HC Deb 04 July 1856 vol 143 cc321-32

On the Motion that the House at its rising should adjourn until Monday,

SIR JOHN PAKINGTON rose, and said that he could not allow the Session to close without putting a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies with respect to the subject to which he had already called the attention of the House on more than one occasion, namely, the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand. His object in putting the question was to ascertain what was the intention of the Government with regard to a state of things which they must allow was not on the whole a creditable one, and which to them, as it was to him, must, he was sure, be matter of great regret. In former discussions that had taken place upon the subject, blame had been thrown upon him in consequence of some words which fell from his lips in moving the Colonial Estimates in the year 1852; but he had never acknowledged the justice of that blame, and even supposing that in the first three weeks of his holding office, during which it was natural that his mind should have been much occupied by matters of varied interest, and whilst moving the Colonial Estimates, he had used expressions which applied to the Bishop of New Zealand, nevertheless, he had subsequently, over and over again, declared that it was not his intention to convey the meaning that had been subsequently put upon them. The facts of the case were these:—The Bishop of New Zealand was appointed by the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) when the noble Lord was Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1839 or 1841, with the distinct intimation that his salary was to be £600 per annum. No promise was made, however, that that income should be for life, though, according to all precedent, it might surely with fairness be understood to be for life. But within the last two years the income had been wholly stopped, and the bishop left without the means of support in his episcopal capacity. Reference was made by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir G. Grey), when at the Colonial Office, to the colony itself, but the colony refused to act upon it; and, if he remembered rightly, their refusal was given about the time that the new constitution for New Zealand came into operation, and the Government of the colony could hardly be considered in a settled state. How far that circumstance gave better hope of the result of any fresh reference to the colony he could not say but he would submit to the Government whether it was creditable to the Church or honourable to the country that in consequence of a misunderstanding of the nature he had described a bishop should be deprived of the income he had a right to expect at the time of his appointment, and left without any means of supporting his position in the colony. If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) could not hold out any prospect of the salary of the bishop being renewed, he (Sir J. Pakington) should certainly bring forward a Motion upon the subject early in the next Session. In conclusion, he wished to ask whether it was the intention of the Government to make any arrangement for restoring to the Bishop of New Zealand the moderate and necessary income of £600 per annum, which was provided for him when he first accepted the position he has so well filled, and was continued till the last two years?


said, that he could not avoid confessing that the subject brought forward by the right hon. Member for Droitwich was one which he always approached with pain and concern, because he readily admitted that the Bishop of New Zealand had been hardly treated. But he was also quite sure that it was not the result of design on the part of any one who had had to do with the transaction, though that result was equally certain as if it had been; and he must repeat that it was impossible to review the proceedings without coming to the conclusion that, so far as the Bishop was concerned, he had been somewhat harshly treated. He must also confess that the pain he felt was aggravated by the circumstance that nothing could have been more disinterested or high-minded than the conduct of the Bishop himself with regard to the whole matter. When applied to, and asked if he considered he had a right to the money on account of the manner in which he had been appointed, he answered, in writing, in these terms:— I admit the correctness of the statement which is reported to have been made by Lord John Russell, in the House of Commons, that no stipulation or agreement was made by me in 1841 respecting the amount or continuance of the salary; for I did not then, nor do I now, consider it to be a part of my office to make any such stipulation or agreement, either with the home or the colonial Government; and I must leave with Her Majesty's Government the responsibility of interfering with previous arrangements without making any provision for me. Than such language nothing could be more becoming or suitable to the sacred station which the Bishop of New Zealand held, or more in consonance with the whole character and conduct of that right rev. person; and he (Mr. Labouchere) could assure the House that if he himself had come to the conclusion that he ought not again to put upon the Colonial Estimates the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand, which had now been omitted for three years, it was from no disrespect to the Bishop, nor any insensibility to the manner in which he had filled his sacred office during the time he had been in New Zealand, or the benefits which the community there had received at his hands; but he must remind the House of what were the real facts of the case. It was in 1841 that the bishopric of New Zealand was founded, and placed upon the Estimates with a salary of £600 a year. But it could not be said that any right to that salary was created by what then took place, although he was willing to admit that the Bishop had every reasonable expectation that it would be continued. In point of fact, the salary was continued until 1852, but from that period it was omitted from the Estimates. At that time the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Pakington) filled the office of Secretary of State for the Colonies; and in referring to what he then stated it was not his (Mr. Labouchere's) intention to offer any personal taunt to the right hon. Gentleman, but to call the attention of the House to the fact that a distinct pledge was then given by the right hon. Gentleman that the salary should not again appear in the Votes. In a matter of that kind he did think that when the House was asked to agree to an Estimate with the distinct understanding that it should not be repeated, it was a pledge to the House of Commons which ought not to be broken without the strongest and most justifiable reasons for doing so. Well, now, what was the language of the right hon. Gentleman in moving the Estimates in 1852? There was a sum of £10,000 proposed to be voted that year for New Zealand, and he found the hon. Member for Lambeth addressing the following inquiry to the right hon. Gentleman:— Mr. W. WILLIAMS said, he was glad to observe that there was a reduction in this Vote as compared with previous years, and he hoped that they might look forward to a further and a considerable reduction next year. The charge of £600 for the Bishop of New Zealand, and £590 for chaplains and schools, he must, however, object to, on the ground that the people of this country ought not to be taxed for providing Bishops and clergy for New Zealand, or any other colony, and added, that unless a pledge were given that these items should not appear again, he should divide the Committee against them."—[3 Hansard, cxxii. 106.] The House would observe that the special, and, indeed, only ground upon which his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth objected to the Vote was that a certain portion of ecclesiastical expenditure was included in the amount:— Sir JOHN PAKINGTON said, he was decidedly averse to giving any distinct pledge; but seeing the reduction already made in the Vote, and that next year it would be further reduced, it was, hoped, to £5,000, and that after that time probably no grant at all would be required on account of New Zealand, he would suggest that it would be hardly reasonable to divide against the amount now proposed. Upon that— Mr. W. WILLIAMS said, that after the gratifying statement of the right hon. Gentleman, considering that the Vote was now reduced to £10,000, and would be only £5,000, after which no grant would be required, he would not press his Amendment."—[3 Hansard, cxxii. 106.] After such observations as the above he could hardly conceive a more distinct pledge to the House of Commons, that the whole of the expenditure for New Zealand should in future be defrayed by the colony itself, and that the House of Commons should not, be called upon to meet it out of the revenues of the mother country. He must also confess that, finding such a pledge had been given to the House of Commons by the Secretary for the Colonies three years ago, and that that pledge had ever since been acted upon, he assuredly should not feel himself at liberty to propose such a grant to the House of Commons, except for the strongest reasons—unless, indeed, it were a gross and palpable breach of faith to do otherwise. In previous discussions on the subject, allusion had been made to the case of North American Bishops; but he did not consider that they stood at all on the same footing as the Bishop of New Zealand. The whole of the Vote for New Zealand to which he had alluded was made on temporary grounds; and the House was told that New Zealand would be a self-supporting colony, and no charge to this country; whereas the ecclesiastical establishments in America had always been defrayed out of the revenues of the mother country. Every effort had been made by the Government to induce the Legislature of New Zealand to continue the salary during the lifetime of the existing Bishop; but whilst the Legislature spoke in the most respectful terms of that right reverend person, and expressed a high sense of his merits and services, they stated that as a matter of principle they did not feel that they ought to support the Bishop of one religious denomination to the exclusion of another. He had now stated the reasons why he was afraid he must return a negative reply to the question of the right hon. Gentleman; but he could not sit down without observing that he should be astonished indeed if the Bishop of New Zealand were in any way a sufferer by the refusal of that House to continue his salary. For what was going on in the colony at the present moment? By the spontaneous efforts of Churchmen in New Zealand they were absolutely founding new bishoprics. It was only the other day that he himself advised the Crown to assent to the establishment of a new bishopric in the district of Canterbury, for which an endowment of £500 a year had already been secured from private sources alone; and there was now a proposal before him for constituting another see for the district of Wellington, where the endowment was equally liberal and secure. He could not imagine, therefore, that Churchmen in New Zealand would be guilty of the inconsistency and injustice of providing for New Bishops before they had made provision for the old; and he should hope there was no fear of that excellent prelate, Dr. Selwyn, suffering in pecuniary circumstances from the state of things which had arisen; but with regard to the question of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington) having stated the particulars of the case, he could only say, and he said it with the deepest regret, that he could not hold out any expectation of his advising that the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand should again be placed on the Estimates.


said, that the manner in which his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies had spoken of Dr. Selwyn was as worthy of the object of his commendation as of his own character and station; but he had not a word of objection to urge against the course taken by Her Majesty's Government up to that period; because he himself was responsible for having concurred in the propriety of that course. Undoubtedly it was the case, and there should be no mistake about it, that the difficulty in which the Government of Lord Aberdeen was placed in reference to the subject arose entirely and exclusively out of the effect of the words which were understood to be used by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) at the time he was Secretary of State for the Colonies. They construed the words used by the right hon. Baronet—whether intended by him or not was obviously not the question—as constituting a distinct pledge to the House of Commons that the Vote for the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand should not be renewed, and it certainly appeared to them that they would not be justified in departing from that pledge. If the Government had at the period he (Mr. Gladstone) was in office as Chancellor of the Exchequer placed a Vote upon the Estimates, and had used their influence as a Government to procure the assent of the House of Commons in the ordinary manner to that Vote, then he thought that while they might have been doing what was most desirable in regard to the Bishop of New Zealand, they would have given fair ground of complaint to the House of Commons on account of the manner in which the pledge—the involuntary pledge, perhaps—of the right hon. Gentleman would in that case have been violated. He did not see, then, though there was something to regret, that there was anything to find fault with on the part of the Government; because he held this sound parliamentary doctrine, that there were no words of higher authority than words used by a Minister of the Crown when giving answers, in his place, to Members of the House of Commons. The House of Commons was accustomed to repose the most implicit reliance in such verbal assurances; and cases occurred every year in which the Votes of that House were determined by the simple effect, of those verbal assurances, given at that moment. Therefore they ought to be considered as of the highest authority, and the pledge they involved ought to be strictly believed. But how stood the case? Grant that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich was not, at the moment, fully aware of the breadth of the engagement which his words might be supposed to imply—grant that the Government which succeeded that of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member were bound to refrain from using their authority to procure the continuance of the Bishop's salary, did the case stand in a position that was satisfactory to the Members of the House of Commons? Both the right hon. Gentleman and himself now spoke in the capacity of independent Members of that House; but the testimony on both sides of the House was the same. The right hon. Gentleman said that the state in which the question now stood was not altogether honourable to the House of Commons, whilst his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, in following him, commenced his remarks with an emphatic assertion that the Bishop of New Zealand had been "harshly treated." Now, without determining where the blame might rest, he fully felt the pressure of those declarations that between them all the Bishop of New Zealand had been harshly treated. Let it be granted that Dr. Selwyn left this country without any agreement or stipulation. Well, so he did; but, as his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary had observed, he had a fair title to expect the continuance of his salary. Now, what was the rule upon which Parliament acted with regard to the recipients of public money? It did not inquire whether they had a written covenant or a positive legal right; but wherever there was a moral claim there Parliament invariably discharged it in the fullest and most liberal manner. The question was, then, whether the House of Commons, not being under the influence of a Government, or of pledges of any sort, but as a collection of English Gentlemen sitting there to discharge their duties, could, or could not, with respect to those declarations and to the general rules of administration, refute and contradict what had been observed by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington)—namely, that the present state of things was not honourable to the House of Commons: besides that, what had been said by his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary?—why, that the Bishop of New Zealand had been harshly treated. Now, with regard to the provision which the Colonial Secretary thought the Churchmen of New Zealand ought to have made for the Bishop, he was afraid that that provision did not exist, but he must say that it weighed upon his conscience, as a Member of the House of Commons, that the subject under consideration remained in the position in which it now did. It seemed that no remedy could be applied to it without the general assent of that House. Speaking, therefore, in his individual capacity, he would say that it would be more satisfactory, and at the same time more consonant with the principles of justice, and in accordance with the rule upon which Parliament usually acted, if they encouraged the Government by their general assent to propose a renewal of the grant, than by holding the Government down to the letter of the pledge, which was apparently unconsciously given in the first instance, and since reluctantly acknowledged, they permitted the existing state of things to continue, and left the Bishop of New Zealand entirely dependent on private and voluntary contributions for his support.


said, that it had been stated that Bishop Selwyn would rather labour with his own hands to obtain a living than apply to the House of Commons. If he did so, he would only do what better men than himself—what the apostles themselves had done before him. They, too, had laboured with their hands. He could not see why the people of New Zealand should not support their own Bishop. The colony had always been understood to be a self-supporting one. It was founded at a considerable expense to this country. That expense had not been thrown away, and the colony was now in a most prosperous condition, and was certainly in a condition to support its own ministers. He hoped that House would never be called upon to support so unchristian a proposition as that for making the people of England pay for a Bishop of New Zealand.


said, that he did not consider that the present moment was a convenient one to enter into any discussion of the principles on which the Colonial Church was formed or how it should be supported, and he should not, therefore, touch upon that subject. With regard to the incident in question, however, he looked upon it as a case which ought to be considered entirely in reference to the claim of the individual. His impression was—though he had not then the opportunity of consulting the documents, as they were in the Secretary of State's office—that the post of Bishop of New Zealand had been accepted by the eminent divine who held it on the clear understanding that a decent provision was to be made for the support of the Church in the colony. He would ask, therefore, assuming that to be the case, whether the House of Commons had not entered into an engagement on the subject? and that being the case, he could not help thinking that whatever might be the opinion of hon. Members on the general question of Church endowment, if such an engagement was entered into, involving as it did such a peculiar responsibility, it ought to be fulfilled. The only real obstacle to a large and liberal interpretation of the question was, it appeared, a pledge which it was alleged had been given by his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich when he held office. Now, he (Mr. Disraeli) had, however, no recollection of any words which fell from his right hon. Friend that would bear such an interpretation. He was much surprised, therefore, to hear it alleged as such against his right hon. Friend. He found, however, on the contrary, in the only authentic record of the proceedings of that House which was to be had, that his right hon. Friend had said, at the very outset of his remarks, "that he was averse to giving any distinct pledge on the subject." His right hon. Friend, therefore, could not be held as having given a distinct pledge when he professed his aversion to it at the very outset. He was therefore surprised to hear the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) speak of a "distinct pledge." But his right hon. Friend, in his subsequent observations, stated that "probably, after the next year, no further grant would be required." Now "probably" is one of the most vague expressions in the language, and certainly could not by any process be converted into a distinct pledge. Therefore he (Mr. Disraeli) could not but think that, as regarded his right hon. Friend's observations, it was a most severe and erroneous interpretation to charge him with having made a distinct pledge to Parliament on the subject. Still he (Mr. Disraeli) thought that even if his right hon. Friend had given the pledge, it ought to be no obstacle to a large and generous dealing with the Bishop of New Zealand. It was, as he had stated, a case which should be considered in the light of an engagement as between Parliament and the individual in question. That being so, he must protest against the introduction into its settlement of questions of politics or of Ecclesiastical Government. In his opinion Her Majesty's Government should consider it in that spirit; and he therefore contended that the observations of his right hon. Friend in 1852, even if they were made as alleged, should be construed into a distinct pledge as against the arrangement.


said, he had no desire to oppose the consideration of any well-founded claim which the Bishop of New Zealand might have; but he must correct the misapprehension of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) that the only obstacle to the renewal of the grant was a casual expression dropped in debate, without sufficient consideration, by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington). When he (Sir G. Grey) became Colonial Secretary, his attention was called to the Estimates which were prepared in the Colonial Office in the year 1852, when the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Baronet was Secretary for the Colonies, and which were signed by Lord Desart as Under Secretary. The Estimate for New Zealand amounted to £10,000 made up of several items, one of which was £600 for the salary of the Bishop. To that Estimate there was appended a note which was in exact accordance with what the right hon. Baronet was reported to have afterwards stated in that House, and which had been added in the Colonial Office by the directions of the right hon. Baronet, transmitted to the Treasury, and by the Treasury submitted to Parliament with the Estimates, in order to induce Parliament more readily to agree to the Vote. That note was in these terms, "This Estimate is less by £10,000 than that of last year. The Governor represents that this reduced amount is required for the present year, but it is proposed that it should be reduced to £5,000 next year, after which it is hoped no further aid will be needed." He (Sir G. Grey) was willing to admit that the expression of a hope did not amount to a distinct pledge, but there was no exception made with regard to the salary of the bishop, and the expectation was held out. that if the revenue of New Zealand were sufficient, none of the sums included in the Vote would, in future, be asked for from Parliament. In according with that distinct, he would not say pledge, but intimation, the succeeding Government thought it its duty not to place the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand upon the Estimates, because, by doing so, it would have broken faith with Parliament.


said, several speakers had observed, that it was dishonourable in the House of Commons to do as they had done. Now let them see who it was that was bound to pay the money. The person who appointed the Bishop was the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell), and then he came down to the House and asked the House to pay the salary, and the House acceded to it for one year. It appeared to him, therefore, that the person who appointed the Bishop was the person really responsible, and, consequently, he would call upon the noble Lord the Member for London to pay hereafter the salary of the Bishop. But the question went much further. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) said, he did not want the question of the Colonial Church to be discussed with the question now under consideration, but he (Mr. Roebuck) apprehended that they were obliged to discuss it. The Colonial Church was increased in this way: there were certain persons in this country who wanted to see the English Church spread over the globe, and they would effect that if they could by making the Colonies pay; but if the Colonies would not pay, this country must. The Colonies, it appeared, would not pay, and this country would not pay either. He was glad to hear that the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich had been acted upon by successive Governments. It was to be presumed that the Minister in his place endeavouring to induce the House of Commons to pass an Estimate knew the words which he was employing, and he did not think any Member of that House would put the interpretation upon the words of the right hon. Member for Droitwich that had been put upon them by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli). The right hon. Gentleman thought that the colony of New Zealand would pay, but he was mistaken, and because a Minister of the Crown chose to appoint a Bishop of New Zealand, it was assumed that the House of Commons would vote his salary out of the taxes of the country.


said, he rose to make a suggestion which, if acted upon, might prevent any practical injustice being done to the Bishop of New Zealand. That individual was one of the first scholars that the University of Cambridge had produced, he was a most excellent divine, and possessed every virtue which ought to adorn a Christian prelate. It was scarcely to be expected that the colony of New Zealand should have the means of rewarding so eminent a person in a manner suitable to his deserts, but England could well afford to do so; and though there might be some difficulty in continuing to him the salary originally granted, it was to be hoped that the Government would bear his claims in mind, and not neglect to requite them when the opportunity arose.

Subject dropped.