§ Order for Second Reading read.
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that the Resolution which had last year been brought forward on the subject by the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), and which was rejected by a small majority, had been commended by him to the favourable consideration of the House on the ground that the long-pending controversy respecting burials in churchyards ought to be closed. If the Resolution had stopped there, there was not, he felt assured, a single hon. Member on either side of the House who would dissent from it; for he believed there was among all religious and political parties but one desire—namely, that this controversy should come to an end. He believed the present Bill contained a plan by which that object might be effected. 1448 So strongly was he of that opinion, that he had been induced to bring it forward in opposition to the wishes of many hon. Friends of his sitting around him, with whom in Church matters he generally concurred, and also against the wishes of the Government which he usually supported. Having made that remark, he thought it would be sufficient if he were to detail very shortly the main provisions of his Bill, the chief principle in which appeared to have been overlooked or misunderstood by many persons who had discussed it, and notably by a very influential newspaper in an article which it contained this morning. The main and central provision of the Bill had been put down by him on the Notice Paper as early as 1877, in the form of an Amendment upon the Motion of which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had given Notice, but did not bring forward. He had again put it down last Session, and it was now embodied as a substantive proposition in the present Bill, which had been drafted by his noble Friend (Lord Francis Hervey). Roughly speaking, the Bill had been drawn to attain three objects. The first was to give relief to the Clergy of the Established Church, and the provisions relating to that part of the subject would be found chiefly in the last clause of the measure. Another object was the preservation of the endowments to their original purpose. It was the more necessary that he should say something in reference to this portion of the Bill, because Petitions had been circulated among Members of both Houses of Parliament, in which it was stated that his Bill interfered with the rights of property, by handing over property originally given to the Church to the Nonconformists. That was a peculiarly gratuitous assumption, because by the 10th clause of the Bill its provisions were not to apply in the case where gifts of land for the purposes of burial had been made to the Church within the last 50 years. Therefore, whatever else might be said against the Bill, it could not be contended that it unduly interfered with the wishes of Church donors. But, important as they were, these two points were subordinate. The third and main object he sought to attain would be found in the 6th clause and the 7th section of the 10th 1449 clause. These two clauses taken together embraced the real marrow of his measure. By those two portions of the Bill it was provided that every single Nonconformist throughout the country, wherever he might have lived and wherever he might die, should be buried in the churchyard with such religious services as his friends might approve, cave being taken, at the same time, that this gift should be handed over to the Nonconformists without any violation of the principle under which Church property was held. He conceived that his Bill was the only one of the six before the House which would attain these two desired objects. He admitted that his measure might be described as a compromise, and that it could not, therefore, any more than other compromises, afford full satisfaction to everybody; but he claimed for it the merit that, while on the one hand it gave to the Dissenters all that they could reasonably ask, it did not take from the Church its property. The main grievance which the Nonconformists had, and of which they had made a most successful political use, was that, as the law stood, they might have to be buried with forms which they disapproved in their lifetime, and of which their surviving relatives also disapproved. That was undoubtedly a substantial and a real grievance. He would not stay to inquire how that grievance originally arose, but that it existed no one even on the side of the House on which he sat would be bold enough to deny, and as it did exist it was only fair that it should be removed. His Bill really did remove it. So much for the Nonconformists. Looking at the measure from the point of view of the Established Church, he might bring forward considerations of a somewhat similar character. The debates in that House on this subject showed that hon. Members who had voted against the Bill of the hon. and learned Member opposite regarded the measures he had introduced as intended to be a step towards Disestablishment. Whether that was the intention with which the hon. and learned Member had introduced his Bills it was not for him to inquire; but certainly those measures had the appearance of having been introduced with that object, and it was clear that the principle upon which those Bills were supported might 1450 be applied with equal force to the churches as well as to the churchyards. It appeared to him, and also to the noble Lord who was associated with him on this question, that no Churchman could assent to a principle which would lead to Disestablishment, and therefore they had constantly voted against the Bills introduced by the hon. and learned Member. By the present measure, however, that dangerous principle was altogether avoided, because the gift to the Nonconformists was in some cases only temporary, and in all cases conditional. If Nonconformists had an absolute right to the churchyards then his Bill was unjust, because it gave them no indefeasible right to the churchyards. For instance, the Nonconformists would have no right to be buried in the churchyards under the Bill if there was a cemetery within three miles of such churchyard; and whenever a cemetery was established within that distance the right of the Nonconformists to be buried in the churchyard would cease. The course of historical events had no doubt produced a grievance, and he suggested a method by which that grievance should be dealt with; but, in doing so, he did not in any sense hand over ecclesiastical property to Nonconformists. It was an abuse of language to characterize the provisions of his Bill as having that effect. He therefore thought he had shown, on the one side, that the legitimate Nonconformist grievance was done away with, and, on the other, he had shown Churchmen that they would not be giving up any principle on which their right to ecclesiastical property depended, and that nothing done by this Bill could be used hereafter as an argument in support of Disestablishment. Having thus stated the main principle of his measure, he had nothing more to do but to commend it earnestly to the attention of hon. Members on both sides of the House. To his Nonconformist Friends he would say that they had been accused, justly or unjustly, of inventing or manufacturing grievances for political purposes, and that they had been accused of using those grievances with great skill as weapons for attaining their object of Disestablishment. They had been accused of using one set of arguments when they wanted to get rid of the church rates, and of using another set 1451 of arguments of an entirely opposite character now they wanted to get a footing in the churchyards. This, therefore, was the time for them to show that those accusations were groundless, by voting in favour of his Bill. If the main principles of his measure were accepted by hon. Members opposite, it would show that the motives which had formerly actuated them were either misunderstood or had lost their force. Unless, however, he had been greatly misinformed, he was afraid that his Bill would meet with a much less serious opposition from hon. Members opposite than from his hon. Friends around him. He sincerely trusted that this would not be the case. The grievances under which the Nonconformists suffered were confined to a few persons in a limited number of rural parishes; but the anxiety under which Churchmen suffered in respect of this question must be felt by every member of the Established Church. There was great danger to the Church Establishment through the impolitic resistance of Churchmen, who ought to be even more anxious than hon. Members opposite for a settlement of this vexed question. He had been compared to a General who, instead of holding out a stubborn resistance to the enemy, retreated when defeat was imminent; but if a strategic parallel were to be drawn, he would rather say that he was like a General who declined to fight for an outpost, which could be maintained only by an overwhelming sacrifice, and which could not in any case be held for long. He had often been asked tauntingly by hon. Members whether he intended to conciliate political Nonconformists by this act of concession? He expected to do no such thing. It would be a very poor compliment indeed to the political Nonconformists, who sought the Disestablishment of the Church, to expect that they would be content with accepting a right to be buried in a few churchyards in satisfaction of their far wider claims. But while he had no hope of conciliating them, he did expect, by means of this concession, to remove from their hands one of the most efficient and formidable weapons against the Established Church which they possessed. This was a question which, of all others, should not be fought by Churchmen à l'outrance. In the first place, the subject was one that 1452 appeared to the people at large, who had naturally little acquaintance with the historical aspects of the controversy, to be one which affected the Clergy rather than the Laity, and the privileges of the Clergy rather than their duties. This fact alone made the question a difficult one to fight; but, in the next place, the whole attitude of the Church had about it a flavour of intolerance, although, in strict point of fact, the law was not intolerant, inasmuch as no pressure whatever was brought to bear upon a man to induce him to change his opinions. There, however, was undoubtedly something shocking to the feelings in compelling a man's relations to see a service performed over him after death to which he objected during his lifetime. If any demonstration of this fact was required, it would be found in the opinions entertained in Scotland and in Ireland, and in the divisions which had occurred on this subject in both Houses of Parliament. In Scotland and in Ireland, of course, the question was no doubt imperfectly understood; but people in those parts of the United Kingdom regarded the attitude which had been taken by the Church of England on this subject as the mere insanity of intolerance. The divisions in both Houses of Parliament showed the tendency of the feeling which was entertained on this question by the average Laity of this country. No one would pretend to say that if it was supposed that the passing of a measure of this kind was a mere stepping-stone to Disestablishment and to a sequestration of Church property, that the divisions in the two Houses would have been what they were. The tendency of the large class of floating opinion was decidedly in favour of the Church; but it was not wedded to it by an indissoluble tie, and if it once received such a shock as would send it over to the Nonconformists, the days of Church Establishment would be numbered. It was evident to the eyes of all who could understand the signs of the times that this concession to the Nonconformists could not be much longer delayed. That concession, however, might be made in several ways. If wrested from Churchmen against their will, it might become a stepping-stone towards Disestablishment; but if made with sufficient safeguards, it might become an additional 1453 bulwark against it. In this way it might either become favourable to Churchmen or to the political Nonconformists. It was now within the power of Churchmen—and who knew how long it might be within their power? but it was certainly within their power now—to accept the more favourable of these alternatives, and he earnestly prayed his hon. Friends around him to assist him in carrying it. He wished to impress upon them that in trying to keep all they risked all; and that, from too great a determination to retain the churchyards in their power, they were endangering the whole fabric of the Established Church. In conclusion, he begged to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Balfour.)
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE,
in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said: I have to thank my hon. Friend, to whose eloquence we have been listening, for having made what is as good a speech as a man could make for his case, and by no means a bad speech, too, on my side. I have also to thank my noble Friend (Lord Francis Hervey), who was the draftsman of the Bill. It is very well drafted, as we might reasonably expect. No man in this House is so competent to draft a Bill on this subject as my noble Friend; for, whatever else our churchyards may be, everyone must own that they are "ancient monuments." I must also congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), and other hon. Gentlemen I see opposite, on having selected, or having had bestowed upon them, so admirable a fugleman of their cause. My hon. and learned Friend has promised to vote for the second reading of this Bill, and the Liberation Society advertises in The Nonconformist its word of order to give a similar vote; and, accordingly, the Liberationists are voting in favour of the Bill of an hon. Gentleman who gets up and tells them, amidst cheers from this side of the House, that Dissenters have no claim to the churchyard, and similarly, and à fortiori, of course, no claim to the church. My hon. Friend, in the latter part of his speech, dwelt, in a very touching manner, upon the folly of our not 1454 giving up a part in the vain struggle to maintain the whole. That argument would be worth something if the something which he wants us to retain were worth anything. Our contention is that his Bill not only surrenders absolutely everything that is asked for by the other side, but surrenders that one thing also, which the French King is said to have boasted that he preserved—our honour—in the vain struggle. I put myself on the ground of my hon. Friend; and I assert that in endeavouring to retain the use, not of all but of a selected number of churchyards absolutely, and to acquire the power of ousting out of the remainder those who have got their foot into them by the action of this very measure, we surrender the principles which have made it our duty to contend for the maintenance of the existing system. My hon. Friend dwelt very strongly on his Bill only giving a temporary and incomplete user of the churchyards to the Nonconformists. Surely such a condition of matters would be intolerable! Either Dissenters must come in of right, and using, as they will do, the churchyards on an equal footing with everyone else as citizens, must retain their position permanently, or the present state of things must continue. I go thoroughly and entirely with hon. Members on the other side, and even with the Liberation Society, in condemning the injustice, the narrowness, the absence of logic, involved in grasping at a temporary advantage, and condescending to keep your own footing under those new and degrading conditions which are, as far as I can read this Bill, its most salient and flatulent elements. The Mover says that in his proposed provisions he has a great regard for property. Of course, he and I, like the Lincolnshire Farmer, have a great regard for property. But let the House consider in what difficulties this vain respect for property, grafted on a measure of regulated confiscation, would land us. Let us take the instance of two contiguous parishes, in one of which the churchyard was given 51 years ago, and in the other 49 years ago. To one of these my hon. Friend lets the Dissenter in, though only under his own proposed conditions, while he is to be ousted out of the other for ever. Can we suppose that such a provision can last for any time? Is it not a mere invitation to further agitation? What must come out of that 10th clause, which 1455 is propounded as the panacea for all existing troubles? Under it the Nonconformist is to be buried in one class of churchyards, but not all Nonconformists; only the Christian Nonconformist who has crystalized himself into a particular sect, which I deny that my hon. Friend has any right to force Nonconformists to do. We know there is such a thing as a Corporation sole, and I have never seen any reason why you should not have a Nonconformist Denomination sole made up of a single personage, or why two friends may not become a joint denomination, with an obligation on the survivor to bury the other with or without usages, and then to hand over a direction of burial for himself to his solicitor, who should officially inter his deceased and lamented client. My hon. Friend does not even allow the Nonconformist all round to be buried as he likes; he must be a member of a Christian sect, and have usages appropriate to that sect, which we know several sects have not got. Quakers have neither usages nor a distinct ministry. Your Nonconformist, he may not be a Christian, but belong to that influential and respectable denomination, whose distinctive peculiarity is that they hold a religion, not Christian, but anterior to Christianity. I must ask my hon. Friend why the Jews are quite shut out of all the good things of his Bill? Well, let the Jews answer for themselves. My hon. Friend knows a great deal, and he answers for the whole of the Clergy of the Church of England. He knows what their grievance is, and he knows how to settle it for them. He knows what the Jews would have, and the Secularists, too, I suppose; in short, he knows everything that everybody wants. He comes forward like Dr. Dulcamara, with his famous elixir, to make everybody young and well. I contend, however, that he proposes a remedy which is illusory and incomplete. He does not allow every Nonconformist to be buried with "usages," but only the one whose representatives can produce credentials—endorsed by whom I am utterly at a loss to conceive—that he was a Christian, leaving, however, the definition of "Christian" unexplained.
Supposing the state of things which he proposes ever to become an actuality, how long is it to last? The Nonconformist is in happy enjoyment of some 1456 churchyard in a pleasant county. He goes on burying in a "solemn and Christian" manner for 12 or 15 years, when suddenly some authority comes in to say that an anonymous benefactor has given an acre and a-half of land two miles and three-quarters off for the burial of Nonconformists. The next Dissenter who dies there is decently and quietly carried to that churchyard, in which the pre-deceased Dissenters have been buried for all those years; but the sexton stops the bier at the gate, and says—"Stop, gentlemen! A new cemetery has been provided under Mr. Balfour's Act. Take your body there." The executor will probably reply—"This is very hard; because some man, quite unknown to the place, and to whom that land is of no value, has chosen—perhaps to torment us—to give that barren corner, on which nothing but rushes have hitherto grown, therefore you are to drive us out of what we have been so long encouraged to look upon as our heritage." Does my hon. Friend seriously believe such a state of things would last? If we pass the second reading of this Bill, we simply pass the second reading of the Bill of the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Osborne Morgan); so I, for my part, say if we are to be beaten, if we are to be ousted out of our own, let us fairly and honourably acknowledge that we are ousted out of our own—for the evasive attempt to parade ourselves as still holding something, while we have really lost the whole thing, is not respectable. That is what I mean, when I contend that we should lose all that the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire would strip us of, and our honour to boot, if we accept this Bill. If we are turned out of the churchyard absolutely and wholly, we know the worst. We are prepared for the worst; and as honest, consistent, and conscientious men, we are able still to fight the battle for the churches which are menaced by the policy, towards which the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire is only the first step. He will, of course, get up and say that it is very unfair in me to impute such motives to him; he has no such wish. I fully grant this; but I must add that my hon. and learned Friend is too sharp a man of the world not to observe what is going on around him. He knows too much of what is 1457 behind the scenes not to be very well aware how many of those who most loudly support his Bill only advocate it, as this afternoon they only are advocating the Bill of the hon. Member for Hertford—namely, as the first step to ulterior objects. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford may complain of being thought too halting, inconsistent, and grudging, in only giving one quarter of what is wanted, and that in the most ungracious way; but lot him take this comfort to himself—the thorough-going Liberationist says the same of the Bill of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire. I shall shortly prove this; but first let me place fairly before the House the demurrer which I mean to raise to any Burial Bill at all, except of a particular class. For purposes of argument, I grant there was a grievance some dozen years ago—a considerable one possibly—so long as church rates were compulsory. Whatever may have been the motives of the Liberation Society, many persons who do not belong to that Society thought that however much the Church might lose in money and prestige, there was reasonable expectation of closing the controversy by depriving the church rates of their compulsory character. I myself was one who held that opinion, and was accordingly looked upon as a very weak-kneed brother, and very sharply taken to task by sundry friends of mine. The Dissenters complained that they were taxed against their consciences, and the whole question was reduced to chaos by the decision of the Courts of Law that the minority in any parish could not make a rate. I held, therefore, that in face of this conviction of a grievance, we were right to remove it. But that being done, you took your compensation; and, in so doing, you surrendered any claim to urge the national character of churchyards. You said—"Let those who approve of what goes on in the churchyards have the churchyards." Having yielded that, we took a considerable burden on ourselves—no man has ever estimated how much it has cost Churchmen to surrender compulsory church rates; but we gave them up, and did so cheerfully; but not two years had passed over, after what ought to have been a settlement, and which was a most liberal compromise on our part, when you turned upon us and claimed 1458 to come in and use in your own way those churchyards, the whole expense of which you had thrown upon us. I see my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire is prepared to got up and remind me, as he has done more than once before, that in the first draft of his Bill he did propose to restore the churchyard rate. I grant that. He may also tell me he found in me an opponent of that proposal; but was I not right to fight against a new rate? Can there have been anything more unpopular? Would it have ever gone down? I felt that, however an offer of a churchyard rate might have been made with the utmost bona fides by my hon. Friend, it would not go down with the House and would not go down with the country. You accepted our gift; you were very grateful for it; and then you turn round upon us and say—"Having made us a present of this money, be kind enough now to let us come in and make use of what we compelled you to maintain out of your own pockets." I believe the Mover, when he says they know very little about this question in Scotland or in Ireland. We well remember that although our majority was only 15 all round last year, the English Members—the people who are affected by and know something about it—who voted with us, gave an overwhelming majority of 101. My hon. Friend now comes forward and argues—"You had, no doubt, a majority of 101; but what business have people who know something about the matter to regulate it? I go to those who know nothing about it. I go to Scotland and Ireland. They live in pure and absolute ignorance of the English Burials Question; and, therefore, I call upon you to take the verdict of Scotland and Ireland." My hon. Friend, I know, can appeal to the precedent of a famous politician of the last century. He knows that Wilkes said he would appeal to the nonsense of the country against its sense, and boasted that he would win by 10 to 1. My hon. Friend proclaims himself the Wilkes of the 19th century.
However, I affirm that there is a possible solution of the controversy. We are so accustomed to be pillaged, that really the operation has become—I will not say pleasant—but less acutely painful than it was. Having given up our churchyard rates, we must 1459 proceed to extend the cemetery principle over the country as far as we can. It is already the established rule at the centres of Liberation agitation in all our great towns such as London, Manchester, and Birmingham. It exists in those places where speechifiers and lecturers have declaimed most loudly—they are out of the wood—they have settled the matter, and got what they pretended at the outset to want. It is an easy and pleasant amusement for them, in the interest of their "three hundreds," or "four hundreds," or whatever the number may be, to claim relief from a grievance which does not touch them. The fire does not singe even a hair of their heads, and yet they scream as if they were in the flames. Well, I promised the House a little taste of the eloquence and arguments of the gentleman whose mouthpiece, my hon. Friend, with touching innocence, has become. There is Dr. Landels, an eminent preacher of the Gospel of Charity, on whose words, on successive Lord's Days, Christians hang with becoming reverence. What is the message of Dr. Landels?—Do not conceal the fact that this (taking the 'fortress,' i.e., the 'Church') is our final aim, and that we cannot rest satisfied until that aim has been realized. Our clerical friends, in arguing against the Burials Bill, tell us, with refreshing simplicity, that if we get into the churchyards we shall want to get into the church next. What charming innocents they must he to put it thus! I think that if, by getting into the churches, they mean that we shall demand to have national property employed for national purposes, and not reserved for the exclusive use of a sect, why, then, of course, we mean to get the churches. And, what is more, if our right to the churches is as good as our right to the churchyards, we will succeed in getting what we demand.My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford has virtually, though he does not say it, admitted their right to the churchyards; virtually, then, he must have admitted, according to Dr. Landels, their right to the churches. But there is another gentleman even more eminent than Dr. Landels—Mr. Dale, of Birmingham—and what says Mr. Dale?—Nonconformists had not concealed what their real intentions were. What they were going in for was complete religious equality in life as well as in death, and as they asserted the graveyards belonged to the parish, so they asserted that the church belonged to the parish. They did not intend to disguise how far their principles carried them.1460 Here is my hon. Friend, who kindly helps them with the invitation—"Come, my friends, allow me to drive you a mile or two." Indeed, my hon. Friend's Bill itself starts under very favourable auspices. There is Mr. Carvell Williams, a gentleman of considerable eminence in the Liberation Society, of which he is, or was, the secretary. This gentleman published, two years ago, a pamphlet on The Present Position of the Burials Question; and after observing the Notice of my hon. Friend's Bill, he has gratified the world by bringing out a second edition, continued down to the present time. His estimate of this Bill, the second reading of which he and his Society advocate, is as follows:—The practical objections to the proposed limitations are as strong as the legal objections. For is it likely that the public would long tolerate the co-existence of two descriptions of churchyards—namely, those in which the ancient restrictions were abolished, and others in which they existed in full force? Would not a second agitation, to secure what the first had failed to accomplish, be inevitable? And would it not be certain to succeed?Certainly, and in my hon. Friend's lifetime. But there is an influential Dissenting paper—The Nonconformist—and what says this organ about the Bill of my hon. Friend? On the 11th of December, while the Bill was still in its fresh and salad days, The Nonconformist said—There is, perhaps, some advantage in the fact that this time the debate will be initiated by a Tory—especially by one who goes so far in Mr. Morgan's direction as Mr. Balfour unquestionably does; because, while he must of necessity rest his case to some extent on the same facts as those adduced by the Member for Denbighshire, his principal aim must be to convince Churchmen and Conservatives of the practical wisdom of making timely concessions rather than wait for a complete, as well as an inevitable, defeat.I think there is considerable practical wisdom in that, so I read it for the edification of my hon. Friend. I resume my extract—His motives may differ from Mr. Morgan's, but he will practically be his ally, though an ally who cannot yet screw his courage up to the full measure of Mr. Morgan's demand.Just as the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire cannot yet, I believe, screw his courage up to the full demand of the Liberation Society. That article appeared in December; and on Feb- 1461 ruary the 12th, The Nonconformist returns to the charge, in anticipation of this debate, and says of this Bill that—With all its defects, it unquestionably destroys the clerical monopoly, by allowing other than Church of England burial rites in churchyards, and also allowing other persons than its Clergy to officiate. Obviously, therefore, the measure is not one to be met by indiscriminate opposition; more especially as the restrictive provisions which make the measure, as it stands, inadequate and inconsistent, are such as can be modified with great facility.Now I must call the attention of the House to another phase of the matter. I supposed, with all our dissensions, that there was one point upon which all right-thinking men, whether Christians or non-Christians, Churchmen or Dissenters, Conservatives or Liberals, were more than agreed:—That whenever, with general consent, a painfully-crowded churchyard can be closed, and whenever the piteous spectacle of ragged grave-heaps, where, if disturbed, the mouldering remains of former generations are turned up by the sexton's spade, can be removed, it should be done; and with it the dangers to the public health of corruption tainting the air and the water-springs. I believed it was agreed that when a well-kept cemetery could be supplied instead, it was a good thing, not only for the Church but for the State, and for the health and happiness of everyone. I fancied a general conviction, whether openly formulated or not, that the development of cemeteries was a practical solution of the question. I have never concealed that I looked upon the development to terminate the strife, as the only possible, I will not say compromise, but as the only possible, reasonable, and workable solution of this question. I thought, at last, we had come to unanimity upon that one point. I could not have believed that ingenuity could have been carried so far as to make the extension of cemeteries a battle-field between Churchmen and Dissenters, or that any legislator could have conceived a scheme which would have made it to the interest of the Liberation Society to put a check upon the provision of cemeteries. I should have laughed at the suggestion that the maintenance of our crowded churchyards, with typhus haunting their purlieus and poisoned water distilling out of the soil, could have been connected with a political ad- 1462 vantage. But now I have lived to see that in the Bill of my hon. Friend. The vice of his Bill is that it is built upon the principle of revocable concession, as to which, I tell hon. Members on both sides of the House, that revocable concession is the one thing impossible in polities. Whatever one may think of special applications, we all know that the principle of modern legislation is that when a thing is settled you must accept it and make the best of it. That is the understanding upon which Constitutional liberty, the Parliamentary system, and Government by Party are possible in this land, because all sides have accepted that fundamental agreement. We see abroad the evils which have flowed from the imperfect and inconsistent acceptance of it, even in lands constitutionally governed. Well, but if this impolitic and impossible principle of revocable concession ever was embodied in any measure it is embodied in the Bill of my hon. Friend. I had to touch upon that point a few minutes since. I touch upon it again. I pointed out what would be the position in a parish in which the Church had been beaten, as it would be if the Bill passed, and accepted its beating, and in which Nonconformists had practically used the churchyard. There might come in the personal donor, with his cemetery at a little distance, and all the ill-blood and disunion and controversy would begin again. That is the practical result that we should get from the principle of revocable concession, which is the backbone of this Bill. I invite the House to consider what must the upshot be. To make the development of cemeteries a Liberation grievance, to put crowded churchyards now and Disestablishment hereafter against the Church of England, and cemeteries open to all. What a preposterous conclusion to bring matters to!—and not less mischievous than preposterous. Does not this consideration demonstrate, with a certainty absolutely mathematical, that this Bill of my hon. Friend is as a settlement of the matter illusory, and that the only possible satisfaction which any person can anticipate from it is the conclusion which the Liberationists will surely reach—that if it passes, half, at least, of the Bill of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire—and that the worstpart—will have passed; 1463 while as to that which it preserves, it overlaps even that with such fantastical and irritating restrictions, as only to make the future passing infinitely more certain. On that account, I do not blame my hon. and learned Friend for announcing that he intends to vote for the second reading. I should consider him and his Friends very much wanting in the first elements of political tactics, if they did not do so. The only thing I might blame him for was proclaiming his vote beforehand. It was candid and magnanimous; but if he and his Friends had only kept their counsels in the dark, some Conservatives on this side—some "innocents," as Dr. Landels calls us—might have voted with my hon. Friend, and swollen his followers. For its part, the other side might have adopted the strategy recommended in the columns of a newspaper called The Liberator—The citadel of the Establishment must be approached by mines, such as the Press and the Post Office afford; and in view of a General Election, it is the conviction of the electors you must win over.I do not venture to guess when there may be a General Election; but whether it is to be this year or next, it is clear that the mighty shadow of "bunkum" is throwing its gloom over our deliberations, and people are talking with a view to what can only now be figuratively called the hustings. So I pardon my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford for giving expression to his political opinions, and having very proper regard and respect for the account he must one day render. But then, I put it to him, has he done what he wanted? Does he think his Bill a success? Is he proud of himself for the performance? Whom has he got to cheer him on his way? What Bishop, or Dean, or Archdeacon, or rural Dean; what Hector, Vicar, Curate, or Workhouse Chaplain, has he ever found to come forward and say—"Ave Liberator?" So far as one can tell, Church opinion has said—"This Bill won't do. It gives up what we think very precious, and it gives nothing in return." And when we turn to the other side, what do they say? They say, perhaps—"This is a very kind and scholarly offer of an accomplished gentleman, who proposes what he thinks will gratify us and meet all our grievances; while he says himself that he has drafted it in intentional 1464 contradiction of the claim which underlies our special case." My hon. Friend, acknowledging that he is legislating for a presumed grievance, brings his proposal before the House with much eloquence, in a speech in which he tells self-chosen clients—"You are an unreasonable set of agitators, asking what you have no right to ask. I do not mean to give you what you ask; but I mean to give you something that is so like what you ask for, that although it is not what you ask for, and although you know, and we know, too, that it is not so, yet it will help us to say we have met your demands, and perplex you to show that we have not; while we shall be free to denounce you for being so unreasonable as not to be contented with our thoroughly illusory offer." Some people may think that a statesman-like offer; but it can be only such if it is successful, if it goes down, if it takes anyone in—that is not a Parliamentary phrase, so I will say instead—if it carries conviction to the mind of anyone on either side of the House. If it does not carry conviction; if it is seen through as soon as it is propounded, then the sooner he drops it the better, for he will not settle the matter. My hon. Friend must not think I do not thoroughly and entirely believe in his absolute and perfect sincerity. I do so. It is my conviction of his sincerity that compels me to go into the subject with greater fulness than I might otherwise have done in trying to make him and my noble Friend below him see the matter as I believe it is seen by the great majority on this side of the House, and seen, as I am perfectly convinced, by the entire body of Members opposite, and by the entire body both of those who only wish to carry the Bill of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire pure and simple, and to stop there, and of those whose policy is merely to use his Burials Bill as a stepping-stone to that so-called religious equality which the Liberation Society and the whole body of political Dissenters, so-called, through the country, proclaim to be their ultimate aim.
My hon. Friend will possibly urge that all Dissenters are not political Dissenters. I agree with him, and I believe there are many amongst the Noncomformist body who are not political Dissenters. I respect those who, while they cling to the dogmas which 1465 approve themselves to their consciences, and while they desire to worship God in the forms which move their spiritual nature, yet do not look on religion as the handmaid of polities, but desire to live in peace with their fellow-citizens, the Churchmen, in the full conviction that those fellow-citizens are equally desirous of being at peace with them. But why do they keep themselves in hiding? There was a time when the shining and conspicuous lights of Noncomformity were venerable men like Watts, Doddridge, Wesley, and other great names of the last century. They were not political but religious Noncomformists. But where can we find such as they were now? We are not to blame if we are driven to interpret the silence of unpolitical Noncomformists as something like an admission of failure, and a virtual surrender to the more violent members of the partnership. They let the Liberation Society speak for them. Dissenting literature speaks for them in the speeches of Dr. Landels and Mr. Dale, the articles of their favourite newspapers, the leaflets of the Liberation Society, and the words of Mr. Spurgeon, when he brags that—To ravine like a wolf, and to plunder like a freebooter, has been the peculiar prerogative of the Church of England.Yet who bears so distinguished a name in the Dissenting ministry as Mr. Spurgeon? Who is more looked up to as a pastor of souls by those who hang on his ministry? The Christian charity of such a sentiment we must all admire! But I wonder what Mr. Spurgeon would say, if an equally pious and equally distinguished preacher of our Church were to use the language of Mr. Spurgeon and Dr. Landels with regard to the sects to which they belong. The non-political Nonconformists have abdicated their position, and they now hold their tongue. They may have been convinced by more vehement polemics. They may be simply cowed and scared. They may be afraid of social excommunication, which people quite as much dread now as they formerly quailed before ecclesiastical censure. They may not dare to come forward, or to appear as black sheep among the "true blue" believing Christians. But we tell them—"So long as that is the case, we must measure you by your own measure, and 1466 pay you the compliment of thinking that you believe in the sincerity of your own chosen leaders' uncontradicted denunciations." If, however, you wish the Burials Question to be peacefully settled in any way at all, you must let me tell you to repudiate the Liberation Society and all its works. Do not revel in its vehement assertions, its flatulent platitudes, its burly denunciations. You must not mislead and trifle with us by parading statistics such as those which you have been parading lately, when you struggle to prove that there are 19,000 or 20,000 Dissenting places of worship in the country, when you know as well as we do that the places of worship which show any guarantee of fixity, by being licensed for marriage, only number 8,200, and that amongst the remainder that go to make up your alleged 19,000, you have I do not know how many railway arches, several harmonic hails, various rooms in cottages, the Agricultural Hall, and the Holborn Circus. All these places are licensed for Nonconformist worship, and help to swell up the statistics upon which you rely in order to discredit the visible proofs of the Church's growth in influence, popularity, and visible resources.
Now, then, as to the last clause about the clerical grievance. I wish to ask my hon. Friend whether—good as his intentions are—he acts wisely by trying to meet a grievance of the Church of England in such questionable company as the remainder of his Bill? Supposing you were to bring that clause in by itself, it would be acceptable on its own merits, and, at any rate, it could be discussed on independent grounds; but the Mover only prejudices the question by confounding it with others of so different a complexion, and making it necessary for us to reject it when it is brought in as the comet's tail of this rocket. Its fate must be the usual fate of whatever is left of a rocket when the illumination is over. And, thereby, what does he do? He only renders a possible remedy for the clergy more impossible by coming forward unasked, and not only without tangible support, but with most tangible opposition as to his main intentions from those whose mouthpiece he wishes to make himself.
I have spoken at length; but we have heard so much of this as the burning question of the day, and as really the 1467 one matter which divides Parties, that I felt I could not do adequate justice to it without trying to present an analysis in various aspects of what is certainly a very important and a very tangled controversy. I most heartily acknowledge all that earnest and devoted Churchmen owe to anyone who proposes remedies in the belief that he will restore peace to the Church and contentment to men's minds; but I think, Sir, that I have proved that all which my hon. Friend proposes, when brought together, is inharmonious and impossible; that his concessions are not only the precise concessions which we think it would be most mischievous to make, and that they are not only difficult to make without leading to other concessions still more mischievous, but in themselves over-weighted by fantastical and irritating limitations. But, Sir, I wish particularly to press upon the House that if my hon. Friend did succeed in carrying his Bill, if it could pass through its stages and receive the Royal Assent this week, yet people's feelings would be much more bitter and the matter would be in a much more hopeless state than now. The other side would, of course, only take the Bill as a stepping-stone, and would at once agitate to get rid of its restrictions, and we should be angry with the other side for doing so. That would naturally lead to a much worse fever of irritation and recrimination, to a much more hopeless antagonism—tending, perhaps, to the downfall of the Established Church—and therefore, as we believe, to the heavy detriment of spiritual religion. It is for these reasons that I move that the Bill of my hon. Friend be read a second time this day six months.
§ MR. MARTEN
seconded the Amendment. The Bill had been, he said, recommended to the House by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour) on the ground that it was a compromise. In a compromise, however, there must be two parties, and it was therefore well that the House should know in what spirit the other party with whom the compromise was to be made accepted the proposal. They were, no doubt, willing that the Bill should be read a second time, with avowed intent of assimilating it in Committee to the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan); 1468 and accordingly that hon. and learned Gentleman himself had, with his usual frankness, placed upon the Paper Notice of his intention of moving, when the Bill reached that stage, the omission of those very safeguards which the hon. Member for Hertford relied on when recommending it to the acceptance of his political Friends. The hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire proposed, for example, to omit entirely the 10th clause, which provided for the protection of churchyards which had been dedicated within 50 years of the passing of the Act, or where there was a cemetery within three miles. If the Bill was intended as a compromise, how was it being accepted? Instead of being accepted in the conciliatory spirit in which it was made, it was entirely repudiated, and the principal safeguard was to be rejected. Again, the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire proposed that, instead of saying that the burial service should be a religious service or ceremony agreeable to the usages of the religious society of which the deceased person was a member, it should simply be conducted in a "decent and orderly" manner. It was quite consistent with that that there should be an address delivered at the open grave by some person professing atheistical opinions, and who declared under the shadow of the Church that he did not believe in a God, and had no faith in any religious service whatsoever. It was evident, therefore, that his hon. Friend's attempt at a compromise had failed, so far as the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire was concerned. In the second part of his remarks his hon. Friend had confessed that one of his chief objects was to take out of the hands of the Nonconformists their strongest weapon for the Disestablishment of the Church. But the Bill would fail of silencing the political Dissenters. On the contrary, they were promised a further agitation. The object of the Liberation Society was to proceed by steps, and if all the concessions asked by the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire were granted, the opponents of the Church would accept their new position not as a settlement, but only as a step for further advance. Therefore, on the two principal grounds on which the proposal was recommended—namely, compromise and the disarmament of the foes of the Established 1469 Church—the Bill would clearly prove to be a failure. In the next place, the Bill contained provisions which were open to very serious objection. At present, Nonconformists had as much legal right as Churchmen to burial in churchyards. If it was said that this Bill gave no more rights than now existed, he denied that assertion. The 5th clause contained a positive declaration of the right of burial. That clause was most pernicious. Either the law as at present ascertained in regard to the right of burial was satisfactory or it was not. If it was satisfactory, that declaration was superfluous. If it was not satisfactory, let them have a measure fairly defining that right. But this Bill contained a declaration which was unnecessary unless it was intended to make some serious change in the law; and if such a change was to be made, its exact nature ought to be clearly stated and fully explained. It was urged in favour of the Bill that it was a stopgap, providing for the use by Nonconformists, with their own services, of churchyards until such time as cemeteries should be established. But, looking at the measure as one of a provisional nature, it was open to objection, because it dealt with important principles which must be of a permanent character. Mere stopgap legislation should interfere as little as possible with the feelings of large bodies of the people. But the great objection to the Bill was that it would seriously check and discourage that most beneficial improvement which had been going on for many years past in this country—namely, the general introduction of cemeteries. Throughout the Kingdom the existing churchyards were in many cases over-full, and in the majority of cases were a danger to the villages in which they were situated. The time had come when they should re-affirm, on sanitary grounds, the old maxim of the Twelve Tables, that sepulture should take place away from human habitations. There could, moreover, be nothing more repulsive to every right feeling than that people should go to the House of God surrounded by all the foul and decaying elements of humanity. They ought to insist on that being done for the rural districts which had been already done for the towns, and that the dead should not be buried in such a way as to endanger the health of 1470 the living. If Dissenters encouraged the formation of cemeteries, they would be pursuing a course in accordance with their own principles, and they would all be returning to the practice of the primitive Church. In the first seven centuries of the Christian era the places of burial were situated at a distance from the churches, and churchyards were introduced when superstition crept into the Church in connection with the practices of the priests, who prayed for the dead. He, therefore, now advocated a return to the early Christian usage. During the past 23 years the establishment of cemeteries in the country had proceeded much faster than the public generally supposed. From 1853 to 1875, in London alone, there were closed, either wholly or partially, 208 consecrated and 92 unconsecrated burial-grounds; and in the country, from 1854 to 1875, there were closed, either wholly or partially, 1,705 consecrated burial-places, and 1,143 unconsecrated burial-places. The result was that in London and the country together there were closed, either wholly or partially, in 23 years, 1,913 consecrated and 1,235 un-consecrated burial-places, making a total of 3,148. All these were dealt with by Orders in Council, and were practically closed; for, as explained by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Assheton Cross) in this House in 1876, the meaning of the term "partially closed" was, as a rule, that the closing was complete, subject to a reservation in favour of certain vaults. In the same period, on the other hand, between 600 and 700 cemeteries had been opened. These were available for 14,000,000 of the population of England and Wales, out of a total population of 22,000,000. The rural population amounted to about 13,000,000, and even if the whole of the 8,000,000 still unprovided for were in the rural districts, still 5,000,000, or one-third of the total rural population, had already cemeteries provided. Looking at what had already been done, it could not be regarded as a work either of great difficulty or requiring any great length of time to make provision for the remainder. Thus, by a great sanitary reform, they would be entirely relieved of that vexed religious question. He contended, therefore, that that should be treated wholly as a sanitary question. 1471 It was said that the Nonconformists had a strong feeling upon this matter; but it should be remembered that Churchmen also had strong feelings, which were equally worthy of respect. With regard to the provision of cemeteries, he desired to say a few words on one point—namely, the necessity of consecration. Some time ago he had published a letter on the subject, in consequence of which many clergymen had written to him to say that in their opinion the consecration by the Bishop of the churchyard was not necessary. The Bishop of Ely, in a Charge delivered in 1877 in reference to that subject, had expressed the same view, and stated that he conceived it was undesirable to perpetuate the custom of dividing a cemetery into consecrated and unconsecrated parts. A strong preference was often shown, even among Nonconformists, for interment in consecrated ground; and if in particular districts there was a desire felt to have one portion of a cemetery consecrated and another unconsecrated, that desire might be gratified. But it was important to know on so high an authority as the Prelate to whom he had alluded that it was not ecclesiastically necessary that the ground should be severed into consecrated and unconsecrated parts; but that the cemetery of the future, if desired, should be appropriated by law to purposes of burial, and should not require any other or more formal service of consecration. That would greatly diminish the expense of providing cemeteries. It had also been said that it was unnecessary to have two chapels, or any chapel at all; and if that view were adopted nothing would be required for the cemetery but some building as a means of shelter. He had had calculations made as to the expense of establishing cemeteries, and they showed that it would be of a trifling character. A gentleman of great experience had calculated the expense of establishing 30 cemeteries in the sanitary district of South Molton, Devonshire, from which it appeared that the purchase of the land and the erection of mortuary chapels would involve the expenditure of a sum which, borrowed at the usual rate for 30 years, would on the rateable value amount to rather less than 1d. in the pound. No doubt, donations of land would be given in many instances for cemeteries, and the present 1472 churchyards might advantageously be converted into church gardens under proper conditions. In conclusion, he should regard the adoption of that Bill as a retrograde step; for, so far from promoting the welfare of the people at large, it would give a great discouragement to a beneficent sanitary reform, now in progress, and would also pave the way not for future religious peace, but for permanent and most serious religious strife.
§ 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. Beresford Hope.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR CHARLES FORSTER
Sir, I am not going to trespass on the House for more than a few minutes; but as reference has been made to the liberality of the Scotch Church as to burials, I wish to give an instance of it which will powerfully appeal to the feelings of those hon. Members who sat, as I did for many Sessions, with the late Lord Marjoribanks, better known as David Robertson, the genial and popular Member for Berwickshire. When I visited him some time back at his hospitable abode at Ladykirk, I was shown the parish church, rich in ancestral monuments and memorials of Flodden Field. There, not in the churchyard, but in what before the change of religion was the altar chancel, the vault of the Robertson family was situated. There, Sir, some few years afterwards, the honoured remains of our lamented friend were gathered to his kindred dust, the service being conducted in the old Scotch kirk according to the Episcopalian rites, and the words of interment pronounced by his own Episcopalian minister. Why will not English Churchmen take an example from Scotch Presbyterians in this respect, by throwing open their burial-grounds to their Dissenting brethren? Talk of additional cemeteries, silent burials, or approved selected services as fitting solutions of the question! Surely the true solution is to be found in the combination of common sense with the slightest tincture of Christian charity. It cannot be too distinctly known that none of these 1473 miserable makeshifts can be accepted. We ask you to recognize the ancient common law right of every parishioner to sepulchre in the parochial burial-ground, and to allow the exercise of that rite on terms of perfect religious equality. But in truth, Sir, our opponents know, especially after what has happened in "another place," how untenable is their position, and if the citadel of bigotry and intolerance has not finally surrendered, the defenders have at least begun to capitulate. It was an instance of judicial blindness on the part of the Government that they did not avail themselves of the Amendment carried in the House of Lords to settle the question. Another opportunity has been now offered to them in the Bill of the hon. Member for Hertford, who makes his proposal in the interest of the Church. It is not for me to give advice to hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I should have thought the commonest dictates of prudence would have induced them to remove this stumbling-block from their path before the next General Election. But, Sir, before sitting down, I desire to put it to Churchmen whether, when they see the gathering clouds and the danger, not only from within but from without, whether, under these circumstances, it is wise and prudent to aggravate the perils of the position by refusing such an equitable proposition as that contained in the Motion of my hon. Friend? If such Motions are obstinately resisted year after year, with all the strength of Party organization, it requires no great prescience to foretel that on the next turn of the political wheel the force of the ascending Party will naturally be directed against an institution identified with so much injustice, and the days of the Establishment are numbered.
§ MR. WILBRAHAM EGERTON
believed he had had as good opportunities as any Member of that House for ascertaining the opinions of Churchmen on this Burials Question. He had attended many Diocesan Conferences at which the almost unanimously expressed opinion was adverse to a Bill like that of the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) or that of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour). Although the latter hon. Gentleman claimed to act on behalf of the Church of England, he believed the majority of 1474 the Clergy did not share the hon. Member's views. Churchmen in general had no desire whatever to enter into a compromise such as the hon. Member proposed. Indeed, their experience of giving up points was not of a kind to induce them to make further concessions. When the church rates were abolished, it was said that the last shred of intolerance was done away with; but within a few years an agitation had commenced for obtaining possession of the churchyards. In his judgment, the present Bill attacked the property of the Church of England in a very serious way. No doubt his hon. Friend was sincere in disclaiming such an intention; but his measure was more in accordance with the views of the Liberation Society than those of an ardent supporter of the Church. For his part, he should like to know whether any hon. Member connected with that Society was prepared to get up and express his concurrence in the statement, made by its lecturers, that the property of the Church was the property of the nation, and that, therefore, it ought to be in the hands of all sects indiscriminately. If any claim of that kind was to be made in the House it should be presented distinctly and boldly, when it could be answered. How, he asked, did the Liberationists get over the Preambles of the Statutes of Edward III. and Henry VIII., which clearly affirmed that the property of the Church was given for the benefit of the Church, not by the State, but by private individuals? It was true that the hon. Member for Hertford did not go so far as the Liberation Society, which said that the churchyard ought to be vested in the general ratepayers of a parish. The claim of the Liberationists applied not only to the churchyards, but also to the churches themselves, which they alleged were the property of the nation. The Bill of the hon. Member for Hertford went too far for hon. Members on the Government side of the House and not far enough for hon. Members on the other, and for that reason it ought to be rejected. The supporters of the measure were those who wished to go further than the hon. Member. He maintained that the Amendments proposed to the present Bill would render itidentical with that of the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire, and if that Bill became law the Church of England would be 1475 the only religious body which could not hold land for its own purposes. This was not so much a clerical question as it had been said, but a question especially of interest to laymen, because it affected not only corporate but individual property. He denied that the Nonconformists had any grievance in this matter, many of them had not the slightest objection to burial in the churchyard with the Service of the English Church. He knew of the case of a minister of an Independent congregation in his neighbourhood who preferred being buried by the clergyman of the Church of England in the parish churchyard, rather than in the neighbourhood of his own chapel. The real grievance arose from a sense of irritation on the part of the Dissenting minister, who, feeling his social inferiority to the clergyman in regard to holding the Burial Service, was now agitating for a position not merely equal to, but superior to, that occupied by the clergyman. Not for a moment did he contend that this Burials Question was in a perfectly satisfactory state. The circumstance of there being six Bills before the House proved that the reverse was the case. He thought, however, that this discussion was not likely to lead to legislation at the present time. Still, there was now a favourable opportunity of discussing the whole subject, and possibly suggestions might be made of which the Government could take advantage. He did not think this was a matter to be taken up by private Members; and although he had a little Bill of his own on the subject, he intended to press it forward only in the just possible event of the hon. Member for Hertford's Bill passing. At the same time, he was decidedly of opinion that it would be better for the Government to take the matter up. It was impossible to satisfy the political Dissenters; but he should, nevertheless, be glad if something could be done to remove anything like a real grievance on this subject. At any rate, he was sure of this—that whenever legislation took place it would be necessary to study the position of the Clergy of the Church of England, and to see that they were not unfairly treated. They certainly ought to be relieved from the obligation of reading the Burial Service in certain cases. Hon. Members on that side of the House would not be justified 1476 in voting for this Bill, which the hon. Member for Hertford had brought forward, no doubt with the best intentions, but the consequences of which he could not foresee. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition had recently made a speech at Liverpool, in which he stated that the Liberal Party were pledged to religious equality, and to remove the inequalities of the laws that affected burials. Those inequalities he described as an injustice, a grievance, and a social stigma. That was a grave charge; but, as far as injustice went, there would be a far greater injustice in confiscating the property given by Churchmen for Church purposes than in anything now suffered by the Nonconformists. With regard to the social stigma, if it were a grievance at all, it was hard to see how it could be removed without giving Dissenting ministers the right to officiate in the churches as well as in the churchyards. Moderate as might be the views of the noble Lord as expressed at Liverpool, there was good reason to believe that what Members below the Gangway thought today the Leaders above the Gangway thought to-morrow. They were therefore bound, as prudent men, to see in what direction they were going. The noble Marquess did riot look with favour at present on the Disestablishment of the Church of England; but in the speech which he delivered last year at Glasgow the noble Lord went a great deal further, for he said in reference to the Disestablishment of the Church of Scotland—When the time comes, as I have said it may come, that Scotch opinion shall be fully formed on the subject, the Liberal Party in England will do its best to give effect to that Scotch opinion without undue consideration being given to other circumstances connected with the question.He would ask the noble Lord to apply the same argument to this question. The English Members of the House had repeatedly, by large majorities, expressed their opinion that these Burials Bills ought not to be carried, and he submitted that the opinion of the English Members ought to be respected in questions of this kind, in which English Members—and especially the rural districts—alone were interested. As had been pointed out, there was a strong case for the extension of cemeteries, when future requirements were taken into con- 1477 sideration. He thought that where there were any number of Nonconformists the landowners in such districts would be glad to give land for the burial of Nonconformists. He believed that if a short Bill were passed facilitating the formation of parochial cemeteries in rural districts, the bonâ fide grievances of Baptists, who wished to have rites performed by their own ministers, would die away in the course of a few years. The churchyards belonged to the Church of England, and could not be taken away from it without confiscation. The real grievance on this question, so far as conscientious Nonconformists were concerned, was infinitesimally small, and did not affect one-tenth of the Dissenters of this country. In his opinion, the proper remedy for the present vexed state of the Burials Question was to afford increased facilities for establishing cemeteries in rural districts. He, therefore, called upon Churchmen and all Members who on that side had voted against the Bill of the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Osborne Morgan), to vote against the Bill of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour), which would not satisfactorily settle this vexed question.
§ MR. ROBERTS
wished to say a few words on the subject before the House, because it was one in which his constituents, and the people of Wales generally, felt the deepest interest. He was not going to take up the time of the House, and so to help in putting off a division on the Bill, by dwelling at any length on the discursive speech of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment; but he objected to the manner in which he had presumed to divide Nonconformists into sections, and to the motives which he ascribed for their actions. The hon. Member, and others who followed him, had spoken repeatedly of political and of non-political Dissenters. He wanted to know why they should speak of political Dissenters more than of political Churchmen? But to let that pass, he had been much interested in the criticisms of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) on those clauses in the Bill on which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had given Notice of Amendments; and he trusted that when they went into Committee, they 1478 might rely on the valuable assistance of the hon. Member in making the Bill into what he termed a consistent Bill. The hon. Member for Mid-Cheshire (Mr. Wilbraham Egerton) had said many things on which he (Mr. Roberts) would have liked to follow him, but he must refrain for the reason given before; but the hon. Member had said that this question was not merely a clerical one, but one for laymen as well as the Clergy. In that he entirely agreed, and he ventured to say that if the question had been left to the decision of the laymen of the Church, it would long since have been settled. In proof of that assertion, he might mention that whereas nearly 15,000 clerical signatures were obtained in a few days to a Petition against Lord Harrowby's Amendment in the Lords, a canvass, described by a clerical correspondent in The Times as a most energetic one, only succeeded in obtaining 28,000 lay signatures to a Petition against his hon. and learned Friend's Resolution—that was, less than two lay signatures against that of each clergyman. But what he rose to say was that in Wales the difficulty which the Bill of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour) sought to solve was not an abstract one; not, as had been said by hon. Members opposite, a manufactured or fancied grievance, but a real practical grievance, with which they were brought into contact almost daily. The majority of the people of Wales were Nonconformists; the cemeteries in the Principality were few in number, and very unequally distributed. Such burial-grounds as were attached to chapels were generally very limited in area; so that, as a matter of fact, parish churchyards in most districts formed the only burial-grounds available, and it was unfair that the right to use those parish burial-grounds should be clogged with onerous conditions by imposing the use of a Service which, though beautiful and appropriate, was distasteful because it was enforced upon them, and by debarring Nonconformist ministers from saying a word of comfort or of exhortation to their own people at the grave-side of their departed friends. There had been many instances in which the unfairness and disadvantage of the present state of the law had been prominently shown. Reference had been made, he believed, in the House before to the funeral of 1479 the Rev. Henry Rees, the father-in-law of the hon. Member for Anglesey. Nearly 1,000 people had travelled from Liverpool, a distance of 80 miles, to attend the funeral of their pastor, and yet they were not allowed to hear a word spoken in the churchyard by any of the well-known ministers who were present. Similar cases had occurred since that time, and there were many other instances in which inconvenience and scandal had arisen from the present state of the law. He would only refer to one, and he would quote that only because it occurred in the parish in which he lived. At Abergele, last spring, arrangements were duly made for the interment of an old woman in humble circumstances; the hour was fixed, the bell was tolled, and, as was the custom in Wales, a considerable number assembled to pay their last token of respect to the deceased; but the curate—generally very attentive to his duties—had forgotten the engagement, the vicar not being at home, the interment had to take place without any service, though the minister of the Presbyterian church, to which the deceased belonged, was at the grave-side. An old man, however—a layman—ventured to break the law, and to offer up a short prayer before the friends left the churchyard. Those, therefore, who knew the condition of Wales, and the feeling of the people there, could readily understand that the Welsh were very anxious to have this grievance removed. He would not enter on the general question—he thought that it was now beyond the scope or the necessity of argument. His hon. and learned Friend had four times obtained large majorities for his Bill in the last Parliament, and in the present Conservative House of Commons he was last year only beaten by 15 votes. The principle for which they contended had been adopted by the House of Lords. No one would venture to assert that the House of Lords was a revolutionary Body, fond of innovation, or desirous of subverting the Church of England as by law established; and seeing that the House of Lords had approved of the principle of his hon. and learned Friend's Bill, it was idle for hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side to say that it was a measure promoted only by political Dissenters, and the hobgoblin which some of them had conjured up in the Liberation 1480 Society. Though the Bill did not meet the views of many of those who sat on the Opposition Benches in its present shape, still he hoped it would be carried, and, with the assistance of the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, it would be properly amended in Committee, and be made a good and workable measure. He was of opinion that the Bill ought to be passed into law as a measure of justice; for it was not right that the people of England and Wales should be the only people in Europe who were not to be trusted to manage orderly and decent burials.
§ LORD FRANCIS HERVEY
said, he owed some apology to the House for the part he had taken in introducing the Bill to the House, considering that there were no fewer than five other Bills on the subject of burial. The reason which had induced his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour) and himself to propose a Burials Bill was because they heartily wished that the question might be got rid of, and they thought they had devised some expedients by which the grievance that was felt might be removed. The hon. and learned Member for the borough of Cambridge (Mr. Marten) had devoted nearly the whole of his speech to a consideration of the question from a sanitary point of view. He (Lord Francis Hervey) himself did not believe that the Bill now before the House would preclude or prejudice in the slightest degree any just or necessary measure which might be introduced to deal with the question of burials on sanitary grounds. He agreed that those grounds ought to be considered, though not, perhaps, so exclusively as the hon. and learned Member seemed to imply. The hon. and learned Member had challenged the framer of the Bill as to the meaning and object of the 5th clause, which declared the extent of the right of sepulture. The explanation was this. The hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had, on more than one occasion, expressed the opinion that there existed, by common law, a right to interment in the parish churchyard, apart from the performance of the Service of the Church. He (Lord Francis Hervey) had himself made diligent search into legal authorities upon the question, and he had been led to think that the position assumed by the hon. and learned Member was an ex- 1481 ceedingly doubtful one. The case of "the Queen v. Taylor" had been cited in support of it; and the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire had even, he believed, gone so far as to describe this case as a "leading case." But it should be remembered that this "leading case" was never tried, never argued, and never brought to an issue, though, no doubt, some words fell, in the course of what might be called a conversation, from Justice Fortescue which would appear to favour the conclusion of the hon. and learned Member. The case was to be discovered only in manuscript in the Library. On the other hand, he would cite one or two counter-authorities—authorities which were respectable, and even eminent. In the Parson's Counsellor, for instance, which was said to contain all things necessary for a parson to know or to observe, it was laid down that—By the custom of England every person (except such as are hereafter excepted) may at this day he buried in the churchyard of the parish where he dies. Some persons are denied Christian burial, and, therefore, such persons are excepted in what is said before, and may not be buried in the church or churchyard without special licence from the bishop.In Comyn's Digest, under the title "Cemetery," they were told—By the custom of England, every one (who shall have Christian burial) may have burial in the common part of the church or chancel. … Every person (who may have Christian burial) may have burial in the churchyard where he dies by the general custom of England. … But by the canon, a felo-de-se shall not have burial in the church or churchyard without a licence from the bishop or ordinary. Nor a man excommunicated.And Sir John Nicholl said—Taking the context of the law … it leads to the same construction as the general import of the words—viz., that burial is to be refused to those who are not Christians at all, … our Church knowing no such indecency as putting the body into the consecrated ground without the service being at the same time performed.These were authorities on which he relied for showing at least that there was much more to be said on the other side than hon. Gentlemen might suppose; and, therefore, a clause was introduced into this Bill to meet the difficulty. But on the merits, he and the supporters of his Bill had no controversy with the hon. and learned Gentleman. It was now very generally conceded that if 1482 this right did not in strict law exist, it ought to be conceded. There was another clause intended to meet the views of many of the Clergy, and of still more of the Laity of the Church of England. His hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Wilbraham Egerton) had expressed an opinion that some form of Christian burial ought to be introduced for those who had not been baptized. He would find a clause for this purpose in the Bill, and as two of the three main provisions of the Bill obtained the assent or acquiescence of his hon. Friend he would claim his vote for the second reading. It was proposed by the 10th clause of the Bill to admit Nonconformists to the use of the burial-grounds of the Church of England with such services as were usual in the religious society of which the deceased was a member, in all cases where there was no other available accommodation for the bodies of such deceased persons, and where, at the same time, the question was not complicated by recent or definite endowment of the Church intended expressly for the benefit of Church people alone. They drew that limit, because it was one which had been sanctioned more than once by enactment of the Legislature in recent years. He believed they were bound to secure due regard for the wishes of recent donors. They had done so, and the only reward they had got was that the allies of his hon. Friend had circulated a list of donors who demanded the rejection of the Bill, although the rights of every one of them were by the Bill expressly secured. His hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge put the case of a Dissenter buried in a cemetery 49 years old, and within two miles and three-quarters of a burial-ground; but if his hon. Friend's opposition to the Bill were really founded upon such arguments, then he (Lord Francis Hervey) would ask the House to give the Bill a second reading, and to amend it in Committee. His hon. Friend objected that the restrictions which the Bill contained were so harassing and vexatious that they would not be accepted by hon. Gentlemen opposite; and yet, on the other hand, they were told that the Bill was accepted by the Liberation Society and by the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire. His hon. Friend said, in the first place, they had surrendered all the Church of Eng- 1483 land wished to retain, and then turned round and said the Bill was perfectly outrageous, because it gave so little and did not surrender a tithe of what was desired. But the Bill could not be a measure of prodigal liberality and of niggardly parsimony at the same time. His hon. Friend must choose which stool he would stand upon. [Mr. BERESFORD HOPE: Both.] They all knew what happened to gentlemen who stood upon two stools. He would now state why the author of the Bill had not thought it right to adopt the proposition of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), who desired to follow the lines of Plunkett's Act. If changes were to be carried out, they ought to be done by force of law, and not by leaving them to the discretion of ministers of religion. Plunkett's Act was found insufficient in Ireland, and was repealed; and he could not but shrink from exposing the Clergy to the obloquy which the possession of so invidious a privilege would be sure to bring upon them. Again, objection had been taken to the word "Christian" as applied to the services in the churchyard, on the ground that it was vague. But this objection must have been considered in "another place" by many of the most eminent members of the Church and of the Legal Profession; and Lord O'Hagan, Lord Selborne, Lord Blackburn, Lord Coleridge, and Lord Hatherley, all appeared to have come to the conclusion that there was no extraordinary difficulty in interpreting the words "Christian services." Then it was said this was called the thin end of the wedge, and they were called upon to resist the Bill as the introduction to "Disestablishment," and some Members of the Episcopal Bench had even gone so far as to liken their position to the Greeks fighting at Thermopylæ. For his own part, he did not like so ominous and sinister a suggestion. Thermopylæ was a splendid disaster? He feared that if they were to listen to their right rev. Friends, they might find that while they were fighting the battle of the Church, receiving and giving hard knocks, from and to their Nonconformist opponents, some Malian scout might point out a path, say through Hatcham or Holborn, by which the enemy would pass through to Disestablishment, and they would thus suffer entire and total defeat. He would 1484 ask his political Friends where they supposed the strength of the Church, considered as an Establishment, to lie? He did not conceive that the position of the Church rested upon the possession of exclusive privilege or the preservation of professional dignity; their strength rested upon popular esteem and upon the sympathy and appreciation with which the work of the Church was regarded amongst the mass of the people. He did not believe that the opposition of the Clergy and others to this Bill was sympathized with and appreciated by the bulk of what he might call "unattached Christians" in the large towns. He believed that the Church of England, if wisdom guided her councils, had a great future before her, and that the mass of English artizans would not prove hostile to the Church so long as the Church not only upheld the standard of a vigorous and healthy energy, but also displayed a charitable, benignant, and tolerant spirit. He believed that the "common people" were utterly unable to understand for what reason it was that the Clergy of the Church of England so persistently refused to grant their Dissenting brethren the right to lay their dead in the churchyard of the parish with such decent and Christian services as their religious usages might sanction; and he believed that by such refusal they were gradually estranging the feelings with which the working classes regarded the Church. Before sitting down, he would quote the words of one justly considered a high authority on matters concerning the Church of England, though they wore not spoken with reference to the present subject of debate. These words were—What shall we gain if we adhere to the principle of 'No surrender' upon the subject? That is the question, which you must answer by looking at it in the light of the circumstances of the time. You must look not only to the disposition of the nation out-of-doors, but at the course of events in this House, the principles upon which parties guide their movements, and the laws by which public men regulate their conduct; and looking to, and having regard to, all these things, I am bound to say, taking the most impartial view I can upon the subject, I do not think the Church will gain anything by prolonging this contest. I do not conceal for a moment the reluctance with which I give up anything which the Church possesses; but I am bound to look to both sides of the question, and not to content myself with stolid opposition, and refuse to give way to that tendency by which it seems 1485 to me so many of us are apt to be affected, of pursuing for many years a steady obstruction and then giving way to an unreasonable panic. I think, therefore, it is wiser to accept the terms now offered, because I am distinctly of opinion that we may go further and fare worse."—[3 Hansard, cxc. 970.]These were the opinions of Lord Salisbury, spoken when he was Lord Cranborne in that House on the Church Rates Abolition Bill. The words were applicable without the alteration of a letter to the present question. They had a chance now before them of settling the question with dignity; but if they went further they would fare worse. In a few years this question would be settled. It would not be settled on a basis of "No Surrender;" it would be settled on a basis of sacrifice, and it rested with those who sat upon those—the Ministerial—Benches to say whether they would accept the best they could get under the circumstances, so that the sacrifice should be as little as possible, while it should be adequate to the necessities of the case.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, that it would not be respectful to the House, or to his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour), if the Government, however inadequately represented by him (Mr. Talbot), wore silent on the question, or if a Representative of the University of Oxford did not make its voice heard on this Bill. He would endeavour to lay before the House the grounds on which he thought they would be justified in refusing their assent to this Bill. He could not help thinking that his noble Friend who spoke last (Lord Francis Hervey) was a little injudicious in one of the passing allusions he had made. His noble Friend had alluded—as he called it—to the "splendid disaster" of Thermopylæ; but surely he could not have forgotten that that splendid disaster was due to treason in the camp. The noble Lord had also told them, on the authority of the noble and learned authorities in the other House, that no difficulty would arise on the interpretation of the words "services of a solemn and Christian character." But he would point out to his noble Friend that the objection to those words was not only that they were vague, but that they were unjust. If they were going to settle this question, why were they going to settle it only on behalf of Christians? There 1486 were those who differed from the Established Church even more widely than any Christians whatever, and that was not the place in which they could ignore the existence of the Jews. It would certainly be a much greater sacrifice to make the Jews listen to a Christian service than it would be to any Nonconformist to listen to the Burial Service of the Church of England; and his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford could not say they had quite settled the matter as long as they only dealt with Christians of the various denominations. He congratulated his hon. Friend on the respectful consideration which had been given to this attempt to settle this question. He (Mr. Talbot) also had tried his hand in the matter, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) took care that he did not go very far. He had had some difficulty even in being allowed to withdraw his Bill in 1876. The Government, also, must envy the hon. Member for Hertford, because they, too, two years ago, made an attempt to legislate on the question; but those proposals did not meet with a respectful hearing. There was a great gathering of Nonconformist deputies, and the measure was denounced as a monstrous invasion of the rights of conscience and the liberty of the subject, when they attempted to deal with this as a sanitary question. His hon. Friend had, however, been supported by both sides of the House; but he would ask him to consider how the Bill was received, and by whom. On the 10th of February of the present year the Executive Committee of the Liberation Society passed the following resolution:—That, as the Bill of Mr. Balfour recognizes the right of parishioners to have other burial services in churchyards than that of the Church of England, and is objectionable only as far as it limits the exercise of that right, the second reading may be assented to, with a view to proposing, in Committee, such Amendments as will secure the results aimed at by the Bill of Mr. Osborne Morgan.Support of that kind must make them look upon the Bill with some suspicion. The Liberation Society was not an unknown or uninfluential body. They knew that the Liberation Society aimed at the separation of Church and State, or, as they expressed it, "the liberation 1487 of the Church from State control;" and if he (Mr. Talbot) wanted to liberate the Church from the control of the State, he would go and ask their assistance; but until that time arrived, he preferred to take on this question the opinions and authority of Churchmen. Now, what did the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire say? In his speech to his constituents at Wrexham on January 6, 1879, the hon. and learned Gentleman thus expressed his intention of supporting the Bill of his hon. Friend—Referring to Mr. Balfour's Bill, which this year had precedence in point of time over his own, he said that by admitting Nonconformists to the parish churchyards under certain restrictions, it virtually conceded the principle for which he had himself so long contended. He thought, therefore, the proper course would he to vote for the second reading of the Bill, and to amend it in Committee by rejecting limitations under which Nonconformists could never rest, and which, it was fair to say, the author of the Bill did not regard as vital to his Bill. If this was done—and it could he done by a few strokes of the pen—there would be no difference between Mr. Balfour's Bill and his own."—[The Times, January 7, 1879.]How did he know that his hon. Friend did not consider these limitations as vital? Had the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire been in secret conclave with his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford?
There is no authority whatever for the statement to which my hon. Friend has just referred, as to what I regarded as being vital in my measure, and I am sure my hon. and learned Friend opposite will confirm that statement.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
I quoted from a letter written by the hon. Member for Hertford to The Daily News.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he would leave it to the two hon. Gentlemen to settle the matter between themselves. If there was any secret communication between his hon. Friend and the hon. and learned Gentleman, he did not know how far it had gone. But if the case was as stated, and if the Amendments of the hon. and learned Gentleman were agreed to, there would be practically no difference between his own Bill and that now before the House. If those Bills were the same, he would wish to know how his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford could suppose that the Conservative Government, and the Conservative Party, could give their 1488 sanction to it. Something had been said about the thin end of the wedge. He (Mr. Talbot) did not hesitate to say that he opposed the Bill, because he thought it was the thin end of the wedge of Disestablishment, and because he knew there was a thick end outside. If he saw the thin end of a wedge under his window, he would strongly object, and he would endeavour to remove the wedge with all the force he could command. He did not deny that there was a grievance in the matter; but he said it was an infinitesimal grievance, and it was one which was daily diminishing, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite would have allowed Her Majesty's Government to proceed with the Bills they had introduced, and to settle the question as it was proposed to settle it, the grievance might, he would not say entirely, but at least very greatly, have been removed. But there was no disposition on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to settle the matter by compromise in a satisfactory manner. As soon as any proposal was introduced from that side of the House, unless it was an entire surrender of principle, it was at once attacked by hon. Gentlemen opposite. What they really wanted was a triumph over the Church, and ultimately its Disestablishment. That was the more abundantly shown by the Amendments which had been put down by those who were now really supporting the second reading of the Bill. He could not understand how hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, whom he knew to be attached members of the Church of England, could make common cause with those whose avowed wish was to put it down; but that was so. Until there was an alteration, he did not see how the Government could be expected to help any measure such as that now before the House. He asked his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford whether this Bill was likely to be regarded as a settlement of the question? The proposal to permit an interment without any religious ceremony had been described as the "burial of a dog," and would certainly not be accepted as a settlement of the grievance complained of; while to bury a disbeliever in God or in revealed religion with a Christian ceremony was a mockery so dreadful as to be equally abhorrent to both the relatives of the 1489 deceased and Christians. If it were passed, there would certainly be a demand for amendment on a great many points in the clauses. Not alone would Jews be opposed to it, but those persons who, unfortunately, were in antagonism to all revealed religion, and who would not wish to have their bodies committed to the ground with any kind of Christian ceremonial. The hon. Member for the Flint Boroughs (Mr. Roberts) had said there was a wide difference between the number of signatures of the Clergy and those of the Laity attached to the Declaration which had been drawn up against the Burials Bill, the signatures of the Laity being comparatively few compared with those of the Clergy. The hon. Member, however, could not have paid much attention to the history of that document, if he did not know that the Laity who signed it were men of a representative character, and there had been no attempt to canvass for signatures among the Laity. The noble Lord who led the Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington) had used language upon the subject in his speech at Liverpool in the present month, which he (Mr. Talbot) thought were remarkable. The noble Lord said—You know that we are pledged to religions equality. Although I may not attach to that phrase so wide a significance as is attached to it by some of our friends who sit near me, yet I think I may say that the Liberal Party as a whole is pledged to remove all civil disabilities which weigh upon any part of the people in respect of their religious opinions, and to repeal those laws, for instance, which affect burial, which are felt by our Nonconformist fellow-countrymen to be an injustice, a grievance, and a social stigma.He would ask the noble Lord whether, in considering the question, he was not impressed by the feeling that it was the social stigma which was the sting of the whole Nonconformist grievance? He did not believe that the Nonconformists looked on this as an injustice. [Cries of "Yes, yes!"] Well, perhaps, they might consider it as a wrong or a grievance; but he would put it to the House whether there were not two sides to the grievance? Many of the churchyards were given to the Church by persons who wished the Services of the Church of England alone to be performed in them, and would not they feel an injustice if the Bill were passed? He could not help feeling great 1490 regret that it was upon social grounds that this matter pressed upon the feelings of Nonconformists; but surely this was a little unworthy of the great body of Nonconformists? The history of England spoke to the honour of the Nonconformists. There was a time when the Nonconformists considered it a high privilege to give up all the advantages they possessed, and when they did not mind going out into the wilderness, because they disapproved of what was being done, and because they conscientiously objected to the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England. He honoured the Nonconformists who acted in that manner; but when he heard so much about privileges and social stigma, he did not regard that as a very noble way of looking at the question. It was painful to him to take any part in opposition to an hon. Friend whom he so highly esteemed as the hon. Member for Hertford; but he had a long-cherished conviction that the connection between the Church and the State had been the origin of untold and increasing blessings to this country, and it was because he felt that the proposition of his hon. Friend, however well-intended, really went to weaken and ultimately destroy that connection, that he asked the House not to assent to the second reading of the Bill.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, his name had been so often and so pointedly referred to during the debate that he wished to state frankly what course he intended to take in regard to the Bill. But, first, let him congratulate his hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) on the courage, as well as the ability, which he had shown in grappling with this difficult and delicate problem. He would only add that, should the hon. Gentleman's Bill eventuate in the satisfactory settlement of a difficulty which he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had spent nine or ten years in trying to solve, no one would rejoice more heartily than himself. As to the last speech they had heard (Mr. Talbot's), it contained one argument, and one argument only, against the Bill. The Government were going to vote against the Bill because he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) was going to vote for it. That was an argument which it was rather difficult for him to answer. Nor was he going to follow his noble Friend (Lord Francis Hervey) into his abstruse legal 1491 argument on the question of the parishioner's right. He would only ask him one question—Had he over heard of Lord Stowell? Because Lord Stowell had laid down the law on this subject in these words—Every parishioner has a right to interment in the parish churchyard without the leave of the incumbent.Surely that ought to settle the question. Well, then, the law having, as Lord Stowell and, indeed, as this Bill emphatically declared, made the church yard the burial place of every parishioner, irrespective of Church or creed, did it not follow that in a free country the burial ought to be allowed to take place with the ceremonies which were most in harmony with the professions of the dead man and, above all, with the wishes and sentiments of the mourners? They, and not the clergyman, were the persons for whose consolation the service was intended; and surely it was only reasonable to allow them to be consoled in their own way. That was the whole of their contention. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, on the other hand, contended that the law, having several centuries ago secured to every baptized person the privilege of being buried with a certain ceremony which was then universally accepted, you ought to continue to force that privilege upon those who had long since ceased to desire it, or if it were dispensed with, then that you ought not to allow any service at all. Well, then, those being the two principles for which they were respectively contending, what was the principle of that Bill? If they looked to the 2nd sub-section of Clause 6, they would find it provided that at the option of the mourners the burial might take placeWithout the performance therein of the Burial Service of the Church of England, but with such religious service or ceremony as is agreeable with the usages of the religious society (other than the Church of England) of which the deceased person at the time of his death was a member.Why, that was the very thing for which he had been struggling for the last nine years; and that being so, he felt bound to vote for the second reading. No doubt there were things in the Bill to which he objected; but he had always understood that if a Member approved the general principle of a Bill and objected to certain clauses, his proper course was 1492 to vote for the second reading, and then, when the Bill got into Committee, to endeavour to expunge the objectionable clauses, and that was exactly what he proposed to do. He objected to the service being made to depend on the "usages" of the religious society of which the deceased was a member. The word "usage," it had been well said, was one of the most expensive words in the English language, and never ought to be introduced into a well-drawn Act of Parliament. Besides, the ceremony ought not to be made to depend on the creed or church of the deceased, but on the wishes of the mourners, for whose benefit it really was intended. As the Bill stood, if the deceased had been a member of no religious body, or by reason of tender age, or for any other reason, had remained unbaptized, the Bill would not apply, and such scandals as the Akenham burial case would go on unchecked. He should, therefore, move in Committee to amend the 6th clause, by giving the right to select the service or ceremony to the persons who had charge of the burial. As to the 10th clause, he objected to it in toto. Why were the words of a "solemn and Christian character" introduced? After more than 25 years' experience of services in the unconsecrated portions of cemeteries, surely such a limitation, if it could be justified as a matter of right—which he denied—was unnecessary. The 1st sub-section would exclude the operation of the Bill in some 5,000 out of the 13,000 parishes in England and Wales in which the churchyard was still open, so that his hon. Friend would be giving a boon with one hand and taking away half of it with the other. But besides this, the sub-section involved a fallacy. It assumed a principle hitherto unknown to English law—that the donor of land for a public purpose could reserve to himself the right to dictate to the Legislature the way in which the purpose was to be carried out. The donors might, if they pleased, have given the land to private persons to be held in trust to permit the burial of Episcopalians therein, in which case they would have been, like Nonconformist burial-grounds, private property, and no one would have sought to interfere with them. In fact, as stated by Sir John Audry, in a letter to The Guardian last year— 1493The complaint of the donors of land for churchyards has a colour of equity, but it is only a colour. If they gave their land for churchyards, they gave it for all to which the churchyards are liable, and they cannot repudiate the gift because they had not anticipated all its legal consequences,But in some cases the land for the churchyard had been given by Nonconformists—a notable instance of which occurred in a parish close to that in which he had spent many years of his life, where the churchyard had been enlarged by land given for the purpose by a Unitarian. When the donor died, his family naturally felt it a hardship that he should not be allowed to be buried by his own minister in his own land. But this injustice would be perpetuated by the 10th clause. He objected to the clause on the further and broader ground that it would create side by side two classes of churchyards, one of which would be open and the other closed to Nonconformists. Nay, more; in the same churchyard one part might be open and the other closed, or, as pointed out by the hon. Member (Mr. Beresford Hope), a churchyard might be open one day and, in consequence of a gift of a piece of land some two miles distant, it might be closed the next. On these grounds, he would move in Committee to omit the clause altogether; and he felt so strong on the question that, if he failed in his attempt, he should be compelled to join the hon. Member (Mr. Beresford Hope) in endeavouring to reject the Bill on the third reading. But with these Amendments the Bill was his own Bill. It was a case of "Shakespeare and I thought of the same thing," only this time he thought he might say, "I thought of it first." Still the Bill was an honest Bill, and in this respect differed from the other 14 Bills which, since 1870, had been brought in from the opposite side of the House for the purpose, not of solving the difficulty, but of evading it. What was the use of offering cemeteries to people who did not want them? If the Report, which he moved for and obtained two years and a-half ago, showed anything, it showed that the people of England did not love those new-fangled cemeteries; for, at the rate at which they were being constructed, it would take 304 years to close all the churchyards in England and Wales. They loved the old churchyard, 1494 endeared to them by its solemn memories and its revered associations, the rugged yew trees under whichThe rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.And to say that any man, much less any minister of religion, could wish to enter that hallowed spot for the purpose of desecrating it, would be a calumny if it were not an absurdity. As au instance of the feeling in favour of keeping up the churchyard instead of constructing a cemetery, he instanced the case of the parish of Islip, where, the churchyard being full, the adjoining landowners had offered to enlarge it, and the following Memorial had been presented to the Rural Dean of the district by the Rector on behalf of the parish:—(1.) The feeling of the parishioners is unanimous that the (for us) heavy expenses of making the ground available by levelling, planting, building walls, should be defrayed out of the rates, and not be left to voluntary subscription.(2.) The feeling is uqually unanimous against turning the new ground into a cemetery, both on account of the extra cost involved, and also because it would perpetuate in the very centre of the villages, so that all could see, those religious differences which sometimes divide even families.(3.) There remains, therefore, but one course, concerning which once more there is no difference of opinion—that the ground should be converted into a churchyard at the expense of the parish, but that access should be given to religious ministers of all denominations to perform the burial service over all persons whose friends desire it.(4.) We have no choice, therefore, but to wait, at any inconvenience, and possibly danger, till Parliament sees fit to confer upon villages the power of extending their churchyards, subject to this equitable condition, as before stated. That I am fairly representing the opinion of the people of Islip I have no doubt whatever.THOMAS W. FOWLE,Dec. 7, 1878.Rector of Islip.He had no doubt that Memorial fairly expressed the opinion of nineteen-twentieths of the rural Laity of England. But did it represent the opinions of the rural Clergy? Unfortunately, this was a subject on which there existed the greatest possible divergence of opinion between the Clergy and Laity, as was shown by the famous Memorial against Lord Harrowby's Clause, which, in a few weeks, had received the signatures of 15,000 clergymen; but, although it was hawked about the country, and no pains spared to obtain lay signatures, each 1495 clergyman could do little more than obtain two laymen—presumably his own churchwardens—to affix their names to it. The fact was the Laity of England were becoming ashamed of the opposition which was offered to his Bill. They were ashamed of being told, when they went to Austria or Russia, or even to Turkey, that England on this question was lagging behind the most bigoted countries in Europe. Why, Cyprus was miles ahead of us in this matter. The other day an English soldier was buried in one of the parish churchyards of the Greek Church in Cyprus. Now, if a Greek sailor had happened to die in a rural parish in England, everybody knew that he could only have been buried by an Anglican clergyman with the rites of the Anglican Church. But what took place in Cyprus? Why, the Burial Service of the English Church was conducted by an English chaplain. A Greek priest was present, but the only part he took in the service was to bless the grave! Well now, he really thought that poor Greek priest might have taught a lesson of Christian charity to many an Anglican Bishop; and if the acquisition of that unfortunate Island should lead us to assimilate our Burial Laws to those of other and more barbarous countries, he, for one, would feel almost disposed to condone the means by which it was acquired. He deeply regretted the course which the Government had thought proper to take. They had thrown away a great opportunity. They might gracefully have made to one of their own supporters a concession which they had always refused to make to himself. By so doing, they would undoubtedly have earned the gratitude of the Nonconformist bodies. But, paradoxical as it might seem, the Nonconformist bodies were not the religious bodies which were most deeply interested in the settlement of this question. Strong in the justice of their claim, they could afford to wait. They knew that their ultimate triumph was secure, and that the longer it was delayed the more complete it would be. But what about the Church of England? One thing was absolutely certain—that the prolonged agitation of this question was doing incalculable mischief to that Church, and was more than anything else hastening its downfall. If the Government chose to play into the hands of the Liberation Society, it was not for 1496 him to thwart them. But had they forgotten the solemn warning uttered two years ago by the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he entreated the House of Lords to remember that the most vital interests of the Church of England demanded that this question should be settled at once and for ever? And how, then, could it be settled? Did any man with a head upon his shoulders, and with eyes in his head, believe that it could be settled in any other way than upon the lines of this Bill? Why, if every one of those 14 Bills to which he had already alluded were passed tomorrow, they would not advance the settlement of this problem—no, not by one single inch! And it was just because he saw in this Bill an honest attempt to effect that settlement that he would give to the second reading his humble but hearty support.
§ EARL PERCY
understood that the hon. and learned Member who had just spoken supported this Bill not with the view of carrying it, but in order that he might be enabled really to pass his own measure. He should like to know how the hon. Member (Mr. Balfour) and his other hon. Friends who supported the Bill felt, when they were given to understand that, in so doing, they were only playing into the hands of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Osborne Morgan)? What object could they have in trying to force this measure on the House? The second reading could only be carried by the assistance of hon. Gentlemen opposite; and when they got it in Committee they would reject the saving clauses on which his hon. Friends relied. It was hopeless to attempt to conciliate the Liberationists by concessions. The question whether there was a real grievance to be remedied had been already so fully discussed that it was hardly worth while now to enter upon it; but it had been said that even if there were only a supposed grievance on the part of Dissenters, still it was the duty of the House to remove it. But there were many grievances with regard to which the House was not so unanimous as to assent to their removal. There were what were called the grievances of the Sister country; but it did not follow that what was called a grievance must be removed. He ventured to think that that would be a dangerous argument for the House to adopt. No 1497 one said that the Nonconformists would read over the dead services repugnant to Christian feeling; but there were sects in this country who, under such a Bill as this, would be able to hold services in the churchyards which would be most repugnant and repulsive to Christian feelings. What was it that was now proposed? The hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire last year said that the English Church could no longer consider herself both National and Denominational; but that would go much further than churchyards, and it was because of that frank avowal of the hon. and learned Gentleman that this Bill should be rejected. It had been said that it would be prudent on the part of Churchmen to yield upon this question; but what had they gained by yielding upon the question of church rates? He should vote against the Bill.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
I must say that I give my hearty support to this Bill, which, if it goes to a Division, would, I am sure, have the support of the majority of the Irish Members. Now, I will mention to the House a little fact which, I think, is a powerful argument in support of the Bill, and which came under my own personal observation. At Shoeburyness, where there is a large garrison, not long ago—in March last—a Catholic soldier died. There they wore obliged to have him buried under Protestant rites. This fact, as I have said, is entirely within my own personal observation—indeed, the soldier belonged to my own battery, and I had to make most of the arrangements for the funeral. A Catholic clergyman was allowed to say prayers in the dead-house of the garrison—there was no objection to that; but when the funeral procession arrived at the churchyard the Protestant clergyman performed the rest of the ceremony, and the comrades of the man who had lived all his life a Catholic saw him at the last moment handed over to a Protestant clergyman. It was not the fault of the military authorities that this happened, for there was no cemetery within 40 miles. I say that the existing state of the law inflicts a great grievance, and I hope that it may be amended somehow. I think that those who refuse to allow the churchyards to be used for such burials are bound to find some accommodation elsewhere.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
would not say that this was one of the worst attempts to settle this question, but he would say that it was one of the most dangerous. There was no doubt it was the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) in disguise; and the moment the Bill got into Committee that hon. and learned Member's Amendments would at once prove fatal. The Nonconformists had, he was prepared to admit, a grievance, and it was this—that there was no ground open to them in many parishes where they could bury with their own services; but that was the fault of the State and not of the Church, and that did not give them a light to force their ministers or their services into the consecrated ground of Churchmen. This Bill would cause heart burnings all over the country; because in one district the interments would be allowed, and in another, adjoining, they would not be allowed, owing to the grant being made within 50 years. What an invidious position this would place the recent donor of ground in; upon him would be thrown the onus of closing it against certain classes of the community. They had no right to place individuals in such a position as that. Besides, another great objection was that it proposed to re-create the difficulty again, after it had boon once settled, by declaring that when once a cemetery was provided in a parish, the Nonconformists would, ipso facto, be debarred from continuing to use the parish churchyard for their services, after, perhaps, many, many years' quiet exercise of that right under this Bill. He believed there was a satisfactory way of dealing with the question. They must look at it from a sanitary point of view; and where it was necessary to close churchyards, cemeteries must at once be provided. That would leave, no doubt, many churchyards with ample accommodation for several years to come; and as many clergymen might not object to Nonconformists using their burial-grounds, this part of the question ought to be made a parochial one, and certain time allowed for arrangements to be made. They had a precedent to which they could look and by which they could be guided in what had been done by the Education Act of 1870. There, a certain time was allowed the advocates of Church schools and voluntary schools to determine whe- 1499 ther they would or could provide sufficient accommodation for their respective districts, so that there should be both sufficient and efficient accommodation for the district. Give, therefore, each parish two years to deliberate whether they would provide a burial-ground or not. In most cases a ground would be given, and in others it would be bought by subscription. Still, in some cases, owing to there being so few Dissenters, or else so many, it would be thought better to let the Nonconformist minister officiate; so that in whatever parish at the end of two years no cemetery had been provided, it would be assumed that it was desired to let the Nonconformists in. His own opinion was that the Laity felt quite as strongly upon this subject as the Clergy themselves felt, notwithstanding what had been said about the "protest," for which signatures from the Laity had really not been sought, that protest having been signed simply to meet a particular feature that arose in the question.
§ It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.