§ MR. LACY
begged to move the instruction to the Committee, of which he had given notice. He was anxious not to offer a premium for insincerity, which this Bill, if passed in its present shape, was calculated to do. The Bill, as it now stood, allowed every priest in England to go out of the Church by merely saying that he was a Dissenter. It might often happen that clergymen of the Church of England might wish, for secular purposes, to retire from the ministry of the Church, though they might not be willing to declare themselves dissenters from the forms and doctrines of that Church. Why, then, should these persons be compelled to make such a declaration? It was converting them into hypocrites, inasmuch as, for the sake of consistency, they would no doubt ever after keep up an appearance of dissent. If the Motion he now submitted, were agreed 1121 to, he would propose an Amendment in Committee to carry out his views.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
seconded the Motion, concurring as he did cordially in its principle. A person once invested with holy orders could only he deprived of them by the Church itself; therefore as regarded the Church, the question was the same whether they called on this party to declare himself a Dissenter, or whether he merely stated that he was desirous of being relieved from orders. As regarded the relations of the party with the Church, they had nothing to do; but in relation to his position as a civilian, the Bill placed him in the baneful position of making a public declaration of a change in his religious opinions, and he thought tempted him to mix up temporal with religious motives. Suppose a man differed from his diocesan in respect to doctrinal points not interfering with the general discipline of the Church, or from any other cause, as, for instance, a feeling of unfitness or unworthiness, and entertained conscientious scruples which induced him to desire to he relieved from the ministry, but yet not to separate himself from communion with his Church, you call upon him, as the only condition on which the relief he asked should be conceded, to make a declaration that he was a dissenter from the Church altogether. It was in accordance with the spirit of the times that the Church should be served by none but willing ministers, and he was confident that she would be more efficiently served by permitting such as conscientiously believed themselves to be incompetent or unfit to perform the duties, to retire, rather than to force them to remain in the ministry.
Motion made, and Question put—
That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to make provision in the Bill for persons in Holy Orders being relieved, without such persons being obliged to declare themselves Dissenters from the United Church of England and Ireland.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
observed that the Bill proposed to apply a specific remedy to a specific grievance, viz., that a clergyman having once taken ordination vows and becoming a minister of the Church of England, afterwards changing his opinions, entertaining doctrines and opinions inconsistent with those of the Church, and being desirous of leaving the Church, and escaping from its discipline, was unable to do so, but was liable, if he exercised clerical duty not strictly in accordance with the forms 1122 of the Church, to fine and imprisonment. That was the grievance. His (Mr. Bouverie's) remedy for this grievance was a simple one, that a person under those circumstances, declaring that he was a Dissenter, should be relieved from that liability. The proposal of the hon. Gentleman was, not to apply a specific remedy to a specific grievance, but to enact a general law by which to enable all clergymen of the Church of England, when they saw fit, to retire from the ministry of that Church. That was a very wide proposition, and he (Mr. Bouverie) would not enter upon its discussion, or express any opinion upon it, further than to say that it should be the object of a definite measure, and not be effected in a by-way in a Bill of this kind. The only argument in favour of the proposition was, that it would operate as a temptation to clergymen to declare themselves Dissenters. He did not believe such a motive would have influence in any case; but this he would say, that if any clergyman who did not dissent from the Church, did, for the purpose of relieving himself from the responsibility of his office, declare himself to be a Dissenter, he would be a liar and a knave. He wished only further to remark that a measure might sometimes be defeated by attempts at amendment as well as by direct opposition, and should the hon. Member who had at a previous stage opposed the Bill altogether, succeed in in-cumbering it with this provision, he believed he would effectually overthrow it.
§ MR. SPOONER
reminded the House that there were men in the Church of England who, feeling that they could not exercise their duties as clergymen in a way consistent with their own consciences, sought to be delivered from the obligation to remain in that Church. He thought that that was a grievance well worthy of consideration, and that the House ought not to set any obstacle in the way of such men seceding from the Church. He should support the proposition of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin.
§ SIR G. GREY
would ask the hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwickshire if he could cite an instance of any legal proceedings being taken against a clergyman for abstaining from officiating? He meant abstaining from taking duty in the Church of England, if he entertained a conscientious objection to do so? Of course, if he retained any preferment or living, he must perform the duties attaching to it; but it was open for any man to abstain 1123 from taking any active part in the ministry without being compelled to separate from the Church altogether.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he knew an instance of a clergyman who, feeling that he could not conscientiously remain in the Church, had loft it; but afterwards thinking he was wrong in leaving the Church, and his conscientious scruples being removed, he had returned to the Church, and had become one of the most useful members in it.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
could supply the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary with a case precisely in point—that of John Wesley. Though he might not have been exactly prosecuted, he was precisely in the position in which the right hon. Baronet thought no clergyman had been placed. He ceased from his ministry in the Church, yet retaining his membership of that Church, and his attachment to it; and not only the founder, but the entire body of the Wesleyan denomination during the lifetime of its founder, was precisely in the same condition. Holding certain opinions different from that Church, it was yet their practice to repair, once a year, to their parish church, to receive the sacrament—indicating by that custom that, whatever might be the original cause of their secession from the Church of England, it was not such a one as altogether to dissolve their connexion with its communion. Some confusion arose, he thought, in consequence of describing Churchmen and Dissenters as bodies between which it was possible to draw a distinct line of demarcation. The Church allowed a largo latitude to its members which it did not allow to its ministers. But there were many who might desire from the most conscientious motives to retain one character, but not to continue the other. Take the case of John Milton. He was prevented in his youth from entering the Church of England as a minister, because he could not, as he says in his writings, sign himself "slave." Yet he had no desire to break off his connexion with the Church as one of its members. These and kindred scruples were entitled to respect, and he thought his hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, in his own estimate of the grievance, had not shown that the remedy he proposed was commensurate with it. Men might desire to retire from the ministry on other than doctrinal grounds. A person taking holy orders early in life might afterwards feel that he was not qualified or suited for the ministry. 1124 Various motives influenced the minds of parents in choosing professions for their sons; and it often happened that the profession selected was that to which the party was least adapted, and that it became necessary for him afterwards to alter his views. It was but the other day that he read the following advertisement:—Provision for a son in the Church, the next presentation to a living, the incumbent aged 76, population of 150, glebe 50 acres, value 300l."—and so on. It was in this way that many a young man was led into the Church, and if afterwards he found he was unfit for it—if it required duties which he had not the moral energy to discharge—what more honourable thing than for him to retire? But unless this instruction were agreed to, relief in such a case could not be granted, though he was in every respect as much entitled to it as those the Bill sought to relieve. By keeping individuals against their will in a profession which more than any other required the devotion of the whole heart and soul of the party embracing it to his duty, the character of the Church was degraded, and those feelings which it was the object of religious observances to promote were obliterated, if not entirely destroyed.
§ SIR G. GREY
observed that if he rightly understood it, the proceedings against John Wesley were not to compel him to officiate in the Church, but to prevent his officiating elsewhere than in it.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
wished it not to be inferred that he was opposed to granting relief in such cases, but to the engrafting upon this Bill a provision which he felt would defeat it altogether.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
had always regarded it as a disgrace to the Church to permit members who were found to be totally unfit for the discharge of its functions, to retain their office in it; and he hailed a proposal which would relieve the Church of England of such persons. But he could find nothing in the spirit of the religion of the Church of England which should disqualify one who had ceased to be of its clergy from representing his fellow-subjects in Parliament, and yet that disqualification existed at the present moment.
observed, that he agreed with the hon. Member for Oldham as to the difficulty of legislating on such a subject. He was of opinion that this instruction, if carried, would go much further than was anticipated by its Mover, and that it would have the effect of legal- 1125 ising a breach in that Church discipline which he thought it was essential to preserve. As, also, he thought the instruction would involve many other considerations, he thought it important that the Bill should be allowed to stand in its present shape.
§ MR. G. THOMPSON
thought it would be unwise to circumscribe the relief proposed to be extended to persons in holy orders, by making it conditional that those persons should declare their dissent from the Church. He could imagine thousands of cases in which the reasons inducing ministers of the Church to retire from holy orders were altogether separate and distinct from reasons growing out of dissent from the forms or doctrines of that Church. A person might find himself uncomfortable in his ministration, and therefore might desire to leave it. He should support the instruction, in the hope that it would make the Bill a perfect measure of relief.
§ MR. SERGEANT TALFOURD
differed altogether from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. If the instruction to the Committee were carried, it would impose upon him great difficulty as to supporting the Bill, inasmuch as that instruction involved considerations of a very serious description. If they permitted every young man, as had been suggested, to take upon himself holy orders as a mere experiment—not with regard to his ultimate fitness for the office, but as to his success in that as in any secular employment, they would withdraw from the entering on holy orders that check which required the gravest consideration upon the part of those who were candidates for them not to take a step from which they could not draw back without weighing all the consequences; and this Bill, which was intended to relieve those who desired to pass from conscientious Churchmen to conscientious Dissenters, would effect alterations of a much more serious and important character in the law.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
agreed with the observations of his hon. and learned Friend (the Member for Reading), and could not refrain from entering his protest against the manner in which it was proposed to interfere with the constitution of the Church of England. The Church was a religious society, and its inherent principle was, that those who took the solemn vows of ordination should be subject to them as long as they continued members of the Church. It would be a gross out- 1126 rage to the feelings of all who regarded the Church, not as a mere State institution, but as a society having certain doctrines and certain discipline, to interfere in an arbitrary way, and say that those who desired to leave the Church, but not to become Dissenters, should remain members of it, and exempt from all the vows they had made. The practical grievance suggested by the hon. Member for Oldham was not of a person desiring to relinquish his ministerial office, but of one who continued his ministerial labours, but not according to the doctrine of the Church of England. He trusted that the House would never allow in a Bill which had been read for a first and a second time, to be introduced incidentally, a principle entirely opposed to that which was intended when the Bill was first brought in.
was not prepared to give any opinion on the principle involved in the Amendment, but should vote against it, because he believed it would interfere with the granting of a specific remedy to a specific grievance.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth would entail a very great hardship upon the members of the Church of England, because it stated that the Established Church was a power in some degree opposed to the civil subjects of the realm. Now, if a member of the Established Church became a minister of that Church, and wished to retire, he might have some good reasons for that wish; and Parliament should not permit any power to prevent his retirement. He believed that a great many persons entered the Church in the same manner as others entered dissenting bodies, without that solemn consideration to which reference had been made. Many entered because their families held preferments, and these persons might afterwards have the most solid grounds for wishing to retire. A man, for instance, might be unfit to discharge his duties, or he might have an income insufficiently small; and, therefore, he might desire to retire, and to enter some trade or profession; and the House ought not to allow the man who had made his election to be prevented by any power from following those useful and honourable occupations which are open to all classes of the Queen's subjects. Now, it was on this common ground of not denying to any man the civil right to make such change in their profession as they pleased, that he would 1127 support the instruction of the hon. Member for Bodmin. He confessed, that as a Dissenter he had not the slightest feeling in the matter. He believed that all the members of the Church were infinitely more interested in it than Dissenters; and that if the truth could be come to it would be found that the clergy themselves were most anxious that the proposed alterations should be carried. The Bill was not for a specific object. If it were for a specific object, the House should carry out that object consistently with civil liberty, and thereby promote the greatest amount of good.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, he apprehended that something had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken which he (Mr. Gladstone) conceived might give rise to some misapprehension. He had understood the hon. Gentleman to say, that when a clergyman had once taken on him ministerial vows, but became desirous of ceasing to be a minister, the Church interposed some power by which that person was prevented from following any other pursuit or career in life. The hon. Gentleman, he apprehended, was mistaken in that assumption. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had asked a question, which still remained unanswered. He had asked to be shown a case in which any person desiring to desist from the exercise of ministerial functions, had been subjected to prosecution on that account in the courts of the Church? No such cases of prosecution had occurred; and he apprehended that he was not trenching upon any abstract question of law in venturing to say, that there was no power, on the part of the Church, to compel any unbeneficed clergyman to continue in the active exercise of the ministry. But it was perfectly true, as had been asserted, that a person who had taken holy orders remained a clergyman in the sense of the Church of England, and that, in virtue of those holy orders, he was subjected to certain civil disqualifications. It should be understood, however, that those disqualifications did not arise out of the laws of the Church, but from laws passed by the State for civil and political purposes. He did not wish to prejudge this civil question, which was one of extreme delicacy and difficulty. Pointed allusions had been made to the levity with which young men of former times—he trusted the charge need not be applied to the young men of the present day—assumed the sacred responsibilities 1128 of the clerical profession. But just consider how those charges would be aggravated and multiplied by sanctioning this experiment, as it had been truly characterised by the hon. and learned Member for Reading. An eminent man had well said that the Church was a lottery, in which there were a certain number of blanks and prizes; but were they to invite a young man to take a chance, and, after he had drawn a blank, to permit him to retire without inquiry, without the allegation of a reason, but merely upon the expression of his wish so to do. That was an argument upon which he would not at this moment dwell further. It was a question distinct from the present Bill, which referred to a matter of conscience. As far as a clergyman's conscientious scruples were concerned, he was free to forego the exercise of the ministry; but the clergyman was not in the same position with respect to his communion with the Church as the layman. Scruples might arise, and a man might lawfully desire to abstain from the performance of the functions of a clergyman, and still remain a layman in that community. And the question might then arise, after he had been permitted to go into lay communion, as to his qualifications to undertake a civil office, or to enter Parliament. But such a question was distinct from the purpose of the present Bill. The subject was most important, as it affected the internal discipline of the Church; but these were matters always difficult of being debated in large assemblies of that nature. He thought the House would only be embarking upon a hopeless and inextricable course, if, deliberately, and with their eyes open, they attempted to mix up questions of internal discipline affecting members of the Church, with questions of religious liberty.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 132: Majority 67.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Buxton, Sir E. N.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Clay, Sir W.|
|Bass, M. T.||Cobden, R.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Cockburn, A. J. E.|
|Blair, S.||Crawford, W. S.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Davie, Sir H. R. F.|
|Bright, J.||Dawson, hon. T. V.|
|Brotherton, J.||D'Eyncourt, rt. hon. C. T.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Divett, E.|
|Dodd, G.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Duncuft, J.||Nugent, Sir P.|
|Ellis, J.||Pearson, C.|
|Evans, Sir D. L.||Pilkington, J.|
|Evans, J.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Renton, J. C.|
|Forster, M.||Salwey, Col.|
|Fortescue, C.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Fortescue, hon. J. W.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Fox, W. J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Granger, T. C.||Somers, J. P.|
|Harris, R.||Spooner, R.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Thompson, G.|
|Henry, A.||Thornely, T.|
|Heyworth, L.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Kershaw, J.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Lowther, hon. Col.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Lushington, C.||Williams, J.|
|M'Gregor, J.||Willyams, H.|
|Milner, W. M. E.||Wilson, M.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Lacy, H. C.|
|Mowatt, F.||Milnes, M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Goddard, A. L.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Greenall, G.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Greene, T.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Grenfell, C. W.|
|Ashley, Lord||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Haggitt, F. R.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Halford, Sir H.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Hastie, A.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Heneage, G. H. W.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Henley, J. W.|
|Brackley, Visct.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Bromley, R.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Brooke, Lord||Hope, Sir J.|
|Buck, L. W.||Hope, A.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Hornby, J.|
|Childers, J. W.||Hotham, Lord|
|Clay, J.||Jackson, W.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Clive, H. B.||Jervis, Sir J.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Jones, Capt.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Langston, J. H.|
|Coles, H. B.||Lascelles, hon. W. S.|
|Compton, H. C.||Legh, G. C.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F.|
|Crowder, R. B.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Lewisham, Visct.|
|Denison, J. E.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Drummond, H.||Locke, J.|
|Drummond, H. H.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Duff, J.||Maitland, T.|
|Duncan, G.||Marshall, W.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Edwards, H.||Miles, W.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Monsell, W.|
|Estcourt, J. B. B.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Floyer, J.||Napier, J.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Noel, hon. G.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Ord, W.|
|Oswald, A.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Stafford, A.|
|Palmer, R.||Stanley, hon. E. H.|
|Patten, J. W.||Stansfield, W. R. G.|
|Peto, S. M.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Pigott, F.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Portal, M.||Start, H. G.|
|Pugh, D.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Ricardo, O.||Thompson, Col.|
|Rushout, Capt.||Townley, R. G.|
|Russell, F. C. H.||Turner, G. J.|
|Rutherfurd, A.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Sandars, G.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Seymer, H. K.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Seymour, Lord||Walpole, S. H|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Walter, J.|
|Sidney, Ald.||Wood, W. P.|
|Simeon, J.||Young, Sir J.|
|Smyth, J. G.||TELLERS.|
|Somerset, Capt.||Bouverie, E. P.|
|Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.||Talfourd, Serj.|
§ House in Committee.
§ Clauses 1, 2, and 3 were agreed to.
§ Clause 4 required the bishop to record the declaration as a sentence of deprivation and deposition,
§ MR. HENLEY
considered, that with regard to clergymen having incumbrances on their livings, the clause would have the effect of placing the creditors in a much worse position than they otherwise would be.
§ Clause 5 was agreed to.
On Clause 6, which was as follows:—
And be it enacted, That every license, office, and place whatsoever held by such person—that is, such person as shall have declared his dissent from the Church of England—for which it is or may be an indispensable qualification that the holder thereof for the time being should be a minister or member of the said United Church, shall become and be, from and after the date of such entry in the registry of the said bishop, ipso facto, determined or vacant, as the case may be; and that no clergyman shall be prosecuted or proceeded against, or punished, or held liable in any action for damages or otherwise, in any court, for refusing to administer any rite or sacrament of the said United Church to or in respect of any such person "—
§ it was agreed, after some discussion, that the clause should be divided into two parts, the first ending with the words "as the case may be."
§ MR. W. J. FOX
rose and said: Supposing the clergyman had gone great lengths in his renunciation—supposing he had gone even to the disownment of the Christian faith, was it for this House to say that upon his penitence afterwards he should not have the right of readmission to the communion which he had once aban- 1131 doned? It was well known that there were many men, who, although in various points they had been led to dissent from the Church, had nevertheless shown their Christian feeling from time to time by keeping up their communion with it. Instances of this sort were very numerous; but he need only cite the case of the patron of Dr. Watts, who was in the habit of attending the sacrament of the Church upon a principle of Christian charity.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, the clause under consideration would not act as a prohibition; it merely laid down that where a person had become a nonconformist, the clergyman should be put into the same relative situation with regard to that person so becoming a nonconformist as he now was with regard to any other person who was a nonconformist. ["No, no!"] In principle, it was the same thing. If he understood the meaning of the clause, it merely meant to leave with the clergyman of the Church of England, in administering the rites and sacraments of that Church to a person taking the benefit of this Bill, the same discretion as he now had with regard to any other person who was a dissenter from the Church.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
thought the question at issue was, whether the clause formed a new class of Dissenters, or left a discretionary power to the minister. Every Dissenter, unless under excommunication, had a right to church burial and to the performance of the church funeral service; and it was questionable whether at common law the courts could not compel the clergyman to perform the services of baptism and marriage. There was surely no reason why the seceding clergyman should be treated with greater severity in these respects than other Dissenters.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that the clause had been adopted in its present form with the unanimous consent of the Committee, not so much because it carried out the precise views of any individual Member, but because it established a point at which, by concession on both sides, the different Members might combine, and afforded a reasonable prospect that the measure, with respect to which every one felt that success was desirable, might be passed; 1132 it being felt that its passing would be rendered hazardous if it were so framed as to embody the extreme and unmitigated views of any one person. It was difficult for him to understand how any stigma could be cast on the seceding clergyman in a case where all publicity and formal proceedings by which a stigma could be conveyed were dispensed with. He had consented to the clause, for, in his anxiety to give full effect to what he believed to be the civil rights of his countrymen, he had not hesitated to run the risk of offending some persons, and of forfeiting the confidence of many among his constituents. Let them consider the question calmly, and see what they were about to do. It was neither more nor less than to give rise to a fresh class of dissent, and to create a new position. They could not place the clergyman in the same position as he would have been in had he not been a clergyman, because the hon. Member for Kilmarnock himself in one most essential particular refused to place the seceding clergymen in the position of other Dissenters, and that was in respect to readmission to holy orders. By this Bill it was provided that a clergyman, having once seceded from the Church, should remain for ever excluded, and no power on earth could restore to him the powers and privileges of holy orders. But was that the case with the Dissenters? Was the Dissenter for ever excluded from holy orders? Certainly not—to his certain knowledge there were, if not hundreds, scores of clergymen of the Established Church, who had once been Dissenters. The law of this country had not yet proceeded to found dissent on any formal declaration; it merely protected certain formal acts of nonconformists from the penalties which would otherwise attach to them. The position of the clergyman was entirely different from that of the Dissenter, and the condition of the latter was sufficiently clear, under the terms of the Bill, to make it their duty not to make it applicable to the seceding clergymen. Let them give every freedom of conscience they pleased to the Dissenter; but let them not forget that others had consciences too, and that there were men who held office in the Church whose consciences would be hurt by such an amendment as that proposed by the hon. Member for Norwich. It Would be a serious offence to those men that they should be called upon, nay, compelled, to administer the rites of the Church and her 1133 religious ordinances to the champions of dissent. It was to be apprehended that there were persons who would proceed too far in their dissent—who might, as the hon. Member for Oldham had observed, renounce the name of Christian, or might, like a large part of the learned men of Germany at the present day, regard the name of Christian as a convenient appendage only, while they looked upon our Saviour as one among a long series of great men, entitled to rank perhaps with Socrates, or even beyond him, but still belonging to the same class. It had been very truly remarked by the hon. Member for Oldham, that there were many persons with regard to whom the term Dissenters was used so loosely that it defied definition. But this was not so in the case of a man whose dissent was so defined that it obliged him to renounce the fulfilment of his own most solemn vows. Dissent in that case was sufficiently tangible and clear, and assumed a legal character sufficiently formed under this Bill to make it their duty not to leave the position of that man uncertain, but to define it with regard to rights and privileges as justice required. If such a gentleman were now liable to excommunication, and that excommunication entailed the absolute loss of all the ordinances of the Church, then he (Mr. Gladstone) would say, "By all means give freedom to the conscience of the man; but do not, in giving him that freedom of conscience, forget that others have their consciences too; and that there are many persons now exercising and bearing sacred office in the Church, and conforming to her laws, to whose consciences it would be a grievous and serious offence if they were compelled by civil penalties to administer religious rites and ordinances to the champions it might be of religious dissent." If there were such a thing as civil and religious liberty, surely it was a mockery to use the term in connexion with legislation like that. He did not mean to say that any hon. Member desired to violate the principles of civil and religious liberty; but then these principles were to be observed in reference to all classes, and not only was the seceding clergyman entitled to the full benefit of them, but likewise the conforming clergyman. It was in vain to contend, therefore, that the clause dealt with seceding clergymen in a manner different from other Dissenters. On those grounds he hoped the House would take the same view as the Committee did of the clause, 1134 as it drew a fair line of distinction between, the various interests concerned.
§ SIR G. GREY
was prepared at once to admit that a clause, which had been carefully considered in the Select Committee to which the Bill had been referred, and which came to the House recommended by the unanimous opinion of that Committee, was entitled to be treated with respect, and not to be lightly set aside. Before, however, the discussion proceeded further, he thought it would be well to understand what was the intention of the Committee in inserting that clause. The hon. and learned Member for Midhurst had stated that the effect of the clause would be to place seceders from the Church upon the same footing with other Dissenters. If that were the meaning of the clause, he should have no objection whatever to it, as it would be perfectly unreasonable to place upon those persons any disabilities not borne by the general body of Dissenters of which they formed a part. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had, however, stated that this was not the opinion of the Committee. He said that there was something peculiar in the case of these persons, and that they ought to be subject to peculiar disabilities, which did not affect Dissenters generally. He (Sir G. Grey) did not concur in that opinion. He thought that there was nothing peculiar in the case of this class of Dissenters, on the ground of their having once been Churchmen and having seceded from the Church. He could see no reason why such persons should not be entitled to the rites and offices of the Church in the same manner as other Dissenters were. The law of the land, as well as of the Church, was that the rites of burial, according to the Church of England, must be administered to all parties, not excommunicate, and the Court of Queen's Bench enforced the right of parties to that service by mandamus. There was nothing in the case of a seceder from the Church which would make a mandamus not apply in the case of a clergyman who refused burial to a person of that class. He did not think that the sentence of deprivation would prevent any bishop, at his discretion, from reordaining the party so deprived at any future period of his life, if he so desired; even if that were so, he did not see why it should follow that a person so deprived, wishing to have the marriage service performed by a clergymen of the Church of England, or 1135 his friends desiring his remains to be placed with other members of his family, should be deprived of the privilege afforded to all Dissenters. If that were the construction of the clause, he certainly thought that it would be better not to agree to it, and to leave this class of persons to merge in the general body of Dissenters, without subjecting them to any special disability.
§ MR. TURNER
suggested, that before they proceeded any further with the clause, they should ascertain the exact effect of a sentence of deprivation or of deposition.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
observed, that excommunication was nothing but exclusion from the Church, and the canons said that schismatics were to be held excommunicate. With respect to those who were commonly called Dissenters, it was not for any one to say how far they were persons desirous of separating from the Church. But the case of a clergyman in the present instance was quite different; because here was a person who had in a solemn manner entered the Church, and who by a solemn act separated himself from the Church, for the purpose of disentitling the authorities of the Church to enforce against him ecclesiastical discipline. The measure afforded a short method by which he might exclude himself; and the question was, whether, having ascertained in his case what was not ascertained in the case of ordinary Dissenters, the existence of a definite intention to separate from the Church, the opinion of those clergymen of the Church who thought such a person a notorious scandal to the Church should be disregarded, whether clergymen were to be compelled to administer to him those rights and offices of the Church which they could not be compelled to administer if the law were allowed to take its course, and sentence of excommunication were pronounced. Many clergymen would feel great violence done to their consciences were they required to administer the sacraments to persons who, having taken the solemn vows of ordination, departed therefrom afterwards. It must not be forgotten what were the sacraments and ceremonies to be administered and performed. The exclusion of persons not connected with the Church from marriage or burial according to the rites of the Church was to be regretted; but when a clergyman entertained a bonâ fide conscientious objection with respect to the administration of those rites to persons separate from the Church, his conscience 1136 was as deserving of toleration as the conscience of the clergyman who was desirous to secede from the Church.
§ COLONEL THOMPSON
wished to know with precision what were the rites and sacraments the Established Church could refuse to any ordinary Dissenter, and what it was intended to give the power of refusing to a seceded clergyman under this Bill; and then the House might act upon the knowledge of the difference. He was afraid, from what he heard, that there was a hidden arrow with which somebody was to be pierced. The openheartedness of hon. Gentlemen opposite had let out, that the intention was to treat the seceded clergyman as a "person excommunicate." This was the next thing to putting him into a white sheet. Till he heard this, he was disposed to think the Bill a favourable specimen of the moderation of the ecclesiastical party in power.
§ MR. LUSHINGTON
remarked that the Committee were unanimous in passing this clause; but it did not occur to them how harshly, severely, and un-Christianly it would operate.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
observed, that to a person excommunicate the sacraments would be denied; but a person taking advantage of the present Bill would not necessarily be thereby deprived of the sacraments. The question was, whether a clergyman should be required to administer the sacraments to persons so situated, irrespective of his own knowledge and his own convictions.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
rose chiefly to correct a misconception which appeared to exist on the part of the hon. and learned Member for Midhurst. As the law stood, a clergyman was hound to bury and marry Dissenters. It had been decided that a clergyman ought to bury; and the 6th and 7th of William IV. enacted, that he should, on production of a registered certificate, perform the ceremony of marriage. It was true, that on evidence that the parties were schismatics the clergyman was exempted from any liability. But it was a mistake to suppose that excommunication followed a sentence of deprivation from a living, or deposition from the ministry. There was no recent instance in which such sentence of excommunication had been carried into effect. The clause, in reality, proposed to put clergymen seceding from the Church under peculiar penalties. It was unjust that those Gentlemen should suffer from penalties 1137 from which ordinary Dissenters were exempt. He know clergymen who thought they were entitled to set up the canon law against the civil law; and as the canon law prohibited clergymen to marry or bury Dissenters, they were justified in so doing, contrary to the civil law: the enactment of the clause would encourage them to proceed in that course, which was certainly not a desirable result to bring about.
§ MR. NAPIER
had concurred in the clause in Committee from the feeling that it was not right to require the parish clergyman to administer the rites of the Church when his conscience told him they ought not to be administered.
The EARL of ARUNDEL AND SURREY
thought that a seceding clergyman ought to he placed in the same position as one of the class with whom he was to be identified. The law was wrong which compelled a clergyman of the Church of England, or any clergyman, to do anything contrary to his conscience; but the point was too difficult to enter on it at that moment.
§ SIR E. N. BUXTON
differed from the noble Earl, for he thought that in the cases in question grounds might be assigned for administering the rites of burial, and perhaps of marriage.
§ MR. SPOONER
would put a case. Supposing one of those seceding clergymen should demand afterwards to be married according to the rites of the Church of England, could a clergyman of the Church of England refuse to marry him without becoming liable to a penalty?
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
replied that, according to the clause under consideration, a clergyman of the Church of England might refuse both to marry and to bury one who had seceded.
§ MR. HENLEY
thought the real distinction was that, in the case of a seceding clergyman, the party had gone to a competent court of record, and there registered a certain fact, which was thereby brought judicially to the knowledge of every clergyman of the Church of England. It was not so in the case of an ordinary Dissenter.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
stated that the dissent of the Dissenting minister was also legally known; for one of the Toleration Acts required that he should register a declaration that he was a Dissenter.
§ MR. W. P. WOOD
said, that the real object of the clause was that which had been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of 1138 Oxford, namely, to save the consciences of Dissenters, as well as of seceding clergymen. There might be such persons who did not think that they were acting wrong in using the services of the Church. He would suggest that there was some inconsistency in obliging clergymen to perform these solemn services for persons who had no accord with the views held by Churchmen. Formerly, when a Unitarian was married, he used to protest against the doctrines of the Church of England; but now that there was no impediment to his being married before a registrar, he did not understand why a Dissenter should be anxious to have the Church services. He was very glad, however, that there existed on the part of the Dissenters this lingering feeling of respect towards the Church of England, which he did not wish to see displaced. He should recommend, therefore, the withdrawal of the clause, as he could hardly conceive a case in which a Dissenter or a seceding clergyman could act so monstrous a part as to insist upon being married or buried according to the rites of the Church.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 118: Majority 61.
|List of the AYES.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Hope, A.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Hornby, J.|
|Bennet, P.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Blair, S.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Jones, Capt.|
|Brackley, Visct.||Legh, G. C.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Lewisham, Visct.|
|Bromley, R.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Brooke, Lord||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Miles, W.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Monsell, W.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Napier, J.|
|Compton, H. C.||Neeld, J.|
|Drummond, H.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Oswald, A.|
|Edwards, H.||Palmer, R.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Patten, J. W.|
|Evans, J.||Peel, F.|
|Floyer, J.||Portal, M.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.||Richards, R.|
|Gooch, E. S.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Haggitt, F. R.||Simeon, J.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Talfourd, Serj.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Thompson, G.|
|Henley, J. W.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||TELLERS.|
|Hood, Sir A.||Stafford, A.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Palmer, R.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Locke, J.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Lushington, C.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Maitland, T.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Marshall, W.|
|Bagshaw, J.||Matheson, Col.|
|Baines, M. T.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Brotherton, J.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Brown, W.||Moffatt, G.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Moody, C. A.|
|Butler, P. S.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Carter, J. B.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Ord, W.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Parker, J.|
|Childers, J. W.||Pearson, C.|
|Clay, J.||Pigott, F.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Pilkington, J.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Cobden, R.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Ricardo, O.|
|Craig, W. G.||Rice, E. R.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Salwey, Col.|
|D'Eyncourt. rt. hon. C. T.||Sandars, G.|
|Divett, E.||Scholefield, W.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Duncan, G.||Seymour, Lord|
|Ellis, J.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Evans, W.||Smith, J. B.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Spooner, R.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Fortescue, C.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Fox, W. J.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Freestun, Col.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Granger, T. C.||Thompson, Col.|
|Greenall, G.||Thornely, T.|
|Greene, T.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Tufnell, H.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Hardcastle, J.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Harris, R.||Wall, C. B.|
|Hastie, A.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Hastie, A.||Walter, J.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Heywood, J.||Wilcocx, B. M.|
|Heyworth, L.||Williams, J.|
|Hill, Lord M.||Willyams, H.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Jackson, W.||Wilson, J.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Wilson, M.|
|Lacy, H. C.||TELLERS.|
|Langston, J. H.||Bouverie, E. P.|
|Lewis, rt. hon. F. T.||Peto, S. M.|
§ Committee report progress; to sit again on Wednesday, 23rd May.
§ The House adjourned at Six o'clock.