§ The House in Committee on the Resolution concerning Church-rates, proposed on the 3rd of March. The Resolution having been read,
§ Sir Robert Peel
rose thus early because he desired to have an opportunity of submitting to the House in a connected form the view he took of the question which the resolution involved, because he knew by past ex- 297 perience, that when any Member of that House postponed to a late period of the night the observations which he might think it necessary to make, he generally found great difficulty in carrying on a connected chain of reasoning; and it became, under such circumstances, not only difficult to preserve continuity and connexion, but most difficult to avoid noticing observations made in the course of the discussion; and still further, because in addressing the House at a late hour of the evening there existed so much temptation to that vehemence and asperity which might add something to the animation of debate, but nothing to its effect in influencing the reason or deciding the judgment. He wished in approaching this question to accept the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), and enter upon the discussion in a temper purified from party feeling, forgetful of party predilections, and full of an earnest desire to discuss the question upon its real merits. For these reasons, then, had he resolved to present himself thus early to the House, and enter upon the consideration of the question then before them with an anxious desire to effect its early and satisfactory settlement. He need hardly say, that he rose under a deep sense of the importance of the subject. He was not insensible to its inherent difficulties, and he had not forgotten, that those difficulties had been much increased by the proposal which the King's Government made in the year 1834, which proposal was tantamount to a condemnation of the present system. On account of the interval, too, which had elapsed since that measure was proposed, and on account of its subsequent abandonment, the difficulties of the question had been considerably augmented. Of all this he was fully conscious. There was no hon. Member who could fail to be aware, that the subject of Church-rates had assumed an entirely new position, in consequence of the proposition which three years ago had proceeded from the responsible Ministers of the Crown; still did he feel impelled by a paramount sense of duty to state the grounds upon which he had arrived at a different conclusion from the King's Government on this most important occasion. Not disguising from 298 himself any one of the difficulties which accompanied an examination of the subject, and not insensible to the difficulties inseparable from its settlement, he yet should say, that there were none of them at all comparable to the difficulties necessarily attendant upon an acquiescence in the measure of the Government. In speaking of the plan which in the present Session of Parliament had been submitted to the House, he could not otherwise describe it than as a plan for the total abolition of Church-rates,—that the land and other property in this country, whether held by Dissenters or by persons in communion with the Church of England, should in future be free from all liability to the payment of Church-rates, and that in all time coming it should be the Church itself, and not the State, that was to provide for the expenses attendant upon the repair of the fabric of the Church. That was the proposition laid before Parliament, and upon that the House had to decide. The question he should proceed to consider in three separate points of view—first, as a financial measure; secondly, as to its being in conformity to authorities respected in that House; and thirdly, in reference to its conformity to sound policy and justice. He desired, in the first place, to submit the merits of the plan to the test of calculation, next to that of authority and reason, and lastly to that of justice and sound policy. It appeared to him the first of these subjects to which he proposed to call the attention of the House was in the highest degree important, for it was to his financial operations, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred with the most confidence. The right hon. Gentleman had acknowledged, that if he were wrong in these, he must fail altogether; by his calculations he was willing to stand or fall. If his estimates were incorrect, or his inferences erroneous, the right hon. Gentleman unreservedly admitted, that his whole scheme must fall to the ground; by the application of that test, the right hon. Gentleman was willing to be judged. No one could be more sensible than he was of the difficulty of examining in a popular assembly the data and the results of an arithmetical calculation; he therefore earnestly requested that hon. Members would lend their attention to 299 his observations, which he hoped to make clear to all who had heard the Statement, or made themselves acquainted with the plan of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman assumed, that a certain charge was to be provided for, amounting to 261,000l., at which sum he estimated, on an average of three years, the annual payment of fines to bishops, and deans and chapters. Those formed the only data upon which the plan rested; but if the right hon. Gentleman had taken more than three years, he would have found the average less than 261,000l. There was no doubt, that the more the range was extended, the more would the amount of the average be diminished; but for the purpose of his argument, it was not necessary that he should establish the fallacy of the average; he would assume, that the right hon. Gentleman was correct, and it was therefore established, that he had to make provision for an annual payment of 261,000l. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then proposed to allot a sum of 250,000l. for the repairs of the fabrics of the Church. These two sums together gave a total of 511,000l.; that was the permanent charge for which, in the first instance, the right hon. Gentleman had to provide. The charge of managing that fund he wholly omitted. He had proposed, that the management of an immense landed property, with mines, houses, and tithes, should devolve on a commission composed of a certain number of archbishops and bishops, who had no direct pecuniary or personal interest in the advantageous management of that property; with these it was proposed to associate a certain number of official persons, whose time already was exceedingly occupied with other matters; and then there were to be added three paid commissioners, on whom the actual practical duty he presumed would devolve. As the House must well know, the property to which he referred was distributed throughout England and Wales; it was subject to various descriptions of management—to mortgages, to settlements, to varieties of tenure, and to different customs; he therefore apprehended, that the charge of management would bear a very large proportion indeed to its rental, to say nothing of the general objection to the State becoming a great 300 landed proprietor and the disadvantages inseparable from those who exercised the management being persons having no direct interest in the land. The land revenues of the Crown amounted to 240,000l.; its management intrusted to a board was much less complicated, the surveys much less expensive than those for the Church properly, yet the charge for management was 25,000l.; the estimate given him was 28,000l., but he preferred stating it at 25,000l., for he wished to keep within the actual amount. The gross rental of this property had been estimated at 1,322,000l., the receipts by the deans and chapter, &c, was 541,000l. He thought, then, he should not estimate it extravagantly in fixing the charge for management at 30,000l. Assuming that the total charge of 511,000l., given by the right hon. Gentleman, to be correct, the sum of 30,000l. added to it for management, gave 541,000l. It had been stated to them how it was proposed to provide for that charge. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that 261,000l. was the amount of fines, and he assumed the average period of the duration of leases for lives and years was twenty-four years, with an allowance of seven per cent. to tenants upon renewals: taking all these for granted, he inferred the gross amount of the landed property to be 1,323,000l. The right hon. Gentleman then said, he had a deferred annuity of 1,323,000l. to commence at the end of twenty-four years; and estimated the present value of that at 516,000l. In speaking on this subject he did not wish to take anything for granted; he wished the House to be satisfied that everything stated had been proved; and if he did not succeed in making himself clearly understood, he begged hon. Members might interrupt him, their doing so would save the time of the House. It appeared, then, that 516,000l. was the present value, while 541,000l. was to be provided for; there was, therefore, a deficiency of 25,000l. An annuity of 541,000l. for twenty-four years, at four per cent., would be worth 8,248,607l. if converted into capital at the present time. There remained a difference of 782,000l. between the specified sum of 541,000l., and the value of the landed property of the Church, which, according to the calculations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, amounted 301 to 1,323,000l. Now, an annuity (for ever) of 782,000l. deferred for twenty-four years, at four per cent,, was worth 7,626,875l. Therefore, the loss of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, upon his financial plan, assuming that all the data of the right hon. Gentleman were correct, would, if estimated with reference to the present capital, be exactly 621,732l. The loss sustained by taking the deferred annuity, in accordance with the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan, as compensation for granting the proposed arrangement, to commence immediately, would be upwards of 620,000l., and equivalent to an annuity of 24,869l. He was here assuming that the data and the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman were all correct. He, however, doubted their correctness; and he did hope that, whatever might be the opinion of the House with regard to the principle of Church-rates, hon. Members would all see the necessity of declining to embark upon this financial speculation until they should have acquired more accurate information than they at present possessed, and had better means of judging as to the sufficiency of the ground upon which the proposed change was sought to be established. The Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated the average subsisting term of leases, both for lives and for a term of years together, to be twenty-four years. With reference to this part of the subject he would beg to observe, that it was easy enough to calculate the average subsisting terms, where the terms were for years; but, unless they were made acquainted with the whole of the leases for lives— unless they could know the exact proportion which the leases for three lives bore to those for two lives, and which both these descriptions of leases bore to the leases for a single life, it would be exceedingly difficult to draw a correct inference, or strike anything like a fair average. He bad had access to the leases for lives in the case of one bishopric in England,—he alluded to the bishopric of Gloucester. In that bishopric he found that there were 102 leases for lives; seventy-five of these were held on a tenure of three lives—seventy-five (he begged the House to observe) out of 102; and the average subsisting term of these seventy-five leases was not less than nearly thirty-eight years. Suppose that the average subsisting term of ecclesiastical 302 property was twenty-six years instead of twenty-four, this slight change would involve the complete destruction of all the right hon. Gentleman's calculations, because he would then have to meet the permanent charge of 541,000l. for twenty-six years instead of twenty-four. The fact of his not coming into possession until two years after the stated period, would totally derange the right hon. Gentleman's calculations. Suppose it were to turn out that the average subsisting term was thirty years instead of twenty-four, the loss to the public would amount to many millions. He was speaking merely of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's financial plan; he would pot mix up with his present observations anything of politics—anything that did not properly belong to the merits of his scheme, considered as a financial proposition. Suppose, for argument's sake, that the average subsisting term was neither more nor less than twenty-four years; suppose that this fact had been positively ascertained, though he must observe that it was utterly impossible to ascertain the average subsisting term—to acquire a knowledge of the real value of the Church's rental, without a minute and accurate survey of the value of the leases respectively,—conceding it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he was right in assuming the average term to be twenty-four years, still he defied the right hon. Gentleman to ascertain the real value of the rental of the Church lands. Suppose that the larger proprietors held leases of longer terms, that their leases were for three lives, and that the smaller were for two lives or for one, this variation would not affect the average subsisting term, but it would influence, in a material degree, the value of the reversion. He would ask the House, then, whether there did not exist a great probability, that in proportion to the value of a property, care would be taken to renew the lease by virtue of which it was held? In case it should appear that the leases of valuable properties had been, generally speaking, renewed, after payment of the proper fine, upon a life falling in, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would then find himself in this position: —He would have calculated with accuracy (so it was, for argument's sake, conceded) the average subsisting term, but would have afforded no indication whatever of 303 the real value of the rental which, at the expiration of this term, the State would receive in lieu of its permanent charge of the Church. Admitting, then, that the average subsisting term was twenty-four years, he repeated, that unless the right hon. Gentleman had access to the whole number of lives, and knew the value of the leases in each, it would be impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to draw any inference as to the value of the aggregate rental. It was quite evident that the value of these leases in the aggregate depended on the value of the lives in each separate case. The fact whether the lives named in a lease were those of children or of persons more advanced in life—whether they were of the male or of the female sex, particularly in the case of children, would make the greatest possible difference. If the life in one of these leases were that of a young child, the right hon. Gentleman must ascertain whether its age was seven or fourteen years before he could determine the value of the life; and he must go through this painful and laborious inquiry, in every case, before he could ascertain the aggregate, or strike with accuracy an average number of years. The next assumption of the right hon. Gentleman was, that seven per cent. was the average rate of interest allowed on the renewal of leases. Here, again, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were in error, and if seven per cent. were not found to be the average rate of interest, his calculations were wholly erroneous, and his entire plan must fall to the ground. The right hon. Gentleman, in support of his view, had produced some calculations with reference to the see of Durham. He, however, must protest against any general inference being drawn from the circumstances of that particular see. The property in that see consisted in a great part of mines, and a very large rate of interest was allowed in Durham upon the renewal of these leases—a rate of interest so high as nine per cent. He need not enter into details upon this subject, further than to state, that special reasons existed in that diocese by which the value of land was affected. He alluded chiefly to what was termed a "way-leave," or permission to pass over the lands, which prevailed throughout that see, and which was a natural reason for the allowance of a larger rate of interest on renewals. Again, then, be affirmed, if the right hon. Gentleman 304 were wrong in saying, that seven per cent. was the average rate of interest, that his calculations must altogether fall to the ground. He believed, that the average rate of interest allowed upon those renewals was considerably less than seven per cent.; and in making this statement he was justified by the result of an inquiry which he had instituted with a view to ascertain exactly what was the practice with regard to this matter. His inquiry extended to the dioceses of Canterbury, London, Winchester, Lincoln, Chichester, Oxford, and Salisbury; and to ascertain the practice with regard to renewals he put the questions and received the answers which he would read to the House.1. When a lease for lives or years is renewed, what measures do you take in order to ascertain the value of the property?—I employ a respectable surveyor to survey his property, and to make a report of the annual value and outgoings, so as to show me the net annual value clear of all deductions.2. The value having been ascertained, how do you calculate the sum which should be paid for the renewal of leases on lives?—I multiply the net annual value so ascertained by such number of years' purchase as (allowing the lessee to make five per cent of the money to be paid by him) the Northampton mortality tables allow for the benefit to the lessee of adding a life or lives of his own selection, taking into consideration the ages of the existing life or lives, and taking for granted that the lessee will make the best selection.3. Do you apprehend that the estates belonging to the prebendaries, who are corporations sole, are managed on the same principles?—For the most part. Prebendaries being corporations sole, who have renewed leases for lives, under my observation, I have adopted the same principles.Thus it appeared that the rate of interest in respect of these episcopal lands was five, and not seven per cent. The individual of whom he made the inquiry was Mr. Hodgson, who had an extensive charge of the management of ecclesiastical rents. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer would no doubt say, that in many instances, seven per cent. eight per cent. and even nine per cent was allowed; and that, placing the cases in which the rate of interest was eight or nine per cent against those in which only five was allowed, he was justified in striking the average at seven per cent. It was true, that, in the case of house property, a high rate of interest was allowed upon the renewal of leases; but never, except in ex- 305 traordinary cases, upon leases of land. In the case of houses, seven, eight, and even nine per cent. might be allowed; for who would take the lease of a house, subject to its various incumbrances, without an allowance of more than five per cent.? A large rate of interest was allowed in the case of house property, because the lessee indemnified the Church from three important charges—first, from all insolvencies of the actual tenants, and from recovery of the yearly rent by legal means; secondly, from the whole charge for repairs and new constructions; and, thirdly, from the charge of insuring against fire. It was, therefore, perfectly just that a distinction should be drawn between house and landed property, and that eight or nine per cent. should be allowed on the former, while it was only five per cent. on the latter. What was the result of the rates of interest, in connection with these two distinct kinds of property, being confounded? Why, that even if he were to concede to the right hon. Gentleman the position that the present rental of the Church was 1,323,000l., still, as the right hon. Gentleman had made no allowance for the difference between household property and landed property, the House had no evidence whatever that the sum of 1,323,000l., which it was assumed that they would be entitled to receive at the expiration of twenty-four years, would purchase anything like an annuity of 511,000l. On this point he had consulted a gentleman eminent for the accuracy of his calculations, and the following were his answers to queries submitted to him:—Queries:—The average improved rental of church leases is 1,323,000l. a-year. It is estimated that, on the average, in twenty-four years, all the church leases will run out; and, therefore, there is a reversionary interest of 1,323,000l. as a perpetual annuity, at the end of twenty-four years. Question the First— 'What annuity, to commence from the present lime, is equivalent in value to the perpetual annuity of 1,323,000l., to commence at the end of twenty-four years?'—Answer—'The equivalent perpetual annuity, to commence immediately, is 516,190l. computing the fee-simple at twenty-five years' purchase.' —Question second—'If this sum of 1,323,000l. is derivable as to three-fourth parts thereof from the rents of land, and one-fourth part from the rack-rents of houses, what annuity, to commence from the present time, is equivalent to the rent of 1,323,000l. a-year, having regard to the perishable nature of household property, and the permanent nature of land?' Answer —'The equivalent perpetual annuity should, 306 in this case, be 468,730l., computing the land, as before, at twenty-five years' purchase, and the household property at sixteen two-fifths years' purchase. Taking the household property in fee-simple, however, to be worth fourteen and a-half years' purchase, instead of at sixteen two-fifths, which is a very moderate reduction, as compared with the reduction of land from thirty to twenty-five years' purchase, the perpetual annuity will be 452,300l. —Arthur Morgan, Equitable Assurance-office, March 10, 1836.' 'But the true proportion for the household property, the fee-simple of the land being reduced from thirty years to twenty-five years, was at thirteen and a fraction years' purchase. N.B. Taking the land at thirty years' purchase, the equivalent perpetual annuity on the whole property is 602,000l.'But the land was estimated at thirty years' purchase, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed a bonus of five years' purchase to encourage the lessees to buy out perpetuities. What did that right hon. Gentleman propose to do with respect to household property? The owner of land which was equivalent in value to thirty years' purchase, might be very happy to be allowed to purchase at twenty-five years; but taking the interest in a lease of household property to be worth about sixteen or seventeen years' purchase, in order to induce the tenant in this case to purchase a perpetuity, it would be necessary to give him a corresponding advantage. If this advantage were given, it would be requisite to reduce the number of years' purchase of his house from sixteen and a-half to fourteen and a-quarter, a very moderate reduction (as stated by Mr. Morgan), in order to enable the lessees of household property to purchase upon something like the same terms which were allowed to the lessees of land. The equivalent perpetual annuity would, in such a case, be 452,300l. to meet a demand of 541,000l. per annum. Arguing, then, from the very data assumed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the permanent charge to be provided for would far exceed the amount, which, according to the proposed plan, was destined to meet it; and by assuming that the value of ecclesiastical property, of every description, was equivalent to twenty-five years' purchase, the Chancellor of the Exchequer precluded himself from compensating for the loss which he would thus sustain on the one hand, by increasing the charge on the other. Every man, the right hon. Gentleman, had said, might obtain a perpetuity at 307 twenty-five years' purchase. It would surely, however, be vain (as every hon. Member must perceive) to offer to a tenant of household property the option of purchasing at twenty-five years, while the property was confessedly not worth more to him than sixteen years' purchase; and they must, consequently, make a proportional deduction from the annual rental which they would be entitled to receive for the next twenty-four years—a deduction amounting to almost one-fourth of the whole, so that the annual income would be 452,000l. instead of 541,000l. Convert that sum into capital, and proceed with the proposed, plan, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer might depend on it that the final loss on his financial scheme would amount to some millions. Supposing thirty years to be the average subsisting term, instead of twenty-four years, an annuity of 541,000l. at four per cent., for thirty years, was worth 9,354,990l. An annuity for ever of 782,000l., deferred for thirty years, was worth only 6,027,630l. The loss here would be most considerable. It would amount to three millions of money. Did not that single statement evince of what importance it was to ascertain with accuracy whether the average subsisting term were twenty-four years, and not to assume that term at random? And if, again, the rate of interest upon renewals was in a great variety of instances, as he had shown, not seven, but five per cent., ought not this fact alone to induce the House to act upon this subject with extreme caution? It was possible that some hon. Gentleman, one of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Friends, might presently tell him of all the advantages which it was expected would be derived from an improvement in the value of Church lands, an improvement which would take place the moment the tenure was changed. ["Hear."] As he had expected, hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to attach value to this argument; but he would show them that it was a complete fallacy; and that they would not derive Is. of profit from this improved value. Why? Because they were going to permit the tenant to purchase at twenty-five years. Whenever, therefore, an improved value arose, it would be derived not by the State but by the tenant. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured to make his plan exceedingly popular, by 308 saying, that the "reserved fund" which would remain, after allocating the proceeds of Church lands to the payment of fines, and to the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, would be applied to the increase of the spiritual accommodation of the poor. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he was really the friend of the poor, although it had been attempted on this subject to raise a prejudice against him, and that his answer to the charge of indifference to the interests of the poor was allocating this reserved fund, arising from the profits of his financial plan to the increase of the spiritual comforts of the poor. He should like to know what any hon. Gentleman would give for the Chancellor of the Exchequer's reserved fund? Had he not shown the House that, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan, there was only 516,000l. to meet 541,000l., while, according to his calculation, the sum which was stated at 516,000l. would not turn out to be more than 450,000l., leaving an actual and present deficiency of 90,000l. a-year in the financial plan of the right hon. Gentleman. The essence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan consisted in selling the reversion to a property. He had very recently heard a high authority advance the following opinion:—"The Church was, therefore, exactly in the position of an individual who was continually selling a reversion, which was just the most unprofitable of all means which an improvident person could resort to for the management of his property." This opinion he had heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he had profited by the sound doctrine which that right hon. Gentleman had advanced upon the improvidence of selling a reversion. Was not the sale of a remote reversion, although condemned in the paragraph which he had quoted, the very essence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan? Was that right hon. Gentleman justified in stating the term of twenty-five years arbitrarily as the term of years by the purchase of which, in every instance, a perpetuity was to be obtained? He contended that the application of the rule of twenty-five years to household property was utterly irreconcilable with justice. There were four sources of Church property derived from land, and of them only one had been adverted to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What did 309 that right hon. Gentlemen propose doing with regard to mines, which formed a most important subject of consideration? He had given no explanation whatever of his views with regard to tithes. After next year, owing to the provision of the Tithe Commutation Act, this source of revenue would become fixed, varying only as a corn-rent. The calculation of the period of twenty-five years, upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had founded his arguments as perpetuities, had manifestly no relation whatever to houses; and to those tenants of the Church whose property consisted of houses it was manifestly unjust to say, "You shall be entitled to a perpetuity, like persons holding lands at twenty-five years' purchase." He never would consent that ecclesiastical property should be disposed of on terms not only so disadvantageous, but so unjust, to the proprietors in one case and to the lessees in another. He could easily conceive a very wealthy proprietor to whom the holding of Church lands was a great accommodation, from its being mixed with his own property, who had never used it for building purposes, and who had money at his command—he (Sir R. Peel) could readily believe, that to allow such a person to purchase lands in the neighbourhood of large towns and convert it into building leases at twenty-five years' purchase, would be to put money in his pocket. But persons who had no particular object to attain by such land, no hope of gain, who had lived upon the land, who had not the means of raising money to purchase a perpetuity to convert it into an increased rent—he could believe, that exacting from such persons twenty-five years' purchase, might be the greatest possible injustice. The only plan, the only principle he contended which could be acted upon with justice, was, by making an actual valuation of property in all cases and dealing with each individual for the purchase or sale of his interest. He should say, no doubt, give every consideration to the tenant's right, treat him with all indulgence; but he should also say, that the application of the invariable rule to purchase at twenty-five years, would be pregnant with the grossest inequality and injustice. The benefit would be to the rich man, who held land in the neighbourhood of towns, for if he could get possession of land so 310 situated at twenty-five years' purchase he might increase his annual income to a great extent. So much for the financial part of the measure. He did not impugn the calculations in all respects of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he had state! grounds upon which they were entitled to doubt whether that right hon. Gentleman's assumptions could be safely relied upon. He would next proceed to the discussion of a part of the subject in which the House of course must take, and in which, certainly, he felt a much deeper interest—he meant the character of the proposed plan as it concerned the eternal principles of justice and of sound policy. The proposal was, that the whole of the rateable property of the country, whether held by Dissenters or not, should be discharged from the burden to which it had been subjected from time immemorial, and that an equivalent should be found for that burden by a charge upon the property of the Church. The noble Lord had stated the other night, that there was a manifest distinction between the charge for tithe and the charge for Church-rates. He admitted that there was in some respects a distinction; but this could not be denied, that whatever difficulty there might have been in increasing the payment in particular instances, the principle of the laws of England had been for many ages, that the property of the parish should be responsible for the maintenance of the Church. There might be, no doubt, a power on the part of the parishioners to defeat or postpone that payment, but could it be denied that the expectation under which nineteen-twentieths of the inhabitants of this country had inherited and purchased their property was, that this charge, existing from time immemorial, was a charge to which that property was legally subjected? In not one-twentieth of the cases in which property had been purchased, he would venture to say had the purchasers given the full value for the property under the supposition that they could defeat that charge; on the contrary, all purchasers had almost invariably assumed that the Church-rate was a valid impost upon the property, and had accordingly claimed a corresponding deduction in the price. This plan then, proposing that the whole amount of the charge should be removed from the rateable property of the country, whether held by Dissenters or Churchmen, 311 and that an equivalent should be drawn from the revenues of the Church, was a perfect novelty and was now for the first time broached. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that in supporting this plan he would rely upon very great authorities, not for the purpose of taunting any party with any possible inconsistency, but for the purpose of supporting his calculations by the opinion of those authorities, deliberately delivered, and which he had seen no reason to question. He should have thought that so skilful a debater as the right hon. Gentleman would have touched with more lightness upon arguments derived from authority— the single authority upon which the right hon. Gentleman had relied having been derived from the precedent established in the case of the Irish church. He must say, that the appeal to that precedent was rather ungenerous. When the consideration of the Irish church had been first brought under their notice in the speech from the throne, they were distinctly told that the circumstances of Ireland were peculiar, that they were so far distinguished from those of England as to require a separate consideration. When the measure had been brought forward by which Church-rates were to be removed from property in Ireland, they had been distinctly told that the case was a special one, and ought to be considered on its special grounds, and yet now they were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the case of Ireland was applicable to England. "Make that," said the right hon. Gentleman, "which I told you was an exception, a general rule—make an example, which I told you was peculiarly and separately applicable to Ireland, a precedent which shall be and must be applied to England." Let the House look at the preamble of the Church Temporalities Act. Did not that Act raise special differences in the case of the two countries, warranting a perfectly different course from that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite? Could he say, that in England it was convenient to dispense with ten bishops? And had not two additional bishops been appointed to districts which required the superintendence and care of episcopal authority? In arguing upon the Church Temporalities Act, you referred (said the right hon. Baronet) to the distinction there was, in point of population, to the number of per- 312 sons in Ireland who were not members of the Established Church, and the charge which was imposed upon the occupying tenant by making him responsible for the payment of Church-rates, and the support of a Church from which he derived no benefit. With the case of Ireland before you, with that Act before you, and to which you were a party, did you, in 1834, propose to follow the precedent of Ireland? You then knew there was Church property in England; you had your attention specially called to it; you had the Irish Act then in existence upon the Statute Book; but you did not invoke the Irish precedent as an example to be applied to England. No, you brought forward an act proceeding upon a totally different principle, an act certainly recognizing the exemption of property from the charge of Church-rates, but which, at the same time, distinctly maintained this great principle, that the charge of supporting the fabric ought to be borne by the State. And when you speak to me of authority, I will attempt to show you, so far as arguments are to be derived from authorities in matters of this kind, that you have no authority to appeal to in the Irish Act, but that from your own course, from your own acts, and from your own declarations, I am furnished with most powerful aid in support of my arguments, as far as that aid extends." He would take first (the right hon. Baronet continued) the declaration of the noble Lord who had proposed the Act for the Regulation of the Church Temporalities in Ireland, and who, upon the following year, had proposed a plan for the substitution of another fund in lieu of Church-rates. Lord Althorp, on April 21, 1834, the Irish Act having passed in the preceding year, and relieved the owners of property in Ireland from the charge of Church-rates—that noble Lord who had brought forward that Act, which, as he had said before, was one proceeding upon a totally different principle, at the period alluded to, proposed that 250,000l. should be paid out of the consolidated fund and applied to the repairs of the Church. After the discussion that arose upon the proposition, Lord Althorp stated in reply, "The principal argument used this evening has been, that no contribution ought to be made by the State out of the public funds, for the purpose of maintaining the places of worship belonging to the 313 Established Church. Now, I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Wynn), that it is the absolute duty of the State to provide places of worship for the poorer classes of this community." There was a distinct recognition of the principle that it was the absolute duty of the State to provide places of worship for the poor. ["Hear."] From the cheers of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he (Sir Robert Peel) supposed he was to infer that the present plan was not at variance with the declaration of Lord Althorp. But that declaration had been made after an amendment had been proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex, to the effect that no sum ought to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund for the repairs of the fabric, until it had been clearly ascertained that the Church property was not able to bear the expense of those repairs; and, therefore, it was stated, not merely in forgetfulness of, but in direct collision with, the antagonist principle, as contended for by that hon. Member, that Lord Althorp had expressed so decided an opinion on the subject. Upon the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex, a division took place. He (Sir Robert Peel) and all his Friends supported Government on the occasion, and, with their assistance, the numbers were, in support of Lord Althorp and his principle, 256, negativing the amendment contending for the opposite principle by a majority of 116. Now, as the doctrine was afloat, that the "majority ought to govern the minority," and as there was recorded a majority of 116 in favour of a principle which had never since been submitted to the House of Commons, or, at least, upon which the sense of the House of Commons had never since been taken, might not he, so far as authority was concerned, appeal to that decisive majority as a proof that the opinion of the House of Commons was in accordance with that of Lord Althorp, and that it was the absolute duty of the State to provide for the repairs of the fabric out of the public funds, as distinguished from those of the Church? But it might be said, that that was in an unreformed Parliament. No, it was the first Parliament that had been elected after the passing of the Reform Bill, and could not be said to have been a Parliament returned under Conservative auspices. That Parliament was returned under the Government of Lord Grey, at a 314 time, too, when the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) formed a part of the Government, and the decision then come to by the House had never publicly been called in question by any proposal upon which the sense of the House had been taken. Still, continuing his arguments as derived from "authority," he would refer to the declaration made in the Report of a Commission bearing date the 4th of March, 1836, —a Commission not composed exclusively of Churchmen, but one which included in it five Members of his Majesty's Government. The Report from which he was about to read, bore the signatures of the whole; and, amongst the rest, those of Lord Cottenham, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Melbourne, Lord John Russell, and Mr. Spring Rice. They had to consider this very question—whether it was fitting that, for ecclesiastical purposes, a profit should be extracted from a different appropriation of Church lands, and they had come to this conclusion:—One mode of rendering those incomes less uncertain would be, to allow the existing leases, both for lives and for terms of years, to expire. But any plan for accomplishing this object must involve the necessity of borrowing money upon the security of the episcopal estates, in order to compensate the Bishops for the loss of the fines which accrue to them under the present system, and which form an important part of their incomes. The practical result of such an operation would be, to transfer to the parties lending their money that interest in the episcopal estates which is now possessed by the lessees. We are not, therefore, prepared to recommend the adoption of any general measure for allowing the leases for lives and terms of years to expire; although, for the purpose of correcting, in some degree, the inconvenience now arising from the great variations in the annual amount of the episcopal incomes, we recommend that facilities should be afforded for the conversion of leases for lives into leases for terms of years.He apprehended that the noble Lord (Lord John Russell,) when the Report containing that recommendation had been laid upon the Table, still adhered to the opinion that Lord Althorp was correct in the principle he had laid down, that in relieving the land from the charge to which it was subjected, the State, and not the Church, ought to provide for the alteration; for, as a party to that Report, the noble Lord in a few weeks after it was presented, had given expression to a similar opinion in answer to a question put by his noble 315 Friend, Lord Stanley. His noble Friend, on the occasion, said—"I avail myself of this opportunity to ask my noble Friend whether it is his intention to bring in any measure this Session on the subject of Church-rates?" In reply to which the noble Lord (John Russell,) after stating that he would not be able to introduce a Bill that Session observed, that by means of Church-rates or in some other way, it was expedient that the state should provide for the maintenance and repair of Churches.* He would say it was rather strange that the noble Lord, having had the whole subject of bishops' lands under his consideration, and having signed the Report containing the recommendation quoted in March, 1836, and moreover having so expressed himself in answer to Lord Stanley in June, 1836, should now be of opinion that ecclesiastical property should be differently settled and appropriated from the manner recommended by the Church Commissioners, and should be made available for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church. The hon. Member for Middlesex having on that occasion expressed his dissatisfaction at the answer of the noble Lord, the noble Lord in reply to the hon. Member, made a fuller and more complete declaration, and one which established the most conclusive proof that the plan now proposed was then repudiated by the high authority of the noble Lord. He argued thus, in the same sense as that in which the right hon. Gentleman had argued, not for the purpose of invidious taunts, by pointing at any change of opinion, but for the bonâ fide purpose of showing that the opposition, and His Majesty's Government had, up to a very recent period, remained precisely of the same opinion—namely, that those church expenses ought to be borne by the state; and that by the profits which were derived from ecclesiastical revenues, there were other objects to be attained. The noble Lord, on the occasion to which he had just alluded, said, "whatever might be the anxiety of the Dissenters, they could not have been in doubt as to the opinions of the Government."† Could the Dissenters have inferred from this that there was at the time a secret reservation on the part of the Government that it was possible to derive the necessary amount of expenses* Hansard (Third Series)vol. xxxiv. p.611.† Ibid.316 to which Church-rates were applicable from other than the resources then proposed? The noble Lord continued—"Two years ago Lord Althorp brought in a bill on the subject, in which the principle was declared, that Church-rates should not be abolished unless the state provided a substitute." He had never said anything inconsistent with that principle, or, at least, anything to lead the Dissenters to suppose that Ministers meant to abolish Church-rates without an equivalent, or that that equivalent was to be found in the revenues of the Church. To that principle he had adhered, and to it he intended to adhere.* Let the House observe, that this declaration had been made two months after the Report had been made in which they declined to recommend that by which they would transfer the interest in the land from the trustees to those who lent money. That, together with the noble Lord's declaration, he (Sir R. Peel) thought fully entitled them to infer that the noble Lord adhered to the opinions of Lord Althorp. The noble Lord added—"On various occasions he had explained his views to the Dissenters, and they were satisfied that he did not mean to bring forward any Bill that would accomplish their wishes. He did not believe, therefore, that they were at all anxious that any measure should be introduced,"† Mr. Hume then said—"As far as he was acquainted with the wishes of the Dissenters, they never would consent that Church-rates should be paid out of the general revenues of the country. Means to pay them ought to be found in the sinecure revenues of some of the deans and chapters;"‡ upon which the noble Lord observed, "That is a question upon which the House has not yet come to any decision."§ He would, however, say, that the House had come to a decision last Session, and had, he would not say appropriated church-rates, but by the increase of small livings given increased accommodation out of the revenues of which the hon. Gentleman had spoken. Now, so far as arguments deduced from authority went, had he not shown in support of his arguments, that they had the authority of the Commissioners' Report, bearing the signatures of five of his Majesty's present Ministers, that they had the opinion of the majority of the House of Commons—a* Hansard (Third Series) vol. xxxiv. p. 611.† Ibid. ‡Ibid. § Ibid.317 majority of 116, and that they had the opinion of his Majesty's Government unequivocally and expressly declared at so recent a period as June, 1836? What then were the new circumstances which had arisen to induce this change, evinced in the proposal that church-rates should be abolished, and that an equivalent should be derived from the revenues of the Church? He had voted, that the conscientious scruples of the Dissenters should be respected, and believing, that the issue from the consolidated fund, by relieving him from all personal and immediate charge, would give satisfaction, had voted in favour of the proposition suggested by Lord Althorp. He referred to that as a conclusive proof that he was not insensible to the inconvenience of the present system, and that he was ready to make a sacrifice for the purpose of respecting a conscientious scruple where it existed, but without injury to the religious interests of the rest of the community. If they consented to the proposed measure, were they sure that it would effect that degree of harmony and peace which was promised by those who originated it? He feared not. If he ever entertained that hope, he must say, that he should still view with the utmost regret the exemption from this pecuniary charge of all those who held and had purchased their property upon the understanding of supporting the Church and who were themselves members of that Church. He would not discuss what other measures might be devised for the purpose of effecting the object which was aimed at by Lord Althorp. If his Majesty's Government had adhered to their original proposal—if they had taken any other course than they had done, he might have supported them. They had condemned the existing system, and yet had permitted three years to elapse without providing another. Why should he entertain a different opinion in 1837 to that which, with the knowledge of the whole facts, the noble Lord had entertained in 1836? Did the conscientious scruples of the Dissenter arise from his being called upon to support the fabric or the establishment with which he was not in communion, and was it limited to that, or did it arise from his objection to the principle of an establishment. If it arose simply from the pecuniary charge, and was limited to that, and if exemption from that charge would indeed assuage all the 318 animosities and differences that existed between Dissenters and Members of the establishment, and would lay the basis of a permanent acquiescence in the principle of an establishment—then, no doubt, it would be wise to incur almost any sacrifice for the purpose of insuring that desirable end so far as Dissenters were concerned. It would not necessarily provide that, therefore, members of the establishment ought to be relieved from the charge to which they were subject. It would not necessarily imply that therefore it was wise to dissever the landed property of this country from all immediate connexion and interest with the fabric, where the landed property was held by men who had no conscientious scruples. He admitted it was difficult, in point of detail, to draw a distinction; but still, whatever that difficulty might be, there was an evil, in his mind, in separating altogether the connexion between the landed property of this country and the immediate parochial charges for church purposes, particularly when that property was held by Members of the establishment. With this view he had voted as he did in 1834, because if an equivalent were taken from the public revenue, the holders of landed property would in that case contribute, in some degree, to the charge from which they had been exempted; and if he had an assurance that peace and harmony would be the result, then should he again think it perfectly fair to take the course he had pursued in 1834, and assent to the principle of providing a sufficient sum for the permanent repair of the fabric out of the public purse. But if the objection of the Dissenter were not to the pecuniary charge, but amounted to, or was connected with, an objection in principle to an establishment, then he (Sir Robert Peel) must abandon the idea that tranquillity would be the result of such a measure, because the objection in principal to an establishment would still remain unmitigated by that concession. The hon. Member for Middlesex, in discussing this question the other night, had stated that the Dissenters at present put forward no other claim than that of exemption. He (Sir Robert Peel) wished to speak of them with that respect he had uniformly maintained towards them, as well by his acts as his expressions; but still he conceived it quite consistent with that feeling of respect fairly to inquire 319 what was the nature of the objection which they urged against the pecuniary grievance of Church-rates. If it was important for him to inquire whether the removal of that charge would in point of fact restore harmony between Dissenters and Churchmen, it was equally important to ask whether objection would not still be found to exist. The hon. Member for Middlesex had said, that the Dissenters would abandon any further claims for the present. Why, what satisfaction did the House and the country derive from their abandonment for the present of any further claim? Did that not rather add to the reasons for supposing that their objection was not confined to the pecuniary charge, but extended to the establishment itself? In a work recently published he found explicitly discussed the question— what would be the degree of satisfaction we might expect to arise from the abolition of Church-rates? It was there distinctly asked in the following words— "But let us suppose the Church rates abolished, and the Dissenters entirely relieved from any share in the cost of maintaining churches which their ministers are not allowed to occupy, and religious services of which they decline to avail themselves — will they be satisfied with the redress of this grievance? Our reply to this question shall be explicit. They will be satisfied with nothing short of the recognition of those principles upon which, in resisting this ecclesiastical impost, they take their stand." That principle, he apprehended, went to this extent, that the continuance of an establishment constituted a civil inequality between Churchmen and Dissenters, and that the latter never would be satisfied while the principle of an establishment existed; and although the tenure of tithe might be different from the tenure of Church-rates, and though one had its origin at an earlier time than the other, yet that the objection in principle would be equally applied. But he did not now address himself to Dissenters.
§ Sir Robert Peel
, The Eclectic Review. It did not, he admitted, profess to speak the opinions of all the Dissenters, but of a considerable majority of them. He now addressed himself, not to Dissenters, but to those members of the establish- 320 ment who were holders of property subject to this charge, and those he would ask, what proportion of that charge was borne by Dissenters? Of the landed property of this country he apprehended a very small proportion was possessed by Dissenters. He had seen estimates of different populous towns, one of which was that of Stroud, stating that the amount of church-rates collected from Dissenters, contrasted with the amount paid by members of the Established Church, was about l–12th. If that were the case in these towns, he apprehended that throughout the rural parishes of the country the proportion would be still smaller and it should be always borne in mind that there was one object to which Church-rates were applied, in respect of which Dissenters could claim no exemption— namely, the expenses connected with Church-yards. But supposing the charge borne by Dissenters should not exceed, in respect of the whole of the property, one-twelfth or even one-tenth, or any other reasonable proportion, what, after all, was the result of the proposition now made, as it bore upon the interests of the landed proprietors and owners of property who were in communion with the established Church? The proposal was, that from the charge of Church-rates they should be wholly exempt, that they should not contribute to any fund for the repairs of the Churches, as they would under Lord Althorp's plan, but that the charge which they now bore, against which they had no conscientious scruples, should be entirely transferred to the revenues of the Church. Now, doubtful as he was regarding the financial scheme of this measure, and doubtful as he was as to its effect in giving satisfaction and restoring peace to the Dissenter, he felt, in addition, that the proposition it made to members of the establishment, that they and their descendants should be altogether exempt from the charge, and that the revenues should be taken from the Church to supply the deficiency raised at once an insuperable objection to it. If it were proposed by them to the House of Lords, putting aside for a moment the case of the Dissenters, that from this charge, the permanence of which had been so long and confidently calculated upon, they should altogether relieve themselves, and throw it upon the Church, what would be said by their Lordships of the enormity of such a proposition? For 321 the sake of argument, let him admit the claim of the Dissenters. For the purpose of satisfying that claim, it was proposed that the whole property of the Church should be taken from its present possessors, and placed under the control of a board, in which the Government of the day must have a paramount interest—a proposal by which the deans, chapters, and bishops, would be made mere annuitants, in order that a certain fixed sum might be made available out of their property for the support of the fabric. They could not make that alteration without producing important political consequences. Was it possible exactly to calculate what might be its effect upon the stability and dependence of the Church of England, by thus severing it altogether from the landed property of the establishment?—by completely altering the tenure by which bishops held their property, and by converting them into State annuitants, who were to receive from the Government board fixed quarter salaries? The noble Lord had contended the other night honestly and vigorously for the maintenance of the right of the bishops to sit in the House of Lords; but when he should have created this great change in the tenure of their property—when he should have converted them into mere State annuitants, did he think it would then be so easy for him to maintain that right? And did he not think that by depriving the establishment of all connexion with the landed property of the country, and of all opportunity of establishing relations of equity with the proprietors of other property-did he not think that by so doing he would be striking a blow at the independent character and stability of the Church of England? To apply this to the case of any great landed proprietor who let his property on a lease for lives—suppose a noble Lord had 20,000l. a-year derived from land, let for a term of years on renewable leases; and suppose the State stepped in, and said, that the noble Lord's was an improvident method of settling his property; that the State accordingly interfered, let the leases run out, gave the property a new value, and assigned the noble Lord, by quarterly payments, the 20,000l. he had hitherto received,—supposing that case, the amount of the noble Lord's pecuniary revenue must be the same; but did not every man feel that the State would thereby be making a complete 322 alteration in the position and independence of that individual, and depend upon it they could not apply the same rule to the bishops of this country without in a corresponding degree affecting also the independence of their order, and the stability of the Church. He objected to this resolution as interfering with the property of the Church. But the main ground upon which he objected to it, and to which he felt confident no sufficient answer could be given, was this—that if by any plan of this kind it were possible, consistently with strict justice to the lessees to raise a profit out of the Church revenues there existed a prior claim a prior recognized claim, which they were bound to support; and he appealed to that House, he appealed to the gentlemen and noblemen of England, and particularly to those who were in communion with the establishment, and entertained no conscientious scruples —he appealed to all to attend to the case which he should make out. It was first important that they should consider what were the necessities of the Church Establishment. He asked them not to derive that information from any statement of his own, but to give their utmost attention to one which he had extracted from the Report before referred to. That Report stated, that there were no less than 3,528 benefices under 150l. per annum; that there were 130 of these benefices that had a population of more than 10,000; that fifty-one had a population of from 5,000 to 10,000; that 251 had a population of between 2,000 and 5,000, and that there were 1,125 having a population of between 500 and 2,000. It further stated, that even if there were no addition to be made to those having a population below 500, it would take no less a sum than 235,000l. per annum to raise all the benefices having a population of between 500 and 2,000 to the annual value of 200l. There were 2,878 benefices on which there was no house of residence, and there were 1,728 benefices in which the houses were either unfit for residence, or in which houses fit for the incumbents did not exist at all. And what was the probable extent of the fund out of which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to supply these deficiencies? Why, 235,000l. would be necessary for the purpose of increasing the present provision for the parochial clergy. The Report went on to say— 323We entertain a confident expectation that the amount of the fund will not be less than 130,000l. per annum, while to raise small livings containing populations of from 500 to 2,000 to the amount of 200l., the sum of 235,000l. per annum would be necessary.The House would not fail to observe, that he (Sir R. Peel) was not speaking as one who had resisted the reform of the Church; but he was now merely showing, that in consequence of the Commission appointed on his advice to the Crown, it appeared there was a hope of deriving from chapter property funds to the amount of 130,000l. per annum, to be applied to the increase of small livings, but still there would be a deficiency of 105,000l. a-year for that purpose alone. But the Church Commissioners in their Report, state, that this is by no means the most urgent demand on the part of the Church: they state—The most prominent, however, of those defects, which cripple the energies of the Established Church, and circumscribe its usefulness, is the want of Churches and ministers in the large towns and populous districts of the kingdom. The growth of the population has been so rapid, as to outrun the means possessed by the establishment of meeting its spiritual wants; and the result has been, that a vast proportion of the people are left destitute of the opportunities of public worship and Christian instruction, even when every allowance is made for the exertions of those religious bodies which are not in connexion with the Established Church. It is not necessary in this Report to enter into all the details by which the truth of this assertion might be proved. It will be sufficient to state the following facts as examples. Looking to those parishes only which contain each a population exceeding 10,000, we find that in London and its suburbs, including the parishes on either bank of the Thames, there are four parishes or districts, each having a population exceeding 20,000, and containing an aggregate of 166,000 persons, with Church-room for 8,200 (not quite l–20th of the whole), and only eleven clergymen. There are twenty-one others, the aggregate population of which is 739,000, while the Church-room is for 66,155 (not one-tenth of the whole), and only forty-five clergymen.This demand was as yet unanswered. He would not fatigue the House by stating all the details of the instances in which this pressing want appeared. The Commissioners, however observed,The evils which flow from this deficiency in the means of religious instruction and pastoral superintendence, greatly outweigh all other inconveniences resulting from any de- 324 fects or anomalies in our ecclesiastical institutions; and it unfortunately happens, that while these evils are the most urgent of all, and most require the application of an effectual remedy, they are precisely those for which a remedy can be least easily found. The resources which the Established Church possesses, and which can be properly made available to that purpose, in whatever way they may be husbanded or distributed, are evidently quite inadequate to the exigency of the case: and all that we can hope to do is, gradually to diminish the intensity of the evil.The Report then adverted to the efforts of the Incorporated Society for building and repairing Churches, and the Christian exertions of private individuals, and it then proceeded:—In addition to these efforts, many Churches have been built and endowed by pious and liberal individuals. Upon the whole we may state, that within the last twenty years additional Church-room has been secured for at least 600,000 persons, and some hundreds of additional clergymen have been stationed in populous districts which were before destitute of the advantages of pastoral care and instruction. But all that has been hitherto done in this way falls very short of the necessity of the case.He took his position on that Report. He would say, that all other considerations were subordinate—that the financial plans of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in this respect, were mere speculations; there might be doubts as to whether the authority of this or the other side of the House might be most relied on; but, he repeated, that the Report of these Commissioners, presented in March, 1836, supplied a case of crying necessity, for which it was the duty of a Christian Legislature to make provision. The Report showed, that the annual sum of 235,000l. would be required to raise the stipends of existing clergymen to moderate and decent competencies, and that if pluralities were abolished, and residence insisted upon, more would of necessity be required. He had shown that there were 4,800 curacies in which no fitting income was provided for a resident clergyman; he had shown to the House that there were within its reach four parishes, containing a population of 166,000 persons, but having Church accommodation provided only for 8,000, thus leaving 158,000 persons without the means of religious consolation and instruction. If these, then, were facts, and he should be enabled from the revenues of the Church 325 to realize any disposable sum, he would ask could any claim be put in competition with the necessities which arose from the case he had stated? Depend upon it, the members of the Established Church could not escape the odium which agreeing to this resolution would throw on them, if they left this evil unremedied. They had been told that it was difficult in detail, to separate the case of the Dissenter from that of the establishment, but the Dissenters contributed to the Church-rates one-tenth, while the Members of the establishment contribute nine-tenths. Disguise it as they might, the proposition amounted to this, that the members of the Established Church, the noblemen and gentlemen who held lands and property on which there was this legal, and in point of equity, this indefeasible claim, were to be altogether relieved of the great part of the impost, while the Dissenter was only relieved to so trifling an extent. Let him ask what was intended to be done in the case of Scotland? If there existed on the part of the English Dissenters, who contribute now to the repair of the fabric of the Church, a claim to be relieved on the grounds of conscientious scruples—if the English Dissenter felt no common interest with the Churchman in the maintenance of that Establishment which was to provide for the spiritual instruction of the rich and of the poor— what answer was to be given to the landed proprietor of Scotland, who dissented from the Established Church of that country, but whose property was subject to contributions for its support? Were the great landed proprietors of Scotland, who dissented from the Establishment there, to continue subject to the charge of supporting that Establishment? Were its members to relieve themselves and leave the charge on the Dissenters? Above all, in what position would his claim be, if, after the House had consented to exempt the lands of the Churchman in England it left upon the Dissenter in Scotland the charge of supporting a Church to the tenets of which he was opposed? Let also this be considered, that a large and most respectable portion of the Dissenting body in England had not urged upon the Legislature any objection to the continuance of this charge. The whole, or at all events a great part, of the Wesleyan body —a body influential from its high character, although dissenting from the Church, and 326 not joining in communion with it—felt a common interest in the maintenance of the Establishment as a national Church— rejoiced as much as did the Churchmen in witnessing the improvement made of late years in the characters of the ministers of the Church and the zeal with which they performed their duties, and felt so innately that the cause of Christianity was maintained by the recognized principle of a Christian Establishment, that they had come forward with no petitions urging to be exempt from the charge upon them to support the Church. Could the members of the Church of England — the landed proprietors of this country—the possessors of real and rateable property in it, easily consent, on account of the supposed difficulty of drawing a distinction between the Dissenters and themselves, to accept this relief at the expense of the Church, when the necessity of spiritual consolation, instruction, and accommodation had been proved to the extent and amount stated in the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to which he had referred? It was incumbent on the House well to consider this subject. The time would shortly arrive when the acts of the present Legislature would be subject to the scrutiny of a posterity judging the matter with far different views from those which some who heard him cherished. It had been proved that thousands and tens of thousands of the population of this country were now without the means of religious instruction, that they wanted and desired such instruction; it had been proved that churches were falling into decay, that glebe-houses were unrepaired, that some parishes were without a minister, and if it should appear to posterity that with these necessities before them the present Legislature consented to sell the property of the Church, to alienate it to other purposes, to cut off all hope now and for ever of deriving increased resources from Church property—above all, if it should be found by those who were to follow that in committing these irreparable evils the Churchmen of the present day had relieved themselves from an impost to which they were most justly subject, the House might depend upon it that a severe, and he must say, not an unrighteous judgment, would be exercised upon their acts if not upon their heads. If to meet these necessities a sum was to be taken from the Consolidated Fund, it would 327 relieve the landowners of the country from the duty of supporting the Church. Whether there should be a new apportionment of this charge on the land, making the owner and not the occupier contribute (a plan which he owned would, in his judgment, be justice) thus continuing the connexion between the landowner and the Church—whether it would be possible to reconcile such a plan with some means of giving relief to the Dissenters, without any invidious test being imposed,—whether it would be possible to draw a distinction between the cases of town parishes and rural parishes, in the latter of which the House might be assured the people did not wish to see the Church degraded—whether it would be possible to do these things, he was not prepared to say, but at least they were deserving the best consideration. His present object was to implore those in communion with the Church not to cut off altogether, by consenting to these resolutions, all hope of supplying from the revenues of the Church (if consistent with equity they might be found applicable) means of relieving the great wants and of curing the defects which the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners pointed out; and, above all, he would entreat the House to avert from itself that judgment which posterity would pronounce upon it, if those in communion with the Church were parties to a transaction from which they themselves, at the expense of that Church, were to derive pecuniary benefits.
§ Viscount Howick
said, that in rising to answer the right hon. Baronet he was sensible in no ordinary degree of the extreme difficulty of his situation. Unequal at all times to compete with that right hon. Gentleman, he felt particularly so after the very able and elaborate speech which the House had just heard. The complexity of the subject also greatly embarrassed him. Undoubtedly, however, if, before the speech of the right hon. Baronet, he were convinced of the expediency, the policy, and the justice of his right hon. Friend's proposition, that conviction was now infinitely increased. For, if the right hon. Baronet, with his acknowledged power and ability, and with the opportunity which he had of considering the subject, had been unable to produce more vital or important objections to the motion than those which the right hon. Baronet had stated, he felt, that how- 328 ever he might personally fail in bringing the case under the consideration of the House as it ought to be brought, that failure must in all fairness be attributed entirely to himself, and not to the want of weight or goodness in the case itself. He thought that he should trespass for the shortest time on the patience of the House if he followed the right hon. Baronet in the order of succession in which that right hon. Baronet had made his different statements. In pursuance of this plan he must first advert to the financial objections which the right hon. Baronet had made to his right hon. Friend's proposition. On that part of the subject, however, he thought it better to abstain from going into details. He would do so because among other reasons, there were some parts of the right hon. Baronet's statement which he confessed he was unable to follow, and thoroughly to comprehend; and because he was not so familiar with such subjects as to be able to speak of them without much reflection and consideration. There were some points, however, on which, without any postponement, he felt desirous of making some observations. In the first place, the right hon. Baronet contended, that if the average had been taken for a shorter period of years the result of the calculation would have been different. All that he (Lord Howick) wished to say on that topic was, that the calculations were made from the returns of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, founded on principles which the Commissioners had themselves laid down. He did not conceive it likely that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would be disposed to estimate the property of the Church too highly; and it would probably be found, that instead of having overrated the annual amount of fines derivable from Church leases, they had under-rated them, and that property of the Church under this head was much more considerable than his right hon. Friend had stated. At least, all the private information that had reached him, and all the facts which at various times he had become acquainted with, had invariably led him to the consideration, that it was undisputed hat the whole property of the Church, as shown in the papers which had been laid on the table, so far from being overstated, had been largely under estimated. But then the right hon. Baronet argued, that in bringing forward this resolution his 329 Majesty's Government had altogether omitted to make an important deduction from the whole amount of available property; that whilst they reckoned upon an income of 250,000l., they proposed to raise it by an improved system of management, but had not allowed for the expenses of that management. He must confess he was surprised the right hon. Baronet should have fallen into this mistake, because the amount of fines of renewals on leases, and the incomes of the bishops from that source, as returned to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, were, as he believed, calculated with this necessary exception or deduction; and therefore the amount returned was the net income and not the gross. Nay, he did not speak from mere belief, for he had had the good fortune to receive an account of the actual state of the case, in respect to the see of Durham, when returns having reference to a period of three years were given in. In those returns which formed the basis of his right hon. Friend's calculations, it appeared that the income of the see was 17,000l. a year. But it had since been ascertained that the gross income of the see was not 17,000l. a-year from fines, but 23,000l., of which 2,000l. might fairly be deducted for the amount of expenses. Let the House then form its opinion from these facts; and if it formed its judgment of the matter in dispute by the see of Durham, it must be admitted, that he Government had underrated their case; because the whole property of the see of Durham, instead of being 17,000l. was 21,000l., to which was to be added the amount quoted for expenses, 2,000l., making the gross income 23,000l. This, then was the principle upon which the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of Durham, had made the return of his revenue (and a most exemplary Prelate he was), and they had no right to suppose the other dignitaries would not make similar returns. He contended, therefore, that the Government had a right to assume the amount of income given in was not the whole sum arising from fines from the renewal of bishops' and deans and chapters' leases. The returns made were certainly not below the amount, because they did not represent the gross but the net income. But it must be plain, that the whole expense of management under the direction of a large number of persons acting on no system would far exceed the amount under 330 the projected united and central system, when they would have a few persons of superior description and station giving up all their time in promoting the object, in carrying out which they were to be employed; and he would say, that whether it were in the case of the union of parishes, of an individual parish, or of wholesale merchants or retail dealers, a beneficial result generally followed from conducting affairs on a great scale. Therefore, the right hon. Baronet had no right to make the deduction for expenses of management, which he had assumed. Then the right hon. Baronet said, that they had no right to assume twenty-four years' purchase as the existing value of leases of Church property. Very extensive inquiries had been instituted into this part of the subject, and the result had been to confirm all the opinions which the Government had originally entertained, and to show that the real amount of Church property was underrated. So with respect to the rate of interest, the right hon. Baronet assumed the rate of interest of seven per cent. was only applicable to property of a particular description, and not to landed property. He admitted, that as to house property the case was somewhat different as to the value. But with reference to the question of fines upon renewals of leases, he happened to have heard of a case in point, from the best authority, and he would state it to the House. An Archdeacon in the central part of England informed his lessee that he could not give him a renewal of his lease unless he paid him the sum of 1,500l. The party complained of these terms, and intended to resist the demand thus made upon him; but before doing so, he thought it proper to consult an actuary, to know what the value of his interest was. The actuary having looked at the documents which had been furnished him by the lessee, made a calculation, and said, "Renew by all means— close at once; because the real value for which you will obtain your renewal, if calculated upon the strictest rate of arithmetic, would be not 1,500l. but 2,900l." This case occurred in a central county of England; and he mentioned it as a strong fact to show, that under the existing laws of Church property, those who held these leases expected terms as advantageous as in the calculation which his right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) 331 had assumed. But there was another point to which the right hon. Baronet had adverted when he stated, that in those calculations which had been made, it had been assumed that the mines were an improving property, and that they had made no calculation for the large proportion of Church property which was included under that description.
§ Sir Robert Peel
had said, that the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had reserved himself upon this point, and before drawing any general conclusion, he should have made a proper allowance for this description of property.
§ Viscount Howick
was astonished at the statement of the right hon. Baronet, because it was obvious from the speech of the right hon. Baronet, that he had been getting access to information which those on the ministerial side of the House were anxious to see, but were refused all access to; and he certainly was much astonished that the right hon. Gentleman under all the circumstances, should not have been informed that the sum of 260,000l., upon which they proceeded, was independent of church property in mines; and if the right hon. Gentleman would refer to returns of ecclesiastical property laid before the Church Commissioners, he would find that whatever was received from fines, heriots, &c, was made a distinct head. The sum of 260,000l. referred to fines on real property, and there was a further item of 33,000l. additional, being the average amount of three years' fines received from mines, copyholds, and heriots,. So that if the property were improvable, the whole of that improvement was in addition to an available surplus, and, therefore, instead of making a deduction, this was to be added to the credit side of the Ministerial plan. After this statement, without following the right hon. Gentleman through his figures (which he thought he could show to be very erroneous)—yet upon the great points of that statement he would ask the House whether so much inaccuracy did not pervade it, that the right hon. Baronet had no right to assume that they should be losers to the amount of many thousand pounds. There could be no doubt that there was an immense value to be realised without any loss to the lessees. The right hon. Baronet had further endeavoured to show not only that Ministers were wrong in all 332 their calculations, but that their plan was opposed to the eternal principles of justice, and the sound principles of policy. If the resolution, or the plan which was to be founded on it were to be opposed to those principles, let the House reject it; and for his own part he would add only, that unless a clear case were made out, he hoped the House would reject the Motion. But if, as he anticipated, the case were established, he hoped the House would support the Resolution and allow the Bill to be brought in. If, on the contrary, the calculations which formed the ground work of the proposed measure failed, the Bill must also fail. If the principle on which they proceeded was a just one, the proper course for the House to pursue, was to assent to the resolution as the groundwork for the Bill; and when the Bill should once be introduced let the House scrutinize every provision which it might contain, and let hon. Members throw light upon the vast question to which it referred—but let them decide on the principle of the plan in the first place. The right hon. Baronet had adverted to the distinction which he (Lord Howick) had attempted the other evening to establish between tithes and church-rates. The right hon. Baronet no longer attempted to establish the principle of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, but admitted that there was an obvious distinction to be drawn between them. The right hon. Baronet still said, that all property was subject to church-rates; but he must go further, and would say, that in many cases this was not the fact; and here was a case which had been accidentally made known to him only yesterday, which he thought, as bearing on the question under discussion, was well worthy of the attention of the House. It showed, in his opinion, that the doctrine of immemorial usage and of Church-rates being a deduction to which property was always subject, was sometimes pushed too far. This was a case which actually took place in the instance of a friend of his, on whom he placed implicit reliance, and therefore of the correctness of the facts stated he had no doubt whatever. This person built a house within the last few years, in a parish in the immediate vicinity of London. Subsequently to doing it (it was but a small property) the parish in which it was situated chose to build two new Churches, In order to raise the 333 amount for building these edifices (which did not exist when he acquired his property), he was subjected to the payment of the rate levied, which was sixpence in the pound. Was that immemorial usage? True it was, that the evil was the effect of the Churches Building Act; and he would tell the right hon. Baronet, that if it were not for the impolitic and incautious mariner in which the provisions of that Act were applied, they never would have been placed in the present difficulty—they would never have heard of this cry for the abolition of Church-rates. Parliament, by its own deed—by coupling these charges with Church-rates, had created all the feeling which existed in the country, and caused those evils which were complained of; and now, unfortunately, they could not retrace their steps. But he would pursue the case a little further to which he had adverted. It was not of the mere paying sixpence in the pound for rates for Churches built since he had acquired the property, that the party in question complained. He complained (perhaps he did not sympathise in it) that the Church-rates which were in existence when he acquired this house were the old Church-rates; but then he said that a Church-rate was incurred for a new Church-yard, and yet when a person died in the complainant's house, he was charged 62l. for burying him, the whole amount of which sum went to the rector. As he had contended on a former evening, the Church-rates were, in common sense, nothing more than a tax upon property—a tax totally distinct in its character from tithes. Tithes were a deduction from property every one knew, but they would now be converted into a positive fixed amount, which, if not received by the Church, would go to the landlord, and not benefit the country at large. Tithes and Church-rates were two things so distinct, that there was no sort of analogy between them. An objection to the payment of tithes on the part of the landowner had no better foundation than the objection an individual would have, who having bought a property subject to a rent charge, afterwards objected to pay that rent charge. The right hon. Baronet had admitted that the present system was deeply injurious to the utility of the Church; he had admitted that in the year 1834, so convinced was he of the necessity of adopting some change, that he was prepared to assent to the measure at that 334 time brought forward by Lord Althorp "But still," said the right hon. Baronet' "the state under any circumstances, must provide for the Church, and therefore it is' that I object to the measure at present brought forward; because, under the operation of that measure, the Church will be made to maintain itself." He (Lord Howick) begged to dispute the latter pro-position of the right hon. Baronet. He maintained, that under the proposition of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the state would still continue to support the Church; at all events it would continue to support it quite as much as it could have done under the measure proposed by Lord Althorp. The right hon. Baronet, adverting to what fell from an hon. Gentleman on that (the Ministerial) side of the House on a former evening, when the subject of Church-rates was under consideration, said, "The argument used on that occasion was quite unfair, the precedent of the Irish Church does not apply to the English Church— there is no analogy between Vestry Cess in Ireland and Church-rates in England— there is a vast difference in the circumstances of the Church in the two countries." He wished that when they were discussing other topics the right hon. Baronet could as distinctly see the difference that existed between the two Churches. It was, however, necessary to introduce the subject of the Irish Church on that occasion. Seeing a practical evil existed in England—seeing that the keeping up the existing system interfered materially with the usefulness of the Church—seeing that it impaired its popularity in the estimation of the country generally—seeing that it tended to injure the cause of religion itself —seeing also, from another source, the means of making an adequate and satisfactory provision for what he admitted to be very essential purposes, he, for one, was fully prepared to adopt the change then proposed to them. The right hon. Baronet said, "If you are prepared to do this, why was the Report laid before the House, signed by five Cabinet Ministers, in which it was stated, that in the opinion of the Commissioners it would be inexpedient that episcopal property should be improved in the manner proposed? If the right hon. Baronet looked well at the Report, he would see, that the grounds assigned for not attempting the proposed improvement of episcopal lands was, that 335 it would transfer the whole interest of that description of property into the hands of the then holding lessess. It bad been argued that the present available amount of Church-rates was not sufficient for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, and yet an attempt to render that income more secure and valuable was opposed by those who professed to be the friends of the Church. He supported the plan of his noble Friend in 1834, because he thought it would induce the Church to make further advances in reform. His right hon. Friend had endeavoured to follow the example which Mr. Pitt set, in reference to Crown property; and he had considered how far it was practicable to interfere with Church-rates, not only without diminishing the present available resources of the Church, but how he could increase them, and find means for dispensing with the levying of Church-rates at the same time; and the result of that investigation was—the scheme which had been presented by his right hon. Friend to the House for its adoption. The right hon. Baronet had stated that he did not think it necessary that he should suggest any alternative to the measure proposed. It certainly was not expected that gentlemen, acting in opposition to the Government, should bring forward any matured measure to supply the place of one to which they objected; but at the same time it was usual that they should state some general principles upon which their objections rested, or upon which they would wish to see the measure proceed. The right hon. Baronet told them that the measure would not satisfy the Dissenters; that they would demand a great deal more; and that this concession once made, would lead the way to many more. He confessed that this was a mode of argument that always created a great deal of suspicion in his mind. He could never regard it as a sound argument to say, "I will not do this thing, even though it be good, because hereafter, perhaps, other things may be asked that I shall not wish to grant." He had never known one instance where the concession of what was just and right had led to evil afterwards. It was true that the hon. Member for Middlesex might have alluded to other measures which the Dissenters would wish to see adopted; but the hon. Member for Middlesex, they all knew, was apt—he was sure hon. Gentleman would excuse 336 him for saying so—to be exceedingly indiscreet in the language he used. All that he entreated of the House was, that the present measure might be considered on its own separate merits, and without any reference to the fancied measures that were to follow it. If it were good in itself, it ought to be adopted. What was the real justice or injustice of the case? In most of the large towns it appeared the Churchmen and Dissenters were both of opinion that the system of church-rates was not the most expedient means of maintaining the fabric of the Church; and that it was highly injurious to the cause of religion. Was not that a sufficient ground for interference, and for the introduction of some such measures as that then proposed. The right hon. Baronet said, it would be dangerous to the Church, because it would reduce the Bishops to mere annuitants. No church could be built solidly upon any other foundation than the affections and respect of the people, a general sense of its importance to the best interests of the inhabitants of the country, and a feeling of gratitude for the service it had performed. If that were the real foundation on which the Church of England rested, and which he for one believed it did, there could be no doubt that it would stand unshaken for ages yet to come. If so, then, if there were no other object in this measure than the taking from the Bishops those functions which were now imposed upon them, of immediately managing the property from which their incomes were derived, it would, in his opinion, be conferring an immeasurable advantage as well upon them as upon the Church itself. They had often heard of the extreme weight of the Bishops' duties. Some, indeed, of the greatest ornaments of the Church, had gone so far as to say that, looking at the duties to be performed, the number of Bishops was very insufficient; and they had over and over again been told that the sacred functions of the Bishops were amply sufficient for the greatest mortal strength and greatest mortal ability. He held in his hand a pamphlet, written in a spirit highly approved, by a clergyman of the Established Church—and although he differed from him on many points, yet he must say, it was distinguished by an excellent and commendable spirit which he should wish to see more frequently emulated. He 337 said, "No bishop, whatever may be the strength of his mind, can possibly discharge his duties in the manner he would desire; he has to exhort young ministers —confirm children—visit the clergy—and numberless other spiritual duties." The pamphlet, went to show, in a manner that he thought quite conclusive, that if any additional leisure could be granted to the Bishops for the discharge of their sacred functions an immense advantage and benefit would be conferred upon the Church; and further on it was argued, in a very able and masterly but temperate tone, that one of the chief faults of the Church of England was, that it partook too much of the worldly and secular character. He wished he could honestly say, that he thought there was no ground for that statement. If the Bishops, instead of having their time, their thoughts, and their attention distracted by the management of their landed estates—if, instead of being in a situation full of temptation even to the very best of men— if, instead of this, they received a well assured permanent income, and had leisure afforded them, apart from all worldly concerns, to devote their whole energy and talent to their pastoral duties, it would, in his opinion, be an immense benefit to the Church, and to religion. Had the right hon. Baronet considered the temptations that the best of men were exposed to from the manner in which Bishops' lands were at present administered? A Bishop entering upon his see found his income totally unsettled, and might at first be in the receipt of absolutely nothing; he found, at the same time, a natural disposition on the part of the lessee to drive the hardest possible bargain with him. Here at once was a ground of dissension, of discontent, perhaps of discord. Again, as every lease fell in there was a contest about the amount of the fine to be paid for its renewal. Here was another ground of discontent. Here there were temptations to provide for a family by taking advantage of the temporary power attached to the see. Here was the temptation to the young Bishop to run his life against that of the lessee. There was the temptation to the old Bishop to conclude on any terms with the lessee, and to make a renewal rather than run the chance of leaving the profit of the fine to be reaped by his successor. Would any man tell 338 him that these details of worldly business were not great temptations in the way of men whose thoughts and energies should be wholly devoted to their pastoral duties? More than that, would any man tell him that the Bishops of the English Church had never been suspected of going beyond an honest and decent regard to their own interests, and the interests of their successors? Would any man tell him that there had not been accusations against the bishops of providing for their families in a manner not creditable to them either as Christians or honourable men? He did not say, that these accusations were true—he trusted and believed that in some instances there might have been a foundation for them, in the great mass they were altogether groundless. But the very circumstance that such things could be said and believed even for a moment was deeply injurious to the whole of the Church, and, more than anything, perhaps, would tend to alienate the affections of the people from their clergy. He maintained, then, that it was not an advantage to the Church that the present state of things should continue. The right hon. Baronet said, that under the existing system the bishops had an opportunity of acquiring the affection of their tenantry by the lenity they showed towards them. The bishops no doubt had opportunities of evincing their lenity and liberality, but what was the result? Did they thereby gain the affections of their tenants? Were the lessees generally satisfied with the terms on which their leases were renewed? In nine cases out of ten he would venture to say the Church lessee complained of the terms on which he held his lease. He was aware that the right hon. Baronet had pointed out instances in which great improvements had taken place; and he believed that to be the case; but he thought that if ever a system was ingeniously contrived for making parties quarrel, and setting them by the ears, it was the system of leasing Church property, the leases being renewable on payment of fines. But he would say more—not with reference to the bishops indeed, because his observations would not apply so particularly to them—but in reference to ecclesiastical corporations, he would say, that he had known cases in which the power held by them had been used in a manner which made the Church most unpopular. Was any Gentleman ignorant of the fact that there was no 339 county in England probably in which dissent was more prevalent than in the county of Durham? Why was dissent so prevalent in that county? Not because there was any deficiency of wealth on the part of the Church. No one would assert that. No; the great prevalence of dissent, and the great unpopularity of the Church in that county, arose merely from this circumstance—that there was an immense mass of property which belonged to the Church, and a perpetual collision between the lessees and the owners of that property arising from the unfortunate tenure on which the property was held. He, for one—not being altogether ignorant of that county—firmly believed, that the tenure by which that property was held, to a considerable degree explained the extent to which dissent had proceeded there. He came at length to the last argument of the right hon. Baronet, which was, that if we realised any surplus, to that surplus there was a prior claim; and the right hon. Baronet mentioned as constituting that prior claim the necessity of providing further means for affording religious instruction to the poorer classes of this country, and for the augmentation of small livings. He believed there did exist a necessity for much being done to furnish religious instruction to the poorer classes of society, and he should be very far indeed from withholding his assent to any proposition for that purpose. On the contrary, he was not less anxious than the right hon. Baronet that steps should be taken to extend that religious instruction which was so essential to the well-being of the people. But he begged to remind the right hon. Baronet that, even supposing nothing more were done in the way of removing the sinecures of the Church than what was proposed by the noble Secretary of State (Lord John Russell) last Session, yet in that case a very considerable fund might be found for that purpose. But beyond that, the right hon. Baronet himself had shown that Parliament, and society generally, by private subscriptions, had already done much. The right hon. Baronet had read the report of the Commissioners, showing that a great number of new Churches had of late been built, and Ministers provided for them; and that great success had attended the efforts which had been made to extend religious instruction among the people. He rejoiced at that, but what was the inference to be drawn from 340 it. Why, that neither Parliament nor the country, when a case of necessity was shown, would be slow to come forward to provide the means of meeting it, He, for one, would promise the right hon. Baronet that whenever he would digest the means of removing what he conceived to be a crying evil in this country, and would bring forward a plan for extending religious instruction in the three kingdoms, he was perfectly prepared to consider those means, and adopt whatever might appear to be required. But since the report of the Commissioners was drawn up, much more had been accomplished by private subscriptions. He believed that in the metropolis alone a sum exceeding 100,000l. had been raised by private subscription for the purpose of Church-building—and to this fund the Duke of Bedford and the hon. Member for Middlesex had most magnificently contributed; a circumstance which ought not to be kept out of view, especially when Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House, were accused of holding opinions inimical to the Church. But if private means were insufficient, let the right hon. Baronet make out a case, and propose other means to supply the deficiency, and if the means proposed were not liable to any serious objection, he would promise the right hon. Baronet his most cordial support. But before they applied any additional revenue for the purpose of extending religious instruction among the people, they were bound in justice to the Church itself to show that they had done all that was possible in the way of correcting existing abuses. He felt, that at present, neither he nor the right hon. Baronet had any case to go to the country with and demand a grant in substitution of Church-rates before he had done whatever was possible in the way of removing those existing abuses, by the application of a surplus, merely because there was another purpose to which that surplus might be applied. He agreed in the principle laid down by his noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, with reference to the Irish Church Temporalities Act, that any surplus derivable from Church property was applicable for Church purposes by Parliament. He did not consider the sum of 260,000l. surplus to be a diversion of the existing revenues of the Church, because it was by the means proposed to be adopted a positive augmentation of those revenues to that 341 amount His noble Friend, in the case of the Irish Bill, thought it would be exceedingly wrong to apply any surplus in any other manner than for the benefit of the Church; but, at the same time, he was of opinion, that Parliament had a right to consider how that surplus might best be applied to some ecclesiastical object. So, when he looked at the question now before them with the same view, namely, that of applying the surplus to some Church object, it struck him that there was no object to which he could so usefully apply that surplus fund as to the abolition of Church-rates; because the continual agitation caused by levying those rates not only in, but out of Parliament, the bitterness of feeling it excited both in Churchmen and Dissenters, the animosities which it created, were such an injury to the Church that it was absolutely necessary it should be removed. But he did not think it could be effectually removed by their now adopting (whatever might have been the case in 1834) the plan of his noble Friend on the opposite side. He was afraid that the time was gone by when they could hope for that measure to be successful. In cases like this, they all knew that time made the whole difference. Circumstances since 1834 rendered it impossible, with a view to the real interests of the Church, that the plan of 1834 could now be successful. Then there was no other resource to which they could turn, except that to which his right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) proposed to turn, and he did think that, by applying to that resource, he should be doing a benefit to all parties. If on no other account, the measure would, on that account alone, deserve the most favourable consideration of the House. Although the right hon. Baronet had very slightly touched upon the subject of the lessees, he thought it necessary to say a few words with reference to their interest. He did not collect from the speech of the right hon. Baronet, whether he proposed to avail himself of the means by which Church property might be improved or not. He was peculiarly desirous to know, whether the right hon. Baronet intended to avail himself of this property in any manner or not. He was upon the whole, however, disposed to consider that, as related to the property of the bishops, the right hon. Gentleman did not; because his objection to make the bishops annuitants implied, that it 342 was not intended to adopt any means of taking their landed property from under their control. But, perhaps, with respect to the property of the deans and chapters, it might be different. He thought it would be for the interest of the lessees holding property under deans and chapters to consider whether there was any prospect whatever of obtaining a measure better calculated to promote their interest than the present. Let the lessees reflect, that if the measure proposed last Session, with respect to ecclesiastical sinecures were passed into a law, there would be no longer that interest in the lessons which now compelled them to grant renewals of leases of chapter property; because that property would then come into the hands of a corporation, which, instead of having an immediate personal interest at stake as to the disposal of the property, would have no such interest; the probability, therefore, would be, that very speedily some mode of management would be adopted, which would have the effect of depriving the lessees of those advantages which they now possessed. But independently of that, he was prepared to contend, however paradoxical it might sound, that the lessees would be gainers by the measure of his right hon. Friend, in common with the Church and with the State. It had been stated, indeed, in another place, that it was quite impossible that four gentlemen should sit down at a whist table and all rise up winners. Certainly that seemed to be a very clear and very obvious proposition. But he must say, that the case of a game of cards supplied no analogy to Church lands. He was quite convinced, that there was a very large value lying dormant in Church property which might be called into active existence, and that, by the measure pro, posed—without prejudice to the lessees but with positive advantage to them, and with advantage to the country, a large surplus might be realised and appropriated with beneficial effect to the Church itself. He would appeal to any Gentleman who was acquainted with Church property held under lease, whether they did not find that the buildings were dilapidated, that there was no planting, no draining, no permanent improvement — whether, in short, the land was not almost universally a century behind other lands with regard to its state of cultivation? He would say, then, that it was most practicable, without 343 injury to the lessees, by following an improved system of cultivation, to produce a large additional value to the benefit of all parties. He felt that he had trespassed upon the attention of the Committee much too long, and he was perfectly sensible that he very inefficiently attempted to follow the right hon. Baronet through all the details of his able speech: but, before I conclude, said the noble Lord, I cannot avoid calling upon hon. Gentlemen not to judge of the measure proposed by his Majesty's Ministers from the character given of it by the right hon. Baronet in the very eloquent conclusion of his speech. Do not let the inhabitants of the country be tormented by the picture which he has drawn of Churches falling down, of parishes left deserted, of a total cessation of every attempt to increase the income of small livings or supply the means of removing the want of that religious instruction which now exists in our large towns. Do not let the country judge of our measure by this character. Let it regard the plan, rather as one which will supply efficient means for maintaining the fabrics of the Church, and of completely and satisfactorily insuring all those objects to which Church-rates are now applied; at the same time, that it will remove the serious and continual contentions and disputes which now exist in all the cities and towns of this country, and which, I am sorry to say, are beginning to take place in not a few of our agricultural districts. Moreover, it must be regarded as a measure for advancing the national wealth, by calling into play the dormant capabilities of Church property, and increasing to an enormous extent the value of Church land; as a measure, too, for rendering the income of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of this country secure to them free from all suspicion of improper practices—and from all temptation to consult their own interests at the expense of those of their successors, or those of the lessees; —a measure, finally, to enable those dignitaries to devote their whole time to the discharge of the important duties which are intrusted to them. Let the House, and let the country be assured, that this measure is honestly and sincerely intended to promote the welfare of the country, to give permanency to the establishment, and extend the utility of the Church.
§ Sir Robert Peel
begged to explain one point. The noble Lord, in the course of 344 his speech, had paid him the compliment to suppose that he was in possession of a great deal of information which had been withheld from his Majesty's Ministers. He dared say, that when he should get possession of additional information, he should be able to make a better speech than he had made; but he was really not aware of possessing one tittle of information which was not in possession of his Majesty's Government, and of every other Member of the House, as it was all contained in papers already laid on the table, and printed for the use of the House.
§ Mr. Granville Harcourt Vernon.
* The powerful appeal which has been made to our reason this night, by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, has not, in my judgment, been at all weakened by the arguments of the noble Lord. With regard to the financial branch of the speech of the right hon. Baronet, I shall not dwell much on that subject. His calculations are entitled to the serious consideration of the House, and their ingenuity has sufficed to shake the conviction which I own that I previously entertained that, in this respect, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not over-rated the result of his proposed operations. I shall be much deceived if the difference between the value of the property as heretofore enjoyed by the lessees of the Church, and that which will be left to them under the proposed measure, is not at least as much as that for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken credit; —but I care not whether I am right or wrong in these calculations, because I am desirous of resting the question mainly on those higher grounds, on which the right hon. Baronet placed it in the other branches of his most able and convincing speech. Without, therefore, demanding the assent of others, or at once conceding my confidence to the calculations which he has submitted upon this subject, I will only affirm, that the statements of the right hon. Baronet, from their weight and importance, well deserve the careful consideration of every Gentleman who heard them, and were calculated deeply to impress those hon. Gentlemen, even, whose attachment to the interests of the Established Church may be supposed to be less warm than that of Gentlemen who sit on these (the Opposition) benches. I have many means, as perhaps the House* From a corrected report,345 is aware, on account of some domestic connexions of my own who are distinguished members of the Establishment, of knowing the value of Church property. This is a subject to which I have devoted much attention, and upon which, I believe I am entitled to say, I possess considerable information. Now, Sir, I am not disposed altogether to differ from two of the propositions which were laid down in the very tem prate and honest speech of the noble Member for Northumberland. In the first place, as to what regards the beneficial character of the leases enjoyed by the lessees of Church property. There is a general tendency to suppose, that the Church has come much nearer the real amount of value, in the consideration demanded for these leases, than in point of fact the liberality of the Church has required. One very striking instance of this species of insensibility on the part of lessees to the beneficial terms allowed them in these leases, occurred not many years ago, in the case of a great philosopher distinguished for his own liberality, as well as for his high and various attainments,—I mean the late Sir Joseph Bankes. I have heard this instance mentioned, by a very eminent connexion of mine in the Church, as a striking exemplification of how little gratitude was elicited from lessees for the great advantages derived by them from their holdings. It was a question of a renewal for life, and the lands were held by Sir Joseph. The Archbishop of York required, I think, the sum of 900l. Sir Joseph Bankes objected, because for the last renewal for one life, his Grace had received only 600l. It was agreed between the parties to refer the matter to Mr. Morgan, the actuary of the Equitable Assurance office; and both of them said, that they would abide by the result of that reference. Mr. Morgan decided that the proper sum to be received by the Archbishop for the proposed renewal at five per cent. interest (on which calculation Church leases for lives are usually renewed) was 1,800l. From that period, the Archbishop has been very much in the habit (I think, almost universally) of applying to Mr. Morgan for his estimates as to the terms on which renewals should take place. Gentlemen smile, I perceive; but they must understand that the Archbishop has had many other renewals before him which he has not referred to an actuary; as in cases where 346 the lives in being have been under fifty years. In this case of Sir Joseph Bankes, the two other lives being very old, the terms proposed were a very great bargain for him. The archbishop has taken advantage of the information thus accidentally acquired, though not to the full extent, as he has always allowed various deductions as a boon to the lessees. With regard to leases for lines, it is the general practice to renew at five per cent., and in leases for terms of years at nine per cent. That is the usual custom, I believe, with the Prelates of the establishment. What the working of this practice on the principle of the measure may be I do not know, as it depends on the proportion of the leases for lives to those for years; but my conviction is, that a very considerable sum would be found to be capable of being raised by carrying into effect the plan of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But do I say, therefore, that that measure is either just or politic, — that by any "hocus-pocus," except in the few cases of unimproved property suggested by the noble Lord, any fund or capital is created which did not before exist? Take the instance, to which I have before adverted, of Sir Joseph Bankes and the archbishop; and suppose, that that case had occurred subsequent to the passing of the present resolution. The fine of the Church having been previously estimated at the minor sum, the archbishop would have been precluded from obtaining the difference; nor would the lessee have had the benefit of it, as before. Although the Church never, in point of fact, enforced the full amount which it had a right to demand on these renewals—it undoubtedly always possessed that right. It was a property, thought not in esse, still always in posse; and that it was not enforced was merely matter of grace and liberality. The next proposition upon which I am disposed very much to concur with the noble Lord (Howick) is that with regard to the management by the prelates, and the chapters, of the property held under the Church two years ago. I should myself have said, that Parliament had no more right, by a declaratory resolution, or otherwise, to interfere between bishops and their lessees, or between deans and chapters and their lessees, than between any private land-owners and their tenants. The Duke of Devonshire, or Earl Fitzwilliam, may be a good 347 landlord; but, suppose, for some electioneering purposes, or other reason, his estates are badly administered, and his denial to grant leases operates to prevent improvement in the system of cultivation, sould we have any right to say, if such were the case, that Parliament had any pretext to interfere—to create a capital, by a different management of their estates, which did not exist before—and to have the appropriation of that capital? I do, however, now feel myself under some difficulty; and I confess that I think some measure should be had recourse to (certainly not that proposed by his Majesty's Government) which would have the effect of relieving the bishops, for the future, from a situation into which they have been led partly by the agency of the noble Secretary of State for the Home Department. The Church Commission, partly composed of Members of the Government, has imposed upon the Prelates a duty which they do not like. Take, for instance, the case of the Bishop of Durham, and other Prelates situated like him, who will be required to superintend the collection and administration of the whole revenues of their respective sees after you have already taken away, by Act of Parliament, a portion of those revenues from them. It is unfair that you should impose upon these Prelates all the unpopularity that may be consequent upon their raising their leases, while you diminish their incomes to an enormous extent, and exact of them the administration of funds which are to be realised not for their own profit. I cannot conceive how such a course can be looked upon as being either a just or a proper one. My own opinion is, that the funds which have been allotted to the bishops are perfectly ample; and if, by some fresh and more beneficial administration of ecclesiastical funds—if, for example, by the transfer of the management of these stales to the Commissioners for the administration of Queen Anne's Bounty (a Board of which all the Prelates, I believe, are members)—if, from this administration of the property of the Church by an ecclesiastical corporation for ecclesiastical purposes, any surplus should be found to arise, I should be perfectly satisfied that that surplus should go to the promotion and extension of the services of the Church at large. I am aware that his Majesty's Government, in shaping this measure, have taken care to 348 make it popular, by availing themselves of the experience of former Governments, and by combining, on behalf of its principle, all the elements which may be most likely to conduce to its success; and they have done wisely in their generation. I admit, that when Lord Grey's Government brought forward a measure respecting church-rates, which was introduced into this House under the sanction of the present Earl Spencer, I cordially supported it, because I thought it was based on principle. The present measure is baited only with popularity. The parties who are the great complainants against church-rates are those to whom any tax is obnoxious; and of that class there are always plenty ready to throw up their hats in clamorous approbation of any proposition of this sort. In the next place, (though I mean not to say it invidiously), this plan of his Majesty's Government is obviously meant as a peace-offering—a bribe, in short, to the Dissenters. Then, again, there are many professing friends of the Established Church who are very fond of displaying their magnanimity by voting away the property of the Establishment to other uses, especially if it can be converted to their own benefit; a great many who have so much declaimed against the right (to quote that hackneyed phrase) "of doing what they like with their own," that they seem at last to have fallen upon the illogical conclusion that they are entitled "to do what they like" with what "is not their own." An apposite illustration of the just limits of this principle may be drawn from a passage which I have met with, in some book of memoirs, relative to an occurrence which took place between King James the 1st and two of his bishops, who were discussing the right of the King to deal with the property of the Church. The King asked one of the Prelates, Bishop Neal, whether it was not in his, the King's power, to dispose of their property for State purposes. "God forbid!" replied Bishop Neal, "but that your Majesty should, for you are the very breath of our nostrils!" Thereupon the King turned to the other Bishop, I forget his name—[Mr. W. Wynn: Bishop Andrews,]—yes, Andrews; and required his opinion as to that doctrine. The Bishop hesitated; the Monarch insisted. At length, said Bishop Andrews, "I know not what to tell your Majesty of others; but, at any rate, you may take my brother 349 Neal's, for he freely offers it to you" I see something of the Stuart spirit about the present plan. It is to be a voluntary act on the part of the Church, and of the lessees of Church property—only under strong compulsion. If I was in the place of the Stuart, I would adopt the advice of the courtier Andrews, and deal with the property of those only who are so ready to expose to prejudice and injury the property of the bishoprics. Sir, I am here desirous of observing, that I do not wish to say anything in disparagement of the Dissenters. My own feeling is, that we owe great obligations to the Dissenters in spirituals. I think they have very usefully supplied the gaps which have been left by our own Church, either from the occasional apathy of lukewarm ministers, from its insufficient resources, or from ineffective machinery. I think, indeed, that we are under mutual obligations. I conceive that the Dissenters owe much to our Church, for having set up, and so long maintained, a standard of sound morality, of pure divinity, and extensive learning: on the other hand I am free to confess, with that degree of ingenious shame, perhaps, with which we take blame to ourselves for faults which we might have obviated—that the Dissenters have very usefully stimulated that zeal which may, not unnaturally be supposed to flag, sometimes in an establishment, reposing under the easy security of its endowments. Competition has thus produced a useful rivalry between the respective ministers in exercising the incessant duties of their high profession. But, whilst I bear this willing testimony to the efforts of those excellent Dissenters who have confined their differences from Establishment within the bounds of legitimate dissent (that is, as to spiritual matters), I must add, that I think an earnest solicitude about temporal matters has too frequently interposed to interrupt, on their part, that holy and auspicious rivalry which might otherwise have continued to work harmoniously in promoting the "Glory of God in the highest; and on earth, peace and goodwill towards men," But the fames of religious discord have been kindled by selfish agitators. Discontent has been fanned, in order to minister to objects of political excitement. Conscientious scruples have been studiously suggested, where they might else have lain dormant; sordid feelings have 350 been called into action in the place of religious convictions; and the pure waters of spiritual zeal have been rendered turbid and embittered by the infusion of worldly selfishness and sectarian pride. Have there been no motives, and no rewards, for this species of agitation within our recent experience? It must be notorious to every one who has marked the temper of public meetings, and the tone of the debates of Parliament during the last few years, what has been its object and its success. I do not agree with the noble Lord, the Member for Northumberland, that if it had not been for the discontent excited by the building of the new Churches under the recommendation of the Church Commissioners, we should have heard nothing of this outcry against Church-rates. Why, Sir, the new Churches were erected for the accommodation of the poor, on account of the discontent which had been created by the want of them. Yet it is true that the additional charges which they have caused, furnished an ostensible grievance to the aroused Dissenter and the shabby churchman. We have had great political agitation mixed up with these topics, and no unskilful management devoted to the attainment of its objects. Seats in Parliament have been cheaply purchased, by adroitly influencing these passions, by strenuous denunciations of this species of grievance, and by unhesitating pledges to procure its redress. Again, it is almost within every Gentleman's experience, that professional men have found, in similar declamations, the path to exclusive and extensive practice. Again, there have been delegates appointed by the various classes of sectarians, who have discovered themselves to be invested with a personal consequence, on that account, in the eyes of their brethren, and with honourable, perhaps profitable, employment. Dissenting ministers have been enabled to flatter their congregations into larger and more liberal contributions, by urging their claim of equality with the Church, and by descanting on their importance, their power, and their rights. I say this, because I do not think that the Dissenters, from what I have seen, do, as a body, entertain these conscientious scruples to the payment of Church-rates. What has been the feeling of the ablest and most pious men among them on this subject? If Dissenters, generally, cherished this conscientious objection, of which we have heard so 351 much, to the payment of Church-rates, we should suppose, at least, that it must have existed among them in the days of a Watts, a Doddridge, or of the late Adam Clarke? One would have supposed that this objection must have been insisted on in the writings of those good and eminent men. But the fact is not so. Now, from my own knowledge of, and occasional intercourse with, some of the best Dissenters living, I can state, that so far from their having interfered to protest against Church rates, they deprecate—as the distinguished men I have just named did deprecate in their time—any temporal interference on this subject. It is known to some hon. Gentlemen who hear me, that I have the honour to hold a high ecclesiastical office in the province of York; and, from my experience in that capacity, I can speak with some degree of practical knowledge on this subject. In the speech which he delivered last week, on this question, the Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted some instances in which the payment of Church-rates has been resisted. The first case of this description which he selected, was that of Sheffield. There, the Church was remarkably well served, and the clergyman very popular—(a fact which is to be noted, because in some of the cases of new Churches, where the service has been less-ably performed, the Church-rates have caused discontent; but the new Churches in Sheffield have been ably served, and well attended, and popular). The Churches in Sheffield which have been built under the new Act, the Church-building Act, have been found to work exceedingly well, and from the pew-rents alone, in each of them, a very handsome salary has been raised for the ministers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer quotes this as the first instance in which a strong opposition was manifested to the payment of Church-rates. No doubt it was very well judged of him to cite, if he could, some striking instance of a popular resistance to these rates, prior to the agitation of those great; political questions which have lately, in such rapid succession, occupied the public mind. Now, what was the case of Sheffield? I advert to it because it was the only case, among those to which the right hon. Gen-the man referred that preceded the passing of the Reform Bill. The case was this: there was a fund already vested in the hands of the Church burgesses of Sheffield, and the resistance in that instance arose, 352 not from the Dissenters alone, but from all the rate payers in common. They said "the Church burgesses ought not to be at liberty to apply their funds at their own discretion, to embellish the Church, or provide for it such luxuries as organs, or other similar objects of ornament or convenience,—but they ought, first, to pay the proper demands on account of the support, and repairs of the building." The next case was that of Attercliffe. That came before me, in the Ecclesiastical Court of York, as Chancellor of the Diocese; and I decided for the rate. In that case, the rate was not abandoned (as was erroneously stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer), but, on the contrary it was all paid. The Church of Attercliffe had consisted of a miserable dilapidated Chapel. The Duke of Norfolk (I speak it to his honour, —and I mention this as another pregnant proof of the feeling actually existing on this question, among conscientious Dissenters)—gave a piece of ground, on which the Church was built by the Church-building Commissioners; and contributed, I think, a pecuniary subscription also, for the purposes of additional decoration to that edifice. It was served by a clergyman,—not the worse, allow me to observe, for being one of that class who are called evangelical preachers. That service, I must say, from that day to the present, has become, under his ministry, more and more popular in the parish. But the case in which Church-rates were refused at Attercliffe arose out of the resistance of a Captain Flower, who had only become a resident in the parish just before, and who has already quitted it, in consequence of an altercation between him and the churchwardens. When the case came before me, I found that one of the most active supporters of the rate was an eminent Dissenter of the same parish; and I must repeat, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was quite in error, in stating that that rate was not paid. The whole of it was collected. But the right hon. Gentleman also took occasion to say, that the costs of the legal proceedings were enormous. Why, Sir, the House will allow me to state, that it was one of the most aggravated cases of vexatious and dilatory resistance which could by possibility occur. The greatest efforts were made on the part of those who supported the rate, to accelerate the proceedings. The defendant had procured a subscrip- 353 tion, and thus had other people's money to play with; and thus the opposition to the rate was persisted in for two years. It was then felt by the friends of the Church, that, pending this suit in the Ecclesiastical Court, it would be better to suspend any further rate, which might be similarly contested. A subscription was, therefore, raised for supplying the services of the Church; and this practice, having been adopted from a temporary difficulty, has been persevered in. But a gentleman, who has taken a deep interest in these proceedings, writes me word from the spot that he has not the slightest doubt, that if he were to propose a rate to-morrow, it would be carried in the vestry by a large majority. Several cases of a similar nature have been tried in the court over which I preside, with similar success. I have seen so much, however, of the evil growing out of these cases, that I am very anxious that some law should be passed which, by judiciously altering that which now exists on the matter of Church-rates, might remove those impressions which unfortunately exist in some parts of the country. If the Church-rates had been originally placed under the cognizance of the common law, instead of the ecclesiastical law, I do believe, from what I have seen and known of the most populous towns of Yorkshire, that the hostility to their payment, which has since been manifested by Dissenters in those districts would never have been exhibited. The dislike of Church-rates has usually arisen from some hostility to the churchwarden; some suspicion of jobbing on his part, or some payment which the parishioners have thought proper to resist as illegal or exorbitant. If the measure which was introduced into this House by the present Lord Spencer, for the regulation of Church-rates, had passed this House, which it would have done, in my opinion, but for the part that was adopted in reference to it by the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Wilks), it would have given, ere this, universal satisfaction, and restored peace and tranquillity, on this subject, in every parish of the country. Since that period, however, time enough has elapsed—and the interval has been but too industriously employed—to aggravate that feeling, and work upon that irritation, which has been so perpetually excited for purposes totally unconnected with those which the proposers of this 354 measure profess to have in view. Disputes originating in local contentions and personal jealousies thus, in many parishes, have given birth to religious dissensions and animosities, which it is becoming more and more difficult to allay. In other cases, the opposition to Church-rates has arisen from the mistakes, or through the fault, of the churchwardens; in others, again, it has been the result of the errors, or the neglect, or the ignorance of the minister. There are many ministers of the Church, who are by no means so well informed of their rights as they should be, who think that a Church must of necessity be entitled to have ornaments and appendages which, in strictness of law, are not held to be necessary. And in many cases, likewise, where churchwardens have imagined that they have a right to order such things for their Church, proprio vigore, I have been obliged to send them back, and tell them that the rate, which they had made for those objects without the consent of a vestry, could not be confirmed. Now, Sir, I not only say that, in my judgment, Dissenters have not conscientiously objected, as a body, to pay Church-rates, but I think that they ought not to do so; and I concur with Dr. Doddridge, Dr. Watts, and others of their best authorities, that they have no right to do so. I think that an establishment,— by which I mean, not one supported by private subscription, by popular favour, by the occasional vote of this House, or by other casual means or funds, but a fixed, independent, endowed establishment, recognised and protected by the Legislature,—is a benefit to the country, and a benefit which I ought not to object to pay for. I think that the Budget gives the most decisive refutation of this kind of objection, in providing for so many local or partial objects out of the general national taxation. For example, —the inhabitants of England, Scotland, and Ireland, are charged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer every year for the expenses of the Metropolitan Police, because that is deemed a national object; and it would be no answer, for any one who demurred to pay his taxes, to say, "I have never been in London, nor benefited by it." I remember that one of my constituents said to me once. "What a shame it is that I should have this highway rate levied upon me." I asked him, "Why?" His answer was, "Because I 355 never drive or ride; I always walk, and therefore don't want your M'Adamised roads." In short, Sir, as to the difficulties about paying Church-rates, which some people profess to entertain, I will only add, that there would be no end to these objections, which might be brought against all taxes, if nobody were to pay any taxes to the State but those for purposes of which he himself conscientiously approved. The Government of Lord Grey, as I have already said, in adverting to Lord Althorp's Bill, proceeded on the principle of the recognition of a national Establishment. In order to justify the support of this Establishment, assent is required to two propositions, which here, at least, few, I presume, would be disposed to deny. The first is, that it is not tit that there should be no Establishment whatever; the second, that the Church Establishment of this country is, under existing circumstances, the best that could be devised. If the House concur in these two propositions, it follows that they must agree with me in holding, that if we do less than provide the establishment with means to support the fabric of that national Church, we altogether desert her; and I contend that, to adopt this measure, would be to interfere with property in legal possession of the clergy, just as much as if we were to interfere with property in legal possession of the Dissenters. Suppose that they were to find out, some day, that any party had given to a private chapel, of the sect of Johanna Southcote, for example, an endowment much more extensive than could actually be required for its sustentation and repair. Unquestionably, it never could be permitted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should interfere with that property, although, in the course of time, or from circumstances, it should have more than sufficed for the specific purpose for which it was originally intended. So, I say, that Church property in general, cannot, with any greater warrant of justice or of right, be interfered with, than property in the other case. And if you choose to relieve persons from a burthen to which, by long prescription, they have been for centuries legally liable,—to which they would be still as much liable now as ever, were it not that, in some parishes, the power which is opposed to the claim asserted under that prescription, by the passive resistance of vestries, neutralises, not 356 repeals, the law,—I say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be robbing the Church Establishment, by just the precise amount to which the property of the country, so liable at present, would be thus relieved. I think that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, and his colleagues, members of the Church Commission, have fairly exposed themselves to the same imputation which was cast upon their forerunners in similar measures above a century and a-half ago,—of whom it was said, that they had contrived toMake an utensil of the Church,And then to leave her in the lurch.The right hon. Gentleman has thought proper to quote from a pamphlet, written by an eminent divine, a very grave authority for his proposition that "bishops may be paralytic;" he actually thought it worth his while to cite this authority in order to found upon it an argument for the measure he now submits. I am bound to admit, that, as a matter within the range of physical chances, bishops may become so, and by consequence unable to judge of the value of the leases which the law permits them to grant. But as the right hon. Gentleman quoted that authority for other purposes, I must take leave to correct him. He has quoted another passage to the effect that "bishops may grant a concurrent lease; and they generally ask two years' income for the renewal, while chapters, &c." And the noble Lord the Member for Northumberland (Lord Ho-wick) said, "that bishops frequently renew leases for twenty-one years, asking a fine of two years' income, or rent; chapters, not having that privilege, a fine of only one year and a half." Sir, I do not pretend to know what the universal practice of the sees of England may be, as to the terms on which renewals of leases under them are renewed; but, I do know two cases, and I am certain that they are not exceptions, but conformable, to the general rule, in which the practice is just the reverse of that which has been stated. In the dioceses of Carlisle and York, bishops' leases of twenty-one years have been during the last forty-five years renewed invariably on fines of a year and a half income, while in my own experience a year and three quarters has been taken by several chapters. The rest of this paragraph is to the effect that the Legislature took different views of the relative merits of bishops and of chapters from those 357 acted on by the commission, and had enacted laws making the dean and chapter safeguards against episcopal rapacity. It is hardly necessary for me to say, that the very reverse of this is the truth. By the common law, bishops could grant no lease without consent of the chapter; but the Legislature passed an Enabling Statute, to authorise the bishop to grant these leases, without the consent of the dean and chapter; and a restraining one, to prevent the dean and chapter from granting them except for the terms and with the limitations therein prescribed. Mr. Smith in the same pamphlet, on a matter which, as indicating some extraordinary sources of episcopal revenue, may be fitly connected with this question, states, that the sale of the archiepiscopal patronage called Options, is "a corrupt and unabolished practice; that the Commissioners do not seem to know of its existence, at least that they are profoundly silent on the subject, and that they are not alluded to in the church returns, though they must be worth some thousands of pounds." The same writer proceeds to make some handsome remarks, in reference to the Archbishop of York,—such, indeed, as are consistent with the friendly intercourse which has always subsisted between them, personally,—as to his probable conduct in this matter. Now, Sir, I take it upon myself to say, it is totally impossible, in law or in practice, for any Archbishop to make any profit whatever by these Options. They possess, indeed, the peculiarity of being transmissible by will; but they are more tied up by strict regulations than any other presentations. There is a case in the books, in which, under the will of an Archbishop, the Court of Chancery would not allow the executor even to give an appointment to a nephew of the testator, because the presentation seemed to savour of marriage borage. It only allowed the executor to name a person to whom, in the judgment of the court, the Archbishop would have conferred it on account of his merits, as collected from the tenour of his will — and even a fit object of the patronage was debarred from profiting by it, because an exchange of preferment caused suspicion of a simoniacal bargain. I trust, therefore, that the House will perceive, from the nature of the regulations which govern these appointments, that it is impossible for the Archbishops, personally, to 358 get a single shilling out of these Options. The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, brought forward a case, from which he appeared to draw a different conclusion from that which it ought to impress on the House a case in which certain property of the see was sold under an Act of Parliament by a Bishop of Bristol. Why, Sir, I could give him another and a parallel case, in the instance of the Archbishop of York. It is not very many years ago, since, under a special Act of Parliament, certain lands of the see of York were sold; but in this, as in the other case, the sale was for the benefit of the see, not for the personal benefit of the bishop. There was also a personal benefit secured to the lessee who applied for the Act, but no tertium quid created by that transaction. The whole of the imaginary funds, upon, which the right hon. Gentleman is going to lay his paw, consists in the proceeds of a sale of a beneficial interest, for a term of twenty-five years which has at present been purchased and is held for a consideration equivalent to a terra of twenty years only. In the leases for lives this is the difference: — in those for years, the greater profit allowed by the Church makes the difference between the present terms of enjoyment by the lessees, and those now offered, much greater. The right hon. Gentleman pro-poses to take the difference between the two. That difference, if realised, will indeed produce a material gain to the public; for they acquire just the value which will be lost by the lessees. The right hon. Gentleman is deluding the House, when he puts the case as that of a proposition for the voluntary acceptance of the lessees. He has suggested the analogy of the proceedings in the Crown leases;—in that case the Crown imposed such terms on the Crown lessees, that for them, it was "Hobson's choice." The lessees in the one case, however prejudiced by the arrangement, had a lessor, with whom it was useless to contend; in the other they have lessors from whom, as dignitaries of the Church, they may count on renewal on favourable terms. With regard to the working of the plan propounded by the right hon. Gentleman, I certainly believe that a larger surplus would be found to arise from realising the amount of the beneficial value of these church leases, than has yet been anticipated; and I am prepared to look, with 359 some degree of confidence, for support from those Ministers who have advocated the views of the Ecclesiastical Commission, of which they were members, when I contend, that the only legitimate purpose, to which such a surplus can be appropriated, is, the augmentation of the small livings. That is an object especially advocated by the Commission itself. The Report announces the utter inadequacy of the means which it can contemplate as fairly within its disposal, to remedy the enormous deficiencies which it describes to exist, in the supply of spiritual instruction to the people. It speaks of the majority of the working clergy as ill paid, and of millions of souls without the opportunity of public worship. If Ministers have now become convinced of the practicability of the scheme of realising funds, which they repudiated in the Report of the Commission, I hope they will apply them to this admitted exigency. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made merry with some anecdote from the reign of Elizabeth. He has also joked about the Statute of Circumspectè agatis. Is he aware that the author of that Statute was Edward 1st.; our English Justinian, as he has been called, and that it was passed to confirm the power of the ecclesiastical law to enforce Church-rates? It seemed to be the aim of the right hon. Gentleman, in citing the case of Queen Elizabeth, to show that, at that time, the bishops of our Church received only 2,000l. a-year. But though, without insisting on the difference in the value of money between that period and the present, I may be inclined not to dispute that Queen Elizabeth did deal hardly with the Church, the right hon. Gentleman must give me leave to say, that he has dealt with it much more so—for, if the measure, which he now presses upon our adoption, had been passed at that time, the same income of 2,000l., which a bishop possessed under Elizabeth, would have been all which, by possibility, he could have enjoyed at this day. There was one observation made by the hon. Member for Leeds, to which I must advert. He said, that the difficulty would be greater to find people to fill the Churches, than churches for people. I believe a more conscientious Gentleman than the hon. Member does not exist, and he is considered to represent a very large body of the Dissenting persuasion. But, to 360 me, the observation from a Representative of the part of Yorkshire, from whence he comes, was a most extraordinary and surprising one. He must have shut his eyes, for some time past, to what has been passing around him, in his own immediate vicinity. Is he not aware, that a munificent subscription has been raised within the last few months, amounting to not less than 12,000l., to erect a new Church at Leeds? Are the people so very full of money, at the present time, that they will lay out 12,000l. on Churches, when they cannot find people to fill those which they have already? I think there cannot be a stronger proof adduced, of the existing deficiency of Church accommodation, in that district of the kingdom, than the fact which I have mentioned, of this subscription at Leeds. Have we no analogy in our favour, when we claim, on principle, that there ought to be a national Church in every parish of England and Wales? Why, Sir, the fact is so in Scotland. The heritors are bound to repair their Churches, and to extend the accommodation of any which may be dilapidated, to the extent of providing for two thirds of the population, as well as for the residence of their ministers. Sir, believing, as I do, that the Established Church is tolerant in its spirit, Scriptural in its doctrine, decent in its ritual, and pure in its practice. I am not prepared to deal that "heavy blow, and great discouragement," (to use the words which have been employed elsewhere), upon that Church which most of us, in this House, at least, profess,—to which many of those, whom I have now the honour to address, are, I am sure, sincerely attached,— which others, now within these walls, are sworn not to injure,—which almost all of those who sit in the other House are earnestly determined to protect;—I will not, I say, "deal that heavy blow, and great discouragement," which this measure should it pass into a law, would inflict upon it. To that Church, of which one portion of this assembly are communicants, —and which another portion is bound, by the most solemn obligations, not to weaken or to disturb,—I trust that all who hear me will be true; but if I find that in this hope I am deceived, I shall be compelled to say to those who sought and gained emancipation from their civil disabilities, under this pledge, that—Non hos quæsitum munus in usus,
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
said, he did not intend to enter into the minute details of the question, after they had been so thoroughly acquainted with many of those details, through one so perfectly conversant with the whole subject, as the hon. and Learned Member who had just sat down. From such an authority it was enough for him to learn to-night, that the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, was wrong in denying, and that his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was right in assuming, there would be a surplus. It was a remarkable feature of this plan of his right hon. Friend for raising the fund for sustaining the edifice of the Church, that though in all other sorts of contributions to the State, some one class, of subjects must be the sufferer; yet here, from what they had heard, it was clear that all must be gainers. The lessees who were called upon to make an outlay of capital on their land leased from the Church in proportion to the value of the tenure they held, were not prejudiced finally thereby, for they procured, as a consequence, the renewal of their leases on easier terms, whilst their prospects of gain from the property were also increased. In answer to the objection of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who said he could not see by what sort of hocus-pocus it was to be contrived that the public should benefit by this project of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and those who thought with that hon. and learned Gentleman, that the public at large must inevitably be benefitted by increased outlay of capital on the very extensive domains of the Church, and by the increase of produce from such lands in consequence of the improvements made in the culture of the land of the Church. Would not this produce a very beneficial effect upon the prices of the necessaries of life, and so far benefit the community? He agreed in opinion with his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the alteration would prove a benefit to the interests of the Established Church. But should it fail, the whole expense of it could only, as the right hon. Baronet admitted, fall, upon the consolidated fund. In reply to the assertion that the whole plan was of a piece with the conduct of the Government, and showed that there was a conspiracy between the Government 362 and a powerful body in the state to confiscate and divert to purposes foreign to its proper objects, the domains of her Church and subvert altogether the Established church, he would ask how was that to be effected? Was it to be accomplished by touching any vital point of doctrine in the Church? No one had adverted to such a cause of apprehension. Was it to be brought about by subtracting anything from her income? Not a penny of that income was to be touched.—He would repeat in substance what he had said. The Church would, after the plan of his right hon. Friend was brought into operation, enjoy the same amount of income that it had enjoyed for some centuries past. The projected improvement was an improvement which was to cost the Church nothing. It would be borne only and entirely by the surplus revenue arising out of the expected improvement; upon which he felt the House, after the statement made to it on a former night, had a right to calculate. But he would assume that the danger apprehended by many, though not openly avowed by Members on the opposite side of the House was, that the fabric of the Churches would be permitted to go to ruin. He would ask what might be expected to be very soon the state of those Churches where Church rates were resisted if the law continued as it was? It was true they had the law on the side of the impost. That law might be strong enough for individuals, but would it be safe to try whether it was strong enough against combined resistance? He confessed he knew nothing that was more likely to be effectually resisted than a tax which was objected to by the public, or a large body of the public, on the ground of a religious scruple, superadded to a conviction on their parts that there was a fund more than adequate for this object in the improved revenue of the Church. If the temper of the times and the increased intelligence of the age appeared to demand this attempt at improvement in ecclesiastical property, why not place the provision for this important object upon a basis which would be incapable of being shaken hereafter from the nature of the fund, and must last for after ages? Why was it that the right hon. Baronet said, he would if he were in power, at once propose in order to maintain peace and promote good will amongst all classes, to pay the charge out of the consolidated fund? Did it 363 escape those who opposed the measure of the King's Government that the present means of providing for the sustentation of the edifice of the Church, and other incidental charges, were the causes of that bitterness of spirit and hostile feeling to the establishment which had too generally broken out in different parts of the country? Could such a state as this be beneficial to the Church Establishment, or conducive to that Christian charity, without which no true religion could for a moment exist?— There were, in his view of the subject, three distinct reasons why the proposition of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be adopted by the House. In the first place he thought the means suggested would produce the fund required for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church. In the second place, he seriously believed that this alteration in the law would allay the ferment and irritation but too generally experienced, in consequence of the present state of the law; and, in the third place, he believed the improvement might be effected without any increased cost or charge to the community.
Having so far expressed his satisfaction with the proposed change in the law, as to this portion of Church property, he was afraid what he had yet to say upon the state of the property of the Church generally, and the measures proposed lately for its distribution, might not be agreeable to the ears of those who had recently brought forward a series of measures which, though valuable in some respects, were far from reaching the evils of which he and other Friends of the establishment felt just reason to complain. This he begged to suggest, without being at all disposed to follow the conduct of some individuals, who one day were seen actively engaged in supporting the measures of the administration, and on another day were found in the ranks of those who were its bitterest opponents and revilers. The right hon. Baronet had argued, that the increased revenue ought, if realised, to go to the augmentation of small and insufficiently paid livings. Following up that line of argument, the right hon. Baronet had assumed there was a yearly surplus pointed out by the Report of the Church Commission, amounting to 235,200l. applicable to that object. In that assumption, however, the right hon. Baronet was in error. It was true that the Commissioners stated that 235,000l. would 364 be required for the augmentation of small livings, including private as well as public livings, but with private livings the public had nothing to do. To augment the small public livings in the proportions stated by the right hon. Baronet, would require but 145,195l. Then look at the deans and chapters. Why one of the deans, it appeared from the Commissioners' Reports, had not less than 4,500l. a-year, and each of his canons 2,000l. while the archbishops and bishops enjoyed their 7,000l. their 10,000l. their 20,000l. and their 50,000l. a-year. Was it not very rational, then, that the people should, when they were told of the poverty, the distresses of the lower clergy, and when similitudes were drawn between the condition of the clergy and that of servants in high families, was it not very natural for the people to consider that there were other resources whence the distress of the lower orders of the clergy should be relieved without their being called upon for the means? Was it not an acknowledged principle that the labourer was worthy of his hire, that there should be some correspondence between the duties discharged and the amount of remuneration for those duties? Was it in accordance with this principle, however, that while one clergyman received but 100l. a-year, for attending to a parish with a population of 5,000, another clergyman should be paid 5,000l. a year for attending to a population of but 100? He was free to confess that he had not come prepared with documents, or to bring forward individual instances, to illustrate his positions; but having gone so far he was tempted to say this much—that looking at the statements which had been made upon official authority, he saw this very remarkable fact, that the men who had the richest parishes, and the smallest population, also invariably had with them one or two other parishes. Upon these grounds, then, he agreed with the right hon. Baronet, that looking at the case of the inferior clergy, seeing the position in which they were interested, if the House proposed to make a provision for them out of the sums which might be raised, he for one would vote with the right hon. Baronet for thus allocating it, and in so doing he would show the sincerity of his feelings. He hoped no hon. Gentleman would say that he was not sensible to the great importance of doing away with the animosity arising from Church-rates; but he fairly 365 and frankly said this, that the more pressings the more gigantic evil was that to which he must allude—that multitudes of the population had he means of religious instruction afforded to them. But he need not go though the facts; they had been stated by the right hon. Baronet. The facts were even stronger than the right ban. Baronet stated them There was this fact which it occurred to him to re-mark upon:—Taking St. Paul's as a centre, and making a circle of eight miles round, there was a population for which, including all places of religious worship— the synagogues and others—there was accommodation for religious worship for only 500,000; but then let them look to the vast numbers without the means of obtaining admission to places of religious worship. There was the same want of accommodation for thousands of persons in every manufacturing town. It was the same in Norwich, in Manchester, and in all directions throughout the country. What happened in his more immediate neighbourhood would justify what he was going to state. He had heard it stated at a public meetings that in Spitalfields, with which be was well acquainted, there were not less than 70,000 persons who had not the means of religious instruction. He had conceived that statement to be an exaggeration, and therefore he took the best means of ascertaining what was exactly the fact. There was in an area of half a mile long and a quarter of a mile broad but one chapel, which could accommodate but 700 persons; but there were a Chapel and a Church about three times as large; and this was all the accommodation for the population of the district. Now, in that little spot there were 70,000 persons, who, if they had the desire for it, had not the opportunity of attending, public worship. In the next parish to that there were 10,000 children without the means of receiving religious education. There were 10,000 of the rising population in that parish without the means of receiving a moral and religions instruction. He had heard a great deal about the comparative merits of the voluntary principle and the system of the establishment. An important question he admitted it to be; but it sunk in his mind into insignificance compared with the question, should, then, their fellow-subjects remain utterly destitute of all religious instruction whatever? What signified it which system was the 366 better if neither the one nor the other accomplished what ought to be the object of both? It seemed to him that to discuss which was the best was idle; what they ought to do was to strive who could do the most, and not cavil whether one had done more than the other. Provided only that the essential truths of Christianity were taught, he, for cine, did not care—he comparatively cared not at all—from whom the instruction came, whether from the Quaker, the Methodist, or the Moravian. He did not consider that he was an enemy to the Church in saying this. He wished the Church would look to the opening there was for it in the uncultivated district to which he referred; There wits there as much not only as they could do, but still more; and the advocates for the voluntary principle could render their exertions available there also. Instead then, of indulging in idle dissensions, let Churchmen say to Dissenters, and Dissenters say to churchmen, that "here, at least, is an open field for us—here we cannot jostle against each other—may you be fortunate in your endeavours;" while you may both say, "May I be fortunate in mine, and both successful in cultivating the wilderness." Both could be usefully employed in this endeavour. He felt the importance of this subject, and with this feeling on his mind he said, that if the right hon. Gentleman came forward and would pledge himself by a resolution to the effect that whatever could be secured; out of this or any other surplus of the Church would be applied to this purpose, then the right hon. Baronet should have his vote. But he wars afraid that there was but little chance of this, because it was remarkable that amongst all the facts relied upon by the right hon. Baronet, this did not appear to be one of them; and when he (Mr. Buxton took the liberty last year of broadly putting forward this position, it was opposed by the right hon. Baronet. He then used as an argument, that whatever could be- saved out of the Church-rates ought to be applied to this purpose. [Cheers from both sides of the House]. He perceived that the right how the Member for the university of Cambridge-cheered that; but then he recollected the ungracious reception which the right hon. Gentleman had given to him last year. Did the right hon. Gentleman recollect the tone of horror with which he spoke of his proposition? He was quite 367 sure the right hon. Gentleman spoke of it as if he felt the utmost astonishment that any man connected with the Church of England could have adopted the course which he then recommended and which the right hon. Gentleman assured them would tend to the destruction of the Church. The right hon. Baronet, when he touched upon the incomes of the Bishops, used these expressions:—"It is said, further, that there is to be a reduction to the amount of 5,000l. in the income of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for the purpose of raising the incomes of one hundred curates 50l. each. I should be glad if that could be done; but in what principle would it end? In the utter confiscation of Church property". But he was still more severely treated by the hon. Member for the University of Oxford. He could not find the words, though he had looked for them; but the expressions used had arrested his attention, because it was the first and last time that he could remember that the hon. Member had used such harsh expressions towards him. The hon. Member was pleased to say of him, that in making such a proposition "he had used the very words of Sir Harry Vane." He was not very sanguine, then, of the support of the hon. Members opposite; but this he said, with all the disposition that he had to get rid of an obnoxious tax, still he would give his vote, provided he had a pledge from the hon. Members opposite that they would obtain for him the measure that he wanted when they came into power; that they would take the necessary measures to secure his object; that they would sweep away all sinecures from the Church that they would reduce all extravagant livings; that they would make all needful reforms, and that wherever it seemed necessary they would have Christianity inculcated amongst the destitute and distressed population. And if they did this, then he for his part would say, that no vote on earth could be given with greater satisfaction than in support of the proposition of the right hon. Baronet. But if these things were denied, and he had to vote for the naked proposition before the House, "ay" or "no," then he would support the measure proposed to them as he thought it much better that money that could be so well applied should not remain hereafter unprofitable to anybody. He desired to see removed a heavy and 368 obnoxious tax—one that was felt to be oppressive to the Dissenters; and if it were only for the purpose of removing a jealousy that created great disturbance— if it were only for the purpose of securing and maintaining the fabric of the Church, he should give his vote for the motion before the House, and he should do so with great satisfaction. It was good, he thought, to put an end to the tax; it was good to put an end to the vexation that it occasioned; it was good to put an end to the contention between Churchmen and Dissenters; and it was very good to come to a measure which in his mind would preserve and continue the fabric of the Church
observed that as the hon. Gentleman had done him the honour to refer to what fell from him in a discussion upon the state of the established Church, he hoped the House would pardon him if he partly endeavoured to reply to the hon. Gentleman, and partly to state what were his views and opinions upon the question then under the consideration of the House. It was a question the importance of which it was not possible for them to exaggerate. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman opposite that it was not necessary to enter into details respecting the calculations that were before the House. It was always difficult to call the attention of Members to dry mathematical questions; but it was still more difficult to do so at that advanced period of the evening, and it was, above all, difficult to do so after such details had been stated to the House in the clear, accurate, and, as it appeared to him, unanswerable manner in which they had been laid before the House by his right hon. Friend near him. It was particularly unnecessary to do so as the details of his right hon. Friend had not been replied to by any Gentleman who followed him. He therefore should do as the hon. Member for Weymouth had done—he should not attempt to enter into the calculations upon the questions before them. He dissented from the measure then before them because it was merely a measure to relieve persons from the evils sustained by the present state of the law with respect to the levy of Church-rates; and because it involved other and far greater questions. It involved in it this question: whether they were decided on maintaining upon a firm basis the Established Church of this country—whether they intended to main- 369 tain in their position the prelacy and dignitaries of the Established Church, both as respected the other branches of the Church and as respected the other branches of the community—and, lastly, whether they should make a change in the administration of one species of property, and thus give an example (and he contended an unprecedented example, which threatened with danger every other species of property, and which could not be overlooked nor regarded but with alarm. Before he proceeded further he wished to allude to what fell on the previous evening from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, relative to the position in which the Established Church stood. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had laid it down as a principle, that the parishioners in the several parishes were not bound to contribute to the repairs of the fabric of the Church; the right hon. Gentleman, too, had stated, that if they agreed in reducing the amount required for such a purpose, they only exercised a constitutional privilege which the law allowed to them. In that he differed from the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was not his view only, which he admitted would be of little value, but he was confirmed in that opinion by the most eminent men who had held legal offices in this country from the earliest period. He held that it was incumbent upon the landowners of every parish in the country to contribute to a fund for the necessary maintenance of the Church. In putting forward such an opinion he stood upon no private document, but relied upon a report laid upon the table of that House. He referred to the Report upon the Ecclesiastical Courts. Those by whom that report was drawn up had gone fully into the question of Church-rates. It was stated by the gentlemen composing that Commission, that it was the duty of Churchwardens to see that the body of the Church was put in proper repair, and to have supplied things necessary for divine service. They stated, too that the law imposed upon the parishioners the burden of raising by Church-rates the funds requisite for these purposes. This law was laid down by no light legal authority. The names signed to the report were those of Lord Tenterden, Lord Wynford, Sir Nicholas Tindal, Doctor Lushington, and the right hon. Member for Kirkcudbright. He did not deny that there was an evil in the present mode 370 by which Church-rates were levied. He knew that some proceedings had taken place which reflected disgrace upon the party which had originated them, and which he must own were not very creditable to its opponents. This had occurred, he knew, in some places; but then, when persons talked of the evils of Church-rates, he would not consent to its being assumed, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had assumed, that the resistance to Church-rates was universal— he certainly would not assume that the payment of Church-rates was so odious as had been asserted. He knew that the evil existed, and particularly in towns; but still he took it that the number of parishes altogether where resistance was offered did not exceed three or four hundred; and when it was remembered that there were 10,000 parishes, many of which had not complained at all, and in others that the parishioners were anxious to retain the present system, he did not think that the evil prevailed to such an extent as to require a measure of the character of that which was then before the House. He was ready, however, to concur in any reasonable proposition which should allay such disturbance, but he said that those who made such a disturbance were the weaker party. It would, he thought, be more becoming in a government of the country if instead of dabbling with a mere matter of little importance, and proposing a trumpery measure, they had come forward with an effectual cure. The real evil was this: that a large portion of the population was without a provision for religious education. Under the negligent treatment of Parliament, villages had grown into towns, and towns had become cities—the population too had increased with extraordinary celerity during a period of great national prosperity. They had provided for the defence of the population; they had provided the population with a better police—they had provided the population with a due administration of the law, by giving them tribunals adequate to the extended population and the concerns to be intrusted to them; but they had chiefly neglected that which was their great and paramount duty, which was, to give them religious instruction; and that ought to have been done by planting amongst them the ministers of the Church of England to instruct them in the duty they owed to their God and their country. Greatly 371 had this duty been neglected, and he had to thank the dissenters—he had, too, to thank Mr. Wesley—for the instruction they had conveyed to a great portion of the people. Their zeal had kindled emulation in the breasts of the clergymen of the Church of England, and made them sensible of what they ought to do, and called forth exertions, which though coming late, had yet not been without effect. But they must meet manfully the coming evil. They must provide the means of giving pastors to the people who would teach them their duty as Christians, and, therefore, to fulfil their duties as citizens. No healing measure could be adopted with respect to Church-rates, nor as regarded the collection of tithes, till means were provided for giving the people religious instruction. The others were all subordinate considerations to the great principle of pro-viding religious instruction. It was the duty of the State to provide the best possible means for affording instruction to the destitute classes of their countrymen. Their wants were adverted to in the report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred to certain parishes that bad resisted Church-rates, and he stated those parishes to be Sheffield, Manchester, and Applethorp. He would content himself by referring to Manchester, and the House would see how far it supported his argument. It appeared that there was in Manchester a population of 271,000 souls; it was admitted that of these only 45,000 had Church accommodation, thus leaving upwards of 200,000 no means of access to places of worship according to the form of the Church of England, The hon. Member for Leeds might say, as he did before, that there was room enough, but that there was a disinclinations on the part of the people, in those places, to attend the worship of the Established Church. He was surprised to hear such an assertion from- that hon. Member; to hear him say, that there was a natural disinclination on the part of the people to attend upon the duties of religion; because he did not suppose that hon. Member would deny that there was a natural tendency in the hearts of men to attend to the duties of religious worship; but what were the means provided for this in Manchester? Why, there were only eighteen clergymen to attend to this immense population, in a large town, where 372 of course, from natural circumstances, men must be exposed to much more add greater temptations, where vice showed itself in every form, and where, of course, the greater care was necessary to keep men awake to their religious duties. And what was the whole income of these eighteen. Not more than 2,700l. If they really and sincerely wished to establish peace, and to get rid of dissension, their first care should be, to afford the means of conveying religious instruction to every one, and to leave no place to which the voice of a clergyman might not be accessible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer informed them that the result of the proposed plan would be, to place 250,000l. at his disposal. Let this money be applied in the way which he suggested, and then they would supply the religious wants of three millions of the population, who were at present without the means of religions instruction, and thus the real evil would be removed. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last said, he would accede to any proposition for any more eligible application of this sum which might be suggested, in consequence of what fell from him (Mr. Goulburn) upon a former occasion. Now, what be then said had no reference at all to this question. The question, at the time referred to by the hon. Member, was as to an allowance for the Bishops; and the hon. Member upon that occasion said, that so long as the working clergy were left destitute be could not consent to the allowance of so large a revenue to the dignitaries of the Church. He then observed, in answer, that if the hon. Member was friendly to the existence of a nations; church his proposition was quite inconsistent with it, and that if be was to destroy Episcopacy altogether it would not answer his abject of providing an adequate income for the working clergy He did not know whether the sum anticipated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer could be realised upon; his plan; but independent of the amount it might produce, it was altogether most objectionable. There might, perhaps, be a surplus, and that surplus might be applied to most useful purposes, without injury to the rights of any person. Suppose the whole of the sum anticipated should be realised, or the half, or the quarter of it, he would say, apply it for the religious instruction of the destitute poor. This was his 373 opinion as to the most eligible mode of application, and it was the opinion of all who had given to the subject the most serious consideration. What was the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? To relieve the land from a burthen to which it had ever hitherto been subject, and to absorb and annihilate the whole source of income which might be applied most beneficially to the instruction of the people. And for what purpose make so great a sacrifice? Why, to remove a present and merely temporary evil. Instead of applying it for the benefit of three millions of the population, he proposed to relieve the land from a light burthen. Were he now to give countenance to such a proposition he must hereafter reflect with pain that he had delivered the land of a burthen against which there was no complaint, and deprived the poor of the greatest blessing and the greatest consolation in their sufferings — instruction in truth and religion. With his right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) he objected most strongly to the throwing of all Church property into the hands of a commission, to be managed by them. He objected to it because it went entirely to alter the situation of the Prelates of the Church, because the consequences of it must necessarily be to involve them in conflicts from week to week with the Commissioners. The noble Lord (Lord Howick) said, it must be a source of great convenience to the Bishops to be divided, by this means, from secular cares, and to have the duty taken off their hands of administering, in detail, their own property, which could not but induce the idea of their being actuated by worldly considerations. It appeared to him that the noble Lord in this matter was under a mistake. There was a great difference between receiving fines for the renewal of leases and entering into all the details of management which appertained to the landed property of another kind. Now, in the first place, the Bishops themselves did not appear in those temporal proceedings of receiving fines and administering their landed property; an agent was employed for that purpose. But how did the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord provide for the administration of this property? Why, they proposed that the whole of it should be thrown into one mass, and placed under the control of a commission. 374 And who did the House suppose were to form part of that Commission? One Archbishop and two Bishops. It was said to be indecorous that they should now be employed in receiving their fines, and yet it was proposed to involve them, as Commissioners, in all those worldly and petty details which must necessarily fall on those who were to administer this property. Thus, then, in addition to their other important duties, these prelates would have this additional duty to perform. In other respects what must be the consequence of taking from the Bishops altogether the character of being landed proprietors? The hon. Member who spoke last said, there was no stronger feeling in the human heart than that of resistance to a money payment on the ground of religious sentiment. Now, apply this principle to the present case. The Bishops now received their rents, as any other landlord did, and had therefore a sympathy with all landholders, and were looked upon pretty much in the same light. But, make them mere annuitants, and they would no longer have any sympathy with land owners. They would be looked upon merely as persons to whom the land occupiers had a certain sum to pay annually. Suppose Dissenters to become the purchasers of any part of this property. He did not know whether or not this was to be permitted under the plan, but, if allowed, what must be the situation of the bishop when he called upon the Dissenters for the payment of his annuity? If, as had been said by the hon. Member, there was no stronger feeling than that of resistance to a money payment, on the ground of religious opinions, he would ask the hon. Member when the bishop became an annuitant on the purchased estate whether the Dissenter would not have the same objection to pay the annuity as he had now to pay the church-rate. There were no doubt some Dissenters who might not feel this as a hardship. But take those Dissenters, who, even in the present day, did not differ very widely in sentiment and in hostility to the Church from those of an earlier period, who heaped upon the hierarchy of the Church all the opprobrious names they could collect, would they not have the same scruples to pay this annuity, and make the same objections and difficulties as their ancestors did, or as were now made to the payment of church- 375 rates? The proposed course of dealing with property was quite unprecedented. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, indeed, in the way of precedent, called their attention to the arrangement of 1794 with respect to Crown property. There were great and manifest differences between that case and this. The difference was, that the Crown then demanded the arrangement entered into. It was done with the consent of the Crown. Was that the case here? The analogy entirely failed. But there was yet a more important consideration. Was it for the public benefit that the arrangement with respect to the Crown lands took place in 1794? No; it was solely for the future benefit of the Crown. Was there, then, the least resemblance between the two propositions? The Crown lands were not to be sold—they were to remain for ever to maintain the regal dignity of the Sovereign of this country. The arrangement was made with a view to future improvement, to an increase of income, and not to destruction. Was there in that arrangement any power given to the lessees of the Crown to purchase the property at a fixed rate? It was then not judged right, or safe, or just, to dispose finally of a property which had been set apart by the people of this country to support the dignity of the Crown. That was a principle of the soundest policy and of the most perfect justice. But by depriving the Church of her due rights they were, by this measure, when the great increase of population should make it necessary that she should possess a greater income, depriving her of the means of obtaining that increase, and, by taking away from her the claim of 250,000l. which she had upon the taxation of the country, at the same time depriving her of a just mode of provision for the future population, which would be left to an unstable and precarious support. There were no analogous cases on the authority of which the measure could be defended. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said much of the great exercise of liberality with respect to building places of worship which was daily exhibited on the part both of the laity and clergy of the country. No one in that House was more sensible than he was of that liberality; but easy as it might appear to leave the provision of the funds necessary to build these places of worship 376 to the liberality of individuals—easy as it might be in the midst of a religious and liberal population to raise those funds— easy as it might be to build those necessary places of worship—who, he would ask, was to endow them when built? If they were to resort to the means of pew rents they would be taking away the birthright of the poor, and excluding those persons from all the benefits of religious worship and instruction who were unable to pay for it. But as they were debarred from taking this and several other courses, if they resorted to an interference with the lessees of Church lands, and by a proper administration of those leases, provided a more favourable income, then that income, as well as any other, which might be derived through the property of the Church itself, ought to be applied to purposes of a more important description. He (Mr. Goulburn), for one, could not dare, in the view which he took of the case, to advance this first step towards the dissociation of the Government of the country from the national Church. He, for one, believed that it was the duty of every man—that it was more especially, the duty of the rulers of the State—to provide the Established Church with an adequate supply of religious instructors in every quarter of the land, and to see that the poor enjoyed that which was the birthright of Englishmen, the privilege of attending their parish church free from, any expense whatever. If they passed the present measure they would take the first step to separate the religion of this country from the Government. That was his feeling with regard to the measure, and he was convinced it was one which would entail both on the Church and the State the most inconvenient consequences. With that feeling strong at his heart, he would implore them, in the words of one who had spoken upwards of two hundred years ago, on the value of a religious establishment in connexion with the nation to set an example to the world how highly they valued, and how steadily they would maintain, that union of religion and government which had supported them and their fathers before them in peace, in plenty, in tranquillity, in prosperity, and in honour, in spite of all the machinations of their enemies—and, above all, to take care by their own example not to do that which their enemies, with all their machinations, have failed in doing.
was understood to say, that hon. Gentlemen opposite had been fruitful in objections, but not one of them appeared to be disposed, or able, to point out any practical means by which the existing evil could be removed if the present plan were not adopted. It had been the almost universal opinion of the House, that the evil of the existing system was great, it was daily and hourly increasing, and it already prevailed to such an extent that some remedy must be applied to it. He had hoped that the arguments which were used in 1834, by some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, had produced so deep an impression on the House that it was scarcely necessary for him to attempt to prove the proposition to which those hon. Gentlemen had addressed themselves. The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, illustrated in that year, in the strongest terms, the mischief to which the country was then subject, and called on the House, for the protection of the interests of religion, for the safety of the Established Church itself, and for the avoidance of inconceivable evils, to adopt some remedy to stay the torrent which was then overwhelming them. That appeal of the noble Lord did not appear to have had its effect either on the right hon. Baronet, or on any of the hon. Gentlemen who sat around him. He admitted that church-rates had existed for centuries past; but they ought to consider what they originally were, and what had been their consequences from time to time. Formerly they were a tax, not in respect of land only, but on all the property the individual possessed. There were still one or two places in which they were assessed, not merely on real property, but on the stock in trade — on goods and chattels. They had the same origin as mortuaries which in some parts of the country now existed. In the reign of William 3rd the contest had its commencement, but the main body of the people continued to pay the tax. Since that period the Dissenters had increased with astonishing rapidity: they had increased in numbers, in respectability, in intelligence, in education. Their ministers were now able to compete with those of any church in the world. What was the consequence? Let the House contemplate the difficulties which had arisen. First came the question whether the vestries bad the right to refuse the rate altogether; 378 and this was followed by many others of a vexatious description, and most fruitful in matter of contention. Many who belonged to the Church objected to the expenses gone to on account of the new churches, and joined the Dissenters in their efforts to get rid of the rate. They had their meetings of vestries, with the clergyman in the chair, and one party arranged on one side, and the other party on the other side: violence of language ensued, the passions became excited, and the whole scene was one of agitation, confusion, and exasperation That was not the end of it. Suppose the rate to be made, if a man refused and were compelled to pay it, he was proclaimed a martyr, and received honour from the whole town. Such was the present state of affairs, and would any man tell him that it did not require a remedy, and a prompt one? Or would any man tell him that the Church itself was safe amidst this conflict? By the common law of the land not a single shilling could be borrowed on the account of the Church-rates. How would hon. Gentlemen opposite get rid of the evil? What remedy would they propose? Would they give the power to Justices of the Peace in Petty Sessions or to church-wardens to impose the rates; and did they imagine that they could carry a measure having that operation? Or would they saddle the amount on the Consolidated Fund— would they have the State to take on itself the 250,000l.? That was the substance of the measure proposed by Earl Spencer. He was of opinion, and he told his noble Friend so, that he never would succeed in carrying the adoption of that proposition, and he would tell the House why he thought it impossible. The effect of it would have been to violate the religious scruples of two millions of his Majesty's subjects. It might be asked, why should they entertain religious scruples on the subject? He would reply to such a question by saying, that he never undertook to decide on any man's religious scruples. On all matters of religion a man must decide for himself—no other man had a right to decide for him. According to his principles the scruple was unfounded. He went much further; it was no violation of his conscience not merely to contribute towards an Established Church, but to any other Christian sect in a Christian state. He felt, however, that he had no right to impose his opinions on another. If 379 they had passed the measure, charging the Church-rates on the Consolidated Fund, they would have had petitions from year to year against the new system; they would only have smothered the flame; there would have been the same dissatisfaction, and they would have the same course to tread over again. He differed from the right hon. Gentleman oppposite as to the propriety of the right rev. Prelate's time being taken up by the management of this revenue in which they had only a limited and temporary interest. He deprecated their being made the stewards for others. He came now to consider a question which was well worthy of the attention of the friends of the Church; namely, the balance of evil and good, which, considering the whole case of the Church at the present moment, might be effected by appropriating in the way now proposed the surplus which they believed might be brought into existence by the scheme of management proposed by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In considering this question, and in taking under notice the statements of the right hon. Baronet opposite, let them not shut their eyes to the past, whilst they looked to the future. Casting a glance over the events which had passed within his own knowledge during the last thirty years, he was bound to state his belief that if these funds were not applied in the way proposed, the evils now complained of would remain in existence, and the balance be turned against the best interests of the Church. He never knew an instance in which a Church, which was not the Church of the majority of the people, was not eventually worsted in the contests to which it gave rise. He recollected the "No Popery" cry,—that brutish cry, as an hon. Friend denominated it, and which was urged on by those very men who in their hearts were in favour of emancipation. The Church was then made the ground on which to oppose the views and wishes of the majority of the people, and what had been gained by it? The Church of England ought to be a national Church, it ought to strive to gather around it the hearts and respect of the people; the fact, however, was notorious that it had too long lived in the smiles of the rich and landed gentry, whilst it had been daily losing ground amongst the middle classes of society. Whilst it retained the nobility of the land in its ranks 380 it was satisfied; let it take care that even these did not drop off from it by degrees. Years ago Dissenters were rarely met with in the upper ranks of society; to be a Dissenter was considered a disqualification in almost every calling and walk of life; in 1809 there were only two Dissenters in that House; now let hon. Members look around, and see the number and respectability of those who conscientiously dissented from the doctrines of the Church. He was of opinion, as he before said, that the Church stood by the will of the majority; when the majority was in its favour it reigned paramount, but as the minority who were against it began to increase in number, so it must decline in power, and if it did not give way to their wishes would run a risk of being overturned. The Church of England was like a besieged city; whilst its garrison was staunch and strong it might defy the enemy, but eventually, as the number of its assailants increased, and the courage and unanimity of its defenders began to flag, it must be subverted. He repeated the opinion, that unless the abuses of the Church were remedied, it must be undermined and would fall. It could not with security for any great length of time, place itself in opposition to the wishes and opinions of the great majority of the intellectual inhabitants of the country. The Church of England would only gather strength by divesting itself of all those matters which placed it in an adverse position to the people. He rejoiced in the Tithe Commutation Act; it would prove of essential service to the Church, by enabling its Members to stand aloof from unseemly controversies on one side or the other; enjoying their just rights and large incomes, and performing their religious duties to their flocks. To this the members of the Church would do well to confine themselves, and avoid meddling in matters to which their duties did not call them, and which could not promote their interests or respectability. Particularly he would deprecate inflammatory harangues by prelates at visitations, and the disgraceful indecorum with which this very subject was mentioned elsewhere, as calculated above all things not to conciliate the people of this country in favour of the Church, but to call down their scorn for the ill-advised leaders of a species of warfare—for such he must call it—in which the objects of Christianity and the 381 principles of Christianity were cast aside. Let the best friends of the Church compare the existing evils with the advantages which were promised from a more prudent administration of the funds of the Church, and he was certain that however desirous they might feel of extending the ramifications of the Church's power, they would see reasons sufficient to induce them to support this measure. He should support it because he saw no other remedy for the existing evils, and because he thought that, whilst it remedied those evils, it would tend to strengthen the Established Church, and promote the great objects to accomplish which it was founded and preserved.
§ The House resumed; and the Committee was ordered to sit again on the following day.