HC Deb 19 July 1833 vol 19 cc1019-29

On the Motion of Mr. Charles Grant, the House resolved itself into Committee upon the East-India Bill.

The Chairman put the 89th clause, which provides for the appointment of two Bishops, one for the Presidency of Fort St. George, and the other for the Island of Bombay.

Mr. O'Connell

said, this was a most important part of the Bill, for it recognised what he thought was a separate Christian establishment. This was a subject on which he felt warmly, under which the whole people of Ireland were deeply interested. He must therefore trespass on the Committee while he stated his views. The hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Inglis) had given the name to it of a dominant church in India. Not a word was in the Bill, and not a word had been said by any member of the Government about a dominant Church; but as the hon. member for the University of Oxford had stated triumphantly that it would be so, he (Mr. O'Connell) would adopt the expression, and contend that no such principle should be extended to India. He hoped that the Bill would be received as the first great Charter in India, and that it would be the basis of a new order of things, after centuries of misrule, cruelty, and ignorance, and that it would be the means of the gradual introduction into that part of the world of manufactures, the arts, science, and literature. Those were the objects of the Bill; but they would be defeated if the causes of all the religious dissensions and jealousies of Europe were transported to India, and they could not have a dominant church without introducing at the same time all the rancour and hate of religious animosity and opposition. All Christians should be put upon an equal footing. The hon. and learned Member entered into a detail of the vast disproportion between the members of the Protestant Church in India, and those of the Catholic Church, and into the relative numbers of the members of the different religious persuasions in India, and said, that the object of the clause now before them was to appoint two Bishops for about 15,000 or 20,000 Protestants, while there were above half a million of Catholics, all of whom would be taxed to pay the salaries of those Bishops. At Ceylon some proofs had been given of the evils of intolerance. When Sir Alexander Johnstone, to whom he gave the utmost credit for humanity and good feeling, arrived there, he found that the efforts of the Jesuits and other Missionaries had spread the doctrines of Christianity so far, that the highest species of Budd'ism was already extinct. But when the Dutch came to govern that country, they reduced by their penal enactments the number of Catholics, from 400,000 to 60,000, and sent to Siam for a new establishment of priests to form a new dominant hierarchy of Budd'ism. He would not admit the necessity of any ascendancy or domination in religion; but called upon the hon. Gentlemen opposite to declare candidly their opinions and intentions. He did not charge them with a desire to introduce domination, but they had been so charged, and the accusation would be confirmed by their silence, if they were silent. There ought not to be a dominant church in India, The Government was bound to look to two classes of his Majesty's subjects—to the Catholic and Presbyterian, as well as to the Protestant. It would wring the hearts of hon. Members if they could see the letters written by the poor Catholic Irish soldiers in India to their friends at homo, written in a state of physical debility, and with the expectation of death from the effects of the climate. In such communications, the chief and constant complaint of the poor soldier was the want of religious consolation. If there were provision made for the Protestant, there should also be provision made for the Catholic and Presbyterian, and he would again ask to be told explicitly whether the same assistance was to be rendered to these as to the Protestant?

Mr. Charles Grant

complimented the hon. and learned Member on the tone and temper in which he had introduced the subject. The ground upon which the alteration had been founded was the necessity for increased means of religious consolation. At present there were but one Bishop and three Archdeacons; it was proposed to increase the number of Bishops to three, and leaving the Archdeacons as they stood, with respect to numbers, to take from their incomes as much as would provide 2,500l. a-year for each of the two additional Bishops. This country had no right to send its subjects abroad without giving them the religious advantages they enjoyed at home, and it was bound to place within the reach of its Indian subjects the means of attaining the blessings of Christianity. In making this provision, he would unhesitatingly declare to the House that he did not like the idea of connecting domination with any church. It was with the intention of providing religious instruction for the officers who were sent to govern India, that he had proposed the Resolution. He wished to promote that high and Catholic spirit, which was founded in charity, and was averse from all thoughts of human domination. The Government would neither establish nor promote in India anything which was unfair or intolerant to any religion, meaning certainly only to do honour to the English name, and to the principles of Christianity. He certainly avowed a strong feeling in favour of the Established Church, to which he belonged; but there was nothing in that predilection which could induce him to allow its interference with any other religious belief, or to seek for that Church dominion over other churches. He knew there was a very large Roman Catholic community in India, and they deserved the particular regard and consideration of the Government, but in what mode, to what extent, and under what form their claims could best be satisfied, he was not prepared to state; it would not be difficult, he hoped, to adjust the matter when parties applied themselves fairly and sincerely to the task, and he should be happy to communicate with the hon. and learned member for the city of Dublin upon the subject, or with any other persons who took an interest in it. He thought, that without inference to religious feeling, it would be the best policy (and he knew the Catholics of India were anxious for it) that the Catholic pastors in India should be British subjects, and not foreigners.

Mr. Wynn

remembered with feelings of pleasure the disposition manifested by the Government and the East-India Company, when he was in office, to afford every facility to the promulgation of Christianity in India, without regard to what particular sect the various parties engaged in its dissemination might belong. At the same time, he remembered, that complaints were made of the inconvenience arising from the Catholic soldiers not being able to communicate with the priests in their own language; and an inquiry was making at the period when he left the Board, for persons in Ireland and England, to undertake the mission of Roman Catholic priests in India. He trusted that they were themselves but a sect, and would participate in the feeling expressed by his lamented friend. Bishop Heber, who said it was his highest pride to be considered as placed at the head of the Christian Church in India, in order to co-operate with the members of every different sect and persuasion. He declared, in one of his letters, that one of the most satisfactory days he had passed, was when he administered ordination to a native. On that day he entertained, together, the heads of the Catholic, Presbyterian, and Arminian religions in India, who met to participate in the common feeling of satisfaction at seeing that rite of ordination administered to a native. The Bishop was the head of the Episcopal Church, and his peculiar function was, to superintend those congregations which were in community with that Church. The missionaries were not under his jurisdiction; but they felt so much advantage in having his protection, that there was hardly a missionary, whatever his sect was, who was not willing to proceed in community with the head of the English Episcopal Church, for the great and general object of promoting the spread of the Christian religion. With respect to a provision for the Presbyterians, he did not believe any considerable difficulty could exist; at least not the same difficulty as with the Catholics; because the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians were in communion with each other, and had no repugnance to attend each other's service.

Mr. Sheil

said, that the President of the Board of Control had admitted that he was anxious to establish his own peculiar form of Christianity in India. Let the right hon. Gentleman indulge in his predilections in his closet, but not in the Cabinet; let him adore his God in his own fashion, but not make his sectarian preferences the basis of his legislation. Paley had laid it down, that the Governor was bound to look to the religion of his people, not to his own. The right hon. Gentleman acted in direct variance with that position, and had not answered the question, whether he desired to have a dominant church in India.

Mr. Grant

had already stated, that he did not.

Mr. Sheil

Then, are all religions to be established in India?

Mr. Macaulay

All are to be paid.

Mr. Sheil

Yes; but payment did not constitute establishment. In France all religions were supported, but none was established. Government would give pre-eminence by Act of Parliament to the Anglo-Indian Church, and this was done despite the advice of the East-India Company. He held in his hand the correspondence of the India Company with the Board of Control, dated July 10, 1833. The Company protested against the establishment of two more Bishoprics. It insisted that it was unjust to tax natives for the support of an establishment. He would read the following remarkable passage:—"And here, Sir, the court must call your attention to the striking fact, that the charge to India of the ecclesiastical establishment has been augmented since the institution of the see of Calcutta from 48,000l. to more than 100,000l. per annum, and that the clerical part of the pension-list has been increased from 800l. per annum to 5,000l. per annum. The Court, therefore, cannot contemplate the creation of two more sees without apprehension of financial consequences. We recognise, indeed, in your proposal, great anxiety to limit the expense; but we fear that it will be found impossible to maintain the limitation when the officers are created, and the Bishop of Calcutta shall have become a metropolitan." Thus the Company, to whom the powers of Government were to be transferred, protested against this enlargement of the hierarchy, which would end in a vast episcopal establishment. Already the expense had risen from 48,000l. to 100,000l. If one Bishop had produced this increase of expense, what would two additional Bishops effect? And if one Bishop generated two, would not the three soon produce a large episcopal progeny? The majority of native Christians were Catholic; they were 600,000 in number. How grossly unjust, then, it was to establish a costly church to which they were wholly alien! Besides the 600,000 native Catholics, there was a large body of European Catholics, especially Irish soldiers. Thus all the evils of the Irish Church Establishment were to be sown in India, and would produce the same results. Let them transplant Christianity to India, but not controversy, the weed that grew beside and killed it. In a few years a struggle would take place between the Catholic, the Calvinist, and the Protestant population, arising from the pre-eminence given to one. The hon. Member then read the following quotation from the works of the reverend Robert Hall: "Happy had it been, however, had civil establishments of religion been useless only, instead of being productive of the greatest evils. But, when Christianity is established by law, it is requisite to give the preference to some particular system; and, as the Magistrate is no better judge of religion than others, the chances are as great of his lending his sanction to the false as the true. Splendor and emolument must likewise be in some degree attached to the national Church; which are a strong inducement to its ministers to defend it, be it ever so remote from the truth. The error becomes permanent, and that set of opinions which happens to prevail when the establishment is formed, continues, in spite of superior light and improvement, to be handed down without alteration from age to age. Turn a Christian Society into an Established Church, and it is no longer a voluntary assembly for the worship of God; it is a powerful corporation, full of such sentiments and passions as usually distinguish those bodies—a dread of innovation, an attachment to abuses, a propensity to tyranny and oppression. Hence the convulsions that accompany religious Reform, where the truth of the opinions in question is little regarded amidst the alarm that is felt for the splendor, opulence, and power which they are the means of supporting. To this alliance of Christianity with civil power it is owing that ecclesiastical history presents a chaos of crimes, and that the progress of religious opinions, which, left to itself, had been calm and silent, may be traced in blood." Yet, in the face of all this, and the wishes of the East-India Company, they were going to establish an alien church in India, at the expense of the natives.

Lord Althorp

reprobated the polemical line of argument adopted by the hon. Member, in the course of a debate that had been conducted with so much calmness and moderation. He wished to ask the hon. and learned member for Dublin, whether the answer of his right hon. friend to his remarks was not satisfactory to his views on the subject. Government wished to make such an arrangement as would be satisfactory to all parties, and tend to the extension of Christianity. Under the existing arrangement, the death of a Bishop left India for a very long time without any spiritual superintendence, which the present proposition would obviate. The Government had professed that they were willing, and promised to give every protection to Roman Catholics, and that promise would be kept.

Mr. O'Connell

had been asked a question. In answer, he had to say, that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Charles Grant) was most satisfactory to him. Though the promise was not an official one, he had every confidence in it, when he thought of the man from whom it fell; a man, whose whole life showed, that it was impossible for him to be insincere.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had requested hon. Members to return to that calmness and charity of spirit which they had testified in the earlier part of the debate. Indeed, they ought to thank the hon. and learned member for Dublin, who had set them an example on that occasion, as also his right hon. friend, the President of the India Board, who had shown a truly Christian spirit in his observations, and had never done more credit to his feelings than by the declaration which he had that might made. Differing from his right hon. friend as he did in many points, he had double pleasure in agreeing with him thus far when he recollected how much his right hon. friend in his present measures for the Church in India, was following the track of his father, (the late Mr. C. Grant) to whom, perhaps, more than to any other man who had ever been in power the cause of Indian Christianity was indebted. He (Sir Robert Inglis) had always been anxious to maintain his own Church abroad as well as at home; and, where that could not be, to support Christianity in other countries as much as possible, and he should rather see the Roman Catholic religion established in India than heathenism. But there was another class of persons calling themselves Christians, in respect to whom, as they were not before the House, he would not say how far he would or would not be instrumental in introducing their tenets as Christianity in preference to Mahomedan or Heathen worship, nor would be yield to the call of naming this sect, because he would not needlessly provoke controversy; but on the other hand he would not, if necessary, shrink from avowing his opinion on the subject more distinctly, however ripe liberalism might be in that House. It had been stated, that the Court of Directors hold, that the expense of the Church Establishment had been increased from 48,000l. to 100,000l. a-year. The Court of Directors had certainly stated, that it was not known what the future expense of the Establishment might be,—not that it had thus increased in consequence of the one Bishop appointed. But, admitting the increase as stated, were we not bound to provide in India the means of glorifying the Creator by increasing his temples and by spreading Christian worship in that part of the British empire? A great number of our young men were yearly sent out to India at so early an age as still to require religious instruction to enable them to withstand the temptations to which they were daily exposed; and should not Government provide teachers for them? A large number of surgeons for curing the wounds and ailments of the body were maintained, and should not, at the same time, a proportionate number of those be maintained, who could and were ready to cure the ailments of the soul? His right hon. friend thought, that the sum allowed for ecclesiastical purposes in India ought to be differently subdivided. The question, therefore, though worthy of being placed upon higher ground, stood now upon this—the Resolution was, that his Majesty be empowered to subdivide 10,000l., the amount of allowances now made to the Bishops and Archdeacons; or in other words, to add two bishoprics to the one already existing without increasing the amount of charge on account of ecclesiastical income. When it was recollected, that Bishops of the Greek, the Roman, and the Arminian Churches were all settled in India, surely this country was called upon to make proper provision for the higher classes of our ecclesiastical functionaries, to enable them to discharge their duties in a manner becoming their situation. In the south of India, the number of converts to the Protestant religion had lately been doubled. The hon. and learned member for Dublin had referred to the condition of the people in the island of Ceylon. In their care of religion the Dutch government in that country was indeed worthy of the imitation of every Christian nation; and when the English took possession of the island, there were found, 342,000 Protestants and thirty-two churches in one province only. That circumstance ought to be remembered when any measures connected with our religious institutions were to be framed. Their first object in legislating ought to be, the promotion and extension of christian instruction. He would not divide against the clause as amended, but would have supported it cordially as it had originally stood.

Mr. Hume

was convinced, that the suggestion he had thrown out on a former evening to postpone this clause, ought to have been acted on. If they had done that, it was probable that fourteen of the clauses which depended on it, might at least have been dispensed with, He did not precisely understand what his hon. and learned friend (the member for Dublin) wished; but if his hon. friend wished to have Catholic priests in India to be paid by the inhabitants of India, he could not go along with him. What was that but quartering one sect of priests on the people of a different faith? That was quite contrary to the principle the hon. and learned Gentleman maintained as to Ireland. Was there any justice in making the Hindoos pay the Catholic priests? He was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say, that he did not like a dominant religion; but in fact, a dominant religion was established by the Bill. They had consolation in words, but in deeds they had only causes of sorrow. The Bishops had failed in Ireland—he doubted whether they had succeeded in England; and he asked, therefore, whether it was either wise or consistent to establish Bishops in India? Could it be expected, that Bishops in India would be more useful and efficacious than Bishops had been in England? He conjured the Committee not to act on one principle in England and another in India. He thought, that they had not sufficient information to decide the question; for he believed, that there ought not to have been a Bishop established in India, at the former period of renewing the Charter. There was evidence that it was neither useful nor desirable. The Board of Directors had protested against it; and he therefore said, that the Committee was not in a condition to proceed with this part of the measure. Was there to be a Bishop in India for every thirty clergymen? The present Bishop had so little to do there, that Ceylon, where there were only Dutch Calvinists, had been added to his see, and so had New South Wales. In fact he had so little to do, that it had been proposed to extend his see to the Cape of Good Hope and the Mauritius. And all the expense of the vast Establishment was to be paid by the poor Hindoos. He did not wonder that the proprietors of India Stock remonstrated against this, for they would have no dividend unless there were surplus revenue, and every such establishment diminished the surplus. There was no surplus at present. He thought the whole of this part of the Bill ought to be struck out, as it was most unnecessary and unjust, and he should vote against these clauses.

Mr. Charles Buller

would join his hon. friend in opposing these clauses, as it was most iniquitous to tax the Hindoos to support the Church of England.

Mr. Cumming Bruce

maintained, that the first duty of a State was to support religion; and the best way to support religion was by endowing an Established Church. He hoped, that the Government would persevere in these clauses, and show the party of the Movement, which he considered a small minority, that everything was not to be sacrificed to them. He was not surprised at the opposition of the hon. member for Middlesex, because he had long ago heard that hon. Member say, "It was better to reign in hell than serve in heaven." As a member of the Church of Scotland, he saw in the Bill a great boon in favour of that Church.

It being three o'clock, the House resumed—the Committee to sit again.

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