rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill for relieving the Archbishops and Bishops of the Established Church from their Legislative and Judicial Duties in the House of Peers. The hon. Member spoke to the following effect:—I am aware than an anneal to the indulgent consideration of this House may be deemed the customary preface of every unpractised Member; but I can truly aver, that looking to the importance of the subject I am about to bring under its notice, and knowing the feebleness of my ability to do justice to its merits, I am Only sustained in my undertaking by a reliance on that generous and impartial feeling, which will not underestimate the worthiness of a measure by reason or the inefficient arguments of its humble proposer. I am not incited by desire of popularity, or love of novelty. I offer this proposition with a sincere and long-formed conviction of its necessity and its justice. I wish to irritate no private feelings. I desire to enlist no party passion. I will endeavour to state my opinions calmly, fairly, and briefly. It is unnecessary at this day to cite authorities showing the propriety of Church Reform, but I cannot for bar calling the attention of the House to the opinions of one for whose Conservative wisdom they will entertain sincere respect—I mean Lord Bacon—who, then addressing his Royal Master on the "better pacification and edification or the Church of England," thus expresses himself;—"I would only ask why the civil state should be purged and restored by good and wholesome laws, made every third or fourth year, in Parliament assembled, devising remedies as fast as time breedeth mischief, and contrariwise, the ecclesiastical state should still continue upon the dregs of time, and receive no alteration now for these forty five years and more?" Two hundred years, Sir, have since passed away, and the Establishment continues "upon the dregs of time;" a revolt has now taken place in the minds of men; the intelligent community loudly demand a reform in the Church Establishment, and it is the duty of this House to examine into that institution. and make it satisfactory to the views of the people. I maintain, Sir, that it is the first duty of Civil Government to afford satisfaction to those by whose voluntary obedience it is instituted and maintained, and never forget the immense importance of timely concession. Observe the signs of growing discontent; reform your system 132 before the period of agitation arrives, for then it may be done with more effect and with a better grace. Remember the Reformation advanced by the determined non-compliance of its supporters, and be assured, that no resistance to national grievance is so invincible as a calm resolution not to obey. I will not fatigue the patience of the House by referring to periods long passed by. I will not consider whether the right of Bishops to sit in Parliament is by prescription, or in respect of fictional baronies. I will not discuss whether they sat in the Saxon Courts as Judges or as Peace-makers. I will not debate the Clerical position, that the Lords Spiritual at this day firm a third and independent estate in the other House of Parliament; I will not search the records of history to discover a precedent for my present measure. Time, Sir, changes the position of circumstances, and it also increases the capacity of the human mind to judge soundly on public affairs; for this reason, therefore, I prefer the judgment of our own age to that of any by-gone period. I must entreat the House to bear in mind this one important fact, that the superior knowledge and education of the clergy in all countries and at all times have enabled them to maintain a delusive influence over an ignorant and superstitions people; and formerly in this country, when the Laity gave little consideration but to feats of arms and hospitality—when nobles were unlettered, and Kings could scarcely sign their names, the Clergy became desirable, if not necessary, adjutors in Civil Government. From the time of Beckett to that of Sir Thomas More, a period of nearly 450 years, the office of Chancellor, or Lord keeper, the highest civil office in the state, was filled almost uniformly by an ecclesiastic, and prior to the Reformation there sat in the other House of Parliament two Archbishops, twenty-four Bishops, twenty-six or twenty-seven mitred Abbots, and two Priors—in all, a body of fifty-four or fifty-five ecclesiastical persons, nearly equalling in their number the temporal nobility of that time. The cause which formerly warranted this practice exists no longer. That which was then desirable is now useless, and if continued will become dangerous. I offer this as a first step in Church Reform. I consider that it is our duty to begin with the heads of the Establishment, and thus show to the inferior clergy our impartiality and our justice; by this means we shall strengthen the effect 133 of our future measures in regard to them, by evidence of our sincere and honest course in respect of the hierarchy. I ask this House, Sir, to consider and decide whether it be meet and useful that the heads of a Christian Church, whose duty it is to retire from the world, not meddling in affairs of State, whose profession is humility, whose denouncement hath been the pomps and vanities of this wicked world—is it proper, that such should be made agents in political affairs, and clothed with temporal splendor?—is it right to impose legislative duties upon those who are set apart from the rest of the people for the service of God, whose proper business is the care of the churches committed to their charge? What are the crying evils of the present system?—Pluralities, non-residence, and unequal distribution of wealth. You create a plurality of duties by placing political power in the hands of spiritual teachers. You cause non-residence by requiring the absence of the overseer from his diocese to attend his duties in Parliament; and by the same act you afford an excuse for the unequal apportionment of wealth; by the ever ready plea of extraordinary expenses created by this political abduction; you bring them, bedizened with the splendor of title, to mix in the amusements of a metropolis—to mingle in the plots and jobs of Government intrigue; you tempt them to gratify pride, avarice, luxury, and indolence; you shower wealth and splendor upon them; you forget they are but men. Before I proceed further with my objections, I will, with the leave of the House, examine the merits of that argument ever employed in defence of the practice of Bishops sitting in the House of Lords, that by so doing they represent the Clergy, and thus watch over the spiritual and temporal interests of the Church. In the first place, let me ask, are the Bishops chosen by the Clergy? No, they are ordained and virtually appointed by the Crown. How then can a Bishop be called the representative of his Clergy, when they have no voice in his election—when he is, in fact, a mere State-made Father in God? Have they any veto in ecclesiastical questions? Can they enjoin one rite or ceremony? Can they establish or annul one article of faith? No, Sir, all power and jurisdiction relating to these matters is lodged in the bands of the King and Parliament. Is it not then preposterous to suppose that thirty united voices in an assembly of more than 400 persons can have any controlling influence? Does not 134 reason assure us, that all just and proper measures for the government of the Church, which might be recommended by the Bishops out of Parliament, would be received with equal attention by both Houses of Legislature, and by the people with less suspicion and distrust than when advocated in the Senate by interested parties, to whom public feeling is frequently adverse? Besides, be it remembered, the Clergy, equally as the members of our other institutions, enjoy the right of voting as free-holders in respect of their property for the election of representatives in this House; and if the advice or opinion of the Church upon ecclesiastical matters were required in another place, let the Bishops be summoned in the same manner as the Judges. The only advantages that I can discover in the present system, if such the friends of the Establishment deem them to be, are these—that the Church obtains a share in Civil Government, and the Chief Magistrate has control over spiritual concerns. Thus one usurpation is balanced by another. The power of appointing to the Episcopal Bench is placed in the hands of a minister, and we know that private interest, political intrigue, and courtly favour, have sometimes offered stronger recommendation than pious worth. The system of translation makes them, in a certain degree, dependent on ministerial favour, and subjects them to the trying temptation of yielding their integrity to their interest. But, Sir, we must take another view of this question. It is proper to consider political tendencies—to reflect whether it is not the interest of certain men to maintain things as they are, to resist innovation, and prevent the diffusion of political truth—to consider whether the possession of State patronage, which both enriches and exalts, must not necessarily create an adverseness to that change, by which its wealth and eminence may be diminished; and it is right to review the past conduct of parties, and see whether private pretensions have not frequently been preferred to national advantage. Now, Sir, I will take upon myself unhesitatingly to assert, that the tendency of all Church Establishments connected with the State has been, and must be, to oppose political improvements; they are aware that no change can possibly increase, but may possibly diminish the wealth and advantages of the Establishment; they know that the bonds of ecclesiastical delusion which have bound the powers of human reason for past centuries, are now 135 burst asunder—that public judgment, now judging set free, will exercise its powers in judging for itself, in discovering the truth; therefore, to maintain themselves as they are, they will resolutely oppose any change in the forms of that government by which their supremacy is upheld, lest political reformation might weaken or endanger it. To review the past conduct of parties, turn to the page of history. The Church maintained the despotism of the Louis in France, of Ferdinand in Spain, of Miguel in Portugal; and though, as I am aware, the Clergy of our own country refer with triumphant exultation to the conduct of our Bishops in the time of James 2nd, still, be it remembered, this instance of departure from their usual practice affords the strongest confirmation of the rule; for their support of the executive power was only withdrawn when James had disclosed his purpose of substituting Popery for Protestantism, and therefore their fears were at best of a mixed character, for religious truth and for their civil immunities, for the supremacy of their Church, and for the preservation of their Church Establishment. I need not refer to that period when the rejection of the Reform Bill in another place brought this country to the brink of revolution. The facts of that time and later periods are sufficiently well known to every one here present to enable them to form a correct judgment whether the political power of the Bishops in Parliament has been employed in support of pure and good measures, such as would probably increase the public content and welfare, or whether they have been the mere partizans of their respective political creators. I have trespassed too long on the time of the Houe. It has been my desire to show that the plea of exclusive learning which formerly might have justified the employment of the Clergy in civil government is no longer valid and admissible. I wished to demonstrate how important it is, that example be afforded to the heads of the Church that they should evidence a zeal for the cause of religion; that they should be above suspicion of self-interest, ambition, or worldly gain; that they should be, in conduct as in name, successors of the Apostles. The ministry of the Word afforded sufficient employment for the Apostles, and so it would for their successors; for who can believe, looking to the extent of jurisdiction given to Bishops in this country, that sufficient employment for their time may not be found within their respective dioceses. 136 I ask yon to consider with what grace can you require the village pastor to reside amongst his flock when the spiritual overseer, whose duty it is to watch over hundreds of parishes and hundreds of pastors, is removed far away from the scene of his duties, mixing in the contention of Senates, or moving in the splendor of Courts? I bid you remember, that the placing of political power in the hands of those whose interested leaning must ever be adverse to popular Government, is a practice dangerous to the liberties and welfare of the community. The Church, as a spiritual community, has no concern with secular Government; the Establishment has property, and that being a temporality, should be represented in Parliament, but not by Christian officers, for these are servants of that Lord and master whose kingdom was not of this world, who did not delegate to others a greater power than he himself received from God; they are the stewards of his mysteries, and no employment should take them from their proper business to preserve religion, the immediate purpose of which is to promote purity of worship, the ultimate one, salvation of souls. I call upon all friends of religion seriously to consider this momentous truth, that men too often associate their ideas of religion with the conduct of its teachers—their respect for the one is often regulated by their respect for the other—the political conduct of the Bishops in Parliament has lowered their character in the eyes of the community, and whatever tends to create irreverent ideas of religion, diminishes its influence in the human mind. Let the property of the Church be sufficiently represented in Parliament, but make not a high religious office the qualification of a political office; take away the splendor of title, that remnant of a vicious practice, alike insulting and disgraceful to the Christian shepherd—derobe them from this political livery, that it be seen that they accept not the oversight of the flock for filthy lucre or worldly gain, but "of a willing mind." Let the head of the State be supreme over all persons, Civil and Ecclesiastical, merely as citizens, and let no Ecclesiastical ruler enjoy political power by virtue of his office. Thus the Christian Prelate, turning his eyes from every thing political, may rest his hopes and fears upon religion alone—may exert his undivided efforts to maintain (that which alone should concern a Christian Church) its purity and its usefulness. I move for leave to bring 137 in a Bill "To relieve the Archbishops and Bishops of the Established Church from their Legislative and Judicial Duties in the House of Peers."
§ Mr. Gillon
rose to second the Motion of his hon. friend, the member for Gateshead. He felt it to be a subject which commanded much of the public attention, and one which it behoved the Legislature to take into their earliest—their most serious consideration. He should not conceive it necessary, in support of the Motion, to go back to very remote periods of history. He would at once admit, that as far as ancient usage or precedent went to establish a rule, that usage was all on the adverse side of the question. In the earliest periods of our history, we find the clergy taking a part in the Legislature of the kingdom, and before Parliaments existed, conferring with, and advising the Princes of the country, and forming a component part of the Councils of the nation. This was easily accounted for in earlier ages, for, besides the great power and wealth which they possessed, and the influence winch superstitious men imparted to them, they were, in fact, in these early times, the only educated portion of the community, and the power which they had thus acquired, and which was so acceptable to them, they endeavoured to continue, by perpetuating the ignorance of the people. But he considered antiquity to be no plea, for that which was by experience found to be hurtful, the more cause there was to remove it. He would, however, very briefly notice two periods in our history, which more immediately bore on the point now in view. In the discussions which took place in 1641, on the Bill for restraining Bishops and others from intermeddling in secular affairs, the arguments of those who maintained the rights of the Churchmen to sit in the other House of the Legislature, and of Lord Newark in particular, resolved themselves into three points,—1st, the antiquity of the custom—with that he should not further interfere: 2nd, that it would remove them only for a month or two from their spiritual vocations once in three years: 3rd, that by diminishing the dignity, it would diminish the respect paid to the Church. As to the second point, it was one which could not be brought forward in the present day. The House had been gravely told in the last Session, by the right hon. member for the University of Cambridge, of the importance of the superintending care of the Bishops to the well-being of the Church, 138 so much so, that it was gravely proposed to add to, instead of diminishing, their numbers—a proposition which he hardly expected that House would entertain. But, if these functions were so essential to the well-being of the Church, and to the advancement of religion, the main end, as he ventured to think, of the institution of the order of Bishops, would they not be much more efficiently discharged, were those right reverend Prelates released from an onerous attendance on the business of the Legislature, which must occupy more than a half of their whole time. As long as they continued Members of the Legislature, it was their duty to make themselves acquainted with all matters of State policy—with all the complicated and extended subjects of legislation—a matter in itself enough to absorb the whole man. When we considered at the former time the high importance of the holy office of these reverend Prelates—the deep and eternal responsibility entailed upon them—the millions of Christian souls who were to look to them for exhortation and example, instead of adding to their spiritual duties the intolerable load of legislation, he was rather inclined to exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things?" As to the third point, that by diminishing the dignity of the members of the hierarchy the respect paid to them would be at the same time diminished, he was inclined to believe, that the very reverse of this proposition was the fact. It was this grandeur, which, separating them a by a broad line of distinction from the generality of men, and calling their attention from spiritual to worldly affairs, impaired their usefulness, and caused them to be regarded rather with jealousy and suspicion, than with that order and reverence befitting the sacred nature of their office. Did the Apostles of old live in gorgeous palaces? Did they arrogate to themselves the feudal dignities? (for it was as Barons that the Bishops held seats in the other House of the Legislature), or did they intermeddle in State affairs? No! and in all time, in proportion as Churchmen had intermeddled, in proportion as they had mixed the character of teachers of the Word with that of busy intriguers and crafty politicians, had they lost that respect, which the conscientious minister would at all times command. These things might give them cap and courtesy, but they lost them in the consciences of men. He could not here avoid quoting the eloquent words of that noble patriot, Lord Say and Sele, whose memory 139 he regarded with much veneration. Lord Say and Sele said, "While they kept themselves to the work of their ministry alone, and gave themselves to prayer, and the ministry of the Word, according to the example of the Apostles, the world received the greatest benefit from them; they were the light and life thereof; but when their ambition cast them down like stars from heaven to earth, and they did grow over to be advanced above their brethren, I do appeal to all who have been versed in the ancient ecclesiastical stories, in modern history, whether they have not been the common incendiaries of the Christian world? Never ceasing from contentions one with another about the precedency of their Sees and Churches, excommunicating one another, drawing Princes to be parties with them, and thereby casting them into bloody wars. Their ambition and intermeddling with secular affairs and State business, hath been the cause of shedding more Christian blood than anything else in the Christian world." Had not the same scenes, so strongly pourtrayed, disgraced the present times? Was not Ireland made it theatre of warfare and contention in order to maintain the dignity of an anti-national Priesthood? Was not a peculiar creed forced on that unhappy land by the power a the sword and military violence? And was not the blood of innocent victims made an unholy offering on the altar of a God of mercy and of love? He would only allude to the discussions which took place in that House on the Bill of 1801, for excluding persons in holy orders from having seats in it. It was argued by Mr. Fox and Mr. Grey, that all the arguments which applied to excluding men in holy orders from this Assembly applied with equal or greater force to the right of the Bishops to hold seats in the other House of the Legislature. Mr. Fox asked, "Was it, not true of the Bishops who sat in the House of Lords as of the inferior clergy, that it was their duty to devote themselves to the duties of their sacred character?" He thought, as was then contended, that by that measure an act of injustice was passed; for while he should willingly concur in excluding all endowed Clergy from either House, on the broad ground, that they could not efficiently discharge the duties of both offices, he was inclined to think, that, when a clergyman chose to separate himself from his holy calling, and to devote himself exclusively to secular offices, it was unjust to him, and to the constituency of the coun- 140 try, in a Reformed Parliament, that he should be incapable of becoming one of the Representatives. He was happy to observe, that the hon. member for Cambridge intended to bring forward a Bill on this subject; it should certainly have his support. Let the House look to what had been passing amongst ourselves. It was argued, that it was fitting that the Bishops should hold seats in the other House of the Legislature, in order to defend the rights and property of the Church. Had their interference been confined, he would ask, to ecclesiastical subjects? Had their intermeddling in State affairs been of that nature pointed out by the Bishop of London? Or had they not taken an active part in all those intrigues and cabals, which would render the present times the most famous (he would not use a stronger expression) in history? Had they not so mixed themselves up with the factions and combinations in this, and the last Parliament, in all which they had been engaged more or less, that they seemed not to content themselves with comments upon spiritual privileges, but had envied other men their civil freedom? He agreed with the reverend "Churchman," Dean Blakeley, who had thus eloquently written:—'If it be admitted that the value of any public station, considered in its own abstract effect, or as it bears on, and is necessarily connected with the general interests of society, be commensurate with its utility, it follows, that every privilege or occupation of the person holding such station, should have an affinity to the essential qualities of his office, and the objects for which it was constituted. If this be admitted, my Lord, what connexion of a useful or moral kind has a stormy midnight debate in the House of Lords with the peaceful tenor of life and manners which becomes an ecclesiastic? Whilst such a temple as the House of Lords is open for the entrance of spiritual men—and such ladders of ambition as from Llandaff to Canterbury, and from Ossory to Armagh, pride will hold its dominion, and exercise it over the hearts of men. If a precedent be wanting for the removal of the Bishops from the House of Lords, behold it in the exclusion of all the Peerage of Ireland, except of the twenty-eight Representatives. And let it be recollected, that their right was hereditary. It is most weakly argued, that the Bishops represent the Church, and refrain from every debate, unless where the interests 141 of that Church are concerned. This, we well know, is not always the case; and it is objected that they can vote on all occasions. Where the affairs of the Church require the assistance and sanction of Parliament, can it be doubted that they would be received with respect, and treated with favour, by that Parliament, upon a formal representation of the Bishops, rather than by a Parliament, perhaps exasperated by the opposition or advocacy, no matter which, of spiritual men, of some public measure, which had been the subject of debate amongst men of the first-rate talents, with their passions excited by a contest for victory. When I use these arguments, I mean no invidious application; the moral, I again say, grows out of the obliquity of human affairs. I verily believe, that there are many Bishops of sanctified hearts, singleminded, and of just conduct. Yet do I think, that all such should be far removed from suspicion; and that vanity and arrogance would be imputed to them, were they animated by the zeal of St. Paul, and adorned with the simplicity of "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and on whose gentle bosom he leaned.' The pride, pomp, and circumstances of worldly grandeur, befitted not the followers of a humble and lowly master; a heated and angry debate in the House of Lords accorded but ill with the meekness and charity which should distinguish a Christian minister. The arena of political disputation was no place for the presence of a messenger of peace. He would remove these right reverend Prelates from a scene so unbefitting their presence; from the frivolities of a court, and the temptations of a capital; and would enable them, by devoting themselves to the duties of their sacred calling—by the preaching and practice of Christian charity, to make themselves truly respected and beloved. One point more he would allude to, and he had done. What justice was there, that there should be in one House of the Legislature the representatives of one Church and one sect alone? Why, were they to be more favoured than the Established Church of Scotland, or, than the tens of thousands, the millions, who, in every part of the empire, conformed not to the favoured creed? The House might undervalue this argument—the country would duly prize it, and would see, in the presence of those reverend Prelates in the Upper House, a barrier to their acquiring their just rights 142 and privileges. What course his Majesty's Ministers might adopt in regard to this Motion, he knew not, but it was easy to guess. The measure being carried, which they had looked to as a means of annihilating their political rivals, formerly in power; their motto seemed now to be, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no further." No one measure of efficient and satisfactory Reform had met with their concurrence. The Church and the Aristocracy were taken under their especial protection, while the people, on whose shoulders they were carried into power, were forgotten. But the great tide of truth and justice would roll on, fertilizing as it flowed, and would obliterate even the vestige of the paltry expedients by which temporizing politicians would seek to stop its majestic course.
§ Lord Althorp
was understood to say, that he did not believe that many Gentlemen were inclined to support the Motion. If he thought so, he might have been inclined to discuss the question; but, in deference to the strong expression of feeling in the House, he thought he might fairly be excused from entering into any discussion on its merits.
§ Sir William Ingilby
would not occupy their attention for five minutes. He dissented from the course adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The consequence of not allowing a question of the kind to be discussed in that House, was to make it more eagerly discussed in the country. Fur his own part, he would rather that question was debated in Parliament than out of Parliament. All questions connected with the Church were most important, more especially a question which involved a charge of sacrificing spiritual duties to political pursuits. Whence arose the great body of Dissenters in this country but from the neglect of the Church? All classes of Dissenters concurred in one common sentiment—that dissent arose from the neglect of the Churchmen. Those who wished well to the Church would think with him, that they had better suffer these discussions to take place within the walls or that House than beyond them.
agreed with the hon. Member that this was a question of infinite importance to this country—a question involving no ordinary results, and which, therefore, ought not to be disposed of in the summary manner which the noble Lord recommended. He agreed with his hon. friend who had just sat down, that this mode of settling the question would create 143 great excitement in the country. ["No, no."] Hon. Gentlemen might cry no, no, but those who were in habits of communication with large bodies of men, knew that it was a question uniformly propounded at the meetings of those bodies, and he, therefore, thought it but respectful to the people that the grounds on which that House came to the conclusion at which they proposed to arrive should be made known. For these reasons he was anxious to state why he should vote against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. He was a determined supporter of Church Reform, but he did not think the advocates for that measure would exhibit much impartiality towards the Establishment, if, as a preliminary step, they endeavoured to deprive it of its supporters in the House of Lords. After the promise held forth on this subject by his Majesty's Government, he thought it would be but fair to ascertain what their sentiments were, as no doubt they were prepared to bring forward some measure. He perhaps, might be permitted to suggest that the measure should provide for some diminution in the emoluments of the Bishops, as well as some limitation in the number of Bishops; which would render their presence in the House of Lords less objectionable. A large portion of the country, particularly the dissenting classes, thought it a very great grievance, that whilst they had no Representatives, the Protestant Church should be represented so largely. He certainly did not see any reason why so large a body of Bishops should be assembled in the House of Lords. As a member of the Church of England—as a friend to the Establishment—as one who wished to maintain that Establishment—he declared his conviction that it could only be maintained by making such a change as was consistent with the principles of justice, and of sound and enlightened policy. At no distant time large changes must take place; and perhaps with regard to the Bishops, the introduction of the system of representation would be the most expedient course. The presence of twenty-six English Bishops in the House of Lords was more than he wished to see. A system of rotation like that pursued with regard to the Irish Bishops would even be more satisfactory. The interposition of Bishops in secular affairs, so far from being an advantage to the Church, was a great evil; yet it was impossible for men of enlightened minds, as they certainly all were, to be present in the House of Lords, and not exercise the 144 functions of their situation. It was not in human nature to refrain from doing so; and, indeed, as long as those functions were imposed upon them, so long was an interference in secular affairs a duty incumbent upon them. Nothing, however, did the Church more injury in the eyes of the people of England than such an interference, while the absence of all the Bishops from their sees cast discredit on the Establishment in the minds of the people. He hoped, therefore, that the measure of his Majesty's Government would reduce the Bishops to a much smaller number; that they should rigidly watch all matters connected with the Church Establishment; but that they should not be permitted to throw the weight of their influence into the scale of civil affairs.
§ Mr. Buckingham
said, the observations with which he should venture to trouble the House on this occasion, would be very few and very short. Indeed, after the manner in which the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had met this Motion, and the attempts that had been made to stifle all discussion on this subject, it required no small degree of confidence to present himself to the House at all. That confidence, however, he derived from the strength of his convictions, as to the justice of the cause, and on this ground alone did he rise to express his entire concurrence in the proposition of the hon. mover. It appeared to him that there were usually three tests by which all measures introduced into tins House were judged—the first was, whether the public at large felt strongly on the subject and expressed those feelings in any marked manner:—the second was, whether there were any vested rights or large pecuniary interests at stake:—and the third was, whether, supposing the measure to be completed, any public satisfaction could be given, or any public good be produced. Now, judging the present question by each of these tests, he felt persuaded that it ought to be seriously entertained, and seriously met, and, therefore, he could not but regret the manner in which it had been treated as of no public importance whatever. As to the first, the noble Lord, and those who formed ins colleagues in the Cabinet, might believe, that the community at large took no interest in 145 the matter. But in this he would take the liberty to assure them that they were entirely mistaken. Mingling as they did, only with persons of their own rank and class, they had not the same opportunity that humbler individuals possessed of knowing the feelings and sentiments of the great bulk of the people. But, as far as his experience might qualify him to pronounce an opinion on this subject, he could assure the noble Lord that in every part of England that he had yet visited, he had found the majority of the intelligent part of the population strongly in 0favour of the measure proposed. It must be evident that the entire mass of the Catholic population, and the whole of the Dissenters, must desire its accomplishment on principle: since the sitting of the Bishops in the House of Lords was one of the great marks of the dominant supremacy of the State Church, and the exclusion of the heads of every other sect was a badge of their inferiority. But if there should be added to all these a large number of the most pious and devout communicants of the Church itself, who desired to see the Establishment purified of those temporal, and secular, and political appendages, which in their estimation impeded and obstructed its religious utility, and who thought the Bishops would be more spiritually employed in attending to the care of their respective dioceses—if all these were taken into account, they would no doubt form a numerical majority of the whole population of the kingdom. Judging the measure then by this first test, it ought, undoubtedly, to be entertained. As to the second, there were no vested rights or large pecuniary interests at stake that need make the House pause in entertaining it, as no proposition was now made for abating the incomes of the Bishops, or interfering in any way with their revenues; but simply to relieve them of those political duties, which, as Bishops, they could not adequately or usefully fulfil, without a neglect of those more appropriate and more important religious duties which they had solemnly undertaken to perform. The last test, that of the affording public satisfaction, and accomplishing public good by the passing of the measure, was one, by which the question could only be judged of, through discussion; and that it appeared that his Majesty's Ministers were either unable or unwilling to afford it. He believed, however, that notwithstanding this attempt to stifle and suppress the debate, the noble Lord would find, that he had greatly under- 146 rated the numbers of those who would support this measure, within the House as well as without; and he, therefore, begged to express his earnest hope that the hon. mover would not withdraw Ins Motion, but press it to a division, in order that it might be seen whether or not the proposition was approved, and by whom—when, he had no doubt, though they might form but a minority, it would still be not so small as the noble Lord evidently anticipated when he assigned, as a reason for not replying to the question, his belief that no number of persons in the House would be found to support the Motion before them.
§ Mr. O'Reilly
said, it had been stated in a recent debate, that there were questions upon which hon. Members of the same religion as himself could not give a vote on account of the oaths which they had taken at the Bar of that House; but as he (though a Roman Catholic) was resolved to vote upon this question, he was anxious to trespass on the attention of the House for a few moments, while he stated the grounds of his vote. He felt that by that moral compact, to which the right hon. member for Tamworth had so forcibly alluded on a former evening, he was not only bound not to injure the Protestant Establishment as now existing by law, but that he was also bound to afford it—not, indeed, as a religion, for from its religion he conscientiously dissented, but as an institution which the State thought necessary—that support which the members of it deemed essential to its security and preservation. Recollecting that an hon. and learned Member who spoke with great authority had denied that any moral compact had ever been entered into by the Catholics on the subject, he felt himself called upon as a Catholic to state, and he did state it most explicitly, that he recognized distinctly the existence of that moral compact. He cared not whether that recognition rendered him popular or otherwise, for, as an honest man, he felt bound to make that declaration. It might not make him popular among a population which was smarting and suffering from the oppression which it had sustained under too many members of the Establishment; but he was certain that, in making that recognition, he was expressing the opinion of every honest, conscientious, and independent Catholic in the country from which he came. He was particularly anxious that the grounds upon which he was going to 147 vote that evening, should be understood both in and out of that House, and he would, therefore, state, once for all, that, until the Legislature pointed out to him what line he ought to take upon that oath, he should follow the dictates of his own conscience, and those dictates only.
said, that in considering this question, he considered it as a question affecting the political influence, and not the religions functions, of the Bishops. In his opinion, there was nothing of religion involved in the Motion then before the House. If it were a question whether the continuance of Bishops was or was not an advantage to that form of religion which they professed, he should not interfere in it; but he now interfered in it because he considered it a question as to whether the Bishops injured or served the body politic of the State. If it could be shown to him that the seats which the Bishops occupied in the other House of Parliament had ever been made instrumental to the advancement of our rights, to the amelioration of our institutions, to the reduction of our burthens, and to the extension of the prosperity and liberty of the people, he would readily vote for the continuance of the enjoyment of them by the Bishops, but on looking back upon the events recorded in our history during the last 130 years, he could not find a single occasion on which the Bishops had taken a part favourable to liberty, or to the amelioration of the prospects of the country, or to the emancipation of the Catholics and other Dissenters. They made a negative quantity in legislation—they were always found at the wrong side, and never on the right, and, therefore, he should support the present Motion.
§ Mr. Harvey
said: It is often repeated of this House, that every order of the community is fairly represented, and that there is no feeling or wish which can be entertained by any rational class of the country which may not find expression, and even advocates in this House; and, owing as I do, my seat in this House mainly to the kind and disinterested exertions of a large portion of persons known as Protestant Dissenters, and never shrinking from the unprofitable avowal of my participation in their sentiments, I should feel, that upon tins trying occasion, so deeply affecting their interests, I was deserting their cause, and disappointing their just expectations, if I were to permit this Motion to be smothered in the manner it is attempted to be. It is true, it is not my intention to 148 enter into this subject at present, as I, at first, intended, and for which I trust inquiry and conviction have in some degree prepared me, but for which, it would seem, there is now no occasion, because the advocates of the Motion are, at least, so fur complimented, by the fact, that no one has ventured openly to oppose it. The Bishops, it would seem, are deserted by the Ministers, and have no private friends. But, it is said, that this Motion is undeserving of support, or even of discussion. Unlike some of those stirring subjects which enlist all our feelings, and our interests, such, for instance, as a repeal of the tile-duty, or a commutation of tithes; or, when with a view of relieving the distress which bears on agriculture, it is gravely proposed to allow the farmers to drive to and fro in untaxed carts, provided they be without springs—then, indeed, the Government and their friends are eager for the fight; but, because no question of this grave importance is before us, no one is to speak without being exposed to the taunt of silence—to contumely and reproach. Whatever degree of importance may attach to that reproach, I am prepared to take my share. At least, we shall be appreciated elsewhere, for, however little it may be known or heeded in this House, or however unpalatable the declaration, there is no subject which enters so deeply into the feelings of the intelligent portion of the community of this country, or which, in spite of every attempt to smother it, is so rapidly advancing, and that to a perfect triumph, as the subject of this Motion. There is, indeed, a principle at work beyond these doors which will at no very distant time render the question, whether the Bishops shall be in the House of Lords, none other than whether you shall maintain an endowed establishment. There is, indeed, at this moment, a concessionary spirit among the Dissenters, which might induce them to forego much as the price of peace. It is a foul calumny upon this great and enlightened body of persons to say, that they covet the revenues of the Church, and desire to seize them for their own purposes. But this, I will say, that if the Dissenters, looking at the paramount importance of separating the Church from the State, cannot obtain this great object through the fair and legitimate channels of open discussion, they must effect it through those means of influence which it would seem appeal far more powerfully to the selfish interests than to the purer feelings 149 of mankind. Strip the Church of England of her temporalities, and she must fall, a sure and melancholy testimony of her worldly character. Hon. Members seem most strangely to confound a Church, established and endowed by law, with a Church based upon the simple principles of Christianity. They confound things essentially different. They regard tithes and theology—dogmas and doctrines—discipline and duty, as one and the same thing. The Church of England, delineated in its doctrines and liturgy, I apprehend is dear to the great portion of the people of this country, whether they be within or without the pale of the Church. If you were to divest the Church to-morrow of its gorgeous array—if you were to strip your Bishops and the whole of your hierarchy of their temporalities, the Church of England, as a Christian Church, would not only stand, but would increasingly flourish. You would discover in its principles its purity—you would read in its professions its faith. But nothing so much tends to disparage the simple principles which 1,800 years ago were proclaimed from the heights of Sinai, than that you should see the Bishops belying the simplicity of their creed, in the gorgeousness of their worldly appearance. There is no kindred feeling between the appearance of the towering teachers of your religion and the lowly spirit which it professes. It is these things which give force to the shafts of infidelity, and give point to the sword of scepticism. To those in this House into whose minds the genius of Christianity enters with its softening spirit, I would say, there is no mode by which they can more effectually advance the religion which they adorn, than by turning the Bishops from the House of Lords, and sending them to those scenes of rural utility in winch their example may inspire confidence, and create admirers. Many things have been advanced by hon. Gentlemen who have spoken this evening, which, in the hands of the dexterous debater, might be turned to the prejudice of those who advocate this Motion. It cannot be imputed to them, that the Motion is supported by pre-arrangement, and is the result of perfect concord of opinion. One of my hon. friends does not object to the appearance of some Bishops in the House of Lords, but thinks there are too many. Now, this concession destroys the whole principle. If spiritual Bishops are to be tolerated in the Lords at all, it is to me a matter of indif- 150 ference how many. I argued that point on the discussion of the Irish Church Temporalities Bill, and I still hold, that in the degree, if at all, that religion is to be advanced by the agency of episcopacy, it is important that the number of Bishops should correspond with the vast objects of their appointment. This matter requires to be clearly understood—what I quarrel with, and what the Dissenters quarrel with is, the alliance of the Church with the State, illustrated as that alliance is, by the appearance of Bishops in the House of Lords, as a part of a sect exclusively endowed with immense revenues and domineering distinction. Again, when it is said, that the Church ought not to have its Bishops in the House of Lords, because other sects have no Bishops there, is it to be supposed, that the Dissenters are envious of Bishops, and only require to be represented by their own? Strange ignorance or infatuation all this! Of all libels that would be the greatest, even surpassing that which imputes to us that we wish to divide the revenues of the Church. The Dissenters disclaim all connexion with the State, both as regards its honours and its riches. They are of opinion—an opinion which the experience of 1,800 years has confirmed—that Christianity not only requires no aid from the civil power, but that such aid impedes its progress. During the first three centuries of the Christian era, Christianity was enabled to stand against and triumph over powers far more formidable than belong to the refinements of the present day to oppose to it. It overcame the powers of Paganism—it humbled the pride of the Cæsars. Nothing in the pomp of Rome—nothing in the pride of courts, could resist its simple and sublime dignity; and, however seductive may be the influence of fashion in the present day—however much of profit, by being subservient to courts—however brilliant and alluring the regalia of monarchy—whatever splendor may belong to crowns—or whatever there may be in the sanctity of mitres—in the strength of sceptres—in the reverence of croziers,—Christianity rests on imperishable principles, and all that the Protestant Dissenters ask is, that you will not interfere, but let Christianity stand on its imperishable and inherent pretensions, simple and mighty in its power and beauty.
§ Mr. Hume
was sorry that he had not been present at the commencement of this debate; but he could not permit it to con- 151 clude without repeating the sentiments which he had often expressed elsewhere upon this subject. He considered the sitting of Bishops in the House of Peers, in every respect indefensible—Bishops, to promote the interest of religion, should never be placed in situations where they might be called upon to act in opposition to the feelings of the people. He had no hesitation in saying, that after their proceedings on the Reform Bill, the Bishops had rendered themselves odious to the people of England. He admitted, that having seats in the other House of Parliament, they had a right to give their votes as they pleased; but their exercise of that right had led the people of England to this conclusion—that to render them beloved by their flocks, they should be deprived of the power winch brought them into collision with the people. He was sure, that in the opinion of, at least, three-fourths of the people of England, there was no difference on this subject. The Motion, so far from deserving to be treated as one not worthy of discussion, was, in point of fact, perfectly irresistible. Ministers, therefore, acted wisely in saying nothing against it. He hoped, that they felt with him, that political power was never mixed up advantageously with religious functions. It was no defence of the Bishops' seats in Parliament, to tell him that they had been held for centuries, for he had no regard for anything ancient unless it was also useful. Considering the junction of political power with religious functions to be quite incompatible, he had great pleasure in giving his support to the present Motion.
§ Mr. Sheil
rose to express his own opinion upon this Motion rather than to invite Ministers, for such invitation he knew would be in vain, to express their sentiments upon it. He also rose, because he thought, that it would be pusillanimous, on his part, as an individual, not to record his opinions on a question so generally interesting. He could not help thinking that a large change of opinion with respect to the Bishops had taken place in the Ministry since no very remote period. Did not hon. Members recollect the menace uttered against them in another place, when they were significantly warned to "set their houses in order?" The times, however, were changed; and his Majesty's Ministers now felt retrospective indignation for the indignities winch these reverend personages formerly suffered. It appeared as if a declaration was now wanted from 152 the House, that this question was not worthy of discussion. Now, he implored the House to recollect what had been done on the Bill, not for the reform of the Church of Ireland, for there was no Church of Ireland, but for the reform of the united Churches of England and Ireland. If they had made no scruple to sacrifice twelve Irish Bishops, why was it to be deemed sacrilegious to propose the reduction of some little incidents attached to the dignities of the English Bishops? It must be manifest to any man who reflected on the proceedings which occurred shortly before the carrying of the Reform Bill, that it would have been much better had the Bishops never interfered against it. It was said, that no such thing would ever occur again; but what security could the public have of that? He wished Ministers would attend more regularly at the morning sittings, for they would then hear the petitions of the Dissenters, in which were contained propositions much more alarming, and much more inimical to the existing establishments, than the present Motion. Those petitions represented the opinions of 9,000,000 of persons in the two islands. And what would they say, when they heard that Ministers refused to discuss this question? It had been said, that the heads of the Church ought always to be in Parliament; but his answer to that assertion was, "Look at the Church of Scotland, built on the rock of poverty, and unadorned by dignity and wealth." He was convinced, that for any loss of power which the Bishops might sustain in consequence of being deprived of their seats, they would find more than ample compensation in the increased confidence and gratitude of the people.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, that he agreed with the hon. member for Tipperary, that the independent Members of the House should not be driven into a pusillanimous silence on this occasion. It might be well for his Majesty's Government to maintain a mysterious reserve; in them such a course ought be prudent, or expedient. But he (Mr. Ewart) held, that the independent Members of the House were justified in acting on more general principles, and of taking a long-sighted view of important questions such as this. They must consider what in the main, and with a comprehensive view of the future, was the wisest and most reasonable course. He entertained the conscientious opinion (and, entertaining it, he was bound to express it) that it would be better for the interests of 153 the Church—it would be better for the cause of religion—it would be better for the permanent good of the State—that the Bishops should not mingle political with religious duties. With this brief declaration of his reasons for supporting the Motion, he should, at present, be content. But he felt, that he could not, with self-satisfaction, have given a silent vote on this occasion.
§ The House divided: Ayes 58; Noes 125—Majority 67.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adams, E. H.||SCOTLAND.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Gillon, W. D.|
|Attwood, T.||Hay, Col. L.|
|Baines, J.||Oliphant, L.|
|Bewes, T.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Blake, Sir F.||Oswald, J.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Pringle, R.|
|Buller, C.||Steuart, R.|
|Chaytor, Sir W.||Wallace, R.|
|Codrington, Sir E.||Wemyss, Captain|
|Faithfull, G.||Blake, M. S.|
|Ferguson, Sir R.||Evans, G.|
|Fielden, J.||Jacob, E.|
|Grote, G.||O'Connell, D.|
|Guest, J. J.||O'Connell, M.|
|Harvey, D. W.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Humphery, J.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Ingilby, Sir W.||Ruthven, E.|
|James, W.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Kennedy, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Leech, J.||Walker, C. A.|
|Lister, E. C.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Parrott, J.||Bainbridge, E. T.|
|Pease, J.||Bowes, John|
|Philips, M.||Hall, B.|
|Potter, R.||Fleming, Hon. Adm.|
|Richards, J.||Lynch, A. H.|
|Rider, T.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||O'Connell, M.|
|Romilly, J.||Palmer, General|
|Russell, Lord||SHUT OUT.|
|Sebright, Sir J.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Staveley, J. K.||TELLERS.|
|Warburton, H.||Hume, J.|
|Whalley, Sir S.||Rippon, C.|