§ Lord John Russell
would first deal with the postponed Clauses, and afterwards take the schedules into consideration. He intended to propose to leave out that part of the preamble which related to rights of common and other property, as well as that part which referred to the exemption from tolls, and to introduce words placing that exemption on the same footing as it had been placed by the House of Commons, before the Bill went to the Lords—viz., that all persons now possessing actual or inchoate rights of exemption should be allowed to preserve them. As to the rights of common, he should be fully justified, on all grounds of public justice and sound policy, in proposing that all rights of common should cease with the present possessors. He did not, however, object to making some concession to the other branch of the Legislature upon this point.
§ The Amendments proposed by the noble Lord were agreed to.
§ Lord John Russell
proposed to omit the whole of the words introduced by the other House into Clause 15, respecting the Councillors' roll, and the lists of persons qualified to be made out by the Overseers.
§ The Amendment of the Lords was rejected.
§ On Clause 47, which imposes a penalty of 50l. on any person not qualified acting as Mayor, Alderman, or Councillor,
§ Lord John Russell
said, that the question which he would now proceed to was that which was involved in Clause 47, whether the qualification required by the Lords' Amendment should be a continuous qualification, the party having given a bona fide qualification at the time of his taking office. The question was, whether a person so qualified should not be considered to be permanently qualified under this Act. To state the matter as fairly as he could, he must first say, that he felt there was considerable difficulty in deciding on this question; because undoubtedly, as the Clause then stood, it 1272 might produce considerable inconvenience and annoyance, if a person thus qualified, and qualified fairly, should, after having been duly qualified, meet with those casualties in trade to which all men engaged in business were liable, and sustain great loss, be required to declare upon the instigation, perhaps, of some political enemy, the fact of such losses, and with such declaration, perhaps to avow his own insolvency, or at least the deterioration of his property since the time of the election. But, on the other hand, they had agreed to the principle of qualification, and the whole House were anxious to carry that principle of qualification duly into effect. Looking to the Amendment suggested by the House of Lords, he thought that it contained provisions which might be so much evaded, that he was certainly disposed to recommend to the House a further Amendment which his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General meant to move, which proviso his hon. and learned Friend would explain to the House, having reference to the case of costs on frivolous actions against persons supposed to act without the required bona fide qualification. He thought such a proviso was absolutely necessary to guard the persons who might be in office as Town Councilmen from those vexatious proceedings to which they might be liable from the influence of party or political motives. With this intention on the part of his hon. and learned Friend, he would propose after the words (this Clause inflicts a penalty on persons not qualified, &c., acting as Mayor, Alderman, or Councillor) "without being duly qualified" to add the words, "or during his continuance in office."
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that he had an almost insuperable objection to this Amendment. He thought that under this Clause, great evils would arise. Suppose the case of a man who from some cause or other might become an object of dislike to the great majority of the Council; that man would be liable to be oppressed by the joint purse of the majority, who might seek to annoy him by invalidating his claim to the continuance of his office. Would any man contend, seriously, that a man who at the time of his being elected had a bona fide qualification of 1,000l. but who might afterwards sustain losses by which his property became deteriorated—would any man, he asked, under these 1273 circumstances, contend that that man ought to be afterwards liable to be challenged in respect to his qualification? He thought, that so far from amending or improving the constitution of the Town Council by such a Clause, it would have an effect directly the reverse. He should be sorry to divide the House on the question, inasmuch as it might give trouble, but he certainly had an insuperable objection to this Clause altogether.
The Solicitor General
said, that in rising to address the House, he laboured under some difficulty, from the apprehension that the motives of those with whom he acted might be misunderstood. If he conceded himself to this qualification Clause which had been introduced, he must still say, that he was of opinion it would be found to deteriorate from the Bill. But if a qualification were introduced, it appeared to him, as had been stated yesterday, when the matter was discussed, that it would be altogether nugatory, unless the qualification was one which was to be continuous. He admitted the presence of the difficulty, but he said that difficulty was one which resulted from the introduction of the qualification, and he felt that this difficulty was tenfold enhanced by the present provision. This was no new provision, because it was introduced into every private Act, and he was told that in an Act of Parliament which regarded the local Government of the city of Worcester, the very words proposed were used; such being the case, he thought they were bound to put this Clause into such a state as should carry out his intention with the least possible evil. It had been proposed yesterday to insert the words at the time of making the declaration in reference to the qualification; if these words were so inserted, then the matter referred to the qualification at the moment of the party establishing it. The Clause went on to say, that if any person should act in any of the capacities set forth without being duly qualified, they should, for every such offence, forfeit and pay the sum of 50l. The House would observe in the 6th line of the Clause the words "every such offence." Now, these words showed the House contemplated a continuing liability to commit offences by reason of the qualification not continuing after acceptance of office, whereas if it had intended that there should exist a qualification only 1274 at the time of election, more than one offence could not have been committed. Following up, therefore, what was evidently the intention of the House, he considered it necessary that the words proposed by the noble Lord, "or during his continuance in office," should be inserted. The next consideration was, how they should contrive to make this necessary precaution produce as little evil as possible. This must be done by preventing vexatious suits. It was to his mind quite clear, that no great practical difficulty would arise from the insertion of the noble Lord's Amendment. There were upwards of 50,000 persons spread over the country as much liable to vexatious prosecutions, on the ground of having become disqualified under local acts, as Members of Town-councils would be, but such a prosecution was hardly instituted once in twenty years. However, to diminish the means of annoyance as much as possible, he proposed to introduce a proviso to the effect that it should be competent to any party against whom such a prosecution should be instituted, to apply for a Judge's order, to be obtained within fourteen days after the issuing of process, calling on the plaintiff to give security for the payment of costs in such action, and that, in default of such security being given, all further proceedings should be stayed, and the defendant in such cases should recover his full costs as between Attorney and Client.
§ Mr. Warburton
said, this was a security as far as it went, but the suggestion did not go far enough. In the choice of local Commissioners politics did not interfere; politics did interfere with corporation questions. They had heard much of the facility with which the Act might be amended hereafter; but let it be remembered that, in respect to the Reform Bill, they had been told that that was a permanent measure, and so would they be jeered at hereafter in respect to this Bill. Any person might bring a suit under this Clause, and he thought that they ought to limit this class of actions against the persons inculpated. If he looked at the Attorney-General, or the Solicitor-General, they could not be suspected of improper bias, if this power were vested in them; or if it were the hon. and learned Member for Huntingdon, or the late Solicitor-General (who differed from him widely in politics), he should, of course, 1275 trust them implicitly; but by this Clause any informer might be put forward by a political party. He would suggest, then, that the time should be limited within which these actions should be brought. He would also say, that the Attorney and Solicitor-General should be the only parties to bring these actions.
§ Mr. Sergeant Wilde
thought it was impossible to suppose that the House of Lords were disinclined to take these amendments into consideration, because they would be found not inconsistent with the good objects which they sought. A bona fide qualification was sought to be secured by the House of Lords, and these amendments would tend to allow that. He could not conceive that the House of Lords meant that the qualification to be taken up should cease. The observation of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Tamworth, made on a former evening, was one which was conclusive with regard to the disqualifying effect of this provision. A man, however, might be a contractor without being disqualified, though possessing an advantageous interest. If, indeed, a party took office upon a mere colourable qualification, then let him be promptly disqualified from office. If, however, a man's qualification were bona fide at the time of election, he was desirous that he should not be compelled to retire from the Council by reason of subsequent losses. He could see no serious consequences likely to arise from the Clause as it then stood. He would put the case of a tradesman who, at the time of his taking up his qualification, was possessed of 1,000l. but who might, perhaps, have calculated certain debts at 10s. in the pound, which eventually turned out to be not worth 5s. His property must be, therefore, deteriorated; and, in short, the operation of the Clause must be to allow of one party harassing individuals to an extent which could hardly be imagined. He thought, too, that it would be better to limit the penalties to less than that now proposed—namely, 50l. for every act done when not duly qualified, and that the action should only be brought three months after the commission of the offence. This enactment might ruin a man. He would propose, too, that it should be optional to a Councillor to retire whenever he was disqualified. He trusted that a bona fide qualification at the time of taking office would be satis- 1276 factory to that House and to the House of Lords.
An Hon. Member
begged to suggest whether this Clause did not hold out too strong an inducement or motive for parties to bring vexatious actions, with a view, perhaps, to crush a political foe. He would propose that no other party be entitled to bring the action but a burgess of the town in which the individual resided; and, also, that notice should be given of such action fourteen days after an action should lie.
§ Mr. Lennard
said, if property were to be the test of qualification, was it not sufficient that the party was possessed of it at the time of taking office. They ought not to subject men to this inquisitorial inconvenience, and he would be no party to such proceeding. Was not this a new principle, that a man having once established his qualification should be again compelled to show and prove it? Had they ever heard of a county Member in that House, for instance, being challenged as to his qualification from the fact of his property having been lessened from causes over which he had no control? To lay down such a principle as that was intolerable and insulting. He would further propose to strike out that part of the Clause which gave one-half of the penalty to the informer.
§ Sir Robert Peel
observed, that it was fruitless to divide now upon the principle of qualification. The noble Lord opposite, for the purpose of facilitating the settlement of the question, had stated what were the points he was disposed to concede. Of these the principle of a qualification was one. He had supported that principle, and he did not think he should raise himself in the opinion of any hon. Member if he were now to get up in his place and say that he did not think any qualification necessary. But when the noble Lord consented to a qualification he was bound to make it as good as possible. For his own part, it would quite have answered his purpose if the Clause had stood in the form in which it was originally framed; but, when the Attorney-General inserted words which made it 1277 necessary for a person to have a qualification at the time of his election to office, it also became necessary to add the words, "or during his continuance in office." The Clause was certainly better as it originally stood, but it would now be necessary to have the double amendment. He thought that the practical difficulties which would result from this amendment had been greatly exaggerated. A similar proviso was inserted in a great many local acts, and no advantage was taken of it. The chance of retaliation would, in his opinion, practically control vexatious proceedings in the first instance. Besides, this objection of vexatious proceedings being likely to be instituted would only apply to those cases where the qualification was on account of property, and not on account of rating, and this would narrow the sphere of inconvenience considerably. It was now asserted, though little of this was heard last night, that the parties would be influenced by political excitement. Why, that was what he said last night when the question of the choice of magistrates by the council was discussed. He had said, "they will be acted upon by political feelings—they will be politicians." Now that was admitted, and if so, and a party should be influenced by political animosity to bring a vexatious action against another, it would be right to avoid the danger of occasional qualification, as the prevalence of the same feelings might influence persons to qualify for the occasion, with the intention of evading the penalties of the Act. He thought that the penalties could not safely be diminished. There could be no doubt that a continuous qualification must be retained, if there was to be any qualification at all. He had no objection to confine the power of bringing these actions to the burgesses of the towns, and he should wish to diminish the time within which these actions were to be instituted. If the hon. and learned Attorney-General would give up his amendment, the object of the noble Lord's amendment would be realized, but he did not see how that could otherwise be done.
§ The Attorney-General
should be most desirous to waive his amendment if it was the pleasure of the House that he should do so, but he denied that the Clause as sent down from the House of Lords would have been less objectionable without it.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
observed, that the 1278 Clause must lead to great litigation. It was impossible that the Clause could be advantageously carried into operation while property continued to be of a fluctuating character. Take the case of a person connected with the hop trade. The supply of this article was of so uncertain and irregular a nature, that the man who traded in it might be perfectly well qualified at the time of his entrance into office, and in three or four months lose a considerable part or the whole of the property by which he became eligible. He thought if the parties were qualified in the first instance that ought to be considered sufficient, and any accident which subsequently occurred ought not to affect the qualification. If a person's house which was rated at 30l. were, after his election, burned down, ought that to disqualify him? He should hereafter propose that the declaration that the party was possessed of the qualification should be made once a-year, and that such a declaration should be final and sufficient.
said, he had voted for the proposal made by the Attorney-General, on the principle that the possession of a qualification in the first instance would be sufficient.
said, that agreeably to a suggestion thrown out, he would add to the Amended Clause a proviso, to the effect that no such action shall be instituted by any persons other than the burgesses of every such borough, and also that notice shall be served on the defendant within fourteen days after such offence of the intention to bring such action. The hon. and learned Gentleman also proposed that an addition, to the effect that if any person, shall by reason of not being so qualified in respect of rating or estate, prove not to be qualified to act, &c., should be introduced after the words—"If any Mayor, Alderman, or Councillor shall act without having made the declaration herein required, or without being duly qualified."
§ Mr. Harvey
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment was of no value whatever. His object was to protect parties from vexatious prosecutions, by rendering it necessary that the informer shall be a burgess, and that notice shall be given within fourteen days after the alleged offence. This would not protect persons from vexatious proceedings, as all such informations would be of a party 1279 character, and therefore there would be no difficulty in getting a burgess to inform. He did expect that the hon. and learned Member would, as a greater protection against annoyance, have rendered it imperative that the informer should within the fourteen days give security for costs in the event of the prosecution failing.
§ Mr. Baines
asked the noble Lord (J. Russell) and the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), as regarded the criterion of qualification, whether a man holding a house of the actual value of 90l. should be entitled to vote if the house were not rated at 30l.? In some parishes the houses were rated at their actual value, but in others they were only rated at one-fourth, which would exclude from the right of voting a party in possession of a house really of the value of treble the amount of qualification.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that if questions were now to be asked which had been decided last night, the debate would be interminable. He wished that every parish would rate upon the real value. Taking a nominal value or any other scale than the real value was an exceedingly absurd proceeding and contrary to common sense.
§ The House divided on Lord John Russell's Amendment: Ayes 155; Noes 56; Majority 99.
|List of the NOES.|
|Alsager, Captain||Lowther, J. H.|
|Arbuthnot, Hon. H.||Manners, Lord C.|
|Ashley, Lord||Neeld, J.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Nichol, J.|
|Bruen, Colonel H.||Peel, Sir R.|
|Borthwick, P.||Palmer, R.|
|Barneby, J.||Praed, W. M.|
|Bonham, F. R.||Price, G.|
|Baring, F. T.||Pemberton, T.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Ross, C.|
|Cartwright, W. L.||Russell, C.|
|Dowdeswell, W.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Damer, G.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Davenpor E. D.||Sheppard, T.|
|Elves, J.||Stormont, Lord|
|Eaton, R. J.||Sandon, Lord|
|Fleming, J. W.||Sibthorpe, Colonel|
|Goulburn, Rt. Hn. H.||Trench, Colonel|
|Gordon, Hon. Capt.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Grimston, Lord||Wortley, Hon. J.|
|Halford, H.||Worcester, Lord|
|Hawkes, T.||Wilbraham, B.|
|Herries, Rt. Hon. J.||Wyndham, W.|
|Jackson, J. D.||Walter, J.|
|Jones, Captain||Wynn, C.W W|
|Longfield, R.||Freshfield, J. W.|
|Lewis, W.||Goulburn, E.|
said, he should then propose, as another Amendment to this Clause, that it should be lawful for a party against whom an action might be brought, upon obtaining a Judge's order to serve the plantiff with a notice requiring him to give, within a limited time, security for costs in case he should fail in his proceedings, and that the proceedings should be stayed till such security was given and approved off; also providing that no such action shall be brought except by a burgess of the borough, and only in case he shall give notice within fourteen days after the ground of action accrued of his intention to bring such action.
§ Agreed to.
§ Lord John Russell
said, on the Clause which provided that a new rate should be levied at the Cinque Ports, he doubted very much whether the House ought to agree to the Amendment of the Lords. That Amendment was for levying a rate according to rules that had not been in practice in those boroughs before. He thought it would be better to leave the law in such a state as that some distinct legislation might be come to with respect to the Cinque Ports, rather than to introduce any new practice into those boroughs by this measure.
said, that the alteration which had been made had left certain boroughs without the means, unless by resorting to some new rate, of defraying the expense attending the prosecutions of the additional number of criminals which had been transferred to them. At the same time he doubted, with the noble Lord, the propriety of agreeing to this Clause, standing as it did; but the question was, whether the House ought not to add some Amendment to the Amendment of the Lords.
§ Clause agreed to, with an understanding that a Bill with retrospective operation should be introduced next Session to remedy any inconveniences.
§ Lord John Russell
then proposed that the House should proceed to the consideration of the Clause disqualifying Members of the Council not belonging to the Church of England from interfering with the patronage of livings in the gift of Corporations. He believed the most convenient way would be to take Clause L in conjunction with Clause M, and to discuss the principle of both at the same time.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
thought both Clauses came now legitimately under the consideration of the House, and the best course would be to discuss first what they intended to substitute before being called on to reject the Lords' Amendments. He was ready to admit that the proposition which he made last night was not altogether free from objection, but it was the best, the most direct, and the most satisfactory that he could devise after mature consideration, and he had the gratification to find, that, the general opinion was in favour of it upon both sides of the House. That proposition was, that a Clause should be introduced by way of amendment to this proviso, by which within a reasonable time after the passing of the act, Corporate Bodies should be bound to sell their Ecclesiastical property; he had framed a Clause to that effect, and the only alteration in it, as compared with the proposal which he made last night was one to which he believed the House would be most ready to accede,—namely, that instead of applying the whole of the sum realized by the sale of those livings at once to the use of the town, the capital should be invested in the public securities, and the interest only applied in aid of the borough-fund. In compliance with a suggestion which had been made to him since entering the House, he had also to propose that the sales of this property should be carried on under the direction, advice, and control of the Board of Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (The right hon. Gentleman brought up the Clause, to the effect above stated.)
§ Mr. Freshfield
suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that it would be necessary to provide for the presentation to any vacancy which should occur between the passing of the Act and the sale. Should any such occurrence take place how and by whom was the presentation to be made?
§ Sir Robert Peel
thought it was necessary on occasions like the present to overlook minor difficulties, and although he saw undoubtedly great obstacles in the way of compelling sales of property of this nature, yet considering that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would relieve them from the pressure of considerable difficulty on both sides in the way of a satisfactory settlement of the Corporation Question, he was content for the present to waive all such objections. The adoption 1282 of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition had met with the willing consent of several of his hon. Friends; and he was bound to say that the transfer of this patronage to individuals, if it could have been effected with the entire consent of the Corporations, would be a good thing for the Church; because it would put an end to that sort of canvass which was unavoidable where the members of a popular body had a voice in the nomination, and which was so peculiarly odious and objectionable in the case of spiritual preferment. Apart, therefore, from the consideration of the principle of property, and looking at the question abstractedly, he thought the nomination by individuals subject to individual responsibility would, on the whole, be an improvement; but believing that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman would tend to remove considerable difficulties in the way of an amicable arrangement with regard to this whole measure, he would not in the slightest degree oppose its adoption. He must, however, be allowed to insist, that the Lords in introducing this Clause had no intention or design whatever of trenching upon the great principle of perfect civil equality between Dissenters and members of the Church of England. He did not wish to provoke any discussion on the subject; but when so much had been urged as to the establishment of "new distinctions," he begged leave to say that so late as 1833 a Bill was introduced by his Majesty's present Government with respect to the Church of Ireland, certain Commissioners were appointed, and in the very first Clause they were required to make oath as follows:—"I do hereby solmnly declare, and in the presence of God, testify and declare that I am a member of the United Church of England and Ireland as by law established. Witness my hand." That was in a Bill introduced by the Whigs, but it was not his object to provoke discussion and he, therefore, would make no further remarks on the Clause, but give his assent to it.
§ Mr. Sergeant Wilde
said, that it would have been absolutely impossible for that House to adopt the clause which had been sent down by the House of Lords, a clause than which the greatest enemy to the Church of England could not have devised one more injurious to its interests, without some such proposition as that of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It 1283 was, in every point of view, highly desirable that the ecclesiastical patronage of the Corporations should be sold. If it were not, and if the Clause sent down by the House of Lords were agreed to, let it be considered how difficult it would be to determine what exactly constituted a member of the Church of England, and, therefore, what members of the Corporation were entitled to concur in the nomination. The fact could be ascertained only by the examination of servants and other witnesses, and long discussions would necessarily ensue, during which the Church would remain vacant. In the event of the difficulty alluded to by the hon. Member for Penryn, namely, that of a vacancy occurring after the passing of the Bill, but before the sale of the Corporation patronage could be effected, it might be obviated by a provision giving the presentation, under those circumstances, to the Bishop. It might also be desirable to introduce a provision, that before investing the proceeds of the sale in the public securities, they should be applied to the payment of the debts of the Corporations, if any such debts existed.
§ Sir William Follett
perfectly concurred in the expediency of adopting the Amendment of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer under the circumstances in which the Legislature was now placed with reference to this Bill. He thought it was the hest mode of avoiding all the difficulty felt to exist to the passing of the Bill whether in the conscientious feelings of individuals, or in the views taken of the Bill in another place. This Clause, as it was framed, applied in strictness to ecclesiastical patronage. Now, in his opinion, some disposition other than that which now existed was necessary with respect to that patronage in these Corporations which, though not strictly ecclesiastical, savoured strongly of it. He meant lectureships in chapels, the gift of Corporations, which were in value often only 50l. a-year, but which the liberality of the inhabitants voluntarily made up generally to about 300l. a-year. To avoid all the inconvenience and odium of exposing these appointments to a canvass, he should suggest that those in future be in the gift of the Bishop of the diocese. He was impressed with a firm belief that there was a greater inconvenience and indelicacy in permitting these appointments to be a matter of canvass than from any contest, however warm, for civil offices.
§ Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, there were four lectureships in the City of Oxford, founded by the late Earl of Lichfield, and endowed with fifteen shares in the Oxford Canal; he wished to know what effect this Clause would have in such a case? He trusted that the hon. and learned Attorney-General would state, for the in formation of the House, what he had been so good as to state to him personally, as to the mode in which those lectureships would be treated.
§ The Attorney-General
replied, that such cases as those referred to by the hon. Member, being of the nature of charitable foundations, would be included within the exceptions to the Clause.
§ Mr. Lennard
suggested that the nomination to livings, when taken from the Corporations, should be given to the parishioners. There was no point upon which the feelings and wishes of any body of people should be more considered than in the appointment of their spiritual pastor. He thought it would be most desirable that the parishioners should at least have a voice in the appointment of the clergyman. He begged to press this point most earnestly upon the consideration of the Government.
expressed his approbation of the Clause proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and hoped that the suggestion of placing the sale of corporate church-property under the control of Church Commissioners would be attended to. He hoped, also, that some provision would be made, should vacancies occur in the interim, for authorising the Council or the Bishop of the Diocese, to fill them up.
§ Lord John Russell
thought, that with regard to the suggestion, that in the interim the right of appointment should be either in the Council or the Bishops, that as his right hon. Friend had fixed a time for such sales by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, these latter could not delay the sale beyond the time specified. He was happy to find that so much unanimity prevailed with respect to the principle of the Clause; for though he certainly would cast no insinuation upon the motives which led to the introduction of the amended Clause, yet he should have opposed its retention in the Bill.
§ Mr. Roebuck
could not help considering the Clause proposed by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer as one of a most gross and disgraceful nature. It proposed to meet the difficulty felt by cer- 1285 tain parties as to the admission of dissenters into the Town-council, namely, as to the possibility of a dissenter having the power, in his capacity of councillor, to dispose of church patronage. What did the Government propose to do? Why, they got over that difficulty by selling the power; and then what was to prevent a dissenter from buying every one of these dieces of church patronage? It was not getting over the difficulty: it was only removing it. And look also at the principle contained in it. First of all, the House taxed the people at large for the payment of ministers, and then sold the power of appointing those ministers, and placed it in irresponsible hands. That was what they called the benefit of the Established Church, that is, they laid down the principle that the Established Church could not be well governed except they placed the appointment of its ministers in irresponsible hands. That was the real meaning of this sale of the church property. The Church of England, or some persons pretending to feel a peculiar interest in that Church, talked much about uniformity of belief: that was not their principle; the principle of the Established Church was universality of pay.—["Oh!"]—He knew well that some Members would cry "Oh!" at that. But look at what they had done. They did not care whether an infidel or a Jew bought this church patronage: so he were not a responsible person, they did not care at all who had the power of appointing the ministers of their Church. He was aware he should be laughed at by some gentlemen opposite if he talked about the people choosing their own teachers; but the Dissenters chose their ministers, and he should like to know where they would find a more respectable body of men than the Dissenting ministers? Therefore, to say that it would be an injury to the Church to give the people that power, was to say that the Church did not like the principle of responsibility. To give the power of selling the church-property, also gave a parliamentary sanction to simony.—["Oh! Oh!"]—He wanted to know what was simony? He was aware it was practised every day by a gross evasion of the law; and that was what they were going to do now. On these grounds he (Mr. Roebuck) objected to the Clause proposed, giving the power of selling the Church-property, as taking out of the hands of the people the power of choosing their own 1286 teachers; and if any hon. Member would make a proposition which would have the effect of preserving to the parishioners that power, he should have his cordial support, and he was sure also of having the support of the great body of the English nation.
The proposition of Government had received such general approbation that he should be unjustifiably trespassing on the time of the House were he to enter into any discussion of its merits generally, or to attempt an answer to the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Bath. Those arguments had not in the slightest degree convinced him of the impropriety of the Clause, nor had any thing which had been previously urged. As to the opinion which had been expressed by some hon. Members, that the Church of England should give to the people the power of choosing their own ministers, he could only say that the result of all his experience as to the mode of presentations and nominations, as well as of elections, led him to the firm conviction, that it would be injurious to the interests of the Established Church for its Ministers to be elected on the popular principle. He would not detain the House by entering into his reasons for that opinion, except by saying (which was his chief argument in favour of the proposed Clause) that the church patronage, placed in the hands of a large number of persons—such as a Corporation, led to practices, in his opinion, most degrading to the Church and to the candidates themselves. Now, having thus stated his approbation of the proposed Clause, the only question with him was, how it could be most beneficially and effectually carried into execution? He was clearly of opinion that a reasonably long period of time ought to be allowed for the sale of the Church property: that they might not, by compelling a hasty sale, deprive the Corporations of the full benefit of the property; particularly as they were now bringing advowsons into the market at the time when they had fallen greatly in value. In his opinion, it was impossible to place the discretion to be exercised as to the sale in better hands than in those of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (as recently constituted, consisting both of clergy and laymen) who he considered would be enabled to form a just judgment of the period when the sale should be effected. With a due regard to the interests of the parishioners to whom 1287 the different clergymen belonged. With respect to Liverpool, which was very peculiarly situated with regard to its Church-property, he considered it would be advisable to postpone the sale, and to give full opportunity to that town for an appeal to the wisdom and justice of Parliament. He would say a few words on the question, in whose hands the presentations should be placed, supposing any should become vacant before the sale. Some had suggested the Bishop of the Diocese. In objecting to that proposition, be abstained from casting any general censure as to the mode in which the Bishops had exercised their Church-patronage: for though there might be insulated cases deserving of reprobation, yet generally they deserved the Bishops' approbation of the House. He objected on this ground: that the preferments were scattered through the different dioceses, not in any thing like an equal proportion, but were congregated together in one or two districts, as in the case of Bristol, where he believed there would be found not less than twenty—increasing, he might also remark the difficulty of sale—since the advowsons being so contiguous to each other, there would of course be great scarcity of purchasers. Considering, therefore, that probably one half of the advowsons would be vacant before the sale took place, he thought the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend would give to some diocesans an amount of patronage which, for various reasons, it would be unadvisable to confer on them. There was no reason why this patronage might not be vested in the Crown; for this reason, that cases would arise in which individuals would acquire an influence over certain Bishops, as in the case of near relations or connexions, and obtain preferments which it would be improper to confer on them; whereas the Crown, having strength and power to maintain its own resolution, would probably exercise its influence in this respect with more justice and advantage to the public, and on the whole it appeared more advisable to give this patronage to the Crown than to private individuals. One word more as to Lectureships; he certainly had felt that as a difficulty; but as far as his knowledge and experience went, this Clause would answer the purpose till another Bill could be framed; at any rate it was not an insuperable difficulty, and should not prevent his giving a cordial 1288 support to a Clause, which proposed a conciliatory, and, he trusted, a successful adjustment of this question.
§ Mr. Borthwick
was in favour of the motion; but the impatience of the House was so strongly manifested that the hon. Gentleman was not audible almost throughout the whole of his speech.
§ Clause agreed to.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
then proposed a proviso, to the effect, that in the case of a vacancy arising before any sale shall have taken place, such vacancy shall be supplied by the Bishop of the diocese.
§ Mr. Wilks
was apprehensive that the proviso would increase the patronage of the Bishop, to which he strongly objected. He would suggest that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should be directed to fix a period within which the sale should take place; and then, if any vacancy should in the meantime occur, he should have no objection to the Bishop making the appointment.
§ Lord John Russell
did not believe the proviso would have any such effect as the hon. Gentleman apprehended.
§ Proviso agreed to.
§ Lord John Russell
would next proceed to the Schedules. He did not purpose to object altogether to the Amendment introduced by the Lords; but should propose to take a middle course, between the scale as originally agreed to by the Commons, and that which had been substituted by the Lords. By the scale adopted by the Commons, it was provided, that there should be no town divided into wards unless the population amounted to 12,000; but the Amendment of the Lords commenced with towns having a population of 6,000. His proposition was, that all towns having a population under 9,000 should not be divided into wards. Towns from 9,000 to 14,000 inhabitants should be divided into two wards, with six Aldermen and eighteen Councillors; from 14,000 to 18,000 into three, six Aldermen and eighteen Councillors; from 18,000 to 24,000, into four wards, with eight Aldermen and twenty-four Councillors; from 24,000 to 36,000 into five wards, with ten Aldermen and thirty Councillors; from 36,000 to 48,000 into six wards, with twelve Aldermen and forty-five Councillors. With regard to Bristol and Liverpool, he pro- 1289 posed to adopt a different scale, and to preserve the numbers as fixed by the Lords. He believed it would be found that the scale which he thus proposed to substitute would be found to be more consistent with the general principle of the Bill than the amended scale introduced by the Lords. With respect to the places struck out of the schedule by the Lords, there were only three which he should propose to restore, namely, Alnwick, Yeovil, and Llanelly. The noble Lord concluded by moving that the schedule, as amended by him, should be adopted.
The first schedule, as amended by the noble Lord, was agreed to.
§ On the second schedule,
§ Lord John Russell
moved that the Town of Alnwick, which had been struck out by the Lords, be restored to this schedule.
§ Mr. Freshfield
thought, that this was a town which ought never to have been meddled with, and objected to its restoration.
§ Lord Howick
contended that it ought to be inserted in the schedule, and therefore supported the restoration.
§ The Amendment was agreed to, and the town of Alnwick replaced in the schedule. The towns of Yeovill, and Llanelly were also replaced in the schedule as originally sent from the Commons.
§ The remaining schedules were agreed to.
§ Lord John Russell
moved that a Committee be appointed to draw up the reasons to be assigned, in a conference with their Lordships, why this House disapproved of some of the Amendments which their Lordships had made in the Bill.
§ Committee appointed.