HC Deb 12 April 1824 vol 11 cc384-9

On the motion of the Chancellor of the Ex- chequer, the order of the day for bringing up the report of the committee of supply on the grant for building new churches was read. On the question, "that the report be now received,"

Mr. Hume

said, be could not allow the report to be brought up, being, as he was, so little satisfied with the reasons which had been given in the committee in support of the grant. He had already stated his opinion, that the money should not be voted, and after the length at which he had explained the grounds of that opinion, he felt it only necessary to say that he should now oppose the motion. First, because it was admitted by ministers themselves, that the money would not be wanted for three years to come. There had been no instance, he believed, in which the House had granted money, unless it was to be applied to the service of the year. It might have happened, that money had not been applied within that time; but that had arisen from some accidental circumstances, and had never been avowed by the ministers on their asking for the money. Secondly, he objected to the grant, because he thought the money required might be raised without the aid of parliament. He considered that the only object of the vote was, to increase the church patronage and church influence, already too extensive. He thought, too, that there were churches enough; and he did not believe that the number of persons who frequented them was increasing; but, on the contrary, that the zeal and ability of the dissenters were rapidly reducing the numbers of those who belonged to the church establishment. Thirdly, he thought the money, if granted at all, might be applied to better purposes; and for these reasons he moved, "that the report be received this day six months."

Mr. Warre

had no hesitation in expressing his intention to support the vote. His hon. friend had spoken of a falling-off from the church; but had it never occurred to him, that this might proceed as well from the insufficiency of the churches, as from those qualities for which he gave the dissenters credit? He had reason to believe that there were many populous towns in which the people would eagerly attend the churches, if they had them, and if the duty were well done [hear!]. He said, "if the duty were well done," because he would not be understood to advocate the building of. churches, unless the pul- pits of those churches were to be ably filled. He was anxious, upon this part of the subject, that, when the bill should go into a committee, some mode might be devised, with respect to the nomination of the incumbents, that would give general satisfaction. With respect to the dissenters, nothing that he had ever said could be construed to imply, that he was not willing to extend, to them, not only toleration but the utmost indulgence. He was as desirous as any man could be, that every avenue to their civil and religious rights should be open to them. It was not in hostility to them, but in reverence to the church in which he was bred, that he wished. to see it supported as became its dignity and the interests of the people. The dissenters used every means in their power by building chapels, to establish and to diffuse their principles. The question, then, was, whether, upon the case which had been made out, and after an experiment had been tried, which had been perfectly successful as far as it had gone, the House should now refuse to grant an additional sum, to accomplish a purpose so important and so necessary to the established church. The hon. member concluded by saying, that he had been induced to address these observations to the House, because he was not willing to give a silent vote upon an occasion in which he was compelled to differ from those with whom he usually acted, and for whose judgment he had the highest respect.

Mr. W. Smith

said, the fact of the number of dissenters having so extensively multiplied, had been, he thought, too hastily assumed. He had known a parish; where there was no dissenting chapel, but where the church had been abandoned because it was badly served. In the city which he had the honour to represent, there were 37 churches, and yet there was no place in which there were so many dissenting chapels, and so well filled. This he believed, arose from no insufficiency, nor want of activity, in the clergymen of that city, who were in every way highly respectable; but he thought that, in this, as in every other case, it was caused by accidental circumstances, which applied to particular places. With respect to what had been said of the mode of appointing clergymen by election, he must observe, that he saw nothing objectionable in that mode. It had been said, that it was derogatory to the dignity of the church to submit to canvassing. Among the dissenters no such canvassing was practised; and as to the dignity, he thought the true dignity was in their utility. Almost the only objection. He had to this vote, was, that no pains had been taken to ascertain whether the money which was required could not be supplied from some other source. When the church emoluments should be inquired into, and it should be found that no portion of them could be better applied than they were at present, he would willingly vote for this, or for any other sum; but until then, he must be excused for withholding his assent to the vote.

Sir R. Fergusson

declared, that the grant proposed was a most useless application of the public money. He knew, of his own knowledge, that in a parish of Edinburgh, where the population had rapidly increased, two new churches and a chapel of ease had been built by public subscription within these few years. The principle observed in these churches was, to admit mere paupers free of any expense, and to charge mechanics, and persons in decent employ, a shilling a year for a seat. He much wished that the parliamentary grant were let alone, and had no doubt of soon finding places of worship, wherever a real necessity existed for them.

Sir Isaac Coffin

, as an orthodox churchman, would vote for this grant. During the latter part of his life, he had found by experience, that there was a lamentable increase of those devil-killers, called methodists—such an increase as, he was sure must eventually undermine the church of England. These methodists were such rooting fellows, that let them once get into your house, they would soon get into the kitchen, from the kitchen they would get into the cellar—and the inevitable con-sequences among servants, were, prostitution and dishonesty [A laugh and cries of hear.]

Mr. Butterworth

said, he should vote for the grant, not on account of the increase of dissenters, but on account of the increase of infidelity. He was sorry to have heard, the other night, a most respectable society, he meant the Home Missionary society, spoken of in a harsh way by an hon. and learned gentleman (Dr. Lushington), whom he did not then see present. He knew that society to be a most useful and meritorious body. He knew that it sent missionaries to instruct the people, into hamlets where there were no church of England, nor any other ministers. He was most sorry to hear the ridicule with which religious subjects had been treated. If the bible were true—and if it was false, all they were doing was a farce—nothing connected with it should be treated with ridicule; for such a tone taken by persons of weight and character, in that House, did more harm than the publications of Carlile, Hone, and people of that description. He should support the vote, on account of the increasing population of the country, and because he approved of the Liturgy of the church of England, which was founded on the doctrines of the bible. He thought, however, much more good might be done if they gave the subscribers to the erection of churches some share in the nomination of the ministers. He knew a friend of his, who had subscribed 1000l. to the erection of a chapel, and was now unable to enter it, because the character of the minister was not what that of a church of England clergyman should be. The hon. member for Medhurst had said, that the money would be better applied to increase the number of schools than that of churches. He was as zealous a friend to schools as the hon. member could be; but he thought that nothing would more conduce to the increase of schools, than adding to the number of places of worship. He was sorry to observe in the course of the debate on this subject, that some gentlemen seemed to think that they could not sup-port the church without casting reflections on the dissenters. Though attached to the church, he knew many dissenters who were as useful members of society, and as loyal and meritorious, as any men in the kingdom.

Mr. T. Wilson

thought the question was not, whether the existing churches were large or handsome enough, but whether they were adapted to the congregations they ought to hold. Any one who looked at the churches of our ancestors must be satisfied that they were built for the rich, and not for the poor. For the latter there was generally a solitary bench; while the former never experienced any. difficulty in obtaining seats and accommodation because they could afford to pay for them. The proposed system alone provided for the spiritual comfort of those who had been hitherto almost forgotten.

The House divided; For the original motion 144. For the amendment 34.

List of the Minority.
Althorp, visc, Maberly, J.
Baillie, col. J. Maberly W. L.
Bernal, R. Martin, J.
Birch, J. Monck, J. B.
Bright, H. Normanby, visc.
Calcraft, J. H. Nugent, lord
Cavendish, C. C. Pelham, J. C.
Colborne, N. W. R. Philips, G.
Cradock, S. Rice, T. S.
Davies, T. Rickford, W.
Denman, T. Robatts, A. W.
Duncannon, visc. Sefton, earl of
Grattan, J. Smith, W.
Hobhouse, J. C. Wharton, J.
James, W. Whitbread, S. C
Ingilby, sir W. Tellers.
Kennedy, T. F.
Lambton, J. G. Fergusson, sir R.
Leycester, R. Hume, J.