HC Deb 25 July 1831 vol 5 cc295-300

The next vote was, that a sum not exceeding 16,000l. be granted to defray the expenses of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in certain of his Majesty's colonies for the year 1831.

Mr. Warburton

observed, that it was not his intention to divide the Committee on the vote, being aware that a large proportion, if not the whole, of the sum now called for was already due and expended. He was confident, however, that no vote could tend more to alienate the affections of the inhabitants of the colonies from the mother country than this had done, by voting so large a sum for the exclusive support of the Anglican Church, when, in many of the colonies, the great majority of the inhabitants were of a different religious persuasion. If a material reduction did not take place in this estimate, when it was next brought forward, he should certainly divide on it.

Mr. Wilks

would second such a motion should it be made by the hon. member for Bridport. This vote created dissension and disunion in the colonies, instead of promoting affection to the mother country. The system pursued in Canada was deserving of the most serious attention. One-seventh of the whole territorial property was reserved exclusively and illiberally for the Clergy of the Established Church, three-fourths of the inhabitants being adverse to the doctrines of that Church. A College, too, had lately been established in Upper Canada, founded on exclusive and illiberal principles. Under such circumstances, he conceived, that the House was called on to oppose all grants that were intended ex- clusively to benefit one sect and nourish intolerance.

Mr. Labouchere

was anxious that the Resolution should not be passed until he had obtained from Government a distinct explanation, whether it was intended to propose a similar grant in future—in other words, whether Ministers were in favour of the principle of the grant. He admitted, that a sudden and large reduction of the vote would be attended with most injurious consequences to a number of highly respectable individuals, now receiving salaries, but thought that some notice of an intention to diminish the vote hereafter might be given. He also expressed his strong objections to the Clergy reserves, against which he had a petition to present, as well as against the College in Upper Canada, established on principles which prevented nine-tenths of the population from partaking of its advantages. He wished, therefore, to know—1. Whether the grant was in future to be persevered in? 2. Whether the Colonial Department intended to examine into the subject of the Clergy reserves? 3. Whether the Charter of the University of Upper Canada was under consideration, with a view to some change in it?

Mr. Warburton

wished likewise to be informed, whether Ministers were not in possession of a memorial from the Bishop and Clergy of Quebec, praying, that the Clergy reserves might not be divided with the Church of Scotland? It had always been understood in that House, that the reserves should be divided between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland.

Lord Althorp

said, that his Majesty's Government certainly did not defend this grant on principle; but the question was one of considerable difficulty, involving the whole Church Establishment, and the religious education of the people of the colonies. It was impossible, therefore, to take any sudden and unadvised step; at the same time, he fully admitted, that it was not fitting that this country should pay for supporting a Church Establishment in Canada. It was the intention of his Majesty's Government to reduce the grant, therefore, and to do away with it entirely I as soon as possible. The question relating to the Clergy reserves was under consideration, but it was one on which he could give no pledge; and, as to the college established in Upper Canada, he could only state, that it was also under consideration. He was not aware, that any representation had been made from the Clergy of Quebec on the subject to which the hon. member for Bridport's question referred.

Mr. Hunt

said, it might astonish the new Members to hear, that this very grant had been opposed and discussed with great talent, last year, by the members of the present Ministry. It was then proposed, by way of amendment, that 8,000l. should be deducted from the grant at once, and that the other half should cease in 1831, or at this period. He held in his hand the names of the Minority of forty-six who voted for that Amendment, and he had only to state, that the first name was Lord Althorp, and the last Lord Howick. Fortified by the precedent then set, it was his (Mr. Hunt's) present intention to follow the example of his Majesty's Ministers, and he should conclude with moving, by way of Amendment, that half the grant should be reduced at once, and the remaining half in 1832. He was not intimately acquainted with the colonies, like some hon. Members, but he was acquainted with a clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Griffin, who had petitioned the House some years ago, and who had been sent out by the Society for Promoting the Gospel, as Rector of St. George's, Prince Edward's Island. From this Gentleman he (Mr. Hunt) derived more information as to the proceedings of the Society, than had come to the knowledge of either the present or the late Administration. The money necessary for carrying on the operations of the Society in the colonies was proposed to be raised by subscription, and the deficiency was to be made up by Parliament. Now he begged to call the attention of the Committee to the proportion voted by Parliament, and the whole sum "risen" by subscription [laughter]. It always afforded great amusement to Gentlemen when he (Mr. Hunt) made a mistake. When others made the most egregious grammatical errors, it only created a smile; but when he slipped there was a loud laugh, which proved, no doubt, how anxious they were to set him right. Since 1814, the sum collected in churches, by virtue of the King's Letter, for this Society, was 55,869l.; the sum raised by Subscription, 33,343l., and the sum voted by Parliament, 203,088l. So much for the manner in which the funds of the Society were raised. And now for its practice:—when Mr. Griffin was sent, with a salary of 200l. per annum, to Prince Edward's Island, he found there was neither a church nor a congregation, and he reported accordingly. He was told, that he must not make such reports, for that they were not satisfactory. Having reported the truth in the same way next year, he was removed to the district colony of Nova Scotia, and there a place was pointed out to him, where half-a-dozen boards were nailed together, and this building, which was filled with sheep, he was told was his church. Having reported this, Mr. Griffin, whose moral and religious character was unimpeached, was found not to be the tractable man which the Society wanted, and he was recalled; and for having stated those facts in his reports, he was so persecuted, that no Bishop would now give him a license to preach. In looking into the transactions of the Society, it appeared that Bishop Inglis had a salary of 2,400l. and Archdeacon Willis a salary of 1,700l., and several other clergymen enjoyed very large salaries. The Society had two estates left to it, in the island of Barbadoes, containing 700 slaves, and the labour of those slaves, and the produce of the two estates, went to support a college for the education of the children of placemen and pensioners; and the principal of the college, the Rev. Mr. Pindar, had a salary of 1,000l. a year. Thus they found, that the labour of slaves was appropriated by this Society to inculcate the doctrines of the Christian religion. When such facts were stated, he asked, could the Committee think he was wrong in following the example set by his Majesty's Government last year, in proposing that the vote should now be reduced one-half, and that the whole should cease in 1832?

Lord Howick

hoped the hon. member for Preston would keep his word, when the course followed last year, by persons now in office, was explained. He (Lord Howick, moved the amendment which the hon. Member alluded to, and now professed to follow. That amendment was moved, not with a view to an immediate reduction in the vote, which could not be carried into effect without great hardship to individuals, but to express the sense of the Committee, that the principle of the grant was wrong. The present Government admitted, that the principle was wrong, and his noble friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) pledged himself that the grant should be reduced. If that pledge had been made last year by the right hon. Gentleman, then at the head of the Colonial Department, he (Lord Howick) would have withdrawn his amendment, as he hoped the hon. member for Preston would now do. There were a considerable number of clergymen, exemplary and excellent persons, employed by the Society, on the faith of this grant, upon salaries barely sufficient for their subsistence, and which it would be a cruel injustice to withdraw from them. All the Government could do was, not to sanction any new persons being sent out, and to call on the Society in future to defray its own expenses. The Society was a most useful and excellent one; and one great objection to the principle of the grant was, that it went to dry up the sources of private charity. He hoped, however, that the Committee would not sanction the amendment, as it would leave several clergymen in a state of destitution. In fact, a part of the money was already spent.

Mr. R. Gordon

did not think the argument of the noble Lord (Lord Howick) satisfactory. The noble Lord had been eight months in office, and this vote ought to have been taken under consideration in that time, and some reduction made. This grant was objectionable, if upon no other ground, because the money was expended by an unauthorised and irresponsible body, and the reports of the Society proved, as he contended, that its own funds had been much mismanaged for five or six years. As an instance of the exclusive principle adopted, he need only state, that the Bishop of the Established Church in Nova Scotia had a salary of 2,000l. per annum, whilst the Presbyterian minister had only 75l. per annum; and yet the Presbyterians were to the persons professing the doctrines of the Church of England in that colony as three to one. He could not but hope, under all the circumstances, that some reduction would be made in the grant.

Mr. Hunt

was quite satisfied, that no injury could arise to the clergymen of the Established Church by the reduction of this grant. The Church of England was too rich and too generous to suffer her clergy to want. In reply to what had been stated respecting the character of the clergy, he would only say, that if such was the fact, there was the less necessity for the vote.

Mr. Briscoe

said, that after the candid and just statement of the noble Lord, no blame could be imputed to Government; he would, therefore, recommend the hon. member for Preston not to divide.

Sir R. Inglis

justified the grant, because he thought it an imperative duty on Government to introduce the true principles of Christianity into every country we colonized. He did not think it judicious, therefore, to reduce the grant.

Colonel Evans

would not object to the grant for this year, but he hoped, that an understanding would be come to, that it should be discontinued or reduced for the future.

Sir J. M. Doyle

said, a rich benefice in Ireland was now vacant, and he did not see why 8,000l. should not be taken from that valuable See to make good the vote.

Mr. R. Gordon

was ready to give up his opposition to the vote, if Ministers would agree to a Committee of Inquiry for the next year.

Mr. Hunt

was ready to withdraw his Amendment, if the suggestion of the hon. member for Carlow (Sir John Doyle) was acted on. The statements he had made rested on the assertions of the Rev. Mr. Griffin.

Mr. Baring

thought the Committee could not in justice refuse the grant, as three-fourths of the year had already expired, and the colonies, therefore, had a right to it for that year. He must say, however, that he did not approve of such a mode of supporting Christianity. In the colonies, for which these large grants were made yearly for the propagation of the Gospel, the English Church was on the decline, while in the State of New York it was most thriving, where it was left entirely to its own merits. He would agree to the grant for this year, but hoped, that Government would come to some resolution for the gradual abolition of it.

The Committee divided:—For the original Motion 65; Against it 27—Majority 38.

List of the Noes.
Benett, J. Ingilby, Sir W. A.
Blanckney, W. Knight, R.
Dawson, A. Lambert, H.
Dick, Q. Lambert, J. S.
Dixon, J. Mullins, F. W.
Doyle, Sir J. M. Musgrave, Sir R.
Dundas, Hon. T. Paget, T.
Gordon, R. Power, R.
Grattan, J. Sheil, R. L.
Thicknesse, R. Williams, Sir J.
Walker, C. A. Wood, J.
Warburton, H. Wyse, T.
Watson, Hon. R. TELLER.
Wilbraham, G. Hunt, H.
Wilks, J.

47,500l. for public stores at Van Diemen's Land, and 37,154l. for Fernando Po, were next voted.