HC Deb 20 March 1854 vol 131 cc998-1017

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


, in moving that the second reading of the Bill be postponed, until that day six months, said he was very much surprised at the introduction of this measure after the decision of the House last year, for its features were even of a more objectionable character than those of the Bill of last Session. The Bill was in effect to repeal the Act of Henry VIII., and to permit the colonial clergy to meet, subject to no responsibility whatever. It conferred on the clergy who settled in the Colonies privileges and concessions which were altogether withheld from the clergy at home. Now if there was one point more than another in respect of which the Colonial Legislatures were peculiarly jealous, it was in regard of interference with their ecclesiastical affairs; and that being so, he warned the House not to meddle on so ticklish a question with that class of Her Majesty's subjects. Let the House recollect that it was a similar interference which primarily led to the revolt that lost to us our North American Colonies. The Bill professed to be remarkably simple and straightforward, yet it was difficult to determine what its true meaning was. It set forth that the Colonists might assemble and make regulations concerning their ecclesiastical matters, yet it carefully enacted that the Bill should give no legal effect to those regulations when made. He wanted, then, to know what was the Bill for? The House should carefully deliberate whether or not the prohibitions put upon the clergy shall be continued. Let them not experimentalise upon the Colonies; but let the question be discussed upon a broad principle, and as one involving the whole of the ecclesiastical policy of the country. The present Bill was one which would tend to dissatisfy the Colonists, and occasion a religious element of discord which would prove not only exceedingly injurious to the Colonies themselves, but likewise to the mother country.


seconded the Amendment.

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


Sir, with the permission of the House, I wish briefly to state the reasons why I find myself unable to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sheffield, and I cannot help hoping that the hon. Gentleman himself will not think it desirable to press his Amendment to a division. The House will recollect that this is by no means the first time on which this subject—one, no doubt, of great intricacy, as well as of extreme interest to members of the Established Church in the Colonies—has been brought before this House. About two years ago I had found it to be my duty to oppose a Bill upon this subject that was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. On that occasion I explained at considerable length the objections which I entertained towards it. In making those objections I received on that occasion the support of the present hon. and learned Solicitor General, who is now the promoter of the present Bill, and who concurred in the views which I then put forward. But when I stated the objections I entertained to that measure, I also felt it my duty to express an opinion that the state of the Church in our Colonies was far from satisfactory, and that it would be desirable to give the colonial members of that Church all the additional freedom of action in the management of their ecclesiastical affairs that was consistent with the two grand objects of the unity of the Church and the constitutional authority of the Crown. I then stated I thought that the Church of England in the Colonies laboured under disadvantages with regard to the necessity of adapting herself to missionary duties, but more especially in reference to the management of the temporalities of the Church, and to the establish- ment of a proper discipline. Now, my object is to remedy those defects in such a manner as would better meet the wishes of the colonists themselves. Fortunately this subject has been for a long time before Parliament and our Colonies, and there will, therefore, be no difficulty in deciding what is the real view of the majority of the members of the Church of England in all our most important Colonies. Those who are conversant with the subject will confirm what I now say. The demands of the colonists may be divided under two heads. First—they are desirous—whether rightly or wrongly, whether the present state of the law does or does not impose impediments to free action—they are desirous to be more free than they now find themselves; and secondly, they are no less anxious to keep up their connection with the Church of England and Ireland. These I believe, beyond all doubt, are the real objects of the colonists themselves. Well, the question then arises whether the Bill which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has put upon the table will attain this double object? This Bill is extremely simple and short in its character. It professes to do very little. It is, however, I think, one of the gravest Bills with which we ever had to deal. It proposes to do no more than to repeal all existing disabilities, and to make the Church of the Colonies free. But, simple as the Bill is in shape, it has nevertheless excited considerable alarm. I hear many say that, short as the Bill is, they have no idea what it will do, and they express themselves to be extremely afraid of it. Now, I think that this alarm and these doubts are not without foundation. We found two years ago that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Bill professed to be a very simple measure. It nevertheless was full of constitutional objections of the gravest possible nature. I also think that objections, resting upon a solid foundation, may be urged to the present Bill, however simple in its shape, if it were to pass without any alteration into a law. It might do a great deal more than I am willing to believe the authors of the Bill themselves really intend. My great objection to the Bill that was before the House two years ago was this, that it would have the effect, if passed, to make the Church of England in every colony a separate and an independent Church, and to put an end to the connection that has always existed between them. Instead of having a United Church of England and Ireland, every colony would have a separate and independent Church of its own. Though, perhaps, the danger may not now be so great and so apparent, I still must say, I think that if this Bill passes in its present shape, the practical effect will be much the same as that anticipated in the objection which I had made to the former Bill. I must say, I share the opinion of many who spoke on this subject, that they would prefer in its outline the Bill of last year. Now, I thought that the Bill of last year was rather cavalierly treated by the Government after it had passed the House of Lords with the sanction of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of the Church of England. Many colonial bishops who were then in England assented to it. That Bill had passed the other House of Parliament, but when it came down to this House it was not entrusted to the care of any particular Member. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is true, offered a few faint words in its defence, but even by that right hon. Gentleman the measure was cavalierly treated. It was ultimately dropped. The objects then proposed were clearly intelligible; and I confess I am of opinion that that Bill was a much better one than the present. But I cannot altogether pass over a very remarkable paper, proceeding from a high authority, that was published last year in connection with that Bill, and which exercised great influence upon the public mind. I allude to a letter written by Sir James Stephen. I have heard that that gentleman has also objections to the present measure; but I think that the objections of Sir James Stephen to the Bill of last year were exaggerated. He objected to that Bill on the ground mainly that, first of all, the Colonial Legislatures were competent to deal with the affairs of the Church of England in the Colonies. Now, I hold this to be a mistake, for though I do not deny the competency of the Colonial Legislature to deal with such matters, yet I say that if the Church of England waits until regulations for her own government are made by the Colonial Legislature, I believe the day to be very distant indeed before she will arrive at that happy result. I think, in the opinion Sir James Stephen then expressed upon this subject, he lost sight of the real character and views of the Colonial Legislature. Another objection of his was in reference to this kind of legislation. He declares that this attempt at legislation is a breach of our solemn pledges against interfering with their local affairs. I think that this is a most unfounded objection; because, instead of this being a Bill intended to interfere with the colonists in the settlement of their own affairs, it is directly the reverse, This is a Bill rather to enable the colonists to deal with their own affairs—affairs to them of a most urgent and interesting character. In consequence of the law of England, by the Act of Henry VIII. and the I Eliz., the colonists find themselves trammelled in carrying out their own affairs with that freedom which they wished. It is a fact which cannot be denied, that the members of the Church of England in Canada, in Nova Scotia, and in the Australian Colonies have been petitioning for greater freedom. And what has been done? In two dioceses—namely, the diocese of Melbourne and the diocese of Adelaide—the members of the Church of England had formed themselves into Church societies in order to make such regulations as they deem necessary for the government of their Church. These two dioceses have, then, been led by the urgency of the case to try the experiment. I have in my possession proof that they are deterred from taking the same course in other dioceses from doubts as to the state of the law in their regard, and from an expectation that we shall set them free to manage their own affairs. These demands have been pressed year after year upon our attention. Instead of refusing these demands, which I believe to be both reasonable and just, I think the wiser course will be to endeavour so to shape our legislation as to make it harmless in itself, while we consent to give them greater freedom, and that such freedom should be given in such a manner as not to violate their connection with the Church of England and Ireland. Under these circumstances, the course I propose to take, and which I hope will be generally supported, is not to make any objection to the second reading of the Bill, but to reserve to myself the right—and I now give notice of my intention when in Committee—to move several very important additions. This Bill has been considered by some able and competent lawyers, who have pronounced their opinion of the measure, which opinion I now hold in my hand. They say, that in any view of the case, they think it would be very necessary that the intentions and the objects of the Legislature should be clearly expressed. I don't think that the Bill, as it stands, is at all clear. I think that there are three points that are left open which must be clearly guarded by Parliament—first, the supremacy of the Crown; second, the unity of the Church—that is, to take care that any powers given by this Bill shall not be exercised so as to interfere with the standard of faith and doctrine of the Church; and, third, to reserve to the Colonies what they expressly desire, namely, the continued power of appeal to the highest ecclesiastical authority in this country. I think that these three points should be carefully preserved. I am not disposed to think that this Bill, if so altered, will have an injurious effect, although I doubt very much whether it is the best shape which our legislation could take. I think, however, that if certain clauses were added to it, for the preservation of those important points to which I have referred, the Bill would be rendered somewhat more complete for the attainment of its object. It is my intention, therefore, when in Committee, to submit to their consideration such clauses as I shall then think it necessary to move.


said, he thought that, when last year the Parliament of this country had passed the measure by which the control of the clergy reserves in Canada had been given to the local Legislature, we had announced our determination not further to interfere in the Church affairs of our Colonies. At all events, whether Parliament would or not, they would be forced sooner or later to carry out that principle. He believed this Bill would be grossly abused. The clergy of the Church of England, both in the Colonies and elsewhere, had determined to rule without the laity, and their authority, he feared, was sure to be misused.


said, he was I satisfied that the apprehensions which had been entertained as to the consequences of this measure were entirely groundless. If hon. Members looked at the first and only clause of this Bill, they would see there was an express provision for the representation of the laity of each diocese in this proposed assembly. The simple object of the Bill was to put the Church of England in the Colonies in the same position as every other voluntary society there was placed. He agreed that it was most desirable that the Church of England in the Colonies should assume a voluntary form, but he objected altogether to the kind of tyranny which the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), no doubt unwittingly, sought to exercise in regard to them. The hon. Member said at one moment, that the Church of England in the Colonies was a voluntary society, while at the same time he refused altogether to remove from them disabilities passed in the time of Henry VIII. and of Queen Elizabeth, when we had no Colonies at all, those disabilities now, by a fiction of law, applying to the Colonies. These two repositions were quite inconsistent. He, for one, wishing well to the Church of England in the Colonies, and looking to the facts of the case, and not to any abstract idea of his own, was satisfied that if she were to take root downwards it would be owing to the voluntary exertions of those who were attached to her doctrines and who believed in her faith. It was because this Bill recognised the Church of England as a voluntary association, and because it proceeded to remove from her disabilities which by a fiction of law attached to her, that he gave it his hearty support. With regard to what had been said by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Pakington), he thought it impossible, by any construction, to suppose that the supremacy of the Crown, or the virtual unity of the Church, would be impaired by the language of this Statute. The House, therefore, would see that it was in reality called upon to do a bare act of justice, and he trusted they would give their assent to the second reading of this Bill.


said, after the contradictory statements as to the objects of the Bill to which the House had listened, he considered that it was quite necessary to call for some explanations as to what was intended by this measure. They had heard that two of the Australian dioceses had been formed into a society for their own independent government, and if this had been done, what was it that prevented the same course from being taken in other dioceses? To say the least of it, this looked suspicious.


said, he could conceive that nothing could be more unfortunate than that a meeting, constituted of the bishop, a portion of the clergy, and a portion of the laity of any colony, deeming themselves competent to pass regulations, should do so, and then find the validity of those regulations afterwards becoming matter of litigation. This would have the effect of splitting up the Colonial Church into two portions, and he should like to know from the hon. and learned Solicitor General whether any such contingency was guarded against in the Bill?


said, he was one of those who, having read this Bill carefully and listened attentively to the discussion with respect to it this evening, not only was at a loss to know what was the legal effect of the measure, but what was the object of its introduction. Would the hon. and learned Solicitor General be good enough to state, for the information of those hon. Members who had no desire whatever to oppose the Bill, what the precise disability was which the measure proposed to repeal, and, in addition, give an answer to the important question of the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Wigram), as to what would constitute a legal meeting? He wished to know the extent of power which would be given to this meeting as to the control and management of what were termed "ecclesiastical affairs"—whether that power would extend to questions of faith and doctrine, or whether it would embrace those matters only which related to the temporalities of the Church; whether, if their power related to questions of faith and doctrine, a meeting of the bishops, clergy, and laity could make alterations of that sort without appeal, so that in every colony there might be a different standard of doctrine and a different form of Church Government, under the provisions of this Bill? He wished also to be informed, as the regulations, agreements, or arrangements emanating from this meeting were not to derive any force or authority from the enactments of this Bill, how it would be in the power of the ecclesiastical authorities in the Colonies to enforce obedience to their regulations?


said, he regretted very much that when he applied for leave to bring in this Bill, the House had not derived, from the short statements he then made, a sufficient explanation as to its necessity and objects. He would now endeavour to give a further explanation. The necessity of the measure arose in this way—at an early period of the Reformation, and in the 25th year of Henry VIII., it appeared right to the Parliament of this country, acting under the influence of that Monarch, to vest in the Crown an absolute power of prohibiting any meeting of the clergy whatever. Accordingly a Statute was passed, not only expressed in a very oppressive manner, but, interpreted, as it would be, by the guides to the meaning of the Legislature afforded by the preamble of the Statute, making it unsafe for the clergy to meet in any form, for the purpose of devising regulations or entering into any agreement touching ecclesiastical matters, unless they were convened for that purpose by the express antecedent authority of the Crown. Not only could the clergy not meet without the authority of the Crown, but, if they passed any resolutions, or ordinances, at such meeting, those ordinances would have no effect whatever. The House would therefore see that, when a bishop and clergy were sent out to the Colonies, they were bound by that Act, because the Statute, which was declaratory of the common law, defined in this respect the legal relation between the Crown and the clergy, and became part of the supremacy of the Crown as declared, first by the Statute 26th of Henry VIII., afterwards repealed, and then by the 1st of Elizabeth. Accordingly, when the Statute of Elizabeth declared in effect that the supremacy of the Crown in ecclesiastical affairs should extend to all the possessions of the Crown, whether colonial possessions or conquered countries, the clergymen sent to those districts were bound by this tie to the Crown, and were subject to those disabilities which it was the object of the present measure to remove. Under the present law the clergymen who were sent to the Colonies were bound by a chain, and were unable to meet, in order to do that which every other religious community in the Colonies had the power of doing—to substitute, where no law was in force, mutual agreement and consent. The result was, that the clergy were totally unable to carry out the objects for which they were sent to the Colonies, and it became absolutely necessary to place them in the same position as that enjoyed by dissenting ministers, and to give them the liberty of meeting for the purpose of regulating the ecclesiastical affairs of the Church. With regard to the relations at present existing between the clergymen in the Colonies and the colonial bishops, these were in such an unsatisfactory condition as to render some legislation absolutely necessary. A clergyman in any of the Colonies had the benefit of his endowment, and possessed the power of exercising his sacred functions only so long as he held a title from the bishop of his diocese; and the consequence was, that, if any complaint or accusation was brought against a clergyman, the matter was decided by the bishop alone, and not, as in this country, by a regularly appointed tribunal, according to an established form of law. The bishop thus became the sole autocratic power, and the clergyman had no means of having any accusation which might be brought against him tried in a satisfactory manner. The consequence of such a state of things could not but be injurious as tending to impair the discipline of the Church. With regard to the Church temporalities, the state of things was at present even still more unsatisfactory, inasmuch as it was impossible that any system for the improvement of churches or to supply the means of supporting clergymen would be satisfactory, unless it could be subjected by mutual agreement to those regulations which might be necessary. The Methodists in the Colonies regulated their Church affairs by means of trustees, and, indeed, every sect of Dissenters were able to come to some arrangement by virtue of which they could lay down some form of procedure. The Church of England laboured under disability and suffered inequality by reason of that law which bound her clergy not to hold meetings without the consent of the Crown, and they were therefore placed in a disadvantageous and vexatious position as compared with the ministers of other persuasions. While the present Statute remained unrepealed, clergymen were sent to the Colonies, who, instead of having free and voluntary action, were in reality bound hand and foot by an imperious law. These were the general legal necessities for the introduction of a measure like the present, and with regard to the moral necessity and propriety of placing the clergymen of the Established Church in the same position which was enjoyed by the ministers of other persuasions, he did not think that there could be any dispute. He believed that it was a great and a sound principle to leave to the colonial clergy the free liberty of regulating their own ecclesiastical affairs, by freeing them from the effects of what he considered to be a most injurious enactment. It had been suggested that a difficulty would arise from the fact that the Bill did not contain any provision defining what was to be considered a legal meeting; but if he were desirous of pointing out any one particular in the Bill more deserving of approbation than another, it would certainly be that it contained no provision by which any attempt was made to give a legal character or description to meetings of the clergy and laity in the Colonies. It was not intended to constitute or define what should be a legal meeting; all that was intended was to remove a chain which interfered with the voluntary and free action of the Colonial Church. With regard to what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey), the answer to the question which he had put could be given very shortly. It would be competent for a meeting of the clergy and laity assembled in any colony to do by agreement everything which it was lawful for them to do, but it would not be competent for them, by virtue of mutual consent, to do anything of an illegal nature, or anything which would in the slightest degree affect or impair the law of the land; the whole object of the Bill, in short, was to free the Colonial Church from a disability under which it laboured, but not in any way to give the colonial clergy and laity assembled at a meeting the power of interfering with the laws of the realm. They would be no more able to affect the supremacy of the Crown than to declare that they were exempt from the operation of all law. He must beg the House to remember that the bishops and clergymen sent to the Colonies could not, as members of the Established Church, remove the tie which connected them with the Crown, and that from that very circumstance the supremacy of the Crown in the Colonies could not be endangered by allowing them the power of meeting for the purpose of regulating the ecclesiastical affairs of the Colonies. With regard to another question which had been put to him by the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey), as to whether these meetings would have power over questions of doctrine and faith, it admitted of precisely the same answer. Matters of faith and doctrine were already established by law, and these meetings would have no power to make any ordinances which should directly or indirectly alter the existing laws. The present measure would, in fact, do nothing more than remove a restriction which was found to be injurious, and would give to the clergy of the Colonies the power of substituting the force of mutual consent and agreement in the place of that ecclesiastical law which exists in England, but which has not been established in the Colonies.


said, he confessed that he was in much greater doubt and difficulty since the explanation of the hon. and learned Solicitor General than he was before. He would now ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether, after the passing of this Bill, if it did pass, the United Church of England and Ireland in the Colonies would be a free or an established Church; or whether this was not an attempt to effect an impossible, or, if not impossible, yet a most disadvantageous compromise between the two? He would contend, with as much energy as the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock (Mr. R. J. Philimore), that if the United Chuch in the Colonies were a free Church, nothing could be so monstrous and unfair as for Members of that House who happened to dissent from that Church to stand up and justify that free branch of the United Church being left under a bondage which it ought not to endure. The question was this—and the Solicitor General had not answered it, but it was a question which everybody throughout England would be asking—"What position would the Church occupy which was affected by this Bill if it passed into a law?" If it were a free Church, if it were a purely voluntary association, then the Bill must be altogether unnecessary, as unnecessary, indeed, as it would be to pass such a Bill for the purpose of enabling the Baptists, Independents, or Wesleyan Methodists, to meet and make arrangements for the regulation of the affairs of their respective communities. "But," said the hon. and learned Solicitor General, "it is not so;" and the reason was, that in the reign of Henry VIII., and also in that of Elizabeth, Statutes were passed which bound the bishops and clergy of the United Church of England and Ireland not to meet together for any purpose without the consent of the Crown; that upon the wording of these Statutes the obligation followed all the individuals to the Colonies, and that thereby they were bound. His (Mr. T. Chambers') answer to that was supplied by the Bill itself. Look at its title—"A Bill to relieve the Clergy of the United Church of England and Ireland resident in the Colonies from any Disability," not stating what—"as to the holding of meetings in such Colonies for the regulation of Ecclesiastical Affairs therein." Now, then, refer to the preamble. That surely ought to recite the disability; then the House would be able to see that the enactment was adapted to meet the difficulty, and no more; to remove the disability, and no more. He should have expected it to begin in some such way as this:—"Whereas, by an Act passed in the reign of Henry VIII., and by another Act passed in the reign of Elizabeth, such and such a thing was provided, and whereas by those Acts it was unlawful to do so and so; be it therefore enacted." But it did nothing of the sort. Let the House listen to this well-considered and dexterously-drawn preamble. It ran thus:—"Whereas, by reason of the Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances, which affect or bind the bishops and clergy of the United Church of England and Ireland"—some disability or hindrance to their meeting exists? Not at all; but—"doubts may exist." Why, there were no laws or Statutes in existence with reference to which that might not be predicated, and very lucky was it for the learned profession that it was so. But the preamble was thus drawn because the hon. and learned Gentleman who drew it could not lay his finger on a line of the Statutes which, in his own judgment as a lawyer, convinced him there was a doubt. If these bishops and clergy in the Colonies were under a disability imposed by Statute, that disability ought not to be removed; if they were not, then there was no reason for the Bill; and it was on the ground of that alternative that he should oppose the measure. If the bishops and clergy in the Colonies were bishops and clergy of the United Church of England and Ireland within the meaning of the Statute, nothing would be so unwise and impolitic as to remove the restrictions, and the present was a most unlucky time to propose it. But if they were not—if the Church in the Colonies was simply a free Church—then the Bill was, he repeated, utterly unnecessary. Would the hon. and learned Solicitor General venture to predict what would be the consequences of the measure? Observe the largeness of terms employed. It was to regulate ecclesiastical affairs within each province or diocese. What was the nature of the regulations? what was to be their force when made? what the construction of the body which was to legislate? what the apparatus to be set up for enforcing the regulations? Upon all these most vital points the House was to be left in entire ignorance. This experiment was to be made in the Colonies, as they must all know, not to relieve the clergy from a suppositious disability, but to establish a precedent which might be followed in this country with fatal effects. One of the Amendments suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwitch (Sir J. Pakington) would, he (Mr. T. Chambers) believed, do grievous mischief if it were adopted. The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill ought to contain a power of appeal from the Colonial Churches to the highest ecclesiastical authority at home. But what was this but to lay a foundation for the very same evils against which we had remonstrated for ages in this country, and against which we were remonstrating at this moment, with reference to the Roman Catholic Church? For his part he did not consider that the United Church of England and Ireland was wanted in the Colonies. They might have their bishops, they might have their Episcopal Church there if they pleased; but let that Church be independent—an integral native Church, owing only that kind of affectionate allegiance to the United Church of England and Ireland which was due to the institution to which it owed its existence.


said, he thought the hon. and learned Solicitor General had conclusively demonstrated to the House not merely that doubts might possibly exist, but that doubts were actually entertained by high legal authorities in this country, and that those doubts had been expressed at different times by those high legal authorities on each side of the House, and from time to time been pressed by them upon successive Secretaries of State and various Governments, with regard to the power of the colonial Churches to regulate their own internal affairs. He was sure the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment must have laboured under a total misapprehension of all the facts, when he said that the measure was unsolicited by the Colonies. Knowing something of the strong feeling which prevailed amongst colonial Churchmen—alike bishops, clergy, and laity—upon the subject, he (Mr. Mowbray) could take upon himself to assert that the measure was one which they had deeply at heart, and one, moreover, which they had earnestly solicited at the hands of different Governments. The hon. and learned Member for Hertford (Mr. T. Chambers) asked, What is this United Church of England and Ireland to the Colonies? If it be a free Church, your Bill is unnecessary; on the contrary, if it be a Church in the same position as the Church at home, then it is opposed to sound policy to remove the disability complained of. Now it might be difficult, per- haps, to define the precise position of the colonial Churches and the precise connection which subsisted between those Churches and the Church at home at the present moment. But, surely, it could not be impolitic to remove a disability merely because they could not exactly define the position in which the Church in the Colonies was to be classified. With regard to endowments, the Colonial Church was in the same position as any independent voluntary body in this country. The only case in which it possessed an endowment was, he believed, in Canada; but the Imperial Parliament surrendered to the Colonial Legislature all authority and control over that endowment in the last Session of Parliament. So far as endowment was concerned, then, the Church in the Colonies was an entirely free Church. But even if it were not a free Church, the argument advanced to-night by the hon. and learned Member for Hertford as to what might be the policy or the feelings of the people of England with reference to the disabilities with which the Bill proposed to deal, was not the argument by which such a measure ought to be met. He should have thought that upon a colonial subject the question would have been, not what was the feeling of the people of England, but what the members of the Church in the Colonies desired to be done. An objection was raised to legislating upon the subject, on the ground that in some of the Colonies meetings had taken place already. True, that had been the case in Canada and the Australias, where so strong was the feeling with regard to the wants of the Colonial Church, that, legal or illegal, the meetings had been held. At the same time he had been assured by persons who were concerned in those meetings that the greatest difficulty was experienced respecting them, that many conscientious men had declined to attend meetings, the legality of which might be doubted; and that whilst such doubts prevailed amongst high authorities in this House upon that point, it was competent to those who were opposed to those meetings to question their legality, and cast ridicule and contempt upon them. If the Legislature desired to do justice to all the various interests of the Colonies, and to extend to the Church there the same privileges as they were prepared to give to any other religious society, they would now pass some measure on this question, which had been brought before Parliament many years since, which had occupied much of the thoughts of colonial Churchmen, and with respect to which the present Bill proposed a remedy, if not the best, still one recommended by the Government and calculated to lead to some benefit.


said, he was one who had taken part in the rejection of the Bill of last Session, but he was bound to say, that he did not consider the Government had treated that measure cavalierly. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made the best fight he could for it, and it was only upon the representation of the Solicitor General, who considered it to be vicious and obnoxious, that the Government, acting, as he believed, in perfect good faith, withdrew the Bill. The measure now upon the table was, in his opinion, infinitely better than the one of last Session; still, he thought the objections of the hon. and learned Member for Hertford—and the suspicions raised against the measure of last Session—had not been satisfactorily removed, and he should therefore oppose the second reading.


said that, though he had listened attentively to the explanations of the hon. and learned Solicitor General, he had not been able thoroughly to understand this measure. He therefore thought that the most correct and consistent course which he could take, would be to wait until the third reading, to see what changes were made in the Bill, and whether he could then understand it, and then to give his vote according as seemed best. As far as he could see, this would be a very harmless Bill; but he should have preferred that of last Session, because it was definite, and said exactly what power was to be given. He was fully of opinion that it was necessary that some power should be given to the Church in the Colonies, but he thought that that House ought to say specifically what power it was giving, and not legislate in a blind manner. He had to apologise to the House for not giving a vote, but, not being able to understand the Bill, he thought it most discreet to abstain from voting upon it.


said, that it was clear to his mind, and would be clear to the mind of any hon. Gentleman who had read the five or six papers with reference to the Church of England in the Colonies which were presented in the years 1850 and 1851, that that Church laboured under incapacities and disabilities which it was highly necessary for the Legislature to remove. He would give two illustrations, taken from these papers. In the first place, if a clergyman of the Church of England had very much misconducted himself, there was in the Colonies, as was evident from the papers he had referred to, no power for the heads of the Church to remove him from the preferment to which he had been inducted. In the second place, if a clergyman thought he had a right to do certain things which the bishop disputed, it was in the power of the bishop to deprive him of his licence, which deprived him of his salary, and he had no remedy without coming to this country to make his appeal. Here, then, were two practical grievances that required a remedy. And what was the remedy now proposed? That the members of the Church of England, clergy and laity, who went to a colony, should be enabled to meet together in the same way as any body of Dissenters could meet in the Colonies for the purpose of regulating their own matters for themselves, and that they might not be exposed to the inconveniences which he had pointed out to the House. The Bill he must say was an extremely difficult one to draw, and it was desirable that time should be given to the House, in Committee, to consider whether the clauses as they now stood were likely to carry out the objects of the framers without interfering with the law of England as applicable to the Church and to the supremacy of the Crown and the Statutes of Uniformity. But he could not understand any hon. Gentleman's wishing to vote against the Bill, when there were such palpable grievances as those he had mentioned, and refusing to go into Committee to consider how those grievances could be remedied; unless, indeed, that, being a Dissenter from the Church of England, he wished to withhold from it the liberty which he claimed for his own denomination. And he (Mr. Walpole) must say such a proceeding reminded him of a passage in our history when those who held opinions similar to those of some of the opponents of this Bill, using the name of religious liberty, gained the upper hand in the State, and then refused to the members of the Church of England the right of using its own Prayer Book.


said, he wished to explain the reason why he must vote against the second reading of this measure. He wished to extend the religious liberty of all denominations, and even of that deno- mination which he thought inflicted on the Dissenters of this country great injustice and wrong. But when it was said that the Church of England in the Colonies desired to be placed simply on an equality with the various voluntary bodies there, then he asked whether the Church of England in the Colonies would be placed by this Bill in exactly the same relation with respect to precedence and privilege as the other Colonial Churches? If there was no connection between the Church of England in the Colonies and the United Church of England and Ireland, then there could be no reason why they should not most gladly give her all the licence she required; but it was because there was a political tie and connection between the two Churches that this measure was required, and the bringing forward of this very Bill showed that it was wished to maintain that connection, otherwise the Church of England would already have all the liberty which the voluntary sects enjoyed.


Sir, I wish to say a few words, in order simply to explain what will be my object in voting for the second reading of any Bill of this kind. It is merely with the view that the Church of England in the Colonies may have the same power of regulating their affairs as other religious bodies have. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Mr. T. Chambers) says that he is quite willing to consent to such a Bill if the Church is entirely a colonial Church, and is confined in its whole operations to the Colonies, and separated from the Church of England at home. But that is not the liberty which other communions enjoy in the Colonies. The Church of Rome in the Colonies of the Crown has its own meetings and its own regulations, but they are meetings and regulations which are subject to, or connected with, the decision that the head of that Church may come to, and any laws which he pleases may be passed binding on that Church. Again, the Church of Scotland in the Colonies, and, I imagine, also the Free Church of Scotland, have their assemblies; yet those Churches have connections and very important relations with the Church Assemblies sitting in Scotland, or with the Assembly of the Free Church of that country. So, in like manner, with the Wesleyan bodies in the Colonies. As Secretary of State for the Colonies, I had frequent occasion to speak with them on such subjects. They have meetings and conferences, but they are connected with the Wesleyans of this country; and members of the Wesleyan body are often sent from this country in order to take part in the ecclesiastical affairs of the Wesleyans in the Colonies. But what, then, is the justice of the case? The Roman Catholics in the Colonies may be connected with their Church in Europe—the Scotch Church there may be connected with their Church in Scotland—the Wesleyans may be connected with their body in England—but members of the Church of England in the Colonies are precluded from holding Church assemblies, because of their connection with the Church of England in this country. But then the hon. Gentleman who spoke last gave us to understand that he would agree with the Bill if there were no political connection. Now, I do not imagine that there is any political connection between the Church which is established in this country and the Church in the Colonies. I believe that no such political connection exists. The only tie between them is their general agreement in respect of matter of doctrine and faith; and, further, there is a bishop who is appointed by the Crown in this country. It seems to me, therefore, that it is right to relieve the laity and clergy belonging to the Church of England in the Colonies from any disability inflicted by Statute. I consider it quite right to maintain these disabilities in this country, because the Established Church is connected with the State, and it is proper that the State should have that control over the members of the Established Church. But with regard to the Colonies there is no reason for maintaining such control. There is no reason at all why you should retain that control which you have owing to certain doctrines respecting the supremacy of the Crown that are held in this country. With regard to the necessity for this Bill, there is, at least, I believe, an established case in which the clergy of the Church of England in Massachusetts, about a century and a half ago, wished to meet. They applied to this country, through the Governor of the Colony, for leave to do so, and they were told, after the opinion of the law officers of the Crown had been taken—and at that time one of those law officers was no less a man than Lord Hardwicke—they were told that they could not have that liberty, and would not be allowed to meet as a clergy. Now, I think that this restriction should be removed, and removed by Statute. As to the provision which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) proposes to introduce, I wish to say not a word on that subject now. I think it is a question worthy of consideration, when in Committee, in what manner this restriction should be repealed; but that is not the question we have to decide to-night—we have now to say simply, whether we shall give the Church in the Colonies freedom to meet on its own affairs.

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

The House divided;—Ayes 196; Noes 62: Majority 134.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2o.