church. He had been always anxious to prevent and allay religious contention, and to afford relief to his Dissenting brethren, but he could not go the length of saying that the people of this country ought not to support the Church. Neither could he say, that the Government ought not to provide for the religious instruction of the people; on the contrary, he thought it was their first duty to do that. He thought that any man who lived under the protection of the laws of England might be fairly called on to contribute to the support of those institutions which altogether made England what it was—a more safe and beneficial country to live in than any other. If it was thought just to 1260 make a change in the present state of things in connexion with this subject, he must say that the scheme which had been proposed was not suitable for that purpose. The case of Ireland was not at all analogous; the disposal of the surplus in the funds of the Irish church might have been a very wise and beneficial measure, but the Church of England was very differently situated. On the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, there were hundreds of livings in England, in which, after all the provision that had been made, the clergyman was no better paid than the upper servant of a nobleman. If anything was done with Church property, he thought they ought rather to seek some means of increasing poor livings. With regard to the trifling amount of incidental expenses, he could be content to leave them to be defrayed by the zeal and liberality of the congregations concerned, but he must contend for the principle that the support of the Establishment ought to come from the country. The right hon. Gentleman had said that no other plan could be presented to the House. He was convinced that no scheme for alienating Church property could be brought forward consistent with common honesty. The present proposition proved that there was a change in the opinions of the Government, and that they were prepared to go still farther; indeed, they appeared to have entered into a fraternisation with the foes of the church. If his Majesty's Government intended, as by this measure they seemed to intend, to give satisfaction only to one party, to make the reciprocity all on one side, then he thought that they would have betrayed the trust reposed in their hands.
§ Mr. Lennard
said, that as he had presented several petitions on this subject, he was anxious to say a few words. The proposition made by his right hon. Friend had been brought forward in so clear and lucid a manner, that he had no difficulty in giving it his unqualified support. He hailed the measure as one calculated to remove, or rather to prevent, growing strife and animosity in the different parishes of England. The hon. Baronet had spoken of the few parishes in which there had been a successful resistance to Church-rates, but he seemed to have forgotten that a still greater resistance to them would take place unless this or some remedial measure were passed. His right hon. Friend had compared the resistance 1261 to Church-rates to the plague-spot which would spread throughout the whole country; and the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford, should remember how much animosity and strife would increase along with that spread of resistance to this impost. He believed the burden of the great mass of petitions that had been presented to the House on this question, would be found to be an earnest desire on the part of both Churchmen and Dissenters to be relieved from this source of continual discord. He hailed the measure as one which would promote the safety of the Church, for while Dissenters were compelled to pay Church-rates against their will, they must necessarily have their feelings excited against the Establishment. Intentions and motives had been imputed to the great body of Dissenters, in which the very spirit of goodwill and tolerance had been violated. Mr. Fox had condemned such a course of dealing with persons of an opposite opinion in a masterly manner, and he would recommend hon. Gentlemen to look at the lessons laid down by that great man. After some further remarks in praise of the measure, the hon. Gentleman concluded by saying that he hoped it would be consented to, and that the settlement of this great question would no longer be delayed.
§ Mr. Goring
—It is with extreme reluctance that I find myself compelled on the present occasion in opposition to those Gentlemen I generally find myself able to support, but considering that in the measure which is now brought forward, notwithstanding the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has varnished his tale, that a most unjust aggression is made on Church property, and that I am called upon to make a sacrifice of principle to expediency, I shall not one moment hesitate. I am anxious as far as possible to relieve the Dissenters from any real grievances, but will never consent to do it to the injury of the Established Church. I supported the measure brought forward in 1834 by Lord Spencer, because I thought it would relieve the Dissenters from those grievances of which they complain with justice, and provide for the proper maintenance of the Established Church. By the present proposition you are depriving the Established Church of one source of emolument without giving any adequate equivalent, except from its own resources, infringing on that alliance 1262 which exists, and which, I trust, will never be dissolved, between Church and State. I do not think the Church possesses more than an adequate sum for its support, and that the money you now propose to take is required to afford a sufficient maintenance to the working clergy, and in this argument I am borne out by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; therefore I cannot consent that it should be applied in lieu of Church-rates, to enable you to give, however you may disclaim it, what I consider a first instalment to those who advocate the voluntary principle.
§ Mr. Plumptre
could not agree in opinion with the right hon. Gentleman that this would be a healing measure, or that it would be productive of the great benefits which the right hon. Gentleman professed to anticipate. He had been in the habit of hearing this kind of language uttered in reference to many measures which however were not found to verify the promises with which they had been propounded. What guarantee was there, if this measure were granted, that the Dissenters would not come forward and demand on the same ground to be exempted from the payment of tithes? He had never listened in the course of his whole political life to any statement coming from a Member of his Majesty's Government with so much astonishment as to that which had been uttered this evening by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He alluded more particularly to the first part of the proposition, which really seemed broadly to avow the principle that a tax being once considered unpopular by any section of the King's subjects, and even a shadow of argument being conjured up in favour of its abolition, it was the duty of Government at once to give way. That such a course should be propounded by a person in the responsible and important situation of Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to him extraordinary, if not unparalleled in the history of the country. His hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. Inglis) had truly stated that the petitions to that House which had been got up on this subject had not been confined in their prayer to the abolition of Church-rates. They avowed an open hostility to the Established Church; and he begged leave, in connexion with this subject, to read an extract from a letter addressed by a Dissenter, known to 1263 himself, of respectability and talent, addressed to a Churchman of the same character in the City of Canterbury. The letter was headed "Church-rates," and it contained the following paragraph:—"Our sentiments materially differ. You hold that a national episcopal establishment is consistent with Christianity, and advantageous to the commonweal. I am equally firm in my persuasion that a national establishment in particular has inflicted great and manifold evils on true religion." Now, after such a statement as that, introduced too, under the head of "Church-rates," he wanted to know what security they had that Dissenters, encouraged by the concession and conduct of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, would not come forward by and by boldly to require the demolition of the Church Establishment altogether? The object openly professed by too many Dissenters at present, was not the abolition of Church-rates, but the abolition of the Church Establishment, and the right hon. Gentleman, and those who agreed with him in the proposition which he now made, did undoubtedly afford too great an encouragement to that party. Viewing it in this light, as most dangerous to the Church Establishment, he, for one, should give the measure his most determined opposition.
§ Mr. Aglionby
hoped, and believed, that the measure of the right hon. Gentleman would give great satisfaction to the country, and prove one of the most healing measures ever brought forward by a liberal Administration. He only rose for the purpose of putting one or two questions on which the country should have full information, affecting the holders of ecclesiastical leases. He wished to know whether in the calculations made by Mr. Finlayson or by the Government any difference had been contemplated between the leaseholders under bishops, and those under the deans and chapters? One part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech induced him to believe such had been the case, and yet he was not altogether sure that he had duly adverted to the fact, that in the case of bishops, a young bishop might run his life against that of the leaseholders, while in the case of the deans and chapters there was almost a moral certainty of renewal, because the more elderly members of that body were anxious to renew, that they might have the benefit 1264 of the fines during their lives. In the latter case, therefore, the certainty of renewal being greater, the marketable value of the lease would be higher than in the case of bishops' leases, and he wished to know whether that had been taken into consideration? He begged also to inquire whether the new valuers would have to estimate the actual value at the time, or whether a given number of former fines should form the ground work of the assessment? And whether the principle laid down and adopted four years ago with respect to bishops' leases in Ireland would be adopted in the present instance? In Durham, Cumberland, and Northumberland, a large portion of the land was held under leases of this kind, and it would be very desirable that sufficient time should be given, in order that the opinion of those parts of the country should be taken upon particular parts of the measure.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that his proposition was common to leases under bishops, and deans, and chapters, his calculations having been founded on a reference to the whole of the ecclesiastical property in that respect. With reference to the allowance to be made to lessees in possession, he must say it was difficult to go into that part of the case without a much more full exposition of the details of the plan than he could now profess to give; but his principle was, to offer such terms to existing lessees as must obviously make it a matter of great advantage to themselves to accede to one or other of the alternatives proposed. He did not think he could adopt the provision of the Irish Bill with respect to bishops' leases in this measure. With respect to the other point touched on—the extent of time which should intervene before the final settlement of the matter—he quite agreed with his hon. Friend. The people throughout the country should undoubtedly have the means of accurately judging of all the details of this measure. What he, therefore, proposed was, that they should report progress, and resume the Committee on Friday next. When the decision of the House had been pronounced upon the resolution, he should, as soon after as possible, introduce his Bill. The Bill should then be printed—the resolution itself would, of course, only express the principle, on which the Bill would be founded. The Bill would then be circulated throughout the country 1265 and sufficient opportunity allowed for comprehending and canvassing it before the sense of the House was taken on its details.
did not rise to enter into the general discussion after the understanding which had been come to that it should be postponed to a future occasion, and he was sure no one who heard the right hon. Gentleman's statement could doubt the justice of the application which was made to him yesterday, that he should not call for an immediate decision on the merits of his proposition, involving as it did principles of the greatest importance, as well as a great variety of details which required time for consideration even by those who were prepared to acquiesce in the principle. He merely rose that it might not be supposed by his silence that he in the least degree acquiesced in the principle of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition, which went, if he understood it aright, to divest the archbishops, bishops, deans, and chapters of the property they possessed, and vest it in the hands of Commissioners, who by running out the leases on that property were to receive its full value in order to make present provision for the payment of Church-rates; part of the fines being paid to the bishops, the remainder was to be applied to Church-rates. There was another point. The right hon. Gentleman proposed that, during existing interests, parties should retain all the powers they at present possessed of leasing those lands.
He certainly understood the right hon. Gentleman to say so; at least with respect to the existing bishops granting leases.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, with reference to existing bishops, the rents now reserved should be paid as before, and the surplus carried to the common account, or they might elect to take the average of the fines forthwith.
continued: Then out of what fund would the money be paid as an equivalent for the fines they would have received if they had continued to grant leases? This was more essential with respect to deans and chapters than with respect to bishops; because in the case of the bishop the lease depended only on one life, whereas in the other case, it de- 1266 pended on the lives of the whole body. He also wished to know how, until funds were available for the arrangement proposed, Church-rates could be provided for? He only desired that the subject should be fully understood: for the present he would forbear entering into the discussion of any of the details, contenting himself with protesting against the principle of the plan proposed by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
felt confident that the terms of the proposition would at once be accepted generally by the lessees, which would produce the annuity of 516,000 l., enough to pay the present fines, and also the 250,000l. required for Church-rates. But if that were not the case, there would be the funds arising out of all those leases, as they fell in, the power of charging annuities on the lands, and, if necessary, advances might be made from the consolidated fund to cover temporary deficiencies.
wished to put another case. There were funds in many instances left by pious and benevolent individuals specifically for the purpose of maintaining the fabric of the church in their particular parishes. Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to transfer the management of those funds from the trustees in whose hands they were placed to the general Commissioners, to be applied by them to general church repairs in other parts of the country?
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
was glad that question had been put so distinctly; he should give at once a distinct reply to it, in order that no apprehension might prevail on the subject. Nothing in the world could be more unjust—nothing could be more foreign from his intentions, than that those parish estates should be seized and confiscated, and thrown into the hands of the Commissioners, for the purpose of applying them to the general repairs of churches throughout the country. Such a course would be quite contrary to the intention of the testators; all he wished was, that there should be a general power of control exercised by the Commissioners, in order, for instance, that the bishop might see that those local funds were duly applied to the maintenance of the particular parish church before any additional advances were made for that purpose.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
wished to know how 1267 many assistant-commissioners would be appointed under the three paid general Commissioners, and what would be the salaries of each?
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
assured the hon. and gallant Gentleman that there would be no necessity for a large establishment of Commissioners in this instance. He had no wish to fix high salaries—infact, he wished to leave that matter entirely with the House.
§ Mr. Hume
highly approved of the principle of this Bill. He had objected to Lord Spencer's plan of commuting the Church-rates and charging them on the Consolidated Fund, and he was pleased to find that four years' reflection had convinced the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Government, that that plan was untenable, the reasons assigned to that effect on the present occasion by the right hon. Gentleman being precisely those which he had urged on the former occasion. A few years had effected a great change, and they bad now, he was pleased to think, come round to him. He was bound, therefore, to express his entire approbation of the principle of this measure because it placed the burden of maintaining the fabric of the Church on its own property. In that view it would produce the most healing effect. The present system was at once most unjust and oppressive. The Church he was quite sure, would stand better in public esteem having once got rid of this grievance. Dissenters called for no further concessions. He had been with 400 delegates, representing 700 places, who fully and deliberately resolved that they should have nothing to do at present with anything but the question of Church-rates. They had no intention to ask for anything more at the present moment. Did he mean to say they would always continue of that opinion? He had seen great changes within a few years, and he, for one, should not be at all surprised to see the right hon. Baronet opposite sitting on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, and positively out-doing and outstripping the present Administration, and, therefore, he maintained they should not now refuse justice to those who were entitled to it because hereafter individuals might come forward and demand that which they thought would be unjust. Dissenters at present put everything else into abeyance, in order that they might not embarrass Ministers on this question. 1268 And they were right. But the plan had been objected to because it took away, it was said, from the property of the Church. What property? The right of putting their hands into the pockets of the Dissenters for their own purposes. The hon. Member for Kent (Mr. Plumptre) had represented Dissenters as a small inconsiderable body; he ventured to say they were more numerous in England than Churchmen; but if they were only one-tenth of their actual number what right had the Legislature to continue this unjust exaction, this oppressive tax, this mark of degradation upon them? There was only one part of the plan he did not like—the allowing debts which he admitted had been received on the credit of the Church-rates for the building of Churches to remain for the next thirty or forty years payable by Dissenters. All debts contracted for the benefit of the Church, he maintained, should be paid out of the property of the Church, and he hoped the point would still receive the consideration of Government. He thought, if the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman were well founded, and he believed them to be so, a complete case had been made out in favour of the plan, and its adoption by the Legislature would, he was sure, do much to strengthen the position of the Established Church in the country.
§ Sir Edward Knatchbull
would not be tempted, even by the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, to enter into the general discussion of this subject, although he could not but think the House was under the deepest obligations to him for having so explicitly declared himself. The hon. Member had undoubtedly let the cat out of the bag, and exposed the designs of that party he represented in that House. He merely rose to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman with respect to pew rents. If he understood his proposition, it amounted to this—that in the Churches throughout the kingdom a certain portion of pews should be set apart for the poor; and to that provision he gave his most hearty support; but with respect to the remainder, a pew-rent was to be exacted of all who were not included in the description of the poor. Was that really so?
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, there were certain rights which undoubtedly would be respected. After an abundant and more extensive provision 1269 had been made for the poor, the remaining pews should be the subject of arrangement between the respective parties themselves and the clergyman or bishop.
§ Sir Edward Knatchbull
—Would the farmers and those attending the parish churches throughout England be subject to pew-rents, with the exception of some legal rights?
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
. —There was some difficulty in entering into the details at present; but there would be a classification of pew-rents in this way:—those who had rights which could be legally Established would, of course, have them respected—the poor in all cases would be provided for; and the intermediate class would, with the approval of the Bishop, make their own arrangements.
§ Mr. James
thought, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done right in taking the management of the episcopal incomes out of the hands of the Church. He particularly approved of that part of the right hon. Gentleman's plan, which he thought likely to obviate that carelessness and improvidence in the management of the leases which would otherwise inevitably prevail.
§ Mr. Forster
approved of many of the provisions of the plan submitted to the House by the right hon. Gentleman, but his hopes of the establishment of religious peace in many parishes had vanished when he heard that portion of it directing that the claims on parishes with regard to Church-rates now existing should be discharged. The popularity of the impost would not be increased by blending it with the poor-rates, nor would it be rendered more secure by being made to depend on a writ of mandamus in the court of King's Bench, instead of a vote in the vestry, as heretofore.
§ Viscount Sandon
complained of the expression employed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in styling Church-rates rather a privilege enjoyed by the Church than a property possessed by it. If they were regarded as a mere privilege, how came it that a debt of 800,000l. had been contracted on their security alone? The truth was, that they were an ancient and recognised burden on the landed property of the country, which was taken into account in every sale of land. Since this was the case, he hoped that, however anxiously they might wish to remove every 1270 grievance attendant on the present mode of levying them, they would not consent to transfer this charge from the landed property to the revenues of the Church. The Church Commissioners represented the destitution existing in the Church of England to be very great, and also declared that the Establishment was totally inadequate to supply the spiritual wants of the existing population. Yet it was proposed by this measure seriously to impair the resources of the Church, and to curtail even the means which it now possessed to supply the acknowledged deficiency of religious instruction. The right hon. Gentleman said, that this measure did not diminish the patrimony of the poor; he (Lord Sandon) maintained that it deprived the poor of the only patrimony they possessed; that it withdrew not only from the existing poor, but from millions who would come after them, their only hope of possessing the inestimable blessing of an efficient and well-endowed ecclesiastical establishment. This measure was introduced solely to propitiate the Dissenters, who formed a very small minority of the population, amounting by their own calculation, as given in the Congregational Magazine, to about 1,000,000 only, not including the Wesleyan body. It would relieve the scruples only of an inconsiderable portion of the community, and would remove a burden from the landed property of the country which had existed from time immemorial. He should be glad to support any measure which would promote religious peace, but he thought that it would be paying too great a sacrifice for it to deprive the poor of their only property. He could not allow the discussion to close without mentioning the objections which he entertained to the plan brought before them, and he thought it right that the country should know the real character of the measure.
§ Viscount Howick
regretted that the noble Lord had not thought proper to follow the example set him by the speakers who had previously addressed the House. He thought the noble Lord had invidiously misrepresented the character of the measure: he was not afraid to discuss its provisions with the noble Lord; and he could not let the occasion pass without correcting some of his misconceptions. The noble Lord complained that his right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had termed Church-rates rather 1271 a privilege than a property of the Church; yet what were they but a tax voluntarily imposed on the parishioners by themselves. A great many parishes had refused by a vote of their vestries to impose this tax on themselves; and it must be regarded, not as a bona fide charge on the land, distinct from the Church, but an ancient mode of taxing it for the benefit of the Church. The noble Lord had asked how a debt of 800,000l. could be raised on the security of Church-rates if they were a mere privilege of the Church, the burden of which the people voluntarily took on themselves; but he might as well ask how it happened that a national debt of 800,000,000l. had been raised, depending on no other security than the consent of the people of the country to tax themselves to discharge the obligations which it imposed? The noble Lord supposed that Church-rates must be regarded as the property of the Church, since the amount of them was always considered in transfers of landed property. Why, when a man bought a house in London, the first question he asked was, what was the amount of the public and private taxes, and both were taken into consideration. No doubt the amount of Church-rates was considered in all sales of property, but so was the amount of Poor-rates. The noble Lord complained of the measure as extinguishing those dormant funds which might be applied hereafter to the extension of the Church, and had referred to the report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to show the great necessity of a fund suitable for that purpose. Now, if the noble Lord had perused the whole report, he would have found that the Commissioners had not considered it proper to apply these dormant funds to the purposes of Church extension. The episcopal members of the Commission, as well as those who belonged to his Majesty's Government, had felt that for the purpose of extending the Church, they could not venture to propose a measure which would of course be viewed with much suspicion by the lessees. The measure which was now proposed would have the effect of considerably increasing the value of the property held by them, and would, it was anticipated, tend to the general relief of the whole country. The noble Lord said it would benefit, not the great mass of the population, but a small minority of it. The Ministers proposed it with no such views. Of course, they 1272 were anxious to relieve the Dissenters, as they were to relieve any class of the population who were suffering under injustice, but he concurred in proposing the plan, because he believed in his conscience that it would greatly benefit the Church, increase its security, and augment its influence, as well as relieve the Dissenters. Would the noble Lord tell him that churchmen did not often object to a rate as well as Dissenters. In the case of Manchester, which had been alluded to by his right hon. Friend, a very considerable number of Churchmen strenuously opposed the rate, because they disapproved of the system. It was not, then, a fair or correct representation of the measure to say, that it did not protect the interests of the Church, and that it satisfied merely the unreasonable clamours of those whom the noble Lord termed a small minority. It was intended to remove that which the friends of the establishment had long felt to be a very serious obstacle to its usefulness, and he had no doubt that with regard to the very inferior consideration of the amount of revenue applicable to ecclesiastical purposes, it would greatly benefit the Church. His right hon. Friend had made all his calculations on suppositions so infinitely more unfavourable than the reality, and had thrown so entirely out of consideration the increased value which the measure would give to property, that he had not the smallest doubt that, in a very few years, a large surplus would remain for the extension of the Church, and the augmentation of small livings, an object which he thought of great importance. He was perfectly willing that this question should be debated on the ground of the real benefit conferred on the Church by the plan of his right hon. Friend; and he wished to declare, in the strongest terms it was possible for him to use, his dissent from that which was called the voluntary principle, and his sincere and earnest attachment to the Church of England. He believed that the surest foundation of the Church, as of all our other institutions, was its real utility to the people. Some hon. Gentlemen who had spoken seemed to entertain an erroneous idea that pew-rents would be levied in all parishes. He wished to state that they would never be levied except on the proposal of the minister and churchwardens, sanctioned by the vestry, and in many country parishes there would not be the slightest occasion for imposing them, 1273 Power would be given to levy them in those cases where there was a very considerable demand for pews; parties interested might, if they thought proper, levy a rent, with the consent of the diocesan, and in cases where pew-rents had not been levied before, half the sittings would be free.
§ Mr. Thomas Duncombe
thought, that the principle of the proposed measure was so just and simple, that he might congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the name of his constituents, on having brought forward a plan so satisfactory. The principle on which it was founded was, that the revenues of the Church should defray the repairs of the ecclesiastical edifices and the other expenses connected with them, so that no burden might be thrown on the general taxes of the country. His right hon. Friend had said that he would abolish Church-rates, without doing injustice on any parties; and though the details might be somewhat complicated, the measure he had now proposed would practically abolish Church-rates without inflicting any wrong; and it was clear that the Church would be rather a gainer than a loser by the change. Neither could he perceive that this measure would inflict any hardship on the deans and chapters unless they were so base and sordid as to take unfair advantage of the proposition of his right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that though he was not disposed to take exception to the measure of his right hon. Friend, yet as his right hon. Friend expected a surplus, he would stale that there were many parishes in the borough he represented that were in debt, and as there was to be a surplus, he must set up a claim to a share of it, to be appropriated in a different manner than that proposed by his right hon. Friend. In that parish there was a large debt for building a new church; now he should be very Strongly opposed to allowing this debt to remain on the poor-rates; for, taking both Dissenters and Churchmen, what good could accrue from this to the inhabitants of Lambeth? He hoped that the surplus would be applied to the extinction of debt in such cases. He gave his most unqualified approbation to the measure, and was grateful to his Majesty's Ministers for having thus grappled with the difficulties of the subject, and held out the prospect of religious peace.
§ Mr. Gillon
said, that when the question of 1274 Church-rates was brought forward in 1833, Lord Spencer proposed that the burden should be transferred from the Church-rates to the Consolidated Fund. To that proposition he had felt it to be his duty to give his most unqualified opposition, and he thought that no government would again venture to bring forward one of so monstrous a nature. The people of Scotland would view with dissatisfaction the opposition to this measure, and he thanked the government for it on their part. He was of opinion that great advantage would result from the improvement of Church property, from the different tenure, and the consequently greater amount of capital that would be expended on it. The noble Lord had said, that it would infringe on Church patronage, but he denied the fact. The measure was equally for the relief of Churchmen and Dissenters and if the Dissenters were satisfied with it, he was sure the Church people ought to be so.
§ Mr. Tennyson D'Eyncourt
would say but one word to express his assent to what had fallen from his hon. Friend and Colleague. The debt, if allowed to continue, would be a great burden on Dissenters, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman by some clause of the present Bill would give them relief.
§ Mr. G. Palmer
said, that the consideration of the question embraced the principle on which his Majesty's Ministers were induced to bring forward the measure—the act itself and its consequences. Now it appeared that the sole objection to Church-rates was the refusal of Dissenters to continue to pay them. The hon. Member for Middlesex had told them that the Dissenters were a very large body; but did the hon. Member class them all as one body—those of different religious denominations, and those of no religion at all? Did the hon. Gentleman suppose that one party will acknowledge as partners the various other classes? The tendency of the measure, whatever was its object, was to degrade the Established Church. What, for instance, did the noble Lord intend to do with the property of archbishops and bishops? He had been assured that they were to retain full control over it, but they were now told that that property was to be vested in Commissioners, to save, he supposed, those dignitaries the trouble of attending to their own affairs, and to reduce them in fact to state pensioners, His Majesty's Ministers 1275 were now only waiting for a vote of that House to destroy one-half or one-third of that property, or for any other measure that might prove destructive to the preservation of the true principles of religion. The Established Church had been the great bulwark and defence of Dissenters, and if that were once cast down, they would fall themselves. He was satisfied the House would not lend itself to the total desecration of that protection of religious freedom which was the pride of Englishmen.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he had not the slightest wish to enter upon a discussion of the details of this measure, thinking as lie did that it would be much better to reserve the discussion of a matter of such serious importance for that period when such discussion might be expected to end in some practical result; and, above all, in order that they might have an opportunity of investigating the plan proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), as the principles of that measure were not quite so apparent to him as to the right hon. Gentleman. At the same time he should be sorry, on this occasion, to omit any reference to the impressions made on his mind by the statements of the right hon. Gentleman. He thought that nothing could be more satisfactory to those who concurred with him in opinion than the declaration made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the necessity of maintaining the Established Church. He had no fault to find with this position; but he doubted whether in practice this measure was in exact conformity with this principle. The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) said that he repudiated altogether the voluntary principle. But did his repudiating the voluntary principle necessarily imply that it was incumbent on the State to support the Established religion? If there could be any doubt as to the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, his own express words left no doubt as to the principle on which he meant to act. The right hon. Gentleman said that he would not leave it to the voluntary principle to find means of defence; and he added, that it ought not to be entrusted to the voluntary principle to find means of religious instruction. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it was at least as incumbent on them to provide a religious establishment as to provide an army or a navy for the purposes of defence. The moment the 1276 right hon. Gentleman laid down that position he excluded altogether the question of religion, or conscientious scruples; because when the State considers it necessary to maintain an army, it does not inquire whether all persons approve of war, or whether they think it necessary that an army should be maintained; but on an enlarged and comprehensive view they stated that the army must be maintained by general taxation, and they never inquired of any individuals their opinions as to peace or war. All that was necessary was, to call upon all to contribute equally. If then, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was equally incumbent on them to maintain a religious establishment as to maintain a fleet, surely it was equally incumbent on them all to contribute towards the support of that establishment, without inquiry into the peculiar opinions of each. The right hon. Gentleman had even said that it was the duty of the State to provide free sittings for the poor of the country. But did the right hon. Gentleman propose that the State should provide free sittings? Not at all. The right hon. Gentleman abandoned all means whereby the State could provide free sittings; and notwithstanding all his professions, and the resolution that it was necessary to maintain an established religion, the right hon. Gentleman meant that this measure should have this effect—that the State should not provide free sittings, but that the Church should. He would say nothing as to the lessees at present. There had been no time to consider as to the justice of refusing lessees of Church property to contribute towards the maintenance of the Church. But he did not object to this measure on the part of the lessees; he objected to it on much higher grounds than the interests of the lessees. The noble Lord had said that the Church community had abandoned the idea of requiring lessees to contribute towards the endowment of poor livings. Now he thought that the lessees were at least as likely to concur in any measure the object of which was to provide for the small livings of ministers of religion in populous places—they were as likely to concur as any who at present contributed. But by this proposed measure not only were the Dissenters relieved from contributing to the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, but the landholders were relieved also, and the charge was continued on the lessees 1277 of the Church. Admitting for the sake of the argument, the claims of the Dissenters to be relieved on the ground of conscientious scruples, he would ask why should the landholders of England, who were members of the Established Church, be relieved also. Nothing appeared to him more just than the principle laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the necessity of the Slate providing for the Establishment; but it appeared to him that it would naturally sever the connexion between the Church and the State if they were not only to abolish Church-rates, but to throw the whole weight of them on the Church. He did not understand why the landholders of England, who were members of the Established Church, should be relieved altogether from all charges for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church. If they made up the deficiency by direct contribution from the State, of course his objections would not apply; but at present the effect of the measure would be to throw the whole charge upon the lessees of Church property, relieving altogether those upon whom there was the strongest obligation to contribute, namely, those members of the Church who were possessed of large property which had been acquired or inherited subject to this charge. He admitted, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that unfortunately differences had arisen on this question. As one of those who were anxious to support the Church he would willingly come to a settlement of this question; but he must at the same time say, that a great difference of opinion prevailed on the subject of Church-rates, that the opposition to them was mainly confined to the large towns. But he had also no doubt that in rural parishes—unless dissent prevailed to a considerable extent, and the majority of the inhabitants were Dissenters—he thought that with respect to the great mass of the rural parishes, he might venture to say, that they were almost universally of opinion, that they would be better if left alone. Not only did they not wish to be relieved, but he believed that they felt a pride when they looked on the venerable fabric which was their chief architectural ornament; and, apart from religious associations, he believed that, so far from relieving their tender consciences, they would offend them by relieving them from the obligation of supporting their Church. He spoke of the rural parishes. 1278 But, waiving the consideration whether or not this charge was fairly laid on the lessees of the Church, if he came to the conclusion, that the lessees were so circumstanced that you could extract from them, in some way or other, a revenue of 250,000l. a-year—if he came to that conclusion, then he should feel bound to contend, that there was a prior claim upon that annual revenue than any that could rise from the obligation of supporting the fabric of the Church. He would ask any hon. Gentleman to consider the facts he would briefly state to the House. In the diocese of Chester, there were thirty-eight parishes, containing an aggregate population of 860,000 souls, whilst there was only church-room at present provided for 97,000, so that seven-eighths of the population in these thirty-eight districts, were without any Church accommodation. In the diocese of York there were twenty districts, with an aggregate population of 502,000, and yet Church accommodation was provided for Only 48,000, or one-eleventh of the whole population. In the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry there were sixteen parishes, having an aggregate population of 235,000; and there was Church accommodation for only 29,000. From what fund were they to provide Church accommodation? If they could prove that, with perfect justice to the Church, without diminishing the independent station of the bishops, and without injury to the interests of the lessees—if, above all, they could raise such a sum as 250,000l. more than had hitherto been calculated upon, could they negative the claims of those populous districts, which ought first to be attended to—or could they bestow that revenue better than in providing religious instruction for those who had not now the means of hearing the word of God. He would not then enter into the arguments that had been used, but he hoped that the noble Lord had expressed the intention of the Government with respect to the new revenues charged upon the pew-rents, as he readily admitted that it would be just to require from those who had the means of payment, and were known to be in affluent circumstances, or rather in comfortable circumstances, that they should pay for the benefit of a pew. But with respect to the rural parishes, not merely as regarded the destitute poor, but the farmers of the country, a different principle should 1279 be adopted. If, for the first time for centuries, they were to be driven from those pews which they looked upon as a species of freehold to which they were entitled, without any payment, it would create in their minds a strong feeling of disgust. But he understood the noble Lord (Howick) to make a clear distinction with respect to rural parishes, and to give an assurance that they would not be subjected to the operation of this measure, for the purpose of extracting a revenue. He would not then enter further upon this subject. He merely stated the impression made on his mind by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he would venture to say, that if there was a sufficient fund disposable, the first claim was, either to raise the stipend of those ministers who had not 2001. a-year, or to attend to the still more pressing demand—to raise from the condition of religious destitution between seven-eighths and nine-tenths of the people, who had not the means of hearing what that religion was, of which they boasted so much.
§ Mr. Baines
rose for the purpose of making an observation on what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth. The right hon. Baronet had said, that there was only Church accommodation for one-eleventh of the people of the diocese of York. He (Mr. Baines) happened to live in that diocese, and therefore had an opportunity of judging what accommodation there was; and he must say, that his own impression was, that there was not a town or hamlet in the whole diocese, that had much reason to complain of Church accommodation. He would not enter into a comparison of how many belonged to the Church, but he would ask, how many went to Church? This was an ingredient in the question that ought to be considered. If they found that in all towns, and in many of the populous villages, there was twice as much Church-room as there were persons to occupy it, they would be able to judge if Church-room were required for those who were not at present accommodated. There was another point which he wished to call to the attention of the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet had spoken about the impropriety of relieving the landed gentry from the payment of Church-rates. But had they not relieved the gentry of Ireland? They had relieved them from the Church-cess, 1280 and the analogy applied in this instance. He confessed that he was a little astonished at the arguments used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with respect to the army and navy, and the voluntary principle, and he did not wonder at the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) laying hold of it, for he thought it a most preposterous statement. They knew that the Church, in America, was supported by the voluntary principle; but who ever heard of an army or a navy being so supported? There was no analogy between the two cases. It was neither an argument for nor against the voluntary principle. Hon. Gentlemen should be exceedingly cautious, when they were seeking for illustrations, to make them applicable. Failing to do so, they very often damaged the argument they were meant to sustain.
§ The House resumed; the Committee to sit again.