HC Deb 21 June 1854 vol 134 cc427-75

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, he was at a loss to understand how church rates in England differed from the vestry cess in Ireland, which the force of public opinion had compelled Parliament to repeal. This was no longer a Dissenting question—it was a question of civil politics; and it had risen up to that magnitude that it was impossible to put it down. One-third of the people of England had already relieved themselves by majorities from the payment of these rates, and it was impossible that any measure of mere compromise could be satisfactory to those who had so relieved themselves. Two-thirds of the population were in favour of total abolition, and the pressure of the borough constituencies upon the Legislature must ultimately have its effect. There was nothing in Scripture upon which they could rest the defence of a system which ought to be denounced and annihilated. It was not the function of the State to teach religion, and he believed it was only by means of the voluntary principle that religion could be effectually diffused. Viewing the matter purely in a political light—without any reference to religion—he thought that such a state of things ought no longer to exist. It was against every principle of political justice that a small minority should tyrannise over a majority in this manner. But when the religious element was taken into consideration, there was another reason why this impost should cease. It was an assumption of religious supremacy for the Church of England to require Dissenters to pay towards the support of that Establishment, and it was idle to talk of religious equality and toleration when such a state of things continued. Many cases had come under his consideration showing the injurious working of this system. In one instance a member of the Society of Friends had been put to the expense of 5l. 13s. 8d, to enforce a demand of 16s. 8d. In another case, which had lately been brought before the House, two persons had been incarcerated and handcuffed for a paltry rate of ls. 8d. This was not the way for the Church to make itself beloved or reverenced by the people of this country, and for the sake not of any particular sect, but of religion itself, he trusted that this Bill would be carried by a large majority.


Sir, upon the first reading of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets it met with hostility from two remarkable opponents: the one, an hon., learned, and able Member of this House, distinguished as a strenuous supporter of ecclesiastical abuses in every varied form which they present, and whom we saw last Session baffled in his ineffectual attempt to fix a stigma upon the Dissenting body, and perpetuate upon the members of the Anglican Church the impost which we are endeavouring to abolish; the other, the noble Lord the President of the Council, who, in a speech in accents of despair, which taught us that the days of church rates are at an end, lamented his abortive attempts to effect a compromise of this much-vexed question, and bewailed the obduracy of that Nonconformist party, whose ill-grounded confidence has so often wafted him to office. But both the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock and the noble Lord have yet to learn that there is a by no means unimportant section of their countrymen in communion with the Church of England, believing in her vitality and confirmed in that belief from the circumstance that she has survived that influence which has destroyed great political combinations, namely, the connection and advocacy of the noble Lord—a party who feel humiliated by the reflection that any portion of the support of their Church should be exacted from reluctant hands, and who regret that the bright orthodoxy of her doctrine should be so far sullied by the impurity of her discipline.

The noble Lord has been compelled to admit that the material support of the Church would be in no wise prejudiced by the operation of this Bill; but he adds that concession gives birth to a demand for concession, and that in case this measure was suffered to become law, other important privileges of the Church would be indefensible. I am willing to grant the last postulate of the noble Lord; but does he suppose for one instant that by effecting the purposes of this Bill those privileges can become more indefensible than they are at present? Is the state of the Church of England such as to inspire Churchmen themselves with enthusiasm on her behalf? And does the noble Lord think that the lost affections of a people can be regained by the maintenance of an extortion, unjust in principle, and oppressive in execution—that the people of Hampshire will become more attached to the Establishment through the incarceration at Winchester of labourers earning less than nine shillings and sixpence a week, not from unwillingness, but from absolute inability to comply with her demands—or that the Dissenters of Dorsetshire will return more readily to her bosom on account of the chief magistrate of the borough, which I have the honour to represent, having been thrice subjected to distress of his effects on account of his refusal to maintain that which, perhaps, in his conscience, he believes to be an obnoxious heresy?

The reformation of the Church is a question upon which no sincere Churchman would desire a compromise; through a continued system of compromise she has lost not only the respect of the people, but even that ecclesiastical action necessary to her well-being. Local as the most unimportant municipal institution, an Anglican propaganda is unknown. Simony has corrupted the character of her priesthood, and estranged them from cures with whom they have no sympathy, and though, through the munificence of an older Church and the piety of its prelates, they inherit edifices gorgeous in architecture and sublime in contemplation, the moral structure of a nation's mind, which it was their duty to embellish and adorn, has, by them, been utterly disregarded.

The noble Lord speaks of compromise, nothing but compromise. I should have thought that, from the moment the noble Lord placed over the clergy of the see of Hereford a prelate whose orthodoxy they more than suspected, and whose person they somewhat less than despised, he had had enough of compromise in matters ecclesiastical. The noble Lord has not hitherto been fortunate in his compromises. He occupies his present position by virtue of a compromise; and although, perhaps, time may soften, or charity forgive, his desertion, for the cause of expediency, of those great principles of progress which once rendered his name dear to his countrymen, I tell him that, by paltering with matters such as these, he so deeply perils his reputation that, forgetting the bright promise of his earlier life in the wavering and uncertain shadows of his political present, his biography will form a calamitous page in his country's history, in which he shall be remembered as a Minister of such infirmity of purpose that he could neither oppose with dignity nor advocate with sincerity.


said, he did not intend to follow the hon. Gentleman that had just resumed his seat through his very discursive statement, but would purpose rather to address himself to the subject under discussion. He had not had the good fortune of being present when the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) obtained leave to introduce this Bill. He confessed, however, that it was with very great surprise he found that the hon. Gentleman had obtained leave to bring in a Bill which, according to his view, was unjust in principle, and was as inconsistent with political wisdom as it was with Christian charity. He believed if there was one thing more important just now than another for that House to consider it was, how it could best continue to the people of England those advantages of religious instruction which the Constitution had given to them. If they were properly grateful for the blessings they had hitherto enjoyed, they ought to make every effort to retain that system of religious instruction in all its integrity; and they ought to pause ere they seized upon the moment when the country was involved in war to abandon an arrangement from which the people of England had derived so many special advantages. He was not, however, prepared to say that the present law did not require some alteration and amendment; on the contrary, he was satisfied, after the struggle which had been raised throughout the country, that its amendment 1N-as a task worthy of any one to undertake. On the other hand, he was not insensible of the difficulties by which the case was surrounded, and if he wanted confirmation of that view he had it in the speeches of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt), who told the House that it was not a question of resistance upon pecuniary grounds—but that the abolition of church rates was the fulcrum by which he wished to establish the principle that in this country the State ought to be dissevered from the Church—and that the proceedings of the House of Commons were to be conducted without any reference to those Christian principles upon which, as a nation, this country had so uniformly relied. But in holding that language lie was quite aware that the hon. Gentleman was only re-echoing opinions held before a Committee of that House some three or four years ago. That Committee was told by a gentleman that this church-rate question was only "a means to an end," and that the question of the abolition was raised because men were persuaded that they thereby were applying themselves to the best means by which their great ultimate object would be attained, namely, the disseverance of religion from the State. Before that Committee, the gentleman who originated the! proceedings in the Braintree case, and a large manufacturer, was called as a witness, and when he was asked what would he do for the religious instruction of those in his employment in case of the rates being abolished, his answer practically was, that he would leave them to find it where best they could. So that here was a person who admitted that he had a large number of persons in his employment, and for whom no religious instruction was afforded except that offered by the parish church, who yet felt he was justified, upon the principles and for the reasons urged by hon. Members in this discussion, in neglecting the spiritual welfare of his servants, and withholding from them all opportunity of attending religious worship. Much, however, had been said by the hon. Member for Southwark and others as to the manner in which the consciences of Dissenters were affected by contributing to church rates. Now it was very difficult for any man to prescribe limits as to what were the obligations of conscience. But he must say, to read through the evidence before that Committee, and to take the opinions of gentlemen themselves, one would come most naturally to the conclusion that the obligations of conscience in the matter were very slight indeed. For it was stated by witnesses that this feeling of conscientious objection operated so very differently that if they were deterred on such grounds from contributing to church rates, by an application of the same principle to other rates, it would end, not merely in the overthrow of church rates, but in the overthrow of other rates, which, in the opinion of Dissenters themselves, were essential to carry on the civil administration of the kingdom. Now, let the House observe what the first witness called before the Committee stated. He declared that he really entertained conscientious objections to the payment of church rates. He was then asked "to what sect he belonged," and he said, "I am a Dissenter; but I do not hold myself attached to any particular sect. Probably I would be a Quaker, but for the 'thee,' the thou,' and the coat" if he (Mr. Goulburn) had been a Member of the Committee he certainly should have been inclined to have asked the witness if it was not very strange that he should be deterred from joining a body whose principles he professed to admire, because there was some want of grammatical accuracy in their language and some curious eccentricities in their dress. However, the witness went on to say that, "after all, he believed his objection against the tax was a pocket objection." There was a great deal of other curious evidence on the subject; and amongst the other witnesses there was a most respectable gentleman, a member of the Society of Friends, who told the Committee, in reply to a question whether he did not feel equal objection to the payment of rates which were levied for the purpose of carrying on war—"That, most conscientiously, the principle of his sect was universal peace; but, at the same time, he did not feel any objection to war taxes, because they were merged in the general revenue of the State, but were thence applied to the purposes of war." And he concluded by saying—"But if he were called upon to convey a quantity of military baggage, he should find it impossible, consistently with his principles, to comply with such an order." He thought the House would agree with him that it was quite evident, that if Parliament were to consent to legislate whenever conscientious objections were entertained, it would be quite impossible to meet all the cases that would arise, and that they would run the risk of involving themselves in difficulties quite as great, if not lunch greater, than those already felt. For example, there were certain sects that undertook to provide for the maintenance of their own poor; and what, therefore, could be more just than for them to come forward, in case the doctrine of hon. Gentlemen were accepted, and say, "Because we maintain our own poor we ought to be exempted from all share in the maintenance of the poor attached to other persuasions?" For himself he confessed he saw no distinction on principle between the man who refused to pay church rates be! cause he entertained conscientious scruples to doing so, and the man who objected to the maintenance of poor who were not his co-religionists. To come to the real question with respect to church rates, and what would be the effect of their removal, he might be allowed to state that, according to the Dissenters themselves, the poorer classes belonged to the Established Church. Mr. Terry, a respectable solicitor, and himself a Dissenter, told the Committee the truth. He said, in the course of his examination— Dissent is the religion or the middle classes. The Church takes the highest and the lowest, the richest and the poorest; we take a medium, so that we have not the excessive poor amongst us. So that the church rate was levied in order to give the poor a right of free admission to a place of worship, in order that the poor might have the benefit of religious instruction. Therefore they might rest assured they could not operate more prejudicially for the interests of the very class over whom the Dissenters said they were unable to exercise any useful jurisdiction, than by abolishing a rate which would prevent them from having a free access to religious instruction, and which he, for one, would never consent to deprive them of. However, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt) told the House that there was no provision in the Gospel ordering the payment of church rates. Now what were the two great principles inculcated upon them throughout the whole of the holy writings? Why, the first was, that they were to take care of the temporal interests of the poor, and to provide for them, each according to his ability; while the other great principle was, that they were to preach the Gospel, to the poor. Then he would ask them, did they not violate one of the obligations inculcated by the Gospel, by abolishing the only means provided by the State for the religious instruction of the poor, although perhaps it might not expressly enjoin church rates to be paid? Nor could he in his conscience persuade himself that it was desirable for Dissenters to withdraw from the poor the gratuitous instruction afforded to them by the Church of England. He was quite aware, indeed, they had suggested that pew-rents might be made to supply the place of church rates. But let him ask these Gentlemen what did pew-rents imply but the exclusion of the poor from religious worship altogether? Again it was said that the maintenance of religious worship for the poor would in such a case devolve upon the richer members of the Church of England. But that, it should be remembered, was the argument of Gentlemen who opposed the introduction of the Poor Law. They said, why have a Poor Law at all, when you can place the support of the poor upon the benevolence of the country? But this would have occurred if such a view had been followed, that every niggardly churl who valued his pocket more than his religious obligations would have withheld his subscription, and allowed an increased burden to fall upon those who were not unmindful of the precepts of religion. They could not, therefore, depend upon the continuance of that degree of benevolence which should supersede the necessity of a general rate; and besides it was only just to the charitable members of the community to compel those who were animated by a contrary feeling to contribute towards a duty which was incumbent upon all. He was far from saying that a remedy might not be found for some of the evils which attended the levying of church rates. That those rates were intended to be an obligation upon property there could be no doubt, and the only means by which it had been evaded arose from the uncertainty and complication of the law. No man could render the State greater service than by undertaking the settlement of this question undeterred by those difficulties, and prepared to make some arrangement by which the poor might yet have religious instruction afforded to them. He believed that such a settlement would not be obtained by this Bill, and therefore begged to move that it be read a second time this day six months.


said, he begged to second the Motion just made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn). It certainly could not possibly be expected that he should support the further progress of a measure which unconditionally went to abolish the fabric of the Established Church of this kingdom. He had heard with very great pleasure the speech just delivered to the House, and first of alt on account of the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had disposed of some samples of what were termed conscientious objections to church rates; secondly, he rejoiced to have heard him, because he announced that the difficulties of dealing with this complicated system were such as to demand some effort on the part of the Government of the country to effect their adjustment. Practically it might be held that, as the law had been interpreted, church rates might be withheld by the refusal of the majority of the ratepayers to vote them; for a judgment hall been given by the highest tribunal of the realm which left the minds of the public under that impression. [Mr. R. PHILLIMORE expressed his dissent.] However, if the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Tavistock was of a different opinion he was sure the House would be very glad to hear what his interpretation was as to the real state of the law, and such an exposition would greatly assist churchwardens in their efforts to collect these rates. Now it had been stated by an hon. Member on that side of the House—by his noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), on a former occasion, that church rates were repealing themselves, and, therefore, that it was high time that that House should take steps to declare that they should no eager be levied. However, he (Mr. Liddell) was sorry to say he entirely differed from his noble Friend as to such a conclusion, and if he explained to the House the circumstances under which the rate was rejected in Liverpool, perhaps hon. Gentlemen would see that these cases of refusal to pay the rate did not supply as strong an argument for the measure of the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) as was at first sight imagined. But first he would ask, supposing even that church rates were substantially and really refused in certain cases, where large towns were concerned, what became of the 10,000 country parishes where they were still cheerfully paid? and were they, therefore, to see churches going to ruin, and the services of religion, inefficiently performed all over the country, on account of the abolition of these rates, because some few instances might be alleged where large communities had refused, by larger or smaller majorities, to levy the rate? Church rates were collected, if not under the Statute law, at least under the old common law of the land, and, therefore, they could not refuse to have them levied without cutting away the resources long since, even in days before the Reformation, furnished for the support of religion. Now, the case of Liverpool, to which allusion had been made, was this—and as it was most important that no mistake should be made in reference to a town so remarkable for its attachment to Protestant principles as Liverpool, he would beg to read to the House a statement which had been forwarded to him by the rector of one of the parishes, the Rev. Mr. Campbell. The statement was as follows— The church rate was refused in Liverpool under peculiar circumstances, indicating some indifference, perhaps, on the part of Churchmen, but not indicating any such decided change of mind on the subject as is made to appear. Anciently the parish of Liverpool was a township, in the parish or Walton, and was made a separate parish by 10 & 11 Will. c. 10. Two rectors were appointed, and a money payment assigned to them in lieu of ancient church dues, and they were to have parsonage houses and gardens. These were again commuted by 2 Geo. III. c. 65, for a further money payment, and by subsequent Acts in the same reign two other churches were built and money incomes assigned to the ministers. All these money payments were to be paid out of a parochial rate levied on the ratepayers, excluding 5l. householders. By 1 & 2 Vict. C. 98, the rectory was consolidated, and after the first vacancy there is only to be one rector, with a payment of 400l. per annum and fees, and four curates with 30l. a year a piece. And here he would pause to ask hon. Gentlemen, was not a payment of 400l. a year a most modest stipend for any one undertaking the spiritual superintendence of such a community as that of Liverpool. But the rev. gentleman continued— These moneys are raised by a parochial rate, and all this is by Statute law. In Liverpool, therefore, there ought always to have been two rates—one, the parochial rate for the maintenance of the clergy under Statute; the other, the ordinary church rate, for the repair of the parish churches and the expenses of public worship. But, for convenience sake, only one rate was laid, and this rate was in practice voluntary, because no parishioner who refused to pay was ever compelled to pay by legal process. This practice, certainly, Was neither strictly legal, nor very fair to these who did pay; and therefore last Easter two rates were laid—one of 2d. for the parochial rate secured by Statute, and another of ¾d. for the ordinary church rate. The opponents of the rate took advantage of this proposition, and persuaded the parishioners that they were not fairly treated. They had never paid more than 2¾d. why should they pay 2¾d. The reason of this advance was, that there was an arrear of 3,000l. for the payment for a new cemetery recently purchased. The parishioners, however, either did not, or did not choose, to understand the reason why there should be two rates, and why any additional rate should be proposed. The opponents were active and well organised, The Church people were not organised, and were, I am afraid, somewhat supine and indifferent as to viceroy defeat; for I never can believe for one moment that a community so attached to Protestant principles, and such regular attendants at religious worship, could be influenced by such a sordid motive as that of withholding a rate for the mere object of keeping the money in their own pockets. That, Sir, is an imputation which I will never permit myself to believe for one moment of so high-minded and generous a community. However, out of about 12,000 ratepayers only 2,611 voted—1,037 for, and 1,574 against, the additional rate; and so it was lost. Now, he was happy to say that, although the rate had not been levied, no ill feeling had been evoked, while the energies of the Church bad been very much developed, and that on a future occasion, having been awakened to a proper sense of duty, the people of Liverpool would carry triumphantly the imposition of the rate, for carry it they could if they pleased. He believed that the principle of church rates was not so unpopular in the larger parishes as to be accounted in a state of oscillation. In conclusion he would only say that he believed he expressed the sentiments of the House generally in declaring that the adjustment of this question was eminently to be desired. And he trusted the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) would undertake the task, because he thought the noble Lord was impressed, as much as any man in the country, with a conviction that it was necessary to maintain the Established Church, which, ever since the Reformation, had been the mainstay and prop of the religious institutions of the country. He believed that the maintenance of the Established Church was essential for upholding the religions peace of the kingdom; and if the Church were disassociated from the State, such jealousies would spring up amongst the different sects as to endanger the safety of the community at large, and be most detrimental to the interests of true religion. As the representative, then, of a community second to none in the world for its commercial importance and for its attachment to Protestant and Conservative institutions, he cordially seconded the of the Amendment of his right hon. Friend.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."


said, as a Dissenter, he could not refuse to support the Motion for the second reading of the Bill; but at the same time he could assure the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goulburn) that in doing so his earnest desire was to allay that bitterness which had so long pervaded the feelings of the different sects throughout the country, and to remove the impediments which stood in the way of their exercising a spirit of Christianity towards each other. He could assure him that he had no wish but for the prosperity of the Church, of which he had never, although a Dissenter, spoken with an adverse feeling, ever acted with an unfriendly bias. His only object was, that the Church might become more pure, and becoming more pure, might become more useful. For as the law officers of the Crown had recognised it as the proper interpretation of the existing law that a rate could not be struck without the consent of a majority of the ratepayers, it would end in the spectacle of all the larger parishes refusing the rate, and then these could come forward as auxiliaries of the smaller parishes, and aid them to bring about the rejection of the rate. It was his conscientious belief that nothing would consolidate and strengthen the Christian feeling of this country more than the abolition of church rates. Instead of such a measure tending to impair the Church, it would in his opinion, on the contrary, strengthen it. It would be the means of softening the asperities of those who had separated themselves from the Church. He begged to express his gratitude to the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) for the great courage he had manifested in declaring his opinion against the maintenance of church rates, with the knowledge that they were supported and sustained by so large a party with which he was politically connected. He could not but admire the sagacity of the noble Lord in seeing that this burden must ultimately be removed, and in endeavouring to effect the abolition of those rates in a just and Christian spirit—a question which, if not so treated now, would one day be carried in a spirit by no means so amiable or desirable. He (Mr. Ball) confessed himself to be an humble supporter of the Earl of Derby, who was, he considered, one of the ablest men in the country. He admired the noble Earl now as much as ever he did in his life. Well, what did the Earl of Derby say upon this subject in 1837? The noble Earl said— I am ready to acknowledge that church rates as they stand form to Dissenters a serious and substantial grierance."—[3 Hansard, xxii. 1035 (April 21, 1834).] He (Mr. Ball) was really and sincerely Conservative in his opinions, and he believed that those principles were most conducive to the interest and maintenance of this great nation in reference to those great attributes that distinguish it from all other nations. He was exceedingly sorry that, as a Conservative, he should hold opinions on this subject which were distasteful to a great attributes that distinguish it form all other nations. He was exceedingly sorry that, as a Conservative, he should hold opinions on this subject which were distasteful to a great portion of that Conservative party with whom he generally acted. He, however, thought that the adoption of the principle which he contended for upon this question would tend rather to strengthen than to weaken the general principles of that party. Who were the Dissenters of this kingdom, and what had they done? First of all, they were the founders of one of the grandest and most beautiful systems that had ever gladdened any nation upon earth—they were the founders of the Sunday-school system. There were at present shout 300,000 Sunday-school teachers, and 2,000,000 of scholars taught by them, and in every place promoting education. The Dissenters were, therefore, entitled to the attention and consideration of Parliament. They were also the great promoters of Missionary Associations, of Bible Societies, and of Missions to the poor in all countries. But they had another great claim upon the attention of the House, from the facts disclosed in the official Census recently published. By those returns he found that, on the particular Sunday specified, there were 3,110,782 Protestant Dissenters present at their various religious houses of worship; while the number of Church of England persons at their houses of worship was only 2,971,258. There were 249,389 Roman Catholics at worship on the same occasion, and 24,000 belonging to other religious persuasions. The number of the Dissenters attending divine worship, therefore, justified them in their application for the special consideration of this House. The Census Report further stated, that there were in the country 14,014 churches belonging to the established religion; while there were as many as 20,390 Dissenting churches frequented on the Lord's Day. If Dissent, notwithstanding the disadvantages in its way, had increased so much up to the present time, what, he asked, was it likely to increase to in twenty years hence? He believed that it would go on swelling and augmenting in a much greater ratio, and he considered that the true policy of this country was to use its mighty power in removing all causes of contention and heartburning, and of blending up harmoniously, with the Church of England, the national feelings of all portions of the people. But it was alleged by some persons that, if church rates were abolished, the people would not be able to build or repair the churches in villages. Let him ask them how was it that, in every village, they found at present either a school or a chapel? He would remind them of the number of churches that were built upon the voluntary principle, and of the fact that 1,500,000l. was paid to those who occupied their pulpits. There was an immense revenue for the maintenance of the churches belonging to the established religion of the country, and yet some of the followers of that Church said that, if they took away church rates, those places of worship would soon become dilapidated. Now, he did not believe anything of the kind. And, if he did believe it, it would only be upon the conviction that the Dissenters cared much more for religious worship than Churchmen—that they communicated more instruction to the poor—that they promoted, in a greater degree, the glory of God, and voluntarily contributed more towards the building of places of divine worship than the members of the Established Church, with all the means and appliances afforded them by the State. Wherever church rates were prevented and forbidden, there was found no difficulty whatever in raising sufficient funds for the maintenance and repair of churches. They must, therefore, make up their minds to abolish church rates, or be prepared for perpetual strife and ill-will. Nothing embittered strife so much as a difference in religion. There was no strife which they should avoid more than religious strife, because nothing was more inconsistent with the principles of one common creed. For the sake of religion generally, he called upon them to give up this little church claim—a claim which, by the decision of lawyers, was proved to be very questionable. He believed that there were many men who, in supporting the continuance of this system of church rates, were influenced by the purest principles, and acted from what they considered to be a strict sense of duty. Such a sense of duty influenced Paul when on his road to Damascus. He recollected reading of an observation made not in Westminster Abbey, but in Westminster Chapel, not by the Bishop of Westminster, but a bishop in Westminster (Rev. Samuel Martin), in the course of a public lecture— Let it be remembered that Paul acted from a sense of duty when he did many things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth. The lecturer added— It was from a sense of duty that Sambo flogged Uncle Tom to death, and from the same sense of duty that Tom prayed for his murderers. The question then arises, duty to whom? duty to what? Whence comes this sense of duty, and how far is it to be trusted? We believe that a Christian may do a more unlawful act from a sense of duty than the most ignorant and depraved of mankind. Now, he (Mr. Ball) concurred most cor- dially with those sentiments. He believed that although many persons were found to support the principle of church rates from their strict sense of duty, yet at the same time he was of opinion that they tended to subvert the principles inculcated by the Great Founder of Christianity, when He told them to love one another, and to be influenced by Christian charity in all things.


said, that many of the arguments used by the supporters of the Bill, in the course of the discussion, were, in his opinion, irrelevant to the subject. In spite of the repeated discussions this subject had undergone, there were still many persons but imperfectly acquainted with the state of the law in relation to it. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last seemed to think that the decision of the House of Lords had placed it beyond doubt that the repairs and maintenance of a parish church could not legally be enforced in opposition to the vote of a majority of the vestry. He (Mr. R. Phillimore) denied that the law had been so laid down, and Mr. Baron Parke on the Braintree case distinctly and emphatically declared that the decision given upon that case did not alter the legal obligation upon the parishioners to maintain and repair the parish church. Lord Truro subsequently stated, when the case was before the House of Lords, that some of of the points most material to the decision were not in question, inasmuch as it was admitted that the parishioners of every parish were under an imperative legal obligation to provide for the necessary repairs of the church, and for the expenses incidental to public worship. Could it, then, be contended that, the House of Lords having declared that there was an imperative legal obligation, the law gave no means of putting that legal obligation in force? Did the highest tribunal in the country mean to enunciate an unmeaning and ridiculous proposition of law? He did not pretend to offer a positive opinion as to how the law was to be carried into effect, but certainly no legal obligation could exist without a legal remedy. He denied the assertion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) and other hon. Gentlemen, that since the decision upon the Braintree case no church rates to any considerable extent had been made in the country, and hardly any at all in large and populous towns. From two returns which he had recently obtained, he found that in the archdeaconry of Middlesex and London alone no less than fifty- nine church rates had been made, in many cases without opposition, since the date of the Braintree case, and they were in the most populous places, as, for instance, in Greenwich. There was one other point to which he was desirous of calling attention. Hon. Members called upon this House to lay down the principle that persons were to be relieved from their contribution to the national Church upon the ground of their contribution to the national Church upon the ground of their conscientious dislike to the doctrines of that Church. Certainly he had always understood that the main argument urged by the Dissenters for their exemption was, that their dislike was founded upon their conscientious objections to support a Church the doctrines of which they did not approve, and the services of which they did not attend; but if this rule were laid down in England, in what manner was the adjoining country of Scotland to be dealt with? A principle of conscientious objection good upon the south, would not be bad upon the north of the Tweed. The law of Scotland upon this subject was a law which the Dissenters in this country would think tyrannical and abominable. In Scotland, if upon application the heritors refused to make a church rate, and to rebuild a church when it had fallen down, the Presbyters had the power of compelling them to make those rates and to rebuild churches, notwithstanding the difference of their doctrines and creeds. Indeed, it appeared from a work upon the subject by the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop), that if the Presbytery found a new church was wanted, they were entitled to determine what amount of accommodation should be afforded, and, in estimating the population for which church accommodation might be required, Dissenters were included as well as members of the Established Church, because they refused to recognise the legal existence of Dissenters. He had no doubt that the Scotch Presbyterian Members who so earnestly supported this Bill would, upon their own principles, with equal correctness, advocated the exemption of Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, and Free Church Dissenters in Scotland; but then the Bill ought to extend to Scotland, whereas the mover had carefully provided that it should not do so. To all who were members of the Established Church, the law relating to a church rate had much to recommend it. There was the antiquity and the equality of the imposition; and the manner of voting it, it being a self-imposed tax by a majority of the parishioners; but, inasmuch as a very different state of things existed now from the time when church rates first became law, he thought that something ought to be done in the way of a settlement of the question. He would repeat the vote he had given last year upon the subject. He would do his utmost to relieve Dissenters from all payment of church rates in this country, because, while he admitted the existence of a legal obligation on all to contribute to the repairs of the churches, he nevertheless could not shut his eyes to the fact that the Dissenters had an equitable title to be relieved from the burden. If this measure proposed to relieve Dissenters exclusively from all payment of church rates, he would give it his warmest support; but he objected to the present Bill because it would not only relieve Dissenters, but Churchmen themselves, from the payment of those rates. He contended that those who used the Church had a right to pay those rates. No man was more anxious than himself that this fertile source of strife and contention should be removed, and whenever a measure was proposed that would relieve Dissenters alone from the burden he would be prepared to give it his hearty support.


said, that, on the present occasion, they approached this question under great advantage, inasmuch as there was a general acknowledgment on all sides that the system of church rates required improvement. If it were not admitted by all that they were a great anomaly and grievance, it was at least admitted by all, not only that the law in respect to them was in such a condition as to require some more satisfactory settlement of the matter, but that the time was come when it was the duty of the Government to meet practically the evils of the question. The Government, however, did not seem to think that they could deal with the question in such a manner, and with such a prospect of success, as would justify them in giving a promise to introduce a measure into Parliament upon the subject. The first difficulty connected with church rates was the practical question of the enforcement of the law. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last appeared to think that there was no difficulty in this respect, and that there were means of enforcing this legal obligation on the part of the parishioners. He (Mr. Horsman) had always understood that there was both the power and the legal obligation in existence; but the difficulty they laboured under was, that there were no means of discovering what was the precise mode by which that poster was to be put in operation. He held in his hand the evidence given by one of the highest authorities in the country upon this subject, before a Committee of that House, which had sat about two years ago—he alluded to Dr. Lushington. That learned gentleman admitted that the obligation existed. On being asked this question— If the order front the Ecclesiastical Court be disobeyed, what would be the consequence of the refusal? Dr. Lushington said— If the power of the Ecclesiastical Court is properly put in motion, and that no mistake is made by the professional men who are endeavouring to compel the parishioners to repair the church, I believe that the Court has the power of enforcing the obligation; but considering that those proceedings are now obsolete for 150 or 200 years, I think that there is a great chance that there may he a miscarriage for want of form, so that the power of the Ecclesiastical Court could never be called into complete effect. Dr. Lushington is asked this further question— If a person were determined to be litigious, and to raise every possible obstacle to the process of law, is it not conceivable and possible that the cause might be carried from the magistrates to the Consistory Court—from the Consistory Court to the Court of Arches—from the Court of Arches to the Court of Queen's Bench—from the Court of Queen's Bench to the Exchequer Chamber—from the Exchequer Chamber to the house of Lords—then back again to the Ecclesiastical Courts, and ultimately to the Privy Council? The answer was— There is no doubt whatever that such might be the case. The Braintree case did more than follow that course; for it has been twice in the Court of Queen's Bench. He (Mr. Horsman) came now to the next point—namely, the principle of church rates. The principle of church rates was not that everybody should contribute to the repair of the church because it was a State Church established by law, but because it was a Church to which originally the whole nation belonged. While the people of this country professed one religious faith, there was then nothing at all objectionable in the principle, or grievous in the practice, of enforcing payment of church rates. A different state of things, however, now existed—and a very large, powerful, and influential portion of the people do not belong to the Established Church. That being the case, it arose that the objectors to the rates were often of sufficient power and number either to render the levying impossible, or to associate the enforcement of the rate with so much ill-blood as to make it a grievance, and give it an appearance of great odium and great tyranny. If, then, this were the case, the question arose, was it desirable, was it wise, to continue this source of embarrassment, strife, and ill-will, by which the Established Church was much more injured than were the Dissenters themselves? He admitted that the measure proposed would be a little inconsistent with the maintenance of an Established Church, and he only supported such a measure because he saw no hope of the proposition of any other legislation to meet the embarrassment arising from this question, and he preferred the total abolition of church rates to the continuance of this embarrassment. If no middle course were presented to him by the Government, he would prefer the total abolition of church rates to the continuance of the present embarrassment and difficulty which attended the question. The Church lost daily more in influence and character than it gained in money payment by the exaction of a small and miserable pittance from Dissenters; and the perpetuation of church rates would perpetuate great weakness and injury to the Church itself. With these feelings, he, as a member of the Established Church himself, thought the House would do well to vote in favour of the Bill of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets.


said, he thought the question at issue was now reduced to a very small compass. In all that had been said by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball) with regard to the important position occupied by the Dissenters, and the value of their efforts in promoting education and religion, he entirely and readily agreed. He did not dispute that for one moment. But he preferred looking at the question before the house as one of general expediency, and not as a question of Church of England or Dissenters. The House ought to ask itself, whether it was not bound to put an end to a tax or rate of which the inevitable result was religious squabbles, leading to irreligious feelings. Numerous attempts had been made during the last twenty years to settle the question by legislation, but in every instance without success. And the House now stood in this position. Here was an evil the existence of which had been acknowledged for more than a century, and for which no remedy whatever had yet been adopted. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn), who, front his position as an Ecclesiastical Commissioner, and an experienced Member of that House, might fairly be supposed to have used the strongest arguments that could be brought against this Bill, had himself admitted that the state of the law relating to church rates was very unsatisfactory, but the right hon. Gentleman did not propose any remedy for the evil he acknowledged to exist. The hon. and learned Member for Tavistock (Mr. R. Phillimore), in a tone of triumph, had alluded to the decision of the House of Lords, and said that the opinion of Lord Truro was that there was an imperative legal obligation to support the Church; and yet he admitted that this legal obligation was one which could not be enforced by any legal remedy. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) talked with some degree of ridicule of conscientious objections to the payment of church rates; and of course it was open to any who chose to adopt that line of argument. But for his (Mr. V. Smith's) part he was ever ready to acknowledge and respect the conscientious objections of any man of probity and honour, though he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman, that it would never do in matters of taxation to exempt individuals merely on account of those objections. There was another question than this, however, and it was, whether they should allow the continued imposition of a tax which led to agitation and bickerings with regard to religion; and whether it might not be expedient and right to repeal such a tax when they found it to strain conscientious objections, give rise to religious scruples, and excite religious animosities throughout the length and breadth of the land. The right hon. Gentleman also asserted that the abolition of church rates would be destructive of the Establishment. Did he really believe that this was the fulcrum by which the Church was to be destroyed? He (Mr. V. Smith) thought that that fulcrum was rather the continuance of the agitation which the system of church rates occasioned, and if he wanted to destroy the Church he would keep up that agitation. If he were a Dissenter, and wished to do as much mischief as possible to the Church, he should be continually dwelling upon its grasping notions. He should be continually reproaching it with deriving from the people who did not believe in its religion a rate for the support of that religion. A finer storehouse for vituperative eloquence was not to be found than in the discussions on church rates which took place, even in the placid atmosphere of Liverpool, and other places where they were the cause of perpetual agitation, mischief, and strife. Let them settle this question, and they would disarm the enemies of the Established Church of one of their most effective weapons of attack. The hon. and learned Member for Tavistock (Mr. R. Phillimore) proposed that they should relieve Dissenters, as such, from contributing to the tax; but he (Mr. V. Smith) thought it would be improper to offer a temptation to men to say that they dissented from the doctrines of the Church in order to escape payment of the rate. He did not know if the Government meant to deal with this question. The question was one, he granted, that was difficult of settlement, and he did not know whether the Government proposed to settle it or not.


We do propose to settle it. We propose to settle it next Session.


That might be so; but his noble Friend was not the first Minister who had declared that he proposed to settle this vexed question next year. For his own part he saw nothing but good in the abolition of church rates. It was said that these rates were intended for the purpose of giving church accommodation to the poor; but he had never seen this result arise from their imposition. He asked those who attended churches in large cities, where church accommodation for the poor was most wanted, if they ever saw the poor attending those churches? For himself he could say that he never had. The statement, then, that the rate was raised for the accommodation of the poor, when they came to inquire what was the practice, turned out to be contrary to the fact. He denied that the members of the Church of England were not ready to subscribe, and largely subscribe, to the maintenance of their own churches. It would be a reproach to them if they were not, and would give an immense advantage to the various dissenting bodies who provided and maintained their ministers and chapels at their own expense. The practical question now before the House was, would they allow this great wrong to continue without applying a remedy. The only remedy pro- posed was that of his hon. Friend (Sir W. Clay), for which in consequence he should give his vote.


Sir, I do not, I confess, concur in the last sentence of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, who says that the practical question before us is, whether we will leave this great wrong without a remedy. It will be obvious from what I shall say that I think there is a considerable wrong, and that it demands a remedy; but the question involved in the present vote is not whether this great wrong shall be left without a remedy, but rather whether there shall be a demonstration on the part of the House of Commons in the imperfect form that is afforded by a Bill which we all know cannot pass into a law this Session, against the present system of church rates; for a perfect remedy for the evils and the difficulties which attach to that system I apprehend no man among us is sanguine enough to hope for, at least during the present Session. Now, I am not surprised, considering the circumstances enumerated by my right hon. Friend (Mr. V. Smith) and others, that Gentlemen who have witnessed the frequent failures of Governments in their endeavours to deal with this question, and the immense amount of local evil and irritation it has caused, together with the absence of any proposal at present emanating from the Government on the subject—I say, Sir, I am not surprised that Gentlemen, seeing this state of the case, should do what I venture to describe a vote for this Bill to be, and attempt in that manner to express their feeling against the present system of church rates, even although, as was stated by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), they give their vote for this Bill not in consequence of their thoroughly and heartily going along with it in preference to any other proposal, but simply as a choice between contending difficulties, and on account of their conviction that Parliament ought rather to abolish church rates than allow the present system to continue. Now, if I am right in my opinion—as I think is pretty plain—that it is vain to hope for the settlement of this question by an Act of Parliament during the present Session, then it is also true that these are not the only two alternatives to be had recourse to. I will, with the permission of the House, venture to state, in a very few words, the view which I take of this question with all its difficul- ties. I quite agree that the case for a change in the law of church rates is an irresistible case. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the strength of the obligation incumbent on the Government to take this question into its view. It is hardly possible, I am afraid, on the other hand, to exaggerate the difficulties that we shall have to encounter when we come to propose a practical measure; but I trust that the indulgence and consideration of the House, when that time arrives—and I wish earnestly that it may arrive very soon—will enable the present Government, or those who may occupy their places, to encounter those difficulties, and make an equitable and fair arrangement, as far as the circumstances of the case will admit. I think the first reason why the law of church rates ought to be altered is this—that it tends to weaken the foundation of all law in a country where you have an admitted legal obligation existing, without the adequate means for its enforcement. Now there is no doubt about the legal obligation. So far as I am acquainted with the documents and facts connected with the Braintree case, I believe that the very judgment which defeated the means of carrying it out reiterated and confirmed the declaration of the legal obligation. Well, that is a state of things which ought not to continue; we ought either to bring the means of enforcement up to the standard of the legal obligation, or else we should reduce the standard of legal obligation down to the point where it will admit of enforcement. Now, I say, in the first place, that the state of the law of church rates is a very great grievance to the Church itself. In a multitude of parishes the church rate is contested. If it is obtained amidst animosities and heart-buntings, where it is so contested it inflicts far greater evil, misfortune, and impediment on the Church than it confers benefit on it; and if the rate is lost, what again happens? Why, that the church is left entirely without support from the rate, and so far is put on the same footing as the fabrics belonging to other denominations of Christians; but only so far, because it is left to those denominations who are connected with other fabrics to associate themselves as a body of private individuals for the maintenance of their own fabrics, and to take into their own hands exclusively the management of the funds they may please to vote for such a purpose; but that it is not competent for the mem- bers of the Established Church to do. Take the case of a parish where the bulk of the ratepayers were indisposed to support these rates, but where a portion of them were disposed to do so. It is not competent for that part of the parishioners who are so disposed to constitute themselves into a body for the purpose of applying their means to that object; and it is beyond all doubt, that if, notwithstanding these difficulties, gentlemen belonging to the Church of England choose to subscribe for the maintenance of their church, the application and disposal of the money they thus raise is not placed under their own control, but they are open to be run in upon, and to have the control of the application of their money taken out of their hands, and put into the hands of the very men who perhaps the week previous had voted against the levying of a church rate. That, I say, is a great grievance to the Church. Well, I am ready also to subscribe to the doctrine that the law of church rates, as it now exists, is a grievance to the Dissenter; and it is a grievance to him on this ground—as stated by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman)—that the present state of the law of church rates, although in its exterior form and husk it may seem to correspond with what it was in ancient times, yet in substance, effect, and operation it is now totally different from what it was in those times. In ancient times, with only one religion in the country, and one Ecclesiastical Court, nothing could be better, more simple, more healthy, or more just, than the law of church rates—it was a law adapted to the state of the population, where the benefit conferred and the burden imposed went together. But is that the case now? On the contrary, where a church rate subsists in a parish, it subsists simply as a tax, from which no advantage is derived to a large class of the population. The Dissenters—I speak not now of the occasional ordinances at which they are present—the Dissenters arc disqualified in a great degree from receiving that advantage. I, therefore, admit that the law is a hardship to the Dissenter as well as to the Church. Then the next question is, if the law of the church rate on grounds such as these and on other grounds ought to be altered, does it follow that that law ought consequently to be abolished? Sir, I must confess that I do not think that the law ought to be abolished. I speak, of course, with reservation, because really the difficulty of finding a remedy is such, and the existing evils are so severe, that I do not think any man ought to bind himself to any course that might prevent an escape from them; but I have a strong belief that the law ought not to be altogether abolished, and for this reason—that in the great bulk of the parishes of the country, numerically considered, the law of church rates in its substance still works well. It works quietly—it works feasibly—it does not work ineffectually, but very much according to its original spirit and intent. I speak not now of the great and populous parishes in the large towns, which hon. Members have often in their minds when discussing these questions, but of the multitude of our rural parishes scattered throughout the country. Unfortunately, we have not the means of getting at the exact number of the parishes in which church rates are either refused or contested; but although we do not know the precise number, yet it can be stated within certain limits. There are about 11,000 parishes in the kingdom, and it is not, I think, an illiberal estimate (it may be far beyond the mark) to reckon that out of the whole 11,000 parishes the number in which church rate has been either refused or contested does not exceed a few hundreds; if we take them at 500 parishes, I think the allowance will be a liberal one to make. Then, if that be true, and if there be 11,000 parishes altogether, and if it be further true, as we know it to be true now, that it is in the power of the ratepayers, if they choose, effectually to neutralise the legal obligation, and it be referred, as it practically is at this moment, to the will of the ratepayers to enforce church rates or not, as they please, then I say the fact that disturbance and heartburning occur in levying church rates in 500 parishes is not an adequate reason at first sight for totally sweeping away a system which excites no disturbance and no heartburning whatever in the remaining 10,500 of the parishes of the kingdom. In the rural parishes the church rate both is and is felt to be a subsisting burden on the fixed property of the country. In the towns, I grant you, whether it has had that character historically or not, that that character has from one cause or another ceased to be traceable. It is no longer so found nor so operates, but in the great bulk of the rural parishes the church rate, although much smaller in amount, yet is felt to be and is known to be as distinctly a burden upon the landed property of the country as is either the tithe or the rate for the relief of the poor. Now, is it right or desirable that that tax should be abolished? I must confess that I think not, and for this reason, that in the rural parishes a distinctly opposite state of things prevails from that which prevails in the towns and the populous parishes. In the towns and the populous parishes what have you got? In the first place, in the populous parishes there are large numbers of the people, and sometimes majorities of them, who are divided from the Church; and many of the churches are not able to receive the people if they were willing to come, whilst there are other churches also in which all the area, or the eligible and desirable parts, are no longer the public property, but are monopolised by the members of rich and wealthy families by one of the grossest abuses that has ever prevailed in a Christian country; so that, practically, the doors of the church are closed against the people on whom you impose the tax of church rates. But in the rural parishes—I do not say universally, but generally speaking—the churches are not wholly inadequate to receive the people, and the practice is, that the churchwardens are not only bound to find, but do find, accommodation in the church for the population of all ranks, being parishioners, who choose to apply for that accommodation. Therefore, in the rural parishes, the ancient law of church rates, which connected the imposition of the tax with services to be rendered and benefit to be derived, still exists, and remains in vigour, to a great extent, and I am by no means sure that it is in your power to substitute any more beneficial system than that which exists at present there. Well, if that is so, and the abolition of church rates is undesirable while a change in the law is almost a matter of necessity, what are the modes of proceeding that have been suggested? There was one suggested, and by a considerable authority, that was received with a good deal of favour at the time, but that time was twenty years ago, and we have moved onwards in these matters since then—I mean the plan proposed in 1834 for restricting the levying of compulsory church rates to so much as is necessary for the maintenance of the fabric, and placing the remainder of the charge upon the Consolidated Fund. I do not think it necessary to enter into the dis- cussion of any plan of that nature. For my own part, at least, I may say that I would not be expected to look with any peculiar favour to the placing of any portion of this charge on the Consolidated Fund, of which I am regarded as, perhaps, the especial guardian and protector. But that is absolutely out of the question, under any circumstances, as the charge for the fabrics, which is now a local charge upon the property, would be taken off the shoulders of the proprietors of that property to be placed upon the shoulders of the taxpayers of the country in general. Well, then, there are plans proposed for the exemption of Dissenters as such. I do not concur in the apprehension that the exemption of Dissenters as such would offer a dangerous inducement or a premium to dissent. I do not believe that there would be ten Dissenters more or less in the country in consequence of the exemption of that body as such from the tax; but there are certainly difficulties which attend a proposition of that kind. But then it was said that many Dissenters consider that it would be injurious to themselves, and if that be so, that is a very serious difficulty. I cannot say for myself that I understand how that difficulty arises, because, although many persons belong to a national or an established religion without paying to it any very distinct homage in their conscience, yet those who dissent from an established religion tie so generally, I should suppose, from very distinct grounds of conscientious objection. It has been my fortune to reside some time in Scotland, where I am a Dissenter; and I may say for myself that I should not have any objection to register myself as a Dissenter at any time that the law might require or anybody desired. At the same time this is a question of feeling., and feelings must be considered when they arise in any attempt to adjust a matter of this description. But, even supposing this exemption of Dissenters as such to be made, it would nut go to the root of the question, because, in respect of the great town parishes, I hold that the town population is pretty nearly as much aggrieved by the law of church rates as the Dissenters are; and for this reason, that the bulk of the church population cannot obtain accommodation at public worship, because the floors of the churches are appropriated, monopolised, and I might almost say robbed from the people, whose inheritance the church ought to be, by the pew-rent system; and, therefore, I say it is clear that exemption of Dissenters, be it a good or a bad measure, would not go to the root of the matter. Well, another plan has been proposed by my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Packe) for restricting the church rate to what is necessary for the sustentation of the fabrics. No doubt that would be a very great mitigation of the existing evils; but, although it mitigates those evils, and reduces their sphere, yet it must be obvious to my hon. Friend that he cannot hope for a complete and definitive settlement of this question upon that basis; because, although you would thus make the amount to be levied less than it otherwise would be, still you would yet be liable to all the objections on the ground of justice attendant upon the levying of a tax that was originally intended to be levied in consideration of service rendered in cases where no service is rendered, and where it cannot be rendered, in consequence of circumstances that are recognised by law. So that you cannot look to the mere restriction of the rate for the repair of the fabrics as being in itself a solution of this question. Now, I must confess that it is a much easier matter to offer objections, first to one plan and then to another, which are proposed by others for the adjustment of this question, than to submit any plan which is in itself free from objections. I earnestly hope that when we come to the consideration of this matter, we shall come to it—whether we sit on one side of the House or the other—with a disposition and a temper prepared to abate something of extreme rights, extreme opinions, and sensitive feelings, or else it is perfectly plain that the question never will be settled. Now, I have the greatest hesitation and difficulty in alluding almost to any mode of proceeding; but I must confess it appears to me that there is much to be said in favour of some plan that has for its main object a division between that class of parishes where the law of church rates works well, and the class of parishes where it works ill. [Murmurs.] I am not at all surprised or mortified at witnessing this manifestation on the part of hon. Gentlemen. If the plan I have just mentioned fails, it will only add one more to the long list of abortive suggestions that have been made on this question. I will not say whether a system of this kind could be brought into operation; but I will only point out the mode, if it be brought into operation, in which I think it ought to be done. I do not make a proposal—I merely with great respect venture to throw out a suggestion to the House. I should not propose to proceed by drawing an absolute distinction between parishes with over a certain population and parishes with below a certain population. I rather would take the state of facts that we have got before us, in which we practically find that there are a portion of the parishes in which the ratepayers are averse to church rates, and a greater proportion in which the ratepayers acquiesce in and give effect to church rates. It is practically referred to the choice of the ratepayers already. I should be content to refer the matter to their choice by law. Now, suppose it were so referred, and made competent to the ratepayers in a parish by a declaration or act come to and registered in due legal form, to place that parish outside the operation of the law of church rates, how would such a plan work? I confess that my opinion—my hope I would rather say, my opinion is too hold a word—but my hope is that that plan would work by leaving the rural parishes of the country very much as they are now—that the great bulk of them would continue, as they now do, to levy and pay church rates. How would it work in cases where the rate is now refused? Why, it would give to the parishes a legal title to that which they enjoy now de facto, but enjoy undoubtedly with very questionable legality. But, whether it be thought that the law of church rate should be abolished, or whether it be thought that it should be left to the ratepayers of each parish to levy church rates according to their own judgment, one thing I venture to press on the House with great confidence—and it is the only thing on which I am hold enough to say that I do feel great confidence—that if in all parishes you abolish the law of church rate, or in any parish you abolish that law, you ought not to stop there, because if you did you would be guilty of great injustice. And I confess that I cannot adopt the Bill of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, because of the injustice which I think it involves, for in abolishing church rates it leaves the Church in this condition. You will observe that it seems to aim at establishing legislative equality, but it really creates a new form of legislative inequality. It is assumed that the Established Church depends for support upon funds secured to it by law, and it deprives it of those funds—well and good!—because the Church ought not to be put in a different position in this respect from the Dissenting denominations. But do you put the Church in the same position as the Dissenting bodies by this Bill? No; but you deprive it of its legal support, and you leave it in a condition of total incapacity to fall back upon voluntary support; because those who might be disposed to give her this voluntary support—it is additted on all hands—have no power of securing to themselves the legal application of their own funds. Therefore I put it to the hon. Member, that if he wishes to make his measure a just one, he ought to include in it provisions which would enable the ratepayers of a parish, being willing to contribute as private individuals to the support of the Church, to take into their own hands, subject, of course, to the provisions of the law, the application and management of their own money. It is possible that, amidst the difficulties of this question, we may be driven on the total abolition of church rates; but at all events, my hopes of avoiding that alternative are not at all raised by what I have seen and heard during this debate to-day. I put it, however, to the House that it would be most unjust, if we pretend to establish a system of equality, to leave the lay members and the clergy of the Church of England under such a great grievance as I have described, that while you cut off from them their present means of raising funds for the maintenance of the fabrics of the church, they are likewise deprived of those voluntary means and agencies which are open to persons belonging to all other communions in this country who are desirous of applying their own resources to supply their own religious wants.


said, he should reserve his opinion on the suggestion thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer until he saw the measure which the Government intended to introduced next Session. If the Government failed to make good their promise in this respect, he (Mr. Packe) should reintroduce his own measure, Which he had abandoned for the present, to which he had heard no real or valid objection offered, and which, avoiding the registration of Dissenters, limited itself to legalising a rate for the simple repair of the fabrics of the church. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) had met with no refutation whatever front any hon. Member who had spoken in favour of the Bill upon the table. That speech was, indeed, unanswerable. The real question they were now discussing was as to whether the Church should be destroyed as a national establishment, or maintained in the same manner as hereto- fore; and there was not a statesman of any eminence who had ever spoken upon the question but had declared that the Church ought to be supported by the nation at large. The Established Church was, in fact, not intended for individuals merely, but for the nation collectively, and particularly for the poorer classes of the country, and the question raised by this Bill was, were they prepared to destroy the Established Church as such, or were they not? He begged to call the attention of the House to the opinions of men on this subject, who, in their day, were persons of great weight. He trusted the House would listen to those opinions, because they were uttered by men who had the confidence of hon. Members opposite. The late Lord Althorp, in the year 1834, said he entirely agreed in the opinion that it was the absolute duty of the State to provide places of worship for the poorer classes. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had stated that it was the intention of the Government to bring in a Bill, and he (Mr. Packe) recommended the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) to adopt the course taken by the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Divett) in the year 1834. The hon. Member for Exeter, in that year, proposed a Resolution to the House, that it was just and expedient to abolish church rates, and upon receiving an assurance from Lord Althorp that the Government intended to take up the matter and bring in a Bill on the subject, the hon. Member withdrew the Resolution, and he (Mr. Packe) recommended the hon. Baronet to follow that precedent, and withdraw his Bill. In the year 1837 Lord Monteagle—then Mr. Spring Rice—gave his opinion on the subject, and stated that when the Army and Navy could be supported by the voluntary principle, then he would consent that the voluntary principle should be applied to the Church. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball) alluded to a speech that had been made in that House by the Earl of Derby, and he (Mr. Packe) yielded to no man in his personal respect for that highly-gifted nobleman. The hon. Member, however, had misquoted the year, fur instead of 1837 it was in 1834 that the speech was made, and he (Mr. Packe) found the following words in the same speech of the noble Earl:— It was the very essence of the union at present subsisting between Church and State, that the State should, out of the public funds, defray the expenses of the religion it established.—[3 Hansard, xxii. 1035, April 21, 1834.] On Mr. Spring Rice's Bill in 1837, the noble Earl also said he was convinced that, if they yielded on this point, concession after concession would be got from them until not a shadow remained of the national Establishment. In conclusion, he (Mr. Packe) most cordially gave ins determined opposition to the Bill.


said, he had on that morning received a letter from some respectable Dissenting constituents of his, requesting of him not only to vote for the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay), and present their petition in favour of it, but also to speak upon it. He had presented that petition, he intended to vote for the Motion, and the third obligation he was now endeavouring to fulfil. He wished they could bring their constituents into that House for a month to enable them to judge of the value of a silent and of a talking Member. He had listened to hon. Members, who very often abused the patience of the House, and he considered that unless a man had something to say which the House had not heard before, he should hold his tongue. When they heard tiresome speeches repeated time out of mind, it was the practice for hon. Gentlemen whose patience was at last exhausted, to cry, "Divide!" and "Question!" which were well understood by the hon. Gentleman who was addressing the House at the time. It happened last week that when his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) was making his ninth speech on the Bills of Exchange Bill, that he (Mr. Bass ventured to cry out, in very modest tones, "Divide, divide!" and the hon. Member turned round upon him and looked as if he would kick him out of the House. Two nights before the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) made four speeches on the question of private houses—he thought they called them —in Oxford University. He was not surprised that he should be a little confused about the proper denomination of those establishments, of which he most sincerely approved; but the hon. Member said so much one way and so much the other, that he drove the distinct term out of his head. But the hon. Member, having made three or four speeches, said the House would not listen to him, and declared if the House would not listen to him he would divide; but by-and-by he started up again, and made two or three more speeches, and he (Mr. Bass) cried out "Divide!" [Cries of "Question!"] He was endeavouring to show how they had not the privilege of acting strictly according to conventional understanding, and how they came to conclusions at which, if guided by strict etiquette, they would not arrive. He was bound to conclude by expressing his earnest wish that this long-vexed question should at once be settled, and that it should not, at all events, be debated at any very great length.


said, he supposed his hon. Friend (Mr. Bass) thought the question of church rates had been nearly threshed out, and, therefore, had recourse to almost everything else but the question before the House to make out the materials for a speech. Having listened with the most minute attention to the interesting speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he must confess he was as much puzzled, as most of the Members of the House must be, whether the speech was intended to be made for that side of the House or for the other side. On the whole, however, he thought the speech would be found to be in favour of the view he (Mr. Bright) was known to take in support of the abolition of church rates. He was inclined, however, to think, from what the right hon. Gentleman had said, that the difference in the Cabinet on this question was not less remarkable than those which were supposed to exist on all other questions. He had in his eye a Cabinet Minister who was entirely in favour of the abolition of church rates—they had heard the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that day—the last time the question was before the House they had heard the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London—and as he was leader of the House, and had been lately strengthening himself in the Cabinet, and for all he (Mr. Bright) knew might before long be leader in both Houses, he would prefer taking the speech of the noble Lord as the actual indication of what they had to expect on this subject from the Government. The noble Lord's opinions were such as they were accustomed to hear from the highly respected Baronet who recently represented the University of Oxford (Sir Robert Harry Inglis). He should not refer to the noble Lord's opinions were it not that sonic Members of the House might be induced to think that, if the House did not support this Bill, something would be proposed by the Government. The noble Lord defended the course he took on two grounds: first of all, that it was not worth while to hope to satisfy the Dissenters by the various concessions which at different times had been claimed and granted; that, in point of fact, every concession that had been granted merely built up a platform from which the claimants asked for something more. He did not think that was a fair argument. The same cry had been heard four or five and twenty years ago from Mr. Croker and Sir Charles Wetherell when Parliamentary reform, or any amelioration of the laws, was under discussion. But the noble Lord had another argument which was important, and contradicted the whole case that had been laid before them by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The noble Lord said he would not consent that the Church should abandon the property it had in these rates without provision being made for giving it an adequate compensation. He thought the noble Lord must have made that speech without very much preparation or thought, or he would not have used an argument like that. If the Church be a national Church—if this be a tax imposed by law—surely if Parliament chose to remit the tax and abolish the law, it was not necessary that Parliament should ask for compensation from the people they were about to relieve. The noble Lord must knew that his argument was unsound on another ground; for, notwithstanding what had been said by the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock (Mr. R. Phillimore), he (Mr. Bright) maintained that the question practically stood in this way, that whether they should have a church rate or not in any parish depended upon the will of the majority of that parish. The decision of the House of Lords brought the question practically to that state, and any idea that they could get the rate except by the consent of the majority of the parishioners was a delusion which he would not recommend the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock to entertain for a moment. It was impossible that the Church or any person could have a vested right in that which the majority could refuse. If the rate were voluntary, not as regarded individuals, but as regarded the population of an individual parish, it was out of the question to say the Church ought to have compensation. He did not expect such an argument, except under the most desperate circumstances, although he believed the noble Lord was now often reduced to desperate circumstances, and people, when reduced to desperate circum- stances, made use of arguments inconsistent with their past conduct. The noble Lord, in taking the course he did in 1837 and 1838, and in using the arguments he had used when the question was last under discussion, had been singularly inconsistent. The noble Lord had said that next Session they would bring in a Bill to settle this vexed question, bring he (Mr. Bright) supposed that that would depend upon the condition of the Sublime Porte. Already six Bills had been put by, with the intention, he presumed, of reintroducing them next Session, and this Bill, he supposed, was to be added to them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had advised the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets to withdraw the Bill, because, he said, there was no chance of its passing this Session, but in his (Mr. Bright's) opinion it did not exactly follow that, because Government could not pass half a dozen Bills, a large number of the Members of the House could not pass one Bill in which they were agreed. He (Mr. Bright) had never felt the slightest hostility to the Church as a religions body; he opposed it as a religious institution, and he doubted very much whether it was of any essential benefit to the country, but that might be a question for their children or grand children to settle. Although this tax might be a just and proper thing 200 or 300 years ago, yet now it was neither just nor proper, inasmuch as one-half of a particular religion, or less—he would presume it to be onehalf—maintained the right of taxing the other half, which other half by degrees had been drawn off from the Established Church, or never belonged to it at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to think that it was only in certain parishes this was felt as a grievance, and that in a great number of parishes the rate was still levied and acquiesced in; but the right hon. Gentleman must know that every day the number of parishes in which the rates were opposed was increasing, and he was sure the speech of the right hon. Gentleman could have no other effect but to increase the number of those parishes very materially. Even where there was no outward opposition to the rate, there was a number of parsons, not amounting to a majority, who felt the matter to be a grievance; and when there was a contest in a parish on the subject of church rates, there were not a few Churchmen—notwithstanding they felt bound to support them, in conseqence of their connection with the Church, and with a certain political party—who wished time rates had never been imposed, and who felt it extremely difficult to give their vote in support of them. Few persons had more experience on the subject than he had, for up to the year 1840 he had lived in a parish that was the scene of contests such as had never taken place in any other parish in this country. He had seen 3,000 or 4,000 parishioners in the churchyard addressed by an aspiring orator, who denounced the church rates, and the church was surrounded by persons in a temper of mind Which it was desirable should not exist in any place, but more particularly in the immediate vicinity of a place of worship. He had known an expenditure take place on such occasions far exceeding the expenditure at contested elections. He had seen the military called out to overawe the mob or to promote the particular objects of a party, and the vicar of the parish was subjected to imputations and to insults which every man must regret to sec offered to a person holding the position of a minister of religion. But if the rate were obtained, after all they would have to encounter another state of circumstances, such as the other day had been laid before the House. There were applications to the magistrates for warrants against certain persons who refused to pay; the warrant was granted; some low bailiff or officer was sent into somebody's house, his furniture and plate were taken away, and in humbler houses the humbler materials of furniture were taken, and there was afterwards a public sale of them in the public street, by an auctioneer. He was surrounded, not by persons who wanted those things—for no respectable person, or person with the slightest feeling of justice, would attend and buy—but by the unprincipled, the drunken, and the dissolute, and to those persons the goods were knocked down very much below their real value in most cases, and perhaps there was not as much raised as would be sufficient to pay the sum due for church rates and for expenses. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) had talked about the poor man's Church. Now, without depreciating what had been done by the Established Church, he (Mr. Bright) must say that, in his opinion, within the last fifty years the dissenting bodies had done quite as much as the Established Church for the poor of the country, and he would ask hon. Members who opposed the abolition of church rates, what effect, in their opinion, was likely to be produced upon partially educated or uneducated persons when they saw officers of the law entering the houses of their neighbours, seizing their goods, and offering them to public sale for the payment of church rates? It was impossible that the poor could be drawn to the Established Church by any such system as that, and that system was responsible for the sorrowful fact brought out by the Census, that a very large number of persons, especially belonging to the humbler classes, attended no place of worship, and appeared to have no sympathy either with the Dissenters or with the Established Church. He begged to call the attention of the House to a weekly paper called Diogenes which had been sent him, he supposed by some one who sympathised with the objects of the Bill now before the House, in which there was a picture dedicated to the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) and the 129 Members of Parliament who voted for the abolition of church rates. Here was a very good representation of a church, and notwithstanding what the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bass) had said about speeches, he hoped he would not object to a pictorial illustration in the House of Commons. Here was the picture of a church formed of various articles of household furniture, put together in a particular form. The corner of the tower was a chest of drawers, above them was an eight-day clock, the pinnacle was a sugar-loaf, and the roof a kitchen table and the portrait of the master of the house. Now, such things as this were not only offensive to persons connected with the Established Church, but to all persons who had any regard for religion. If men were induced to laugh at the Established Church, and to point the finger of ridicule at the ministers of that Church, they would easily be led to ridicule religion generally, and to disregard the precepts of that blessed book upon which all Christian Churches professed to be founded. He (Mr. Bright) would ask hon. Gentlemen what hope they had of getting rid of church rates in any other manner than that proposed by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets? The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) did not like to make a concession, because, he said, he thought something else would be asked for. Why, the noble Lord himself had been asking for something else all his life. The noble Lord said, he could not surrender this rate except they gave some compensation; but he (Mr. Bright) did not know where the compensation was to come from, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer had repudiated in the strongest language any proposition for taking it from the Consolidated Fund. He (Mr. Bright) could not see where it was to come from, except from the resources of the Church itself. He had no doubt that a fund could be had; but not from the quarter the noble Lord had indicated. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested that something should be done in those parishes where no opposition was made against church rates, but did he not know that in those parishes there was a smouldering discontent that could not be extinguished? In Manchester there had been no rate for twenty years, but in a neighbouring parish it happened that the church rates had not been actually contested or overthrown, and the right hon. Gentleman proposed, because the people of that parish did not make a row, they should have no free will in future, and must pay the rate. He (Mr. Bright) had never heard of such statesmanship as that, but the simple fact was this, that the cleverest men—and very few men were more clever than the Chancellor of the Exchequer—when they got hold of a question, like the one now before the House, except they chose to settle it in the way in which every impartial and unbiassed man should desire to see it settled, without direct reference to prejudices or wishes, but to what was just, found themselves as incompetent as the veriest dolt. They found themselves, by endeavouring to mystify a question that was simple, trying to do that which could not be done. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree to register the Dissenters, labelling them and ticketing them like parcels going by the next train; but thought they had been subjected to many insults during the last century, he did not think they would go ticketed about the country. According to the plan of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the parish that had revolted against the law would be rewarded by the abolition of the law, but the parish that had not revolted would have the burden left upon it for ever without any power of refusing them. That was altogether childish, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not have proposed anything of the kind if he did not find the inextricable difficulty of settling the question on any other principle but that proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets. The Established Church did not come from the beginning, and in probability would not last to the end. It was not necessary for him to deny that in any case it could be of no use; but that it was not necessary was proved by what was going on in the world. In the United States there were no discussions of that nature, and they found that in that country they were able to do everything by the voluntary principle which was done here by the voluntary and compulsory principles united. The ministers of religion in that country were as well educated and were as influential for the purposes of their position as the ministers of religion in England, and they knew also that the religious impulse in America had done all that had been done by the religious impulse here. Confining his observations to the free States, education was as much guarded as in this country. There were hospitals, asylums, and penitentiaries of the voluntary kind, which afforded places of worship for the unhappy, the guilty, and the suffering. Canada was taking the same course, and last year they had given them leave to do what before long probably they would do; namely, place all the churches of Canada on the voluntary principle. There was yet some difference of opinion on the subject in the Australian Colonies, but the time was not very far distant when the same principle would be established there. He did not wish by this illustration to hurt the feelings of any one, but to show that When such opinions were abroad, an Established Church, even when it had existed for ages, could only hope to continue its existence by the abolition of gross abuses, and by rendering itself as useful and as acceptable as it could do to the people, and as little insulting and aggressive as possible with regard to those who were opposed to the principle of such establishments. The Dissenters did not come to that House as suppliants. They had been, from the time of the Reformation, a growing body in this country. The Puritans first, the Nonconformists afterwards, and the Dissenters now; and all the power of the Jameses, the Charleses, and the Georges, had not been able to arrest the deepening, widening, fertilising, and purifying stream of nonconformity which existed in and blessed this country. During the reign of Charles II., 15,000 families were ruined, and 4,000 or 5,000 persons died in gaol, because they adhered to their own religious convictions; and did they think it possible, by this law they were discussing, or by any law but the law of kindness and conviction in the human heart, to bring the Dissenters of the country back to the Established Church, or to prevent dissent from constantly swelling and increasing, while the numbers belonging to the Established Church were continually diminishing? He should, of course, vote for the proposition of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, and would vote for it even if his opinions on the whole question of dissent were totally different from what they were. He assumed that the House wished to get rid of the whole question of church rates. They were told that the lion. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) did not offer a substitute; but it was not their business to suggest a substitute; their object was to get rid of the law, and of the rate, and that they were resolved upon doing. Even the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. R. Phillimore), who came fresh from the Ecclesiastical Courts—which was no great recommendation, he thought, to anybody—and everybody denounced the law, and there were hundreds of parishes in England and Wales where there were no church rates paid at all. He begged to call the attention of the House to an extract from a speech made in the other House by the Bishop of Oxford, on the Motion the other day of the Earl of Winchilsea, with regard to church accommodation in the manufacturing districts. That was a Gentleman who did not share his (Mr. Bright's) opinions in any respect, but he was one of the most able men on the episcopal bench, both as a writer and a speaker, and his attachment to the Church no one could doubt. He was reported to have expressed the following sentiments— He was convinced that in the present state of the population of the country the Church of England could not, with propriety or advantage, ask for grants from the public funds for the strengthening, encouragement, and development of religious education. The Church of England was the Church of the overwhelming majority of the people of this country"—that was, of course, an episcopal figure of speech—"This fact, however, he did not think would justify her in appealing to Parliament for the means of extending her power by grants of money, and he should deprecate, even if the Government were disposed to assent to such a proposal, the reception of such grants.… When they had expended 3,000,000l. by the aid of the Government upon building churches they could only raise 1,000,000l. of that suns by voluntary assistance. They, however, were enabled to raise 5,000,000l. within a very much shorter period, when they had only their own voluntary efforts to depend upon.… He should be sorry to see the expectations of those who desired to promote the greater efficiency of the Church disappointed, but he hoped that they would turn their attention to those internal exertions which he thought would suffice, with God's blessing, to overcome the difficulty, rather than resort to what he believed was a dangerous and palsying source of revenue—namely, a public grant from the public money of this land."—[3 Hansard, cxxxiii.158–9.] The Bishop of Oxford knew what was in Churchmen if they had an opportunity of exercising the power they possessed. He would be sorry, he said, to see the hopes and expectations of the members of the Church turned from its internal resources, which were sufficient, to so dangerous a source of revenue as any public grant of the public money of this land; and that observation was received with cheers. He (Mr. Bright) would ask the noble Lord the Member for the City of London to take courage, and try and get rid altogether of the idea of compensation. Did he not know that at that moment in hundreds of parishes the church was supported by the voluntary contributions of the congregation, and that in all those parishes where church rates had been abolished, the fabric of the church was as secure as when church rates were levied. It would be monstrous to suppose that the congregations of the Established Church would not provide for the washing of their ministers' surplices, for sweeping out the churches, or for the supply of the articles supposed to be necessary for one of the most solemn sacraments of the Church; but he thought a long-established law like that relating to church rates had a paralysing effect. The Dissenters had, from their position, been obliged to defray such expenses as those to which he (Mr. Bright) had just referred. The Dissenter no more thought of abstaining from supplying the necessary wants of the minister, or for the service of the chapel, than he would think of abstaining from supplying the necessary wants of his own table and of his family. He entered into a calculation of the expenses, and according to his means and liberality he felt it to be not only a duty, but an honour and pleasure, to give his help in behalf of the great objects which are connected with the support of the Christian religion in this country. If this Bill of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets were to become law, was there a single man who would get up and say he believed that in the parish in which he lived there could be nothing raised from the congregation, and that the church, from the want of extraneous aid, must fall into decay, and that provision would not be made so that divine service could be carried on? If any man could say that such would be the case, he would bring forward the greatest argument that could be used against the existence of an Established Church at all. When the Free Church of Scotland had raised 3,000,000l. within the last ten years—when in the principality of Wales two-thirds of the places of worship were raised by the poor dissenting population, whose ministers were supported by voluntary contributions—when, above all, the poor and outcast population in many parts of Ireland, particularly the west, had been able to build churches on every moor and in every parish, and to support their ministers and maintain what they believed to be right in religion—he thought he might appeal to the members of the Established Church who are Members of the House with confidence, and say, if they thought church rates should be abolished, they should not be afraid of supporting the Bill from an impression that their church would fall into decay, and that the performance of divine worship would be arrested. He thought that far higher interests than those either of dissenting sects or of the Established Church were involved in the question. He thought that most of those who cared for religion had mourned over the large portion of our people who are not touched by any part of the religious organisation of the country. Was it not possible that, if this element of discord were removed, and that sects and churches could live together more in harmony—if it could be said of them as it was of the Christians in the early ages of the Church, "Look how these Christians love one another"—it was far more likely than it was at present that that large outcast part of the people would feel themselves attracted, some to the Established Church, and some to the various dissenting sects? For his own part, he had no wish whatever that one should be more successful than another in this great harvest which was ready for the gathering, if they did but all act upon that fair and honest and Christian spirit which became the members of a Christian Church. On behalf, then, of the Dissenters, of the Church, of religion, and of civil liberty, which really was concerned ill this question, he hoped that the house would that day express its opinion in studs a manner that, if unfortunately this Bill were lost, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London would nevertheless feel that he had magnified the lion in his path, and that if he would only next Session take up this question on the simple plan of abolishing these rates, and of appealing to the good sense, the liberality, and the Christian feeling of the Church population, the House would support him, and that this long-vexed question might be set at rest for ever.


Sir, the speech which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester has just made, and the expressions which he has attributed to me, compel me to take part in this debate. The hon. Gentleman said that he takes exceptions to two arguments which he states that I used on a former occasion. One of these arguments he says was, that an unqualified and unconditional concession on the subject of church rates would lead to other demands. Well, all that I can say upon that subject is, that we have heard to-day, as we have heard upon former occasions, that this is a question of principle, that it is a question between an establishment and the voluntary principle, and that this is only one part of the proposal of those who wish us to exchange an establishment for the voluntary principle. It is not, I think, my fault, therefore, if, following the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt), and following the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) himself, I say that this unqualified and unconditional repeal of the present law is a proposal intended to forward the schemes of those who are the enemies of an establishment, and are in favour of the voluntary principle. Now, be it observed, I do not make it a charge against them that such are their opinions. I only say that, not holding those views—not partaking the opinion that the destruction of the Church Establishment, and the admission of all sects to an equality in respect of the voluntary collection of funds, would be advantageous —they cannot expect me to consider it as any inducement to vote for this Bill that it will lead me step by step to that total destruction of the Established Church which I deprecate. But then the hon. Member for Manchester says, that I employed another argument, namely, that some "compensation" should be given if church rates were taken away. Now, I do not believe that I ever used that word. I spoke, certainly, unexpectedly on that occasion, for I thought the debate would have gone on much longer than it did, and I may have used the word unadvisedly, but I cannot charge my memory with having done so, and it was certainly not within the scope of my argument to use the word "compensation." What I maintained then was what I maintain now, that in abolishing church rates you ought to make some provision for the maintenance of the fabric of the church. Is that inconsistent with the notion of an Established Church? On the contrary, it appears to me that it is essential. The State may choose to have no establishment. It may, as the hon. Member suggests, totally abolish such an establishment if it exists; but if the State chooses to have an establishment, there should be in connection with it persons with a sufficient income for their maintenance, and with sufficient learning and qualifications to give religious instruction, and likewise there should be a fabric maintained in which divine service may be performed, and in which the instructions and ministrations of these persons may have their due effect. It appears to me that a clergy with a sufficient maintenance, and sufficiently qualified, and a fabric in which their ministrations are to take place, are essential to a Church Establishment. Then I say that if you propose entirely to abolish the prevision by which the fabric of the church is now supported, it becomes you, if you mean to support an establishment, to make some other provision less objectionable and less productive of evil and of heartburning, but at all events to make some other provision than that which now exists for the maintenance of the fabric of the church. The hon. Member (Mr. Bright) talks of "washing of surplices," and "sweeping of floors," but that does not seem to me to comprehend the whole of what is intended to be provided for by church rates. What, Sir, was the original state of things? Our Catholic ancestors raised heaven-directed spires and venerable towers, not simply that the buildings to which they belonged might receive the congregations resorting to them; they thought it belonged to piety that they should make for the whole people an edifice for them to worship in, and worthy of the religious purpose to which it was dedicated. This is, therefore, not a question of "washing surplices" and of "sweeping floors," but of maintaining those fabrics. As time went on there were those who said that they could not conscientiously resort to those churches, although they were intended for the national worship, but that their conscience led them to a different form of service and of church government, and that, therefore, they wished that other buildings should be erected for public worship. At first, as the hon. Member for Manchester has said, under Charles and James, they were persecuted; they were driven forth from the towns; they were not allowed liberty of conscience; but the time came when the Act of Toleration was passed, and they were permitted to have that free liberty which no doubt was their right. But the Dissenters of those days, having got those rights, did not consider, like the hon. Member and many Dissenters of the present day, that they were debarred, as he says, by the Georges from the exercise of their rights of conscience. I happened the other day to be looking at a book, which is now before me, the life of a most distinguished, pious, and learned man—Calamy; and so far from complaining of the existence of church rates, and of an Established Church, he thus announces the accession of George I.:— He began his reign with a noble declaration for liberty of conscience, and never could be charged with acting inconsistently with it. At his first appearance in council, September 22, he made a declaration, in which he expressed himself in the following words:—'I take this occasion to express to you my firm purpose to do all that is in my power for supporting and maintaining the Churches of England and Scotland as they are by law established, which I am of opinion may be effectually done without in the least impairing the toleration allowed by law to Protestant Dissenters, so agreeable to Christian philanthropy: He then sets forth the Addresses presented to the King by the Dissenting ministers of the several denominations, in which they declared that— Your Majesty's wise and gracious declaration, for which we render our unfeigned thanks, does sensibly relieve us under our present hardships, and gives us ground to hope that, as we are inseparably united in interest, and even in safety with the succession to the monarchy, as by law established, so we shall share in that protection and favour which will make us happy with the rest of your subjects. So little was this eminent man — this eminent Dissenter—disposed to find fault with a declaration which began by saying that the King intended to do all in his power for supporting and maintaining the Churches of England and Scotland. The Dissenters of those days considered the Church of England as a great support to the Protestant interest, and continually expressed their wish to see it maintained on that ground. And here let me say that I believe that to the Dissenters of those days we owe very great benefits; to them we owe the constant support of the House of Hanover so inseparably connected with the liberty of this country; and to them we owe enlightened views of toleration and civil and religious liberty, and surely for which we cannot be sufficiently grateful. For my own part, therefore, in consideration of the character of Protestant Dissenters in those days, as well as of the efforts they have made in our own day to advance religion and to promote education, and many other good works, I should be most anxious that every concession should be made to them which would be consistent with the safety of the Established Church. But we now come to that which has been the great quarrel of late years, for the last quarter of a century, and, in some degree, for the last half century, and that has been, not, as I consider it, with reference to those ancient churches of which I have spoken —those ancient parochial churches—but in consequence of the great number of new churches in those towns where the Dissenters are exceedingly numerous, and where the increase of new churches, attended by church rates, has led, naturally enough, to resentment in the minds of the Dissenters. Hence the great struggle which we have had to deplore. But let me read the preamble of the Bill now before us— Whereas Church Rates have for some Years erased to be made or collected in many Parishes, by reason of the Opposition thereto, and in many other Parishes where Church Rates have been made the levying thereof has given rise to Litigation and Ill-feeling: And whereas it is expedient that the Power to make Church Rates should be abolished: Be it therefore enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, as follows— 1. From and after the passing of this Act, no Church Rate shall be made or levied in any Parish in England or Wales. Now, so far as that goes, I agree with the statement in the preamble, and I think it desirable, not specially for the sake of the Dissenters or of the Church, but for the sake of the community generally, that some remedy for this should be found. The whole dispute at the present day is not with regard to the evil, and to the social calamity, caused by church rates, but with respect to the remedy we should apply. Now, I have spoken of those ancient churches which were intended for all. The Dissenters, however, have left those churches. They have their own places of worship—erected according to their wants —large where there is a large congregation, small where there is a small congregation, but in no instance requiring those expensive repairs which are necessary when you have an ancient building with a great deal of ornamental architecture, and erected of a size not in proportion to the wants of the particular congregation, but such as the whole parish necessarily requires. Well, the theory of the law is, that the parish is bound to repair that church; the practice of the law—and it is one for which there is no remedy—is, that a majority of the parishioners may refuse the church rate. The remedy proposed by the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) for the existing state of things is to abolish church rates altogether. Now, I do say that in that case a hardship will be imposed upon those who attend church. They have not, like Dissenters, built places of worship to suit their own wants; and it certainly appears to me that if the existing parochial churches are left without some means of legal support, it will, in the first place, be inconsistent with the principle of an Established Church, and in the next place it will throw a hardship upon those who attend church. There are, however, various remedies suggested. One is that there should be a voluntary collection on behalf of the church. Now I think that in many parishes that voluntary collection would not be sufficient; I think it is possible that if a voluntary collection were made over the whole kingdom, sufficient means would be raised for the repair of the fabrics of the churches. But then comes the question to which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer adverted—that when that money was collected, every person who belonged to the parish, whether they had contributed to it or not, whether they attended the Established Church or some other place of worship, would have a right to a voice in the disposal of the money so collected. There, again, is a case of hard-ship to the Church. Then it is proposed to separate Dissenters from others, and to make all contribute to church rates who do not declare themselves Dissenters. To that, however, I must strongly object. Another method proposed is to levy pew-rents. I think that objectionable in the first place, because it would be repugnant to the feelings of the agricultural population generally, who have ever been accustomed to enter a church as a free and open place of worship. Besides, I think the poor especially would have a right to complain if you establish pew-rents. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated another plan, which I think was not quite understood by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), and perhaps not by the House. I understand his suggestion to be this—that there should be the same power as now of imposing church rates, and that that rate should continue to be imposed in the rural parishes, because the great majority there approve of the principle of church rates. It would not, however, be imposed there for ever, but in those parishes as well as in others, the parishioners would have the power of acting either according to the old or according to the new law. When, however, they decided to act according to the new law and not to levy rates, there would be a provision that those alone who contributed to the repairs of the church should have the disposal of the funds raised for that purpose. There is one principle, indeed, to which I think the House should adhere in any legislation on this subject. Whatever plan may be proposed, I think we should retain for the Church, or rather for the nation, the principle of calling upon the land to maintain the parochial churches in repair. Sir, I consider these edifices not as belonging to a sect, but as national property; and so considering them, I think they should be inseparably connected with the land, by which the Church has hitherto been supported. I believe that it would be the worst possible policy on the part of the land to consent to any law by which we should incur any hazard that our village churches should fall into decay. Such is the principle which, as against my hon. Friend (Sir W. Clay), I am disposed to maintain. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester says, in opposition to this principle, that great effects have been produced by the voluntary principle in the United States of America. I am not disposed to question that assertion. I know that great effects have been produced by the voluntary principle alone in the United States of America. I know that great effects have been produced in this country by the voluntary principle, in connection with the principle of an Established Church. The institutions of the United States are, however, wholly different from ours. While they adopt the voluntary principle as to the Church—while they have universal suffrage—while they have no primogeniture as to the land—and while they have an elective Senate and an elective President, all their institutions harmonise together and produce a free and great nation, whose greatness and whose freedom I should be the last to question and the first to respect. But in this country we have other institu- tions. We have a national Church—we have an hereditary aristocracy—we have an hereditary monarchy, and all these things stand together. My opinion is, too, that they would decay and fall together. I see no reason why we should prefer to these institutions those of the United States of America; and I must, therefore, oppose this Bill, as, in my opinion, tending to subvert one of the great institutions of the State.


briefly replied.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 182; Noes 209: Majority 27.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Duncombe, T.
Aglionby, H. A. Dundas, F.
Alcock, T. Dunlop, A. M.
Anderson, Sir J. Ellice, rt. hon. E.
Bailey, C. Ellice, E.
Ball, E. Esmonde, J.
Ball, J. Ewart, W.
Barnes, T. Feilden, M. J.
Bass, M. T. Fergus, J.
Beamish, F. B. Fitzgerald, W. R. S.
Bell, J. Forster, C.
Bellew, T. A. Fox, W, J.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Freestun, Col.
Berkeley, hon. C. F. Gardner, R.
Biddulph, R. M. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
Biggs, W. Glyn, G. C.
Blackett, J. F. B. Gower, hon. F. L.
Bland, L. H. Greene, J.
Bonham-Carter, J. Gregson, S.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Grenfell, C. W.
Brady, J. Greville, Col. F.
Brand, hon. H. Grey, R. W.
Bright, J. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Brocklehurst, J. Hadfield, G.
Brockman, E. D. Hall, Sir B.
Brotherton, J. Hankey, T.
Brown, H. Hastie, Alex.
Butler, C. S. Hastie, Arch.
Byng, hon. G. H. C. Headlam, T. E.
Caulfield, Col. J. M. Heywood, J.
Challis, Mr. Ald. Heyworth, L.
Chambers, M. Hindley, C.
Chaplin, W. J. Horsman, E.
Cheetham, J. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Clifford, H. M. Hutchins, E. J.
Cobbett, J. M. Hutt, W.
Cobden, R. Ingham, R.
Coffin, W. Jackson, W.
Collier, R. P. Keating, H. S.
Cowan, C. Kennedy, T.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Kershaw, J.
Crook, J. King, hon. P. J. L.
Crossley, F. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Currie, R. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Dashwood, Sir G. H. Langton, H. G.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Laslett, W.
Denison, J. E. Layard, A. H.
Dent, J. D. Lee, W.
Divett, E. Lindsay, W. S.
Duff, G. S. Locke, J.
Duke, Sir J. Lucas, F.
Duncan, G. Mackie, J.
M'Cann, J. Scobell, Capt.
M'Mahon, P. Scrope, G. P.
Maguire, J. F. Scully, F.
Mangles, R. D. Scully, V.
Martin, J. Seymour, Lord
Massey, W. N. Seymour, H. D.
Miall, E. Seymour, W. D.
Milligan, R. Shelley, Sir J. V.
Milner, W. M. E. Sheridan, R. B.
Mitchell, T. A. Smith, J. A.
Moffatt, G. Smith, J. B.
Monck, Visct. Smith, M. T.
Morris, D. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Mostyn, hn. T. E. M. L. Strickland, Sir G.
Muntz, G. F. Strutt, rt. hon. E.
Murrough, J. P. Stuart, Lord D.
Norreys, Lord Swift, R.
Norreys, Sir D. J. Tancred, H. W.
O'Brien, Sir T. Thicknesse, R. A.
O'Brien, C. Thompson, G.
O'Connell, J. Thornely, T.
Otway, A. J. Towline, G.
Pechell, Sir G. B. Traill, G.
Pellatt, A. Tynte, Col. C. J. K.
Perry, Sir T. E. Vane, Lord H.
Phillimore, J. G. Vivian, J. H.
Phinn, T. Vivian, H. H.
Pigott, F. Walmsley, Sir J.
Pilkington, J. Walter, J.
Pinney, W. Warner, E.
Ponsonby, hon. A. G. J. Wells, W.
Potter, R. Whitbread, S.
Ramsdell, Sir J. W. Wickham, H. W.
Ricardo, J. L. Wilkinson, W. A.
Ricardo, O. Willcox, B. M.
Rice, E. R. Williams, W.
Rich, H. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Robartes, T. J. A.
Roebuck, J. A. TELLERS.
Russell, F. C. H. Peto, S. M.
Scholefield, W. Clay, Sir W.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Christopher,rt. hn. R.A.
Adderley, C. B. Clinton, Lord C. P.
Alexander, J. Clive, R.
Archdall, Capt. M. Cobbold, J. C.
Arkwright, G. Cocks, T. S.
Bailey, Sir J. Codrington, Sir W.
Barnes, rt. hon. G. Coles, H. B.
Barrington, Visct. Colvile, C. R.
Beckett, W. Compton, H. C.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Conolly, T.
Beresford, rt. hon. W. Coote, Sir C. H.
Blair, Col. Corry, rt. hon. H. L.
Blandford, Marg. of Cowper, hon. W. F.
Bramston, T. W. Cubitt, Mr. Ald.
Bruce, Lord E. Davies, D. A. S.
Buck, L. W. Davison, R.
Buckley, Gen. Dering, Sir E.
Burghley, Lord Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Dod, J. W.
Butt, G. M. Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.
Cabbell, B. B. Duncombe, hon. A.
Cairns, H. M. Buncombe, hon. O.
Campbell, Sir A. I. Dunne, Col.
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. East, Sir J. B.
Carnae, Sir J. R. Egerton, Sir P.
Cavendish, hon. C. C. Egerton, W. T.
Cavendish, hon. G. Egerton, E. C.
Cayley, E. S. Elcho, Lord
Cecil, Lord R. Elliot, hon. J. E.
Child, S. Elmley, Visct.
Evelyn, W. J. Meux, Sir H.
Farnham, E. B. Miles, W.
Farrer, J. Milnes, R. M.
Fellowes, E. Michell, W.
Ferguson, Sir R. Montgomery, Sir G.
Filmer, Sir E. Morgan, O.
Floyer, J. Mowbray, J. R.
Follett, B. S. Mullings, J. R.
Forbes, W. Mundy, W.
Frewen, C. H. Naas, Lord
George, J. Napier, rt. hon. J.
Gilpin, Col. Neeld, John
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. Neeld, Jos.
Gladstone, Capt. Newark, Visct.
Goddard, A. L. Newdegate, C. N.
Gooch, Sir E. S. Newport, Visct.
Gore, W. O. Noel, hon. G. J.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. North, Col.
Granby, Marq. of Oakes, J. H. P.
Greenall, G. Ossulston, Lord
Greene, T. Packe, C. W.
Grogan, E. Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.
Gwyn, H. Palmer, Rob.
Hale, R. B. Palmer, Roun.
Halford, Sir H. Parker, R. T.
Hamilton, G. A. Patten, J. W.
Harcourt, Col. Peel, Col.
Hardinge, hon. C. S. Pennant, hon. Col.
Hayter, rt. hon. W. G. Percy, hon. J. W.
Heathcote, Sir G. J. Philipps, J. H.
Heathcote, G. H. Phillimore, R. J.
Heathcote, Sir W. Portal, M.
Heneage, G. H. W. Powlett, Lord W.
Heneage, G. F. Pritchard, J.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Robertson, P. F.
Herbert, Sir T. Rolt, P.
Hildyard, R. C. Russell, Lord J.
Hogg, Sir J. W. Sawle, C. B. G.
Horsfall, T. B. Scott, hon. F.
Hotham, Lord Shirley, E. P.
Hudson, G. Smijth, Sir W.
Hughes, W. B. Smith, A.
Jermyn, Earl Somerset, Capt.
Johnstone, Si Sotheron, T. H. S.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Spooner, R.
Jones, Capt. Stafford, A.
Kendall, N. Stanhope, J. B.
Knightley, R. Starkie, Le G. N.
Knox, hon. W. S. Stuart, H.
Lacon, Sir E. Taylor, Col.
Langton, W. G. Thesiger, Sir F.
Lascelles, hon. E. Tollemache, J.
Leah, G. C. Trollops, rt. hon. Sir J.
Lemon, Sir C. Tudway, R. C.
Lennox, Lord A. F. Tyler, Sir G.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Vance, J.
Leslie, C. P. Vane, Lord A.
Liddell, H. G. Vernon, G. E. H.
Lindsay, hon. Col. Villiers, hon. F.
Lisburne, Earl of Vyvyan, Sir R. R.
Lockhart, W. Waddington, D.
Lovaine, Lord Waddington, H. S.
Loveden, P. Walcott, Adm.
Lowther, hon. Col. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Luce, T. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Lytton, Sir G. E. L. B. Waterpark, Lord
Macartney, G. Welby, Sir G. E.
MacGregor, Jas. West, F. R.
Malins, R. Whitmore, H.
Mandeville, Visct. Wigram, L. T.
March, Earl of Willoughby, Sir H.
Masterman, J. Wrightson, W. B.
Maunsell, T. P. Wyndham, H.
Wynn, Lieut. Col. TELLERS.
Yorke, hon. E. T. Goulburn, rt. hon. H.
Young, rt. hon. Sir J. Liddell, hon. H. T.

Words added; Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.

The House adjourned at ten minutes before Six o'clock.