HC Deb 17 March 1825 vol 12 cc1073-4
Mr. Hume

, after a few observations on the general inconvenience of allowing clergymen to hold civil offices in corporations, and to mix themselves up in secular affairs, moved, "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be pleased to direct a return to be laid before this House of the number of persons in holy orders in the Church of England, who hold offices in corporations of boroughs, or cities; stating the names of such persons, the offices they hold, the name of the borough or city, and whether they have any benefice, and how many, and whether they are resident or non-resident on such benefice."

Dr. Phillimore

opposed the motion, which he considered at the best unnecessary.

Mr. John Smith

said, that the respect which he felt for the clergy would not prevent him from supporting this motion. If it should appear from these returns, that the clergy were neglecting the duties belonging to their character, and engaging in others that were alien to it, the House might consider how far it ought to interfere to prevent such neglect in future.

Mr. Secretary Peel

thought the reason just given by the hon. member, in favour of the motion, disclosed its real object, and was the strongest that could be urged in opposition to it. If it was the intention of the hon. mover to obtain a vote of that House on the present motion, impliedly declaring its opinion, that clergymen ought not to hold borough offices, he must say, that such a mode of obtaining the opinion was the least fair that could be adopted. If the hon. member wished to disqualify clergymen from holding such offices, let him do so by bill, in which they could have the assistance of the other branch of the legislature; and not in the form of the present motion, in which the disqualification would be by implication alone.

Mr. F. Palmer

observed, that it would be impossible to bring in such a bill as the right hon. gentleman recommended, unless the return for which his hon. friend moved were laid before' the House. He therefore supported the motion.

Mr. Wynn

defended the character of the clergy generally, and more especially of the clergy of Wales, and maintained that they had acquitted themselves, in many instances, with the greatest advantage to the public in the discharge of the magisterial functions. He recommended the hon. member to withdraw his motion, and to bring the subject before the House on the general principles of the eligibility or ineligibility of the clergy to civil offices.

Sir J. Newport

thought it would be expedient that the subject should be submitted to the House, with reference to the general question of the eligibility of the clergy to civil offices. Although it might be advantageous in the country, that clergymen should hold magisterial situations, it appeared to him that in cities it was quite the reverse.

The House divided: For the motion 4; Against it 22.