HC Deb 21 April 1858 vol 149 cc1424-73

Order for Committee read.


moved that the House resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair."


rose to move, by way of Amendment, that the House resolve itself into the said Committee on that day six months. He regretted that this question had not fallen into abler hands, though certainly that regret had no reference to the difficulties of the question. On the contrary, he thought that the arguments were all on one side. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Trelawny) in bringing forward this measure explained his reason for taking it up on the ground that he had formerly been Chairman of a Committee which sat in this House upon the Church Rate Question. Now he (Mr. Packe) thought that was the very reason why the hon. Member should have been the last man in the House to bring it forward; because, though that Committee was composed of several dissenting Members, and particularly had two members of the Society of Friends in the list, yet it separated without being able to come to any conclusion on the subject. The principal argument urged against church rates was, that the Dissenters were prevented by conscientious scruples from paying them. No man respected conscientious scruples more than he did; hut there seemed ground to doubt whether the objection to church rates proceeded from conscientious or pecuniary motives. He could understand a conscientious motive operating when a man who had been insufficiently taxed sent £5 or £10 to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make up for the deficiency; but when a man, by the profession of conscientious scruples, saved his money, there was room for suspicion whether some other element did not mingle with the purely conscientious objection. The Committe on church rates which sat in 1851 laid the evidence they had received before the House; but they abstained from making any Report, and it was very clear that they did so abstain because the evidence of Dissenters showed that it was not always a conscientious objection which was entertained against church rates, but that in many cases the objection arose from a very different source than that of conscience'. he would not weary the House by reading any long passages from the evidence referred to, but he would quote one or two passages from the statements of Dissenting witnesses, which would show that the refusal frequently arose from anything but conscientious scruples. The first witness called was Mr. George Offer, who described himself as a Dissenter, though not belonging to any particular denomination. Mr. Offer said, "I am a Dissenter, but not attached to any one of the sects. I would be a Quaker but for the 'thee' and 'thou,' and the coat." It appeared that that gentleman had a number of tenants in White-chapel, and the following was a part of his evidence:— Do you suppose that your tenants object to this rate wholly upon conscientious grounds, or do you think that it presses upon their pockets?—I think that in many cases it is a pocket objection: in some cases it is the want of ability, and in some cases it is a conscientious objection. Should you think that the pocket objection applies to the majority of cases?—I think it does; I think that there is a total indifference about religion altogether; that they object merely to save their money. The next witness was Mr. Samuel Courtauld, a Unitarian, who came from a place very much connected with the agitation about church rates—namely, Braintree and the House might suppose that that gentleman was against every species of church rate; but that was not at all the case. He would give an extract from his evidence;— Do you hold any property in any other parish; except in the two to which you adverted in the first answers which you gave before the Committee; namely, the parishes of Booking and of Hal-stead?—Yes; I have other property. Have you any property in the parish of Gosfield?—Yes, a small portion. Has any church rate been imposed in the parish of Gosfield?—Yes, it has. Have you paid such church rate?—I have. Will you he pleased to state to the Committee under what circumstances you feel that you can consistently and conscientiously pay a church rate imposed in the parish of Gosfield, and cannot pay it imposed in the parish of Braintree?—In the parish of Gosfield T have been permitted to construct a family vault and erect a family mausoleum; I am consequently in the habit of resorting to the parish church of Gosfield on the death of any member of our family, and am thereby a par-taker of the advantages resulting from the church of Gosfield; under these circumstances, I thought that the argument of social justice which led me to deny payment of a rate to the church of Braintree, of Booking, and of Halstead, the services and ministrations of which I did not avail myself of, did not apply to the parish of Gosfield, in which I was thus a partaker of the benefits of the Church. Under these circumstances I felt it to be perfectly consistent to pay without scruple the church rate of Gosfield. I should, however, explain that I individually do not partake of what is called the conscientious objection, the religious objection, which is taken by many of my brother Dissenters. Mr. Pellatt, who occupied a scat in that House during the last Parliament, was one of the witnesses examined before the Committee, and in answer to a question with respect to the proceedings in the parish of Christchurch, Blackfriars, he said:— Although the fierceness of the question is a little moderated by a change of the church minister in the parish, Dissenters generally have a very powerful objection to the rate, and almost every year it is more or less contested; but recently, in consequence of the Rector who has lately been appointed being much more popular than the former, the subject has not gone to a poll. It was evident, then, that in that case the rate had not been refused on the ground of any conscientious objection, but simply in consequence of the unpopularity of the Rector. Mr. H. Terrell, an attorney, who described himself as an Independent, was asked whether, if the distinction which formerly existed of making two rates—one for the support of the fabric, and the other for ornaments and incidental expenses— were revived, any of the objections of Dissenters to church rates would be removed, and he replied,— I think it might with some Dissenters, and for two reasons; the first, because they might be disposed to pay. a rate for the fabric which would be applied to the parish burial-ground in which they might have graves; and, secondly, because Dissenters look on the fabrics as public property which may hereafter be used by different sects, as in the time of the Commonwealth. The first of these objections, at all events, did not rest upon conscientious grounds. He had quoted the evidence of witnesses who were Dissenters, and he need only say that a number of eminent Churchmen were examined on the subject, and were strongly in favour of the maintenance of church rates. He thought the slight interest felt in this question by the great body of the electors was evidenced by the fact that several gentlemen by whom it had been strongly advocated in Parliament had not been re-elected by their constituents. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Tre- lawny), for instance, retired from the representation of that borough in 1852, and was only re-elected last year. There had not been in Parliament a more able and indefatigable supporter of the abolition of church rates than Sir William Clay, yet he lost his seat at the last election. That circumstance might be regarded as an indication that the electors of the Tower Hamlets did not entertain any very strong anxiety for the abolition of church rates. There Was also another gentleman (Mr. Miall), the editor of the Nonconformist, who had, both as a writer and speaker, most strenuously advocated the abolition of church rates, and yet he had lost his seat for Rochdale at the late election. These facts might certainly be regarded as proving that the constituencies of the country felt very little interest in this question. The maintenance of church rates was objected to on the ground that they occasioned litigation in parishes; but he thought such litigation was altogether attributable to the persons who refused to pay the rates, and not to those by whom they were imposed under the existing law. Sir William Clay had proposed that provision should be made for the maintenance of parochial churches by means of pew rents; but was the House prepared to place those churches on a footing with the Opera-house, or with the exhibitions of Mr. Spurgeon at the Surrey Gardens? The effect of such a measure Would be to enable the rich— especially in the case of the clergyman being popular—to obtain exclusive access to the churches, which would be almost entirely closed against the poorer classes. It had been said during the recent debate on the subject by the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey) and by other hon. Gentlemen, that the decision of the House of Lords in the Braintree case had virtually put an end to church rates; and the consequence was that, this statement having gone forth to the public, many persons imagined that they were pursuing a laudable and legal course in resisting the payment of those rates. He (Mr. Packe) would, however, ask the permission of the House to read the language used by Lord Truro in delivering his judgment. That noble and learned Lord said:— It is satisfactory that some of the points most material to the decision are not in controversy. It is admitted that the parishioners of every parish are under an imperative legal obligation to provide for the necessary repair of the church, and the expenses incidental to public worship. It is admitted that the only authority by which a valid church rate can be made is the legal majority of the parishioners duly assembled in vestry. And it is admitted that the rate in question was not made with the consent of the actual majority of the vestry. I cannot help thinking that the circumstance of a number of persons, no doubt respectable in their general character and position, having been so misled as to avow their determination to disobey the law, and to refuse to perform an obligation unquestionably resting upon them, is so extraordinary that it has called forth much energy to overcome such illegal resistance to the law and duty. But I think the means by which that attempt is made, if successful, would produce public mischief much beyond that which is sought to be redressed. The subjects of this country are much too right-minded, and estimate too correctly the benefits that result from a general obedience to a law while it exists, and the enormous evil which may result from persons of the class of the ratepayers of this parish entering into an open and avowed combination to evade or defy the law, to render it probable that the evil example which had been set will be followed to much extent. This was the opinion expressed by Lord Truro in 1853, but since that period there had been great agitation throughout the country on the subject, and he believed that had the noble and learned Lord now been living, he would have found he had been too sanguine in his expectation that all Her Majesty's subjects were "too right-minded" to pursue a system of agitation which he had so strongly condemned. He (Mr. Packe) begged to move, as an amendment, that the House resolve itself into Committee this day six months.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed,— To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee," instead thereof.


said, he was somewhat disappointed at the manner in which this question had been brought under the consideration of the House; for, remembering the incidents of the last debate on the subject, he had confidently anticipated that at the accession to power of Her Majesty's present Government, the Bill would have been gracefully handed over to the noble Secretary for the Colonies (Lord Stanley), and would have been introduced by him as a Government measure. The majority which supported the second reading of the Bill would, have afforded an excuse, not altogether without precedent, for the adoption of such a course by her Majesty's present advisers. He consoled himself for his disappointment, however, with the belief that this subject was one of no inconsiderable number which it was probable the present Government would treat as open questions, and in that expectation be would give his cordial support to the Motion for going into Committee. The Returns which had been produced with reference to church rates on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil) were strongly relied upon by the opponents of this Bill; but he thought those returns weighed very lightly in the scale against the great principles upon which this question should be decided. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, referring to the Returns, said, "Here you find that church rates have been demanded in some 7,000 or 8,000 parishes, and they have only been refused in 300 or 400.'' He (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) might remind the House that the same argument was used more than twenty years ago. and it was then boasted that a successful opposition to church rates had been made only in some fifty or sixty parishes. The recent Returns proved, therefore, that there had been a growing feeling against the continuance of such rates. Any argument founded upon these Returns had, however, been answered during the last debate by the late Secretary for the Home Department (Sir G. Grey) who showed that the refusing parishes comprised a very large proportion of the population of the whole,) and by the noble Lord the present Secretary for the Colonies (Lord Stanley) who enumerated several classes of parishes in which church rates had certainly not been actually refused, but which could not fairly be regarded as in favour of the present system. The Returns, in fact, afforded no accurate criterion of the state of public feeling, for there were many parishes in which, although a strong objection was entertained to the rate, it was not opposed, cither on account of its small amount, for the sake of peace, or in order to retain the goodwill of a landlord. In many other parishes the rate was opposed in the vestry, and the objection was carried no further, or all opposition was suspended in the belief that the Legislature was pledged to deal with the question, and that it would be useless to enter upon a contest against a system which had been already doomed. There were three questions connected with this subject which, in his opinion, it was the duty of the House to consider — first, whether there was really a grievance in the system of church rates; secondly, whether, if that were the case, the abolition of the rates would rob the Church of her property; and, thirdly, whether any danger was likely to result from such abolition. When the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe) said, that so far as the Dissenters were concerned, the grievance was mainly one of the pocket, he must have formed a very low view of the character of many of fellow-subjects. In his (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen's) opinion the grievance of Dissenters was incontestable. He would quote high authority upon this point—he wished he could quote upon this subject the opinion of that right hon. Gentleman who was the corner-stone of the present Government— he meant, of course, the Chancellor of the Exchequer But, unfortunately, at the time of his re-election, that right hon. Gentleman's mind was so full of "painful misconceptions "that he found no time to allude to the subject they were then debating. But the Attorney General was more composed—he alluded to everything. That hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Kelly) said, on his recent re-election:— I do think that those who do not, and who, upon religious principles, cannot, with propriety, attend our chinches, may well complain that they should be obliged to contribute to their maintenance. There could be no doubt that an Attorney General was not exempt from the frailties of humanity, and might occasionally commit an oratorical indiscretion; but he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) thought the passage he had quoted expressed the deliberate convictions of a matured understanding, and he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would pay due attention to the opinion of their chief legal adviser. In his (Mr. Hugessen's) opinion, the Dissenter, contributing to the place of worship which he frequents, and thus; in his own way, supporting public religion, was not only compelled to make a second payment to that of which he did not approve, but was so compelled in a most vexatious and annoying manner. No Act of the Legislature defined the sum to be paid, but an arbitrary and uncertain tax was imposed upon him by a majority of his neighbours, often a very slender majority, obtained with difficulty, after an animating discussion and an exciting contest most prejudical to the interests of true religion. But it was urged that the Dissenter buys his property subject to these rates, as he does subject to tithes, and to other rates, and that, therefore, he ought not to complain. This was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—the President of the Board of Trade—(Mr. Henley) who spoke thus in his recent address to his faithful constituents:— I inherited my estate, and my father bought his estate subject to these payments, provided the rated inhabitants choose to levy them. If church rates were to be done away with by law that money would go into my pocket. Every tenant when he comes to take a farm says,' What are the rates and taxes and the rent? Generally speaking, he asks for the amount of the rates the first thing. Now, of course, if the rates are loss the rent will be more. Now, were these rates really a tax upon property or not? The contrary had been held by high authority. Dr. Lushington, speaking in that House in 1841 said, that this tax was originally levied on individuals by reason of their possessing property, real or personal, and in the same speech he Stated very clearly the argument of the Dissenter, that the church rate was first levied when the whole population was Roman Catholic, and when no one dared avow himself anything else—that it was continued at the Reformation, which was but the substitution of a dominant Protestant Church for the Catholic, and that when the Act of Toleration came it ought to have been discontinued. But to take a common sense view of the question. When property was purchased was the amount of church rates levied, or likely to be levied, ever taken into account? No; because it was impossible to form any calculation as to their amount. Tithes were regulated by Act of Parliament, and the amount of poor rates and highway rates might be calculated with some certainty; but church rates were an occupier's tax, and he did not believe they were taken into account either by landlords or tenants. The right hon. Gentleman said the effect of this Bill would be to put money into the landlord's pocket; but he ventured to say that no landlord would be able to raise his rent a single farthing if the measure were passed. That was a practical test, and if he (Mr. Huge3-sen) was right, the right hon. Gentleman's argument fell to the ground, and this was proved to be an occupier's tax, and as such was a grievance to the Dissenting occupier which ought to be remedied. Then, if these rates were abolished, would the Church be robbed of any property belonging to her? He hoped some hon. and learned Gentleman would explain how a thing could be the property of A which B had the power of giving or taking away. How could that be the property of the Church which, by the arbitrary decision of a vestry, might be withheld? He would ask the House to consider whether any danger was likely to accrue to the Church from the abolition of church rates. As a warm friend of the Church of England, he thought the argument that if these rates were abolished, the fabrics of the Church would be allowed to fall into decay was humiliating to churchmen. If a congregation would not voluntarily support their place of worship, were they worthy of having a place of worship at all? He knew he should be told that the Church of England was the national Church—the Church of the people—in which persons might worship without any payment. He wished the Church of England could be called a national Church in the real sense of the term; but it was a notorious fact, that more than one-half of the people of this country did not belong to the Church of England; and he did not know how, with one-half the people dissenting from it, it could be called "national." He might be told that there were in that Church many congregations whoso poverty would preclude them from maintaining their places of worship; but it so happened that the members of the Church of England constituted the richest portion of the population. He thought, remembering that circumstance, and also bearing in mind that dissent had been occasioned in the first instance to a great extent by the neglect find apathy of those who ministered in the Church in days now happily past, the House ought to proceed very carefully in dealing with a question of this nature. There might be some congregations which were really too poor to support the fabric of the Church, but was there no Church property which might be rendered available in such cases? He remembered that, during the last Session of Parliament, they were informed by the Home Secretary that the property of the Church, under the good management of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, was increasing at the rate of £80,000 or £100,000 a year. Would it not, then, be possible to set apart a portion of this property in aid of the maintenance of the Church in those parishes where poverty existed? In 1834 Lord Althorp made a proposal to place church rates upon the Consolidated Fund. In 1835 the late Sir Robert Peel, after quitting office, stated that, bad he continued in power, he would have endeavoured to settle this question upon the basis proposed by Lord Althorp, and he observed—"This is a practical question, which requires immediate settlement." The question, however, still remained unsettled. Various compromises had been suggested—one in 1856 by the late Home Secretary (Sir G. Grey) for whom he had a great respect, but who must allow him to say that if his name was destined to descend to posterity as that of a great statesman, it would not be that proposed compromise which would conduce to so desirable a result. But the day of compromise was past, and it was essential for the sake of the Church as well as of Dissenters that the tax should be abolished. The Dissenters were entitled to every consideration at the hands of the House. He could not forget how much they were indebted to Dissenters for the civil and religious liberties now enjoyed in England, or how many thousands of the people would never have heard the Word of God, or the name of their Redeemer, but for the voluntary exertions of the Dissenters, penetrating localities to which the labours of the Church had not extended. He had seen, with great regret, the statement made by Lord Derby to a deputation which waited upon him on this subject a few days ago. The noble Earl was represented to have said that, even if this Bill should be adopted by the House of Commons it would be rejected by the other branch of the Legislature. He (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) thought the other House might be left to show its independence of the noble Earl, but in his opinion this premature statement was not very respectful to the House of Commons. 1'or the sake of the Church this Bill ought to be passed. It was essential for the interests of the Church that she should be encouraged to trust and rely more upon the affections of the people. Free her then from the burden of rancour and animosity imposed upon her by this miserable tax. Were they afraid this would be a step towards the separation of Church and State? There were, probably, State reasons (he was not sure that there were Church reasons) which would prevent such a consequence. But whatever might be the result, let them do justly and fear not. For the sake of the Dissenter, let them relieve his conscience by passing this Bill, and for the sake of the Church let them once for all abolish an impost, which, conferring upon her a comparatively small amount of pecuniary benefit, attached to her an incalculable amount of ill-will and bitterness, and existed only at the expense of those feelings of brotherly love and charity which were the life, the soul, and the foundation of all real religion. He would vote for going into Committee.

MR. PUGH (Carmarthenshire)

Sir, I wish briefly to state the reasons which induce me to vote for going into Committe on this Bill. By doing so we shall promote that settlement of the question which the decision of the highest judicial authority in the country has rendered now more than ever necessary, and which is more the interest of the Church than of the Dissenter. The House of Lords having determined that a rate cannot be levied without the consent of the majority, the result is, that wherever there are Dissenters there may be a contest; and that being so, if this question remains unsettled, adieu to the peace of the Church, adieu to the peace of the country. How long is this state of things to last? Are church rate wars to be eternal? Is ecclesiastical dissension and discord and theological hatred to reign for ever? No friend of the Church will say so. It is now a quarter of a century since a body of men, no lovers of needless innovation, I mean the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, reported that the church rate question required immediate attention, and that the evils arising from the state of the law were rapidly spreading. If that was a weighty recommendation, then how much more must it be so now, when the House of Lords have declared that to be the law which before was not generally known, but only hidden in the breasts of lawyers, that the majority of a vestry may refuse a rate. Suppose that in those bygone days, in 1833, when a cabinet minister came down to this House, and with all the authority of Government proposed a settlement of the question. Suppose that settlement had then been accomplished. The Braintree case would never have been heard of. What dissensions, what heart burnings would have been spared, what feelings of eternal resentment! How can the interests of religion be expected to prosper in a parish agitated by such passions? How can any good be expected to proceed from such a fountain of bitterness? On the other hand, what beneficent measures might have been achieved? It is no exaggeration to say that, with the funds expended in the prosecution of that twenty years' suit, whole parishes might have been enriched with the blessings of education for many a long year yet to come. Is this no argument for a settlement of the question? And shall we not grow wiser from the contemplation of the misfortunes of others? And this country, so justly boasting in the administration of its laws, is the only one in the whole Christian world in which these scenes can he witnessed. For by the civil and the canon law, the churches are repaired by the clergy; and it is here alone that by law and custom the parishioners are charged with the repairs of the body of the church. That being the law, it is not for me to wish to take away that which length of time may have given her. It was impressed on the mind of the ancient Roman, that if the temples were not repaired, he would rue the shortcomings of his ancestors. I should be willing to vote for a commuted church rate, fixed upon the land, the Dissenting landowner being exempted altogether. Only let the Church receive a substitute which shall not be liable to the objections to which I have referred. For who that sees her committed to an unseemly contest in the enforcement of a rate purely personal, can wonder that murmurs should be heard, that invidious reflections should be made that she relics too much on worldly welfare. But take this timeworn weapon out of her hand, and replace it by those of better temper and more celestial workmanship, and she will reign in the affections of the people of this country, and wield a instead of a sword. Who would not applaud the Government, from whatever part of this House they may have come, by whose paternal care a settlement of this question was accomplished? Who would not envy the statesman by whom the consummation was achieved? I beg leave to thank the House for the kindness with which they have heard me.


said, he was ready to admit the expediency of their proceeding to deal in some manner or another with the question of church rates; it was undoubtedly one which required immediate legislation. Quieta non movere was a very good maxim, but he was sorry to say that it did not apply in the present instance. Since the decision of the House of Lords in the Braintree case the state of the existing law in reference to that question was that parishioners were bound to re- pair their churches, while there was no obvious mode of enforcing that obligation, and a church rate certainly could not he enforced by the vestry without the consent of a majority of the ratepayers. It might be said, "Why not, then, create a simple process by which this legal liability may be enforced upon Churchmen and Dissenters?" Now, considering the antiquity of church rates, and the fact that property was made subject by law to the charge of keeping the parish church in repair, he should be prepared to maintain that as a perfectly just position. Though, however, such a course was a just, he did not think in the present state of public feeling that it was an expedient one, and he would not advise the Government, therefore, to adopt it. Another concession he was disposed to make. In some parishes where Churchmen had it all their own way, many charges were imposed on the church rate which ought not to be borne by it. Though the ornamental performance of Divine service, if he might so term it, was quite proper, in itself, and though the charges necessary in respect to it were legal when sanctioned by a majority of the vestry, he as a Churchman, regretted that they were over imposed on Dissenters. Without going so far as Dr. Lushington, in asserting that nineteen-twentieths of the opposition to church rates had arisen from this cause, he believed that great part of such opposition was occasioned by the want of a proper definition of the objects to which those rates should be applied. At the same time, he thought in this country we ought to be very careful how we admitted the principle that no man was to. contribute towards the maintenance of any institution from which he dissented. For the sake of peace, and in order to avoid those unseemly contests which were so injurious to the cause of religion, he was prepared to modify the law of church rates as regarded Dissenters, but he was not prepared to modify it on the ground that a man ought to be relieved from paying for any object to which he was opposed. If such a principle were once admitted we should not be able to stop there. An inexorable logic would compel us to apply the same rule to tithe-rent charges, and even to the general taxation of the country. The objections of the Society of Friends to war were founded upon conscientious, and even he believed upon religious scruples; and therefore, in such a case as the double income tax, which was strictly a war tax, his hon. Friend (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) was bound on his own principle to bring in a Bill to relieve two Gentlemen who sat near him (Mr. Gilpin and Mr. Pease) from payment of this impost. They had heard a great deal about the rights of conscience, and he should be very sorry to sneer on such a subject, or to set himself up in any way as the judge of another man's conscience; but he must say the objection on the ground of conscience showed itself sometimes under very peculiar forms. The Whitechapel vestry entertained a conscientious objection to the payment of church rates, and the result was that they had first of all passed a farthing rate for the purpose of illuminating an ornamental clock, and ousting their local commissioners of their jurisdiction, and that they had afterwards passed a penny rate for the repair of the church, with a view to oust of his jurisdiction the Bishop, who had threatened them with what was called a citation. He would ask the House, however, to descend from the heights of religious liberty and to take a common sense view of this question. A Dissenter being invited by law to say "yes" or "no" to a proposal that he should be rated for the repair of the parish church and the celebration of Divine service there, naturally declined the proposal. He (Mr. Ker Seymer) should probably do the same if he were a Dissenter. But how came it that repairs of the church depended on this sort of vote? At the time when church rates were imposed the Church would have made very short work of anybody who refused to pay them. In point of fact, she did make short work of the Dissenters; she burnt them. We were now, however, applying a system which worked very well when only one set of opinions was tolerated to a period when happily opinion was as free as possible. In considering the church rate question, therefore, they ought to consider, besides, the whole position of the Dissenters with reference to the church vestry; and he confessed he thought at the time that the proposal made by Mr. Robert Phillimore on this subject was a fair one—namely, that persons declaring themselves to be Dissenters should be exempt from the payment of church rates, and at the same time should cease to attend the services of the Church and to interfere in the election of churchwardens and in the proceedings of vestries. That appeared to him in principle to be a fair proposal. By it Dissenters would not be deprived of the services of the Church if they chose to avail themselves of them; but, on the other hand, it seemed only reasonable that they should themselves respect the scruples of any clergyman who might conscientiously object to admit them to the rites of his religion. The Members of that House who represented the views of the Dissenters had opposed that proposal. Mr. Pellatt said he would not submit to the degradation of suing to the churchwarden in formaâ pauperis for the remission of his rates; but this gentleman forgot that he was to sue in foro conscientice. Mr. Miall went still further, and declared that as long as we chose to maintain an Established Church he should assert his right, whether he paid church rates or not, to interfere in Church matters. Now, he (Mr. Ker Seymer) admitted that Dissenters in that House had a right to interfere in these questions, leaving it to their own good taste to decide how far they would carry such interference. But this was a different case from that of a person who claimed exemption from church rates, and then objected to church expenditure and took part in the election of churchwardens. In a particular parish Dissenters might perhaps say, "Vote for Westerton;" to which he would reply, "Pay your rates like a man and vote for him if you choose." He hoped the time for a compromise upon the question had not yet passed away; he did not see why the compromise proposed by Mr. Robert Phillimore might not yet be adopted. He was afraid, however, that Dissenters regarded the abolition of church rates merely as an instalment for effecting the separation of Church and State. Now, upon that ground, Churchmen, as it appeared to him, wore bound to make a stand. If the Dissenters wished to raise that point, Churchmen were prepared to meet them, and he was sure that, upon that subject, Churchmen would have the aid of the noble Lord the Member for London. But let them raise the point openly, and not keep open an irritating question merely for the purpose of having an instrument whereby to effect by a side-blow the separation of Church and State. He might be asked how he would deal with those numerous and important districts in which Church rates had been practically abolished; and, in reply to such a question, he should state that he was not prepared to disturb in those districts the existing arrangement, under which rich Churchmen, and he was happy to say Dissenters also, voluntarily provided for the maintenance of the church fabrics. and for the decent performance of Divine worship. But he would not, on that account, prevent the levying of church rates in those rural districts in which no objection was ever made to the measure, and in which, from the absence of a large wealthy class, the continuance of the existing practice was specially desirable. He did not forget that the principle of that Bill had received the sanction of the House on the occasion of the second reading; but he believed that result was in some measure attributable to an accident. Some hon. Members on his side of the House, who had heard the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for the Home Department declare, on the part of the Government, that he disapproved of the Bill, had taken it for granted that his opposition to it would be necessarily successful; they had, under that impression, been absent from the House at the time of the division, and the result was, that the Motion for the second reading was carried. With respect to the general question, he thought they ought to relieve Dissenters from church rates on some such terms as he had mentioned; they ought also to define the objects to which church rates should be applied; and, in the case of Churchmen, there should be a simple remedy for their neglect to provide for the performance of Divine worship and the maintenance of the fabric of the Church. If these three points were attended to, he thought Parliament would have done all that in them lay for the settlement of this question. No doubt, objections might be started to the plan he had suggested; but he believed that plan to be bettor than standing still on this question, better than either of the two Amendments he saw on the Notice Paper, and far better than a Bill for the total abolition of church rates. For these reasons he should support the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Packe).


said, he thought that considerable inconvenience was usually created by reviving, on the occasion of a Motion for going into Committee, the discussion of the principle of a Bill which had been adopted by the House on the second reading; and it was only in some very rare instances that such a course could with propriety be taken. This Bill had been fully debated some weeks ago, and there was no possible ground for the inference which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ker Seymer) apparently wished to be drawn, namely, that the division on that occasion had taken the House by surprise. After a full debate, a majority of 54, in a House of nearly 400 Members, had determined on going into Committee on the Bill, and he thought it very undesirable to continue a debate upon a subject on which the decision of the House had been so unequivocally given. Looking at the numbers present when the second reading was carried, it was not likely that the division was materially affected by the absence of the Gentlemen who, as the hon. Member said, trusting that the Bill could not be adopted in consequence of his (Sir G. Grey's) opposition, had foolishly left the House. He thought, therefore, that the House was bound now to act on the decision at which it had arrived, and to go into Committee on this Bill, dealing there with the various Amendments proposed on either side, by those who supported or opposed the measure. He was not going to repeat now the speech which he had addressed to the House on a former occasion; but he would remind the House that he had then distinctly stated that he could not concur with those Gentlemen who opposed the progress of the Bill on the ground that church rates ought to be universally maintained throughout the country, or that there ought to be a settlement of the question by the adoption of some modified system, by which such rates should be re-imposed in those places, comprising nearly half the population of the country, in which they had been for some years practically abolished. When the proposal was formerly made that Dissenters should be exempted from the payment of church rates, he felt that grave objections might be urged against such a course; but, looking at all the difficulties of the question, and considering it as one, not of absolute right or of ancient practice, but as a question of expediency connected with the avowed feelings of a Large portion of the community, he had been willing, and had suggested—not that Dissenters should be compelled to register themselves, or declare the denomination to which they belonged—but that any person, upon stating that he was not a member of the Established Church, should be exempt from the payment of Church rates; and he would exclude such persons, not from the privilege of enjoying the rites of the Church, but merely from taking part in other business transacted at vestries relating exclusively to church matters. With tln3 proposal he would couple another—namely, that with regard to places where there had been a practical abolition of church rates, there should be a statutable recognition of that abolition. If the substance of this proposal had been adopted, a settlement of the question would have been effected, which would remove a practical grievance, and would at the same time prevent that which he thought would be a hardship— namely, a measure which should prohibit the imposition of a church rate in those numerous rural parishes in which no objection was made to its payment. In making this proposal, however, he had received no support from one side of the House, while those who then sat on the other side declared that the time for a compromise had gone by, and rejected his offer to lay on the table a Bill which he had then actually ready, and which would have embodied these provisions. When, therefore, he found that the House had affirmed the principle of the present Bill on the second reading, he had refrained from bringing his own measure forward. The House having come to this decision, he should feel himself compelled now to abide by it, and to vote for going into Committee on this Bill, being prepared to give his best consideration to any Amendments which might then be brought forward.


said, he could not join the right hon. Gentleman in his implied censure upon those who thought that the principle of the Bill ought to he rediscussed upon this stage. On the contrary, he believed it absolutely essential that so important a proposal as the total and immediate abolition of church rates should be further and more gravely considered by this House than it had been upon the occasion referred to. The debate on the second reading was not sustained for any considerable period; and, looking at the momentous interests which were at stake, he was of opinion that further consideration ought to be bestowed upon the principle before they settled the details of this measure. Its supporters, as the House should remember, declared that it was susceptible of no improvement whatever. The simple proposal they made was for the total and immediate abolition of church rates, and they would be the first to repudiate altogether the grounds upon which the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had just expressed his readiness to vote for going into Committee. Now, it would be generally admitted, with regard to this question, that whatever idea might be popularly associated with the abolition of church rates, they could only in justice and in equity be complained of as a grievance by the Dissenters. No one would contend that any Churchman had a moral right to complain of the continuance upon that property which he had either inherited or purchased of an obligation to maintain the fabric and support the services of the Church. He believed then, that he might assume that, if the imposition of church rates was a grievance, it was a grievance which affected Dissenters alone. Now, the people of this country were jealously sensitive—and God forbid it should ever be otherwise—on the subject of the rights of conscience, and a man had nothing to do but to say that any particular institution aggrieved his conscience in order to secure for his statement a most attentive and favourable consideration. Thus it was with the church rates. His objection, however, to this Bill—and it was one which went to the root of the proposed legislation —was, that it relieved the consciences and the pockets not only of Dissenters, but that it would also relieve the pocket of the rich Churchmen at the expense of the poorer classes of the community. For his part, he had always, in arguing this question, admitted that Dissenters might fairly object to be taxed for the support of other forms of religion: and the most influential members of the Dissenting body had not, at the commencement of the anti-church rate agitation, sought to extend to Churchmen the change in the law which they advocated. he had before him extracts from speeches delivered at the beginning of this year by Mr. Samuel Courtauld, who might be regarded as the originator of the agitation, which clearly showed that that gentleman had not proposed to himself any such object, and that he admitted that the only claim Dissenters could make was that they should be exempted from paying church rates. he had, therefore, always been ready to meet the grievances of Dissenters in the most amicable spirit, and his complaint against this Bill was that it totally set aside the possibility of entering into any such amicable settlement of the question. What were the grounds upon which it was brought forward? In and out of doors, the great allegation in its favour was that it was necessary in order to set free the con- sciences of Dissenters. No such allegation, however, was contained in the preamble of the Bill. The first ground there stated was, "Whereas church rates have for some years ceased to he made or collected in many parishes by reason of the opposition thereto." Now, he should have thought that the refusal of church rates in these instances would have put an end to ill-feeling and litigation, and that as their number increased, so the necessity for legislation would have diminished; but, because in 500 parishes church rates by the will of the majority had ceased to be collected, was it, therefore, right to enforce their abolition upon the vast majority of parishes, counted by thousands, in which the inhabitants were willing to be taxed for the support of the fabric and the maintenance of the services of the Church? He could not understand how Gentlemen who in this House stood up for the rights of the majority could answer such a question as this in the affirmative. But the preamble then set forth that "in many other parishes where church rates have been made, the levying thereof has given rise to litigation and ill-feeling." The advocates of the measure having, as he had shown, abandoned the plea of conscience, the question which the House had to consider with regard to the second allegation of the preamble was the amount of ill-will and litigation thus produced. In how many parishes, if any, had it been engendered? What was the counterbalancing advantage which the poor obtained by the continuance of church rates? And what would be the effect of the abolition' of that system? Now, he was certainly bound to admit that if the amount of ill-will and litigation were trifling, it was not the fault of those who were engaged in the agitation of this question. There had been a most extensive organisation for the purpose of this agitation, and if the crop of ill-will and litigation had been small, it was owing rattier to the sterile nature of the soil than to any want of industry on the part of those who cultivated it. In spite of that agitation, however, he did not perceive that any very successful opposition had been got up last Easter to the levying of church rates; neither did it appear that any considerable number of parishes which heretofore had granted church rates had of late refused them; and, indeed, the result of the best researches he had been able to make into this question was, that during 1857, while church rates had been proposed and carried against opposition in no less than seventy parishes they had been opposed and defeated in no more than twenty-four throughout England. But, whatever might be the ill-will and litigation produced, ought they simply on that account to abrogate the existing system altogether and without inquiry? Why, there was hardly a rate struck for any purpose in any part of the country of which the same might not be said. Could any one say that poor rates, highway rates, sewer rates, did not give rise to a great amount of ill-will and litigation? In 1856 he found that no less a sum than £114,000 was expended in litigation in consequence of our system of poor law management supported by rates. Surely, therefore, it was necessary to penetrate a little more below the surface before they abrogated the system of church rates on the grounds submitted. He should next proceed to ask what were the counterbalancing benefits which flowed from the maintenance of the system of church rates. It was impossible, he should contend, that any one could possess an acquaintance with the various rural parishes throughout the country and not feel that an immense amount of temporal as well as of spiritual good was effected by means of a tax which, without the necessity of imposing the smallest charge upon the poorer classes in the community, provided for the support of the fabric of the Church and the due administration of the ceremonies of religious worship. His chief objection to the Bill under discussion, then, was that it proposed—without creating any substitute for it whatsoever—to abolish at once a system which secured to the 10,000 parishes in England the continuance of a state of things such as he had described, and which he felt assured every hon. Member who had at heart the spiritual welfare of the poor must be anxious to uphold. The hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had said that the Church of England was essentially the Church of the rich man; but from that proposition he (Lord J. Manners) begged most emphatically to dissent. He believed that it was essentially the Church of the poor man, and it was because he was of opinion that it had a just claim to that character that he stood up in his place in the House of Commons to vindicate and uphold, until a satisfactory substitute was proposed, a system under which the fair obligations of the realized property of the nation to con- tribute to the support of the fabric of its houses of religious worship were maintained; and to assert that before they passed a measure for the abolition of church rates, they were bound to show in what manner they propose to maintain the fabric and services of the Church. The argument drawn from the considerations to which he had just adverted was one, he might add, which was not applicable to the case of the poorer classes belonging to the communion of the Church of England alone, but one which might also be relied upon on the ground that it was a fact perfectly notorious that members of the Dissenting body availed themselves in considerable numbers of the services performed in places of religious worship connected with the Church of England, and that they would regard it as a great religious grievance if, in consequence of any legislative enactment, they should be precluded from the enjoyment of that privilege. Sir William Clay stated in 1854 that a great number of persons went in the morning to church, and in the evening to a Nonconformist chapel; and he (Lord J. Manners) questioned whether, in point of morality, persons who accepted the offices and services of the Church to some extent could reasonably excuse themselves from the payment of church rates upon conscientious grounds. There was scarcely a country clergyman of the Established Church who was not practically aware that the Dissenters in his parish looked up to him not Only for support and advice in temporal matters; but also for aid in connection with their spiritual wants. he bad had, indeed, a letter from a clergyman residing in the country, in which he stated that he had upon various occasions, during a period of twenty-one years, officiated at the burial of members of the Dissenting body in his parish without any fee or reward; and he naturally inquired whether they ought to be called on to keep the church and churchyard in order for the accommodation of those who systematically availed themselves of the services, and yet refused to pay the moderate amount which the law required for the support of the fabric. The question raised by the Bill was whether property should continue to be bound by those obligations with respect to the support of the fabric of the Church which had been imposed upon it before the Conquest, or should be relieved from them by the adoption of a principle which would not only set free the consciences of Dis- senters, but ease the pocket of the landlord, He spoke of the landlord, because he it was who would undoubtedly receive the benefit of that remission which it was the object of the Bill to accomplish. He had not come to that conclusion without the aid of experience, and in support of his opinion upon the point he might state that a Member of that House had assured him that if a proposition for the total abolition of church rates should pass into a law he should feel himself authorized to make arrangements for a corresponding increase in the rental paid by the tenants upon his property, and should put the amount thus realized in his own pocket. The result of such a proposition, in short, would be, either that the landlord, being a pious and conscientious Churchman, would undertake to provide for the maintenance of the fabric of the church, reimbursing himself for any outlay which he might make in that respect by the imposition of an additional burden upon his tenants, or, being a person who was lax and careless in such matters, or a Dissenter, would permit the necessary expenditure for the support of our places of religious worship to be thrown upon somebody else, taking to himself the increased rental. And who, he would ask, was that "somebody else" likely to be in nine-tenths of the parishes of England? Why, in all probability, the very man who would be least competent to bear the burden which would thus be thrown upon him—namely, the clergyman of the parish. Under those circumstances—while reserving to himself the right to give an impartial consideration to any proposition which might have the effect of relieving the consciences of Dissenters from the grievance of which they complained, while it made due provision for the maintenance of the fabric of the church—he should entreat the House not to lend its sanction to a scheme, the operation of which would be to free the property of the country from obligations to which it had for centuries been liable, and which had been imposed upon it for the promotion of the spiritual welfare of the poor, and the free and unfettered worship of Almighty God.


observed that there was a great difference of opinion upon this question between the noble Lord who had just sat down and the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer.) The noble Lord was of opinion that this was not the time for legislation on church rates, and that it would be better to leave the question as it now stood; while the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dorsetshire was ready to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey.) For himself, he thought that after the large majority which had been obtained in favour of the second reading of the Bill, it would be much better to proceed with it and argue the different points which had arisen in Committee. He was aware that the question was full of difficulties. The rate in question was an ancient one, but notwithstanding its antiquity it could not be identified with any other species of property. The present state of the law had been clearly declared in the House of Lords, however unpalatable that declaration might. be; and he could imagine the case of villages springing up into towns, and a rate being refused where it had always been granted as a matter of course. He was not anxious to relieve landlords from the payment of this liability, but he believed the effect of the Bill would be rather to throw an additional burden upon the owners of property than to relieve them. If, however, landlords were to be made directly liable for the maintenance and repair of; churches, all the outgoings would be taken into consideration in letting the land, and! the landlord would very soon find out how he could relieve himself of the impost. He was rather inclined to believe, to a certain degree, in the soundness of the doctrine of pew rents, which the noble Lord repudiated. He fully admitted that a certain portion of the church ought always to be placed at the disposal of the public; but the system of pew rents was found to work well in district churches, and it was so entwined with our system of church management that if the money received from pew rents could be employed to defray those necessary expenses for which church rates were now necessary, it would probably be an easy solution of the difficulty. On the whole he should vote for going into Committee, but he thought many of the clauses would require great alterations. He thought it was high time to settle this long debated question.


Sir, although I entirely concur in the opinions which have been so clearly expressed by my noble Friend near me (Lord J. Manners), I cannot resist the conviction that this question has now arrived at a stage at which it is desirable that we should fully discuss any practical measure which may be submitted to us for the solution of the difficulty which it involves. Having that object in view, I feel there would be some advantage in assenting to the Motion for going into Committee; though I cannot for my own part, give utterance to any very sanguine hope that the labours of the Committee will have the effect of materially improving the proposition embodied in the Bill under discussion, or of removing those objections which have been urged against it by many hon. Members upon both sides of the House. By going into Committee, indeed, we may have the benefit of being afforded an opportunity of considering those suggestions which were made upon a former occasion in reference to this subject by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey), one of which is especially worthy of notice—I mean the proposal which he submitted to our consideration last year to provide for the commutation of church rates by effecting certain alterations in the laws of mortmain. There is, however, an Amendment which stands upon the paper in the name of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller), which appears to me to be well entitled to the attention of the House, and which cannot, I believe, in accordance with the forms of the House, be moved in Committee. Now, with all respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Packe), I cannot help thinking that it is of more importance that the House should have an opportunity of discussing the Amendment which I have just mentioned than that we should, by putting his Motion, that the House resolve itself into a Committee upon the Bill this day six months, merely repeat a division which has been taken in a similar form upon previous occasions. I trust, therefore, that my hon. Friend will withdraw his Motion, in order that we may be afforded an opportunity of taking into consideration the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, which, I repeat, is well worthy of our notice, and which, I beg the House to observe, cannot be discussed except it be brought before us at this stage of our proceedings.


I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it is desirable the hon. Member for South Leicestershire should withdraw his Motion, and that we should attempt at last to arrive at some settlement of this ques- tion. It is, I think, quite obvious from a consideration of the prospects which, according to the reports which I have seen in the public press, Her Majesty's Prime Minister holds out to us, that this Bill will, if it should go up to the House of Lords, be rejected by that assembly. Now, that is a result which would be extremely unsatisfactory; and I should wish, therefore, to see whether some plan or another might not be devised by means of which we should be enabled to arrive at a settlement of this question, which would prevent the occurrence of the result to which I have alluded. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) seems to me, under those circumstances, to be one which is well entitled to our consideration; but he will, perhaps, permit me to suggest to him that it would be better to confine the objects which he proposes to attain to those for which the church rates are levied under the existing system, and that he should not endeavour to embrace other and entirely now objects within the scope of his Resolution, So far as the Amendment provides for the repair of existing churches, and for the maintenance of churchyards, it lies within the limits to which I refer; but when the hon. Member seeks to make "provision for the building of new churches in popular places" he travels, in my opinion, beyond those limits. The building of new churches is carried out by means of the diocesan funds, and constitutes an object which, however desirable it may be to make provision for it, is totally separated from that which we ought to have now in view, and which might more properly — if, indeed, it should be necessary to legislate with respect to it at all—be made the subject of a distinct proposal. With this exception, I, for one, am certainly disposed to look with considerable favour upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire. But, suppose that Amendment should not be accepted by the House, what course do you then propose to take? The observations which have fallen from my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey) in the course of this discussion tend, I must admit, to do away, to a great extent, with the objections which I entertained to a proposal which he submitted to the House some years ago, and which was to the effect that we should be prohibited by legal enactment from raising church rates in those districts in which they happened not to have been levied for a certain period. That, I think, is a proposition which is open to strong objection upon the score of principle. It is hardly fair, in my opinion, that certain parishes should be subjected, as it were, to a penalty because their inhabitants had complied with the law by levying the necessary church rates, while those should escape with impunity whose only plea was that they had not paid the tax within a given time. The proposition is also open, it appears to me, to objection in point of practice, inasmuch as it has sometimes happened that in districts in which church rates have not been levied for a long period the inhabitants at length come forward, perhaps under the leadership of a clergyman who has gained the good will of all his parishioners, or even under a churchwarden who, though he may be a Dissenter, has the well-being of his parish at heart; it is found that the church is out of repair; a rate is consequently proposed,—it may be by a Dissenter, — in vestry, and is levied with the general assent of the whole body of the inhabitants. Surely, if you keep up a church rate at all, you ought not to prohibit the occurrence of such a proceeding as that; and I am glad therefore to find that the right hon. Baronet does not propose to adhere to the suggestions which he formerly made upon the subject. With respect to another proposal of my right hon. Friend, which is to the effect that those who might be exempted from the payment of church rates upon the ground that they were not members of the Established Church should be deprived of the right of voting at the election of church wardens, I can only say that I think it also is open to serious objection. I have always felt very strongly that in acting upon such a principle as that, you would be taking a course which would tend to separate altogether from the Church a great body of persons, who, although they may not be regular attendants at divine service, yet upon certain occasions, such, for instance, as when a marriage takes place in their family, resort to the Church. Now, that any such result as that should be produced would be, in my opinion, a great misfortune. For my own part, I think if you entail any disqualification at all of this description, it ought to be one extending not to the right of voting at the election of churchwardens, but to the disposal of the money which may be raised by means of a church rate. You might very fairly say to a man, "If you claim your exemption from this rate you cannot come into vestry and vote upon questions relating to the mode in which the money obtained from it is to be expended." I could, however, consent to the imposition of no other disqualification than that to which I have just adverted. If we can possibly come to any agreement with respect to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, that, I think, would be the wisest course to adopt. I am told that there has been a large majority of the House of Commons in favour of the proposal for the total abolition of church rates. That is a statement which is undoubtedly true; but, at the same time, I have heard many men say, that while they were prepared to vote for that abolition rather than maintain the existing system, yet they were disposed to give a favourable consideration to any reasonable proposition by which a compromise of the question could he effected. I therefore cannot quite concur with those who think that the majority in favour of the total abolition of this tax, without any provision being made to substitute some other means of securing the maintenance of the fabric of the church in its place, is quite so conclusive as some hon. Members seem to imagine. be that as it may, however, I think we shall do well to take into our earnest consideration the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, and I trust the hon. Member for Leicestershire will withdraw his Motion.


said, he would not oppose going into Committee on this Bill; but in assenting to it did not abate one iota of the claim of every poor man, and among them Dissenters of every denomination, to the full and free benefit of the services of the Church of England. He hoped the House would see the necessity of the parishes continuing the control of the money, because he would never consent to deprive the people of this country of the control over the national Church in the appropriation of its funds. It was their object to preserve the Church of England within the limits prescribed by law, subject to the control of the respective parishes. He trusted that those who represented the Dissenting interest would not lend themselves to the support of any measure which would have the effect of depriving the poor in many parts of this country of the advantages of assisting at the Church of England services. He concurred in the proposition of the hon. Member for Hert- fordshire, that if any such Bill as the present should pass into a law, means should be taken to commute this charge into a fixed sum. Those, however, were matters of detail. It was the proposition of his hon. Friend alone that could reconcile him to permitting this measure going into Committee.


said, that after the appeal made to him by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, he would withdraw his Amendment [Cries of No, No!]


said, he thought those who were in favour of the passing of this Bill had some ground for complaint against the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe) for the course he had just proposed to take. He (Mr. Bright) had listened—he would not say to exactly the same arguments—but to much the same speeches from the hon. Member's lips year after year upon this question of church rates as the one they had heard that day. The hon. Gentleman was not a young Member; he knew when he came down to the House he was going to object to this Bill being proceeded with; he had moved an Amendment, the effect of which, if carried, he know would be to prevent the Bill going any further, and the House had discussed it for the last three hours; but all that time would be wasted if he was now permitted to withdraw it. The truth was, it was found to be convenient to some Members not to have their names recorded in a division on this subject, and therefore it was that the hon. Gentleman sought to avoid going into the lobby. But he (Mr. Bright) would advise the supporters of the Bill to go to a division on this question. That, at least, was the course he himself was prepared to take. With regard to the observations which had fallen from the noble Lord immediately below him (Lord J. Russell)—whom he was happy to see sitting in that very wholesome part of the House—he did not think the noble Lord could have well considered the points which he had placed before the House. He (Mr. Bright) did not know whether or not the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire could be brought forward at all except in Committee, because it proposed to lay a charge on property, which was very like imposing a new tax—a thing that was more in the province of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At all events, if the hon. Member did move such a Resolution, those who were in favour of the Bill would know how to meet it. In fact, the noble Lord, who was one of those who were only halfway between the wrong they formerly adhered to, and the right they were now approaching, seemed to forget that those who contended for the abolition of church rates understood their own case, and that they were likely to understand it a great deal better than the noble Lord and those who acted with him. He (Mr. Bright) and those who supported the Bill before the House, had studied this question all their lives. They had submitted much too long to the impediments which had been thrown in the way of its settlement, and had seen themselves constantly treated with injustice and humiliation. Surely the House did not imagine that they brought forward this measure year after year solely for the purpose of getting up a debate on two or three Wednesdays in a Session. By no means. They were determined to get rid of church rates; and if any one thought that by proposing to make the owners pay towards the repair of churches instead of the occupiers, or by calling on persons opposed to church rates to make humiliating declarations of their religious opinions, he would settle this question, he was very much mistaken. Some hon. Members now approached the discussion of this question as they would have done thirty or forty years ago. He was amazed at the extraordinary want of observation shown by hon. Gentlemen when they fancied that any of those palliatives could do anything towards settling this question. There was only one way of Bottling it. If those were a majority who did not want to abolish church rates, the question would not be settled; but if, on the other hand, they who supported the abolition were in the majority, as well in that House as throughout the country, of which no man could doubt, let them have the settling of it. With regard to what might be done in "another place," the noble Lord the Member for the City of London well knew that the gentlemen who sat in that "other place" did not always take as much notice of the Resolutions of the House of Commons as the noble Lord would wish thorn to do. Those gentlemen in "another place" had been the people in the drawing-room, while they in the Commons had been the people in the kitchen. That was about the way in which he (Mr. Bright) should characterize the treatment they had received in "another place." He would remind the noble Lord the Member for the city that there were many more persons zealous about this question of church rates than there were about the Oaths Bill; and although it might happen that those in "another place" might reject this Bill once, twice, or thrice, it was desirable to bear in mind that they would never have an. opportunity of rejecting it unless it passed the House of Commons. He was therefore anxious that it should pass the Commons. The House was not to suppose that it was Dissenters only who desired to see church rates abolished. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire talked about the "Dissenting interest." He (Mr. Bright) was not one of the Dissenting interest; but if he were a Churchman, he would use much stronger language on this question than he had ever done. It was in the interest of public honesty, of public morality, of public order, and of religion it-elf, that he asked the House to abolish this unjust and irritating system. If he were a Churchman, he should be ashamed of hon. Members who opposed this Bill. They had evidently no faith in their Church. They had no faith in the zeal of their congregations, nor in the arguments or the eloquence of their pastors. They believed their churches would fall into ruin if this Bill were to pass. He had never said anything half so severe of the members of the Established Church as that. They had been brought up to think that this question was associated with the existence of the Established Church, and therefore it had become a matter of sentiment rather than of argument with them. He had no doubt if church rates were abolished tomorrow, all the parish churches in the country would eventually be in a much better state of repair than they were at present. In the interest of the Church itself, he would ask the House to pass this measure. They who brought it forward understood their wants, their claims, and their rights; and they knew, from what had taken place in that House for years and years, that they would get what they wanted. There was on the Treasury bench a Secretary of State (Lord Stanley) who had written an admirable pamphlet and made several able speeches in favour of the abolition of church rates. Those who supported the existing system, saw continual defections from their side, while those who opposed it had as constantly accessions to theirs; and if there was any Bill passed to extend Parliamentary franchise and to redistribute the seats, they who supported church rates, and who were already in a minority on the question, would dwindle down to a small traction. Why should those who supported church rates go on using the same arguments year after year in favour of a system which the general feeling of the country had already condemned? Why should the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) —whom he always honoured for his sincerity, be making the same speeches Session after Session? No two men could be more opposed on political questions generally than that hon. Member and himself; but he would confess that he had always honoured the hon. Member for the sincerity with which he always maintained and defended the cause which he believed to be right; but why should the hon. Member be repeating Session after Session, arguments on this subject which made very little impression on the House and none whatever on the country? He was glad the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey) went so far with the supporters of the Bill as to desire that it should go into Committee. He (Mr. Bright) would say to him, and to every Member in the least disposed to assist them, "Go with us as far as you can; the further you go, the pleasanter you will find the road; and let us, without further delay, proceed at once with this Bill, the fate of which has been irrevocably decided."


was understood to say that he hoped to see some plan proposed in Committee which would meet the views of all parties upon this subject. Under any circumstances, he entertained no apprehensions that the churches would be allowed to fall into decay or ruin. He would certainly oppose the measure on its third reading, if such a plan was not agreed to in Committee as would be acceptable to the members of the Church of England. The hon. Member's observations were rendered unintelligible by repeated cries of "Divide, divide! "

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee.

Mr. FITZROY in the chair.

Clause 1. (From and after the passing of this Bill no church rate shall be levied in any parish in England and Wales.)

SIR ARTHUR ELTON, pursuant to notice, moved an Amendment, to insert the words "expiration of three years from the"—the effect being to postpone the operation of the measure for three years after the Bill should have passed. His objection, he said, to the clause as it stood was a very simple one. He was of opinion that some time should be given to the parochial authorities throughout the country to make due preparation for the great change in the law contemplated by the Bill. This was, perhaps, one of the greatest changes in the law known to modern legislation, and he thought the Committee ought to proceed with all due caution in the matter. While they showed consideration for the feelings of the Dissenters, they ought to treat Churchmen with justice and forbearance. He himself had full confidence in the voluntary principle in this matter if they only gave it time to bear fruit. It was on that ground that he submitted they ought to allow the Churchmen throughout the country a period of three years to make the necessary arrangements in anticipation of the proposed change. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer) thought the landlords would not be able to increase their rents one farthing if church rates were abrogated. He could not agree with that opinion. He believed the effect of this Bill in country parishes would be that a landlord, being a member of the Church, would ask his tenant if he proposed to contribute voluntarily to the necessary repair of the parish church, or preferred, instead, an addition being made to his rent for that purpose. The tenant would then make his election, and if the landlord got the money in rent he would hand it over to the parochial authorities to keep the church in repair. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) seemed to consider that churches in the agricultural districts and places of worship belonging to Dissenters required much the same amount of money to keep them in repair; but the hon. Member would be of a contrary opinion if he saw some of the splendid mediæval chinches in Somersetshire, and compared them with the neighbouring places of worship of Dissenters, usually consisting of four square walls of brick and a roof. He would remind the Committee that they who took an interest in maintaining the existing ecclesiastic fabrics did so, not only in the interest of the present generation, but of posterity. In legislating for the abolition of church rates he had no fear for the Church of which he was a member; on the contrary, he was convinced, if she were allowed "a fair field and no favour," she would do her duty to those committed to her charge, and confer great and enduring benefits on the people of this country. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving his Amendment.


said, he was desirous of adopting every feasible suggestion calculated to put an end to the existing system; but he thought if the hon. Baronet had read the evidence of Dr. Lushington he would hardly have thought it necessary to propose this Amendment, for Dr. Lushington had expressly laid it down that churchwardens wore bound to go on disposing of any funds in their hands for the repair of the churches which had been raised for that purpose. The parochial authorities, in fact, had nothing to do but to use the existing machinery in their hands to meet the state of things contemplated by the hon. Baronet. Besides, the Amendment was the less called for, when he (Sir J. Trelawny) found, that in places where it had been left to them as a voluntary matter, the Dissenters had contributed liberally towards the repairing the fabrics of the Church of England. The Amendment, he thought, savoured too much of the old Protectionist spirit, and could have no other effect than that of prolonging the unpleasant controversies to which this question had given rise.


wanted to know why the hon. Baronet proposed to postpone the operation of the Bill for three years. This question of the abolition of church rates was not a new one. He (Mr. Roebuck) had been in Parliament for a quarter of a century, and it had been familiar to him as a Member of that House for the whole of that period. What good, he asked, could be derived from keeping open the sore, and from not at once putting an end to all the irritation produced by the levying of church rates? If the thing was good, why not do it at once? Whenever a change in the law was made, great advantage resulted from its coming into immediate operation. The best thing they could do in this case, was to bring the abolition into operation at the very earliest moment, and therefore he opposed the Amendment.


suggested that there were many parishes which had church accommodation beyond their wants. Why were these to be saddled with a permanent tax?


thought it would be very inexpedient to adopt the Amendment, for if the proposed change was to take place, it was very undesirable that it should he postponed for so long a period. The usual practice was to make a church rate at Easter; if, therefore, the Bill passed into a law and came into immediate operation, it would be necessary that some provision should be made to secure the proper application of the rates made at Easter in the present year.


said, that if the Bill were to pass, the Amendment proposed was only a simple matter of justice. If church rates were wholly abolished, he was persuaded that the only possible fund out of which the churches could be maintained would be one provided by the unanimous efforts of the body of Churchmen at large. That fund, however, must be very considerable to be fully effective, and time ought to be allowed for them to make the necessary preparations, if that responsibility was henceforth to be borne by them alone. Out of the 10,000 parishes, there were many in which the churches were already in a dilapidated condition, and in want of immediate funds for essential repairs.


said, he could not believe that the Members of the Church of England would not themselves readily make efforts to meet all the cases to which the attention of the Committee had been pointed. Surely, so large, wealthy, and earnest a body would never suffer their churches to fall into decay for want of funds.


said, it was pretty clear to him, that if this measure became law, by the end of three years afterwards the contest would be one, not of church rates, but of tithes.


reminded the Committee, that if this Bill passed into a law, the £350,000 hitherto raised for the maintenance of the churches would be lost to the Established Church. They had no more right to deal with this £350,000, provided for the maintenance of the Church, than they had to deal with the interest on the national debt, or any other similar charge; but they had a right to deal with any law that pressed injuriously upon the consciences of Dissenters. This fund was as much the property of the Dissenters as of he Church, and if it was dealt with in an unjust and inconsiderate spirit, injustice was done both to the Church and to Dissenters. The Dissenters, he admitted, had a perfect right to object to all those embellishments of the Church which had been introduced of late years, and which were offensive to their consciences; but, for the credit of the country, and even of the Dissenters themselves, unless they wished to be branded as spoliators of property which did not belong to them, they ought not to pass this measure before they had provided a substitute in place of church rates for keeping in repair the churches. He would, on the bringing up of the Report, propose a proviso carrying out his views, which in the meantime he would read to the House.


spoke to order. The hon. Gentleman was not in form in introducing another Amendment in addition to the one now before the Committee.


did not intend to move another Amendment. He only meant to read a proviso, which he gave notice he would move on the bringing up of the Report.


was not prepared to say the hon. Gentleman was out of order; but it would be very inconvenient to bring before the Committee at present any proviso, while there was an Amendment undisposed of.


said, he would not now bring the proviso before the Committee, if it was not the general wish. With regard to the Amendment, the effect of which would be to postpone the abolition of church rates for three years, he did not wish to delay the operation of the Bill, nor to retain the angry feelings which these discussions excited; but he thought it desirable that time should be given for maturing some plan for maintaining the fabric of the Church. There were large funds in the possession of the Church, and it was possible that during the delay these might in some way be made available, or voluntary means might be provided for maintaining fabrics which, apart from religion altogether, were on architectural and scientific grounds worthy of the support of the country.


I cannot help observing that, whatever may be the merits or demerits of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Bath (Sir A. H. Elton) it has received no answer from the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Trelawny) of any weight or value. The hon. Baro- net said, that the proposition of my hon. Friend savoured too much of the "old Protectionist spirit." I must say I can see no ground or colour for such a charge; but I see a great deal of what used to be considered one of the cardinal articles of Protection in the Bill of the hon. Baronet himself; for a very prominent doctrine of those most versed in the articles of Protection was that a great part of the claim for Protection rose out of the burdens on land, and that some at least of the local rates ought to be remitted and a present of them made to the landlords. And, undoubtedly, this Bill, if it passed, will offer the first instalment of that relief from the burdens on land. The Bill, indeed, presents a very remarkable instance in which the principle of "Protection" that has been long dead has undergone a sort of galvanic revival at the hands of a gentleman from whom it could have been least expected, in that with respect to the whole of the rural parishes of the country he has proposed to make over to the landlords a large and distinct present of several hundreds of thousands a year. I will illustrate what he has now said by a case in point. A gentleman—a friend of mine, whose name, if I were to mention it, would elicit from every one an expression of respect and approbation—applied to his tenants—not in a tone of dictation, of which he is incapable, but as between friend and friend— and expressed his wish that they should support the granting of a church rate in his parish; on which one of the tenants said, "It is surely impossible you can wish us to support a church rate, for if the rate is refused it will be £17 a year in your pocket in this township alone." What is true in this particular case is equally true in other cases. The church rates, if abolished, will go into the pockets of the landlords. I hope, therefore, we shall not again hear it said that the principle of protection is involved in the opposition to this measure. The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Trelawny) proceeded to say that, however magnificent the churches might be in the rural parishes, it would be unfair to the Dissenters to continue, even for a period of three years, to tax them for the maintenance of those fabrics. There is a fallacy in that part of the reply of the hon. Baronet, because in so far as regards many of the opponents of this Bill, they have not the slightest desire that any Dissenter should be taxed against his will for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church. I do not ask whether a case can or cannot be made out to show that the Dissenters might justly be expected to pay: I say, as a matter of equity, of prudence, and consideration, that I believe it to be for the interests of the Church and the country, that Dissenters should not be called upon to pay church rates; and, believing that to be the sentiment of an immense majority of the House, I protest against the assumption involved in the speech of the hon. Baronet, that whoever supports an Amendment like that before the House does so because he thinks it is right that for three years more Dissenters ought to be taxed for the support of the fabric of the Church, My belief—and it is founded on experience—is that there are large numbers of Dissenters in tills country whose position in regard to the Church is an anomalous one, because it is neither complete religious union nor complete religious separation, and that there are many of these Dissenters who do not in the smallest degree object to the payment of church rates so far as some local knowledge goes of that portion of the country which of all others is perhaps the least inclined to the payment of church rates—I mean the Principality of Wales —I may say that there are Dissenters there who would be perfectly satisfied with an exemption in their favour from compulsory payment. However, that is not the question now before us. I only wanted to point out that the hon. Baronet has, unintentionally I am sure, misrepresented the views of those who support the Amendment now before the House. The real question as regards the Amendment appears to me to be something different from that which the hon. Baronet has apprehended it to be. I cannot say I think that even with this Amendment the Bill would be one which it would be wise or just for the Legislature to adopt. At the same time I frankly own that the Amendment of my hon. Friend is not only proposed in a spirit of good faith—because no man would for a moment impute to him the possibility of taking any other than a straightforward course—but that it is a proposition which it is more for the interests of the friends of the Bill than for its opponents to accept. I cannot doubt that this Amendment will improve the prospects of the Bill, for I cannot but be of the opinion, already expressed by an hon. Friend, that it would be a considerable mitigation of the shock which would be felt in many parts of the country if the Bill were to come into immediate operation. On the whole it appears to me to he an Amendment couched in a spirit of equity and fairness — not intended to defeat the Bill, but a truly straightforward, candid proposition. Though it is true you make your arrangements for church rates from year to year, it is also true that there are many arrangements connected with the repair of churches that are not settled by the rate of a single year. It appears, moreover, that the levying of church rates is considerably in arrear of the making of church rates; and an Act of the Legislature declaring that no church rate should henceforth be levied or made would undoubtedly have an effect which the hon. Gentleman does not desire —namely, the effect of breaking up arrangements partially carried out, but not yet completed—arrangements on the faith of which schemes have been sanctioned and liabilities incurred. Then with regard to the effect which the postponement of the operation of the Bill would have in prolonging the religious war in which the country is said to be involved through these rates, surely a great deal too much has been made of the horrors of this religious warfare. I do not think it is half so aggravated as appears to be supposed. In the great proportion of parishes whore church rates are made they are levied with general satisfaction, or at least with no ostensible symptoms of dissension. I think the people of England, who generally contrive to solve awkward problems by the exercise of practical good sense rather than by theory, have attained the desirable object of solving even the problem of church rates in such a manner that, though it does not obviate everything disagreeable, yet removes all really unfriendly symptoms; for I commonly see that after there has been a motion for a church rate, an amendment against it, and a poll, the meeting generally breaks up in good humour, and with a vote of thanks to the chairman. I must say, that although this "religious war "figures very well in speeches in Parliament, I should not feel that I had done anything to keep up bad blood by sanctioning the short continuance of the present system proposed in the Amendment of my hon. Friend. But, though I think it fair on the whole to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend, it is a more prudential question for the hon. Baronet to consider than for mo; because if the church rates are to be abolished, it should be done in a manner to miti- gate as much as possible the pressure of the charge. If it were not that I am actuated by the desire of dealing in a spirit of fairness towards the measure, and did desire to secure its rejection, I should say leave the Bill as it stands, and let hon. Gentlemen opposite deal as they can with the difficulties in which they would be involved in passing it.


said, he considered that in the whole of this controversy the connection between Church and State had been too much mixed up. That was not the proper time, however, to discuss that question, but he did not see how the abolition of church rates could have more to do with it than the abolition of the Maynooth grant. It was not fair to charge upon those who were in favour of the Bill that they were opposed to the connection between Church and State. He believed that the present law did not assist the Church at all. Where Churchmen were in a majority in parishes, they ought to feel some shame in putting their hands into the pockets of Dissenters. Where the Church people might ask for a rate was where they formed a minority; but in that case the law did not help them; and tinder these circumstances he thought that church rates should not be levied at all. As a Churchman he would say to Church people, provide for your own churches out of your own pockets, and before erecting new fabrics, provide a sufficient fund for the necessary support of the old ones. If church rates were abolished, the Church of England would stand in a better position with the great body of the people of this country.


said, that any remission of this power of taxing, whether now or three years hence, would be a direct present to the landlord in the rural parishes. Both the church rate and the poor rate were personal taxes, ascertained in amount by the quantity of land held and the value of it to the occupant. Take either off, and the amount of the tax went to the landlord. An incident which occurred while he was managing an estate—which did not belong to himself—illustrated this. The agent came to him and represented that a very respectable person who had taken a farm at a certain rent, with a stipulation to pay all rates, had a conscientious scruple to pay church rates. He said at once, "Ascertain the amount of the church rates for the last seven years, add that to the rent, and let him pay that as the rent, and be relieved from the obligation to pay church rates." For some reason the tenant did not accept that offer. Then, with respect to the Amendment, he did not disagree with the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) on that point. He did not see any advantage in postponing the operation of this Bill for three years. To vote for the Amendment would be a direct admission on his part of the principle, which he did not think sound; and therefore he could no more consent to it at the end of three years than he could now. What would be the working of the Amendment? They had heard a great deal about peace and quietness and good feeling—topics which had been blown up into great dimensions in the course of this debate—and of assertions that disagreeable feelings existed on this matter. But if the operation of the Bill were suspended for three years, did any one suppose that there would be peace and quietness for three years? They could not get rid of the question in that House by shoving it overboard for three years. Both parties would he arrayed against each other to try to upset that Act of Parliament. If such an objectionable measure as this should pass the Legislature—which he believed it would not—that which was necessary to be done and must be done, could be and would be done, just as well at once as in three years. In fact, if the Amendment were carried, people would say, "Oh, I may be dead and buried in three years;" excuses would be made, and, instead of people at once putting their shoulders to the wheel, nothing would be done until the expiration of the three years. It was not then necessary for him to enter upon the consideration of the great difficulties which must arise from passing this Bill. Without referring to the falling down of the fabrics—which might or might not happen—let the House recollect that when persons were appointed churchwardens they were compelled by law to pay certain fees, which amounted to from 15 to 20 per cent. upon the church rates. How would they get this back if the Bill before them were passed? He should vote both against the clause and the Amendment.


said, though he humbly conceived that his Amendment would tend to bring the question to a more speedy solution, yet he would not press it against the opinion of the Committee.


entered his protest against the principle which he understood to have been laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) as one that would be most fatal if acted on by a party defending conservative institutions. He understood him to say that when a Bill was brought forward which he did not like he would do nothing to mitigate its provisions. Now, in his opinion, there was nothing to prevent him voting for an Amendment in a clause and afterwards voting against the clause on the whole Bill.


said, the noble Lord had misunderstood him. He gave his reasons for disliking this particular Amendment, but had not said a single word that could be construed into the meaning now stated by the noble Lord. He would support any Amendment that he thought reasonable in any Bill.


did not wish to attribute to his right hon. Friend anything that he was not willing to accept, but he certainly understood him to say that, if he did not like a Bill, he would not vote for an Amendment upon it.


said, he would not consent to do that in three years which he was not willing to do now. The poor of this country would be the chief sufferers, if church rates were abolished.


said, if the noble Lord intended to compel a division, it was desirable that he (Mr. Bright) should offer some explanation as to the reasons for the vote he should give. He was free to confess that, if there were any disposition on the part of hon. Members opposite to accept the solution of the question proposed by this Bill, he should not raise any difficulty upon the point whether it should come into operation in twelve months or three years hence. He did not believe the difficulties into which the Church of England would be plunged by the abolition of church rates would prove to be so extensive as some hon. Members appeared to imagine; but in the settlement of a long-disputed question, if there were any concession which would facilitate that end without interfering with the effect of the settlement, it would be advisable to make it. The tone in which the Amendment had been spoken of on the other side, however, did not lead him to believe that the adoption of this Amendment would be at all an approach to a settlement of the question. The right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone) had gone round and about the sub- ject, but he had not come at it; and he had sat down without giving the House to understand that he was more favourable to the principle of this Bill than he had been to preceding Bills having the same end in view. The right hon. Gentleman did not say that at the end of three years he would support the Bill, nor did the noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) hold out any hope that, at the expiration of that period, he would be less opposed to the Bill than he was at the present time. Indeed he (Mr. Bright) did not see how it could be otherwise, for all the arguments of the supporters of church rates were based upon principles which were not affected by time. He did not perceive how anyone who favoured church rates could be persuaded by the Amendment to change his views. If he believed the adoption of the Amendment would at all tend to a solution of the question, he would advise his hon. Friend to accept the Amendment; but, as he did not entertain that belief, he thought it better the clause should be passed in its original shape.


thought the Bill would, if passed, inflict a very heavy burden on many parishes, and he should be glad to know whether the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Trelawny) had taken into consideration the various questions which must arise if they abolished church rates in England and Wales.


hoped that his voting for the Amendment would not be considered as an approval of the clause, and he should think himself still at liberty to vote against the clause.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


then rose to propose another Amendment, the effect of which would be to confine the abolition of church rates to towns and cities. The Returns laid before that House showed that the refusals of church rates were almost entirely confined to populous places, and that in agricultural counties the refusals did not amount to more than 2 per cent. If the operation of the proposed Act were limited to towns, it would get rid of those acrimonious contests which all deplored, and would leave the country parishes, where little or no opposition was made, to grant or refuse the rate as at present. The noble Lord moved as an Amendment in Clause 1, before the words England and Wales, to insert "in any city, Parliamentary or municipal borough in."


said, he could not consent to the proposed Amendment. The effect would be to exclude such localities as Chelsea.


I hope the Committee will deal with this question with a determination, if possible, to get rid of the grievances which the present system of church rates gives rise to. The difficulty is to ascertain precisely in what those grievances consist. All the information I have leads me to think that the essential grievance of the present system is not that there is a compulsory tax levied for the support of the fabrics of the Established Church, but that it is levied upon property which involves in its operation persons who differ from the tenets of that Church. It is not a statutory rate—it is a common-law rate, dating from a period antecedent to the Reformation, when there was no difference of opinion upon religious matters. Since that event differences of religious opinion have sprung up, and discords have arisen from the imposition of church rates. The rate is a voluntary rate. It is competent for the majority of a vestry to refuse it; and that power has been exercised in a large number of parishes, amounting, I believe, to about 10 per cent of the whole number of parishes, but comprising about one-half of the whole population of the kingdom. It is in large towns where the greatest discords have prevailed, and the result has been, that under the operation of the present system church rates in those towns have practically been abolished. It is also in large towns that there is the greatest accumulation of property, and where are to be found the greatest facilities for raising subscriptions in order to maintain the fabric of the Church. At present it may be said that there are two distinct systems in operation under the existing law. In large towns the parishes have, for the most part, practically abolished church rates and substituted voluntary arrangements, which have been found to answer well. But that state of things only applies to towns. In rural parishes, for the most part, church rates are made without opposition; and even where there have been objections raised they have been overruled by the majority of the ratepayers. In 90 pet cent of the parishes of England and Wales the churches are supported by church rates. That is the way in which the present system works; and it appears to me it would be not a compromise, but a reasonable and practical solution of the question, if the House would adopt the plan that was proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey), namely, to abolish church rates in those towns or parishes where practically they had ceased for a series of years—say four or five years— and in those towns where church rates continue to be levied, to allow those who differ from the Established Church, upon a mere declaration or statement of that fact, to be exempted from liability oh account of them. By that means church rates would only be compulsory upon members of the Established Church. It would satisfy a real want, and would overcome a real difficulty; for in rural parishes no objection is now made, and the facilities which the aggregation of wealth in large towns affords for raising voluntary subscriptions do not exist in small rural parishes. I am not prepared to share the fears of those who think that if church rates are abolished our churches will be permitted to fall to the ground. I believe that funds would be raised by collection, subscriptions, and other modes which in large parishes would meet the wants of the Church; but in poor, small, and remote parishes, if you do not allow the ratepayers to tax themselves, you will introduce a system far less fair and equal than the present. I am favourable to the principle of the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, but it seems to me that its terms would not carry out that principle. It is at once too wide and too narrow. It would exclude many cases which the noble Lord would wish to include, and it would include many places which ought to be excluded. For instance, the parish of Chelsea, and other large parishes in the neighbourhood of London, not included in any Parliamentary borough, would not fall within the terms of the Amendment. On the other hand, small Parliamentary boroughs, or parishes included in such boroughs, where no objection has been made to church rates, would be deprived of the power of voluntarily rating themselves. I think the best plan is that of my right hon. Friend to which I have referred, and which I believe would be found the best and most satisfactory solution of this long-vexed question.


begged to assure the Committee that, if he believed the abolition of church rates would be injurious to the Church of England, he would not give his support to any measure having that object In his conscience, however, he believed it would not have any such effect. He believed the removal of that ground of difference between Dissenters and Churchmen would tend to augment the numbers of the latter, and to diminish the number of the enemies of the Church. If the House relieved the consciences of Dissenters, that was all the Dissenters were entitled to ask. As there was only one great question now dividing Churchmen from Dissenters, he thought the time had come when the Government might devise some fair and reasonable method of settling it; and if there was a disposition to relieve the consciences of Dissenters, he thought the latter ought not to refuse all concession on their parts. He was himself prepared to approach the subject in a conciliatory and temperate manner, and not ask for anything beyond what the Dissenters were entitled to.


said, he could not support the Amendment of the noble Lord. If they were to legislate at all upon this subject, it should be in such a manner as would settle the question for ever; but the Amendment, instead of settling it, would give rise to increased discontent and agitation. Upon what principle were boroughs and cities to be exempted? Those boroughs might contain parishes which had never refused church rates, and the Amendment would deprive them of the light in future. The suggestion of the right hon. Member for Morpeth was, that church rates should be abolished where they had practically ceased, and in parishes where the rates were levied to exempt Dissenters. Those propositions appeared somewhat inconsistent with each other. If Dissenters were exempted in the one case, church rates ought not to be abolished in other parishes. He had great objection to drawing any line between Dissenters and Churchmen, especially one which would hold out a temptation to men of no religion to represent themselves as Dissenters. Me did not value such men as Churchmen; but, for the sake of their children, he would not offer them a bribe to forsake their ancient Church.

MR. PACKE, in reference to a remark which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Radnor (Sir G. Lewis), cited the case of a church situated in a parish where a rate had been refused, which was falling into decay, there being no means of raising the necessary funds for its repair.


observed that the effect of the Amendment would be to take away all power of voluntary rating from the large towns. It was true that, in large towns, many parishes had refused church rates but a time might come when the vestries would repent, and would desire to make rates for the maintenance of their churches; but the Amendment would leave them no power to do so.


I cannot support the Amendment of the noble Lord, although I agree with him in principle. What I wish to do is to remove a sense of injustice which exists in all cities and towns, without at the same time causing a feeling of injustice in the minds of a large body of members of the Established Church in the country. The Amendment of the noble Lord is sound in principle; but, if adopted, its terms would not carry out the principle. In nearly all large towns and cities, of late years, district churches have been built, which are quite independent of church rates, those funds being applicable to parish churches alone. I think the experience we have had of these district churches teaches us that, even if church rates are abolished in large towns, the parish churches will not be allowed to fall into decay. I should advise the noble Lord not to press his Amendment upon this occasion, but to consider whether, upon the next stage of the Bill, he cannot propose words which would more effectually carry out the principle which he has in view. I think the plan I suggested would be the best mode of dealing with the matter; but I am not wedded to my own words, and, if he can devise any arrangement by which the same end can be attained, I shall be happy to give it my support.


thought he should be justified in putting to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) a similar question to that which the hon. Gentleman himself had put to the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford, and in asking him how far he considered the Amendment proposed would settle the question with him? At the same time, it had been clearly pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Lewis) that the words of the Amendment would not carry out the object that the noble Lord had in view. He should be glad to know from the hon. Members who had charge of the Bill, whether the passing of any such measure would make the slightest approach to a settlement of the question? He should like to know, also, from the hon. Member for Birmingham, whether any reciprocity would be held out on that side of the House, such as would induce hon. Members on his (Mr. Henley's) side to assent to the general proposition of the Bill?


said, there seemed to be a difference of opinion even amongst those who wished to stop at a half-way house like that now before them. His opinion was, that this was just one of those straws which a man clung to when going down, and that after all the subject was not worth discussing. The noble Lord, the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil), must know that on his (Mr. Bright's) side of the House by those who were prepared to support the principle upon which the Bill depended— his proposition could not be entertained for a moment. Besides this there was another ground of objection to it—namely, that it would not work. These things were contagious, and could the Committee suppose that the parish which had the advantage of being exempted would not become the focus of a yet stronger agitation than that which existed at the present moment? He was not sure that the town of Braintree, which had immortalised itself by its opposition to church rates, would be exempted by the proposal of the noble Lord. In point of fact, the proposition was one of those which met nobody's views—at all events, not of a single human being who was honestly opposed to church rates. He could not, therefore, hold out any hope that the noble Lord's proposition would mitigate hostility in respect to this impost.


The sentiment of the Committee, or at least of a large portion of it, appears to be that there is much substantial reason in the proposal of my noble Friend, but that the form in which it is presented to us is inadmissible. My right hon. Friend (Sir G. Grey) embodied his views in a Bill when he was the organ of the Government; but he has now given his opinion, not as the organ of the Government, but as an independent Member. There is, I think, in the proposal of my noble Friend much that might become the basis of an arrangement of this question. But at the same time I do not think that we hare to-day made much progress towards any practical result. Motions have been withdrawn one after the other, and the progress of the debate does not give my noble Friend much encouragement to take the sense of the Committee upon his Motion. The proposition, however, is of great importance, because it appears to have the sanction of the Government, and I do not think it can ever be refused or extinguished by a vote of this House. I am certain that my noble Friend will be doing a public service if he puts us in a condition to give a positive judgment upon his proposal. There appears to me to be great common sense in it, and to say the least it offers a less hopeless prospect of a practical result than any other plan that has been submitted to us. I do not think that a question of this kind can be settled by a bargain in this House. But there is a spirit of moderation abroad—a desire for peace—and a disposition to forego extreme views where practical results can be attained, which, independently of any bargain in this House, will insure practical success and permanency to any plan which appears to be founded in moderation and good sense.


must adhere to his principle, and could not agree to the Amendment.


said, that having met the usual fate of those who attempted to reconcile opposite parties, and having drawn down upon himself the combined censure of the hon. Member for Birmingham and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, he had no alternative but to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment by leave withdrawn.

Question proposed "That Clause One stand part of the Bill."


(amidst calls for a division) moved that the Chairman report progress.


supported the Motion ["Divide, divide!"] If the clause were passed in its present shape there would at once be an end to church rates throughout the country; whereas if the Chairman reported progress it would be open to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) and other hon. Members, to consider whether some middle course might not be adopted that would be satisfactory to all who were desirous of seeing this question settled.


on rising was greeted with a storm of "obs," which was redoubled in vehemence when he observed that he threw himself upon the indulgence of the House, never having yet addressed it on the subject of church rates. He would recommend that the Motion for reporting progress should be agreed to, in order to enable the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) to re-introduce his former Bill [" Oh, oh!"] He granted that it was in vain to attempt to maintain the law as it now stood. Some compromise, therefore, must be entered into. There was undoubtedly much force in what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, and for some time he was inclined to give the noble Lord's propositions his support; but upon consideration he saw that they would not settle the question, whilst he owned that there was the prospect of a settlement in the adoption of the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth.


said, that as the House had been, in point of fact, discussing the principle of the measure, it would be but fair that the Committee should divide upon the clause which contained the principle of the Bill. Even if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth were to propose his proposition, the supporters of the Bill now under discussion might not accept it, though he for one was willing to do so. He was prepared to accept it, because he was against the naked principle of the present Bill.


I concur with the noble Lord. It appears to me that there is sufficient time to come to a division to-day, and that would be the fairest, as I think upon reflection it would be the most satisfactory course to all parties.

Motion made and question put, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided— Ayes 104; Noes 346: Majority 242.

List of the AYES.
Adderley, rt. hon. C. B. Dalkeith, Earl of
Alexander, J. Dobbs, W. C.
Annesley, hon. H. Du Cane, C.
Baillie, H. J. Duncombe, hon. A.
Bernard, T. T. Duncombe, hon. Col.
Bathurst, A. A. Dundas, G.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Du Pre, C. G.
Boldero, Col. East, Sir J. B.
Bovill, W. Egerton, Sir P. G.
Bramston, T. W. Elmley, Visct.
Bridges, Sir B. W. Farnham, E. B.
Bruce, Major C. Fellowes, E.
Burghley, Lord Forde, Col.
Cairns, Sir H. M. Forester, rt. hon. Col.
Carden, Sir R. W. Gard, R. S.
Cartwright, H. Goddard, A. L.
Cecil, Lord R. Gurney, J. H.
Child, S. Hall, Gen.
Close, M. C. Heathcote, Sir W.
Cobbold, J. C. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Codrington, Sir W. Hill, hon. R.
Cole, hon. H. A. Hodgson, W. N.
Cooper, E. J. Holford, R. S.
Cubitt, Mr. Ald. Hopwood, J. T.
Hornby, W. H. Nisbet, R. P.
Horsfall, T. B. Ossulston, Lord
Hotham, Lord Packe, C. W.
Hunt, G. W. Palmer, R,
Ingestrie, Visct. Pevensey, Visct.
Jolliffe, H. H. Repton, G. W. J.
King, J. K. Robertson, P. F.
Knatchbull, W. F. Rolt, J.
Knight, F. W. Scott, Major
Knightley, R. Shirley, E. P.
Langton, W. G. Smyth, Col.
Lefroy, A. Spooner, R.
Long, W. Stanhope, J. B.
Lopes, Sir M. Steuart, A.
Lovaine, Lord Tollemache, J.
Lyall, G. Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.
Macartney, G. Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.
Macaulay, K. Vance, J.
M'Clintock, J. Verner, Sir W.
Malins, R. Waddington, H. S.
Manners, Lord J. Walcott, Adm.
March, Earl of Warren, S.
Miller, T. J. Whiteside, rt. hon. J.
Miller, S. B. Wyndham, Gen.
Mills, A. Wynn, Colonel
Morgan, O. Wynne, W. W. E.
Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
Naas, Lord TELLERS.
Neeld, J. Wigram, L. T.
Newdegate, C. N. Lygon, F.
List of the NOES.
Adair, H. E. Bramley-Moore, J.
Adeane, H. J. Brand, hon. H.
Agnew, Sir A. Bright, J.
Akroyd, E. Briscoe, J. I.
Alcock, T. Brocklehurst, J.
Anderson, Sir J. Brown, W.
Antrobus, E. Browne, Lord J. T.
Ashley, Lord Bruce, Lord E.
Atherton, W. Bruce, H. A.
Ayrton, A. S. Buchanan, W.
Bagshaw, R. J. Buckley, Gen.
Bagwell, J. Buller, J. W.
Bailey, Sir J. Bury, Visct.
Bailey, C. Butler, C. S.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Buxton, C.
Ball, E. Byng, hon. G.
Baring, H. B. Caird, J.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F.T. Campbell, R. J. R.
Baring, T. Cardwell, rt. hon. E.
Baring, T. G. Carnac, Sir J. R.
Barnard, T. Cavendish, hon. W.
Bass, M. T. Cayley, E. S.
Baxter, W. E. Charlesworth, J. C. D.
Beach, W. W. B. Cheetham, J.
Beale, S. Cholmeley, Sir M. J.
Beaumont, W. B. Churchill, Lord A. S.
Beecroft, G. S. Clark, J. J.
Bennet, P. Clay, J.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Clifford, C. C.
Berkeley, F. W. F. Clifford, Col.
Bethell, Sir R. Clive, G.
Biddulph, R. M. Cobbett, J. M.
Biggs, J. Codrington, Gen.
Black, A. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Blackburn, P. Collier, R. P.
Blake, J. Coningham, W.
Bland, L. H. Conyngham, Lord F.
Bonham-Carter, J. Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.
Bowyer, G. Corbally, M. E.
Brady, J. Cox, W.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Hamilton, Capt.
Crawford, R. W. Hanbury, R.
Crook, J. Hankey, T.
Cross, R. A. Hanmer, Sir J.
Crossley, F. Hardcastle, J. A.
Dalglish, R. Hardy, G.
Damer, L. D. Harris, J. D.
Dashwood, Sir G. H. Hartington, Marq.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Hassard, M.
Deasy, R. Hatchell, J.
Deedes, W. Hayes, Sir E.
Denison, hon. W. H. F. Headlam, T. E.
Dent, J. D. Heathcote, hon. G. H.
De Vere, S. E. Henchy, D. O'C.
Dillwyn, L. L. Heneage, G. F.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Herbert, rt. hon. S.
Divett, E. Hodgson, K. D.
Dod, J. W. Holland, E.
Dodson, J. G. Horsman, rt. hon. E.
Duff, Major L. D. G. Hudson, G.
Dunbar, Sir W. Ingham, R.
Duncombe, T. Jackson, W.
Dundas, F. Jermyn, Earl
Dunkellin, Lord Johnstone, hon. H. B.
Dunlop, A. M. Johnstone, J. J. H.
Dutton, hon. R. H. Johnstone, Sir J.
Ebrington, Viscount Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Edwards, H. Kendall, N.
Egerton, E. C. Kerrison, Sir E. C.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Kershaw, J.
Elton, Sir A. H. King, hon. P. J. L.
Estcourt, rt. hn. T. H. S. Kinglake, A. W.
Evans, Sir De L. Kinglake, J. A.
Evans, T. W. Kingscote, R. N. F.
Ewart, W. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Ewart, J. C. Kirk, W.
Ewing, H. E. C. Knatchbull-Hugessen E.
Farquhar, Sir M. Knox, Col.
Fenwick, H. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Fergus, J. Langston, J. H.
Ferguson, Col. Langton, H. G.
Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. Laslett, W.
Foley, J. H. Legh, G. C.
Foley, H. J. W. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Foljambe, F. J. S. Leslie, C. P.
Forster, C. Levinge, Sir R.
Foster, W. O. Liddell, hon. H. G.
Fortescue, hon. F. D. Lindsay, W. S.
Fox, W. J. Locke, John
Freestun, Col. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
French, Col. Luce, T.
Gallwey, Sir W. P. Macarthy, A.
Garnett, W. J. M'Cann, J.
Gaskell, J. M. MacEvoy, E.
Gifford, Earl of Mackie, J.
Gilpin, C. Mackinnon, W. A.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. Maguire, J. F.
Glyn, G. C. Mangles, R. D.
Glyn, G. G. Marjoribanks, D. C.
Goderich, Visct. Marsh, M. H.
Greenwood, J. Martin, C. W.
Greer, S. M'C. Martin, J.
Gregson, S. Massey, W. N.
Grenfell, C. W. Maxwell, hon. Col.
Grey, R. W. Melgund, Visct.
Griffith, C. D. Mellor, J.
Grogan, E. Mills, T.
Grosvenor, Earl Moncrieff, rt. hon. J.
Gurney, S. Montgomery Sir G.
Hadfield, G. Moody, C. A.
Hall, rt. hon. Sir B. Morris, D.
Hamilton, Lord C. Napier, Sir C.
Hamilton, G. A. Newark, Visct.
Newport, Visct. Smith, Sir F.
Nicoll, D. Smollett, A.
Noel, hon. G. J. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Norris, J. T. Stanley, Lord
North, Col. Stanley, hon. W. O.
North, F. Stapleton, J.
O'Brien, P. Steel, J.
O'Connell, Capt. D. Stirling, W.
O'Donaghoe, The Stewart, Sir M. R. S.
Ogilvy, Sir J. Stuart, Lord J.
Paget, C. Stuart, Col.
Paget, Lord C. Sturt, H. G.
Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J. Sullivan, M.
Palk, L. Sykes, Col. W. H.
Palmerston, Visct. Talbot, C. R. M.
Patten, Col. W. Taylor, S. W.
Paull, H. Tempest, Lord A. V.
Paxton, Sir J. Thompson, Gen.
Pease, H. Thornely, T.
Pechell, Sir G. B. Thornhill, W. P.
Pennant, hon. Col. Tite, W.
Percy, hon. J. W. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Perry, Sir T. E. Tomline, G.
Philips, R. N. Traill, G.
Pilkington, J. Trueman, C.
Pinney, Col. Turner, J,
Portman, hon. W. H. B. Tynte, Col. K.
Potter, Sir J. Vane, Lord H.
Powell, F. S. Vansittart, W.
Price, W. P. Verney, Sir H.
Pryse, E. L. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Pugh, D. Vivian, H. H.
Puller, C. W. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Ramsden, Sir J. W. Weguelin, T. M.
Rawlinson, Sir H. C. Welby, W. E.
Raynham, Visct. Western, S.
Rebow, J. G. Westhead, J. P. B.
Ricardo, J. L. Whatman, J.
Ricardo, O. Whitbread, S.
Richardson, J. White, J.
Ridley, G. Whitmore, H.
Robartes, T. J. A. Wickham, H. W.
Roupell, W. Willcox, B. M'G.
Rushout, G. Williams, W.
Russell, Lord J. Willyams, E. W. B.
Russell, H. Willoughby, Sir H.
Russell, A. Willoughby, J. P.
Rust, J. Wingfield, R. B.
Salisbury, E. G. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Schneider, H. W. Wise, J. A.
Scholefield, W. Woodd, B. T.
Sclater-Booth, G. Wood, W.
Scott, hon. F. Woods, H.
Seymer, H. K. Wyld, J.
Seymour, H. D. Wyndham, H.
Shafto, R. D. Wyvill, M.
Shelley, Sir J. V. Young, A. W.
Sheridan, H. B.
Sibthorp, Major TELLERS.
Smith, J. B. Trelawny, Sir J.
Smith, rt. hon. R. V. Martin, P. W.
Smith, A.

And it being a quarter to six o'clock, the Chairman left the Chair.

House resumed.

Committee report progress; to sit again To-morrow.

House adjourned at Three Minutes before Six o'clock.