HC Deb 16 June 1842 vol 63 cc1660-8
The Earl of Lincoln

moved that the House do resolve itself into a committee on the Dean Forest Ecclesiastical Districts Bill, to make provision for the maintenance of certain chapels in the Forest of Dean.

Dr. Bowring

thought such a bill as the present ought not to have been introduced. The Church had quite sufficient property to meet any demands for spiritual instruction in any part of England. The bill, he must say, had taken him by surprise, and he decidedly objected to such an application of public money to ecclesiastical purposes.

Mr. Protheroe

said, that in his part of the country the bill had not taken them by surprise. He had often knocked at the doors of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, calling on them to make provisions for the spiritual instruction of the inhabitants of the Forest of Dean. Nothing could be more unjust than to say that, in a case like the present the Church were endeavouring to obtain any exclusive advantages. There was no one having the least acquaintance with the condition of the people who inhabited the Forest who could for a moment doubt that they were in a state of spiritual destitution; but if any one were in a state of uncertainty on the point, he should refer him to the report of Mr. Elijah Waring, whom he had not the pleasure of knowing, though the perusal of his report would lead any one to desire his acquaintance. As to the present bill, he should give it his support, being decidedly of opinion that even a larger grant of money ought to be made. It was well worthy of observation that when Monmouthshire was in a state of extreme agitation and disturbance, the most perfect tranquillity prevailed in the district with which he was connected, and those who were best acquainted with the feelings of the people imputed that tranquillity to the influence of religious instruction derived from the clergy. On these grounds be entertained a strong wish to see additional churches in that part of the country.

Mr. T. Duncombe

hoped that his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose would divide the House on the question, the more especially as no explanation on the subject had been given by her Majesty's Government. They had just rejected a motion, by a majority of 100, for giving relief to the distressed manufacturers—not a shilling would the House give to them; but yet they now proposed to grant 600l., 700l., or 800l. to endow a certain number of churches. They had often heard in that House that ecclesiastical funds ought to be applied exclusively to ecclesiastical purposes; — was there any one who would say, that the funds at the disposal of the Church were insufficient for the wants of the Church? There was Queen Anne's Bounty, there were the sums at the disposal of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and recourse ought to be had to those before any claims were made upon the property of the Crown. It was preposterous to propose that new churches should be endowed, when the House refused to grant a single shilling for the relief of the starving manufacturers in the north of England. On these grounds he should decidedly oppose the motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair.

The Earl of Lincoln

said, he should have risen sooner if he could have anticipated that the bill was to be opposed; and he was under an impression that he had last night given a sufficient explanation on the subject. An hon. Member on the other side appeared to lay great stress upon this point, that by the bill it was proposed to apply a certain portion of the public money to the endowment of churches, and last night the hon. Member for Montrose urged the same argument. Now, he conceived there was a broad distinction between the provisions of this bill and the construction put upon it by the hon. Members who made use of that argument. There was an obvious difference between giving a grant of public money and doing that which the bill proposed to effect. If the Forest of Dean belonged to a private individual, he certainly would not be justified in allowing it to remain in its present state of spiritual destitution— many individuals would give much more than was proposed to be given under the present bill. At the beginning of every reign the Crown property was transferred to the care of public commissioners— of course for a consideration— but that circumstance did not alter the degree of responsibility which attached to the possession of property. It had often been observed, that property had its duties as well as its rights, and the property in question was not by its peculiar circumstances divested of its duties any more than other property. He would repeat that which he had stated on a former occasion, namely, that there were contained in the forest 25,000 acres, that the population amounted to 11,000 souls, and that for the spiritual instruction of that population there were only three clergymen. Besides those the deputy-surveyor in the employment of the Crown was the only person in the whole district who could be regarded as belonging to the rank of gentlemen. The three clergymen had incomes respectively of 119l., 92l., and 75l. In such a state of things, and in such a condition of society in that part of the country, he felt that he ought not to shrink from the responsibility of introducing such a measure; at the same time he believed there was much more of merit than of responsibility in bringing it forward. The House had probably not forgotten that in 1835, during the Government of hon. Members opposite, a commission had been issued by the Crown to inquire not so much into the spiritual destitution as into the general circumstances of the forest, amongst other objects with the view of parochializing the district. They made their report in 1839, and they recommended that the incomes of the clergy should be increased. It appeared from that report that it was not imperative upon the clergy there to administer the rites of burial or of baptism, and that no marriages were solemnized within the forest. They recommended that a church and parsonage-house should be built, and that a benefice should be endowed, by the Crown giving to the clergyman an annual stipend of 150l. a-year, and raising the stipends of the existing clergymen in the same manner and to the same amount. The commissioners were Mr. Serjeant Ludlow, Mr. Bathurst, and other eminent persons; and although Serjeant Ludlow differed from the other commissioners on several points, he was agreed with them on this one, as appeared from a separate report which he signed. The present proposition was by no means a novel one, the case of the Delamere Forest being a precedent; and there were other cases in point. The hon. Gentleman had said, that if the church required any additional endowments, they should be taken from Queen Anne's bounty; but the Governors of that bounty never consented to increase livings without an equivalent from the proprietors of the estates concerned. The hon. Member for Montrose yesterday had said that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners ought to be called upon to supply the means sought by this bill, and that unless he had a return of their revenue he should oppose any grant; but on referring to the rules of the commissioners that day, he found that their rules precluded them from contributing to such an object. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would see that there was no necessity for persisting in his opposition to this bill.

Mr. Labouchere

observed, that as the hon. Member for Finsbury seemed to intimate his intention of taking the sense of the House upon this question, he would state in a few words the grounds on which he should give his vote. He objected to the principle of what was called church extension, by coming to that House to demand money for the purpose of increasing the establishment, and he thought it was much more advantageous to the Church in the present state of the country to leave it as it was—an establishment partly supported by the State and partly by voluntary contributions. But that was a very wide question, upon which he would not then enter. The present question was of a different nature, and had been placed upon its true grounds by the noble Lord, the bill being merely intended to enable the Crown to do that which it was the duty of every proprietor of land to do, namely, to see that the spiritual wants of the population living upon his property were adequately supplied. He was convinced that only when the proprietors of land throughout the country understood their duty in that way would the population be properly provided with religious instruction. He thought it better to trust to their sense of duty than to come to that House for a grant from the public funds for church extension. He should certainly support the noble Lord's motion.

Mr. Hawes

was compelled to take an entirely different view from his right hon. Friend, though he did not disagree from him upon the general proposition he had laid down. But this bill did contain the principle of church extension; for it was clearly and manifestly intended to apply a portion of the public funds for that purpose; therefore he should oppose it. But there was another reason why he should oppose it: since the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act and other measures affecting the Church the property of the Establishment had increased in value, and in some instances beyond the returns and estimates submitted to Parliament while those measures were under discussion to an extent of 20 or 30 per cent. As that increased value had been derived by the Establishment, he thought they ought to look to that for the endowments proposed by this bill. As a friend to the Church he would oppose this bill, and also because he thought it unjust and unnecessary, seeing that there were other funds which ought to be looked to for the aid required.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

thought the argument of the hon. Gentleman both unfair and inconsistent. If it were just in reference to the Crown, so it would be if applied to private persons. And what a bad example would the hon. Gentleman set! It was just the argument which a niggardly person would take up when appealed to for alms, that because other parties were rich and did not direct their riches to a particular object, therefore he would do nothing for it. He trusted the House would feel that the public was a proprietor of a large estate, and that it could not neglect its duty to provide for both the temporal and spiritual destitution of the population. When it was understood that the whole amount asked for was but little more than 300l., and that the district comprised 25,000 acres with 11,000 population, he thought the opposition to the measure must be very limited.

Mr. W. Williams

thought the noble Lord would have given some reason why there was to be this augmentation in the salaries of these three clergymen. Were they to perform increased duty? Had not their salaries been sufficient hitherto, and if so, why should they not be sufficient now? The noble Lord had said, that there were 11,000 persons to whom these three clergymen were to minister. He should like to ask the noble Lord how many of those 11,000 were Dissenters? He ventured to say that a large majority of them were Dissenters. But suppose they were all members of the Church of England, were not three clergymen enough to minister to the 11,000? [" No, no!"] Well, he knew that there were many clergymen who did take the care of as many souls. He should like the noble Lord to point out any individuals possessing 25,000 acres who had ever provided 300l. to pay ministers for the population. [Ironical cheers.] Well, he did not know any instance of the kind in modern times. He considered that the Government might just as well have proposed to take the money out of the Consolidated Fund at once, for that was neither more nor less than the effect of the bill.

Mr. Hardy

said, that hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to treat the Church of England as an abstract institution with which the nation had little or nothing to do, whereas it was an ecclesiastical Establishment founded and maintained by the State for the religious instruction of the people, and he hoped they received, and would continue to receive, instruction from it and through it. [Mr. T. Duncombe:" Hear. "] He wished the hon. Gentleman who cheered him would tell him what denomination of Dissenters afforded more or better religious instruction? The hon. Member for Coventry seemed to think three clergymen quite enough for 11,000 persons; why, it had always been held that 2,000 souls was the greatest number that should be committed to the care of one clergyman; so that here there ought to be five at least, instead of three. He did not know what number of Dissenters might be found amongst these 11,000 persons; but those who made the laws were bound not to depend upon the uncertain supply of religious teaching which Dissenters might supply; they must see to make the national establishment efficient, so that she might meet the wants of the people. If the population were to receive spiritual instruction the Legislature must decide what sort it should be, and they must give that decision according to the Established Church of the land. Was it not a fixed law that the sovereign of these realms must be of a certain religion,—a member of the national Church, and those who objected to his argument might as well bring in a bill to say that the sovereign should be of what religion he pleased. The Legislature was bound to provide religious instruction for the people by means of the Established Church, and, therefore, he should support the bill.

Mr. Hume

said, he could not conceive upon what principle her Majesty's Ministers had brought forward this bill, because it was one which called upon the people to grant money to a church already having 5,000,000l. of money at its command, which money was inadequately and unequally applied. He would ask, what was the House about to do? It was pressed to vote a sum of money for Church Extension, there being now a sufficient sum in the hands of the Ecclesiastical commissioners for that purpose. He would appeal to the right hon. Baronet—he would ask the Prime Minister of this country, under what pretence he called upon them to vote 10,800l. for the Church Establishment out of the public funds? There was to be a perpetual annuity of 315l. in the shape of salary to the clergymen, and 330l. as a Church-rate. He should unite with his hon. Friend, the Member for Finsbury in resisting the motion.

The House divided, on the question that the Order of the Day for going into committee be read—Ayes 101; Noes 25: Majority 76.

List of the NOES.
A'Court, Capt. Greene, T.
Ainsworth P. Grogan, E.
Alford, Visct. Hamilton, W. J.
Allix, J. P. Hampden, R.
Baring, hon. W. B. Hardinge, rt. hn. SirH.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Hardy, J.
Bentinck, Lord G. Henley, J. W.
Beresford, Major Hepburn, Sir T. B.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Hinde, J. H.
Boldero, H. G. Hodgson, F.
Botfield, B. Hodgson, R.
Brodie, W. B. Humphery, Ald.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Childers, J. W. Jermyn, Earl
Clerk, Sir G. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Cockburn, rt. hn. SirG. Jones, Capt.
Colborne, hn. W.N.R. Kemble, II.
Collett, W. R. Knatchbull, rt. hn. SirE.
Colvile, C. R, Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Corry, right hon. H. Lawson, A.
Darby, G. Lincoln, Earl of
Denison, J. E. Lindsay, H. H.
Desart, Earl of Litton, E.
Dickinson, F. H. Lockhart, W.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Lopes, Sir R.
Douglas, J. D. S. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Dundas, D. Mahon, Visct.
Eliot, Lord Mainwaring, T.
Escott, B. Manners, Lord C. S.
Ferrand, W. B. Marsham, Visct.
Fitzroy, Capt. Martin, C. W.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Masterman, J.
Ffolliott, J. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Fuller, A. E. Napier, Sir C.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Norreys, Lord
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Palmer, R.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Palmer, G.
Grant, Sir A. C. Patten, J. W. 3 H
Peel, rt. hn. Sir R. Stanley, Lord
Peel, J. Stanton, W. II.
Pigot, Sir R. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Praed, W. T. Talbot, C. R. M.
Pringle, A. Taylor, J. A.
Protheroe, E. Towneley, J.
Pusey, P. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Rashleigh, W. Waddington, H. S.
Round, C. G. Wortley, hon J. S.
Rous, hon. Capt. Young, J.
Sanderson, R. TELLERS.
Scarlett, hon. R. C. Baring, H.
Scott, hon. F. Fremantle, Sir T.
List of the NOES.
Aldam, W. Mitcalfe, H.
Blake, M. J. Pechell, Capt.
Bowring, Dr. Plumridge, Capt.
Brotherton, J. Rundle, J.
Busfeild, W. Scholefield, J.
Collins, W. Strickland, Sir G.
Dashwood, G. H. Thornely, T.
Duncombe, T. Wallace, R.
Forster, M. Wawn, J. T.
Granger, T. C. Williams, W.
Hindley, C. Wood, B.
James, W. TELLERS.
Johnson, Gen. Hawes, B.
Marsland, H. Hume, J.

On the question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,

Mr. Hume

said, that no Member of the Government had condescended to answer the question which had been put—viz., upon what principle was the House called upon to vote away the sum of above 10,000l., while no provision was to be made for the religious instruction of the Dissenters in the district?

Sir R. Peel

considered it to be rather inconvenient that, after a full discussion, such a question should be put. However, although it had been answered before, he had no objection to satisfy the hon. Gentleman. Admitting fully that the property belonged to the public, he still thought that the representatives of the people being, as such, the possessors of 25.000 acres of land, upon which was set-tied a population of 11,000, for the instruction of whom only three clergymen; were appointed, considering that they were not congregated in a town, but were spread over a large district, he doubled j whether the money proposed to be expended would not, on the part of the State, be a profitable outlay, even in a temporal view of the matter.

Mr. Wallace

did not think the question had been answered at all. From the statement of the right hon. Baronet, it appeared that no provision was to be made for the religious instruction of the Dissenters, although the money was to be taken from the public funds.

The House again divided—Ayes 101; Noes 13: Majority 88.

List of the NOES.
Blake, M. J. Plumridge, Capt.
Bowring, Dr. Scholefield, J.
Brotherton, J. Wallace, R.
Collins, W. Wawn, J. T.
Johnson, Gen. Williams, W.
Mitcalfe, H. TELLERS.
O'Connell, M. J. Duncombe, T.
Pechell, Capt. Hume, J.

House in committee.

The Earl of Lincoln

moved, That provision be made out of her Majesty's land revenues for the endowment, repair, and maintenance of certain chapels in her Majesty's Forest of Dean.

Mr. Hume

said, he thought that there were funds arising from the abolition of sinecures in the Church, which might be applied to the increase of the salaries of these clergymen, without having recourse to the public funds. This appeared to him one of the most unprincipled proceedings he had ever seen, though it was not contrary to the principles of hon. Gentlemen opposite. He should take every opportunity of offering opposition to the measure.

Captain Berkeley

said, that knowing the county of Glocester, and the want of spiritual aid that prevailed there, he was quite ready to support the measure. He was surprised that the hon. Member for Finsbury should be ready to vote 1,000,000l. sterling in a wild scheme for the relief of the people, and yet would not give 300l. for the spiritual instruction of the people.

Mr. Brotherton

said, that the funds required might be got from the surplus which they knew the Ecclesiastical commissioners had in their hands.

Resolution agreed to.

House resumed, and adjourned at a quarter past 12 o'clock.