§ ORDER for Second Reading read.
THE MARQUESS OF BLANDFORD
said, he rose to move the second reading of the Episcopal and Capitular Estates Bill; but before he entered into any argument relating to the question, he would wish earnestly to call the attention of the House to the important nature of the subject, and to the grave issues that were involved in the measure. And much as he had endeavoured to give his most anxious consideration to the question—much as he believed that the provisions of the measure were such as would be found ultimately well adapted to effect the important ends which were required—it was not without some feeling of satisfaction that he asked the House now to entertain the subject, knowing that it would there receive that prudent investigation and consideration which, before its assent was finally given—if that assent was to be finally given—would 2 render its provisions amply sufficient to carry out the objects which he had in view. The Bill now before the House related to the rights, and, in some instances, to the disposal of property, of immense annual value; and it proposed a mode of administration for that property which should render it capable not only of sustaining and supporting those time-honoured institutions for whose benefit it was first originally intended, but also by an improved mode of administration, would enable it to supply those great spiritual and parochial wants of the country which ought to occupy our most earnest attention. Certainly such a measure was deserving of the greatest attention of the House, and he was glad that it had fallen to his lot to propose it, for the House would allow him to say there were subjects of equal, if not of greater importance, than those which usually occupied its attention, which it was their bounden duty to discuss—he meant those subjects relating to the spiritual interests of the people, and to their welfare, not only for time, but also for eternity. And here he felt bound in his conscience to 3 say, if it was desired to obtain the Divine blessing for the country—its prosperity at home, and its immunity and protection from invasion from without—that he believed no surer method could be adopted—and in expressing that opinion, he felt he would have the concurrence of every Member of the House—of attaining that end and that benefit than by that House, the responsible legislative body of the country, having due regard to the spiritual interests of the people. On entering upon the consideration of the question, the course which it was best for him to adopt would be to endeavour to state the actual condition of the case at present, the law affecting both episcopal and capitular bodies, the peculiar system of administration under which this property had been brought by various Acts of Parliament, and the peculiar condition in which it was now placed in consequence of the Acts which had been passed. And, first of all, he would call the attention of the House to the general system of limitation of incomes which was introduced some time ago. When an inquiry was first instituted into the property of the Church by a Commission, which sat in 1834, 1835, and 1836, it was found that the incomes were most unequally distributed, and that it would be necessary to have regard to those means by which increased supplies might be obtained for the spiritual and parochial wants of the country. And it was also necessary to determine how the incomes of the dignitaries themselves might be distributed, so as to give an adequate income to each bishopric and chapter respectively. The first measure, then, adopted, was the 6 & 7 William IV., wherein it was enacted that—In order to provide for the augmentation of the incomes of the smaller bishoprics, such fixed annual sums be paid to the Commissioners out of the revenues of the larger sees respectively as shall, upon due inquiry and consideration, be determined on, so as to leave as an average annual income to the Archbishop of Canterbury 15,000l., to the Archbishop of York 10,000l.,"And then it went on to state the salaries of the other dignitaries. That Act was already extended to the sees of Canterbury, Chester, Norwich, Llandaff, Salisbury, St. Asaph, Ripon, Ely, Worcester, Lincoln, York, and Peterborough. All these had come under the provisions of the various Acts and Orders in Council for the purpose of limiting the incomes of bishops. He would now state to the House what was the plan which was originally 4 adopted. At first, inquiry was made into the probable annual amount of the revenues of the various bodies; and when that amount was ascertained, then it was settled what the incomes of the dignitaries in future should be; and that being settled, a fixed surplus remained as a charge upon the see for the future. That plan was adopted in order to give the bishops some interest in the management of their property, and in order that they might have inducements to look to its being administered to the best possible advantage. However, the effect was anything but what was expected; for the property was found to be of such a very improvable nature, that the incomes of the bishops, instead of remaining at the amounts originally appointed, were found very largely to exceed them. In exemplification he might cite the case of a bishopric in the north of the country which was known to all. The income of the see was estimated at 20,000l. a year—while the income agreed to be secured to the see was only 8,000l. a year; therefore the fixed charge to be handed over was placed at 12,0001. a year. Well that charge was paid, and paid punctually; but still the income of the see was found to average from 12,000l. to 15,000l. a year. These matters, as was well known, were brought before Parliament, and no one would regret more than he did if they were brought forward in any hostile or inimical spirit; but at the same time the facts were so patent and palpable, that it was no longer possible to blind the eyes of the public as to the necessity of introducing a change in the law. That change was effected by the 13 & 14 Vic., which limited the incomes of bishops, irrespective of any surplus which might accrue to them; and these incomes, thus fixed, were fixed and assigned as the proper incomes of the respective sees. He now wished to call attention to the mode in which the Order in Council then issued worked. The plan at present in action was that which was embodied in the Order of Council of the 25th day of August, 1851, and it made this regulation:—That every half-year a return should be made, before the 25th day of March or the 29th day of September, to be delivered in such form as from time to time should be directed, containing a correct account, duly certified by the bishop, of all the monies realised by him in respect of the revenue of the see during the past half-year; and in case it should ap- 5 pear, after allowing for all reasonable deductions, that there was a surplus, that it should be paid over into the common fund of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. But if, on the other hand, the half-yearly statement showed that the income of the bishop fell below that fixed by Parliament, the Commissioners were to make up the deficiency. And a further provision of that Order of Council was of a most remarkable description and character, because it placed the bishops in a position in which he would never have placed them in any Bill he might have introduced; and it said, in all cases where the amount of the fine on renewal of leases should exceed 1001., that the calculation should be submitted to the Commissioners for their approval, who would examine the principle upon which all such fines were to be calculated; but if the fine should exceed half the annual income of the see, it should be left to them to direct that such payments should be made to themselves." Therefore the power which at present existed in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—the power under which the incomes of the bishops were regulated was this—that in cases where the amount of any fine exceeded half the amount of the income, the bishops were not to be entrusted with the money themselves, but they were called on to pay it over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who might again have to transfer it to them in the shape of income. Such were the provisions subject to which the bishops at present were placed. And next, with regard to the canons, the first Act of Parliament relating to them was the 3 & 4 Victoria, which was commonly called the Cathedral Act. By that Act the incomes of Durham, Manchester, Westminster, and St. Paul's, were limited definitively, and in every other case it was arranged that the income of the dean should amount to 10001., and that of a canon to 500l. a year. In some cases these provisions had been carried into effect, and the two chapters of York and Carlisle had definite fixed incomes from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. And the other cases to which the rule of fixed incomes was prospectively to apply were Lichfield, Manchester, Ripon, St. Paul's, and Westminster. But speaking altogether there were some ten or twelve bishoprics and eight chapters which had been already brought under the operation of the Act with regard to the limitation of incomes. He would now read the 6 results of those measures which were to be found in the payments made to or by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. By the last Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners it appeared that the payments of the bishops to the common fund were 25,499l., while the payments to the bishops amounted to 38,574l., the sum fixed for tie bishops' incomes amounting to 152,000l., so that it followed that nearly one-quarter of the amount constituting the bishops' incomes was now paid from the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, In the case of chapters, the payment of chapters to the common fund was 51,183l., while, on the other hand, the payments made to chapters were not so large, reaching only to 9,364l. But while all that was going on relative to the fixing and regulating of incomes, he might add that a proceeding of no less importance—and quite as much affecting the interests of the Established Church—was being brought about, that was the enfranchisement of the property of the Church. The subject of the leasehold tenures was one brought under the notice and consideration of the House of Commons about thirteen or four teen years ago. It was first mooted by Mr. Spring Rice, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his idea was, that an improvement in the value of the Church property might be discovered if the mode of leasing the property was inquired into; and that these additional resources might be made available for the purposes of church rates. There was no churchman, however, who would not agree with him (the Marquess of Blandford) that the wisdom of the House was abundantly and amply shown in the rejection of that proposal. However, it led to an inquiry of a very valuable nature, for a Committee was appointed to inquire into the mode of leasing property, and it sat during 1838 and 1839, and conducted a very long and interesting inquiry. The inquiry before the Committee showed what was the latent value of the Church's property—the unhappy system of leasing, introduced by the imprudence of the dignitaries at the time of the Restoration, and how it had gone on up to the present time—the abuses which were practised under it—the mode in which it affected the dignitaries of the Church—and the small amount of revenue which was derived from the immense property forming the income of the Establishment. All these points were fully brought to light, and the recommendations of the Committee were framed 7 in a spirit of wisdom and fairness. They recommended that a process of enfranchisement should take place—that power should be given to dispose of the reversionary interests of the Church to its lessees—and that steps should be taken as soon as possible to put a termination to that injurious system of tenure, which so long had pressed upon the vitals and energy of the Church. Well, nothing more took place for a considerable time, until the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) again brought the subject of the spiritual destitution of the country in connection with the revenue of the Church before the notice of the House, and to move for some returns connected with the value of property, which were not granted, though, at the same time, a Commission was appointed by the Government, called the Episcopal and Capitular Revenue Commission, which again entered fully into the nature of leasehold tenures, and the Church's mode of leasing property. The result of that Commission was, the preparation of an Act for the purpose of settling the question. The Bill, however, upon being introduced in the House of Lords, was found to be very deficient in many points, and a Committee, therefore, of their Lordships was appointed to inquire into the subject. The Committee thereupon entered again on the inquiry in conjunction with various plans which had been proposed, and the result was the Act 14 & 15 Vict., c. 104, for permitting the voluntary enfranchisement of the property of the Church. The peculiar provisions of that Act were, that the Church was permitted to receive applications from the various lessees for the enfranchisement of their leasehold property, and, with the consent of the Estates Commissioners, such bargains were to be concluded; that in the reversionary interests which should pass away from the Church—with the money proceeding from these sales either other lands were to be purchased, or leasehold interests in other estates. So that the effect was to bring the property of the Church into hand at a rack-rent value, and the Act provided that—No lease of any lands purchased or acquired by any ecclesiastical corporation shall be granted by such ecclesiastical corporation otherwise than from year to year, or for a term of years in possession not exceeding fourteen years, at the best annual rent that can be reasonably gotten.Leasehold tenures were thus entirely put an end to; and the result had been that the incomes of the dignitaries of the Church 8 had been limited; and the ecclesiastical estates had been brought under a new tenure, and a new mode of administration. And in conjunction with that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had obtained a very large amount of interest in the property, which interest they themselves stated they held as trustees for the general benefit of the Church—and he thought the House would permit him to read from one of their Reports their statements on that subject. They said in their first Report:—Notwithstanding the large amount of benefit already conferred by the distribution of their revenues, the Commissioners cannot withhold their deep regret that the limited amount of their present means must still leave untouched a considerable portion of that spiritual destitution, the removal of which was the main object of the Crown in issuing the original Commission of Inquiry, and of Parliament in confirming its recommendations. They felt, also, that these questions were deeply affected by the responsibilities which the Legislature had devolved upon them as trustees for the general benefit of the Church, and more especially of the parochial clergy.Such were the views and feelings which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners stated they entertained with regard to the important functions that devolved upon them. Now, such being the case, he would proceed to state to the House the reasons why the management of this property should be transferred to the Estates Commissioners of the Ecclesiastical Commission. And, in the first place, he must ask the attention of the House while he compared the effect of the Order in Council to which he had alluded with respect to the bishops' incomes, with that which was provided by the Bill now before the House. Now, that Order in Council placed the bishops in this position, that they were obliged to give in a half-yearly return to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of the whole of their income for the half year; and in some cases they might be called on to pay over the amount to the Commissioners. He proposed by this Bill that the management of the entire property should be vested in the Estates Commissioners, and that the proceeds of that property should be paid to the Commissioners. The bishops might now be called upon, as he had said, to pay those proceeds to the Estates Commissioners, but he proposed that they should do so in future in every case. He proposed that certain sources of income, however, should be excepted, such as fees, and income which the bishops received from similar sources in their official character. But it would be requisite at the same time 9 in all cases that there should be a half-yearly return to the Commissioners of what was received from such sources of exceptional income—and that the balance of the appointed income was to be made up from the property of the see. So that really when they came to consider, there was little or no difference between the plan now proposed and the law at present existing—the departure only consisting in this, that his Bill went to enforce in all cases what the existing law enforced in some. There was, however, one important provision to which he wished to call attention. A great deal had been said of the insecurity that might possibly result from a measure of this sort if the fee of the property were transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He provided, however, by the 4th clause of the Bill—That nothing hereinbefore contained shall be construed to vest the fee of such lands and hereditaments in the Commissioners, or to give them any further interest in or power over the same, except such as may be necessary for managing and disposing the same in accordance with the provisions of this Act.In every case, therefore, the fee was left to the ecclesiastical corporation itself, and the Commissioners were merely brought in as the responsible land agents of the various corporations, to receive the profits for them, to administer the property for them to the best possible advantage, without causing any trouble or distraction, and pay over that portion of the revenue which had been assigned to these dignitaries by Parliament. Now, if they compared that plan with the one at present in adoption, it would be found that it was far less humiliating to the bishops—that it removed them from that position of suspicion in which they at present were so often placed—and that in it might be discovered a fair solution of this difficult and important question, which had so often and so long been mooted in Parliament. The same regulations in this respect which he proposed with regard to bishops, would also be applied by the Bill to chapters. With regard to these, they, too, were to make a half-yearly return of their incomes, and in the same way, as soon as Parliament had fixed their incomes, they would receive those fixed incomes from the Commissioners; but until that period they should receive from them that sum which the Commissioners would conceive they were entitled to, and that amount might be determined upon an average age of seven years, or in any other way. Now, there was another important reason 10 why the management of this property should be transferred. He had already alluded to the position of property, with regard to its possessors—that was to say, those interested in the Church property as receiving incomes already limited. Now, the surplus income being handed over to the Commissioners, it followed that they had a very large interest in the property—an interest lodged in them for the purpose of meeting the spiritual wants of the country; and it was therefore only a matter of justice that the Commissioners should have a distinct power over that portion of the property. At present they had no such power. Certainly, the proceeds of a great number of canonries had been paid over to the Commissioners, but they had no knowledge how those proceeds were secured. They might be well or wastefully secured. The bishops, deans, and chapters, at the present time, were land-agents for the Commissioners, instead of the Commissioners being land-agents for them. It was highly important, therefore, that some settlement of the question should be arrived at, embracing either a plan like that which he proposed, or, if not,—an arrangement by which so much of the property of each see or chapter as the Commissioners possessed an interest in should be handed over to the Commissioners, that they might manage it for themselves. But if that plan were adopted in preference, he would only appeal to those Gentlemen who complained of such a scheme as he proposed, as a confiscation of property, and ask them which arrangement was in reality most likely to lead to confiscation; was it the one, which he suggested, and which proposed, not that any portion of the absolute property of each see or chapter, but only the surplus proceeds, were to be brought into a common fund; or was it the plan which would cut off a definite portion of the property itself from the endowment of the see or chapter, and vest that portion in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners? Take, for example, the case of the See of Canterbury; the income of that see was estimated at about 25,000l. a year, while the income of the archbishop was fixed at only 15,000l. Therefore, if the archbishop was to have 15,000l. a year to manage for himself, the Commissioners would have a clear right to the management of the remaining 10,000l. Well, but if the second arrangement which he had just sketched out were admitted, they would be in a fair way of entering at once on a system of confiscation—for, hav- 11 ing commenced with appropriating 10,000l. a year, it would be impossible to determine where they would end. For himself, he confessed he had no apprehension of such a confiscation, but he threw out these hints for the consideration of those gentlemen who thought that there was danger in his plan of the ultimate confiscation of the Church's property. But another reason for the adoption of his Bill was the necessity of proceeding with the enfranchisement. The plan of enfranchisement was adopted in order to eliminate the latent value of the property of the Church; and the effect of the plan would be to part entirely with about one-half of the fee of the property. When he came to consider the importance of pursuing this plan, consistently with safety and benefit to the great interests involved, he would wish to show a statement of the great spiritual wants of the country, and which the Church had already given evidence of its intention to supply. The spiritual wants of the country, then, might be classified under these heads:—First of all, those livings that required augmentation in public patronage; secondly, similar livings in private patronage; thirdly, livings under Sir Robert Peel's District Act—the duties of which were of the most onerous description, though they were most miserably endowed. Next, there were endowments required for other churches already in existence, of which 786 had been constituted under the various Church Building Acts, and which were for the main part dependent upon the pew-rents; and, lastly, there were some 600 new churches in different localities, each of which would require a district and endowment. The sum required for the augmentation of livings in private patronage, as stated by the Church Commissioners, was 131,446l. The sum required for the augmentation of livings in public patronage was 145,195l. For the augmentation of the late Sir Robert Peel's district churches—241 districts at 100l. a year each—24,100l. For the churches already built under the Church Building Acts, being 786 at 150l. a year each, 117,900l. Endowments for the new churches required, 137,900l. Total, 556,541l.; being the annual sum now required, on the most moderate computation, to meet the spiritual wants of the country. He would now proceed to quote the amounts received by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and their expenses, so far as they could be made out. The payments made by the bishops to the common fund of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners up to the latest Report 12 was 25,497l. The payments made to the bishops was 38,574l., leaving a balance of 13,077l. against the bishops. The payments made by the chapters to the common fund was 51,183l. The payments made to the chapters 9,364l., leaving a balance of 41,819l. in favour of the chapters. Deducting, therefore, the balance, 13,077l. paid by the Commissioners to the bishops from the balance of 41,819l. it left a sum of 28,742l. as the total amount which the Commissioners had received from the various sees and suspended canonries. In addition to this there was all that property that was vested in them on account of the suspension of the probendal stalls; and with regard to the expectancies of the Commission, he found that the total number of probends to be suppressed was 360. The number now transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was 318; leaving forty-two to come into their hands, either by commutation or death. The canonries to be suppressed by the existing Acts were seventy-seven, those actually suppressed were fifty-eight; leaving nineteen yet to fall in. The sinecure rectories to be suppressed were forty; of these sixteen had been already suppressed, and twenty-four remained yet to fall in. The House would therefore see from this statement how inadequate were the means in the hands of the Commissioners to meet the spiritual wants to which he had referred. He would now state the amount which would be obtained if the enfranchisement of ecclesiastical property should be entirely carried out; but the House must bear in mind that if this plan were adopted the whole of the property would be placed at a rackrent; and it was, he thought, a matter for consideration whether the administration of property at rack-rents was not highly inconsistent with the character and duties of spiritual persons. The annual value of episcopal leasehold property was about 547,094l. a year. Under the process of enfranchisement, if one-half of this amount was realised, they would have 273,547l. a year. The sum derived annually from other sources than leasehold property would be 132,124l., making altogether the sum of 405,671l. The sum required for the incomes of archbishops and bishops would be 152,200l. a year—so that, deducting that amount, the actual surplus would be 253,471l. The annual value of capitular leasehold property was 820,925l. If one-half of that amount was realised it would give 410,462l. The amount derived from other sources 13 was 120,182l., making the total proceeds of capitular property 530,6441. He calculated the sum annually required for cathedral establishments at 219,8001., leaving a surplus from capitular property of 310,8441., and a total annual surplus from episcopal and capitular property of more than 550,0001. a year, derived from the process of enfranchisement, and under a well-devised scheme of administrative management; and these were reasons why he thought that all such property should be transferred to the management of the Ecclesiastical Commission. It appeared to him that the great spiritual wants of the country required a different mode of administration of the Church property than existed at present. With the utmost respect for the dignitaries of the Church, he would say that by the passing of such a measure as he was proposing there would be opened to them an increased sphere of usefulness, and the truths which they taught would have greater weight, and would be more generally acknowledged. He would now proceed to notice some of the objections which he had heard urged against his measure. One was that it would render the property of the Church insecure, and endanger the tenure of ecclesiastical property. He might, however, remind the House that by the 3 & 4 Vict. c. 113, 360 probendal stalls and seventy-seven canonries were suppressed, and very great changes were introduced in the administration of ecclesiastical property, in order to form a common fund to be devoted by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in such a manner as they deemed might best promote the spiritual welfare of the country. At that time great fears were expressed as to the consequences of the measure which, it was said, would uproot the foundations of the Established Church. He would, however, state to the House what had been the result of that measure, and would leave them to judge whether the Church was in a worse position, whether it was less capable of performing its high spiritual functions, or whether it was less firmly rooted in the affections of the people than at the period to which he referred. The total number of benefices augmented by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, according to their last Report, was 850, having a population of 2,337,127, and involving an annual charge, exclusive of tithe and glebe, of 46,1601. The number of Sir R. Peel's parishes which had been constituted was 241; 183 of those were provided with churches. If the cost of each might be 14 computed at 5,0001., the whole amount expended upon them was nearly 1,000,000l. The permanent annual charge upon the funds of the Commission in respect to Sir R. Peel's districts was 34,248l., The total annual charge upon their funds was 98,4871. Now this was what the Commission effected by means of the common fund placed at their disposal. In regard to the progress of the Church itself during that period, he would quote from the census recently taken in reference to religious worship. From the year 1831 to 1851, during which period all those things to which he had referred had taken place, there were 2029 churches built, at an estimated cost from the public funds of 511,583l, and from private sources of 5,575,615l. With these facts before them, he thought that they could not well say that the Church was placed in danger by those Acts, or that it was losing its hold upon the affections and sympathies of the people. The body into whose hands he proposed to transfer the management of those estates was the Estates Commissioners who were appointed under the authority of the 13 & 14 Vict., cap. 94, being an Act passed in consequence of the inquiry that had been instituted by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The Estates Commission appointed by Parliament consisted of three persons. One was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the two others by the Crown. With them were conjoined two members of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and they formed a body to whom the administration of the property vested in the Commission itself was entrusted. He did not think that a body more suited to the discharge of such important functions could be found, or one more likely to fulfil them in a high or conscientious manner. From the fact of their being obliged to make an annual Report to Parliament, and of the way in which it was likely to be minutely examined, he believed it was impossible to suppose that any mal-administration of the property could take place. Again, he knew it was objected to his proposition that by it the dignitaries of the Church would be made stipendiaries. He thought that he had confuted that statement by showing that they were as much stipendiaries under the present system as they would be if his measure were passed into a law. He had shown, in the course of the statement, that at present the bishops received 38,000l. a year, or nearly one-third of their entire income, from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and he thought it could scarcely 15 be said that the fact of the bishops receiving the profits of their own property from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would place them in a low or stipendiary position. He might observe, with regard to the expenses of the administration of property under the Estates Commissioners, that it appeared, from a return moved last year, that the average charges for the transfer of property, including plans, travelling and other expenses, were only 10s. 6d. per cent. He did not think, therefore, that the system he proposed could be objected to on the ground of expense. But there was another objection raised. It was said that the Bill was introduced at an inopportune moment, and, as the chapter of Exeter stated in a petition presented to the House by an hon. Member behind him, that as a Commission was at the present moment sitting to inquire into the state of chapters, this Bill should not have been introduced until that Commission had presented its Report. He, however, thought that he would have acted in a highly indecorous manner, as a member of the Commission, if he had known that they were inquiring into the management of Church property and that he had introduced a measure that would probably forestall their arrangements. But what was the fact? That Commission was instituted for the purpose of inquiring into the state and condition of cathedral bodies in regard to their constitution. It was instituted in consequence of a Bill that had been brought forward two years ago. Now, that Commission, in his mind, had nothing whatever to do with the management of property. The management of this kind of property was not necessarily affected by that Commission. The Commission might recommend that a dean and canon should have so much a year, and that there should be certain duties attached to the office. Their recommendations might involve a larger or smaller amount of expenditure; but that expenditure would not be touched by this Bill; and he was willing to guard against the contingency of any surplus being forestalled until the question was fully considered by the Commission. This subject had been already fully discussed: the question of the management of property had been brought before the Episcopal and Capitular Revenues Commission, and it was fully discussed before it, as well as before a Committee of the House of Lords; and under such circumstances he thought it would be most unwise to defer this Bill to any distant day. Now, as to 16 some further provisions of this measure, the Bill preserved the fee of the property in the hands of various corporations. It required that a separate account should be kept of all the properties, and that the surplus, after paying the incomes, should be handed over to the common fund. Clause 29 contained an important provision. The Act of Enfranchisement was passed only for three years, and it would expire in the present Session of Parliament. One of the recommendations of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was, that that Act should be renewed. The effect, then, of the 29th clause was to renew that Act as it stood, with one exception—namely, that all applications for enfranchisement might be made to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners directly, without the intervention of the ecclesiastical corporation, which the Act about to expire required. There was another provision of the Bill relating to tithes. It enacted that before the tithes should form any part of the income of the ecclesiastical corporation, a certain portion should be given towards forming an adequate endowment in the places where the tithes arose. These were the principal provisions of the Bill, which he was sure might be adopted without the slightest danger to any parties, and with manifest advantage to the Established Church; by means of which Church this country might be supreme amongst the nations of the earth, not as the conqueror, but as the instructor of mankind.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed— "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ SIR WILLIAM CLAY
said, that it now became his duty to state the reasons which had induced him to bring forward the Amendment of which he had given notice. He proposed this Amendment, not because he did not respect the motives of the noble Lord, which were entitled to all commendation, still less from any hostility to the main object he had in view, with which he cordially agreed, but simply because he regarded the provisions of the measure as not sufficiently effective for the accomplishment of that object, nor sufficiently comprehensive to embrace all the benefits which the adequate realisation of the principle involved might bestow upon the Church and upon the community. There could be no doubt that clerical persons were but indifferent administrators of the property of the Church, and that the administration of such property at all did not harmonise well with the spiritual functions of these reverend 17 personages; and it was, further, quite clear that recent disclosures, to which he need not more particularly advert, had produced upon the mind of the public at large the conviction that this administration should be vested in other hands than those in which it now rested. The question, however, was, whether the transfer of administration proposed by the noble Lord was of the kind which would best answer the purpose for which it was designed? The Bill of the noble Lord proposed to place the whole of the capitular and episcopal estates of the Church in the hands of the Church Estate Commissioners. At present it was only with a comparatively small part of those estates that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or the Estates Commissioners had to deal. But the noble Lord proposed to vest the whole management of these estates in the hands of his Commissioners. The noble Lord stated that the whole amount of episcopal property was at present 540,000l., and of the capitular property nearly 900,000l., making altogether about 1,500,000l., which this Bill proposed to deal with. Even after making due allowance for the deductions referred to by the noble Lord, there would remain from 900,000l. to 1,000,000l., which it was proposed to place under the management of the Commissioners contemplated by the Bill. The noble Lord estimated the deductions for the maintenance of the episcopal bench and the chapters at 350,000l., which would leave between 500,000l. and 600,000l. applicable to general ecclesiastical or religious purposes. The noble Lord proposed to confide the management of this property to the Church Estate Commissioners, who were, in fact, a part and parcel of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. These Commissioners were now acting under no less than sixty Acts of Parliament, and portions of Acts, beginning with the reign of Henry VII. One portion of their power was to be found in the Act for repealing the duty on public and stage carriages, and another portion of their power was to be found in the Municipal Corporations Reform Act. Such a measure as that brought in by the noble Lord should be preceded or accompanied by a measure for consolidating the laws under which the Commissioners acted, and defining their powers and the objects they were to carry out. That would be the more necessary, considering the vast accession of power and influence which it was proposed to confer on them by this Bill. But then, again, there were other Commissioners with powers very 18 similar to those possessed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, such as the Church Building Commissioners and the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty. Not only were the objects contemplated by these three Commissions identical in some cases, and similar in all, but he found that some Acts of Parliament referred to the whole three, such as the 6 & 7 Vict. c. 37. On what public principle these various Commissions—the Church Estate Commission, the Ecclesiastical Commission, the Queen Anne's Bounty Commission, the Church Building Commission—all with objects nearly, and in many features identically, the same—should be kept up as distinct establishments, instead of being amalgamated into one homogeneous whole, not playing at cross purposes, but with unity of action as well as of objects, it was perfectly impossible to understand. It seemed to him, therefore, that it would be better to take an enlarged and comprehensive view of the whole subject, and to bring in a Bill for consolidating these different Acts of Parliament, and that could be properly done only on the authority and responsibility of the Government. Such were his objections to one of the objects of the Bill, or rather, perhaps, he ought to say, to the machinery by which that object was to be carried out. To another object which the noble Lord had clearly in view, he entertained yet stronger objections. By the 8th clause, the noble Lord proposed that any surplus which might accrue under his Bill was to be added to the surplus fund at the disposal of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Now, by the 57th clause of the Act relating to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the surplus in their hands was to be applied to the cure of souls in parishes where such assistance might be required, in such manner as to them might seem most conducive to the welfare and efficiency of the Established Church. Being himself a sincere and earnest member of the Established Church, he confessed he should like to have heard more said about the interests of religion, and less of the interests of the Church, for he could conceive cases in which the surplus might be applied to forward the interests of the Church, but not to forward the interests of religion. For instance, in parishes—and there were such, and not a few—where there were few persons of the communion of the Established Church, but where the interests of religion might be amply provided for, it might be for the interest of the Church to appoint a clergyman there with a large income, but 19 it did not follow that it would be for the interest of religion. The noble Lord had spoken of 786 new ecclesiastical districts, in which the church and the clergyman were supported by the voluntary subscriptions of the congregation, and the noble Lord might have added that in the course of the last twenty years 2,000 such districts had arisen, in which the voluntary principle had been resorted to by Church of England congregations with similar effect. He (Sir W. Clay) had, however, no objection to the surplus revenues of the Church being applied to increase the stipends of ill-remunerated ministers of his communion, but there was a claim winch must be satisfied before such application was just. The noble Lord entirely omitted to avail himself of the opportunity which the creation of this surplus would present for the abolition of church rates, an abolition which would, in a large degree, tend to the advantage of the church. The noble Lord seemed to think that this surplus might be applied to uses more important to religion than the abolition of church rates. He differed much from the noble Lord in that conclusion. He knew of no application of them which would conduce more to the growth of that spirit of peace, which was the very essence of the religion we professed. The noble Lord said that Parliament had refused to sanction such an application of church funds. When such an application of the church funds was proposed in 1837 under the Administration of Lord Melbourne, the House sanctioned the proposition, though by a small majority, it was true. But the noble Lord was in error in this particular. He was in hopes that the Government would bring in a measure for the abolition of church rates, and he did not wish that a Bill which might interfere with one of the resources by which that object could be accomplished should be carried. He (Sir W. Clay) had found it impossible to modify the Bill of the noble Marquess so as to meet the view he entertained. He had therefore no alternative left but to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that whilst he was as anxious as any one in that House for the propagation of the Gospel, he could not support the second reading of the Bill. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) promised to bring in a Bill for the abolition of church rates after the Easter holidays. The only plea for church rates was that they were neces- 20 sary for the repairs of churches, but when the noble Lord opposite admitted that there was as vast a sum as 500,000l. which might be appropriated to that object, the country ought to be relieved from a fertile source of heartburning amongst different sects of Christians, which was not only an injury to the Church, but also to religion itself. Thirty years ago Dr. Lushington said there was no law to compel the parish to pay church rates, and the House of Lords had recently decided that they could not be imposed against the will of the majority. It would then be a cause of perpetual dissension and strife between the members of the Church and those of other denominations to know who had the majority. It was most objectionable and unjust to make those who did not belong to the Church contribute to the repair of the Church. Why did not the Church trust to the voluntary principle? In the last twenty years there were 2,029 churches built in this country, at a cost of 6,000,000l., of which only 500,0001. was contributed from the funds of the State. It would be best, therefore, for the Church to rely upon the voluntary contributions of its own members. Why should the people of Wales, where the majority were nonconformists, have their consciences violated by being forced to contribute to the funds of a Church of which they were not members? He thought the objections urged against the Bill by the hon. Member (Sir W. Clay) were unanswerable, and he should cordially second 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."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. MOWBRAY
ventured to submit to the House the considerations which influenced him in giving his vote on this occasion. He felt the more constrained to do so because he had most reluctantly been driven to a conclusion which would lead him to accord his support to the Amendment, though he should do so for reasons which were totally different from and opposed to the opinions which had been expressed by the hon. Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. In that portion of the speech of the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay), where he paid a just tribute of admiration to the motives which actuated the noble Lord in bringing forward the measure, he cordially and heartily concurred. He also entirely sympathised with the noble Lord 21 in the object he proposed to effect. The only question in his mind was, whether the mode by which the noble Lord proposed to accomplish that object was the fitting and proper one. Let him remind the House that they were not now considering the question of church rates, or any question that affected Dissenters. They were not called upon to consider whether, if, by a better administration of church property, a surplus could be obtained, that surplus should go to some vague purpose which the hon. Baronet deemed to be for the general interest of religion, or whether that surplus, being a surplus arising from property that belonged to the Church of England, could, in point of law, be treated only as the property of the Church. He approached the question from an altogether different point of view, and with a desire to arrive at that conclusion which would best promote the interests of the Church in respect of this property. Upon considering the provisions in the measure of the noble Lord, he thought the objection to which the noble Lord had more than once alluded in the course of his speech—the objection arising from the insecurity which would attach to this kind of property if it were dealt with in the mode proposed—was an objection of very great force. He (Mr. Mowbray) regarded the measure as unwise, inasmuch as lie feared to place in peril the property which belonged to the Church. What was it the measure proposed to do? Whereas at the present moment the Church Estates Commissioners had a limited interest in, and a superintending control over, certain property belonging to the Church of England, the property and the management of it still remaining in the legal owners of episcopal and capitular estates—the bishops and deans and chapters—this Bill proposed to hand over to the Church Estates Commissioners, not, indeed, the fee of the property, but the entire control and management of it. These Commissioners were not to have the fee, it was true, but all the profits, emoluments, and revenues were to be paid to them, the lands were to be under their sole management and control, their receipts were to be good discharges to purchasers, their seal was to render valid all conveyances, and they were, in fact, to have the same power, authority, and discretion, in dealing with the property, as that which attached to its legal owners; and this being so, he thought that, however valuable it might be as a mere matter of legal argument to be discussed in a conveyancer's chamber, to say 22 that they had left the legal estate in the ecclesiastical corporations, for all practical purposes those corporations would be divested of the legal estate, which would be placed in the hands of one central body—the Church Estates Commissioners, who were appointed by and responsible to Parliament. How far, then, he asked, was that likely to conduce to the greater security of the property of the Church? If once they got the property of the Church placed in the hands of a Board of Commissioners appointed by and responsible to Parliament, even though it were cloaked with this reservation respecting the fee, as proposed by the Bill, they would find that in the course of a very few Sessions hon. Members entertaining sentiments corresponding to those of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), who, he could not forget, had stated on a previous occasion that he had strong objections to hearing the Church of England termed the national Church, would have no objection to consider the property of the Church as national property, and deal with it as such. Even in the present position of that property the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) seemed to think he could raise the question, and his argument on that head would be much stronger as against the Church when its property had been handed over to the Church Estates Commissioners. When he recollected that the condition of the clergy reserves in Canada had been similar to that to which the noble Lord proposed to reduce church property in England, and that they had been placed at the mercy of a vote in Parliament, he could not help feeling that there was a much greater insecurity about property so placed than there was with respect to property situated in various parts of the country, where various interests were enlisted and various sympathies drawn forth for its maintenance, and where, when attacks were made upon that property, more persons would be ready to step forth in its defence. In moving the second reading of the Bill, the noble Lord alluded to the expenses connected with the management of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and quoted the returns which were laid upon the table of the House during last Session, in order to show that the expenses amounted to 10s. 6d., and in some cases to 8s. 10d. per cent. Now, he did not say how far that mode of taking the expenses might be a fair one or not, but this he might say—that whereas, on the one hand, it was capable of demonstration, that whether the 23 property had been managed so as to produce the greatest amount of income to the Church or not, it had, nevertheless, been managed by those who had had local knowledge of it, and in a manner which, upon the whole, had not been an expensive one; on the other hand, it would be found that a central administration of the property was necessarily, in itself, an expensive mode of administration. That he should expect to be the case à priori. If a Board sitting in London had to deal with property in Northumberland or Durham, it was impossible that its management could be so economical or efficient as that of a body sitting in the locality itself. Such a machinery must clearly be more expensive, seeing that it would be necessary to employ a double staff of officers for conducting the administration of the property. He was confirmed in this impression by reference to the return of the money paid to surveyors and solicitors by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for 1852, a period during which the abuses to which allusion had been made in that Commission had ceased to exist. The expenses of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners during the year 1852, under the reformed administration, amounted for surveyors (for a year and a half) to 5,622l. 1s. 2d.; for solicitors (a year and three months), 3,6531. 12s. 8d.; for architects, 4561. 6s. 11d.: total, 9,7321. 0s. 9d. In addition to this there was also for commission on receipt of rents and drainage the sum of 1,3471. 7s. 3d., making in the whole 11,0791. 8s. for this portion of its expenses of management. Then again, there was another point on which this Bill would, as he conceived, introduce a new and objectionable principle. Parliament had hitherto, in dealing with ecclesiastical property, acted upon the principle of not touching vested rights. What did he find with respect to the present Bill? With regard to bishops it proposed to retain the same principle which Parliament had always applied to vested interests, and was not to apply in the case of bishops appointed before the year 1848, until after the first avoidance of the see. But how would it operate in the case of deans and chapters? Why, it was to apply from the commencement of the Act. Thus, deans and chapters now in possession were to have their vested rights taken from them at once, whilst those of the bishops would be preserved intact. This, he contended, was to establish a most objectionable principle. Further, he believed the measure to be inexpedient at the present moment, 24 not only because we had a Commission sitting which would render it inopportune that legislation should take place on the subject until they had reported, but also because he found that one part of the object which the noble Lord sought to obtain, namely, the better management of church property by the enfranchisement of church lands, and by sales and exchanges which might be for the mutual good of lessors and lessees, because he found that this process was already going on (not perhaps very fast, but still to the satisfaction of those who were interested in this matter) under the operation of the Act of 14 & 15 Vict. c. 104, relative to the Church Estate Commissioners. The third Report of these Commissioners had just been presented to the House, and in it they stated:—We have approved the terms agreed upon in 289 cases for the sale of reversions, and in twenty cases for the purchase of leasehold interests, and in twenty-eight cases we have declined to approve the terms proposes; in twenty of these last-mentioned cases, however, the original proposals were subsequently modified, so as to meet with our sanction, and they are accordingly included in the number of those above stated to have been approved. The value in fee of these 309 estates so agreed to be enfranchised exceeds 1,400,000l. We have ascertained that during the same period the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, acting on the principles which have regulated our proceedings, have made 312 agreements with lessees for enfranchising property exceeding 1,700,000l. in value, so that the church estates agreed to be enfranchised since the passing of the Act under which we have the honour to report are not less than 621 in number, and their value exceeds in the aggregate 3,000,000l. We have observed with satisfaction a growing disposition on the part of many ecclesiastical corporations to entertain proposals by their lessees to effect enfranchisements, and we believe that 'the improvement of episcopal and capitular estates, without prejudice to the interests of persons holding leases granted thereof,' will continue to be effected, if Parliament should see fit to prolong the duration of the Act.It was pretty clear from this Report that the legislation to which it pointed was not a legislation of the comprehensive character proposed by the noble Lord, but of the character of that of 1851—a renewal for a period of three years or more of the Act passed in 1851. The noble Lord had avowed his belief that the subject was ripe for legislation, and had grounded that belief upon the evidence of the Dean of Carlisle, given in 1849, and that of Mr. Meadows White, given in 1851. But it was clear that with this evidence before it in 1851, Parliament did not consider that it could do more than pass a measure limited in duration and experimental in its character. Why, then, was the same 25 evidence to be used as an argument in favour of permanent legislation in the year 1854? Moreover, speaking of that evidence, he thought that Mr. Meadows White, as solicitor to the Ecclesiastical Commission, could not be considered altogether in the light of an impartial and disinterested witness when bearing testimony as to the best mode of administering church property. So much with respect to one object of the noble Lord—namely, that of extending the control of the Estates Commission with the view of rendering those estates and revenues most beneficial to the Established Church and promoting the spiritual welfare of the people. In the next place, the Bill proposed to secure to archbishops and bishops fixed, in lieu of fluctuating incomes. With respect to that portion of the measure the noble Lord had himself shown in the course of his speech that the system of substituting fixed for fluctuating incomes was already in operation in the case both of bishops and deans and chapters, and was increasing every day. And if that were the case, where, he asked, was the necessity for legislating upon the subject? The noble Lord had alluded to the Act of 1851, and had mentioned the cases of bishops who were now under the operation of that Act, and in the receipt of fixed, instead of fluctuating incomes. It was quite clear, therefore, that as to them no further legislation was required. But how stood the case with regard to deans and chapters? Why, the same process was going on with them also. And it was as clear in their case as in the case of the bishops, that legislation was unnecessary. Then there was another point upon which he confessed he could not entirely go along with the noble Lord, and which, he thought, furnished a strong argument against this Bill. One of the great principles laid down by the noble Lord—in which, so far as it was one which admitted of being practically carried out, he (Mr. Mowbray) heartily concurred—was that spiritual persons should be relieved as much as possible from the care and trouble of administering the revenues and managing the temporalities of the Church, and be left to attend almost exclusively to the spiritual concerns of their calling. But let him remind the noble Lord that the episcopal and capitular estates formed a small portion only of the property of the Church. And was the House prepared to deal in the same way with all the property of the Church, and with the property of the rec- 26 tors and vicars in every parish in the land? If the House were so prepared, then he (Mr. Mowbray) held that it would be vesting such a power, and such an extensive control and management, in the hands of the central Board, as to make his objections apply to the central management still more strongly than they did to the Bill of the noble Lord. In considering the practical operation of the measure, it was necessary to see how far the working of the Ecclesiastical Commission had already proved beneficial to the various parishes scattered throughout the country. The Ecclesiastical Commission had, for some years, held considerable funds in their hands. How far had they employed these funds in the district from which they had accrued? The noble Lord proposed that provision should be made in the Bill for places where funds arose. He would agree that, if they were to deal with the superfluous riches of the Church, the places in which the funds arose should have the first claim on the consideration of those who administered the funds. Take the diocese with which he was himself connected, and see how far the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had employed those funds for the local benefit. He had before him a return, dated 12th April, 1853, of all sums received by the Ecclesiastical Commission since the passing of the 3 & 4 Vict. c. 113, arising from the suspended canonries, charged deaneries and canonries, &c., and any other source within the diocese of Durham, stating the amount so received in each year, together with the sums expended by the Commissioners since the passing of the above Act in aid of the University, the augmentation of benefices, vicarages, or perpetual curacies, or in the endowment of new parishes and districts within the said diocese. By that return, he found that in the ten years from 1841 to 1852, these receipts amounted to 90,464l. 6s. 11 d. And what appeared to be the expenditure during that time?—
which the Commission paid back to the diocese, while they took from it the suns of 90,464l. Here, then, was the case of a loss of 55,000l. incurred by the diocese 27 of Durham out of the money which it paid into the hands of the Commissioners. [Mr. HORSMAN: Not the Church Estates Commissioners.] The Ecclesiastical Commissioners. His argument was, not that there had been any abuse in the case; but he contended that if the funds drawn from a distant locality were to be administered by a central Board sitting in London, who could not be so cognisant of the wants of the locality as persons in its immediate neighbourhood, the probability was that, without any fault in those who had the central management of the property in their hands, the local wants would be overlooked. The question was one which had excited much interest in the diocese of Durham; and this was not all, for he found it stated, on the authority of no less a person than the Archdeacon of Durham, that, in addition to this 55,000l., the Commissioners had taken from the Bishop of Durham during the same period, on a low calculation, 150,000l. Here was a sum, during the last ten years, of no less than 200,000l. taken away from the diocese. Was this 200,000l. taken from the diocese because it was not wanted there? What had been the state of the diocese of Durham during the last ten years? Was it such as not to require those resources? Perhaps of all the dioceses in the kingdom, that of Durham, on account of the increase of its population, was the one which peculiarly needed a judicious application of these resources. In no other county had the population increased in the same ratio as in the county of Durham. By the returns of the Census it appeared that the population in that county was, in 1801, 160,361; 1811, 177,625; 1821, 207,673; 1831, 255,910; 1841, 324,284; 1851, 390,997. Thus, in fifty years the population had augmented from 160,000 to 390,000, and in the last ten years of that period from 324,000 to 390,000. And whilst the rate of increase for all England, from 1841 to 1851, had been 12.8 per cent; for Middlesex, 19.7 per cent; and for Lancaster, 21.9 per cent; the rate for Durham was 26.9 per cent. Such was the increase of the population in ten years; yet the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had subtracted from the diocese in that period upwards of 200,000l., no part of which they had paid back again. What, however, were the spiritual needs of the diocese? He would take, first, the county of Durham. With a population of 390,000, according to the late religious Census, there was church ac- 28 commodation provided for only 66,319. By that same Census, they were told that, whilst 29 per cent was the average of the accommodation provided by the Church of England throughout the kingdom, here, in Durham, the church accommodation was but 16 per cent, or less than one-sixth of the whole population. Taking the county of Northumberland, the other portion of the diocese, it would be seen that the population was 303,568, and the church accommodation 52,405, or nearly the same proportion—less than one-sixth of the entire population. He asked, then, if during the last ten years so little thought and regard had been had for the diocese of Durham, what prospect there was of the wants of the various localities being attended to by such a central power as that proposed to be constituted by the noble Lord's Bill? He wished to guard himself against being supposed to coincide with the reasons adduced by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) in support of his Amendment. He thought the operation of this general Board would be injurious to the Church, and not likely to conduce to the benefit of particular localities. The Dean and Chapter of Durham had sent up no petition on the subject, and therefore in the statement which he had felt it his duty to make to the House he must be understood to be giving only his own individual opinion. Parliament might be soon called upon to deal with this subject, but he could not think the principle of the noble Lord's measure was one which, if adopted, would be likely to lead to the security of the property of the Church or to improvement in the application of its resources. How far a general scheme might be decided upon of a board in each diocese, consisting of lay members of the diocese, who, bringing a practical knowledge of the state of things in their own localities to bear upon the administration of this property, might relieve spiritual persons from temporal cares and anxieties, and lighten the labours of chapters—how far such a scheme might be thought desirable be did not know; but he thought the principle upon which any such arrangements should be made was the constitution of local boards, who should administer with a local knowledge the funds arising from the Church, and apply them to the various localities in which they arose. Heartily concurring in the objects which the noble Lord had in view—sympathising with him in the motives which had prompted him to introduce this measure—he did, neverthe- 29 less, feel that, though it was very desirable to obtain a more efficient administration of the resources of the Church, the mode proposed by the noble Lord was not one which in his judgment was calculated to attain that end, and he must therefore give his vote in favour of the Amendment.
Durham University £4,712 18 0 Augmentation of livings 19,052 13 1 Endowment of new parishes and districts 7,546 17 2 Parsonage houses 3,287 10 10 Accounting canon 680 18 3 Making a total of £35,280 17 4 17 4
said, he must remind the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) that the question before the House was not one of church rates, and he must also remind the hon. Member who had just sat down, that the House was not now considering what should be the distribution of the revenues of the Church. The speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mowbray) might have been applicable in 1822, but it was now quite inopportune; for in the year 1837 that House had determined upon a definite course in respect to this, which, though the hon. Gentleman had spoken of it as private property belonging to individuals, the House then decided to be public property granted to the Church to be applied for a particular national object, and it was therefore the duty of that House to see that this public property was applied in a way most likely to tend to the advancement of religion throughout the nation. He entirely agreed with the noble Lord (the Marquess of Blandford) that this, like all other public property, ought to be managed in the best way possible. He wished merely to address himself to the Bill before the House, and he thought that the noble Lord was taking the best course which could be taken for the support of the Established Church by considering in what way the funds could best be taken care of, and leaving the question as to the administration of those funds to a future occasion. In his opinion, the simple object of the Bill was to make better arrangements than at present existed for the management of ecclesiastical property, and did not in any way refer to the subject of church rates. If he could have any influence with the hon. Baronet who sat behind him, he would suggest to him the propriety of his withdrawing his Amendment, as not being applicable to the present time. Durham was, at the time alluded to, considered one of the richest dioceses, and it was thought that its surplus wealth might well be applied to the wants of other districts, which were without such resources. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mowbray) thought that the Commissioners had made an improper application of the funds of that diocese, he ought to introduce a Motion 30 upon the subject. The question for the House to consider now was the Bill of the noble Lord. In the year 1837 it was admitted that the bishops and holders of cathedral estates ought not to have the management of such property, but be remunerated at a rate varying according to the productiveness of the estates; and that they ought to be paid fixed and regular salaries, in the apportioning of which care should be taken to remove the gross inequalities then existing in the amounts paid in different dioceses for the performance of similar functions. The more unjust these inequalities were left, the more insecure they rendered the Church. At present 152,000l. of church funds was received annually by twenty-eight men, whilst 4,000 of the working clergy had not more than 80l. a year, or scarcely more than the remuneration of a bishop's footman. In his opinion, property of this description should be considered as affecting the community at large, and not any particular class. It would be to the benefit of the best interests of the nation if the property of the Church were properly managed, and on that account he should give his most cordial support to the measure. The noble Lord had told the House that there might be clauses in the Bill to which objection might possibly be taken, and that those objections could be discussed in Committee; and he must say that, in his opinion, the noble Lord was entitled to very considerable praise for the acquaintance with the subject which he had displayed, and for the manner in which he had brought it forward. His intention in rising had been to thank the noble Lord for coming forward with this measure so well prepared, and so well able to give all the information which would be required on the subject, and it would not, he thought, be doing justice to the Established Church not to allow this Bill to go into Committee, where the clauses would be separately discussed.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, this was a question of very grave importance, and he should have been glad to discuss it in the presence of Her Majesty's Government. [The Ministerial bench was almost unoccupied.] It was his opinion that the question was one which deeply involved the social condition of the empire, and which affected the spiritual welfare of the people, and he was prepared to give great credit to the noble Lord (the Marquess of Blandford), for the motives which had 31 prompted him to come forward on a subject of such a character. If he felt it to be his duty to differ from the principles contained in the Bill, he could assure the noble Lord that he did so, not from any depreciation of the object which he had in introducing it, but from a sincere belief upon his part—a belief strengthened by a careful examination of the measure—that the effect of the Bill would be to retard rather than to advance the cause which the noble Lord had at heart. The noble Lord had correctly detailed the progress of Church reform from the year 1835 up to the present time. The object of the reform in 1835 was to render available for the relief of spiritual destitution the surplus funds of bishops, and the sums that might be retrenched from the different chapters of the country. Parliament intended that the bishops should have certain incomes; but in order to give security for the enjoyment of those incomes, a measure was passed, which in practice failed to accomplish its object; nor was it to be wondered at that Parliament, in its endeavour to deal with a large subject, should not have succeeded at first in striking out the best mode of effecting its object. The original arrangement had since been varied, and he (Mr. Goulburn) argued now on the state of things at present existing, and he thought be could show that the Bill of the noble Lord would militate against the relief of spiritual destitution, and at the same time afford no security for the incomes, whatever they might be, which might be allowed to the bishops and the chapters; he could, he thought, further show to the House, that it could not proceed with this measure without inflicting great injustice on the lessees of Church property, whose interests had always been favourably considered by the Legislature. The object of the Bill passed in 1836 was to take the funds from the bishops and the cathedrals and place them in a common fund, the administration of which common fund was to be confided—as in justice he thought it ought to be—to a mixed body of ecclesiastics and laymen; so that those ecclesiastics, who had the greatest knowledge of the wants of the Church in different parts of the country, might have an opportunity of stating them; and, on the other hand, that the lay members should correct any attempt to apply to ecclesiastical purposes, not the best calculated to remove spiritual destitution, the funds committed to their charge. Certainly it 32 was then argued, much as the hon. Member for Durham (M r. Mowbray) had done that day, that the funds of each individual chapter should be applied to the relief of the spiritual destitution of the diocese in which that chapter was situated; but Parliament wisely negatived that proposition, and required that all the funds of the different chapters should be paid into the common fund, leaving it to those who administered the fund to decide what parts of the country were in the worst condition, and to apply the funds to the cases which were most urgent. No doubt, as the hon. Member for Durham stated, there were cases of urgent necessity in the diocese of Durham; but it was notorious that in Chester there were no funds at all available for relief of spiritual destitution; that in Manchester, a new bishopric, there were no funds; and Ripon was in the same situation; thus making three dioceses, to name no more, comprising the great mass of the manufacturing population of Lancashire and Yorkshire, in which the cry for spiritual instruction was most pressing; and that cry would have been left wholly unanswered till this hour if the principle suggested had been adopted by the Legislature, and a common fund had not been formed applicable for general distribution. He looked, therefore, with alarm at the proposal in this Bill, at the outset, to abolish that common fund, and to apply the property to the wants of the particular locality in which the chapter was situated. The present Bill provided that the Church Estates Commissioners should keep a separate account with each bishop and each chapter; and that the separate funds from each bishop should be applied to episcopal purposes only, and the funds of each chapter to chapter purposes. He was aware that the noble Lord meant to extend the area over which the relief should operate, so as to include some other parishes not immediately in episcopal or chapter patronage; but by his system the parishes to be first relieved would be those in which the bishop or the chapter had property, or those which were contiguous to the parishes in which they had property, without reference to their population or poverty; and could there possibly be a looser rule laid down than that? The question which the House had to decide was, whether more good would result by retaining the present system of a common fund, or by allowing the surplus funds to be distributed in districts in which the Church might possess 33 property, or in parishes contiguous to them? The Act of 1836 gave a legal claim to consideration to those parishes out of which tithes arose, but, beyond satisfying that claim, it was, he thought, unwise to go. If he might venture to offer any advice to the House, it would be to adhere to the original principle of a common fund. This, then, was his first objection to the Bill. He now came to another point, which was, the security to be given for the payment of the income proposed to be fixed for bishops and chapters. No man, whatever might be his religious opinions, could desire to allot 4,000l. a year to a bishop or a chapter, and leave it to haphazard whether they should receive only 1,000l. of that sum. They might reduce these incomes, but there ought to be a security that the amount, whatever it was, should be regularly paid. Now this Bill proposed that the property of the Church should be divided into two parts—the one he might call the unimprovable property, and the other the improvable property. The unimprovable property was to be left in the hands of the bishop and of the chapter, who were to apply it in payment of what they were entitled to receive. It consisted of incomes derived from the funds, reserved rents, permanent quit-rents, and was property that was likely to remain always the same. The other part of the property was to be placed in the hands of the Church Estates Commissioners. Now, the noble Lord was in error in supposing that the Church Estates Commissioners comprised any portion of ecclesiastical authority. They were three laymen, two of whom were appointed by the Minister of the day, and held office during pleasure, and the third was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. These Commissioners were entrusted by the Bill with the whole charge, not only of managing, but of selling the property. It was notorious that the unimprovable property was comparatively small in amount. It differed undoubtedly in different dioceses and chapters. In the case of one bishop it did not amount to more than 3001.; in other cases it was considerably larger; but in most cases it amounted to a small proportion of what the bishop and chapter were entitled to receive. Well, the provision of this Bill was that the Church Estates Commissioners should in each case make up the income of the bishop and chapter to its full amount out of the other funds of that parti- 34 cular bishop or that particular chapter. Now, it was clear that in every case the Commissioners would have a further payment to make to the bishop and chapter to make up the fixed amounts they were entitled to receive; and the first question he wished to ask was, whence was that further payment to be derived? The income at the disposal of the lay Commissioners consisted of fines on renewal of leases—sources that were extremely uncertain as to their amount, as to the time at which they might be received, and varying considerably in amount in different dioceses. If they had a common fund, possibly the extra receipts of one diocese might make up for the deficiency in others; but under a system of separate accounts for each diocese and each chapter, it was impossible but that great inequality would arise. Large deficiencies must arise in some cases, and the question was how they were to be supplied, and the annual stipends of the ecclesiastical authorities paid? The Commissioners could not kill a man, or force on a renewal of a lease, just because they were in want of money. But the noble Lord said he would guard against this by giving a charge on the lands belonging to each particular corporation. Well, what were those lands? They were leased to individuals for years or lives, and the only portion that would be available would be the reserved rents. The noble Lord said that the bishop, if not paid, should have a right of re-entry on those lands; but what would be the value of a right of re-entry on lands let for leases of lives to a bishop whose annual income was deficient? It appeared to him (Mr. Goulburn) that this provision in the Bill was based on the erroneous idea that the annual income of each diocese was certain and regular. He said, then, that so far the Bill would diminish the security for the payment of the incomes of bishops and chapters, inasmuch as it did not provide funds to pay the incomes where the unimprovable property was deficient in amount. The Bill further took away all hope of making the payments which it itself prescribed, for it declared that no leases whatever for tithes should be renewed. Now fines on renewal of tithe leases constituted two-fifths of the income of the Church. Take away this source of income, and the payment of the fixed incomes from year to year became impracticable. But how did the Bill affect the interest of the lessee, which was also an important consi- 35 deration? The lay Commission had ample power already to manage the property of the Church. By this Bill they were to have the power of absolutely, without any consent on the part of the lessor, of dealing with the lessee for the sale of the property. By the 29th clause of the Bill, the lessor, being either the bishop or the chapter, was not to have any voice what- ever in the matter of the sale, and this might appear favourable to the lessee. But he had shown that there would be no adequate means of making up the deficiencies in the incomes of the bishops and chapters; and what was the resource of the Commission? They could have no other resource but that proposed in the Bill of the noble Lord, namely, the transfer from one diocese with an abundance of property to one with less property, of a portion of what belonged to the superabundant diocese; and that once done, the Bill gave the Commissioners power to sell that property by auction or otherwise, without reference to the wishes or interest of those who might be in possession of the lease of the property. These, then, were his principal objections to the Bill of the noble Lord. He was not in the least opposed to making the property of the Church available for the welfare of the Church, and to the relief of spiritual destitution; but he opposed this Bill because, although not so intended, it would have directly the contrary effect. He believed that if it passed into law, there would not be the means which existed at present for the alleviation of spiritual destitution; that there would not be the same security as at present for the payment of the incomes assigned to the bishops and chapters; and that it would place the lessees of church property in a very difficult position. The noble Lord said that he would promote the immediate enfranchisement of church property by his measure. Tie stated that there was an income of 500,000l. a year from property under lease from bishops, and 800,000l. more from property under lease from chapters, so that here was an income of 1,300,000l., from the enfranchisement of which it was said that greater profit might be derived to the Church itself, and reasonable compensation afforded to the lessees. Now, the capital value of this property could not be taken at less than 40,000,000l; and he would ask whether the tenure of such an amount of property as that could be suddenly and at once 36 changed without producing a revolution in all sales of property in the kingdom? The object in view, he would candidly admit, was a desirable one; but they could not attain it safely or wisely unless they did so gradually, and as the machinery now in operation, with the consent of the parties interested, had, in the course of two years and a half from the first suggestion of the arrangement, brought property into a state of enfranchisement to the amount of 3,000,000l., he hoped that the House would persevere in the course it had already adopted, which at once had given much satisfaction, and been so eminently successful. He thought, therefore, that the noble Lord would do well to postpone, at least for some years, the measure which lie had proposed, and not now call upon the House to embark in a course subject to the objections which he (Mr. Goulburn) had stated, and which he believed would disappoint even the noble Lord himself. He had not entered into the question of church rates, raised by the Member for the Tower Hamlets, but had discussed the question on the ground upon which the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had said it ought to be discussed, and he firmly believed that it would be wiser to adhere to the present existing law than to embark in a new course of action, subject to the objections which he had felt it his duty to state to the House.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, that the noble Lord (the Marquess of Blandford) had so fully and so ably explained the principles and details of his measure, that it was almost needless for those who agreed with him to trespass upon the attention of the House, and were it not that the noble Lord had been followed by speakers who, it would seem, had mistaken the object, and by others whose remarks had no reference to it, he (Mr. Horsman) should not have intruded himself upon the House. The right hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House differed in some respects from those who had gone before him, inasmuch as that, while they addressed themselves to that which was the business of the debate, the right hon. Gentleman, from the commencement to the conclusion of his speech, had not made the slightest reference to the principle of the noble Lord's measure, but, speaking with all the authority of an Ecclesiastical Commissioner, and of an experienced Member of that House, he confined his objections to two points of mere detail, which might, by the alteration 37 of two clauses in Committee, be rendered altogether, according to the right hon. Gentleman's view, unobjectionable. He hoped, however, the noble Lord would not be deterred from pressing his measure by the opposition of the right hon. Gentleman, for the noble Lord could not but remember that upon all questions of ecclesiastical reform, in all those various Acts of improvement that had been carried during the last twenty years, there had been no more honest, or consistent, or unchanging opponent than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge. The right hon. Gentleman had explained the changes which were made in the year 1835, and the House would readily call to mind the abuses that then existed in respect to sinecures, non-residence, pluralities, and other matters, and they also would not fail to remember that none of those abuses found a more determined or unshaken champion than the right hon. Gentleman. The chief objection of the right hon. Gentleman to the present Bill applied to the 8th clause, which proposed that the surplus sums arising out of the revenues of every diocese and chapter should be expended for the benefit of those dioceses and those chapters only. Now, in 1848, when the episcopal and common funds were kept separate, he (Mr. Horsman) proposed that all the revenues of these ecclesiastical establishments should be placed in one common fund, and be applied by lay Commissioners for the benefit of the country generally, and ultimately the House adopted that view and passed a Bill by which the distinction between the episcopal fund and the common fund was done away with. Who most strenuously resisted that change? The right hon. Gentleman, who now said there ought to be a common fund, and urged the rejection of the noble Lord's measure because it proposed to make the two funds distinct. But, admitting it to be desirable to keep up the common fund, that was no argument against the principle of the Bill, because all that would be necessary was to omit the 8th clause of the Bill in Committee, and that objection would thereby be removed. The right hon. Gentleman then referred to the interests of the lessees, but that likewise was a matter of detail to be considered in Committee, and not on the second reading of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had made no reference to the principle of the measure, which was really the only question under 38 discussion. The question they had to consider was, whether it was not the first duty of Parliament, dealing with the Established Church, to remember that if that Church was really to be regarded as a blessing to the people, Parliament should do all they could to render the funds of the Church efficient for the purposes of its establishment, and by a proper application of them to increase its usefulness, and to raise and exalt the character of those who ministered at its altars. That was the principle upon which the noble Lord's Bill proceeded, and that was the principle the House had to consider. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the securities which should be given for the payment of the revenues of the bishops. Why, what security could they have in the clause of an Act of Parliament equal to that which was derived from the respect and affections of the people? And what better security could they have for the Establishment itself than the feeling of the people that it was efficient for its purpose? Should that time ever arrive when the Church of England, either from the malversation of its funds or from the lowering of the character of its ministers, lost the regard and affections of the people, depend upon it no mere clauses in an Act of Parliament would be sufficient to uphold and protect it. He confessed he heard with some suspicion the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay). The hon. Baronet did full justice to the principle of the noble Lord's Bill, and said he not only concurred to the full extent in the principle and object the noble Lord had in view, but thought they might be carried even further than was proposed. The hon. Baronet, however, advanced two objections against the measure of a character which, considering the hon. Baronet's experience, he (Mr. Horsman) certainly was not prepared to expect. The first was, that by the 8th clause all the surplus funds were to be applied to the purposes of the Established Church, and, as he said he was more in favour of the interests of religion than of the Established Church, he wanted some of the surplus funds derived from these chapters and sees to be distributed in such a manner as to benefit the Dissenters. Now he (Mr. Horsman) asked, if the noble Lord had put a clause into the Bill enacting that the surplus revenues of the Church should be devoted to purposes out of the Establishment, what chance would there have been that the House would have agreed to the second 39 reading of a Bill including so novel and un heard-of a proposition? The second objection of his hon. Friend was that the noble Lord did not deal with the surplus funds of the Church for the purpose of abolishing church rates. Now he, for one, thought the noble Lord very properly omitted all reference to church rates in the measure. It had nothing to do with the question of church rates, and the noble Lord would have shown himself wholly unpractical in his efforts to make the property of the Church more effective for the objects of the Church, if he had proposed that the surplus funds should be devoted to the extinction of church rates. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Mowbray), who had addressed the House with so much ability, appeared to take up the case against the view he was himself endeavouring to urge. There were two material points on which that hon. Gentleman dwelt, which told against him. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the security for good management, as it would be effected by the Bill, and then he said that with regard to the diocese of Durham since 1841, very large funds had been taken out of that diocese, and very small funds had been paid in; and therefore the hon. Member drew the inference that the management of the ecclesiastical property must have been extremely bad. He (Mr. Horsman) ventured to interrupt the hon. Member at the time, by telling him that he must be speaking not of the present, but of the old Commission. But if the charge of mismanagement really applied to that old Ecclesiastical Commission, that was not the Estates Commission as it now existed, but a Commission composed of members of the episcopal bench; that was an argument in favour of the noble Lord's Bill, for it proved that a Commission of ecclesiastics were not so fitted to manage the property of the Church as a lay board. But there was another point advanced by the hon. Gentleman to which he wished to advert. When the hon. Gentleman spoke of the neglect shown to the diocese of Durham, he forgot that which all parties who had looked into the estates and property of the Church were aware of—that the case of Durham was a particularly flagrant one, and was, of all others, that which called for some such management as that which the noble Lord proposed. It was notorious that there was no diocese in the kingdom in which such waste of the Church property, such impoverishment of 40 the estates of the Church, had occurred, as in Durham. The property of the Church in the diocese of Durham being principally mineral property, the more it was worked the more it was exhausted, and he believed the practice had been to exhaust it to the largest extent of which it was capable for the purpose of keeping up the incomes of the see and of the capitular body for the time being. To such an extent had this gone on, that he had heard of a canon of that diocese who, having made an immense income by working out and exhausting the property, was seized with a fit of compunction on his deathbed, and bequeathed 60,000l. to the Church of the money he had thus acquired. He said, then, that Durham was a case that would fall peculiarly under the management proposed by the noble Lord. They had the experience of past legislation for doing away with the abuses that had crept into the Church—they recollected the evils which had been predicted of that legislation, and they now knew its results—no one better than the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn). And would any one say that while the temporalities of the Church had been better administered under those reforms, that the Church itself was less strong in the affections of the people? The question now was whether they should carry those reforms still further. It was notorious that there was no quarter in which the Church was so weak as in the cathedral chapters, and there was no part of the kingdom in which dissent was so strong as where those cathedral chapters existed. Should they not, then, having the experience of past changes, embrace the opportunity now offered to them, and, adopting the principle of the noble Lord's Bill, extend the reforms to those bodies, and relieve as much as possible all those who were engaged in spiritual duties from the necessity of being mixed up with the management of temporal and secular affairs? Such was the principle and such the object of the noble Lord's Bill. The question was, whether, by adopting that Bill, they were prepared to prove to the country that they were really in earnest in carrying out those improvements which were called for both by public opinion and the necessities of the case, or whether, by postponing it for a few more years (which really meant postponing it indefinitely), they would leave it to be inferred that they had no anxiety upon the subject, but 41 were content to leave the reform of the Established Church to the mere chapter of accidents, and in the meanwhile refuse to listen to any change, moderate and gracious, and at the same time calculated to effect the improvement at which it aims, like that now proposed by the noble Lord? He trusted that the House would not be carried away by any considerations foreign to the question before it, either in reference to the question of church rates or the voluntary principle, but that, declining at once to reject the measure on the principle which characterised the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) of regarding the Church as a matter of private property rather than as a great public blessing, it would feel that it was acting as trustee for the Establishment in regulating the efficient management of the temporalities of the Church, and in no better way could they perform that duty than by adopting the principle of this Bill.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, in reply to the charge of the hon. Gentleman, that he had uniformly opposed all Church reform, he begged merely to state that he was the Secretary of State who signed the original Commission in 1835, out of which the whole of those reforms sprung, and that during the progress of the Bill, the name of "Edward Horsman" stands next in the list to the name of "Henry Goulburn" in the divisions upon it.
said, that upon the consideration of a Bill of this nature, it would be most desirable that the House should receive some intimation from the Government on a subject of such importance. He regretted, consequently, the absence of the noble Lord the Member for London, but as he saw, however, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General present, he trusted they might refer to him for some information on the subject. He must say that the absence of the Queen's Ministers might be owing to their inevitable occupation in another quarter, and in that case he did not impute blame to those right hon. Gentlemen, but it was very much to be lamented that a subject of this kind should occupy the attention of the House without the House being likely to hear upon it the opinion of any Member of the Cabinet. A Bill of this nature could not properly and fairly be left to the management of any individual Member of the House, and ought to be taken up by a Member of the Government. He begged to return his thanks to the hon. Member 42 for the city of Durham (Mr. Mowbray) for the manner in which he had called the attention of the House to the spiritual necessities and actual condition of a county with which he (Mr. Liddell) was so closely connected. It was very well to say that out of the superfluous revenues of the Church a common fund should be created and placed at the disposal of the central board, and devoted to those quarters of the kingdom where the spiritual destitution was greatest; but when he had the honour of being a Member in that House for the county of Durham, though he did not oppose the formation of a central board according to the views that had since been acted upon, he must say he consented to the appointment with the belief that, so long as the spiritual necessities existed in that quarter of the country, it should have a prior claim to relief from its own revenues, and that they should not be doled out to that diocese in small portions, but that it should receive a more liberal treatment at the hands of the Commission than had hitherto been the case. Could it be supposed that it would be acceptable to the feelings of the people of the diocese of Durham, however it might be argued to be necessary for the public advantage, and for the spiritual necessities of the people at large, that from a diocese so situated the revenues derivable from its resources should be abstracted and devoted to the spiritual wants of the Tower Hamlets, the diocese of Manchester, and the dioceses of Ripon and Chester, especially when they were told that the population had increased in that diocese to an extent that was unequalled, he believed, in any other part of the United Kingdom, and that great masses of population had sprung up in parts of parishes where the parish church is quite beyond the reach of the inhabitants. When it was stated that the revenues of the diocese had augmented in the same proportion as its population, could it be satisfactory to the feelings of the people of that part of the country that the whole of those augmented revenues should be abstracted from the diocese and devoted to other parts of the kingdom. They might ask, were there no resources available in Manchester or Chester for their spiritual wants without coming to the diocese of Durham? Could no means be found to contribute to the spiritual wants of the Tower Hamlets without coming to the diocese of Durham? He did not mean to say that the whole revenues of the dio- 43 cese of Durham should be devoted to the spiritual wants of its population, but he would say that that diocese had superior claims to its own revenues, and until that privilege was conceded to it, great dissatisfaction would exist in that diocese. There was another thing which he should be also very glad to mention, with regard to the Ecclesiastical Commission and the proceedings of that Board. He should be glad to recall the subject to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir G. Grey), who had been connected with that Commission, and who, he hoped, would give them some explanation respecting it. He wished to mention the case of the gentleman who holds the incumbency of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. That was one of the most populous towns in the whole kingdom. The incumbent of that parish was called upon to contribute more of spiritual and charitable assistance than perhaps any other clergyman in the kingdom, and he was there upon a mere stipend; he was upon the pay of a mere vicarate, the great tithes of Newcastle being taken by the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle. He thought it his duty to bring this case under the notice of the House, and he hoped it would be explained by some hon. or right hon. Gentleman, who might be better acquainted with the exact legal state of the case than he was. In common with the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, he objected to the Bill, because it proposed to deal with that particular portion of the Church property held by lessees, without any reference to the existing interests of those lessees. He was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) observe, observe, that the hon. Member for Durham seemed to have a regard solely to the interests of the clergy, for the whole tenor of that hon. Member's speech had reference much less to the interests of the clergy than of the great communities which had sprung up in the county of which he represented the capital, and which at present, for want of means, were deficient in respect to spiritual aid and the means of attending the services of the Church, in consequence of the abstraction of the revenues of the diocese. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) talked of the diocese of Durham as having been one of the dioceses in which the greatest abuses had existed, and mentioned the case of some individual prebendary of the chapter of Durham, who having amassed enormous riches in his lifetime, in "a fit of com- 44 punction" on his death-bed, left 60,000l. of it for the purposes of the Church. The case was entirely new to him (Mr. Liddell); he had never heard of it before; but as the hon. Gentleman stated it, he was bound to believe it. [Mr. HORSMAN interposed to explain that he had not made the statement from his own knowledge.] The hon. Gentleman said he did not state it from his own knowledge, then he (Mr. Liddell) did not believe it; he had never heard it before; but if it were true, it was only a proof of the liberality of the individual who left so large a sum for the spiritual wants of the Church rather than to his own family. When reference was made to the diocese of Durham, they should recollect the bequest of Bishop Barrington, and the schools which had been established by means of it through the length and breadth of the diocese, and the great advantage which the Church had derived from the sums that had been left by that Prelate. The present Bishop, on whom attacks had been made because he was supposed to have received a much larger sum out of the proceeds of the diocese than he was entitled to do, under the arrangements that had been made between him and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at the time he was appointed to the diocese, had also nobly contributed both to the building of churches and to almost every charitable institution in his diocese to which he was called upon to contribute; and so long as they had that example of munificence and liberality on the part of a high dignitary of the Church, could they lament that he drew a larger amount of revenue than was intended to be doled out to him by this new arrangement? So long as there were such examples of charity on the part of the high dignitaries of the Church, the wish might be allowed that they should continue to draw a liberal income from their dioceses; but it was not so much the payment of large emoluments to the high dignitaries of the Church that he desired as just and proper attention to the spiritual wants of the community at large. He would be glad if he could give his consent to the Bill that had been brought forward by his noble Friend, but he thought it was a large subject for a private Member of that House to take upon himself to present to the country. He thought it was a subject that ought to occupy, and must occupy, the attention of the Government, to see how a change may be best made, and how improvements and 45 modifications may be effected in the regulations and proceedings of the Commission that is now in operation for such objects. In conclusion, he must say that he could not at present consent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he felt, in common with the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat, the inconvenience that arose from discussing a question of this importance in the absence of the Members of the Government. No doubt there was good ground for that absence, and they were probably attending to public duties that were pressing and important; but the inconvenience was undeniable of discussing a Bill of this kind on a Wednesday, when no Member of the Government was present. Before he answered the appeal which had been made to him by his hon. Friend (Mr. Liddell) as to the particulars of a case which he stated in reference to a part of the country with which they were both connected, he wished to say a few words on the Bill itself. If this were the third reading, and if he were asked either to adopt or to reject the Bill, he would feel compelled, for the reasons stated by the right hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Goulburn), to vote against the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had stated as his reasons for opposing the Bill his objections to particular clauses, but he (Sir G. Grey) felt that those objections might be dealt with in Committee, and he felt now only bound to look to the principle of the Bill. The noble Lord's Bill, as be understood it, had reference to the question of the management of episcopal and capitular property, and it proposed the transfer of the management of episcopal and capitular estates from the individual bishops in the respective sees, and from the individual members of chapters, to a hoard composed as Parliament might hereafter direct, who should be exclusively charged with the management of that property. Whether that board should be the Church Estates Commission or not, was a question that might be hereafter considered. The Church Estates Commission comprised the elements of a board to whom such duties might be very properly entrusted. Whether it would require any alteration in its constitution, or enlargement of its numbers, was a secondary question, but he agreed with the noble Lord (the Marquess of Blandford) that the management of Church property should rather be in the hands of such a board than in the hands 46 in which it is at present. He could not see any objection to carry out the principle of the Bill to that extent, but there might be a question arising with regard to the security of this property that ought to receive careful consideration on the part of the House. He was not sure that he should agree with the noble Lord in thinking that the security would be sufficient by leaving the fee, as he proposed to do, in the hands of the bishop or the chapter, while he gave to another body the absolute power to sell without the consent of those persons. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Mowbray) he (Sir G. Grey) thought had fully agreed to the principle of the Bill. The hon. Member said it would be right that the transfer of this property should take place from the hands of individual bishops, and of the members of chapters, but that the property should be vested, not in a general central board, but in a local board in each diocese, which should be charged with its management and appropriation; that was not a difference in principle as to the transfer of the management; the difference seemed to refer exclusively to the limits within which the appropriation of the property should take place. The hon. Gentleman made that proposal because he thought the surplus revenues of the sees and of deans and chapters should be appropriated within the limits of the existing sees or the dioceses in which the deans and chapters were situate, but that was a principle to which he (Sir G. Grey) could not accede. No doubt, due regard should be had to the wants of the particular dioceses in which the property was situated; and, as one who was connected with the diocese of Durham, be should be the last to object that the large and growing population of the colliery districts should be provided out of the revenues of the diocese of Durham with spiritual instruction. But they should remember at the same time the claims of large manufacturing districts of the country where no such funds exist, and he wished to look upon the Church funds as a whole fund applicable to the spiritual wants of the entire country. He thought it would be wrong to exclude from the consideration of the Board the strong claims arising in other parts of the country to share in the surplus revenues of the Church for the relief of spiritual destitution. With regard to the appeal that had been made to him respecting the town of Newcastle, 47 he agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. Liddell) that the vicar of the parish was inadequately endowed, and that the demands upon him were great. The vicar who was recently appointed had distinguished himself by his conduct under most trying circumstances. That town was visited with the scourge of the cholera to an unprecedented extent, and the vicar had shown by his conduct how devoted he was to the spiritual and temporal interests of the inhabitants. His hon. Friend had, however, said that the great tithes of that parish were vested in the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle, and had asked him, as a member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, whether steps had been taken to provide a better endowment for this parish. He (Sir G. Grey) was not now an Ecclesiastical Commissioner; but he was informed, on the authority of a right hon. Gentleman near him, that the property of the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle had become vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and, as soon as leases fall in, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners will be prepared to make an augmented endowment for the vicar of Newcastle. One word with reference to the statement of the noble Lord (the Marquess of Blandford). He (Sir G. Grey) could not understand on what the noble Lord founded his assertion that by the adoption of his scheme there would be, at a much earlier period than the existing law would admit of, a large increase of revenue applicable to spiritual instruction. He could not conceive how the fund could increase more rapidly under the noble Lord's scheme than under the present system; for he had heard with great satisfaction that since the present law was passed with reference to the enfranchisement of Church property, property to the amount of 3,000,000l. had been already enfranchised, and that enfranchisement was going on at a rapid rate. The Act under which this enfranchisement was going on was stated to be a temporary Act, and that it would expire in the course of this year. No notice had been given of its renewal, and lie hoped, even if they did not then obtain an answer on the subject, they would shortly receive an assurance from the Government that if this Bill did not pass, or in any case, they intend to provide for the continuance of the legislative power by which the enfranchisement can alone be effected. Confining himself solely to the principle of the Bill, and thinking it was desirable that the 48 management of the property should be transferred according to the principle recommended by the noble Lord, he would vote on that ground for the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, he must beg to explain. The right hon. Baronet appeared to have misunderstood his suggestion, which was, not that the bishop and chapter of each diocese should have the sole management of the Church property, but that they should have associated with them a certain number of lay persons.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he would admit that the subject was one of paramount importance; but the House laboured under this inconvenience, that they were in the dark as to the views of the Government. The right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) said, if the Bill was regarded as based on simple principles, namely, the better management of Church property, there could be no difficulty in dealing with it. But he confessed he could not view it exactly in that light. The principle adverted to by the right hon. Baronet was contained in the first seven or eight clauses of the Bill. It was a very simple proposition that, instead of its being desirable that spiritual persons should have the sole management of Church property, others should be associated with them, and constitute a central board. Very little, however, had been said upon that subject, and before the House came to a decision upon it they ought to see by what means the property would be managed when it was taken out of the hands of spiritual persons. He could not agree with the proposition that Church property was public property. There were a great many opinions on that subject. The Church Estates Commissioners had established that it might be trust property, but that the public assumed the right of declaring the uses of the trust. Now, he did not agree with the subtle distinction that was attempted to be drawn between corporate and private property. The question was brought before the House; but the noble Lord who brought it forward did not indicate or give any reasons for altering the custody of the property for the purpose of making the most of it, by showing that it was badly managed. Taking the whole of the noble Lord's speech, the real purport of the Bill would appear to be different from what was stated. The Bill, however, would no doubt enable the noble Lord to carry out his real object. 49 As he understood the noble Lord, who went into figures to prove his case, he expected to obtain a large sum by his Bill to be devoted to the purpose of Church extension. The Bill, however, was not very clear; but it appeared to him the noble Lord endeavoured to effect his object by a large sale or alienation of Church property. Now, if the noble Lord intended to do this, he, for one, unless he had some better information on the matter, could not give his assent to that principle of the Bill. The noble Lord assumed there would be a surplus available for his purposes. Now, he could not assent to any scheme which would alienate at least half the Church property in fee, because he very much doubted that such a course would have the effect of increasing the usefulness of the Church. He might possibly have misunderstood the views of the noble Lord.
THE MARQUESS OF BLANDFORD
said, he did not propose any new plan of sale for Church property. The sales which took place now, took place under the law, and by the extension of the law he proposed to enfranchise a further portion of Church property.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that enfranchisement might mean almost anything when applied in the large sense in the Bill. It might mean, in fact, sales of Church property to a large extent. The power of sale or enfranchisement now exercised was restricted by the consent of the owners and lessees of property. But the noble Lord did not make it requisite in his Bill to have the consent of the owners; he must, therefore, contemplate a more extensive sale than was supposed. That was the great objection to a Bill which intended to remove the management of property from the hands of the present holders into lay hands. He was not prepared at that moment to give an opinion on the Bill in its present shape; but as the Bill involved a question both large and objectionable, were he to vote for one part of the Bill, he should not feel disposed to vote for the other. He had heard something about an episcopal fund and a common fund. But as the nation had claimed the right of laying hold of Church property for the last twenty years, he would say that the only way to make such a practice beneficial was to put the surplus proceeds into one fund, to be applied where the need was greatest. He never was able to understand that subtle distinction by which one bishop was to 50 be robbed, in order to give the proceeds to another bishop. But his hon. Friend thinks the robbery would be less if given to the diocese; but if their minds were given to robbery, and they would deal with Church property their own way, then the most good would be done by putting the surplus into a common fund, and administering it according to those rules applicable to the administration of Church property. With reference to that subject the Bill appeared to be supplied with a most complex machinery, the necessity for the introduction of which he was unable to understand; and seeing these things in the Bill he did not like to give his assent to the second reading, because he feared that if he did so he should be giving assent to what was more mischievous than good. He should like to have a clear idea of the machinery by which the purposes of the Bill were to be carried out. He should like to know clearly bow the Church property was to be dealt with, and that which was to be assigned to the Church and that to be assigned to the Board. It was time enough when that information was given to assent to the principle of the Bill. But when he saw the avowed principle of the Bill mixed up with many objectionable things, even though he might approve of the principle of the Bill, he must object to it in its present shape. He hoped the House would not be forced into a division upon the question now. The House laboured under a great disadvantage at present, for it was quite impossible to expect that a subject of such magnitude could be carried through that House by any private means. The House was indebted to the noble Lord for bringing the subject under discussion. It was a most important subject, and no one had more sympathy generally with the noble Lord's views as to placing the Church of England in a higher position of extended usefulness than himself. It was most important for the country to have the question fully and beneficially discussed, and as that could not be done at the present moment he must vote against the second reading if the Motion was pressed.
§ SIR JOHN YOUNG
said, it was stated by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who had been there in the early part of the day, that he was obliged to go away to attend a meeting of the Council. The other Members of the Cabinet were also there, and did not mean by their absence to underrate the gravity or importance of the subject before the House; 51 but it was obvious that at this particular moment there were subjects of very great moment to be decided upon. He did not understand the noble Lord to dissent from the principle of the Bill, but he considered that it was inconvenient to discuss the subject to which the Bill referred when the matters contained in it were under the consideration of a Committee appointed to consider them, and who had not as yet made their Report upon them.
§ MR. INGHAM
said, he considered the present Act of Parliament to be a most valuable measure; but it would expire in August next, and the question was, whether that Act would be renewed? Until that was known it might be premature to press the present Bill. He hoped, however, if it should be carried, that the interests of the lessees would be protected, and, if the Bill should go into Committee, he should feel it his duty to resist any portion of it which would effect a sale that should operate upon and override the interests of the present lessees.
§ MR. WIGRAM
agreed that the second reading of the Bill should not be persisted in; the subject was not ripe for discussion. Some doubt bad been expressed whether the subject of this Bill was within the scope of the Commission to inquire into the condition of the episcopal and capitular estates in England. His own opinion was that the Bill was, undoubtedly, within the scope of that Commission, and he knew that the same opinion was entertained by a large number of the Commissioners. He had been told that, immediately after Easter, the Commissioners contemplated publishing their first Report, which would relate to episcopal and capitular estates. They would then proceed to consider the materials which were before them, out of which they would frame a second Report, stating what were the measures which might be recommended to be adopted. The present question had been before Parliament for two or three Sessions, and, important as it undoubtedly was, it was not one which pressed for an immediate solution. It was a subject which would not suffer if it stood over for one Session more. He would, therefore, suggest to the noble Lord to allow the matter to stand over for one more Session, or, at all events, to postpone an immediate decision. The House ought not to be asked, concerning one of the most important branches of property held in this country, to come to a decision, without knowing what were 52 the views of Her Majesty's Government upon the subject. He believed the Government would wait to see what scheme the Commissioners would suggest, and then decide as to whether they would legislate upon the subject. He could not, however, in any case, agree to the main proposal of the Bill, which was to transfer to a London board the whole management of the episcopal and capitular estates. He was persuaded great evils would arise from attempting to throw such duties upon that board. He viewed, also, with the greatest objection the attempt made by the Bill to sever the chapter estates from the diocese. A much better scheme might be provided, which would keep the estates connected with the diocese, exercising a beneficial influence over all the district around. He had not an insuperable objection to the Estates Commissioners exercising a general supervision—but supervision was one thing, the management of estates was another. Give the Commissioners supervision if you will—give them a controlling power such as they might be able to exercise as a check upon others; but do not give them an administrative power over the estates. If you do, instead of having a well-supervised administration, you will have Motions constantly brought before the House of Commons of grievances and complaints against the managing board. There was another feature of the Bill which he very much objected to, and that was, proposing to enact by Act of Parliament that a bishop should for ever have a fixed income. They were legislating for all time, or, at least, for as long as there should be a Church in this country. It was one thing to give a bishop an income varying in amount according to the price of corn, and another to give him a fixed nominal income, which, by the variation in value of the precious metals, might in time fall to a sum quite insufficient for the purpose for which it was paid to him. He had heard it alleged that the bishops would prefer having a fixed income, but he could not accept that opinion upon the subject. The House was legislating upon this subject, not with regard to the immediate interests of the present holders of sees, but with a view to the permanent good of the Church. There was but one other subject to which he would advert, and that was, the complete carelessness shown by the Bill in providing a security for the certain payment of the incomes to the bishops after they should have been 53 assigned to them. There would actually be nothing to prevent the Commissioners, in whom absolute power would be vested, from selling any portion of these estates according to their discretion. What check was there? What security was there that a sufficient part of the estates would be reserved to ensure the payment of the fixed sums to the bishops? By the provisions of this Bill the bishops would be deprived of all the security which they had hitherto enjoyed; they would be left without a sufficient security for the incomes hereafter assigned to them. Viewing the Bill as it at present stood, though not dissenting from the general views of the noble Lord who had introduced it, he could not consent to the principles upon which it was framed, and must therefore oppose the second reading of the Bill if pressed to a division.
§ MR. R. PHILLIMORE
said, he hoped the noble Lord would consent to postpone the measure. Of that which was said to be the principle of the Bill—namely, that clergymen should be relieved as much as possible from secular duties—he should not express his disapprobation, and, therefore, he trusted the noble Lord would not force hon. Members having the same principles as himself to vote against him. The noble Lord first introduced a Bill on this subject on June 9, 1852, and on the second reading the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) stated that the Government were willing to take the subject into consideration, and recommended the noble Lord to leave the matter to the Government. The noble Lord yielded to that. When Parliament met again in November, 1852, a Commission was appointed, and the noble Lord was a Member of that Commission, which had not yet made its Report. Last Session, the noble Lord again brought forward his measure, and he seemed to think then, as he did now, that the management of church property was not properly at the disposal of the Commission. He (Mr. R. Phillimore) thought much depended on that. If the noble Lord thought the management of the property was not a subject for the consideration of the Commission, that might be a fair reason for pressing the Bill, but if, on the other hand, the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Wigram) was correct, that the subject of property was within the scope of the Commission, he would put it 54 to the noble Lord whether it was wise to force on the consideration of this Bill by the House.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he concurred with the hon. and learned Gentleman in requesting the noble Lord to postpone the consideration of this question. There were many points in the Bill upon which they should ascertain the opinions of Government before coming to a decision upon it. He hoped the noble Lord would, therefore, concur in the Motion which he was now about to make—namely, that the debate be adjourned to Thursday, the 6th April.
THE MARQUESS OF BLANDFORD
said, that considering the Motion made by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, the absence of Ministers, and the importance of the question, he was unwilling to press the measure through the House in an unbecoming manner. He willingly concurred, therefore, in the Motion for postponement, and as many misconceptions appeared to prevail as to the nature of the Bill—he particularly referred to those entertained by the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge—he hoped that when the proper time came he should be able to discuss them.
Debate adjourned till Thursday, 6th April.
§ The House adjourned at half after Five o'clock.