HC Deb 08 May 1832 vol 12 cc754-8
Mr. Hume

moved for a Return of the "name of every person holding more than one dignity, benefice, church, or chapel, of the Established Church in England and Wales; stating how many, and the name of each such dignity, benefice, church, and chapelry, and the gross and nett annual value of all such, upon the average of the last three years for which the account can be made out; stating also the number of years the incumbent has held each preferment or benefice, what duties are performed by him, what curates are employed under him, and the amount of stipends actually paid to each curate, in each of these three years."

Sir Robert Inglis

thought the hon. Member was bound to show cause for his Motion before it was adopted, the rather, as it was one which could not be acted upon without an exercise of inquisitorial power hardly compatible with the liberty of the subject.

Mr. Goulburn

felt himself inclined to oppose the Motion; but, certainly, he wished, that some grounds should be laid for granting it. He would take that opportunity of asking the right hon. Gentleman opposite a question concerning the deaneries of Downe and Raphoe. Had they been bestowed on the present incumbents, on any understanding similar to that entered into with the present Bishop of Derry?

Mr. Stanley

said, that, with respect to the deanery of Downe, he had no information at present what were its revenues. With regard to the deanery of Raphoe, he believed them to have been about 2,500l. a-year. The present incumbent had accepted it on condition that he should receive the tithes of the parish of Raphoe alone, and the four parishes that had before been united with it, were, in future, to go to four different incumbents.

Mr. Hume

said, his object was, to direct the attention of the House to the monstrous abuses of the present Church Establishment, ere it sanctioned the Archbishop of Canterbury's pseudo pluralities' abuse reform bill. Having been, from early youth, an eye-witness of the admirable results of the system of the Church of Scotland, and knowing, that non-residence was not possible under that system, and knowing, that the reward of the pastor was made to depend on his efficiency, it might be, that the plurality non-resident system of the Church of England, which made the emolument, in most instances, be in the inverse ratio of the service rendered—assumed an exaggerated form in his eyes; and, accordingly, he was anxious that his views should rest upon incontrovertible facts, and was also anxious, that the House should be in possession of those facts previous to the discussion of the merits of the Archbishop of Canterbury's mock reform bill. Hence his present Motion, the necessity of which perhaps, would be more apparent from a simple statement of the number of nonresident incumbents in England, in one year, 1831. It appeared, from papers on the Table of the House, that, in that year, the number of benefices, held under the Church of England was 10,532. He had the authority, indeed, of an intelligent clergyman to fix the number at 12,600 but would take the lower number. Of that number, there were 2,619 incumbents exempt from residence, from various causes, 2,147 exempt with licence, and 1,354 nonresident, without any exemption licence; making, altogether, 6,120 non-resident, out of a total of 10,532. Of these 6,120 nonresident, 1,590 were reported as doing duty elsewhere; but, deducting them, there remained but 4,413 clergymen resident in the parishes whence they derived large emoluments. Was not this monstrous? He would take it upon himself to assert, that such abuses were unknown in any other church in Europe. Then let them consider the disgraceful manner in which so many of the bonâfide working clergy were paid, while the bloated non-resident pluralists were lording it in stately chariots and fine linen. He knew of at least 100 such clergymen, who did not receive as much in the year for their exertions as journeymen carpenters; but even the evils of non-residence were not confined to sleek vicars and well-fed rectors, who did nothing but spend large revenues in the most approved manner of fashion. The total number of curates of the Church of England, in 1831, was 4,254; of these, 1,393 resided in glebe houses, and 805 in private residences in their respective parishes; that is, there were only 2,198 actual residents; in other words, there were at least 2,000 parishes in England without a resident curate or rector of its established and enormously overpaid Church. And how did the most reverend head of that Church propose to remedy the evils of non-residence and pluralities? Why, by preventing pluralities, with endless exceptions, from being held, if distant more than thirty miles from the resident living. He might as well, so far as any practical benefit was concerned, have fixed the limit at 300 miles. He had found, that, of individuals holding Church preferment in this country, 162 were in receipt of less than 160l. per annum, and that, in the whole Church of England, there were only 84 curates who received that sum. In the diocese of Lincoln, there were 440 persons holding one benefice each, 256 persons who held each two benefices, while, in the same diocese, there were 76 individuals who were in the enjoyment of 304 benefices. From the result of the inquiries he had made, he was led to believe, that much of the fearful increase of crime of late in the remote districts, was to be attributed to the non-residence of the clergy. Under all these circumstances, he hoped he had laid sufficient grounds before the House to induce it to grant the Motion. He had carefully avoided the mention of names; but when the proper time arrived, he was fully prepared to go at length into the subject.

Mr. Trevor

agreed with the hon. member for Middlesex in thinking that the curates of the Church of England were inadequately paid. He also concurred in the, most part of the hon. Member's Motion, but he would suggest the propriety of withdrawing that part which required returns of the amount of the income of the Church.

Mr. Hudson Gurney

thought the Returns went too far, inasmuch as they meddled with the incomes of individuals. The hon. Member might as well move for a return of the income of the country gentlemen as of the clergy.

Mr. Warburton

said, he could see no reason why returns of the Church revenues should not be made. He felt, that every man who received an income for the discharge of particular duties should not only fulfil those duties, but also should not hesitate to afford every information as to the amount of income he received.

Mr. Weyland

was ready to agree in the Motion for returns of the gross amount of the value of all livings where the incum- bent was non-resident, and in which the duties were performed by curates, and also of the amount of the stipends paid such curates. But he did not think the House ought to extend such inquiry to livings where the incumbents were resident.

Mr. John Campbell

said, that the object of the hon. member for Middlesex was, to obtain returns of all pluralists—a piece of information which he (Mr. Campbell) conceived to be indispensable when the House came to take into consideration and to deal with a bill which had been sent down from the other House of Parliament, and which had been introduced by the head of the Church, relative to pluralities. This information could only be learnt from the Returns now sought for by the hon. member for Middlesex.

Mr. Sheil

saw nothing objectionable in the Motion. The Returns were analogous to the returns made by the Irish clergy of the amount of their incomes, and he thought them necessary to the due consideration of the Pluralities Bill.

Dr. Lushington

did not see any great objection to the Motion, and, in some respects, he thought it desirable, as it would tend to elucidate the value of Church livings, which he knew was greatly exaggerated. He, for one, would never bring himself to think, that Church property was, in any respect, less sacred than private property, though, perhaps, the former, under peculiar circumstances, might be a fairer subject of investigation. He believed the Church of England would benefit by this inquiry; for he knew, that circumstances favourable to that establishment, and which were not known to the House, would be elicited in the inquiry.

Mr. Trevor

wished to know whether the hon. member for Middlesex would consent to the proposed verbal amendment in his Motion?

Mr. Hume

declined making any change.

Sir Thomas Baring

had not intended to make a single observation, and should have remained silent, if it had not been for a remark which had fallen from the hon. member for Middlesex, who appeared to attribute the increase of crime in England to the state of the Church. Now, he (Sir Thomas Baring) should rather attribute the increase of crime to Parliament, and some of their pernicious enactments. Such, for instance, as the Beer Bill, and many others of equally mischievous tendency. He must say, that the grossest exaggerations were circulated respecting the value of Church livings.

Mr. Ruthven

suggested the propriety of extending the Returns sought for to Ireland.

Mr. Stanley

said, that, if the hon. Member who had just sat down would take the trouble to look back to the minutes of the day before the recess, he would find, that the hon. member for Middlesex had moved for and obtained returns from Ireland, far more extensive than those which were the object of the hon. Member's present Motion; indeed, so extensive were they, that he (Mr. Stanley), had he been in the House at the time they were moved for, should have felt it his duty to oppose the Motion. He, however, saw no objection to the present Motion, and he thought it was one of the greatest mistakes of the friends of the Established Church to oppose making returns of its revenues, under the supposition that they were sought with a view to reduction.

Sir Matthew White Ridley

conceived the Returns were necessary, to enable the House to form a correct judgment on the very important Bill which had been alluded to by the hon. and learned member for Stafford, and which would require the greatest attention from every true friend of the Church.

Returns ordered.