§ Lord John Russell
appeared at the Bar with the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. On its being brought up, the noble Lord, in moving that it be printed, stated that, in presenting the second Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the slate of the Church, he thought it proper, in conformity with the course which his noble Friend at the head of the Administration had adopted in the other House, to state shortly the general subject and nature of the Report. It would be in the recollection of the House, that the Commission was appointed, and the Commissioners were named, when the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, was at the head of the Administration. The persons appointed were certain of the Archbishops and Bishops, and other per- 156 sons more immediately connected with the Church, and three or four persons holding high situations in the Government. When the right hon. Baronet went out of office, he, and all those in office with him, withdrew from the Commission, and, with the acquiescence of the heads of the Church, a new Commission was issued, which included the name of his noble Friend at the head of the Government, and other persons holding similar situations under this Administration, to those which were held by the members of the former Administration, forming part of the Commission, and vacated their seats. Although, therefore, the persons in the Commission were changed, the objects of it were not altered; and he believed that he was entitled to say, that the discussions at the Board of Commissioners had always since then been carried on in the most amicable and friendly spirit, with the view of preparing measures for the benefit of the Church and the advantage of the country. The Commissioners had been able unanimously to agree to a Report, involving some of the remaining important points not touched upon in the former Report. The subject of inquiry, as originally proposed, was divided into three heads. The first was respecting the territorial division and revenue of the bishoprics. The second respected the revenues of the cathedrals and collegiate churches, with the view of making their revenues more conducive to the services of the establishment; and the last subject of consideration had reference to the residence of the clergy, and to promote the due performance of their proper functions. Now, as regarded the first branch of the inquiry, the first Report had proposed, in the first place, a different territorial distribution of the dioceses, in order to make them more equal; then a suppression of two sees, and the erection of two others. Thus far as regarded the duties. As regarded the revenues, the Report proposed that the greater part of them should be brought within a scale not exceeding 5,500l., and not less than 4,500l.; and that none but the two archbishoprics of Canterbury and York, and the bishoprics of London, Durham, and Winchester, should be made exceptions to the rule. The only material alteration in this plan proposed to be made by the present Report was that, as regarded the territorial distribution of the sees, that portion of the diocese of Bristol which it 157 had been proposed to make part of the see of Llandaff, should now be united, as far as regarded the city of Bristol, with the diocese of Bath and Wells; and, as far as regarded the other portions of it, that it should be united to the see of Gloucester. It was also proposed to unite the see of Sodor and Man to that of Carlisle. Then, with respect to the revenues of the several bishoprics, the present Report proposed certain diminutions. Taking the returns as presented to the Commissioners — which, however, might not be quite accurate, but they were the only ones of which the Commissioners had been able to avail themselves—it would appear that the present Report proposed these changes:—
|Sees.||Present Income.||Reduced to||Surplus.|
|To be united.|
|Leaving a total surplus of||£28,500|
§ Sir Robert Inglis
said, that, however much he respected and admired some of the members of the Commission, the Report of which the noble Lord had just brought up—however highly he esteemed the right rev. Prelates who had signed that Report—he could not conceal from the House the deep regret which he felt at hearing such a plan proposed for adoption as that which the noble Lord just announced. For his part, he was bound to say, that he would not be a party to the reception of a Report, the tendency of which he believed in his conscience would be fatal to the best interests of the Church of which he was a member. He certainly should not differ from the noble Lord with respect to the appropriation of the surplus which this Report proposed; but he must deny the right—taking that word in its largest sense, but without questioning the legal power—of Parliament to deprive one class of the Clergy of any portion of their revenues for the purpose of distributing it among another. At all events, he should be no party to any such arrangement. If he understood the noble Lord rightly, it was intended that the incomes of the present occupants of existing sees, livings, and prebends, should not be disturbed; and, before he proceeded further, he wished to ask the noble Lord whether he was correct—whether this plan meant to protect the rights of the existing sees, livings, and prebends? [Lord John Russell answered in the affirmative.] Then he was to understand that no person in possession of a see, living, stall, or prebend, was to be affected in their income by the plan recommended by this report? [Lord John Russell: Unless with their own consent.] Unless with their own consent. His opinion was, that no such Commission ought ever to have been appointed; nor was his view of the matter at all changed because the members of it consisted of a number of eminent Prelates as well as of laymen. He 163 did not think that the property of the Church was a subject which ought to be dealt with in this way; and, considering the peculiar constitution of that House— considering that a great portion of the Members of it did not belong to the Established Religion—he must protest against having so important a question referred to such a tribunal. He should not now enter into any discussion of the details of the plan, because he knew that this was not the proper occasion for the purpose; but he could not, at the same time, help slating that, however he might approve of the object to which the surplus was proposed to be applied, he doubted the justice of the measure itself, as much as he differed from many of the details of the plan.
§ Mr. Hume
thought, that the Commissioners had done not only themselves but the Church great credit by the manner in which they had executed the inquiry intrusted to them. That inquiry, however, should have been undertaken by the Church itself long ago. The only part of the plan on which he had any observation to make was that which related to pluralities; and no man, he thought, whose object really was to support the Church, could deny that such things should be done away with as speedily as possible. He was anxious they should consider how far retaining heads of colleges and schools with livings was advisable. He thought that it was not, and, as there was a surplus, it would be better, in his opinion, to attach incomes to such offices than to allow the parties to be paid for duties which they did not perform. This, he felt persuaded, would remove half the evils consequent upon the system of pluralities.
said, that they would do little justice to this most important subject if they were to enter into any discussion of it on that occasion. It was a subject far too important as regarded the highest interests of the country, and the Protestant religion, to be dealt with until they had the whole of the details of the plan before them, and could consider in what way they could best work out the great object of the Commission, which had in view the extension of religious instruction, either entirely or partially, throughout every district of the country. With this feeling he should have avoided addressing the House at the present moment, if it had not been that he was one of those who had advised the issuing of this Commission, and that 164 it might therefore appear, if he remained silent, that he had departed from the principles which had influenced him while in office to concur in a measure for the adoption of a plan for extending religious instruction. The plan now proposed had been prepared by those who were best calculated to form a right judgment on such a subject—by the members of the Church itself, aided in the progress of their inquiries by those who, next to the right rev. Prelates, were most bound in duty to uphold the religion of the country—he meant the responsible advisers of the Crown. He had viewed the appointment of the Commission as absolutely essential to the welfare of the increased population of the country, because he knew the difficulty of obtaining proper religious instruction in many parts to be very great. In all directions the demand for religious instruction was very pressing, and the object of appointing a Commission was to ascertain how that instruction could be most efficiently imparted. This could only be done by a general revision of the state of the Church, beginning with the highest dignitaries and ending with the parochial Clergy, and adapting their incomes to the altered circumstances of the country. He should, therefore, he was ready to confess, go into the consideration of the various provisions of the plan to be founded on this Report with a sincere desire to give it the effect which he should think best calculated to produce the result which they all so much desired; and he doubted not that if the matter were pursued with that which should be the wish of all parties—a determination to promote the interests of the Protestant Religion—the result to which they must come, founded, of course, on this Report, would not only give general satisfaction, but conduce to the best interests of the Church itself.
expressed the satisfaction which he felt at hearing such a plan as that which these Commissioners had recommended. So far from taking any exceptions to that plan, he was bound to say, that it exceeded any expectation which he had formed on the subject, and all he hoped was, that the scruples of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford, should not disturb the unanimity which prevailed respecting the reform in the Church now proposed. Of the leading principles of this plan they must all approve, because every sixpence of the ecclesiastical reve- 165 nues was to be appropriated to the use of the Church, and the sole alteration proposed to be made was in the distribution of those revenues. A greater advantage could not be bestowed on the Church Establishment. Whatever the sentiments were which he entertained respecting the Church of another country, he had always held, and continued to hold, that the Established Church of England had not a sixpence of revenue more than was adequate to the furtherance of the objects which that Church had in view. Now, if he understood the statement of his noble Friend, the surplus of the incomes of the Bishops, which were considered extravagant, was to be applied in the augmentation of smaller sees, the emoluments of which were utterly inadequate to sustain those Prelates by whom the duties of them were discharged. No one could doubt that the incomes of the Bishop of Llandaff and the Bishop of Oxford were insufficient to maintain the dignity of their stations, or to enable those light rev. Prelates to diffuse that charity which never appeared brighter than when proceeding from such hands. He was glad, however, that they meant to uphold the three great Sees as objects of ecclesiastical ambition, and to render the emoluments of the others adequate to the duties to be performed; but he must, at the same time, express his deep regret, that the hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford, should believe that any tribunal, not even Parliament, had a right to deal with Church property. The next part of the plan to which he should advert was that which related to Deans and Chapters. He did not wish to say, that Deans and Chapters had produced no good—that they had not contributed to the advantage of religion, or promoted the literature and erudition of the country; but he did mean to say, that the benefits which had been derived from them, were by no means commensurate with the extent of the revenue which they received. He rejoiced to find, that the Commissioners did not propose to desecrate cathedrals and abolish sees, but that both were to be maintained in their integrity, although under somewhat different circumstances. It was impossible not to perceive the advantage of this arrangement. From the first hour of his being an Ecclesiastical Commissioner—from the first moment he entered upon the consideration of the state of the Church—he urged on the Arch- 166 bishops and Bishops with whom he was connected, the absolute necessity of upholding the office of Archdeacon, and giving to the clergyman holding that preferment a revenue sufficient to enable him to perform the great and important duties attached to the office. The House must be aware the Archdeacon was frequently called upon to make a circuit or tour among the parochial clergy. The whole emoluments of the Archdeacon of Lincoln he knew to be no more than 1801. a-year; and as they must all admit, that such an amount was wholly inadequate to the duties to be performed, he for one should be glad to see a portion of the surplus applied to the augmentation of the incomes of the clergymen who tilled this station. The office of Archdeacon was a highly important one; and, therefore, it was right, that the party occupying it should have no excuse for not discharging the duties of it properly. The last point to which he would advert was that which related to residence and pluralities. No one, he believed, who had considered the subject could, for a moment, doubt that it was most desirable, as far as practicable, to enforce residence, and do away with pluralities. The abolition of pluralities, however, formed a question of some difficulty, and could only be considered with reference to the existing state of the revenues of the Church. When he said this, he hoped it would not be supposed that he was not the advocate for the abolition of pluralities; on the contrary, he was anxious to see them done away with as speedily as possible, but not before proper inquiries on the subject had been made, and effectual means taken for insuring the adequate cure of souls in every case, without the necessity of annexing to livings the incomes of which were small other benefices, in order that qualified persons might be induced to hold them. He knew of several instances in which such livings had been rejected; and it was, therefore, important that some plan should be devised to obviate the difficulty before they proceeded to abolish pluralities. He could not conclude his observations without congratulating the House and the country on the prospect they had of seeing the abuses of the Church satisfactorily remedied. The measure was in its nature so remedial that it would finally lead to the abolition of pluralities; and so convinced was he that the plan announced by his noble 167 Friend would tend to the safely and protection of the Church—would secure it against the attacks to which otherwise it was likely to be exposed—that it should have his best support, because; if carried into execution, he fully believed it would not only ensure the prosperity of the Church, but establish it on a basis the most permanent and enduring.
§ Mr. Granville Vernon
observed, that the subject of pluralities was one respecting which very great error existed, as the evil was by no means so extensive as was generally supposed. The hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford, and the hon. Member for Middlesex seemed to attribute to the Church a power which did not belong to it. The Church had no power whatever to interfere in the distribution of its revenues, and this he had reason to know from a proposition which a venerable relative of his had made on the subject to the head of a former Government. He, however, was prepared to give his candid attention to the plan recommended by the Commissioners, and to carry out their views as far as he thought they ought to be carried out.
§ The Report was agreed to, and ordered to be printed.