HC Deb 27 February 1834 vol 21 cc874-6
Mr. Lennard

presented a Petition from the Protestant Dissenters of Maldon. Their prayer was for relief from what he thought every one must admit to be practical evils. The first of these was their being compelled to pay Church-rates. He thought this was a subject which ought to engage the earliest attention of the House, and which could not be postponed without great inconvenience. It was well known, that, in many places, the imposition of those rates had already been effectually resisted. The same spirit was spreading far and wide; and it would be found impossible to levy them in any places where Dissenters were numerous. They had but one of two courses to pursue,—either to give the Dissenters the relief they so justly sought, or to enact a law which should be more forcible and stringent than the present was; but to effect the latter course would be impossible. He did not think any Government, however popular with the House, could adopt it. He would, therefore, strongly urge upon the House the necessity of yielding with a good grace to the Dissenters that relief which ultimately must be given; and he urged this no less for the sake of the members of the Establishment, than for the Dissenters. Nothing could be more annoying than the disputes to which this claim on the Dissenter gave rise in many parishes, and he knew several gentlemen of great influence and property in their respective parishes, who had hitherto been in the habit of acting as churchwardens, but who had now determined to decline doing so again, being; unwilling to be brought into collision with their neighbours. He could imagine no motive for withholding from the Dissenters the relief which they sought; for many of the Ecclesiastical sinecures connected with our cathedrals, would supply a fund, which, among other purposes, might, he thought, be most properly applied to the maintenance of the fabric of our church. The next grievance the petitioners complained of was, their exclusion from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which they the more complained of, having been hitherto disappointed in their hopes that a Charter would be granted to the London University. No one, he thought, would deny that it was a great practical inconvenience to the Dissenter, that he could not obtain an academical education in this country; that if he desired to take a degree at a University, he must go either to Scotland or to the continent. He thought they had a right to have expected from a Government like the present, relief upon this head; and he must confess himself surprised at the delay which had taken place, for he could only consider it was a delay, in granting a charter to the London University. He agreed, too, with the petitioners in lamenting that they were excluded from our two Universities, for he could not but look upon our Universities as affording inducements to study, and conveniences and opportunities for education, not likely to be equalled in any other place. The more strongly he felt this, the more he was bound to admit the disadvantages which the Dissenter was placed under, by being excluded from them. He trusted that both our Universities would show that they were fully imbued with the liberal spirit of the age, and that, of their own accord, they would remove those obstacles which, at present, excluded the Dissenters from the advantage of graduating within their walls. He could not but think that a measure of this sort would reflect as much credit upon the Universities as it would give pleasure to many of the most sincere admirers of those institutions. The petitioners further prayed for relief in regard to the celebration of marriages, from the registration of marriages, births, and burials, and to be allowed to bury their dead in the parish churches.

Mr. Tooke

said, that the application for a Charter to the University of London was now before the King in Council, and he hoped the result would be favourable, which would enable Dissenters to avail themselves of an academic education. If the Charter should not be granted, he should feel it his duty to bring the subject under the consideration of the House in the same form as he had before done.

Petition laid on the Table.