HC Deb 12 May 1834 vol 23 cc860-6

Sir Edward Knatchbull moved the second reading of the Christchurch (Surrey) Rectory Bill.

Mr. Hall

opposed it, on the grounds that the Rector had not complied with the condition under which he had stipulated to fulfil the duties of the incumbency. The hon. Member concluded by moving as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.

Major Beauclerk

seconded the Amendment, and complained of this House being called on to make a rate upon the parishioners of Christchurch for the payment of the Rector, who did no duty in the parish, and who held other livings. He had heard that the rev. Gentleman was a most amiable and good man, but his objection to the rate-payers being obliged to contribute 400l. a-year to a pluralist was founded upon principle, and he trusted that this House would, upon the principle of right and justice, refuse to sanction this Bill.

Mr. Hume

begged to state the ground upon which he objected to this Bill being supported by the House. Two years ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury introduced a Bill into the other House, which sanctioned pluralities. When the Bill came before this House, he (Mr. Hume) moved an Address to the King, praying the numbers and amount of pluralities should be laid before the House. The Returns had he called upon the House, in obedience to its own previous declaration, not to pass a Bill of this kind which sanctioned the principle of plurality. He knew nothing of the rev. gentleman in question. His opposition was to the principle of the Bill.

Lord Darlington

considered pluralities the greatest abuse existing in the Church. He did not think the property of the Church too great if it were properly distributed, and one means of effecting a more proportionate distribution would be, to prevent any gentleman who already held a living or a stall of the value of 500l., or upwards, to take any other benefice whatever. He opposed the present Bill.

Colonel Davies

opposed the Bill, which, he said, if it were allowed to pass, would constitute a precedent to encourage any Rector, who was not content with his income, to apply to that House for power to compel his parishioners to pay him more, whether they were pleased with him or not.

Mr. William Evans

opposed the Bill, but said he was certain the Church property was not more than sufficient for the purposes for which it was intended, if properly distributed; and, if a proper distribution did not soon take place, the destruction of the Established Church would be inevitable.

Mr. Finch

believed the Bill was not properly understood by the House. All the Rector received, after the payment of his Curate, was about 112l. per annum, and he submitted to the House whether it was reasonable to suppose that the duties of the clergyman would be properly performed, in a parish containing 13,000 individuals, by only one Rector. He should give the Bill his support.

Mr. Abecromby

was of opinion that nothing could be more injurious to the Church Establishment than compulsory payments to the clergy. The clergyman in the present instance had formerly received a large stipend from the voluntary contributions of the parishioners, so long as he resided in the parish. They had thought proper to discontinue that voluntary support on the ground of non-residence, and the House was now called upon to say whether it was willing to convert that voluntary payment into one that would be compulsory on the parishioners. In justice to the parish and the Church, the House ought to oppose such a measure. If the House should consent to permit a compulsory rate to be raised upon persons of all religious persuasions, it would be creating a source of evil and discontent, which would continue to increase in the minds of all persons who were compelled to pay the rate, and which it would be very difficult to heal.

Sir Edward Knatchbull

wished to state what were the circumstances under which this Bill was proposed and objected to. The Rector had formerly received gratuities from the parishioners which were deemed by them necessary to enable him to provide for the discharge of the duties of the parish. The grounds upon which these gratuities had been withheld were, that the rev. gentleman had become a non-resident and a sinecurist. The facts of the first charge were, that the Rector lived six doors out of the boundary of the parish, and only four hundred yards from the parish church, and this was what was called non-residence. He was really surprised that any Gentleman in that House, knowing the facts, could allege non-residence against this clergyman as a ground of refusing the Bill. He was as much opposed as any man to non-residence and pluralities under the ordinary meaning of those terms; but he called upon the House to judge of the opposition to the Bill from this specimen, and he trusted that it would be passed. With regard to the charge of the Rector being a pluralist, he had accepted the living of Mitcham on the express condition that he should hold it only until another gentleman should be old enough to take it, and he resided there only during the three months of the year which the law allowed him to be absent from Christchurch, and when not there himself he provided for the performance of the duty. The friends of the Bill did not wish to interfere with any of the details of the arrangement between the rev. gentleman and his parishioners, but only to provide that a certain sum, which was no more than necessary for his maintenance in his proper station, should be supplied.

Mr. Hawes

hoped the House would not pass the Bill. The case, he said, was exactly thus:—The parishioners, in an open vestry, where no excitement whatever prevailed, granted the Rector a certain sum per annum, a voluntary rate, to mark their esteem for his character, and their not yet been laid before the House, and appreciation of the manner in which he performed his functions. That grant had been withdrawn. For what reason? He was now an object of aversion to those very individuals who had before been amongst his best friends, and the foremost in granting the annuity. Why was that? There was no change in the parish or in the parishioners; the change which warranted such a revulsion of feeling was in the rev. gentleman himself. His non-residence in this parish was the real cause of it. It was not because he took another house without the bounds of the parish that his flock took umbrage at his conduct; but it was because he accepted another living, and left them to live among his new parishioners. It was said, that he lived three months in the year in Mitcham. Was that residence? The parishioners were wholly averse to enter into any compromise of the kind; they would have their clergyman among them the entire year, or not have him at all. However, he had no doubt that, if that rev. gentleman returned to the parish and lived among his flock in future, a provision equal, at least, to that which had been withheld, would be made for him. But, if the rev. gentleman supposed, as was the intention of the Bill, that he could make the voluntary grant of the inhabitants a compulsory payment, he was much mistaken, and would surely be defeated.

Mr. Estcourt

could not understand why it was, that all this opposition on the part of the parish of Christchurch should exist to this just and proper claim of their Rector. One of the complaints of the parishioners was, that 150l. a-year was given by the Rector to his Curate. "Why, the greatest complaint made in that House against the Clergy was, that they did not pay their Curates enough. And was this rev. Gentleman to be the subject of censure, because he was more liberal than other Rectors? Taking into account the deductions made from the salary of the rev. Rector of Christchurch, he would only have 290l. to maintain himself and his large family.

Mr. Hill

was willing to bear testimony to the character of the rev. Gentleman who was concerned in this Bill. But that was not the question. The real question was, whether the House would give the Rector power to compel the parishioners to make up the deficiency of his income, if the legal payment were not sufficient for his maintenance? But he (Mr. Hill) would warn those who stood forward as the friends and supporters of the Church, not to push that principle too far. The main argument used against interference with tithes was, that tithes were property and not a tax. But, if the principle of this Bill was recognised, it would place tithes on the footing of a tax for services done—for the Bill went so far as to say, that if the tithes were not sufficient to pay the services of the Rector, then he should have a power to distrain the goods of one parishioner for the default of another.

Mr. Aglionby

would not go into any calculations of what this Gentleman received from his two livings, and what he paid to his two curates; he objected to the Bill as bad in principle. He had received a letter stating, that this clergyman applied for the Bill for the sake of his family, and to support the Established Church. He should be sorry that his vote should deprive the applicant's family of any advantages they might derive from this Bill; but there were other parties who were entitled to the protection of that House who had also families to support—he meant the rate-payers, from whom it was proposed to take their property.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that the true cause of the refusal to pay the rector the salary of 400 guineas a-year, was the discovery of its illegality; or, at least, that it was not competent to pay such a sum out of the parish rate. The present Bill was to provide a remedy for this. The gentleman had been unfairly dealt with, because, if an Act of Parliament had not unjustly passed, depriving him of the benefit of the provisions of Marshall's will, he would have the remuneration which his services deserved. If the sum legally devoted to the payment of the rector were to be continued, it would not be sufficient to support a gentleman. He, therefore, hoped the House would prevent non-residence by providing adequately for the rector.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

wished to state the grounds on which he should support the second reading of the Bill. Having himself succeeded in obtaining the insertion of a clause in the Churches' Building Act of 1831, to prevent the holding of any new district church or chapel with any benefice having cure of souls, he could not be justly charged with being a friend to pluralities. He was equally opposed to non-residence; and it was for these very reasons that he was in favour of the present Bill. The parish had, in this case, compelled non-residence by making it requisite, that the rector, who had a family of eight children, should accept another living to enable him to support them; and he called upon the House to sanction a Bill which would render it unnecessary that the rector should be a pluralist, and by its enactments would make non-residence impossible. If the money bequeathed by the will of John Marshall to purchase lands of the value of 60l. a-year, with which he directed the church to be endowed, had been so applied by the Trustees, such lands would now be of the annual value of 1,000l., and the rector would have had no need to apply to that House for relief.—Instead of which, the parishioners and the trustees applied to Parliament in 1738, and obtained powers to apply the trust funds in rebuilding the church, and making an additional church-yard, in consideration of raising for the rector 60l. a-year in money by a rate on the inhabitants. Sensible of the disadvantage under which the rector laboured in this respect, to meet his exigencies, and in testimony of the high sense entertained of his services in the parish, the vestry, for twenty years together, made him an annual grant, which, if it had been continued, would have rendered an application to Parliament unnecessary. The allowance of 400 guineas was made a serious question at Easter 1830, the year after the rector had accepted the living of Mitcham, but on a poll, it was carried by a majority of 397 against 83. In 1831, a poll took place, whether the allowance should be 300 or 200 guineas, and the larger allowance was carried by 392 against 56; and in 1832, the numbers polled for the allowance were 192 and against it only two. After this, could it be truly said, that the parishioners were hostile to their rector? far from it, and it would be strange indeed if they were so, after receiving twenty-five years of his laborious exertions, in the course of which his health had greatly suffered, he was compelled to resort to Parliament in consequence of its being illegal for the vestry to make the grant, which, in 1832, he was obliged to pay back, after he had received it. He knew no more of the rector than he gathered from the general acknowledgment of his excellence, but, having thus attempted to show the equity of his claim to assistance, and that the parish had recognised and ascertained the proper amount he should receive, he besought the House to allow the Bill to go into Committee, for which it was a most fit subject, and where, he had no doubt, an accommodation might be effected which would be satisfactory to both rector and parishioners.

Mr. Pryme

condemned the proposition before the House as one of the most shameless attempts to violate private property by taxation he ever remembered.

The House divided on the second reading:Ayes 33; Noes 74—Majority 41.

Bill put off for six months.

List of the AYES.
Astley, Sir J. D. Hughes, W. H.
Barnard, E. G. Irton, S.
Blackstone, W. S. Lincoln, Earl of
Browne, D. Loch, J.
Brudenell, Lord Maxwell, H.
Chapman, A. Nicholl, J.
Clayton, Sir W. Palmer, R.
Dunlop, Captain Reid, Sir J. R.
Finch, G. Ross, C.
Foley, E. Scott, Sir E. D.
Freemantle, Sir T. Sinclair, G.
Gaskell, J. M. Smith, T. A.
Gladstone, W. E. Yorke, Captain
Gladstone, T. PAIRED OFF.
Goulburn, Rt. hon. H. Chandos, Marq. of
Grimston, Viscount Miles, W.
Halcombe, J. TELLERS.
Halford, H. Knatchbull, Sir E.
Hanmer, Colonel Estcourt, T. G. B.
Hawkes, T.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. Fenton, J.
Benett, J. Fleetwood, H.
Bish, T. Fort, J.
Blake, Sir F. Folkes, Sir W.
Blackburn, J. Goring, H. D.
Briggs, R. Guest, J. B.
Brotherton, J. Gully, J.
Childers, J. Harland, W. C.
Codrington, Sir E. Hallyburton, Hon. G.
Crawford, W. Hawes, B.
Curteis, H. B. Hill, M. D.
Curteis, E. B. Hodges, J.
Darlington, Lord Hornby, E. G.
Dillwyn, L. W. Howard, P. H.
Divett, E. Humphery, J.
Dobbin, L. Jervis, J.
Ellis, W. Kennedy, J.
Elliot, Capt. Lalor, P.
Evans, Col. Lister, E. C.
Evans, W. Lloyd, H.
Evans, G. Marsland, T.
Methuen, P. Shawe, R. N.
O'Brien, C. Skipwith, Sir G.
O'Connor, Don Stanley, Hon. H. T.
O'Dwyer, C. Stanley, E. J.
Oswald, R. A. Torrens, Col.
Parrott, J. Turner, W.
Philips, M. Tynte, J. K.
Philpotts, John Wallace, J.
Potter, R. Warburton, H.
Pryme, G. Ward, H. G.
Richards, J. Wason, R.
Rippon, C. Whalley, Sir S.
Roche, W. Williams, Col.
Romilly, J. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Ruthven, E. Vincent, Sir F.
Ruthven, E. S. TELLERS.
Sandford, Sir D. K. Beauclerk, Major
Scholefield, J. Hall, B.
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