§ Order of the Day for the Third Beading, read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3ª."—(The Lord Chancellor.)
THE ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
said, that the rural clergy were extremely agitated 683 about this measure, and expressed a hope that some time might be allowed to elapse between the passage of the Bill and the Act coming into operation, as he believed such an interval would diminish the heart-burning and cause the measure to work much more smoothly than if it came into operation speedily.
THE BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH,
who reminded their Lordships that he had taken no part in the debates or divisions on the Bill, wished to say a few words before the measure reached the House of Commons, where, he believed, its real value would be settled and its fate would be decided. He was not about to trouble their Lordships with any expression of opinion on the principle of the Bill. That principle their Lordships had affirmed, not only on the second reading of this measure, but by a Resolution passed three years ago; and it would be preposterous in him to suppose that anything he could now say would induce their Lordships to alter their determination on that point. He wished, however, to say a few words on the results that he expected to see follow the passing of the Bill. And first, he would remark that he feared it would not be very long before the principle and its corollaries which had been applied in this case would be brought to bear on other acres besides "God's acre." He hoped it would not be so; but he thought he saw symptoms of it in Ireland, and in England a growing tendency in the same direction. He thought their Lordships might anticipate that the Amendments passed on the Motion of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Mount Edgcumbe) and the right rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of York) would vanish in "another place;" for if anyone thought that for the sake of Amendments carried by such narrow majorities, and on which the Episcopate was divided, their Lordships' House would throw out the Bill when it came back to them again, at the risk of keeping the question open for another nine months and getting a worse Bill at the end of that time, he thought that person would find himself mistaken. He remembered the history of the Irish Church Act, and he could not but think that proved it. He wished to express his unfeigned gratitude to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for the anxiety he had shown to do justice to 684 the clergy; but, in the two essential particulars in which Her Majesty's Government had departed from Mr. Osborne Morgan's Bill, they had not succeeded in effecting what was really desired by the clergy. That he had ascertained to be the feeling of a large majority of the clergy of his diocese. One of the two points to which he referred was the provision that all burials under the Bill should be Christian; the other was the concession to the feelings and difficulties of the clergy known generally amongst them as the Convocation Clause. The former provision was open to the peril arising from the fact that it was a distinct violation of the principle of religious equality. It was perfectly clear that the clause would encounter violent opposition in "another place" from two parties—one, that large party, who hated the Church of England a little more than they loved Christianity; and the second, that smaller but resolute party, who hated Christianity a little more than they hated the Church of England. How far the Government, and especially the Prime Minister, would be able to resist the union of those two forces it was not for him to say. He valued the clause himself, because it was a recognition by the Legislature of the principle that the services in churchyards ought to be Christian; but if those parties succeeded in striking it out of the Bill, he thought that in practice it would very little matter. It seemed to him utterly impossible to frame in any Act of Parliament a definition of Christianity. If anyone could have succeeded in doing that it was the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. What the clause in reality did was not to define the nature of the Burial Service, but the profession or denomination of the person who was to perform it. The result was that any service might be used by any person, male or female, who on the occasion professed himself or herself to be a Christian. The Rev. Charles Voysey had written a letter to show that a particular congregation would be precluded from using a really Christian service which contained the Lord's Prayer and extracts from Scripture, because they would not call themselves Christian. A person who professed himself a Christian for a single day and abandoned the title the next day, might succeed in having an unchristian service performed at the grave. 685 The clergy of his diocese felt strongly that the provision would not prevent non-Christian services, the more especially as the clause did not provide any penalty for non-Christian services, though there was for disorderly services. Whatever might be its intention, the clause was practically inoperative, and he believed it would vanish from the Bill. The Convocation Clause, which referred to certain amendments of the Burials Rubrics carried in Convocation, and scheduled in the Bill, was a practical matter, and deserved the serious attention both of the clergy and laity of the Church of England. Briefly, it amounted to this —that whereas under the existing Burial Laws of the Church there were three classes of persons over whom the Burial Service might not be read, the amended Rubrics in the clause would allow the clergy, with the consent of the kindred of the deceased, to read two alternative services. The title was not his, but he knew that they had already been styled second and third-class Burial Services. That did not remove the real grievance of the clergy, which was that at present they were obliged to read the Burial Service over the greatest reprobate, if he had been baptized or had not committed suicide. Under this Bill the clergy would be obliged to bury those persons whom the Dissenting ministers might have pronounced to be too bad for them to bury. On the other hand, what relief was offered to the clergy? They might read over these unhappy deceased persons who were thus handed over to them one or other of the alternative Burial Services, provided they obtained the consent of the very persons who had the most special and intense interest in refusing that permission, and in preventing dishonour from being done to the remains of their relations, and a slur from being cast on the family under the provisions of this Act. Was it probable or possible that the clergy would feel a sense of relief in such a provision as that? Human nature throughout the dioceses of England generally was an average human nature, and it was against human nature if it was expected that this clause would be largely successful in relieving the clergy. He asked their Lordships to look at the enormous price which the clergy had to pay for the boon, small as it was, of having an alternative service. If the 686 clause passed, this would be the result. The clergy would be compelled to give a certificate of character to every one of the parishioners they buried. If they performed the full Burial Service, that would amount to a declaration that the deceased was worthy of it; if they did not, that would be declaration that the deceased was not worthy of it. That was a painful and terrible dilemma in which to place the clergy. But he would also ask how it would affect the laity? Were they to assent to the imposing of a necessity on clergymen of pronouncing a post mortem judgment in the case of every member of their families who died, and authorize the clergy to go to kindred and friends and worry thorn as to the form of the Burial Service? Who were "the kindred" under this Bill? Would the cousin, or the cousin once removed, come within that category? The next of kin might be a person who differed from the deceased in religion, or between whom and the deceased there had been positive enmity. He might be a person whom the deceased had disinherited. Was the kinsman who had been cut off with a shilling to come and consult with the widow as to the prayers which were to be read over the person who had cut him off? The most rev. Primate and some of his right rev. Brethren were so enamoured of this clause, that they were ready to run the risk of wrecking the Bill in August next by re-inserting it. On account of it they rose to a height of courage in favour of the Bill to which he did not feel himself able to ascend. The most rev. Primate advocated the clause as embodying a recommendation of Convocation and removing a grievance suffered by the clergy. It did remove one grievance, but it was by inflicting another. He ventured to say that such a clause would stir up strife and bitterness in every parish in the land. Instead of the small grievance which existed now between the clergy and the Dissenters, it would lead to a much larger one between the clergy and their parishioners. He might mention that, at a large and important meeting of the clergy in his own diocese, held on the preceding day, the conclusion was come to that the clause would give rise to more painful difficulties and more occasions of strife in parishes than it removed, and they, therefore, 687 desired its omission from the Bill. Three years ago the most rev. Prelate was not so enamoured of the opinion of Convocation and the clergy; and he begged to remind the most rev. Prelate and their Lordships' House that there had been a more recent utterance from the clergy of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury than the recommendation in question. He was sure that when the clergy complained that they were not sufficiently represented in Convocation, and the laity that they were not represented in it at all, rather cold comfort was given them by telling them that this dangerous clause was approved of by Convocation. Moreover, he had to point out that those amended Rubrics re-adopted by Convocation were passed in different circumstances. He took part in framing them, though at the time he expressed misgivings as to the result; but those amended Rubrics were framed, not to form part of a Burials Bill, but to prevent a Burials Bill from being passed. ["Hear, hear!"] Precisely so; and he would add this fact, that these clauses were introduced for the purpose of giving relief to the unbaptized Dissenter, whose case had been supported by no one more powerfully than by the most rev. Prelate who had somewhat sarcastically cheered his remarks. The necessity for the amended Rubrics was therefore gone with this Bill; for, although it was supposed to give relief to the clergy by empowering them to read the shorter service over the unbaptized, yet in case a Baptist came to a clergyman to bury his child, and the clergyman said, "lean only read the inferior service," what would be the answer? "Thank you for nothing, I can have the full service read by myself, or by our own minister." To use the Rubrics of Convocation in this Bill was to use clauses passed with one object for another never intended and never wished for by the authors. The same Convocation which recommended those Rubrics, recommended that there should be no Parliamentary legislation with respect to them till certain of the relations between Convocation and Parliament underwent alteration. This application of the Rubrics was, therefore, in the teeth of that recommendation of Convocation. After this, he trusted they would hear less of the defence of the clause founded on the recommon- 688 dation of Convocation. He had only further to remark that he was deeply struck, at the meeting he referred to, and in other conferences with the clergy, at the growing readiness to yield to the Bill, when passed, a loyal, patient, and a dignified submission. The clergy felt, rightly or wrongly, that they were deeply wounded by this Bill. He had regarded it as his duty as a Bishop to press on the clergy this consideration—how undignified and how unworthy it would be if they were to offer a petulant obstruction to the Bill; and that their duty was to endeavour that this Bill, when passed, should work with as little friction and as little offence and as much ease and kindness and goodwill as possible. And every one of those present at the meeting rose, one after another, to say how entirely it was their desire, loyally and fairly and honestly to carry out this Act, and to oppose no undue or frivolous obstruction to it. One most rev. Prelate, some nights ago, had referred to the angry letters he had received from clergymen with reference to this Bill. He also had received angry letters; but he could not help thinking that as time went on those feelings would wear away. It was not merely the clergy of the Church of England who would require to exercise forbearance; it was to be feared that there would be on the part of Nonconformists exhibitions of feeling which it would be well that the leaders of that party should do all in their power to prevent. With the view to the better closing of the controversy, he most earnestly appealed to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to allow a few months or a year to elapse between the passing of the Bill and its coming into operation; and he felt certain that in this matter the Bishops and clergy would be true to their Ordination vow, and promote peace and goodwill among those intrusted to their charge.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
said, he heartily concurred in the closing remarks of his right rev. Brother; but he could not agree in the remarks made by him in the earlier portion of his speech. Whatever his right rev. Brother might think of his views of Convocation, or of the weight to which its resolutions were entitled, Convocation was a better representative of the clergy than was the meeting attended a few days ago by 689 the right rev. Prelate. Now, what was the upshot of the right rev. Prelate's speech? It was a speech in favour of Mr. Osborne Morgan's Bill.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
said, he was not in favour of Mr. Osborne Morgan's Bill; but he thought the Bill now before the House was a fair mode of treating the question. On the one hand, it met a demand made by the Nonconformists; and on the other, there was a concession made to the clergy of the Church of England. Whatever might have been the motives of his right rev. Brother in assisting to draw up the recommendations of Convocation, he could say that if his right rev. Brother meant those recommendations to be a means of preventing their Lordships from ever taking up the Burials Bill, certainly that was not the view of the majority of those who concurred in them. He understood that the right rev. Prelate was not in favour of the clause which prescribed the character of the service which might be conducted at the grave; but, seeing that it was a safe-guard for Christian services, he was surprised that his right rev. Brother should have so expressed himself in regard to it as to lead possibly to its ultimate omission from the Bill. He had yet to learn that it was likely that their Lordships would approve of what his right rev. Brother seemed to say—namely, that they ought, on principles of religious equality, to permit secular services in their churchyards.
THE BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH
begged the most rev. Prelate's pardon. He had said that he valued the clause highly because of its assertion that the burial should be Christian, but thought in practice it would be inoperative.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
thought it very undesirable that on such a point the right rev. Prelate should have expressed himself in such a way as to lead to a misapprehension of his words. He had understood the right rev. Prelate, by way of objection, to say that to introduce the word "Christian" was in opposition to the principle of religious equality.
THE BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH
rose to Order. The statement of the most rev. Prelate was a misrepresentation of his words.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
said, he had certainly understood his right rev. Brother to argue against the retention of the word "Christian," both on the ground he had already stated, and because the introduction of the word would not prevent Mormons and other sects from having secular services. Moreover, his right rev. Brother had argued that the principle of accepting a man's declaration that he was a Christian would enable anyone to get permission for a non-Christian service by declaring himself a Christian one day, though he might not make the same profession the next. The speech of his right rev. Brother was calculated to do infinite mischief to the Bill and infinite mischief to himself. He thought that, on cool and calm reflection, the right rev. Prelate would come to the conclusion that it would have been better for the Church, for their Lordships' House, and for himself, that he had not made these remarks on the word "Christian;" for certainly they were calculated to encourage an effort in the other House of Parliament to have it expunged. It was very undesirable that a Prelate of the Church of England should before that House even appear to argue against the introduction of the word "Christian" into such a Bill as this, and to vilify those who claimed liberty of conscience and the right to perform their ministrations in the churchyards, by saying that to-day they would declare themselves Christians, and to-morrow assume the character of heathens. He spoke with some warmth, because he thought the occasion required it. While he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) took upon himself the whole blame which his right rev. Brother seemed to impute to him, of being willing to run the risk even of losing the Bill rather than lose its religious character, he believed that, in expressing himself as he had done upon this particular point, he was expressing the general feeling both of the clergy and of the laity in this country.
THE BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH
hoped the House would not accept the interpretation put upon his words by the most rev. Prelate. It would be in the recollection of the House that he had said not one word against the word "Christian." On the contrary, he expressed his approval of it as a testimony of the opinion of the Legislature that 691 all funerals under the Bill should be Christian. What he had argued was that, notwithstanding its value in this respect, it would be practically inoperative. It was a most cruel injustice of the most rev. Prelate to charge him, a Bishop of the English Church, with having so far forgotten himself as to express a desire to exclude the word "Christian" from the clause, so that the Bill should not retain its Christian character. ["Hear, hear !"] He was glad to hear that noble Lords opposite understood the words that fell from his lips. He distinctly asserted that he had made use of no such words; and, as to imputing anything to the most rev. Prelate, the fact was that what he referred to was a different clause altogether—that allowing alternative services to the clergy—and, so far from suggesting that the most rev. Prelate was to blame for desiring to retain the words in question, he was himself desirous of retaining them, although he expressed his belief that they would be inoperative. As to forgetting himself, he was perfectly prepared to again repeat and take the responsibility of what he had said; but, with all humility to one who, although he was his ecclesiastical superior, yet, in that House, should remember that he spoke only as his Peer, he protested against the imputation which, with all the weight of his character and position, the most rev. Prelate had made against him. He never said a word approaching the expression of a wish or desire that the word "Christian," in reference to the services under the Bill, should be omitted from the clause. Such an accusaion was monstrous, perfectly monstrous.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
was extremely glad that the right rev. Prelate had removed a misapprehension, and made a distinct declaration of his wish to maintain the word "Christian;" but he regretted that the right rev. Prelate felt it necessary to adhere to his line of argument in reference to the insertion of that word.
§ THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
My Lords, I think it would have been desirable if the most rev. Prelate and the right rev. Prelate could have managed to be of the same opinion upon this Bill. It is one of great difficulty, and the subject is rendered more perplexing by the opposite opinions given by the right rev. and the most rev. Prelates, which 692 are so contrary one to the other. I have not now risen to oppose the third reading of this Bill, though my opinion is unchanged as to its character. I think it an unjust and an unwise Bill, and I have not heard any arguments yet which have shown me that all the reasons which have been applied to the churchyards do not equally apply to the churches themselves. I have heard remarks on the subject; but I have heard no arguments against that view of the question. We have been told in the course of the debate something in reference to the Church of Ireland. It was said you disestablished the Church of Ireland, and that was a much greater measure than this, and that although the Roman Catholics had for some years the privilege of using the parish churchyards, they never urged any claim to the possession of the churches. There may be various reasons for that course of conduct. Whatever may be said of the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, no one can impute to it a want of good taste; but as to the Protestant churches of Ireland, they are not such as those who appreciate the beauty of holiness would be particularly anxious to possess. That has been stated as one of the reasons why the Roman Catholic population of Ireland never laid any claim to those churches. But that will not apply to the churches of England, which are beautiful and are made more beautiful every year by the devotion and the taste of the wealthy congregations of this country; but whether that devotion and taste will continue after this Bill passes, and after the consequences of the Bill have been seen, will, I think, be doubtful. This Bill appears to me to be unjust for many reasons, and particularly for one primary reason, which no person has yet grappled with. Every ordained clergyman of the Church of England will be obliged to open the churchyard to all sects, while he is not to enjoy the use of their graveyards for his parishioners in the same parish; and I cannot understand how such inequality could be brought forward in a Bill of this nature, which assumes to be founded on justice and equality. This is not only an unjust Bill, but an unwise one. We hear much about "God's acre." There are those who call upon the House not to sanction the 693 desecration of "God's acre" by allowing it to be used by people whose religious opinions do not agree with theirs. Then, again, there are others who complain of the great hardship they suffer from not being permitted to have a portion of "God's acre." But though I trust that the hour may never arrive when the recognition of a Supreme Governor of this world will cease to be the profession of the inhabitants of this country, still, my Lords, I cannot but feel that this institution of what is called "God's acre," is one which is really not adapted to the country which we inhabit, the times in which we live, and the spirit of the age. What I should like to see would be a settlement of this question by shutting up all "God's acres" throughout the country. I think the churchyard of the Ordained clergyman and the graveyard of the Dissenting minister alike, are institutions which are prejudicial to the health of the people of this country; and their health ought to be, if not the first, at any rate one of the first, considerations of a statesman. Now, we have been moving gradually in the direction of these views, and there has been for some years a notion, soon about to amount, I believe, to a conviction, that the institution of existing churchyards is one highly prejudicial to the public health. I think it would be a much wiser step if we were to say that the time has arrived, seeing the vast increase of population in this country and the further increase which we may contemplate, when we should close all these churchyards, and when we should take steps for furnishing every community with a capacious and ample cemetery placed in a situation in which, while it would meet all the requirements of the society for which it was intended, would exercise no prejudicial influence on the public health. These are views which I am convinced are sound; and if they had been entertained, as ultimately they must be, and if the health of the country had been considered, there would have been no reason whatever for the legislation now before us which, in its ultimate consequences, may be highly prejudicial to this country, and which tends, in my opinion, to keep alive feelings of opposition and mutual distrust among different classes of the population which it would be better to cause to subside 694 and to discourage. Well, then, I may be asked—"If these be really your opinions, why do you now support this Bill? If you think that it is an unjust and an unwise Bill; if you think that it is a Bill which, in its ultimate consequences, will be hostile to the interests of the Church of England, why are you allowing it to pass the third reading without opposition?" To this I must answer that I support the Bill with great regret, and only because, from what I have observed in this House, I am convinced that opposition would be fruitless, and fruitless opposition is a kind of opposition which I never care much to encourage. When I am frequently appealed to to fight what is called the battle of the Church, I must frankly reply, it is quite impossible to stand up for a privilege which the ordained clergy of this country enjoy, and which, in my opinion, is exercised for the welfare and benefit of the country, when you find that you are opposed in such attempts by the Prelates of the Church of England itself. When the two most rev. Prelates and at least half the Episcopal Bench support a particular course, you cannot persuade the country that in resisting a proposal sanctioned by such high authority you are actuated by any but Party or factious motives. I listened with great attention the other night, when the second reading of the Bill was moved, to the speech of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln; and it appeared to me that a more able and earnest speech than that which he delivered was seldom addressed on this subject to your Lordships. I entirely agreed with the right rev. Prelate on that occasion, and I thought to myself the effect that he has produced is so decided, and the balance of opinions upon subjects of this kind seems so equal, that it will be well to take the opinion of the House. But when I found the right rev. Prelate was answered immediately by the highest authority in the House on such a subject, I felt that it would be almost impossible that the appeal of the right rev. Prelate could succeed. This is why I now think it is in vain to attempt to prevent the progress of this measure. The measure, I feel, in any circumstances would have been a harsh and unjust measure, though there might have been reasons of State which would have justified it. It is necessary some- 695 times to make proposals in politics which are unjust to a considerable section of the community in consequence of the demands of the public welfare. But here it was otherwise. I feel, however, that resistance is impossible, and that, in these circumstances, what we should most desire would be that the Bill should pass and should be sent to the other House with those modifying clauses in it which have been introduced by the Lord Chancellor and other Members of your Lordships' House. If they—as I will hope—-bear some balm to the injured feelings of the great body of the clergy of the country, I think it highly desirable that they should be passed. But, even if they pass, I cannot but express my regret that this Bill should have ever been introduced, or that there should have been any assumed necessity to have recourse to such legislation. It is in my mind legislation which is opposed to the circumstances in which we live. I think the direction in which we ought to have moved would have been to have shut all these churchyards and graveyards and to have assisted the Government in some adequate proposal which would have furnished the country with cemeteries in which none of these painful controversies could have occurred, and which would have conduced to the preservation of the health and welfare of the country.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
asked for the indulgence of their Lordships while he stated what had been his object in proposing his Amendments, all of which, except one, had been adopted. In his opinion, too many Churchmen, and clergymen especially, had met this question in an unreasonable spirit, and too many Nonconformists in an unfair spirit besides; for, while claiming the churches and churchyards as national property, they had not rested until they were freed from all share in the expense of maintaining and repairing those churches and keeping those churchyards in order. Too much importance was attributed to consecrated ground. He thought that the attitude adopted by many with regard to it was not only unreasonable, but un-Christian in its tendency. They must remember that the remains of the greatest saints and martyrs of our Church had not rested in consecrated ground, nor those of many of the noblest heroes and patriots 696 of our own and other countries. Revelation taught us that the dead were not affected by burial. The only good to be considered was the good of the living in the widest sense. That good would in this and many other Church matters be best consulted by acting on the principle—"Let all things be done decently and in order." There had been much said on both sides with which he could not sympathize. Still he thought the Dissenters had grievances which ought to be removed in such a way as to prevent the question being re-opened; but that the feelings of the clergy, whether reasonable or unreasonable, should as far as possible be respected. As to gifts of land for churchyards, he thought that such gifts, if of recent date, should, if the donors wished it, be preserved according to their original intention, in order to prevent the flow of such liberality being checked. He had been a donor himself, and he was then making arrangements to extend a churchyard. But his wish was that such land for churchyards as he had given should be open to services of a decent and orderly character on the part of Dissenters. In advocating the preservation of recent gifts for the Church of England, he wished it to be understood that he spoke in deference to the prejudice of others, as he had none of his own.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, having regard to the fact that this is a Government Bill, I must rise to address the House, though I have little to say on this stage of the Bill. It is a subject in which I have taken a great interest, and on which I have spoken at great length at different times; but I do not wish to inflict on your Lordships the arguments I have previously used. I cannot allow myself to think that the Bill is either unjust or harsh, or liable to the severe attack which has been made upon it by the noble Earl (the Earl of Beaconsfield}. I rise rather to express my satisfaction at the tone of the debates in this House, and especially in reference to two of its Members, one of them a Prelate on the Episcopal Bench, and the other the late Prime Minister of the country, for the course they have taken in reference to this Bill. I feel exceedingly grateful to the right rev. Prelate for not opposing a measure to which it is known he dissents till the present stage, when it has practically passed the House, though, 1 697 confess, I was somewhat astonished at the opposition he raised to the clauses, because that opposition might have been better raised in Committee. I cannot pretend that the right rev. Prelate's speech is one that will assist the Government much in "another place" in obtaining those restrictions which, rightly or wrongly, have met the approbation of your Lordships' House. The right rev. Prelate seemed to me to lay down clearly—though he afterwards explained he was in favour of the restrictions—how they were utterly inconsistent with the principles of religious freedom on which the Bill was supposed to be founded. On the whole, I have only to thank the right rev. Prelate for having reserved his eloquence to this stage of the Bill—an eloquence which, though not of an especially episcopal character, is always appreciated in this House. His speech to-night might at an earlier stage have influenced opinion and affected votes. I am still more grateful to the noble Earl the late Prime Minister for the line which he has taken. He has denounced the Bill as a strong measure. But I am struck by the character of the observations which he has reserved for this period of the question. At an earlier period his remarks might have had a great effect upon the House. I do not doubt for a moment the perfect sincerity of the noble Earl. But I cannot think it was merely the speech of the right rev. Prelate which convinced the late Prime Minister that it was expedient on the whole to settle this vexed question. I must think that there were other considerations. But I must say that, after the very severe denunciation of the Bill by the noble Earl, it is a great satisfaction to me that the only alternative which he can propose is that all the churchyards in the country should be closed. Is the noble Earl aware that that alternative would involve the closing of 12,000 churchyards, many of them in country districts and in a condition not unsanitary? I think, therefore, that I have reason to be grateful to him for his speech to-night, and more especially as he has indicated the only possible alternative course—a course which, I am sure, will be utterly unsatisfactory to your Lordships.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY,
who was almost inaudible in the Gallery, was understood to say that he hoped that the 698 Bill would be loyally accepted by both parties as a final settlement of the question. The proposals of the Bill, he hoped, would be met in a fair and not a hostile spirit by both parties. It was a difficult thing, no doubt, in the course of the discussion to avoid acerbities being developed; but he candidly expressed the hope that after this measure had become law the feelings of both parties would be very different from what they had seemed to be in the past. He trusted there would be no show of victory or defeat on either side—feelings which ought not to arise in regard to such a question.
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE (CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES)
trusted that those who would take up this Bill in "another place" would show the same conciliatory spirit which had been displayed during the progress of the Bill in this House. If that were done, a settlement would be arrived at without further delay.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he could not but thank the noble Earl who had just sat down for his wise and very conciliatory and useful remarks to their Lordships in this stage of the measure. It did appear to him that all of them, whatever their opinions might be, were bound to do their best to facilitate such a settlement of this question as should be on the whole best for the peace and harmony of all classes of their fellow-Christians and fellow-subjects. It was with profound regret that he had heard the remarks of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Peterborough). No doubt, those remarks proceeded from the most sincere conviction and the best possible motives; but the speech was of a very different tendency from those to which the House had just listened. In his opinion, the speech of the right rev. Prelate would tend not to promote harmony. But there were two things mentioned by the right rev. Prelate for which he was grateful. In the first place, he was grateful for his kind appreciation of his own sincere endeavours to be just in dealing with this matter—to do all in his power, not, indeed, to make the Bill acceptable to the majority of the clergy, for that he could not do, but, in framing its provisions, to arrive at as just and equitable an arrangement as possible. He owned he saw no better way to 699 achieve this than to look to those constitutional bodies in which the clergy were represented, and to what they thought would, upon the whole, tend to relieve and mitigate the difficulties under which the clergy at present laboured—difficulties which would not be in any way aggravated by the operation of the Bill, but would rather be in some measure relieved by it. When they had come to a conclusion as to what in their deliberate judgment could be done and ought to be done, he felt it his duty, and the Government felt it their duty, unless they saw real, serious, substantial objections to those proposals, to adopt them and incorporate them in the Bill. He should presently give his reasons for thinking that the objections offered by the right rev. Prelate and others were founded partly on a misconception of the provisions of the Bill, and partly on a judgment for which there was no real and solid foundation. But, before he proceeded to that, he must tender the right rev. Prelate his thanks for that portion of his speech in which he expressed his own determination and that of the clergy of his diocese—which, it might be hoped, would not differ from the determination of the clergy in other dioceses—when the Bill was passed to accept it loyally and charitably in a spirit of goodwill and kindness towards those from whom they differed ecclesiastically, and so as not on their part to do anything which would create needless acrimony or irritation. The right rev. Prelate had done a real public service in the expression of his feeling on that subject. He knew that feeling was shared by other right rev. Prelates; and if accepted by the wisest and best of the clergy, he did not doubt that those in whom excitement might run strongly on this question would be influenced by those good examples, and that the operation of the measure would not be impeded, at all events, by anything unbecoming the high calling of the clergy. An appeal had been made by the right rev. Prelate and others to the Government to permit some moderate delay to occur before the Bill came into force. He had no doubt that suggestion would meet with consideration in the other House of Parliament; and if there was any good and substantial ground for believing that any feelings which were now excited would be alleviated by such 700 a moderate delay, and that the clergy would then be more willing than they were now to accept the necessary operation of the measure without any injudicious action that would interfere with its good effects, that would, no doubt, be a reason why that suggestion should be seriously considered. Of course, however, the suggestion would also have to be considered from the opposite point of view—namely, that delay might possibly have a mischievous and injurious tendency. But he could say nothing more than that, coming from the quarter it did, the suggestion ought to be, and doubtless would be, considered by those having the conduct of the Bill in the other House. He accepted from the right rev. Prelate most unreservedly his declaration that he desired to preserve the Christian character of the measure and to maintain the clause which provided that so far as the law went no religious services which were not Christian should be expressly permitted in those churchyards. At the same time, he could not but say that the tenour and tendency of the right rev. Prelate's remarks on that point appeared to him to be by no means calculated to promote the acceptance in "another place" of that provision in the Bill. The right rev. Prelate seemed to regard that limitation as inconsistent with the principle of the measure. Now, the Bill did not proceed on any principle of absolute equality, or on any right to absolute equality. The law, in dealing with that subject, must have the same right to prescribe those measures which were most in accordance with the objects of public decency and order as it had on all other occasions, and he utterly disclaimed the idea that the Legislature was to abdicate the power and the duty of considering what provisions were on the whole best adapted to afford a safeguard against those things which ought not to be permitted in churchyards. It appeared to him perfectly consistent with the principle of the Bill to draw that line by the word "Christian," in the sense in which it was used in that clause. And when it was said that the term was vague, he answered that it was not more vague than it was in the Oath which was administered for so many years to Members of both Houses of Parliament when making a solemn declaration of their allegiance to the Crown "on the 701 true faith of a Christian." No inquisition was ever made into the quality of the Christianity of those who took that declaration. That profession was accepted necessarily as genuine, as honest, as made in good faith; and it was not only necessary so to accept it, but it was reasonable so to accept it, for the cases were so rare as to be most improbable —they were, he ventured to say, imaginary — in which such a profession could be made in bad faith for some indirect and sinister purpose that they might be, and ought to be, disregarded. The use of the word marked a principle, showing what the law sanctioned and what it did not sanction, and it was not intended for the purpose of inviting controversy. If it were necessary that a Court of Law should make inquiry into the quality of a man's Christianity, or take evidence as to the words employed in the service, in order to judge whether they were positively and necessarily significant of the Christian faith, he admitted that he could not defend such a thing for a moment. But it was never intended, either by the original words of the clause or by words which had been added, to do anything so inappropriate as to attempt to define what was Christianity. What was meant was the service of a Christian—the service of a person who professed to be a Christian. Such a person was entitled to be taken at his word. And as it had been suggested, during the arguments on this Bill, that some persons might suppose it to authorize an inquisition as to the particular tenets contained in the words used at a funeral service, it was necessary to show that nothing of that kind was meant, and that, as in the case of the Oath to which he had already referred, as in all other cases in which in the laws of this country Christianity was spoken of, so in regard to those burial services they should accept without question a man's own profession of Christianity. The word "Christian" would include every religious service used by any Church, denomination, or person professing to be Christian, and that excluded an inquisition into the quality of a man's Christianity or into his peculiar tenets. When it was said that a person intending to use a secularist or other service might call himself a Christian, his answer was that that was an imaginary case which the law was 702 not bound to assume, or to provide for. Anything which was insulting to Christianity would be a misdemeanour; and if any person should call himself a Christian in order to use in the churchyard a service the quality of which was not Christian, but which, nevertheless, did not offend against the penal clause, nor tend to bring contempt on the Christian religion, he did not think any very great amount of harm could occur; for the man would, after all, use some neutral and colourless service and make profession of Christianity. The right rev. Prelate had also put the case of persons of so strange a constitution of mind as to use what were essentially Christian services, and yet not choose to call themselves Christians. He could not think that it was necessary to go out of their way to provide for such cases. If the services were essentially Christian, they would not be prohibited, by the declaration that the word should "include" all services of persons professing to be Christian. He hoped that that word would be safer in "another place" than the right rev. Prelate supposed. But, in regard to those criticisms, he could not help asking, cui bono? Why had they those arguments from a member of the Episcopal Bench who so earnestly desired that the word Christian should be retained in the Bill? Then as to the provisions intended bond fide to relieve the clergy, they had been considered as on the whole the most effectual mode of meeting the difficulties of the question; and if they failed in "another place," the fault would be, not with him, but to a large extent with the right rev. Prelate, whose arguments and objections would, of course, be adopted by those who might be opposed to the clause. If the clause was to be rejected on good grounds, he thought they ought to have more solid and convincing arguments against it than those which the right rev. Prelate had adduced. As far as related to the unbaptized and those who were associated with them, the right rev. Prelate laboured under some misconception. The Schedule did not offer two alternative services, but only one. The only thing permitted was that extracts taken from the Book of Common Prayer or from the Scriptures, and approved by the Ordinary, might be used; but not, as he understood, the special Burial Service of the Prayer Book. 703 While he (the Lord Chancellor) did not pretend to judge as to the amount of relief to be given Jo the clergy, he was sure there was no foundation whatever for the suggestion of the right rev. Prelate that, as often as anyone died, it would fall on the clergy to make a classification, giving a certificate of character in some cases, and refusing it in others. Unless the friends of the deceased made a request, or expressed their consent otherwise, the clergy would have no option or choice but to perform the full funeral service. There was, therefore, no foundation for that suggestion of the right rev. Prelate. Nor would there be any family council, with all the alarming consequences on which the right rev. Prelate had expatiated. The "kindred or friends" who might request or consent, would, upon a proper construction of the Schedule with the rest of the Bill, be only those who had the charge of, and were responsible for, the funeral. All these remarks were those of one who desired to destroy the whole Bill. Convocation had, with the right rev. Prelate's own concurrence, deliberately resolved upon this particular mode of dealing with the subject. He ventured to hope that when this Bill went to the House of Commons, there would be sufficient liberality in that Assembly to induce them to think that, even if you could not give a great measure of relief to the clergy, it was worth while to give such a measure of relief as they had themselves asked for.
§ Motion agreed to: Bill read 3ª, accordingly: Amendments made: Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.
§ House adjourned at half past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.