HC Deb 05 March 1856 vol 140 cc1860-928

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Bill be now read a second time."


Sir,—I rise to move the second reading of the Bill for the abolition of church rates. In so doing, it will, of course, be my duty to explain the provisions by which that abolition is to be effected and accompanied. My task will be the easier inasmuch as the Bill on the table is, except in one particular, identical in scope and character, and almost in terms, with the Bill which I had the honour of introducing last session, and which was read a second time.

Before entering on this explanation, however, I would entreat the House to consider with me for a moment the actual state of this important question—important not merely from the amount of annual taxation it involves, but yet more so from its bearing on the great principles of civil and religious liberty. It will be well that we should look at the stage at which it has arrived—well, also, that we should glance at the actual state of the country under the law as it at present exists. In taking this review I have no intention of asking the House to enter again on the wide field of debate which the long contests on this subject have opened,—nor of adverting to the arguments which have been urged for or against abolition. In fact discussion was exhausted even before the memorable decision of the House of Lords in the Braintree case had in so great a degree altered the aspect of the question, and deprived of their importance many of the main points formerly in dispute. It is of no importance now to inquire whether church rates be a charge on land or a tax—since it has been authoritatively decided that they can only be legally imposed by a majority of those by whom they are to be paid. It is of no consequence whether there be or be not an obligation by common law on the inhabitants of a parish to maintain the parish church, since there is no process known to the law by which that obligation can be put in force. There is yet another and a conclusive reason for abstaining from all further discussion as to whether we should maintain or abrogate the existing law. Upon the substantial merits of that question the verdict of public opinion has been unmistakeably and irrevocably pronounced. That verdict is recorded in the constantly growing interest taken throughout the entire country on the subject—in the great and increasing preponderance of opinion in favour of a change of the law, which renders that change not only inevitable but impending. What evidence indeed is wanting of the state of opinion on this matter, whether within or without the walls of Parliament? Of Parliamentary admissions of the necessity of change we have, not to go further back than the last two or three years, in the House of Peers the Bill brought in by the Archbishop of Canterbury; in this house the Motion for leave to bring in a Bill to alter and amend the laws respecting church rates by the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock—the Bill brought in last year and again this Session by the hon. Member for Leicestershire, and the Bill almost brought in by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan. Without the walls of Parliament the extent and earnestness of the feeling in favour of abrogation of the law is a matter of such notoriety as to require no proof. Last year there were presented to this House 1,500 petitions from 1,500,000 persons, and from 3,000 churches and congregations, urging the abolition of church rates; and if this year there have been no petitions, or next to none, with the same prayer, their absence is even yet more significant than would have been their renewal. It is widely felt that the decision of the House on the second reading of the Bill of last Session settled the main question of abolition, and as to the mode in which it is to be carried out, those who formerly petitioned have been content to trust to the wisdom of Parliament. That the interest felt in this matter has not slackened, I might appeal, I believe, to the personal experience of every Member of this House, to whatever party belonging. Yet more striking, perhaps, is the language of the petitions emanating from those who were until recently opposed to all change. Of the petitions, up to this time, of the opponents of abolition I find, by the last Report of the Petition Committee, that three only, with 154 signatures, are absolutely against abolition; while 171 with 7,644 signatures, are against abolition without equivalent.

It may be assumed, indeed, I believe without fear of contradiction, that the desire of a change in the law at least is all but universal, whether among Churchmen or Dissenters. How, indeed, could it be otherwise? The state of the existing law respecting church rates, sufficiently embarrassing before the final decision in the Braintree case, has since become intolerable. By that decision, as the House is aware, it is now settled that there cannot be a good rate without the assent of a majority of ratepayers. In parishes, therefore, where there is a majority against the imposition of a rate, the parishioners feel that church rates are legally as well as virtually abolished. The consequence is that different portions of the country are as completely living under different laws in this respect, as if the kingdom were resolved into its original elements, and the Heptarchy re-established. In many portions of the country, comprehending, almost without exception, all the districts most remarkable for population, wealth, and intelligence, church rates have absolutely ceased, the law is no longer in existence. In other parts of the country, in the majority undoubtedly of the parishes of the kingdom, looked at numerically, the law is still in existence, in many such parishes contest also exists—over all it is, of course, pending. Hence, unseemly discord, strife, and angry feeling among those, who, being neighbours, ought also to be friends. Wherever there are Dissenters there is resistance to the rate; thence follow divisions in the vestry, with all the incidents and excitement of party conflict. Sometimes the rate is defeated, and then, with every demonstration of joy, a great triumph over the Church of England is announced. Sometimes, on the other hand, there is a majority for the rate, and then, some clergyman of the Established Church thinks it wise and seemly to publish to his parishioners and the world—much in the terms that the battle of Inkerman might have been announced—"The supporters of the Church had not the slightest idea of any approaching contest, but when the rate was thus put to the issue they manfully met the question, and carried the rate in a way so singularly triumphant as to set to all true and conservative churchmen throughout the land a noble example, which they would do well to copy and follow." Disastrous victory, which creates on the part of the victors a feeling of exaltation so unseemly—in the vanquished sullen discontent, and an abiding sense of oppression and wrong! But are these dearly-bought victories advantageous to the Church, even in a pecuniary point of view? I hold in my hand a return from 238 rural parishes, taken without selection in different parts of the country during the last few mouths. In 109 parishes no rates were proposed—leaving of parishes where rates were proposed, 129; rates were carried in 99, but refused to be paid in 66. Out of the 66 cases of rates refused, payment was enforced only in 14, leaving cases of rates carried and levied 47. Nor is such a result as I have stated to be wondered at. There may well exist a reluctance to enforce the law when the popular feeling is universally in favour of those by whom it is resisted. Instances of resistance to the collection of a rate, even when legally levied as having the assent of a majority of the vestry, are of constant occurrence. Here is the account given by a local paper of one of the most recent. The goods of a respected inhabitant of Neath had been taken in distress for non-payment of rates. On this, as on previous occasions, porters were hired; but they evidently did their work most reluctantly. The trophies borne off from Mr. Roe's dwelling were four arm-chairs. These the porters carried for some distance amidst the gibes and hootings of the crowd, accompanied by the firing off of pistols and small guns. On reaching the market gates, the porters fairly abandoned their load in pure disgust. At least half an hour now elapsed before the police could find any party to convey the seized goods to their destination. The furniture taken from Mr. Ree's premises was six chairs, some handsome dish covers, and a copper tea kettle. They must be sold by auction, but the difficulty will be to find an auctioneer, as we have been informed that more than 'one man of business' in that line has positively refused to have anything to do with the matter. Let the auction come when it may, we expect a rich scene. Do I commend the conduct of those by whom the law was thus set at naught? On the contrary, I strongly disapprove it, but I yet more strongly deprecate the continued existence of a state of things, in which the instinctive sense of justice of the people leads them to take part, not with those who support, but with those who violate the law.

Assuming then, and I believe the House will join me in the assumption, that a change in the law is inevitable, it remains to be considered what should be the nature of that change. Shall it be a change only in the mode of collecting church rates and the object to which they are applied, or shall it be abolition, and if abolition, with or without equivalent? Of the various schemes which have been propounded for settling this painful question (they have been suggested to me in great abundance, and to my right hon. Friend below me, in tenfold greater abundance, probably), all may, I think, be comprehended in categories of which the several measures submitted to this and the other House of Parliament may respectively be considered as exponents. It will be well to consider them in order, deferring for a few moments the consideration of the Bill I have myself introduced. We have, then, first the Bill of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It proposes that in parishes where for two years there has been no church rate, the churchwarden shall, on monition from the ordinary, summon a vestry to consider a church rate, and if it refuse a rate, a second. Both refusing, citation is to issue from the Ecclesiastical Courts to the parochial authorities, to show cause why the Act should not take effect in the parish. No sufficient cause being shown, the Act will apply, and the parish be thenceforward for ever relieved from church rates. To the other provisions of the Bill I need not now refer. The Bill of the Archbishop therefore proposes, as the House will observe, abolition, total in character but partial in application; the Bill of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicestershire, on the contrary, contemplates partial abolition—a remission, that is, of a portion of the tax—but its renewed and universal application.

The hon. Gentleman proposes to give up that portion of the tax devoted to the expenses incident to the performance of divine worship, retaining that levied for the maintenance of the fabric and "fittings," whatever that may mean, of the church. The hon. Gentleman at the same time provides for a more prompt and summary mode of collection. The rates are to be levied as poor rates are levied, with appeal to the Quarter Sessions. Almost, or entirely identical with this plan, is the scheme recommended by a Committee of Convocation appointed last year to consider this subject. The scheme of settlement proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Tavistock, proposed to relieve Dissenters, declaring themselves to be such, from payment of church rates, but inhibiting them at the same time from taking any part in the Government of the Church, and depriving them of the right of requiring the performance of the services of the Church from its ministers.

Now, in dealing with these several modes of settlement, it seems to me that a moment's consideration will suffice to induce us at once to eliminate the two last—namely, those propounded by the hon. Member for Leicestershire and the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock; both are in the highest degree inexpedient, and one impracticable. The plan of the hon. and learned Gentleman—the relief of Dissenters only, upon their registering themselves as such—has been more than once before this House and the public, and has never been received with favour either by the Church or the Nonconformists. It has been described, and justly, as it appears to me, as a premium on fraud and hypocrisy, whilst it is open to the yet graver objections of depriving a large portion of the people of those ministrations to which, if they think fit, on payment of legal dues, they are entitled; of separating the nation—ostensibly and by formal acts—into distinct, and, perhaps, hostile camps as regards religious belief and observance, and thus widening and exacerbating those differences which it should be the aim of a wise legislation to obliterate or soften. It would, moreover, reopen the question of church rates in those numerous and populous districts where it has been long set at rest, and where, I believe, the reimposition of a rate would be almost as distasteful to the Churchmen on whom it would be inflicted as on the Dissenters who would be excused. With regard to the plan of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicestershire, it is simply impracticable. To divide the church rate—remitting a portion but leaving the remainder—to provide for the recovery of the portion retained by a more summary and stringent process, and to renew the collection of the tax thus modified throughout the kingdom—such is the proposition of the hon. Gentleman and of the Convocation. That such a plan should have emanated from Convocation is not surprising, it is sufficiently in harmony with what certain historical recollections might have led us to expect from that body; but that it should for a moment have been conceived practicable by a Member of the Legislature—a man necessarily mixing with the world and cognisant of the actual state of public affairs, does indeed astonish me. Does the hon. Gentleman really believe that a Bill could be carried through this House for reimposing this tax, however modified, with summary powers for its recovery—distress of goods and chattels for instance—in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, and all the great towns where for years it has ceased to exist? If Parliament could be induced to pass such a law, does he believe that the whole power of the Executive could carry it into effect? It is unnecessary, I am satisfied, to enlarge on this point. The Bill introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury deserves far more respectful consideration, both for the principle it embodies and the quarter whence it emanates. It is an event of no slight significance, that a measure brought forward by the Primate—the highest dignitary of the Church of England—with the assent, as I understand, of his suffragans, should frankly acknowledge the fact of the cessation of church rates in certain eases, and propose to sanction, even conditionally, and extend that cessation. I believe this recognition to be as wise as it is becoming, and to indicate a spirit which, should it become prevalent in the Church, will by no means lose its reward. But to this plan there exists, as I think may be easily shown, a fatal objection. It will do nothing or next to nothing towards settling the question. Hereafter as heretofore, were the measure propounded by the right rev. Prelate to become law, there would be strife in every quarter of the land, and the more excited and violent, as by the law it would be only through strife and conflict that peace would be to be obtained. Adjoining parishes, all but identical perhaps in character and social condition, would be subject to laws diametrically different. In one parish, 501 members of vestry might be for a church rate, and 499 against the rate would be a goad; and, the numbers remaining the same, the parish would be for ever subject to church rates. In the next parish the numbers might be reversed; 499 only might be for, 501 against a rate, and for ever after that parish would be freed from the impost. Need it be asked, whether such a state of things would be tolerable? The truth is, that the proposition at this time of day to vest in the majority of the vestry the power to refuse or grant a church rate, proceeds in a misconception of the principle on which Government by majorities proceeds, and the limits within which the submission of minorities can be claimed. In free countries, questions, as the general rule, can only of course be decided by majorities; but the very basis of this rule or principle is the assumption, that in the object under consideration the majority and minority have an equal interest, the difference being only as to the mode of arriving at it. Government by majorities would be tyranny not freedom, if a majority could tax a minority for its own especial benefit. Suppose the majority of the Members of this House being from the south of Trent were, in voting the Army Estimates, also to vote that the whole sum raised should be devoted to the defence of the part of England they represented, leaving the rest of the kingdom, while paying its share of the general taxation, to provide also its own armament? Suppose again, the majority of a vestry, in voting a rate for gas-lighting, should also vote that only that part of the parish should be lighted in which the members of that majority resided? But such are the exact parallels of the case of a majority voting a church rate, for objects in which the minority has no interest. When all were of one faith, when all had a common interest in the matter in hand, then it was just and reasonable that the levying a church rate should be decided by a majority of votes, the only questions at issue being the amount of rate and the time of levying; to leave a like power in the hands of a majority, when the common interest has ceased, is as absurd as it is unjust.

But if, as is on all hands admitted, the present state of things cannot continue, if some change of the law be inevitable—if, as I venture humbly to think, I have shown that there exist insuperable objections to every other form of change, I may then be permitted to ask of the House to agree to that which I propose, and which is embodied in the Bill now under our consideration, the leading provisions of which it is now my duty briefly to explain. It is scarcely necessary, perhaps, that I should state that the main object of the Bill, that stated in the first clause, is the abolition of the compulsory rate. The second clause provides for a continuance of the rate where it has been under any existing law mortgaged for money borrowed, or applied to paying the stipends of ministers or others—in the former case until the liquidation of the debt, in the latter until the legal avoidance of the offices so paid. There are likewise provisions for affording facilities for the application to the purposes to which church rates are at present applied of those voluntary contributions, which I am quite sure the Church will not ask in vain, from the members of her communion.

The Committee on the Bill will afford the fitting occasion for explaining their provisions in detail. I may now, however, state their general scope and character. My object has been to interfere with, existing laws to the smallest extent compatible with the change—a great change, I admit—which I propose. I do not touch, except in one particular, the rights or constitution of vestries. I do not abridge the powers and privileges, or change the character of the office of churchwardens. These officers are amongst the oldest known to our constitution; they are entrusted with important functions apart from the maintenance of the fabric of the church—they are the representatives of the lay portion of the congregation, and its organ of communication with the ordinary. I only propose, therefore, such an enactment as will ensure their status being the same under the new as under the old system, and give them the like powers, and subject them to the same responsibilities in dealing with a voluntary, as they now have in dealing with a compulsory rate. I have been told that such a provision is unnecessary, and that they already possess such powers. I believe that to be doubtful—at all events, there can be no inconvenience in such an enactment, if it be even merely declaratory. Again, I have been told that by committing to the churchwardens the administration of a voluntary rate, while I leave them to be elected as at present by vestry, I incur the risk of leaving in the hands of those who may be the enemies of the Church the power of dealing with funds contributed solely by her supporters. I do not admit the reality of this danger. The Bill provides that one churchwarden may administer the funds raised, and the cases are rare in which one churchwarden is not named by the incumbent. There are cases, no doubt, in which the vestry by custom names both churchwardens, but assuming (and the presumption seems to me preposterous), that, church rates having ceased, Dissenters would, where they had the power, nominate persons from the mere wanton love of mischief, to mismanage funds to which they had not been called on to contribute, it must be recollected that persons so acting would not only be subject to all the punishment to which churchwardens are now liable for malversation, but that, secondly, they could take no step without the concurrence of the auditors, for the appointment of which the Bill provides. These auditors, although chosen by the vestry, must be members of the congregation, or, at all events, Churchmen. One may be named by the incumbent, the others must be taken from among the following persons or classes—the incumbent or his curate or curates, the owners or occupiers of pews, and adult male communicants. With regard to the latter category, I have adopted it as a mode of ensuring the auditors being members of the Church communion, as a test of being a member of the Church is both known to our laws and is adopted in the Bill of the Archbishop to which I have referred; but I have no especial preference for it, and would readily take in its stead any other test which might be considered more secure or desirable.

There are some other points, not unimportant, involved in the several provisions of the Bill, but it is not necessary that I should now allude to them. Such is the Bill before us—differing in one important particular only from the Bill of last Session—in the omission, namely, of any provisions enabling parishes to make pew rents available for the purposes to which pew rents are now applicable. I confess that I regret this omission, which has not been in accordance with my own judgment. My opinion remains unchanged, that pew rents would, in many cases, and to a considerable extent, form a good substitute for compulsory rates—that they are not objectionable in principle—that they have repeatedly received the sanction of Parliament, and are widely adopted in practice. I found, however, that the proposed enactments with regard to them were unfavourably received by friends whose scruples I was bound to respect, and as the omission did not affect the principle of the Bill, I thought it better that the clauses relating to pew rents should not form part of the Bill as introduced. If the House should, on further consideration, however, be of opinion that provisions of this character would form a useful part of the measure, I shall not object to the reinsertion of the clauses in Committee. I ought to add, perhaps, that the Bill contains no provisions for providing from any extraneous source a substitute or equivalent for church rates. I myself have sought anxiously for such an equivalent, and formerly proposed to seek it where alone it could be found—in the surplus expected to arise from the better management of episcopal and capitular estates. I have latterly become inclined to consider it as at least doubtful whether to avail ourselves of this resource, however consistent with sacred principle, would be expedient or desirable. There is, I think, a growing opinion that any surplus, if it exist, may be more usefully employed in the moral and religious instruction of the people, and that there is no sufficient reason why the fabrics of the Church should not be maintained by their frequenters, and the expense of her religious services defrayed by those who participate in them. Such, then, as I have briefly described it, is the Bill, of which I trust that the House will consent to the second reading. The plan it embodies has no pretension to ingenuity of contrivance; but I claim for it this merit, that it will settle this long-contested and most painful question. It will give contentment to those for whose relief it is intended—it will substitute peace for strife—where strife is most hateful—where religious feeling mingles in the contest. And what are the evils to be apprehended from its adoption? Is there danger that our churches will go to decay? I do not, in the very smallest degree, share this apprehension, but it is at least an intelligible fear, capable of being appreciated, however easy to be dissipated. With regard to some other assertions which have done duty as arguments in this matter, I pass them by as idle words, having no clear or definite meaning, scarcely worthy, therefore, of serious reply. It has been said, the Established Church is a national church, and its fabrics, therefore, should be maintained by the nation. But it is not a national church in the sense which could alone justify imposing a tax on the whole nation for its maintenance—in the sense in which it was a national church when church rates were first levied and when the whole people belonged to its communion. It might then be truly called a national church—can it be gravely stated to be so now—when one half of the people—one half at least of those who attend divine worship, are no longer members of its communion? No, the Established Church is a great and venerable institution of our country—but no defence of a claim which time has rendered obsolete and unjust must be made for her, on the ground that she is the Church of the nation. As to any danger of the fabrics of the Church going to decay were this measure to pass, I have said, I was willing to consider it—for I believe it an apprehension of the mind to be by many persons conscientiously entertained; and, yet, so chimerical does it appear to me that I confess I cannot but believe that there lurks at the bottom of this fear another feeling in the minds of those by whom it is entertained. Unconsciously, perhaps, to themselves, they are actuated by that reluctance to part with power which is one of the most deeply seated feelings of the human heart—even when that power is useless to the possessors; wide has been the prevalence—great the strength of this feeling—but it is as dangerous, as it is strong, for never yet—as history shows us, in unnumbered instances—has it failed to have disastrous effect on the fortunes of a people whose councils it had been permitted to influence. But what is the real amount of this apprehended danger—on what facts, on what reasoning does it rest? Is it that there exists no love or zeal for the Church among the members of her communion? But we are told, that in the vast majority of parishes church-rates are not only not resisted, but that they are popular—eagerly paid—are we to be told in the same breath, that these eager contributors require coercion? It is said that five-sixths or four-fifths—I know not what proportion of the rate is paid by churchmen—will they refuse to pay what they now pay for the maintenance of their places of worship, unless they have the pleasure of compelling a contribution from those by whom those fabrics are never entered? From what would you infer this want of zeal—this determination to do nothing without extraneous aid on the part of the members of the Church? Is it from her recent history? But is it not notorious that it was only at the beginning of this century the Church awoke from the slumbers of a hundred years and manifested signs of renewed vitality? Are not the facts with regard to Church extension and maintenance for the last fifty years equally notorious? I have before referred to those facts, but they are so significant, so full of instruction, that I may be pardoned for again calling to them, for a moment, the attention of the House. From 1800 to 1830 inclusive, there were built 500 churches, costing £3,000,000, whereof from the State 35 per cent, or £1,152,044; private sources, 65 per cent, or £1,847,936; from 1831 to 1851 both inclusive, were built 2059 churches, costing £6,087,000, whereof from the State, 8⅓ per cent, or £511,385; private sources, 91⅔ per cent, or £5,575,615. Thus the zeal, the energy, and the voluntary efforts of the members of the Church have been in an inverse ratio to the extraneous assistance she received. And this is true in a yet higher degree than appears on the face of the figures, for Church extension proceeded at an accelerated rate during the latter portion of the period, from 1831 to 1851; when in point of fact, the last Government grants were exhausted. I am aware of no return bearing on this subject since 1850, but it is sufficiently notorious that the movement has not slackened since that period, that, on the contrary, it has increased in activity and range. Again, there are now very many portions of the kingdom in which church-rates have ceased to be collected; can one single instance be cited, not only where a church has fallen to decay, but where the church has not been better maintained than before the abolition? It is needless to trouble the House with any statistics on this point, for the facts are not contradicted. In Liverpool you have the two systems in instructive juxtaposition; by the compulsory system two churches, affording accommodation for 2,600 persons, are maintained with difficulty, and at the price of constant heartburning and strife, while fifty-six churches providing accommodation for more than 60,000 persons, have been built and are maintained by voluntary contributions. In London itself—the whole metropolis, that is—I believe, and I should underrate the relative proportion of churches dependant on rates or on voluntary aid, if I estimated one-half of the London churches to have been built and maintained by subscription. It is but a few days since I received from the churchwardens of a parish church at Plymouth, having a congregation of between 2,000 and 3,000 persons, a statement that for twenty-two years there had been no church rate levied, but that the church had been kept in repair by pew rates voluntarily paid, and that there had always existed, in consequence, a state of good feeling in the parish.

I need not, however, trouble the House with any statistics on this point—the statement will not be denied—that in no case where rates have been abolished has there been the least difficulty in providing for the maintenance of the Church. But it is said that in poor and rural districts there may be found difficulty in obtaining, by voluntary contributions, funds for this purpose: but how are such funds obtained now? when any considerable repairs are needed—anything beyond the small annual sum required for the expense of divine service? Is it not from the voluntary contributions of churchmen throughout the kingdom, by means of a Queen's letter, that aid is solicited, and would not such appeals be more readily responded to when by the abolition of compulsory rates, the spirit of self-reliance in the members of the Church was more effectually aroused?

There can be no doubt, in fact, that through the instrumentality of Diocesan Societies and machinery of a like kind, the amplest means would be forthcoming to render assistance in all cases where, from poverty, a substitute could not be found in a voluntary for a compulsory rate.

To suppose otherwise, to believe that the members of the Church of England, the richest aggregate of individuals in the world, will permit the sacred buildings in which their fathers have worshipped to go to decay, unless compelled by law to maintain them or permitted to draw a miserable pittance from those by whom they are not used, is an insult to the members of the Church. Far from us be so unworthy a fear. For myself, a member of that Church, I cannot forbear from saying, that if such dangers were real, the Church of England ought to fall, for she would have shown that she was without hold or influence on the respect and affection of her children.

Before I conclude, I am tempted to advert for a moment to an objection to the Bill before us, and, indeed, to any plan for the abolition of church rates; which, although of a very serious and sweeping character, I have yet not noticed on the present or any former occasion, and which I should not now notice but for the circumstance to which I am about to allude. No less grave a charge is brought against the abolitionists of church rates than this—that their scheme is but the first step in the contemplated destruction of the constitution in Church and State. If they succeed, it is said, in the abolition of church rates, they will proceed to attack tithes, to subvert the Church, to destroy the aristocracy, and, finally, to overturn the monarchy itself. To these formidable charges, which were repeated on a late occasion by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bridgewater, I should not have thought it necessary now any more than formerly to offer any reply, had they rested solely on the authenticity of the hon. and learned Gentleman. An experience—not now of the shortest—in public life has rendered me callous to the prophecies of evil with which every project of reform has been met for a quarter of a century by the party of whose opinion the hon. and learned Gentleman was, on the occasion to which I refer, the exponent, and which, fortunately, have always been falsified by the result. Unhappily, however, he was enabled to cite in support of his opinions the language of one from whose lips no words fall unnoted by this House or the people of England. I allude to the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. In his speech on the Motion for going into Committee on my Bill of last Session, the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted from Hansard the following passage from a speech made in the previous year by the noble Lord:— We have a National Church—we have an hereditary aristocracy—we have an hereditary Monarchy—and all these things stand together. My opinion is, too, that they would decay and fall together. * * * I must therefore oppose this Bill, as, in my opinion, tending to subvert one of the great institutions of the State."—[3 Hansard, cxxxix. 754.] I listened to this language, I confess, with equal surprise and regret—language, I think, little to be expected from one whose whole career furnishes such ample illustration of the utter aroundlessness of such apprehensions. Why, in the opinion of the hon. Gentleman opposite, the noble Lord himself has destroyed the British Constitution more frequently than any one living man, or indeed, than all other living men put together. He destroyed it by repealing the Test and Corporation Acts, and, without his help, it could not have been destroyed again in 1829, by the emancipation of the Catholics. In 1830 he destroyed it very completely and effectually by the Reform Bill, and yet found means to destroy by the reform of the municipal corporation whatever had been left undestroyed in his former work of destruction. Not to mention his assisting in the destruction of British agriculture and throwing all the land of England out of cultivation, by the repeal of the Corn Laws (which was also to be followed by the destruction of the Constitution) and his complicity in the establishment of Free Trade and the destruction of British shipping. To the Cassandra-like rationalisms by which, on each of these occasions, the noble Lord was met—he might well reply—look around—from each of those bold measures, from which you foreboded evil, the State has derived renewed vitality and stability, and all our great interests increased in vigour and prosperity. The British Constitution is a plant of hardy growth, deep-rooted in the affection of the people, and only thrives the better for the amputation of a decayed or useless member. Duris ut ilex tonsa bipennibus, Nigræ feraci frondis in Algido, Per damna, per cædes,—ab ipso Ducit opes animumque ferro. Great, indeed, will be my regret, if this important step in the development of those principles of which the noble Lord has so long been the eloquent exponent, the earnest advocate, should be gained without his aid, yet greater if the triumph should be won against his opposition. For myself, I am more disposed to imitate the noble Lord's former courage than to partake his present fears. Profoundly convinced that the reform I proposed is based alike on policy and justice, I have no fear of its ulterior consequences—they must be good. Right cannot be made stronger by coupling it with wrong; we shall not be the better enabled to defend what is just by adhering tenaciously to what is unjust. As to the Church—so far from believing that the change I contemplate is dangerous to her, I believe it is fraught with incalculable advantage to her dearest interests. Instead of stripping her of armour which defends, it will relieve her from shackles which restrain the freedom of her action and retard her progress, and enable her to start forward on a fresh career of prosperity and usefulness. In conclusion, I would respectfully remind the House that by admission of all men the present state of things cannot continue. Some step must be taken. The time for compromise is past. What remains but the measure I propose? It will at least have this advantage—it will settle the long-disputed and painful question. Through the length and breadth of the land it will restore religious peace, and leave between the ministers of a common faith no other grounds for rivalry than who best shall discharge the sacred and honourable duty of elevating the religious, moral, and intellectual condition of their fellow-citizens.


* I never rose, Sir, with greater confidence in the justice of my cause, than I now rise to ask the House to withhold its assent from the second reading of this Bill; a Bill introduced, indeed, under the specious auspices of "civil and religious liberty," but which, based upon a fictitious foundation, as I shall endeavour to show, proceeds to legislation upon principles diametrically opposite to those of justice and good faith. Now, at the outset let me ask the House to consider for a moment, what is the nature of this "grievance," of which this Bill complains, or ought to complain, and for which the clauses it contains propose a remedy. It is not that church rates are either a new impost or an old one; it is not that they are popular or unpopular, light or heavy, levied with ease or with difficulty; but it is this, and simply this, that "whereas certain classes of persons who dissent conscientiously from the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England, and the mode of the celebration of her services, are comipelled by law to contribute towards the maintenance of the fabrics, and the sustentation of the services of worship of the Church of England; they feel their consciences aggrieved by being so compelled to contribute to a Church from which they dissent." That is really, in fact, the only grievance that ever has been, or ever can be alleged against church rates, and yet this Bill does not set forth in its preamble that it has been introduced as a remedy for that grievance. The House has heard the right hon. Baronet, who has introduced this Bill, endeavour to explain away as best he could the extraordinary, and, to me, very significant absence of any petitions in favour of this measure; and I must confess that I have found myself placed in circumstances of no small difficulty and perplexity in my endeavours to meet some of the arguments adduced in favour of the Bill, by reason of the remarkable fact of the absence of any such petitions. I have been able to discover only one or two such petitions, and in those I find that grievance stated. One of those petitions comes from certain persons styling themselves the "Baptists of Great Grimsby;" that petition was laid upon the table of the House a few days ago, and the ground upon which the petitioners state that they pray for the passing of the Bill is, "that your petitioners believe that such a measure is imperatively required to relieve the consciences of a very numerous portion of Her Majesty's subjects."

Assuming then, as I consider I am perfectly justified in doing, that such is the only grievance complained of, and for which this Bill has been proposed as the remedy, I beg the House to remark, that if such be the only grievance complained of, this Bill docs not provide any remedy for it, and that therefore the Bill does not deserve its approbation. I am aware that great differences of opinion do exist as to the reality, reasonableness, and extent of the grievance complained of, and I will therefore at once avow that I base my opposition to this Bill upon the fullest, the frankest, and the broadest acknowledgment of the existence of the grievance complained of in the petition, the prayer of which I have just stated to the House. With regard to the nature of this "grievance" itself, the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay), who has introduced this Bill, is at perfect liberty, at least so far as I am concerned, to depict it in the blackest and most startling colours which his fervid imagination can supply; he may call it, if he pleases, with the Attorney General last year, "an intolerable grievance," and one amounting to even a degree of "persecution" against such Dissenters as may have been called upon to pay "church rates;" but even admitting all this, and admitting also that for that very reason I should be most desirous to see that grievance removed, still, I beg leave to declare to the hon. Baronet and to the House, that I shall all the more strenuously give every opposition in my power to the passing of this Bill. And why? I will tell the hon. Gentleman. Because I consider that from the very first paragraph of the preamble of the Bill to the very last clause of the enacting portion of it, not one sentence can be found by which to show that any real substantial grievance whatever is complained of, or proposed to be redressed. It is not my intention, upon the present occasion, to give any expression of my own opinion upon the broad principle of the general question; neither shall I he induced to involve myself in any of the various arguments which have been put forward, in favour of, or against, applying any, and what, remedy for the existing state of things; all I propose to do upon the present occasion is, to point out in the first place what is the only logical remedy for the only admitted grievance, and in the second, to discuss the merits of the measure now before the House, for those are the only questions the House has now to deal with. Well, then, begging the House to bear in mind that the only grievance complained of is, that those who dissent from the forms and ceremonies of the Church of England, are required to contribute to its support; then I say that the only logical remedy would be, that those Dissenters should cease to pay church rates, and at the same time be entirely debarred from claiming, as of right, the services of the Church, the ministration of its clergy, or the management of its funds, all of which they have at all times been found but too ready to do.

Now, of course, there may be objections to such a course; some may be of opinion that such an exemption of Dissenters would be an unjust premium upon dissent, and might prove fatal to the relations which have hitherto subsisted between Church and State; while others may think that, accompanied with the conditions which justice demands, very few Dissenters would avail themselves of it. I am not now concerned to show how far such fears on one side or the other are well or ill founded; all that I contend is, that if the hon. Baronet, who has introduced this Bill, were to have fully and fairly and candidly stated the whole case, he could not logically have come to any other conclusion. I now come to consider the nature and provisions of the Bill. In the first place, the hon. Baronet, admitting the justice of what was pressed upon him in former debates—namely, that he should find some substitute for the £700,000 which is now raised throughout the kingdom by church rates for the maintenance of church fabrics and the providing of public worship, and which he proposes to abrogate—in the title of the Bill describes it as "a Bill for the abolition of Church Rates" (and that it most undeniably is, to the fullest extent), and "to make other provisions in lieu thereof." Now, let me ask, what does the hon. Baronet mean by the words "other provisions?" For myself, I can only say that I have always regarded the word "provisions" to mean something which we can see clearly and distinctly beforehand, and which may be calculated upon with certainty; but will the hon. Baronet say that voluntary contributions and charitable subscriptions can be characterised as such, or that they can be calculated upon with certainty? Therefore, I contend that the very title of the Bill is a misnomer; but, further, I say that I have never heard of any measure, the "provisions" of which have been fenced round with so many and such extraordinary safeguards as the "provisions" of this Bill, as I shall show when I come to those clauses. It is quite clear, then, that the hon. Baronet has in his present Bill abandoned his old and the only ground upon which such a measure could be brought forward, or upon which the House could be called upon to legislate; but I now proceed to show that the present Bill for the abolition of church rates is based upon fictitious grounds. Just let the House look at what the preamble of this Bill sets forth. It states that there exists a necessity for this legislation upon two distinct pleas; the first of those pleas states simply this fact—namely, that church rates have long since ceased to be enforced or levied in certain places. Well, then, if so, I say that fact pro tanto is a reason why this Bill would be unnecessary for those places, because in places where church rates had long ceased to be levied, Dissenters had long ceased to feel them as a grievance. In all such cases the churchmen had undoubted grievances to complain of, because of the church rates not having been levied, and, therefore, they would have a good ground for coming to this House and asking for relief, and demanding that a substitute should be provided; and from this first clause of his preamble one might imagine that the hon. Baronet means to propose a substitute for the rates in those districts where the levy of them has for some time ceased to be enforced; but certainly that was no case in which Dissenters could be said to be entitled to ask for relief. I then come to the second plea which has been put forward as an excuse for this piece of legislation; and that plea is, that it would be desirable to abolish those church rates, inasmuch as there were many other parishes in which those rates had been attempted to be levied, and that the result has been to give rise to "litigation" and "ill-feeling." Now, let me ask if the House can consider that because the endeavour to enforce the payment of church rates in certain parishes has led to "litigation and ill-feeling," that that is to be considered as a valid reason or justification for the introduction of a Bill which proposes to abolish at once and for ever an institution which from time immemorial has secured to every man throughout every part of this kingdom the free and unbought worship of Almighty God? I say unhesitatingly and fearlessly, that such cannot be regarded for a single moment by this House as such an amount of grievance as would call for such legislative interference.

Sir, I am quite free to admit that the levy of church rates has, at different periods, during the last half-century, given rise to some cases of litigation in this country, and that ill-feeling has often been mixed up with those cases; but I should like to know what law or impost may not be impugned upon such grounds as those. Are church rates the only legal source of litigation and ill-feeling? Look at almost any one of our public establishments or institutions—let us consult our laws or imposts, and I think it will be found that almost every one of them has proved a fruitful source of "litigation and ill-feeling." Litigation! Take the laws which have been passed affecting the provision for, and settlement of, the poor; the mortmain laws of 1736; the laws by which labour in our factories and mines is regulated, or our Excise laws, and tell me if church rates, which have existed before there was a King of England, have produced in a thousand years a tithe of the litigation which any of these comparatively modern laws have given rise to? Ill-feeling! No man will attempt to deny, that whenever a measure for the taxation of the public has been considered necessary, and has been decided upon by the majority in a free and a civilised country, of course the result will be, must be, the calling into existence of some ill-feeling, more or less, on the side of the minority; but such a state of things ever has been, and ever must be, an inseparable characteristic of self-legislation. A great many other sources of "litigation and ill-feeling" could be enumerated as originating in the management of our local affairs; but will that be alleged as a good reason for the total abolition of that system of local self-government? Let me ask, can the hon. Baronet, or any other hon. Member of the House, point to a more fruitful source of "litigation and ill-feeling" than those continually called into existence by the elections for Members to sit in this House? Where can be found such a constant cause of "litigation and ill-feeling" as those contested elections; and yet is it to be said that they should be put an end to for that reason? Neither have we yet heard of the intention of any hon. Member to propose some measure for the abolition of municipal elections. Yet, let me ask, have no "litigation and ill-feeling" arisen out of those elections?

But, now, just let me call the attention of the House for a moment to a very recent case. It will be in the recollection of the House, that so late as last year the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ewart) introduced a measure, for which he was so very fortunate as to secure the approbation and support of every philosopher in this House; that was a Bill which conferred upon people the power of taxing themselves for the establishment of free libraries. Well, of all the stormy and uproarious public meetings I have ever heard of (excepting, of course, railway meetings, which I would, by the way, commend to the especial attention of the hon. Baronet), that held in the great City of London, not many weeks since, for the purpose of discussing the expediency of establishing a free library for the City, was, beyond all question, the most stormy and uproarious. I can only say, that if harsh words and strong language be any indication of "ill-feeling," then has this new Act stirred up plenty of ill-feeling. Ought the hon. Member for Dumfries, therefore, to repeal an Act which has been the cause of such a vast amount of "ill-feeling?" No! Clearly in all such cases we must balance the good against the evil, and not, for the sake of obviating a little ill-feeling, sweep away a law, or a system, which in the main subserves the good of the community. Well, the hon. Baronet having abandoned in his preamble the only plea for his Bill—the grievance of conscience—and having set up in its place this one of litigation and ill-feeling, I think it becomes the duty of the House to discuss the merits of the measure upon those pleas, and on those pleas only. But I must be permitted to tell the House that it is not upon such pleas as these that we are to be called upon to abrogate and abolish for ever an ancient and immemorial law, which has been the means of producing for centuries past, and which still continues to produce, in nineteen parishes out of every twenty in this country, a great, an inestimable boon—that of establishing free and open churches throughout the land, wherein the people can have afforded them the unbought celebration of Divine service for the worship of Almighty God. I say that the House ought to consider the measuro in this way—namely, by balancing nicely, and at the same time fairly and impartially, the great amount of good against the small amount of evil which must be admitted to have arisen out of a system which this Bill now prepares to abolish. I say that such is the rule by which the House should be governed in deciding this question; and, therefore, I have no hesitation in calling upon the House to affirm, by its decision, that the amount of evil, be it what it may, which has been alleged to have sprung from the existence of church rates, is far and away outbalanced by the enormous amount of moral and religious advantages which these rates have been the means of conferring upon the great majority of the people of this country. Sir, I will not trespass further upon the time and attention of the House by dwelling on the pernicious effects of this Bill, but I will, with the permission of the House, proceed at once to examine in detail the provisions of the various clauses of the Bill. I was somewhat amused at the hon. Baronet having suggested that some hon. Members on this side of the House would probably be disposed to quarrel with the form of the first clause of the Bill. I can only say, that if church rates are to be abolished, Clause 1 abolishes them as neatly and concisely as any clause that could be framed by legal ingenuity.

The clause provides, not that Dissenters are to be exempted from the payment of these rates in toto in future, but it absolutely prohibits all Churchmen throughout the whole length and breadth of the land from levying rates upon themselves for providing for the proper maintenance of the fabrics and other expenses connected with the Church of which they are members; or, in other words, the hon. Baronet actually asks the House to pass a measure which shall prevent people continuing to fulfil the duty with which their property has been immemorially charged, and from which they have no wish to be exempted. The House has had before it no instance whatever of any desire on the part of the laity of the Church of England, that is to say, of those who pay these rates, to call for the interference of the hon. Baronet, or upon the House to abolish these rates. The very contrary is the fact; for there have already been laid upon the table of the House some 200 petitions, every signature to which was the signature of one who paid these rates, and, what is still more strange, every one of those petitioners prayed to be allowed to continue to pay them! But the House has heard it stated by my noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley)—and that statement has not been contradicted—that out of the £700,000, the amount annually raised by church rates, no less a sum than £600,000 is paid by Churchmen, and those are the very men upon whose behalf, the House will bear in mind, no allegation whatever has been made, to the effect that they consider those rates a "grievance," and yet the hon. Baronet proposes, in the name of "civil and religious liberty," to relieve the property of those men from the further payment of those rates which they are anxious to continue to pay. Is this honest? Is this just? But as he drew near the close of his speech, the hon. Baronet endeavoured to point out what he, no doubt, regarded as the inestimable advantages which he proposed to confer on Churchmen, by the remaining clauses of his Bill. The hon. Baronet said, in effect—"It is true, that by Clause 1 of this Bill I propose to abolish church rates throughout the length and breadth of the land; but observe in Clause 3 what most excellent provisions I substitute for them, and how I devote the rest of my Bill to devising means for enabling those provisions to be worked satisfactorily." Well, perhaps the hon. Baronet may consider them as such; but he will excuse me if I say that I doubt very much indeed if the Churchmen of this country will feel as grateful to him as, perhaps, he may imagine they ought, for conferring upon them the inestimable advantage and privilege of being at liberty to subscribe to support their Church, if they should think proper to do so. Now, being unlearned in the law, I have always laboured under the delusion, as the hon. Baronet tells us it is, that any Churchman who chose to do so, was at perfect liberty to contribute to the support and maintenance of his own Church; but if I am to judge from the statement made by the hon. Baronet, it would appear that grave doubts exist in his mind as to the legality of any Churchman subscribing to the support of his Church at present, and that it has at length become necessary to frame an Act of some eight or nine clauses, as a means by which to legalise "voluntary contributions." I really must be excused by the hon. Baronet, if I say that this pretext, thus alleged for this part of his Bill, appears to me to be such an extraordinary attempt upon the credulity of the House, that he must allow me to look elsewhere for the real reasons which have induced the hon. Baronet to propose these extraordinary clauses.

Now, with regard to the third clause of the Bill, I beg to assure the hon. Baronet and the House that I have read that clause most attentively and carefully, and, coupling the proviso at its conclusion, and the subsequent clauses, with the remarkable manner in which the Bill of the hon. Member for Tavistock two years ago was rejected by the dissenting Members of this House, I think I can easily discern the real reason for this apparently gratuitous and unnecessary legislation on the part of the hon. Baronet. After giving Churchmen liberty to contribute voluntarily to the expenses connected with the maintenance of their Church, the hon. Gentleman proposes, as he says, to leave the "churchwardens" intact. The hon. Baronet has stated that he does not propose to meddle with churchwardens at all, or with their privileges or immunities. But, let me ask the House to mark that, notwithstanding that declaration, Clause 3 of the hon. Baronet's Bill proposes that the churchwardens shall distribute the funds which are to be placed in their hands, subject to the control of certain "auditors" without whose consent Clause 4 enacts that not a farthing of those voluntary contributions shall be expended, and whose numbers and powers are settled by the following clauses. Now, considering the constitution of most of the rural parishes in this country, I do really think that any unfortunate gentleman, who may have had the misfortune to have been once elected auditor in such parish, would be very much inclined to exclaim—if he knew Latin—in the language of the perplexed and bewildered poet of ancient days— Semper ego auditor tantum? nunquamque reponam? Here, then, let me call upon the House to pause for a moment, and having arrived at this result of legislative wisdom, admire, as the House is in duty bound to admire, the marvellous ability with which this army of auditors is about to be constituted. We are about to have no less a number than five auditors in every parish throughout the land. Why, Sir, that number would mate those auditors a force equal in numerical strength to the whole embodied militia of the country. It is an army that for the future must be known to us as the "army of auditors;" and it ought to be drilled and organised, and a uniform provided for it. Now, let me just ask, what the duties of this army are to be, and for what reason it is constituted? The purpose for which this army of auditors is intended, would be to check the operations of those very churchwardens in whose praise the hon. Baronet has been so eloquent; their duty would be, as far as I am aware, to check, control, interfere with, and to embarrass the performance of those duties which have been well performed hitherto by the churchwardens of the country. Five auditors in every rural parish in the kingdom! Why, any one conversant with the rural parishes can only laugh outright at such a proposal; but I entirely exonerate the hon. Baronet from the charge of having the rural parishes for one moment in his view. On the contrary, I believe that this Bill, like all its predecessors, has been drawn up with a view to suit the meridian of the Tower Hamlets and other large towns exclusively. And believing that such is the case, I will now ask the House to follow me in an examination of the powers and qualifications of those auditors, whom the hon. Gentleman is about to create. The powers which would be conferred by the fourth and sixth clauses of this Bill on this army of auditors are to be enormous, for not one halfpenny of the money which would be raised, not, be it remembered, by a public rate, but by private contributions, could be expended, unless it were in accordance with the wishes and determination of a majority of those five auditors.

Now let me ask, how are those auditors to be elected? Are they to be elected by the persons over whose funds they would possess such an absolute power and veto? Are they to be elected in accordance, as the right hon. Baronet would say, with the elementary principles of civil and religious liberty? On the contrary, it is clear, that in framing the clauses of the Bill, no such thing was meant. When the hon. Baronet came, in the course of his speech, not remarkable for brevity, to explain and defend this part of his Bill, he endeavoured to slur over the fatal flaw which he ought to have seen ran through those clauses; the hon. Baronet must either have been very ignorant of the provisions of his own Bill, or, if he were conversant with its provisions, he failed in that speech to convey to the House the real purport and effect of them. For, under the guise of maintaining intact the venerable institutions of churchwardens and vestries, the hon. Baronet virtually abolishes the immemorial rights and powers of churchwardens, and perpetrates a grievous injustice and hardship upon Churchmen.

Now, let us see what is the nature of the provision contained in the fifth clause of the Bill. Under that clause it is proposed that the auditors, who are to exercise absolute control over the charitable contributions of Churchmen, are to be elected by the majority of the vestry; but let me ask the hon. Baronet whether, in many populous places with which he is acquainted, and to suit which I strongly suspect and contend that the Bill has been mainly drawn, Dissenters do not constitute the majority of the vestry; and would not the auditors have to be elected by those men? The hon. Baronet, in the course of his speech, went so far as to say that, under the sixth clause, no power could be given to elect a Dissenter as auditor. Now, let me beg to ask the House to look attentively at this clause. The fifth clause, having provided that one auditor shall be elected by the incumbent, and that four auditors be elected by the majority of the vestry, in many instances a Dissenting majority, the sixth clause defines who those auditors may be; they must all be ratepayers. Furthermore, they must also be holders or occupiers of a pew. Now, I speak with great diffidence as to this matter; more especially when I find myself in the presence of so many gentlemen who are well learned in the law. But, I must say, that for my own part, I certainly think that, under the provisions of this clause, a considerable amount of litigation is likely to be excited.

The expression in the clause, "the owner of a pew," is, I apprehend, a very doubtful definition; it cannot certainly by any possibility mean to exclude a Dissenter. Does the hon. Baronet imagine, that by saying a man must be the owner of a pew in the church in order to be an auditor, that he thereby can in any way exclude the Dissenter? If the hon. Baronet thinks so, I, for one, must say that he labours under a very singular mistake; for I happen to know of one case, in my own immediate neighbourhood, of a very large and ancient parish church, in which for many years two great pews were retained—not that they were ever used, but locked up—by two dissenting gentlemen who reside in the parish. It is true that they never made any use whatever of the pews themselves, but then, by locking them up, they took good care to prevent the possibility of allowing anybody else to use them. Under the sixth clause of this Bill, then, these two gentlemen may at any time become—and if the Dissenters should become a majority in the parish, they very likely would be made—auditors for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Bill. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) has been pointing out to me that this clause is even worse than I have described it; for instance, any man who even occupies a seat may be an auditor; but he need not, by any construction whatever which can be put upon the law, be a member of the Church of England. In fact, this clause will admit every variety of Dissenter to be eligible for election as an auditor; and for my own part, I am quite satisfied that the object of the Gentlemen who have been concerned in the drawing up of this Bill—I do not allude in any way to the hon. Baronet himself—is to preserve this most unjust privilege in all populous places. But the hon. Baronet has said, that in his opinion the great safeguard against the intolerable injustice of this clause would be found in the peace, and good-will, and harmony which would be produced in all parishes by the total abolition of church rates. Well, for my own part I must say that, if that be the opinion of the hon. Baronet, I certainly envy him the very high estimate which he has formed of the amiability, the self-command, and the self-denial of human nature. We have had, however, some experience, which will be a guide to us in reference to this question.

It is not long ago since there was a church-rate contest in the town of Banbury. In that case the Dissenters and opponents of the rate were successful, and the voluntary contributions of Churchmen had to be called in to act as a substitute for the church rate. One of the many charges which had to be defrayed out of these voluntary contributions of Churchmen was the salary of the sexton. In process of time the old sexton died, and a new sexton had, of course, to be elected in his stead. The Churchmen, who were the only persons that in any way contributed towards his salary, very naturally imagined that they ought to have the privilege of electing any man they chose to be the sexton. But in the name of "civil and religious liberty," the "inalienable rights of man," and in vindication of the sacred privileges of the vestry, all the Dissenters in the parish rushed to the rescue, and started an opposition dissenting candidate. Now, then, let me ask, what security can we expect to have—certainly there is none that I can see under the provisions of this Bill—that, so long as human nature is human nature, Dissenters will never act upon the principle, which I maintain they have enunciated throughout out all these discussions—namely, that of refusing to contribute even one farthing towards the sustentation of the Church, whilst, on the other hand, they will continue to exact, at all times, as at present, under the penalty of fine and imprisonment, the services and ministrations of the Church, and to exercise the control which these clauses will give them over the voluntary contributions of its members. Can I be said to be wrong, then, in insisting that the whole scope, object, and result of this Bill in populous places will be, to impose upon Churchmen the entire burden of maintaining the fabrics of the Church, and the services of the Church; while by these clauses the power will be given to Dissenters of vexatiously interfering in every arrangement which shall be connected with those services, and in every distribution of the funds which shall he contributed by Churchmen, and of continuing to exact the services and the ministrations of the Church? Such being the scope and object of the measure, and seeing plainly that its necessary result will be to remove from the real property of the country the duty which it has heretofore discharged, and from which its owners do not in any way desire to be relieved, namely, of obtaining a church which is free to the poor of the land, I most earnestly address myself to all parties in this House, and entreat them to refuse a second reading to this Bill. To those who are Churchmen I say, that it is no party or polemical question, but a question which most deeply affects the social, the moral, and the religious well-being of all the poor of this land. I appeal, then, to the Churchmen who sit on both sides of the House, and I very respectfully, hut earnestly implore of them to dismiss any little difference of opinion which they may entertain as to the best manner in which this grievance—if it be one—can be met, but in the meantime to show a firm and united resolution to oppose, in every way they possibly can, a measure which I think I have justly characterised as one of spoliation and confiscation, of injustice and of wrong.

I will also appeal to the Dissenters in this House, and ask them, whether, setting aside all consideration of justice and fair play, they think they really are in any way advancing the equitable settlement of this long-agitated question by pressing upon the House a measure which is so obviously unjust, and to which I am sure the Dissenters would never consent to be made subject. I presume I may look upon the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Miall) as a fair exponent of the true views of the whole dissenting body; and I find, in a speech which was delivered by that hon. Gentleman, on the 26th of May, 1853, a very fair statement of this question. Now, all I ask of the dissenting interest in this House is, that they will be satisfied to abide by the opinion of that hon. Gentleman, who, in the speech to which I allude, says— They were asking how the fabric, and the services of the Church could be maintained. That was no matter of difficulty whatever with the large number of Dissenters—nothing could be at once so simple and so just, as that the Churchman should pay for the fabric and the service of his own Church, in the same way that the Dissenter was both willing and able to pay for the support of his Church and his minister. The House is aware of the manner in which the Dissenter pays for the support and maintenance of his chapel and his minister. But the House well knows the Dissenter is not at any time subject to have the accounts of his chapel called over, settled, and controlled by auditors elected by a majority of Churchmen. Again, let me ask, has the dissenting minister this grievance to complain of—is he liable to be called on by every Churchman who chooses to send for him, and is he bound to obey that summons under pain of fine and imprisonment? Now, let me ask, is the dissenting minister in that position at this moment? If the dissenting minister be not in the position I have named, is the position which the Churchman will henceforth assume under this Bill—he alone contributing to the maintenance of the fabric of his Church, and the sustentation of her services—in any degree analogous to that in which the Dissenters find themselves? I therefore claim the votes of all conscientious Dissenters in this House against this Bill, upon the very ground adopted by the hon. Member for Rochdale. Perhaps the House will have the goodness to allow me to illustrate this argument, by reference to a possible—but only a possible—position, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) may, at some time or other, find himself.

My hon. Friend has for many years past most conscientiously and laboriously advocated the disendowment of the College of Maynooth. Well, we will just suppose my hon. Friend's efforts have been crowned with success. Let us suppose that the College of Maynooth has been disendowed, and that in the Bill effecting that disendowment my hon. Friend caused to be inserted a clause, enabling all Roman Catholics in Ireland to contribute by voluntary means to the future support of the college. What would any Roman Catholic Gentleman in this House say of the conduct of my hon. Friend, if, after having achieved the object he had in view, namely, that of having thrown the college entirely on the voluntary contributions of the faithful in Ireland for its support, he would nevertheless insist that all his family should receive a gratuitous education within its walls? Yet this case is precisely the position in which the Dissenters of England would be under this Bill. They would insist upon throwing the entire support of the Church entirely upon the voluntary contributions of her people, and at the same time they would insist upon having all the services of the Church celebrated for them on pain of fine and imprisonment. The Dissenters would also insist upon being allowed to dictate, whenever they had an opportunity of doing so, the mode in which every farthing of the voluntary contributions of Churchmen should be expended; and they would insist, also, upon having an absolute control and veto over all internal arrangements of all the parish churches in England. Lastly, I now appeal, but with very great doubt and hesitation, to the bench immediately opposite to me, and I most sincerely trust that we shall not on this occasion witness a repetition of the unseemly and deplorable spectacle of last year, when we saw one or two Cabinet Ministers, the foremost men in the House, discharging personally their duties and voting against a measure so fraught with injustice, while their colleagues and subordinates, headed by a reckless Attorney General, rushed headlong into the opposite lobby, and carried all the weight and influence of the Government along with them. I earnestly entreat the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) to reflect, that this is no light or trivial matter which is now being introduced for the first time to the consideration of the House, and upon which the subordinate Members of the Government may rightly entertain any, or no opinions whatever. I beg leave to assure the noble Lord that it is a grave, a most difficult, and a most serious question. And I firmly believe that I am only expressing the unanimous opinion of the Members of both sides of the House, when I say, that this is a question which can only rightly and safely be settled by the Government themselves. I will here, then, venture to make not only a strong and an earnest, but I will add, a personal appeal to the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government.

Two courses, and two courses only, are open to the Government in reference to this measure. Supposing the Government had, beforehand, maturely considered and decided upon the course which they ought to adopt, for the just and equitable settlement of this long-agitated question, then I would invite and earnestly entreat the noble Lord to produce and propound his scheme to the House, and I can most safely assure him, on behalf of hon. Gentlemen on this "the Opposition" side of the House, that any such measure, which may be conceived in such a spirit, and which is animated by such a desire, will receive their most candid and favourable consideration. If, on the other hand, the Government should continue to be of the opinion which was last year expressed in no ambiguous terms by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that it was utterly impossible that the question could be settled by legislation, and that, consequently, it must remain in the position in which it now stands, I would then most earnestly entreat the noble Lord to do his duty manfully to the Sovereign whose confidential adviser he is, to this House, who look to him for guidance, and expect it from him, at all events, that he should be the leader of his own Government, and to the country; and that he would carry with him the united influence of that Government in opposition to this measure. I cannot for a moment believe that a third course, of which I certainly heard a rumour, since I came into this House to-day, can by any possibility be seriously contemplated by the confidential advisers of the Crown. I really cannot bring myself to believe that a measure containing such provisions as I have now described, and the sole object of which appears to be, first to repeal and abolish church rates altogether, and secondly, to impose resolutions of a character the most unjust and oppressive upon all Churchmen, can possibly receive, in its principle, the support of Her Majesty's Ministers. But I am told that they are going to support the second reading of this Bill, reserving to themselves the power to amend it in Committee.

But let me ask, can it be possible that a Bill which has for its object the total abolition of church rates can be amended in Committee? I therefore dismiss as unworthy of belief all rumours of that kind; and I now most earnestly make this final appeal to the House to mark its sense of the gross injustice this measure would inflict, by summarily rejecting it; and I call upon the Government to state at once to the House, frankly and fairly, the conclusion to which Her Majesty's Ministers have come with reference to this most important question. I appeal personally to the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown. I tell him, that if Government merely propose to postpone the evil day, if the principle of "total abolition of church rates" is to be accepted now, in order to be abandoned or incumbered with restrictions in Committee, then it is my deep and earnest conviction that the Government will have failed in the discharge of one of the most solemn and most important of their duties. I now beg to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.


seconded the Amendment, and said, that in opposing the Bill, he felt it to be due to himself, and to those who thought with him on this subject, to observe, that they did not undertake to say that there were no grievances in connection with the present state of the law in relation to church rates. They did not attempt to deny that there were grounds for an alteration in the law as it at present stood; all they intended to maintain, and which they believed they could maintain, was, that the measure before the House was not the proper mode of getting out of those difficulties, either in an effectual or a legitimate manner. There were two classes of grievances which were stated, and which to a certain extent they admitted to exist. There were grievances to Dissenters in certain cases where, being in a minority, they were compelled to pay church rates, and particularly rates for the maintenance of the church services, at whatever violence to their conscience and feelings; and there were grievances to Churchmen in those cases where—the Dissenters, or the opponents of church rates, being in a majority—they were deprived of the means which the law professed to give them of maintaining the fabrics of their churches. These were undoubtedly grievances, but the Bill under consideration did not attempt to get rid of them at all. That it did not attempt to meet the case of the Churchman's grievance was clear. He thought he could show that it did not meet the case of the grievance arising from conscientious scruples. One of the clauses which the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) had omitted to notice—namely, the fifteenth—provided that the Act should not extend to Scotland or Ireland; but if the measure were brought in on the ground that it was desirable to exempt a minority from the oppression of a majority—if the principle on which the measure proceeded was that which the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) laid down when he said that a Church which comprehended a numerical majority, or near about that, of the people of this country, was not so far a national Church as to have a right to tax a minority; if that were the principle of the measure, then he could not conceive how the hon. Baronet could have passed over a far stronger and more grievous case of oppression which was practised in Scotland—not by a majority over a minority, but by a minority over a majority. The hon. Baronet said his object was to produce peace. Well, the law in Scotland had produced peace, for it was a strong and powerful law, but the peace it had produced might be almost termed a solitude. The position of the law in that country was, that a church rate, and a parsonage rate as well, might be imposed on the heritors or landholders of any parish, not by themselves, but by the ministers of the Established Church of Scotland. The ministers might of themselves make out an estimate of the expense of repairing their churches, and having done so, it was competent for them to serve upon the heritors or landholders an order to provide the necessary funds; nor had these persons practically any means of evading the burden thus thrown upon them for the support of a Church which, though called "the Establishment," did not comprise more than one-third of the population of that country. As the hon. Baronet did not propose to touch that state of things, the obvious inference seemed to be that the object of his Bill was not to provide for religious freedom, but simply to enforce what he described in his speech as "a permanent, universal, and complete peace." But it would have no such effect. On the contrary, it was a measure which more perhaps than any other that had ever been introduced would promote dissension and animosity, aggravating discord in localities where it already existed, and introducing it for the first time into rural parishes where, happily, it was now unknown. The hon. Baronet concluded that because the church rates were now acquiesced in, the voluntary system was sure to meet with a ready acceptance; but that was by no means so certain. The voluntary system was hard to be worked, and one great difficulty attending it was, as all who had had practical experience of the matter were well aware, the objection which people had to give anything, because they did not think that their neighbours had given enough. And how much would that difficulty, which was serious enough between members of the same communion, be increased upon a question in reference to which Dissenters would come into collision with members of the Church of England! But he would take another point—the bearing of this measure on the principle of local management. It was sometimes asked tauntingly, "What, are you members of the wealthy Church of England so dependent upon a miserable church rate that you cannot, if church rates be abolished, support your Church out of the abundant wealth she possesses?" Now, they were not in that position. They did not, therefore, feel the force of the taunt. They held, that if church rates were done away with, the wealth of the Church would at once be forthcoming to maintain her fabrics; but how would that be? Not in the parish itself, which might be torn with feuds between Churchmen and Dissenters, and between liberal and illiberal contributors, but probably by means of some great central society in London, to whose funds wealthy churchmen would be called upon to contribute; and they might rely upon it that such an association holding the purse-strings would naturally have great weight and authority in the application of the funds, and domineer over the parishes which required its aid. This measure had been stigmatised as denationalising the Church of England; and he contended that, if they took the repairs and the conduct of the services of the Church out of the hands of the ratepayers, and put them into the hands of central societies, they would take a great step indeed towards denationalising the Church; not in a technical sense, but in this respect—that they would thereby shake the affection and the confidence of the parishioners in a Church in the management of which they had not a voice, but which was managed for them by some central association in the metropolis. Moreover, he objected to the idea of submitting voluntary contributions to the control and direction of any body of men who might apply them to purposes altogether alien to the intentions of the donors. A man who gave his money on the understanding that it should be devoted to the maintenance of the Church or of its services, might feel indignant on finding that it had been applied to the erection of ornamental clocks or such like matters, and yet, if his contribution had been handed over to an arbitrary and irresponsible association, he would have little chance of redress. Gentlemen on the other side of the House had been very fond of the saying that property had its duties as well as its rights. Now, take a case in which the property was in the hands of Dissenters—take a case in which a whole parish was in the hands of a Roman Catholic. He was acquainted with a case of the kind, where the inhabitants of the parish, with few exceptions, were members of the Church of England and Dissenters, whilst the landlord was a Roman Catholic gentleman. Of course, either out of his own pocket or through the medium of his tenants, for the expense fell entirely in the last resort upon the landowner, that gentleman was at present supporting the fabric and services of the parish church for the Protestant population. But what would be the result if the system of church rates were abolished, and voluntary contributions substituted in its place? Why, that the landowner would not grant a sixpence; and thus the poorer members of the Church of England in that parish would be left unprovided for by any other means than the most uncertain of all—namely, voluntary contribution. He objected altogether to the principle of the Bill. If churchmen were called upon exclusively to support the fabric of the church and its services, then he contended that they should not be interfered with as to the way in which they might choose to expend the money. He did not deny that public feeling was ripening for some satisfactory settlement of the question; and all he would say, in conclusion, was, that if the Government would come forward with some well-digested scheme it would be received—he would not say with approval—but, at all events, with a greater desire on all sides to consider it dispassionately and fairly than would have been possible a few years ago.

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


said, that, independently of the appeal which had been made to the Government by the noble Lord opposite, who moved the Amendment, and the hon. Baronet who seconded it, he felt that the House had a right to expect that they should be informed as to the course which the Government, after the fullest consideration, proposed to take with regard to the second reading of the Bill now before the House. In considering this question, perhaps he might be allowed to suggest that it was surrounded by difficulties enough in itself, and he hoped that the House would not be led into a discussion upon the state of the law of Scotland, which provided, under a totally different state of circumstances, for the necessary repair of the fabric of the national churches in that country. Confining himself, therefore, exclusively to the question of church rates, which had been so much discussed of late years, he might say that the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) had entirely overlooked the unsatisfactory state of the law, as it now existed under the decisions of the highest legal tribunals. He had listened attentively to the noble Lord, and it appeared to him that the noble Lord was quite satisfied with the existing state of the law of church rates, except as regarded the grievance of which Dissenters complained, in being compelled to pay church rates. The noble Lord was willing to exonerate the Dissenters from paying those rates, coupling the exemption, however, with certain disabilities to which Dissenters were to be subjected. But was the noble Lord's a fair statement of the case? If it was the law that all property was liable to church rates, without any option in the matter, there might be some reason in the noble Lord's talking of spoliation as applicable to their abolition. In that case, also, there might be some colour for what he could not but regard as the injudicious language of certain persons representing themselves as friends of the Established Church, who said that church rates and tithes were on the same footing, and that if church rates were abolished the link between Church and State would be dissevered, and the Church would be no longer national. There was a manifest difference between tithes and church rates, and even if church rates were to be abolished, as they had been in Ireland, the Church would still be a National Church, and there were still ties strong enough to connect the Church and the State, which could not be dissolved by the abolition of a voluntary church rate. What was the state of the law at the present moment? It might be that it was incumbent on the ratepayers of parish to provide for the preservation of the fabric of the Church, and also, although that was not so clear, for the performance of Divine service; but what was the law with regard to enforcing that obligation? The law, as laid down by the highest Court of Judicature in the kingdom—setting aside any means that might be resorted to through the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts—was, that there was no power of enforcing that there was no power of enforcing that obligation, and that it was competent to a majority of the ratepayers to refuse a rate, and that the churchwardens could not enforce a rate against the opinion of the majority of the ratepayers in vestry assembled; and by the operation of the law so declared, in many parishes church rates were practically abolished. The noble Lord seemed to have overlooked the large number of cases of parishes, in which church rates had for years ceased to be levied, owing to the refusal of indisposition of vestries to make them in the absence of any means to enforce their payment. He said, "in the absence of any means to enforce them," because, although they might be told that ecclesiastical censures might be visited upon the inhabitants of any parish refusing to grant a church rate, it could hardly be seriously maintained that such an expedient afforded a practical remedy for the matter complained of. That was not a practical remedy, nor were there any means, even through the agency of the Ecclesiastical Courts, by which a parish, deciding, as it was now by law entitled to decide, that it would not make a church rate, could be compelled to do so. We had a great portion of the populous towns and cities of the kingdom exercising that power, and refusing to make a church rate. In the case of Leeds, he believed that, for twenty-five years past, as the result of a previous contest which lasted ten or fifteen years, church rates had been discontinued by the common consent of Churchmen and Dissenters, in the interest of religion and of the peace of the community; and ample provision had been made by voluntary contributions for maintaining the fabric of the Church and providing for the other necessary expenses. The same had happened in many other large towns and cities of the kingdom. And that would bring him (Sir G. Grey) to another important consideration, that of the various schemes which had been suggested for the modification of church rates. He need hardly say that the subject had received great attention from the Government, and that a variety of suggestions had been offered from various quarters friendly to the Church, and anxious to save what could be saved of the church rate, by adopting some modification of it which should render it possible to enforce the collection of the rate. But in almost all those suggestions there was this radical defect—that it was assumed by those who made them that we might go back, with regard to those towns and cities in which the contest had ceased for years, and in which, by common consent, other arrangements had been made alike satisfactory to Churchmen and Dissenters—and that we might reimpose a rate there, for some limited purposes, or to some limited amount, or to be destined to some specific application, by which it was expected to reconcile Churchmen and Dissenters, but which he (Sir G. Grey) believed would tend only to revive the contests between them which had now happily ceased, and which, if sanctioned by Parliament and made compulsory on the parishes, would give rise to renewed strife and dissensions. Any legislative attempt to render church rates compulsory in those populous places in which the unseemly contests for which they long afforded the battle ground had happily ceased, could only tend to revive strife and dissensions, which must not only prove injurious to the interests of the Church, but bring scandal upon the cause of religion itself. Whatever might be said of the facilities enjoyed by a Government in dealing with this vexed question, Her Majesty's Ministers were of the opinion that the introduction of a measure to give legal enforcement, contrary to the will of the majority, to the obligation of imposing church rates in places where they had already been practically abolished, could only serve to rekindle the flames of religious discord where they had fortunately been extinguished, without being attended, on the other hand, with any advantage that would at all compensate for so deplorable an evil. Church rates, in fact, were practically abolished, without, as he believed, the hope or the possibility of their being revived in any shape, in those cities and towns that he had alluded to. That was one part of the state of facts under the existing law, which the Government had to deal with. Now with regard to all those parishes which were thus circumstanced, the Government were of opinion that any Bill which was to be proposed must, he would not say, abolish church rates in those parishes, but must assume the abolition of church rates to be an accomplished fact. They must recognise and sanction the abolition of the church rate throughout those parishes. To the principle, therefore, of the abolition of church rates to that extent, Her Majesty's Government would accede; and they would take that course not without high authority, to which he would presently advert. But it had been urged, and he must say the argument was entitled to great weight, that because there were a certain number of parishes, the most important in the kingdom for their population, but few in number as compared with the number of the parishes in the whole country, in which church rates had practically been abolished, and in which any attempt to revive them would be sure to fail, there was yet no reason for dealing in the same manner with the large number of parishes, many thousand probably, throughout the country, parishes with a rural population, in which church rates were acquiesced in, and in which sums were levied annually by a church rate, certainly not very large in amount, but extremely useful in providing the means for the necessary repairs of the Church, and conducting its services with decency and order. It was said to be unreasonable that Parliament should say to the latter class of parishes, whose will and disposition it might be to continue the practice, that they should be debarred from doing so, because the former class of parishes had, in the exercise of their power, practically abolished the church rate, and because, with regard to them, it was now proposed to sanction and legalise the abolition. He considered that it would be hard to say that, for the future, it should not be lawful for the rated inhabitants of such a parish, by a legal majority, or even by the common consent of all the inhabitants, to impose a church rate upon themselves, small in amount, but useful for its purpose, and in the aggregate of such parishes large. It would be hard for Parliament to deprive them altogether of the means of doing that which they were willing to do, and which, if they did willingly, would be beneficial. The Government felt the full weight of this objection, and were not prepared, therefore, to sanction the immediate and total abolition of church rates throughout the kingdom. But they would agree to sanction the abolition of them throughout those parishes in which church-rates had been discontinued for a limited time, that time being long enough to indicate the settled will of the inhabitants not to exercise the power vested in them by law, of imposing a church rate. The Government would also propose, not that periodical Bills should be laid before Parliament from time to time embracing other parishes, in which the same course might be taken; but that it should he provided that where, for a certain consecutive period, the expression of the inhabitants' opinion was, that church rates should cease to be levied, there should be a limit to the strife in those parishes, and they should be exempted afterwards from the obligation to provide by means of a church rate for the maintenance of the church. [Murmurs.] The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) seemed to be alarmed at this. He (Sir G. Grey) would therefore call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the authority to which he had before referred, and which he surely would not cavil at or despise, an authority for the adoption of the very principle on which the Government proposed to act. Allusion had been made by the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) to the Bill introduced by the Primate of England last year in the House of Lords as indicating a disposition to come to a fair settlement of the question. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge appeared not to have read that Bill. If he did read it, he would find that the principle which he (Sir G. Grey) had just stated was embodied in it in the clearest and most specific terms. Let the right hon. Member, therefore, turn to the Bill laid by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the table of the House of Lords last Session, and which the Archbishop brought forward not in his own individual capacity, but as emanating from a majority of the Episcopal bench, on whose behalf he spoke. In that Bill it was distinctly provided that where church rates should have been discontinued in any parish for two years, there should be a certain process—a process which he (Sir G. Grey) doubtless thought would be objectionable, but which was only a part of the machinery for working out the principle; by which, after several monitions, the will of the parish might be unequivocally expressed; and there was in that Bill a clause which stated that after it should be clear that the parish was not willing to comply with the monitions of the Ordinary, no church rate should then be made on the parishioners at large, and that the parishioners should be released from the obligation to which they were now liable, of making a rate for the repairs of the church, and for the other purposes to which a church rate would he applied. That was the principle laid down by the heads of the Church, last year, in the Bill which they presented to the other House, dealing with facts as they were, as sensible men should do, and recognising the impossibility, under the existing law, of enforcing the church rate where a parish had indicated its deliberate decision that a church rate should not be adopted. To that principle Her Majesty's Government adhered, and they thought it was the best way in which the question could be settled—abolishing the church rate absolutely in those parishes where the rate had been already discontinued, and providing for its abolition in other parishes if the inhabitants chose to discontinue it for a certain time, but in parishes where the inhabitants still thought it could be usefully levied (and he thought there were many such parishes), leaving it to themselves to do so. It had been said that the parishioners, although they might be willing to levy upon themselves a certain amount uniformly by a church rate under the existing law, would not be equally ready to subscribe the same amount voluntarily, some of them contributing much, and others little or nothing, if the rate were abolished; and he believed that there was some truth in this remark, and that, therefore, it would be injurious absolutely and at once to deprive the inhabitants of those parishes of the power of making a rate. But in parishes where the rate was refused, not from any accidental cause arising in any one year, but for a period of time sufficient to indicate the settled opinion of the parishioners, as indicated in the Bill of the Archbishop of Canterbury, there should not be a perpetual strife and contention about it, but the rate should be abolished. But it had been said that in those parishes where the rate was continued it might be carried by a small majority; and that the grievance to the Dissenter would in such cases be continued, because there was no doubt of the legal obligation upon every individual to pay the rate when it was once made, and there were sufficient means of enforcing it. Now, the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) and the hon. Baronet who seconded his Amendment (Sir S. Northcote) had stated that they were quite prepared to exempt Dissenters from the payment of church rates, and that they thought the Dissenter had a grievance in being compelled to pay for the maintenance of a church which he never frequented. That subject had been frequently discussed, and to a limited extent he (Sir G. Grey) was prepared to accede to that view. He thought there would be grave objections to proposing that the inhabitants of a parish, who on account of their dissent wished to exempt themselves from the rate, should be called on to register themselves as members of particular denominations, and that there should be a religious census taken as it were, by which the religious divisions of the parish would be made more manifest and permanent. But he could see no objection to adopting the principle, and allowing any ratepayer to claim his exemption from the rate by a simple declaration to be submitted to the churchwardens, and duly signed, that he was not a member of the Church of England. To that extent he did not think any reasonable objection could be made to the principle, and it would be certainly free from the objections to which he had referred. But then he found, coupled with the proposal to exempt Dissenters, in the speeches of the noble Lord and the hon. Baronet, and also in a similar provision contained in a former Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock (Mr. R. Phillimore), a proposal to subject Dissenters to certain disqualifications, which he could not approve. To a certain extent a disqualification ought to follow any such claim made by a Dissenter; and he thought any Dissenter claiming to be exempt from the payment of a rate made by the majority of the parishioners had no right afterwards to take any part in the vestry with regard to the imposition of a church rate in any future year, or with regard to any matters relating to the application of that rate, such as the election of auditors, if auditors should be appointed, or any other matters essentially connected with the church rate, or with the maintenance of the church fabric and church service. He thought it would be unreasonable, after such an exemption, to leave the person who had claimed it equal power with that which was legally exercised by those who bound themselves to the payment of the rate. But he found in the speeches both of the noble Lord and of the hon. Baronet, as well as in the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock, something not very distinctly and clearly expressed, but which indicated that they would go much further. They appeared to desire, if a Dissenter did not pay the church rate, and claimed exemption from it, to shut the doors of the church against him, to deny him any participation in the ordinances of the church, to deny him the right of marriage in the church, to deny him the baptism of the church for his children. [Sir S. NORTHCOTE and Mr. PHILLIMORE: No, no.] The noble Lord the Member for Colchester did not say "No." The noble Lord had said that those who refused to pay church rates should be excluded from the offices of the church; and as he (Sir George Grey) had repeatedly heard it insinuated rather than avowed, he wished to know whether he was right in presuming that to be the intention of those who had urged the imposition of some disqualifications in return for the non-payment of the rate. He thought nothing could be more suicidal than such a proposition being carried into execution on the part of the Church. The object of the Church, if it had any confidence in the truth of its doctrines and purity of its worship, was to invite all men to come within its portals; but such a proposition as that was, to quote an expression he had heard used, to station at those portals an angel with a flaming sword, to warn Dissenters from entering, instead of the ministers of the Church as inviting them to come in, and, as ambassadors of God, entreating all men alike to join in its worship—admitting them to bring their children for the holy rite of baptism—admitting them to receive the sanction of the Church to the rite of marriage—admitting them, if they so desired, to bring within the precincts of the Church the bodies of their departed friends, that the burial service of the Church might be read over them; and instead of saying to any man, "You have declared yourself a Dissenter, you have not paid the church rate, and therefore I will not let you be married in the Church, nor let your child be christened here, nor let you bury with the service of the Church your father, mother, or child,"—the Church ought thankfully to admit any Dissenters to partake of its ordinances, rather than exclude them from Church privileges because they had not contributed to the support of the fabric. Admitting, therefore, the principle of immediate abolition with regard to the class of parishes to which he had first adverted, and admitting the principle of a prospective abolition at the expressed will of the majority of the inhabitants in any other parish, Her Majesty's Government were prepared, notwithstanding the taunts of the noble Lord opposite, to affirm the principle of the abolition of church rates, by voting for the second reading of this Bill. And they intended, if the Bill went into Committee, to propose Amendments in it to carry out the views which he had already explained. The noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) had commented upon certain provisions of the Bill, and objected to that of a mixed body of Churchmen and Dissenters controlling the application of voluntary contributions. He had shown satisfactorily, he (Sir G. Grey) thought, that in many country parishes five auditors would be too many, and that such a number even could scarcely be found to discharge the duty. He (Sir G. Grey) certainly did not see that there was any reason for having five auditors; but setting the details of the arrangement aside, he would ask whether his hon. Friend had not endeavoured, he did not say successfully, to provide against the objection which Churchmen might entertain as to the appropriation of their voluntary contributions? The hon. Baronet (Sir S. Northcote) seemed to think that no such provision would be necessary. He would allow any landowner to subscribe any sum he pleased for the repairs of the church, or for the beautification of the Church, or for the services of the Church, to be conducted absolutely according to his own taste and predilection. But take the instance of a Roman Catholic proprietor, who might be the only person in the parish to contribute anything. Was he to be allowed to take the church into his own hands, and at his own expense to alter the form of its fabric, its decorations, and services, in such a manner as would without doubt offend the feelings of the Protestant inhabitants? Or take the case of a dissenting landowner, which was also possible. Should he, without the control of some authorised body, be allowed to apply his own contributions to reducing the church, which might be a beautiful fabric of ecclesiastical architecture, to the ordinary form of a dissenting chapel? Some defects in the Bill there might be, but they were faults of detail; and he could promise that any suggestions of the noble Lord opposite or of the hon. Baronet for the remedy of those defects should be received with a favourable consideration. The noble Lord had said that if church rates were abolished, it would be necessary to make not a casual, but a sure and permanent provision for the Church. But he was not entitled to ask that, since church rates themselves did not fulfil that condition. It was clear now, that they could not be calculated upon with certainty, that they were a most uncertain provision, and in many cases were absolutely dispensed with, and in all cases it was in the power of a majority of the inhabitants at any time to dispense with them. But as a substitute for church rates, he did not think any compulsory provision should be made. What Parliament had to do was to encourage, as far as possible, voluntary contributions, which it was desirable should not depend upon annual subscribers, to be given one year and recalled another; but a power might be given, which no doubt in many cases would be exercised, to the owners of land, who had been hitherto subject to church rates, if they pleased, to charge their estates, within certain limits to be fixed by Parliament, with a sum to be applied to the same purposes as the church rates were. He believed that the Statutes of Mortmain, at present, stood in the way of such an arrangement; and, if so, he should propose a relaxation of them for this purpose. He should now propose that the Bill be read a second time, and provisions might be afterwards introduced into it with a view to facilitate permanent endowments of that kind, which would, in many parishes, make up the deficiency caused by the failure of church rates. There was another provision, which his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) had omitted. In the Bill of last year, power was given to raise funds by rents for letting a certain number of the seats in the church. He (Sir G. Grey) was inclined to think it would be better to restore that provision to the present Bill, and he would remark that the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Marquess of Blandford) had introduced a clause into his own Bill of this Session by which, with reference to all those churches which were not entitled to the benefit of any church rate—namely, the new district churches, power would be given to raise funds for the maintenance of the church, by charging a rent for a limited number of the pews, of course that power being entrusted to competent hands. It was a great anomaly in the law, that only the parish churches, exclusively so called, should be entitled, even when a church rate was levied, to any benefit from the rate. In the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square, for instance, and in many another parish of large towns or cities, the original parish church would be found to have been multiplied tenfold or more; there were district churches all round it in which the services of the Church of England were performed, and which were the strength and ornament of the Established Church, yet which were not entitled to a farthing of the funds provided by a church rate. In a country parish it was different, because there probably the parish church was the only church in the parish. If the Bill were read a second time, the Government would propose their Amendments, leaving sufficient time to consider them before going into Committee. In taking that course, fortified by the authority of the Bill of the Archbishop of Canterbury of last year, they had, he conceived, the best prospect of a satisfactory settlement of the question. He could not see that any of the schemes which had yet been proposed afforded such a prospect. Every attempt generally to reimpose church rates to a limited amount, or for special objects, he believed would fail. He therefore trusted that the House would give its impartial consideration to the Amendments which the Government intended to propose.


said, he thought the Amendments which the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had indicated were so exceedingly unlike the Bill before the House that it would be only fair for the Government to reject the measure of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets altogether, and bring in a new one of their own in its place. Several Bills on the same subject had been that day alluded to, and it was some gratification to him (Mr. Drummond), obliged, as he was, to differ from a great deal that had been spoken in the debate, to be able to agree, at least, in this much—that he equally disapproved them all, whether it was the measure of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, or those proposed by hon. Members on either side of the House. Let them only observe what had happened in that House but the other day. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey) introduced a most admirable measure to extend the provisions of the police law throughout all the towns and districts in England; and what then occurred? Why, immediately uprose those populous cities of which they a moment ago heard so much, and raking up an array of musty old charters, they straightway put in a claim for prescription—they pleaded Royal grants, and brought forward their receipts for moneys paid—for valuable consideration given! But he defied any one of the whole mass of those corporations to produce the least evidence of such undoubted prescription as the Church could assert in support of its rates. Why, those rates were as ancient as the establishment of Christianity in that country. Our churchwardens, whom the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) meant kindly to continue, after he had relieved them of all their functions, dated from as remote a period as the year 1147. But, then, the hon. Baronet asked the extraordinary question—"What is a National Church?" In every nation in the world the Sovereign of the country had found it to be his absolute duty to provide the means of public worship for his people. Those means necessarily were public buildings, but the hon. Gentleman seemed to think it a perfect answer to the asserted existence of a National Church that there were some persons in these kingdoms who dissented from her communion. Was there ever a nation on earth in which there were no Dissenters? The Greek Church had its heterodox sects who dissented from the orthodox creed, by having their ritual translated into the Sclavonic tongue instead of being confined to the Greek; and even among the Mahomedan Turks and the people of Persia conflicting religious opinions prevailed. The National Church of a country, however, was that church whose faith the Sovereign professed. [Murmurs.] Would hon. Gentlemen who demurred to that assertion adduce an instance in which the fact was otherwise? The first obligation of a State was to provide the means of worship for the people; but this country was not possessed of those means; and why? Because of a dereliction of duty on the part of our bishops. Why were our churches not filled with worshippers? Because we had allowed them to be monopolised by being divided off into pews. Why, it was the bishops themselves who had forced the people into the ranks of Dissent by shutting them out of their parish churches. Moreover, it was an error to suppose that the Dissenters have ever been the enemies of the Established Church. Its real enemies were the bishops, its own spiritual heads. It was very strange that the hon. Baronet who brought forward the question, now for the third time, and evidently understood it, had invariably omitted to mention this one little circumstance, that in every single instance in which money was collected by a rate no option was given to the ratepayer to pay, or to decline to pay. It was left to no man's will whether or not he should contribute towards a lighting rate, a paving rate, or a poor rate. The case might be different in regard to the fixing of the amount of any impost that should be payable; but no power was over granted to any one to refuse to contribute at all. Now that very thing had been often tried to be done by the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson), but the Government had always found that it would not work—that it was utterly impossible to support our county gaols, our police, and other institutions, if such a discretion were vested in the ratepayers. Why, then, were church rates to form an exception to an otherwise inflexible rule? The right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) said that church rates were an uncertain and imperfect provision as the law now stood; but why could they not reckon up what was wanted, and then take the amount whatever it was? "Oh!" it was replied, "the Braintree case has settled the question." Well, so it had—there could be no doubt of that. The Lords came down, as the Earl of Derby described in his speech only a few nights since, and upset the decisions of all our courts of law, going also directly in the teeth of the judgment of the law Lords on this matter. The Peers would not allow the Lords' House to be repaired, and now their own House was on the eve of being pulled down about their ears. But hon. Gentlemen in the assembly he was addressing were constantly proclaiming their object to be the moral and religious elevation of the people. They wished to embue them with a taste for the fine arts. They had their schools of design, their public lecture rooms, their circulating libraries, and all sorts of appliances of that description. They also wanted the working classes to go on Sunday to inspect the fragments of religious temples which had been brought home from Egypt, from Babylon, and from Greece; and yet, at the same time, they called upon them to let their own religious edifices crumble to ruins. Their religious buildings were, par excellence, the true monuments of the fine arts. Really, some hon. Gentlemen did not seem to know what the fine arts meant. Painting, sculpture, and architecture were but different modes of representing, by material forms, sentiments that could not be expressed by words. If we fancied that we could inspire true feelings of devotion in any other places so well as it could be done in our venerable cathedrals and parochial churches, we made a sad mistake. But we had gone on reducing the whole of our ancient ritual, until we had left a mere residuum of intellectual philosophy; and yet some innocent people were astonished at the spread of schism, and even of infidelity, while murder and crime were on the increase daily. Every householder in England had taken his house subject to the charge of church rates, and was that rate to be allowed to go into the pockets of the landlords? Rather than that it should be paid into the Exchequer, which was not a little in want of it, and this universal plunder should not be permitted to go on. The Archbishops' Court—a great authority in theological matters—had just decided that there was no such thing as an altar in the Church of England. If that Church had no altar she had no priesthood, for priests were a portion of the clergy set apart to worship at an altar. If that church had no priests she had no bishops, who were a portion of the clergy set apart to consecrate priests, and if the Church of England had neither bishops nor priests, what right had she to tithes? Tithes were paid, not to deacons, but to priests, and if the Church of England had no altar she had no right to tithes. He would strongly recommend this subject to the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, as the Exchequer, as he had previously stated, was not at present very rich, might be able to turn the intimation which he (Mr. Drummond) had given to some account. His noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) had been recommended to take the matter into his hands, and he had no doubt that if the noble Lord acted upon the suggestion he would deal with the subject in his usual bold and dashing manner. The noble Lord did not often meddle with ecclesiastical affairs, but when he did, there was no reason to doubt that he would settle them with his usual ability. Some time since a certain old gentleman in Rome bothered himself about the immaculate conception of a woman who had been dead for centuries, hut since his noble Friend had answered for the immaculate conception of all the babies in Romsey, he doubted not that his noble Friend would settle the church-rate question also. In his (Mr. Drummond's) opinion, if the views of the Government were carried out, they would see a sweeping measure of Church spoliation, and a total separation would be effected between Church and State.


said, he should not have thought it necessary to address the House on the question before them had he not been informed that, in his absence, the noble Member for Colchester (Lord J. Manners) had thought proper to make what he could not but regard as a most uncalled-for and unprovoked personal attack upon him. That noble Lord, he understood, had been pleased to say that, on the last occasion when this question was debated in the House, certain Members of the Government, headed by what ho termed a "reckless Attorney General," went into the lobby in favour of the Bill. He did not know whether the noble Lord who had made this attack upon him in his absence, and who when he (the Attorney General) rose to answer that attack immediately left the House, meant by the terms he had used to refer to his general conduct, or to his conduct with reference to this particular question. He had now been for some years a Member of that House, and a Member of the Government, and he thought he might safely and fairly appeal to the House whether his conduct in either capacity justified the imputation of recklessness which had been applied to him by the noble Lord? He did not know whether the noble Lord had meant to refer to the part he had taken in former discussions on the subject, but he would confidently appeal to hon. Gentlemen who recollected the debate of last year, whether he had not then addressed the House in favour of the measure in the most conciliatory spirit. He had, on that occasion, spoken with the most profound respect of the Church of England, and stated that, if he could bring himself to believe that the abolition of church rates would involve the destruction or decay of those venerable edifices which were associated with some of their most hallowed recollections, and their earliest ideas of happiness and peace, he for one would not support such a measure. He took the liberty of saying, however, that he did not think the abolition of church-rates would have any such effect, and that he believed the provision which his hon. Friend (Sir W. Clay) proposed to make for the maintenance of the fabric and of the services of the church would be found fully adequate for those purposes. He also expressed his conviction that the members of the Church of England would not allow their churches to fall into decay, or their worship to be discontinued for want of sufficient means for their support. On the other hand, he had said there was no question that the payment of church rates was felt by Dissenters to be a very serious grievance. That was admitted on all hands, and also by the noble Member for Colchester himself; but, though the noble Lord admitted the grievance, he proposed no remedy for it. Now, if such a grievance existed, surely it was desirable to endeavour to grapple with it, and ascertain whether it could not be removed. It was true that the payment of church rates was an imposition which had attached to the possession of real property from immemorial times, and that such property had been acquired by its present possessors subject to that impost; but Dissenters said that, when the imposition was first annexed to the possession of land and real property, the Church of England was the Church of the whole population of this Realm, whereas now the Dissenters constituted a very large proportion of that population, and they contended that, while they had to provide for the maintenance of fabrics for their own worship, it was only fair that the property held by them should be relieved from an imposition which fairly and properly attached to it when the whole population were one in religious opinion. He (the Attorney General) believed they could never overcome the conscientious scruples of Dissenters, or remove the sense of injustice they entertained, by reminding them that the church rate was an imposition which had from time immemorial attached to all real property. Did any one believe that the imposition of church rates could be continued for any considerable period? He did not believe they could, and he therefore thought it desirable that, as early as possible, they should endeavour, in a spirit of conciliation and peace, to arrive at a just settlement of the question. It was upon these grounds that he had offered to give his support to any measure which appeared to be practical, with the object of removing this cause of heartburning and strife between Churchmen and Dissenters. He asked the House, therefore, whether there was anything in those views to justify the noble Lord in personally attacking him in his absence. He did not mean to deny that he felt attacks of this kind, but his sensitiveness was proportionate to the weight and importance of the persons by whom such attacks were made; and, although he did not wish to say anything personally offensive to the noble Member for Colchester, he must observe that he did not think there was anything in the noble Lord's position in that House, or in his general reputation for sagacity and wisdom, that should cause him (the Attorney General) to feel very deeply the attack which had been made upon him.


I have listened, Sir, with great attention to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, and I had hoped that, when there were measures before the House on the subject of church rates, my right hon. Friend might have been enabled, on the part of the Government, to indicate some course which, if it did not meet with general or universal assent, might at least have satisfied the majority of this House, and have smoothed the difficulties which attached to the question before us. That there are difficulties connected with this question I certainly must be one of the foremost to admit, because, having often endeavoured to frame a measure which would satisfy others as well as myself, I cannot, however, say that I have ever been successful in the attempt. With respect to the proposal which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, he has chosen the inconvenient course, as I think, of not bringing into this House a measure founded upon the principles he has indicated; but while proposing to sanction by his vote and by the votes of his colleagues a Bill framed in a very different spirit, he holds out the hope that he will be able to introduce in Committee, not some simple alterations merely, but material and somewhat complicated provisions. I must say that, however, I may object to the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend (Sir W. Clay), I think the course he has taken and the proposals he has made are in themselves very intelligible. I have understood my hon. Friend and other hon. Members, whose names are upon the back of his Bill, to have said repeatedly that they think it is a great hardship to compel Dissenters from the Church of England to contribute to the maintenance of the fabric of a church which they do not attend, and to pay for the support of a form of worship from which they conscientiously dissent; and that from such a hardship Dissenters ought to be relieved. Now, Sir, I for one do not agree in that proposition; but the proposal, I willingly confess, is in itself a perfectly clear one, and one that I should be prepared, if necessary, to argue at this moment with my hon. Friend. But then comes the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who makes, on the part of the Government, a proposal which places us in this position—that we must consider whether it would be advisable to accept, as it at present stands, the Bill of my hon. Friend, to which, as I have said, I object; or to accept the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary; or, lastly, whether it would not be better, rather than accept either of those proposals, to leave the law in its present state, even admitting that state to be unsatisfactory. I conceive that the case as it stands at present is this:—Here is an ancient law, declared to be so by the most eminent Judges of the land, which imposes on each parish the legal obligation of repairing the fabric of the parish church and providing for the celebration of divine worship in that church. Chief Justice Tindal and Lord Truro, among other learned Judges, have maintained that this legal obligation exists; but they have said at the same time that it is an obligation which could not be enforced against the will of a majority of the parishioners. They have asserted, not that the obligation ceased, or that the law was abrogated, but that the obligation is one that can be evaded. Well, it appears to me that the persons who have a grievance on this subject are, in fact, the members of the Established Church; because they may say—here is an ancient law imposing an obligation, which was confessedly intended for and necessary to the sustentation of the Established Church, but that obligation cannot be enforced. Some persons may say, as my right hon. Friend (Sir G. Grey) has said to-night, "If we were to attempt to give force and validity to the law, and to compel persons to fulfil the obligation, which great Judges have said attaches to them, we should disturb the peace of the country, we should create a great deal of ill-feeling, and we should provoke hostility to the Church itself." Now, Sir, I think the Church may fairly answer, "That is a question for Ministers of State; we accept your allegation; we are willing to acquiesce in what you say; we will not attempt to enforce obligations, which, in your opinion, might affect the peace of the community; but do tell us in what other way you propose to provide for the maintenance of the Church." Well, Sir, does my right hon. Friend comply with that which he thinks is a fair demand on the part of the Church; a demand not insisting, observe, upon the literal enforcement of the law, but only asking that the necessary purposes should be provided for? Why, my right hon. Friend says in the first place, that that which was admitted to be a practical evasion—that which was admitted to be a successful defeat of the law—they now propose to legalise by Act of Parliament, and thereby to say that that resistance shall receive the sanction of the Legislature. In my opinion, this proposal increases the claim of the Church to some substitute for that which you propose to take away; but does my right hon. Friend go on to propose that substitute? Does he attempt to do what the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) proposes to do, and I have no doubt sincerely believes he will accomplish, though I think he may fail—with the view of effecting complete and universal peace on this subject? My right lion. Friend (Sir G. Grey) does no such thing. I understand that he proposes to continue this impost in parishes where the majority of the ratepayers choose to carry the law into effect, but he says to the opponents of the impost:—"If you can get a majority; if, by contest, by repeated agitation, by discussions in the vestry year after year, by hot and vehement and even riotous debates you can make it unpleasant to Churchmen to attend the vestry, and so gain a majority against the rate, then you will have your reward, and church rates in your parish will be put an end to." Now, Sir, I ask the House, is this proposal one that is likely to satisfy the Church? Is it one that will meet the claims of those who allege their conscientious objections against the payment of this impost? Is it one that is likely to establish peace? I venture to say that it will do no one of these three things. If we give up the rights of the Church, let us satisfy the Dissenters and gain the peace they promise us. If we refuse to satisfy the Dissenters, then let us in some way or other provide for that which is a fair claim for the Church. But that a Government should do neither of these things, but should in the midst of a conflict interpose with a measure which would not still the waves, but add fresh violence to the storm, is a course which I think will hardly receive the sanction of this House. My right hon. Friend, in order to make the matter still more complicated, proposes that those persons who object to paying church rates, and who, being the minority in the parish, might be coerced by the vote of the majority into such payment, shall be at liberty, when the rate-book is carried round, to state their objections thereto—


Will the noble Lord allow me to state that they must not be members of the Church of England.


I was coming to that. When the rate-book is carried round they are to say, not that they are Dissenters of a particular persuasion, or Roman Catholics, but that they are not members of the Church of England, and thereupon they may claim exemption. Now this proposal seems to me to embarrass the question still further. I have on former occasions stated my objections to such a proposition, and I certainly think that the exemption of persons who merely say that they are not Churchmen would have a tendency to create great discord in parishes. I may be forgiven, perhaps, for saying that upon this subject I have always been afraid of two classes of men. The first class are those who, saying very fairly that they object to an Established Church, and that they do not think it right that the Church of a portion of the people should be called a National Church, wish to resort to the voluntary system and propose to attack this outwork, namely, church rates, thinking it to be, as it certainly is, much weaker than the citadel, in the hope that in time they will carry the citadel itself. Then there is another class of men to whom I fear that most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of Canterbury has listened rather too much, who, being not only Churchmen, but very high Churchmen, are most anxious to separate the clergy and laity of the Established Church from the community in general, to cut off those who are Protestant Dissenters, and whose doctrines they do not deem orthodox, from any concern in the affairs of the Church; and thereby in the end to create a sectarian Establishment, which I think would not long maintain the dignity, the property, or the possessions of the national Establishment. My right hon. Friend proposes that men shall be exempt from the payment of church rates because they are not Churchmen, and that such persons shall not have a voice in the parish vestry whenever any question arises in which a vote is taken. I think this proposal, which would fix a mark on these persons, and, in all probability, on their children and descendants, as not belonging to the Church, is calculated to give a sectarian character to the Church of England, which I trust will still continue to be the National Church of the great mass of the people. There is many a man who, at one time of his life, does not much like the Church of England, who entertains objections to the church services, and who will not attend church, but who, perhaps, some three or four years later forms different opinions, who becomes an attendant at church, and who maintains his right to attend the vestries. Now, I think it is not desirable to put a mark on these men, or to alienate them from the Church. I am desirous that they should attend the vestries, and take such part in the proceedings as they think proper, and I, therefore, object to that part of my right hon. Friend's measure, which might affect their right to do so. But, let us consider this rate, in itself of very trifling amount, in the light in which it is regarded by the farmers in country parishes. They say, that this rate is levied by a very ancient law; that the fabric of the church is much respected, and that everybody who has property should pay towards the repair of that fabric. The rate may be a halfpenny, a penny, or perhaps three halfpence in the pound, and it is paid by the great majority of the farmers; but then they are told that fanner Such-a-one and farmer Such-another, and the baker and the tailor in the village, have all objected to pay the rate, on the allegation that they are not Churchmen, without making any particular declaration of faith; and that therefore the payments of those who contribute to the rate will be proportionately increased. Of course, if there are 200 persons in the parish liable to the rate, and fifty object to its payment, it will fall so much more heavily on the other 150; and in this way you will cause fresh dissension in parishes. I have had letters without end, from different parts of the country, from persons conversant with this subject, who say that there has hitherto been no quarrel or dissention about church rates in their respective localities, but that the rates have been peaceably ordered and collected; but when you have a certain number of men objecting to the rate, and thereupon released from its payment, do not expect that peace will any longer prevail. Instead of leaving in their present state, parishes, where no rates are paid, but where peace exists, and other parishes where rates are paid, and where harmony likewise prevails, my hon. Friend proposes to introduce a new element of dissention and disunion, and, in fact, to disturb that very peace which now exists, and which it is the object of any measure on this subject to promote. For these reasons I do not think the proposition which has been submitted to the House by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the part of the Government is likely to lead to a satisfactory settlement of this question. I should be very glad if I were able to point out to the House any plan for its immediate settlement which, in my opinion, would be satisfactory. I have stated, on former occasions, that church rates are a charge upon the land, and that I think they ought to remain chargeable upon the land. In my opinion, if landowners were to consent to the immediate abolition of church rates, although they might make some immediate pecuniary saving, they would adopt a very shortsighted policy. I, therefore, most unwillingly, but very decidedly, must give my vote against the second reading of this Bill, because I think it will not mitigate the evil which it seeks to remedy. In so doing I must say, however, that if this Bill really carried into effect the object professed in its title, "to abolish church rates and to make other provisions in lieu thereof," and, if such substitute could be found and such other provision were made, I should he ready to vote for its second reading and to consider its details in Committee. I find, however, as the noble Member for Colchester (Lord J. Manners) has well pointed out, that the Bill will only place the alms and voluntary offerings of members of the Church under the control of persons who may or may not be members of that Church. Suppose any member of the Church of England were to say—"I think there is great danger lest the chapels of Protestant Dissenters should fall into decay for want of adequate repairs, and I therefore propose a Bill which will place the voluntary offerings of Dissenters under the control of certain persons, to be elected and to be called auditors, who shall see that no abuse takes place, but that the money be properly applied to the maintenance of Dissenters' chapels;" I think the Dissenters would not thank the Gentleman who made such a proposal, but would say—"As you, the State, contribute nothing to us, and as we have the means of building and repairing our chapels, we beg you to leave us alone." I say, then, with regard to those parishes in which church rates have been abolished, that Churchmen will be better off if you leave them alone than if you meddle with them, as you propose to do by this Bill. With respect to other parishes in which church rates are collected, it may be necessary in some cases to provide that the contributions of Churchmen should be applied to the purposes for which they were given; but the incumbent and the churchwarden appointed by him might take care that such funds were properly applied, and this object could be effected by a much less complicated scheme than that proposed by the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay). I am exceedingly sorry that we do not seem much nearer than we were to the settlement of this long-vexed question. Certainly I for one cannot assent to the principle put forward by the Protestant Dissenters, that, as a matter of conscience, church rates ought to be abolished. That is a somewhat new scruple on their part. When it was proposed in former days that Dissenters should not be compelled to attend church, and that they should not be prevented from having chapels of their own, it was very properly argued that it was a principle of religious liberty that they should be allowed to worship God according to their own forms; but it was not then contended that they should not be compelled to make any payment to the National Church. That claim has arisen in more modern times. It seems to me to be a part, but only a part, of the voluntary principle; but I cannot believe, with my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets, that complete and universal peace would follow the enactment of the Bill which he proposes. On the contrary, I believe that having carried this measure, having sanctioned the abolition of church rates without providing a substitute, fresh attacks would be made; and, not being willing to countenance or favour those attacks, I shall oppose the second reading of the Bill.


Sir, after the censure my noble Friend has passed upon the course which Her Majesty's Government have, upon full consideration, determined to pursue with reference to this subject, I feel it my duty to address some observations to the House. This question I fully admit is one surrounded by the greatest possible difficulties. If that had not been the case it would long since have been settled by some legislative enactment. Having seen the various plans which have been proposed by different Members of this House with the view of effecting a settlement of this question, and having fully considered a great variety of suggestions which have been made to us from other quarters, we prepared that scheme which my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department has to-night explained. Our opinion was, that this plan would be most conveniently submitted to the consideration of Parliament by being proposed in Committee as an Amendment to the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets. Now, although my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) has been abundant in his censures and in his condemnation of the course we are prepared to follow, I did not discover from his speech that he could suggest any other plan which he thought more deserving of the approbation of Parliament. My noble Friend maintains that the church rate is the property of the Church by ancient prescription and by the law of the land; hut when he endeavoured to show that the existing law of the land enabled the Church to avail itself of this property, he utterly failed in doing so, for he was obliged to confess that the law, as now declared by the highest authorities, is impotent for his purpose, and that practically the church rate is a voluntary contribution in each parish of the kingdom. I say "a voluntary contribution," because, according to the law as it has been declared to stand, it depends upon the voluntary act of the ratepayers in each parish whether they will or will not raise this particular rate. It is, then, a mockery to tell the Church that it possesses a property of which it is unable to avail itself, of which it may be deprived by the vote of a majority of the ratepayers, and from which we know that in a great number of the most populous parishes of the kingdom it has been unable to derive any benefit. The course we intend to pursue is, to recognise the existing state of things in parishes where church rates are levied, and to provide another arrangement for those parishes in which a different set of circumstances has arisen. But my noble Friend says that that part of our plan lays the foundation of perpetual strife. Now, sir, what is the present state of the law? Why, you are liable to have in every parish every year that battle in the vestry which my noble Friend wishes to avoid—that struggle whether a rate shall or shall not be imposed, and the recent decisions of the courts of law are an encouragement to the continuance of such contests. Unless some other arrangement is therefore adopted, it is perfectly plain that the peace and harmony which it is the object of my noble Friend, and I trust of every Member of this House, to establish cannot by any possibility be expected to prevail. Then I say that the course which we propose to pursue is one which in reason ought to recommend itself to the approbation of Parliament. What says authority on the subject? My noble Friend, indeed, disdains authority. With all his respect and veneration for the Church, he throws over, without the slightest hesitation, the opinions of the head of the Church, sanctioned by the dignitaries of the Church, and formally proposed to Parliament in the shape of a Bill submitted for the consideration of the other House. We have heard, on the Continent, of people who were more royalist than the King. My noble Friend is a greater Churchman than the head of the Church himself. I think the House will be more disposed to give its favourable consideration to a measure which, upon full deliberation, the leaders of the Church have thought not inconsistent with the interests of the Church, than it will be to listen to the arguments of those who want things to remain in their present state. We have been brought into a condition in which there is no alternative between that which hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to do—to make the levy of church rates compulsory upon every parish and upon every ratepayer in every parish—or coming to some arrangement such as that which we have thrown out for the consideration of Parliament. To revert to that which was believed anciently to be the law, is what I do not think, in the present state of opinion, this House will be prepared to do. In the present state of religious differences the House will not, I am sure, adopt a measure to make a church rate compulsory—compulsory upon every parish to levy, and compulsory upon every parishioner to pay. That is entirely out of the question, and if anybody were rash enough to propose it, there would not, I am confident, be the slightest chance of such a measure receiving the assent of Parliament. What, then, are we to do? Shall we allow things to remain as they are? That would be to sanction the abolition of church rates in a great number of parishes, and to lay the foundation of discord and strife—to use the words of my noble Friend—in all those parishes in which they have hitherto been levied. I believe, Sir, that the course which we propose to pursue is the only rational and safe one. We propose that where the rate has not been levied, or where it shall not be levied, there it shall be voluntary in one sense of the word—that is to say, those who do not regard themselves as members of the Church of England shall not be liable to have the rate forced upon them; but, on the other hand, we provide for an organisation for the proper application of those sums which, either by voluntary contribution or by the payment of a rate, shall be available for the repair of the fabric of the church and the maintenance of divine worship. That is a plan which, I am sure, the more it is considered the more hon. Members will feel it to be admirably calculated to obviate the difficulties of the case. If any hon. Gentleman can suggest a better, we shall be ready to consider it; but I feel that a strenuous and sincere effort should at length be made to settle this question, to which we have given the best consideration in our power. We believe that the arrangements which my right hon. Friend (Sir G. Grey) has explained will be calculated to accomplish the object in view, and we shall be prepared, when the Bill goes into Committee, to lay those arrangements in greater detail before the House. We are told that we ought to have brought in a separate Bill; that we ought to have rejected the measure now before the House, because it went further than we were prepared to go, and that we ought to have gone into the same lobby with those who differ from us as widely as hon. Gentlemen opposite do, for the purpose of voting against a Bill which in part we approve, in order afterwards to bring in a measure of our own. That course would not have been at all consistent with the purposes we have in view. We agree with the present Bill in regard to those parishes in which church rates have hitherto not been levied. We agree with the principle of the Bill as applicable in future to parishes in which the rate may be refused. It would, therefore, have been inconsistent with the opinions we entertain to simply reject the Bill. We believe that we can make it a good measure, and I flatter myself that when our alterations and amendments shall have been submitted to the consideration of Parliament, they will meet with general approbation.


, who rose amid loud calls for a division, said, he was sure the House would not be guilty of the injustice of coming to a vote without listening to one of those Dissenters whose interests were chiefly affected by the Bill. The noble Lord the Member for Colchester had professed to discern in the Bill a machinery intended to encroach upon the liberty of Churchmen to manage their own affairs. He could assure the noble Lord that the Dissenters were not only willing to give up the entire machinery, but would prefer to have the two abolition clauses pure and simple. That machinery was constructed by an eminent member of the Church of England, not with a view to please the dissenting body or to accomplish their objects, but to remove certain legal obstacles which were referred to in debate two or three years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, and to provide for the application of voluntary contributions in the safest and most practicable manner. He must be permitted to refer to one fallacy which ran through the entire argument of the opponents of the Bill now before the House, and which was not only popular in that House, but prevailed widely out of doors. To talk of "our Church," contributions made to "our Church," property settled on "our Church," was to speak as if the Church of England were a community separate from the nation at large. He did not understand that. He stood there on his right as a British subject to regulate a national institution in which he was as much interested as any other Member of the House; and although he might sustain the disadvantage of being unable to avail himself of the religious services of the Church, yet he claimed all the rights and powers with respect to the maintenance and regulation of the national Establishment which belonged to the strictest Churchman in the country. ["Oh, oh!"] He understood those cries of "Oh;" they meant how was it that he desired, holding such views, to escape from a national tax for the support of the Church? That was a fair argument, but one easily answered. The members of the Established Church, unlike the Dissenters, enjoyed the free use of all the churches throughout the country, and it was only fair that they should be asked to maintain them in an efficient state of repair. [Cries of "Divide!"] He knew that hon. Gentleman opposite were anxious to go to a division, and he, too, was desirous that the question should be decided by a vote before the House adjourned; but he thought that upon an occasion like the present, when all previous speakers had been members of the Church of England, some indulgence should be extended to one who wished to express the sentiments of a very large portion of Her Majesty's subjects. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London had stated that, if he saw any substitute for the church rate, he would be willing to vote for the second reading of the Bill. It had amused him—it would amuse any Dissenter acquainted with the operations of the voluntary principle—to witness the perplexity of noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen to find a substitute for the church rate. It reminded him of the old lady who searched every room in the house for her spectacles, and found them at last on her nose. He would tell the friends of the Church that they had an excellent substitute, if they would only avail themselves of it, in the zeal and liberality of their own members. In Wales, a poor country, the Dissenters maintained all their own chapels, and in Ireland, a poorer country still, the Roman Catholics did the same. It was only in England, a rich country, where the great body of the landowners belonged to the Established Church, that any difficulty was felt in providing for the sustentation of religious edifices and the maintenance of divine service. But he believed that if they were to open the vein of liberality and benevolence which he had indicated, the result would astonish themselves; and certain he was that if the Bill were carried it would do more to advance the Church in its spiritual power and influence than all the rates ever levied.


I am informed, Sir, that, having left the House for a few minutes, the hon. and learned Attorney General commented on my absence, and expressed himself displeased with some expressions which he alleged had fallen from me in debate. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that I had not the faintest wish in any way to offend him, and if any expressions dropped from my mouth which did hurt his feelings, I am most anxious to retract them. I beg leave, in conclusion, to assure him that, whatever opinion he may entertain of me, I entertain towards him no feeling but one of the highest respect.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 221; Noes 178: Majority 43.

List of the AYES.
Acton, J. Bethell, Sir R.
Adair, H. E. Biddulph, R. M.
Adair, R. A. S. Biggs, W.
Agnew, Sir A. Black, A.
Alcock, T. Bonham-Carter, J.
Anderson, Sir J. Bouverie, rt. Hon. E. P.
Antrobus, E. Brand, hon. H.
Bagshaw, J. Brocklehurst, J.
Bailey, C. Brockman, E. D.
Baines, rt. Hon. M. T. Brotherton, J.
Ball, E. Brown, H.
Ball, J. Brown, W.
Barnes, T. Bruce, H. A.
Baxter, W. E. Buckley, Gen.
Beaumont, W. B. Butler, C. S.
Bell, J. Byng, hon. G. H. C.
Bellew, T. A. Cardwell, rt. Hon. E.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Cavendish, hon. G.
Berkeley, G. C. L. Challis, Ald.
Chambers, T. Hutt, W.
Chaplin, W. J. Ingham, R.
Cobden, R. Jackson, W.
Cockburn, Sir A. J. E. Johnstone, J.
Coffin, W. Johnstone, Sir J.
Cowan, C. Keating, H. S.
Cowper, rt. hon. W. F. Kennedy, T.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Kershaw, J.
Crook, J. King, hon. P. J. L.
Crossley, F. Kingscote, R. N. F.
Cubitt, Ald. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Currie, R. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Denison, J. E. Langston, J. H.
Dent, J. D. Langton, H. G.
De Vere, S. E. Laslett, W.
Dillwyn, L. L. Layard, A. H.
Divett, E. Lee, W.
Drumlanrig, Visct. Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.
Duff, G. S. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Duff, J. Luce, T.
Duke, Sir J. MacEvoy, E.
Duncan, Visct. Mackie, J.
Duncan, G. Mackinnon, W. A.
Duncombe, T. M'Cann, J.
Dundas, F. Maguire, J. F.
Dungarvan, Visct. Mangles, R. D.
Dunlop, A. M. Marjoribanks, D. C.
Ebrington, Visct. Martin, J.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Martin, P. W.
Ellice, E. Massey, W. N.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Milligan, R.
Ewart, W. Mills, T.
Ewart, J. C. Milner, Sir W. M. E.
Fenwick, H. Moffatt, G.
Ferguson, J. Monck, Visct.
FitzGerald, Sir J. Moncreiff, J.
Fitzgerald, J. D. Morris, D.
FitzRoy, rt. hon. H. Mowatt, F.
Foley, J. H. H. Mulgrave, Earl of
Forster, C. Muntz, G. F.
Forster, J. Murrough, J. P.
Fortescue, C. S. Napier, Sir C.
Fox, W. J. North, F.
Freestun, Col. O'Connell, Capt. D.
Gallwey, Sir W. P. Oliveira, B.
Gardner, R. Osborne, R.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Otway, A. J.
Gifford, Earl of Palmerston, Visct.
Glyn, G. C. Paxton, Sir J.
Goderich, Visct. Pechell, Sir G. B.
Gower, hon. F. L. Pellatt, A.
Greene, J. Perry, Sir T. E.
Gregson, S. Pigott, F.
Grenfell, C. W. Pilkington, J.
Greville, Col. F. Pinney, Col.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Pollard-Urquhart, W.
Grey, R. W. Ponsonby, hon. A. G. J.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Power, N.
Hadfield, G. Raynham, Visct.
Hall, rt. hon. Sir B. Reed, J. H.
Hankey, T. Ricardo, O.
Hastie, Alex. Rice, E. R.
Hastie, Arch. Ridley, G.
Headlam, T. E. Robartes, T. J. A.
Heathcoat, J. Roebuck, J. A.
Heneage, G. M. Russell, F. C. H.
Herbert, H. A. Scholefield, W.
Hervey, Lord A. Scobell, Capt.
Heywood, J. Scrope, G. P.
Heyworth, L. Scully, F.
Hindley, C. Seymour, W. Digby
Horsman, rt. hon. E. Shafto, R. D.
Hutchins, E. J. Shelley, Sir J. V.
Sheridan, R. B. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Smith, J. A. Vivian, H. H.
Smith, J. B. Walmsley, Sir J.
Smith, M. T. Warner, E.
Smith, rt. hon. R. V. Watkins, Col. L.
Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W. Wells, W.
Stanley, Lord Whatman, J.
Stanley, hon. W. O. Whitbread, S.
Steel, J. Wilkinson, W. A.
Stirling, W. Willcox, B. M'G.
Strutt, rt. hon. E. Williams, W.
Sullivan, M. Willoughby, Sir H.
Swift, R. Wilson, J.
Tancred, H. W. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Thompson, G. Wise, J. A.
Thornely, T. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Thornhill, W. P. Wyvill, M.
Tomline, G. Clay, Sir W.
Vane, Lord H. Miall, E.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Farrer, J.
Adderley, C. B. Fellowes, E.
Annesley, Earl of Fergusson, Sir J.
Arbuthnott, hon. Gen. Filmer, Sir E.
Archdall, Capt. M. Floyer, J.
Bagge, W. Follett, B. S.
Bailey, Sir J. Forester, rt. hon. Col.
Baillie, H. J. Freshfield, J. W.
Bankes, rt. hon. G. Gilpin, Col.
Barrington, Visct. Gladstone, rt. hon. W.
Barrow, W. H. Gladstone, Capt.
Bateson, T. Goddard, A. L.
Bennet, P. Gooch, Sir E. S.
Beresford, rt. hon. W. Gore, W. O.
Bignold, Sir S. Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
Blackburn, P. Graham, Lord M. W.
Blakemore, T. W. B. Greene, T.
Bond, J. W. M'G. Guinness, R. S.
Bramley-Moore, J. Gwyn, H.
Bramston, T. W. Haddo, Lord
Buck, L. W. Hale, R. B.
Buck, Col. Halford, Sir H.
Bunbury, W. B. M'C. Hall, Gen.
Burroughes, H. N. Harcourt, G. G.
Butt, G. M. Harcourt, Col.
Cecil, Lord R. Hardinge, hon. S. C.
Chelsea, Visct. Hardy, G.
Child, S. Hayes, Sir E.
Christy, S. Heathcote, Sir W.
Cobbold, J. C. Heneage, G. H. W.
Cocks, T. S. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Cole, hon. H. A. Herbert, rt. hon. S.
Coles, H. B. Herbert, Sir T.
Colvile, C. R. Hildyard, R. C.
Compton, H. C. Holford, R. S.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Hotham, Lord
Davies, D. A. S. Hume, W. F.
Davies, J. L. Jermyn, Earl
Davison, R. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Deedes, W. Jolliffe, H. H.
Dering, Sir E. Jones, Adm.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Jones, D.
Drummond, H. Kelly, Sir F.
Duncombe, hon. A. Kendall, N.
Duncombe, hon. O. Kerrison, Sir E. C.
Du Pre, C. G. King, J. K.
East, Sir J. B. Knatchbull, W. F.
Egerton, Sir P. Knightley, R.
Estcourt, T. H. S. Knox, Col.
Evelyn, W. J. Langton, W. G.
Farnham, E. B. Legh, G. C.
Lennox, Lord A. F. Portal, M.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Powlett, Lord W.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Pritchard, J.
Lockhart, A. E. Robertson, P. F.
Lovaine, Lord Russell, Lord J.
Lushington, C. M. Sandars, G.
Lytton, Sir G. E. L. B. Seymer, H. K.
Macartney, G. Sibthorp, Major
MacGregor, James Smijth, Sir W.
Maddock, Sir H. Smith, W. M.
Malins, R. Smith, A.
Manners, Lord G. Smyth, J. G.
March, Earl of Smollett, A.
Meux, Sip H. Spooner, R.
Miles, W. Stafford, A.
Milnes, R. M. Stanhope, J. B.
Michell, W. Stracey, Sir H. J.
Montgomery, Sir G. Stuart, Capt.
Moody, C. A. Thesiger, Sir F.
Morgan, O. Tollemache, J.
Mowbray, J. R. Tyler, Sir G.
Mullings, J. R. Vance, J.
Mundy, W. Vansittart, G. H.
Newark, Visct. Waddington, D.
Ncwdegate, C. N. Waddington, H. S.
Newport, Visct. Walcott, Adm.
North, Col. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Oakes, J. H. P. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Ossulston, Lord Warren, S.
Packe, C. W. Welby, Sir G. E.
Pakington, rt. hon. Sir J. Whiteside, J.
Palmer, Robert Whitmore, H.
Palmer, Roundell Wigram, L. T.
Parker, R. T. Wyndham, Gen.
Patten, Col. W. Wynn, Lieut. Col.
Peacocke, G. M. W. Wynne, W. W. E.
Peel, Gen.
Percy, hon. J. W. TELLERS.
Philipps, J. H. Manners, Lord J.
Phillimore, R. J. Northcote, Sir S. H.

said, that the division having been mainly taken upon the Amendments announced by the Government, he would be glad to know when those Amendments would be laid on the table?


Some day before the Easter recess. I would beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman, with reference to his remark, that last year the majority for the second reading of the Bill, when no such Amendments were announced by the Government, was considerably smaller than upon the present occasion.


said, he wished to inquire whether the Bill would now be regarded as a Government measure, and taken on Government days, or left to take its chance as the Bill of a private Member?


replied, that it was not a Government Bill, und could not take precedence of Government business. But the Government would in future give facilities for its discussion in case its introducer, as a private Member, should be unable to effect a satisfactory arrangement himself. When the House went into Committee the Government would be prepared to submit their Amendments.


I do not intend to enter into the comparative statistics of different Sessions; but as the right hon. Gentleman has referred to the division of last year, I may as well remind him that on that occasion I believe he voted with those who now sit on this side of the House.


Allow me to state that the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I was not in the division, but I stated, in reply to a question, that the Government did not feel themselves in a position to support the Bill, because they had not any Amendments prepared.


said, whatever doubt there might be as to the way in which the Home Secretary had voted last year, there was no doubt that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had both spoken and voted against the Bill. He confessed he was somewhat surprised at the result of the division which had just taken place. There would, however, be other opportunities of trying the principle of the Bill. With the elements which the Government had introduced into the discussion the division could hardly be regarded as a division on a Bill proposed by a private Member.


said, that the comparison between the division of last year and that which had just taken place, showed that they were progressing in the question.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°.

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