HC Deb 12 March 1824 vol 10 cc964-70

On the resolution, "That 15,532l. be granted, to defray the charges of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and the Cape of Good Hope, for the year 1824,"

Mr. Hume

rose to object to this money being placed in the hands of this society. Fie had on a former occasion stated two instances of its neglect and misconduct, and he could not but feel strong surprise at hearing it again proposed to intrust so large a sum to its control. In a published account of its expenditure, it was stated, that the managers of the society had given 50l. to build a school in Newfoundland. That was in 1818. In 1819, the report which they published contained an asser- tion, that the school was built, and that scholars were instructed in it. In 1820 that account reached Newfoundland, and then, for the first time, it appeared from letters received from that island, that there was neither school built, books purchased, nor scholars instructed. On this circumstance being mentioned to the directors of the society, they admitted it to be fact, but alleged that it was a mistake. Now, what credit ought the committee to attach to a society which could be guilty of a mistake like this? Another reason why this society ought not to have the control of this money was, that the inhabitants of the town of St. John's, had absolutely refused to lend their churches to the missionaries, on account of their impropriety of conduct. He had likewise heard that it had misapplied the public money in the province of Canada. There was another point which he thought the committee ought to take into their consideration, and that was that the zeal of the prelates who managed this society did not lead them to contribute more than 635l., and that the whole of this sum was consumed in what were called the necessary expenses of the office. Was this, then, a society to which parliament ought to concede the control over 15,000l. of the public money? Such a grant, as it would put money into hands unworthy to receive it, was perfectly unwarrantable. Indeed, if they consented to it, they would be substantially throwing the money away. If religious instruction were wanted by the inhabitants of these colonies, let their respective governments furnish it to them. Why were we to give so much to the people of Canada and Nova Scotia, when we did not give any thing like it to the Catholic population of Ireland? Thinking this vote to be perfectly unnecessary, and hoping that many members would be of the same opinion, he should move as an amendment, that the whole vote be withdrawn.

Mr. W. Horton

said, that looking to the series of years during which this society had performed the duty which was contemplated by this grant, he thought they might safely be intrusted with its performance at present. But, admitting, for argument's sake, that the society were not proper persons to dispose of the bounty of parliament, would they, therefore, withhold this sum altogether? Did they not know that it was absolutely necessary for those provinces? It was true the grant had been usually placed in the hands of the society for the propagation of the gospel; but surely the hon. gentleman must know, that that society was in constant communication with the ecclesiastical and civil authorities in those colonies. He thought the hon. member had not made out any case of the misapplication of the fund, or of misconduct on the part of the society: and therefore he hoped the committee would not be induced to refuse it. The growing population required this assistance. It was, he conceived, a very proper appropriation of the public money. It was usefully bestowed, and ought to be supported.

Mr. Hume

said, the country, it appeared, was, in addition to the civil and military establishment of those colonies, to support the ecclesiastical establishment. He wondered they were not called on to pay every medical gentleman who proceeded there. Doubtless, their skill would be as beneficial to the bodies of the inhabitants, as the exertions of the clergy were to their souls. Why should not those individuals pay for an establishment, from which themselves alone derived benefit? And they would do so, if these improvident grants were not made. He observed, that a rev. Dr. Inglis, who officiated at Halifax, a large flourishing town, received 400l. a year from this parliamentary grant. Other clergymen received severally from the same source 300l., 200l., 100l., and smaller sums for their services. The system was bad in principle; and it became still more objectionable, when they considered the medium through which the bounty of parliament was conveyed.

Mr. Butterworth

supported the motion. The grant had heretofore done much good, and it would have a mischievous effect if it were now withheld. With respect to the society for the propagation of the gospel, its labours had been beneficial. It was true that it had been exposed to some atrocious impostures, which ought to be inquired into; but, of its general utility, no doubt could be entertained. The grant, in his opinion, ought, if altered at all, to be increased.

Mr. Grey Bennet

said, it no doubt was very proper that those individuals should receive religious instruction; but the question was, who were to pay for it, the people of England, whose advantage must be contingent, or the inhabitants of the colonies, who received the immediate benefit of religious instructions? Another ques- tion was, through whose hands should this grant be distributed? He contended, that it should go through the hands of the responsible authorities of the colonies, and ought not to be intrusted to this nondescript society. It might or it might not be respectable for any thing that had come to his knowledge. But they now knew this from the hon. member who spoke last, a leading authority on these matters, that the society were the most consummate dupes that had ever been heard of. The hon. member had spoken of accounts that would astonish them, and of "atrocious impostures." He would then ask the House whether, without any evidence as to the good done by the society, and with their eyes open to the mischief that had been effected, they would consent to vote this large sum of money? He would not oppose the proposition altogether; but he would vote against placing the money in the hands of the society. It ought to be intrusted to responsible directors of the colony, who might distribute it as they thought proper.

Mr. Butterworth

said, that his observation as to irregularities was not meant to be general. Many of the most honourable characters were connected with that most useful body.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that if the hon. member supposed that the whole of the religious establishment of those colonies was supported out of this grant, he was much mistaken. In Canada, tracts of barren land were set apart for the support of the clergy [a laugh]. The country, it should be observed, improved by cultivation, and as fast as those lands became available, they afforded moderate incomes to the clergy, in addition to what they obtained from parliament. But even if the colony made no effort itself, still he contended it was the duty of the mother country to appropriate funds for the purpose of promoting the happiness of the people; which could only be done through the medium of religious instruction. The hon. member for Aberdeen had remarked on the small sum subscribed for this purpose by the great dignitaries of the church; but he should recollect, that those who contributed to this society contributed also to many other most useful institutions. It might as well be said, when the hon. member gave sixpence to a beggar in the street, that his charity extended no further, as that the charity of those reverend persons was confined alone to this society. The hon. member ought to know that government found it necessary to request the assistance of the society, in preference to the employment of their own agents in the apportionment of this grant.

Mr. C. Wilson

supported the resolution.

Mr. Monck

looked upon this grant as a great waste of public money. The great majority of the people of Canada, he had always understood, were Roman catholics; and here they were called upon to give a large sum of money to a sect greatly inferior in numbers. The catholics maintained their clergy, and he could see no reason why the protestants should not do the same.

Sir M. W. Ridley

inquired whether this money was appropriated under the superintendence of the colonial government to the support of the protestant religion, or whether it was distributed amongst those fanatics whose wild doctrines were calculated to do so much mischief.

Mr. W. Horton

said, that the money was appropriated to the support of the protestant religion only.

Mr. Hume

said, that that was the most objectionable part of the grant. Why were the catholics of Ireland and the dissenters to be taxed for the benefit of another sect?

Sir T. D. Acland

defended the society. It had, he said, been a chartered society ever since 1711, and certainly was not established in times which were least favourable to religious feeling. If the committee refused this vote, they would be guilty of two kinds of injustice. They would do injustice to a respectable society long existing in the country, not only without reproach, but which parliament had sanctioned from year to year, and the abuses of which, if any existed, ought to be made the subject of investigation in another manner, and not in the way recommended by the hon. members for Aberdeen and Dover, whom he advised to exercise their united efforts in behalf of the religion of their country, by preferring a regular and distinct motion, embracing the charges to which they fancied the society liable. They would be also guilty of another injustice: an injustice to those meritorious individuals who were doing the work of religion and the church on the other side of the Atlantic, in the full confidence, that the support which they had hitherto received from parlia- merit would be continued. Nothing, certainly, could be more unjust than to withhold from those persons the reward which they had so hardly earned.

Sir Scrope Morland

also defended the grant.

Lord Althorp

said, that although he should certainly prefer seeing the grant in the hands of responsible persons, he should be very unwilling to refuse his assent to the vote altogether. If he must, therefore, come to the question, aye or no, he would certainly say that it was better the money should be in the hands of the society, than that it should be refused entirely.

Mr. Butterworth

said, he had only alluded to some irregularities into which he wished inquiry to be made. With respect to the missionaries, he did not believe that they would be found, when the matter was investigated, to have been inculcating those fanatical and dangerous doctrines to which the hon. baronet seemed to allude. He held in his hand a copy of the resolutions of the hon. baronet's constituents at Newcastle, which showed what they thought on the subject [Cries of "read, read"]. He would not read them in that irregular way, but he would hand them to the hon. baronet.

Sir. M. W. Ridley

said, that the observation he had made, had been entirely misunderstood by the hon. gentleman. He had seen those resolutions; but as they proceeded from a very small portion of his constituents, and were couched in such language as could reflect little credit on any body, he did not think it necessary to read them. He trusted he had too much taste to touch the question of the missionaries as connected with the West Indies. He would not say a word on this latter subject at present; but, whenever it should come under the consideration of the House, he should be prepared to express his honest opinion upon it.

Mr. T. Wilson

defended the propriety of the grant, and approved of its being placed under the control of the Society.

Mr. Grey Bennet

then moved an amendment, which went to place the grant at the disposal of the governors of the colonies.

The committee divided: For the amendment 24: For the original motion 93. A second division took place on the grant itself. For the grant 79: Against it 19.

List of the Minority.
Colburn, R. Monck, J. B.
Calvert, C. Robarts, A. W.
Davies, col. Robarts, col.
Fergusson sir. R. Sykes, D.
Gurney, Hudson Sefton, lord
Guise, sir W. Wood, alderman
Hume, J. Wilson, sir R.
James, W. Whitbread, S.
Lamb, hon. W.
Martin, J. TELLER.
Maberly, W. L. Bennet, H. G.