§ Order for Second Rending read.
said, he wished to call the attention of the House to this class of Hills, which came down from the House of Lords in the shape of an estate Bill, and therefore in the form of an unopposed Bill. The present Bill was in the form of a petition from a clergyman who was ordained in the Episcopal Protestant Church of the United States, and who was, therefore, excluded by the general law of the land, namely, by the 26 Geo. III., from holding any preferment in this country. Mr. Shepherd attended three terms as a theological student in the University of Durham, from whence he proceeded to Tennessee, where he was ordained a deacon, and afterwards a priest, and took the degree of M.A. His health became impaired in America, and he returned to this country, where he recovered his health. His object now was to get an Act of Parliament to remove the disqualification which prevented him from holding preferment in the Church of England, or carrying out the sacerdotal or priestly office. In 1840, an Act was passed which relaxed to some extent the restrictions imposed by the Act 26 Geo. III. He was not aware that any measure of this nature had been proposed previously to 1843. These attempts were now becoming of more frequent occurrence, and the present was the fifth case in which application had been made to Parliament for the removal of the disabilities imposed by the general law. He had not a word to say against Mr. Shepherd; but he wished to know from the House whether it was their pleasure that these private Bills were to be treated as unopposed estate Bills, or whether it would not be better, as there were such frequent examples of exceptional legislation, that the general law should be 22 amended, so as to put the whole of this class of clergymen on the same footing as these private Acts placed particular individuals.
said, that most private Bills proceeded on the same principle as the present. Mr. Shepherd was educated in an English University, and he performed the duties of a clergyman in America with satisfaction and credit. It should be recollected that holy orders were indelible, and that every other avenue to employment was closed to the clergyman. Each case ought to be tried on its own merits.
said, that the House was indebted to his right hon. Friend for bringing this question before it; but he begged leave, though with great diffidence, to differ from the view taken by his right hon. Friend. He would assume that the ease of Mr. Shepherd, of whom he knew nothing, stood upon the same grounds as the other cases to which his right hon. Friend had referred. The Act 26 Geo. III. was passed soon after the independence of the United States was proclaimed, and its object was to take precaution that individuals who claimed to exercise spiritual functions in this country, were loyal and properly educated, and ordained. He himself brought the first case of the kind before the House in 1843, and though the Bill was originally met by a terrible array of opposition, he had at last succeeded in convincing them that the principle was sound and that it ought to be agreed to. As the question which had been submitted to the House by the right hon. Chairman of Ways and Means was, whether they would in future deal with these as exceptional eases, or whether they would pass a general Act to embrace all, he must say, that in his opinion the 26 Geo. III. was a very good Act, and that he should object to repeal it, but as the cases which were brought before the House for special legislation were cases of great individual hardship, he considered that they ought to be treated as individual eases, and each one should be dealt with on its own merits. He should, therefore, vote in favour of the present Bill, and oppose any measure for interfering with the general law on the subject.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, that he concurred in the principle that when they had adopted a general Act of Parliament they ought not to be continually called upon to sanction private Acts, the effect of which 23 was to supersede the public measure. He was happy to bear testimony to the merits of Mr. Shepherd, but on public grounds he must oppose the present Bill. With respect to the last case, he did not suppose that a single Member in that House understood what it was. The Bill passed through the House as a private Bill, though it practically repealed two Acts of Parliament. He therefore thought that there ought to be some general legislation on the subject, and he for one would be glad to open the doors of the Church as wide as possible; for why should all the colonial clergy be excluded from the advantage which the present applicant desired to obtain?
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
conceived that it would be rather hard to upset in the present instance a practice which had prevailed in other instances. It was objected that this was exceptional legislation, but hon. Members would find on the paper of business for that day two divorce Bills, which also constituted exceptional legislation, as far as the law of the land was concerned. If it were right to have general legislation on the subject, that consideration ought not now to prevail against the claim of an individual who was only asking for what had been granted in other cases.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
observed, that he was inclined to take the same view as the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just spoken with respect to this particular case. He did not think they could now turn back in the case of this individual and refuse to do for him what they did for others. In fact, the Bill rested upon a series of precedents, and the House had, at least upon one occasion, come to an unanimous decision upon the subject. That unanimous decision protected individual cases until some new general Resolution was come to on the question. With regard to the general law, he entirely agreed with what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird). By the existing law an episcopally-ordained clergyman in the United States or Scotland was under a ban and stigma which did not affect any other class. A Wesleyan, a Jumper, a Shaker, or a Mormon, might come over here, and if he conformed to the law and was regularly ordained he might officiate and hold preferment in England; [Mr. SOTHERON-ESCOURT: No, not Mormons.] Yes, they could, if they repented of their Mormonism, while an episcopally- 24 ordained clergyman of the United States or of the Episcopal Church of Scotland was barred from holding any preferment in this country. There was a case, known to many hon. Members of that House, of an episcopally-ordained clergyman of the United States who came over to this country, where he became a Roman Catholic, and he believed a Roman Catholic clergyman. He again saw fit to come back to the Protestant religion, but he could not hold any preferment or officiate here in consequence of the law. He was not excluded because he was a Roman Catholic, for Roman Catholic orders were held to be valid by the Church of England, but he was excluded because he was an ordained clergyman of the Episcopal Protestant Church of America. This surely was an anomaly which ought to be amended.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he agreed with his right hon. Friend as to the anomaly in the existing state of the law on this subject. No doubt the object of the Act 26 Geo. III. was to prevent irregular ordinations, and the inconvenient consequences which might affect the Established Church. He thought that as there were precedents and no notice that the Bill would be opposed, it would be a great hardship on Mr. Shepherd if the Bill were rejected; at the same time, if Parliament thought fit to retain the existing law, these privileges to individuals ought not to be continued.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that the effect of the existing law was not to prevent irregular ordinations from acting as a disqualification here. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University, who was opposed to exceptional legislation in this matter, would support the Divorce Bill on the same ground, for the present divorce Bills which were passed by the House were nothing but exceptional cases of legislation.
§ Bill read 2o and committed.