HC Deb 27 April 1858 vol 149 cc1845-67

said, he rose to move that the House should on the following day resolve itself into a Committee to consider the expediency of providing for the repair of churches and the maintenance of churchyards by substituting for church rates such an annual renteharge upon all hereditaments, in respect of which church rates might now be lawfully assessed upon the occupiers thereof, as would most fairly represent the total annual amount now raised by church rates, such renteharge to he a fixed and uniform poundage on the rateable value of the hereditaments, and to be made a charge on the owners of the same. He had originally given notice of his intention to move this Resolution as an instruction to the Committee upon the Bill of the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Trelawny); but, to his regret, the forms of the House had pre-vented his taking that course, and consequently he was compelled to adopt the present mode of bringing it forward. The main principle of his Motion was to substitute for the present liability of the occupiers of lands and houses a renteharge upon the owners, confining the application of the money so raised to the repair of the fabric of the churches and the maintenance of the churchyards. During his canvass at the last general election he was, like most other hon. Members, much catechised upon the subject of church rates; but, although he had declared that he could not vote for their simple and total abolition, he received much support from the Dissenters. When he asked the opponents of those rates if they were desirous of seeing the sacred edifices in their parishes suffered to go to ruin, the reply was almost invariably in the negative; but when he asked how they were to be maintained in repair he received no satisfactory answer. There was in this country hardly any class of buildings more deserving of support than the churches. Unlike the mansions of the landowners, which were the property of individuals, and the use and enjoyment of which were confined to individuals, the parish church was the common property of all the inhabitants of the parish, for the most sacred and beneficial purposes, the worship of Almighty God and the teaching of his word. Those churches were scattered over the face of the land, they had been given, most of them ages ago, by pious and generous in- dividuals to their respective parishes, and their preservation had been duo to this, that by the law of the land the inhabitants of each parish had, as was declared in the Braintree case, the undoubted right to maintain and repair their church by taxing the property of the parish. He might here be met with a legal maxim, which was frequently referred to in this question, that the liability to maintain the fabric was a charge not on the land, but on the occupier in respect of the land. To his mind, however, this was only a specimen of legal dust, because, except in cafe of insolvency, it made no difference whether the charge was on the land or on the owner in respect of it. The burden and the incidence of the burden were exactly the same, whether the remedy for non-payment was against the land, as in the case of tithes, or by proceeding against the occupier, as in the case of poor rate. Mr. Rogers said, speaking of chinch rates, "Generally the property ought to be rated, and, though in form the rate is upon the person in respect of the land, yet in substance it is the land which is chargeable." That doctrine, the truth of which no reasonable man could doubt, received the fullest Parliamentary recognition in the Church Building Act, passed in the 58th year of the reign of George III., which provided that money should not be borrowed upon the security of the church rates without the consent of two-thirds in value of the owners of land being first obtained. This point, however, needed neither legal argument nor statutory authority. Could any man doubt that the owners of the land did, by receiving so much less rent, hour the burden of the church rate? It had been said that the amount was so small that it made no difference. That meant that if church rates were abolished the landlords throughout the country would not immediately raise their rents 2d. or 3d. in the pound. Probably they would not. They were most of them too generous and too careless to do anything of the kind, but in the course of time the thing would work itself out. Suppose any gentleman were about to purchase lay tithes, would he not, before making an offer, ask whether the tithes involved the maintenance of the chancel? and if they did, would he not then ascertain the average annual amount of that burden, and multiplying it by twenty or twenty-five, as the case might be, strike it off from the gross value of the tithes. And precisely the same was the case with a tenant before taking land; he naturally inquired what were the charges upon it, and he would consider the poor rates, church rates, and other outgoings before he determined what rent he ought to give. The law had been from time immemorial—namely, from before the Conquest—that the poor people of this country should have their churches repaired at the charge of the property of the parish, and the practical results was that the owners of that property bore the burden of these repairs. But by the Bill now before the House it was proposed to deprive the poor inhabitants of that ancient right, and to relieve the owners of property from their ancient burden. By returns before the House, it appeared that the money value of this right of the poor was £300,000 a year, which it was now proposed to make a present of to the landowners, who did not want it, had never asked for it, had done nothing to deserve it, and ninety-nine out of one hundred of whom objected to the abolition of church rates. His opinion on this subject—whether right or wrong—was shared in by a large number of the most eminent authorities in the country, although he was quite aware that a different view of this question was hold by the Dissenters of England. They naturally regarded the principle of religious equality involved in it and their own interests, which he admitted would be entitled to great respect and consideration if they were now forming a constitution and were acting independently of all those ancient habits and traditions under which we had grown up, and which were associated with the history of the country. If, then, such a division of opinion prevailed, was it fair, just, or reasonable, to assert that there was only one solution of the matter? The question was, in fact, one which admitted of a reasonable compromise, and it ought not to be settled in such a way as to give one party a triumph over the other. He admitted, that at present Dissenters had a reasonable ground of complaint. The burden being, generally speaking, a charge upon the owner, the manner in which the law had been worked out made it a practical grievance upon the Dissenters, because every shilling being raised by a vestry, which fixed not only the quantum to be levied, but also the application of it when levied, the vote was one in which the majority taxed the minority. That was in itself a perpetual vexation, and one advantage of the substitution which he asked the House to sanction was, that they would get rid of this occasion of strife and make the tax a fixed charge upon the owner of property. Such trifling things as the washing of surplices and other petty items of expense ought to be paid by the voluntary contributions of the congregation, and he did not wonder that Dissenters objected to provide them; but when a large outlay for repairs, or the reconstruction of an ancient church, had to be met in some poor country parish without a resident gentleman in it, the question assumed a totally different complexion. He was sure there was not a man in that House who did not feel that if church rates were unconditionally abolished, there would be great difficulty in maintaining the fabric of the Church in thousands of our country parishes. The question then arose, how the substitution of a charge or tax upon the landlord, instead of a rate made and paid by the occupier, was to be practically carried into effect. Three points were to be kept in view—first, that the change should be made with as little injury as possible to the owners of land; secondly, that efficient provision should be made for providing for the wants which it was proposed to meet; and, thirdly, that there should be as little interference as possible with the institutions of the country. One mode which suggested itself, was to ascertain the actual amount raised for the last year, and to commute that for a rentcharge of corresponding amount, payable by the landlord. But, although that plan had been successful in the ease of tithes, it could not be applied to church rates without combining the two faults of injury to the owner and inefficiency in providing for the wants of the Church, because, where the landowners and the inhabitants had most efficiently discharged their duty, and had maintained their church in good repair, the amount that had been raised would be the greatest, and the amount to be paid in future under the commutation would be the greatest also. On the other hand, in a parish where the church had been allowed to fall into decay for want of adequate rates, inasmuch as the levies had been small, the rentcharge would in future be small also, and the means of maintaining the church would therefore be in the inverse proportion to the requirements of the locality. If the plan of commutation were not adopted, they must resort to something in the way of substitution. It would be a hopeless task to attempt to untie every knot. The House, if they did anything at all, must take a broad view of the subject, preferring that plan which could be worked out in the fairest manner to all parties. If they substituted a tax upon the owner, that tax might be of two kinds. It might be an elastic charge, varying according to the wants of the parish, so that in some years there might be no demand at all made upon the owners; while in others it might be considerable in amount. That was the plan adopted in the Church of Scotland. In Scotland the repairs, and, if necessary, the rebuilding of a church and manse were provided for by a charge on the heritors of a parish; there being a legal power on the part of the local presbytery, which comprised the ministers and certain elected lay ciders of the district, to compel the heritors to discharge their duty in this respect if they neglected it. That method, however, would hardly be applicable to England; we had no such machinery, and our landowners were hardly prepared for the imposition of so stringent a system. A better mode of dealing with the question was to lay on all property now liable to church rates, a tax or rentcharge of fixed and uniform amount—that amount being such, that the sum collected over the whole of England would fairly represent the total sum raised in the form of church rates according to the last returns. The total sum thus raised was now £314,000 a year; but that amount included the interest and instalments annually payable on a debt of rather more than £300,000 borrowed on the security of the rates. Until the debt was liquidated, there must be, it was agreed, a power in the vestry to continue levying the rates. Deducting the interest and instalments, there would remain about £280,000 a year to be provided for. The latest returns showed the total annual value of the rateable property of the country assessed to poor rates to be £67,000,600 in 1850; and if he reckoned that it had increased by this time to £70,000,000, he would probably be within the mark. Striking off from this, the property charged for the maintenance of the chancel, and which could not be justly charged also for the maintenance of the nave, there would be between £65,000,000 and £66,000,000 of property liable to the impost left, on which a tax of 1d. in the pound would produce £270,000 per annum. The task of providing for an expenditure which varied so much from year to year as that belonging to the necessary repair of a parish church from a uniform charge of 1d. in the pound upon the lands and houses might not, at first sight, appear to be a very easy one. But he proposed to follow a principle very familiar to the House, and which was adopted in all friendly societies, in all assurance societies, and in the government of this country itself—the principle of throwing small fixed annual sums into a, common fund, out of which those who paid in should draw out larger sums from time to time as occasion might require. He understood there was an objection on the part of some hon. Members to that principle, and that they would prefer placing the payments, whether large or small, of each parish to a separate fund. That, however, was a matter of detail which might be fairly considered in Committee. In submitting the Motion of which he had given notice he proposed to omit the last four lines, which provided that the proceeds of the rent charge in each diocese should form a central fund from which grants might be made fur the repair of churches and the maintenance of churchyards, as he thought that part of his plan could be bettor discussed in the Committee if the Mouse thought fit to grant him one. An objection had been raised to his plan on account of its effect on parishes which had for some time refused to make church rates. The claim of particular parishes to withdraw themselves from the operation of a general tax, to be levied on the whole country for the benefit of the poorer inhabitants, did not appear to him to be a reasonable one. The body by whom church rates had been discontinued was practically a vestry of occupiers; and the body on whom the new tax would be imposed would be the owners. The occupiers had but a transitory interest in the property, and dissent prevailed to a larger extent among them than among the owners, and it might very well happen that the owners would not be disposed to resist the charge if the decision were left in their hands. But this, again, was a matter of detail, and it would be open to every member who thought that a particular class of parishes ought to be exempted from the proposed rent charge, to propose that in Committee, by way of exception, to the general measure. He earnestly hoped that both sides of the House would give a full and candid consideration to this question. The subject was one on which it was most desirable in the interest of all parties that peace should be restored. Nothing could be so injurious as the local agitation to which it now gave rise, and the mixing up of matters touching so closely on religion with the debates of that House was seriously to be deprecated. It could not be expected that the churchmen of England, with their earnest convictions that they were in the right, would all at once give way to the views of their opponents, however strongly entertained. Both sides must make up their minds to one of two things —either to accept a fair and reasonable compromise, or be prepared for a continuance of the existing strife and dissension. If twenty or thirty years ago the rate had been made in form as well as in reality a charge on the landlord, and had been confined to the maintenance of the fabric, did any single Member believe that we should ever have heard a syllable of objection to it from owner or occupier or any one else? The hon. Gentleman concluded by his Motion.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made and Question proposed,— That this House will, To-morrow, resolve itself into a Committee, for the purpose of considering the expediency of providing for the repair of Churches and the maintenance of Churchyards, by substituting for Church Rates such an annual rentcharge upon all hereditaments in respect of which Church Rates may now be lawfully assessed upon the occupiers thereof, as will most fairly represent the total annual amount now raised by Church Rates; such rentcharge to be a fixed and uniform poundage on the rateable value of such hereditaments, and to be made a charge on the owners of the same; the proceeds of such rent-charge in each diocese to form a central fund from which grants may be made towards the repair of Churches and the maintenance of Churchyards, and to be administered by a body of persons elected for that purpose.


* It has appeared in the debates on this Bill that the resistance to it arises chiefly from the feeling that, if we did away with church rates, we should be robbing the Church of her property, and that our next step will be to rob her of tithe as well. If that were so, it ought to be, and I think it would be, fatal to this Bill. Nothing could be more disastrous than that Parliament should trample on the sacred and inviolable rights of property. But are church rates the property of the Church? Surely not. It seems to me that no two things can stand further asunder than tithe and church rates. With respect to tithe, the law undoubtedly regards the rector of a parish as part owner of the land. Whatever right the landlord has to his rents, such precisely is the rector's right to his rent-charge. But does the law look upon the parish church as if it were a human being endowed with a lien upon the parish property? The law does not indulge in any romance or sentiment of the kind. With the plain good sense which marks English law, it merely takes the parish church for what it is; the law regards it as the property, as one of the goods and chattels, of the people in the parish. They are welcome to let that property down, or to keep it up; the sum total of what the law does is to cause the parish to act as a whole. That is to say, in this as in other parochial concerns, the lesser is made to yield to the greater number. As far as church rates go, the law takes no cognizance of the Church; it only recognizes and enforces parish self-government. Surely there is here no property, no possession of any kind, except indeed the legal enjoyment of a privileges by the majority of ratepayers. We need not, then, feel uneasy lost, in taking away that privilege from the ratepayers, we should be stripping the Church of wealth that belongs to her, or should be setting a precedent for the confiscation of tithes. This difficulty fades away when it is looked into, and we are left free to discuss the question as one of expediency; and, as a matter of expediency, it seems to me that, so far from dealing a blow to the Church by this measure, we shall root her more firmly in the hearts of the people. I am not one of those friends of the Church who would rather see her rich in money than rich in love; and in this matter we have to choose between the two. At the same time one cannot but feel some regret in pulling down an institution which has stood for ages. Nor can I help wondering at the heat of the Radical party on the matter, seeing that the church-rate system is both low church and democratic. It is low church, in that it treats the churches as the chattels of the people. It is democratic, in that it recognizes the power of majorities; in that it entrusts the care of the House of God to the people themselves; in that it allows the right of the poor man to be found by his richer neighbours in the means and appliances for worship, and not only for worship, but for the performance of the rites of baptism, marriage, and burial. Sir, one might have rejoiced had this holy trust been still regarded as rather a delight than a burden. But that is so no longer. In a vast number of parishes church rates are an unfailing spring of bitterness and ill-will. I have been surprised at the stress that has been laid on the fact (if it be a fact) that church rates have been carried in nine-tenths of the, parishes in which they have been asked. Why, Sir, we must know little of village politics, if we are unaware that the great mischief is not done where the opponents of church rates have got their way, but where they have been defeated. It is there that you find a grumbling and growling minority, who are made sore against the Church, and not only against the Church but against their clergyman, by having their money wrung from them. Now, I do not believe that the irritation caused by church rates usually springs from any conscientious horror about aiding a false religion. Some Dissenters may have scruples of that kind, but nowadays most of them are willing to look on the Church as their fellow-worker rather than their foe, and their objection to church rates has more sense in it. They dislike paying for our buildings and our services, not because it is a sin, but from a reluctance which, in the corrupt state of human nature, is not surprising—a reluctance to pay other people's bills for them. They say, and there is a kind of wild justice about it, that if we don't like catching cold in church, we had better send for the bricklayer to stop the holes up, but not charge the cost to them. They have their own chapels on their hands, and their own ministers, and they hardly see why they are to look after our comforts. For, after all, it is not a question of spreading the Gospel abroad, it is simply a question of comfort. And I really doubt whether it it not wrong, absolutely wrong, for us to squeeze other people's money out to pay for things with which they have no concern. We were told indeed, that it is the sacred indefeasible light of majorities to tax minorities; but surely that is only so for purposes common to the whole, not for those which touch the majority alone. So far then as Dissenters go, it is open to doubt, whether church rates are not the triumph of might over right; and I feel no doubt that it would be worth more than all the silver and gold we screw from them, that our Church should stand clean handed before them, instead of looking like a plunderer. But now, Sir, we must not fancy the whole clamour against church rates to be of this fair and respectable land. A large part of the outcry comes from those who belong to the Church of England—from those who share in the good things for which church rates pay. That outcry comes in some from principle; in more from mean stinginess. Notwithstanding, it would be well to stop it, for nothing, no, not even the feeling of ill-usage on the part of the Dissenters, does so much to keep the Church in hot water and set the pastor at loggerheads with his sheep. This, then, is the state of things that we have to deal with. Not only to those without her pale, but to those within it, these rates give our Church an ugly look of greediness and grasping, and, therefore, I cannot but wish the system of church rates to be swept away. But though we yield so far, still I think we are bound to weigh calmly and thoughtfully, whether any of the plans for raising money in the place of church rates are not worthy to be approved. It is a very nice thing, of course, to talk of not drawing money from people who don't like paying it; yet somehow or other the money must be got, and the question is, how to get it. The pleasant thing for us would be to put a vague trust in voluntary subscriptions, and let the matter take its chance. Surely that course would be more easy than right. It may be feared that, in many rural parishes, the churches would fall into disrepair; in many more into ruin. Most often, however, the work would be done. But by whom would it be done? It would be done mainly by the clergyman. Now, already the clergy spend far more on their neighbours than any other men do, in the way of schools, reading-rooms, clothing-clubs, and direct relief. I shrink from burdening them still more; I shrink for their own sake; and I shrink too lest those schools and charities should be skimped by this further claim. But above all, because it seems to me to set the matter on an utterly wrong footing. It is not for the clergyman's good, it is for the good of the laity that they should worship God; it is not the clergyman's matter, it is the laity's matter, that their churches should be snug, and the services well done. And yet, if we make a clean sweep of church rates, without setting up anything in their stead, we shall in reality force the clergyman to do for the laity, what the laity ought to do for themselves. On these accounts, and on many others, we are bound not to throw overboard the schemes that have been brought forward, without looking into them fairly, and thoroughly; and especially is such consideration due to the proposal to leave a share of the maintenance of the churches on the owners of land. This seems to me perfectly just, fair, and wise. No economist, I believe, denies that the church rate is reckoned in the rent paid for land. The bulk of it then has realty lain upon the shoulders of the landlord, and to abolish it would be to put money in the pocket of every squire in England. Of course if our farmers had not to pay church rates we should raise their rents. The hon. Baronet who moved this Bill dwelt on this, and he called on the landowners of England to aid him in passing it, because it would put money in their purses. Sir, I too would impress the same truth on what my hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich called the bucolic mind in this House. I would again remind the landowners in the House, that the abolition of the church rates will send into their pockets the money which used to go to keep up the parish churches; and I remind them of it, because I am persuaded that most of them would scorn to catch a penny in any such way. They might hold, as I do, that the present way of raising these funds is a vexatious and hurtful way; but the proposal not to readjust, but to repudiate, a burden which has lain for ages on their land, and to make a profit—a profit to which they have no claim—by the transaction—this proposal would not, I think, meet with acceptance. It would then be a fair and convenient settlement of the church-rate question, just as it was a fair and convenient settlement of the tithe question, to levy the money at once from those who have really to pay it in the long run, without first wringing it from the tenantry. It may be asked, how we shall do with a dissenting landlord? Those cases might be easily met. Experience has shown in the case of tithe that no practical difficulty arises on that point. Such cases in fact would not he very common, for there is no such persuasive eloquence to faith in the Thirty-nine Articles as that of broad acres. If, therefore, my hon. Friend the Member for Herts had proposed that in rural parishes, and in them alone, a small addition should be made to tithe for this purpose, I should have withdrawn the first of the Amendments of which I have given notice, and should have given this Motion my humble support. But, Sir, this Motion seems to be, not for merely making an addition to the tithe paid by landowners in the counties, but for throwing on the possessors of house property in towns a perfectly novel charge. And to that course there is this fatal objection, that it would stir up that very strife, that very exasperation, which it is our express object to allay. Sir, it seems to me that if we are not willing to trust the parish churches in towns to voluntary subscriptions, then there is no legitimate way of raising the money except by allowing pew-rents to be levied in the parish churches, just as they are already in most district churches. People seem to think pew-rents a strange and new tiling. Why, Sir, I do not hesitate to say, that there are thousands and thousands of churches in which pew-rents are raised, without the smallest difficulty or annoyance of any sort or kind. I know there is a feeling against them in the minds of many persons. But it seems to me that all the sound objections to them would fall to the ground, if, say a third of the sittings, were left free for the very poor, another portion were let at a rate low enough to be within the reach of respect-able working-men, and the remainder at the usual price. Those gentlemen who are most intimate with the working class in towns will agree with me in believing, that a low pew-rent would not keep them away from church, but would draw them to it. A main reason why the Dissenting chapel is more popular with town mechanics than the parish church is, that they pay for their sittings, and so feel a right to them. Nothing is so distasteful to the working-men of the better class as to be treated like paupers; nothing would attach them more to the Church than to feel that they had seats of their own; and this would be still more the case, if every man who paid for a sitting had a share in electing the committee who should lay out the money thus raised. The man who paid half-a-crown for his sitting might have one vote; the man who paid a pound might have eight votes. Thus the Church and its services would be kept up by those who would enjoy them, without any vexing declaration as to their being Dissenters or Churchmen. It seems to me that by such a plan two sound principles would be brought into action: those would pay for the commodities who used the commodities; those would manage the funds who provided the funds. I believe that by a small addition to the rent-charge in rural districts, and by graduated pew-rents in town, enough money would be raised to meet the running expenses. But, Sir, I would just add that many of our parish churches are not mere places of worship for the parishioners, but are architectural monuments of great value to the country. It is not fair to them, nor is it fair to the parishes in which they stand, that the whole weight of their repairs and restorations, which is much the heavier, because of their architectural splendour, that the whole of that burden should fall on the people of the place. It would be a fair equalization of the burden, and it would do much to preserve or to restore those architectural monuments, if a part of the cost were defrayed from the wealth of the whole Church; and I am persuaded that ample funds for such a purpose would be forthcoming, if the vast real property in lands, mines, and houses, belonging to the Church of England, and now administered by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, were all sold off and the proceeds invested in the funds. There is enormous waste, there is enormous pecuniary loss, in the attempt of the Church to play the part of landlord to property scattered throughout the country, the mere supervision of which involves a great outlay. If all those properties were brought to the hammer, and the money got for them were more judiciously invested, the Church would be very far richer than she is now, and might spend that extra income on the preservation of those ancient buildings, which ought to be her glory, but too often are her shame.

The sum of what I have been saying is, that, by doing away with the church rates, we should not be trampling on the rights of property, or laying a stepping-stone to the confiscation of tithe. And that, although one cannot but fuel regret in laying the axe to such a time-honoured institution, this must be done, because church rates are not fair towards those without the Church, nor wise towards those within it. But that, if we leave the thing to be done by voluntary subscription alone, we shall lay upon a few generous men, and above all upon the clergy, a burden which it is the duty of all churchmen to bear. And that it would be set upon the right shoulders, if in country districts a small addition were made to the rentcharge; and in towns pew-rents were affixed in the parish as well as in the district churches; and if the extraordinary outlay, required by extraordinary architectural splendour, were partly met by a wiser investment of the wealth of the Church of England.


said, he saw an objection to the original Motion, which bore upon the propriety of an Amendment. They were told that church rates fell upon the landlords or owners. So they did, and those were the very men who complained, or who would complain; for the owners were many of them Dissenters. It was very likely that the man who at present saw his chair or table taken for church rates, had a more lively sense of suffering than the landlord who had only a dim and misty notion that 7s. 6d. might be ultimately deducted from his rent-roll. But let the landlords once sec the thing in the shape of a direct impost, and they would quickly be heard of in this House, with power greatly superior to that of the present complainants. The original Motion, if carried, would only be a phase through which they would pass to an increased resistance to church rates; and therefore he would second the Amendment.

Amendment proposed,— To leave out from the first word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that in some parishes power should be given to make an addition, to a limited amount, to the Tithe, in order to maintain the fabric of the churches; and that in some parishes in towns power should be given to the churchwardens or the vestry to place a rental on a certain proportion of the sittings," instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to he left out stand part of the Question."


said, it was his intention to negative the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. He must first, however, congratulate the Government on the fact that assistance in their difficulties had been thrown out to them from the opposition side of the House; for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman below him (Mr. Puller) was of the same nature as the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member fur London with regard to the India Bill, and it must have been quite a godsend. With regard to the plan of the hon. Gentleman, he did not think that it could be entertained, fur so far from providing a remedy for the existing state of things, it fixed the injustice still deeper. Church rates were at present a contingent tax, but the hon. Gentleman wished to make them permanent. In five years church rates would abolish themselves, whereas the hon. Gentleman now sought to make them perpetual. He did wonder then that hon. Gentlemen opposite should have received the plan of the hon. Gentleman with so much favour. As proposed, however, it was open to much criticism and, in his opinion, would never work. Who was to have the control of the central fund which must be established? Its distribution would cause continued squabbles among the clergy of different opinions in the Church as to who were to get the most of it; its management would be bad and be liable to jobbery. In fact, the speech of the hon. Gentleman answered itself. The hon. Gentleman proposed to make a present of church rates to the landlords. But the main objection was that the Motion was inconsistent with a solemn Resolution to which the House had come. No plan which involved anything but the entire abolition of the tax would succeed, and feeling that it was necessary to get rid of church rates altogether the House came to the Resolution which had been recently agreed to. The hon. Gentleman then came with his Motion which was a complete anachronism, and which went hack to the mediæval age of this question. If the same form of religion prevailed throughout the whole population, there might be something like justification for it; but where the number of Dissenters from the Established religion was so great, it was a great hardship to impose a general rate. With regard to the architecture of churches, he would contend that so far from church rates having tended to improve it, all that had been done in the way of the advancement of church architecture was duo to the voluntary principle. In fact he knew one church where, under the system of church rates, granite pillars had been whitewashed over, and he could mention another where the water came down into the pulpit in such abundance, that the unfortunate clergyman who preached last Sunday was almost washed away. He objected to the levying of pew rates—believing it to be desirable that churches should be open and free to all classes. It was said that the church rates were a fixed charge, and could not be abolished; but how did they differ from ministers' money, which had been abolished? He felt it incumbent on him, as having charge of the Bill for the abolition of church rates, to oppose the Motion.


said, he wished in a few words to recall to the recollection of the House the present position of this question. On Wednesday the House went into Committee on the Bill of the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Trelawny), when able speeches were delivered by men of the greatest weight in that House, and there seemed to be a disposition on all sides to come to some understanding on the subject. They were precluded, however, from amending the Bill before the House, or from dealing with the question of church rates, except in the way of simply abolishing them according to the principle of that measure. That was, no doubt, a very simple, but it was at the same time a very dangerous mode of dealing with the subject, and was not likely to be satisfactory to a large body of the Members of that House. There were, however, other courses which it was open to the House to pursue. There was the proposition of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller), which might be described as a commutation. Another plan was that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey), which proposed to recognize the confiscation of church rates in all parishes where for a certain term of years the rate had been refused. But there was another mode of dealing with the subject which he thought entitled to the respectful consideration of the House, and that was the exemption of Dissenters from the payment of the rate. They were told that the Dissenters had conscientious scruples against paying the rate, and, though not willing to admit the force of the objection, he still thought it entitled to respect. He thought that on a person making a declaration and promising to take no part in the ecclesiastical business of the vestry for a year he should be exempted from church rates. He would not be denied the right of attending the church or receiving the consolations of religion, but he would be prevented from holding the office of churchwarden and interfering in the management of the church rate. It was his intention to bring in a Bill embodying this provision, which he thought, if carefully and dispassionately considered, would, without any sweeping innovation, relieve conscientious scruples and allay all ill-feelings.


said, he wished to state shortly why he could not support either the Motion or the Amendment. The Motion of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) sought to impose a compulsory charge on the general property of the country for the maintenance of the Church; but the present church rates were a parochial charge, levied by the majority of a vestry only. Practically speaking, for a number of years, in 10 per cent of the parishes of the kingdom, including one-half of the population of the kingdom, church rates had been practically abolish- ed; but the hon. Gentleman sought to convert what was now a voluntary charge, levied partially, into a general compulsory charge. He proposed also to deprive the rate of its parochial character and make it into a diocesan charge, so that a parish might possibly not obtain the benefit of the whole sum which was collected within its limits. For these reasons he could not give his support to the Motion. The form in which the Amendment was put before the House was not quite correct. The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Buxton), by an addition to the tithe charge, sought also to put an additional charge on property; but to effect that it would be necessary to move first, that the House resolve itself into a Committee on a certain day to consider the subject, which the hon. Gentleman had not proposed to do. Certainly, if the House should resolve to go into Committee on the Motion of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, it would be competent for the hon. Member for Newport to move his Amendment; but as it stood at present it was not in order. Apart, however, from the question of form, he was not prepared to agree to the solution of this question as proposed in the Amendment. Either the House must make up its mind to abolish church rates altogether, or it must agree to some modification of them. It would never do to supply their place by an entirely new charge. The proposition made last year by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth to abolish church rates de jure in parishes where they had been practically abolished for a certain time, and in the other parishes to permit persons dissenting from the church of England to have their names struck off the rate, would have removed most of the objections to the present system. It was accepted by Sir William Clay, who had then had charge of the Church Rates Abolition Bill, as satisfactory to the Dissenters with whom he was acting, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite, who now seemed to wish for such a solution, had then consented to it, in all probability it would have become law.


said, that it appeared to him that the objection taken by the right hon. Gentleman opposite to the proposal was, that nothing should be done to interrupt the course of the House in abolishing church rates. He believed there was a large number of hon. Members anxious to consider the proposal of the hon. Member for Herts, For himself, he entertained a full conviction that, either now or hereafter, some such proposal as this, supported, he believed, by the great body of landowners, would afford the solution which the House desired—would remove the inconveniences incidental to the collection of church rates, while at the same time the fabric of the Church would be maintained, but maintained not out of pew rents, but out of the land. He did not think that the House would represent the interests or the feelings of the people if they rashly cast aside what must be considered as a direct offer on the part of a landowner, representing no doubt many landowners, on this question. It would not be a popular ground on which to go to their constituents, to tell them that they had refused to consider a proposal which would have relieved those who conscientiously objected to church rates, and at the same time would have furnished a fund from the land for the maintenance of the Church. He did not approve of that part of the proposal which related to a diocesan collection for the fund, but he had understood the hon. Member to say that he would consent to a modification of that part of his proposal in Committee, so as to reserve to each parish the amount levied from the proprietors within it. That would meet the objections of many Members on that side. He should not think that the House, acting with the circumspection and liberality which ought to characterise it, would refuse the hon. Gentleman the opportunity of submitting his plan to their consideration. There was a party in the House determined to abolish church rates as a stepping stone to the disestablishment of the Church, but he did not think that was the intention of the great number of Members who wished a settlement of this question. He believed they desired to maintain the Church for the poor, an object which the voluntary principle could not permanently effect, and he hoped they would not be so illiberal as to refuse to the hon. Member for Hertford the opportunity he wished to obtain.


said, when they were discussing the subject of church rates on Wednesday last he stated he thought the proposal of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) a fair matter for deliberation. He had now heard the discussion on this subject and had examined the proposition of the hon. Member, and he must say the two objections which had been taken by the right hon. Gentle- man the Member for the Radnor district appeared to him to be sound objections against the proposal of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire. He thought it objectionable to impose a rent charge upon property which had been for a long time exempted from the payment of church rates. He also considered it objectionable to place the control of the rate in the hands of a body in each diocese. As long as the charge existed, it ought to be a parochial one. With regard to the subject itself, he had only to say that he really could not understand how they could have a national Church Establishment without some provision or other for repairing its places of worship. They had such a provision both in Scotland and in Ireland, and it did seem to him that it was unreasonable to say, that they should have a provision to maintain the minister, but no provision to maintain the churches. He was ready to listen to any reasonable proposal for a substitute for church rates. Although he felt great objections to the proposal of his right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey), he would be ready to consent to it rather than leave the matter as it had been, an occasion of strife. He was willing, he repeated, to consider any fair proposal on the subject, but if they came to the question of an absolute abolition of the rate he must vote against that as a violation of the principle of a Church Establishment.


said, that the whole question was, whether they should go into Committee. He thought that his hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller), in his able speech had demonstrated in the plainest terms that to abolish church rates was, in other words, to put money into the pockets of the landlords which did not belong to them. But, at the same time he could not but feel that the objection taken to the specific proposition of his hon. Friend by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Radnor district (Sir G. C. Lewis) was really an unanswerable one. Whatever they did as a compromise, he thought they ought not to put a new charge on property. As the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey) was not in his place, would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Radnor allow him (Mr. Walpole) to request him to press on his late Colleague the propriety of bringing forward substantially the proposition which he announced when he occupied a seat on the Treasury Bench? With part of that proposition he (Mr. Walpole) agreed, and with part of it he could not agree. As to that part of it which said absolutely that they were to abolish church rates because they had not been levied, he thought that was wrong in principle. That part of the plan which said where church rates had not been levied for two years they were not to be levied hereafter, he considered would be holding out a mere premium to agitation, and therefore he could not consent to it. But that part of it which provided that an opportunity should be afforded to proprietors notwithstanding the mortmain laws, of voluntarily charging their land with the amount of the church rates which had been paid in respect of that land, so as to raise a fund for the maintenance of the fabric, was a proposition so reasonable and just in itself, that he could not but regret that it had never been put to the vote in that House. He thought that would be a reasonable and just form of compromise; and he could never see the reason why, conjointly with that plan, a person entertaining a conscientious objection to the payment of church rates should not be absolved from them, provided he was willing to forego the privileges which belonged to a member of the Established Church. Some such plan as that would be to his (Mr. Walpole's) mind a proper settlement of this question. The question, certainly, was one of great difficulty; but that difficulty arose rather from the manner in which it had been treated in that Mouse than from any inherent difficulty in itself. In the meantime he could only say that, while opposing the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Puller), he certainly never could consent simply and solely to vote with the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Trelawny) that church rates should be abolished without an equivalent, which was merely putting money into the pockets of those to whom it never belonged. He believed Parliament was now prepared to accept a compromise in this matter, and he hoped the House would resolutely apply their minds to make it a just and equitable one.


said, the occupants of the Treasury Bench were so much accustomed to derive aid from hon. Members on the Opposition side, that he was not surprised at the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had made to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Radnor to get them out of trouble. If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) thought that the Church Rate Abolition Bill, which had passed a second reading, was in itself so very detrimental, why did he not, in his character of a Minister of the Crown, come forward with a proposition agreeable to his own feelings and in accordance with the principle of his objections? From that straight forward course the right hon. Gentleman shrank, and then came to that (the Opposition) side of the House to ask them to assist him in the performance of his duty. He (Mr. Roebuck) was not inclined to do the duty of anybody. And when the right hon. Gentleman said the House had not discussed this question, did he recollect that, when the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was in office, the House passed the second reading of this Bill, which involved its principle? What was the principle of the Bill? Why, that church rates should be abolished. That they were to he abolished he (Mr. Roebuck) was convinced; and he and those with whom he acted were determined that they should be abolished. They did not intend to enter into any compromise. Compromise was the very breath on which the occupants of that (the Treasury) Bench existed. The promoters of this Bill would have nothing to do with compromise. They were determined to get rid of church rates, and during the present Session too. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) said that the speech of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire had not been answered; but at that hour—twelve o'clock—what time was there for answering it? No grounds had been shown why church rates should be made a distinct charge on the land. The charge was in the individual will of the parishioner; and if that seal could not be broken off the bond, it would be impossible to support the proposition of the hon. Member. One-half of the parishioners of the country had refused to pay church rates, and now the hon. Member came forward to ask the House to make them a permanent charge on the rental of the land. Was nut this, then, a new tax; and could this new proposition be brought in aid of the old law? Not a hit of it; and they were determined that it should not be. He did not intend at that time to occupy the attention of the House; but if the question were to be argued as a politico-economical question, he should be prepared to go into it, if brought forward at a time when it could be argued. The principle was already before the House; it had passed a second reading, and it was in Committee, and in that Committee it should be decided whether it should go out as a Bill or not.


said, he rose only for the purpose of expressing a hope that the hon. Member for Hertfordshire would take the opinion of the House upon the Resolution. He thought it was not open to the objection urged against it by the right hon. Member opposite (Sir G. C. Lewis) because the obligation was at present on the parish to provide the necessary funds. The principle of the Resolution was nothing more than to substitute for the existing common-law obligation a certain nominal pecuniary charge, which would be less in amount than the existing charge. It had been said that the effect of it would be to revive the charge where it had become virtually extinct. This objection might be met and provided against in Committee. He should vote for the proposal of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire or for the Amendment, as he believed that the clergy of the country would welcome any proposal that would provide for the maintenance of the parish churches.


explained that in the remarks he made with respect to the state of the law, he referred to the decision of the House of Lords in the Braintree case, which was to the effect that, legally, church rates could only be made by a majority of the vestry; and, if they refused, there was no power to compel them to make them.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman would find that in the Braintree case the law was also laid down by the Judges as he (Mr. Wig-ram) had stated.


said, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment by leave withdrawn.


in reply said, he wished to make one remark in reference to an observation made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Trelawny), to the effect that the present Motion was a godsend for the Government. All he could say in reference to that observation was, that it was not he, but the hon. Baronet himself, who contributed to seat the present Ministers in office. Having a clear opinion that there should be a reasonable and fair compromise between different parties in the Church of England holding strong opinions on this question, he thought himself justified in bringing forward the proposition now before the House; but after the manner in which the Motion had been received by the Government and by the noble Lord the Member for London, he felt that, as far as he was concerned, he should be wrong in putting the House to the trouble of dividing, and therefore he was billing to withdraw his Motion.

Main Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 54; Noes 317: Majority 263.

List of theAYES.
Baring, T. Maxwell, hon. Col.
Bathurst, A. A. Miller, T. J.
Bennet, P. Miller, S. B.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Newdegate, C. N.
Bovill, W. Packe, C. W.
Bramley-Moore, J. Pakenham, Col.
Burghley, Lord Pennant, hon. Col.
Carnac, Sir J. R. Philipps, J. H.
Cecil, Lord R. Repton, G. W. J.
Cobbold, J. C. Robertson, P. F.
Deedes, W. Rolt, J.
Dobbs, W. C. Rust, J.
Du Cane, C. Sandon, Visct.
Du Pre, C. G. Scott, hon. F.
Egerton, Sir P. G. Scott, Major
Emlyn, Visct. Shirley, K. P.
Farnham, E. B. Stanbope, J. B.
Fellowes, E. Steuart, A.
Gard, R. S. Tollemache, J.
Goddard, A. L. Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.
Heathcote, Sir W. Vansittart, W.
Holford, R. S. Wigram, L. T.
Ingestre, Visct. Wyndham, H.
Knatchbull, W. F. Wynn, Col.
Knightley, R. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Langton, W. G.
Lygon, hon. F. TELLERS.
Mainwaring, T. Puller, C. W.
March, Earl of Spooner, R.
List of theNOES.
Adair, H. E. Brand, hon. H.
Adderley, rt. hn. C. B. Bridges, Sir B. W.
Agar-Ellis, hn. L. G. F. Brocklehurst, J.
Agnew, Sir A. Bruce, H. A.
Akroyd, E. Bruen, H.
Alexander, J. Buchanan, W.
Antrobus, E. Buller, J. W.
Ashley, Lord Bury, Visct.
Atherton, W. Butler, C. S.
Ayrton, A. S. Buxton, C.
Bagwell, J. Buxton, Sir E. N.
Bailey, C. Byng, hon. G.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Cairns, Sir H. M'C.
Ball, E. Calcutt, F. M.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. Campbell, R. J. R.
Baring, T. G. Cardwell, rt. hon. E.
Barnard, T. Cartwright. H.
Bass, M. T. Cavendish, hon. W.
Beach, W. W. B. Charlesworth, J. C. D.
Beale, S. Cheetham, J.
Beecroft, G. S. Cholmeley, Sir M. J.
Berkeley, F. W. F. Christy, S.
Biddulph, R. M. Churchill, Lord A. S.
Biggs, J. Clark, J. J.
Black, A. Clifford, C. C.
Blackburn, P. Clifford, Col.
Boldero, Col. Clive, G.
Bonham-Carter, J. Clive, hon. R, W.
Brady, J. Close, M. C.
Cogan, W. H. F. Hadfield, G.
Cole, hon. H. A. Hall, rt. hon. Sir B.
Collier, R. P. Hamilton, Lord C.
Collins, T. Hamilton, G. A.
Conyngham, Lord F. Hanbury, R.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Handley, J.
Cowan, C. Hankey, T.
Cox, W. Hanmer, Sir J.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Hardcastle, J. A.
Crawford, R. W. Hardy, G.
Crook, J. Harris, J. D.
Cross, R. A. Hartington, Marq. of
Crossley, F. Hassard, M.
Curzon, Visct. Hatchell, J.
Dalglish, R. Hayter, rt. hn. Sir W. G.
Davey, R. Headlam, T. E.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Davison, R. Hill, hon. R. O.
Deasy, R. Hodgson, K. D.
Denison, hon. W. H. F. Hodgson, W. N.
Dent, J. D. Hope, A. J. B. B.
Dillwyn, L. L. Hornby, W. H.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Horsfall, T. B.
Divett, E. Hudson, G.
Dodd, J. W. Hunt, G. W.
Duff, M. E. G. Hutt, W.
Duke, Sir J. Ingham, R.
Dunbar, Sir W. Inglis, J.
Duncombe, hon. A. Ingram, H.
Dunkellin, Lord Jackson, W.
Dunne, M. Jervoise, Sir J. C.
Dutton, hon. R. H. Johnstone, hon. H. B.
Ebrington, Visct. Johnstone, Sir J.
Edwards, H. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Egerton, E. C. Jolliffe, H. H.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Kendall, N.
Ellice, E. Kerrison, Sir E. C.
Elphinstone, Sir J. Kershaw, J.
Elton, Sir A. H. King, hon. P. J. L.
Esmonde, J. King, J. K.
Estcourt, rt. hn. T. H. S. Kinglake, A. W.
Evans, T. W. Kinglake, J. A.
Ewart, W. Kingscote, R. N. F.
Ewart, J. C. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Ewing, H. E. C. Knatchbull-Hugessen, E
Fagan, W. Knight, F. W.
FitzGerald, rt. hn. J. D. Knox, Col.
FitzRoy, rt. hon. H. Laslett, W.
Foley, H. J. W. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Foljambe, F. J. S. Levinge, Sir R.
Forde, Col. Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.
Forester, rt. hon. Col. Liddell, hon. H. G.
Forster, C. Lindsay, W. S.
Foster, W. O. Lisburne, Earl of
Fortescue, hon. F. D. Locke, J.
Freestun, Col. Locke, J.
Gallwey, Sir W. P. Lovaine, Lord
Galway, Visct. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Garnett, W. J. Lyall, G.
Gaskell, J. M. Macarthy, A.
Glyn, G. C. Macartney, G.
Glyn, G. G. M'Cann, J.
Goderich, Visct. Mackie, J.
Greaves, E. M'Clintock, J.
Greene, J. Maguire, J. F.
Greenwood, J. Mangles, R. D.
Greer, S. M'C. Mangles, C. E.
Gregory, W. H. Manners, Lord J.
Gray, C. Marjoribanks, D. C.
Grogan, E. Marsh, M. H.
Grosvenor, Earl Martin, C. W.
Gurdon, B. Martin, P. W.
Gurney, S. Martin, J.
Massey, W. N. Smith, M. T.
Melgund, Visct. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Mellor, J. Smith, A.
Miles, W. Smith, Sir F.
Mills, T. Smollett, A.
Moffatt, G. Somerset, Col.
Moncreiff, rt. hon. J. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Montgomery, Sir G. Stafford, Marq. of
Morris, D. Stanley, Lord
Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R. Stapleton, J.
Naas, Lord Steel, J.
Napier, Sir C. Stewart, Sir M. R. S.
Newport, Visct. Stuart, Col.
Nicoll, D. Sturt, H. G.
Nisbet, R. P. Sturt, N.
Noel, hon. G. J. Talbot, C. R. M.
Norris, J. T. Taylor, Col.
North, Col. Taylor, S. W.
North, F. Tempest, Lord A. V.
O'Brien, P. Thompson, Gen.
Ogilvy, Sir J. Thornely, T.
Osborne, R. Thornhill, W. P.
Paget, C. Tito, W.
Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J. Tomline, G.
Palmer, R. Tottenham, C.
Pechell, Sir G. B. Trueman, C.
Peel, Sir R. Turner, J. A.
Peel, rt. hon. Gen. Verner, Sir VV.
Perry, Sir T. E. Vivian, H. H.
Philips, R. N. Waddington, H. S.
Pilkington, J. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Pinney. Col. Warren, S.
Portman, hon. W. H. B. Weguelin, T. M.
Powell, F. S. Welby, W. E.
Power, N. Western, S.
Price, W. P. Westhead, J. P. B.
Proby, hon. G. L. Whatman, J.
Pugh, D. Whitbread, S.
Ramsay, Sir A. White, J.
Rawlinson, Sir H. C. Whiteside, rt. hon. J.
Rebow, J. G. Whitmore, H.
Ricarde, O. Wickham, H. W.
Richardson, J. Williams, W.
Ridley, G. Willyams, E. W. B.
Robartes, T. J. A. Willson, A.
Roebuck. J. A. Wilson, J.
Roupell, W. Wingfield, R. B.
Russell, Lord J. Wilmington, Sir T. E.
Russell, H. Wood, W.
Russell, A. Woods, H.
Salisbury, E. G. Wortley, Maj. S.
Schneider, H. W. Wyndham, Gen.
Scholefield, W. Wynne, W. W. E.
Seymer, H. K. Young, A. W.
Seymour, H. D.
Shafto, R. D. TELLERS.
Shelley, Sir J. V. Trelawny, Sir J.
Sibthorp, M. Gilpin, C.
Smith, J. B.
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