§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. WIGRAM
said, that though he did not wish it to be understood that he did not concur in the general views expressed by the noble Lord who had brought forward this measure, yet he was opposed altogether to the Bill in its details, and he thought it extremely undesirable that the House should read it a second time. He was as desirous as the noble Lord to render Church property as conducive as possible to the spiritual benefit of the community. The circumstances which had occurred in the country had affected Church property, like other property, and it had risen in value. Vast towns also had grown up for which no adequate provision was made in respect to spiritual purposes, and he concurred in the noble Lord's view, that where one branch of the Church was provided with more than it needed, the surplus should be applied to supply the districts where spi- 1215 ritual destitution existed. Still, he thought that there were strong reasons against the Bill. In the first place, at that late period of the Session, it was quite certain that the prosecution of the Bill could not answer any useful purpose, for it was certain that the Bill could not go further than the second reading. Another reason was, that it was well known that an existing Commission was issued by the Crown for the purpose of inquiring into the state of cathedrals and collegiate churches. The noble Lord, on introducing his measure, seemed to consider that that Commission did not exactly reach the subject of the present Bill—namely, the management of the estates; but that, he was satisfied, was an error on the part of the noble Lord, as the Commission was drawn up in the widest terms, the Commissioners being directed to inquire into the state of Cathedrals and Collegiate Churches, and "matters connected therewith." The House would recollect that there had been passed this Session an Act called the Cathedral Appointments Act, which, on the very ground that that Commission had power to inquire into the management of the estates, expressly provided that no part of a certain capitular property should be applied to the common fund until the Cathedral Commission made their Report. Another reason for not proceeding with the Bill at the present moment was, that a year or two ago an Act passed for facilitating the enfranchisement and purchase of ecclesiastical estates, and, as that Act would expire in the course of next year, the whole subject must then necessarily again come under discussion. Under all these circumstances, great inconvenience might arise from proceeding with the Bill at the present time. Besides this, he thought that there were some great objections to the Bill itself. It might be said that some of these objections referred to matters of detail; but the Bill so depended on the machinery that the objections could not be removed without the whole measure being reconstructed. The two leading objects of the Bill were to give fixed incomes to the bishops, and to transfer the property of sees and chapters to the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The proposal of fixed incomes to the bishops, as provided in the Bill, was a most objectionable one. It was not proposed to give them variable incomes, such as the clergy possessed under the Tithe Commutation Act, but to give them fixed incomes not variable at all. What the effect might be 1216 in a few years, it would be impossible to say; and in a case of this kind their legislation ought to be of a permanent character. If the Bill were to pass, it would place the annual income of the bishops in great jeopardy; for, after providing that they should have a fixed income, the 9th section required the Ecclesiastical Commission to make up the fixed amount. Now, in consequence of the great grants made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, out of a desire to carry out the objects for which they were appointed, he very much feared they were, as far as the funds of the Commission were concerned, in an embarrassed and insolvent state. The existing fund would afford no provision. Then it would be said that it was intended to transfer to the Commissioners all the property of the sees and chapters. How was it proposed to get the income out of the property? At present the income was got by granting leases and taking fines on renewal; but by the 28th clause he Commissioners were prohibited from granting leases. [The Marquess of BLANDFORD made a remark, which was understood to be in correction.] At all events, the income of the bishops depended on whether the Commissioners had funds in their hands or not. The only remedy given to the bishops for enforcing their claims, was a power given by the 13th section, to enter and receive the rents if the rent-charge were not paid; but that did not, in his opinion, include a power of taking fines on renewals. He should not detain the House by entering further on the details. With respect to the scheme generally, it proposed to transfer the whole of those estates to the Estates Commissioners for ever. By the 15th and 16th clauses it gave them inordinate powers over the disposal of those estates. It proposed to transfer all authority in the matter to a London board—a course which was not favoured by experience, though it had been tried in the case of the Woods and Forests. It was quite certain that the measure, if carried into effect, would involve those estates in large and ruinous expenses. The law expenses and the surveyors' expenses of the Church Commission last year amounted to no less than 9,732l. He could not help thinking that the present scheme threatened an enormous waste of Church property. There was no prospect that it would give satisfaction to the country, and it would be a great violation of the duty which the Members of that House, as provident per- 1217 sons, owed in this their generation to those who should come after them, if they did not maintain that great institution, the Church of England, with its property, and transmit it unimpaired to future times. If there were abuses, they might be remedied; but to any such sweeping scheme as the present he was opposed, as unnecessary. He further thought it undesirable at this time of the Session to proceed with the Bill. He did not wish to commit the House to disapprobation of its principle; and, if he could competently do so, would substitute for the Motion of which he had given notice, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, a Motion that the House do now proceed to the other Orders.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
said, it was his intention to second the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend. At the same time he was bound to own that he did not agree with his hon. and learned Friend, except in regard to the motives of his noble Friend. To the object, and to the means by which his noble Friend desired to attain that object, he was, and always had been, irreconcilably opposed. He held in his hand petitions signed by the members of ecclesiastical bodies in almost every diocese of England, expressing in the strongest terms their sense of the inexpediency of the measure and of its injustice—if injustice and inexpediency could ever be separated. The proposition of his noble Friend, if it were carried out, would have this result, at least, that the property of the oldest landowners in the kingdom (and, without disrespect to the House of Blenheim, it might be said that the property of those landowners were their's one thousand years before an acre of land could have been held by the house to which the noble Lord belonged) would be transferred wholly to the charge of three laymen sitting in London. And this was a proposal made by a member of a Commission appointed to make inquiry on the subject! Member though he was of that Commission, his noble Friend did not rise to state that he spoke the opinions of any human being but himself. That Commission had not made a Report. Whether the majority might agree or differ from his noble Friend was uncertain; but one was entitled to assume that he had brought forward the Bill on his own sole responsibility. This, then, was a Bill which took away the property of the oldest landowners in the kingdom—which, on the principle of centralisation, 1218 comprised all the management of that property in one body and in London—which Was brought forward at a time when an Act bearing on the same subject had been so recently in operation that its effects could not be divined, and when a Commission was sitting which had not yet made its Report. Independently of those considerations, which ought to be conclusive, he Sir R. H. Inglis) could not but recollect that the House last night refused to consider a Bill which had passed the House of Lords, and which was introduced into the House of Lords under the name of the most rev. Primate of all England. That Primate he held in the greatest respect; but, though the Bill came from the House of Lords—though it came with the personal weight and authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose name was on the back of it, yet the House of Commons imperatively felt that this was not a period of the Session at which we could take into consideration such a Bill, however matured it might have been by the other House of Parliament. The Bill of which the noble Lord had now moved the second reading, was the work, he verily believed, not of the Commission, but of the noble Lord himself. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) wished the question had been limited to the single point, whether the House should give a second reading to the Bill at a time when they knew that they could not bring it into law. By the second reading they would be committed in some degree to the principle; but it would be impossible to enter on the consideration of the details; and the author of the Bill, with all his parental affection for it, could not anticipate anything for it but a premature decease. Under these circumstances he should cordially second the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the cord "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.'"
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
said, that he hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. H. Inglis) had come to the same conclusion with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Wigram), but they differed very much as to the reasons for arriving at that conclusion. He must add to the number of those who differed in their reasons for taking the same course. He entirely disagreed from 1219 the hon. Member for the University of Oxford, who held that the present system was the best. It was seen every day that the system of having the learned Bishops to act as land agents to the Church was one which was excessively faulty in itself; and, if it did net expose those Prelates to temptations in dealing with their landed estates which might give rise to great scandal, still it exposed them to suspicions which were very unjust. He therefore quite agreed with his noble Friend opposite, that this was a system which required revision by Parliament. But he had great doubts whether his noble Friend had hit on the proper mode of dealing with the subject. His noble Friend did not affect to be the organ of the Commission, or assert that this Bill represented the opinion of any Gentleman except himself, or those whose names were on the back of the Bill; but he (Mr. S. Herbert) must express the opinion that, looking to the period of the Session, it was not desirable to press the second reading. He knew how anxious his noble Friend was to get the Bill read a second time, because his noble Friend thought the second reading would admit and pledge the House to the principle of the Bill. That was the very reason why he (Mr. S. Herbert) objected to the second reading. The principle, as had been remarked, appeared to be twofold. Even supposing the noble Lord right, it was impossible that Parliament could entertain any plan till the Commission of which the noble Lord was a member should have reported, and to which the consideration of the subject had been delegated. In a Bill which passed the House in the present Session—the Cathedral Appointments Bill—there was a clause directly militating against the noble Lord's Bill, because it postponed the power of transferring estates to the Commission. It was possible that the Capitular Commission might make recommendations for dealing with capitular estates; but, under all these circumstances, he (Mr. S. Herbert) hoped the noble Lord would not press the second reading. It would be with pain that he (Mr. S. Herbert) should vote against the Bill, which he should not wish to be compelled to do, knowing that it would be a matter of mortification to the noble Lord that a work on which he had bestowed so much labour, and with reference to which no one could doubt the excellent motives that actuated him, should be summarily ejected. But it would be very dangerous, he repeated, for 1220 the House, by assenting to the second reading, to pledge itself to the principle of the Bill.
§ MR. GRANVILLE VERNON
said, he gave full credit to the noble Lord for the excellence and sincerity of the motives which had actuated him in bringing forward this measure. It was well deserving of consideration, but he objected to the manner in which it had been introduced to their notice. He earnestly hoped that in a future Session Her Majesty's Government would take the subject into their own hands, and that the solution of a question of such great importance would not be left to an individual Member of that House, who, with the best intentions, must necessarily be partially and imperfectly informed. Had the noble Lord any knowledge of what the views of the clergy generally were upon this question? He (Mr. Vernon) regretted much that that House had no means of knowing in any authoritative form what those views were. It seemed strange that the Established Church was the only corporation (if he might use the term), the only body to whom the privilege was denied of deliberating and discussing its own wants and necessities. He did not, of course, wish to revive the anomalies of the old Convocation; but he believed that very unfair and unfounded impressions existed as to the objects of those who sought to call some such deliberative assembly into action. He trusted that means might yet be devised by which the Church at large, including both laymen and ecclesiastics, might be enabled to consult upon such matters as this present measure, and to give to Parliament, with all the weight of authority, a formal exposition of their opinion. He believed that if such a right were given to the members of the Church, the hands of the Queen's Government would be materially strengthened in the promotion of some really practical measure of sound and searching reform.
The MARQUESS of BLANDFORD
said, he deemed it necessary to explain some points to which the hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Wigram) had adverted in terms which might tend to prejudice the question in the minds of many persons. The first objection which the hon. and learned Member had urged against the Motion for the second reading of the Bill was, that at this late period of the Session it was impossible the Bill could pass into law, and that, therefore, it was not advisa- 1221 ble to take any step with regard to it, inasmuch as no practical advantage could result from the fact of its being advanced merely a single stage, while they might, by consenting to the second reading, be affirming a principle which they might hereafter deem it advisable to reject. Now he (the Marquess of Blandford) was of opinion that, in assenting to the second reaching of the Bill, the House would be doing no more than affirming the principle that those lands which were at present in the hands of ecclesiastics should be placed under the management of laymen; and he felt assured that the House could have no possible objection that the incomes of those connected with the Church should be secured to them in a manner which would be more befitting their spiritual character and duties than the mode in which the payment of those incomes was now regulated. The preamble of the Bill proposed that—Such arrangements should be made as to secure to archbishops, bishops, and the several members of chapters, dignitaries, and officers of cathedral and collegiate churches respectively, fixed instead of fluctuating incomes, in a manner most befitting their spiritual character.He would remind the House of the amount of time and labour bestowed at present on the management of the property to which the Bill related; and he would ask whether the arrangement which at present subsisted, or an arrangement which secured the incomes of those persons in a manner "most befitting their spiritual character," was the preferable one? The Bill also professed to provide that they should have fixed instead of fluctuating incomes. It was true that the Bill proposed to vest Church estates in the hands of the Estate Commissioners. He did not ask the House to go further than to affirm those broad and general grounds for the measure which were contained in the preamble. It was said that a Commission had been issued by the Crown, and that no further steps should be taken till a Report had been made by that Commission. He would only ask whether that was any new argument on questions of this nature; whether, whenever a question was brought forward against which it might be convenient to enter objections, the same argument was not invariably used—that a Commission was sitting on the subject, and that it was necessary to suspend all further proceedings till the inquiry of that Commission should have been completed? If the House were to be swayed by that consideration, it would be 1222 almost impossible to proceed with public business, because to arrest anything of an inconvenient tendency it would only be necessary to issue a Commission. Had there not been sufficient inquiry—were there not ample sources of knowledge on the subject of his Bill—to enable hon. Gentlemen to form their own conclusions, when conclusions had, he might say, been already formed by the great body of the public out of doors, such as acted seriously to the prejudice of the Established Church? A Commission had already reported on the subject. The Commission appointed to inquire into episcopal and capitular revenues had the whole question under its deliberate consideration, and recommended that the property should be vested for the time being in the hands of a central body, in order that the lands might be taken out of leasehold tenure and reduced to rack-rent tenure. A Bill was founded on the Report of that Commission connected with the future management of leaseholds. It embodied all the principles of management which the Commission thought it advisable to recommend. That Bill was brought into the House of Lords, referred to a Committee, and rejected by their Lordships. Another Bill omitting the whole question of management, was passed. That subject was ignored; and the Bill ultimately emanating from the Commission had reference only to the leasehold tenure of the property of the Church. If, then, there had been a Commission which had already inquired, and whose recommendations, though laid before Parliament, had not yet been adopted, where was the use of waiting for the Report of another Commission? The argument founded on the existence of a Commission was entirely set at rest by the facts which he had now stated, and which he hoped would have their due weight and influence with that House. It was stated by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Wigram), that the 13 & 14 Vict. would soon expire. But he would beg to inform the House that that Act did not involve the present question; it involved a very important question as to what should be the future character of lessors or lessees, but not the question as to who should have the management of the property. That Act had reference solely to the leasehold property of the Church, and to the mode of determining that tenure, which mulcted the Church of so much of its revenue. When that Act expired, it would be for Parliament to decide whether 1223 the principle on which it was framed should be continued, or a principle of a more compulsory nature be substituted. He differed, therefore, from the hon. and learned Gentleman, who thought that no opinion ought to be taken on the present Bill, because next year the Act of the 13 & 14 Vict. must be brought under consideration. The principle of the Bill, it had been said, was, that the bishops should have fixed incomes. Now, the hon. and learned Member said, he objected to the principle of granting fixed incomes to the bishops. Why, the fact was, the bishops had fixed incomes already, and that by the most humiliating species of legislation that could possibly be enacted. There was no Act which could more express distrust of the bishops than the Order in Council which now applied to their incomes. They were required to make a half-yearly return of income. If a fine exceeded 100l., the terms of it must be submitted to the Commissioners for approval. In certain cases, if the fine should be equal, or more than equal, to their half-yearly income, the whole might be paid to the Commissioners, who might then pay back to them that which was necessary for their lawful income. No legislation could be more humiliating to the bishops than that which at present existed. He proposed that bishops should make a half-yearly return of certain kinds of income which the Commissioners could not well collect, and then the Commissioners would pay out of the proceeds of the estates the sum necessary to supply the allotted incomes of the bishops. The Bill could not introduce a control which exceeded that maintained by the existing regulations, and at the same time it freed the bishops from all the care and distraction which the charge of large estates must bring on spiritual persons, whose attention ought pre-eminently to be paid to the growing spiritual wants of the community at a time when, year after year, population and intelligence were increasing. When such was the case, Parliament ought to take means to relieve the bishops from the cares, and more especially the secularising cares, which attended the management of estates. The hon. and learned Gentleman supposed that there would be no funds from which the incomes of the bishops might be made up. While the leases under the old tenure were being brought to a close by enfranchisement, the means at disposal were employed in buying up the leaseholds of other properties, so 1224 that properties were brought into immediate rackrent. The income of the see was not diminished, though the area of the property was curtailed, so there would be ample funds. The hon. and learned Gentleman wished to infer from a serious charge which appeared in the last Report of the Commissioners that a great deal of mismanagement had taken place. He called attention to a charge of upwards of 9,000l. for law expenses and surveying, and the inference appeared to be that the administration of the Commissioners was expensive. There was a Return which explained those charges. They were charges which were incurred at a particular time—at a time when those estates were undergoing the transition from leasehold to rackrent tenure, and large properties were sold and bought. Those charges were in themselves of the most moderate description. The sums were large, but the sums to which the charges related were also large. The solicitor's bills and others were taxed. The charges of Messrs. Pickering and Smith, including travelling expenses, were 10s. 6d. per cent. Those of Messrs. Glutton were 8s. 10d. per cent. Messrs. Clutton and Messrs. Pickering and Smith said, their remuneration for receiving rackrents and for general management was 4 per cent on the rackrents, and 5 per cent on the reserved rents, payments to local agents, and incidental disbursements. There were charges incident to the present system which did not appear in any public return, such as the Septennial Return, and which were of an onerous nature—namely, the fees paid on the renewal of leases. In 1839, evidence was given before a Committee of that House, that these ranged from six guineas to twenty guineas, and that in some cases the fees exceeded the annual value of the lease itself. The leases held under the see of Durham were 594; and if all those were renewed in one year, the sum which would be received on those leases, taking thirteen guineas as the fee on each, would amount to 7,722l., which was about 6 per cent on the amount received from the renewals. The average yearly value received from fines of all episcopal property during the last septennial period was 89,599l., 6 per cent on which amounted to 5,375l., and, with the cost of other agencies, 8,547l., the total cost of management of episcopal property would be for one year 13,922l. One mode which had been recommended for the administration of the property of 1225 the Church was to divest the bishops and chapters of all episcopal property, leaving at their disposal such a portion of the estate only as might be necessary to secure to them their allotted income. Now he would ask the House which method was most like confiscation—that which he proposed, or that to which he had just referred? It was not his intention to take from the bishops or the chapters one acre of their land. He did not propose to transfer the fee which it was of importance that those bodies should possess. All he sought was to invest the Commissioners with the power of managing their estates, and he should ask the House to consider for a moment the nature of that body to whom he proposed to entrust that power. The plan formerly applied to episcopal property was, that certain charges were affixed to episcopal incomes, and a bishop was allowed to have a margin—whatever he could make beyond that charge. Then there was an alteration—a bishop was to have an income independent of that arrangement. With respect to the plan for giving bishops certain estates which should be sufficient to give them their incomes, there would begin a system of confiscation; and it was impossible to say how far that would proceed. The Archbishop of Canterbury had now 15,000l. a year, and if all his estates were taken away except so much as would yield 15,000l. a year, another Parliament might propose to reduce the income and estates to 10,000l., and another to 5,000l. Now what was the nature of that body into whose hands he proposed to transfer the management? Parliament itself had shown time greatest possible confidence in the Estates Commissioners. They had been appointed in 1850 for time purpose of acting as a check upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and had been empowered to make Reports of their proceedings, independently of the other members of the Ecclesiastical Board. That fact was sufficient to show how great was the reliance which was reposed upon them by the Legislature. The Bill which he had the honour to submit to the consideration of the House, proposed to call that body to the exercise of still more important functions than those with which they were at present invested. It provided that they should have the power of examining witnesses upon oath respecting the value of the property with which they had to deal, and of entering upon other forms of inquiry necessary to the proper discharge of their important duties. They 1226 would, in fact, be made trustees of Church property, for the general benefit of the Church; but more especially for the advantage of the parochial clergy. Fears might be entertained by some hon. Members with respect to the operation of such a measure; but he would remind the House that similar fears had been entertained with reference to propositions which had since their enactment been productive of the most beneficial results to the Church. In the year 1836, when the first Report of the Church Commissioners had been presented by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London to that House—a Report, by the adoption of the suggestions contained in which the best consequences to this country had been produced—the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. H. Inglis) stated, that, so far as he was concerned, he would be no party to the introduction of that Report in the House of Commons, because its tendency was, he believed, such as was likely to prove fatal to the best interests of the Church. He (the Marquess of Blandford) could not help thinking that the fears of hon. Members with respect to the operation of his Bill were equally without foundation as those which had been entertained by the hon. Baronet in 1836; and he believed that the House, by giving its assent to the principle of that Bill, would be only giving an energetic response to the voice of the public—a voice which would continue to be raised to the danger of the Established Church, unless that House, even at that late period of the Session, should, by an authoritative declaration—pronounced by their assent to the Motion for the second reading of the measure before them—affirm its willingness to relieve the Church from the obloquy which had been cast upon it, and their desire to place it upon a footing more consistent with the proper discharge of the high duties for which it was destined, than that upon which it at present stood.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, that whatever difference of opinion there might be with regard to the manner in which Church property was to be dealt with, every one was agreed that the time had come when some steps should be taken to cause that property to be administered in the manner best calculated to contribute to the usefulness of the Church. Feeling that, he was obliged to his noble Friend (the Marquess of Blandford) for the care he had taken in the preparation of this 1227 Bill, and the attention be had paid to the general subject. Whatever interested parties might say of others, no one would venture to assert that his noble Friend was an enemy to the Church. His object could only be to make the property of the Church available for its legitimate purposes; and those who had objected to the precise means he had adopted, but agreed in the principle, ought not to object to the second reading of the Bill. He wished to call attention to the progress which had been made in the reform of the Church in the last two or three years. Every one was now ready to take part in that reform; but three years ago any Member of that House who took such a step was denounced as an enemy of the Church, and desirous of despoiling the Church of her revenues. It was on that ground that the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University wished the Bill to be rejected, and he said it was an evil to give fixed incomes to the episcopate body. He (Sir B. Hall), however, thought that a great desideratum, and if they had fixed incomes, and were paid quarterly, and were not continued as "Land Agents to the Ecclesiastical Commission," which was the term used by the right hon. Secretary at War, much of the obloquy which had fallen upon them would have been avoided. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Wigram) said, that if they were to receive fixed incomes, they would be in a worse position than the working clergy, who received fluctuating incomes under the Tithe Commutation Act; but he (Sir B. Hall) believed that the clergy would prefer having fixed incomes. The hon. and learned Gentleman might rest assured that both bishops and members of capitular bodies would be eventually placed upon fixed incomes, and the sooner the better, to avoid those comments on their proceedings, which bring discredit on the Church. Let him call the attention of the hon. and learned Gentleman to some cases which had been brought before the public in the newspapers. Had the hon. and learned Gentleman read a leading article in the Times of that day, where would be seen traced the progress of a reverend gentleman, from the tutorship of a bishop's son, to a prebend of that bishop's see, and from thence to the bishopric of Durham; and if the hon. and learned Gentleman would trace his proceedings up to the present time, it would be found that his conduct had been such as to bring disgrace and obloquy on the Church of which he was a member. It 1228 would be impossible that such things could be perpetrated, if the Bill of his noble Friend became law. That gentleman was formerly tutor to a Bishop of Lincoln, whose sons were the greatest pluralists in the Church; the bishop made the tutor Prebendary of Leighton Buzzard, and ran his life against leases, which fell in, and he put the living up for sale at Garraway's, where it fetched a very large sum of money. He (Sir B. Hall) believed that the reverend gentleman seldom appeared during the whole of his long incumbency, in the church of Leighton Buzzard; and the chancel, which it was his duty to keep in repair, had been in a state of dilapidation, and such was the conduct of the parish, that in 1840 or 1841, the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. H. Inglis) presented a petition with reference to the condition of Leighton Buzzard, complaining of the destitution of the parish, and the miserable state in which the clergy and the chancel were left by a gentleman who had sold the prebend for between 30,000l. and 40,000l., by public auction, at Garraway's. That was a most monstrous proceeding, mid one which never could occur again if the Bill of his noble Friend was passed. On the appointment of Dr. Maltby to the See of Chichester, he vacated the prebend; his successor put new lives into the leases, and he afterwards sold the property to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, so that a stop was put to the continuance of such things in that prebend. So far for a member of the capitular body. He (Sir B. Hall) would now trace this reverend gentleman through his various grades as a beneficed member of the Church. He became Bishop of Chichester, and was translated to Durham, in 1836. In that year an Act was passed, by which it was intended that the episcopal body should receive fixed incomes, which, however, might fluctuate slightly, and in order to meet the case of the bishopric of Durham, the Act was made retrospective, and the present prelate of that see was brought under the operation of the Act. He was to have 8,000l. a year, and the property of the see being valued at 19,200l., after giving up 2,000l. a year to the See of Ripon, he was to pay over 11,200l. to the Commissioners, and retain 8,000l. a year. The moment that was done, a correspondence ensued (which may be seen in the Parliamentary Paper, No. 400, Session 1851), which did no credit to the right reverend prelate, who was its 1229 author, and which was a trial of strength and skill between the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Bishop of Durham; the Commissioners trying to get him to pay the full sum of 11,200l., and he trying to pay less; and at length they decided that he should pay 11,200l. a year, when the Bishop intimated he should be ruined, and that he would not be able to get the income assigned to him out of the property of the see. But what had been the case? In the last year of his Septennial Return, instead of 8,000l. he got 24,000l. net income. That was not the intention; and yet he had got 24,000l. instead of 8,000l., notwithstanding his paying 11,200l. to the Commissioners, and his lugubrious lamentations that he would be ruined if he had to pay the sum demanded by the Commissioners. It was, therefore, desirable that the Episcopal body should have their incomes fixed, and not continue, as the hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge desired, with fluctuating incomes, and the power of taking more than the spirit and intention of the Legislature assigned to the sees. This subject was making great progress, and in consequence of the exposures which had been made in 1851, an Order in Council was passed, dated August, in that year, which fixed the incomes of the Bishops appointed after a certain date; but there was one provision in the Order in Council which ought to be looked into by the Government and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; and it was, that when a lease fell in, and a greater fine than 100l. was levied, it was to be approved by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. But there were rumours that leases were granted of most valuable property to friends and relations of the bishops, in which case no fines were levied, and the spirit of the Order in Council was evaded by these right rev. prelates; and in order to show that in many cases private interests were more cared for than the interests and welfare of the Church, he would mention one case more of a property at Rickmansworth, belonging to the Bishop of London, who had run his life against the leases, which fell in, and instead of the property which became available being applied to provide for the spiritual wants of the place, the Bishop, under the power he possessed, granted leases for twenty-one years to trustees for the benefit of his family, and so that property did not go to the uses of the Church, but to the family of the Bishop. This certainly was a strong case, 1230 because the Bishop had much more than 10,000l. a year, which was the income assigned to his see independent of this lease, and yet he could not resist the temptation of endowing his family instead of the Church with the property when it fell in to him. In the district of Rickmansworth, one or two churches had been built, and if the right rev. Prelate had done his duty to the Church, he would have endowed these places of worship with the property which was worth 1,500l. a year, instead of taking it away for twenty-one years for the use of his own family. If the Bill of the noble Lord had been law, this proceeding on the part of the Bishop of London could not have taken place. With regard to the management of the property of capitular bodies, he would mention one case which was worth a hundred arguments. The property of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster was of enormous value. As an instance, he would take a single street. In the street in which he (Sir B. Hall) lived, Stanhope-street, Mayfair, there were in it fifteen houses all belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, which were worth 8,000l. a year, and which he believed were rated to the relief of the poor on an assessment of nearly that value; but in consequence of the enormous fines that were levied, the Chapter received only 150l. a year from the street. The fines were of course, pocketed by the Chapter, which fines amounted to many thousands of pounds, and the real Church was deprived of the proceeds of the property, that individuals might, be enriched. He (Sir B. Hall) would not say more at present. He hoped that this Bill would be allowed to pass the second reading, or, at any rate, that the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), would give an assurance to the House that the matter would be considered by the Government during the recess, with a view to future legislation in the next Session. If that assurance was given, it would be for his noble Friend to consider whether he would press his Bill. The subject could not be forgotten, for the real friends of the Establishment were determined that matters should not remain as they now were. All he (Sir B. Hall) could say was, that in the course he had pursued in these matters, his only object was to endeavour to make the Church a blessing to the country; and he believed that its usefulness might be extended by a better distribution of its property, and by taking away from the Bishops and other Church 1231 dignitaries that temptation which they could not resist, and by which they had fallen, and placing them upon fixed instead of fluctuating incomes.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he was extremely sorry that the noble Lord opposite had not thought it proper to yield to the suggestion of his (Lord J. Russell's) right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, that he would postpone this measure until a future period. He was of opinion that it would be far better, at that late period of the Session, seeing that the measure under their consideration could not pass into law in the course of the present Session, that the noble Lord should consent to its postponement. He was the more anxious that the noble Lord should still adopt that course, because, if he should press his Motion to a division, he (Lord J. Russell) should most undoubtedly feel it his duty to vote against the second reading of the Bill, and in taking that step he might be conveying a false impression both to the House and to the country of the sentiments which he entertained with reference to the principle of the noble Lord's measure. That was a principle which he was by no means certain might not be a very fit principle for the adoption of Parliament on some future occasion. He would not now say whether or not, in his opinion, the principle was expedient for the adoption of Parliament; all he would say was, that if, at this period of the Session, the second reading of the Bill was pressed, he must, as a matter of public convenience, vote against it; and this necessity he did not wish to have forced upon him. He should not have troubled the House further on the subject, but that the hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) had made some observations which he thought it as well to correct. The hon. Member seemed desirous of conveying the impression that he had been made a martyr, a victim to obloquy on all hands, as the proto-propounder of the principle that the revenues of the Church should be applied in the manner most calculated to promote the great purposes for which the Church was established. The hon. Member was quite mistaken if he supposed that the idea originated with him. About twenty years ago, a Commission was appointed by Sir Robert Peel, then Minister of the Crown, of which the especial object was, to consider the episcopal revenues and capitular revenues, the mode in which parochial instruction was given, and the manner in 1232 which the revenues of the Church might be rendered more useful for Church purposes. That was the object of the Commission; that Commission made several Reports, and various Bills were brought into Parliament founded on those Reports; and the subject which the hon. Member for Marylebone conceived to be a new one was not quite new, and that which had exposed him to so much obloquy was discussed in 1836 and in 1837, and that principle which his hon. Friend had imagined himself a martyr by espousing, was a principle that had been adopted by a great majority of the House of Commons in those years. He (Lord J. Russell) was obliged to go back somewhat further, and to point out on what principles that House and the Government originally proceeded. The original principle to which Parliament adhered was that principle which was stated by Mr. Burke, namely, that they had no more right to inquire into the income of a bishop—mentioning as an instance the income of the Bishop of Durham—than they had to inquire into the income of an individual proprietor of large fortune. It was said that it was beyond their legislative power to interfere in such matters. But that principle, by the Report of 1835, was entirely abandoned; and it was admitted, if these revenues could be made more useful for the purposes of the Church—although life interests were to be respected—that a new application for such purposes was to be allowed. In the application of that which was then a new principle, the bishops who were then on that Commission felt very great difficulty. It was thought there was something in the new arrangement by which it might appear that the bishops were merely receiving salaries for public objects; it was thought the revenues of the bishops should still be connected with the land—that the bishops should still have the power of managing those estates, and whatever Parliament and the Commissioners might think proper to be the income of the bishops, it should be allowed to fluctuate according to the revenues and rents. It followed from the adoption of that principle, that all the bishops on the Commission pressed upon the lay Commissioners that they should be subject to fluctuation one way or the other with respect to those incomes. He would take as an instance that example which his hon. Friend had given—certainly not for the first time—and which it was always painful to him to give, namely, the case of 1233 the Bishop of Durham. He must mention, however, a circumstance that was not known to his hon. Friend. The Commissioners had laid down this principle—that the incomes were to fluctuate when they came to a certain amount; and they endeavoured to fix such an amount of property as they intended to give, but of course they frequently failed in fixing the precise amount. Some of the property gave more, some less, than the Commissioners had anticipated. The Bishop of Ely, the Archbishop of York, and some others, received less income than the Report and the Act of Parliament intended they should receive. When the bishopric of Durham became vacant, and Dr. Maltby, the then Bishop of Chichester, was appointed to that see, of course he knew nothing of it. Mr. Gressley, who had been for many years the manager of the property for the former bishop, was sent for, and the Commissioners asked him if he thought the new bishop could, out of the revenues of the see which were assumed at 21,000l. give up 2,000l. a year to the diocese of York, and pay also 11,000l. to the Commissioners; and he recollected Mr. Gressley said, that from his knowledge of the property he did not think he could pay so much, and that if he should pay so much, there was great danger the income would not be sufficient; and in justice to his family he ought to protest against paying so large an amount. It was for the Commissioners to follow the opinion of Mr. Gressley on the subject if they thought proper; but he did not convince them, and they insisted that the whole of the sum should be paid. Dr. Maltby naturally took his opinion of the value of the see from Mr. Gressley. He knew nothing of it himself; he was not to be blamed for listening to the opinion of Mr. Gressley, though it so happened that while in many instances the income fell short of that which the Commissioners decided upon, in the instance of the Bishop of Durham it very considerably exceeded it. It seemed to be an opinion prevalent with the public, that while the bishops whose incomes fell short should not receive one shilling more than the estates would give them, those receiving more should not get the benefit of it; but that, he thought, was not a fair principle, because those who received more were entitled to receive it, while those who received less received the income with the charges upon it. His hon. Friend never stated the circumstances fully, and it would be well if he looked into the cir- 1234 cumstances on the one side and on the timer; but he never attempted to diminish his fame by looking fairly into the question: however, he was happy to console his hon. Friend with the assurance that at least in future cases no such discrepancies would occur. The plan adopted by the Commissioners was, he thought, a definite plan, and his hon. Friend talked as if that plan were still in operation; but it would appear he did not recollect that it was the subject of inquiry by a Committee of that House—that measures were taken by the Government over which he had the honour to preside on the subject, and the result was that while those who took their sees under the arrangement made in 1836 had been left subject to that arrangement, because they could not properly or legally take their property from them, there had been a new arrangement made, by which each archbishop and bishop would receive the sum which Parliament had annexed to their respective sees, and would receive no more than that sum. Before the present Arch, bishop of Canterbury, who came within the new arrangement, was appointed, he had himself had an interview with the most rev. Prelate, who expressed not only his concurrence, but his wish that his income should be neither more nor less than what Parliament had assigned to the sec, his feeling being, that Parliament having, in its wisdom, affixed a certain amount as the just income of the see, it would not be satisfactory to him to receive any larger amount than that which had been thus deliberately determined upon by the Legislature. With regard to the Archbishop of York, he believed he was not subject to that arrangement; but he had understood that he had since voluntarily come into that arrangement, and he likewise received an income as settled by Parliament. He believed that in all future cases, by the arrangement made by the Estates Commissioners under the authority of the Act of Parliament, each archbishop and bishop would receive the amount which Parliament had ordered to be affixed to his see, and neither more nor less; so that source of complaint would be entirely removed. There was a question in what amount the sums should be paid, and that was a question between the noble Lord's Bill and the arrangement that at present existed. He thought it was a question for Parliament hereafter to consider, and he owned he had not himself looked very strictly and attentively to the working of the system as it 1235 was at present adopted. He remembered an objection had been made on the ground that the revenues would not receive the same attention as formerly; but that objection was removed, because the Church Estates Commissioners had power to superintend the grant of leases and the disposition of property, so that they could forbid the granting of any leases. He was not satisfied that it would be an improvement to alter the system, however much it might be a fit subject for consideration. The complaint which the hon. Member had made against the Bishop of London, with respect to certain church property at Rickmansworth, was not quite fairly stated. Some time since, when the question was raised in that House, the Bishop of London sent him a statement as to what he had done with the property, and though he (Lord J. Russell) did not remember the particulars, it appeared to him that the Bishop of London had acted very fairly and justly. Having made that statement, he should be sorry if he did not think there was still a chance of inducing the noble Lord to withdraw the Bill. The noble Lord deserved very great credit for introducing the subject, and he (Lord J. Russell) was far from saying that the principle of the Bill might not be a principle that Parliament might hereafter adopt; but he should be sorry to come now to a decision on the point, and he should be sorry if that decision should appear to be more adverse to the noble Lord's proposition than he (Lord J. Russell) should wish it to be.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, he cordially concurred in awarding to the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock all praise for the zeal, industry, and ability he had displayed in bringing forward this measure; and if the noble Lord, instead of following the advice of the noble Lord the Member for London, should think it right to go to a division, he had not the slightest hesitation in saying that he should vote for the second reading of the Bill; for although it was in vain to expect that it could be carried through this Session, it was still of some importance to have the sanction of that House, if possible, to the principle of the Bill now, and then to have it circulated throughout the country in the recess, with a view to its reintroduction next Session. The noble Lord (the Marquess of Blandford) had stated that he thought he had succeeded in convincing the House and the public that there would be no confiscation either of episcopal or capitular property by 1236 this Bill. He wished the noble Lord had gone a little further, and shown that neither would there be any confiscation of the property of Church leaseholders. He hoped that this would not be the case; though he should like to have seen the point made more clear than it was. The fourth clause was the pivot upon which the principle of the Bill required amendment. It involved the just rights of those laymen who were the holders of church and ecclesiastical leaseholds. He desired to see all church property placed in the hands of the Church Estate Commissioners, in whose judgment he could confide.
The MARQUESS of BLANDFORD
said, that after the strong feeling which had been expressed on this subject by hon. Members, and really out of respect to the House of Commons, whom he did not wish to see expressing an opinion adverse to the great principle of the Bill—particularly as he believed many Members were really inclined to support it, although they objected to his proceeding with it at this late period of the Session—for these reasons he should not proceed any further with the Bill at present. At the same time he was glad to say he had obtained the permission of the Government to lay the same Bill on the table of the House, without opposition, at an early period next Session.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.