HC Deb 16 June 1842 vol 63 cc1613-37
Sir John Easthope,

in rising to bring forward the motion of which he had given notice, could not abstain from expressing extreme regret and surprise, that the subject had not been undertaken by her Majesty's Government. His regret upon this point was the more deep, because he could not but be sensible that the present Government was possessed of power which enabled it to execute its will, and therefore, that the question of Church-rates, submitted to Parliament as a Ministerial proposition, could not fail of being promptly settled. His surprise, that the subject had not been considered by her Majesty's Ministers, and especially by the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) at the head of the Government, was founded upon the avowals which the right hon. Baronet had so frequently made in former discussions upon the question, which had fairly led those who deemed the matter of importance to the religious peace of the country to conclude, that it was one that would engage the right hon. Baronet's earnest attention at the earliest moment when he felt himself in a situation to give it a successful consideration. It would perhaps be in the recollection of some Members of the present Parliament, that when upon a former occasion (upon the 25th of May, 1835) it was proposed to abolish Church-rates, and to provide a substitute for them, the right hon. Baronet said,— He would not attempt to gain popularity at the expense of the noble Lord, by concealing what he had himself intended to do, and, therefore, he would now declare that, although in the course of the present Session he should have attempted, had he remained in office, to effect an immediate settlement of Church-rates, yet it was his intention to adopt the principle of the noble Lord. Here, then, was a distinct avowal from the right hon. Baronet, made in the debate when the question was brought before the House by the present Lord Spencer, that if the right hon. Baronet's continuance in office in 1835, had not been cut short, it was his intention to have brought the subject of Church-rates under the consideration of Parliament. To all those, then, who regarded Church-rates as an evil in themselves—as oppressive and unjust upon the dissenting body—and as a source of strife and mischief to the Established Church, it was naturally a matter of regret and surprise, that the right hon. Baronet with all the power to carry out his opinions, and to execute his will, should have failed to undertake a subject upon which he expressed so strong and decided an opinion in 1835; and it remained for the right hon. Baronet to explain for what reason it was, that he deemed the question of less importance now than he considered it to be at the period to which he (Sir J. Easthope) had adverted. In the course of the same debate, in May, 1835, the tight hon. Baronet, showing the importance he then attached to the question, also said,— With respect to municipal corporations, he was not about to say a word on that question; but, without undervaluing its importance, he must observe, that the subject of Church-rates did not yield to it in urgency. So far as any question could be important to the maintenance of social harmony, to the promotion of satisfaction amongst the great body of the Dissenters, there was not a single question, excepting that of the Irish Church, which so much pressed for an immediate practical settlement as this of Church-rates. Again, in the same debate, the right hon. Baronet further said, addressing himself particularly to the present noble Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell): — And on the subject of Church-rates, surely the noble Lord, adhering, as he professed, to his former principle, and being in possession of all the facts of the case, surely the noble Lord, himself one of the parties to the bill of Lord Althorp, and being now perfectly able to accomplish his object, surely he was bound to proceed, and not to leave unsettled for another year a subject so pregnant with the seeds of discord and collision. In consideration of the interest of the Church listablishment—for the satisfaction of a large body of the people—for the accomplishment of their own pledges to promote subordination and obedience to the law—to suppress individual complaints of grievance—surely, to accomplish all these objects, a Government fit to be entrusted with the management of public affairs would, without delay, take this matter into their own hands, and not suffer the law respecting Church-rates to be made a theme of discussion in public meetings, and a subject of resistance by parochial martyrs for another twelvemonth. Thus, then, it would appear, that in 1835 the right hon. Baronet pressed the subject of Church-rates upon the Government of that day as one that peremptorily claimed its attention; and that it would amount to a dereliction of duty if the Ministry suffered it to go on unadjusted for twelvemonths longer. Yet year after year it had gone on, and still remained unsettled. It would be a waste of the time of the House if he were to dwell upon the reasons which had prevented its being set at rest. The House would not fail to remember, that repeated efforts had been made by the late Government to settle the question all of which had failed from the want of adequate support; but the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), with the powerful majority which he possessed in both Houses of Parliament would have none of the difficulties to contend against which had baffled his predecessors in their endeadeavours to set the matter at rest. It was no part of his duty to attempt to defend any of the different courses that had been taken in reference to this subject. It was not for him to say, whether the late Ministry had done all they might have done to accomplish a settlement of this painful, difficult, and mischievous question. But he thought it would be felt by the House, and—he said this in no unfriendly spirit —that the right hon. Baronet should be induced seriously to consider whether the discord, strife, and bitterness, which resulted from the still unsettled state of the question would not now be chargeable upon his Government which possessed the power of removing the injustice so generally admitted to exist. Church-rates had been so repeatedly declared by all parties in that House to be a grievance upon Dissenters, that he should not deem it necessary to dwell for one moment upon that point. It would be in the recollection of the House, that in 1834 a measure upon the subject was proposed by the present Lord Spencer—that in 1837 another measure was brought forward by the present Lord Monteagle; in both cases the proposition for the abolition of Church-rates was affirmed by the House—in the one case by a majority of 116, in the other by a majority of 23. Leading Members of every Government that had existed for more than the last ten years had made and sanctioned efforts to remove the grievance of Church-rates and to settle the question. Different plans had been brought forward, and whatever difference of opinion had existed as to the nature of the substitute to be established for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, all had concurred in the point that Church-rates were in themselves a grievance which ought to be abolished. It was felt by the Dissenters to be a very great hardship that whilst the grievance was thus admitted and proclaimed by all, they should still be continued only because a difference of opinion existed as to the substitute to be adopted in lieu of them. Lord Althorp had brought in a measure, which, as a substitute, might have been a bad one. Lord Monteagle had brought in a measure, which, as a substitute, might also have been deemed a bad one, but both and all agreed that the grievance was severe and unjust upon Dissenters, and that the abolition of Church-rates was important and essential to justice. With this general admission of the severity of the grievance, it was indeed very hard that it should be allowed to continue merely because there was a difference of opinion as to the remedy to be adopted. In the year 1837, the expediency of legislating for an adjustment of the question of Church-rates was alluded to in the speech from the Throne, in the following words: — We are required to convey to you his Majesty's desire that you should consult upon such further measures as may give increased stability to the Established Church, and produce concord and good will. In the debate on the Address, at the commencement of the Session of that year, a general understanding prevailed that there was to be an abolition of Church-rates, and that some substitute would be sought and found for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church. In the course of the debate upon Lord Althorp's motion in 1834, no individual Member of the House more strongly characterised the grievance of Church-rates than the noble Lord the present Secretary for the Colonies (Lord Stanley). Looking to the strong feeling which that noble Lord then expressed upon the subject, he (Sir J. Easthope) could not help believing that the noble Lord, with many other Members of the Government, must now be sincerely desirous of terminating this irritating and painful question. In the debate of 1834, the noble Lord stated that He was perfectly ready to admit that such maintenance of an Established Church ought to be conducted upon principles and in a manner the least irritating and offensive to other parties, both as respected the amount and the mode of collection. He was equally ready to acknowledge that Church-rates, as they stood, formed to the Dissenters a serious and substantial grievance. In the same debate, referring to a speech which had been made by the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. Inglis), the noble Lord also said:— Did his hon. Friend think that the best mode of advancing the true interests of the Church was by maintaining every one of its abuses? Did any man suppose that those in terests were to be promoted by a profanation of the Church itself year after year—by a desecration of the House of God, by a squabble about Church-rates at each succeeding Easter? He was afraid, the House would feel that he was needlessly trespassing upon its attention, by bringing under its notice sentiments which had been so strongly expressed; but he begged the House to consider what must be the feelings of Dissenters—of those who had submitted to bear this oppressive impost, when they had heard from the Throne an intimation that their grievances should be remedied — when they had seen all parties in that House concurring in the opinion that Church-rates were a heavy and severe grievance—when, one after another, they had found the leaders of parties, as well as individual Members of a more retiring caste, all agreeing, and proclaiming Church-rates to be an impost that ought not to he borne—a tax unfit for the present time, every way injurious to the Church, for whose benefit it was intended, and utterly disgraceful to the age in which it existed. Upon the point of its being a grievance, an unjustifiable and unnecessary grievance, there was, (this he thought must be admitted a combination of authority almost amounting to an universal agreement. If he were correct in that statement, then it followed that the grievance naturally became heavier in the estimation of those who had to bear it. What could be harder, than to be told that they were subject to a wrong, but that they must continue to endure it, because all the substitutes proposed in lieu of it had been defective—because, in the one case, those who were unfriendly to the rate did not think it right to throw the burden upon the Consolidated Fund, and because, in the other case, the supporters of the Established Church would not agree to the appropriation of funds belonging to the Church to a purpose to which they were fairly and justly applicable. Because there was disagreement upon these points out of doors, because there was no concurrence in that House as to the character of the substitute, did not the grievance operate with double hardship upon those who, hearing it universally condemned, were yet compelled to endure it from year to year? Whatever the difficulty, whatever the difference of opinion amongst different parties might be as to the nature of the remedy, he apprehended that there was no man in the House who would be bold enough to get up and say, that injustice should be prolonged, and unchristian and anti-social strife perpetuated, until some substitute for Church-rates could be discovered to which the hon. Baronet, the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. Inglis) could not object, and against which the most ascetic and rigid Dissenter could raise no murmur. No. A measure essential to the preservation of social peace —to the true interests of the Church—to the first objects of religion—to the happiness of the people—was not to be delayed because of a difficulty between different parties in the House and the country about the substitute to be provided to meet an inconsiderable charge. He remembered, that in the debate upon Lord Althorp's motion the hon. Baronet, the Member for the University of Oxford stated, that he thought the Dissenters bore but a very inconsiderable portion of the burden of Church-rates. Upon that occasion, the hon. Baronet said, As to the amount paid by the Dissenters, he did not believe that it could amount to any thing which could so press upon their resources as to be deemed a grievance on that account. The whole amount raised by Church-rates in England and Wales was 566,000l. a year. He would ask any Gentleman whether the Dissenters share of this payment could be estimated at more than one-twentieth of the sum? He was sure, he might safely say it was not more than a fortieth. If that were so, the sum chargeable upon the Dissenters would not exceed 14,000l. to 15,000l. a-year. For such a sum, was it worth while to perpetuate a grievance upon the consciences of Dissenters? Could no other means of raising such a sum be found? Was there no other source than the pocket of the Dissenter from which this pittance towards the support of the fabric of the Church could be devised? Upon these points, he appealed to the good sense and good policy of the House. As he had already stated, Church-rates were admitted by all parties to be a grievance; the only difficulty was as to the remedy. Now, he apprehended that a strong Government like the present could not have much difficulty in devising a remedy. He believed, that that which he should have the honour to propose, would be amply sufficient to meet the difficulty of the case. If it were not—if it could be proved that it was not suffi- cient to meet the difficulty, he should be one amongst the last who would desire to see the fabric of the Church endangered, and one amongst the first to prevent, by every means in his power, whether private or public, that which he should deem to be so great an evil, as the decay of our religious edifices. The measure he had now to offer to the House proposed, in the first place, to abolish Church-rates, except in so far as related to arrears, or to the payment of debts or sums heretofore borrowed, to which Church-rates had been pledged for the repayment. The maintenance of the fabric of the Church he proposed to meet in all cases, where endowments or voluntary subscriptions were not sufficient, by giving to the churchwardens and the minister the power of charging and fixing rents on pews in all cases, except where the pews belonged to the minister, the trustees, churchwardens, and overseers of the poor for the time being, and all such as were allotted as free sittings for the use of the poor. The grievance would thus be redressed. Church-rates would be abolished, and a substitute established which, by many who had given it a careful attention, was thought would be attended by many advantages. In large places, Church-rates were very much upon the decline. It was notorious that most of the large towns had dispensed with the necessity of levying them. In one of the largest parishes in the kingdom—the parish adjoining to that in which they were then assembled—Church-rates had not been collected for years; yet the fabric of its churches had not decayed, nor had the comfort or convenience of those who attended the churches been in any way curtailed or impaired. If Church-rates, then, were not absolutely necessary, let them be abolished in the manner he proposed. No rational friend of the establishment could apprehend danger to the fabric of the Church by a concession so much in accordance with Christian charity and social virtue. There could be no danger of the want of sufficient funds to sustain the Church in large towns. The possibility of such a danger could only exist in small and rural districts, and even in such places the more the matter was investigated, the less ground did there appear for the apprehension of any great difficulty or any real danger. But supposing, that in some instances, some difficulty should arise, still he would ask, could there be a greater libel inflicted upon the members of the Established Church, than to say, that whilst Dissenters found no difficulty not only in supporting and maintaining, but in rearing and completing the fabric of the houses in which they worshipped, the members of the Established Church were too indifferent to the religion they professed to bear the expense of sustaining the edifices in which their religious services were performed? There was another point that ought not to escape the attention of the House, and which he remembered was much felt in the debate upon the question in the year 1835. Lord Althorp then stated, that whilst the sum at that time raised by Church-rates might be estimated at something short of 600,000l. a year, it was confidently believed, that only one-half of that sum was positively required for purposes essentially necessary to the Church establishment. The noble Lord, upon that occasion, stated the large and extravagant expenditure which always attended the proceedings adopted by parish officers and vestries; and it was at that time generally considered that one-half of the sum then raised by way of Church-rates would be found fully adequate to meet all the charges to which Church-rates could be properly applied. The House would at once perceive that this was another source from which anger, strife, and discord, would readily and constantly proceed. It went to identify those officially connected with the sacred edifice with a system of jobbing, or with a profligate wasting of the money entrusted to their care for the uses of the Church. This was not only likely to engender anger and strife, but was calculated to bring the established religion itself into contempt. He thought that for a consideration so unimportant as the sum which Dissenters were said to contribute towards the support of the Church, there were few who would consider that that trifling contribution should be extorted at the cost of sacrilegous strife, anti-social bitterness, legal controversy, fines inflcted on tender consciences generating, it might be, spurious martyrs for unholy objects, but certainly leading to the imprisonment of godly men, who, submitting to the loss of liberty, waste of property, and the deprivation of family comfort, had resisted what they felt to be a grievance in their consciences, even though it involved them in so much affliction. Every one who had attended to the subject, and had marked the mischiefs resulting from the present state of the law, could not fail to ask "for what object, for what great advantage, is this state of things continued?" The answer was to be found in the estimate made by the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford, as to the amount contributed by the Dissenters to the support of the Established Church. All the mischiefs, all the miseries entailed by the present law were continued for the sake of some 14,000l. or 15,000l., extorted from the Dissenters to sustain the fabric of the Established Church. Would the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford say that the advantage thus derived to the Church was in any degree equal to the mischiefs inflicted upon society by the enforcement of this obnoxious impost? Upon a former occasion the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford had stated that he believed it to be a question of property. How that which depended upon the will of the individuals who attended parish vestries at Easter, and upon the accident of whether upon such occasions there happened to be more Dissenters or more Churchmen present, could be deemed a legal charge upon property, he was totally at a loss to conceive. Then there was the question of ecclesiastical pre-eminence; it was said that the Church had the authority to levy this rate, and that it was essential to its importance that it should exercise that authority, that it should say to those who differed from it, "We have the power of making you contribute to our support, and we will exercise our power." That doctrine was so totally at variance with every Christian and benevolent principle, so fraught with mischief, and so utterly repugnant to every liberal and charitable feeling, that he could no longer expect to hear it advocated within the walls of Parliament. He could scarcely imagine that there was a single individual in the House who would attempt to justify the continuance of Church-rates either upon the ground of their being a charge upon property, or upon the still worse, and less tenable ground, of their continuance being necessary as affording an opportunity for the exhibition of the strength and authority of the Church. He felt that he should best consult his own feelings upon the subject by not taking up the time of the House at greater length. The subject had been so often under the consideration of Parliament, the merits and demerits of the question had been so thoroughly discussed, and he believed were now so thoroughly understood, that he did not deem it necessary to do more upon that occasion than at once to move,— For leave to bring in a bill to abolish Church-rates and to make other provisions for the maintenance of churches and chapels in England and Wales.

Sir R. H. Inglis

said the hon. Baronet who had just sat down had referred to him so frequently in the course of his speech, that he hoped his hon. Friend the Member for North Nottinghamshire would excuse him for endeavouring to address the House as early as possible. Though he would have yielded with pleasure to any Member of the Government, he felt it his duty to take the earliest opportunity of expressing his objections to this measure, and he hoped his hon. Friend would excuse him for not yielding to him on this occasion. No speech, in his opinion, that had been heard in that House during the present Session had been so easily made as the speech which had just been delivered by the hon. Baronet the Member for Leicester, for he would almost take upon himself to say that if reference were made to Hansard's Debates for the 25th of May, 1841, there would be found not merely the same arguments that had been used now, but the same arguments and the same quotations from speeches of different Members conveyed in the same words. It was not to be expected, therefore, that to old objections he could oppose other than old refutations. Such, at least, must be the case on a question so repeatedly brought forward, and with such an utter failure as regarded legislation. For, whether they looked at the proposition of Lord Althorp in 1834, or that of Lord Monteagle in 1837, or to the repeated endeavours of the hon. Baronet the Member for Leicester himself, to call the attention of the House to it in what he would consider a happier state of feeling with respect to legislation, it was equally clear, that nothing practically had been done. In one year leave was given to bring in a bill, of which the second reading was afterwards indefinitely postponed, without division or discussion. In another a substitute for church-rates from the Con- solidated Fund was proposed, and rejected almost with unanimity by the great dissenting body, of whom the hon. Baronet, the Member for Leicester, was, not unworthily, the organ. At any rate, he had presented a number of petitions to that House urging their claims. He did not say, that the hon. Baronet was identified in principle with that body. It was not necessary for his argument to make that assertion. But the great body of Dissenters, of whom the hon. Baronet was the organ in that House, repudiated as strongly the proposition with respect to the Consolidated Fund as any other mode of providing for the fabric of the Church, on the ground that the Consolidated Fund was the produce of taxation of the country, and that that plan would be only another mode of burdening the consciences of Dissenters—that it would be another way of robbing their pockets, by taking money from them indirectly, instead of directly, in the shape of Church-rates. The hon. Member for Leicester asked him how, with his views of refusing to contribute to the support of that which he did not conscientiously believe, he could be willing to impose the tax of Church-rates on Dissenters? The hon. Baronet told him that he could no longer deny, that the tax was a burden upon conscience, because it was not strictly a burden upon property. He in return would ask the hon. Member for Leicester how he could contend, that Church-rates were not a tax upon property, on the ground of the amount being variable, and because, though imposed by a majority. of churchmen in one year, it might be negatived altogether by a majority of Dissenters in the next; how he could deny, on account of such fluctuation, that Church-rates were a tax upon property, and avoid applying the same principle to poor-rates. How did the case of-poor-rates differ from that of Church-rates? The poor-rate was fixed by the vestry at so much a pound— in one year 13d., in another 18d., according to the varying wants of the body for whose relief the rate was imposed. Unless the hon. Baronet, the Member for Leicester, could prove that poor-rate, on account of its fluctuations, was not a tax upon property. he was not entitled to say, that Church-rates, because of their fluctuations, were not a tax upon property. In both cases property was liable, according to the discretion of a vestry, and the chief difference between them was, that, whereas one was imposed under a law— the Poor-law about two centuries and a half old; the other was imposed under a law of which no man knew the date, but which was coeval with the existence of landed property in England. It was sustained by decisions not merely of the ecclesiastical courts, but of the courts of common law, and until within the last half century the law was never disputed, for though there had been individual suits for the subtraction of tithes, there was no instance of a parish being brought into one of the ecclesiastical courts for refusing a rate. Within the last few years, of course, the case had been different; but; still the number of cases in which Church- rates had been resisted was comparatively small. He believed the hon. Baronet would confirm him when he said, that in one year they had been only fourteen. In another year they had no doubt increased to forty or fifty, but, at the same time, he maintained now, as he had maintained before, that the resistance to the maintenance of the law, if met by the means which the law now presented—ameliorated, however, as far as the processes were concerned — would meet with the same result that had attended the maintenance of the law in regard to other matters in this country—that of a gradually diminishing amount of opposition As regarded the Church-rate question, this result had occurred already. The number of cases now in which opposition to Church-rates had been prosecuted in any courts was less than it was when the question was first brought forward. What the cause was he could not undertake to say, but the fact was, that the number of such cases had decreased. The hon. Member, however, had referred to the small amount of money paid in Church-rates by the Dissenters—some 14,000/. a-year—and then had applied the argument ad verecundiam to him (Sir R. Inglis), asking him whether for the sake of so small a sum he would consent to continue such a burden on the consciences of his fellow-countrymen. That argument told two ways. But, in the first place, he would say, that he never looked upon Church-rates as a mere pounds, shillings, and pence question, nor did he consider that Dissenters wanted merely to be liberated from the payment of a certain amount of money. His claim was this, that Church-rates were a national tribute paid to the national Church, and as such they ought to be continued. He said that the great body of the people of England, so far from feeling this tax a burden, esteemed it a privilege to be allowed to maintain the fabric of the churches by means of Church-rates, and this was proved by the unprecedented number of petitions which were presented a few years ago in support of the existing system. There were not less than 3,188 petitions presented from every part of the country in favour of the existing system. Those petitions were not got up, but were spontaneously sent from people asking to be allowed to continue to pay this burden. They did not feel it a burden. He repeated, that Church-rates were a tribute of the nation to the national Church. Strictly speaking, it would be equally a tribute if paid by the Consolidated Fund; but paid in that way, there would be no diminution in the objection of conscientious Dissenters. In the next place, if the support of the fabric of churches were placed on the Consolidated Fund, it would not be so secure. At present it was a tax on land. It was a tax on a man by name, but in respect of such and such property. He did not understand the hon. Member for Leicester to deny this, at all events there was nothing in his speech to prove the contrary. The Church-rate was a tax on John Thomas in respect of such a house or field, but it followed the property whether John Thomas or John Smith held it. Therefore, he contended it was not a poll-tax, but a tax upon property. With that conviction, he could not understand—he did not wish to use harsh language—but he must say, he did not understand the honesty of the man who, having, in the presence of the auctioneer, made a deduction from the price of a property to the amount of the tax, should turn round and say, that his conscience hindered him from paying that burden because the money would be applied to certain uses. Uses had nothing to do with the payment of a debt. A man was bound to pay his debt, whatever profligate expenditure he might encourage in his creditor. The obligation to pay Church-rates was one to which every acre in this country was subjected. From that obligation the proposition of the hon. Baronet the Member for Leicester would relieve those acres, and against that proposition he would strenuously contend. The hon. Gentleman's immediate proposi- tion would render a Church-rate still legal if imposed on pews or sittings in churches. But it was one great privilege of the people of England—and a privilege which he wished to extend, and not to diminish—to have free access to their parish churches. He would not have them pay for going to church as for going into a theatre. In the majority of parish churches in Leicestershire, the chief part of those who attended were poor persons. The hon. Baronet opposite proposed to levy a tax on sittings in parish churches for the maintenance of those churches. Against that he contended. He maintained that the Church was the church of the poor, and they ought not to be deprived of the privilege of attending public worship by subjecting them to any burden which they did not now bear. For these and many other reasons, he maintained it was inexpedient to grant the permission which the hon. Baronet asked. Believing that his bill was founded on a vicious principle, and feeling that in such case it was more respectful both to the House and the hon. Member, to take the sense of the House at once, instead of giving him the trouble of bringing in, and the House of considering a bill, which at a future stage would be rejected, he would at once oppose the present proposition.

Mr. S. Crawford

said, that his constituents and he himself felt a great interest in this question. They had met with success on every occasion in contending against Church-rates, and he would therefore trouble the House with a very few words. The question, in his opinion, really at issue was the connexion of Church and State. The question at issue was, whether there should be a Church Establishment in England paid by the people or not. In his opinion, that was the real question at issue. If there ought to be a church by law established, it had a right to Church-rates, If it had a right to tithes, it had a right to Church-rates. It was his opinion that all such practices should be abolished, and no man compelled to pay in any shape for the religion of any other man. The reason why the system of Church-rates was a grievance was, that it compelled one man to pay for another's religion. He thought that all that should be abolished, and therefore he supported the motion of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Leicester, that he conceived the hon. Baronet went far short of the true principle. If he started with the great principle of opposing the payment of any state Church, he would, in his opinion, be more likely to attain his object. The Irish people did not limit their opposition to Church-rates. They contended that tithes should be abolished, and they succeeded in effecting the abolition of Church-rates. He only regretted that they did not persevere with more steadfastness in their opposition to tithes. He called on the hon. Baronet to take the ground of opposition to the claims of any Church to be supported by the State. That was the claim of the Dissenters, and if they did not proceed upon that grand principle, they were not deserving of the remission of Church-rates.

Mr. H. Gally Knight

said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had put the question upon its true grounds. The hon. Gentleman objected to Church-rates because he objected to an established Church, and fairly avowed that he thought the one depended upon the other:—that was the very reason which would induce him (Mr. Knight) to oppose the motion which was now before the House. The hon. Baronet who brought it forward had stated, that the sum which the Dissenters paid was paltry in amount. If it was so paltry, why make such a disturbance about the matter? He considered that if there was to be an established Church in the country there must be some compulsory provision for the support of the fabric; — because, without the fabric the service could not be performed, and without a compulsory provision the fabric would not be maintained. He admitted that the voluntary principle was a useful auxiliary, but he asserted that it could not be relied upon as the basis of an institution which was meant to be permanent. Neither would the pew-rents, which the hon. Baronet proposed as a substitute, afford anything like an adequate provision, especially in rural districts. After having frequently and anxiously meditated upon the subject — after having considered the various substitutes which had at various times been proposed, he could not but remain in the opinon that the old parochial system offered more advantages than any other. The fabric is, then, maintained by those in whose sight it ever remains. The "stitch in time" is applied, which saves so much. If repairs on a large scale are required, the expense is chiefly, and cheer- fully, met by the landed proprietors in the neighbourhood. No other system would be either so safe, or so economical. And when the hon. Baronet talked of the injustice of the present system, he must deny it in toto; because our forefathers had imposed the duty of maintaining the fabric upon all real property: whatever any man had inherited, he had inherited subject to that condition; and whatever he had purchased, he had bought for less money on account of that condition Now to excuse the Dissenters from this obligation—to relieve their property from this burden, would only be making them a present to which they were no more entitled than other people; and, if the pre- sent were made to them alone it would be a direct premium on dissent. A Dissenter might just as well say that he had conscientious objections to the land-tax, as object to the Church-rate. In addition to which, he would assert that, in England, the Church of England was part and parcel of the Constitution—that Constitution of which the Dissenter as much enjoyed the protection as the Churchman—that Constitution under which he would not pass so comfortable an existence, if the Church were not part of it. Whatever the Dissenter pays, he pays because it is an obligation attached to his property, and he pays, not as a Churchman, but as a citizen. He would add, that there was less reason for entertaining this question now than there had been before, because the Church was more on the alert, and because dissent was on the decrease. The proportion of Dissenters to members of the Church of England had never been so great as had been asserted. The dissenters, including Catholics and Wesleyans, had never amounted, in England and Wales, to 2,000,000— whilst the population amounted to 16,000,000, a proportion of 1 to 8. But now the Church, which he admitted, had at one time been asleep— now the Church had roused herself into activity; the duties of the Ministers of the Gospel were efficiently discharged, additional church-room was provided, many who had not been satisfied before now went regularly to church;—the consequence was, that the number of the members of the Church of England is increasing, whilst that of the Dissenters is diminishing. And in this, he confessed, he rejoiced; because he could not but be of opinion that the greatest possible evil arises from a multiplicity of sects, with which England, more than any other country, has been distracted. From that multiplicity arise heartburnings, strife, uncharitableness, and, above all, the absence of that humility without which no man can be a true Christian. Far, therefore, from agreeing with the hon. Baronet who brought forward this motion, he was entirely of opinion that by far the better course would be, for this House to declare that to be law, which is believed by many to be law already, and which few can bring themselves absolutely to assert not to be law— he meant, that the churchwardens should have power to distrain for so much as is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the fabric, and no farther. He would not ask for a rate for what is called the incidental expenses— for the warming, lighting, the organ, and the like, those things might be left to the congregation,—but he did think that the maintenance of the fabric itself should be secured. The present state of the law provoked opposition— make it clear, and it would soon cease to be disputed, and motions like the present would cease to be brought before that House.

Lord J. Russell

could not, after the speeches of the two hon. Gentlemen who had spoken last, suffer this subject to pass without explaining the ground on which he would vote. The hon. Member for Rochdale, and the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, both affirmed, that there could be no Church Establishment without Church-rates— that the existence of a Church Establishment and of Church-rates must go together. Now, it did so happen, that, out of the three parts of the United Kingdom, in Ireland there was a Church Establishment and no Church-rates, and in Scotland a Church Establishment, and no Church-rates. There was a different provision in Scotland, by which the landed property of the country was charged; therefore it was not true that there must be Church-rates, as established in England, in order to maintain an Established Church. All that was necessary for an Established Church was, that there should be some provision made by law for the maintenance of the fabric, and for the performance of public worship. If that, was the state of the case, then the question was, whether there was any considerable evil, any existing grievance which should induce them to alter the form in which Churches were at present maintained. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last thought, that the old mode was the best, and yet suggested an alteration of that law which he thought so excellent— admitting, at the same time, that heartburnings were caused by the present system. That was admitted, and the existence of such evils could hardly be denied. There were contests carrying on from year to year with respect to Church-rates, and, whatever way the majority was, the evil was great. If there was a majority against Church-rates, the rate was refused, and the Church left to voluntary contributions. If the Church-rate was granted, it was a triumph to the Churchmen over the Dissenters, and a humiliation to the latter, who were thus more alienated from the Church than they would otherwise be. These evils the hon. Baronet who made the present motion proposed to remedy. He did not propose simply to abolish Church-rates, but to make another provision for the maintenance of churches. He thought it perfectly fair, to make a proposal for the abolition of Church-rates, provided care was taken to make provision by law for the maintenance of churches. He might not agree with the particular provisions of the hon. Member's bill when they came before the House. They might be found insufficient, and either upon the second reading, or in committee, he might have to vote against it. It was not very likely that the hon. Gentleman would be able to carry his measure, but he hoped the grievance of Church-rates would not be of many years' duration. Considering how much the present system was objected to by Dissenters, he thought that the proposal made by Lord Althorp, in the name of Lord Grey's Government, to provide a substitute for Church-rates out of the public revenue would be a far better arrangement than the present law. But he certainly did not expect that the Government, in the present year, would introduce any such plan, having many other matters to occupy their attention. He, therefore, did not blame them for not having brought forward the question of Church-rates in the present Session. But he did hope, that the measure would not escape their notice in some succeeding year, but that they would seriously turn their attention to the subject, and endeavour to devise some mode by which the maintenance of churches might be adequately provided for without giving rise to those contests which were so injurious to the Church, and so humiliating and vexatious to Dissenters.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that although he differed from the vote to which the noble Lord was about to come on the present occasion, still he agreed with very much of the principles which the noble Lord had laid down in the commencement of his observations,— namely, that it should be an essential point with them to secure the maintenance of the Established Church, for the purpose of affording religious instruction to the great body of the people. Agreeing, then, with the noble Lord on that principle, they had then to discuss what was the best mode in which that provision could be made. Before, however, they consented to abolish the existing system, he must be satisfied as to the means that were to be provided to supply a better mode for repairing the fabric of the Church. He must say, that before he gave a vote for the abolition of the present system of Church-rates, he must be satisfied, that the project offered to him, was likely to answer the purposes to which it was to be directed. He gave to the hon. Baronet who brought forward this measure, credit for the greatest possible sincerity, when he declared it was his wish that there should be adequate means for maintaining the fabric of the Church; but then he must say, that the hon. Baronet had signally failed in the attempt that he had made to provide these means. When the hon. Baronet last year brought forward this subject, he acquiesced in the motion for bringing in the bill, in order that he might see what the proposition was. The hon. Baronet had submitted it to their judgment; they could see whether they could possibly accept it. He had it now before him. The hon. Baronet had detailed it at considerable length; and the House was now in a condition to say, whether they would adopt the principle, or object to it. The noble Lord concurred in this, that they ought to establish proper funds for the maintenance of the churches in this country. What, however, was the remedy proposed by the hon. Baronet? That the charge should fall upon pew rents, and, that with the exception of the churchwardens and ministers, the people should be charged for their pews, a sum adequate to execute the repairs that might be required. He said, that that was directly at variance with the principle of an Established Church. The gospel was to be brought to the poor, and the hon. Baronet took the surest means for preventing the gospel from being so preached. The hon. Baronet, he knew, said, that he exempted the seats, that were specially allotted to the poor. That might apply to modern churches which were established by special funds, and by which there was a provision, that there should be a certain number of seats for the poor—it did not apply to churches in the country. He lived in a parish, in which pews in the church were held by each holder of a cottage, who from time to time succeeded to it. They did this, not in the character of the pauper, but they had their seats in the church just in the same way as their wealthy neighbours. They had an honest pride, as inhabitants of the parish, in holding their seats—in having a right to their seats in the house of God, and being free to hear the word of God. But what was the plan of the right hon. Baronet? that for the future the churchwardens must put up, if not at auction, yet at a fixed price it must be taken by the parishioners. He asked the hon. Baronet what was to be done, if, in some church, it was found, that considerable repairs were required, and the number of pews extremely limited? What then was to be done? Were the churchwardens to estimate the amount, and when 200l. was required, and only twenty pews, was each pew to be charged 10l. And if it were, and the pews to be occupied only by those who paid, must it not be the means of excluding the poor? To that plan, and to that principle, he could not concur. It would exclude from the Church those who had a right to sit there. Still less could he accede to the plan, that if the parishioners were too poor to take their seats at the price set on them, that they were to admit persons from the neighbouring parishes to occupy them— thus driving the parishioners out of their own church, and those seats which the law allotted to them. This, he conceived, would give rise to great hostility, to great complaints, and so far from relieving the evils that were said to follow from Church-rates, that the walls of the House would be made to ring with complaints of such a grievance, and Parliament would be at once called upon to put a stop to it. The remedy proposed was one, that he could not concur in, and therefore he could not consent to the motion, that was proposed to them.

Mr. O'Connell

did not agree with the hon. Gentleman in much that had fallen from him. He particularly differed from him in his historical account of the early Church. The hon. Gentleman had said, that in modern churches there were seats for the poor, but the ancient churches were occupied with pews. The hon. Gentleman was historically mistaken. In the ancient churches there were no pews at all. They were free to the public of every kind. "The gospel was, "indeeed in them, "preached to the poor," for in them there was no distinction between the rich and the poor. He differed, too, from the principle which the hon. Gentleman had stated, that they ought to maintain a church by a Church-rate. Why, they could maintain and uphold a church without any Church-rate at all. They had already an instance of this in the case of Ireland. There there existed an Established Church, and Church-rates did not exist. But there was a stronger case than that. They had also there a church with its regular hierarchy, without a particle of Church-rate, without a Government provision, without any legalised contribution in any way. They had twenty-seven archbishops and bishops besides, and other dignitaries of the church; they had subsisting an entire unbroken hierarchy, and they did not require the crutch of the State to keep them up. Were they to tell him that the Protestant religion was not at least as good as the Catholic religion; that it could not rest in security on the sincerity and devotion of its adherence? Were they to say that they could not support their Church without resting upon something that was foreign to it? There was, he thought, something dishonest in the argument of the hon. Baronet, who said that persons did not bid so high for property because it was liable to Church-rates—that when the property or land was put up by an auctioneer, it was calculated what was the Church-rate, and deducted that from the price they offered it. Let them suppose a man wished to buy a piece of land— it was subject to the land-tax—that man deducted from the purchase money the amount of the land-tax. The exigencies of the State required it; but let it be supposed that the tax were no longer necessary—that it was abandoned—would the man be regarded as unconscionable because he would not in that case give up the land he had purchased with the land-tax affixed?—or would it not rather be affirmed that he had made a bargain, and had a right to abide by it? The Church-rate was a tax, but it was not a tax at common law. At common law tithes were given, and one of its purposes was the sustentation of this charge. It was by the statute of Edward 1st. that Church-rates were enforced. It was a tax created by act of Parliament, and, like every other act, it could be repealed by act of Parliament. Now, the application of Church-rates to the building of churches was quite a modern practice. Up to the time of the Reformation, the Church-rates were for the repair of churches, and not for building them. All the churches that were built up to that period were built by means of voluntary contributions. And yet, did England then want churches? No; she had four times as many churches then as she has now. There were not less than 55,000 churches, and not less than 44,000 free chapelries and chapels of ease, and every one of these was built on the voluntary principle. He had the documents to prove the facts he mentioned, if they were denied. He asked them, then, to contrast the situation of England then and what it was now, when they impose a tax for building churches. They were right in canvassing the nature of this tax, and in seeking to be free from it. The object for which it was raised was a serious objection to it. It was against the conscience of a Christian man to pay for the support of a church, which he believed taught erroneous doctrines. And he would ask the hon. Baronet opposite— he did not do so disrespectfully, for none were less inclined to an harsh expression to another than that hon. Gentleman—but still he would ask him, that supposing a Church-rate were to be levied to-morrow for the Roman Catholic church, would not the hon. Baronet shrink from it? Would not the hon. Baronet be inclined to think that he ought not to pay it? That his conscience might not be quite safe in paying it? Although, perhaps, some lingering feeling as to the ancient faith of Oxford might instigate his hostility? An hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gaily Knight) had spoken of the church awaking after sleeping the greatest portion of the century. He believed if there were new energy in the church, it was not with the object of increasing the number of Dissenters, but it was to dispose her to shrink more and more from dissent, and to come back again to that state where unanimity could alone be found. The hon. Baronet (Sir R. Inglis) had referred to petitions from persons who wished to pay Church-rates. Why, no one asked for a law to prevent those who chose from paying Church-rates. He greatly feared that those pious individuals were not asking so much for leave to pay rates themselves, as to throw the burden of payment upon somebody else. No one wished to prevent others from being generous, but that they themselves might be relieved from a grievous burden. He said it was a burden upon conscience for a man to be called upon to pay for doctrines he did not believe to be true. He would not wish to say anything in disparagement of the Established Church; but this he would say, that no man would consent to pay, for instance, for the promulgation of doctrines which denied the redemption or that impugned the Christian faith. On the same principle, but of course in a lesser degree, he said that no man ought to be called on to pay for the religious observances of another.

Sir John Easthope,

in reply to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, begged to assure the House, that no one could be more unwilling than himself to do anything to endanger the fabric of the Established Church. He did not desire nor intend it, and as far as his influence extended, he would not permit it. No one was more desirous than he was to see the fabric of the church properly and securely supported. He must also add, in corroboration of his own convictions, that his plan would lead to no difficulty; that it was not mere theory; it was a plan that had practice in its favour. In confirmation of his conviction, that the religious zeal of members of the Established Church would not fail when properly appealed to, he would state as a fact within his own knowledge, that in a small village in the county of Surry, wherein it had been lately found, that the number of church pews was insufficient for the growing population, there, without an appeal to a Church-rate—in a very small village, too—upwards of 600l. were subscribed in a very short time, for the pur- pose of enlarging the church. If such manifestations of regard for our national church could be seen in a small village, who, then, ought to doubt the sufficiency of voluntary aid, and the means suggested by his proposed measure for the general support of the fabric of the Church? He knew, and deeply felt for those who laboured under the grievance entailed on them by the enforcement of Church-rates; he knew how deeply it was felt; he proposed a remedy— he believed a sufficient remedy; and he trusted that the House would adopt it.

The House divided;—Ayes 80 ; Noes 162; Majority 82.

List of the AYES.
Aldam, W. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Barnard, E. G. Mitcalfe, H.
Bernal, R. Morris, D.
Brotherton, J. Morrison, J.
Busfeild, W. Murphy, F. S.
Clive, E. B. O'Connell, D.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Ogle, S. C. H.
Craig, W. G. Old, W.
Crawford, W. S. Paget, Col.
Currie, R. Palmerston, Visct.
Curteis, H. B. Parker, J.
Dalmeny, Lord Pechell, Capt.
Divett, E. Philips, G. R.
Duncan, Visct. Philips, Sir R. B. P.
Duncan, G. Protheroe, E.
Duncombe, T. Rice, E. R.
Dundas, D. Bundle, J.
Ebrington, Visct. Seale, Sir J. H.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Shell, rt. hon. R. L.
Ellice, E. Smith, rt hon. R. V.
Ellis, W. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Ewart, W. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Ferguson, Col. Stuart, Lord J.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Stuart, W. V.
Gibson, T. M. Strutt, E.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir J. Thornely, T.
Hall, Sir B. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Hastie, A. Villiers, hon. C.
Hawes, B. Vivian, J. H.
Hay, Sir A. L. Vivian, hon. Capt.
Heathcoat, J. Walker, R.
Hill, Lord M. Wallace, R.
Hindley, C. Ward, H. G.
Hutt, W. Wemyss, Capt.
Johnson, Gen. Wood, B.
Johnston, A. Wood, C.
Labouchere. rt. hn. H. Worsley, Lord
Leader, J. T. Wyse, T,
Macaulay, rt. hn. T.B.
M'Taggart, Sir J. TELLERS.
Marjoribanks, S. Easthope, Sir J.
Marsland, H. Phillips, M.
List of the NOES.
Allix, J. P. Arkwright, G.
Antrobus, E. Astell, W.
Bailey, J. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Baillie, Col. Grant, Sir A. C.
Baring, hon. W. B. Greene, T.
Baring, H. B. Grimsditch, T.
Bateson, R. Grogan, E.
Beresford, Major Hamilton, W. J.
Blackstone, W. S. Hampden, R.
Bodkin, W. H. Harcourt, G. G.
Botfield, B. Hardy, J.
Bramston, T. W. Hawkes, T.
Brooke, Sir A. B. Hepburn, Sir T. B.
Bruce, Lord E. Herbert, hon. S.
Buck, L. W. Hervey, Lord A.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Hinde, J. H.
Bunbury, T. Hodgson, R.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Houldsworth, T.
Carnegie, hon. Capt. Holmes, hn. W. A'C.
Chelsea, Visct. Hope, hon. C.
Chetwode, Sir J. Hope, A.
Cholmondeley, hn. H. Howard, Lord
Christopher, R. A. Hughes, W. B.
Chute, W. L. W. Hussey, T.
Clayton, R. R. Ingestre, Visct.
Clerk, Sir G. Irton, S.
Cochrane, A. Irving, J.
Cockburn, rt. hn. SirG. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Collett, W. R. Jones, Capt.
Compton, H. C. Kemble, H.
Corry, rt. hon. H. Knatchbull, rt. hn. SirE.
Courtenay, Lord Lawson, A.
Cripps, W. Lefroy, A.
Darner, hon. Col. Legh, G. C.
Darby, G Lincoln, Earl of
Dawnay, hon. W. H. Litton, E.
Denison, E. B. Lockhart, W.
Dickinson, F. H. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Douglas, Sir H. Mackenzie, W. F.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Mackinnon, W. A.
Douglas, J. D. S. Maclean, D.
Duncombe, hon. A. M'Geachy, F. A.
Duncombe, hon. O. Mainwaring, T.
Du Pre, C. G. Manners, Lord J.
Eaton, R. J. Marsham, Visct.
Egerton, W. T. Martin, C. W.
Egerton, Sir P. Masterman, J.
Eliot, Lord Meynell, Capt.
Emlyn, Visct. Miles, P. W. S.
Escott, B. Morgan, O.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Munday, E. M.
Farnham, E. B. Murray, C. R. S.
Feilden, W. Neville, R.
Ferrand, W. B. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Fitzroy, Capt. Northland, Visct.
Fleming, J. W. O'Brien, A. S.
Ffolliott, J. Packe, C. W.
Forbes, W. Patten, J. W.
Fremantle, Sir T. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Fuller, A. E. Pringle, A.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Pusey, P.
Gladstone,rt.hn.W.E. Reid, Sir J. R.
Gladstone, T. Richards, R.
Glynne, Sir S. R. Rolleston, Col.
Godson, R. Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Russell, J. D. W.
Gore, M. Sandon, Visct.
Gore, W. R. O. Scarlett, hon. R. C.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Scott, hon. F.
Shaw, rt. hon. F. Vere, Sir C. B.
Sheppard, T. Verner, Col.
Sibthorp, Col. Vernon, G. H.
Smythe, hon. G. Vesey, hon. T.
Somerset, Lord G. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Sotheron, T. H. S. Welby, G. E.
Stanley, Lord Wilbraham. hon. R. B.
Stuart, H. Wood, Col. T.
Sturt, H, C. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Sutton, hon. H. M. Young, J.
Taylor, T. E.
Thornhill, G. TELLERS.
Trotter, J. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Turnor, C. Knight, G.