§ Mr. Hume
rose to propose the motion of which he had given notice, relative to the charter granted to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. He observed, that the House were already in possession of some returns regarding the fees received for the exhibition of the monuments in the abbey, and of the appropriation of those fees; which, it seemed, were devoted to the maintenance of the minor canons and choir. The returns for which he 192 should now move, would, he believed, enable him to show that the funds in possession of the dean and chapter were sufficient to maintain every individual on the establishment without exacting those fees which were now demanded from the public. Indeed, it was scarcely to be supposed that an establishment would be endowed but with sufficient funds to answer its expenses. He should prove that the funds originally granted were sufficient, but that they had been diverted from the purpose to which it had been intended they should have been applied. For some years past the dean and chapter had appropriated to their own use houses and lands, which, he thought, if these returns were granted, would be found to have belonged of right to the minor canons; for whose support they were at first intended. The minor canons had lately applied to the dean and chapter to appropriate to them such funds as were necessary for their support, but the dean and chapter were deaf to their entreaties, and had declared that they must owe their subsistence principally to the collections made by the exhibition of the monuments. Now, as he was informed, the dean and chapter possessed a grant from queen Elizabeth, who had devoted certain lands and houses for the sole use and maintenance of the minor canons and choir, and it was alleged by the individuals connected with the Abbey, that the funds thus provided were amply sufficient for their support, he should move for a copy of this charter, that the House might be enabled to see whether this information was correct. In the very year of the grant, certain sums were allowed for the maintenance of the minor canons, and he desired to see from what source those sums had been drawn. It was a curious fact, that no such sums were allowed now, but that, while the income of the dean and chapter had been increasing, the salary and allowance of the minor canons and the choir had been diminishing. He should add, also, that considerable sums had been left by individuals, for the purpose of paying the minor canons and choir, which, if they were properly applied, would prevent the necessity of any collection being made; but into this part of the subject it was not his present intention to enter. He did not wish to lead the House into pronouncing an opinion as to how far the conduct of the dean and chapter had been justifiable; but he wished that such in- 193 formation should now be afforded as would enable the House, at some future time, to resolve upon the measures which ought to be pursued. He would therefore move, "That there be laid before this House, a copy of the Charter, or Letters Patent granted by queen Elizabeth, in the second year of her reign, by which, of her free bounty, she conferred the Church (or Abbey) of Westminster on the Dean and Chapter for ever, and subjected it to their sole and lawful management."
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that when it was recollected that he had offered no opposition to the hon. member's former motion, the House would be convinced that he had no wish to withhold any information that might be necessary; and he could not but think that the hon. member made rather an ungracious return for the facility with which he had obtained the documents he before required. The hon. member now wished the House to call upon the dean and chapter of Westminster, to show the deeds by which they held the property that had been for so many years in their possession. He asked also for returns of the lands, houses, &c. appropriated to the maintenance of the minor canons; for a copy of the grant of 1697 to the choir, on condition that, receiving the benefits of the exhibition of the monuments, they should keep them clean; for an account of allowances and income received by minor canons, &c, and in whose possession were the lands, houses, &c. from which the same were derived.
§ Mr. Peel
said, that the hon. member had torn off the paper which contained that motion from another paper, which consisted, as he supposed, of the others; and that if the hon. member was not moving for these returns at that moment, it was his intention to follow up the present motion by those to which he had just alluded; and indeed, at the instant that the hon. member tore off the first part of his motion, he had declared his intention of bringing forward others connected with it.
§ Mr. Peel
said, that if he had been mistaken in referring to the printed orders, he would endeavour to be more regular, by reading from the manuscript authority entered in the books of the House. On doing so, however, he found that the orders had been faithfully copied from thence; and though the hon. member had only read the first part of his motion, yet he had not said that he would abstain from proposing the rest; on the contrary, he had said that he should follow it up with others. He did not mean to say that the hon. member was bound to propose all the parts of the motion which he had entered on the books; but certainly it must be taken for granted that he meant to move them, since he expressly stated that he did not intend to withdraw them.
§ Mr. Peel
then contended, that the hon. member had no right to call him disorderly, for alluding to those motions which stood upon the books. He observed, that the rights of the dean and chapter of Westminster did not differ from those of any other dean and chapter. The public had erected monuments in the abbey, which the dean and chapter possessed by a grant from the Crown; but though these monuments had been erected at the expense of the public, they had not paid the dean and chapter for the space which these monuments occupied, nor had they specified that the rights of the dean and chapter of Westminster should be different from those of other ecclesiastical bodies, under similar circumstances. If the hon. member objected to the payment of those fees which were demanded for the exhibition of these monuments, let him refuse payment, and try with the dean and chapter their right of demanding them; but let him not call on that House for the production of documents, which he might use as evidence in resisting their demand before another tribunal. The hon. member had represented, that the minor canons claimed a right to something which the dean and chapter now appropriated to themselves. It appeared then, that there was a disputed claim among these persons; and, was it for parliament, overwhelmed as they were with business, to interfere in their disputes? He thought not. The hon. member had called for papers which were, in fact, the titles of 195 the dean and chapter to certain houses and lands they possessed. Surely the House would not grant a motion which was, in fact, an application to know the titles of landlords to their property. He trusted the House would not establish such a precedent; and above all, that they would not intermeddle in disputes betweeen the dean and chapter and the minor canons of the abbey, but would let those disputes be adjudicated in the proper manner. If there was ground for litigation, let that litigation be settled by the proper judicial power of the country. As he had already assented to one motion for a return of the amount of fees received for the exhibition of the monuments, and the manner of the appropriation of those fees, he thought he had done enough. It was too much to require the titles to property to be produced in that House; and, therefore, if he stood alone, he should resist the present motion.
§ The Speaker
requested to know whether what the hon. member was about to state was in reply or explanation?
§ The Speaker
observed, that in that case the remarks of the hon. member were certainly out of order, since no gentleman, when speaking only in explanation, was at liberty to make remarks on a preceding speaker. He would take that opportunity of saying, that the practice of giving notices of motions, though not a matter of right, was a practice which had grown up and been established, on account of its usefulness, which consisted in this, that it afforded to other members a knowledge of what was intended to be brought forward for discussion. If any irregularity crept into these notices, who was to blame? Certainly the hon. member who gave them. The hon. member for Aberdeen should not be surprised that he had alluded to this circumstance, since there was no one who gave more notices of motions than that hon. member. If at any time there was any error in the entry of the clerks, he trusted that the hon. member would state it, that it might be immediately corrected.
§ Mr. Hume
observed, that the substance of his notice was entered correctly, but not the words; and he therefore contended, that he was not bound by the words which had been inserted. His object in calling for these papers was to get rid of an imposition, by which, in one year 2,000l. and in another year, 1,500l. had been drawn from the pockets of the people. The dean and chapter alleged that these sums were necessarily taken for the maintenance of the minor canons and choir. Now, he alleged, on the contrary, that there was sufficient property to maintain these persons without having recourse to such a mode of supporting them. The monuments which the public had erected, were public property. The public had a right of access to them, and if that right was denied, and money was demanded, the public ought to know why that demand was made. The House would not do its duty to the country, if they did not put a stop to the abuse of which he complained; and he was content to stand with the right hon. gentleman, in the face of that country and abide by its opinion on this subject.
§ Sir J. Wrottesley
said, he had hoped that the returns moved for would have been granted without hesitation. There was no ground whatever for the exactions of the dean and chapter of Westminster, and their practice in this respect had not even the plea of antiquity to recommend it; because it was an infringement of which many hon. gentlemen in that House had seen the beginning. He had been educated at Westminster school, and he knew (having passed through it hundreds of times in every year) that there was a passage from the cloisters through Poets' corner into that part of Westminster. At the period to which he alluded the lower part of Westminster-abbey was open daily; and this practice he thought was an extremely useful one. It was true that admission might still be obtained upon payment, but it was by no means the same thing to be escorted by an impertinent and talkative verger, as it would be to spend a solitary hour there on a rainy day, contemplating the monuments of the illustrious persons whose fame was perpetuated there, and thus acquiring a knowledge of the history of the country. To what purpose had the national money been spent, but to hand down to posterity, by means of those monuments, the achievements of the heroes to whose memory 197 they were erected; and how was this purpose to be effected if the abbey was to be for ever shut up? It was stated in the returns which had been laid before the; House, that divine worship was celebrated in Westminster-abbey twice a day. This was true; but it was also true that only one small door was open. A large part of the Abbey which was formerly free to the public, was now appropriated exclusively to the use of the dean and chapter and the Westminster scholars. Formerly, and within the recollection of many individuals, there were at least five doors open, by any of which a person of a pensive or devotional turn of mind might enter, and indulge in his own serious reflections. It was not so much the amount of money that was now demanded from the visitors to the Abbey, but the disgrace of making any demand at all. Adverting to the return made by the dean and chapter to the order of the House, he observed that after they had stated that the collections were received by the minor canons and the gentlemen of the choir, they added, in rather a haughty style, that they did not know how the money was divided. They ought, however, to know that it was divided with a just reference to the claims of those unfortunate minor canons who were compelled to perform divine service at six o'clock on a cold frosty morning to two or three old women in red cloaks. The great exaction for showing the monuments had arisen since the time of that accomplished scholar and polished gentleman (Dr. Vincent) who attracted the love and veneration of all who were so fortunate as to know him; and whose name was never mentioned at the annual meetings of the individuals educated under his superintendance, without causing the walls of the room to ring with applause. He was sorry to see the name of that reverend individual profaned by its introduction at the end of the return, which had been made by the present dean and chapter. He was convinced that if that revered individual could rise from his grave, nothing would give him more pain than to see the name of Vincent attached to such a document. If the hon. member for Aberdeen divided the House the motion should have his hearty vote; as well as those by which it was to be followed. The dean and chapter had begun the practice of taxing the public for admission into the Abbey, and surely the 198 House had a right to inquire why they had done so. If the right hon. Secretary objected to the present motion, he ought to have objected to the original order of the House. The return to that order being so unsatisfactory, the House were bound to persevere in the inquiry.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
merely rose to suggest, that the charter required was most probably either to be found at the Tower or elsewhere amongst the public records; and therefore the calling for private title was an objection that could not be supported. He had no wish to trench on the rights of private property, and still less to cause any diminution of the incomes of the minor canons; but he considered the free ingress of the public to Westminster Abbey to be a national object; and, as such, felt himself bound to support the motion.
said, that much inconvenience would result from the indiscriminate admission into the Abbey of the public at all times. The monuments would be exposed to every kind of mutilation and injury. From the earliest periods it had been found necessary to take measures to guard against this evil. Previous to the Commonwealth such measures had been adopted. In every church the incumbent had a right to a fee for the erection of a monument. And with regard to public monuments, there was undoubtedly a right to tax the public to a certain extent for the purpose of preserving them, and keeping them in repair. It was well known that a more honourable as well as a more benevolent man than the present dean of Westminster did not exist; and that he was wholly incapable of giving his support to any system justly deserving of reprehension. On numerous occasions that excellent person had indulged, from his private purse, in acts of the greatest liberality and generosity.
§ Sir J. Newport
allowed, that if it could be shown that from the earliest times, the dean and chapter of Westminster had exercised the right of excluding from the Abbey, there might be some pretext for declining the proposed inquiry; but when it was well known that from a large part of the Abbey the public had been shut out only in late times, he was at a loss to conceive on what principle resistance could be made to a motion, calling on the dean and chapter to account for their conduct. It was said, that the fees collected from visitors to the Abbey went to 199 the mmor canons. But, was it satisfactorily established that the provision for the minor canons, and the inferior officers of the church, ought not to proceed from their principals? He complained of the manner in which the dean and chapter had thought proper to word their return to the order of the House. They had no right to make any remarks on the subject. It was not respectful to the House to do so. When the House called for any return, they expected simply a statement of facts. If the persons furnishing any such return conceived themselves aggrieved by the proceedings of the House, their fit course was to petition the House, stating the circumstances of which they complained. In the conclusion of the return, the dean and chapter observed, that their founder had not only era-powered, but required them to defend the privileges and immunities which she had bestowed upon them, against all aggression or encroachment. And from whom did they apprehend that aggression and encroachment? Evidently from the House of Commons. These were unwarrantable expressions. The House would always be found ready to defend the rights of the church; but he trusted they would also always be found ready to defend the rights of the public. The Secretary of State talked of a remedy at law being open to any individual who felt himself aggrieved. But it should be recollected, that the attempt to procure that remedy must be made at the expense of the individual, while the defendants would be able to resort for aid to the purse of their corporation.
regretted the system which had been introduced into the Abbey, but was of opinion that the House could not with propriety interfere. He could not see what authority they possessed for doing so. He believed it to be the right of every dean and chapter to 6hut up their church, except during the hours of divine service. He allowed, however, that the mode in which the public had of late years been shut out of the Abbey was much to be lamented. He allowed that it was an injudicious use of the power possessed by the dean and chapter; but he did not think that the House had any authority to interfere. If, for instance, a road were to be improperly stopped up, could the House interfere? By no means. Recourse for redress must be had to a court of law. If such a motion as the present were 200 acceded to, where would the practice end? Nothing was more to be deprecated than calling on that House to interfere in any case in which it really possessed no power. For these reasons, regretting extremely the course which had been pursued by the dean and chapter, he felt it to be his duty to oppose the motion.
could see no objection to the production of the paper in question. The House might afterwards determine whether or not to proceed further. He thought the tone of the answer made by the dean and chapter unjustifiably high. They had no right to tell that House, that it intended some improper aggression on their property.
§ The House then divided: For the motion 56; Against it 72; Majority 16.
Mr. Secretary Peel
seeing a difference between this motion and the former one, did not intend to oppose it. He begged to be understood, that, in contending for the right of the dean and chapter to exclude or admit, he did not vindicate the amount of their charges. The former motion could not be enforced; and it was not wise to commit the House to a measure in which they might not succeed. He regretted exceedingly the manner in which the return already ordered had been made. It would have been much better, if the dean and chapter had complied simply with the order, which was so worded as not to excite any unpleasant feelings. He wished, however, that the hon. member would postpone his motion, in order to afford an opportunity of ascertaining whether the grant was, or was not from the Crown. He had, in the first instance, conceived it to be a grant from the Crown to the dean and chapter, on the condition of keeping the monuments clean.
§ Mr. Canning
wished the hon. member would postpone his motion, on the understanding that, if it turned out upon inquiry to be a grant from the Crown, no opposition would be made to the production of the document. If the grant really were from the dean and chapter, he should certainly object to its being produced.
§ Mr. Peel
said, that the first motion was for a copy of the charter of queen Elizabeth to the dean and chapter, as evidence of their title and property, and of their general right of regulating the cathedral: To this he should object, on principle. The next motion was for a copy of the grant of 1697. He had understood that that was a distinct grant from the Crown, to levy a fee from every person seeing the monuments, upon the condition of the dean and chapter keeping them clean; and finding that they had been relieved of this charge by a grant of public money, he thought this made a very distinct case, and entitled the public to inquire how the matter stood. If the grant was from the Crown, he was ready to acquiesce in the motion; but he wished the hon. member to postpone the debate, in order to give an opportunity for inquiry.
§ Mr. Denman
advised his hon. friend neither to postpone nor to withdraw his motion, as there was quite enough before the House to enable them to come to a vote upon the question. Indeed he was of opinion that, if the money was not a grant immediately from the Crown to the dean and chapter, there was the greater reason for an inquiry into the causes why the delegated trust had been neglected. He considered it to be extremely ungracious in the right hon. Secretary, in a matter of great public importance, to thrust the onus of proving a public right on any individual, by his remedy in a court of law. He could inform the House, that the boasted remedy of a court of law was not always very expeditious, very certain, or very cheap. The same answer might be given in many other cases. In cases of charities, for instance. In applications to the House against any gross and afflicting abuse of a public charity, a minister might say, "Go and file a bill in the court of Chancery; I assure you, the Chancery-court is a court of the greatest purity, and it possesses ample powers;" and thus an individual might be five-and-twenty or thirty years obtaining redress, which it was the duty of the House to grant him 202 in the first Instance, and without any expense whatever. Did the gentlemen on the Treasury-bench mean to say, that the only remedy for the public was, that he who suffered the exaction of a few pence at the church-door was to resist the imposition at the risk and expense of a court of law? to put himself forward as the champion of the public, and to fill up the breach which it was the duty of the House to fill, but which they were so ready to throw upon individuals? He objected to the subtilties and refinements of the government, when they were thus urged in support of existing abuses, or in opposition to general principles and public rights.
§ The House divided: For the motion 37 Against it 68; Majority 31.
§ Mr. Hume
expressed his dissent from the proceedings of the House. He said, that whatever might be the differences of opinion with respect to the technical propriety or impropriety of granting this or that document, it was the opinion of every part of the House, that the present system of managing the cathedral, with respect to the admission of the public, was most reprehensible. This was evidently the undivided sentiment within the House; and he need scarcely add, that in this, as in many other instances, the sentiment of the public had preceded that of the House of Commons. He would withdraw his other motions; but it was his intention to propose, on a future day, a motion expressive of the sense of the House on the extraordinary conduct of the dean and chapter.