HC Deb 11 August 1836 vol 35 cc1131-5

Lord John Russell moved, that the Lords' amendments in the Established Church Bill be now considered.

On the amendment of the clause requiring all clergymen appointed to benefices, and all persons appointed to Bishops' Sees, in Wales, to understand the Welsh language, by the striking out so much thereof, as related to Bishops, being read,

Mr. Hall

said, although he was one of those who entertained the same opinion with regard to this Bill as had been expressed by his hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex, yet, as it had already undergone considerable discussion, and had passed that House by a great majority, it would ill become him to take up the time of the House, or to trespass upon its attention more than was absolutely necessary upon the present occasion. But, connected as he was with the principality, and feeling a deep interest in everything that affected that part of the empire, he hoped he might be excused offering a few observations upon one of the amendments and stating the reasons why he could not concur in the alteration which had been made. It would be in the recollection of many hon. Members that, during the progress of this Bill through the Committee, the Member for Chester introduced a clause, which was carried by a considerable majority—not considerable when viewed numerically, but considerable in importance, inasmuch as the supporters of the humble Church of Wales triumphed, not only when opposed by his Majesty's Ministers, but also in opposition to the leading Members of the party who occupy the opposite benches. The clause, however, to which he alluded, contained two distinct propositions; the first was, that to every vacancy which might occur in any See in the Principality, The clergyman to be appointed, should understand the Welsh language, and the other was, that when any benefice became vacant, the person to be inducted should also be conversant with the language of that country. Now, as regards the latter proposition, he believed it remained just in the same state as when it was sent up from this House; but with regard to the former, he regretted to say it no longer existed. The argument adduced by the most rev. Prelate who moved the omission of the words which required Welsh Bishops to possess a knowledge of the Welsh language, was, that the duty of a Bishop was NOT to act as the shepherd of the flock, but as the superintendent of the Pastors. He (Mr. Hall) begged with all due submission to differ from that right rev. Prelate; and although he might, for the sake of argument, admit that a Bishop was not the pastor populi but the pastor p storum, yet, in point of fact, if the Bishop did his duty, he must be frequently brought in contact with the flock over which he was called upon spiritually to preside. It was the duty of a Bishop to preach to the congregation, to perform the sacred administration of the Sacrament, and the solemn order of Confirmation, and yet the Archbishop of Canterbury says, it is not necessary that Welsh Bishops should understand the Welsh language. If that right rev. Prelate would look again into the Thirty-nine Articles, and read the twenty-fourth, which treats, "of speaking to the congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth," he will find "that to have public prayer in the Church, or to minister the sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people, is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God," But the Archbishop of the present day was only to be compared to his predecessors. He would read to the House part of a petition presented to the Pope by the Welsh Princes, in the reign of Henry the 3rd. The Princes set forth a statement of their grievances, and they commence in this way:—"And first, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as a matter of course, sends us English Bishops, ignorant of the language and manners of our land, who cannot preach the Word of God to the people, nor receive their confession but through interpreters; and whatever they can lay upon to get from us, whether by right or whether by wrong, they carry into England, and the lands which were bestowed on the Cathedrals in Wales, they sell, give away, and alienate." They were now living in 1836, and pursuing the same course as that pursued by the Archbishop 600 years ago! But what he complained of most was the unbounded spirit of nepotism which seemed to take possession of some of these English Bishops the moment they took up this Episcopal power in the Principality. He was not one of those who would ever for the sake of argument hazard statements or make assertions which were not founded on facts, neither would he, in illustration of any argument, bring forward unnecessarily the names of any individuals; but, as what he was about to state was already published to the world, he would trouble the House by reading a few extracts from a very clever and interesting work, which had thrown great light on this spirit of nepotism. He found that in the Diocese of St. Asaph, a relation of the late Bishop held the following preferments. He was Dean and Chancellor of the Diocese, with the Deanery house, with about 40l. a year; Parish of Henllan, 1,500l.; St. Asaph, 426l.; Llan-Neoydd, 300l.; Llanvair, 220l.; Darowain, 120l.; Chancellorship from fees, 400l., making 3,006l.; besides all this, he was lessee of Llandegle and Llanasaph, worth 680l., and this all exclusive of the Rectory of Cradley, in the Diocese of Hereford, 1,200l.; Vicarage of Bromyard, 500l.; Prebend of Hereford, 50l.; portion of Bromyard, 50l. at present, but expectant at the death of an old life, that this preferment will be worth 1,400l. Thus he had no less than eleven sources of emolument, producing between six and seven thousand a year. It appears, also, that his brother had about 3,000l. a year, and the total enjoyed by relations of the late Bishop of the Diocese alone amounts to between seven and eight thousand. But it appeared by reference to the same work, that the amount enjoyed by the Bishop and the relations of the former Bishops alone amount to 23,679l., and exceeds the whole amount enjoyed by all the other resident and native clergy put together. He would not weary the House by going more into detail, but he would merely state, that in the Diocese of Bangor great abuses appeared also to exist. So much for the acts of the Bishops, and now he would again return to the Archbishop, as head of the Church Commission; and he would advert to what was intended to be done with the revenues of the Welsh Church. Not content with taking one Bishop away, and leaving the Principality with only three, they take about an eighth of the whole income of the Church in North Wales for the purpose of founding a Bishoprick of Manchester, so that the property arising from the industry of the inhabitants of the barren mountains is alienated, in order to maintain a Bishop in one of the most wealthy towns and in the richest county of England, where he is not desired, and where the people present a formidable mass of Dissenters. If the Church Commissioners considered that three Bishops were sufficient for Wales, why did they not take the surplus and apply it to the enlargement of small livings? why did they not give the Welsh curate, who did the work, an honourable and sufficient maintenance? It was no uncommon thing in Wales for the Incumbent to leave his parish to the charge of some curate, who could preach and teach the doctrines of Scripture to the congregation in the language which they understood. The Welsh were a people strongly attached to their country, and some might say, that their attachment was so strong to their language, that they were superstitiously devoted to it,—could it be expected, then, that they would or could pay that respect to their Diocesan which the heads of their church might desire, unless he was able to address them in a tongue they had the power of understanding? In his own parish they had an Incumbent, who was in every respect an excellent man, but he lived at a distance, deriving a large income from the united parishes, whilst a curate performed the Welsh service, and although he did all the duty of two churches, he received only 100l. a year, out of which he had to pay 10l. for his residence, leaving a surplus of 90l. a year to maintain himself, his wife, and as large a flock of children as curates generally are blessed with; and such was frequently the miserable stipend of the Welsh curates, that he has many times seen them working in the fields, eking out a miserable pittance, and endeavouring to add to their means through the force of their own manual exertion. He had had t! honour of presenting two petitions to the House that evening, one from certain natives of the Principality resident in London, who were Dissenters, and the other from members of the Established Church, residing in the metropolis; they expressed themselves grateful to that House for having passed a clause by which their fellow- countrymen might have the spiritual benefit of Welsh Bishops and Welsh clergymen; they stated their regret at learning that this wise provision was overthrown in another place, and they prayed, rather than have a continuation of English Bishops, that they might have no Bishops at all, and that the funds arising from the abolition of the Bishopricks might be given to the poorer clergy. This would shew how strong the feeling was, and it was one that was very general in the Principality. He entertained very strong opinions in opposition to this amendment of the Archbishops, and he considered it not a little invidious, that the Archbishop of Canterbury should allow that persons appointed to the benefices in the Principality ought to understand the Welsh language, whilst he advocated the omission of that part of it which laid the same obligation on the Bishops. He should, therefore, move, that the House do not agree to the Lords' amendment.

On a message being sent from the Lords, another free Conference was agreed to.