HC Deb 18 March 1850 vol 109 cc1054-6

said, that he held two documents in his hand which purported to be protests against the late decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in the case of "Gorham v. The Bishop of Exeter," signed by the Rev. G. A. Denison, vicar of East Brent, and dated the 10th of March. The first of these protests, after asserting "that the universal Church alone possesses, by the commission and command of its Divine Founder, the power of defining in matters of doctrine," says— I, George Anthony Denison, clerk, M.A., vicar of East Brent, in the county of Somerset, and diocese of Bath and Wells, do hereby enter my solemn protest against the state of the law which empowers the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to take cognisance of matters of doctrine, and against the exercise of that power by the said Judicial Committee in each particular case; and I do hereby pledge myself to use all lawful means within my reach to prevent the continuance of such a state of the law, and of the power claimed and exercised under the same. In the second document he says—" Such sentence is necessarily false, and gives public legal sanction to the teaching of false doctrine," and concludes thus:— I, George Anthony Denison, clerk, Ac, do hereby enter my solemn protest against the said sentence of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and do warn all the Christian people of this parish to beware of allowing themselves to be moved or influenced thereby in the least degree; and I do also hereby pledge myself to use all lawful means within my reach to assist in obtaining, without delay, some further formal declaration, by a lawful synod of the Church of England, as to what is, and what is not, the doctrine of the Church of England in respect of the holy sacrament of baptism. Now, he (Mr. Hume) thought that it was incumbent on the Government, if they wished to have the decisions of one of the highest tribunals in the kingdom respected, to take notice of such language; and the question he wished to put was, what notice the Government intend to take of the protest of Mr. Denison, published in all the papers yesterday, impugning the judgment of Her Majesty's Council in the case of "Gorham v. the Bishop of Exeter," and denying the supremacy of the Crown as head of the Established Church?


I think it is just to Mr. Denison that I should read to the House a statement which he sent to me, which I received this morning, and which professes to be a statement of his opinion as regards the supremacy of the Crown as connected with this case. It is as follows:— I have not denied, and do not deny, that the Queen's Majesty is supreme governor of this Church and Realm, and is, in virtue thereof, supreme over all causes ecclesiastical and civil, judging in causes spiritual, by the judges of the spiritualty, and in causes temporal by temporal judges, as enacted by the statute 24th of Henry VIII. c. 12. And I have not impeached, and do not impeach, any part of the regal supremacy, as set forth in the second canon and in the 37th article of our Church. But I humbly conceive that the constitution does not attribute to the Crown, without a synod lawfully assembled, the right of deciding a question of doctrine; and this, although disclaimed by the Lords of the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council, is what, as appears to me, has been done, indirectly indeed, but unequivocally, in the late case of 'Gorham v, the Bishop of Exeter.' (Signed) "GEORGE ANTHONY DENISON. "March 18, 1850. Now, I have no hesitation in saying that I think Mr. Denison is entirely mistaken in this opinion which he has given, and that the judgment given by the members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is entirely within their jurisdiction, and such as they were authorised by law to give. I believe likewise it is a decision which has generally given great satisfaction. But as the hon. Member for Montrose asks me further what notice the Government intends to take of the protests of Mr. Denison, I must say that though it may be necessary for the Government at a future time to take some steps, if it should appear that any measures adopted hereafter on the part of those who think with Mr. Denison required them—though I guard myself by saying that this may be necessary—yet I should be most reluctant to take steps against any men who give what they conceive to be the conscientious expression of their views with regard to the Church, and should fear that any such act on the part of the Government would only tend to disturb still further the harmony of the Church. And, therefore, entirely dissenting from Mr. Denison, and thinking it may be doubtful, particularly after the letter I have read, whether he means to deny the authority of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, or whether he intends that he ought to use every lawful means to alter the law, the Government, as at present advised, is not prepared to take any steps with regard to the protests.