§ On the order of the clay for taking the Report on this bill into further consideration,
§ The Earl of Eldon
said, that, having an alteration to propose in the preamble of the second clause, he should move that the following words be left out:—"And whereas the Protestant Episcopal Church of England and Ireland, and the doctrine, discipline, and government, thereof, and the Protestant Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and the doctrine, discipline, and government, thereof, are by the laws of tins realm severally established permanently and inviolably." His 110 reason for wishing those words to be left out was, because he thought that that clause had been most insidiously introduced into those bills, from which it had been most incautiously borrowed. The preamble set forth that the doctrine, discipline, and government, of the Church were severally secured and yet they could not be secured if the laws of the realm were altered with respect to that which no man living could doubt were acts which, by the Union, were meant to be preserved as statutes then in force for the security of the Church of England. He strongly contended, that their lordships ought not to leave this clause standing as part of the present bill. It was not, however, his intention to divide the House upon his motion; his object in moving it being merely to have it entered upon the Journals.
§ Earl Grey
hoped, that the assurance of the learned earl, that he would merely move his amendment pro forma, would be better observed than a similar assurance made by the same noble earl last night had been. He had then assured their lordships, that he had no intention of dividing the House upon an amendment proposed by him, his only object being to have it entered upon the Journals; upon the faith of which assurance, several noble lords went away. Nevertheless, the learned earl thought proper afterwards to divide the House upon his motion, behind the backs of those noble lords who had so left the House. In point of order, it was not competent to the learned earl to make this proposition now; for their lordships had already passed the preamble of the bill. The learned earl, their lordships would recollect, had moved the introduction of certain words into the preamble of the bill. That proposition was negatived. Their lordships then proceeded beyond the preamble, and the learned earl moved the introduction of the words "that I am a Protestant" into the Declaration. Now, that motion was under discussion, when it was agreed, in order to give noble lords an opportunity of more maturely considering its effects, to adjourn the further discussion of it until to-day. Therefore, he repeated, that in point of order, it was impossible for the learned earl to make his present proposition in this stage of the bill. But it would be competent to him, at a future period, when the clause came to be put, to object to it altogether; or he might 111 propose any amendment he pleased upon the third reading of the bill.
§ The Earl of Eldon
denied that the House had come to that stage of the bill, in which he had proposed to insert the words "I am a Protestant." On the contrary, a motion was made for the postponement of the further consideration of the report, before he could move the insertion of those words in the Declaration. The noble earl, too, had mistaken what he had stated as to his intention in moving these amendments. He had not said, that he moved them only for the purpose of putting them formally on the Journals; and when that charge had been brought against him last night, he understood that he was entirely acquitted of it. He would be sorry to bring their lordships' proceedings into confusion. No man was more desirous than he was to conform to their orders. He would rather that this faulty, miserable, wretched bill, should pass without any amendment, than be guilty of a breach of the orders of the House. But he maintained that he was not out of order, and that it was fully competent for him to make this motion; and he was the more inclined to persist in making it, after the objections that had been urged against it. He would withdraw his amendment, however, out of compliment to the noble earl; but, on the third reading, he would take the sense of the House upon it.
§ Earl Grey
said, that the learned earl now offered to withdraw his proposition in compliment to him; but he wanted nothing from the learned earl out of compliment. He repeated, that the proposition could not now be brought forward. He had referred to the printed minutes and they fully bore out what he had said. In those minutes there was this entry:—"It was then moved, that after the word 'that' the words 'I am a Protestant' be inserted; which being put, the further consideration of the motion was adjourned until tomorrow."
§ The Earl of Eldon
said, upon his honour, he never did move that amendment. He knew it was so upon the minutes; but he would assert that whoever had placed it there, had done so without being warranted by the fact.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that the course of proceeding last night had been this—the learned lord moved an amendment, which was negatived; he afterwards stated, 112 that he meant to move another amendment, introducing the words "I am a Protestant" into the Declaration, and proceeded to state the grounds on which he meant to move that amendment. Some noble lords then proposed that the subject should stand over till to-night, in order to give them an opportunity of considering it; upon which it was moved, that the question be adjourned to this evening; but he did not think that his learned friend had moved his amendment.
said, that whatever might be the learned lord's recollection of what took place last night, there was the document from which it appeared that the motion was made; and, if any additional proof were necessary, it was to be found in what had been stated by the learned lord, who said that two speeches had been made upon it; because, who ever heard of any noble lord getting up and making a speech to-day, in support of a motion which he intended to bring forward tomorrow? It was clear, therefore, that that question was decided. The noble and learned lord, however, seemed to disregard the records of the House, and called upon the House to take his assertion in preference. Now, he (lord Holland) was—" a plain blunt man;" but only let him suppose that he, or any of his noble friends had attempted to deny the authority of the records of that House, what dreadful consequences would they not be told would ensue from trampling under foot all the sacred rules, and usages, and customs, handed clown to them by their ancestors! If such a proceeding as this were to be allowed, any man who, after a measure had been carried, wished to defeat that measure, would have nothing to do but to say that the motion had not been made. Their lordships must be bound by their own records. The learned earl, however, fortunately for himself—perhaps unfortunately for the House—would have another opportunity of bringing forward his proposition; but, unquestionably, to do so now would be against all rules, and orders.
§ The Earl of Eldon
would withdraw his motion; but he would repeat, that he had never got to that motion which referred to the introduction of the words "I am a Protestant" into the Declaration. What he had said was, that that amendment ought to be introduced, but he had certainly never made the motion.
§ The order of the day being read,
§ The Earl of Eldon
said, he would now move (the clause having been read by the clerk), that instead of the word "declare," the word "swear" be substituted; but he only did so, for the purpose of having such motion entered on the Journals.
§ Earl Grey
rose to order. The House had left off last night at a part of the clause subsequent to that in which the noble and learned earl now moved to introduce his amendment; it was therefore incompetent for him to make that motion now. He was surprised to hear the learned earl re-assert, that he had not, made his motion last night for the introduction of the words "I am a Protestant" into the Declaration in this clause. How could they tell what had been done but by the records of the House? Now, if a false entry had been made in those records, a great fault had been committed by some person, and it ought to be noticed. He certainly thought that the motion had been made, and his recollection was confirmed by the minutes. In future, he hoped that, to avoid accidents, every motion would be read and put before it was entered on the records of the House. He conceived the House was now bound to proceed to the consideration of that question which was under discussion when they adjourned.
§ The Earl of Eldon
wished to be understood as withdrawing these two motions, but not admitting the fact. He would now move, that there be inserted after the words "on the true faith of a Christian," these words, "I am a Protestant." He wished their lordships to understand, that what he was now proposing had relation to the corporations only, and not to offices under the Crown. He also solemnly protested, that he would not make this motion, if he thought that it operated to the prejudice of the claims of the Roman Catholics. What he wished was, that the present bill, if passed, should pass without affecting the Roman Catholic claims one way or the other. His only motive in proposing this amendment was, that if this clause were to be enacted without these words, it would have the effect of materially promoting the views of the Roman Catholics.—He now wished to say a few words again on this subject. The Declaration to which his present amendment referred, had nothing to do with the subsequent part of the bill, with respect 114 to the Test act. The Corporation act, to which alone it did refer, proceeded to state what persons were to be brought into corporations in future. It said, that no mayor, recorder, bailiffs, &c. should be elected who had not taken the Sacrament within twelve months preceding his election. There was not a word said about his taking it after being elected. The Test act required that persons appointed to any offices of trust should take the Sacrament within six months. Now, the Corporation act required that they should take some oaths, but which were altered by three subsequent acts of parliament, by which they were to take the substituted oaths instead of those mentioned in the Corporation act. But in no subsequent act were they required to make the declaration against transubstantiation. Now, he desired to know by what act of parliament a person filling a corporate office, as such, was bound to make the declaration against transubstantiation? A man might be a mayor, or an alderman, but not a justice of the peace; and, unless he was a justice of the peace, he wished to know by what act he was required to make the declaration against transubstantiation? It was nothing more than proper, inasmuch as, with respect to corporations, their lordships were about to repeal the act imposing the Sacramental Test, that something approaching at least to the same security should be substituted in its stead. That Test would not now operate, except in cases where the individual was not only a member of the corporation, but a justice of the peace also. A man might come and make the present Declaration, without being of any religion at all. This, he contended, was the case with reference to the present Declaration. Individuals of any denomination, if they chose to apply, might get into corporations; and, unless they were thereby to become magistrates, the Sacramental Test was dispensed with. Persons of the Roman Catholic persuasion, the antecedent Test of the Sacrament being removed, might, avail themselves of its repeal, and become members of corporations. Of the propriety of annulling that Test, he should now say nothing; but; under this bill it was evident, that any person might enter a corporation, and remain there immovably, without being bound to take any Test whatever, except the very unsatisfactory one, that he would not attempt to injure or disturb the Established 115 Church of the country, by virtue of any power vested in him by reason of his office. Individuals entering office would be equally bound, without taking any such Declaration, not to injure the Established Church, as honest and conscientious men. He therefore said, that if they left the act in this way, it would be incomplete and unsatisfactory. Their lordships ought to frame it, and to pass it, as an act neither prejudicing nor promoting the claims of the Roman Catholics,—a situation in which it did not stand at present. He wished the measure to be so drawn up, as not to interfere with the interests or claims of the Roman Catholics, when that question came to be substantively discussed; but he did not think that any declaration should be agreed to that did not call on the individual taking it to declare, "I am a Protestant." That was a fair and honest proposition. If he were wrong in point of law on this subject, he could only say that he could not, for his life and soul, discover where his error lay. He had taken much pains to arrive at a just knowledge of the question; be had read many acts of parliament on the subject, and he confessed that he could not discover on what point he was wrong.
The Lord Chancellor
said, he felt himself bound, after what had fallen from his noble and learned friend, to state the opinion which he entertained on this question. He rejoiced that their lordships had acceded to the proposition for postponing the consideration of this subject; because he would admit that the observations then thrown out by his noble and learned friend had the effect of creating doubts in his mind; but the delay that had taken place had afforded leisure for reflection and inquiry; and, after the most mature consideration, he was of opinion that there was nothing of solidity in his noble and learned friend's objection. If he could bring himself for a moment to believe, that the words "I am a Protestant" were calculated to give such a complexion to the question as his noble and learned friend had described, he should be the last man to oppose them. But, because he was of opinion that they would produce no such effect, and because he felt that their insertion would only create irritation in the country, he felt himself bound to vote against the motion of his noble and learned friend. The question for consideration was this, 116 —whether, if the words proposed were not inserted as part of the Declaration, Roman Catholics would have the power of becoming governing members of corporations in this country. How stood the law with reference to the maxim which his noble and learned friend had laid down? Every person, being the governing member of a corporation, was bound, before his election, to take the Sacramental Test, and he was bound also, on his election, to take the Oath of Supremacy; so that if the legislature abrogated the Sacramental Test, they would still leave, in full force, the Oath of Supremacy. He called on noble lords, in considering this question, not to listen to rumours and surmises against the Roman Catholics; and he would ask them to declare, calmly and temperately, whether the Oath of Supremacy was not obligatory on the consciences of the Roman Catholics. So far as he had been able to make inquiry, and he had consulted persons of the greatest honour and probity, he was satisfied that the Oath of Supremacy was felt to be highly obligatory on the Roman Catholics. Therefore he contended, that so long as the necessity existed for taking that oath, it formed an effectual bar against the Roman Catholics. He would argue, stopping here, not going a single step farther—repealing the Sacramental Test, but leaving the necessity of taking the Oath of Supremacy in full force—that there was a complete bar against the intrusion of the Roman Catholics. But he did not stop here. He differed entirely from his noble and learned friend; but at the same time felt it incumbent on him, when he declared that he differed from his noble and learned friend on a point of law (and he did so with great deference for his noble and learned friend's experience) to say, that it was the importance of the occasion which called on him to exercise his own judgment and understanding.—His noble and learned friend had asked, by what statute a corporator was bound to make the declaration against transubstantiation? He answered that the governing corporator was bound to make it, by the operation of the Test act. He had looked to that act—he had read the terms of it—and he found the necessity of that declaration being made by every person holding any office, civil or military, was there laid down. The first impression on his mind on looking at 117 that act was, that those words were controlled, in substance, by the subsequent words, which referred to offices held under the Crown. Every person understanding grammatical construction, looking to the way in which the clause was drawn up, must see, that persons holding offices, civil or military, under the Crown, were bound by the words of the act to make the declaration against transubstantiation. But any doubt he might have, as to whether these words were confined to offices under the Crown, were removed by another part of the act; for he there saw words that would have been utterly useless, if the enactments were limited to that point. A proviso was introduced, excepting from the operation of the act a great number of persons holding inferior offices not under the Crown. Now, if the original enacting clause was confined to offices held under the Crown, it would be useless thus to exclude from the operation of the act persons who held no such office. He therefore contended, that the act extended to every person holding a civil office, and did not refer alone to privy councillors and other high dignitaries in the state. This construction was entirely confirmed by the proviso, which it would have been absurd to introduce, if persons holding office under the Crown were alone contemplated by the bill. He felt, in his situation, after what had been said last night by his noble and learned friend, that it was necessary to proceed with the utmost caution; and he therefore made some inquiries as to the practice which prevailed in corporations. He inquired whether the governing officers of corporations, not being in his majesty's commission of the peace, made the declaration against transubstantiation—whether those persons came within the meaning of the act; the ordinary practice being in his opinion, the true expounder of the law. He had stated this question thus plainly to the highest magistrate in the city—to the Recorder; and that learned individual had this day informed him, that after a careful search in the records of the city, he found the custom universally and uniformly to have been, for the members of the common-council—not that part of the corporation who were magistrates—to make the declaration against transubstantiation. He referred, in support of his view of the subject, to the act of parliament, and to the proviso 118 introduced into the statute, and he had all this confirmed by a reference to the custom of the first corporation in the country, authenticated by the first law-officer of that corporation. If, then, they repealed the Sacramental Test, what had they left? Still those applying for particular situations must take the Oath of Supremacy, which, with all his feelings and all his prejudices on this subject, he considered to be sufficiently binding. But beyond this, there still existed the necessity for subscribing to the declaration against transubstantiation, in the manner which he had already pointed out. If, therefore, their lordships were of this opinion, he conjured them not to adopt the amendment. He would say, that it was calculated to create irritation,—that it was likely to do incalculable mischief. Seeing how the measure had been supported by the right reverend bench,—seeing that it had been approved of in the other House of parliament, by those who were most zealous for the Established Church,—seeing that no petitions had been presented against it,—considering that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which were always so actively alive to the interests of the Church, under whose care and patronage the Church was especially placed, as its most vigilant guardians, did not petition against the bill, or express a wish that it would not pass, he had hoped, that their lordships would have sent it out to the world accompanied with such a spirit of conciliation, as would have been highly advantageous to the country. He certainly felt distressed and disappointed at the conduct; pursued by his noble and learned friend,—conduct, no doubt, arising from the best and most conscientious motives, but which was likely to produce much irritation. He gave him the highest credit for his talents, for his great legal powers, and for his zeal for the interest of the Church; but he thought that the exercise of those talents, of those powers, and of that zeal, in the present instance, was decidedly mischievous.
The Bishop of Bristol
said, he was not aware of the legal point which the learned lord on the woolsack had stated; namely, that it was customary for any but the principal officers of corporations to take the declaration against transubstantiation. That, undoubtedly, made a considerable alteration in the case; and many persons 119 might think that it formed a sufficient security against the admission of the Roman Catholics. That was a matter, however, which should be strictly provided for; seeing that the corporations of this country, in many instances, were trustees of property connected with the foundation of schools and other public charities, as well as of funds which were originally bequeathed for ecclesiastical purposes. It was therefore proper that the Catholics should be excluded from coming into corporations; and with that view he could not conceive what good objection could be urged against the suggestion of the learned lord who proposed that the word "Protestant" should be introduced. He did not exactly know whether this bill would make for or against the Roman Catholics but, in legislating for the Dissenters, he thought the measure, whatever it was, should go to that point alone. How this bill would ultimately affect the Roman Catholics, he did not now mean to consider, although he had a decided opinion on the subject. He wished to state the general grounds on which he proceeded with respect to this measure. When he first heard of its introduction into the other House, he confessed it gave him alarm, because he believed it to be a mischievous measure, and he felt considerably surprised when he saw petitions presented in such immense numbers to their lordships' House. There was scarcely one of those petitions that did not breathe a spirit of ill-feeling towards the Church establishment, nay, that did not express detestation against it [no, no]. He did not approve of the bill in its original form; and, with every desire to let the Dissenters into the different offices of government, so far as the security of the state was provided for, he deemed it just and proper that the Declaration should be altered, to afford that security. If the proposition for altering the Declaration had been agreed to, the consequence would be, that the Church of England would feel perfectly satisfied: the Church of Scotland might have been introduced in a manner equally satisfactory, the members of that Church being called on to receive the necessary rites, according to the forms of their religion, at the appointed time; and it was well known that the Wesleyan Methodists would have raised no objection to such an arrangement. In speaking of the petitioners, he meant to say nothing dis- 120 respectful. He esteemed many of them for their candour, their charity, and their humanity. But whenever they came in contact with the Established Church, especially on points of discipline and doctrine, they showed a decided hostility to it. He therefore saw no other mode for the security of the Established Church than to have a more strict Declaration. The Dissenters were a powerful body, they had great control in many places, they had established schools in various parts of the country, and it was not unworthy of remark, that they frequently kept the children at those schools on the Sunday when the service of the Church was going on, by which they were deprived of religious instruction. If they looked at the report of the committee of the House of Commons on Education, they would find it stated, in the evidence of Dr. Hunt, that in his opinion, one great cause of the increase of crime was the detention of the children of these schools. He felt the utmost confidence in the present government, and he was disposed to acquiesce in the provisions of the bill, if proper securities were provided for the Church, and he trusted that the suggestions thrown out by the noble and learned lord would have their full weight.
§ The Earl of Carlisle,
in a low tone of voice, denied that the petitions presented in favour of the bill merited the reflection cast upon them by the right rev. prelate. He had himself laid one upon the table of a very different tenor; and if it had declared its hostility to the Church, he certainly should have felt considerable reluctance in offering it to the House. On the contrary, it stated, that although the Declaration was unnecessary, they did not object to it, as they were conscious that they harboured no feelings inimical to the establishment. After the luminous and convincing argument of the learned lord on the woolsack, it would be presumption for him to say more, than that he fully concurred in it.
§ The Earl of Guilford
said, he thought the course which had been taken in that House, on this occasion, tended to repress freedom of discussion, and to enforce this principle, that no noble lord should state his opinions fairly and conscientiously, and, support those opinions by such arguments as he could adduce, provided those high authorities amongst their lordships, for whom no man entertained a more sincere 121 respect than he did, had previously delivered opinions of a contrary nature. This, however, should never prevent him from stating his sentiments. On the second reading of the present bill, when he heard the opinion of the right reverend bench, or of the majority of them, given in condemnation of the Sacramental Test, he had abstained from delivering his sentiments to the House, because he waited to see what securities could be obtained in the committee, in exchange for that which he considered the most important security for church and state. He wished to see a security fully adequate adopted in the place of that which was removed; but he did not think that any adequate security was offered to the Church. Therefore, he felt himself bound to vote against this bill, because it would, he was confident, be materially detrimental to the best interests of the Church. Having said so much, he felt himself bound, in consequence of the speech of the learned lord on the woolsack, to state briefly why he could not make up his mind conscientiously to vote against the continuance of the Sacramental Test. In that feeling, he coincided with many of the most respectable members of the Church. He would first, look at the subject in a political point of view; and he would say, that whenever danger was likely to arise to the state, on account of religious opinion, conformity or exclusion were the only securities that could be adopted. Religiously speaking, he would willingly abandon the Sacramental Test, if any other adequate security could be found; but when he calmly considered the question—when it was asked whether this holy rite was to be profaned—then he felt that the individual who came forward to take the Test, and not the law, was guilty of profanation. The Church was not to be invaded and her rights trampled under foot for want of security. Let, therefore, the Sacramental Test remain—let the Church stand—and let those who profaned the sacred rite be condemned, and not the law.
The Earl of Roden
said, as he had not heard from any noble lord the expression of opinions similar to those which he held on this important bill, he would state briefly what his opinions on the subject were. He was one of those who conceived it to be most important to listen to the conscientious scruples of the Dissenters. 122 He thought it would be wise in the legislature, if they removed from the Statute-book that Sacramental Test which was objected to by many Christians—not only Dissenters, but members of the Church of England; but he was also of opinion, that it was very important, indeed, that some declaration should be substituted in its place, instead of that which was now proposed. The declaration of which he would approve should not merely be framed to protect the temporalities of the Church of England from apprehended danger—it should not merely have reference to the probable occurrence of machinations that might undermine it: no, he would go much further, he would place on record, in the strongest manner possible, the gratifying fact, that Christianity itself was the most prominent feature of the British constitution. But it appeared to him, so far as the bill had gone, that Christianity had been altogether overlooked: that the greatest of all subjects had been passed unnoticed; while the riches, the temporalities, the rights, the privileges, and the immunities of the Established Church had been carefully attended to. He, for one, lamented exceedingly that that clause which embraced the words, "on the true faith of a Christian," had been agreed to, in preference to the clause proposed by the noble earl opposite, which ran thus—" I do solemnly and sincerely declare, in the presence of Almighty God, and of his Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," &c. He certainly regretted that their lordships had preferred the clause, as it now stood, to that which he had last quoted; because, as he viewed the clause, it appeared to him to be altogether useless, so far as it regarded the manifestation of Christian principle. And why? Because a doubt would still remain as to what was the faith of a true Christian; whereas, in the rejected clause, the fact was expressed, and carried as much conviction to his mind as the Sacramental Test itself. He believed that the bill, as it now stood, would not meet with the approbation of the great body of the Christian people of England, and that the Dissenters themselves would not be satisfied with it. He regretted extremely, as a member of the Church of England, that, in the nineteenth century, the right rev. bench, the successors of Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer, should oppose the clause, which went merely to enable 123 individuals, in a Christian state and country, to declare their belief in the law of Jesus Christ. He had heard much from noble lords on the other side of the House, as to the religious peace which would be secured by this measure. So far, however, from that being the case, he thought that a great alarm existed at that moment, both in the minds of Churchmen and Dissenters, on this subject. But he did think that, even if peace were purchased at such an expense, it would be dearly purchased indeed.
The Bishop of Lincoln
said, he believed, that in what the noble earl had uttered concerning the support given by the bench of bishops to the Declaration proposed to be introduced into the bill, he had fallen into a serious mistake; since, in declaring his opinion upon the insufficiency of that Declaration, he had asserted, that the bishops had shown a greater regard for the temporalities than for the spiritualities of the Church. If the proposition submitted by the noble baron, with respect to the Declaration, had been to alter the liturgy of the Church in conformity to the opinions of the Dissenters, to expunge from its articles some part of the substance of its Creed, or to change its doctrines or its discipline; if these, or any of these, had been the objects of the proposal, there would have been some ground for the assertion, that the clergy in that House had neglected the spiritual doctrines of the Church. But what was the question before the House? It was, whether a portion of the two acts of parliament, whereby persons dissenting from the doctrines of the Church of England were excluded from holding corporate offices should be repealed? Now what conceivable connection there was between that proposition and the spiritual doctrines of the Church of England, he confessed he could not see; and he was surprised that the noble earl should have fallen into the error of conceiving there was any. The facts and arguments advanced by the noble earl could only have arisen from a mistake of the nature of the proposition before the House, or from a confusion of two things, perfectly distinct in their existence; namely, the temporalities of the Church and its spiritual character. He would tell their lordships, that these two things were not connected together, and that one of these might be destroyed without the principle of the other being affected. The 124 Church might be separated from the state—its ministers might be ejected from their benefices—its revenues might be transferred to the support of other denominations, or diverted to secular purposes—but still it would continue to exist as a religious community; its believers would meet for the purpose of performing the act of worship, according to its creed; and they would perform it in a decent form, and with great scrupulousness as to its rites, although they might be deprived of their places of worship. It might be stripped of its worldly wealth, but it would remain rich in spiritual blessings. Such charges as those made by the noble earl against the members of that bench could only proceed from a confusion of the two things to which he had already referred, and which, he was fully convinced, were in their nature extremely different. The charge, however, was such, that, though founded in mistake, he felt himself called on immediately to deny it.
The Bishop of Chester
said, he wished also to offer a few words upon the subject on which his right reverend brother had just addressed the House. The observations of the noble earl seemed to show, that he considered the Corporation and Test acts as a religious security. Now, he had already contended, and would repeat his assertion, that they were only a political security, and that in themselves they had no tendency to support and maintain true religion. If it was true, as the noble earl had represented, that the interests of the Church were ephemeral interests, they were so, because they were not connected with the eternal doctrines of the Church. The only way by which the temporal interests of the Church could be upheld, was by endowment. That was all that the state troubled itself about; it was for the Church to look to the purity of its doctrines and to the discipline of its forms, which ages had already supported. It was uncharitable, then, in the noble earl to make an assertion, which, if it were believed for one moment, could only have the effect of undermining the influence now possessed over the people by the spiritual rulers of the Church. He was sure there was no man more willing to increase that influence than the noble earl: his assertion, therefore, could only be the consequence of the mistake to which his right rev. friend had already alluded, and to a confusion of the two things which 125 he had so truly described, as extremely different, and which had led the noble earl to say that they were intent on the sordid interests which regarded the temporalities of the Church, rather than moved by any high consideration for the spiritual interests of the people.
The Earl of Roden,
in explanation, said, that the right rev. prelates were mistaken in supposing that he meant to insinuate any thing of the kind imputed to him. Quite the contrary. He only lamented that they should exhibit so much indifference to the admission of persons, dissenting from the establishment into the offices of a Christian government and state.
§ Lord Redesdale
said, it was proposed to do away with the Sacramental Test, and to substitute in its stead a simple declaration, to be made by all persons who should be appointed to offices where that Test had been hitherto required. Under these circumstances, he could not conceive any solid objection to the amendment proposed by his noble and learned friend. The only objection he had heard was, that it was not only not necessary, but quite superfluous; and it was argued, that after the repeal of the Test act, the declaration against transubstantiation would still remain as a sufficient barrier against the admission of Roman Catholics to office. Now, he would say, that there were many persons who were ready to make the declaration against transubstantiation, but who were still very far from being Protestants, according to the sense of the word in which it was generally understood. He would call the attention of noble lords, who were anxious for the maintenance of an Established Church to this fact. They should recollect that there was an essential difference between a religious society regulated by law, and a religious society which was neither controlled nor regulated by law. This was an important difference. The religious society which was controlled by law, could not do any thing inconsistent with the law; but, on the other hand, the religious society which was not so controlled and regulated, disavowed and disowned all law. He therefore objected to the present bill, because it went to admit to office, and to influential situations, persons who belonged to religious societies that were not regulated by law. That was his argument against the measure. They had upon their table a number of 126 petitions in favour of it from the friends of religious liberty. "The friends of religious liberty!" Did religious liberty mean the possession of political power; for political power, and nothing else, was manifestly the aim of those who petitioned in favour of the present measure? He was somewhat surprised to find that many persons belonging to the Established Church of Scotland and of this country had joined in those petitions, with the persons who described themselves as the friends of religious liberty. Now, there was a difference between liberty and licentiousness. True liberty was regulated by law. But the liberty sought for by many of these persons was not a liberty regulated by law, but a liberty which could not be regulated by law. He could see no tenable objection to his learned friend's amendment. It had been described as superfluous, but that very objection afforded grounds for asserting that it was not superfluous. The word which his learned friend proposed to introduce into the Declaration was one of great importance. If a man declared that he was a Christian and a Protestant, he would profess himself a member of a religious society which called themselves Christians and Protestants; and he could not belong to that religious society who, while they called themselves Christians, were not Protestants,—namely, the members of the church of Rome.
§ The Earl of Eldon
said, that, after what had been stated by such an authority as the noble lord on the woolsack, he felt it imperative to trespass on their lordships' attention for a few moments. The noble lord had charged him with what he called mischievous conduct on this occasion. He trusted that he had too long engaged the attention of noble lords in that House not to receive from them a patient hearing, while he replied to such a charge, coming from such a place, and such an authority. He would say, that when the noble lord on the woolsack had gone through all the different situations in which he (lord Eldon) had served that House and the country, it would be then imputed to the noble lord with as little reason as it had been imputed to him, that he was pursuing a line of conduct calculated to produce mischievous consequences. He had served his country to the best of his abilities: he had endeavoured to be a useful servant to the coun- 127 try; and, if he were now engaged in any thing calculated to be mischievous to the interests of the public, he prayed to God that he might be forgiven; but he solemnly declared that he could never be engaged in any thing so mischievous as the forwarding of this measure. He was well aware of the fate of the amendment which he now proposed; but such was his conviction of the evil consequences to be apprehended from this bill in its present form, that if he stood alone he would go below the bar and give his vote against it; and, were he called that night to render his account before heaven, he would go with the consoling reflection that he had never advocated any thing mischievous to his country. He cast back the imputation which had been sought to be thrown upon his conduct by the noble lord on the woolsack, with all the scorn of a man who felt himself injured. It was an imputation which he would not endure from any quarter. The noble lord on the woolsack had expressed a difference of opinion from him respecting a point of law involved in the present discussion. He would repeat the opinion which he had already expressed, that if they passed the bill in its present shape, Roman Catholics would be admissible, with other Dissenters, to corporations in this country. If this bill were passed, there existed no law which could prevent Roman Catholics from getting into corporations. He would stake his reputation as a lawyer upon the fact. But, said the noble lord on the woolsack, if the Corporation and Test acts were repealed, there still remained the declaration against transubstantiation to exclude Roman Catholics from corporate offices; and the noble lord, they were told, had even taken the opinion of the Recorder of London on the subject. Neither had he (lord Eldon) been wanting in his inquiries; and he found that in sonic places the declaration against transubstantiation was taken, and that in others it was not. How did it happen that such a variation in the practice occurred? Those two acts being stated to apply to corporations, and those who qualified under the Test act being obliged to make the declaration, it occurred to some petty officers of corporations, that it was necessary to make the declaration to qualify for corporate offices, while other officers in other corporations entertained a different opinion, and thus the practice varied ac- 128 cording to the notions of those who called on persons to qualify. Under these circumstances, he had no way left for deciding the matter but by looking at the acts themselves. He would assert, and he would make the assertion were he now upon his judicial oath, that persons who came into corporations were not bound to attend to the enactments of the Test act. What was the intention of those who passed the Test act? After the Corporation act had been passed, and was in full force, did they mean to do this—to say that a man who, under the Corporation act had, in the preceding twelve months, taken the Sacramental Test, should take it again in six months as a qualification under the Test act? These two acts would then so far differ, that the one required the Sacramental Test as an antecedent qualification, and the other required it to be taken as a subsequent qualification. Unless, then, it could be shown that the subsequent act called for a subsequent or second qualification in those who had been admitted to corporate offices, the argument as to the declaration prescribed by the Test act fell to the ground. He (lord Eldon) must act upon his opinion, and that opinion was, that under the Test act, no man was bound to make the declaration against transubstantiation in his mere corporate character or capacity. But if a man were appointed a justice of the peace, by virtue of his office and in his public character, he would be bound to take the declaration against transubstantiation, which in his mere character of corporator he would not be bound to take. It was on this account that he was anxious to have the words proposed in his amendment introduced into the Declaration, and he was determined to take the sense of their lordships upon it. Respecting the governing members of corporations being, as it was asserted, magistrates, and therefore obliged to take the declaration against transubstantiation, he had the authority of lord Coke for saying, that a mayor as a mayor, or an alderman as an alderman, were not justices of the peace, and their mode of qualifying for office was perfectly distinct. He had reason to believe, that the opinions of the learned lord on the woolsack respecting the repeal of the Corporation and Test acts had been changed within the last few days. As one of its members, it must be supposed that the learned lord was a 129 party to the determination of government to oppose this bill on its first introduction. He trusted that the learned lord having now yielded his opinions on the subject to those of others, would not attack the motives of those who still maintained that opposition, which it was his original intention to offer to this bill. No doubt the learned lord had, for very satisfactory reasons, receded from his opinions; but he should deal fairly towards those who still adhered to the opinions which he had thought proper to abandon. It was rather hard, under these circumstances, that his conduct should be held up to contempt, because he opposed this bill. Intentions had been imputed to him which he most solemnly disavowed. He considered the supporters of the measure as actuated by conscientious motives, and he only asked them to judge with equal fairness of the motives which actuated his conduct. He did think that this was a most mischievous measure; and for such a declaration he was ready to answer at the bar of his country. He repeated, that he considered this bill a most pernicious measure [a laugh]. Noble lords treated this with a laugh. He was glad to find that he was able to give noble lords some entertainment. He would again assert, that the present measure went to destroy the unity established, by the constitution of the country, between the Church and the State. The measure was nothing more nor less than an attack upon the constitution of the country. It had been one of the consequences of that "march of intellect," and that "liberality" of which they had heard so much; and sure he was, that in the progress of time this and similar marches would succeed in uprooting the foundations of all that constituted the happiness, and glory of this country. Much praise had been bestowed, by the supporters of this bill, upon the clergy and the members of the Established Church, on account of the small number of petitions presented from them against it. He did not know that they were to be praised for resting upon their oars. If restless activity on the one side was only to be met by dormant apathy on the other, let the consequences rest upon them, and not upon him. No individual could entertain a higher respect for the bench of bishops than he did. He venerated them as a body, and each individual amongst them commanded his respect; but they 130 must pardon him for saying, that he did not conceive that their support of this measure was calculated to strengthen the Established Church. He wished to God that reverend prelates and noble lords had read the petitions which had been presented in favour of this measure. He had looked into most of them, and when this discussion should terminate, he would rather suffer death than have it told that he supported this bill. From the petitions presented in favour of this bill, it was easy to discover the intentions of the petitioners, and to perceive that the measure was founded upon revolutionary principles. He knew well how these numerous petitions had been got up: nothing more was necessary than to establish a committee in London, and to open communications with the various Dissenters throughout the country. Then the plan was, to send three forms of petitions to the Dissenting ministers in each parish: one was to be presented to the Dissenters for signature; the next was intended to be shown to such of the Established Clergy as they might reckon upon joining with them; and the third form of petition was for those liberal-minded persons whose enlightened views of things far exceeded those which he or any simple Church-of-England-man entertained. He would repeat, that his conduct on this occasion did not deserve the language which had been applied to it. His efforts might prove unsuccessful, but he should have the satisfaction to reflect, that he had done his duty to his country and to his king, whom they obliged to take a test, from which they were pleased, by this measure, to relieve his subjects.
The Duke of Newcastle
said, he had a decided objection to the repeal of the Corporation and Test acts; and he felt more strongly opposed to that repeal, as he was convinced that the present concession had been made, in consequence of the clamour which had been raised upon the subject, within as well as without that House. He considered the Corporation and Test acts to be the strongest barriers to the inroads upon the constitution in Church and State. But, if they were to be repealed, something like an equivalent security should be provided in their stead. He considered the Declaration as it stood, quite nugatory, as a security. They had obtained something like an approach to an acknowledgment of Christianity in it 131 but that had only been gained by hard fighting. He regretted that any of the right rev. prelates had given their support to the bill. At what time had there been greater liberty of conscience, than during the existence of the Test and Corporation acts? In every view which he could take of this subject, he thought it was most inexpedient for the government to give their support to such a measure. For his own part, with every respect for the high character of the noble duke at the head of the government, he could not consent to the enactment of this bill, unless it was accompanied by a full acknowledgment of Christianity, and of the predominancy of the Established Church.
The Bishop of Gloucester
said, that it had been a very prevalent opinion, that the political introduction of the Sacramental Test was liable to abuse and profanation. Now, he well knew that many pious and excellent men were of a contrary opinion to this; and when such a contrariety of opinions existed, it was their duty to endeavour to find out which side preponderated. But, in addition to the arguments that could be adduced on either side, there was a strong moral feeling in his mind—so strong, that it weighed more with him than all those arguments. It was because the Test act had long been a dead letter—a thing in existence but never in use—that he voted for the present bill. The Test had been made use of in former times, and perhaps it was then proper; but it had now become obsolete. He had voted for the Declaration that was introduced into the bill—not because it formed a stronger bulwark than the Sacramental Test, as far as the Dissenters were concerned, but because he considered it as a Declaration, on the part of the legislature, the laws, and the government, of the country, that, to the best of their power, they would support and uphold the doctrine, discipline, and government, of the Church of England. In giving his assent to the amendment of the noble and learned lord, it was not because he thought that it was of any force or validity, but rather because he knew that there was a feeling abroad—and that too, among very excellent persons—that in bringing in this bill in behalf of the Dissenters, they were at the same time opening the door to the claims of the Roman Catholics. Such, however, was certainly 132 not his opinion; for he thought that the Oath of Supremacy was a sufficient guard against the Roman Catholics; unless indeed (which he did not believe) they could procure a dispensation for taking such an Oath; and if that were to be the case, he should then like to know how this Declaration, let it be shaped in what way their lordships pleased, could form a security.
§ The question was then put upon the amendment for introducing into the Declaration the words "I am a Protestant," when the House divided: For the Amendment, present, 43; Proxies, 12–55; Against it, present, 73; Proxies, 44–117; Majority against the Amendment, 62.
The Earl of Winchilsea
then proposed his amendment, that after the word "that" in the Declaration, be inserted these words, "I believe the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, as set forth by the laws of this realm, to be the revealed word of God." He professed to regard this great question upon principles involved in the broad basis of Christianity, and not with reference to the tenets of any particular sect. In taking up that general position, he must be permitted to protest against the doctrines propounded by the government in their support of this bill, and more particularly against the opinion of one noble lord opposite, who had declared, that the religion of a man did not signify in considering his qualification for civil office. Such an opinion was decidedly at variance with the spirit and provisions of the great institutions of this country. He would maintain that exclusion from political power, and persecution, were not, as some people thought, synonymous terms. In examining the prayer of the petitions presented from the Dissenters in support of this bill, he found them all claiming credit for a belief in Christianity; while he could positively affirm, that some of them were no more entitled to the appellation of Christians, than the followers of Mahomet; indeed, not so much; for while the former denied the existence of Christ, the Mahometan believed in it. He therefore called upon the government and the prelacy to support him in this attempt to uphold the establishment of Christianity.
The Bishop of Chester
said, it appeared to him that the state of the question was materially altered since the former amend- 133 ment that had been moved by the noble earl. It had then seemed to be the pretty general feeling of the House, that there should be a call on every person, coming within the meaning of this bill, to declare himself a Christian; and with the substance of that feeling, he, too, agreed: but if the wish merely was, that every man should declare himself a Christian, he thought that the words that had been introduced—"on the true faith of a Christian"—were quite sufficient to answer that purpose; and, indeed, as every man in this country, had a right, prima facie, to be considered as a Christian, until actual proof was brought to the contrary, he thought that the security was ample: and, in the name of all that was reasonable and tolerant, he thought they ought to be content with such a Declaration. As the Declaration now stood, whoever made it, professed his belief in the Scriptures; and he therefore thought it needless to embarrass the formula, by adding unnecessary matter.
The Bishop of Llandaff
thought the amendment unnecessary. It was already provided, that the Declaration should be taken on the faith of a Christian; and he could not conceive how any person who called himself a Christian, could deny that the canonical books of the Old and of the New Testament contained the revealed will of God. The amendment was objectionable on another ground. A Mahometan might subscribe to the Declaration, as the noble earl had worded it; for it was unquestionable, that the Mahometan agreed with the Christian in thinking, that the five books of Moses, and the four Gospels, were composed under the immediate inspiration of God. For these reasons he should object to the amendment, which he did not consider to be so good a Test as that which he had proposed himself.
§ The House divided: For the Amendment 22; Against it 70; Majority 48.
The Lord Chancellor
said, he had promised their lordships in the committee, that if they would agree to the last clause but one, and to the last clause but two in the bill as they then stood, he would, at a future period, substitute for them clauses of a more definite nature. He now rose to make good that promise. One mode of making that substitution was by naming expressly the different offices of which the holders were not to be required to make the Declaration, Another mode 134 was, by declaring that all persons who were bound to take the Sacramental Test should subscribe the Declaration, with certain exceptions. He preferred the latter mode. He should therefore propose a clause, enacting, that all persons who were now bound to take the Sacramental Test on their admission into office, should, in future, take the Declaration in this bill in lieu of it. It was clear, however, that if this enactment were carried literally into effect, it would apply to the holders of many small and insignificant offices; and the calling upon them to make such a Declaration would throw a degree of ridicule upon it, which would be highly impolitic. He therefore proposed to name the exceptions. At first he thought that this would be impossible; but on reverting to an act passed in the fifth year of the present king, he found the very thing done which he was desirous of accomplishing. By that act it was provided, that the acts calling on those who entered upon offices and employment to take the Sacramental Test within a limited time, should not extend to any commissioners of taxes, customs, excise, or stamps, or to any persons engaged in the collection of the revenue under them. He should therefore adopt the language of that act, and frame one of the clauses of which he had given notice out of it. It had been likewise suggested that it would be proper to include in the exception, officers in the army and navy, below a certain rank. He had endeavoured to meet that suggestion. Having now stated the effect of his two clauses, the best plan, perhaps, would be to have them read.
§ The clauses were read and agreed to.
The Earl of Falmouth
said, that he, too, had an amendment to propose. It related to the disposal of patronage in the Church by corporate bodies, and was as follows:—" Whereas, for the clue security of the Church, it is expedient that provision be made for the proper presentation of ecclesiastical benefices belonging to corporations in the kingdom of England and Wales, be it enacted, that from and after the passing of this act, no person, being a member of a corporation, shall present, nominate, or appoint, or take a part in presenting, nominating, or appointing, any clergyman to any ecclesiastical benefice in the gift of the corporation of which he is a member, until he shall make and sub-scribe the following Declaration;' I, A. B., 135 do declare my assent and consent to the 'book of Common Prayer and administration of the holy Sacrament, and to the 'thirty-nine articles of the Church of 'England comprised therein.'"—Me might be told, that there existed already a sufficient security against any abuse of the patronage which corporations exercised over ecclesiastical benefices, in the circumstance, that every person upon whom they were bestowed must subscribe to the thirty-nine articles, and conform to the book of Common Prayer. This, however, was a security which only affected the receiver; and his object was to make it apply, in future, to the dispensers of ecclesiastical patronage. Their lordships would recollect, that Roman Catholics—so jealous was the constitution—were not trusted with the disposal of any part of the patronage of the Church of England. He was sure that parliament, acting upon the principle of preventing those from interfering with the government of the Church, who did not believe in its doctrines, never could have intended to let the Dissenters have any interest in the disposal of the patronage of the Church, much less to dispose of it as they might think most expedient. He wished to prevent the possibility of any benefices in the Church of England being filled by persons who, though they professed an outward conformity to the Established Church, were Dissenters at heart. Again, if there was security at present, he wished to increase it; and he thought he was acting wisely in attempting to gain that object, when their lordships were dispensing with a bill which he conceived to have been a most effectual check upon the parties against whom it was aimed. The noble lord concluded by moving the said clause.
objected to the clause, as being useless and unnecessary. We had already a much stronger security for it in the subscription to the thirty-nine articles, which every bishop had a right to ask, and in point of fact did ask, from every new incumbent within his diocese. His noble friend had grossly exaggerated the danger likely to accrue to the Church from this measure. No danger could arise from the disposal of Church preferment by corporations, until the Dissenters obtained a majority in those corporations. His noble friend had talked of the principle upon which he rested this amendment. Had his noble friend considered the length 136 to which he must carry his principle, if he once established it? He must deprive every lay Dissenter, in his individual capacity, of the same power which he was now so anxious to take from him in a corporate capacity.
The Bishop of Llandaff
thought the amendment unnecessary. The noble earl had argued as if the bishops had nothing to do with a new incumbent, but to call for his signature to the thirty-nine articles. Surely the noble earl could not have forgotten that the incumbent presented to the bishop must be an ordained member of the Church of England—that he must have been educated in the Church of England—that he must subscribe to her articles—that he must have been examined by one of her bishops, or his chaplain, as to his fitness for the holy office—and that all this must take place before he was in a situation to receive preferment. The noble earl appeared to him to reason very curiously, from the law which prevented Roman Catholics from presenting to benefices in the Church of England. He said, it was a proof that parliament wished to confine the disposal of the patronage of the Church to those who conformed to its doctrines and worship. Now, he looked upon it in a different light. The strong proof, that parliament marked out the case of the Roman Catholics as peculiar, was to be found in the fact, that it left the disposal of the very same patronage which it took away from the Roman Catholics, in the hands of lay Dissenters. Parliament had made no law of exclusion, on this subject, for the Dissenter; and he would say, that such a law could not be vindicated upon the ground either of justice or expediency. He regarded the law which deprived Roman Catholics of the right of presenting to the benefices which formed part of their estates as a harsh interference with the rights of property, and as a miserable relique of those penal laws which he wished obliterated from the Statute-book. He could not see the likelihood of any danger arising from allowing to Dissenters the right to present to benefices, for the benefices must be bestowed upon the clergy of the Established Church. He would ask the noble lord, whether there had ever come to his knowledge an instance of a Dissenter having exercised his right of presentation, to the disgrace or detriment of the Established Church? If no such 137 instance had come within the noble earl's knowledge, then was he conjuring up imaginary grievances to frighten himself and his friends, which the sooner they got rid of the better for all parties.
§ The clause was negatived.
The Bishop of Llandaff
said, it was his intention, on the third reading of the bill, to propose another clause. He had upon a former occasion, expressed his dissatisfaction at the present Declaration. As it stood, he considered it utterly unworthy of their lordships. It was now converted into an oath [cries of "no, no,"]: he maintained that it was; for a Declaration solemnly made in the face of God was an oath, even though the words "So help me God" were not attached to it. It was converted, he said, into an oath; and his objection to it was the awkwardness of the situation in which it placed the Dissenters. It was to be administered to all persons upon their admission into civil offices. Now, he calculated that nine-tenths of the persons who would be called upon to take it would be of that description on which it was never intended to be imposed. He should therefore contend, on the principle that the legislature ought not needlessly to multiply oaths, that it was unworthy of the House to frame the Declaration in the invidious form in which it now stood. He had wished their lordships to make the persons who entered upon office declare, "that, so far as concerned the duties of their office, they would respect and maintain the rights and privileges of the Established Church." That Declaration was objected to, 'on account of the inconvenience it was likely to cause to some consciences. He had yielded to the objection, and did not press his amendment. He must, however, say, that all his subsequent impressions confirmed the correctness of his original opinion. The object which he had in view would be obtained by the insertion of a short clause, of which the tenour would be, that those persons who were members of the Church of England should not be called upon to take this Declaration upon their admission into office.
§ The report was brought up, and the bill, as amended, was ordered to be printed.