HC Deb 19 June 1844 vol 75 cc1093-112

On the question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair for the House to go into Committee on the Vestries in Churches Bill,

Mr. Hume

wished to know why a practice which had existed since churches were churches, the practice of transacting all the business of the church in the church, ought now to be done away with? What evil was there complained of, and who were the parties before the House? He knew of none, and on that ground he thought that the measure ought at once to be rejected. If hon. Members would look at the expense to which parishes would be subjected by the measure, they would feel that nothing but the greatest evils would authorize it, preventing as it would the business of the church being transacted in the church, and compelling the parish to find other buildings, or to erect rooms for that purpose. He (Mr. Hume) had looked at the possible operation of the Bill, and it appeared to him that no one benefit could result from it, but that it must be the cause of expense. Let them abolish Church Rates, and thereby prevent irregularities from taking place. No disputes ever occurred at Vestries, except on meetings to pass Church Rates. Every parishioner was subjected to these charges, and therefore had a right to attend; and Where one-half of them was in such a situation as to consider themselves entitled to dispute their responsibility, it was impossible to suppose that they could be quiet and submit to the tax. He objected to the course taken by the hon. Member, and would move that the House resolve itself into a Committee that day six months.

Mr. Stafford O'Brien

said, the hon. Member had confined himself to the principle of the Bill, and he would venture to take the sense of the House upon that principle. Rather than mention names or interrupt the harmonious discussion of the measure, he was determined at present, as on a former occasion, to endure the disadvantage of appealing only to the general principle and to common report. He would ask whether any one were prepared to deny that scenes of disorder had taken place in churches. If hon. Members thought it better not to change the present system of transacting vestry business, they would vote against the Bill; but if they thought it right to prevent the recurrence of the scenes which had taken place under that system, then they would vote in its favour. The details of the Bill he was not determined to adhere to, and he then only advocated its principle.

Sir J. Graham

, since the last discussion of the subject had had an opportunity of considering the measure, and, as the principle of the Bill met with his entire approval, he would support the Motion for going into Committee. As to the details, they might, be improved, and he had offered his hon. Friend (Mr. S. O'Brien) the assistance of the Law Officers of the Crown in improving them. If the hon. Gentleman adopted his suggestion, he should wish the House to go into Committee pro formâ upon the Bill, for the purpose of having its details altered.

Captain Pechell

said, if the clergymen of the twelve churches in his neighbourhood were consulted, it would be found that in their opinion the church was the place for transacting its own business. There was no place where Church Rates had been more frequently discussed, and he was bound to say that he had never heard of a complaint made of any indecorum in the church. As he had reason to believe that the measure had excited great distrust and dissatisfaction he would support the Amendment.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, that when the Ecclesiastical Courts' Bill was under the consideration of the House, and a clause therein was discussed, the author of the Bill said that it had been retained to prevent the occurrence of any scandal in churches, but now it seemed that the country was to have another Bill upon the subject. He begged to remind the House, that when another hon. Member had brought in a Bill (the Masters and Servants' Bill) the House was requested to go into Committee proformâ, to introduce certain Amendments of the right hon. Baronet. When these Amendments had been made the Bill Came from the Committee ten thousand times more objectionable than when it came in. The moment when the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Office took one of these Bills under his protection, some how or other it was perverted; for every thing that came within the circle of the Home Office, became worse than before. Such would be the course with this measure, and he advised the hon. Member opposite (Mr. S. O'Brien) to stick to his own Bill. He could not agree to its going into Committee proformâ, merely to be experimented upon, and he hoped that the House would reject it altogether.

Mr. Escott

said, that no statement had been made of the necessity of such a measure, and as the hon. Member (Mr. S. O'Brien) would not make such a statement because it would raise animosity; he knowing nothing of private squabbles, must ask his hon. Friend or some other Member to state the reasons for supporting it? From every thing which he had heard, he was opposed to the Bill in principle, if its object was to effect an alteration in the common law of England in parochial matters. That church business should be transacted in the church tended to keep the Church and the people together. The Church of England was the people's Church, and he believed that this was one of those measures the tendency of which were to alienate from the Church the affections of the English people.

Mr. R. Yorke

, after the extraordinary statement of the right hon. Baronet, that he was prepared to support the principle of the Bill to which he had a few nights ago objected, he was tempted to vote against it, thinking it extraordinary, if not censurable on the part of the Government that, with such information in their possession as to the necessity of some legislation on the subject, they should suffer a private Member to bring forward a proposition to that effect.

Viscount Palmerston

said, he should vote in support of the Amendment of his hon. Friend. The Bill would effect an alteration of a practice of long standing, and congenial to the feelings of the people. He objected to an alteration being made without sufficient reason, and no specific grounds had been alleged for this Bill. His objection to the measure was not diminished by the observations of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, who admitted, although the Bill was exceedingly short, that many things in it required to be altered. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to have recourse to the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown, and that the Bill should be committed pro formâ for the purpose of making changes. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, that it would be better for him to let this Bill drop; and after consultation with the Law Officers, introduce a short Bill, if one were found to be necessary.

The Solicitor General

had a few words to say as to what had passed on a former day. He had not attended to the details of the Bill, because his engagements were very numerous, and unless his attention was called to the subject, he was not likely to be master of it. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend, Mr. S. O'Brien in the principle of the Bill. He apprehended that the object of the Bill was to prevent vestry meetings in churches. He had occasion within the last two or three days to become acquainted with facts which appeared to render a Bill of this kind essential. In a large and populous parish in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, a vestry meeting took place in the church, and the entire proceedings were such as he believed no person of good feeling could justify. The meeting took place at three o'clock in the afternoon; an evening service was to be celebrated afterwards. The meeting was large and disorderly. The place he alluded to was Shoreditch. The disorderly nuisance continued till the time for attendance upon service, and the meeting was obliged to be dispersed for that purpose, when the church was in a state which rendered it totally unfit for the decencies of worship. This was not a solitary case, and undoubtedly he felt strongly the propriety of preventing, if possible, meetings of the kind in churches. He did not see the Member for Bath in his place; but he would not be ashamed to contend in his presence, that he was one of those, who, whenever they enter a place dedicated to the service of God (call it prejudice, or weakness, or what they might, but it arose from associations of the most sacred description) were inspired with a feeling of reverential awe. He was extremely desirous of preventing the desecration of places applied to such holy purposes, by preventing meetings therein of a disorderly character. He thought, therefore, that the House ought to go into Committee pro formâ on the Bill, and that it afterwards might be so modified as to meet the views of the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department.

Mr. E. Denison

said, that the Bill, as it at present stood, was an unnecessary piece of legislation, and if the House divided on the subject, he must give his vote against it.

Mr. Ewart

said, before the House attempted to suppress any local disturbances which might have taken place in particular churches, it ought to remove Church Rates and other gravamina of those disturbances, instead of dealing summarily by the rate-payers, and turning them out of the churches. He believed, that the disturbances in Shoreditch took place five or six years back, and were no justification of the present measure.

Captain Rous

said, that the Solicitor General had founded his argument in support of the Bill upon one point, namely, that men were retrograding instead of improving; that they were going back in the world, and becoming worse rather than better; in short, that they were not fit to be trusted, and that new buildings must be erected in order that when people had unpleasant things to say to each other, they might not use improper expressions in churches. Now, he believed his constituents would be very unwilling to lay out more money for such purposes, and as he had a very good opinion of mankind in general, and thought such a measure as the present for their restraint, not only wholly unnecessary, but a positive insult to every rate-payer in England, he should give his vote against going into Committee on the Bill.

Mr. Wakley

expressed his admiration of the speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster, and said, he should be glad to hear more of the same kind from the opposite side of the House. Everybody he met out of doors, was asking him, what could be the meaning or intention of this Bill?—what was its object?—what was its motive? After the right hon. Gentleman, the First Lord of the Treasury, having, as he understood, expressed in unmeasured terms his disapprobation of the Bill, the right hon. the Home Secretary now declared his approbation of its principle—that principle being, that the rate-payers should not meet in their own churches on parochial business. One would really suppose that the object of those who supported the Bill was, to drive people from all connection with the Church. What nonsensical cant it was to talk of disgraceful or immoral speeches degrading or contaminating the walls of a building! Why, if that were possible, he should like to know in what condition were the walls of the building in which they were assembled? If disgraceful, immoral, canting, hypocritical language could contaminate the walls of any institution, he said, it must be positively dangerous to human life, for any man to enter there. The right hon. Home Secretary was anxious that the Bill should go to Committee pro forma— in other words, that it should become a Government measure. Now, he said, let the House not have a hybrid measure. Let this Bill be withdrawn, and one be introduced on the responsibility of Government, and let us see whether a Conservative Government—a Government professing high Church principles—were prepared, with respect to parochial Ecclesiastical matters, to drive the people from the Church. Let it be seen who were the real friends, and who were the enemies of the Church. He begged of every Gentleman who was in favour of this Bill to recollect, that by voting for any further stage of it, he was voting for an additional burthen upon the rate-payers.

Mr. O. Stanley

would vote against the Bill, because he did not believe there was any necessity for it, and there was no demand for it out of doors.

The House divided on the question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question—Ayes 87; Noes 73: Majority 14.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Courtenay, Lord
Acland, T. D. Cripps, W.
Adare, Visct. Darby, G.
Allix, J. P. Dickinson, F. H.
Astell, W. Egerton, W.T.
Baird, W. Eliot, Lord
Baring, hon. W. B. Fellowes, E.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Flower, Sir J.
Blackstone, W. S. Fuller, A. E.
Borthwick, P. Gaskell, J. Milnes
Botfield, B. Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.
Bruges, W. H. L. Goulburn, rt. hn. H.
Buck, L. W. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Buckley, E. Greene, T.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Grimsditch, T.
Chelsea, Visct. Grogan, E.
Clerk, Sir G. Hanmer, Sir J.
Clive, hon. R. H. Heathcote, Sir W.
Cochrane, A. Heneage, G. H. W.
Colvile, C. R. Henley, J. W.
Hepburn, Sir T, B. Round, C. G.
Herbert, hop. S. Rushbrooke, Col.
Hodgson, R. Sandon, Visct.
Houldsworth, T. Shaw, rt. hn. F.
Hughes, W B. Sheppard, T.
Jermyn, Earl Shirley, E. J.
Johnstone, H. Shirley, E. P.
Lefroy, A. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Legh, G. C. Somerset, Lord G.
Lockhart, W. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Long, W, Stanley, Lord
Lowther, hon. Col. Stanley, E.
Mackinnon, W. A. Sutton, hn. H. M.
Manners, Lord J. Thesiger, Sir F.
Masterman, J. Tollemache, J.
Maunsell, T. P. Trench, Sir F. W.
Mildmay, H. St. J. Verner, Col.
Nicholl, rt. hn. J. Vesey, hon. T.
Norreys, Lord Walsh, Sir J. B.
Peel, rt. hn. Sir R. Whilmore, T. C.
Peel, J. Wodehouse, E.
Plumptre, J. P. Young, J.
Pusey, P. TELLERS.
Rashleigh, W. O'Brien, A. S.
Rolleston, Col. Denison, E. B.
List of the NOES.
Aldam, W. Morris, D.
Archbold, R. Morrison, J.
Armstrong, Sir A. Murphy, F. S.
Bannerman, A. O'Brien, J.
Barnard, E. G. O'Connell, M.
Barron, Sir H. W. Ogle, S. C. H.
Bellew, R. M. Paget, Col.
Bouverie, hn. E. P. Palmerston, Visct.
Bowes, J. Pechell, Capt.
Brotherton, J. Philipps, G. R.
Chapman, B. Philips, M.
Christie, W. D. Plumridge, Capt.
Collett, J. Price, R.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Rawdon, Col.
Craig, W. G. Ricardo, J. L.
Denison, J. E. Roebuck, J. A.
Divett, E. Ross, D. R.
Duncan, Visct. Rous, hon. Capt.
Duncan, G. Scott, R.
Dundas, Adm. Seale, Sir J, H.
Easthope, Sir J. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Escott, B. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Esmonde, Sir T. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Evans, W. Thornely, T.
Ewart, W. Vivian, J. H.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Wakley, T.
Fielden, J. Wall, C. B.
Guest, Sir J. Wallace, R.
Hawes, B. Watson, W. H.
Hill, Lord M. Wawn, J. T.
Howard, hn. C.W. G. White, H.
Howard, P. H. Williams, W.
Humphery, Ald. Wyse, T.
Lemon, Sir C. Yorke, H. R.
McGeachy, F. A.
Maher, N. TELLERS.
Martin, J. Hume, J.
Mitchell, T. A. Duncombe, T.

Question again put, that the Speaker do now leave the Chair.

Mr. Hume

moved that the House do adjourn. If there was any cage of evil or irregularity in any particular parish, let the individual case be made out, and let the House then act upon it; but let not all the parishes in the country be punished for the alleged fault of one. At present the ratepayers elected the churchwardens, and they, in conjunction with the clergyman, had the care of the church. This power the Bill proposed to take from them. Talk of Radicalism-why, language would not be strong enough to paint him in the colours in which it would be said he ought to be depicted, if he made such an attempt to destroy the Church. What would be the effect of this measure? The people, if driven from the church, would be compelled to take refuge in the "Horseshoe and Magpie" next door, and was it supposed that texts of religion and morality would be the subjects of discussion there? With his notions of the Church, seeing its grasping character, its tenacity of pounds, shillings, and pence, and its eagerness of domination, he might be gratified to see it adopt every measure that was unpopular, and thus remove the little confidence that remained to it. He said this was a general measure of robbery of the ratepayers, and that the House had no right to subject to the exclusion enacted by this Bill, until it relieved them from all payments for the maintenance of the church. There had been innovation enough already. Formerly every ratepayer had the right of being present at the vestry, and the humblest had the same power as the richest man in the land; but Sturges Bourne's Bill gave cumulative votes to persons of property, so that the affairs of a parish might be decided by one fourth of the inhabitants. Let the House see how far it would be popular to transfer the rights of a whole parish to a Bishop. Let any one who had read the proceedings of the Bishop of Exeter in the case of the Rev. Mr. Dunn, consider how the people of the diocese of Exeter would like to be placed under the harrow of that right rev. Prelate. He hoped the Government would not hurry the House into a measure so extremely objectionable as the present.

Mr. Roebuck

seconded the Motion for adjournment. Having been alluded to by the Solicitor General, he wished to state very briefly his objection to this Bill Under the old system, when they were all Catholics together, the custom prevailed, which was continued when they became Protestants, of a large portion of that which was regarded as ecclesiastical business being considered in the church. The regulation had come down to them from their ancestors: but for these regulations an infinite horror was expressed by the present generation—this extraordinary peculiarly improved prudish generation. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire said those things should no longer take place in the church—he did not say where these things which excited his horror had taken place, nor did any one else say where. He did not know if anything had been stated that had created scandal, but he had affirmed on a former occasion, that anything that did occur within the walls of a building could not desecrate that building. It was strange that those who professed to feel such awe on entering a church, should be extremely anxious to import Church matters into the Magpie and Stump, or the Red Lion. Many persons who would not on any account commit a crime in a church, might easily and readily fall into the commission of one in a tap-room. He looked upon the Bill, therefore, as one calculated to entrap people into the commission of offences. In his opinion ecclesiastical matters ought to be discussed within the church walls, and so sacred did he hold a place of worship, that nothing which occurred within it could lower or degrade either the place itself or the holy doctrines inculcated in it. He believed that persons supporting this Bill were influenced by mistaken notions of Popery, and they fancied that secular matters should not be transacted within the church. According to the law of England, ecclesiastical matters could be best considered within the church walls, and the church walls would not be affected by it. The contrary was the super-sublimated Popish doctrine of the sacred-ness of the church.

Sir R. Peel

had no intention to hasten this Bill through the House. He had taken no course with respect to it which should have subjected him to that imputation. When the Bill was under discussion the other night he had stated that he thought valid objections had been urged against some of its provisions, and that opinion he still entertained. For instance, he thought the clause which gave the Bishop the power of granting a license for the purpose of holding particular meetings, and afterwards withdrawing it at his own discretion, was liable to serious object on; and he hoped his hon. Friend would not be unwilling to modify that part of the Bill. Again, he should decidedly object to the Ecclesiastical Law being transferred to the room of the inn where the meetings might take place, and he should be prepared to modify the Bill in that respect. He could not help thinking that the hon. and learned Member had dealt in great exaggeration in urging opposition to this Bill. He assumed, not only that the parishioners would be congregated in an inn, but he dwelt on the particular tavern, and the particular sign of the house—"the Red Lion," or "the Horseshoe and Magpie" —where would be collected all that was vile. The hon. and learned Gentleman insisted that there was no sacredness attached to the walls of the church; if no sanctity attached to the locality, surely the meeting at the inn should not be prejudiced on account of some particular indecorum attaching to those who sometimes assembled there. If the principle was good in one case it applied also to the other. He recommended the House to go into Committee pro forma, with the view of making some amendments; the Bill might then be reprinted, and they would have another opportunity of discussing its provisions in their altered shape. That was not, he felt, an unreasonable proposal.

Mr. Sheil

was one of those who thought with the Solicitor General, that the religio loci attached peculiarly to places in which divine worship was performed; and yet, with this feeling on his mind, he must observe, that he had attended Roman Catholic places of worship, on various occasions, when matters not strictly ecclesiastical were discussed, and never had he witnessed scenes either of disorder or of desecration, and he could not help thinking that, by adopting the proper precautions, they might prevent the evil which was now apprehended, and this without interfering with a usage that had existed before the Reformation, and had continued three hundred years under the new system. In proposing the present change, it was to be observed that it was open to a double objection; first it was a change from that which had been long established, and next it was attended with cost. He doubted if it could be beneficial to the church itself. Surely a clergyman, respectable by his own character, must be able, presiding over an assembly in a church, to check insubordination, whilst the same influence might be lost to him if they removed to another building, to which no peculiar feelings of respect attached. The hon. Solicitor General declared that he felt an awe in entering a church. He was glad to hear that the hon. and learned Gentleman did feel that awe, and that he went to church. In this the hon. and learned Gentleman differed from Lord Eldon, who, when asked why he was not oftener seen in church, answered "that he was one of the buttresses of the Church, and supported it from without." He was glad to find that the hon. and learned Gentleman supported it from within; but that was no reason why the people should be put to an additional expense. Why had they not proposed to extend this Bill to Ireland, as Vestries were held there for parochial purposes? Would it not be better for the Government to consider whether they could not remove that which was the source of all these quarrels and dissensions? Let them imitate Him, "who preferred to all temples the upright heart." If they did not do so, they would only transfer the conflict from the church to "the Crown and Mitre." It would be much better to get rid of the cause of the war itself.

Mr. Darby

said, it could not be denied that scenes of a disgraceful kind took place at Vestries, and he was sure that there was no hon. Member in the House who would not be desirous to put an end to scenes of this description. He was sure that his hon. Friend would be content to go into Committee, and to propose any amendments that he thought advisable in order to have them printed. He would support the Bill, which he considered to be a desirable measure.

Mr. Watson

observed, that where a law was to be altered which was very ancient, it was very extraordinary that such an alteration was proposed by a single Member of that House. If such a Bill were to be brought in, it should be brought in by Her Majesty's Government. What evils were to be remedied by this measure? Not one of the hon. Gentlemen opposite had given the slightest reason why the Bill should be passed. The hon. Members for Sussex and Northampton bad said that quite shocking evils had taken place. Now he should like them to state what they were. The Solicitor-General had referred to Shoreditch. Why the law had provided a remedy against those scenes. He was quite sure that the Solicitor-General and the Judge-Advocate knew that for brawling a man could be brought into the Ecclesiastical Courts, and punished there more than any humane man could desire. He wished next to know whether ecclesiastical matters could be better discussed in the church or elsewhere? There was the awe of the church, and the great respect for the clergyman in the church, to inspire propriety. What then could be the advantage of removing the clergyman to the Crown and Sceptre? Was there less likelihood of brawling there? Why this was a Bill to allow brawling. Did they suppose that amidst smoking and drinking the clergyman could inspire respect? At present the discussions might be properly carried on, but they never could have a "dry" discussion at the Crown and Mitre. They wished, it was said, to prevent scandal to religion; but could they prevent scandal at a drinking meeting? It was said that the Bill was to prevent the desecration of the church. What cant! What hypocrisy! Why, was not the noblest church of the land desecrated every hour of every day by the payment of a paltry 2d. by every Christian who wished to see its glories and its wonders? If the Bill passed, it would depend hereafter upon a Bishop whether great musical meetings—oratorios—calculated to inspire respect, should take place in a church. He wished to observe there was no petition in favour of this measure, and he trusted that the Bill would be thrown out.

Mr. Escott

observed, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sheil) had asked why Ireland was not included in this Bill? He believed he could say that Ireland was indebted for the omission to the Recorder of Dublin, who had represented that Ireland would be indignant against the Bill, and the hon. Member for Northampton having some notion as to what Irish indignation was, between them they excluded Ireland. He had so often asked his hon. Friend his reason for bringing in his Bill, and had been so constantly left without an answer, that he did not now mean to repeat the question, But the Solicitor General seemed to suppose he had given reason enough, when he mentioned the parish of Shoreditch. But surely that was no reason why the Bill should be made to affect all England. He asked his hon. Friend whether, after the division that had taken place, he had any hope of carrying his Bill. It was plain he could not carry it, therefore his hon. Friend ought at once to withdraw it.

Mr. Shaw

observed, that one of the reasons for omitting Ireland from the Bill was, that the parish business in Ireland was discussed in the vestry room, and not in the church. There was another reason —that he did not wish to see parishes hiring large rooms for the purpose of debates. That certainly was an additional reason. The object of the Bill was to provide a remedy against brawling in churches —to prevent rather than punish; and he must say that he had seen reported in the papers most disgraceful scenes as taking place in churches in this country.

Mr. Wakley

said, that the House would have been perfectly satisfied with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, without troubling him for his opinion. The Bill was just as objectionable here as it was or could be in Ireland. The hon. Member for Winchester had expressed his surprise that no reason had been given for the Bill. Nothing was more easy of explanation. No reason could be given for it. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill was influenced by his feelings, and, however his feelings might be, that was not sufficient for the House to accept or adopt it. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had shown by his speech, and still more by his manner, that he did not like the Bill. Now, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman he was strong enough in his position to reject this Bill. Let, then, the right hon. Gentleman at once boldly and manfully speak out in his most energetic manner against this Bill. But why did not the right hon. Baronet do so? He did indeed recollect that, upon a late occasion, amongst the cold agriculturists on the opposite side of the House, the Mover of this Bill was almost the only one — he believed the only one—who was found to make a speech in defence of the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet felt for this, of course, a great deal of gratitude; but even that itself wag not a good foundation for legislation. Neither the feeling of the hon. Gentleman nor the gratitude of the right hon. Baronet, constitutes a sufficient foundation for the adoption of a measure of this kind. Was, he asked, the Church strong enough for a measure of this kind? Was there not rather an hostility to the Church, that ought not to be further provoked by such a measure as this?—a measure which would transfer the power from those elected by the people, in reference to the holding of meetings in the church, to the Bishops; so that the rate-payers of a parish wishing to hold a meeting in the church should apply to the Bishop, and the Bishop could prevent the holding of meetings in the church. That was a power now vested in the churchwardens. He had been a churchwarden himself and he knew this, and on one occasion had been applied to, and found the question so difficult to determine that he had to apply to lawyers —not that he got much benefit by their opinion. It was with a friendly feeling to the Church itself he opposed the Bill. He was a member of the Church, and had always supported it, for he believed if it were an evil in itself, and they were to get rid of it, they would soon get something worse in its place. That was the feeling he always entertained towards it, and on that ground he continued to support it. Here the power was proposed to be taken from those elected by the ratepayers and given to a person elected by the Crown. He asked the Government if they were prepared to adopt a measure of that kind? Was the Bill to be withdrawn, and was another to be introduced, the principal clauses of which were to be framed by the Government? Were they to have a mule Bill, like the Masters and Servants Bill, which was full of such incongruities? Now he thought that half-horse and half-ass Bill was just as objectionable as the one before the House. He trusted the right hon. Baronet would exercise discretion, and they all knew he possessed an extraordinary extent of it, to intimate to the hon. Member for Northamptonshire that he had better withdraw it, and the Government would introduce another upon its own responsibility, if they thought legislation necessary.

Lord J. Manners

was not desirous to enter into the merits or demerits of this Bill, but he regretted that the hon. Member for Montrose had thought proper to make an unjust and unfounded attack upon a right rev. Prelate. ["Oh, oh."] Hon. Members might use those exclamations, but it was perfectly competent for him to express his own opinions. He should have regretted to have such an attack made upon any Prelate, but he regretted more the attack upon the right rev. Prelate in question, because he knew that there was than that right rev. Prelate, no more warm or consistent advocate of the best interests of the poor.

Mr. S. O'Brien

having more than once adduced his reasons for the Bill, would now read some (still stronger than those which he had urged) brought forward by a paper opposed to him on this subject— The Times. In an article which appeared that morning it was said:— The grievance is this:—In the existing silence of the law on the subject, there is a very wide range of purposes for which parochial meetings may be held in a church—purposes more or less ecclesiastical—some only so inasmuch as they appertain to an ecclesiastical district, viz., the parish. There are topics of parochial discussion which are sublunary enough, such as roads, sewers, lighting, and paving; for all these, when not handed over to Commissioners, devolve on the parish. If they were discussed quietly, we presume there would be no complaint. But unfortunately, even in these topics, and still more in those wherein the Church is more nearly concerned, there is apt to be a good deal of party spirit, besides declared hostility to the Church; such as it is distressing to witness anywhere much more within the sacred edifice. Persons who make a principle, or at least a practice, of never entering those walls at any other time, feel no scruple, and find no inconvenience, in coming when a church rate is to be opposed or some 'religious luxury' to be lopped off. On these occasions, they will sometimes express themselves without much delicacy or reserve, and show as little respect for the feelings of church people as they do for the sanctity of the place. They will use language unnecessarily irritating, and introduce topics which have no other reference to the question than that they are likely to give pain and promote disagreement, besides what may be called the interjections of debate, viz., cheering, hissing and hooting, catcalling, stamping,' Oh! Oh-ing,' 'Turn him out,' 'Question,' and the rest —all admirable in their place which, however, the Church does not seem quite to be. These gentlemen, also, not unfrequently manifest their conscientious objections to the doctrine of sacred places by other more visible forms of protest. They keep on their hats, climb the pulpit, mob the reading-desk, squat upon the communion-table, spit upon the chancel carpet, wipe their boots upon the pew-cushions, and dim the lustre of the newly-painted panels. To this it is painful to add, that even the best churchgoers do not universally keep their temper on these occasions. ["Where?"—"What church?"] He had repeatedly, and now once more, declared, that he would not enter into particular cases, involving, as they would necessarily do, local squabbles, and the names of parties, the allusion to which was calculated to create angry feelings, in the place referred to. He, of course, was aware that this abstinence on his part placed him at a great disadvantage, but he had weighed that consideration and thought it a less evil than the one he had resolved to avoid. He declared, however, that he had been overwhelmed with well-authenticated accounts of disgraceful scenes at vestry-meetings. He protested against the idea which appeared to prevail among Gentlemen opposite (naturally enough with those whose habit it was to confound poverty with crime) that business could not be creditably conducted at public houses. He could not enter into the question of those religious opinions on which the learned Member for Bath had chosen to be ironical. That was not the place in which he could be called upon to defend them. He had always understood that the House of Commons was the last place in which any Gentleman could be called on to discuss such topics. In proportion to the strength of feeling on such subjects and the disposition to allow others perfect freedom of conscience, was it difficult to discuss them. But if to put veneration for our churches—if to deprecate a desecration of them—if to consider that the services to which they were dedicated gave them a sanctity which ought not to be violated—if this were "supersublimated Popery" (to use the learned Member's phrase), he owned that he participated in it; not more so, he believed, than the great body even of Dissenters, who felt for their own religious edifices a veneration which he was satisfied (from their communications with him on the subject of this Bill) they desired should be extended to the Churches of the Establishment. As to the allusion to Ministerial gratitude for his speech during the recent debates, had the record of proceedings more tangible than speeches been consulted, it would have been seen his aid to the Government on that occasion had been vox et preterea nihil. He hesitated not, however, to avow that he considered the course Ministers bad taken on this Bill worthy of his gratitude.

Mr. Bouverie

He did not see why 10,000 parishes in England should be taxed for alleged misconduct in some of them.

The House divided on the question that the House do adjourn:—Ayes 75; Noes 83; Majority 8.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Morris, D.
Armstrong, Sir A. Morrison, J.
Bannerman, A. Murphy, F. S.
Barnard, E. G. Napier, Sir C.
Barron, Sir H. W. O'Brien, J.
Bellew, R. M. O'Connell, M.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. O'Connell, M. J.
Bouverie, hon. E. Ogle, S. C. H.
Bowes, J. Paget, Col.
Brotherton, J. Palmerston, Visct.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Pechell, Capt.
Busfeild, W. Philips, M.
Chapman, B. Plumridge, Capt.
Christie, W. D. Rawdon, Col.
Collett, J. Rous, hon. Capt.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Scholefield, J.
Craig, W. G. Scott, R.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Seymour, Lord
Denison, J. E. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Dennistoun, J. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Divett, E. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Duncan, Visct. Thornely, T.
Duncan, G. Tufnell, H.
Dundas, Adm. Villiers, hon. C.
Easthope, Sir J. Vivian, J. H.
Escott, B. Vivian, hon. Capt.
Esmonde, Sir T. Wakley, T.
Ewart, W. Wall, C. B.
Fielden, J. Wallace, R.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Ward, H. G.
Guest, Sir J. Watson, W. H.
Hawes, B. Wawn, J. T.
Howard, hon. C. W.G. Williams, T. P.
Humphery, Ald. Wood, C.
Leader, J. T. Wyse, T.
McGeachy, F. A. Yorke, H. R.
Maher, N. TELLERS.
Martin, J. Hume, J.
Mitchell, T. A. Roebuck, J. A.
List of the NOES.
Ackland, Sir T. D. Cochrane, A.
Acland, T. D. Colvile, C. R.
Adare, Visct. Courtenay, Lord
Allix, J. P. Cripps, W.
Baird, W. Darby, G.
Baring, hon. W. B. Dickinson, F. H.
Baskervifle, T, B. M. Eliot, Lord
Bateson, T. Farnham, E. B.
Berkeley, hon. C. Ferrand, W. B.
Blackstone, W. S. Flower, Sir J,
Buckley, E. Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T
Clerk, Sir G. Fuller, A. E.
Clive, hon. R. H, Gaskell, J, Milnes
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Gladstone, Capt. Peel, J.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Pusey, P.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Rashleigh, W.
Greene, T. Reid, Sir J. R.
Grimsditch, T. Rolleston, Col.
Grimston, Visct. Rushbrooke, Col.
Grogan, E. Sandon, Visct.
Halford, Sir H. Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Hamilton, Lord C. Shirley, E. J.
Hanmer, Sir J. Shirley, E. P.
Heneage, G. H. W. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Henniker, Lord Smollett, A.
Herbert, hon. S. Somerset, Lord G.
Hodgson, R. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Hope, G. W. Stanley, Lord
Houldsworth, T. Sutton, hon. H. M.
James, Sir W. C. Thesiger, Sir F.
Jermyn, Earl Tollemache, J.
Lefroy, A. Trench, Sir F. W.
Lincoln, Earl of Verner, Col.
Lockhart, W. Vesey, hon. T.
M'Neill, D. Vivian, J. E.
Manners, Lord J. Walsh, Sir J. B.
March, Earl of Whitmore, T. C.
Marsham, Visct. Wodehouse, E
Martin, C. W. Young, J.
Masterman, J.
Maunsell, T. P. TELLERS.
Newdegate, C. N. Denison, B.
Nicholl, rt. hn. J. O'Brien, S.

Main question again put.

Mr. Hume

said, that two divisions had taken place upon a Bill of great importance, and but a small division had on each occasion declared in favour of it. H e put it to the right hon. Baronet to declare candidly, whether if the sense of the House was taken upon the Bill without the interference of the influence of the Government it would not be the deliberate opinion of the majority that the measure should be rejected? The difference on the last division was only eight Members, and if the right hon. Baronet, or the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, thought they could proceed with this small majority, their mistake was lamentable indeed. He should move that the debate be adjourned.

Mr. Wakley

said, that his hon. Friend had put a question of great importance to the House. He begged leave to put one of slight importance. He would ask, if the small majority which had declared in favour of the Bill were to be taken as at all indicative of a want of confidence in the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) should it not be taken as a sufficient reason for a reconsideration of the subject?

Mr. McGeachy

felt it to be his duty to vote against the Bill, inasmuch as he thought it was one that was quite uncalled for and unnecessary. If those abuses had existed in certain parishes as the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had alleged he did not think he ought to have been so squeamish as to keep the names of them from public observation. Nor should he libel the whole of the parishes in the country by a Bill of this character. But this was the hon. Member's own peculiar notion of justice. Even supposing that it was all true what they had heard respecting this brawling and disturbance at those meetings, what did it argue? That they had reduced the people of this country to such a state that they could not meet for parochial purposes in their places of worship with decency and Christian feeling. It was not by trifling bills of this nature, but by changes that went more to the root of the evil under which this country now laboured, that they could hope to provide a remedy for these abuses. They had better take measures to Christianise the people than to adopt such a Bill as this, which would only have the effect of rendering the people still more disposed to disorder than heretofore.

Viscount Palmerston

would put it to the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) and the hon. Member for Northamptonshire whether it was not apparent that the sense of the House was adverse to the Bill, and whether the Government were prepared substantially, to take this Bill under their protection as their own measure. The right hon. Baronet proposed that they should go into Committee pro forma, for the purpose of introducing into it such Amendments as might be suggested by the Government and the law officers of the Crown. Would it not be better, arriving, as they were at rather a critical moment, to cut the matter short, by doing in form what they had announced they wished to do in substance? Would it not be better to allow this debate to be adjourned for the purpose of affording time for consideration; and then, if the Government should think that some Bill of the kind was necessary, they should themselves introduce such Billon their own responsibility? The hon. Member for Northamptonshire in his reply, had stated the causes upon which he founded his Bill. Now he did not quarrel with the hon. Member on that account. The hon. Member's private knowledge of certain evils might be a renown sufficiently gratifying to him; but it could not be ex- pected that they would be sufficient to gratify the House in approving of his measure. They were ignorant of these facts, and being so, they should not consider his personal or private knowledge of them to be a sufficient justification for the House agreeing to such a measure as he had proposed.

Mr. S. O'Brien

said, that with so small a majority it was quite impossible for him to go on at present with this Bill, against such a systematic opposition; he would therefore move as an Amendment, that this House do now adjourn.

The Speaker

put the question, on which Mr. O'Brien's Amendment was carried without a division, and

The House adjourned at a quarter past seven o'clock.

Back to