§ ON the question that a sum not exceeding 6,669l. be granted for miscellaneous allowances formerly defrayed from the Civil List,
§ MR. LUSHINGTON
rose to object to the first item in the vote—1,695l. for Protestant Dissenting Ministers in England. He said: I should not have troubled the Committee with the Motion of which I have given notice, had I not been impelled to adopt that course by the urgent representations of several numerous and influential bodies of Dissenters, who feel themselves deeply aggrieved and humiliated by the annual imposition of this grant. Before, however, proceeding further, I will take the liberty of reminding the Committee of the nature and object of this grant. This grant, usually called the Regium Donum, was originally bestowed by George I. on certain poor Dissenting ministers, or their widows, as a matter of charity, out of the revenues of the Grown; and when those resources were transferred to the State, under the existing arrangement of the Civil List, the Regium Donum became a charge on the Consolidated Fund, and has, from that time, been provided for by an annual vote in the miscellaneous estimates. The amount of the grant is 1,695l., payable through the hands of nine trustees, of whom the treasurer is one, in equal proportions, to poor ministers of the three denominations of Dissenters—Presbyterian, Independent, and Baptist. By the latest accounts, the recipients were about 300 in number, the sum awarded to each averaging 5l. Now, the great bulk of these Dissenters, especially the Independents and Baptists, object to this grant, as subversive of the voluntary principle, which they reverence, as degrading to their character for consistency, and offensive to their views of moral and religious obligation. These objections have frequently been embodied in petitions to this House, renouncing the grant as uncalled-for, impolitic, and unjust; and petitions to the above effect have been presented this Session from the Committee of Deputies of the several congregations of Protestant Dissenters of the three denominations—Presbyterian, Independent, and Baptist, 440 in and within twelve miles of London, appointed to protect their civil rights; the Board of Congregational Ministers, residing in and about the cities of London and Westminster; the general body of Protestant Dissenting ministers of the three denominations, residing in the same locality; from the Baptist Board, representing above a thousand churches; and other numerous and influential bodies. These petitions convey the remonstrances of between 4,000 and 5,000 ministers and their congregations, far exceeding 1,000,000 of persons. So great, indeed, is their repugnance to this oppressive act of State benevolence, that many of these Dissenters have expressed their willingness, if the Government will abandon the grant, to make up the amount by voluntary contribution. All that the immense majority of the Dissenters ask, is to be relieved from the burden and disgrace of receiving the eleemosynary benefactions of the State, either for charitable or religious purposes, in the person of some of their ministers, simply because they are needy. No doubt, at first sight, these assertions appear utterly at variance with the evidence produced before the Committee on these estimates. But who was the witness on whose sole testimony the Committee and the Government have formed their resolution to recommend the continuance of this grant to its present number of recipients? Why, Dr. Rees, the treasurer of the fund, who has the principal patronage of its distribution! He has affirmed that the acceptance of the grant is agreeable to the generality of the "denominations." Now, though I believe Dr. Rees to be a most respectable gentleman, yet I deny his affirmations on the part of the vast majority of the Dissenters; and pronounce his evidence to be rash, fallacious, and unfounded in fact. The Committee may judge from the following passages. Dr. Rees is asked:—7538. Chairman: Generally speaking, I understand from your evidence you consider that this distribution gives satisfaction?—I am sure the withholding of it would be considered a very great calamity. I have reason to know that from very painful representations which are continually coming into my hands.7539. From your experience, you conceive the applications are so numerous as to show there is no indisposition on the part of the Dissenting clergy to receive it?—Quite so; I have received repeated applications on the subject, expressive of the fears of the parties that it might be withdrawn.7540. Is that lately?—It has been of late years; there has been no discussion very lately to occasion such communications.441 The petitions to which I have referred contradict these preposterous assertions point blank; and in a paper widely circulated by the Dissenters, which I hold in my hand, it is notorious that the great bodies of Dissenters of the three denominations protested eleven times between the years 1837 and 1847 in public and solemn assemblage, against this degrading benevolence. Yet Dr. Rees, according to his evidence, unscrupulously declares there has been no discussion very lately regarding the indisposition on the part of the Dissenting clergy to receive the grant. But it remains to be explained why the Committee took only one witness notoriously and personally interested in the continuance of the grant, and did not summon a single witness likely to belie his testimony, and prove that to the bulk of the Congregational Dissenters this grant is hateful and obnoxious. And yet it is unscrupulously averred that it gives great satisfaction, not to the recipients alone, nor to their congregations only, but to the denominations to which they belong. Now, who are the men on whom this contumely is affixed, whose honour and respectability are tainted by this annual infliction? Why, men who have built 4,681 places of worship in England and Wales, the ministers of which they maintain by voluntary stipends—who possess and support fifteen theological colleges—who contribute most generously to the encouragement of missions and to the diffusion of education—who are among the foremost in every good work—who are most rarely, even the humblest among them, presented before the judgment seat as criminals—who have the privilege of approaching Royalty with their addresses—and to whose ancestors we are mainly indebted for that full measure of liberty which it is our happiness to enjoy. It is on behalf of these most meritorious members of the community that I implore Her Majesty's Government and the Committee to relinquish this oppressive practice of annually tempting certain needy though respectable persons to accept a paltry donative, to the debasement of their social condition, by the virtual infraction of their implied engagements, by the compromise of their principles, and at the sacrifice of their conscientious convictions. So much in humble and imperfect advocacy of the wishes of the Dissenters. But I very much question the right of Her Majesty's Ministers to throw away even this small sum of the public money on 442 these hesitating recipients, whose poverty, not their will, incites them to accept it, especially too, when the grant can, in all probability, as intimated in the paper which I have quoted, be provided for by annual association. For all these reasons I now move that this vote for the payment of the Regium Donum be disallowed. Sir, this is not a party question. It is not a dispute between Whig and Tory. It is not a controversy between Churchmen and Nonconformists. The simple case is, whether Parliament will continue to brand the universal body of Dissenters of the three denominations with the mark and stigma of mendicancy, by inducing a small number of their ministers to palter with their consciences by annually accepting this miserable dole? The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving, that the charge of 1,695l. for Protestant Dissenting ministers in England be struck out, and the vote reduced to 4,974l.
said, this question stood in an unparalleled position. Here was a gift of money protested against as "an oppressive act of benevolence." There were some men, and some women, who would take any thing they could get; but the majority protested against taking their practice for the rule. And the same persons who protested against the oppressive act of benevolence in the shape of Regium Donum, were found protesting against an oppressive act of benevolence in the shape of church-rates. What then so simple, as to truck one act against the other, and let the Dissenters alone altogether? He knew there were those who denied that church-rates were any loss to Dissenters, on the ground that their estates were bought and sold for a lower price in consequence. He thought this was the very reason why they were damaged; and he only wished all the landed estates in the country, collegiate and ecclesiastical included, were subjected to a tax of 5 or of 1 per cent, for long enough, to try what the owners would say to this argument.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
would remind the Committee that this was a grant to a number of Protestant Dissenting ministers, and that though hon. Members came down and said that they thought it degrading, and were very reluctant to receive it, and had rather not receive it, those hon. Members were not themselves the persons who received it; they gave it up on behalf of others, and apparently without authority. This was a sum which had been granted 443 since the reign of George I., as a matter of charity to poor Dissenting ministers; and, until a few years ago, he believed this assistance was gratefully received by the whole body. Dr. Rees was examined before the Committee which had been sitting, and was asked—Are these sums much sought for?He answered—Very much; we have a great many more applications than we are able to meet.That did not look like that extreme reluctance, or even hesitation, with which this grant had been said to be taken. If the parties receiving this sum did not wish to receive it—if their congregations made it up by their contributions, the Treasury would find that it was not required; but instead of that, here were applicants urgently asking for it. It was divided among various ministers of the three denominations, and Dr. Rees stated that there had been in the course of three years 166 grants to Presbyterian ministers, 443 to Independent, and 461 to Baptist; so that all the three denominations had taken the grant, the shares varying because their numbers varied. The reason why this opposition was made, was explained in a subsequent part of Dr. Rees's evidence. Very respectable, and indeed eminent men among the Dissenters undertook the distribution of the grant—Dr. Rees, Dr. Pye Smith, Mr. Clayton; three men could not be named more entitled to respect for their learning and acquirements, and for their character for piety and intelligence; and they entertained no such objection to this grant. But other gentlemen, for whom he (Lord J. Russell) had a very great respect likewise, had set up what they called an Anti-State Church Association, their object being that the State should not make or authorise any grants or endowments by which religion might be at all supported; and a gentleman whom he very much respected. Dr. Cox, seceded from the body who distributed this grant, on this ground, thinking it inconsistent with the assertion of the general principle, that all church establishments should be destroyed, and no public money granted for the support of religion. That seemed to him a very insufficient ground for refusing what, as a matter of charity, appeared to be very acceptable to those who received it; and, indeed, he thought it was not the proper way of raising so great a question. If church establishments were objected to, or even church rates, the question could be 444 brought forward by itself; but a paltry grant of this kind was not the proper occasion for raising it.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
apprehended that the only reason why the grant had not ceased in consequence of no application being made to the Treasury for it, was that the distribution of it was not in the least under the control of the body, some of whose ministers received it. One gentleman. Dr. Rees, was selected by the Treasury, and he nominated others, who formed with him a board utterly irresponsible to any body, clerical or lay, connected with the Dissenting interest; they had no auditors but themselves; they were men of unquestionable character, but they were in a minority in their communities. Each of the three denominations concerned had offered to contribute the money its ministers received from the grant; but the answer of the trustees had been, "If you will raise a sum, the interest of which will pay this grant permanently, we will then consent to cease to apply to the Treasury for it." That had been thought unfair and unreasonable. The Dissenters had offered again and again to raise the amount. [Lord J. RUSSELL: For one year you mean.] It would be raised annually; they were never backward in their benevolent subscriptions.
§ MR. KERSHAW
said, that the noble Lord was quite wrong in supposing that the opposition to this grant originated with the Anti-State Church Association; for, on the contrary the Regium Donum had been repeatedly protested against long before that body was in existence. He held in his hand a copy of a resolution, adopted in January, 1834, by the united Committee of the three denominations, in which the reception of this grant was declared to be inconsistent with the principles of Protestant Dissent. It was also stated, in a paper which had been widely circulated by Dissenters, that—On this subject, Dissenters of every name have expressed their unanimous opinion. The Ministers of the three denominations, conjointly and separately; the Congregational and Baptist Unions, the Dissenting deputies of the three denominations, the recent Conferences—to say nothing of county associations, and various local gatherings of Dissenting piety and intelligence—have, without one exception, joined to denounce all grants of public money in support of religion, and this grant in particular. On these occasions, no hand has ever yet been stretched out to arrest the broad seal of infamy which all have agreed that it deserves.They objected to the grant on principle, as 445 derogatory to their character; more especially as there were other funds belonging to each denomination appropriated to the relief of poor ministers. Why, he believed that the Independents of Lancashire alone raised more than the whole amount of the grant for that very purpose, while the Baptists in this country also raised about 1,300l.; both denominations doing this, in addition to the building of their chapels and schools and the support of their ministers, as well as their various institutions. Even the Welsh Dissenters, who were said to receive the largest portion of this grant, generously contributed a larger sum than its entire amount to the London Missionary Society alone. He was not authorised by the Dissenting body to make such an offer, yet such was his confidence in them in this respect, that if the Government would consent to wipe out this sum from the estimates, he would, in conjunction with another hon. Member, guarantee that the entire amount should be raised by voluntary subscriptions. In the name of the Baptists, of the Independents, and of the Unitarians of this country, he protested against the grant; and he entreated the noble Lord to accept of the offer he had made, and to relieve the Dissenting body from that which they regarded as a degradation and an insult.
§ MR. GEORGE THOMPSON
said: Sir, the noble Lord has informed the House that this grant has a claim upon our consideration, in consequence of its being 120 years old. Well, Sir, if I am not mistaken, its origin was somewhat as follows:—That celebrated Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1723, was extremely desirous, in a certain state of public affairs, to conciliate the support, to some extent, of the Dissenters of this kingdom; and we find him, upon a certain day, closeted with some of the leading Dissenting ministers of this country, and promising, if they would support him and his Administration, he would at some future time—not that year, but perhaps the next—propose some measure for their exemption from the operation of certain penal statutes against them. The next thing we find with regard to the origin of this grant is, that a surgeon receives 500l. sterling money. It is paid to him as a surgeon, and without any knowledge on the part of those who cashed the Treasury warrant, of the purpose to which it was to be applied. We next find another of the Minister's agents closeted with nine Dissenting Minis- 446 ters, representing the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Independent bodies. They receive amongst them the 500l. which has been paid from the Treasury, and are told it proceeds from the Royal bounty, and they become the distributors of that 500l. among their brethren. This, if I am not mistaken, is the origin of the Regium Donum, which I am extremely happy is now under the cognisance and control of the House of Commons, enabling us to discuss the question, whether this Committee will vindicate certain religious bodies from a reproach, cast not only on their principles as Dissenters, but upon their benevolence and liberality as men and as Christians. This Committee will, I trust, vindicate the Nonconformists of Great Britain from the unjust imputation which is thus cast upon them. Sir, I differ from my hon. Friend who has moved this Amendment, in the view which he has taken of this grant in connexion with the great question of the union of Church and State. I regard the grant itself, abstractedly considered, in the same light as the noble Lord, who has called it "a paltry grant;" but, although the sum he small, the principle involved in our vote respecting it is very important. It is upon that principle, chiefly, that I individually oppose this grant; namely, that it is a recognition of the right of this House to vote from the public Treasury certain sums for ecclesiastical purposes. Sir, I have been confirmed by what I have witnessed in this House, since I have been a Member of it, in the impression which I had received before I had the honour of a scat in it, that the introduction into it, whether by the proposal of grants of money or otherwise, of religious questions, is the great impediment to legislation, and the principal cause of the protracted and acrimonious debates that arise upon the floor of this Assembly. But, Sir, waiving the principle altogether, the grant itself is such as the noble Lord at the head of the Government cannot, candidly speaking, defend. Does he vindicate it because it is a grant to those ministers whose congregations are unable, out of their own independent resources, to support them? Well, then, I say that, viewed in that light the grant is most insignificant, and unworthy of this House. It merely gives about 5l. a year to some 350 men, and places at the disposal of nine gentlemen about 180l. each, to be distributed by them in their uncontrolled discretion to whomsoever they may please, to anybody whom they may 447 think stands in need of this "paltry sum," to make up the deficiency in their incomes. Sir, I do not impugn either the judgment, the impartiality, or the piety of the distributors of this grant. The names which the noble Lord has mentioned as being among the distributors are the names of men worthy of the highest respect; they are men in whom I would place as much confidence as in any men whatever; but, if upon no other ground, I should object to this grant as being a grant of money voted by this House to be distributed secretly. All other recipients of the public or Royal bounty are known. The pauper tradesman must expose himself before poor-law guardians; men who rank highest in the walks of literature, art, and science, reduced in their old age to circumstances of indigence, are not permitted to receive the Queen's bounty without having their names recorded from year to year, and the amount which they receive being placed upon the table of this House. But here we have men secretly receiving money from the public, to whom it would be no reproach to enjoy the Royal bounty if their own religious body could conscientiously sanction the grant. I must say that it is putting a petty patronage into the hands of nine gentlemen, which, I am surprised, they do not throw up at once. But look at this 1,695l. If you give this money upon the principle, that where a Dissenting congregation is not able to raise an income adequate to the wants and necessities of the minister, this grant is to be brought in aid of his necessities, then, I say, it is a most partial and niggardly grant. If there are ministers in Wales, for example, who have an income which does not average 50l. a year, why should some few of those ministers, who have friends at Court, or who happen to be personally known to some of these distributors, or who is fortunate enough to draw a prize in the lottery, why should they receive this money, and their brethren, not less worthy, and it may be more necessitous, be left without it? If you can justly grant a sum of money for a purpose like this, thou let us know who they are that obtain it, in order that we may be satisfied that the state of their circumstances requires such assistance; and let us know the names of all who require such aid. Let us know the congregations which will not or cannot support their ministers. Let these ministers not be afraid—performing, as they do, sacred duties—to have it published to the world, 448 that, notwithstanding all their labours and self-denial, they are still in circumstances of indigence. They will then have a fair claim to the impartial distribution of the Royal bounty which is annually voted in this House; but, as it is, the thing is done secretly; and while I admit that private charity cannot be too unostentatiously dispensed, I, at the same time, contend, that all public charities—all money voted out of the taxes levied from the people—should be given to individuals whose names we know, whose residences we know, whose characters we can scrutinise, and whose necessities we can inquire into. If they are not ashamed to receive this bounty, they ought not to be ashamed to have it known that it is participated in by them. Sir, I do not wonder that the Dissenters of this country should, from year to year, meet for the purpose of entering their protest against this grant. Take these various bodies as they stand, and which of them requires this boon from Government? The Presbyterians do not want it, for they are amongst the wealthiest of the Dissenting bodies of this country. To them the grant is a greater insult, compared with their circumstances, than it is to the other bodies. So independent are they of the grant, that the larger portion of the money which is assigned to the Presbyterian distributors, is given by them to ministers of the other two denominations. The Baptists do not want it, neither do the Independents require it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport has just stated. Sir, I call upon the House to attend to the suggestion of my Friend. Give fairly into the hands of my hon. Friend, or a Committee that shall be appointed for the purpose, the names of the present recipients, and they will institute, in the several counties of England and Wales, a fair and Christian-like inquiry into the wants and necessities of these ministers. These ministers have their appeal, first to the sympathies of their own congregations, and the churches formed in those congregations, next to the sympathy of their own denomination, and they will have, besides, the sympathy of the Christian world at large; and I feel confident a sum will be raised for their necessities larger than that which they secretly receive from this grant. I have been looking into a volume, which will be found in the library—the life of the late Dr. Calamy, by himself. There is in it an account of a wealthy knight, canvassing in Wales for a seat in Parliament, 449 In the course of his canvass, he called upon a distinguished Dissenting minister, Dr. Price, to solicit his vote. He said to him, "If you will favour me with your vote at the approaching contest, I will use my interest to procure for you the disposal of the Regium Donum amongst your brethren." The Welsh minister immediately repudiated the offer, and said, that he deplored the day when this Regium Donum was first granted; that he would not be amongst those who became the slaves of the Government of the day by the distribution or receipt of any such eleemosynary assistance. Then, what is the effect of this grant upon Dissenters generally? Why, they know not who are the recipients of it, but they are aware that there are some 350 ministers who annually receive donations out of this grant. They cannot account for the silence and apathy of certain ministers upon great and important religious principles. Why, not one of the ministers who receive this money can come forward, in an open and manly manner, to advocate the great and sacred cause of Nonconformity. At all events, if he did, he would be acting inconsistently, and condemning by what he said the system from which he derived advantage. I do trust the House will look on this matter in its proper light, and refuse this grant from this time forth. I do hope that they will pay respect to the representations of the 5,000 ministers who have spoken to-day through my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, and at once put an end to this compulsory disgrace upon the Dissenting churches, who are ready to give every farthing of this amount, or, if requisite, more, to meet the necessities of these poor ministers. Pay to their liberality, if not to their principles, the compliment of blotting this vote out of these estimates, and I will venture to say, that not only the wants of the present recipients of the Regium Donum, but many others, will be well cared for when the Dissenters are thus fairly dealt with. No man who now receives money secretly from this fund, would, by casting himself upon the care of his brethren, find himself destitute of sympathy and assistance if really worthy of them. I must, therefore, protest against this grant: first, on account of its being connected with a system which I hold to be as adverse to true religion, as it is injurious to the legislation of this House, namely, the support of religion by the State; next, because it is not, in my judgment, proper that monies voted out of the 450 public funds should be secretly bestowed by irresponsible parties; next, because, if it be right to relieve from such a source ministers who are in necessitous circumstances, we ought to do far more than it is proposed to do; and, finally, because I believe that, so far from depriving any deserving individual of the assistance he requires, you would, by withdrawing this vote, stimulate the Dissenting bodies to do far more than can be done for them by this small but degrading grant of the public money.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, I will trouble the House with one or two remarks with reference to an observation made by the noble Lord, from which it would appear that he is disposed to take the evidence of Dr. Rees as of more value than all the statements made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster. Now, there never was an instance in which a Motion was brought forward in this House more entirely in accordance with the feelings of the great body of the Dissenters and Dissenting ministers out of doors. I do not know this Dr. Rees at all, nor do I know to what Dissenting denomination he belongs; but from his evidence I gather, that he is a very illogical person, and one whose opinions cannot be said in any degree to represent the Dissenters. In his evidence before the Select Committee on the Miscellaneous Estimates, he says, that the Dissenting congregations have the means of knowing which of their ministers receive this money; and yet, in another answer, he says, that when a Motion was made for a return of the names of the recipients, he objected to their being given; and the reason he assigned for so doing was, that they would be thereby subjected to the complaints of other parties, who thought they were not acting as consistent Dissenters in receiving these sums from such a source. Well, but if it is known at present—if the congregations are aware of the parties by whom it is received—the evil which he apprehended from the publication of the names was already committed, and the pretext for opposing the publication was destroyed. He states, that these congregations do not object to their ministers receiving the money, although their denominations are strongly opposed to the grant. That is the answer to 7,522. As to Dr. Rees being a Dissenter, I do not know what pretensions he can make to anything of the kind. I will read a portion of his examination, in order that the Committee 451 may see how much his evidence is worth as a Dissenter. He is asked—You do not consider yourself bound in the distribution to attend to something approaching to an equal distribution among the localities of Great Britain?His answer is—No; it would hardly be just to do so. Wales is peculiarly a Dissenting country, accidentally from the course taken in the reign of Elizabeth to force a service-book in the English language upon a nation who did not understand a word of it.Now, mark what he says in the last words of the answer:—Dissent was created to a very large extent before the evil was perceived.A pretty Dissenter to be talking about the "evil" of Dissent! Whoever thought before of taking the opinion of a man who calls Dissent an "evil," as to what Dissenters should do in a matter of principle like this? [The ATTORNEY GENERAL was understood to express his disapproval of this construction of Dr. Rees's words.] The hon. and learned Gentleman, the Attorney General, is raising a legal distinction in the case; but I say the meaning of what he says is clear from the words of the answer, that "Dissent was created before the evil was discovered;" that is, before the evil of dissent was discovered to be the result of the proceedings to which he refers." My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport has placed this question upon a somewhat new footing in this House. I think I need not inform the House that that hon. Gentleman occupies a high position among the Congregational body in this country. That from his station, character, and pecuniary means—with the power which he possesses to influence those with whom he is associated in religious connexion—I can state that there is nothing which he has engaged to do in the event of this grant being rejected by this House, which he cannot successfully perform. I have not the slightest doubt whatever that he will do everything he has promised. I have so much confidence in him, that if he drew a bill for the amount, I should be exceedingly willing to place my name at the back of it. I am quite certain that all he has promised in this respect he can perform. But the noble Lord has rather let the cat out of the bag. He says, that the Anti-State-Church Association had something to do with this amendment. Bui this grant was objected to long before the Anti-State Church Association was in existence; and there are 452 some Dissenters now objecting to it who have nothing to do with the Anti-State Church Association; for they think—in my opinion very erroneously—that it is wrong for them, as religious persons, to mix themselves up with political matters. Now, I will tell the noble Lord what the object of maintaining this grant is; it is thought very desirable that the great citadel, the Established Church, should have for its support certain buttresses or outworks. One of these buttresses is the 36,000l. a year paid to the Presbyterians in the north of Ireland; another is the 1,700l. a year paid to poor Protestant ministers in England; and another proposition has recently been talked of for the formation of another buttress, in the endowment of the Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland. It is thought very desirable that there should be a good number of these outworks to defend the great citadel when assailed. Now, if an Established Church is a good thing—and it is possible a majority of persons in this country are of opinion that some Established Church should exist—why, then, let it stand upon its own merits. That is a question which must be discussed on its own grounds, and I do not want to discuss it in connexion with this question. But this is clear, that the numerous Dissenting bodies hold a different opinion; the very fact of their being Dissenters is in itself, to a largo extent, a proof of it. Five thousand Dissenting ministers most decidedly object to this grant. It is a secret grant. I believe there are a great number of persons who receive this money who do not know that it comes from Parliament at all. If I am to judge from Dr. Rees' testimony, I am inclined to believe that a large number of poor ministers, recipients of this bounty, are actually unconscious of the source from whence it comes. If the practice of printing the names of the poor ministers participating in this grant were at once adopted, before another year was over nearly every one at present receiving it would abandon it. Before I sit down, I will just ask the noble Lord, if he will not allow the vote now to be withdrawn, whether he will consent to a return of all the names of the parties receiving this grant? Because it is not fair that this Regium Donum should annually be continued by the Government, in defiance of the opinion of the large body for whose benefit it professes to be dispensed; and that it should be given in a manner which must cause 453 very great harm to the consciences of those persons, and great hurt to an important public principle advocated by them; and that it should be given in such a manner that the influence of public opinion cannot be brought to bear upon the recipients for the purpose of removing what the Dissenting body consider a stain and a blot upon their conduct. I ask the noble Lord whether he will consent to this proposition, because, if so, I personally will not object to the vote on this occasion, and will also ask my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster not to divide the House upon his Amendment. I ask him if he will give an accurate list of all those who have received this money during the last, or who are intended to receive it during the coming year? Because, as I said before, if we had that list printed, before the expiration of another year, we should have repudiations of the grant from almost every party who now receives it.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
The hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and the hon. Member who addressed the House before him, object to this vote upon the ground of its being a secret grant; that is to say, that the names of the necessitous and honourable persons who receive this money in sums of about 4l. and 5l. each, are not published, in order that they may be held up to obloquy.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I beg leave to say that I do not think that a valid objection. It is objected that these alms are given in secret; now I certainly thought that alms given in secret were far better than if given openly. I should have no objection to the proposition made by the hon. Member for Stockport, if assured that the various bodies themselves would guarantee the amount now given in this manner. If I saw that it was secure as a charity, I should have no objection to withdraw this grant; but if I have reason to believe that the publication of their names is only intended for the purpose of holding them up to ridicule—if their names are to be given up here in order that they may be held up to derision by other parties elsewhere—I certainly cannot consent to any such publicity being given to the names of the persons receiving this money.
§ MR. LUSHINGTON
I beg leave to make one remark with reference to an observation which the noble Lord has ad- 454 dressed to the House, and that is, that the Anti-State Church Association was instituted in the year 1844, while the first objection to the grant, which I quoted in the paper I have referred to, is dated 1834; therefore those objections could not have emanated from that Association. I must say, that his Lordship has rather shaken my resolution to press this Amendment to a division. If he would engage on the part of the Government not to propose this Regium Donum in future years, on condition of his being furnished with a proper and satisfactory engagement on the part of the Dissenting bodies that they would subscribe a sum sufficient for the necessities of these deserving ministers, then I think that that would content the Dissenting bodies, and put an end to all the feuds and exceedingly disagreeable discussions upon this subject.
§ MR. HUME
I beg to state that the facts of the matter concerning the publication of those names are these: I moved for a list of these persons, which was objected to; their return was ordered by this House, but I was applied to not to publish their names, in consequence of the exposure which would ensue. I think it was in 1834 that I brought this matter on. I said "the Dissenters ought to be fairly dealt with in this case." They had not till 1832 been brought before the House; we objected to allow anything that was not sanctioned by the House. These matters were then put on the estimates here, in order that they might be fairly dealt with by the House. As soon as it was known that this money was paid by Dr. Rees, a meeting of Dissenters was called upon the subject, and Mr. Weymouth, whom the noble Lord no doubt well recollects, wrote to me requesting me to vote against the grant, and stating that a resolution had been come to by the Dissenters to oppose it. That was in 1833; in 1834 I brought the matter specially before the House; upon which occasion I read the resolution I had previously received. Therefore, the opposition which is made to this grant has nothing to do in its origin with the Anti-State Church Association, but is a matter which was agitated before that body was established. As I believe that the noble Lord wishes to have no persons upon the list but such as are deserving, let me suggest to him to submit it to competent persons for examination, by doing which he will not be removing the grant from any single deserving person.
§ MR. MUNTZ
The noble Lord has stated that there is greater merit in giving charity in secret than openly. I am quite ready to admit the truth of his proposition as applied to individual charity; but when the charity comes from the nation, if it is money voted by the House of Commons, the circumstances are greatly altered. The nation has a right to know to whom its charity is given, and whether it is properly bestowed. As to the plea of its being a grant which has been long established, that certainly is no reasonable ground whatever upon which it can be maintained. We have had too many grants of that sort—too many irregular practices; and whether they have existed for a day, or a month, or a year, is perfectly immaterial; the lapse of time cannot in any way sanction that which is wrong. If it has been a charity which ought not to have been given, the sooner it is stopped the better; the greater the saving of the nation's money, which is not even thankfully received by the body to whom it is pretended to be given, but is repudiated by them. I hope that the House will be decided against this and all religious grants for any particular sects. This has nothing to do with the question of tithe; the question of tithe is a question of rent. I know that it is so from my own experience. I know that where there is no tithe to pay, there is more rent laid on the land. But when you are granting men public money, the public ought to know all the parties, and be satisfied that their circumstances require the grant. Look at the condition in which we as a nation are now placed! I say that the public and the country ought to know who the parties are who are receiving this money.
§ MR. WYLD
Sir, I am quite sure that the expression which has just fallen from the noble Lord, that the Dissenting ministers who partake of this grant are in the receipt of "alms," will in future make them desirous to disconnect themselves from it. The Dissenters of England of the present day still uphold those great principles for which their fathers were expatriated, and for which they suffered the loss of the whole of their property. Of this I am sure, that nearly every Dissenter throughout the empire will repudiate the grant. It is very unfair towards the large body of Dissenters in this country, that it should be stated in these estimates that this Regium Donum is for the benefit of the Dissenters of England. Why, Sir, 456 that large body of Dissenters, the Wesleyans, are not in any way recipients of this bounty. I might say that they are the largest body of Dissenters in the British empire; yet they do not come down to these distributors and receive this bounty. Therefore, as the Wesleyans do not receive it, there is no reason why any ministers of the Independent and Baptist congregations should be allowed it. It has been stated, in the course of this debate, that this grant arose out of some transaction connected with the celebrated Minister, Walpole; but the fact of the matter is this—this grant was given by George I. to the Dissenters, in consequence of their adherence to the House of Hanover. At that time it might have been of some use to the Dissenting bodies, because they were small in number in proportion to what they are now; but since that time they have increased both in numbers and wealth, and any one who knows the Dissenting bodies at this moment knows very well that they have now no occasion for this grant. The small amount they receive, so far from doing any service to the Dissenting ministers who are supposed to receive it, renders them objects of suspicion and distrust with their congregations and denominations. I assure the noble Lord, that so far from being a benefit to the body of Dissenting ministers generally, it is a great disadvantage, because many of them are suspected of taking this money who are not actually in the receipt of it at all. The Dissenters generally object most strongly to the secret manner in which this grant is received. Dr. Pye Smith, one of the distributors, has acknowledged that there has been one gross case of malversation in its bestowal; and where one has been proved, there is reason to suspect the existence of more. The men who receive this grant cannot be considered free agents. We have seen what the effect of these State grants has been in Ireland. There the Crown will not permit any portion of the grant to be given unless the congregation give no greater stipend than 35l.; the consequence of which regulation is, that a large portion of the incomes of Presbyterian ministers in Ireland are reduced to that sum in order to bring them within the required conditions of Government. The effect of this grant is most injurious and distasteful to the entire body of Dissenting ministers on whose behalf you profess to make it. What has been the case upon the present occa- 457 sion? There are 300 or 400 Dissenting ministers receiving this money, not one of whom has come forward and acknowledged himself publicly in favour of the money he annually receives from the Government. Why do they not openly come forward and ask for a continuance of the grant, when they perceive efforts made both within and without Parliament for its abolition? They are afraid of doing so, because they well know that by so doing they would lose the confidence of their congregations, of the denominations to which they belong, and of the entire body of Dissenters. I trust the House will refuse no longer to sanction the continuance of this grant.
§ MR. BRIGHT
I ask the noble Lord whether he will consent, so long as this grant was continued, to permit the publication of the names of those who receive it? I ask for nothing more than that; if the noble Lord feels that he cannot grant that request, then we must divide upon the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster. With regard to the plea that this grant is in the nature of alms, and must therefore be given in secret, I know well that a very high authority has said that when we give our alms we must give them in secret; but that precept applies only to cases in which we are giving our own money; but this grant being from a public fund, contributed from the taxes of the country, I think it would be much more desirable that it should be given openly, and in such a manner as that the public should have the means of satisfying themselves that the bounty is worthily bestowed.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I have already said that I am afraid the object of obtaining these names is, that the poor recipients of the grant might be held up to obloquy. That being the case, I most decidedly object to the proposition of the hon. Member.
§ The Committee divided on the question, that the sum be 4,974l.:—Ayes 28; Noes 60: Majority 32.
|List of the AYES.|
|Anderson, A.||Fox, W. J.|
|Berkeley, hon. C. F.||Greene, J.|
|Bright, J.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hume, J.|
|Clay, J.||Keogh, W.|
|Cobden, R.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Drummond, H.||Osborne, R.|
|Duncan, G.||Reynolds, J.|
|Evans, J.||Salwey, Col.|
|Fagan, J.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Thompson, Col.||Wyld, J.|
|Wawn, J. T.||Lushington, C.|
|Williams, J.||Kershaw, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Jervis, Sir J.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Jones, Capt.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Buller, C.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Craig, W. G.||Parker, J.|
|Dodd, G.||Pinney, W.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Rich, H.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Forbes, W.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Forester, hon. G. C. W.||Talfourd, Serj.|
|Forster, M.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Fortescue, hon. J. W.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Freestun, Col.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Ward, H. G.|
|Grosvenor, Earl||Watkins, Col.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Hawes, B.||Wilson, J.|
|Hay, Lord J.||Wilson, M.|
|Hayter, W. G.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Henley, J. W.||Wood, rt. bon. Sir C.|
|Herbert, H. A.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||TELLERS.|
|Hood, Sir A.||Tufnell, H.|
|Howard, P. H.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ On the question that a sum of 27,837l. be granted to complete the sum required for Nonconforming, Seceding, and Protestant Dissenting Ministers in Ireland,
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
, as a friend to religious liberty, did not think he was justified in assenting to any grant of this nature. There was, however, an item of 366l. for the widows and orphans of ministers of the Synod of Ulster, to which he did not object; and he should therefore move to reduce the vote by the sum of 27,471l.
§ The Committee divided on the question, that the sum be 366l.:—Ayes 13; Noes 45: Majority 32.
|List of the AYES.|
|Anderson, A.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Thompson, Col.|
|Bright, J.||Thornely, T.|
|Brotherton, J.||Williams, J.|
|Cobden, R.||Wyld, J.|
|Fox, W. J.||Crawford, W. S.|
|Greene, J.||Kershaw, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Boyle, hon. Col.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Brown, W.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Monsell, W.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Moore, G. H.|
|Craig, W. G.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Dunne, F. P.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Parker, J.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Plowden, W. H. C.|
|Forster, M.||Rich, H.|
|Freestun, Col.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Hawes, B.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Hayter, W. G.||Smith, J. A.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Talfourd, Serj.|
|Hood, Sir A.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Howard, P. H.||Turner, E.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Wilson, J.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Wilson, M.|
|Jones, Capt.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Tufnell, H.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ Vote agreed to.