HC Deb 27 July 1838 vol 44 cc737-44

On the motion that 11,790l. 18s. 6d. be granted for the Ecclesiastical Establishment in the North American provinces,

Mr. Pakington

objected to the amount, as totally insufficient for its purpose. If the revenue of the late Bishop were divided, it would allow 1,500l. for each Bishop (Montreal and Quebec), and this arrangement would, he had no doubt, give general satisfaction to the Canadian people. Canada had strong claims upon England; and he hoped, that in the most important of all concerns, that colony would not be neglected. They had encouraged English, Scotch, and Irish subjects to emigrate to the forests of Canada, and they should take care to provide them with that greatest of blessings—Christian instruction. The present mode of payment superinduced a system of pluralities which, he believed, Members at each side of the House were equally opposed to; but which were inseparable from this mode of payment. Even the Clergy reserves had not been directed to the purposes for which they were intended, or at least they had not been made available to that purpose. The day might come, when Canada would be enabled to support her own Church; but so long as England continued to support the Canadian Church, she ought to do so in a manner that would meet the present necessities of that Church. The sum they were now called upon to vote, was quite insufficient; and though he would not move an amendment, he had felt himself called upon to deliver his opinions to the House. He regretted, that a person more competent had not taken up the matter; but so long as he was in Parliament, he should take care of the interests of the Church, whether as a leader or a follower.

Viscount Howick

said the manner in which the clergy of Canada were formerly paid was founded in error. They had received their remuneration from the sum which was voted for the army extraordinary expenses, and this was of course without the cognizance of Parliament. The Government had long given attention to the subject. Her Majesty's Government, considering the state of matters in Canada, did not think it expedient that this country should pay for the religious instruction of the inhabitants of that colony. Canada was untaxed—it was a rich and flourishing community—and therefore it was unfair that the heavily taxed people of England should bear such a burthen as the hon. Member's motion would impose on them. There was likewise an arrangement entered into with the colony in the time of Lord Goderich's Government, that no further burthen of that description should be laid on this country. Besides, all the efforts to impose the, Established Church on the inhabitants of that country would be found ineffective. He denied the accuracy of the observation made by the hon. Gentleman, that a great number of emigrants had gone out to the Canadas on the faith of an understanding that the Government would act as he had stated in regard to the Established Church. Under these circumstances, he thought it better to refrain from any discussion on the subject.

Mr. Wallace

said, the Church of England had been the curse of Ireland, and would be the curse of the Canadas if established there.

Mr. Hume

said, he had never heard so much nonsense as he did in the speech of the hon. Member who mooted the question on the subject of destitution in Canada. He considered the existence of a sinecure church a disgrace to Canada as well as it was to England; and he was of opinion that its existence, if affirmed would lead to results similar to those which had taken place in Ireland. He should oppose the motion.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny was not right in stating that religious destitution did not exist in Canada. Every thing that transpired on the subject proved the contrary. He (Mr. Goulburn) thought, that there was a solemn obligation on the country to see a good and sufficient religious instruction was provided for her colonies: and where religious establishments were in their infancy, we were bound to succour and uphold them until they attained strength and maturity.

Mr. Ellis

deprecated the observation made use of by the hon. Member for Greenock in regard to the Church of England. He also denied the truth of the assertion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, that there was no spiritual destitution in Canada. The speech of the noble Lord (Howick) had given him much pain, inasmuch as it appeared to be of a piece with his recent remarks, equally objectionable, on another subject in which the Established Church was involved. It was a matter of serious regret to hear, day after day, a Minister of the Crown objecting to keep up that Church which he was sworn by virtue of his office to defend. The hon. Member concluded by supporting the motion.

Mr. Hobhouse

said, it was highly improper and impolitic to try to establish a religion in Canada, in opposition to and contrary to the wishes and feelings of the people. He wished the Church of England to be maintained, and properly maintained, wherever people belonging to that sect were to be found in any country on the face of the globe; but were the people of England to be taxed, on the ground of there being spiritual destitution in Canada, when it was well known that the sum already afforded was fully adequate for the wants of the people of that country? He had paid some consideration to the subject, and had consulted books written upon it, and he was satisfied that the funds already afforded were sufficiently adequate for the wants of the Church of England in Canada. It might be very well for the hon. Gentleman opposite to wish to have more bishops, but for his own part he should prefer that the number should be fewer. It was a part of the principle of hon. Gentlemen, however, on the other (the Opposition) side of the House to wish to support the existing system, and to extend it; and the reason was evident, for wherever they created a new incumbency they created a Protestant advocate in the person of the incumbent. Their object was to increase ecclesiastical patronage, in order to increase and strengthen their own political views.

Sir R. Inglis

was sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down denominate the members of the Established Church as a sect, The great objection of his hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Mr. Pakington), with respect to this grant, was, not that it had been increased but diminished; yet the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Hobhouse) complained that too much encouragement had been already given to the Established Church in Canada. He would contend that in a colony, the people of which were of British origin, who spoke the same language, who had had imported to them the same laws, no link in the chain of connection was so strong as that which bound them to the same religion. He was perfectly ready to admit, that when a colony had arrived at that state of maturity, that she could support her Church she ought to do so, but that time as yet, had not arrived for Canada.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the part of the vote to which he had the strongest objection was that in which it was proposed to pay 1,000l. to the Catholic bishop of Quebec, and 75l. to the Catholic bishop of Newfoundland. He did not know the bishop who was to receive the 1,000l., but he had the pleasure of being acquainted with the Bishop of Newfoundland, and a more pious, zealous, hard-working bishop he did not know than this seventy-pound man. The bishop who was to get the 1,000l. might be a very exemplary character, and a very worthy man, but he doubted much whether, in the performance of his duties, he excelled the poorly paid Bishop of Newfoundland in the ratio in which the allowance of the one exceeded that of the other. The hon. Baronet (Sir R. Inglis) was always very indignant at talking of the Church as a sect; but all his ire was exhausted in condemnation of those who were guilty of such profanity, for let there be any proposal of granting money for the support of that Church, and instantly the good humoured countenance of the hon. Baronet assumed an additional smile of hilarity. And yet he (Mr. O'Connell) thought, that nothing tended more to defile religion itself, or to check the progress of the different creeds into which it was divided, than a course and grovelling cupidity. What was it that caused and palliated the Reformation but the enormous wealth and, as an inevitable consequence, the abused power of the Church? Indeed the violence of the overthrow of that Church and the rapid diffusion of the reformed religion bore in some districts a proportion mathematically corresponding to the number of acres which it possessed; and from that moment to the present, religion had not been better for the endowment of churches. Where all religions were on an equality, the professors of one creed respected those of another; but the supremacy of any one Church had ever, and must ever, create a reaction of anger and hatred on the part of those who differed from it. And what was the ground for preference? An Act of Parliament. He confessed, that he had not always the most profound respect for Acts of Parliament in civil affairs. Would any hon. Member contend that an Act of Parliament could sanction a wrong? Besides, he did not wish to palm on the hon. Gentlemen opposite his authority for any doctrine which he might advance; but he would just remind them, that a right rev. Prelate in what was significantly called "another place," had announced his determination to resist an Act of Parliament, not merely by passive means, but with all the excommunicating powers which belonged to him. And why should not a humble layman like himself share in the piety of the sanctified Bishop of Exeter. Well, if the hon. Gentleman opposite liked, he was wrong. 'T was not the Bishop of Exeter's speech, that he saw in the newspapers. 'Twas a libel that was published on that most meek and gentle Prelate, on him who was, above all, so little addicted to calumny. Well, but to return to the force of an Act of Parliament. He, for one, could not acknowledge its infallibility either in civil or religious matters, as it had not even the merit of admitting the right to exercise private judgment. The true way to deal with the religions in Canada was to have the Protestants pay their own clergy, the followers of John Knox to maintain the Presbyterian faith, and if the Catholics did not uphold those who were the ministers of their creed he was quite contented to have the State abandon them to starvation.

Viscount Sandon

said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was quite in keeping with the monstrous invectives which he had, on all occasions, lately delivered against the Established Church. The hon. and learned Gentleman had dwelt much on his abhorrence of any connection between the State and the Established Church; but his sentiments were not shared by those who professed his religion! for he defied him to show an instance in which the Catholics had the power and refused to endow their Church. Like the other dissenters, they were against the establishment in England, where the members of the Church preponderated; but all alike, when they migrated to the colonies, claimed the support of the State for their different forms of worship. Then as to the demands of the clergy for money, being men, they must live, and they could not live without those means which the State afforded, in consideration of their devoting their lives to the service of religion. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, he had no respect for Acts of Parliament. He was not at all astonished at the case with which he made such a declaration. He was used to such language; and he not only broke Acts of Parliament himself but he taught others to break them. He had not read the report of the speech of the Bishop of Exeter, so that he could not say how far circumstances might justify his declaration, that he would resist the law; but he was prepared to bow to that law which endowed a particular Church, and which must be taken as the declaration of the nation, through its representatives, in favour of that religion.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the noble Lord had made a personal attack on him, which he, however, was quite prepared to answer in every point. The noble Lord was mistaken if he supposed, that he at all denied, that the Catholics abused wealth and power when their Church possessed both; and it was for the very reason that they did so, that he would intrust them with neither the one nor the other. He was as little inclined to deny, that there were some Catholic hypocrites; and it was quite possible, that a Catholic might be found who was bigot enough to carry a wooden Bible on the dickey of his carriage (there being no one within), and through his excessive Catholic ardour thus to canvass for votes. They were all of them but men. Others might wish to endow the Catholic Church, but unless the noble Lord quoted The Standard, he could not accuse him of having ever expressed an opinion in favour of establishing his Church.

Viscount Sandon

I heard you say you would wish to have it endowed.

Mr. O'Connell

Never! He had recommended the purchase of glebes by the Catholic Church, just as the Catholic bishop of Clogher was now doing; but he had never advocated the connection of the Catholic Church with the State. If the noble Lord referred to his evidence, he then expressed not his own wish or desire, but the sentiments of the Catholic prelates then in London, who were willing to accede to such a measure for the purpose of adjusting the question then pending. But as to himself, he always stated, both there and elewhere, that he abhorred the very name of a state provision. He agreed with the noble Lord, that the clergy must be paid; but the question was, by whom. By those whose Church they served, or by those with whose Church they had nothing to do. Now, could anything in the abstract be more dishonest than, that to the clergyman of the noble Lord—who always voted against this country, and who treated himself with no great ceremony—he should be called on to give his money. Nothing could be more absurd or unjust than that he should be obliged to pay a clergyman who did not even perform his duty towards the noble Lord, for he did not teach him much sweetness or benevolence. In temporal matters the law, as he had already showed, was not on all occasions absolutely binding; but as to religion, he utterly denied, that Christianity derived any support from the law of the land; for how had it extended? Not only in defiance of the law, but subjected, in the persons of its believers to the cruelest tortures which the law could inflict. To force a Church on those whose conscience it did not bind might make hypocrites and martyrs, but no converts; and the demand for its support was nothing else but oppression, whether it was enforced by the bayonet at his breast, or the hand in his pocket.

Vote agreed to. The House resumed.