HC Deb 08 February 1860 vol 156 cc634-82

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he rose to move the second reading of the Church Rates Abolition Bill. In dealing with this subject, he thought every hon. Member, whether on one side of the House or the other, ought to show great moderation, and remember that they were considering a religious question of vital importance to earnest men, and one closely connected, it was alleged, with the interests of the poor. He felt that he could not on this occasion dismiss a subject of such intricacy and difficulty with a few cursory remarks, but was bound to advert in detail to the arguments which ought to be considered before they came to a conclusion upon it. The weight of authority, he believed, was decidedly in favour of a settlement of this question. It was now more than twenty years since Sir Robert Peel declared that not another year, not six months, should be allowed to pass without a settlement; and about the same period the noble Lord at the head of the late Government (the Earl of Derby) admitted that in church rates Dissenters had a serious and substantial grievance. Then there was the opinion of the Royal Commission which in 1849 reported that as the law stood it was "vague, defective, and unjust," and that it placed the greatest difficulty in the way of adopting a "sound parochial system;" and the opinion of Dr. Lushington, who asserted that church rates had "created" more "feuds" than any other "subject" he had known. He might also claim the authority of the whole House as in favour of a settlement, seeing that it had in two Parliaments pronounced in favour of the abolition of church rates. Even the party who opposed his measure expressed a decided opinion that the question must be dealt with, and the late Government actually brought in a Bill which purported to give exemption to Dissenters. The principle, therefore, that the present state of things required alteration had been generally admitted; and, whatever certain archdeacons might think, something must be done to allay the irritation which prevailed. It was not a matter which could be left to right itself. Since last Session an ex- Judge (Sir John Coleridge), in speaking upon this subject, had thought it consistent with his knowledge of the law and facts of the case to assert that the present law in regard to church rates provided a fixed, legal and permanent fund for the sustentation of churches, which ought not to be lightly surrendered for something which was precarious. He put it to the House whether that could be called a fair statement of the condition of church rates, which had been pronounced "vague, defective, and unjust" by a Commission, among the members of which were Bishops, Peers, and Ministers of the Crown? A great deal had been said by the supporters of the existing system about church rates being the inheritance of the poor; but he thought, if hon. Members would consider what benefit the poor really derived from that fund, in how many cases not a third of the church was set apart for the poor as it ought to be, in the case especially of certain district churches under Act of Parliament (as was shown by Archdeacon Rushton's evidence before the Lords' Committee on means of Religious Instruction), and how great a deficiency of church accommodation existed in Liverpool, Bradford, and numerous other large towns, (space being required for 614,000 persons in London alone) and this, in spite of large pecuniary resources which Her Majesty's Commissioners assert to exist, they would be convinced that a more unfortunate, ill-advised, and indiscreet observation could not be made on that side of the question. A noble Lord in "another place" had spoken of the intimate association of the interests of the poor with the maintenance of church rates. Yet that noble Lord was a member of the Government that suggested and adopted the total abolition of the assessment which in Ireland was the equivalent of church rates in England, and formed the fixed and permanent fund for the sustentation of churches in that country. The noble Lord was a large landowner in Ireland, but he never heard him complain at that time about depriving the poor of Ireland of their inheritance. It was no doubt very true that at the time when a fourth of the tithe in Ireland was given up in 1833 and vestry cess abolished, the other three-fourths of tithe were not worth two years' purchase; but the fact must not be overlooked that the fourth went into the pockets of Irish landlords, and thus saved the remainder. What he asked was that the same thing should be done in England; and was he (considering how the Church property in England has been managed and the people unsupplied with accommodation while funds were available) to be met with arguments about the inheritance of the poor? He suspected that hon. Gentlemen would by no means like on the present occasion to press such an argument to its full consequences. A noble Lord (Lord St. Leonards) who had been Chancellor in Ireland, had also recently made a statement of his opinion, which he (Sir J. Trelawny) thought it would be right to read to the House. The noble Lord contended that "no man held any species of property, the enjoyment of which was more sacredly guarded by the law than the obligation to pay church rates. By the law of England church rates were a charge on land." The opinion, however, of almost every other legal authority was that church rates were not a charge upon land at all, but upon occupiers in regard to land. (Opposition cheers.) Hon. Gentlemen need not cheer too soon. The very phrase in respect of land showed the injustice of the case, for why should church rates not be a charge on persons in respect of other property. In some cases customs exist to rate personally—in Boston to rate ships. And before the Court of Delegates—when it was observed that Rundell and Brydge might as well be rated—the answer was "and so you may," and Dr. Lushington seemed to think that a very difficult question might thus be raised. As a proof that it is the person and not the property which is liable, it is only necessary to cite the decision where a chancel was in disrepair (the chancel being repaired by owners of glebe), that you may proceed against the person but not the property. The land was taken merely as a test of the ability to pay the charge. In early times there was practically no other property but land. If there had been, to all intents and purposes it would have been liable, It was a mere accident that land only paid, and every other Judge but those he had quoted was of opinion that the church rate was not a charge upon land at all. The difference between tithe and church rate was very great. In the case of tithe there was a remedy against the property. They could levy a distress, or actually seize the land for non-payment of tithe; but in the case of church rate, the only proceeding to enforce it (except in cases of small sums under Acts of Parliament) was against the person by means of the Ecclesiastical Courts, and that proceeding was almost sure to fail. Dr. Lushington said it was quite clear that these remedies, in the long run, would be very likely to fail, because the processes had been nearly obsolete for the last 400 years, and no one would think in these days of carrying them out in all their rigour, although they might have been tolerated at a period when the whole people belonged to one denomination. Among other reasons why Parliament ought to deal with this question at once was, the difficulty with regard to some churches, the congregations of which were not satisfied with the practices of their clergy. He had no wish to introduce a discussion as to who was right and who was wrong, or to defend those who had taken a violent course. On the contrary, he thought people who created disturbances in a church were deserving the greatest reprobation. At the same time, they could not blink the fact that objections were made to the practices of some of the clergy, and therefore it was their duty to strengthen, if they could, the hands of the laity, rather than deliver them over to the clergy, to maintain services with which they could not agree. As there was no effective synodical action, it was a fair question whether some control over those who were appointed to the livings should not be given; and in that view he was borne out by what fell from the Bishop of London. A witness was asked by the House of Lords Committee whether or not a clergyman, in the event of the voluntary principle being adopted, would not depend on his own popularity? The answer was that he would. The Bishop of London then asked, would not that have a certain influence over the patron in not nominating persons who might not give satisfaction to the congregation? It appeared to him a very pertinent question, and supported his argument that the laity should have some control over the practices of the clergy. If hon. Gentlemen agreed in that proposition, they ought to vote for the second reading of this Bill. He had not dealt with the theoretical question, whether parishes were not bound to repair their churches. He had simply proposed the abolition of church rates [Cheers] Hon. Gentlemen might cheer, but let them consider whether the moral duty would not be more likely to be discharged if the theoretical obligation remained, however imperfect and defective in practice. The landowners could still give the sum which they believed they gained by the abolition of church rates. All he proposed to take away was the power to enforce church rates. Under the present law, if people chose to exert their power, church rates were practically extinct. The use of technical objections to items might be used to the extent of making the forms of process illusory. Among the many advantages of his measure was the relief it would give to magistrates, who had, especially in the recent Market Harborough case, where they tried to make the law, paid heavy compensation after appeal to the Queen's Bench. It was only necessary for a person, when summoned, to say, "I dispute the validity of this rate," and the magistrates were bound, on Dr. Lushington's authority, to dismiss the case. Those few words put an end completely to the proceedings, and obliged the parties who wished to enforce the rates to have recourse to the obsolete machinery of the Ecclesiastical Court. There were 500 summonses recently issued in the City for non-payment of church rates. The objection was taken, and the whole were dismissed. Another reason why the question ought to be settled was the injustice of rating small occupiers who, since the passing of the Small Tenements Act, had lost by a recent decision their votes. So here there was a new form of taxation without representation. The only franchise is that settled by the 58 Geo. III. which is a poor rate one, and by the Small Tenements Act the landlord votes instead of the occupier. The recent disturbance in Edinburgh, though not about church rates, showed that if church rates were enforced by proceedings in the Ecclesiastical Courts, and two years' imprisonment inflicted, as it might be, in extreme cases, on significavit for contempt to the Court of Chancery in respect of sums over a certain amount, there would be great excitement, resistance to the law, and breach of the peace. The decision of the House of Lords that there must be a majority to make a church rate, had entirely altered the character of the rate, and it could no longer be contended that there was an absolute liability. As the knowledge of the exact state of the law became more widely diffused, all sorts of difficulties and technicalities would be taken advantage of. Neither the owners of property which was unoccupied, nor executors, were liable to church rates, on the principle that he only is liable who gets the benefit; and yet it was often coolly assumed by his opponents that the liability was absolute. He wished the House to consider the facts of the case. He found, by a return, that the whole amount of church rates was £263,709 14s. 9d.


That return applies only to 10,000 parishes.


said, he had added the original amount returned to that which appeared by the supplemental paper, and, with the income from voluntary contributions and endowments, the total was about £600,000. But he was speaking of the smaller sum of £263,709 14s. 9d. produced by church rates. A sum of no less than £318,000 had been borrowed on the security of the rates, the interest on which, amounting, he presumed, to some £15,000, was the first deduction from the fund, since his Bill would leave the interest of debts incurred untouched, and the £263,000 could be still further greatly diminished by excluding all illegal items. He attributed a great deal of the agitation on this subject to the presence of these illegal items. In a rate at Putney he found £10 for two French cambric surplices, and various other charges; for a case and roller for the parish map; for repairs to the fire-engine; for visitation fees, care of engine, dinner, carriage hire, printing, thirteen persons from 10s. to 5s. each for a procession; for payments to ringers; for a dinner to the charity children; for bows, rosettes, and white rods, and for a band, flags, and a carriage for the day. These sort of charges had led to a gradual diminution in the amount produced by the rate. Some years ago it had been shown by a return of Sir George Grey's, that the amount reached £314,000; but many persons being aware of the illegal purposes to which it was devoted, had withdrawn their contributions, and he (Sir John Trelawny) considered that it was thus the amount had been diminished by £50,000—which reduction would go further still as the mode of raising valid objections came to be better understood. He next came to consider the amount which was contributed by Dissenters themselves. In spite of the talk about the inheritance of the poor and the liability of landlords, hon. Gentlemen opposite were prepared to give up the charg-on Dissenters, but they demanded a declaration from them that they were Dissenters. In doctrine there was a wonderful agreement between Dissenters and Churchmen. They differed more on points of discipline; and when a clergyman, as sometimes happened, came to a parish with views very much in accordance with the views of Dissenters, Dissenters frequently attended his church. How much better, then, would it be for them to say frankly, "We do not want your money, and we do not want any declaration which may prevent your attending the church if you like." He would offer to the House the following statistics on the subject. The whole amount of population of the country for whom religious services were required to be provided was 58 per cent, out of which the number attending the Church of England occupied about 29½ per cent, and the Dissenters 27½ per cent. Would it not be wiser, considering the small differences of doctrine which existed between the great mass of the Dissenters and the Church of England, to prevent men from absolutely recording their secession from the Church by a distinct form? By the last Census returns it appeared that on a given Sunday the Church afforded accommodation to 5,317,915 persons; the Independents to 1,067,750 persons; the Wesleyans to 2,194,298 persons; the Baptists to 752,243 persons; and there was a large body—5,288,294 persons—who did not go to any place of worship on that day. If those who attended Dissenting places of worship were exempted, would not the 5,288,294 persons complain of the unfairness in leaving them liable? The proposal of the late Home Secretary, that those who wished to be exempt need only say they objected to pay, was far more reasonable and tolerant than to require a declaration that they were Dissenters before they should be exempted. Indeed, he thought the latter proposition worse than the present state of the law, and he knew that many clergymen were opposed to any such broad line of distinction being drawn between Churchmen and Dissenters. Presuming that Dissenters were exempted (for which the Opposition was prepared), this would get rid of about half the church rate, and a further amount might be given up in the interest of Churchmen, who already had a serious complaint against paying double and triple rates, as they did sometimes where more than one church was supported in the same parish. In the Report of the Committee on subdivision of parishes in 1849 it was stated that one of the great hardships complained of was the double rate which some owners had to pay when their property was situate in differ- ent parishes. If this double rate were got rid of, a further sum would have to be deducted from the whole amount still contended for, namely, £263,709 14s. 9d. Then there was the money to be taken into consideration which the Church lost by the excitement and ill-will caused by church-rate contests. In the town which he represented there had been great excitement on the subject somewhere about twenty-five years ago, and the Dissenters at last got rid of the church rate. Since that time the Dissenters had contributed largely to the restoration and decoration of the parish church, so that it was now one of the finest ecclesiastical edifices in that part of the country. At least £2,000 was spent on it—one Dissenter having given £25. In Leeds, too, according to the evidence of Mr. Baines before the Committee of 1857, there had formerly been great excitement on the subject; but when Dr. Hook went there he pursued a different plan, and he managed in a very short time to raise somewhere about £100,000. The parish church alone cost £30,000. Numerous new churches and school-rooms soon arose. In the Lords' Report, the Rev. Cole Miller states, that he attributed much of the good feeling between Churchmen and Dissenters to the circumstance of this question being in abeyance in Birmingham, where, on the other hand, a church rate would set "the town in a flame." More money would undoubtedly be got by trusting to voluntary contributions than by persevering with the compulsory rate, and that being so he put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether it would not be better to accept his plan than to seek about for a compromise which would satisfy no one. There was no doubt that there were plenty of funds belonging to the Church applicable to the purposes of this rate. Not very long ago (in 1850) a Commission, consisting of the Arch-Bishop of York, the Bishop of London, the Earl of Harrow by, Lord Ashley, and other very eminent individuals belonging to the Church, had suggested that in order to raise funds for church purposes a certain number of the 777 livings in the gift of the Lord Chancellor should be sold, which they calculated would fetch £1,000,000, and this added to another £1,000,000, which they expected would be forthcoming from voluntary contributions, would make a fund of £2,000,000, which it was calculated would at £3,500 each enable the country to have 600 now churches, for the endow- ment of which also money might, it was added, be expected from the improved management of episcopal and capitular estates. The livings of small income on this plan were to be augmented to £200 each, by persons allowed to become their patrons. He saw no reason why a fund should not be raised in some such way as this to supply the place of church rates, if the supporters of the Establishment were still unwilling to trust to the voluntary principle. According to Black-stone, one fourth of the tithe had originally been applicable to the repair of the fabric of parish churches; but this charge had been gradually shuffled off, when the tithes got into the hands of the monasteries, upon the shoulders of the congregation. Besides the money which might be got from a better management of episcopal and capitular estates, it had been shown very clearly before a Committee of the House of Lords on Religious Instruction that in a few years £7,000 a year would become available from the falling in of a lease belonging to one of the prebendary stalls of St. Paul's, and in a few years more seven or eight times as much. There being, therefore, plenty of funds belonging to the Church applicable to this purpose, hon. Gentlemen opposite had no excuse for asking Dissenters to pay church rates, and after showing the abatements which might be made from the total now paid of £263,709 14s. 9d., he asked if the rest was worth further contention? The church-rate agitation had done a great deal of good to the Church. Twenty-five years ago, in consequence of the opposition then raised to the Church Establishment, and particularly to this rate, a Committee was appointed to consider the subject of Church leases and to ascertain whether larger funds might not be obtained from a better management of them. This was shown beyond a doubt, and not less than £82,000 a year (on the authority of the Lords of the Committee on Means of Religious Instruction) had since been derived from that source, for which the Church was entirely indebted to the agitation of the Dissenters. He hoped by consenting to the passing of this Bill, hon. Gentlemen opposite would at last put an end to this casual discordance between persons whose doctrinal differences were so slight that it was difficult to define them. If this wise and politic course were pursued, the Dissenters would forget the un-kindness with which they had been treated in former times, they would attribute it to the errors of Statesmen of the time, and would give credit to the present generation of Churchmen for their generosity and good nature now. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.


said, he had acceded to the request which had been made to him to second the Motion of the hon. Baronet because he was one of the few remaining members of that House who served on the Church-rate Committee in 1851, and the only one who had not expressed his opinion otherwise than by his vote last year. He would not go into the evidence, but merely say that when appointed to serve on that Committee he was perfectly free from any foregone conclusion as to what its report should be; but the evidence brought his mind to the decided conviction, that it was impossible to settle the question except on the voluntary principle. What had been done on the subject in Parliament since 1834? In that year Lord Althorp proposed to abolish church rates, and provide for their object by a charge of £250,000 on the Land Tax. He then said there was a mode of settling the question by abolishing church rates and relying on voluntary contributions; but that, in his opinion, would not be sufficient for their purpose. There was another plan—namely, to continue church rates and exempt Dissenters from their payment; but that, he (Lord Althorp) thought, would be unjust. Lord Althorp, in whom the liberal party most confided, thought the voluntary system insufficient, and exemption of Dissenters by law unjust. On this, like other questions, Gentlemen opposite had resisted the mildest measures at first, and at last, when too late, came repentance—for now it was evident that they admitted of compromise, and every plan they had to propose involved that which, in 1834, Lord Althorp thought insufficient and unjust. Since 1834 many attempts to settle the question by a compromise had been made,—by Mr. Spring Rice (when Chancellor of the Exchequer) in 1837, afterwards by Mr. Divett, Sir J. Easthope, Sir W. Clay, Mr. Walpole, Sir G. Grey, and others; but all had been rejected by that Home. He begged to call attention to the more important divisions that had taken place. In 1840 a Bill "to relieve Dissenters" was rejected by a majority of 55. In 1842 "leave to introduce a Bill to abolish Church Rates and provide for the maintenance of Churches and Chapels" was refused by a majority of 82. In 1849 Mr. Page Wood (now Vice-Chancellor) proposed to "discharge Dissenters from payment of Church Rates," which was rejected by 163; and a proposition of Mr. Trelawny, "that measures be taken to abolish Church Rates," was refused by 35. Then, in 1851, the Committee was appointed, to which he (Sir C. Douglas) had adverted. In 1853 Sir W. Clay's Bill "to abolish Church Rates and make provision in lieu thereof" was rejected by 48. In 1854 leave to introduce that Bill was given by 79, but on the second reading it was lost by 28. In 1856, for the first time, the second reading was carried by 43; in 1858, by 54; and that Bill passed that House by a majority of 69. In 1859 Mr. Walpole's compromise was refused by 83, and the second reading of Sir J. Trelawny's Bill "to abolish Church Rates" was carried by 74. Such was a rapid review of the question from 1834 to 1859. Mark the changes. Those who opposed all change in 1834 would now go beyond what Lord Althorp, the friend of Dissenters, then thought unjust; and those who then would have made other provision for the object of church rates, now admitted that the voluntary principle alone could settle the question. Observe the change of opinion in favour of abolition by the leading men in that House. Lord Palmerston, Mr. Walpole, Mr. Estcourt, Lord John Russell, Sir J. Graham, Sir G. Grey, and others, by the reasons they had given, had vindicated their convictions, all in the same direction, proving the time was at hand when the question must be settled. He (Sir C. Douglas) was of opinion it could only be settled on the voluntary principle. He was ready to acknowledge the difficulties with which Gentlemen opposite were, some of them, ready to deal as a matter of compromise. The best plan hitherto put forth, to the essence of which he (Sir Charles) would not object, for it was founded on the voluntary principle, was that given in the evidence of his right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State (Mr. S. Estcourt) before the Lords' Committee. He would, that he might not misrepresent him, read in his own words the substance of his plan. His right hon. friend, whose name for twenty-five years was in every division in favour of church rates and against abolition or change, had declared in his examination before the Lords last summer that this question must be dealt with, for it had become one of "religious toleration or religious persecution." In that opinion he (Sir Charles) fully agreed. His right hon. Friend's plan was one with the details of which he could not agree but in so far as it adopted the voluntary principle; and he hoped, as Lord Derby must have great confidence in his right hon. Friend, he (Mr. S. Estcourt) would favour the House with his more matured views. This was the plan as sketched in his evidence:— I should propose, in the first place, to abolish church rates on their present footing; that, I think, is indispensable for political reasons. Then I should propose that a fund should be raised in every parish yearly, to be called a church repair fund, in the following manner:—That the churchwardens should make an estimate upon entering into office of the expenses which they think they will have to defray during their year of office for the following items, as to which I am not sure that my enumeration may not be improved; but still, practically, in the Act of Parliament I would give the exact purposes and the whole of the purposes to which church rates can be applied. I have put down, first, repair of the fabric; secondly, enclosure of the churchyard; thirdly, keeping the church and the yard clean; fourthly, a provision for services; and, fifthly, fees lawfully payable. Then I should propose that the churchwardens should affix to the door of the church a statement of the kind of expenses which they think they will have to incur during their year of office, and the amount; and by the Act I would forbid the raising of a rate in any year exceeding a certain sum. Then, having put that notice upon the church door, I would require the churchwardens to leave at the house of every ratepayer a paper, stating that such a sum would be required, in their opinion, and stating how much they consider that it would be in the pound. I would require them to have two columns upon that paper, one column for assent and the other for dissent. I would require them to collect these papers after a limited time, say one month, and all parties who dissented I should conceive to have thereby exempted themselves from the payment of the rate, whatever it might be. Those parties who signified assent would be the only parties who should have a place at the meeting where the church repair was to be considered. When a similar Bill to the present was sent to the House of Lord3 last year, the noble Earl READING the Opposition said the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) who moved the second reading had undertaken a "hopeless task," but he (Sir C. Douglas) trusted that House would take care that no question sent to the other by a large majority should ever be hopeless. Be the majority this year greater or less, he advised the House to pass the Bill with a determination to persevere in the matter till the question was at rest. He was glad to see in the speech of the noble Earl, than whom no one knew better how to adapt his speech to his audience, indications that even he would be too happy to see the question settled by a compromise. The opponents of the Bill had made great efforts, by a fresh movement on the question, and brought up a great number of petitions in favour of church rates; but he (Sir C. Douglas) begged to observe, without alluding to the fact as to the facility with which petitions could he "got up" by either party, that they were as nothing when compared to those in favour of abolition. It should be proved by the Report of the Committee on Public Petitions that, if those in opposition to the Bill were tested by the number of signatures, he was correct; it would be found that the average number of names to each petition was twenty-nine; while on the other hand, he must remind the House that petitions in favour of the principle of this Bill had, ever since he sat in the House, twenty-three years ago, been pouring in annually, containing the signatures of hundreds of thousands. To show what was the real opinion of the majority of the country on the matter, he could quote no better instance than that which had once before been cited by the Foreign Secretary—that at the last election for the West Riding of Yorkshire, a right hon. gentleman (Mr. S. Wortley), formerly a member of that House, whose name had always been found in the divisions against the Bill, had been compelled to admit on the hustings that he should be prepared to vote for the abolition of church rates. And to that he might add similar declarations from nearly every candidate before popular, or independent constituencies. Though he did not agree with the grounds which had been urged in support of inquiry in "another place," he was glad that the Committee had been appointed by the House of Lords to investigate the matter; for the evidence, which he had road most carefully, all tended to support the view which he was advocating. He hoped he had consulted the convenience of the House by not entering into details on a question which had been so fully discussed and to which, after the speech of his hon. Friend, little could be added, He trusted that the Bill would receive the dispassionate consideration of the House, and that the tone and temper so creditable to the hon. Baronet who had introduced the subject would he adhered to throughout the debate. He was very glad, in one sense, that the matter had been taken up by his noble Friend, the Member for Hunting- donshire, who, in his opening speech last Session, gave indication of the talent and ability which he would bring to the consideration of any subject; and, at the same time, he felt sorry that he should be about to renew an opposition which it was impossible could be ultimately successful, and with regard to which he had manifested his unwillingness to accept a compromise. He had only further to say, he most cordially seconded the Motion of the hon. Baronet.

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


said: The Question has been so frequently debated and all which could be said on both sides has been already heard so often, that I shall to-day not ask the House to give me their attention for many minutes. All those arguments which have long since become trite and worn out need not again be repeated. I shall therefore decline to follow in the course which the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Trelawny) has marked out. He has employed arguments which the House must almost know by heart, as well as the answers which have so often refuted the same arguments which he now recalls. He has drawn bills on a bank which was completely broken last August; and therefore he cannot blame me for not answering them. He has spent nearly a quarter of an hour in considering whether church rates are or are not a charge upon laud, a point with reference to which I remember to have read page after page last year in Hansard. The hon. Baronet likewise referred to the fact that payments from these rates had sometimes been made to persons for killing sparrows. Had he consulted the same authority he would have found that every parish had a right to rate itself for any object which it might consider beneficial to its interests. Doubtless the hon. Member for Shrewsbury will not attach any weight to such an argument against church rates, when he is introducing a Bill to enable parishes to do this very thing which the hon. Baronet is finding fault with. But I am desirous of laying before the House the evidence which was adduced last Session on the subject of church rates and published in August; and more particularly do I wish to do this, because I find that very few hon. Members are as yet acquainted with it. But it contains facts of the highest importance. The evidence will speak for itself. And it would be seen from it that this question has entered on an entirely new phase, and presented itself under quite a novel aspect. The hon. Member for Tavistock does not appear to be aware of this; he seems to have looked at this evidence from the old point of view; for he has told the House that they were dealing with a religious question. I hope to show that it is by no means a religious, but merely a political question. The hon. Member represented a great authority in the Upper House (the Earl of Derby) as having said at one time that the payment of church rates was a great grievance to Dissenters. So Lord Derby and every one else doubtless thought as long as they were under that erroneous impression which has now been removed. For the most direct evidence would be found in this book that Dissenters do not consider it a grievance; but merely wish to enforce a theory of government. He has likewise said that this is not a question affecting the poor; but even Mr. Morley, one of the chief agitators for the abolition of these rates, admitted that seats are not provided for the poor in Dissenting chapels; and Dr. Poster, the Chairman of the Liberation Committee, said that in those chapels the occupiers of seats are compelled to pay for them. Another witness stated that of the different sects the Established Church alone maintained a missionary character. Dissenting ministers visited those who attended their places of worship and who rented their seats, but the ministers of the Church of England, not content with visiting those who were attendants at church, went among the irreligious poor, of whom there were an enormous number in England, and laboured to bring the Gospel to their hearths and homes. That this is a question affecting the poor is still more strongly shown by the fact, proved over and over again in the Report, that Dissenting chapels spring up, not in humble, but in rich localities; and instances have occurred—as at Liver-pool, where, when the neighbourhood became poor, the Dissenting chapels were shut up and sold. A clergyman in Nottingham bought two or three of them for the purposes of his schools. The hon. Baronet referred to the agitation which had taken place at Edinburgh respecting the annuity tax, and, possibly to strike terror into the House, he insinuated that some such excitement would overspread the land if church rates were not speedily abolished. But if he had read the evi- dence of Mr. Morley, Dr. Foster, and all the witnesses on that side, he would have seen that it is their intention, when the Church-rates Abolition Bill has passed, to continue their agitation as strenuously as ever. Did the House ever know an agitation which grew milder from victory, or which lessened its exertions when stimulated by success? And the Gentlemen to whom I refer have admitted that their views go much further than the mere abolition of church rates. The hon. Baronet has compared the relative number of Dissenters and Churchmen; but from whence he procured his figures I am unable to divine. [Sir JOHN TRELAWNY: From the Census returns.] Well, I have, fortunately, happened to bring with me some which I procured from a later document. Besides, the hon. Baronet unwittingly committed himself to a fallacy in comparing the number of Dissenters with Churchmen; for more than half the Dissenters were in favour of church rates. The fairer way is to compare the number of the opponents of that rate with the number of those who are favourable to its continuance. There are six sects of Baptists, numbering 2½ per cent of the general population, the Independents numbering 7¼ per cent, and the Jews, Mormons, and other sects, amounting to 6¾ per cent additional, raising the total proportion of those who are opposed to church rates to 16½ per cent. Those who are not opposed to church rates are—Roman Catholics 3½ per cent, and seven sects of Wesleyans numbering 13 per cent, making in all a similar proportion of 16½ per cent. The church-going members of the Church of England are 42 per cent, and the irreligious poor, whom, likewise, I feel myself entitled to count, are in the ratio of 25 per cent. [Laughter and Opposition cheers.] Yes, these are the poor who are never taught by the Dissenters, and never visited by Dissenters, but are left to the Church of England, whose ministers do visit and read to them, and send Bible-readers among them, and strive to bring the Gospel home to them, both in season and out of season. This calculation then shows a balance of 67 per cent in favour of the maintenance of church rates. The hon. Baronet has alluded to his own borough, where, though every man might be king in his own castle, I greatly fear the hon. Gentleman is not quite supreme. If, as was alleged, the inhabitants were unanimous in their opposition to church rates, how came it that a petition from Tavistock against the aboli- tion of church rates had been laid on the table the previous day, which was not presented by the hon. Baronet himself? The hon. Baronet the Member for Banbury (Sir C. Douglas) had correctly quoted the evidence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt), but had scarcely laid the emphasis on the right word; the quotation runs thus: "whether it be true, or only assumed, at all events the objection which is stated has assumed a question of religious toleration." Moreover in counting up the relative numbers in the divisions on this subject, he has prudently omitted all mention of last year's division, in which there was no increase of the majority previously obtained, and which I hope the division on this day will still further reduce. This House, as the hon. Baronet has said, has, it is true, pronounced in favour of abolition; but then they have done so under a wrong impression. The House was formerly led away by the belief that this was a question of conscience, and by the desire to show consideration to honest objections of this nature; but now, on the contrary, we learn from the evidence of nearly all the witnesses examined last Session that the conscientious objections of Dissenters have nothing to do with the matter, that very few Dissenters have conscientious objections to the payment of church rates; that the majority of Dissenters are not against church rates, but are generally disposed to support the Church, because they feel the necessity of some establishment for the maintenance of religion. Dr. Hume stated that he never met with a Dissenter who objected to the payment of church rates, when the subject was properly explained to him; but, on the contrary, that he had often read able arguments by Dissenters to prove that these rates were right and proper. Mr. Osborne, a Methodist, declared that the Wesleyans do not desire to be absolved from these payments, but, on the contrary, look on the Established Church as an incalculable blessing; and Mr. Gladding, an Independent, testified that it is only some few Dissenters who desire to separate the Church from the State; and that the conscientious objection to church rates is not entertained at all as extensively as is commonly supposed. Three other witnesses, one of whom, Archdeacon Sanford, had been brought up as a Nonconformist, concurred in declaring that the objections were confined to a small class of Dissenters, and that the opposition was principally based on political grounds. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) deposed that for the last fifteen years this question had been merely a source of political capital. And Dr. Foster, a prime agitator in the matter, gave evidence which, in fact, amounts to the same; he said (and the hon. Baronet opposite has said the same thing) for he admitted that the doctrines held by 19–20ths of the Dissenters are identical with those of the Church of England—so that the opposition cannot arise out of their belief; or, in other words, it is not conscientious. This point was truthfully and clearly put by one of the witnesses when asked to explain the objections which were entertained to church rates. He was then asked:— Do you believe that any strong conscientious objection exists on the part of Dissenters against contributing to a church rate?—I really do not think that it is the Dissenters so much as persons who are of no religion, who do not go to any place of worship, and who object to every rate or tax of every kind; and this is the only one as to which they have any opportunity of exhibiting their opposition or their bad feeling. The poor rate is made without their consent; the health of towns and the highway rates are made without their consent; and the county rate for the police is made without their consent; and this being the only opportunity they have for opposition, all their bad feeling about rates in general comes out upon the church rate. Opposition, therefore, it is evident, arises not from conscientious objections but from political aims, or, I may be pardoned for saying, from factious agitation. The church-rates question, as I will now show, is merely put forward as a sort of stalking-horse by certain parties who desire in reality the severance of the Church from the State. This is the real point which is aimed at; so great is the extent of the designs which they entertain. According to Archdeacon Sanford, the abolition of church rates is merely the first step towards the entire abolition of the Established Church, which the Dissenters wish to pull down and reduce to the level of the sects. To the level of the sects? The ministers of every sect can have a seat in this House, and I believe certain ministers of Dissenting bodies are at that moment included in the assembly. But ministers of the Established Church are precluded from sitting in this House. If, therefore, the Church is to be reduced to the level of the sects, let it be at liberty to send its ministers likewise to this House; let the antagonists meet on equal terms; and I venture to say that such an array of talent, such a weight of influence, and such a mass of intelligence would be thus brought to bear as would utterly overwhelm all the opposition which could be mustered against it. Now I must refer the House to the evidence of Mr. Morley, a member of the Liberation Committee, who has been most active in promoting the agitation against church rates. He stated candidly in his evidence before the Committee that their opposition is directed not merely against church rates, but against every connection between religion and the State, and that it was on this ground that the Dissenters objected to accept of any exemption in their own favour. He added, in reply to a further question, that "This opposition was not consequent upon any injury which was done to Dissenters by a payment which they are called upon to make, but arose from their wish to assert a principle which they believed to be a true principle in the theory of government." He wishes, in fact, to dictate the true principles of legislation. And here, indeed, is the root of the whole matter; this is the underlying principle which causes all the difference in detail—it is a different theory of Government which they sought to force upon the House. In this notion they differed, not only from all the great statesmen of modern days, but from the political philosophers of former times; they do not even rise as high as the theory of the Chinese philosopher: namely, that it is, or it ought to be, the aim of Governments to seek the good of the nations which they govern; but the church-rate abolitionists differ not only from this belief, but from the principle which is almost the only one that pervades the writings of the present Emperor Napoleon—namely, that it is the duty of the Government to be foremost in leading the nation to those ideas which the Government believes to be true and for their good, even though the nation at the time reject them. Assuredly, if the Government were to seek the good of the nation, its first duty would be to maintain the established religion. But according to Mr. Morley, all that is required at the hands of the Government is to insure the security of person and property; he believes that Government is, in fact, nothing but a policeman. What may be his idea of the present Government I do not know; whether he believes that it is their duty to seek the good of the nation—or whether he regards all the occu- pants of the Treasury Bench as amounting but to one policeman, in the same way that nine tailors are supposed to make one man. And this is the only ground which those can consistently take who oppose church rates on any principle, and desire to overthrow the Established Church; while, on the other hand, all who believe that the office of Government is to seek the good of the governed, must hold it the chief duty of Government to support the Established Church. But even this security, which Mr. Morley desires, is, after all, only to be one-sided; for, that he desires the Government to take away the property of the Church is apparent by the following evidence:— You spoke of certain ultimate objects; do you suppose that the efforts which are now making are with the direct view of ultimately bringing about these objects?—I dare say the phrase has met your Lordship, The separation of Church and State; I believe that that is an object which numbers of earnest men have set before themselves; and I venture to say, I would take the liberty to repeat it. That step is taking away from the Church its property, and giving it to the State for some general purposes?—That is not the only result which is necessarily involved. So that, although in his opinion the proper end of Government is to secure property, the first thing which he wishes to accomplish is to take away from the Church the property which she possesses, and to transfer it to the State, to be employed in general purposes. Dr. Foster avowed himself to be the Chairman of the Liberation Society the objects of which are "to separate the Church from the State, to take away all funds and property with which the State had endowed any denomination whatever;" on this ground it objected also to the payment of tithes, and had taken an active part in the anti-church-rate agitation. It has been proved, then, in this blue-book that the church-rate agitation is merely political; and we are also shown the real extent of the designs of the agitators. You know, now, what we are required to give up. What, then, are we to receive in return? Rest and immunity from further vexation? When the Bill has passed, will the agitation be laid to rest? or will its supporters by that victory be rendered only more anxious to achieve their other objects? Mr. Morley, in his evidence, gives a direct answer to this question:—"I believe," he says, "that the concession of the question of church rates would not satisfy the ultimate expectations—or, I would say, the requirements of Dissenters." Dr. Foster admitted that if the question of church rates were settled to-morrow there were "ulterior objects which he should also wish to see accomplished." He was further asked by the Committee, whether it was his opinion that the settlement of this question would tend to produce peace between the Established Church and the members of the Dissenting body; and he replied that such a settlement "could not be regarded as disposing of all the questions in which they had an interest, and that, so long as the Established Church existed, the same differences would, in his opinion, continue to prevail." It is therefore quite hopeless to look for peace by a settlement of this question. Mr. Morley declared that the "existing organizations would continue as long as any connection is maintained between legislation and Religion," and hinted that an influence was exercised by these organizations which hon. Members understand very well who have been led to vote in favour of the Bill. The Liberation Society, Mr. Morley stated, had correspondents in every constituency, and received the co-operation of earnest, thoughtful men in every moderately large-sized town; "and there is," he says, "a course of action which candidates understand perfectly well, and which is found to be operative on this particular question." It was also stated by Dr. Foster that the society had appointed a Committee solely for the purpose of influencing elections. Now I ask the House whether it is right to give way to such a system of agitation? and whether doing so would not encourage a now and dangerous principle in the State? In Sir John Stephen's Anti-Slavery Recollections we might see a good instance of the unconstitutional power which may be exercised by only two members of a society organized for ostensibly religious purposes; it shows the kind of agitation which is carried on behind the scenes, and the way in which a few active and unscrupulous men may overbear the Parliament of the nation. I have said enough to show that this agitation for the abolition of church rates is merely a political movement, and that the ultimate aim of that movement is the destruction of the Church Establishment; I have shown, too, how hopeless it is to expect that the question would be set at rest by passing the present Bill. I have not time to go through all the copious evidence of the evil effects that have resulted in all parishes in which church rates has been discontinued. In many cases, the fabric of the churches has gone to decay for want of funds to repair them. "The state of the churches in Birmingham, "according to one witness," is conclusive against the voluntary system, for in that town the clergy were so active and zealous that if any of the body could succeed in obtaining the requisite funds, it would be the clergy of Birmingham." The church of St. Philip's abutted on a street; it was allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair that life was endangered by the risk of the fall of the church. The Corporation sent to the churchwardens a statement of the fact, with a view to that repair of the church. The churchwardens in their reply stated that they had no funds. The consequence was that the Corporation had to stop up the footway on that side of the street. In Nottingham also, the churches were in a similar state; the church of St. Mary's was in such a perilous state that the clergyman, after endeavouring without success to raise the funds to repair it, had to resign the living, and the church was shut up for four years. This is sufficient to show that the voluntary system has not succeeded in providing for the repair of churches. I need not remind the House that even in the matter of education, which is regarded as more worthy of support than the repair of churches, the voluntary system has proved a failure. In Manchester and Salford the attempts to provide the means of education by the voluntary system failed, and the inhabitants have had ultimately to strike a rate for the purpose. So much more then must it fail to provide for the repair of churches; so much more will a rate there be necessary. Public education, it will be admitted, is much more important than the repair of churches, yet the funds for it cannot be obtained on the voluntary principle, a fortiori it will be more difficult to obtain funds for the latter object by the same system. Some hon. Members voted in favour of the Bill last year because they supposed there was a growing desire on the part of the country in favour of the abolition of church rates. The evidence before the Committee that has since then sat upon the subject shows, however, that that is far from being the case. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wiltshire said he believed that the only thing the rural parishes desired was to be let alone. The general feeling, too, in favour of the Church has greatly improved. This is proved by the facts re- ported from the archdeaconry of Bristol. Of 200 parishes in that archdeaconry only eight have refused a church rate, and in the course of two years five out of the eight have retraced their steps, and repented. This proves what two of the witnesses deposed, that a better feeling is growing up in favour of the Church. Another witness to the same fact is Dr. Lushington, the Dean of the Arches; he stated that during the last seven years there had been only two cases of disputed church rates, and those case's turned on incidental circumstances not connected with the principle of the rate itself. Even Dr. Foster allows that the ill-feeling formerly excited by church rates "is very much diminishing." Let the House, more-over, look at the comparative number of the petitions presented in favour of abolition, and against it. On the previous day there were 700 petitions presented against the abolition, and in the present sitting upwards of 1,000. What have they to show on the other side? Up to the 2nd February one poor miserable petition, that must have occasioned the opposite party much trouble to get up, was the only one presented, and only four since then, up to yesterday, have been obtained. I was glad also to see that so many Members on the other side of the House have had to present so many petitions against the abolition of the rate, although their propensity inclined the other way. Therefore one inducement to vote for abolition has been removed by the evidence which we now possess. Some, again, may have voted thus in the hope of restoring peace; which the evidence of all parties shows to be a most vain and delusive expectation. I might, perhaps, assume that some few Members voted for this Bill last year from hostility to the Church, but let these Members remember that the same party anxiously wish to do away with all grants to all religious denominations, with the Regium Donum, and the grant to Maynooth, and seek to secularize the property of the Scotch Presbyterian Church. Evil results have followed wherever a church rate has been refused: is the House prepared to extend those evil effects over the whole country? Those parishes that have already refused the rate will not thank the House for the Bill abolishing it, and the more numerous parishes that wish still to rate themselves will not thankfully receive such a prohibition and restraint at your hands. Lastly, I ask you who should rather be believed and followed,—those who arrogate the tone of Morley and Foster; or those who say with Gladding, the Independent, that "the present state of the law is satisfactory as well in towns as in the rural parishes." In conclusion, I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given notice, that the Bill he read a second time this day six months.


, on rising to second the Amendment of the noble Lord, said it was the first time he had taken the liberty of trespassing upon their attention, and he felt all the difficulty of addressing an assembly so fastidiously critical as the House of Commons. The task would be difficult enough under any circumstances, but it was especially difficult when he had to follow the noble Lord (Lord R. Montagu) over ground so well trodden, and on a question that had been so often discussed. Yet he could not but feel obliged to the noble Lord for the able speech, a speech marked by so much moderation and sound judgment, in which he had moved his Amendment, though he should himself suffer from the disadvantage of having to follow it. The Motion being one for abolition, pure and simple, he should not stay to discuss any of those measures which had been put forward as modes of compromising the question by hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House, but which proved clearly that they were not indifferent to conscientious scruples, nor unwilling to show sympathy for the objections of Nonconformists even though they might deny that such objections were rightly founded. Since the question was last discussed, a Committee had been appointed in "another place" to inquire into this question; it had published the evidence, which he believed had been widely circulated. That report showed clearly what were the real objects of the opposition to church rates. Another and not the least important result of that Committee had been a reaction throughout England and Wales in the minds of independent Churchmen; they were resolved no longer to leave this question "cast upon the waters," to find friends as it might; they were determined to give this unjust and iniquitous measure every constitutional and legal opposition in their power. The consequence was that in the last week of January alone there were 33 petitions, signed by 700 persons, against the abolition of church rates presented to that House. There were 332 petitions, signed by 7700 persons, against the abolition of church rates without an equivalent, and 99 petitions, with 3,500 signatures, against the particular Bill of the hon. Member for Tavistock, and he believed that, the division would show signs of the reaction he referred to. Now what were the objects of the Bill before the House? The Bill proposed to abolish, without providing any substitute, equivalent, or compensation, the fund that had been raised in England for the maintenance of its churches for four or five centuries. The House did not abolish the Ecclesiastical Courts, it did not abolish the most petty office, without giving a compensation to every officer, and recognizing their vested interests. The House of Commons was, however, now asked to consent to the confiscation of nearly £300,000 a year, which sum, if capitalized, as Sir John Coleridge very properly observed the other day, would amount to something like £9,000,000. When Parliament abolished the slave trade, they thought it only just to pay the slave owners £20,000,000. Even when they thought it necessary to abolish some fiscal impost, a drawback was generally allowed to those who would be otherwise pecuniary sufferers by their commercial transactions. Where, then, was the justice or the policy of the measure before the House? He repeated, he believed the opinion of the public had very materially changed since the publication of the evidence given before the Committee of the House of Lords. He particularly referred to the evidence of Dr. Hume, of Liverpool, the Rev. J. C. Miller, of Birmingham, the Rev. R. C. Savage, and the Rev. G. Osborn. The blue-book contained evidence much more important than he could offer, or than had been offered by the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Trelawny), the mover of the Bill. The evidence proved that the abolition of church rates would almost entirely destroy the means of supporting the fabrics of the churches in large towns; he could not help asking what would be the result of this among large masses of the population? It was asserted that the abolition of church rates was required on the principle of religious liberty. But he put this question to conscientious Dissenters—were they, on the same ground, prepared to abolish the compulsory observance of the Sunday by the Jews? ("Oh! oh!") Let them consider the question; what right had they to demand the abolition of church rates on the principle of religious liberty, and yet to prohibit the Jews from employing the Christian Sunday as they pleased? They did not acknowledge its sacred character. Again, what would be the effect of the present measure upon the English clergy? Their anxieties and responsibilities, which were already very heavy, would be enormously increased; and a body of men, who were remarkable for their ability and their zeal in the discharge of their duties, would be placed in a position of great embarrassment and difficulty by the adoption of the principle now contended for, and by throwing on them the additional labour requisite to raise funds for the support of their churches. But beyond and above all these reasons there was one argument connected with the church-rate question, which struck him with peculiar force. This Spoliation Bill would be carried, if carried it was to be, by political pressure, not by force of argument. During the agitation of the question for the last thirty years, there was no bolder or more uncompromising opponent to the abolition of church rates than the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Lord John Russell). He regretted not seeing the noble Lord in his place to-day, to defend in person those principles with which he had heretofore identified himself. He wished to speak with all respect of that noble Lord, but he could not help thinking that the character of public men was the possession of the country. Until the last year no hon. Member of that House evinced greater earnestness, zeal, and determination in his opposition to every measure for the abolition of church rates than the noble Lord himself. What had since happened to change the noble Lord's opinions? What had changed his convictions? If he had not changed his convictions, why had he changed his vote? He (Mr. Long) was inclined to believe that it was not by the force of argument the noble Lord's convictions had changed, for they had changed not in the heyday of effervescent youth, but after many years of matured statesmanship,—but his conversion had been effected rather by a certain political pressure that had been put upon him. To anything like political pressure he (Mr. Long) had no answer to give but one of a firm, resolute, though temperate resistance, and a determination never to cease the expression of his convictions whilst he had a voice capable of uttering them. Such pressure, however, sometimes extorted votes; and after the many speeches they had heard made by the noble Lord from week to week and from year to year upon this subject—after the able statesmanship he had displayed in that House as the leader of the Liberal party, he (Mr. Long) was unwilling to believe that the convictions of the noble Lord were in favour of the passing of this measure at the present moment; and, therefore, if the noble Lord should vote in favour of the abolition of church rates, that vote, he feared, would be given contrary to his convictions. "Oh." He was simply expressing his own opinions upon the subject. He deplored the continuance of the agitation on this question; but would concession on the part of the Conservatives settle it? He believed not. Because he believed this Bill calculated to excite ill-feeling and acrimony, instead of salving sores and creating peace; because he believed it to be anything but a moderate Bill; because he believed it would, if passed, leave a sense of deep injustice rankling in the minds of the clergy and laity of the Church of England; because he believed it would, if carried in this House and thrown out in the House of Lords, generate differences between the two branches of the Legislature at a time when it was essential that those bodies should be in harmony; because he believed it would not be satisfactory to Dissenters any more than to Churchmen; and because he considered it would be a most dangerous precedent to concede to pressure that which could not be got by argument and fair logic, he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdonshire, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

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


The noble Lord who moved the Amendment laid before the House a full statement of the arguments which it appeared to him it was desirable to submit to our notice before we arrived at a decision on the subject under discussion. He was followed by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and who has spoken in a manner, on this, the first occasion on which he has addressed the House, which unquestionably creates such a presumption as to his knowledge and ability as to induce us to wish that he would on future occasions seize the opportunity of delivering his opinions on some of those various subjects which await our decision. There was, however, in the speech of the hon. Gentleman one passage of which I feel bound to take notice, and the tone and substance of which I trust he will in any subsequent speech which he may make not deem it expedient to imitate. He thought fit to state to the House that my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had, in the case of the last vote which he gave with respect to church rates, acted in opposition to the sincere convictions which he entertained on that subject. Now, if the hon. Gentleman had been in the Hou3e when the debate to which this charge refers took place, he would recollect that my noble Friend stated at length his views upon this question; that he gave the reasons for that change with respect to it which his opinions had undergone; that those were weighty, although they may not be considered by hon. Gentlemen opposite conclusive reasons, and that there was, therefore, not the slightest ground for that imputation of insincerity which has to-day been made. The hon. Gentleman would do well also to bear in mind that hon. Members on both sides of the House have modified their opinions on many questions of much greater importance and magnitude than that which we are now discussing, without, in consequence, being held to be open to any such imputation of insincerity; and I trust, therefore, he will not, after he has had a more extended experience of our proceedings, seek to obtain an undue advantage for his own opinions by making unfounded charges against those from whom he happens to differ. Having now, as I hope, shown the House that the hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken in the view which he takes of the vote of my noble Friend, I shall proceed briefly to state the reasons why I mean to support the second reading of the Bill under consideration. I may, then, in the first place observe, that I have never been one of those who entertain extreme opinions on the question with which the Bill proposes to deal. I do not regard the maintenance of church rates in any form as necessarily an infringement of religious liberty; while, on the other hand, I am unable to agree with the great majority of hon. Gentlemen opposite in the belief that if church rates were abolished the fabrics of the Church of England would, as the result, fall into decay. I am afraid, therefore, that the opinions to which I am about to give expression are not likely to find favour with any large number of the Members of this House. The views, however, which I on former occasions enunciated I still retain upon this subject, although I confess I have lost my faith in the probability of any reasonable compromise being effected, by which a satisfactory settlement of the question could be attained. I have therefore come—reluctantly, I must admit—to the conclusion that the best course to pursue is to vote for the second reading of the Bill which the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock has introduced. Now, one of the arguments which was urged by the noble Lord who moved the Amendment against the proposal which the Bill involves was, that in certain parishes in the town of Birmingham where no church rates were levied the fabric of the church had as a consequence fallen into decay, and the noble Lord having mentioned that fact, contended that if such was the state of things in a town such as Birmingham, there was a fortiori reason to suppose matters would assume a still worse aspect in the case of rural parishes. It seems to me, however, that that argument admits of being inverted, if we only for a moment take into account what the real position is of those churches which are situated in towns. The support of the Church of England may be said to be founded on a system of tithes; but that system entirely fails in towns, inasmuch as tithes are paid out of the annual increment of the land. But in those instances in which the land is covered with houses there can be no fund out of which tithes would be payable, and the church under those circumstances relies upon voluntary contributions. There are pew-rents and Easter offerings, and christening, marriage, and burial fees, and I may perhaps take this opportunity of saying that I had recently occasion to regret, in connection with those fees, that in the parishes in London, owing to the prohibition of intramural interments, that source of support is cut off. But, as I was observing, the church, under the circumstances to which I allude, has to be maintained by voluntary contributions, consisting of pew-rents, or other offerings, and it is therefore manifest that there is greater difficulty in collecting subscriptions for the maintenance of the church in towns than in ordinary rural parishes, where the incumbent receives a stipend adequate to his support out of the tithes of his parish, and all that is required in addition is a small sum to keep up the fabric of the church, and to make provision for the services. I cannot under those circumstances, but believe that in the event of the church rates being abolished, greater facilities would be found to exist in the majority of rural parishes for procuring that small sum, over and above the larger sum which is required for the maintenance of the clergyman, than could be secured in the poorer class of parishes in towns. Now, in dealing with this subject of church rates, I cannot refrain from suggesting to the House that it is one which has frequently been discussed with more of sentiment than of reason and solid argument. There has been a great deal of sentiment, for instance, indulged in with reference to the imaginary grievances of Dissenters; but there is also a certain degree of spurious sentiment pervading the views of those who contend that the Church of England is the church of the poor. It is said that if we abolish church rates there will be no free seats for the humbler classes; but how is it that under the existing law free seats are provided for them? Simply by the fact that those who are not poor pay church rates. If, however, an adequate sum for the repair of the church and the maintenance of its services were provided by means of pew-rents, even in rural as well as in the town parishes, the difficulty with which we are now dealing would be at an end. Money would be collected from those who are able to pay pew-rents, and the poor might be provided with free seats, as under the existing system. I am of course aware that there are at present prevalent strong objections to pew-rents; but how, I would ask, can a line be more effectually drawn between Dissenters, whose conscientious scruples we are anxious to respect, and those by whom the church is practically used—in other words, the members of the congregation—than by simply imposing on a portion of the pews a moderate rent? For my own part, I must confess that I see nothing in pew-rents which is at all opposed to the sanctity with which a place of religious worship ought to be surrounded. One of the reasons why they are objected to arises from the feeling that they are in some way connected with dissent; but what, I may ask, is a church rate, but a pew-rent under another name? The only difference between them, practically speaking, is that a church rate is a charge imposed on the inhabitants of a parish, for the most part in respect of their habitations, while, in the case of pew-rents, the churchwarden of a parish simply as- signs a pew to the occupiers of each house, as far as the accommodation in the church will allow. I therefore cannot understand the justice of the objection which many persons entertain to resorting to pew-rents for the maintenance of the fabric of the church. If, then, a system were introduced in accordance with which it would be competent for the incumbent of a parish or the Bishop, on the abolition of church rates, to impose on a certain portion of the pews in rural churches a moderate rent, I apprehend an equivalent would be found for the sum—I believe it amounts to £250,000—which is at present raised by means of church rates. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment, however, contends that we ought not to abolish a tax of this nature without giving compensation; but I do not think he was happy in selecting the case of the practitioners in the Palace Court, or that of the proprietors of slaves in the West Indies, to whom compensation was, in consequence of the passing of measures affecting their interests, accorded, as furnishing an illustration of the justice of the view which he submitted to the House. I would, in dealing with this point, venture to point out to the hon. Gentleman that the principle upon which compensation is granted by Parliament in such cases rests upon the foundation of property. When, therefore, two Sessions ago, we went so far as to grant compensation to the proctors who practised in the Ecclesiastical Courts, we proceeded upon the assumption that they possessed a vested interest in their professional pursuits which it was but reasonable to take into account when those courts were abolished. In the present instance I am at a loss to point to any class of persons who can be said to have a vested interest, and I cannot admit that there is any ground for applying the doctrine of compensation to church rates. What I should wish to provide is, not compensation to any class of persons, but a substitute for the impost to be abolished, some payment which would discharge the same function as is discharged by church rates—at once certain in its collection and just in its incidence. That problem is, I think, solved by reference to pew-rents, and therefore I do not see that the objections to the second reading of this Bill have any force whatever. I have thus indicated, so far as I am able, the views I have formed on this subject. Notwithstanding the supposed light shed upon the subject by the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords, hon. Gentlemen opposite have no proposition to oppose to the second reading of this Bill; I shall therefore deem it my duty to support the original Motion.


said, he was not going to discuss the question of church rates. All that could be said on the general subject had been already said by others better than he could pretend to say it, but he wished to draw the attention of the House to the present position of the church-rate Question, and the steps by which it had reached that position, and he must say the friends of the Church had great reason to complain that noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen who had been in office, with a very short interval, since Sir Robert Peel's Government had left the question of church rates in the hands of independent Members pledged to their total and unconditional abolition. If he had to speak of noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen in their absence it was not his fault. He did not complain of the absence of Ministers on a Wednesday, but he did complain of their leaving questions of vital importance to private. Members which thus came to be discussed during the absence of Ministers at a Wednesday morning sitting. Considering the importance of this Question—for, thank God, in spite of Mr. Morley and Mr. Miall, the Church was still a great institution of the country—considering the position of the Question ever since the decision of the House of Lords in the Braintree case, they had a right to complain of the course which had been taken by right hon. Gentlemen opposite in 1856. The predecessor of the hon. Baronet, Sir William Clay, brought forward his usual Motion for the abolition of church rates, and they were all very anxious to know what course would be pursued by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth, then Home Secretary (Sir George Grey) on that occasion. He voted for the second reading of the Bill for the total abolition of church rates, all though prepared, disposed, and determined to maintain church rates in some 9,000 or 10,000 parishes. A vote more inconsistent with the principles on which they considered the second reading of Bills never was given; and when the present Home Secretary said he would vote for this Bill, because no compromise had been provided, he would ask why did not right hon. Gentlemen opposite propose a compromise? After the decision of the House on that occasion, he got up and asked the Home Secretary if the Government would take up the Bill. The right hon. Baronet said it remained in private hands, but they would endeavour to give it facilities. Those facilities never were available, and the Bill did not come on during that Session for further discussion. That course was most unfair and unjust to the Church of England, as well as inconsistent with the usual Parliamentary practice. On this subject he would quote the words used by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell), who took part in that debate, and said— With respect to the proposal which my right hon. Friend the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) has made on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, he has chosen the inconvenient course, as I think, of not bringing into this House a measure founded upon the principles he has indicated, but, while proposing to sanction by his vote and by the votes of his colleagues a Bill framed in a very different spirit, he holds out the hope that he will be able to introduce in Committee, not some simple alterations merely, but material and somewhat complicated provisions." [3 Hansard, cxl., 1913.] It was but just to the right hon. Baronet to say that he had endeavoured afterwards to retrace his steps, and on a subsequent occasion he voted in favour of church rates; but, having once led his friends into the wrong lobby, he could not get them out again. He went into that lobby accompanied by his right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Sir W. Hayter); the huntsmen and whipper-in were together, but the whole pack were running riot. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion spoke of the increasing majorities in favour of the abolition of church rates; but these were to be traced to the conduct of the Government. What said the Prime Minister on the occasion to which he had alluded? That noble Lord generally spoke very plainly, and he did so then. He said—and these were his own sentiments— The course we intend to pursue is, to recognise the existing state of things in parishes where church rates are levied, and to provide another arrangement for those parishes in which a different set of circumstances has arisen." [3 Hansard, cxl., 1920.] How the noble Lord, entertaining these views, could vote for a Bill proposing the total and unconditional abolition of church rates he had never been able to understand. In 1857 the noble Lord intimated his intention to deal with the question in a manner to please everybody. That was most gratifying to hear, and the hon. Baronet had been induced to proceed no further but no further proceeded the noble Lord. Then came the following Session, when the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to retrace his steps. The Conservative Government lost no time in endeavouring to deal with this question. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) brought forward an honest and liberal measure, which proposed a settlement of this question. It did not receive that support to which he thought it entitled from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. He was very reluctant to impute motives; but one could not help thinking that a disinclination to let the merit of settling such an important question fall to a Conservative Government had something to do with the opposition which his right hon. Friend's Bill had received. The measure was conceived in a liberal spirit. The Conservatives were prepared to make great concessions, and they ought to have been met in a fair spirit. He himself was very anxious for a settlement. He thought the question might be settled; but certainly not by a one-sided measure, such as that before them. He might observe with reference to his right hon. Friend's Bill that he differed from him in one respect. His hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) was desirous of discovering a locus penitentia for those who conscientiously objected to church rates. He proposed, where church rates did not exist, to give a legal exemption. After the decision of the House of Lords in the Braintree case, he (Mr. K. Seymer) did not think there was much need of that legal exemption. It seemed to him that the case for legislation was much stronger where they found the church out of repair. In the majority of town parishes, where church rates did not exist, means had been found for the maintenance of the fabrics; therefore he was bound to say that in legislating on this subject they ought to recognize that state of facts; but the case was different in rural districts. He had a letter from a clergyman the other day who stated the case of a district in which a Roman Catholic gentleman was the owner of six entire parishes. That gentleman was surrounded by a body of Protestant tenantry, who made and paid a rate at present; but when it came to making a collection, and when that gentleman refused, as no doubt he would refuse, to head the list, how would the ease be then? Surely there would be little chance of sufficient money being obtained, and some of the vicars deriving a scanty subsistence from the small tithes—and many clergymen subscribed beyond their means towards religious and secu- lar objects—would probably have to bear a part of the expense. His right hon. Friend also proposed to relieve those who had conscientious objections to paying church rates; but he (Mr. K. Seymer) did not go so far as that. Some persons had a conscientious objection to all payments. They could not admit the principle that people were not to pay for what they conscientiously objected to. Such a principle would lead much further than the abolition of church rates. Admit the principle, and he should himself object to support the churches and schools connected with the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Admit the principle, and the Episcopal Church of Scotland would have a right to object to pay to the Presbyterian Establishment. He would exempt the Dissenters; and he would not go further. He remembered the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) objecting to the condition that the Dissenter who was relieved from the payment should have no right to take part in vestries as humiliating. God forbid that he should wish to humiliate any class of his fellow-subjects, but how excessive must be the pride that could consider this a humiliation! Although the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had been defended by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, it was still open to some objection. The Bill of his right hon. Friend went too far for the noble Lord. The noble Lord said, "I cannot vote for that Bill, as you give up too much to the Dissenters." Now, that was in February last, and yet in the summer of the same year the noble Lord supported the second reading of a Bill for the total abolition of church rates. He made no comments on this fact; he thought it required none. In the rural districts there was no difficulty regarding church rates. He had that day presented a petition in favour of church rates, signed by every ratepayer of a large parish, with one only exception, and that was the dissenting minister. Now, as there was a minister, he supposed there were Dissenters in the parish, and, if so, they all signed in favour of the continuance of the rates. It might be said, "If you present petitions from parishes, the whole of the population of which are in favour of church rates, you could have no difficulty under the voluntary system." But that did not follow. People were willing to contribute to an old-established impost; but it by no means followed that when, under the voluntary system, "the burden was laid on the willing horse," the willingness to contribute would long continue. "The willing horse" would, after a time, refuse to bear the burden; and he thought that rural parishes would be thrown into a condition of much difficulty. He did not say that the churches would go out of repair; but this he did say, that the clergy would have, in many instances, to contribute largely themselves, and in others to go begging all over the country. In the Lords' blue-book on the subject of church rates he found in the evidence of Dr. Foster the following admission. He said, "The Dissenters conscientiously object to allow Churchmen who conscientiously approve of church rates to continue to rate themselves for that purpose." This was fairly elicited from the cross examination of Dr. Foster. It was rather a roundabout case of conscience as far as the Dissenters were concerned. It manifested a desire on the part of the Dissenters to interfere with the free conscience of the Church, arising simply from a wish to attain ulterior objects, and separate the Church from the State. Dr. Foster was the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the Liberation Society—he did not give the full title, for life was not long enough for those long-winded, pompous designations, which this society gave itself; and he said, "With regard to our objections, I should say that I think the objections of the society are merely made in consequence of their being one means of weakening the connection between Church and State. We wish to take away all funds and property with which the State has endowed any religion whatever." "Do you include tithes in that?" "Yes." Now, many hon. Gentlemen saw a great distinction between tithes and church rates; but this far-sighted gentleman, who was at the head of the Liberation Society, did not see the distinction, nor admit it, and by and by this Dr. Foster, being chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the Liberation Society—whose business, in other words, was to look after the borough Members—would not allow them to see, or if they did, would not allow them to own it. That was the real position of the Society for the Abolition of Church Rates. He only wished that the representatives of the gentleman who spoke out so boldly in the Lords' Committee would speak out as plainly in the House of Commons. If they were opposed to the connection between Church and State let them come forward like men, raise the question, and show their colours, and the Conservatives would fight it out with them. But, no, they preferred sapping and mining, and, unless prevented, they would go on till they blew up the Established Church. That was just what the Conservatives did not want. The hon. Baronet who opened the debate began by saying that the question was very complicated. It was so. His Bill, however, was delightfully simple, and when we proposed to deal simply with a very complicated question we dealt unjustly. This was exactly what was done by the hon. Baronet. Was he aware that there were many parishes under local Acts in which the stipends of the ministers were made payable out of church rates? This was the fact; and he understood that it was considered doubtful, at all events, whether the Bill before the House would not, if it passed the Legislature, override and abrogate those local Acts. The hon. Baronet said, "I merely abolish church rates. I make no provision for altered circumstances. Dissenters are still to come and vote in Church meetings, and object to rates of Churchmen." He did not wish to deprive Dissenters of the services of the Church, for many prefer being married where their parents were married before them, and to have their remains interred where those of their ancestors had been deposited before." But he (Mr. K. Seymer) said, "Do not interfere with the money, if you are relieved from church rates." The right hon. Baronet who spoke last said he did not take extreme views; still he gave a very extreme vote, and seemed to throw on the Opposition the responsibility of proposing a substitute. But, surely, if there was to be a substitute for church rates, it was for the Government, who supported the abolition, to bring in the substitute. The right hon. Baronet had, however, proposed nothing of the kind, but had sat down rather abruptly when it appeared as if he were only beginning his speech. The right hon. Baronet had, indeed, indicated one resource out of which to replace church rates—namely, pew-rents, which were entirely repudiated in the rural districts. But even that substitute he had not ventured to propose. All he had done was to say that he should vote for the abolition of church rates. A great question had never been left in a more unsatisfactory position by a Member of a Government. The House could not pretend to vote in ignorance of the ulterior objects of the body whose agitation had brought that question to its present state. Their aim was nothing less than the separation of Church and State. As the House had now the choice between the total and unconditional abolition of church rates, and a fair compromise relieving Dissenters from the impost, while, also, allowing Churchmen in the rural districts to rate themselves for their own purposes, he called on all who were in favour of maintaining the Established Church to vote against the present Bill.


Mr. Speaker, Sir, it is with extreme reluctance that I obtrude myself upon the notice of the House, but inasmuch as this is an occasion of great importance, and a subject upon which many of my constituents feel strongly, and inasmuch as it is the first time I have trespassed upon the indulgence of this assembly, I am convinced that I shall not ask for its favourable attention in vain. As a sincere and earnest member of the Church of England, too, I cannot but think that it would be well for me not to give an altogether silent vote in favour of the second reading of this Bill. I am not about to reiterate any of the arguments in favour of the measure which have been so ably adduced by the hon. Baronet who introduced it, neither is it my intention to debate the points so strongly urged against the Bill by the noble Lord who moved the Amendment; I believe that the House has been, so to speak, from time to time deluged with the pros and cons relating to this Question. I shall, therefore, confine myself to one or two points. It has always appeared to me, as an earnest member of the Church of England, expedient both for the good of the Church itself, and for the peace of society, that this measure should become law. Compulsory church rates arc irritating and obnoxious to Dissenters, not because of their pecuniary amount, but because they jar against their religious feelings and principles. On the other hand the number of Churchmen who are in favour of their abolition is steadily increasing, because it is felt that they weaken instead of adding strength to the Church, while they are an annually recurring cause of strife and ill-will. Under these circumstances is it not expedient by means of a comprehensive enactment like that before the House to remove this grievance from the minds of the community? As a member of the Church of England, I believe her doctrines to be purely Scriptural, and I find in the Sacred volume no warrant for compulsory church rates, but I do find that the angelic messengers who proclaimed the advent of the great Founder of my creed declared that it was to bring not only glory to God in the highest Heaven, but on earth peace, good-will among men. I ask myself, and I ask the House, does this tax consist with the announcement of the foundation of my religion? does it produce peace, does it engender good-will? and the answer being, as it must be, in the negative, constrains me to vote for its abolition. If the argument that has been several times addressed, that our parish churches would go to decay if this rate was abolished, was well founded—if it is an argument which was demonstrated by facts, and not a mere theory, which practice has proved the fallacy of, then I might say I should pause before I gave my support to this measure. But is not the preamble of the Bill true? is it not a fact "that church rates have for years ceased to be collected in many churches;" and yet are not those churches existing in undiminished beauty and order, thronged with willing worshippers and the Divine service regularly performed therein? If this be so, then the argument that churches will go to decay and tumble down if church rates are abolished has little weight with me, it becomes but a mere fiction, and I prefer to it the fact that church rates are virtually abolished in many parishes, and that the churches still stand and flourish; and, Sir, I confess that I should greatly prefer to make one in the congregations of those churches for which no rates have been levied, but which are supported by their own occupants, because my worship would not have been made a cause of offence to my neighbour, because the walls of the sacred precincts in which I knelt would not have been cemented by ill will and strife, nor the atmosphere I breathed tainted by the invocations of anything but blessings. For these reasons, briefly and feebly expressed, in fine, because I do not believe church rates to be necessary to the existence or for the preservation of the Church of England; because I know them to be a fruitful source of evil and discord among many who are fellow-citizens and should be brothers; because I can see no good in their retention, and no harm in their abolition, I heartily and conscientiously give my vote for the second reading of this Bill.


(to whom Mr. Packe gave way):—I will not interpose between my hon. Friend and the House more than a moment; but, before we come to a division, I wish to place before it one view which I think has not been sufficiently, if at all, urged on their attention. And that is, the extremely centralizing character of the measure which the hon. Baronet recommends to our adoption this day. He calls upon the central authority to interfere with our parochial constitution—a constitution, I may say, in passing, not less important than our political constitution. For what are the circumstances of the case? To take the lowest estimate, 80 per cent of those parishes do not wish to be interfered with, and the rest have no grievance in the law and custom of the country at present; because if it be a grievance that they should be followed in those parishes, the majority of the inhabitants have the power to exempt themselves by their own act. Well, Sir, I look with great jealousy, then, on the central authority being called upon to interfere with the will of the great body of the parishes of this country in the exercise of a custom which has existed for centuries and which, in the great majority of the parishes of the country, has been productive of beneficial results. I admit the painful anomaly that on a subject of such general interest as the maintenance of the fabrics of our churches a custom should be prevalent in one part of the country and have fallen into desuetude in another. I think it of great importance that we should arrive, if possible, at some mode by which that anomaly might be arranged and terminated. We have had several schemes brought forward, many suggestions on the subject in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen; we have had the policy of one Government expressed but not proposed; and we have had another instance of the policy of a Government not only recommended, but brought before the consideration of the House in the form of a Bill. I admit that the experience of all these attempts to arrive at a satisfactory settlement of the question is not of an encouraging nature; but it does not follow that because they have not been of a successful character that we should immediately advocate a proceeding like that of the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock. Because if it be a fact—and I have not heard it denied—that the very great proportion of the parishes of the country are satisfied with the present state of the law, and that the minority who are dissatisfied are not suffering from any practical grievance, then what we have before us in the proposition of the hon. Baronet is not the redress of a practical grievance but the acceptance of a speculative theory. Well now, Sir, what is that theory? That theory has varied in its form and expression in the years during which I have had a seat in the House, and during the time this agitation has existed. It came forward at first in a very plausible form, which recommended it to the consideration of many in this House who are not favourable to the present scheme. We were called on then to recognize a conscientious scruple, and the recognition of a conscientious scruple was a basis for legislation which naturally recommended itself to every generous mind. But, Sir, that is no longer the case. No one seeks redress now for his conscientious scruples; and those who were once willing to listen to such an appeal have, I think, upon a wiser and discreeter reflection, felt that the admission of such a plea would lead to ultimate legislation upon other subjects of a character which few in this House would approve. Well then, Sir, what is the form which the speculative theory—for a speculative theory, and not a practical grievance, it is—what is the form that it now assumes? It takes one much clearer, much more sincere, much more honest, and much more intelligible. It takes the form of a controversy, whether there should be an ecclesiastical establishment in this country; and whether the union between Church and State that has so long prevailed should be acknowledged and supported. I do not mean to say that in this question of church rates, necessarily, that issue is contained. That is a point which—it is not convenient at this time to enter into, and which is not required for my argument;—but what I do say is, that we have it in clear evidence, acknowledged in a manly and straight forward manner, that is the real issue we have to try. Well now, Sir, I think we know where we stand. I have always observed that when the property of the Church is at stake, and when questions affecting it are brought forward in this House, the agitation which takes place is of considerable duration, and during that agitation the form of the question assumes different aspects; but, ultimately the real character comes out, and it is a great error to suppose that in questions of this kind a lengthened agitation is necessarily favourable to those who are the advocates of change. A lengthened agitation of a question is favourable to its full consideration I sincerely believe; but what was the effect of the lengthened agitation with respect to the appropriation of the property of the Irish Church. How often, how obstinately, with how much ability, and with how much illustration was the appropriation of the alleged surplus of the Irish church discussed in this House! My right hon. Friend reminds me of what it is not necessary I should remind the House, of the temporary success, so far as the divisions in this House were concerned, which attended that agitation; yet that lengthened agitation did not bring about the change which was recommended and enforced. The mind of the country was enlightened on the subject; and it was discovered on reflection how much more was involved in the question than the ostensible result that was advocated. That happened during that agitation which has happened during the present one, and which will happen still more conspicuously if it proceeds—that many who were advocates, and warm advocates, of the policy first recommended, afterwards drew back when they saw the consequences that might ensue, and themselves assisted in terminating the effort which once threatened to be overwhelmingly successful. And I see now, in the disposition of this House, even although for a moment a majority may be attained in favour of the measure of the hon. Baronet—I see even now, in the disposition of this House, an inclination to be more swayed by a calm consideration of the facts and of the opinion in the country than prevailed last year, or two or three years further back. It is impossible to resist those broad facts as placed before us. You are calling upon us to revolutionize the parochial constitution of this country; and when we demand the witnesses to prove the necessity of your case, there rise up in the House the representatives of nearly 14,000 parishes, who protest against the change. Sir, when the question enters merely into the arena of speculative discussion the House feels that they are no longer under the pressure of national exigency. They feel that if it is only a question of speculative discussion, it becomes them calmly to consider and long to ponder before they enter into a practical course which may be rife with consequences which they at this moment do not foresee. I will not at this hour enter into a question so vast as whether the existence of an Established Church as a public, national ecclesiastical body is desirable in this country or not; long before we can arrive at a decision on an issue so momentous, this House will have to consider deeply, largely, and longly, the character of such a policy; but if there were no other reason for the maintenance of an Established Church at this moment, it must at once occur to the thoughts and feelings of Members on both sides the House, and I hope it will be remembered that the Church has been, and still is, and I trust ever will be, our best barrier against that religious fanaticism which has more than once been prevalent in this realm. We are told, and flattered, that we live in an enlightened age, and that the population of this country are so advanced that we can look forward without fear to the conduct of an educated people. But, Sir, if I am to judge by what is passing under our eye in almost every corner of Her Majesty's dominions, I see there instances of conduct and indications of opinion which make me tremble at what may be the consequence if the great influence of the Church of England were withdrawn from any exercise of political authority. Sir, that is but a very limited view of the beneficial influence of the National Church of this country; but it is one brought to my conviction at this moment by what is passing, and one which, therefore, I have on this occasion thus slightly referred to. I shall oppose the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock. He has brought forward his question, as he always does, with calmness and courtesy; but we must not allow the calmness and courtesy of the hon. Baronet to conceal the character of the measure which he recommends us to pass. It is in my mind a pernicious measure; it is in my mind a measure which, if carried, will lead to greater results than any even in this House may anticipate. It is recommended only upon speculative grounds. It is no longer brought forward as a redress for practical grievances; and because there is no necessity whatever to enter into these speculative discussions, because, totally irrespective of all other considerations, it is in clear evidence before us that this is a proposition for a tyrannical interference of the central authority of the State with the parochial constitution of the country, I shall give it a hearty and an absolute refusal.


said, he had listened with attention but great disappointment to the speech just delivered by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli). He had expected to hear something from the right hon. Gentleman upon the merits of the question before the House; but instead of that, instead of arguing the question of whether one man ought to be made to pay for the maintenance of the fabric of another man's church, they had nothing but a series of bold assertions on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had started a false issue, and said, "You are about to revolutionize the parochial institutions of the country." Well, why should they not revolutionize the parochial institutions of the country, if those institutions fostered injustice and oppression? The right hon. Gentleman appeared to be frightened by a phrase. When the right hon. Gentleman said, that the measure tended to promote the separation of Church and State, let him remember what had taken place with reference to Ireland. By the Act of Union the Church in Ireland and the Church in England were one and the same. In Ireland church rates had been abolished, and with the advice and under the leadership of the Earl of Derby, one-fourth of the revenues of the Church had been appropriated by the Legislature with the sanction of the authorities both lay and clerical, and not less than ten bishoprics abolished. Subsequently, too, they had abolished ministers' money in Ireland; for whilst church rates were a charge upon personalty, ministers' money was a charge upon property. But was the Church in Ireland rendered at all weaker by the adoption of these measures? No; on the contrary, it was much stronger. What, then, became of the argument that if they abolished church rates they interfered with Church and State. So far from that, he believed that they would thereby get rid of a bone of contention, great heartburnings and unchristian feelings; and that the Church of England would be stronger by many degrees, after reforming it in this way, than it was at present. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. K. Seymer) had complained of the Government for not introducing a measure upon this subject. The reason of this might be that the friends of church rates had shown that they would accept no compromise. They did not give any earnest support to the measure introduced by their Home Se- cretary, and a more uncompromising speech than that of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, he had never heard. True, his hon. Seconder seemed to hint at a compromise; but what he said in effect was, "Slaves, buy your freedom, and you shall have it." The Dissenters might, therefore, very fairly say, "Thank you for nothing." It was of no use, therefore, to complain of the Government that they had not brought in a measure when so little hope of a compromise was held out. Again, it was said that the number of petitions against church rates was not as great as it had been in former years. That was a very imprudent declaration. Was the question, he asked, to be decided by reason and argument, or solely by pressure from without? If the majority of Churchmen were, as was alleged, in favour of church rates, there could be no danger of churches being allowed to fall into decay, supposing they were left dependent on voluntary offerings. Believing church rates to he unjust and oppressive on the consciences of a great body of the people in this country, he should vote for the Bill of the hon. Baronet.


said, that the manner in which the hon. Seconder of the Amend-mend had performed his duty gave high promise with regard to his future career in that House, and he thought the hon. Member had not deserved the severe lecture which had been delivered to him by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir G. Lewis). He rose now principally for the purpose of drawing attention to the fact that although the noble Lord the Member for London was prepared to vote for the abolition of church rates, the opinions which the noble Lord had formerly expressed in their favour had remained altogether unchanged. He (Mr. Packe) felt warranted in saying this from the fact that last year, soon after the general election, in speaking in the Debate on church rates, he express ed his surprise that the noble Lord, by his speeches, first at Guildhall and afterwards on the county hustings at Huntingdon, should have changed his opinion on the Question of church rates. The noble Lord was then absent, but coming subsequently into the House, he spoke in the Debate, and said distinctly, his own opinions in reference to church rates remained the same; that it was solely owing to public opinion that he had changed his policy. He (Mr. Packe) had therefore good reason to think that he still believed, as he ex- pressed himself in the House of Commons in 1854, that a national Church, an hereditary aristocracy, and an hereditary monarchy, would stand together, and, if there were occasion, would fall together; and that the abolition of church rates would tend to subvert one of the great institutions of the State. He wished not to say anything of the noble Lord that was unparliamentary, but he really should be glad if the noble Lord, whom he now saw in his place, could explain his views upon the subject, and let the House know whether they had undergone an alteration or not.


said, it was essential in order to the satisfactory settlement of this great question that those who debated it should do so with perfect candour, that there should be no reservation of ulterior views, that it should be regarded in the light of the facts that now surrounded it, and not with reference to what had taken place 200 or 300 years ago, or that might occur 200 or 300 years hence. It was with that feeling that he desired to address the House; because he could not say that anything he had heard that day represented the actual position of the question. He found that many of the large and populous towns were debarred from having recourse to church rates; but that the mass of the parishes in England were still in possession of the invaluable privilege of self-government. He found, however, that there was a certain amount of discontent and continuous agitation maintained, and which was carried on with more or less vigour as the chances of ultimate success appeared to increase. Now he was con strained at once to say that that was not a satisfactory state of things. He could not conceive it to be satisfactory that in one parish, where the Dissenters were in a minority, they should have to pay church rates imposed upon them by a majority composed of Churchmen, whilst in the adjoining parish, where the only change of circumstances was a difference of numbers, Dissenters should be emancipated from the liability to contribute to those rates. It became this House, therefore, to adopt some measure which should make the practice in reference to church rates uniform throughout the country. But when he examined the measure on the table he found nothing in it which tended towards the desired result, and therefore he could not support it. No doubt there were some grounds for dissatisfaction with the present state of things, but the Bill of the hon. Baronet proposed to remove them by prohibiting Churchmen from raising amongst themselves the means required for their own purposes in the way they liked best. Under the pretence of giving relief to a certain section of the community, the hon. Baronet was endeavouring to commit an act of tyrannical injustice upon the larger number of parishes in the country. He knew that the alternative suggested was that money should be raised by voluntary contributions. That was an exceedingly easy thing to say, but it was not quite so easy to do. Voluntary contributions were peculiarly applicable to some great and important exigency, as in the case of the Patriotic Fund, for instance. Let them, however, take a parallel case to the present—that of the civil list. Church rates were estimated to produce about £300,000 a year. The civil list was about the same amount; but would any one be so wild and unreasonable as to suggest that the civil list should be provided for by voluntary contributions? Of course not. And when they had a distinct purpose to accomplish, the only fair and effective way of doing it was to rate persons according to their several means. A statement made by an hon. Member near him had been censured by the Secretary for the Home Department, but he felt bound to confirm the accuracy of the Member for North Wilts who alluded to that memorable day when the two noble Lords on the Treasury Bench confessed before the House that, entertaining a strong sense of the justice of the church rate law, they would nevertheless vote against it, and gave no other reason for a change of policy than that of the state of public opinion. The indication of public opinion in subserviency to which the noble Lords had sacrificed their consistency, arose from no genuine action of the popular breath, but from a blast from Ludgate Hill. Dr. Foster, Chairman of the "Society for the liberation of Religion from State Control," having been asked before the Select Committee whether the society considered the Bill then before Parliament as their own, and as one promoted by them, answered, "so far as our society goes, I think that is a fair presumption." At a meeting of this same society, a statement was also made by Dr. Foster with which the House ought to be acquainted. On that occasion he read a paper which purported to be a review the leading public questions of the day. The first of these questions was church rates, in respect of which he said the society occupied this vantage ground, that all parties admitted that something must be done with them. He then enumerated Mr. Dillwyn's Bill relating to Endowed Schools, the Annuity Tax Bill, Mr. Baines's Motion respecting the Bible Printing Monopoly, Mr. Had-field's Municipal Corporation Bill, Mr. FitzGerald's Roman Catholic Relief Bill, and a contemplated Bill for enabling Dissenting ministers to officiate in churchyards. Subsequently Mr. Miall proposed a Resolution to the effect that the meeting, had great pleasure in learning that the Executive Committee were determined to press forward, with undiminished energy, these various measures, and more especially that for the abolition of church rates. He believed he had said enough then to show what was the real nature of the agitation which had occasioned the change of policy on the part of the two noble Lords [Oh, oh!] He had no doubt that the relation of these facts was exceedingly unpalatable to hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was not for him to decide for hon. Gentlemen how far they were willing to accept the position of delegates for the society of which Dr. Foster was the chief; but he certainly had a strong opinion of the sense which the House must entertain of those extraneous and most unconstitutional attempts to influence the legislation of this House. There was an Act by which the constitution of the country determined the religion of the Sovereign. The Sovereign was to represent a religion which was neither that of the Baptist nor the Papist, the Calvinist, nor the Lutheran, the Jew nor the Quaker. The religion of the Sovereign must be that of the Church of England. It was not a mere formula; for the Coronation Service itself involves the necessity for Her receiving the communion according to the office of that Church. If, then, the object of hon. Gentlemen was the separation of Church and State, let them propose to cancel and rescind the Act passed in the reign of William the Third for "the limitation of the Crown," and at once decide whether this country should embrace an empty infidelity, or any other religion than that of the Church of England. He was certain, however, that neither this House nor the country would consent to substitute the heartlessness of infidelity or the depressing despotism of sectarian supremacy for the gentle and the elevating influence of the Church of England.


said, that he wished to express a hope that when the Bill came out of Committee it would contain some provision for the repairs of the fabric of the church. In that hope he would support the second reading of the measure. To neglect to ensure the repair of the fabric of the church would be, in his opinion, to afford great reason to the poor man to complain of injustice, because he would say those churches were built by the liberality of our fathers, who never could have contemplated the unconditional abolition of the means of supporting them. He was prepared however, to support the total and unconditional abolition of that portion of the church rate which was appropriated to the celebration of Divine worship. Every Christian congregation worthy of the name ought to defray the cost of its own religious services.


briefly replied. He denied the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, that the Bill would revolutionize our parochial institutions. If the measure were passed to-morrow the inhabitants of every parish would be at liberty, as before, to meet and levy a rate. A great deal had been said of the Liberation Society. The truth was, however, that he had advocated the abolition of church rates in that House long before the Liberation Society came into existence. He was not even connected with it, though he entertained a high respect for some of its leading members.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 263; Noes 234: Majority 29.

List of the AYES.
Acton, Sir J. D. Beale, S.
Adair, H. E. Beaumont, W. B.
Adam, W. P. Berkeley, hon. H. F.
Adeane, H. J. Berkeley, Col. F.W. F.
Agnew, Sir A. Bethell, Sir R.
Alcock, T. Biddulph, Col.
Andover, Visct. Biggs, J.
Angerstein, W. Black, A.
Antrobus, E. Blencowe, J. G.
Arnott, Sir J. Bonham-Carter, J.
Ashley, Lord Bouverie, hon. P. P.
Atherton, W. Bowyer, G.
Ayrton, A. S. Brand, hon. H.
Bagwell, J. Bright, J.
Bailey, C. Briscoe, J. I.
Baines, E. Bristow, A. R.
Ball, E. Brocklehurst, J.
Baring, T. G. Brown, J.
Bass, M. T. Browne, Lord J. T.
Baxter, W. E. Bruce, H. A.
Bazley, T. Buchanan, W.
Buckley, Gen. Grenfell, C. P.
Buller, Sir A. W. Greville, Col. F.
Butler, C. S. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Buxton, C. Grosvenor, Earl
Byng, hon. G. Gurney, S.
Caird, J. Hadfield, G.
Calthorpe, hon. F. H. W. G. Hanbury, R.
Handley, J.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Hankey, T.
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Hanmer, Sir J.
Carnegie, hon. C. Hardcastle, J. A.
Castlerosse, Visct. Hartington, Marq.
Cavendish, hon. W. Henley, Lord
Childers, H. C. E. Hervey, Lord A,
Cholmeley, Sir M. J. Hodgkinson, G.
Clay, J. Hodgson, K. D.
Clifford, C. C. Holland, E.
Clive, G. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Cobbett, J. M. Ingham, R.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Ingram, H.
Collier, R. P. Jackson, W.
Coningham, W. James, E.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Jervoise, Sir J. C.
Crawford, R. W. Johnstone, Sir J.
Crook, J. Kershaw, J.
Crossley, F. King, hon. P. J. L.
Dalglish, R. Kinglake, A. W.
Davey, R. Kinglake, J. A.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Kingscote, Col.
Davie, Col. F. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Deasy, R. Knatchbull Hugessen, E.
Denman, hon. G. Lacon, Sir E.
Dent, J. D. Laing, S.
Dillwyn, L. L. Langston, J. H.
Dodson, J. G. Langton, W. H. G.
Duff, M. E. G. Laslett, W.
Duke, Sir J. Lawson, W.
Dunbar, Sir W. Leatham, E. A.
Duncombe, T. Levinge, Sir R.
Dundas, F. Lewis, rt. hn. Sir G. C.
Dunlop, A. M. Lindsay, Wm. S.
Dutton, hon. R. H. Locke, Joseph
Egerton, E. C. Locke, John
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Ellice, E. Lysley, W. J.
Elphinstone, Sir J. D. M'Cann, J.
Evans, Sir De L. MacEvoy, E.
Evans, T. W. Mackie, J.
Ewart, W. Mackinnon, Wm. Alex. (Lymington)
Ewart, J. C.
Ewing, H. E. C. M'Mahon, P.
Ferguson, Col. Maguire, J. F.
Finlay, A. S. Marjoribanks, D. C.
FitzGerald, rt. hn. J.D. Marsh, M. H.
Foley, J. H. Martin, P. W.
Foley, H.W. Martin, J.
Forster, C. Massey, W. N.
Foster, W. O. Matheson, A.
Fortescue, C. S. Mellor, J.
Freeland, H. W. Merry, J.
French, Col. Mildmay, H. F.
Garnett, W. J. Miller, W.
Gavin, Major Mills, T.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Milnes, R. M.
Gifford, Earl Mitchell, T. A.
Glyn, G. C. Monsell, rt. hon. W.
Glyn, G. G. Monson, hon. W. J.
Goldsmid, Sir F. H. Morris, D.
Gower, hon. F. L. Napier, Sir C.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Noble, J. W.
Greene, J. North, F.
Gregory, W. H. O'Brien, P.
Gregson, S. Ogilvy, Sir J.
Onslow, G. Smith, J. B.
Osborne, R. B. Smith, Augustus
Paget, C. Staniland, M.
Paget, Lord C. Stanley, Lord
Paxton, Sir J. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Pease, H. Stansfeld, J.
Pechell, Sir G. B. Steel, J.
Peto, Sir S. M. Sullivan, M.
Pigott, F. Sykes, Col. W. H.
Pilkington, J. Taylor, H.
Pollard-Urquhart, W. Thompson, H. S.
Ponsonby, hon. A. Tite, W.
Pugh, D. (Carmarthenshire) Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Tomline, G.
Ramsden, Sir J. W. Turner, J. A.
Redmond, J. E. Vandeleur, Col.
Ricardo, J. L, Vane, Lord H.
Ricardo, O. Verney, Sir H.
Rich, H. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Ridley, G. Vivian, H. H.
Robertson, D. Walter, J.
Roebuck, J. A. Watkins, Col. L.
Rothschild, Baron L. de Wemyss, J. H. E,
Rothschild, Baron M. de Western, S.
Roupell, W. Westhead, J. P. B.
Russell, Lord J. Whalley, G. H.
Russell, H. Whitbread, S.
Russell, A. Wickham, H. W.
St. Aubyn, J. Willcox, B. M'G.
Salomons, Mr. A. Williams, W.
Salt, T. Willoughby, Sir H.
Scholefield, W. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Scrope, G. P. Wise, J. A.
Seymour, Sir M. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Seymour, H. D. Woods, H.
Seymour, W. D. Wyld, J.
Shafto, R. D. Wyvill, M.
Shelley, Sir J. V.
Sheridan, R. B. TELLERS.
Sheridan, H. B. Trelawny, Sir J.
Slaney, R. A. Douglas, Sir C.
List of the NOES.
Annesley, hon. Capt. H. Cayley, E. S.
Arbuthnott, hon. Gen. Cecil, Lord R.
Archdall, Capt. M. Churchhill, Lord A. S.
Baillie, H. J. Close, M. C.
Baring, A. H. Cobbold, J. C.
Baring, T. Cochrane, A. D. R.W.B
Barrow, W. H. Codrington, Sir W.
Bathurst, A. A. Cole, hon. Col.
Beach, W. W. B. Collins, T.
Bective, Earl Cross, R. A.
Beecroft, G. S. Cubitt, Mr. Ald.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Curzon, Visct.
Bentinck, G. C. Davison, R.
Beresford, rt. hon. W. Dawson, R. P.
Bernard, T. T. Deedes, W.
Blackburn, P. Dickson, Col.
Botfield, B. Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Bovill, W. Du Cane, C.
Bramston, T. W. Duncombe, hon. A.
Bridges, Sir B. W. Duncombe, hon. W. E.
Brooks, R. Dunn, J.
Bruce, Major C. East, Sir J. B.
Bruen, H. Edwards, Major
Burghley, Lord Egerton, Sir P. G.
Cairns, Sir H. M'C. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Carnac, Sir J. R. Egerton, hon. W.
Cartwright, Col. Elmley, Visct.
Cave, S. Estcourt, rt. hn. T.H.S.
Cavendish, Lord G. Farquhar, Sir M.
Farrer, J. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Fellowes, E. Lockhart, A. E.
Fergusson, Sir J. Long, W.
Filmer, Sir E. Longfield, R.
Forde, Col. Lopes, Sir M.
Forester, rt. hon. Col. Lovaine, Lord
Forster, Sir G. Lowther, hon. Col.
Galway, Visct. Lowther, Capt.
Gard, R. S. Lyall, G.
George, J. Lygon, hon. F.
Gladstone, Capt. Lytton, rt. hon. Sir G. E. L. B.
Goddard, A. L.
Goff, T. W. Macaulay, K.
Gordon, C. W. Mainwaring, T.
Gore, J. R. O. Malins, R.
Gore, W. R. O. Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Graham, Lord W. March, Earl of
Gray, Capt. Maxwell, hon. Col.
Grey de Wilton, Visct. Miles, Sir W.
Griffith, C. D. Miller, T. J.
Grogan, Sir E. Mills, A.
Haliburton, T. C. Mitford, W. T.
Hamilton, Lord C. Montgomery, Sir G.
Hamilton, J. H. Moody, C. A.
Hamilton, Major Mordaunt, Sir C.
Hanbury, hon. Capt. Morgan, O.
Hardy, G. Morgan, hon. Major
Hartopp, E. B. Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
Hassard, M. Mure, D.
Heathcote, hon. G. H. Murray, W.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Naas, Lord
Hennessy, J. P. Newark, Visct.
Henniker, Lord Newdegate, C. N.
Herbert, Col. P. Nicol, W.
Heygate, Sir F. W. Noel, hon. G. J.
Hill, hon. R. C. North, Col.
Holdford, R. S. Northcote, Sir S. H.
Holmesdale, Visct. Packe, G. H.
Hood, Sir A. A. Packe, C. W.
Hope, G. W. Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.
Hopwood, J. T. Palk, L.
Horsfall, T. B. Papillon, P. O.
Hotham, Lord Parker, Major W.
Howes, E. Patten, Col. W.
Hubbard, J. G. Paull, H.
Humberston, P. S. Peel, Sir R.
Hume, W. W. F. Peel, rt. hon. Gen.
Hunt, G. W. Pevensey, Visct.
Ingestre, Visct. Philipps, J. H.
Jermyn, Earl Potts, G.
Jervis, Capt. Powys, P. L.
Johnstone, hon. H. B. Pugh, D. (Montgomery)
Johnstone, J. J. H. Puller, C. W. G.
Jolliffe, rt. hon. Sir W. G. H. Quinn, P.
Repton, G. W. J.
Jolliffe, H. H. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Jones, D. Rogers, J.J.
Kekewich, S. T. Rolt, J.
Kelly, Sir F. Salt, T.
Kendall, N. Sclater-Booth, G.
Kennard, R. W. Selwyn, C. J.
Kerrison, Sir E. C. Seymer, H. K.
King, J. K. Shirley, E. P.
Knatchbull, W. F. Sibthorp, Majo.
Knight, F. W. Smith, Abel
Knox, hon. Major S. Smith, S. G.
Leeke, Sir H. Smollett, P. B.
Lefroy, A. Somes, J.
Legh, Major C. Spooner, R.
Legh, W. J. Stanhope, J. B.
Leighton, Sir B. Stirling, W.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Steuart, A.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Stewart, Sir M. R. S.
Stuart, Major W. Walcott, Adm.
Sturt, H. G. Walker, J. R.
Stracey, Sir H. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Talbot, hon. W. C. Walsh, Sir J.
Taylor, Col. Watlington, J. W. P.
Tempest, Lord A. V. Welby, W. E.
Thynne, Lord E. Whitmore, H.
Thynne, Lord H. Williams, Col.
Tollemache, J. Wyndham, Sir H.
Torrens, R. Wyndham, hon. H.
Trefusis, hon. C. H. R. Wynn, Col.
Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J. Wynn, Sir W. W.
Upton, hon. Gen. Wynne, W. W. E.
Valletort, Visct. Yorke, hon. T. E.
Vance, J.
Vansittart, W. TELLERS.
Verner, Sir W. Montagu, Lord R.
Vernon, L. V. Long, R.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Bill read 2° and committed for Wednesday next.