HC Deb 23 May 1854 vol 133 cc805-34

said, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill for the abolition of Church Rates, he felt that he might at once assume that an almost entire agreement of opinion existed, that the time had arrived for a settlement of this question. He thought he was entitled to assume that, not only from the notoriety of the fact that such a feeling was widely prevalent, but also from the measures which on both sides of the House had been brought forward on the subject. He need scarcely remind the House that Motions on the subject from the Liberal party had been of frequent occurrence. Measures had been brought forward by the Government of Earl Grey in 1832, and by that of Lord Melbourne in 1837; by Sir John Easthope, and by Mr. Trelawny, by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe), by the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock (Mr. R. Phillimore), who, he believed, represented the views of persons of high authority in the Church of England itself, and also by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe), who sat on the other side of the House. These measures differed much from each other, but he had a right to adduce them as proofs of the universal assent which was now given to the opinion that some alteration in the law was necessary. Since he had last had the honour of addressing the House on this subject, two circumstances of very great importance had occurred—one being the decision of the House of Lords in the Braintree case, and the other the publication of the Census Report on Religious Worship. The decision in the House of Lords to which he had alluded was the conclusion of the famous Braintree case, which had been in litigation sixteen years. The substantial essence and effect of the decision in the Braintree case was this—the House of Lords, having had the advice of the Judges, pronounced by the mouth of Lord Chief Justice Truro, judgment that the church rate under contest was invalid, inasmuch as it had not had the assent of a majority of the vestry. Lord Truro took occasion to state that the Judges were unanimous in the opinion that a church rate, to be valid, must have the assent of a majority of the vestry. Some difference of opinion had existed among the Judges who were consulted, one or two thinking that a majority of the vestry, by refusing a rate, would oust themselves of their jurisdiction, and that in such a case there would be a constructive majority in favour of the rate. Lord Chief Justice Truro, in a judgment characterised by that luminous phraseology and that power of analysis for which the noble and learned Lord was celebrated, overruled that view of the question, and it was finally decided by the House of Lords, as he had stated, that to make a rate valid it must be assented to by a majority of the vestry. He entreated the House to consider the full importance and significance of that decision. The decision not only set at rest the disputed point as to whether the churchwardens on their own authority, or the churchwardens supported by a minority, could make a valid rate, but incidentally and for all practical purposes it likewise disposed of two other questions, namely, first, whether church-rates were to be considered as a perpetual obligation upon property as such, or only as an obligation on property in virtue of the person; and secondly, whether there was a common-law obligation upon the parishioners to maintain the fabric of the parish church. With regard to the former point, the authorities were all in favour of the church-rate being considered as a personal tax; and though on the second they were of opinion that there was a common law liability to maintain the fabric, yet it was obvious that there were no means of enforcing it. [Mr. R. PRILLIMORE made a gesture of dissent.] His hon. and learned Friend seemed to be of a different opinion. The liability might indeed be enforced by the Ecclesiastical Courts—by interdict and excommunication; but those weapons might be left in the repose in which they had so long slumbered, for their effect would certainly not be to alarm those against whom they were directed, whatever other sentiments they might create. It might naturally be supposed that the result of the law being at length clearly defined would be to cause a contest in every parish where the Dissenters were in a majority, or equal to, or even approaching in numbers to the members of the Church. Such had actually been the case; and in a by no means perfect list which had been prepared of the places in which there had already been church-rate contests, containing, among other important towns, Liverpool, Bristol, Chelmsford, Hull, St. Asaph, Ashton, Barnard Castle, Cheltenham, Derby, Newcastle, Southampton, Warrington. Sixteen contests had terminated in favour of the rate, and forty-two in its refusal. Let the House consider what these contests were. They were not ordinary contests with regard to a tax, such as occurred in that House, where parties might differ as to the amount or proper application of a tax. But these church-rate contests were for a tax of which the proceeds were to be employed solely for the benefit of one party. It was as though the majority of the House last night had voted for a tax to supply themselves with some articles of necessity or luxury—with bread and meat, or claret and champagne—at the expense of the minority. It was difficult to say to which party these contests were the most disastrous, whether to the Church or its opponents. For, after all, upon whom were these rates levied? Was it on a small portion of the people? Was it on a fragment of the population of England, so minute that it was unnecessary and unbecoming the dignity of that House to listen to their complaint? upon that head they had recently the most extraordinary disclosures, upon the most complete authority—the Census Report on religious worship. The population of England and Wales at the last census was 17,927,690. The proportion for which Church accommodation ought to be supplied was 58 per cent, or 10,427,609. The Church and Nonconformist bodies had provided, in 34,467 places of worship, sittings for 10,212,563 persons. Of that number the Established Church had provided, in 14,077 places of worship, sittings for 5,317,915 persons; the Nonconformists, in their 20,390 places of worship, provided sittings for 4,894,648 persons. Therefore, if not of the entire people (of that there was no means of judging), yet of the religious portion of the population, those who availed themselves of the places of worship, nearly one-half did not belong to the Established Church; and that which the law now did, therefore, was to set one-half of the people in incessant discord and strife with the other half, in the attempt to extract from them this tax. The attendance at the places of worship of all denominations, on the census Sunday was 10,896,066. Of these 5,603,815 belonged to the Established Church, and 5,292,251 to the Nonconformist denominations. Here the same proportion was obtained; and this went far to confirm the accuracy of the whole calculation. To his mind these figures were absolutely conclusive on one point—that the law could not be continued in its present state, either consis- tently with the interests of the Church itself, or with any show of justice towards those upon whom the tax was levied. The question remained, in what mode the alteration should be effected. Various modes had been proposed. The first was to take the law as it now stood, enforcing the universal obligation on all to pay church rates, and devising some means to give effect to that obligation. He had thought that no one would now take that view; but recently a petition had been presented from some rev. gentlemen in the diocese of Exeter, praying that means might be taken for enforcing the payment of church rates in all parishes. Anything so Quixotic had seldom been proposed. Let any one imagine an attempt to enforce church rates in Manchester. To ensure success it would be necessary to recall our Army from the East. The second was the mode proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. R. Phillimore), in conformity with a proposition of the same kind by Sir W. Page Wood, and also in conformity with opinions expressed in the very able pamphlet of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley). That proposal was to enable Dissenters, on complying with certain formalities, to relieve themselves from the liability to pay church rates. It had an aspect of fairness about it, but it was, in the first place, an offensive thing to insist on the declaration of any man's religious belief, while, by forcing men to define their creed, they would sharpen those differences of opinion of which those by whom they were entertained were often scarcely conscious, and which it should rather be the aim of a wise legislation to obliterate or soften. There were a great many persons who went to church in the morning, and in the evening to some Non-conformist chapel. When it was also taken into account how wide a door this mode of settlement would operate to evasion and fraud, he could not believe it was likely to receive the support of the House. Then came the proposal of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe), which most whimsically combined all the objections to which every mode of settlement had been considered obnoxious. The hon. Member, for whom he had a great respect, proposed to retain a large portion of the church rate, and enforce it by summary process, whilst he also proposed to relieve Nonconformists upon declaration of religious belief being made before two magistrates. He now came to the last mode, and that was entire abolition. That was the mode which, either by itself or accompanied by some substitution of other sources for the maintenance of church fabrics, would be found to be the only mode of dealing with the question. Whether the abolition should be accompanied by some substitution of other funds to provide for those objects to which church rates were applied, was a question upon which arguments of considerable weight might be used on either side, and upon which a difference of opinion might very fairly exist. It was a question more for Churchmen than Nonconformists. The essential point for the latter was abolition. To that they were entitled. It was for the members of the Church to consider whether by law they would provide a substitute. In bringing forward the subject last year, he suggested that some provision for those objects might be found in the surplus funds of the Church, not because he believed such substitute necessary, but because there was a difference of opinion, and sonic thought that the Church, being a national establishment, some provision should be made by law for the maintenance of established places of worship. He concurred in the opinion expressed by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), that the superfluous wealth of the Church might fairly be devoted to keeping up the fabrics of the Church. No one doubted that the surplus revenues of the Church would be ample for the purpose; for in 1833 Lord Althorp stated the amount applied to keeping up the fabrics was about 250,000l., and a Report of a later date, in 1840 he believed, estimated it at about the same sum, while the careful inquiries of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, of which he had so recently stated the result to the House, showed that more than twice that amount might be derived from a better administration of Church property. As to the expenses attending the ministration of divine worship, pew-rents would be sufficient. They had been used for the purpose in a great many churches, the public mind was familiarised with their application in that way, and no more just principle could be devised than that persons using the church should pay for the ministration of that worship which they approved. If, therefore, the Government adopted the Bill he was about to propose to introduce, they could either engraft upon it those propositions, or make it the law of the land, as proposed, and bring in an additional Bill for that purpose. He was bound, however, to declare, on the most mature consideration, and a most careful analysis of all the facts that had come to his knowledge, that church rates might be abolished without the smallest chance either of the ministration of service being left unprovided for, or of the maintenance of the fabrics being impaired. The facts were startling. During the first half of the present century, more churches had been built than during 200 or perhaps 300 years before. From 1801 to 1851, 2,529 churches were erected, at an expense of 9,087,000l. The contributions towards those 9,000,000l. from the public funds amounted to 1,663,429l.; while from private benefactions they to 7,423,571l. The proportion of public funds was 17 per cent to 83 per cent private benefactions. But if they divided the half century into two periods of thirty and twenty years, the result was still more surprising. From 1800 to 1830, 500 churches were built, at an expense of 3,000,000l., whereof there was contributed from public funds 1,152,044l., and from private funds 1,847,956l., being 35 per cent public, and 65 per cent private contributions. From 1831 to 1850, there were 2,029 churches built, at an expense of 6,087,000l., whereof there was contributed from public funds 511,385l., and from private funds 5,575,615l. or 8⅓ per cent from public funds, and 91⅔ per cent from private funds. It appeared that the exertions of the Church proceeded in an inverse ratio to the help received from the State. There were two grants by the State in 1817, and in 1824 or 1825, and in the first thirty years the proportion of private and public contributions was 35 per cent and 65 per cent. In the last twenty years, when no grants were made by the State, the proportion was 8⅓ against 91⅔ per cent. If, again, they added to the whole sum contributed in the half century to the building of churches by private benefactions—namely, 7,000,000l., the expense defrayed by Nonconformists in the erection of 10,000 chapels at an average cost of 1,500l. each, or 15,000,000l., it would give a total of 22,000,000l. devoted to the erection of places of worship by private benefactors, as against 1,663,000l. contributed from the public funds, or 92½ per cent against 7½ per cent. Such a statement as that almost precluded argument. It showed beyond all doubt that the members of the Church felt that attachment towards her which rendered it impossible that her places of public worship could fall into decay, and that, so far from aid from the public doing good, it only tended to damp the ardour and relax the exertions of members of the Church. Throughout the large towns of the kingdom church rates had been abolished, and they were rapidly ceasing to exist anywhere, yet there were no complaints of the churches going to decay; and the information he had received induced him to believe that more was being expended on the fabrics than when the church rates existed. In corroboration of this, he would read a few lines from a letter which he had received from Liverpool on the 9th of May, and which was as follows: — "The change of sentiment on this impost is very marked, and gaining ground in Liverpool and its locality, as shown by the facts. On Easter Tuesday, the Liverpool churchwardens proposed a rate of three farthings, which was rejected by a large majority. On a poll there was a majority of 537 persons, and 412 votes. Under the circumstances the conduct of the rector—Campbell—has been very commendable. At the close of the poll he expressed himself as satisfied with those who exercised their rights in voting against the rate. Next Sunday he laid the defeat before his congregation in a suitable address, and called upon them henceforth to unite with him in making a voluntary contribution for the purposes to which the church rate would have been applied. The Sunday following a printed address from the rector was put into the hands of each of his congregation, stating that for the future there would be a weekly collection made by the congregation instead of any church rate. It is now continued every Sunday, yielding an average of 15l. It was for these reasons he was convinced the best mode was to abolish church rates, and trust to the affection of the members of the Church to provide funds for those purposes to which they were applied. It was in accordance with these feelings that he asked leave to introduce this Bill. It consisted of two clauses, but, in reality, there was only one, the second being a proviso to the first—the one abolishing church rates altogether, and the other reserving them where they had been mortgaged under the authority of any local or general law, until the charges to which they were applicable were extinguished or otherwise met. It was admitted on all hands that the law could not remain in its present state, and he thought he had shown conclusively that no mode was so desirable as an entire abolition. He appealed to gentlemen who were members of the Church whether the time had not arrived to relieve themselves from the reproach of not having sufficient earnestness and sincerity in their attachment to the Church of which they professed to be members, even to maintain the fabrics which the piety of our ancestors had raised. Was it not time that they should show themselves too proud, if not too honest to call upon those who did not use them to contribute to the expense of maintaining their places of worship? Was it not time, above all, to close this perennial spring of bitter waters, to stop this source of acrimonious feeling, and to abolish an impost, collected in the name of religion, but opposed to every feeling which religion inspired? He saw no reason why there should not be peace. Churchmen and Dissenters both professed to belong to a religion of peace; why should not harmony exist? The field of harvest was wide enough for all, and why should they not pursue with goodwill towards each other their glorious vocation—to instruct, to enlighten, to elevate, and to humanise their fellow creatures? There were abundant and sufficient reasons for mutual respect. Churchmen should not forget that they owed to the Nonconformists, not only religious, but in a very great degree civil freedom. They should not forget that at the most critical period of the history of the Church they had resisted the blandishments of power, and the yet more seductive temptation of vengeance for unforgotten wrong. Nonconformists, on the other hand, must not forget that the Established Church was one of the foremost bulwarks of the Protestant religion; for the existence of that Church gave stability as well as dignity to every variety of the pure and Protestant reformed religion. They could not forget that this institution, whatever fault they might find with it, was one of the great institutions of our common country, to which there had been wanting neither the blood of martyrs, nor the illustrations of genius, nor the nobler illustrations of sanctity and holiness of life. The absorbing interest of that war to which a terrible necessity had driven us, had prevented the carrying out of almost every project of internal amelioration and reform. He would fain hope that at least one plan of reform might receive the countenance of that House, and that that might be the reform involved in the measure he had had the honour of submitting to the House. At all events, it was a step onward in that path upon which the great principles of religious liberty shed their enduring light. He had now only to move for leave to introduce the Bill for the abolition of church rates, of which he had given notice.


, in seconding the Motion, said, he must beg to express his gratification that it had been introduced by a member of the Church of England. This question had been looked at too much as a Dissenters' question; it was really as much a question for members of the Church of England as for members of the Nonconformist body. Since 1801, upwards of 2,000 churches of the Church of England had been erected by voluntary contributions. Every one of those was at present supported in the same way; but still the parties worshipping therein were liable to church rates for the parish church itself. The Nonconformists objected to church rates on two grounds. The first of these grounds was, their strong and conscientious objection, arising from their belief of the voluntary nature of every religious exercise; the second, by their strong feeling of the impropriety of forcing parties to support religious services of which they disapproved. It could be shown to the satisfaction of the House that such an assessment was not at all necessary for the support of the edifices used for religious worship, and that it was in itself impracticable. The Census showed beyond the possibility of doubt that the Church of England could raise upwards of 7,000,000l. within the last half century for the erection of churches; and it was not at all likely that a body possessing such zeal and determination to support their own principles would allow their churches to fall into decay. The Dissenters had 20,390 places of worship, every one of which was entirely supported by the voluntary contributions of the worshippers. In those centres of activity and intelligence, Yorkshire and Lancashire, the Dissenters had a large majority of places of worship and sittings. In Lancashire they had 1,150 places of worship and 450,000 sittings, being a majority of 621 places above the Church, and the attendances showed an excess of 34,000. The returns for Yorkshire and Wales were still more favourable for the Dissenters. Look again at what Scotland had done. The exertions of the Free Church upon the voluntary principle had produced results that were the wonder of the age, but it was often argued that it was in the towns only, and in the manufacturing districts, and not the rural districts, where these questions about church rates were raised. That, however, was not so, for some of the severest contests with regard to church rates had arisen in rural districts, where feeling ran much higher upon the point than in the towns. Beyond these disputes there arose considerations respecting the possibility of collecting church rates. Many people who might be supposed liable to them successfully resisted payment, and he found by a return obtained in 1852, that of the 6,365,351 persons in the country who were liable to the church rate no less than 3,500,000 absolutely and successfully refused to pay it. To think of continuing the rate, then, was quite out of the question. He must say, with respect to the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe), that he believed they were only prolonging feelings of bitterness, and preventing the fair and final settlement of the question by the introduction of these half measures. He believed that justice required that church rates should be totally abolished, and that the Church of England could do nothing more effectually to promote peace than by meeting this question in a fair and liberal spirit, and by showing a proper reliance on her own principles. He knew that Dissenters were sometimes charged with entertaining feelings of bitterness towards the Church. He disclaimed on his own part, as a Nonconformist, all such feelings. Although he was himself a Dissenter, no Member of that House would rejoice more than himself to see the Church of England prosper—to see her reformed within herself—to see the immense revenues in her possession brought to bear for the benefit of the country, and to see her relieved of the scandal which was at this moment caused by the incomes enjoyed by her bishops, and by the higher orders of her clergy, and by the lax state of morality which prevailed in our cathedral towns. He believed that if half the money which was expended on our cathedral establishments were devoted to city missions, to the augmentation of the incomes of the poorer clergy, and to the placing of clergymen where none at present existed, the Church of England would have a much stronger hold on the feelings and affections of the people of England; and the Dissenters, so far from regretting, would most heartily rejoice to see it, because by such means the cause of true religion would be advanced, and no interest whatever, with respect to the Church, would be sacrificed. He knew it was sometimes said of them that they wished to sacrifice the prizes of the Church. But what should be the prizes of the Church? If he knew anything whatever of the obligations of a Christian man, he should rank first among those obligations the duty of living, as far as it was possible, according to the revealed will of God; and if he were told that it was a "prize" for a clergyman to obtain an income of some 15,000l. or 20,000l. a year, when 5,000l. would be sufficient to maintain him in any position of life which it was necessary for him to fill, he must reply that he believed those incomes were a source of great discomfort in the Church itself, and were perfectly unnecessary. In conclusion, he must repeat his conviction that such reforms as he had indicated, and the dealing with this question of church rates in the only way in which it could be dealt with satisfactorily, would tend to strengthen the Church and to extend her influence, as well as to promote peace and harmony and good will throughout the entire community.


said, he fully agreed with the hon. Members who had made and seconded this Motion, that the time had come when it was of the utmost importance that some measure should be passed upon the subject of church rates. He said so because in some districts of the country—although he hoped that those districts were neither many nor extensive—church rates had been the cause of much bitterness and unkindly feeling among the inhabitants. He was persuaded, however, that this had its origin in the uncertainty of the law relating to church rates. It was because for a long series of years the obligation to pay church rates had been a matter of uncertainty that attempts had been made to elude them. [Cries of "Hear, hear!" and "Oh, oh!"] He was persuaded that if the law upon the obligation to pay had been as clear as in the case of tithes, they would have had no more contests with respect to church rates than they had had with respect to tithes. ["Oh, oh!"] This was his belief. He hoped the House would not consent to the introduction of this Bill, which was a Bill not for the substitution of any other mode of repairing churches in place of that which had so long been recognised, but for the simple abolition of that provision which had so long existed for the maintenance of our parish churches. He doubted whether the expectation which had been held out—that, in the event of church rates being abo- lished, other means would be voluntarily provided out of which the churches might be maintained—would be realised in the result. Reference had been made to what the Church of England had done in the erection of churches, and in providing clergymen in those parts of the country in which they were most urgently required. Those only who had engaged in such undertakings could appreciate the difficulties which were experienced in such cases, and the efforts which were necessary to surmount them. To what extent, then, would those difficulties be increased if they called upon the friends of the Church, in addition to existing demands, to supply the means for those objects which were now provided for by church rates? There could be no doubt that the energies of the Church of England would be hampered, and her expansion impeded to a very considerable extent. The right hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) had truly said that the law on the subject of church rates had been fully and carefully considered in the Braintree case, decided in the last Session of Parliament; and if they would refer to that case, they would find that the Judges who had heard it were all agreed in opinion that the obligation on the owners and occupiers of lands and houses in this country to uphold the parish church was an obligation at common law—just as binding and just as clearly recognised as the obligation to repair county bridges. What was that obligation? It was to uphold in every parish in this country a house of God, open to the poor as well as to the rich. Would the House consent to the abrogation of such a provision, made from long antiquity, by the common law of this country, without the substitution of any other provision for it? He had heard no valid ground assigned for such a course. It was said, indeed, that contributions for the maintenance of our churches were called for from all, whereas all could not participate in their advantages; but the fact was that they were established for the benefit of the country at large, and were open to all those who could and would use them. Parliament, representing the whole people of the country, Dissenters as well as Churchmen, exercised over the Church a real and effective control; and laws were continually introduced into that House with respect to the Church of England. It was not the fact that the people generally could not use the churches; for the doctrines of the Church of England were such that the great body of the people could, with the utmost propriety and conscientiousness, partake of its benefits, and they only did not all do so, because, from slight differences, a portion of them preferred to provide other places of worship for themselves. Was that any reason why they should be exonerated from providing that which was for the common benefit of all? It would be as reasonable that a particular division of a county should disclaim the use of a particular county bridge, and expect to be exempt front contributing towards keeping it in repair. Church rates were a charge upon the land. Nothing but the merest quibble could represent it otherwise, and as the present owners of the lands of this country had acquired them subject to the charge, they had not, either in law or in equity, any claim to be relieved from it. The position of the case was this—the country had national churches for the benefit of all. From the remotest period of the history of the country there had been a common-law provision in the form of a charge upon the lands of the country for upholding and supporting such churches, and the Bill now sought to be introduced aimed at the destruction of that common-law obligation, without substituting anything in its place. He did not think a more serious blow could be struck at the stability of the Church of England, and he trusted that the House would place a negative upon the introduction of a Bill professing such objects.


said, as the representative of a constituency where Protestant Dissenters were perhaps more numerous than in any other borough in the kingdom, he wished to take that opportunity of thanking the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) for having proposed so sweeping a measure. He was of opinion that this vexed question could never be satisfactorily settled by any measure in the nature of a compromise. It appeared that the obligation of which the hon. Member opposite had spoken rested on the common law, or on custom, and this might have been all very well when the Established Church was really, and not nominally, the Church of the nation. It was all very well to say that the churches were open to all, if all chose to attend them; but all did not choose to attend them, and how were they to compel them to do it? Church rates, he believed, were unknown in any other country, yet the Church of England was the richest establishment in the world, and was very far indeed from deserving, as the last Census had shown, the name of a national establishment. Was it worth the while of the Church to keep alive a feeling of irritation, not only among Dissenters, but in the country generally, for the sake of this paltry sum. He was afraid that Churchmen forgot their own interest, that they thought to have a perpetual lease of power and pre-eminence, and that they were like the jovial clergymen described by Goldsmith, who met together and resolved that they would go on preaching to the world, and that the world should go on paying for their preaching, whether it liked it or not. He thought our whole ecclesiastical system was rotten at the core—that it would be wholly impossible to maintain it on its present foundation—that it was very unwise to go on irritating the Dissenters—and that the opposition which he anticipated would be offered on all sides to the introduction of this Bill was an indication of the blindness and infatuation which precipitated the downfall of every institution which had outlived the necessities and the circumstances of the times in which it was founded, and had ceased to be in harmony with the spirit of the age. He hoped his hon. Friend, although he might be beaten now, would persevere until his object was attained.


said, he believed the time had arrived when some legislation must take place on this subject; but he was afraid, beyond making that admission, he could not agree with the remarks of the hon. Baronet who proposed to introduce this Bill. He wished to discuss this question simply as a citizen, without reference to the views of either the Church or the Dissenters; and, speaking in that sense, he must say he looked upon parish churches in the light of a national establishment, because they contributed to the good of the vast majority of the community. If this question depended simply upon who were the parties who worshipped in parish churches, he might be inclined to vote for the abolition of church rates; but the question was this, was it wise to disturb the basis of an establishment which had existed now for above a thousand years, and which had been adopted for the benefit, not of one, but of all classes of the people? The difference between a clergyman of the Church of England and a Dissenting minister was this: the minister of the parish church had the cure of every soul within the parish, and that was the reason why he was paid; whether the people chose to go to him or not was quite another point, but there he was bound to visit the sick, to bury the dead, and to perform marriages and other religious ceremonies for all classes who might demand his services. Now, the Dissenting minister had no such responsibility imposed upon him, for he was only expected to perform those duties for the members of his own congregation; but there were other grounds upon which the maintenance of parish churches rested. The poor of the country, who, in round numbers, amounted to upwards of 6,000,000, could of course support no place of worship of their own, and of course it was the duty of the State to provide one for them. Then, there was a certain class of people who did not choose to go to any place of worship, and it was the duty of the nation to provide some place of worship for them whether they would go or not, in order that they might have no excuse for not going. According to the calculations which had been made from the last Census Returns, it appeared that there were 3,000,000 of people unable to go to anyplace of worship,1,000,000 of sick, and 1,378,283 engaged as servants, while the numbers who attended all places of worship in England on the Census Sunday amounted, according to the Returns, to 10,896,066; but then what a lamentable account was exhibited under the head of persons who could go but would not. They amounted to no less than 5,288,294, and it was for the sake of those, coupled with the 6,250,000 of poor, that the State was bound to support parish churches. In the Bill which he had prepared upon this subject, he disclaimed all intentions of insulting the Nonconformists, in endeavouring to ascertain who were Dissenters and who were Churchmen. Well, now, this Bill proposed altogether to abolish church rates, and he wanted to know how such places of worship were to be kept up after the abolition had taken place. The hon. Gentleman also spoke of the great wealth of the Church of England, but if it was equally divided amongst the clergy it would not be more than 300l. a year for each, which was not more than sufficient for a man of the education and position of a clergyman. The hon. Gentleman next proposed the establishment of pew-rents, but if they resorted to that it would in small parishes prevent the poor from going to church at all. Since 1801 there were 2,529 churches built, at a cost of near 8,000,000l. It was a fine thing to see that the national Church had so many benefactors. But Parliament itself granted, by the 58 Geo. III. and 5 Geo. IV. no less than 1,500,000l., to the Commissioners for Building Churches, and this having been recognised as a national object, were they to stop short and refuse to keep the churches in repair? The hon. Member (Mr. Pete) who seconded the Motion complained of the hardship and injustice of forcing persons to contribute to maintain a religion which they did not believe to be true. It was unfortunately true that many persons did not approve of the doctrines which were preached in the national Church, but in the various denominations which dissented from the national Church there were differences of opinion. The largest dissenting body in the country were the Wesleyan Methodists' original connexion, who numbered 907,319, and they were not averse to church rates. He was sorry to say there were a great many persons who did not like to pay church rates from pocket considerations. Another point of consideration was this, that the Dissenters had a natural desire to be buried in the same grave by the side of their relatives, and to meet their wishes in that respect it formed a part of his Bill that they should not be deprived of the benefit of the ministration of the Church. He could not support the Bill of the hon. Baronet, and should, therefore, vote against the introduction of it if the House went to a division.


said, that whatever the opinion of the hon. Gentleman who had last addressed them might be with regard to church rates, the opinion of the Dissenters was that they were a violation of the rights of conscience. It was his duty at one time, as chief magistrate of Leicester, to issue warrants of distress for the levying of church rates on the goods and chattels of Dissenters. His duty as magistrate, therefore, was in conflict with his religious convictions. In order to get out of the difficulty, he obeyed the letter of the law, and saved his conscience at the same time, by paying the church rates himself. In the five parishes of the town of Leicester, church rates were now abolished, but the period of transition was one of turmoil and heartburning—neighbour being set against neighbour needlessly and uselessly. To show the inconvenience sometimes occasioned by the imposition of church rates, he might mention that on one occasion, when he was dining with a party, a number of distress warrants were brought to the table for the signature of a magistrate, and that magistrate actually had to affix his name to a distress warrant against the host at whose table he was sitting. These cases were of perpetual occurrence, and was that a way in which the Church of England could expect to popularise itself? Although the Church of England might lose some pecuniary trifle by the abolition of church rates, he was sure it lost a great deal more in moral weight from their continuance. The Quakers had every year 8,000l. exacted from them for the support of an ecclesiastical system with which they had no sympathy. The injustice which had been inflicted on account of church rates would never be obliterated from the minds of those who had suffered by them, and let it be recollected that the Church of England, which resorted to these practices, was not only the richest Church in the world, but richer than all the other Christian Churches of Europe put together. As a Dissenter he believed that the Bill of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Packe) would be unsatisfactory, because the Dissenters would never make a distinction between what was called the furniture and the worship of the Church. If the hon. Gentleman would only join in carrying the Bill for the repeal of the church rates he would promise him on the part of the Dissenters of Leicestershire that they would build a monument to his memory.


said, he should support the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, being desirous to see church rates abolished as church rates. It had been said that the churches were open to the rich and the poor. That was true. But if the poor went to church, where were they to sit? In one-half of the churches in the kingdom there were no seats for them, and it was, therefore, worse than a deception to talk of the Church of England as a national Church. Nothing would be so beneficial to the Church as the re-distribution of its wealth for the good of the Church. The great blot on the Church was the unequal distribution of that wealth. It had been stated that the property of the Church was ample enough to allow each of its ministers 300l. a year. It was true at the same time that it could not be thus distributed, but if it were better distributed, there need not be in the Church clergymen who, with large families, might be said to be in actual want. He should like to see the pious man put forward rather than the man possessing the greatest influence, and the resources of the Church so employed as to produce the greatest amount of good to the country and to itself. With respect to church rates he saw no way so short, so effectual, and so certain of arriving at a desirable result as their total abolition as church rates, and he thought they might be dealt with in a way which he had never yet heard suggested. He could not forget that the land had for centuries been bought and sold subject to church rates, and that they were ingrained into the value of the land, and he did not see how they could be severed from the land; and those who advocated their total abolition ought to remember that those who had the most land would receive the most benefit from such a measure. Now he would abolish church rates as such, but would appropriate the sum thus raised to the purposes of education, either in an aggregate sum as a fund for the whole nation, or for the support of the schools in the particular places where the rate should be collected. All parties would thus benefit from the rate, and he believed that those who grudged the payment of a sum for church rates would cheerfully pay it in the shape of a school rate.


I confess I do not quite understand the proposition of the hon. and gallant Gentleman that has just addressed us. He says, I believe, in effect, that he does not altogether desire the abolition of church rates, but that they should be transferred to another purpose. However, it is not my intention to occupy the attention of the House for more than a few minutes, because all the arguments used have been very much of one kind. I must say, so far as the Nonconformists and those who object to church rates are concerned, I do not think that the legislation of this House is of very much importance, because if Parliament were only to leave the public alone for four or five years more I believe it would be found at the end of that time that the question had settled itself. The real hardship, therefore, is not with those who object to paying rates, but it lies rather here, that there is always a great public disadvantage in our maintaining upon the Statute-book a law which the state of public feeling renders inoperative. And in addition to this there is involved the great hardship of throwing upon those who are officially responsible for the maintenance of the churches the necessity of resorting to a rate, and of adopting a course which can only be taken at the risk of creating great disturbance and ill feeling. Still, in many cases, notwithstanding such consequences, they were compelled to have resort to a rate, because if they merely proposed a voluntary assessment, they would be told "you need not come upon us in this way, for you have a legal provision to meet your wants." Now, what is the present state of the church-rate law? We cannot deny but that the position of the question has been much changed since last year, in consequence of the decision in the Braintree case. Up to that time it was supposed there was a power to compel parishes to maintain their churches, and of punishment in case of its non-performance. That led to rates being granted without any dispute in many parishes, where other. wise disputes and differences would infallibly have occurred. That state of things is now, however, at an end, and the consequence is, that the discussions which for some years had been checked are now revived in many parts of the country. Indeed, many of the most Conservative boroughs of the country—many whose feelings of attachment to the Church are very strong, have, nevertheless, refused to impose church rates. Such, then, is the present state of things; and there appears every probability of its lasting, although I believe the question will be ultimately settled in the course of a few years in every borough of the kingdom by a general refusal to pay the rate. That, however, is a result not to be attained without a great deal of disputation, and discontent. For as to the church-rate law in itself, I do not suppose that any one will deny that it involves a great anomaly and has done so ever since the existence of dissent was recognised by the civil law. And I have no doubt that so far as the exemption of Dissenters is concerned that the majority of this House is in favour of such a proposition. But when we discussed the question last, it so happened that two different plans were proposed—one resembling that which the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) has this evening revived; the movers of each, however, disapproving of the other's proposal. In consequence, therefore, of the difference of opinion prevailing, the whole question fell to the ground. At present, we have again two plans laid before us, not precisely, however, those of last year. One of them originates with my hon. Friend (Mr. Packe), and I am quite sure he brings it forward with an earnest and sincere desire to satisfy all classes of the community. But I confess, looking at his proposition, which provides an exemption from the payment of certain temporary expenses—I confess it appears to me that the distinction drawn is too minute to give satisfaction to those who object to be taxed at all; for I would impress upon the House that this question has never been raised as one of money. If I take the total amount that is raised from the Nonconformists, I believe that at the very highest computation it has never exceeded 200,000l. The amount, therefore, becomes a totally insignificant one when the question of feeling is taken into account. The question throughout, it cannot be concealed, has not been one of money, but one of principle. And that being so, I believe that if we continue to uphold our old law—if we are still to resort to the old machinery of imposing a rate—although we may diminish its amount—although in other ways we may alleviate the amount of the pecuniary burden—that the daily objection on the ground of principle will not be removed, and that all that will have been done will be to render our rate less productive in amount, though no way less objectionable on the ground of feeling. Well, then, the proposition brought forward last year by the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock (Mr. R. Phillimore) was founded, in some respects, upon a different principle. It proposed the entire exemption from church rates of those who did not belong to the Church. Now, I believe that there was nothing in that proposal which could be called unfair or unreasonable. I confess I cannot see anything of the character of hardship or persuasion in simply calling upon men—not so much to make a declaration of their religious opinions—but to declare whether they intend to use the Church or not, and if they do they must pay for it. So far as my own opinions are concerned, I think that a compromise might be effected; but the result will be, whether such a measure be passed or not, that in a few years the principle of collecting those rates will be abandoned, and a different system will be resorted to. But the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock was not received by this House; and inasmuch as it was not brought forward again this year, I regard it as being entirely out of the question. The only alternatives we have to consider are these:—we may keep the law as it is; but that, I apprehend, is not desired by anybody. Well, then, we may adopt the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock, to which I have referred; but I confess I think that this proposition would not produce the effect he anticipates—that of satisfying the claim of Nonconformists. There is, then, a third course—namely, that which is proposed by the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay). It is proposed to settle this question for all interests in the way in which one-half of England has already settled it. Sir, I think that the hon. Baronet has exercised a wise discretion in not attempting to determine from what sources these funds are to be taken which are to replace church rates. In regard to the expenses of the Church, it is proposed that they should be defrayed from the lands of the Church. Now, that is a plan which I think is surrounded with considerable difficulty. In the first place, we hardly know the amount or value of that property. In the next place, it is wanted for many other ecclesiastical purposes. And, lastly, and in my mind the most important consideration is—it appears to me a very objectionable principle to say that you will provide for local wants and local circumstances out of the general central fund. Whether the contribution be voluntary or obligatory, I think that it is a sound principle to say that every place shall pay the expenses of its own requirements. The proposed measure of the hon. Baronet omits to deal with this part of the question. It simply declares the abandonment of the principle of a compulsory rate. Well, Sir, I think that the time is come when that abandonment is necessary. I do not say that the doctrine of the new system, of this voluntary system, is altogether free from risks and difficulties. Those risks and difficulties have been alluded to already. I see them as clearly as any hon. Member here; but I believe that there is no option now left us. I believe that the country has already decided this question; and I am of opinion that it is our duty and best wisdom to acquiesce in that decision.


said, he must argue against the principle of compulsory church rates, which had no effect on Dissenters, as regarded their religious belief; and as regarded unbelievers, it was not the way to induce a man, who was indisposed to attend public worship, to do so by taking away his goods. That was beginning at the wrong end, and that before you went to a man for his money to support a religion you should first induce him to believe in that religion which you wished him to support.


said, that speaking on behalf of a part of Her Majesty's dominions which was much interested in this question, he could not think that, however much had been done in the building of churches by voluntary efforts, that the support of churches should be left to that system. The hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay), by his proposition to abolish church rates, had left them to trust entirely to the voluntary system. He should be glad to see this question settled in an amicable manner, but he could not consent to the abolition of church rates unless he saw some mode of supporting the churches substituted for that which now existed.


said, as he had been pointedly referred to by the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) and the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) as the mover of a Motion on this question last year, he thought it would not be improper if he made a few observations. The Motion now before the House was brought forward with a totally new view. It did not propose that Dissenters should be relieved from the payment of church rates (a proposition in which he would heartily agree), but it proposed to relieve Dissenters and Churchmen equally from the payment of rates, but no substitute for them was offered. It should be remembered that in Scotland church rates were paid by Dissenters from the Established Church, and they had not made any application to Parliament for relief. It was obvious that the principle of this measure must be extended to Dissenters in Scotland as well as in England. He was sorry that any hon. Members who were Dissenters from the Established Church should think that his proposition of last Session was so framed as to be in the least degree disagreeable to those who dissented from the Established Church. Nothing was further from his intention than to give pain to the religious convictions of any one. But he would call the attention of those who disagreed with his motion to a vote which was given on 27th March, when on the question of Ministers' money, an hon. Member moved as an Amendment that "no houses belonging to Roman Catholics or Dissenters should be subjected to a rate for that purpose." He had conscientiously voted for that Amendment, and surely all the objections which had been made to registering Dissenters applied to that Amendment; for how was it to be known whose houses were to be exempt unless some such plan was adopted? All the Nonconformists voted for that Amendment, and that was an answer to all objections to its being stated who were Dissenters and who were not. When he beard hon. Members appealing to the religious census, he thought they could not object to its being said who were Dissenters and who were not, for it was done to their hands already by the State. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had put that matter on the right ground; for no one was to be asked what were their doctrines, but whether they intended to make use of the Church or not. Could anything be more reasonable? and it was hardly to be expected that objections would be made to that by Dissenters. If that was an impracticable proposition, he for one thought it so desirable for the welfare of the Church that she should not take money from those who conscientiously dissented from her doctrines, that he would be ready to adopt almost any proposition which would put au end to such an unchristian contest. But still it was right to look at the extent to which the Motion made that night went. He could not agree with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Wigram), that this question should be looked at as an abstract question of law. It was true that the legal obligation now was the same as ever, but there had been a great moral change, and he wished the House to bear in mind that it was no reason because Dissenters suffered for conscience sake, that, therefore, Churchmen should not pay church rates, and be relieved from contributing to the means of dealing with the moral and spiritual heathenism which was festering in our crowded towns; and he thought that, so far from congratulating ourselves on a few millions having been spent in the building of churches, we ought to take shame to ourselves that double the money had not been expended in providing for the spiritual wants of the people; and he would be the last man in that House to consent that the money of the people should be applied to such purposes merely to relieve the wealthy churchmen. With regard to pew-rents, he believed them to be most objectionable. The church ought to be the poor man's home, and there all distinctions of persons should cease. For the reasons he bad stated, he should adhere to any resolution which, while it really relieved Dissenters from the payment of church rates, did not also relieve Churchmen.


I think, Sir, it is of great importance that we should really understand the bearings of the question on which we are going to vote; for I think, after what we have heard to-night, and especially after the speech of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley), no one can fail to see that this question is far more extensive than the mere payment of a few pounds from which you propose to exempt Dissenters. It is perfectly plain, from the language which has been held to-night on this subject, that every argument which has been used against church rates would be equally valid against the support of the Church Establishment. It is very easy to talk of how delightful it is for brethren to dwell in unity and peace. Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, when he was in New-gate, found that the thieves there were unanimously of opinion that the only causes of trouble in towns were the Judges, magistrates, and police officers. So those gentlemen who object to church rates affect to think that the question would be amicably settled if we would only allow them to rob the Church with impunity. [Cries of "No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen talk of the thing being settled, but there is not one of them who talks of any mode of settlement whatever but the single one of refusing payment. If that is not only a way of robbing the Church with impunity, I do not know what is. We will talk of the application of the robbery afterwards. People are very fond of talking about con, science, and I, for my part, have no objection that any one should talk about his conscience. But it is too often found that the secret insinuation of those who talk about their own conscience is that nobody else has any conscience. In all countries in the world of which we have any record, we find that the Sovereign of the country did establish, for the benefit of his subjects, a national religion. That national religion was of necessity the religion of the Sovereign. It was his conscientious duty to do so, and the conscientious duty of the subjects of that Sovereign is to assist the Sovereign in upholding all that is necessary for the religious instruction of his subjects. You say, "Yes, but we have now that blessed thing called dissent." Well, that is a luxury no doubt, but then people must pay for their luxuries. You cannot keep a pack of hounds or a box at the opera without paying for it; why then should you have the luxury of abusing the bishops—why should you have the luxury of attacking church establishments, and not pay the miserable pittance of church rates for it! But this is not all. I say it is, with regard to church rates, as it is with regard to tithes. There has been a great cry with regard to the abolition of tithes; but the result of such a measure would be that every landholder would put 10l. of property more into his pocket than he was entitled to. Now, to that course I object. I say, if you abolish tithe, let the State take it. I say the same thing with regard to church rates. You bought your houses subject to that rent-charge; you have no right now to put that money into your own pocket. Let the Church lose possession to-morrow; the money then belongs to the State. You have no right to it. If your conscience will not allow you to pay it to the State, then you will give us reason to suspect that this is not a question of conscience, but a question of money after all.


Sir, I have not much addressed the House upon this subject. It has been very frequently brought before us, and I think the ground of it is hardly changed in the course of the various discussions that have taken place. It was during the Government of Lord Grey a proposition was made to abolish church rates, but at the same time to give the sum of 250,000l. from the Consolidated Fund for the repairs of the churches; and likewise that there should be the means found for what an hon. Gentleman had called the furniture of the church. In 1837 a Bill was proposed by the Government to which I belonged, by which a certain portion of the revenue of the Church was to be taken for the repairs of churches instead of the church rates. Both of those measures were, however, violently opposed. The first was violently opposed by the Dissenters, who got up an agitation on the subject, and Lord Althorp found it impossible to proceed with it. The second measure was opposed with much vehemence and pertinacity by the Established Church, and the archdeacons throughout the country got petitions circulated everywhere, which were numerously signed against the measure. A division upon the subject took place in this House, and there being only a majority of five in favour of the measure, it was practically defeated. I confess that the rejection of both of those proposals, which appeared to me to have been framed in a fair and impartial spirit, has given me but very slender hopes of any fair adjustment of this question being effected. It appears to me, from what has been stated to-night, that there is as little disposition as there ever was at any former time to consent to what is called a compromise upon this subject. Some hon. Gentlemen approach the Church with every kind of blandishment with a view of inducing it to consent to give up the church rates. They say, "Your Church has the prettiest voice in the world; and if it exerted it for the purpose of persuasion, every one would at once yield to its influence." They say, "If you would only drop that which you have got in your beak, the body that is opposed to you will be happy to take it." There are others who approach the Church in another tone altogether. They say it is an institution that is rotten to the core; it was opposed to the spirit of the age, and nothing but the blindness of the members of the Church prevents them from seeing that that Church is doomed to destruction, and from consenting at once to any steps that they think may avert such destruction. Now, I cannot but consider that these prognostics are of a serious nature, and I cannot confide in the assurances hon. Members give us that if church rates were abolished, all sorts of ill-will and of dissension would cease; and that with regard to all other prerogatives and privileges of the Church there would be perfect acquiescence and contentment, and the Church might look forward to a state of happy and prosperous tranquillity. I confess I have no such anticipations. The Church has, independently of this question of revenue, various exclusive privileges. It has the privilege of a high position. It is established in the country, and is protected by Parliament. Its prelates have alone the right of seats in one of the Houses of Parliament, and on every occasion we find that those who differ from that Church complain of these exclusive privileges, and its high position in the country. Now, I am not saying that those feelings are unnatural, nor am I arguing that they are unreasonable at this moment. But all I do venture to argue, and all experience supports me, is, that you cannot expect, when you remove this one source of dissension, to have that tranquillity and con- tentment which have been prophesied by my hon. Friend (Sir W. Clay). On the contrary, I believe that this is one of a series of attacks that will be followed by other attacks of the same nature. If your principle is concession, and nothing but concession—if on every occasion you purchase peace by adopting this course—I confess that I am not prepared to say how far you will be obliged to go in this direction. At the same time I am very far from being ignorant of the difficulties that beset this question of church rates. We cannot deny that the state of law is most unsatisfactory, and that the remedies which prevail under that law give rise to scenes scandalous in themselves, and occasion ill-will amongst the various religious sects in this country. Well, however, this is practically true. While no man can deny that such is the state of the law, I do not myself see that you are likely to obtain any settlement of this question which shall be at all satisfactory unless you take into your consideration what are the present rights of the Church, and that you make your settlement upon a fair basis. I have heard of a settlement on this basis, and an hon. Gentleman opposite, who has introduced a Bill upon the subject, has adopted such basis—namely, that those who dissent from the Church should be registered as Dissenters, and, being so registered, that there should be a certain portion of the church rates to which they should not be obliged to contribute. Such was in a great part the measure of my hon. and learned Friend behind me (Mr. R. Phillimore). Well, I admit there is much to tempt one in this principle. At the same time, however, I cannot but think that very serious evils would follow hereafter from the distinctions that would be thus set up between Churchmen and Dissenters. One hon. Gentleman has gone through some statistics in regard to the Church. He has, however, I think, shown not exactly that which he intended. It may no doubt be true that the Church has no very great absolute majority in the country, but it is quite evident that it has a very considerable majority over every other denomination. The hon. Member has no doubt shown that there are great bodies frequenting dissenting places of worship; but there are many of those dissenting places of worship attended by a most numerous and respectable sect called Wesleyans, who profess no hostility to the Church, and who, while they purchase their lands and build their chapels out of their own resources, declare that they have no desire to injure the Established Church. They think that divine service upon the Sunday should be attended to by the members of the Established Church; but they also think that they ought to have dissenting chapels built for their own particular form of worship. I think it would be a very great calamity if you obliged those parties to say whether or not they were Dissenters, and thereby put them in a position of antagonism to the Church, which they did not themselves wish to occupy. Such being the case, I am disposed to think it would be far better that we should not now attempt during the remainder of this Session to find a solution of this very difficult problem. I do not think it would be wise—I do not think it would be consistent with the position which the Established Church holds in this country that you should totally abolish church rates. My hon. Friend (Sir W. Clay) says, "Let me abolish church rates, and you are at perfect liberty to find some provision afterwards for the repair of churches." That is a very convenient proposal for my hon. Friend's purpose; but I cannot forget, that whatever may be the present division of religious opinion in this country, those churches are, after all, national structures. They were intended to serve the purposes of a national Church; and the maintenance, at all events, of those fabrics appears to me to be a national object. I think it ought to be your first provision, and not your last, to endeavour to find some mode of maintaining those churches, and having found that mode, it would be most agreeable to every one to see that this particular species of support—namely, church rates—which is the great cause of vexation and ill-will, being no longer necessary, was by common consent to be abolished. But as the question stands at present, I certainly am not prepared to give my willing consent to the total and entire abolition of those church rates without any substitute and without any compensation. If a division should now take place upon the subject, I must, in consistency with my opinions, give a vote against the introduction of this measure. The House is not very full, and it may be that my hon. Friend may be successful in his Motion for leave to introduce his Bill; but as his principle is clearly declared, I should feel more at liberty, if he were to succeed upon this occasion, in opposing the second reading of the measure, after having declared my objections to it in the beginning, than if I had silently allowed it to be introduced. It is not, after all, of vital interest to the Church that this amount of revenue should be collected in the way in which it is now collected, or that it should be applied exactly in the way in which it has hitherto been applied. I have that belief, notwithstanding all that has been said of the falling fortunes of the Church, in the attachment of the majority of the people of this country to that Church, that even if it pleased Parliament totally to abolish these church rates, I think means would be found by the landowners, by the gentry, by men of all orders who belong to the Church, to supply the revenue which would then be wanted. It is not, therefore, from a belief that the Church would by the mere abstraction of so much revenue fall into decay, that I am opposed to legislation of this kind; but I do think, that if such a Bill were to pass both Houses of Parliament, it would be a symptom that Parliament was not disposed to give that support to the Established Church which it has hitherto afforded to it. I think that a concession upon this point, without the smallest consideration of other means of settling the question—of what was the state of the law—of what was due to the Church—I think that such a concession—that such an absolute surrender of the claims of the Church, would be a symptom that in any future attacks on the same establishment the assailants would be likely to obtain the assent of Parliament to their propositions. I cannot, therefore, assent to the proposal that is now before us. Whether or not my opposition to this Motion may be successful to-night, I feel assured that a Bill of this kind cannot pass through Parliament in the present Session. I think that the question, surrounded as it is with difficulty, requires further consideration. I have no doubt that a measure might be framed—and such a measure has already been repeatedly under the consideration of Government—which would meet the justice of the case, and which, if it were passed, would greatly tend to diminish, at all events, the popular complaints which are made against church rates. But that such a measure would pass through Parliament I own I have very great doubts. I am afraid that no measure could be found which would not meet with the opposition, either of the Church on the one side or of the Dissenters on the other. I am afraid that it will be, not only difficult, but almost impossible to frame a measure which, founded on principles of justice and impartiality, would meet with general approval and support. I know the pains that are taken by those who agitate the country, whether they belong to the Church or whether they belong to the dissenting bodies—I know the pains that are taken to defeat measures which seem measures of compromise, and of equal justice to both parties. I have found, with regard to measures which I thought most beneficial to the Church, that a hot opposition has been offered to them on the part of the Church, and that those measures have been almost defeated by that opposition; and I am bound to confess, on the other hand, that measures which I thought beneficial to the Dissenters, but which in their opinion tended to give too much to the Church, have been vehemently opposed on their parts. In fact, we live in times when these differences—differences sometimes on points of church government which are not very considerable in themselves, and differences at other times on questions of the greatest importance with regard to religious belief—I say we live in times when differences of one or other of these characters divide this country and produce the most violent excitement, and an exhibition of the greatest array of party passion and antagonism. Such being the case, I am not sanguine with regard to the success of any measure which the Government might frame, and which they might hope to introduce in another Session of Parliament. But this I will say, that I should think that if I were to give my willing assent to a Bill for totally abolishing church rates, without any sort of compensation or any sort of modification. I should be setting the example of a concession very dangerous to the Church Establishment, and when I say the Church Establishment, I believe I may say to the peace and welfare of the country.

Motion made, and Question put, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to abolish Church Rates."

The House divided:—Ayes 129; Noes 62: Majority 67.

List of the AYES.
Alcock, T. Bass, M. T.
Anderson, Sir J. Bell, J.
Atherton, W. Biddulph, R. M.
Bailey, C. Biggs, W.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Blake, Mr. J.
Bland, L. H. King, hon. P. J. L.
Brand, hon. H. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Bright, J. Laing, S.
Brocklehurst, J. Langton, H. G.
Brotherton, J. Laslett, W.
Brown, H. Lee, W.
Bruce, H. A. Lindsay, W. S.
Butler, C. S. Locke, J.
Challis, Mr. Ald. M'Cann, J.
Chambers, M. MacGregor, John
Chambers, T. M'Taggart, Sir J.
Cheetham, J. Maguire, J. F.
Cobbett, J. M. Martin, J.
Cobden, R. Mia11, E.
Cockburn, Sir A. J. E. Milligan, R.
Coffin, W. Mitchell, T. A.
Cowan, C. Moffatt, G.
Crook, J. Morris, D.
Crossley, F. Mostyn, hn. T. E. M. L.
Currie, R. Muntz, G. F.
Dashwood, Sir G. H. Murrough, J. P.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Norreys, Lord
Devereux, J. T. O'Brien, Sir T.
Duke, Sir J. O'Connell, J.
Duncan, G. O'Flaherty, A.
Duncombe, T, Pechell, Sir G. B.
Dunlop, A. M. Pellatt, A.
Ewart, W. Phillimore, J. G.
Fagan, W. Phinn, T.
Feilden, M. J. Pigott, F.
Fergus, J. Pilkington, J.
Ferguson, J. Pollard-Urquhart, W.
Fitzgerald, J. D. Price, W. P.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Ricardo, O.
Forster, C. Richardson, J. J.
Forster, J. Robartes, T. J. A.
Fox, W, J. Scholefield, W.
Gardner, R. Scobell, Capt.
Geach, C. Scully, V.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Seymour, W. D.
Glyn, G. C. Smith, J. B.
Goderich, Visa. Stanley, Lord
Goodman, Sir G. Strickland, Sir G.
Gower, hon. F. L. Strutt, rt. hon. E.
Greville, Col. F. Stuart, Lord D.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Sullivan, M.
Hadfield, G. Thicknesse, R. A.
Hall, Sir B. Thompson, G.
Hanmer, Sir J. Thornely, T.
Hastie, Alex. Thornhill, W. P.
Headlam, T. E. Vivian, J. H.
Heard, J. I. Walingley, Sir J.
Heywood, J. Whitbread, S.
Heyworth, L. Wilkinson, W. A.
Hindley, C. Willcox, B. M.
Horsman, E. Williams, W.
Hutt, W. Wilson, J.
Jackson, W. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Heating, R. TELLERS,
Heating, H. S. Clay, Sir W.
Kershaw. J. Peto, S. M.
List of the NOES.
Alexander, J. Du Pre, C. G.
Bateson, T. Farnham, E. B.
Beach, Sir M. H. H. Filmer, Sir E.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Fortescue, C. S.
Butt, I. Frewen, C. H.
Child, S. George, J.
Clive, R. Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
Colvile, C. R. Greenall, G.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Greene, T.
Drummond, H. Halford, Sir H.
Hamilton, G. A. Peel, F.
Harcourt, G. G. Philipps, J. H.
Hawkins, W. W. Phillimore, R. J.
Hayes, Sir E. Portal, M.
Heathcote, Sir W. Pugh, D.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Russell, Lord J.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Sandars, G.
Hughes, W. B. Sawle, C. B. G.
Hume, W. F. Smith, W. M.
Langton, W. G. Spooner, R.
Legh, G. C. Tollemache, J.
Lennox, Lord A. F. Vane, Lord A.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Waddington, H. S.
Lockhart, W. Walcott, Adm.
Luce, T. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Macartney, G. Waterpark, Lord
Masterman, J. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Miles, W. Woodd, B. T.
Michell, W. Wyndham, W.
Montgomery, H. L.
North, F. TELLERS.
Oakes, J. H. P. Packe, C. W.
Palmerston, Visct. Wigram, L. T.

Leave given; Bi11 ordered to be brought in by Sir William Clay and Mr. Peto. Bill read 1°.

The House adjourned at a quarter after Ten o'clock.