§ MR. HORSMAN
rose to move, pursuant to notice—That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be pleased to take into Her consideration the whole condition of the Established Church as regards its Temporalities; that She will direct an inquiry to be made into the full value of all Church Property under lease, and cause such measures to be prepared as may make the Revenues of the Church more fully conducive to the religious teaching of the people.As upon former occasions in this Session, when he had submitted to the House Motions bearing upon this subject, there had been a general concurrence in the suggestions he had made, and a virtual adoption of them, he had thought it right to take an opportunity of reverting once more to the subject. If we were, as he trusted and believed, upon the eve of some legislation upon this subject, he thought it right to express his opinion that our legislation hitherto upon ecclesiastical matters had been ineffective, because we had laid down no clear and distinct definition of the ends and uses of an Established Church. Some considered our whole array of ecclesiastical dignitaries, with their large revenues and larger patronage, their powers, and their privileges, as part of the constitution of the country, an appendage to the dignity of the Crown, a recognised portion of the State. Others regarded the incomes of ecclesiastical functionaries as revenues 1076 to be possessed without responsibility except to their own body, possessed for purposes of which the laity were not to judge, and with them were not to interfere. A third and more fatal error sprang out of our system of church patronage; so much of it being in the hands of individuals who had acquired it by inheritance or by purchase; the right being alienable and marketable had become a valuable property, and thus the greater portion of our parochial endowments had come to be looked upon in the light of private property, and had been converted by long usage into a provision for the maintenance of the friends and families of the patrons. The Church in these cases was a mere instrument for the acquisition of temporal power, honour, and advantage; and we heard continually of "prizes" in the Church. Against these views he entered his protest. He would lay down this simple proposition—that our National Church, as established by law, existed for one purpose, and one purpose only—namely, for the religious instruction of the people, the poorest and humblest of the people. It was for this that our admirable parochial system was established, that our parochial ministry was endowed, that our cathedrals were reared and dedicated, our dignitaries were multiplied, our prelates were ordained, their powers and possessions were bestowed upon them, and their revenues secured. Whatever obstructed this end should be lopped away. Now, how far did the English Church Establishment, admitting its constitution to be unimpeachable, adapt the material means committed to its charge to the full and effectual accomplishment of the end which the Church and the State alike had in view? They could not contemplate that Church without delight and instruction; not only that it presented itself in contrast with the crash of systems abroad, and even their decay at home; for, whilst in Scotland and Ireland the Church, as established by law, was the Church of the minority, in England it was the National Church. His present Motion he meant to confine to the temporalities of the Church—a branch with which Parliament could most easily deal, and to which it could most easily apply a remedy. They could also come to the resolution he proposed without the embarrassment of a controversial spirit; for all parties, whether belonging to the Establishment or not, must admit, that when the State had set apart a large endowment 1077 for special purposes, it was the duty of every man to use his best endeavours that those purposes should be wisely, honestly, and effectually carried out. Now, by the returns before the House, it appeared that the church temporalities amounted to 4,500,000l., or, if they were taken at 5,000,000l., it was probably under the truth. Not only might they bear comparison with the revenues of any other church, but they were greater than the whole revenue of almost all the minor States of Europe. They were greater than the whole revenue of Belgium or Naples; more than three-fourths of Holland or Spain; double that of Portugal; and more than half the whole expenditure of Prussia. Political economists taught that no national investment was so profitable as that which went to raise the standard of the character of a people, and that a nation became more wealthy as it became more moral and religious; and the people of England felt acutely that when large endowments were made they carried with them corresponding obligations to turn them to a largo account. It might be expected that when a Church was rich, its ministers should be well paid, and the people religiously taught; but in England it was notoriously the reverse. In no church was to be seen such extremes of wealth and indigence, learning and ignorance, piety and absolute heathenism. In illustration of that he would refer to the returns upon the table, to the reports of their own Commissioners, and, above all, to the eloquent and pathetic appeals of the most energetic prelates in their charges to their clergy. In no country where Christianity was taught was so large a portion of the people, at least until recent days, so habitually, undisturbedly, and hopelessly removed from all its influence as absolutely to ignore its very name, as in this. The fact was acknowledged, and it was the duty of the House to provide a remedy. The Acts passed eight or ten years ago had been followed by results which their most sanguine supporters could not have anticipated; there was a new race of clergy, and the Church had been raised to a usefulness and popularity unknown be-before. Society had been much benefited by those acts; but they could not work effectually or satisfactorily unless the machinery by which they were commanded and superintended was put in order. As on former occasions he had brought under the notice of the House the episcopal incomes, 1078 and the unsatisfactory mode of payment, he would not revert to that subject except to observe, that it was a most unfortunate part of our system that, from the moment a rev. prelate was raised to the episcopal bench, he was compelled, whatever his unwillingness might be, to give up a very largo portion of his time to the administration of the temporalities of his see; and it was impossible he could have his attention so taken up without being obliged to neglect the more important duties of his station. Nor would he now revert to the subject of the cathedrals and chapters; but he must observe, that between the episcopal and collegiate bodies there was this point of distinction, that whilst the revenues of the former were the reward of the services they performed, those of the capitular bodies as now administered were given for no duty at all; and, as far as the interests of the Church were concerned, their revenues might as well be thrown into the sea. He had stated what he believed were the revenues the Church enjoyed, and he would now give the House some approximation to what they annually threw away, He believed that very few persons had any idea of the great value of the church estates that were let on lease. There was no return of their value, and, unless the Government undertook that inquiry, he believed they never would have such a re-turn. A Committee was appointed ten years ago to make that inquiry; but whilst some persons gave them the information they required, others refused. The present Archbishop of Canterbury, then Bishop of Chester, said that the gross income of his See was 3,900l., whilst the rental of the estates under lease was 16,236l., making a loss of 12,336l. a year. The late Archbishop of Canterbury also gave a return, stating that his gross income was 22,000l., but that the rental of his estates was 52,000l.; and the late Archbishop of York stated his income to be 13,000l., and the rental 41,000l. Others were given; but it was not necessary that he should quote them—those he had referred to were sufficient to establish primâ facie evidence of what he contended for. But they at the same time were supplied with another most important document, prepared at the request of the Cabinet of that day by an eminent actuary, Mr. Finlayson, on the value of the episcopal estates under lease. That gentleman calculated that whilst the rental now received by the Church was 1079 only 262,000l., it was actually worth 1,400,000l; and that must be a very low calculation, as the lessors themselves stated the value of the church property under lease to them at 35,000l. He then suggested two modes by which the Church might obtain the full advantage of that property, either by letting the leases run out, their average duration being twenty-four years, at the end of which period the Church would come into the possession of that revenue of 1,400,000l., or to sell the reversions on the leases; but, as in the former case there would he no fines during the twenty-four years, the incomes of the episcopal and collegiate bodies would have to be made up by loans on the security of those estates; and, considering the difference between what they enjoyed, independent of fines, and what their income was to be under the regulations of the Act of Parliament, and also considering that the present surplus of the episcopal fund was 16,000l., the amount of the deficiency at the end of the twenty-four years would be less than two years' rental of the estates; and, perhaps, under proper management there would be no deficiency at all. By the other mode, Mr. Finlaison calculated that the income to be derived from the sale of the reversions would be 500,000l.; but he thought there was every reason to suppose that the surplus income would be no less than 750,000l. He did not say anything of either of those plans; but they showed that an enormous available surplus was now lost to the Church, amounting, on the one calculation, to nearly 1,500,000l.; on the other, to 500,000l. The ecclesiastical constitution of England had said that every parish should have its minister; and they knew that at the time when many of these questions were looked over and settled in the reign of Charles II, when Parliament was considering resolutions for making provisions for the parochial clergy, the King sent a message saying that he had taken that matter into his own hands, and he wrote to the deans and chapters not to let any impropriate tithes on lease, but so that the parochial clergy and curates had a stipend of 80l. a year, and a residence. A similar sentiment had been expressed by a high authority in the preceding reign. He would ask, then, how that constitution was respected now? Was it the fact that the Parochial clergy were adequately paid—that they had residences within their parish, and had but the care of one district? 1080 Of the 10,500 benefices that now existed in England, there were now no less than 3,454 of which the clergy were non-resident; 4,200 were held in plurality; 4,500 had no residence at all. 3,400 were under 150l. a year; 6,800 under 300l. a year; and nearly two-thirds of the whole were under 600l. a year. Considering these facts, what a picture did they present of inadequate religious teaching and of the parochial clergy defrauded of that provision which the piety of a former race had endeavoured to secure for them! If they looked to the return of non-residents he was sorry to say that the Act of 1838 was not carried out with the spirit there had been reason to expect. Of the non-residents there were 2,553 having exemption and special license; but there were upwards of 900 non-residents without either license or exemption. The presumption, then, was, that the Act had not been enforced to the extent the Legislature had a right to expect. Now, they might have, as he had shown, an available surplus at the lowest calculation of 500,000l., and there was also from the common fund prospectively 300,000l. Let them consider for a moment what they might do with that. As he had stated, there were 6,800 livings under 300l. a year. It was a reproach and a scandal to the country that a large body of the clergy, men of education, and having such sacred duties to perform, had incomes under the pitiful sum of 300l. and be would not stop until he had used every effort to remove that scandal. Of those 6,800 livings less than half were under public patronage; and to raise them to 300l. a year would require 442,000l. To raise those that were in private patronage to the same amount, the patron contributing one-half, would require 275,265l.; so that by the outlay of 700,000l. every parish might have a resident clergyman with at least 300l. a year. But there would also be this advantage in so applying the surplus revenues, that if no living were under 300l. a year there would be no difficulty in enforcing the law as to parsonage-houses, and they would have what now cost 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l.—a parsonage-house in every parish. But at present parishes were very unequally divided. There were 200 or 400 with a population under 300, and an income under 300l.; whilst there were 500 with incomes also under 300l., but a population of 3,000. These might he more equally divided, so that there might be a clergyman 1081 in every parish of a manageable size and an adequate provision. But these suggestions ought to be taken in connexion with those he had laid before the House on similar subjects. In the first instance, he had ventured to call attention to the faulty mode of payment of the episcopal incomes, The House concurred in that view, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government said that the law should undergo revision. Upon a subsequent occasion he proposed a fusion of the episcopal and common fund. The House again concurred in his view that there was no justice in that distinction, and once more the noble Lord assented to the general feeling of the House. Upon a more recent occasion, he went at great length into the state of the cathedrals and chapters, and what he felt to be the abuses of them. Then again the House felt his view was one in which it generally concurred, and the noble Lord again promised him inquiry. If all those measures were reasonable, and those suggestions unobjectionable, he felt that there was still less objection to be made to that which he brought forward now, because he had high authority for it—an authority that House would respect. The inquiry he now suggested was the same inquiry insisted on, but imperfectly carried out, by the noble Lord himself in the Committee he appointed ten years ago. He felt that there was nothing very difficult or unreasonable in the suggestions he had made. Never was there a time when everything relating to the Church excited a more warm and general interest in the country—never was there a period when the laity were more active, when the clergy were more active or zealous, or when Parliament was more united in opinion. There were no party strifes or contentions to lead to a failure of measures which might be otherwise faultless in themselves; and he was certain that, on the part of the Government, and the majority of that House, there was but one feeling—that there were dangers about the establishment of the Church which they ought to endeavour, as far as possible, to avert; and there was no means so safe or prudent to attain that end, as strengthening it in the hearts of the people, and making them feel that it was a blessing by its ministrations. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would not feel it necessary to refuse this inquiry. He was certain that no good reason could be urged for that course, or even for delay; and with these views he 1082 called upon the House to express its opinion on the subject.
§ SIR E. BUXTON
, in seconding the Motion, said the suggestions of his hon. Friend would tend to strengthen and establish the Church of these realms. It appeared to him unnecessary to go over the ground which had been so ably dwelt upon by his hon. Friend who had brought forward the proposition. The facts were plainly before them, and they had in their recollection the opinion expressed on the subject by the noble Lord at the head of the Government in the year 1836. That opinion was acceded to by a majority, though a small one, in that House; and yet twelve years had elapsed without any measure being taken to put the matter on a more satisfactory footing. They had, in fact, before them the opinions of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, who at that time declared that though they were unwilling to devote this fund, if it existed, in order that it should take the place of church-rates, yet if such a fund did exist, they were willing and anxious that it should be applied to the extension of the efficiency of the Church. They acknowledged at that time, that it was possible to adopt an improved method of dealing with the funds, and they stated most strongly that a great necessity existed in populous districts for increased efficiency in the Church Establishment. There was also the fact, mentioned by his hon. and learned Friend, that 2,600 clergymen in the Church received but 100l. a year; while the total amount of the income of the Establishment was 4,500,000l., which might by proper arrangements be increased by at least 500,000l. One point which his hon. and learned Friend had not dwelt upon, though he had stated the fact strongly, was the necessity which existed in this city and other large towns for increased means of religious instruction to the community. He had the honour to be connected with a society which had done much to bring to light the mass of dreadful heathenism which was to be found in this metropolis—the London City Mission. The noble Lord was connected with another society, the Pastoral Aid Society, established on account of the extreme necessity there was for giving increased stipends to men who were sent as missionaries among the people. He would not detain the House by reading any long quo- 1083 tation, but he hoped he might be permitted to refer to a short extract from the Thirteenth Report of the London City Mission. It spoke of Plumtree-court—One end of which is in the thronged thoroughfare of Holborn-hill, a few yards east of St. Andrew's Church, and the other entrance is in Shoe-lane. On the occupation of this district by the mission, the missionary appointed to it ascertained, that although in Plumtree-court there were hut thirty houses, these contained 153 families, three or four families living frequently in a single room of a house. Drunkenness, swearing, and vice of almost every description were luxuriant and unchecked. Few of the adults could even read, and of the 175 children under 14 years of age, not more than 30 attended any school, until the missionary recently established a ragged school.Again, with regard to two courts in the immediate vicinity of some of the best parts of the metropolis, the report said—Orchard-place and Gray's-buildings are two contiguous courts within a stone's throw of the aristocratic squares known by the names of Grosvenor, Manchester, and Portman. They contain 49 houses, which by a recent investigation of a missionary were found to be inhabited by about 600 families, consisting of no fewer than 1,757 persons. A highly respectable medical gentleman, who visits the courts professionally, and who is the son of a late venerated clergyman, informed the missionary, that before the hop season the population of these two little courts of 49 houses was very nearly 3,000. The disgusting scenes witnessed on exploring those 49 houses cannot be told. Of the 1,757 persons remaining in them, 1,274 were adults, of whom 484 could not read, only 14 attended Protestant worship, and but very few possessed the Scriptures. Their ignorance was extreme. One woman, for instance, when asked whether heaven or hell was the better place, replied, 'She supposed hell.' Of the 413 children in these courts 404 do not attend Sunday school, and 304 do not attend a daily school.If a better administration of the property held under church-leases would afford the means to enable them to remedy such evils as these, he could not see how the House could refuse to address Her Majesty, praying that an inquiry should be instituted to ascertain whether such a fund did or did not exist. There was another point to which he wished to advert, and that was the great necessity there was for giving the men who were placed in these miserable and heathen districts such a stipend as to raise them above actual poverty and distress. It might be known to many hon. Members that ton churches had been recently built in a neighbourhood with which he had some acquaintance, the neighbourhood of Bethnal-green. It struck him that it was useless to build those churches and place efficient men in them unless their 1084 incomes were augmented to such an amount that they would be willing to stay there, and unless they were raised above the cares, anxieties, and distress which a very small income must occasion to the mind of any man. It must be known to many hon. Members how extremely insufficient were the present means of supplying these men with such an income as they ought to have. In his opinion, every exertion should be made in order that the funds of the Church might be applied to increase the stipends of those who devoted their lives to the missionary work. He would not detain the House longer except to say that it gave him great satisfaction that this Motion had been made, and that he hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would agree to it.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, I have heard with very great satisfaction the speech of the hen. and learned Gentleman. I think that while he brought before the House a very important subject, he did so in a spirit for which he is entitled to credit; and that, in aiming at the improvement of the Church, he introduced no topic to which a just objection could be offered. The proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman is certainly one well worthy of consideration; but it is at the same time encompassed with a great many difficulties of a practical nature, which it behoves every one who may undertake to bring forward a measure in detail seriously to consider before he introduces it. The property of the Church has, I think, been truly represented by the hen. and learned Gentleman—whether the exact calculations which he has quoted be correct or not, no doubt the actual property of the Church is of a value far exceeding that which is derived from it by the clergy. With respect, however, to the mode in which this property should be managed, and the alterations which should be made, there has been already a good deal of inquiry. There is, in fact, at this moment a Committee sitting on leases, which is, I am informed, about to make a report on that particular subject; and I should be sorry to say that any particular scheme ought to be adopted until I have seen that report, and fully considered to what the inquiries of the Committee have led, and what is the nature of the proposal which they make. It is obvious, that if you were to take the first scheme proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that of Mr. Finlayson, and to allow the leases to run out, it would, according to the calculation 1085 made, be twenty-four years before the property would yield its full value, and you would still have to find a revenue sufficient to supply the incomes of the bishops, chapters, and clergy interested during that time. If you adopted the other scheme, and parted with the fee-simple of the estates, unless you took care to have a sufficient amount for their value, I think you would run a risk of losing the increase which you might expect from the increasing value of property, and thereby inflict an injury on the Church thirty or forty years hence, when the increase of the population will probably require that new efforts should be made. Such, Sir, is the nature of the difficulties attending this question. At the same time, I have no hesitation in saying, that I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly well founded in his main proposition, namely, that this is a source to which we should look for an increase in the value of church property; and that that increase ought to be applied to the improvement of the incomes of the clergy, and also to the providing of additional spiritual instruction. I cannot quite agree with the hen. and learned Gentleman with respect to the importance of increasing the income of each clergyman to a certain amount when it is below that amount, while there are other objects of paramount importance which might thereby be endangered. There are, for instance, a great many livings containing a population of not more than thirty, forty, or fifty persons, in remote hamlets, while at the same time there are in our great towns and in our populous districts twelve, fourteen, or sixteen thousand persons in a parish, whom the clergy at present devoted to the neighbourhood are quite unable to supply with an adequate amount of spiritual instruction. It may naturally be said, as indeed it has been said, by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that the small livings might be consolidated and united. But there are difficulties to be encountered. The advowsons may belong to persons who have an estate in the neighbourhood; and if these persons are unwilling to part with their advowsons, a practical difficulty arises, and the case is not similar to what it would be if the whole of the livings were either in the gift of the Crown or of bishops, and facilities were thus afforded for making necessary alterations. Sir, I consider, therefore, as I did at the commencement of the inquiry before the Ecclesiastical Commission, that 1086 the main defect which ought to be supplied—to supply which, though much has been done already, much more is required—is spiritual instruction for the great number of persons in parishes and districts where formerly there were very few persons. I own I consider that subject one of paramount importance, still more important than that of raising the incomes of a portion of the parochial clergy. Now, with respect to the immediate Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, I confess I do not think it advisable for the House to address the Queen to direct inquiry to be made, into the full value of all church property under lease. Is am quite prepared to take such measures as would be likely to afford some proximate estimate of the full value of church property under lease; but I own I cannot say that I think it advisable by moans of the appointment of a Commission under the Crown, or by any similar means, to undertake a compulsory inquiry into the full value of this property. The hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that when, upon my Motion, a Committee of this House was appointed ten years ago, certain of the bishops and other dignitaries refused to give any return as to the full value of the church property belonging to them at that time. There was no great inconvenience in the refusal, except that the House was not furnished with the returns sought; but I think it would not be becoming for the Crown to place itself ill the situation of directing an inquiry to be made, and ordering Commissioners or other persons to ask for returns, when, in case it should meet with a refusal from the bishops or other persons, it would not possess the power of enforcing the information desired. Whether or not Parliament would think proper to order an inquiry by means of an Act passed for that purpose, and thus making the granting of the returns compulsory, is another question. What the hon. and learned Gentleman proposes is, that the Crown itself should direct an inquiry to be made. I hope it will satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman if I declare, as I am prepared to do, that I will treat this subject in a similar spirit to that in which I have treated the other subject which he has brought under the notice of the House; that I will consider the means by which inquiry may he made; and that I am entirely of opinion that the property of the Church should be made more available to the purposes of the Church than it is at present. I further entirely agree with the 1087 hon. and learned Gentleman that the system of fines is a most wasteful system. In consequence of the bishop or the incumbent having only a life-interest in the property, of course he does not take the same care in administering it as a person who has property to leave to his children or his grandchildren. It is necessary, in order that he may obtain the income assigned to him, that he should continue the system of fines. It would he far better if the property were so managed that he could receive the whole income intended for him, and not be obliged to resort to a system which diminishes the property of the Church when it is required for purposes of such great importance. If the church property were sufficient, or more than sufficient, for all the purposes to which it is applicable, then perhaps we might say that it was not of great importance if the lessees had the rent of the estates, or if only a third or a fourth part went to the Church. But as the matter now stands, seeing the important uses for which church property is required—seeing, on the one hand, the small amount of the incomes of a great proportion of the clergy where the population is considerable; and on the other hand, seeing what I hold to be a far greater evil, that there are immense masses of the population in particular districts for whom there is not provided a sufficient number either of clergy or of churches—remembering these points, I think that in dealing with the property of the Church all minor considerations ought to give way to the superior and paramount one of the necessity of providing increased religious instruction. With respect to pluralities, I think the hon. and learned Gentleman was hardly justified in saying that the measures which have been passed have not had the effect intended. Those who held pluralities, and those who had been allowed not to reside, were not interfered with by those Acts, which were intended to apply prospectively. I believe, however, that from the time when these Acts were passed, they have been of great use. Of this I am quite sure—indeed the hon. and learned Gentleman has himself borne testimony to the fact—that, owing partly to the passing of those Acts, and partly to the circumstance that so much attention has since been paid to this subject, there has been of late a great improvement with respect to the amount of instruction given by the clergy. In many cases in which there was no resident clergyman, and had been none, perhaps, 1088 for nearly a century, churches have been repaired and glebe-houses built, and the improvement in the moral and religious conduct of the people consequent upon these changes has been very satisfactory. To these few remarks I will only add, that though I do not wish to oppose the hon. and learned Gentleman, I certainly hope that he will not push to a division a Motion for an address which, if agreed to, might place the Crown in the very invidious position of asking for returns from bishops and dignitaries which it might, in the end, be unable to obtain.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
said, the hon. and learned Member for Cockermouth had on that, as on a former occasion, triumphed without a battle; he had gained a virtual concession which might well satisfy a more ambitious mind. Assuming, therefore, that there would be no division, he rose for the purpose of calling attention to one or two points which he thought ought not to pass without notice. The hon. and learned Member for Cockermouth spoke of the income of the Church as amounting to 4,500,000l., and the hon. Member for South Essex, who followed him, stated that income at 4,000,000l. Now, without entering very deeply into details on this subject, he might ask whether it were or were not true, according to the returns, that the amount received in respect of tithes, by parochial incumbents, did not amount to 2,350,000l.; and that in order to make up an amount in any degree approaching 4,000,000l., it was necessary to add a sum of not less than 735,000l., which was passing away quietly into the pockets of laymen, who might be Jews or infidels. Another matter to which he wished to call the attention of the House was, that whatever the Church gained by resuming property held under lease, the lessees would lose; and it should be recollected that for a long series of years this property had been considered as much the beneficial property of the lessees as any copyhold land in the kingdom. He was not saying anything about the right to this property, which he, in common with the hon. and learned Gentleman, considered to belong to the Church; but he referred merely to the practice which had prevailed. In the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Essex (Sir E. N. Buxton), on the spiritual destitution of the metropolis, he fully concurred; but, admitting that it was their duty to relieve that destitution, he said that the relief 1089 must be provided from legitimate sources. With respect to inquiry, an Act of Parliament, as his noble Friend had said, wight make a reply imperative; but that was a very different course from inviting the Crown by an Address of that House, to issue a Commission, which might be stultified by the refusal of parties to furnish information. Under these circumstances, he was glad that his noble Friend was not prepared to assent to such an Address, though, practically, the hon. and learned Member for Cockermouth had gained his object. With the single exception to which he had already alluded, the hon. and learned Member had stated the facts of his case very fairly; though, of course, he did not concur in his conclusions: but there had been no reference to individuals which could give pain to anybody, and no assertion of a principle which he thought a true churchman might not maintain. The hon. Baronet concluded by expressing a hope that the hon. and learned Member would not press his Motion to a division.
MR PAGE WOOD
said, the House must be almost unanimously of opinion that of all properties devoted to great and useful purposes, that in question had been the most mismanaged; and there fore it was most important to ascertain the extent of property sacrificed. He did not entertain the fears expressed by the noble Lord with regard to the result of the commission of inquiry. The property under consideration stood upon much the same footing as property in general devoted to corporate purposes, with respect to which the fullest in-formation had been obtained by means of a commission. He did not believe that the bishops, deans, chapters, and other dignitaries of the Church would think it right or respectful to withhold information sought with a view to the diffusion of the blessings of religion. The evil originated in the great act of spoliation which took place in the reign of Henry VIII., when the property taken from the then holders was handed over partly to laymen, in which case it was charged with none of the duties which formerly attached to it, and partly to spiritual persons whose situation was totally different from that of their predecessors. He was no advocate for the celibacy of the clergy; but undoubtedly under the celibacy which formerly prevailed, there was an esprit de corps on the part of the great body of the clergy which induced them to apply to the building of 1090 churches, and to the purpose of endowment, any property which became vested in them. It was a great evil in the Act for restraining leases, that church estates could only be let for twenty-five years at the accustomed yearly rent. A great deal had been done since in fraud of that Act, for although the rents now appeared trifling, they were at the time considerable, being the rents actually paid. Had the words "without fine, premium, or fore-gift" been inserted, they would not then have to lament what had occurred. He would mention a case which had come under his own knowledge, and in doing so he wished it to be distinctly understood that he did not intend to make any personal charge. He alluded to the case of the dean and chapter of York. The question was, as to the mode adopted to raise funds towards rebuilding the cathedral, and this was done under the sanction of Parliament. This power was obtained under the Act of the 1st of the present Queen. That Act, which was a private Bill, gave power to that body to sell their estate of Serjeants'-inn, Fleet-street, on the ground that it was a great distance from the other estates of the dean and chapter of York; and it stated that it was for the interest of the Church that they should sell it. The Act provided that one-sixth of the amount obtained should be devoted to the rebuilding of the cathedra], after the fire which had taken place; and it then directs that inquiry should be made as to how much should be paid to the dean and chapter for any interest they might have, and that the remainder should be devoted to the purchase of other estates near that city. He regretted that it was not stated in the Act of Parliament how mach should be given to the dean and chapter, instead of referring the matter to a master in Chancery; for if that had been done, he was sure that the dean and chapter themselves would not have sanctioned it. The actual amount obtained for the sale of the estate was 11,465; this was subject to reductions for the remainder of the leases, but this probably did not amount to much, as they had only five or six years unexpired. Having then sold the estate for 11,465l., it was found that the costs and expenses to be deducted amounted to nearly 1,400l. This reduced the amount to 10,079l. They then went to the master to determine how much should be deducted for the dean and chapter, for the life-interest they had in the property. The result was, 1091 after these deductions 6,700l. was left for the purchase of other property; for l,669l. was to be paid under the Act towards the rebuilding of the cathedral, and 1,669l. for the benefit of parties interested. His hon. Friend had been found fault with by the hon. Member for the University of Oxford for stating as he did the income of the Church. He believed the amount of tithes already commuted was nearly 3,000,000l., or at any rate 2,990,000l. This amount, with the additions stated by his hon. Friend, and more especially the fines for ecclesiastical leases, would make up the 4,400,000l. There was this curious fact stated with respect to the income now managed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. This income now produced, or at least would shortly produce, 300,000l., while the original estimate of the amount which would be received, was only 120,000l. When then they took the whole revenue of the Church, and when they referred to the income from the property under the management of the Church Commissioners, were they not justified in saying, that the income might by proper care be raised to 5,000,000l.? Neither his hon. Friend nor himself had said that this amount of revenue was too much for the purpose to which it was devoted. For his own part he believed that a revenue could not be devoted to a more beneficial expenditure than for the benefit of those who performed the important duty of imparting spiritual instruction to the community. When the House looked to the duties which the clergy had to perform, and the vast benefits which were scoured to the country from the proper discharge of these duties, he was satisfied that they would admit that too great importance could not be attached to them. He would mention a fact which had come under his own knowledge as to the beneficial effects which had arisen from the diffusion of spiritual knowledge by the exertions of a clergyman in a large town in the north of England. The place he alluded to contained from 150,000 to 160,000 inhabitants, and the clergyman who had to superintend the religious instruction of this large number of persons had, besides building several churches, founded Sunday-schools containing 120,000 children, with 800 teachers. Very recently, while Bradford, in the immediate neighbourhood of this place, was greatly agitated, and when it was necessary to call out the troops to suppress the disturbances, not a single case of riot- 1092 ing occurred in Leeds. This showed the advantage of religious instruction among the great body of the people. With these facts before them, it was of the utmost importance that there should be no delay in the inquiry which had been promised by the noble Lord at the head of the Government.
§ MR. GOULBURN
could not refrain from expressing his satisfaction at the tone and manner of the hen. Mover's speech; and, as he had differed from him on former occasions, he was then anxious to take that opportunity in expressing his concurrence in what had on the present occasion fallen from him. Still, he felt that this was a question of some difficulty and of great delicacy, and required great care in dealing with it. They had had experience in the year 1833–34 as to inquiries put to the clergy as to the amount of their incomes. He believed, with very few exceptions, these inquiries had been answered; the intentions of the House had been complied with. The hon. Gentleman, however, did not merely call for the amount of the incomes of the bishops and clergy, but he called upon the lessees of the Church to make discovery of the income which they derived from the property of the Church. This was a very different thing from dealing with an inquiry, the object of which was to increase the spiritual efficiency of the Church. He therefore repeated, it required the greatest delicacy and caution on the part of the Government in dealing with the subject in the way proposed. The hon. Member who had brought forward the Motion had pointed out in language in which he (Mr. Goulburn) entirely concurred, the necessitous situation of a large portion of the parochial clergy of this country, and expressed a desire that every clergyman should have an income of at least 200l. a year. The hon. Gentleman endeavoured to show that this could be effected by a different management of church property, and based his calculations on returns to which he referred. He confessed that he could not agree with the hon. Gentleman; that he could not agree with much that had fallen from him on this part of the subject; and, above all, as to the administration of the funds by the Church Commissioners. He (Mr. Goulburn) had been connected for some years with the administration of those funds which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had confided to them. They, after long reflection, had found that it was better to 1093 proceed to new endowments in larger places, where there was a great want of spiritual instruction. Each succeeding year they had afforded aid in building, and providing clergy in the metropolis and its vicinity, and other populous places, because these were of a more pressing nature, He agreed with the hon. Gentleman as to the evils of non-residence; and it was most desirable that they should got rid of the system as soon as possible. If, however, the House would look back to returns laid on the table some years ago as to non-residence, and compare them with similar returns at the present time, they would find that the number of such cases had materially diminished. He would call the attention of the House to a return on this subject, which was laid on the table in 1835. If they looked to that return they would find that the number of benefices then existing in England was 10,571. Of this number there were 6,792 cases of resident clergy, and 3,779 of nominal or-non-residence. According to another return in 1844, it appeared that the number of benefices had increased to 11,127; and instead of there being 6,792 resident clergy, the number had increased to 8,300; and the number of non-residents, from 3,800, was diminished to 2,100. Then, between 1844 and 1848, means had been taken by the Church Commissioners to assist in building residences for the clergy, so that they might fairly assume that the number of non-resident clergy had been greatly reduced since 1844. If they looked to the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, they would also find 488 additional districts had been provided with the means of spiritual instruction, and that in 665 benefices the incomes of the clergy had been increased, and that very recently aid towards building residences for the clergy had been afforded in 120 instances. He was far, however, from saying that all had been done that could be effected. On the contrary, more was requisite; and he was ready to give every aid to any sound measure which would make their present resources more available for the religious instruction of the people in connexion with the doctrines of the Church. It still happened, in some parts of the country, that the mode of dealing with landed property was by taking large fines on the granting leases, somewhat similar to what were called bishops' fines. As far as the lay classes were concerned, this system was being gradually diminished; and as far as the clergy were 1094 concerned, there was a growing feeling on the part of those having the management of ecclesiastical affairs, to look on the management of the property of the Church, not so much in regard to the interests of their families, as to the great objects which would be promoted by a bettor management of this property. Many instances of this had come under his own knowledge in connexion with deans and chapters. As these were the conscientious views of those holding church property, he believed, even without the intervention of Parliament, a, great improvement would take place in the management of it, with the view to the better promotion of the religious instruction of the country. At the same time he might add, that he believed that any sound measure for that purpose would meet with the general concurrence of the clergy, as well as the people of this country.
§ Motion withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at Nino o'clock.