§ LORD ASHLEY
rose to bring forward his Motion on this subject. As he understood that no opposition would be offered to his proposition by Government; and as the general wish of the House had lately been so strongly expressed in favour of conciseness, he would be as brief as possible in the remarks with which he would preface his proposal. And, first, he wished to state, without reserve, that the proposition which he had to make would neither directly nor indirectly involve any outlay of the public money. He was fully pre- 12 pared to state, on his own behalf, and on behalf of a very large body whose sentiments he spoke, that neither he nor they intended, although they reserved their abstract right to make such a claim—that neither he nor they intended to make any demand for public money until such time as the Church should have exhausted the whole of her revenues. Neither would the proposition which he had now to make involve, in any way, the slightest increase of the burdens of local taxation in the amount levied for the purpose of church rates. He wished it also to be understood that the Commission for which he would move, would be instructed to respect all the vested rights of existing incumbents; and to proceed with their arrangements so as that they should be brought into effect only as vacancies occurred. Now, he thought that no one could have looked at the present arrangements and distribution of the parishes of this country, without observing the total want of organisation which prevailed, and the impossibility of carrying into effect any one part or principle of the parochial system. Such a faulty distribution of labour and responsibility could not be found in any other public department. If business was found to increase in the courts of law and equity, they multiplied the number of courts and judges. With the extension of the military force, they increased the number of officers. But that obvious rule had not been observed as regarded the extension of the Church of this country. Vast multitudes had been added to the population of certain localities, and the machinery of the Church still remained as it was forty-five or fifty years ago. Now, it was with the view of improving the ecclesiastical organisation—of enabling the Church to carry out her parochial system, and thus to become in reality, what she was in profession, the Established Church of the country—that he now moved for the Commission alluded to in his notice. He would now proceed to call the attention of the House to facts, which would show how utterly impossible it was that the parochial system should be carried into effect under the present organisation. He held in his hand a statement of the circumstances of half-a-dozen English parishes, in order to show the House how impossible it was that such populous districts could be properly and usefully superintended by those to whom the charge of souls was at pro-sent committed within their limits. The 13 population of the parish of Marylebone was 138,000, that of Liverpool 223,000, that of Stockport 84,000, that of Sheffield 111,000, that of Bradford 200,000, that of Manchester 353,000, and that of St. Pancras 140,000. He could mention many other parishes, containing most enormous populations; but almost all those he had quoted were more populous than many English counties. In such a state of circumstances, how, he would ask, was it possible that the parochial system could be fairly carried out? He would adduce in detail one instance only, as an example of the evils arising from the present state of things; but he would first premise, that those evils of which he complained were twofold—that they related, first, to the parochial system itself, and, secondly, to the situation of the inferior clergy, who officiated in these vast districts. Now, what did the parochial system for its due development require? It required that the minister at the head of a parish should know his flock, and he known by them—that there should be a constant interchange of good offices between them—that he should be able to minister to them in all the rites of the Church—that he should be able to take cognisance and superintendence of their various social and moral wants; nay, more, that he should administer to their secular necessities. For in no instance was the parochial system so efficacious as in those cases in which the clergyman was able freely to communicate with and advise his parishioners, and help and console them in the hour of their necessity. But, as things stood, the minister, in many instances, was not known to one twentieth of those committed to his charge. The ministers of many large parishes were hardly ever recognised, except when they appeared in vestry or ascended the pulpit. In fact, under the present distribution, what was called the parochial system was altogether impossible. He would, as he had said, take one case to illustrate his position, and to show how impossible it was for even the most hardworking and zealous clergyman to deal with such a gigantic mass of population and such a host of obstructions as were involved by it. He held in his hand a statement of the condition of the parish of St. Pancras. The population of that parish exceeded 140,000—an amount exceeding that of many English counties. The population of Bedfordshire, for instance, was 109,000, that 14 of Herefordshire, 114,000, and that of Westmoreland, only 56,000. Now, according to the general calculations as to church accommodation, provision ought to be made for one-third of the inhabitants of a parish—a system which, if it were to be followed in the case of St. Pancras, would provide accommodation for about 47,000. As matters stood, however, in the fourteen churches or chapels which were situated in the parish, there was only accommodation for 17,000. He ought to tell the House that the statement which he was making as to St. Pancras, referred to its condition two or three years ago, previous to the introduction of certain reforms carried into effect by the present vicar. Dr. Dale, which reforms were effected by the operation of those principles which his proposition would go to make universal in their application. Now, as to the number of churches in the parish. The whole body of clergy actually performing parochial duty in St. Pancras amounted to sixteen; an arrangement which would nominally assign to each clergyman the care of 8,000 souls. But the distribution was very unequal, for it did so happen, that to twelve of these clergymen was assigned the charge of no less than 120,000 souls, giving 10,000 to each. Such was the state of matters when the Rev. Dr. Dale, a gentleman whose zealous and self-denying exertions it was impossible too highly to praise, entered upon his duties in St. Pancras. He at once determined to use all his efforts to subdivide this immense parish. He met with much opposition, but he succeeded so far as to found five new districts, but divided in such proportions that to one clergyman was assigned the cure of 8,000 souls; to another, that of 20,000; to another, that of 12,000; to another, that of 9,000; to another, that of 7,000; and still a vast proportion of the parish remained undivided and unassigned. But let the House look to another effect produced by this want of subdivision in large parishes—he alluded to the number of children who attended schools connected with the Church. In the parish of St. Pancras, that number was only 4,000, whereas it was clear that under proper organisation the number ought to be at least 14,000, making due allowance for the numbers educated by the Dissenters; while he knew, from his pessonal experience in the formation of what were called ragged schools in the parish, that there were from 15 15,000 to 20,000 children who were sent to no place of education whatever. Now, Dr. Dale, by subdividing the parish, had so far succeeded, that he had sot on foot additional school accommodation for upwards of six hundred children. He held, therefore, that in every respect the case of St. Pancras proved the necessity of subdivision, and that subdivision could take place universally only by the general application of those principles which he was now recommending to the House. He held in his hand a letter from Dr. Hughes, one of the incumbents of St. Pancras, who summed up his account of the evils produced by the present state of things, by stating that there was not, and could not be, anything like union between the clergyman and the people—that the great mass of the labouring population had altogether abandoned attendance on public worship—that the ordinances of the Church had, to a great extent, fallen into disuse—and that the consequence of this state of things was to deprive the clergy of all power of promoting the moral and religious improvement of the children. Another natural effect of this want of parish church accommodation was the number of proprietary chapels to which it gave rise. He was willing to give every credit to the clergymen who officiated in those chapels; but seven-tenths of them were attended only by persons in easy or affluent circumstances, leaving the great mass of the working population without any accommodation in addition to that derived from the parish churches. Besides, most of these chapels and places of worship were altogether dependent upon pew rents; and, such being the case, this happened, that there were not only no free sittings at all in connexion with them, but that there were no sittings let at rents sufficiently low to enable the great mass of the labouring population to profit by them. There was another evil attendant upon the present system of large parishes—one which was severely felt by the clergymen who presided over them. The position of the great vicars or rectors was equivocal and objectionable. They had, to a certain extent, the situation, and, in some respects, the power of bishops. Their position was that of holding, as it were, demibishoprics. They had great powers, but not full powers. In fact, their position was such, that both on their own accounts, and on that of the Church, it would be well if some change which would do away with present existing anomalies, and which would in- 16 troduce clergymen irresponsible and independent, except of course to their bishops, could be effected. There was still another grievance respecting the working of the present system, as regarded the clergy, which he had to notice. In the large parishes to which he alluded, the parochial duties were carried on by a rector or vicar aided by a numerous body of curates. Now this was not a desirable state of things. In the first place, the number of curates was seldom equal to the due performance of the task committed to them; and, in the next place, the position which they were enabled to hold in society was not adequate to their heavy responsibilities. Of course it was not only necessary, but highly desirable, that there should be in the Church a great number of curates gradually preparing themselves for the administration of higher offices in the ministry; but he thought that all who had looked to the present state of populous parishes, and who had duly considered the real efficacy and value of the parochial system, would be of opinion that when an individual held a permanent cure of souls, it was desirable that he should be free and independent—responsible, not to a vicar or rector, but only to the great functionary', the bishop of the diocese. The present system, however, pressed severely upon the inferior clergy of large parishes, who held a position of the most anomalous character. Indeed, were they to take ten such clergymen, they would find that the position of each would be in some respect different from that of the others. He had received a great many letters from incumbents in various districts upon this subject, and the general contents of these letters he would shortly state to the House. One rev. gentleman stated that, with the same duties and responsibilities as the vicar, he was compelled to receive and to account to him for all the fees paid by the parishioners. The amount in this instance was trifling, being only about 7l. per annum; but it was the principle which was complained of, a principle the enforcement of which marked the inferior position of the clergyman in question; and he need not remind the House that this feeling of inferiority not only produced a painful effect upon the mind of the clergyman himself, but was productive of unpleasant sensations in the minds of those who attended his ministrations. The clergy of Staffordshire, a body having the spiritual care of 200,000 souls, had presented a memorial to the Archbishop of Canterbury upon the subject—a 17 memorial in which they represented that the division of great parochial districts into distinct parishes would not only strengthen the hands of the incumbents, but would promote the general welfare of the Church. Similar resolutions were come to by a body of the clergy of Yorkshire, having the care of 175,000 souls, and who had recently met at Accrington. One incumbent had stated to him in detail the evils which, in his own case, were the results of the want of a proper subdivision of parishes. This gentleman wrote that in his district, with a population of between 12,000 and 14,000, he was not allowed, without the vicar's permission, to celebrate a marriage, to baptize a child, or to church a woman. Surely this was a case for the application of the principle of subdivision. In many instances he found that the rule laid down was, that all registrations must be made at the mother church. This was an arrangement which not only gave a great deal of trouble to the parishioners, but which, when coupled with the rule of celebrating the rites of the Church only in the mother church, gave rise to a great facility for the celebration of clandestine marriages. It was thus that in the metropolis and populous districts clandestine marriages were generally effected. He would only refer to a very few of the other statements made by incumbents by whom he had been favoured with letters on this subject. One gentleman wrote, that the effects of non-subdivision were in many instances to enforce payment of double rates. Another stated that he was allowed to perform no rite of the Church, save that of celebrating divine service. Another stated that he was obliged to remit to the mother church the sacramental money received in his district, for the benefit of the poor resident in another portion of the parish. Now he thought it was clear, if a clergyman were not allowed to perform any of the offices of the Church, that he did not hold that position in the eyes of his congregation and of the world which was his due. Now, the remedy which he proposed for this state of things was the appointment of a Commission, which should consider the best mode of subdividing all the very large and populous parishes. He was convinced that if such a subdivision could be effected, it would not only remove a great portion of the evils which were universally complained of, but would be of incalculable benefit to vast masses of the population. He would be allowed to prove what he advanced by 18 reference to the case of a great parish which had been subdivided some time ago with the most marked benefit to a portion of the population, which up to the time when the change took place had been amongst the most neglected and necessitous of the inhabitants of this vast metropolis. In the year 1844 the great parish of Bethnal-green was subdivided, not so effectually as he could wish, but into districts, each containing from 8,000 to 10,000 souls. The benefits derived from subdivision had hitherto been very great. The parish of St. Matthew, Bethnal-green, had recently been assigned to the Reverend Joseph Browne, and, contrasting the state of that parish before subdivision, and after, the House would find the following results;—In 1844, before the subdivision, there was school room for only 120 children. In 1849 there were national, Sunday, infant, and ragged schools, affording education to 1,100 scholars. In 1844 there were fourteen communicants in that parish; in 1849, 160. In 1844, forty persons attended the parish church; in 1849, the church was found to be full at night, and exceedingly well attended in the morning. Between 1844 and 1849, 1,003 persons of all ages, from infancy to the age of 75, were baptised, showing how greatly the ordinance of baptism had been neglected in this district. But this neglect was quite in keeping with what had occurred in other districts. He remembered being struck with a statement made by Mr. Horner, in one of his factory reports, upon the condition of Ashton-under-Lyne, to the effect that upon the arrival of an active curate at that place, he baptised 800 persons in the course of three weeks; every one of whom had walked to the church for that purpose. Since the subdivision in Bethnal-green, there had been established loan funds, soup kitchens (self-supporting, and accessible at a reasonable price), and reading-rooms for the working people. His own experience of these reading-rooms, of which he had been instrumental in founding some himself, satisfied him that they were to a great extent effectual in drawing into them large numbers of the working population who would otherwise resort to the gin-shop. Those reading-rooms had certainly been successful in Bethnal-green. He would next take the parish of Upper Chelsea, which had recently been subdivided by the rector, the Reverend Mr. Burgess. In 1836, 15,000 souls were under the charge of the clergyman. There was one church, 19 one clergyman, and his curate. The result of subdivision had been, that in 1849 there were erected two additional churches, which were always filled, without subtracting from the congregation of the mother church. The number of scholars had increased from the former period to the extent of 600, the district visitors amounted to more than thirty-six, no diminution had taken place in the rector's receipts, and a multiplication of associations for religious and charitable purposes was the result. Now, that was the case with respect to two parishes which had been subdivided. But that subdivision had not yet been carried out as far as was practicable. The excellent rector of Upper Chelsea confessed that he was renewing his efforts at a further subdivision, from which he anticipated additional improvement in the social and moral condition of the parishioners. He would now refer to a parish on the old foundation, one which had from the earliest times down to the present kept within reasonable limits, and came within the limits which he proposed. He should like the House to see how the parochial system had acted in that parish. To come to the parish of St. Dunstan in the East, the first parish you entered after passing Temple-bar. That parish contained 3,400 inhabitants, and was not without its share of a poor population. In Fleet-street, it was true, there was a large number of respectable tradesmen, but that street contained a number of courts and alleys filled by exceedingly poor people. The whole of that parish was contained within a quarter of a mile diameter; and the consequence was that nearly the whole of the inhabitants knew each other. Now, what was the provision made for the poor in the parish? They had a boys' and girls' school for 250 children, an industrial school, and an infant school for eighty children. Every human being being known to the clergyman and his curate, it was impossible that any of those frightful cases of destitution should occur which abounded in such overgrown parishes as Shoredich, Marylebone, White-chapel, and St. Pancras. He firmly believed that a better distribution of the parochial system, by bringing the poor under the superintendence and care of the clergyman, would prevent those cases of destitution and starvation which we now had to deplore—destitution which amounted to starvation, and disease which amounted to pestilence, and would prevent that which was now a scandal and a horror to every 20 reflecting mind, and a reproach to this Christian country. He believed that this subdivision of parishes would go very far in solving that problem which had so much engaged public attention—what was to be done with our pauper population? It was his firm opinion, that if the parochial system were carried out in all our great towns, according to the model laid down, the mendicant and vagrant classes in this country would become almost extinct. Before passing to another point of his proposition, he must beg to acknowledge the benefits which had been derived from the Bill introduced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, which was one of the best, and at the same time one of the boldest, ever introduced into Parliament in the interests of the poor. With respect to the functions of the Commission which he now moved for, he should wish that Commission to be instructed to respect all vested rights—to respect all existing incumbents, and that the proposed subdivisions should be carried out in parts, and in succession. He should wish the Commission to be instructed to make a due apportionment of rich and poor of the various charities and charitable institutions, to apportion old and new churches and chapelries into distinct and independent parishes for all parochial purposes, and to make the ministers of all these distinct benefices as distinct as any one rector or vicar of the realm. Now he could not conceive what objection could be urged to the Motion he was about to make. He had said that he was not about to ask for a grant of public money; on the contrary, he should repudiate such an attempt. He might be asked, whence he expected funds for the endowment of these benefices? He did not contemplate reducing all benefices to one dead level; to the larger rectorial churches, for instance, might be assigned a larger population and a larger income. He answered, that some funds would accrue after the proposed subdivision, and that the division of the larger livings would yield some funds for the endowment of the smaller benefices. The funds to which he most looked would be these; In the first instance, he believed that in some cases the existing revenues would be subdivided. He looked for some results from the Commission which had recently been appointed to inquire into the management of Church lands, and he anticipated from the labours of that Commission a large sum of money, which could be devoted to the purpose of 21 endowing these district benefices. But he also looked for assistance from the growing munificence and liberality of the members of the Church of England in this country, which had never yet been fully tested. He knew the difficulties which beset the path of those who sought to raise funds for these purposes. He knew that when 1,000,000l. was asked for, there was difficulty in obtaining 20,000l.; but these efforts had failed from the want of system. If the demands made were specific—if the object for which the funds were required was set forth—ho believed that persons would give largely. He had seen an instance of this a few days ago. An incumbent of a district church had written to him to say that he had made an application to his parishioners for a sum of money to put his tottering church in repair. The answer he had received from one and all was, "Make us a distinct proposition, and we will give you as much money as you want, but until you do so we will give you nothing at all." As another proof that we had not yet sufficiently tested the munificence of the Chuch of England, he would quote the case of Bethnal-green, in which district, upon Mr. William Cotton, the Bank Director, coming forward with a specific plan, a sufficient sum of money had been collected to endow ten additional churches. Again, at this moment there was a strong desire to increase the ministration of the Church of England, as was exemplified by the large number of churches which were constantly springing up. As a proof of what individual exertion might effect, he would remind the House that the Archbishop of Canterbury, in one of his last charges to his clergy, had stated that during his connexion with the diocese of Chester, he had consecrated more churches in his diocese than had been consecrated throughout England since the commencement of the century. This he (Lord Ashley) thought was a sufficient proof that we had not yet sufficiently tested the munificence of the Church of England; and he felt quite sure that when a specific plan should be brought forward, sanctioned by the report of a Commission such as he now proposed, no difficulty would be found in raising the necessary funds. He knew that some gentlemen ran away with a notion that inconceivable sums were necessary for effecting these purposes. One gentleman in a pamphlet which had been recently issued, had gone the length of asking for 5,000 churches and 5,000 clergymen. Now, he 22 wanted no such thing; if they had 5,000 clergymen they would not know what to do with them. The Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel, in a letter which he bad addressed to Viscount Melbourne some three or four years ago, had asked for 2,000 churches and eight millions of money. But the public naturally considered such a scheme as too gigantic to be grappled with, and it fell to the ground. It was not to such a scheme as that, that the sanction of the House was now asked. The whole number of parishes in this country whose inhabitants exceeded 4,000 amounted to 279; and parties who had experience on this subject, and had had opportunities of deeply condering it, were of opinion that the addition of 500 clergymen, in excess of the present staff, would be quite equal to meet the exigencies of the case. Now, the incomes of 500 clergymen at, say 300l., would amount to 150,000l. a year, which he did not think was a large sum to ask from the great, the opulent, the pious, the patriotic members of the Church of England. The only way of effecting the proposed subdivision, unless the Commission should recommend some general plan, such as he had suggested, would be by separate and local acts. That course would be both costly and troublesome. It would be necessary, then, as in the case of the General Inclosure and Tithe Act, to have some general subdivision Act, which should define the powers of subdivision. He could not understand on what ground opposition would be offered to his proposal. All that was aked was to have an opportunity for the Church of England developing those enormous resources at her command. Whichever way we turned we found the Church assailed by those who differed from her—charged with professing to be the poor man's church, when she was in fact no such thing, and when, on the contrary, she was leaving whole parishes teeming with human beings without a single clergyman. Such were the charges made against the Church; such were the charges they desired to meet, by showing that the Church was both able and willing to execute the high functions which rightly belonged to her. If, after the Church of England should have had this opportunity—if, after giving to her these powers of developing all her resources, and calling forth her energies, and of acting upon the principles she professed—if after that she should be found wanting, and the effort should be unsuccessful, then it would be 23 time to say, "Cut her down, why cumbereth she the ground?" But in common justice to the Church, he must ask of the House this—that before they proceeded to condemn the Church for what she had not done, they would remember that she was now seeking for a power and opportunity of proving what she was both willing and able to do. His firm and conscientious belief, however, was this; that if you would untie her hands, and thus enable her to expand them—if you would give her the power of showing what she was, and all that she desired to be—if you would do this, he felt assured, that she would fully, adequately, conscientiously, and most beneficially, discharge the high and solemn duties for which, under God's blessing, she had been originally founded by the piety and love of our forefathers. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Address of which he had given notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to appoint a Commission to inquire into the practicability and mode of subdividing, into distinct and independent parishes, for all ecclesiastical purposes, all the densely-peopled parishes in England and Wales, in such manner that the population of each, except in particular cases at the discretion of the Commissioners, shall not exceed four thousand souls.
MR. PAGE WOOD
seconded the Motion; and after a pause, during which no hon. Member seemed disposed to address the House,
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
rose and said; Sir, I waited a few moments before addressing the House, thinking that some hon. Gentleman might have objected to the Motion of the noble Lord. For my own part, I can only say that I have listened with the deepest interest to the speech which he has just delivered. No one, I think, can deny that the object he has in view is one of the greatest importance, or that the subdivision of parishes, and the placing of numbers of persons under a sufficient number of clergymen, leads to the most beneficial results, as affecting the religious, moral, and civil interests of the community. With respect to the mode by which this object is to be effected, the noble Lord said at the commencement of his speech that it is not his intention to ask for the application of any public funds for this purpose. My own opinion is, that it would not be advisable to ask for such an application of the public funds. But I believe, with the noble Lord, that there will be 24 found means within the Church, which, if not sufficient completely to effect his object, will go a considerable way towards its accomplishment. I believe, in the first place, that there will be found considerable means yet to be derived from church property; and I also believe that the Commission which I lately advised the Crown to appoint will be able to point out how those means may be beneficially employed. For my own part, I regret that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, when they had at their disposal the means derived from the suppression of pluralities and sinecures in the Church, did not devote larger sums for the subdivision of the larger parishes in the metropolis, and populous parishes and districts in the country. But this defect of the Commission was, I admit, to a great extent remedied by the Bill introduced by the hon. Baronet lately at the head of the Administration. That Bill, I admit, has produced the most beneficial result, and is likely, to a great extent, to effect the object the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) has in view. It should not be forgotten, either, in considering this question, that the efforts made by particular bishops in the Church, and others, for the purpose of collecting funds to be applied to the remedy of the wants of their own dioceses, have been attended with very gratifying results. I may more particularly refer to the efforts made by the Bishop of London in collecting sums for the endowment and building of a largo number of churches in the metropolis—efforts which have been successful in raising a considerable sum of money—as much I believe, as 300,000l.—and showing with what readiness members of the Church of England will contribute for such purposes. It should also be remembered that the bounty of private individuals—men, for instance, like the late Mr. George Byng and others—has endowed and built churches, and thereby supplied the wants of the parishes with which they were connected. Such being the case, I am disposed to think that my noble Friend does not take too sanguine a view, when he says that if a mode be pointed out by which parishes may be subdivided, funds to a great extent will be supplied. I do not feel sure that the subdivision can be carried out to the extent anticipated by my noble Friend. That, however, is a matter for inquiry; and if the Commission found that they could not carry out the proposal to the fullest extent, they would nevertheless achieve a great benefit if they pointed out to what 25 extent the principle could be carried out. I do not know what objection can be offered to the appointment of this Commission, and am therefore not disposed to trespass longer on the attention of the House. But I think that every member of the Church of England, and the community at large, whether Churchmen or Dissenters, will feel deeply indebted to my noble Friend for this, as for the many other efforts he has made to promote the moral and religious well-being of the people.
§ MR. HUME
said, that if this Motion had not taken him by surprise, he should have been prepared to show, by facts, that many of the noble Lord the Member for Bath (Lord Ashley's) statements were incorrect. The subject was one of vast importance, he admitted; but he thought that if the country was in the destitute condition described by the noble Lord opposite, and admitted by the First Minister of the Crown, it should have been the duty of Her Majesty's Government themselves to have taken up the subject. But he altogether denied the premises of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley). He denied that churches and churchmen would remove the difficulties with which we were surrounded. It was not additional churches, but improved morality in the Church, that was required. Temporal, not spiritual, destitution it was which was felt. Church extension had not improved the condition of Bethnal-green. The noble Lord, he thought, had begun in error. He understood him to suggest a distribution of the church rates of a parish, in such a way that each clergyman of a district chapel should have a proportion of the income of the parish. The noble Lord did not call this asking for public money! What were church rates but public money? He (Mr. Hume) objected to the principle of this application. Not a word had escaped the lips of the noble Lord to let the House suppose that there was a Dissenter in the country. One would almost think that the noble Lord was speaking in the days of the Nonconformity Act. Was the noble Lord ignorant of the fact that the greater portion of the population of the populous parishes he had described were Dissenters? If he was, Gentlemen sitting near him (Mr. Hume) could impart to him the information. Why should they not purge the Church of its corruptions, instead of seeking to build more churches, and pay more clergymen? The noble Lord and his supporters, no doubt, considered 26 themselves the best friends of the Church; but he (Mr. Hume) regarded them as its worst enemies, for they had oppposed his Motion, introduced a few years ago, to abolish pluralism and sinecurism in the Church, and which Motion was only supported by forty-three Members of that House. What claim had they, then, to be regarded as the friends of the Church, when they supported such abominations and corruptions that were sapping its foundations, and preying upon its vitality? Was it not an abomination for one man to have three or four parishes nominally to attend to, when it was only possible that he could do duty in one of them? If they wanted a Commission, let its primary duties be to look after such an iniquitous state of things as this. This Motion of the noble Lord's seemed to be put forward as a sort of foil to his hon. Friend's (Mr. Cobden's) Motion for financial reform the other night; for the noble Lord wished to persuade the people that if they had only more clergymen and more churches, their social and physical condition would be greatly improved. This was a mere attempt to mislead the people—an endeavour, by putting forward a chimera, to take off their attention from the only effectual mode of lessoning the destitution and distress of the country—namely, the removal of the burden of unequal taxation. It was a very dangerous and improper thing to hold out to the people that they might expect relief from clergymen and churches, instead of looking to more rational and practical measures of legislation. The Government, too, by giving its consent to this Motion, was lending itself to the spread of the delusion; but it had better turn its attention to the more useful business of reform and retrenchment. According to the wording of the noble Lord's Motion, one would think there were no such people as Dissenters in the country. He had talked of the ragged schools, and other charities promoted by the church-going population; but he had entirely omitted any notice of the great efforts and ministrations of the Dissenting bodies in diffusing education and religion among the people. They had done more, in fact, to promote education in this country than all the churches and clergymen put together; and when the Lancasterian schools were first set on foot, the clergy of the Establishment, indeed, opposed these useful institutions on the ground that it was dangerous to educate the poor. The noble 27 Lord seemed to him to have done the next thing to offering an insult to the Dissenting community by his Motion. He said he proposed to meddle with only 279 parishes; but he (Mr. Hume) would deny that the large and populous parishes, such as Manchester, and other manufacturing districts, were suffering greater destitution, moral or physical, than the small parishes to which the noble Lord had alluded; and, therefore, the noble Lord's argument fell to the ground. He (Mr. Hume) would move an Amendment to introduce into the Motion, after the words, "in such manner that the population," the words, "belonging to the Church of England."
§ MR. HEALD
said, that, although he was not a member of the Church of England, he wished to offer his entire concurrence in the objects of the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Bath. He believed that not only the members of the Church of England, but also the great body of Nonconformists, were under great obligations to the noble Lord for having brought forward that Motion. He entertained a deep conviction that of all the measures called for by the circumstances of the time, and the state of the nation, measures for rendering more efficient the Established Church, and multiplying the religious agencies of the country, were those which, by the blessing of God, were most likely to place our institutions on a permanent basis. And when he remembered how the Church of England was constituted, and in what peculiar relations she stood to the interests of religion in this land, he thought it was the duty of the Legislature to place her in a position which would enable her to apply her resources to the utmost possible extent towards carrying out the great objects for which she had been called into existence. What did the noble Lord ask them to do by his Motion? As he (Mr. Heald) understood that Motion, its object was neither more nor less than to enable the Church of England to remove those restraints which fettered her action, and prevented her from doing that which Nonconformists were at liberty to do. The object of it was, to enable her to extend her agency, and to add to the means of religious instruction. He held that the Church of England had a right to enjoy that advantage; and he, as a Nonconformist, was as ready to concede it to her as he claimed it for himself. It appeared to him that that Motion suggested a more fitting means of meeting the exi- 28 gencies of the country, than that proposed by the hon. Member for Montrose. He could not help thinking that one of the faults of the present day was a habit of appointing commissioners to inquire, when the real want of the country was a prompt and suitable action on the knowledge which we already possessed. He believed the country was much indebted to the noble Lord for having brought forward a specific plan, such as was required by the wants of the people—wants which neither the Church of England nor the Nonconforming bodies had ever yet adequately met. He was connected with one of those parishes to which the noble Lord had alluded, and he was well acquainted with the state of the manufacturing districts in Lancashire and Yorkshire; and from his experience he should say, that if there were any fault in the plan of the noble Lord, it was to be found in the proposal that these large parishes should be subdivided into districts containing only 4,000 souls. He did not attribute to the noble Lord any intention of casting disrespect on the Dissenting portion of the community. He believed, from his knowledge of the conduct of the noble Lord during the last twenty years, and of the benevolent interest he had taken in the condition of all portions of Her Majesty's subjects, that that would be too unworthy a feeling for him to entertain. But he certainly felt that the subdivision of these larger districts into parishes containing only 4,000 souls, might engender very considerable collision and strife among various sections of the Nonconformist body and the Church of England; and there was nothing he should more deprecate than such a result. It must be remembered, that where there is the greatest disparity betwixt the existing church accommodation and the population, that there the Nonconformists have largely occupied the soil, and planted it over with chapels and schools, and other institutions of a religious, benevolent, and literary description. So extensively have their efforts been put forth, that in many districts you will find two or three chapels for one church, and Sunday schools have been erected, and are carried on, far exceeding in number and magnitude what are to be found in other portions of Her Majesty's dominions. In the borough of Stockport, which he had the honour to represent, there were, he believed, about 12,000 children attending Sunday schools, out of a population of 60,000 souls. He had further to observe, that nearly 10,000 of those 29 12,000 children were taught from contributions principally subscribed by the Nonconformist body. He believed that no borough in the kingdom possessed such an extensive system of Sunday-school teaching as Stockport. In the year 1842, when the operatives employed in factories left off work—at the harvest time—when a single spark in any field would have produced a universal conflagration—not one breach of the peace had been traced to any individual connected with those Sunday schools, He was glad to find that the noble Lord had not determined on limiting his proposal to parishes with 4,000 souls, but that he would be ready to extend that number. He would venture to say that in some districts the number should be extended even beyond 6,000 souls, and that in such as he had more particularly described, a number extending to 8,000 and 10,000 souls would form an area sufficiently limited to prevent collision of interests and action, and yet afford to the Church a manageable sphere for the due development of her powerful resources. His earnest desire was, that the mode of carrying out the noble Lord's Motion might be as unobjectionable as was the object of it; and that with increased efficiency upon the part of the Church of England, and freedom of action preserved to the Nonconforming bodies of the country, he might still enjoy, as he now had the happiness of doing, the confidence and friendship of a large circle of the members of the former; and that they, the Nonconformists of the land, might peaceably improve their respective spheres of duty, without the revival of any of those elements of discord and animosity, which all men must earnestly desire to be for ever allayed.
§ MR. BRIGHT
would forgive the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Heald) what he stated in the beginning of his speech, on account of the facts he brought forward at the end it. The noble Lord the Member for Bath protested it was not his intention to ask for a vote of money; but they had had protestations of the same kind before, which ended differently. If the noble Lord's Commission were appointed, they would probably make out a most grievous statement of spiritual destitution in several parts of the country, leaving out all consideration of the Dissenters, as Commissions of this kind were wont to do; and then might not the noble Lord come to that House and ask for a vote of money to carry out his plan? Now, he 30 (Mr. Bright) did not rise to object to much of that plan. If he were a member of the Church of England—and he was thankful that he was not—if all the nation were churchmen, and it was part of the duty of that House to find religious instruction for the people, he should at least applaud the principle of the noble Lord's plan, although he might quarrel with some of his details. He lived in a parish of the character described by the noble Lord as fit for the application of his plan. It was a parish of 80,000 inhabitants, including ten miles square of country, and the vicar of which was not unknown to fame, one of those semi-bishops alluded to by the noble Lord, and he appointed to eight or ten churches in his district. He (Mr. Bright) had heard it made matter of complaint by churchmen that as there never had been there an evangelical vicar, there never had been an evangelical clergyman. With regard to the double rates, it had been constantly complained that persons were obliged to pay to mother church, living at one end of the parish, and probably never having travelled to the other. If Parliament took upon itself to look after these funds, he should not deny their right to make changes from time to time. The time was not come yet, though it was fast hastening on, when the principles he held on this subject would receive a more favourable hearing in that House, and be carried out in the administration of the affairs of the country. The noble Lord was in error in supposing that either in the north of England or in that metropolis, clergymen could have that precise position he hoped for. Looking at the education of clergymen, their habits, tendencies and sympathies, and seeing how upon all great public questions they differed from the great mass of those with whom the noble Lord wished them to be brought into contact he thought there never could be that sympathy, as there was not now, which the noble Lord desired between the people and the clergy. The noble Lord said the labouring people of St. Pancras did not go to church. He believed the same might be said of large populations all over the country. When they did go, they went to chapels more than to churches. The time was not long gone by when Members of Parliament could not see any great evil in the fact of the people not going to church. The questions of religion and morality had received more attention within a recent period, and it was not to be expected that the labouring 31 classes, by any division of parishes or parochial arrangement, could at once be induced to feel that interest in these questions which more enlightened persons did. The noble Lord remarked that persons not going to the parish church, sometimes objected to the fees for baptism, &c. He hoped the noble Lord would bear that objection in mind, on the subject of the church rates, and let it stand as a justification for the Dissenter's refusal to pay those rates. The Dissenter paid once for his own church, and he did not like to pay his money elsewhere. He had been investigating the number of clergymen compared with the population, and he found that it was amply sufficient for all the purposes of supervision, preaching, and ministering, in every way a clergyman was competent to do, as the following table would show;—
Now, of that 13,500,000 who nominally belonged to the Church, a considerable number did not belong to it, and would not thank the noble Lord for including them within its pale. But, admitting them to be Churchmen, then the supply of 15,763 clergymen amounted to I for every 856 of Church population. He would now give them a few facts about the Dissenters, of whom the noble Lord had said nothing. The free churches in England and Wales amount to—congregationalists, 1,840; baptists, 1,741; various methodists, 4,239; presbyterians, (&c, 130; total, 7,950 congregations having no connexion with the Church of England. Now, let them look to the distribution of the clergy power of the Establishment;— 32
ENGLAND AND WALES. Total benefices 10,533 Curates 5,230 15,763 Add dignitaries, heads of colleges, &c. 1,047 16,810 Benefices and curates 15,763 Deduct having no duties, or pluralists 3,087 Total working clergy 12,676 Benefices and curates 15,763 Population 18,000,000 Or 1 clergyman to every 1,142 of population. Total population of England and Wales 18,000,000 Deduct 3,000,000 who attend free or dissenting churches, and who represent 4,500,000 population 4,500,000 13,500,000
Population. Ministers. Huntingdon 53,192 97 or 1 in 548 Suffolk 296,317 501 or 1 in 591 Lincoln 317,000 607 or 1 in 522 Norfolk 390,000 699 or or 1 in 558 Total 1,056,509 1,904 or 1 in 554 Lancaster 1,336,854 292 or 1 in 4,578 York 1,371,359 760 or 1 in 1,804 London & Middlesex 1,358,300 246 or 1 in 5,521 Dioceses. Population. Benefices. M. Pop. 6,148,662 2,644 1 to 6,718 19 dioceses 5,753,559 6,718 1 to 2,644
Of the 12,923 working clergy, 6,681 bad parishes with populations below 300 each, and 6,242 had parishes averaging less than 2,300 each. He should like to ask the noble Lord why he did not turn his attention to these facts, and to the vast mass of abuses which he was leaving untouched, instead of applying himself to the small mass of abuses which he (Mr. Bright) admitted ought also to be touched, but in a different direction. Why did not the noble Lord turn his attention to that state of things which expended one-half of the clergy power on one-eighth of the population, leaving the remaining seven-eighths of the population with the provision of only one-half of the clergy power. The noble Lord said, he could get the money by voluntary contribution. He could get all the money required for the Church of England in the same way if he asked for it. But as that was not done, would it not be better for the noble Lord to consolidate some of the parishes, and remove as vacancies and death would permit, when there was a small population. He would now draw attention to the increase which had taken place in sittings in places of worship since 1800, in the following places, drawing a comparison between chapels and churches. Ashton, Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester, Salford, Oldham, Preston, Rochdale, the population of which was 1,224,708.
Population. Ministers. London & Middlesex, Lancaster and York 4,066,513 1,298 Huntingdon, Norfolk, and Suffolk 739,563 1,297
Churches. Sittings. Churches, before 1800 83 93,918 Parliamentary grants, since 1800 25 34,985 Voluntary contribution, do 92 92,345 200 221,248
He would now take the cotton and woollen districts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, showing an excess of chapels, schools, and scholars of Dissenters:—
Churches. Sittings. Chapels, before 1800 96 59,445 Chapels, since 1800 472 243,339 568 302,784 Of chapels—Majority by voluntary contributions 368 81,536
Ch. Sittings. Sunday Schools. Teachers. Scholars. Establishment 367 357,984 379 12,968 116,429 Dissenters 661 359,313 707 31,737 158,601 Excess of Dissenters 294 1,329 328 18,769 42,172
And, instead of the destitution increasing with the population, it had actually decreased in proportion; for while the population had increased 148 per cent in Lancashire since 1801, and the population of the woollen districts of York-shire 104 per cent there had been an increase in that time in the accommodation in places of worship of more than 240 per cent. These facts did not show that the Motion ought not to be carried; but they showed that it was a mistake to suppose that that extraordinary destitution existed which some persons imagined, when they heard of nothing but the efforts of the Church. It was true that church people were much fettered in their operations with regard to the ministering of their clergymen, the building and endowing of churches, and a variety of other matters, which they were becoming very uncomfortable under, and very much dissatisfied with. But if it were asked how they were to extend the usefulness of the Church upon the principles of churchmen, he would say they were not justified in maintaining 500 clergymen in Suffolk, 699 in Norfolk, and 607 in Lincoln, where so many churches could not be wanted. Suppose it was stated to the House that there were 500 custom-house officers at Harwich—and only 50 at Liverpool, would it not be proposed to cut down the 500 to 10, and raise the 50 to 500? The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) had said on a preceding night that the Church funds were State funds. [Mr. GLADSTONE expressed his dissent.] He 34 had so understood him. At all events, if 150,000l. a year were distributed among 27 bishops, and another 150,000L to the deans and chapters, who made a very gentlemanly living, though he never could tell what they did for their money—it would certainly be a judicious thing to apply a portion of this money to the purposes which the Motion of the noble Lord contemplated. From his (Mr. Bright's) knowledge of a cathedral city with which he was once connected, though there were excellent men belonging to the cathedral there, yet he believed the sum of money distributed amongst them was very greatly in excess of any services they could render to the country in their situation. But there was a difficulty with which they were hardly able at present to cope. Of the livings of which he had spoken, 5,096 were in the gift of private individuals, and were, therefore, involved in some degree in the question of private property. It was a great misfortune that this system should have been allowed to grow up it was a very difficult thing to cope with; but he believed the time was coining when it would have to be met and looked at in a very different light to that in which it had been heretofore regarded, and when Parliament would find some way of getting out of the difficulty. He would give the noble Lord one word of advice, lest he should be too sanguine. He believed that no effort of that or the other House could draw back the main portion of the population of England to subjection, either religious or political, to any priesthood which could be established by the Legislature, or paid from any public fund. That time was altogether gone by; and it would be well that the attention of Parliament should be turned rather to the question how to get out of the enormous and complicated difficulty of a State Establishment which had under its administration an annual income of four or five millions, and, probably, if well applied, a principal sum of not less than 150 millions sterling. A church so formed and so organised must disappoint the expectations of all its conscientious adherents—and be at the same time a subject of political contention in almost every part of the country. He had no hostility to the Church as a religious body; he never would say a syllable against any one of its members because he was not a member, or interfere with any of its dogmas or principles; and he only ventured to speak on it because it was a great public question—political in 35 that House, he believed, much more than religious. As representing a constituency, and being connected with a district, where Nonconformity prevailed ranch more than Church-of-Englandism, he had thought he might be pemitted to state what the Nonconformists were doing, and to show that the present organisation of the Church, and its connexion with the State, was a state of things which could not long be endured, and which did not fulfil the requirements which churchmen, such as the noble Lord, expected at its hands.
Population of do 1801. 1841. Increase. Per Ct. Lancashire 493,834 1,224,708 730,874 148 Yorkshire 414,000 844,563 430,563 104
MR. PAGE WOOD
should endeavour, as far as possible, to apply himself to the question before the House, without being seduced into a discussion on the subject of church rates, or the other matters that had been introduced. He considered that some of the observations which had been made by the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House were most pertinent, and tended to support the views which were put forward by the noble Lord who opened the debate. He (Mr. Bright) said he thought it was a grievance that an incumbent should, from the circumstances in which he was placed, be in the position of "a little bishop;" and the same opinion was expressed by the noble Lord in opening the discussion. It was a grievance to have a large body of people in a populous town under the control of one clergyman, thus pacing that clergyman somewhat in the position of a bishop, without, however, having episcopal authority. It was a very natural consequence to arise, that one clergyman being placed at the head of a large town containing 70,000 or 80,000 inhabitants, if he were an honest and zealous man, he would endeavour to diffuse the peculiar views he might happen to entertain on any point of church doctrine. But he did not think it was advisable that those particular views of any individual should spread throughout one town. He thought it was a great deal better that there should be an opportunity for the development of those various opinions, which would exist so long as men were men, on subjects on which they had one common interest. It was better, therefore, to have several parishes in which those persons might locate themselves who preferred the ministration of one clergyman in comparison with another, rather than have one clergyman endeavouring to force upon a whole population doctrines in which they could not be expected to be unanimous—driving them, in a spirit of 36 contradiction, to the erection of proprietary chapels. It was not correct to say that the noble Lord and those who supported him were actuated by a spirit of opposition to the Dissenting community. He supported the noble Lord because he felt that there existed in the country vast spiritual destitution, and that persons were to befound having no religious opinion whatever, having no faith in God, or no conviction regarding the Saviour. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), he begged to call attention to the fallacies of his arguments. One of the fallacies arose from his mode of taking an average; and another resulted from his considering that the ministration of the clergy was to be defined by numbers also, not by space only; whereas, with only 170 persons in a parish, the clergyman might have seven or eight miles to travel. It was also a fallacy to suppose that, in saying they should divide the population into such numbers that they should not exceed 4,000 to each clergyman, it was proposed that 4,000 was the exact number to be placed under his care. It would be better if they were not to have such a largo number. He would prefer, if it were feasible, that they should only have 2,000; but he doubted, under existing circumstances, whether that would be practicable. On considering the question of averages, they would look to the historical view of the subject, and it would be found that every old town in England was largely provided with churches; for instance in the city of London there were 108 parishes, in the city of Norwich 27, and in Ipswich II. Even there, however, the principle of average failed; for, in erecting that number of churches, consideration was not had for the extension of the towns, and in the course of time the outlying parishes, which were formerly fields, became densely populated. It would be found also, that some of the large populous towns in Lancashire had been formerly villages, for since the beginning of the last century the population of Lancashire had increased tenfold, and they were now endeavouring to remedy the grievance that arose from that state of circumstances, and to bring matters back to that state of things that was thought to be proper when the churches were founded. The hon. Gentleman had taken the average numbers of the population and the clergy—[Mr. BRIGHT: I said there were more than 6,000 parishes with a popula- 37 tion under 300—not on an average.] The first statement of the hon. Gentleman was that there were so many thousand clergy in England, and that on an average he gave about 1,200 persons to each clergyman. He (Mr. Wood) had also gone into a calculation on the subject, but it was not precisely the same as that of the hon. Gentleman. He had made it somewhat about 1,500 to each clergyman; but how did the case stand? It was said they had this enormous population in Lancashire, and a large number of clergy in Suffolk, and elsewhere. Now he knew a case in Suffolk, where there were two parish churches to be served, and there was no house in either of the parishes. The two parishes were consolidated under one clergyman, who had 50l. for each parish, the great tithes having been taken by the great monasteries, and absorbed in the universal robbery by the nobles in the time of Henry VIII. He had to walk between nine and ten miles, though he had, it was true, only about 300 people to look after; but the 300 people could not walk into Lancashire to hear a clergyman there; they must be attended to on the spot. Therefore it was not only the extent of numbers, but of space, that should be taken into consideration in dealing with this question. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose had said, that he did not see what great good was likely to result from this object being carried out. He did not, he said, see what advantage had arisen to Bethnal-green from the erection of ten churches; that destitution was as great there as before; but surely the hon. Gentleman did not think that the placing of ten churches in a district two or three years since was sufficient to supply food to all the population; and he would remark that the word "destitution" was, he thought, a little misunderstood; the destitution referred to by the noble Lord was spiritual, and not bodily destitution. It must be admitted, that Bethnal-green had been in a miserable state, and that great efforts had been made for its improvement by Mr. Cotton, with the assistance of the Bishop of London. He (Mr. Wood) would now, however, call their attention to a place somewhat nearer home. He referred to the case of the two parishes in which they were then sitting. When he came to reside in those two parishes, about twenty-two years ago, there were two parish churches and four clergymen. There was, besides, one chapel, where there was merely service performed, 38 but no other ministration, at the Broadway. At that time what was the state of things with regard to education? In St. John's parish there were thirty-seven children in the school connected with the church. But a process similar to that proposed by the noble Lord had been for some time going on in those parishes. The first happy change took place when the Ecclesiastical Commissioners appropriated two of the stalls of Westminster Abbey for the assistance of spiritual destitution in those parishes; and it was provided that, after paying the rectors of St. John's and St. Margaret's, provision was to be made for curates, who were to have districts assigned to them. Those two stalls were worth 2,400l. a year, and their appropriation to these purposes had been productive of the most marvellous results. They, first of all, began by converting the old Broadway chapel, a dilapidated brick building, into a handsome church, and formed it into a district. Another church had been erected, and the district of St. Mary's formed; and the church was now in actual use. Besides that, there was a temporary church, to be replaced by a permanent one, erected by contribution, through the exertions of the curate, in Palmer's Village. Through the munificence of a lady (Miss Burdett Coutts) "whose praise was in all the churches," another church had also been erected, and she was about to endow that church, as well as a parsonage house and school. Through the munificence of another individual, a prebendary of Westminster, another church was to be erected near Vauxhall Bridge Road, on ground given by Mr. Cubitt. Two others were also to be erected in St. Peter's-street and Knightsbridge by subscription. Such were the effects of the stimulus that had been given by the appropriation of the two stalls in Westminster. Instead of two churches and one chapel, with four clergymen, they had now nine additional clergymen, making in all thirteen; and they had six additional churches in those parishes, and instead of thirty-seven children in the school of St. John's parish, they had now 2,000 children. There were 60,000 inhabitants in St. John's and St. Margaret's; and, according to the plan of the noble Lord, there would be fifteen clergymen for the 60,000 persons. There were at present thirteen or fourteen, so they were within one of the proposed number; still, what was the fact? They found, from statistical 39 inquiries now being made, that out of the 60,000 there were about 34,000 who attended no place of worship whatever. It also appeared, that between 9,000 and 10,000 children, between the ages of six and twelve, were at no school whatever. That showed what was still required to get their system into a perfectly working state. The noble Lord had said, that, as yet, they had not tried all the resources of the Church of England. He (Mr. Wood) believed that such was the fact, and therefore he would support the Motion. He thought that vast results would be produced when they had the assistance of active and energetic clergymen in bringing subjects forward before those who should support the views of the Church. It was a fault of a large portion of the laity of the Church that they did not come forward to support it, the reason being, however, that the matter had not been sufficiently brought under their attention. He had shown much that had been done in those parishes; but besides that there was a fund raised there called the Spiritual Destitution Fund. It was raised by one of the prebendaries of the church of Westminster making it his duty to go round to every individual he thought able to contribute, and laying his case before them. So that, with assistance from some other quarters, a sum of 20,000l was raised, out of which salaries were given to certain curates, and schools were supported. All this had been done because additional clergy were given to the district; and when the noble Lord said that for such purposes as he had pointed out it would not be difficult to raise 150,000l., he perfectly agreed with him. When the state of education in the manufacturing-districts was found to be in a deplorable state, the Church in one year raised 150,000l.; and he would not admit that the Dissenters were a bit more forward than the Church in supporting education. He had one other instance to state in support of his views, and it was to be found in a manufacturing district. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport (Mr. Heald) had spoken of the vast efforts of the Dissenters in those districts, and they seemed unquestionably to be very great; but there was another manufacturing town to which he (Mr. Wood) would refer. In the town of Leeds an instance was given of what could be done, and also of what was required to be done on this occasion. As the noble Lord had stated, the churches were estab- 40 lished in Bethnal-green in 1843; and the vicar of Leeds (Dr. Hook), seeing the advantage of it, brought a measure before Parliament to deprive himself of one-half his income, to give it to the different district churches, one of the conditions being that the floors of the churches in those districts should be free to the poor. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester had said that the Church could never have the affections of the large body of the people. [Mr. BRIGHT: I said as an establishment.] He did not admit that; but he thought the hon. Gentleman had applied his observation to the great body of the clergy, and had said they could not retain the affections of the great body of the people. He quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman in not calling the clergy "the Church." He believed that none of the clergy wished to be so called; and it must be owing to his hon. Friend's ignorance of the internal arrangements of the Church that he spoke of again bringing the laity into subjection to the clergy. He did not believe there were twenty clergymen in the kingdom who wished to bring the people into subjection to them. But the vicar of Leeds possessed the affections of the people. [Mr. F. O'CONNOR: Hear!] The hon. Member for Nottingham who cheered that statement, no doubt recollected that a large meeting of Chartists separated with three cheers for the vicar. That compliment, however, was solely gained by the efforts he had made for the spiritual welfare of the people. He (Mr. Wood) would further impress upon the House the extreme importance of having a general measure on this subject. In the case to which he had referred. Dr. Hook brought forward the Bill on his own responsibility, and though it was not opposed, it had to undergo an investigation by the Church Commissioners, and considerable expense was incurred. The result, therefore, of bringing in a Bill to deprive himself of one-half his income was this—through the liberality of the House of Lords they remitted one-half the fees—he did not know whether that House followed the example—through the liberality of the counsel for the Commissioners and the counsel who prepared the Bill, they declined to take any fees, and yet, after all that. Dr. Hook incurred an expense of 1,400l, having to pay 700l. to his town agents, and 700l. to his country agents. There should be a division of those enormously populous pa- 41 rishes; and he (Mr. Wood) had shown that in the cases to which he had referred, such subdivision had proved to be most beneficial. It was essential and necessary to carry that into effect, in consequence of the enormous expense of individuals attempting it, and it would also tend to develop the resources of the Church. He might mention, that the rev. gentleman to whom he had referred, (Dr. Hook) had, during the ten years he was rector, levied 100,000l. for church purposes by voluntary contributions—that was, 10,000l. a year. The noble Lord had understated his case when he said he asked for no public money—his measure would save much public money; it would save expenditure on prosecutions, in gaols, and in transportation. He was not one who looked altogether without pain and alarm at the fact that there were growing up large masses of the community throughout the kingdom who had not the slightest notion of religious obligation; and he thought that if that state of things went on to a much greater extent, the House would soon have much more serious things to discuss than the question of reduction of expenses, however important that might be. Without wishing at all to arrogate for this country a larger amount of wisdom or sacredness than other countries, still he believed that it was the feeling of almost every hon. Member of that House, that if, owing to the blessings of Providence, this country had escaped many of those evils which had desolated others, those blessings had been showered upon it in consequence of the efforts, poor and miserable as they might have been, which had been made towards the diffusion of religious knowledge among its inhabitants.
§ MR. HORSMAN
tendered his best thanks to his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) for the service he had rendered on this as well as on other occasions to the Church; and he thought his noble Friend had reason to be grateful at the result of the debate. The hon. Member for Montrose himself sympathised with the object of his noble Friend, and merely sought to amend his Motion. The hon. Member for Manchester also concluded by suggesting, as an improvement, that small parishes should be united as well as large ones divided; but neither the one nor the other directly opposed the proposition of his noble Friend. The ancient parochial constitution of the kingdom was, that any parish should be of such dimensions that it could be adminis- 42 tered by the strength of one man—that no part of it should be so remote as that it should not be accessible to the instruction of its spiritual guide. That principle was lost sight of, and the Church was injured in consequence. It was the endeavour of his noble Friend to bring them back to that principle. In his character as a churchman, a Christian, and a legislator, he desired to give that principle as much extension as possible. It was said that no allusion had been made by his noble Friend to the dissenters. He did not see that any allusion to the dissenters was much to be expected in a matter that solely affected the Church. There was nothing either in the tone or object of his noble Friend's speech which could be considered as of an aggressive character as regarded the dissenters. It was aggressive in one way; that was to say, it attacked ignorance, infidelity, sin, and crime. He was sure that his noble Friend was not actuated by any feeling of hostility against the dissenters. There was enough to do both for themselves and dissenters. There were many men who were not churchmen, and yet were not dissenters, and there were many who were not dissenters and yet were not churchmen. Here was a large field where all might meet, not for the purpose of sectarian hostility, but for the higher purpose of Christian rivalry. The hon. Member for Montrose said there were faults in the Church. There were: he was not disposed to palliate these faults; but it was a pleasure to him, when, having stated what he considered he ought to state in that respect, he could state what he thought to be the advantages of the Church. He thought that in times past the Church had been a great blessing; and he trusted that in time to come, notwithstanding the predictions of his hon. Friend, it would be a still greater blessing. It was to that end that his noble Friend's efforts were directed, and to promote it he (Mr. Horsman) would give every aid. He looked on the measure of his noble Friend as the accompaniment of those which he had himself proposed, and without which, indeed, they would lose most of their value. He was grateful that his noble Friend had taken the subject up, because his ability and his influence would probably carry it to that successful result which it would not have in less experienced bands. He trusted that in appointing this commission it would be composed of gentlemen who would give their time to the labours of it, so that the 43 inquiry would not be postponed or the report retarded.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
said, that the speech which he had just heard of the hon. Member for the city of Oxford, had entirely relieved him from the necessity of replying to the hon. Members for Montrose and Manchester. There were some slight errors in the calculation of the hon. Member for Manchester; he did not know that they were very material; he had stated, for instance, that there were several clergymen holding two livings, and he had strangely enough omitted those persons on that account from his calculation of the average, and that might perhaps account for the discrepancy between his numbers and those of the hon. Member for Oxford. The hon. Member for Manchester had also spoken in terms of disparagement of chapters and cathedrals; and the hon. Member for Montrose had proposed to add to the Motion a suggestion to the Commissioners to inquire into the evils and abuses which existed in the Church, such as plurality and non-residence. By law those things were already dealt with; but he did not deny that it would be expedient to carry out the restrictions with respect to plurality and non-residence still further. In voting against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose, he hoped that he should not be understood in any way as ranging himself with those who defended plurality; and he hoped to see the time when those things would be unknown entirely in the country, and the establishments again made applicable to the uses for which they were intended, strengthening the parochial system of the country. He knew that many gentlemen connected with chapters were desirous that the law should be altered and their fetters struck off, so as to enable them to perform the duties for which the chapters were originally formed. He hoped, before the end of the Session, to be able to submit to the House some observations upon the subject of those establishments. He thought that the thanks of every churchman and every man of every religious denomination in this country was due to the noble Lord for his efforts to combat the irreligion and infidelity of the country. It was to be hoped that the Commissioners, in endeavouring to obtain statistical accounts of the various districts, would take advantage of the information to be obtained from the archdeacons and other officers connected with these establishments. They would then be enabled to collect a valuable 44 fund of useful information upon which to found their reports. The hon. Member for Montrose had said in reference to the parish of St. Pancras, that there were a large number of Dissenters there. He (Mr. Herbert) would be most happy if the numbers were larger than they were; they would not then, perhaps, hear such lamentable accounts of the spiritual destitution of the people. They had lately heard of the case of some boys who had expressed their astonishment at the things which were taught them—not dogmas of theology or catechisms, but it was said that their exclamation was, "We have never heard of such a strange thing as the doctrine of the immortality of the soul." It was a lamentable thing, that in a Christian country there should be persons living who were ignorant whether the soul woul exist in a future state or not, who were ignorant of the doctrine of the redemption, and knew not that there was any salvation for them. He trusted that the hon. Member for Montrose would withdraw his Amendment, and allow the Motion of the noble Lord to pass as originally proposed.
said, that there appeared to exist a great misunderstanding with respect to the course which he had taken. He did not object to the present inquiry; on the contrary, he wished it to be carried further; he would not be supposed to limit it to the proposed inquiry, lest it might be supposed that he thought further inquiry unnecessary. With respect to what he had said on the subject of destitution, he certainly understood the noble Lord to refer, in addition to the spiritual destitution of the people, to their physical destitution, and to state that the suffering and starvation of the people would be put a stop to by the adoption of his suggestions. [Lord ASHLEY: No, no!] The first Amendment which he should propose would be to the effect that the inquiry should not extend to the whole population, but to the population only which attended the Church.
§ MR. BRIGHT
wished to know whether the noble Lord would have any objection to the Amendment, if those portions of it were struck out which did not refer to the union of small parishes?
§ MR. GOULBURN
hoped the House would be cautious before it admitted the 45 Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose. The tone of his speech showed that he was not very friendly to the Motion. There were two modes by which the Motion might be defeated—one was by positive argument, in which the hon. Gentleman must see that he had no chance of success at present—the other was the imposing upon the Committee duties which it was not likely to fulfil satisfactorily, and by involving it in a mass of investigation and inquiry, which it would be unable to wade through, and prevent its coming to any satisfactory conclusion. Now one main object they had in view was to obtain the most speedy information on the subject. He trusted, therefore, the House would not accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, as it involved legal questions, and questions of patronage and property, which it would be extremely difficult to deal with. Under these circumstances he thought his noble Friend would best consult the interests of the Church, and promote the objects he had in view, by declining to accede to the hon. Gentleman's Amendment. He would take that opportunity of saying, that it was gratifying to him to find that a noble Lord, whom on public and private grounds he highly respected, should have stood forward as the promoter of an object which he believed would be, if carried into effect, attended with the most beneficial results, not merely to the Church, but to the country at large.
§ Amendment proposed, after the word "population," to insert the words "belonging to the Church of England;"—Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.
§ LORD ASHLEY
said, he concurred in the object of the hon. Member for Montrose, because he believed it might be desirable in some instances, particularly in London, to unite parishes. But as he believed it would have the effect of impeding the inquiry of the Commissioners, he hoped he would not press his Amendment, although any proposition of that sort, if made independently, he would support.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, he would object to the proposition of his noble Friend, if he was willing to add the words proposed. He thought it better not to add those words, which would give rise to difficulties connected with questions of property. The object might be desirable in itself, but it 46 ought not to be a matter of inquiry by this Commission.
§ SIR E. BUXTON
considered that such an inquiry as the hon. Member for Montrose suggested, would be highly desirable at a proper time, and it did appear hard to refuse those powers which might be necessary for rendering the Church more useful than it was at present; but he yet felt unwilling to assent to anything that would seem to interfere with the Motion of the noble Lord. Each proposition might be good in itself, but one of them should not be allowed to interfere with the other.
§ LORD ASHLEY
, in reply, said, he had been grievously misunderstood in his former statement. He had been charged with not making mention of the efforts of the Dissenters. In bringing forward a question of this kind, which was purely one relating to the Church and its free action, he did not think it necessary specifically to refer to what had been done by the Dissenters. Had he been asking for a grant of public money, or making a general statement respecting the spiritual destitution of the country at large, it would be his duty to set before the House all that had been done, and all that was doing, by the great body of Nonconformists. The hon. Member for Montrose had been unjust to him in saying that he coupled ragged schools with the Church exclusively. He did no such thing; and it would be most unjust if he were not to say, on behalf of those who were interested in ragged schools, that they were deeply indebted to the Dissenting body, with many of whom he acted on terms of the most perfect accordance. He must also allude to what fell from the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Heald), because he should be sorry that any impression should exist on his mind, that he (Lord Ashley) did not estimate to the full the great efforts of the body to which the hon. Member belonged. There was no one connected with the manufacturing districts, and particularly with the West Riding of Yorkshire, who must not see that as patriots and as Christians, they were most deeply and inexpressibly indebted to the pious efforts of the Wesleyan body, were it not for whose exertions he felt bound to say whole districts would be worse than if in a state of heathenism. He hoped he had now done justice to the efforts of the Dissenters. He did not say, as was attributed to him by the hon. Member for 47 Montrose, that the providing for spiritual destitution, would do away with physical destitution. What he said was, that if parishes were to contain only 4,000 individuals, the physical destitution of the poor must he necessarily better known to the clergyman and the district visitors, and that the very fact of this knowledge would contribute much to the alleviation of that distress. At present distress prevailed most in those districts which were least known. The hon. Member for Manchester must also consider that the population might be comparatively small, and the parish very large in extent. The parish of Aberystwith, for instance, was eighteen miles long. He could name a parish of 300 inhabitants, the clergyman of which told him that it was with the utmost difficulty, although he worked every day for nine hours, he could see each of his parishioners once a fortnight. In many other parishes he heard clergymen say it took a whole day to visit a single family. Suppose he had to go twelve miles distant, he would have to travel twenty-four miles, which would consume the best part of a summer's day, and a whole winter's day. The noble Lord concluded by thanking the House for the indulgence which had been always extended to him when addressing it.
§ MR. W. BROWN
said, that as the feeling of the House was evidently against the Amendment, he hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) would not press it; although, as it was he who suggested the words, he should vote for it if his hon. Friend insisted on a division.
§ Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "and of uniting parishes, where practicable and advantageous:"—Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 18; Noes 111: Majority 93.
|List of the AYES.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Pilkington, J.|
|Brown, W.||Smith, J. B.|
|Cobden, R.||Thompson, Col.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Thornely, T.|
|Ellis, J.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Harris, R.||Wyld, J.|
|Mowatt, F.||HUME J.|
|O'Connor, F.||Bright, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Jones, Capt.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Keppel, hon. G. T.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Baines, M. T.||Langston, J. H.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Baring, hon. F.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Lewisham, Visct.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Lopes, Sir R.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Macnaghten, Sir E.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Macnamara, Maj.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Mahon, The O'Gorman|
|Brotherton, J.||Maitland, T.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Busfeild, W.||Masterman, J.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Carter, J. B.||Monsell, W.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Moore, G. H.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Napier, J.|
|Craig, W. G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Currie, H.||Newport, Visct.|
|Drumlanrig, Visct.||Nugent, Lord|
|Dundas, Sir D||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Dunne, F. P.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Parker, J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Pusey, P.|
|FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Fortescue, C.||Sandars, G.|
|Fox, R. M.||Sandars, J.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Scholefield, W.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Slaney, R. A.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Smith, J. A.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Smyth, Sir H.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Spooner, R.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Haggitt, F. R.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Stuart, J.|
|Hay, Lord J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Heald, J.||Townley, R. G.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Tufnell, H|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Turner, G. J.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Verney, Sir H|
|Hildyard, R. C.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Hill, Lord M.||Welsh, Sir J. B.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Westhead, J. P.|
|Hood, Sir A.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Horsman, E.||Ashley, Lord|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Wood, W. P.|
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.