HC Deb 28 April 1852 vol 120 cc1260-78

Order for Second Reading read.


presented a petition from the Bishop of Cape Town, and another from the Committee for promoting the Canterbury Settlement in New Zealand, in favour of this Bill.


said, as it was impossible to overrate the importance of this subject, and as no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would occupy a considerable time in addressing the House upon it, which would render it impossible for him (Sir J. Pakington) at that hour (5 o'clock) to make any reply, some considerable time would elapse after the right hon. Gentleman's speech had been given to the public through the ordinary channels, before the debate could be resumed: he had, therefore, to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, under those circumstances, it would not be desirable to postpone the Motion for the second reading until a future day?


said, he should be very reluctant to decline acceding to any request that appeared reasonable; but at the same time he should be glad to have an opportunity of stating the purport of the Bill before the House rose. If his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Pakington) was in a position to give him any specific promise that an early day would be assigned for proceeding with the Bill, undoubtedly he (Mr. Gladstone) would comply with his request; but he was not prepared to ask the right hon. Gentleman to do that in the present circumstances of the Session. The Bill was not one involving party considerations; and he trusted the opinion of the House would be that he had better then make, his statement, and then leave it to their judgment.


said, he had only to submit that it would be matter of considerable public inconvenience, if the statement which the right hon. Gentleman was about to make should go forth without the possibility of there being any reply from the other side of the House. [Cries of "Order!"]


I shall endeavour, Sir, to make my statement without unnecessarily detaining the House, and with as much brevity as is consistent with the importance and the comparative novelty of the subject I am about to bring under its attention. Now, I am anxious, before I say anything else, to define in the clearest and the most explicit terms the object of the Bill which I have obtained leave to introduce, and of which I now rise to more the second reading. The object of that Bill is, that in the colonies which are included in the schedule attached to it, and in such other colonies as Her Majesty by an Order in Council shall think fit to declare, what is called the Church of England in the Colonies—I say what is called in the colonies the Church of England, because I am not sure whether that is the precise legal definition or not—shall be put in a condition of managing on a footing of perfect equality its own ecclesiastical affairs—that is to say, that it shall be put upon a footing of equality with those unprivileged and unestablished denominations of religion which at present enjoy in that respect a great advantage over it, of which I trust nothing will be done to deprive them. But when I say such is the object of the Bill, I ought to add that I propose that this freedom should be enjoyed, subject to such restraint as Parliament should think fit to impose. I entirely and freely grant that in prescribing the relations of the bishops, clergy, and laity, in the colonies to the Established Church and the legal system at home, it is right that the entire religious freedom which I should otherwise think it fair to grant them, should be limited in certain particulars What those particulars are to be is a matter of much importance, and requiring grave consideration. I have inserted in this Bill clauses which I believe would keep in existence and in operation every practical restraint, without a single exception—every practical restraint of a legal character which is at present operating on the churches in the colonies. At the same time, I am not so vain as to hope that, in regard to matters of that kind, I have succeeded in finding the very best arrangements that are practicable; and I wish to invite the attention of this House, and especially of the legal Members in the House, to the subject, because any Gentleman, be he who he may, be his party what it may, and be his object what it may, may contribute to the attainment of the object of this Bill—namely, the establishing the principle of religious equality in the colonies affected by it, subject only to such restraints as Parliament may think fit and necessary; sad any such Gentleman will not only receive from me a fair and just consideration for what he may suggest, but also my warm and grateful acknowledgments, because I am bound to say that we are to consider how this Bill will present itself to the various classes and communities who may be affected by its provisions. It is consolatory for me to know that in submitting this Bill to the notice of the House, I am proposing one which I think trenches upon no rights whatever, and one which, when well understood, will excite but little prejudice and apprehension. In the first place, it in no respect trenches upon the rights of the Colonial authorities. I have myself endeavoured to examine the question with legal aid, whether it would be proper to save those rights by express words; I apprehend that will be unnecessary, but that might be a subject for future consideration, as the Bill provides that any regulation which may be made by these religious communities shall stand simply upon the footing of voluntary obedience, and enjoy no other force than that which appertains to the rules or regulations of other religious communities. The Bill does not land us upon any of those painful questions in which we sometimes find ourselves unwarily involved when our feelings are aroused upon subjects connected with the various reciprocal rights of the bishops, the clergy, or the laity. I do not know how it is that the words "Colonial bishops" have unfortunately been printed in the Bill, for the Bill certainly has no relation with Colonial bishops as apart from other members of their religious communion. The principle upon which the Bill proceeds is that which I am happy to see is daily gaining strength, favour, and currency in this country, namely, that of leaving the Colonies—subject to any restraints needful upon Imperial grounds—to the uncontrolled management of their own local affairs, whether it be for ecclesiastical or for civil purposes. Again, as regards the religious opinions of others, the very last object which I could entertain would be to trench in any degree upon the religious liberty of members of other communions. For I frankly state, in the face of the House of Commons, that if any man offers me for the Church of England in the Colonies the boon of civil preference, I would reject that boon not necessarily as ill-intended or ill-minded, but undoubtedly as a fatal gift, because t am convinced that any such preference would be nothing but a source of weakness to the Church herself, and of discord and difficulty to the Colonial communities, in the soil of which I am anxious to see the Church of England take a free, strong, and healthy root. I am bound to say if there be a class of persons in this House to whom I am bound to make an appeal on the introduction of the Bill, and whose support I must ask for with less confidence, and subject to more reserve than others, it is that respectable class of persons of whom I may consider my hon. Friend near me (Sir R. Inglis) as a type—those who, in their deep attachment to the civil establishment of religion in this country, are unwilling to permit or to entertain in any form any proposal which in the remotest and most indirect manner, even by giving sanction to other systems elsewhere under different circumstances, may seem to raise a question with respect to the integrity and permanence of those principles. I must not attempt to disguise from the House that the principle upon which I ask the House to proceed with reference to this Bill, is that of religious equality. If I am asked how I can justify such a course with my duties to a constituency formed in great part of the clergy of the Established Church, I say at once that it is my paramount duty to promote, by every means in my power, the interests of that religious system to which they belong; and I feel convinced, after not a brief study of Colonial affairs, that I should be taking a course detrimental and ruinous to those interests if I were to refrain from recognising, or hesitate to recognise, any measure for the Church of England in the Colonies which had not for its basis the principle of perfect religious equality as the principle of Colonial legislation. I must now call the attention of the House to a testimony upon this subject which will strike strangely upon the ears of some. It is one of those declarations of which we ought to take notice, as marking an epoch in the political existence of these societies. It is one to which Gentlemen in this House stand more nearly related than they possibly are aware. Sir, I hold in my hand a copy of an Act of the Legislature of Canada, presented to Parliament pursuant to 3rd and 4th Victoria, which has been passed in that colony for the purpose of disendowing certain Rectories of the Church in that province. Let hon. Gentlemen who perhaps dreamed that the Church of England might in the Colonies be organised on the footing of a legalised establishment, observe the remarkable words which the Preamble of this Act contains. It begins—and it is evident the Parliament of Canada intended to call special attention to this:— Whereas, the recognition of legal equality among all religious denominations is an admitted principle of colonial legislation; and whereas in the state and condition of this province, to which such a principle is peculiarly applicable, it is desirable that the same should receive the sanction of direct legislative authority, recognising and declaring the same as a fundamental principle of our civil polity; be it therefore declared and enacted;"— and so forth. Gentlemen might think this was only the proceeding of one of those comparatively miniature Legislatures with which we have nothing to do. The case is far otherwise. When the constitutional system of Canada was established in 1791—when it was renovated and re-established by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in 1840, Parliament was not content to leave the religious policy of Canada to be dealt with as a matter affecting Canada alone, but you provided that when the Parliament of Canada passed an Act affecting or altering the religion of the Colony or the policy of the Colony, that Act must be laid upon the table of both Houses of Parliament for forty days before the Crown gave its assent to such measure. According to this provision the Crown might withhold its assent, or the bishops in the House of Lords might call attention to the Act, or the House of Commons might address the Crown with reference to it, and the Act would fall to the ground. What is the case, then, with respect to the Act to which I have referred? Every Member of this House has had a copy of the Act placed in his hands, that he might judge whether he would recognise the principle of religious equality for a colony with 2,000,000 of inhabitants, and has involved himself in the recognition of the principle which that Act contains, for this Act was ordered by us to be printed on the 13th of February; I am now addressing you on the 28th of April, and the forty days have therefore gone by. I am not aware what course has been adopted with respect to this Act; but in all probability the right hon. Secretary of State has advised the Crown to give its assent to it. Whether this be so or not, I do not know; what I wish is to establish in the face of the country, in order to get rid of all misunderstanding, that by an Act of the Parliament of Canada, with the assent of the House of Lords and House of Commons of England, the principle of religious equality has been declared and established in the most emphatic form, as a rule which is henceforth to govern legislation in that colony. And here I would make an appeal to the hon. Gentleman whom I have supposed to be so anxious upon this subject of determining Colonial matters by English rules. Let us, I say, judge of Colonial questions upon their own grounds, and English questions upon their own grounds; but do not let us be deterred from doing that which is just to the Colonies, and acceptable to the Colonial people, and demanded by them, because we may be told that we shall be some day called upon to do the same in England as we have done in the Colonies. Depend upon it, that what is just when applied to the Colonies, can never be made a precedent or apology for doing injustice in England. Having, then, parted entirely with the power of enforcing the principle of civil establishment of the Church in the Colonies, I hope, upon that ground alone, apart from my convictions as to what the interests of the Church requires, that the disinclination of hon. Gentlemen may be overcome, and that they will consent to join in an endeavour to adjust and construct for this new state of things a system which, whether best in the abstract or not, is the only thing which the circumstances admit of. I have stated that the object of the Bill is to establish the principle of religious equality, by applying that principle on the part of the bishops, clergy, and laity in communion with the Church of England in the Colonies, subject to such restraints as Parliament may in its wisdom think fit to impose; and I hope I have made it so perfectly clear, in disavowing and disclaiming the gift, if offered, of civil preference, that it is not necessary for me to say more upon the subject, except to invite hon. Members to assist me in excluding from the measure which I have to propose, any provisions which could tend in the slightest degree to a departure from that principle of reli- gious equality. In the year 1850 I ventured to introduce the subject of this Bill for the first time to the notice of the House of Commons. One of the great arguments in support of that Bill was the fact that the state of the law, as it affects the Church in the Colonies, was in a state of almost as hopeless doubt and uncertainty, and so entangled and confused as to render it impossible to make it of any avail for the purposes for which it was required. The principal objection made to the measure on its first proposal was, that it was a subject which ought' to be dealt with by ecclesiastical legislation, and not as a portion of a Bill for remodelling the civil institutions of certain Colonies: that objection, however, does not apply to the present Bill. A second objection was, that the application of the remedy was but partial—that it touched the Australian Colonies only, and placed them upon a statutory footing different from the others. I have met that objection in the Bill which I now submit to the House, by making it applicable to all the Colonies to which the Executive may think fit to extend it. Another objection was, that there was then but little evidence, if they adopted the measure, that they should be acting in concurrence with the wishes of the parties most immediately affected: upon that subject I shall presently show to the House that no doubt can at present exist as to the opinion of the bishops, the clergy, and the laity of the Colonies on the subject. A further objection was also urged, to the effect that a formal inquiry ought to be instituted to discover whether those objections existed which it was the professed object of the Bill to remove: an inquiry on such a subject is now, however, no longer necessary. Considerable doubt, Sir, exists as to the effect of the existing laws on synodical action in the Colonies. I have heard it stated by able lawyers that the Statute permitting the assembling of synods and of passing of canons does not apply to the Colonies. Some able lawyers have, however, expressed a different opinion; however the case may be, the practical consequence is, that no body of men in the Colonies will go to work to construct an elaborate system of self-regulation by means of synodical or other similar action, without being perfectly assured that they are not at least offending against the laws of the land by so doing. Speaking with that reserve and humility with which every man not of the legal profession ought to speak when he attempts to describe the condition of the law, I venture to say that the ecclesiastical laws of England do not practically attach to the Colonies; and in saying this I express no opinion upon the abstract question of whether they do or do not in theory. As a proof of the correctness of my opinion, I may state that you have no Ecclesiastical Courts whatever in the Colonies. I know I may be met by saying, "Let us introduce them;" but I hope that no man will be found who would venture seriously to propose such a thing. It would be perfectly absurd to do so. When I speak of Ecclesiastical Courts, I refer of course to Courts armed with the authority of the law, and possessing the power of Courts of Law. Certain bishops, I do not say from an undue love of power, but from the difficulty of finding a mode of managing their own affairs, have tried to introduce these Courts. Some time since, I believe, the Bishop of Tasmania came over to this country to see if he could get Ecclesiastical Courts established in the Colony with which he was connected, and his visit led to a most curious discovery. Objections were taken by the Dissenters to the establishment of the Court in the Colony, on the ground that it would not be consistent with that footing of religious equality which prevailed there, and that they would be subjected to be cited before the Bishop's Court; they also objected to validity being given to the judgments of the bishop, beyond that which might be given to them by the free will of the Colonists. Entertaining these objections, they were led to look into the patent of the bishop, and they found that the patent gave him the power to erect these Courts, to cite witnesses, commit for contempt, and such other things as Courts of the kind had the power to do. Not satisfied, however, with this, they raised the question of the legality of the patent; and the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, after mature deliberation, was, that the patent pretending to confer a power to do that which the Crown could not exercise, was an illegal instrument. I do not say there is no ecclesiastical power in the Colonies, but I am anxious the House should understand of what kind it is. I do not found my opinion on the allegation that the power of the bishop ought to be increased as distinguished from the other orders. On the contrary, there are points on which the power of the bishops in the Colonies might be safely and wisely subjected to restraint. You have in this country two kinds of ecclesiastical power— one, which is a strictly legal system, and Which takes effect through the established Courts; and you have an arbitrary system, which does not take effect through the medium of the Courts, but which are merely personal judgments of ecclesiastical officers. The legal system remains at home, and does not migrate to the Colonies. In the Colonies, however, there is an ecclesiastical power of a certain kind exercised by the bishop over the clergy and the laity; I mean the bishop's ordaining and licensing power, and other matters of that kind. In this country presbyters are protected against the undue aggression of a bishop by the whole structure of the law, which recognises the legal status of parochial incumbents. In the Colonies, speaking generally, there are no parochial incumbents; the clergy there who have the cure of souls are under the bishop in the same sense almost as stipendiary curates in this country. They practically have no defence against the bishop of the diocese, if he were disposed to make a hasty or arbitrary use of his power. The bishops have, it is true, a power—I do not say whether too much or too little; but, at all events, it is a bad kind of power with which they are invested in the Colonies. What, therefore, I call upon the House to do is to assist me in enabling Parliament to place the law upon such a footing that those parties may frame regulations for themselves, and adjust in any manner satisfactory to themselves the ecclesiastical relations with each other. It is said by some persons that if the bishop withdraws a licence, the clergyman in the Colonies has an appeal to the Archbishop at home. Whether or not that appeal exists is a matter of doubt; but certainly if it does, I must confess that it is anything but a sufficient remedy. When a clergyman in Australia feels that his status is insecure, and that he may be deprived of his licence and the means of his livelihood by the arbitrary act of an individual, it is not a sufficient answer to tell him that he has only to travel 16,000 miles to England, and that he will find there a prelate who will be ready to hear his case. To say nothing of the difficulties of obtaining the appeal, it is, after all, when obtained, only another personal judgment. A clergyman having a cure of souls ought to have fixed and stable rights, of which he cannot be deprived without full and lair investigation and trial. But there is some doubt whether even this power of appeal to the Archbishop exists at all, as in some of the patents of the Colonial bishops it is not even mentioned. Some time since there was the case of the Rev. Mr. Wigmore, who was a chaplain in Van Diemen's Land. His licence was withdrawn. He applied to the local Courts of Law, and was informed by them that they could give him no redress. Mr. Wigmore then came the 16,000 miles, to the late Archbishop of Canterbury, who, when he looked into the matter, was obliged to report that he had no power whatever, because no process existed, nothing upon which an appeal could be founded, and that he had no power to interfere. Mr. Wigmore consequently returned to Australia, without obtaining redress, and the law consequently remained a nullity for him. Again, there is the case of the Rev. Mr. Bateman, a clergyman in Australia, who addressed a letter to me on the 25th of February last, in which he states that he perceives by the public journals that I am about to bring in a Bill on the subject, and requests me to insert a clause in the Bill to confirm him in his incumbency. That is a request which I have no doubt the House will agree with me cannot be entertained. But what is the gravamen of his case? He states that he has been put out of his incumbency by the bishop without having had a fair hearing. I cannot say whether in the case of Mr. Bateman or Mr. Wigmore they were right or wrong; but this I say, that no man has a right to take away the means of livelihood of another without giving him an opportunity of a full and impartial hearing of his case. I know it is said, and I am happy to hear it, that a great degree of harmony prevails between the bishops and clergy and laymen in the Colonies. That, however, may not and cannot always exist; there must be exceptions, there are exceptions. Good feeling is a very good substitute for law, where there is no other substitute; but you require some other substitute, and I now ask the House to consider with me what that substitute should be. With respect to the laymen, at present they have no appeal whatever in the Colonies; and I do not believe that in the case of any withholding of the offices of the Church upon any frivolous ground, or upon no ground at all, any man can point out any mode, as matters now exist, by which he may obtain a remedy. Their state is a state of anarchy, tempered only by that good feeling and good sense which, in the main, is manifested in the conduct of these communities. With respect to the disposition of the Colonists on this subject, I grant that two years ago the subject was put before the members of the Church in the Colonies very imperfectly. I do not need to deal in generalities any longer when I venture to urge on the House that such a measure is necessary. The question is not a new question to-day. But what are the wishes of the Colonies on the subject? There are thirteen dioceses to which I propose to apply the provisions of the Bill; and I will now show you, by the most conclusive evidence, what are the feelings of the members of the Church of England in those Colonial dioceses on the subject. They recognise the fact of their position—they disclaim and repudiate all idea of civil preference—they smart under the practical grievance of the want of settling their own affairs by their own means, and their own private suits—and they desire to walk only in the very course in which it is the object of this Bill to permit and authorise them to walk. In the first place, then, with respect to the bishops. There are thirteen bishops of dioceses affected by this Bill. I will show what are the sentiments of twelve of them; the thirteenth is the Bishop of Nova Scotia, who has only very recently arrived in his diocese; his parent has, however, informed me, that his son was in favour of the objects contemplated by this Bill. Now, a short time since, five of these bishops met at Sydney to consider a variety of matters, and among other things the regulation of the religious affairs of the Church in the Colony, and they came to this resolution:— We, the undersigned Metropolitan and Bishops of the province of Australasia, in consequence of doubts existing how far we are inhibited by the Queen's supremacy from exercising the powers of an ecclesiastical synod, resolve not to exercise such powers on the present occasion. But we desire to consult together upon the various difficulties in which we are at present placed by the doubtful application to the Church in this province of the Ecclesiastical Laws which are now in force in England, and to suggest such measures as may seem to be most suitable for removing our present embarrassments. They go on in a subsequent portion of the document to declare their wish to call together their clergy and lay members, but they likewise inform you that they are prevented from doing so by the uncertainty with respect to the state of the law, and their not knowing whether they might not be committing a legal offence. Five more of the colonial bishops, namely, those of North America, have also expressed their opinion on the subject. The proposal which I made in 1850, had no direct reference to North America; but in every one of the colonial dioceses the question has been taken up. Five of the North American colonial bishops, representing the whole of Canada, have met together, sad, they state that— In consequence of the anomalous state of the Church of England In these colonies with reference to its general government, and the doubts entertained as to its validity of any code of Ecclesiastical Law, the bishops of these dioceses experience great difficulty in acting in accordance with their episcopal commission and prerogatives; and their decisions are liable to misconstruction, as if emanating from their individual will, and not from the general body of the Church. They illustrate the state of things to which I have referred with respect to the arbitrary power which they possess, and state, that so far from its being a source of power to them, it is a source of weakness. Now, what remedy do they propose?— We, therefore, consider it desirable, in the first place, that the bishops, clergy, and laity of the Church of England in each diocese should meet together in synod at such times and in such manner as may be agreed. There is, lastly, the Bishop of Cape Town who is now in this country, and of his sentiments I need not now speak, as I have this day laid upon the table of the House a petition from him on this subject. With respect to the clergy and laity of the different dioceses, they have also expressed1 opinions in accordance with the provisions of this Bill. Considering the great difficulties which exist in the way of gathering together a large body of the clergy and laity for the purpose of eliciting their opinions, I am astonished at the extent to which the declarations and manifestation of their sentiments have been given. In the diocese of Melbourne, there has been a meeting called, at which it was declared— We are of opinion that one assembly, called a diocesan synod or convention, should be duly constituted; that it should be presided over by the bishop of the diocese, and should consist of all the presbyters of the Church having cure of souls, or licensed by the bishop, and of lay representatives from the ecclesiastical parishes or districts. Of the opinion of the laity in the diocese of Sydney there can be no doubt, because, after the meeting of the bishops had been held to which I have already adverted, and in which they expressed their desire for synodical action, a large meeting of the laity was held, at which it was agreed to raise a considerable sum in order to promote the object they had in view. In South Australia there has been a meeting, in which it was declared, that in the opinion of those present, they ought to have a mixed convocation to manage the ecclesiastical affairs in the Colony, and a draft of a constitution for the Church in the diocese was prepared. The Committee appointed to draw it up state— Your committee, therefore, propose for consideration the following draft of a constitution for the Church in this diocese—to consist of the bishop, synod of clergy, and convention of laity, together forming a general diocesan assembly. In the diocese of Tasmania a similar declaration has been made on the part of the clergy, as well as upon the part of the laity. They declare that "in the administration of Church affairs in the Colony, the bishops, clergy, and laity, should have equal participation in all deliberations and judgments." With respect to New Zealand, I hold in my hand a letter to the right rev. bishop of that colony, in which an opinion is expressed, that— For the management of Church affairs in that Colony a general convocation shall be assembled of persons representing the bishops, clergy, and laity, who shall constitute an upper and a lower house. I may as well say that this letter is signed largely by the laity of four out of the six settlements in New Zealand: the Governor and the Chief Justice head the list; and I have this day presented a petition from the Canterbury Settlement, thus showing the opinions of five out of the six settlements to be in favour of the measure. Sir, too great attention cannot be paid to the opinions of the clergy and laity connected with our American Colonies. In the diocese of Montreal a meeting was held, consisting of delegates from every congregation of laymen, the bishop presiding. The result of their deliberations is thus stated:— Resolved—That it is the opinion of this meeting, that in consequence of the want of any law ecclesiastical for the government of the United Church of England and Ireland in this colony, and the acknowledged difficulty of carrying into effect any efficient system of Church discipline, it is imperatively necessary that a body should be formed with power and authority to frame and enforce laws and regulations for the government, discipline, and internal management of the Church; such powers, however, in no manner to extend to matters of truth, or in any way interfere with or alter doctrines or forms of worship; and that such body shall consist of bishops, clergy, and laity, meeting together in such manner, and exercising such functions and duties as may be hereafter by law authorised. There is only one other diocese to which time will permit that I should refer—that is, the diocese of Toronto, containing 200,000 Churchmen. They have met by lay delegates, together with the clergy and bishop, and have sent home an address, declaring in the most unequivocal terms their deep sense of the absolute necessity for the establishment of some authority of the kind. In not less than seven of these dioceses the clergy and laity have acted specifically and formally; in other cases they have substantially expressed their sentiments on behalf of the passing of some measure like the present, and stated their opinions as to the absolute necessity of being allowed to manage their own affairs among themselves. I think, too, I may fairly say the bishops of the whole of the dioceses are unanimous on the subject. The subject has also been brought under the notice of the Legislative Council in Canada; and although it has not gone out of its way to express a specific opinion on the subject, the House may judge from it of the opinions taken by persons not of the Church of England in the Colony. In their address presented to the Crown, they distinctly refer to the holding of synodical meetings of the kind, in which they express their decided conviction that the difficult questions pending between themselves and the Church would be best decided. Now I think I have fulfilled the promise which I made to the House, to show that the sentiments of the parties to be affected by this measure, have been strongly and in the most marked manner expressed. I have shown that there is a real want of some legislative measure on the subject—I have shown the present imperfection and uncertainty with respect to the existing state of the law as it affects synodical action in the Colonies—I have shown that the rights of individuals are" at the mercy of chance or caprice—I have shown the declarations which have been made in all these Colonies by the different orders in the Church; and the only question which now remains is, how is this want to be supplied? Upon that part of the question, I find that there are two opinions held. I find that there are some of the clergy, even of high rank in this country, who think that the want ought to be supplied by preparing a legislative constitution for the Church in the Colonies. I hope, Sir, that the House will well consider before it takes even the first step iii such a proceeding. I will be no party to establishing any such proceeding. I am satisfied that no man can exaggerate the evil which would attend any attempt to establish a legislative constitution for the regulation of the internal ecclesiastical affairs of the Colonies by the authority of this House. In the first place—and that, indeed, is sufficient to dispose of the whole case—I do not believe the House would entertain any such proposition. Let any hon. Member propose any such step, and I do not believe that the House of Commons would even entertain the first step in the matter. But, in the second place, the members of the Colonial Church would utterly repudiate, in my opinion, any plan so mistaken, and so detrimental to their interests; and, in the third place, I may safely predict that the people of the Colonies would be up in arms and protest in the most vehement manner against any attempt to force such a system on them. The question, then, really amounts to this—something must be done; this is admitted by all. Is it to be done by the Parliament of this country, or by these parties themselves? When I say by "these parties themselves," I ought, perhaps, to state also, the Colonial Legislatures. But I do not think they will do what the circumstances of the case require. I have heard that in one Colony—that of Tasmania—of an intention on the part of the Governor to propose something in the nature of a constitutional synod for the Colony. In Tasmania, however, the members of the Church of England constitute a very large majority of the inhabitants, and the sentiments of the people of Tasmania might possibly tolerate such a proceeding. But I think it would not he difficult to show to the House that the Colony of Canada would tolerate nothing of that kind. And when you speak of the Colony, it must not be forgotten that you speak of about two-thirds of the entire population included in the scope of this Bill. But I say that if, in Tasmania or elsewhere, public feeling is in favour of arranging the matter by colonial legislation, I do not wish to interfere to prevent them. I wish to leave the hands of the colonists perfectly free, and to establish, as I have previously said, the full and complete recognition of the principle of religious equality in the Colonies. I hope that I have made intelligible to the House the general scope and purport of this Bill. I trust, too, that I have disarmed some of the apprehensions of my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Horsman), who has spokes of a "religious revolution" in connexion with this Bill. I should be most obliged if he would point out any particular point of relation between the Church of England in the Colonies which this measure would tend to revolutionise. If I am asked if I desire that this connexion should be as close and harmonious as possible, I should say of the ecclesiastical as of the civil affairs, let that connexion be as close and harmonious as it may, but above all let it be a free connexion, in order that it may be a satisfactory and a permanent one. I beg, Sir, to move the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


said, that after the very able speech of the right hon. Member, and the lateness of the hour, it would be impossible for him to reply to it, and he should therefore move the adjournment of the Debate.

Debate adjourned till Wednesday 19th May.

The House adjourned at one minute before Six o'clock.