§ (Mr. Osborne Morgan, Mr. Bouverie, Mr. Hinde Palmer, Mr. Henry Richard.)
§ [BILL 10.] SECOND READING.
§ Order for Second Reading read.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN,
in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, its purpose was to facilitate the acquisition of Sites for Places of Wor- 1383 ship and Schools. The question raised by the Bill was, he would venture to say, of the gravest importance—it was, whether those powers which had been constantly exercised over private property for purposes of public utility should be extended to purposes of far greater utility—the worship of God and the education of the people? Nor could it be said that the legislation he proposed was a new application of an old principle. When, in 1848, the great religious movement took place in Scotland which ended in the Free Church, owing to the dislike of the landed proprietors, there were many cases in which the seceding congregations were unable to obtain sites for their churches and manses. To remedy this grievance the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr.Bouverie), whose name was on the back of this Bill, introduced a Bill similar in principle to this, and the second reading was affirmed in a House much less Liberal than the present, by a majority of 3 to 1. On the third reading, however, for reasons which he did not understand, the Bill was thrown out by a majority of 39. Now, he admitted that, in order to bring himself within the principle of that Bill, it was incumbent on him to prove two things—firstly, that there existed a necessity for legislative action; and, secondly, that the legislative action proposed did not involve any wanton or unnecessary interference with the rights of private property. He could not, of course, call his witnesses to the Bar of that House, or he could very easily make out a case for the interference of the Legislature, nor had he the advantage which his right hon. Friend had on the previous Bill—a preliminary inquiry by a Select Committee—and he would endeavour to avoid what he had been charged with doing on a previous occasion—"rely upon the tattle of provincial newspapers"—nor would he cite private communications, however trustworthy; for by so doing he was sure to bring down on his head a flood of contradiction and recrimination from correspondents who did not always prepay the postage. He would cite no instances in support of his Bill which he had not himself personally investigated, and, unless challenged to it, he would not mention names. No doubt he should be met with the observation that the area of the grievances of which he complained 1384 was very limited, and that the cases of actual grievance were exceptional; and this was true. No doubt in England, where the land was held by many owners, there was no practical difficulty in obtaining sites; but in Wales, where the land was possessed by a few great proprietors, the congregations were at the mercy of those few persons; but even in Wales the cases where the landowner refused to listen to such applications were, he was happy to state, few. But how much of their legislation—and, especially, preventive legislation—was founded on exceptional cases? What was the Irish Land Bill but a piece of exceptional legislation? What was the Irish Peace Preservation Bill but a piece of exceptional legislation? He would call the attention of the House to a few instances of undoubted grievance which seemed to call for the interference of the Legislature. In his own county in 1866, in a parish small at first, but which had gradually increased, there was a Dissenting chapel which, as originally built, was sufficient for the wants of the community; but these had outgrown the accommodation, and land was required to enlarge the chapel. A memorial was prepared and presented to the landlord, stating that all his tenants required was a little bit of land to enlarge the chapel on either side, or they offered to convert the chapel into the minister's house and build a new chapel. Their request, however, was peremptorily refused. They did not get the land; but they succeeded in obtaining from another party a site about a mile from where they wanted it, and they had to pull down both chapel and minister's house, the building materials being of no more use to them than if they had been cast into the sea. He thought that a very wanton exercise of the rights of property. There was another case of refusal, by a man of the highest liberality, the reason for which he could not understand. In a district which had sprung up with a constantly increasing population, a school site was wanted. There were several National Schools in the locality, but no British School. Application was made for a site. The landlord said he would put it in a district which was already served by National Schools. The parties considered that would be of little or no use to them. They pointed out three sites, any one of which they would be very 1385 glad to get; but the answer they received was that none of those sites would be given, because they were too near the National School, and in view of the parsonage. From that day to the present no site had been granted. In a third case he had some difficulty in translating the answer into anything like presentable phraseology. It was to this effect—that sooner than sell or give land for a site, the owner would see the memorialists relegated to that locality to which very High Churchmen were periodically in the habit of consigning such of their fellow-men as were unfortunate enough not to be able to fathom the mysteries of the Athanasian Creed. He knew of other cases in which grants had been given; but the parties, who remained tenants-at-will to the landlord, gave their votes with the risk of confiscation hanging over their heads. Even in London, he believed there was great difficulty in obtaining sites either for places of worship or schools, most of the property at the West-end being in the hands of large landowners, whose leases contained restrictive covenants to that effect. Only the other day he received a letter from a clergyman in Holborn approving this Bill, and stating that he had the greatest difficulty in obtaining a site for a school, and was compelled to resort to a disused cemetery. There was a covenant by the lessee of a landed property of this nature—That he would not use the premises, or any part thereof, for the purpose of a school or seminary, or for any trade or business of dealer in horse-flesh, cats'-meat, dogs'-meat, slaughterer, melter of tallow, or any other offensive business whatsoever, or suffer anything to be done on the premises that may be or grow to be a nuisance or disturbance to the said lessor.Experience showed that a compulsory power of taking land for the site of schools was necessary; but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster) in his Education Bill expressly excluded himself from this, which was the only power worth having, and without which the Bill would in many cases be a dead letter. Nothing was more unjust than to impose on a neighbourhood an obligation, and, on the other hand, to take away from the community the power of fulfilling it. In Mr. Bowstead's Report to the Committee of Council on Education he stated—Another question, which is of importance as affecting the progress of education in my district, is that of school sites. I constantly meet with 1386 cases where some single individual is lord paramount of a whole district, and where that individual or his agents refuse either to give or sell a piece of ground for the erection of school premises, however pressing may be the want of them. Sometimes objection is made to the proposed school because it is a British one, sometimes because it is to be under inspection, and sometimes simply because it is a school. Occasionally it happens that where there are two or three landowners in a place each of them has some one of these objections to urge. …. Now, it seems to me that a remedy should be sought for grievances of this kind, and that an adequate one might easily be found. Let a public officer be sent to report upon all such cases as I have alluded to, and in the event of his deciding that a school is wanted, let power be given by Act of Parliament to some public authority to summon a jury to, have a value set upon the land that is required, and to compel the owner to give it up on receiving its price. If it be said that this would inflict a hardship on the landowner, it may be replied that it is certainly not a greater hardship than the compulsory taking of a man's land for a railway, and that the necessity is quite as urgent. No general system of national education can ever be extended over the whole country without having powers of this kind granted to the administering department, and the landowner, who brings a large population to live upon his property, has clearly no more right to keep them in ignorance than he has to keep them without roads.That was the whole argument in favour of his Bill. He knew a gentleman, formerly a Member of the House, and still living, who made it his boast that, upon his death-bed, his dying consolation would be that he had not given a single sixpence or sold an acre of land for the purposes of education. No doubt that was an exceptional case—if it were not so, English society could not cohere. He had been urged to divide the Bill and restrict it to schools; but both schools and places of worship were of public utility: and it could not be called a Dissenting Bill, for it applied to churches as well as chapels. Surely churches and schools were of as much "public utility" as the construction of a railway or a harbour. He had inserted, or he was willing to insert, any reasonable safeguard which the House might consider necessary for the landowner. If this were done the landowner would be really better protected against any attempt to invade his property under the Bill, than he was at present against the encroachments of a railway company. It was quite true that before a man's property could be taken by a railway company a Parliamentary inquiry was necessary; but, if the safeguard which he proposed—namely, 1387 that no order under the Bill should be made absolute until confirmed by Parliament were introduced, the landowner would have exactly the same safeguards as he had against a railway company, with this difference, that the inquiry under the Bill would take place after, instead of before the making of the provisional order, which, if anything, was a difference in favour of the landowner. Then again, there was the protection which the landowner would have in the nature of the tribunal to whom the application was to be made, and in the cost of a proceeding under the Bill, which would be considerably greater than that of proceeding by private agreement; so that, excepting in extreme cases, the compulsory clauses of the Act would never be resorted to. Moreover, they must not think that even if the Bill became law, and the Act should very seldom be called into operation, that it was a mere dead letter. He was much struck the other day by the argument of a French senator when defending the retention of capital punishment. He said that capital punishment was a very useful thing to have even if you never inflicted it. And if he were asked what good he hoped to do by this Bill, if it be so seldom resorted to, he should be tempted to give the same answer which old Lord Auchinlech gave to Dr. Johnson when Johnson pressed him with the question—"What good did Cromwell do to his country?" "Gude sir," he replied, "he gar't kings ken there was a lith in their necks." If they would only make these landed kings understand that "there is a lith in their necks," he thought they would hear very little more about refusals of sites for chapels and schools in future. And now just one word more about the supposed infringement of the rights of property about which so much had been said. Did they not every day infringe those rights for purposes, the importance of which would not bear comparison with the purposes which he was advocating. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie) in the able speech in which he introduced his Scotch Bill gave several remarkable instances of men who had had their property cut to pieces and their homes invaded by such undertakings as those of railway companies. He (Mr. Morgan) could give an instance, for the truth of which he could vouch, 1388 for it happened to himself. He was residing in a house at Paddington close to the line afterwards taken by the Metropolitan Railway Company. The railway took not his house, but the next adjoining, and the first intimation he had of their presence was a hammering within a few feet of his head. They did not take his house, but they made it uninhabitable. He found he had no remedy—that it was a "sentimental grievance," and that he must not allow his feelings to stand in the way of "public utility," and he had to throw up his lease and find a residence elsewhere. How many thousand poor working men were turned out of house and home in order to enable the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company to get to Ludgate Hill? They thought nothing of turning 10,000 artizans and their families into the streets in order to make room for a bankrupt railway company, who scarcely went through the farce of offering to pay for the land which they seized, because that, forsooth, was "a work of public utility." But if a few poor, decent, religious people asked them to give them powers to purchase a little bit of land in order to worship God or educate their children in their own way, they raised an outcry that the rights of property were in danger, and shuddered to think that their nervous susceptibilities might be shocked by the sight of an "Ebenezer" or a "Bethel." Sir, (continued the hon. and learned Member) for my part, I think we hardly realize to ourselves what an enormous infringement of the rights of private property the whole of our railway legislation is—at least so far as it touches the poorer classes. The rich man, I admit, does not feel it. He can oppose the projected work—he can make his own terms with the company—and very good terms they generally are. But the poor man is at their mercy. If you want to know what I mean watch the course of any of our great lines of railway—watch them, I say, avoiding with punctilious care the Bishop's palace, the nobleman's park, the country gentleman's seat—but trampling with relentless indifference upon the cottages of the poor. Sir, we have a maxim—a time-honoured maxim—of English law—the spirit if not the letter of which I think I may fairly crave in aid of the principle of my Bill—Sic utere tuo ut alieno non noceas.1389 —use that which is your own, hut do not hurt that which is another's. If I, on my own land, erect a house or a building which interferes with the free flow of light and air to another man's land, the law steps in and compels me to pull down that house or that building, because it interferes with that which is the common right of all God's creatures—can you consistently compel me to do this, and yet permit me to use the property with which Providence has entrusted me so as to interfere with that better light, which ought to be as free and as full as the light of yonder sun in heaven? Sir, I admit, and I do it most gratefully as well as most cheerfully, that there are in this country many men endowed with vast possessions and great wealth who use those possessions and that wealth for the noblest purposes and with the most ungrudging generosity. If there were not, the English landed aristocracy would not at this moment be occupying the proud position which they hold among the aristocracies of Europe. For men like this—and I am speaking in the presence of some of them—such legislation has no application and no terrors. But there are also in this country—I say it sorrowfully but emphatically—other men, also possessed of great power and vast wealth, who have forgotten the sacred maxim that property has its duties as well as its rights, and who use that power and that wealth to coerce the conscience and enslave the mind. And do not say that we—for I am speaking not only of myself, but of my hon. and learned Friend whose name is on the back of the Bill (Mr. Hinde Palmer), and of my other learned Friends who approve the principle of the Bill—do not say that we—real-property lawyers, brought up with the strictest reverence for the rights of property, are urging you to rash and headlong legislation. It is just because we see the greatness of the danger that we ask you—you, an assemblage of landowners—to put your house in order before the day of assault comes. Sir, it is useless to blink the fact, that the whole law of property is on its trial—not only in Ireland but in England also—but, believe me, it is not in measures like these that the danger lies. Reject this measure and the demand for such legislation, now a mere whisper, will in my country at least, deepen into a fierce and 1390 fanatical cry. It is just from the refusal of these small concessions that dangerous agitations take their rise. Remember, I pray you, that the history of England's prosperity is a history of timely concessions; and let it not be said that we, who have succeeded to the accumulated experience of centuries—weThe heirs of all the ages, in the foremost files of timehave so far forgotten the lessons of that experience as to throw in our lot with those misguided men who, in the plenitude of their arrogance, have striven to dam back the torrent till it rose and overwhelmed them, and who have precipitated calamitous revolutions by resisting temperate reforms.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Osborne Morgan.)
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, it was with great regret that he was obliged to offer opposition to the Bill; but it appeared to him that it was so aggressive in its character, so antagonistic to the rights of property, and so uncalled for by any public demand, that he felt it incumbent on him to take that course. He might rest his case against the measure on the statement which the hon. and learned Gentleman himself (Mr. G. O. Morgan) had made, for the hon. and learned Gentleman admitted that his Bill was intended to meet individual cases, but that it was limited in its area, and that it was exceptional in its character; but it was right that he should point out the objections on the face of the Bill itself. In the first place, he could not understand why the Bill was not to apply to Scotland and Ireland, whore from the conflict of sects it would seem to be much more wanted than in England. The applicants were, in the first instance, to judge of the convenience and eligibility of the site. As to the provision that there must be fifty memorialists residing within four miles, he would observe that that radius would give a circumference of twenty-four miles, and that there was no provision that the parties signing the memorial should be of the denomination which applied for the site. It would be quite competent for one congregation to say to another—"Lend us the half of your people to support the application, and we will do as much for 1391 you when you want a site." The Bill made provision for the costs of the aplication before the Enclosure Commissioners; but supposing the party objecting to succeed, he was to be left to pay his own costs. But that was not all. Supposing, after the lapse of five years, the purpose for which the property was required should fail to be carried out, to whom would the site belong? It would go to the parties who had acquired it, who might use it for any other purpose. Then, with reference to the application of the Lands Clauses Act proposed by the Bill. He must say that, under that Act, the compensation given was frequently very inadequate, even as regarded the bare value of the property compulsorily taken, independent of the inconvenience experienced by the owners in other respects. Great expenses were incurred. Parties had the power of summarily taking possession of land, turning the owners out, and compelling them to submit to arbitration or a jury. These powers might be necessary for public purposes; but in such cases the parties applying for them were put under certain obligations and liable to certain penalties. He thought it most objectionable that the Copyhold Commissioners should have the power of putting such an Act into force. The Commissioners were not constituted for the discharge of any such duties as these. It appeared as though the hon. and learned Gentleman had a heavy burden which he was desirous of depositing somewhere, and, therefore, selected these unfortunate Commissioners for the purpose, giving them, as the Bill stood, absolute power to decide, without appeal, in these cases. It would be very objectionable if gentlemen were compelled to submit to the invasion of their estates by persons acting under the provisions of the Bill. The only land exempt from its operation was park or pleasure land; but there was in many cases a great deal of ground outside a park which to all intents and purposes was pleasure ground. It would not be very agreeable to anyone who had built a mansion commanding a fine view to have run up in the neighbourhood, a chapel or school, neither of which was often of the most ornamental character, and frequently in a style more adapted to the purposes of necessity than of religion. He was not now speaking in a spirit of hostility towards those who desired the power of obtaining 1392 sites for places of worship, for he would be glad to see every man possess the means of celebrating, in the most convenient manner his religious worship, so long as he did not invade the rights of others; but believing that the Bill did invade those rights, and feeling that there was nothing on the face of the measure to justify the proposed legislation, he begged to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time upon that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. George Gregory.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. H. RICHARD
said, he wished to supply some further evidence to fortify the case of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. G. O. Morgan). He regretted that any necessity should exist for bringing in a measure like the present. He cheerfully acknowledged that a large number of landowners both in England and Wales—and among them many Conservative landowners—in the matter of granting sites for chapels and schools, were disposed to act, not only in a fair and just, but even in a generous spirit towards their Nonconformist neighbours. He also acknowledged that some of the impediments of which he complained arose not from want of will, but want of legal power on the part of the landowners, and believed that some of them would gladly welcome a measure for removing the disabilities which now stood in the way of their following the impulses of their own kind natures. But, unhappily, there were other landowners—a small minority—who were inspired by a different spirit, and made use of their rights as owners of the soil to thwart and harass those who were endeavouring to promote the moral and spiritual improvement of their countrymen, because they happened to belong to a different communion from their own. With regard to the difficulty of procuring sites for schools, he referred the House to the Evidence given before the Select Committee on Education in 1865–6, over which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) presided. The Rev. John Phillips, Principal of the Training Col- 1393 lege at Bangor for the British and Foreign School Society, pointed out several instances in which the promoters of undenominational schools had been refused sites, although they were prepared to pay any reasonable price for their purchase. Similar evidence was given by the Rev. Dr. Roberts and Mr. Bow-stead. A strong feeling existed, although the House might not believe it, in some remote parts of the country against schools established on what were called liberal or unsectarian principles; and, as an instance of that feeling, he might refer to a case which was tried at the last Carmarthenshire Assizes, where an action was brought against certain members of the Church party who had actually demolished a school, the result of which was that the Judge recommended the withdrawal of a juror, the defendants consenting to pay £150 and costs. They might talk of the rights of property. He would ask, was it one of the rights of property to consign the population of a district to eternal ignorance in obedience to the caprice and narrow-mindedness of some sour-tempered individual? In many cases where chapels were erected, the landowners refused to sell or grant leases, and the promoters had no security except in the honour of the proprietor and his successors, and in some cases advantage was taken of this circumstance, in order to coerce votes at an election. He would mention an instance of the way in which a landowner sometimes acted. A gentleman in the county of Cardigan, three or four years ago, at the expiration of a sixty years' lease which had been given by one of his ancestors to the Methodist connection, refused to let the chapel again except for one year, and he also refused to grant another site, although he had plenty of rocky land not worth to him a farthing an acre rent. At the end of the year the congregation was obliged to turn out, and had to build another chapel. He would ask—did the right of trampling on the rights of conscience form a part of the rights of property? He wished to call the attention of the House to the hardship which the present system inflicted on a country like Wales. It was not as if the Church of England had adequately occupied the ground and provided all the necessary means of religious instruction. That was not the case. According to the Census of 1851 the population of Wales and Monmouthshire was 1394 1,100,000 souls. Assuming, with Mr. Horace Mann, that the Church accommodation should be 58 per cent of the population, such accommodation ought to be provided for 689,569 persons. But the Church of England fell short of that demand by 357,672. So that accommodation was provided for barely 25 per cent of the population. He appealed to the House whether they could approve of this miserable dog-in-the-manger policy, and whether members of a Church, who ought To provide accommodation for the vast majority of the population in that Principality, and utterly failed, should be allowed to throw all kinds of obstacles in the way of those who were willing to supply their lack of service? He did not wish to say a word against the rights of property, but thought that in these days its owners would do well to "wear their honours meekly." For what might happen? An intolerant landlord might come into possession of a vast extent of territory, and virtually proscribe every form of religion except his own. That was a system of persecution which had now been discarded by every State in Europe. The question was, whether the proprietors of the land were to be allowed by the exercise of the rights of property to annul the course of legislation which had prevailed for so many years. The rights of property were sacred; but the rights of conscience were paramount and supreme.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Sir, I should regret if anyone should treat this as a question of religious difference. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken seems to have forgotten that this Bill, while it provides facilities for Dissenters obtaining chapels and schools, provides exactly the same facilities for the Church. But for the whole period of time during which the Church has been extending her operations in this country, and building churches, she has never asked for compulsory powers such as are sought for under this Bill; and it is to the compulsory powers of the Bill alone that I object. In a Bill which will shortly be again before us—the Elementary Education Bill—there will be provisions dealing with the question of schools, and as I think it will be much more advantageous to leave the compulsory and other powers respecting schools to be dealt with in the Schools Bill, I will now leave that point out of the question. I 1395 grant that the Dissenter, with respect to his chapel, should be put upon the same footing as the Churchman under the Church Building Act, and limited owners should have every facility for granting sites for Dissenting chapels which they now have for granting sites for churches. If the Government and the House will accept that principle as sufficient for the second reading of the Bill, I shall have no objection to it; but, as to the compulsory powers, remembering that they have never been asked for in the case either of Scotland or Ireland—even in those parts of Ireland where Churchmen were in a small minority, and where the great mass of the people were Roman Catholics—I think it would be unreasonable that they should be granted without some very strong grievance, indeed, being proved to exist in the case. But no case has been made out for this compulsory system. I do not know how it may be in Wales, with which I am not familiarly acquainted; but I know that in England public opinion will prevent the recurrence of any such difficulties as the hon. Gentleman has spoken of as having been experienced at the hands of one or two landlords. I say that it is not a right thing—if it be only a case of one or two landlords, for Parliament to lay down special laws for dealing with so small a matter. If the Bill had dealt with the subjects by way of a Provisional Order, as in cases where you apply the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act in great public matters, such as railways and other things of that nature, the Provisional Order being laid before the House, and giving an opportunity for disputing each separate proposal before a Committee upstairs—if this Bill had been put on that footing I should not object to it; but I do object to a general power of interference with the property of others, unless there is some general ground for it. I do not think there is any such general ground in existence, and the probability of its existence decreases every day. I do not know how it may be in some parts of Wales; but going over this country I know that in England wherever a chapel has been wanted—even in the smallest villages—there has been found a place for it; and I feel convinced that, wherever a real call for a chapel shall arise, there will be found landowners ready to provide a site for it. I remember travelling in 1396 one of the northern districts of Ireland, I where there happened to be a disturbance because the Roman Catholics could not get a site for a chapel which they wished to build; but the proprietor of the land said—"If you will show me that there are enough of you to extend beyond the cover of an umbrella, I will take care that you have a site; but I do not think you ought to be supplied with a site in order that you may bring Roman Catholics here who did not exist here before." I have seen in little villages small chapels scarcely bigger than the Table rising up side by side, the Churches having split upon some very abstruse points of theology. That, I think, is what would happen under this Bill. With a view to prevent a Division which may be misconstrued and misunderstood, I say that we are ready to assent to the other parts of the Bill, provided that we shall not be called upon to sanction the compulsory powers contained in it.
Sir, on the part of the Government, I am glad to be able, without approving of every part of the Bill, to express my assent to the second reading. I understand the Bill to have three objects. The first is to make compulsory provision for schools. The second is to enlarge the powers of limited owners, whether tenants for life, tenants in tail, trustees, or corporations, so as to enable them to do for Dissenting places of worship that which they are now enabled to do for churches and schools. The third object is to introduce a large change in the law, and to give, under certain limitations, compulsory powers for the acquisition of land for churches and chapels. With regard to schools, inasmuch as there has not been hitherto any legislation which fully meets the wants of the case, it would be unfair for the Government to oppose the second reading of the Bill simply because we ourselves propose to deal with that point. The Education Bill has not made any provision for the compulsory acquisition of land; and though we are considering the desirability of introducing clauses to give that power wherever a local Board shall be established, still those clauses have not yet been laid upon the Table of the House. With regard to the second object Of the Bill—the enlargement of the powers of limited owners, so as to enable them voluntarily to grant sites for Dissenting 1397 chapels—that seems to be a very proper object. A case occurred, a short time ago, to a noble Lord who is a Member of the Cabinet. He was applied to by a Wesleyan body to give them a grant of land for the site of a chapel, and he was quite willing to do so; but, being only a tenant for life, he was unable, though he could have granted it for a church or a school. A statement of that kind is sufficient, I think, to secure the adhesion of Members on both sides of the House to the opinion that a change in the law in that respect is desirable. The third part of the Bill is that which relates to the compulsory acquisition of land. Now, in reference to that very important part of the Bill, it will be admitted on all hands that for such a provision a very strong case of necessity ought to be made out. The circumstances of the great disruption of the Scottish Church have been mentioned, whore at one moment a secession took place of from 400 to 500 ministers, and from 700,000 to 800,000 people. That was a case of extreme necessity. Provision had to be made for the religious worship of a large portion of the population. At that time the passions of the people had been excited, and as the great bulk of the land was in the hands of those who remained with the Established Church, and who looked upon the secession with great indignation and alarm, great difficulty was at first experienced by the Free Kirk in obtaining sites for places of worship. A Bill was introduced into Parliament on the subject, giving compulsory powers for the acquisition of such sites, but that Bill was referred to a Select Committee, which found, on inquiry, that a great change had gradually come over the spirit of owners of property in Scotland, and that provision had been made for the spiritual wants of more than 700,000 members of the Free Kirk, leaving only some 14,000 unprovided for, and the Committee decided that it was not necessary to make any such change in the law. I have not heard of any great difficulty being experienced in Scotland since that time. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr.H. Richard) frankly acknowledged that the landowners of this country, in the great majority of instances, were willing to grant sites for chapels; but also stated that there were occasions when land was refused for sites. I do not deny that cases 1398 of difficulty may sometimes occur in Wales; and if those cases were widespread they would, perhaps, justify this important change in the law, but, I confess, I do not think they do exist to that extent which would afford sufficient ground for the passing of this Bill with its present compulsory powers. My hon. and learned Friend who introduced the Bill (Mr. G. O. Morgan) rested his case on the assumption that chapels were built for purposes of public utility, and that whore a landlord refused to furnish a site for them there was, on the part of the State, a sufficient reason for compelling him to do so. But are chapels the only works of public utility, the erection of which may be obstructed by narrow-minded landlords? A landlord cannot be compelled to furnish a site for an hospital, for a town hall, for a workhouse, or even for such a public work as a magazine of arms. To enforce that sort of legislation in this case, which would only deal with a very limited area, would, I think, be most undesirable. I am, however, happy to see an earnest desire on all sides to deal with the question as far as schools are concerned, and to put Dissenters in the same position as Churchmen with regard to the possession of sites; and I shall have great pleasure on behalf of the Government in agreeing to the second reading of the Bill under the limitations I have mentioned.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire (Mr.Gr. O. Morgan) had referred to the case of railways, and had said, with reference to the compulsory powers acquired by railway companies, that while noblemen's parks were protected, poor men were turned out of their homes unscrupulously and promiscuously. The hon. Gentleman was apparently ignorant of the fact that, by an Order of the House of Lords, made in 1853, no Railway Bill, which involved the demolition of fifteen or more houses of poor people could be allowed to pass through that House until it was proved to the satisfaction of their Lordships, on the certificate of two justices of the peace, that means had been taken to provide for the housing of the persons who were to be so turned out of their dwellings. This Bill, in point of fact, was of the nature of a Private Bill, and was equivalent to an enactment that the requirement for sites of this character was a public 1399 necessity. In the case of other Private Bills the promoters were always required to prove the Preamble of their measures by evidence before a Select Committee; but the allegations made in support of this Bill, even supposing they could be proved by evidence, were not such as would induce a Committee of either House of Parliament to pass the Preamble of a Bill which proposed to take away a man's private property.
said, understanding that the Bill was to have all the compulsory powers taken out of it, he regretted, that it was not introduced without them. They ought all to be ready to help each other, and he did not believe there was anyone in the House who would not be glad to remove any disability so as to enable persons to do what they wished with their own property. One or two things, however, had been said which deserved notice. The hon. Member who moved the second reading (Mr. G. O. Morgan) warned people to set their houses in order. To say the least of it, it was an ugly expression, and to use such expressions was not a good way of promoting Bills like these, which demanded mutual concession. He thought there was no analogy between taking land for a railway or for a public purpose and taking land for the object set forth in the Bill. What a queer kind of public purpose the hon. Member had set up! If fifty persons living within four miles of a given spot could petition, it could be open to fifty persons in London to call upon the Benchers of Lincoln's Inn to show cause why they should not allow a chapel to be erected in Lincoln's Inn Fields. As to the want of accommodation for religious purposes, did anyone mean to say that in any appreciable degree it arose from the inability to obtain sites? Did it not arise much more from the want of means to pay for them than from the inability to get them? There was no analogy between the compulsory powers already given and those proposed to be conferred by the Bill. As it was desirable that no disagreeable feeling should be roused upon a question of this sort, he was glad the Government was disposed to put the matter in a different shape. There were many other public purposes, such as the provision of lunatic asylums and workhouses, in respect of which there were no compulsory powers, for the good sense of the people 1400 led them to accommodate each other. It would be very inconvenient to give A or B the power of selecting a particular site, saying—"I want that particular site, and I will have it whether the owner likes it or not."
MR. HINDE PALMER
said, his name appeared on the back of the Bill, and he did not wish to recede from the compulsory provisions. When he first gave the sanction of his name to the Bill he stipulated that the compulsory powers should be accompanied with sufficient safeguards and guarantees against the improper exercise of them, and he could not help thinking, notwithstanding what had been said, that there were substantial guarantees in the Bill against any improper exercise of compulsory powers. The reason for selecting the Enclosure Commissioners was that they constituted an impartial tribunal, uninfluenced by local considerations, who had been accustomed to investigations of this description. He could quite understand the disinclination of an owner to have a building put up in an inconvenient place where it would be an annoyance to him, and one clause of the Bill was an express provision to guard against such a contingency, for it said that no order should authorize the—Taking of all or any part of any dwelling-house, or the curtilage thereof, or of any park, garden, or pleasure-ground held or enjoyed therewith, &.And in Committee he should be prepared to give even greater protection, and to say that if the Commissioners were satisfied that it was impossible to put the Act in force without causing annoyance or injury to a proprietor, their sanction should not be given to the order asked for. Almost everyone knew there were instances in which landed proprietors had refused land for chapels and schools; there was ample evidence of the necessity for the Bill; and the only question was, whether it surrounded the exercise of these compulsory powers with sufficient safeguards which would prevent their being exercised in a manner which should be unnecessarily annoying to the proprietor whose land was taken. He understood the Commissioners would have the fullest power of investigating every application that was made, and of defeating any attempt at abuse, and that they would be prepared to withhold their sanction from any sub- 1401 stantial annoyance to a landowner. This was by no means the first occasion in which similar powers had been given by Parliament. The Towns Improvement Act carried a compulsory power very much further than this Bill did, for it gave authority to the trustees or Commissioners under the Act to take any land they chose for a place of public recreation, and there was in the Act no guarantee such, as was afforded by this Bill for a preliminary inquiry by an impartial tribunal. The hon. Member who moved the second reading of the Bill (Mr. G. O. Morgan) had fully made out his case, and it was hardly necessary to do so by citing individual instances. Of course, there were many landed proprietors who had acted in a liberal and generous manner in granting sites for schools and churches, and in contributing munificently to the erection of them; but it was equally notorious there were men, with feelings which should be respected to some extent; but who had refused sites under such circumstances that it was right, with proper safeguards, to subject them to compulsory powers.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he wished distinctly to understand, whether it was intended in Committee to press the compulsory clauses, which were really the sting of the Bill? If they were to be pressed he should oppose the Bill on the ground that it was an arbitrary interference with the rights of property. He would be the last to offer objection to facilitating the acquisition of sites for these purposes; but there was a great difference between doing a thing voluntarily and being compelled to do it.
SIR JOHN HANMER
said, that, as a Welsh representative who had had a great deal of experience of the Principality, he must demur to those representations of the acts of Welsh landlords which had been made several times by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard). He (Sir John Hanmer) had always found the Welsh proprietors generous and quite willing to accede to any just and reasonable demand. For the county of Flint he could testify that there was not a single landed proprietor, Liberal or Conservative, who was animated by any illiberal feeling towards Dissenters.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he was in hopes, after what had been said 1402 by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that this question was virtually settled by that common agreement which was so much better than a Division; but he now feared, from the speech of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Hinde Palmer), that the views of the right hon. Gentleman were not assented to; and, under these circumstances, his Friends and himself were to a certain extent placed in a difficult position. He opposed the compulsory clauses of the Bill on the general ground that every man, whether Churchman, Roman Catholic, or Dissenter, was responsible for the management of his property in the way which seemed to him to be the best. He (Lord John Manners) had recently been over Sir Titus Salt's magnificent manufacturing establishment and the town of Saltaire, and had found it to be one of the most admirable and well-arranged that he had ever seen. Every provision was made for the physical, social, and moral improvement of the workpeople, and everything done to promote their happiness and comfort according to the views of its founder. But there were two things which Sir Titus Salt objected to have upon his property, and those were a church and a public-house. That might, perhaps, arise from a whim; but from whatever cause Sir Titus objected to these institutions, his opinion was certainly to be respected. The property was his own, and he had a right to manage it as he liked. This Bill, however, if it were passed, would put it in the power of fifty persons to compel Sir Titus to grant land for the erection of a Church of England place of worship. Against such an action he (Lord John Manners) protested, and he would also protest against any interference with a Roman Catholic landowner on the like principle. In such matters, and in this land of liberty, it was far better to trust to public opinion than to endeavour to override the actions of individual proprietors. For these reasons he would object to the compulsory clauses of the Bill; but relying on the statement of the Secretary of State for the Home Department for their elimination in Committee, he would not oppose the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he must ask the House to take care that it dealt fairly with the hon. Member who introduced the Bill (Mr. G. O. Morgan). The hon. 1403 Member said he knew certain parts of Wales in which these compulsory powers were absolutely necessary; and, whether he was right or wrong, compulsion was the principle of the Bill. Although the Secretary of State for the Home Department might be quite right in disapproving of that principle, yet, according to Parliamentary law and usage, the right hon. Gentleman had no alternative but to say, on the second reading, that he accepted or rejected that principle; and if the hon. Member adhered to that principle, and did not accept the views of the Home Secretary, he had a right to take the sense of the House upon the principle of the Bill. It seemed to him that the case of the hon. Member was the simplest ever stated. He said he knew of his own knowledge that there were congregations who were compelled to come before the House and ask that they might not be limited and restrained in their efforts to obtain a place of worship, by the manner in which certain tracts of land were monopolized by one or two large proprietors. He should have thought that would have been sufficient, and that the House would have said it was a grievance that ought to be redressed. He thought the hon. Member was judicious in not embarrassing the discussion with personal allusions; and it was unnecessary to do so, for he quoted from a document laid on the Table of the House a strong statement of the grievance. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment (Mr. G. B. Gregory) admitted the necessity for giving increased facilities to acquire sites; but said that, while education, morality, and religion were valuable, the rights of property were more valuable still. This principle of the rights of property was a horse that of late had been ridden rather too hard. He denied absolutely that there were any such rights of property as were contended for on the other side of the House. There wore no rights of property except rights created by law; they were creations of law, and what the law had created it might alter, enlarge, or restrain, as it had done in the case of railways. All that the Dissenters asked was, that the landowner, in some nook or corner of his land, should give a site for a fair sum of money, where religious service in accordance with the Bible might be performed. The law of pro- 1404 perty varied in different countries—in one, land was monopolized in the hands of a few proprietors; in another, it was perpetually subdivided; but the principle of all law was the advantage of the community; all law was made for the good of the community. In the case of railways we took private property, on giving compensation, for the sake of the public advantage; we gave compulsory powers to a company of speculators, who promoted the railway for the purpose of traffic; but when other men asked the House to give them the power of obtaining land for a place of worship, they were told that this was an inferior purpose. We denied to those who wished to promote the moral and religious elevation and improvement of the community, a privilege which we gave to those who had commercial objects in view. The difference between the two as regarded the State was this—giving facility of transit might be a matter of expediency or policy; but giving facility for public worship was a sacred obligation. Wales was in a worse position than Ireland in this respect—the landowners belonged more entirely to one Church and the population to another, and the reason was the fault of the Church of England. One of the first votes he gave in the House was in favour of a proposition that no clergyman should be appointed to a living in Wales who did not understand the Welsh language; it was opposed by the Government of the day, headed by Lord John Bussell, and also by Sir Robert Peel; but the combination of the front Benches was beaten, and a rule was established which had been in operation ever since. But the consequence of the contrary rule previously observed was that Wales was made a hotbed of Dissent; and although, as a Churchman, he regretted this, he would say it was impossible to exaggerate the obligations of all Christians to the Dissenters. They were active when the Church was idle, and he should like to ask what would have become of the populations of our great towns if the Dissenters had not penetrated into holes and corners which the Church did not enter? If Churchmen might congratulate themselves on the increased zeal of their Church, they must yet in a more Christian spirit than formerly acknowledge Dissenters as fellow-workers in the same vineyard in which there was work for both 1405 to do in generous and Christian rivalry, instead of flying, as formerly, at each other's throats. The fact was, we must acknowledge Dissent had become an institution, not established by the law, but by something stronger than the law. For these reasons, if the hon. Member felt that these compulsory powers were necessary, he should feel it his duty to support him. It was evidently a misunderstanding of the Bill to suppose that any piece of land could be selected and compulsorily taken—that Dissenters might ask for a site under a landowner's window, or in his park. The intending purchasers were bound to show that they could not got land by agreement elsewhere; and if the owner offered to let them have a suitable site their case fell to the ground. But when Dissenters asked for a site, was it not a monstrous thing that there should be found a man who could say—"No; there is my church; to be sure it is empty; go and fill it? There is my minister, appointed under the law of patronage, which does not make spiritual gifts a qualification for the spiritual office; if you do not go to this church and listen to this minister you may go your way; my estate may be a spiritual wilderness, but I will have upon it no place of worship for those less orthodox than myself, and who don't believe in those Thirty-nine Articles which I have never read, and which, if I did read, I should probably not understand." That such things should be said even by a few proprietors was a monstrous thing, and for these reasons, and under the particular circumstances of the case, it was impossible for him not to accept the principle of the Bill. Let Amendments be made in Committee; but as a protest against the possibility of such an abuse of power he should heartily support the compulsory principle of the Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished to call attention to the very peculiar position in which the House was placed. The Bill contained most extraordinary compulsory powers for the seizure—he could call it by no other name—of land belonging to any proprietor, if fifty persons resident within four miles desired to possess it, for the purpose of building a school or a chapel: and the 15th clause provided that, though no chapel or school were built during five years from the seizure, the land should, during that 1406 period, remain in the hands of the persons who had taken possession of it, provided that they did not leave it for one whole year totally unused for their ostensible purpose. Notwithstanding this, however, the Secretary of State for the Home Department seemed to be so enamoured of the object stated in the Preamble of the Bill that he totally diregarded the principle of the Bill, which, as in the case of every Bill, was to be found in the method and in the means by which the Bill proposed to attain the object set forth in the Preamble. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that he objected to the compulsory powers which the Bill would confer, and that, nevertheless, he should vote for the second reading. A great number of hon. Members had left the House on the understanding that the compulsory powers would not be insisted upon, and after they had left, the hon. Members who had charge of the Bill, declared that they intended to adhere to the compulsory principle and clauses of the Bill, no matter how much the Home Secretary might object to them. Therefore, it was clear that, unless the House intended to sanction the compulsory powers, they must vote against the second reading; and, if they did so, the Division could not be a fair one, because hon. Members had left the House, mistakenly believing that the Home Secretary represented the supreme direction which regulated the Ministerial side of the House. He therefore saw nothing for it but to vote against the Motion for the second reading of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) admitted that there were such things as the rights of property; but contended that they existed in different countries under different conditions, and, being the creation of law, could be altered by the same power that gave them being. But, in saying this, the right hon. Gentleman lost sight of the fact that in this country the rights of property were the foundation of the people's freedom, and he was urgently in favour of the principle of these compulsory clauses which would violate the rights of property. Yet the right hon. Gentleman promised support to the Bill, which proceeded on the assumption that the Legislature was ready to delegate to the Copyhold Commissioners the power of defining what the rights of property 1407 consisted in, without even reserving to itself the power to review the proceedings of the Commissioners. The Bill said that not more than £150 should be granted as compensation to owners for the two acres of land taken under the Act, though such land might be situate in the centre of the City of London, and, therefore, might be of much greater value. Opinions seemed to differ as to the interpretation to be put upon the Bill; but he maintained that, truly interpreted, its provisions would give compulsory power for the acquisition of land, and were vicious in principle, because they proceeded on the assumption that the desire of some few scattered individuals to possess two acres of their neighbour's land justified the seizure of it—that, as some few landlords abused their proprietorial privileges, the whole class should be deprived of the rights of property; while the fact that the great majority of the landlords behaved liberally as to granting sites for schools and chapels was used to justify this attempt to deprive them of their rights in their own property. The right hon. Member for Liskeard, when he referred to the Church of England, characterized it thus—he called it "the landlords' Church," and described the landlords as refusing land for building any other place of worship, and roundly telling all the inhabitants of each parish—"Here is my church, come and worship; here is my clergyman, come and listen to him," seemed to forget that, during 10 years he opposed the Church Rate Commutation Bill, which he (Mr. Newdegate) had, Session after Session, introduced, which had proposed to give the inhabitants of each parish a right in the property of the parish, a charge equal to half the average amount of church rate, and would have conferred upon the Vestry, the representatives of the inhabitants, a powerful voice with reference to their means for public worship. In Wales, the want of such a power had led to a feeling of alienation between people and clergy, by having enabled clergymen, holding erroneous opinions, to introduce their own interpretations of doctrine and ritual into the services of the Church. The House had, in its kindly feelings, been led to overlook the great principle of property on which the Constitution rested. The great difficulty of the French Emperor, in his efforts to render con- 1408 stitutional the State and Government of France, had been that the country had no proprietary class on which he could found a governmental organization such as England possessed. Though this was a small Bill it involved great principles. The right hon. Gentleman the hon. Member for Liskeard said it was intended to enable persons in various localities to worship according to the Bible, and to have the Bible taught to them; but, as a matter of fact, the Bill contained no single word in reference to the Bible, and was, in other particulars, so loosely constructed, that it might afford abundant means for the perpetration of abuses. Let the House take an instance from his own experience—"An active magistrate, Churchman, and politician, gave great offence in his last-named capacity to a wealthy Quaker, who, for a short time, retorted by paying all the fines which the magistrate inflicted in the course of his duty. Finding this, however, a somewhat costly amusement, he bought a piece of land in the parish where the magistrate was the principal landowner, and, having built a chapel, advertised for a congregation." The present Bill would have enabled the Quaker to procure a more complete satisfaction, because had the whole parish belonged, to the magistrate, he would still have been able to force two acres of his land from him. It was said that the Bill did not apply to Ireland because, in that country, the Bequests Act of 1844 rendered it unnecessary; but hon. Members could scarcely; have forgotten that three Sessions ago the present Judge Advocate General (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) brought in a Bill to procure glebes of 20 acres each for Roman Catholic priests, sites for Roman Catholic chapels, and sites for Roman Catholic schools, which Bill would have set aside both the Bequests Act and Law of Mortmain, by enabling tenants for life, limited owners, to alienate property for these purposes, while the property thus obtained was to be vested in each Roman Catholic Bishop as a corporation sole. Such was the blindness of the Liberalism of many hon. Members that they seemed incapable of understanding that there were in this country, and among them, the representatives of a power which was totally illiberal, and prompt at any time to take advantage of the laxness of Liberalism 1409 in order to accomplish, their own purposes. It had cost him (Mr. Newdegate) much trouble to effect his purpose; but he was happy to say that, on his Motion, the House rejected that Bill. Under all these circumstances, if the hon. Member for East Suffolk (Mr. G. B. Gregory) pressed his Amendment to a Division, he should vote with him against the second reading of the Bill.
wished to say a few words in explanation of the repeated misconstructions that had been put upon his statement. The hon. Member said that the principle of the Bill lay in the compulsory powers it proposed to confer, and that he (Mr. Bruce) opposed those compulsory powers; but that was not what he actually did say. Without doubt the main principle of the Bill was compulsion as regarded the provision of schools and churches; but he only supported that principle so far as the schools were concerned, and opposed the compulsory provision of churches and chapels.
§ MR. PEASE
said, that if the Bill became law it would affect Churchman and Dissenter alike. After the manner in which it was proposed to go into Committee on the Bill he was prepared to vote for the second reading, as he thought a primâa facie case had been made out for passing a measure to enable Dissenters in Wales to procure sites for chapels and schools, though not for such legislation as the Bill proposed. He thought the Enclosure Commissioners a most awkward tribunal to decide whether a church should be built on the Dissenter's ground, or a chapel upon the ground of a Churchman. He should be sorry, however, to think that the state of things in Wales existed throughout the kingdom; indeed, he knew that it did not, for, in the Auckland district of the county of Durham—a division of which he had the honour to represent—one branch of the Dissenters had expended some £22,000 in six years, and had experienced no real difficulty in securing sites for their chapels and schools. That county was at one time a strictly ecclesiastical county. The Church possessed a large part of the landed property in it; but so neglected its duties that the population went wholesale into the arms of Dissent. He knew a colliery district in which when Dissenters applied to a nobleman for a site in a particular village, he declined to accede to their re- 1410 quest on the ground that he had given ground on which a church had been built for the spiritual necessities of the parish, and that there was a British and Foreign School in the village, which was used on Sundays for religious service by the Dissenters. He (Mr. Pease) looked forward to a time which he might never see—it might be fifty years hence, it might be but five years hence—when the Church of England would no longer be the Established Church of the country—but when that Church would be animated by a stronger spirit of zeal and proselytism; and when it would seek to vie with other denominations everywhere in the establishment of places of worship and schools, the effect of this Bill might not, under these circumstances, be quite what the promoters desired, He wished the provisions of the Bill to be carefully considered and modified in Committee, and he should therefore give his vote for the second reading.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, he hoped the hon. Member for East Sussex would not think it his duty to divide the House on the Amendment he had proposed. The Government had undertaken the responsibility of passing a Bill such as the Home Secretary promised to make the present one when it got into Committee, and whenever any Government undertook such a responsibility it was well to leave it in their hands. He agreed with the Home Secretary that, in the present aspect of the education question, some compulsory powers might be desirable as to the acquisition of school sites. He equally agreed with him in the apprehension with which he regarded the concession of rights of compulsory purchase by Act of Parliament for places of worship. If there was a Division it would be due to some hon. Members on the Government side of the House, though not in any way to the hon. Member who had just spoken in conciliatory, but he hoped not prophetic terms as to the Church of England and its future. On the other hand, nothing could have been more thoroughly out of place than the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard. He could not conceive what had induced the right hon. Gentleman to make his appearance in the unusual and not well-dressed part of Saul among the Prophets. It might be that the right hon. Gentleman was attuning his high eloquence in order to 1411 bring it to the level of the phraseology usual in those tea parties, blanket clubs, and other select evening celebrations which very probably he would have to attend during the coming Recess. But, if this was the only excuse, the speech was utterly inexcusable. After the debate had gone on for some time with great moderation the right hon. Gentleman in accents most touching and thrilling, in the attitude of supplication he so well knew how to assume, and adopting a tone of voice which a critic could most aptly describe if the orator had been speaking on the first instead of the fourth day of the week, brought forward an elaborate accusation against the Church of England in the form of an overt laudation of its opponents. From first to last the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was a strong provocation of religious jealousy, although couched in the guarded language of a well-practised fencer. In a new Member of the House such a course could be excused; but for one who, like the right hon. Gentleman, had long Parliamentary experience, and had held high Office, it was a grave offence to try and turn the whole current of a debate like the present on a grave practical subject into the channel of sectional strife and discord. With regard to the Bill itself he was willing to see legislation take such a course as would place Churchmen and Dissenters on a level, as far as the procuring sites for places of worship and schools was concerned. He would accept some change, if it could be shown that change was needed in order to attain the level; but where change would put Dissenters at a superiority, there he would stop. Examining the Bill with these principles to guide him, and remarking the proposal to give to any fifty men within a circuit of four miles power to claim absolute freehold right to a building site on the simple plea that it was for a place of worship, he must observe that it was absurd to say the same right would be given to Churchmen as to Dissenters, because Churchmen desirous of building a church would first have to satisfy the Bishop of the diocese that they were disposed to give an endowment of at least £100 a year to their minister. This, which must be done before they could build the church and get it recognized by the final approbation of the Queen in Council, 1412 would involve months of negotiation, and counting the cost of the church itself, and ultimately of the parsonage, an outlay of at least £6,000 or £7,000, and, probably, £10,000. But, on the other hand, a young man of promise, or of that self-opinion which went for promise, having an impression that he had a mission to preach the Gospel, would get fifty signatures to a petition, where the act of signing involved no expense for the present and no responsibility for the future, and come down upon some landed proprietor and demand a piece of land. The land obtained, he could put up a building at a cost of, perhaps, not more than £80, with an immediate effect on the market value of the lot and a shrewd calculation of pew-rents; and in his first sermon he would, perhaps, incite another young man of promise to a similar proceeding. Thus split would follow split, and schism schism as the direct and inevitable result of this measure. Would Dissenters appreciate this fostering of insubordination among themselves? He believed the Bill would be more damaging to the old established sects of Dissenters than to the Church, for the Dissenter was under no legal obligations as to endowment, conveyance, and consecration, which were elements of heavy expense in regard to church building, and new chapels and new sects could be multiplied by him to any extent. While assenting, therefore, to the second reading of the Bill, he objected to the compulsory powers it proposed to confer as to sites for places of worship, and hoped its promoters would show some conciliation and liberality in Committee.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, that in speaking on questions of this kind, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down sometimes became the victim of his love of fun, and said things which were very cutting to those who differed from him. The hon. Gentleman had said that this Bill would work more favourably for Dissenters than for Churchmen; but that would arise from the self-imposed difficulties of Churchmen, and not from the provisions of the Bill. There was no doubt that a grievance existed, and the fact that this Bill applied only to a few cases did not make the grievance less in those particular cases. Some of the provisions of the Bill had been misrepresented in the course of the debate. It 1413 was not the fact that any fifty dissatisfied persons would have the power to take a piece of land in the centre of a populous town, for there was no power to take any dwelling-house, nor could any park, garden, or pleasure-ground whatever be taken. And if vacant ground were taken in any town, then the value of it must be paid. It had been said that two acres of ground might be taken and held without being utilized for five years; but the fact was that it could only be so held for twelve months. The proposal to eliminate the compulsory clauses he should most steadfastly oppose; with them gone, the Bill would be at an end. It had been said that the Bill was an infringement of the rights of property, but there was no property upon which the law did not impose restrictions; a man, for instance, could not so use his property as to infringe the rights of another. No right was sacrificed when land was taken, if its full value was paid. The principle of this Bill was, that people should have places in which to worship God according to their consciences; and there were no rights of property that should be allowed to override the higher rights of conscience. The principle of the Bill, in other words, was, that proprietary rights should be limited in favour of the rights of conscience, and that there should be compulsory power to take land. He hoped that the Bill would be withdrawn rather than the compulsory power should be given up.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished to correct what he had said. He admitted that if land were taken upon the Thames Embankment under this Bill, the price would have to be settled by arbitration.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, he joined in the hope expressed by the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope), that the Amendment would not be pressed to a Division on the present occasion. He would point out that the speeches on the Liberal side of the House had, on the whole, been against the measure as it stood, though not against the Preamble, to which few could take exception, because it simply declared that it was expedient to give facilities for the acquisition of sites for places of worship and schools. That Preamble did not warrant some of the interpretations that had been put upon the Bill by the hon. Member for Sunder- 1414 land (Mr. Candlish). The course he (Mr. Mowbray) took was founded upon the anticipation that, in Committee, the promoters of the Bill would not insist on the compulsory principle. Looking at the Bill itself, he agreed with the view which the Government had taken of it, and he could never accept it but for the modifications which the Government required.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, that he would withdraw his Amendment. In doing so, he acted upon what had been said by the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), and upon the pledge given by the Government that in Committee they would use their influence to convert the Bill into a voluntary one, giving the facilities for the acquisition of sites for chapels that were now afforded by the Church Building Acts in the case of churches. The provisions relating to schools would be more properly dealt with in the Education Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday 15th June.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
gave notice that, upon the Motion for going into Committee, he should move that the House go into Committee upon that day six months.