HC Deb 21 June 1844 vol 75 cc1214-39

Upon the Order of the Day being read for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Dissenters Chapels Bill,

Mr. Plumptre

said, he had, after the recent events that had occurred, entertained the hope that Her Majesty's Ministers would have moved the Order of the Day for the purpose of its being discharged. He hoped they would have paid some deference to public opinion, intimated as that had been by 350,000 signatures to petitions against this Bill. All the orthodox Dissenters prayed that such a Bill should not receive the sanction of the Legislature. He was surprised that such a Bill had received the support of Ministers, for a large portion of their friends had opposed them on the last occasion that this Bill was before the House. If this Bill had been proposed by the noble Lord opposite when sitting on the Ministerial Benches, it would have been opposed by every man of the present Ministry. The Appropriation Clause in the Irish Church Bill was honesty—absolute purity—compared to this Bill. It would violate sacred trusts, and would operate practically in favour of that class of men, who, in the opinion of the great majority of the Christian community, entertained most dangerous doctrines. He assured the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, that the wound inflicted by this Bill was one that would be felt keenly, and would not soon be healed. To hurt Socinians was one thing, but to endow them with property they wrongfully possessed was another. This Bill was withdrawing the key-stone from the arch of Christianity. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macaulay) who succeeded him on the last occasion, endeavoured to hunt him down; but, he should be unworthy of his present situation, if he did not endeavour to express sentiments that came from the bottom of his heart. It was in vain to appeal to the feelings of Her Majesty's Ministers, and though it might not be possible for him to stop the measure, he would try.

Lord J. Russell

said, none would doubt the sincerity of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He knew many amongst his own supporters who entertained similar opinions with equal sincerity, and who had intimated to him their intention of withdrawing their support from him should he support this Bill. Notwithstanding this, he must say, after due consideration, that there never was a Bill as to the propriety of which he entertained a stronger conviction. He could not help thinking that the hon. Gentleman, as well as those who had exclaimed so loudly against the Bill out of doors, had mixed up two questions together. Both the hon. Members and the individuals to whom he had alluded, had put forward their religious objections to the doctrines held by the Unitarians. But if this objection was to be allowed to interfere with their political discussions, they ought to have interfered to exclude this class of Dissenters from the Act of Toleration. Parliament had, however, justly as he thought, decided otherwise; and he, therefore, could not see any reason for making a distinction between Unitarians and others in respect of these funds or trusts. They ought to be treated in the same way as though they were Baptists, or Wesleyan Methodists. The hon. Member (Mr. Plumptre) was not of that opinion; but he maintained that to uphold any other principle was to confess that religious liberty and toleration were not the rule of legislation. He should rather call it religious persecution. If they meant not to tolerate the propagation of certain doctrines, let them do so by direct laws. Such was his opinion in reference to that part of the hon. Member's Speech, in which he stated his strong repugnance to granting any advantages to the Unitarians. As a question of property, the measure had been already fully argued. It had been truly said, that with respect to many of these sects, changes of opinion had taken place from time to time, from the circumstances of their not being bound together like an Establishment, and that, therefore, where you have no means of ascertaining the precise doctrines intended to be taught, a certain period of time should be allowed to give a prescriptive right. If this were denied, he had yet to learn to whom this property should be given. If these congregations, the direct followers of the direct descendants of the pastors who preached immediately after the Revolution, were to be excluded, how could it be proved that any other denomination of Dissenters, Independents, Baptists, or Wesleyan Methodists, were entitled to the property in their possession. The utmost that could be done, would be, to direct that the property should be given to the Crown. He was convinced that, although toleration was not given to the Unitarians till 1813, yet in practice, toleration had existed during the last century. He believed that if such a case had come forward at the time of Sir Robert Walpole or Lord Chatham, the Socinians never would have been divested of their property by the pretence of a Court of Law. The Bill, in his opinion, was merely doing an act of justice to a particular class of Dissenters, and the question of religion ought, he thought, to be kept entirely out of view.

Sir R. Peel

after the observations of his hon. Friend (Mr. Plumptre) of whose sincerity he was perfectly convinced, felt himself bound to state, that subsequent reflection, and a consideration of the arguments used in the former debates by the most able men, had not induced him in the slightest degree to vary from the opinions he had formerly expressed. His hon. Friend said that he had expected that, after what had passed, the Government would only have moved the Order upon this Bill for the purpose of withdrawing it. Now, if the Government had taken such a course on account of anything that had recently passed, they would have been discredited and disgraced in public estimation. At any rate, his hon. Friend had, in the course of his observations conclusively proved that Government could have no other object in consenting to press this Bill than that of promoting what they believed to be justice. The parties chiefly interested in the Bill (according to his hon. Friend) were the opponents of the Government. The Government could not have had it in view to conciliate public support, for the measure was not agreeable to their ordinary supporters. And many of the most zealous members of the Established Church, and many of those classes of Dissenters who were distinguished by their adherence to a faith the influence of which was evidenced in their lives were opposed to the Bill. But the Government considered the question not one of faith, but of property. And there was no ground for saying that an assent to the measure implied any species of sanction to the religious tenets of any sect which might be benefited by it. The Government, however, considered that if it were not passed there would occur something approaching to a legal crusade, on religious grounds against certain classes; and therefore, impelled by a regard for justice, for peace, and for harmony, they had resolved—not to " endow " any religious sect, but to extend to all classes of religious opinions equally the protection of this measure. He concurred in the argument of the noble Lord opposite, that if Parliament had intended to subject Unitarians to the disadvantages and disabilities involved in a concession to the arguments of those who opposed this measure, toleration would not have been extended to that sect. He had only to observe, in conclusion, that he much regretted his hon. Friend should have talked of "recent circumstances" as nothing but a conviction and a sense of justice could have induced them to take the course they had adopted upon this measure.

Mr. Shaw

felt that was not the time for any general discussion of the principle of the Bill; but after the observations of his right hon. Friend, as well as those of the noble Lord, he would beg to say a few words before the Speaker left the Chair. He agreed that the question should be discussed as one rather of property than of religious faith; but putting it upon that ground, he thought great misapprehension existed in the House as to what were the real objections to the measure. The truth was, the case of the opponents, to the Bill had come before the House under very great disadvantage. An hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Worcester (Sir T. Wilde), who had, as he was informed, undertaken to state the case of the English Dissenters, in opposition to the measure on the second reading, who had advised them in the course to he pursued, and was thoroughly acquainted with their entire case, had, the evening before the second reading of the Bill in that House, informed them that he had changed his opinion, and that he must the next night, as he did, vote against the Bill. He did not mention the fact for the sake of throwing censure on the hon. and learned Member, who, no doubt, had good reasons for the line he had adopted, but merely to account for the case of the opponents not having been as fully stated as it otherwise would have been. There was then an hon. Friend of his, the Member for Coleraine (Mr. Boyd), himself a Member of the Presbyterian body, and personally acquainted with the constitution of the Synod of Ulster, who had been obliged suddenly to leave London, in consequence of illness in his family, after having given notice of several Amendments, and being prepared to afford the House every information respecting the case of that important body, containing an immense majority of the Irish Presbyterians. It was peculiarly their case that would arise upon the Amendment of which he had given notice, and he felt quite incompetent to do them justice, from having little personal knowledge on the subject, and being but imperfectly in- formed of the facts upon which it depended; he still knew enough, founded upon documents and authority which could not be disputed, to encourage him to think that the House could be satisfied of the perfect fairness and reasonableness of the Amendment he should bring forward on behalf of that body; and he could not believe that the Government would refuse to accede to it. First, however, he begged to say these few words with respect to the Bill generally. The Government professed it to be one of mere justice, and introduced without reference to any particular sects or religious opinions. Now, as regarded the first Clause of the Bill—if he understood that rightly —it was intended to place Unitarians on the same footing with regard to their own endowments, foundations, and properties, as if the acts giving them the full benefit of the Act of Toleration had been in operation at the time those properties accrued to them—and to that he did not object. But the second Clause went much farther, and although it was, no doubt, in its terms general, yet, in fact, it would only operate for the benefit of one class of Dissenters, viz., the Unitarians, and he believed the great majority of all other classes of Dissenters were opposed to it. He was a friend to the principle, that length of time should quiet titles, give security to possession, and to staying litigation; but he conceived that if the Bill passed in its present form, it would work great injustice, sanction the violation of trusts, deprive parties of rights of which they could produce the clearest evidence, and encourage litigation, in order to save the period of limitation running. He would not, however, further anticipate the observations with which he should have to trouble the House on his two Amendments to the 2nd Clause, for exempting the Synod of Ulster from its operation, and extending the period of general limitation From 25 to 60 years.

Mr. Serjeant Murphy

wished to know if the right hon. the Recorder of Dublin had afforded to his learned Friend the Member for Worcester any intimation of his intention to mention the facts alluded to? If not, he begged to state that the inference he deduced from them was, that the opposition to the measure must be perfectly indefensible if one so eminently sagacious and zealous in any cause he undertook, had found himself, after a careful examination of the case, compelled to abandon its advocacy. He knew apprehensions had been naturally aroused by the result of the "Lady Hewley's" case, as to the probability of litigation disturbing the possession of property which had been long enjoyed by particular classes—litigation set on foot by parties not interested in the subject-matter of dispute. And the principle and protection of the measure would apply to no one sect more than to another. But he was persuaded that the feeling which rankled against this Bill arose from religious hostility to a certain sect.

Mr. Darby

said, that the objection of the Dissenters to this Bill was, that it excluded in a particular case evidence which was admissible in all other cases, and on this ground he objected to the Bill. He was not inclined to think that the Bill would prevent litigation, as in his opinion it might lead to as much litigation as existed under the present system; if, as had been asserted, the litigation was promoted by attorneys for their own interest.

Colonel Sibthorpe

said, that if the Member for Kent proceeded to a division he should support him. At the same time it was for the hon. Member for Kent to consider, after what had fallen from the right hon. the Recorder for Dublin, whether he would withdraw his opposition to the Speaker leaving the Chair, and see whether it were possible to amend the Bill in Committee. He objected to the principle of the Bill; and he hardly thought it possible to amend it in Committee.

Mr. J. Collett

said, that the attack on this Bill had been led on by the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford, and had been renewed by the hon. Member for Kent. They were the representatives of the high Church party. In the other House the opposition came from two right rev. Prelates, who represented no one but themselves, and who advocated the power and supremacy of the Church. Believing the Bill to be a good measure he should support it.

Sir W. James

, although he did not approve of the principles involved in this Bill, expressed a hope that the hon. Member for Kent would not press his opposition to the Motion for going into Committee, when its details could be better considered. With respect to the first Clause of the Bill, he thought that con- sistently with acts which had been passed in the early part of this century, it could not with any consistency be refused. But he hoped that the second Clause, which was the pinching Clause of the Bill, would not be pressed by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Ward

said, if the second Clause were omitted, the Bill might as well be withdrawn altogether. The right hon. Baronet opposite had said very truly, that this was a measure of property and not of religion; and he must say, as far as his own experience extended, he had found much more intolerance manifested upon the subject by Dissenters than by members of the Church Establishment. For his own part, he supported this measure entirely upon principles of justice, and in the hope of putting a stop to much painful, fruitless, and intricate legislation; and he was extremely glad to hear the right hon. Baronet declare his intention to persevere with it.

Mr. Lawson

opposed the Bill, and in this opposition he was supported by the unanimous feeling of those whom he represented. He had presented Petitions against it, not only from Wesleyans and other Dissenters, but also from members of the Church of England. That House was not the place for religious discussions. He therefore did not oppose the Bill because it was in favour of Unitarians, for he thought that whatever trusts had been left by Unitarians for the benefit of that sect should be devoted to the purpose. But he really thought that the Bill would do more injury to the interest of dissent than the present law, for the adoption of the provision respecting the twenty-five years' usage, would drive persons disposed to leave property to a religious trust to leave it to a sect of decided faith and well-known opinions. He opposed the Bill, because he believed it would create great uncertainty with regard to property.

Colonel Verner

being connected with the Presbyterians of the north of Ireland, thought he should not discharge his duty unless he made a few observations on the Bill. The learned Attorney General had endeavoured to point out the justice of the measure, but, as far as he could understand, nothing but injustice would be committed by this Bill. He was opposed to the Bill being considered in a political view, and he, therefore, could not forget an observation which fell from the hon. Gentleman opposite on the second reading,—that the Catholics were to a man in favour of the measure. He thought that assertion was made to influence the opinions of other hon. Members.

Mr. M. Philips

had too much respect for those with whom he was associated in religious opinions to ask them to support a measure which had been designated out of doors as one of robbery and spoliation. He believed it was a measure of simple justice and equity, if not one of right. In his opinion there was nothing less calculated to promote the objects of religion than to allow many of those parties who at present enjoyed foundations, to be turned out of possession by suffering the law to remain as it then stood. If the present possessors of numerous chapels were attacked there was no means of ascertaining into whose hands these foundations might pass, if such attacks were legally successful. He did not think the cause of Christianity nor the cause of religion could be promoted by such proceedings, and he was quite certain, the cause of religious toleration could not be advanced, He asked those who sought to wrest these places of worship from the present occupants whether they thought the conscientious doctrines held by these parties would be put down? He believed such would not be the case. He trusted hon. Gentlemen would view the case as one of equity, and endeavour to dispel some of the erroneous opinions which were held with regard to this measure. He tendered his thanks to the Government for bringing forward the Bill; they had shown themselves superior to all those influences which might have been brought to bear against them, and had placed themselves in a position which, he was sure, they would always look back upon with pleasure, namely, that of endeavouring to reconcile the differences of the religions classes of the country.

Mr. S. Wortley

considered, after the long discussion which had been taken on the second reading, it would be proper to allow the Bill to go into Committee. The essence of the Bill was comprised in one Clause, and the essence of that Clause was confined almost to a single line. In dealing with the provisions of the second Clause, they were dealing with an enactment that was intended to apply to several different classes of cases, and the question was, how to construct it so as to give some necessary, proper, and fair protection, and at the same time to avoid throwing the shield of Parliament over cases to which it was not properly applicable. He was disposed to look upon the question, not as one of religion or theological doctrine, but as one of property and law, and its effects upon the rights of property induced in his mind great doubts as to the propriety of applying it to all those several classes of cases to which, as the second Clause now stood, it would extend. These different classes of course, had been mentioned as coming within the provisions of the Bill. First, that class, for the legal proceedings in which the introduction of the Bill was in a great measure the consequence. Then there was that class in which the case of Lady Hewley's charity was comprised, and which he thought stood upon a different footing to the religious trusts to which the hon. and learned Attorney General had alluded on a former evening, in the course of his opening statement; and then there was that class which related to the Presbyterians of the north of Ireland which stood on grounds essentially distinct from either of the others. All these required consideration as to how far the Bill should afford them protection, and therefore it was, that be hoped the Bill would be allowed to go into Committee.

Mr. B. Escott

supported the Bill as a measure of peace and justice, and he trusted no alterations would be made in it in Committee which were not calculated to further those objects. He had heard much opposition to the Bill, and it had been said, that the nature of that opposition proved the disinterested conduct of the Government in introducing it. He was not of that opinion, for if there ever had been a Bill framed by the Government more calculated to extend their power and influence with the people of this country than another, it was the one now under discussion.

House went into Committee.

On the first Clause,

Mr. Hardy

objected that the Clause did not properly express the object of the Bill. The Clause proposed to relieve Dissenters generally, but it was well known that the great body of Dissenters were opposed to the Bill. He thought that particular body of Dissenters for whose benefit the Bill was intended, should be named in it. He proposed to insert in the enacting part of the Clause, the words "being Unitarian Dissenters."

The Solicitor General

could not have a better proof that the Bill was not generally understood than the observation of his hon. and learned Friend. It was quite clear that his hon. and learned Friend had not the least notion of the scope and effect of the Clause. This, he believed, was the first objection that had been made to this particular provision, which was, in fact, necessary to protect all denominations of Dissenters. From 1662 down to 1689, in England any dissent from the established religion was illegal, and from 1665 down to 1719, in Ireland the case was the same. It was well known however, that between the years he had stated, both in England and Ireland, many dissenting congregations were established. In Ireland, between 1665 and 1719, many Presbyterian congregations were established, all of which, according to the law of that period, were illegal. Now, supposing a question were to arise at this time, as to the right of any trust property held by such congregations, without the protection of this Bill, the parties might be dispossessed. Suppose, for instance, any of these congregations should hold the property under deeds expressing merely the intentions of the founder, that meeting-houses or chapels should be established for the worship of God in those general terms, and any question should arise as to the particular religious worship to which the trust was intended to be applied. If the deed of trust had been executed within the period he had mentioned, as the law now stood, the Chancellor would decide that it must be for the purposes of that particular religion which was legal at the date of the deed, and the consequences would be that the chapels would be taken away from those congregations to whose use they had been applied from the first moment of their erection. His hon. and learned Friend, therefore, had totally misunderstood the protective effect of the Clause. This Bill was intended not to protect Unitarians merely, but as a measure of general justice to protect the rights of all, without interfering with the interests of any. The hon. Member's Amendment, therefore, was a violation of the whole spirit and principle of the Bill.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 2 being proposed,

Mr. Shaw

then brought forward the Amendment of which he had given notice on behalf of the Synod or General Assembly of Ulster. They had now by the 1st Clause placed Unitarians in the same condition as to their property as if they had acquired or founded it after the passing of the Act extending to them the benefit of the Toleration Act. They had then to deal with the 22nd Clause for supplying evidence to quiet possession where it did not exist, in a clear and tangible form, and which was admittedly to continue parties in possession of property which did not originally belong to them, but was intended for different objects. In such case the utmost caution should be observed. The original Bill exempted the case of deeds expressly declaring the trusts, and containing the particular religious opinions. The Bill, as amended by the Government, extended that exemption to the Wesleyan Methodists, whose deeds had reference to documents containing such opinions—and what he contended for was the justice of including the case of the Synod of Ulster, which, generally speaking, had no deeds, but had authentic documents as clear and decisive in point of evidence as to the particular doctrines of the ministers connected with them as any deeds could afford. The Synod of Ulster had existed for about two centuries. Its records had been lost up to 1691, but from that period were as regularly kept as those of a court of justice. From that period to the present, there was the clearest proof upon these records of their Trinitarian faith, and of the necessity of every minister subscribing it. In 1716 they recorded that the Synod had accepted the Act of Toleration on condition of signing the Westminster Confession of Faith—and in 1726, and in about a century after, in 1829, the Presbytery of Antrim and Remonstrant Synod seceded, because subscription was required by the Synod. The Synod of Ulster had about 500 congregations, containing nearly 700,000 members, and when they could prove their doctrine by the clearest documentary evidence, would it be just or right to allow them to be ousted by a chance usage of twenty-five years, where one single clergyman, perhaps, insidiously, or imperceptibly passing into Arianism or Socinianism, might be the means of transferring the congregational and other property from Trinitarian to Unitarian objects. He was not wedded to any par- ticular form of words, and would adopt any the law officers of the Crown preferred to his, provided they would agree to what in substance he proposed—namely, to provide for the case of the Synod of Ulster, The words he proposed to add were:— Or where no particular religious doctrines or opinions are contained in any book or other document, preserved amongst the authentic records of any recognised synod or religious body, concerning the congregation frequenting such meeting-house. The right hon. Gentleman moved that addition be put from the Chair.

The Solicitor General

was sorry to object, not only to the words of the Amendment proposed by his right hon. Friend, but also to any words which would effect an alteration in the Clause upon the principle which his right hon. Friend wished to establish. No form of words, in his opinion, could be framed in which he could be induced to concur for the purpose of attaining the object his right hon. Friend had in view. The end which the Government had endeavoured to arrive at in introducing the Bill before the Committee was, to secure the possession of such chapels and properties to the parties to whom they were conveyed, either by the will or deed of the founder, or other document; in all those cases where such evidence of property existed, the will or original deed of endowment or gift must be held inviolate, and the property was to be held by its possessors upon those terms to the end of time, and nobody was ever to have the right to interfere with them. But the right hon. Gentleman proposed to enlarge the exceptions which it had been found necessary to introduce into the measure, and to extend which, in the manner effected by the Amendment before the Committee, would in his opinion, be to commit an act of great injustice. The Committee would observe that great difficulties presented themselves with respect to the construction which might be put upon the words of the Amendment. What were to be considered the authentic records, or the contemporaneous documents, appertaining to the chapels of the Synod of Ulster? Who was to judge of the doctrines or opinions professed then and now? And of what were the tribunals to consist. [Mr. Shaw: "A regular Court of Justice."] The regular Courts of Law, his right hon. Friend said. But the Com- mittee would observe, that the will of the founder of the chapels was, by the words of the Amendment, to possess no kind of influence, nor even to be admitted in evidence of the right of possession. That right was to he judged of solely by the doctrines which were preached in the congregations of the Synod of Ulster when that body was first founded; so that those doctrines might be wholly opposed to the will of the founder, if amongst the records that were to govern the decision of the Court any evidence could be adduced of their having been the doctrines taught by the Synod of Ulster at that particular period. He, therefore, said that if the words proposed to be added to the Clause by his right hon. Friend were inserted, they would produce a monstrous injustice. Let him take the case of the Synod of Ulster itself as an illustration of the case. That Synod had existed for 200 years, and yet, as his right hon. Friend had acknowledged, the first record of its doctrines in a documentary form was dated in 1691. That record, therefore, could not contain the will of the founder of the original congregations out of which the Synod had sprung, for they had existed long before that date. He took it for granted that his right hon. Friend had no document which could offer any evidence of what the original founders' doctrines were. And yet what did he propose to do? He proposed to take a document which was neither sanctioned by, nor known to, the founders of the Synod, and which likewise was not evidence either of their doctrines or intentions, and he desired to establish that document, and to have it received as evidence which was to guide the decision in the case as to the doctrines which originally prevailed when these congregations were first collected together in the form of the Synod of Ulster. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Synod required every consistent congregation to sign, in the person of its Minister, one confession of faith, and he moreover, had admitted in consequence of this determination several of the congregations seceded in the year 1726, and formed the separate and independent Presbytery of Antrim; and it appeared in evidence before the Lord Chief Baron that Arian or Unitarian doctrines had prevailed from the year 1726 amongst the congregations forming the Presbytery of Antrim. Now, he would tell the Committee shortly what the object proposed to be effected by the Amendment was. It appeared by reference to some existing documents and records, that the Synod of Ulster required the individual congregations of which it was composed to sign a general confession of faith. Now, if his right hon. Friend could have obtained the insertion of the words proposed by him, the immediate and inevitable effect would be, that all the property which had been acquired by the Presbytery of Antrim since its secession in the year 1726, would be within the grasp of the Synod of Ulster, for they would in that case refer to documents of the year 1691, and say to the Presbytery, "You seceded from us, the doctrines recorded in the documents of the date of 1691 were those which you, therefore, must originally have held, and, therefore, although you have been Arians from the year 1726, all your chapels belong of right to us, because you yourselves were originally of our Synod." He thought that what he had stated was a sufficient answer to all that had been advanced by the right hon. Gentleman; and in reply to his question, whether the Government would commit an act of injustice, he would merely ask, would the Committee sanction such a proceeding as that which he had pointed out? He' would not go into the other question of twenty-five years being the limit to which the change of doctrines in chapels should be confined; for that formed a separate part of the clause, but he trusted he had said enough to induce the Committee to refuse to agree to the Amendment of his right hon. Friend.

Mr. Shaw

said, the doctrines of the Synod of Ulster had always been the same, and there had been twenty preachers — as that term was generally understood. By his Amendment, it was only proposed to make the written records evidence of cotemporaneous practice, he contended that the Government whose Bill it was were bound to legislate without detriment to any great interest, therefore, they should introduce words to exempt the Synod of Ulster; and also he would agree to their protecting the Presbytery of Antrim and Remonstrant Synod, whose property he was authorized by the Deputation then in London, to say the Synod of Ulster did not desire to touch.

The Attorney General

must beg his right hon. Friend's attention whilst he stated to the Committee his objection to the Amendment under consideration for be disapproved of it so strongly that no form of words could be framed which would meet the object had in view. His right hon. Friend proposed to govern the possession of the property in question by the records or documents which showed what the doctrines of the Synod of Ulster were at the period when the chapels were endowed. But his right hon. Friend had totally overlooked the fact that those endowments might, and in all probability had been made in conformity with the doctrines preached at the present day to congregations of the Presbytery of Antrim, and yet the evidence of such doctrines having been so preached was not to guide the decision of the Court as to the right to the property, but that right was to be decided by the evidence of the documents dated 1691, which set forth what were the doctrines of the Synod of Ulster. Nothing could induce him to assent to such a proposition. His right hon. Friend had stated as a reason for proposing the insertion of the words, that if they were not so inserted the measure would leave the Synod of Ulster open to deprivation of all its property. Now, where let him ask, was that property? In what did it consist? The Synod of Ulster was not the founder of this property. The Bill meddled with no trusts, disturbed no deeds, either of gift or endowment. All that the measure did was to assign to each party his property, but it interfered with no settlements, either by will or otherwise. Looking at the question as one merely of property, the chapels of the Synod were purchased or built by those who now held them, in the same manner as such buildings were bought or erected in England. The congregations occupying them and the Ministers were their support, and yet the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, if agreed to, would merely render it necessary for the Synod of Ulster to prove that the congregations originally belonged to that Synod; that they had seceded, and that the property, therefore, must be transferred to the professors of those doctrines which were originally taught there. Now, what had that question to do with the intentions of the original founders of those chapels? They could not have intended to bind their successors to any formal adherence to the Synod of Ulster, for there was a secession in 1726, and one more recently in 1829, both of which bodies of seceders were now extant, under the names of the Presbytery of Antrim, and the Synod of Remonstrants. The right hon. Gentleman had declared that it was not the intention of the Synod of Ulster to take any steps to obtain possession of the chapels or other congregational property of the seceders, and that when the law was in its old state no such attempt was ever made. But why were these parties to be treated differently from future seceders? He could not help thinking the alarm expressed by the right hon. Gentleman as to the future secession of the "Congregations of the Synod of Ulster" somewhat unfounded, and even if they were not, Acts of Parliament were but very indifferent means of opposing the spread of Arian or Socinian doctrines. It was not the minister, but the congregation which guided the selection of the doctrines preached to them, and it could not be a reasonable ground for supposition that any minister could for such sinister purposes as the right hon. Gentleman had described, secretly and unknown to his congregation entertain Unitarian or Arian doctrines for the period of twenty-five years. The alarm therefore which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed on this head, and which had induced him to prepare and bring forward the Amendment before the Committee, had no real foundation, and even if it had, the proposed Amendment would in no degree avert the evil contemplated, for the Clause would in no way protect the Synod of Ulster, as it was quite clear to his mind that the Synod had no right whatever to claim the property of its congregational chapels. He, therefore, must offer his decided objection to the Amendment.

Mr. Shaw

said, that in the case of the Synod of Ulster there had been no founders—the congregations were self-constituted, and then formed into Presbyteries, governed by the Synod. The property was in the congregation, but virtually managed by the Synod. He said in answer to his hon. and learned Friend (Sir W. Follett) that he thought it often would be very difficult to detect Unitarianism in the minister, and Lord Cottenham had decided that the usage was to be decided by the doctrines the minister held. The doctrines of the Synod of Ulster were on record from 1691 up to the present moment.

Sir R. Peel

could not help alluding to one point, which it occurred to him was of no small importance, in relation to the Amendment under discussion, as showing the necessity for legislative interference in the matter. His right hon. Friend had made no reference whatever to the Presbytery of Antrim or the Remonstrants beyond a mere passing allusion; but he had proposed an enactment giving the Synod of Ulster complete power over these two bodies, one of which had seceded from it upwards of a century, and the other of which had been a distinct synod since the year 1829. The right hon. Gentleman had declared that the Synod of Ulster had no intention whatever to interfere with either of the bodies he had just named, either before the Bill was introduced or after it should be passed. Now, that declaration of his right hon. Friend had very considerably relieved his mind from some apprehensions, which were so strong as to induce the Government to think during the last year that some legislative interference would be necessary, in order to protect those very bodies from the Synod of Ulster. For though the right hon. Gentleman had disclaimed all such intentions as had been referred to, yet no longer ago than the 1st of March, 1843, a Committee was formed out of the governing committee of the Synod of Ulster, the decision in the Hewley charity having then become known to them, which committee came to the resolution that legal steps should be taken to compel the restoration of such chapels and other property as were in the possession of congregations which could be proved to have formerly held Trinitarian doctrines, as the possession of congregations of the chapels in question was an act of spoliation committed on the Synod of Ulster. And copies of this resolution were transmitted to the individual congregations, both of the Synod of Remonstrants and of the Presbytery of Antrim. This Resolution excited great apprehensions in the two seceding bodies, and likewise in the Members of the Cabinet, and it would prove a great relief both to Her Majesty's Government and to the parties to whom he referred, to find from the declarations of his right hon. Friend that they were entirely unfounded.

The Committee divided on the question that the words proposed by Mr. Shaw be inserted:—Ayes 43; Noes 161: Majority 118.

List of the AYES.
Acton, Col. Lefroy, A.
Adderley, C. B. Lowther, hon. Col.
Archdall, Capt. M. McGeachy, F. A.
Ashley, Lord McTaggart, Sir J.
Bateson, T. Manners, Lord J.
Blackburne, J. I. Northland, Visct.
Brooke, Sir A. B. O'Brien, A. S.
Bruges, W. H. L. Palmer, G.
Chetwode, Sir J. Plumptre, J. P.
Colquhoun, J. C. Pollington, Visct.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Rashleigh, W.
Dickinson, F. H. Rushbrooke, Col.
Farnham, E. B. Ryder, hon. G. D.
Grogan, E. Sibthorp, Col.
Hamilton, J. H. Smith, A.
Hamilton, G. A. Smyth, Sir H.
Hardy, J. Stewart, P. M.
Harris, hon. Capt. Taylor, E.
Hayes, Sir E. Tollemache, J.
Henley, J. W. Verner, Col.
Humphery, Ald. TELLERS.
Jones, Capt. Shaw, rt. hn. F.
Law, hon. C. Jocelyn, Visct.
List of the NOES.
Acland, T. D. Denison, J. E.
Aglionby, H. A. Denison, E. B.
Aldam, W. Dick, Q.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Douglas, Sir C. E.
Arkwright, G. Drummond, H. H.
Baird, W. Duncan, G.
Bannerman, A. Eliot, Lord
Baring, hon. W. B. Escott, B.
Baring, rt. hn. F. T. Evans, W.
Baring, T. Ewart, W.
Barnard, E. G. Ferguson, Col.
Barrington, Visct. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Bentinck, Lord G. Flower, Sir J.
Bernal, R. Follett, Sir W. W.
Blakemore, R. Forman, T. S.
Bodkin, W. H. Forster, M.
Boldero, H. G. Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.
Borthwick, P. French, F.
Bowles, Adm. Gaskell, J. Milnes
Bowring, Dr. Gibson, T. M.
Bramstone, T. W. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Brocklehurst, J. Gladstone, Capt.
Brotherton, J. Glynne, Sir S. R.
Browne, hon. W. Gordon, hon. Capt.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Campbell, Sir H. Granby, Marq. of
Campbell, J. H. Grey, rt. hn. Sir G.
Cardwell, E. Grimston, Visct.
Chelsea, Visct. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Chute, W. L. W. Halford, Sir H.
Clayton, R. R. Harcourt, G. G.
Clerk, Sir G. Hawes, B.
Clive, hon. R. H. Heathcote, Sir W.
Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G. Hervey, Lord A.
Collett, J. Hill, Lord M.
Collins, W. Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.
Compton, H. C. Hope, hon. C.
Corry, rt. hn. H. Hope, G. W.
Craig, W. G. Hoskins, K.
Cripps, W. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Howard, hn. J. K. Protheroe, E.
Howard, hon. H. Pusey, P.
Hutt, W. Rawdon, Col.
Ingestre, Visct. Rice, E. R.
Irton, S. Ross, D. R.
James, W. Russell, Lord J.
Jermyn, Earl Scott, R.
Johnstone, Sir J. Seymour, Lord
Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E Shelburne, Earl of
Knight, H. G. Smith, B.
Leader, J. T. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Lemon, Sir C. Somerset, Lord G.
Lennox, Lord A. Stanley, Lord
Lincoln, Earl of Stanton, W. H.
Long, W. Stuart, Lord J.
Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B. Stock, Serj.
Mackenzie, W. F. Sutton, hn. H. M.
M'Neill, D. Tancred, H. W.
Mainwaring, T. Thesiger, Sir F.
March, Earl of Thornely, T.
Marjoribanks, S. Trench, Sir F. W.
Marshall, W. Trevor, hon. C. R.
Marsland, H. Tufnell, H.
Martin, J. Turnor, C.
Martin, C. W. Vane, Lord H.
Mitchell, T. A. Vivian, J. H.
Morris, D. Walker, R.
Nicholl, rt. hn. J. Warburton, H.
Norreys, Sir D. T. Wawn, J. T.
O'Connell, M. Welby, G. E.
O'Connell, M. J. White, H.
O'Ferrall, R. M. Whitmore, T. C.
Packe, C. W. Williams, W.
Patten, J. W. Wodehouse, C.
Pechell, Capt. Wood, C.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Worsley, Lord
Peel, J. Wrightson, W. B.
Pendarves, E. W. W. Wynn, rt. hn. C. W. W.
Philips, M. Wyse, T.
Plumridge, Capt. TELLERS.
Powell, Col. Young, J.
Praed, W. T. Baring, H.
Mr. Shaw

then proposed his second Amendment, to substitute sixty for twenty-five years. As he had already partly discussed that point, he would be very short, and not again divide upon it, after the result of the last division. His reason for objecting to twenty-five years was shortly that such a subject bore no analogy to adverse possession of land. The period would not cover the life of one minister— and he proposed sixty years, because that was the period in the limitation of action statutes (3 and 4 Wm. IV. ch. 27; and 6 and 7 Vict. ch. 5), in the case of advowsons.

Amendment negatived.

Other Amendments having been proposed, and some accepted while others were rejected, the Committee divided on the question that the Clause as amended stand part of the Bill:—Ayes 188: Noes 62; Majority 126.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Aglionby, H. A. Gladstone, Capt.
Aldam, W. Godson, R.
Archbold, R. Gordon, hon. Capt.
Arkwright, G. Goulburn, rt. hn. H.
Armstrong, Sir A. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Bannerman, A. Granby, Marq. of
Barclay, D. Grey, rt. hn. Sir G.
Baring, hon. W. B. Grimstone, Visct.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Baring, T. Hall, Sir B.
Barnard, E. G. Hanmer, Sir J.
Barrington, Visct. Hawes, B.
Bellew, R. M. Hayter, W. G.
Bentinck, Lord G. Heathcote, Sir W.
Bodkin, W. H. Herbert, hon. S.
Boldero, H. G. Hervey, Lord A.
Borthwick, P. Hill, Lord M.
Bowles, Adm. Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.
Bowring, Dr. Hodgson, R.
Bramston, T. W. Hope, hon. C.
Brocklehurst, J. Hope, G. W.
Brotherton, J. Hoskins, K.
Browne, hon. W. Howard, hn. C. W. G.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Howard, P. H.
Campbell, Sir H. Hume, J.
Campbell, J. H. Hutt, W.
Cardwell, E. Ingestre, Visct.
Chapman, B. Irton, S.
Chelsea, Visct. James, W.
Clerk, Sir G. Jermyn, Earl
Clive, hon. R. H. Johnson, Gen.
Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.
Colborne, hn. W. N. R. Knight, H. G.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Collett, J. Leader, J. T.
Collins, W. Legh, G. C.
Compton, H. C. Lemon, Sir C.
Craig, W. G. Leveson, Lord
Cripps, W. Lincoln, Earl of
Darner, hon. Col. Long, W.
Davies, D. A. S. Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.
Denison, W. J. Mackenzie, W. F.
Denison, J. E. Mackinnon, W. A.
Denison, E. B. McNeill, D.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Marjoribanks, S:
Drummond, H. H. Marshall, W.
Duncan, Visct. Marsham, Visct.
Duncan, G. Marsland, H.
Duncombe, hon. A. E. Martin, J.
East, J. B. Martin, C. W.
Ebrington, Visct. Milnes, R. M.
Egerton, W. T. Mitchell, T. A.
Eliot, Lord Morris, D.
Elphinstone, H. Morrison, J.
Escott, B. Muntz, G. F.
Esmonde, Sir T. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Evans, W. O'Brien, J.
Ewart, W. O'Connell, M.
Ferguson, Col. O'Connell, M. J.
Flower, Sir J. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Follett, Sir W. W. Ogle, S. C. H.
Forman, T. S. Ord, W.
Forster, M. Paget, Col.
Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T. Patten, J. W.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Pechell, Capt.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Talbot, C. R. M.
Peel, J. Tancred, H. W.
Pendarves, E. W. W. Thesiger, Sit F.
Philips, M. Thornely, T.
Plumridge, Capt. Trench, Sir F. W.
Powell, Col. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Power, J. Tufnell, H.
Protheroe, E. Vane, Lord H.
Pusey, P. Vivian, J. H.
Rawdon, Col. Waddington, H. S.
Redington, T. N. Wakley, T.
Rice, E. R. Walker, R.
Ross, D. R. Wallace, R.
Rous, hon. Capt. Warburton, H.
Rumbold, C. E. Ward, H. G.
Russell, Lord J. Wawn, J. T.
Sandon, Visct. White, H.
Scott, R. Whitmore, T. C.
Seymour, Lord. Williams, W.
Smith, B. Wilshere, W.
Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C. Wodehouse, E.
Somerset, Lord G. Wood, C.
Sotheron, T. H. S. Worsley, Lord
Stanley, Lord Wortley, hon. J. S.
Stanton, W. H. Wrightson, W. B.
Stuart, Lord J. Wyse, T.
Stock, Mr. Serj.
Strickland, Sir G. TELLERS.
Stuart, H. C. Young, J.
Sutton, hon. H. M. Lennox, Lord A.
List of the NOES.
Acton, Col. Lefroy, A.
Adderley, C. B. Lopes, Sir R.
Archdall, Capt. M. Lowther, hon. Col.
Ashley, Lord McGeachy, F. A.
Bateson, T. McTaggart, Sir J.
Blackburne, J. I. Masterman, J.
Broadley, H. Newdegate, C. N.
Brooke, Sir A. B. Northland, Visct.
Bruges, W. H. L. O'Brien, A, S.
Buck, L. W. Ossulston, Lord
Chetwode, Sir J. Palmer, G.
Christopher, R. A. Polhill, F.
Clayton, R. R. Pollington, Visct.
Colquhoun, J. C. Rashleigh, W.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Richards, R.
Darby, G. Round, C. G.
Dickinson, F. H. Rushbrooke, Col.
Dundas, Adm. Ryder, hon. G. D.
Du Pre, C. G. Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Farnham, E. B. Sibthorp, Col.
Grogan, E. Smith, A.
Hamilton, J. H. Smyth, Sir H.
Hamilton, G. A. Smollett, A.
Harris, hon. Capt. Taylor, E.
Heathcote, G. J. Tollemache, J.
Henley, J. W. Trollope, Sir J.
Hughes, W. B. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Jocelyn, Visct. Verner, Col.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Vivian, J. E.
Jones, Capt.
Kemble, H. TELLERS.
Law, hon. C. E. Plumptre, J. P.
Lawson, A. Hardy, J.

On the third Clause, "Judgments of Courts of Law or Equity to be binding; informations stayed upon terms,"

Lord Ashley ,

who had a notice on the Orders to substitute the following for Clause 3, regretted that he could not propose it. His object was, to restore the Bill to what it was before the Bill left the Lords, where, after the third reading, the reservation of all rights affirmed by judgments of Courts of Law and Equity originally enacted by this Clause, had been altered entirely, so as to apply to only two cases (he believed) now pending in the Irish courts, and prevent the judgment therein from taking effect. Now, what he proposed was to have made a severance of Unitarian from Trinitarian funds, allowing only the former to be retained by the Unitarian holders.

Mr. Shaw

alluded more particularly to the two cases in question, both of them having occurred in Ireland, one of them the "Eustace-street," the other the "Strand-street" (Dublin) chapel. In these cases he affirmed great injustice would result from the allowing the judgments to be evaded—the parties adjudged to have the legal right to the property would not even be paid the whole costs to which they had been put. They would also lose a sum of 2,000l. incidentally depending upon that suit. He believed the plaintiffs never desired more than that each party, Trinitarian and Unitarian, should have the property belonging to each assigned to them respectively.

The Solicitor General

said, while the Bill was pending in the Lords, the Select Committee having agreed the measure should extend to Ireland, a Clause was introduced by the Lord Chancellor enacting that it should be so extended, but making no allusion to the cases in question on which Lord Cottenham declared it had been the intention of the Committee to exclude them, and therefore the Clause had been altered to its present form. Now, the case of the Strand Street chapel was strong. Previously the meeting-house had been elsewhere, and the former lease having expired, another edifice had been secured in Strand Street, where the congregation, Unitarian as at present it was, had been unmolested since 1756, one minister alone having preached for fifty-six years. Unfortunately, Lady Hewley's case, though it had no reference to the circumstances connected with this Bill, gave hints to parties of what they might do; and the suit was instituted not by "bill," but by "relation" (the course taken when a party had no interest in the result of a proceeding); and the only object which they who instituted that suit could have attained, if it had been allowed to go to a termination in their favour, was costs— which were reserved to them by this Clause. Was it to be permitted, however, that parties having no interest in the result beyond costs should harass a congregation who had so long been in possession? If the congregation had complained it would have been a different thing, of course.

Mr. Shaw

was informed that the suit in question had not been instituted by strangers. That one of the principal parties had himself advanced money on (he chapel, and the Synod of Munster, a non-subscribing though in the majority a Trinitarian Synod, supported the suit.

Clause agreed to.

House resumed. Report to be received on Monday.