HC Deb 30 May 1805 vol 5 cc152-4

The Attorney-General moved the third reading of the Stipendiary Curates' bill.

Mr. Barham opposed the motion. He thought it a bill that took away part of the property of the rector, although the duty was performed. If the duty were not performed, he might see some reason for the measure. The bill was at variance with existing statutes, and at variance with its own enactments. If the property of the church was to be attacked, let it be attacked directly and openly, and not indirectly and in disguise. He was one who wished the church supported by the state, believing our church to be upon the whole the purest church in Christendom. But the present bill tended to vitiate the constitution, and subvert the establishment of the church. Not only the ecclesiastical, but political power it conferred on the bishops was alarming. It gave opportunities for their interfering in elections, which, from cases easily to be remembered, might be much and very grievously abused. On the other hand, it shook to the base the foundation of all ecclesiastical property. The tenure of such property would, after the passing of this bill, should it pass, be totally changed. The scale of appropriation did not measure income by the necessities of the curate, but by the opulence of the living. What, under the circumstances, he should have thought, and did think, most desirable, was, to have moved for a committee to examine into the statutes bearing on the subject, and generally to consider of the best mode of regulating the interests of the curates, and others affected by the present question.

Mr. Alexander was decidedly inimical to the measure. Ever since the commencement of the French revolution, church property was rendered insecure, by new doctrines. The present bill partook of the character of the revolutionary edicts of the French Jacobins, Church property was unsettled by such laws. The king and parliament ought to resist innovation in the rights of property with regard to the church.

Mr. Fuller knew that in the county of Sussex, which he had the honour to represent, the clergy had not had time to make up their minds as to the bill. He therefore, if seconded, should press that the bill should not be read a third time till this day six months.

Mr. Deverell thought the measure both premature and imperfect. He should not have opposed it if it had thrown the church property into a mass, and proposed to appoint a vicar-general of church revenues, who should distribute incomes to the curates as they might be worthy. At present it was a bill to enlarge and extend the patronage of the bishop. If it was for the good of the public, he should not object; but when it was a bill empowering the bishops to raise the incomes of the curates to 250l. or 150l. a year, it was a bill of mere diocesan patronage. As far as it changed the usage of the law of the land, it was still more objectionable. No appeal laid, but to the quarter sessions, or the archbishop in London. It took away the ordinary option of the common law. For all these reasons he thought the measure ought to be postponed.

Mr. Graham had so great an objection to the bill, that he would support the amendment. The ,bill placed the clergy in a worse situation than any other of ins majesty's subjects. It was a bill to enforce the residence of curates, but to banish the rectors.

Mr. I. H. Browne supported the bill. It went no farther than other statutes, except in as far as related to livings above 400l. a year. The objection to this law would be a good objection to all other laws.

Mr. Pole Carew thought the measure incomplete. It ought to have been devised so as to embrace the subject of great ecclesiastical bodies, Unit did not give more than from 20l. to 50l. a year, though their revenues were enormous.

Lord Porchester went over the grounds of his former arguments against the measure. He thought the measure founded on the antient jacobin principle. The worst reform and innovation would be, if it were attempted to reform the church on those principles so exploded by gentlemen over against him on former occasions; yet these were the very principles now set up in this bill. If the gentlemen of opposition had said, in 1794 or 1795, that the church revenues were salaries, mere properties, which the public gave, and the public might take away, the other side would have denounced such language as unwarrantable, and unconstitutional. He thought the bill unprincipled, incoherent, and wicked. He moved an amendment, that this bill be read a third time this day three months.

The Attorney-General defended the measure, but would not go over a ground of argument which had been previously so much contested. He insisted that there was nothing new in the principle of the bill, and took shame to himself for nothing so much as that he did not introduce it before.—The house then divided; for the original motion 38; for the amendment 17; majority for the bill 21.—The bill was accordingly read a third time, and after some verbal amendments passed, and sent to the lords.—Adjourned.