§ Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [29th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and Which Amendment was to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD ADOLPHUS VANE
said, it was with considerable embarrassment that he rose to oppose the second reading of this Bill, but he could not help expressing his surprise that there should be no leading Member of the Government present on the discussion of so important a measure. The same absence of Ministers was noticeable on a former occasion, though he certainly should have thought it due not only to the position of the noble Lord, his noble relative (Marquess of Blandford), who brought forward the Bill, but to the importance of the subject itself, that some one of Her Majesty's Ministers should have come down to attend its second reading. Under these circumstances he thought he should be justified in moving that the debate be now adjourned. With a measure involving so many millions of Church property, it was not right to proceed without the attendance of Her Majesty's Ministers. If he had at any time entertained a doubt as to the course he ought to pursue on this question, the speech of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) would have entirely persuaded him to vote against the Bill, but for very different reasons than those which were assigned by that hon. Gentleman. The hon. Baronet had said that he sympathised 480 with the noble Lord the mover of the Bill, and that he only objected to the Bill because it did not go far enough. The hon. Baronet objected to the provision of the present law, by which it was enacted that the surplus funds of the Church should be expended in a manner the most conducive to the efficiency of the Established Church. The hon. Baronet objected to the words "Established Church;" he wished the surplus fund to be applied to the benefit of the dissenting part of the community. When the present Bill was opposed only on such grounds, it ought to make its mover pause and consider whether the day might not come when it would be proposed to appropriate the surplus funds of the Church to very different, if not to merely secular purposes, and whether this Bill would not facilitate such an issue. Even in his short experience, he had witnessed an Act which was calculated to confirm his most serious apprehensions—he meant the Canada Reserves Bill. That measure had been attended with this peculiarity—that when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer supported it, he assured the House that the property would be devoted entirely to religious purposes; but the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Peel) the Under Secretary for the Colonies told the House that there was every probability that these funds would be devoted to secular objects. These things gave him reason to apprehend that if the House sanctioned the principle of the Bill of his noble relative, and removed the management of Church property entirely out of the hands of the Church, and if, though holding the fee simple in their hands, the Church should have the entire control taken from them, a day would come when a Motion would be made in the House of Commons to devote the Church property to secular purposes altogether. Reflecting on what were the opinions of those who gave their support to this measure—among whom were to be numbered the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Pellatt), and, on a former occasion, the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby) —the former of whom was a warm advocate for the separation of Church and State; and the latter an advocate for the exclusion of bishops from the House of Lords and for the abolition of tithes; he really thought that the noble Lord, the mover of this Bill, should pause before he enforced its second reading, and seriously consider whether it was a mea- 481 sure calculated to benefit the Established Church. What, too, were the views of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) in regard to this Bill? When it was under discussion in 1853, that hon. Gentleman, though he stated he was a warm friend of the Church and was willing to go with the noble Lord who introduced it, said that still he considered the question to arise whether one-half of the money taken from the purposes of religion might not be applied to the purpose of giving a good secular education to the people. These different views confirmed him in the opinion that the carrying of the second reading of the Bill would be attended with great danger to the Church. It appeared to him that the Church itself must be the best judge of what was most beneficial for its own interest. He might remind the House that a petition had been presented from the dean and canons of Norwich, stating that the Bill would operate most injuriously for their interests and those of the Church at large, by depriving them of the rightful management of their own property, and severing the union which had existed between the ecclesiastical and the landed interests from time immemorial. Petitions to the same effect had also been presented from the dean and chapter of Exeter, the dean and chapter of Canterbury, the dean and chapter of Bath and Wells, and the dean and chapter of Westminster. There was another reason why the Bill ought not to be pressed at the present time to a second reading. At this moment there was a Commission sitting, of which the noble Lord (the Marquess of Blandford) was a member, on this and kindred subjects; and until that Commission made its Report, he thought it would be unwise to proceed further with the measure. He would quote a short extract from a publication entitled to great respect —the Edinburgh Review—which, upon another branch of this subject, entirely expressed his opinions. In its number for January, 1853, it observed—And here we would urge very strongly the claim of justice which such encumbrances, in the gift of the cathedral bodies, may advance to be considered first, before the funds derived from the improved cathedral property are scattered over the whole kingdom. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners have acted wisely in pledging themselves, when tithes fall into their hands, to consider before all other claims the wants of the parishes from which the tithes arise. They will act still more wisely, and greatly conciliate the good feeling towards the cathedrals, if they bind themselves in all cases, not of tithes only, but of other property also, to consider the wants of the 482 parishes in the cathedral towns connected with the cathedrals before appropriating the surplus to the general fund,That was in entire accordance with his own opinion, and he hoped the noble Lord the mover of the Bill, as a sincere Church reformer, would pay some attention to what it suggested, and would consider whether the wants of one diocese were properly provided for before he consented to appropriate any portion of its revenues to supply the necessities of another. There was another point to which he wished to refer. On a former occasion, in answer to a question put by him, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) said that it was the intention of Government to bring in a Bill with regard to Church leaseholds, but that it would not be introduced before the resumption of the present debate. But, to his astonishment, a Bill on that very subject had been brought in by the Lord President in the House of Lords, had been read a second time, and was ordered to be committed last night. This was taking the leaseholders of Church property by surprise. As not a single Member of the Government was present to announce either their individual opinions, or the general views of the Administration with respect to this important question, none of them being in the House except the two hard-worked Gentlemen now seated on the Treasury bench (Lord Mulgrave and Mr. G. Berkeley), he should move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ MR. G. BUTT
, in seconding the Motion, said that he entirely approved the principle of the Bill before the House, but he wished to point out to the noble Lord, whose attention had been given with so much care to this important question, that in the present state of the House it would be impossible for him to do any good by proceeding with the debate. On the 29th of March, when the matter had been brought under the attention of the House, one or two Ministers were present, and one of them had spoken of the principle of the Bill as one in which everybody who wished to promote the usefulness of the Church and the well-being of the country must feel interested, and had suggested the postponement of the debate. The debate had accordingly been postponed, and now the only two representatives of the Government who were present were the two hon. Gentlemen opposite. He thought that a Bill the principle of which was so 483 important as that of the present Bill could not be discussed with practical advantage without the presence of some influential Minister, who might declare whether it would be sanctioned or opposed by the Government; nor was it fair to the noble Lord (the Marquess of Blandford), after all his exertions in the matter, that he should be compelled to proceed with the debate, when he must feel certain that it could lead to no practical result. It had been said on a former occasion that it would be an infringement of the rights of the Church to deprive or relieve the bishops of the care or the management of the property of their sees; but, as it appeared to him, it would in no way lessen the usefulness of those dignitaries if they were relieved from that burden, nor was there precedent wanting for taking such a course. Acts of Parliament bad been passed which had fixed the amount of the emolument that was to be paid to bishops, who were not to interfere or take an interest in the manlier in which the property of their sees was managed, and he could not for the life of him understand how the usefulness of a bishop, who had now so much more care to exercise with regard to his diocese—such a much larger population to attend to, and so many more sacred duties to perform—could be affected by the estates of his see being placed in the hands of one who would administer them with care, so long as he received that full emolument which every one who took an interest in the Church must desire that he should receive for the discharge of his high and important duties. He could not understand how any great interest could be infringed, or how the interest of the Church could be affected by this measure, the object of which was to make the revenues of the Church as applicable as possible to the great purposes for which they were originally intended; and he could not imagine a more effective mode of doing this than by placing the management of its estates in other hands than those of the bishops. He therefore entirely approved the principle of the Bill. It had been said that the surplus of whatever might be left, after payment of the necessary charges of the Church, ought to be applied to secular purposes, but he had no fear upon that point, for he did not believe, considering the great necessity that existed for the erection and endowment of additional churches, that any of the property of the Church would be so appropriated, or that the House would permit such an act of 484 spoliation, although it might be recommended by hon. Gentlemen who entertained different political opinions. He would suggest to the noble Lord, therefore, as it was utterly hopeless that any good could result from the discussion of the Bill that day, the Government having, unfortunately, entirely absented themselves, that it would be expedient to accede to the Motion for adjournment, which he supported, although for reasons very different from those of the noble Lord who had moved it.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."
§ MR. GRENVILLE BERKELEY
said, he could assure the House that the absence of the leading Members of the Government was not owing to any want of courtesy towards the House, but to the extreme press of public business. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department would, he believed, be in the House immediately; he therefore hoped the debate would not be adjourned.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, he could not see much difference between those who declared their intention of utterly destroying the Church root and branch, and those who, by what they called "reform," endeavoured totally to pervert its original institutions, by destroying that which was the very essential of our Episcopal Church. The intention of the supporters of this measure seemed to be, instead of amending an institution which had been ill-administered by devising new machinery to prevent the same abuses from occurring again, to destroy the institution itself. There was no doubt that the bishops, canons, and prebends of the cathedrals did not do, and had not done for many years, the duty for which they were instituted, and the noble Lord's remedy was by the Bill utterly to destroy the cathedral establishments, and to turn every cathedral into a parish church. Now, the cathedral was an essential part of an Episcopal Church—ubi episcopus, ibi ecclesia; parish churches were nothing but chapels of ease for the accommodation of those who lived too far from the cathedrals. The true reform would have been to increase gradually, as the population increased, the number of bishops—every town containing 10,000 inhabitants ought to have had a bishop. Of course, hon. Gentlemen who were not Episcopalians would be of a different opinion. He was not speaking to them, but to Episcopalians. The Church of England was being destroyed, not by the opponents of episco- 485 pacy, not by Dissenters, not by Roman Catholics, but by its own members. A mass of secular employment had now been laid upon the bishops. The Bishop of London, for instance, if he were not a man of Herculean body as well as Herculean mind, must long ago have been killed by the labours he had to undergo. In this town alone there ought to be at least seven bishops; and, because they would not do what they ought to do, he rejoiced that another bishop had been appointed by another Church. It was their own fault; and would they be like the dog in the manger —neither do their duty themselves nor let any one else do it? Their reform ought to compel the bishops and clergy to do the duty for which they were appointed. When they were first appointed service was going on in these cathedrals from morning till evening, and they ought to be compelled to perform it now, instead of permitting what was called the "month's residence." If they had always resided as they ought to have done, we need not have thrown away the sums of money we had spent in building churches, and the clergy would not have been allowed for their own convenience to lump four services—the morning service, the Litany, the holy Communion, and the sermon—together. This was what you had done, and this was what you called "Church reform." He wondered that some hon. Gentlemen—particularly many whom he saw opposite, whose names were appended to an extraordinary document that he held in his hand—had not told us whether they really and truly had got a Church or not? what it was that they meant by the "Church of England?" He would tell them what he meant by a Church. He meant an institution ordained by God for the due administration of the sacrament. They had had a declaration from an ecclesiastical head of the Church that it did not signify one straw whether a priest of that Church believed in the sacrament or not, and that in either case he was equally a good priest. One felt naturally a good deal of surprise at such a declaration, and one, therefore, applied to the spiritual head of the Church; but he said, "I know nothing about the matter; go and read your Bible." He should like to know if, on any dispute arising between himself and another person, they were to go before a Judge to have it settled, what would be thought of a Judge who said to them—"You are as intelligent men as I am; you can read the Statute-book as 486 well as I can; and therefore I shall not interfere." But, as if this was not enough, not long ago there had been an ordination of priests, and it was part of that ceremony for the bishop to put the Prayer Book into the hands of the person ordained, in which he was desired to give absolution, but immediately after this had been done, up jumped the same bishop, and declared that there was no such thing in the Church of England as the power of granting absolution or the remission of sins. Not many years ago a young relation of his had gone to another diocese to be ordained, and he asked him on his return how he got on —what the bishop had said to him? The reply was, that after he had been ordained he was told there was nothing in ordination, and he said it was a pity he had not been told so before, as he might then have saved himself the trouble of going the distance he had done. The document to which he had referred as containing the names of several Members of that House was a petition which had been presented to the Queen, begging her to take care that the sacramental system, as it was called, in the Church of England was done away with. The petitioners said that one place was not to be considered more holy than another place, nor one person more holy than another person—that was to say, that the parish clerk, or any old woman in a place, might read the Litany and administer the sacrament just as well as the minister. Yet this document had been signed by fifty Members of that House and by forty Peers. What, then, was the Church of England? Was there any meaning at all in this document? Such a document did exist. [Mr. SPOONER: Hear, hear.] It was not a joke, as the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Spooner) seemed to imagine. This Bill was a Bill to destroy the whole temporalities of the cathedrals, so far as diverting them from the intentions of their original donors was a destruction of them; and when they had once been so diverted, he did not see how we could stop. In the present case he objected that any portion of the temporalities of the Church should go to the landlords who paid tithes. If one-tenth were to be taken, let the State take it. He would not sanction the appropriation by the landlords. But if they were to go on in this way, the only Church which would come to be recognised—and let them not be surprised that men who were prepared to go into more important things than the 487 payment of money, should take that course —was the Roman Catholic; for men would become Roman Catholic, there being no other Church in this country.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that questions as to the disposal of Church property occupied a great deal of the time of the House, but he wanted to know what had been done by means of that property in the way of evangelising the country? Without it, nay, in spite of it, the voluntary efforts of the Christian people of this country had done more for the religious instruction of the population, than the Church Establishment, with all its wealth and its powerful influence. The Church itself was learning to act upon the principle of the voluntaries, for they had erected during the last twenty years, without the assistance of the State, no fewer than 2,000 churches, at an expense of 5,500,0001. The great bane of the Church, and the great hindrance to its usefulness, was its property; and it was his decided opinion that the interests of Christianity, and even of those who advocated religious establishments, would prosper infinitely more if that property were resumed. When it was stated that at Oxford only two weeks' instruction were required for the purpose of forming the character of a clergyman of any rank or degree, from the highest to the lowest, the House would surely be of opinion that the subject was one that demanded the most serious attention of all parties. He hoped the House would apply the property to a more useful purpose than the noble Lord (the Marquess of Blandford) proposed to do, and would remove, for instance, that constant bone of contention, the church rates. He should support the Motion for adjournment.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he rose, in consequence of the allusion which had been made to him by the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond), to explain the character of the document which had been signed by him as well as by several noblemen and gentlemen, and which had been received with approbation by our Most Gracious Sovereign. The document was drawn up immediately after the Papal Aggression, and, after reciting that aggression, it humbly entreated Her Majesty to direct the attention of the primates and bishops of the Church to the necessity of using all lawful means to remove the evil effects of false doctrine with regard to matters of internal discipline and observance, one of which was the manner in 488 which what was called the sacramental system was sometimes carried out by the veneration displayed for the chancels of churches, and, in some instances, by their separation from the body of the church by means of a Popish rood screen, tapestry, &c., and, in connection with that system, the custom of the priest turning his face towards the altar, away from the congregation. He put it to the House, whether there was the slightest ground to justify the extraordinary view the hon. Gentleman had taken with regard to this document. The then Home Secretary (Sir G. Grey), in returning an answer to the Address on the part of Her Gracious Majesty, inclosed a copy of a letter which had been forwarded to the Archbishop of Canterbury, in accordance with the prayer of the petition, requesting him to communicate on the subject with the Archbishop of York and the bishops of his diocese. He thought he had now set himself right with the House with regard to this matter, and he would conclude by suggesting that, as the noble Lord the Member for London and the noble Lord the Home Secretary were now in the House, the Motion for the adjournment of the debate should be withdrawn. He would then, according to what might be stated by the noble Lord opposite, be prepared to give his opinion upon the measure itself.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said that, before either of the noble Lords opposite expressed their opinions upon the question of adjournment, he wished to put it to the Government whether, on the whole, it would not be the best course to agree to that Motion. The noble Lords would bear in mind that the Bill had been already once before the House, and that it involved a most important question as to the future management of the ecclesiastical establishments of this country—a question which ought, in his opinion, to be undertaken by the Government and not by a private Member. For that reason he should press upon them the question of adjournment. He should also do so for another reason. He knew the anxiety which his noble Friend (the Marquess of Blandford) had always entertained upon this subject; he knew the pains which he had taken to mould this measure so that it should prove a benefit to the Church; and he knew that no person was more anxious for the welfare of the Church than his noble Friend. It would therefore be with pain and regret that he should find himself forced to take the course of dividing against him upon any measure 489 affecting the Church, unless he felt constrained by his sense of public duty so to do. If his noble Friend would agree to the Motion for adjournment, there would be no necessity for taking such a course—no necessity for appearing to thwart him in his object of improving the ecclesiastical establishments of the country; the House would not commit itself to the principle of a Bill which, as it stood, was objectionable, although it was capable of amendment, and the Government would be left free to inform the House what course they would think it most desirable to pursue. The main object of the Bill was to put into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Estates Commissioners the management of the episcopal and capitular property of the country; and, in doing that, it purported to reserve the entire fee-simple of the estates in the hands of the bishop and the cathedral chapters, leaving to those dignitaries of the Church entire leisure for the performance of their spiritual duties. While it effected this, however, it would sever entirely from the Church its ecclesiastical property, whether in the hands of a bishop or a cathedral and collegiate estate, and would place it entirely under the control of three Commissioners, two of whom were appointed by the Government of the day. If the House would take the trouble to compare the 4th, 16th, and 30th clauses of the Bill, it would be seen that the two latter militated completely against the principle which his noble Friend had intended to reserve by the 4th section. But that was not all. The Bill purported to preserve to bishops and to the members of capitular and collegiate establishments the right of claiming the fixed incomes which they were to receive, by means of distress and re-entry in case those fixed incomes should fall into arrear; but by a subsequent clause that security was entirely taken away, for if the property were sold and disposed of, there would be no property upon which the power of re-entry could operate. The principle of the Bill, therefore, which was intended to be proposed was not the principle which was actually contained in the measure before the House; but it severed the Church altogether from the land, so as to leave in a precarious state the incomes which the members of the Church were to receive, and which in the end, if not taken away from them, might be very different from those which were secured to them so long as they held the property themselves. If Parliament now gave by this Bill a fixed 490 income in money to the bishops, and placed the property of the Church in the hands of the Estates Commissioners, they would not be allowing for the alteration in the value of money which might take place in future periods; and, though they intended to give to the heads of the Church an income equivalent to that which was enjoyed by the heads of other professions, they would by this Bill, as time passed on, defeat their own object, and there would be no means of remedying the inequality. He was far from saying that he would not assent to the proposition that it was advisable to relieve the heads of the Church from as much of temporal duty and anxiety as possible, but, as the present Bill was framed, he could not, for the reasons which he had assigned, assent to it. There was another reason, also, for postponement, which he thought was irresistible. The Bill related not merely to episcopal, but also to capitular property, and it transferred the latter to the common fund, anticipating the mode in which it was to be applied hereafter. The Cathedral Commission, however, which had been appointed in 1852 for the purpose of inquiring into the state and condition of the collegiate churches in England and Wales, had not yet made their Report; and if the House now legislated upon this subject, and transferred what was called the surplus cathedral and collegiate property to the Estates Commissioners, and blended it into one fund, they would deprive Parliament of the power of considering, when the Report appeared, the important question as to how far they might dispose of that property in a much more beneficial manner than if it were thrown into the common fund, for they would have to consider whether they might not make it more advantageously applicable to the extension of public worship and religious education, the maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline in the dioceses, and the creation of additional sees where the present sees were too large. He therefore suggested to the House that it was undesirable to proceed with legislation upon this subject in the absence of the important information which they might get upon it, and the expression of any opinion upon the part of the Government.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I feel, Sir, that there is very great force in the reasons for postponement which the right hon. Gentleman has now urged. At the same time, there is something due, undoubtedly, to the noble Marquess who has 491 undertaken this subject, who has undergone so much labour in order to bring his measure into a state to be laid before the House, and who is animated by a zeal which no man can doubt for the improvement of the Church. Now, Sir, taking those various reasons into consideration, I agree, in the first place, with the right hon. Gentleman that there is great public inconvenience in discussing a measure of this kind, so vitally affecting the Established Church, upon the proposition of an individual Member of Parliament, not representing the Government or any considerable party in this louse, and upon a Wednesday, when it is not usual to have such an attendance as there ought to be upon the second reading of a measure of such great importance. In the next place, I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there are some inquiries with respect to the Church—more especially with regard to cathedrals and their institution—which are not yet completed, and upon which it would be very desirable that we should have the Report of the Commissioners before we proceed to the consideration of this subject. I admit, likewise, that if we look at the details of this Bill, there are many of them, if details they can properly be called, which are open to very grave objections, and upon which I could not concur with the noble Marquess if this Bill were in Committee. I am of opinion that, whatever arrangements may be made, the revenues of the Established Church ought to be closely connected and bound up with the land of this country, and I think it would be a very great evil, supposing that the income of any bishop or person holding a cathedral dignity were not forthcoming at the proper time, that there should not be a remedy connected with the land and dependent upon the laws which regulate incomes derived from land. I, therefore, think that some of the provisions to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred—namely, the 16th and 30th clauses—militate against the provision which the noble Lord laid down most carefully—that the fee simple of the estates of the Church should still belong to the Church, and should not be conveyed to the Commissioners. Seeing, then, these various objections which the right hon. Gentleman has urged, and admitting their weight, I should be very glad if the noble Marquess would consent to defer this measure—if he would be satisfied with having brought the 492 matter under discussion, being convinced; as I think he must be, that it is a subject of too great importance to be allowed to drop, and that if he should not be successful in carrying a measure before a very long time, the Government would feel obliged, when they had all the information before them, to introduce such a measure as they might think consistent with the interest of the revenues, while it afforded stability to the Church Establishment. But, Sir, if the House were now called upon to come to a division upon the principle of the Bill, strong as are the reasons for a postponement, and faulty as are some of the details, I should certainly feel myself obliged rather to affirm the principle than to give a vote against it. I conceive that the main intention of the Bill, which is to give to the Church Estates Commissioners the administration of that property from which the income of the bishops is derived, is very sound in principle, and that it is one which will tend not only to the improvement of that property, but that it will be more consonant than the present system with the dignity of the bishops, and with their giving all the time that is necessary to the discharge of their duties, which are becoming more and more extensive every day in the management of their dioceses. When I was a member of the first Church Inquiry Commission, there was a great deal of discussion upon this subject, and I remember that the Prelates who were on that Commission—the late Archbishop of Canterbury and others—considered that there would be very considerable danger if the principle of property being vested in the bishops were at all infringed on, as it might be if their incomes were made to bear the appearance of salaries rather than of rents derived from land. In order to avoid that consequence, we were obliged to recommend a course which experience has not shown to be very effective. We recommended that, in cases where the income should be greater than the Commissioners thought was requisite, a certain sum should be paid over, and that in other cases a certain sum should be made up to the bishops. It was found in practice, however, that no very good criterion existed by which to judge of those incomes, and that, while several bishops received more than the Church Commissioners thought they should receive, the income of others was deficient. Such being the case, the income of the bishops became precarious, and I think that very injurious 493 results have followed, some bishops being exposed to great obloquy on account of their receiving incomes larger than was intended by Parliament, and others being exposed to a great deficiency of income. By a subsequent measure a different course was adopted, but this also I think is defective, because it obliges the bishops to enter more into the management of land than is desirable. It is obvious that a person corning into the possession of an hereditary estate may make provisions for the management of that estate, and may sacrifice his income for some years to improve it for the subsequent benefit of himself and his successors, knowing that his children will in the end reap the advantage; but for a bishop to sacrifice his income, when, perhaps, the enjoyment of his bishopic may not extend beyond four or five years, is perhaps too much to expect. I think, therefore, that giving a fixed income to be paid by the Commissioners who shall have the management of the lands is so great an improvement upon the present system that upon account of that provision alone, if the question were one of affirming or denying the principle of the Bill, I should be prepared to give my vote in favour of it. In so doing, I certainly considered very much the personal claims which the noble Marquess has upon the support of the House; at the same time I do not think that it is desirable to go into Committee upon this Bill with its various defects, until we have before us that further information which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) has alluded to—the Report of the Cathedral Commissioners. On the whole, therefore, I should hope that the noble Lord, after the discussion which has taken place, will consent to the adjournment of this Bill. There are so many other subjects connected with the Church which have to be considered that I think it is an additional reason why he should consent to this suggestion. There is one subject, for instance, which never yet came under the consideration of the House, but which has attracted my attention to a great extent. When the Commission of Inquiry made their Report, they pointed out in what manner they thought the additional revenues might be derived for the purposes of what is commonly called "Church extension." They pointed out the difficulties which existed where there were millions of people with an insufficient number of ministers and churches. They pointed out the means whence additional sources of revenue might 494 be derived, and Parliament approved of their recommendation; but as to the application of those revenues there were no specific recommendations laid before Parliament., and the measure passed without the attention of Parliament being directed to that subject. In the year 1841, when I left office, I directed the attention of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, and of the Bishop of London, to that matter, and I was in hopes that a recommendation would have been made upon which Parliament could decide. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners thought it better, however, that they should establish certain rules by their own authority, and they proceeded to distribute the revenues according to those rules. I own I think—and I told the Bishop of London so at the time—that those rules were not altogether suited to the wants of the Church, that those wants were not sufficiently considered, and that too much was given to parishes of small population. However that may be, I think, at all events, that it was a subject, and that it is still a subject, to which the attention of Parliament might advantageously be directed; and I think, whatever may be the opinion of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners upon the point, that they ought to make a Report upon it, which should be laid before Parliament, and that the rules according to which the distribution of revenue should take place should receive the sanction and authority of Parliament, and should undergo a discussion in Parliament before they are carried into effect. That is one subject which we have to consider. Another is, the matter of the future constitution of cathedral chapters, and the purposes to which the revenues of those chapters may be applied. There is another subject also, of very great importance, which, though not in this Session, yet in another must be considered by Parliament—I mean that much-vexed question of church rates. There are other questions also affecting the Church, and I think, when Parliament has time to consider them, that it would be right to regard them, not as one or two isolated measures, but to consider together and as a whole all those measures which are intended for the prosperity and well-being of the Church. Under these circumstances, I earnestly hope that the noble Marquess will consent to the postponement of this Bill. At the same time, as I have previously stated, if it is to be a question of voting "aye" or "no" upon 495 the second reading, I shall certainly vote for the second reading.
MR. H. G. LIDDELL
said, fie was prepared to admit the principle laid down in the preamble of the Bill, as regarded the improvement of the management of the capitular revenues, but he would not go the length of supporting the noble Marquess in the means which he proposed for effecting that object. When he considered how large an amount of property in Durham was held by the Church under lease, he could not agree that no interest would be affected by this Bill. On the contrary, he believed that the interest of the public would be most prejudicially affected, and he could not see estates transferred from the ecclesiastical corporations, who bad so long had the management of them, into the hands of a London Board, without protesting against it. It must be remembered that the object of the Board would be to exact the highest terms which they could obtain for the renewal of the leases, and this of itself would have a very injurious effect. He was unwilling to perpetuate further that large abstraction of revenue which had already taken place under the management of the Church Commissioners, or to sanction that alienation of property which had already been witnessed to so considerable an extent, and for these reasons he should vote against the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, he did not wish to speak, like the hon. Gentleman ' who had just sat down, on behalf of the lessees of the Dean and Chapter of Dorham, but on behalf of the Church generally, and he must say that he thought the conduct of the Estates Commissioners had been right and fair towards the Church at large. Their object had been to do that which was just, not to exact extreme terms from those who might be the lessees of the dignitaries of the Church as the property fell in, but to do all in their power to increase the large sum of money placed at their disposal for the benefit of the Church and for providing for the spiritual wants of the community. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. G. Liddell) desired that matters should continue as they were, for the interests of the lessees. He (Sir B. Hall) desired that they should not continue as they were, for the benefit of the Church. As the Cathedral Commission had now been sitting some time, it would be very desirable if the noble Marquess, in his reply, would state whether it was likely that the Report of that Com- 496 mission would be shortly laid upon the table, whether it would be a first Report, or a final Report, and, if a first Report, when the final Report would be likely to be presented. As far as he had been able to judge, he thought that the cause of reform, as regarded the revenues of the Established Church, was progressing satisfactorily. He believed that the desire of those who wished for reform was likely to be accomplished, and that the revenues would not be appropriated for any other purpose than for the welfare of the Established Church. If the noble Marquess divided upon the second reading, he should divide with him, in the hope that, if the Motion should be carried, the Committee would be postponed until the Report of the Commission should be received.
MR. DIGBY SEYMOUR
said, that great injury would be done to a number of persons residing in Sunderland and Shields if this Bill passed without any provision for the renewal of leases. Persons who had expended a large capital in constructing ship-building yards, and other matters, ought to have some security against being deprived of their property. In the hope that some such provision would be made, he should vote for the second reading. The opponents of the Bill were confined to two classes—those who feared that to reform the Church would be to uproot it, and those who were not willing to reform it unless they could uproot it. He did not sympathise with either of these parties, and he believed that the Bill would be of great benefit to the Church, as well as to the public. It would be a great improvement to place the incomes of the bishops on a certain footing, and to vest the management of the property in other hands. The definition of the Church. given by the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) was one which he could not recognise, for it wholly excluded the laity.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he would recommend that the noble Lord the Member for North Durham (Lord A. Vane) should withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the debate, as he had not moved it on account of the merits of the Bill, but because, in the absence of any Member of the Government, no opinion on their part had been expressed. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London having expressed his views on the question, bad removed this objection, and, on the withdrawal of the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, the noble Marquess who had 497 introduced the Bill would then have an opportunity of stating his views, and he trusted the House would affirm the principle of the Bill by passing its second reading, but, in that event, he hoped the noble Marquess would not press the committal of the Bill until the Cathedral Commissioners had issued their Report.
MR. H. T. LIDDELL
said, he had listened with great satisfaction to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who had stated such excellent reasons for the adjournment of the debate. He hoped the second reading of the Bill would not be pressed to a division upon that occasion. The interests of the lessees of Church property were deeply involved in this question, and he thought the discussion ought to be postponed, if for no other reason than that those interests should be made the subject of an inquiry by a Select Committee. An association had already been formed in the diocese of Durham by those interested in Church leases, and it was probable that before long a memorial would be presented to that House, setting forth the position of those parties, and the alarm and apprehension which they felt at the agitation of this question. In consideration of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, intimating the intention of the Government to take up this matter, he would entreat the House to consent to the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, he hoped that the noble Lord (Lord A. Vane) would not accede to the request of the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey), but would press his Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
THE MARQUESS OF BLANDFORD
said, he rejoiced that the present debate had led to the important expression of opinion as to this Bill on the part of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell), as it would tend to raise the public confidence, and would give an assurance to a large body of the Established Church that the Government were willing to take up a subject of such importance as that with which the present Bill dealt. He was also bound to acknowledge the very kind and gratifying expressions which had fallen from several hon. Members in regard to himself, not only as to the manner in which this subject had been brought forward, but likewise as to his motives in introducing the present measure. There were two Motions now before the House—one by his noble relative the Member for 498 North Durham (Lord A. Vane) for the adjournment of the debate, and another by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay), for the second reading of the Bill that day six months. He was quite willing to admit that his noble relative, in moving such an adjournment, was actuated by every feeling of fairness, impressed as fie was with the conviction that the present measure would not conduce to the interests of the Established Church; but he thought that the noble Lord would, on consideration, see that his Motion was wholly inadequate to effect what he desired—namely, the postponement of the consideration of this question for the Session; for, if he were successful in procuring the adjournment of the debate, he (theMarquess of Blandford) would take the first opportunity of again bringing the question before the House. He must also say that the noble Lord had put his Amendment on the ground that no Member of the Government was present to express their opinion on the measure. This objection had since been removed; therefore, the original reasons for the adjournment could not be substantiated. With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets, the object of that was to postpone the second reading of the Bill for six months. The hon. Baronet had professed to be a friend of the Established Church, but be must he allowed to say that that friendship had been placed in a very questionable light. The hon. Baronet entertained strong objections to church rates, and had stated in his remarks that he considered whatever surplus property the Church possessed ought to be devoted to the repairs of such fabrics, and to defray the expenses of the services; and because the Bill provided for a different application of the surplus property, the hon. Baronet opposed the Bill. The right hon. Member for the. University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) had, in his objections to the Bill, made some remarks which, unless answered, might lead to very serious misapprehensions as to the merits of the measure, That right hon. Member in one instance seemed to, think that the present Bill would endanger the existence of that common fund which Parliament had created and sanctioned; in another instance he seemed to think that the funds would be localised in a way which would be inconsistent with previous arrangements of the Legislature. In answer to this last objection came the opinion 499 of an hon. Member who opposed the Bill on a totally different ground, as he said there were no provisions in the Bill for local wants, and this was his great objection to it. A great deal had been said on the subject of these local wants, and he would therefore call the attention of the House to the 27th clause, by which it was provided that the tithes forming the part of any ecclesiastical endowment should, upon the expiration or surrender of any lease, be devoted to the making of such provisions for the spiritual wants of the places in which the tithes had arisen as the Commissioners might judge requisite. When he told the House that 600,000l. were yearly derivable from such tithes, they would feel satisfied that the Bill made great provisions for local wants. The 17th clause, by which episcopal estates were in the first instance to be applicable to episcopal interests, also provided for the remedying of local wants. With regard to what had been said as to this measure much endangering the security of Church property, he considered that the allowing of grievous abuses to remain unremedied, and Parliament refusing by continual postponements to deal with measures which sought to remove such abuses, were much more likely to render the Church property insecure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge complained that the Bill would do injustice to the lessees of Church property. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was labouring under a great misapprehension upon that point, because all the Bill did, or was intended to do, was simply to renew the Act of 1851, the only difference being that, according to the present measure, the Estates Commissioners were the only parties who should transact business with the holders of Church leases. It followed, therefore, that if injustice were done to the lessees, the blame would rest with the Estates Commissioners, of whom the right hon. Gentleman himself was one. His own opinion, however, was, that the Estates Commissioners were the parties most competent to manage the ecclesiastical property of the country, and he was confident that they would not press with undue severity upon the lessees any more than they would disregard or neglect the just claims and interests of the Church. Again, the right hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) had entirely misunderstood the meaning and object of the clauses, which provided that separate accounts should be 500 kept. A great deal had been said about the impropriety of making the bishops mere stipendiaries. The House was, perhaps, not aware that the poorer sees had received from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, during the past year, payments to the amount of about 37,000l. His object in making provision for the keeping of a separate account was to avoid the necessity of these payments. He wished that the richer sees, instead of assisting the poorer sees by contributions in money, should do so by the transference of estates, in order that the property belonging to each see should always be sufficient to yield a proper revenue. But the right hon. Gentleman complained that there was no security in the Bill for the payment of the incomes; but if the House turned its attention to Clause 15, it would there see that that complaint was entirely without foundation, and that care was taken to protect the sources from which the incomes were to be derived. But these were matters which would be more properly discussed in Committee than upon the Motion for the second reading of the Bill. He was quite willing, for his own part, that the clauses with reference to the keeping of a separate account and the transference of estates should be struck out of the Bill in Committee; but he hoped that the second reading would be agreed to now, on the distinct understanding that the Bill should not be considered in Committee until the Cathedral Commission should have made its Report. The noble Lord the Member for North Durham had said that the Church was best able to judge of its own state, and ought to be left to reform itself; but he put it to the common sense of the House, and asked whether, judging from their experience of times past, they would be justified in saying that the Church, if left to itself, would reform itself; The House would recollect what took place on the introduction of measures by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London and the late Sir Robert Peel relative to the first Church inquiry. They would recollect the opposition these measures received from the friends of the Church, and the lamentable and pitiable memorials sent in by the chapters. But, if they looked at the results of these measures, they would find that new parishes had been formed, funds obtained, benefices augmented, and the Church placed upon a footing more in consonance. with the requirements of the times; and 501 all this had resulted from measures which, upon their introduction, were opposed as being fraught with extreme danger to the Church. He felt deeply grateful for what the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had said with reference to himself and to this measure, but, looking at the many contingencies which might interfere with the noble Lord's carrying out the intentions he had expressed with reference to this measure, and also to the state of public feeling and the importance of this subject, he felt it necessary to press the second reading of the Bill, in order that the House might have an opportunity of affirming its principle. He did not wish unduly to press the measure through the House, and if the second reading was sanctioned, he deemed it impossible, in the present state of business, for the Bill to be committed before the Report of the Cathedral Commissioners had been received. He, therefore, asked the House to affirm the second reading of the Bill, which had for its object to set at rest those unseemly disputes and ill-favoured scandals which had so long cast obloquy upon the ministers of the Church, and it sought, by relieving ministers from temporal concerns, to raise their characters in the eyes of the country, and enable them faithfully to discharge their duties, and so make them examples and shepherds to their flocks.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, he only rose to explain that the noble Marquess had, from misapprehension doubtless, incorrectly stated arguments which he (Mr. Goulburn) had used on a previous occasion. What he stated was this, that, as the Bill prohibited any renewal of leases for tithes, and as the incomes of bishops and chapters depended, in some measure, on such renewal of leases, the noble Marquess, by the present measure, at once took away two-thirds of their incomes, making them less than Parliament thought they ought to receive. He (Mr. Goulburn) had further urged that the only remedy of the bishops, in the case of parties holding Church lands refusing to pay, was by a re-entry on the estate, and this, under a system of leases, was of little advantage. To the objections which he had urged against the Bill of the noble Marquess no answer was given. He had further objected that the Bill would defeat the intentions of another measure which had for its object to provide for the spiritual necessities of places where destitution was most strongly felt. The noble Lord the Member 502 for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) had complained that the rules of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, relative to the distribution of the funds in their possession, had not been laid on the table; but on that point the noble Lord was misinformed, for the rules under which the Commissioners acted with reference to the apportionment of their funds were distinctly laid down in their Report.
§ SIR WILLIAM CLAY
said, he should still oppose the Motion for adjournment, but, if it were lost, he would persevere with his own Motion unless the noble Marquess gave an assurance that after the second reading he did not mean to proceed with the Bill this Session.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he wished to explain that what he had said with reference to the rules of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as to the distribution of their revenues, was, that those rules had not been brought under the attention of the House so as to be made the subject of an Act of Parliament.
Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 123: Majority 61.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, he wished to know whether he was correct in assuming that, provided the Bill was read a second time now, it was not intended to proceed with it in Committee during the present Session?
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, his opinion certainly was, that there were many other questions closely connected with this subject that ought to be taken up along with it. There were, also, many objections to the details of the measure; and if it were proposed to go into Committee on any particular day, he should feel it his duty to resist the proposal, though he was willing that the principle of the Bill should be affirmed by giving it a second reading.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that, understanding that the noble Lord considered the Bill ought not to be proceeded with during the present Session, and that Government ought to undertake the question, he thought it would be unadvisable to vote against the second reading. His noble Friend (the Marquess of Blandford) admitted himself some material alterations were necessary in the Bill, and he therefore ventured to press on the House not to attempt to legislate this Session, on the 503 understanding that Government would take the subject up in the next Session.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he would suggest that the Bill should be read a second time, and that it should go into Committee pro formâ this Session, when the noble Lord might introduce such Amendment as he thought should be admitted into any measure that was proposed next Session.
§ SIR WILLIAM CLAY
said, he had already stated that, if the noble Lord would pledge himself not to proceed further this Session, he would not object to the second reading.
THE MARQUESS OF BLANDFORD
said, if the House would not object to the second reading, and if the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) would consent to the Bill being committed pro formâ this Session, he would not insist upon proceeding further.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn: Main Question put and agreed to. Bill read 2°.